It wasn’t until much later that Lance had a moment to himself. He’d barely had a second to breathe let alone think between discovering that Shiro was actually… well, not Shiro at all, battling Lotor, and saving all realities by sacrificing the Castle of Lions.
It was… a lot. When Lance had woken up this morning, he hadn’t thought this would be how his day was going to go.
And so now here they were, stranded on a planet with no Castle to go back to. Everyone and everything they had piled into the lions. And… Shiro’s- or, Shiro’s clone’s body laying unconscious in the black lion while everyone tried to figure out what on earth to do.
It was all too much, it was all- completely overwhelming, and he wanted nothing more than to go and curl up in Red and get a little bit of rest.
He could tell the others did, too, and after talking it out for longer than Lance would have liked, he managed to get away and escape to Red for a little bit. He made his way down to her quarters, exhausted beyond words and it all now finally catching up to him.
She gave a gentle purr at his arrival, dimly lighting up for him as he went, brows furrowing as he stopped still staring at his bed.
He frowned, uncomprehending for a good half a minute, before moving forward towards the bed tentatively.
“Shiro…?” He asked softly, and Shiro flinched, clearly not having heard his arrival.
“I’m not Shiro.” He said back, not looking up, voice small and thick with tears.
“Yes, you are.” Lance replied gently, not really knowing where it was coming from, seeing as he’d spent the better part of the day trying to come to terms with the fact that he wasn’t Shiro.
Shiro flinched as Lance took a few steps forward. “You shouldn’t- come closer.”
“You’re in my bed.” Lance reasoned, but stopping his advances nonetheless.
“I know- I’m sorry, I- I knew I’d, I knew you wouldn’t…” He said all at once, voice breaking as he tried to scramble to the other side of the bed, as far away from Lance as he could get.
I knew I’d be safe here. I knew you wouldn’t hurt me (let them hurt me). I knew you wouldn’t be scared of me. All hung unspoken and heavy in the air.
“Hey, it’s okay.” Lance said gently, making to come closer again.
“No-!” He said quickly, flinching again. “I could- I could hurt you.”
“You’re not going to hurt me, Shiro.” Lance said and Shiro flinched again.
“Don’t call me that.” He said and Lance frowned.
“What do you want me to call you?”
He let out a shaky breath. “I don’t- I don’t know, but I’m not who I thought I was, I’m not- him.”
“Okay.” Lance said softly, holding his hands up. “Okay. Got it.”
Shiro- not-Shiro, nodded and looked down, biting his lip.
“But I’m not scared of you. And you’re not going to hurt me.” Lance said earnestly. It shouldn’t have come out so strong and confident, really, because up until he’d come in here he’d been pretty damn terrified. “You know why?”
“Because you’re the same man that you’ve been since you escaped. Since you came back with ridiculously long hair and cut it ridiculously short by accident. You’re the same man that had too much on his plate and overworked himself, and that played Monsters and Mana with me and just wanted to be a Paladin. And you’re the same man that told me he didn’t feel like himself, because he didn’t know who himself was. But you can find out now.”
He met Lance’s eyes as he finished, dark eyes filling with tears that quickly spilled down over his face and he curled in on himself.
“Ryou.” He sniffed after a few moments.
“Ryou. It was my- his- he was Shiro’s stupid imaginary best friend when I- when he was younger. He loved him. I can’t think of anything else.”
“Okay.” Lance said softly, nodding. “Ryou.”
“You still shouldn’t- come closer. Just in case.”
Lance softened and carefully began to take his armour off.
“What- what are you doing?”
“Showing you that I’m not afraid of you. I’d stand a better chance if you were to attack me in my armour, not that you could do much damage because you have no Galra arm and no weapon. But you could certainly punch me harder if I’m not wearing my armour. So I’m taking it off.” He said gently, carefully removing it piece by piece, leaving him in his undersuit.
Ryou watched him with a frown, averting his eyes as Lance began to strip that off, too, walking in his underwear to the dresser to get out something to sleep in and putting that on.
“You should get out of your armour too, if you want to stay here tonight.”
“My arm…” Ryou said, glancing at it. “It’s- well, gone.”
“It is.” Lance observed with a nod. “Okay, come on.” He said, holding out a hand to him.
“Where are we going?” He asked, looking at him cautiously.
“Just to the bathroom.” Lance said softly with a small smile, and Ryou took his hand after a few more moments of hesitation, letting him help him up and lead him into the bathroom.
He sat him down and rifled through Red’s first aid kit, humming as he got various bits out.
“We don’t have the pods now, so… I’m going to have to do my best. If… if you’re okay with that.” He added, biting his lip and Ryou nodded.
He spent the better part of the next hour trying his best to fix Ryou up the best he could. It was a shabby job, and Lance wasn’t trained in first aid, but he’d managed to get his armour off and his arm dressed and bandaged up, so that would have to suffice for now.
“If that was a bad idea and you end up losing more of your arm, I’m really sorry.” Lance said with a frown, biting his lip. “I don’t really know what I’m doing.”
“It’s okay.” Ryou said with a small smile. “I don’t know how much longer I’ve got, anyway. I’d rather be out of that suit.”
Lance frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“They must have told you.” He said, frowning back. “Shiro’s- Shiro’s consciousness is being stored in the Black lion. So… they’re going to try and transfer that into this body.”
“What? They can’t do that.” Lance said quickly. “They- no, they wouldn’t do that.”
“Wouldn’t they? They’d have every right to… I’m a monster.”
“You’re not a monster.” Lance said fiercely, taking Ryou’s face in his hands. “I promise you that. You’re not a monster, you’re Ryou. And yes, maybe you’re a little unconventional-” Ryou scoffed. “A little unconventional, but you’re real and you’re you and they can’t do that. I won’t let them.”
Ryou looked down. “I don’t know that you’d be able to stop them.”
“Listen to me.” Lance said softly, lacing their hands together and leading him back into the bedroom, sitting down on the bed with them. “I’m not going to let them hurt you. And if they try? Then they’ll have to go through me first. And if they still try? Then- we can leave. Run away, we don’t need them, I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
Ryou frowned softly. “Why… Why would you even… suggest doing something like that? You’re part of Voltron, they need you, they don’t need me.”
“They don’t need me, they’ve never needed me.” Lance snapped before giving a long sigh, running his hand over his face. “If they need me, then they won’t hurt you.”
“I don’t understand.”
Lance frowned, biting his lip and gently cupping Ryou’s face. “Don’t you…?” He asked, brushing his thumbs over his cheeks, pad of his thumb catching on Ryou’s bottom lip.
He gave a helpless shrug, and Lance smiled, shaking his head.
“Are you really going to make me say it?” He asked softly, sliding one hand around to cup the back of his head, gently stroking at the nape of his neck.
“Not if you don’t want to.” Ryou said softly, sliding his arm around Lance’s waist and pulling him closer, gently resting their foreheads together and brushing their noses against one another.
“I want to.” Lance murmured, feeling Ryou’s breath soft and warm against his lips.
“Then tell me, please.” He murmured back, letting out a shaky breath.
“I love you.” Lance breathed, gently brushing their lips together as he did so, a small noise catching in Ryou’s throat as he kissed him back, pressing their lips together a little more firmly and keeping his arm wrapped around Lance’s waist, pulling him closer.
Lance pressed closer as Ryou pulled him, slipping carefully into his lap and looping his arms around his neck as he kissed him over and over, just gentle presses at first, getting more and more desperate with each touch.
“And I mean that, okay?” He said, pulling back ever so slightly. “I love you. Not him.”
Ryou gave a sharp intake of breath at that, pulling Lance back against his lips and kissing him almost hungrily, like he was starving for it and Lance whined softly, kissing him back with just as much fervour and intent. He needed Ryou to know just how much he meant it.
Ryou broke the kiss first, tucking his face into the crook of Lance’s neck and holding him as tightly as he could with one arm, letting out shaky breaths. Lance wrapped his arms tightly around him in turn, gently stroking at the nape of his neck and kissing the side of his head.
“It’s gonna be okay.” Lance murmured.
“You don’t know that…” Ryou mumbled. “They need Shiro more than they need me. They don’t need me… They’ll never trust me, and they shouldn’t…”
“Hey.” Lance said, taking his face in his hands, and Ryou looked up at him with watery eyes. “I don’t care what they need or what they want, okay? They’re not going to touch you, I will never let them.”
Ryou looked at him for a long moment before giving a tiny nod. “Okay. I trust you.”
Lance leant in to gently kiss his lips, cradling his face. “Thank you.”
“I love you, too.” He murmured softly back against his lips as he caught them again and Lance held him close.
“We should get some rest.” Lance said, brushing Ryou’s hair off of his face and holding it back. “It’s been… a long few days, and especially for you.”
Ryou sighed and nodded. “Can I shower first, d’you think?” He asked.
Lance hummed, frowning. “I’m not sure you should be getting that wet.” He said, biting his lip.
Ryou frowned and huffed out a small breath.
“I could um- help?” Lance asked, voice coming out a little high pitched at the end and Ryou’s eyes widened. “Or not- or um, not.”
He bit his lip and smiled, giving a small nod. “Okay, I’d like that.”
“Okay.” Lance said, flushing and standing up, lacing their fingers together and leading Ryou back into the bathroom.
He switched the shower on, letting the water heat up while he started taking off his clothes, flushing hard and then helping Ryou out of his own, making an effort not to let his gaze wander. This was new, this was all still so new, this wasn’t- yeah.
“Okay?” He asked, biting his lip and Ryou nodded, letting Lance step under the water first and then stepping in next to him. “Just try and keep that away from the water, okay? I’ll uh, that is, can I um, wash you?” He asked, biting his lip and Ryou nodded.
Lance picked up the bar of soap, lathering it under the water and then tentatively pressing his hands to Ryou’s chest, gently spreading the soap over his skin. Ryou gave a soft contented hum, giving him a soft reassuring smile which Lance returned, rubbing the soap onto his body with a little more confidence.
Once he’d finished soaping him, he carefully washed him down and then set about washing himself.
“Can I wash your hair?” He asked once he was clean too, and Ryou smiled, nodding.
“I feel a bit useless.” He said as Lance began to lather the shampoo into his hair, sighing softly and leaning into the touch.
“You don’t need to do anything but let me take care of you.” Lance replied, massaging his fingers into Ryou’s scalp.
“You’re wonderful.” He murmured, wrapping his arm around Lance’s waist and holding him close as he kept up the motions.
“I’m not anything special.” Lance said softly, shaking his head.
“You are more special than all of the galaxies we’ve ever been through and then some.” Ryou said softly but seriously, frowning at Lance. “And I mean that.”
Lance felt his cheeks heat. “Well, I’m glad you think so.” He said, rinsing his hair out.
“I do think so.” Ryou pressed as Lance began to put the conditioner in.
“Ryou…” Lance said softly, biting his lip.
“You don’t have to say anything, you don’t have to know what to say or how to feel. But I need you to know that I mean it, okay?”
Lance said nothing for a moment and then nodded. “Okay.”
“Okay.” Ryou agreed as Lance rinsed his hair for the second time. “Can I do yours?” He asked and Lance smiled, biting his lip and nodding, wetting his hair and squeezing some shampoo into Ryou’s hand.
Ryou massaged it into his scalp, Lance relaxing into the touch with a soft sigh, letting his eyes flutter closed as he worked it in.
“You’re so pretty.” Ryou said softly after a few moments and Lance wrinkled his nose, feeling his cheeks heat again.
“You think…?” He asked, frowning and Ryou leant down to kiss his nose.
“Oh.” Lance said, biting his lip and flushing a little harder, before a smile broke out across his face.
Lance shook his head. “Nothing, I’m just… it’s just sinking in I think that you love me.”
“I really do.” Ryou said, rinsing the shampoo out of Lance’s hair and pushing it off of his face, pressing a soft kiss to his lips. “So so much.”
“Wow.” Lance said with a soft smile against his lips.
“I think it’s a little more wow for me than it is for you. You’re… you’re perfect.”
“I’m not perfect.” Lance said, kissing his lips again. “I can promise you that.”
“You’re the closest thing to perfect that I’ve ever seen, and yet somehow, you love me.”
“Don’t say it like that, it’s not somehow.” Lance said, squeezing some conditioner into Ryou’s hand and letting his eyes fall closed again as he worked it in.
“Feels like somehow to me.” He said with a smile, before rinsing it out.
“It feels like a somehow to me too.” Lance smiled back, kissing the underside of his jaw and switching the water off, stepping out of the shower and shivering as he reached for a towel, quickly wrapping one around himself and then wrapping one around Ryou, taking his hand and walking with him back into the bedroom.
Lance quickly dried himself off and then helped Ryou finish, who flushed, but accepted it, pulling on one of Lance’s too small shirts as he gave it to him, along with some clean underwear, and together they crawled into bed.
Lance lay flat on his back, pulling Ryou against his chest and gently lacing his fingers through his hair.
“Get some sleep, okay?” He said softly. “I’ve got you.”
Ryou nestled himself against him, pressing a small kiss to the curve of Lance’s neck. “They’re going to realise I’m not still in Black at some point and come looking.”
“And we’ll deal with them when they do.” Lance said, kissing his temple. “But for now, we need to get some rest. We can deal with everything tomorrow.”
Ryou gave a small nod. “How are you so sure that everything’s going to be okay?” He asked in a small voice.
“Because I know that no matter what I’m not going to let anyone hurt you. It’s not a case of I’ll do what I can, it’s a case of no one is going to touch you because I said so. And if they don’t respect me enough to hear me out, and leave you be, then we’re leaving. You and me, tomorrow.”
“Where will we go?”
“Anywhere.” Lance said with a soft hum. “I don’t know, we’ll find a little planet somewhere and settle down.”
“And what about Shiro…?”
Lance frowned and gave a soft sigh. “I don’t know. But we’ll figure it out. He’s not more important than you are; he’s dead.” He said and then blew out a shaky breath. “I didn’t mean- you know what I meant…” He said, biting his lip.
“I do.” Ryou said softly.
“I just mean… he lost his body… and yes, you were made from him, but… you don’t deserve to be… killed because he doesn’t have a body now, because you’re you and that’s- I won’t let them. I will never let them.”
Ryou was quiet for a long few moments. “You don’t… have to do this for me.” He said quietly.
“Ryou.” Lance said, frowning and shifting to look at him. “Ryou, sweetheart, look at me.” He said, and Ryou met his eyes, biting his lip. “I love you. And I will protect you with my life. You don’t get a say in that, and nobody else gets a say in it either. Tomorrow, we’re going to talk to everyone. Properly, sit down and talk to everyone and discuss the plan for Shiro because if that was it? Then they need a new one because it’s not happening. Not on your life- not on mine.”
“I don’t deserve you.” Ryou said softly, giving him a tender smile and pressing his lips gently to his jaw.
Lance shook his head. “This is exactly what you deserve.” He said back. “Nothing less, not ever.”
“And that’s why.” Ryou said with a gentle smile, leaning up a little and pressing their lips together.
Lance smiled softly back and shook his head. “Get some sleep, yeah? We don’t know when they’re going to realise that you’re missing.”
“Mmm.” Ryou agreed, snuggling back down in Lance’s arms, and Lance held onto him tightly. Even if it was just a few hours, they needed this, needed to be wrapped up in each other, and they’d deal with whatever came next, because it was going to be okay, Lance would make sure of it.