In a world where your wings were everything to be wingless was a sign of disaster.
To be wingless was a sign of disease.
To be wingless was a sign of the end.
Lance knew the history of the wingless. He knew that to give birth to a wingless could ruin lives. The child would be put to death. Even the members of the family that the wingless was born into could be killed. All his life he had been hidden away, not for his own safety, but for the benefit of the family who had scorned him since birth.
Less than one percent of earth's population was wingless. A number they proudly confirmed had dwindled as years went by due to the extermination of wingless. Beings without wings were usually abandoned, but Lance was hidden away.
Yet he had not wanted to stay that way.
So, Lance and his mother worked to get him into the Garrison, a place where wings had to stay hidden to fit into suits and tight space crafts. With this Lance would be able to fly, even if it was not by feathered wings.
But the fear of being found out was still there.
It was kept alive with the secret codes his mother constantly sent to him. It was in the tone of voice his mother would use whenever she spoke to him. All hushed tones and pitched differently from her ordinary voice. It was in the fake person standing beside him in the photos he would show off.
It was like a haunting presence that slashed at his heels and clawed into his mind.
So, when he became the blue paladin he felt free for the first time.
He had a team – a family – and he had an amazing bond with a lion that showed him what flying was like. But the fear settled in again. His team, his family, had wings, even the aliens that were leading them had wings. They were beautiful and struck awe into Lance every time he laid eyes on them.
Like now when everyone had their wings out after a long mission. Stretching them out and showing off the beauty of their feathers. Lance could not help staring at them, gaze intense, memorizing every detail he could.
First was Pidge, whose wings were cute and matched the feisty green paladin well. They were the perfect size for her and would often become so expressive that Lance would try to irritate the paladin just to see more of it. Her wings were a soft golden sand color that had a tint of orange when in the light. Bits of white sprinkled across her wings like powdered sugar and whenever they puffed up in anger she looked like a powdered doughnut.
Pidge would often demand to be embraced by wings, just like her parents and her brother would do back on earth.
It always pained Lance that he could not give her any. Thankfully, Hunk could give her all the wing cuddles she needed.
Hunk's wings were a solid, dark brown that glowed hickory in the sunlight with dark feathers showing up when someone looked farther down. Much like the lion he piloted, Hunk was a great support and had the warmest wings to cuddle in. His wings that were powerful and seemed so large that it always surprised everyone with how swiftly he could fly. The most important thing, though, was that Hunk's wings smelled so much like earth that it comforted every single member of the team whenever he wrapped them in his wings. Even with so much time out in space, the smell was not lost.
Lance could remember how many back at the Garrison would say how plain Hunk's wings were.
He thought they were all blind if they couldn't see the beauty in his best friend's wings.
Suddenly, Lance felt something large cover him. He looked to the side to see orange with little specks of white all over. The smell of something warm and comforting filled his senses, making Lance smile as he looked up.
Coran's wings had looked funny to Lance when he first saw them because no one on Earth had such a color. But, from what Lance had been told, it had been common for Alteans to have a wide variety of colors. It made Lance dream day and night of people with pointed ears and wings of all shapes, designs, and colors.
There were even patterns on Coran's wings that Lance liked to take a closer look at. He had been happy when Coran presented a feather to him that had the design on it. He kept it nested in a secret spot in his room with feathers from the rest of the team. “How are you feeling dear boy?” Coran asked voice laced with concern.
'Just like clockwork...' Lance thought, before reassuring Coran that he was fine. It was something he had to do as he was the only one who never showed his wings. All the others assumed he had something embarrassing on them, a thought he let fester until it was true in their minds.
In the end... Lance was just afraid.
“Ah, Allura! Shiro! Keith! Good of you to join us!” Coran called, pulling back his wing. Lance almost wanted to whine, his body almost convulsing to follow the feathers.
He knew that he was touch starved.
It was hard to fight.
'Beautiful....' Lance thought, staring at Allura as she proudly spread out her wings as far as they would go.
Allura's wings were truly that of royalty.
The feathers that lined the upper part or her wings were a pure white that seemed to sparkle with hidden golden stars whenever the light would hit them. The next line of feathers was a shade of black that balanced against the white and seemed to shine with the same hidden stars. It wasn’t these colors that caught Lance’s attention.
It was her primary and secondary flight feathers that drew his eyes. They shone in soft rainbow hues that almost looked like they were shimmering galaxies every time they moved. They were so beautiful that when Lance first saw them he had to cry. There was nothing like her wings and it made Lance truly say that they were 'out of this world' for nothing on earth could compare.
But, Lance was biased, as he thought all his friend’s wings were better than anything he'd ever seen before. Something that he proudly stated to multiple alien species whenever they landed. Ignoring their curious gazes towards his own back as he praised his team and family.
Lance would be lying if he said he didn’t have favorites in the group.
Shiro and Keith, the two who's wings made his heart flutter and try to take off into the sky without him. The two he stared at the most whenever their wings were out in the open.
Both had had their wings transformed due to the Empire, but that never seemed to dim their magnificence. Instead, it seemed to power them with a strength that showed the battles they had faced and won.
They now shared something that wasn't just their love for each other in the fact that they had started out with pure black wings that would have put a raven’s to shame and made the stars cry out for a chance to decorate their feathers.
When Lance had seen Shiro again he noticed three things about his wings. The first was that they were no longer the pure black that he remembered, now the upper ‘rim’ was black with specks of white and all the feathers below that point were an almost glowing purple. His primary and secondary flight feathers had looked so sharp that at first Lance hadn’t thought they were feathers at all.
The second thing was that they were much larger than they used to be and the third thing was that they now looked something like Allura’s wings. The larger size of his wings was something that the team had to work around as more than once he had whacked them out of the way by accident.
Despite his massive wings, no one could hear a thing when he flew and he always surprised everyone when in the skies. Lance had more than once almost knocked into Shiro with Blue when he was flying around. It got to the point where he needed to wear a bell so that the scanners could pick up on his noise.
All of it was a reminder of what the Empire had done to Shiro during his time as their champion.
‘Still...’ Lance thought, staring at his wings, wondering what it would feel like to be embraced and cuddled by them. ‘Still... they're still so beautiful....’ Lance’s thoughts picked up again before his eyes wandered over Keith's wings.
They covered a part of Shiro's in such a loving way that he had to look away for a moment. Fearful that he was intruding on something pure with his, as many would call it, filth.
If Keith's wings reminded Lance of anything it would be purple fire. When the red paladin had been hit with druid magic and his true wings had appeared it was like watching something being born from the fire itself. His wings were many shades of dark purples and deep reds that matched well together. It almost looked like the edges were singed and sometimes when Keith flew it looked like he was a ball of flames soaring through the skies.
His wings weren’t the only thing that had changed though, he now looked enough like a full Galra to pass as one. It had been a shock to all of them when it had happened and had put a strain on the team’s relationships with him, especially Allura’s. She had been in a rage when his heritage was first revealed and had tried to rip out his feathers. Her attempt had not ended well or at least had not left them all happy. Lance understood her hostility towards Keith and his new appearance, after all, he looked like one of the race that had destroyed her homeworld and whatever family may have been left there. He knew that Keith had no idea where or how the Galra genes had entered his family, and he knew that he was the same person under all the new fur, but they both needed to cool off a bit.
That’s why lance took every opportunity he could to lighten the mood. Lance teased Keith about the new appearance of his ears, lightheartedly bringing up that they looked almost bat-like now. He joked about how he looked like a vampire rather than a Galra and got knocked over by Keith’s wings for his efforts. Lance was not deterred by this though and would comment about how Keith’s wings were just as big as Shiro’s and obviously that’s why he was being knocked off things now. The laughter of the others and the reassured smiles that were sent his way at his comments made his constant falling from things worth the effort of his jokes.
Thankfully everything had turned out fine in the end and the two had apologized to each other. Though Keith had not yet allowed the Princess to touch his wings and he had made no move to touch hers. Lance could tell it both pained both of them, but the shock to Keith prevented him from taking the step forward.
He was trying though and things like this didn’t get cured overnight.
Lance was happy that Keith had Shiro to help calm him. The two lovebirds were always wrapped up with each other, grooming each other and nuzzling in each other’s wings. It was a site that Lance longed for and one that reminded him that he could never have that.
“Lance?” came a voice causing the Paladin to squeak as he almost fell off Blue's paw.
Something big and warm stopped his fall and Lance blushed as Keith gently lowered him to the ground with one of his massive wings. As always they were so warm and Lance sighed in relief at being covered feathers.
“Lance are you alright?” Shiro asked, already kneeling to help him to his feet again. Lance blushed hard enough to make the red lion jealous, which earned him a snort from Blue.
“Yeah sorry, I was deep in thought... I guess... that battle really took it out of me,” Lance said. He wasn’t lying, as the battle had been long and exhausting. Lance realized that it had been over twenty-four hours since they had last slept.
“Oh... do you still feel up for a flight?” Keith asked and Lance hated to hear the hope in voice.
This was starting to become a trend every time Lance had been offered to do some group flying. When he was forced to go Blue would come save him and demand to be piloted while they were all out flying.
A part of him knew and feared that the facade wouldn’t last for long.
In fact, he was terrified.
“No... I'm actually really tired... it has been twenty-four hours since we last slept...” Lance said, getting everyone to look at each other in surprise.
“Alright, you go get some rest. Do any of you still want to fly?” Shiro asked though he kept a concerned eye on Lance.
“Yeah, I won't be able to sleep,” Hunk confessed, with a tired looking Pidge beside him.
“I'm feeling a bit restless too...” Pidge added though she looked at Lance with guilt. Lance waved it off with a reassuring smile, watching her little wings puff up again as they all started making their way outside. The castle had landed on a peaceful planet to rest, repair and resupply for everyone on board.
“I can sta-...”
“Mullet, your wings are literally shaking,” Lance cut Keith off, causing him to huff and Shiro to chuckle at Lance's statement. Keith grumbled, and Lance was shocked when his warm wings embraced him for just a moment before the red paladin stalked off to join the others.
“Are you sure you'll be okay Lance?” Shiro asked, reaching out to with his Galra arm, pressing it gently down on Lance's shoulder. His frown deepened when he noticed how Lance shivered and his shoulders sagged with exhaustion.
Lance could already see Shiro's wings showing some of his emotions as they grew bigger. They fluffed up a bit making Lance giggle as his beautiful, suave wings looked unusually ruffled up close. His laughter allowed Shiro to calm down and smile as he reached out his own wings to do the same thing that Keith had done.
Lance was silenced as he took in the oddly cool feeling that surrounded him. Usually, wings were warm and Keith's wings ran warmer than most but for some reason Shiro's wings were cold.
'It's actually... comforting...' Lance mused, getting a growl of agreement from Blue.
“Stay safe and rest well,” Shiro said before leaving the rest. Lance gaped as he watched him leave and saw those magnificent wings spread out before disappearing into the skies. Without meaning too Lance rushed after his team and hid away out of sight to watch how they danced and soared around each other in the light of the planet’s moons.
Joy and laughter filled the night and a part of Lance longed for that same feeling they were having. A hand reached out towards the skies where wings blocked out the stars in blankets of feathers. Soon, though, Lance drew back his hand and sighed, no longer being able to stand the sight.
Part of Lance felt guilt over having such emotions for his friends.
He was happy for them.
He loved to see them happy.
Which is why this was more than enough.
So, Lance went back to his room. To his nest that he had made to near perfection. He went through his usual routine, throwing on his pajamas and crawling into bed. He was asleep in a matter of seconds curled up under the blankets.
Lance wouldn’t notice that not long after two figures would come into his room. He would not notice the Press of reassuring hands and wings before they vanished like they were never there.