A sharp pang in the chest.
It took time, far too long, to reach the point where he felt it.
It was a throb, relentless, suffocating. Fed by the sinking of his stomach, the knots in his throat.
How long would it last ? He wondered.
Perhaps, it was always there. It had just grown out of control, a weed spreading through his body. Who planted it there?
He wanted to grasp the roots, tug them from the strong grip on his throat. To tell it to stop choking him . It never listened, he learned a long while ago.
He had to try harder.
Lance was not one for expressing his true emotions. Rather, he bottled them up until they were nothing but sour wine, spilling from his mouth with anger. He taught himself to control it.
He found what people liked, and disliked.
Most people at the Garrison found him annoying. They found him pathetic , a common choice in insults. His inability to pilot the flight simulator brought him a few cruel nicknames that he never wanted repeated.
At first, he didn’t understand why some students… well, hated him.
Was it his face? His hair?
He made sure to make himself look as good as possible, even if he failed in other areas.
He doubted it was jealousy, unless it was for his unmatchable hot body. Who could resist him?
So why was he brushed aside?
Iverson was one of the least pleasant people at flight school. In classes, in training, wherever he was met face to face with the grumpy old teacher he found himself with a shameful grimace finding its way onto his features. Word got around about Iverson’s treatment to the him, and other staff members seemed to catch on.
None of the teachers liked him. He didn’t ask why.
Scowling did not fit Lance. It made him look unpleasant, unhappy. Weren’t most people who scowled unhappy?
And Lance wasn’t like that.
Regretfully, most times he was around Iverson, he resembled that of a kicked-puppy.
Constant reminders that “Keith is why you’re here,” and “your family should be ashamed of a son like you,” became numb to him. Didn’t make it hurt less, though. It turned into a painful blur of anxiousness for Lance.
He met Hunk. Soon after, Pidge.
They were great, compared to the recent treatment he’d been getting before. They talked to him like he was human. Not some emotionless screw-up to tease and taunt daily. He kind of wondered what was different about them. Why they put up with him, of all people.
Lance was being himself. He could be himself around his new friends. It was like this at home, in Varadero.
At home, where his family found him charming . Where they playfully bickered, where they spent days dipping their toes in the water below the dock, pizza slices in hand. Lance smiled more when he was at home.
But, this was his dream, and giving up meant he was quitting. Lance was not a quitter.
Dios , he missed them.
He wanted to run into his mother’s embrace like a 10 year old again, feel his father’s hair-ruffles. He wanted to grasp his older siblings’ shirts, chatter aimlessly. He would talk then, and they would listen.
His big brother and him would play video games, and his sister would do his nails and they would share bad jokes together.
His two little cousins would be lifted up in his slender arms, giggling like he would when he was their ages.
His grandparents would give him advice, his aunts and uncles would hug him. Nothing beat his mother’s hugs, of course.
He got a lot of hugs before, didn’t he? He missed those too, mentally noted.
In a painful, sudden moment, Lance realized most people did not like him.
Only a few, like Hunk and Pidge found him tolerable . Unless they secretly talked about him behind his back, a fear he could only keep to himself.
The general population found him arrogant, bothersome, and pathetic . That word again.
So, Lance kept going.
He didn’t stop being pathetic. He eventually believed them, and let his vision darken a bit more.
How much longer would he have to hold the hurt in his chest?
Somehow, someway, Lance was now defending the universe.
A paladin of Voltron, as Allura and Coran called it. He still was shocked that a 10,000 (+?) year old techno-lion would choose him of all people as a pilot. Why would it choose him?
He was just Lance. He most definitely was not the best out there.
Must have been a mistake.
Allura didn’t tell him what the blue paladin did. Or, what it was supposed to do.
She never told him because he interrupted her, and didn’t have the guts to ask her later. He slapped himself in the face when he got back to his new room, muttering “stupid, stupid” under his breath.
He always screwed things up, making it worse for himself later. How would he know who he was, if she didn’t tell him?
Coran was a nice person, Lance had quickly observed. Even if he hadn’t been, he doubted things would have changed his intentions.
So, when the explosion happened, he simply shoved the advisor out of the way. It had been a rush of panic and protectiveness for the older man.
It hurt, sure, but he somehow felt like he deserved it.
If he couldn’t do anything else, he’d protect the people who could do more than you.
Using his body as a human shield didn’t cross his mind often, but he moved on his own, lunging forward.
He had gotten the majority of the blow, falling in and out of consciousness as the team accumulated around him and Coran.
He desperately wanted to know what they thought of him. Would they care if he died?
Maybe, hypothetically, if he died in this spot right at this moment, would anyone mourn his death? Surely they would.
He was Lance.
More suspicion and doubt crept through his mind, a plague.
Would anyone need to mourn him?
“Lance, look out!”
“Guys, to your left! Form shoulder cannon!”
“Watch your footing!”
Chaos, that’s what it was. This battle was the equivalent of hell itself. The amount of debris and crumbling rocks floating around space was concerning. The noises of asteroids colliding only got more tumultuous as Voltron formed.
Lance was not enjoying this.
It wasn’t the battle, it wasn’t the fact that there was a planet sized Weblum trying its best to kill them.
If anything, Lance should love the excitement. When he got home- If he got home, he would tell his family about it all. Would they think he’d lost it? Would they call him crazy? He would too, in their shoes. But a story to tell is enough.
Lance wasn’t happy at the moment, and that’s because he felt absolutely useless.
They dodged a swipe from the beast’s mouth, and Lance wasn’t focusing. It was a close call.
It was his fault. He swiftly apologized to Shiro, and received a “be careful,” in return.
After a half hour of blasting at the creature’s shell/skin, they decided to retreat. It was just another obstacle in space they had to get around.
Lance felt awful.
He made sure not to show it.
The first time someone called him “cargo pilot” was at the Garrison.
In class, diligently taking notes like a good student, he heard someone’s voice.
As he snapped out of the trance of his pencil to paper, he realized that person was his teacher. He quickly stood up, in a panic, and stared at the whiteboard expectantly.
This earned laugher, and Lance felt a little better. He was making people laugh. Even if it was at him himself, it was still laughter. When people laughed, it was funny. So he laughed along. At his own expense.
Out of the back of his head, he knew it felt wrong. This was messed up. All of it. He shouldn't be like this, kids would call him weird. He told himself he didn't care.
He did care, a lot.
He remembered every stray comment, harmless or not. He recalled every time someone looked at him and made a face, every minute of laughter that went by. Every jab rolled from the tongues of people he barely knew. He took it to heart, and hated it.
He cared too much, and let the insults ram into his conscience. Like a black hole, it was disintegrating him from the inside out. Only a matter of time before the mask on his face melted away too.
When he heard the teacher mutter something about a “cargo pilot” as he turned away, he felt his breath hitch. His lip was trembling, throat tightening,
but he kept laughing.
He must have looked terribly ugly, right then.
Hunk asked him what was wrong when Lance stopped responding after a minute.
“Lance, dude. You’ve been staring at that wall for a solid 60 seconds.”
Hunk twirled his backpack strap in his fingers as it leaned against the table.
Lance earned a few glares from the librarian that clearly meant shut up or leave , so he lowered his voice.
“What was that, buddy?”
Hunk looked up from his paper, eyebrow raised comically.
“I counted. Solid 60.”
The first time Keith called him a cargo pilot, if he got a twinge in his heart, he didn’t mention it.
Did they all really think that?
He hoped not, yet desperately needed to know.
He seemed to notice soon after joining Voltron, his jokes got no laughter.
Like in the Garrison, his attempts at humor and lightening the situation only got him groans from the group.
He wished he was back home, with his family. They would give him friendly smiles when he joked around, they would love him. No one would put him down with truly ill intentions.
The pang in his chest only grew the more he thought of them, so he distracted himself. Looked at the stars, the galaxies. Millions of gorgeous sunsets happening all around him, even if he couldn’t see them.
Space was beautiful.
The mix of colors, the blues, the purples and pinks, the occasional green which made him think of the trees in Varadero. He wondered if he could be a star. Up in the endless sky, floating.
Lounging in bliss, forgetting the worlds around him.
Sinking in a nostalgic state of silence. The type when no waves rocked against the wooden floating dock, no wind in the air. No birds, no siblings and cousins yelling estatically as they were hit with the ocean water.
A sad silence, a happy silence.
It was a confusing mix, but Lance wanted it more than anything. His chest tightened as he thought about it more. Could he be a cloud, a nebula? Would someone, someday, look up with wide eyes and a large grin exclaiming, “Mama, it’s beautiful!”
He kind of wanted to cry.
The alarms went off, and his peace was thrown back into the blackness of space.
First he undressed, arranged his clothing, and hopped in the shower.
It had been a long day. He was tired, pissy, and generally done with everyone. He didn’t feel like talking, interacting, or listening.
Lance’s hair was oily too, so that definitely made his day irritating before it even started . He usually got to take showers before bed, but last night he was too tired and out of it to process anything. All he had done was stumble back to his room and flop down in bed, clothes fully on. He had fallen asleep like that, and woke up disoriented and in a rushed panic.
Going a day without soft skin and even softer hair made him uncomfortable. He didn’t admit anything to the team, but surely they saw the dark bags under his eyes, the lazy grunts of reply when someone needed him. Few often needed him, so it was fine. He was fine.
His decline in overly-dramatic daily behavior should have made the team calmer. He wasn’t bothering them.
So why were they acting strange? He caught Shiro and Hunk giving him a few concerned glances, before continuing their meals. Even Keith, of all people, looked slightly surprised. The red paladin had raised his eyebrow when they accidentally made eye contact, Lance managing a tired smirk in reply.
It was only for the morning, though. After that, Lance sucked up his beauty situation and brought his normal self out. They seemed to relax, but it only made the boy more tense.
Why were they seemingly relieved, if they found him so unappealing all of the time? Why put him down with an offhand comment if they still valued him as a team member?
Lance sighed, running his wet hair through his hands as water rushed down his back. The showers in the castle were great, for being ancient. The hot water sprinkled on his slender form, making his skin shimmer with an almost ethereal glow.
It reminded him of the rain, and he sighed once more, eyes weary.
Every diplomatic mission they had been on was either very intriguing, or painfully boring. This mission had been the latter.
Or so it started off.
Just another alliance to form, out of the hundreds they already had. What was the use if nearly every alliance mission had to be tasteless and uninteresting? He knew the entire group was getting sick of it, yet they still went. Even Allura seemed drained.
They were split into sections to investigate the planet’s castle as a precaution. Who knew if- well, a member of Zarkon showed up?
Lance must have jinxed it.
Things never went correctly for Voltron, did they? Every mistake, every mis-plan caused the team a more grueling fight than the last. How they missed it, he didn’t know.
How that creepy witch hag managed to get her hands on him was beyond his comprehension.
She appeared out of nowhere, popping up through thin air right in front of Lance. She was even uglier than he remembered, and decided to voice his opinion. The thoughts of how did she get here, was it a trap rushed through him, but he was too preoccupied to care. All that mattered was this moment.
Lance felt his heart thrum in his chest, slight panic making its way to his throat. He swallowed the lump, and before thinking-
“Ma’am, there isn’t any residency built here, you might need to book it and leave us alone.” Lance sneered, lifting his bayard in the direction of her ribs. Damn him, and damn his shaky voice.
He wasn’t a killer, far from one. But right now, knowing this woman was the one who had part in taking Shiro’s - their leader’s - arm, his emotions ran high. She caused the man so much pain, and it hurt just to think what he had endured.
He heard Keith and Pidge yell something to said man, and telling Lance to let them “take care of it.” This only made it worse. If he had to prove himself by killing this witch, he would. Damn it all if he died, as long as he did something productive.
The witch moved, and Lance fired. To his chagrin, the bullet hit nothing, ricocheting off a nearby wall. He flinched, noting that it could have potentially hurt him, or someone he cared about. But, it was just him and Haggar.
It all happened too fast for Lance to process after she vanished from his sight.
He heard a whoosh of air, a sound of crackling, and gasped as he felt a dark magic surround him..
More pain, but instead sprouting from his chest, it was his throat. He saw glossy, thin white hair flow around him, and bony fingers spin him until he fell to the ground.
In a matter of seconds, Lance was panting, not a syllable coming from his mouth as he tried to contact his team.
All that came out was a gurgled cry from his throat. It was like he couldn’t talk at all.
He looked up, and the woman was gone .
He was panicking. He needed to calm down. How could he, when he was left alone, eyelids too droopy to open for his alarmed blue spheres?
It was dark.
So, he just laid there, paralyzed, mute, and useless. Until they found him.
He vaguely remembered the intercoms, the annoyance shifting to concern as they tried to locate him. Keith, Pidge, Shiro, and Hunk should be on their way. They heard him fighting Haggar.
Once again, he was messing things up.
His eyes were closed, he was breathing (albeit ragged) in a trance-like pace, as they gathered around him. He felt Shiro grasp his body, strong hands lifting his shoulders up.
Everything was muffled, the touches were tingly, like when your foot falls asleep and won’t go back to normal. He heard Keith say something inaudible, but he could tell that the boy was worried. That sent a completely different kind of pain through Lance’s heart.
Hunk, precious Hunk, was helping Shiro haul his body to the yellow lion. Blue had already left, Lance not knowing why, but feeling a bit betrayed. He just got cursed and his lion wouldn’t even try to help?
Didn’t they have an unbreakable bond? That’s what made his lion, what made him the Blue Paladin. Doubt and suspicions he refused to voice crawled through his skull.
Not that he could say anything at the moment, anyways.
Lance woke up to a bright light in his face, and voices that weren’t muffled.
His eyes opened groggily, fixed on Coran as the advisor yelled for the others. The poor man, he looked so tired. Lance wanted to make up for it.
He felt bad that the man most likely stayed up into the late hours for someone like him. He most definitely did not deserve help, not him. Not Lance.
The previous day’s events flew through Lance’s head, quickly reminding him of what happened. Oh god.
What had happened?
He was pulled from his thoughts as 6 other people filed anxiously into the infirmary. He looked up from the comfortable pillow of the bleach white bed, eyeing everyone closely. No apparent injuries.
As long as they weren’t hurt… Lance looked at Coran with guilt and sympathy. Scratch that, he made the poor guy cater to his health all night.
“Lance, are you alright?” Shiro asked, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. The boy seemed to sink further into the sheets, looking more tired than he ever had before. Shiro seemed to notice this, giving him an expectant look.
Lance opened his mouth to speak, waiting for the words to pour out, the apologies, the remarks on his poor behavior.
His voice never came, and he choked.
Hunk came forward and sat at the edge of the bed, looking at him with pity. Pity was never good.
“Lance?” He said, sorrowful eyes meeting his own.
The boy shook his head in defeat and somewhat shock, pointing to his neck.
He mouthed the words “I’m sorry,” to the group, and wanted to deflate as the realization sunk into their features.
“Lance, your voice..?” Pidge silently offered, gesturing at her throat, tension ensuing.
He nodded, staring at his hands.
As he left the infirmary with an “OK” from Coran, he could hear the man explain the situation. The magic was said to last a week, and Lance never felt more helpless.
The team was arguing, something about forming Voltron so Lance simply covered his ears, and went to his room.
If he cried again, no one would know.
Breakfast had been strange, the next morning. Lance waltzed into the room, fully dressed, face lotion on, hair perfect, and well… mouth, off. It was like his body was making him unable to talk, whatever that witch put in him.
The team still spoke, they still muttered thank yous to Coran, but it was strangling Lance. Would he ever be able to talk again?
Left alone with only his thoughts for company, it would drive him insane. He wouldn’t be able to do it.
The team got quieter as the meal progressed, either from awkwardness or indifference. He kept getting looks from Keith, the boy obviously troubled by the lack of conversation.
Lance just wanted to talk so he didn’t have to think about the pain. He wanted to make bad jokes, play around, laugh. Sometimes it would be real , sometimes he had fun. But other times, he was just a shell of himself, hollow and empty.
All he could do now was stare at his food blankly and eat.
Lance decided to head for his lion.
He longed to feel the connection again, for it to return since Haggar cursed him. The feeling Blue gave him when she covered him in her comfort and love reminded him of his family. He returned the emotions, strongly, but now that it was growing weaker, he panicked.
His hands were shaking, he knew exactly why.
Where was the bond he worked so hard to create, to save?
He stopped in front of her mouth, sitting cross-legged on the floor. No words fell from his mouth, he just stared at her, expression blank.
Blue, if our bond is as strong as it was before, please, take me back. I miss you.
He closed his eyes, tired.
No response, huh.
He thought Blue would be stronger than Haggar. He felt helplessly betrayed, but he knew it wasn’t all her fault.
It was going to be a long week.
It had been a long week, but Lance finally found his voice.
It had been sudden, they were doing meditation at the training deck, and Lance gasped as he felt a powerful magic exit him. Like a suction, pulling all of the silence out.
His voice came out as expected, hoarse and scratchy, but it was what it was.
After the week of silence from Lance, the team grew apart. It seemed so, but no one had spoken up about it yet.
It felt a bit nice. Was he the water that pulled the group together?
It came as a shock, all other four paladins whipping their heads up from the quiet, gaping at him. It was funny, so he laughed.
This ended in a continued chain of laughter as Hunk pulled him into a huge hug.
“Dude! You got it back! I thought we were going to go crazy without you talking!” His best friend grinned, hugging tighter.
Pidge tried to act like she wasn’t relieved, but Lance saw the happy tears as she stood up and gave him a weird pat .
Shiro was smiling, concern gone from his face. He patted Lance on the arm.
“Glad to have you back.”
Keith, the other one , was now standing, but he looked at ease. He didn’t say anything, oddly quiet. Lance thought he would make some sarcastic quip about his annoying voice. It was kind of flattering, the lack of indifference.
He heard Allura and Coran whooping through the intercom.
Lance smiled widely, wiping his eyes. He hadn’t felt this good in a while.
He wasn’t really wasn’t expecting it, to be recognized. Every time it would be Shiro, Keith, Pidge, and Hunk.
Never himself, not in a hundred years, nope.
He was just the temporary sharpshooter until someone filled his spot. If he did a good job along the way, well, that was fine. Great, even.
“Thank you, Blue Paladin. It has been an honor,” the odd-shaped alien regarded Lance.
The creature leapt up from it’s spot on the table, grabbing the boy’s gloved hands in its. It then proceeded to lean forward and give him a soft kiss on the forehead. It was so small, almost unnoticeable. Blink and you’d miss it. Lance didn’t miss it, immediately pulling back, a strange look on his face.
The alien looked distraught at the paladin’s expression, bowing and apologizing. “My humblest apologies! I was overcome with a strong feeling… I’m sorry-”
The creature was cut off as it felt arms grasp each of its sides, pulled into a heartfelt embrace.
The table was silent, shock running through the rest of the team. Nothing moved, except for the blue paladin’s shoulders shaking up and down.
If he cried just a little bit, no one mentioned it.
Things had been going so much better , so why now were they plummeting downhill again?
“I’m going to tear the heart out of this team. From the inside out, you will all see it rotting, slowly, until it finally disappears and breaks you apart.”
Lance gripped his blaster, Haggar’s calm facade was creepy . He had no clue how she got in, again, but she wasn’t killing anyone. Besides that empty threat, she didn’t advance on the team, who had her cornered in the hallway.
Tear the heart out of the team. Had she meant it like that when she put that spell on him?
Shiro stood tall, glaring at the woman, but Lance could see his arm. It was shaking slightly, from either fear or adrenaline. He saw Keith straighten himself up before putting his hand on the man’s shoulder.
“We’d never let you hurt Shiro.” Keith spit out, venomous.
They all were now in a circle around the woman, glares of steel and bayards pointed. She looked so calm it struck a nerve in Lance. She made him go through all of that pain before. Why him? Not that he wouldn’t choose anyone but him to take it… but still…
“Ah, I’m not talking about your leader, here. You’ll see soon enough,” she grinned, which was a terrifying sight, far worse than her frown.
With that, before they could react, she disappeared from thin air.
Everyone looked confused. Shiro’s eyes dropped to the floor, defeated. Keith quickly tried to console the man, who didn’t seem to listen. He was staring at his cyborg arm, a tired look in his features.
Lance walked up to their leader, planning to put a hand on his shoulder for comfort.
Without warning, Keith whipped around and punched him in the jaw.
All of the words Lance was going to say died in his mouth. He slipped on his heel, eyes clenched, and hit the floor. Hard.
He grasped his mouth, sensing blood dripping in between his teeth. He was shaking on the ground, and heard a few gasps from Hunk and Pidge. Before anyone could run to his aid if they wanted to , Keith gripped his shirt, and dragged him to a separate nearby hallway.
He slammed Lance into the wall, arm at his throat.
“Do you really think Shiro needs your tasteless humor right now? Can’t you tell how stressed we all are? Don’t ruin it with another one of your jokes! ” He gripped Lance’s shirt harder.
He tried to reply, but it only came out as stuttering.
“Don’t. Just don’t, Lance. Piss off and leave the man alone. Be useful for once in your life.” The last word was practically spit with anger from the red paladin.
Keith roughly dropped his hand, jerking the boy violently, and Lance slid to the floor. The boy stormed off, to be met with silence from the rest of the group, including Shiro. He looked devoid of all emotion, face pale white.
Lance just sat there, stunned, in a dark hallway, staring motionless at the wall.
Dinner that night was tense. Allura and Coran seemed worried for the sake of the team, glancing back in forth from each other.
No one spoke. Lance just poked at his food, and Keith wouldn’t look at him. Suddenly, someone spoke up.
“Keith,” Allura began, “we need to discuss the incident in the hallway.”
Said boy looked up from his plate, but instead of guilty eyes, she was met with anger . Hunk and Pidge just looked nervous.
Shiro hadn’t even come to dinner.
“Allura, do you think what I did was warranted? Think about it.” The red paladin spoke, frustrated. It came out as more of a statement than an inquiry.
The woman gave Keith an equally terrifying look, and replied.
“No, I do not. And you had better explain your actions before we require Voltron once more.”
Lance wanted to curl in on himself and hide forever. So he did. He got up, thanked Coran once more, and left before he could hear their conversation. More like argument .
He heard yelling as he exited the room about Shiro and how he deserved some peace and quiet for once.
He fell asleep fast.
When Lance awoke, it was to a dark, musky cell. Not his own bedroom, not his temporary dorm in the Garrison, or the Blue lion. He woke to controlled silence, a Galra base, and his own frightened gasps.
He rubbed his eyes, blinking out the bleariness, and scanned his surroundings.
His thoughts were disoriented, broken into fragments.
One cell, one prisoner. That was him. Great .
He heard tapping of shoes in the hallway of his cell, but saw no aliens in the rooms across him. He was alone in this hallway.
Oops, scratch that last one.
Suddenly, Galra soldiers were in front of his cell, giving him the blank, disciplinary looks that Iverson had given him back at school. The look that said winner takes all.
Lance felt nauseous.
“Blue paladin,” one of them started, “you will come with us without restraint. Haggar has requested your presence.”
He sat up, noticing his wrists were chained to the wall, restraining him back.
Oh hell no. He was not going to acquiesce with their… torture and genocide . Nope.
He smirked, preparing to be dragged across the cold, metal floor.
Haggar had him.
That was it, he would die at the hands of Zarkon’s insane witch underling. How he even got here was a mystery of its own, and now she was putting some spell on his to make pain seem fifty times worse.
Was she going to torture him?
Oh, who was he kidding, of course she was. Who didn’t want to get tortured nowadays? Lance just wasn’t in with the trends, it seemed.
Pick on the poor, defenseless, Blue Paladin?
The woman said little, after the soldiers had dropped him off disgracefully at her “dissecting table,” Lance dubbed as soon as he had entered. All she was doing was scuttering around the room, grabbing more and more things Lance had no clue defined good or bad , but he hoped for good.
Lance decided not to talk, either. It was getting awkward when he was asking questions just to be ignored. He was used to it, after all. Also aggravating, did he mention that before?
After about 10 minutes, the woman finally drew her full attention to him. Her eyes scared him, honestly. So piercing and little to no forgiveness seemed present.
Haggar looked at him, not breaking her stare. He started to sweat under it, and gulped as she moved her hands above his chest.
“Boy,” she sneered, “you seem like a worthy one. I give you two choices.”
He ignored the worthy comment.
Lance expected her to tell him to give plans about Voltron or be killed, something like that. What he got, was something worse.
“Join the forces of Zarkon, or feel pain and humiliation beyond your imagination.”
Lance stared at her, incredulous. She stared back.
He coughed out, injuries from however he got to this god forsaken place a sore ache in his body. He probably broke his arm, didn’t he? It hurt.
Join Zarkon? Or be killed?
Was she kidding with him, or-
He looked up at her again, shocked. She was serious.
No, no, no.
This couldn’t happen. Never.
“Paladin, I see your potential. Your teammates do not. Join Zarkon or perish. I guarantee you will be treated with respect,” she continued, obviously impatient for an answer.
It was yes or no.
If he said no, he was going to be tortured, killed, or worse. If he said yes… well, maybe he could spy on some battle plans. He could roll with it, and Voltron would find him worthy of acceptance once they saved him. If they decided to.
Doubt crawled through his skin.
Would they even want to save him?
So, despite the afflictive outcome, he laughed. A bitter, tired laugh. A sound from his throat that clearly said, you really misjudged me, didn’t you?
Haggar frowned at him.
“So be it.”
Lance was hit mercilessly with a shockwave of dark lightning. As soon as Haggar threw her hands down, he braced for impact, but it didn’t make the pain more bearable. He screamed, oh, he screamed.
Throwing his head back to hit the table, waist and torso arching in a mockery of his flexibility, he cursed. He moved his body around as much as possible, trying to escape the clasps of the metal around his limbs as the pain came full force.
She was crazy.
Zarkon was crazy.
He was going crazy from the pain.
He was going to die, oh god, she wasn’t stopping and he couldn’t take it for much longer.
Make it stop, make it stop, please, please-
In a flash of light, the witch relented.
Lance was now gasping, head thrown back, cheeks red and sweat rolling from his forehead. He swore he smelt burning flesh.
Breathless, clenching his eyes in a painful blink, he glared with all the hatred he could muster in the gaze.
“You-” he panted, thrown back into a fit of choked coughing. He regained himself, vision clearing again as he gathered more courage.
“You’re demented,” he spit out, shutting his eyes tightly. Haggar just looked at him, and was that pity in her eyes?
“What a shame, paladin. You would have been accepted here.”
Lance looked as confused as he looked furious. Accepted? How would she know that-
“I’ve seen inside your mind, child. We both know you are regretting your choices to remain with princess Allura and her underlings.”
Lance’s jaw dropped, was she really talking about underlings? When she herself was working under Zarkon?
“Just- just…” Lance grasped on the words.
“Don’t say things you don’t understand, you… you-”
“Your suffering will continue. Join us or perish.”
Lance’s throat went dry.
Haggar moved her hands again, crackling magic flowing from her palms like fog.
His lip trembled from the fear. He couldn’t take too much of this. He was going to die. Die or join Zarkon.
The latter was less painful. But was it? Really?
Would he be happy?
Of course not. Killing innocents wasn’t really Lance’s jam. He could barely stand the sight of blood. Zarkon was a cruel dictator, and Lance wouldn’t want to be submissive under his reign. He might even get himself killed, him and his snarky comments.
Was he happy with Voltron?
The answer was yes. A very timid, hesitant yes. They had fun, they were family. Not his Earth family, but a family no less. Their random outbursts of laughter, their smiles, the pranks they’d pull on each other.
The rare bonding moments with Keith. The inside jokes with Hunk and Pidge.
The fatherly looks Shiro would give him sometimes, he was too embarrassed to say he’d get a swell of pride in those moments.
Lance screamed once more, throat growing hoarse with each burst of energy that flowed through his veins.
Haggar was still going. He was past his limits.
She kept hurting.
Lance kept yelling.
After another round of electricity, she looked at him, strangely bewildered by his tenacity.
“Blue paladin, would you like more pain? I will bring in guards to personally hurt you the way they see fit.” She paused, like she was considering her options.
“You will cry for their pleasure, I assure you. I commend you for your determination, but now is the time.”
Lance was wheezing blood, now leaking from his mouth. He hadn’t bothered to open his eyes, for it was an effort he didn’t have the energy for. His chest heaved up and down until the breaths got slower, more controlled. Haggar patiently waited for him to calm down. How kind.
She put her hand on his cheek, sliding her bony fingers across his tan skin. He shuddered, wriggling to escape the touch. Creepy.
“This is your final choice,” she repeated.
“Relent, or be a slave to the Altean princess. You will die a slow, painful death, even if you return to Voltron. Perhaps today would be fitting?”
Lance exhaled slowly.
“ Fuck you.”
He was still laying down.
After those guards came in, he lost track of time. He wasn’t sure he was on track in the first place, but…
The first time they did it, he was a mess of sobbing and panic and shuffling limbs. Kicking, punching, biting. Anything to just get away.
He never wanted to be alone more than in those moments. To escape their grasps, the breathing, the air.
He just lay on the floor, cold and bleeding out.
His face was pale, a bright point compared to the dull, dark walls around him.
He remembered thinking, how did it come to this?
It just replayed over and over and over until he was just a body, devoid of emotion slumped on the ground. His mind still kept rewinding it. The pain, the wrongness of it all.
So, Lance closed his eyes and tried to forget.
Sleep wasn’t much better.
They got Lance out. They got him.
After 3 days of being in that hell with the Galra, they got Lance back. And they fought.
Bayards raised and lions roaring, they fought hard to save him. And they did. God, they did.
How he disappeared after that dinner was horrific. They found his room a mess, clothes strawn out across the floor, a tiniest hint of blood and a frantic struggle.
Keith felt bad. He felt really bad.
That’s why he promised himself he’d get Lance back, to apologize. Because Lance deserved an apology, and a lot more than that. His teammate needed a goddamn hug and a cup of steaming coffee after all he’d been through.
Those Galra monsters. Keith couldn’t just sit by while his kind was killing off innocents and kidnapping his friends. He felt a twinge of hatred directed at himself, knowing what he was capable of, what his race could do.
He punched Lance, and for a completely bullshit reason.
The poor guy was going to say something to Shiro, and Keith knew he wouldn’t joke around about something like trauma. Lance wouldn’t have gone that far, and he never had.
Because the blue paladin was a good guy. He was a great one, actually. He always listened to battle plans, he kept them distracted with jokes and laughter, he…
Keith stopped dead in his tracks, eyes widening.
Keith sprinted to the fallen boy’s side, signalling the rest of the team. His hands hovered over the body.
Oh god, the body.
It wasn’t a body, he was breathing.
He was alive.
“ Guys, Lance, it- he’s-” Keith choked out, grasping his back and pulling him up into his arms. He was in slave garb.
He would be made fun of for this, carrying Lance around bridal style. His mind wandered as he left the dark room. It was covered in blood and smelled like the iron-y tang it was.
He heard the others calling for him, asking more.
“Quiznack, you found him? We’ll be down in a second!” Hunk called through the comms.
“Keith, where are you? You’re too far for our signal! It keeps going out! I think the Galra weaponry is interfering. Are there soldiers around you?” Pidge fired off question after question, but all Keith could think of was leaving.
He heard sounds of swords clashing, explosions, guns firing.
He had to get somewhere, anywhere but here.
“Keith, buddy, you there? Are you okay?” Shiro asked, sounding frantic.
Keith wasn’t sure Shiro should be talking to him, after what happened between him and Lance.
He didn’t deserve it.
“Shiro. I- ah, Lance. He, he’s hurt. Bad. I made this happen, no-” Keith stuttered, Lance feeling way too light in his arms. Was the boy always this skinny? Fragile?
No, Lance wasn’t fragile. He was…
Keith shook his head, horrified.
Had any of them tried to look past Lance’s jokes and flirtatious attitude? He certainly hadn’t tried.
Keith barely knew enough about Lance to call him a friend, and it sent a stab of pain down his heart.
They really knew nothing about him, did they? His thoughts were interrupted as he heard a deep voice come through his helmet.
“Keith, calm down. It’s alright, everything’s okay. Just meet us at the entrance. We’ll cover you the best we can. Breathe.”
Ok. Calm down. It’s Lance.
He’s been in the healing pod a lot. He’ll live.
Keith didn’t know if he could handle the guilt and fear of Lance dying.
Not alive .
The name Lance and the word dead should never be in the same sentence. Or hell, the same paragraph, the same book.
“Keith, we have your coords! Heading to you now.”
“Okay, just- let’s get out of here.” Keith sighed, words falling from his mouth shakier than he’d expected.
Lance was different after being rescued. The days were going by, seconds ticking past, as they stared up at the body in that transparent healing pod. The glass shimmered, contrast to Lance’s bloody appearance.
He had bruises, scattered around his body like purple butterflies, unable to lift off of the skin. The blooming injuries only became more apparent after the second day.
Accentuating his injuries made him look a lot more… in pain, actually.
They hit him.
Keith’s mind kept returning to the punch, imagining what if felt like to get it ten times worse, and from Galra . It didn’t help that he was partially of their race, as well.
He felt like an abusive monster .
Occasionally, Lance would make a sound.
It would be a whimper, or a muffled scream. Either one still gave whoever was in the room with him a sorrowful look when they left. The poor kid.
He looked more mature, now. Despite his face staying in the same neutral, blank expression for the majority of each day, (save for a few times,) he looked older.
It was saddening, seeing a person like that.
The day when Lance fell out of the pod, gracefully enough, was a day everyone was building up to. All of the restrained emotions were let loose when the boy finally left the container.
Hunk had been the one to catch him, this time.
He didn’t say much about what happened, despite the team’s encouragement. Or lack thereof.
Most of them tried to act like everything was fine again, but of course Lance couldn’t.
He was quiet for the first day. He usually wandered the castle, running from his thoughts. Finding anything to take his mind away from that Galra ship.
Shiro was watching closer by now, spotting Lance here and there. He sympathized. He knew how it felt, but the kid still wouldn’t open up.
The others stood close by as well, but couldn’t seem to find a way to approach him.
He was so convincing sometimes. He could make you forget why you were there in the first place, directing conversations elsewhere, finding menial tasks to attend to.
So, they stopped trying. Kept close eyes, but left him alone.
It seemed to work.
Was he back to normal?
Pidge stood at near the doorframe to his dorm, both hands placed behind her back hesitantly. She looked uncomfortable, refusing to meet his eyes.
She fidgeted awkwardly forward, moving in front of the boy’s bed.
“I know this is an awful time, but,” she paused, sighing deeply while adjusting her glasses, “we need to ask a favor of you.”
Lance looked up tiredly, placing hands in his lap. Pidge flinched under his eyes, looking away again. He blinked expectantly.
He heard her inhale softly.
“Matt. We found him,” she stated simply, barely a whisper.
His voice caught in his chest, gaping at the green paladin. She cleared her throat, shifting her weight.
“We located his group’s coords. They’re fighting their way from one of Zarkon’s main ships. He… he’s in a rebel organization, supposedly.”
“I know this is a terrible time, and you probably just want to go back to Earth after everything that has gone down, but… this is my family. And we need Voltron to do this.”
She looked choked up, eyes filling her large eyes. She threw her face down, in a bow of sorts. Her shoulders shook.
“ Please, just until I get them back. I’m begging you, Lance. Help me save them.”
The blue paladin sat still for a beat, before standing up and making his way over to her.
“Of course, Pidge.”
He smiled a small smile, patting her on the shoulder.
“That’s what friends do.”
Some things never changed.
He wasn’t breathing.
What was left of Lance was a motionless body on the cold floor, breath rapidly diminishing. Blood was everywhere. Seeping like a pump from his heart.
For his biggest pain to be what ends him. It oozed from between his fingers, pooling in a puddle underneath his armor. His arms twitched slightly, the noise of battle fading out like a broken lightbulb.
“You’re Matt, right?” He yelled, staring at the boy across from him, eyes equally as wide as said boy.
He was in the Y of three hallways. One leading to an airlock for fighter Galra ships where Lance was now, another one god knows where it lead, and the last, stood the rebel group Pidge was talking about. Their weapons were aimed sloppily toward his head, in fear or panic, he couldn’t tell. Perhaps a mutual feeling emotion amongst them all to stay alive no matter the costs.
He was stuck, frozen with his hands above his head as the rebels across him stayed equally as still. Except their weapons were directed at him.
The ragged boy who was undoubtedly their leader, walked forward cautiously.
“Who are you? How… how do you know me?” Matt spoke, looking back at his father (Lance assumed,) who seemed confused as well.
Lance looked him in the eyes, using the least movement as possible. He tried to hide the fact that he was shaking.
“Pidge- er, Katie. Katie Holt, your sister is with me. She’s been looking for you, we-we’re Voltron. If you don’t believe me, look at my outfit. Paladins. We’ll explain everything later, let’s all just book it out of here. There’s a ship outside this base right now, hoping to help you guys back to your families.” Lance panicked, rambling on, hoping he was making himself sound convincing.
Matt and his group seemed to tense after his words.
“I’m Lance,” he quickly added, hands twitching nervously.
Before he could continue more awkward eye contact with the boy, a loud explosion echoed through the third hallway from Lance.
His ears rung, and he gripped his bayard.
“Go, I’ll hold them off!-”
“Wait, what about you?” Matt intercepted, looking back at the other prisoners. They seemed unsure.
His father turned to him and whispered frantically at the kid. This seemed to change the mood, and Lance’s words next seemed to strengthen it.
“You want to see Katie again, don’t you?” He shouted, shooting a soldier in the process. He eyed the group one last time before the Galra overwhelmed him.
Then, he had an idea.
The airlock. The entire hallway would be blocked off from the rebel group, and they could escape.
Lance took a deep breath, shoved off the soldiers advancing on him, and leapt for a fallen Galra male. He wrapped his hand around the man’s arm, and shoved it onto the sensor. The glass turned green, a relieving correct.
Taking a deep breath, he blasted the controls.
It was a one-way trip now. No going back.
Everything seemed to slow down. He heard a beep , a shunk , and saw the metal doors close around the hallway. He was trapped.
Matt gave him a last look as they ran down the other hall, and mouthed a desperate thank you. If it was I’m sorry , that was fine too.
Lance felt a blinding white pain in his chest, and screamed. A hoarse, deep wail. He drunkenly saw a hole in his stomach, piercing through his armor, and blood.
Was that actually there?
His mouth was agape as he stood there, the blast of a gun had just gone through him.
He was bleeding out.
It was red. It was so red, like Keith’s armor, like the inside of the sun, like velvety roses his father gave his mom. It was as red as his heart. Was his heart beating?
Why was he still standing?
Which way should he fall so he could live longer?
Did he want to live longer, would it be a wasted effort and he died anyway?
Should he live for his team, his families?
Lance’s legs gave out, his eyes still wide and unblinking, the purple of the walls and Galra that he trapped with him merging into blobs of color. He collapsed to the floor, mind blanking out.
He vaguely heard the prisoners yelling in victory, explosions, metal against metal. It was all muffled now, behind the sealed doors.
Lance tilted his head back and gazed up at the tinted purple ceiling, and before he lost consciousness, he had a sad revelation.
The Blue Paladin.
No longer would the pilot of one of Voltron’s precious lions be living. He would be a memory, he would fade away into space.
He would be lost, floating in the endless galaxies, going and going and going.
He would fly by stars and planets, far away from where he was now.
He would be dead, and all that’s left of him would be their words.
A jokester, the flirt. Everything he did until now felt redeeming, in a strange way.
All of the things he’s done, said, would affect the way people saw him. And once he was gone for good, that’s all that remains. Who tells his story, of a sad boy in the endless black of the sky.
Would he stop feeling it?
He wouldn’t see his family again.
He wouldn’t see his friends again.
Because that’s what they were, and he loved them so much it felt like he was caving in on himself.
Splashing in puddles from the rainy storms, laughing indoors as his mother scolded him and his siblings for tracking the floor with mud. His big brother and sister pulling him alongside their long legs, giggling like the silly kids they really were.
Because he was Lance, and he was himself. Simple, yet powerful.
He heard the team calling him, yet remained silent. It was okay, they’d figure it out soon enough.
“Lance? Lance! Where are you, we need to go before reinforcements arrive!”
Pidge’s voice was shaky with panic, the poor kid. He felt bad for making her feel like that, but he’d be out of her hair in a couple minutes.
“Lance! What are you doing? Get out of there so we can leave!” Keith said a little too forcefully, the stress of battle evident in his voice. Lance smiled a little bit at that, the guy never knew when to quit. He wished he had more time with him, to actually become closer friends.
He was choking suddenly, blood drowning his throat, flooding . He made a pained gurgling noise as it dripped down his lips. He was going to die like this, alone, from suffocation.
His heart was going to stop, and he wouldn’t be Lance anymore. He would be gone . Had he lived long enough? Did he deserve more time? He questioned.
“Lance, buddy? Where are you? Is Blue not working again?” He heard Hunk’s worry through his ragged breathing and crackling comms.
“Lance! Where are you? This is no time for fooling around!”
“We have to go now! Someone, find Lance’s location!”
More talking pursued, and he lay still, forgetting his breath. It would all be over, he would be lost forever. Or perhaps he was always lost, and once he found his place in the beauty of space, he would finally fit in.
Lance gave up on struggling, and lay limp as he saw black dots appear in his already cloudy sight.
“ Mama ?” He looked up to gaze at his mother, hands in hands, eyelashes fluttering.
His mother looked down at him from their spot in the sand, waves splashing softly against the moonlit water. This was one of the memories Lance truly valued, and wouldn’t give up for anything.
The whole scene whispered the word tranquil. Endless waters stretched so far, clouds clearing to reflect the sparkling sky from above them. The silence and only nature to accompany them and their quiet murmuring. They would come out here, Lance and his mother. One or another would find each other, and intentional or not, they ended up like this every time.
“Yes, mi hijo?” She looked down at his forehead, him in her lap. Lance looked back up at the stars, away from her eyes.
“Do you think I could be up there, someday?” He questioned softly, in an accepting tone, like he already knew.
Her eyes came down to her son’s tuft of soft hair, running her delicate fingers through it. She sighed, nostalgic.
He continued to stare at the stars, strangely peaceful.
Switching to Spanish, she prepared these words a long time ago. She knew her son all too well.
“ Lance, you are beautiful. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. I love you. Your siblings love you. We will always be here. Even if your mind tells you we are gone, we will stay in your heart.”
She poked little Lance’s chest playfully, earning a grin.
He just giggled, a little bit of sadness in the sound, and they kept looking up at the timeless stars.
Lance’s heart was slowing to a stop. More blood, more pain. The voices in the comms were blending together in a mix of panic and fear. He could hear them yelling now. They were asking if he was okay.
His throat was swollen, but not because of the blood.
Because he knew, since his day of birth and the years peering at the clouds, entranced. He knew he would go like this.
A sad, painful death, that he felt long long ago.
A sharp pang in the chest.
It took time, far too long, to reach the point where he felt it.
It was a throb, relentless, suffocating. Fed by the sinking of his stomach, the knots in his throat.
How long would it last ? He wondered.
His vision cracked, his eyes were closing. He was going to have the final breath, and he wouldn’t be Lance afterwards.
As he died, as he suffocated, as his body went defensive and panicked, he grinned.
When happy tears poured from his cheeks like a broken faucet, he couldn’t feel the heartache.
He wasn’t hurting, and it would be forgotten. After all this time, the pain would stop.
He would be alone.
Alone is fine, he decided.
The warmth from his body was now gone.
He fell in love with the sky, he realized.
His heart stopped.
At last, his eyes closed shut, he was soaring with the stars again.