“I’m gonna miss you, Blue,” Lance said, dejection pure in his voice, petting the exterior of the mecha lion as if it was real fur. He hugged the lion and looked around the room, surprised to find that there was only one person who stayed with him.
Keith glanced over at his… Friend? Rival? What isn’t Lance at this point?
Except maybe. The obvious.
Keith shook his head as if to erase that thought and simply stood a few feet away from Lance as he said his goodbyes.
“You know, Red has taken to you pretty well,” Keith tried to comfort Lance, and the Paladin of the (now) Red Lion smiled sadly.
“I hope so. I don’t want to make her feel unloved because I’m a bit attached to Blue over here.” Without thinking, Keith stepped forward and put his hand on Lance’s shoulder, mirroring Lance’s hand from earlier when he couldn’t accept his position as the Paladin of the Black Lion.
“I know that this is scary; piloting a new lion, having a new leader--but you need to trust in your instincts if you’re going to pilot the Red Lion. She’s impulsive--”
“Like you,” Lance pointed out.
“And she wants you to be the right-hand man, Lance. That’s why she’s choosing you.”
“She thinks… We’ll be a good team?” Lance said in disbelief, and Keith nodded.
“Exactly. She trusts in your ability, just like the Black Lion trusts in mine. I have no idea why, honestly…” Keith trailed off, and Lance put his finger up in a “no no” motion.
“Ah, ah, ah! You don’t get to build me up then break yourself down. You’re our leader now, whether you like it or not.” Keith rolled his eyes.
“I don't want this to be about me. You’re the one who’s moping about Blue, not me.”
“No, this new position is clearly making you upset. You need to talk this out, even if it’s with me. Someone has to listen.”
“NO, they don’t. No one has to care. We’re defending countless lives; we don’t have time for therapy.”
“That doesn’t mean that you can’t take care of yourself. This will eat you alive, Keith, if you don’t talk about it with someone, anyone. I’m willing to help,” Lance argued in earnest, and Keith just grew angrier.
“Why are you making this about me!? It doesn’t matter! I just want to move on; forget I said anything!”
“Because I want to make this about you, Keith! You’re hurting--everyone can see it--and I want to help!” Lance protested, his voice echoing off the space castle’s walls. The volume of his voice startled both of them, and Lance stayed quiet, letting his words float in the air with no means to take them back. Keith gulped a huge breath of air, feeling a lump in his throat.
“Wh… Why?” He asked, his voice the sound of a kicked puppy. No--he was more than that. He was a Paladin of Voltron who was struggling. Lance stared him in the eyes.
“Because,” He took a deep breath. “we’re in this together. We’re defending the universe together. We’re working our problems out together. That’s how a team works. That’s how a partnership,” Lance then placed his hand on Keith’s shoulder. “Works.”
Keith tried not to think too hard about what “partnership” meant, but he forced himself to listen to Lance’s words.
“I… I miss him, Lance.” Keith swallowed. “He’s-he’s gone. He’s the only one who believed in me--” Without another word from Keith, Lance took him into his arms.
The feeling of warm, gangly arms wrapped around his body felt foreign to Keith, and his eyes widened when Lance loosened his grip.
“That’s not true; not anymore,” Lance murmured over his shoulder, his breath brushing against Keith's ear. “We all believe in you. I believe in you, and it’s all going to be okay. I have faith in that.”
“No one can guarantee that, Lance,” Keith whispered, starting to circle his arms around Lance, but Lance just held him tighter, wishing his strength could transfer to Keith in some sort of emotional wavelength.
“You’re right, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop believing it.”
Lance’s words washed over Keith, and he felt his eyes sting in frustration and emotional exhaustion. He didn’t want to cry, but there he was, welling up at the drop of a hat or in his case, a few carefully chosen words.
The Paladin of the Black Lion didn’t know what to say next, so he just embraced his right-hand man. His grip was awkward, but Lance adjusted so Keith could hold on comfortably.
How long is this hug supposed to last? Keith wondered to himself. He’d hugged Shiro before he went off on the Weblum mission with Hunk, but this felt different somehow.
He tried convincing himself to let go of Lance, but for some reason, he couldn’t. The warmth he felt seeping into his veins; it felt like the way you would hug a friend or a comrade.
Or maybe. The obvious.
Keith felt droplets on his jacket, but he paid no mind to it. In that moment, he could have crawled into Lance’s circulatory system and made himself a home, a real home. Instead, he settled for this sliver of time.
“Please don’t judge me,” Lance’s voice ghosted but not against his ear, and Keith shook his head.
“You’re not weak, Lance.” Keith reassured him, feeling Lance shake with the weight of a crumbling mental state.
After a long hug and bouts of tears the two paladins would later admit to shedding to the rest of their team, Keith and Lance traipsed back to their respective lions.
”Please be okay,” Keith heard Lance whisper.
“I'll be alright,” Keith replied to him, but Lance looked at him quizzically.
“Glad to hear it, but I didn’t say anything,” Lance laughed, his throat still hoarse, and Keith narrowed his eyes at Lance.
“But I thought--forget it.” Keith cut himself off before he could finish his thought.
“You might be a little loopy. Maybe it’s time to get some sleep, Keef?” Lance raised his eyebrows, and Keith ran a hand through his hair, trying to figure out who was talking if it wasn’t Lance.
“I… Yeah, okay, I’ll go do that.”
“I mean it, Keith. Shiro would want you to be in good shape when the Galra strike again.” Keith winced when Lance mentioned the true Black Paladin’s name.
“You’re right,” He agreed with a solemness to his voice Lance had only heard a few times in his life. “I’ll try to get some rest.”
“Good.” And that’s all Lance had to say before he walked away from his lion, leaving Keith to his own devices.
I could have sworn I heard Lance say something, Keith debated in his head. Maybe I am loopy, maybe I do need sleep.
The paladin remained restless and battled with a million contradictions ambushing his brain.