The medical bay was awfully quiet.
It was something that tended to happen whenever one of them was inside a cryopod while the others waited and the tension was natural, they were all worried. But this experience was a little different.
Keith and Hunk sat on the floor, staring at the two occupied pods, while Pidge and the two Alteans were looking through words and numbers in one screen. Keith had no idea what they were looking at. He suspected that Hunk had a better understanding than him but had simply chosen to stay on guard in case Lance’s pod opened. Allura had said it would only take a few vagras for his arm, which had sustained the most damage, to heal.
Shiro’s pod though wasn’t programmed to open until it was allowed to.
“Ok” Allura walked over to them, tagging along one of the hovering screens “We’ve found the source of the problem and how to extract it. I’ll program the process immediately”
“Oh, good. I was kind of scared we’d have had to find him something to ride to get him back to normal and that would have been a little inconvenient” Hunk mumbled with a touch more venom than Keith would have liked. He had only seen this side of Hunk twice. Once was back when they had met Rolo and once more when again Lance had been involved but he hadn’t been this mean spirited.
“Ride?” Coran questioned with a small hint of fascination, probably wondering what ‘ride’ could be interpreted as on Earth.
“Don’t mind him” Pidge interrupted before Hunk could answer.
“Shiro will be back to normal when he wakes up?”
“Yes. According to all calculations, he should be. We’ll have to talk to him once he awakes though. Not bringing to our attention he had been hit by a spell was incredibly reckless” Allura paused in front of Shiro’s pod. He didn’t look as peaceful as they usually did in their pods, but that was probably due to the quintessence being filtered out of his system “I cannot believe the witch would sink so low”
“Well, it wasn’t a bad plan” Pidge froze under the eyes that snapped at them, filled with emotions ranging from disapprovement to rage “Strategically speaking!” they rushed to wave their hands in surrender “I mean. Yeah, it is very low, but if it had succeeded it would have damaged the bonds between us pretty badly. And with severed bonds and with three lions only accepting their first picks, no Voltron” they shrugged.
“It was a very dirty trick” Allura hissed, looking down on them “But, you’re right. And I’m afraid we can’t be sure they weren’t successful”
“Don’t look at me princess. I might be worried for my friend, but I won’t let this interfere with my work as a paladin of Voltron. And neither will Lance”
“How can you be so sure?”
Hunk sighed and his shoulders slumbed “If you don’t know, even if you were the one who picked us, then I can’t explain it to you, But let’s just say there might be a reason Lance and I are the legs of Voltron”
“I assume you don’t plan to retreat to your rooms for the night?” Coran questioned and got a positive murmur for response “I imagined so”. A while later he passed them a few pillows, to make their wait a little more comfortable, and wasn’t surprised to see them starting to doze off shortly after. It had been a long day.
The green paladin seemed indecisive as to where to settle, glancing between the remaining two. In the end they crouched in the Red’s corner and tried to pull him along, to the yellow’s side but faced protest.
“He’s not mad at you. He’s not mad with Shiro, either. He’s just… Mad for Lance. I am too to be honest. Shiro did gave me a scare…”
“Yeah, but he’s being unfair this time” there was an edge of desperation to believe what he was saying in Keith’s whispering. There was a very obvious tone of doubt.
Pidge gave a sympathetic smile “Hunk knows that. He’ll calm down when he’s certain Lance is ok, right now he’s on the edge”
Keith stared at them without a word before giving a short nod and in the next pull he gave in and followed, although he still felt pretty uncomfortable when Pidge dropped on Hunk’s side and pulled him along.
“Rest” they commanded and used Hunk as a secondary pillow. Keith was pretty sure they were acting when almost instantly they started snoring but after snapping his fingers next to their ear and getting no response, he guessed they were actually asleep. Keith stared in astonishment, but stayed sitting where he had been dropped.
“Get some shuteye, man” Hunk groaned after a while, startling him a little, since he was under the assumption the yellow paladin had been asleep for quite some time now. His eyes were in fact closed. Hunk patted the side that Pidge hadn’t claimed “Come on”.
Realizing that he was in fact very tired, Keith crawled over and lay pretty stiffly beside Hunk, until the Yellow Paladin scooped him closer and pet his head and he allowed himself to relax.
Pidge just snored.
Unlike Shiro, whose eyebrows were permanently furrowed while in the pod, Lance seemed utterly peaceful. It was pretty unnerving considering how lively the boy was during his daily life.
Coran wasn’t very happy with how regularly he got to see that peaceful face. It meant the Blue Paladin had been hurt again. He didn’t like seeing any of them in there, but it appeared this one was making a habit out of it. Last time Lance had come out of one pod, he had laughed and asked Coran if he was keeping count, because he ranked the highest in the times he had needed to be contained in a pod.
The Altean man wasn’t sure if he was missing some kind of Earth humor, seeing as he usually caught at least part of Lance’s jokes, but he couldn’t identify the joke here.
“Do you think he’ll remember?” the Paladins had gone quiet for some time, but Allura had had kept pacing in the room and checking the stats of the two people healing, most usually than not pausing in front of the Black Paladin’s pod.
Coran sighed “From the descriptions they gave, he seemed completely disconnected. I doubt it”
“Shiro is strong willed” she remarked, crossing her arms “How strong was the spell, to the point that he was incapable of fighting it off?”
“We’ve witnessed how deep the witch’s magic runs”
“He fought off Zarkon, in the astral plane and managed to hack his connection with his clone to communicate with us”
“…Only due to the Black Lion’s assistance, druidic magic is more powerful”
“I am aware. I just don’t know how we can explain this to him”
“Oh” Coran’s eyebrows rose as he walked closer to stand to his princess’s side “Would you mind elaborating? Share your concerns, dear. It sounded like you blamed our Black Paladin, but it appears I misunderstood”
“I don’t blame him. But I am highly concerned about their bonds and Shiro’s mental state. Hunk said Lance wouldn’t have problems and… Well, I barely understand humans, Lance even less, so I have to take his word for it, seeing as they have a close relationship. So this leaves me wondering about Shiro” she sighed and turned to her advisor “He is a good and responsible leader, Coran. You know how serious he was about bonding with Black and his fear of failing the team, especially since his return. How do you think he will react when he realizes what he did?”
Coran glanced at Shiro’s pained expression. He had been so concerned when he saw Lance in Hunk’s arms that all of this hadn’t crossed his mind. She was right.
“You want to keep what happened hidden from him, if he doesn’t remember” he stated.
Allura took a deep breath and started pacing again “I think it would be for the best”
“Allura. We’ve been urging them to open up to each other. We used to give them bonding exercise after bonding exercise to have them share their secrets and they’ve been doing a good job”
“I know, I know” she stopped in front of Lance, giving him an apologetic look “I won’t force them to do as I say. We both know they wouldn’t listen anyway. But I will suggest it as the best course of action”
“And who’s going to give the final call? This is usually Shiro’s job”
“That will have to be Lance. This is all about him”
Both of Coran’s eyebrows went up a little “Well” he twisted the end of his moustache “I’m sure he’ll be delighted to have his opinion being taken into consideration”
Allura paused and looked at the ginger man “It’s a team. Everyone’s opinion is taken into consideration. Lance is just… Not always the easiest person to be taken seriously” she breathed out, looking defeated “I don’t understand them, Coran. I know I’ve been unfair sometimes and have made mistakes. But I’m trying”
“I know, my dear” Coran squeezed her shoulder “I know”
Lance felt himself fall forward, only to land against a familiar, large warm teddy bear, he chuckled and didn’t bother trying to support himself up “Hi, Hunk”
“Oh man, am I glad to see you!” Hunk squeezed him, raising him off the floor with the intensity of the hug.
“Hunk, you’ll break him”
“Don’t worry your pretty mind, Pidge. Hunk knows my limits since he almost broke me when I gave him a birthday gift, back at the Garrison. My ribs were bruised for a week. How long was I in there?”
“Just through the night” Pidge shrugged, with a grin, adjusting their glasses on their nose.
“Ow, Hunk! Come on, dude, you have no excuse. I was barely away. You are totally overreacting”
“Let me love you, my friend! I was worried out of my mind!”
“Aaaand he’s crying” Pidge chirped “He really was worried though. I haven’t seen him so restless since that time we tried to turn one of the Altean devices into a charger for his phone and had to connect them without knowing if it would blow”
Lance simply stared at them, keeping his arms wrapped around Hunk’s neck “Did it blow?”
“Yes, it blew”
“Stop talking about that! I’m still not over it! I lost a lot of important photos, videos and recipes that day” Hunk whined, setting Lance down.
“No you didn’t. We’re not in the Stone Age! I have a backup”
“Wha- When did you- WHY did you let me mourn them then!?”
“Oh, I don’t know Hunk. Why didn’t Glinda tell Dorothy her shoes could take her home from the beginning of the movie?”
“…I don’t know, why?”
“Because some people are dicks!”
Lance cackled, only to laugh whole heartedly when he noticed Keith watching the argument with the same confusion he had when Lance had tried to teach him the ‘I say ‘Vol’ you say ‘Tron’’ chant.
His laughter seemed to catch the Red Paladin’s attention though, who approached hesitantly “You look alright”
“Awww, shucks. Thanks, mullet. I would return the compliment, but to see why I don’t refer to my previous statement”
Keith rolled his eyes, missing the way Lance smirked the moment Keith shifted from apologetic to annoyed “That’s not what I meant”
“Yeah, I know” his smile softened “I’m sorry you had to witness my ungraceful crying. I’m fine now”
Keith nodded awkwardly “I’m glad”
Hunk and Pidge were still arguing. Or, Hunk was arguing and Pidge was verbally pocking him with a stick. Lance guessed, they had been holding in some anxiousness that had to be released somehow.
As he had guessed, behind him he found Shiro still in the pod next to the one he had just stepped out from. His smile fell “Is he gonna be alright?”
“Yes, Allura said he’ll be fine. They are taking care of the remnants from the spell” Keith wrapped his hands around himself, watching Shiro with restrained sadness “Lance, I’m really sorry for-“
“For having no control over a situation you knew nothing about and not constantly monitoring your mentor like a stalker?” Lance raised an eyebrow at him.
“-what happened” Keith concluded “I should have noticed there was something wrong about him… I mean, you did” he sighed “Twice…”
Lance shrugged “I have no important things to worry about, so I am observing the rest of you. It’s no big deal. Hunk is my best friend and we’ve missed things about each other at several occasions. Don’t play the guilt game, Keith. He is fine, I am fine, and everything is great. Let it go”
“Oh, my boy, you are awake!” Coran sled toward him “How is your hand? Good?”
Lance twisted his formerly broken wrist, testing it for any pain and grinned “Yeah, good as new”
“Splendid! May I initiate embrace?” his voice softened at the question, keeping his hands behind his back and giving Lance very clear opening to decline. Lance had no idea how a man this perfect could exist.
“Oh, you gorgeous man, of course!” Lance hugged him tightly and could feel Coran being extra gentle.
“Lance” Allura strolled behind the other Altean and offered the blue paladin a small smile as he and Coran broke away from the hug “It’s good to have you back”
“Did you miss me, princess?” Lance grinned, enjoying the eyebrow twitch from Allura, as she clearly fought to stay polite.
Behind him, Keith was giving a suspicious look, Hunk threw worried glances and Pidge’s eyes were narrowed, monitoring Lance like a Hawk.
“I needed to talk to you about Shiro”
Lance cringed “Just so you know, princess, I already had a borderline awkward conversation with our walking 80s stereotype” he pointed at Keith over his shoulder “I could do without another one”
Hunk couldn’t blame Allura for not being able to understand a single word of that sentence and having to do a double take before speaking again “Um. Well, I need to ask you something”
Lance’s skin tone became a few hues lighter, but he kept smiling “Sure, princess, anything for you”
“Once Shiro is out of the pod, there’s a high chance he will have no memory of-… his actions. And I was thinking-“
“Oh, that’s great!” Lance exclaimed “If he doesn’t we don’t tell him. There’s not really any point in him knowing”
“Ow ow ow, nononono, no, nope. Hold it right there” Hunk stomped closer “I disagree, one hundred percent. We can’t keep something like that a secret!”
“Yeah, I also think this is a bad idea” Pidge added their two cents “Shiro needs to be aware, to know how to treat you”
“I don’t need special treatment, Pidge!” Lance hissed, clearly offended and turned his glare at Hunk “Guys, be reasonable. Shiro was under a spell, he had no control over his actions, but knowing his all mighty nobility, he’ll blame himself anyway! Hell, he apologized to us for getting kidnapped and replaced by a clone AND for the clone’s actions that he had no control over! Why put him through that? Just give him a scolding for being aware of spells in the future and it’ll be fine. Besides, let’s be honest, it would be freaking uncomfortable conversation if we had to explain what happened and I for one am in no mood to recount the events”
Allura nodded “That was actually the point I wished to make. Any disturbance could jeopardize Voltron’s power and Shiro’s mentality is pretty fragile due to his past. We need to be cautious”
“Oh, and Shiro’s mental state is more important than Lance’s is that it?” Hunk growled.
“Yes!” Lance screamed, ending any other conversation in the room. He stared at Hunk with a betrayed look and it was clear the larger boy was having difficulty keeping his tongue. The rest of the people in the room could see that there was some non verbal conversation happening between the two, judging from the intense stare. It seemed to conclude with Lance as the winner, since Hunk gave a defeated sigh and averted his gaze.
Lance drew in a shaky breath, trying to regain his composure, as he brushed back his hair “Ok. Look guys, we have purple fluffy aliens on our asses, a revolution going, people falling left and right and, oh right! We’re in a middle of a God Damn Motherfucking WAR!” he tagged at his own hair and then let go, giving them all a smile “Let’s just skip pointless drama, shall we? If Shiro doesn’t remember, let it be. It’s for the best. What difference would it make anyway?” he shrugged pointedly, eyes going from one person to the next, checking if there were any objections.
“That’s…” Allura dared, although she didn’t look very confident “Very reasonable of you, Lance…”
Lance’s whole face brightened up and he gave her a wide grin “Thank you princess. I do that sometimes, what can I say. I’m a man of many gifts” he pointed finger guns at her and winked “Now, if you don’t mind, I’m gonna go change. I allowed yall to gawk at my godlike body long enough with the skin suit” he turned and headed out “You’re welcome” the door closed after him.
“Is he…” the princess leaned closer to Hunk to ask, keeping her eyes on the door “alright?”
“Oh, sure, yeah man. Of course he is. Like. What am I supposed to say here? What do I know?” Hunk exclaimed in frustration, accompanied with appropriate hand gestures as he moved away from the group, heading out as well. He kept ranting under his breath until he was also out of earshot “I don’t know anything. All cool, everything is fine with cherry on top even. Like, why wouldn’t he be? Why don’t we impale him somewhere while we’re at it, I’m sure he won’t mind, that’s cool too. Go ahead, let’s try and see, it sounds fascinating”
The remaining four traded some awkward looks before Coran cleaned his throat.
“I suppose that settles that”
Allura looked tired and pretty out of her element as she sighed “Is there something I did wrong? Was there specific behavior I was supposed to present?”
“Allura, I’m a nerd and he’s a loner” Pidge pointed with their thumb each as they were mentioned “We’re honestly not the best options you’ve got for info on human behavior and interaction. But, since your best option is currently in a stasis, and the next best option is done with everything- for what is worth, I don’t think you did anything wrong. Hell, I’m not sure there was anything right that could have been said. It’s an unusual situation for us, humans, as much as it is to you, aliens”
“I see… Thank you” with that she threw another glance at Shiro and walked away with her shoulders slumbed. Coran gave to the remaining paladins a small bow and wished them good day before following her. Their footsteps faded soon after.
“Have you seen them fight before?” Pidge had been subconsciously aware that Keith was still present but with the lack of speech from his side, they almost forgot.
“I wasn’t that close to them at the Garrison” they turned to Keith “But, while in space… I’ve only seen them have some mostly playful arguments. Nothing like this”
“Should we check on them?”
“Maybe give them some time to cool off. Let’s go for breakfast and no- don’t look at Shiro. He’ll be in there for at least another quintent and he won’t be pleased if he wakes up to find you died from starvation”
“People don’t die for starvation if they go one day without food”
“What about the Galra?”
Keith’s eyebrow twitched “I’m pretty sure they can too”
“How regularly did they feed you at the Blade?” Pidge joined the edge points of their fingers, giving their teammate an appraising look.
“They didn’t have meals in specific hours. There are food stations that get restocked once a day with rations we could access when we needed”
“And how regularly did you use them?”
“I used them once. The food was terrible. Then two more times after Kolivan explained to me which part was the container and which ingredients I was supposed to mix. It wasn’t that bad after it was properly prepared”
Pidge stared blankly “How are you still alive?”
“Lance turned out to be more merciful than I had expected? Also, Lotor“ Keith howled in pain as he folded over clutching the part of his stomach that had just received an elbowing “Ow ow… Ouch… You’re still on that?”
“We will never not be on that. It will never not be ‘too soon’. You will suffer every time one of us is reminded” Pidge bellowed, looming threateningly over Keith’s folded form. They grabbed his arm and started dragging him along “Come on now. You’re getting some real food”