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Bad Things Happen Collection

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Table of Contents

Bleeding Through Bandages w/ Keith & p!klance | Chapter 2

Broken Rib(s) w/ Lance (klance) | Chapter 3

Made A Slave w/ Langst (klance) | Chapter 4 (Part 1)

Attempted Rape w/ Langst (klance) | Chapter 5 (Part 2)

Stalking w/ Lance (klance) | Chapter 6

Self-Loathing w/ Shiro | Chapter 7

Allergic Reaction w/ Lance | Chapter 8

Chronic Pain w/ Lance | Chapter 9 (Part 1)

Overdose w/ Lance | Chapter 10 (Part 2)

Insomnia w/ Keith | Chapter 11

Verbal Abuse w/ Lance (klance) | Chapter 12

Bloody Nose w/ Hunk & Pidge | Chapter 13

Isolation w/ Lance | Chapter 14

Anger Born of Worry w/ Hunk & Lance | Chapter 15

Carved Mark w/ Pidge & Shiro | Chapter 16

Fevers w/ Krolia & Baby Paladins | Chapter 17

Nightmares w/ Lance (Shance) | Chapter 18

Neglect/Abandonment w/ Keith | Chapter 19

Sleep Deprivation w/ Lance & Shiro (Shance) | Chapter 20

Infected Wound w/ Lance (klance) | Chapter 21

Bullying w/ Lance | Chapter 22

Mind Rape w/ Shiro | Chapter 23

Biting w/ Hunk | Chapter 24

Accidentally Hurt by a Friend w/ Lance | Chapter 25

Bullying w/ Lance part 2 | Chapter 26

Betrayal w/ minor klance | Chapter 27


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Chapter Text

He’d been reckless, which wasn’t unusual if you asked him but Keith tried his best to only be reckless when necessary. Sometimes certain missions required that extra touch of instinctual decision making and fast reflexes. One minute things could be going according to plan or Allura’s diplomacy was exactly what they needed to ensure Voltron’s legacy as a peacemaker across the galaxies. The next, they’re making a harrowing escape away from Galra forces or battling for their lives on a mission gone wrong.

But this wasn’t one of those instances and Keith would feel ashamed of himself if any of the members of Voltron found him in such a sorry state. The entire situation was... well... embarrassing. He could already hear Lance teasing him in his head if he saw him like this. Dreaded it, actually.

Keith crawled out from underneath the damaged training dummy, careful not to jostle his leg any more than he needed to. He winced as the wound on his thigh screamed. Through the soft material of his training clothes, he could already feel the sticky wetness of his own blood ooze from the gash he’d accidentally given himself.

He cursed under his breath.

Never mind the broken drone, who sparked and twitched with every electric pulse—it had done its job with giving Keith a challenge, and while he found it exhilarating to test the capacity of his skills, his injury was not nearly as fun.

Keith inspected the gash on his thigh. It was deep enough to require medical attention but nothing the healing pods couldn’t fix. If he was lucky, he might not scar. (Not that it mattered to him. What was one more scar among the plethora of scars riddled across his body?)

He climbed to his feet carefully, grunting and hissing as his leg stung in protest. More blood oozed. It trickled down the length of his leg and dripped onto the floor, leaving a trail of blood away from the sparking wreckage.

It made the whole scene a bit more horrific than it actually was.

“Great. Now I have to clean that up too.” He grumbled.

He hobbled toward the door where he had left a bag of supplies for today’s session. Unzipping the bag, he stared at its contents: a couple of towels, two baggies filled with water and a fresh pair of clothes to change into. He shoved his items aside until he found a roll of gauze and tape.

“This’ll do,” he muttered.

He wrapped the bandages around his wound until he was sure it was tight enough then taped it securely. He examined his work. He frowned. It was terribly done—sloppy and clumsily taped—he felt the wrappings may have been too tight around the thickness of his thighs, but would hold enough to keep him from spelling blood all over the floor. Even then, as he sat there watching his work, blood had already begun to ooze through the white cloth, staining it beyond repair.

He hadn’t thought he’d cut himself that deeply.

With a heavy sigh, Keith pulled himself back onto his feet and started his journey toward the healing pods.

Before he had a chance to turn the corner, a familiar voice called out to him.

“Hey, Keith!”

Keith shut his eyes for a moment. Of all the people inhabiting the castle, it had to be Lance he’d see first. He steeled himself.

“Hey Lance,” he greeted amicably.

Lance was by his side in a flash, a mischievous smile plastered across his face.

“I was just looking for you and I thought, where would mullet be at a time like this? And then it hit me—the training deck! Duh! Anyway so—“

Keith grimaced. He watched the boy’s eyes trail from his face mid rambling toward his arm that leaned against the wall for support. It didn’t take long for Lance to piece together that something was wrong.

He watched the Cuban boy’s brows knit together in worry.

“Hey man, are you alri—ARE YOU BLEEDING?!”

Keith sighed. “It’s not a big deal.”

“Not a big deal?! You’re bleeding! Why are you bleeding?!”

“I had an accident. Don’t worry, it’s wrapped up.”

Lance quirked an eyebrow. He suddenly rolled his eyes.

“Alright, come on.” He held out his arms as though asking for a hug.

Keith stared at him blankly. “Uh, what?”

Lance sighed in exasperation. Without a word, he grabbed onto Keith’s right arm and threw it around his neck. Lance’s left arm slid into the space underneath Keith’s left arm.

“I’m helping you to the medical bay.”

“But I don’t—“

“It’s too late! I’m already walking. Let’s go, Mullet!”

He had no other choice. With a small smile, he leaned his weight into Lance and allowed the younger paladin to help him the rest of the way to the healing pods.

Once there, they were greeted with an apologetic sign that stated the pods were currently out of commission for a maintenance check.

“Seriously?” They both deadpanned.

“They could have at least told us,” Keith said with resignation.

“Come on. Sit right here.”

Lance led him to a nearby chair and settled him down. Keith watched him curiously as he flitted around the room in search of supplies. He returned with another roll of gauze, some clean pads, a bag full of cotton balls and a bottle that suspiciously looked like alcohol.

Lance knelt down in front of Keith.

“Uh, what are you doing?”

“What’s it look like I’m doing? I’m playing nurse. Hold still. I’m going to clean it out and change your dressings.”

“Do you have any idea how to do this?”

“Yeah sure. I watched mamí enough times back home. Just hold still.”

Lance carefully peeled away the bloody bandages and tossed them into the nearest disposal bin he could find. He dabbed several balls of cotton in alcohol solution before catering to Keith’s wound. Keith gritted his teeth as pain stung his nerves.

“Sorry,” Lance muttered. “Almost done.”

After a few more seconds of liquid fire, Lance covered the wound with a sterile pad then wrapped it in new gauze.

“There,” he beamed. He wiped imaginary sweat from his brow and stared into Keith’s eyes. “Its good work if I do say so myself. I think my mom would be proud.”

Keith examined the secure wrappings for a moment. He had to admit, Lance did a pretty good job.

He smiled. “Thanks, Lance. I really appreciate your help.”

De nada, buddy.” Lance’s face morphed into impishness. “So, are you gonna tell me how you sliced your leg open?”

“Nope. Absolutely not.”

“Oh come on! I just fixed your leg!”

“And I appreciate it, Nurse, but I’ve gotta go.”

Keith hurriedly limped out of the room with Lance hot on his trail.

Chapter Text

 

He stares deeply into the mirror, scrutinizing every inch of his flawless skin and flattening down unruly wisps of brown hair on the top of his head. He checks his teeth, his eyes; smoothes the carefully plucked hairs on his brow then straightens his clothes until he is the picture of perfection. He flashes a charming smile at his reflection and imagines the response his date would say before pressing his forehead against the mirror. A heavy sigh escapes his lips.

 

This is as good as it’s going to get. He thinks, his confidence suddenly draining. “Come on Lance! Pull yourself together. It’s not like it’s our first date or anything.”

 

He throws himself across the bed, barely missing the pointed edge of his nightstand. He glances up at the pictures on the nightstand. They’re memories of a time long since past with friends and loved ones, but Lance ignores the collage of fun memories in favor of a framed picture of him and Keith sitting on the older boy’s motorbike.

 

It was taken by his older sister, who had snapped the very moment Lance buried his face into Keith’s neck out of embarrassment. This was their first date—awkward and sweet; the air of uncertainty and puppy love.

 

Lance smiles warmly to himself, his confidence returning. Climbing to his feet, he smoothes out the wrinkles from his shirt and grabs his keys and wallet from the nightstand.

 

“Lancito!” One of his sister’s call, “¡Tu novio está aquí!”

 

“I’m coming down!”

 

With one last inspection in the mirror, Lance hurries down the stairs and into the foyer. Keith catches sight of him before his sister does. The smile that spreads across his face melts Lance’s insides. His knees go weak on the last step. He stumbles.

 

Keith catches him before he can fall.

 

“Hey,” He chuckles, violet eyes warm.

 

“Hey,” Lance breathes. “Nice muscles—I mean—n-nice catch!”

 

“Thanks, I’ve been working on them.”

 

“Ugh,” Lance’s sister groans. She makes a show of rolling her eyes and playfully gags. “This is so gay, I can practically see the rainbow.”

 

“Veronica!” Lance squeaks.

 

He distances himself from Keith far enough to catch his sister’s smile. She shakes her head playfully, dark eyes bright with mirth.

 

“Take care of yourselves today, okay? Have fun and be home before ten or Mamí will come for both of our hides.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, I know.”

 

Lance intertwines his fingers with Keith’s and leads him out of the house. Veronica leans against the door frame.

 

“Take care of my baby brother, Kogane!”

 

“I always do.”

 

Lance huffs. He shoos Veronica away then takes the spare helmet Keith brought for him and climbs onto the seat behind Keith. He wraps his arms around the older boy’s waist, enjoying the warmth and firmness of his broad back.

 

The motorbike roars to life. It pulls out of the driveway then speeds down the road until it’s nothing but a distant rumble.

 

-x-X-x-

 

Lance is on cloud nine. There’s nothing quite like riding on your boyfriend’s motorbike in the heat of summer, the wind whipping his clothes and the loud roar of the engine revving up every now and again blasting in his ears. Keith wasn’t a reckless driver—at least not when Lance was his passenger.

 

He tried to keep away from the busier streets and kept weaving out of traffic to a minimum. But there was a stretch of road that barely anyone used that was perfect for high-speed riding. It was mostly abandoned, with the occasional joggers, bike riders and dog walkers popping up every now and then.

 

It was hidden away by a cluster of trees. Lance couldn’t remember how they had found it in the first place, but he was grateful they had. The silent road was peaceful and isolated—like it was an entrance to a world meant only for them.

 

Lance leans into Keith’s back, his heart full of adoration and happiness. He sighs contentedly. He feels like the luckiest guy in the whole world.

 

“Shit—!”

 

The motorbike jerks to the left with such force, it takes all of Lance’s strength to keep from falling off. He can feel the tension in Keith’s body through their embrace. He opens his mouth, but it snaps shut through the force of gravity as the bike swerves further left.

 

They’re speeding through forest and foliage until the front wheel snags on an upturned root and throws them both into the air.

 

Keith crashes to the ground with a heavy thud. He rolls across the forest floor until finally, he stops a few feet away from the bike.

 

Lance sails past him. He crashes haphazardly into a nearby bush then rolls and rolls until he comes to a stop at the foot of a tree. He wheezes from the pain; his vision blurred and spinning.

 

“K-Keith?” He calls, but his voice isn’t loud enough to project across their distance. He shuts his eyes in an attempt to steady himself. He can taste the copper in his mouth.

 

He takes a breath. Pain shoots along his sides like molten fire. It spreads across his chest, making him wheeze and form tears along the edges of his eyes. It recedes for a moment, long enough for him to focus again, but it pulsates to the rhythm of his heart.

 

Lance tries to push himself upward. He screams.

 

“LANCE!”

 

“K-Keith...!” He wants to cry. The pain enveloping his entire right side and chest cease burning the moment Lance remains still.

 

He tries to crane his neck to catch sight of Keith but all he sees are the boy’s unsteady steps as he hobbles Lance way.

 

Keith falls to his knees beside his injured boyfriend and tries to lift him to his feet. Lance’s agonized screams fill the air.

 

“Shit! I’m sorry Lance, but I have to roll you over.”

 

“No, don’t—!”

 

Lance’s words trail off into another scream as Keith hurriedly flips the boy onto his back. His breath comes out short and rapid, his lung expansion hindered by the pain on his side. It hurts to breathe too deeply, but Lance feels lightheaded.

 

He snaps back to reality at the sound of Keith’s anxious voice. Keith is leaning over him, spilling out words of reassurance as calloused fingers check along Lance’s body for any visible injuries.

 

Lance inspects his boyfriend’s face. Small scratches dot his cheeks and brows; a large bruise was forming beneath the skin along his jaw. He stares into those worried violet eyes and despite the pain radiating beneath his skin, Lance feels more pain from Keith’s expression than his own predicament.

 

“I think you broke a rib.” Keith’s voice cracks at the confirmation. He gently lowers Lance’s shirt and stares into his eyes. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t see the deer until it was too late—shit!”

 

Lance manages to steady his breathing enough to keep himself from hyperventilating. He reaches for Keith’s face with his left hand and gently caresses his boyfriend’s face.

 

Keith leans into the touch. “I need to get help.”

 

“Don’t leave me here.”

 

“Lance, your ribs—I don’t know how badly injured you are but if they puncture a lung—“

 

“I’m coming with you,” Lance says stubbornly. “I saw you hobbling. I know you’re hurt! I’m coming whether you help me or not.”

 

Keith groans, but he relents.

 

It takes all of Lance’s willpower to keep from crying out the next time Keith helps him to his feet. He needs another few seconds to steady himself and fight away the nausea until he feels confident enough to move.

 

Lance can feel other parts of his body ache and scream; can almost pinpoint exactly where on his body new bruises are forming but more importantly, he can see the sheen of sweat dotting Keith’s brow and how pallid his skin has gotten. He can barely walk, let alone bare Lance’s weight so Lance does what he thinks is best: he throws his boyfriend’s arm around his neck and shoulders Keith’s weight.

 

“No, what are you—“

 

“Your ankle is hurt and mine are fine.” He says matter of factly. “I can bear your weight.”

 

“Dammit Lance, you’re going to make your injuries worse!”

 

“Like you were going to do for me? Face it, Samurai, we’re both idiots in love.”

 

Keith snorts but doesn’t refute. It takes all of their energy to stay focused on the road.

 

It takes them an hour to make it back to civilization, thirty minutes to finally reach Keith’s house and less than ten seconds for Lance to finally pass out from the strain of having to half-carry his heavier, bigger boyfriend home.

 

-x-X-x-

 

He wakes up to the sight of a white paneled ceiling and the scent of antiseptic in the air. He feels groggy and tired, his body numb and heavy as though weighed down by invisible weights. His room is dark and quiet save for the dull chatter of noise just beyond his door.

 

His head lulls to the side, heavy against his neck. He realizes sluggishly that he’s in the hospital and his sudden numbness was the sweet, sweet release of pain control medicine.

 

Beside him, Lance notices Keith. Crutches lean against either side of his chair. Bandages were wrapped along the length of Keith’s head. The bruise on his jaw had darken to a nasty purple but it was the frown on his face that told Lance everything he needed to know.

 

He laughs.

 

Keith jerks awake, startled. “You’re awake! How are you feeling?”

 

“Sedated,” he slurs, still chuckling. “You?”

 

“Fractured ankle. Minor concussion. I’m fine.”

 

“Good.”

 

Keith sighs. “Your family is going to kill me. You could’ve died today.”

 

Keith leans into the bed, fingers wrapping around Lance’s until he has the boy’s hand cradled against his bandaged forehead.

 

“I’m so sorry.”

 

“s’ok. I love you.” Lance grins sleepily.

 

“I love you too.” He murmurs and presses a kiss against the boy’s hand. His frown from earlier softens, but it doesn’t quite disappear.

Chapter Text

They called space the final frontier. It was a vast, endless vacuum of darkness and noise. It held so many mysteries—so many questions without answers—and yet, to Lance, despite the chaos of fighting a war he had no true business being in, he still found the black void to be as exciting and horrifying as he dreamed it to be.

Now though, the horror was less about what he didn’t know and more about the fact that he was hurtling through space on a deactivated feline spaceship.

“Can anyone hear me? Hello? Keith? Shiro? Allura!” He gripped the handles tightly, jerking them back and forth in a desperate attempt to find stability. “Red please wake up!”

The Red Lion remained silent, it lights inactive as it hurtled closer and closer to the growing planet.

Without the communication lines working, Lance couldn’t hear the rest of his teammates in battle. He couldn’t tell how they were faring against the surprise attack or if pushing the Black Lion out of the line of fire saved Keith or doomed him. Worse yet, Red’s spiraling increased momentum.

The planet they’d been passing on a whim drew closer and closer until Lance felt the speed of the lion descent quicken like a bullet. They were in the planets gravitational pull now.

“Guys, can you hear me?! GUYS!” He screamed into his helmet. Silence filled his hears.

Panic bubbled in his chest. The cockpit began to rumble—they must have entered the planet’s atmosphere.

Lance desperately pressed every button on Red’s control panel to no avail. With a gulp, he braced himself for impact.

Red smashed into the ground with such force, it jostled Lance into the air. He would have bounced around the lion’s cockpit had it not been for the death grip he held his chair with. His gloved fingers dug deeper into the material as the lion skidded and bounced through the foliage until it smashed its head against an outcropping of rock.

Lance gasped for breath, fighting away the panic that begged him to run away from danger, but his limbs refused to obey. He peeled himself away from the chair and scrambled to get to his feet. He collapsed, still gasping.

Calm down, calm down, calm down— he chanted.

He shut his eyes and counted from ten. When that didn’t work, he counted from thirty. Slowly, his heart slowed. Adrenaline still fueled his veins, but Lance felt the instinctual terror of death finally seep away. Red may have been damaged but he was alive and so were his teammates. As far he knew.

No no no stop it, they’re okay. They can handle it, they always do. Keith won’t let anyone die.

Clank! Clank!

Lance’s eyes snapped open. Something banged against the lion’s exterior. Faintly, he heard muffled sounds, like voices, just beyond Red’s protective metal walls. The clanking started again.

Locals? Are they friendly?

He couldn’t remember what Allura has said about the planet during their briefing. Were they under Galra forces? Or were they a civilization that had been lucky enough to not yet be threatened? He couldn’t take the chance.

Lance grabbed the red bayard and hid. He hoped he’d been lucky enough to stumble onto a peaceful race, prayed even.

He heard the ear-splitting sound of metal being torn (a part of him screamed in frustration at Red’s mistreatment) and held his breath. He waited in the shadows of the cockpit for the locals to make their way through.

“It’s empty,” he heard one of them say.

“Impossible!” Replied another. “The doors were sealed shut. Whoever piloted this beast is trapped inside. Show yourself creature! Are you part of the Galran empire?!”

“Anphas,” called another, his voice deeper than the others. “Are you blind? The ship is the red lion of Voltron.” Lance held his breath. “They’re against the Galra. The pilot may be injured.”

He heard footsteps, but neither of them came into his line of sight.

“Paladin of Voltron, we mean you no harm,” the baritone voice said. “If you are injured and need assistance, we can help.”

Lance exhaled in relief. Perhaps it was a terrible idea, they could have been lying to lure him out then shoot him dead, but Lance was growing tired, drained from the harrowing events of today. If the locals knew of Voltron and their fight for peace in the universe, maybe they were good. Maybe they could help him. He stepped out of the shadows, weapon in hand.

Three men stood by the opening they had forcefully created through Red. Lance was almost relieved by their humanistic features. Their ears were pointed like the Alteans but sharper and longer. Each of their eyes held a different color: from blue to green, red to purple. Only the tallest one, the one whose voice was deep, had eyes the color of emerald. His blonde hair was slick back, his eyes sharp and observant. He was muscular—it was terrifying.

Lance swallowed thickly.

“M-my name is Lance. If you’re serious about helping me, I need a way to contact my team.”

The shortest one of the three, the one who had eyes as blue as the sky and green like poison, tapped a long, sharp finger against his lips. Lance felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise.

“We poked a hole in your lion, I hope you don’t mind.” He smiled sickeningly sweet. “Welcome to Planet Súrion! We are the Magésti, happy to help a Paladin of Voltron. My name is Anphas and this is my partner Ezriel—“ The burly blonde male nodded in acknowledgement . “—and Zarax.”

The other local, the one with eyes of red and purple and hair the color of lilac, bowed respectfully before Lance. He hated to admit it, but he felt safer in Zarax’s company than in Anphas’s.

“We’ll take you to our leader,” Anphas continued, though the way he rolled his eyes only served to put Lance more on edge.

“The damage you did to my ship, can you fix it?”

“Of course,” Ezriel replied. “Zarax, gather the engineers. We will take our honored guest to the King.”

“Yes,” Anphas drawled. “The sweet little King.”

With a quick salute, Zarax left them to their own devices. Lance gripped his bayard tighter. He wasn’t sure what to make of Ezriel, but his instincts screamed not to trust Anphas.

“Come along, Paladin of Voltron. Our baby King awaits!” The shorter male cackled.

Ezriel rolled his eyes as he followed the other male. Lance swallowed. Hesitantly, he followed.



The Black Lion was the last to dock into the hanger. Keith stormed out of the lion’s cockpit and ripped the red helmet from his head. Sweat clung to the edges of his hair and soaked his neck, but he didn’t care. He hurried into the control room of the castle where Coran worked frantically to find the Red Lion’s location.

“Anything?”

It was Shiro who responded first: “No, nothing.”

“The Red Lion must have lost power and hurdled into Súrion’s atmosphere.” Coran explained. “I can’t gather any traces of its crash landing but considering it’s close proximity during the time of attack, it’s the only possible option.”

“Then that’s where we’re heading.”

“Keith—“

“I’m not leaving him there!” Keith snapped, gritting his teeth. “What if he’s hurt? What if he’s trying to reach us but can’t because he’s pinned under rubble or-or captured by the locals?! I’m not taking the risk!”

“Keith!” Shiro grabbed the boy’s arm, dark eyes sharp with authority, but Keith saw the hint of concern swirling in their dark depths. “Listen to me, we’re going to save him, but we need to come up with a plan. Calm down and think.”

“Shiro is right,” Allura began. “We simply cannot go barging into Súrion with weapons ready. They are a peaceful civilization, after all. If they find Lance before we do, he will be in good hands.”

“But in the off chance he crash landed in the middle of nowhere, I don’t want to waste time coming up with strategies.” He pulled his arm gently away from Shiro, now calmer than before. “We leave in 10 regardless of a plan. I’ll go grab a med kit.”

Shiro and Allura watched him leave without another word.



Lance knew something was wrong the moment Anphas suggested they take the back route to get to the palace. He knew he shouldn’t have allowed himself to relax in their presence or put away his bayard until they were in sight of the king.

Instead of taking him straight to the palace that looked over the city of Nerothos—at least that’s what the sign they passed called it—Anphas lead Lance through a series of back alleyways and narrow passages.

“Where are we going?” He asked after a few minutes of silence. “I thought you were taking me to your King?”

“Yeah, I thought about it, but then I realized, I don’t really have to.”

“wh-what—?”

Before Lance could register what was happening, Ezriel was behind him. His large hands grabbed his wrists tightly and pinned them against his back. He slammed the Blue Paladin into a nearby wall and didn’t stop until Lance was slack in his grip. Lance groaned in pain, winded and sore.

Ezriel dragged him to his feet and shoved him forward. Anphas smiles at him wickedly.

“Our king is a real pain in the ass, you know? He’s just some stupid kid who won the throne because of our stupid customs.” Anphas blabbed. They turned a corner and stopped in front of a lock set of doors. “He would have helped you, but that’s not fun.” He cackled. He unlocked the door then grabbed Lance by the arm. He was surprisingly strong despite his size.

“I really hate people like you,” he hissed. “You and that boy are all the same, all that power going to waste.” He sighed dramatically. He sneered. “Well, I’m going to teach you a lesson.”

He shoved the boy into the room then wheeled on Ezriel. “Take care of Zarax and the lion before the other paladins find it.”

“And leave all the fun to you? I don’t think so.”

“Ezriel!” Anphas growled. “He’s my prey! Mine!”

The blonde scowled. With barely a word, he turned on his heel and stormed away.

Anphas shut the door behind him. Lance tried to climb back to his feet until the Magéstan forced his foot down against his back. He stomped down on the curve of Lance’s spine until the Cuban boy wheezed for breath.

“Don’t move or things are going to get ugly.”

He kicked his side warningly, relishing the sound of Lance’s pained groan. He pulled out a sharp tool from a nearby shelf and inspected it.

“Let’s get started shall we?” He grinned.



Keith impatiently tapped his foot in the throne room of the Palace. The Magésti were an interesting race with a curious culture, and while on a different day, Keith wouldn’t mind giving them the time of day, but his worries over Lance’s well-being clouded his rationality.

Allura, still dressed in her paladin armor, tried to present herself with as much poise and diplomacy as possible. Shiro, who had also joined them, stood by her side and kept a careful eye on everyone in the room.

Pidge and Hunk, on the other hand, were a lot more lax, though Keith couldn’t blame them.

“Your majesty, the Paladins of Voltron request your audience.”

The Paladins bowed politely before the King. The King of Nerothos was just a boy, maybe even Pidge’s age if they followed the same age cycle. He seemed so small sitting in such a large, luxurious throne made of obsidian and adorned in... skeletal decor.

(Keith heard the uneasy whimpers of Hunk before the larger male regained his senses.)

Compared to everyone else they had seen, the King was the only one who didn’t have eyes of mismatched colors or hair of neon. His eyes and hair were pitch black with a circlet of gold wrapped around his head. He seemed uneasy in their presence.

Allura smiled peacefully. “Your majesty, my name is Princess Allura of Altea and these are the Paladins of Voltron. We have come to you because one of our own has crash landed on your planet. His name is Lance, have you by chance seen him?”

“Oh,” the young king visibly relaxed in his throne. “I received reports of a spaceship crash landing in the outskirts of the city. But I wasn’t told of any survivors.”

Keith tensed. “What?! Where is it?! Take me to him!”

“Keith, please!” Allura pleaded, holding him back. She turned back to the young king with an apologetic smile. “Please forgive him, our friend means a lot to us.”

“Sorry, I just meant the ship was empty. If there was a pilot inside, he must have left. I’ll send a search party. If you can describe him, it’ll help.”

“Thank you...?”

“Lixvan.” The teen blushed

Allura’s smile was warm. “Thank you King Lixvan.”



Lance couldn’t suppress the scream that tore from his vocal cords as pain coursed through his veins. Anphas cackled behind him. He brought down the whip with a sharp clap angst Lance’s back. He grew giddy at the sight of it ripping through skin and splattering blood across the floor.

Lance cried again, body trembling from the pain. He pleaded under his breath for Anphas to stop but the other male whipped him again and again until Lance’s backside was a tattered mess of blood, skin and muscles. His wrists and legs were tied to a pole in the middle of the room. His clothes had been ripped away, replaced by something old and stained. The material scratched against his skin, though he could barely feel it now.

Anphas rolled the whipped around his palm and approached the trembling boy. He grabbed him by the chin, forced his teary eyes to face him. He looked so smug.

“I like you, Lance. Your screams are really arousing. I think I’ll keep you as a pet and once your friends leave you behind, I’m going to make you mine.”

“N-no! Please—!”

Anphas backhanded him across the face, his multicolored eyes bright with glee. Lance couldn’t register the pain, but he tasted blood on his tongue. He spat it out on Anphas’s boots.

“Now, now, is that anyway for a pet to behave?”

His knee lodge itself into Lance’s gut. He heaved from the impact then crashed to the ground, weak and delirious.

Anphas kneeled beside him. “Welcome to Súrion, Lance. I hope we can have a wonderful time together.” He rose to his feet with a maniacal cackle.

Lance watched him leave until his vision blurred and he fell into darkness.

 

Chapter Text

Keith’s nails bit into the fabric of his paladin uniform as he paced back and forth in the war room of the palace. It’d been two hours since King Lixvan had released a search party for Lance and another hour since they had arrived to the planet. And in those three hours, Keith had done nothing but stifle his anger and wear a path on the floor of the war room.

“This is ridiculous, I should be out there looking for him!” He slammed a fist against the stone wall, a growl of frustration punctuating his words. “Lance is hurt and lost and what are we doing here? Waiting!”

“We’ve been through this Keith,” Allura sighed. She sagged into her seat, as though drained by Keith’s emotions. She watched him wearily. “Expending all our energy combing the city would take too much time. We must at least attempt to relax.”

“I know you’re worried about him,” Shiro interjected softly. “We all are, but you need to keep your cool. You’re not going to help Lance if you get yourself into trouble with the Magésti.”

“I-I know that! It’s just...” He wracked his brain for the proper words, but only one stuck out. He leaned his weight against the wall for support, his heart hammering harshly in his chest. “I’m scared. I know he can handle himself but...”

Shiro laid a comforting hand against his shoulder. “I know.”

“We’ll find him,” Hunk stated. “We’re not leaving this planet until we do.”

The others nodded their agreement. Keith felt the tension in his muscles loosen, appeased by their reassurance.



Lance’s screams reverberated across the chamber as Anphas crushed his hand beneath his boot. He rubbed his heel into his fingers until Lance’s screams cracked from the pressure. He cackled into the boy’s face, relishing the expression of agony that twisted Lance’s features.

He shoved him aside, breathless from laughter.

“Come now Lance, we’re only just beginning.”

Anphas grabbed the boy’s ankles, skin bruised and bleeding from the ropes that had been tied around them, and pulled him closer until he was underneath him.

Panic spilled across Lance’s face.

“No, no, no!” He begged, voice rough and broken. “No, please, stop! Don’t do this—!”

Anphas’s hand smacked over his mouth, muffling his cries. The Magéstan turned him over and leered into the younger boy’s face with an expression of pure mad delight.

“You have such a pretty voice. I can’t wait to steal it away from you.”

“Anphas!”

Ezriel ripped the smaller male away from Lance and practically flung him to the wall. He crashed into a pile of supplies, knocking them over in a horrid display of noise and chaos.

“The fuck, Ezriel?!” He screamed. “What are you doing?!”

His partner growled in barely controlled rage. “Are you an idiot? He is a paladin of Voltron! His companions are in the palace.”

“I told you to get rid of Zarax!”

“He has been neutralized,” the blonde said gruffly. He turned his attention to Lance, who scrambled as far away as he could from the burly male.

Lance huddled against the wall, careful not to let the cold stone touch the raw, agonizing mess that was his back but too terrified to care. His entire body trembled from fear, his skin clammy and soaked in a mixture of sweat and blood. He caught sight of Anphas unwillingly, who licked his lips.

God, Lance wanted to puke.

“Anphas, enough of this. The King requests our presence. You can play with your pet later.”

Anphas scowled. “What does the little brat need me for?”

“He knows we made a trip outside of the palace.”

“Fine. But first,” Anphas fisted Lance’s shirt and lifted the Cuban boy to his height. A sinister smile marred his lips. “I’ll be back little lion. Try not to miss me too much, okay?” He thrust Lance aside roughly then exited the chamber.

Ezriel pinched the bridge of his nose.

Once they were gone, Lance hurried to the door. He pushed then pulled, but the heavy iron door would not move. He was locked inside.

He pounded his fists against the door.

“Keith! Shiro!” He rasped, his tears flowing. “Allura! Hunk...” He slide down the smooth surface, the scent of sweat, blood and metal invading his senses. “Pi-Pidge...” he hiccuped. “An-anyone...”

Don’t leave me!

He buried his face into his arms and sobbed.



Keith had never wanted to stab someone in the gut before they spoke until this very moment. Lotor came pretty close, but at least Keith had a reason back then. Anphas was different. He radiated an aura of such smug assholery that Keith seriously contemplated having an “accident” with the Blade of Mamora.

The moment King Lixvan’s advisor walked into the room with his large, hulking companion, Keith hated him. He looked smug and greeted the King and the Paladin’s of Voltron with an air of such sarcasm—God, he just wanted to punch him.

“Yes, your childishness? I mean, your highness?”

King Lixvan’s childlike features furrowed into a regrettable frown. “Anphas, you and Ezriel made a trip to the outskirts of town about 4 hours ago. Did you find anything?”

“Mostly grass and peasants.”

“Did you happen to see anything fall from the sky?”

Anphas stared at his sharp nails as though they were more fascinating than conversing with the King.

“No, I don’t believe I did. The only things I saw was the decay of our good people under your leadership.”

“Anphas, enough.” Ezriel hissed. “My apologies, Lord Lixvan. Has something happened?”

“The Paladins of Voltron have lost a companion. I was hoping you two may have seen something?”

Anphas shook his head. “Nope, we saw nothing.”

Keith’s eyes narrowed. There was something about the guy he didn’t like. The way he openly mocked the King without fear, the way his mismatched eyes bounced between the rest of the paladins—something wasn’t right.

Anphas’s stare landed on Keith. He sized the length of Keith’s whole body slowly before gazing into his eyes. He smiled.

Something twisted sickeningly inside Keith.

“Please keep an eye out,” Lixvan requested. “He could be injured.”

It was barely noticeable, even the most observant of them could have missed it, but Keith saw the corners of Anphas’s lips twitch.

“Of course, your majesty.” He bowed lavishly then exited the hall with his companion in tow.



Lance barely had any strength to move, but the loud click of the iron door unlocking sent a wave of adrenaline coursing through his veins. He bolted from the door to the nearest hiding place and crouched behind the clutter of junk.

Anphas slipped into the room, giggling gleefully to himself. His laughter died the moment he scanned the room.

“Oh dear, where has the little lion gone?” Anphas made a show of investigating the torture chamber.

Ezriel watched him, unamused by his partner’s theatrics, but Lance held his breath. He desperately eyed the open door. The blonde stood in his path, but not enough to block him completely. If he was lucky, maybe he could sneak away?

Before Lance could concoct a plan, he was yanked out of the shadows and tossed to the ground. Terror immediately sized control. He made a break for the for the door.

“Ezriel!”

The robust blonde smacked Lance in the face. The force knocked the wind out of his lungs and he collapsed to the ground wheezing. He heard the dreaded screech of the iron door closing in front of him, a visual representation of his only means of escape vanishing for good. He couldn’t stop his tears from flowing.

Anphas was on him in seconds.

“Thought you could run away, hm? That's too bad.” He leered over Lance’s figure, his expression utterly insane. “Let’s play~”

Lance tried to fight. He was weak from the loss of blood, exhausted from the whirlwind of pain and emotion; Anphas shredded the remainder of his clothes and pulled him close. He pinned the Cuban boy’s arms above his head then grinned.

“Put on a good show for Ezzie, okay?”

He slipped his free hand between Lance’s legs.

Lance screamed.

Without warning, the iron door burst open.

Ezriel charged into Anphas before their unexpected guest could and ripped him away from Lance’s vicinity. The younger Magéstan screamed in outrage; Ezriel whipped out his own sword from a place Lance had not seen and held it out against the interloper.

It took Lance a moment to regain his senses. He stared into the angry, determined face of Keith, who held his sword drawn against Ezriel and Anphas.

“I knew you were hiding something, you bastard.” Keith hissed. “What were you doing to him?!”

Lance scrambled to Keith’s side, his words a jumbled mess as large, fat tears poured profusely from his eyes. Keith immediately knelt to his side. He kept his weapon pointed to his enemies, but the harshness of his gaze morphed into anxious concern for Lance’s well-being.

Anphas suddenly chuckled.

“I see what’s happening here. You’re his lover, aren’t you?” Keith turned sharp eyes to him, a dangerous growl rumbling in his throat. “Fair enough. I’ll share. Ezriel.”

Ezriel zoomed into them before either boy could react. His large palm collided with Keith’s face, his fingers framed across his head until all Keith could see what the older man’s hand. The contact barely lasted a second. Keith swung his sword instinctively but Exriel’s hulking mass was gone and so was Anphas.

“What did they do?” Lance rasped. His long fingers gently grasped onto Keith’s face, wet, blue eyes anxiously scanning him for visible injuries, but he saw nothing.

“Lance,” Keith sighed. “Oh my god, Lance.”

Lance buried himself into Keith’s chest, his whole body trembling again. Tears poured from his eyes as he sobbed, comforted by Keith’s warm embrace.

Keith held him close, wary of the ruined skin marring Lance’s back, but it felt good to have him in his arms again. Lance’s warmth, his sweat, his blood—Keith’s mind fogged. He nuzzled his nose into the crook of Lance’s neck and inhaled.

Lance stiffened.

“K-Keith?” He squeaked.

“Lance,” Keith breathed. He held the boy tighter, oblivious to the wide-eyed terror dawning Lance’s face.

He tried to pull away. “No, Keith, wait! Something’s wrong—what did they—“

Keith shoved Lance to the ground face first. Something seemed inherently wrong with his actions, but a part of mind couldn’t piece what was so out of place.

Lance struggled against him, begging him to snap out of it. He clawed the ground in a desperate attempt to escape but just like Anphas, Keith pinned him down.

Suddenly, Keith felt his paladin armor was a hindrance. Here was Lance, ready and primed for the taking and he was still fully clothed. It was despicable. Keith ripped the black fabric of his paladin suit with the edge of his dagger.

“KEITH, STOP! PLEASE!”

Something snapped in his mind. Keith lurched away from Lance, his dagger flying loosely from his grip. It clattered noisily against the stone floor between him and Lance. They stared at each other with wide horrified eyes until, finally, it sunk into Keith’s mind.

“Lance, I—“ His voice died in his throat. Guilt, terror, rage, and panic formed inside his chest like a hurricane. “Oh god, Lance, I...!”

“I know,” Lance hiccuped. “I know.”

With great effort, Lance closed the distance between them and pulled Keith into his arms. His hands trembled as he smoothed down Keith’s hair in an effort to comfort him.

“Y-you weren’t yourself. You didn’t mean it.” Lance whispered. “I-I know. I know.”

Keith peeled himself away from the quivering paladin. He pressed their foreheads together, thumbs gently caressing Lance’s wet cheeks.

“Stop it. I’m here now. I’m here.”

Lance broke down for the third time that day. He buried his face into Keith’s chest and cried out his sorrows. Keith held him gently. He stared aimlessly at the ground, the hurricane of rage and guilt settling for the moment.

Chapter Text

Lance was 100%, without a doubt, absolutely, positively sure he was being followed.

At first, he thought it had been his imagination. He lived on a busy street where cars were constantly going to and fro, and people often stood just around the corner of his street reach their bus stop. So it wasn’t that unusual for Lance to see some familiar faces trailing behind him or heading his way, but never in his life had he ever felt like... he was being followed.

Suddenly, Lance felt as though he shouldn’t have been outside so late at night or alone on the sidewalk. Despite the human traffic that had begun to dwindle as the sky grew darker and darker, Lance could sense that there was at least one other person matching his steps. He pulled out his cellphone to check the time: 9:30 pm.

He still had a long way to go before he could reach home, but the idea of leading a complete stranger down the route he took to get there made Lance uneasy. If anything, he was closer to Keith’s place and getting there involved cutting through some unusual paths.

If he was lucky, maybe he could lose his unwanted stalker.

Lance cut through an alley between two food stores. He ran across the back parking lot, hopped over the metal divider and nearly tumbled into a residential trash can that had been left outside carelessly. He didn’t bother to cast a quick glance over his shoulder as he rushed through the residential condos and onto open street.

He ran for a few more minutes, cutting through lawns and backyards until he was certain whoever was following had lost him. He climbed the last fence into Keith’s backyard and made a beeline for the sliding door.

He knocked on the glass anxiously. “Hello? Keith?” He sent a quick text to Keith’s number before scanning the backyard.

Now that the sun had fully set, the yard was dark, lit only by the lights from the lightning bugs. The backyard light still hadn’t been fixed since the last time Lance came over, which admittedly wasn’t that long ago, but he figured Shiro would have at least tried to fix it before Krolia hunted him down for it.

Five minutes later, the glass door slid open. Lance’s earlier anxiety morphed into amusement. Keith stood before him, dressed black sweats, a red tank two sizes too small for his muscular frame and hair a mess. He looked like he had just crawled out of bed... or was in the middle of something Lance would very much like to participate in.

“Babe, it’s ten o’clock at night.”

Lance rubbed his neck sheepishly. “Sorry. Did I wake you up?”

Keith yawned. “Not really. I accidentally took a nap. I was working out but then I fell asleep.”

“In the middle of a work out?”

Keith shrugged. “It happens.”

He urged the younger boy into his home before locking the backyard door. He turned to Lance, his violet eyes more alert than before.

“So,” he started.

“So,” Lance repeated, suddenly distracted by Keith’s proximity.

“What are you here for? Is this what they call a ‘late night booty call’?”

“It’s not a booty call if we’re dating. Wait—no! That’s not what I’m here for! Keith, I think I have a stalker.”

Keith furrowed his brows. “Are you sure?”

“Definitely sure! I came here because your place was the closest and I didn’t want to lead them home.”

“So you lead them to mine?” Keith deadpanned.

Lance sputtered.

“Babe, relax. I get it. I’m happy you’re safe here.” Keith reassured. He gently caressed the back of Lance’s trembling hand. “You can stay here for the night.”

Lance lurched into Keith’s chest. “Yes! Thank you, Keith! But, uh, won’t your mom say something?”

The older boy shrugged. “Keep it down? I don’t know. She likes you so I’m sure she won’t mind.”

Lance sighed, feeling the most relieved he’d been that whole day.

After Lance called his family to let them know where he was, and then enduring ten solid minutes of his older sibling’s teasing him until he was red in the face, Lance dropped onto Keith’s messy bed and curled his blankets. He inhaled the scent that was inexplicably Keith and sighed contentedly. Not only was he in Keith’s room, on his bed, cuddling his sheets, but he was also in Keith’s spare pajamas. They were slightly large around his frame, especially around the hips, but Lance didn’t mind. He felt so warm and content,surrounded from head to toe in Keith’s scent. Maybe there was one good thing about having a stalker.

Keith watched him with a quirked brow.

Lance blushed. “What?”

“Nothing.”

“Don’t judge me.”

“I’m not.” He chuckled.

“Hey man, I’ve had a weird week, okay? So what if I want to find comfort in my boyfriend at the end of the day? I’ve got a creep stalking me and I don’t even know why!”

The mirth in Keith’s face turned solemn. He joined Lance on the bed, violet eyes hard. “How long has this been happening?”

Lance felt his heart start to race.

“Not that long,” he lied. “Just a few days.”

Keith’s eyes narrowed. “You said you had a weird week. That’s not a few days. How long has this been going on?”

Lance tried to turn away from his boyfriend’s intense gaze, but Keith crawled over him, caging him to the bed.

“Lance, please, tell me what’s going on.”

“Okay. It’s been going on for a few weeks. Maybe even a month.”

“A month?! And you’re just telling me this now?”

“I didn’t think it was a big deal—“

“It’s a serious problem, Lance. Some stranger’s been stalking you for a month?! What else has been going on?”

Lance mumbled.

“Lance!”

“Okay! Just... they take pictures of me. It’s just... me walking around town or hanging out with friends. They send it to me online with...” Lance hadn’t realized he was trembling until his voice hitched. He swallowed thickly. “...they, uh, they say stuff. Sometimes, but i don’t think they know where I live exactly or, um, who my friends are. N-not really.”

Keith’s expression was oddly soft. He had gone from pure unadulterated rage from Lance’s words to quiet reassurance. His thumb rubbed soothing circles into the skin on Lance’s hip as he listened. Lance listed off a series of unpleasant experiences he’s had throughout the weeks: the photos, the phone calls, the anonymous messages on his social media—the list went on and on until Lance finally buried his face into Keith’s neck.

“Can we stop talking about this?” He pleaded. “You being here with me is all I really want to focus on.”

“Sure Lance, but if it happens again, tell me.” He pulled Lance away far enough to gave into his eyes. “Promise you’ll tell me.”

“I promise.” He sealed the distance between them with a grateful kiss.

They slowly fell back into bed, enjoying the warmth brought on by their kissing when Keith pulled away a second time.

“If they come after you again, I’m going to kick their ass.”

“As much as I think that’s hot, I don’t want you getting into trouble with your mom. Or Shiro. I don’t know which one is worse.”

“It’d be worth it for you.”

Keith leaned in for another kiss, silencing Lance’s retort.

Chapter Text

He was no stranger to the hatred lurking deep within his mind. He’d made it his mission to do his best, to succeed in all things until he could outrun the disgust he held within himself. Despite his achievements, despite his decorated uniform, adorned in hard-earned medals and the pictures that covered his wall—all frozen snapshots of past accomplishments—Shiro could not escape the all-encompassing darkness that was his thoughts.

 

Even out in space, being the leader to a bunch of teenagers and trying to keep the peace in an otherwise chaotic universe, nothing Shiro did could silence the horrid voice in his head. It told him things he knew not to be true, whispered sweet lies in moments he should have found peace...

 

The Black Lion had saved him for reasons he still could not comprehend. His mortal body had not been worthy, but his soul had found peace within the astral plane of the Black Lion, and yet...

 

You’re pathetic. Whispered a voice, one that sounded unremarkably like his own. You let them down. You got yourself killed. You couldn’t even lead them right.

 

Shiro shook his head in a futile attempt to shake away his thoughts. He chuckled humorlessly to himself. He ran a hand through snowy white hair.

 

It was a lot more peaceful in the astral plane. He thought.

 

“Shiro.” Keith knelt by his side, violet eyes filled with worry. “You okay?”

 

“As okay as I can be after being dead for so long.”

 

“That’s not funny,” Keith frowned.

 

Shiro chuckled. “You’re right, I’m sorry. I was lost in my thoughts.”

 

“Want to talk about it?”

 

He mulled it over in his mind. A thousand and one excuses dislodged themselves from their dark, shadowy crevices. Truthfully, he didn’t want to. There were so many more important things they needed to do, wasting time here to talk about Shiro’s delusions, that wasn’t necessary. He wasn’t worth the trouble.

 

“It’s nothing serious.” He smiled warmly.

 

Keith wasn’t satisfied.

 

“You sure?” He pressed. “You’ve been through a lot, maybe more than the rest of us—“

 

(He didn’t believe that. He’d seen through the eyes of the Black Lion. He knew what had gone on since his soul displaced itself in the astral plane and despite what Keith may have believed about being trapped in a transcendent world, Shiro knew Lance and the others had suffered more than he did. Maybe some more than others.)

 

He snapped back to reality just in time to hear Keith’s last words:

 

“If you want to talk, I’m here for you.”

 

Shiro gave him an appreciative smile. “I know. Thank you.”

 

He didn’t consider himself worthy of anyone’s time, but he needn’t let his loved ones know. No, they shouldn’t ever know.

Chapter Text


Lance stumbled into the Castle ship’s kitchen as a yawn erupted from his chest. He wiped away the traces of sleep from his eyes and gazed blankly into the logo of the Space Mall until realization dawned on him.

“You guys went to the Space Mall without me?!”

“To be fair, we couldn’t find you,” Pidge explained, snooping into a bag on the counter. She pulled a container from the bag with a devious smile. “Keith said you were napping so we just decided to let you sleep.”

“You should have woken me up! What if I wanted to buy something?”

“Sorry, buddy,” Hunk chimes in, looking apologetic. “We were kinda in a hurry.”

Lance pouted. “Gee, thanks, guys. I can’t believe you left me all alone on the ship.”

“We didn’t leave you alone. Shiro stayed behind.” Pidge said. She popped a piece of something that looked oddly like a purple chip into her mouth and chewed. It cracked loudly within her cheek.

Lance raised an eyebrow.

“Great, not only did you have Shiro babysit me, but you guys brought back more alien food. Is that a purple potato chip?”

“It’s called gamara chips. I don’t know what it is exactly but it’s really good. Wanna try?”

Lance grimaced. “No thanks. Eating food goo is enough for me.”

“Don’t bother, Pidge. Lance is a picky eater.” Hunk chuckled.

“He is?” Another voice queried.

Lance turned and groaned. Keith joined them in the kitchen, brow raised and arms crossed as he watched Hunk store away their newly bought ingredients.

He took his place beside Lance and nudged the Blue Paladin amicably.

“Had a nice nap, Sleeping Beauty?” He teased.

Lance huffed. “For your information, I did! Also, you should have woken me up!”

“You looked peaceful, I didn’t want to ruin that.”

“Y-yeah, well...you should have.” Lance turned his attention away from Keith, suddenly flustered. He can’t face to face with the deadpanned looks of Pidge and Hunk. “What?”

“Oh, nothing.” They both chimed.

“So, what’s this about you being a picky eater?”

“I’m not a picky eater, I just...prefer not eating certain things.”

“Pretty sure that’s the definition of a picky eater.” Pidge quipped. She took another loud bite of her purple gamara chips. The tips of her fingers and the skin on her lips were already turning purple. Lance wondered if it had stained her tongue too.

“Lance is the world’s pickiest eater,” Hunk added once all the edible ingredients were put away. “I remember this one time, back in the Garrison—“

“Hey, hey, hey! You promised not to tell anyone that story!”

“Oh yeah.”

Pidge’s glasses glinted in the light. “Oh? Tell me more.”

“Nope! Not happening! We’re not talking about it. In fact, we’re done here.”

Lance turned on his heel and proceeded to drag Keith out of the kitchen.

“Come on, Keith. You owe me a training session.”

“Right now?”

“Don’t forget, dinner will be ready soon!” Hunk called after them. He sighed defeatedly as they left.



Hunk’s cooking was impressive. Just like with his engineering, the Samoan was a blessing for the team and his abilities with cooking were unparalleled. (Coran found that debatable but no one felt the heart to disagree.)

Food goo was usually a bland affair designed mostly for nutritional value, but Hunk had managed to transform their daily green goopy intake with alien spices. He had turned something bland and unappealing into something that was remarkably delicious. And now, after having enough credits to buy a bulk supply of various alien ingredients, the Paladin of the Yellow Lion has gone all out.

Lance blew a low whistle as he and the others trailed into the dining hall. The long table was neatly sorted with various dishes in a plethora of colors. Hunk stood by the head of the table, his apron messy and his brow a little sweaty, yet the proud, bright smile on his face revealed the true depth of his emotions.

“Wow Hunk, you really went all out,” Lance commented. He took his seat beside Keith at the table and eyed the various dishes. “Good job, buddy.”

“Thanks, Lance,” He beamed. “Have a little of everything! There’s plenty to go around.”

“I must say Hunk, this is truly impressive,” Coran admitted. “But my food goo is still the best.”

“Sure is,” He chuckled.

The rest of the paladins dug into their plates. With the exception of Lance, they took a bit of every dish on the table and spent the next ten minutes complimenting Hunk on his fine cooking skills or going over the day's events.

Lance, on the other hand, tentatively tried a few of the dishes within his reach and remained content with eating what he was most familiar with—food goo.

“Aw c’mon Lance,” Hunk groaned. “At least try this.” He held up a basket full of something that looked like a Danish filled with pink jelly. “It's a strawberry Danish! Well, okay not really, but the fruit thing I found in the market is the closest thing we’ll get to a strawberry out here. It’s like a space strawberry!”

Shiro munched on a piece. “It’s true.” He said voice muffled.

Pidge greedily snapped a piece from the basket and stuffed her voice. Allura broke off smaller pieces of hers and fed some to the mice.

Lance internally cringed. “S-strawberries?”

“Try some!”

Hunk placed a pink coated biscuit onto Lance’s plate and urged him again.

“What’s a strawberry?” Coran queried.

“Oh you see, it’s—“

Lance stared at his space Danish with trepidation. It wasn’t that he didn’t like strawberries, quite the opposite really, it was just... they were strawberries. Okay, maybe not actual, real strawberries—they were space strawberries. Or whatever they called “strawberry-like” fruit-things in space, but still! Space strawberries!

He watched the rest of his friends chow down on their meals. He glanced at Keith, who seemed happy conversing with Shiro and Allura as they each ate a space Danish of their own. He swallowed thickly.

Maybe space strawberries weren’t the same as Earth strawberries? Maybe they had enough of a difference in terms of the molecular structure that he wouldn’t swell up like a balloon and suffocate? Maybe he wouldn’t end up embarrassing himself half-way to death in front of his makeshift space family all because he couldn’t handle a little space strawberry thing? Maybe he’d be lucky this time. Lance grimaced.

He took a silent breath.

He brought the Danish to his mouth without a thought and tore a piece away with his teeth. He felt the tart sweetness of the pink hoop explode into his mouth and coat his tongue as he chewed. It tasted delicious—almost truly like a strawberry except sweeter and soft.

Hunk beamed at him with pride. “See buddy? It’s good right?”

“Yeah, it’s good.” He swallowed the piece in his mouth then went for seconds.

Within seconds, Lance finished the space danish with satisfaction. His mouth tingled and his tongue felt strange, but he barely noticed the sensations amidst the commotion of dinnertime conversations.

Pidge spent the next few minutes recounting an event that had happened in the mall while the others were shopping. Lance chuckled, amused by her antics. Something tickled his throat.

He coughed.

He reached for his water packet and downed the liquid in gulps. The tickling intensified.

“Are you okay?” Keith frowned.

“Yeah, I’m—“ Lance coughed and wheezed. His tongue felt thick in his mouth. “I’m—“ Suddenly, he couldn’t breathe.

“Lance? Lance?!”

Lance pushed his chair away in a fit of panic. He clawed at his throat, trying desperately to gasp for air. The rest of the paladins were by his side in an instant. They crowded him, bombarded him with questions, their eyes wide with concern and fear. But it was Coran who split the crowd. He lifted the Cuban boy in his arms and ran to the healing pods with such speed, he left the rest of the paladins behind.



When Lance next awoke, he found himself staring at the ceiling of his room.

“They’re vanogan berries,” he heard the older man say. “They’re in high demand because of their sweetness but they’ve been known to cause nasty reactions in certain people.”

“Are you saying Lance had an allergic reaction to the vanogan berries Hunk used?”

“In layman’s terms, yes, absolutely. Hunk’s description of your strawberries from Earth is quite similar to the vanogan berries. In fact, they’re not that different.”

Lance groaned in embarrassment.

Suddenly, his bedside was crowded with the anxious faces of his friends save for Shiro and Coran, who hung off to the side. Keith didn’t quite hover like Pidge and Hunk did, but he was close enough for Lance to see the look on the boy’s face. Allura peered down at him, a warm smile on her beautiful face.

“How are you feeling?” She asked softly.

“Embarrassed.” He admitted.

“Lance, you have nothing to be embarrassed about. It is perfectly normal to have allergic reactions to certain foods.”

“Yeah man. Why didn’t you say something sooner?” Hunk frowned. “Even back at the Garrison, you never told me you were deathly allergic to strawberries.”

“If it helps, I’m allergic to milk,” Pidge added.

Lance trailed his fingers through his hair. “I just... I don’t know. I thought it was dumb.”

“Having a food allergy as serious as yours is not dumb.” Keith sighed. “What’s dumb is not telling us in the first place.”

“How was I supposed to know space strawberries exist?!”

“The point is,” Shiro interjected before Keith could retort. “You’re okay thanks to Coran’s quick thinking. Now, I think we should all give you some time to rest. Come on, guys.”

They poured out of Lance’s room, bidding their goodbyes and well wishes until only Coran remained. He sat on the edge of Lance’s bed and patted the lanky boy’s arm.

“Thank you, Coran. You saved my life.”

The older altean smiled warmly. “As you would have done for me. Now, get some sleep. I’ll return with more food goo so you can get your strength back.”

Lance chuckled tiredly.

Chapter Text


Lance flexed his right arm gingerly, his heart racing. He felt the sharp, burning pain ignite in his veins as his muscles responded to his command. The gesture had barely been much, but the pain that pulsated throughout his biceps and trickled into his back told a different story.

Coran took the Cuban boy’s arm into his hands and carefully extended the limb to its full length. Lance hissed. His right arm trembled within Coran’s grasp, beads of sweat dotted his brow.

“As I feared,” the older Altean muttered, more to himself than to Lance. “The damage done to your arm was more severe than I had expected. Despite spending several movements in the healing pods, it still couldn’t quite repair the damage done to your nerves. Hold this.”

Coran handed him a thin piece of medical equipment.

Shakily, Lance reached for the item. He grimaced in pain as he plucked the metal stick from Coran’s palm with his index finger and thumb. He tried to hold it like a pencil, but the pain was immense.

Coran rubbed his glorious mustache.

“Your motor skills are slowed and you might experience some pain, but! I think you can regain full mobility back in your fingers.”

Lance sighed, relieved. He gingerly dropped his arm onto his lap and watched Coran scurry around the infirmary in search of something.

“So, are you gonna fill me in as to what happened? I was in a coma for, what, a few vargas?”

“A few vargas!” Coran cried, accidentally starting the blue paladin. “Oh no Lance, you were in the pod for several movements! To be honest, we weren’t even sure you were going to make it. Your body just wasn’t responding.” Coran sighed heavily. He plucked an item from the high shelf and returned to Lance’s side, eyes warm. “But I knew you would come back to us. I never lost faith.”

He held out a small, cylindrical container l to Lance’s face. “Here you are. It’s medicine for pain management. I want you to spend a few doboshes every day to re-acclimate your muscles to movement until you’re well enough to use your bayard again. One pill a day should be enough.”

Lance eyed the medicine bottle curiously. Its name was impossible to pronounce. Not only was it long—at least Lance presumed it was—it was also written in Altean. He took the medication into his left hand and examined the barely legible sticker.

“Uh, I can’t read the side effects.”

“Don’t worry, as a relatively healthy Paladin of the Red Lion, you should be able to handle at least one dose, but only one!” He paused for a moment, twirling the end of his mustache thoughtfully. “But, if you notice anything strange such as your tongue turning pink or you break out into purple spots, let me know.”

Lance paled.

“It’s a rare side effect,” He assured him.

Lance certainly hoped it was.


Lance returned to his room with the pill bottle in hand. He set it down on a shelf, in front of his mirror, Nd gazed into his weary face. He looked haggard. Despite spending several weeks in a pod meant to heal all sorts of physical wounds and traumas, Lance felt like the medicine he’d been floating in had done nothing more than smooth out the blemishes on his skin.

He stared at his right hand, brows furrowed. Just with appearances alone, his hand looked fine—normal even. He pressed his palm against the shelf’s edge and tentatively pushed.

His muscles tensed; pain erupted along the length of his arm and down his back. He grunted.

“Okay,” He murmured. “Let’s try this again.”

He reached from the medicine bottle and curled his fingers around its frame. White fire seared from his wrist to his elbow and from his elbow to his shoulder. The longer he held onto the case, the stronger the pain grew. It pulsated to the rhythm of his heart, begging him to stop, but Lance persisted.

With the pill bottle still in hand, he flexed his right arm.

He wanted to scream.

Lance dropped the bottle back into the shelf and cradled his trembling limb. Beads of sweat dotted his brow as his chest heaved laboriously. He swallowed.

“¿Dios mío, por qué a mi?” he whispered. He fell to his knees, his arm still plastered to his chest. A sob ripped from his throat. He inhaled shakily. “¿Por qué a mi? ¿Por qué? ¡¿Por qué?!”

Despite the pain, he buried his face into his hands as tears poured from his weary eyes.

Memories of a lifetime ago flashed in his mind. He couldn’t recall how he had ended up in the healing pods or what mission they had taken up that lead him there in the first place. He couldn’t remember the dreams he had dreamt, but somehow, a part of him sensed they had been beautiful and pleasant.

They must have been of Earth and his family.

“Mamá, por favor... sálvame.” He whispered to no one.


Lance straightened the fingers on his right hand then clutched them shut. He felt his muscles contract from the command, watched as the muscles beneath his skin moved. Mentally, he was prepared for the pain but knew there wouldn’t be any. Coran’s painkillers saw to that.

“Glad to see you’re doing better,” Keith said. He joined Lance in the training room, dressed in paladin gear despite their meet up being a casual affair. He stopped in front of Lance, violet eyes scanning him with a look that Lance couldn’t quite decipher. “Did Coran give you the okay to train again?”

“Kind of.” Lance switched the bayard into his right hand. He could barely feel his fingers grasp around the handle of the weapon and wondered, briefly, if he held the bayard too loosely or tightly. And yet, a part of him disregarded his concerns. The most important thing was that he didn’t feel pain. For once, in the last four days of taking Coran’s painkillers and practicing his movements with his right hand, Lance felt utterly numb to the searing burn of his damaged nerves.

He grinned. “Co-op battle or spar?”

Keith’s sword extended in his hand.

“Sparring it is!”


 

Lance awoke from his sleep abruptly. He stared blankly into his ceiling, his sleep-addled mind hazed with confusion until the pulsating pain of his arm crashed into his body like a wave. He yelled in pain. He clutched his forearm out of reflex; blunt fingernails bit into the silk fabric of his pajamas.

The pain didn’t stop. It rolled into him like a tide on a shoreline, throbbing stronger and stronger until Lance’s mind blurred.

He scrambled out of bed, nearly tripping himself on the cocoon of blankets, and crashed into the shelf that held s variety of alien beauty supplies. He reached for the medication on the shelf and hastily screw off the top. He poured two pills into his palm and knocked them back into his mouth. He swallowed them dry.

Breathe, breathe! He told himself. BREATHE!

He managed to calm himself down enough to regain his senses. Slowly but surely, Lance felt the dulling numbness of the alien painkillers deep into his blood. His muscles relaxed throughout his body, the pain subsiding. He languidly fell back into his mattress, sighing a breath of relief.

Suddenly, he felt floaty and giggly, as though his recent bout of panic was the funniest thing he’d done in the whole world. He lifted his right hand, nearly smacking himself in the face from how heavy it felt, and examined the lines etched deep into his palm.

He wiggled his fingers. They wiggled right back.

 

Chapter Text


Lance slid the empty pill bottle across the table and into Coran’s line of sight. He flashed the older Altean engineer his most charming smile.

“I need a refill.”

Coran inspected the empty case. He ruffled his mustache for a moment, stroking it with careful movement until the silence stretched far longer than Lance felt comfortable with. Coran was usually a man who wore his heart in his sleeves, Lance didn’t have difficulty trying to figure out what went through his head, but lately, it’d been hard. Then again, Lance found a lot of things difficult through the haze pain medication that coursed through his veins.

“Does your arm still hurt?” The Altean asked instead. “I watched the team training today. Your movements were exceptional if a little... sluggish.”

“Oh, yeah! My arm wakes me up in the middle of sleeping sometimes, so I was just, you know, drained.” He grinned widely. “But I stayed focused! I’ve been doing the exercises you taught me. The medicine makes it possible.”

Coran gazed into his eyes steadily. “Hm, yes,” He drawled. “Okay Lance, I’ll fill it up, but its one pill a day. Even if the pain returns and you feel like it’s gonna fall off, it’s just one!”

He refilled the bottle as he spoke, unaware of the way Lance’s blue eyes hyper-focused on the carton of medicine. He sealed the carton, placed it back onto the high shelf and reset the protection lock for safe keeping. Lance refocused on Coran, his smile strained as the royal advisor held out the replenished container to him.

“Thanks, Coran, I—“ The weight of the medicine was light in his grasp. He turned the container over in his palm and counted the number of pastel pink pills.

Frustration clawed in his chest.

“You’re only giving me ten?” He tried to keep the anger down in his voice, but wasn’t sure if he was doing a good job of keeping it off his face. “You gave me twenty last time.”

“Twenty pills for twenty quintants.” Coran explained, his kind eyes oddly sharp. “It’s only been two movements since you woke up from your coma, Lance. What happened to the rest?”

“I already told you, the pain comes back when I’m asleep!” He snapped.

Coran’s red brows furrowed worriedly.

“Lance,” he began gently. Lance poured the pills back into the container and hastily screw on the top. “I understand you may be struggling to come to terms with what happened but—“

“I don’t need a lecture right now! I get that enough from everyone in this castle, I don’t need to hear it from you.” He pocketed the medication. “Thank you for your help, Coran, but I can manage myself from here.” He headed toward the door.

“I won’t give you another refill!” Coran called after him.

Lance froze in front of the door, a sense of frustration, rage, and fear bubbled in his chest like a brewing storm. He grumbled under his breath and marched out of the infirmary without a look back.

Coran shook his head, heavily troubled.



Lance’s thoughts raced as he dodged an attack from one of the training drones. Ten pills weren’t going to cut it. Even now, despite having downed two pills after his unpleasant encounter in the infirmary, Lance could still feel the trace of pain deep in his skin.

Today, he’d meant to practice shooting. He still found it uncomfortable to pull the trigger of his rifle without the twinge of pain, but Coran’s refusal played like a broken record in his mind. The red bayard shifted into the altean broadsword and he charged toward the drone, slashing away at its robotic parts.

His shoulder erupted into pain. He hissed, suddenly infuriated. How was it possible he could still feel pain? He could barely feel the hilt of the sword in his hand!

I’m not taking enough. He reasoned. He charged into another drone, swinging his sword. I need more!

Distracted by his angry, anxious thoughts, Lance failed to see the other training drone until it slammed its weapon down across his back. Pain ignited his nerves, blinding his thoughts. Another drone kicked the sword right out of Lance’s hand, sending it flying across the training room and shoved the hilt of its own weapon into Lance’s solar plexus.

The blue paladin crumbled to the ground, wheezing.

The drones immediately deactivated, freezing in place around him like a statistic mob about to crucify him. Through the tears in his eyes, Lance gazed into the worried face of Shiro.

“That was some beating,” He held out his hand to Lance. “You’ve really improved with your swordsmanship. Have you been training with Keith?”

Lance climbed to his feet with Shiro’s help. He wiped the dust from his clothes, feeling both embarrassed and ashamed for having lost himself in his rage.

“Yeah, when he can.” He rubbed his right arm, resisting the urge to grimace in front of his hero. He plastered on a bright smile for Shiro’s sake. “What’s up, Shiro? Did you need me for anything?”

“I was hoping for some of your “world famous” milkshakes.”

Lance blinked, surprised. “Aren’t you lactose intolerant?”

“Yes.”

“...won’t you...get sick?”

Shiro’s smile was amicable. “I’m willing to suffer for a little taste of Earth.”

Lance raised his hands in a placating gesture. “Fair enough. Let me just change and we’ll go visit Kaltencker.”



Lance couldn't feel his face, though he was absolutely sure he had one. He sucked on freshly made milkshake through a large straw Hunk had been lucky enough to find on their last trip to the space mall. He watched Shiro swirl the straw around in his cup before taking another swing of what will ultimately destroy his intestines in ten doboshes.

He seemed quite pleased with Lance’s work. He drained the white substance of liquid death until Shiro was left with nothing but whipped cream and whatever remained of the space fruits Lance had used to make their shakes.

“Any last words?” The Cuban teased.

“Actually, yes. I wanted to talk to you about your training with the others today.”

Lance tore his eyes away from his drink. He found Shiro’s unwavering dark eyes peering into his own. It was unsettling.

“Yeah? Coran said he was impressed I was recovering so fast. I mean, of course, I would. It’s me after all.” Lance rattled nervously. He occupied himself by twirling his smoothie straw in circles. “I basically almost have full function in my hand again. I should be good enough to go back on missions with you guys.” He stared back at Shiro with a hopeful gaze. “You guys probably don’t even really need me, but... let me at least make up for it!”

“Lance, what happened to you wasn’t your fault. You saved those people’s lives at the risk of your own. We’re all proud of you and we’re happy you’re still with us. But, I’m not the one who can make the call.” He sighed. “Coran is worried about you. We’re all worried.”

“Worried about what? I’m fine.”

Shiro’s eyes bore into his own. “Are you? You were unfocused during the training session today. And earlier, you seemed angry.”

Lance gripped his cup tightly, uncomfortable with Shiro’s questions and frustrated with himself for his inability to do anything right. He felt the sharp ache of his arm flare up. He couldn’t hide his grimace.

“Lance?”

“I’m doing my best to get better.” He said, his voice hard. “I’m getting there! Just... give me a chance.”

Shiro’s expression
morphed into something akin to pain. It took Lance a second to realize why his hero looked so uncomfortable. Shiro excused himself from the kitchen and tried to hurry out of the room with his dignity intact. (He ended up booting around the corner before Lance could say a word).



He downed three pills with a gulp of water in the hopes of silencing the aches and pains of his body. He felt the weightlessness of the medication kick in minutes after consumption and plopped himself into bed.

The thoughts that whirled in his mind slowed to a standstill. He gazed into the ceiling, not quite comprehending what he was seeing, but feeling more at peace with himself than ever before.

Slowly, his body grew numb as he struggled to fight against the heavyweights that were his eyelids.



Lance snapped back to reality with a loud gasp. He bolted upright in bed and desperately scrambled to pull away the sheets wrapped around his body until all his limbs were free.

Standing a foot away from his bed was Keith. He was dressed in paladin gear, helmet in hand, while his eyes fixated on Lance with an expression that stung worse than Coran giving him a lecture.

“Wh-what happened?!” Lance gasped. “Why are you in paladin gear?”

“The Castle of Lions was attacked while you slept,” Keith answered, his voice carefully controlled. “We tried waking you up, but you weren’t responding.”

The Blue Paladin gulped, throat dry. He found it difficult to keep Keith’s gaze, guilt reared its ugly head in his chest.

“Is everyone okay?”

“Yeah. Luckily we didn’t need to form Voltron, but Red wasn’t cooperating with any of my commands.”

“Well, I mean, you did leave it for the Black Lion.” Lance tried to joke. Keith didn’t look amused.

“Lance, Red kept trying to return to the Castle as we fought. Do you know why?”

He didn’t. His brain wasn’t processing correctly. He side eyed the pill bottle on the shelf and tried to recall how many he had taken so far and how long ago was his last dose.

Keith moved into his line of sight. His expression was no longer hard but filled with worry.

“It’s because he sensed you were in trouble. Coran told us about your outburst. You slept through the ship’s attack and didn’t respond to anything I said or did.” The Red Paladin heaved a heavy sigh. “Lance, I’m cutting you off.”

Lance felt his whole body grow cold. He stared into Keith’s pained eyes with an expression of pure disbelief.

Rage exploded in his veins.

He shot to his feet just as Keith moved toward his shelf.

“You can’t do that!” He practically screamed. “My arm still hurts! You can’t take away the only thing that works!”

“I’m doing what needs to be done,” Keith answered harshly. He snatched the nearly empty bottle from the shelf, his lips pressed into a thin line. “Coran said he gave you ten pills for ten days.” He shook the bottle. “You only have three left.”

“So what?! He gave it to me ages ago!”

“It’s barely been twenty-four hours, Lance!” Keith made his way to the door. “I’m not going to stand by and watch you kill yourself like this. I love you too much to bear that.”

Lance chased after him into the hall. He grabbed onto the bottle with desperation and tried to pull it free from Keith’s grasp.

“Lance, stop!”

“It’s just medicine! They’re not going to kill me!”

“Do you even hear yourself?!” Keith ripped the bottle away from Lance’s hands. The momentum of his pull launched the container from Keith’s grasp. They watched it clatter to the ground, the force of its fall snapped open the lid and the trio of pills scattered across the castle halls.

Lance bolted.

Keith wrapped his arms around the slender boy’s waist and pinned him down, ignoring the almost inhuman screaming of an addict’s desperation.

“Stop it, Lance! Stop it! Stop it!” Keith cried.

Lance bucked beneath Keith’s weight, desperate for the last remnants of the only things that kept the pain away. He clawed the ground; could already feel the traces of his previous dose slip from his mind.

Suddenly, Lance was hoisted from the ground. He could make out Shiro’s voice amidst his yelling but the former Black Paladin’s words didn’t register.

The brown delicate hand of Allura’s came into his field of vision. His instincts slipped into overdrive. He tried to kick away his captors, but the tips of his fingers rested against his forehead and then—

He was gone.




Coran slammed his fist against the wall in a rare display of anger. He heaved a heavy sigh then carefully rubbed his hand in an effort to assuage the pain away.

Princess Allura cleared her throat, uncomfortable.

“So, what do we do?” Keith asked once it was obvious no one had anything to say. “Stick him back into the healing pod and hope for the best?”

“The healing pods cannot heal what is mental,” Allura said, her voice soft. “The best we can do is wean him off the medication, abruptly if possible.”

“Like going cold turkey?” Hunk chimed in.

Allura seemed perplexed by the expression but nodded nevertheless.

“I should’ve been more careful,” Coran said, remorseful. “I should have given him the smallest possible dose and monitored his consumption. Xoralax was a highly sought after substance in the black market. I shouldn’t have assumed it wouldn’t be the case here.”

“It’s alright, Coran. You couldn’t have known.”

“Do you have more of the stuff?” Pidge asked, her brows furrowed. “If we’re going to ween Lance off of the medication, we should make sure he can’t get his hands on more.”

“Not to worry, the rest are securely locked up in the infirmary and protected by a passcode!”

Keith turned to Coran and asked, “Does Lance know the passcode?”

“Absolutely not! All the substances in the infirmary are protected by a glass barrier. If anything happens to it, an alarm will—“

Coran’s voice was drowned out by the ear-piercing wail of an alarm system. The rest of the paladins clasped their hands against their ears but Coran stood frozen in place. He bolted out of the room before the others could question him. Keith followed in his tracks.




“Lance!”

Coran burst into the medical bay, steeling himself for the worst. Lance was on his hands and knees, desperately trying to gather the scattered Xoralax
pills. he must have dropped the box in his attempt to steal them.

Coran rushed to the boy, eyeballing his pale skin tone and the beads of sweat that dotted his brow. He noticed the way Lance’s fingers quaked as though he wore cold. He tried to lift the boy from the ground, but Lance resisted.

“No, no, no, I need it! I need it! Let me go, Coran!” He screamed.

Coran forced Lance to stare into his eyes. His heart sank.

His pupils were blown.

“You don’t need any more of this, Lance. You need medical attention! Let me—“ He tried to move him again but Lance shoved his elbow into the older man’s gut and scrambled away.

Keith rushed into the room before Lance could even think about escaping. He was joined immediately by Shiro and Hunk. Allura hurried to Coran’s side, checking for wounds, but he assured her he was unwounded.

Pidge hung back by the door, too stunned to say a word. Too terrified to move.

Lance lashed out at his family. He crawled toward the pile of pills and tried to collect as many as he could until Shiro and Hunk grabbed his arms and pinned them against his back. He wailed in despair.

“Let me go! Let me go! LET ME GO!”

Keith grabbed his sweaty face, violet eyes filled with unshed tears. From frustration or sadness, Lance couldn’t be sure.

“Lance, listen to me, you’re going to be okay. We’re going to help you.”

He didn’t want help! He wanted medicine. His entire body felt like he was on fire and all the others ever did was hold him back.

Lance tried to break free from the death clutches of his friends to no avail. He tried again and again, but the more he resisted, the weaker he felt. Slowly, Lance’s legs couldn’t support his weight any longer and he collapsed into the arms of Shiro and Hunk.

“Quickly! Into the pods before his heart stops!” Coran urged.

He hastily typed away into the monitoring system as Shiro and Hunk carried the limp boy into the machine.

By the time Lance was comfortably placed inside, he had already fallen into nothingness.




Keith and Coran were the first people that came into Lance’s vision as he stepped out of the healing pod two quintants later. He fell into Keith’s awaiting arms, weak and weary, and disoriented from the sense of gravity tugging his body.

Keith settled him onto a chair carefully. He took a water bag from Corsn’d hand and handed it to Lance. When he didn’t respond, Keith gingerly topped the straw between the boy’s lips. He drank slowly but greedily.

Coran knelt beside him. He peered into his eyes.

“How do you feel?”

Lance shrugged. He leaned to the side, pressing his head against Keith’s waist.

“M’sorry,” he slurred. “M’sorry.”

“I’m just happy you’re awake.” Keith said. He ran shaky fingers through the boy’s brown locks, grateful for the chance to feel it silkily pass through his fingers again.

Coran patted the boy’s knee. Before he could rise, Lance lurched forward. He wrapped his arms around Coran’s neck and held him tightly. Emotions welled up inside him. He returned Lance’s hug just as tight.

 

 

Chapter Text


Keith tossed tinder, or what was like tinder, into the burning flames of their campfire. Beside him, Hunk lay on his side, his back turned away from the flames. His chest lifted slowly and rhythmically, his snores carrying all around them in the silent alien wilderness.

Pidge shifted the rocks with a stick, her glasses reflecting the light of the fire. She was weary, that much Keith could tell. He expected her body must have been screaming from the bruises she had taken. Green’s crash landing on this strange planet had not been easy — neither of their landings were.

Keith turned his gaze toward Lance, who sat across from the campfire. He laid in the ground, arms spread wide, as he stared blankly into the starry night sky.

All of their lion’s had been disabled in some way: Green was shot right out of the sky by the planet’s planetary defense systems. Lance, who was the only lion within distance, had tried to save her until something fried Red’s system. The planet’s gravitational pull had done the rest.

As for him and Hunk, Keith wasn’t sure what had happened. One minute, the Yellow Lion was on his heels and the next, they were both hurtling through space in dizzying speeds. The last Keith saw of Allura and the ship was when it had been surrounded by Galra forces. He’d broken through the planet's atmosphere then.

Now here they were, all four lions on the fritz, stranded on an alien planet without any means of communication and surrounded on all sides by deep, alien ocean. It’s been a struggle to escape the Black Lion’s half-sunken body from the shallows — and that was only the shallows!

The campfire crackled.

“At least someone’s getting some sleep,” Pidge muttered, eyeing Hunk’s comatose body. “I’m totally envious.”

“How can he sleep when we’re stuck on a desolate planet like this?” Lance groaned. “What if something crawls outta the ocean and eats us?”

Hunk’s reply was a loud snore. Lance and Pidge sighed simultaneously. They were both exhausted from their death experiences and Keith honestly could not blame them.

He rubbed his aching eyes.

“You two should try to get some sleep at least. When morning comes, we’ll need to figure out how to dig Red out from the ocean’s surface.”

“Without a working lion, I don’t think that’s possible, Keith,” Pidge said. She pulled her knees toward her chest, shivering from the slight cold. “I’m not sure what kind of defense system has, but whatever electromagnetic impulse it threw into the atmosphere is keeping our lion’s down.”

“Do you have any idea how long it’ll last?”

“Not a clue,” she shrugged. “Could be a few hours, maybe a day. I don’t know.”

Keith sighed.

The trio fell silent once more and remained that way until Keith could hear the light breathing of his companions. He remained awake, replaying the day’s events.


“Hey guys, look what I found!” Hunk cried. He stormed into their makeshift camp with a bundle of furry items in his arms.

Lance was the first to gag at the sight of them. Keith and Pidge, on the other hand, examined them curiously.

Hunk fell to his knees and dropped the furry balls to the ground.

“I found them hanging off a tree,” he explained excitedly. He picked up a makeshift hammer he’d fastened out of a rock and bark and smashed the tool into the yellow hair of the ball.

There was a loud crack beneath its fibers. He flipped the thing around and smashed into it some more until it split seamlessly into two.

He beamed. “Well, look at that!” He lifted one up to their faces. The inside was covered in pale yellow meat, moist from the juices it held inside. “We officially have space coconuts! I wonder what it tastes like?”

He tore off a piece of meat and placed it in his mouth.

“Ugh, buddy c’mon! What if it’s poisoned?!”

Hunk chewed for a moment. His brows furrowed.

“Hunk?” Keith quirked an eyebrow.

The Samoan swallowed. “Huh, that’s not what I was expecting but I’ll take it.”

“What’s it taste like?”

“Chicken.”

“Seriously?” Pidge deadpanned.

“Hey, it’s the only edible thing I found on this island.” He shrugged. “I bet with a little bit of fire and maybe some salt, it’d make a great meal for dinner.”

“Works for me!” Lance picked up the spear he and Keith had been working on and made his way toward the shore.


 Keith’s eyelids were heavy. His body was sore from all the heavy lifting he spent the day doing. From making temporary weapons (thanks to their bayards not activating) to building a small shelter to keep them out of the rain, Keith sat beneath the night sky, completely fatigued. And yet... he couldn’t keep his eyes closed long enough to sleep.

He rubbed them again, somewhat frustrated with his inability to rest, and also slightly envious. Behind him, he heard Hunk’s snoring and Pidge’s light breathing. The long day had wiped them both out, and while Keith was grateful for their immense help, he couldn’t help but feel a little cheated.

He wanted to sleep too.

“Hey man,” Lance murmured, joining him. “You should get some rest. You look exhausted. You know how bad not sleeping is for your skin?”

Keith chuckled. “Then why are you awake?”

“Can’t. Every time I close my eyes, I picture Red stuck in the bottom of the ocean. It makes me feel...” he hesitated. “Guilty. I guess.”

“Yeah. I get that.”

They sat in silence for a moment, neither one of them daring to stare at the other. After a few, Lance ran his fingers through his hair.

“You think the others are okay?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “But knowing Allura, she’ll find a way and then they’ll come for us.”

“Yeah,” Lance smiled softly. “Definitely.”


Keith felt like his skull was going to explode. His eyes burned from exhaustion and the bright rays of the sun did absolutely nothing to alleviate the skull shattering thumping assaulting his brain.

He rubbed small circles against his temples, hoping to massage away the pain.

Hunk cracked open another space coconut and poured the liquid into a skinned, clean bowl they had made from its shell. He stuck the juice right under Keith’s nose.

Keith eyed him curiously.

“For your head,” the larger boy grinned. “It probably won’t do much but, hey, it’s something.”

Keith took the bowl from Hunk’s hand and thanked him with a smile. He took his place beside the older boy and sighed.

“You know, I get we’re stranded on an alien planet that is pretty much 90% water, but, I kind of like it here.”

“You do?”

Hunk nodded. “I mean, it’s not Earth — and I rather be home or in the Castle of Lions, but it could be worse.” They gazed off to the shoreline, watching Lance and Pidge duke it out with fish in the shallows. “We have food and water, and those hair fibers from the space coconuts are sturdy enough to make a rope. It’s not so bad.”

Keith swallowed the juice in his bowl. It tasted like chicken broth.

“What’s the status on the Yellow Lion?” He asked after a moment of silence.

“The communication systems are still down. All of Yellow’s weapons are inaccessible and I can’t connect with her.” Keith grimaced. “But, I didn’t find any major damages to her exterior and I think she’s perfectly functional internally. She just... has no energy.”

The former pilot of the red lion rubbed his temples again. “Do you have any idea how long it’ll take to get her back online?”

“A few days.”

Keith blinked. “What?”

“A few days.” He repeated.

“How do you know that for sure?”

“Pidge and I have been keeping track of Green’s and Yellow’s progress since we crashed. We try to connect with them and we noticed, even if we couldn’t reach them, we felt something different every day we tried.” He explained. He tore a piece of meat from the space coconut in his hand and chewed. “I can’t tell you the exact details but, we’ll be back in power soon.”

Keith felt a wave of relief wash over him. He slumped backward, realizing too late that he wasn’t propped against enough and fell over the log they’d been sitting on. Hunk nearly choked in laughter.


 

He managed, if only a little, to catch a few hours of sleep until his body shot him into overdrive. With his blade, he slashed into the empty air, startling the trio who conceded quietly behind him.

“What the heck, man!” Lance cried. “It was just a nightmare!”

“Are you okay?”

Keith gasped for breath. He glanced around his surroundings for some sort of explanation but found none. He turned to them shakily.

“What happened?”

“You fell asleep,” Hunk stated. He coiled several pieces of yellow fibers together.

“We didn’t want to wake you up, so we let you rest,” Pidge explained. “Lance told us you hadn't slept for three nights in a row.”

“Yeah! You were getting crabby.”

Keith frowned. “I was not.”

“So were.”

Keith rolled his eyes, too tired to start an argument with Lance but also relieved to hear it. It almost made him feel normal.

“What are you guys doing?”

“Making rope,” the garrison trio chimed in unison.

They each held several long pieces of yellow fibers in hand, cooling their strands together to form a thick, long rope.

“Since the Red Lion is the only lion out of reach, we figured we’d be able to use Yellow and Green to pull it out once their power was restored,” Pidge explained. “It’s not much of a plan, but it’s the only one we’ve got.”

At the mention of the lion’s, Keith eyed the Black Lion. It was still half buried in the shallows, only one wing visible from beneath the waves while the rest lay beneath the water and cemented into the sand. If the Lion’s were slowly regaining their energy back, Keith knew he would have to find a way back inside the lion to pull it out.

Unless it wanted to animate itself like Red did on occasion.

A question popped into Keith’s mind.

“Hey, Lance? How did you manage to escape from Red before it crashed?”

“Red ejected me. He spat me out and crashed into the ocean.” Lance grimaced. “I guess he knew it would’ve been better that way. The island wasn’t exactly close.”

Keith stared into the horizon. The sun had yet to fully rise, but it lit up the surface of the sea. Light shimmered across the waves, reminding Keith of Earth’s beauty.

He pictured Red in his mind’s eye, lost deep within the dark, cold and lifeless. He felt...saddened by the thought.

He joined the trio at their makeshift table (it was just a mound of sand flattened out to hold their progress) and collected a few fiber strands for himself.

He was still exhausted from the lack of sleep. He struggled to form coherent thoughts in his mind, and could barely follow Lance’s instructions on how to properly coil their fiber rope together, but Keith was the current leader of Voltron. He had to hold himself together for the sake of his team.

Even if that meant he wouldn’t find rest until they were finally off the planet and in the Castle of Lion’s, Keith was willing to sacrifice his own needs to get his team back home.

We’re coming for you Red. Just you wait.

Chapter Text


Bonding exercises with the team weren’t unusual occurrences. Being able to form Voltron relied on their ability to connect with each other as a team and as a family, and in spite of the number of arguments that would happen because personalities would collide, the Paladins of Voltron knew each other well enough to form the giant robot with ease.

Maybe they didn’t quite need to know everything about each other, but Lance felt what had happened in the past wasn’t necessary for their future. He was a firm believer in leaving things behind—even if he often struggled to do it himself.

Today’s training session involved melding their minds. Lance couldn’t stifle his groan. (Luckily for him, he wasn’t the only one.) Mind melding was everyone’s least favorite training technique. It involved a surprisingly large amount of concentration, some of which many of the Paladins didn’t have depending on the circumstances, but it wasn’t the countless hours of meditation and sitting around that bothered Lance. It was the idea of having anyone dig around in his mind without his permission.

Not that he had many secrets to hide – he was quite open to his makeshift family – it was just… there were certain things Lance didn’t want to have to explain. They weren’t necessary.

It wasn’t important.

Coran had the team gather into a circle and promised them bags of water and delicious snacks he had prepared (Hunk approved this time) for when they successfully completed their hour of training. He distributed the neuro-helmets to every member of the circle and gave them a thumbs up.

“You all have done exceptionally well forming Voltron as of late,” he praised. “This session will be done in a jiffy! I’ll be watching from above, good luck!” He hurried out of the room.

Keith turned his attention to Shiro, brows furrowed in concern. “Are you sure you want to do this? You said you wanted to retire.”

“Retirement doesn’t mean I can’t keep up with everyone’s training,” he said with a soft smile. “Mind melding is all about building stronger bonds between each of us. I think that’s a useful thing to do, even if I won’t be piloting Black anymore.”

“Shiro is right,” Allura nodded. “Forming Voltron is not the only purpose of the mind meld. Our bonds with each other as friends is also extremely important to ensure our continued survival in this war. Besides, don’t you guys find this fun?” She smiled brightly.

Pidge groaned. “Fun for you maybe.”

Coran’s voice filtered into the room. “Alright everyone, close your eyes and clear your minds. For the next five doboshes, I want everyone to concentrate on their breathing.”

That’s easy enough. Lance thought. He closed his eyes on Coran’s orders and focused on the way he breathed. He inhaled deeply, feeling the way his diaphragm expanded then slowly blew out his breath through his nose.

The first time they’d done this, Lance couldn’t stop himself from thinking of his family. The images of their faces were engraved into his mind and the sounds of their voices would play in his ears like a record player. Now, it was easier to keep his memories of them from invading his meditative blankness. It pained him deeply that he could barely remember what they sounded like let alone recall the exact details of their facial features. He didn’t like to think about that, though.

“Now concentrate,” Coran’s voice wafted into the training room, soft and smooth. “Try to feel the presence of the others around you, but don’t connect. Only feel.”

That was easy enough.

Lance focused on the blankness. He kept his mind at ease, made sure to clamp down hard on any image that involved his family in any way and reached out into the void for the person he knew was waiting for him on the other side. He felt the warmth of Keith’s mental presence before he actually saw him. Coran had told them not to connect, but it was hard to keep himself out of Keith’s mind, especially when they were so physically close.

Keith probed back, acknowledging Lance’s presence.

“Connect with each other, but keep it surface level for now.” They heard Coran say, his voice oddly muffled.

Lance felt the others probe into his mind. He steeled himself, suddenly anxious. He felt careful, yet hesitate probes of Hunk, who prodded carefully on the memory of their first encounter in the garrison. Pidge followed soon after, her probing more curious and bold. Shiro’s presence felt uncertain, as though he doubted his reasoning for connecting with the others. (They flooded him with thoughts of kindness and assurance and played images of Shiro’s best moments through their eyes to calm him.)

Allura’s presence in his mind felt as elegant as she looked, yet uncomfortably strong and powerful. A part of him grew embarrassed as memories of her played through his mind without control. He sensed her humor before her own memories of Lance flashed before his eyes.

“Excellent! You guys are doing wonderful! Now try to probe a little deeper, but be mindful of everyone’s privacy!”

Going deep was not something Lance wanted to do. He felt various waves of hesitance wash through him from his fellow paladins. Hunk was more of an open book. He was the first to open himself to them and accepted their careful examining. Images of his family and friends played through Lance’s eyes. They were memories of Hunk’s youth, from his earliest memories to his time in the Garrison. He laid himself out bare for them all until the image of Shay popped into Lance’s eyes.

Suddenly, Hunk’s embarrassed warmth flooded through them like a wave.

He broke out of their connection.

“Hunk!” Lance heard Coran call. “You were doing so well!”

“Sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean for them to see that.”

They each pulled out of the meld.

“I thought it was sweet,” Allura smiled warmly. “What a beautiful memory.”

“Aw, Hunk has a girlfriend,” Pidge teased.

“She’s not my girlfriend.” He clarified with a sniff. “I didn’t get a chance to ask.”

“Well, maybe you should the next time we find the Balmera,” Keith suggested.

“You think she’d say yes?”

“Why wouldn’t she? She’d be crazy not to.” Lance patted his shoulder. “You’d make a great boyfriend! Maybe even better than me. Probably. Maybe. That’s still debatable.”

The Samoan chuckled. “Thanks, buddy.”

“Should we try again?” Shiro asked.

The Paladins settled back into a meditative trance. Quicker than before, they fell into the first layer of the mind meld, and with Coran’s instructions, they dived one level deeper.

Lance felt his palms begin to sweat. In the back of his mind, he visualized the locked door he kept his memories behind. A sense of familiar curiosity swept through him. He realized, belatedly, that was Pidge’s curious nature who probed into his mind and grazed her senses against the door.

Alarm shot through him. Don’t. Don’t open that.

Keith joined Pidge then Hunk. They each investigated around the door, various emotions radiated from them and into Lance. He urged them to move on, but they persisted. He flooded their minds with memories of the beach from an alien planet – it looked remarkably like the beach in Cu—Lance thought about the various alien females he’d flirted with on their journey.

Keith’s irritation came to him from the memory.

An image from the Garrison assaulted his senses. In it was a freshman Cuban boy, pimples marred his brown skin but blue eyes wide with excitement. He was all gangly with long limbs and barely any muscles – he looked excited.

Lance felt embarrassment wash through him. He could already feel the amused and teasing emotions from the others until the memory shifted. Young Lance stood with his father. He loomed over the boy, eyes dark and unkind. His arms were crossed against his chest, his lips moved though the words spoken were unintelligible in their ears.

But Lance remembered.

And just like that, sound came into the memory. His father spoke harshly, his words were not in English but the meaning was clear.

Lance ripped himself from the circle.

“What the heck you guys?!” He snapped. “Why are you probing around in my head when I just told you not to!?”

Keith plucked the helmet from his head and stared into the anxious expression of his partner. “What… was that?”

Lance bristled. “That was you guys invading my privacy, that’s what that was!”

“Lance—”

“Oh no, don’t ‘Lance’ me, Keith! Did you guys completely ignore what I was sending?”

“Why was your dad yelling at you?” Pidge frowned. “And what was with that door?”

“None of your business!” he snapped. “We’re supposed to be bonding, not invading my privacy like that!” He threw the helmet to the ground in frustration then turned on his heel. “I’m gonna cool down. I’ll see you guys later.”

“Wait, Lance--!”

He marched out of the room without a look back.


Memories of his father flooded into Lance’s mind hours after the mind meld. Having seen the man clear as day through the altean machine brought forth unpleasant experiences he thought he’d long since forgotten.

The very first time Lance had developed a crush on a boy and foolishly told his parents about it played before his eyes like an unwanted film reel. He could already hear the gruff accented voice of his father berate him for his stupidity, could practically feel the disgusted rage that rolled from his body as he switched from English to Spanish and called Lance a plethora of names he never wanted to hear again.

The time Lance had failed to get into the Garrison as a fighter pilot pushed into the forefront of his mind. The sheer disappointment his father faced him with when, instead of becoming a fighter pilot, he’d been placed into the cargo pilot division, had haunted the boy’s dreams for years. But his words were the worst part of the memory:

“Me has decepcionado una y otra ves. Me avergüenza que seas mi hijo.”

Lance’s hands formed into a fist. He slammed it against the wall beside his door, hoping the action would dispel the mixture of rage and heartbreak swirling in his chest.

“Lance!”

Keith came around the corner and hurried toward him. He opened his mouth to say something but, much to Lance’s surprise, he snapped it shut. Without a word, he wrapped his arms around the lankier boy and held him tight.

“I’m sorry,” He murmured. “You were right. We invaded your privacy and that was wrong of us.” He pulled them apart, far enough to stare into the boy’s face. “You know I’m not very good with emotions and, uh, personal stuff but… Lance… you can talk to me. If you want to.” He added on hastily. “Not as your leader but as y-you know, as your partner.”

Lance heaved a heavy sigh. “Man, you really have a hard time saying ‘boyfriend’, don’t you?”

Keith blushed. “It’s not like I ever had one of those before! Talking is something we’re supposed to do right?” He grabbed Lance’s hand and stepped toward the door. It slid open with a quiet whoosh and pulled him inside. “So let’s talk!”

Keith led him to the bed and sat him down. He joined him stubbornly and stared intently into the Cuban boy’s face. Lance couldn’t help the small smile from creeping along his lips. They were still holding hands.

“I’m not going to force you to talk about it, but I’m here.”

“It’s okay, I don’t mind.” Lance took advantage of their close proximity and rested his head on Keith’s shoulder. “My dad is old fashioned. When I was little, I did a lot of things that disappointed him and scolding me was just… one of those ways.”

“He called you a fag, Lance.”

Lance pulled away, surprised. “How do you know that? He was speaking Spanish.”

“You’re bilingual. Your memories translated themselves.” Keith stared intently into Lance’s eyes. “That wasn’t the first time he’s called you that and I’m willing to bet he’s called you a bunch of other names too, hasn’t he?”

Lance rubbed the back of his neck, suddenly tired.

“Yeah, he’s called me a lot of things, but like I said, my dad is old fashioned. He doesn’t do well with expressing emotions so calling me names was just one way of doing that. Its okay, Keith, really. You get used to it.”

He felt the older boy’s grip grow tighter on his own. Keith’s eyes were comforting despite the barely contained ranger swimming within them. Lance leaned back onto his shoulder in the hopes of appeasing him.

“What about the locked door?” Keith asked after a few minutes of silence. “Does that have something to do with your dad?”

“My family mostly.” He sighed. “I love them and I miss them more than I can bear, but I didn’t… I didn’t want to burden anyone with those kinds of feelings anymore. We all have family.”

Even when Lance’s father berated him for his stupidity, even when he was called faggot or queer or told that he would someday perish in hell because of his unnatural sexuality; his “disgusting” effeminate behavior; his failure as a fighter pilot or his borderline, unnatural obsession for “besting” his rival – Lance still loved his dad.

He was a flawed man. He was only human after all.

Keith rubbed small, soothing circles into Lance’s back. He couldn’t recall how they had ended up in this position, him on top of the Red Paladin as they laid comfortably on his bed, but Lance wasn’t complaining.

“I’m sorry.”

Lance frowned in confusion. “For what?”

“For trying to snoop. I know we haven’t been dating for long, but I… I couldn’t help myself. I just wanted to get to know you better, outside of our stupid rivalry.”

“Hey man, our rivalry is not stupid! It got your attention didn’t it?”

Keith laughed. “Oh yeah, sure it did.”

Lance nuzzled into the boy’s neck. He heard his father’s voice playback in his mind calling him disgusting for daring to cuddle with another man and the shame he would bring upon his family if they ever found out. He should have felt disappointed in himself, perhaps even a little terrified, but Lance found, much to his surprise, that he wasn’t worried. Instead, he felt hopeful—hopeful for the chance to come back to Earth as an intergalactic hero and maybe even proud of who he is.

He stared up Keith, who gazed off into the ceiling looking thoughtful.

Maybe he’ll get the chance to show off Keith to his family someday.

Chapter Text


Hunk wiped the sweat off his brow as he took a step back to admire his work. All the wires were in place; every screw, mechanical part and other parts of machinery were placed exactly where they needed to be and screwed tightly for security. Hunk carefully placed the yellow plating of his lion’s arm back into place before sealing the deal with an exuberant smile.

Repairing the damage done to the Yellow Lion since their last mission was not easy. He was lucky machinery seemed to be about as universal as it was on Earth, but the materials required to fix Yellow’s broken components had been a mission of their own. Luckily for him, Coran had already stocked up the Castle of Lions with all the scrap metal necessary for quick-fixes on the go, especially when they were on the run.

“Don’t worry, buddy,” Hunk stroked the yellow metal plating of his silent lion as though it were a living, breathing feline. “Once we’re done warping around, I’ll fix you up properly.” He imagined the large robotic animal purred in response (or maybe it really did) then returned to his makeshift workbench to collect his supplies.

Behind him, he heard his companion curse. Something fell to the ground, clattering loudly as it skidded across the floor. He turned.

Pidge stood crouched low to the ground, her back turned to him. A pile of junk lay scattered around her like a halo of scrap metal. The wrench she’d been using laid between them, gleaming innocently under the lights of the vehicle bay.

“Uh, you okay there, Pidge?” He called tentatively.

Her shoulders hiked upward, but she didn’t say a word. Hunk rose to his feet and cautiously approached her.

“Pidge?” He reached out a hand. She turned to him, her chin dripping with blood.

Hunk jumped back, startled. “Pidge?! Why are you bleeding?”

She cupped her hands over her nose and said, voice muffled, “It’s a nosebleed.”

“Wait a tick, I might have something.”

He hurried toward his side of the vehicle bay and searched around his messy pile. “Ahah!” He pulled out a stained--but mostly clean--cloth from underneath the mess and hurried over to Pidge’s side.

“Sit down and lean forward,” He instructed. He pressed the cloth gently against her nostrils. “Pinch the bridge of your nose for ten doboshes.”

“I got it,” she mumbled beneath the cloth.

As she did as instructed, Hunk pulled out his cell phone and began tracking the time. They sat in silence, Hunk distracted by the countdown while Pidge watched him thoughtfully. She rotated the cloth periodically, annoyed by the extent in which she bled, but also grateful for her friend’s quick thinking.

She pulled the mostly bloody cloth away and felt around her upper lip. The blood from earlier cracked from her movements. Her palms felt sticky and stiff. She scoffed in disgust.

“Thanks, Hunk. I hadn’t had a nosebleed in so long, I guess I forgot how to handle it.”

“It’s no problem,” he grinned. “Just warn a guy next time. You scared me half to death. I thought you hurt yourself with the wrench.”

“Like a little wrench could take me out.” She laughed. “I’m way tougher than that.”

“So, what happened?”

Pidge shrugged, wadding up the blood-stained cloth. “I don’t know. They just happen at random sometimes. I used to think it had something to do with the fluctuating weather patterns back on Earth, but considering the Castle of Lions is a climate controlled environment, I guess maybe I’m just prone to them.” She bit the inside of her cheek as a thought popped into mind. “Or, it might have something to do with my absolutely shitty sleep schedule since I’ve been working on possible upgrades for Green.”

Hunk hummed in understanding. He knew what it was like to struggle with constant, surprise bloody noses. When he was younger, he used to get them a lot and just like Pidge, he had always assumed it had something to do with the dryness of the air or the harsh transitions of climates. Or, maybe, they were both unlucky.

“I used to freak my mother out when I bled,” He said thoughtfully. The image of his mom telling him to sit up straight and pinch the bridge of his nose as she pressed a soft tissue to his face replayed in his mind. He’d been so young then, terrified of the red river that flowed freely from his nostrils. His mother would always soothe him, first by singing him a song to calm his nerves and then by caressing his head as the bleeding began to slow.

A wave of homesickness shot through him. He swallowed, throat dry.

“I always felt bad afterward.” He added awkwardly.

Pidge gave him a sympathetic smile. She stared back at her workplace and grimaced. It looked like a horror show: droplets of blood splattered all over the machinery she was working on. The places where blood had fallen to the ground were smeared thanks to her movements.

Hunk blew a low whistle, partially disturbed by the amount of blood but also worried for his friend’s well being. “Jeez, Pidge, how long were you bleeding for? Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, it wasn’t really for that long.” She sighed. “But now I have to clean up this mess and salvage what I can. If there’s anything left.”

“I’ll do it.”

She whipped her head at him, eyes wide. “What? No, I can do it. It’s my mess--”

“Yeah, but I rather you get yourself checked in the infirmary. Besides, you might get another one again.”

“Hunk--” she tried but the Samoan boy stubbornly pushed past her and started to separate her things. “Seriously, it’s fine!”

“Pidge,” he started, voice stern, though his eyes were soft. “I’ll clean up here, don’t worry. I just want to make sure you’re okay.”

She sighed in defeat. “Alright, but if it turns out I’m okay, I’m coming straight back here to finish what I started and you’re not stopping me.”

“Aye, aye, Captain!” He teased, saluting the young teen. “And if the scans say otherwise, we’re calling it a day until you recover.”

She rolled her eyes despite the smile that tugged on her lips. She left the vehicle hangar in a hurry, the bloodstained cloth still in hand. Hunk returned to the mess, the image of his mother crouched low to the ground as she wiped away blood prominent in his mind.

Chapter Text


 

He tore through the forest as fast as his legs could carry him. He was mindful of the upturned roots or the low hanging branches that whipped past his face or just barely grazed his cheek, but he couldn’t afford to slow down. He clutched his damaged gun close to his chest, his breathing harsh as he forced his legs to pump faster. The loud roar of the creatures behind him carried through the sky. They didn’t sound close, but they weren’t far enough for him to rest.

Lance jumped off a small ledge and slid down the muddy wall until the momentum bounced him off the wall. He stumbled into a small creek, splashing and spraying water all along the length of his sore legs. He continued running.

He didn’t stop until the planet’s three moons drifted into the sky. He slid down another hill then, finally, collapsed safely inside a cave opening.

He gasped for air, feeling his lungs and body burn from the strenuous effort of trying to survive in a world that desperately wanted to kill him.  

There were dragons on this planet – large, impressive, dangerous beasts who took one sent of Lance and decided he was something they would have for dinner. In other circumstances, Lance would have been in awe. They were gorgeous creatures, ancient and mystical, but terribly temperamental and vicious. He’d encounter a few who had been friendly to him; a very small herd he wished he had stayed close to. Their alpha had been the one to save him from the ravenous wolves Lance had accidentally stumbled upon, but most of the dragons on this planet were quite unfriendly.

Some of them had even managed to break his bayard.

Lance rolled onto his back with a pained groan. His muscles screamed in protest with every movement he made, but lying there, so close to the entrance of the cave, would give him away. He forced himself to his knees and crawled further into the cave.

Deep inside, Lance allowed himself to collapse onto the makeshift bed he had fastened from the leaves of the trees and other fibers. He dropped his damaged bayard beside him and turned to the wall.

Lines were etched into the solid rock. There were four lined together as neatly as possible with another slashing diagonally across. Lance picked up a sharpened rock from the ground and scratched a new line beside the others. There were six lines now.

He sighed.

“It’s been thirteen quintants since I’ve been on this planet,” he said to the silence, eyeing the tally marks. His eyes trailed upward toward the ceiling. A sense of dread washed over him. “I really hope I don’t have to fill up this whole wall.”

He tossed the rock aside and, with much discomfort, rose to his feet. He gathered wood and tinder from the far corner and tossed them into the fire pit. He lit a fire through the sparking of rocks then shuffled around the cave for his supply of food.

His first few days surviving alone on this planet had been… unpleasant. He’d gone hungry for three days before he finally managed to kill a few of the smaller beasts. He learned the hard way what berries were edible and which ones were poisonous. (He’d been lucky the poisonous berries were not potent.)

Finding the cave alone had been a blessing. Everything else was pure survival instinct.

“You know, I bet if the others were here, they’d be really impressed.” He grinned to the fire. It flickered and crackled in response. “I know right? I bet they never would expect me to survive out here on my own, but hah! I managed to survive thirteen quintants with just my bayard!”

At the mention of the broken weapon, Lance felt his good mood grow somber.

The flames sizzled.

“It’s my fault. I should’ve been more aware of where the dragons were.” Just like it’s my fault I’m here in the first place.

He propped a berry into his mouth and chewed.

Are they even looking for you? It’s been thirteen days.

“I’m sure they’re looking. They probably… they probably can’t find Red’s coordinates. Once they find him, they’ll find me.”

But you’re nowhere near the Red Lion. Even if they find it, they won’t find you.

Lance shifted uncomfortably in his place, suddenly burdened by the harsh reality that was the Red Lion.

Why hadn’t the Red Lion activated on its own? Whenever Keith was in danger, the lion would act on its own volition and yet, when Lance had been faced with a life or death situation, the giant, mechanical lion had just… remained frozen. It was as though he were unfazed by the fact that Lance’s life was on the line. Like Lance’s life held no importance in the lion’s eyes because he simply was not Keith.

Lance’s brows furrowed as realization dawned on him.

That had to be it. That had to be the reason why. He was not Keith. He wasn’t the skilled fighter pilot Red had chosen at the beginning of their unwanted adventure. Lance was just… Lance, a bottom of the barrel cargo pilot who barely scraped by in the Garrison.

He wasn’t some cool, edgy half-human, half-galra fighter. He wasn’t Keith. He could never be Keith, and maybe… that was why Red had chosen to remain frozen. They were just complete opposites.

Where Lance failed, Keith excelled. He’d been chosen by Red, deemed the only one who could control the lion’s unruly nature. Then, he’d been chosen by the Black Lion as their new leader in Shiro’s absence. And even when he’d willingly gave away the position back to Shiro upon his return, the Black Lion still chose him as their leader. It still obeyed his every command, just like Red, just like the others do.

Maybe Red saw something in him that it doesn’t see in you. Said the voice in his head. Or maybe it sees exactly who you really are: a rotten kid from Cuba and unworthy of being a Paladin.

Lance stared blankly into the flickering flames. He felt the heat of the fire caress his skin, warming his cold, exhausted body. He hadn’t realized he’d been shivering until then.

He tossed another piece of wood into the flames.

“Sometimes I wonder if Blue only chose me to get to Allura.” Suddenly, he chuckled. “Imagine that? A lion using me to get to a girl. I guess that can still happen out in space.” He laid back onto his hands, eyes unseeing. “Maybe I’m exactly where I need to be? Blue doesn’t need me anymore. I’m not worthy to pilot the Black Lion and Red just doesn’t seem to like me. Maybe this was my destiny the whole time, getting stuck on an alien planet, far away from home.”

Tears welled in his eyes, but he refused to shed them.

At least you won’t be a burden to them anymore.

“Yeah, I guess that’s true.”

He rubbed his weary eyes with the heel of his palms as a yawned ripped itself from his throat. He crawled back to his pile of leaves and curled onto his side, facing the flames. A part of him wondered if he should snuff it out, it seemed dangerous to fall asleep with an open flame. Yet, he chose not to move. He remained where he laid, watching the fire dance among the shadows until his vision blurred into darkness and the only thing left in his mind was the fuzzy visage of the Red Lion.

Chapter Text


 

Hunk took a deep breath. He needed to center himself before he did something he would regret. Anger wasn’t a feeling he enjoyed experiencing – he just wasn’t the angry type of guy. He couldn’t understand people like Keith, who seemed more likely out of all the Paladin’s to fly off the handle when a calmer, quieter approach was better suited. Not that Keith was an angry person, per say, it was more that he seemed to rely on his anger and the instincts that came with it to solve most of his problems. Hunk, on the other hand, was a lover before he was a fighter, and anger was not a companion he got along pleasantly with.

And yet, he found it difficult to keep the rage that boiled his blood under control.

He exhaled slowly then inhaled deeply again. He counted from ten in his mind, but the image of his best friend doing something so utterly and completely stupid flashed into his mind’s eye. He felt his heart rate spike.

God, he was angry.

“Hunk—”

“Not now Lance,” Hunk said through gritted teeth. He just needed a few minutes of silence to think about what had happened during their mission. He didn’t want to explode on Lance. Not only was feeling angry something Hunk found unpleasant but unleashing his anger—and on his best friend too—was something he most definitely did not want to happen.

“Buddy, come on!” Lance cried, trailing behind. They were still dressed in Paladin armor, covered in dust and debris from their harrowing mission. Hunk had been in such a hurry to escape the vehicle hanger that he hadn’t even thought about changing. “You’re totally mad at me even though you said you weren’t!”

He reached out toward the taller boy but Hunk slapped his hand away.

“Can you stop running away and actually talk to me?!”

Hunk stopped in his tracks and whirled around, eyes blazing. He hated doing this, hated being this way. He just wanted to go to his room and think, but Lance was just so damn stubborn sometimes. Hunk hoped—prayed—that his temper wouldn’t hurt the other boy’s feelings.

“Lance,” The Yellow Paladin hissed lowly. “I don’t want to talk to you right now. Just looking at you makes me angry and I don’t want to feel angry, okay? We had a long, hard mission and I just want to relax alone in my room before dinner.”

The flash of hurt that passed through Lance’s face made guilt well up inside Hunk’s chest, but the Blue Paladin steeled himself in front of his best friend. He stood firmly in front of Hunk, blue eyes narrowed into a glare.

“I get it. I messed up. If I hadn’t trusted that alien chick and listened to you instead, we wouldn’t have jeopardized the mission but at least we managed to fix it in the end. Isn’t that something worth celebrating?”

Hunk felt the anger drain from his body. He sagged against the wall, burying his face into his palms. He groaned.

“That’s not why I’m angry,” He sighed.

“Then what’s with your attitude?! I thought we were friends!”

“We are friends.”

“So then why are you treating me like this? Talk to me, Hunk! What the heck happened to you back there?”

Too many things happened, that was the problem. Hunk recalled the alien female they’d met on their infiltration mission. He hadn’t trusted her from the start, there was something about her that screamed fake but Lance, being Lance, had immediately fallen enamored with her. And she seduced him with a simple flirtatious smile and a wink.

Lance is Hunk’s best friend, there was no doubt about that, but Hunk couldn’t deal with lover boy’s weakness when it came to pretty girls and boys flirting his way. Especially when their safe and easy infiltration mission became a dangerous, life or death one.

“What happened was you chose a stranger over the words of your best friend, Lance.” Hunk said, voice hard. “I told you we couldn’t trust her, but you didn’t listen. I told you we needed to abort the mission and regroup with the others, you ignored me. When we were surrounded on all sides with only one way of escaping, you chose to be an idiot and do your own thing. You were being reckless and you nearly got yourself killed!”

Lance’s lips formed a thin line, a mixture of emotions clouded his face.

“You told me to leave you behind. You said that the only way out was for me to get back to the team while you handled the crowd. So yeah, Hunk, I did ignore you and you know why? Because I wasn’t going to let my best friend die alone on an alien planet just because of my stupid mistake!”

“You could have died!” Hunk cried. He felt the tears well up in his eyes just as frustration occupied his chest. “Don’t die for me, Lance! You’re my best friend!”

“That’s exactly why I couldn’t leave you behind, buddy.”

Hunk shook his head, a small smile on his face. Lance was just so… frustrating. He eyed the Cuban boy’s body warily. Blood oozed from the boy’s side. It trickled down the length of his paladin gear and dripped onto the floor where a small puddle had begun to form. The memory of Lance forcibly pushing Hunk away from the line of fire only for him to get himself injured, flashed before Hunk’s eyes again. He couldn’t summon the energy to be angry with him again.

“You and Keith,” He mumbled to himself, shoulders sagging. “I can’t deal with either of you. Come on, buddy.”

Lance suddenly perked up. “Are you forgiving me?”

Hunk carefully threw Lance’s arm around his neck. He gave his best friend a playful smile. “No, you’re not forgiven. But! I’m not mad about it anymore. I can never stay mad at you… even if you are frustrating.”

“You sound like Keith,” Lance grumbled.

“But Lance, seriously? Don’t scare me like that next time, okay? If things look bad, don’t sacrifice yourself for me.”

“I can’t promise that, but I can promise that I’ll listen to your suggestions more often. You’re a pretty good judge of character.”

“That’s what I keep saying!” Hunk said, exasperated. They carried on down the hall, Lance’s strength slowly waning as they walked. “But does anyone ever listen to me? Noooo! Even though, I’ve been the one to save the team’s butts whenever shady characters come into our lives. Seriously, you guys totally owe me.”

Lance chuckled. “That we do, buddy. That we do.”

Chapter Text



Pidge wanted to cry. The markings on her leg screamed in agony as Shiro poured cleaning liquid against the wounds. She stifled the pained groan that bubbled in her throat as best as she could, but the cold liquid felt like hot fire burning her skin as it washed into her wounds. The ground around them turned pink with her blood, the stench of copper lay thick in the air.

“I’m sorry,” Shiro murmured. “Hold on just a bit more.” He pressed a bloodstained cloth into her leg.

She screamed.

“I know, I know, I’m sorry, but we have to do this or you’ll get an infection.”

“I know that!” She hissed through gritted teeth. Her hands were clenched so tightly, she felt her palms begin to cramp. Beads of sweat dotted her brow.

She exhaled shakily.

“I have to do yours.”

“When you’re done.”

“Shiro—”

“Pidge,” Shiro’s dark eyes bore into hers, his tone stern. “Just relax for now.”

There was no way she could relax, not when they were stuck in a terrible situation that could result in their own death and the destruction of Voltron. Not that it wasn’t unusual for the Paladins of Voltron to be caught in life or death situations, but this? This was different.

Shiro and Pidge weren’t often paired together for missions and it wasn’t always that her information had been unreliable. In fact, Pidge should have known something was wrong the moment she’d infiltrated the Gala spaceship a few quintants back and was easily able to extract the coordinates she needed from their main computer. She should have known something was not-quite-right when everything they had been through, up until this point, had been far too easy.

When their communication frequency with the others had been jammed, Pidge should have interpreted it as a sign of the terrible things to come.

When they were unable to return to the Green Lion or even track it down on her scanners, she should have understood what it meant.

When every path they had taken in an attempt to find something worthwhile in this Galran prison full of nightmarish psychos only to realize how much of a labyrinth everything was—well, let's just say Pidge realized far too late that everything had been a trap to lure the Paladins apart.

Now here they were, severely wounded without any proper means of treating their wounds or a way of escape.

Pidge hissed. She hadn’t bothered to take a closer look to the extent of the damage, fearing it would slow her down once she registered exactly how much pain she should be feeling, but without anything to properly distract her, she had no choice.

“Let me see.”

“You sure about that?”

“Shiro, I need to know.”

She could read the hesitation in his eyes, but he obliged. He lifted the cloth from her skin, his face pale. Pidge couldn’t blame her.

All along the length of her thigh, from the very tip of her hip to just a bit past her knee, were several red tears carved into her skin. They weren’t your average clawed-by-an-animal mark—Pidge had been branded. They were jagged and uneven, some parts deeper than others, but the flesh around each, deep crevice was red and puffy from the cleaning fluid they had managed to find before going into hiding.

Pidge felt her stomach drop.

Her captor had written their name into her skin.

Shiro moved to place the cloth over her wounds again but she stopped him. She took the rag from his hands, her brown eyes steely, yet wide with unspoken fear.

“It-it’s your turn,” She told him stubbornly. “They marked you too.”

“Pidge—”

“Shiro, please! Let me do something!”

He sighed heavily. He handed her the nearly empty bottle of fluid and turned his back to her. He didn’t say another word.

She stared into the name etched diagonally across Shiro’s lower back. The black spandex they wore beneath their paladin armor had been torn apart to reveal the ghastly terror that was Shiro’s mark. Just like hers, it’d been carved haphazardly. Uneven lines; some smooth, some a horrid mess. Blood had oozed and smeared across his back from their escape earlier. Bits and pieces of his skin still hung from his back. She swallowed thickly.

Pidge poured the liquid fire onto the rag then pressed it as gently as she could against his back. She heard the older man hiss in pain; felt the muscles in his back tense from the pressure. She murmured an apology but continued to dab, soaking up all that she could. They were silent for a long time.

Once she was done, Pidge tossed the dirty rag aside and wiped the sweat from her brow. Shiro turned to her, face grim and wistful.

“We’ll find a way out,” He said, voice low. “I promise.”

“I know. We’ll definitely get out of here and then we’ll blow up the place.”

She couldn’t tell if she was joking or not, but the light chortle that came from Shiro’s lips assuaged the anxiety inside. She leaned into him, suddenly drained but too terrified to sleep. Every time she closed her eyes, she feared she would see the face of the Galra bastard who had carved their name into her thigh. Her body shuddered.

Shiro wrapped a protective arm around her, holding her close. He kept his eyes alert, jumping back and forth from one end of the hallway to another, but they hadn’t heard or seen any free prisoners since they escaped the hell hole that was block B3.

Pidge wondered if they’d see anyone after that nightmare.

“We’ll take a ten-minute break,” Shiro whispered. “Then we’ll try to find a way out.”

She hummed in agreement, too terrified to speak.

Chapter Text


Krolia pulled the thermometer from her son’s mouth and eyed the concerning high number: 102. She couldn’t suppress the heavy sigh that blew past her lips. She smoothed back the boy’s sweaty black hair, his skin uncomfortable warm and flushed.

Beside Keith, curled into him without any reservations or awareness, was Lance. He too appeared sweaty and uncomfortable. His brown skin was a sickly shade of pale. And just like Keith, who whined at her touch, Lance’s brows were scrunched together; his lips in a pout.

Krolia felt her temples pulse.

Taking care of Keith when he was sick was already challenging enough. Taking care of Lance? She didn’t know if she could handle it.

Standing beside her, gazing worriedly at the two small children, was Shiro. He picked up a stuffed hippo from the floor—Keith must have knocked it off earlier during a fit of fever induced nightmares—and placed it with Keith’s arms. The sick little boy barely responded.

“How high is it?” He asked, voice low.

“102 degrees for both.”

“If it doesn’t break, we’ll have to take them to the hospital.”

“Don’t worry, it’ll break.” She replied confidentially. “Tex went to pick up their medicine.”

“Mrs. Alvarez won’t be happy,” The teen murdered.

Krolia grimaced. “No, she won’t.”

Lance had only been in Krolia’s care for about a day and already the boy had contracted her son’s illness. She should have suspected such a thing would happen—the boys were close after all.

The door to Keith’s room opened an inch as a small, dark-haired boy poked his head into the room. Hunk’s dark eyes with wide with worry as he eyed Krolia and Shiro beside Keith’s bed.

“Mrs. Keith’s mom?” He asked tentatively, his voice wobbly.

Krolia felt the muscles in her body stiffen. She forgot about the other kids she’d been babysitting.

“Yes, Hunk?”

The little boy stepped further into the room, twiddling his chubby fingers.

“Um... Pidge got her head stuck in the basket again.”

Shiro whirled on him in a panic. “What?! I put her down for a nap!”

Hunk’s fingers fidgeted faster. He accidentally peeled a thin layer of skin from his thumb. (Krolia furrowed her brows worriedly.)

“She-she woke up.”

“What about Allura?”

“Trying to help her, but she’s really stuck in there.”

Shiro facepalmed. He gave Krolia an apologetic look before following Hunk out of the room.



Krolia rubbed soothing circles into Lance’s back. He wailed by her ear, large, fat tears rolling down his cheeks as he cried.

“There, there,” she cajoled, hoping her voice was soft enough to calm the poor boy’s irritation. “You’re going to be okay. Don’t cry.”

She glared at the clock. Her husband left the house an hour ago to pick up the boys’ medicines. How was it possible he wasn’t back yet?

“Whatever the hell you’re doing, Tex, it better be good.” She growled.

Lance continued to wail.

In the kitchen, she heard something crash. She dashed out of the bedroom in time to see Keith and Shiro covered head to toe in flour. Sitting in a high chair, looking utterly amused and giggling, was Pidge. She clapped chubby hands against the plastic tray with excitement.

Hunk held up his hands.

“It wasn’t me!”

Krolia felt her headache intensifying. “Shiro, explain.”

“It was an accident.”

“Clearly,” she drawled, partially amused.

Keith charged into her legs, splattering flour on the ground as he went. He grabbed onto her leg and peered upward.

“Lance! I have juice!”

It was then Krolia noticed the small juice box in the boy’s small hands. She felt the other boy wiggle in her arms, reaching out for the cool, sugary drink. She hadn’t realized he stopped crying.

She placed him in the ground and turned back to Shiro.

“What happened?” She asked again.

Shiro smiled sheepishly.



“Tex, where are you?!” Krolia growler into her cellphone. She paced back and forth in the living room, both angry at her husband’s disappearance but concerned.

In the background, she could hear the chaotic noise of children screaming. She couldn't tell if they were playing around or suffering from horrific pain. Occasionally she heard the exasperated yelling of Shiro, who tried—and failed—to keep the terrible duo from destroying the house.

Despite Shiro’s insistence of them resting, Keith thought he had a better chance of fighting off his fever by attacking everything that moved. This also meant biting. And biting was something he did far too much of.

Lance screeched as he fled his rabid friend. He hid behind Allura, who screamed for Shiro’s hell before the two of them started climbing the couch where Hunk had claimed sanctuary.

Pidge watched the entire ordeal from her roller. She tried to roll their way, but Krolia held her back with s foot.

She hissed into the phone. “I swear on my life, Tex, if you don’t get your butt back here in the next twenty minutes, I’m going to go to court and legally change our son’s name to Yorak!”

“Krolia!” Shiro cried. “I need help! He’s climbing!!”

“Texas Leonardo Kogane, if you don’t get your ass back into this house soon, so help me, I will make you regret it!” Click.



“AAHHH!”

“My cookies!!”

“Ow! That’s my hair!”

“Keith, DO NOT CLIMB ON THAT—“

“No, Lance, don’t throw up on the dog!!”

Pidge cooed, delighted.

“Shiro, I need the fire extinguisher!”

“I’m a little busy here—“

“Ewwww! It’s all over my dress!!”

“Is Lance going to die?!”

Krolia screamed.



Texas pulled the car into the driveway and shut off the radio. He hummed a little tune to himself as he grabbed a few grocery bags he bought to occupy the kids from the passenger seat. He pulled his phone to check the time—he had 32 missed messages from Krolia.

“Whoa, what happened?” He asked himself. He stared at the house. The lights were on inside and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. He shrugged.

Slipping his phone into his pocket, he gathered the rest of the groceries and slammed the door shut. He approached the house.

Once inside, Texas made his way to the kitchen. Everything seemed to be in order, in fact, it seemed a little too orderly for a house full of children and s fourteen year old. Did Krolia clean the kitchen?

“Honey, I’m home!” He called out. “I brought dinner for the kids and medicine for the boys.”

He turned around and nearly jumped out of his skin.

There, standing under the archway to the kitchen was Krolia and Shiro, their clothes stained with questionable substances and torn in odd places. Feathers stuck from their hair while glitter sparkles under the kitchen light. Texas noticed their haggard and battle worn expressions.

“So... how were the kids?”

Krolia’s eyes sharpened to slits. Texas tensed.

“I take it Keith was a nightmare...?”

“The better term would be a gremlin.” Shiro sighed, his whole body sagged in exhaustion. “If... if you guys don’t mind, I’m going to pass out on your couch now.” He turned to leave the kitchen. He didn’t make it far.

Texas swallowed thickly. “I love you. I love you so much, you know that right?”

Krolia hissed.

“I’ll, uh, I’ll give the boys their medicine.”

He grabbed a couple of bottles from the pharmacy bag and fled.

Chapter Text


He tossed and turned beneath his sheets. His fingers bit into the fabric of his blankets, scrunching them tightly into his palms. His body contorted unnaturally; his mouth parting open as though he were screaming. Long limbs flailed about, kicking and swatting until suddenly -- Lance bolted upward with a scream.

 

He panted for breath, chest heaving. His whole body trembled as his heart raced from a mixture of terror and adrenaline. He swallowed thickly.

 

Nightmares. Again. He’d been having them inconsistently throughout the days, but now? They were getting worse. At first, Lance’s nightmares were merely images he had but couldn't recall when he slept. He would wake up the following morning, unbothered by the depictions but aware that he had dreamt something. They evolved since then.

 

The first nightmare he could remember had plagued him for a week. It’d been about the same thing -- the death of his family back in Cuba. They were murdered by the Galra, then they were destroyed along with the planet through some type of imaginary Galran type weapon. Afterward, he’d watch his family get tortured in various ways.

 

He’d been unable to fall back to sleep after those.

 

Lately, they were more than just the death of his family or the destruction of Earth. He’d have nightmares about the team being tortured, about their deaths or about Voltron’s defeat.

 

He had nightmares about himself, his own death. His own tortures. His isolation among the team.

 

Lance pulled the blankets away and exited his room. He shakily strolled through the dimly lit halls, feeling his heart continue to race despite his attempts to calm down. The disturbing images of Shiro’s death within his hands still lingered faintly in his mind’s eye. He’d had those dreams plenty of times before, but this one? He couldn’t shake it off.

 

The Castle of Lions was cold and lifeless. With the other residents asleep, Lance felt the pressing anxiety of isolation weigh heavy on his shoulders. He wrapped his arms around his chest, partly to keep the cold out of his robes, and partly to feel less alone in the universe.

 

He found himself in the kitchen. He wasn’t alone.

 

“Shiro? What are you doing awake?”

 

The Black Paladin flinched at the sound of Lance’s voice. He turned quickly, nearly dropping a plate of desert Hunk had saved from dinner.

 

“Oh, Lance, it’s just you,” The older male sighed, sounding relieved. “I thought you were--nevermind.” He chuckled. He placed the desert back on the counter and gave the boy a soft smile. “Can’t sleep either, huh?”

 

Lance shook his head. He picked a plate from one of the cabinets and joined Shiro by the counter, slicing a piece of space cake onto his plate.

 

“A nightmare woke me up.” He confessed quietly. “You?”

 

Shiro’s amiable smile had turned wistful. “Yeah. Same thing.”

 

Lance poked a utensil into his cake, it sank like velvet into the sugary confection. It looked similar to the chocolate cakes back home, except Lance knew once he took a bite into the meal, his tongue would be met with something that very much was not chocolate.

 

Shiro chewed his piece quietly, dark eyes unfocused.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?” He asked after a few moments of silence.

 

Lance grimaced. “It was about you dying. You died because of me and the only thing I could do was just… watch it happen. I couldn’t stop it or do anything, I just…” He shrugged, unsure of what else he could say.

 

“What about you?”

 

Shiro leaned his back against the counter, his chocolate-but-not chocolate-space cake nearly gone. He stared into the last piece of his snack, eyes unfocused.

 

He was quiet for so long, Lance wasn’t sure if Shiro had heard him or if he was deliberately ignoring him. Something in his chest constricted at the thought. He opened his mouth to apologize when Shiro suddenly pulled him into a hug.

 

“Sh-Shiro, wha--?”

 

“I know I haven’t been fair to you or the others.” He murmured above Lance’s ear. “I know it seems that I favor Keith or Pidge compared to you and Hunk, but know that I care. I care for each and every one of you. My nightmares…” Shiro pulled Lance far enough to stare into the boy’s eyes but close enough to keep his arms on the boy’s shoulders. “My nightmares are reminders of the things worth fighting for.”

 

Lance peered into his hero’s eyes. A sense of wonderment and admiration washed over him like a wave. He fell back into Shiro’s embrace, holding him close.

 

“Thank you,” He whispered.

 

Shiro hugged him tighter in response.

Chapter Text


 

He didn’t think it would happen again. A part of him had suspected, even dreaded, but there was such a large part of him that believed it would never happen again. Not with Shiro. Not after his promises.

Keith felt like the world was breaking under his feet. The barely safe, cozy realities he had so carefully and reluctantly created between him and Shiro shattered into a million pieces.

Lost.

Unrecoverable.

We lost their signal.

A thousand and one thoughts rushed through his mind. Did something go wrong with the ship? Did they encounter an issue on the long journey it took to reach the dwarf planet?

Had they been attacked?

Keith gritted his teeth as he launched his fist into the nearby wall. He felt the pressure rip into his skin, heard the sharp crack of something breaking. He couldn’t tell if it’d been the wooden walls of his father’s shack or the very bones in his hand.

Pain exploded in his mind. It grounded him to the Earth, forced the realization that the man who had taken him under his wing, who had vouched for him against Iverson, who had cared for him in a way no one else had since his father’s passing, was simply gone.

Shiro was gone. Like his mother. Like his father.

Taken away just like everyone else.

Keith screamed in frustration. He stormed around the shack, tossing things and breaking them. The sense of devastation that gnawed at his heart made it hard to breathe.

He collapsed to his knees, shaking and panting. Anxiety spilled into his veins. It took him ages to calm himself out of panic.

It took him longer to stop the tears from flowing.

Shiro hasn’t abandoned him. No, that was impossible. His father hadn’t abandoned him either. They were both ripped from him, taken by the very forces of life.

Only one person had walked away.

Keith furiously wiped the tears from his eyes, feeling ashamed of his outbursts. And yet, despite the devastation of the shack, a sense of tranquility befell him.

He gripped the old dagger that lay strapped to his back.

Shiro was alive, he had to be. No body meant no death. There was still hope.

Keith would find him again and bring him home.

Chapter Text


“You should get some rest.”

 

Lance jolted out of his daze. He turned his attention toward the voice, not entirely surprised to see Shiro make his way into the kitchen.

 

This was their fourth night cycle encountering the other. Ever since the nightmares had begun, Lance found sleeping or returning to sleep after a particularly horrible nightmare to be one of the most difficult things he had ever done. Staying awake with the hope of forgetting the visuals that haunted him every time he closed his eyes seemed like one of the better options. The fact that this was his fourth time coming across Shiro was starting to concern him. He wasn’t sure if the older male stayed up for the same reasons he did or if Shiro knew he’d been having difficulty with sleep lately. The lack of sleep was weighing on him, and Lance knew he wasn’t the only one.

 

The dark circles under Shiro’s eyes confirmed that much.

 

“Says the guy who looks like he hasn’t slept in days,” Lance quipped with a playful half-smirk. “What are you doing up? Don’t you know we have an important training session tomorrow?”

 

“I know,” Shiro sighed. He rubbed his eyes tiredly as he joined Lance by the window.

 

Together, they stared into the black, starry abyss, a sense of unease settling between them. Lance pushed away his intrusive thoughts and carefully focused his attention toward Shiro. He gazed at his profile, noting the thickness of Shiro’s bags, the terrible bruising beneath his skin. Lance didn’t want to know how he looked without proper sleep. He already knew his skin was suffering. No amount of Altean skin products would be able to heal the damages four days of improper sleep were doing to his face, but Shiro? The man looked like he’d been through hell and back.

 

He heard the man cough before snapping back to reality. Heat crawled up his neck and the tip of his ears as he hurriedly turned away.

 

“Sorry. I got distracted.” He mumbled.

 

Shiro chuckled lightly. “It’s okay, Lance. I know you’re exhausted. You haven’t been sleeping much.”

 

“And you haven’t been sleeping at all.” A memory from their activities earlier in the day pushed into the forefront of Lance’s mind. He turned back to Shiro, lips pressed thinly, his brows furrowed. “You really shouldn’t be awake right now. You were a mess today.”

 

“Was I?”

 

“Um, duh! Even before that, when you were training earlier, you were so out of it you forgot where the drones were and nearly got decapitated!”

 

He had Shiro’s full attention now. Lance’s hands moved wildly as he spoke, accentuating the severity of Shiro’s sleep deprivation while ignoring his own mishaps with their mission earlier.

 

Lance went down a list of things he’d seen from Shiro. From his near death with the training drones, to his near death in the lounge where he missed a step and nearly smacked his head on one of the seats, to his near death in their mission when they were attacked by enemy forces and he’d been nearly shot, three times, by the same damn soldier. Lance wanted to bring up Shiro’s near-death exiting the Black Lion but figured he would save his hero the humiliation.

 

Shiro leaned his weight into his arms as he watched space past them slowly. He heaved a quiet breath once Lance was done ranting, but remained silent. Lance’s eyes narrowed, unsure if he had been paying attention or if he had chosen to ignore him. It wouldn’t have been the first time, after all.

 

“I’m sorry,” He said after a long stretch of silence. “It’s been hard to sleep.”

 

“I know,” Lance pressed. “But you need to rest, Shiro! You’re the leader of Voltron, we need you at your best. Maybe spending a night in the healing pods will help with whatever is going on?”

 

Shiro shook his head, a wistful smile on his lips. “No, that won’t work. The healing pod is only for physical injuries, not mental.” He turned to Lance then, dark eyes full of remorse. “Coran already explained that when I asked.”

 

“Then talk to me, man.” Lance turned to him completely, blue eyes hard with determination. “I may not be good at basically anything here, but I’m damn good at listening. If you don’t want me to say anything then I won’t. I’ll just sit here and listen, okay?”

 

“Lance…” The Cuban boy watched him struggle for words. A mixture of emotions passed through Shiro’s face before the Black Paladin finally settled on something more tranquil. His whole body sagged as though the weight of the world he’d been holding on his shoulders had been finally lifted. He gave Lance a soft, appreciative smile.

 

“Alright. I’ll start, but afterward, I want to hear what’s been on your mind too.”

 

“Huh?” Lance replied eloquently.

 

“I know you’ve been struggling with your nightmares, Lance. It’s been affecting how you function just like me. You’re always carrying the emotional problems of the team, for once, let me do that for you.”

 

Lance swallowed thickly. “O-okay,” He answered slowly. He cleared his throat. “Okay. You first.”

Chapter Text


Lance’s teeth bit harshly into his lower lip as Keith unwrapped the dirty, blood-stained bandage. He snapped his eyes shut, unwilling to see the extent of the damage done to his leg, but the sharp intake of Keith’s breath and the stench of something foul filling the air told him all he needed to know.

“How bad is it?”

“Bad,” Keith said curtly. He ripped a strip of his black spandex uniform and wrapped it around Lance’s wound. “Allura or the healing pods might be able to do something about it, but if we take too long reaching them...”

His voice trailed off, but Lance heard the unspoken warning. If the infection spread any further, he would lose his leg. Lance gulped.

“Can you feel your toes?”

“Yeah.”

“Good. We still have time.”

Keith rose to his full height. He scanned their surroundings quickly before returning to Lance’s side. He pulled the lankier boy to his feet, wrapped Lance’s arm around his shoulders and urged him to move forward.

Walking with his leg the state it was in was a chore. The pressure he needed to apply in order to move stretched the torn skin around the wound. He felt more of his blood ooze into the fabric of Keith’s makeshift bandages. He could still smell the pungent scent of decaf flesh in his nose.

“Stop thinking about it,” Keith hissed under his breath. “You’ll be fine. I swear on my life, you will be fine.”

“I’m going to lose a leg.”

Keith’s grip around his waist grew right.

“Don’t say that. You won’t lose it.”

A thousand and one scenarios rushed through Lance’s mind. Losing a limb hadn’t been on the list of possibilities that could happen to him. Oh sure, he never once thought it wasn’t possible —Shiro was a constant reminder—but Lance never truly thought about it happening to him.

He’d pictured the various ways he would die more times than he pictured losing a body part. Even now, as Keith half-carried him across the hall, Lance found it difficult to imagine life without a leg. He was starting to think death was a more merciful fate.

“Lance, stay with me. I don’t want you closing your eyes.”

“My eyes are open,” He replied, though his words sounded sluggish to his ears. Lance furrowed his brows.

Keith pulled him closer despite their proximity. It was then Lance noticed he’s been slipping from Keith’s grasp. His legs felt like lead and his ears had taken to a distant buzzing that seemed to get louder and louder as the seconds ticked by.

He saw Keith’s urgency rather than hear it. He watched, as though from out of his body, as Keith leaned Lance’s heavy body against the wall. His lips were moving, but no sound was heard beyond the buzz.

“I love you,” Lance said.

The stricken expression on Keith’s face was hard for him to decipher. He hoped his words had been spoken and not mouthed, but he couldn’t seem to muster the energy to try again. (He hoped his voice hadn’t failed him or that Keith’s expression was due to Lance’s state and not a clear rejection of his feelings.)

The edges of his vision began to darken. He stared into the panicked violet eyes of his once rival and wondered, hoped—prayed—he would see his face again.

He wondered, as he felt himself slip further and further away from Keith, if he would see any of them again.

His friends.

His family.

The void was an unpleasant place.

Chapter Text


The shame that washed over him as he felt the bite of hard metal tear into his skin was enough to make him hesitate. He sat on the ground, hunched over his arm as though trying to hide it from the world despite the darkness that bathed his bedroom. The jagged piece of metal he managed to steal from Pidge’s pile of junk sunk into his skin like butter. It was sharp -- too sharp for his liking -- but being out in space meant Lance didn’t have many options when it came to … well, it wasn’t something he liked to think about.

He pulled the scrap metal from his skin and hastily wadded u a clean cloth against his wound. The once white cloth grew crimson in the dark. He pressed down on it hard. His nerves registered the pain, but instead of the sharp pang he was accustomed to, it was more like a dull, barely there thump.

His heart weighed heavily in disappointment.

He eyed the bloody jagged piece of metal again and contemplated his options. A few more cuts might do the trick. He still had time before he was expected for dinner. The clean up wouldn’t take that long. Maybe he could try a new location?

He reached for the broken piece of metal and gripped it tightly in his palm. He felt the sharp edges press into his skin, wondered belatedly if it was a smart idea holding something sharp that tightly in a place he couldn’t quite hide then pressed the tip into the skin of his forearm.

He used to hiss in the beginning. The pain of it had been unpleasant at first. The constant throbbing that occupied his mind drowned out everything else that had been happening around him.  The blood had been a harder sight to get used to. He was not the squeamish type, but there was something unsettling about watching the very essence of your life drip from your own body and knowing the only reason why it was there was because you had made it so. Lance wasn’t suicidal by any means, but he would be lying to himself if he said the thought hadn’t crossed his mind.

Out here in space, left to his own devices in the Castle of Lions, he had to be crafty. He couldn’t easily get the supplies he needed without the ever watchful eyes of Coran. He’d already had to explain to the older Altean why he needed to use the roll of gauze and other medical supplies when the healing pods were in perfectly good condition. Lance didn’t have the heart -- couldn’t, actually -- explain to the man that he didn’t need the healing pods. He just needed …

To be honest, Lance wasn’t really sure what he needed. He wasn’t sure why he was doing it again.

He’d been doing so well since they left Earth. Why now of all times?

The shadows of his demons whispered in the back of his mind. They looked distinctly like the boys back in the Garrison -- the ones who had been in his class. They’d been with him since their boot camp days. Since his cargo pilot days. Since he’d been small in Cuba. Their faces had changed. Their voices did too, but they were all the same kind of person.

They were all the same damn demons.

Lance clenched his teeth in frustration. He pressed the bloodstained cloth into his trembling arm, unaware of the pressure or the blood that dripped onto his lap, staining his jeans. He wrapped the gauze tightly around his arm, taped it securely in place then slipped on his trusty jacket. He gathered his dirty supplies and made way to dispose of them.


“Lance, you need to focus!”

“I am focusing!”

“You’re not focusing enough!”

Lance growled in frustration. Team practice before dinner was not something he particularly enjoyed doing, especially when it was obvious his teammates were starving. Allura’s demands for him to focus, despite the roaring hunger in his stomach, was more distracting than the chaos around them. She watched them from high above as she threw in drones of various levels into the fray.

Every now and again, she would single out a Paladin and advised them -- more like yell -- for them to either focus or move or “Teamwork, Paladins! The purpose of this training exercise is teamwork!” Lance had a hard time figuring out how sending a horde of drones that seemed ten times harder than usual helped them with their teamwork. It felt more like a massacre or punishment for failing to wake up on time for their early morning meeting.

(It wasn’t like he had meant to miss that one. There were no day and night cycles in space. Lance couldn’t tell when it was time for sleep or time to wake, but had Allura been understanding about it? Not really. Not that Lance could blame her. He’d be testy too if he found out his entire civilization had been wiped out by a race of people you once thought were your friends.)

Someone slammed into Lance, knocking him back into reality. The momentum threw him off his feet and right into the nearest wall. He wheezed from the collision, his lungs straining to breathe again when the other Paladin rolled off of his chest and into his lap. Keith coughed, just as winded.

“Keith!” Shiro cried. He dodged a deadly strike down from a droid and sliced it in half with his glowing purple hand. “Are you okay?”

“Y-yeah, just fine. Lance broke my fall.”

“You’re welcome, now get off of me!”

Allura’s voice filtered into the training room before Keith had the chance to move. “Lance, had you been paying attention, you would have been able to stop Keith’s momentum and saved yourselves from unnecessary damage!”

“Watch out!” Hunk screamed, zooming past the duo as another droid shot laser blasts in their direction.


Listening to Allura lecture each and every one of them for their failure to function as a team was not something Lance enjoyed listening to. He liked it less when she gave him a laundry list of things he needed to work on if he wanted to continue being a Paladin of Voltron. (Not that either of them had a choice in the matter, but Lance wasn’t sure he was completely safe inside the Blue Lion just yet.)

He liked it even less when Shiro praised everyone’s efforts, despite Allura’s lecturing. He always started with Hunk and he always ended it with Lance. Shiro would get caught in the middle, torn between praising Pidge -- which Lance believed really did deserve to be praised because while she did make mistakes in training, she was at least the most effective out of them -- and praising Keith a little too much. And, well, Lance thought that wasn’t surprising considering the two were close. Shiro had a bias. He tried to be a fair leader, but it couldn’t be denied that he had a soft spot for Keith and Pidge.

He wasn’t jealous. He absolutely was not jealous.

When it came his turn to hear words of praise from the man Lance considered to be his hero …

Shiro patted his shoulder, turned to the others and said, “Let’s grab dinner.”

He and the others followed after the princess’s heels while Lance remained where he stood, numb from the inside.


He’d been good with himself since the last relapse. He’d been especially careful to keep his mind from wandering into places unknown. Saving Coran’s life from Rover’s self-destruction had been an eye-opening experience. When he was well enough from the healing pods, he’d done himself the favor and threw away the jagged piece of metal he’d been coveting.

Coran had been … watchful … of him since. He never once approached Lance about the scars on his arms. Despite his stay within the healing pods, the medicinal liquid hadn’t been able to heal the damage he’d done to himself over the years. But that was okay, but Lance promised himself he wouldn’t slip again.

He had more important things to do.

Keith leaving for the Blade had hurt Lance in a way he didn’t expect. Having Shiro back as the Black Paladin, different but still undeniably Shiro was something that should had filled him with elation. Having his hero snap at him for the jokes he made, having him grow frustrated with Lance’s very presence -- having Shiro dislike him -- it widened the void inside him.

Watching Hunk and Pidge grow further and further away from him -- that had been painful but not wholly unexpected.

Having Allura fall in love with someone other than him right before his very eyes? That was the most painful of them all.

Keith’s return after a long time away, only to reveal a time skip had made him cooler than he ever was before? With two hot alien women by his side and a badass space wolf? And he’d been the one to figure out the Shiro they knew was a clone all along when Lance had been confronted by that very same clone only to have done nothing to help?

He’d been good up until then.


Without the Castle of Lions, the journey back to Earth would be long and arduous. Lance could barely contain the impatient excitement that ran through his veins like blood. He didn’t care how long it would take them, the very thought of seeing Earth again -- the blue skies and the salty sea -- the very idea he could call his family and finally hear their voice again, it filled him with such joy he couldn’t help but cry in the silence of his lion.

Kaltenecker behind him mooed in displeasure. The lion wasn’t nearly as spacious as the field she’d been left to roam in back in the castle. (Lance suspected she would start to become disagreeable the longer she stayed confined).

But he ignored her discontent. Instead, he wept into his palms, careful to keep his connection with the other lions disabled, and cried.

He cried for the castle, for the second loss Allura and Coran must be feeling.

He cried for Shiro, who he had failed more times than he can count.

He cried for his family, who for so long may not know where he was and still may not know if Pidge’s Dad couldn’t reach them.

But, more importantly, Lance cried for himself. He’d been so good up until then.

He reached into the pocket of his Paladin uniform and pulled out a small blade he’d swiped from the medical bay.


They’d landed on a space station for supplies. Lance took it as an opportunity to get what he needed the most. Other than food and water for himself and Kaltenecker, he spent the majority of his money on bandages and cleaning fluid. Getting back on Red, however, was a difficult task.

The Red Lion was wrapped in its forcefield, ignorant of Lance’s pleads. It refused to acknowledge Lance’s presence and barely moved an inch when Lance tapped on the forcefield and tried to flirt his way in.

Lance pulled away from the disagreeable lion and glanced at the others. They were protected by their own barriers, empty of their owners and just as lifeless as the damn Red Lion. He must have been the first to return from the supply run.

“Red, come on,” Lance groaned. “What are you mad at me for?”

Red remained impassive.

Lance ran his fingers through his hair, frustration mounting inside him. He didn’t have the patience to deal with the lion’s attitude. It was bad enough he had to spend hours upon hours cramped up inside the cockpit of his lion with a cow that couldn’t stop shitting while Keith got to chill with his hot mom, a cool space wolf and a white-haired Shiro, he did not want to explain why Red wouldn’t let him back inside.

“Whatever I did, I’m sorry, okay?” He sighed. He felt the anger and frustration drain from his body with every breath he drew. “Whatever I did, I’ll fix it. Just … let me in.”

Don’t shut me out.

Don’t abandon me.

He stared into the eyes of the lion, feeling more tired than he’s ever felt.

“I know I’m not the pilot you want, but he’s busy being the leader of this team. We’re almost back to Earth. Can you just … bear with me a little longer?”

I’ll be out of your way soon.

He felt the presence of the lion within his mind for the briefest of seconds. Red’s shield melted away as the giant mechanical robot leaned down before him and opened its mouth.

“Thanks, Buddy,” he sighed. “I’ll be gone soon enough.”

He settled into the pilot’s seat after setting Kaltenecker up with food for her to consume and waited for the others to return. Red had left him to his own devices again, the link between them disturbingly faint and fragile. He wasn’t surprised about it anymore, not when Keith was finally back to the team.

Red was a lion he had borrowed after all, and while he missed Blue dearly, he didn’t plan on ripping her away from Allura. She deserved to be a paladin way more than he did.

He meant what he said. Once they were back to Earth, he would be out of Red’s hair and Red was free to take on whoever it wanted after him. He was sure the lion was counting the seconds until their separation.

Who’d want to be with you anyway? You’re such a loser.

He couldn’t even get into the fighter pilot class!

Whose dick did you have to suck to get that position anyway?

Mama’s boy!

Faggot!

Loser!

The sharp twinge of pain silenced the screeching voices. He stared blankly into the relatively empty hanger bay of the space station as his right hand dug a small blade into the thickness of his thigh. It cut through the black body suit that was part of his Paladin armor with ease and lodged itself into the layers of his skin. He didn’t pull or tug. He left it there, pressed into him until the coppery scent of his blood filled his nostrils.

He sensed the indignant rage of the Red Lion before slicing into his skin again.

Chapter Text


Shiro’s screams filled the room around him as pain blossomed in his arm. It’d been small at first, like a soft prickle; something he could easily ignore. But as the seconds ticked by, the pain grew from a prickle to a twinge and from a twinge to burn. Now he was screaming, throat raw from the unending strain he forced into his vocal cords as his body writhed within its restraints.

He felt his skin tear then heard the unpleasant squelch of muscle fibers shred apart. Darkness pressed against his eyes, he couldn’t see around him, but he could hear. He could smell.

The air was putrid with the scent of blood.

He heard the loud horrendous crunch of his bone shatter.

Shiro woke in darkness, screaming.

He patted his body in desperation, his lungs heaving for air. He gripped both his arms — they were still there. He stared at his palms shakily.

“It was just a dream,” he sighed heavily. “Just a dream. Just a dream.”

As he spoke, he flipped his hands around. Palm side up, palm side down, nothing was unusual. They were his. His flesh. His blood.

He fell back asleep.


The aliens around them were horrific looking. Abused prisoners, tortured civilians. They all lurched in line, chained together and guided toward their doom in the halls of a barbaric stadium.

Matt trembled in fear behind him. He muttered reassurances beneath his breath, gulped repeatedly when the fear and hunger of their impending death grew closer. Shiro felt his heart bleed.

They weren’t going to die here. They weren’t going to die here.

He had this dream before.

But instead of attacking the soldiers, instead of breaking free and scaring Matt away to create his own freedom, Shiro watched, helpless and restrained, as Matt was forced into the arena.

He watched as he was torn apart by the more vicious, by the desperate, by the hopeless—

He woke up screaming Matt’s name to the darkness.


A ghostly wraith slipped into the dark chambers, their footsteps light and airy. The druid turned their cloaked dazed upon the prisoner’s body, inspected the arm they had so painstakingly woven into his flesh.

“Status report,” the druid’s grainy voice spoke.

“Subject is stable. The protocols are running smoothly. Permission to execute nightmare sequences to monitor brain activity?”

“Granted.” The hooded figure turned on their heels and left as Shiro’s screamed refilled the air.

Chapter Text


Hunk didn’t consider himself a cultural expert despite what the others believed.

 

Sure, he had a natural interest for the cultures of the planet they save, and yes, he had a mighty curiosity about how they functioned as a society based on their cultural background but he wasn’t technically an anthropologist. He was an engineering major after all. He knew his way better around engines and machinery than most of his peers back in the Garrison. He could work out a problem with a few simple mathematical equations and while Pidge knew her way around the more technical, cyber-related parts of computers, Hunk was proud to say that he was one of the best engineers on team Voltron. (Of course, not nearly as good as Coran, but considerably good, at least.)

 

But anthropology? Handling public affairs, especially cultural ones? That was more Allura’s thing. She was their diplomatic princess after all, and while Coran did his best to advise her in what was necessary, Allura always tried to help all the planets they came across to the best of her and the team’s abilities.

 

But this? He wasn’t so sure about this.

 

“I’m all for helping out a society of sentient felines, but, uh, are we absolutely sure we want to be doing this?”

 

“Hunk, you have nothing to worry about. The Felidae are a wonderful society.” The Princess assured him, smiling brightly. “We need to have them on our side and you are the perfect Paladin for the job.”

 

“I’m flattered, trust me, I really am, but why me? Why not Lance? And didn’t Coran say they were entering a cycle of breeding? Is that something we really want to be interfering with?”

 

At the mention of the Blue Paladin, Hunk and Allura turned their gaze toward the lanky boy. He was in the middle of an argument with Keith, their voices hushed despite their flurry of hand movements. Allura cleared her throat.

 

“Yes, well… I will admit, he was my first choice for the mission. However, as you so kindly pointed out, the Felidae will be entering a cycle of mating and while, I trust Lance would be able to contain himself, I would rather not deal with Keith’s… temper… while he’s away on this mission.” She rubbed her temples, as though recalling a memory Hunk was not privy to. “Anyway, We have given Lance a different task in the meanwhile. You, Hunk, are the perfect person for the job.”

 

“Besides,” Pidge said, sliding into the conversation with a box full of mechanical parts in her arms. “At least you’re going with Keith on a planet full of cat people. What could possibly go wrong?”

 

“Yes, absolutely. Keith has proven himself to be an exceptional leader for the team. He may be… a little brash at times, but he should be effective for this mission.” She turned her attention to the arguing duo, her face crumbling into resignation. “As long as he doesn’t get distracted.”

 

Hunk tried to keep calm. He could argue that a hundred things could go wrong. It wasn’t that he disliked landing on a planet full of sentient cat people, that part was actually quite thrilling to him. And it wasn’t the fact that Keith would be his partner for this mission that was the problem either. Hunk was just… concerned. More specifically, he was concerned about their “cycle of breeding”. What did that mean exactly? How long would they be breeding for and was that something they -- the Paladins of Voltron, aka outsiders -- should be privy to?

 

“Cheer up, Buddy,” He heard Lance say as both boys approached him. “You look like you’re gonna be sick.”

 

“It’s a possibility.” He confessed.

 

“You’ll be fine!” Lance said, his smile bright and warm. Despite Hunk’s reservations, Lance’s assurances seemed far more effective than Allura’s. Hunk felt his muscles loosen. “From what I recall, you’re good with cats. And dogs. Okay, well, you’re good with most animals so you should be fine!”

 

Keith patted the younger male on the shoulder, a small smile tugging the corners of his lips. “Ready?”

 

Hunk took a deep, calming breath.

 

“Yeah, I’m ready.”

 

They made way toward their respective lions.

 

“Bring me back a souvenir!”

 

“Lance!”

 


Thirty doboshes into their mission and Hunk was feeling positive again. Allura and Coran had been right, the Felidae were a hospitable and friendly bunch. They greeted them with a heroes welcome and escorted the Paladins to their representative.

 

As Keith went through the spiel he’d been taught since taking over Shiro’s place as Black Paladin, Hunk took that moment to examine the room around them. The Felidae were exactly how he expected them to be: cat people. They weren’t exactly like the house cats or the big cats he was used to back on Earth. If anything, they were more human in appearance with only certain feline features. They reminded him of an old anime he’d seen once or twice on the internet before his Garrison days.

 

The President of the Felidae was a petite, yet stern looking feline. She was plump from age with pitch black hair rolled into a bun. Her eyes were almond shaped, like a cats and a bright yellow. She reminded Hunk of a black cat, with a cat’s dark gray nose and dark gray ears. Her tail, long and slender, swished delicately behind her.

 

His mother would have enjoyed this planet.

 

He sighed.

 

“What do you think?”

 

Hunk snapped out of his trail of thoughts. He whipped his attention back to Keith and the leader of the Felidae, startled to find their gaze piercing into him.

 

“Huh?” He questioned eloquently.

 

The Felidae leader chuckled. Keith looked unphased (and Hunk would have believed it if it weren’t for the slight crinkling of the older boy’s brows.)

 

“We’ve been invited to stay for lunch,” Keith clarified.

 

“Oh! Yeah, lunch sounds great!”

 

“Perfect,” the woman purred. “Please, allow my people to escort you to the hall. Lunch will be served shortly, but I have a few matters to attend to before then. Please forgive my lateness.”

 

She excused herself from their presence and left the room with an escort. Hunk chuckled quietly to himself.

 

Yeah, Mom would definitely like this place.

 


Hunk and Keith watched in silence as the Felidae worked to fill the table. It was an intimate setting, with only six seats and a small, yet comfortable room. Hunk felt like he was going to eat a meal at an aunt’s home. The decor certainly reminded him of such and the painted pictures of history that adorned the yellow walls reminded him of the time he’d gone to DC in the summer with his family.

 

Keith, who sat beside him, appeared fidgety. He tapped the cloth-covered table with his index finger, his violet eyes darting around the room as he watched the servers set down porcelain plates and utensils.

 

Hunk discreetly leaned into his leader’s space and whispered, “Hey man, calm down. It’s just lunch.”

 

“I know. That’s not what’s bothering me.”

 

“Then what is?”

 

“It’s her,” Keith, with the barest of movements, gestured across the room toward a young feline.

 

She seemed about their age and rather pretty despite her cat-like looks. Her eyes were a dazzling emerald and her hair was pinned partially against her head while the rest draped down her back like a cascade of tight braids and loose hair.

 

She wasn’t dressed in the same uniform as the servers. Hunk suspected she was a civilian, maybe even a relative of the President. But what was the most startling about her was not her features or her appearance, it was the fact that she was watching them intently.

 

No, she wasn’t watching them, she was watching Hunk.

 

“She’s been eyeing you since we sat here,” Keith whispered into his ear.

 

Their eyes met. She giggled.

 

“Oh, um, that’s actually happening,” Hunk muttered.

 

“I think she likes you.”

 

“Oh, gee, what gave you that idea?” Hunk turned his back toward the girl, his dark eyes wide. “Is this really happening right now? Aren’t they going to be mating soon or something?”

 

“Mating starts at sundown,” An unfamiliar voice replied.

 

Hunk jumped in his chair. He whirled around and caught a face full of sparkling green eyes.

 

He screamed.

 

“Hi,” the white-haired Felidae smiled, her little fangs gleamed under the room lights. “I’m sorry, did I scare you?”

 

Hunk clutched his Paladin armor, his heart hammering. Keith peeked over his shoulder curiously.

 

“And you are…?”

 

“Belle. You are the Paladins of Voltron, yes?”

 

“Two-fifths of them, yeah,” Hunk mumbled, regaining some semblance of thought.

 

Belle’s eyes shot back to him in a flash, her black pupils slitted sharply in the light. He resisted flinching under her intense gaze.

 

“You must be Hunk, the pilot of the… yellow lion?”

 

“Yep. Th-that’s me.”

 

She drew closer to him, eyes wide with delight. “I’m a big fan! Please, you must come see my room! There are so many posters I need you to sign!” With every word she spoke, she drew closer and closer until Hunk was practically arched uncomfortably into Keith’s personal space.

 

She grabbed a hold of his hands, her palms warm and slightly moist from sweat until a crowd of servers spilled into the room followed by the President of the Felidae.

 

Belle pulled away in seconds. She took the empty seat beside Hunk, flicked her long locks of snowy white hair behind her shoulder and gave the President a warm, sweet smile.

 

“Belle, my sweet girl, are you entertaining the guests?”

 

Belle’s response was a delighted chirp.

 

Hunk wished he were back in the safety of his lion.

 


Despite Belle’s obsessive staring, Hunk enjoyed his time.

 

Lunch was exactly what he expected a race of sentient felines to eat. It was 70% meat-based dishes and 30% fish. There was barely anything on the table that resembled a fruit or vegetable and while a part of Hunk felt betrayed for dining entirely on a mostly carnivorous meal, everything had been cooked to perfection with the right amount of spices that he really didn’t mind. (He gave them bonus points for managing to make him forget Belle’s existence throughout half of the meal, even if Keith did find it funny once or twice.)

 

Throughout their meal, Madam President graced them with stories of her people and the history of their ancestors. From the origin of their food to the existence of the house they dined in, Hunk found himself enraptured by her storytelling.

 

Overall, Hunk had a great time. And it would have stayed that way had it not been for his need to use the bathroom.

 

“Oh, of course. The restroom is just down the hall to your left.”

 

“Thank you, Madam President. Excuse me.” Hunk gave them a quick, respectful bow and hurried out of the dining hall.

 

“Please let it be an actual bathroom and not a giant litter box,” He muttered desperately under his breath. “Please let it have an actual toilet.” Hunk rushed down the hall and opened the first door he saw on his left. “Yes!” He shut the door behind him with a soft click.

 

A few doboshes later, he stepped out of the restroom with a satisfied sigh. Standing barely a few inches away from him was Belle.

 

“Hi.” She smiled sweetly.

 

He screamed.

 

“CAN YOU STOP DOING THAT?!”

 

“I’m sorry,” -- She didn’t look sorry -- “But I really want you to see my room before you go!”

 

She made to grab his hand but Hunk pulled his hand away.

 

“Look, I’m really flattered that you’re a big fan. Truly, I am, but I have to decline. You’ve been staring at me all day and it’s really starting to creep me out. I’m not comfortable with the idea of stepping into your room without supervision or, like, in general. So please, I’m sorry but please respect my decision.”

 

Belle’s expression of sweetness didn’t falter. The only sign Hunk received that she had heard anything he said was the careful twitch of her white ear.

 

“Okay,” she said after a few awkward moments of silence. “You’re right, I’m sorry. I’ve been rude to you since your arrival. I will accept your decision but please, considering accepting this as a gift of my gratitude to you.”

 

“Alright, sure--”

 

Before Hunk had a chance to process what was happening, Belle was suddenly on him. She sank her fangs into the crook of his neck, careful not to pierce his jugular and bit. Hard.

 

The midst of panic, he tried to launch the girl away from him but she held on, her sharp claws piercing into the layers of his armor and right into skin.

 

Pain from her bite and her claws registered in his mind. He needed to think fast, but nothing made sense in his head. Without warning, Hunk grabbed the girl’s arms with all his strength and sunk his dull teeth into her shoulder.

 

She shrieked from the pain, dislodging her claws.

 

He shoved her away.

 

“WHAT WAS THAT FOR?!” He cried.

 

Belle’s eyes were wide, almost crazed. It rattled him deep in his core. Without another word, she scurried off, the faint sounds of laughter reverberated off the walls.

 

Hunk watched her go, dumbfounded and pained. He pressed the palm of his hand against his neck and hissed. He really hoped that wasn’t the way the Felidae said goodbye on their planet. A simple handshake would have sufficed.

 

Chapter Text


 

Lance was used to the teasing. He understood more than anyone that -- yes -- he was viewed as their residential goofball and -- yes -- he did say and do silly things from time to time. He didn’t hold it against Hunk or Pidge when they teased him about his unrequited crush on Allura, or back during the Garrison when Hunk would tease him about his various ill-fated flirts with Jenny Shayborn and the other Jenny. And Bex and Lauren. And--

The point was, Lance knew when his friends were teasing him. He knew and understood that every joke tossed his way was simply that -- a joke. It was a little more annoying when Keith did it, maybe a little more hurtful when Shiro got in on the action or when Allura tossed him a barb or two. He tried not to hold it against them. (Although sometimes that was warranted. He was persistent in wanting her attention and sometimes he really couldn’t help himself -- especially after a particularly nasty face off with Keith.)

But the whole mess with Lotor and his generals; watching Keith leave for the Blades only to return thirty times better, bigger, cooler -- discovering Shiro was dead the whole time and the clone was nothing more than a temporary replacement -- they’d been through far too much for them to ignore his growth as a Paladin of Voltron and as a decent human being.

Not that they did. He was sure they didn’t. It was just… sometimes his friends had a hard time understanding when enough was enough. They were all stressed by the loss of the castle. They were all struggling to keep their minds from falling into perpetual states of boredom as they traveled through space in their overworked lions.

Lance did his best to keep the mood light. He cracked jokes, made commentaries, sang a song or two. Or three. Or four. (Maybe more since Hunk had joined in and then Coran and then it was all of them, singing a song that was easy for everyone to follow with.)

So here they were now, floating through space with only one destination in mind, the image of their favorite little blue planet against the vast inky darkness of space remained seared in the forefront of Lance’s mind. According to Coran’s coordinates from the cockpit of the Blue Lion, they were getting closer and closer to the galaxy in which Earth resided in. Lance wasn’t exactly sure how many more quintants it would take, but it would be soon. They’d grown restless, Shiro more than the rest of them.

There was a lull in their communicators, each of the Paladins distracted by the thoughts that rolled through their heads. The silence was unsettling for Lance. It wasn’t the kind of silence he wanted to deal with after knowing they were so close to home. He was far too excited.

So he had an idea.

He opened the communication link for all the paladins to hear and started to sing a tune.

“Seriously, Lance?” He heard Pidge say. An image of her face appeared on his screen, a wide, almost tired smile plastered on her face. Behind her was Shiro, who laid heavily against the walls of the Green Lion. Just like Pidge, he seemed tired--ragged--as though he hadn’t been sleeping. “Shiro and I were just about to take a nap.”

“Yeah right,” Lance grinned. “Like you can sleep knowing we’re so close to home.”

She appeared thoughtful for a moment, tapping her chin as though she were truly considering the subject. From behind her, he watched Shiro chuckle.

“It would be nice to see our friends and family again.” He said, voice soft. “I’m… very proud of everyone.”

Hunk’s face appeared above Pidge’s, a mixture of emotions whirling in his eyes. “I know we’re going back for a reason and there’s a lot of work we have to do but, I’m really looking forward to spending some time with my mom.”

“Yeah,” Lance sighed. He leaned into his palm, eyes gazing into the distance as memories of his family flashed before his eyes. “I can’t wait to have my mom’s home-cooked meals again and catching up with my siblings. I don’t know how long we've been gone but I hope…” his voice trailed off, unsure of what to say.

Hunk didn’t need for him to continue to know what he meant. His expression turned wistful.

“Yeah,” he murmured quietly.

Keith’s face popped into place right beside Pidge’s. He looked determined and just as tired as the rest. Behind him, Krolia sat with the boy’s space wolf, stroking his fur with long, deft fingers.

“Just remember why we’re going back. I don’t know how long we have to stay on Earth but… the least we can do is make the most of it.”

“I, for one,” Allura began, her screen appearing beside Hunk’s and above Keith’s. “Look forward to seeing your planet.” She beamed. The mice on her shoulders pantomimed their excitement.

Behind her, and out of earshot of their comms, Lance could barely make out Coran and the other Altean girl--Romelle was it?--sit cross-legged on the floor. Between them, he could barely make out what looked like a game.

Lance wondered if it was too late for the rest of them to join.

“...bet Lance will flirt with them once we land.”

Lance snapped out of his thoughts and turned back to the images of his friends curiously. “Huh?”

“Nothing, never mind,” Hunk chuckled.

“Oh just, you know,” Pidge shrugged, a mischievous grin on her lips. “Hunk and I were just talking about the rest of our classmates in the Garrison.”

Lance’s brows furrowed. “Yeah? What about them?”

“We don’t know how long we’ve been out in space, so we were just discussing how surprised they’re going to be once they see Keith.”

“Me? Why me?”

“Keith, come on. Have you seen yourself? You have the best glow up out of all of us, that’s why.”

“Yeah, man.” Hunk continued to chuckle. “James is going to freak out. And Jenny. Probably.”

Pidge snorted. “If she still remembered Lance, that is.”

Lance bristled. He felt the apples of his cheeks flare up in heat as the duo laughed into the comms. Allura smiled at them politely, confused with their conversation but too polite to stop it. Keith on the other hand rolled his eyes in annoyance.

“Who is Jenny?” Shiro asked. “A friend of Lance’s?”

“Yeah right. Lance wishes! From what I heard, she was just a crush.”

“Yeah, that was brutal.” Hunk said, somewhat simmering down after his sudden laugh attack. “Be glad you guys weren’t there to see that. It was a disaster. Lance cried--”

The Red Lion veered to the right. It smashed into the larger, bulkier exterior of the Yellow Lion was such ferocious intensity, the image of Hunk in his cockpit sputtered out into static. The moment of their moment broke their alignment and while they were lucky there were no planets within the vicinity, it was enough to jostle both pilots.

Hunk’s face returned to Lance’s screen.

“What was that for!?”

“Are you boys okay?”

“What happened?”

“Did you lose control of the lion?”

Lance ignored their questions and opted to focus on the blankness of space. His heart hammered harshly in his chest, his brows stuck into a frown. His body grew hot from the anger that rushed through him, but more than that, he felt hurt.

Jenny’s rejection had been painful, perhaps not nearly as painful as Allura’s refusal of him and her own heartbreak, but painful nevertheless. To hear them bring her up like she’d been nothing more than a joke; to have Keith listen to them when he didn’t know the whole story -- it hurt.

“Lance--”

“I’m going up ahead.” He muted their links and pulled on the thrusters.

Red soared forward without hesitation. It whipped past the rest of the lions like a bratty child too excited to wait for candy. They didn’t go far, not wanting to lose the rest of the time, but far enough for them to know that he wasn’t in the mood for their teasing. Not like that.

Not when it came to matters of the heart.

He made one too many mistakes already, but Jenny wasn’t one of them. Neither was Allura. He just wished they understood that.

Chapter Text

Red refused to obey his command and remained dormant despite the rest of the team’s return. Lance hissed Spanish obscenities under his breath. He grabbed the lion’s thrusters and tried to will the giant, mechanical creature to obey his pleads, but Red did not respond.

It remained as still as a giant statue.

“What’s the holdup, Lance?” Keith asked through their communication link in their helmets.

The rest of the lions were activated, their forcefields long gone now that their owners were safely back inside their cockpits. Lance gripped tightly onto the handles of Red, a thousand and one thoughts rushing through his mind.

“I-I don’t know,” he confessed. “Red wouldn’t let me in earlier either. Now it doesn’t want to move or start.”

“Maybe it’s suffering from a malfunction?” Pidge suggested. “We have been pushing them pretty hard lately.”

“No, I don’t think that’s it.” Hunk chimed in. “The lions are built to withstand almost anything, right? Traveling through space shouldn’t be a problem.”

“It may be possible,” Allura’s soft, accented voice filtered into Lance’s ear as smooth as butter. “That the lion is reacting negatively due to our circumstances. Red is the most temperamental of them all.”

“Maybe you made it mad?” Hunk suggested. Lance could imagine the larger boy shrugging in his own lion. “Did you apologize to it? Maybe that’ll work.”

Lance heaved a heavy sigh. “I tried that already. It’s how I got in. Now it just…” He trailed off slowly, blue eyes falling to his thighs.

He hadn’t really registered what he’d been doing in the last few minutes. He’d been so preoccupied trying to block out the forces of the past that he must have …

He bit the inside of his cheek.

“I get it. I’m sorry, buddy.”

“Lance?”

“Can you guys give me a minute?”

Without waiting for confirmation, Lance pulled off his helmet and left it aside. He sank into the pilot’s seat, eyes falling shut then heaved another heavy breath. His heart hammered against his chest, the anxiety he’d been trying to keep at bay reared its ugly head into his nerves, but he forced himself to remain calm. He evened out his breathing.

Calmed his mind.

In the dark void of his mind, he reached for Red.

I’m sorry. He voiced to nothing. I know you’re probably tired of hearing that from me, but please believe me when I say how sorry I am. I’m so sorry. Please understand…

He couldn’t form the proper words; didn’t really know how he could explain to a sentient robot lion the whys.

The bullies that had taunted him for so long were not out here in space. Their words and actions couldn’t reach him anymore. They were mere shadows of people he once knew and yet …

The metallic bite called to him.

It relieved him.

The shame, the guilt, the relief, the tension, the stress -- he didn’t know how he could express what he was feeling to Red, or if the lion would understand, but he prayed it was enough to get him back up in the air.

Please, I’m sorry, just bear with me a little bit longer.

Red’s loud roar reverberated throughout the hanger of the space station. The lights in the cockpit flickered back to life, much to Lance’s relief. He felt Red’s presence in his mind, faint and feeble. It tried to press closer to him with a sense of urgency Lance wasn’t sure he understood but appreciated.

He rubbed his palm against the holster of the chair.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

He placed the helmet back onto his head and rejoined the other lions in space.


It was smooth sailing for several vargas, maybe even a quintant or two. It was hard to tell time without a light source or the rotations of the planets, but Lance was certain Red had been well behaved up until now.

He wasn’t sure how close they were to Earth, couldn’t really bring himself to ask without the spike of anxiety shooting through his veins, but they were in need of another stop. Their food and water supplies were low and the cow behind Lance was starting to get antsy. Before he even had the chance to suggest another pit stop, the Red Lion jerked out of their alignment all on its own.

The lion roared, though its sound didn’t carry far in the deep, dark expanse of space. The others hadn’t even heard the lion’s distress until Lance tried to take control of the lion. It resisted and banked too far to the right and into a nearby planet’s gravity.

“Guys! Guys! Red’s going berserk!” Lance screamed. He pulled hard on the levers that steered Red, but the lion wasn’t reacting. It spiraled out of control, trapped within the planet’s gravitational pull. “Red, c’mon buddy, respond!”

He heard the panicked voices of his friends asking for his status. He wasn’t sure what to say; didn’t really understand what was happening. He let them scream, too busy trying to focus on his connection with Red. It wasn’t working.

“Are we under attack?” Pidge asked in a panic, brown eyes darting around. “What’s going on?!”

“HIs lion just lost control!” Hunk replied. “They’re gonna crash into the planet!”

“Let’s go!” Keith ordered.


 

Red’s landing on the alien planet was a lot more graceful than Lance expected it to be. He’d been prepared for a crash landing, what with the way Red had ignored his demands for control, but the large lion had managed to land on its feet -- even if it did slide right into a mountainside. The moment of their fall had disoriented Lance and while losing control of Red had been the worst out of the whole experience, he was glad to be alive.

He was glad Kaltenecker wasn’t injured despite the poor thing having fainted during the fall. He knelt by her side, patting her belly as she breathed in deep.

“Easy girl,” he sighed. “We’re okay.”

“Lance, can you hear us? What’s your status?”

“We’re alive. Red had a rough landing but its not bad.” Lance eyed the empty cockpit and felt his heart drop. “Red’s out. I don’t think he’ll respond to me if I try to connect with him again.”

He stopped out of the lion in time to watch the others land. They poured out of their respective lions to see his physical status themselves.

“I’m fine you guys,” He assured them. “I’m not hurt and neither is Kaltencker.”

“What the hell happened?” Keith frowned, violet eyes focused on him and the temperamental lion. “Red just went haywire?”

“Uh, something like that.”

“Let me take a look at it,” Hunk suggested, approaching the lion. “Maybe there’s something loose inside.”

Before he could get close enough, Red’s shield burst to life.

“Hey!”

“Well, that’s a problem,” Allura sighed. “Perhaps we should camp out here for the moment. We have been traveling far longer than planned. It might be good for us to rest until we can sort out what’s happening.”

As the others disperse, preparing to make camp, Lance eyed the lion, his heart heavy in his chest.


Nightfall on the alien planet reminded Lance too much of Earth. While the star alignments were unfamiliar to his eyes, the number of stars that littered the black canvas like glitter was breathtaking. Space looked a lot different on a planet than when they were traveling and while Lance found the unease in his heart calmed by the images, a part of him -- a very large, ugly part -- felt ashamed.

They were stuck on this planet because of him; because the Red Lion didn’t approve of his behavior and no longer saw his worth as a Paladin. He spent a large part of the afternoon trying to convince Red to let him past the barrier, but the lion refused to heed his pleas.

He made promises he knew he couldn’t keep and Red saw through him. It saw through his lies and false promises and decided, very much like a petulant child, that it didn’t want to be lied to anymore. Lance couldn’t blame it. He wouldn’t have believed himself.

He only wished they did this after they were on Earth.

The others gathered by the warm fire, roasting up food they still had left while Lance had wandered off with the excuse of needing to relieve himself. He heard Allura’s question to Keith as the Black Paladin returned from trying to convince Red to open for him.

(“Did it respond?”

 

“No.”)

Lance bit his lower lip. He disappeared further into the dark forest, careful not to lose sight of the campfire but hoped he was far enough to keep their prying eyes away. He dug into the secret pocket of his paladin gear and fisted the small blade in his hand.

With one last glance toward the group, he turned his back, crouched down into the bushes and pressed the blade into the thickness of his thigh. The anxiety he felt since their crash landing eased only partially as he cut. Several more lines grounded him to his surroundings. He’d been so transfixed with what he was doing that he didn’t register the noise of cracking foilage until it was too late.

“Hey, Lance--” Hunk’s voice smashed into him before his flashlight did. Lance bolted to his feet. He hid the bloodied blade behind his back, accidentally lodging it into the palm of his hand in his haste.

He tried not to wince from the pain but swallowed his panic.

“H-hey buddy! Wh-what are you doing out here?”

Hunk lowered the light to save Lance from being blind. “You were out here for a while. We were getting worried.” His best friend replied, dark eyes curious. “You okay?”

“Yeah, just taking a dump.”

Hunk quirked a brow. “For a varga?”

“I haven’t been gone that long!”

“Yeah, Lance. You have. What’s going on buddy?”

Hunk’s hand moved downward, spilling light onto Lance’s legs. It’d only been for a fraction of a moment, but Hunk caught sight of the torn material around the boy’s legs and the dark stains that soiled it. Lance jerked out of the light with a look of pure horror on his face and hid behind the tree he’d been using as cover.

“Lance,” Hunk tried again, his voice soft. He crouched beside the other Paladin and rested a gentle hand on his shoulder. “You know you can always talk to me about it.”

“I’m fine.”

“Hurting yourself is not being fine, Lance!” Hunk snapped, surprised by his sudden wave of rage. He shut his eyes for a moment and willed his heart to calm. He sat on the ground beside Lance and stared off into the dark distance. He heaved a heavy sigh. “I know you won’t believe this, but… I’ve been trying to find ways to help you with this.”

Lance turned to him, startled. “You knew?”

The Samoan nodded. “Yeah, since back in the Garrison. I didn’t really know you that well back then, but I knew you were getting picked on and… I knew you weren’t coping with it well. There’d been times I saw…” Hunk shook his head. “I’m sorry I never really reached out to you about it, but I always assumed you’d try to deny it and act like everything was okay when it wasn’t. And for a while, I really believed it until this whole mess happened.”

He gestured to the whole forest as though blaming the alien planet for their current situation.

Lance worried his bottom lip again. While Hunk was talking, he had pulled the small blade from his palm and wrapped a bandage around his wound. Hunk watched him in silence, hurt by the action, but unsure of what to say to ease his best friend's pain.

“I don’t know if there’s anything I can say or do that’ll make you feel better but… Lance, I’m here for you. You’re my best friend and I care about you. We all do. Please believe in that.”

“I know,” he sighed, suddenly tired. “It’s just hard to make my brain understand that sometimes.”

“Depression is hard.” Hunk murmured. He pressed his back against the trunk of the tree and gazed toward the sky. “The best you can do is take it one day at a time. You’re not alone, buddy.”

“Red locked me out because of this. I think he’s angry. He probably feels betrayed that I wouldn’t let him in.”

“Can you blame him?”

Lance shook his head. “No, I get it. And I feel guilty for it. I don’t know what to do to fix this.”

“Be open with him. Let him in. I know it’s scary but… Red won’t hurt you. Neither of us will.”

Hunk gently patted Lance’s knee in what he hoped was a reassuring gesture. He rose to his feet soon after, promised the boy he’d return with some extra bandages and turned to leave. He stopped for a moment, a flicker of hesitation in his movements. He glanced back at Lance again, his brows stitched in worry.

“Hey man, I won’t… I won’t tell the others. If you don’t want me to. It’s not my secret to tell but just… promise me you’ll come to one of us for help.”

The smile that stretched across Lance’s face was small but genuine. “Yeah, I promise.”

Hunk returned his smile then left him in peace with the flashlight shining the path back to the camp.

Chapter Text

 


Lance’s eyes nearly bulged from their sockets as he eyed the immaculate creation on Hunk’s kitchen table. It was glorious beyond words; his mouth salivated as he struggled to comprehend the immeasurable beauty that graced his presence.

He could smell it from where he stood, the sweet, tantalizing aroma that reminded him of summer days spent in an Americanized Italian restaurant, the ones that littered every street in New Jersey that one time he went to the East Coast with his family for God only knows what.

 
“Hunk,” Lance barely breathed, eyes transfixed. He approached the island cautiously, as though worried he would scare away the delectable meal on the counter. “You beautiful soul you.”

Lance inspected the beauty with hungry eyes. It was large and round with a beautifully rimmed crust baked to the most enticing shade of brown that indicated it was both crispy yet soft, not burnt and hard like he was used to. It was the perfect layer of thickness—not too thick and not too thin. The layer of cheese was melted to absolute perfection with the right amount of sauce to cheese ratio that Lance was sure every slice Hunk would make would be heaven on his unworthy taste buds.

He hovered over the pizza, practically drooling.

“Hey, hey!” Hunk shooed him away with a spatula, eyes stern yet the corners of his lips twitched in amusement. “Drool is not a topping I want on this pizza.”

“What topping are you adding?”

Lance and Hunk turned to the newcomers. Keith, Shiro, and Pidge joined them in the kitchen, their eyes widening in collective awe at the sight of Hunk’s divine creation.

It was Shiro who had asked. He approached the kitchen island with curious eyes then eyed the collection of ingredients behind the larger male.

“Well, this one will be plain.” Hunk replied gesturing to the cooling pie. “The one in the oven is pineapple and ham.”

A loud unabashed gasp filled the room. All eyes turned to Lance. He held a hand pressed against his chest, blue eyes wide in horror.

“Hunk no! Are you crazy? Pineapple doesn’t go on pizza!”

“Here we go,” Pidge muttered, much to Keith’s confusion.

Hunk rolled his eyes in exasperation, resting his gloved hands on his hips. He settled Lance with a look that reminded each of them of a mother far too disappointed with her son before he pointed to the plain cheese pizza on the counter.

“We’ve been through this. Pineapple is just as viable a topping as chicken or bacon.”

“It most certainly is not!” Lance screeched, surprising Keith.

Shiro’s eyebrows rose into his hairline while Pidge snickered behind him.

“Pineapple is sweet, Hunk! Its juices get all over the cheese and it changes the flavor to something sweet! Pizza is supposed to be greasy and salty and NOT SWEET. Am I right guys?” He turned to the others for support, his pupils narrowed in distress.

He looked expectantly at Keith and gestured to both Hunk and the pizza.

Hunk settled Keith with the same reprimanding stare.

He gulped.

“Well, I’ve… never had it so I can’t really say—”

“WRONG ANSWER MULLET! SHIRO, PIDGE BACK ME UP GUYS!”

“I don’t know Lance,” Pidge sighed, her expression twisted into an impish grin. “I’ve gotta side with Hunk on this. Pineapple pizza is delicious.”

The look of utter betrayal that morphed Lance’s face was enough to have the girl cackling. Lance turned to Shiro, the man he admired the most in the entire room, with moist, puppy dog eyes.

Shiro resisted the urge to flee.

“Er… I’m not—“ he cleared his throat suddenly, hardening his resolve. He turned to Hunk with stern, dark eyes. Hunk raised a daring brow. “Pineapple does not go on pizza—”

“HAH! IN YOUR FACE—”

“—unless you drizzle it with chocolate sauce.”

Lance clutched his chest, suddenly worried he was having a heart attack.

Keith turned to Shiro, the confusion evident in his expression. “Chocolate? On pizza? Seriously?”

“It’s a good topping.” He said defensively. “It’s just a viable topping as putting eggs on your pizza.”

“EGGS?!” Lance gasped, knees buckling. He fell to the ground, his whole body trembling. “Madre de Dios, I’m surrounded by heathens. Is this my punishment? Is this karma for that time I accidentally spilled water on Hunk’s keyboard and blamed it on his ferret?”

It was Keith’s turn to raise his brows into his hairline. He shifted further away from Shiro and Pidge, the former’s cheeks growing pink in embarrassment.

“Wow, Shiro… this is a side of you I haven’t seen before,” Keith muttered, conflicted. “I don’t know if I can accept this… knowledge…Eggs? Chocolate?” He shook his head. “I’m starting to think Lance is right about this. Pizza should be plain.”

Lance suddenly bolted from the ground with his fists raised into the air. He screamed something in Spanish that flew over their heads then grabbed the plain cheese pizza from the counter.

“None of you heathens deserve this!” he cried, hovering over the delectable meal with the same protective ferocity as Krolia whenever Keith’s hurts himself. “I can’t believe you would disgrace the Pizza Gods like this! What would Michelangelo say?!”

“The artist?” Shiro frowned.

“He means the turtle.” Pidge stage-whispered.

“Ah.” He paused. “What turtle?”

Hunk brandished his spatula again, aiming it like a sword toward both Lance and Keith, whose violet eyes widened in surprise. “Put the pizza down Lance. It didn’t do anything to you. It doesn’t deserve this.”

“No! Neither of you deserve it!”

“Lance—”

“KEITH, DISTRACT HIM!”

Before Keith could process what was happening, Lance shoved him into Hunk’s way then bolted out of the kitchen with a whole 16” plain cheese pizza. Hunk roared in what they hoped was fake outrage then dashed after his best friend, spatula still in hand and a pineapple pizza still cooking in the oven.

Pidge leaned against the counter, an amused grin on her face. “Welp, your boyfriend is gonna die today. Any regrets?”

Keith exhaled tiredly, running a hand through his dark hair. “Just one. He still owes me money.”

Shiro glanced between the two of them, confusion bright in his eyes. “So… who is Michelangelo and why is he a turtle?”

The loud sighs of two very tired teenagers filled the kitchen once more.