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Three Years and A Day

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              Lance watched the news broadcast in tears. The water streaming down his cheeks. He hadn’t noticed the tears yet.

              The broadcast read: ‘Kerberos Mission Failure: Pilot Error’

              The entire crew had been declared lost, and in space that meant they were all dead. Lance couldn’t believe that. There was no way Matt was dead, absolutely no way. They had talked via video chat not even two days ago. He couldn’t be gone. They hadn’t had the chance to do all the things they’d talked about. He hadn’t had the chance to say all the things he’d wanted, he hadn’t told him all the things he wanted to. He hadn’t told him yet! This couldn’t be happening.

              They had been together for six months before Matt had left for Kerberos and had maintained regular video calls for the past few months. They had just celebrated their first anniversary. They were making plans for when Matt came back.

              But now there weren’t anymore plans to be made. There was no one to make those plans with, because Matt wasn’t coming back.

              He didn’t notice the sobs that broke from his chest. He didn’t notice Hunk wrap his arms around him. He didn’t feel his eyes close or his face be pushed into Hunk’s chest as the other boy held him.

              He didn’t feel anything.

              He was numb to everything for days, how he didn’t draw Iverson’s ire he’ll never know but he managed to evade the man for quite a while.

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              It was a week after the broadcast, two days after the memorial had been held that Lance finally broke free of the fog. He had found himself sitting on his bed, his phone in his lap, scrolling through pictures when he received a message. He opened it in his numb state and when the video started playing he snapped back to reality.

              Matt was holding a camera, smiling into it sheepishly, like he was embarrassed for filming this message. He started talking.

              “Hey Lance, if you’re seeing this then something happened on the Kerberos mission and I can’t talk to you myself. If I’m right, then I guess I can’t talk to you ever again and I’m so sorry for that.” Matt takes a breath, “We were all supposed to record messages for our loved ones just in case something happened. I recorded one for my mom and Katie with my dad, but I needed to make one for you too. We just landed on the moon today and we talked an hour ago, so this is a little weird because I had another video ready for you if anything happened on the way here, but I decided I’d update it after our conversation. You asked me if there was anything I wanted to change about us and I said there was nothing, that I was happy and I am. I am so unbelievably happy. I’m living a dream going into space and you are more than I could ever hope for in a boyfriend but there is one thing I regret. I regret keeping our relationship on the down low, because this leaves you with no one to talk to who knows exactly what we mean to each other, and I’m so so sorry for leaving you alone. I promise you I did everything I could to make it back to you.” Matt looked away from the camera briefly before turning back, tears in his eyes.

              “This is cruel of me to say when I won’t be able to say it to your face like you deserve, but I need you to know. I love you Lance. With every piece of my heart and I’m so sorry I couldn’t tell you before. I was scared. Scared it was too early or too much and I regret letting those fears get to me. I should have told you.” Matt hiccupped as the tears fell slowly down his cheeks.

              “Lance, I love you. I know this is going to destroy you, but I also know that someday you’ll be able to pick yourself up and put yourself back together, and when you do I need you to know that I will be there with you. I will be watching over you and when you can finally move on from me I want you to know that I will be supporting you every step of the way. When you’re ready, and you will be ready eventually, I want you to find someone else. To love someone else, and to let them love you. To let them love you the way I wanted to love you, deeply and for the rest of your life. Don’t lock yourself away, you deserve the stars Lance. I’m sorry I couldn’t give them to you like I promised. Be happy my Starfish.” Matt said as he gave the camera a watery smile before the video ended and the screen went black.

              Lance stared silently at his phone for a few more minutes. He felt the tears start in his eyes as his mouth formed a huge grin, stretching his cheeks more then they had been in days.

He started to laugh.

Quietly as first before it became huge guffaws that shook his very soul. Leave it to Matt to save such sappy stuff for after he’s gone. It was just like him to pull out that stupid nickname when he was apologising for dying.

The laughter lifts a weight off Lance’s chest that he wasn’t entirely conscious of. He was still heartbroken and hurting deeply, but now he felt like maybe there might be a softer edge to the pain someday. He’d never forget Matt, but then, he thought maybe someday he’d be able to be happy again.

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              When Pidge had joined their flight team, Lance had recognized her immediately. Matt bragged about his sister constantly and as a proud sibling himself, they traded pictures of Katie Holt and Lance’s niece and nephew constantly. She was unmistakable even with the haircut and Matt’s old glasses and even though they had met once or twice, Katie never acknowledged him as anything more than a teammate. Lance looked out for her anyways. He wouldn’t let anything happen to Matt’s little sister, especially when she was calling herself the nickname Matt gave her when they were little kids.

              A year had passed since the Kerberos mission had failed, their second anniversary would have been a month ago when Shiro’s pod crashed into the desert and everything changed. Lance had followed Pidge into the pod and subsequently into the desert after Shiro and Keith, with Hunk being dragged along.

              When Lance saw Shiro, hope bloomed in his chest. If Shiro was alive then maybe, just maybe, Matt was alive too. He tried to keep the embers of hope low in his chest. If he let them burn too brightly and Matt really was gone then he wouldn’t be able to bounce back form that. Losing him once was already hard enough.

              The blue lion gave him a chance to go off into the unknown and find a way to the love of his life.

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              When Pidge had revealed herself to the rest of team Voltron, Lance couldn’t say that he had known from day one. He had hidden his recognition of her better than he had realised.

She hadn’t remembered him and every time he tried to talk to her about Matt something happened, or someone interrupted. He suspected the team was trying to keep him from talking to her about it. They thought he was antagonizing her for some reason. So, he had to hide how much he knew about her. He had to hide that he knew her favourite foods and her favourite song. He took to singing her favourite songs when she was in a bad mood and playing it off.

Even if she didn’t recognize him, he was going to look after her.

The worst part of not being able to talk to Pidge about Matt, was that he wasn’t able to actively help her find him. He wanted to be part of the search for Matt so badly but that meant he had to talk to Pidge about Matt and the team actively prevented him from doing so. So, he tried to take care of her instead. He made sure she got sleep and ate enough, even if it came across as trying to annoy her. If that’s what it took, that’s what he’d do.

              Sometimes the topic of their lives back on Earth would come up, especially any romantic aspects. They found out that Shiro had had a fiancé who he had to end things with because of the mission.

              “Did he receive your video when they announced the mission failure?” Lance found himself asking during one of their conversations about people they left on Earth.

              Shiro looked confused before he said “I made three videos. One for my parents, one for Keith, and yes, one for Adam. How did you know we made videos Lance?”

              “I heard one of the senior officers talking about the release of the crew’s goodbye videos in the halls one day after the memorial. I figured that’s what they meant by goodbye.” Lance shrugged.

              Shiro looked at him oddly for a minute before he shrugged as well in acceptance of Lance’s answer.

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              When Pidge had gone off on her solo mission, Lance had wanted to go with her. He had tried to corner her to tell her the truth, so he could help her. So, he could be there when she found Matt. But she had eluded him.

              He had paced around his room for hours after she left, there wasn’t anything else he would be able to do anyways let alone in his distracted and stressed state.

              When he heard Pidge was on her way back he was buzzing. Her tone had been somber but not her usual somber. There was something she was hiding. He hoped it was his boyfriend.

              The team gathered in the hanger of the green lion and waited for Pidge to return. When she did, and she looked at the team, Lance couldn’t look at her, he was trying to see around her and into her lion to try and catch any glimpse of a possibility of Matt. When she stepped aside with a wicked smirk on her face he felt his heart stop when he saw a head of familiar tawny hair.

              It was a little shaggier than he remembered, and he was a little taller than Lance now. But it was unmistakeably Matt. Lance’s heart started to pound as his boyfriend walked out of the green lion and towards the group.

              Lance’s heart stopped again when Matt caught sight of the princess and he immediately started flirting with her. Shock took over his system. Then anger started to build up. He was glaring daggers at Matt, the older boy looking past him and at Shiro.

              Matt took Shiro in for a few seconds before swiftly moving towards his friend for a proper reunion. The two chatting amicably. Lance felt himself deflate a little, before the hurt set in.

              Instead of letting the pain get to him in front of his team, he just threw his arms in the air and shouted, “Seriously?” with as much anger in his voice as he could before he stalked off to his room.

              All her heard as he walked away was, “What the Quiznak is his problem?”

              He didn’t look back.

              When he reached his room, he turned to lock the doors once he was inside. He didn’t want anyone to disturb him. Then he stripped out of his armour, put on his pajamas, and flopped onto his bed. As soon as he stopped bouncing the tears started. Just tears for a few moments before huge, painful sobs wracked his frame.

              The hope in his chest whooshed out and he was left with a cold empty space.

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               “What the Quiznak is his problem?” Pidge asked loudly as Lance stormed out of the hanger.

              “I don’t know, but he seemed really upset.” Shiro replied. He shrugged and turned back to his friend. He noticed that Matt was staring, with wide eyes, shocked, at the closed doors.

              “You okay Matt?” He asked.

              “Yeah, just, Pidge?”

              “Yeah?” Pidge arched a brow.

              “Who was that?” Matt asked quietly.

              “That’s Lance. Don’t pay attention to his outbursts, he’s a little odd. I didn’t think you hitting on the princess would have bothered him so much though.” She shrugged and turned away from the door and toward her brother again.

              “Lance McClain?” He asked still staring at the door.

              “Yeah, why? You know him?” Hunk piped up, there was something about this that was striking a chord with the yellow paladin.

              “Oh fuck.” The rebel exclaimed, “Where did he go? I need to talk to him.” Desperation creeping into his voice.

              The others present just looked at him funny before Hunk answered the question.

              “He probably went to his room. I can show you there?”

              “Please? The sooner I talk to him the better.” Matt said gravely. He gestured for Hunk to lead the way and followed the yellow paladin out of the hangar and towards Lance’s room.

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              Lance heard the knocking on his door, it only made him sob harder. He rolled away from the door and stared at the wall, determined to ignore the person disturbing his mental breakdown.

              The person on the other side of the door must have heard him crying because he heard a curse before the knocking continued.

              “Lance? Are you alright? What’s wrong?” He heard Hunk ask, panicked.

              “Hunk, man, I love you but please go away.” He said between hiccups and sobs.

              There was silence for a moment before he heard another voice, “Lance? Can you please open the door?”

              Matt.

              The desire to run and open the door for the man was almost overwhelming and Lance caught himself pushing up into a sitting position before he stopped. The anger and hurt from earlier rose up quickly in his chest and leaked venom onto his tongue.

              “Oh, so now you notice me? Now you want to talk to me? Not when I was literally standing right in front of you, trying to get your attention? Not when I stood three feet in front of you and you looked right past me? Just like everyone else on this damn castle? Well guess what, I’m tired of it and no matter how relieved I am to see you alive and well, I’m done.” Lance spat, hoping Matt got the message and would leave him alone. He was not in the mood right then, no matter how much he just wanted to let Matt in and curl up in his arms and cry in relief and pure joy.

              He heard what he thought was whispering before someone walked away from his door, probably Hunk. Matt was far too stubborn to give up.

              “Lance, please? Let me in?” when he got nothing but silence and sniffles from Lance’s side of the door he sighed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to ignore you, it was a lot to take in. My sister in space, with my best friend? Flying giant robot cats and paladins of Voltron? That’s a crazy thing to try and make sense of.”

              Lance heard a thunk as Matt’s forehead hit the door, “I know that’s not an excuse, but I did notice you. How could I not? You’re so beautiful, more so than the last time I saw you and it’s terrifying to know that it’s been almost two years since I last saw you in person. I remember what I told you in that goodbye video and I can’t help but think you probably found someone else. We’ve been apart so long I wouldn’t blame you, I just didn’t want to see it on your face that you didn’t wait for me.” Lance heard a sniffle.

              “You told me something else in that video too. Something that should make it easier to believe I wouldn’t just move on.” Lance said softly. He was sitting up on the bed now, facing the door. The tears were still streaking down his cheeks, but the sobbing had stopped. “Do you remember that part?”

              It took a second, but Matt finally answered, “I told you I loved you. I told you for the first and only time that I loved you.”

              Silence reigned for a minute or two before Lance made a decision.

              “I’ll open the door. But you have to tell me if what you said is still true. Did you wait for me like you promised?” Lance didn’t let himself hope for anything.

              “Yes.” Came immediately, quickly followed by, “I never stopped thinking of you. The only reason I was able to keep going when they separated the three of us, was that I knew you had seen that video and I needed to make it out and find you again. Of course, I still love you. And I know it’s cliché to say but I love you with all my heart Lance and I’m so sorry I made you wait this long and made you hurt this bad. If you’ll have me back, I’m never leaving you ever again.”

              Matt heard nothing. Then suddenly the door whooshed open and standing there with puffy red eyes and tears still running down his cheeks was Lance. Beautiful, incredible Lance. The strongest person Matt had ever met and the love of his life.

              “You promise?” Lance’s voice was small.

              “I promise, I’m never leaving you again.” Matt nodded, and he had barely a second before Lance was flying into his arms with a loud sob.

They were both crying, and Matt lifted Lance up to move them into the paladin’s room. Lance wrapped his legs around Matt’s waist and clung onto his boyfriend with everything he had. Matt moved them to the bed and laid the both of them down, side-by-side and facing each other. They clung to each other and cried. When they’d both run out of tears and had calmed down enough, the emotional exhaustion took hold of them both.

Before they could fall asleep, Lance spoke, “Hey Matt?” he got a non-comital noise, “I love you too.”

Matt’s eyes flew open and his lips stretched into a wide smile. He leaned forward and kissed Lance’s forehead before they snuggled closer and let sleep take them.

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The rest of the team was incredibly confused when the two of them entered the dining room together for breakfast the next day. Pidge stared suspiciously at Lance. Shiro looked like he had just figured out the secrets of the universe, and Hunk looked relieved that Lance seemed to be feeling better, but he was also sneaking side glances at Matt for making his best friend cry. Coran and Allura were lost to all the subtext and remained unaware of the tension in the room.

The two men proceeded to sit next to each other in companionable silence, ignoring the looks and the weird silence of the team around them.

After several minutes of nothing, Pidge had had enough.

“Okay. What the shit is going on here?” she exclaimed, pointing aggressively at her brother and Lance.

“What do you mean Pidge?” Matt asked innocently, blinking in feigned ignorance.

“Well first of all Lance has another moody outburst for no dang reason—” an indignant “Hey!” came from the red paladin, “—and now it’s like nothing happened! We even set up a room for you and as far as I know you didn’t sleep there last night because I went to get you for breakfast and you weren’t there. So, if you didn’t sleep there, where did you sleep Matt?” there wasn’t quite an accusation in her words, but Matt shifted uncomfortably anyway.

              Matt looked to Lance who looked down at his own lap and nodded quickly. They seemed unsure if sharing was a good idea.

              “I stayed with Lance last night.” It was said simply but with the way Pidge flew out of her chair and squawked in indignation, you’d think someone had told her that they’d broken her computer, and that was an offense punishable by death.

              “You did what!?” Pidge shrieked. That got the attention of the Alteans in the room as well as making Lance flinch.

              “I told you she wouldn’t take it well.” Lance mumbled at Matt.

              “Hold up a minute!” Shiro interjected. He looked at Matt pointedly before continuing, “Matt. After Lance ran off for some reason last night, clearly mad at you might I add, you went after him and stayed in his room instead of going to the one we prepared for you?” Matt nodded, “Okay. Next question, why?”

              “Well I couldn’t exactly let him stay mad at me after we’d just been reunited after he thought I was dead for a year and we got ourselves space-napped.” Matt said like it should have been obvious. Lance was still looking down at his lap, but he was looking at their entwined hands in his lap which the team couldn’t see.

              “Why would you even care that he’s mad at you? You met him for the first time yesterday!” Pidge shrieked once more from her position now kneeling on the floor, gesturing wildly with her arms.

              “Well Pidge, that’s where you would be wrong.” Lance said. “We met two and a half years ago. At the Garrison.”

              Understanding dawned in Shiro’s eyes when he thought over that time at the Garrison. Matt had been finishing up his last year, with commendations and accolades coming out his ears. Lance would have been half way into his second year of four. Shiro remembered the look in Matt’s eyes around that time. He had brightened immeasurably in the span of a week. He never mentioned what had caused the change when asked and after a while Shiro was okay to let it slide as long as he stayed happy. Which he did.

              Now that Shiro thought about it, six months before they’d left for the mission Matt had come into the meeting room bright red and beaming. When asked about it he had only said that he had a date later that day. He never mentioned anything about said date ever again, but he seemed to get happier as the days passed.

              “That’s why you requested so much extra video call time isn’t it?” Shiro asked quietly.

              “Yeah, I had someone on Earth I wanted to talk to as much as possible and Dad didn’t know. So, I requested private call time before we left.” Matt added sheepishly. He was relieved to have Shiro understand so quickly. He’d have to explain it to his friend later but for now he could keep his focus on explaining everything to Pidge.

              “What didn’t dad know?” Pidge arched a brow in confusion from her spot still on the floor.

              “That he had a boyfriend back home he wanted to talk to while they were on their way to Kerberos.” Lance stated.

              “Matt’s single Lance. He has been for ages. The last date he had was like three years ago.” Pidge scoffed.

              “The last date he told you about was like three years ago.” Lance countered.

              “How would you even know that? You said you met two and a half years ago. You wouldn’t have even known about that date and why wouldn’t he tell me about his dates, I’m his sister.”

              “Because this is how you act Katie.” Matt pointed out. “And my last date you sabotaged. Don’t think I didn’t know it was you throwing stuff at her the whole time!” he accused.

              She looked almost guilty for a second before she snapped back to normal. She looked ready to start defending herself when Hunk quietly inserted himself back into the conversation.

              “Lance? Is he implying that all those nights I caught you asleep at your desk in front of your tablet and when I found you crying in front of the Kerberos broadcast, looking like someone had ripped out your very soul, that you were talking to Matt? That two-year time period where you didn’t flirt with anyone at all and told people you weren’t interested when they hit on you, was because you were already with someone? You were with Matt that entire time!” Hunk spoke quietly at first, gaining volume as he realised what his best friend had been hiding from him.

              Lance could only nod, guilty for not telling Hunk the truth.

              “We started dating six months before the mission launched. We wanted to keep it quiet for a while because even though I wasn’t an instructor, but I was still an officer no matter how young and a new relationship would have reflected badly on Lance at the time.” Lance elbowed him in the side, “Yes it wouldn’t have looked good for me either. I was the golden boy, nothing would have happened to me, but Iverson was already on your case for stupid stuff and I didn’t want to risk anything else hurting your chances!”

              “Wait a minute. Lance is your boyfriend?” Matt and Lance both nodded. “You mean to say to me, that my brother’s boyfriend has been here the whole time, and not only did he not know who I was but hadn’t offered to help me look for you even once?” Pidge asked, anger quickly overtaking her confusion.

              “I tried to help you but every time I tried to even mention Matt someone would blatantly interfere! No matter how many times I tried to corner you to tell you or ask to help with the search, someone would come and get pissed at me and say you needed space and that I shouldn’t drag up painful thoughts for you and would literally push me away before I could explain.” Lance bit out while sending death glares at the other two paladins and the Alteans who were pretending they weren’t listening to everything.

              “I spent months looking after you instead, making sure you were getting enough sleep and that you were eating. I kept your computer safe when you weren’t nearby and tried to help you destress whenever possible. Those were the only things I could do without being shut down immediately.

              “In regard to not recognizing you, I knew who you were when you walked into the Garrison the first day. You were wearing Matt’s old glasses and your hair was almost the exact same for Christ sakes. I figured that if you were in disguise it had to be for a good reason, so I didn’t say anything. When you revealed yourself to the team everyone already thought I was an idiot, so I ran with it.” Lance shrugged. Matt let go of Lance’s hand and put his left arm over the younger boy’s shoulder to pull him close. Lance wasn’t stupid and the fact that someone thought he was, was grating on Matt’s nerves. Even if it was his sister, it didn’t sit well, and he would be having words with the team later.

              Pidge stared at Lance. Shock on her face as she continued to kneel on the floor. He had done so much for her and she hadn’t even noticed.

              “Any way. We wanted to tell you guys that Matt was going to be sticking around for a while, and since I’ve officially lost my appetite, I’m going back to bed.” Lance said abruptly as he stood up and left the dining room.

              Matt let him go, knowing he was just overwhelmed with the situation. It wasn’t how they wanted to tell people and it wasn’t the people they wanted to tell first, but the deed was done. it was starting to get to Matt too, so he grabbed the two bowls of food goo that had somehow appeared in front of him and walked out of the room to follow Lance.

              The team stared after them. An awkward silence hung in the air.

              “Well that happened.” Coran said.

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              The occupants of the Castle of Lions avoided antagonising Lance for a few days afterwards. Hunk and Shiro managed to corner their respective best friends and get the whole story from the two boys. Well at least the basic version. The whats and the whys which were the most important parts.

              Things returned to normal, or as normal as things could be in the middle of a war. Matt still communicated with the rebels, passed intel back and forth between the two groups but now he refused to do any missions away from the castle. Every time the rebels called him Lance would go ridged and fear would bleed into every pore on his body, and Matt couldn’t bring himself to say anything but no. Not when his boyfriend looked like the world would end if Matt took a step out the door.

              They shared Lance’s room, often spending hours just talking late into the night. They talked about the things Matt had missed and some of the things Matt had seen in the year he’d been captive. They talked about the things they wanted in the future, never mentioning the idea that they might never make it back home. They talked about places they wanted to go to, things they wanted to see. They talked and held each other and kissed lightly under the covers.

              Matt integrated himself easily into the routine of the castle and into the team itself. After he had been there for a few weeks Lance started to calm down when he wasn’t near Matt. He started to realize in his heart that Matt wasn’t going anywhere, he wasn’t going to leave Lance like that again. The rebels needed Matt on the front lines again and Lance was starting to realize that he couldn’t be the reason Matt held back anymore.

              Lance broached the topic with Matt a month after Matt’s arrival on the ship.

              “You want me to go on away missions again? Lance are you okay? Did I do something?” Matt asked worriedly that night.

              “No, you haven’t done anything wrong Matt I promise. I just… I know how much the rebels need you out there. You can only do have of your job from the Castle and I don’t want to be the reason you can’t realize your full potential. You do so much good work for the whole coalition, I can’t keep you from that just because I’m afraid. I go out on dangerous missions all the time and no matter how much you worry, and I know you worry, you never say anything about me not going. You never ask me to stay and that’s because there’s a war going on and you know how important Voltron is. I need to do the same. I need to let you do your job and not keep you here all the time as much as I want you to stay.” Lance explained.

              “I love you Matt, and this is not me asking you to leave. This is me getting it through my head that the war effort needs you too and it’s your universe too. I shouldn’t hold you back from the fight.” He smiled up at his boyfriend as he fought back the tears.

              “I will never leave you like that again Lance. I promised, and I intend to keep that promise. I do want to be more involved with the war effort, you’re right but I don’t know what it’s like to be told the love of my life died on a mission. You already know that pain, you’re allowed to be afraid Lance.” Matt raised his left hand to cradle the younger man’s cheek. Lance leaned into the touch. He prayed to whatever power there was in the universe that Lance would never have to feel that pain again. He prayed that he would never have to live in a universe where Lance wasn’t warm and soft and humming with life.

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              It was Keith’s brush with death that had brought the topic up.

              They hadn’t talked about Matt’s goodbye video since Pidge brought Matt to the Castle the first time. Matt was afraid it would hurt Lance too much and he was a little embarrassed. More than anything he was upset with himself that he had left telling Lance for the first time that he loved him, to a video goodbye in the event of his death. It made him almost sick to think about how heartbroken Lance must have been, but at the same time Lance had needed to know. He had needed to give his love that last confirmation of just how much he meant to Matt. But with Keith’s kamikaze attempt, the idea of having a goodbye ready for Lance just in case something happened made sense, just like it had when he’d made the first one.

              It was early evening at the Castle and Matt had leave for five days to spend with Lance, Pidge, and the team before the team went back to helping Lotor and he returned to the rebels. This was the perfect opportunity to bring up the idea to Lance. He found the younger man standing alone with his arms crossed in front of him on the bridge after dinner.

              He walked slowly up behind his boyfriend. Quiet enough to not spook the paladin but loud enough that his appearance wouldn’t startle him either. He hung his right arm over Lance’s right shoulder and pressed into the younger man’s back. He wrapped his left arm around Lance’s middle.

              “All the stars out there can’t compare to the cosmic perfection of your eyes.” Matt said as close to suavely as he could. He saw a small smile curl Lance’s lips in the reflection from the window.

He pressed a light kiss to the space behind Lance’s left ear, “And that smile puts the most beautiful sunsets to shame in its wake.”

              “As much as I love to hear you lavish me in compliments, you’ve been distant today. Is there something on your mind?” Lance asked softly, his eyebrows scrunched together in concern even as he leaned back into his boyfriend’s chest.

              “Sorry for the distance, it was unintentional, but yes I have been pondering on something.” Lance turned his head towards Matt enough to give him a questioning look. “It’s something I’m not sure you’ll be okay with, but I think we should talk about it.”

              “Okay? You’re worrying me now Matt.” Lance said, anxiety tinging his voice.

              “I have a question first. Did the video I left you help you at all? Or did it just make things worse?”

              Lance swallowed audibly before he opened his mouth to begin. “Well, for the first while I was numb to everything. I couldn’t process anything. I was completely numb, I couldn’t even feel the pain yet, it was all just white noise. I don’t remember much from that time. I remember going to the memorial they held for you guys but other than that it’s all a blur. Hunk says it was around two weeks of time I lost. What snapped me out of it was the video. A senior officer brought the tablet to my dorm room and Hunk set it up for me. The first thing I remember clearly since the broadcast is seeing your face on that screen.

              “As I watched that video, the last words I thought I would ever hear you say, the world came back. The pain hit me all at once when it was over, but the important thing is that when you said you loved me, I knew it was worth it. I knew the pain tearing my chest open was worth it to love and be loved by you. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t made that video. I had no idea what I was doing in that haze and I could have hurt myself badly like that without meaning to.”

              Lance paused. Blinking back tears, he moved his left arm to cover Matt’s where it encircled his waist. He grabbed his boyfriend’s hand and squeezed as he continued, “I needed to hear that Matt. I needed the surety that came with knowing you loved me and no matter how scared you were you still found a way to tell me. Thank you.”

              Matt buried his face into the back of Lance’s neck and squeezed the shorter man tightly.

              “You want to talk about making videos for each other, don’t you?” Lance asked.

              All Matt could do was nod and confirm the paladin’s suspicions.

              “I think it’s a good idea Matt. The missions get more and more dangerous everyday, and honestly? The thought of something happening to me and leaving you with nothing makes me sick to my stomach. At least with a message I can leave a piece of me behind for you to hold onto. I know from experience that having that takes some of the uncertainty away.” Lance smiled ruefully.

              “Is there anything on the Castle we could use?” Matt asked, muffled against Lance’s neck.

              “Yeah, we have a couple video camera things. We used them to record videos for our families to send back to earth with your dad, how about we go grab a couple and we can come up with what we want to say ourselves? We should make sure they’re ready to go before you leave, and we can update them every so often.” Lance suggested.

              “I can set up an automatic delivery system too. Hook it into your suit so that if, barring a malfunction or outside interference, your heartbeat should stop the video would send automatically. I can hook something similar up for myself as well. That sound okay?” Matt asked.

              Lance nodded, “Sounds like a great idea, that way no one can withhold the information from us until two weeks after the public broadcast.” The bitterness seeping into his tone.

              Matt loosened his hold on Lance in order to spin him around to face the taller man. Matt looked into Lance’s stormy blue eyes for a moment before he leaned forward slowly and pressed his lips firmly against Lance’s. Lance melted against him, relaxing into his boyfriend’s hold.

              Matt pulled away from Lance slightly and whispered against his lips, “No one will interfere, you will know if anything happens to me and I will know if anything happens to you.”

              He pecked Lance’s lips once more before he pulled away entirely and grabbed Lance’s hand to lead him out of the room and down the hall. The faster they grabbed these cameras, the faster they could get to cuddling together in bed. Secure in knowing the other was alive and well.

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              Matt was decoding Galran transmissions when his tablet began beeping with an incoming video. It wasn’t uncommon for Lance to send him silly little videos in between missions so Matt didn’t even glance at the image before he set it to play. He listened for the background noise that would more than likely accompany the video.

              But there wasn’t any background noise, there was Lance taking a deep breath. He must have something sappy to say then, he never started a video in quiet unless he was trying to make it romantic.

              “Hey Matt, so I have something to tell you. If you’re watching this right now then I’m so sorry—" a pause and that snaps Matt’s attention to the tablet again, Lance would never start a message like that. “—turns out these videos were needed after all. If you’re watching this Matt, then I didn’t make it back this time.” Lance said, looking pained at the camera.

              All the air in his lungs whooshed out. No. No way. He was helping out a small shield station today there was no way. There was no way Lance wasn’t okay. It wasn’t possible he couldn’t be—

              —The video Lance continued, “Matt, I need you to look at me okay? I have some important things I need to tell you and I need your undivided attention. First is that I love you, with all my heart, and I know we say it to each other as often as we can, but I need you to understand that I love you. I love you Matthew Holt. Never ever forget that.

              “Second, and this one is really important, loving you was worth it. In infinite realities, in every single one I would choose you. I would choose to love you in every single one and I would never turn back. Our time together, no matter how short, was worth it Matt. I wouldn’t change anything.”

              Matt could see tears collecting in Lance’s eyes, building up as he spoke before they finally streamed down his face. Lance was trying so hard to hold back the sobs that wanted to break loose. He had been on Matt’s side of this scenario, he knew the pain and imagining Lance imagining him feeling that pain brought the tears to his own eyes finally. Matt cried quietly as the video continued, but he never took his eyes off Lance’s face.

              “Third thing, I need you to remember how we met. I was lost in the halls of the officers’ wing, one of my instructors had sent me to grab something from one of the lounges. I was lost, and I heard singing, so I walked towards it. You were singing a song from 1981 and doing a ridiculous dance I later found out was actually in the music video, and you weren’t watching where you were going. You ran right into me and knocked me flat on my ass. You froze and just stared at me as I sat on the floor. It was getting awkward and you know how much I hate awkwardness, so since I knew the lyrics to the song I started up where you left off. You just stared at me before you joined back in. We finished the song before you realized I was still on the floor and helped me up. Oh my god the line I used on you was pathetic, but you lit up like a Christmas tree and I was gone for you right then. Do you remember that line Matt? I asked you if your name was Mickey because you were so fine you were blowing my mind—” Lance giggles wetly, “—I can’t believe you wanted to hangout with me after that let alone date me, especially since the name stuck. Hey Mickey, can you do me a favour? That boy that knocked me down in the hall that day and sang awkwardly with me and laughed it off, that boy I met that day and fell in love with? Please, never ever forget what it feels like to be him. Even when it hurts more than you can comprehend, when you want to lie in bed and just let your broken heart bleed, remember what it felt like to be that boy. Remember what it felt like to love with everything we were, because I still love you with everything I am and ever was.

              “One last thing Matt. I will always be your Starfish, always. No matter what happens or who you meet, who you become. I am yours. I lived to love you and even though I’m gone, I will always be right there with you. I love you Matt and I never wanted to say goodbye but sometimes the choice isn’t ours to make. Be happy Matt. Live as long as possible and be happy. I’ll see you again when you’ve completed that mission.” The video ended on Lance’s watery smile as he saluted Matt through the camera and Matt finally lost it.

              The sobs came hard and fast, they brought him too his knees as he felt his very being shatter when his heart broke. He shook as he cried his pain out on the floor of the communications lab he used regularly. The door was locked and soundproof, so no one could hear his screams as his arms clung to his sides and his hands gripped his shoulders tighter. Even if someone could hear his pain, no one could get in. That was his personal lab, no one else could get in except Lance and Lance was gone.

              He cried himself to the point of exhaustion before he passed out on the floor of his lab. He held his tablet tight in his hands, this was his last piece of the man he loved, he was never letting it go.

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              Matt woke to an incessant beeping coming from the tablet in his hands. He held the tablet up and saw it was a call from Pidge. He sat up stiffly and pushed himself to lean against a wall before he answered.

              “Matt! Thank god! I’ve been trying to reach you for twenty minutes! You have to come to the castle right now! It’s an emergency! You have to—Holy shit! Matt are you okay? You look like you got beat up or something.” Pidge said frantically.

              Matt just shook his head as he stood up to head to the hanger and grab a ship. Pidge’s worried chatter continued through the open line. He had stopped listening early on, he knew why he was being called to the castle and he needed to hurry but a calmness had washed over him. It was probably Lance’s doing somehow, looking after him even when he was gone.

              Matt arrived at the base’s hangar minutes later to find a pod ready to go and the other rebels on the base crowded around it.

              Olia watched him approach with a sad look on her face. Her eyes were turned down in sadness and pity shining in them. “We got a message from team Voltron. They wanted us to get a pod ready for you. They said your boy was asking for you. They worm-holed closer so this pod should be more than enough. We’ll get someone to fill in for you while you’re gone.” He nodded in acceptance, the numbness was starting to set in.

              “We input the coordinates, so you can turn on the autopilot, you don’t really look up to flying right now.” She added. She gave him as much of a reassuring pat on the shoulder as she could before she turned away and let him head towards the pod.

              He climbed up into the pilot seat and just before he sealed the cabin he heard Olia say, “Take your time Matt. We’ll find a way to manage without you if we need to.”

              Matt turned back to the controls of the pod with a blank face. He’d be back, he needed to fight for the universe that Lance so loved.

              Even if Lance wasn’t in it anymore.

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              Matt arrived at the Castle of Lions two hours after he left the rebel base. He landed in the red lion’s hangar. Lance always made sure to leave him a space there.

              He felt the burn in his eyes from unshed tears at the memory, but nothing fell. He had to make it through talking with the rest of the team first. Once he had seen Lance, then he could break.

              He climbed out of the pod and headed through the empty castle halls to the bridge. The team would probably be there or the medical bay, but Matt couldn’t handle the medical bay yet. So, to the bridge he went.

              The doors of the bridge whooshed open to the sight of the crew huddled together around Pidge’s chair. They all turned to face the door as Matt walked in. He didn’t look at them, but the silence spoke volumes. Any hope he might have had drained from his body. More tears threatened to fall.

              “Thank god you’re here! He was in a right panic before we got to him, saying we needed to call you immediately and tell you. He didn’t say why, just that we needed to make sure you knew.” Pidge exclaimed. She sounded almost exasperated, which was weird considering she’d just lost a teammate and a friend. Anger broke through the numbness in Matt’s gut, not much but enough to warm his soul just a bit. To feel the sadness again for just moment.

              He stayed quiet though. He wasn’t ready to talk.

              Hunk stepped forward, “I’ll take you to him Matt, come with me.”

              Why was everyone acting so weird? Lance had died! Why did no one seem the least bit affected?

              They walked in silence down the halls. Hunk didn’t look at him and Matt didn’t try to pretend to want to talk. They passed door after door and hallway after hallway, deeper and deeper into the Castle. Matt knew the way to the medical bay, knew that that’s where they were headed. He tried to prepare himself for the sight that was going to great him.

              They stopped in front of a door right next to the room with the healing pods, Hunk paused before opening the door.

              “Coran is with him right now, he should be done with him soon so you’re more than welcome to head in. I gotta warn you though, it might be a lot to take in. I know it was for me.” Hunk smiled, trying to be reassuring. Matt appreciated the attempt.

              Matt stepped softly past Hunk and reached for the door. He didn’t hesitate to walk through as soon as it opened. Hunk didn’t follow him in which was just as well, he’d ask Coran to leave too. he didn’t want any witnesses to his pain. He was snapped out of his dark musings when a voice rang through the room.

              “Coran! I am fine! You’ve done every test on me you can think of and they’ve all some back clear. I am not injured, and my heart is fine. The only thing wrong with me is the cool lightning scars running up my wrists and forearms—” an annoyed huff, “—can I please go? I need to call Matt like yesterday.”

              “My boy, you can wait for five more ticks while I bandage your elbow. We don’t need you bleeding out even if it is just a little bit.” Coran replied sternly.

              “You don’t understand Coran! He’s going to think I’m dead! I need to call him as soon as possible! It didn’t help that you guys shoved me in the healing pod for four hours even when it said I was fine! Please Coran, I need to talk to him—”

              “Lance?”

              Lance’s head whipped around to look at Matt standing just inside the closed door. His eyes were wide in shock.

              “Lance? What?” Matt whispered, not comprehending the sight in front of him.

              Lance was sitting on a hospital bed. He had a bandage on the inside of his elbow and tiny white scars running up his arms. Coran was standing in front of him, a scanner in his hands and a concerned pinch between his eyebrows. He was running over Lance’s vitals one more time.

              Lance’s vitals.

              Lance was alive.

              Lance was alive and breathing right in front of him.

              Matt rushed to the bed and threw his arms around the younger man. Coran ducked out of the way with an indignant squawk and left the room.

              “Lance! You’re alive!” Matt sobbed as his flying hug forced them both to fall onto the bed. “I got your video. I assumed you were in a battle or something because no one called me. But oh my god you’re alive! You’re alive!” His words devolved into painful sobs of relief as he buried his face into Lance’s neck.

              “They didn’t call you?! I expressly told them to call you immediately! They wouldn’t let me explain before they threw me in the healing pod, even though I was fine! Otherwise I would have called you myself.” Lance ranted. He wrapped his arms around Matt and squeezed him tightly. Matt just sobbed harder.

              “I’m so sorry Matt. I’m so sorry you had to go through that.” He said as he pressed a kiss to the top of Matt’s head.

              They laid on the hospital bed and held each other tight while Matt sobbed. They stayed like that until Matt passed out from exhaustion, and Lance followed soon after.

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              Matt woke slowly. His body ached, and his eyes were puffy, but he was laying on a warm chest. There was a strong heartbeat under his ear and his body relaxed with the sound.

              “How you feeling Mickey?” Lance whispered.

              “Like that was all a bad dream.” Matt said, his voice wrecked from crying.

              “I wish I could tell you it was babe.” Lances sighed. “I need to talk to you about what happened Matt. There’s a reason the video sent.”

              Realization hit Matt like a freight train and Lance tightened his hold.

              “What? Tell me everything Lance. I need you to tell me everything.” Matt pushed himself up off Lance’s chest to look in his boyfriend’s eyes. They were clouded with pain and fear. “Lance? Starfish what happened?”

              “We were helping this shield station with a rogue Galra ship that was attacking it. It was a small ship, not a problem, but the ship broke the plates of the shield station apart. We had to fit them back together but one of them was broken.” Lance paused to take a deep breath. Matt could see the panic hiding behind his eyes.

              “Allura and I were sent to fix it cause our lions could essentially weld it together. Shiro and Pidge went in to power the station and Hunk was putting the other plates back in place. It was going great, almost all the plates were back in place and Allura and I had fixed the broken plate. Shiro had managed to power the station again and Pidge was fixing stuff with the station’s network. It was all going fine and then Shiro starting yelling and the power went off again. Pidge managed to get Shiro back in place and calmed down but there was a—” Lance gulped, the panic setting in and making his breathing speed up with the memories.

              “Lance, baby calm down it’s okay. You’re safe here, I’ve got you.” Matt reassured as he moved down next to Lance and held him tight. He ran his thumb along Lance’s jaw and rubbed soothing circles into his upper arm. “You’re okay now.”

              “The energy surged. It ran through the break we patched up and Allura, she was in front of it. I didn’t even think. I pushed her out of the way. I took the hit for her. I remember the worst pain I’ve ever felt and then nothing. There’s nothing to remember because there was nothing. Apparently Allura left her lion to check on me. She found me and used some Altean alchemy she’d learned and brought me back. I woke up in her arms and I was so scared. The others don’t want to talk about it, but I have to I can’t just forget. I see the surge coming at me every time I close my eyes.” Lance explained through his quick panicky breaths. His eyes were haunted, and Matt’s heart broke all over again.

              “I died today Matt.” He whispered, like he was trying to convince himself that it had happened.

              Matt wrapped his arms around the red paladin and held him tight. Lance gasped and buried his head into Matt’s chest. Matt curled himself around Lance as best he could, to provide the younger man a bubble of safety he could hide in for the moment.

              “You’re alright now Lance, you’re safe. You’re not going anywhere.” Matt whispered over and over into Lance’s ear, trying to help assuage the fear he could never know.

              “They wouldn’t listen. I wanted them to call you as soon as we made it back to the Castle. I needed them to call you both because of the video and because I needed you here. I needed to see you. Everything was too much. They wouldn’t stop staring at me and they didn’t call you! Coran kept poking at me and Allura wouldn’t look at me. Coran did so many tests and I was physically fine, but they put me in the pod anyways.” Lance rambled, bordering on hysterical.

              Matt listened in slowly dawning horror.

              “I was awake when they put me in the pod. I didn’t want to go in but the forced me. Shiro pushed me in and locked it. I felt the blackness creeping in on me and I was so scared. I didn’t want to be put under, I was afraid I wouldn’t wake up again. But they wouldn’t listen! I woke up alone half an hour before you got here.” He explained. He curled his hands into Matt’s shirt and held on for dear life. Matt squeezed him tighter.

              “Shush baby it’s okay. Let it out, I’m here.” Matt continued to whisper quiet reassurances in Lance’s ear as Lance broke down into painful sobs.

              It seems Matt needed to have words with team Voltron.

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              Matt held Lance until he passed out again from the emotional toll the day’s events had taken. Matt had slowly untangled himself from Lance, found a pen and paper, and left the younger man a note on the side of the pillow Matt had been using so he’d be sure to see it.

              Matt needed to talk to the rest of the team and Lance was in too fragile a state to take part. So, he made his way back to the bridge to find the team.

              He found them all once again clumped together around Pidge’s chair talking over strategies.

              “So, your idea of helping is to not listen to him, and to force him into a healing pod where he would be slowly forced into unconsciousness after he had literally died?” Matt accused angrily as he walked into the room.

              The others whipped around at the sound of his anger. They looked shocked at his appearance on the bridge. Once they registered his words their expressions fell. There was a mixture of guilt and anger on their faces.

              “He needed to go in the pod. Cause like you just said, he fucking died!” Pidge retorted.

              “Oh yeah, I would have put him in the pod too, but I would have tried to calm him down first! Maybe listened to what he had to say! Tried not to traumatize him further! He was terrified you guys, he was so scared being bodily forced into that pod.” Matt finished quietly.

              “We didn’t have time to listen to him make stupid comments Matt! We needed to make sure he was okay!” Pidge yelled.

              “Stupid comments? He was asking you to call me! He wanted to talk to me for a very good reason because when I got here I was under the impression I would be walking into the med bay to see my boyfriend dead!” Matt’s harsh words silenced any argument Pidge had been preparing. The team stared at him.

              “We have a system in place. We made videos for each other—” He looked up at Shiro and saw realization flash in the pilot’s eyes, “—just in case something happened, so we’d be able to at least say goodbye. I hooked them up to the systems in our suits that monitor our vitals. I put in conditions so that it couldn’t be a false alarm, but I couldn’t account for Altean Alchemy being able to bring people back to life.” Matt added solemnly.

              “Matt, we didn’t know—” Hunk tried to say.

              Matt rounded on Hunk, “Of course you didn’t know! It wasn’t something we wanted to broadcast! But if you had just listened and called me when he asked you to, you could have saved us both a lot of pain!”

              “Matt, calm down. Lance is okay now and we can work on the trauma when he wakes up—” Shiro tried.

              “Calm down? Work on the trauma? You do realize you yourself forced him into a position he was terrified to be in, right? He had just died! He was terrified if he went into that pod that he would never wake up again! I’d be surprised if he lets any of you anywhere near him for the next few days! And to think so lowly of a teammate that you’re supposed to trust with not just your life but your mind too! You’ve not only hurt Lance to the point of him having a panic attack in my arms at the thought of being in a room with you all, you’ve probably put Voltron out of commission for the foreseeable future! How Lance ended up with such terrible friends I’ll never know!” He was yelling now, full volume and furious.

              How had these people Lance so trusted become such terrible friends and teammates? They disregarded Lance’s thoughts and feelings at every turn. Matt was sick of it. Their nightly calls had turned into Matt trying to bolster Lance’s confidence when his team broke it down everyday.

              His breathing was heavy as he waited for his words to sink into their ignorant skulls. He was absolutely furious. Too much more and he’d have to leave, or Lance would be mad at him for murdering his team. The universe would also be kind of screwed.

              It took a few moments for any of team Voltron to say anything, but it was Hunk who broke the silence, “He never said anything. About the video, or anything. I’m his best friend, he would have told me.”

              “No, you’re not. A best friend would have listened to him. A best friend like I know you were to him at one point, wouldn’t have let him suffer alone. You didn’t. You weren’t there for him when he needed you to be. None of you were.” Matt said harshly. He was tired of this. Tired of having to pick up the pieces when they stepped all over Lance everyday. It needed to end.

              “Two people have been there for him. Two people were able to pick him back up when all of you ignored and belittled him. Neither of those people live on this ship. It says a lot about how you guys have been treating him when one of those people is Keith.” He finished flatly.

              Hunk made a distressed noise in his throat.

              “Matt, that was uncalled for. We’ve been under a lot of pressure lately with the addition of Lotor to the coalition effort. Personal matters have to be set aside in such times.” Allura stated regally.

              “See if this were just ‘personal matters’ as you said, I wouldn’t be saying anything, but it’s not. And I wouldn’t be talking if I were you princess, you’re sounding pretty hypocritical if you ask me. I’ve seen how you and Lotor are together and I’d definitely call that a ‘personal matter’. Now if you’re done giving me excuses, I’m going to return to my boyfriend who has been horribly traumatised by not only dying while trying to save a teammate—” He looked pointedly at Allura, “—but having been forcibly confined and knocked out by the same team that he puts his life on the line for everyday. But before I walk out that door I’ve got some advice for you all, the next time Lance says something he thinks is important or when he says anything at all, fucking listen. Then maybe you’ll be able to form Voltron again. And don’t forget, this entire situation is not his fault, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of all of you.” Matt looks at Pidge, “I’m disappointed in you Katie, I didn’t think you could be that cruel.”

              Matt turned and left the room to return to a still sleeping Lance.

              The team looked at each other, guilt clear in their eyes and anger fading but still present.

              “We haven’t been treating Lance that bad have we?” Allura asked.

              “I’d say let’s go ask him, but I think Matt might actually kill us if we go anywhere near Lance right now.” Shiro replied.

              “I’ve been the worst best friend ever.” Hunk whispered almost to himself

              “We’ve all been terrible friends.” Said Coran from the back of the group.

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              Matt stayed for a week before Lance made him head back to the rebel base he was stationed at. He knew Lance didn’t really want him to leave, and he would stay, but Lance always felt guilty when he thought he was keeping Matt from the fight for too long. It drove Matt crazy, but he complied anyway.

              He took some of his free time once he was back on base to work on an idea that would make any separation easier for the two of them. He didn’t want to go through that again and any way to provide Lance reassurance was sorely needed with the way things were going on the Castle of Lions.

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              Two weeks after Lance’s death and subsequent revival, Matt was at his assigned rebel station once more decoding Galran transmissions. The enemy factions had been rather quiet lately and it was making Matt increasingly worried. Something was bound to happen, things never stayed this quiet for long without something terrible happening.

              He was in the middle of a rather complicated message about a station of faces being made ready, whatever that was supposed to mean, when Lance’s face popped up on his screen as an incoming call. He answered immediately, they were due for a good video chat anyways.

              “Hey Starfish, what’s up?” He asked.

              “Hey Matt, so stuff has been really crazy so far today.” Lance replied, distracted.

              “Whoa hey, no cute nickname in return? Things must be crazy over there. What’s happening?” Matt was curious, but he felt anxiety start to burn in his gut.

              “So Allura and the idiot machine finally finished the quantum ship which is kinda cool. They’re on a test drive with it right now but the crazy part is what happened a few minutes ago. I was on the bridge when we got this incoming call, from Keith. For some reason he’s like four inches taller and weirdly grizzled, but he says he’s on his way back to the Castle and he’s got some info on Egomaniac numero dos. So, he shows up and first of all is mean to me, like what is up with that? Then out from his ship pops an Altean girl named Romelle (who is super sassy and you will love her), a Galran lady named Krolia who looks weirdly similar to Keith, and a space wolf that’s blue. Apparently, there’s some shit that the asshole has been doing to a colony of Alteans that we’re not getting the full story for until Allura gets back.” Lance explained quickly.

              “…Okay that is pretty crazy. Are you doing okay? Is this an update call or is something else going on? Cause you would usually save this for our nightly talks.” Matt prodded.

              “You’re right, as much as I love you this isn’t a social call.” Lance said, his expression becoming something grave.

              “I don’t like the sound of things coming from Romelle. I think this is going to end badly and there’s no way to judge how badly. I wanted to call you and warn you that you might not be hearing from me for a while. I think there’s going to be a fight and there’s a feeling in my gut that something bad is going to happen.” He continued.

              “I knew it was too quiet.” Matt whispered mostly to himself.

              Lance continued, his mouth tight but his eyes were open, “I also just wanted to talk to you before shit hit the fan. I’m going to do my best to come out of this alright, but I just want to say, I love you and please stay safe.”

              “I love you too Lance, don’t do anything reckless if you can help it okay? Stay safe.” Matt answered.

              Someone called Lance’s name in the background of the call, “I have to go back to the team now, but I’ll call you as soon as this is over. I love you.”

              “I love you too, I’ll be waiting.” Matt said as Lance smiled sadly and signed off.

              Matt had a really bad feeling now. He sent a prayer to any and every god in the universe that Lance would make it back to him safely. Safe and soon.

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              He’d been waiting anxiously at his console for any news about the fight with Lotor. He hadn’t heard from Lance in a week, but word of the battle with Lotor had spread like wild fire through the ranks of the resistance. The victory of Voltron over one of the last remnants of the Galra regime was celebrated grandly. The parties lasted for three days after the announcement if the victory.

              The parties had all come to a grinding halt though when no one could reach the team who had achieved the long-wanted victory.

              Matt was beside himself with worry. His only consolation was that there was no video from Lance popping up on his tablet. There were very few things that could keep that video from being sent if something had happened to Lance. So, Matt knew one thing for absolute certain:

              Lance was alive.

              And if Lance was alive that meant that Katie and the other paladins were more than likely alive as well.

              The rebels and the Blade of Marmora were sure Voltron would reach out to them when they were able, so no search party had been sent out. Matt wasn’t as inclined to agree. He had been monitoring as many channels and frequencies as possible for any chatter that could lead them to Voltron. So far, the talk had been about where Voltron could possibly be, it wasn’t like the team to just cut contact like that without something having gone wrong.

              Matt pushed his superiors to launch a full-scale search. He argued that Voltron had become the head of the resistance and they needed the team to finish hunting down Zarkon’s general’s, so they could finally end the war.

              They denied his request for two weeks.

              Matt spent those two weeks monitoring Voltron chatter and gathering as much information as he could about the fight and the team’s subsequent disappearance. If his superiors were going to wait they’d need as much information as they could possibly find, and Matt would have it. He needed to have it. He needed to find them.

              As long as that video didn’t pop up on his tablet he could hope. He would hope. He would hope, and he would find them.

              They had to be okay.

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              His superiors finally launched a search for Voltron. They sent their best operatives and their fastest fliers. The information Matt had managed to gather in the in between had helped the group in charge of the search find the best places to look.

              It had taken them two months to launch the search.

              But in those two months, no video had shown up. His tablet was still video-less, and he had checked every two hours, everyday since the team had gone missing. No video meant one thing.

              Lance was still alive.

              Matt kept sifting through signals and channels and frequencies and chatter. He decoded transmission after transmission. Any mention of Team Voltron transmitted in any shape or form across as much of the universe as he could reach, was run through no less than three different programs. He decoded so much information in his search for Voltron that the Rebellion couldn’t keep up. He unearthed hidden base locations that no one even suspected.

              But still no hint of Voltron.

              He would find them though, as long as Lance’s video didn’t appear on his tablet, he would find them.

              And they would be okay.

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              The search continued to turn up nothing. No sign of Lotor and no sign of Voltron. It had been over six months now.

              And still no video from Lance.

              He still checked his tablet every day, every four hours now. And still no video. As long as there was no video he could hope.

              Lance might still be alive.

              So, he kept sifting through communications of every kind. But everyday there were fewer signals with anything to do with Voltron. Many were turning from hoping and searching for the Defender of The Universe, to mourning the symbol of their saviour. Mourning the team that piloted the great lions. Mourning the paladins.

              But Matt was not one of them, he would keep searching until that video showed up or Lance came back. He would find them.

              He hoped they were okay.

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              After a year, the Rebellion and the Blade deemed the search pointless, Voltron was gone, and they needed all the man power they had to combat the rogue Galra factions that kept popping up. Matt was no longer allowed to devout all his time to finding the team.

              Every chance he got he searched what few signals he could that still mentioned Voltron. He held out hope, there was still no video. There was still no video.

              Lance might be alive.

              Doubts had started to creep in and chip away at his resolve, he ran through all the ways the automatic sending of the video could be bypassed. All the ways Lance and Katie could be dead somewhere in space and he’d never know. Those thoughts got to him late at night when he was exhausted from searching and couldn’t keep them back any longer.

              God, he hoped they were okay.

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              Two and a half years. It had been two and a half years since Voltron had gone missing.

              The Blade had been decimated by druids. The only consolation was that they hadn’t gotten the higher ranked members yet. Kolivan was out there still. But without the Blade, the efforts to quell the rise of rogue Galra factions had become more than the Rebellion could handle. They’d had to start going into hiding themselves. They’d gone back to the guerilla tactics that they’d been using before Voltron had allowed them the space to become more organised in their methods.

              Two and a half years and still no video from Lance. No sign of Voltron at all. No one talked about the paladins anymore except to lament their disappearance. No one but those who knew the team personally mourned them anymore, and even then, being on the losing side of the war kept them from it more often than not. But no video meant he could still hope.

              He could still hope that Lance was alive.

              His father had made it back to Earth and made contact with the Rebellion. Matt had had to explain to him that Voltron, Katie, had gone missing. There was no trace of them. And with the current state of affairs, it wouldn’t be safe for them to communicate very often as it might lead an enemy to Earth.

              He spent two days in his private quarters after that call. The grief he had been fighting back for months hit him full force. The hope he had been holding out was dwindling.

              He hoped they were alive.

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              The call came in from Earth.

The Rebellion had been aware of Sendak attacking the planet but there was little to nothing they could do. They had sent a ship as soon as they had learned of the attack but without wormhole travel they were hard pressed to make it to the planet in time to be of any help.

              Matt had been one of the first volunteers to go.

              He didn’t see much point in staying with the rebels if the planet he was trying to protect, fell. He’d still help the war efforts but without Earth he wouldn’t be as motivated. He didn’t have much driving him otherwise. There was still no video from Lance, but he rarely checked anymore. There wasn’t much chance the team had made it. He had given all but a small bit of hope in the back of his heart that jumped whenever he did check and there was no video.

              He had been asked on a date by one of his newer crewmembers on the way to Earth. He had politely declined. Even of Lance was dead, Matt couldn’t do it. The girl hung around him still, tried to woo him at every available opportunity and he continued to rebuff her advances. She did make a good assistant though, so he allowed her to hang around.

              They had made it to the Milky Way when the call came in. It was a video call from his father.

              “Matt! I have some excellent news! Sendak has been eliminated!” Sam Holt announced joyously to his son.

              “That’s great dad… wait what? You guys beat Sendak? How? The last update you gave had you pinned down and unable to retaliate! What changed?” Matt asked, utterly confused.

              “We finished the Atlas.” Sam said smugly.

              “You finished the Atlas!? You found a power source? Ho man! I can’t believe I missed that!”

              “We had a little help with it actually. How close are you to Earth Matt?” he asked.

              “We’re about two days off, why?” the question was a little odd.

              “Well, there’s something really important here you need to see. I can’t tell you what it is, but I can tell you it’s going to make you very happy.” He said, trying hard not to look Matt in the face lest he spill the beans.

              “Okay dad, cryptic. There’re only two things in the universe that could make me that happy right now. One of the has little to no chance of happening and the other is an end to this war.” Matt said with a melancholy smile.

              “Trust me on this Matt.” His father said.

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              Back in the early days of the search for Voltron, Matt had imagined being reunited with Lance so many times and in so many ways. Being serenaded with a boombox on the tarmac of the Garrison’s landing strip was not one of them, but it should have been.

              When the rebels landed their ship on Earth Matt was one of the first to disembark. Tal’esh had been stuck to his side even more than on the voyage to Earth and it was starting to drive him a little crazy. As they walked down the ramp that led out of their ship, she grabbed his right hand. She glanced at all the people milling around the ship and gave him a nervous smile. She didn’t do crowds apparently. Matt just shrugged and let her, it’s not like it could hurt anything.

              He heard it as a faint drum beat before the volume was obviously turned up. At full volume it was impossible to mistake. His eyes snapped up from the ground he had been watching as he moved away from the ship.

              ”Oh Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind…”

              He saw, standing on the other side of the landing strip, a tall man with brown hair. He was wearing hospital issued pyjamas and had bandages wrapped around his head and forearms. He was leaning heavily on a pair of silver crutches, clearly not used to them. He had a huge smile on his face and his blue eyes were bright in the sun of their home planet.

              He dropped Tal’esh’s hand and took a hesitant step forward.

              “Lance?” he whispered to himself.

              He looked almost exactly the same as he was when he called Matt the day it all went wrong. His eyes were the same blue, seared into Matt’s memory. The same bright grin on his face, even with the tears that were starting to make their way down his cheeks, making his lips quiver. Matt stood there and stared for solid minute. The song still playing at full volume from the boombox (Where Lance got that thing he’ll never know) being held over Lance’s head.

              “Lance!” came a voice from behind the younger boy.

              “What in the world are you doing out of bed?! You only just woke up this morning! Why do you have a boombox? Where did you even find that?” A woman who looked a lot like Lance, but with glasses and a little shorter, questioned.

              “Veronica I don’t need to be babysat! I’m technically an adult now! Besides this is incredibly important and I’ll go back to bed when I’m done.” Lance nodded sagely.

              Matt hadn’t noticed that he’d been steadily walking forward until Lance turned and looked him straight in the eye and he froze. Not even twenty feet between them, but it felt like miles.

              “Lance, you are not well enough to be out of bed. Technically twenty years old or not, you have a head injury, you need to be monitored—” the girl, Veronica was interrupted by Matt.

              “Lance?” He looked hopeful yet wary, like he’d seen this in a dream too many times before and wasn’t quite ready to believe it was really happening.

              “Hey Mickey, you miss me?” Lance asked jokingly with a fond smile under his tears.

              “Lance!” Matt exclaimed as he ran the few steps still separating them.

              He stopped just short of a flying leap to take the boombox from Lance’s straining arms, before wrapping his arms around Lance’s waist being gentle but unyielding.

              “You have no idea.” He whispered before leaning Lance into a deep dip and pressing his lips firmly to the yielding pair below.

              “Alright then. That happened.” Matt heard Veronica say sarcastically.

              Matt continued kissing Lance until they had to part for air, he pressed quick soft pecks to Lance’s lips as the younger man giggled.

              “If you ever do that to me again Lance I’m revoking your pun privileges.” Matt jokingly reprimanded him.

              “Gasp! That’s cold!” Lance sputtered in mock offense.

              He had wrapped his arms around Matt’s neck at some point and used it to his advantage. He threw one arm out in a dramatic pose. “How will I live without my puns?”

              “Let’s hope we never find out.” Matt added softly.

              He gently lifted Lance from the dip and brought him to his feet. Matt kept his arms around Lance’s waist to provide the other man stability.

              Lance stared lovingly into his eyes for a moment before he frowned in confusion. He looked up to the top of Matt’s head and then back down to his eyes.

              “Did you get taller?” he slid his hands down to Matt’s arms and gave his biceps a light squeeze, “and buffer? Holy shit Matt, you’re ripped! And your hair oh my god. The ponytail makes you look downright rakish.”

              “Three years in a space war with no barbers will do that to you.” Matt says lightly.

              Lance’s face fell at the mention of the years the team lost.

              “Yeah. Matt can you help me back to my room? I’m not feeling too great.” Lance asked solemnly.

              “Oh shit I’m sorry Lance! I should have been more careful. Let’s get you back in bed and we can catch up.” Matt said worriedly.

              He bent down to pick up Lance’s fallen crutches, handing them to a very grumpy looking Veronica, before he bent down again and picked Lance up bridal-style.

              “Lead the way good sir!” Matt said dramatically, pulling a small smile from Lance.

              Lance pointed to the main door of the Garrison and off they went, an exasperated Veronica standing on the tarmac watching them walk away.

              Matt let the smile fall from his face once they were in the halls of the Garrison. The serenade was a sweet gesture but there was a lot the two men needed to talk about before things would be okay again. Like where the hell Lance had been for three years and why he hadn’t so much as called.

              Matt’s musings were interrupted by Lance turning his head to nuzzle his face into Matt’s shoulder murmuring too quiet for Matt to hear.

              “What was that? My shoulder doesn’t have ears unfortunately.” He said.

              “Thank you for humouring me out there. I know you have questions and I will answer them, I’d just like to wait until we can get behind a lockable door first. I wasn’t joking about not feeling good, we’ve all been through a lot and it’s taken its tole on all of us.” Lance said quietly. He looked almost afraid of what Matt was going to think.

              Matt sighed, “can you answer me one question before we get there?”

              Lance nodded.

              “Did you ever have the ability to call me and let me know you were safe?” his eyes went hard as he spoke.

              “No. There were a lot of complications that meant we couldn’t reach anyone no matter how hard we tried. I tried to call you everyday and everyday there was nothing but static until we reached Earth. Once we got here I asked if I could call you, but they said it was too dangerous for both of us. I didn’t want to put you in anymore danger.” Lance answered sadly. He had been so frustrated when Commander Holt had told him no. He just wanted Matt to know he was okay.

              It took Matt a moment to process what Lance had just said, but he relaxed a bit when it registered. “Okay. Okay, I can handle that.”

              They slip back into silence, this time less awkward. They arrive at the hospital wing of the Garrison moments later and Lance directs them to his room. There was one bouquet of flowers on the side table but other than that there weren’t any other decorations around he room.

              Matt walked Lance over to the bed and helped get him settled before dragging the chair closer to the bed and plopping down into it. He looked at his hands on his knees for a moment before he looked up at Lance expectantly.

              “Where do you want me to start?” Lance asked nervously.

              “From the beginning preferably.” Matt replied.

              “Right, good idea. Um can you lock the door? This is going to take a while and I don’t want to be interrupted.” The request was quiet, nervous. Things Lance shouldn’t be, but it had been three years. A lot could change in three years.

              Once Matt had gotten up, locked the door, and sat down again Lance began.

              “Okay so first thing I should day is that it’s only been a couple weeks for me since I called you. I know that sounds crazy but that’s the truth.” Matt just looked shocked.

              Lance continued, “After I called you, Lotor and Allura returned to the Castle. We cornered them, Romelle explained what Lotor had done to her people for centuries and Allura, rightfully feeling betrayed, knocked him unconscious. After Lotor had been taken down, Shiro went ballistic. He started yelling in pain and then completely changed personalities. He took us down one by one, either knocked out or generally incapacitated. He took off with Lotor and we chased after him. Keith took over the black lion again and we formed Voltron to fight the fleet that had suddenly appeared to provide cover for the escaping pod that Shiro was piloting. We had to launch Keith through the wormhole or we would have lost them. Keith went after Shiro, and the rest of us dealt with a weirdly powerful fleet. Keith wouldn’t want me talking about what happened with him and Shiro. What I can tell you is that the Shiro we knew after he went missing was a clone, Haggar had something to do with it but we haven’t figured out what yet, he tried to kill Keith.” A haunted look comes over Lance’s face as he talks about the clone Shiro. His gestures stopping and his eyes going wide.

              “Keith stopped him. Brought him back in the black lion. We were getting our asses kicked by the fleet. For a bit there it looked like we weren’t going to make it, but Keith came flying in super fast and decimated the fleet. We formed Voltron and then Lotor came flying in with special quintessence field ship he and Allura made. It transformed into a robot, like Voltron only faster and we unlocked some cool new powers fighting him, but he started punching through the quintessence field, literally through the fabric of the universe. We followed him into the field, fought him there, but the field was affecting all of us. It drove us power hungry and irrational. We almost got trapped in the field. We did trap Lotor there and he’s most certainly dead. We made it out of the field just in time, but Lotor had ripped holes in the fabric of the universe. We had to sacrifice the Castle to save everything.

              “We found ourselves on a rocky planetoid after that, all gathered together when Keith came out with the Shiro clone’s body. He explained what happened, how Shiro had died and been ‘living’ in the inner quintessence of the black lion for months. Allura brought him back similar to what she did with me.” They both flinched at the reminder of Lance’s death experience.

              “The lions didn’t have a whole lot of power after that, so we had to find a way to charge them and we got kidnapped by two of Lotor’s old generals at some point. It’s kind of a blur sometimes, and there’s a lot of stuff that happened in between like being trapped in another dimension by Bob and the giant space-manta ray thing…” Lance started to ramble, looking really anxious all of a sudden.

              “Lance breathe, it’s okay. We can take a break from this for a bit.” Matt said soothingly, covering Lance’s right hand with his own. Lance had been through a lot the last few weeks and it had worn his nerves thin. The younger man just nodded distractedly.

              “Do you want to talk about something else?” Matt asked slowly.

              “Yeah, can we? I need a break. Can you tell me about what you’ve been up to the last three years?”

              “Not a whole lot that’s going to take your mind off all the craziness that’s happened. I’ve been in the thick of it on our side most of the time.” Matt said sheepishly.

              “Okay, well can you tell me how you’ve been?” the question was awkward.

              “Well after you guys went missing I was a mess. The only thing keeping me together was the fact that your video never showed up, so I could hope that you were okay. It was hard, and it only got harder. I spent every waking moment for the first couple months looking for anything that could lead us to you. The only reason I stopped was because there was nowhere else to look. I had literally looked everywhere that was possible for me to reach. They called off the search after a year and I stopped looking a year and a half later. I volunteered to be on the support craft that was headed for Earth and left shortly after. I never stopped hoping though, even when it was almost more than I could handle, I never stopped hoping I’d see you again.” He looked down at his hands before he looked up at Lance again.

              He looked into Lance’s eyes, hopeful that the next thing he said was something Lance would want to hear.

              “I know that the boombox thing was kind of a performance, but the kiss wasn’t. I never gave up on you, never even looked at anyone else. I love you and if you’ll still have me, I intend to never ever leave your side again.” Matt said as he grabbed Lance’s hand with both of his own.

              “I wouldn’t blame you if you had moved on Matt. Three years of nothing is a long time of nothing. But I love you too, with every piece of my heart and I will more than gladly have you. Trust me when I say, I am never leaving your side again. Now can you come up here and cuddle with me? I’ve missed you and I could really use some solid boyfriend cuddles.” Lance said with a blinding smile on his face as he made grabbing motions at Matt with one hand, his other hand holding both of Matt’s tighter and pulling him up from his chair.

              “I would be more than happy to oblige. Boyfriend cuddles are definitely necessary.” He climbed on top of Lance’s bed, Lance scooting over to make room.

              They laid down next to each other and wrapped themselves snuggly together. Touching each other lightly as if to reaffirm that the other was there, alive and breathing. They’d had too many close calls the last five years and they weren’t taking anymore chances.

              “Lance?” Matt asked later when they were both on the verge of sleep.

              “Hmm?” came the tired reply.

              “I had an idea before you guys disappeared that I just remembered. I made something. For the both of us. It was supposed to make the distance we had to deal with easier but now it’s more of a romantic gesture.” He rambled nervously.

              “I’m liking the sound of this already.” Lance whispered.

              “Well there’s a little more to it now,” he took a calming breath, “I made us a pair of rings. Rings that, when twisted the right way, vibrate with the other person’s heartbeat. It’s biologically keyed to the person wearing it and it works from any distance. I made a prototype set to test the range and it even worked going through a wormhole and on the other side. I made a set that’s keyed for us. I was hoping that we could make them engagement or wedding rings?” Matt asked hopefully.

              Lance had been quiet the whole time Matt was explaining the rings. Tears were filling his eyes and he couldn’t find words.

              “So, what do you think? Want to bind ourselves to each other for the rest of our lives?” The smile on his face was more of a smirk but it was full of pure joy and hope.

              It took Lance a moment of vigorous nodding before he could get the words out, “Yes! Oh my god yes!” Lance grabbed the sides of Matt’s face and kissed him hard.

              Matt returned the kiss with enthusiasm. He wrapped his own arms around Lance’s waist and they traded kisses and soft caresses until they both grew too tired from all the emotional upheaval to stay awake.

              They woke hours later to a firm knocking on the door of Lance’s room. Matt blearily opened his eyes and moved to check who was at the door.

              He opened the door to a very irate Keith standing on the other side. The paladin deflated a bit when he saw Matt at the door.

              “So that’s why the door was locked.” Keith said, a small wry smile on his face. Matt just huffed in response.

              “It’s good to see you Matt, but the nurses have been trying to get in for a couple hours to check on Lance. He was hurt pretty bad and they heard he’d been walking around against the doctor’s orders, they thought I’d be able to convince him to open the door. I guess he was just looking for some private time with you. I’ll leave you alone now, but you have to keep the door unlocked so they can keep an eye on him.” Keith instructed before making to turn back to his own room.

              Before he could take another step, Matt called out to him, “Hey Keith, can you get someone to grab my nag from my ship? I have something really important in there I want to give to Lance.”

              “Unless it’s a ring you can get it yourself.” Keith joked.

              The embarrassed look on Matt’s face must have clued Keith in.

              “No way! Really? When are you going to ask him?” Keith questioned, excited for his best friend.

              “I already did, I couldn’t wait, and I didn’t have a chance to grab my bag before we came here. So, can you get someone to bring the bag here? I don’t want to leave Lance right now.” Matt said quietly but beyond happy.

              “I’ll get Shiro to grab it ASAP, you go back to bed.” Matt nodded his thanks and turned to head back to the bed.

              “Congratulations Matt. You guys deserve every happiness after what you’ve gone through.” Keith said before making his was back to his own room.

              Matt let the door close again, not locked this time, and snuggled back into bed with Lance. His fiancé. That had a nice ring to it and Matt smiled to himself at the thought before falling back to sleep curled around the man he loved.

              They would wake the next morning in each other’s arms to see a small lockbox on the side table with a note underneath it reading congratulations from the entire team. Matt and Lance would take turns slipping the rings onto each other’s fingers and kissing lightly before the nurses came in to check on Lance and scold him for his unauthorized walking the day before.

              They were home. They were together. They couldn’t have asked for a better start to the first day of the rest of their life together.