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There's a blaze of light in every word (It doesn't matter which are heard)

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Lance dies.

 

It’s as simple as that. He acts on impulse rather than logic: throws himself in front of Blue faster than Allura can scream.

 

Yes, Lance dies. But then he’s back, and in the princess’s arms, and Shiro- what the heck is wrong with Shiro? Why doesn't anyone care?

 

The Blue-turned-Red Paladin walks around the castle that night and searches. For what, he doesn’t know. All he knows is at some point he’s outside of the kitchen, mice resting on his belly, and he wonders, for perhaps the first time, “How the heck did I get here?”

 

-------

“Here” varies by the day. “Here” could mean the endless expanse of space, or it could mean flying a space lion. “Here” could also mean that weird falling sensation in his stomach, or that air of panic in the back of his head.

 

How old was he, now? Eighteen? Nineteen?

 

Holy cow , was he going to go gray soon? How many kids did his siblings have? Had Luis taken his room-

 

A door opens. Lance freezes from his perch on the counter. Is it morning already?

 

“Good morning, Lance,” Coran greeted brightly from the threshold of the kitchen. “Up bright and early I see. You know, you remind me of my Uncle Thorbaduke…” Coran trailed off as Pidge and Hunk, down the hall began screeching in victory. Coran smies.

 

“Another technological success, I presume,” the Altean remarked happily. He flashed Lance a blinding smile.

 

Lance smiled back thickly. The now-Red paladin was not necessarily a deep person, but he thought more than the others assumed.

He had noticed how team Punk became a staple, how Lotor and Allura snuck off between meals, and how Shiro was… well. Who could tell with Shiro? (“The guy has three states,” he remembers Keith muttering on one of his brother’s harder mornings. Shiro was sitting at the table, his head in his hands, shaking. “Space dad, team leader, and full-on PTSD.”)

 

Even Coran was one of those awesome people that could go from group to group seamlessly. He  could discuss Altean alchemy with Lotor and Allura one minute, then be in the kitchen with Hunk the next.

 

It used to be everyone had a partner. Or a friend. Or a rival. Or a weird combination of both.

 

“Here” could also mean Lance, sitting on his butt, alone.

----

 

There are things Lance does not necessarily know, but notices.

 

He notices Pidge, a perpetual ball in her various nests. She had many of them around the castle: in the air vents, in the cabinets- even in the freaking walls .

 

Hunk has a constant need to protect, and his protection comes in the form of food. If he can feed his fellow paladins, he can make them strong. To make them strong is to ensure their survival.

 

(There are other things too. Like how Keith, when he’s back at the castle, sits on the edge of his chair. How Coran always has one eye on Allura, or how Shiro has to stretch every other hour.)

 

Lance is not as shallow as he appears to be. Sure, he flirts with anything that breathes. Sure, he cracks a joke here and there. But still. He’s not blind. He sees his teammates.

 

(Besides, he’s not exactly himself after he literally, unnoticeably died .)

 

So when it happens, and by it he means Lotor , and by Lotor he means the haphazard road trip that ensued, Lance makes his rounds.

 

He checks on them in his own special way, of course. A hug for Hunk, a small declaration of war between him and Keith, and getting Coran on a tangent that lasted three solar systems.

 

(No one checks on him , though, Lance gathered later. He spent most of the trip in his lion, alone, telling Kaltenecker how beautiful she was.)

--------

 

Krolia, as much as Lance hates to say it, is a perfect conclusion to the group. Sure, the lions are crowded, and fine, Lance is still mad at her for leaving Keith…

 

But it’s nice to have someone mother him again.

 

(He goes back to his previous thoughts on “How old am I exactly…,” but is quickly drawn out of them by Krolia smoothing back his cowlick.)

 

“You have a good mom,” Lance tells Keith later as they sit side-by-side, Kosmo laying across both of their laps. They watch Krolia as she listens intently to Pidge’s explanation of  “whatever the heck that metal bug is.”

 

“Yeah, I do,” Keith agrees, and then he smiles , and Lance thinks he’s died again.

 

When was the last time Lance had seen Keith smile? Or out of a Blade of Marmora suit?

 

“You’re a headache, mullet.”

 

The words slipped out from Lance’s mouth before he could stop them. Keith just chuckles.

 

“You think?”

 

“Yeah. Without a doubt.”

And Keith was. Making the paladins worry over his galra ass constantly. Finding his mother and not even telling them. Coming back, sword in hand, looking like a Korean Hercules.

 

Lance remembers seeing him for the first time, at the Garrison, all lanky and detached, and wonders if Keith wondered how the hell he’d got here, too.

 

-----

 

They fall back into step after that. Keith and Lance, like it used to be. Rivals. Teammates. Friends, even.

 

“So tell me about the Quantum Abyss,” Lance inquires one night. Keith is on watch, but Lance isn’t about to let him get all the glory.

 

Keith shrugs. Kosmo’s ears perk up at the mention of her initial home.

 

“It was… bright,” Keith explained carefully.

 

Lance blinked. He stretches out his legs, stiff from being in his lion. “Bright?”

 

“There were these flashes,” Keith explained. “Little glimpses of the past or the future. They’d come at random times,” he stopped, as if debating what he should say, then muttered: “Not like we needed the reminders.”

 

Lance knew the basics of Keith’s story: the shack in the desert and the fire that killed his father. Getting kicked out of the Garrison following Kerberos. He could connect the dots from there, imagining a string of foster homes and emo music.

 

It made his heart sink, in a way. Lance had been born into the complete opposite: more family than he could keep track of all under the same roof. An abundance of laughter. Plenty of love to go around. Heck, Hunk had never even met Lance’s third-cousin, and yet they had each other’s phone numbers.

 

The silence dragged on, and the two boys- now men- let it. Kosmo yawned into the night and sneezed. Keith smiled down at him.

 

“What’s Varadero like,” Keith asks then, and it hits Lance just how much the Black Paladin has grown since he’s last seen him. Keith is taller- taller even than Lance- with sure eyes that flash with confidence. He isn’t healed- not by a longshot- and may never be. But he was better than before, and that’s enough for now.

 

Lance bumped his shoulder against the taller boy’s. “You really want to know?”

 

Keith just nodded. He did not pull away, Lance noticed with a smile. He told him everything.

 

-------

The wind so strong on the next planet that Pidge can’t walk through it.

 

“Quick! Hit the deck, Number Five!” Coran shields the small paladin with his body and begins telling a story about Alfor and something called the Firerain Festival. Pidge mutters something akin to “ CaN’t BrEaThE!” into the dirt. Coran puts more of his weight on her.

 

It’s day number… eighty-eight? Lance didn’t know. It had become harder to count the days recently, especially since their logic was almost indefinitely flawed. (Said logic being whenever Pidge stopped to sleep, it had been approximately three days.)

 

-----

 

“So let me get this straight,” Hunk gulped. The big guy was laying on his stomach, Pidge propped up against his middle, the duo staring at Shiro in shock.

 

You ,” Hunk jabbed a shaky finger in Shiro’s general direction. “And Professor Adam !”

 

Shiro nodded calmly, taking another bite of his green goo. His left arm was considerably less coordinated than his other had been, so the goop fell to the ground with a sickening splat.

 

Hunk, convinced everything he’d ever known was a lie, buried his face in the lavender dirt.

 

(Lance didn’t say anything. He considered it, of course, because when Lance decided he was questioning, his abuelita had almost had a heart attack. Still, the past few months with Allura had proved to him there was no time for love in space.)

-------

 

Lance’s childhood home was warm and crowded. It had a collapsing shed in the back, which his twin, Rachel, turned into a spaceship. She was always intrigued by space- had the IQ and the drive to get into the Garrison- but never acted on it.

 

“That’s your dream, Lance,” she told him. They were laying in the shed looking up at the stars through the caved-in roof. “I don’t really know what mine is, yet.”


Then he was shipping off for the Garrison, away from his home.

 

Lance used to dream of space. Now he dreams of Earth. He wakes up on strange planets scattered across the universe. He should be happy. He’s not.

 

------

 

Krolia corners him during the middle leg of their trip. They have another year until they reach Earth as of four hours ago. (Lance could have cried.)

 

He is sitting in Red’s cockpit, Kaltenecker laying against one of her warm walls, when Kosmo and his passenger teleports directly into his lap. Krolia acts like this is completely normal, calmly standing from her perch on the Cuban’s knee.

 

“Hello, Red Paladin,” she greets. She never called anyone by their name, with the exception of Keith. Still, there was a warmth to her voice. Lance felt his throat grow tight as he remembers another woman- dark-complected and loving- pulling him against her chest and telling him how much he was loved.

 

(Lance gulps the feeling down. One more year.)

 

Krolia is blunt. “You seem troubled.”

 

There’s a bitter twinge in his gut as he thinks of the bright flashes of Omega Shield, of the indifferent faces that followed.

 

“I’m okay,” Lance offers the purple woman a smile, but his hold on Red’s controls tighten.

 

Krolia sighs then and sits down. She’s a tall woman- even sitting on the ground, she was almost eye-level with Lance in his chair. “Talk to me,” she urged, and suddenly there was a hand on his shoulder and the universe just stopped.

 

Why? He wanted to ask. Why do you care?  

 

He must be hurting Voltron. Hurting the team. That’s what they were focused on, and yet here he was messing it up.

 

“My son is worried about you.”

-------

 

He tells Keith over the campfire the next night that, yeah, he died, and yeah, he’s just a little bit traumatized.

 

Keith is shocked at first, his lips struggling to form a sentence.

 

He settles, instead, with taking Lance’s hands in his own. We’ll get through this.

--------


Lance dies.

 

It’s as simple as that. Lance dies, and because he dies, he lives a little wilder.

 

He kisses Keith like he's life itself, and he's desperate to live.