There was an ache inside him, festering as it pulsated with his every heartbeat. He couldn’t tell if it was because he was too hot or that the atmosphere was simply suffocating. He didn’t exactly expect to be in this situation any time soon. Lance ran his digits on the coarse reef ground, distracting himself from what was happening.
“It isn’t everyday that someone is requested to come to see Queen Allura,” Hunk spoke, drawing Lance’s attention, his tail quivering slightly as they both waited in one of the numerous rooms in the underwater castle, “I wonder what she would want with us now.”
Lance clicked his tongue, which had Hunk pausing before emitting a thunderous bellowing laugh.
“No way! She wouldn’t just behead you for flirting with her sister, Plaxum, without knowing who she was twenty Vargas ago!”
Lance shrugged nonchalantly as he flicked his tail impatiently. He really didn’t understand why Allura would ever want to talk to two nobodies of all things. Sure he might’ve visited her for business, but not in the past few years. If it was for all the pranks he would play when he was younger, then he was fully to blame, not Hunk. Lance counted on his fingers how many actual criminalizing pranks they had done, and it was definitely not enough to go to jail. Not to mention they would’ve just arrested them once it was revealed that they had put sea urchins in Rolo’s bed or that time that they accidentallythrew a fishing line over Coran. Lance chuckled at the memory, he couldn’t get out of it for days.
“Why, good day, you two hooligans!”
Speak of the devil. Lance could recognize that voice from miles away. He was sure no one in the world could forget how Coran could sound chipper despite the time of day and how brilliant Coran’s orange mustache was. Coran was pretty familiar with them, not due to just being the victim of their pranks, but also because he was their teacher for around six years now. He taught Hunk about engineering and science, he tried with Lance, but Lance didn’t understand any of it. He wasn’t exactly talented like Hunk. While Hunk was smart, Lance was… well, he’s Lance.
“Hey, Coran! Mustache’s looking pretty good today!” Hunk called out.
“I am sure you meant, perfect as always?” Coran proudly huffed.
“Uh- yeah, of course!” Hunk nervously shrugged, “Is Allura ready now? We have done literally nothing wrong. I mean- not nothing, but you get what I mean.”
“Of course she is ready! I can assure you that there may be an earful! Be on your way now!” Coran mused, fiddling with his mustache as he pushed the two towards the castle’s halls.
Coran stayed in the waiting room while Hunk and Lance swam towards Allura’s room. Hunk had been twiddling his thumbs, playing with his yellow headband, and nervously looking around at the drawings encarved in the walls and taking his sweet time when moving. Lance clicked impatiently, getting Hunk’s attention, jumping back to where Lance was now standing.
“Are you not nervous, Lance?”
Why would he need to be? What was the worst Allura could really do? Kill him? Lance clicked a small note of denial, not like Hunk would ask him to elaborate. He was sure Hunk knew he was very much nervous, just not allowing himself to show it. He was really confused, not sure why Allura would need them. It wasn’t like back then, his voice was no longer usable.
“You want me to open the door?”
Lance blinked, realizing they had long been waiting in front of the door. Hunk’s eyebrows creased, worried, as he always was. Lance moved to open the door hurriedly, realizing his mistake by just waiting. Better to just rip off the bandaid right? Also better to not let a Queen be waiting for much longer than needed. Then they would really get an earful.
The first thing Lance felt was the warm water that seeped from the chambers, something very different to the tough currents that whipped against their bodies on the way to get here. Inside was empty, other than a throne and two guards situated on either side the one figure that sat on the said throne. Allura.
Allura sat there, her white hair flowing mystically in the water, somehow perfectly. Her eyes were slightly unfocused until her blue topped with magenta eyes locked into her guests. The Queen of Sirens, in all her magnificent glory, was now staring at them. In an instant she sprung out from her seat, her unique pink scaled tail whipping as she swam over to the two. Hunk jumped back in surprise at Allura’s speed, and Lance wished he could say he didn’t either but seeing someone so pretty up in your face was not a situation Lance was used to. In fact it was usually the other way around. Just maybe Lance was also less intimidating and was very much less attractive.
“Lance, it is great to meet you again after all these years.” Allura said.
Lance nodded in turn, trying his best to be polite and trying to attune his attention to her voice instead of her brilliant royal face markings. Lance swallowed, cursing himself and his stupid heart for falling in love quick. Allura swayed left, looking at Hunk who was beside Lance. He looked more surprised and scared than the one time Lance managed to snatch Hunk a date with a local siren girl named Shay. Which says a lot because he nearly backed out until Lance escorted him personally to the restaurant. And he owes him for that still because they were going to go on another date next Saturday. Lance’s mind raced from topic to topic before Allura’s voice pierced through the muck in his mind.
“I believe that Hunk is your interpreter correct?”
“Oh no, I’m just his friend that happens to understand a bit of what he’s saying. Don’t know how, it just happens.” Hunk said, using a wide range of hand gestures even Lance couldn’t configure.
“Oh, pardon me then for my assumption. I had heard that you were always next to Lance, so I had just… It must be great to have a friend that understands you, Lance. I would feel much more assured to know what you are saying as well.”
For sure. Lance didn’t know what would happen if there was no one in the world who could understand him, even if it was as basic leveled as Hunk. Hell, he didn’t know what would happen if Hunk wasn’t here… well, maybe he would but he didn’t want to think about it. Lance looked at Hunk, giving off a wide grin before slinging an arm around his shoulders.
“I think you get what he means, but really, we both help each other. He really helped me.”
Hell yeah. He totally didn’t latch on to Hunk for dear life in hopes that he wouldn’t leave him.
“That is wonderful! This is why I believe you would be perfect for what I am about to offer.”
Hunk took the words right out of Lance’s thoughts, “Offer?”
“Yes, this is the reason why I had called you, Lance. Sorry Hunk, I called you under the presumption that he needed you completely for interpretation.”
“Well, I can, just not completely. So no worries, Your Highness.”
“Excellent, shall we talk somewhere more private? I am sure my guards are quite… intimidating.” Allura asks, not really worrying about the guards exasperation.
Lance gave a pointed thumbs up, having Hunk to respond, “Sure, why not.”
Allura motions her hand, the guards not moving after her as the trio went further into the back, hidden behind the throne. The jeweled curtains were brushed off by the back of Allura’s hand, shifting them to reveal a large room. Cramped into the space was many carved bookshelves into the coral, a large… whatever that sculpture was. Allura smiled sweetly, waving her hand for them to sit. Lance was in awe at the size of this room. It was nearly bigger than his own cave, and even then it was just her room.
“This should not take long, but I believe you both should get comfortable.”
“Hey, I don’t mean to, like, make this awkward or anything but what exactly are we here for again?” Hunk interrupted.
Lance really wanted to know, too. He was getting goosebumps with how tense he was. At least Lance knew that he wasn’t going to get publicly executed otherwise he wouldn’t have gotten this far. But now he had a whole new level of anxiety to slap on to his already high levels of fear. At least Allura was smiling kindly, which was definitely not adorable in every way possible. Now if she could read minds then Lance would really be dead.
“Oh yes, sorry, I suppose it would be best to get straight to the point,” Allura said, situating herself in front of them, “It would be much easier if I were to relay a message.”
“Relay a message? Whose?” Hunk asked.
“The spirit of the sea.”
The spirit of the sea… that spirit of the sea?! Lance had only heard of the Blue Lion spirit in brief passing classes. Lance had no idea that it was true and an actual entity; not just another title made for the queen. Just like the name entailed, it was a single entity that- well, he thought didn’t exist because it was described as a spirit. Turns out it is true. And the spirit of the ocean, out of literally everyone in the world, has a message for Lance. Lance McClain of the Sirens.
“What? Wait- you’re saying that the Blue Lion has a message for Lance?”
“Even if you question their intentions, I am more than likely just as confused as you both,” Allura sighed, “as you know it is simply my role as queen to communicate with the oceans. It is not my job to question their intentions. They are getting impatient, so allow me to continue.”
Allura gently swam closer, the water barely lapping over them as Allura locked Lance’s hands into her own, a surged pulse ran through Lance’s body. He felt warm, yet at the same time he felt cold, as if his soul were leaving him alone in his husk. Allura mouthed silently to herself, no words actually escaping her, but as her lowered eyelids fluttered opened to stare back at Lance, it was as if he heard everything he needed to. Lance was stuck in a trance, his eyes larger than saucers and his hands frozen in place, gently wrapped in Allura’s.
They stood there for a moment, for Lance it felt like time stood in slow motion, but as Allura lifted her hands off of his and stepped back elegantly, Hunk was there to give him overly confused glances. It must have only lasted seconds… but yet...
“I surely hope that you are able to take us up on the offer, Lance.”
Twisting his head from both Allura and Lance, Hunk was utterly and completely confused, “Offer? What offer? What was that? Am I like, missing a whole lot now because of that whole staring into each others eyes thing?”
Lance stood there frozen, still limply floating. His eyes widening, more stuck in place due to shock. This couldn’t be happening. There was no real way that this was happening. Lance tried to swallow down the big lump in his throat but ended up choking on his surprise. Why would he ever- why?
“The sooner you answer the better, and once you do we can get all the preparations done. It is a once in a lifetime chance, Lance.”
He knew that, but yet this didn’t feel real. Lance clicked a mumbled note.
“W-well does he get time? To decide, that is.”
Alluras brows furrowed slightly as if questioning that herself.
“I would believe so, but I do not believe keeping the Blue Lion waiting is such a clever idea. Not to mention it is a deal that would change Lance’s life.”
Lance was about to click another note when—
“Allura, are you in there?”
Allura’s head immediately shifted to the figure in the doorway, seemingly surprised as her eyes widened.
“Coran? What are you doing here? I thought you were off on an errand.”
Lance looked over at Coran, as did Hunk. What exactly did Coran do on his off times?
“Why yes, I would rather not intrude but currently I believe your father is wanting to visit and you know how he is when he doesn’t see you first thing!“
“I will be right there, Coran. Lance, Hunk, I will need to cut this off short. Lance, I will support whatever decision you decide and I will be here when you do. You may go home, good day.” Allura immediately left the room following after Coran hurriedly.
As if on cue with the disappearance Hunk turned to Lance with his eyebrows up in concern, “Lance, dude, are you okay? I know there’s a lot going on but first I just need to ask- oh who am I kidding, of course you aren’t, buddy.”
Lance sighed, of course Hunk would think the worst and send himself on a distressed rollercoaster. That was his job, but now he knew he had to appease Hunk. Lance brought up his hand, setting it on Hunk’s shoulder to rub it to placate him. Even Lance was at a loss. Could he even explain it properly? Lance pulled back his hand, taking Hunk’s own hand right side up. Not realizing his own was shaky and numb. He traced letters on Hunk’s palm:
SHE CAN BRING MY VOICE BACK.
Hunk didn’t say a word, his lips simply parted in a small gasp and his brows furled in confusion.
“W-how? How in the world would that work?” Hunk asked, uncertain.
NOT HER. THE SEA.
“That still doesn’t make any sense, Lance!”
Lance yanked Hunk’s hand, leading him outside the castle. Lance didn’t know how to process this, but he knew he couldn’t do it in the castle. He needed a better place to think. Sit down calmly and breathe. Maybe hyperventilate and have an existential crisis but those would come later. The whole time, as he auto piloted himself to the nearest exit, his mind was empty yet overwhelmed. It was only when they were outside and slowing down to an actual calm glide that Lance realized how firm he was gripping Hunk’s arm.
Lance felt Hunk’s other hand rustle his hair, pulling back once Lance faced Hunk, “You doing alright, buddy?”
Lance nodded slowly, obviously lying but convincingly enough for Hunk to calm down. He clicked a yes, even with his physical remark. As Hunk ended up directing them home, he kept asking questions Lance wouldn’t know the answer to. But he tried his best.
“So if I get the whole idea, the Blue Lion wants you to have your voice back, right? That’s awesome! Lance, you have to take it, I- well, it’ll be like before!”
Lance wasn’t so sure it was that easy…
Lance clicked a higher pitched note.
“Human? Why are you mentioning them now?”
Lance stopped them midstep as Lance traced letters on Hunk’s hand again.
DROWN HUMAN = VOICE BACK
“They want you to go try to allure humans? But… how would you do that without your voice in the first place? If you appeared in front of them with nothing then you would end up getting killed!”
Lance stood there for a few seconds, not knowing how to word this quickly.
I GO UP.
“Up…” Hunk repeated in a whisper, but then in a scream, “Up!?”
Lance sighed, clicking a note he hoped Hunk would allow him to get away with.
“...Fine, but you have to write it all out and then go over it with me.”
Lance agreed, nodding his head as Hunk continued pulling them in the right direction. But in the back of Lance’s mind he heard the roar of a tremendous strength, taking his mind far beyond reach.
“Become human to deceive and seduce a human. Submerge the human with strong desire far where their feet do not touch. With their soul turned to seafoam, we can make your voice again.”
Above him was a whirl of familiar colors. A vortex of shimmering blues and whites that danced on the surface, casting rays of radiant light to waver hauntingly. The ribbons of light echoed with nostalgic memories. They blinded Lance like they always had before. But now they never seemed to shine for Lance as they had before, instead mocking him by surrounding him in their vibrancy. Was this a sign? Was this too much of a task for a Siren with no charming looks or even a voice?
Lance stroked his index finger in circles upon the coarse reef, feeling the rocky indentions and rough textures. Before when it was the days of the wild and ravenous Sirens were well known to do what Lance was planning to do for a sport. They would sing a hypnotic melody so alluring it left nightmares in the wake of those who heard it, yet survived. Whoever heard the enticing call of the siren was doomed to be swallowed up to the bottom of the ocean. Their songs… their voices… their pride. Something Lance didn’t have anymore.
In fact, no one was ever allowed to go anywhere near the shore. It was a safety precaution after man started hunting within the oceans without realizing their consequences. It was safe to say that Lance had never actually seen what a human looked like other than in the books. The closest beach around him was desolate every time he came up to take a peek. Just the thought of seeing a human… it gave Lance chills.
Would he be willing to kill a human?
He had no reason not to; what would be so different now from old times? If anything they had more than enough reasons to resent humans. Lance had occasionally scratched himself against sharp aluminum and been hit and suffocated by wandering plastic bags. If it hadn’t been for humans…
Lance turned to the voice, not expecting anybody to sneak up on him while he was just staring up at the surface.
“Just me, as usual.” Hunk said, slowly making his way to rest on the other side of the rocky coral.
Lance raised an eyebrow knowingly. Why is Hunk here? Lance was sure that he already answered most of his questions with a “don’t know” or a “really don’t know”. Either way he had no answers and asking him was really a waste of time.
“Yeah I know, we have been talking about this for nearly the whole week now. Surprised Allura isn’t getting antsy and up in your face.”
Lance huffed a small note of a laugh.
“Anyways, that isn’t what I’m here to talk about now. Well sorta. Kinda hard not to when this is… well, this big,” Hunk shrugged, “I really want you to do this.”
Now this was new. Lance had never heard Hunk say his opinion on the matter as of yet, and he definitely didn’t think he would say it out right.
“I know that you don’t like to talk about it, but you losing your voice is totally my fault-“
Lance lunged at Hunk’s accusations as himself, which Hunk expertly, or rather, rehearsedly dodged. Stupid Hunk! No matter what has happened it can’t be changed. Well- I guess now he was getting the chance to, but still. It was of his own volition to do so.
“And I will say again, that even if you don’t see it as that it still doesn’t mean that it was entirely my fault. This isn’t for me to try to get out of this guilt-free, I just want to see you… well, back to Lance.”
Lance sent Hunk a questioning glance. He had a hunch, and one he really wish wasn’t true, but Lance knew better.
“You used to sing for the Queen, and you used to be so happy everytime we went back for another. Hell I would say you were the best sounding voice out of all sirens. Now… well, is it rude to say you are basically depressed if it’s true?”
Lance stood still, albeit the small rush of waves flicking his tail, simply taking in Hunk’s words. Lance was in a losing argument, because with every word the thought of going to take the offer was appealing. Lance took Hunk’s hand once again, writing.
“WHAT ABOUT U?”
“What about me?”
“WILL BE ALONE.”
“No I-“ Hunk stopped, his eyes now wide then his eyebrows creased, “oh.”
“I guess I never thought that far. I mean, sure you will be gone, but will it really take that long? You just have to grab a human right?”
”MUST HAVE STRONG DESIRE.”
“Crow, I don’t even want to know what that entails,”
Lance chuckled, more of a guttural note that trilled, but it wasn’t as if he could care anymore.
“I mean, I won’t be completely alone. You know, I have like… well, Shay.” Hunk blushed shyly.
Lance whistled a hoot, getting Hunk even more red.
“You were the one that-! Never mind,” Hunk trailed off, mumbling, “anyways, I really do want you to take it. One, it’s Allura, and you can't really say no to a queen. Two, you get your voice back, a huge plus. Three, even if you might be away for some time, and literally we haven’t been separated since birth, it’ll be worth it.”
Lance paused to look at Hunk, his best friend for life, his literal soul-bro. If he was saying that he was confident enough to send Lance off to go, maybe it was best that he did. Hunk allowed the silence to prevail as Lance pondered. What would actually happen? There were way too many scenarios in Lance’s head. What if he didn’t find a human? What if he couldn’t get a human to follow him, would he be trapped as a human for life? Would his voice be the human’s voice or would it bring back his old voice? Would he be able to cause the demise of a human?
Now he just had to stay at least that confident.
“This is not going to be an easy process. As much as I wished I could say I have confidence in my powers, I cannot say that it will not hurt.” Allura explained as she twirled a sealed bottle within her fingers.
“Can you atleast give me a percent? Like, uh- not to doubt the literal messenger of the sea, but this is my friend’s life. I don’t want him to get hurt.” Hunk said worriedly.
Lance could smother him in a hug but now would be a real awkward time to as they sat in front of Allura again, only this time she was mixing something in a bottle. A strange purplish concoction that bubbled as she twirled it with a spoon. Allura looked up from the bottle, making a straight face at Hunk. A deadly stare, Lance would add. She looked him straight in the eyes and never pulled away as she spoke.
“I would like to say that splitting your bones in half, shedding all your scales, and clogging your gills to create human legs and lungs is quite as gruesome as it sounds. I will remind you this is voluntary and you may back out for as long as your tail is intact.”
“You know that really doesn’t sound all that-“
Lance locked his elbow against Hunks arm, tugging slightly. Lance hoped Hunk remembered this is sort of his decision. Even if he did endorse this decision as well. The less Lance knew about this whole weird deal with the ocean thing the better. He didn’t really want to imagine himself as a human, breathing air, and especially not how he would look with legs.
“Would I still be able to talk to him? Secretly?”
“No!” Allura suddenly shouted, surprising both of the two huddled together, “Once he becomes human he truly becomes fully human! If he were to hear your voice then more than likely he will end up drowning himself in the very place he came from.”
“H-how does that work!? Wouldn’t he be immune because he’s quite literally heard my voice everyday of his life.” Hunk retorted.
“The human ears are sensitive. Their frequency range changes and they are much more susceptible to temptation. Even if you were not calling him to his death, he would succumb to the pain. After all, as a new human he would be much more delicate to new sources of sound. Again, it is not an easy task.”
Lance tore his eyes to look pleadingly at Hunk’s. Hunk returned it with the most distraught expression Lance had ever witnessed. This wasn’t good. Lance was feel less and less confident and he was quickly falling into the dark black sludge again- Hunk settled his hands on Lance’s shoulders, firmly but gently grasping.
“Look, Lance, I appreciate you as a friend and everything, but now I’m having second thoughts of sending you to the surface.”
Don’t say that Hunk! Lance immediately reacted. Now Lance was going to second guess and feel bad. Lance looked at Hunk, knowing his face was a mixture of worry and anxious. The one and only reason why he wouldn’t leave would be because of Hunk, and even now, he still doesn’t want to leave. But Lance knew he had to take this chance, after all, he would be seeing Hunk after he finished. All he had to do was finish as fast as he could. Right?
Lance clicked a note, knowing it wouldn’t exactly settle Hunk down, but it would tell him of his choice that even he was second guessing.
“How did he respond?” Allura asked.
“...He said he wants to go.”
“That is wonderful, and just in time! This potion is just complete,” Allura said, tossing the seal container at Lance who fumbled when caching it, “it will expire in twelve hours, and you better put it to good use. I won’t ever have the same ingredients to make it again,”
Allura’s warnings echoed within Lance’s head. Fear has crawled and took hold of his muscles as they pulled him in place and froze colder than if he had applied ice to his bones directly.
“When the time is right go to the nearest shore and drink all of the contents in the bottle. All of it. It will turn you into a human and it may hurt. Once you start feeling the effects swim to shore, it will be a quick transition and humans can’t breathe in water. Remember, once you drink it you will not gain your siren characteristics again unless you fulfill your mission. Unfortunately that means that you will not be able to see Hunk for quite some time. But I have the highest of hopes for you.” Allura stated, totally not making Lance even more of a internal jittery mess.
“You got that Lance?” Hunk asked, his eyes slightly glazed over.
Lance clicked a yes and by the time Lance’s mind reached the point of reality he was out of the castle and was already standing on the outskirts of a coral reef. Glowing bottle of purple liquid in hand, all the possible fear in his clogged throat working his way to his brain, and his friend Hunk clutching his other hand tighter than ever, Lance could say he was very, very underprepared.
What was he even going to do once he was out on sand? Would he see a human once he came up? How would he even move? How do legs exactly work? What did his mission exactly entail again? Should he have ate before he came all the way out here? Oh no, he was going to miss Hunk’s famous cooking for whoever knows how long! He was going to miss Hunk! Lance was a bundle of nerves as Hunk was looking around paranoid as if a shark would’ve come out of any direction.
“Lance, okay, so we are here. Yeah. I know, we- well, you will be going up there. Like, for real.” Hunk stammered.
Lance nodded, knowing fully well that this was totally his own resolve. Lance’s body was shaking in small tremors from just the thought. The small bottle clutched within his whitening knuckles nearly buckling from the pressure of his hands. The fear of the unknown was getting to him. It spoke to him in foreboding whispers, something much more frightening than that of his ancestors. Lance couldn’t rely on Hunk, he couldn’t rely on anyone. He was going to be in his own.
“Lance,” Hunk’s voice tore through the sludge in Lance’s head, “you can still walk away from this.”
He really wanted to. The more Lance stared into the abyss above the more he felt the weight of each cubic inch of water settling on his shoulders as if it all came crashing down to wash him out. If Lance could drown… Lance shuddered. He guessed that’s what being human is like. Fearing of what was unknown, fearing what is yet to come.
Lance shook his head, slowly shimmying out from Hunk’s range and turning back to face his friend. Hunk stood there, also just as torn. Something felt unreal about the whole situation, something surreal and unbelievable. Lance was now choosing his wish over Hunk. He didn’t want to think about it, avoiding it for as long his mind would allow. but when looking at the way Hunk’s eyes glossed and his lips were bitten down, he couldn’t help it. Lance rolled the neck of the bottle between his thumb and index finger nonchalantly. He could always back down…
“Hey Lance,” Lance looked up to see Hunk had appeared closer to him, within arm’s reach, “promise me you’ll be back okay? I know that we have been through a lot together. You’ve always helped me through the hardest of my times, and now I’m…”
Hunk choked on his words.
“I can’t help you through yours. It… it sucks. You literally saved my life and yet I can’t be here to help you improve yours. So… honestly you don’t have to worry about me. I want you to be happy, go do what you have to do. I want you to know I’ll be waiting here.”
Lance’s heart was aching and was being played like a violin as Hunk pulled him into a tight squeezing hug. Their last hug, at least, for a while. Lance couldn’t make himself pull away. There was just a force that made him want to relax in the comforting warmth. Something akin to a safe spot on a path of quicksand. But it didn’t last long as Hunk pulled away, his eyes already red and puffy. Lance wrote on Hunk’s hand, more shakily than he realized.
”I WILL BE BACK.”
“I know you will.”
Lance stepped back, feeling his tail being dug into the sifting sand. This was as far as he could go. Lance stared at the bottle for a good minute. Looking at the mixture with more questions than answers. The fear inside him bubbled more than the drink. His stomach doing flips in every direction and his heart beating more than the waves on the shore, Lance popped open the cap, bringing it to his lips. Taking a big gulp.