The robeast looked a bit like an elephant standing on its hind legs, if the elephant had a laser whip for a trunk and cannons in the center of each foot. They'd lured it away from any populated planets, so they didn't have to worry about collateral damage. Taking it down would be a straightforward task, if not an easy one.
"Form sword !" Keith called out, and waited for the brilliant flash of light that came when Voltron drew his sword. It didn't happen. "Lance, form sword. "
"Something's wrong with Allura!" Lance said. Keith could hear Allura panting heavily.
"I'm all right!" she said, between breaths. "But I think it's time."
"Time?" Keith asked.
"Now?" Lance exclaimed.
"Uh, guys-," Hunk said. The laser whip swept down at them and Voltron narrowly dodged it.
"I'm sorry!" Allura said. "But I can't -" She cried out, and Voltron separated into lions.
"Allura!" Lance yelled.
"It shouldn't be time!" Keith said. "Pidge?"
"It's not an exact science! We took data on human babies and Altean babies and gathered up everything we had on human/non-human mixed children and we made a chart and we ran it through a probability spectometer with a reasonable variance-"
"Pidge!" Keith said.
"It's time," Pidge said. "It's earlier than expected, but within the range allowable for a healthy-" the Green Lion ducked a laser whip lash, "-birth."
"Okay," Keith said. "This is a complication, not a crisis. Allura, get behind us. We should be able to take this guy down with four- Lance, where are you going ?'
"To help my wife!" Lance said, as the Red Lion followed the Blue.
"Absolutely not!" Keith yelled. The laser whip lashed at Red's tail. The Black Lion blasted the robeast, throwing it off so the whip hit only empty space. "Hunk, get its left flank while it's turned this way! Pidge, we need a weakness! Lance, don't you dare leave your lion, or I swear-"
"If it was Shiro, you'd go to him!"
"If it was Shiro," Keith said testily, "we wouldn't be having this problem!"
"Lance, stay in your lion!" Allura said. "It's not safe-" She cried out.
The laser whip lashed at the Black Lion and Keith dodged it. "Lance, the only thing between Allura and that robeast is us, so get your ass in formation! ”
"Fine!" Lance yelled. The Red Lion swerved away from the Blue Lion and took its place by the Black Lion's side.
"Hunk, how's it going?" Keith asked.
"I'm chipping away at it, but I don't think it's doing much damage," Hunk said.
"Well, it's getting annoyed, which is something. Keep it busy. Lance, see if you can hit the base of the laser whip with a fire blast while it's distracted with Hunk," Keith said. "Pidge what have you got?"
"I ran the simulation, and given the time between contractions, and what we know about Altean biology, this baby will be born in less than an hour."
"Allura, how are you doing?" Keith asked.
"This is an extremely... inefficient... procedure," she panted. "On Old Altea, there were birthing pods for this thing." She cried out again.
"Allura!" Lance cried out.
"Okay, deep breaths," Hunk said. "Breathe in, breathe out. Easy does it."
"I am breathing deep!" Allura snapped.
"I meant Lance," Hunk said. "But, uh, probably good for all of us. Whoa!" The laser whip lashed at the Yellow Lion as the robeast turned on him. "Okay, I think he's moved past annoyed to pissed."
"Lance?" Keith asked.
"Heat ray's not doing any damage!" Lance said.
"Pidge?" Keith asked.
"Running a scan," Pidge said.
"Run it faster!" Hunk yelled. "He's powering up the cannons!"
"Everyone, move !" Keith yelled.
"Allura!" Lance cried out.
"I've got her," Keith said. "I promise." The Lions scattered. The Black Lion dove down to snatch up the Blue Lion in her mouth. The robeast blasted all four cannons into the empty space that the Lions had just left.
"Okay! Got it!" Pidge yelled. "The left foot has an access port in the heel. If we overload it, the whole robeast should blow."
"His Achilles' heel is his heel?" Hunk asked.
"Let's hear it for the classics," Pidge said.
"Good work," Keith said. "Send Lance the target point. Lance-"
"Got it," Lance said.
"How long until it blows?" Keith asked.
"Not long, but Red should be able to clear it," Pidge said.
"Lance, hit that spot with your heat ray. In and out, fast as you can," Keith said. "Everyone else, clear the area."
"Allura-" Lance said.
"I've got her," Keith said. "Hunk-"
"Distraction, got it," Hunk said. The Yellow Lion hit the robeast with a laser cannon blast. When the robeast lashed out at Yellow, the Red Lion dove at the robeast's heel and hit it with an extended blast of fire.
"Little to the right, Lance!" Pidge said. "There! The heat's overloading it. Just a couple more ticks..."
"He's noticing me!" Lance said.
"Hunk, hit him once more and get out," Keith ordered.
The Yellow Lion swung around and lashed out with the tail laser. The laser slashed the robeast across the face. The damage was barely more than cosmetic, but even so the robeast swung its laser whip at the Yellow Lion again. Hunk put on speed and flew back to the other Lions.
"That's it, he's overloading!" Pidge cried out. The robeast's lower leg had turned red hot and the color spread upward.
"Lance, go!" Keith yelled. The Red Lion flipped around and blasted back to the other Lions. He'd just reached the Black Lion when the power running through the robeast's circuits reached maximum power. The explosion coincided with Allura's longest scream yet and her voice echoed through their comms even as bits of red hot debris hit their ships. "Okay," Keith said. "Everyone stay where you are. We need to assess- Lance! " The blue and white figure that had just leapt out of the Red Lion flipped the Black Lion the finger before jetpacking to the Blue Lion. Keith groaned. "Everyone else stay where they are. Allura, Lance is on his way to you.”
“I’m here,” Lance said, over Allura’s comms, then he whispered, “I’m here, sweetheart, I’m here.”
A video link opened from the Blue Lion. Allura sat in the pilot's chair, covered in a silver emergency blanket and holding a tiny, brown baby with pointed ears, sapphire blue eyes, and damp white fuzz all over her head. "Hello everyone," Allura said. "I think we're going to be all right." She gently handed the child to Lance, who cradled the baby protectively.
"Hi," Lance said softly. He touched the baby's cheek with two gentle fingers. "Guys," he said, not looking up. "This is Azure.” Keeping the baby cradled in one arm, he took Allura's hand with the other.
"Do you want to come meet her?" Allura asked over the comm. The baby started to cry. "Oh!" Allura exclaimed.
"She’s just hungry," Lance said. He knelt next to Allura and pressed the child into her arms.
“Oh, yes,” Allura said. She shifted the blanket and put the baby to her breast. Azure just blinked at her. “Am I doing this right?” She looked up at Lance.
“I can send you an instructional diagram,” Pidge offered. “I have a few saved just in case.”
“You’ve got it,” Lance said to Allura, and a moment later Azure began to feed, making soft, contented noises. Allura and Lance watched their daughter, enchanted.
"I’ll be right there," Hunk said. "Is there still a bunk in the cargo hold?"
"Hunk and I will get you set up," Pidge said. "Allura, you need to rest. I'm sorry we didn't have it ready sooner." They emerged from the Yellow and Green lions and used their jetpacks to get to the Blue Lion.
"I'll wait here," Keith said, from the Black Lion.
"Keith, c'mon," Lance said, looking up from the baby.
"We can't let our guard down," Keith insisted.
"There's no one around," Lance said. "That's why we lured that robeast here , remember? Come on, my daughter needs to meet her Uncle Keith. You take a while to grow on people, so better sooner than later."
"Thanks, Lance," Keith said dryly, but a few moments later, a figure in red and white armor flew to the Blue Lion.
Allura cleaned up and put on a fresh gown and everyone gathered around her bunk in the cargo hold. "This is silly," she said. She lounged on the bed while the others sat on the floor. "I've had much worse injuries in battle and I've managed to fly just fine." Hunk leaned over to look at the baby and cooed at Azure softly.
"There isn't a rush," Keith said. "We should call home, though." He tapped on his wristlink and pulled up a screen. A moment later, Coran's image appeared, along with that of a baby smeared in red and wearing a headdress made of antlers and chiffon. Keith stared. "What did you do to my son?" he demanded.
"Today is his Quinterian Day! I know you don't observe the Altean customs, but it's a milestone for us and I didn't see any harm in celebrating, as long as I was looking after him," Coran said. "The antlers are just paper, but I've remembered all sixteen of the chants. This boy does love music!"
"And the face paint?" Keith demanded. "Are you sure it isn't toxic to a human-Galran child? What if he eats it? What if it's absorbed through his skin?"
"It's raspberry jam," Coran said. Yorak grabbed for his mustache and Coran deftly dodged the grip. "It's a rough substitute for veriberry paste, but it does the trick. Is everything all right? I think Shiro's on the bridge."
"Actually, Allura wants to speak to you," Keith said. He passed the signal to Allura's wristlink.
"Hello, Coran," she said, smiling. "There's someone I'd like you to meet. Azure, this is your Pop-Pop Coran." The baby blinked at Coran, and Coran's eyes welled up with tears.
"She looks just like your mother," Coran said, wiping his eyes. "Oh, she and Alfor would be so proud to see you right now." Yorak took the opening and grabbed Coran's great orange mustache. He tugged it and Coran's head jerked downward.
Keith winced. "Sorry, Coran. I worked out a block for that move, but he's already learned to counter it."
"That's all right," Coran said. He attempted to pry his mustache out of the boy's fingers, but the boy clung tight and Coran gave up. He kept his neck bent and looked up at Allura. "Your crib is finished. I'll have it moved to your apartment before you get back."
"Thank you, Coran. I can't wait for you to meet her in person," Allura said. She ended the call.
"I'll update the Atlas on our status," Keith said. He turned away from the group and called Shiro. "Voltron reporting in," he said, when his husband's image appeared.
"Hey, Keith," Shiro smiled. "You on your way back?"
"Not yet," Keith said. "It'll be a couple of hours."
Shiro's smile disappeared. "What happened? What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong," Keith assured him. "Allura had her baby and we're giving her some time to rest before we fly back."
"It surprised us, too," Keith said dryly. "I'll tell you about it when we get back. Everything okay there? I called Coran and he's celebrating some Altean custom with Yorak."
"Yeah, I saw them when I went home for lunch. Yorak's ninety quintants today and the Alteans have a tradition for that," Shiro said.
"I didn't realize," Keith said, alarmed.
"Me either," Shiro admitted.
"Does it make us bad parents if we don't observe things according to the galactic calendar?" Keith asked.
"Yes," Lance said, right by Keith's ear. Keith jumped and his hand went reflexively to his bayard. Lance grinned at him.
"It does not!" Hunk said.
"If you wanted a private conversation, you should have gone back to the cockpit," Pidge said. Azure fussed a little and Pidge bent over her, saying "Shh, shh."
"You've got human and Galra traditions to track. You can't cover ALL the cultures in the universe," Hunk said.
"Tell you what, I'll teach the children Altean traditions and you can teach them Galra traditions," Allura suggested. "That way, they'll both know about more of the universe than they would with us alone."
Keith nodded. "Yeah, that sounds good."
"Shiro!" Lance grinned at the holo screen. "Come see my daughter!" He grabbed Keith's wrist and dragged it over to Allura.
Keith fell across Hunk. "Lance!" Keith pushed away from Hunk and let Lance drag him forward. "I could just transfer the call."
"Too slow!" Lance said. He held the holo screen in front of the baby.
"Hello, Shiro.” Allura smiled at him. “This is Azure.”
"She's gorgeous. She looks just like her mother," Shiro said.
"Yeah, but she'll be smooth like me," Lance said. He winked and pointed a finger gun at Shiro.
"I bet she will," Shiro agreed. Keith rolled his eyes. He yanked back his arm, sat up, and transferred the call to Allura’s wristlink. “How are you feeling?” Shiro asked her.
“A bit like the time I healed the Balmera,” Allura said. “Terribly exhausted, but deeply connected to all life.”
“You’re glowing,” Shiro said.
“Oh, wow, you are, Allura!” Pidge said. Allura’s head and body were haloed in a faint white light.
“So’s Azure,” Keith said. Allura lifted the baby, and now they could see that the glow around the tiny child was her own, not reflected from her mother.
“She’s going to do amazing things,” Shiro said.
“Yes,” Allura said fondly. “I think - I may need a bit of rest after all.” She sent the call back to Keith’s wristlink and lay down on the bunk with Azure.
"We'll be home before midnight Garrison time. You making dinner?" Keith asked the holo screen.
"Pork chashu. Want me to save you some?" Shiro asked.
"Please," Keith said. "Tell Yorak Happy Quinterian Day from me."
Shiro laughed. "I will. Have you seen his wolfie pajamas?”
“They’re in the repair basket. He tore one of the ears off the hood,” Keith said. “I’ll fix it tomorrow. I think he’s big enough for the ones Slav sent, though.”
“He’s only allowed to wear those on Thursdays during the waning moon,” Shiro said wearily.
“Unless we’re both wearing red socks, which I am,” Keith said, with a smile.
“Right,” Shiro sighed. “Red socks. I’ve got a clean pair somewhere. If I’m asleep when you get in, wake me, okay? I love you.”
"I will. I love you, too," Keith said. He disconnected the call and realized three pairs of eyes were watching him. "What?"
"You guys are so cute ," Pidge grinned.
Keith rolled his eyes. "Shut up."
"Sh!" Lance said. He took Azure into his arms and tugged the blanket up over Allura's shoulders. "She's asleep," he whispered.
"Let's go to the cockpit so we won't disturb her," Pidge said. "Is Killbot Phantasm still installed on this ship?" She and Hunk headed to the front of the Lion.
Lance sat against the bunk, staring down at Azure with a goofy smile on his face.
"Congratulations, man," Keith said in a low voice. He shifted seats so he was sitting next to Lance.
"Thanks," Lance said softly, still watching his daughter. She gave a tiny yawn and rested her head against his arm. "I have never been more scared in my life," he confessed.
Keith smiled. "Yeah. I know how that feels."
"You?" Lance asked. "The Mighty Keith? You get scared?"
"When I think of everything that could happen to Yorak? Everything I could do wrong?" Keith asked. "Terrified."
"Do you think it ever gets better?"
"Not according to my mom," Keith said.
"Yeah, but her son likes to do fun things like fly off cliffs and challenge the most powerful person in the universe to one-on-one combat," Lance said.
"I hope that Yorak does things that absolutely terrify me," Keith said. "I want to see him fly higher than any of us."
Lance touched the tip of his daughter's ear and she scrunched up her nose. "Same with Azure," he said. "Only a little higher than Yorak. Because she's awesome."
Keith narrowed his eyes. "Since it's her birthday, I'm not going to challenge that." Azure's grip on his finger relaxed and he moved his hand away. "I'm going to go back to the Black Lion and keep watch. You let us know when Allura's ready to go, okay?"
"Okay," Lance said. "Thanks, man."
Keith held out his fist. "Dad bump." Lance grinned and tapped Keith's fist with his own.
After Keith left, Lance laid out on the bunk next to Allura with Azure between them. “I am the luckiest guy in the universe,” Lance told Azure. “Luckier than Keith, even, and you saw how hot Shiro is.” He grinned. “Guess I finally beat him at something. Yorak’s a good kid. I think you’ll be buds.” He brushed a finger over the white fuzz of her hair. Her glow had faded, but her hair still looked like a halo. “Glad you got her ears. Mine are hideous.” He touched the tip of his own ear. “I can’t wait to show you my uncle’s farm in Cuba. I can’t wait to show you Cuba . The most beautiful beaches in the universe! You’ve got to grow fast so you’ll be big enough to swim.”
“Lance?” Allura asked sleepily.
“Sorry, babe, I didn’t mean to wake you,” Lance whispered.
“It’s all right,” Allura said. Her eyes fluttered open. Sleep had dimmed her glow, but now she brightened again. “Where is everyone?”
“Wanted to let you sleep,” Lance said. He brushed a strand of white hair away from her face and kissed her lightly. “How are you feeling?”
“I have never been happier,” she said. She smiled at him and brightened again.
“How long do you think you’ll be glowing?” Lance asked.
“Not long, I expect,” Allura said. “I’ll get you a new eye mask if it doesn’t stop. I know you can’t sleep with the lights on.”
“That’s because when I see you beside me, I don’t want to close my eyes.” Lance lifted her hand and kissed it.
Allura laughed. “Will you teach Azure your best lines?”
“I’ll teach her all of them,” Lance said. “Any line’s a good line if your timing’s right.”
“I know,” Allura said softly. She cupped Lance’s cheek in her hand and he leaned over Azure to kiss her. “I’ve got two of you to protect now.”
“And we’ve got a great big family to look after us all,” Lance said softly. Around them, the Blue Lion purred.