Steady hands on familiar controls. Lance relaxes and eases his grip, eyes scanning the skies and distant terrain as he breaches the unfamiliar airspace. He clicks on his recorder.
“Flight log 8-16-19. Beginning descent to Chiri F9-1 for reconnaissance and possible rescue in response to a distress signal.”
“Picking up the signal now; trying to hone in on the exact coordinates.”
“Thank you, Pidge, see if you can get a comm sig - HUNK! What the hell is that noise?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Don’t worry about it?!” Lance splutters, maneuvering down so they have a clearer picture of the ground. “I thought you got rid of that rattling back on Tesselax-9!”
“Oh, I’m sorry, are you suddenly the engineer on this flight?” Hunk retorts, “because I’d be more than happy to take over the controls.”
“Would you two cut it out?” Pidge groans, eyes never leaving her monitors. “Lance, take a look.” She sends something over to one of his displays and he eyes the coordinates, turning in the appropriate direction.
“Can you get a comm signature?”
“I’m working on it.”
The craft rattles again, a shake accompanying it. There’s the sound of a couple of tools clattering and Hunk banging on...something, Lance doesn’t turn around to look.
“Hunk...” he warns.
“We’re all cool here!” Hunk announces; there’s another bang and then the rattling stops.
“I’m gonna send out a broad range communication blast and see if the ship responds,” Pidge decides, pulling her headset into place and flicking a few switches. “Attention, Marmoran vessel, this is Atlas shuttle One Lima Five Kilo Hotel, responding to your distress beacon. We are on approach to your last broadcasted coordinates; does anybody copy?”
“Uh...try it again?” Hunk suggests, retaking his seat and strapping in. He reaches for a dial and Pidge smacks his hand away. She scowls at him but broadcasts again, widening her range and spectrum a bit.
“Repeat: attention Marmoran vessel, this is Atlas shuttle One Lima Five Kilo Hotel, responding to your distress beacon. We are approaching your last broadcasted coordinates; does anybody copy?”
Silence, a crackle of static and then a familiar voice fills the cockpit:
“Cop–, Atlas shutt–, wai– at the co—nates. ”
“Oh man,” Lance crows. “Did we mess up our time dilation on the calendars again? Is it my birthday or something? Because this has got to be one of the best things to ever happen to - ”
“Lance!” Pidge and Hunk both shout and Lance stops laughing just long enough to maneuver below a jagged-looking overhang, bringing them in closer to the Marmoran craft they can now make out clearly.
“No need to shout” he pouts, “I had it all under control.”
“Uh-huh,” Pidge replies, amusement obvious.
“Come on! Flight school, remember? The -”
“If you try bringing back that stupid nickname again I will pilot the rest of the trip myself,” Hunk threatens. Lance’s pout deepens and Pidge snickers. Lance lands smoothly and they all don their helmets before exiting the craft.
There‘s a Blade in full uniform, mask up, standing near the Marmoran craft. A wing looks dented and there’s smoke coming from a panel that’s been jimmied open.
“It had to be you three,” the Blade sighs as they approach, voice modulated.
“Hoping for someone else?” Lance teases. The Blade raises a hand and flips him the bird. Pidge pulls her helmet off.
“Atmosphere is breatheable,” she announces, stepping in to pull the Blade into a hug as Lance and Hunk pull their helmets off as well.
“What was that about not needing an engineer aboard?” Hunk asks with a grin, stepping in for a hug of his own as Pidge steps back. “Didn’t you say something about being able to handle any craft maintenance on your own?”
The Blade lowers their mask.
Keith brushes his bangs out of his face and rolls his eyes at them.
“Nice to see you guys, too.”
After a quick look, Hunk declares Keith’s craft unrepairable.
“We’ll have to send a salvage craft back for it,” he apologizes, patting Keith’s shoulder a couple of times as he stares forlornly at his favorite cruiser. Lance claps his hands together.
“Well, team leader, let’s get you home,” he announces.
There’s a short argument over who gets to fly them home (“I’m just saying, between the two of us, who hasn’t wrecked a craft in the last movement?” “—” “that’s what I thought. Strap in, mullet” “for the last time , it’s not a mullet anymore!” “Ah ha! So you admit it used to be!” Keith just groans as Lance eases them up and into the atmosphere.)
“Flight log 8-16-19 continued,” Lance picks up once they’re in the air, “located the source of the distress beacon as a damaged Marmora craft piloted by a friendly - say ‘hi’ to the folks at home, Keith.”
“Screw you, Lance,” Keith calls.
“Currently beginning ascent into Chiri F9-1’s upper atmosphere and will warp as soon as we’re clear.”
“Since when are Atlas cruisers equipped with warp drive?” Keith asks as Lance switches the recorder off and picks up speed.
“Since Hunk and I figured out how to integrate the tech,” Pidge replies proudly, holding out a hand. Hunk hi-fives her. “Team Punk’s still got it.”
Keith chuckles, reaching out and leaning forward to tug on the end of Pidge’s growing ponytail. She lets out a small ack! of protest and swipes at his hand. Hunk snickers.
“We all set back there?” Lance calls.
“Warp drive is functioning at 98% capacity,” Hunk confirms. “Probably needs a little tuneup, but you are clear to warp.”
“Copy that; everyone hang tight!” Lance punches the speed and initiates the warp drive. Moments later, the Atlas comes into view, along with the castle ship. Hunk looks a little green around the gills - he’s never gotten used to warping. Pidge grins and locks onto the Atlas’ comm signature.
“IGF-Atlas, this is Atlas shuttle One Lima Five Kilo Hotel. Are we clear to approach?”
“You’re all clear, Pidge,” Veronica’s voice confirms a moment later. “We’re opening the doors to hangar bay four.”
“Copy that,” Pidge closes the connection and a few minutes later they’re safely ensconced in the hangar of the Atlas. The four disembark to find Allura and Shiro waiting in the hangar.
“Good to have you back, team,” Shiro greets, stepping forward to meet Keith in a hug.
“I think you mispronounced ‘Keith’,” Lance teases, smacking Shiro on the shoulder jovially as he steps past him towards Allura. He wraps his arms around her comfortably despite the swell of her stomach, pressing an easy kiss to her forehead. “Thought you were staying in bed?”
“I changed my mind,” she announces almost challengingly. “Besides, Coran only just arrived.”
“And, uh, where is Coran, exactly, Allura?” Hunk asks suspiciously. Allura purses her lips and pointedly avoids meeting Hunk’s gaze. “Oh no. No no no no no! He better not be rearranging all of the spices again!” Hunk shouts, taking off in the direction of the kitchens. Allura smiles stepping away from lance to wrap Keith in her own hug. She links their arms and starts dragging him from the hangar, practically interrogating him about his latest efforts at updating the star charts; Shiro follows dutifully behind. Lance makes to follow as well, but Pidge grabs his arm.
“Hey,” she holds out a fist, “nice job,” she grins when he returns her fist-bump, “ tailor .” Lance’s face lights up but Pidge takes off before he has a chance to ruin the moment, calling after Keith, Allura and Shiro.
Lance smiles wide enough to hurt. He stops in the hangar door, turning to glance behind him. All five of the Voltron lions sit dormant in the hangar bay. It’s been five years since Haggar’s downfall, and they’ve taken the lions out maybe a handful of times since, but Voltron hasn’t been needed.
Blue and Red both purr at him, a comforting presence in the back of his mind. Their bonds are still there, are stronger than ever, and it’s comforting to know they’re not going to disappear after everything they’ve been through together. The lions are just as attached to their paladins and the paladins are to them. They’re all family, now. Lance throws the lions a lazy two-fingered salute before ambling down the hall towards the kitchens.
Peace feels good.