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Brand New Blue (Revamped)

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Lance was once a normal child.

He had dreams of going to space. Travelling among the stars and planets and the infinite universe. He had planned to join the Galaxy Garrison, a prestigious and sought after school for aspiring space cadets. He wanted to be top of his class, a fighter pilot, adored and loved by all. He wanted to meet his hero, Takashi Shirogane, or Shiro as most people refer to him, and be just like him. He could remember a time when his biggest worry was passing the entrance exams and getting a crew that he actually liked.

In retrospect, it all seems so frivolous now.

Lance never got that chance. He never got the chance to be a fighter pilot with a great crew. He never got the chance to meet his hero. Lance never even got to say his last goodbyes. His familia back home in Cuba must think he dropped off the face of the Earth, abandoning them. Or perhaps they thought him dead. He might as well be, for as long as he has been gone.

Lance can’t even really tell you how long that is himself. He could have been gone for a month, or he could have been gone for a year. Space is weird like that. Especially where he is right now. Time doesn’t exist here. His hands are cuffed in front of him with tech far more advanced than his home planet, the metal cool to the touch, and tight around his wrists.

His ankles are chained in much the same fashion, a strip of what he imagines is purple electricity being the only connection between his cuffs. Logically, he should be able to snap the electric band by moving the cuffs beyond its reach, snapping the connection, but they stopped as if the purple electricity are metal chain links. Lance is shoved forward a little by one of the guards behind him. Another logical thing, is that the creatures leading him through the dark hall lit by an eerie purple light are just really tall humans. Because there is no such thing as aliens.

Logically. Or at least he himself never believed in the idea. He hoped but he wasn’t one of those fanatics about aliens. But these monsters are no human.

They stand at a whopping seven or eight feet tall, towering over him as if he’s a child. They don’t have skin, or at least not any skin that Lance has ever seen before. These creatures’ skin is purple, and sometimes covered with a coarse looking purple fur. They have eyes with no pupil, which glow a creepy yellow from one corner of the eye to the other. No whites, no pupil, no irises. Just yellow. Some, if not all of the creatures bare fangs in place of where a human would have canine teeth, though not quite as long as an actual canine’s.

Still, they’re long and sharp enough to scare Lance shitless.

No matter how many crazy things he sees as he walks in chains, no matter how scary other creatures can be, these purple aliens that tower over him are terrifying. Especially those with the prosthetic weapons. Some of these prosthetics are even detachable and can still be functional, away from the body. Now that, that is some scary shit.

There is dark magic- which, yes, apparently exists- within those limbs.

Unfortunately, Lance is no exception to this terrifying type of ‘upgrades’.

Lance, contrary to popular opinion from the native English speaking jerks back on Earth, is not dumb. He can’t afford to be, not in a situation and environment like the one he is in now. He can’t play dumb, because if he does, he gets hurt, and if he gets hurt, it’s all that more difficult to survive in the Arena.

The Arena.

They make it sound like some sort of stadium, where a harmless game of football (American, European, doesn’t matter) is played. It sounds like such an innocent thing when on its own. It sounds nothing like the ring of death and pain that it really is. The Galra- which Lance has learned is what the purple species is called- like to watch prisoners of war and prisoners in general fight to the death. Like a horrific re-run of the Ancient Roman Gladiator matches.

The Galra are an evil, powerful, world conquering and destroying race, who have no remorse for the pain they cause. They harvest the ‘lifeforce’ of planets, turning that strange energy Lance has yet to fully comprehend- and maybe never will- into a corrupted form of itself. Then they use this corrupted energy (quin-something) as a fuel source for their weapons, ships, and droids. Which would be fine, if collecting the energy didn’t mean killing planets and civilizations.

The Empire, which of course it’s an Empire and not a kingdom, is ruled by a Galra named Zarkon.

If he wants to believe everything the prisoners gossip to him about, he would have to believe that this Zarkon has managed to live for ten thousand years. He’s not sure if that is even physically possible, but then again, aliens. Maybe humans just have a shorter life span than some.

Lance hopes he never meets the Emperor in person.

Zarkon is borderline obsessed with Quin-what ever (quin-essence? Wait no, it's quintessence). As much as he's learned about this quintessence, the closest thing he can understand it to be is something akin to spirit, soul, or nature, like a person's ‘nature’. In its natural state, or the only state Lance knows of before the corruption, the quintessence is a bright yellow, plasma in nature. When he's in close proximity he can feel the plasma-like stuff pulsing, throbbing with life energy. As if it's a living, breathing, sentient being in and of itself. He's only come into close contact with the yellow quintessence once in his stay as a prisoner and gladiator, but the quintessence had called to him.

Drawing him towards it like a lighthouse on a stormy night.

His entire body ached, blood positively boiling just to get closer to it. Perhaps that's odd though, given the looks he got from other prisoners when he tried to explain the feeling. Lance could tell, despite more than half of the aliens not being even close to human-like in features and expressions.

Lance is knocked out of his reminiscing by a harsh shove forward.

He nearly went sprawling to the floor, but he's lucky, having stayed on his feet. Falling to the ground meant weakness, and weakness gives the guards ample reason to ‘discipline’ him. He wishes he could show these giant purple space cats just how disciplined he really is.

Preferably using one of their high tech blasters they carry strapped to their chests or held in their hands.

Lance grits his teeth as an older injury in his ankle flares up from his stepping wrong. Just you wait, Lance thinks to himself, you'll all get what's coming for you. Real soon. Lance is surrounded by four guards, which is, admittedly three more than usually used for transporting normal prisoners.

But, again, Lance is not normal, not anymore.

Unlike most prisoners, he's never heard of the Galra. He didn't grow up with the fear of the Galra in his veins. It's because of that lack of fear, that lack of knowledge, that he refuses to conform. Every step of the way he's fought, every step of the way he's been unruly. For every moment he stays a prisoner, it's a moment he's hard to handle.

As a gladiator the rule of thumb is simple.

The longer you live, the more you fight. The more you win, the more popular you become. And after a certain point, you get popular enough that you get a title. Few ever make it long enough to receive a title, so when Lance- who is arguably one of the smaller types of alien races in the known universe- lived through his first match, it was inevitable that his time would come.

Lance is being led to another match, his biggest yet apparently. All the guards can talk about is the fact that the Emperor Zarkon will appear. As if the monster is some big celebrity. Zarkon must brainwash his entire empire, because surely he's not this loved, even by his own race. As they get closer and closer to the Arena, Lance can hear the steady roar of cheering from the crowds grow louder with every step.

They shove him none too gently into the cage that would bring him up to the Arena, and the noise of the crowd scream like the angry waves on Varadero beach with a raging storm overhead. It's thunderous, vibrating the metal beneath his feet. Even going so far as to make the metal of his handcuffs quiver in motion.

Lance grits his teeth even harder, fighting with himself to not snap back. To not resist. He resigns himself to the dreaded match looming ahead of him. He's always hated what he resorts to when in the Arena. Sometimes his opponents will be seasoned gladiators such as himself, and others are merely lambs to the slaughter. All for the cruelty of entertaining the Galra.

Lance made the mistake of allowing his opponents to live one time too many. A kid was the breaking point, more humanoid than most he has seen throughout his months, and it was the child that was made to suffer for it. They broke something inside of Lance that day, something crucial to his humanity, and now it's time to make them pay for it. After that, unless it's Lance's turn to die, he never let another being survive the ring.

It's a cruel mercy in his eyes.

Lance sucks in a breath, the air hissing between his teeth as the noise of the crowd reaches a crescendo. There's a familiar chanting that makes his entire core feel tight with nausea. “Fin-ish him! Fin-ish him!” The words echo in his ears and any remorse he may have had after today is gone. These monsters don't deserve his remorse. His victims, yes, but never these monsters.

Lance braces himself for one last time, shutting away all of his horror and pain and sorrow into the deepest parts of his being, locking it away and throwing away the keys. He doesn't open his eyes as the cage begins to ascend. The cage soon stutters to a stop, the distinct hum coming from the technology hidden beneath the sleek metal panels being drowned out by another load roar from the crowds.

He doesn't open his eyes as the cage doors open and the dull roar becomes a deafening wall of screams. He's moved forward a few steps, his feet leaving metal and hitting packed dirt. Only two of the guards step out with him. Suddenly a hush descends upon the crowd, leaving behind a ringing in Lance's ears. It only lasts a few seconds before being replaced with a slow thumping resounding across the large Arena. The Galra have seen the new fighter, recognized him, and are stomping their feet in tandem. That's when he hears it.

His title.

Hun-ter. Hun-ter. Hun-ter.

Lance, known as the Hunter galaxies wide, all because he never allows his ‘prey’ to escape. Lance listens, eyes still closed, as his opponent is brought onto the field. Even with his eyes closed he can figure two things out easily. One, his opponent is popular but untitled. Two, nobody seems to believe Lance will survive this one, if the rush of hushed and frantic whispers are anything to go by.

He pushes the thought from his mind.

Instead he opts to listen, allowing his ears to take the brunt of the sensations surrounding him. The chatter of the crowd, the slight buzzing emanating from his cuffs, the shifting of his guards. With a conscience thought, a click sounds in his head. Lance doesn't care what the Galra think. He's a fighter, a survivor, and tonight will go one of two ways.

A plan, his plan, one he has been working on for weeks with an outside force, will finally come to fruition. Should things go as planned, he'll finally see the outside of these metal walls for the first time. Lance will be free.

Or he will be dead.

Should the plan fail, the Galra will kill him for his attempt to escape, or he will willingly succumb to the gladiator fight and die in captivity as the Hunter. Either way, Lance is never returning to a cell. Not if he has anything to do with it anyways. Another sort of hush falls upon the crowd. One that is filled with excitement, and a nervous energy. The two Galra move behind him, the shifting of their not-quite-perfectly-fitted armor giving them away as clear as day. Lance breathes in, and feels the shackles on his ankles be removed.

He stays still.

Holds out his wrists, as if he would willingly go into this fight without resisting. Let them believe he has conformed. Let them believe him a monster of their own creation. The shackles came off and Lance opens his eyes.

His vision is darkened in a purple glow.

Numbers and calculations, a circular target moving in and out of focus like a camera lense; they seem as if they're floating in mid air, but Lance knows better.

This is Lance's upgrade, the one Zarkon’s witch did to him.

He calls them computer eyes, because essentially, that is what they are. Although it isn’t both of his eyes, the change was only done to his right eye, and in this mode, his left eye was pretty much closed while still wide open. His handcuffs flutter to the ground, moving in almost slow motion. The moment the sound of his cuffs hitting dirt filters through his ears, Lance strikes.

Lance smiles ferally, like an animal.

And the arena is filled with screams.

Chapter Text

Lance looks away from his wrist screen, the map on his screen far nicer than the actual system he’s travelling through. According to the map, he was in the right place. According to his eyes, he’s clearly not. He’s looking for a computer genius escapee from the Galran Empire. The guy should be right here, but ‘here’ is in the middle of butt-fuck nowhere.

An irritated snarl curls on his lips against his will as he watches his hard work go down the drain. This genius used to willingly work with the Galra, but he soon defected to go into hiding, protecting his vast knowledge of the Galra tech. As much as Lance despises the Galra Empire, that has no effect on his need to be returned to normal. This guy, this genius, used to help the witch with her upgrades so perhaps he could assist him in freeing himself from the Witch’s control.

If the guy wants to join the Freedom Fighters, or the Blade, then good on him.

He subconsciously raises a hand to touch his face, trying to press into the technology lined mask that covers his artificial eye and ear, making him half blind. He’s stopped short by his helmet, the only thing keeping him from suffocating in the emptiness of space. Lance just wants the tracker in his eye either permanently blocked or removed completely. He knows it’s there because of how easy it was for the Galra to locate him before he got the signal jamming mask.

However, this is just unbelievable.

Lance float weightlessly through space, faced with a deserted and almost completely destroyed ship, blasted into pieces. For miles debris scatters, thus making this small pocket of space a ship graveyard and a nightmare to navigate. Of course, Lance being Lance, he still tried anyways. About halfway to the ship however, he was forced to travel by jetpack.

The ship’s gravity generator is in shambles. The outer hull boasting huge gaping holes where metal used to be, frayed wires and cords floating lifelessly from where they’re snapped and destroyed. Lance pushes off a piece of debris and floats into the biggest hole of the ship, then easily finds his way to the main control panel. It’s relatively intact, if not worn and distressed. He fiddles around in the wires to try and restart the control panel, diverting all left over power should there be any. There’s a faint flicker of a holoscreen, giving Lance hope to find out if the defector lives.

Then it promptly dies.

Not discouraged, Lance races back to his ship as fast the debris allows after downloading all the information left using his suit for power. Then he gets out of there, navigating the debris as best as his distracted mind could allow. He finds a nice little planet nearby showing no signs of obvious life. It’s covered in a burgundy sand that sparkles in the nearby moon’s light.

Most of the information left is useless to him. It’s mainly just logs of previous coordinates and a little jotted note of the defector’s movements, plus a lot of digitally corrupted data. After skimming through all of the useless information on the log, he stumbles upon what he's been after in the first place, evidence on whether or not the defector lives. He pulls up the emergency camera logs. Most older ship models don’t have the Emergency Camera, but Lance got lucky today with this ship.He pulls up the last video and settles in his piloting chair with his arms crossed, waiting for the show to start.
The screen that displays the outside of his ship turns black.

It lasts a tick or two, and Lance takes the moment to roll his neck.

Next thing he knows, Lance is falling out of his chair with a yelp. The sound of explosions shock his system and he automatically goes to grab his pistols. He calms down when he realizes the noise is coming from the video feed. He settles back down as he takes in the scene laid out before him.

The screen is split down the center, cutting the screen into two different views. The one on the right is a picture of a Galra male, older than most of the Galra he’s had the displeasure of meeting face to face. He looks like an older, grumpy looking, giant purple space cat. His eyes are still that Galra yellow, no whites or pupils with fur trimmed close to his face, which sags a little with age. The Galra man is gritting his teeth, focused on the fighter jets at his flank.

On the left side of the screen, Lance sees what the defector saw.

The left side of the screen spins as the man did a flip, stars blurring and a large Galra warship rising into view. It rises from the bottom, but upside down on the camera. Following the warship as it comes into view is a full fledged army of fighters that fly after the defector’s ship. The Galra is a damn good pilot, and one by one, the hoard of fighters diminish with every shot. Noise is lost in space, so the only explosions and lasers Lance can hear are the Defector’s own.

Lance bites his lip as he watches the Galra defector spiral out of control, yellow eyes clenched and teeth gritted, lower fangs piercing his purple colored lip. The defector starts talking, and it takes a tick for Lance to realize the Galra was calling out for assistance. The thing is, the man was hiding in an uninhabited pocket of space. Lance watches with wide eyes- er, eye, since one of them is covered by the mask- as the defector gets overpowered. He’s shot into submission, and Lance watches as he draws a blaster.

The defector faces away from the camera now, his back the only thing Lance can really see. He fires off five shots, one after the other. The muscles of the Galra’s back are tense and hunched, and he faces the control panel. Lance guesses he’s wiping the drives on the ship, before turning back to hold back the Galra boarding his ship. After about twenty shots and five dead Galra, the defector falls to the a Galran sword and dies.

The soldiers retreat and the warship fires two ion cannon shots at the shuttle, and soon after the feed dies.

All of that effort to escape the Empire, and no one will ever know. No except Lance, and Lance doesn’t know the guy’s name. He sighs and clears his screen, leaning back into his seat. He closes his eyes and rubs at his forehead to stave off a headache. The next day he needs to return to his crew, and his does, flying in silence. Every once in a while his fingers ghost over the mask he wears while he resigns himself to another failed attempt at freedom.

When Lance had escaped the Arena, he joined with the people who helped him escape.

He’s now a ranked officer of the Rebel Alliance. However, it became clear, after a series of destroyed strongholds and bases, that Lance was being tracked. They did a few short tests, and determined that his special ‘gift’ from the witch was also a way for her to track him. They sent him away from the bases, and pretty much stripped his rank down to that of a mere ship captain. He was told, in uncertain terms, to come back when he’s not spying unwillingly for Zarkon’s witch.

That being said, they didn’t leave him high and dry.

They provided him a trustworthy(ish) crew, and gave him the supplies needed to act out against Zarkon on their own terms. Lance is pretty much a pirate at this point, supported but not fully affiliated with the Rebel Alliance. He does as he pleases, and every once in a while checks in with his superiors.

His crew like to engage in what Lance calls the ‘Robin Hood Tactics’.

They steal from the Galra and redistribute the spoils of battle. Sometimes it’s small shipment of supplies, sometimes a large carrier holding valuable information, sometimes they free a couple f prisoner convoys. Whatever can’t be traded planetside, he sells either to the Rebels or the Blade of Marmora.

Intense guys, the Blades.

Rebel Galra who band together to infiltrate and spy on Zarkon from the shadows. The Marmorites- which is Lance’s little nickname for the members of the Blade- prefer information on Empire presence. Where they like to frequent, the most heavily guarded bases and ships, things of that nature. The Rebels on the other hand, prefer information regarding the Arenas. Prisoner transports, up and coming gladiators, shipping and trading routes, slavers. Between the information he sells to the Rebels and the Marmorites, and the near constant trading on planets, Lance is practically living the good life.

He’s even one of the Empire’s most wanted.

Not number one, yet, but he’s working on it. Getting on the Empire’s bad side is his favorite past time since discovering freedom from the Arena. With every exchange, he’s also paid in information on possible people who can free him from his shackles located in the right side of his head. Until that day comes, he will keep getting on the nerves of the Empire, and maybe one day he’ll be free to return home once and for all.

Lance arrives back at the rendezvous point without incident, and he climbs onto his fairly large ship with a scowl. His crew meets him at the docking bay, every single one of them. He removes his helmet to inspect his crew.

Lance’s crew comes from all over the universe, no two species the same, but they all share a common hatred for the Empire. Most were once prisoners, others enslaved, and only one other member of Lance’s crew came from the Arena. That’s Thorak, his Second in Command, his First Mate, whatever title fits in the moment. His species is a large one, taller than Galra, hairy all over with shiny blue bristles like a porcupine. Fists the size of Lance’s thigh.

Thorak is a quiet sort of guy, usually only responding in grunts and mutters unless he’s yelling out threats or commands. His voice sounds like a car engine, low rough, rumbling and reving. Lance trusts Thorak the most of his crew, and he doesn’t trust the guy as far as he could throw him.

Nama is his target coordinator. Which means she handles which Empire controlled spacecraft they target. She steps forward, her holo-computer raised with the orange screen blinking at him. The letters, numbers and images are blurred to him, seeing as he’s looking at it from behind. She’s a shorter specie, with skin the color of lavender and her body thin and sharp. Lance can’t count the number of times he’s hit on her, because for an alien she’s very pretty. Most aliens are if they aren’t terrifying.

“What’s up my pretty Lavender flower?” Nama doesn’t know what a lavender is, but she rolls her eyes anyways and turns the computer towards him. It’s an image of a ship, a very large one, though Lance guesses it to be only a little bigger than his own. The technology the ship carries seems on par for Galra tech, and he stiffens at the thought of the Galra getting smart and changing their designs. The only reason it’s so easy for Lance to get what he wants is because the Empire is overconfident in their technology, and hardly change it up.

“What is this?” Lance asks. Nama turns away and starts walking, and Lance shoos away the crew as he follows, Thorak close on their tails.

“It’s an unfamiliar and unregistered spacecraft with technology I have never seen before. We came across their description while you were,” She pauses in her words and gives him a side eyed look. “Away.” She finishes.

Lance never tells them where he’s going or what he’s doing when he searches for someone who can fix him. Not even when Thorak threatened to get physical did he reveal why he went out alone. They don’t need to know about his ‘upgrades’.

“There’s nothing in the system that comes even close to matching a ship of this type before. At least, not that I can find anyways.” Nama continues. Lance hums, fighting a smile at her disgruntled expression.

Nama walks into the debriefing room, the one with a couch, waiting for Lance to remove his space gear to get more comfortable. Off comes the bulky jetpack on his back, followed by thick gloves and the long brown cloak of a leather like material, with double clasps at the throat. Lastly he shucks off the breastplate and lays it all out on the couch beside him. Nama sits in front him patiently with Thorak standing to the side, arms crossed. He crosses his legs and gives the Nama the go ahead to continue and she plugs the computer up to the console.

The blue screens blink on and the ship they were looking at becomes a 3D model, slowly rotating.

“We know very little about the ship. However, we do know it is completely omnidirectional. We also know they have a particle barrier, but that’s fairly common in large spacecraft. We know that whoever this ship is ran by, they’re enemies of the Empire, or at least based off of circumstantial evidence they are.” Nama says. She pulls up an image of a Balmera. The poor creature is dull, pale and dying.

Balmera are sentient creatures, not planets, who live in a state of paralysis. Not only that, they produce a very valuable type of crystal. The Empire controls all known Balmera as far as he knows, so it’s nigh impossible to get hands on the crystals.

“Just recently, while you were off doing whatever, this ship landed on an Empire controlled Balmera.” Nama says. She takes a moment to type into the control panel, and the image changes to a video feed. It’s short, fuzzy and hard to see, but he can tell the gist of what’s going on. It’s a video taken by a Galra fighter jet. How Nama got ahold of it is beyond him, but hey, that’s what he keeps her around for. Why else keep someone he knows would stab him in the back if it met their needs on his ship? Hell, that’s pretty much his entire crew at this point.

Bunch of bloodthirsty, power hungry bastards, the lot of them.

The video shows the ship landing on the Balmera, and wow, much bigger than Lance expected. There’s a short moment in the clip at the end, where there is five brightly colored streaks, and one slow, gigantic monster. Lance leans forward to try and get a better look at the streaks, but the camera feed is too blurry.

“Soon after landing on the Balmera, they freed the citizens. I’m trying to figure out their weapon systems, but the ship is impossible for me to track or hack into. It doesn’t run on the same wavelengths as most ships.” Nama continues.

“And, not only that, but whatever they did on that Balmera healed it.” She pulls up a second image of the Balmera, healthy and free from Empire control.

Save a Balmera? Heal it? How?

The Balmera in question was no longer dull, or crumbling slowly into death. Even from a space wide view he could see the shimmer of unmined Balmera crystals coating the skin of the beast. Lance leaned forward for a closer look.

Nama smiles smugly as she sees him interested, her semi-sharp, shark like teeth gleaming at him.

“Go on….” Lance trails off, trying to read the words on the screen, written in Nama’s native language. He fails miserably. Most of the time Lance has a natural ear for language, but whatever nama speaks is so difficult to read and speak himself he gave up trying. No human can make the noises she claims are words.

“That’s all I’ve got.” She says. Her smug smile is gone now, replaced with a scowl.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Lance asks. Nama shrugs, almost casually it seems, until he notices the crease of frustration at her lips.

“I can’t find anything else. If you wish,” Nama says, then grits her teeth as she bites out the next word. “Sir, we can get into contact with the higher ups and see if the Rebel Alliance has anything to offer.”
Lance visibly winces at the idea of bothering Rebellion officials. The rebels on average are pretty okay people, bent on freedom from the Galra. Which is great and all. However, most of the time the High Commanding Officers of the alliance always seems to have some sort of bone to pick with him.

In simple terms, Lance annoys them far too easily.

“Set up the meeting.” Lance relents with a sigh. “Meanwhile, do we have a new target?”

At this, Nama practically glows. The image on the control panel shifts from the sleek unfamiliar ship to a Galran ship in seconds after Nama types a few commands into the panel. He feels fire rush through his veins as he pushes away his new questions.

Right now, he has a Galra ship to ravage and Gak to rake in.

Chapter Text

Meeting with the Rebellion leaders was a waste of time.

After, and only after, he endured hours of a boring meeting, that of which he spent three quarters of it arguing, she still left with as much as he went in. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Ze-ro. They know the ship is only piloted by a handful of people. They know the ship is called the Castle of Lions, and it’s a ‘castle’ apparently due to the fact that when landed, the ship is a literal castle. They know that whatever weapon was used in the Battle of the Balmera (a stupid name that is used to reference the spectacle) is exceptionally strong and unlike anything else the universe has ever seen before.

They know whoever pilot the castleship has the rare ability to create wormholes at will. Meanwhile the rest of the universe is forced to rely on lightspeed, seeing as Wormhole Technology is both nearly- nonexistent, and half impossible to control. And they know whatever saved the Balmera must have used a lot of magic, almost like the witch, haggar uses. Except different apparently.

That’s it.

Everything the Rebellion could pull together on this strange spacecraft is so minimal it filled only a page on the computer file. However, for once in his long stay in space, luck is on his side. Although it makes him suspicious- because Lady Luck hates him- he still grasps the opportunity with both hands and holds on for the ride. Despite the very idea of it is basically throwing the orders he was given back in the Rebellion’s faces.

Lance’s ship, which he call the Mermaid- mainly because no one on this ship knows what a mermaid is and it’s absolutely devastating- has crossed streams with the Castle of Lions.

Lance and his ship had touched down on a small planet for resources and rest. When they exited into space, not even a click away was the Castle of Lions engaged in a heated battle with Galra forces. Lance watches in shock as what looks like four giant lions begin to decimate the enemy troops, even as they are steadily losing.

The lions have to be the super weapon. Lance twists his lips to the side in thought. He has a quick debate on whether to listen to his CO’s and hang back and watch, or throw caution to wind and jump in the battle. The debate is short lived and he turns to his gathered crew with a wicked smile.

“Nama, establish communication with the castleship. Thorak, ready the fighters to scramble. Prepare for battle but don’t move until I give the command. Everyone else, clear the bridge.” Lance says, not allowing room for discussion in his tone. A flurry of movement erupts in the room and everyone except him and Nama leave.

“Ready, sir?” Nama asks, still having that bite on the word sir. Lance pushes it out of his mind and adjusts his pirate hat- because the Rebellion are pretty much pirates in the Empire’s eyes, Lance would be damned if he doesn’t wear a pirate hat as hell. He then gestures for Nama to set up the connection, rolling his shoulders back and standing tall and confident. He smiles his signature smile, the one that disarms both deadly situations and a woman’s hold on her virtue. Not that he’s had the chance lately to indulge himself in such wiles, except perhaps a little innocent flirting.

The screen before him flickers to life, and he came face to faces with two humanoid aliens.

One of them is set up in the center of the room, a female alien, who has both hands on two pedestals. Lance has no qualms in admitting the fact that she’s drop dead gorgeous. She has silver hair that falls down her back, two strips of bangs pinned at the back of her head and showing off her long pointed ears. On the tanned skin of her cheekbones are two pink triangular marks. Could be make up, or a tattoo, or perhaps it’s a natural marking for her species.

Despite how far she stands from the screen, he notices how blue her eyes are, practically glowing. Sat delicately upon her head and nestled into her hair is a golden circlet. She wears a dress that is reminiscent of Earth’s renaissance age, long and flowing all the way to her feet. This female alien, presumably a princess or queen or empress, stands tall and proud, her lips twisted like she has just eaten a lemon.

In front of her, closer to the screen, is a man with paler skin and similar marks to the woman on his cheeks, teal instead of pink. His skin draws tight around his eyes and nose with stress wrinkles, and his hair looks sort orange, slicked back and with a matching orange moustache. His eyes are a darker blue, and he’s wearing a form fitting suit that looks similar to the woman’s.

“My name is Princess Allura of Altea, who are you?” The princess, Allura, demands through gritted teeth. Lance raises an eyebrow at her calmly, a little put off by the venom in her tone. He has no idea where the planet of Altea is, but from his brief experience of it’s princess, he suspects they are not a very welcoming people. Lance clears his throat and smiles brighter.

“The name’s Lance. I’m apart of the Rebel Alliance, and it looks to me like you need some assistance.” Lance says, invoking every ounce of charm he has in his body. He likes this princess, she’s a fiery spirit. Princess Allura adopts a look of conflict, stumbling due to a heavy blow from the Galra. She’s scrunches her nose.

“Princess!” The older man says, looking more than a little panicked. “Shields are down! I repeat shield are down!” Another blast hits the castle and Lance starts to feel a little worried for them. The princess stumbles with the rocking of the ship and nearly falls to the ground. Lance can visibly see the exhaustion on her face, even through the screen. It takes a few more ticks and another blast before Princess Allura is relenting and agreeing for the assistance. Lance smiles wide, dropping the charming smile for his natural one.

“Coming to your rescue Princess!” Lance calls out. He presses the button for the intercom, and speaking to his eagerly awaiting crew, These people he flies with are warriors. Fighting and bloodshed are in their blood, especially if it’s against the Galra. Within minutes he sees a swarm of mismatched ships joining the fight.

He lasts only five ticks on the bridge.

“Nama,” Lance says, turning to the startled woman and gives her a double fingered salute. “I’m giving you control of my ship. Run interference on Galra radio waves, don’t allow them to call for backup. I’m going to join the fight if you don’t mind.”

Nama rolls her eyes with a scowl, but raises her arm in a salute anyways.

Lance practically skips out of the bridge and hops into his fighter jet as soon as he gets close. Then he takes off into space, heading straight for where the big yellow lion is being cornered and surrounded by a line of Galra fighter jets.

The Galra fighter are kind of similar to his own. Sleek, small, and flat for maximum speed, with small jets in the back in pairs. With a whoops and a holler Lance shoots down half of the fighters surrounding the yellow lion, enabling it’s pilot to break free and ram the rest into a pile. In front of him two screens pop in view. One is Nama, the other the Princess. Lance goes to ask for a status report, but Nama beats him to it.

“Fighters have been deployed and half the enemy fleet has been destroyed. Do you want me to request backup from the Rebellion?” She asks. Lance knows what she is really asking, is if she needs to alert the Rebellion that they’ve come into contact with the strange castleship. Lance shakes his head no, glaring at her when she narrows her eyes in disapproval at him.

In his moment of distraction, his ship is hit, damaging his fighter’s left wing.

Red alarms blare in his face as he tries to regain control of his ship, making it that much more difficult and giving him a headache in the process. Lance curses, yanking his ship to the right to avoid being hit by debris, and suddenly his power steering is out of commission. He bites his lip, hard, and regrets it a small bead of blood escapes the stinging skin. Stupid space, with its stupid lack of chapstick.

“Lance!” Nama calls out, sounding actually a little concerned for once. Huh, Lance figured she would have jumped in glee at the prospect of his demise. His muted connection with the castleship shows Allura shouting and stumbling as they take another hit. Lance activates his mask and prepares to evacuate.

“I’m fine Nama, but I’m dead in space. Coming in hot, watch out.” Lance says before jumping ship and curling into a ball to avoid the blast of his ship exploding. His ship hurtles towards a stack of mottled Galra fighters, and on collision the blast sends Lance flying in open space with a grunt.

He curses as he tries to stop his quick approach to the Galra cruiser.

He activates his jetpack and smacks into wall of metal debris hard. It knocks the breath out of him, but he uses it to his advantage, pushing off the metal as hard as he can to float towards his ship or the castleship. Whichever happens to be closer.

It takes him a while, full of short bursts of using the jetpack to conserve energy, and pushing off debris but he finally closes in on the Mermaid. The entire ordeal takes about as long as it takes for his crew and the castle ship's crew to clean up the last of the fighters and the Galra cruiser. Lance latches onto the side of the Mermaid and keeps a hold on the ship to ease his way to an airlock. That in itself takes a lot of effort and a bit of time, but he manages it at last. He collapses in the airlock, shutting off his mask when the door closes, gasping for breath. His arms and legs burn in that way that only happens after an intense workout.

Lance is positive he just used up his energy for the next few months, but he crawls out of the airlock and works his way to the main bridge. His poor pirate hat is lost to space now, but he just shrugs and forgets about it. If he truly wants another, he can make or buy one.

So all in all, an uneventful battle.

Lance and Nama are the only ones left on the ship now, and he waits for his crew to board the ship again. After that he gets permission to dock the Mermaid in the castleship. Allura, of course, looked like she wanted nothing more than to blast his ship to pieces, but Lance will take what he can get.

He heads to the castleship’s main bridge, after getting detailed instructions on how to get there.

Chapter Text

Before he goes to meet the princess, Lance changes outfits.

Can’t meet a princess looking like some pirate right? He adopts a dark blue coat that’s tight down to his waist, and the front and back split down the center to make two tails the length of his legs, nearly brushing the floor. The color is dark, almost black, with three shiny silver fasteners at his side, causing the fabric to wrap around his body to the his hip. It’s his favorite coat, and his fanciest. The only part of his clothing that has no evidence of battle.

Underneath that’s his black bodysuit that regulates his temperature, underneath a shiny armor breastplate. He keeps his cargo pants on, tucked into his nicest pair of boots that come just below his knees. The coat is pressed to his skin at the forearms by two gauntlets. The right is used for scanning, hacking (done remotely by Nama more often than not), and connects to the jetpack controls in his black gloves. The left calculates the air to see if it’s breathable for humans, health scans, and his own miniature database. It also has a map of the known universe coined to his location by default. And to finish off the ensemble, his mask.

Then there’s his weapons, because you can never be too careful.

He has a pair of blasters shaped like pistols, designed specifically for him, strapped to the small of his back in an ‘x’ formation, one on top of the other. It’s a rare situation when he needs to draw the second blaster, but shit happens. Along with the pistols are his matching daggers, tucked inside both of his boots, and were given to him by a prisoner he had once freed. Feeling both threatening and fabulous, he slips out of the ship and follows Nama’s directions to the bridge.

The first that draws his eye when leaving his ship is a gigantic metal lion the color of the sea. Blue and bright and fearless, calling out to him. Lance is captivated, practically hypnotized to walk up to the lion’s barrier. Lance gets close, really close, the lion looming over his head like a titan. He swears to himself he can feel it’s eyes on him, a buzzing energy filling the air. He reaches out a hand, eyes locked onto the blue force field.

There’s a buzzing from his wrist comms that smack him out of whatever trance he was in.

Lance shakes his head, getting rid of the odd feeling of want he knows isn’t his own. Lance slowly pulls his hand back, then takes a step back, and another. It feels like pushing away from an impossible gravity with nothing but his free will. He hurries towards his original destination, fighting the urge to look back. He’s kind of afraid that if he does, the lion will have moved. All on its own. Which is crazy.

Right?

Right.

When reaches the bridge, which is actually easier to get to than he would have thought with a ship this large, the battle is over and done with, his crew slowly filing onto the castleship and then into his own. Lance walks forward, ready to announce his presence, but Allura beats him to it. She rounds on him, hands finally leaving the weird pedestals as she approaches him. Lance gets ready to diffuse that serious look on her face with his corniest pick up line he can, but she cuts him off before he can decide on which one.

“You’re a human aren’t you?” Allura asks, without any preamble. Lance blinks at her in shock. Most aliens don’t know what a human is, let alone how to spot one. There are plenty of humanoid creatures throughout the universe of course. That being said, none are so closely human as whatever this Princess Allura seems to be. Behind him the bridge doors open, but he ignores them for the more pressing matter at hand.

“That I am. And how would you know what a human is?” Lance says. Allura gestures behind him.

“I’ve had the pleasure of living with four of them for a little over a- what is it human’s call it? A month.” Allura says. Lance tenses as he hears intakes of breath behind him, and eyes on him from behind. He takes a mere moment to register what Allura said to him.

He turns around so quickly he nearly gets whiplash, and comes face to faces with more humanoid creatures. Except, these ones actually are humans. No obvious extra limbs, no out of place hair or fur, no horns or long ears, not even slitted eyes. They stare at him in just the same amount of shock as Lance stares at them. Nama, who apparently came in the room with the other humans, walks up to him with her communicator out. Lance schools his face into one of indifference before Nama can look up, plastering on a strained smile.

“Sir, a transmission.” Nama says, then looks up and hands him the communicator. Lance scowls as he realizes it’s from headquarters. He tries to hand it back to her.

“I don’t want it, you take it.” He tries. Nama shakes her head at him with a smirk.

“Not for me. Labeled urgent if that helps.” Nama says. Lance bites off a groan and sighs.

“Fine.” Lance says. “Princess, if I may take this in private?” Allura purses her lips but nods, gesturing to one of the humans behind him. It’s the tall one with the scar and Galra arm. He starts to follow the scarred man when he hears Nama call out from behind him.

“I call your ship if you get suspended again!” Nama yells. He stops and tenses his shoulder before turning to her with a scowl.

“Don’t dream on it sweetheart. She is my ship, and only mine. Remember that.” Lance says, watching as Nama scowls like she usually does. He should be careful, she would swipe his ship and command right out from beneath him given the opportunity. His crew are a bunch of scoundrels, he really needs to get a new crew. Preferably one that doesn’t hate him for all he stands for.

Even in freedom his title as Hunter stays with him everywhere he goes.

The scarred human, who he refuses to look at as much as possible, leads him to an empty lounge room. It’s bare, only decorated with a rounded couch, set a few steps into the floor. Lance waits for the man to leave, the communicator in his hands still buzzing away. Damn, he was kind of hoping they would give up by now. When he’s alone, he breathes in deep and prepares himself for a headache. He so does not feel up to this right now.

“Captain, so nice of you to pick up…”

------------------------------

Allura turns to look at her paladins when Shiro returns.

She might be a little paranoid, but she doesn’t trust this new ship full of people. After the Nyma and Rolo incident, they can’t afford to be so accepting of people. It goes against everything her father taught her as she grew up, but then again, so is the entire concept of this war with Zarkon. Her father is gone now, and she had nearly lost Coran for good in that explosion, it’s up to her to do what needs to be done. No matter how much it pains her to do so.

Human or otherwise, she needs to be cautious with this Lance.

Perhaps, would this have been before her 10,000 year long cryo-sleep, she would have gladly accepted him as an ally in this fight with Zarkon. However, Nyma and Rolo showed her just how much the universe has changed in her sleep. Trust is far too hard to gain in this new age, and far easier to use it for sabotage.

“Pidge, I need the security footage of the lounge.” She says. Pidge automatically goes to comply with her command, but freezes halfway through opening her weird looking Earth computer.

“Princess,” Shiro says. “Surely you don’t think he’s an enemy do you?”

“Yeah,” Hunk says, eyebrows lowered in a worried frown. “He’s a human.” Like us. Allura understands they’re automatic trust in this Lance, he’s another human, like them. Lord knows what she would do if she came face to face with another Altean. She sighs.

“We still need to be cautious, or have you forgotten the Nyma and Rolo incident?” Allura says, eyebrows raised, looking over to Keith. He flushes and looks to the ground with no response. The paladins share a grim look and Pidge pulls up the camera feed, putting it on the screen. The purple alien, Nama, has long since returned to the ship in a huff, so no worries there.

The camera feed technically isn’t from the cameras in the lounge, but from Rover.

In retrieving the Red Lion, Pidge had commandeered a Galra droid and turned it to their side. Pidge chooses to use Rover instead of the security cameras, because, in her word, “For a supremely advanced society, Altean security cameras suck.” She turns on the sound and everyone quiets to watch what happens.

Lance has his head thrown back when the video starts, and he breathes out a breath before looking down. He clicks something on the communicator and a holographic screen appears, orange in color. On the screen for a moment is a symbol and Lance glares at it before pressing on it. Allura braces herself. If the person on the screen turns out to be Galra, or even- Alfor forbid, though it’s unlikely, Zarkon himself- the paladins would strike first and fast, leaving no evidence behind.

Yeah, she’s a little paranoid, but who cares.

“Captain, so nice of you to pick up.” The person on the screen says when the pictures clarifies. The man on screen isn’t Galra, in fact Allura can’t exactly remember what species they are entirely. His skin is a rough, rock like texture that’s colored in the brightest of green, splotched with circles that change color every few seconds. His eyes bulge from his head like a lizard, and he’s scowling fiercely at Lance.

“Whatever it is,” Lance says back with a smile. “I didn’t do it.”

Beside her, Shiro muffles a snort of laughter, disguising it poorly as a cough. Allura can understand the humour he’s feeling. Lance sounds like an Altean child trying to get out of trouble. Or rather, he sounds like Allura when she was younger. The man on the screen drops his scowl with a burdened sigh.

Lance eyes dart around him for a brief moment before returning to the screen.

“Nevermind, Lance.” The man sighs. “About that information you had requested on that unfamiliar ship. What did you call it?” Lance’s eyes widen and he shakes his head with a serious look, the man on the screen isn’t even looking at Lance, instead looking to the side in thought.

“It was the Lion Castle right? Or something like that.” The man says. Lance smack himself in the forehead. A sharp buzz zips down her spine and she prepares to move but Shiro stops her with a hand on her shoulder. They share a look, and Shiro wins, so she stays to hear the rest of the conversation.

“It’s, uh, the Castle of Lions actually.” Lance says weakly, looking through his fingers. He’s ignored.

Allura tenses, preparing herself for another betrayal. At least this one is not as deep seated as Zarkon’s. Shiro’s hand, the human one, squeezes her shoulder in comfort. She relaxes a little. Alteans were always known to try peace before war after all. Then again, they’re already in the middle of a war, so perhaps that tradition is cancelled out.

“We have some more information regarding the Lion Castle. I can send it to you immediately.” The man says. Lance clears his throat, and when he speaks his voice is a few pitches higher.

“Commander, I’m actually sort of, well. I’m sort of inside the Castle of Lions. Like right now. Already.” Lance says, his sentences becoming choppier and tense. Anger turns the man’s green skin red, the splotches turning almost burgundy in color. When the man speaks though, his voice is eerily calm, belied by the range of emotions so plainly across his face.

“Excuse me?” The man says. Lance winces, and leans forward, smiling a nervous smile.

“It was an accident!” Lance explains. “We happened to cross paths, and they were fighting the Galra- I have to tell you, whatever those weapons are they’re amazing. They’re like giant metal cats. Wait,” Lance pauses, tilting his head. “Do you know what a cat is? Are there cats in space? Space cats, it sounds like a movie title-”

The man on the screen hisses and Lance clears his throat with a cough.

“Nevermind. Sorry, getting off track. Anyways-” Lance starts again, but the man, clearly fed up, cuts him off.

“What were you thinking!? What if they weren’t friendly? What if this was just another of Zarkon’s latest weapons? Did you even consider the possibility?” The man says. Lance splutters, his eyebrows creasing.

“Sir you don’t understand. You know me, I read people like the back of my hand! And Allura-”

“You’re on a first name basis!?” The man yells. Lance winces, and Allura almost feels pity for the guy, but desperately wants to know what he was going to say next.

“Would you listen? Please?” Lance says, sounding and looking exasperated. The man grumbles but silences. Lance combs his hand through his straight brown hair, causing it to stick up in every direction. He smoothes it back down as he stands and starts pacing.

“Allura-” Lance cuts himself off. “I mean Princess Allura and her team were in distress. I couldn’t just stand by while the Galra kill more people, especially people who can fight back! Besides, it isn’t like I came unarmed onto a strange spacecraft. My momma taught me stranger danger and all that you know.” Lance says. The man’s eyebrows crease.

“Stranger what?” He asks incredulously. Lance ignores him and continues rambling and pacing.

“I have my pistols and my helmet, and I’m wearing that super special armor you got me. My crew is downstairs, but then again, I don’t trust my crew all that much, so there’s that.” Lance says, barely taking a breath between words. “Then I got on board and there are actual humans!”

Lance looks at the screen almost frantically with a smile.

“Four humans.” Lance pauses. “Correction, four gorgeous humans. If I’m going to meet my maker, let me at least die surrounded by such beauty.” Lance jokes with a playful tone. His smile drops when the man on the screen doesn’t look the least bit impressed.

“Joking aside, I want to see this through. Just let me talk to them at least Commander.” Lance finishes off. There’s a moment of silence in the room, with the man staring at Lance with narrowed eyes.

“You keep calling me that.” The man says. Lance cocks his head to the side in confusion and the man continues with a scowl, his voice lowered almost enough to not be picked up by Rover’s mic.

“Lance, if they are threatening you to say these things, give me a signal and I will be there in two ticks to destroy them.” The man says, completely serious. Lance splutters for a moment, then bursts into laughter. Lance laughs for a good minute before calming down, clutching at his stomach. He even wipes away a fake tear as he sits down again.

“I miss your humor, truly. You know I wouldn’t break to something so simple as threats. Give me some credit.” Lance says looking relaxed and amused. The man looks unconvinced, even afraid.

“Then why are you using my title? You’ve never been one for titles before.” The man says. Lance blinks, and as suspicious as she is, she still feels amused at how quick the conversation flipped. It went to serious and reprimanding to concerned and playful in mere moments. Lance smiles back like nothing is wrong in the universe, so reassured.

“Oh,” Lance replies. “That’s because even humans can be untrustworthy. So I’d rather not give them your name while they spy on me during a private conversation. That sounds like a bad idea even to me. And I’m like, the king of bad ideas.” Lance finishes, and they all freeze in their place as the realize what Lance said.

Pidge smashes a few buttons and turns the video off as Lance looks into the camera with a blinding smile.

How Lance knew where Rover was is beyond her, seeing as the little robot was outfitted with a cloaking device. It doesn’t become visible until it comes back to Pidge’s side. They can hear Lance’s laughter from down the hall. Pidge is the first to rush out of the room. They follow close behind, Coran left behind to steer the ship through space.

Lance sits lazily on the couch, the communicator off when they get to the lounge.

Chapter Text

Lance takes the moment after he ends his call with the commander to pop his back. He’s twisted away from the door when it opens, and he turns with a cheery smile. Only to then be blindsided with a face full angry child. They’re so close, all Lance can see are amber eyes set on fire with rage, hidden behind the barrier of glasses clearly too large for their face. Lance blinks once, and then twice, and yet still the small child doesn’t say anything, just stares his one eye down. The door behind them opens again, and Lance hears the subtle sounds of shifting feet and breathing, one of the traits he has yet to get used to since his ‘upgrade’.

Super hearing sounds great and all, but it sucks in actuality.

Said super hearing is how he knew of the spying little robot in the room. The faint sound of laughter, most likely at his expense- and what else is new?- had filtered through the little robot’s speakers. They thought they could spy on Lance and get away with it, but jokes on them. He’s no longer equipped with full human senses anymore.

Perhaps someday, if he dares to dream it, he’ll have that normality back, his true senses. All he needs is someone to fix his goddamn eye, but no. Apparently Haggar rooted the metal wires so deeply into his skull it would be near impossible to shut off the eye, let alone the tracking device alone without damaging something vital. At least he has his signal jamming mask.

Lance blinks again and leans back a little to get some space.

“How did you know?” The small child asks him, leaning forward even more and practically sitting on top of him to do it. “How did you know about Rover? Are you a spy? Secretly a robot? A druid?”

Lance fights his smile at the silly questions. Him? A druid? Oh please. The child is pulled off of him by the neck of her suit, much like a mother cat would carry her kittens by the scruff of their necks. The one who pulls her off is the biggest one, with yellow accents on his uniform suit. He sets her down gently like she weighs no more than a feather. Lance’s smile twitches when they instinctively move around him to corner him on the couch in a semicircle.

He coughs as he straightens up slowly.

It’s the first chance he’s gotten to really look at the other humans. The big one who picked up the little one like he does it all the time is round rather muscular, but Lance suspects there’s some real power in those arms, natural power, natural strength. He wears a yellow headband around his forehead, thin and tied in the back with a double knot. The ends look frayed from either use or battle wear. Maybe both. However, as intimidating as his body structure makes him, his kind brown eyes tell Lance he’s not mean.

The little child, still glaring at him, is the big guy’s polar opposite.

Scrawny and short, with wild red-blonde hair cut in a disastrous imitation of a haircut. Glasses almost constantly falling down their nose. Amber eyes seething in barely contained fury. And the kid is so androgynous he isn’t sure which pronouns to use to describe them. They purse their lips at him, looking down their nose at him, and almost having to throw their head all the way back to do so.

They look like Lance’s little niece and nephew, Nadia and Silvio, both of them.

Lance looks away as he pushes the memories down, he can cry about his misfortunes when he’s home or when he’s dead. The one standing next to the child in the circle is the other tall, this one with black accents on his suit and a scar across his nose. He looks kind of familiar, and then Lance sees the Galra arm. Did they fight in the Arena? No, Lance is sure he would have remembered another human.
Next to scar face is the Princess. She’s even more stunning up close and angry. Her pink markings look like they’ve always been a part of her skin. Genetic markings perhaps. Her hair is loose and wild, falling in white curls and waves down to her waist. She’s tall and slim, and that golden circlet on her head gleams when the light hits just right.

Next to her is the one with the red accents on his suit.

Long dark hair he can only describe as a messy mullet, and sharp violet eyes. There’s a sneer on his face that reminds Lance of the Galra, always baring their fangs like wolves when angered. He got a weird handlebar thing in his hand, that look like they hardened a pom pom, extended the middle, and elongated the hardened part. It matches his suit too, how cute.

“Well?” The child asks again, tapping their foot impatiently. Now they remind him of his mother, great.

“Well?” Lance shoots back, having forgotten the question. Sorry if he’s interested in the only other humans in space.

“How did you know about Rover?”

In that moment the little robot appears from behind the child’s back, and he recognizes the drone. It’s a Galran scout drone, except it usually glows Galra purple, not green. Did they steal it or something? Reprogramming it must have taken a lot of work.

“I mean, you were practically begging me to notice if you left the mic on.” Lance points out. He’s a little peeved at how non-cordial this whole affair has become just because he has enhanced hearing. Stupid Galra, always ruining his fun. Now how is he going to have a decent conversation with someone his own species?

“What mic?” The kid asks, very demanding. Lance wouldn’t be surprised if they stomped their foot, but is kind of disappointed when they don’t. Silvio usd to do that all the time back on Earth, perhaps he still does. Lance fights back the wave of sadness thinking of his family brings him. He was doing just fine until he saw all of these humans. Now he’ll get even worse sleep than before.

“The mic on the front, see? It’s a two way street in these things. Of course, this is an older model so it makes sense.” Lance says, reaching up to poke the robot backwards. The robot seems almost to have feelings as the green glows brighter, and it coming at him. It smacks into his palm almost a dozen times before the child pulls it back protectively. It’s glow fades a little, and Lance is already attached to the little guy. And it’s a robot.

“We were just playing.” Lance mumbles, pouting at the little robot. It squirms but doesn’t get free.

“Okay, I think we got off on a bad start.” The one in blacks says with a nervous chuckle. “The name’s Shiro, and you are?”

Lance narrows his eyes at the black one for a second, before shrugging and shaking his Galra hand without hesitation. Lance knows the feeling someone gets when they get the Look. He used to get it for his eye, when he activated it anyways, and it made him feel horrible. Shiro’s eyebrows twitch and they shake once firmly. Lance still doesn’t shake the feeling of recognition on the edge of his mind. Who is this guy to Lance?

“Do I know you from somewhere?” Lance blurts, and it’s too late to take it back even if he wanted to. Shiro’s faces flickers, a metaphorical darkness covering his features for a moment before the smile returns tensely. Lance looks at him harder, narrowing his eyes and widening and then narrowing them again. He tilts his head from side to side and tries his best to see what’s at the very edge of his mind but it’s coming up blank.
“I don’t think so no, I’ve never met you before.” Shiro says, and even his name tastes familiar on Lance’s tongue.

“No I swear I do, I just can’t think for the life of me how?” Lance says, fading off into a mumble.

Shiro’s shoulders dropped and he held out his arm. “Could it be this?”

The arm buzzes to life in a glowing purple haze, the heat so strong Lance could practically see the heat waves coming off of it. Shiro’s lips dropped into a pained line, and Lance raises his eyebrows. Is he supposed to be impressed? Awed? Afraid? If so, he’s not, he’s seen his fair share of Galra prosthetics, hell, he has one in his eye for heaven’s sake. It doesn’t make the recognition flare up in his mind though, so he squints real hard at Shiro’s face and waves the arm away.

“No not the arm. Something else, something,” Lance trails off as he thinks of Shiro’s name. Could that be it? “What did you say your name was?”

Shiro arches his brow and the pain slips off his face to allow for confusion to settle in.

“Shiro?” He says, like he isn’t sure of his own name. Lance waves a hand, waiting for the last name, maybe that’s it. “Shirogane?”

Something clicks in Lance’s mind and he smiles brightly, leaping off the couch in excitement.

“No way, you aren’t the Takashi Shirogane are you? Star pupil of the Galaxy Garrison? Soon to be Kerberos pilot? That Shirogane?” Lance says, and Shiro slowly nods, then tilts his head to the side.

“Kerberos happened over a year ago.” Shiro says, and the smile slips off of Lance’s face slowly as horror dawns on him. He looks at his fingers to count because his brain is so muddled. He was kidnapped from Earth three months before the launch of Kerberos, and add onto that a year, and then the month Allura said she’s been living with the humans, and add on to that however much extra time had passed. If he allows for a three month margin, then he’s been in space for-

“A year and a half.” Lance whispers to himself in dismay. He counts it again, but it comes out the same.

“What’s a year and a half?” The one with the red accent on suit asks. Lance sinks slowly onto the couch, his shoulders tense. It can’t have been that long. It simply is not possible. But if it is then how long was he prisoner for the Galra? How many months did he spend killing and fighting? It’s been about three months since his escape, so that means he was prisoner for almost a year.

A year in the Arena.

A year filled with pain.

A year he’s missed of his nephew and nieces lives.

“Space.” Lance manages to answer, completely on auto pilot now. “I’ve been in space for a year and a half. How?”

Lance trembles a full body shiver as he races back through all he’s been through in a fast forward loop. All the pain, and the killing, and the fear, and the hatred, and the sorrow. All of it. It all adds up to a year and a half. The number ricochets in his mind like a bullet in a metal room, round and round and round it goes. He snaps his head up as a hand settles on his shoulder. It isn’t human. It isn’t flesh. It’s Galra technology, and the close thrum of the tech resonates with the technology embedded in his eye. It beats like a heartbeat.

Lance is about to go full on Arena Mode, but another humming interrupts him thoughts. His gauntlet is buzzing, and it isn’t from his armor. In a daze he snaps open the small hatch and pulls out a communication device the Rebellion uses to communicate. It blinks with a message. He opens it, reads it, reads it again when the message doesn’t filter right, and then stows it away.

His body stands on it’s own, like he’s being controlled, except he isn’t.

“I’m sorry, I must leave, I have a new mission.” Lance says, his words choppy. A year and a half. It still pings off the metal walls of his mind. He never even got to know everyone’s name, and now he’s being forced to leave. He’ll probably never see these humans again anyways. The Rebellion Council loathes him, they would never make him an emissary to the new allies.

It doesn’t matter.

They’ll walk different paths and he’ll continue searching while they fight to their last breath. He has to. Now that he knows how long it’s been, how many nights have passed on Earth, how many days with no word from him to his mother. Now that he knows he missed the kids’ birthdays, and Luis’s anniversary, and his sister Rachel’s send off to the Garrison. He’s missed everything. He doesn’t need to know the humans’ names, they have Shiro. The greatest pilot of their generation and then some. He’ll keep them safe, he’ll win this war, he’ll-

“Lance.” There’s that hand again, the Galra one. It shakes him to the core so hard he snaps out of his daze. He’s barely a foot passed the threshold of the elevator. Lance could shake him off, could turn his back on his own species. He could follow orders as he was told and get on his ship and go rob some Galra blind. He could find his cure, his solution. He could, he could, he could. But he doesn’t. He lets Shiro ease him out of the elevator, guide him passed the common room. He let’s Shiro make him some food goo, which looks as terrible as is sounds, not to mention that it’s green.

“Shiro?” Lance says, and it’s a question but it doesn’t sound right to his own ears. Too wobbly, too full of emotions. Idiot, emotions will get you killed. You learned your lesson once, don’t learn it again. Somehow the voice silences with Shiro’s human hand on his shoulder. Lance relaxes, almost collapses into the chair.

“Everything alright?” Shiro asks, and it’s in that tone Lance knows well. A million words in two, his mother had that art down to a ‘t’. Are you okay? Do you need some space? Do want a hug?

Do you want to talk?

So Lance does what he always did when his mother spoke to him like that.

He talked, and he talked, and he cried, and he sobbed. And it was all quiet. Quiet words, quiet stories, quiet tears, quiet sobs. That’s the part that’s different. Shiro isn’t his mother, and frankly, as much as lance idolizes him, he doesn’t trust him. And that hurts him so goddamn much. He used to be the most trusting person in the family. Lance was so trusting he convinced someone who was trying to mug him to come to his mom’s house and eat real food, and shower with warm water and wear clean clothes. Lance was always trusting of people.

Until that trust sent him billions of lightyears away in space with to show for it but a load of scars and a demonic eye.

So yeah, Lance spilled his guts, his very soul out to Shiro, but he did it in Spanish. And if Shiro happens to be faking that clueless expression, who cares. Because he spills and he talks and he babbles his heart out. His communicator goes off three times within the hour Lance spends babbling.

He ignores it.

When he finally calms down, it’s to Shiro petting his back. It knocks the pain right out of his mind, shooing it away with every calming motion. Lance is too exhausted to move, and he hasn’t touched his food goo, which is for obvious reasons.

“Feeling better?” Shiro asks gently, quiet so as to not disturb the silence. His hand is still rubbing Lance’s back. Lance nods after a minute of enjoying the sensations and Shiro pulls his hand away slowly. He settles his hand in front of him on the kitchen table, which is another part of the castle that’s white. Jeez, they need some color around here.

“Sorry.” Lance mumbles. Leave it to him to have a breakdown in front of his idol. Glad Nama’s not here, that would have spelled out disaster in so many ways it isn’t even funny. Shiro shakes his head with a kind smile, a small one, but a smile nonetheless.

“It’s okay, I have breakdowns of my own. I know I’ve always felt better when someone is there with me, and besides. You were about to just leave.” Shiro says, and Lance turns his head to witness the blinding smile that overtakes Shiro’s face. Even with the scar and the arm, the man is still handsome. Lance brushes his fingers against his mask in shame.

“We weren’t going to let you go so easily. There are so few people in the universe that understands us, as humans, but you do. As hard as we were earlier on you, we do want to make friends. Just-” Shiro continues, or tries to, but Lance cuts him off with a wry smile.

“Gotta be cautious right?” Lance says, and Shiro nods. They stay there until Lance’s eyes puff up, sitting in silence and lost in thought.

Chapter Text

Shiro invites Lance to stay the night but he declines.

Lance stayed long enough to solidify their alliance with the Resistance, but he can’t stay any longer. He feels to vulnerable here, and he can’t be vulnerable with a war going on. He can’t let his crew see him be weak or they’ll throw his ass out of the airlock in mutiny. They may be obligated to follow him, either because the Resistance has ordered it of them or out of personal payment for Lance saving them from the Galra. However, that doesn’t mean they’re loyal to Lance. In their eyes Lance is a weak alien, and weak lifeform unfit for the power he controls.

Maybe if he could show off his skills that his cursed eye gives him they’d change their minds, but at the same time, he doesn’t want to use such twisted technology.

He at least stayed for dinner, so he could let his eyes stop being puffy. And he feels like he’s hit the jackpot with this group of humans. The conversation they had over dinner- which Lance didn’t eat at because who the fuck eats food goo anymore?- was pretty nice. There were silences but never awkward ones, and they were really open to him. Except for Allura, who gave him the evil eye the entire time they were eating, but he figures you can’t please everyone.

His superiors in the Rebellion can attest to that.

Lance learns a lot about the humans- paladins as Allura called them- and what they’re in space for and about themselves personally. Hunk- the big one in yellow- told him about how Pidge- the little child and who’s a girl apparently- had dragged them out into the desert when Shiro came crashing from the sky and helped Keith- the one in red- kidnap Shiro from the Garrison. Keith then mumbled out a comment about how they only slowed him down in that rescue mission. Shiro talks about how he doesn’t remember much after getting abducted by the Galra and before he crash landed on Earth.

That little tidbit makes everyone turn somber so Lance changes the subject to the weird weapons they had deployed.

They told him that there are actually five giant, sentient, robot lions. There’s Red, who’s apparently Keith’s lion, known for being temperamental and instinctual, as well as the protector of the element of fire and the fastest of the five lions. Then there’s the Green Lion, Pidge’s lion, known for being curious and intelligent, protector of nature and is now outfitted with a cloaking device. There’s Blue, who has no official paladin right now, but who sometimes allows Allura to pilot.

Blue is known for being adaptable, friendly and the most accepting of the lions and being the protector of the element of water. Then there’s Yellow, Hunk’s lion, known for being the most caring and selfless of the lions, there to lift Voltron(whatever that is) and it’s team up. Yellow is the protector of the element of earth. And lastly, there’s the Black Lion, Shiro lion. The black is the leader and decisive head of Voltron, who needs a born leader to pilot is, protector of the sky and the largest of all the lions.

 

So the conversation was really enlightening for Lance, giving him at least a little bit of something to report back to get him out of trouble for disobeying orders of not engaging with the Castle of Lions. The entire time they ate dinner though, Allura didn’t look away from him, glaring the entire time. She didn’t even settle down when he flirted with her and called her pretty.

Not even a smile.

She obviously seemed to be lacking in the trust department, so she might be the hardest to break and get along with out of all of them, even more so than Keith. Who hasn’t really done any different than Allura, just with a lot less malice and a few more words. No matter what he said to her, he couldn’t even get her to crack a small, teensy weensy, itty bitty smile.

It will probably light up her whole face when she does.

Lance is on his ship right now, setting course for his next mission, watching the stars alone on the bridge of his ship, but all he can think of is Team Voltron. Lance imagines how a smile on Allura’s face would compliment her, making her blue eyes warm up and sparkle. The markings on her cheek stretching and practically glowing pink. Lance wonders if she would be like his sister Maria, who when she smiles, her face flushes with color. Every single time, Maria’s face would burn red, even the tips of her ears.

Lance wonders if perhaps instead of Maria, Allura would smile like Veronica. She has the biggest of smiles, but Ronny hates the way her eyes squint when she smiles, so when she catches her smiles getting too big she’ll bite her lip to try and fail at stopping her smiling from growing bigger. Lance shakes the thoughts of his family back out of his mind, trying to think of something else.

Lance frowns when he starts thinking of the later part of the conversation, after Allura had slipped away quietly.

The looks on their faces when he had tried to give them the ECD. Short for ‘encrypted communication device’. It was fine at first, but then he had went to explain the finer details of the device so that they could use it properly. The ECD is shaped roughly like a slightly flattened egg, with three black buttons in a row, and a big red button below them.

The red button actually has a plastic covering on it, the button being inlaid to allow for a smoother surface. The entire look of the ECD is a sleek white metal, though it comes in black and orange as well, all with a decorative blue stripe on the sides.

Or well, Lance assumes they’re decorative at least.

The device is designed to piggyback off of Galran signals as a ghost transmission, with the messages being encrypted in a specially designed encryption method that only the ECD can decode. To the naked Galran eye, the messages piggybacking off their signals comes off as the usual radio static. Lance went on to explain to the team how to work the ECD for themselves.

The left black button is used for playing and deleting messages, the right one only for recording messages. The center button is where the magic happens. Press this button and it will pull up a holographic screen, where the device then becomes touch interactive. Holding down the left side brings up the list of people who aren’t CO’s (commanding officers) who you can send messages to, however these are to be entered manually. Holding down the right button will bring up the CO list, automatically programmed, however they have different clearance levels the higher up the chain said CO is.

“And the big red button,” Lance had explained. “Is only used for one thing. In desperate situations, a Rebellion operative can flip up the plastic screen and push the red button, which will then automatically send out a distress signal for all nearby operatives. It will only contain the basic information of coordinates, time of being sent, the name of the owner of the device. Help will be sent as quickly as possible, if possible.”

Lance had made sure to warn them that the red button is only for emergencies.

Then he flipped the ECD over to show them the back. It’s hardly noticeable unless you know what to look for, but there’s a small stylus sheathed longwise into the back of the device. The only thing to give it’s presence away is the blue tip, which looks like a random blue dot in the center of the back of the device. He had held it up to explain what it was there for.

The stylus is put there for a number of reasons. When it seems like help can’t reach an operative in time, they have the option of using the stylus. There’s a small hole on the right side when faced with the button, right below the blue stripe, just big enough for the stylus to fit. When the stylus is pressed into the hole it severs all the most important wires and making the device useless, even to reverse engineer unless you’re someone very good at that kind of thing. Of course, when fully operational, the ECD’s are actually, apparently, very simple to reverse engineer.

The stylus is also a miniature weapon of sorts. The tip is super sharp to be able to cut the wires, or to use as a blade, though it would be kinda hard to use it against another. That’s where the blue tip comes in. It’s a drastic measure, only meant to be you in hopeless situations to avoid capture and being a traitor. In the blue tip of the stylus, is a fast acting poison. Though even the poison can be a weapon for escape if you use it carefully, since it can be ingested or applied by skin to work.

The looks on the humans’ faces made Lance feel like a monster after he explained all of that.

He closes his eyes to the stars as he gets sucked into the memory of that last bit of conversation. After explaining all of the gory details, he had tried to lighten the atmosphere with a smile while they stared at him in varying degrees of shock and horror. He had held the device out to Shiro and then grabbed his human hand gently when he finally did.

“It might seem like it’s a little over the top,” Lance had said quietly. “What with the whole stylus thing, but in war there is sacrifice.” Lance had looked away from his hands grasping Shiro’s and into Shiro’s dark grey eyes, almost overshadowed by the sunken scar across his nose.

“This war is not like in the video games back on Earth.” Lance had continued. “And it’s not like the stories of the Old Wars on Earth. It’s nothing like the simulators at the Garrison, and it isn’t full of glory like history may make it seem like.”

There was a silence in the room as Lance paused to look at the rest of the Paladins.

“This war is full of heartache, and pain, and a whole lot of living nightmares. I know you understand the Galra’s cruelty more than most Shiro.” Lance said. Shiro’s eyes had crinkled in confusion, so Lance had laid his left hand hand gently on Shiro’s robotic arm, then lifted it to his own mask covered eye. He’d pressed gently into the metal eye and briefly relived the pain of receiving it.

Shiro’s eyes had softened in pain and understanding.

“If you all truly wish to fight in this war, you need to be ready for it. That said,” Lance continues, pausing to smile and lift some of the sombre attitude of the conversation. “That doesn’t mean every person you meet along the way is another enemy, or that every where you go will eventually cave into destruction. The universe is a beautiful thing, so long as you don’t allow it’s shadows to be the only thing you see. Hopefully Allura learns this lesson before she falls down into the never ending bitterness the darkness hides. Pass it along would you?”

Lance walked away then, without a backwards glance, knowing it could be the last time he would see them.

Lance opens again to look out into the stars as he waits to start his next mission. It’s a simple smuggling mission. There’s a few refugees left on a planet thought to have been full evacuated only a few weeks ago, and now they’re all trapped behind Galra lines. It’s Lance’s job to get in quietly, then get out, and deliver the refugees to safety without engaging with the Galra. He checks the time on his gauntlet, and sighs when he realizes just how late it is. Guess it wouldn’t hurt to try to get some sleep before the next few stressful days begin.

Chapter Text

If there is one truth in life, it would be that war changes people.

Shiro knows that from experience.

Sometimes the Mark of War is physical. It shows by the scars, injuries, even limbs that might no longer be there. Other times the Mark of War is psychological. Memories, nightmares, acute reactions to certain things. Or sometimes it's emotional. Distrust, biased thoughts or actions, paranoia. Shiro knows this is true for all the paladin, who each have their own Marks of War.

For Keith it's mainly psychological. He's always training and working himself into exhaustion to stave away the thoughts flooding his mind. What if I'm not strong enough? What if I'm not fast enough? What if someone gets hurt because I'm not good enough? I have to be better, stronger, smarter, faster.

His greatest fear is something happening while on a mission and he couldn't be there to save whoever is in danger. All because he isn't strong enough.

Pidge has insomnia. The poor girl is always up and about all the hours of the night, being her own personal slave driver. Shiro is absolutely positive the only reason she sleeps is because her body forces her to. It's not an unusual occurrence to find her passed out, dead to the world, in the most strangest of places.

On the stairs, in the elevator, the Green Lion's hangar, her work station, the dining room. All of that, of course, are only places Shiro has personally found her. Hunk once found her asleep on top of one of the healing pods. How she managed that is beyond Shiro.

Hunk is a nervous wreck. And sure, even Shiro will concede to the fact that Hunk is taking it all better than the rest of them. However that doesn't mean he doesn't have his own Marks of War. Hunk is just of a far more stable set of mind. He talks when he needs to, usually to Clean. He bakes his stress away, sometimes even managing to make actual for out of the green too. Which the Alteans seem to believe is actually called food.

Which, no. Definitely not.

Hunk also helps the other paladins out when he can. He dinners with Pidge, brings food to Keith when he's training, plays Monsters and Mana with Coran. Shiro is also fully prepared to admit that Hunk has been unofficially declared the mother hen of the group. Hunk is also the only person who can take Pidge to her bed when she passes out in strange places.

Pidge may be tiny, but she has an overly abundant amount of crankiness and when she's cranky her tongue is sharper than a blade. Not even Shiro can lay a hand on her to take her to bed without her snapping at him. And that isn't a metaphorical statement, she literally bit him once. He's just glad it was his metallic forearm and not his flesh one.

There are still, hardly noticeable, minute little teeth marks denting the metal.

After that Shiro never tried again.

Shiro's not afraid to admit he's probably the worst of them all. Nightmares, insomnia, not eating. Scars, a missing limb, paranoia. PTSD in general. Shiro is broken, or perhaps still breaking, but he's a leader. The leader. The black paladin, pilot of the hand and body of Voltron, Princess Allura's second in command. Well, actually, perhaps he's third after Coran.

Hard to tell.

Speaking of Allura and Coran. They themselves have their own personal Marks of War. Allura is generally distrusting of anyone who isn't Coran or a paladin. Her reaction to Lance is proof enough for that fact. Shiro believes, his own personal opinion of course, that Allura and Coran have it worse than the rest of them.

Zarkon, before the war began over ten thousand years ago, was a friend to Coran and King Alfor. Princess Allura practically grew up with him around. Perhaps she called him an Altean version of 'Uncle' or something like it. Alfor and Zarkon seemed to have been close after all.

No doubt Allura saw him often growing up.

Zarkon was the Black Paladin, Alfor the Red Paladin. They had been equals as monarchs, with Alfor being Zarkon's second in Voltron. All of which was thrown away in betrayal after the supposed deaths of Zarkon and his wife. After grieving the sudden loss of his best friend, Alfor was suddenly faced by a declaration of war led by his old- supposedly dead- friend turned enemy.

That kind of betrayal sets deep beneath the skin, into the very soul of a person.

Coran has had experience in war; he is far too wise (if not a little crazy) to not have seen his own share of bloodshed. So for Coran, it makes a little more sense why he doesn't show his emotional pain so outwardly. Both Allura and Coran suffered from Zarkon's backstabbing, then to top it all off, they were forced into a ten thousand year long cryo sleep.

Their families, their friends, their entire civilization and home.

All decimated.

Destroyed.

Wiped off the map and leaving a hole in the stars.

That kind of pain and sorrow and anguish can't be so easily brushed aside. Shiro knows they suffer in their own silences. He'd like to help, he'd like to help all of his team and friends. However, he can only do so much when fighting a war. And now, there's another example of the Marks of War that makes Shiro want to scream at the universe.

Lance.

A boy, barely into adulthood. Like Keith. Like Pidge. And Hunk and Allura. All of them are practically children. All of them simply thrown into this war without even a guarantee of victory, let alone the option to go home. They don't even know whether or not the next day will be their last.

Allura and Coran know they will never see Altea again.

But the others, they may never return home. They may instead be lost to the stars. Lost to a war that never seems to end. Lost to a universe as nothing more than children playing War Hero.

Even the thought of that happening makes Shiro's stomach turn.

He can be there for the boys and Pidge. He can be there for Coran and Allura. He can and he has been there for them all, whenever they may need him. All except Lance. Shiro knows next to nothing about Lance and his involvement in the war, his ties, his reason to stay and fight.

Shiro doesn't know how Lance even got into space, nor does he know when. He doesn't know but the bare minimum of what Lance has been through, or how he even survived so long. Especially since he is one of the only humans in the fight against Zarkon. Alone. All alone.

That's the kicker though isn't it?

They know so little about Lance, who seems to have his own Marks of War. It's the only thing Shiro can understand from that gesture Lance gave him before he left. The touch to his Galra arm. Soft gentle, the slightest of sensation of Lance's calluses over the metal of his prosthetic.

The press of Lance's fingers over his own eye. It's covered up by dome weird mask, one that covers his entire eye up to the eyebrow and down to the cheekbone, then over his entire ear. Shiro's glad the others had the sense to not ask about something so sensitive. Shiro even feels guilty for his curiosity for the story of Lance's missing eye.

More likely than not, he lost his eye in a fight and he covers it up in shame.

Shiro understands that feeling.

There are days when Shiro stays holed up in hid room, laying down with his prosthetic covered and pretending he's at home on Earth. The smell of Gracia's Bakery next door wafting into his apartment through his open window. The aroma more often than not enticing him enough to indulge in one of Gracia's popular sweets and cakes. He'd have to work out extra the next day so he stays in shape for the Kerberos mission.

He had to stay in shape for lift off somehow.

Their bodies, even both the commander and Matt, had to be in tip top shape in order to be able to withstand the harsh conditions of lift off, landing, and months in space with low gravity. Even if the gravity was decently strong for such a small moon. It's the reason why Matt got his eyes fixed and gave Pidge the glasses she would use to fool Iverson.

Which is funny since Pidge and Matt look exactly alike with short hair.

However, when Shiro isn't imagining home he's worrying about the future. They still have no clue where the Blue Paladin could possibly be. They, whoever they are, could literally be anywhere in the entire known universe. Most of which is behind enemy lines, ruled by Zarkon. It could take years to liberate enough planets to even make a difference and they still might not be able to find the true Paladin for the Blue Lion.

Allura is a good leader.

She knows how and when to make the hard choices and when to hand control over to someone else. For example, when Blue actually lets her in, she knows to defer to Shiro first since he's the leader of Voltron. And boy was that a hard lesson to figure out.

She is a well versed combatant of various forms and weapons, and her shapeshifting ability allows for some prime opportunities to fool, fight, or freak out their enemies. She is also the only person in the entire universe at this point in time that can manipulate wormholes at will and keep them stable long enough to go through safely.

Everyone else uses lightspeed or risks being torn apart at the seams.

And not only is a great warrior, she a great diplomat as well. Without her the Voltron Alliance would still be yet to exist. As Princess, and Shiro is guessing she's an only child, so as the heir to the throne as well, no doubt she was raised learning all of this. Allura could be a great Paladin.

If Blue would stop refusing.

If Allura is right, Blue keeps shutting her out because she already has her mind set on another to be hers. That's it. No explanation for why she opened up that day on Earth. No hint for who her chosen is. Not even a reason for her refusal of Allura until she finds her pilot, except and only except when the other lions are in danger. And even then Blue has trouble handing over the reigns.

They've not even managed to form Voltron without being forcibly thrown apart as soon as the battle is over.

The first day when they had all met, when Allura was assigning them their lions, she had stated the attributes of each of the lions. She then assigned each of them their lions based off of what little she knew of the team at the time. Thus the new generation of paladins was born.

The Black Lion is the head and body of Voltron. It requires a natural leader whose team would follow them without hesitation. Someone who is in control at all times. As the biggest of the lions, it takes up more quintessence to pilot. Which Coran had some huge, definitely not Earth math explanation for that even Pidge and Hunk got bored and confused while listening to. So it's pilot needs to be mentally, physically, and spiritually strong enough to withstand the toll it takes on the person's body.

The Green Lion is inquisitive, adventurous and daring. Therefore it needs a pilot that will match it every step of the way. Which seems to, unfortunately, fit Pidge to a 't'. The amount of trouble she gets into all 'because science Shiro' seems to be proof enough. As one of the smallest of the lions, it's prone to taking more damage with a single hit, but it's just quick enough to avoid most of the hits in the first place. And as the left arm of Voltron, Pidge's lion holds the shield to protect them all.

The Yellow Lion is caring, kind, protective. It puts the needs of others above all else and is usually one of the most trusting of lions, next to Blue. The Yellow Lion's larger size allows it to be a tank in battle, able to take more hits but it's slower than the others. The yellow lion is the left leg of Voltron and as it lifts up Voltron, so to does its pilot lift the team.

The Red Lion is temperamental, unstable, difficult to pilot and it relies on instincts instead of skill. It's pilot has to be able to follow their gut without question, even for difficult maneuvers, and have the skills to pull it off too. Red isn't very trusting when it comes to their own pilot, so to pilot her you have to impress her. Red is the fastest of the lions, and the most agile. And if Keith likes to do anything, he likes to fly fast.

The Garrison taught Shiro that fact the hard way.

And last but not least, the Blue Lion. Despite all evidence against her right now, the Blue Lion is described as the most confident, reliable, flexible and trusting of all the lions. It's first instinct to trust someone at face value, and then want to give a second chance when that trust is used against them. It's the most accepting of new Paladins (again, despite all the evidence against her) it's one of the easier lions to pilot because of this.

Which is why it makes no sense for her to keep rejecting Allura.

In fact, Blue should be doing the exact opposite.

Suffice to say, Blue has a hidden stubborn streak.

Hopefully whoever does end up being her permanent paladin isn't quite as stubborn as her, or they'll be butting heads with Keith constantly. God, Shiro wishes there was something wooden to knock on. He feels like he just jinxed everything for even thinking that.

Chapter Text

A couple weeks after meeting Lance met up with Voltron again, though not quite as planned.

It was supposed to be a simple solo mission involving his less than human eye. Lance had gotten some itel that an Olkari had escaped their imprisoned home planet, Olkarion, to find help. Supposedly he's hiding only a few galaxies away. As smart as the Olkari are, this one wasn't smart enough to hide his tracks. Now it's a race to see who gets to the escaped Olkari first, Lance or the Galra.

Although Lance got there first, he still feels like the Galra won this round.

Lance got as far as getting the Olkari guy to take off his mask to take a look at his eye, in exchange for taking him to safety and trying to get help for his people. However they were discovered by a random Galra patrol. The two of them fled in different directions. Which put Lance on one end of a fire fight he had hoped to never find himself in.

The losing end, to be precise.

His ship, Bessy, wasn't made for a fire fight, it's made for long distances. Now, she's damaged, and slow, and going to get him killed. His comms are knocked out, so he can't contact his crew. They're too far to get here in time to help anyways though. Can't believe he's gonna go down against a measly two dozen fighter jets.

Lance flips his shit to the right, dodging both a protruding rock on the planet's surface, as well as a hail of laser fire at the same time. He follows through and into a barrel roll, shooting up into the atmosphere at top speed. His ship rattles and starts heating up as he ascends faster than this ship was built to handle. Sweat drips off of Lance nose, and into the corner of his mouth. Lance swallows as salt hits his tongue.

If Lance makes it home alive, Bessy is getting a makeover.

He breaks through the atmosphere and he hollers shortly in success as he tries to fly away. Thankfully the temperature is dropping so at least there's one thing to be thankful for. Another, he discovers as he checks his rear cameras, is that almost half the fighter jets burned up in the atmosphere, the pressure and the heat making them explode.

Lance takes the second of reprieve to grab his ECD.

He's all ready and prepared to call the Mermaid, and then he remembers his earlier realization. Lance thumbs through his list of contacts quickly to find someone to come help him. There's no operatives nearby according to his ECD.

Makes sense really.

This part of the galaxy is deserted. Unless, of course, you count the many toxic, barren, wasteland planets, all of which are uninhabited by natural lifeforms. Or at least those that don't want to use you as a snack. Why protect planets with nothing to offer? The rebellion is stretched thin enough as it is. Unless there's something valuable here, no sane person or race would willing come here. Except maybe a fugitive looking for somewhere to hide from the Galra.

Lance glances at his ECD before sharply turning to the right to avoid more laserfire.

Lance is seconds away from gritting his teeth and trying his hardest to shake off his pursuers when he spots the newest addition on ECD contact list. Screaming at him in all caps is 'VOLTRON'. Lance doesn't hesitate to initiate a live call, taking out another fighter as he waits in anticipation and anxiety. Live calls are trickier than simple messages, because the call will only go through if the other person accepts, and depending on nearby Galra signals, the connection could be crystal clear or old timey television static.

Luckily for Lance, he's got about a dozen Galra fighters trying to kill him.

Yeah, real lucky.

Lance executes a loop near perfectly, which is impressive when you factor in the fact that Bessy isn't made for maneuvers like that. Exiting the loop, Lance finds himself behind a few of the front fighters. He stays just long enough for the rear fighters to fire before he puts Bessy in a nose dive out of the way.

Three down, ten left to go.

Lance would love to stay and kick some Galra ass, but Bessy won't hold out much longer in this fight. There's already warning sensors and alarms going off. Which normally would be deafening Lance, but his blood is pumping so hard in his body the sound of his own heartbeat cancels it all out.

The fight winds down a little as the Galra fighters try to get over their confusion, which is bad for Lance. The moment he stops having to fight for his life, even if for a minute, his adrenaline dies and fatigue overcomes him. He's mid yawn when there's a hit to his left wing, damaging but not destroying it. He's hardly slept this past two weeks, plagued with more nightmares than usual. All because he met those damned humans.

Not that they're bad or anything, they just brought up a lot of bad memories.

All he wanted was to get his eye fixed so he can't be tracked anymore and then go home. See his Ma again, and his siblings, and nephew and niece. His cousins and his Angela too.God, or whatever is out there, please let Abuela still be there if he gets home.

Another hit to his ship, and Lance is yanked back by his seatbelts harshly.

Another alarm starts sounding off, and Lance glances down to see the damage Bessy has taken this time. So far his left wing has a chunk missing and is slowly becoming unstable, his engine coolant is severed and his hull has been pierced.

Wait a second.

His hull isn't pierced, if it was, all the oxygen and loose items would be sucked out into space. Lance yanks his controls to the left and avoids another hail of fire as he tries to get Bessy to tell him where she hurts. He's thinking it's a malfunction with the warning system until suddenly he's pinned to his seat from the force and the air is being sucked out of his own lungs.

Lance chokes, grasping at his neck as he tries to breath and then Voltron finallypicks up.

"Lance?" The voice over the ECD says. Lance grabs it as it flies through the air and slams it into its hook. Still choking to death but no worries right?

Lance grabs his controls with one hand to fly while he uses the other to search for his helmet. It's only when his vision starts turning black that he remembers he got a new one, one that transforms into a normal earpiece when not in use. Kind of looks like one of those Bluetooth ear things people on Earth used way back in the day. He presses the button to activate the helmet and gasps in air as his vision turns blue from the visor.

Lance quickly unbuckles, letting Bessy nosedive towards a planet's atmosphere at mach speed.

He plays leapfrog with the bolted down metal to get to the hole that's steadily growing in size. On the way he grabs a sealant and uses it to plug up the hole until maintenance can be done to fix it. Hopefully the atmosphere's heat doesn't melt it away though, because it took his only supply to plug the hole. He doesn't have enough to do it again.

"Lance!"They say again, but Lance is too preoccupied to identify which one of Team Voltron said it. He vaults over the back of the seat and grabs the controls, looking out at a quickly approaching ground of solid rock. Lance pulls up on the controls as hard as he can, gritting his teeth.

Bessy starts heating up again, and Lance uses his shoulder to deactivate his new helmet so he could see without fog in his face. The metal starts shaking and Lance actually believes she won't stay together to last through the fall, as even the controls are wobbling.

Lance lifts his foot on the dashboard to stabilize himself. He closes his eyes so he doesn't have to see his own death if He decides it's Lance's time. Little Spanish prayers slip out of his lips in a mutter as he waits for either a big impact or a release on the gravity pulling him down.

"Lance!"This time it's a collage of voices yelling his name in different states of panic. Lance peeks his eye open only to see the ground right below and flinches. He's fairly sure he's dead until the moment the pressure of gravity releases.

Bessy flies back out of the atmosphere at top speed.

Lance collapses back in his chair in gratitude for only a moment. His relaxation ends when he watches a Galra cruiser exit lightspeed. Lance thumps his head back against his chair with a groan as he realizes he is utterly screwed.

"Lance answer me!"Shiro calls out and Lance opens his eyes as he realizes hope may yet be lost.

"Well it's about time you guys answered me, kind of fighting for my life here. No biggie though." Lance says. He didn't mean to come off as such an ass but it isn't like this is an everyday thing for him. Usually he at least has a good ship.

Sorry Bessy, but it's true.

"What's going on?" Hunk asks, worry in his tone like usual.

"Oh you know. The usual. Just took out two dozen or so fighter jets in a crappy, not-fit-for-battle transport ship with no backup or even good weapons. And now I'm staring down the front end of a Galra Cruiser." Lance says through a scowl as he turns his ship in the opposite direction of the Cruiser. Not that it will help much, but he can try.

There's a huge explosion at the back of his ship, throwing Lance forward.

He hits his head on his dash, since he isn't buckled in. He leans back with a groan and blinks away the blood dripping over his good eye.

"Uh," Pidge says. He still can't hardly see them because they're only static, but he knows their voices well enough. "What the hell was that sound?"

Lance blinks through his blurry vision and squints at his dashboard for a reading. He gets the barest glimpse of the reading before it blurs again. Yeah. He probably has a concussion now. Those are fun.

"That would be Bessy's engines overheating and blowing up." There's another boom and his ship tilts sideways. He barely stays in his seat because of his arm rest. "And that was my left wing finally falling off."

"Oh my god." Shiro whispers very loudly. His voice sounds like it's underwater.

"Yeah so could you guys come get me?" Lance slurs. "Also I think I have a-" Lance never finishes his sentence because he blacks out. His last thought is the regret that he will be the reason the Galra get a hold of their communications network. All because he couldn't sever those stupid wires in time.

Lady Luck must really be pissed this time.

Chapter Text

"Also I think I have a-" Lance slurred out before going unconscious.

Shiro's heart jumps in pace as the ship takes another hit with no one to pilot it away from the blast zone. Alarms are sounding like crazy, drowning out even the laserfire.

"Pidge." Shiro calls, turning to look at her where she was standing beside him but she's already at her station.

"Already on it Shiro. Tracking the call now." Pidge says, half distracted as she types away at her computers, using more than one at the same time. Shiro turns back to the screen when there's a loud crunching noise on Lance's end of the call.

In the background a hole is being pried open in the hull.

Slowly but surely the hole grows wider, the sound of thick metal being wrenched open grating on the ears. Lance is still out cold, but at least his helmet is still on when the air starts rushing out of the hole. When the sound of air being sucked out of a space stops, a Galran soldier peaks his head through.

"Pidge!" Shiro calls out in growing panic. They can't do anything until they get those coordinates. If only Lance had stayed awake a few seconds longer. No, don't blame Lance. He's just a kid.

"I'm trying! But whoever designed this code is crazy paranoid. I'm having to take the long way around all the code since breaking it would take too long." Pidge starts explaining.

"I don't care just do it, we're running out of time!" Shiro says, and he feels guilty for pressuring her but he doesn't want Lance to die alone. Not before he sees Earth again. Dear god, the kid hasn't been home in almost two years. His parents must be worried sick.

"I'm trying!" Pidge says, her voice strained.

"It's okay Pidge." Hunk says. "You can do this. We believe in you."

Shiro sends Hunk a brief grateful glance as he stares at the screen in anticipation and worry. The hole grows bigger with another loud crunch of metal and the Galra soldier can fit one arm through with his head.

"Got it!" Pidge calls in triumph.

"Everybody suit up." Allura says. "Opening a wormhole now." The others race off to don their paladin armor but Shiro stays. He bites at his fingernails as the hole opens up one last time and the Galra soldier climbs through.

Then another one does.

And another one.

They close in on Lance in what seems like slow motion, guns and swords raised in preparation for a fight. One they won't get because Lance is out cold with a possible concussion. There's a pulling sensation in Shiro's stomach as they enter the wormhole but still Shiro doesn't move.

The video on the screen blurs a little but Shiro gets the idea of what's happening.

Instead of killing Lance, they pick him up like a sack of potatoes. While that's happening another soldier steps onto the ship, this one wearing a different kind of armor than they have seen before. It's dark, and sleek, with markings Shiro doesn't recognize. Most Galra officers where a specific armor to show their rank but this one doesn't look like any Shiro has seen before.

The soldiers carry Lance off the ship, but the strange one stays behind a moment.

He looks around a little before looking directly at the ECD Lance was using and leaning down to flood the screen with nothing but his helmet. Vaguely through the helmet, Shiro sees slanted eyes, and the soldier holds up something that makes his heart jump.

An ECD.

One that isn't Lance's.

He holds up a finger in a shushing motion then reaches forward and the feed goes black. Shiro sucks in a breath as he tries to figure out what just happened, and they leave the wormhole with another roller coaster drop in Shiro's stomach.

He quickly turns and heads for his lion since he's already suited up. He had been training before Lance's transmission came through.

God, Lance. Be okay. Just hang on!

He's just a kid for heaven's sake. One who was both happy go lucky and a sorrowful warning personified last time they met. He'd ignored their calls out for him to focus on steering his ship. He'd prayed in Spanish mutters when he thought he was going to die. Then he had played the suave character when he had both a concussion and a dead ship. Lance is so complicated, and Shiro's only known him for two weeks give or take, and not even really that.

That look of relief on Lance's face when he cleared the deadly nosedive like a pro. Then that dawning horror as he realized he wasn't out of the water yet. The fear and then the unfocused gaze and then passing out. It'll haunt Shiro's sleep if they don't save Lance.

Which they have to.

He's just a kid.

Shiro sits in his pilot seat on the Black Lion and wraps his hands around the controls. His muscles tense and he gets that same roller coaster feeling as they exit the wormhole. It had disoriented them all the first time they went through a wormhole. One moment you're in one place and the next you're in another. His lion's control panel lights up as he prepares to take off.

Allura tells them to deploy the moment they safely can.

Shiro is first out of the hangars so he's the first to witness the wretched sight before him. One that makes the bile rise in his throat and his worry skyrocket. A Galra cruiser waits in the distance, over twenty fighters deployed. Dead center between the Galra and team Voltron is a ship that's falling to pieces. It isn't like Lance's other ship when they first met. That had been a modified version of the Galra fighters painted a vibrant blue instead of black. This one is bigger, clunkier, and barely held together.

He's just a kid.

Lance doesn't deserve to go out like this. And he won't. Not on Shiro's watch. A red streak blurs past Shiro and he watches as Keith and Red decimate a line of fighters with his fire ray.

"Get a move on old man!" Keith yells out over the comms. Shiro smirks as he dashes forward, a green and a yellow streak chasing right after.

"Who are you calling an old man cadet!" Shiro calls back. "Hunk take care of that cruiser's ion cannon. Pidge, find Lance. Keith and I will handle the rest."

There's a chorus of affirmation as everyone breaks off to do their respective duties. A lot more fighters deploy after the Galra get over their initial shock. Shiro and Keith make quick work of them as they wait for Pidge's signal.

"Got him. He's aboard the cruiser. Your orders Shiro?" Pidge says. She must really like Lance if she's being polite.

"Hunk, Keith. Watch our backs. Pidge and I are going in." Shiro says. They confirm and the team breaks apart their regroup.

Shiro and Pidge dive straight for the cruiser, Keith clearing them a path as they go. The Black and Green Lions land on the ship and simultaneously take a bite into the ship's metal. The Lions hold still, acting as a seal to the holes they made until their paladins are back in the cockpit. Shiro closes his helmet and races through Black and onto the ship.

He meets Pidge in the hallway and she wastes no time.

Pidge leads the way, absorbed in her datapad as she tracks Lance down. How she's doing so is beyond Shiro but if it works it works. He activates his arm and stays in front of Pidge to clear her way. She makes no hesitation in telling him what to do, which honestly isn't surprising in the least.

He races forward and takes down another three sentries.

"How much farther Pidge?" Shiro asks as his yanks his hand out of a sentry's chest. Pidge is already running down the now cleared hall still looking at her datapad.

"Not much. Just a few more- stop!" Pidge yells as they run through the halls. Pidge puts on the brakes and Shiro barely catches himself from running right into her. She runs up to another door, and hooks up to the Galra system.

Shiro watches her back as she hacks into the door.

Within seconds there's a woosh behind Shiro and he turns around to see Lance unconscious and bruised. Shiro reaches down and picks him up in a fireman's carry.

God he's just a kid.

"Lance is secured. Coming out now." Shiro calls out as they race back to the lions. This time it's Pidge clearing a path. Lance isn't exactly the largest of men but boy is he heavy. Shiro grunts as he runs, periodically shifting Lance's weight. Lance's elbow keeps digging into his neck and it definitely not the most comfortable sensation.

"You guys need to hurry. The cruiser called for backup and now the castle is taking heavy fire." Allura says through the comms. "We need to get out of here to fight another day."

"Working on it Allura." Pidge replies as she yanks her bayard back and rips three sentries in half at once. They take off again, rounding one last corner and coming up to the openings their lions created.

"At our lions Allura." Shiro says, huffing from the effort of carrying Lance's weight during a sprint. "Coming to you."

They separate to go to their lions and Shiro lays Lance down gently on the floor beside his pilot chair. He grabs the controls and he and Black are releasing the ship and turning around. Allura wasn't kidding. Where there had only been a cruiser and a bunch of fighter jets, now hovers two more cruisers.

"Keith, Hunk. Let's get out of here." Shiro commands. They all regroup and fly as fast as possible back to the ship. They slip past the barrier one by one and into the Lion Hangars with hardly any trouble.

"Strap in Paladins. Opening wormhole now." Allura says. There's a building curl in Shiro's stomach that suggests the wormhole is opening. Shiro lands Black quickly and launches to the floor to check on Lance.

He's still unconscious, but the head wound has scabbed over already, streaks of dried blood running down Lance's face. His mask is loose, almost falling off, and Shiro is almost too tempted to remove it to see what's underneath. He doesn't. Of course he doesn't. That's rude and an invasion of privacy.

"You'll be alright kiddo." Shiro mutters. Half to himself, half to Lance. "Just hang in there. We'll get you all fixed up in no time."

Chapter Text

For Lance, waking up is, and always has been a chore.

His mother always said he sleeps like the dead, so it isn't unusual for him to wake up then go back to sleep and repeat the cycle about three more times. The difference between his usual routine of waking up and this time is the grogginess though. His mind and body feels lethargic, like he hasn't slept in days and he only got in a few hours of rest. His stomach drops as gravity tugs him downwards. He braces for impact with the floor beside his bed as much as he can, but There really isn't a way to prepare for that when you aren't fully awake.

Except it never comes.

Lance is enveloped in warm, the kind he hardly remembers these days. Space is cold, but this hold on him is warm, comforting. He sighs into it and relaxes a little as he tries to pry open his eyes. Whatever is surrounding him, the owner of the warmth, almost smells like home. A sort of soft dryness Lance associates with sand, peppered the slightest bit with sweat and metal.

Perhaps he'd had a nightmare.

It would explain the smell of sweat, if only he didn't feel sweaty. Dirty, maybe, but not sweaty. Lance drags his open against their will, blinking to rid himself of the bleariness. He slowly looks at his surroundings, but his vision is filled with an arm covered in black sleeves. It takes him a moment to realize that the warmth is coming from a body, one he doesn't recognize.

Lance is definitely awake now.

His body tenses briefly, unwillingly, a quick warning to the person who's holding him tightly. The warning is lost on the person, and Lance takes full advantage of it.

He plants his left foot on the ground, using his right leg to hook around the person's, and yanks. Hard. The movement briefly throws his captors body off balance, and Lance uses his weight to push forward, knocking his captor backwards. They both fall to the ground, the enemy going down with a startled shout, and Lance uses what energy he can muster to maneuver the fall. Lance twists the enemy around so they go face first to the floor, crashing down like a tree falling in the woods. Lance falls with them, still too weak to catch his footing, slamming his knees harshly into the metal beneath him.

That'll surely bruise in the morning.

Lance wastes no time hooking his around the enemy's neck, securing them in a tight headlock. He pulls back to choke them, baring his teeth like the animal they deemed him in the arena. The Hunter has awoken from its dormancy, and he doesn't like being caged.

The enemy struggles, grasping at Lance's arm, clawing with blunt nails into his skin. Lance isn't in enough of his right mind to question why a Galra doesn't have claws to rip his skin open like tearing through loose dirt. Lance looks up with a snarl, the movement making his head spin just a little, and bares his teeth at the Galra who captured him.

Except.

It isn't Galra he's looking at.

Lance's snarl fades as he looks into the faces of humans, specifically the Paladins of Voltron. His friends. Acquaintances? Allies.

Whatever they are, they stare back at Lance with narrowed eyes. Keith has a curious little knife pointed at him, one with familiar metal and a cloth bandage wrapped around the hilt. Allura is standing behind them, looking down her nose with narrow eyes and a little snarl of her own. Hunk and Pidge stare back in concern, Pidge grasping her man-made laptop and Hunk wringing his hands nervously. An Altean man Lance assumes is the infamous Coran stands off to the side with wide eyes and a datapad clutched in his hands tightly.

Which leaves….

Lance looks down at the man who had once been his hero, his head forced back and his face turning red. His clawing hands don't have quite as much force behind the fingers. Lance lets go and just as quickly launches backwards into a giant strange capsule thing. A pod maybe? Something of that nature.

Shiro, now released, collapses forward in a coughing fit.

Lance swallows dryly, chasing away his cottonmouth as best he can so he can speak. All movement stops as Lance tries to figure out how he got here in the first place. Last thing he remembers is an Olkari trying to help him, then a Galra patrol.

Then there was a Galra cruiser…

But wasn't he alone? Yes. He was definitely alone. And he remembers waking briefly as they threw him a cell, then fighting back as they tried to close the door. Then something hit him in the head. And the next thing he knows he's waking up in Shiro's arms. He opens his mouth to explain, or to apologize.

"You aren't the Galra." Is all Lance gets out, weakly. Good thing Nama isn't here to see this, his ship would be hijacked by his own crew within seconds.

"No." Allura says, slowly and kind of emotionless. Geez, tough nut to crack if ever there was one. "We are not."

Lance wills his grogginess away as he tries to stand up from the capsule/ pod/ strange looking device. Lance only stumbles just a little bit. When he's stable enough to stand without help he leans down to offer Shiro a hand up. Shiro takes it without hesitation, using his human hand.

"Sorry man." Lance says with a guilty smile. Shiro smiles back.

"It's no biggie. Really." Shiro says and Lance's shoulder drop the tension he had been holding.

"What happened anyways?" Lance asks, looking briefly behind Shiro at the others.

Shiro's eyebrows curl together as he frowns, his nose scrunching and make his nose scar wiggly a little. It's kind of cute the way he does that. Honestly it's unfair how beautiful all of the Paladins are. And Lance doesn't even mean that in a sexual way, they're just beautiful. It's been a long time since he's seen another human, and their faces are glorious and painful to behold. Painful because they remind him of home and glorious for the same exact reason.

"You don't remember?" Shiro asks and Lance shrugs a little, folding his arms behind him and rubbing his left thumb over his right knuckles to help with the relestness he's feeling. He's not used to standing still. Even when he and his crew aren't tormenting the Galra he's always doing something. Cleaning his quarters, polishing his weapons, fixing something on the ship that's broken about the millionth time.

Always moving, never stationary.

The restlessness helps in battle, the enemy can never pin him down if he's never in the same spot for more than two seconds.

"I remember going solo on a personal mission, then getting ambushed by a Galra patrol, and then calling you guys. After that it's just a flash of being thrown in that cell before nothing again." Lance explains.

"Well I'm not surprised." The man Lance presumes is Coran says. "You took quite a nasty blow to the head my boy."

Lance almost doesn't stop himself from jerking back at the endearment. It's one his father always used on him when he was being particularly fond. The reminder sends a warmth through his chest just as much as it forms a lump in his throat. He's went almost two years without hardly thinking about his family, keeping away from the distractions those memories cause.

These humans aren't helping him keep away from them if he's being truthful to himself.

Lance reaches up to feel his head, remembering hitting his head on the dashboard of Bessy. He expects to find a cut or a lump or even bandages but his skin is smooth. The only thing inhibiting the smoothness of his forehead is his mask and an old scar hidden in his hairline.

"I don't feel an injury though." Lance mutters lowly, almost to himself.

"That would be the healing pods behind you." Pidge explains, pointing behind him at the big pod (so it is a pod) behind him.

"You had us worried for a second there." Hunk says, but it's Keith that draws Lance's attention. His head is bowed, his eyes looking up at Lance through the bangs of his mullet. He's put away that familiar looking knife now and his arms are crossed. Lance doesn't comment on the reaction. Instead he glances behind him at the pod that supposedly healed him up so well there's not even an indention where a scar should be. He shrugs it off as his stomach decides to start eating itself from neglect.

"Sorry for worrying you big guy." Lance says. "Maybe I can make it up to you by making you guys some actual food, because I'm starving and I refuse to eat that goo stuff."

Hunk smiles at the offer, his eyes practically twinkling like stars at the idea. Next thing Lance knows he's being lifted off the ground in a bone crushing hug. For a moment Lance freezes, tensing. Then he practically melts as the cold of space is chased away by a single hug.

"Sounds good buddy!" Hunk says before lowering him gently to the ground. Lance smiles as he realizes how quickly he's come to trust these people. Enough to let them within touching distance without being armed to the teeth.

In space it's hard to trust.

Which hurts Lance especially, because he's always been one to trust first and regret it later. However, since that trusting nature of his is the reason he got kidnapped from Earth in the first place, it's become difficult to find people he can rely on. Everyone in the universe are liars and deceivers, every man for themselves in war and oppression. You can never know who will backstab you and who will die to save your life until the choice comes to life.

Hence his distrust of his own crew.

He tried trusting them all in the beginning, but they all turned that trust against him. Tried to overthrow him, mutiny, whatever you wanna call it. It was right after Lance commissioned the mask he wears to jam any Galra tracking device. They thought Lance to be weak and unworthy to lead, and it took Lance overpowering the entirety of his crew to put them in their place.

Now he can't even have friendly banter without worrying about his own safety.

Hunk wraps an arm around Lance's shoulder and drags him out of his thoughts. They walk side by side to the kitchen with the rest of the group following not far behind. Hunk rattles on about the Earth meals he's tried to make out of alien ingredients and Lance smiles and nods along. Sadly, after reaching the kitchen and looking through every cupboard and cabinet, there isn't much to work with to make a decent tasting meal.

Hunk still manages to make a miracle with the food goo.

Lance is in the midst of taking another bite, mouth dropped open and spoon inches away from his lips, when he feels eyes on him. Lance looks up and sees the residents of the castleship staring him down. At least it's only Allura who's looking at him with any kind of distrust. Everyone else just looks either concerned or contemplating. Lance slowly lowers his spoon, feeling his stomach twist.

"Okay what?" Lance says, scooting his plate to the side so he can have his full attention on the Paladins. Keith makes a chuffing sound that sounds suspiciously familiar.

"What do you mean what? Why did we have to rescue you from capture by the Galra? I thought you were some big badass warrior or something." Keith says.

"Language." Shiro immediately scolds Keith who rolls his eyes and sits back in his chair, arms crossed defensively. "What he means to say, is why were you out there in the middle of nowhere anyways? Our intel on that region says it's barren and uninhabited."

Lance sighs and crosses his arms as he realizes he won't be eating anything else for right now. It's a shame too, since all he's eaten were dried rations for a week while he followed that Olkari dude's trail. Too late now. His appetite is gone. Poof. Nothing but smoke.

"I told you. It was a personal solo mission." Lance says. He hopes it's enough to satisfy their curiosity but they all just stare back at him with varying levels of expectancy. Lance sighs and tries to find a way to word this without giving too much information away. You can never be too careful when it comes to information. You never know which walls have ears and whose ears those might be.

Actually now that Lance thinks of it, he's yet to see the rest of the ship's crew.

Creepy.

"I was tracking an escaped refugee to make a trade. He helps me, I help him. However the Galra decided to crash the party. So they attacked, I called you guys, and here we are." Lance says. He makes it as flippant as possible to try and steer them away from asking the right questions. He won't lie to them, because Lance hates lies. But he can make sure they don't ask the questions he doesn't want to answer.

Apparently, though, Pidge is more clever than Lance thought.

"What exactly did you want from this refugee anyways?" Pidge asks. Lance grinds his teeth together for a moment as he tries to find a loophole in answering without outright lying. He fails.

"My eye." Lance says. "I needed help with my eye."

"You're," Shiro draws out with a pause. "Eye." Shiro sounds unconvinced.

"You mean the missing one right?" Keith says. Almost immediately he jumps in his seat with a yelp as someone kicks him underneath the table. Lance tilts his head to the side in confusion.

"What missing eye?" Lance asks. Then he mutters a drawn out 'oh' as he realizes what's going through their heads. "My eye isn't gone."

Lance watches as one by one they all sink into confusion, even the princess. It's not offensive that they think his eye is missing, it actually sounds like a reasonable assumption. It just amuses him that they don't know the truth. It's been awhile since the matter of his metal eye wasn't mainstream information. Kind of a refreshing moment to Lance.

"What do you mean?" Hunk asks and when Lance looks over he snorts as he sees a clump of food goo on the corner of his mouth.

"You got a little something Hunk." Lance gestures to his own mouth. He moves on as Hunk flushes and wipes a hand across his mouth. "I mean that I have two eyes. Just that not both of them are human."

Lance places a finger over his mouth to shush Keith when he goes to ask a question. Lance waits until it's dead silent at the table. When it becomes quiet enough, Lance taps his fingernail against where his human eye would be underneath the mask. There's a small clinking sound as his nail makes contact with the metal through the material.

It's quiet for a moment.

"What the fuck?" Pidge says.

"Language." Shiro scolds right after.

Lance chuckles as he leans back in his chair. For some reason he doesn't feel that usual worry and fear when he has to share information about himself with someone. Perhaps these people really are the trustworthy type.

"I don't understand my boy. If you have both eyes why cover the metal one?" Coran asks. His accent sounds almost British to Lance, with a little bit of an alien undertone. He still barely holds back a flinch when Coran calls him that.

He wants to tell Coran to stop, but at the same time it feels so good to hear in that tone again. Fatherly and kind instead of harsh and claiming. That's another memory though. One he prefers to leave in the back of his mind, locked up tight in the little lock box where the bad things go.

"Because it's dangerous to leave this particular Galra modification unchecked." Lance says. Shiro's shoulders jerk back at the mention of the Galra.

"Galra?" Shiro asks. Lance nods.

"It's a reminder of the time I spent as a gladiator in the Galra Arenas. A particularly bad reminder." Lance explains. He expects to feel a flare of fear and distrust but none come.

"You were in the Arena?" Pidge asks with a certain tone in her voice that suggests she wants to know something other than his time spent in the arena. Lance gets that tone from most of his CO's. They always want him to say something specific and always gets pissed when he doesn't comply.

"Yes but don't ask for details because I won't answer." Lance warns.

"Wait you remember you're time in the arena?" Shiro asks. Lance raises an eyebrow.

"Of course. Do you not?" Lance asks but he gets his answer before Shiro even opens his mouth. His eyes aren't haunted enough.

"No. How did you know that I was a gladiator." Shiro asks, and the room becomes tense again. Lance gets the feeling again that they want him to say something specific but he can't for the life of him figure out what.

"Your arm." Lance says. "That generation of weaponized prosthetics has been a pain in my ass more times than I can count."

Mainly because it's Lance's generation.

But Shiro doesn't need to know that, for now.

"Generation?" Shiro asks. He opens his mouth to ask something else most likely but it is cut off by the battleship itself.

Alarms blare through the ship at a decibel that makes Lance's ears feel like they'll start bleeding. Or rather, just one war, and it isn't his human one. He clasps his hands tight over his ears as he tries to drown out the noise. He watches through blurry eyes as everyone around the table launch into action and out the door.

Guess they're under attack if these people are that urgent.

Lance desperately wants to help them in the fight, he hates being sidelined. However, between Bessy not being outfitted for another battle so soon, wherever she is, and the sound of these alarms paralyzing Lance where he sits, he's pretty much useless. The alarms blare for what seems like hours before they finally stop. Or at least the alarms outside his own head stopped, now there's just that resounding echo-like ringing in his ears drowning him in pain.

When the ringing finally stops, Lance peels his hands off his ears.

Lance quickly wipes away the evidence of tears and stands on shaky legs to go to the bridge. Hopefully he can make his way there without getting lost. He marches towards the elevator with a purpose, up until the moment the doors are shut and he's looking at the buttons to pick which level of the ship to go to. He hesitates as he tries to remember what button he pressed the first time he went to the bridge with no such luck.

He presses for the bottom floor to start at the docking Bay.

The doors open mere minutes later, and Lance almost waits in the elevator for the doors to shut. Then, as the doors are closing, he sees a glimpse of silver hair and reflexively sticks his arm out to stop the door from closing. Then he flinches because he doesn't know if these doors have that same kind of sensor that human elevators do.

Lady Luck must have mercy today because his arm does not get chopped off.

Lance walks slowly down the corridor where he saw the flash of silver hair, and comes up on the only occupied lion hangar left. There's a growling scream of frustration that comes from around the walls separating each hangar and Lance slowly looks around to see what's going on.

There, not even twenty meters in front of Lance, is Allura wearing a white bodysuit type of armor with her hair thrown up in a bun. And in front of Allura is the hulking form of the Blue Lion with its barrier still raised. Allura cocks her hip and crosses her arms, foot tapping.

What is she doing? There's a battle going on, she can't just be standing around when she's needed to assist. Either as a pilot of Voltron or the pilot of the castleship, she's a key piece in any battle.

Lance steps out from behind the wall to confront her.

Chapter Text

Allura growls at the Blue Lion as her particle barrier doesn't budge.

"What is it this time!?" Allura whines.

Blue sends her a thought, and all it tells her is that Blue only wants her paladin. She groans in frustration and drops the helmet to the suit she wears. It's not the armor of the Blue Paladin, because last time Allura wore the Blue Paladin armor, Blue went nuts. She had roared and shook her head and stomped her paws, shaking the floor where Allura had stood.

"Blue come on!" No response. "The others need our help! Please!"

"Allura?" A voice says behind her making her jump in place. She whips around and faces Lance. He stands in the center of the hall, arms crossed and head tilted. He's still wearing the med suit from earlier but at least now he's got his weapons on. He was lucky the team got to him before he lost his only weapons too.

If it's his only weapons.

"What are you doing? There's a fight going on, why aren't you out there?" Lance says. His eyes are shifty, looking between herself and the Blue Lion. Her eyes narrow at him when he stares too long at the Lion. When Lance looks back at her he doesn't look away again.

"Don't you see I'm trying?" Allura bites out in anger.

"Okay. What's wrong?" Lance asks. Allura nearly growls like a lion herself when he asks her.

"What's wrong?" Allura begins. "What's wrong!? What's wrong is everything!" Allura crosses her arms in a huff to stop from speaking with her hands. She may be pissed and she may not like this Lance but she will not be improper for an Altean Princess. Despite the lack of a race to rule other than Coran.

"Why don't you tell me about it then?" Lance says. He crosses his arms too and it makes Allura's shoulders relax when he stops using his hands to speak. Words come out of the mouth. Not the hands. And when someone loses their hearing in the Altean race, the hands they use to speak with are refined and controlled movements. Not all this silly nonsense of wild gestures.

For some reason the distraction of Lance's hand movements being removed makes her actually respond.

"I am to lead the fight in the war against Zarkon but the Blue Lion refuses any and all possible pilots! Now, my Paladins, my Paladins, are out in battle and are in danger because they can't form Voltron." Allura rambles. "And I'm here, safe on my ship, while they risk their lives!"

“It isn’t that big of a deal, the others can manage without the Blue Lion this time. Why don’t you go upstairs and pilot the castle?” Lance suggests. Allura supposes he’s trying to be kind but she’s too angry and frustrated to handle kindness from someone she doesn’t trust.

“The Paladins need my help! And to do that I need the Blue Lion!” Allura’s shoulders drop and so do her eyes as she whispers the next part. “I’m useless without the Blue Lion.”

A hand lands on her shoulder and Allura immediately shakes it off in complete offense. How dare he touch her without her express permission? Lance’s hands drop to his side but she catches his eye and suddenly he’s got her locked in. His eye burns with a fire and she can’t look away as he becomes dead serious.

“Don’t ever say that again.” Lance says with so much fire in his voice it shocks her. “The Paladins need you, this war needs you. All of the people out there fighting? They need you to be the leader you were raised to be.”

“I’m trying!” Allura replies as a warmth rolls down her cheeks, and she blinks in shock as she realizes they’re tears. “But I need the Blue Lion to do that!”

“No. You don’t. Voltron is just a weapon, it needs a leader, and not just Shiro either. It needs someone who is strong, and brave, and clever. Voltron is only as good as the person who leads it and that person is you.” Lance says, holding her hostage with his bright blue eyes.

“Doesn’t matter if you’re the Blue Paladin or the Black Paladin, or just another person fighting for freedom. Those paladins are fighting for you, don’t disrespect their loyalty by doubting yourself.” Lance finishes off.

“Try again.” Lance says and nods behind her to the Blue Lion’s particle barrier. She looks back at him to be faced with a gentle smile. Maybe this Lance isn’t so bad after all.

Allura takes a deep breath to calm herself and places her hand on the particle barrier. After a few seconds she gets another message, pretty much saying nope, not you. Allura gets so angry she steps back from the Blue Lion's particle barrier and kicks at it in fury. Then she punches at it, and then she bangs at it and throws a childish tantrum to get it to drop but all she gets from the Lion is silence. She screams out in frustration.

"Woah, 'kay!" Lance says and arms wrap themselves around her waist and pulls her back from the barrier. The moment she's out of kicking reach she yanks herself out of Lance's arms. How dare he lay hands on her without permission? Again? Who does this man think he is?

"I'm sorry. But you need to calm down if you want to help your Paladins." Lance says, sounding every bit sincere. Allura scoffs.

"The Blue Lion is a stubborn, frustrating, picky little-" Allura searches for the correct word in Common Tongue but not finding it. So instead she uses an Altean word that isn't polite enough to be translated into any language.

"Now now." Lance says, raising his hands in a calm down motion. He plants a smile on his face she assumes is supposed to be charming. Yeah, no.

"Don't be so harsh." Lance continues. "Have you tried asking?"

Allura can even feel her face drop into something unimpressed. Lance raises his hands again to show that he's backing off. He talks with his hands a lot, which is suspicious. In her home planet talking with your hands is considered rude and distracting. Unless you use the proper hand movements that those who lose their hearing use. But perhaps things are different for humans.

Hunk talks with his hands some, but he's really the only one. Shiro might when he's scolding the Paladins, and Keith definitely only uses his hands when angry or overly emotional. The rest of the time Keith keeps his arms crossed on his chest and Shiro alternates between crossing them and setting them on his hips. Pidge always has her hands busy with her computer or a datapad or something so it's hard to tell if she does.

"Okay. Have you tried knocking?" Lance says. Allura's unimpressed look moves from just her face to her entire posture. She cocks her hip and crosses her arms and gives Lance nothing more than a raised eyebrow in response. Lance shrugs at her and moves to the particle barrier.

It may be irrational, but her first thought is a question of whether Lance will try to steal the Blue Lion.

It makes her hate herself just a little. Alteans are a proud people. Ever since she was young, her father drilled it into her very soul that the Altean race values peace over war. If only her father was here. Then the king could tell Allura how to handle this Lance. Trust him? Or be suspicious? Like him? Or hate him? Make him an ally or make him an enemy?

"Just do what I do." Lance says. Then he turns to the Blue Lion with a bow.

"Hello there beautiful. Would you be so kind as to let me in?" And then he turns to look at Allura and leans up against the barrier. He knocks lightly with the back of his knuckles and smiles at her like 'see? Just like that.'

Allura is fully prepared to throw him out of the airlock for this foolishness. And she would have too. If it wasn't for what happened right after.

Like in slow motion, the particle barrier drops from behind Lance and he falls down on his behind when suddenly there's no support. Not even moments later the Blue Lion sends out a Claim, a mental message to anyone that is the room. Maybe even further with how much it overpowers Allura, enough to make her stumble back a step where she stands.

“Uh?” Lance says as he presses his fingers to his forehead, right over the mask on his eye. “What was that?”

“That was the Blue Lion. She has claimed you as hers. You are the Blue Paladin. The true Blue Paladin.” Allura explains, her hands clamping in front of her stomach so she doesn’t lose form and rush Lance with a hug or squeal like a child. Don’t get her wrong, she’s still suspicious of Lance. She knows he’s hiding things, things that could be very detrimental to whether she allows Blue to keep her paladin (not that she’d really do that). She’s just so happy to be free.

Flying the castle takes enough energy out of her as it is.

Piloting- fighting- the Blue Lion is a completely different kind of energy toll she doesn’t need to deal with.

“Yeah okay. Good one Allura. Weapons don’t speak.” Lance says laughing in a tense sort of way as he stands up from the floor. He brushes himself off and straightens up. At that exact moment he jumps in place with a squeak and falls right back down to the floor. He looks around him in sort of a panicked look. Allura only begins smiling.

“What was that?” Lance says. He doesn’t get up from the floor again, just stays there shocked and panicky.

“That was your Lion Lance.” Allura replies, smile growing.

“Ha ha.” Lance says, mocking a sarcastic laugh. “Stop joking Allura.”

Allura shakes her head, still with a growing smile. Lance looks at her and narrows his eyes.

“Why are you smiling like that?” Allura smiles even brighter and bites her lip to try to keep it from getting bigger. “Stop that, you’re scaring me.”

“There’s nothing to be scared of, you are the Blue Paladin. Simple as that.” Allura explains, keeping her hands clasped at her stomach.

“No, I’m not.” Lance says. “Stop telling me otherwise. Besides, I thought you didn’t trust me?”

“Oh I don’t, but I know a bond when I see one and yours is strong with the Blue Lion.” Allura says, but then she tilts her head in curiosity. “Why do you keep denying the truth?” Lance gets up from the ground and brushes himself off again, though this time with a lot more aggression. He takes a moment to straighten the belt that holds his weapons.

“Because,” Lance says, drawing the word out in a very ‘duh’ tone. “I’m no Paladin. I’m not some noble hero. I’m just a boy, from Cuba, who happened to get himself kidnapped and suddenly thrown into a war he never wanted a part of.”

“You are the Blue Paladin, it’s your duty to form Voltron and win the war against Zarkon.” Allura starts, fixing to go into a long spiel about the honor of being a Paladin, one her father used to say to her when she asked why he fought as the Red Paladin. Lance cuts her off.

“I don’t want to win the war, I want to go home.” Lance grumbles, even going so far as to stomp his foot. Like a child. Honestly, Blue, this one? Allura absentmindedly asks herself, and immediately she gets a response that feels like a purr. Okay then, this one it is.

“Lance, we can discuss this later, but for now, why don’t you go help the others? They need you to fight beside them.” Allura says, and Lance’s face gets a conflicted look across it.

Lance seems to be a very expressive kind of person, unlike most of the other Paladins. Shiro is always with a neutral expression, Keith with an angry one. Pidge always looks condescending, like she’s judging everyone every second of the day. Hunk is the only exception, who’s all smiles and emotion and openness. Then again, Lance also seems to be able to turn it off at a moment’s notice. She recognized that in their very first meeting. The surprise of seeing the Paladins, mixed with a range of fear and sorrow. Then the moment his crew member, starting with an ‘N’ or something, walked up Lance’s face was neutral and inexpressive.

Lance’s face settles into a grim, but determined look, and he nods. He starts to walk towards the Blue Lion, but Allura catches him by the shoulder, then immediately lets go. That was rude of her, but Lance doesn’t seem offended. Maybe casual touch is common with humans.

“You might want this.” Allura says, handing him her helmet.

It isn’t the Blue Paladin armor, but it will do in a pinch. He pauses for a moment to look into her eyes, and she keeps them shuttered, not allowing him to see into her soul. He slowly takes the helmet, and puts it on, taking a deep and shaky breath. Then he’s running, straight towards the Blue Lion, who scoops him up. In seconds they’re taking off, nearly knocking Allura down with the force of the wind. She smiles quietly to herself, before turning back and headed for the main bridge to assist in the battle herself.

Chapter Text

Lance feels like he's floating in the back of his own mind as he and Blue surge out of the castle.

It feels like everything that just happened, happened in a dream. That look Allura gave him, like she doesn't trust him but at the same time she does. Getting scooped up by the Blue Lion like he's a fish and she's a bird. Sitting in the pilot seat that automatically adjusts to his perfect leg length.

Which, creepy.

It all blurs in his head like a fading dream. He places Allura's helmet on his head, automatically connecting to comms with the rest of the team. He vaguely registers Shiro's orders for battle.

He's too distracted to focus on the fight, moving purely by instinct and muscle memory.

In the back of his mind there's a presence he knows isn't his own. Not technically one that doesn't belong, just one that wasn't there most of his life. When Lance focuses on that presence he feels like he's back on Veradero beach. A very specific kind of Veradero beach.

It's cold, but not freezing, harsh but soothing. The presence reminds Lance of the waves at the crack of dawn on a gentle summer morning. When the skies are clear, but the sun is just starting to lighten the sky, not quite peaking over the horizon.

The waves crash and tumble as it comes close to shore, like when he and his siblings race for the bathroom every morning. Shoving, chasing, yanking each other back to get there first. Then they calm as they reach the last few feet, settling into a gentle lapping motion over his ankles. Like when his mother snaps at them all for running in the house and every single one of them slow to a fast walk, still pushing and shoving.

As the waters touch his ankles, his toes curling into the soft sand, so do the emotions.

So many emotions, raging and vying for attention. There's happiness, relief, a giddy excitement. There's a feeling Lance relates to someone pouting. All of it fills his chest and overflows, drowning him but letting him breath at the same time.

"Are you saying Lance is the Blue Paladin!?" Someone yells over comms. Lance doesn't register who, but the sound of his name snaps him out of the weird trance he had found himself in.

"We gonna fight or," Lance says, drawing out the last word and letting the rest hang free. He really can't think about the implications of being a paladin right now. He doesn't want to think about how being a paladin would make it harder for him to do the things he needs to do. Get rid of the tracker, take revenge on an old enemy, convince the entirety of the universe that he died a horrible death so no one comes after him when he finally goes home.

He just wants to fight this battle and get the hell outta dodge.

"Right, everyone get in formation." Shiro says. The others immediately abandon the parts of the battlefield they were split up into and regrouped with the Black Lion. Lance waited until the last Lion was in place to figure out the 'formation' he's supposed to get into. When Hunk files in on one end Lance understands that it's a 'v' formation and files in on the other side.

"Keith, Lance. You two take the perimeter, work your way to the center. Hunk, take out those ion cannons." Shiro commanded.

Lance and Keith simultaneously mumble their affirmatives and take off in different directions for the outer perimeter of the main fighter swarms. Hunk took off for the ion canon of the closest battle cruiser, which happened to be on Lance's way to the outer edge, so Lance gave Hunk an escort. It took him a minute to figure out how to work the controls of Blue, ironically with her helping him along.

"Pidge, you and I will take the center of the battlefield and work outwards. We'll meet Keith and Lance in the middle then finish off those cruisers." Shiro finished. Pidge let out a whoop and took off for the center where the fighters were the most densely concentrated.

After that, the battle ended soon after, the fastest battle Lance has ever won since being in space.

Okay, maybe not since being in space, but since being a rebel. Lance grunts as he and Blue headbutt a cruiser's fuel line, then immediately takes off in the other direction. He looks behind him to see Keith and Red still attacking the last cruiser and his heart jumps.

"Fire in the hole!" Lance called out, diving for Keith and tackling the Red Lion out of the way.

"Lance what are you-!" Keith starts yelling over comms in a very angry tone. He's cut off with a gasp and they get pushed just a little from the blast of the cruiser blowing up.

"You're welcome." Lance says, not even putting any bite to his words. He's exhausted, the toll of battle hitting him harder than usual. He doesn't wait for the others before heading back to the castleship. The Blue Lion isn't faced with any resistance to the particle barrier.

Lance docks the Blue Lion, which seems just a little too easy for such a huge contraption. Then again, apparently Blue is sentient. Go figure, space is even crazier than the stories of 'alien abductions', which, sadly, actually happened to Lance.

He must have taken too long to leave the pilot chair, because when Lance is only just getting to his feet he can see the rest of the Paladins walking up. They all look very professional and sleek in their stark white armor, with small accents to identify the Lion that pilot. Lance feels bile rise in his throat as he imagines himself standing in armor like theirs, blue accents giving him away as the Blue Paladin.

Don't get him wrong.

Being a paladin would be an honor and a dream. Serving under his childhood hero, saving people, helping people, being generally good. It would be amazing to fight alongside them like they did only minutes ago.

However.

He's had one goal, one thing on his mind for two years now. Get home, protect my family. That's it. He never wanted to fight this war. He never even wanted to fight in the first place. He wanted to be a cargo pilot, a humanitarian. Veronica was the one who wanted to fight. Rachel's the smart one in the family, she wanted to be a scientist or something. Marco took over one of the family businesses, a mechanics and blacksmithing shop. And Luis took over the other one, the surf shop.

It was all going to be so perfect.

Lance would rebuild the country, Rachel would move science further than ever before. Veronica would win wars and Luis would support his family while Marco supported everyone else. Then Lance had to go and get kidnapped by aliens, freaking aliens.

Lance snaps out of his painful reverie and makes his way out of Blue to meet with the Paladins.

Hunk is the first one to reach Lance, sweeping him up in a tearful hug. Lance grunts as his feet leave the ground and Hunk swings him side to side, big arms squeezing the life out of him. Lance pats him on the back awkwardly, even as his wish is to return it wholeheartedly. Nowadays though touch is sometimes, though not always, too much, his skin overly sensitive to the contact that he's been deprived of for two years.

When going from constant contact with nice intentions, like hugs and pats on the back and arms around your shoulders, to the only touch you get is meant for pain or fear, your skin seems to reject touch all together. Or at least Lance's did.

"Okay Hunk, put him down, he's suffocating." Shiro says with a playful tone and a teasing smile. Hunk sheepishly places Lance gently back on the ground. "It's good to have you on the team Lance."

Lance scratches the edge of his mask.

"Yeah about that-" Lance starts to say. He's cut off by Allura's voice comes booming over the speakers.

"Everyone to the bridge to prepare for wormhole." Allura says. Everyone shares varying looks of distaste before making their way to the bridge. Pidge challenges Keith to a race and the two of them take off. When there's a loud crash mere moments after they disappear from sight, Shiro sighs and takes off after them. Lance locks eyes with Hunk, but Hunk is smiling so wide Lance looks away.

He almost regrets the fact that he can't stay.

Almost.

Definitely.

They reach the bridge in silence to find everyone else strapped in. Hunk heads for the chair with yellow accents. Lance stands behind Allura with his arms crossed against his chest. There's an empty chair, one with blue accents, but Lance doesn't even spare it a second glance.

"Lance-" Allura starts to say, eyebrows lowered. Lance cuts her off, staring through the window at the Galra ship graveyard they created.

"Ready for launch Allura." Lance says. He notices the others exchange glances but Allura fires up the wormhole, setting it right before the wreckage begins.

A pulling feeling starts in his stomach and it reminds Lance of rollercoasters. The light of the wormhole grows closer as the ship sinks through, then a mirage of color engulfs the view. Lance imagines if he used his Galra eye he could see what those colors truly are.

The pulling of his stomach reaches a crescendo and Lance subtly spreads his feet to anchor himself in case of any turbulence. He almost smirks as the ship rumbles just the slightest bit as the mirage of color fades to a whole new set of stars. It's almost disorienting, but he's used to the disorientation by now due to lightspeed travel.

Every single paladin sitting down groans as the ship comes to a stop.

"That makes me dizzy every single time." Pidge says. Hunk's face turns green.

"I'm going to throw up." Hunk says, and before he's even finished his sentence Keith kicks a bucket across the floor. Hunk grabs it, lifts it to his face and hurls. Gross. But impressive that Keith did that at the perfect moment.

"You good Hunk?" Shiro says, eyebrows low. Hunk lifts a thumbs up and it's enough for Shiro even though Hunk is still retching.

"So Lance," Allura said, facing him with her hands folded in front of her. "Did you think about what I said?"

"I'm sorry Allura, but I can't stay. I can't be your paladin." Lance says, just putting it all on the table. Allura frowns, but it's everyone else's reactions that makes this horrible wrenching in his heart. Everyone looks shocked and hurt, moving closer to the teleduv where Lance and Allura face off.

"What do you mean you can't? Blue chose you, you have to stay." Pidge says, and her face looks crushed. Lance almost loses his nerve, practically begging himself to just coo at and comfort Pidge. He stays string though.

"Sorry Pidge, I have things I need to take care of and I can't be a paladin if that means I can't take care of said things." Lance explains.

"Then we'll help you." Shiro says, like it's no big deal. But it is a big deal, a huge one. The things Lance needs to do are not all things a hero should be doing. Lance is no hero, but these people are and they can't 'help' him do very unsavory acts.

"You can't help me with this." Lance says, shaking his head. "The things I need to do, well, let's just say you don't want to see that part of me."

"We won't judge you if that's what you're worried about." Shiro fires back, shrugging his shoulders. The movement catches Lance's attention because it didn't look right. He takes in Shiro's posture and narrows his eyes (er, eye?). Shiro's shoulders are rolled back and tense, even noticeable through his paladin armor. His arms are laid on his chest, not crossed but the Galra arm on top of the human.

That wouldn't have been unusual except for the position of his feet.

Shoulder length apart, right foot in front of the other just slightly. Knees bent just a little with the weight of Shiro's body leaning on his forward foot. His left foot is twisted to the side slightly, pointing outwards.

That is a very threatening, very arena-like stance.

Shiro is trying to intimidate him.

And it's working.

Lance and Shiro face off for a minute, Lance shifting into his own intimidation pose the arena instilled in him. When Shiro doesn't back down, Lance does with an ounce of respect. No one ever withstands Lance when he goes to Arena Mode.

"You aren't giving up are you?" Lance says. Shiro smirks and relaxes his stance.

"Not a bit."

"Fine." Lance sighs out. "But you have to listen to whatever I say. These places aren't going to be very kind to you. Especially since you'll be associated with me."

"What do you mean?" Keith asks. He's off to the side brooding again.

"What I mean is I'm not exactly loved by most of the universe's inhabitants." Lance explains.

"Well then!" Coran exclaims with a smile, landing a hand on Lance's shoulder almost too roughly. He fights his since as he casually slips out from underneath the grip.

"May I?" Lance asks Allura, looking her in the eye. She smiles a quiet little smile before gesturing airily towards Coran's control panel. He walks away from the crowd and quickly types in the coordinates.

"Alright Paladins, strap in. Prepare for wormhole." Allura says. Lance again avoids the seat, still not comfortable being called a paladin and stands behind Allura. The pulling in his stomach returns and Lance dreads having to take the Paladins to where he's going.

Chapter Text

Lance crosses his arms against his chest as he surveys the market in front of him.

He had decided to take the Paladins with him on his least dangerous errand, though still just dangerous enough that he needs to strain his ears for any sign of threats. Three of team Voltron's members stand behind him; Shiro, Hunk, and Allura. Lance didn't even bother fighting Allura when she declared she was going to join them.

At first she tried to say that it was because she didn't trust Lance, but after Shiro argued her down she pouted and mumbled that she wanted something sparkly.

Who was Lance to deny her something sparkly?

So in the end Coran stayed with the castleship, Keith and Pidge staying behind in the transport pod as backup and a clean getaway if things go awry. They wear their white armor, and carry their (kind of useless looking) Bayards at the ready. Lance just hopes they don't get into too much trouble.

Wait, did he just jinx himself? Surely not. Whatever.

So here they are. Just docked in a black market, and none of them except Lance are wearing armor. Of course, Lance's armor is his blue coat and all the rest of that. Coran managed to salvage what he could, but the tails of the coat are gone, leaving it more of a suit jacket then a coat. Kind of looks stupid, maybe he'll find a better one here while he still can.

Lance has Hunk's Bayard in his inside pocket since Hunk doesn't have his armor to store it in. Apparently the Bayard is that thing Keith had carried on the first day they met, the deformed pompom thing. Not sure how it's a weapon, since there aren't any sharp edges and it doesn't shoot like a gun. It's not even good as a bludgeon because the grip is wrong. It's better for a punching motion rather than a swinging motion.

Maybe it's a very complicated form of brass knuckles?

Well, probably. If you hold the grip with the long sides out you can break someone's nose and gauge their eyes out! Lance prefers his pistols but the 'Bayard' could come in handy in a fist fight.

Lance scratches underneath his mask as he thinks about what he's supposed to do again. There's an informant that lives here, and then there's a few shops he needs to go to. Then he's supposed to be meeting a Blade member to sell some Intel.

"So?" Shiro says. "Where to?"

Lance hums as his eyes sweep the crowd before landing on a very special shop. Lance smiles brightly and makes his way dutifully towards it. He hears thundering footsteps behind him as his entourage runs to catch up. They need to learn how to walk quietly.

They come up fast on a shop, whose sign reads in big orange letters BIG MOMMA'S, written in Common Tongue.

Lance almost runs into another patron leaving the shop when he tries to enter. The patron, a large scaly dragon like creature, snarls at him and Lance snarls right back. The dragon guy flinches back with a whimper and scurries off. He watches the guy flee and finds his eyes locked onto Shiro and the others. They look shocked.

Lance clears his throat before moving inside without another word between them.

The inside of the shop is crowded, like usual, though not necessarily by patrons. Shelves upon shelves close in on Lance the moment he steps through the door. Poor Hunk has to turn completely sideways to avoid knocking things over. It gets easier for them to move as they make their way deeper into the shop, the shelves slowly thinning out until the only thing in the way is a counter.

Lance glances around to find one other patron in the shop and makes a clicking sound to get their attention.

This alien is small, barely reaching Lance's chest in height, with fur up and down its body. When the alien turns to look at Lance, every single strand of fur jumps up in alarm. Within seconds the shop is empty. Lance reaches across the counter and underneath it, looking for a button.

Smooth wood gives way to raised metal and he presses it, closing the shop down for the time being. Don't want to be interrupted and all that. After a minute of waiting, Lance leans against the counter. There's a bell there, on the counter, and Lance props one hand beneath his chin while he uses the other one to ring the bell.

Constantly.

There's a crash from the back behind the long dark curtain the moment Lance starts ringing the bell. He smirks as a slew of curse words calls out, all in different languages, all words Lance learned himself. There's a thunk right inside the curtain and then the curtain starts being moved. Eventually the curtain gives way and someone steps out with a huff.

At first glance she looks like a hefty human black woman, big hair and all. Except human women don't have a metallic sheen to their skin. And the big hair isn't actually hair, it's just that same metallic looking skin raised and formed like hair. Her nails are an inch long, pointed and hard as steel, and her teeth are bared, though Lance knows she's not trying to threaten him because the teeth that shoe aren't sharp they're flat.

Marva can change them at will.

"Why hello there Marva." Lance says innocently, even as he still rings the bell. Marva snatches the bell from him with a snarl and Lance backs away. He raises his hands in a mockery of surrender before crossing his arms against his chest.

"Pekigero you better have a damn good excuse for worrying Mama." Marva says, addressing him by an old nickname. Pekigero means 'tiny warrior' in her mother tongue. In Spanish tiny warrior is pequiño guerro. When she first called him Pekigero he was in a feverish state, and he could have sworn she was speaking Spanish.

Lance sweeps his arms back to indicate his friends.

"I made friends." Lance says, in that tone that someone would use when supplying a lame excuse. Shiro takes a step closer behind him, and Lance can feel the tension in him, like Shiro's a cat ready to pounce.

Marva snarls at him and throws the bell at his face.

Lance catches it without even looking away from Marva's black eyes.

He sets the bell back down on the counter, then gives it one last ring. Just for good measure. Marva huffs at him, then reaches across the counter and drags him into an awkward hug.

Lance has been trying to teach her the finer points of casual touch. She's long since learned the hows of hugging, though not quite the whens. He appreciates it all the same, because it's one of many ways Marva has tried to humanize herself for Lance's comfort. Needless to say Lance holds a special place in Marva's heart.

Her specie is the opposite of pack oriented, very territorial, mainly consisting of nomads, and they don't really mate they just have casual sex if they want to procreate. Usually the child is raised by the mother while young, then sent to their fathers until they grow mature and strong enough to leave home. Of course, that's just a generalization, sometimes one of her kind is more pack oriented.

Like Marva.

She lets Lance go and leans forward on the counter, propping her head on her hand. It's another humanizing trait, since her species are practically statues. They only move when necessary, and they don't really lean on things. Always upright, always straight, always still. It freaked Lance out at first, hence why Marva's become more human in her movements.

"What did you need Pekigero? You shouldn't be coming around these parts for a while. At least until the heat dies down." Marva says casually. Even when she leans she's still. Eyes unblinking, seeing as she only ever needs to blink, like, twice an hour. If that. Lance tilts his head at her when he registers what she said.

"Why shouldn't I come around? What heat?" Lance asks. Marva's face never really has expressions, again, statues. But Lance knows her face falls into concern when he asks her that.

"You don't know do you?" Marva asks, though it sounds more rhetorical than anything. "We should go to the back, get you out of sight of prying eyes. Don't want any trouble in my shop. Bad for business, bad for health."

Lance dutifully follows Marva as she disappears behind the curtain, gesturing for his friends to follow him. Shiro leans into his ear as they walk.

"How exactly do you know this person?" Shiro asks. Lance smiles and lets the curtain drop between them. The back room is small but cozy, with a long couch and a chair, with a table in between. There's a large holo screen on the wall, sort of like a flat screen TV. Other than that it's fairly bare. All except a picture of Lance and Marva he took right before he left her for the first time.

"Have a seat. Friends of Pekigero's are friends of mine." Marva said, gesturing to the couches and chairs. Lance plops himself down in his favorite chair, throwing his legs over the arm.

"So." Allura says as the three of them squeeze onto the couch. She sits regally even though Hunk and Shiro sits on either side of her, squishing her in the middle so they can all fit. "How did you meet, uh, Lance?"

"Nursed him back to health. Poor Pekigero was half dead when he was brought to my shop." Marva says casually, fiddling through a pile of boxes in the corner.

"Do what?" Shiro says.

"You know how I was a gladiator in the Arena right?" Lance asks. He can't seem to recall if he told them that little detail or not.

"I mean," Hunk says, fidgeting with his hands. "You've never actually said so but we could guess. Why?"

"When I was rescued from the Arena I was badly injured, like horribly injured. Marva nursed me back to health and allowed me to stay until I was functional enough to walk on my own." Lance explains, shrugging. It's not the most horrible time he's had after coming to space.

"Then I got in contact with the Rebellion. And here we are."

"Wow. That's-" Shiro starts to say before there's a loud cry of triumph from the corner where Marva was digging. She walks over to Lance's chair and hands him her datapad.

"This is what I was talking about. Would you or your friends like a drink Pekigero?" Marva says, and Lance cringes at the thought of drinking anything Marva makes. No offense to Marva but her kitchen skills are largely lacking.

"No thanks Mama." Lance says, before playing the video Marva pulled up on her datapad.

"An enemy of the Empire has returned." Zarkon says, the big man himself, scar and all. "I have learned that in his absence from the Arena, The Hunter has chosen to ally himself against the Empire."

Lance sucks in a hissing breath as he hears a title he wishes he would never have to hear again. He pays more attention to what's playing on the screen.

"There is reason to believe that he has found the Voltron Lions, and that he leads Voltron as the Black Paladin. He has attacked and destroyed many planets under the protection of the Empire." Zarkon starts saying. Lance's eyebrows crease in confusion. He's not the Black Paladin, he's barely the blue one.

Destroyed planets?

Protection? Doesn't he mean control?

Destroyed planets?

"I am giving a reward to anyone who can bring me the Hunter, preferably alive. He has information critical to the success of the war against the rebellious anarchists." Zarkon continues to say. Anarchists huh? Lance can get behind that.

The picture of Zarkon is replaced by one of Lance, a very unflattering one.

Lance can’t help but to pause the video to get a better look.

Lance looks at a picture of a younger, more feral version of himself. He’s chained to a wall, hair long enough that his bangs brush his chin, and he’s snarling at the camera. His eye, where the prosthetic now takes residence, is covered in a thick bandage. Trails of blood cover his wrists, while trails of tears cover his face. He’s heavily bruised, and the prisoner’s outfits at least cover all of his skin. All of his scars. Lance in the picture is pitched forward like he had just lunged at the cameraperson.

Which, of course, he had.

Lance sinks back into his memories, feeling the pain in his wrists like it’s fresh, the throb in his eye, the hunger in his stomach. He feels his throat go hoarse like he had just been screaming, and he feels more than a few aches and pains across his body. Everything he’d felt at the time of the picture being taken floods his nerves like it’s happening in real time. Lance swallows thickly and presses play, thankful that the picture changes soon after.

It’s another picture of Lance, but a little more recent.

Lance is smirking cruelly, in the middle of a battle. In the background there’s bodies of Galra soldiers who had been cut down, just laying around in a bloody and gruesome visage. Lance has both pistols out, which helps narrow down the where and when of the picture, but not the how, why, or who.

There have only been a few times when Lance has been in a bad enough situation to need both of his weapons.

The first battle on the ground Lance had been in with his guns is the first. A rescue mission in the Falnex sector, which was one of the first on the ground mission Lance had done with his current crew. Then the last one, which Lance suspects is when this was taken, was long after Lance had gotten a name for himself other than Hunter. They had raided a Galra base, and by ‘they’ Lance means his current team, and someone must have given Lance or the Rebellion bad intel because the base was ready for them.

Lance barely made it out of that base alive that day.

Dread begins to fill his stomach as the picture has a reward amount at the bottom. Ten million GAC, just for Lance. How flattering. Is this why the Galra seem to target him more than anyone else in his crew? Like, Lance just figured it was because they saw him as a threat, not a payday. Which, in Lance’s case, is infinitely worse than them trying extra hard to kill. Lance checks the day this was broadcasted and nearly face palms.

Lance is now the most hunted person in the Empire.

And it took him two weeks to realize it.

“Well this doesn’t seem to be good.” Hunk says, right in Lance’s ear. Lance jumps in his seat, having been too focused on the video to realize the three of them had stood behind him to watch as well. When he realizes Hunk had moved, he rolls his eyes.

“No kidding Hunk, no kidding.” Lance says, though not maliciously. “We need to get a move on and get out of here. The faster I take care of what I need to, the better.”

Chapter Text

Lance is stuck in his head as they weave through the black market's crowd.

Marva was kind enough to supply Lance a new coat, and his friends some simple cloaks with hoods. Hunk took back his Bayard once he realized the cloaks had inside pockets big enough to fit a human head. Don't ask how Lance knows that.

Lance's coat on the other hand, is no simple accessory. It's formed more like a trench coat, but slimmer and light blue. Kind of eye drawing, but at this point it doesn't even matter. With his head being the biggest payday anyone could get in one sitting, it doesn't matter if he hides himself or not. He'll be noticed, and he'll be hunted.

At least he has his pistols.

Another cool addition to his new coat is that it's also armor, made of a very rare and very durable fabric that practically reflects laser fire. Marva had been making it since the day Lance left, and spent almost a fortune on it too.

He truly is lucky to have met Marva.

Lance eases his way into a shop he's needed to stop at for awhile. It's nothing noteworthy, but they have great selections of jewelry. Allura did say she wanted something sparkly. They step into the jewelry shop, finding it empty except for an Unilu playing on a datapad. The Unilu male perks at their entrance, setting his datapad down with one hand and curling the other three over each other greedily.

"Welcome. What can I interest you in today?" The Unilu says, jumping right in and offering up his most expensive item. It looks like a necklace of some sort of shiny purple metal. "How about this rare necklace, created in the forges of the Antelex regions. Fine metals purified and formed in a most beautiful design."

Lance stops him before he can shove anything else under his friends noses.

"We're good to look on our own thanks." Lance says. The Unilu doesn't look the happiest but he spreads his hands wide to offer his selection. None of Lance's friends move.

He nudges Allura, who looks almost drowned in her cloak.

"Pick out something sparkly M'Lady." Lance says, forgoing using any titles like Princess or her name.

Allura moves to look at him, and all Lance sees in the shadow her hood casts on her face are her blue eyes, glowing in the dim light. He smiles at her and gives her another nudge. Allura reluctantly moves towards the display, keeping her hands to herself as she looks over the selection. Lance moves with her, staying by her side and browsing himself.

Allura gasps and Lance looks to what she's pointing at.

"This one please!" Allura says, and the Unilu gently takes it out of the case. Lance grabs it to look at it while the Unilu starts prattling.

"Very good selection miss. A one of a kind necklace, made with the pink crystals grown by the Oplik sector. Woven in a delicate but powerful metal, this necklace will withstand any weather, even the dead of space!" The Unilu prattles on.

Lance cuts him off before he can continue filling Allura's head with fanciful lies. He can tell it isn't a one of a kind because he can see the box in the back overflowing with these necklaces.

"How much?" Lance asks.

"Eighteen hundred GAC." The Unilu says. Allura's shoulders slump and she turns to Lance. He gets enough of a glance at her face to see her heartbroken expression. He waits in confusion.

"We don't have that much money Lance." Allura says, almost like talking to a child. The Unilu snatches the necklace out of Lance's hand faster than Lance can tilt his head at Allura.

"No GAC, no necklace!" The Unilu says rather rudely. He goes to step away but Lance's hand shoots out to grab the Unilu's wrist, the one holding the necklace.

"M'Lady doesn't have the payment but I do." Lance says. Without releasing the Unilu he draws his main pistol. Immediately tension fills the air. Lance rolls his eyes as he cocks back the hammer of his gun.

Instead of loading the clip, the hammer causes a chain reaction and a purple crystal releases from the bottom of the handle. Lance slowly withdraws the hand keeping the buyer hostage. He withdraws the crystal from his gun and holsters his weapon. The Unilu practically drools where he stands frozen.

"Better?" Lance says. The Unilu nods frantically, and lunges for the crystal. Lance draws it out of reach, clicking his tongue.

"I'm not done shopping. How about that pretty necklace made with Balmera crystal?" Lance says, gesturing vaguely at a necklace that isn't quite as eye-catching as some of the others. The Unilu wastes no time getting it out of the case.

"That'll be all." Lance says.

"Of course of course. May I?" The Unilu asks, being unnaturally polite for one of his kind. Lance hands over the crystal as the Unilu brings his datapad back out. He scans the crystal quickly. The moment the transaction is finished, Lance ushers his friends out of the shop. He slips the crystal back into it's hidden compartment in his pistol.

"What was that?" Shiro queries. "With the crystal? Why did he scan it instead of taking the crystal as payment itself?"

"Because the crystal is worthless. It's the code embedded on the crystal that's worth something." Lance explains as they walk slowly on the edge of the crowd. "It's a new system the Galra are trying to implement. Think of it as a credit card. The money you own is stored in a Galra money containment unit, something like a bank."

"Okay. So how come when we went to the space mall they didn't even think of saying crystal or GAC?" Hunk asks.

"Because it's still fairly new. And new things are expensive. The only people who can carry these are people with enough GAC to feed a small planet. Meaning the very, very rich." Lance explains.

"So you stole it." Shiro says, very flat like he isn't expecting Lance to answer.

"I didn't steal it. This is mine and it has always been mine." Lance says defensively.

"How?" Allura asks, finally speaking up.

"Because I'm very rich in the eyes of the Empire." Lance says. They wait at a crossroads where hoverbikes make up the crowd instead of just people.

"Aren't you an enemy of the Empire?" Allura asks. Lance can practically feel the narrowed eyes on the back of his head when she says that. Lance shrugs.

"Lance the Hunter is, but they don't know my last name is McClain." Lance explains. He diverts the topic of conversation as they round the last corner. In front of them lies a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, in betweens and meats of exotic nature.

"Welcome to the Black Market Food Market." Lance says. Hunk practically melts at the options of food. He even almost barrels Lance down to get there, but Lance is quick to grab him by the cloak and pull him back.

"No running off. Some of this food is inedible to humans. I learned that the hard way. I'll be there to tell you what's good, what's not, what's edible, what's not. You can buy to your heart's content if you want, but fair warning I refuse to carry anything." Lance says calmly. Hunk nods eagerly.

They end up getting two huge sacks full of food. One of fruits and veggies and in betweens. The other of meat. Hunk slings both over his shoulder like they weigh nothing and walks along humming. He doesn't even seem to care that most of the food was brought here illegally.

Oh to be in love.

Lance leads them down the streets for another few minutes, getting deeper and deeper into the black market. The deeper they go, the more dangerous the people get. A fight breaks out in a tavern nearby, and someone gets thrown out of a window and into the street. They get back up and charge in again with a roar of anger.

"This way. Just a little further." Lance says. The three accompanying Lance start to surround him in a protective circle. Which is kind of annoying. Lance can protect himself just fine. It's Allura they should be protecting, though not that she needs it really. Lance is positive Allura could kick his ass from here to Earth and back.

He leads his friends down a dark alley, very sketchy.

Lance walks slowly, letting his footsteps be heard, and then whistling a sharp little call. An answering whistle comes back to him, centered on a dark space in the corner of the alleyway. Lance stops walking.

"McClain." A voice says. It's one Lance recognizes. Ever since he set up a back and forth trade with the Blade of Marmora, this member has been the liaison. Only willing to speak to Lance, and only in very discreet places. Which usually also means dangerous places.

"Lokna." Lance replies.

"I thought we agreed just the two of us?" Lokna replies, in the gentle timbre of her voice. Lance shrugs casually.

"They're harmless." Lance says, then after a brief pause he adds, "To allies anyways."

There's a chuff from the shadows.

"Got anything valuable to trade or is this a social visit?" Lokna says, her voice rolling in a sort of purring sound. Needless to say, Lokna didn't have to be forced to be the liaison. Lance let's a sly smile curl on his lips.

"Sorry darling. Duty calls."

Lokna huffs. "And here I thought you brought me some new playthings as a thank you gift."

"The info you traded fell through. But I'm sure we can work something out in the future." Lance replies, leaning up against the wall beside Lokna's hidden form. She hums.

"Maybe when your face isn't plastered on every bounty hunter's wish list from here to the Glavix Sector. Here." Lokna says, and a gloved hand reaches out from the shadows. In her grasp is thumb drive.

"No luck on your latest request, the person you're looking for is too good at staying anonymous. Though in my research I found something you might be interested in. Seems your little rebellion has a leak. Everything I found is here."

Lance raises an eyebrow, keeping his face neutral. Inside however, he's questioning whether this supposed leak is the same person who leaked all that wrong information to the Empire.

"Thank you. I've got some more intel your ninja friends want." Lance says, reaching for his secondary weapon. He pulls the hammer back on the pistol and this time his own thumb drive pops out. He places the drive in Lokna's hand, taking the one she holds at the same time.

Lokna goes to pull away, but Lance grabs her hand gently and lifts it to kiss the back of her hand.

"Until we meet again." Lance says. Lokna chiefs again.

"Until then." Lokna replies. Her hand withdraws and then there's a brief brush of wind as she retreats. Lance straightens, then eyes his new thumb drive. A leak is very bad, it means the difference between winning a war or losing it.

"A friend of yours?" Shiro asks, in that tone that suggests they're asking something else. Shiro is really good at that tone.

"Something like that." Lance mutters. He turns the thumb drive over to look at the back, though nothing is there. When he finally stops pondering, he slips the drive into that secret little compartment. To close the hammer, Lance squeezes the trigger just enough for a click but not a shot.

"So are we done?" Hunk asks nervously. He shifts in his place and the hood of his cloak keeps shifting as Hunk looks around. Lance smiles at him to comfort him, until his right ear catches the sound of something unusual. Or rather it doesn't catch the sound of something.

It's almost silent in the streets.

It is never silent in the streets.

Lance's smile falls as he squeezes through the tight space between his friends and the nasty walls. He slides up to the corner where the alley meets the street and peaks around the corner. The two suns this small planet uses for warmth have set, so it's too dark for Lance's human eye to see.

There's a continuous thumping noise in the streets, so Lance decides to focus on hearing instead of sight.

It's hard to tell what the sound is. Too far away, but loud enough to reach Lance's ears. It's sort of a monotonous thumping, like a heavy sounding metronome. Lance sighs and itches at his mask, before lifting it completely so he can see. As he activates the eye, his vision turns purple.

In the corner of his vision are a bunch of stats and details Lance doesn't need right now, like wind speed, planet curvature, the works. The dancing target circle focuses and refocuses as he tries to adjust to the lighting. When his night vision flips on his blood runs cold.

"Lance?" Allura asks. She's too loud, so Lance shushes her. He looks back out onto the streets. Turns out that monotonous thumping is coming from Galra droids.

Lots of them.

They line up in a march, four lines of five. One in the front leading the march. As they pass buildings and streets and alleys the droids break off one by one. They're still a decent ways away, a couple dozen yards probably. But they march steadily. As one breaks off, another will fill its place. Always with that monotonous marching.

The Black Market is being raided.

Something tells Lance they came here for him.

"Lance what's-" Shiro starts to say. In seconds Lance has his mask plastered back on his face, and he whips around to slap a hand over Shiro's mouth. Lance only has to say two words.

"Galra raid."

Instantly it's like a switch is flipped in his friends. Shiro moves his arm out from beneath his cloak, and it lights up bright purple as he activates it. Shiro goes to run into the street but Lance stops him with a yank of the cloak.

"Don't." Lance whispers. The arm deactivates and Shiro gives him a curious look. Lance turns to go deeper into the alley, back to the spot where Lokna disappeared from. He lifts his mask again and activates his prosthetic eye. The world turns purple again, and Lance looks up and down the wall for footholds.

Lance has never been one to run away from a fight.

When the big kids were bullying him, Lance stood his ground and fought back. He lost, but he fought back. When his sister in law nearly died giving birth to little Silvio, the doctors wouldn't let Luis in the room to see his wife one last time if she didn't make it. Lance was nearly arrested for the mayhem he caused so Luis could slip in to see Lisa. When he first woke up after being kidnapped.

Lance has always been a fighter, but not a fighter.

That makes sense right?

Anyways. Ever since coming to space he's been forced to become a fighter, and surprisingly Lance is pretty good at it. He hasn't found a situation that he can't get himself out of. Talking his way out, fighting his way out, sneaking or asking for help. There's always been a way.

A way to get free from his imprisonment. A way to smuggle these weapons or people. A way to get past a Galra patrol. A way to piss the Galra off with hardly any effort at all. There has always been a way. And if there isn't a way set up for him to take, he just makes his own way.

So Lance makes his way out of this one.

After seeing no obvious ways up the building, Lance pulls his primary weapon and sets it to stealth mode. The shots aren't exactly silenced, they're just really quiet. He shoots at the wall in a zigzag pattern until the top. Thus, footholds have been born. The brick still burns slightly at the indentions where Lance made footholds with his gun.

"Alright everyone." Lance whispers, holstering his weapon and preparing to climb. "Follow me."

Lance is up the wall in no time.

He can't say the same for the rest of them.

Allura isn't slow but she's not fast. She's up the wall almost as fast as Lance was. Though she exerted herself a lot more to do so, evident by the way she flops onto her back to breath for a second.

Shiro is not too much worse. He's heavier than Allura and Lance, so he has more weight to pull upwards. He almost slips and falls a few times but he makes it. He lasts until he can move out of Hunk's way before flopping on his back.

Then it's poor Hunk's turn.

Hunk's arms start trembling half way up and he looks green in the face. Is he afraid of heights or something? Lance doesn't bother to ask. He just peaks over the rooftop and looks at the progress of the marching robots. They are concerningly close to the alley way.

Lance bites at his lip, right over an old and hardly noticeable scar, and looks at Shiro. They make eye contact, and they don't even have to exchange words before they come to an agreement. Simultaneously they reach down over the lip of the rooftop and reach for Hunk.

Allura silently grabs their feet to keep them from falling.

Hunk eases his way up to grab their hands and Shiro helps him pull Hunk up. They get him up to his chest where he latches onto the roof to squirm the rest of the way up. It's nowhere near graceful, and he too flops onto his back to catch his breath.

When they get back to the ship Lance needs to work on their stamina.

"Shiro. Contact Keith and Pidge. Tell them to ready the pod." Lance whispers. "Tell them to be ready for a fight but not to engage unless absolutely necessary."

Shiro nods his head, scooting away from the edge of the building to set up the relay between the escape pod and them. Lance turns to Allura and Hunk.

"Either of you good with a gun?" Lance asks. They both nod an affirmative. "Good. Here."

Lance hands them both a pistol. Hunk goes to say something but Lance cuts him off.

"Allura. Eyes on the street. Hunk. Eyes on the alley. Don't engage unless necessary. Retreat when the coast is clear. I'll meet you guys at the pod." Lance says in a rushed whisper.

"Where are you going?" Hunk whispers loudly in a very distressed voice.

Lance smiles and eases his way over the roof edge. All that's left of his body on the roof are his arms when Shiro comes back over.

"Keith and Pidge understand what's- where are you going?" Shiro whispers. He too sounds a little distressed. Lance smiles wickedly.

"To do what I do best." Lance says as he eases his body so only his arm is keeping his head is above the roof edge. "Piss off the Galra and have fun doing it. See you at the pod!"

And then Lance drops from sight and instantly disappears from the sight of his friends.

Hopefully they follow orders as good as they give them.