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And the scent lingers

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The scent of honeysuckle in June is what Hunk remembers.

He remembers being on his grandmother’s property, spending the summer away from home. The grass was wildly green and bright in a dark way, growing around whatever dared to grow or blossom in his grandmother’s backyard. He remembers poppies and shades of orange and red and white, especially the wall of honeysuckle that had draped over a tree that stood at the bottom of a hill.

It grew without restraint, smelling sweetly in the promise of heat to come.

And one afternoon, Hunk had gone out to pick flowers because he just wanted to. He stooped down, and before he could pick a flower, he heard voices of the neighborhood kids close by. They were yelling and running and for some reason, there was a pause.

The wall of honeysuckle being broken through by a boy is what Hunk remembers.

A scrawny boy had rolled down the hill and sent a cloud of honeysuckle flowers flying. He tumbled forward and ended up sitting on his butt, pressing a hand to his head. The boy’s skin was dark, a shade or two lighter than Hunk’s, and he wore a long blue ribbon tied around his head. “Ah, shit,” he muttered and Hunk couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“You shouldn’t say bad words like that,” was what Hunk said, causing the neighborhood kid to finally notice him. The boy raised an eyebrow and then shrugged.

“I shouldn’t but I like to anyways, especially if my mom’s not around,” and then he began removing small white flowers from his short brown hair. He pushed himself up off the ground and he grinned, showcasing that he had a couple teeth missing. Hunk watched him curiously as the boy began to speak but paused, spinning around slowly before his face lit up. He walked a few feet to his right and he picked up a large stick that rested askew in the grass. “Found it,” he said happily, as he made his way over, closer to Hunk. “Name’s Lance.”

“Hunk,” and then voices sounded from up the hill, calling out to the boy, calling him to come back. Lance turned and Hunk was ready to actually pick flowers when Lance stopped, turning back.

“Want to be on my team?” He asked, stick resting on his shoulder. “I need someone to have my back and while Keith and I may be on the same side, I don’t trust him.” Hunk cocked his head, black hair tickling at his cheeks. Lance stood before him, patiently waiting while kids yelled at him, impatient for him to get back up the hill so they could keep playing.

“Sure. What do I have to do?”

“Protect me and I’ll protect you.” Lance smiled and Hunk couldn’t help but smile in return. “Now, follow me!” And Lance marched off, causing Hunk to follow, inhaling a cloud of honeysuckle as he followed Lance up the hill.

And for some reason, honeysuckle is what Hunk always remembers.

He remembers how after that day, Lance would always stop by and drag him out to do very questionable and life-endangering things and Hunk remembers the relief he felt when he talked Lance out of doing very reckless things. He remembers the small victories in convincing Lance to watch movies together or just hang out at one another’s homes.

He remembers how his grandmother’s house was cool and dark while Lance’s was hot and loud. He remembers everything about Lance’s family and he remembers the food they ate together and he remembers worrying about Lance when he would laugh while eating, afraid he would choke.

He remembers playing with Lance and he remembers not wanting to leave when the summer was over. He remembers hanging out with Lance the day before he had to go.

It was hot and they’d decided to visit the river one last time.

“I wish I didn’t have to go,” Hunk sighed, splashing his feet in the water.

“Yeah, me too,” and Lance sat next to him on a rock. The birds chirped and the trees rustled slightly around them. The water ran clear and Hunk breathed, shutting his eyes.

He opened them and smiled, looking at Lance. “But at least I’ll be back next summer.”

“And when you do, you’ll be ready,” and Lance held out a long piece of ribbon, orange like the flesh of a tangerine. “I can’t wait for you to come back so we can protect each other.” Hunk took it, a sensation constricting his chest. “You’re the only one I trust to this. Protect me, I mean,” and he smiled, one less missing tooth in his smile.

Hunk didn’t know what to say so he ended up saying, “Thanks. This means a lot.” And tied the ribbon around his head, knotting it in the back. “I hope you know you’re my best friend.”

Lance grinned. “And you’re mine.”

Hunk remembers the day before he left like it is yesterday.

And the thing is, he never did go back the summer after or any after that.

He remembers his parents splitting and he remembers moving to another state with his mother while his sister went with his father. He remembers the summer he met Lance and he does it all while wearing the orange ribbon, careful to never let it be destroyed.

He remembers growing up and changing and he remembers entering the Garrison when the world changed. There were many teenagers, eager to showcase their worth in flying. Hunk remembers walking down the hall one day and he remembers smelling honeysuckle and he spins, quickly, to find a thin young man walking by, his hair and skin a familiarity Hunk couldn’t believe he was seeing with his own two eyes. “Lance?” And the teenager looked at him and he froze, hands in his pockets.

“Hunk?” It had been nine years. They each examined their best friend and then their smiles grew. Hunk threw his arms around Lance and he picked him up, laughing.

“Oh my god, oh my god,” and Lance hugged him back, heart fluttering at the sight of the orange ribbon Hunk wore.

“I’m glad you’re back,” Lance said, smiling, and the past was theirs again.

Hunk remembers that their friendship was something they both fell easily back into. He remembers training with Lance and doing his best to make sure Lance didn’t get into more trouble than he already had at times. It was just like old times and that’s what Hunk remembers.

Everything about their time spent together is what Hunk remembers but he also knows that his feelings begin to change as their lives change with Voltron.

And Lance’s feelings change too.

Neither of them admits to anything. They continue with their casual touches and dynamics they love to relieve from long ago. It’s anything but easy but they grew up with each other in their hearts and they’re fine- at least, that’s what they tell themselves.

When Hunk sees Lance, he remembers the honeysuckle.

When Lance sees Hunk, he remembers the day at the river because he can still see the sun reflecting off the orange of the ribbon he incredibly grateful to see now.

And one day, they choose to admit to what they’re feeling and they’re happier than ever before.

But it makes going into every battle after that something that has to be handled with care.

And one fight proves to be too much.

Hunk remembers everything as he opens his eyes, sides heaving, his breath on the verge of leaving him. Lance is right next to him and he can smell the honeysuckle and he smiles.

“Why are you smiling? You’re…you’re hurt,” Lance looks at Hunk and he remembers everything.

“Thank you.” It hurts to smile as he lifts his hands, slipping off the ribbon. “For letting me protect you.”

“Don’t you dare say that to me!” Lance’s eyes are welling up and Hunk turns to stare at the sky. “I am supposed to protect you but I-I” and Lance is stopped as Hunk holds out the ribbon.

“Keep that safe for me.” He turns his head, smiling, tears threatening to break free from closed eyes. “You’re the only one I trust to do this.” He opens his eyes and Lance clenches the ribbon his eyes. “You’re my best friend.”

“And you’re mine,” and Lance echoes the words of long ago.

Memories of one summer are all Lance has left and a present he gave he’d never wanted returned to him.

And as time passes by, Lance realizes what exactly he’s been smelling all these years.

The scent of honeysuckle in June is what Lance remembers.

And he never, never forgets.