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Infamous Innocents

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“Lance Sanchez. Male. Age 21. Height: 6’1. A cocky young man who moved to California at age 14 from Veradera beach, Cuba.  Graduated college early both as the Valedictorian and The first to double Major in Aerospace Engineering and International Relations at his University. People describe you as determined and trustworthy. You have been found guilty of murdering your parents and siblings with no defense, no alibi, and no witnesses. I sentence you to Life in prison, no parole.”

And with the crack of the gavel, Lance watched everything he worked so hard to achieve crumble into dust through the tunnel vision of his own numb tears.


 

 He didn’t kill his family. He couldn’t. He wouldn’t. Just imagining hurting them made his stomach twist almost too tightly for him to breathe. He wasn’t home when it happened. He was out drinking, having a good time with his friends whose names fleed from his mind as the verdict sunk into his bones, chilled them and cracked them under the sheer force of realization that his family was dead, never coming back.

And the world blamed him.

He couldn’t help his shuddering gasps as they led him out of the courtroom, people shouting and hurling words at him that sank in as if he were being brutally stabbed, like how the photos had showed his family. He had hurled in the court, hiding his face and trying to stop his cries of pain. But nobody seemed to hear his pleas to hide the photos, those were his siblings, those were his parents, that was his whole world being destroyed in one fell swoop. They removed any inkling of hope that they survived, that any of them did. He ached so deeply for their hands on his cheeks, jabbing his side, hearing their laughs and yells of amusement as the dog chased Amelia around the kitchen Island. He yearned for his mother’s soft words as she ran her fingers through his hair and told him to be strong. His father, though they didn’t get along too much, would sit outside with him and tell him stories of how he met Lance’s mother. He was such a good storyteller, and now he will never tell them again.

He’ll never hear his sister’s coos. His older brother’s stuttering when asked about his girlfriend. And it was all blamed on him. He wasn’t home, he tried to tell them. I was with friends! But he had been drinking, though, and none of his friends stepped up as witnesses because they were afraid of being dragged into the story of a killer. To be remembered with him. And the college had one thing that everyone knew was snobbish: Appearances matter the most. And none of them would dare tarnish theirs for the sake of some Immigrant.

The taste of bile in his mouth made Lance cover his mouth as he was shoved into an armored transport car. He was alone. Not a lot of people got sent away in his town, so he knew he must be pulling eyes towards the midnight van. “Where are you taking me.” His voice was cracked from emotional strain, and his eyes were dulled in pain. “Are you sending me away and killing me?”

The guard watched him curiously, a large brown eye focused on him. “No. We’re sending you to Arus, the high security prison until we figure out where exactly we want you. Until then, though, you better be on your best behaviour.” He got into the back and sat across from Lance, his baton sitting across his lap in a silent warning as Lance eyed the chains connecting his cuffed hands to the floor. The car rumbled, and Lance jolted sideways as it began to move at fast speeds, and he watched out the window as his home, his life, and his freedom was left behind all in a cloud of dust.

“So. Who exactly are you?”

Lance blinked at the question, furrowing his brow. He turned back to the large guard watching him. He seemed more relaxed now, as if he knew Lance wouldn’t try and fight his way out. He was right. “Who am I? Weren’t you listening to the last couple things in the hearing? I think they summed up what I am to everyone there pretty well.”

The man only let his eyes crinkle in amusement, most of his face hidden, except for his stare. “I know what they say you are. Murderer, liar, Illegal.” Lance flinched at the words gently pushed at him. “But I want to know who you are.”

Lance studied him for a moment before letting his eyes fall in defeat. “I am a boy who misses home. I miss my family. I miss my surfboard in the early morning light. I am someone who felt the call to make my family proud. And I failed. I am a failure.” He could hear his tone becoming more bitter as he spoke, his tone becoming wet along with his eyes. “So that’s who I am.” He looked back up at the guard, who seemed to have leaned closer. “Does that satisfy your curiousity, mister security guard? If so, let me mourn in peace.”

There was a near deafening silence, and Lance had to pull his gaze away from such clear eyes focused on him. “You know, there’s a story about someone like you.”

“I’m sure there are.” Lance muttered. The man laughed, and Lance wasn’t sure of the last time he ever heard a sound so pure.

“No. Not of a murderer. Someone framed for something they didn’t do.” Blue eyes blinked before looking up at the man sitting across from him. “I’m not sure how it ends, but I remember having a warm feeling after it ended, sitting next to my mother. I’m sure if some gods are watching over you, your justice will reach you, and set you free.”

Lance blinked almost owlishly at the guard. “You know I’m innocent?”

A laugh worked through his mouth before the car stopped, and he looked at the door. “I never said that. But I’m afraid our time has gotten cut short. Maybe I’ll see you again.”

“Wait!” The doors slammed open and three guards stood there in watch, hands reaching out for him as the man disappeared through the doors. “WAIT!” He tried to yank his way out of the guard’s hands, trying to spot the man once again. Something hit the soft inner part of his knee, making him fall to it with a sound of pain. “Wait! What’s your name!? Who are you?!”

A club slammed into the back of his neck, and with a weak cough, He stumbled into sleep.


 

“Lance! You’re going to be late for the graduation ceremony!” His mother called out from the kitchen, the smell of eggs reaching everyone’s noses. “My first child to graduate college, and he’s going to be late. Honestly.”

“No I’m not!” His triumphant laugh echoed through the blue house as he slid down the stairwell in his cap and gown, the university’s name emblazoned on it with such pride as he picked up his mother, who shrieked as he twirled her. She hit him with her spoon, giggling at him before he raced to his sisters, who looked both proud and exasperated at his antics. “You’re all coming, right?” He asked eagerly, to which all of them nodded and smiled brightly, Amelia’s teeth beginning to appear just a little bit late, the tiny little munchers. He picked up his littlest sister, rubbing their noses together just to hear her soft giggle of amusement as she papped his face like it was a drum. “One day.” He murmured softly to her, eyes growing soft for their moment. “One day, I’ll be going to YOUR graduation, angelito, and you’d best believe I’m going to be cheering for you every step of the way.”

Her soft coo was enough to make him blow a raspberry into her stomach to feel her laugh for himself as he put her back down and raced to grab food, waving at his groggy older brother slowly slugging his way down the stairs for his own breakfast. “See you in an hour!”

Leo waved at him dismissively, a smile cracking his indifference. “Get outta here, you nerd.”

Lance couldn’t help but laugh as he made his way out of the door, rushing to his car and almost speeding off before he could hear Amelia’s first word. “ANCE!” He nearly crashed his car at the curly haired angel’s words as she waved frantically at him. His laugh was high and giggly as he waved back before rushing away.

Everything was perfect.


 

The next time he woke up, he was on an uncomfortable cot in a cold room. The ceiling was the dark grey colour of cement, and everything on him throbbed. He nearly sobbed at the realization he wasn’t going home, he wasn’t leaving to someplace warm and homey. He wasn’t going to see Amelia, or Leo, or anyone when he woke up ever again. He groaned as he looked to his left, seeing nothing but a wall with scratches in it. He looked closer before realizing that those weren’t just scratches, but day markers. He slowly let his eye roam, seeing the rows after rows of fives littering the wall in a strange but panicked sense of organized chaos. His bed seemed more like an old gurney, sticking out from the wall, and he made a move to lift himself up, rubbing his head.

“So you’re up.”

The manliest Shriek in the world left Lance’s mouth as he whirled around to the other side of the room. He could see a toilet between the two cots, and a sink. The window just looked lonesome, barred heavily, but it couldn’t illuminate the figure sitting in the opposite bunk of his, attached to the wall in the same way, but not a single scratch blemishing the material. Something whirred as the figure moved forward, and Lance had to try and catch his breath as a large Japanese man made his way into the light on the edge of the bed. The first thing Lance noticed was all of his scars littering his skin, even visible through his tank top. The sleeves of his orange jumpsuit was tied around his waist as he watched Lance with something Lance couldn’t describe as anything other than predator hunger. He shifted up a little bit, curling slightly in a ball as he kept his eyes focused on the man watching him from across the room, his startlingly white lock blocking a strangely yellowish silver eye. “I don’t bite.” He cooed, and Lance swallowed weakly at the tone. “You’re the first roommate I’ve had in a while. The last person in here had gotten the death penalty, though he was glad to be gone when they finally came for him.”

“…Came for him?” Lance didn’t mean to make his voice quake, but the man looked… familiar somehow. He didn’t watch a lot of news, but he had seen enough to recognize the face vaguely, something about being caught. Someone big, someone important. “What do you mean?”

A look of malicious delight passed over the man’s face as he pulled his right arm out of the shadows, the gleam of metal where it met flesh nearly blinding Lance, who stared at it for a little bit too long. “Well, people don’t find me the friendliest man in the universe. I don’t exactly radiate ‘trust me’.” He clenched his fist before relaxing it, watching Lance with amusement. “You don’t know who I am? The name’s The Champion.”

The Champion. Lance’s brow furrowed before a gasp rattled his body so quickly that he slammed himself against the wall, scrabbling at it as he tried to choke out a scream, a cry for mercy. Not him, not him, NOT THE CHAMPION.

World’s deadliest hand to hand hitman

200 kills

Renowned assassin

Captured with the Red Lion

“No no no no no no no no no no no no no-” Lance was shaking apart, shrieking as The Champion stepped off of his cot and slowly made his way towards Lance, who was hyperventilating more as he came closer, losing all colour in his face as he just stopped breathing altogether when The Champion’s face nearly brushed his.

“You afraid of the dark?” The question was out of the blue, but Lance definitely did not think it would be a good idea to point that out in front of a man who could kill him a million different ways with his pinky alone.

He paused for a moment, cold sweats drenching his black undershirt and his jumper as he barely managed to whisper his answer. “…Yes…”

A sharp, white, and hungry grin broke across the man’s face like a new scar, and he chuckled before whispering back, “Good.”

It was too much. It was too much. Lance felt consciousness abandon him as he fell back onto the cot that rushed up to meet him, eyes rolling back in his head as The Champion’s form retreated from him, his laugh of amusement the last thing registering in Lance’s mind.

Chapter Text

            Lance was so, so tired and achey when he woke the next morning, his hand resting on the side of his head as he let his back arch and lift him up from the cot beneath them. He let his eyes open slowly, keeping them lidded so that what little sunlight that made it through the tiny window in the cell wouldn’t make his head pulse even harder than it was originally. The sound of shuffling to his right alerted to his new roommate, and the cold sweat from the previous night made itself known in his body, dripping down his back like a bad omen. He let his eyes slide over, and blinked in surprise at the lack of a gleaming silver prosthetic. Instead, there was an intricate purple dragon sleeve winding up his right arm and resting its head on the dorsal side of Shiro’s hand, ending at the knuckles. Delicate flowers that looked to be lotuses were spread across the ink, deeply contrasting with the angry aggressiveness of the mythical beast that almost seemed to choke the incredibly muscled man’s bicep and forearm.

            It looked ready to swallow it whole.

            “It’s not polite to stare.” The inmate drawled, letting his head fall to the side as he grinned again. “It’s good to see that sleeping beauty has decided to join us.” He stretched back on his cot and sighed. “I was going to be surprised if I had spooked you into dying. You’re a weird case.” Lance couldn’t help but shift uncomfortably underneath Shiro’s stare, and the hitman leaned back forward. Despite the several feet of space between, them, Lance felt like the man was breathing right down his back as he tilted his head, resting it in his hand. “So why are you in here, hm? You’re no killer.”

            Lance’s head snapped towards him so hard it cracked. “What? How did you know? How did you tell?”

            Shiro waved his free hand dismissively. “Killers have auras. You don’t have the aura of someone who’s taken a life. You’re more like a freckled Jesus.”

            Lance paused. Blinked. Replayed the sentence in his head. “I-What? A what?”

            “You know, like a freckled jesus. Like… too soft.” He nodded as if that made perfect sense. “Like a rabbit. A little baby rabbit. A bunny?” He chuckled. “Like fear alone could kill you.”

            Lance was afraid that at this rate, it just might.

            A jarring noise from the cell door had him basically leaping a foot in the air, his head whipping around to see a heavily armored guard at the front. He ignored Shiro’s chuckle as the man took out his keys, opened the doors, and let the door swing open on its squeaky hinges until it slammed against the concrete wall, making Lance wince. “Oi. Breakfast. Just you, immigrant.”

            Lance could feel the anger rile up in him at the insult but then paused. Curiousity was nudging at his mind, and his eyes slid over to where the Japanese man rested in his cot, not moving or making a break for the door. “What… what about him?”

            The guard made a face. “He’s not allowed out. Tried to kill a prisoner and pushed another one to suicide.” The heavy sound of a baton hitting the gloved hand of the officer was loud. “But now we have permission to keep that mutt down in any way considered necessary.” The malicious grin the cop sent towards Shiro had Lance shivering. “I hope you step out of line one day, pig.”

            “What’s your name?” Shiro asked lightly.

            “The names Iverson.” The man snarled.

            Shiro smiled. “Got it. Will keep in mind.” He looked back at Lance before he could ask any more questions. “As fascinating as our conversation has been, I’m afraid you only get two meals a day, especially in this ward. I’d go and get breakfast and try to ration it as best you can.” He blew Lance a kiss, and Lance tried not to grimace as he scurried out of the cell door. He could swear that he could still feel the stare of the man on his back before the door swung and slammed back shut, sealing him away if just for the moment. Lance sighed heavily, letting his body sway with relief.

            “What a fucking prick.” The guard’s name- Iverson?- sneered as they walked down the narrow hallway and passed several barren cells, most of them empty. “I’m telling you, cube, that Jap is going to get fucked up by the fucking gangsters of this world, made into their bitches and turned into some whore for the higher ups.” He threw back his head and laughed, and Lance bitterly, bitterly hated the man. “But anyway. If he tries to escape, you let us know, right?”

            If there was one thing Lance hated more than anything else in the world, it was fucking slurs. No matter if they were used on him, or on someone else, they got under his skin faster than anything else he could think of. He couldn’t stop the way that his head snapped around, eyes dark. “That is no fucking way to speak to me, prisoner or no. Nor about a man of Japanese descent despite his background.” For a moment he felt okay, felt in control of himself, back in his own confidence and safezone. He knew exactly what the fuck he was talking about, and he refused to let anyone try to dehumanize him because of race.

            A resounding slap echoed through the hall, and Lance hit the floor, choking back a grunt as he landed. He barely managed to put his hand between the floor and his head, and when he looked up, Iverson’s boot was pressed into his chest, making the air whoosh out of his lungs as the man leaned over and pressed more weight onto Lance’s chest. “Now listen here, little prison boy.” He snarled. “I don’t give a damn if you like it or not. I’ll call you, that jap, and anyone else here whatever the fuck I want. You think you can try to stop me, little murderer? Huh?” Lance could feel the hate in his eyes burn brighter, like a bright blue star, hot to the touch. Iverson paused a moment before pulling back, releasing Lance’s chest and allowing him to breathe, though it was harsh. “Stay in your fucking lane, little shit.” Iverson leered, grinning. Lance rolled onto his side, pushing himself up on one arm and glaring heavily at the floor, wishing he could burn a hole through it. He stumbled up onto his feet and after a moment, turned and followed Iverson to the kitchens.

            Shiro watched from where he was in the cell, his eyes alight with curiousity.


 

            The meal room looked… like a high school caferteria. Not one of the cool ones where there’s a coffee machine or good healthy choices for food. The dirty, grimy, disgusting schools, where a kid could get mugged right in front of the teacher and the victim would get sent to detention for disrupting lunch. It was morbid, it was bland, and Lance desperately wished that he could have some good food, some soup or something other than this… strange blob on a Styrofoam tray, wilted vegetables and what looked to be milk? He could feel eyes on him as he tried to be as inconspicuous as possible, slinking behind the larger, burlier men in the facility. Apparently one of them had seen him as well, and began to find interest in him. A hand pinched the back of his neck and made him squeak as he was dragged back from where he was going. “What a pretty little bluebird.” The large, burly man smiled, his breath rolling off of him in waves. Lance couldn’t stop the way his nose crinkled if he tried. “Are you lost, little bird?”

            “What? Me?” Lance tried to pipe up, but fear was lodging in his throat and making it hard to speak a single word. “What-No, I’m perfectly fine, I’m heading to where I need to be right now in fact. I’ve already got a table and everything!” The inmate looked over his shoulder at his friend and then back at Lance, clearly not believing his story. “I know it may not sound like it, but I’m serious! They might get a little mad if you don’t let me go!”

            “I’ll take my chances.” The first man purred, and began to pull at Lance’s neck, as if he were some lost kitten. Lance immediately tried to yank his way out, struggling and flailing with a sense of panic he’d recently began associating with his new life. He would probably never be safe again, never secure, always spit on no matter what he did or how he did it. He nearly dropped his lunch as he shouted out for help, nobody coming to the rescue when they saw the burly statures of the men pulling him.

            But suddenly a small figure was in front of the two tall men, a strange looking boy with giant round glasses, a little bit on their small mousey face. His hair was made up of a million cowlicks, a creamy gold in their colour. “I’ll take that guy from you, if you don’t mind.” His voice was even soft too; delicate. The two brutes looked at each other and then back at the one in front of them, who outstretched his hand. “Please.”

            Dumb and Dumber looked over at Lance, who was barely hanging onto his lunch and his sanity at the same time. “This the person?”

            Lance’s eyes slid down to the short guy and saw the glint of intent in his eyes. He began to bob his head rapidly. “Yeah, that’s him! Yep! I’m sitting with him and with him! Yepperoni! So if you gentlemen could let me down right about now, that would be wonderful.” Reluctantly, they followed instructions and let him fall to his feet. He nearly sagged to the ground, a whoosh of a ludicrous laugh leaving him as the boy beckoned him and he followed like a rescued puppy from a bad owner.

            The boy led him to a small table, where another guy sat by himself Another tray was next to him, and Lance had to guess it belonged to the other dude, who was now sitting down in front of it. Lance looked at them awkwardly until the guy with curly hair snorted. “You can sit down, you know. This isn’t mean girls.”

            The reference made Lance relax, if only minutely, and he sat down, feeling his back relax from the ramrod straight position he had his spine in. He picked at his own goo before looking back at the guy. “Thank you so much, dude, honestly.” He tried to crack a smile but failed. “It meant so much.”

            “Well, good then.” The guy next to them spoke up, and Lance snapped his head over to see the head lift. Purple almond eyes were the first thing that revealed itself to Lance, besides all the sharp angles and edges of his smooth face. His eyebrows were thick and intense, as if the guy never knew what a joke was. His hair was- was that… was that a mullet? It looked soft enough, anyway, despite being in a prison. “Because we need you to convey a message.”

            Lance tried not to let the guy rile him up, but failed incredibly fast. “And why exactly should I do that, huh? That guy helped me, not you.”

            Mullet Man shrugged. “Because what they might ask you to do would be worse. This is Pidge.” He jerked his head in Pidge’s direction. “They’re intel. Information. If it’s illegal to know they know it.” His stare narrowed in on Lance. “My name is Keith. Keith Kogane.”

            “Oh, right, like that’s supposed to-”

            “Some people call me the Red Lion.”

            Lance swallowed. “Oh.”

            Was this orange is the new black? He tried not to giggle as he lost his fucking marbles. There was no way they put the Red and Black Lions together. No fucking way. He almost missed the spare sentence floating through the air. “Pidge is the Green Lion.”

            “What?!?” Lance couldn’t keep the shock out of his voice. “There’s more than you two?!?”

            Keith looked smug. “It’s almost as if the informant has to stay out of the line of sight. They’re a valuable piece of our group. It’d be a shame to lose them.” As if a private joke had been shared, Pidge nudged Keith, and the man grinned back at the antics of the smaller before looking back at Lance, who was busy cleaning his jaw off of the floor. “And right now, I need you to bring a message to your new buddy.”

            Lance swallowed. “To big, fun and friendly?”

            Keith frowned. “No. His name is Shiro. Is that what he introduced himself to you as?” He shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. Just tell him these numbers and we should be good to go.” He pulled out a pen and handed it to Lance, who looked at it warily. Keith rolled his eyes and let the pen drop to the floor. “Relax. It won’t kill you. This place might, though.”

            “Gee. Thanks.” Lance mumbled, clicking the pen. “What is it?”

            Keith leaned forward, and Lance caught sight of an almost icy white scar on the right side of Keith’s widow’s peak. “Two-Twenty Nine. Four-Three. Eight-Twenty. Three- X-One-Seven. Twelve. One-Thirteen.” He leaned back as if he didn’t just randomly give Lance fucking morse code to deal with. “Put a dot between each number and letter group. And then just show it to Shiro. He should get it.”

            Lance paused a moment before looking up to watch Keith. “Hey…” He tried to find the right words, and when Keith raised an eyebrow he swallowed. “Doesn’t Shiro have a prosthetic?”

            Keith furrowed his brow. “A what? A fake limb?” He shook his head. “No, he’s never had a fake limb? And how would he have the limb he has now?” He ran a hand through his hair. “What, it’s only been one day and the world is getting to you? Jesus, what a life you live.”

            “Would you leave him alone?” Pidge’s tone was playful. “He’s not supposed to be here in the first place.”

            Lance stuttered. “Wh-You can tell too?” Both of them nodded. Lance resisted the urge to yell. “How?!?”

            Keith and Pidge both looked at each other before Pidge turned back to him, all warmth sucked from his body until Lance felt a chill. “When you first kill a man, you learn something about yourself.” His voice was dark, but calm, like the sea at midnight. “Not how shitty a person you are or how you’re going to hell or any bullshit like that. You learn if you sleep at night, or if you don’t.

            “The first time I killed a man, I was sixteen.” Pidge watched him, his stare now cold and lifeless as he smiled. “Slept like a baby ever since.”

            The stare of a Killer.

            Lance needed to get out of here.

Chapter Text

            IT wasn’t long until Lance got back to his cell, the interactions with two other criminals seemingly draining all of his energy already, and he was pretty sure that he wasn’t even out there for long. It wasn’t Iverson that had escorted him back, but he couldn’t give that much of a fuck to listen to him or look at him, really. What was up with that weird set of numbers? Huh? Was it some prison game or something? He wasn’t sure if he should say something, but if he didn’t he might get into some trouble with the red and green lions. It was still hard to come to terms that there were more of them, it was one of those things that if somebody had told him that before he’d met them he would have laughed and just walked away. It was hard to imagine another lion of the Voltron hit-man group going incognito, but it showed how little he knew about the strange guy in the glasses.

            He hadn’t even realized that he had made it back to his cell until the ear-piercing sound of it opening made it to his ears, and he was shoved back inside, falling onto his knees as the guard muttered something about ‘deaf prisoners’. Had the man been talking to him? Was he really that caught up in his own thoughts? He didn’t take much time to dwell on that as he pushed himself up to his feet and yelped as the man- Shiro- stood in front of him, his eyes twinkling with mischief. “Heard you got some prison douches all in your grill today.” He murmured, a smug look on his face. “Well, I’m not surprised. People as tiny and squeaky as you are easy prey, man. Don’t sweat it too much, though. They’ll get bored of you any time now.”

            Lance narrowed his eyes at the man who seemed rather nonchalant about his hard time, and with a huff, he pushed himself onto his knees, brushing himself off as he looked back at the tiny, tiny space the two of them had to share. Another pang of distress about the events that had brought him to where he was came back, and he took a deep breath to try and get back into the present, rather than the past. “You’re super happy for some reason.” He muttered, and even though Shiro’s head twisted towards him in what could be considered a scarily accurate impression of an owl, Lance only flinched a teeny tiny bit. Luckily the stare only lasted so long, and Shiro returned to his small tray of food that rested on his bed, shoving inhuman portions into his mouth and looking like a hamster as he chomped and chewed his way through the stale bread and watery food that was given to him. Lance had dragged himself to his own cot again, and as he laid on his back, he thought about the message that the two strangers gave him. The numbers were already fuzzy in his head, and even though he really didn’t want to start any sort of conversation with the serial killer, he had a feeling that if he didn’t say anything, it might become even worse. “Uh… hey.” He murmured into the air, tensing as he heard the chewing immediately stop at the sound of his unsure voice. “Uh… the guys that rescued me? They told me to tell you something.” He didn’t look at Shiro as he continued to talk, letting his eyes wander to the wall with the tick marks of days. “Uh… something something full of numbers kind of stuff. I don’t really remember some of it, but-” Suddenly two muscular arms were slammed on either side of Lance’s head and his eyes snapped open wide to see Shiro looming above him, watching him the way a predator would his prey. “-oh god WHAT THE FUCK-”

            “I need you to think very long, and very hard about what exactly you were told.” Shiro’s voice came out as only a deep, instinctual growl, and Lance felt himself shrink into the corners of his mind where he could manage any sort of escape he could. “It is imperative that you have all the numbers correct, or it could cost us both our lives. Mainly yours.” The taller man let himself lean closer to Lance, their noses almost touching as the younger tried his best not to hyperventilate. “Concentrate. I need you to concentrate. Close your eyes and try to maximize your memory. Picture what you heard, can you picture it?”

            “I… Yeah?”

            “Can you remember it?”

            Lance’s brow furrowed in frustration as Shiro kept pushing at him for information about the numbers. “Yes, I’m pretty sure I can remember it-”

            “Are you sure? Because the average memory is only 62% accurate-”

            “For god’s sake!” Lance didn’t mean for it to come out as loudly as it did, but when the hitman above him looked kind of surprised, he rolled his eyes in exasperation before pulling up the sleeve of his prison jumper. The numbers were clearly written on him, with a strange character with spiral glasses on and a cheeky grin. “The shorter guy kind of figured that for it to work out, he would write it on me just in case!”

            The intensity in which Shiro stared at his arm made Lance all kinds of uncomfortable, but he knew that the faster that he let Shiro look at it, the faster it would be over and the hitman could get off of him. “That clever techie. They really did think of everything, didn’t they?” he grinned, and if it weren’t on such a warped and maliciously inclined face, Lance could have almost seen this guy as something more than a psycho. He actually looked… kind of not bad.

            Get it fucking together, Lance.

            Shiro pushed off of him and immediately went to the floor, dropping and doing pushups like a madman. Lance could hardly comprehend what was going on, first Shiro was all up in his face, and now he was getting a good workout in? What on earth was even happening in this life of his? “Uh… What are you doing?” He eloquently asked, ignoring the condescending huff that Shiro had given him in reply. “I’m serious, you just literally laid on me and then decided that the best time to do push ups was now? Seriously, what on earth is going on?” The slight confidence that Lance was feeling slowly disappeared as Shiro switched to one handed push ups, left hand tucked behind his back.

            “I’m getting ready.” Was his only verbal reply. Lance felt his blood go cold.

            “For what?”

            Shiro simply watched the floor for a while, never really seeming to get tired from all the exercise he was getting in, from push ups to curl ups to jumping jacks and even pull ups from the bent poles at the window. By the time that he had even slowed down moderately, Lance had given up on getting an answer from him. But it was just after Lance had managed to get more food in his stomach (The other two weren’t there anymore; Lance could feel the cold sweats starting but nobody bothered him as he ate and left) that Shiro finally spoke again, both of them lying in their respective cots. “You know, I never really caught your name, Freckles. Mind catching me up on that goodness? Can’t keep calling you Freckles forever, unless that’s your thing. I personally don’t mind it.”

            Lance blinked up at the ceiling before shifting his head to look at Shiro, who hadn’t moved a muscle as he seemed to be sleeping. “Why does it matter to you? I’m just your cellmate. My name shouldn’t be something important between the two of us.”

            The man shrugged, smiling again. Somehow, it seemed softer than the first time. Maybe because his eyes were closed or that he just didn’t feel like being intimidating at the moment, but it both set him at ease and on edge. “I don’t know. Hard to thank somebody for standing up to that chucklefuck Iverson, even if it is over something as stupid as racial slurs, if I don’t know their name.”

            “Wait, what?” Lance sat up in his cot, now completely awake. “You heard that?”

            “You weren’t exactly quiet.” Was the reply he received, and Lance groaned in embarrassment, letting his head fall to the pillow with a sigh as Shiro continued. “So all I really know about you is one, you’re not a killer. I’d put money on the fact that you’ve probably never even cheated on a test. Two, you’re surprisingly… moral? I guess? An interesting player in a high security jail cell. And Three, you shake like a baby rabbit whenever I get anywhere close to you. Even if I did want to hunt you down, with that little amount of information, I don’t think that I’d be able to find you.” A pause, before laughter. “Just kidding. I could find you just by the shape of your ear or the porn you watch while you masturbate!” He cackled a little while longer, slamming his fist on the wide of the wall while he cracked up.

            Lance groaned, twisting to have his back towards the hitman before deciding immediately that it was a bad idea and twisting his back to the wall, wrapping the pillow around his head. “Do you ever stop being an asshole?” He muttered. “I’m trying to sleep.”

            The next time he looked, Shiro’s eyes were wide open and watching him, almost glowing with malicious interest. “Do you like the silence, little rabbit?” His voice was soft, but poised with intrigue. “Do you like when you can hear nothing? When not even your breathing makes a sound, and you’re left with only your thoughts?” He shifted so he was laying on his stomach, watching Lance carefully. “Not a lot of people can seem to stand it. There certainly must be something very special about you.”

            “There’s nothing special about me.” Lance whispered, unable to make his voice get any louder than that. “I’m no different than any regular guy, and I never will be.”

            Shiro made a disapproving ‘tsk’ noise, mouth stretched back into that unnatural grin. “If you weren’t different, how come I haven’t killed you yet?” He sat up, his feet touching the floor, and Lance felt his blood go cold. “I’ve had so many roomates, and yet none of them have intrigued me like you have. What is it about you, hm? Is it that strange sense of frailty?” Shiro rose from his cot, and Lance curled into a ball, moving his pillow from his head to his chest as if it would help protect him. “Is it that you still care about people, even when you’re shut away because of them, like us?” Their faces were close together again, and Lance was terrified to even breathe. God, he wished he had brushed his teeth before this. “Or is it because cute things are hard to find nowadays? Because when you first looked at me, you saw metal instead of flesh.” He cocked his head, smiling. “Do you think I’m a robot? A monster?”

            Lance choked on a scream before minutely shaking his head, his whole body trembling with the motion.

            Shiro studied him for a while, something flickering through his eyes but not long enough for Lance to analyze it before he was pulling away, turning to walk back to his own cot. He sat down, the creak of the metal protesting the action before he laid down and stretched out, his back to the wall as well. They faced each other, and Lance could only shift a tiny bit more before Shiro’s voice startled him once again. “Won’t you please tell me your name, little rabbit?”

            Lance couldn’t explain what had possessed him to respond, what had made him think that telling Shiro, the Black Lion, one of the people children were warned about his name. If he had been possessed by some kind of archaic force that knew that as soon as he uttered those two words, he’d be sent down a spiral journey that would both save and destroy his live even farther, he would have believed it. But in the present, before he could have known any of that, his lower lip trembled with the sheer mental force that was trying to keep him from speaking, and after a minute, it finally came out.

            “Lance. Lance Sanchez.”

            If it hadn’t already been dead quiet, he could have known immediately that Shiro wouldn’t have been able to hear him. But judging by the way that the hitman’s body relaxed and a genuine smile spread across his face, he knew that Shiro had heard him. “Lance, huh?” He mused almost to himself, huffing in amusement. “That’s got a nice ring to it. Nice to meet you.”

            What the fuck. “Y-you too.”

            Shiro smiled a little bit more again, his eyes flickering down and away before he shifted again, speaking while he did so. “Get some rest, Lance. You’ll need it in the morning.” His back was now to the college graduate, and Lance felt some sort of immense relief wash over him, as if Shiro not looking at him was a mercy that he was given so that he could sleep.

            “And you won’t?” He couldn’t help but call out. The lack of sunlight and beginning of lights out gave him some sense of confidence back, only to have it taken away again as Shiro looked over his shoulder, still all smiles as he laughed quietly.

            “No. I don’t think I will.” 


 

            Empty.

            The cell was empty.

            Lance had woken up to the door wide open and the mattress that Shiro was sleeping on torn to shreds. The hitman was nowhere to be seen, and the fact that he was gone wasn’t the thing that chilled Lance to his bones.

            The mattress hadn’t just been slashed, someone had cut words into it. Big, sloppy words, but it was enough to get his point across.

            ENJOY THE SILENCE.

Chapter Text

            The few days after the disappearance of his roommate were possibly almost as long as the day he was arrested and the day he was found guilty. At first, everything had seemed to be in slow motion. His breath seemed to leave him at a snail’s pace as he took in and understood what exactly was happening. The tears in the bottom of the mattress were almost too clean. Like Shiro had carefully take his time slicing the mattress open and curling the letters, easily controlling and twisting the blade while Lance had slept right across the room. Where had he even gotten the knife? How did he keep the weapon hidden? He could have killed Lance in his sleep, and yet he decided not to. Even though he was grateful, Lance couldn’t help but swallow weakly and wonder why he had been left alive. Why? He had the perfect opportunity to kill Lance, he was unarmed, weaker than him, and had more than enough time if he had it to cleanly put the words so vibrantly into the bedding he used to sleep on. But… but he hadn’t. Lance was perfectly unharmed.

            That is, until the morning rounds. Then things started to get blurry as he was picked up and yelled at by the guard by the door. He could almost understand what was being said at first, could almost read the way that teeth gnashed in his face, the way that spit hit him on the cheekbones as he tried to understand, to tell them that he had nothing to do with it, but then he was slammed down to the ground, making him see stars as the cool stone beneath him scraped his chin and his head was pushed down hard. The pressure made him want to grit his teeth, but the grip on his skull was making too difficult to do so, and the cold metal of handcuffs clicking tight around his thin wrists only made the chill travel up his spine as he was yanked off the ground, his limps aching from the stretch. And then they had dragged him somewhere, his eyes narrowed in on the open door of his cell, his feet scuffling and catching on the uneven stones of the floor as they passed through hallways with other cell members looking at him in curiousity, some even looking at him as if he were to die that very day. And when they yanked him through a door into a nearly television show looking interrogation room, manhandled him into a chair and two of the officers including Iverson stepped in, he thought he was.

            The interrogation was like running around in circles, they kept asking him the same thing over and over again, he would tell them the same things over and over again. “Where is the Black Lion?” I don’t know. “How did he escape?” I don’t know. “Did the others escape along with him?” I don’t know. And it was fairly obvious that they thought he was lying. To be fair, if he had been in their position, he would have been skeptical at first as well. But he really didn’t know anything. And even if he did still have the numbers on his skin and hadn’t scrubbed it off during his shower, even if he did have the opportunity to remember any of the numbers (They knew that he had photographic memory, but he honest to god hadn’t looked at the numbers. It felt like the moment he did he would regret it.) he wasn’t sure it would have made his case any clearer. Rather, it probably would have made his case worse if he were to tell them what he knew, because they would have even more reason to take him as their scapegoat, to use him to get what they wanted. So instead he just kept being honest, kept being himself, even as the interrogation tactics became… more. More than just spitting in his face and pulling his hair and kicking him in the shins. Eventually it turned into punches, into yanking his head back and breathing right in his face as they threatened him to spill the truth. It hurt, oh fuck did it hurt, but even though he kept being honest, he was being honest! Nobody would believe him. No matter how hard he cried out his innocence, nobody would listen or believe it.

            His innocence had deserted him the moment he realized why they were hurting him so badly, and he began to laugh. His body ached with the jarring that his rancorous noise, and even as they yanked him up by his hair, with a black eye and split lip appearing on his face, he couldn’t help but smile. “You got something you wanna say, cube?” Iverson’s voice was like steel, but that hardly mattered anymore. Lance still got more than a few giggles out, his head now released so it bobbed as he let it fall. “You’d better spit it out, or it’s only going to get harder for-”

            “You’re afraid.” His own voice sounded so foreign to him, he could only imagine how the guards thought of it. He lifted his head just a little bit, watching him with the intelligent eyes he knew he had. “You’re afraid that this is going to get out, right? Arus, one of the best prisons in the world, lost one of the most dangerous, if not THE most dangerous assassin in the world, along with his partner in crime and their intelligence dude?” he couldn’t help but smile even wider as he read them like a book. “You’ll lose your jobs, won’t you? You’ll lose all of your renown, all of your glories, now that three madmen had escaped underneath your fucking noses, huh?” He watched them carefully, taking in the way that their fingers twitched minutely before curling into fists, and the way that Iverson’s eyes flickered with fear as well. “And you think that I know something about it? Someone who’d only spent… what, two days with him? A madman that I wanted nothing to do with? Someone who could kill me a hundred thousand ways and I was alone in a room with him?” He laughed a little bit as the second guy tried to look to Iverson. “Don’t even bother asking him what to do. He’s just about as blindsided by this as you are.”

            The other man’s fist made it across his face, and he fell to the ground, grunting in pain as stars exploded behind his eyelids. But still, he couldn’t help it. He opened his eyes and watched them. Iverson had his back mostly turned to him, but it was obvious he was still wary of him. Couldn’t blame him considering the murder he was framed for. The other man, he hadn’t really taken in much of what he had seen, but he did notice that he was right handed, because his right thumb was the only one that seemed to twitch with anxiety. People often chose their dominant hand for fidgeting, that was something Lance had learned. He also took a moment to try and read the nametag. Montgomery. Sounded like a professor’s name. He sighed and let his head gently rest back onto the ground, closing his eyes as he tried to listen to them whisper. But either they were aware that they needed to be quiet or they just naturally were, because he could barely hear anything until footsteps made their way over to where he was resting, and he got pulled up by his still cuffed arms. But perhaps the most surprising thing of all was the fact that they uncuffed him. He couldn’t help but watch with wide eyes, the nervousness that had left him while his adrenaline fueled him was back, and his heart was pounding as Iverson smiled at him. “Since you won’t bend to our… interrogation tactics that we’re using now, we’re going to have to try another one.” Iverson’s smile had nothing but bad intentions in it as it stretched across his face like plastic. “Would you like to know what the silence is like?”


 

            Solitary confinement.

            Silence.

            When they had dragged him in, hes hadn’t put up much of a fight. Taking a look around wasn’t hard, he knew that it wasn’t anything like any other cell that he knew of. It was massive, built to the ceiling and covered with almost triangular looking things. Even the floor was made of what looked to be hexagonal wiring, showing a steep drop underneath him filled with even more of the seemingly foam triangles, covering every square inch of the walls and the ceiling as well. A single camera was in the corner, as if he were a subject to be studied. It was almost like he stepped into a new universe, one built solely for him, and he couldn’t help but furrow his brow as he recognized that the walls… were not just walls. They had… something on them. But he was turned around just as he was at the entrance, and Iverson smiled at him. “This room is an Anechoic chamber. It is -9 decibels. You’re going to stay in there until you decide to talk. They say that not many people can last very long inside of it, so we can only hope to see how long someone like you, who seems to always have something to say, will fare. The longest someone’s lasted in here is 45 minutes.” A hand grabbed Lance by the elbow, and he was dragged inside, Iverson waving at him as they strapped him into a chair. Even the double doors were covered in the foam, and as they shut Lance could already hear the sound leaving him in total, absolute silence.

            Enjoy the silence.

            Lance swallowed weakly, the sound too loud. Then the lights clicked off, and he saw no more.


 

            He didn’t know how long that he’d been inside of the room. He couldn’t see anything. All he had with him was his thoughts and a tiny case of anxiety that was slowly turning into a large one. At first it hadn’t been too bad, really. But time had dragged on, nothing had changed, and it wasn’t long until he realized that the silence was so violent that he could hear his own heartbeat, pulsing and speeding up as he registered that he could hear it without anything else in the room. He was stuck in this place, where he could only hear his own breaths, his own voice, his own shifting. There was nothing else to distract him, there was nothing that he could do to try and escape from where he was. He was in complete and total darkness. And it always felt like somebody was watching him. The silence was too deafening for him to try and sleep, and even when he yanked at his handcuffs, screamed up to the high heavens, and cried out for someone to free him, to help him, nobody came. He eventually began talking to himself, and even the sound of his stomach grumbling made him nauseous. He writhed in his chair as he made as much noise as he possibly could because no, he needed to not think. Stop thinking about what brought him here. Stop thinking about the trail that caused all of this. “Mama…” He cried out brokenly into the unforgiving darkness. “Dad… Benji… Leo, Angela, Juanita…” His voice cracked on the last name. “…Amelia… Lo siento. Lo… Lo siento mucho.” He couldn’t see the tears, but they were hot on his face as they dripped off his eyelashes as he let his head hang above his legs. “Lo- Lo siento mucho.” He hiccupped, squeezing his eyes tight as he gasped for air, the sound still like a bomb going off in his head. “I-I… I’m so alone. I need… los necesito, por favor… por favordon’t be dead… Please.” His voice failed him as he reduced himself to a whisper. “Please… Please come back to me. Please.”

            And almost as if he were being answered, the doors opened, and light assaulted his eyes while it draped across the floor, lighting up the bottom of the floor beneath the wires as if they were spikes. Lance hadn’t even bothered to look up as he weeped over the death of his family, over the life that he knew that he could never go back to. And when large, calloused hands touched his shoulder gently, he wrenched himself away at first only for a familiar voice to permeate the air. “It’s okay. You’re okay now.”

            His eyes snapped open and he looked up to see a familiar set of brown eyes, brown eyes that had peeked at him through a visor of a prison security guard on the way to Arus. But this time there was no uniform. Instead it was, strangely enough, black cargo shorts and a bright yellow shirt with green vest. An orange headband was wrapped tightly around his forehead, and as the guard-not guard kneeled down to undo his cuffs, he saw a giant gun set on the floor, not like any gun he had ever seen before. It was yellow and white, and seemed to positively glow with blue, like an alien weapon. But as the man rose and blocked the view, the glow disappeared, and when the man lifted him up and held him up with a hand on his waist and throwing Lance’s arm over his shoulder, he saw that instead it was just… a really, really big gun. A gun that the man seemed to lift up with ease, smiling widely at Lance. “The gods might not be watching you, but perhaps someone else is.”

            “Who…” Lance’s voice was hoarse from screaming, and he winced as he was carried out of the room, though it was much more gently than the other men. Perhaps it was just all of his wounds hurting. “Who are you?”

            The man looked surprised before thoughtfully staring at the door of the anechoic chamber before simply just putting his gun down and lifting Lance up bridal style. “Well, my name is Hunk. I’m friends with Keith, Pidge and Shiro.” He then picked up the gun and held Lance with one hand each, making Lance’s eyes bug out. “We’re here to rescue you.” Lance sputtered as he was carried out, but as his eyesight adjusted, his breath couldn’t help but leave him quickly. There was blood spattered over the walls, and there was so much of it that it almost looked like grotesque paint. He tried not to gag and shut his eyes, making Hunk laugh. “Yeah, that’s not a good sight for you. You’re already pretty shaken up from that nonsense with those asshole people.”

            “Why are you rescuing me?” Lance interrupted, and he could feel each heavy step of Hunk’s feet as he took turns left, right and eventually kept going forward until he turned to push what seemed to be a door open, and the fresh air almost made Lance sob with relief as he opened his eyes to see the night sky once again, his already red-rimmed eyes welling up once again to see that he was seeing the outside world, something he was afraid he had lost forever. His gaze eventually fell back to Hunk, who was humming a song quietly as he carried Lance across the parking lot. “What happened in there?” He asked softly.

            “Shiro seemed to have a personal vendetta against one of the guys in there. Iverson, I think?” Hunk shrugged. “People tried to stop him.”

            And that was the end of that conversation. Lance let out a shaky breath, and as he felt exhaustion overcome him, he barely registered being put in the plush back seat of a car, and a familiar man with a white patch of hair was driving, occasionally looking over his shoulder at him with Hunk riding shotgun, sounding amused as lofi music quietly played in the background.

            This time, when the darkness came for him, it was welcomed.

Chapter Text

            Lance woke up to the sound of… birds. The sound that he had heard over a billion times before in his life was the one thing that made him slowly come back to consciousness. He blearily cracked his eyes open just a tiny bit, and his eyes were assaulted with light, making him immediately shut them and snuggle back into the warm soft pillows, sheets and comforter that he was gently tucked into for just a few more-

            Wait.

            Immediately Lance’s eyes snapped open and he sat up so hard he got his own hair in his eyes, making him wince as he pulled it out of the way. What. He couldn’t help but try not to choke on air as he took in what seemed to be an absolutely massive bedroom with grand art and marble floorings, the walls painted the pale blue of a morning sky. A fireplace was at the far end of the area, and Lance’s eyes snapped over to the large, arched windows that took up an entire wall of the room to reveal what seemed to be a garden and maze outside of the place. There was a large dresser, a closet, and even seemed to have a connecting bathroom, if the open door and the sight of a  blue towel on a counter was anything to go by. Lance looked down at himself and saw that he was no longer in his prison wear, rather in blue pajamas with gold and yellow embroidery. He looked like a distressed owl, with his hair fluffed up and tangled along with his hands gripping the white comforter so tightly that he swore that he would rip it at any second. “What the fuck.” He mumbled, almost shocked that he could hear his own voice. “What the fuck?”

            He remembered the Anechoic chamber, he remembered getting punched and beaten and bruised, and he delicately raised a hand to his face, wincing as he felt the bruises under his eye and the way that the pain underneath his… new pajamas ached almost in sympathy. But he could also feel something else wrapped around his torso, and an anxious lift of the fabric showed that someone had treated his wounds. He couldn’t seem to find words to use as he heard the birds chirp again, as if letting him know they were still real. Then it hit him, and a laugh left him as he fell back onto the pillows. “I knew it. I’m dead.”

            A knock on the door made him immediately shriek, however dead he was. When the door opened, however, it was the same man that he saw in the chamber, the one who had pulled him out, the one who had hidden him from the Black Lion’s wrath on the prison. It was easier to see what he looked like now, out of the darkness and insanity he was experiencing. He was certainly a tall and large man, dressed in a green vest and yellow long sleeved shirt. He also wore fitted jeans and some scuffed Adidas looking shoes. Wow, this man was ripped. He flinched as the man stepped in, revealing to be holding a… tray? A tray of food? Was that food? For him? Did they poison it? Was this an interrogation tactic? Was this to test if he was actually out of there? What if this was a hallucination? What if they had drugged him to see if he had any information? The man stepped closer, and Lance tensed more than he wanted to. He wanted to believe in the fact that the man who busted him out of a prison that he wasn’t supposed to be in in the first place was on his side, but… he was associated with Shiro. Was anyone that was associated with him good?

            “I can hear you thinking from here.” The man’s voice gently permeated the air, and though Lance wanted to be on guard, the tone was nothing less than careful, considerate, and kind. He stepped closer, keeping his stance soft and unguarded, like he didn’t mean to hurt Lance. The food… the food looked frankly delicious. It was an omelet that smelled full of vegetables, salted tomato slices and a glass of orange juice. On the side were some pills, and when his eyes flickered up to the man again, he looked a little nervous. “It’s for your pain. It’s ibuprofen. If you want, I can go get the bottle so you can grab your own. I also didn’t know if you were vegetarian, or if you were lactose intolerant, so I tried to make something that took both of those into consideration.” His eyes widened. “Oh, crow. What if you’re a vegan?” He looked down at the omelet with a sense of betrayal that finally made a smile crack Lance’s anxious aura. “Oh, quiznak. Are you a vegan? I’m sorry, I keep forgetting that omelets have eggs in them.”

            Lance didn’t mean for his shoulders to relax as much as they did, but he shook his head. “No. You’re good, big guy. That does smell delicious, though.” He scented the air, humming in approval. “It smells like… mushrooms. And avocado. That’s already enough to get my stomach growling.” The man smiled and gently put the tray down, far enough away so Lance wouldn’t feel threatened, though at this point he doubt he would. But he took it gratefully, immediately digging in and moaning at the taste. “Is there hot sauce in here? My god, you’re a genius.” He smiled at the man before swallowing. “Hunk, right?”

            If his smile had been bright at the praise of his food, then Hunk’s grin could rival the sun. “You do remember me! And everyone else said that you wouldn’t. Yeah, I’m Hunk. I’m the guy that got you out of that nightmare room. Coran and Allura both tried to say that since it was super traumatic for you that you wouldn’t remember anything about that night, but I knew that you would remember me, I knew it!”

            Lance frowned at the mention of ‘that night’, taking a bite of his omelet and a slice of salted tomato before asking. “What happened outside of you rescuing me? I remember being put in a car and falling unconscious there. I don’t remember any of…” He gestured uselessly towards the entire room with his knife and fork. “Well, to be frank, any of this. I have so many questions. One, where the hell am I? Two: Why did you guys come back for me? Three: Who are Coran and Allura? And four…” He took a sip of his orange juice, wanting to stave off the question as long as he could, but he imagined that if he was going to get any, he had to ask the person who’d been the nicest to him so far. “How did Shiro escape? And why didn’t he kill me? Why am I still alive?”

            Hunk looked down at Lance thoughtfully, and when he silently asked permission to sit on the bed by gesturing to it, Lance nodded and he sat down, the bed sinking slightly with his weight. It was that well built. “Well… I can’t really answer some of it, but until Allura and Coran get here, I can explain how he escaped. To be honest, I’m not sure why he didn’t kill you. You might have to ask him that yourself.” Lance swallowed weakly, and Hunk looked at him sympathetically. “I know. He’s not the easiest guy to talk to at first sight. But he’s really a nice guy. I promise.”

            “How is someone like you part of someone like him? How- why are you two even in each other’s lives? You’re not anything alike.” Hunk’s gaze dimmed almost immediately, and Lance was taken aback at the sudden shift in atmosphere rolling off of the yellow dressed friend. “Hunk?...”

            Brown eyes blinked back the darkness in his gaze, and Hunk looked back at Lance, face tense. “I.. that’s a story for another time.” He wrung his hands in muted anxiety and changed the subject before Lance could ask any more questions. “You met me as a guard. I was… technically I was the one who got him out of prison. Pidge made me a fake badge, a fake identity and all of that so that it seemed that I had the qualifications to be there in case a riot broke out, but even though that was true, it wasn’t the reason I was there.”

            It clicked in Lance’s head. “You were part of the guard rotations, weren’t you? That would be the only way. You’d have to be on night shift. How could you have gotten past the systems? How could you have gotten Shiro past all the-”

            “I didn’t. Pidge did.” Lance’s mouth closed as Hunk cut him off, though not unkindly. “Pidge is the Green lion. they’re our hacker, our informant, they’re the one that makes sure that if there’s anything circulating about us, about who or where we might be, they take care of it. So I got them and Keith out first. Keith’s specialty is hand to hand combat. He made disposing of the guard easy.” Hunk laughed and shook his head, his hair swishing with the movement as he pulled off his headband and tied his hair into a bun atop his head, looking upward as he spoke. “The prison wasn’t very big, so of course it would be heavily guarded as there’s not more than two ways in or out of that prison. The walls are thick, there’s electric wiring around it, and there’s check points at every door, along with buttons to alert both the police and everyone else inside of the prison. So, we had to strip the resources from them. Pidge took their security layout and their cameras, and Keith took care of the guards. So that left me to get Shiro.” He cracked his neck, looking down at Lance’s food with an almost affronted eyebrow raised. “You know it’s gonna get cold soon, right? You need to eat. I know how bad the food was there.”

            Lance jolted at the reminder that he was being fed really good food, and he shoveled it in while listening intently to Hunk as the man continued. “So we did a basic grid search, as none of them were in any general vicinity of each other, they usually ate at different times, and if Shiro ever got out of there, he would be monitored by all times, and that was usually due to a trip to the anechoic chamber.” He shivered, raising his hand to the space in front of him and spreading it, mapping it out in a way that Lance could almost see. “We did that, and when I found Shiro, he was awake, sitting in front of the cell door.” He shivered. “Scared the crap out of me, you know. He looked way too alert, as if he was like some sort of vampire werewolf.” He shrugged. “We got him out, but he almost didn’t want to leave. He even looked back once. I’m assuming it was because of you.”

            Lance swallowed the last of his omelet, scooting just a little bit forward with interest instead of scooting back in horror. “But why did you come back? I don’t… I’m just a nobody. You didn’t have to come back with him to get me either, you know.”

            Hunk looked more than a little disconcerted at the way Lance flippantly denied himself as being valuable, but a lighter, more accented feminine voice answered. “They went back in because I wanted them to.” Lance’s eyes snapped over to see a frankly stunning woman with beautiful dark skin, bright blue eyes and hair that looked like clouds. She was dressed well in a light blue swing style dress with a keyhole neckline, purple earrings bright as she smiled at Lance. “Hello. When Hunk hadn’t come back from delivering your food, I imagined you must have been awake and already asking for answers. At least, that’s what your papers said.” The way she walked across the room was almost as if she was gliding, and if Lance looked less starstruck, he would have seen a pale, lithe man with bright orange hair and an incredibly waxed mustache standing behind the woman, glaring at him as she spoke, placing a hand over her chest while smiling at him. “I’m Princess Allura of the country of Altea. The man beside me is Coran Smythe, a very close friend of mine.”

            Lance tried not to inhale his tongue. This… this beautiful, stunning woman was talking to him. He… he should probably answer. “I… Uh…” He swallowed his spit and tried again. “I… the name’s Lance.”

            She looked smug. “Yes, I know who you are, Lance Sanchez. I know all about you, from your move to America to your challenges in your classes, and what led to your false arrest and prosecution.” She held up a hand to stop Lance’s sudden need to ask a billion more questions. “In due time. Pidge helped us find out these things. And you’re quite a social butterfly, aren’t you? You were friends with all of the people on campus. Not a single person didn’t know your name, for only good reasons at first.”

            Lance felt the good food in his stomach churn at the reminder. “Well, yeah. It’s not every day you get wrongfully accused of a murder.”

            “And it’s not every day where you get busted out of prison by a group of highly skilled individuals, hm?” She shot right back, and Coran huffed as he listened to the debate between the two of them. Allura could tell, however, that the way she presented her information was making it harder for Lance to find her trustworthy, and she changed tactics. “Lance. You were brought there for a reason. You had an alibi, you had witnesses, you had all of those things, but you still were accused of being guilty. Why?”

            Lance tried not to scowl, his eyes dropping to the plate as Hunk shot Allura a look. “Allura, I don’t think-”

            “Skirting around the issue has done none of us good.” Her voice was soft, understanding, and Lance let his head raise. “And he deserves to know.” She turned back to Lance, and he flushed again at how intense her gaze was. “Lance. I mean it when I tell you that you were brought here for a reason. Two, to be more precise. One:” She lifted a delicately painted pink finger. “You were brought here because you have the skills that the rest of the individuals here simply do not have, which is the skill to connect easily with others and create bonds that allow you to easily be invited through the natural human defenses. You have heart. Two.” She paused for a moment, looking back at Coran who nodded before turning to Lance. “Your family was murdered for a reason. And if you’re willing to help us, we’re willing to help you.”

            Lance felt dizzy and hyperaware all at once as his world shifted. “What are you saying?”

            Allura smiled. “Lance, I’m giving you a chance to find your family’s killer.”

Chapter Text

            Of fucking course he said yes.

Would anyone that had a heart even think otherwise? It was honestly too good to be true, but the longer that Allura began to thank him for choosing to willingly join them the less he thought it was a farce. This was… this was real. He was talking to a princess in a mansion who rather ominously told him that his family was murdered for a very specific reason. There was nothing that would have stopped him from digging for the truth, but after finishing her formal gratitude, Allura looked to her advisor (who was watching him with a rather… odd look) and then back to him, her beautiful blue eyes soft. “I’m afraid that Hunk, Coran and I must leave for now. Please feel free to wander as you will here, but stay out of the garden and the west wing. I keep forgetting which side of the garden is full of poisonous plants, so do be careful.” She inclined her head ever so slightly, and even though Hunk seemed almost hesitant to leave Lance, he let his eyes flicker down towards the ground as he stood up.

            “I’ll leave your food here.” He murmured ever so softly. “The kitchen is on the ground floor, you just put your dishes down there, and you should be fine. There’s already clothes for you in the closet that should fit you okay.”

            “That’s… not creepy at all.” Lance observed between mouthfuls of food. “How do you guys know my measurements?”

            Hunk smiled, the crow feet on either side of his eyes becoming barely visible. “Pidge. They’re scarily adept.” Allura let out a hum, and Hunk looked over his shoulder before turning back to Lance. “Be sure to rest up, okay? Take care of yourself. We’ll be back by like… midnight. We’ll work on your role in this tomorrow.”

            Lance smiled up at Hunk after wiping his face. “You’re a real good guy, Hunk. Thanks for being so nice to me.”

            Hunk seemed to try and read into what Lance had said, but when he found little to suggest that Lance was lying, he smiled a little softer. “Thanks. I gotta go.” He turned on his foot and immediately followed the other two out, and soon Lance was left alone, staring down at his carefully prepared food and the glass of orange juice. Come to think of it… he really didn’t know where he was, did he? He knew that it was daytime, but he had no phone or computer to pinpoint his exact location. He furrowed his brow as he shoved the rest of the omlette into his mouth, moaning at the delicious flavours before downing the orange juice, falling back with barely a wince before looking at the pills on the tray. They looked harmless enough, really, but… He decided that the pain for right now was bearable, and gingerly took the tray off of his lap and set it to the opposite side of the closet, making his way to gingerly set his legs out to the side. Immediately he felt the soft fabric of slippers, and a noise of excitement left him as he wiggled his toes into the soft fabric.

            “Wow, these really are nice.” He murmured, looking at the deep blue slippers adorning his feet. Not one to make a mess, he gingerly made the bed again, proud of his handiwork. Mama had always told him that he need to be a good guest. He wasn’t going to let her lessons waste away now that… His eyes fell, body suddenly draining of all energy. Now that she wasn’t here to enforce them. “Fuck.” He mumbled to himself, covering his eyes with his hand as they slowly began to sting. “Will things ever get easier?” It wasn’t… he didn’t mean to keep getting choked up, but… He shook his head, taking in a deep breath and clenching his fists to his side. He wouldn’t let himself get swept up by those feelings anymore. Sure, he had no real reason to focus anymore, and he couldn’t go back to school or get a normal job or… anything that he’d wanted… but…

            You’re alive, a voice in his head murmured. Live.

            Determination rose in his gut, and he took another deep breath, letting it out slowly from his nose before walking into the closet. Immediately he was surprised by the incredible amount of clothing that was in there, but it wasn’t hard to figure out that some of them were even replicas of his old clothes. Again, incredibly creepy but… almost touching. He easily found a blue baseball t-shirt and a jacket that was similar to his old lucky one, and he wrapped it around his waist as he pulled on some skinny jeans and blue converse. He folded his pajamas and put them away (hey, don’t judge! They can be worn more than once before washing!) before emerging again, taking in the room that he was just resting in. It still felt… almost surreal that he was there. There was nothing trying to kill him, people were being nice to him, and there was a whole area for him to explore.

            He felt like he was in Breath of the Wild, intruding into Zelda’s castle far before Calamity Ganon came to take over. He gently pressed the door open, holding his breath as he took in the almost Beux-Art architecture, but there were many hints of the Gothic revival architectural style included the front door’s pointed archway, contrasting the baby yellow walls with magnificent coloured glass in the shape of a pink flower. The floors were made of a white marble that would have felt cold beneath his toes, and he realized he was on the second floor, just as Hunk had said. A silver French Empire Chandelier took up a majority of the foyer space, though it was high above him. It glittered how stars would, and he was almost entranced by them. The stairs that led down looked like they costed more than Lance would be able to afford in his entire lifetime, but he couldn’t help the way that his gaze flickered back up to the flower that was perched in the immortal glass. A very strange looking V was beneath it, on the stem, and as he tried to look closer, something that was entirely foreign assaulted his senses, and he clutched his head as it pounded in agony.

            “Get to your l---, NOW!”

            “Paladins, we NEED V------!”

            “The blue ---- chose you.”

            “Maybe you just have to knock.”

            Lance’s head shot up after his own voice echoed in his head, and his breathing was coarse and stagnated as he tried to stop his body from tilting over. Was that him? He never… he didn’t remember ever saying something like that! What on… what on earth??

            “Air.” He choked out. “I need air.” He stumbled down the steps towards the front door, but the closer he got to the strange symbol, the more his vision seemed to flash and blind him. Instead he found himself going around the stairway to another door, one that didn’t have any crazy symbols on it and he could feel himself stumbling as he shoved the doors open with all of his might-

            To a cobblestone pathway leading to a garden split in half. Many different flowers blossomed on both sides, of many different sizes and colours, and some Lance even recognized. Daffodils were Angela’s favourite, but even in these gardens, there were two large trees that seemed to bridge the gap between them, their branches barely touching. He could feel his heartrate slowing, and as he felt himself calm, he heard the sound of what only could be a ukulele, and a foreign but familiar voice.

            “I guess I’ll have to face,

            That in this awful place,

            I shouldn’t show a trace of doubt.

            But pulled against the grain,

            I feel a little pain

            That I would rather do without…”

            The melody was odd in the way that it was sung, breathy and light, and as Lance took another step closer, he saw a bare foot dangling from one of the top branches. He was careful to stay on the cobblestone path, as Allura’s warning stayed with him, but as he got closer, who did he see but the Red Lion himself, wearing baggy cargo pants and a black tank top, face streaked in mud and his hands clothed in fingerless gloves as they deftly plucked the notes from the instrument in his hands. His eyes were closed, and his brow was furrowed, so he seemed focused on what he was doing. Lance… Lance almost wished he had a camera as the man continued to sing. His hair was in a bun, though some strands were falling out to rest against his face as the melody continued:

            “I’d rather be free, free, free…”

            “I’d rather be free, free, free…”

            His strumming slowed ever so slightly as the song seemed to finish out, his voice dying with the tune.

            “Free, free, free… from here.”

            His final exhale made Lance realize that the song was over, and even though he wanted to say something cool, something sneaky to spook him, all that came out was a very nasally “Wow.” Sure, he wasn’t watching some pretty girl vape up a stormcloud, but still. It wasn’t like Keith was ugly. Though the way that an eyebrow raised and an almost violet eye focused on him grumpily, Lance kind of wanted to take it back. “I didn’t know you could play an instrument.” He tried again. “I thought you just killed people and bathed in their blood while cackling manically.”

            Keith’s lip curled in disgust, but he turned to Lance anyway on the branch, looking him up and down. “Hunk taught me. And no, I don’t do that. I’m pretty sure the amount of blood needed to even do that is excessive and impossible to really import.” He held his ukulele in one hand as he gripped the branch, twisting his body as he slipped off to dangle and land precisely on an empty patch of dirt, looking almost like a fairy without wings as he watched Lance. “Hunk didn’t say that you’d be up yet. Did you meet Allura or Coran yet?”

            At the mention of Allura, Lance positively melted. “Oh, yes. I most certainly met the princess, and what a royal beauty she is!” He pressed the back of his hand against his forehead as he faux swooned, pitching his voice higher. “She’s sooooooo regal, mullet. I feel myself falling for her charms already! She’s put me under her spell, and there’s no return! She must be a siren, she calls to me so! Allur-ingly! Get it? Because her name is Allura.”

            Keith seemed to watch him with no real reaction to his odd display of attraction, but as soon as the word ‘mullet’ left Lance’s lips, his eyebrows scrunched together. “Wait, what did you just call me? Mullet?”

            Lance looked almost confused as he pulled himself out of his damsel in distress pose. “Uh. Yeah. You have a mullet. What else am I supposed to call you?”

            “My name.” The korean man replied flatly. “I do have one of those, you know.”

            Lance looked ready to retort and open fire, but then he realized who exactly he was talking to. This man has killed people. He should probably watch his mouth. He closed his lips ever so slightly, looking at the aged instrument Keith gripped tightly with his hand. “You’re right. My bad.” He ignored the way that the other looked shocked and stretched out his hand, trying not to get too offended at the way that Keith glanced down at his hand almost uncertainly. “My name is Lance. Nice to meet you, Keith.”

            There was a pause before Keith spoke. “What are you doing?”

            “Uh…” Now it was Lance’s turn to look shocked. “I’m trying to reintroduce myself?”

            “I know that, but… why are you trying to shake my hand?”

            “Uh. Isn’t that what people usually do when they’re trying to introduce themselves?”

            Keith looked like he was struggling with some internal debate before carefully stepping closer and gingerly gripping the very tip of Lance’s thumb with his pointer and thumb, shaking it slightly. “Uh. Nice to meet you too.”

            An unwarranted wave of anger flushed Lance’s cheeks as Keith did the stupidest impression of a handshake, and he ripped his hand away. “What the fuck was that? Have you never shaken hands with anyone before?”

            “I don’t like touching people or being touched.” Keith shrugged like it was the most normal thing in the world. “It feels like… there’s bugs all over my body.” He paused as he took another step forward, looking over to his left to bright pink and white flowers with five petals. He leaned over to gently trace one of them, and when Lance leaned forward to touch them as well, his eyes wide in awe, Keith’s voice cut through, almost bored with the idea. “These are called Adenium Multiflorum, but some just call them the Desert Rose. I wouldn’t suggest touching them, as they are poisonous and can cause rashes upon touch.” The way that Lance jerked back was almost comical if not for the way that he immediately noticed Keith standing directly in the middle of the patch.

            “Hey, what the fuck?!” The taller man huffed indignantly. “You’re like, right in the middle of it! Are you just saying that so I don’t touch your pretty flowers?”

            Keith rolled his eyes and simply crossed his arms. “No, I just developed an immunity over time. I spend enough time in this side of the garden to get that kind of skillset. The good news is that I can’t get killed by anything in this garden now, I suppose.”

            Lance deflated ever so slightly at the blatant response that Keith gave him. “Wait, seriously? You spend all of your time surrounded by poisonous flowers so you just… don’t care anymore?”

            Keith looked almost confused. “Yeah. I’d rather not die by poisoning, thanks.” Lance looked downtrodden still, and he couldn’t help but roll his eyes and groan. “what do you want me to say, huh?”

            Lance shrugged, looking downtrodden. “I dunno, man. Sounds kinda sad that you’d rather hang out with the poisonous flowers rather than the really pretty ones on what I’m assuming is the good patch of flowers.” Then his eyes flashed upwards and connected with Keith’s, shocking the assassin. “Wait a minute. Do you study floriography?”

            “Uh.” Keith replied eloquently. “I’m not sure what that is.”

            “The language of flowers. You knew the exact Genus and Species of that Desert flower whatever, right?” Almost dumbly, Keith nodded, and Lance’s eyes lit up like stars. “Can you tell me the names and the meanings behind the rest of them?”

            It definitely seemed to take the other man by surprise, the way that his eyes widened and his lips parted between breaths. It took him a moment to truly find his words, but as soon as he did they were quiet, unsure as he tried to study Lance’s face for a lie. Much like Hunk did earlier, actually. “People usually… don’t want to know.”

            “Yeah, well, I’m not most people.” Lance retorted, reaching out to hook arms but pausing when he remembered Keith’s words, pulling back. If they could have, Keith’s eyes would have widened more. “So, won’t you teach me?”

            The black haired man was quiet for a moment, searching his face again before caving, even for just a second. “Okay.” He murmured, stepping out from the poisonous flower patch to the cobblestone path, looking at Lance almost warily before looking back at the daffodils that Lance had been so keen on. “These are Narcissus Pseudonarcissus, and they’re called that because of…”

            Lance soon forgot about the strange ruptures in his vision as defnitions and hidden meanings flooded his mind, and the way that Keith tucked a little strand of hair behind his ear every time it got loose, his words almost ringing back to him.

I’d rather be free, free, free… from here.

Chapter Text

            Lance hadn’t realized how dark it’d gotten until Keith stopped mid-sentence and sharply looked up towards the entrance to the house. He’d easily startled Lance for sure, but it didn’t seem to be the man’s main goal, as his stare hardly wavered from the front door. He couldn’t help but slowly turn towards the door as well, where the dim light of the foyer made it have a honey amber tint to the majestic style. “What?” He couldn’t help but whisper, looking back at Keith who still hadn’t moved from his squatting position, holding a bright red Aster flower gently between his pointer and middle, his thumb gently pressed against and smoothing it’s thin but bright petals. “Keith?” A muscle in the man’s face twitched, showing he was listening. The deep violet and pink sunset was dying his face in cool colours, making his own deep blue eyes seem almost a vibrant shade of lavender. Almost gently, Lance pushed a little. “You were telling me about the Cherokee myth about this flower?”

            As if the spell was broken, Keith pulled out of his intense staring contest with an inanimate object, looking back at Lance with slightly round eyes, as if he’d just seen him for the first time. In the past few hours, Lance had learned many things about the character known as Keith Kogane. He treated each flower that was in his gardens as if they were the most priceless things that he owned (though Lance very much doubted that. It must be a sentimental thing) and that he knew every single thing that had to do with each of the flowers planted in his garden. They had moved on from the poisonous flowers a while ago, because Lance had kept complaining that he couldn’t touch the flowers the way that Keith could, and eventually the killer budged, shifting over to the nice flowers that he said could be turned into herbal remedies. “Oh. Uh.” Something was different on his face, and even though Lance wanted to pursue, Keith already turned to the flower he was still holding, eyes softening as he remembered the story. “The fable goes that two sisters fled to the woods to hide from warring tribes. They sought out a medicinal or herb woman before falling asleep in the forest. The elder then saw that they were in danger of being found, and after sprinkling them with herbs, she covered them in leaves so the next morning they turned into flowers.” A small little smile appeared on his face. “The girl who wore the blue fringed dress became the very first Aster.”

            Lance watched the way that Keith carefully released the flower, gently making sure that it wasn’t bent or broken before standing up to brush his cargo pants off. He looked back at Lance, something unreadable on his face before his fingers curled against his side, twitching as if trying to find the right movement but being unable to. Lance simply smiled at him and stood up on his own, copying Keith’s motion of cleaning off his jeans before pausing, curiousity evident on his features. “What did the other girl turn into?”

            Keith blinked. “Huh?”

            “The other girl, the sister.” Lance repeated. “One of them turned into an Aster, but what did the other one turn into?”

            The shorter man paused for a moment, crossing one arm across his chest and resting his elbow on it so he could grip his lower lip between forefinger and thumb, clearly lost in thought. “If I remember correctly, I think it was a goldenrod. But I don’t have any of those in here. There wasn’t enough space, and I doubt Shiro’d help me extend the garden even further than he already has.” He simply shrugged before looking down at the flowers, looking uncharacteristically soft in that one moment. If Lance didn’t know any better, he would have said that he looked almost… melancholy at the mention of the crazy man who nearly made Lance piss his pants like a five-year-old. “We should probably go inside, Hunk probably made us something and put it in the microwave. If not, we can just heat up some hot pockets. I’m hungry.” The abrupt end to their exploration of the world of flowers made Lance pause. That was… an incredibly curt way of not dealing with something, and before he could stop himself, he reached out to touch Keith’s shoulder. As soon as he did it, however, he immediately found himself spinning and then roughly shoved onto his back, Keith’s palm pressed against his chest and his other hand gripping Lance’s wrist tightly. There wasn’t any time for a screech to leave his mouth by the time that he was on the ground, dangerously close to the poisonous flower garden only a few inches away from his ear. The pain from his previous bruises made him choke on a cry, but the pressure against his chest did not move. There was no emotion in Keith’s gaze other than controlled ferocity, and Lance swallowed quietly. He’d forgotten who exactly he was dealing with. “Why did you touch me?” Keith’s voice was hard like steel, his eyes narrowed and his body tense, as if he expected the worst from Lance. If he wasn’t pressed tightly against the ground, Lance would have been shaking. But… perhaps… maybe the answer to talking to him was to speak to him as if he wasn’t capable of killing him with his own eyelashes? He seemed to do okay with the slight teasing about his hair. Lance’s mind spun quickly, desperately trying to think of a way to diffuse the situation.

            All that came out was, “Why did you look sad when you mentioned Shiro?”

            Keith’s whole body tightened up, and he immediately released Lance’s wrist and pulled away his hand from the warmth of Lance’s chest. The cold that had seeped in from thin fingers disappeared by the time that Lance sat up, fear still there but curiousity once again winning over. Keith, however, looked like a furious volcano. “I did not-” he tried to say, but he faltered at Lance’s raised eyebrow, looking more lost than angry before simply giving up and pulling back. Lance frowned as Keith simply looked away. “Shiro’s just someone who’s always been there for me. I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for him.”

            “Shiro is the one person who never gave up on me. I won’t give up on him.”

            Lance blinked. Had Keith said that before at the prison? “I don’t doubt it. You seemed concerned about him while we were in the Garrison.” He pushed himself up just a little bit, brushing himself off before sending a smile Keith’s way. “I’m sorry if bringing it up caused you any distress, but I was just genuinely curious. You all definitely seem close, you know?”

            Again, Keith’s face went through a plethora of emotions, and Lance barely managed to catch the surprise at the beginning and the moroseness at the end, a bitter press of his eyebrows together before his face evened out, and his eyes returned to look at Lance. “You… could say that.” He finally settled on, and Lance let a crooked smile overtake his face, one hand on his hip. “What?” The korean man said defensively, looking even more riled when Lance laughed, stretching out a hand to touch his shoulder but stopping almost immediately after, pulling his hand back. A strange look overtook Keith’s features, and Lance took a step back, an understanding smile on his face.

            “Don’t worry about it, Mullet.” Lance said fondly, nudging his head in the direction of the house. “You’ve made all the anxieties about showing up here mostly go away, thanks for that.”

            If Keith looked odd before, now he looked like he was staring at an alien telling him that brains were made of mac and cheese. “I did?

            Lance laughed, starting to walk back to the house and smiling wider when Keith fell into stride with him, still watching him like he was a UFO (Another thing that Lance found out: Keith loved Mythical Animals, such as Goatman and Mothman). “Just think about it, man. I’m a kid who didn’t move anywhere other than from Cuba to Nevada, went nowhere else, and then suddenly I’m in a giant house with a beautiful woman after some extremely traumatic events that I’m not even ready to breach yet. I wake up to a delicious meal, I’m in the house with a man that tried to intimidate me into crawling into a hole and dying that I haven’t seen all day-”

            “Shiro did that?” Keith interrupted, urgency in his eyes as he stopped walking, only a few feet from the door. Lance looked back at the other and slowed down, pressing his hand against the glass before hearing Keith speak again. “Did he really make you want to die?”

            Lance blinked at Keith’s words, looking down at the space between the two of them. “I… well, I guess so? I’m not sure, now that I think of it.” Everything that had happened, happened so fast that Lance barely had any time to really deal with it until the solitary confinement. “When I met Shiro, I thought I saw him with a metal arm. I thought…” He shook his head, not noticing the way that Keith paused at the revelation. “I thought I saw a lot of things. But Shiro didn’t make it easier at first. He made me pass out on my first night from fright alone. And then the second night, he read your little numbers and told me to enjoy the silence. I don’t know how you see him, but I see him as someone who could drive the fear of god into my heart just by looking at me.” He lifted his head, his voice firm. “I know what I’ve seen, what I’ve experienced and felt. And I know that Shiro’s easily one of the scariest men I’ve ever seen in my life.”

            Keith looked like his face was screwed up in both anger and disgust, fists clenched to his side and his eyes full of malice. “You don’t know a single thing about him.” He gritted out. “All you’ve probably seen is what’s been there on the news, what the rest of the world believes. You’ve met him face to face, you’ve seen the Shimmers, and you still think that that’s all there is to this world? To him?”

            “The Shimmers?” Lance asked incredulously, but Keith ignored him.

            “He’s not what people thinks he is. He’s not what he thinks he is.”

            There was a pause between them, and Lance was almost hesitant to ask. “What does he think he is?”

            Keith’s voice was flat, but his eyes said it all. “A monster.” And with that, he shoved Lance aside and absconded up the stairs, completely ignoring the kitchen. Lance rushed to follow him, but as soon as he shut the door behind him, Keith was gone. He wasn’t sure about where everything was, yet, but he knew that if he tried to follow, he’d just get insanely lost.

 With a sigh, he trudged his way over to the kitchen, taking very little time to examine the fine black marbling that adorned the counters and the heated flooring that helped defrost his toes a little bit. There was an elegant bar with several seats pressed up against it, an island in the middle with fruits resting inside of a basket, and a wall completely covered in what seemed to be old wines, which Lance avoided like the plague. The last thing he needed at that point was alcohol in his system. The refrigerator was large, and as soon as he opened the lower part, he found over six boxes of hot pockets, making him scrunch up his nose with distaste. “Thank god at least one of them cooks.” He murmured, shutting the freezer door and nearly leaping out of his skin when that same guy from the prison with Keith appeared around the corner, a cookie in hand and laptop tucked under their arm.

“Sup.” He said. Lance choked on his own spit, gripping the Hot Pocket like it was his only lifeline, and the shorter man raised an eyebrow, unimpressed. “If you’re trying to eat that, I don’t suggest strangling it.”

Lance looked at Pidge, then back at the Hot Pocket like it personally offended him before just dropping it into the trash, groaning ever so slightly before looking back at the shorter man. “Hey, I have a question.”

An auburn eyebrow raised over his glass frame. “I might have an answer.”

Lance furrowed his brow at the odd reply, but he simply walked around the island and sat down on one of the barstools, swinging his legs ever so slightly and waiting for the other to hop up as well, opening their laptop to type their password in. Lance squeezed his eyes shut in courtesy to Pidge, but when he stopped typing, he opened his eyes again, watching the other. “What’s Keith’s deal?”

“Keith?” They asked, an uninterested tone in their voice as code flashed over the screen.

“Yeah. He kinda yelled at me because I told him my honest impression about Shiro.” Deft fingers flinched in their movements for only a second, but it was enough that Lance could tell that he hit the nail on the head. “I said that Shiro frightened me, and that he was one of the scariest men I’d ever seen in my life.”

Pidge whistled, moving a hand away from the keyboard to push his glasses up his face again. “I’m surprised you aren’t dead. Keith’s beat the shit out of people for less.” He looked over to see the way that Lance’s face paled, and a laugh left their mouth, smug and knowing. “I kid, I kid. He’s done it, but I’m surprised that he didn’t do it to you. He never stands for the slander of his childhood friend, ever.”

Curiousity killed the cat, but… “They were Childhood friends?”

“Mhm.” Pidge grunted, squinting and leaning into his computer as he spoke. “They’ve known each other long before Hunk, Allura, Coran and I met them. Even before he knew-” Another pause, and Pidge’s fingers slowed. “-Before he knew me. Yeah. They’ve been together forever.”

Lance blinked. “Like… together together? Or just together?”

Realization sparked through Pidge’s eyes and he immediately withdrew, pulling his hands back and slamming the laptop shut. The sound of it almost made Lance jump, but as soon as the moment was there, it was over. The green lion was making his way back to where he came, and when Lance got up to try and follow, they spun around at the door to another mysterious space. “This is the girl’s wing, so you’d better not follow.” His glasses glinted, a smug look on his face. Wait, his?

“What?” He asked, particularly dumbfounded.

“You know, they said you were a genius.” Pidge teased, mischief in… their eyes. “But even geniuses have some things that they can’t do. I’m only saying I’m a girl because there’s only two of us here, and that leaves more space for me. It’s only the way.” They shrugged. “I like to economize.”

Lance blinked. Then blinked again. “Gotcha.” He finished out with.

Pidge laughed, swinging the door wide open. “I’ll see you tomorrow. You’ve got a date with Slav, so afterwords, I’ll hope you don’t come out scarred.”

“Scarred? What-” His eyes flicked up for one moment, but it made his sentence die immediately in his throat. On one of the walls was a framed photograph, a picture of… Shiro? It was Shiro, smiling and happy and bright, and his arm was wrapped around-

Pidge’s smile lessened and they looked back over their shoulder, stiffening as they saw what Lance was looking at. When they turned back to him, their eyes were full of fire. “It’s getting late.” They said coldly. “You should get going.” With that, the door slammed shut, leaving Lance’s mind spinning from the framed picture of Shiro standing next to Keith and... Pidge. They were all wearing Air Force uniforms, and they all had smiles on their faces, like nothing bad could happen. Behind them was a space shuttle, one that looked like it could pierce the heavens, and the image haunted Lance as he made his way back to his room, changing his clothes and sliding into the sheets again, eyes wide as sleep eluded him.

            What had happened?

Chapter Text

            “Father, we MUST fight and form… before it’s too late!”

            Soft blue eyes that Lance did not recognize turned to him, giving him a look of such soft kindness and love that he was almost taken aback by it. He couldn’t really see any other part of the situation, but he knew that fear was pouring out of every part of his body, that his hands would be shaking if he looked down and that sweat rolled down his temple as he looked at this man… Father?... for advice, for wisdom and encouragement. But instead, it was resignation that met the sweet voice that cried out from his own mouth. “It’s too late…” he said, not unkindly. "We must send the l..ns away. We can’t risk them falling into Za…’s hands.”

            His fists clenched at his sides, and he felt every single part of his body reject his words, reject the amount of defeat in them. They could still win! They could still protect their home and keep the invaders out! Why, why, WHY couldn’t he see that?! “WE CAN’T GIVE UP HOPE!” He screamed, feeling hot tears roll down his cheeks as he forced himself to take a step closer, move into the space of the stranger he felt he’d known his whole life. They had what they needed to survive, they HAD the power! They couldn’t… she couldn’t…

            She?

            “I’m sorry daughter.” Alfor’s words were gentle upon his ear as a tanned hand gently lifted to cup his cheek, pushing his thumb to wipe away the tears that still lingered and left hot tracks that seemed to stain like ink on his skin. The man in front of him looked hesitant, as if he wanted to say more, but it disappeared in an instant back into that limitless chasm of love and adoration that bloomed across his face. There was no fear in his eyes, just acceptance and love. “If all goes well, I will see you again soon.”

            Something pricked at his neck, and his eyes widened at first at the realization of what his own father had done. His limbs slowly began to become heavy, and his eyelids refused to stay open any longer. He gripped at Alfor’s wrist, more tears bubbling out, catching on his eyelashes and pouring over his cheeks while he whispered out once more, “F-Father…” There were so many other things he wanted to say, wanted to scream, but none of them came out.

            Don’t do this.

            Don’t leave me!

            Please, don’t go!

            Alfor’s arms around him were warm as he was pulled towards the white haired man’s chest, his face resting on his collarbone. The very last thing that he heard was with the wobble of a man who knew he wasn’t going to see his child again. “I love you.”

            Then the world faded to black.  


 

            Lance woke up with a start, his chest heaving and his eyes wide. It took him a moment to realize what the hot stickiness on his face was, and he touched his skin almost too gently and pulled it back to see his fingertips shaking and covered with tears. His whole body was covered in cold sweats, and his breath was almost punched out of him at just the memory of what he’d dreamt about. He tried to steady his heartrate, tried to pull himself out of it, but even when he looked outside his window, he saw that it was a cloudy and rainy day. He didn’t realize that he was still crying until someone knocked at the door, making him flinch hard enough that he stretched at some of his bandages, old from not being changed in a day. “I-Come in!” He managed to choke out, looking down at his covers that he clenched tightly between his fingers like it was the only thing keeping him grounded. And, in a way, it was.

            The door opened ever so slightly, and Hunk peeked his head through. “Hey, I was just seeing if you were feeling good enough to get up and grab some breakfast with me! I can’t make you a Breakfast in Bed every day, you know-” When Hunk’s eyes met Lance’s face, the words immediately stopped, only to start once more. “Whoa, hey, are you okay? Did something happen?”

            “I-” Lance tried to find the words for how he was feeling, but quickly discovered that there were none that could adequately explain what had happened to him, why that dream had been so real that it made him wake up in fright and despair. They certainly weren’t his own memories, but he could feel in his bones that they were someone’s. “I…” He looked up at Hunk uncertainly. “Can you keep a secret?” It felt almost childish of him to ask Hunk that, but he couldn’t bring himself not to. “It’ll just be between you and me, is that okay? I don’t… I don’t really want anyone else to know.” He blinked a minute at it, remembering the night before with Keith before the other man stormed off at Lance’s (honest!!!) opinion of Shiro. “I mean, I told Keith some of it, but I don’t think he’s willing to speak to me right now.”

            Hunk took a seat on Lance’s bed almost immediately, not hesitating to skootch himself to Lance’s side, easily filling the empty mood that he had been feeling earlier. “Okay, I’m here to listen and learn.” He paused. “Well, learning as in a ‘I’m interested in what you have to say but I don’t actually think you’re going to teach me anything as of right now’. Besides, Keith’s a grumpy guy. It’s not really that surprising that he’s mad at you. You’re new here. Also, he and Shiro have been close since, like, forever so he’s naturally super defensive of the guy, especially with what their bond is like-”

            “Hunk.” Lance spoke quietly, and the larger man’s mouth clicked shut before he mimicked the movement of zipping his mouth closed and throwing away the key. He smiled slightly at that before looking down to his own hands while his eyes stung at just the foggy memories of the dream. “I… I dreamed about somebody I’ve never met before.” He rubbed at the soft skin underneath his eyes as he tried to compose himself. “I didn’t know anything about him, I didn’t recognize him from anywhere, but I knew that he was so special and important to me, or…” His voice dropped to an almost disbelieving whisper. “… Or whoever I was at the time.”

            Hunk’s body was very still. “Whoever you were at the time?”

            Lance nodded before letting out a little laugh, pulling his knees up to his chest and hiding his face in the space between the joints with a sigh. “Yeah. He called me ‘daughter’. And I called him ‘Father’. Something was happening: I didn’t know what, but I was scared. Scared like I was going to die. But I still wanted to fight whatever was coming for us. Even when… Alfor?” He tasted the name on his tongue, finding it sounded right. Hunk’s body flinched. “Even when Alfor said that we needed to give up, I couldn’t give up hope. I wouldn’t give up hope.” It made his body ache with the memory of those raw emotions that had only inhabited his body for a few moments, enough that made him feel ready to combust on the spot if he had been anywhere near a match. “But in the end… he did something, something like a sedation technique or a Vulcan neck pinch, but… I fell unconscious and then woke up back in the present, it feels.” He wrapped his arms around his shins and held on tight. “It hurt. It felt so real, like I was in it myself, and these were my own memories.”

            Hunk let a large, comforting hand rub from Lance’s left to right shoulders. “Do you remember anything else?...” A pause, almost deliberate. “Or anyone else?”

            Lance shook his head. “No… I didn’t. But the other things that I saw before the dream were kind of odd, too. Like… Shiro had a metal arm, and you had a giant, alien looking gun that was yellow and had a really weird handle on it.”

            “My gun is pretty impressive.” The other joked, but it was only halfhearted. Lance laughed, and Hunk pushed forward. “I don’t know about your dreams or anything, but I do know that you’re going to be just fine. Besides, Doctor Slav is here to meet you, that’s one of the reasons I came in. He’s really excited to meet you.”

            “He is?” Lance asked curiously. “Who is he? What kind of Doctor is he?”

            “He’s… well…” Hunk looked almost embarrassed to say it, but eventually it came out. “He’s a disgraced psychologist, but a brilliant Theoretical Engineer. He’s incredibly smart and talented, but he kept talking to his students about ‘multiple realities’ and the sort. Like all that cryptid stuff that Keith, Shiro and Pidge bond over. He’s really a talented guy, but he’s got like… something clearly off about him.” He slid off the bed and stood up, brushing the imaginary dirt off his legs. “Let’s get your bandages changed, and then we’ll get you some food so you can talk to the Doctor.”

            “He’s going to psychoanalyze me,” Lance muttered, pulling himself out of bed. “Isn’t he?”

            Hunk’s high pitched laugh was anything but reassuring. “Oh, no, I don’t think so! He’s just a few lightbulbs short of a chandelier sometimes, yeah?”

            “Yeah.” Lance grumbled. Fantastic.


 

            Hunk… was completely right. Doctor Slav was a man of such eccentricity that as soon as he got into the room, the Indian man immediately brightened and said contently, “Ah, so this is your reality. I see. It truly does make sense that it would pan out this way. The probability that it would have been otherwise was 0.92%. If it had been any other way, things would have been very, very different.” Although his words were odd and hard to follow, Slav was a well groomed and dressed man, his facial hair impeccable and streaked silver along with black. His hair was black and curly, with one long streak of white and grey panning out in the forelock most visible. It seemed to practically bounce with his movements, as if it were alive, but when A gold and brown eye flickered over to him to see his reaction, the doctor’s hand shot out to correct a slightly tilted pen on the desk of the room.  

            “Uh.” Lance responded eloquently, but it didn’t matter, as Slav pulled him up a chair immediately. He eventually sat down, taking in the state of the room. It was practically sparkling, not a hair out of place. Lance imagined that even if he did his best, he probably couldn’t find a single speckle of dust. Eventually, Slav found his way to the other side of the dark oak desk, papers spread out so evenly it looked painted on. “I’m Lance.” He tried out.

            “Lance Sanchez. I know.” Slav examined the papers on his desk with such intensity that Lance wanted to ask if he should leave the room. “I’ve read through all of your papers, Allura was more than capable of giving them to me. Your reality is a very good one, even now.” Lance’s face shifted to a look as if he just smelled something equivalent to a skunk covered in vomit. He opened his mouth to say something, but Slav immediately talked over him. “Your family made it over to this country, you graduated at the top of your class, and you were the star of your college. In many of your realities, the immigration laws would be too strict, and you would have been turned away.” The doctor looked back up at him and smiled. “That is very good. You received an excellent education, and it almost looks like we’re in the reality that we need to be in! We might all survive this after all!”

            “I’m sorry, what?” Lance couldn’t help but blurt out, his head spinning from all the new information coming at him at rapid speeds. “A good reality? Surviving? Sir, with all due respect, I got framed for a murder I didn’t commit, my entire family is dead, I got saved by a psychotic murderer, and worst of all, I still don’t know where I am, what day it is, what’s going on in the outside world, nothing!” He crossed his legs and arms, sliding lower into his seat. “That doesn’t sound like any good reality to me.”

            “Certainly, it might look bad now, but have you considered the alternatives?” Slav’s voice was curious, and Lance couldn’t help but look up at him, brows furrowed. They shared eye contact for only a moment before the doctor’s eyes snapped back to the papers on his desk. “You could have been born in an alternate timeline where you did not have the resources that you did, you could have lived in a completely different area where your sisters would not have been able to walk the streets alone and be worry free. You could have lost your family when you were much younger, and learned on your own to survive and found a way to understand how life is never fair. Your family lived a fulfilling life. Everyone was happy that day of your graduation.”  He wrote something extra on the piece of paper in front of him before sliding it into a blue folder opened across the desk in front of him. “I know that losing people is very frustrating.” His tone had become softer, and Lance let his eyes lift to Slav’s. “In every reality, lives are lost and people are taken far before their time is up. But it is up to us to build and believe in the realities that we are in to be the best ones we could be part of, and do our best to strive every day to make it so. If we do not, we are lost to our own demons, to our own depressions and failures. You are here, now.” The doctor leaned back. “You’re where you’re supposed to be in your reality, your true reality. We are just here to make sure that your reality is a good one.”

            Lance’s eyes fell at the words from the man in front of him, trying to process what he was exactly being told. While he did this, his eyes flickered over to the blue folder that was open for the Doctor to write in. To his left, the doctor had six other folders resting on top of each other in perfect balance. There was a red, green, yellow, pink, orange… and black. He could tell for a fact that the blue one was his own. So… those other ones… had to be… “Doctor?” He asked, his eyes never leaving the multicoloured mysteries dangling right before his eyes. When he felt eyes on him, he continued. “These… realities that you talk about… Do some of them have parallels to our own?”

            Slave smiled, pleased. “Yes, of course! If there’s a reality where everything is the exact opposite of our own, there is always going to be a reality where things are almost exactly the same except for one tiny detail. Such is the way of realities.”

            Lance nodded. “So… have people ever… seen into other realities? Like… seen the way that a reality turns out that wasn’t theirs?”

            The doctor pulled back from his desk, leaning fully against his chair and intertwining his fingers together, pressing his mouth against them as his brow furrowed. “Can you explain?”

            Against his better judgement, Lance told the doctor everything that he had told Hunk, watching for any significant ticks in the other man’s facial features, but only getting more tense when he found none. Eventually, he made his way to the end of the dream. “And he did something to me to knock me out, something that made me feel so… hollow, so broken that he did it, but I don’t know what. I Know that those aren’t my dreams, my memories. So, if they’re not mine, they have to be someone else’s.”

            Slav was quiet for a moment before pulling himself towards the desk again, reaching out to the side of the desk to pull out the pink folder. He had angled it in his lap so that Lance couldn’t see any of the things inside of it, but as soon as he found what he was looking for, he snapped the folder shut and pulled out a small photograph. “Is this the man you saw?” He turned it around, and Lance’s body went cold at the exact replica of the man in his dreams, smiling and turned towards the camera. He was dressed nicely and looked as if he were in royal garments, like something a royal would wear to an important or formal occasion. His hair was an icy white, and his eyes sparkled even in the faded photo with mirth and joy at who was behind the camera to capture his image and make him immortal.

            Lance quickly connected the dots. “Allura’s father.”

            Slav nodded solemnly. “He died when someone invaded their home, the main Palace. To get his only child out in time, he gave her something to help her sleep, and got her out by passageway. He died protecting her and their legacy.”

            “She lost her father trying to protect something.” Lance pressed forward, determination in his voice. “Trying to protect something from… someone.”

            “Yes.” Slav agreed quietly. “He did what he thought was best.”

            “Why am I here?” Lance asked. “I’m tired of not knowing. I’m tired of not being told anything. I just want to know why I’m here, and why my parents got killed and why my family got killed.” Slav put the picture away, watching Lance as he spoke. “I want to know why it’s only me that seems to be seeing these things, why I’m the only one that suffers from these, why it’s never happened before now.”

            Slav watched him carefully. “It’s happening now, because you are all together.”

            “All together?!” Lance nearly hollered in frustration, pulling at his hair. “I’ve never met these people before in my life!”

            “Not in this life, certainly.” Slav agreed. “But perhaps, in other lives, they remember you. Maybe they remember you from long ago, or in the future. Maybe they knew that they need you subconsciously. Maybe your job is to awaken the bond that they should have, but don’t because a great part of it was missing. They’re all out of alignment, they don’t trust each other the way that their hearts tell them they could.”

            Lance looked helpless. “What am I doing here?” He asked again.

            Slav took a deep breath before looking Lance directly in the eye. “You’re here to save them. To save everyone. To save the entire world from collapsing into total chaos.”

            “The entire world?” He asked incredulously. “Why does that have to do with me?”

            The door opened. Lance turned around in irritation before all colour completely drained from his face. Slav only smiled.

            Shiro stood in the doorway, his arms crossed and his eyes calm. “Because the man that got me locked up and the man that got you locked up are the same guy. He’s a man called Zarkon, works at the top of the Galra Industries chain. And what he wants is money. And what makes money?”

            Lance blinked owlishly at the change the man had made in attitude, from scraggly and evil looking to a black tank top and Adidas pants that made his thighs look like watermelon. He had shaved the stubble he remembered, and he looked much cleaner without the darkness of the prison. It almost took him a while to remember how to make his mouth function, but he eventually managed. “I don’t know.”

            “War.” Shiro continued, his slate grey eyes never leaving Lance’s. “He plans to start a war. And we’re going to need to stop him. We need to work together and be a team again.”

            “Again?” Lance managed to get out. “What do you mean again?”

            “In an alternate reality, you all were in a team together called Voltron.” Slav interrupted. “The specifics is that they need someone who can take a good shot. I even recall you from Beta Traz, when you shot through a very small window and saved me from what was almost certain death.”

            “Beta what?” Lance turned back to the doctor, disbelief in his eyes. “I saved you? You remember that?”

            Slav smiled. “One of the many things that I can do. I can recall certain timelines, should I try hard enough. But the matter at hand is that they need a sharpshooter. Their sharpshooter. And you’re the only one in the world who could possibly fit that role, as it was made for you.”

            Lance looked between the two of them for a moment (though he didn’t look Shiro directly in the eye) before looking down at his hands. He closed his eyes, and for a phantom moment, he thought he could feel small little hands in his own, the ones that belonged to Amelia. Something clenched in his gut. “I’ll help.” He mumbled, lifting his head to finally gather the nerve to stare Shiro in the eyes. “But I won’t kill him. I’ll disable him. But I will never kill anyone.”

            A smile appeared on Shiro’s face, different from the ones he’d seen before. Almost as if it were sad. “That sounds familiar.” It disappeared as soon as he spoke, back to the look of smooth confidence. “Well, looks like we’re going to have to try to see if the Bleeding Effect works on you too.”

            Lance felt dread grow into the pit of his stomach. The Bleeding Effect?

            Just what on earth did he drag himself into?

Chapter Text

            “The Bleeding effect.” Shiro’s voice did not betray any negative emotion as he walked slowly across the gym that was almost too conveniently located in the mansion. Just like Lance’s room, the walls were at least 10 meters tall, and large glass windows arched and revealed the outside world, including Keith’s garden outside, and a smaller greenhouse that was just a little farther down that pathway the two of them were on the previous night. “Some call it muscle memory, some call it reincarnation or waking up suppressed memories, but for this instance, it will be the bleeding effect, as we are going to try and get the shimmers to not only show you the other life that you seem to see, but hopefully transfer some of the instincts that you have adapted from living in a world of war and deception.”

            “How fucking big is this place?” Lance mumbled out, looking around the beige coloured room in awe. The flooring was wood, and one side of the room had mirrors lining it with a ballet bar hooked up to it. In the middle of the room was what he assumed to be a wrestling mat, and a little farther down, closer to the window was a red sparring mat, worn from use. It clearly was a well-loved gym, despite the upkeep and cleanliness of the room around them. Coran must take his job very seriously.

            A soft huff of amusement made Lance’s head turn towards Shiro, who had a soft smile on his face with his hands on his hips. He’d taken his shoes off and was now officially in his socks. “It’s very big. Now take off your shoes, and we’ll start stretching.” He didn’t wait for Lance, immediately starting in on Sun Salutations. Lance was surprised to see the ease and flexibility that Shiro managed to execute the standing forward bend, his nose nearly touching his knees. He quickly kicked off his shoes and put them by the entrance of the room along with his socks. He’d been given a chance to change, and eventually had come out in some black stirrup leggings and a baggy muscle shirt. He’d frowned initially when he saw that he’d only plain outfits with no quirks or funny quotes on it, but he didn’t have time to really worry about it from the slight fear that Shiro’s wonderfully opposite demeanor of prison would disappear due to his tardiness. So he found himself stretching out alongside the mass murderer, watching him out of the corner of his eye for any of that murder-vibe that was there the other time he’d ever been anywhere near him. He must have been staring too intensely, because after they finished the four-limb staff and stopped in upward facing dog, Shiro exhaled loudly, slight amusement in his voice. “If you have questions, you might as well ask them now.”

            The floodgates opened. “What are shimmers? Why are you so different? What’s the deal going on with you? Why did you-” As soon as he looked up to Shiro’s face, he instantly regretted the way that he spoke. Gone were the slight warmth of those onyx eyes, replaced with a sort of emptiness that he thought that only the eyes of dead people should have. Lance didn’t know how or why, but he knew that in those two sentences he had deeply overstepped something that was like sinking into a tar pit, even for the man next to him. “I-I mean… we can just start with the first one.” He stammered, pulling back to downward dog and then to the half-standing forward bend and then standing up completely, forgoing quite a few important bits of the sun salutation. His yoga instructor would be ashamed. But when Shiro’s eyes slid over to him, he felt his throat dry, and all thoughts of her left his mind. “Uh… Shimmers?” He weakly supplied, eyes widening to the size of dinner plates as the killer next to him forewent his own salutation to stand next to Lance, their height difference almost as intimidating as it was before. “What… what are those?”

            Shiro was quiet for a moment before looking down to Lance’s hands. “Shimmers are what we see when we see something that isn’t entirely our own reality. Like when our own brain or soul slips up, and suddenly we envision things that we don’t know but we know them almost instinctively. Like what you were saying to Slav. You saw some things, but you didn’t recognize them from what you knew in this timeline. Rather, you recognized them from another version of your memories.” The taller man reached for a pair of wraps that rested on the floor, easily slipping them on and wrapping them as if they were his second skin. “What was particularly different about what I heard in that office was not only did you see your own alter memories, but you saw Allura’s.”

            Lance couldn’t help the worried tone that slipped into his voice, stretching his arms behind his back as he listened carefully. “Is that bad? Will she know? Will she get mad at me?”

            Shiro sighed, his brow furrowed slightly. “If you dreamt it, it’s more than likely that she was having nightmares about it herself. I can’t tell you if she could feel you or not, but she, much like you, is a very powerful empath. Though I don’t think she’s ever had anyone else’s memories flood her head, but she can inflict her own emotions onto other people in a way that is something to be deeply respected.” He finished wrapping his hands and secured them with the Velcro before turning back to Lance and crossing his arms. “It’s very rare for some of us to see the shimmers. For Pidge, they’ve never seen them. Hunk’s seen them once, and Keith has seen them twice. Allura’s seen her own past life many times, and she’s probably seen you over and over again before she even knew your name in this reality. Same with Coran. They’re both of royal blood, so their abilities are much stronger than that of normal people.”

            Lance stood up straight and looked almost wary to ask. “So, Allura basically can give while I take? Is that what I’m hearing? And what about you, Shiro? How many times have you seen the shimmers?”

            That strange, faraway look on Shiro’s face returned for only a moment before disappearing behind a slowly visible mask. “That’s not really what we’re here to discuss. Right now, since you’re going to be joining us in this reality, I need you to be ready for us. For them.”

            Lance’s brow furrowed, and he crossed his arms. “Hey, hey: I literally just said beforehand that I don’t plan on killing anyone.”

            “This isn’t about killing anyone.” Shiro countered, lifting his fists up in a basic fighting stance. “This is about seeing how much the bleeding effect works on you, and how much you can learn from yourself before I have to physically teach you things. I know that you’re much better with a range, but I’d like to see how much of that hand to hand you remember.” His knees bent ever so slightly, and his eyes narrowed. “Are you ready?”

            A chill ran down Lance’s spine so fast and so violently his teeth chattered. “H-hey, wait, can’t you just let me do the basics? I mean, you said I was better at ranged attacks, right? Why don’t we-” He yelped in surprise as Shiro shot himself at him, making his body move without his permission. His core clenched as his opponent immediately fixed his footing and came after him once again, wrenching a yell from his throat as Shiro grabbed him by his arm and threw him to the ground, effectively pinning him in a way much like Keith had the previous night. “That… hurts.” He managed to get out, back aching and mind spinning behind his closed eyelids. “Can’t you go easy on me?”

            He didn’t realize how close Shiro’s face was until he opened his eyes to see them practically nose to nose, Shiro’s face slightly flushed from blood flow and not even breaking a sweat. He pulled away and stretched out a hand for Lance to take, helping him up when he did. “If I take it easy on you, then that means that there’s a chance that your instincts won’t come in as fast, or become as strong as they should. For all intents and purposes, you should look at me like I’m trying to kill you and you can’t run away. Your only choice is to face me head on.”

            A nasty thought appeared in Lance’s mind: ‘Like the ones that you already killed?’ but he didn’t personally want to die at that point, thanks. So instead, he kept his mouth shut and nodded, determination appearing on his features once more. He needed to focus, and if he did well enough, he’d be able to learn at least something from one of the most dangerous men in the world.


 

             So. Good news and bad news.

            The good news was that at some points he did learn some things, like how to block and dodge and even at one point roll to the side to avoid being pinned. It was almost too easy to find the way that his body flowed and moved as if it were water. It was almost empowering the first time that Shiro’s fist had fallen down onto the mat and Lance hadn’t been in the crossfire of that fucking meaty hand. He’d stared for a good three seconds before Shiro had him pinned down on his front again, berating him for getting cocky (he wasn’t!! He just couldn’t believe that he’d done it!).

            The bad news was that he couldn’t feel anything sneaking back into him. No memories, no shimmers, nothing that could help him against the behemoth that was Takashi Shirogane. The man was so fucking fast and strong, like he’d been born and raised for fighting and killing people. They’d only been in the gym for fourty five minutes, but he could already feel himself drooping. It felt like it’d been going on for an eternity, and he was exhausted. He felt himself ready to give in when the sound of the door made it to his ear, and he turned his head from where it was smushed on the floor towards it, where he found Keith and Pidge standing, talking to each other for a moment before turning to see Lance getting his ass kicked almost too easily. “Wow.” Pidge dully noted, pushing their glasses up. “Looks like Shiro’s doing a real number on him.”

            Keith didn’t really say anything about it, simply putting down the red duffel bag that had been slung over his shoulder on the ground, immediately starting his stretching. His back was turned towards the two of them, and as Pidge sat down to pull out their laptop again, Lance noticed on the back of the device was a worn-down sticker, a dark green with white lettering on it:

MTTHLT01

            “Stop getting distracted.” Shiro grumbled into his ear, pulling him up with a yelp. “You keep getting caught off guard and that’s what really makes it hard for you to do anything more than dodge what I throw at you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really a good thing to be fast enough at your height to dodge larger enemies, but it’s not defending yourself. You need to know how to do that.”

            Frustration welled up in Lance, and he let his eyes drop to the ground. “Got it.” Why was he apologizing to this man? To this killer? He’d done nothing good for Lance, he’d only made his life hell and made it impossible to get anything normal. Why did he think that he was all high and mighty, talking down to Lance this way?

            “I can demonstrate.” Keith’s voice was calm, but Lance looked over to see nothing but tension in his face. His hair was in a bun, and he couldn’t help but furrow his brow in slight confusion at the odd way that he held his stance. His legs were more than tense, but his upper body was lax and barely swaying. His eyes didn’t budge an inch from where Shiro stood, and Lance basically got the hint and stepped the fuck out of the way of the two of them. The red lion and black lion stood in front of each other, and after a moment, Shiro’s shoulders dropped. His mouth opened, but Keith’s biting words immediately cut him off. “Pidge.” He spoke curtly. “Call it.”

            The last remaining person in the room besides Lance raised their eyebrows, but as soon as Keith made the request, they simply just sighed before acquiescing. “Ready, set, go.”

            As soon as the last word left their mouth, Keith was gone in a flash, almost immediately on Shiro in a moment’s notice. It looked like it was all Shiro could do to block an undercut to the jaw, using his forearm to push it aside so he could get an opening to shove at Keith with an open palm, sending him back a few feet. Instead of deterring him, Keith looked ready to burst into flames, eyes alight with determination and another emotion that was impossible to pin down with the way that the two of them moved against each other, like two magnets colliding only to change their attraction enough to tear themselves apart only to do the same motion over and over again. It looked like anyone’s match at first: Shiro wasn’t gaining or losing any ground, and Keith looked absolutely ready to take the match as his own win. Unfortunately, Lance almost immediately discovered that Keith was just as rash as he was quick. Something changed in his moves the longer the two were at it, and it went from a tiny crack to the shattering of Keith’s mental window. His moves became sloppier, and that was what ultimately became his downfall.

            It was as soon as Keith wrapped his legs around Shiro’s head that Lance knew that the fight was ultimately going to end with a win for Shiro, because as soon as Keith made the move, he dropped to his knees and unrelentingly fell forward, slamming Keith down hard enough on the ground that he let out a noise of pain. Undaunted, Shiro did it again and again and again until Keith finally loosened his grip, legs flopping down to either side of Shiro’s thighs. Shiro immediately had his left hand pressed hard against Keith’s chest, and his right hand was poised to punch Keith into unconsciousness if he didn’t comply. And even though the situation looked almost borderline dangerous, Keith’s eyes were… almost unbearably soft as he stared at the man who looked ready to kill him.

            “They’ve been together forever.”

            “Like… together, together?”

            They stared at each other long enough that Pidge coughed, effectively making all three of the men in the room flinch from the abrupt noise. When they all looked at them, they shrugged. “Sorry, man. I’m here to check on Lance’s progress, not watch a boner party appear right before my own two hell orbs. Go get a room.”

            Lance looked back to the situation that had unfolded in front of him, but it was too late. Shiro was off of Keith, and Keith looked so utterly dejected that even if it didn’t show on his face, the heartache was almost too much for him to bear. So instead of really saying anything, he outstretched a hand to the smaller man, who stared at him almost suspiciously. Lance looked up to see Shiro stepping out of the gym with a now empty water bottle, and he looked back down at Keith. “I don’t know the whole story of Shiro’s life, but…” He considered his next words carefully, feeling the way that he was studied almost eerily. “…I know that I think at the end of this, I’m going to agree with you on what you said to me last night.”

            Keith’s eyes widened to the size of dinner plates, the same look of disbelief on his face as he had the other day, along with Hunk. Like they’d never seen anything like him before in his life. Wordlessly, he finally extended his hand out, and as soon as their fingertips touched, Lance’s mind spun, and something bright and hot stabbed into his brain, effectively removing his own thoughts and emotions from himself as he was flooded with rage. A rage that wasn’t his own, and a loneliness that made his body ache more than anything else he could think of. And after a moment, that vibrant red eventually took shape. They were only words at first:

            “We made it.”

            “At ease, Cadet!”

            “I think you get a little more excited over ice samples than I do.”

            But it was only the last afterimage that made any sense.

            Keith stood alone in a small shack. He wasn’t an adult, but rather a scared little child that gripped a ginger tabby  plushie closely to his tattered shirt covered body. His hair was curly and dark as night, while purple eyes glittered with tears as he watched a large figure speak loudly with those outside of a door. They’d come to take him away; his dad had said they’d come to tear the two of them apart. It felt like it’d been forever, but after a while, bright blue lights were flashing outside of the window, and his father was shouting his name, yelling for him to hide, to make sure that he wasn’t going to be taken away by the bad people. He’d hidden underneath the ratty old futon they owned, hoping that his shaking didn’t make the beer cans and burnt out cigarette butts wobble. When they had found him, he screamed and screamed, crying out louder than anything he’d ever done before, but it was too late.

            He’d lost the person who meant the world to him. 

            And then he met Shiro.

            Keith finally yanked himself away from Lance, and the tan boy was suddenly brought back to his senses, his eyes rolling back to the front of his head and wider than the moon. They stared at each other for a moment before Keith tried to open his mouth to yell… before closing it. It repeated for a while, but after a few more times of opening and closing his mouth, it remained closed. Anger was incredibly evident in his face, but that wasn’t the only thing that resided in that hateful gaze.

            It almost looked like… fear.  

            Lance looked Keith straight in the eyes, and without missing a beat, he said, “I’m sorry.”

            That spurred something in Keith finally, and his cheeks flushed such a vibrant red that he looked ready to implode. “Forget everything that you just saw, Sanchez.” He hissed, stalking around the other man to get to the exit, barely avoiding hitting Shiro, who’d just entered the room again.

            Pidge looked at Lance with wide eyes, and when he looked back, they almost tried to melt into the wall. Shiro looked between them, and when he was about to ask about what happened, they spoke up. “The bleeding effect is working, but just not in the way that we were hoping. Rather than getting the bleeding effect from himself, he’s… seeing other people’s bleeding effects. He just saw Keith’s.”

            Lance laughed nervously, rubbing his arm and staring at the ground, wishing that it would swallow it whole. Shiro, however, didn’t look upset. Rather, he looked intrigued. “What did you see? Do you remember what stood out before you saw it?”

            Keith’s entire body relaxed and loose even under a murderer. His eyes were focused, but those dilated pupils were full of nothing but-

            “No.” Lance mumbled out, tone tinged with something he couldn’t quite describe. “There was nothing.”

Chapter Text

            So it might sound odd for Lance to say this, but… he’s started getting used to being surrounded by murderers.

            No, really. It might sound crazy, but it’s true!

            So after the original sparring incident, Lance and Shiro started doing that daily. And he meant daily: They would do stretches in the morning with Allura and Hunk (The man could bend into a pretzel, even get his foot over his head! And Allura looked like someone pulled her straight out of a yoghurt commercial) and then later on do cardiovascular workouts. The first three weeks of that were probably the hardest parts. It hurt to sit, it hurt to walk, and it especially hurt to walk up stairs. He was pretty sure he’d be going comatose if it weren’t for the cooldowns that they did after every final sparring session. Shiro was particularly invested in them, so that neither of them passed out immediately after the days’ worth of activities. Shiro seemed to know a lot about those kinds of things, and when Lance asked, he didn’t really expect an answer. So the one he did receive surprised him greatly. “You were part of a football team?”

            If it were possible, the muscular man looked almost bashful as he rubbed the back of his neck. They were still in the gym room, just finishing up a sparring session. A black towel rested on Shiro’s shoulder after being used to wipe his forehead. “Yeah. When I lived in America, I got involved in a football team, just for college, though. I only played once because their team was already full, but they let me join in on the practices.”

            Lance looked ludicrous, his eyes flickering over the other’s body. “Did you play any other sports? Anything super cool, like boxing or fist fighting?”

            Miraculously, a soft laugh left Shiro, a slightly uncurled fist hiding his mouth from view as he looked away. He let his hand fall back to his side before answering. “Fist fighting is not technically a sport, Lance, but I did a little bit of kyudo and kendo. My grandfather was the one who got me into it.”

            As much as it shouldn’t have, the thought of Shiro talking about his past and about his family had some form of anxiety uncurl from his chest. It made him less of the demon that everyone saw him as on television and more like… a human. “I played a lot of football or soccer or whatever both when I lived in Cuba and here.” He puffed his chest out proudly, like a rooster. “I was a center, and I was pretty dang good if I do say so myself.”

            The way that the older man gave him a lopsided smile made his pulse stutter. “I can believe that.” He then pulled himself back into mountain position. “Now come on. One more sun salutation and we should be done for the day. Heard that Hunk’s making some killer chili tonight.”

            And after that, it was like things were almost getting better. He hardly ever saw Keith after that first match, but it was slowly becoming less of a prison and more like a home. Sure, the thought of Stockholm syndrome crossed his mind more than once, but he spoke to Slav once a week, (it was still so odd to have a therapist that didn’t try to sugarcoat the situation) and he was made aware that yes, they were all people who had been convicted of several felonies, but if Lance truly tried to leave, nobody would stop him. He had also explained the parameters of Stockholm syndrome. “It leaves you with a sort of infantilism. If it were truly this syndrome, you would not be able to do anything without permission. It would be something that would feel wrong to you to your very core. Not only that, but nobody has denied the fact that they are bad people. They know to their cores that they are not good people, and will never try to convince you that they are. They don’t try to persuade you to their side, they don’t torture you, they don’t force you to do anything. You accepted their proposal.”

            “What if I had tried to disagree?” He can’t help but ask. Slav’s face doesn’t change. “What if I said no?”

            The doctor does not answer at first, but when he does, his reply is measured. “Then I imagine they’d make do with what they had. Voltron, from what they’ve remembered, is something that must be consensual. There is no forced teamwork against any of their wills. They would try, and in a few realities, they would succeed. You being a part of it makes the realities where they fail and all die much less likely.”

            Lance swallowed the frog in his throat. “Ah.” He spoke weakly.

            Slav smiled. “Ah, indeed. Now tell me about your workouts! How are they fairing?”

            So, all in all, it wasn’t terrible. He basically spent his days working out and eating healthy (Hunk’s food were portioned, though it didn’t seem like it at first. But he was very careful about his food and how it was made, expertly arranging the proteins, vegetables and sparse wheats. He’d even gotten a talk about the difference between simple and complex carbs.) and eventually he saw the fruits of his labour Being worked hard was something that he enjoyed, but he’d never seen the results like this before. He was toned, and even though his muscles weren’t much larger, he could lift so much more than he could when he started, run longer and faster, and evenly stand his own against Shiro sometimes. He especially spent a lot of his free time out in the pool, and his tan had darkened, almost reminding him of home. Though he didn’t know where Altea was on a map, he knew that it was somewhere by the equator, and judging by the on and off rain they had sometimes, had to be at least a peninsula or island. The weather patterns were too frequently altercating from rain to sunshine with a lack of humidity change to really make an inland area likely. If he had to take another guess, he’d also say that they were slightly below the equator, as he could not navigate the constellations nearly as well as he used to. There were no circumpolar constellations that he could see, so the facts had to align. So he was somewhere tropical closer to the tropic of Capricorn rather than Cancer. He brought it up to Pidge, and when they fully processed what he was saying, their eyes lit up in delight. “You learned all of that from just studying weather patterns and your surroundings? Well colour me impressed, goofball.”

            Lance spluttered, cheeks turning pink. “What does that mean? I’m not a goofball! I’m like…” He looked at his hands and then back at Pidge in mock outrage. “I’m like the cool, ninja sharpshooter!”

            Something overcame Pidge’s features as he finished speaking, their brows furrowing together and confusion slowly clouding their gaze, as if they were having a moment of déjà vu. “Have you said that before?” They asked softly.

            Lance blinked owlishly before looking at his hands again, the same confusion making it over his face once more. “I don’t think so? I mean, maybe I did in like… that other way?”

            “Timeline.” Pidge corrected. “Timeline or Alternate Reality.”

            “Yeah, yeah.” Lance dismissed her correction. “That thing. Maybe it was that?”

            Even though they looked unconvinced, they still glanced away and shrugged off the concern they were feeling. “Maybe.”

            And that was the end of that.


 

            It all came to a head when during one of Lance and Shiro’s sparring matches, Allura walked in. Truth be told, Lance hadn’t really had a chance to have a conversation with her since the dramatic overture of his family’s murder, but considering the fact that she had a country to run made it completely understandable. By her side once more was Coran, a tablet and pen in hand, taking notes of what she was saying as she spoke: “Make sure that those who make less than 10,000 a year get a very generous tax cut, as we cannot hope to make them comfortable in their own homes if they cannot afford food or electricity to make them function properly. I’ll speak to the prime minister about foreign affairs and try to get them off our backs for as long as I can.” Her eyes lifted to where Shiro and Lance were locked in combat, and Lance couldn’t help but see the way her eyes widened at the sight of them. Her hair was up in a very loose bun, and she was dressed in what seemed to be fitted slacks and a pale salmon blouse, her pea coat a cotton candy blue with white buttons. An odd colour combination, but most certainly one that was appealing. Appealing enough that Shiro easily took use of the distraction and swept his feet under Lance’s legs and sent him crashing to the ground. Before he could complain about Shiro cheating, her laugh made his eyes draw back to her, and he took Shiro’s hand to get back up on his feet. “That was certainly entertaining.” She said, bemused by the trickery. “But it is good to see that you two are getting along, especially after that rocky start.”

            Lance tried to laugh off the memory, but it still made itself known to him. It still boggled his mind to think that Shiro was the same man who scared him half to death while they were in prison together. That particular memory was one that he still hadn’t asked about yet, but he knew that he was going to eventually. Curiousity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back, right? But then again, cats had nine lives. Lance had one.

            Shiro’s voice startled him. “Thank you for your kind words, princess.” He looked over to the monochromatic man to see his shoulders had straightened up from his fighting stance and he looked like a true soldier, eyes calm and focused on the princess. “The bleeding effect isn’t exactly activating like we hoped it would, but nonetheless he’s still keeping up remarkably well with the lessons that I’ve been teaching him. We still haven’t gotten into shooting yet-” a wince worked its way over Shiro’s features, but it was gone in a flash. “-but we’re going to get there by next week.”

            Allura’s smile was sweet. “That won’t matter, really. Shiro, I’m sending you and Keith on a mission, and I want you to take Lance with you.”

            If Shiro had been holding anything, he would have dropped it. “I… I don’t think that he’s quite ready for one of those.” The discomfort was clear on his face, and his eyes dropped over to the recent graduate. “Allura, couldn’t it just be me and…” His face fell once again. “…Maybe Hunk and Pidge? I’m sure that we could get all of it done at once without an issue.”

            Allura was almost unreadable, but she smiled softly at him, stepping towards him and placing her hand delicately on Shiro’s bicep. “I’ll send Pidge instead, okay? If that should make you feel more comfortable.” She stepped back just after that and then turned towards Lance, blue eyes so soft and mesmerizing he nearly seized up and turned a startling shade of red. “The place you are going is called Longsheng, China. There is a man who works with Zarkon’s company to sell opium to the lower class on the black market. Now normally, this would be of no concern to me, but the man that we are specifically looking at is a man called Sendak.” Her gaze became sharper as it darted towards Shiro. “A name I think that you’ll remember intimately, Shiro.”

            “Yes.” The taller man had gone still, and when Lance looked at him, his entire body seized up. Shiro looked close to the same, but his eyes looked almost wild with rage. “I happen to.”

            “Excellent.” She murmured. She looked back at Lance. “Lance, you are under no circumstances going to be killing anyone. That’s Shiro’s job.”

            As much as the last part made him shiver, he sighed in relief.

            But then she continued. “However… you’re going to be the bait.”

            Welp. Relief gone. “WHAT?”

            “Sendak is a man who enjoys pretty men.” Coran chimed in, eyes almost twinkling as he scribbled something more down on his tablet. “The reason we wanted to invite Keith was to pose you two together, but now that you’ve mentioned it, he might know Keith’s face too, so it’s best that we send one of our incognito members. So number five has been chosen and will go with you as your escort. Your cover is to be her fiancée. He likes to steal from others, and his romantic conquests are no different.”

            Something went cold in Lance’s stomach. “I… you’re telling me I need to seduce him? Like… how much? Like do I have to…” The thought was unpleasant in his mind, but he knew that he had to say it out loud to get the point across. “…sleep with him?”

            “That depends.” Allura hummed, holding her chin between forefinger and thumb while watching Coran write. “You just need to get his room key, and if he gives it to you to meet him later, then no, you do not have to sleep with him. But if he takes you directly to his room? There’s a good chance you might have to.”

            “I don’t think that will be necessary.” Shiro almost forced out. “I think I’m more than capable of sneaking in and taking care of it myself without ‘bait.’” He almost spat out the last word, but Allura only lifted an eyebrow at him. “I promise you. Maybe Lance should stay.”

            “Shiro, I’m not sure if you’ve been aware of this, but the thing is that your face is absolutely plastered on every surface, on every television, on every single database in the world. You’re sounding almost like Keith, with that ‘guns blazing’ attitude.”

            “He’s not guns blazing.” Shiro muttered. “He thinks his strategies out well. He’s very smart.”

            “And-” Allura spoke over his words. “Lance is skilled at the art of empathy. He’s a very relatable, likeable person.” Lance’s eyes widened and he stood up just that little bit straighter, preening at the praise she gave him. “He can make people laugh, can shift under pressure, and if things go well, he might even just be able to tell Pidge the door and Pidge can shift a card to have the right signature to his room so you can just get in yourself.”

            At this, Shiro’s shoulders just seemed to relax slightly. “Yeah.” He nodded quietly. “Okay. I can deal with that.”

            Allura clapped her hands together, smiling sweetly. “Excellent; get packed. You will be escorted to the private jet at 1900 hours.”


 

             Keith did not take the news well. Lance would have to be deaf to not hear the way he shouted and threw things, the way that Shiro did not yell back did not make it easier. Lance had already packed all of his things and was waiting at the door next to a fluffed up and yawning Pidge. In an attempt to lighten the situation, he turned towards them. “How far away is the hotel?”

            They readjusted their glasses before looking up at Lance grumpily. “Our hotel is the Yunzhihui Muquan Boutique Health Hotel. So the flight is about… nine hours? Since it’s a private jet, it is considerably shorter. So I’m going to be sleeping in a different room from the both of you because I really do prefer my privacy. You’re both guys, so you should be fine.” They looked at the door to the right wing of the mansion, eyes narrowed. “Keith’s gotta learn to let him go sometime.”

            Lance looked down at them in surprise, but before he could ask Pidge what they meant, Coran barreled right through, smiling brightly at the two of them. “You both seem chipper.” He picked up their bags and hauled them out like it was no problem, Lance and Pidge idly following behind him as he put them in the back of a sleek black tesla. Lance couldn’t help but whistle at the fine piece of machinery, and Coran smiled. “Excellent, yes? Hunk did an amazing job helping us get one of these. He practically built it from scratch!”

            Lance nodded, once more appreciating everything about Hunk before a question crossed his mind. After Pidge clambered into the car, grumbling something about actually needing some sleep, he stepped closer to the ginger assistant. “Coran, who is Sendak?”

            Coran was busying himself in the trunk to make sure that everything fit inside, and when Lance looked to see what could possibly take up so much space, he saw more than a fair few knives, ropes, and guns. He was nearly distracted by the lighthearted answer. “Well, Sendak was the druglord that used to specialize in human trafficking. Shiro, Keith and Matt were all caught in his clutches after they returned from the space station all those years ago, but Sendak took a special interest in Shiro, so he kept him as essentially-”

            “CORAN.” A voice so dark that it nearly spooked Lance out of his skin appeared, and it took almost a moment for Lance to realize that Pidge was suddenly right next to the two of them, making Coran yelp loudly and shoot up to hit his head on the trunk of the car and clutch his head in pain. Pidge looked absolutely furious with the older man, eyes almost a poisonous colour. “That wasn’t what he asked. At all.

            Coran looked more than a little alarmed and confused. “But context is important!”

            “Not. That. Much.” They hissed venomously, fists clenched at their sides. Then, as if they just remembered that Lance was there, they cracked their neck so loudly that Lance felt a little frightened, as if he was facing down a murderous owl. “Stop snooping. Just know he’s a drug lord and he needs to die.

            Something stung in Lance’s stomach, and for what felt like the first time, he did not step down. “That’s rich, coming from someone who’s job is to snoop! I don’t have that privilege! First, information is dumped on me and then I go without any for months?!? And then I’m being sent somewhere I might have to fuck someone who seems to have ruined lives?!? And then you have the nerve to tell me that I don’t need to know more than that?!” He threw his hands up in the air, frustration rolling off of him in waves. “I need information just as much as you do, Pidge! I need to know what’s going on, why everyone’s on eggshells with each other, and why nobody thinks that maybe I should know more than the absolute bare minimum!”

            “Because you’re not on that level with us yet.” Pidge spat. “You aren’t family. You aren’t part of our family.”

            Something unexplainable washed over Lance, and before he could do anything else, he shouted, “That’s right! Because my family is DEAD!” Most of the fire in Pidge’s eyes smoldered at the realization they’d said something they shouldn’t have, but Lance couldn’t stop himself. “That’s right, I’m not your fucking family. Do you think I’d be trying to find some sort of semblance of happiness here if my family was still alive?!” His voice cracked as his eyes stung. “My mother, my father and brother and sisters… my baby sister... they’re all gone. It’s been months, but I still can’t get over it! I’m SO SORRY I’m not as heartless as the rest of you, but they were my family and they’re…” He choked, tears spilling over. “…they’re gone.

            “Lance.” Pidge’s voice was urgent. “Lance, I’m-”

            “You’re what?” He cut her off, voice choked and watery. “What are you?”

            Pidge looked almost pained, and eventually their eyes fell to the ground. “I’m sorry.” They mumbled. “I forgot that wounds heal differently for everyone.” They readjusted their glasses and looked back up at him. “Matt was my brother. He died because of Sendak. Shiro feels… responsibility for it.”

            Lance wiped his face on the bottom of his shirt, trying to process. “Was he…” he sniffed. “Was he that guy in the picture?”

            Pidge looked pained. “Yes.” They whispered. “I don’t know what happened to him, but I know that it haunts Shiro almost every time he looks at me.” A forced laugh left their mouth. “We look very similar. I still think that he might… be somewhere. His body was never found, but Shiro… he still has nightmares about it. I’m surprised you haven’t caught them in your own sleep.”

            Lance swallowed around the lump in his throat, and he found himself walking towards Pidge slowly, and eventually found himself wrapping his arms around them, hugging them. At first, the shorter of the two did not respond, but eventually their arms found their way around his waist, not squeezing at first. But when they did, it was tight, and it was desperate. They hid their face in Lance’s shirt, and it was a while before they spoke again. “I’m sorry.” They said hoarsely. “I guess I keep forgetting that the rest of us are human too.”

            Lance rested his head on Pidge’s shoulder, just listening to them breathe quietly. “Do you think that’s the reason I’m here, maybe?” He let out a strained laugh. “Truth be told, I don’t know why I’m here at all.”

            “I think that’s a good enough reason for me.” Pidge mumbled. “You’ve already changed so much about the rest of us, it would almost feel odd without you here.” Lance scoffed, but Pidge pressed on. “It’s true. I’d still be eating nonstop hot pockets and popcorn. Not even Hunk could budge me on that.” Eventually, they pulled away. Their eyes were red, but there were no stains on Lance’s shirt from tears. “Come on.” They mumbled, nodding their head towards the car. Coran had peacefully let them have their moment, waiting to drive them to the airport. In the time that they had been in an argument themselves, the shouting from the house stopped, and Pidge looked almost exhausted. “If we get in there first, we can just fall asleep and not have to answer Shiro’s questions.”

            Lance was surprised for a moment before letting out a laugh, light and genuine, and nodding his head, wiping his face once more. “Sounds good to me.”

Chapter Text

            The flight to Longsheng was rather… uneventful. Though Lance got what he expected on the private jet (a bed, bar and couch) there was nobody to serve the drinks or make food or anything like that. So rather than pout, he snuggled right into the circular bed, spreading out on it and sighing happily at the softness of the pillows and sheets. Pidge was already set up on their laptop on the couch, but they didn’t keep their back towards him anymore. Through the slowly lowering eyelids on Lance’s face, he noticed that Shiro was sitting in one of the regular flight chairs, letting it fall back slightly so that he could lean back for just a moment. He looked visibly tense, as if just the idea of being stuck in a plane would cause him to vomit. Lance almost felt bad, but he mostly felt tired. Tired enough to completely knock out by the time they got to the landing strip. He lifted his head blearily, as he felt someone push against his shoulder. “Hwha?” He asked gracefully, drool staining his cheeks. “Whashapneing?”

            His eyes trailed upward to see that Pidge completely changed their look. Sleep fatigue left him as he took in their gold hair and hazel eyes. They wore petite Levi’s jeans and a graphic neon green crop top tee with a black atom on the front, laptop in one hand and phone in their pocket. It was such a different look for the hacker that Lance would have trouble believing what was going on. They were even wearing makeup, smiling down at him with an amused look in their gaze. “We’re here. Get dressed like you’re a college student again and we’ll go and check in together. Shiro’s gonna meet us in our room by the time that we’ve gotten up there.” They could basically sense that Lance would ask about Shiro’s condition, as Allura’s words still rang in his ears. Apparently, this man named Sendak had something deeply personal with Shiro, and not in the good way. Coran’s information was a lot, but it still didn’t explain what was happening with Shiro and Keith, and how they got to where they were now. Though a small piece had been relinquished, the entire puzzle itself was just as much a conundrum as it had been before. He almost didn’t hear Pidge continue speaking. “Also, don’t forget that we’re supposed to act like a couple, okay? Like… engaged, about to get married, etc. If anyone asks, I proposed to you so that it looks like I’m more eager to keep a hold on you rather than you holding onto me.”

            Lance found himself nodding, standing up and brushing himself off before looking at them and asking, “I’m using she pronouns for you now, right?”

            Pidge nodded, and Lance let out a sigh while watching them reach into the bathroom on the plane and pulling out a long, wavy strawberry blonde wig with bangs. It was like magic watching the…her… put it on, and as she finished, Lance couldn’t help but feel a slight flush rise up on his cheeks. Even though he knew what she was capable of and how she could probably kill him just by sneezing, she was very… very pretty. He didn’t realize that he was staring too long until she raised an eyebrow and looked confused, her eyebrows furrowed. “Is… everything okay?” He tensed up and blurted out a strange mix of ‘yes’ and ‘of course’, making Pidge’s eyebrows raise even higher before falling back down to where they were supposed to be. “Okay, then. You’ll call me Katie, and I’ll call you Lance still, because it’s not going to matter.  Nobody knows who you are, and nobody knows who I am. Think of it like James Bond not giving a flying fuck if anyone knows his name.”

            “Is your birth name Katie?” Lance asked as he grabbed his luggage and lifted it up easily to rest it on his back and walk out. He noticed that Shiro was nowhere to be seen. Wise, considering how notorious he was.

            Pidge nodded. “But that’s something only family knows.” A knowing smile played on her lips, and Lance felt both his cheeks warm and his heart flutter a little bit at her kind words. She had seemed to take his words to heart and was trying to make him feel more welcomed. For that, Lance would never be able to thank her enough.

            And after that, it was like he was in a stage play. As soon as she came down and they got into a taxi to get to their destination, Lance acted like the best boyfriend that he could be. He looked at her when she spoke, held her hand and laughed fondly when Pidge said something that he actually found funny. When she gave the driver directions to where they needed to be in Chinese, he was amazed and asked her to teach him sometime, even making her laugh a little and push a strand of hair behind her ear, looking up at him with those honeyed eyes of hers. Lance couldn’t help but feel drawn to the way that they glinted with slight wickedness, the only reminder that this was only a ploy, and that she was a poised snake ready to lash out and kill at any second. The driver cooed that they looked like a wonderful couple, and before Lance could laugh and thank them, Pidge had moved closer and nuzzled into his side.

            Lance wondered if she could hear the way his heart tried to explode in nervousness.

            Eventually they made it to the hotel, and Lance’s breath was absolutely taken away. They had found their way to a misty mountain, with large, beautiful trees covering the landscape. The air was cold, and even when it curled in front of his face as they stepped out, he could only watch with wide eyes as it joined the atmosphere around them. Longsheng was a secluded area, but he could almost feel it’s pull, as if it was drawing him in. Distantly, he could see a wooden bridge over a clear river, and no matter where he looked, it felt like from the cobble of the road beneath him to the grainy jazz music filtering through his headphones that he had been transported to another, much more wonderful world. “Wow…” he breathed out, pupils shrinking and showing more of his startling blues as he stared at the mist encapsulating the forests. “It’s beautiful here.”

            Pidge hummed, and he soon found a part of his side significantly warmer as she pressed herself against him, resting her head on his shoulder. “I’m glad you like it.” She said warmly, and Lance couldn’t stop his smile, moving from staring at the world around them down to Pidge, who looked genuinely pleased. “I really am.”

            He was prepared for the way that she would cup his cheek, rubbing her thumb against the cheekbone. However, he was unprepared for the way that she slightly tugged him downwards towards herself. His eyes widened and something clenched, but he knew immediately that if he did something to arouse suspicion it might be a warning bell. Who knew who was watching?

            So even with his moment of hesitation, he still smiled down at her like she was the apple of his eye and leaned down the rest of the way to softly press his lips against hers. It wasn’t a deep kiss, nothing like something in the movies, but he would let his eyes close and exhale through his nose, smiling as he put a very careful hand on her mid back and pulled away slightly. “Bold.” He murmured, eyes lidded.

            Pidge looked smug before pulling away completely, leaving Lance in the more prominent cold without her by his side. “Have you ever known me to be anything else?” She asked cheekily, grin wide across her face. “And now you gotta grab the bags, okay?”

            Lance looked confused before realizing that she had dragged her bags over to where he was standing, and he drooped his head before laughing out loud. “Ah, shit. You got me. Okay.” Even though it wasn’t a lot of things, he still picked them up as if they weighed more than a ton. Eventually he dropped the act and carried them up to the lobby, and he still couldn’t get enough of it. It was a very clean, very well-kept hotel, and he breathed in the fact that there were flowers everywhere and he was finally outside of the mansion and could walk around and step outside without feeling-

            “Baby?” Pidge’s voice was light and inquisitive, and he shook his head before looking at her at the elevator, a hand on her hip. “Is everything okay? I just finished checking us in. Let’s go get settled, okay? Then we can go check everything out.”

            Lance tried not to look downcast as he again remembered that it was all a ploy, and nodded before striding towards her, wrapping an arm around her waist and kissing the top of her hair and letting his eyes shut, just enjoying the moment of freedom that he had in that one moment.

            The elevator dinged, and Lance entered the ride to his next beautiful prison.


 

            It certainly was beautiful. The room was light and extravagant with its white and lilac tones. Their window gave them an extravagant view of the mountains, and the bath was already drawn with rose petals and two glasses of wine prepared inside of it. They had a shower as well, but Lance knew that he was gonna take use of the tub as much as he could while they were here. “Whoever booked the room certainly earned points in my book.” Lance said as he put down the luggage to the side of the foyer. He carefully removed his shoes and put them to the side as well, perking when he saw blue and green slippers. Eagerly, he slipped them on and sighed, letting his shoulders sag lightly. “These are amazing.”

            “They’re high quality.” Pidge’s voice was back to its original almost monotonous pitch, and he turned to see her sitting on the blue and white beanbag with her back to the window, computer pulled out and fingers typing rapid fire. “It’s a really nice hotel, so of course everything should be the best it can.” Her eyes flickered back up to him, though her typing speed did not lessen. “I saw you looking around like you wanted to escape.” Lance sputtered, but she continued speaking. “It’s okay. I don’t blame you. We all want to escape sometimes. But we need you for this, and you promised.” Her eyes lidded slightly. “I don’t imagine you’re the type of guy to break your promises, hm?”

            “I’m not.” Lance grumbled.

            “I know.” She looked down at her laptop again, the clacking sound of the keys filling the empty space for a moment before she cautiously spoke again. “You did really good at pretending to like me. I’m very impressed.” Something was off in her words, and he almost tried to ask about it, but she rushed over him once again. “So while we’re here, I want you to go do some of those spa classes, see if you can figure out names, places that are popular, anything exciting going on this weekend. You’re the social networker, so I can only leave that to you.”

            Lance blinked. “How much is it?”

            Pidge paused, looking up at him and staring. “What do you mean?”

            “They sound expensive.” Lance explained.

            “The princess of a foreign country with an amazing economy sent us.” Pidge incredulously replied. “And you’re asking about money?”

            Lance’s cheeks flushed red. “Never mind, you’re right. I’ll just get going.” He quickly made an exit, not seeing the way that Pidge’s face morphed to one of discontent.


 

            Dios mio. Lance was in heaven.

            So at first he didn’t think that he should do everything that he did, but when he thought about it, Pidge had been right. Why worry? Nobody said they had a budget! And with that attitude, he did the yoga classes, spa treatments, and they even had a hiking group! But mostly he kept to the pools, heated and warm. He could almost feel himself dropping off to sleep while floating in the water when it began to ripple with the presence of another person. He opened his eyes and looked over to the side. “Sorry, this is a private-”

            A man with handsome dark skin was wading in, grey eyes looking at him as if he were prey. He had braids that rested on his shoulders and pectorals, and a deep scarring around his left eye. Lance couldn’t help but find himself surprised by his appearance, and he sat up, blinking at him. “Am I in the wrong pool?” He asked nervously, looking at the spiraling tattoos on his left arm, tribal in nature and pitch black. “I hope I’m not, that would be embarrassing.”

            The man simply smiled at him charmingly, teeth pearly white as he finally waded in completely. “No, I don’t mind. Besides, I think that this place ends up being too quiet without other people around, so your company is welcome.” His accent was thick but regal, and his English was perfect. Grey eyes raked over his body once again. “What’s a pretty thing like you doing in a pretty place like this? It’s rather secluded, and you seem like you’d be the life of the party.”

            Oh. Oh. This man was flirting with him. Lance’s cheeks immediately flushed crimson and an awkward little laugh left his mouth. “Oh, haha, well you see… I’m here with my fiancée, Katie.” He looked bashful as he rubbed his neck, looking down and away from the handsome stranger who was slowly edging closer and closer to where he was. “She picked the place out. Said she’d always wanted to come here.”

            “Mm.” The man’s voice was almost in his ear at this point, and Lance realized that they were almost chest to chest. “Your girl the jealous type?”

            Lance’s eyes snapped up to the other man’s taking in the stubble that graced a firm jawline. “I think she might be, yeah.” He murmured. “I don’t know, haven’t been in this position before.”

            He tried to take a few steps back, but he found his back to the wall already; cornered with the mountains behind him and a mountain in front of him, except the one in front of him had abs he could eat off of and biceps that could crush his head in both the sexy and unsexy way.

            “Good.” The man murmured, and soon enough they were pressing against each other. Lance’s head spun at the feeling of oh god that’s his d I c k and before he could squeak out anything else, a hand was on his lower waist and pushing him closer to the stranger. “Maybe if she’s up for it, you me and her could have a little… meeting together.” He leaned forward to leave a lingering kiss on Lance’s neck.

            Now, Lance did not gasp. He didn’t! This was like a fucking porno where the guy knew what he wanted and the twink was caught like a deer in headlights. Oh god, was he the twink? But the hand was warm on his skin even in the water, and all he could see was miles of muscle and dark skin that was just beautiful to look at, and eventually he stopped worrying. “I-” He choked at the feeling of those lips moving back and having teeth scrape against his neck. He prayed the staff weren’t watching and if they were that they were gonna suddenly be really cool about a lot of stuff. “I-I’ll have to ask h-her?”

            “Ask her at my party tomorrow evening.” The stranger purred, pulling away. He didn’t look the least bit frazzled, but Lance looked like someone had left him winded. “It’s one of the private rooms on the first floor on the terrace. Tell them that Sendak sent you.”

            All the heat left Lance’s body.

            The stranger moved away, a knowing look in his eyes, and suddenly Lance was no longer sure that it was because of the want to fuck. “I’ll see you there.” Lance no longer could think that his tone was playful. Lance genuinely couldn’t tell anymore as Sendak walked away, grabbing a towel and stepping back inside. How the fuck did he get in? How the fuck did he know where he was going? How did he know??? He managed to wait a few more minutes to swim and look like he wasn’t panicking, but as soon as he felt hungry, he started heading back to the room, measuring his breaths even though he felt ready to pass out.

            It was gonna be a very messy report back to Pidge, that was for damn sure.

Chapter Text

            “Pidge, I think that I almost fucked Sendak in one of the private pools.”

            “What.”

            That was not Pidge’s voice. Lance didn’t realize that there was another body in the room until he looked up to see that in one of the beanbags adjacent to where Pidge was still sitting was Shiro. He was in a completely different outfit than the one that he started in, bleached jeans and a fitted black t-shirt that looked ready to burst at the seams from his muscles. There was a jacket resting in his lap, and Lance could clearly see the long dragon tattoo spiraling around his arm and ending at his hand. He looked stiff as a board, and Lance instantaneously regretted that he’d spoken aloud. Pidge was looking at him with no form of negative stare: rather, she seemed bored and only raised an eyebrow when Lance spoke of his claims. “Huh. Well, at least we know that Sendak takes an interest in you.” Her eyes flickered over to Shiro, and a strange gleam came over her eyes before she continued to speak. “That means that we should have a way to get into Sendak’s room in the biblical sense.”

            Discomfort practically rolled off Shiro in waves, and even though he didn’t look at Lance, he could tell that his next sentence was directed at him. “I don’t think that it would work even if they slept together. What if Sendak is the type of person that just fuck them and leaves them?” Lance couldn’t help but notice that the taller man’s fingers were curled slightly in a sign of distress. “How could Lance even get the information needed?”

            Lance found himself speaking out in indignation. “There’s two types of door locks in this building. One is by code: If I can see him do it, I can remember what it is. Photographic memory, yeah?” He tapped his temple, winking at Pidge. “And if it’s a card, I can just tell her the room number, and she can make a new key to get into his room for you.” He looked back at Shiro, hope in his eyes. “I can be an asset on this mission, Shiro. Please believe in me when I say that.”

            Shiro’s gaze didn’t waver, but it softened minutely before he looked away. “That’s not what I’m concerned about, Lance.” He crossed his arms and leaned back into the bean bag, stressed jeans looking ready to tear with the movement of his thighs. “You clearly showed distasted in the idea of possibly bedding Sendak. What happened?”

            Lance’s cheeks flushed a vibrant red, and his eyes fell to the floor, as if the wood would suddenly come alive and swallow him whole. “I don’t want to sleep with him, and it wasn’t just me he showed an interest in.” He looked over at Pidge. “He invited you too.”

            Pidge blinked owlishly at Lance. “I don’t want to.” She looked back at Shiro. “Unless he said us both specifically, then I’d rather not.” Her typing sped up and became more aggressive though her face didn’t change, so Lance thought it best to drop it.

            Shiro’s voice caught his ear. “Sendak’s a murderer, Lance. He likes to take people apart and dissect them like it’s some kind of sick joke. He’s a psychopath, and you can’t forget that he’s who we’re here to kill.”

            Lance’s gut clenched at Shiro’s almost condescending tone, as if he wasn’t aware of what exactly was happening, what he was almost forced into doing, and he couldn’t stop the cutting sound of his voice if he tried. “You’re both murderers too. Don’t lecture me on what is right and wrong and what I should or shouldn’t be doing.” Shiro’s eyes widened at Lance’s scathing response. “You act like you’re so high above what he is, yet you’re both on the same level as far as I’m concerned. Just let me get the stupid code for you so I can get out of the way and not have to watch you kill someone, okay?” All of the relaxation that he’d felt beforehand suddenly disappeared, and Lance wanted to do nothing more than go to bed and fall asleep for days. It must have shown on his face, as Pidge looked a tad bit… worried. “I’m gonna get ready for bed, Shiro.”

            Shiro still looked a little shocked, but he regarded what Lance said very carefully before standing up as well. “I will prepare the couch. You need all the sleep you can get for tomorrow evening.” And with that, He disappeared into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

            Pidge’s gaze didn’t waver. “He’s just worried, you know. You should at least listen to what he’s said.”

            Lance didn’t respond, turning towards the bed and falling onto it, simply letting his eyes close.


 

            Lance was nervous to say the least. Without Shiro in the room when he woke up, Lance was left alone for most of the afternoon. The day had passed in a blur, and he had spent the most of it getting ready for the party that evening. Even though it was something that much more sinister than a regular one, he still couldn’t help the excitement that came with it. It’d been so long since he’d gotten a chance to relax and at least pretend to have a good time with alcohol and music that he felt a little buzzed even before the party started. He was almost absurdly grateful that Coran had packed him a nice outfit with a note saying that it should fit perfectly, even though it was weird they knew his measurements. He had put it on, and looked at himself in the mirror. He was wearing a white silk button up and a navy-blue waistcoat, slimming his figure even more to give him a more prominent cinch of the waist. A lighter blue tweed suit jacket adorned his shoulders, pulling the outfit together with grey tweed trousers and oxford shoes. He’d slicked his hair back and applied a soft gold highlighter to his cheekbones, bringing most of the attention to his face as he stared at himself. Should he add eyeliner? Would that be too much? He was so caught up with the completion of his outfit that he didn’t hear Pidge approaching until she spoke. “You look really handsome like that.”

            He turned his head to her, smiling. “Thank you, I think that I might be a bit under with the makeup, but-” The words died in his throat as he saw Pidge in an olive green sleeveless dress. It hung on her frame, not quite silhouetting her curves but letting her look an almost formal kind of casual. She wore black kitten heels, and her eyes were delicately done with black eyeliner and Smokey eyeshadow. Her lips were done in a soft pink, and her wig fell down around her in delicate curls, as if she were a model in her own right. “You…” Lance struggled to find the right words. “You look beautiful.”

            Pidge’s cheeks flushed and she looked away. “Thanks. At least you think so.”

            Lance looked confused. “Who wouldn’t? You look amazing!”

            She looked back up at him, and when he didn’t change his look of confusion, she sighed. “Allura. I sent her a picture, and all I really got was a lecture on the way that I should walk in heels. I’ve done it before, but she seems to think I’ve forgotten.”

            Lance stepped towards her and extended his elbow. “I wouldn’t care what she thinks, Pidge. You look really nice, and I’m glad that I can be the one who gets to escort you to where you need to be, okay?” Her hand slipped into the crook of his arm, and his smile widened. “Now let’s go get ‘em.”

            Pidge looked doubtful for a moment, but a smile eventually worked onto her face. “Yeah. Okay. Let’s get going.”


 

            Getting in was more than a little awkward. It was well past nightfall, and the men standing in front of the room were nothing less than intimidating. Lance had looked between them and carefully told them what Sendak had relayed to them, and even though their faces did not change, they stepped aside for the two of them, making Lance let out a sigh of relief. When they’d gotten in, though, it didn’t seem like a party out of the ordinary. There were people dancing, there were people laughing at the bar and people getting drunk off their asses. Waiters weaved through the crowd, offering drinks and food and Lance could feel his mouth watering at the smell of the bruschetta on one of the plates. However, Pidg-Katie pulled him towards the bar, and before he could even utter a word, she had ordered a shot and downed it like nobody’s business. “Uh… Katie? Honey?” She ignored him and asked for two more, and by the time that Lance finally got her attention, it was more than a little obvious she was buzzed. She was tiny after all, there was only so much alcohol that she could hold. “Are you okay? Why are you drinking like this?”

            “I’m breaking up with you.” Katie blurted out, making Lance recoil slightly at the sheer volume projected. “M’sorry that I didn’t tell you this earlier, but I needed to make sure that I had enough courage to tell you the truth after all these years.” She spoke louder than normally, and Lance could tell that her intention was clearly to grab the attention of people around him. “But I’m in love with someone else.”

            “What?” A lot of Lance’s shock was genuine, as he didn’t think that Katie would go for the angle of being in love with someone else, but the look in her eye meant that some of it was genuine and honest, and he couldn’t help but press more for information. Katie was in a situation that if she tried to hold back her feelings, it might compromise the position. “Who is he? Do I know him?”

            Katie’s eyes widened, not expecting the question, but she carried on speaking. “It’s not a He. That’s the problem. Were you a woman I could love you for the rest of my days, but you aren’t. She’s beautiful, she’s funny and smart and so down to earth, and I love her for it. I love you too, but I can’t lie my whole life. You two actually kinda look alike, which might be why I was with you for so long.” Another shot got slid down to her, and she downed it like a pro while the gears in Lance’s brain were turning. “You’re both tan and got really pretty blue eyes, but she’s a woman. And you’re a man.”

            A woman who looks like me, blue eyes and tan. Pidge doesn’t know a lot of girls, so who?...

            The lightbulb went off. Lance’s eyes widened to the size of dinner plates and he stared at Katie with his mouth so wide a fly could rest on his uvula. Her cheeks were no longer pink just from the alcohol, and she looked away from him. “You don’t mean?... Really??...” He asked in disbelief, and as if to play the part and be honest, she nodded. “Oh… Oh wow.” He managed to get out, not realizing he was supposed to act hurt until he felt eyes on him. Very familiar, very dark eyes. Suddenly he was shoved back into the moment, and he took a step back from Katie. “I… I think I need time to process this.” He managed, forcing his voice to become hoarse. “Can you go back to our hotel room? I’ll try to…” It was kind of hard to remember to be in anguish when Pidge just fucking confessed that she was in love with Allura. He’d never let her live it down. Maybe even wingman. “I’ll try to grab my stuff later.”

            Katie looked a little distressed, and she took a step back as well. “I’m sorry.” She whispered before turning towards the door. Lance could feel the eyes on him from all over, and even though it wasn’t true, he could feel the humiliation of being (fake) dumped in the middle of a (fake) romantic getaway. There were consoling looks, there were looks of amusement, but there was only one look that he was interested in.

            Lance stepped away from the bar, trying his best to not scramble for the balcony but ending up pacing towards the doors, opening it quietly and shutting it swiftly with no sound coming after it. He turned towards the beautiful mountains, the starry night sky, and for a moment let himself tap into the emotions that were still buried inside of him. Even though they were being used in the wrong context, he could use the ammunition to cry. It took a moment, but he eventually got the tears to roll down his cheeks, messing his gold highlighter up a little as he rested his head in his palms.

          It wasn’t long until someone followed him outside and pressed against his side. “I can’t believe that she did that in public.” Sendak’s voice was low, sending a slight shiver through Lance’s body that had nothing to do with the crisp air. “Must be in case that she didn’t want you to try anything to her.”

            Lance’s voice was thin as he spoke. “I don’t want to think about it.” He swallowed a little bit before raising his head from his hands to stare at Sendak, who was dressed in a pure black suit. “I don’t want to think about anything right now.” He whispered, letting a shaking hand press against the killer’s chest. Now that they were closer to the goal, Lance could feel the nerves starting to get to him. Hopefully Sendak would just chalk it up to cold or him being upset about his love life being over. He leaned forward and let his forehead press against Sendak as well, exhaling shakily. “Help me.” He managed.

            Two strong hands gripped underneath Lance’s ass and he was suddenly lifted into the air with a gasp. He involuntarily locked his legs around the muscular waist for balance, but he had no time to adjust, as full lips crushed against his own. There was no give in the man’s lips, and even though Lance knew he had killed people, it was too hard to resist melting into the embrace. His palms were warm against his butt, and he groaned into Sendak’s mouth as he was pulled closer by a palm on his back. Lance wrapped his arms around Sendak’s neck, pulling himself closer. Yes, this is what he needed. Maybe Shiro was wrong, he’d be the one fuck that Sendak wouldn’t try something on. It was only for one night, and Sendak was firm beneath him, even when they walked towards one of the sliding glass doors. Lance was put down, and when he finally looked Sendak in the eyes, the taller man’s pupils were fat with desire, only a sliver of their original browns left. Lance felt almost heady with lust, and it was only after a little lapse in judgement that he realized that he felt like he was on a cloud. He almost didn’t register the fact that Sendak was pulling something clear off of his own lips until it was too late. His eyes widened, and he tried to scream, but it was too late. His limbs became heavy and his eyelids drooped. “No…” he managed, pulling back as best he could, but those once warm hands felt like cold shackles.

            “Sweet dreams.” Sendak’s voice was hazy, and Lance felt himself finally drop, cold sweats dripping down his shirt.


 

            “I haven’t heard anything from him.” Pidge muttered. They were back in their regular clothes and rapidly typing on their computer to go through the camera firewalls. They had expected that when Lance had gone to the balcony, he’d have been visible from their room. However, they had not counted the fact that there were two of them, causing their plan to be in slight trouble. Shiro was pacing on the rug in front of her, his arms behind his back as he stared at the floor. He was muttering to himself, and Pidge didn’t care enough to try to listen as she finally made it through the security and let out a noise of excitement. “Alright, I’ll try to find them.”

            Shiro was by their side in an instant, voice tense. “Hurry.”

            Pidge’s fingers flew across the keyboard, checking camera after camera and eventually finding a sight that made their blood run cold. They rewinded it back to the first instance, and Shiro’s hand nearly ripped the beanbag open at the sight of Lance trying to push Sendak away but eventually falling forward onto him. “He’s been drugged.” Pidge spoke, dread filling their voice. “Has Sendak been onto us the whole time? Did we just send Lance into a trap alone and without proper understanding?” They looked up at Shiro, and they swallowed quietly as they saw the look of fight or flight on his face. “Shiro, you don’t have to go in there.” They tried, standing up and putting the laptop to the side. “You don’t’ have to face him like that. You can just-”

            “Just do what, Pidge?” Shiro practically snarled, eyes blazing. “What can I do instead? I won’t let it happen to anyone else.” His gaze narrowed in onto the screen. “I won’t let it happen to him.”

            Pidge swallowed. “Shiro, I-”

            “What’s the room number?” It wasn’t a question.

            “Shiro, please, don’t push yours-”

            “Room. Number.”

            “… 324”

            Shiro was gone in a flash, sprinting down the hallway. Pidge could only sit and watch through the cameras as Sendak picked Lance up and carried him to the room, nobody in the party blinking an eye. “Fuck.” She said softly.

Chapter Text

            “Matt, what do you think happens when someone dies?”

            Matt looked up from his dinnerplate, concern almost immediately on his face. The two of them were eating while watching the telly, as their parents were both out on a date together. Kid cartoons played boisterously while they consumed their PB&J’s and crisps. Looking at the man closely, the resemblance between brother and sister was undeniable, though Pidge’s hair was well beneath her shoulders, resting mid back. Even her glasses were on Matt’s face, the well-worn spectacles almost a family heirloom. The solemn question dimmed the lightheartedness of the show as he slowly replied. “I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it.” It didn’t take long for him to slowly ask “Why do you ask, Pidge?”

            Pidge scowled. “My name is Katie. And… I was just thinking about it. What if one of us dies? How will we know that the other is still there?” Something clawed up her throat. “I know that you and Takashi will be gone for a long time, and that you’ll be back, but… what if something happens? What if something goes wrong? What if I lose you both?”

            Matt considered Pidge’s question before leaning over the side of the couch and pulling up a laptop emblazoned with his initials: MTTHLT01. He handed it over to her and watched as she ran her hand over the front of it. “You know that I’ve never been one to believe in religions, but if there is such a thing as reincarnation, or ghosts or whatever, just know that I’ll be in this.” He leaned over and tapped the metal. “And besides your mind, I’m going to be your greatest ally. This computer was handmade by me, strong enough to break through any security system known to man. With this, you’ll be able to call all three of us. And maybe you and Keith can learn to get along a little bit more.”

            Pidge pouted. “Why should I?”

            Matt simply reached forward and pulled her close, giving her a noogie against her wishes. She shrieked and yanked her head away, pouting and glaring as Matt finally answered. “You know what Keith means to Shiro.” His eyes softened as he turned them back towards the telly. “You know what it would mean to Shiro if the two of you got along.”

            The irritation soothed in Pidge’s chest, and she sighed, pulling the computer closer to her chest. “…Yeah. I guess.”

            Matt smiled at her once again, picking his sandwich up and settling back into the couch. “No more sadness, okay? I love this episode.”

            Pidge smiled to herself, her eyes lidding. “Yeah, okay.”


 

Lance woke up, green flashing violently behind his eyelids. It took an effort to even get his eyes to focus forward, but when they did, any sense of relaxation left his body. He couldn’t move. He tried yanking his wrists around, but he couldn’t move them. Even his ankles were tied, and he quickly realized he was tied to a bed, each limb to a post. His torso was only covered in a light shirt, and his pants were gone, leaving him only in his boxers. His chest began to rise and fall with rapid breaths, and when he opened his mouth to scream, a voice interrupted:

“You’re awake.”

Sendak. Lance’s head snapped to the right to see him entering his line of sight wearing a tank top and purple sweats. There was nothing comforting in the way that the other man stalked forward, his smile terrifying to behold. Over his body were a plethora of scars, obviously from fights and wounds given from attackers. His tattoo looked horrifying in the darkness of the room, and Lance felt ready to pass out again when Sendak spoke again.

“You know, I was just looking for cute products, but when you came out of the blue with your pretty girlfriend with those eyes of yours? I knew I had to have you.” Dread filled Lance’s body as Sendak got closer. He grabbed Lance’s chin to tilt his head closer, straining his neck. “I usually don’t sample the merchandise, you know? That’s just bad business. But just one go with you should be fine.” His spare hand pressed firmly against Lance’s torso, feeling the way his heart fluttered in his chest. “You look like a loud one. Are you loud, Lance?”

“I-I’m gonna scream if you don’t let me go.” Lance stuttered out, palms clammy with sweat. “If you-If you let me go, I can just go back to Katie and we can leave and you don’t get in trouble-”

Sendak rolled his eyes, displeasure on his face as he gripped Lance’s jaw tight enough that he couldn’t speak. “Ah, you’re quite boring, aren’t you? Not at all as amusing as I thought you’d be.” The smile reappeared on his face and he leaned in. “Tell you what: I’m not interested in what you have to say. I’m interested in how you’ll look on my cock.” The hand on Lance’s chest left only to return with tape. Lance tried to wrench away from Sendak’s grip, but it was impossible. A strip descended onto Lance’s mouth, and Sendak cooed at the tears forming in Lance’s eyes. “How cute. You’re a crier.” Strong hands grabbed hold of Lance’s boxers, and his eyes widened as Sendak pulled out a knife. “Maybe I should really give you something to cry about.”

Lance couldn’t help it. He screamed. He screamed through the gag as Sendak cut down the side of his right hip slowly, splitting the skin along with fabric. He could feel the blood leaving his body, dripping down the side of his copper skin, and he screamed as loud as he could for somebody, anybody, please save him please save him please!-

There was a crash, and suddenly Sendak’s body heat was nowhere near him. There was shouting and grunting, and it took a moment for Lance to come back to himself. His hip was thinly cut open, and he couldn’t help but weakly whine from the feeling. His boxers were barely still on, but he could feel the fabric curled at the sides. He was just cut open, he thought hysterically. He was just tortured. As short as it had been, it’d happened to him again. He almost sobbed at the thought, but the sound of someone shouting in pain got his attention, and he turned his head to the right.

Shiro was there. Shiro was there, looming over Sendak with his right arm cocked back before slamming into the figure beneath him. “Shiro.” Lance tried to say, but the tape wasn’t moving without help. Instead he tried to scream beneath the tape again, and when Shiro’s head snapped towards him, there was none of the killer from the prison. Instead, it was the man who helped him learn to defend himself rushing forward to pull the tape off. It was in one fell swoop, so Lance felt the burn but he was too distracted by Shiro cupping his face. “Sh’ro.” He mumbled, relief in his system. “Shiro.”

“I’m here.” The words sounded almost too tender, too intimate for the moment, but Shiro was quickly using a shard of glass to cut Lance’s bindings. He almost reached for Lance, but as soon as he took in the cut on his side, Shiro stopped. “I’ll try to get that cleaned up. You’re not bleeding terribly, but infection could be right around the corner, and we don’t want you to-”

A hand wrapped around Shiro’s neck, and Lance nearly screamed again as Sendak started choking him. “Really, now?” The darker man snarled, breathless. “You’re a spy for that Princess bitch? She hired this little thing, and now you?” Shiro jerked in Sendak’s hold, but it was still resolute. “Of course she did. She’ll never get in our way, not like that.” He moved his head so that he was breathing into Shiro’s ear while he struggled. “You couldn’t stop me before, could you? How about history repeats himself? How would you like that?” Shiro’s eyes widened in panic, and his struggle doubled as Sendak spoke. “You want to watch the light leave another man’s eyes? You wanna see this little shit die the way your friend did?”

Lance’s eyes widened. Shiro let out a guttural scream and in one fell swoop rolled forward, taking Sendak with him and making him hit the glass on the floor from the broken window. Sendak shouted in pain, and Lance fought through his pain to sit up, spots dancing in his vision. He managed to get his legs over the side of the bed, but that gave him the sight of Shiro’s right hand tight around Sendak’s neck.

“You have no right to even think of him.” Shiro snarled, spitting with every consonant spoken. “You are not allowed to speak of him ever again. You think I won’t kill you?” The gleam in his eye was slowly returning, the one from their first meeting. Shiro was changing into something else. “After all the things you and your boss made me do, you think that I’m above killing you? I’m here to do just that.”

Sendak’s eyes widened, and he quickly punched Shiro in the gut, sending him reeling enough to push him off. Shiro didn’t hesitate, though. He launched himself at Sendak, pushing the both of them out the window and onto the hill outside of it. “NO! SHIRO!” Lance tried to call out, but the two of them were already down in the woods, the crunching of wood and thuds of punches connecting was more than enough to make Lance focus harder. He grabbed some of the sheeting from the bed and used the largest glass shard he could find to cut a strip to wrap around his cuts. He had no time to get dressed. He quickly did his best to follow, the shard still in his hand as he went to catch up with the two foes in combat. If he didn’t hurry, if he didn’t make it, Shiro could-

“Lance!” Pidge’s voice was nearby, and he saw them enter from a side in the woods, breathless and flushed from exertion. “I heard the commotion, we need to stop them before this gets out of hand.”

“They went down the hill, though I have no idea where.” Lance responded, still moving. “Sendak cut up my hip, but Shiro stopped him and now they’re out of control!” He could still feel the blood seeping from his wound, but he was too caught up in what could happen to Shiro. “Sendak kept talking about Shiro’s friend, somebody he killed- Do you think that it was Matt?”

“It can’t be.” Pidge whispered, their eyes widening. “It can’t be. If it was, Shiro would tell me. He would tell me, right?” The sound of a struggle got closer, and Pidge suddenly sped up, leaving Lance in the dust. They arrived at a clearing, and Lance couldn’t help but stare with horror as Sendak shoved Shiro’s face into the ground, lifting a different shard in the air to plunge into Shiro’s back. “STOP!” Pidge screamed, thrusting their hand out. Sendak’s hand did not move, though his gaze twisted to them. “Who was it that you killed?” They asked almost desperately. “Who were you talking about when you said you’d kill in front of Shiro again?”

“Pidge! No!” Shiro tried to shout, lifting his head slightly. His nose was bloody and it dripped onto his teeth. “Don’t-Don’t listen!”

“You look just like him.” Sendak practically purred. Pidge’s body stiffened. “Short, lanky, blonde hair and hazel eyes. He screamed real pretty, too. Just like Lance over there when I sliced him up.” At the quiet that met him, Sendak’s grin split his face. “What, did you think that he was still alive? Really?! Poor little Shiro here should have told you! Or did you block that out for your own sake?!” He lifted Shiro’s head up, his foot still on his back. “How selfish, not telling someone their brother was killed because of them!”

“What?” Pidge whispered.

“Your lookalike tried to defend poor little Shiro here.” Sendak stared Pidge dead in the eye. “From me. So naturally, I had to give a little lesson on how things are done in the Galra.” Shiro thrashed beneath him, and Sendak pulled his head up a little more. “Aw, are those tears, Champion? From you? We’re killers, you and I. We don’t deserve to cry. And I got what I wanted anyway, didn’t I?” His free hand came down to slap Shiro on the ass, and Lance could feel himself getting sick.

Pidge moved like lightning. There were no words, no screams of revenge. They bolted towards Sendak, pulling a knife out of their pocket and aiming to slash his throat. Instead, Sendak’s second hand lifted to grab Pidge’s wrist, shaking her hard enough that she dropped the knife. Their eyes were full of burning hatred as tears streamed down their cheeks. “I hate you.” She shouted hoarsely while trying to claw at him. “I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! YOU KILLED HIM! YOU KILLED HIM! DIE! DIE!” Her screams grew higher in pitch each time, tears openly bubbling over as she wept.  

Sendak released Shiro’s head, letting it fall so he could lift the knife Pidge had wielded. “You first.” He said coldly.

Time stopped for Lance.

Lance almost didn’t register what happened after that. He was watching Pidge being dangled up by Sendak and ready to get stabbed, and then he was right in front of the man. He didn’t remember taking his shard of glass and thrusting it into his shoulder, but he remembered the shout that left the killer as blood streamed down his bicep. There was a ringing in his ears as he tried to shove back Sendak, but eventually he was overcome, and was shoved to the ground. “Pidge.” He gasped, neon blues flashing in his vision now. “Pidge? Shiro?” Distinctly, he heard the sound of something snapping, shouts of pain and then silence. Something hit the ground, and fear flooded him. “Shiro?”

There were a few precious seconds before a familiar face was above him, glasses pushed up on their forehead as they touched his face. “Lance.” Pidge sobbed, leaning forward to press their forehead against his. “Lance- Lance, he’s… he’s dead. Sendak is dead. Shiro killed him. He’s dead. He’s… he’s gone.”

Suddenly it wasn’t about Sendak. Suddenly it was about Matt. “He’s gone. He’s gone, he’s not coming back. Sendak killed him. Sendak…” Tears were hitting his face, and they almost looked like a vision with the stars surrounding their gold hair, tears dripping from their face. “I’ll never see him again. Matt… My brother… my only family… I’m…” Their tears started up all over again as they sobbed. “I’m all alone.”

Lance couldn’t really feel his leg, but he could find his voice. “No… you’re not.” Pidge’s eyes were so big, so focused on him that he couldn’t help but smile. “You’re with me… right? We’re with each other. I won’t leave you alone, okay?”

Pidge looked at him as if he were an alien before the look crumpled and they nodded, hiccupping as they let their head rest on Lance’s chest. It wasn’t long before Shiro was next to them, looking nothing less that guilty. “Pidge.” He croaked. “We need to get Lance to medical attention.” He looked away, towards where the fighting happened. “I’ve taken care of the body. Won’t go into details, but he’s long gone by now.”

Oh, right. Lance’s leg. “Oh.” He said out loud. “That’s right. I’m bleeding out and drugged. Forgot.” Shiro almost looked fond, and he kneeled down to hover above him slightly too. Ludicrously, it looked like there was a circle of stars around Shiro’s head, too. As if he were an angel. “You taking me back? What about the hotel?”

“Allura’s got damage control.” Shiro said easily, moving Pidge’s shoulder just enough to pick Lance up and press one palm against the sheet on his hip. “It’s what she did with the Garrison too.” Pidge looked worse for wear, but they were up and walking with them, speeding up to no doubt hotwire a car for them to use, leaving Lance and Shiro together. Lance’s head lolled on Shiro’s shoulder, and he took a deep breath. “Don’t fall asleep on me now.” Shiro murmured. “Both literally and figuratively.”

“What happened, Shiro?” Lance asked instead. “What happened to Matt?”

Shiro looked so uncomfortable and guilty that Lance almost retracted his question, but Shiro spoke in clipped, short tones. “Matt got killed trying to stop Sendak from…” Lance could feel Shiro swallowing. “…from raping me. Needless to say, it didn’t work, and he lost his life in the process.” His jaw was clenched, and his breathing was stilted as the car rumbled to life. “I still don’t remember much of my time with the Galra. I remember Matt’s… I remember that now, and I only remember bits and pieces of Keith. I mostly remember that after we got back, Keith expected something from me. I don’t know what, but I know he resents me for it.”

Lance looked at Shiro with sorrow. “I’m sorry that happened to you.”

“Don’t be.” He murmured, carrying Lance to the car. “I just wish that I could have saved Matt.” They got in, Shiro still holding him and Pidge behind the driver’s seat. “I’m just glad that we got to save you, at least.”

The last sentence was so quiet that Lance almost didn’t hear it. But it’s meaning rang through, and he let himself relax as they pulled out. By the time that they got to the private jet still there, he was barely awake enough to register that he was on the bed inside of it, and Pidge was cleaning his cut and then stitching it. It pulled a little bit, and he winced, but Shiro’s arms were still warm around him, and he let himself be taken care of.

He was asleep by the time they took off.                   

Chapter Text

            Lance woke up to Pidge sleeping next to him. They were still on the plane flying towards home (Home?) and the last thing he had expected was the warmth of a human being to curl close to.

            No, he realized; two human beings. A body was almost a hair’s breath away from his back, and he looked over his side to see Shiro, completely asleep next to him as well. His arms were curled in front of him, as if he’d wanted to pull Lance close but decided against it, and his brow was not furrowed, as it was almost every time Lance had seen him. He looked… young. Almost too young. He carefully reached out and let his hands run against the buzzed sides of Shiro’s skull, lips parting as he realized how soft it was. Shiro didn’t even stir, surprisingly, only shifted in his sleep closer to Lance.  The plane was in self-flying night mode (something Pidge had explained to him earlier, mods they and Hunk created) so it was only by the light of the moon coming through the window that Shiro was illuminated in whites and blues. He was breathing slowly and evenly out of his nose, and Lance suddenly was struck with the thought of Shiro with longer hair; if the white streak was natural, it would look beautiful. “You’d look good with long hair.” He mumbled almost to himself, moving his hand to cup Shiro’s cheek.

            Shiro exhaled softly, leaning into his hand almost as if he were awake enough to do it on purpose. Lance’s heart fluttered before he looked down at Shiro’s arms, still curled into himself almost… as if he were afraid. Lance quietly considered for a moment before he turned around and maneuvered himself to press against Shiro, his warmth making Lance’s body relax. It wasn’t long before a hand slid around to rest on his waist, and then wrap around to rest on his chest. “Who would have guessed you were a cuddler?” He mumbled to himself, smiling almost ridiculously wide. It wasn’t hard for his eyes to droop and eventually close because for the first time in a long, long, time, Lance Sanchez finally felt safe.


 

             When they landed in a private airspace, Lance was greeted by a practically sobbing Hunk, who immediately took him for more intensive medical care. To be frank, it was rather nice to be back in the tropical area of Altea rather than the mountains of China. As beautiful as they were, it was nothing compared to the company of his friends.

            Pidge did a decent job with the original stitches, but Hunk made sure to clean his wound and redo the stitches with biodegradable ones instead, so when healed, they would simply just dissolve. “It’s meant to be natural enough that your body doesn’t fight it, more like when the skin closes it would just be pushed out on its own.” Hunk explained evenly while he finished up, big brown eyes flickering over to Lance. They were in Hunk’s side room, a place where he built things that he wanted and had multiple blueprints hanging off of the pale-yellow wallpaper. It seemed the homiest room in the mansion, and Lance felt very at ease even with Hunk stitching him. The sunlight filtered in through the one window on the wall that faced towards the pool, and it filled the small space with an amber glow. A wooden desk was covered in different rolls of paper, some notebooks and many, many pencils, most down to the nub. All chairs except one was also full, and Hunk himself was sitting on a stool he’d grabbed while taking Lance towards his mini-examination table.

Lance took in the scribbles of handwriting and white outlines of different designs when something in his peripheral vision made itself known, and he sat up a little bit. Hunk noticed, and raised an eyebrow curiously. “What’s up?”

            “What is that?” Lance asked, pointing to something hidden underneath one of the many cluttered desks in the room. Hunk turned his head towards it and stood at the sight of it. A smooth ivory-looking foot was slightly pointed out, and it seemed like something a bit too small for anyone that was there with them. “Is that a prosthetic?”

            Hunk pulled it out very carefully, weighing it in his hands almost reverently as he spoke. “Yes. I was working on making a light prosthetic that could react to muscle nerves and move accordingly. This was prototype 2.35, and it didn’t last as long as I wanted it to. It only lasted about a day on a two hour charge, so I’m trying to make it more of a once-a-week charge need, if that makes sense.”

            Lance smiled. “That’s amazing, Hunk! That’s really cool.” The Samoan man flushed a little bit, and Lance couldn’t help but continue. “Why are you making simply leg prosthetics? You could use this to help so many people, you know? Prosthetics are already something that needs work, but that design looks incredible.”

            Hunk smiled. “I tried to make it easy on materials, so if it’s ever needed to be remade, it could be both eco-friendly and cheap.” He brushed over Lance’s first question and put the prosthetic in Lance’s hands, watching him make an appreciative ‘ooooh’ shape with his mouth. “And there’s always ways for it to be improved. Right now, I’m working on the newest Prototype, 5.42. I’ve made it out of bamboo and used a water-based wood sealer to make it waterproof. I’m almost there with the adjustments, and I can’t wait to get it sent out.”

            Lance paused, looking at the prosthetic and then back at Hunk, brow furrowed. “Sent out? Sent out to who?”

            Hunk seemed to realize his error and hastily made his way to cover up. “Well, send it out to potential buyers, of course!” He laughed almost too awkwardly, and Lance decided to not pursue. However, as Hunk babbled on, he started looking at the subtler designs and saw that there were flower patterns almost… carved into the material of the shin. It was the same flower over and over again, a thin, multi-layered one with rows after rows of petals. It seemed almost like a narrow pinecone, but the flower itself was a watercolor gold. Lance looked a little closer, and on the sole of the foot, he saw that there were words inscribed in gold as well.

            i La’ei: alofa, Akeakamai

            Lance didn’t realize that Hunk had stopped talking until the prosthetic was pulled from his hands. “Sorry.” He blurted, eyes wide. “I didn’t mean to snoop-”

            “It’s fine, Lance.” Hunk stopped him in his tracks with a small smile, putting the prosthetic away. “You were just curious, there’s no reason to get mad at you. It’s just something that I’ve been working on for a while.”

            Lance tried to say something in response to that, but the sight of another prosthetic caught his eye. It was much smaller than the other one, and older.

            Almost as if it were made for a child.

            “I imagine it’s for a worthy cause.” He murmured.

            Hunk’s face softened as he stood, staring at the machine of his own design as if he were revisiting the memory of its creation. “It is.” He said very softly. “It definitely is.”

            The door to Hunk’s little workshop swung open and Coran entered, looking suitably ruffled. There were slight curls of his hair that were no longer slicked back, and there seemed to be a sense of anxiety resting upon him. In his hands were several papers in a sky-blue folder, and he was gripping them like they’d personally made his day hell. As soon as he took in Lance, he relaxed and sighed, shoulders dropping. “Ah, thank Quiznak. I’m glad I found you, Lance.” He at once made himself at home in the only free chair in the room. “I did some digging through our archives, and I have actually found something that might help you better utilize the odd phenomena you have similar to an Empath’s!”

            Lance furrowed his brow and pursed his lip, giving Hunk a look.

            Hunk shrugged. “Kinda like cheat codes for a superpower.”

            Lance at once brightened. “Oh, worm?!” He looked back at Coran with wide sparkling eyes. “Tell me, tell me! What is it? I hope it’s laser vision. God, I hope it’s laser vision.”

            Coran looked a little confused before opening the folder, tugging the side of his mustache slightly. “I suppose, in a sort of way, it could be considered like a laser vision. However, it’s more of altering your own vision to see things with… residual memories laced into them.”

            Hunk looked interested at that point, leaning onto the side of Lance’s resting spot. “Oh? Like Eagle Vision from assassin’s creed.”

            “After doing some research on what exactly that was, yes. Exactly like that.” Coran affirmed before looking back at Lance. “So Alfor’s notes say it’s more of a mental push. You must tug at that feeling in your mind that allows you to even pick up on things like Keith’s memories and Pidge’s memories, and try to see them before you absorb them.”

            Lance furrowed his brow at the idea. “See them before I absorb them?...” He wasn’t sure that absorbing was the correct word to use for the phenomena that he’d experienced, but what he did know was that since he’d seen it done before, albeit in a game style, he could probably echo it. “Okay… Let me try.” He took a deep breath, and with a slow inhale and exhale, he imagined finding a button inside of himself, and pressing it firmly down.

            He opened his eyes, and suddenly his world was silently bathed in gold.

            No longer was the room a simple amber with different slight colours decorating his peripheral, but instead the world outside was almost considered dark, and the only things that gave off any sort of light were the possessions that were scattered around the room, hung up and even worn. Lance couldn’t help the way he silently gasped in awe or the way that he slowly looked around the room, sliding off of the table and only wincing a little bit as he landed on his feet. Some of the blueprints, Lance realized, weren’t yellow, either. Some were bright green, or mixes of both colours. He looked down at his own hands to see that they were blue. A dusk blue, before the sky became an unreadable shade of it.

Even though he couldn’t hear the world around him, his head lifted as he realized he could hear something else. Voices were leaking very slightly from the glow of some blueprints, and the brighter they were, the more they had to say. The more memories they held? A particular voice caught his ear, and he found himself turning towards the crate where the tiny leg was resting. Something… something glowed so brightly in there that Lance couldn’t help but reach into it, to reach out and try to grab it-

A hand grabbed his shoulder, and he was yanked out of his world of light and back into the real one. Immediately he winced at the sudden amount of sunlight, and a scowl made it’s way onto his face. “What the fuck are you doing?!” He managed to grumble, recognizing the hand on his shoulder as Hunk’s.

The man’s face was unreadable. “Don’t touch that box. Okay?” The hand on his shoulder tightened. “It’s not your business.”

“By the stars of Ydrazil…” Coran sounded awed. “Your eyes turned to such a shade of blue that I’d never seen! A cobalt of some kind, it completely overtook the white of your eyes as well! Could you see the Shimmers clearly?”

Lance couldn’t help but feel a little off after being shaken out of his sight. “I… yeah. Some of them glowed brighter than others. Some of them had whispers coming out of them. It was like… they were all trying to talk to me.” He pressed the palm of his hand to his eye socket, rubbing it with a groan. “I don’t know what they were trying to say.”

“Those could be the memories they’re holding.” Coran said delightedly. “We could try and see about them, but for now, just knowing the fact that you can pinpoint where the memories are and even seeing them is incredible!” He was hastily scribbling notes while speaking, no longer looking at the two in the room. “It’s incredible, you’re adapting at such speeds that there’s the possibility you could even transfer memories to other people in a matter of weeks!”

“He can do what?” a rough voice made them all jump and spin to see Keith leaning on the doorway, his arm raised high on the frame. He was wearing a red muscle shirt and black gym shorts, and was staring at Lance in a way that almost made him feel like he was back in prison. “Transfer memories?”

“Keith!” Lance tried to exclaim, unnerved by the eyes now on him. “I haven’t seen you since I got back.”

“I was in the Gym. Also, Hunk was hogging you all day.”

Hunk made a noise of indignation. “He was injured! You don’t sound at all concerned about it!”

Keith’s eyes dragged down Lance’s shirtless torso, taking in the stitches that were now holding his flesh together. “He’s alive. I don’t need to worry.” Purple orbs rose back to Lance’s face, and he spoke again. “I heard what you did to protect Pidge and Shiro.” Something was unspoken in his gaze as it softened into something... else. “Thank you.”

Unbidden, a flush crawled up Lance’s cheeks. “No problemo!!! No siree bobby!! Any heckin time my friendo!!!” He gave Keith two thumbs up, and after a moment, Keith gave him a very small but very sincere smile and left the room, his footsteps almost deadly silent. Lance exhaled heavily, letting his shoulders slump. “He’s so intense.” He bemoaned. “It’s hard not to lose my marbles around him.”

“It seems like Keith has an interest in your new abilities.” Hunk said almost to himself, resting his chin on his thumb and hiding his mouth with his pointer. “It might be a good opportunity to get close to him, if you know what I mean.”

Lance brightened, smacking his fist into his palm. “You’re right! If I can see into some of his memories, I might be able to help him with whatever’s making him have a row with Shiro! And then those two can go back to being friends again!” Hunk nodded, and the two exchanged a mighty fist bump. “Good plan!”

As soon as Lance twisted back to say something to Coran, his stitches ached, and he found himself wincing, making the orange haired man chuckle. “Perhaps not something so strenuous as of right now, yes? I do believe some rest is in order.”


 

Lance couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t. Not with the potential of his new abilities made aware to him. Yeah, patience was a virtue, but at this point? It could help him be close with the others!! He was already pretty close to Pidge now, especially after their bonding moments, and Hunk was a swell guy all around, if a little nosy. That left Shiro and Keith.

Shiro was someone that he couldn’t even imagine trying to look into his memories yet. He didn’t think that he’d be emotionally ready for the shitshow that was probably going on in there. Keith, however, didn’t seem to have memories too jarring. The memory of his childhood made Lance lose sleep for a few nights, but if he didn’t start with the source, and instead with an object…

That train of thought led to Lance sneaking down the corridor that night to the vague area where he knew that Keith hung out from seeing him enter and disappear during the day. He knew he had to be fast, but he had to be quiet, too. The door was not locked, and Lance very quietly turned the handle to open it.

The room he was greeted with was the last thing he expected. Instead of it being torture devices, it was a room with instruments hung up on every wall, of all kinds, and of all makes. There were guitars, a shamisen, a piano, and even a geomungo. It was a large, open space with wooden flooring and a giant skylight illuminating the room with the night’s gaze. “Wow.” He mumbled to himself, gently stroking the wall as he looked around. “This is where he goes to all the time?”

He remembered his mission and paused, looking down and away for a moment before closing his eyes and taking that deep breath. With enough concentration, he found that button he created in his mind and pressed down on it once again. “You worked for me before.” He mumbled. “Help me learn, help me understand him. Help me get him to trust me.”

 Upon opening his eyes, all the instruments glowed with a deep crimson colour, making him mentally high five himself.  They pulsed with light, but rather than words, a melody slowly began to drift out of them, calling him closer with curiousity. It began with the piano, then with a different chord following the first pattern. It was a peaceful melody, and as he stepped closer to the piano, the intensity grew. The closer he got, the more it had to say, to reveal. He didn’t realize what he was stepping into until it was too late.

Suddenly, the melody exploded into the entire room, rather than simply the instruments, making Lance feel like he was drowning. A drum pounded rhythmically in his left ear, and he stumbled away from the piano as a cry echoed in his head. The red was no longer quiet, it had become loud, bright and almost unbearable. “Fuck! Fuck, stop!” Lance covered his ears and shut his eyes, trying to block out the sudden change in force. “Why are you doing this?!” He tried to cry out. “What do you want from me?”

As if those were the magic words, eventually the drums stopped, the cymbals, and eventually all was left was the piano. It was almost completely gone when the light shifted to envelop the entire room, changing to show a conference room crowded with people. The murmuring and talking only became louder as a woman stepped forward, blonde hair cropped short and hazel eyes wise with time. She was dressed in a grey skirt and white blouse, voice sharp as the screen behind her showed Shiro in a Captain’s uniform, smiling serenely. Underneath it was the caption ‘MIA PILOT’S ALCOHOLISM PUT MISSION AT RISK’.

Lance heard someone’s breath shake next to him, and he twisted his head to see Keith Kogane pushing through the crowd only to stare wide eyed at the screen and the woman speaking. His hair was cropped short, just below the ear, and there was no killer’s look in his eye. His mouth moved, but only one word was said, and Lance recognized it easily:

“Takashi?”

“We will act immediately on the more troubling aspects of this report, with respect to alcohol use and the anecdotal references of resistance by agency leadership to accepting advice or criticisms about the fitness and readiness of individuals for space flight…”

Her words echoed in Lance’s ears hollowly, and the music stopped as Keith opened his mouth to scream.

“For space flight…”

Chapter Text

            Keith was… being nice to him.

            Lance couldn’t even begin to understand why the Red Lion, the guy who had threatened him for just voicing his opinion on something had a sudden change of heart. Instead of simply glaring at him across the room, Keith had actually begun to nod and even smile at him more than once every other year. Lance had been taking his time trying to work back up to his normal movement. Hunk had let him know that there was usually a little more than a week when it came to healing, but he wanted Lance to be careful, just in case. Lance had no reason to doubt Hunk. Eventually the wound had mostly healed, about two weeks, and certainly the days after were bizarre and felt like he was the main character of a Love Story.

            Keith had approached him after he was given permission to start working out again (and to be fair, Lance had been dying of boredom) wearing another muscle shirt with his arms crossed over it. Lance wasn’t sure if Keith was intentionally trying to look like a hot piece of meat, but damn it, he did. His forearms and biceps were well defined, and his collarbones could be turned into a personal weapon if the man needed them to be. The way that he tilted his head to the side, showing off that sharp jawline and high cheekbones nearly made Lance need to sit down. He didn’t even catch what Keith had said the first time until Keith raised a dark eyebrow at him, making him flush and cough into his hand before trying again, knowing his cheeks were crimson in embarrassment. “I-my bad, what were you saying?”

            Keith studied him for a moment before eventually continuing. “I was saying that if you wanted to try sparring with me again, we could do that. I didn’t mean to… get in your face about something you couldn’t control at the time. But if you’re looking for a sparring partner, just know that I’m…” He paused, trying to find the words for it. “…available?”

            Lance studied Keith’s face for a moment. He wasn’t exactly looking at Lance head on, but he had eventually moved to gripping his right arm with his left hand as a sign of nervousness. Every so often during the silence, Keith’s violet eyes would flicker over to him, and Lance could feel something warming his cheeks. Keith… looked almost vulnerable just asking if Lance wanted to spar. It was clearly something that he’d never done before, and he wasn’t sure about how to go around it. When his silence was a little longer than expected, Keith’s eyes lost their shyness, and his tone became biting. “Well don’t just fucking not answer me. If you didn’t want to, you could just-”

            “No! I want to!” Lance blurted out, making Keith pause. “I was just trying to figure out how to make it work. I don’t wanna compromise your privacy again, I just think that I’ll have to put forward a little more effort to control this… newfound ability.” Lance muttered the last part almost to himself, almost not noticing the way that Keith had relaxed minutely under his ramblings. He lifted his head again, eyes bright and smile wide. “But I’d love to learn from you, Keith. You’re wicked fast, strong with all that razzle dazzle stuff. You practically sparkle.”

            Keith’s eyebrows furrowed. “Razzle… Dazzle?... I sparkle?

            “Um, duh?” Lance snorted. “You’re like one of those anime protagonists that are like… super tsundere or some shit and like… everyone knows they’re a real softie at heart. You actually remind me a little bit of this character named Bakugou from an anime called Boku No Hero Academia-”

            “My Hero Academia?” Keith asked curiously, unable to hide the interest in his eyes. “I’ve never heard of it.”

            Lance’s jaw dropped for a moment before he picked it of the floor. “You’ve never??? What??? No, okay.” He did a big ‘X’ with his hands. “So we’re gonna spar, and then we’re gonna watch that anime. I’m gonna get you into this shit big time, buddy boy. I’m about to show you a whole new world.”

            Keith pondered this for a moment before lifting an eyebrow. “Fine, as long as we spar first.”

            Lance stretched out his hand, and after a moment, Keith eventually took it. “Deal.”


 

            Sparring with Keith was a lot different from sparring with Shiro. The man was ridiculously more agile than Shiro, a lot faster, but not quite as strong. Still that motherfucker that could probably kick his across the room, but Shiro could probably straight up kick his ass out the window if he really tried. He spent most of their sparring session basically dodging Keith as best he could, hardly able to get a punch in just trying to stay on his feet. Keith looked nothing less than a predator, eyes wild yet sharp and his hands on the floors sometimes just like he was ready to pounce on Lance. There were no pointers coming in while they were sparring, only after Lance was on the floor, gasping for breath. “You know, if you hadn’t waited for my wound to heal, I don’t think I’d survive this.” He exhaled deeply, closing his eyes. “You’re so fucking fast, dude. I can’t keep up.”

            Keith appeared over him, hair draped around his face like a curtain from where he’d pulled it out of a ponytail to redo it, hands working behind his head. “You’re not slow, Lance. You’re pretty agile yourself. I’ve just been doing this for a longer time. You’ve come far for right now. I think we can stop for today.”

            Lance nodded and when Keith’s hand extended after fixing his hair, he looked at it in surprise before staring at Keith, who didn’t seem to realize the dynamic shift in their relationship. Instead of bringing attention to it and causing Keith to feel self-conscious about it, he simply took the hand, smiling at him. Keith yanked a little stronger than he should have, probably underestimating Lance’s weight, and the two practically smacked into each other as Lance shot up, ending up with them being chest to chest. To steady himself, Lance grabbed Keith’s bicep. He could hear the anxious inhale, but when he managed to stop the oncoming tide of red memories, both he and Keith relaxed minutely. “See?” Lance tried to brag, despite how close their faces were. Keith’s breath smelled like toothpaste. “I’m getting better.”

            Keith’s eyes were wide and Lance almost didn’t register the fact that a slender but calloused hand gripped his elbow. “I can agree with you on that.” The way that he spoke was soft and low, but there was some sort of intent behind it that Lance just couldn’t seem to decipher. It was more than a little difficult now to ignore the red pulses of memories trying to invade his consciousness, with the way that the red lion was staring so intensely at him. As if he was trying to figure something out-

            The door to the gym slammed open, and both Keith and Lance ripped away from each other just in time to see Shiro entering, gym bag slung over his shoulder. Since the return, Shiro had kept himself rather secluded, opting out of seeing Lance (they couldn’t work out anyways). He looked up to see the two of them, and his eyes brightened. “It’s good to see you two in the same room not trying to kill each other.” The bag was placed evenly on the ground, and Shiro slowly began his stretches. “Are you going to be joining us, Keith? It’s been a while, but I’d definitely be into working a three-person fight into the regimen.”

            Keith looked uncertain as he looked over at Lance and then back at Shiro. “Lance and I have already worked out today.” Shiro stopped stretching his arms, eyes lifting from the floor to watch the two of them curiously. “We didn’t know if you were even going to be working out today, especially since Lance just got his clean bill of health. You also seemed to choose different times to work out since Lance could no longer join you, instead opting to go at night.” He shrugged, and Lance side-eyed him a solid ‘dude, what the fuck’ look. “Not that I can blame you. Lance said he wanted to show me a show called My Hero Academia, so that’s what we’re going to do now.”

            “Ah.” Shiro’s tone was even, and Lance felt a surge of anxiety pulse through him. “Well, don’t mind me, then. Will we be continuing the workouts tomorrow, Lance?” The large man turned to Lance, and if he didn’t know any better, those eyes softened once more on him. “If you have… other plans, you must let me know.”

            “I… of course!” Lance eagerly complied, looking back at Keith who was watching Shiro. “that sounds like a good idea, I’d love to get some more work in with you guys. I’ve still got a lot to learn.” An Idea popped into his head, and he smiled widely. “You could just join us when you’re done, yeah? We’ll just be either in the movie room or just watching it on a laptop somewhere.”

            “Probably the movie room.” Keith added. “Pidge has the only real laptop in the house.”

            “We’ll be in the movie room, then.” Lance finished, unable to hide the small laugh in his voice at Keith’s certainty. He couldn’t stop the way his grin grew as Keith looked at him like an alien again. He looked back at Shiro, with a strange new look on his face. “But yeah. We’ll be in there for a while. Feel free to join us.”

            Keith carefully touched the back of Lance’s arm, kickstarting him into moving towards the door. He didn’t know what to make of the strange look on Shiro’s face, or the half nod that he was given in return. Instead, Keith had let the door shut behind them as they made their way out. “I’ll meet you in the movie room in half an hour. I’m gonna go shower. If you get out earlier than me, you can set everything up, but I doubt it.” Keith’s tone was light, almost playful. “Hunk tells me you’ve got a routine.”

            Lance gasped, pressing his hand against his chest. “That snitch! I wanted everyone to think my beauty was natural!!”


 

            Lance didn’t realize how much time two seasons of a television show would take up; he supposed he forgot they were all around 25 minutes, but the fact that it was a very late hour and Keith was doing his best not to doze off next to him was something he never thought he’d find interesting. They were in the theatre room, and though the rooms were painted almost black with no windows, the video feed from the projector was nothing short of breathtaking. There were reclining seats as well, including two fans and a mini fridge. Basically, whoever played video games in that room was the fuckin’ bomb.

            “I don’t really see myself as Bakugou.” Keith had eventually spoken as the ending music played. “I think I’m more of a Todoroki.” His voice was heavy with sleep, and it showed in the way his head rolled on the couch to face Lance: His hair was draped over the leather seating, now completely dry and softer than feathers. He blearily watched Lance’s reaction, raising an eyebrow in challenge.

            Lance studied Keith’s characteristics, furrowing his brow before responding. “Truth be told, I think the more I get to know you, you’re absolutely right. You’re not… a hothead.” The second eyebrow raised, and Lance tried to hide his sleepy snort, his head rolling on the couch cushion as well before he rubbed his face and scalp, groaning at the sensations. “Todoroki is very controlled, very tightly contained on himself, but it seems like he’s got quite a bit to work through.” He laughed. “I almost put the title of Half-n-Half to Shiro because he does that shit, but I think I’m starting to see things better like this.”

            Keith hummed, and Lance distinctly realized that the tone of his voice was almost… right next to his ear. Was he so tired that he hadn’t noticed the fact that Keith had gotten closer, close enough that he could feel the heat roll off him in waves? “I actually…” Keith paused as he tried to find the words he was looking for. “I was actually meaning to do two things today.”

            “Oh?” Lance asked, one eye closed as he pulled his feet against his chest. “What is it?”

            Keith stared at the ground before letting his head hang down, hair draping around his face. “I wanted to apologize for the way that I acted. Almost every time I’ve spoken to you, I’ve said cruel things: I lashed out, I didn’t properly explain. You’ve been nice to me, though I won’t lie when I say that you prod at things you don’t need to know anything about.”

            Lance listened carefully, raising an eyebrow at his ability to press salt in an old wound. “Thank you for the apology, Keith.” He spoke calmly. He could hear Keith shifting on the couch, causing him to continue. “I think… to be honest, I think I will never be able to completely adjust to this whole situation. Think of me as Kirishima. I’m not someone you’ve known your whole life, but I plan on being someone you can trust.”

            Keith’s head lifted. “Someone I can trust?”

            Lance nodded his head. “Yeah. When I was still in high school, I felt nothing less than entitled. I scorned those who were better than me, made hurtful comments to those who didn’t deserve them, and was just generally someone who did not deserve any recognition. But eventually I found that even if I have personal discourse with someone, it should not affect my relationships with others. They should be able to trust me and not be afraid what I tell them would come out of my mouth.” He paused for a moment, his brow furrowing. “What was the second thing?” He nearly jolted as a warm body pressed against him, instantly solving the slight chills he was feeling from the fan spinning violently. “Keith?”

            Keith rested his head on Lance’s shoulder, eyes closed as the television finally turned itself off, leaving them in the slight light of a side lamp. “I wanted to tell you something. I trust you.”

            Lance blinked. “Okay.”

            Keith shimmied just a little closer, drowsiness nearly completely setting in. “I’m going to be off on a mission soon… and there’s word that the person who killed your family might be there.” Lance froze. “Allura asked me not to tell you this, purely because she didn’t know what you would do if you were face to face with him.” Keith lifted his head again, eyes drowsy but still nervous. “His name is Haxus. He works directly under the woman named Haggar, who did whatever she did to T-Shiro.” Keith’s voice took on such a dark scale that Lance almost could stop the impending slumber from descending onto him. “According to Pidge’s research, she had the most connections in the area where you lived, so if anyone knows it’s her.”

            “Thank you, Keith.” Lance said softly. He turned off the television, and against his better judgement, snuggled up to Keith. “I’m glad you told me. I’ll probably process it tomorrow, but for now… it should be fine.”

            “It probably will be. Thank you for letting me talk.” Keith murmured before letting his eyes close shut completely. His breathing evened out, and finally it was clear that the major assassin was out cold. Keith looked so sweet, though he was half an inch shorter than Lance and shit. Keith was the kinda man that could kick anyone’s ass, and Lance knew it. But he was surprisingly warm as a pillow, too.

            Before Lance knew it, he had fallen asleep too.


 

             …aaaand woke up to shots being fired. He sat up immediately, (not saying anything about Keith snuggled up close to him) eyes wide and full of terror. Keith woke up immediately after, and they both stared at each other. “There are consequences to killing a Galra.” Keith mumbled, pulling his knife out from under the couch, where he had dropped it. “But let them come.”

            Another shot went off, and before Lance could do anything, Keith jumped off the couch, crouching low to survey the situation. When he heard footsteps, he launched himself out the open door and into the fray. “Oh shit.” Lance whispered, immediately following Keith into the fire.

Chapter Text

            “Don’t make a sound.” Keith’s words slithered into Lance’s ear, silent as the grave from where he was crouched on the wooden floors of the billiard room, connected to the theatre room. Though even if Lance wanted to be loud, he knew that the scream would be caught in his throat. Beneath Keith was a body- a man with a gun fully loaded and blood seeping out to stain the flooring with his molecular makeup. He was dressed like someone who would be part of the SWAT team, with a pitch-black outfit, a helmet and bulletproof vest with combat boots. Lance couldn’t help but look at the face, which was thankfully covered with night vision goggles and a magenta scarf. Magenta? Lance’s heart was pounding in his ears, and he looked back up at Keith desperately, breathing coming in short and labored as his brain desperately tried to catch up with what he was seeing. “Lance.” Keith’s voice sounded distorted, and he could barely make sense of the words. “Lance, take deep breaths. In, out. In, out.” He shakily followed orders, startling only for a moment when Keith grappled at his shoulders to ground him before grabbing him back. “I wish I could give you more time, but I need to get us out of here. We need to get you somewhere safe.”

            “They’re- they’re- they’re-” Lance stuttered out, trying desperately not to look back at the fresh corpse on the floor. “You- you killed them-”

            “They’re here to kill us, Lance.” Keith’s voice was desperate, rough around the edges as if he himself was on edge. Red memories flickered around Lance’s vision anxiously, trying to pound their way into his skull, and as soon as Keith noticed it was happening, he pulled away as well, rubbing his wrist before urgently continuing. “I’m sorry, I don’t want you to be exposed to this so soon, you’re not ready, but I need to get you to safety. We need to get you to safety. Now.

            The sound of footsteps made the both of them freeze, and Keith’s eyes almost glowed in the dark room illuminated only by the flashlight clipped to the corpse. “Close your eyes, Lance. Close your eyes and hide. Do not come out until I say.” The footsteps got closer, and Keith pushed Lance back into the theatre room, slowly closing the door. “You’ll be okay. I promise.”

            “Keith.” Lance’s voice cracked with fear. The blade in the other’s hand dripped red. “Keith.”

            “I won’t let you get hurt.” Keith murmured softly. “Stay.” A smile slowly appeared on his face, and the door shut quietly behind him.

            Lance was left alone in the silence once again. It wasn’t the same silence as in the room, but it was absolutely charged with fear as soon as the door shut. Lance could barely control his breathing, his hands were shaking and his vision desperately tried to adjust to the darkness around him, barely taking in the couch that he and Keith had slept on together less than ten minutes ago. He didn’t even bother trying to stop the tears from dripping down, not taking the time to blink unless absolutely necessary. As soon as he heard footsteps slowly approaching the door, he stopped moving altogether.

            Something brushed against the wood. Lance wondered if he should have prayed.

            Suddenly, there was a shout, and the sickening sound of flesh being cut open. Another voice Lance didn’t recognize shouted, and as soon as a gunshot was heard, Lance finally screamed. The sound was so loud inside of the house that it rattled Lance’s bones, shook his entire body and made his heart nearly stop altogether. More gunshots were heard, and soon Lance realized that his vision was flashing blue. He opened his eyes for one moment, trying to focus on the colour he’d only seen once, only seen himself in once, only to shut his eyes as a bullet blasted through the door, followed by more shouting on the other side. The blues were now assaulting his senses, trying to drown his consciousness out until he finally focused on one shade, an almost cobalt blue, and he was enveloped into it.

            “Be careful, Lance. You’ve only got one shot.” Pidge’s voice sounded almost like static in the memory. He heard his own voice huff in amusement at her stern tone.

            “Don’t worry, Pidge.” His confidence radiated off of him. “I’m an excellent shot.”

            A cry of pain shook him out of the memory/universe, and his blood went cold as he realized whose voice that was. “Keith.” He breathed, scrambling for the door. Another noise made it to his ears, and Lance checked to see where the noise was coming from, seeing Keith pinned on the pool table, tazer shoved into his abdomen and making him spaz and writhe in pain. The man above him was laughing at him cruelly, not caring about the world around him. Keith’s hands were gripping at the sides of the table, trying to find leverage, but unable to as the man slapped his hands away as he saw them.

            “You’re not as powerful as they say you are.” The man rumbled, malice oozing out of every pore. He didn’t let off the tazing at all, giving Lance enough noise to open the door ever so slightly, enough to poke his head through. He looked down at the first body he saw, almost retching until he saw his gun. An AR-15, originally Lance had wanted nothing to do with them considering what they could do to others, but… He looked up at the situation. Keith was slowly going limp. He looked back at the gun.

            He had to help. He had to do something.

            As soon as he picked the gun off the floor, the blues exploded back into his head, immediately overwhelming him with their power and significance. He was back in that same universe where he was a guardian… a paladin. He was floating in space, their target almost completely out of their reach, when he lifted his gun, pressed it into his shoulder, and exhaled.

“Come on…” He said to himself, eyes sharp and focused on the small target. If he missed this, their mission was lost. Slav was lost.

            ‘You can do this.’

            Lance pulled the trigger.

            A gunshot was heard, and Lance belatedly realized that it came from his own gun as the chandelier above the man came crashing down; Lance had shot the small piece that kept it attached to the ceiling. It slammed the man on the head, immediately knocking him out, and Lance shakily rose to his knees, stumbling over to the pool table to yank the wires out of Keith’s body. “Keith.” His voice cracked on the second syllable. Keith wasn’t responding. “Keith. KEITH. Come on, buddy, we gotta get out of here we gotta go now come on!” The sound of more footsteps made themselves known to Lance’s ears, and frantically, he started looking around for any sort of escape route. There was only one exit, and that was to get upstairs. Either Lance had to get past the guys coming to kill them, or kill them first.

            The footsteps got louder, and Lance steeled himself. Pulling the gun out, he put the safety on and hid in the corner of the room. When they would enter, they wouldn’t see him immediately. He listened attentively for pairs of footsteps, and only heard two. He could do this. He had to do this.

            The two men entered, and as soon as the last one passed him, Lance lifted the butt of the assault rifle and slammed it into the man’s temple, making him crumple to the ground. The first man spun around, gun cocked and finger on the trigger, but Lance was already on him. He ducked under his turn, slid down, and punched the side of the man’s knee as hard as possible. A scream of pain left the intruder, but before he could get the chance to do anything, Lance discombobulated him and quickly pinned him to the ground with his thighs around the man’s neck and his arms grappling at the man’s weapon, ripping it off of him with a cry of exertion. Fear and instincts drove him to tighten both his grips, hissing in pain as the man tried to yank his legs off but was unable to. “Go to sleep go to sleep go to sleep go to sleep-”

            Something gleamed in the light, and Lance’s eyes widened as the intruder’s other hand pulled up a knife. The man’s magenta bandana couldn’t hide the smile that was on his face as he raised it above his leg and plunged downward. Lance tightened his thighs, closed his eyes and braced for the pain-

            That never came. Instead, the man went limp from a jarring hit that didn’t come from Lance. He opened his eyes to see Keith standing above him, a hand on his side, and a black eye steadily swelling along with a busted lip. His dagger dangled from his side, but he looked happy even as he held the man’s limp wrist in his hand. “I’m so glad you’re safe.” He said breathlessly, letting the man’s arm drop to the floor and taking his knife before extending a hand. “One of them was hiding, just like you. That was really clever, taking out the chandelier.” Lance received a pat on the back, and he could have sworn that the madman was sparkling with amusement. “Shiro’s taught you well.”

            “It was the shimmers.” He blurted out. “My own. It’s the second one that I’ve seen.”

            Keith nodded, looking down at the unconscious men. “That’s good. Now go somewhere. I need to make sure they can’t report back.”

            Realization dawned on Lance’s face, and he stepped between Keith and the men. “No, we are not killing them.”

            Keith scowled, anger licking at his violet irises. “Lance. Get out the way.”

            “You’re not going to kill them.” Lance hardened his tone. “You aren’t.”

            “The longer we argue about the bigger the chance they have of waking up and continuing their jobs of killing us. Get. Out. Of. The. Way.”

            “I can’t let you do this!”

            “You don’t control what I can and can’t do, Lance.” Keith’s eyes were hard once again, like they were when they were all in prison. He picked up one of the discarded guns, finger not quite on the trigger yet. “This is for our safety. Now’s not the time to have a moral dilemma.”

            Lance took a deep breath and stood his ground. “No.”

            Keith practically snarled at him, but only for a moment before his eyes widened and he was dropping the gun, yanking Lance towards him. “GET DOWN!” A blast shook the billiard room, and though Keith tried, Lance could only scream as his back was scorched by what must have been a grenade pulled by one of the suicidal members. Keith’s eyes were wide with horror as he saw what had happened, and he was immediately grabbing at Lance, jerking back when the man cried out in pain. “Lance oh god Lance fuck your back your back oh jesus-”

            The pain was so mind numbing that frankly, Lance was amazed he could force himself into thinking properly. “You’re… making this so much worse…” He gasped, tears streaming down his face to leave tracks through the dirt and blood now on his face. Every move was agony, but Lance still had his legs. They never failed him. He pushed up on his right foot as hard as he could, swaying like a leaf in a hurricane, but still standing. Keith was staring at him with wide eyes, the embers of their former safe home crackling behind him. “We need to go.” Lance managed to muster out.

 Keith immediately lurched forward, hand still on his side as he tried to guide Lance as carefully as he could, wincing each time that Lance did. “How… how do we get out of here?...” He asked weakly, his vision no longer dancing with blue light but with black spots.

            Keith was quick to answer. “We need to get to the emergency room. There’s a secret tunnel to the airway that the jet is on. In emergency situations like this, we have a safehouse in Apia, Samoa.” He looked behind Lance, fear creeping into his situation. “We need to get you somewhere for medical attention, now.

            “Not until we get to everybody else first.” Lance said determinedly, an odd sense of adrenaline once more rushing through him. He could do it. He could make it. He lurched forward once more, his back screaming at him to rest, but his mind unwilling to yield to its pain. “We can make it. We can get there.”

            Keith looked at him like he was batshit crazy, but didn’t say anything about it. “If we run into more people, you better stay behind me.” He said harshly. “I won’t let you get hurt again.”

            “Wasn’t your fault.” Lance wheezed, following Keith up the stairs carefully. The black spots were back, and he tried not to lean against any walls, as the movement would make his back hurt even more. “You couldn’t have known.”

            “I should have guessed. I should have been prepared.” Keith snarled, immediately launching himself at a straggler at the front of the stairs. Lance couldn’t tear his eyes away from Keith cleanly snapping the man’s neck, watching him fall to the ground. Later… later he could be more freaked out about it. But for now…

            “Keith.” Lance weakly called out, reaching out once more before slumping to the ground, unable to swallow the pain any longer. Keith was immediately next to him, trying to find a comfortable way to carry him but unable to. “Keith, I-” Hands were on his unburnt sides, pulling him towards Keith. “I can’t really feel anything on my back right now.” He laughed almost deliriously. “I can’t- I don’t think I have enough strength to keep going.”

            “What the fuck are you talking about, Lance.” Keith’s voice cracked this time, trying to find a way to not hurt Lance. “You can do it, come on. Think of what Shiro taught you. You can get up, come on. I don’t know how to pick you up without hurting you.” The more fear and panic radiated off of Keith, the more red memories pounded into Lance’s temple. It smelled like fire. It might be the fire that was catching everything, burning the house down. Maybe. Lance couldn’t tell anymore. “Lance, we gotta go-

            Large hands were on his sides, and Lance couldn’t stop the cry of pain as he was lifted into the air and placed onto a shoulder. At first, he thought it was Keith, but as he stared into frightened amethyst eyes, he could tell it wasn’t. Probably.

            “I’ve got you, Lance.” That didn’t sound like Keith. Keith also didn’t move his mouth as the words came out. “Keith, you make sure that the way ahead of us is clear. We need to get Lance out and into the plane.” Keith looked between Lance and Shiro for a moment before nodding, face hardening like diamonds before he sprinted ahead of them, hand still on his side.

            “Lance.” Shiro’s voice was soft, even among the now roaring of the flames as he started to speed walk to the exit. “I need you to stay awake. Can you do that for me?”

            Lance hissed as Shiro moved, trying not to slip under. “That sounds… really hard.” He slurred. “I’m really… really tired.”

            “I know you are. You must be after escaping with Keith.” The man’s voice was so, so patient, and Lance couldn’t stop himself from relaxing if he’d tried. “It took a lot of bravery to get this far. You’ll have to tell us all about it when we get to safety.”

            “Hunk.” Lance’s head shot up. “Pidge, ‘Llura. Coran. They’re?...”

            “Already on the plane.” Shiro calmly informed him, passing through the front door. Lance glanced at the mansion from the front of the house, eyes widening. “They’re safe. Say goodbye, Lance.”

            The house was on fire, the flames licking at the sky as if it wanted to taste the stars. The two stories were crumbling in on each other, and Lance couldn’t help but feel sadness. Not for the house, not for the things inside, but for Keith’s garden. He’d worked so hard on it, tended and cared for each and every one of those plants, practically named them for god’s sake, and they were all gone. Hunk’s workshop, Pidge’s room, Allura and Coran’s home. It was gone. He didn’t realize that he was crying until they were at a familiar runway, and Keith was cradling his face urgently asking him what was wrong.

            “Your- your garden.” Lance sobbed, gripping Keith’s wrist weakly. “You-you worked so hard on it, and it’s gone. You loved it, I know you did. You can’t tell me otherwise.”

            Keith adopted a strange look on his face, almost like crushing sadness. “I… I did, yeah. I loved my garden, and…” He looked like he wanted to add something more, but soon the sound of a helicopter was heard, and they were all ushered into the airplane. Pidge was already at the pilot’s seat along with Coran, and they were talking back and forth about getting off the ground. Allura’s eyes were wide with horror as she saw what had happened to Lance’s back, and Hunk rushed over, trying not to retch. Immediately something cold was applied to his back, and Lance shrieked, trying to get away from it but unable to as Shiro held him down by the neck. It was disorienting, painful, and an experience that Lance couldn’t wait to never experience again. Somehow during the whole endeavor, Lance found himself with his head in Keith’s lap as the plane took off, everyone bracing for the altitude change. Keith kept him from jerking around, petting his hair, and Lance eventually remembered what they were talking about.

            “Your garden.” He managed to get out. Keith, already staring at him attentively, perked up like a trained dog. “I’m gonna help you build a new one. Better one.” He put on a poorly constructed Russian accent. “We build good Garden. In mother Russia, you don’t build garden. Garden Build You.”

            There was silence in the plane for a moment before a wet laugh was heard, and he managed to look up enough to see Keith wiping his face with the back of his hand. Both his normal and bruised eye were red, and there was blood on his lip and nose, but Lance would admit that he was breathtaking in that moment. “What’s with you?” Keith wheezed, trying to keep a straight face. “You’re literally close to dying from those third degree burns on your back, you’ll probably have nerve damage for the rest of your life, and you’re worried about my garden? You crazy motherfucker.”

            “That almost sounded like a proposal to me, Keith.” Hunk said, trying to lighten the mood. “That is, if he doesn’t die first. Please don’t die, Lance.”

            “We’d all be pretty disappointed if you died.” Pidge called back, voice tense but still putting forth the effort. “Don’t let us down now.”

            Lance gasped, trying not to laugh enough to move his back. “Well, how can I refuse that? I’ve got you guys waiting for me.” Allura’s hand was in his hair now, and he let his eyes slide over to her, taking in her beautiful face, pretty blue eyes and ethereal hair. “Princess, if I do die, promise me you’ll take good ol’ Pidge here out on a date? They've got a huge thing for you, and I’m really rooting for you.”

            Despite the situation, Allura flushed a vibrant red, her eyes flickering over to where Pidge was now twisting their head in an owllike fashion to cry out “You traitor!”

            “You’re not going to die.” Shiro’s calm voice came back, and Lance at once relaxed into it. “We’re going to be okay, you’re going to be okay, and we’re going to get you help. Just stay awake.” There was a pause, and Shiro continued. “Are you good? Is Keith’s lap warm enough?”

            Lance nuzzled into Keith’s thighs, sighing deeply. “Ohhh yeah. The dude’s hands may be cold, but his thighs are hot in more than one sense.” Keith stuttered in an attempt to reply, but Lance beat him to the punch. “Thank you, Keith. We did it.” He exhaled again, letting his eyes close. “We do make a good team.”

            Keith’s hum could be felt through his body. “Yeah. We do. Now rest, save your strength.”

            “Ten-Four.” Lance replied weakly. “Lemme know when We’re good.” 


 

            Lance woke up to another landing, but was not surrounded by anyone. He was laying on his stomach, but he could hear two voices going back and forth. Hunk’s and Coran’s.

            “Are you sure you’re ready to come back here?” Coran’s voice was soft, concerned. “You don’t have to go out there. You could stay here, nobody would be able to find you.”

            There was a pregnant pause, but Hunk eventually responded. “I have to. I’m the most well versed on the language here, on how to get the proper things needed to take care of Lance’s back and Keith’s wounds. I need to go.”

            Coran’s words became tense. “…Will you go see her?”

            “… I don’t know.” Hunk whispered morosely. “I don’t even know if she’d recognize me.”

            The next words were quieter, but eventually the conversation ended, and Hunk came back his way. Lance closed his eyes, and pretended to wake up when Hunk gently touched his head. “Lance? Are you awake?”

            Lance yawned, turning his head towards a tired-looking Hunk, smiling crookedly. “Hey, what’s up big man? Where are we?”

            Hunk looked relieved to see Lance awake, but the question immediately had him on edge. He lifted his gaze towards the windows, and Lance moved his head to look out as well, seeing tropical trees and an endless blue ocean. “We’re in Samoa. Apia.” Hunk exhaled. “The place where I was born.”

Chapter Text

            The Beach.

            Lance was back at the beach.

            It was almost like he was hallucinating again: The beautiful blue waves, the warm breeze that sifted through his hair, the sound of seagulls in the air… It almost reminded him of home. You know, when his back wasn’t burnt to all fuck.

            The place they were located was almost like a treetop castle. It was a tiny island offshore of Samoa itself, and the place they were staying seemed almost like a luxury hotel, with its white couches and blankets and state of the art kitchen and sauna. Lance had spent the first two days on his stomach, moving very, very slowly and receiving help by Keith and Hunk to get things he needed done taken care of. He hadn’t put on a shirt since the attack, and on the third day, when his skin was peeling badly, he found himself sitting on a bench, his back to Keith as he stared at the beach longingly.

            “I don’t like the way that goo feels on my back.” He whined almost to himself, if it weren’t for the gentle fingers rubbing the solution into his burnt skin. “It’s also cold as fuck, and I don’t really appreciate it.”

            Keith grunted behind him, eyes focused on his work. He was wearing a white muscle tank (how many did this guy fucking own?!) and red swimming shorts, black sandals on his feet as he sat behind Lance. “It’s a home remedy. You’re so ridiculously fucking lucky that they’re only severe second-degree burns. You’re going to have lighter skin and scarring, but for the most part, you’ll be okay.” His fingers dug in a little harder than intended, and Lance yelped, causing Keith to flinch away. “Sorry. Also, Aloe Vera grows in spades here, so that’s a blessing.”

            Lance was quiet for a moment. “You getting me out of the way fast enough was a blessing.” He murmured. The hands on his back stiffened, but he continued. “Keith, without you there, I would have had third degree burns, and I would have been fucked for life. It makes no sense to be angry that you didn’t-” He paused, searching for the right wording in the clouds. “You can’t hold yourself accountable for what someone else did to me, you can only hold yourself accountable for what you did to help.”

            Keith was quiet for a moment. “Succinct bastard.” He grumbled. After a moment, he stood up and walked around Lance, taking in how he looked. After a moment, he sighed. “I’m… I’m glad you’re alive.”

            Lance couldn’t help but grin cheekily at him. “Don’t be getting all gross on me.”

            Keith’s eyes widened in betrayal. “What? We had a bonding moment!” He flourished his hands, spreading his arms out. “I cradled you in my arms!”

            A hot flush worked its way over Lance’s cheeks, and he turned his head to the side, upturning his nose with a small smirk on his face. “Nope, don’t remember it, didn’t happen.”

            “I see that the two of you are getting along well out here.” Both Keith and Lance’s heads turned to see Allura stepping towards them in a sleeveless white puletasi, the traditional Samoan dress. There were flowers decorating the waistline and the hem, and Lance at once recognized it as the flower that was on the prosthetic Hunk had made. He lifted his eyes back to the smiling woman in front of him, and his smile turned shy as she continued to speak. “I’m very grateful that you seem to be healing with only moderate burns.” A delicate hand touched his left shoulder, noticing where the pigmentation of his skin became considerably lighter. “And… even though Pidge may slaughter you for speaking up about their…” dark cheeks became pink. “…affections… please know that I am grateful for you sharing your knowledge.”

            Lance laughed, his head falling back just a little bit to look her in the eye. “Of course, Princess. It’s my genuine pleasure to help people find the ones they love.” Keith shifted a little bit in front of him, but Lance wasn’t sure why he looked so uncomfortable. Instead, he looked back at Allura. “Also, who’s house is this?”

            Allura smiled. “This house is mine. It used to belong to my father, when he would come visit during the summertime.” She gently traced the wood of the railing, staring at the waves much like Lance had not too long ago. “I imagined this was what a real castle was like.”

            “Yeah?” He looked back over the shoreline, breathing in the salty scent of the ocean. “It feels like an island kingdom.” He looked back at her. “Do you think I could go surfing while we’re here?”

            “This isn’t a vacation.” Keith snapped. Lance groaned, rolling his eyes and looking back at the man whose arms were crossed once again, stance defensive. “We got attacked. You got hurt, I got hurt, this isn’t a time to be enjoying ourselves. WE need to figure out how they found us, how they got so close undetected, and how we can fix it and get back at them.”

            “Yeah, but it’s so beautiful here, Keith.” Lance could hear himself starting to whine again. “When will we ever come back here?”

            “When everything’s said and done.” Was the sharp reply. “When we stop the Galra from doing whatever they’re trying to do. Whenever we figure out what happened to Shiro and why they did what they did to him.”

            A kind of irritation bubbled up in Lance’s chest, and he finally snapped back. “Why are you so fucking obsessed with what happened to Shiro if you can’t stand to be around the guy and not jump down his fucking throat? Why are you so on and off about your relationship with the guy that you can’t even fucking stand to talk to anyone about it?!”

            “Lance-” Allura started, an arm reached out to stop him, but Keith cut her off.

            “It’s none of your fucking business.” He practically growled. He stepped forward, almost threateningly, as his glare never wavered. “Stand. Down.”

            “No!” Lance shouted at him, brow furrowed angrily. “You know what, Keith? I don’t even have to go digging to see all the fucking angry memories exploding out of you at breakneck speeds. I don’t have to try to feel all the anger and hurt that you’re holding onto. Other people’s memories?? Their colours?? They’re stagnant. They don’t move, they don’t jettison out and practically stab me in the eye. Yours?!?” He leaned forward, ignoring the searing pain in his back. “Yours ooze out of you. They all drip from you like blood.” Keith’s eyes widened almost in horror. “It takes almost all the energy I have to stop YOUR memories from trying to invade my brain!!” Lance pushed himself up, groaning at the pain before pressing chest to chest against Keith, who still looked like he’d seen a ghost. “I don’t know what your problem is with Shiro, or me, or with anyone. But it seems like you need to fucking share it before it causes you to implode on yourself.”

            “Shut up.” Keith whispered, his visage seeming to shake with red embers of memories surpressed.

            “If you don’t tell me, I’m going to go digging myself.” Lance sneered. “It wouldn’t be hard.” And with that, he rashly pushed his hand onto Keith’s chest.  When there was an explosion of red, however, it wasn’t because of the memories.

            Keith had punched him directly in the face, causing him to fall backwards. Before anyone could stop his descent, he crashed onto the wooden flooring of the deck. His eyes snapped open, and he screamed in agony.

            “LANCE!” Allura’s voice cried out, terrified, as she rushed over to lift him up off of the ground. Surprisingly, it wasn’t hard for her to do, gripping him under his biceps and lifting up so he was sitting once more, breathing heavily as he tried to stave off tears. Her head lifted up from where she was inspecting Lance’s burns to Keith, a fire in her eyes. “Keith, what were you thinking?!? You could have put all of his healing in jeopardy!”

            Keith took a step back, swallowing weakly. “A-Allura, I…”

            “NO, Keith.” She cut him off, pinching her nose as she stood with a hand on her hip. “Clearly, you are not the right person to be taking care of Lance right now. I’ll ask Pidge to take over applying the medication and taking care of Lance. You need to go somewhere right now and take off some steam.”

            Keith grit his teeth. “He shouldn’t have said those things.” He barked out. “He shouldn’t talk about shit he doesn’t know anything of.”

            “It’s almost as if you don’t tell him anything.” She replied. “But that doesn’t matter. Go to the gym, let off some steam, do something.” She looked down at Lance, not exactly pleased. “I will speak to him personally.”

            Keith opened his mouth once more to argue, but shook his head and yelled before storming off. Once the man had disappeared, Lance felt the anger and frustration that had been ballooning in him quickly deflate as he realized what he’d almost done. “Oh.” He said. “Oh shit.”

            “’Oh shit’ is right.” Allura’s voice was crisp in his ear as she sat down next to him. “Lance. Your bonds to the others are of the utmost importance. You cannot become friends and possibly more with them if you keep pushing their buttons the way you do.”

            Gingerly, Lance moved to rest his elbows on his knees, leaning forward to catch a drift of air on his back, wincing as it stung. “I don’t know what came over me, Allura.” He stared at his hands. “I just got so… so angry at him. In the mansion, he’d tried to kill the two people in the billiard room we’d knocked out. As if their lives meant nothing to him. He’s also so focused on the ‘mission’ like it’s a quest from God.” He used air quotes as he spoke before relaxing his hands once more, rubbing the center of his palm with his thumb as he spoke gently. “But then sometimes he’s… kind. He’s nice to me, like a real person. Like he actually cares for me. Like I’m not just someone that he’s gotta keep an eye out for.” His eyes softened their gaze as he thought about Keith in his garden, showing him all of his favourites on the first day they met. “For a while, I thought he liked me. Like… was interested in me.”

            Allura was quiet for a moment, before her hand rested on Lance’s bicep. He looked over at her to see her smiling assuredly at him. “Keith is quite possibly one of the worst here at explaining his emotions. He’s had a lot go on for him, he’s had a lot happen. His relationship with Shiro is so hard to explain and describe that only he can do it.” Her gaze fell. “Not even Shiro can do that.”

            “Because he can’t remember, right?” Lance inquired. “Something happened, a lot of things happened to him, and he can’t remember being friends with Keith? Being close to him?”

            “I believe so. There’s so little we actually know about them, other than the memories we have of them as they were when we worked together in a different time and place. The only person we know a lot about is Hunk.”

            Lance looked at her, completely mystified. “What?? Seriously? I know like… surface stuff about him, but nothing about who he is. I found out he’s from here like… when we got here.”

            “It’s a touchy subject for him.” She hummed. “But I can tell you one thing, if you promise not to tell him that you know.” When Lance nodded, she leaned in close, her breath tickling his ear as she whispered: “Hunk’s my cousin.”

            Lance blinked, pulling away from her. “What? Really?”

            Smiling, Allura nodded. “Indeed. My father’s younger sister was his mother.”

            Lance rested his chin in his hands, eyes sparkling with curiousity. “Well, where’s his mom? His dad? Are they here on the island?”

            Allura’s smile disappeared. “I’m afraid they’ve both passed.”

            Lance’s smile followed suit. “Oh, I’m sorry, Allura. I didn’t mean to pry.” 

            She waved his apology off, a small smile on her face. “My aunt was a wonderful woman. She was someone who studied different mythologies, different cultural religions and practices, and when she had come to Apia, she had met Hunk’s father.” A small sigh left her. “My father said it wasn’t uncommon for her to drop off the face of the earth, but when they’d found her again, she’d married him. Technically, Hunk is a prince, though he is far too humble to accept such a vivacious title. He doesn’t even use his real name.”

            Lance found himself to be more and more curious about the strange man. “Oh? What’s his real name?”

            “We removed his birth name from the records, as he hadn’t transitioned yet, but the name that our mother chose when he told her was Akeakamai. It means ‘thirst for wisdom’ and I find it quite apt.” another soft smile curved her lip. “It fits him very well.”

            “It sure does.” He mumbled. He could feel his eyelids drooping, as the energy used to yell at Keith had drained him. He let his head drop to his arms once more. “Do you think Keith’ll hate me for this?” He asked quietly.

            “Keith? He is not the type to hate unless you have truly done something unforgiveable. He once told me that he’s only ever hated three people in his life.” She squeezed his bicep again. “I have no doubt that if you two talk it out, you will be fine.”

            “Thanks, Allura.” He lifted his head and stood up, brushing his knees off. “My back still hurts pretty bad when I move, but since my skin is peeling off like a motherfucker, it means that it’s healing, right?” She nodded. “How long do you think it’ll take until it heals?”

            “I would guess a few more days. That’s a second-degree sunburn, but you seem to be healing at a remarkably fast rate.” She mused. “Shiro and Hunk should be coming back soon with more groceries, and Pidge is probably still in their room trying to get more data from the security cameras that caught faces and names. We’ll probably have all the data we need within a week to make another strike.”

            “So Keith’s just being antsy.” Lance huffed.

            “Hunk is too.” Allura reminded him. “There’s a reason he’s not a resident of Samoa anymore. I know you overheard them. Coran told me.” She stood as well, tilting her head at him. Strands of white hair framed her face beautifully. “You must strengthen your bonds with the others, before you can dig any deeper.”

            Lance scowled. “And how do I do that?”

            Allura smirked. “Well, take Keith on a date tomorrow? If you rest up plenty tonight and don’t do anything strenuous, then maybe you two can go look around Apia while Hunk goes shopping.”

            Lance paused for a moment before smiling brightly, laughing. “That’s a brilliant idea! I can woo him and he can finally see that I just wanna…uh…” He stopped, cheeks flushing a little. “Uh… you know… maybe get a hot date?”

            Allura pealed with laughter, the sound lovely to his ears. “I’m sure that would be a good way to do it, yes. Why not take him to the Vailima National Reserve? It’s only about five Kilometres away from Apia. I’m sure he’d love it.”

            “You’re a genius.” He grinned. “I know he will.”

            “Then get some rest, lover boy Lance.” She teased. “You’ll need it.”

            Lance eagerly made his way to bed that night. He was gonna ask a hitman on a date tomorrow, after all.

Chapter Text

            Shiro came to see him that night, when he was tucked into one of the king-sized beds with an open balcony. The wind was warm, and it made the sheer white curtains rise and fall with the gusts of air that pushed them. He was sleeping with light sheets draped around him and pulled up over his back as he blearily found himself rising into consciousness. The sky was dark but still littered with stars, and Lance found himself smiling. He shifted a little bit, feeling pleased that his back indeed did not hurt as much as he thought it would, and he quite nearly relaxed, when-

            “Lance?”

            “FUCK!” He hadn’t meant for it to come out as loudly as it did, but immediately a hand was on his mouth, smothering most of the word. Shiro’s eyes were wide with concern, even as he stopped Lance’s screech from alerting everyone else in the house about what exactly he was doing. He wasn’t wearing a shirt (GOD) but was instead wearing a violet pair of sweatpants and was barefoot. His royal purple tattoo seemed bright even in the darkness, catching Lance’s eye. After a moment, he removed his hand, and Lance found his inside night time voice. “What the fuck, Shiro? You scared the shit out of me!”

            Lance expected Shiro to have a well thought out reason for waking him. Maybe they were moving again? Maybe he was trying to check on his burns. Maybe he was even just wanting to ask a personal question! However, what he received was a bashful look as Shiro rubbed the back of his neck. “I-I’m really sorry. I was out looking at the stars tonight, and I was just… I don’t know. My feet brought me here.”

            Lance looked a little concerned, turning his head to stare at the clock that blinked an unwanted hour at him. “It’s really late, Shiro.” He spoke softly, looking back at the taller man. “Is everything okay? Why are you up so early?”

            An uncomfortable look crossed over his face. “I don’t sleep well, if at all sometimes.” He looked down at his hands again, tracing the dragon’s mouth with his thumb. “Nightmares.”

            “Ah.” Lance looked away, back at the curtains before a thought popped up in his head. “But you didn’t have nightmares when you and I and Pidge were all together on the plane, right? Do you think that you just need to be near someone when you sleep?”

            Shiro’s face warmed, though it was a little too dark to tell. “Perhaps.” He nearly whispered. “Since I can remember, I had not laid with anyone before.” His fingers trailed over the sheets softly, as if they were disturbing a still lake. “Though that holds little merit, I suppose. But… If you are okay with it…” He lifted his eyes off the way his hands moved near Lance’s hip and stared at Lance, soft and earnest. “May I please spend the night with you?”

            Ah, he’s polite. Lance studied him for a moment before an amused sigh left him. “Alright, c’mere.” He lifted the sheets, and Shiro smoothly slid into the bed with Lance, staying a foot away at first before Lance scoffed at him and pulled him closer. “If you’re going to sleep with me, you’d think that we’d at least be touching.”

            Shiro’s skin warmed, and Lance could feel the blush. “It was not my intention to make it sound inherently sexual. You are warm.” Unbidden, Shiro’s fingers traced lightly over the more healed scars. “I find that very comforting.”

            “Mm.” Lance hummed in delight, finding himself moving closer to Shiro as he kept up the light tickles. His eyes rolled back into his head, and he felt himself met like butter plastered to Shiro’s side. A thought occurred to him, and he sleepily decided to voice it. “Why did you and Keith wanna become astronauts?”

            Shiro certainly sounded surprised. “Well… Keith and I knew each other since we were both children. I was 13, and he was 11. Neither of us ever felt comfortable where we were, but we both watched a little too much Star Trek and looked to the stars to be our new home. We thought, ‘if we can’t feel at home here, surely there must be a place for us with the stars’, you know?” He laughed a little bit. “Childish thoughts, but they kept up with us. And eventually, I decided to become an Aerospace Engineer and be a pilot for the Air Force to fit those qualifications. Keith is just as good at flying as I am, if not better. He was breathtaking.”

            “He speaks really highly of you, even when he’s mad at you.” Lance yawned. “He thinks the absolute world of you. Did something happen to hurt your friendship?”

            Shiro furrowed his brow, smiling slightly when Lance snuggled closer for more tickles. “I don’t know… I don’t remember a lot about our relationship when we got into the Air Force. There’s so much missing, so much that I don’t know about my own life. But in exchange, I don’t remember a lot about my torture and imprisonment by the Galra.” He sighed. “So I think that it’s an even trade, but I can never be sure. Keith doesn’t like to talk about it.”

            Lance struggled to stay awake, his eyes lidding as he practically spoke into Shiro’s pectoral muscles. “Well, I’m sure if you asked, he just might want to try and open that can of worms. Something tells me there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for you.”

            Shiro’s gaze landed on him, and Lance found the power to open his eyes and see the moon behind the man lying in his bed, highlighting him in an ethereal glow as he smiled at Lance. “How do you know the right things to say?” Shiro asked softly, running a hand through his hair.

            “Read a book on it…” Lance mumbled offhandedly, sleep claiming him. “Best way to fall asleep. G’night, Shiro.”

            “Good night, Lance.” Was the reply, and for a moment, it felt like lips pressed against his temple.


 

            Lance woke up earlier than he had intended to. For some reason, the excitement of taking Keith out on a date filled him with energy. Anxiety too. How would he be able to tell if things were gonna work out or not? How would he be able to tell if Keith enjoyed what he was planning? He fidgeted a little before realizing that there were arms wrapped around him. The events of last night came back to him, and he looked up to see Shiro sleeping on his side, face relaxed and body loose in slumber. “I have a feeling I’m gonna be seeing you like this a lot more.” Lance mumbled, reaching out to touch Shiro’s jaw. The movement had Shiro’s brow furrowing, and silver eyes opened to meet Lance’s azure. “Rise and shine, Shiro.” Lance teased, unable to help the smile that stretched over his face.

            Shiro, for one minute, did not seem to have any of the weight that rested on his shoulders. Unbidden, a smile so wide and sincere made its way across Shiro’s face, and he really did shine, for that one moment. “Good morning, Lance.” The way he spoke was soft, too. Gentle, almost loving. He gently took hold of Lance’s hand that had rested on his chin and brought it to his mouth, closing his eyes slowly as the press of lips made it to Lance’s awareness.

            It was safe to say that his brain shorted out. He could feel his face flushing such a dark red that he wasn’t sure there was a chance for the rest of his body to even get a chance to move. “I-I-uh-” Shiro’s eyes slowly opened and zeroed in on Lance’s stuttering form, and oh god Lance averted his eyes only to take in another eyeful of Shiro’s torso, defined and decorated. “Oof.” He managed to get out. Shiro’s stubble tickled his palm, and eventually his hand was released as he managed to find his voice. “You sure seem to have slept well…”

            Shiro hummed, blinking a little slowly at Lance’s words. As soon as he became more aware of himself, Shiro’s body stiffened up. Lance could see the warmth in his eyes being shut away as all the worry, anxiety, duty and uncertainty made their way onto his shoulders. He rolled out of bed at once, straight as a board. “I did. Thank you, Lance. I need to go speak with Allura, she is expecting me this morning.”

            Lance couldn’t stop the look of disappointment from flitting over his face, but before Shiro could leave, he called out. “If you ever need a place to sleep again… well…” Shiro turned back to him and Lance smiled meekly. “I’m here.”

            A small smile appeared over Shiro’s face, and he nodded once before disappearing out the door. Lance let his head drop as he groaned in embarrassment, hiding his face in his hands. “Smooth, real smooth Lance. Yikes.” His hands dropped, and he looked out the window, even as he felt the excitement of the day ahead getting to him. “Time to show Keith a good time.” He pepped himself up, nodding as he stood and breathed a sigh of relief from lack of pain. “You’re gonna make Keith relax, you’re gonna make him swoon. Smoothness level? 100. You got this.” He pulled on a teal guayabera and white khaki shorts that were in his closet, heading to the bathroom to clean up as best he could, despite his lack of makeup. “If he has a thing for feet? you’re gonna fuckin’ sweep him off them.” He gelled his hair into a side part, adding basic face cream just in case. “You’re gonna take him to check out flowers, get some gelato, and go to the beach. Everyone likes the beach, right? Right.” He stepped away from the mirror, pleased with the sight that greeted him. “Now go put on your sandals and make Keith smile.”


 

            It wasn’t hard to convince Keith to come with Hunk and Lance to the main island: He had been cooped up for too long, and had been dying to rid himself of the worst kind of cabin fever. Lance could tell that he wasn’t making eye contact with him, but he held out faith and chatted with Hunk as he drove the hour-long trip to Apia. However, when Hunk stopped in front of the Valima National Reserve, Keith looked confused. “Uh… this isn’t the store.”

            “You are correctamundo, my friend!” Hunk seemed cheery, as Lance had told him the plan before they got into the truck. It took all of Hunk’s willpower not to completely spoil the surprise, but he kept glancing back at Keith and giggling a little to himself. “We are at the National Reserve, known for its beautiful forests, the house of Robert Louis Stevenson, and a particularly lovely banyan tree. It’s got two hiking roads, and refreshments at the visitor’s center!”

            “O…kay…” Keith looked between them. “But what are we doing here?”

            Lance took a deep breath, turning around in the passenger seat. “Keith, I’ve brought you here to say sorry for what I’d said to you. I was hoping that I could sorta… you know…” He trailed off before mustering the strength to continue. “Take you on a date? As apology?”

            Keith stared at him for a while, like broccoli had sprouted out of his nose, and Lance thought for a moment that he’d overstepped. But as soon as he opened his mouth to cancel the idea, Keith unbuckled his seatbelt and got out of the car, stepping onto the sidewalk and turning towards Lance. “Okay.” He mumbled, not looking directly at Lance. “Okay.”

            “NICE!” Hunk practically shouted, making Lance jump out of his skin. “Now get out, I got things that I need to do today.” He nearly shoved Lance out of the car before winking at the both of them. “Stay out of trouble! Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” And with that, he peeled off towards Apia, with Keith and Lance standing in front of the museum being gawked at by the people around them.

            “Well…” Lance tried out. “Should we go inside?”

            “Yes.” Keith sounded like he was going to die of embarrassment. “Let’s.”


 

             Lance was so fucking glad that he thought of this. He was so glad that he talked to Allura about it, talked to Hunk about it. As soon as they had gotten in and bought water, Keith chose the longer path that weaved through the rain forest up the mountain. They were both sweaty from the humidity, and the bugs were an absolute nightmare, but Lance wouldn’t change it for the world. The way Keith’s eyes lit up as they walked, the way that he pointed out different flora that he’d only read about in books? Priceless.

            “This one is called the Teuila!” Keith exclaimed, rushing towards the side of the trail to reach out to the vibrant red flower. “It’s called the Red Ginger in European countries, but I think I like the original name of it better.”

            “Yeah?” Lance asked, only able to take his eyes off the other man for a moment. “What’s the meaning?”

            “It’s the national flower, I think.” Keith gently stroke the petals, smiling serenely at them. “Red is an important colour here, if I remember what Hunk said correctly. It stands for fire and life which are powerful things here. Sometimes they come in pink, too. Isn’t it cool? Hunk told me once that they even have a festival for it in the late summer.”

            “That is pretty cool.” Lance admitted, watching Keith’s hands treat the bloom as if it were from his own gardens. “Do you think that you’d want to plant some in the new garden?”

            Keith paused, finally pulling his eyes away from the flower and at Lance. “The new- Lance, are you still on about the garden?” He stood up straight, holding onto his arm as he looked back at the flower. “I only got to have that because of luck. I don’t know if we’re ever going to be still enough to even plant a few flowers, much less see them grow like the others.”

            “You don’t know that!” Lance eagerly replied. “We just need to plan it, make sure that it would be somewhere safe.” Keith resumed his walk up the mountain, but not hurriedly. Lance followed. “Keith, I really really want to help you make a garden. With both the normal and the poisonous plants.”

            “Why?” Keith looked at Lance again, but this time… he seemed almost vulnerable. His shoulders were slumped, and his bangs hid part of his face from view. “Why do you want to help me so much? Why are you trying to hard? You’re only here because of circumstances that only have made your life worse. Why are you…” Frustration appeared on Keith’s face. “Normal people don’t try to befriend people like us. Normal people don’t pretend that they like us. We’re killers, Lance.” He bit out. “In case that you’ve forgotten. We’re not… we’re not good people.”

            Lance looked at the way that Keith stood in front of him: Even without a single word from Lance, he looked rejected, hurt. He seemed like a kicked dog who expected everyone he met to hurt him more, make him feel more pain. “Soldiers are killers.” Keith’s head snapped up. “There’s millions of people who kill and get away with it simply because of what side of the law they’re on. I don’t know the circumstances of your kills. I don’t know anything. All I know is the person who is in front of me.” He took a step closer to Keith, who didn’t move back. He gently took hold of Keith’s hand, and hesitantly intertwined their fingers together. Keith’s breath hitched. “And the person I see is not the person you’re telling me you are.”

            “Who do you see, then?” Keith whispered. “Who do you think I am?”

            The taller of the two took a deep breath, trying to find the right words. “I see a good man. A brave man. Someone who’s had to deal with a lot of pain, a lot of suffering. A loyal man, a strong friend.” Bravery trickled down Lance’s spine like sweat, and he took the step into Keith’s personal space. “Someone who loves plants and loves to write music and is so full of life and fire that he might as well be the human version of that flower. Vivid and bright and…” His shoulders relaxed as he exhaled softly. “…and beautiful.”

            Keith stared at him, breath caught in his throat. The red aura around him seemed almost dead still. “You don’t know what you’re doing.” He spoke so quietly, it was almost like he was talking to himself. His eyes were wide, like a deer in headlights, but there was nothing in them that made it look like he was going to push Lance away.

            So he took the jump.

            “I think I do.” Lance whispered, and with a lean forward, he closed his eyes and kissed Keith gently. The other man’s lips were surprisingly soft, full. A thrill ran down Lance’s spine, and after a second more, he pulled away to stare at Keith once more. “I really think I do.”

            Keith looked at him for a moment with the same expression before the kiss, but with a muttered “Fuck.” He grabbed Lance by the front of his shirt, dragging him away from the trail. “You’re fucking insufferable.” Keith snarled, ignoring Lance’s yelp of surprise. “You stick your nose into other people’s business, you don’t fear us, you don’t understand what I’m telling you!” They were eventually secluded into the rainforest, where the trail was barely visible, as they must have been. Keith almost shoved Lance into a tree, but stopped an inch before the bark. “You.” Keith whispered to him, as if he were sharing a secret, was nose to nose with Lance. “You, who haunt my dreams. You, who make me want to be better, who makes me think that human touch isn’t the worst thing in the world. You, who make me fucking hope again.” Their foreheads touched, carefully. “That is a cruel gift to give, Lance Sanchez.”

            Lance could hardly breathe. “Hope for what?”

            Instead of a verbal response, Keith instead followed Lance’s lead: He kissed Lance on the lips, closing his eyes as he pressed himself against the taller man. Lance’s eyes widened for a moment before finally letting himself get as into it as he’d wanted to. He let his fingers run through Keith’s soft hair, he wrapped an arm around Keith’s shoulders to hold him closer as their kisses became a little heavier, open mouthed as they drank each other in. The next time their eyes connected, only slivers of blue and purple were visible between them, but their lips were both flushed with blood as Keith tugged Lance’s bottom lip between his teeth. He released it soon after, and grinned at Lance for the first time.

            Lance burned it into his memory. He also burned the way that Keith’s hands on his hips felt, the way that he was desperate but not demanding in his kisses. How he always made sure that he wasn’t asking too much. Lance could almost call it needy.

            Not that he would tell Keith that. He was more than happy to help satiate his needs. However. In the middle of a rainforest? “Keith.” He managed to get out. When did he start biting at Lance’s neck? A voice made it to his ears, and he paused, realizing the sound of a child. “Keith, do you hear that?”

            Keith looked up at him almost lazily, eyes lidded. “Mm?” He pulled off Lance with a ‘pop’ that left him blushing. “What?”

            “A little kid.” Lance said. He turned his head back to the road, and saw a little figure in a bright yellow dress. “Is that girl by herself?”

            Keith peeled himself away from Lance, taking in the situation a little better. “It looks like it. We should go help her.” He began making his way out of the forage, Lance following close behind. When they got to the girl, Lance could tell she was a beautiful child. Large golden eyes stared back at him, freckles littered all over her cheeks. She had wildly curly black hair, and a brown complexion. She was also wearing little yellow Velcro sneakers and long socks. Keith squatted down next to her, not looking sad when she flinched away from them. “Are you okay? Is everything alright?” He spoke softly, which surprised Lance. Another question to ask later.

            The girl looked between them for a moment, sniffling quietly. It took a closer inspection to realize her eyes were red-rimmed from crying. She shook her head, and in a very sad wail, she managed to choke out “Tina o le Tina. E le mafai ona ou mauaina loʻu tinamatua.”

            Lance looked at Keith, not understanding a word of what she’d just said. Undeterred, Keith pushed on. “Well, do you have a name?” He pressed a hand against his chest, smiling sweetly at her. “Keith. I’m Keith.” He pointed at Lance. “Lance. This is Lance.” He repeated the movements. “Keith. Lance.” He pointed at her. “You?”

            She watched them curiously, almost like an owl, before eventually catching on. “Keith.” She whispered, smiling nervously when Keith nodded. She looked at Lance, fidgeting with the hem of her dress. “L-anze. Lanz.” She looked between them for another second before finally pointing at herself. “La’ei. La’ei.”

            “La’ei?” Keith repeated, smiling as she nodded before taking his phone out and giving it to her. “Call.” He said calmly. “Call Tina o le Tina?” Her head bobbed up and down eagerly, hair swishing with her movement before Keith gave her the phone. He stood and patted his pants down. “Hopefully she’ll find her way. If her… Tina doesn’t answer, maybe we can ask Hunk to translate for us.”

            Lance smiled at Keith. “You’re really good with kids.” He said smugly.

            Keith flushed before looking down and away. “It’s hard not to be in an orphanage.”

            “Akeakamai!!!”

            Lance’s head snapped up at the name. “What?” He looked at the girl who was now avidly talking into the phone, relief clear in her eyes. She looked at the two men, and Lance could clearly hear her say their names. Eventually, after a little bit of stalling, she handed the phone back to Lance and Keith, the latter putting the phone on speaker. Hunk’s name emblazoned on the screen. “Hunk? What’s going on?”

            “I’m going to be there in five minutes.” Hunk’s voice was thunderous. “And you’re going to explain how exactly you found my little fucking sister at the top of a mountain.”

Chapter Text

            Considering the fact that it took them about an hour to even get to the top, Lance and Keith taking the shorter route cut their time by 25 minutes. It helped that Keith was carrying La’ei on his hip while speed walking downhill, and his grip on her was very secure. It almost boggled Lance’s mind that La’ei trusted Keith so innately, not knowing who he was. But it seemed if Hunk was friends with them, the girl could trust them. He was even humming to her, and she was aiming a wobbly smile at him. Lance tried not to let the idea of Keith as a dad appear in his brain, but… He’d be a really good one. Definitely one of the older foxy dudes. Maybe he’d look good with stubble or a beard? Shiro would.

            Lance wasn’t sure why that was brought so suddenly into his mind, but the though of Shiro and Keith as parents was oddly enough not a bad one. Shiro was relatively calm, where Keith was passionate and fiery. They were both deeply caring, and both seemed capable of extreme fixation on one thing.

            “Lance.” The man snapped out of his daze only to see Keith talking to La’ei. “It’s Lance. Laanccceeee.” He was smiling at the girl, and when she finally got it right, he huffed at her with a sweet look. “Yeah! Good job.” They were nearing the gate at that point, and Lance could already see Hunk, fretting and anxious. Lance rushed ahead of Keith and La’ei, stopping only when he was within arm’s reach of their tall friend. Hunk looked nothing short of anxious, fidgeting with his hands and staring at the little girl that was in Keith’s arm with fear. When Keith saw him, he brightened and pointed at him. “Hunk! That’s Hunk.” When La’ei looked confused, Keith paused before remembering the name that she used beforehand. “Akeakamai?” Her eyes widened with recognition. “That’s Akeakamai. Your brother!” He put her down and let her stand on her own, confusion appearing on his face when she didn’t rush towards Hunk. “It’s him, go on.”

            Lance could only watch the little girl with similar features to his friend stare at Hunk as if he were a total stranger. The conversation he heard in the plane clicked as soon as she took a tiny step forward, no recognition on her face. “Akeakamai?” She asked almost fearfully, unsure if he was the man on the phone. “Uso matua?”

            “Ioe.” Hunk’s voice shook as he responded, taking a single step forward and letting a shuddering breath when she didn’t step away from him. “O a’u.” Carefully, he went down to his knees and opened his arms wide, not taking a single moment to even blink. “La’ei.”

            As soon as he said her name, La’ei’s face crumpled and she burst into tears, sprinting towards him and rushing into his arms. She sobbed into his shoulder, gripping the sides of his Hawaiian shirt tight enough that she could have ripped the fabric. “Kamai! Kamai!” She cried into his shirt, and Hunk could only hold onto her as tightly as he could, hiding his own face in her curls. She kept speaking, words that Lance couldn’t catch, but Hunk was definitely reassuring her in some way, cooing into her ear and squeezing her tight. Lance could feel his eyes getting misty, and he looked away to give the two their moment. Beside him, Keith was clutching his right arm, which was loosely hanging by his side. After a moment, the two of them parted, and Hunk let out a wet laugh, cupping her cheek for a moment before a concerned look came over his face. “Why were you up there alone? Why were you by yourself? Where’s Shay?”

            As soon as La’ei heard the name, fear gripped her briefly. She started speaking rapidly and started flailing her hands around like a madman, causing Hunk’s eyes to widen. Immediately he stood up, holding La’ei’s hand as tightly as possible. “What’s going on?” Keith asked, urgency in his voice. “Why was she up there?”

            “And who’s Shay?” Lance asked.

            “Shay is-was my fiancée.” Hunk answered urgently as he made his way to the car, not loosening his grip on his little sister. “After the circumstances that forced me to leave, I left her in her care, knowing that she was the one that I could trust the most on the island.” He buckled her into the middle of the car, double and triple checking her seatbelt. “Get in.” He said to the other two men, and they complied, Keith getting in the back with La’ei, and Lance in the front. “La’ei says that she and Shay were visiting the Reserve when they got separated. She isn’t sure how, but it seems like she was stuck up there for a while.”

            Keith looked down at La’ei worriedly, the little girl gripping his hand tightly in anxiety. “Do you think that Shay might still be up there?”

            “Not likely.” Hunk shook his head. “Shay loves La’ei just as much as I do, there’s no way that she would have left her there on purpose. Something must have happened.” He pushed the gas pedal to the floor and off they drove, trees and people whipping past them at speeds that were more than likely illegal. “We’re just gonna have to check the house.”

            “Whoa, wait wait wait.” Lance put his hand in a ‘stop’ position, trying to see through his hair flying from the wind. “The house? As in where we are or where Shay and La’ei live?”

            “Where they live.” Hunk nearly had to shout over the wind. Lance could tell the tenseness that radiated off of him by the flickers of gold that became visible once in a while. “It used to be my house, but I gave it to them since I left.”

            “Hunk!” Keith shouted, getting the pair’s attention. “You’re not making any sense. We’re getting more questions with each answer you give us!”

            Hunk’s grip on the wheel tightened and he turned back to the road. “It’ll make sense when we get there.” He looked at Lance, brown eyes focused on him. “I know that you’re going to look and want to see the way only you can, and I can’t stop you. But…” He looked back at the road, taking a deep breath. “…just don’t think poorly of me when you do.”

            Lance looked almost appalled that Hunk would think the way that he did, after all they’d done together! But he took a step back to realize that he didn’t know why Hunk would say that. He didn’t understand why Hunk was so afraid for a reason.

            He kept his mouth shut the entire ride. 


 

            The house was not… what Lance would have expected of Hunk’s family. Despite being the son of a princess, the house was rather small. It was raised on platforms in case of flooding, but it was in poor condition, as if a strong gust of wind could blow it down. There were storm clouds above them, rippling like grey waves and whipping the trees and flora around to its whim. There were plenty of plants potted outside of the home, and as they pulled into the driveway, La’ei started fidgeting once more. Keith immediately was trying to reassure her, but nothing seemed to calm her down. Lance couldn’t help but look over to Hunk. “Is she-”

            The words died in his throat when he took in Hunk’s face. His eyes were wide open, and hi face had paled a little bit, like he had seen a ghost. The pulses of gold that were apparent beforehand in Hunk spiked in frequency. Fear. Hunk was afraid of that house. “Don’t think poorly of me.” He whispered almost to himself before staring back at Lance. “Please, whatever you see, whatever the house shows you.” Hunk swallowed loudly, taking a deep, shaking breath. “The man you see today is the man I am. The person that’s sitting next to you is me. I am Hunk. I’m your friend.”

            Lance reached out to touch him, but Hunk pulled back. “Hunk, I’m not going to pry intentionally-”

            “You can’t control it sometimes.” Hunk’s voice didn’t leave room for denial. “I sometimes look into your files about how far your bleeding affect and shimmers have come. I’m… absolutely terrified of what you could possibly see, what you might notice that will completely change how our relationship works, how you even think of me. You think that I forgot that you wonder why I’m here with them? Why I’m not with my family?” Hunk’s throat got tight, and it looked like his eyes were beginning to redden. “I… I’m not ready for anyone to see it.”

            “I’ll be outside of the car.” Keith announced, taking La’ei out with him. She looked worriedly at Hunk, head tilted and nails torn to the nub. “We’ll wait for you guys to finish talking.” He shot a look at Lance, and the Cuban man couldn’t help but blush a little bit. But he knew that Hunk needed him, so he turned back.

            “Not even La’ei knows why I left.” Lance could sense the anxiety radiating off of Hunk. “She was too young. Shay only knows because she was there. She only knows because she saw it.”

            “What, Hunk?” Lance could feel the fear creeping in on him too. “Saw what?”

            Hunk stared at Lance, an unreadable expression on his face. “My transgression. My wrongdoing.” With that, he pushed himself out of the car, eyes dark as the storm clouds above them. “I trust you, Lance.” He divulged. “It’s crazy, but I do. And if anyone can understand the lengths I go for family, it’s you.”

            Lance followed suit, coming around the car to step towards the house. “I hope that I’m worthy of that trust.” He murmured back. He started taking steps up the stairs, and as soon as he began to focus, he opened his eyes to see… no gold. Nothing. He paused at the colourless landscape, and looked back to see Hunk swathed in warm gold. But when he tried to look at the house again, he saw nothing once more. Keith was blazing red, as if he were a fire himself, and the girl next to him was a sunshine yellow, light and sweet. But the house, the world around them… it was the complete opposite to Hunk’s workshop. There was no sign that Hunk was ever there.

            However.

            When Hunk, Keith and La’ei began to move closer to the house, and the rain began to fall, with each drop that hit the house, a small spatter of gold appeared on the ground, almost as if to lead the way to where Lance needed to go. Hesitantly, he took a step forward, and then another, and looked behind him to see sky blue footprints where he had once stood. Gold and blue were imprinted on the ground, and Lance looked back up to see the three figures watching him. Though for some reason he couldn’t hear them; He could hear muffled noises of someone trying to speak to him, but their words didn’t register. In the darkness of the house, he could see the golden flecks leading him to a wooden staircase, higher up. He could feel it tugging and pulling him towards the source, as if he were in a trance.

            (Later, Keith would tell him of the way his eyes glowed white, and how he didn’t recognize any of them.)

            Each step he took made him feel like he wasn’t in control of his body. He only foucused on the trail leading him to a narrow hallway with a window at the end. There were four rooms, and the hall was just as dark as the rest of the house. However, the far room to the right had a single golden handprint on it, the same colour as the trail. Something forced him to push the door open, and when he did, he saw it: The door opened to an abandoned room, and a single, glowing camcorder sat in the middle of the floor. It was bright, brighter than anything that Lance had seen imbued with Hunk’s colours, and he couldn’t stop himself from picking it up and cradling it in his hands. Immediately, a golden shape appeared in front of his eyes, much like the coloured glass in Allura’s home. “What are you?...” Lance could feel himself asking, and when he reached out to touch it, the world turned white.


 

            Lance was standing in the same room as before, dizzy and reeling from what had just happened. “Wh…where am I?” He asked aloud, but it didn’t take long for him to realize that his surroundings were no longer empty. In the room was a twin bed, a chalkboard, and a desk. The walls were decorated with makeshift blueprints, and sitting directly in the middle of the room on a black stool was a little girl, brown hair curled at the ears and big eyes wide with interest. In her hand was a brand-new ukulele, and in front of her was the same camcorder that Lance was holding, only brand new.

            The little girl pushed her hair behind her ear, and looked up at the camera, determination on her face. “Okay. We gotta do this right.” She hopped off the stool, pressed the record button, and sat back down. “My name is-” the name blurred out, but Lance could take a guess. “But I don’t really like it. The reason I’m making this video is because I want people to see what my life is like! Maybe I can show it to my family someday…” A smile turned into a pout. “If my dad doesn’t destroy it.” She situated the ukulele in her lap, and strummed it, singing a note before playing.

            “I count the steps from one end of my island to the other.

            It’s a hundred steps from where I sleep to the sea.

            And when I say I’ve learned all there is to know, well, there’s another

            Little island lesson that my mother shows me.”

            She hopped off the stool, smiling brightly as she continued. “I know where I am from the scent of the breeze, the ascent of the climb, from the tangle of the trees, from the angle of our mountain to the sand of our island shore…” Deft fingers plucked at the strings. “I’ve been here before.”

            She lifted her head to the camera once more. “There’s gotta be more, I know there’s more, there’s always more! Someday I’ll be out on the sea and I’m gonna see more!” She continued to sing, and as Lance watched, time seemed to fly by the more he sang. The room around them didn’t seem to change, but the voices he heard were changing. The name he heard on the tape was no longer blurred out, but rather only showed Akeakamai. Hunk had grown and become better at playing the guitar and ukulele and was a gifted engineer the older he got. However, the older he got, the more he started to show bruises. The more he started to look hollow as he sang.

            Eventually Hunk stopped singing. He had a black eye, a bloody nose, and there was crying in the background. A woman’s. “He won’t stop hitting me.” Hunk choked out. He was no more than fourteen, hair cropped and chest binded with ace bandages. “Even when I told him the truth, even when I told him I wasn’t lying. He won’t…” He took in a shaky breath, tears rolling down his cheeks. “He won’t stop hurting me. He won’t stop hurting my mom.” He rubbed his nose with the back of his hand, wincing at the pain. “She’s not safe here. I’m not… I don’t care what happens to me. I just need her to be safe.”

            The videos eventually began to change. Hunk was making plans, starting to make a notebook of escape ideas, each one ending with Hunk nearly pulling his hair out. Eventually Hunk looked at the camera, his left hand in a cast in that video, and smiled brightly. “I think I have it.” He whispered. It was nighttime in the video, but Hunk looked more awake than ever. “I think I know how to get her out of here.” He pulled up the notebook in his hands, a detailed picture of a helicopter drawn into it. “There’s going to be a crew that’s coming here to record islander life and food styles. If I ask them, if I pay them, maybe they can get us off the island.” He smiled so wide that his busted lip opened again. “I’m going to keep them safe. Both my mother, and my coming sister.”

            However, the next time that the scene changed, Lance knew that it wasn’t good. Hunk was in a black suit, the cusp of sixteen years old. His shirt was spattered with red. Blood. “She showed me day after day how to find my way. She named me after the sea… she believed in me. I know she left me prepared for the things she wanted me to be.” He looked at the camera desperately. “La’ei, I don’t know if I’ll ever get to meet you, or if you’ll ever get to meet me. I-” He choked, hiding his mouth in his hands.  When he pulled his hands away, they were shaking. “I killed him. I killed our father for what he did to you.” Lance was assaulted suddenly with sirens, of a car nearly destroyed, of a frail little baby lying in ICU. “To our mother.” He choked, tears rolling desperately down his face. “I-I-I’m so sorry, La’ei. You should have gotten a chance to meet her, to know her. Our mom’s name was Honerva, she was our MOM and she-” He hiccuped, hiding his face once more in his hands. “She’s gone. She’s gone. And all because our father wasn’t careful. Because our father thought it wise to drive while drunk. You lost a leg, and our mother. And it’s not fair.”

            Sirens started sounding in the distance, and Hunk lifted his face with a wet gasp, looking towards the door. “They’re coming.” He whispered, looking back at the lens. “La’ei, if I had time, if I could, I would go straight for you. I would apologize to you face to face. You’re my family. I love you.” His face crumpled once more. “If I had time, I’d say goodbye. Shay, if you’re seeing this, I love you. I always have, and I always will.”

            The sound of the front door slamming open made both Hunk and Lance jolt. Hunk reached for the camera, smiling through his tears. “Kamai loves you.” And the world faded to black once more.


 

            Lance regained consciousness on the floor, rain pounding on the windows. The camcorder was resting on his chest, and to the right of him was Hunk’s back, the man facing away from him and at the door of the barren room. “I see that you found it.” His voice was wet. “Now you know.”

            “Hunk.” Lance whispered, reaching out to touch his back.

            “My father hated that I wasn’t his daughter.” Hunk spoke softly, sniffling through his words. “He hated that my mother let me be who I wanted. More often than not I was hurt because I would try to take the blows he dealt towards her. He hurt us. He hurt us so badly. I remember at one point I wanted to die. I just wanted it to all end.” Hunk turned towards him, and Lance could see how splotchy his face had become. “And then my mom told me that La’ei was on the way, and I knew I had to keep living. I had to stay alive to protect her, too.” Hunk’s face fell, voice tight. “And I failed at that too.”

            “Those prosthetics are for her, aren’t they?” Lance asked quietly, exhaling when Hunk nodded. “Your father crashed with your mom in the car, causing La’ei to be born early. It was a miracle she survived, but it cost her a leg and a parent.”

            “Two, actually.” Hunk laughed bitterly. “I killed the other one.”

            “How? How did you kill him?”

            Hunk leaned back onto Lance, pinching the bridge of his nose. “To be honest, I don’t really remember. I got a call, and when I realized what he had done, and who he had taken from me and my sister… It’s all black.” His hand fell to the side. “I just remember coming to, and my father’s blood was all over me. I think I killed him with a rock or something. There was so much blood… I couldn’t stop from puking. I was lucky that Allura was there. I was lucky she got me out.”

            Lance studied him for a moment, rubbing his back before finally speaking. “Hunk. I don’t think anything less of you. Rather… I think so much more of you.” Hunk’s head snapped up to stare at him, and Lance continued. “You didn’t kill for no reason. It’s still murder, still really not good, but you killed your abuser. Your mother’s abuser, your sister’s abuser. You saved your sister from a terrible life.” Hunk turned to fully face him, and Lance smiled at him. “She knew your number. Even though you haven’t seen her since.”

            “Yeah.” Hunk looked ready to start crying again. “She did. I didn’t know it was her to begin with. Shay must have taught her it.”

            Lance smiled, and sat up to hug Hunk. Hunk didn’t respond for a moment, but when he did, his hug was so tight that Lance could hardly breathe. The two separated, and Lance was tugged to his feet by the broader man. “You’re a good person, Hunk.” Lance said carefully.

            Hunk visibly tensed. “Do you really believe that?” He whispered.

            Lance tilted his head, smiling. “I do. Shay’s a lucky woman.”

            Hunk let his face fall. “Not if she got captured by who or whatever the fuck is going on. If she’s in mortal danger because of me, if she’s about to die because of me…” Hunk took in a shuddering breath. “I won’t be able to forgive myself.”

            “We’ll help her.” Lance said, far more confidently than he felt. “We will get her safe. I’m gonna help as much as I can.”

            Hunk smiled at him. “Thank you, Lance. Maybe we all might survive this ordeal.”

            Lance pulled away from Hunk and sighed, yawning shortly afterward. “Perhaps we should get some sleep. Are you okay with taking the first watch?”

            “The more time I get with La’ei I consider a blessing.” Hunk smiled sweetly. “I’ll stay up all night just to make sure she sleeps okay.” Lance nodded at him, and stepped out of the room as Hunk called out, “Keith’s room is on the first floor. It’s a queen-sized bed, you can share!”

            Lance’s cheeks flushed a brilliant red.


 

            Keith wasn’t wearing a shirt when Lance finally got there, and he was knocked the fuck out. Lance couldn’t help it: He leaned over, and gently pressed his lips to Keith’s temple. But as soon as he did, the red flickers of Keith’s memories nearly died away completely. However, in lieu of that, something else caught Lance’s eye.

            Resting on Keith’s chest was a ring. A ring that glowed so bright that Lance realized the only reason he couldn’t sense it before was because of Keith’s own memories. He didn’t even fucking notice the ring that glowed.

            The ring that glowed violet.

            Lance did not find any real rest that night.

Chapter Text

            Lance woke up to Keith’s voice and another, much lower one discussing something outside of the doorway. At first, he just laid there on his side, staring at the empty spot of the mattress where Keith had been sleeping not long ago. And he thought of the ring that glowed violet around Keith’s neck. As far as he’d seen, nobody had even the slightest traces of violet. Not in the small group, anyway. Did it belong to someone else that he knew? Unlikely. Keith wasn’t the type to get very close with a lot of people. Frustration welled up in him, and he rolled onto his stomach to groan into the pillow. God, there always seemed to be something, didn’t there?

            Eventually, he decided to get out of bed, flinching a bit as his toes touched the cold wooden floors. He was still in the clothes he wore yesterday, yuck. He needed to change. The voices outside his room stopped nearly instantly, and after a second, Keith entered the room. A large man followed, with dark skin and a grisly scar on his face. His hair was braided and resting on his shoulder, and he looked quietly at Keith, who seemed tentative. “You’re awake.” He said quietly, a small smile on his face. “You really were knocked out last night, weren’t you?”

            Lance looked between the two men, raising an eyebrow at the sudden small talk. That certainly was out of character for the other man. “Yeah… I was really tired.” Subtly, he tried to search for the violet again, but could only see Keith’s crimsons, licking outward like solar flares. The other man was a dark reddish violet hue, too warm to be the colour infused with the ring. Instead of pressing, he nodded his head towards the hulking figure in the room. “You gonna introduce me to this guy? Who is he?”

            Instead of waiting for Keith, the man stepped forward, extending out his hand. “I am Kolivan. I am the leader of the Blades of Marmora. We’re a small group of freedom fighters that are working with Princess Allura on the matters at hand, bringing Zarkon and Haggar to justice and ending a war before it starts.” He smiled when Lance took his hand, and he shook it once before releasing. He oddly reminded Lance of a tall, muscular Captain Holt from Brooklyn Nine Nine. “Keith has told me of your newfound abilities, and that they could possibly be of assistance to us.”

            Lance blinked owlishly for a moment before staring at Keith, who was now pointedly avoiding his eyes. “Did he? I don’t exactly recall what kind of abilities he was talking about.”

            Kolivan looked at him, not caring about the tone in which Lance spoke. “He said you were capable of seeing into different universes, even dimensions. You were also capable of going through someone’s memories, seeing firsthand what they had done or lived through. He also spoke of a possibility to move memories from one person to another. Is this correct?”

            Lance frowned, feeling a little betrayed. “Yes. Though the last part is purely in theory. Coran said it once, and it hasn’t been brought up since.” Though… now that he was there… He looked up at Kolivan again. “I am also capable of learning skills from myself from different universes.” Keith’s head snapped up. “In certain cases, I can even touch the objects that give me these insights into other dimensions and memories.”

            Kolivan raised an eyebrow, interest showing in his face once more. “An interesting prospect. How do you know this?”

            “While we were in the mansion, being attacked, a blue shimmer approached me, and I focused enough to find myself going inside of it, even if only mentally. And then, when I went through another memory by touching a physical object, I stepped into the memory myself.” He wouldn’t specify that it was Hunk’s memories, but the thought of being there physically with Hunk as a young child still stuck with him. It felt so real, as if he really had been there. And he supposed that he had, in a way.

            Kolivan seemed to consider this, but nodded nonetheless and looked at Keith, who seemed almost abashed. “I see. Keith has vouched for you, so you can listen in on this.” He turned back to Lance, eyes calm and calculating. “Haxus has been located in Las Vegas, Nevada. Keith is going to be sent there undercover to find and get close to him.”

            Haxus.

            Lance felt something unfamiliar boil inside of his chest. Something so hot that it almost felt icy. The memory of being told something similar suddenly reared it’s ugly head, and it came to him like a shock.

            “I’m going to be off on a mission soon, and there’s word that the person who killed your family might be there…”

            Keith looked distinctly uncomfortable. Lance didn’t blame him. He let his eyes move back to the taller man. “Are you asking me to go with him?” He said very calmly, though his eyes were wide and his heart was pounding. “Are you asking for my help to track him down?”

            Kolivan looked, smiled and simply said, “No. We just wanted to let you know that the man who did this to you, who caused your life to be thrown into chaos, will soon be dealt with. We will send word of our victory as soon as his heart stops beating.” He turned to walk towards the door, ignoring Lance’s stutters of protest. “Also, her highness and the rest of your team is here waiting for you.”

            Lance’s eyes widened, and he pushed past the two men to open the door. Though they weren’t visible immediately, Lance stepped towards the kitchen to find Pidge, Allura and Shiro sitting around eating fast food breakfasts. Allura and pidge were both dressed in button up shirts and trousers, while Shiro was wearing workout clothes, nibbling almost halfheartedly at the poorly made pancake in his mouth. As soon as his eyes flickered over to Lance, they widened, and he practically leaped out of his seat to yank Lance into a hug, cupping the back of his head and taking a deep breath. “Thank goodness you’re okay.” He mumbled into Lance’s hair. He didn’t seem to notice or care about the way that Allura stared openly and how Pidge glared daggers at Shiro’s back. “I was so worried. We all were.” The taller man pulled away to show a tiny little smile. “Are you okay? How is Hunk? I know Keith was talking to Kolivan, and nothing could hurt him anyway. He’s an absolute legend.”

            Lance listened to Shiro ramble and smiled a little while touching his bicep. “I’m okay, big man. We found Hunk’s little sister, and this was where they lived.” His face blanched. “Oh, shit. La’ei! Where is Shay?! Where are we gonna keep her if we can’t find Hunk’s girlfriend??”

            “Shay returned early this morning.” Allura spoke up, stepping around the island counter with a Kid’s apple juice delicately held in her hands. “She was actually the reason we could find you. She was taking La’ei on a trip to distract her from the move when she got a call about their new house.”

            Lance blinked in confusion. “They’re moving away from the house?”

            Allura smiled. “Yes. Someone suddenly came into a way to earn a lot of money. So now, Shay and La’ei will have a nice little house where La’ei will be near the city and Shay can afford to be there. Someone seemed particularly invested in making sure they got a good home.”

            Lance blinked. So, Hunk wasn’t kidding about selling prosthetics for a worthy cause. It just wasn’t only La’ei he was making them for. He smiled to himself, not really registering how close he was to Shiro. “I’m glad. This place is a house, but I don’t think that it would have been a good home for the two of them.” He looked back up at Shiro, and his eyes widened at how close the two were. “Uh. I’m okay, Shiro. You can let me go now.”

            Shiro looked like he wasn’t registering what Lance was saying, but he pulled away eventually. “Got it.” He looked almost… sad about it too, until a throat cleared, and he made eye contact with “Keith!” He walked over, reaching out to gently touch Keith’s bicep. “Are you okay? What’s going on? Is everything alright?”

            Keith’s eyes were closed, as if he were trying to remember something, and then they opened again to look dead at Lance. There was something there… and it didn’t take Lance long to realize that it was intense envy. Not malicious, but definitely palpable. He lifted his gaze back to Shiro, and his eyes softened a tiny bit. “I’m fine, Shiro. I promise.” He returned the touch on Shiro’s bicep and smiled at him. “I just need to go now. I have a mission to do.”

            Shiro looked at the shorter man, and then at Kolivan who seemed to enjoy keeping his distance from the situation. “Oh.” He looked back down at Keith. “Well… we should probably talk soon.” He tried to say, but Keith’s eyes widened and then furrowed in concern. “Not that anything’s wrong! I just wanted to…” Shiro looked almost uncertain. “…catch up on some stuff?”

            Lance wasn’t sure why Shiro thought it best to ask Keith to talk about the past he didn’t remember in front of everyone, but as soon as he did, Keith’s eyes widened to the size of dinner plates, and there was a plethora of anxiety and fear. Like Keith had a secret Shiro could never know. “I don’t know if I’ll have that kind of time anymore, Shiro.” Keith nearly forced himself to say, taking a step away from the proximity. “I’m going to be training with the blade some more after this. I don’t know how long it’ll be, or how long it’ll take, but I doubt that I even have the time or patience to tell you everything.” He lowered his head. “I’m sorry.”

            Shiro’s face couldn’t be seen from Lance’s angle, but the silence said enough before Shiro cleared his throat. “No, that’s- that’s fine. I can probably ask Pidge.” He turned to them, a small smile. “Is that alright with you?”

            Pidge’s gaze was unreadable. “Sure.” They said almost mechanically. “I wouldn’t mind doing that.”

            “Perhaps when we are not so close to finding Haggar, yes?” Allura hurriedly added. “Perhaps when it is all over, we can simply take care of it then, and not a moment before.”

            Shiro frowned. “But-”

            “The memories aren’t that important.” Keith said forcibly. “They’re exactly what you think they are.”

            Shiro turned back to Keith. “Keith, I don’t even know what I think they are. I know that I went to school and became a pilot, but-”

            “That’s all you need to know, Shiro.” Keith cut him off. “I promise. There’s nothing else.” He nodded at Allura and Pidge, and then at Lance. “Take care of each other.” Keith said before leaving the house with Kolivan. Lance had a feeling it was more directed at himself. Take care of him.

            Shiro watched Keith leave almost forlornly, shoulders slightly slouched, and Lance for a moment, tried to see the shade of Shiro’s shimmers for the very first time. And he nearly gasped aloud when he didn’t see anything. Not a single speck of colour.

            Shiro didn’t have any shimmers at all.


 

            Hunk and Shay joined them at the truck later, hand in hand. They were both rosy cheeked, and La’ei was walking with Hunk’s hand in her own. Lance felt a small pang in his chest at the sight, and again wished that wherever in heaven his family was, that they were together. Hunk turned to La’ei, resting on one knee. “I need to leave now.” He whispered quietly, his eyes red. “Will you remember me?”

            La’ei swung her hands at her sides, smile dazzling. “Of course, Akeakamai. Will you remember me? Please?”

            Hunk choked up, pulling her into a hug. “Little one, I will never forget you.” He pulled back to stand up and smile at Shay. She was taller than Hunk, more muscular, but looked very softhearted. She was half Japanese and half Samoan, and Lance could tell from the minute he saw them that they loved each other very deeply. Hunk pulled her close, pushing their foreheads together. “Faatali mo au.” He could hear Hunk whisper.

            “I taimi uma” She whispered back with a small kiss to his lips.


 

            The ride back was quiet. Nobody really spoke a word as Hunk drove the group back to the house. Allura sat in the passenger seat, while Lance, Pidge and Shiro were in the back seat, Pidge in the window and Lance on the left side. They were on their laptop nonstop, furiously typing away at some code that Lance could only catch a few numbers of before giving up and staring at his own hands. Memorizing their lines.

            He killed your family.

            Haxus.

            He must pay.

            Lance felt the icy white heat in his chest once again as the man’s name reappeared in his consciousness. He still couldn’t figure out what it was. But it made his heart pound and his fingers twitch. Every time he thought about it. About him.

            Haxus.

            “Lance?”

            Pidge had finally turned their face away from the computer and was staring at him with concern. Nobody else had really looked at him, and Lance realized that he had been digging his nails so hard into his palms that his skin was bleeding. When did that happen? He tried to rise up with the fine façade, but instead, what came out of his mouth was “I need you to help me get to Las Vegas.”

            Pidge screwed up their face. “What? Why?”

            “The man…” Lance had to force himself to whisper. “The man who killed my family… he’s there.” The heat pulsed in his chest, made his throat tighten. Made him more aware. “I need to get there. I want to see him.”

            Pidge looked over to check if people were listening before leaning into Lance. “I don’t think I can explain to you how bad an idea that is, Lance. I don’t even know if their hunch is right. If we just go without anyone else, we could be in serious trouble and-”

            Lance gripped Pidge’s wrist, startling them. “Please.” He hadn’t meant for his voice to crack. Pidge’s eyes widened. “Please, Pidge. I… I need to know. I need to see him.” His voice wavered and wobbled even as he gritted his teeth. “I need to get there. I need to…” He failed to continue, a dry sob leaving his mouth. “Please.”

            “…Okay.” Lance almost didn’t recognize that they had finally agreed until they lifted his face, showing the tears he was desperately trying to hide. Honey gold eyes were calm and determined. “Okay, Lance.” They continued to speak, and Lance smiled at them. “It’s going to be okay. We protect our own.”

            Lance didn’t even wonder when he’d become one of them. He just knew that they were right.


 

            Pidge had chartered a private jet to get them from Apia to Las Vegas. They had all the stuff packed and ready to go when Shiro stepped out of the shadows, startling the fuck out of them both. “Shiro, you shouldn’t be here!” Pidge hissed, already looking around for the disapproving stares of Allura, Hunk and Coran.

            “Neither are you.” Shiro shot back. “And I’m not leaving.” He looked over at Lance, who was simply staring, and he stepped forward. “Lance, you and I both know something is wrong with this mission. You and Pidge were both smart enough to fly under the radar of Allura, but neither of you have a piloting license like I do. I’m coming with you.”

            Pidge looked at Shiro without all the sarcasm and dry banter they usually had. “Why?” They asked quietly, stepping forward to examine him. “Why are you coming with us? We all have our reasons, but why you?” They looked Shiro up and down, as if trying to find something. “What is driving you?”

            The question made Shiro pause, and he looked down at his hands. “Since I woke up without my memories… Keith has always been different. It didn’t even matter that since I woke up he’s been avoiding me, ignoring me. I want to prove that I’m still the Shiro he remembered. I can help him. I can be there for him.” He let his hands fall. “I hope that he still remembers the man I used to be.”

            “He does.” Pidge said immediately. “I promise, Shiro. He does.” They looked at Lance, that same unreadable gaze in their eyes. “Well, looks like it’s back to the OG three. You, me and Shiro. We get to see Keith sing, too.” They rubbed their hands together. “It’s so gonna be blackmail.”
            Lance blinked. “Is that part of his cover?”

            Pidge grinned. “Yeah. Keith’s undercover at a drag bar as a singer and queen. It’s a favourite place of the target.” Lance and Shiro both flushed at the idea, and Pidge cackled.


 

            Haxus… Lance thought to himself on the plane. His vision flickered with a midnight blue shimmer as his hands tightened in the blanket.

            If you can hear me… You’d better run.

Chapter Text

Something was wrong.

Lance was wrong. Lance was off. He could tell as soon as he woke up on the private plane, that something inside of him shifted. When he opened his eyes, he realized almost immediately that there were shimmers floating around almost like dust particles in the air, and all of them were dark blue, almost humming with an energy that he couldn’t describe. He sat up and carefully watched them, not paying attention to the two that were in the cockpit. “What are you?” He said quietly, sliding out of the chair and standing up to simply watch them. He couldn’t… he couldn’t seem to feel any sort of emotion. No joy, no sorrow, no anger. He felt… nothing.

Until he reached out and touched one of the shimmer shards.

Suddenly he was back in the courtroom, back in the emotional state that he was left in as they openly showed those horrid photos of his family. Of everything he had lost. He pulled his hand back quickly, and the vibrancy of the emotions disappeared. A press of fingers once again, and those same horrid feelings were back, and Lance gasped as he ripped his hand away, backing himself into the comfort of nothing.

Wouldn’t you like to forget?

A strange voice, almost a hiss, registered in his brain and he whirled around. “Who are you?” He asked calmly. “What do you want?”

I am someone who has been watching you from the start the Voice spoke. I know what you can do. I know that you are like me. I know you are in pain.

“Pain is something I can live with.” Lance said, turning again. The plane was getting darker, though the lights remained on, like he was standing in a fog. “I don’t think forgetting would help me.”

The voice started sounding softer, warmer. Like a mother’s. Some things are best left forgotten, Lance. I’m going to meet you soon, and you will have a choice. I can teach you how to harness your abilities, make you into the ultimate weapon. Help you destroy those who stand in our way. Lance blinked, and suddenly the fragments floating around the room returned back into a very human shape, with different parts glowing different shades. I can teach you how to remove the pain from your heart. The figure suddenly released a small, triangular piece of shimmer, leaving a pitch black hole in the figure standing in front of him. It floated into his hand as the voice continued. And I can show you how to use it as a tool against others.

It was a memory. Of Haxus begging for his life before being shot in the head. The hand that held it didn’t shake, didn’t quiver. It was Lance’s own hand.

And in the memory, Lance felt nothing less but satisfaction and hunger.

Hunger for more.


“We’re here.” Pidge said quietly. “Cesar’s Palace.”

Shiro looked a little confused. “I thought we were staying somewhere… inconspicuous.”

The shortest of the bunch looked back at him, a grin on their face. “What’s more inconspicuous than staying in a large, grandiose hotel in Las Vegas?” They turned back, leading Lance and Shiro inside. “Besides, my contact is in there. He’s got us all set up.”

Lance said nothing, barely even noticing the way that Shiro side eyed him.

The man that was standing in the hotel lobby was a tall, lightly tanned gentleman with lavender hair and a chiseled jawline. He was dressed smartly in an American suit, black with the lapels slightly lined with purple. His socks were even matching, and his hair was slicked back to show off his handsome features. A thick eyebrow raised on his forehead, and his gaze didn’t flicker or give anything away to Shiro and Lance, but when his eyes landed on Pidge, he couldn’t help but smile indulgently. “It’s been a while.” He said. “I’m glad to see you’re still up and about.”

Pidge absolutely grinned at him before turning to the two members of their own party. “Shiro, Lance, this is Oliver Prince. He’s part of Keith’s group. He’s logistics.” Oliver inclined his head forward just that little bit, smiling at the two of them. “He’s also almost as good as I am at coding.”

“You flatter me.” Oliver said humbly, looking back at the two men and schooling his features. “Pidge called in a favour. I can’t say this is on official Marmora records.” He narrowed his gaze in on Lance. “I can’t allow you three to get involved in Keith’s mission. But I can help you watch and observe.”

“Observe?” Shiro asked curiously.

“If you’ll follow me.” Oliver turned to the elevator, taking a keycard and getting in, the three others following suit. “I had a special suite reserved for the three of you.” He spoke quietly as they went up several floors, eventually stopping at the top and stepping off. As soon as the elevator doors opened, they revealed a large, grandiose… Lance couldn’t describe it as a room. A mansion felt more proper. “Welcome to the Nobu Villa. It’s got three bedrooms, three and a half bath, a pool table, a spa, and plenty of privacy.” He stepped towards the large television and turned it on, smiling as security cameras appeared. “Here. You can see everything. The Cesar hotel has plenty of private performances, and Keith is appearing as one. He’ll be performing tonight.”

“Performing?” Shiro looked a little taken aback. “Keith performs?”

Oliver looked a little bit confused. “Yes. Keith’s a very talented singer and musician.”

Shiro’s brow furrowed. “I would think I remembered that. We’ve been close forever. Since we were kids. How could I not know that?” He stared at the floor, a troubled look growing on his face.

Lance looked at the taller man, concern showing on his face. “Oliver.” He turned to the marmoran. “Is there a way that we can go see Keith perform but not interfere?”

At the suggestion, Oliver looked a little troubled. He grasped his chin between pointer and thumb, furrowing his brow. “I could get you into there, but it would be a little bit complicated concealing Shiro from sight. He does tend to draw attention to himself, looking the way he does.” Shiro flushed a soft pink, and Oliver grinned before looking back at Lance. “But if I can get Shiro to look less like a whole ass meal, I could probably get you two in. Maybe I can dye his white patch black? Or maybe I can get him a wig.”

“A wig, please.” Shiro quietly requested. “Hair dye makes me sneeze a lot.”


 

            It was hard for Lance to focus. Every time that he would try, his brain would simply get louder and louder until he had to stop and try to calm himself down. At some points in the time between getting to the hotel and getting ready to watch Keith, he would either feel like he was in a third person videogame, or hyperaware of everything around him to the point it would make him dizzy. Some points he would find himself desperately trying to focus on the reality around him, and sometimes he would simply be doing something and not remembering how or when he got to it. In what felt like no time at all, he was dressed and ready to go. His hair was slicked back, his eyeshadow and contour were done to the nines, and his slim navy-blue suit made his eyes pop. So why was he having so much trouble staying focused?

            A knock on the door made him turn his head, and he was nearly taken aback at how Shiro looked. He was dressed to the nines in an all-black suit, tie nearly blending in with the onyx silk shirt he was wearing. Black oxfords adorned his shoes, and instead of his usual buzzcut, Shiro had long black hair, down to his shoulders. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep the white tuft from popping out, giving him a streak of white down the wig in an attempt to hide it. “Lance?” His voice was soft, and Lance swallowed weakly, suddenly becoming hyperaware of himself. “Do you have a moment to talk?”

            “I-yeah, Shiro.” He stood off of the bed, smoothing out his jacket and buttoning his waistcoat. “What’s up? Is everything okay?”

            Shiro stepped into the room, shutting the door with a quiet click. He fiddled with the doorknob, strands of hair obscuring his face from view. “I know that… I know who we’re going to see tonight.” He lifted his head, his gaze focused. “I know who will be there. Lance, I need to know that you’re going to be alright. I need to know that you’re not going to do anything drastic.”

            Anger rose up in Lance. “Oh, because I’m the one that needs to watch himself.”

            Shiro flinched. “You know what I mean. I know what it’s like to lose yourself.”

            Lance’s eyes flashed, and he stepped forward. “Yeah. I know what it’s like to lose literally everything, Losing my family was it for me. I’ve mourned, I’ve tried to keep it together.” He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. “I just… I need to see the face of a man who did it. The man who killed my family.” That black pit feeling returned to his stomach, and in that moment, he looked truly terrifying. “I just need to see him.”

            Shiro looked… almost afraid. “I’m going to keep an eye on you.” He mumbled, stepping forward to gently place a hand on Lance’s cheek. Blue eyes flickered up to silver, and Shiro did his best to wear a reassuring smile. “It’ll be okay. We’ll see…” Something changed on Shiro’s face. “We’ll get to see Keith, and then we’ll be able to see Haxus. We will not engage.”

            Lance wrestled a smile onto his face, small and assuring. “Okay.”

            Fat fucking chance.


 

            If Lance could describe the dive bar they were in, he’d describe it as velvet. There was dim lighting, the chairs were all plush and elegant, and large curtains obscured the stage. He and Shiro stepped into the room, exhaling in relief as nobody’s gaze was drawn to them. Pidge had opted out of the field this time around, simply choosing to act as eyes and ears. Shiro’s hand was resting carefully on Lance’s rib cage, keeping him close. Be it as reassurance or a leash, Lance wasn’t sure. But he could feel his body vibrating with a new kind of energy, one that he’d never experienced before.

            He knew Shiro had a gun holstered on his left side.

            “Here’s our seats.” Shiro murmured, pulling Lance out of the now constant daze he was rapidly getting used to. They were in the middle of the room, a round table in front of them with champagne sitting on top. “It’s going to start soon.”

            “Gentlemen…” Pidge’s voice was heard in their miniature earpieces. “The target has entered. He’s going to be sitting behind you. Whatever you do, do not look back.”

            Lance had to physically restrain himself from twisting his head like a fucking owl.

            “Stay calm.” Shiro murmured to him, leaning over as if he were to whisper soft words in his ear. “Haxus is meant to be anonymous here. If he sees us looking, he will know we know him. We must be patient. Patience yields focus.” Lance didn’t register the kiss to the lobe of his ear until it suddenly became cooler. “Everything’s going to be okay.” Shiro whispered. “We’re going to be okay.”

            Lance almost felt himself respond, almost felt himself relax, but the lights darkened even more until a trickle of light was visible from beneath the curtains Alone. “Ladies and Gentlemen…” A voice practically whispered, making the particles in the air vibrate with tension. “Tonight we have a treat for you. He’s known for his sultry voice, his words, and his sorrows. Hard to track down, but here he is. The Hanged Man!”

            Lance could hear Shiro’s breath catch as the curtains opened. At first, the silhouette of a piano was only visible, but soon figures appeared, and at the front… a spotlight appeared, and Lance too felt himself stiffen.

            Keith looked… unhinged. He wore Italian shoes, and a maroon suit with white shirt unbuttoned. His hair curled in the limelight, and his eyes, for the first time ever, his eyes were unguarded. Every hidden flicker of red exploded through the room, but Lance could only focus on the man onstage when a tense rhythm started rising through the floorboards. Keith’s eyes stared at nothing as he finally spoke:

            If you’re a lover, you should know

            The lonely moments just get lonelier

            The longer you’re in love than if you were alone

            His voice deepened from its original rasp, sounding nearly angelic.

            Memories turn into daydreams, become a taboo.

            Lance’s eyes couldn’t stray from the way Keith whipped the mic around the stage, hair flying as he moved with purpose, eyes blazing with such unbridled anger and loss… It made him shiver. This was his chance. He mentally reached out for the flickers of red. He was almost immediately assaulted with memories. Green lights. Kisses. A hand. Silver and Gold rings. 

            "I love you." 

            Keith snarled into the mic.

            Baby, we built this house of memories.

            Take my picture now, check it ‘til you see it!

            And when your fantasies become your legacies,

            Promise me a place

            In your house of memories.

            “What is this?” Shiro’s voice shook. Lance could only turn his head to Shiro for a moment. The other man was pale, eyes wide and fingers shaking from where they gripped the fabric of his pants. “What is this? What is he doing? Why is he?...” He couldn’t tear his eyes away from Keith’s explosive presence on the stage, yanking his jacket off and throwing it down. “Why… Why does my head hurt…”

            Suddenly the tempo changed, and the piano rose to the center of attention. Something seemed to crack in Keith’s face, and he gripped the microphone tightly in both hands as he sang even louder.

            Those thoughts of past lovers,

            They always haunt me.

            I wish I could believe

            You never loved me!

            And will you remember

            Me in the same way…

            Keith and Lance’s eyes connected.

            …As I remember you?...

            Violet eyes widened. Flickered over to Shiro, who looked stricken. Fuck. And as soon as it registered, a raw sense of fury overtook Keith’s face. The red that flickered over the walls began to boil. Keith’s grip on the microphone tightened so hard that Lance could see it even from the distance. When his gaze flickered to Shiro, fear flashed over his face suddenly. He looked almost as anxious and afraid as Shiro did.

            But he had to keep singing.

            Baby, we built this house of memories.

            Take my picture now, check it ‘til you see it.

            And when your fantasies become your legacy…

            Promise me a place

            In your house of memories.

            The room exploded into sound, and in a flash, Shiro was gone. He booked it out of the room, and Lance could barely make it onto his own two feet. The music blared behind them, and as Lance reached Shiro, he grabbed him by his hand. “Shiro! Stop! What’s going on?!”

            Shiro was gripping his head like any more pressure added to it would crush his skull open. His eyes were wide, and he was breathing heavily with his mouth open, as if he were choking to death. “Stop it. Stop it! I can’t… Aagh!” He nearly bent in half, falling to his knees. “Stop stop stop stop stop-”

            “Excuse me…” A voice slid over his ear, and Lance looked up to see a Vietnamese man watching the situation with a little concern in his gaze. He was wearing grey slacks and a black silk shirt, purple bowtie adorning his neck. “I’m a doctor. Is there any way I can help you? Is he injured?”

            Lance could feel a sense of anxiety radiating from Shiro. “I think-” Shiro let out another cry, and Lance felt his stress skyrocket. “Please help him. Please.”

            “Of course.” The man knelt down, short black strands of hair falling into his face. “My name is Haxus. Let’s see what we can do to help your friend.”

            …

            Lance’s face lifted. The world went silent. The man was saying something. Haxus was saying something.

            Lance pulled the gun out of Shiro’s holster and fired.

Chapter Text

Mama

Papa

Benji

Leo

Angela

Juanita

Amelia

Mama. Papa. Benji. Leo. Angela. Juanita. Amelia. Mama. Papa. Benji Leo. Angela. Juanita. Amelia.

Lance couldn’t hear the world around him. He could barely feel the wind of people sprinting past him to the exit. It was all muffled, even the shouts of the man standing below him, shoulder clutched in pain. He could feel nothing.

Mama.

“P-Please!!” Haxus’ voice cracked, his whole-body shudders visible as he tried to drag himself away from Lance, who only tilted his head at the panic in the man’s voice. “Is this about money? Do you need money?”

Papa.

“I-I have lots of it!” The pitch of the man scrabbling for safety only rose the longer Lance stared at him, eyes wide and unmoved by his pitiful state. “I’m in touch with some very powerful people!!! I can make you rich!!!”

Benji.

“I don’t want your money.” Lance could feel his lips moving, but not hear his own voice. The more he came back into consciousness of the world around him, the more he realized the colours were being drained. Slowly, the world was becoming monochrome. “I just want your life.”

Leo.

Haxus squinted at him, if for only a moment before his eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. “It’s you… The Paradox.” He desperately searched Lance’s face for any kind of curiousity at the name, but paled visibly when he found none. “Wait- Wait! I can help you! I can tell you whatever you want to know?”

Angela.

Lance fired directly at Haxus again, grazing his shoulder and making him howl in pain, dropping from his elbow to the ground. Dark red velvet absorbed the blood as if it were part of the carpet to begin with, seamless. “WAIT!!” Haxus screamed. “Please!!! I can help you!! I can tell you why they were killed!!!”

Juanita.

“Telling me why they were killed will never bring them back.” Lance could suddenly hear himself again. The room was empty, nobody else in there except for himself, Haxus… Shiro and Keith, who was now barreling down the walkway. A hot rush of anger flooded Lance’s veins, and he jerked the gun forward once more. “But I’ll give you a fighting chance, murderer.”

“Lance…” Keith breathed out, hands raised. “You need to stop.”

Lance ignored him. “Tell me their names.”

Amelia.

Haxus was breathing heavily, laying on his black with blood spilling from a hole in his right shoulder and a bullet wound in his left forearm. “Their names? That’s easy!” Relief spread across the man’s features. “Zarkon, Haggar, formerly known as Hon-”

Lance shot again, startling Keith as Haxus screamed from the bullet lodging in his thigh. “NOT THOSE NAMES!!” He screamed, gnashing his teeth. His voice echoed throughout the room, though Lance couldn’t give a fuck at that moment. “The names of my family, the names of the people you MURDERED I WANT TO FUCKING HEAR YOU SAY THEIR NAMES!!”

“Lance!” Keith shouted, taking a step forward. “Stop!”

“YOU KILLED MY FUCKING FAMILY!!!” Lance only screamed louder, tears rolling down his face as he brandished the gun wildly, too far gone in his own monochrome world. “YOU KILLED MY PARENTS, MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS AND I WANT YOU TO FUCKING SAY THEIR NAMES BEFORE I KILL YOU!”

Haxus stared at him with wide eyes. “I-”

“There are seven bullets left in this magazine.” Lance’s voice was throaty from his unbridled rage. “With each name you say, One bullet will be taken away.” He could feel Keith’s eyes on him, and could feel the fear that oozed off of him in waves. “If you even name all of them, you can die quickly.”

Haxus was breathing heavily, trying desperately to search Lance’s face for any sort of bluff. “You need me.” He tried to bargain. “You need me. I know why your family was murdered. I know why you’re called the Paradox. I know what Haggar wants with you.”

Lance leaned over and pressed the gun against Haxus’ head, practically grinding the metal into his sweaty skull. “I. Don’t. Fucking. Care. You took away my life. You took away my family. You took away my hopes and dreams.” He fingered at the trigger, a snarl making its way across his features. “I don’t fucking need anything else except your head blown all over the walls.”

Do it.

The voice. Lance only tightened his grip on the gun, watching the man beneath its unforgiving metal try not to shit himself in fear.

Kill him. Heal the hole in your heart.

“Lance.” Shiro. Lance felt his whole body tense up, and he didn’t move his head at all, only looking at the now standing man who was clutching his head and groaning still. “Lance. Please, listen. Don’t do this. Don’t become like us.”

Lance’s eyes flashed back to Haxus, who’s breathing was becoming less and less frequent. “Why?!” He barked hoarsely. “Why shouldn’t I? He took everything from me. He hasn’t even said their names. He probably doesn’t even fucking know them.”

Keith stepped forward. “Revenge is a cycle. You can’t continue it, or it won’t stop. Someone will come after you, we’ll come after someone because they came after you, it never ends.”

“Keith’s right.” Shiro too stepped forward, voice soft and arms open. “You need to end it here. Your family can never rest if they see you like this. If you kill someone, you’ll never see their faces again.”

Ignore them. KILL HIM!

Kill. Kill him. KiLL HIM KILLHIMKILLHIMKILLHIMKILL-

“’Ance!” Lance’s head jerked up, eyes wide and back suddenly covered in a cold sweat. Did he… hear that? Something tingled in his chest, and he found himself staring at a small shard of blue, slowly pushing its way out of his chest. It glowed so brightly that he nearly had to hide his eyes, but after a moment, he tentatively reached out for it, hesitating when he realized it was no larger than the size of his own thumb. As soon as his skin contacted it, his own voice made it back to his own ears:

“One day… one day I’ll be going to YOUR graduation, Angelito, and you’d best believe I’m going to be cheering for you every step of the way.”

Oh god. What would his family think of him? What… what was he doing?...

After a second, the blue shard returned into his chest, and the gun dropped from Lance’s hand as the world rushed back to its original colours.

“Lance!” Shiro rushed towards him, holding him close when he didn’t respond. “Are you okay?...” He cupped his cheek and tilted his head, making a noise of fear when Lance’s legs gave out from beneath him.  “Oh, fuck, Keith…”

Before Haxus could even make a move for the gun, Keith was in front of him, kicking him so hard in the face that he fainted immediately. “Fucking Galrans.” He spat, a snarl on his lip. “Shiro, I’m going to call in the blades, and I need you to take Lance up to my room.” Keys jangled in the air, but Lance vaguely registered the fact that Shiro had caught them. He’d nearly killed someone.

He nearly killed someone and enjoyed it.


 

Shiro was quiet. The room was small.

Lance almost murdered a man.

“Lance…” Shiro’s voice was soft. Lance didn’t move. “I need you to eat something.”

How could he? How could he even think about ending someone’s life? It wasn’t his right, it wasn’t a power he should even have.

“I’m fine, Shiro.” Lance whispered, as if speaking any louder would breach his last wall of defense. “I just… need some time.”

If he had gone through with it? What then? What else would have happened? Could he have even lived with it? What if he had suddenly taken a liking to it? What if he wanted to do it more? What if he’d-

A hand touches the skin of his knuckles, and Lance nearly jumped out of his skin. Before he could snap anything, Shiro was kneeling at his feet, holding his left hand in both his prosthetic and human arm. “Lance. Please talk to me.” Shiro sounded nothing less than desperate. “You need to say something, or else I’m going to freak out, and you’re not going to like me when I’m freaking out.” The hands holding his own were trembling, Lance vaguely realized as he stared at them. “Things like that, holding something so powerful and wanting to use it, it’s a terrifying feeling. It’s something that I can’t explain, but I am just so, so grateful that you didn’t do it.” Shiro pressed their hands against his forehead, almost looking like a man in prayer. “I’m so glad you stopped.”

A momentary slip made Lance finally speak up. “How do you do it?” He whispered. Shiro lifted his face back up, and Lance could feel the words tumble out of his mouth. “How can you kill people so easily? How can you do it and then be afraid when I have a gun in my hands? Against the man who…” His throat tightened. “…who caused me so much pain and agony. Who killed an infant. Children. How can you be so calm in doing it yourself but afraid when it is me?”

Shiro watched Lance speak for a moment, and continued to wait as Lance started crying once more, streaks shining on his face from the dim room lighting. “Why can’t I stop hurting?...” he rasped. “Why can’t I heal from this? Why do I have to be happy knowing I’m going to be sad later?”

Shiro let out a little noise, pausing for a moment before slowly moving upwards. One hand released Lance’s and cupped his cheek, kissing him softly and with such intense emotion that Lance could nearly taste it. “It’s because you’re going to be sad later.” Shiro murmured, stroking his thumb across Lance’s cheekbones. “Lance, I don’t remember much of myself after recruitment. I remember nothing at all. I can’t explain to you how I’ve become who I am. And Sendak…” His voice trailed off. “…It was either him or the people I love to death.”

Lance’s breath hitched. Love?

Shiro rested his forehead against Lance’s own, lower lip trembling. “Just the thought of you dying, the thought of Pidge being alone without the whole truth, made me know what I had to do. I pray to whatever deities out there that you will never have to do the same. That you never have to make that choice. I can’t… I can’t cope with the consequences.”

“He has to pay.” Lance breathed.

“That is too high a price.” Shiro replied. “He has information that we need. We can’t kill him.” Lance raised an eyebrow. Shiro couldn’t stop a small smile. “Yet. But for now…” He stood, holding Lance’s hand and gently tugging him towards the bed. “We must sleep. I need to keep you warm and safe.”

Lance’s laugh was exhausted. “And you think you can keep me safe all by yourself?”

A different voice replied. “No. That’s why he has me.”

Lance looked back to see Keith was leaning on the edge of the wall, relaxing in red plaid pajama pants and a black tank top. “I…” Lance’s loss for words was palpable, even as Keith took a step back. “How did you get in here?”

“It’s my room.” Keith simply replied. “I know how to get in and out of here.” His eyes drifted over to Shiro, and softened. “How is everything?” He asked quietly, reaching out for just a moment before pulling away. “Haxus is in custody. Ollie’s on cleanup.”

Immediately Shiro was back into action, nearly yanking down Lance to rest curled up into him, chest to chest. “It may be best to sleep it over.” He tried to reason. Lance knew that if Shiro were a dog, his tail would be wild and all over the place. “We will deal with Haxus in the morning.”

The bed groaned with extra weight, and for a moment, Lance wasn’t sure what was happening until a warm chest pressed against his back and a warm hand rested on his stomach. “Sleep.” Keith whispered into Lance’s ear. “We’ll talk about it tomorrow.” A kiss pressed against the shell of his ear, and Lance sighed

Sleep descended on him quickly.


 

Do I look lonely?...

I see the shadows on my face…

People have told me

I don’t look the same…

Lance could tell he was in a memory at this point. He was in some sort of elegantly styled jazz club, where everything was washed with monochrome and there was no glow or style to the room. Yet… someone could be heard. Singing.

Someone familiar.

Maybe I’ve lost weight,

I’m playing hooky…

With the best of the best

Put my heart on my chest

So that you can see it too…

Lance turned to the stage, and a figure stepped out, and for the first time in the memory, a soft warm red appeared, in the shape of a suit. Where a crazed man once stood, haunted on the stage, was now a Keith Kogane with undercut and happy eyes. He had rosy cheeks and a smile so wide he could barely sing the notes correctly. Lance could hardly believe his eyes as the younger version of the hitman fidgeted with the microphone a little, looking… shy.

I’m walking the long road,

Watching the sky fall

The lace in your dress tangles my neck

How do I live?...

The music surged, and Keith threw a hand into the air as the room exploded into colourful reds and purples, patterned to be stark contrasts with gold interlaid between them as Keith sang up into the sky. Lance’s breath was taken away at the vibrancy that was so obviously interlaced with joy and unbridled excitement. Something was amazing, something had been so perfect that it’d even taken Keith out of his shell of solitude and moping. It looked like a grandiose Broadway show, and the intricate chandelier that hung above him exploded into a shower of gold, making the room even brighter as Keith jumped off the stage, moving towards him general area.

The Death of a Bachelor, oh!

Letting the water fall.

The Death of a Bachelor, oh-oh-oh!

Seems so fitting for

Happily ever after, ooh!

How could I ask for more?

Keith’s and Lance’s eyes connected. But Keith wasn’t looking at him.

A lifetime of laughter

at the expense…

Shiro stepped through Lance’s form, taking Keith’s hand and dipping him, pressing his lips onto Keith’s skin. A ring burned gold on his finger as Keith tugged Shiro up for a kiss, the taller man’s grip tight on Keith’s waist.

Shiro’s tight, violet grip.

…of the Death of a Bachelor.