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Left Behind

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Pidge and Hunk both stared at the door after Lance left. They had been able to make out enough of what had been said to understand that Lance was gone, and he wasn’t coming back. Both of them desperately wanted to do something, but the shock had all but paralyzed them.

As the shock disappeared, Hunk bent over as he sobbed and Pidge stood up. She was shaking with anger as she stormed out of Lance’s room and down the stairs. Hunk bolted up, following her with tears still streaming down his face.

Mrs. McClain looked shocked when she looked up at them. Her face was red and blotchy from crying. She jumped when Pidge started screaming.

“How could you just…! Now he’s just…! He’s gone and you just…!” Pidge had her finger pointed the woman as started crying herself. “He’s gone! Just… Just like…”

When she started sobbing, her voice breaking as she tried to continue talking, Mrs. McClain walked towards her and pulled her into a tight hug. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want it like this…”

“He’s gone…”

Hunk stood at the bottom of the stairs and let out a sob when Mrs. McClain looked at him. She moved one arm off of Pidge to motion for him to join the hug.

Pidge pulled out of the hug, wiping her eyes under her glasses and pulled her phone out. “We need to call the cops.”

“But…” Mrs. McClain took a few deep breaths. “It’s…”

“It was hours before Shiro reported Keith missing, days before any realized Shiro and Matt were missing. Do you want to wait four years to see Lance again? Because I can’t!” Pidge shrieked at her. Hunk reached for her, but she batted his hand away. “And if you and your husband get in trouble because of an illegal loan, good! This is your fault! It’s your fault that Lance is gone.”

“Pidge, it isn’t… she was just…” Hunk tried to look at her pleadingly, but Pidge’s focus was on the older woman who looked like she had just been punched.

“No, Katie, you’re right. This is my fault… Call them, the police.”

Pidge dialed her phone and held it up to her ear, her body shaking as she was crying again. “I need to report an abduction…”

Hunk put a hand on her shoulder as he heard the person on the other side of the line ask her some questions.

“His name is Lance McClain, he’s nineteen… from his home about five-ten minutes ago.” She swallowed hard. “Yeah, that sounds like the right address… It’s a long story… it’ll be easier to explain to an officer.”

She looked up at Hunk and he gave her a reassuring smile as she waited to answer the next question. “My name? Katie Holt… yeah… yeah, Matt Holt’s sister… yeah… thank you.”

The line went dead and Pidge turned to press her face into Hunk, who wrapped his arms around her tightly. She was sobbing. “I can’t do this again…”

He shushed her and Mrs. McClain moved to sit in the living room. None of them moved from where they were until a knock on the front door made them all jump. Mrs. McClain opened the door, motioning for the cops at the door to come in.

“Katie.” A man with an orange mustache said after setting his eyes on Pidge.

“Captain Coran!” She rushed over to him, wiping her eyes again.

“Why don’t we call go to the living room and we can discuss what happened.” He motioned towards the living room. Mrs. McClain nodded and moved first.

The two uniform officers stayed standing as one of them took notes. Mrs. McClain did most of the talking, since she had seen the men, heard the entire exchange. She sobbed through it.

“And, where exactly did you get this loan that the Galra were collecting on?” Coran asked after getting all the information from Lance’s actual disappearance. “Or where you dropped off payments?”

“I don’t know… my husband… he always went alone…” She let out a whimper as she covered her face. “What am I going to tell him…? tell my daughters…?”

“Can you call your husband, tell him to come home? Any information we can get will help us get your son home. Every minute he’s gone…” Coran looked at Pidge as he trailed off. She looked away, clenching her fists.

“Yeah… just… give me a minute…” Mrs. McClain stood up and left the living room. A few moments later she was talking on the phone in Spanish through her sobs.

“Katie, you and your friend should go. There isn’t anything else you can do to help here…” Coran smiled at her sadly.

“You-… You’ll keep me updated, right? About Lance?” Pidge swallowed hard.

“Of course. We’ll find him.”

“Yeah, like you found Keith, Shiro, and Matt.” She scoffed as she stood up. “Come on Hunk.”

“Pidge, we still have stuff…” Hunk said as they walked out of the house.

“I can’t go up there… can you?” Pidge looked up at him. He swallowed hard and shook his head. “Why… why did this… I can’t go through this again… Hunk… I can’t…”

“I know what you mean.”

*-*-*-*-*-*

Coran and the other cops had just left. Mrs. McClain was sobbing again and Mr. McClain was standing completely still next to the couch. Neither had said anything to each other since he had gotten home. He had answered all of the cops questions honestly, but with a coldness that expressed how uncomfortable he was to have the cops involved.

“The girls will be home soon. We need to think of what we’re going to tell them.” He finally said when his wife’s sobs stopped. She hadn’t stopped crying, but she was doing so silently again.

“We can’t lie to them.” She sniffled as she looked around for something to wipe her eyes. When she saw her husband handing her one, she felt like sobbing again. “But… but they’re so young…”

“Sarah is old enough to understand… but Melanie and Allison…” He sat down next to her and shook his head. “I’m so sorry… this is…”

“This is both of our faults… we could’ve… should have figured something else out…” She turned towards him. “Because we… now our baby boy is…”

He wrapped his arms around her and shushed her. “We’ll get him back, I’ll get him back.”

They separated when they heard the door open and the sound of their three daughters all talking excitedly. Allison and Melanie were talking about movie plans they had with Lance after dinner. Sarah walked into the living room, calling for their mom.

She dropped her bookbag when she saw her parents’ absolutely distraught faces. “What’s wrong?”

The two shared a look before looking back up at her. “Why don’t you get your sisters and sit down. There’s… there’s something we need to tell you.”

“What about… where’s Lance?”

Mrs. McClain started sobbing again. Her husband pulled her closer as he called for the other two girls. Once the three girls were sitting, Mr. McClain cleared his throat and looked anywhere other than at his daughters. “Something happened today… something bad…”

Sarah was already crying, but the younger two looked confused.

“Some bad people took Lance away.” He took shuddering breath as he felt tears come to his eyes. “The police are looking for him as we speak but…”

“He’s gone… like… Keith?” Melanie and Sarah were both sobbing. “They’re going to find him, though, right?”

“Yes, hopefully we’ll see him again very soon.” He wiped his eyes as started crying. “We’ll see him soon.”

“For Christmas?” Allison looked around at her family, not sure whether or not she should be crying too.

No one answered her as her sisters both hugged her, sobbing violently.

Sarah and her parents were too upset to think about food, but the two younger girls complained that they were hungry. She made them food while her parents sat on the couch holding each other. Melanie and Allison barely ate their easy mac. They went to bed even earlier than usual.

“When is Lance coming back? He was already gone for so long…” Allison asked as Sarah pulled the covers over her.

“I don’t know. Soon, he’ll be back soon.” Sarah looked away as tears came to her eyes again. Her sister had been too young to remember Keith disappearing or Shiro and Matt. She didn’t really understand, so Sarah just lied. “Good night.”

“What happened?” Her voice had a cutting edge as she walked back into the living room.

When her parents finished explaining through their tears, she turned away. “Fuck both of you! This your fault and you… fuck you…”

It took a while for Mr. McClain to coax Mrs. McClain up to bed, but neither of them slept. He curled up into bed, his bedside lamp still on as he stared at the family photo he had on the nightstand. She opened the closet and pulled out the already wrapped Christmas gifts, holding one that had a tag reading ‘To Lance, From Papa Noel’, as she sobbed on the floor.

Chapter Text

Matt was doubled over laughing as Pidge did an impression of Lance flirting with a group of older girls at lunch. Pidge and Hunk had been watching him, an equal mixture of annoyed and amused until Lance managed to get a face full of mashed potatoes.

“Hunk said that is was a waste of food, and I had to talk him out of eating them when Lance scraped them off his face!” Pidge stifled a laugh at the memory. “They’re both so ridiculous!”

“I’m glad you made friends, I was really worried that you wouldn’t when you skipped so many grades last year.” Matt smiled at her after he finally finished laughing. “They’re good guys from I can tell.”

“Yeah, they’re pretty great, totally lame, but I don’t think I’d make it through school without them.” She tilted her head to the side. “The other day some of our classmates were harassing me about my age and Lance, smooth as ever, talked most of them down. Hunk just stood there with an intimidating look, even though he’s the kind of guy that carries spiders and stuff outside.”

“Wait, other kids were…” The smile fell off Matt’s face and she just waved her hand dismissively.

“It’s fine. You don’t need to protect me from everything.” She crossed her arms and smirked. “Lance and Hunk have it covered at school. Actually, it’s like I got some bonus big brothers.”

He grinned and tackle hugged her.

Groaning, she tried prying him off her but eventually gave up as she reached for her phone. He started gushing about how cute his little sister was, and how much he appreciated her friends.

When he finally let go of her, he started talking about a project for one of his classes that caught Pidge’s interest. She started giving him tips on how to improve it.

“Hey Matt.” Mrs. Holt called from the kitchen. “You said that Takashi was coming over for dinner, right?”

“Yeah Mom, that’s still okay, right?”

“Absolutely! I just wanted to make sure I put down enough plates.”

When Matt looked back at his sister she was giving him a fiendish grin. “Don’t look at me like that! He actually said he needed to talk to you.”

“Me? What the hell could your boyfriend have to talk to me about?” She raised her eyebrows.

“I don’t know, he’s been kind of anxious lately and he just keeps telling me everything is fine.” Matt sighed and rubbed the back of his neck.

“Ah-ha!” She pointed at him with a grin on her face. “So, you finally admit that he’s your boyfriend!”

He gave her an unimpressed look. “No, that’s not… ugh…”

“We share a wall Matt.”

His face went bright red as he started stammering out objections. She just kept grinning at him as he huffed and covered his face. “Please don’t say anything to him… he’s not comfortable with it being… public…”

“Alright fine, fine, but you guys aren’t very subtle.” She sighed as moved as she was sitting a little closer. “Do Mom and Dad know?”

“Yeah, we told them not too long after we started dating…” He was rubbing the back of his neck, not looking at her.

“That’s so gross, but I love you guys, you’re great together. Gross. But great.” Pidge hummed as she got up and headed up to her room.

Pidge was messing around on her computer when she heard the door open downstairs and her mother greet Shiro happily. She heard him talking through the wall she shared with Matt moments later. Her name came up. They must’ve been talking about her finally getting confirmation about their relationship.

Dinner had been quiet at the beginning, but then Mrs. Holt looked over at Shiro with a smile. “You’re being uncharacteristically quiet, Takashi. Is everything alright?”

He set down his fork and looked up with a halfhearted smile. “Yeah, it’s just… my little brother is moving in with the Smiths tomorrow, or he’s supposed to anyway…”

“What? Why didn’t you say anything? That’s great Shiro!” Matt smiled at him brightly, but the sad look on Shiro’s face made his smile drop. “Shouldn’t that be great?”

“It should be, it’s just… it’s been almost a year since I’ve seen him, and for them to transfer him with such short notice, something really bad must’ve happened at his last foster home.” Shiro looked down at his plate. “Last time I talked to him a couple weeks ago, I could tell something was wrong but he refused to admit it…”

Matt set his own fork down and put his hand on Shiro’s shoulder with a soft smile. “But you get to see him again, ask him about it in person. Maybe now that he’s out of that situation, he’ll open up.”

“I hope so, he’s never really been one to open up about anything, even to me.” Shiro closed his eyes, taking a few deep breaths. “Maybe things can finally be different for him here.”

“When he’s settled in, you should bring him over for dinner.” Mr. Holt said with a smile. “You’re a part of this family Shiro, so your family is just as welcome as you are.”

Shiro looked up at him with a smile and nodded. “I will, thank you.”

“How old is he, your brother, anyway?” Pidge asked, shoving a large bite into her mouth. Hunk was a bad influence.

“He’s 12, same grade as you, Hunk, and Lance.” Shiro turned to her. “I-I… I was actually hoping I could ask you a favor, Katie.”

“I just know I’m going to regret this, but shoot.” She leaned on her hand as she stared at him.

“Could you keep an eye on him? Maybe even try to hang out with him? He’s never had a lot of friends before, and I… I want it to be different for him here.”

Humming, she tilted her head to think. “What’s in it for me?”

“Pidge!” Matt and their mother both yelled at the same time, but Shiro just chuckled before giving her a challenging look.

“If you don’t, your brother and I will double down on the couple stuff whenever you’re around.” Shiro looked at her seriously.

Groaning, Pidge sunk down in her chair. “Fine, you got me, but you play dirty, Takashi Shirogane.”

“I know.” He shrugged and picked up his fork. “But, if you can convince Lance and Hunk to also try to be friends with him, I’ll throw in that new Zelda game you were looking at while we were at the mall.”

“You’re on!” Pidge shot up and pointed at him. He was grinning.

Matt huffed and smiled as he looked between his sister and his boyfriend. Mrs. Holt smiled and asked to know more about Shiro’s little brother. Pidge gaped at him as he talked about how much of a hothead and a loner the kid was. She had calculated that into her plan for forcing him to be her friend.

*-*-*-*-*-*

Lance dived to smack at the tiny ball. He made a triumphant noise as he launched it across the room, then made a pained noise as he hit the floor hard. Hunk took quick steps back but ran into Matt as he carrying a stack of snacks, both of them falling to the ground with the snacks flying around them comically. Pidge winced as she watched each fall, her eyes following the ball as she gripped her book tightly.

The ball just barely missed the director of the center and towards the back door as it opened. Shiro’s eyes went wide as he caught sight of the ball heading full speed for his face; quickly, he ducked and the ball flew past him and outside.

Shiro looked around, looking at the three boys on the floor, grunting in over exaggerated pain. He sighed as he helped Matt up first and then Hunk, who quickly squatted back down to pick up the snacks and apologizing profusely. Lance got up on his own and put his hands on his back.

“I’m okay, it’s fine…”

“You guys need to be more careful. Last week you guys broke one of the lights while playing pool.” Shiro crossed his arms.

“That was Keith!” Lance put his hands up.

“As I recall, you were the one goading him on Lance, so it was just as much your fault as his.” Pidge looked back down at her book.

“That was our last ping pong ball anyway, unless we move the vending machine or the computers.” Hunk scratched the side of his face after he loaded the snacks back into Matt’s arms.

Sighing, Shiro looked around again. “Speaking of my brother, where is he?”

“Take a wild guess.” Pidge kept her eyes on her book.

“What did he do this time?” He rubbed his face as he turned his body towards Lance.

“Before school started, a bunch of guys were harassing this girl – the nerdy kind with huge boobs, you know, Pidge’s type – anyway, he very nicely asks her if she needs any help and they tell him to mind his own business, and he tells them he wasn’t talking to them. Then one of them some very mean things I won’t repeat, and well… I pulled him off of them before any blood actually got spilled, but the principle was right there when he started throwing punches. I have lunch detention tomorrow because ‘I shouldn’t have gotten involved’.” Lance leaned on the ping pong table when he was done with a huff.

“Thank you for keeping him out of even more trouble Lance.” Shiro sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “And sorry about him getting you in trouble.”

“Nah, don’t worry about it.” He waved his hand dismissively as he popped his collar. “Just saving damsels in distress, it’s what I do.”

“Did your teeth just sparkle?” Matt asked, his face scrunching up with confusion.

“Are you talking about Keith? Because Keith saved the actual damsel…” Pidge looked up at him. He just looked back at her as his grin wavered.

“Thank you, Lance, Keith’s lucky to have a friend like you.” Shiro patted Lance’s shoulder before turning to his boyfriend. “Let me help you with those.”

Lance stretched up and then looked over at the TV. “Hey Pidge, put the book down, let’s play Smash Bros since the TV’s free.”

“Let me finish this page, go ahead and set it up. I call Kirby!” She lowered her gaze back to the book.

“You always call Kirby! Can’t you let someone else be Kirby every once in a while?” Lance whined.

“You guys know that more than one person can play a character, right? That’s a thing you can do?” Hunk asked as he looked between them.

“Yeah, but where’s the fun in that?” Lance pouted at Hunk.

Hunk shook his head and grabbed one of the controllers. “But who wants to be player one?”

Shiro sat next to him, taking the controller with a grin. “I’ll take that. Dibs on Mario.”

“Everyone needs to stop calling dibs! No one gets dibs!” Lance jumped over the sofa to sit next to Hunk.

*-*-*-*-*-*

Pidge looked up as there was quiet knock on the doorframe to her room. Keith was standing there with one hand awkwardly behind his head.

“Your mom let me in…” Keith pointed back towards the hallway and Pidge shrugged as she went back to looking at her laptop.

“It’s cool. I thought that you’d be breaking in your new room, I mean, this is the first time you’ve had your own room, right?” Pidge said as she felt the bed sink as he sat down.

“Yeah, but your brother is currently over there, and the walls in Shiro’s place are even thinner than here.” He groaned and she glanced up to watch him lay back on the bed.

“Ew.”

“Exactly.” Keith covered his face.

“But I’m surprised you came over here though, you usually only come visit me with Shiro or Lance.”

“Yeah, well…”

“Well what?” She asked it in a high-pitched voice, shutting her laptop. Somehow, she knew this was going to be a conversation that she needed to devote her full attention to.

“It’s nothing…”

“Nope, you don’t come into my room, acting extra emo and not tell me what’s going on!” She pointed at his face. “Unless it’s about sex, then please go talk to literally anyone else.”

“It’s kind of about sex?” He turned to look at her, looking unsure of himself.

She raised her eyebrows. “It’s either about sex, or it’s not about sex.”

Sighing, Keith looked away again. “It’s about Lance.”

“Lance?” Realization spread across her face. “Did you and Lance…!”

“No! No!” Keith sat up, crossing his arms. “We didn’t… but I think we both want to.”

Pidge took a deep breath and suppressed her strong desire to groan. “Have you guys talked about it, or something?”

Keith shook his head. “I just get this feeling sometimes, when he’s not being so infuriating… and I don’t know…”

“You know that Lance isn’t into casual sex the way you are, so…”

“I know! And I wouldn’t… with him I wouldn’t want it to be like it with the other guys I’ve slept with.”

“So, you’re saying that you want to date him? Because that’s what I’m hearing.”

“I don’t know. He’s so… frustrating sometimes, but I like our friendship the way it is. I don’t want to mess it up, because there’s no way I wouldn’t if we were…”

“How do you know that?” Her voice was soft.

He closed his eyes tightly, his arms tightening around his torso.

“I’m not really the best person to talk to about this kind of stuff.”

“I know exactly what Shiro would tell me, something corny from a Disney movie about ‘following my heart’.” Keith deflated a little. “And Hunk knows Lance best, but he’d accidently let it slip.”

“Maybe you should talk to Matt. I mean, he knows you pretty well, and he’s got that big brother thing going on, but he’s not going to be…”

“Like Shiro?” Keith huffed, looking up at her.

“Exactly. If I had relationship problems, I’d definitely talk to Matt about them.”

“Okay, thanks, I’ll talk to him… not now obviously, but he’s been over a few times when Shiro wasn’t there since I’ve moved in so…”

“He honestly just move in with you guys.” Pidge glanced at her laptop, itching to get back to work.

“It’s been discussed. He wants to give me and Shiro time to adjust, but he basically lives there even if they both deny it.”

She smirked and pulled her computer back onto her lap. “That sounds like something they’d do.”

As she logged back onto her computer, she motioned towards the TV. “Find something for background noise and I’ll show you what I’m working on.”

After a while of Keith blinking at Pidge as she explained the code and algorithms she was working on, Pidge looked up at him, trailing off. “So, Lance. What exactly…”

“I think I love him.” Keith’s face was bright red as he looked down.

Pidge couldn’t help but laugh and Keith glared at her. She put her hands up in defense. “Sorry, sorry. It’s just… you caught me off guard a little. It’s so corny, gross.”

“Shut up…” He grabbed one of her pillows and held it against his chest. “I-I… he’s just really…”

“Keith, you don’t have to justify your feelings.” Pidge smiled at him. “And, it’s totally gross, and super sweet.”

“I hate you. I knew I shouldn’t have said anything.”

*-*-*-*-*-*

“Oh my God Lance!” Pidge scrunched up her face as he put another scoop of face mask on her face. “What the fuck is this stuff? It feels disgusting!”

“Oh, hush, it’s going to clean your pores and exfoliate. Trust me, you’ll thank me when this is all over.” He grinned at, his own facemask cracking a little around his lips. “And stop moving your face, you’re making this harder on yourself.”

“Do you torture Hunk like this?” She groaned as she tried to relax her face, but the feeling on her skin was too weird.

“No, Hunk has naturally flawless skin, and honestly I’m so jealous.” Lance stuck on more goop. “Sarah will sometimes join me in my beauty routine but she’s such a tomboy.”

“I should’ve listened to her when she told me not to let you do this.”

“You’re making me watch those weird conspiracy documentaries with you, so you can do this for me. I mean, that’s fair, right?” Lance pouted at her, the mask cracking around his eyes now.

“Yeah, yeah. Just get this over with.”

A few minutes later when they were peeling off the masks, Pidge was swearing up a storm.

“You’re such a baby, no one has ever complained this much about skin care.” Lance leaned in the doorway of the bathroom, watching her struggle.

“Who else have you done this to?” She looked at him the mask half off and half on, her skin bright red with irritation where she had pulled it off.

Lance swallowed hard and looked down. “Keith used to do this with me whenever we had planned sleep overs. He complained the first time, but after that he’d just sit there and let me…”

“Oh.” Pidge braced herself against the sink and closed her eyes. “He’s the one that got me into watching conspiracy theory stuff.”

“I just wanted to… I haven’t actually done this myself for a while, I thought it’d be easier if I did it with someone else…”

“I know how you feel. You’re not the only one who missed him, you know that right?” Pidge looked up at him.

“Yeah, I know. Thanks Pidge.”

They stood there in awkward, sad silence for a while before Pidge looked at herself in the mirror and groaned.

“Now, will you come over here and get this stupid thing off my face before I punch you.”

He laughed, putting his hands up defensively as he walked into the bathroom.

Once their faces were washed, they sat on Lance’s bed. Lance was painting Pidge’s nails while they were watching a documentary on aliens.

“You were right, my face feels so nice.” Pidge rubbed her face with the hand he hand already painted.

“See? And you didn’t believe me.” He pointed at her with the brush before putting it back in the bottle. His gaze went to the TV as he raised an eyebrow. “Are they seriously accusing the aliens of being involved with the Civil War?”

“Yeah, sometimes this show is a little off the wall, but it really makes you wonder.” Pidge turned towards the TV.

An hour in to watching, and Lance was yelling at his TV, throwing his arms around. Pidge chuckled, watching him.

“You’re really getting into it.”

“Nothing they’re saying is making any sense!”

“There’s totally evidence! Do we have to rewatch this one, because…”

“There’s no way aliens had anything to do with this!” Lance groaned, throwing his hands towards the TV again. “Oh my God, how the…”

Pidge just grinned as she looked down at her nails, listening to the pseudoscientist on the TV kept getting more and more ridiculous.

Chapter Text

Neither of the parents in the McClain household had slept for a few nights. Mrs. McClain was sitting at the kitchen table, her hands shaking around her cup of coffee. Mr. McClain was standing behind his chair, his eyes locked on Lance’s usual chair.

Both of them looked up when Sarah stood in her tracks passing by on her way to the kitchen.

“Sarah…” Her mother called with soft voice.

The girl quickly turned and continued going to the kitchen, passing back through with a soda and a bag of chips in her hands. Mrs. McClain started sobbing when she heard her daughter’s door slam closed.

A few moments passed and Mr. McClain turned with a frustrated grunt. “I can’t just wait around…”

As he stormed out of the dining room, his wife shot up and started following him. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to get my son back.” He slipped on his coat and picked up his car keys. She reached out to him, but he was out the door before her hand grasped him.

She fell to her knees as the door closed. “Please come back.”

Eventually she moved upstairs, sitting in the center of Lance’s bed, holding one of his old stuffed animals. Allison found her after a while, curling up with her.

A few hours later, there was a knock on the door. Sarah moved quickly to go answer it, and it didn’t take long for her to call her mother downstairs.

“No…”’ Her eyes went wide when she saw Coran standing there with another officer. She stumbled towards the door. “Please tell me…”

Coran shook his head. “I’m sorry ma’am… we found your husband’s body…”

Mrs. McClain’s knees buckled again, but Sarah caught her, holding her tight as they both started crying.

“What… what happened?” Sarah looked over at Coran, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“From what we can tell, he confronted the Galra about Lance.” Coran sighed. “We’ll need you to come down to the station to confirm the identification, fill out paperwork to claim the body.”

Both women just sobbed, holding onto each other tightly.

*-*-*-*-*-*

 “What exactly are you doing?” Hunk asked, looking over at Pidge who had been typing furiously for a while.

She grimaced as she looked up at him, partially closing her laptop. “Uh… nothing?”

“Pidge.” Hunk crossed his arms. The two had spent almost every moment since Lance was taken together, but mostly they were quiet.

Sighing, she opened the laptop and turning around to show him the screen.

He scrunched up his eyebrows as he tried to process what he was seeing. “The community college? Pidge, why do you have the application for it open?”

“I’m taking a few classes here next semester… I can’t go back to MIT, I can’t leave…” Pidge looked away as she turned the screen back towards herself to finish the application.

“Why? Pidge, you go to MIT, you have a full ride!” Hunk stared at her.

“I’m just taking a semester off! They’ll let me back later… I want to be here… when Lance, and Matt, and Shiro, and Keith come home… I don’t want to be away from my parents.” Pidge chewed on her lip before looking up at Hunk. “I want you to stay too.”

“Pidge… I can’t just…” Hunk sat down and sighed. “What if we stay and we just disappear too?”

“Maybe we’d be with them…” Pidge closed her eyes tightly. “We’ve been trying to keep going, but we just lost another friend, how can we just…”

“Okay, okay, Pidge” He wrapped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her close as she started crying. “I’ll contact my school, take classes back home too. Maybe we can sign up for all the same classes.”

“Yeah, that would be great, we should definitely do that.” Pidge smiled up at him through her tears. “Let me show you what I sent my school.”

Hunk got up, coming back quickly with his own laptop. “Okay, and send me the link to that application.”

She nodded as she clicked and typed quickly, his eyes watching her screen carefully.

Chapter Text

It was the first day of school, and Hunk sat on the bench at recess by himself. Everyone else in his class had known each other since kindergarten, but he had just moved into town over the summer. His teacher had tried to push him towards a group of other heavy-set boys, but he didn’t really like them, they were mean.

“Name’s Lance.” A squeaky voice said next to him. Hunk looked over and saw someone standing behind the bench, leaning on the back and grinning at him. “You new too?”

Hunk nodded. He recognized the boy from earlier in the day. Lance had popped the collar of his polo and announced, for all the girls’ benefit, that he was single. Their teacher had been mortified by his statement, the girls were grossed out, and most of the boys were amused.

“Hunk right?”

He didn’t know what to say, so he just nodded again. Hunk had stammered out his introduction. There was no way someone like Lance would want to talk to him.

Still grinning, Lance stood up and then vaulted over the back of the bench and plopped down next to him. “So, you said you like cooking, right?”

“Uh… yes?” Hunk bit his lip, preparing for Lance to say something mean about it.

“Cool. I like eating, so I mean if you like cooking that means that you can just eat more good food, right?” He put his hands behind his head and looked at the group of the girls fighting over the swings.

“Do you want to go talk to them?” Hunk followed his gaze.

“Nah, I already struck out with all the girls in our class, I’ll have to try later, or spread my horizons to the third graders.” Lance smirked. “What do you like to make?”

“I really like baking, especially cake.” Hunk shrugged.

“What about cookies? I love cookies, anything small and round and made with dough, yes please.”

“They’re alright, better when you’re making them with other people.”

“Yeah? Maybe you could teach me and we could make some together?”

Hunk stared at Lance for a while before realizing that the other boy was being completely serious. “That would be awesome! There’s this new sugar cookie recipe that I’ve been…”

“What? Keep going. I want to know what makes these cookies different than others.” Lance was smiling at him honestly and Hunk beamed at him before explaining the different ingredients and instructions and what it’s supposed to do to the end result. He got even more excited when Lance asked him questions when he said something he didn’t understand.

As they were walking back into the building, Lance threw his hand across Hunk’s shoulders. “I’ve heard that the second recess period is mixed grade, you want to help me out with scoring an older girl?”

“Uh…”

“No, it’s easy, I promise!’ The grin on Lance’s face was fiendish, but Hunk couldn’t help but smile back at him fondly.

“Alright, but I don’t know how to talk to girls.”

“You’ll be fine, será divertido!” Lance winked at him.

“You aren’t afraid of cooties?” Hunk shivered.

“Cooties are a myth.”

*-*-*-*-*-*

Hunk watched in horror as a few of the older boys rummaged through his lunch bag. They were laughing, and mock retching as they opened the Tupperware containers that he had filled with what he had made the night before to share with his friends.

“Ew, this smells so gross! No wonder that you’re so big, if you’ll eat literally anything!” One of them said as he shoved the container towards his friend, who held his nose and pushed it away.

“And you’re so proud of your cooking, but this is disgusting! It looks like shit!” Another grabbed the container and dumped it out onto the sidewalk. They all let out a laugh.

“No!” Hunk felt tears coming to his eyes as he reached out towards the food as it feel through the air and fell with a splat.

“Oh, and cookies! Fatso has got four!” Another held up a plastic baggie of cookies that he and Lance had made that weekend.

“No, those are for…”

Before Hunk could finish, the boy took a bite out of one of the cookies and promptly spit it out. “Tastes like ass!”

When the bag was tossed on the ground and was being stomped on, Hunk was full out sobbing. The boys were laughing again, calling him a crybaby.

“Hey!” A voice rang through the air as the boys were circling Hunk again. The boys barely paused, but Hunk looked over and saw Keith dropped his bookbag onto the ground as he approached. “Get away from him!”

“Oh! Does your boyfriend need to come save you?” One of the boys put a finger in Hunk’s face tauntingly, but he shrieked when there was a hand grabbing it. There was a snapping sound and the boy collapsed onto the ground, sobbing.

“Leave him alone. If you assholes want to fight, pick someone that is going to fight back.” Keith looked at each of them, his eyebrows creased in anger and his entire body tensed, ready for a fight.

They were all staring at Keith with horror in their eyes as they tried to haul their friend with the broken finger up off the ground, except for one, who punched Keith right in the mouth.

“Dude, Kogan almost killed someone last year!” One of the boys hissed as the one who had punched Keith froze.

Keith wiped the blood from his split lip and looked down on the red on the back of his glove. As he took a step forward, the boys all took a step back.

“Keith, they’re not worth it.” Hunk said quietly as he put a large hand on Keith’s shoulder.

“Unless you’d like to spend a week in a coma, I suggest you get out of my sight before I change my mind.” Keith sighed and deflated some. The boys all nodded frantically before turning and sprinting out of sight. Once they were gone, Keith turned to look at Hunk. “You okay?”

“Just words… a lost lunch…” Hunk frowned as he looked at the blood trickling down Keith’s chin. “Are you okay?”

“Fine, I’ve gotten hit harder by toddlers.” Keith wiped at his mouth again, grimacing. Hunk watching him move to pick up the bag and the container. His eyes went wide when Keith ran his finger through the food that had been dumped and stuck it in his finger to taste it. “It’s a shame, it’s really good.”

“I made it to share with you guys… It’s my grandma’s secret family recipe, first time I made it myself.” Hunk looked down.

“Thank you.” Keith smiled at him softly as he held out Hunks lunchbox. “What was it? Maybe you could try again?”

Hunk’s face lit up as he started explaining what it was as they walked. Keith kept smiling as he fell in step beside him once he retrieved his own backpack.

A block later, they met up with Lance who stopped in his tracked when he saw them. “Dude, it’s not even seven-thirty and you’re already bleeding!”

Keith brought his hand up to his lip and gave Lance an unimpressed look. “These guys were messing with Hunk, dumped his lunch.”

Lance’s eyes went wide and were filling with rage. “Tell me you gave them the Kogane-beat-down?”

“What?” Keith looked so confused by the words that came out of the other boy’s mouth.

“I told him to just let them go…” Hunk sighed, rolling his eyes at both of his friends. “Though, I think Keith did break the one guy’s finger.”

“Yeah. I did.” He shrugged as he grabbed the strap of his bookbag.

“Well, that’s something. No one messes with Hunk and gets away with it.” Lance huffed as he nodded for them to start walking.

Hunk couldn’t help but smile as Keith agreed and then started talking about the food that he had tasted off the ground. Lance’s eyes lit up and he turned back to Hunk, asking for him to make it again and invite them all over for dinner.

*-*-*-*-*-*

“Hunk! I need your help!” Shiro’s voice sounded frantic coming through the phone. “I-I…”

“Shiro? Is everything okay? What’s wrong?” Hunk jumped up from where he was sitting, getting odd looks from Lance and Pidge.

“I-I…” There was a groan that came through the phone. “I have no idea how to cook, and…”

“That’s it?” Hunk let the tension release from as he looked between Pidge and Lance. “You made it sound like an emergency…”

“It is! Keith is moving in at the end of the week and I kind of… I want to make him something, you know a home cooked meal…”

“Shiro, that’s so sweet.” He smiled as he sat back down. “I could just…”

“No, no, I want to make it, but I need help, please?” Shiro’s voice was so whiny and it almost made Hunk want to laugh.

“Are you free tomorrow? I can come over after school, show you some stuff and figure out some easy stuff you’re going to make him.”

“Yeah, yeah, I have the night shift tomorrow, so that’ll be perfect. Thank you, Hunk.”

“No problem, see you tomorrow Shiro.” Hunk hung up after Shiro thanked him again. He looked at Pidge and Lance who were both still staring at him.

“So, what was that all about?” Pidge asked.

“Oh, Shiro just really wants to make Keith a homemade dinner when he moves in later this week, so he needs some help learning how to cook.”

“He should definitely make some hot wings, they’re Keith’s favorite.” Lance shrugged as he looked back down at his textbook. “Actually, anything spicy would work, he really likes the chili my mom makes.”

“Last time I had your mom’s chili I cried.” Pidge brought her eyebrows together.

The next day, Hunk knocked on Shiro’s door with a smile. He had brought over a few cook books and had some cooking videos marked on his phone to help him teach Shiro how to cook. Shiro opened the door with a relieved sigh.

They discussed exactly how much time Shiro had to prep and cook dinner, which Shiro was making Friday, the day after Keith was moving in. He had off for the whole next week to help Keith settle in, so he had all day Friday.

“I have no idea what to make either! I’ve made myself some things since I’ve lived on my own, but mostly spaghetti with canned sauce and…” Shiro groaned as he put his face in his hands. “He’s always eaten what he’s been given, but I want to make him something…”

“I came up with a few ideas.” Hunk grinned as he opened the cookbooks to the marked pages. “I’m not going to teach you how exactly how to make every dish, but I can show you how to do some of the more complicated things.”

Shiro looked over whelmed as he looked at the pages, but nodded. “So, where do we start?”

“Let’s see what you have in the kitchen.” Hunk stood up and opened a few of the cabinets and the fridge. Once he finished, he looked at Shiro with an exaggerated exhale. “We start at the grocery store.”

Hunk pointed around at different things that they would need for the chosen recipes and for Hunk to show him how to cook. Shiro nodded at him as he followed him around and pushed the cart. The younger boy could tell his friend was completely out of his depth, but was taking it well as they examine the meats.

He was pretty sure that Shiro’s eyes were going to pop out of his head when he handed the cashier his credit card.

“Sorry, I may have went a little over board.” Hunk scratched the back of his neck nervously.

“No, it’s fine, Keith is worth it, I really want this to be special for him.” Shiro smiled as he signed his name.

“Boyfriend?” The cashier smiled as she waited for the receipt to print.

“No, my brother, I just got custody of him.” He looked up at her as she handed him the long paper, reciting what he saved.

“Congratulations, looks like he’s in for quite a treat there.”

Hunk very masterfully showed Shiro some things, using some of the extra things they had gotten. Whatever him and Shiro made was probably going to be dinner for the next few nights until Keith moved in. Shiro set the fire alarm off twice, but only actually ruined one thing he was attempting to cook.

As he sealed the last of what they made into Tupperware, Hunk smiled at him. “I think you’ll be okay.”

“Thanks Hunk, it means a lot that you came over and helped me.” Shiro huffed as he leaned back against the counter. “I hope Keith…”

“Keith’s going to be happy you made the effort, trust me.” Hunk put a hand on his shoulder and smiled. “And according to Lance, hot wings are his favorite food.”

Shiro chuckled and let his head fall back against the upper cabinets. “Keith is lucky to have friends like you guys.”

“He’s lucky to have a brother like you.”

The next day, Lance hummed as he laid back on his bed. “We should bake Keith a cake to take over when we go over on Sunday.”

“We’re going over on Sunday?” Pidge sounded so honestly shocked.

“Yep, told Keith we were going to break in his new room. It’s going to be great.” Lance pointed at his ceiling dramatically. “But anyway, cake?”

“You just want to eat all the left-over icing.” Hunk crossed his arms as he looked at his best friend.

“No, I want to do something nice for Keith and Shiro.” Lance huffed and crossed his arms. “The icing is an added perk.”

*-*-*-*-*-*

“Lance!” Hunk paced back and forth in his dorm room as his best friend finally answered his phone. “I’ve called you like a hundred times!”

“Calm down, it was three times. I was with Plaxum, what is it?” Lance sighed on the other side of the call.

The way Lance sounded made Hunk pause. Lance sounded upset about something. “You okay man?”

“Fine, just… what’s so important that you called me three times?”

Hunk chewed on his lip and decided that he’d pressed about Lance’s obvious problems as soon as his own problem was resolved. “So, there’s this girl…”

“You called me three times because you have a crush on a girl? Buddy, that’s awesome! Tell me all about her.” Lance’s voice picked up, taking its usual cheery tone.

With a smile, Hunk sat on his desk chair. He told Lance all about Shay, about how she was a total hero and really inspired him. Lance was quiet on the phone, occasionally chuckling fondly when Hunk would say something particularly corny.

“But, I don’t know what to do!” Hunk said after he ran out of things to say about her. “Help me, please!”

“Dude, just ask her out! Buy her flowers or something, it’s doesn’t have to be that complicated.”

“You say that, but it took you over ten years to finally land yourself a date while constantly trying.”

Lance hissed like what Hunk said caused him physical pain. “Low blow man.”

“Sorry. I just… I’ve never even tried to ask anyone out before! I took Pidge to prom, as friends. And you… have a girlfriend.” Hunk sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “Just… I really like her and I don’t want to screw this up.”

“Hunk, if she likes you back, you’re not going to. Everyone that I really liked agreed to go out with me at least once, you’ll be fine.” Lance huffed. “I promise, just be honest with her.”

“But… what do I tell her?”

“What do you want to do? It sounds like the two of you have been spending a lot of time together… so maybe just ask her if there’s anything more than just friendship and if she wants to go steady.”

“‘Go steady’?” Hunk shook his head as he laughed. “What decade is this?”

“Shut up, girls eat that shit up, trust me.”

“Okay, okay… We have a movie night planned for tomorrow… so…”

“Good luck Hunk, but you won’t need it.”

“Thanks.” Hunk readjusted himself and glanced at the photos he had hanging above his bed. “So, what’s wrong with you?”

“What? I already told you that I’m fine.”

“Lance, how long have we known each other?” Hunk didn’t give Lance a chance to answer, they both knew it. “I know when you’re not okay.”

“It’s… The other day, I had to officially come out to my new friends and… and Plaxum.” Lance’s voice was drained that it made Hunk’s heart hurt.

“Oh. I take it that it wasn’t well received?”

“Not by most of them, and Plaxum says its okay, but the way she’s been acting since she found out I go both ways…” He sighed and Hunk bit his lip. “It’s the first time that I’ve had to deal with that from people that I actually gave a damn about. I mean, you were there when I found out, and Pidge just knows everything, Mom just demanded grandkids, Dad complained that he’d have even more boys to shoot, and…” Lance’s voice broke at the end. Hunk nodded, understanding where the list was going next.

“Hey, if they can’t accept you for who you are, then maybe they’re not really your friends.”

“Maybe… I just…” Lance sighed again. “No, you’re probably right. I just don’t know…”

“You’ll figure it out.”

“Thanks.”

They were both silent for a while before asking each other about other things that were going on with their lives, like classes or the last time either had heard from Pidge. It was hours before they finally forced themselves to hang up.

Chapter Text

“I hate that they didn’t offer this class online.” Pidge huffed as she walked next to Hunk. They were on the small campus of their new, temporary college. It was the second day of classes and the grounds were crawling with other students. She gave the other people around her a cursory glance and grimaced.

“It’s probably a good thing. I mean, you have ever left your room if we didn’t have to come into school twice a week?” Hunk looked down at her.

“Shut up.” Pidge glared up at him, gripping the straps of her bookbag a little tighter. “I would have occasionally gone to your place…”

Letting out a laugh, Hunk shook his head. “It’s not like we could exactly take this kind of class online, I mean…”

“But…”

“It counts towards foreign language credit at both our schools!” Hunk smiled at her. “I promise, it’ll be fun.”

“Okay, fine.” Pidge huffed, crossing her arms.

They were late when they finally walked into the classroom. The whole room looked up at them.

The professor was sitting crosslegged on the front table and smiled at them. She started moving her hands. Pidge and Hunk both blinked at her.

A laugh came out of her mouth as she got off the table and held out two stacks of paper. “Since you’re late, you can help me pass out the syllabus and everyone’s first assignment before you take your seats.”

Once the papers were handed out, Pidge and Hunk took seat in the back of the class, looking at their copies of the papers they had passed out while their professor spoke at the front of the room.

“As I was signing earlier, welcome to Intro to ASL.” She clapped her hands together and bounced on her heels. “I look forward to introducing each of you to this entire culture behind ASL and learning about all of you in the process.”

Pidge and Hunk shared a look as their professor pulled out her own copy of the syllabus and pointing out key areas. It was like every professor at every college used the same syllabus, especially the academic dishonesty part.

“Now, this class is going to be a lot different than most language classes. There’s no written version of ASL, there’s no conjugation. There’s only going to be one paper test, on the grammar structure of ASL. One short paper, which we’ll talk about closer to the due date.”

Most of the class groaned collectively.

“Most of the grades are going to be presentations, in ASL. Next week we’ll start the assignment, which is there in front of you.” She rolled her eyes at the class’s annoyance, a small smile on her face. “You’ll be using ASL to introduce yourself to the class. Today and Thursday we’re going to work on the alphabet and some basic signs.”

“But before we start, I have one question. Who here knows someone that does use ASL in their day to day life?”

Only a few students raised their hands.

“And that’s alright, someday, you will probably meet someone that you can use this what you use in this class to communicate with them.”

Pidge huffed as they left the room, giving Hunk a side-eyed glare. “Alright, she’s kind of fun, we’ll see how Thursday goes before we make any decisions on the class.”

He grinned at her and nudged her shoulder.

“She… reminds me of Lance… I’d think he’d really like this class.”

“Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. I bet this would come easy for him, being bilingual already.” The smile fell off his face as he looked down at his feet.

“It’s a completely different set of skills.”

“Yeah, but he already talks with his hands.”

She scoffed as she rolled her eyes. “Okay, whatever you say.”

*-*-*-*-*-*

Sarah opened the door and blinked at the FedEx driver holding out a clipboard to sign. “Uh…”

“There’s about twenty boxes here from some university, I need someone to sign for them and you to point at a spot for me to put them.” The guy sounded annoyed as he waved the clipboard at her.

Her breath caught as she looked down at the slip, seeing the name of Lance’s university as the sender. She signed and pointed at the empty space next to the front steps. “Do you need some help?”

“There’s some liability stuff that means I have to do it.” He unclipped a large envelope and handed it to her. Then he went back out to the truck at the end of their driveway.

She sat on the steps and opened it. The letter had some half-baked apology about what happened with Lance and a bunch of legal jargon that meant they weren’t responsibility if any of Lance’s things were missing or broken.

“Mama!” She yelled as she dropped the letters on the steps next to her. When she didn’t hear any movement she called for her mother again. By the time her mother walked down the stairs, the FedEx guys had almost all the packages in the house.

The FedEx driver told her he was grabbing the last set of boxes. Her mother looked down at the letters and then at the boxes. A sob wracked through her as she sunk onto the stairs behind her daughter.

“D-Do you want to open them?” Sarah turned and put a hand on her mother’s knee.

“Yeah…” Her mother sobbed again as she doubled over.

Once the last of the boxes were in, Sarah moved off the stairs and went to the kitchen to get a knife to open the boxes. The first one she opened was clothes. The second was his bedding, including a few of the stuffed animals that he had taken to school with him.

“Is Sir Sharkington in there?” Mrs. McClain asked as she watched her daughter take a few of the stuffed animals out. Sarah wedged the worn shark plushie through the bars of the stairs. She pressed her face against it and sobbed. “I remember when your papa got this for him. He brought it home, hoping it would scare Lance, but Lance just loved it. It was just after you were born…”

Sarah closed her eyes tightly, forcing herself not to cry as she moved onto the next box. Books, some of Lance’s collection of cliché YA novels. There were also posters folded up in the box. When she got to the bottom she found photos, all with small pin holes from where he had them on his bulletin board.

She looked through them. There were plenty of pictures of the family and of him with Pidge and Hunk. He looked so happy, that huge grin on his face in almost every photo. Pictures drawn by Allison, most of which barely looked like anything. They were all in great condition, except for one.

One of just him and Keith. It was crumbled and discolored from water stains. Lance had held it and cried plenty of times.

A tear fell on the picture as Sarah started crying. Lance was gone, just like Keith. She wanted her brother back. She wanted to see his smiling face again, in more than just a photo.

Chapter Text

Lance waved at his mom as he walked away from the car, sighing. “Come on Sarah, hurry up.”

“Just because you have ridiculously long legs!” His sister yelled as she followed after him. “You need to call your friends to find out where they are anyway!”

Rolling his eyes, he pulled his phone out of his pocket. There was text from Pidge, her and her brother were sitting in the food court, waiting for them. Sarah huffed when he relayed the information to her.

When they got to the food court of the mall, Lance looked around and saw Shiro waving at him from where he was standing at a table with two people sitting down. Lance looked beside him to double check that his sister was still with him before walking over to them.

“Hey Lance.” Shiro said with a smile, glancing at Sarah.

“Sorry I’m late. Mom made me bring my sister.”

Pidge finally looked up and locked eyes with Sarah. “Oh, hey Sarah.”

“Sup Katie? So, they threw you in Lance’s class?” Sarah leaned on the table.

“I didn’t connect that Lance was your brother.” Pidge glanced up at Lance and scrunched up her nose. “I’m sorry.”

Laughing, Sarah looked at Lance. “He’s not usually too terrible.”

Lance glanced at Matt, who looked just as confused as he felt, before looking between Pidge and his sister. “You two… know each other?”

“We were in the same class before Katie skipped a few grades.” Sarah shrugged.

“You’ve never had her over?” Matt raised his eyebrows.

“Nah, we ran in different circles.” Pidge shrugged before getting up. “Now, if I remember correctly, Lance owes me a video game of my choice.”

“What? When did I agree to that?” Lance jumped, glaring at Pidge.

*-*-*-*-*-*

Mr. McClain opened the door and almost got hit in the face as Keith raised his hand to knock. Keith’s eyes went wide as he quickly stopped his hand. The man chuckled as he moved out of the way to let Keith in.

“Didn’t mean to scare you, was just about to head out. Lance is upstairs.” Mr. McClain ruffled Keith’s hair as the boy walked into the house.

“Uh, thanks…” Keith said, not looking at the man as he combed his fingers through his now messed up hair. Only after Mr. McClain had left did Keith start walking up the stairs.

Lance’s door was open, but the room was empty. Keith took a step through the doorway but heard someone call his name behind him. He turned to look at Sarah who was laying on her bed twirling her field hockey stick above her head. Melanie was playing with action figures and dolls on the floor of their shared room.

“Uh, what?” Keith moved to stand in the doorway of the girl’s room.

“He’s in our parents’ room.” Sarah said looking at Keith.

“With the baby!” Melanie exclaimed with a smile as he crashed a Barbie head first into a Spiderman action figure repeatedly.

Keith had almost forgotten that Lance’s mom had another kid. Lance was out two and a half days the week before because of his mom being in the hospital, something about complications.

“Thanks…” Keith winced as he watched Sarah drop her stick on her face. He turned and started walking towards the end of the hall where Lance’s parents’ room was. Before he made it two steps he heard a baby’s displeased screams. It was a noise he hated, but had learned to drown out; babies in foster care got the bare minimum of affection that they needed when they were placed in a full home.

Lance was cradling the baby in his arms as she cried. He looked so distressed as he tried cooing at her. Keith leaned in the doorway, too afraid to walk into the room.

“Oh, come on, I fed you, just changed your diaper, what do you want from me?” Lance mock sobbed as looked down at the new born. Keith had never seen a baby quite so young, they usually have at least a few weeks on them before they get put into a group home.

“Maybe she just doesn’t like the way you’re holding her.” Keith rolled his eyes at the other boy.

Jumping slightly, Lance looked up at Keith. “Keith! I didn’t hear you come in, or knock…”

“I was coming up to your porch just as your dad was leaving.” Keith rubbed the back of his neck, his gaze still focused on the baby.

Lance made a small noise as he looked down at his sister. “Please just be quiet. There’s nothing else I can do for you.”

With a small chuckle, Keith uncrossed his arms and took a tentative step into the room. “Why don’t you try holding her differently?”

“What?” Lance’s eyebrows scrunched together. “But what if…”

“You won’t drop her, and babies are more durable than you’d think.” Keith put his hand on Lance’s arm. “Try holding her against your chest.”

Making a few distressed sounds, Lance looked up at Keith. “I’m going to go get my mom…”

Keith nodded, letting a loud breath through his nose. “Alright…”

Lance started moving towards the crib, but stopped and looked at Keith. “Can you hold her for a second?”

Holding out his arms, Keith smiled. It had been a while since he’d actually held a baby, but he’d been doing it since he was five, so he knew he’d be okay. “I got her.”

Lance very carefully laid her in Keith’s arms, looking like he was terrified he was going to break her or Keith was going to drop her. She was still crying, tears still streaming down her little cheeks.

“You okay?” Lance took a step back as he looked at Keith with some concern.

“I got this. Go get your mom.” Keith rolled his eyes as he looked down at the girl. “Your big brother is such a worry wart.”

Doubling over as he laughed, Lance smiled for the first time since Keith had gotten there. “Did you just…?”

“Just go.” Keith snapped, making Lance jump and practically run from the room.

Once Lance was gone, Keith adjust the baby in his arms. Cradling them was so uncomfortable, holding them upright was better.

“It’s okay. I’d cry too if I had to listen to your brother’s baby voice all the time.” Keith huffed as he gently pressed his cheek against the baby’s head. Her cries had softened since Keith had adjusted her. “Your mom will be soon.”

He let out a small sound of pain as she tugged on his hair, but he let out a little amused huff. “What is your family’s obsession with my hair?”

After another tug of his hair, the crying stopped. Keith sighed as he tightened his grip on her slightly. “If it makes you happy, and you don’t pull any out, I guess you can keep doing that.”

“How did… how did you do that?” Lance huffed as he stood in the doorway, his mother standing behind him with a fond smile on his face.

“I don’t know?” Keith looked up at Lance, then at Mrs. McClain. “Do you…”

“She looks perfectly content in your arms right now.” Her smile only grew as Lance walked towards Keith and pressed an open-mouthed kiss to his sister’ forehead. “She can get heavy though, you can sit down with her.”

Keith nuzzled into the side of the baby’s head. She giggled at the attention she was getting.

“Are you staying for dinner, Keith?”

“Uh…” Keith looked at Lance, who was smiling at him. “If that’s alright?”

“I’ll go get another bowl down.” She then turned and left the room.

“So, what’s her name anyway?” Keith asked as Lance gently soothed his sister’s head.

“Oh! Yeah, it’s Allison.” Lance paused as he looked at Keith. “She seems to really like you.”

“She just didn’t like how you were holding her.”

“I can take her back if you’re…”

“I’m fine, but if you want to…” Keith started adjusting his grip so Lance could take her back. Lance nodded and started prying her away from Keith. Allison started wailing once she was pulled away from Keith’s chest.

Groaning, Lance quickly pulled her to his chest, bouncing and soothing her back. She kept crying.

Smiling, Keith held his hands back out to Lance. “Maybe she just doesn’t like you.”

Lance pouted as he handed his sister back to his friend. She stopped crying immediately after she was placed in Keith’s arms. “That’s so not fair dude.”

“Shut up.”

The two moved to Lance’s room eventually, sitting on his bed and just talking. Keith was still holding Allison. She fell asleep well before dinner, but Keith just kept holding her.

When Mrs. McClain announced that dinner was ready, both boys were afraid that she’d wake up if Keith put her down. But she continued to sleep after Keith gently laid her in the crib. They both breathed a sigh of relief before they headed down to the dining room.

“So, Keith, how’d you get so good with kids? This is my forth and I still don’t really feel secure holding a baby.” Mr. McClain asked after Sarah finished talking about how one of her teammates got herself injured and totally ruined their chances of making it to the finals.

Keith rubbed the back of his neck. “When I was younger, a lot of the foster homes I was in also had babies, so sometimes I just got handed a baby and…”

“Do you like kids?” Mrs. McClain asked with a smile.

Shrugging, Keith looked down at the bowl. “They’re okay…”

After dinner, Keith and Lance finally got to work on the homework that Keith had originally come over to work on. Lance looked up at Keith. “You were okay, earlier, holding her, right? You weren’t just…”

“No, it was fine…” Keith rubbed the back of his neck. “It was nice actually. It’s been a while since I’ve held a baby.”

“Well any time you want to hold one, you know where to find one.” Lance grinned at him. “You know, you were the first non-family member, other than the nurses or whatever, to hold her, so that kind of makes you special.”

“You’re so weird.” Keith rolled his eyes.

*-*-*-*-*

Lance stared at the sign on the building, his eyebrows raised as his dad grabbed the two cases out of the trunk of the car, one long and the other small and square. Now that they were at their destination, he realized what they had inside.

“Uh, Dad, what exactly are we doing at a shooting range?” Lance waved at the building wildly as he looked back at his father, who just had his normal stoic look on his face.

“You’re old enough now, it’s time you need to learn how to shoot a gun.” His father held out the smaller case to him.

“When am I ever going to need to know how to use a gun?” Lance huffed as he took the case.

“I hope you don’t need to.” Mr. McClain clamped his hand over his son’s shoulder before walking towards the doors to the building.

“Is this some sexist bullshit?”

“I’ll show your sisters too when they’re old enough, it’s not just because you’re my son.” He opened the door and motioned with the larger case for Lance to go first.

They walked up to the counter, and Mr. McClain smiled at the rough looking woman standing behind it, sizing up Lance and his father. He started talking as he fished in his pocket, pulling out his wallet as he set the case down.

Lance didn’t say anything as he looked around the small, wood-paneled room. There were safety tip posters all around the room, rules for the range, notices of the types of ammunitions they had for sale behind the counter.

The woman looked down at the documents his dad had put table, looking up between him and then. “I’ll be right back.”

She scooped them up and turned to copy them. When she came back, she handed back the documents and pushed forwards a few papers with a pen, dryly explaining the liability forms and where to sign on them.

After his father had finished signing, she then asked to see the weapons. Lance didn’t even know they had guns in the house, much less two. A low caliber rifle and a handgun. Once she was finished inspecting them, she handed them and two pairs of heavy-duty earmuffs and safety glasses over. She pointed out the two different ranges. The rifle range was out back of the building, while the handgun range was inside.

Lance kept spacing out when his father was showing him the different parts of the gun, but he tried to pay attention. He figured that it was probably important if he didn’t want to accidently shoot himself in the face.

He watched as his dad took a few shots at the target. When the target moved closer, Lance could see that his dad had a nice grouping in the two rings just outside the bullseye. It made him wonder where and why his dad had learned how to shoot a gun.

His hands were shaking slightly as he was handed the gun. Taking steadying breaths, he listened it his dad coach him at aiming and took a few shots off. They completely missed the target.

“Calm down. You got this.” His dad smiled at him and Lance nodded as he took another clip to reload the gun.

Taking a deep breath, he looked down the sights with determination before emptying the entire clip at the piece of paper. As he set the gun down, the target moved back for them to see how he did.

“Good job.” His dad took his shoulder tightly as they both started at the holes in the paper. The center ring of target was shredded from the shots Lance had fired. “You want to empty another clip?”

Lance couldn’t help but grin as he nodded.

When that was empty, the shots were all in the center again. His dad showed him how to break down the gun before heading outside to the rifle range.

It took Lance a little longer to get used to the rifle than the handgun, the kickback was more than he was expecting. Once he got used to compensating for it, he managed to get almost as good of accuracy with the rifle as the smaller gun.

He and his father were both grinning when they walked out of the range. Lance practically skipped to the car, high on his success. “I’m like a sharpshooter!”

His father laughed as they got in the car. “Yeah, my little sharpshooter.”

They were half way home, sitting in silence when something suddenly hit Lance. He never asked when his dad learned to shoot guns. “Where did you learn to shoot?”

The man tensed as he drove. “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

“Nuh-uh. I’m old enough to shoot a gun, I’m old enough to know where you learned.” Lance crossed his arms, pouting at his father.

There were several moments of silence before the man sighed and glanced at his son. “When I was about your age, back in Cuba, I was in a gang.”

“Oh.” Lance swallowed hard, looking down at his lap. “What kind of gang?”

“Just a street gang. We used to get into fights with other gangs, nothing too bad, but…”

“Did you ever kill anyone?”

“I don’t know. I never stuck around long enough to find out.” His dad looked over at him. “I wasn’t very good when I was a kid.”

“Does Mom know?”

“Yeah, she used to patch me up after fights.” A smile spread across his father’s face. “She used to be so mad every time, giving me a lecture while she was bandaging me.”

Lance felt his face get hot, he’d never known exactly how his parents got together, just that they were so in love, but a lot of things made sense suddenly.

*-*-*-*-*-*

Mrs. McClain opened the door with a smile. “Keith! Come on in, I’m getting dinner started, are you staying?”

Keith walked in and rubbed the back of his neck. “Uh… Sure?”

Nodding, she turned and walked back towards the kitchen without another word. He stood in the entryway awkwardly for a while before popping his head into the living room.  Allison was on the floor, stacking up blocks and knocking them down. She looked up at him and smiled. “Keef!”

He waved at her with a smile. “I’m going to go find your big brother, but I’ll be back to play okay?”

She pouted, but nodded, turning back to her toys, eyeing something else to play with.

When he walked upstairs, he looked in Lance’s room. It was empty.

“He’s not here.” Sarah said from her room.

“Uh… Where is he?” Keith frowned as he looked at Sarah, who was doing Allison’s hair on the floor of their room.

“He just left with Papa… they’ll be back before dinner.” Sarah was focused on her sister’s head.

“Okay?”

“Sarah! Sarah! Do Keith’s hair next!” Melanie grinned at him.

Keith’s eyes went wide, shaking his head. “I’m good.”

“I promise I won’t do anything too weird or girly.” Sarah glanced up at him. “What else are you going to do while you wait for Lance?”

“I could just…”

“Go home?” She scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Sit down.”

Sighing, he moved into the room and sat down next to then. He watched Sarah finish putting her sister’s hair into two tight buns on the top of her head. Sarah occasionally asked Keith to hand her things.

When she finished, Sarah gently pushed on her sister, telling her to go away. Melanie jumped up, checking out her new do in the mirror before running downstairs to show her mother. Sarah motioned for Keith to move in front of her. He groaned, but scooted in front of her.

He kept his eyes closed as she brushed and tugged on his hair. After a few more minutes of silence, she cleared her throat.

“So, when are you finally going to kiss my brother?”

Keith made a strangled noise in surprise at the comment, then he coughed a few times. “What?”

“You two are so transparent. You know he likes you right?”

“Yes?”

“They why aren’t you dating and doing gross stuff?”

“I-I… I don’t want to mess up our friendship?”

“That’s dumb.” She tugged on his hair particularly hard. “You should kiss him.”

“Uh?”

“But, I guess it’s not really any of my business.”

They didn’t talk again until she was finished and told him to take a look. He stood up and looked in the mirror. His hair was back in a tight French braid. It was so weird to have it out of his face.

“Thanks… it… it feels good.” He said as he turned to look back at her, his fingers running over it.

She grinned. “I bet Lance will like it.”

His face went bright red and he quickly turned away from her. He thanked her again before going downstairs and sat in the living room with Allison. Mrs. McClain came in a few times to check on her youngest, smiling at Keith brightly every time she did.

When Lance finally came home, he was speechless when he saw Keith, who was embarrassed by his friend’s reaction.

Chapter Text

“Mama.” Sarah said as she stood in the doorway to her parents’ room. Her mother was curled up and facing away from the door. “Your boss called again. And so did the electric company.”

Mrs. McClain didn’t say anything, the only indication that she had heard her daughter at all was a slightly shuffle of the covers.

“Please, Mama, please.” Sarah took a step inside the room, turning on the light. The sudden light made her mother flinch. “Allison and Melanie need you, I can’t keep doing this by myself. I miss them too, but we can’t just put our lives on hold because…”

There were a few sobs and a few sniffs from the blanket mound as it shifted again. “How can you just…”

“I don’t want to.” Sarah took a deep breath and sat down on the bed. She put a hand on what she hoped was her mother’s shoulder. “I want to curl up in my bed with things that remind me of them and cry. But, my little sisters need to see me be okay, so they can be. I need to go to school, do well, because it’s what Lance and Papa would want.”

Her mother sobbed hard at the mention of their names.

“And they wouldn’t want you to lay here either.”

“They’re gone… they’re gone and it’s all my fault…” Her mother brought her hands up and covered her face.

“No. Those bastards did this, and giving up… Papa went to get Lance back, Lance went to protect you. Saying that they’re gone means you’re giving up on Lance. He’s going to come home, he’ll be back.”

“H-How can you be…”

“Because if I don’t believe it…” Sarah closed her eyes tightly. “Because after all these years, Katie still believes that Matt, Shiro, and Keith will come back. And if she can still hope, so should we.”

They sat there in silence for a while, Sarah with her one hand gently squeezing her mother’s shoulder and her tensed into a fist.

“Please Mama, just come downstairs. Eat dinner with us, brush their hair before bed. Even if you can’t smile, just be with us, for a little bit.”

When her mother didn’t say anything, Sarah stood up. Both her hands were balled into fists as she walked out of the room. “Fine, it’ll be like they lost both their parents then.”

 

“Isn’t Mama coming down?” Allison asked as carried the silverware into the dining room behind Sarah who was carrying the pan of food.

“Not today, sorry kiddo.” Sarah set the pan down on the table and sighed.

“Is she ever going to get out of bed again?” Melanie set the plates down a little harder than she should have.

“I don’t know. I don’t know what else to say to her.” Sarah rubbed her face. “I don’t know what to do anymore.”

Allison tugged on Sarah’s arm and looked up at a smile. “It’ll be okay. I know Lance and Papa would be proud of you.”

Sarah felt her knees buckle as tears started to cry. Melanie rushed to her, helping her to sit on the floor as she started sobbing.

“Thank you for doing everything that last few months.” Melanie said as she wrapped her arms around her sobbing sister. “They really would be proud of you.”

Allison sat down next to them, resting her head against Sarah’s shoulder. “I really wish Papa and Lance were here.”

“Me too, me too.” Sarah smiled at her through her tears. “Come on, let’s eat before the food gets cold.”

“I’ll finish setting the table.” Melanie stood up.

They had just started eating when they looked up and saw their mother in the doorway to the dining room.

“Mama!” Allison smiled as she looked at her mother.

She was dressed, her hair wet from a shower. Mrs. McClain still looked rough, but it was the best her girls had seen her since Lance was taken.

“Melanie, go grab her a plate and silverware.” Sarah said as she looked back at her food, continuing to eat. Melanie got up quickly.

Their mother sat down, looking at the pan of food with something close to a smile. “It looks good Sarah.”

“Thanks.” Sarah didn’t look up at her mother. “And thank you for coming down.”

“My girls needed me, someone told me as such.” She looked at Melanie when she came back with a plate. “Thank you, sweetie.”

Dinner was quiet for a while. Mrs. McClain ate slowly, picking at her plate. She eventually looked up at her daughters. “So, Allison, how is school?”

Allison’s face lit up as she started to go on and on about her friends and her teacher and drawings she had made.

After the girls had gotten their showers, Mrs. McClain brushed their hair. Melanie and Allison were both thrilled when they got on their respective bunks.

“Thank you, for doing that.” Sarah said as she stood outside her mother’s room.

“You were right. They need me.” Her mother sat down on her bed. “And I need them. Whatever happened to your father and your brother… You girls are still here.”

“Good, I’m glad. I know this hasn’t been easy for you, but please don’t go back to not…”

“I won’t, I promise.”

*-*-*-*-*-*

Pidge and Hunk walked through the police station. Almost everyone turned away from them and looked busy when they noticed the two, as if they were trying to avoid any sort of conversation with them.

Hunk looked down at his friend, who just sighed and put her hands in her pockets. “Yeah, they always do this.”

He didn’t know what to say, so he just nodded.

Coran looked up when they walked into the office. He motioned for them to come in as he stood up. “Take a seat.”

“You said you had news on the phone.” Pidge said as she sat down.

“Yes. Normally, I wouldn’t give this kind of information out, but under the circumstances…” Coran shut the door, clicking the lock. He took a deep breath and moved to sit down. “I got a call from Shirogane.”

Pidge and Hunk both froze as they looked at the man, waiting for him to elaborate.

“He didn’t go into a lot of detail, but he told me that him and Matt should be back here in the next few days.” He twirled his moustache as Pidge scooted forward into her chair. “He did manage to tell me that he and Matt had escaped from their circumstances with the help from someone on the inside.”

“A-Are they okay?” Pidge barely stammered out, on the edge of the seat now.

“He didn’t mention that, but considering what else he said, I doubt Shiro is alright.” Coran looked down at the desk and moved his hands so they were linked tightly in front of himself. “He told me that he’d my help to… to get Keith and Lance out.”

“W-Wait a minute…” Hunk shook his head as Pidge literally fell off her chair. “They were… they were all the same place?”

“No, not exactly. Matt and Shiro were being held in a different place than Keith and Lance are at. Keith and Lance are both at a location much more important to the Galra than where Matt and Shiro were.”

“Did Shiro happen to mention where? Or how they got out, or how-…” Pidge leaned on the desk after righting herself.

Coran shook his head. “Shiro didn’t have a lot of time talk, he and Matt still need to keep out of the Galra’s radar until they back here.”

Pidge was shaking as tears started falling onto the desk. “But him and Matt… they’re coming home? I’ll be able to see them again?”

“Yes.”

“And Keith and Lance?” Hunk asked as he put a hand on the small of Pidge’s back, soothing small circles through her hoodie.

“One police raid from being home too.” Coran smiled at them.

Pidge let out a sob as she lowered herself back into the chair. Hunk smiled sadly as he pulled her closer to him. “They’re coming home Pidge.”