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1_Earth

Lance let out a contented sigh as he watched his niece dance around in the sprinklers, playing with his brother’s dog. He would never get used to seeing all of his family safe and alive even a year after coming back home to them. He had appeared on his mother’s doorstep and stood there, crying, as his family hugged him tightly.

Lance had been missing in space for seven years, although his family didn’t know what really happened. He hadn’t told them all of what had happened when he was gone, but they knew Lance had been at war, fighting for the freedom of the universe. He had faced so many things that they couldn’t imagine, like fighting in giant robot lions and losing K-

Lance stopped that train of thought before it left the station. He- Keith- was gone. Probably dead. Lance had already grieved for him. They had all given up on him years before they freed the universe from the empire. He was gone. And that was that.

“Lance!” someone shouted. Lance recognized the voice as that of his brother’s wife, his niece’s mother, Sofia. “Your alien phone is ringing!”

Lance smiled at hearing the comm device Allura and Coran had given the entire team called an “alien phone”. It was probably Pidge sending him new memes or Coran checking up on him. He stood up and dragged himself inside, where Sofia handed him the comm device.

Lance jumped when Allura’s voice came from the comm. “Lance! We have… a problem.”

“A problem?” he echoed. “We don’t have to… fight again, right?”

“No, no,” Allura reassured him, but her voice seemed off. Was that worry? What could possibly worry Allura so much? “I’m going to send Blue down for you, so don’t go anywhere. I think this is something we should face together as a team.”

With that, the comm clicked off, leaving Lance with conflicting thoughts and a sinking feeling in his stomach.

It felt good to be back in Blue. The familiar connection with the lion soothed Lance’s nerves, and her purr relaxed him. Lance let out a breath and smiled as he let her fly them to the Castleship. Despite the memories of war creeping into Lance’s mind, he wouldn’t regret being a Paladin. Never.

A lot of anxiety flooded him as he saw the Castleship up ahead. This would be the first time in a year that the team would be all together again. It was strange to think that they hadn’t seen each other in so long, after living together on the same spaceship for years. Lance, Pidge, and Hunk had all gone back home, while Shiro, Allura, and Coran stayed on the ship- the Alteans to rebuild and Shiro to find Keith.

Even though they had all accepted that Keith was dead. Shiro had claimed that he had accepted Keith's death, but they saw the dull hope in his eyes. Even though he’d been gone for years. Seven years.

When Blue landed in the hangar, Lance saw the other lions there already. Green, Yellow, Black… Red. Lance had a complicated relationship with the Red Lion. On one hand, he had flown Red for a while, before Allura advanced enough to be able to fly the Red Lion and give Blue back to Lance. Allura was never really meant for Blue. The Blue Paladin- that was Lance. It had always been Lance. Blue had chosen him. So he was... comfortable with Red. More than he was with Black, Green, and Yellow. On the other hand… they only had a true Red Paladin for less than a year. Now he was dead.

“Lance!” Pidge streaked across the hangar with an inhuman shriek and tackled Lance, wrapping her arms around him tightly. “I missed you!”

Hunk jogged over with a big grin on his face. “It feels like I haven’t seen you guys in forever!” He joined their hug, squishing the three of them together. The original trio.

“It’s only been a year,” Lance objected, but he was grinning, too. He spotted Shiro, Allura, and Coran from across the hangar. They had serious expressions, but even they smiled slightly at seeing the Paladin group hug.

“I’m glad to see you guys,” Shiro said. “I wish we didn’t have to reunite this way, but we have some serious stuff to watch.”

“Watch?” Pidge asked skeptically, releasing Lance and wiggling away from Hunk. “What exactly did you guys drag us up here for?”

Allura sighed. “I think it would be best to show you.”

The former team walked onto the bridge. Lance immediately noticed a strange metal capsule lying across a table that he swore hadn’t been there before. It looked almost Galra, with a material a lot like Shiro’s arm.

“Ooh!” Pidge exclaimed excitedly, despite the somber mood presented by the three older team members. “What is it? It seems like a coded Galra missive..."

“You’re correct,” Coran said, twirling his mustache. “We received this a few days ago and decoded it…” His voice trailed off with a frown, which was really unlike him. What was this thing? It was really freaking Lance out.

“It consists of video files, a total of seven,” Allura said, sighing. “Coran and I watched the first one.”

Seven for the number of years Keith had been missing. Seven for the number of years Lance had been off fighting a universal war. Seven for the number of people on the team before…

“What’s in them?” Lance asked instead of voicing his inner thoughts. His eyes narrowed at the metal device. Surely it couldn’t be good if it shook up Allura and Coran, the most solid people he knew.

Allura pulled up a display, while Coran plugged the device into his dashboard.

“Shiro, have you watched the files?” Hunk asked, eyes wide.

“No, but I’ve heard enough about it,” Shiro said grimly, though his anxiety was practically written all over his face.

“What’s it about?” Pidge pressed, eying the dark screen.

Shiro took a shaky breath and appeared to waver a bit before relenting. His eyes were dark, and he had the most conflicted expression on his face. “It’s Keith.”

Everyone stilled, and all was silent. Lance felt like his head was exploding.

Keith? What about Keith? He was dead, they had all told themselves he was… gone. If he was still alive, it was because he wanted nothing to do with them. Was it about Keith, or was it… from him? Had he not vanished into the starscape after all? Lance wished Pidge or Hunk had asked, but they weren’t saying anything, and Lance couldn’t bring himself to ask, either.

The screen suddenly flickered to life and displayed the seven files.

1_Earth

2_Mechacat

3_Daggers

4_Empire

5_Freedom

6_Prince

7_Rebels

“No,” Lance whispered. If those names meant more than simple names… like they represented what had happened to Keith, or… He really hoped they were just names. Just codes for something. But if they were codes, why did he make up words that obviously represented other things? No, this was fake. There was no Keith, not anymore. There was no-

Coran hesitantly selected the first file, and Lance swallowed as Keith’s face appeared. It was no doubt Keith’s face, despite the… differences. Tears filled Lance’s eyes as he stared. Keith.

He didn’t look the same. Long, black hair that went past what the camera captured. It looked freakishly silky, and could easily pass as a girl’s. His skin was paler than normal, and it looked as smooth as Lance’s own skin. Keith looked soft, like he had lost his muscle and hard edges. Despite all of these weird things, these weren’t the worst things about his new appearance.

No, the worst thing about the new Keith was his eyes. Even though he looked almost pretty, which was a weird thought for Lance, his eyes were pained. The deep violet color that had once been the simultaneous envy and mystery of all the students of the Garrison now spoke of layers upon layers of grief and sadness hidden inside Keith. He looked…

Broken. Lost. Tired. Sad. In pain. Fearful.

Yet there was just a glimmer of something else in his eyes, more than those terrible emotions. Maybe something like hope? Anticipation? Rebellion? Whatever it was, Lance would rather see that emotion than everything else hidden in those stormy violet eyes.

“Keith,” Pidge whispered, her voice cracking.

“I don’t believe it,” Shiro whispered. When Lance glanced over at Shiro, the man’s expression was one of both awe and fear.

Suddenly, it dawned on Lance that Keith hadn’t said anything for a few minutes. What was going on during this recording? Where was he? The background was dark, but Keith’s face was illuminated by something red. How fitting. Lance couldn’t even bring himself to even smile at that.

“It’s definitely a file and not an AI like Alfor?” Hunk asked, frowning. “I mean, this is kinda weird.”

Then Keith spoke. His voice, like everything else, had changed. Quieter, softer, younger, almost, in a way that matched his new appearance. Not at all like the brave, rough, confident Keith that Lance had once known. Seven years ago.

“I know it’s been a long time. How long, I have no idea. I don’t even know how long it’ll have been when you watch this. Maybe I’ll be long gone once you see this.” Then, very softly, Keith added, “I hope so.”

That sparked Lance’s thoughts. How old was this recording? Was it already several years old? Did Keith still look like that? Was he better now? Was Keith more okay than he looked on the screen?

Probably not. Keith could always hide his emotions. The fact that it was obvious he wasn’t happy made it clear he wasn’t okay.

“I’m sorry for- for whatever you think of me now,” Keith said. “I know I abandoned you, and you can never imagine how much I regret that.” He let out a breath. “If you hate me, I get why. But… but don’t stop listening to this. Maybe you’ll have defeated the Galra by the time you see this, but if you haven’t, at the very least, this will be worth valuable information.”

That was a rush of emotions. This was already messing Lance up and the file had just started. Again, how long ago was this?

“Keith, we could never hate you,” Shiro whispered. Was he crying? No way. He was crying. This was really freaking serious.

“Allura, how old is this? Can you find out? Please?” Lance asked. He had to know.

“I’m on it,” Pidge interjected, practically producing her laptop from thin air. She started typing furiously, her eyes focusing the way they did when she was in hacker mode. Lance was really grateful for her. “And… it appears that the original file dates back to…” Then she stopped. “No. No! ” Tears began to form in her eyes at the outburst.

This scared Lance. Pidge, who had carried the team through tough situations without Keith or Shiro? She was crying? As was Shiro, and of course Keith was the one making them cry.

“It’s three fucking years old,” Pidge hissed angrily.

Lance flinched, both at the words and at the venom in her voice. Was she really so passionate about this? Pidge had been one of the first to give up on Keith; what had changed?

“Guys,” Lance said, “the best thing that we can do for him is listening to whatever he’s going to tell us, he deserves that much.”

Shiro sighed. “You’re right, Lance.” Pidge nodded in agreement.

Lance glanced over at Hunk and the others. Hunk’s normally loving and caring face had dropped to a raw, painful expression. Allura’s eyes were glimmering with tears, and Coran was still and silent, his face unusually grim.

“Restart the video,” Pidge urged. Allura nodded and wordlessly tapped some buttons. Keith’s face appeared on screen again.

The same awkward silence. The same starting words that had already pushed too far. And then…

“All right. Well… yeah. I doubt you wanted to hear my life story, but I know I’m never going to get the chance to tell… anyone else.” If possible, Keith’s voice got even softer and quieter. “I know I’m never getting back to you guys, and… I just want a chance to try and be free of this.”

The words were deeper and more chilling than Lance had ever heard from Keith. He wanted to reach through the screen and give Keith a hug. He looked so sad. Lance closed his eyes and simply listened to Keith’s voice, images floating through his head of what it must have been like.

“Well. Just as a warning, what happened… I don’t wish it upon anyone,” Keith whispered. “Since it’s basically my life story, we’ll start it right at the beginning. My parents. I know who my mother is now- even though I never met her, I know that she’s fighting on the side of good.

“I wasn’t like other kids when I was little, and not because I’m half-Galra. I was born into a world where I had to know too much to survive. I only lived with my dad for a few years, until I was five. I saw him slipping away as he raised glass after glass to his lips.

“It wasn’t something that just happened, like a slap. No, for the first five years of my life, I watched my father poison himself because the woman he loved was… was gone. Just like how the rest of the world was gone to him. Just like how I was gone to him.

“They told me that he just couldn’t take care of me anymore, but I knew the truth. I realized later on that he had depression, and that it hurt to see me because I looked like- like her. The few good memories I have of him are short and bittersweet. Shared smiles, running around outside, me giving him gifts he didn’t deserve… yeah. They never outright told me this, but he killed himself a few years after I was taken away.

“And… that marked the end of the Koganes. It was just me, carrying on the name and legacy with pride and regret. I lived in a facility in Houston for a while, because they had to ‘rehabilitate’ me, even though it never worked. Anger problems. Tainted, inhuman blood. Impulsiveness. Inde-...”

Keith drew in a deep breath and never finished the word. Lance opened his eyes to see Keith with a panicked expression on his face. The former Paladin seemed to take a deep breath and straighten his face, then continued on like nothing had happened. Lance watched this, confused, but closed his eyes as Keith spoke again.

“When there wasn’t any more that could be done for me, they gave up and sent me to a foster home. I hadn’t ever really had a home before, and seeing something so foreign to me just… made me blow up. I’m not totally sure what happened there, but all I know is that I woke up in the hospital with sixteen stitches and an angry twenty-something couple shoving me back at the orphanage.

“That kind of thing continued on for a while. Angry foster families, claiming I had all sorts of things wrong with me. Autistic? Bipolar? Borderline Personality Disorder? Some really bad form of what they could only call 'anger issues'? The doctors told them every time that I was a perfectly normal kid, but every time, I only heard… worthless, unreachable, unable to be fixed, just… something replaceable.

“Sometimes I would be shoved into a family with other kids or other foster kids. There was never enough time to try for me. ‘He’s not perfect, send him back’. ‘This isn’t cheap, quick, and easy, so I don’t want him.’ That kind of mentality drove me into thinking that those words were all I was. Destined to never be anyone special.

“But… then there was Shiro. They sent me to the Shiroganes when I was twelve. He was older than me- around eighteen, maybe. He and his family accepted me into their lives, and for the first time ever, I had a home. I was Shiro’s little brother. I was the youngest member of the Shirogane household. I left the orphanage… and never looked back.”

Damn, okay. Keith had been through a lot. Lance kind of understood him now- or at least, the Keith from before. Lance got why he and Shiro were so close.

Lance opens one eye to look over at Shiro, who was crying again. Lance could barely understand his own emotions, let alone both his and his confusion on Keith’s, so he couldn’t interpret Shiro’s expression. He didn’t really have to, though. This was the most heartfelt and honest Keith had ever been, so whatever Lance was feeling, the others were feeling it too, to some degree. For Shiro, it must have been ten times more powerful, because he had lived through what Keith was talking about.

“So… I was happy. I had a family, for the first time ever. I took a chance and began exploring beyond the house, and that was when I realized that I wanted space. When I looked at the stars at night, I knew I was meant to be among them.

“I had already heard a lot about the stars from Shiro. He was close to graduation from the Garrison when I told him about my dream. He helped me through it and gave me a chance to make it reality. I already had grades that were good enough for the Garrison, and by fifteen, I made it into the Garrison’s flight program."

Lance wanted to snicker about the “golden boy” attitude, but he couldn’t bring himself to. Lance had made it into the program at fifteen, too, and without any help from Earth’s star pilot, but he hadn’t had to deal with all of the emotional baggage. Besides, Lance knew this was where he showed up.

“Shiro had just graduated, so I was stuck by myself with a group of people that I thought were idiots. Including one person that I had no idea I would ever see again. That person is Lance.”

Oh, shit.

“I walked into flight class on the first day, and all I saw was a bunch of insignificant people. I knew that all of them would hate me once I drew ahead- because I was certain that I would - so I didn’t bother acting like I cared. Then there was this one guy. Cuban, talkative, annoying, flirtatious, and not even a bad pilot… that was Lance.”

Not even bad? What? Keith had thought Lance was good? Even back in flight school? The Garrison’s star student?

So Iverson had really just hated Lance.

“For some reason that I’ll never understand, one day after simulations, Lance walked up to me, and I won’t ever forget what he said.”

Oh. Oh God. He remembered that, recalling the conversation as Keith narrated it:

 

“Hey, emo boy,” Lance had called out. After seeing that flawless simulation, Lance had felt… maybe a bit angry. Just a bit. “Who’s been helping you cheat?”

Keith had spun around quickly, and when his eyes met Lance’s, they had some sort of fire that Lance hadn’t- and still didn’t- understand. “Cheat? I didn’t cheat. What’s it to you, anyway?”

All right, Lance had felt somewhat scared about insulting the guy that everyone simultaneously loved and hated, and had a reputation for kind of blowing up. But like the stupid teenager he had been, Lance went on, “Was it big brother? Iverson? One of the higher-ups? Because no way could you be that good, when I was top of my old class and now I’m failing, because your perfect scores made Iverson expect more from us normal people.”

Keith had practically bristled. It was kind of freaky to see his hair stand on end, but that didn’t seem to bother Keith. In hindsight, it was probably some Galra thing. “All right, fine. You’re not even a bad pilot! I get it, I’m good and you can’t take it.”

“Aww, you think I’m good? Too bad your personality doesn’t match your simulator scores.”

Keith had turned as red as that stupid jacket. “Shut up!”

“It’s okay, we can be rivals,” Lance had crooned.

And… that had been how it started. Weird as it was, Lance had kind of loved that conversation. He drifted out of his memories as Keith continued talking.

“That was how our one-sided rivalry began. I never really paid attention to it, and I regret that, but not as much as I regret… other things. Anyway. I guess we had a weird sort of competition, but that’s the extent of Lance’s impact at the time. I didn’t even meet Hunk and Pidge until… after. We’ll get there.

“Then there was Kerberos. It happened just after I officially got into the Garrison. Sure, Shiro had been on missions before, but this one was the longest and most important one so far. Shiro dragged me out to the launch site a few days before he was scheduled to leave because he’d been having some weird feeling in his gut. Now I know that he was probably having some freaky premonition thing. And… yeah, that was the same day the Holts took pictures.”

Lance opened his eyes slightly at Pidge’s gasp. Her eyes were wide with a conflicted expression.

“So it fucking was you in that picture! Damn it, Keith, you’re going to be the death of me, you… I can’t believe he lied,” she said, deflating at the end.

Coran paused the recording. “Is this something…?”

“Yes!” Pidge growled. “You know those photos I have of Matt that you guys thought was me and my girlfriend?”

“You were really convincing,” Lance joked halfheartedly. “Still can’t believe you’re a girl.”

“Shut up, Lance,” the entire team said in unison.

“Anyway,” Pidge continued, “Around the time Keith began to pilot the Black Lion, I was really, really worried that my dad and Matt weren’t out there. I was looking at the picture, and I saw who I thought was Keith and Shiro in the background. I was kind of a wreck, so I asked him if that was him. He totally freaked out and insisted it wasn’t him.”

“I don’t understand why this matters,” Allura said. “That was years ago, and clearly that’s over with- what does that have to do with now?”

“I just… I just wish he told me when I really needed him, and now I know that he chose not to help,” Pidge said, sighing. “It just… hurts, you know? Plus, that whole ‘Keith blowing up at me’ part.”

Hunk, like the amazing person he is, stepped up and hugged her. Allura, Shiro, Coran, and Lance all joined in.

“I don’t want to continue watching,” Allura admitted. “I watched all of this one, and it doesn’t get much worse, but I’m worried about the next ones. It’s just…” She broke off with a long exhale and a blink of her colorful, tear-filled eyes.

“I don’t want to see it either, princess,” Coran said soothingly. “But if we fear for what’s ahead, it only proves that we owe it to Keith to continue.”

Lance nodded. “Guys, we haven’t seen Keith’s face for seven years. We have to go on.”

“Now I feel ridiculous for triggering everyone’s problems,” Pidge muttered, but she let herself still be hugged.

After what seemed like hours, definitely longer than they’d been watching the file itself, they broke apart.

“I miss him,” Lance mumbled. “I miss him, his stupid mullet, the stupid rivalry, how awkward he could be…”

“How brave he was,” Hunk offered.

“His love for the stars and all of us,” Shiro whispered.

Nobody could say anything more.

Eventually, the team gathered the courage to press the button that continued Keith’s story. Lance wasn’t sure about the others, but he knew that if he didn’t keep going, he wouldn’t be able to live with himself. Abandoning his friend again because he was too scared? Now that he thought about it, Lance really wanted to know what had happened to Keith. Even if it wasn’t pleasant, Lance needed to know.

He took a deep breath and listened.

“I was there when the ship took off. I snuck away from the Garrison every night to get to town to see the news because I knew the Garrison would tell us nothing- only fake information. After months with little to no sleep, I fell asleep the night the news came in. I was confused that morning. Everyone was staring at me. Watching, waiting, whispering- seeing when I’d break.

“So when the announcement came, I was sitting cluelessly, eating breakfast in my corner. I didn’t expect it when Iverson stood up and told everyone that the Kerberos Mission had failed due to pilot error. And Shiro was the pilot.

“For the first month, I didn’t talk to anyone. I was in shock. How could my brother, my best friend, the only person I cared about and cared for me in return, be dead? It didn’t make any sense. It couldn’t be true, it wasn’t true. I was so mad that I… finally snapped.

“The Galaxy Garrison decided to introduce a new simulation- the Kerberos Rescue Mission.”

The venom in his voice surprised Lance. He cracked an eye open to glance at Pidge. She was almost trembling, the anger on her face obvious. She didn’t look okay. Lance vaguely wondered if she had felt the same thing. Pidge had gotten angry plenty of times after their failed simulator runs of the Kerberos Rescue Mission. He then looked at Shiro. The man looked shaken, like he had never seen Keith like this. Did he not know how Keith got kicked out of the Garrison?

Maybe. This story was pretty insane.There were legends about it for the year after he was kicked out.

“I walked into class that day, and Iverson wanted me to model the simulator for everyone. Something about how I was the example of the perfect pilot. Quiet, talented, no longer getting into fights, the phoenix in the ashes of a dead brother. Dead inside. Well, not anymore, I had decided, though that mentality is long gone from me now.”

That wasn’t ominous and clear foreshadowing at all. Lance was torn between bitter laughter and hiding.

“So I got into the simulator and, in front of everybody at the Garrison, I crashed straight into the surface of Kerberos. I walked out, and Iverson stalked towards me, clearly furious. He didn’t deserve my caring about ruining his reputation. He didn't have the right, after accusing Shiro of something so wrong. After saying the mission had failed, after saying Shiro was dead, after trying to make me do a fake rescue mission for him- he doesn’t have the right of respect. Before he could say a word, I punched him in the face.”

Lance winced, but he was irrationally grinning. No matter what was going on with Keith in the recording, even if he wasn’t even kind of okay, this was a moment of triumph, despite it not being Lance’s achievement. He had really hated Iverson. People had whispered about it, and he had seen for himself the black eye that Keith had given Iverson. It hadn’t gone away for months, and it was rumored that Keith had actually given Iverson a concussion and a fractured bone. Plus, the event had been what dragged Lance up from cargo to fighter. Again, no matter how terrible Keith looked, Lance had to admit that this event was pretty legendary.

“I said ‘pilot error’ and walked away. The next day, I found myself dropped in some middle-of-nowhere Arizona town, stripped of my right to join any part of the military or get a flying license. That might have been the greatest moment of my life. It definitely fits into the top ten.”

“Holy shit,” Shiro cried, and when Shiro cursed, you knew it was definitely a big deal. “Why didn’t any of you tell me?”

“I kinda forgot about it,” Pidge offered. “I mean, we all knew about it, so we figured you heard it at some point, or that he told you.”

“My baby brother is insane,” Shiro sighed.

Lance tried not to think too hard about the fact that present tense might not match Keith anymore.

“I had nothing. No one. Nowhere to go. So I built a shack in the desert a few miles from the Garrison. Gathered the rest of my money and bought a hover bike. I got into illegal racing because I needed something to do. Make sure that not all of my potential was wasted. Besides, I didn’t want to go back to the rest of the world. In my opinion, back then it was better to live alone and with minimum resources than go back to civilization and be forced back to the Shiroganes or some new family. That’s antisocial, I know, but it was how I felt. I can… I can barely imagine it, now.”

Okay, Lance got the feeling of a slow burn at this point. His anxiety was mixed with anticipation at whatever had happened to Keith that changed him so much.

“At some point, I came to my senses and decided to try and find out what really happened to Shiro. It took months, but I eventually found those caves. It didn’t light up for me like it did for Lance, but I marked it down. After visiting, I felt the energy that I know now was Blue’s energy, even though I had no idea at the time.

“All of my research led to that one night. When Shiro’s pod crashed into Earth about a mile away, I wasn’t sure who was in there, only the vague idea of an ‘arrival’, but I needed to know. So I set the explosions not too far away, and I broke in as soon as I had a chance. I wasn’t expecting to see my long-lost adopted brother, strapped down, unconscious, with a scar across the bridge of his nose, a tuft of white hair, and an alien prosthetic.

“I wasn’t expecting to see Lance, either. I didn’t recognize him at first, but trust me, ‘cargo pilot’ was not what I meant to say. Especially with my first human interaction outside of store employees. I really did know Lance outside of being a cargo pilot, I swear. Anyway, it was kind of a rush, but then I met the rest of you guys. I half-recognized Pidge because Matt was friends with Shiro, but she went by a new name and looked like a mini-Matt, so I just ignored that. I didn’t have much time to speak to Shiro alone, because we went for the Blue Lion as soon as we could. You guys know how that story goes. Flying lions, showing off to the Garrison, leaving Earth.

“That brings a conclusion to this file. Next up is the rest of the time you knew me.”

Lance opened his eyes to see Keith smiling sadly before tapping something that he was blind to. The screen turned dark, and the image of the seven files appeared again.

“Wow,” he mumbled.

“Yeah,” Hunk agreed. “That was intense.”

“I didn’t even know,” Shiro said softly. “I didn’t even know he felt like this.”

“None of us knew,” Coran tried. “It’s alright, m’boy.”

“Can we not watch the next one yet?” Pidge asked, a nervous look on her face. “I know we need to, but I need a bit to process all of this.”

“I don’t know what to expect for the next one, but we have to stay strong,” Allura said seriously. “We’ve faced universal war against the biggest empire in the history of the universe- we can listen to the life story of one of our friends, no matter what happened to him.”

Lance let out a breath. “Let’s take a break.”

Nobody had any reason to disagree.

...