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They did it. It was getting tricky but with good teamwork and fast reactions they successfully survived the galra fleet without getting seriously injured.

Their breaths are coming in fast, abrupt puffs as they finally lower their weapons before facing each other, wearing proud smiles.

Lance deactivates his Bayard, then stretches out his balled fist towards his teammate Keith. It earns him two confused frowns, one at his hand and one directly hitting his eyes.

He chuckles.

“What? Never heard of a fist bump before, mullet?”

With a small sound, Keith’s Bayard deactivates as well. He pouts, refusing to answer that question, though it was answer enough for Lance.

“Look”, he starts, grabbing Keith’s free hand to stick it out. “Now form a fist. Like you always do, actually.”

He gains himself a glare from the red paladin, though Keith still obeys Lance’s order.

Their fists meet with a quiet thud, their eyes never leaving each other. Slowly, Keith’s frown changes into surprise, just to end in a fond smile. Lance feels the pressure Keith’s starting to put against his knuckles. It makes him feel comfortable.

“And thaaat’s a fist bump, grumpy boy.” His gloved fingers immediately miss the warmth of the other as he retracts his hand again before making it awkward. “Just… maybe a little bit more of hitting them together and less hesitation. Also, try to be more enthusiastic, mullet man. ‘M waiting for your improved fist bump.”

“Try earn one first.”

Lance fake gasps.

 

___

 

“’t’s so booooooring.” The chair squeaks terribly as Lance leans back on it, his head faced towards the ceiling. Even with his annoyed groans filling the room, Hunk, Pidge and Matt don’t even dare to look up from their weird alien thing they’re inspecting. It’s some techy stuff Lance doesn’t understand anything about.

“Did you guys find anything out, yet? What’re you even looking at?” He swings out of the chair and places himself behind his friends instead. In his eyes, the thing looks pretty lame.

“Actually, we’re not sure”, Pidge starts, adjusting her glasses. “That’s what we’re trying to find out. Maybe it has some kind of code on it.”

“Oh, ok. Cool?”

“Yeah, well it could be. Or it could end up being pretty useless.” Pidge shrugs.

“Nah, it’s gotta be something. My cool sister found it after all.” Matt gives her a pat on the shoulder. Lance can’t stop the small smile forming on his lips as he thinks about his own sister for a moment.

“Wait! I think I got it!” Hunk’s enthusiastic voice echoes in Lance’s ears and suddenly everyone’s eyes are focused on the mysterious object again. The one that Lance has absolute zero interest in.

“Yeah… good luck with your nerdy stuff, I guess”, he murmurs, stuffs his hands in his pockets and leaves.

Somehow, the castle seems more quiet than usual. That is, if you ignore all the complicated altean stuff Coran and Allura talk about all the time. There are scary stories sometimes. But they’re still enjoyable from time to time. Even though Lance doesn’t always understand the altean culture, he loves hearing crazy things about them. He loves the way Allura and Coran’s eyes sparkle while they float in nostalgic memories. Until their expressions change into sad looks, missing the time they once lived in. When that happens, though, Lance always quickly changes the subject, makes a lame joke or just does anything that makes them smile again. It works, mostly. And if it doesn’t, he gives them time to mourn over their loss. Sometimes, it terrifies him though. If he thinks about his own family, his own home planet, he wants to stop thinking for a moment.

And lately, it’s been quiet. Something’s different, he feels himself being bored more times than usual. You aren’t supposed to feel bored when you’re in freaking space. Not only that, he feels lonely even. Not that he’d admit that. He wants to spend time with the other paladins but somehow he doesn’t fit in. So he’s been playing videogames a lot for the past weeks. Not that he disliked gaming but it has become a lot more than usual.

Lance jumps in surprise, his hands quickly pushing deeper into his pockets as the alarm blares, filling his surroundings in a shade of deep red.

“Paladins! Get into your suits, we’ve received a distress signal!” 

Great! Finally some action! It’s probably not what Lance should think off right now. He still does.

He quickly changes into his beloved blue Paladin suit and makes his way to red.

Red.

It has been some time now since Lance was forced to leave blue just to be accepted by the red lion. It was still somewhat strange. Not bad. Just… different, maybe. And just when he became more comfortable with his new position on the team, as the right hand man of Voltron, his leader suddenly had decided to leave. It has been some weeks since then. Something in Lance’s stomach twists but he’s determined on ignoring it.

Red greets him with a soothing purr in his head and he immediately smiles, grabbing her controls.

“Lancey Lance is on his way saving the people in need. Or the, uh, aliens.”

His ears are filled with quiet laughter, he can practically hear his teammates shaking their heads.

“Well, since ‘Lancey Lance’ thinks he’s very capable of doing so, I think it’s the best if you’re going into the ship.” Pidge’s amused voice comes through the coms.

“On my way!” He answers, maneuvering red towards the galra ship where the supposedly prisoners are being held in.

“Be careful in there”, there is concern filling Hunks voice. Sweet, sweet Hunk, always worried about his best friend.

“And fast.” Shiro’s voice sounds stern. And cold. Lance doesn’t pay it too much attention, already entering the ship, ready to fight and save lives.

He tries his best at having his eyes everywhere possible to avoid getting surprised by a galra soldier or something. It occurs though… that he’s completely alone. It’s quiet. Very quiet. The worst kind of quiet. It’s not dark, though. The whole is drowning in purple lightning.

“Where are they…”, Lance whispers to himself, raising an eyebrow skeptically. Shoving down the uneasy feeling forming in his stomach, he dares to go deeper into the ship, his own steps being the only thing filling it with sound.

“Guys…” he says quietly into the coms, “There is something strange going on. I can’t see any—“

Before he can end his sentence, he’s suddenly being grabbed from behind, one hand firmly placed on his mouth. Naturally, he panics instantly, turning around to shoot at the guy, but then--

“Shh.” The weird blade of Marmora guy shushes him and Lance doesn’t even try to cover up his relieved sigh. He looks down at their hand, holding their special Marmora blade in a solid grip. Oh, Lance figures, so they already took the Galras out.

“Jesus.” He takes some steps backwards, creating space between himself and the stranger. “You better don’t do this again, bladey boy. I was juuuuust about to kill you! Beware of the paladins of Voltron.” Despite him showing off, he actually wouldn’t have known what to do if there would’ve been an actual enemy grabbing him like that.

He hears some kind of… chuckle coming from behind the mask. The corners of his mouth twitch upward a little bit.

“So you’ve already done the fun part, huh? Typical blade member, I see.” While Lance complains shamelessly loud, the stranger doesn’t even pay him any attention. They just look around them before gesturing towards Lance, making him follow their fast steps.  

“Yeah, yeah. Coming already”, he mumbles before speeding up to keep up with the weird Marmora guy. 

They walk for a little bit, still no galra in sight. Nonetheless, his new companion never loses concentration on their surroundings. Lance stays slightly behind them. His eyes are magically glued to the stranger. Something about them makes him want to follow them wherever they want him to go. Wow, Lance. Good job thinking this about someone who practically just gave you a heart attack.

“Do you know where the prisoners are? I’ve got a hero job to do, you know.”

The other just waves their hand to keep following. Lance obeys, wearing an unimpressed look on his face. Why do I always end up meeting strange people?

The thought makes Lance smile to himself.

“Y’know…” he says, glancing up at the very high ceiling above him, being in thought. “Since you’re a blade. You probably know this guy. You know—he’s like, he’s probably the newbie.” Lance chuckles, imagining Keith getting into a group of people as the newbie everyone expects to suck at first.

“He’s got this veeeery old fashioned hair style”, Lance grabs the air next to his neck with one hand even though the other can’t see him. “Do you even know about different hairstyles? I don’t know what you guys—whatever. Pretty sure even aliens think about it as ridiculous.”

He sees the blade member shake his head just the slightest. What? Do they seriously think Keith’s mullet looks good? In what universe? A different thought crosses his mind. Are they maybe friends with him? Another one. Does Keith even think about me—about us anymore?

He pushes them aside.

“He’s stupid”, he mumbles quietly, a smile forcing its way on his face. “He’s also, ah, talented, though. You—yeah, he’s good with, with the whole knife thing.” His smile never leaves, though it feels sad on his lips. “Not having him, obviously is, uh, a loss to team Voltron. But—you know, that’s not… it just feels weird not having him there in general, despite team Voltron.” Without even realizing, his feet slowly stop moving. He’s standing still, his gaze glued to the floor. Yeah, he thinks, definitely weird without him.

At first, he doesn’t even notice the door they are standing in front of. The mysterious stranger puts his hand on the hand print and it opens with a ‘swoosh’. He gestures with his head towards the opening, silently telling Lance to go ahead.

“What? Are you not coming with me?”

The Marmora’s head shakes.

“Geez. So you just came here to swing your knife around like a maniac and then leave it to me to save the people. Not trying to generalize here but you blade people all have the same mindset.”

He’s about to turn and finally do the job he came here for in the first place, when he stops for a second again, making eye contact with the stranger. Well, at least where he thinks their eyes are.

“Oh!” His face lightens up. “Tell Keith—that’s his stupid name—you’ve met Lance, the best and most handsome paladin of Voltron. Just tell him I saved the world once again, he won’t be surprised.”

He hears a snort coming from behind him before he storms into the room, ending this strange mission once and for all.

 

__

 

He is getting mad. Like, honestly, he feels his blood boiling in his veins. Why would no one ever listen to him? Normally, Lance isn’t the type to growl, shout or get seriously angry because of something. But right now he just wants to scream out of frustration because Shiro isn’t taking his words seriously. Not even one bit.

“We should’ve left way earlier!”

They had been on a risky mission. Lance had suggested to get the hell out of there because it was getting dangerous but Shiro insisted on staying. Long story short, it led to Allura getting hurt. Not dramatically but still, it could’ve been easily avoided.

“Lance, lower your voice. We had no other choice.” Lance’s eyes catch Shiro’s stern ones which are looking down on him. In both ways someone can look down on you.

“No. No. We had. Shiro, you know we had. You just didn’t do what was right in that situation! You didn’t even want to hear anything about it! And you still won’t!” The blue paladin’s frustration grows further and further. He could be screaming at a wall right now, he’d accomplish the same thing.

“I can’t always do whatever you want and you should know that. I have to think for the team.” The black paladin crosses his arms. It looks wrong on him.

Lance takes a deep breath, his hands balled into fists next to his body. He releases them, loudly breathing out.

“I wish Keith would be back as our leader. At least he listened to me once in a while.”

Lance intentionally avoids eye contact.

“And he also didn’t suck as a leader. Even with his bumpy start, we ended up being a team, a team that decides together”, he adds muttering.

“Enough!” He winces at Shiro’s upset voice, something he has never heard before. Not like that, at least. It feels way too hostile.

Once more, he takes a deep breath but then just turns on his heels, realizing that this will lead to nothing anyways.

I should talk to the others. I can’t be the only one thinking Shiro’s wrong about this.

While walking through the lonely halls of the castle he thinks about the person he should talk about this first.

Pidge? She’s so happy about Matt being here, I doubt she wants to deal with this right now.

Coran? No, he wasn’t even there when it happened…

Allura? She just recovered, I shouldn’t bother her so soon.

Hunk? He’d always had the talent to look through people. Maybe talking to him first would be a good idea.

There is still one thought left that involuntarily crosses his mind.

Keith? Nope. He’d be the last person who’d listen to me saying Shiro, out of all people, is wrong about something. Also… he’s not here anyways.

So he decides on telling Hunk. His best friend will hear him out, he’s sure about that.

In his head, he precisely thinks about how he will address this issue. The moment he thinks he’s ready, he nods to himself and just when he is about to knock on the yellow paladin’s door, he hears a sudden explosion going off somewhere on the castle.

“Fuck!” The floor shakes so hard for a moment, Lance has to press himself firmly against the wall to not fall over. His head hurts as it crashes painfully against the hard wall. There is an awful high sound occupying his ears after the loud explosion.

On trembling feet, he tries his best to stand steady again.

“What happened…” He mutters to himself. His eyes flutter to the door again, before he runs over and beats against it, hard and loud.

“Hunk! Hunk, you in there?! We have to get out of here!”

Silence.

He’s probably not in there.

His eyes are searching for a solution in the air as if it would tell him what to do. He quickly comes to the conclusion that the smartest thing to do would be meeting in the common room so he rushes there as fast as he can.

Already working on the issue, he spots all of his teammates.

“What happened?!” He walks over to them, all of them standing in a circle now.

“We don’t know. That really came out of nowhere…” Allura searches the castle for major destruction on the digital map. “It seems the explosion took place near our dining room.” She places her finger on the exact spot and Lance looks over her shoulder to see.

Suddenly though, the map disappears right in front of his eyes, making Allura twitch in surprise.

“Wha-?”

“It seems the castle’s somehow… malfunctioning… Hunk and I will fix it as fast as possible.” Pidge immediately starts typing something on the control panel.

“It’s too dangerous. We should get out of here as long as we can. We don’t know what caused this, we don’t know who caused this”, Lance states, visually worried. The word ‘malfunctioning’ tied with ‘castle’ brings bad memories back.

“No.” Shiro’s voice is determined.

“But-“

“We can’t just leave. We don’t know what we will find outside.”

“We also don’t know what might be inside, here, you know, in the castle! Right now!”

“We can handle it.”

Or, we can go to our lions and prepare ourselves for the worst.”

“Not risking taking them out now. Still, suit up everybody!”

Lance growls and stomps away, quickly getting into his armor. At least something he can agree on.  As soon as they’re all in their rightful suits, they meet again.

“Ok, stay focused”, Shiro says.

Lance grumbles something inaudible. They all try their best at concentrating on everything that could seem suspicious.

Another explosion. A smaller one, though.

Lance snaps.

“We have to get out of here or we will die!”

His eyes helplessly search for the ones of his teammates. They all wear the same, somewhat guilty, somewhat overwhelmed look. He grits his teeth.

Fine.”

He’s raging internally but he still can’t blame them. They probably don’t know why there would be a reason to not to listen to their leader. That doesn’t keep him from leaving alone, though.

“You’re repeating your mistake, team leader”, he spits out the words as if they’re poison on his tongue, “but I will go.”

He has to find the source of this or everyone’s going to die. If someone will surprise attack them, there is not much they can do. Especially without having their lions which also means no Voltron. And just like that, he quickly storms out of the common room, ignoring the huge amount of voices screaming his name. Someone has to think with their own head or this won’t end well.

The dark hallways light up for a moment as he activates his Bayard. Preparing for the worst.

He distantly remembers Allura mentioning the dining room so he decides to search there for anything suspicious. His breath being the only sound in Lance’ ears, he moves around the castle, always on high alert that something might attack him. Rounding a corner, he notices the smoke disturbing his vision. With a click, he puts his visor down, not wanting to inhale that weird stuff.

The explosion caused this.

He doesn’t know wherever he should risk going in there without seeing much or if he should wait outside, risking something worse happening meanwhile. His eyes move from left to right as he considers both.

Waiting would be the same as staying in the common room, doing nothing.

Then, shaking his head, he storms into the smoke filled room. Surprisingly, he sees more than he thought he could. Today seems to be his lucky day, he thinks, as the smoke actually dissolves around him.

At the sight of loads of Galra soldiers aiming at him, he takes it back immediately though.

Shoving down the panicked scream, he jumps behind a wall, pressing himself against it, trying not to breathe. With trembling fingers, he activates the comms.

“Guys”, he whispers, “I need some help.”

The only thing audible is a quiet buzzing sound.

“Dammit”, he swears, grabbing his Bayard firmly. Now is not the time to worry about the others, he thinks as he tries his best to push his worries aside for now. Ok Lance, now is the time to actually prove your sharpshooter skills to yourself. Show what you are capable of.

Ready to die in the fight, he jumps out of his hiding spot, quickly aiming at the huge amount of enemies now noticing him. They immediately shoot at him, though Lance tries his best to protect himself from the deadly firing by putting his shield up. At the same time, he risks getting out of his save spot to shoot back. He manages to take out most of the soldiers, internally praising himself for actually not fucking this whole thing up. Though the small victory doesn’t last long as he screams in terrible pain the moment he gets hit by a shot on his shoulder.

“Shit…” He swears, hurt seeping through his entire arm. The one he held his red Bayard with which now lands at his feet with a loud thud, deactivating instantly. When he looks up, he’s met with the face of a Galra, apparently the last one to be left.

Just one. Just this one and I would’ve won this.

His teeth are gritted in pain, his breath coming in fast, loud puffs.

Is this the end?

Raging, he raises a fist to punch back, to free himself out of the grip of the enemy. Before that happens though, he notices a knife being held just at the height of his throat. He doesn’t even think about wherever it could manage to cut through the armor or not. He’s just terrified. Though, he doesn’t show it.

Instead, he grins.

“You won’t accomplish anything by killing me, trust me”, he’s surprised about his voice not cracking, actually sounding as confident as he wants to. Probably because it’s true. “We have another red Paladin anyways. And he will kick ass, all of your asses.” Just after the words are out, he mentally apologizes to Keith, worrying they might immediately go after him just because of his stupid provocative words.

He laughs a little bit. It’s a bitter, sad laugh.

Even when I’m dying, I somehow manage to fuck up, huh?

Now is not the time for self-pity, he scolds himself.

The Galra couldn’t care less about his inner conflict, pressing the knife hard against his throat. And now Lance knows for sure that it, indeed, is capable of cutting through his armor. He holds his breath in shock, all of his sassy comments getting stuck in his throat. The one that’ll get cut in just some seconds. Somehow, dying feels like everything happens way slower than it actually does. Maybe it’s god giving you the last time to think about your life.

There are tears forming in the blue Paladin’s eyes now.

Mom, I’m sorry I never said goodbye.

He swallows, forcing the tears to stay in. He won’t die crying.

In fact, he really won’t.

He finally breathes out again when a loud noise, just behind the Galra, catches his attention. Eyes burning, he opens them.

And there he is.

Keith.

This time, there is no doubt.

The way he moves.

The shape of his body.

The way he handles his knife.

The way he’s always, always there whenever Lance needs him the most.

How did he not notice the first time? It’s so obvious, Lance would recognize him being blind by now.

The former red Paladin throws his Blade knife at them, missing the Galra just by some inches. Though, Lance thinks, Keith would never miss, he probably only wanted to get his attention off of slicing Lance’s throat.

Lance’s eyes catch on his Bayard still laying right next to his feet. An idea forms in his head and before he can even think about it, he kicks the Bayard, sending it sliding over the floor until it reaches Keith, who immediately understands, picking it up in one smooth motion. It’s like they don’t need words to communicate and Lance feels his heart beating faster, adrenaline quivering inside of him.

The red Bayard activates beautifully in Keith’s left hand, lightning up in red for just a second. Any bit of anxiety vanishing out of Lance’s body at the sight of it.

He dodges the Galra’s attacks perfectly before stabbing him painfully exact with his new formed sword.

Lance watches in awe.

The Galra falls on his knees before going down completely in front of Lance.

His eyes catches Keith’s whose mask just dissolved. They look at each other for a moment, the most of Keith’s face being in the dark due to his hood. Though his eyes still shine through the darkness, making Lance’s breath hitch.

He twitches when Keith takes firm steps towards him out of a sudden. Before he can bump into Lance though he stops abruptly, making the blue one blink in confusion. Then Keith’s stern expression changes into a soft, fond one. His fist is suddenly balled and stretched out towards Lance who needs some more seconds before actually getting it.

He smiles, chuckling a little bit before bumping Keith’s fist with his own.

“We are SO awesome.” Proud of their performance, he grins widely.

This time it’s Keith who lets out a quiet laughing sound. It’s the most beautiful thing ever, Lance hasn’t heard it in weeks. He has missed it. He has missed this stupid guy in general.

“I know”, he agrees and his eyes start searching for something. “Where is the rest of the team, though?”

Lance remembers his fight with Shiro he had some minutes ago and bits back his anger.

Keith and Shiro are really close, he probably isn’t going to listen to me anyways. I know how he gets all protective when it comes to Shiro.

“They should be…”, Lance gulps, swallowing his worries once again, “they should be save. Let’s go to the control room.” Just when Lance is about to lead the way, he stops for a second, looking back at Keith. Right, Keith isn’t a paladin anymore. “Uhm, I mean… unless you’ve got other business to do?”

His supposed to be rival shakes his head, his brows furrowed in confusion.

“Alriiighty, then”, Lance start’s moving, hurrying to the control room he had let his teammates behind just now. Somehow, he feels anger rising up to his chest with every step he takes. Once again, no one even considered listening to him even though he was right. It bothered him and honestly, if Keith wouldn’t have shown up… Lance feels a knot forming in his throat and tries to swallow it down. No, now is not the time to think about stuff like this. Instead, he shakes his head and focuses on the mission again.

“Lance!” he hears Hunk calling just as he’s about to enter the room. His best friend almost stumbles into him, but stops abruptly before that can happen. “And… Keith, apparently. Hey buddy!”

“Hunk, are you guys alright?” Keith asks in a serious tone, ignoring the friendly welcome.

“Yeah, we’re good… we were worried about Lance though since he decided to leave all out of a sudden”, his eyes catch Lance’s again, “What happened?”

The blue Paladins mouth opens for an answer, but closes again as Keith pushes past him, answering Hunk instead.

“Why would you guys split up?! Seriously, Lance was getting in a really bad sit-“

“It’s fiiiiine, I handled it. I mean, what Keith wanted to say was, the situation got a little heated”, he shoots Keith a short glance, “But, uhm. I handled it. We, we handled it.” In return, he gains an even more confused frown. Lance subtly waves him off, clearing his throat.

“Keith”, all three turn at the sudden deep voice, coming from behind Hunk.

“Shiro”, Keith says, walking towards him. “What happened? The blade saw some galra soldiers entering the castle so I decided to show up. It seemed strange that they could enter so easily, what about the shield the castle normally puts up?”

“They somehow shut it down”, Allura joins their conversation, “but Pidge managed to fix it.”

“Yeah, wasn’t too hard actually.”

Even though they are all speaking in normal tones, not raising their voices or mentioning anything of what happened before, the atmosphere feels so tense to Lance. Somehow, he feels like an outsider, like he is being pushed out of his circle of comfort. It makes him nervous, though he doesn’t dare to show it. He also ignores Shiro’s stern eyes on him. 

“It wasn’t good to split up, though”, Keith insists and Lance whips his head to the right, giving him a surprised look. 

“What do you mean?” Shiro asks, frowning.

“There were a lot of Galra out there, it’s really hard-“

“Lance decided to go on himself.”

Lance internally sighs, not wanting to have this conversation in front of everyone else. It feels like being scolded by your teacher while the rest of the class watches you, some in amusement and some in pity. He doesn’t know what is worse.

Keith looking at him with furrowed brows while not understanding anything doesn’t make it any better.

“What?” He asks, “Why would you-“

“Yeah, yeah”, Lance interrupts, now taking some steps forward, standing in front of Shiro. “It was dangerous, I get it now. Guess, I was wrong,” he grits out through his teeth. He feels Hunk’s hand on his shoulder and it’s making him calm down. Everyone is probably exhausted, too. He shouldn’t make a fuss now.

Shiro nods, then lets out a deep breath and adds another hand on Lance’s shoulder, the one where Hunk’s isn’t. The left one. Lance tries not to wince as much.

“It’s good you’re save”, Shiro says, now a lot calmer, even smiling and Lance automatically relaxes a bit.

He feels both hands leaving his boney shoulders as everyone decides to split up, repairing the damage the attack has caused. As soon as everyone’s out of his sight, Lance releases a tired sigh.

“You’re injured.”

Lance jumps at the sudden voice, looking at a very moody looking Keith. He somehow didn’t notice him not leaving with the rest of the team.

“What?” he asks almost unwillingly and more out of confusion.

Keith raises an eyebrow before looking directly at his shoulder, then looking into his eyes again. Lance slowly understands what he means and puts a hand on his injured shoulder, shrugging instead of jumping at the pain.

“It’s nothing serious. At least, nothing someone like me can’t take”, he grins, hiding his other emotions going on in his head right now.

“Are you sure?” Keith asks concerned, taking some steps towards Lance. “How did Shiro not notice…” he adds mumbling, while placing a hand on Lance’s shoulder, putting on a lot more pressure than necessary.

“Ouch”, Lance curses while wincing immediately.

Keith sighs. “Let’s go to the infirmary. We should at least put a bandage on it.”

Lance has lost all his will to fight back, so he just follows Keith to the infirmary, even though he’s still convinced that he’s fine. Well, obviously it does hurt, but it’s nothing serious, he would live. He sighs, lifting his gaze to watch Keith walking in front of him. Should he thank him for actually saving his life? Somehow, Lance feels like it is the least he can do but he also somehow feels uncomfortable bringing it up again even though he really is thankful. He decides to better shut up about it, it isn’t a pleasant memory to begin with. Well, not all of it, at least. He can’t shake off this warm feeling whenever he thinks back to Keith coming out of nowhere, acting like a stupid hero. Before noticing he smiles to himself, catching up to Keith.

Keith gives him a neutral look, Lance shrugs.

“I couldn’t take looking at your stupid mullet anymore”, he teases.

“My suit’s got a hood, Lance!”, Keith argues, getting worked up over Lance’s little comment, “it’s literally barely visible!”

Lance’s corners of his mouth twitch at Keith’s outburst. Getting a rise out of Keith almost always manages to focus his thoughts on stupid things with a lot less meaning. That way, he doesn’t have to overthink so much anymore.

“And isn’t that a shame!” Lance cheers, much to Keith’s confusion.

Soon, they reach the infirmary and Lance’s nose is immediately filled with a lot of different smells. It doesn’t exactly smell like the medicine they have on earth but it’s still similar. His nose scrunches up.

Without even being told to, he sits down on the soft couch while Keith searches for bandages. His eyes look around the room, it’s rather small and instead of white, the room’s wrapped in a light pink.

“Got it, show me your shoulder”, Keith’s voice is suddenly very near and he finds him standing in front of him, bandages in one of his hands.

Lance struggles a bit before he successfully gets rid of his armor. He tries to not look too embarrassed while he slides down the flight suit just enough to expose his injured shoulder. He then shifts a bit, so Keith can sit next to him.

“Uh, I can- I can do it myself, you know.”

“It’s fine”, Keith says, starting to spray some shit on the injury which immediately burns away Lance’s whole body. At least that’s what it feels like so Lance cries out a horrified scream.

“Duuuuude!” he whines, covering his shoulder with his right hand, “are you trying to kill me?”

He hates Keith’s smug smile.

“Stop enjoying my suffering!” Lance demands, crossing his arms while putting on a pouty face.

“I’m sorry-“

“Liar.”

Keith’s smile twitches, holding back a laugh. “I’m sorry, but I have to disinfect it.”

Doesn’t mean you should enjoy it as much as you do.

“Stop being such a baby about it”, Keith chuckles, shaking his head and getting ready to spray more fire on his injured teammate.

Lance bites his bottom lips. Fine, he thinks, I’m not a baby about it.

Except, he totally is as the burning sensation comes back again and immediately hurts like a little bitch. How could that hurt more than the actual shot? He tries his best at holding back though, once or twice a strangled noise escaping his shut lips.

“I’m done”, Keith announces and Lance lets out the deepest breath he has ever hold.

Keith proceeds to bandage his wound, this time a lot more careful. After getting the disinfect treatment, this process doesn’t hurt Lance at all. He’s way more uncomfortable with the silence surrounding them though he doesn’t know what to talk about. His arm starts to hurt from holding it up so long and he is also starting to feel really tired. It has been quite a shitty day for him.

“Hey”, Keith suddenly throws him out of his thoughts, gently putting Lance’s arm down again, apparently finished with his shoulder.

“Hm?”

Keith frowns, looking at his own lap and therefore avoiding eye contact with Lance. Though, the former blue paladin still notices the way Keith presses his lips together. When he doesn’t respond for another 10 seconds Lance nudges him with his shoulder, bumping them together ever so slightly.

“Hey, you started this. What is it?”

Suddenly, Keith whips his head towards him, wearing a serious and stern look, making Lance jerk back at the sudden movement. He blinks in confusion. “Uhm, Kei-“

“Why would you do that?” Keith asks, interrupting his teammate. His voice is a mix of concern and anger and Lance doesn’t understand a thing.

“What do you mean?”

“Leaving the team and instead going alone deeper into the castle was a suicide mission, Lance! Seriously if I wouldn’t have-“

This time, Lance interrupts him. “I know”, he spits out, not wanting to hear anything about it right now. “I know that Keith and I’m thankful, if that’s what you’re wanting to hear.”

“What I’m – what?” Keith can’t believe Lance’s words. “Lance, I’m not saying that so you can thank me!” The former red paladin scoffs unamused, closing off by crossing his arms and averting his gaze.

“I still am”, Lance says, sadness dripping through his voice, his eyes focused on his own hands.

“Lance-,” Keith turns to him again, though Lance doesn’t dare to look up. He feels the other relax a little bit next to him, making himself calm down, too. “That’s not it, though. You put yourself in danger, you could have- you could’ve-.”

Died?” Lance asks accompanied by a bitter laugh while being shocked over how smoothly it comes out even though he has refused to even think about it ever since it happened.

“…Yeah”, Keith says, way quieter than before.

For some minutes, both boys decide to say nothing. It’s not awkward this time, though. It doesn’t feel good either. Lance has the urge to make a stupid joke or to tease Keith or just anything, he doesn’t like this tense atmosphere especially not when he’s the reason for it.

The silence breaks when Keith clears his throat. “Why would you do that?” He repeats carefully.

Lance is so close to snapping, he clenches his fists as hard as he can to keep his cool. “It was dangerous to just do nothing.

“Still, you should know best how splitting up is a death sentence!” Keith’s voice grows louder without him even wanting to.

“Keith, I don’t need a damn lecture!”

“I’m not lecturing you, I’m-“

“What happened to ‘our mission is more important than any individuals’? Isn’t that, like, your favorite line, Keith!? What happened to that?!”

You happened!” Keith snaps angrily before his eyes widen in shock just as Lance’s do and they proceed to look at each other, both shutting up completely. Lance gulps, being captured in Keith’s gaze, in his somewhat indigo looking eyes, though they are filled with horror and shock. The moment is over, though, when Keith breaks eye contact to look at his feet and clear his throat once again. “You guys happened. You’re- you’re all important to me. We are all important to each other or am I wrong?”

No, you aren’t, Lance thinks with a slight disappointment, though he doesn’t know where it comes from. He doesn’t say anything. He just keeps looking at Keith who doesn’t look back and thinks of his words. Sure, he’s right. They do care about each other. But Lance also knows that they are defenders of the universe, the team can’t die. And practically they have two red paladins so who should risk their life if not him. Not Keith.

“You wouldn’t understand”, he says quietly, pressing his hands together.

“Well, explain it to me and we will see”, Keith scoffs.

“That’s not it”, Lance says harshly.

“Then what is it?” Keith is starting to get impatient.

Lance sighs. He’s conflicted. Sure, he somehow wants Keith – and the others – to tell about his suspicions. But on the other side, he doesn’t know how they will react, if they will even believe him or just laugh it off. Which, they probably wouldn’t, they’re a team after all, but he still can’t push the bad feeling aside. But there also is a different feeling inside of him, one that tells him that it is right to talk to Keith about it. The same he had when he told Keith about him wanting to leave the team for the sake of Voltron. He bites his bottom lip. And what did it led to? Keith leaving us for the blade. He can’t shake of the guilt he felt when Keith told them he won’t be with them anymore.

“Hey”, Keith’s calm voice suddenly throws him out of his thoughts. Their eyes meet and they hold their gazes. Lance swears he can see the world inside of the former red paladin’s eyes. When Keith starts talking again, he averts them though. “Uh, I- I know I am bad at all this emotional stuff, so- but- but there seems to be something bothering you. You’re acting weird.”

‘Must really be bothering you if you’re coming to talk to me.’

Lance blinks a few times.

“Well, weirder than usual”, Keith adds, making the conversation feel a little less heavy.

Lance can’t help but smile, relaxing a little bit. He leans back on his hands, looking up.

“Being weird is what makes someone interesting, Keith”, he says, shooting him a glance, “but you should know best, being the biggest weirdo I’ve met ever since the girl in kindergarten who ate crayons not only once, but all the time.”

“So a crayon eating girl is interesting to you?” Keith asks, raising an eyebrow.

“What? You think that’s boring?”

“More, like, disgusting.”

“Well, I never said that It isn’t”, Lance laughs, “but my point still stands”, he continues, waving a finger in front of Keith’s face, “it makes her interesting, in a weird way. ‘Cause she’s weird.”

Keith snorts, pushing Lance’s finger out of his personal space.

“I didn’t mean that kind of weird unless you started eating crayons while I was away.”

“Keith, we’re in space. Where exactly would I even get them?”

“Not the point, Lance”, Keith’s voice suddenly turns more serious again even though Lance tried his hardest to avoid the subject.

“Well, what’s your definition of weird then, big brain?” Lance asks, somewhat putting up a defensive stance.

“I don’t have a definition for it, Lance!” Keith sounds frustrated by now and Lance secretly hopes he will just drop it. But of course he doesn’t. “You just… you wouldn’t do something like this. I know that you’re the team player, you wouldn’t just… go on your own and abandon everyone else. That’s so—not you.”

“Oh, because you know me oh so well?”

“I-“, even with the first word, Keith’s voice cracks a little bit and Lance winces. He somehow has the urge to take his words back immediately. “I never said that. But weren’t you the one who taught me not to rush into things before thinking them through? To not split up because it will put everyone in danger, which it did! ‘Cause you were right, Lance!”

It’s the moment several emotions hit the blue paladin at once.

Surprise hits him as he never really realized how much impact his advice had had on Keith, tied with a small proudness.

But even harder, he feels a warm, bubbly feeling coming up in his chest. ‘You were right!’ Keith, out of all people, acknowledges that Lance has been right about something. He is giving him a lecture about him doing something wrong because he has been right before. How paradox.

But somehow, and he hates how it dominates all of the emotions, he feels anger boiling in his veins, again. Not a hateful anger, though. Something entirely different. Some of it isn’t even directed at Keith but himself. Also, it’s not anger alone, it’s… a really confusing feeling.

“Yeah, I did, Keith, I did! And you know what?! You just decided to leave after all our… our- I don’t know! Our work. Our team work, not only as Voltron, but as the two of us. Call it bonding, if you want.”

Keith jumps in surprise, looking at Lance in disbelief, while the blue paladin just sits straight, his body tense.

“What-“

“Forget it”, Lance sighs, slumping his shoulders in a devastating motion.

“No”, Keith shakes his head, not breaking eye contact while scooting a little closer to Lance. “You’re saying that but… you would’ve done the same!”

Lance tilts his head in confusion. What does he mean?

“You told me”, Keith sighs, “the other day, when you came into my room. You told me, you would step back as a paladin. So why are you blaming me, if you were about to do the same thing?”

Lance tries his best shoving away the feeling of guilt coming up. If he’d known that his actions would’ve led to Keith just… leaving, he would’ve kept his mouth shut. It wasn’t what he wanted to accomplish. But does Keith even know that?

“It’s not the same thing, Keith”, Lance says, wearing a serious expression. The moment Keith opens his mouth, Lance begins to talk again. “Let me explain. Yes, I did talk to you about my place on team Voltron. As a paladin, you know. Like I said, as my place on team Voltron. I would’ve stopped being the red paladin or the blue one or any other paladin. But”, he takes a deep breath, “I would’ve never… left, you know? Team Voltron and you guys are two separate things. I wouldn’t be a paladin anymore, therefore not a part of Voltron anymore, too. But that wouldn’t mean I would just stop being around. I would never… abandon you guys, but you Keith… you just… you did both, you know.” He swallows a lump he didn’t notice forming in his throat. To his surprise, he had managed to hold eye contact. He hopes it didn’t sound too accusing as he can’t really read Keith’s expression, making him nervous.

“Lance…” Keith starts, eyes wide, brows furrowed in worry.

Lance looks down at his lap, his hands fidgeting and he swallows once again.

“Is it my fault?” He asks, very quiet, not making any movements.

It’s silent for a moment, neither of them saying anything and Lance suppresses the urge to start fidgeting again.

“Lance, nothing’s your fault”, Keith finally says and it’s actually something Lance feared of hearing.

It may not be my fault but I’m still the reason.

At first, he just doesn’t answer. It’s not that he doesn’t know what to say – he just doesn’t know if he wants to say anything. Instead, he just looks at his hands, his eyes unfocused. Somehow, he is tired. He wants to sleep and he wants some things to end. Including this conversation. So he stands up, making his way to leave, without even addressing Keith again.

___

 

Even several weeks later, Lance hasn’t talked to Keith or seen him since their strange conversation. Most of the time, he spends his free days in his room, bored and overthinking. Today they decided to visit an ‘interesting planet, the human species might like’ (at least, that’s what Allura called it.) It has been days since Lance has felt this exciting for something. Putting on his armor, he feels new energy and adrenaline filling his body, making him ready to go on an adventure.

Normally, Allura and Coran wouldn’t allow them going on a planet without a purpose to fulfill, but since the whole team seemed exhausted and even sad, they luckily decided to make an exception once in a while. 

Lance hopes for a beach-like place. Somewhere he can swim like he used to do on earth whenever he and his family visited the beach. It brings back great memories and even though they bring out a sad feeling in him, swimming under the sun would make him feel at home again. Even if only for a while. Even if it’s just an illusion. He’d love to do that. But they are in outer space, very far away from the sun, not to mention earth. A similar atmosphere would do, though.

When they arrive, he isn’t as disappointed as he thought he would be. Of course, it’s nothing like a beach and there isn’t any water or the bright sun burning your skin. It’s more like a forest, a lot of nature surrounding them, a lot of green colors and overall it feels like there’s magic in the air. He still likes it.

“Ugh, another forest?” Pidge complains, her face scrunching up in disgust.

“Stop being so whiny”, Lance teases as he bumps his elbow into her side causing her to giggle, “It’s your natural habitat, Pigeon.”

As expected, she rolls her eyes, though her grin never falters.

“Man, they probably have like thousands of different fruits here!” Hunk exclaims happily, his eyes shining as he watches in awe. “I mean, can you even call them fruits? Maybe the people here call them differently!”

“As beautiful as this planet is, there is no civilization here. There hasn’t been for years”, Allura explains. As soon as they had arrived, Coran tucked a pink little flower in Allura’s hair. It looks really good on her and makes her seem more relaxed. Lance smiles at that. The team had felt really down lately but he’s sure Allura deserves this free time as much as they do.

“Naw, man! Why is that, though?” Hunk asks curiously, though he’s probably more curious about what this strange looking ‘fruit’ he just picked up smells like as he gives it a sniff. His face shifts from happy to looking like he’s thinking about something until a smile spreads over his face and he nods to himself. Another thing Lance can't help but smile at.

He watches the four of them as Allura begins to tell the story about this planet while Hunk, Pidge and even Coran, who probably knows it well enough, listen to her like some kids who are getting a goodnight story. It’s adorable, really. And Lance would love to hear about it, too, but he also has the urge to do some exploring. Be it on his own, maybe it wouldn’t hurt him to get some quiet time for himself.

With no one living here, the forest seems pretty lonely, though it isn’t a bad kind of lonely. It feels more like peace, like a quiet place people come for calming down or taking a rest. There is a light breeze, making Lance’s hair a mess and without his armor, it’d probably be cold. He quickly gives up at untangling his hair, accepting his fate for now. There isn’t anyone who could see him anyways. That’s the moment he notices he has left the others behind so much that he couldn’t hear them anymore. And they couldn’t hear him, even though he isn’t making a noise anyways.

The forest looks similar to the ones they have at earth but what Lance finds fascinating about it, is the way the colors of the leaves seem to shift depending on how much light hits them. Most of the time they are green, just like normal tress. But sometimes, they seem to be yellowish or almost blue, one time, Lance notices one even having a shade of red. He’s mesmerized.

But there is more to this forest than its beautiful trees. Lance constantly looking up makes him miss all the beauty that is waiting for him on the ground. When he finally looks down, he gasps.

Tons of flowers growing on the ground, so much, Lance hasn’t even noticed the way he had stomped over thousands of them. They have all kinds of colors, some of them even more than just one, some of them are bigger, some smaller. But they all have something in common. They are glowing so beautifully and bright, Lance immediately understands what the different colors on the trees causes. It’s like the sun is on the ground instead of shining high above in the sky. Like you’re walking on the sun, except it’s not hot or yellow. It’s chilly and it’s colorful, it’s happy and it’s making Lance’s chest feel full and warm.

Careful to not kill more of them, he kneels down, sticking out a hand to touch them. He knows they could be poisonous or just dangerous in general, but he just can’t resist. A few seconds before he touches the blue-purplish flower though, a different flower catches his eye, putting him to a halt. It’s just a few inches away from him and it is slightly bigger than the rest of the flowers surrounding it. But the most important: It’s burning. The red color shines so bright, Lance literally has to squint so it wouldn’t hurt his eyes. He stretches his hand out again, carefully caressing the fragile plant. It feels cold in a refreshing, pleasant way. The shine is making Lance’s hand look like it’s all red and he can’t take his eyes off of it.

“Lance.”

He almost loses his balance at the sudden voice saying his name, right behind him. He glances over his shoulder, spotting Shiro.

“We’re leaving”, he explains. “Hurry, the others got ready while I searched for you.”

“Sorry”, Lance mumbles, taking a last look at his finding. He thinks for a second, before he carefully pulls the flower out and takes it with him to the castle.

___

 

Back at the castle, when everyone is actually already supposed to be asleep, Lance twists the flower between two fingers. He’s laying on his back, facing the ceiling while admiring the bright red glow right in front of his face, he’s almost sure the flower somehow radiates heat. His fingers trace the blossoms with care and for a moment it looks like his hands are on fire. That, or he is bleeding.

It reminds him of the red Paladin. The former one. It reminds him of Keith. Not only because of the color but just everything about it. It has this strong look, that bright light, which makes it nearly impossible to take your eyes off of it. It’s warm when you touch it and cold when you let go.

He sighs, putting it aside to go to sleep. Maybe, he thinks before falling asleep, maybe he will give it to Keith as an apology for their fight.


___       

The next day goes by very differently than Lance actually planned it to be.

The blade visits them after several weeks of being on their own and Lance is somewhat excited to see them again, and most importantly, to finally sort out the fight that has been going on between him and Keith for some time now.

When he enters the control room, playing with the flower inside his pocket, careful not to crush it, he notices everyone else already being there. Even the blades.

“Lance, it’s good you’re here. We’ve thought about a way to increase our coalition!” Allura says, waving her hand as a way of telling him to join. So he does, all of them standing in a circle, with Keith and Kolivan a little bit outside of it.

While the others discuss their plans and Lance actually managing to listen with one ear, he shoots Keith some glances, though the other boy never looks back. Lance wonders if he’s really that angry that he wouldn’t even look at him and decides to concentrate on Allura’s words again.

When they are finally done, Lance swears he has a headache. It’s not that he doesn’t take this seriously or anything, it’s just that the whole coalition thing is more complicated than he thought, there is a lot to process. He rubs at his temples as everyone slowly leaves the room, some yawning, some full of energy.

His eyes are glued to Keith’s back – jesus, cut your hair already – and he holds tight onto the flower inside his pocket, taking firm steps towards him.

“Kei-“

He can’t even end his sentence, before Keith turns around, shooting him a glare. Lance flinches immediately, the hand he had just reached out towards the other backtracking, his other hand around the flower tightening.

They are the only two in the room now, no one of the team even noticed them staying behind.

“What?” Keith snarls and Lance is officially taken aback by the blatant hostility he’s met.

“Why are you so aggressive?!”

“Me?!” Keith asks with an incredulous expression, pointing a thumb against his own chest. “You were the one who left a conversation the last time without even telling me why!”

Lance opens his mouth but bites his bottom lip immediately, his eyebrows furrowed.

Keith stands in front of him, his arms crossed as he clearly waits for an answer.

His nonexistent patience gets into his way though as Lance doesn’t answer for several seconds, so he speaks up again.

“I thought I was doing this for you”, he laughs dryly, averting his gaze, “I was doing this for you so you could stay on this team, so you could contribute to this team instead of losing your place. And then you come to me to tell me it was wrong?!”

Lance bites down harder, almost sure he’s drawing blood by now. Guilt forms in the spit of his stomach and his legs suddenly feel weak, though he straightens his back.

“Because-“ He gets interrupted.

“I gave up red for you, Lance!” Keith shouts, his fists balled beside him. He doesn’t look Lance in the eyes, his gaze is locked on the ground.

And Lance wants to leave, to vanish just for this moment. He can’t take the feeling of guilt anymore, it’s slowly taking him over and he just wants it gone, gone, gone. Feeling like he’s rooted to his place and like his mouth is numb, he neither moves nor speaks.

Keith growls, suddenly stroking his hands though his hair in distress and Lance has the urge to calm him down, to be the one stroking his hair.

“I never told you to do that!” Lance finally argues and Keith meets him with an even more incredulous expression, which quickly turns into an angry one.

“What?! Are you serious?! You literally came into my room because of your insecurities!”

Lance visibly cringes at the word “insecurities” and he wants nothing more than to lose the ability to hear and speak right now.

“I know”, he grits through his teeth, his hand still in his pocket, the flower now feeling like it’s burning his entire hand, up to his arm. Like it’s poisonous and dangerous. His grip is tight and he’s certain he’s damaging it. “I know but that’s not what I wanted to accomplish.”

“Then what did you want?!”

Lance sighs, his hand goes loose and he feels something sticky on it. He looks down and he feels exhausted. He finally let’s his shoulders hang in a defeated motion.

“I don’t know, a friend maybe.” He says quietly, not even sure if Keith could hear.

Keith could. He gasps softly, taking a step back.

Neither of them say anything.

“I never intended for you to give up red for me, Keith. In fact” he takes some steps forward, his eyes never lifting from the ground. As soon as he’s right next to Keith, he speaks again, “take the red lion back. You’re not only its original paladin… you will also finally come back.” And with that, he surpasses Keith, leaving him and the control room behind.

___

As soon as he arrives at his room again, he doesn’t even bother switching on the light, he just stands in the center of the room and shuts his eyes, before he pushes the balls of his hands against his eyes. No crying. He chokes on a sob, but still manages to hold back his tears until he calms down, taking a deep breath and eyeing his bed.

With a bold motion, he grabs the flower and throws it on top of his bed sheets. Some blossoms land on the floor and some stick to his hand and when he raises it, it really looks like he’s bleeding. His eyes wander to his bed. The once beautiful plant now looks like it’s been ripped apart and it’s actually starting to wither, making Lance’s chest feel tight. With a sigh escaping his mouth, he sits down on the soft mattress, scooping the red fragile thing into his hand again.

His insides feel squished and there’s sadness overcoming him. He looks at it with sad eyes, before placing it into his pocket again, taking off his jacket and putting it aside carefully. At least it’s not dead yet.

___

 

Keith doesn’t take red back. Red takes Keith back himself.

It’s a dangerous mission and they are all focused on their tasks, so nothing could go wrong. It’s Lance’s job to fight the Galra fleet outside the main Galra ship the others are attacking right now. It’s a big mission because several prisoners are being held hostage so there’s not only Voltron but also the blade and the rebel fighters.

He’s having a hard time keeping any possible Galra ships from getting through but he still manages to do so. He told Shiro it would be way too hard for a single person to do this as he had told Hunk to do it. Apparently Shiro didn’t like his protests so he just said Lance should do it instead. Lance is actually concerned about the way their leader is starting to act. He gets more and more harsh, sometimes even putting the entire team in danger. Something’s wrong and he knows it and he’s sure Shiro doesn’t even know himself.

He groans, dodging another attack before red suddenly comes to a halt.

Before he can even question whatever is happening he feels thousands emotions inside his head, going straight to his heart. It’s a mix between worry, horror, panic and fear. He almost thinks he’s having a very bad anxiety attack before he notices the way these feelings are coming directly from red. Quickly, he grabs onto the lion’s controls and tries to get it under his control again, unsuccessfully. Instead, red suddenly changes direction and Lance is suffocating because of all the feelings that are filling his chest more and more. 

“Guys, I’ve lost control over red!” He shouts in panic.

“Lance, do not fail now, we are almost there” Shiro scolds calmly, yet with fierce.

“I- I literally can’t do anything!”

He tries to grab the controls one more time but nothing happens. Red leads him towards the Galra ship his teammates are in and he finally realizes what’s happening.

“Guys, where’s Keith?!”

“I don’t know I’ve seen a bunch of blades before, he’s fine, Lance. Just make sure we can get out safely.” Someone says, he doesn’t even know who.

No, no. He feels it. There is something wrong. The panic increases and this time it’s his own and he feels red trying to calm him despite its own worry.

“Lance, we don’t have time for this!” Shiro yells and in that moment, Lance is 100% sure. That is anything but Shiro.

Red basically crashes into the ship and Lance gets out of the lion as quickly as possible to enter it.

The rest of the team did a good job of fighting most of the Galra, the ship almost safe. At some point, he encounters the rest of them.

“Something’s up! Keith, he’s- something’s happening, red senses it”, he says in a rush, worry evident on his face and his teammates mirror his expression. They all split up to make sure Keith is either fine or to rush for help.

Lance’s lungs are killing him as he runs through the dark paths of the ship. He thinks what to do, where to search and then… he closes his eyes, concentrating and coming to a halt. He breathes through his nose and he feels red strongly in the back of his head. It’s their connection. Red connects them and he presses his eyes closer together, before he rips them open again and suddenly knows exactly where to go.

He rounds two corners before he sees a person, sitting at the end of the room and he hears groaning. It’s unmistakably Keith.

“Keith!” Lance yells before running towards him. He’s got his mask dissolved.

“Lance..?” Keith asks, his eyes looking at him but seeming not to focus.

“Yes, buddy, I’m here”, Lance whispers quietly, softly pushing Keith’s bangs aside, searching for any serious injuries. At least some relief washes over him when he can’t find any. “Where does it hurt?” He strokes through his dark hair in a soothing manner.

“Ugh…”, Keith groans, shutting his eyes, looking hurt. “I was about to get stabbed but I dodged. At first”, he takes a sharp breath, “I thought it was fine, they only grazed my side but I think… I think there was something poisonous on their blade, it got hard to breathe and I suddenly couldn’t walk.” While Keith explains, he visibly struggles with breathing and talking at the same time. Lance’s guts twist in worry.

“Ok, shhh”, he tries again, putting a reassuring hand on top of Keith’s. “It’s going to be fine, Keith. We will get you out of here and you will get a good sleep in the cryopod.”

He slowly puts his arms behind Keith’s back and his hands underneath his knees to scoop him into his arms. Keith groans in pain when he’s lifted up but still tries his best to hold onto Lance.

“Guys, I found him, we have to get him into a pod as soon as possible”, he informs the others, pulling Keith close to his chest. “Hold tight, buddy. I’ll get you to red. He misses you by the way, though he won’t be happy to see you like that.” He keeps on talking, trying to make sure Keith stays awake.

“Lance…” Keith’s voice is barely a whisper and he presses his head against Lance’ body.

“Yeah, it’s me. Sorry, it’s me. But I’ll take care of you, I promise”, he walks as slow as possible though he also knows they don’t have time to lose. When he finally sees red, he nudges Keith softly. “Hey”, he starts, “get your mask up, I don’t want you to suffocate.” He even smiles the tiniest, smallest kind of smile before Keith does what he asked him for and they get into red.

There he puts Keith into the pilot chair, trying to make it comfortable. Keith has his eyes closed, one hand pressed onto the wound. Lance kneels in front of him, putting a hand over his. “Should I try treating it? I’ve got some first aid stuff in here.”

Keith softly shakes his head. “No, I don’t think that’ll help…”

“You’re just scared of the burn”, Lance jokes in a gentle, calm way. His thumb brushes over Keith’s gloved knuckles and he smiles when Keith lets out a quiet huff, the corners of his lips twitching upward a bit.

“Idiot…” he says, slowly drifting into sleep and Lance starts to panic again, gripping Keith’s hand tight.

“Hey, no, no”, Lance mumbles. “Listen to me, listen to my voice.”

The former red Paladin opens his eyes again and Lance breathes out in relief.

“We’re almost there”, he says reassuringly as red guides them through space, the others following them constantly. He has muted the comms earlier to fully concentrate on Keith.

When they finally reach the castle, Keith is awake but doesn’t respond anymore. Coran quickly says he’s still stable and putting him into a pod immediately could possibly fully fix him. Lance swallows as he watches Keith being put into the pod, almost already looking dead.

___

When the pod finally releases Keith out of its firm, stubborn hold after three whole days, both, the blade and team Voltron decide it’s best for him to stay at the castle for a while. The cryopod luckily healed his wound the best it could, there was only a tiny scar left. It wasn’t Keith’s first, so he probably didn’t care that much.

The tension between Lance and Keith has gone back to being so thick one could almost cut it with a knife. Lance is aware that he should try and solve this thing once and for all. There are bigger problems he has to address now, his stupid fights with Keith not being one of them. But he still couldn’t pretend like they are fine, not that Keith would go with it anyway. This whole day the two of them have kind of been dancing around each other and it’s been frustrating Lance to no end.

If he is being honest, he has been worrying over Keith the whole time he has spent in the pod. He thought that, maybe, after that whole mess they would be back to being friends. But then again he wasn’t really sure if they have ever been. Friends, that is. His hopes got crushed pretty fast when Keith didn’t even look at his direction as soon as he left the pod.

It feels worse than Lance wants to admit. He already felt somewhat of a disconnect from the rest of the team for quite a while but now with Keith, the one he bickered and had fun with all the time, ignoring him; it got even worse. The whole situation sucks the energy out of the former blue paladin, not to mention this weird stuff going on with Shiro.

But he knows Keith is the first one who would want to know about any information regarding Shiro acting different. Strange, even. So after a long day discussing their next steps, even some arguing within the team, before everyone decides to go back into their rooms, Lance decides to confront Keith about his suspicions.

Allura is about to dismiss the whole team, when Lance firmly puts a hand on Keith’s shoulder. “There’s something I want to talk about”, he whispers, eyeing Shiro.

Keith squirms, so Lance’s hand falls off his shoulder and then shoots him a glare. “I’m not in the mood to argue, I’m still exhausted, Lance. I left the cryopod literally 5 hours ago”, he hisses back, keeping his voice down.

Lance’s hand travels back to his side, sticking there as if anywhere else is forbidden area. He gulps, turning his head more towards Keith. “Please”, he grits through his teeth.

The former red Paladin stays quiet for a while, his eyes focused on Allura, brows furrowed in concentration. Lance starts to fidget. He now questions his decision to tell Keith and there is some sort of anxiety forming in the spit of his stomach, afraid that Keith won’t believe him even if he agreed to listen.

“…I don’t want another fight”, Keith suddenly mumbles, his frown turning into a sad look, both shoulders hunched forward. The way it came out makes Lance’s heart lurch and his fingers twitch with the intention to wrap around Keith’s face. Lance’s expression softens immediately and he pokes Keith with one finger, drawing his attention on him so Keith finally makes eye contact, wearing a confused look.

“Me neither”, he says, smiling. “it’s important”, he adds, giving Shiro another stern look. He can’t figure out what’s happening but he knows that something is. And he’s afraid that their leader doesn’t even know himself. Lance can’t imagine the anxiety that comes with acting weird without even noticing. He watches their black paladin in detail, the way he gets angry, acts up and dismisses all of their objections, even Allura’s. But also the way he massages his temples, the confused look on his face and the way he seems to struggle. It’s unbearable to look at.

“Ok, team. That’s it for today”, Allura says, a sigh following her sentence. She looks exhausted and tired, she’s done so much for the coalition lately. Lance tells himself to come by her room later that day with some beauty products to calm her down and let her vent about everything, even if only for a while.

“Ok, what’s the issue?” Keith suddenly asks beside him, arms crossed, one brow raised in question.

Lance almost jumps at the way Keith spoke out of nowhere. “Uh…” he says, blinking several times. He then smiles, crossing his arms as well, leaning back a little bit. “Let’s not talk here. I know a great place”, he says with a smug smile, taking the lead while waving a hand towards Keith, wordlessly telling him to follow. To Lance’s surprise, he actually does.

Lance didn’t lie when he said he knows a nicer place to talk, he sometimes takes Pidge and Hunk there so the three of them can do some stupid, meaningless stuff from time to time. It’s a little bit offside, a quiet place with not much happening around it. When you go with friends, it’s a good place to have fun without disturbing anyone. When you go on yourself, it’s a place where you can find peace. Or panic attacks. Lance is curious to find out what this place turns into when he takes Keith with him.

“Lance, where are we go-“

“Shhhhh!” Lance interrupts, walking a little bit faster. “Come on, mullet!” He hears Keith sigh behind him, though he still speeds up a little bit.

“I think I’ve never been on this side of the castle…”, Keith says absentmindedly.

“That’s probably because you spend all of your free time at the training deck”, Lance chuckles, facing Keith while walking backwards. However, his smile doesn’t last long. “I mean… did spend all of your free time.”

“Lance.”

“I- I just, sometimes I forget that you’re not around anymore and-“

Lance.

“No, well, I mean not like forget, ‘cause of course I notice-“

“Lance!”

Keith’s stern voice breaks through Lance’s inner chaotic thoughts and he frowns. “Dude, wha-“, but before he gets to ask what Keith is trying to tell him, he feels himself falling backwards, the back of his feet bumping into something hard. For a moment it feels like gravitation is being shut down which makes no sense because he’s literally falling. For a split second he sees the way Keith’s hands are reaching out to him, just out of reach, before he feels his back hitting something unexpectedly soft, causing him to let out a small “oof.” He is now facing the ceiling. At least, that what he’s supposed to face but he realizes they have arrived at his secret place.

“Hurt yourself?” His line of sight is suddenly met with Keith’s face who is wearing an amused grin over the fact that Lance made an idiot of himself. Normally, now would be the time to be mad at Keith’s teasing face, shoving him out of his personal space. But somehow Lance feels himself being paralyzed, Keith’s face being so close to him, he can almost feel the black hair tickling his skin. He gulps, trying but failing to escape those beautiful eyes that unintentionally make him go crazy. He realizes he’s staring like a doofus as soon as Keith’s grin falters, being replaced by an embarrassed look. He backs away again, one hand at his neck.

I want to kiss you.

Lance’s lips stay parted as if he said the words he just thought out loud. To his luck, he didn’t.

“It’s really beautiful”, Keith says, making Lance blink in confusion, bringing him back into reality.

“What?” he asks in a dumbfounded way.

“A lot of things…”, Keith mumbles, turning away.

You. You are. Lance thinks this time, though he says nothing.

Keith clears his throat and turns away again, getting a better look at the small window-like thing Lance sits inside of. “But also this place”, he says, his eyes roaming over the view you can get at the open space. The stars, unknown planets. The window is huge and there’s some kind of bed built in front of it and when you lay down, you’ll actually notice that the ceiling is see through too. It feels like you’re floating in space, with nothing else surrounding you. Just you, the cosmos and your thoughts. And maybe even someone else. Maybe that someone is Keith.

Lance sits back up, his hands folded in his lap. It’s mostly dark, though there’s still enough light making it able to see properly. “How’s your wound?” He asks, eyeing Keith’s side where he got stabbed.

“’S fine...”, Keith replies with a mumble, self-consciously stroking at the place where the scar is. “Like I already thought, they didn’t really, really stab me. Just… grazed me a little bit. I don’t know what was on their blade though, it felt like poison or something. It burned and it made my body react in a weird way.” He explains, wearing an unpleasant face at the memory.

“Yeah, you actually scared me for a second…”, Lance chuckles, though it comes out uncertain and nervously. “Good thing I got you into a pod so fast, huh?” He adds, trying to lighten the mood.

Keith crosses his arms, huffing.

Suddenly, Lance gasps, almost jumping out of his sitting position.

“Keith- Keeeeith!” The former red paladin shoots him an uninterested glare and Lance answers with a grin. “I- I literally cradled you in my arms! Guess it was time to return the favor.”

Keith’s face falls immediately, his arms now hanging uselessly next to his body. He gapes before a look of distress makes it onto his face.

As soon as Lance notices, he panics. He didn’t know Keith still took their little moment so seriously. That’s literally the least look Lance wants to put on Keith’s face.

“I remember”, he blurts out, before he can stop himself and Keith’s eyes widen, his mouth falling open even further. Lance can feel his heartbeat starting to increase in speed and the way his body starts to sweat. He didn’t even realize that he had reached out a hand towards Keith, like he was trying to hold onto him. His fingers twitch as he clears his throat. “I- yeah. I remember our bonding moment.”

Despite expecting the worst, Keith’s face suddenly softens and Lance stops breathing for a second. The other takes some steps towards him and then Lance feels the soft cushions dip next to him. “Me too”, Keith answers facing him, an uncertain smile formed by his lips. It’s quiet, so quiet Lance has to direct all his attention to Keith, not that that would be a problem to him. What else could he focus on, ever.

The two of them look at each other for a moment. Little moments like this always feel somewhat magical to Lance. Like, in this exact second, everything is fine. They are not fighting a war, they are in Lance’s room, both of them watching the stars through his window. Just the two of them. His mom calls them both for dinner and they jump at the sudden voice that breaks their silence. Lance would sigh while answering his mom from the top of his lungs. Keith’s face will be soft, fond even. Someday, Lance thinks. Hopes.

“Nice”, the former blue paladin whispers.

“What is?” Keith asks just as quietly.

“Just… because of all that fighting lately, I haven’t seen you smile in a long while.”

To Lance’s immediate displease, Keith’s expression turns sad again, he avoids eye contact and so the indigo (or are they more purple?) eyes suddenly disappear from his view. It’s a loss, Lance notices, feels.

“What is it?” He asks in a worried tone, afraid that he might have made Keith feel bad.

“Just”, Keith says in thought, shifting a little bit, causing his knee to bump with Lance. And Lance doesn’t know why that specifically suddenly makes his heart swell twice it size. It’s almost suffocating, in a good way. Until now, Lance hasn’t even known that something like this could even be possible. Impulsively, his hand shoots towards Keith’s knee, fingers wrapping protectively around it.

Keith shoots him a quick glance in response, mouth open like he hadn’t expected it. Which, probably he didn’t. The corners of his mouth then slowly rise, his eyes turning dark. Just for a second, before Keith lets his head fall down, his messy hair hiding the view. Lance holds back on a chuckle. His hand squeezes lightly, suddenly feeling confident. And then, Keith doesn’t really look at him when it happens, a cold hand places itself on his.

Has anything ever felt this safe? This reassuring? Lance really isn’t sure, though his head isn’t working normally right now anyways.  His hand is probably sweating. Oh god, it’s sweating so much, he thinks. Does Keith notice?

“It was a hard time, the last”, Keith licks his lips, “last weeks. Months.”

“Hey”, Lance says like they are the only people in this universe right now, “I want to see you laugh.”

Even though he mourns the loss, his hand disappears underneath Keith’s and the former red paladin immediately furrows his eyebrows, getting his hand back like it got burnt.

To Keith’s further confusion, Lance simply grins and suddenly both of his hands are placed on Keith’s waist. The former red paladin skeptically raises an eyebrow. Rightfully so, he realizes as Lance’s hands dig slightly into his sides and before he can fight the other, he’s getting attacked with tickles.

“No- Lan-“ It’s the only thing Keith successfully gets out before he shuts his lips with determination.

“Come oooon”, Lance urges, still grinning and tickling Keith like it is his only mission, “I know there’s a lot of sunshine inside this broody shell.”

And out of nowhere, Keith snorts, all of the air he dammed inside leaving through his tight shut lips. Not long after, he is giggling and laughing like some sort of child. Lance beams.

“Stop!” Keith urges through laughs, trying to fight Lance with all he has, failing miserable until he just gives up. He kicks his legs as his teammate leans forward, unintentionally urging Keith back. And so, after some agonizing minutes of suffocating laughs, snorts and even tears, Keith lays on his back with Lance hovering above him. Lance’s jaw hurts of his exaggerated grin which almost rips his lips apart.

Keith takes deep breaths as he places an arm over his upper face, covering his eyes.

“You are” one deep breath “literally” another deep breath and Lance lets himself fall down just next to Keith, grinning at him.

“Yeah?” He asks teasingly.

“The worst”, Keith finally finishes his sentence, though it comes out strained like he just ran some miles. Lance is satisfied.

“Oh so the only thing it takes to defeat the great, unfailing Keith everyone swoons over, is some light tickling”, Lance says, his voice dripping with enjoyment. “Interesting, indeed.”

Another glare is being shot his way, though Lance is aware there is no heat behind it. They hold their gazes for some seconds, before they both look up the transparent ceiling, getting in the view of stars and planets way out of their reach. Lance fidgets beside Keith, self-conscious about his loud heart, unwillingly disturbing the calm silence. His feet twitch and so do his fingers, so to occupy himself he points somewhere above him.

“Look”, Lance says, nudging Keith lightly with his shoulder.

“Mh?” Keith asks lazily, almost sounding like he’s drifting off.

“This planet’s colors look like a rainbow,” he points out and Keith’s eyes follow the direction of his fingertip.

He then lets out a small snort and mumbles something Lance can’t understand.

“Oh, and there”, Lance moves on and points at a collection of stars, “these look like Platt.”

“The mouse?”

“Yeah. Who else would I talk about?”

Keith squints at the stars, turning his head to the right, then to the left.

“I think if anything, it’s Chulatt.”

“What? No!” Lance argues back and pushes against Keith.

“Totally”, Keith replies, pushing back while grinning.

“Wroooooong”, Lance stubbornly says and Keith just rolls his eyes, though the smile doesn’t leave his face.

“Oh…” Lance’s finger moves another time and Keith’s eyes follow eagerly, “look at that.” Keith does and wow. There are two stars, they are really big compared to the others, shining so bright that Keith thinks his eyes will never be able to look away. But most importantly, they are red and blue, coming together in a deep shade of purple, melting into each other. It’s beautiful. Somehow, sharing this view suddenly feels a lot more intimate, like they are looking into each other’s souls.

“It’s-“

“Yeah”, Lance simply nods, his gaze leaving the unique pair of stars and now looking at Keith instead. His face is serious and Lance notices that Keith gulps when he looks back.

“I would love to take a photograph of that.”

“The live view is worth more”, Keith insists and his cheeks turn pink just a little bit. Even in the dark, it’s the most adorable look Lance has ever witnessed. That’s what I thought whenever you spoke to us via video message, Lance thinks.

He shifts just a little bit, so he’s turned to Keith now. He holds himself up on one elbow and pokes Keith’s cheek, to which he receives a pouty glare in response. Lance chuckles and Keith grunts, bringing his hand to the place where Lance’s finger has slightly dug into.

The mood shifts a little bit when Lance looks away again, clearing his throat and folding his hands on his stomach.

“There is something that I wanted to talk about.”

Silence. Breathing feels heavy on Lance’s chest so he stops, holding it back while waiting for Keith’s reaction. Something tense is building up and he hates, hates, hates it-

“I’m sorry.”

Lance actually lets out the deepest breath he ever has after almost suffocating himself through the silence. His eyes widen and his brows furrow as he looks over to his teammate. Keith’s expression can’t be read.

“…What?” He asks in confusion and then winces a little bit when Keith sighs loudly. The blade member next to him shifts, squirming and getting more comfortable. Lance is nervous.

“Ok, how should I…” Keith mumbles more to himself than to Lance, though he still catches it. He then shifts for the last time, before starting again. “I’m sorry I wasn’t a friend. Back then, you know. When you came to me about the lion problem.” Lance feels something ugly crawl under his skin and he shivers, a full blown shiver Keith probably noticed, but before he gets to open his mouth, Keith continues. “I wasn’t- I don’t know, I wanted-.” He sighs, visibly collecting himself. “I think I didn’t quite… get it at first, you know? Why would- I mean you suggested to step down, but how did you even come to that conclusion, I was baffled. Because, well, I would’ve never thought you are our weakest link or something. Having you on the team, I thought, was, like, a given. When I told you things will work themselves out, I wasn’t trying- I didn’t want to dismiss the issue or something, I really meant it, because for me no math on this earth would come to the result of you leaving. And- and if that meant for me to leave red to you, then that would be fine. I guess, I was so sure of doing the right thing, I didn’t really think any further.” Another sigh escapes him as he puts his arm over his eyes once again. “But then- then you suddenly told me that it was wrong and that I made the wrong decision and at first I was angry but also hurt because I thought I did something right for once and that I handled the whole situation. You know, the day you came to my room I was actually kind of happy because- well, apparently you trusted me enough with this issue and so- so I wanted to handle this the best way but turns out-“

“Hey”, Lance interrupts and Keith takes a deep breath, calming himself a little.

“And I’m sorry”, Keith ends his last sentence, some sort of resignation waving within his voice.

“Hey” Lance repeats, even softer this time and he sits up slightly, his back being supported by the wall behind them. Keith mirrors his movement but doesn’t look up, his head dropping. “I’m sorry, too.” Suddenly, Keith’s head whips to the side, looking at Lance while wearing an incredulous expression but before he can argue, Lance smiles and continues. “I felt guilty, you know. Keith, I- just- after that you abandoned the place of the red paladin, for the sake of me. Which, I am grateful for but also not? I, let me explain”, he adds quickly as soon as Keith’s face shows signs of worry, “because I couldn’t help but feel like I was the one who took away your place, who pushed you out of the team, and lastly” he gulps, “made you leave.”

They both say nothing for a moment, though their eyes meet and Lance swears it’s the most earnest, vulnerable moment he has ever shared with anyone. Like they are opening up for the other, no secrets, no hiding, just harsh but also warm truth. He can feel it inside his bones, his skin is prickling and his heart is calm for the first time since they got here. He sees so much in this pair of eyes that are looking at him like he is worth the world, like he is something Keith wants to burn into his head or more importantly – this moment. Lance is sure, he wants to and he is going to.

With a shaking movement, he brings up a hand, placing it on one of Keith’s shoulders. Even through clothes, Lance feels the warmth traveling up his entire arm, collecting in the spit of his stomach, making him feel sick but happy.

“Because not only are you a skillful Paladin the team very much needs” Lance whispers, so quietly that probably even Keith has to concentrate really hard to understand, “but also as a person, just as yourself, you are important to us outside of our mission. So seeing you leave, going on without us, felt so very wrong.”

Keith doesn’t respond in any way. Not verbally nor physically. He just looks at Lance with the biggest, most beautiful eyes. Lance squeezes his shoulder, just how he squeezed his knee earlier and Keith seems to wake up from whatever kind of trance he has been in.

“Don’t feel guilty”, he suddenly says, “don’t do that. I never, never blamed you for anything. It was my decision, don’t worry. I’m sorry for my harsh words I said some weeks ago, my frustration got the better of me, again. In the end, I was angrier at myself than anything else.”

Lance knows Keith is being earnest and he appreciates it a lot, he really does. Still, he can’t help but feel that he should’ve handled this differently but in the end there probably wasn’t a solution that everyone would have been happy with. So it’s ok. It won’t be easy every time, it never has been.

“You know what”, Lance starts and finally the atmosphere shifts again, being way less serious now and way more lighthearted.

“Mh?” Keith asks and apparently he notices the change in Lance’s voice as well, a small smile forming on his face again.

“All that rivals do is bicker and tease each other, making a competition out of everything. Not in a malicious way tough.” Keith now tilts his head, confusion evident on his face. “But do you know who else does that?” Lance asks in a whisper, though it still comes out enthusiastic. “Best friends.”

And then everything happens faster than Lance can really process. You know what, scrap that, no matter how slow everything would’ve happened in this moment, Lance still wouldn’t be able to process it. Keith’s whole expression, body and face, changes immediately, it changes into something he has never seen before and up until now he hasn’t known how much he has needed it. It’s like the former Paladin enters a whole new world, like Lance’s words have touched his heart on such a deep level he is about to dissolve on spot. Lance’s hand still remains on Keith’s shoulder and he actually feels the other melt under his touch, there is no tense muscle left in this boy’s body. His eyes are actually shining even though he has his back facing the window and Lance shockingly thinks there could be actual tears in his eyes.

The impulse to put his free hand on Keith’s other shoulder happens fast and then, even faster, he’s wrapping both of his arms around the smaller boy before finally pulling him in. Keith reacts by snuggling his nose into Lance’s neck and nothing could stop the former blue Paladin from a full body shiver in that moment. It ‘causes him to pull Keith even further into his arms, both of them now being embraced in a tight hug, one, that makes Lance’s head stop working. He feels Keith’s hair on his cheeks and it tickles and it feels so good, the whole moment makes Lance’s face heat up and he buries it even further into Keith’s neck, trying to hide. Their chests are so tightly pressed together, he’s getting self-conscious about his loud, thudding heart. If he didn’t know better, he would worry about it jumping out of his chest right now. But then there’s Keith. Keith. The one who always one upped him and always has been one step ahead of him. Keith, who is broody and impulsive but also kind and soft. Keith, being hugged tightly by his arms, his heart racing crazy against Lance’s chest, his fingers digging harsh into the shirt on his back. Just Keith.

Lance almost releases a sob because of the overwhelming feelings he experiences in that moment. He holds onto the other just like he would hold onto his life.

They both hold still like that. The only sounds filling the room are their small breaths and the loud beating of their hearts.

How can something feel so good and safe?

Lance will never understand but sometimes you don’t have to understand everything. Sometimes, you just have to feel and that’s exactly what Lance is doing.

But as much as he wants this moment to never end, wants to bath in all the feelings and in Keith’s body warmth, there still is something he needs to address.

“Hey Keith…” he starts in a whispering voice, careful not to destroy the peace that’s surrounding them. “The thing I wanted to talk about…”

But then, totally out of nowhere and before he can finish, there is a loud voice interrupting them.

“Castle’s defenses have been shut down.” It’s a robotic voice, the one which always announces everything that happens within the castle. Not rarely does it disturb the Paladins sleep because of minor inconveniences. But this, this certainly sounds important.

They separate from each other, exchanging confused but disturbed glances.

“What is…” Keith asks and climbs over Lance to leave the soft, secure place he had just been in.

Lance shakes off the feeling off loss and gets up as well, joining Keith’s nervous self.

“Let’s go to the control room”, he decides and Keith follows wordlessly. Not long after, both of them are running.

As soon as they arrive at the control room, they catch sight of Shiro whose back is turned towards them. It looks like he’s working on something by pushing buttons on the controls.

“Shi-“, Keith wants to yell, taking a big step towards their leader, only to be stopped by Lance who grabs him by his right arm, yanking him right back and shushing him.

“Lance! What are you doing?” he hisses, squirming in Lance’s arms to get free. Lance releases him immediately, though he still holds up a finger against his own lips, indicating Keith to be quiet.

Keith’s response was expected by Lance, he furrows his eyebrows, looking back and forth between him and Shiro. Suddenly, he shakes his head, like he wants Lance to know that he thinks he’s being strange or crazy.

“Castle’s lights have been turned off.”

Keith’s eyes widen and so do Lance’s, they exchange another quick glance before Keith takes a step forward again, ready to dismiss Lance’s concerns.

Now or never, Lance thinks.

“Keith no”, he whispers, loudly enough for Keith to hear its urgency, hopefully not loudly enough for Shiro to hear.

Keith stops and Lance notices his hesitance, the way he’s considering.

“Please”, Lance urges another time through gritted teeth, trying his best to keep his voice down, “trust me.”

And apparently, Keith does. He stops fully, turning around to look Lance in the eyes, all while wearing an unreadable expression.

“We have to help Shiro! He’s trying to fix the castle!” Keith hisses another time, way more furious now.

“He’s not”, Lance says while he takes a step towards his friend and thinks about the best way to approach this topic.

“He’s not what?”

“He’s-“

“Castle’s doors have been locked.” The voice suddenly says and Lance acts out of shock, grabbing Keith as fast as he can and then throwing both of them inside the control room before the door can shut right in front of their eyes.

The harsh impact on the ground hurts so much on his still injured shoulder that he almost cries out an unbearably loud shout, tears threatening to ruin his sight. Instead, he just groans in pain and bites his lip as hard as he can to keep himself together.

“Shiro”, Keith says as their leader turns toward them, his stance threatening and way more hostile than ever. His eyes have turned dark to the point one could almost think they’re completely black.

Despite the pain streaming through his whole left side, Lance gets up as fast as possible so he can stand right next to Keith. They are unarmed, neither of them wears their Paladin suits nor, in Keith’s case, the blade suit. Shiro, however, has been cleverer than that, standing in front of them fully suited and armed with his deadly prosthesis.

“What are you doing here?” Shiro asks. No, that’s not Shiro’s voice, it sounds different, evil. He’s taking slow but threatening steps towards them, just like a predator would before jumping its prey.

“The castle’s been malfunctioning again” Keith says, straightening his back and Lance figures, he’s probably starting to realize Shiro’s weird behavior now.

“Keith, it’s not”, Lance says in a steady voice now. “It’s his work. He was doing all of this.”

“Guess somebody’s not as dumb as everyone thinks after all”, the weird voice possessing Shiro’s body says, slight amusement evidence in its tone.

“No way…”, Keith more mouths than says. Lance knows. Knows, that there is some harsh truth waiting for Keith, waiting for all of them.

By now, it doesn’t only sound evil, it sounds foreign. Whatever that thing is that is inside of Shiro right now can’t be the same Shiro they’ve known for so long. The control room is dark, you can barely make out what is and what isn’t there. It’s even hard to make out Shiro’s silhouette, though his dark eyes are still fierce.

“But you’re only in my way, red paladin”, Shiro suddenly sneers and Lance’s eyes squeeze shut as the room fills with light out of nowhere. When he opens them again, he almost chokes on his sudden intake of breath. Shiro’s prosthetic arm is glowing and he holds it up, ready to take both of them out.

“Shiro!” Keith yells, his stance changing into a ready-to-fight one. Still, worry is evident on his face and he still doesn’t know how to process everything that’s happening. It’s too much. Shiro is family, not enemy and that’s something that has been a constant rule in Keith’s life, no matter what. He’s a friend, he’s Keith’s closest person. For him, there is no way Shiro would turn against him, ever. He puts his fists down again, not ready to fight Shiro even though he’s clearly not in his right mind at the moment.

Damn it.

What can they do? What should Lance do? No matter what, he can’t attack Shiro. He doesn’t even know for sure whether that’s the real Shiro or whether he’s only being possessed. There is no way he could hurt their leader like that. Keith wouldn’t forgive him. No one would. Hell, not even Lance would forgive himself if that’s the real Shiro just being out of his mind.

Damn it, damn it.

He has to think fast. Where are the others? Allura, Coran?

All doors have been locked. No one can come help them nor can they escape or get some weapons.

Daaaaamn.

And then, tearing Lance brutally out of his thoughts, Shiro’s arm makes a loud noise, a deadly one. The one that makes Lance shiver with fear, his eyes nervously focused on his leader. He can’t even protect them with his shield or something.

One glance to Keith is enough for Lance to know that they are in a very, very dangerous situation right now. Keith just stands there, caught between attacking and protecting. Not himself, but Shiro.

“Shiro, calm down” Keith says, suddenly acting more rational than ever. Though right now, it wasn’t rational at all. Lance’s whole body twitches when Keith takes two steady steps towards the current black paladin. It’s making him uneasy and he wants nothing more than to just grab Keith and hold him close, out of the danger.

“What has gotten into you?” Keith asks, voice almost breaking.

Suddenly, the castle shakes so hard one might think there’s an earthquake in the middle of nowhere, a place where something like “earth” doesn’t even exist. It rips all three of them off of the floor and sends them flying against the controls. Once again, the impact is hard and Lance thinks he might actually pass out this time. Everything turns dark for a moment, his ears hear nothing but static noises, something high pitched in the background. For a second, everything feels like a dream and Lance catches himself hoping for that to be true. His head hurts and his shoulder is in so much pain Lance would rather cut it off than go through that feeling. He groans and even whimpers, his hand searching for Keith. To his relief Keith’s cold fingers grab around his wrist.

“Lance, are you alright?” He asks in distress and Lance tries his best to nod, not thinking about the darkness and that Keith possibly wouldn’t even see.

But before Lance can calm down a little bit so that he could open his mouth and properly answer Keith, there is a look of naked fear making its way on Keith’s face. Something Lance has never witnessed before. It’s ripping Lance’s heart apart and he wants to yell for the other, to grab him and calm him down.

Instead, he follows Keith’s sight, making him turn around to look behind himself.

And then, all he hears are thousands of yells, more brutal shaking of the castle follows, a ton of static noises. The heat is almost burning his whole body, so much he can’t even react in any way, his mouth shut and his body stiff. The glowing weapon is only a few inches away from his face.

Shiro’s arm is bright, so bright Lance is sure he already died back then when that Galra threatened to kill him by slicing his throat and this is actually after life. Keith never came to the rescue. He’s been dead and he’s never had that genuine moment with Keith. He’s dead, but why does it still hurt so much?

He knows he’s being unreasonable and that his thoughts are going crazy but he’s scared to death in this exact moment and when Keith pushes him away, hard and without hesitating, he hears himself screaming something. He can’t even make out what.

And then, right in that moment where Lance’s heart stops, his throat burns and his tears threaten to spill, everything stops.

“Shiro!” Keith says as though the man in front him didn’t just almost kill him by aiming his deadly weapon right in his direction.

Shiro is on his knees now, holding himself back with his other arm. He’s groaning and clearly struggling.

“Keith, Keith” he says and finally, finally it’s not foreign and far away again. It’s warm and it’s here. “I don’t know what has gotten into me but you have to get away from me as fast as you can. I don’t know how long I can fight this.”

Lance scrambles to his feet, barely being steady on his legs. As though Keith and him have some magnetic connection, he makes his way next to him as fast as possible. When he almost trips, the other catches him with one arm.

“Are you ok?” Lance asks in distress, searching Keith’s body for injuries. “Never do that again. You hear? Never, ever can you do something like that again!”

“Lance”, Shiro’s voice suddenly comes through and he’s visibly sweating as he puts a lot of pressure on his right arm to hold it down. “Not the time. Get me to the controls, I have to undo everything I did.”

“Ok”, Lance answers fast, grabbing Shiro at his arm and with Keith’s help, they drag him to the controls.

“Ok ugh…” He struggles, making Keith worry once again. “Press this one, it unlocks all the doors. I think that’s most important now. This is one will-“

And then he’s losing himself again. With a loud groan and harsh kicks of his feet he tries to fight against whatever is happening to him. When he’s suddenly quiet and his arm stops glowing, he slumps down on the floor like all the energy had left him. Not speaking nor moving all of a sudden.

“Shiro!” Both of the other scream as they try to shake him awake.

“He’s breathing, he’s alright. I think he passed out”, Lance informs after making sure their leader didn’t die just now.

“He’s alright” he repeats after looking into dark, purple eyes of horror.

His attention is brought back to the controls and he scans the whole platform, searching for the button Shiro told him to press. As soon as he finds it, he smashes it way harder than necessary and the door starts opening with a satisfying “swoosh” sound.

“Castle’s doors have been unlocked.”

They didn’t expect another shock awaiting them behind the doors.

Dozens of Galra soldiers making their way towards them, guns in hand and ready to shoot.

“Damn it, will this ever end!” Lance yells in desperate need for a break while he wishes for at least one minute where he doesn’t have to fear his death.

“Shit, we’re still unarmed”, Keith hisses as they both dodge the best they can.

“No shit”, Lance says in between strained breaths. He even starts to think his lungs may give up on him. “Sherlock!”

And right then, when Lance finishes his sentence that Keith doesn’t get anyways, the Galras in front of them fall on their knees causing Lance to have flashbacks of Keith saving him again. That’s probably going to happen a lot from now on.

Behind them, there is Allura as she stands there like a hero, staff in her hand.

“Allura!” They cry out in relief.

“Keith! Lance! What’s happening? Why is Shiro laying on the floor, oh my god.”

“No time to explain, Shiro’s fine for now but the castle’s defenses are down and-“

“I know, I heard the announcement but I couldn’t get here, it’-“

“Yeah, the Galra came through, we have to-“

“Just let me-“ She says as she gets to the controls, lightning up the whole room with her altean magic.

“Castle’s defenses activated. Castle’s lights on.”

“Thank god”, Lance groans and soon after, Pidge, Hunk and Coran join the party. All three of them out of breath and clearly horrified.

“We surely need our lions right now, there are way too much Galra ships right in front of us for my taste!” Pidge says while waving with one hand, making sure the others follow her lead. Hunk does immediately and Lance takes a few fast steps before stopping completely again.

“What’s wrong?” Allura and Keith ask in unison. “Go to red, Lance. I’ll take blue. Coran, you will support us from here.” And with that Allura is gone, too.

“Keith”, Lance says with a kind of certainty he has never felt before, “I know you don’t want this but you have to take black. Just this once.” His hands find home on both of Keith’s shoulders again, pressing down slightly, holding him steady.

To his utter surprise, Keith smiles and Lance is relieved for a moment. That is, until he sees Keith shaking his head, still smiling.

“No.”

“Keith, you can-“

“No, you take it.”

“Do thi- what?”

“You take the black lion, Lance.” Keith says and places two securing hands on top of Lance’s. Who is steading who exactly?

“Keith… you know how that will end. Not good”, Lance responds in a small voice, refusing to meet Keith’s eyes.

“Hey, what did you say earlier?” Keith asks as he gently uses one hand to lift Lance’s chin up, forcing them to make eye contact again. No matter how hard he tries to fight it, Lance’s cheeks turn pink just a little bit, captured by the beautiful eyes of the other.  

“Uh”, Lance thinks before answering, “No shit Sherlock?”

“No, what does that even- not that!”

“Shiro’s alright?”

“Not what I was referring to.”

“We’re best friends?”

“NO”, Keith groans and slaps his hand against his forehead in frustration. Lance bites his bottom lip and thinks of all the other things he had said throughout the day. When his eyes meet Keith’s again, there is a sudden smile decorating his face. “You know what. Ok. Yeah, that. We’re… friends, best friends.” Somehow, hearing Keith say it makes him feel embarrassed, in a good way. It fills him up with a weird, squishy feeling. “So trust me.”

It comes out so earnest and so trusting that Lance can’t help but nod, slowly but without breaking eye contact. Keith squeezes his right hand for the last time before he turns on his heels, leaving Lance behind to go pilot red again.

“Red misses you anyway”, Lance whispers when Keith is long gone. He’s getting into his paladin suit as fast as possible, feeling way safer as soon as he has his Bayard and his shield with him. He then takes a deep, calming breath and runs to black’s hangar. It’s so draining and everything hurts, his lungs are probably really giving out on him.

And when he’s there, he doesn’t know what Keith talked about. How Keith could be so sure about this, when he is not. Not even in the slightest. When he’s there, it’s like everything Keith just gave him, the hope, the steadiness, is being flushed down a never-ending trail. 

He looks up to black, follows its eyes with his own. Even though he is the one studying the black lion’s face, Lance still feels more watched than anything, like black observes him. It makes him feel uneasy.

“Hey black…” he says, shifting from one foot to another, “I know we haven’t had a good start.”

He sighs and strokes a hand through his brown hair.

“What am I doing here”, he whispers to himself, turning away from black again. 

I know we haven’t had a good start? Well, duh, Lance.

Even more than ever, Lance is losing his confidence all at once until there is nothing left. Just self-doubt and dark fear. What could Keith probably see in him? What could black probably see in him? What does he even see in him himself? That’s not a question Lance thinks about very often, it has always been about the others. What is his own judgement worth? Sure, it’s easy to tell yourself you’re the greatest and the best in the entire universe but in the end isn’t it worth nothing if others won’t even take it seriously? But then again, whom would you prove your worth if not yourself. Glory and attention is just one side of the coin, the other being your image of yourself. Others can celebrate you all you want, it will all be meaningless if you can’t agree with them, if you don’t see your own worth. It all comes down to balance, a balance that Lance has yet to find and understand.

“Ok, so”, he starts again, careful. “I know I’ve wanted to be the leader so bad. To even get a parade, all of the glory and be a hero everyone acknowledges. And- yeah. Yeah, that’s nice. It’s nice and it feels good, especially because it makes me forget all this war stuff… but- but I don’t think I have to be a leader to get that. Allura gets that a lot, Hunk does too. Because, well, they deserve it and they earned it. Everyone on the team does. I don’t know if I’m worthy of being a leader or whether I’ll ever be, but right now… right now, I just want to keep my team safe.”

And then, right behind Lance’s back, he hears roaring. It’s not as loud as red’s roaring is, not as sweet as blue’s is. It’s quieter but harsher. Still welcoming and warm and Lance feels screwed to the ground. His body suddenly turns stiff, his ears only focusing on the deep roars. When he finally turns around, black’s mouth is opened, daring Lance to get in.

But Lance can’t go in there, can’t move in general. He looks behind his back, searching for a different person the black lion might have opened up to but there is no one.

“I won’t disappoint you”, he whispers, almost sniffs as he finally makes his way to the black lion, ready to do what he had always wanted. Ready to keep the team together, to be a leader they deserve. He might not be on Shiro’s level but he’ll make sure everyone will get out of this safe.

Slowly, hesitating, he lets himself down on the black chair. It feels comfortable, a secure place to be.

His hands reach out to the controls and his fingers are visibly shaking. Before finally grabbing them though, he takes a deep breath while closing his eyes.

“This is your moment”, he says, opens his eyes and grabs the controls in one fast, smooth motion. “It will be our moment, too.”

And then he’s flying. He. The black lion. He can’t fully believe it and for a moment he considers actually being dead again. Maybe he really did die back then.

He has never felt this free before. Black’s soothing roars are a constant in the back of his mind and Lance’s insides feel warm out of a sudden, everything feels like family for a moment and he wants to cry. But he won’t. Not now.

“Lance!” He hears over the comms. It’s filled with surprise, happiness, relief and love all at the same time. It’s too much and still not enough.  

“Congrats”, Keith whispers and Lance can’t stop the big smile forming on his lips.

“Same goes to you, mullet. Welcome back.”

Wow, saying that certainly felt really, really good. Like he’s been waiting to say that. He would kill for seeing Keith’s expression right now. Well, it’s not like he has another choice anyways considering they’re surrounded by dozens of Galra fleets.

“Ok, team. Time to put an end to this crazy day!”

Yeah!

“Allura, freeze some of the ships that are right behind you, so that they won’t bother us for some time. Pidge, use your powers to stop the ones that are coming towards your way. Keith, Hunk? You guys will help me get out the ones that are very close to the castle right now. As soon as we’re done, we will form Voltron and fight the rest of them.”

“Alright”, they agree and Lance has never felt this kind of feeling, it’s foreign and new and he totally likes it more than anything else. Well, almost more than anything else.

“Rodger that, team leader” Keith teases. There will always be things he loves more.

“Let’s go!” And with that words, everyone does whatever they’ve been instructed to do.

But then, realization kicks in and Lance panics just a little bit.

Shit!” He curses, “Coran?”

“Yes, number three?”

“Is Shiro still unconscious?”

“Positive”

“Ok, don’t freak out or ask why but put some handcuffs on him. I will explain later.”

“O-Ok, I guess.”

“Lance, what is happening?” Allura asks.

“Like I said, not the time pretty lady. Let’s get this over with and we can have some tea and cake to discuss everything else.”

Everyone groans and Lance grins to himself.

As soon as all of them did what they were told to do, they all meet up again, ready to form Voltron.

“Ok, as soon as we’ve got this over, we can attack their biggest ship.” Lance says, trying to hide his doubts and anxiety.

“Uh, guys? I think they just released a robeast”, Hunk says.

Shit. Ok guys, it’s time to”, he takes a deep breath, “form Voltron!”

And then they fly in formation and Lance feels like time has stopped.

What if it doesn’t work?

What if he’s still not meant to be their leader?

What if all this will fail just because of him?

Lance panics as soon as he realizes that they are, in fact, not forming anything but still flying in five individual lions.

But then, there is a voice in his head.

“Lance, calm down. You can do this”, Keith says quietly, as though he’s speaking right into Lance’s ear. “Focus on our bond, on the team. Focus on the lion’s quintessence, that’s all that matters right now.”

And Lance does, like he has never done anything else in his life before and then it happens, they really are forming Voltron. Lance almost can’t believe it. It’s funny because now Lance knows the feeling of forming Voltron as any part of it. No matter if leg, arm or head, it always feels like coming together as one strong unit. It feels incredible.

“Ok, uh. I- we should probably fight this”, Lance points out as soon as the robeast shoots towards their direction.

“Yeah, probably”, Pidge confirms. “What should we do?”

“Uh”, Lance thinks, his eyes taking in everything that might help him find a solution. “Maybe freezing it would help?”

“I don’t think so, I’m sure it can easily free itself with its beam”, Allura says.

“Ok, anyone got an idea?” He asks instead, dodging the best he can.

“We should probably get rid of this… thing in its middle. I think it’s the source of its energy.” Keith suggests.

“And how exactly should we manage that? It looks massi- woah!” Hunk answers while almost getting hit.

“I could form the sword and we could try cut it off.” Keith says. “Or stab it.”

“Do you really want to get any closer to that thing?” Hunk sounds terrified at the idea.

“Guess we have no choice, if you use your own cannon it will just shoot back at us at the same time.”

“I will get its attention so you guys are able to get closer!” Coran suddenly says as the castle attacks the enemy.

“Thanks Coran, that’s awesome! Alright team, let’s do this!” Lance says and they all get ready.

It takes some time before the robeast actually turns its attention away from them but the moment it does, they get it to it as fast and close as possible.

“Keith, now!” Lance shouts and Keith roughly pushes his Bayard forward to form the giant sword.

“Hurry, I think it’s about to shoot the castle!”

“On it!” Keith grunts and with one strong swing of the sword, the robeast successfully gets stabbed right through the back, piercing its middle at the front.

“Yeah!” Everyone shouts proudly, only seconds before the whole robotic enemy lights up to the point the paladins think they might turn blind permanently. The shouting comes out awfully loud through the comms and Lance grits his teeth, eyes shut to avoid the brightness. He desperately wants to rip the helmet off, all of the noises way too much to handle right now. The robeast explodes, sending Voltron flying through space in seconds. It even causes Voltron to split into five individual lions again, all of the Paladins experiencing terrible amounts of pain because of all the shaking and pressure. It feels like being ripped apart for a moment to the point Lance is sure he can’t take it any longer. And just like that, he loses consciousness as he drifts into a deep, dark sleep.

___

 

The first time he got into the cryopod right after jumping in front of Coran, it had felt like sleeping without any dreams. It was nothing else than taking a good, long nap after a hard day at work or school. This time, it’s way different. It doesn’t feel relaxing and refreshing at all. It’s more like he’s trapped inside a world he doesn’t belong in, like he’s having a nightmare, experiencing it through VR. Although he isn’t seeing anything, only experiencing feelings of all sort and on top of that, a lot of them. He thinks he is squirming and trying to get rid of something, something he can’t name or describe. At the same time, he doesn’t feel himself, it’s only his mind that’s existent. For a shocking moment he thinks he’s dead and this time he really considers it. If that’s what being dead feels like he wants nothing more than to never have lived, because it’s getting more and more unbearable with every passing second until he feels like he’s suffocating and-

And then there is a familiar sound and air fills his lungs as he takes quick breaths. His eyes are still closed but he hears voices and there are arms around him, holding him steady.

“Lance”, someone says, way calmer than the other voices and he opens his eyes slowly, taking in everything surrounding him.  

“Well”, he coughs out in a scratchy voice, “that certainly has been terrible. No Bueno, would not recommend.”

Allura, who has been making sure he could stand without falling over, snorts and then everyone’s laughing amusingly.

“Sit down” Hunk suggest, pointing to the one of the steps on the floor.

Lance shakes his head. “Nah, I’d rather not. Feeling my body parts again, is uhh, quite nice I gotta admit.” He clears his throat, it’s sore and hurts a little bit. “What even happened? The last thing I remember is…” He thinks about it, new energy filling his whole body. Flying the black lion. But that’s not what he’s going to say. “Fighting this stupid thing and then there is only darkness. Did I die?”

“Obviously not”, Pidge says, “You only passed out but your body suffered several injuries. Seriously, how did you not pass out way earlier?”

Lance takes a look down on him. Nothing hurts anymore and the clothes he’s wearing don’t give a lot of insight whether he has scars or not. But then, new pain gathers around his arm as Pidge punches him way too harsh.

“Ow!”

“Deserved, we were worried.”

“Nawww, that’s sweet of you guys. I know you couldn’t take it to be separated from your most favorite paladin of all ti-“

“That’s enough” Pidge interrupts, though a grin spreads around her face and Lance responds with a smile.

His eyes scan the room and a bad feeling makes its way inside his chest.

“Where is Keith?”

Everyone looks at each other, like they are all knowing and it doesn’t help Lance’s growing nervousness at all.

“Right…” Allura says. “There is still a lot of confusing stuff going on.”

“He’s with Shiro”, Coran finally clarifies and Lance’s worry shoots over the roof immediately. “Don’t worry, though. After telling us to handcuff him, we got suspicious and locked him up for now. He wasn’t complaining and said it is for the best and that he’s a danger to the team. What exactly is going on, Lance?”

Lance sighs. His head still hurts and he wants nothing more than to get some actual sleep but he also knows that this is very important and has to be discussed as soon as possible.

“Let’s meet with Shiro, I want to have a talk with him.”

___

 

On the way there, he tells the others about what had happened earlier. How Shiro purposefully manipulated the castle, how he almost attacked him and also how he wasn’t himself for a moment. He makes sure the others know it wasn’t Shiro himself who wanted to harm them, but that there is something really unusual going on.

They arrive at Shiro’s cell and Lance has to bite his bottom lip at the sight. It really looks like their leader betrayed the whole team and is now locked up like a criminal, it certainly isn’t pleasant to imagine. At least it’s very big but they still have his arms handcuffed, probably to make sure he doesn’t damage anything or attack anyone with his prosthetic.

Right in front of his cell stands Keith, his stupid mullet looking even longer from behind and his useless cropped jacket bringing all the color into the plain room. Lance’s feet tingle with anticipation as they urge him to run all the way to the red Paladin and hug from behind, kissing his neck and just be close to him. Luckily, his head takes over and he doesn’t do something impulsive like that.

Keith seems to take notice of them, waving Shiro goodbye as he turns around to the others. “I’ll go look after Lance, I just really hope he will-“ and then their eyes meet and Lance smiles shyly, hiding the pure happiness evolving inside his body at the thought of Keith checking up on him. He holds back a giggle when Keith clearly blushes as soon as his eyes catch on Lance actually standing right in front of him, dropping his head so his hair hides most of the pinkish color decorating his cheeks sweetly. “Oh.”

Oh? That’s all I get?” Lance asks, pretending to be offended. He walks towards the smaller boy and throws an arm around him, pulling him into his side. “No glad-you’re-alive-hug? No sweet words about how you’ve missed me?”

Keith glares at him and then attacks him with a pinch into his side, causing Lance to yelp loudly and jump away from Keith again. Well, there goes the reassuring warmth.  

“How are you”, he asks worryingly as he approaches Shiro from the other side of the cell, bars separating them.

“Well, I’ve been better”, Shiro jokes weakly, “but it’s alright. My headache just gets worse and worse and I really don’t know what’s happening to be honest. I feel like…” He takes a deep breath, looking Lance straight into his eyes. “Like I’m not myself.”

Lance gulps even though he had already suspected something like this.

“It’s ok”, he assures. “We’ll get through this, we’re a team. All of us, we will find out what’ going on.”

“Lance is right”, Allura joins right beside him, “We don’t really know what all of this means and I’m sorry we have to do this to you right now, Shiro, but things are crazy at the moment.”

“No, it’s for the best. It feels like someone’s taking control of me… or more like, another part of me misses. It’s… weird.”

“Don’t overthink it, buddy. I’ll get you some awesome food. You really need it, man”, Hunk says in a gentle tone and Shiro nods gratefully.

“I think it’s ok to let you out now. The handcuffs should be enough, not even you could possibly rip them apart” Allura announces as she opens the cell and Shiro joins their little circle.

“I actually quite liked it. There is less shouting and stupid arguing going on down here”, he jokes, eyeing Keith and Lance specifically.

Everyone, except Keith and Lance who are way more occupied with pouting in regards to Shiro’s words, breaks out into loud, happy laughs and Lance is sure that somehow they will get through this. Hard times can’t easily rip apart a well working team like them.

“Ok, I think it’s time to have dinner. Lance is probably dying to eat something and I think we all need some good food after these crazy events!” Coran suggests and they all happily follow him. Everyone but Lance, who grabs Keith at his arm before he can get away with the crowd.

“Come to my room after dinner, there is something I have for you”, he whispers into the red Paladin’s ear and to avoid any immediate reaction, he takes some fast step towards Hunk and Pidge, throws an arm around each of them and starts talking about his weird experiences while being in the cryopod.

___

 

Back into his dark room, his stomach filled with the weirdest alien food he has eaten in a long time, he lets himself fall down on his bed, a loud groan accompanying the dull sound of his body meeting the soft sheets. So soft, Lance actually doesn’t dare to close his eyes, otherwise he would probably fall asleep immediately and not wake up for another 100 years, that’s how tired and drained he feels. Even though he has spent about a day inside the cryopod he still feels like he has been on his feet for three days straight without a single hour of sleep. Maybe he will just turn into a zombie in the next few hours. But before that, there is actually some stuff he has to deal with.

Slowly, he pushes himself up again so he can sit down on the edge of his bed. He’s nervous. There is an unsettling feeling taking over his whole body and he tries to push it down with all he has. Taking several deep breaths while playing around with his thumbs to calm his nervousness he opens the drawer of his nightstand with one hand and takes out the fragile plant he had put in there.

When he looks down on it, laying there in his hands, small and about to die, he gets nervous all over again.

“This was a stupid idea”, he whispers to himself and attempts to put it away again just when he gets interrupted by a knock on his door. 

“Lance? It’s me, Keith. You- uh, told me to come”, Keith says behind the closed door and some weird mumbling is heard as well, though Lance can’t make out any words.

“Y-yeah, buddy! Come in!” His voice isn’t as steady and as calm as he wants it to be but he’s certainly a little bit panicking right now and decides to just push the flower into his pocket.

Keith comes in, way more hesitating and shy than Lance would have imagined. He stops right at the door, looking at Lance like he’s waiting for something.

Lance just chuckles and pats the spot next to him. “C’mere.”

Keith scratches his arm, then his neck before he actually takes a seat right next to Lance. Right next to Lance, actually, so that their thighs are pressed together.

“Hi”

“Hi” Keith responds, turning his head so he can look at him. “So, uh, how do you feel?”

“Eh, I’ve never felt better”, Lance jokes. “What about you?”

“Me? I wasn’t the one passing out inside the lion.”

“Still”, Lance urges for an answer.

“Good”, Keith mumbles and looks away.

He’s acting weird, Lance thinks.

“No, but are you ok?” He asks in a way more serious tone, leaning into Keith. “The thing about Shiro was a shock…”

“Yeah…” Keith agrees quietly. “But I’m fine. A little bit tired and a lot of things happened lately but- but I’m fine.” He sighs. “And you’re fine now, so that’s good…” he murmurs in a small voice but Lance has never been more thankful for his great hearing.

He grins and places a hand on the sheets right behind Keith so he can lean in even more.

“Ohhh, did I hear that right? Have you been woooorriiiiied?”

Suddenly, Keith turns around so fast that Lance is taken aback, pulling back from Keith immediately. His eyes look fierce and dangerous, almost like he’s sending a death glare towards Lance’s way.

“Yeah! Yeah, I fucking have, Lance!” He says in a loud, upset voice, throwing up his arms. Lance flinches, causing him to shift so that there is more room between them, surprised by Keith’s sudden outburst. “This is not a game, Lance. It’s not and our lives are in danger, yours is. I don’t know how often you’ve almost died in the past few weeks and it’s terrifying!” He hugs himself, getting all small again and avoiding looking at Lance’s direction. “It’s scary.”

For a moment, Lance doesn’t really know how to respond. The only thing occupying his mind right now is the sight of Keith, hugging himself like he’s all alone and scared. It does something really painful to his heart and his body urges him to take Keith into his arms, to lie to him that everything will be alright and to make sure he’s comfortable and safe.

“I know. I- yeah.”

“And then you just, you- when we found you we thought you really died for a moment. Of course we quickly made sure that you didn’t but it was so- so-“

“I know”, Lance says as he moves towards Keith again, one of his hands placed on the smaller boy’s back.

“Do you, though?” Keith asks and the look on his face shatters Lance’s entire heart into thousands pieces. It’s sad but filled with so much love, with so much adoration and comfort to give. It’s the face of someone Lance wants to protect, someone he loves so, so, so much that, yes, he knows exactly what Keith is talking about.

“Yes. Yes, Keith, damn yes I do.” He grabs Keith’s arm this time, his fingers closing around the other boy’s biceps. “When you pushed me away and Shiro – or whatever that thing was – was about to attack you, I- I- everything stopped. That’s why I told you to never do something like that again.”

“I never promised anything.”

“Me neither.”

They both breathe out at the same time, like they just got rid of a lot of ballast that has been bothering them.

“It’s hard to care about people”, Keith mumbles and the corners of Lance’s mouth twitch upwards as he puts one arm around his best friend.

“Tell me about it.” Without thinking any further about it, his hand finds its way into Keith’s hair, stroking through it and making Keith sigh. “It was probably easier back then when you were a coldhearted, broody emo boy, I suppose?”

Keith shoots him a pouty glare and Lance’s chest heats up with adoration. His pouty lips combined with his tousled hair is just way too adorable for Lance to handle.

“I’m glad you’re back”, he says without thinking, not taking his eyes away from Keith. Otherwise he would’ve missed the way his eyes widen and his cheeks turn pink. Keith’s mouth opens, though he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he just looks at Lance with this big, shiny eyes and Lance can’t hold back a fond chuckle. “There, he’s speechless.”

“Idiot”, Keith snorts, pushing against Lance the slightest bit. “Congrats on piloting the black lion.”

“Uh! Yeah, I, haha. Wow, right?” Lance hasn’t expected this right now and scrambles for words. “Wow”, he repeats like he is just realizing it himself.

“Look who’s speechless now”, Keith teases and this time Lance is the one who shoots him a glare.

“Yeah”, Lance gulps. He’s still not sure about this whole thing. “I think, uh, the black lion probably just knew it was a tense situation. I know I’m not actually a good enough Paladin to pilot it.”

Keith stares at him and blinks several times. “Are you kidding? Lance, you- ugh.”

Lance shifts a little bit, playing around with his hands in his laps once again.

“Hey”, Keith catches his attention again. “Look, you’re- I don’t know why you can’t see this, but you’re a great paladin. Lance, you are literally so good with everything. Back then when I piloted black because, well, I kind of had no other choice, there would’ve been no way we would have come out of this alive if it weren’t for you. I didn’t exactly know what I was doing, I was impulsive and I never considered working as a team, but you made sure that I got my shit together. And even when we fought that robeast, you made sure to work as a team and you succeeded! Lance, you make a great right hand man, a great leader, you make a great everything. I- even outside of Voltron, you’re a good paladin. You manage to make everyone laugh even if the atmosphere is tense, you are great with words, which I-I’m not as you can see.”

“No, no”, Lance says immediately, being thrown back to reality after listening to Keith’s words like they weren’t part of this world right now. He takes Keith’s face into two hands, forcing them to make direct eye contact. And Lance is aware of the tears gathering in his eyes but he certainly doesn’t care because his heart is overflowing with emotions and because this stupid, small, angry boy is doing so much to him that he can’t deal with anything else but him. “Right now? You words are everything”, he whispers.

At this point, he doesn’t even think anymore. He takes one hand away from Keith’s warm face, to reach into his pocket and take out the flower.

“I- Remember how I told you I’ve got something for you?” He asks and then places the barely alive flower into Keith’s hands, who in response looks at it with his mouth open. He’s embarrassed to death right now but his heart is exploding and his entire body is overflowing with adrenaline at this point. “I-it’s a flower and I know it looks awful right now and I’m sorry for that but when I first saw it and picked it up it was shining in red, the color even got all over the place whenever I touched it. It was so beautiful Keith and it reminded me of you, because you are beautiful. Uh, what am I saying… I-I wanted to give it to you before but then we fought and-“

“Lance, look”, Keith interrupts Lance’s embarrassing rambling, freeing him before he could say more stupid stuff he could possibly regret later. Calming himself down, he focuses on the fragile plant inside Keith’s hands. What he sees there is blowing his mind and he gasps loudly.

“How…” it’s not an old, almost dead flower anymore. It’s not red or on fire looking either. It has turned into a beautiful shade of purple, a perfect mix of red and blue. The dark room drowns in purple lightning, so beautiful Lance can’t take his eyes away from it. The only thing way more eye catching is Keith’s face, though. It looks down onto his hands, the fondest looking smile decorating his adorable face and Lance can’t help but blush at the sight.

Yeah, you’re beautiful.

He slowly leans forward, the bed creaking awfully as he does and places a shy, cute peck on Keith’s cheek.

Keith’s eyes shoot upwards, meeting his. One of his hands, covered in purple color, come up to his cheek, caressing it and blushing furiously.

“Damn, you don’t know what you’re doing to me”, Lance whispers while smiling, taking Keith’s hand away from his cheek and placing it on his own, smearing the purple color all over them.

Keith is speechless again and Lance feels the way his own cheeks heat up, too. With his heart jumping, his stomach filling up with butterflies and Keith’s warmth all over his face, he uses his free hand to put in on Keith’s other cheek.

“Lance…” Keith whispers and then clears his throat, avoiding eye contact. “This is sweet, I- thanks. I like it”, he says while running a thumb over one of the pretty blossoms.

Adorable, adorable, adorable.

“Anything”, Lance says and then Keith is leaning forward and Lance’s head is going crazy just as his pulse is, everything feels like he’s losing ground under his feet.

“Lance” Keith whispers another time and it sends shivers down Lance’s back, feeling Keith’s breath on his own lips.

His fingers twitch a last time before their lips meet in a sweet, shy and feather light kiss. It’s barely there but inside Lance, there is so much. So many emotions exploding in the pit of his stomach, making him feel giddy and greedy for more. He has to hold back a happy, stupid chuckle that’s how much his feelings are taking over his body. His own lips are prickling, sending shivers down his body to the point it’s giving him goosebumps. His heartbeat has certainly reached its limit as he can feel his whole body pulsing.

His hands slide past Keith’s waist, pulling him closer as Keith’s hands grip onto the hair on his neck. They both sigh before they put more pressure on the kiss, both now moving against the other. Keith’s lips are way different than Lance expected them to be. They are soft and warm and they fit perfectly on his own.

He places a last, wet peck on Keith’s lips before they separate again. Too shy to look into the red Paladin’s eyes, Lance puts his head onto Keith’s shoulder causing him to chuckle lightly.

“Shut up”, he pouts and kisses Keith’s shoulder.

“Is this the part where I’m supposed to say: Make me?” Keith teases.

“I see, you’re learning fast!”

“That was…” Keith starts, burying his own face into Lance’s neck.

“Yeah…” Lance just answers, pulling Keith as close as possible. Feeling his body warmth, knowing that he can pull Keith into his arms, protect him and be protected. It’s everything and more he’s always wanted.

Gathering up all the courage he has, Lance separates himself from Keith again just to be met with shy, happy eyes. There is a dust of pink all over his face and Lance can’t resist but kiss his cheek another time.

“Hey”, he says between kisses he’s now spreading all over his face. First his forehead, then his nose, his eye, the corner of his lips, just to end it with another peck on the lips. “Do you think…” He looks Keith directly into the eyes, one hand leaving Keith’s waist to grab the hand he’s holding the flower with. “Do you think I would make a great boyfriend, too?” The words come out a little shaky but still more confident than Lance expected them to. He squeezes Keith’s hand and tries to hide his nervousness.

But then, Keith’s face splits into the biggest grin Lance has ever seen and all of his tense muscles relax immediately.

“Well, that’s something that still needs to be found out”, Keith teases, pulling Lance closer to him.

“Guess you’re the lucky one to find out, then”, Lance answers and then they are kissing again. It’s passionate and deeper than their last kiss. It’s a little bit desperate and for sure overwhelming, Lance would never want to trade it for anything else.

“Was this your first kiss?” He asks Keith between kisses but the other just sighs into another kiss.

“Because I want to be your first”, Lance whispers against his lips, kissing him lightly. “And your last”, he adds, blowing cold air against Keith’s lips before kissing Keith’s neck, causing him to get goosebumps all over his body. After more kissing and cuddling, they both lay down on Lance’s bed. Lance is hovering above him and his arms are starting to give out on him, the past few days have really drained him more than ever. So he places one last kiss to Keith’s scar on the shoulder that’s mostly hidden by his t-shirt and then slumps down next him.

They lay next to each other in silence and Lance grabs Keith’s hand, the flower long ago securely placed onto his nightstand again. It’s so bright it could easily be mistaken for a small lamp. He turns to the side so that he’s facing Keith and then closes his eyes. The tiredness is starting to kill him again, though the amount of adrenaline his body is experiencing right now is for sure going to keep him awake for some more hours.

At least, that’s what he thinks will happen but then his eyes start to feel heavier and heavier and he’s sure he is about to drift into sleep the next moment.

If it weren’t for Keith shifting loudly again and turning towards him, he surely would’ve been asleep by now.

“Hey”, Keith says and Lance opens his eyes even though his entire body tells him not to. “So when are we gonna talk about the fact you didn't recognize me the first time though?”

Lance groans the loudest he ever has, Keith laughs so much he almost falls off the bed and nothing else matters for a moment.