Hunk opened his eyes and immediately groaned.
A deep ache had settled in his bones. To some extent, he had gotten used to waking up like this, after Coran and Shiro added something new to the training regime or after a really hard and long battle. The ache usually lasted until he got water and food in his system, with the occasional painkiller if the discomfort was centered in one particular area that had taken a beating.
But yesterday had been an average day. Or as average as a day in space could get. So he really wasn’t sure why he was waking up sore and achy. Granted, he hadn’t slept well at all.
With another groan, he pushed himself up into a sitting position, trying to ignore how tantalizing the idea of laying back down started, swinging his legs over the bunk.
Got stuff to do, a team to feed… Hunk thought to himself, putting his feet on the floor. Drills to run, giant robotic cat to fly…
He pushed himself upright, then immediately sat down as his head started spinning. Hunk pressed a palm to his forehead and the sudden ache that filled his skull.
“Water,” He mumbled to himself. “I just need some water… I must not have hydrated well enough yesterday.” He stood up, slower this time, and pulled on his clothes.
It was then that he realized how warm the room was. Coran or Pidge must have done something to deregulate the temperature; the Castle was always the perfect temperature, not too hot, not too cold. He decided to just put on his pants, shirt and shoes.
“I’ll need to change into my armor later,” Hunk mumbled to himself as he pulled the shirt over his head.
He stepped out into the hall, and was greeted with a “Morning, Hunk” from Lance. The Blue Paladin’s smile waned some as he studied his best friend. “You okay?” He asked in concern.
“Yeah,” Hunk said, giving Lance a smile. “Slept kinda rough last night. Got a bit of a headache. I’m just going to get some Altean Tylenol and then get breakfast going.”
“You sure?” Lance said. “One of us can take a turn in the kitchen.”
“Yeah, no,” Hunk said, shaking his head, then regretting as it made his head hurt more. “’Cause Coran will take over and none of us want that.”
“Fair point,” Lance said with a shrug. “Still, you want help?”
“Nah, I’m good.” Hunk said. “Thanks, buddy.”
“No prob,” Lance said with a wave of his hand before sticking his hands in his pockets. “Just let me know if you change your mind. I’ll be in Blue’s hanger.”
Hunk waved at Lance then headed towards the infirmary. He mumbled to himself, frowning at the bottles labeled in Altean in the cabinets.
He jumped at hearing, “Oh! Hunk! Good morning!”
“Oh, hey princess,” Hunk said, turning around. “What brings you here?”
“I can ask you the same question,” Allura pointed out. “But as you asked first, I will answer first. I came to initiate an upgrade to the medical diagnostic systems.”
“Oh, okay, cool.” Hunk said. “Um, could you do me a favor? I can’t read these labels so I don’t know what I need.”
“Of course!” Allura said, coming over to his side. “What are you looking for?”
“Something for a headache,” Hunk said. “I slept kinda weird and woke up with one.”
Allura scanned the labels with her eyes, then pulled out a bottle. “This should work. Take two of these pills now with some water and a bit of food. If the pain has not receded by training time, you can sit out.”
“Nah, it’s not that bad.” Hunk lied. “I just want to make sure it doesn’t get worse. You know. Preventive measure.”
“Alright,” Allura said, nodding. Then she frowned. “Hunk, are you sure you’re alright?”
“I’m totally fine, Princess.” Hunk said, already heading towards the door. “Going to make breakfast now. Thanks for the help! Good luck with the upgrade!”
On his way to the kitchen, he passed Shiro and Coran.
“Ah, good morning Number Two!” Coran said.
“Morning, Hunk.” Shiro said, giving Hunk a small smile. The smile quickly turned into a frown. “You okay? You look kind of pale?”
Hunk fumbled for an excuse, not wanting anyone else worry about him. “Well, we all do. Relatively speaking. We haven’t seen natural sunlight in, what, weeks now? Well, that’s not true, we’ve seen natural sunlight, we’re just all wearing our armor that covers everything so, yeah, we’re all getting a bit pale. But none of us are going to be paler than Pidge.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Shiro said, frown deepening. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah. Just hungry. Bet everyone is. I’m going to go make breakfast now.” Hunk said, taking off down the hall before Shiro or Coran could say another word.
He got to the kitchen and found a bleary-eyed Pidge poking at the Altean version of a coffeepot. She yawned widely as she turned to see him enter.
“Pidge, did you sleep at all last night?” Hunk asked, getting a pouch of water.
“Did you?” Pidge asked, arching an eyebrow. “You look how I feel…”
“I’m pretty sure you look how you feel,” Hunk informed her, popping the pills in his mouth and slurping down water from the pouch.
Pidge yawned again, but said, “Want help? I’ve gotta wait, like, a gazillion ticks for the coffee to brew. Just don’t give me anything sharp.”
“Nah, I’ve got it,” Hunk said. “Go lay down or something. Power nap. I’ll have breakfast ready in about fifteen earth minutes, and by then your coffee will be cool enough to drink.”
Pidge nodded, yawning once more as she trudged out of the room.
Hunk turned to the empty kitchen and started pulling out bowls and ingredient and—whoa.
He paused in standing up from getting a bowl from underneath the counter, the dizziness momentarily over-powering him.
He did not feel good…
The meds are going to kick in, He told himself. Just power on through until the meds kick in… Allura said to take some food with the meds…
Slowly, he stood up, taking deep breaths.
He was okay. He was going to be okay. He’d shake this stupid headache and get on with his day.
The movements were rhythmic, ritual. He didn’t have to think through muscle memory. It was just space scrambled eggs he was making…
“Hunk! Hunk, wake up! Come on, wake up, please! Can you hear me?”
He squeezed his eyes shut, groaning slightly. Why was Keith shaking his shoulder? That was weird, Keith said ‘please’. He’s not sure when the last time he heard Keith say ‘please’… Why weren’t the alarm systems working? Was the Castle being invaded? Did they need Voltron?
And why was his bed suddenly so uncomfortably hard and cold? The cold part felt good, but not the hard part.
He opened his eyes, frowning slightly at Keith, whose eyes were wide and full of panic.
“Keith?” He mumbled, rolling over onto his back. “Wuzgoinon?”
“Hunk, lay still, okay? I don’t know if you hit your head or not.” Keith said. The Red Paladin quickly got up from his kneeling position on the floor, running over to the comm system near the kitchen entrance. Hunk felt his eyes get harder and harder to keep open, barely listening to Keith’s shaky voice. “Shiro, Allura, Coran! Come to the kitchen now!”
Hunk closed his eyes again, and he didn’t open them again until he heard Shiro’s voice: “Hunk? Hunk! Come on, buddy, open your eyes.”
Hunk groaned again, slowly peeking at Shiro’s worried expression through barely slit eyelids. He flinched slightly as something touched his forehead.
“He’s burning up,” Shiro said, alarm in his voice.
“Was near stove… just too hot…” Hunk mumbled. “I’m good…”
“No, you’re not.” Shiro said, carefully lifting Hunk off the floor. “You need to go to the infirmary. Keith, give me a hand here?”
Hunk felt himself lifted off the floor, one arm around Shiro’s shoulders and the other around Keith’s.
He didn’t realize that they were moving until he heard a sudden, sharp gasp and two voices.
“Hunk!” Lance, that was definitely Lance.
“What happened? Is he okay?” Pidge. He opened his eyes slightly to lazily give a thumbs-up to them over Shiro’s shoulder. Huh, they were in the hall near the training deck. How had they gotten this far from the kitchen, though?
“’m good…” He mumbled.
“Hunk, I found you passed out on the kitchen floor.” Keith said, a low growl in his voice. Ooh, Hunk had evoked Galra Keith… Whoops… “You’re in no way ‘good’.”
“You what!” Lance exclaimed, but Hunk wasn’t sure if that was addressed at himself or Keith.
Shiro and Keith helped him sit on the edge of the bed in the infirmary. Wow, his time perception was really off…
“Arms up,” Shiro told Hunk, who needed a little help from Keith and Lance to comply with the command. He winced at how his shirt stuck to his skin. Felt gross.
“Dude, you sweated right through your shirt…” Lance said, concern in his voice.
“Hmmm…” Hunk mumbled as he laid down. He felt a gloved hand—all fingers covered, must be Coran—take his arm and turn it over, palm up. Something cool was stuck to the inside of his wrist.
“This’ll monitor his heartbeat as well as his body temperature,” Coran said. “This is going to sting for just a tick, Number Two.”
Something was pressed up against his pointer finger. There was no stinging, though.
“Tingly, not stingy…” He mumbled, falling back into sleep.
“Come on, Hunk, we need you to stay awake a little longer,” Shiro said, voice firm.
“Buddy, we need to know what your other symptoms are, okay?” Lance said.
Hunk opened his eyes again at feeling a hand squeeze his fingers, gazing up weakly at Shiro, Lance and Keith.
“Allura said she gave you something for a headache.” Shiro said. “Where’s the pain centralized?”
Hunk used his free hand—who was holding his hand?—to gesture vaguely. His hand collided with something fluffy and Pidge exclaimed, “Ow!”.
“You alright?” Shiro asked.
“I didn’t need those brain cells anyway,” Pidge said flatly. Something cool and wet was placed on Hunk’s forehead and he sighed with the relief it brought.
That was never good. Even in his semi-lucid state, Hunk knew that.
“What’s wrong?” Keith demanded, voice terse.
“It appears our Yellow Paladin inadvertently brought a new friend into the Castle…” Coran said. “Good news is, it’s shouldn’t be life threatening and is treatable. The bad news is, you’re in for a rough couple of days, Hunk.”
“Um, more information is needed here, Coran.” Lance said. “What’s going on? What’s wrong with Hunk?”
“Essentially, Hunk picked up a parasite when we were on Niblam three cycles ago,” Coran explained. “Niblam parasites aren’t killers, and get picked up accidentally and sink into the pores of the skin, then go into a short hibernation. They cling to leaves and the sort. So when bare skin touches them, they transfer onto the host.”
“The whole planet was a jungle, we all got hit in the face with leaves,” Shiro said. Hunk could hear him frowning. “Can you test us all for these parasites?”
“Yes, but I imagine you would have the same symptoms by now. Right now, Hunk’s immune system is trying to get rid of the tiny invaders. Since the parasites came into the body through the pores, the immune system is trying to get them out the same way. Fortunately, I’ve got something right here that will help take care of the job! We’ll also need to keep Hunk hydrated and try to get his fever down. Unfortunately, what we’ve got for the fever won’t work with what he already took for the headache, so we have to wait a few dobashes.”
“Will that also stop us from giving Hunk the medicine for the parasite?” Pidge asked.
“Nope! We’ll get that started right away.”
Hunk felt a hand wrap around his arm. He creaked his eyes open to turn and see the hypodermic needle in Coran’s hand, the tip coming closer and closer to the crook of his elbow. Hunk’s stomach churned and he squeezed his eyes shut with a groan.
Hunk didn’t know how much time passed between the time he closed his eyes and when he opened them again. He just knew that his head felt fuzzy, his eyes gritty, his tongue and lips dry, there was a needle in his arm feeding fluids into his veins.
And that someone was still holding his hand.
Wincing, he turned his head to the side. His brow furrowed at seeing Keith curled up in the chair beside him, his arm resting on the bed beside Hunk’s.
Wasn’t expecting that.
He turned his head again at hearing the door slide open. Keith didn’t even move.
Hunk smiled weakly as Shiro came over to his bedside, looking relieved to see Hunk awake.
“Hey, Hunk,” He said in a whisper. “How are you feeling?”
“Better,” He admitted. “I think… How long was I out?”
“You’ve been in and out for most of the day cycle. It’s the middle of the night now. I was actually coming to both check on you and try to see if I could get Keith to go to bed.” Shiro admitted. He glanced over at Keith, a small smile on his lips. “I don’t think that’s going to happen, though. I think he’s left your side maybe twice, and only because we made him go eat something.”
“Really?” Hunk said with surprise. That was something he would have expected from Lance, maybe Pidge. But not Keith. Shiro nodded. “Why?”
Shiro sighed a bit, glancing over at Keith again before returning his gaze to Hunk. “You know Keith usually keeps his distance from people, right? At least at first?”
Hunk knew exactly what Shiro was talking about. And Hunk was remembering how happy he had felt the first time Keith hadn’t sequestered himself on the opposite end of the couch on movie night, casually taking a place between Hunk and Pidge. That was one of his favorite Keith-related memories, along with the first time Keith leaned into a hug and when he started joking around with the team more. “Yeah. But he’s gotten a lot better about it lately.”
“Keith’s been used to people in his life disappearing.” Shiro explained. He suddenly grimaced and added, “I haven’t made that any easier for him. But that’s why Keith keeps his distance. And when he’s sure that a person isn’t going to disappear, he relaxes a bit more. He’s open more. He starts to let himself get attached.” Shiro gently ran his flesh hand over Hunk’s sweat-matted hair. “You scared him this morning. He thought he was going to lose a person he cares deeply about.”
Hunk felt his face heat, and not from the fever. “Like, care as in best buddies or…?”
Shiro smiled. “I think you should talk to him,” he advised. “But I suspect, by the look on your face, that you feel the exact same way that he does.”
Hunk hadn’t meant for it to happen. But his heart started beating very fast in the excitement… Which promptly set off an alarm for the heart monitor that was still on his wrist.
Keith sat bolt upright, looking around the room, hand reaching around to his back for his knife. “What’s that?” he demanded. He squinted in the dark. “Shiro?”
“I just came to check in on you two, everything’s fine, I accidentally pressed a button…” Shiro assured Keith, and Hunk both admired and was afraid of how easily Shiro lied. Shiro gently pat Hunk’s shoulder and said, “Get some rest. Both of you. And, Hunk? You should really follow up on my advice.”
“Yeah, got it, thanks,” Hunk said, trying to keep embarrassment out of his voice.
As Shiro walked out of the room, Keith started asking questions. “You okay? Are you in pain? Do you want some water?”
“I’m fine, achy but not in pain, and yes water would be great.” Hunk answered. Keith let go of Hunk’s hand to go over to a small cooler, pulling out a water pouch. Keith put a straw in it and held it to Hunk’s lips.
“Drink,” Keith said. Hunk complied, mentally noting that Keith’s bedside manner face basically said ‘do what I say or I will kick you in the face’. It was actually kind of adorable. In a weird way. A Keith way.
After Hunk had drained the pouch, he grabbed hold of Keith’s wrist as the smaller teen started to pull away. Keith looked surprised and Hunk said, “I like you.”
In the dark, he could have sworn Keith’s cheeks were red. “This is another fever dream, isn’t it?” Keith said, a bit suspiciously. “It’s okay, go back to sleep now…”
“No, I actually do—Wait, another fever dream?” Hunk said, frowning.
“Uh, yeah… You’ve kind of been kind of delusional all day now…” Keith said. He started ticking things off on his fingers. “Um, you told Lance that he needed to go to the Space Mall and get bananas, because the Minions chose Pidge as their overlord over Zarkon and we needed bananas to win their trust. And you also told Shiro that he is ‘bloofy’, which is apparently a combination of buff and floofy? You cried because you were worried that the mice would get lost in Allura’s hair… Oh, and you thought Coran’s mustache was attacking you at one point. And—”
“Never mind, I don’t want to know all the details.” Hunk groaned, pressing his hands to his face, hissing with pain as the movement jostled the IV needle.
“You alright?” Keith asked.
“Yeah. No. Yeah.” Hunk said. “Um, but I’m not… I’m totally coherent right now. And I like you.”
Yep, he could see that Keith’s face was red even in the dark…
“O-oh…” Keith said, his voice taking on an uncharacteristic squeak.
“Like, like you, like you.” Hunk added. “Like I’d like to date you like you.”
“Oh,” Keith said again. “I… I like you, too. Like that. I’d like to, yeah.”
Hunk felt his heart swell. He couldn’t stop grinning. “That chair doesn’t look comfortable,” he commented.
“The chair? It’s okay, I guess.” Keith said with a shrug.
“No, it’s crap,” Hunk argued. He carefully scooted over some, patting the bed beside him. “Wanna cuddle?”
Keith hesitated, then nodded, quickly kicking off his boots before crawling in beside Hunk, protectively placing an arm across Hunk’s torso.
“I’m really glad you’re okay,” Keith whispered into Hunk’s ear.
“Thanks,” Hunk whispered back. “I’m kinda glad this happened, though.”
“Yeah?” Keith said, arching an eyebrow in confusion. “Why?”
Hunk grinned at him.
“Got us here, didn’t it?”
Keith grinned and snuggled in.
They slept soundly through the rest of the night.