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Strained Ties

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Hunk watched Lance storm away from the group. He watched Lance and Allura fight. He watched Lance isolate himself. He watched Lance as he avoided the hangers. He watched Lance and wondered: How did he not notice before?

Weren’t friends supposed to be there for each other? Hunk knew that he could get caught up in his own anxieties easily shutting out others for the sake of some metaphorical safety, but he hadn’t realized how far that had gone. Lance was expressive, it should’ve been obvious unless he was that absorbed in himself. Right?

It was with that guilt that the strained silence began to form. It was with that guilt that Hunk began to second guess anything he said to his friend. It was with that guilt that he tiptoed around Lance - knowing that he was only making the issue worse. He wanted to ask, but with how cold Lance had been when they found him in the pod, with how frustrated he got whenever Allura tried to corner him about it, Hunk couldn’t help but let that anxiety eat away at him.

What if him asking was the final straw, and Lance tried to leave again? What if he succeeded?

He couldn’t live with himself it that was the case, so Hunk let the silence fester, let the second guessing rampage, and tiptoed all the quieter. He couldn’t be the reason Lance ran away. He wanted to be there for him, but he was scared.

His anxiety would not let him act. His fear held him in place. He watched Lance from afar waiting for some sign to tell him it was alright to be with his best friend again.

~*~

Allura sighed. She had not meant to start another argument. She had not meant to raise her voice. She had made another passing comment about Lance piloting Blue, and had not taken Shiro calling her name, a warning laced in his tone, to heart. Lance had said something back, or course, and Allura returned it. Lance tried to brush it off, but Allura rose her voice. Lance defended himself, and Allura attacked harder. Lance left; Allura panicked.

She had not meant to start another argument. She had not meant to strain their friendship more. It seemed only yesterday that Lance’s flirting had turned into a shared joke between them, only yesterday that they were working side by side in harmony, only yesterday that their family had been whole.

She wanted to blame Kuron. He was a clone, he had thrown their family for a loop, but she knew that was not the case. She wanted to blame Shiro. He had disappeared on them, upsetting their balance, but she knew that was also not the case. She wanted to blame Keith, and Hunk, and Pidge, and Coran, but she knew that it was not the case.

She couldn’t blame anyone because she did not understand what was wrong. How could Lance turn his back on Voltron, on Blue, like that? He had loved his lion with all his heart and soul. She knew that they were a perfect fit. Why- why would he abandon that?

She did the only thing she knew: she pushed. She pushed and pushed and pushed. She pushed with her words, she pushed with her actions, she pushed with the jobs she assigned him. She pushed him away.

She had not meant for any of this. She had not meant it at all. In the end, she was the only one to blame.

~*~

Pidge was smart, she took pride in that. She could break into a Galra base in seconds with her hacking skills, rewrite codes without batting an eye, stay up all night and create a brand new program from scratch like no one had ever seen before.

Something that went along with her smartness was her curiosity. She loved learning new things, loved figuring out some unknown. It was her passion, her drive. It was also her crutch. She did not know why Lance had tried to run away, didn’t know what had happened with him and Blue that warranted him refusing to pilot them ever again, but she wanted to. She wanted to know, so she could help.

Lance had never let her down before. He had always been there for her without her realizing, and watching him flounder, watching him sink, hurt her to her core. He was not supposed to be left to fend for himself like that. She had analysed him, as she had everyone else, and knew that he thrived with people, by mutually supporting one another. It explained why he had latched onto her back at the Garrison, a young com spec, seemingly on their own, and struggling within the group. He had meant to help her, and she had scorned that help.

She didn’t scorn his help as much anymore. She saw the point, the advantages, in letting him do his thing, even if it annoyed her sometimes. He was looking out for her, and she had taken that for granted.

Now he was drowning, and she had no idea how to help him in return. He missed his family, she knew, and she missed hers. The difference was that Pidge was going to get hers back sooner than he would, and yes they could bond over it a bit, but she didn’t feel like reminiscing about the past.

She missed some girlier aspects of herself, but not that much. She had always been comfortable in a dress or in cargo pants; she didn’t care. She wasn’t bothered by the lack of makeup or outfit options, but knew that Lance was. She could open up a bit there, but she had a feeling her lack of excitement might fall flat, might make matters worse.

She didn’t know how to help him; she didn’t take pride in that.

~*~

Keith had never thought that he’d be someone that a person would rely on in an emotional sense. To be fair, it wasn’t as if Lance was weeping on his shoulder, but ever since Lance had broken down it was as if a new understanding had unfurled between them.

Lance would sometimes visit Keith in his room, or find him while sparring. They wouldn’t speak. Lance would watch him spar or they’d sit together in silence. It was comfortable, as if Keith offered a normalcy that the others had accidentally begun to withdraw from.

It was… nice.

Not whatever it was that had driven Lance to this point, of course, but the trust, the connection; Keith had longed for something like this for ages. Did Keith feel comfortable having deeply emotional conversations? Far from it. It felt like a start, though, a good start.

He wanted to know what was wrong, but he knew that asking would cause Lance to retreat once more. Keith let him have his silence, let him have this small comfort. He had never imagined Lance needing or wanting silence, it didn’t add up in his head, his image of who Lance was...

Then again, he never thought he’d be someone that a person would rely on emotionally, but here he was, and he was going to do his damnedest to fulfill that role.

~*~

Green felt the dissonance within their pride long before their little bug had. Then again, Green was deeply connected to their other pridemates in a way their little bug was not. They did not blame their little bug for not realizing sooner. Blue’s, no, Red’s paladin had been flawless, more or less, in hiding of their sadness. That did not stop Green from being sad that she had not noticed sooner before everything had blown up in their faces.

Then again, even Green had not paid it too much of mind at the time. Red was prone to being defensive, especially over their paladins. Green had taken their anger with a grain of salt at the time. It was better to let Red, Blue, and Black figure it out without interfering, correct?

It had been a poor assumption.

It did not take long for Green to find out what had happened to cause Red to become so angry, so distant. It did not take long for Green to realize that Blue’s nervousness was not due to their new pilot, but due to their old. It did not take long for Green to understand that Black’s disappointment was only towards themselves, and not the others. It did not take long for Green to form their own opinion on the matter.

Black was an easy understanding, a logical one. To manifest, to speak, required far more energy for them than any of the other lions. With their paladin gone it made sense that they would not manifest for the Blue- for the new Red one. Manifesting would’ve sent the wrong signals to the other paladins as Black would’ve needed to activate and take some of the Red one’s energy. It would’ve backfired in so many ways, potentially killing him.

That did not excuse their long standing silence. They had fucked up, as their paladin would’ve worded it if they had known. Green did not harbour anger towards their leader, only disappointment at their lack of action.

Blue… Blue was another story. Disappointment was the least of their feelings. They were not terribly angry at them as Red had been, but…

The dissonance between their pride would not abate until Blue had come to terms with their wrongs, and even then it was up to Red’s new cub if they would forgive Blue, and fully bridge that gap. Green would understand if he did not. In the meantime, all they could hope was that their little bug would reach out and help Red’s new one.

~*~

Yellow could not bear to see their cutie in such a state. His normal anxiety had skyrocketed since Blue’s original paladin had tried to flee. They had known that there was something going on. They knew what was going on, but that did not stop Yellow from worrying. Their cutie did not know the pains Blue’s original was going through, and it made their cutie desperate and sad.

Yellow shared their cutie’s sentiment. They, too, had been at a loss for words on how to comfort their pridemates. They had wanted nothing more than to curl up with Blue when Red’s anger had first struck, and Blue had recoiled back. Then they learned, and they became conflicted. How could they comfort when what Blue had done was wrong? Black had their reasons, valid, but still unfortunate reasons. Yellow couldn’t in good conscious comfort either of them.

Blue was selfish, and Yellow did not know how to comfort them for it. Did not know if they deserved comfort for their actions, or lack thereof. It was their nature to care, as was their cutie’s. They wanted to reassure, but they were at war with themselves. How could Blue ignore their paladin so? They had been selfish, and were paying the price. Yellow only hoped the price would not be so steep as to never gain reconciliation.

They would not focus on that though. Yellow could not fix Blue’s mistakes, only push their cutie in the right direction to prevent his own. Their cutie was accidently isolating their friend, and they needed the nudge to prevent that gap.

Blue may have destroyed their bond through selfishness, but they would not let their cutie destroy his own bond through fear. His anxiety may plague him, but his friend needed him. Yellow knew all they needed was direction, and they would provide all the help they could in that regard.

~*~

Kuron didn’t understand. He had thought that Lance would never return, had thought that he had been the reason he had left. After all, he had missed so many of Lance’s clues, of his hints, that it had caused Lance distress. It quickly became clear that he wasn’t the issue. After all, ever since returning, ever since refusing to fly Blue, he had spent immeasurable amount of time with Kuron and Coran.

It didn’t take a genius to notice the slight glares from Shiro as time dragged on, as Lance continued to stay by Kuron’s side. Slowly pieces fell together. He knew he didn’t have the full story, knew that there were still many, many pieces missing, but he felt he was beginning to understand.

~*~

Shiro knew that Kuron knew, knew that he was beginning to piece something together, but he didn’t care. Lance had been hurt, so terribly hurt, but he refused to let Shiro back in. Who could blame him? Shiro hadn’t been there for him, and in light of the other paladin’s confusion, of course Lance would choose Kuron.

It didn’t stop the burning jealous that fueled the fire in his stomach. It didn’t stop him from watching Lance laugh at his own joke that he had told Kuron, and wishing it was him. It didn’t stop Shiro from blaming himself for what had happened, and everything that had followed.

He knew that Kuron knew something, and he knew it was only a matter of time that it came to a point.

~*~

Coran watched; not like Hunk, who focused solely on Lance, but watched everyone. He had worked to keep some distance between himself and the new paladins. He was loathe to admit it was out of fear of a repeat of last time that he had done so. If one thing was clear it was that this was not a repeat.

The dissonance, the falling apart, was not because of power, but because of pain. Honerva and Zarkon had been power hungry, but Lance? Lance was hurt. Coran did not know how he was hurt, or why it had been him, but he knew it all the same.

So he stopped watching, and started to act.

The distance he tried to sport, to keep between them, failed at Lance’s suffering. He took him under his wing, Kuron right alongside him, and vowed to do his best. This was a boy who had not asked for any of this pain and suffering, who was lost amongst the stars along with a clone who had no idea of what life could truly offer.

He would help the two as much as he could, in any way possible. If that meant letting Kuron explore mechanics, then so be it. If that meant telling Lance stories of Altea and other cultures, then so be it. If that meant watching the Paladins and Co. fumble through this hiccup, then so be it. He would be there to offer support as he had always been, ten thousand years ago, and now.