Lance had fans.
That’s a weird thought that was true. He knew about the reputation him and the others got from fighting the good fight and being cool guys, but he didn’t expect a fan club for them. Especially not one specifically for him.
The excited crowd that separated and blasted them with smiles and questions blew all those expectations out of the water.
“Is it true of what they say about you? How you saved an entire kingdom by yourself?” A chubby little alien asked with a high-pitched voice as he bounced up and down.
“Hey, there! Being a paladin is all about teamwork. Although, I will admit I was a very necessary part of saving those mermaids.” Lance punctuated that last statement by pointing his finger guns at them. Some giggles and short laughs were soon followed to his immense satisfaction.
“What cool things do you do on missions?” A tall, slim one asked.
“Hard to say when you’re cool as I am. But to tell you the true, the others are the ones that do the busy work, I just watch over them like a guardian angel. Say, do you see the little green paladin?” The crowd turned to where Lance was pointing to see only the smallest hint of green in between the crowd’s gap. “Man, I can’t tell you how many times I saved her from some Galra robot while she was busy with technology stuff. Same for the red one, he’s too angry for his own good.”
Lance shook his head as if in disapproval. The full and loud laughter that followed caused Lance to smile a wide smile.
For a moment his attention diverged from his adoring fans as he soaked in everything else around: the beautiful, blue skies of the planet, the warming and peaceful people, the smell of delicious food that impregnated the air, how the lions calmly watched over them, even with the absence of the black one.
In the distance he saw Keith slam his fist at a wooden table and yell in discussion with a group of huge aliens about something that’s like fighting, probably, while completely ignoring the other ones that eyed him up and down and up again.
Next he looked at Hunk, joyfully eating the cuisine of those people while getting out laughs left and right from the crowd that surrounded him.
But then he saw Allura. She was talking to what he presumed was the planet’s royalty while at the same time trying to play with a bunch of kids that ran around her. Normally this would make Lance’s heart skip a beat and put a goofy grin on his face, but his eyes saw something he wasn’t sure the other paladins and Coran did.
Ever since Shiro disappeared he noticed those changes on her. Her shoulders always dropped, the way her voice and step lacked any real strenght, and worst of all how dull and lifeless her eyes looked.
Maybe Lance was too perceptive and Allura was good at hiding her feelings. Maybe there was nothing wrong and he was just imagining things because of Shiro’s disappearance.
All he knew for certain, as he looked at the joyful people and the proud paladins and then back at Allura, is that this will not stand.
Allura’s room was bigger than the paladin’s. It had a large bed, a mirror with a small desk below it against one of the wall, a couch that took most of the wall opposite to the mirror, and in the center a round table with enough chairs for all the paladins and few guests.
It was at the table that Allura was, standing up looking over a bunch of data, planning their next move.
She rubbed her eyes with her hands when the information in front of her blurred into a sea of white and blue glow. With that and a few blinks her vision came back to normal. However, that did not change the redness of her eyes or how they hurt and stung every time she blinked.
In a long sigh Allura let out all her breath. For a moment all the heavy weight came crashing down on her back, dropping her shoulders and causing her to put her hands on the table to keep herself from falling.
First father and now you too. Why, Shiro? What I’m supposed to do alone? How am I supposed to do this alone?
Before her thoughts could get any worst, a knock on her door grabbed Allura’s attention.
“Go away,” she said, not even looking at the door.
“No,” Lance answered.
“What?” Allura turned to the door, a mixture of disbelief and anger on her face.
“I need to talk to you, is important.” His voice was soft and low. It wasn’t a demand or just a statement; it was a plea. A distinction that made Allura’s ears peak and her eyes widen.
“Lance…” Allura closed her eyes and thought for a while. “Fine, come in.” With that her door opened and Lance came in. He was wearing his usual outfit but on his face was a stern and strong expression, the likes Allura never even thought he could make.
“What do you want to talk about?” Allura asked.
“Can you sit down? It might take a while, it’s very important.”
Allura gave him a warning look before walking to the couch and sitting down, but Lance did not falter even a little in response and calmly walked to her.
“Okay, what do you want?” Allura asked again, louder; her voice this time more firm.
Lance stood looking down at her in silence. He took notice of the bags under her eyes, how small her body seemed to be despite the tall and firm posture she put up, and more importantly how red and tired and dull her eyes were.
“The rest of the team might be to busy or they might not have noticed. But I am neither. I can see that you’re not well, Allura.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” She turned her head away and looked down at the floor.
“Yes I do. The first time I saw you you were radiant, practically gleaming! When you took control of the castle for the first time you had this aura of command and strength like Shiro has. Now you just seem like an empty husk! Going through the motions! You didn’t think I, of everybody else, would notice such a change in you?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Allura forced her eyes shut and ground her teeth. Her hands clenched into tight fists.
Lance reached out to her with his right hand hand; almost touching her left shoulder. Almost.
“No! I’ll not talk about it! Especially not to you!”
When those words left her mouth, Allura immediately covered her mouth with her hand and looked at Lance with eyes widen in horror and regret.
“Lance, I…” She was cut off before any apologies could be said.
“It’s okay. This whole deal with Shiro left all of us a bit jumpsy. I just thought that I could help you get over it. Okay, maybe that was a poor choice of words. What I’m trying to say is that working yourself to death and being like this is not gonna bring Shiro back or help anyone.”
“What do you want me to do, then? I’m all alone here. Coran can only help so much and Keith is not ready to lead you. I trust you, all of you, but without Shiro here I need to work twice as hard to make sure you guys work efficiently and… and… I just don’t know if I’m strong enough. If I can lead like my father and him did.”
After a few seconds of silence, Lance placed one of his hands in Allura’s shoulder. An act that made her look up to him to see the gentle smile he had.
“Let me tell you something, Allura. I’m only here now because of you and Voltron. The reason why I continue on, even so far away from home, and that I can look at myself in the mirror without disgust and sadness is because of you.
“In letting me fight for you, you gave me a greater purpose that I thought I had lost. In leading us against Zarkon and the Galra you gave me the chance to finally be a hero, while back on earth I only lived doubting myself and knowing that I could never be better than just a cargo pilot.
“You and Voltron made me a hero, let me save people and change lives. Your actions, your leadership, gave me what I always wanted and made me a better person because of it.
“And is not just me. It’s the same for Hunk, Keith, Pidge, Coran, Shiro, and the countless lives we saved. It was all because of you.
“You’re already strong enough.”
“Nice speech. But it doesn’t change anything. It changes nothing! We still don’t have Shiro! We don’t have Voltron! And there’s nothing I can do about it! Because I’m weak! I’ve always been weak and all that you said is just a delusion from your infatuation with me. Can’t you see that all this hard work you detest so much is so that we can make due with just me?”
Lance bit his lip, drawing blood. His body boiled from the inside as in a single instant Allura’s words played back to him again and again. ‘ Make due ’!
Lance grabbed her shoulders in a firm and tight grip; so strong his fingers unintentionally sunk into her flesh.
“Lance! What are you-” Allura’s words of anger from the light and sudden pain were stopped by a light headbutt that closed the distance between their faces to only a few centimeters. Whatever else she was going to say, whatever else she was feeling, went away as she looked at Lance. She saw the defiance and worry and plea of his face; on the clenched teeth, watery but still piercing eyes, and furrowed brow. All naked and bare, no flirt, no bravado; it was something true and that parted away the heavy clouds on her soul.
“Ah, you stupid idiot! Don’t you get it? You’re my heroine, goddammit! Without you, what am I? What value do I have? I’ll not be a nobody anymore! I will not vanish to the sidelines! And I will not just sit around while you drown in your own pitiful misery!”
Lance cried, but his face and resolution remained the same. It penetrated Allura to her core and rekindled a flame she thought gone.
“Stand up, damn you! Face anything! Get up and fight!” Lance cried.
Allura’s response to his desperate plea was a smile. The widest and most sincere smile anyone ever smiled.
Allura’s voice was strong and firm; it boomed through the bridge as she briefed the Paladins on their next mission. With a stern face and fire in her eyes, she held the attention of everyone in the room who listened in silence. Except for Lance, who looked with pride at her and tried his best to keep the smirk on his face from widening into a full grin.
“Any questions? Good. Make me proud, Paladins!”
With that they made their way out of the room, however, Allura stopped them.
“Wait. Lance, can you stay a moment?”
Giving a nod to the rest, Lance stayed behind while they continued on.
Allura walked up to Lance and hugged him. A sudden move that widened his eyes and caused a heat to warm his entire body.
“I never got to thank you after our little… conversation,” Allura’s voice was soft, almost a whisper.
“It’s okay, Princess. Seeing you like that is enough thanks,” Lance said while he moved his arms about, unsure of what to do with them in this situation.
Allura broke the hug and looked at him.
“It’s what you said about me true?” Allura asked.
“Yes,” Lance responded, turning his head away from her as the memories of his little passionate speech brought a blush to his face.
A smile appeared on Allura’s face at his reaction. “I didn’t think you felt that way. I thought your interest in me was merely physical and with little emotional depth.”
“Well, to be fair, I never gave you any reason to think otherwise. I guess I’m just bad with words?” Lance turned to look at her again and flashed an awkward half smile.
“You? Nah!” Allura let out a little giggle and playfully slapped Lance’s chest who was silent with the biggest, goofiest grin from ear to ear.
“How about we get to know each other better after this mission, then? Maybe we can have another heart-to-heart.” Allura asked the still doofus Lance.
“Wait, you and me? Getting to know each other? Like a date? Or even a date-date?” At this point Lance’s jaw was on the floor and his eyes wide in disbelief.
“Yes, like a ‘date-date’.”
“Then you better get ready because I’m finishing this mission before you can even miss me!” Lance yelled as he ran in full gear out of the room.
Allura was left alone with a smile of amusement on her face, the hopes of a wonderful night today and maybe the birth of something new.