Lance was in the pod again. Sure, they had managed to get all the Lions back, meeting up with Keith just in time for him to reclaim the Red Lion, but Lance had already been injured before all that. And piloting Black, getting a message to Coran and Keith, breaking into a Galra ship, fighting said Galra, and then forming Voltron were not really things that helped with said injuries. Keith had been the only one surprised when Lance had just dropped into his arms the moment they were safe back at the Castle.
Allura slowly looked away from where Lance drifted in the pod. She blinked at where Pidge was standing next to her. "Yes?"
"Did you – " Pidge fiddled with her glasses, glancing back at where Hunk was curled up with his arms around his knees staring at the pod blankly with Keith leaning against the wall next to him. She probably would have taken a moment to look at Coran as well if he hadn't been landing the Castle back on Olkari. "Did you know that was possible?"
Allura's brow furrowed. "Did I know that Lance piloting the Black Lion was possible?" She guessed tentatively. "I mean, it was a bit of a surprise, but we had already seen – "
"No." Pidge shook her head. "Did you know it was possible for someone to be able to pilot all the Lions?"
Oh. Allura hadn't even realized it until Pidge said it, but it was true, wasn't it? Lance had at this point piloted each of the Lions. Black had only been, what had they called it, the strawberry on top?
She thought about it for a moment. "I admit that I've never heard of it happening before, but that does not mean it is impossible."
"Well, obviously it's not impossible since Lance already did it." Hunk mumbled to himself, eyes never leaving the pod.
Keith looked at him in surprise. "Lance has piloted all the Lions?" He asked, slightly incredulous. He really had missed out on a lot during his time with the Blade.
"Believe me, I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen all of it with my own eyes." Pidge said, adjusting her glasses. She sounded the same way she did when her equations to a program just weren't adding up. "But like, wouldn't that mean he has all that they look for in pilots? And that just seems – "
"I wasn't shocked he could fly Yellow." Hunk said, finally looking up at them. "I mean, even back when Allura described what he looks for, I thought it suited Lance just as much as me. Except he already had a Lion, so…"
Yes, Allura could admit that Lance was just as caring and kind as Hunk. He just tended to show it in a different way, and it was less obvious most of the time than Allura would care to admit. Even she had not noticed it at first.
And Lance, more than she would admit, always put the needs of others before his own. He was the one who continued to hold them together despite everything. She just hadn't seen it at first until he mostly dropped his act of seeking glory.
"Well, yeah." Pidge rolled her eyes. "Frankly, Red letting him pilot was a bigger shock than that."
Keith frowned at her. "Of the five of us here, he's the best pilot after me, and Lance has good instincts, too. He always seems to know when things are about to take a turn for the worse. And," he looked away, a bit sheepish, "he knows what sort of things others need and provides it."
Keith was right about that. Lance somehow knew what the team was lacking and would step up to help, whether that meant providing cover fire out in the field or giving much needed comfort. Allura could still remember the wonder she felt when Lance had known exactly what to say for her to activate her powers. And Lance was the one who noticed things were off first, in the cases of that bomb near the beginning of their journey and the current Shiro situation.
Plus, she supposed that Lance and the Red Lion could've easily connected over their protective natures for their team.
"Fair point." Pidge rubbed at her chin before her face twisted. "But… Green let him pilot her. She values intelligence and Lance – " She abruptly cut off as if realizing what she was about to say.
An awkward silence fell, and as Allura's gaze darted between the other Paladins, she wondered if there was something more going on as both Keith and Hunk appeared annoyed.
"Pidge, Lance did manage to get into the Garrison." Hunk flatly said, uncurling and standing up to glare at her. "Weren't you and Matt the ones going on about how getting into the Garrison requires brains more than anything else?"
"Yeah, but," Pidge floundered, "there's so many times he just doesn't get things!"
"Mostly when you start slipping into jargon that even I can't understand. And English is the language I grew up using." Keith had crossed his arms, looking disappointed. "You do remember that English is Lance's second language, right?"
"Lance is smart." Hunk finished off. "I mean, I do joke about it sometimes, but he is. Just differently than you or me."
Lance often played the fool, sometimes not entirely on purpose, and at first that's all Allura had thought there was to him. But there had been too many instances, even when delivered half-jokingly or in such a petty way they couldn't take him seriously back in the beginning, that he had been right about things. Where he had clear knowledge of the team's individual strengths and weaknesses and knew how they could best work together.
There were times when his many skills and past experiences gave him knowledge that no one else could compete with. He knew multiple languages from Earth and he had picked up Altean, too. He had figured out Altean time measures without anyone even explaining it as well.
Lance was smart, just not in a traditional sense that most people relied on.
Pidge chewed her lip, properly chastised. "I guess when you put all that together, Black's decision makes more sense. He did lead us back at the Garrison after all." She seemed to be trying to make up for her earlier doubt.
"And he was the one leading those liberation missions we did with the Blade and whenever we've done separate missions." Hunk pointed out. "Like, you didn't see how he took charge even back on the mermaid planet."
"Lance was leading just as much as I was back when I piloted Black." Keith admitted, before letting out a huffing laugh. "Actually, the first time I followed his lead was when he came up with our plan on the Balmera."
Allura hadn't even noticed.
Maybe it had been subtle enough for her to not notice, but Lance had been taking the lead in several ways since the beginning. With his ability to read others, it meant he knew the others' skills and how they could best utilize them. With his eyes that granted him the role of sharpshooter, he noticed things and was quick enough to make a plan that generally worked.
Allura stood there, slightly stupefied. It was becoming clearer and clearer why the Lions had all been fine with Lance piloting them, even Black.
She smiled at Lance in the cryopod. He really was remarkable. In some ways, she wondered if he would surpass her father.
"What about Blue?"
"What?" Allura turned back around at Keith's question. He wasn't looking at her, instead staring at Lance as she had been, only with a small frown on his face.
"What does Blue look for? After all, she chose him first." Keith finally looked at her. "You never told us after Lance interrupted you."
Something rose up in Allura's throat. Oh. She hadn't realized that she had never told them after that first day. Lance at least deserved to know.
"Well, as a leg and similar to the Yellow Lion, Blue looks for a pilot capable of lifting up and holding the team together." Allura began and the others nodded along to what she was saying. "But as for what she looks for in terms of individual traits, she…" She faltered as she remembered.
It all made sense now. Why Blue had chosen Lance. Why he had been able to pilot all the other Lions as well.
The others were frowning at her, confused. "Allura?" Hunk prodded, but she was still reeling slightly from the revelation.
Luckily, someone else picked up where she left off.
"The Blue Lion looks for someone who is flexible in both skills and personality. Someone capable of providing what is needed no matter what the situation or role they need to play." Coran stated, stroking his mustache. Allura hadn't even noticed he had come in, but they all turned to him. "She also looks for someone with great empathy. Blue paladins tend to be people of great compassion who wish to help even those that they do not know well." Here he gave a small smile at Allura before turning back to Lance.
"And finally, the Blue Lion chooses someone who is completely loyal to those they love and care about." Coran's smile grew as he looked at Lance's vitals and then back up at him. "Really. It's quite clear why the Blue Lion chose Number 3."
Something in Coran's smile told Allura that Lance piloting all of the Lions had come as no surprise. He was incredibly insightful like that, and he knew the Lions even better than she did sometimes.
Plus, everyone knew that after her, Lance was his favorite Paladin.
Allura looked around at the other Paladins. Pidge's face had cleared with understanding, and she was blinking at Lance in astonishment. Hunk didn't look too surprised, as if this was nothing new to him. Then again, he had known Lance the longest. He was giving Lance's pod a fond smile.
Keith, too, was smiling to her surprise. His expression was remarkably similar to Hunk's, except there was also something else to his gaze, as if he was being proven right about something.
Allura finally looked back at Lance. With remembering what Blue stood for, it made sense that she would choose someone capable of piloting all the Lions. One really could not get more flexible than that, but no matter what was thrown at him or how the team changed, Lance always was the one who adjusted to changing roles the easiest. Not to mention he was the only member of the team who had multiple forms for his bayard given he had access to two different guns as well as a sword.
Lance was also quite empathetic as well. He seemed to have an innate understanding of other people and was always there to provide whatever someone needed, whether it was a joke to break the tension or comfort in the face of loss. This could backfire as people had taken advantage of his trusting nature in the past, but it was overall an admirable trait.
And if there was anyone on the team that she would never question in terms of loyalty, it was definitely Lance.
Allura smiled. She had told Lance that he had greatness in him, and it was satisfying to see that proven right.
"Quite clear indeed." She agreed with Coran.
And once he was released from the pod, Allura knew that all of them wouldn't hesitate to follow him for whatever came next.
After all, Lance had been chosen by the Lions themselves.