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With Flying Colors

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Blue

Out of all of them, Blue chose him.

There was Shiro, the hero of the Garrison; Keith, a flying prodigy who could have gone far; Hunk, a certified genius when it came to machinery; and Pidge, a genius who could manipulate software programs and hack like no other. But from this selection, these amazing and incredible people, she had chosen him.

Lance had never been anyone's first choice before.

Yet the moment his hand had met her barrier, she had flowed into his mind. She was a cool presence in the back of his brain, steady yet ever-changing. As fluid as the element she was guardian of, Blue could be gentle like springs in the mountains, playful as the ocean on a sunny day, as fierce as raging seas or coursing rivers, or as still and silent as ice. Lance was as flexible as her, going with the flow to do whatever was required of him. He could change to suit the team's needs.

The two of them had just clicked together like puzzle pieces, fitting together and supporting each other. There was an ebb and flow to their interactions; sometimes Blue took the lead and sometimes Lance did, but they were always in synch, always on the same page.

Together, they were capable of doing whatever was needed of them.

Lance loved her. Behind her controls, they worked together in tandem, never missing a beat. It just felt so right. Flying her was greater than any thrill he had ever gotten from flying simulators at the Garrison. It was everything that he had ever wanted. Blue was just as ecstatic as him when it came to flying, too, eager to once again soar through space.

And when they formed Voltron? Wow, Lance couldn't even describe it. He felt as if he was exactly where he belonged, even as he connected with the others, each of their distinct personalities mixing to pack a devastating punch.

Blue was everything that he had dreamed as he was finally among the stars he had always looked at over the ocean, but she was also a reminder of the home he'd left behind, since they were both from Earth. When homesickness came, she comforted him as best he could, lifting his spirits like he tried to do for his teammates. Her compassion and empathy were something that he loved the most about her, and he knew that she would always be in his corner.

Lance had no clue why Blue had chosen him. Sure, he had been good enough to be the top of cargo class and to move up to fighter class, but compared to the others, compared to many, he wasn't all that special.

And maybe he should have let Allura elaborate what Blue's traits were, but it was a little too late. He didn't think he needed to know what exactly Blue had seen in him, even as his own self-doubts occasionally pricked him.

Flying Blue was as easy as breathing, and despite whatever comments he might make, Lance wouldn't want it any other way.

Lance smiled gently and stroked her console as Shiro called for them to get into their Lions. "Ready, Beautiful?" He asked.

Blue's playful purr and excitement rushing through their bond was all he needed before they leapt into space and join their friends.


Red

He hadn't seen Blue's rejection coming. It hurt, and he wished she would just say… anything, but there were more important things than his feelings to take into account.

The others were in trouble, and Red was roaring, calling for something and making Lance pick up the pace.

As much as he had said that he wanted to pilot him, he hadn't actually meant that. All he had wanted was Blue. But sometimes, you just didn't get what you want.

Lance gazed up at Red, skidding to a halt as he entered the hangar. Red was clearly agitated, his tail lashing back and forth. Lance gulped as the Lion stopped and fixed his eyes on him.

Allura had said that Red was calling for him. He still didn't quite believe that, but he took Red not immediately biting his head off as a good sign.

Lance stiffened as he felt a new presence in his mind. Red was completely different from Blue. Red was wild, sparks flying in every direction as he dove into the connection. He burned, sending fire through Lance's veins, and Lance couldn't help but wonder how Keith could ever stand it. He was hot and fierce, demanding only the best, and Lance could already tell that Red was not one to be controlled by anyone and not one to just go with the flow like Blue tended to do.

Then he took a closer look at Red's nature. As wild and untamable that Red's flames were, they were also fiercely protective. Lance wasn't as into pure instincts as Keith, but he did have a knack of knowing what would help others at any given moment. He could also tell when a situation was about to turn bad and instinctively know how to mitigate the worse. And Lance wanted to protect the others just as much as Red.

He could work with that.

Red had chosen him because no one else would be able to support and reign in Keith at the same time. He could tell that much. Keith needed help, and Lance was willing to give it, even accepting Black's decision. From the sensations Red was giving him, it was like he was saying that with him at the metaphorical wheel, the worst of this bad situation could be prevented. Together, they would protect the team in their own way.

Red lowered his head, and Lance dashed inside, taking a seat.

"Okay." Lance gripped the controls and took a deep breath to steady himself, momentarily shutting his eyes. He opened them back up, determination straightening his spine. "Let's do this."

As Red purred in return, the oppressive heat turned down, becoming a hearth fire, protective and offering the feeling of home.

It gave Lance some comfort, even as he longed for the cool waters of Blue.


Yellow

It was always a pain when you got stuck far away from the Lion you needed, especially when you were separated from the others.

Lance felt his eye twitch as he took stock of the situation.

He had been stationed far away from the others, using his sniper rifle to cover the others as they broke into the Galra base and then guard the exit so they would be able to get out easily. Of course, it was never that simple.

As it was a low priority, older base, they had only come in Yellow and Green, thinking that would be enough. It was supposed to be a simple mission between Coalition meetings. However, it turned out that this was all a trap, as everyone was caught inside while the base went into lockdown and Lance was stuck out here with two Lions he couldn't pilot.

Lance winced as he heard the others yelling at each other as they were corralled around, and he eyed the incoming air support that would trap them all here. He had to do something, but his sniper rifle didn't have enough firepower to take out the Galra fighters, and even if he could break in, he would just be adding to the chaos inside.

Lance flinched in surprise when he felt a different presence touch his mind.

This presence was steady and resolute. He knew what he could do and didn't see why he had to change for anyone or anything. And even if change did come, it was slow and steady, at an even, reasonable pace. After all, speed wasn't everything and great enough strength could weather the worst life could offer. He was protective in his own way, a shield to cover those who were weaker than him, and kind to those who deserved it, an anchor to those adrift.

Lance lifted his eyes, cocking his head as he realized who this was. "Yellow?"

He was answered with a purr much deeper than he'd ever heard before. It rattled in his bones, but the quakes didn't scare him.

Lance grinned as he darted inside and settled in the pilot seat, the controls all set to go already. "Time to save the day, huh?" He cheekily asked as they lifted off, scanners letting him know exactly where to strike and stick Yellow's head. The answering almost chuckle in his mind reminded him all too much of Hunk.

His best friend's Lion reaching out to him wasn't really that much of a shock, and through their current bond, he could see why the two were meant to be.

His grin widened at the others' shrieks of surprise at the sudden appearance of Yellow's snout. "Need a lift?" He asked into the comm.

"Lance?!" Hunk led the way inside, eyes wide as he saw Lance in the seat.

Lance's smile softened as he let Hunk return to his rightful spot. "Let's get Green and go home." He ignored the incredulous looks he was getting. Seriously, piloting Yellow was a lot easier to believe than Red choosing him to pilot in Keith's absence.

Luckily, they all quickly recovered and they finally returned home.


Green

Curiosity killed the cat, and sometimes Lance was afraid that it would kill Pidge someday.

This was supposed to be a simple info retrieval mission, so they had just brought Green for stealth purposes. Pidge had been ecstatic to bring her brother along, so it was just the Holt siblings with Lance to help cover them as they broke into the Galra ship.

And of course, things had gone pear shaped. Pidge had gotten the information she needed, but then had noticed an interesting thread of communication. It was as she started poking around it that she had been detected and the alarms had gone off. Then it was just their luck that the sentry that Pidge had been fighting as they made their way back landed right on top of her, knocking her out.

"So, got a plan?" Matt asked, clutching Pidge closer to his chest as they hid in a convenient niche in the wall.

Lance's eyes darted at the approaching sentries and then at the walls, making some quick calculations. "If we get to Green, then we can go from there." Lance said, before letting out a series of shots. They ricocheted taking out the line of sentries in the hall.

"I'll clear the way, just keep going!" He ordered and waited for Matt's nod before leading the way out. He took out sentry after sentry, using a combination of precision hits and ricochets. Finally, they were slipping into Green's cockpit.

"Now, what?" Matt propped Pidge against the wall, trying to make sure she was comfortable. It was concerning that she hadn't woken up yet, but considering Pidge probably hadn't slept in a couple days, Lance couldn't blame her body for taking the first hints of unconsciousness as an opportunity to rest.

Lance walked to the front of the cockpit and started pressing buttons hurriedly. "It'd be really great if you decided to pull a Red at this point." He muttered mostly to himself, but he paused as there was a tentative press to his mind.

In a lot of ways, Green reminded him of Pidge herself. She had strong roots with which she grounded herself, but from there she spread out, poking at anything and everything. She wanted to know all that there was to offer and respected those with a healthy sense of curiosity that wanted to explore like Lance had always wanted to do since a child. Though she did seem a bit regretful over not having the common sense to know when to pull Pidge back at Lance's slight chastisement.

Life flowed through her, constantly growing and evolving. Lance could see what Pidge meant when she talked about what it had felt to be connected to the universe.

The controls came to life under his hand, and Green tried mentally poking Lance into the pilot seat.

A bit confused, seeing as Matt would probably be a better match than him but knowing that it didn't do to question a Lion, Lance took a seat and activated the codes to open the Galra hangar doors and then turned on Green's invisibility. Not as fast as Red but swifter than Yellow, Lance piloted them all the way to safety.

And the look on Pidge's face when she learned he had piloted her Lion was well worth it.


Black

This was the absolute worse.

Lance looked over the disheartened faces where they were camping out in Black's cockpit. The other Lions had been captured and Shiro…

Lance had known that something was off, and he berated himself that he hadn't figured things out sooner before it had gotten this bad.

Then again, even with all the crazy stuff they had seen out here, a clone version of their leader infiltrating the group seemed a bit far-fetched. That was exactly what had happened though. Lance would almost pity the clone, seeing as he had been just as unaware of everything, except he was also why they were in this situation.

He winced as Allura pulled the bandages tighter around him to stem the blood from his wounds. Lance had been the one closest when everything had been revealed and Not-Shiro had been fully taken over, so he'd taken the brunt of the assault. Peeking at her face, he saw that she really wasn't in a state to take charge like she usually would.

Well, then.

"Hunk, Pidge." They both looked up from where the other side of the cockpit where Hunk had been comforting a curled-up Pidge. "Think you could repair the helmets enough so we could get a message to the castle? Coran needs to know what's happened, and," Lance's breath hitched as Allura tied the final bandage tight, "we're really gonna need Keith to come back."

After all, Keith was the only other person who could pilot Black.

Hunk and Pidge exchanged a look but nodded. Pidge took off her helmet with a sniffle and started popping it open as Hunk got out his portable toolkit. Lance knew between the two of them, they could work something out.

"Allura?" Lance turned to her and gestured for her to help him up. Allura pursed her lips, clearly unhappy with his choice of moving, but there was too much to do for him to be sitting down. She helped him stand and only then did he go on.

"Can you sense where the Lions are? They're still connected to your life force, right? And with your new alchemic abilities…" He trailed off as a spark relit in her eyes.

"Yes!" Allura said, and she closed her eyes, taking in a deep breath as she started to go into the same meditative state she had back when they first searched for the Lions.

"Good." Lance shuffled forward and leaned against the pilot's seat to catch his breath. With those two tasks they'd be able to get in contact with their allies and get off this planet, and then they'd be able to get back the other Lions. Lance tried to think if there was anything they could do at the moment.

Really, they pretty much couldn't do anything until Keith got here. With only Black, sure, Lance could start thinking of a plan to get the others back but they wouldn't be able to even move unless –

"Wah!" The pilot chair suddenly jerked out from under Lance, sliding forward into place and its momentum made Lance topple across it.

Lance scrambled up, leaning on his elbows across the seat, and stared in shock as the console began to light up. Distantly, he heard shocked gasps behind him, but that was ignored in favor of the spirit enveloping his mind.

Despite being the Guardian of Sky, Black was heavy. In a way it made sense, the responsibility of leading was a heavy burden to bear, but it was still surprising. Black was the coming of the storm, air heavy and weighing everyone down, a crackle of electricity as Lance tasted ozone. They were also vast, infinite, their consciousness spreading out without any end in sight.

Lance could feel Black's gaze upon him, and he briefly wondered how they could look at him when he was still inside of them. It felt like he was being judged, anything and everything he was laid bare before him. None of the other Lions had ever felt like this, and he tensed, waiting for the gavel to fall.

Lance jolted when he felt… approval.

You are worthy. Black seemed to be saying, before they backed off a bit. You always were but now the time is right.

Lance came back to himself, still spread over the pilot's chair. It finally struck him what the Black Lion was asking.

With a tentative glance, he looked over at his fellow paladins. After all, even with Black's approval, without them…

But Allura was beaming, her eyes shining and her expression nearly the same as when he had unlocked his broadsword. See? You are great.

Hunk let out a huff of amusement, but he was smiling, too. As he noticed Lance looking, he widened his smile and threw him a thumbs-up. I've got your back, bro.

When his eyes fell on Pidge, she looked a bit surprised as she adjusted her glasses, but it settled into a smile. She shrugged. We'll follow your lead, even if it's a crazy plan.

Lance remembered the look on Keith's face when he had proposed stepping down all that time ago when they thought they had Shiro back. Confused eyes had looked at him, almost asking, Why wouldn't you be on this team? The team needs you.

Lance grinned and adjusted himself so he was sitting properly. The controls rose to meet him, and as he grasped them, he felt the power thrumming at his fingertips. Plans flew through his mind as they had a lot more options now.

"We're still gonna need to contact Coran and Keith." He said. "After all, we do need five pilots."

He sensed more than saw Pidge and Hunk getting back to work. Hopefully, it'd get easier to contact the Castle once they were out of the atmosphere. From the corner of his eye, he could see Allura's hand as she rested it on the chair next to his shoulder, a silent support.

"But at the very least the Galra won't have as much of a lead on us." Lance's eyes fixed on where the other Lions had last been seen.

This was not as comfortable of a role that he was used to taking, but it was one that something told him he could do and do well.

Black roared before leaping into the sky.

Chapter Text

Bonus: Lance

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?"

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.