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Trinity

Chapter Text

"I have found it! The last piece, the missing part, the trinity is complete!" Hunk yelled his triumph holding aloft a green tuber with a huge yellow leaf hanging from the top of it.

"You found it?! Are you sure?!" Lance looked up at Hunk with nothing short of adoration.

"And you two are without hope, completely totally hopeless." Pidge stood staring at the two who were now twirling each other around in some sort of happy dance.

"Pidge, do not mock the trinity." Hunk noted seriously.

"Yeah Pidgey Pidgeon, do you not know the importance of this discovery?" Lance asked waiting for her to see the obvious glory in Hunk's find.

"No." she answered flatly. "I see a green potato."

"Yes, a potato that tastes like celery. When combined with the purple banana shaped onion and the pink heart shaped bell pepper they create the holy trinity of all cajun and creole cooking!" Hunk nearly cried in joy.

"So…" Pidge raised an eyebrow.

"So?! So, gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee what is wrong with you Pidge?" Lance demanded.

"Neither of you are remotely from that area of the world. Why the devotion?" Pidge was now curious.

"When we first joined the Garrison, we got to sign up to be roommates, but I had mostly engineering classes and Lance had mostly Pilot classes. So we decided we needed to find something to take together." Hunk explained.

"Yeah, cause we are so awesome together!" Lance added.

"Anyway, so we went through the class list and found a cooking class. We both like food, so it seemed like a good idea." Hunk smiled fondly. "I learned about so many new kinds of food and cooking techniques, and Lance ate a lot of food."

Lance smiled, too, "Good times."

"Some things I like better than him and some he liked better than me, but the one cuisine we could agree on as our new favorite…"

"Not to be confused with our first favorite which is my mom's cooking."

"Of course, Lance. Our new favorite was all of the wonderful flavors and spices that came from the great city of New Orleans."

"N'awlins!" Lance drawled.

Hunk laughed and shook his head, "We like other stuff, but that is like the food of our friendship." Hunk wrapped his arm around Lance's shoulder.

"Yeah and now Pidgey Poo, we are going to introduce you to this culinary experience. After all we three are like the Holy Trinity of Voltron not unlike the Holy Trinity of Cajun cooking. Hunk, my man, you are the celery - mellow yet strong, I myself am the pepper - sweet and spicy," He winked at Pidge, "and you Pidge are the onion - layered, complex, and can also make people cry."

***

Keith almost turned around and left as soon as he opened the door. The kitchen area was chaos and the noise was pouring out into the common room.

"Hunk! It's boiling over!" Lance screamed.

"Pull it off the heat and add a little cold water. Turn the heat down just a touch and put it back on." Hunk calmly answered Lance while stirring his own pot and catching a flying piece of whatever Pidge was attempting to cut up.

"Hunk! I am not good at this!" Pidge cried frustrated as another piece went flying.

Hunk deftly caught the second piece and went to her side. Reaching around he guided her hands and instructed, "Pidge, let the knife do the work you are using too much force. Here, hold the knife like this and rock like this. Different blades cut differently. This one is not made to saw. Keep your fingers curled back out of the way, no bleeding in my kitchen."

"What are you all doing?" Keith just stared.

"Cooking, duh!" Lance answered waving a pot around.

Hunk reached over and guided Lance and the pot back to the stove.

"Lance and Hunk are teaching me to make some food they like, or at least we are trying to re-create it." Pidge answered.

"Come on in, Keith. You can start the sauce for the bread pudding, I can walk you through it?" Hunk offered.

Keith looked at the chaos and noise and close quarters in the kitchen and shook his head. "No, thank you, Hunk, but I'd rather stay out here."

Hunk smiled understanding, Keith wasn't exactly a people person and they were a bit on the noisy side just now. "Maybe some other time? I have been wanting to try some pralines, but I need a quieter atmosphere to figure those out, maybe you could lend me a hand?"

Keith blushed a little, Hunk really did go out of his way to understand his quirks. "I'd like that. Thanks." He sat near the edge of the kitchen area and watched the chaos. Close enough to laugh at the jokes and feel a part of what was going on, and far enough away not to feel overwhelmed and trapped. "What are you making?"

"We are making gumbo and bread pudding. At least we are trying to make something that will taste like that." Hunk hummed happily as he smelled the pot he had been stirring. "It's going well so far."

An hour later, Lance was sitting on the floor in the kitchen chattering away. Pidge was seated near Keith with her laptop out, working on something. Hunk was pulling the bread pudding from the oven. It was purple and a lot puffier than he had hoped. The sauce had separated pretty badly and he had needed to sieve out the chunks. The rice like vegetable was too sticky, though that could have been due to Lance's cooking. The gumbo, however, smelled and tasted perfect even if it was green.

Shiro smiled appreciatively as he came into the common area, "So this is what you've been up to on your day off."

"Day off? Pfft! This is totally a team bonding exercise," Lance smirked.

"Smells like it was a worthwhile exercise." Shiro smiled broadly and nodded to Hunk, who he had no doubt was the mastermind.

"I hope it tastes that way too!" Hunk smiled back. "Keith, Pidge, would you guys help get the table set. Lance, get up and help me get the food into the serving dishes."

Everyone went about their tasks happily. Shiro wondered if maybe he should let Hunk take a shot at leading a mission. The others all yammered for the chance, but Hunk never had. It looked like he might have more leadership abilities than he had let on.

Allura and Coran joined them shortly and they had a very pleasant meal. The bread pudding was too dry and the sauce too runny. Hunk apologized.

"Hey man, it still tastes good and anyway why does it have to be the same. I declare this new desert Hunk Cake Pudding with Alien Runny Sauce." Lance raised his fork and took a huge bite smiling.

"Aw, Lance." Hunk blushed.

"It really is good." Keith offered, "I've never had the other, but I like this."

"Thanks guys."

At the end of the meal they had a quick meeting to go over tomorrow's schedule.

"We have several things scheduled to accomplish tomorrow. First the healing pods need maintenance, it is something that needs to be completely about once every 1000 vargas and while we are in a relatively safe area I think now would be a good time to complete that."

"Not me please." Lance requested from the back of the room. He knew he was the most versed in the technology as he had helped Coran with them previously. At first he had felt he owed them since they saved his life, but after the whole being trapped in one and almost freezing to death it was more of a love hate relationship.

"Okay, Lance, then I will need you to pilot the supply run to planet Hasran. I have contacted the authorities there and they are happy to sell us some of the food stuffs we will need. " Allura understood Lance's reluctance and while she would not allow him to avoid the area indefinitely, she would give him some time, she wasn't heartless.

"I would like to go with Lance." Hunk offered. "I might be able to get some advice for preparing the food or maybe even some recipes."

"Very well." Allura nodded.

"The last item for tomorrow is a preliminary meeting with a planet in the next solar system. I have very little information on the society as far as I can tell they are newer to space travel. I received a communication request earlier today and set up a meeting with their world leaders. Shiro, as Black Paladin I would like you to be present for the discussion. I have the call set up for 1000 varga ship time tomorrow morning. So Pidge and Keith, which of you is going on the supply run and which helping Coran?" she offered.

"I would like to know more about the pods." Keith raised his hand. Keith had been interested since the pods had healed Lance, but not being the most technically proficient he had left it to the others. He did, however, very much want to know how to operate one, just in case he ever had to help put a friend into one again.

"Splendid, Number four!" Coran twirled his moustache and smiled. "I have a beginners guide to healing pods video that you can watch this evening!"

Pidge and Lance groaned a little at that, Keith guessed maybe they had already seen it. "Thanks Coran, that would be great." He tried to smile dreading what might be in the video.

"Alright then, Pidge, you are with Lance and Hunk." Allura smiled at them all. "I hope you enjoyed your rest day. Thank you for preparing this lovely meal."

"Lance, Hunk, and Pidge, just like the old days," Lance joked.

"Please, don't crash like the old days," Pidge snarked.

Chapter Text

"And why exactly didn't you tell me?" Lance pouted as he headed the shuttle down to the surface.

"Sorry, buddy, I just didn't think about it. Allura said it was just like a grocery run so I asked if I could wear my civies. Pidge was just in the same room when I asked; it's not like I searched her out and told her." Hunk brushed his hair out of his eyes and leaned back in his seat behind Lance. He and Pidge had happily slipped into their civilian clothes for this trip to Hasran for the supply pick up. Lance however had shown up in his full armor, about five minutes late already, so he hadn't had time to change.

"Onward, Geeves," Pidge snarked in a posh English accent from the back seat. "You look like our chauffer." She giggled.

"Oh so glad to provide you amusement and I do not look like a chauffer, I don't have the hat." Lance smiled back at her. "I look like a hero and paladin of Voltron, you look like my crew. So that is totally how I am going to introduce you when we land."

"Knock yourself out." Pidge shrugged, she was just along for the ride. She wasn't tremendously worried about what the folks on the farm thought of her on this backwater planet.

"Sure, Lance, Engineer Hunk at your service." Hunk nodded his head and then pretended to puke in the mechanism behind him.

"Hunk!" Lance laughed. "I promised not to crash, you have to promise not to puke."

"This is planet Hasran contacting the shuttle craft from the Castle of Lions." The radio lit up.

"This is the Castle Shuttle One. Blue Paladin Lance at your service." Lance smiled as he spoke into the radio.

Hunk grinned to himself. Lance liked to look good even for radio.

"Blue Paladin, we are honored that you have come to our planet." The voice on the radio seemed excited.

"Well, we are glad that you will be able to trade with us. My crew and I are eager to speak to your people and work this trade. One of my crew is a fine chef, he would very much like to discuss the best uses of the food stuffs and recipes with your people if that would be acceptable."

"Certainly, Paladin Lance, your crew member is most welcome to discuss whatever he likes. I am sending you coordinates now."

Lance frowned down at the screen, these were not the coordinates that Allura had given him. "Please confirm the coordinates, they are not the ones I was provided originally."

"Oh sorry, yes, the original coordinates are for our primary city, but in order to accommodate such a large trade you will need to go to the supply warehouses, which are located nearer the farm areas."

"Oh well that makes sense, thank you, we will be landing in about twenty dobashes." Lance signed off and turned back to smile at "his crew".

"Thanks, Lance. I have my datapad and am ready to take notes and find new culinary wonders." Hunk waved the pad in the air and smiled back.

"I will be sitting in the ship - waiting while you load things. " Pidge didn't even look up.

"Nope, sorry little Pidgeotto, you will at least have to sit on your butt outside." Lance said leaning back in his seat and looking at her upside down. "You are way pale and sunlight is good for you."

"This sun isn't even the same wavelength as ours. It is green. It might be bad for you for all you know."

"Or you might get super powers and start flying or something." Lance offered.

Pidge just snorted and went back to her tablet.

***

Hunk followed Lance out of the shuttle. Lance was gesturing broadly and talking with the locals. They were gathered around him either in awe or shocked silence. Lance was a force to be reckoned with. There were three warehouses set in a row. They had rounded tops and were white in color, seems alien warehouses didn't look that much different than human warehouses. He frowned when he didn't see any boxes outside. He would have thought they would have been more ready for them. He heard Pidge slide out of the shuttle. She looked up from her tablet with a frown on her face.

"There is literally nothing interesting here, just warehouses. I'm bored." She walked over beside Hunk.

Lance was being led into the nearest of the three buildings. He looked back at them and shrugged. He would contact them when they were ready to transfer the crates, Hunk was sure of that. As Lance disappeared into the building four of the Hasran people turned back to Hunk and Pidge. The people of this planet basically looked like pink humans, except for their hair, it was spikey like a hedgehog and came in a variety of colors. The four moving their way, one red, one blue, and two different shades of purple.

"Welcome to planet Hasran. Paladin Lance said that you were Hunk and Pidge. He said you, Hunk, would be interested in learning about our crops and some ways to properly prepare them. These two," he gestured to the two purple headed people, "are Bay and Dex, and they are considered the best cooks at our facility. This young one," he laid a hand on the shoulder of the blue haired one who was shorter than the others, "is my daughter, Gia, she is an accomplished botanist and is in charge of the care that our plants receive. Paladin Lance also said that you, Pidge, are more interested in technology. My name is Gib, I am responsible for much of the machinery we use for harvesting."

"If you will come with us, we can get started showing you around."

Pidge's ears had perked a little at machinery, but honestly if it was an old tractor she wasn't going to be that interested.

Hunk walked along behind the others, but something was wrong. Everything sounded right, but something in his gut was just saying this is off. He started slowing down. The feeling was getting stronger. He looked over to the building that Lance had gone into. The door was closed. No sounds, no voices echoing in the big building. Lance was not a quiet guy.

"Pidge, I think we need to get that thing."

Pidge looked back at him and frowned. "What thing?"

"You know that thing!" Hunk gestured dramatically back toward the shuttle and stared at her with wide eyes.

"Oh, that thing." She began to back away from the Hasrans, but the nearest one grabbed her arm. "Hey!" She tried to pull away and the grip tightened.

"You should come with us. You should just come with us. It will be better - easier." Gib began to pull her toward the building they had been walking to.

"No. Let her go." Hunk walked over with the intent of pulling Pidge back.

"Stop." The small blue haired one pointed a not so small gun at Hunk.

"Look this is going wrong. Let's just take a step back. We can go, like nothing happened." Hunk held his hands in front of him in a placating gesture.

"No. We can't do that. We are sorry." As Gia spoke the doors the building they had been heading toward opened and Galra droids began pouring out. "They have our children. We didn't have a choice." She sounded genuinely sorry.

"Don't do this, we can help you, we can bring Voltron here!" Pidge struggled against Gib's grip. She kicked him in the leg and managed to break free. She ran toward Gia. The young Hasran panicked. She pointed the gun at Pidge and fired.

"Pidge! No!" Hunk yelled as she crumpled onto the hard ground.

Chapter Text

He was wowing the crowd with his witty banter and they were smiling and eating it up. It was nice, he felt important, and the people were friendly. There was a particularly friendly young woman with pink hair, who kept leaning on his shoulder. As they walked into the warehouse, Dida, the leader told him the supplies were crated in here. She would need Lance to inspect them and be sure everything was in order. Lance puffed his chest out a bit and agreed that he could do that.

Dida said she was going to go get the paperwork. The rest of the group followed her. Lance stood awkwardly just inside the door to the warehouse. The others were moving away up a staircase that lead to a small office built high on the side of the building.

"So I'll just wait here!" Lance turned and muttered to himself, "by myself." He was looking around the warehouse when the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. He spun around just in time to see the doors to the warehouse close. It turns out that the only light had been coming from the natural light coming through the door.

"Hey, could someone turn on the lights maybe?" Lance wasn't afraid of the dark, or freaking out, or afraid of being trapped in a alien warehouse. And then he heard a low creepy chuckle. Now he was actually freaking out. He pulled up his bayard and the lights on his armor lit up. He couldn't see anyone around him. "Uh…Dida, you there? Not sure what's going on, but the creepy laughing is not going to get you more money in the trade."

A hissing sound started coming from the front of the warehouse near the doors. He moved cautiously closer to investigate and the lights in his armor reflected off a colored gas spraying out of tubes attached to the back of the doors.

"Not cool!" He backed away quickly coughing and covering his mouth. He wished he had his helmet on, but he had left it in the shuttle. This was supposed to be a happy trade on a planet with an atmosphere that was easy on humans. He frantically searched around for a person or another door or something. He saw what looked like the outline of a back door and headed that way. He was running across the warehouse toward the door when he slammed face first into a force field.

"AHHH!" The jolt sent him backwards on his butt. The armor soaked most of the shock, but it still wasn't pleasant. He coughed as the gas was getting thick on the floor and rising. He got to his feet, but his head was swimming.

"Paladin." A rough voice from the darkness on the other side of the forcefield mocked him, "What kind of Paladin are you? I thought the Paladins of Voltron would be harder to catch, but you walked right into my trap." A large Galra walked up to the forcefield. He wasn't as big as Sendak, but close. He had two real eyes and his natural arms. He was dressed in battle armor. There were several droids behind him as well.

Lance looked around to where the office was, trying to see where the Hasrans had gone.

"Oh, don't worry about your little friends. They work for me. I've found even the bravest can be broken." He smiled, a rather disturbing sight. "And now you are going to give me the information I need to capture Voltron."

"Um, no, no I'm not." Lance was moving around the area he was trapped in to try to find any way out. He fired his bayard at the forcefield aimed right at the Galra. It was absorbed and made no impact. Well no impact other than to make the Galra laugh.

"Pathetic."

The gas is climbing higher and Lance is having more and more trouble breathing. He finds himself on his hands and knees coughing and gasping. His head is spinning and his body is starting to shake.

"Goodnight, Paladin. When you wake again, we will have to disagree about what you will and will not tell me."

***

Hunk ran to Pidge. She was curled up and wasn't saying anything.

"Pidge? Pidge?" He gently rolled her trying to see where she was hurt. Her body was trembling.

In the background Gia was sobbing. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." she cried.

"That doesn't matter right now." Hunk found blood. It was pouring out of her thigh. He pulled his vest off and waded it up and pressed it against the wound. As he was pressing down he could tell there wasn't an exit wound. Pidge groaned, but she wasn't conscious. "Is it a projectile weapon? Is there something in her leg."

"It, no, it fires an intensely focused sonic blast." Gib answered. Gia was wrapped in his arms.

The droids were moving into place surrounding Pidge and Hunk, but there wasn't anything he could do. If he didn't get the bleeding stopped Pidge would bleed to death and then it wouldn't matter if they were caught or not, cause Hunk was not living with that on his conscience.

"Get me something to wrap this up with. Do you have any bandages or anything?" He looked back and no one was moving. "Please! She won't do you any good as a prisoner if she dies."

"You, Hasran, retrieve what he asks." A Galra soldier moved out from the back of the droid squad. "He is correct. They are more valuable alive. On the other hand, we have the Paladin, so we won't waste too much time on his crew."

Hunk really didn't like this guy and his hope for a rescue from Lance flew out the window. He held onto Pidge's leg until Gib brought the bandages. It was purple cloth, but it was in a long strip. He realized it was stretchy and actually made a pretty good pressure bandage.

"Thank you." He stated plainly. He checked and the blood had stopped flowing from her leg. He breathed a sigh of relief. "Pidge." He gently touched her check. She hadn't stirred and he was worried she had hit her head when she fell. Her breathing seemed good and her heartbeat was thudded against his fingers when he pressed them against her carotid. Her eyelids fluttered a little, but didn't really open all the way up. He checked her head carefully and found a knot forming at the back of her head.

"Get up, carry her if she is not yet awake." The Galra was tired of waiting.

"Okay, okay, I got it. Where are we going?" Hunk picked Pidge up and stood.

"You are prisoners of the Galra General Zantier. You will be taken to our base and questioned. After that, if you survive and are lucky, you may be assigned to a work camp."

"And if we aren't lucky?"

"There is always need for fodder for the arena or test subjects for the druids." The Galra soldier laughed like he had said something funny.

Carrying Pidge toward a Galra shuttle of some sort, Hunk didn't find anything funny at all and he thought he might hate this guy.

Chapter Text

Onion

Pidge opened her eyes and wished she was still asleep. There was nothing good here. The purple glowing light, the metal walls, the door with a small slit in it - she was in a Galra cell. For a moment her vision swam and she couldn't see clearly, her stomach lurched and she turned to the side to vomit. Her head was pounding. She rolled away from the vomit onto her other side and found that to be an even worse idea than opening her eyes. Her leg felt like it was on fire, being stabbed, and falling off all at the same time. Her breath came in short sharp gasps and the pain washed over her in waves.

She remembered rushing at the Hasran girl, desperate to stop her from turning them over. She wanted to stop them from trusting the Galra. She wanted them to do the right thing and instead she had frightened the girl and she had been shot. The whole thing sucked. It made her angry. Pidge harnessed her anger and used it to focus.

She had always had what her mother called "a bit of a temper". When she was a toddler she had gotten mad at her high chair, kicked it over and proceeded to beat it for a good ten minutes. Later she would scream and scratch her brother if he stole her toy robots. As she got older her mother's patience began to wear down her fury. She learned when to stop and take deep breaths until it faded and she learned when to focus it to a fine point and unleash it.

When she was twelve she had stopped a group of teenagers from attacking a classmate. She had screamed and punched and scratched, but not in the out of control manner of her childhood. She was smart and she knew where to hit to hurt the most to incapacitate. She let her anger make her hits sure and strong. She was losing the fight when some adults showed up to break it up, but it was because there were five of them and one of her. She considered it a success and one of the first times in her life she had felt in control of her anger and powerful because of it.

When she found herself in space fighting in a war, that skill became her number two asset right behind her brains. She found her focused anger could push past fear, push past confusion, and push past pain. That was what she was going to do now, she just needed to push past the pain long enough to focus and figure a way out of here.

***

Celery

"So, you are a crew member of a shuttle from the Castle of Lions. Your name is Hunk? What an odd name. I wonder, Hunk, what is it that you do for the Paladin? You are larger than he, are you perhaps his guard? Do you protect him?"

The Galra officer that Hunk thought he really hated stood over him. He was tied to a chair and the officer was asking him questions.

"Are you the pilot?"

"No."

"Right, I already knew that from your radio communications. I know that you are a cook, but surely a cook is not required such a short mission. You must have other talents?" he pushed.

"I came because we were getting food stuffs, trading for new food, and I was supposed to learn about the food and how to cook it." Hunk did not want to give any information out that the guy didn't already have.

"And then those Hasran's betrayed you to the Galra, right? They even shot your friend. That must have made you angry? Are you angry, Hunk?" He got right into Hunk's face.

"Well, I'd rather not be a captive and I would like to see my friends."

"Right, so you are angry. Are you a fighter? Do you defend the Paladin? What is your assignment in the shuttle." This time the Galra shook the chair Hunk was tied to. Hunk flinched. He was not stupid and fully expected to be hit in the near future. He was preparing himself mentally for it. It was going to suck and hurt, he was sure. Hunk just needed to hold out. Shiro, Allura, Keith, and even Coran would come for them soon. Just a few days at most, he could take what they could throw at him until then.

"Ah, you expect me to hit you?" The Galra laughed. It was not a nice laugh. "Oh Hunk, there are so many other ways to get the information I need. I won't lay a finger on you. But I will break you."

The Galra that Hunk was almost certain he hated left the room. Two other Galra soldiers untied him and led him down the hall after the Galra. He heard crying and yelling coming from ahead and soon he knew why. They passed into a hallway full of cells, cells full of Hasran prisoners. There were all ages and colors, some huddled together, some crying some reaching through the bars, yelling or begging. Must have been at least 200 prisoners.

"Did you think you would be the only prisoners taken from Hasran?" The Galra turned and sneered at Hunk's shocked look.

"Hunk!" Gib called form a cell, Gia, and the two cooks with him as well.

Hunk didn't know what he wanted, so he just nodded to him. He was in no place to help him just now. Up ahead the Galra had stopped at a door.

"What is your name?" Hunk asked. He was tired of referring to him as the Galra.

"Lieutenant Malak. It's good that you know. You will live to curse my name."

He opened the cell door and Hunk was thrown inside.

***

Green Pepper

He was twitching. His body was still twitching from whatever gas they had used on him and he really really wished it would stop. He was starting to fear that it was permanent damage. His mouth tasted like gym socks and every muscle hurt like he'd run five marathons. He groaned. He was strapped to a table. There wasn't anyone else in the room and from his vantage point he couldn't see anything else, but he had heard someone carrying in something behind him. This was not good.

"Ah, Paladin. I see that you have decided to rejoin us. Enjoying the after effects of the Gamantrian Gas? I understand it can be quite painful?" The Galra general from before appeared on his right side, looking down at him smiling. "Tell me, where is your lion?"

"I doonn'tt tthinthinksooo." Lance was horrified by the stutter in his voice. He didn't seem to be able to control it.

"Hmm. As I said prior, we disagree on that subject, don't we?" General Zantier laughed at his own joke.

"Not funnnyyy, sad youou have ttto lauaugh at yourr ownn joke." Lance tried to sound sure and tough, but that was really hard when he was freaking out and stuttering at the same time. If he could just get his body to cooperate he could put on a much better front. He was quite talented at hiding his feelings with bravado and talk.

"We will see." The general moved above Lance's head and he couldn't see him. He felt something moving near his neck and flinched away. The part of the table supporting his head gave away and surprised he let his head fall back. Now upside down he could see the general and two other soldiers. Not droids, actually Galra. The General had a white cloth and the other two had buckets.

"I sssee yyou wishwish to surrenenderrr. Verry wwwwell, I acceaccept." Lance cringed as the General placed the cloth over his head. It was wet with what smelled like water. He couldn't see through it, it was thick and coarse.

"I wonder if you will have so much to say when we are done? Now where is the Castle of Lions?" Zantier asked.

"Nnnno iddea."

And then he was drowning, water was pouring over his face, down into his noise. He felt like he couldn't breathe, like he was going to die, and he panicked. His arms and legs strained against their restraints, He tried to thrash his head but felt it gripped tightly between two large clawed hands. The water poured and poured, and the only coherent thought he could put together, was "Who the hell taught the Galra about water boarding."

Chapter Text

"Pidge?" Hunk picked himself off of the hard floor he had landed against and half ran half stumbled over to where the small bundle of Galra purple and black slave clothing was huddled up in the corner.

"Hunk?" She lifted her head and looked at him. Her eyes were glazed with pain, but clearly aware.

"I am so glad to see you. Are you hurt more? How is your leg? Your head?" Hunk began checking her over making sure everything was as it was supposed to be.

Pidge gave a wry smile, "One question at a time, I still have a major headache." Hunk looked strange to her in the Galra colors. It didn't suit him, made him look dark and sad when he was sunshine and light. Okay she may have a concussion. She winced when he touched her leg.

"Okay, can I roll up your pants leg and get a look at that?" He asked carefully. Being stripped and redressed as a slave had been humiliating for him. He wanted to be considerate of Pidge's feelings and not upset her more.

"Um…sure but I don't want to look at it again, okay, so I'm just…um…going to look this way." Pidge turned her head and swallowed back her nausea. She had gotten a good look at it when she was forced to change clothes. On the plus side it distracted from the embarrassment and the down side she had puked. Hunk's hands were as gentle as possible as he eased the garment up over the wound.

Hunk hissed at the bruising and swelling around the wound. He knew it was bad from his quick look before he had tried to stop the bleeding, but now it was worse. The purple lighting wasn't helping he was sure, but it looked like her entire thigh was one giant bruise.

He supposed it had to do with the type of weapon. It would have been nearly like a blunt force, only concentrated onto an area about the size of a quarter. The hole punched down into Pidge's leg about an inch. There wasn't any active bleeding, but the wound was seeping slightly and was red around the edges. When he gently laid a hand near it he could feel heat beyond her normal body temperature.

"It's not good." Pidge stated flatly.

"No. It think it's getting infected. We need to get it cleaned out and rewrapped, but we don't have anything to do that with." Hunk sighed his frustration. "I'm not sure if it will help much or not since we haven't cleaned it and I'm not sure how clean these pants are."

Pidge looked over curious and saw Hunk ripping the bottom two inches off of one of his pant legs. She braced herself and looked away as he wrapped the wound firmly.

"At least we can keep anything extra from getting in there." Hunk leaned back and nodded, satisfied that the wrap would stay secure.

"Thanks." Pidge had sweat standing on her face and had gone pale.

"I'm sorry," Hunk reached over and gently wiped her face. He slide over against the wall next to her and let her lean into his shoulder.

"We can do this, Hunk. We just have to be strong." Pidge stated firmly, the fine tremors in her body doing nothing to diminish the conviction in her voice.

"They took a bunch of the Hasran's prisoner as well." Hunk commented.

"Well I could have told them that's what would happen!" Pidge's anger flared.

"Yeah, I saw them, they were in cells just up the hall. They looked really scared and sad."

"They should be! They got themselves into this. If they had just come to us we could have stopped all of this." Pidge's voice mingled with anger and regret.

"I know, Pidge. They made a bad choice. They were scared." Hunk frowned his heart hurting for the fear that must have driven the Hasran's to chose to hand them over to the Galra.

"I wish I knew where Lance was." Pidge fretted with the edge of her tunic.

"Me, too. Maybe they'll put him in here too?" Hunk looked around the cell. There wasn't anything in here other than what he assumed to be some form of a toilet. No beds or anything to indicate how many people the cell was designed to hold. It was approximately 10 foot by 10 foot. There was a purple light ensconced at the top middle of each wall. Below the light on the wall farthest from them was a door with a narrow slit in it.

"Try to get some sleep Pidge, your body needs rest to heal." He patted her hair. It was softer than he expected and smelled faintly of engine oil and citrus.

Pidge hmmphed and closed her eyes. She was asleep within minutes.

Hunk frowned down at her head. She must be hurting a lot to not have argued with him. Her wound had him terrified. If the infection continued unchecked there would be very little he could do. She would die. Hunk shuddered. The idea of one of them dying had been driven home after Sendak. Lance had nearly died. If he had any doubts the look of horror on Shiro's face had been enough to convince him.

He had decided on the ride to the Balmerea that as soon as he got Lance healed up he was going to pack up him and Lance and Pidge and make sure they all got back to Earth. This was too much, too dangerous for three kids. Then he met Shay and her people and the purpose of what they were doing was driven into his heart. He was here to protect.

That day he could feel his connection to Yellow grow stronger too, her purred support of his need to help Shay and his people. Her approval bolstered him. Later when he had mentioned the plan to Lance, and Lance had scoffed at him; he know that his friend had found his purpose here as well.

He wished Lance was here now. He ached to know what was happening to him and at the same time dreaded the knowledge. Lance was the only one that the enemy knew was a paladin. They were surely questioning him. Hunk wished he was there with him, even if it meant going through whatever too.

But if he told the guards he was a paladin too, then who would look after Pidge? The answer was no one as was obvious from the state of her wound and she was in no shape to take care of herself. He wondered what lay in store for Pidge. Would they leave her alone since she was hurt? Probably not.

He wondered what Malak had in store for him. He shivered when he remembered the last thing the Galra had said to him. What did he plan to do that would make Hunk curse him? He fell into an uneasy slumber worries swimming through his mind like demon sharks.

***

Lance was familiar with almost drowning. When he was about eight he had ignored his mothers warnings and wondered too far out into the surf. It hadn't looked any different to him than any other day at the beach and he had gone out that far before. His mother had warned him that there was a strong undertoe today and that he needed to stay closer to the shore, not past your knees is what she had said.

To eight year old Lance that was an insult, that was what they told babies. He could swim, he was actually a very strong swimmer, even his older sister said he could swim better than her. And so out he went, past his knees, past his hips, up to his neck, and then suddenly it was over his head. The ocean grabbed his feet out from under him and drug him down.

He tried to get up for air and it kept rolling him and pushing him down, pulling him further out into deeper water. He tried to hold his breath, it seemed like he had held it for such a long time, but eventually he couldn't do it any longer and his body had breathed in the salt water. He remembered burning and choking and panic and then strong arms around him pulling up along. His father had been near enough to get to him and save him. He had been lucky.

There was no strong arm saving him here, no amount of breath holding stopping the unending panic, he was exhausted. His body barely struggled anymore and his mind was muddled. His memories and reality were blurring together.

"Mama? Papi!" He wanted them to come get him out of the ocean, he was sorry he had gone so far from the shore.

"Shiro!" He knew Shiro would save him. He was strong like Papi, he could pull him out.

"Who is Shiro?" A deep voice demanded.

"Shiro, help!"

"Enough. Take him back to the cell. He's too far gone to answer anything today." The general gave a disgusted snort and left the room with a clang of the door.

The two guards in the room picked up the dripping and barely conscious paladin and drug him down the hall.

Chapter Text

Pidge and Hunk were huddled together in the corner when the door opened. Two guards entered. Each had weapons pointed.

"The small one is to come with us." The first of the guards announced and gestured with his gun.

"No. She's hurt. You can't take her." Hunk stood up between the guards and Pidge.

"Hunk." Pidge warned and grabbed at his pants leg.

"No."

The guards moved closer, "You will stand down. She is coming with us."

"No."

The second guard moved so quickly that Hunk hardly had time to react. He spun his gun around and slammed Hunk in the face. Hunk feel to one knee, blood pouring from his nose. He shook his head dazed.

"She is coming with us!" The first guard stated again.

Pidge used Hunk to pull herself up to a standing position. Her leg felt like it was on fire and standing was excruciating, but she was not going to sit still while they hurt Hunk.

"Stop. I will go."

"No. Pidge." Hunk reached out and took her hand.

She squeezed his hand to reassure him. "Be strong, Hunk."

The guards grabbed her from either side and escorted her from the room.

***

Hunk pinched the bridge of his nose to attempt to stall the bleeding. He was pretty sure it was broken. He was beside himself worrying about Pidge and Lance. She was hurt and they had taken her. He hadn't seen Lance since the planet. He didn't even know if he was here, where ever here was. He knew they had been taken onto a ship and transported. They hadn't been moving more than five varga, but without knowing how fast these ships moved he couldn't even make a guess as to how far they had travelled. He wasn't even sure if they had transferred to another ship or a station or a planet. He had gone from the ship to another purple and gray corridor, just like every other Galra anything he'd ever seen. For all that mattered they could actually still be moving, it's not like you could feel the ship moving.

He growled and slammed his fist down. He wanted so bad to help his friends and he couldn't do anything trapped in this stupid cell. He couldn't help but think of Shay and how she had grown up as a prisoner. He imagined what it would have been like to sit behind bars as a child, restrained, trapped, never allowed to be anything but what the Galra wanted from you. She was so brave to have reached out and made herself more. He thought about her soft eyes and the way she looked at him with such admiration. He was going to live up to what she thought of him, because she deserved it. He imagined her smiling at him when he old her about this later when they escaped. He would tell her that she inspired him, just like she had said he inspired her.

His nose had stopped bleeding and his eyes had swollen nearly shut when the door opened again. This time the guards didn't even bother to step inside they just threw the person they were dragging through the door.

Hunk watched Lance tumble to a stop near him. His eyes were closed and his face was pale. He was dressed in his undersuit from his armor and was soaking wet, a puddle forming around his clothes and hair. Hunk scrambled over to him. He was breathing and Hunk found a pulse easily when he checked.

"Lance?" He touched his friend's face. "Hey, you with me?"

"Hunk?" Lance whispered. "So tired."

"Okay, okay. Are you hurt any where?" Hunk was checking his arms and legs and hadn't found any wounds.

"No, they gassed me." He was barely loud enough for Hunk to hear him.

"Oh," Hunk moved back to his head. "Can you open your eyes for me?"

Lance managed to get his eyes open some. He felt so drained, like there wasn't hardly enough energy to breath.

Hunk looked into his eyes and it seemed like the pupils were a bit too large and there were busted blood vessels in both eyes making red splotches around the ocean blue.
"Do you know where you are?"

"Galra. Bad."

"Yeah, that sums it up I guess."

"Pidge?"

"They took her out of the cell earlier." Hunk didn't bother telling Lance she was hurt. There wasn't anything he could do about it right now and his eyes had already slid back shut. "Why don't you try to rest a bit? I've got you."

"'Kay," Lance slurred and his breathing evened into a slow sleepy rhythm.

Hunk pulled him over to the corner where he and Pidge had huddled earlier. He sat down next to him and laid a hand on his chest so he could feel it rise and fall. He sat watching the door guarding, waiting for what was to come next.

***

Pidge was marched through the halls, past the Hasran cells, and into a room that contained about 10 Hasran prisoners. There was a long table holding tubs full of what looked like electronic parts. Chairs were lined along one side of the table. There were six robotic guards around the outside edges of the room, each armed and an additional Galra soldier who seemed to be in charge.

"Prisoners sit." He commanded.

The Hasrans scrambled to sit at the table. The two guards escorting Pidge shoved her down into the last chair at the table. She huffed in pain as it jarred her already aching leg.
"You will be assembling devices or you will die. You will assemble them correctly or you will die. You will assemble them so that they work properly or you will die. This is the device." He held up a small device strapped to his wrist. "It is a personal shield developed from Hasran technology."

He gestured and one of Pidge's guards fired a shot at him. It impacted just short of his body onto a shield that glowed green briefly and then returned to clear.

"In eight varga I will return. You will either have the device assembled or you will die. There are example devices at each station. The parts are before you. Prisoners who complete their device will receive food for those in their cell. Those who do not will be killed and the ones left in their cell will go without food today. Tomorrow another from your cell will be chosen to take your place. You will begin now." he turned and left the room, not even bothering to see if his order was followed.

Pidge managed to focus her eyes on the device. On a good day she would have put it together easily, but today she had sweat standing on her forehead from the exertion of walking down here and her hands were shaking slightly. Most of the Hasrans at the table had scrambled to begin and were assembling the devices already. Three sat in the chairs with their arms crossed looking defiant.

Pidge took a quick moment to make up her mind. On one hand she didn't want to build shields for the bad guys and on the other she wanted to get food for her and Hunk and hopefully Lance and not die. As she saw it she really didn't have much of a choice, so taking a deep breath and trying to steady her hands she began the intricate assembly.

Four vargas later a guard came in with a bucket of water and they were allowed to walk over one at a time and get a drink. She managed to get to her feet, but fell on her face when she attempted to walk to the bucket. Ignoring the laughs from the guards she pulled herself up and hobbled over for her drink. The guard "accidently" poured half of her cup down the front of her shirt and laughed even more. She glared at him but said nothing as she made her way back to her chair. She basically fell down into the chair, unable to control a bend in her leg with the swelling and pain. She looked to the slave next to her but they wouldn't even look up at her, let alone meet her eyes. Sighing she went back to work.

After another four vargas the one who had delivered the orders come back into the room with another guard. He walked up to the first Hasran at the opposite end of the table from Pidge.

"Activate your device."

The slave pushed the button, but nothing happened. The guard shot them point blank. Pidge was too shocked to move. She stared as the body hit the floor.

The guard and commander moved to the next slave as if nothing had happened.

"Activate your device."

This device hummed when the button was pushed. The guard fired and the shield worked. That slave lived.

They proceeded down the line. When they came to one of the ones who hadn't even assembled a device they were simply shot, no request to activate anything.

By the time they got to Pidge, six Hasrans were dead.

"Activate your device."

Pidge pushed the button and it hummed to life. The guard raised the weapon and Pidge could feel her gut churn and the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. The beam was aimed right at her face, but it was absorbed into the shield. Her breath hitched in a sob.

"You will be returned to your cells. A guard will bring food for you and those in your cells. Today you have served the empire and will be rewarded. Tomorrow you will have another opportunity to serve." The commanded coldly looked at them. "Tomorrow those who failed will be replaced. Tonight the members of their cells will suffer for their failure."

Pidge was dragged back to her cell. Her leg just flat out refused to move after having sat so long. The guards sat her down just inside the door, aiming weapons behind her at Hunk and Lance. As they stepped out a green skinned creature dressed in slave clothes came by with a small bucket and two bowls. He had a beak for a mouth, similar to a turtle, his skin was thick and pebbled.

"Food and water for the slaves." He sat the food inside.

"But there are three of us?" she asked.

"No food for the Paladin."

"Why I earned food for those in my cell!" Pidge demanded outraged.

"If you want to eat less share with him. I was ordered not to feed him." The slave shrugged and left. The door slamming shut behind him.

Chapter Text

"Pidge." Hunk was there wrapping his arms around her and lifting her up. He carried her over to their corner of the room.

"You heard? About the food?"

"We'll make do. Thankfully Lance was asleep and didn't hear them." He sat her down next to Lance. He was shivering and damp. She reached out and laid a hand gently on his shoulder. He was cold. He seemed to be stirring not quite completely asleep anymore.

"Hunk?"

"He's okay, I think, well not okay, but he's not bleeding or anything. He said something about gas and being really tired. He could barely keep his eyes open." Hunk brought the bowls of what looked like a thick paste, gray and clumpy, over and then carried the bucket of water. It sloshed a little as he carried it. He wasn't expecting Lance's reaction. He screeched and scrambled backwards, accidently kicking Pidge in the process, who cried out and grabbed her leg. Hunk put the bucket down to the side and rescued the food bowls. They were so thick that even sideways nothing spilled.

"Hey, easy. Lance? Lance? It's just us." He knelt down in front of him and whispered quietly waiting for Lance to realize where he was.

"Hunk?" Lance stilled instantly.

"Yeah, buddy, just me and Pidge in here." he gestured to Pidge to talk.

"Hey." She managed to grit even though she wanted to scream from the throbbing in her leg.

Lance sat up slowly and took in his surroundings. He didn't remember what had scared him, but his heart was beating a million times a minute. He started coughing a deep cough meant to remove fluid that he had managed to breath. It was painful and he soon found Hunk rubbing and patting his back and he could hear Pidge's voice near him.

"Just breath Lance. You have to breath."

Eventually it passed and he leaned back against the wall exhausted.

"Hey guys," He managed. He looked over at Pidge and frowned at the wrap around her leg. He turned to Hunk and saw the blacked eyes and swollen nose. "You're hurt."

"Yeah. We're a mess. Look I don't know how long they are going to leave us alone in here, but we've got a couple of things that need to get done. One - we have food and water so we need to divvy it up and get some in us. Two - Pidge just got back so I want to clean and wrap her leg so she can get some sleep." Hunk was eyeing the two bowls and scooped a portion out of one into the other. He handed a bowl to Pidge, "This is about a third Pidge, it looks and smells awful but I need you to try to get it down."

She nodded and scooped a bit up on her finger. It smelled like wet paper and wet dogs. It tasted like rotten milk and mud. She almost gagged, but she pushed past and manage to swallow it.

"Awful is a bit generous Hunk. This is rough." She frowned at the amount left, but Hunk was right it was important to keep up their strength if they were going to get out of here. And she tried valiantly to swallow the rest without tasting.

Lance sat as still as possible. It seemed like every muscle in his body was screaming in agony. He couldn't identify a part that didn't hurt. He was starting to feel clearer. Pidge's leg was obviously hurt bad. She hadn't even tried to move it and he could tell she was uncomfortable, she kept shifting around. The only thing he could see wrong with Hunk was his nose. It looked pretty bad and he kept squinting his eyes like his head was hurting him. He grimaced watching Pidge eat. He was not looking forward to his turn, but as soon as she finished Hunk scooped some food in the bowl and handed it to him.

"Thanks?" he tried to smile, but the smell was too bad. He held his nose as he shoved a finger full into his mouth. The texture was like cold soggy broccoli. He forced himself to swallow to get the food down. "I will never again complain about Coran's cooking. I would take three Paladin surprises over this."

Hunk chuckled as he tried to eat the other bowl. He found that turning his brain off and not letting it consider what it was doing helped some. Once he finished he scooped some water up into the bowl and gave it to Pidge to drink. She drank slowly and frowned a lot. He found out why when he got his scoop next. It tasted metallic and stale. He was getting Lance's portion out when he realized Lance had stopped eating and closed his eyes. His body was trembling.

"Lance?"

"Hmm?" he asked not opening his eyes or moving.

"Water?"

"I don't think I can." he whispered.

"What?" Hunk looked down at the bowl confused.

"I, um…" Lance licked his lips. "I don't think I could swallow it, it's just I'm kinda freaking out just hearing and smelling it right now." His breaths were sharp and shallow and he still wouldn't open his eyes.

"Oh." Hunk looked down at Lance's wet clothes and the bowl shaking in his hands. "You'll need to drink something or you'll get dehydrated."

"I'm soaked."

"Dry and dehydrated are not the same and you know it. Here, give me your bowl."

Lance opened his eyes long enough to hand the bowl over to Hunk. He knew he needed to drink and was just making a bad joke, like he always did when he didn't know what to say.

Hunk turned away from Lance and slowly added a portion of water to his food. He mixed it around a little, careful not to slosh or make sounds.

"Okay, try this."

Lance took the bowl. The food was now smooth enough to tip and drink like a thick soup. It didn't help the taste or smell any, but it didn't smell or feel like water and he managed to start eating it.

Hunk nodded, pleased his solution had worked. He didn't dwell too long on what had happened to Lance, but he had a fair guess and judging from the looks Pidge kept shooting him he guessed she did too. He had left some water remaining in the bucket. He carried it over to Pidge.

"You ready?"

She nodded and he began to unwrap the pants bandage from earlier. Lance had finished his food and scouted over next to them to help. Hunk could smell sickness before he even finished unwrapping. The last layer was stuck and he sprinkled water on to it to help ease it off. The wound was red, swollen and weeping yellowish ichor. He took the bandage and soaked it in the water. He looked up into Pidge's tear filled eyes.

"It's going to hurt, but I have to try to wash it out." He swallowed back his own nausea. He'd really rather just puke just now. Lance slid over behind her and wrapped his arms around her. She leaned back into his shoulder and closed her eyes.

"Go ahead." She clenched her mouth closed and tensed.

Hunk began washing and rinsing. The outside was relatively easy compared to cleaning the depth of the wound, but there were already signs of puss building up inside and it had to be done. Once again Hunk shut off his brain. He held Pidge's leg while she squirmed and whimpered. She had clutched onto Lance's hands and was pressed back against him. Lance had tears in his own eyes, but Hunk couldn't take the time to feel just now. He had to get through this first. Once he had it thoroughly cleaned, it looked red and sore, but was weeping clear now and the puss and any dirt and cloth had been completely removed. Pidge had finally passed out about five dobashes before. Hunk tore a new bandage from this pants as it looked cleaner than the rag he had been using.

He stuck the cleaning rag in the corner and put the bowls and bucket by the door. Lance had fallen asleep with his head leaned down over Pidge wrapped around her protectively. Hunk slid in behind Lance. He frowned at the cool feeling of his friend's skin and wrapped his arms around him. Once he had settled in next to them everything he had been pushing back caught up to him. At one point he had to crawl into the opposite corner of the room and vomit, he just couldn't keep it down. He shook and silently cried as he tried desperately to hold himself together. He had to get them out of here.

Chapter Text

Pidge woke up shivering. She was cold. She could see her breath in front of her as she exhaled and wrapped her arms around herself. Lance was still pressed behind her and she turned into him seeking warmth. She found, however, that he was shivering even harder than she was. Then she remembered he had been soaking wet. She wrapped herself around him except her leg which couldn't take the jarring. She looked around for Hunk and spotted him sleeping by himself on the other side of the cell. There was frost on the floor. He was also shivering.

"Hunk." She called. He stirred and she tried again. "Hunk?"

"Pidge, are you okay?" He opened his eyes and shook the sleep off.

"It's cold. Come over here. We need you."

Hunk shivered and realized the temperature in the room had been dropped dramatically. He hurried over to Pidge and Lance and positioned himself behind them and wrapped each in an arm. Lance's wet clothes were making it hard to get him warm. He didn't have anything else for him to put on or any way to dry him off. He considered stripping him, but couldn't remember if that was the right thing to do or not. He rubbed their arms trying to force warmth into each of them.

They stayed like that for maybe a varga before the guards returned.

"Lieutenant Malak would like a word with you." One pointed to Hunk.

Hunk pulled himself up before reaching down to pat Pidge reassuringly. She had sat up and looked at him. Lance had grabbed his arm and Hunk gentled pried off his fingers.

"I'll be back guys." He looked at Pidge. "Be tough."

"Be strong." She whispered.

"Is this a secret code I missed?" Lance looked up at Hunk and gave him a serious nod that belied the joking tone in his voice.

Once Hunk had left Pidge focused on trying to keep Lance warm. He was shivering really hard now that Hunk's warmth had been taken.

"It'ssss ssssoooo cocooold." Lance muttered. "ssttuuppid chhatterering ttteeth. Finallly ssttoppp stuttering noww I ccannt' ttalkkkk agaannn."

"Why were you stuttering?" Pidge asked curious. She didn't remember him stuttering before.

"fffectss of the ggasss."

"Oh." She rubbed his arms and snuggled in tight.

"I had to build a shield." She started telling him about what had happened while she rubbed his arms. His body shook and his eyes would drift closed and then pop back open. She told him about her hands shaking about some of the Hasrans just sitting and not even trying. She told him about how she felt frozen when the first shield failed and how she didn't feel anything by the time the last one did. She told him how she felt guilty for not doing something, for letting them die and not helping them. She told him how she felt guilty because part of her kept thinking they deserved it for what they did.

She talked and talked and he tried to stay away. She felt herself begin to shiver harder and harder and she felt him stop shivering. It just kept getting colder.

***

Hunk was taken to the same room from the previous day. Malak was there. He stood looking smug as the guards escorted Hunk into the room.

"Very good Hunk. Today I have an opportunity for you. We have had some trouble with a few of the Hasran slaves. They need a lesson - an example. And I thought of your anger Hunk. I thought of how you deserved revenge for the way they betrayed you over to, well, me." He smiled that creepy smile again. "And so I have arranged for you to have your revenge." He snapped his fingers and two droids dragged Gia into the room. She was crying.

"What? I don't, no, no," Hunk tried to back away with his hands up but the guards with him grabbed his arms.

"All you have to do is take your revenge." Malak pulled a sword out of his belt and held it out hilt first to Hunk. "Kill her. That is your task today."

"No!" Hunk raged, his arms still held tight as he struggled. If he got his hands on that sword he was going to make sure Malak stopped smiling.

"Kill her and I will give you blankets. Your room is very cold is it not? How long do you think the little one will survive in there?" Malak asked all pretend kindness.

"I am not going to kill her. I do not need revenge. She made a mistake." Hunk reasoned trying to meet Gia's eyes.

"Oh, actually you have made the mistake." Malak quickly flipped the sword around and drove it through Gia's heart. She fell silently to the floor not even making a sound.

Hunk fell to his knees, tears falling from his eyes. He felt as though the sword had gone through his own heart.

"Bring in the other one." Malak directed. The two droids turned and left, returning with Gib. He screamed and threw himself over Gia's body.

"Now you have made it so two must die." Malak stated coldly and Hunk felt the phantom sword twist inside of him. "You refused to kill her. Now kill him."

Gib looked up confused and then over to the crying Hunk. A sort of understanding come over his face.

"Kill him or I will bring another and another and we will continue until you have done as you are instructed."

Hunk sobbed. The sword was placed on the ground in front of him and his arms released. A blaster was placed against his head.

"Don't get any ideas of using that sword for anything else. Oh and the blaster is on stun, so no trying to sacrifice yourself." Malak stood back, sure he had won.

"Hunk." Gib spoke his voice broken. "Please Hunk, I have nothing without her. Don't let someone else die. Take my life to save someone else's." He sobbed. "I don't want to feel this anymore." His eyes filled with tears he sat back and closed his eyes and waited.

Hunk picked up the sword, it felt heavy and cold in his hands. He took three steps and stood in front of Gib.

"Please, Hunk." Gib begged eyes still closed.

"Perhaps the next one will be a child?" Malak teased cruelly.

Hunk did what he had to do. Gib fell silently. Hunk's stoke was clean and true.

Chapter Text

Pidge was barely awake when they came for her. Lance had fallen asleep and she couldn't wake him. Two guards came in and drug her back to the construction room. She was so stiff and cold there wasn't much she could do to stop them. She had yelled for Lance, but even that didn't stir him from his state. She knew if they left him in there like that alone that he wouldn't be alive when she got back. She felt her heart breaking. She steeled herself and managed to stave off any tears. To hell if she was going to let these guys see her cry.

They plopped her into the same seat and the same guy came in and gave the same speech. There were new Hasrans at the table, and when the time came to start work all but one started working at a near frantic pace. These had already seen or heard about what had happened to the last group. The Hasran next to Pidge was old - very old. Her pink hands were wrinkled and her spikey hair was white with some wisps of blue left in it. Her hands shook as she held the different pieces, her brow wrinkled and tears were standing in her eyes.

"That one goes on the bottom." Pidge whispered.

The Hasran turned to look at what Pidge was doing with hers and tried to follow. She wasn't doing it right. It wasn't going to work.

"My name is Kay." she spoke in a soft voice.

"Pidge." Pidge answered looking sideways into sad eyes.

"My granddaughter is in the cell with me. Yesterday her father died and we had no food or water. I do not know how long she will last without it. She is so small."

"Connect the green wire to the white base, not the black." Pidge whispered over after a quick look. Without any particular intent Pidge's hands began moving faster. She pushed the picture of Lance frozen in the cell that had been looping through her mind away. Every once and a while she would give Kay a piece of advice, but she knew it wasn't enough. The old lady just didn't know what she was doing.

At water break Pidge managed to hobble over to the bucket. Her leg was still throbbing and swollen. She didn't think Hunk had stopped the infection with his cleaning, but maybe bought her some time. She finished her shield with three vargas left. When the guards weren't looking she swapped hers with Kay's. She had to work at a frantic pace and was making the final connection when the blast soaked into Kay's shield next to her. It was close but she was able to bring it up just in time.

***

Hunk didn't remember getting back to the cell. He didn't remember having blankets thrust into his arms. He did remember feeling like his heart jump started at high speed when he saw Lance lying unmoving on the other side of the room. He looked frozen. He looked dead. Hunk rushed over and checked for a pulse. It took several minutes but he managed to find it. With close examination he could see the occasional puff of air coming from his mouth. It was so cold. He found that he had four warmed blankets. He stripped Lance out of his undersuit. It was stiff and frozen. He took off his shirt and put it on Lance. He pulled Lance up next to his chest and wrapped all four blankets around them so that hardly any piece of them showed. He just kept an opening for his face so that he could watch the door.

Hunk sat and held his friend as tightly as he dared. He couldn't lose him. He couldn't do this without him. He needed him. He needed his smile and his laugh. He needed his inappropriate humor that could shake him loose from his anxiety and fear. He needed his best friend. The kid that accepted him no matter what he looked like or what sort of weird hobbies he had or how smart he was. Lance was so willing to just to like Hunk just as he was. He was the first person outside of his family that had done that for him.

Lance started shivering violently after about 15 dobashes. Hunk breathed a sigh of relief. He was going to make it. A little while later a guard threw in a set of slave garments. He shrugged out of the blankets and got Lance dressed in them, pulling his own shirt back on. He pulled them back into the blankets.

Now that the situation was less dire wrapping in the blankets felt like wrapping up in his guilt. He kept seeing Gia and Gib. The pain was numbing. He didn't know what to do with it. It crushed him.

"Hunnnnkk?" Lance murmured from under the blankets.

"Yeah, it's me Lance." He didn't have the energy to sound encouraging.

"Pidge?"

"Not here right now."

"Oh." Lance squirmed around and pulled his head free from the blankets so that he could look up at Hunk. "What happened?"

"I..I..I can't." Hunk sobbed and buried his head into his hands.

Lance didn't say anything. He just turned around and wrapped his arms around his friend while he cried. This whole thing sucked and they needed to find a way to get out of here. The sooner the better.

"We are going to make it, Hunk. We are going to get out of here. Keep your eyes open. Count the guards. Figure out where the halls go. We can do this. I've been thinking. When Pidge gets back ask her if she can get any of the parts she is working with or better yet a shield or two."

"Shield?" Hunk was pulled back by Lance's chatter.

"Yep. I'm sure she'll tell you. Thanks for taking care of me, by the way. I don't think I was doing so good."

"I actually thought you were dead."

"That would qualify as not good. But at least tell me I was making a handsome corpse." Lance had pulled back to sit beside him and flashed a smile.

"Only you would ask that."

"Well?"

"Of course, you were blue, but a gorgeous blue."

"It is my color." He nudged Hunk with his elbow.

"Lance, I'm not up for laughing, thanks for trying though." Hunk leaned against Lance.

"Okay."

"I had to kill someone."

"I'm sorry man." Lance turned to look at Hunk whose face was a frozen mask without emotion.

"I killed him with a sword. He was the guy from the planet that knew about their tech. They made me." He turned to Lance it was important that his friend knew that part.

"I never had any doubts."

"It was horrible. I'm not okay."

"I know." There wasn't anything to do, no magic formula to make it all better. They sat shoulder to shoulder shivering under the blankets. "How long have we been here?"

"Just a couple days, I think. I feels like so much longer."

A couple varga later four guards entered.

"The Paladin will come with us."

Lance stood and gave Hunk's shoulder a squeeze. Hunk nodded up at him. Four guards for Lance, but only two for him and Pidge it was something to remember.

Lance followed the guards out of the freezing cell. As soon as he pulled away from Hunk the cold soaked into him again. He was shivering as he walked down the hall. All a part of their plan no doubt to weaken their resolve.

"Ah Paladin, so glad to see you again." The General was there in the room. There was no table this time. Lance found his arms strapped into shackles on the wall above his head. "Ready to tell me where your lion is?"

"No." Lance's legs were strapped into shackles lower on the wall, though he did kick the one guard in his face when he got too close. The General backhanded him hard for that one.

"Where is the castle of Lions?"

"Albuquerque." Lance answered with a smirk. It was warmer in here and his brain felt like it was unthawing the rest of the way.

"Who is Shiro?"

Lance cringed, he must have said Shiro's name at some point.

"Is that the Champion? Haggar's pet?"

"He is not a pet!" Lance jerked against his bindings.

"I see. Now we are getting somewhere."

Lance was kicking himself for letting the guy goad him into answering his question. He decided maybe it would be better if he kept his mouth shut.

"Shiro is the pilot of the black lion?" the General asked casually. "Oh we already know this, you are just confirming." He waited about a dobash. "Why were you on Hasran? Where were you to meet the castle?"

Lance shook his head and refused to open his mouth.

"Ah I see we are back to this. Good. I was hoping to get the chance to do this." He pressed a button in his hand and electricity coursed through the wall behind Lance. The General laughed at the sounds of the Paladin's screams. He was going to break him. It was only a matter of time.

Chapter Text

Hunk was waiting for her and when Pidge returned he moved to help her from the doorway of the cell. He wrapped her into a blanket. It wasn't as cold as it had been earlier, but it was still unpleasant. Pidge didn't say anything and just wrapped her arms around herself. About fifteen dobashes later the food and water were delivered by the same turtle person. He paused for a minute making eye contact with Pidge before adding an extra scoop of the food paste into one of the bowls. She nodded at him and he left.

"We should go ahead and eat. I don't know when Lance will be back."

"He's alive?!" Pidge had just assumed when she got back and he wasn't there that the cold had ended his life. It was what she had been expecting to find since she left the cell earlier.

"Yeah. They took him about four varga after you."

"He was asleep when I left. It was so cold and I couldn't keep him awake. I didn't think…I couldn't wake him. I thought he'd…" Pidge's voice kept breaking as she was trying to talk and not cry.

"Oh hey," Hunk pulled her into a hug. "He was really cold when I got back, but I got these blankets and I got him warmed back up. He was talking okay when he left. They brought him some of these great clothes too." Hunk plucked at the shirt he was wearing.

"This place, Hunk. Is this what Matt and Dad are going through? Is this what Shiro went through? It's been two days, how did he do this for a year?" Pidge curled her fists up and beat her good leg in frustration.

"They weren't the enemy. They were just prisoners. So hopefully it wasn't quite like this." He grabbed her hands and wrapped them in his. "We are going to get out of here and you are going to find them. Lance said something about you building shields."

"Yes," Pidge nodded, "They are personal shields that strap to the arm and protect against laser blasts."

"Do you think you could get one out?"

"No." She looked thoughtful, "but I might be able to get parts, enough that I could get it built in here. It would take me at least three days to keep it from being noticeable."

"Okay, well, it's part of a plan. We just need to put together the rest. We need to figure out how to get out of this room and where to go when we do. Focus on getting out of here. We are going to make it."

"Hunk." Pidge put her hand on his arm.

"What?" he snapped.

"Hey, what happened?"

"Why are you asking me that?" he was angry.

She was shocked at his anger and the snap in his voice. "Something happened." It wasn't a question.

"I can't Pidge. I just can't. It's like it was someone else and I don't want it to be real and I don't want it to have been me and if I talk about it again then it's real and it's me." He hung his head waves of shame rolling off of him. "I killed Gib, with a sword. They said I had to take my revenge, like it was my fault, but I didn't want to kill him. They killed Gia first and he was just so sad holding her and …" Hunk took a deep breath and wiped his face. "I don't know how I'm going to live with that."

"Because you have to." Pidge answered. She was silent for several dobashes and then started speaking softly.

"When Matt and Dad's mission was lost and the Garrison told us they were dead, I wanted to be dead with them. I couldn't breath or think or get out of bed. I just felt like everything was too much to even be alive. I cried and screamed at my mom. I refused to do anything. She just went on about her life. She went to work, she cleaned the house, she fixed food and made me eat it. She did everything just like she did before. And it made me so mad. I screamed at her, told her that she didn't care, that she was just letting them go and it didn't even have any effect on her life."

Pidge paused to see if Hunk was listening. His eyes were on his hands but he looked up when she stopped.

"She looked at me and said that she was hurting every bit as much as me, but that she couldn't stop doing things because she hurt. She had to keep going. She had to keep working. She had to take care of me. She had to be strong. It wasn't because she wanted to or didn't care. She would rather have closed herself in her room and cried, but she couldn't. She didn't have a choice. She kept living her life because she had to. She said it hurt every day, but she knew Dad and Matt wouldn't want her to quit living. That they would want her to keep going." Pidge reached out and took Hunk's hand.

"You get it right. You live with it because you have to, you don't have a choice."

Hunk smiled sadly at her. He got it. They ate their parts of the paste and drank some water. As nasty as it was it was nice to have a larger portion. Their stomach had been gnawing all day.

"How's your leg?"

"The same." Pidge leaned against the wall, resigned to the pain she knew would be coming.

Hunk unwrapped it and had to agree. It wasn't improved, but didn't look significantly worse than it had last night. He once again cleaned out the pus and rinsed the wound. He wished he had something he could soak it in. There was probably infection deeper inside that he wasn't able to clean out. The edges of the wound were still red and it was warm to the touch. She had stayed conscious through the entire cleaning this time. She looked pale and sweat stood against her face. She had barely made a sound, but her face clearly showed Hunk the pain she felt.

"We are getting out of here." She stated like it was a fact. "I believe that. You have to believe it too."

Hunk nodded. He was having a little more trouble than Pidge believing all three of them were going to make it out of here.

***

The electricity crackled again and Lance screamed. His voice was hoarse and his throat felt shredded by the abuse. When the power switched off again he sagged against the bonds.

"Just tell me where they are!" The General sounded frustrated and Lance couldn't stop the smirk from appearing on his lips at the thought.

It was wiped off by the crackle of another jolt. He screamed again. His body shook with the energy coursing through it. He could smell burnt fabric and burnt flesh. He wasn't sure where he was burnt, everything hurt too much to pinpoint anything particular.

The power stopped surging again. He felt a clawed hand lift his head. The General's enraged face was in front of him.

"Give me the location that you were to meet them!"

"Go spit." Lance spit in his face.

The General screamed and slammed his head back before reactivating the energy. This time it stayed on so much longer than before. Lance's vision darkened and he passed out still twitching.

Chapter Text

Pidge and Hunk were asleep when the door swung open and Lance was thrown in like a broken doll. His head connected hard with the cold floor and his body flopped bonelessly. Hunk scrambled over to him checking for a pulse. He found one beating all too fast against his fingers. The back of his shirt was burnt and there were burns on his shoulder blades, his hips, wrists and Pidge reported the bottom of his feet and ankles.

The only water they had left was Lance's portion to drink and they didn't have any way to bandage the wounds on his back, but they tried to get the others. Hunk tore strips from his pants and wrapped his wrists and ankles. Pidge ripped a strip from the bottom of her shirt and wrapped his feet.

He came to with a start as Hunk was tying off the bandage on his left wrist.

"Lance?" Pidge scooted up hear his head. "Can you hear me?"

"Yeah, PidgeyMcPigeon, how's the leg doing?" Lance asked turning his head her direction.

"My leg is the same. You're looking a little worse for the wear."

"You gotta be straight with me Pidge. Is my hair standing on end?" Lance smiled at her. It was what he did. He did not deal with the fact that he had never been in so much pain before in his entire life. He did not deal with the fact that he had really thought the General was going to kill him that last time. No. He made jokes and played the clown. It was his job, his role. Now if Pidge would fall into her role he would be fine.

"No stupid. You put so much hair product in it how could it possibly stand up." She grinned back at him and he felt himself relax. If they could do this, if they could be themselves then they could get out of this.

"Hey, I wish I could tell you I made you supper, but you'll have to deal with the gruel. Do you want your water separate or mixed in?" Hunk offered.

"In, please, waters down the taste a little." That wasn't the reason and they all knew it. Lance managed to get his food down and they bundled up against the cold in their corner. Lance didn't have the strength to move himself so Hunk dragged him over.

"Seems like the temperature is back up some?" Lance asked huffing slightly from the pain of moving.

"Yeah, there isn't frost on the walls anymore. Maybe they realized we don't do well in cold storage." Hunk offered.

Lance snorted, "I think it's just part of their games. Did we find anything new today?"

They discussed the halls they had each been down. The room Pidge went to was to the left and then right and seemed to go further into the ship or base based on the noises around her. It was just louder in that area.

Lance had also gone to the left, but hadn't turned and just kept going down the long hall until the room was on the left. He told them he hadn't run into anyone else and it was quite. Hunk had gone to the right past the Hasran cells and then turned right again into the room. He had heard voices yelling and screaming from the room, but didn't know what it was exactly.

They agreed that Pidge's work timing seemed to be the easiest to predict and if possible would be the time to make their move. Maybe when the slave turtle brought their food, though they didn't want him to get punished because of them. There was still a lot more they needed to know before they made a break for it. Getting out of the cell would do them no good if they just got caught again.

They fell asleep leaning on each other. Pidge's hand clutched Lances' fingers, Lance buried his face in Hunk's shoulder, and Hunk wrapped his arm around Pidge's side.

Some four vargas later the two usual guards showed up for Pidge. She had more trouble getting up today, but the guards allowed Hunk to help her. Lance had tried to get up too, but Pidge waved him off with a frown. He needed more sleep and she could handle this with Hunk's help.

Lance's right calf had started cramping shortly after Pidge left and it took nearly fifteen dobashes for Hunk to work the knot out of his muscle. He made a mental note to get more water into Lance's soup tonight, the abuse was taking it's toll on him and dehydration would only make it worse. He had finally soothed Lance back to sleep when the door opened.

Malak himself along with two guards stood in the hall.

"I see. You are the Paladin's protector aren't you? Come out now." The guards pointed their weapons at Hunk. He stood, gently resting Lance's head back in the blankets. He made his way to the door. One of the guards put down his weapon and grabbed a pair of leg irons. The other guard put his weapon in Hunk's face while the irons were attached.

"Follow me." Malak walked to the right and led Hunk past the Hasran cells. They went past the room he had been in before and turned right at another main hallway. Hunk looked to the left and the hallway ended in a large door. Hanger, his mind hoped, but he had no way to know for sure. The hall he was led down was broad and there were many doors off of it. He passed one that was open and he could see a group of Galra soldiers inside. The sounds of screaming echoed out of another one. They turned into another door to the right, This one led through a row of single cells. They were all filled with prisoners or slaves, one to a cell. He was placed in the last cell.

Malak grinned at him through the bars.

"Yesterday you learned the consequence of not following orders. Today, I will test your strength in battle. You will fight in our arena. While our arena is not as large or as vaunted as the one in Emperor Zarkon's ship we have trained many a warrior to send to the larger arenas. Though we have never trained one who held such a reputation as the Champion. I have always wondered if it was his species that made him so successful or just him. Now I will have the chance to find out."

"I won't fight." Hunk stated.

"You will, or I will have the small one with the leg wound killed. She is of no consequence and I can easily have her replaced in the assembly room." Malak didn't even pause, he must have anticipated Hunk's refusal.

"If you lose your fight, you will likely die. If you win your fight I will provide you with a healing salve. It will likely be of benefit after your fight. Today you will be fighting five droids. You will enter the arena with no weapons or shields." Malak hummed as he looked Hunk over. "I'm not sure if I am looking forward more to training you or seeing you die. It will amuse me to find out which."

Hunk glared at Malak as he walked away. He really hated that guy.

***

Pidge found herself seated next to Kay again. The older Hasran smiled at her when she sat down. When they started work and the main guy had left, she whispered to Pidge.

"My granddaughter was much better this morning. I can not repay you."

"Maybe you can." Pidge whispered back. "Do you know where we are? I was taken from a ship into a room. I don't even know if I'm a ship or a planet."

"A moon." Kay answered. "It's a moon of the seventh planet in our system. It is a military base. There is a Hasran mining colony on the planet below. Our colony has been trading with them for over a 100 decophoebs."

Pidge nodded taking in the knowledge.

"The colony provided them with metal ore and they provided us with space vessels that were better, faster than ours." Kay sighed and looked regretful. "The leadership overlooked who the Galra were because they had received so much from the alliance. They were wrong to do so."

"It wouldn't be the first time in history that happened," Pidge muttered, filing away the knowledge for any future dealing with the Hasrans.

"When the General here heard that there was a Paladin of Voltron coming to trade with our primary planet he came under the guise of negotiations. He brought two battle cruisers. They destroyed two farming camps and took fifty children from a government sponsored school. He knew many of the government officials sent their own children and grandchildren to our school."

Kay's breath hitched and her fingers slowed over the shield device. "I tried to stop them, but it was useless. They held us on a ship and forced the officials to set the trap for you. Once you were captured they landed and released half of the children but even that was a trick, he used it as a way to gather a crowd and was able to grab over 200 more of our people from the city. He declared himself the ruler of our planet and colonies. I think General Zantier has visions of being greater than a general of a small out of the way military base."

"You know a lot for a slave?" Pidge was distrustful of getting so much for what seemed like a small thing.

"I was the headmistress of the school. My son, was the Vice Governor of our planet."

Pidge finished the shield device in front of her and swapped it to Kay, "Pretend to keep working on that." She begin piecing together the one that Kay had started. Pulling off the pieces that were wrong and sticking them under the rope holding her pants up when no one was looking. She was even cautious not to let Kay see. She wasn't ready to wholesale trust her, it seemed a little too good to be true after everything else.

Chapter Text

Hunk walked out through a narrow tunnel. It was only wide enough to fit single file and there was a guard with a sword just behind him. They had unshackled the leg irons just at the opening and gave him a shove forward. The one slight hesitation earned him firm contact with the blade, any firmer and it would have pierced skin. So he moved, he didn't have a choice. He could hear voices screaming and a bright light shown at the end of the tunnel. He took a deep breath and stepped out into the light.

It was the size of a football field, there were stands on each side that went up about 10 rows. The seats weren't filled, but there were a lot of Galra in the stands.

"Welcome to the final fight of the evening. We have a special treat for you. Hunk, a freshly captured human, the same species as the legendary Champion! He served as a personal guardian to one of the Paladin's of Voltron!" A hush fell over the crowd and Hunk could feel hundreds of eyes on him. He frowned and blushed at the announcement. He wanted to yell that he was a Paladin, but it wouldn't help him in the long run. It was better that they underestimate him. It was better they didn't know who he was.

The door across from him at the other end of the field opened and five droids armed with blasters walked through. The field between them was covered in sand, there were large boulders scattered about, some twice as tall as Hunk. He rushed to the side behind one of the boulders. He peered from beside it and watched the droids. They spread out in a line across the field equally spaced and began moving forward. He needed a weapon. He scanned the sands and the rocks, nothing, no guns, no swords, no clubs, nothing but rocks. Rocks, looking closer he spotted four rocks that were about the size of a football. He could use that. They were not next to each other, but the first was only five foot from his current hiding spot, then there was a low rock just to the front of it. He would have to kneel for it to provide cover, but it would do.

He ran forward and with a diving front roll grabbed the stone and landed behind his new cover. A few shots pinged around him as he moved, but nothing was close. Their aim sucked at this range, but then so would his. The next stone was about ten feet ahead of him and the next stone shelter two feet beyond that. He sprung to his feet and ran, a shot pinged off the rock he had been behind and a shard broke off and sliced across his calf. He couldn't afford to slow down so he didn't. He scooped the second rock up and dove for the cover. Another shot grazed his shoulder.

He panted and took a look. The droids were still a little far for Hunk's throwing arm. They were walking not running like him. The next rock he had spotted was only three foot away, but the next cover was fifteen beyond it. He took another deep breath and ran scooping up the rock a shot pinged near his hand and kicked sand up into his eye. He blinked through it and kept running vision blurred. He paused behind the next rock to wipe his eye. He couldn't afford to have his aim impaired by poor vision. It didn't take long, but it felt like forever. When he peered back the droids were about 70 yards away. The next rock was twenty feet away and there were two stops for cover along the way.

He spun forward and made it to the first stop without getting hit, though the blasts were more frequent this time. The second leg got him another graze to his right side. He got the fourth rock though. His next stop was a rock about ten feet away that was twice his height and he felt he could climb at least halfway up. It should give him some advantage for his throws. He made it without taking another hit and climbed half way without much trouble.

The droids were fifty yards away. He readied the first rock. He didn't want to overestimate his arm, but he knew he could throw and he knew he was good. There was a reason he was on the Garrison track and field team and it wasn't his running ability. There wasn't a better person in shotput at the Garrison and he had medaled in his last two competitions before heading out to space. He watched and waited. The shots at his location became more frequent and precise, but they couldn't hit him from where he stood. Starting when the droids were 25 yards out he begin to take frequent quick peeks to be assured of the location of the droid. He would hit the middle one first. His cover was off to the left and more in line with the second droid, but it would be harder to hit him without completely giving up his cover.

He threw the first one and nailed the middle droid at about twenty yards out. The heavy stone crushed it's head and sparks flew. The next target was the first droid to the far left. He lined up the shot and put it right in it's chest. The other droids were still advancing. These clearly were not some of the more advanced battle droids he had faced. He spun to get the fourth one feeling more confident and took a laser blast to his forearm. The rock still struck true and took out the droid, but his arm was literally on fire. The slave garb lit up when the laser impacted. Hunk patted it out against the rock. The burn on his arm underneath was bad, too bad to think about, Too much and too bad to continue throwing with that arm.

He climbed down from the rock and held the remaining rock in his right hand. He could hear the last two droids approaching. The one aligned with his cover and the one to the far right of the field. He waited until he could just see the one to the far right and spun to the left of his rock bringing the rock down onto the head of the second droid. It's arms tried to throw him back, but it was too late to stop his attack. He supposed he would have some impressive bruises on his chest to show for it. He picked up the droids blaster and took out the final droid in an anticlimactic shot.

He didn't even hear the crowd until that moment. They were yelling and screaming. He looked around in shock. The weapon in his hand suddenly discharged a pale purple glow and he was knocked unconscious by the jolt.

***

Lance lay alone in the cell. He had woken up to find that Hunk was also gone. He looked around and examined the cell. It was the first time he had been in here with anything close to a clear head. He thought the gas effects were finally wearing completely off. He was wrapped up in blankets so Hunk must have bundled him up as he left. Hunk had been shouldering a lot of responsibility. Lance knew that his friend had been taking care of him and tending to Pidge's wounds. He remembered Pidge talking to him when he was freezing too. Seems like they both had been doing a lot of taking care of him.

Lance shook his head, there wasn't anything to be done about that now. He needed to keep the General's attention on himself and as long as they thought he was the only Paladin they had captured it should continue to work. His entire body ached, muscles kept cramping, but he was too stiff to do much about it other than wait for it to stop. He wondered how much more of this he could take and how weak did it make him that he was worried about that just a few days into captivity when Shiro had been a prisoner for like a year. It didn't matter. He was going to do what he could, as long as he could, to offer what little protection he had to Pidge and Hunk. It wasn't much, they were both suffering anyway, but he couldn't stop it. He couldn't stop any of it.

Deep breaths, in and out, he told himself. That kind of negative spiral wasn't going to get them out of here and he was going to get his crew out of here if it was the last thing he did.

The door to his cell opened and four guards entered. Two held weapons on him and the other two moved toward him. He scrambled back out of the blankets and they grabbed his arms and drug him to his feet.

"The General has requested your presence," the one on the left laughed.

"Did you really think a Paladin of Voltron would be so weak?" the one on the right questioned.

"Nothing like the ones from the stories. If this is all Voltron has to offer, the Galra empire has nothing to fear. Emperor Zarkon will crush them."

Lance grit his teeth together. It was one thing to mock him and another to mock the team. He shifted and stomped hard on the one on the left's insole. Then swung his fist into the one on the right's face. They both went down in surprise. Lance held his hands up before the other two with their weapons trained on him decided to shot. They were too busy laughing at their comrades.

"Not as weak as you two apparently."

The one with the busted nose got up and punched Lance in the gut knocking the wind out of him.

"Watch it Gredek, if you don't want trouble with Zantier you'd better leave the hands on to him." one of the weapon wielders warned.

Lance felt himself being dragged forward still trying to catch his breath. Totally worth it he thought.

Chapter Text

Lance was dragged down the same hall to the same room. This time there were shackles hanging from the ceiling. He struggled, but there wasn't much he could do against four Galra soldiers and they soon had his wrists bound above his head and his ankles bound to the floor.

A sharp snap cracked behind him and he flinched. He tried not to, but he was expecting pain and couldn't help it. The burns on his wrists and ankles were already throbbing against the cuffs. A deep laugh followed the flinch.

"Oh Paladin, why don't you just tell me what I want to know. You are so weak, you will break before I am done. Save yourself the pain and accept your shame now." The General stepped in front of him. A whip coiled in his hand. "You are never escaping this base. You are mine. Tell me what I want to know and you can go with the other slaves and be done with the questioning. You want to be done, don't you?" He cracked the whip forward and it stung Lance's cheek. He could feel warm blood well and start to drip.

"I may be weak. But I will not betray Voltron." He glared at his tormentor. "I will die first."

"Very well, let's get on with it then, shall we?" The General grinned he walked back behind Lance and cracked the whip again, this time fire sliced down the middle of Lance's back.

"Where is the Castle of Lions?"

"Two stars to the right and straight on till morning." Lance answered through clenched teeth. Another crack sounded and fire lit from his left shoulder to his right hip.

"Where is the Castle of Lions?"

"Is there an echo in here?" Lance managed. Another crack and more pain.

"Where is the Castle of Lions?"

"This is going to be a long morning." Lance's head hung after the next crack. He was having trouble catching his breath.

"Where is the Castle of Lions?"

"Where is Zarkon's command ship?" Lance countered. This time there were two cracks before the next question. The second made the ones before it feel like love taps. He was certain his thigh was bleeding heavily. Maybe being quiet was a better plan. He stopped answering with anything other than a grunt. The General kept cracking the quiznaking whip on his back anyway.

"Stupid." At some point he must have passed out. He awoke to the General's face near his. His face still stinging from a slap. "You are waste, not worthy of my presence." He spun around and left the room.

Lance was hanging from his wrists, his legs no longer supporting him. Blood ran from his thigh and his wrists. He was not in good shape. He did smile a little though, he found out they were on a base not a ship. It wasn't much, but it was an important step to getting out of here. Now if they could just find an exit and a taxi to take them home. He might be a little delirious.

***

Pidge arrived back at the cell and found it empty. That was the first time that had happened. She scooted herself back to the blankets. Her leg was worse today, she could feel the swelling tight against her pants. Touching it made her nauseous from the pain.

The turtle brought the food in and sat it down.

"What's your name?"

He looked up at her and shook his head, "No."

"That's a weird name, No." She knew it wasn't his name, but she was tired and hurting and feeling lonely. "How long have you been here?"

He sighed, "Ten decopheebs." He placed the two bowls and added the extra scoop again. This little creature reminded him too much of his own children. He added a second bucket of water. "Your large friend will be back soon, be sure the guards don't see the second bucket."

She nodded to him. Her face was flushed and he was worried she was sick. He didn't want to see this one go. So many came and went he had long ago given up on caring about them, but this one had worked into his hard heart with her first definite words.

He turned his back and left the cell. He could hear her grunts as she scooted across the floor. He knew she was moving the bucket as he had asked.

Pidge had hidden the bucket and eaten her portion of the food paste and her part of the first bucket by the time they dragged Hunk into the cell.

He was unconscious. Two guards carried him between them each holding a shoulder. They pulled him into the room and left him on the ground before turning and leaving.

Pidge scooted forward and felt for a pulse. It was there solid and steady. She saw a bleeding cut on his leg and began checking for other wounds. He had a graze on his right side and his right shoulder, but neither compared to the blast wound on his left forearm. It was awful, a four inch diameter circle of black burnt flesh surrounded by blistered red skin. He had been laying on it when they dropped him and she didn't find it until last. As she was trying to decide what to do with it the door opened again. A sneering Galra stood in the doorway.

"Here is his prize," he through a small jar at her and she caught it. He laughed. "Not sure there's enough for all three of you though, you might have to make some choices." He left still laughing that cruel nasty laugh.

Pidge decided if she got the chance she wouldn't mind shooting him. She got some water from the bucket in the corner and used it to thoroughly clean Hunk's arm wound first. It had sand or grit or something in it and it took a fair amount of effort and water to get it done. He moaned a couple of times while she worked on it. Then as she was working on the grazes, his eyes fluttered open and he pulled away from her touch.

"Hey Hunk, easy, just getting you cleaned up." It didn't take her long the grazes weren't deep and were much easier to clean out. "I can't get you moved, do you think you can get back to our corner."

Hunk sort of one armed crawled to the back of the room and leaned against the wall.

"Ouch."

"Yeah, think you could keep your food down now." Pidge offered.

"Not yet, give me a minute."

"A Galra brought this jar, said it was your prize?" She held it up. It was about the size of an old fashioned vicks jar.

"He said it was a healing salve." Hunk remembered.

"Okay, want to be the guinea pig? That wound on your arm is rough." Pidge opened the jar and sniffed. It hand an antiseptic type smell. "Smells like medicine, but I would guess it is going to sting."

Hunk nodded and held out his arm, "Don't use much, let's see how little we can get away with. I want to treat your leg and Lance's burns too." Hunk was willing to make sure it worked, but he wanted to be sure that there was enough to help his friends.

"And your other wounds, too. The cut on your leg isn't great either." Pidge redirected back to him.

"Okay, but your leg first after we test it on my arm." Hunk countered.

"Deal." Pidge carefully dipped her finger in the jar, there was a faint numbness in her finger after a few seconds. "Well it has numbing properties so that's not bad." She began at the edges and worked her way in on Hunk's arm. He hissed when she got to the raw open parts.

"Confirmation on the sting, yep, ow." Hunk closed his eyes and wrinkled his face in obvious discomfort.

"Sorry." Pidge finished the wound coating. It didn't take too much as it spread relatively thin. Pidge tore a strip from the bottom of her pants and used it to wrap the wound.

"Okay."

"You ready," Hunk asked, he'd already noticed how flushed she was and was worried about her leg. The numbing effect of the medicine was making it easier to move his arm.

"Nope, but you'd best get to it anyway." She leaned close to him and whispered, "there is another bucket of water in the corner under the blanket so we have more to use if we need."

Hunk nodded and began by putting his hand on her forehead. Fever - she had a fever. It wasn't too high, but it wasn't a good sign. He sighed and unwrapped the wound. It was worse than yesterday. The pus had an off white color too it and the redness around the wound had spread.

"Fuck."

"Language, Hunk, I am shocked at you." Pidge mocked. "Does it look that bad?" She couldn't make herself look.

"I'm going to have to clean it out again. I was really hoping we could get it completely cleaned up, but it's getting worse. I think you have a fever too."

Pidge frowned, "I know. There isn't anything we can do expect keep working to get out of here. I had someone tell me we are on a moon base, still in the same star system, but I'm not sure if I can trust her."

"I think I saw doors to a hanger, across the main hall from the arena." Hunk offered.

"The…the arena?" Pidge's brain had stopped there.

"I know I'm still kind of freaking out. They introduced me as the same species as the Champion. They are so messed up. How can anyone cheer for stuff like that? At least I only had to fight droids." Hunk kept working on her leg as he talked distracting both of them.

"Just, please, be careful," her face was filled with fear for him. The arena was a place of death and if Shiro's flashbacks were anything to go by a really horrible place of death.

"I will. I promise." He finished the cleaning, it had taken more water than before and he was very grateful for the extra. There was enough left to clean it again in the morning if needed.

Pidge was barely conscious at this point, her hands balled into fists in the blankets, her breath coming in sharp little pants. Frowning he touched her leg and let her know he was about to add the salve. Either she didn't hear him or it hurt bad enough that it didn't matter cause a horrible gasp escaped her mouth and she jolted back against the wall.

"Sorry, sorry, I guess it stings more in open wounds?"

"Good guess." she gritted out.

It took about five dobashes for the numbing to take effect and he waited on wrapping it until it had. He could see her body begin to relax slowly as the pain faded.

Pidge then insisted he take the time to eat and drink. She said she would doctor the rest of him, but she needed a quick nap.

He smiled indulgently. She was tough. He knew she was sick and hurting and afraid. She had so much on her mind, but she was still working to take care of her team.

Chapter Text

Pidge doctored Hunk's calf and the grazes on his body. He was cradling his arm against his chest and Pidge had realized that she hadn't seen him use it since he had been back.

"Can you move your fingers?" she asked carefully. He managed to move his fingers slowly and with a great deal of pain on his face. "Okay, sorry, just wanted to be sure it wasn't broken."

"Yeah, one of the droids got me with a blaster." Pidge patted his shoulder to encourage him to talk. "I threw rocks at them Pidge. They stuck me in there with droids with blasters and no weapon. I had to throw rocks at them." He started to shake as the terror he had ignored made itself known. "Pidge, what are we going to do? You have a fever, I have to fight in the arena and I'm afraid they'll make me kill someone again, Lance isn't even back. What if he doesn't make it back, what if they killed him this time - how are we going to make it? I want to be strong, but this is horrible and I just, I'm sorry." He sniffled and Pidge reached up to wipe tears from his cheek.

"I'm afraid too, Hunk. But you know what? You ask what we are going to do, but every time we need you and ever time something happens you just do it. You beat droids with rocks. You have tended to my wound which would be way worse if you hadn't. You have taken care of me and Lance and helped keep us going. You are so strong and you don't even realize it. You are amazing." She wrapped him up in a blanket and pulled a blanket around herself and snuggled into his side.

"Pidge, are you sure you're just fourteen, cause you are too awesome to be so young."

She smiled sadly into his arm, "Actually I'm almost fifteen, Hunk, tomorrow is my birthday."

He looked down in shock at the top of her head as she snuggled in and drifted to sleep. She had pulled him out of his anxiety attack before it even got going. Sometimes he forgot how young she was, she was just so much more than he expected for someone her age. He laid his head against hers and closed his eyes. Tomorrow maybe he'd get a look and see if that door really did lead to a hanger.

Pidge woke and found Lance had not been returned. She shivered remembering Hunk's words. She wouldn't believe it. He was coming back. She was nearly certain that if the Galra had killed him someone would have been by to rub it in their faces. Lance was not going to die on her birthday.

She woke Hunk gently. He looked around and she could see the tears held back in his eyes. He gripped her hand and she gave him a slight smile. She stashed her spare parts under the blanket in the corner with the spare bucket. They debated and decided to eat the rest of the food. They didn't think the guards would let them save it for Lance.

They checked their wounds and were presently surprised by the impact of the salve. Her leg wound had shrunk in size and his arm had a thin pink layer of skin growing. The grazes and the cut were nearly gone. Hunk frowned when he checked her leg though because it was still hot and swollen.

By the time they finished the guards had shown up for Pidge. She gave Hunk a little salute and hobbled out of the room. He could see the flush on her checks and knew her fever was still burning. He nearly cried when he realized he had forgotten to wish her a happy birthday.

The guards came for Hunk next. He was locked into the irons again and marched past the Hasran cells. The people looked so beaten when he walked by. It reminded him of Shay.

"Don't give up." He told them as he walked by. "Be strong," he told another cell. "You are strong enough!" he told a crying woman. Every word of encouragement he passed to them bolstered him.

"Shut up!" One of the guards hit him in the gut with his weapon.

"You can't shut everyone up," Hunk grinned as some of the Hasrans' voices echoed his earlier statements. Yelling encouragement to him and to those around them.

The guard growled and shoved him forward. For the first time since he'd had to kill Gib he really felt like he was going to make it.

As they neared the large doors he suspected led to a hanger he slowed. He tried to stall, hoping the door might open with no luck. He pretended to stumble and managed to lean against the door hoping to hear something that would give it away, but all he heard were mechanical noises, nothing definitive. The guards dragged him to his feet yelling and pulled him down the opposite hall. He was put back into one of the cell near the arena to await his next fight.

***

Lance woke still hanging from the chains. He couldn't feel his hands, he had to look to make sure they were still there. He managed to get to his feet and take the pressure off of them. The stiffness in his body was excruciating and his arm, back, and shoulders kept cramping. Then feeling began to return to his hands and he almost wished they had stayed numb. Pins and needles felt more like knives and daggers. He couldn't do anything to relieve his pain. His thigh wound had been wrapped, so he guessed they weren't ready for him to die yet. His back felt like there were strips missing from it. His wrists were bleeding sluggishly. He couldn't stop the tears that trailed down his face. He heard a noise in the room and a Hasran woman walked into his view.

"I wrapped your leg. I was told I could let you down from the shackles when you woke up." She walked up to him with the keys and unclasped his hands.

He feel to his knees and then onto his face. She gasped, unable to do anything but slow his descent. She folded a blanket and laid it under his head and took another and draped it over his back.

"I'm sorry there isn't more I can do, Paladin." She whispered to him running her hand through his hair. He closed his eyes and savored the gentle touch. He was too tired and in too much pain to talk. "Please be strong. The universe needs you. My people were wrong to work with the Galra and we have learned it with such pain. Do not let our mistake stop the best hope the universe has."

She rolled him to his side and dribbled water into his mouth slowly from a cup. At first he sputtered and choked, but eventually he was able to swallow a little.

"What's your name?" he asked.

"Lira."

"Hi, Lira. I'm Lance."

She smiled at him, well aware of his name. She had lavender hair and was older, like his mother's age he guessed.

"Rest, gather your strength. You will need it." Two droids entered and escorted her from the room. He heard the door close behind them and he closed his eyes.

***

Pidge finished the first shield in two varga. They were getting easier with practice, even with the sweat running down her nose she was making progress. She could feel the fever burning and a pain deep in her leg. The leg felt stronger and had been easier to walk on, but all was not right. Kay kept shooting her concerned looks when she would wipe her face to keep the sweat out of her eyes.

"Are you well?" she whispered.

"No." Pidge answered shortly, there was no getting around it. She wasn't.

Kay hummed in her throat and continued piecing together the shield she was working on. Pidge could see from a glance that it wouldn't work, but she was getting a lot better and putting the right parts together at least. She started a second device. The guards were basically ignoring them all. No one wasn't trying today and there were only two deaths yesterday.

Pidge slipped the first device under her belt. After the water break she finished the second device and swapped it with Kay. She had her device done before the end of the shift and took the last varga to rest her head on the table. Kay hummed softly next to her. She had been talking to the Hasran on the other side of her as well. Whispers were spreading down the table, but Pidge was too tired to try to figure out what was going on.

When the guards took her back to the cell she was alone again. She curled herself into the blankets shivering. She had a full shield and enough parts to assemble a second, though her vision was blurring and she didn't think she could get it together just now. When No came with her food, he shocked her by bringing one of the bowls all the way over to her and setting the rest within her reach.

"You must eat little one." She looked up into his sad eyes.

"I'm going to get you out of here," she promised. The fever glazing across her eyes, but her mouth set in a firm line.

"I'm sure you will little one." He patted her in a condescending kind of way.

"I am!" she said fiercely. "I am getting out of here. My friends and I are getting out of here!"

"Okay, okay," he backed away and headed out the door.

"I am." she called after him. She was going to rescue him and Kay and Hunk and Lance and they were all going home. One way or the other. It was her birthday wish.

Chapter Text

Hunk heard him coming before he saw him. Malak's voice dripped poison as he mocked the prisoners in the other cells. He liked to mess with minds. He seemed to take way too much pleasure in it.

"Hunk, I was quite disappointed to see you live. I decided." His toothy grin was pure evil. "I did enjoy your screams though, quite refreshing. The crowd however, seemed to like you and so you live to fight another day." He looked him over and nodded. "I see you put your prize to good use."

"What do you want Malak?" Hunk growled.

"Oh I just wanted to deliver your incentive for today's fight. I will give you a second jar of the salve if you win today and kill your opponent."

"I won't kill someone." Hunk was not going through that again.

"More of a something, if that eases your mind, Hunk." Malak told with false kindness. "And besides, you might want to reconsider. I saw what your Paladin looked like and you are going to need that jar if you hope to keep him alive much longer."

"You son of a bitch!" Hunk reached through the bars.

Malak laughed gleefully as he backed up, "Yes, that is what we want to see in the arena." He walked back out mocking the other prisoners again.

***

Lance woke to the sound of the door opening. He struggled to sit and face whomever. It was the General and two goons.

"Get up." He ordered.

"I think I'll just stay here, if it's all the same to you." Lance wasn't entirely sure he could actually get his body to cooperate enough to stand.

The General walked forward reached down, picked him up by the front of his shirt and lifted him into the air. His back screamed at the pressure from his shirt and he instinctively reached up and grabbed at the hand that was holding him.

"I said up!" He growled and slammed him back into the wall. Lance saw stars and was dazed as the goons grabbed his arms and shackled him back into the middle of the room.

"Are you ready to answer my questions today?"

"No." Lance answered truthfully. He was not going to answer and he was not ready.

The General slammed a fist into his side and Lance could have swore he felt something break. He hoped it was the General's hand, but he kind of doubted it.

***

Hunk walked through the tunnel a club held tightly in his hands. His left had was still not working properly and he could feel his grip wasn't as strong as it should be. The club was really just a big stick, but it was something. He didn't know what to expect. When he entered the arena it was similar to before. He walked carefully through the sand. He didn't see any throwing rocks this time and the door on the other end of the arena hadn't opened yet. He made his way around the big rocks watching his surroundings and the door. He could hear the crowd murmuring, but he was trying to block them out.

It was however, the crowds gasp that warned him. As he was walking around a boulder they gasped and he looked up in time to see a dark shadow jumping down toward him. The animal screamed it's rage and slashed at Hunk's shoulder. Hunk swung his club and caught it halfway down and sent it flying a couple of feet. It was about the size of a mountain lion, but it was scaly and grey. It's snout had large sharp teeth and claws stood out from each of its four feet. Its tail swung around and Hunk could see a barbed end on it.

Hunk's hit had made it wary, but the smell of his blood was driving it. It kept charging and dodging away from his swings. Hunk's back and shoulder were bleeding from the claws that had raked him on the first strike. He was so focused on the one in front of him that he almost missed the one behind him. It swiped at the back of his leg aiming to hamstring him, but Hunk was faster. He turned and slammed the club down hard on the back of it's head. As he did that the first one pounced again and grabbed his arm in it's mouth.

Hunk screamed as the teeth drove deep into his arm. He dropped the club as his arm was pulled down. He punched the beast with his other hand in the eye. And he managed to get his arm free. He and the beast circled each other wounded and hurting. He managed to get behind it and wrapped his arms around it and squeezed as hard as he could. The animal struggled and tried to claw him, but it couldn't reach. The tail could though and it battered it's barbed end against his legs. Eventually the animal stopped struggling as it couldn't get enough air and went still - dead.

The crowd loved it. They were screaming his name and yelling. He was disgusted by them. He wouldn't even look at them. They were the animals. He turned and began hobbling to the door. His legs felt shredded and his shoulder and arm were dripping blood leaving a trail behind him in the sand. The door opened and the guard ordered him to drop the club. He did and walked through. When he got back to his single cell there was a bucket of water, bandages, and the salve. He patched himself up and watched as other prisoners were taken away into the arena. Most didn't come back.

When the last fight was over he was escorted from his cell and led back to the main hall. As he was moving into the hall he saw the door across from him was just closing. Between them he caught a glimpse of ships and stars. It was the hanger.

***

Not just anyone can impersonate a punching bag, Lance was hoping to add his name to the list of people that couldn't because it sucked. The goons had taken over beating the snot out of him. He felt like a Lance shaped bag of broken.

The General had taken to screaming and to be honest his words were barely intelligible anymore. It could be from getting boxed in the ears too many times, but there was something else off. He seemed more desperate than he had.

"You on a timeline or something?" Lance managed to haul himself up and draw a deep enough breath to speak.

The General punched him in the gut for that one and he lost his footing again.

"You will tell me what I want to know!"

Lance shook his head no.

The General screamed in frustration and ordered the goons to take turns making his head spin. Eventually they had him to the point he couldn't have answered even if he had wanted to. His face was cut, swollen, and bleeding. His breathing was labored and there were at least a couple of broken and a few more cracked ribs. He was pretty sure at least one shoulder was dislocated.

"Take him back to the cell, unless you wish to answer my questions now?" The general asked pure hatred dripping from his words.

Lance shook his head no confused, why would he change his mind now.

"Tomorrow the druid arrives and you will wish you had broken for me."

Lance's heart froze in his chest. He blinked and the general was gone and he was being dragged down the hall toward his cell. He was terrified.

Chapter Text

Hunk hobbled back to the cell. He passed the Hasran cells and gave them a smile, though he could tell he didn't look great from their concerned looks and gasps. He nodded and made eye contact though as he passed. He wanted to let them know that he hadn't given up.

When he got to his cell he saw the turtle alien leaving. He saw the old man look back at him and nod. Hunk nodded back and turned into his cell. Pidge was in their corner trying to eat the "food". It really only qualified as nutrition barely it shouldn't be called food. She gasped at his appearance, but he waved her off when she tried to get up.

"I'm all bandaged up, cleaned, and applied salve." He looked down at himself, his legs looked like he was wearing knee socks out of bandages and were stained with blood. His arm was the worse, that bandage was mostly red, but it had stopped bleeding. It really needed stiches. At least it was the same arm as the burn, one bum arm is better than two. He couldn't' really bandage his shoulder and back, so the claw marks were pretty obvious.

"You look like shit." She pointed out.

"Back at you," he could tell before he even touched her forehead that her fever was up. The red in her cheeks was pronounced and tiny shivers kept working their way down her body. He sat down next to her to join her for their meal.

"It is a hanger," he whispered smiling, "Happy Birthday!"

"I'm not sure it's the best present I've ever gotten, but it's pretty good," she smiled up at him.

"I promise when we get back I will make you a proper cake, but until then, want some extra paste?"

She stuck her tongue out at him. "No and I will hold you to it. I want a peanut butter cake with peanut butter frosting."

Hunk finished his food a few dobashes after Pidge and set about to clean her leg. As he unwrapped it, he could tell it was swollen and hot to the touch, the wound itself looked better, healing, but the red streak going up her leg from the wound nearly stopped his heart. It was moving up from the wound in her thigh and had made it halfway to her hip. He cleaned the wound and added the salve, but it didn't matter. It wasn't going to matter at all if he didn't get her out of here soon, before that streak made it to her heart. Blood poisoning, the infection was in her blood. He looked up into Pidge's round eyes and knew that she knew. Of course she knew she was a genius.

"Pidge, I need you to try to stay as still as you can, try not to get your heart pumping too much. We need to do what we can to slow the progression. How did your part of the plan go today?" He remembered her focusing him on getting out and he could do the same for her.

She swallowed hard, but looked up at Hunk determined, "I have one working and enough to complete another tonight."

"Good, I think we need to make our move tomorrow night. I don't think we can wait any longer."

She nodded her agreement. He shielded her from the door as she got to work on the second device. She had just finished it when the cell door opened again.

They didn't throw Lance in this time. Two of them dragged him in and left him lying on the floor. For several dobashes Hunk couldn't even move. His brain just couldn't connect that the beaten and bloody body on the floor was his friend. And then with a cry his body caught up with his mind and he rushed over to him.

"Lance, oh my quiznak, Lance?" He gently lifted his chin and checked for a pulse and breath. "He's alive." He looked over to Pidge who was pale and crying. He could feel tears track down his own face. "He's alive."

He didn't know where to begin or what to do first. He leaned back on his hips his hands fluttered over his friend afraid to touch him and cause more harm.

"Bring him over here, prop him up next to me. I think he's having trouble breathing." Pidge had noticed how shallow his breaths seemed to be and how his chest wasn't rising much.

"Okay," Hunk gently put his good arm under Lance and slid-crawled across the floor with him. He was glad he own wounds were still numb from the salve. As they were moving he noticed the bandage around Lance's thigh was dark with blood and decided he would start there. Pidge held her arm out and let him fall back against her chest partially propped up. Hunk couldn't tell if it helped much or not, but he felt better having them close.

He unwrapped the thigh bandage and washed the deep cut. Once it was cleaned he applied the salve and re-wrapped. It seemed to be older and it had mostly stopped bleeding, just dripping where it had been jostled and the scab had broke. He then started with his feet. The burns on the bottom where dirty and seemed inflamed. He cleaned those and the burns and cuts on his ankles. Hunk recognized the cuts as the work of shackles. He rinsed and reused the bandages, they didn't have enough clothes to do fresh ones. Hunk wished he'd gotten extra bandages earlier, but what he'd had he'd used and they were contaminated with his blood now.

He felt along Lance's legs and did not find any breaks there, when he got to his chest he found three broken ribs and he suspected four others were cracked. The bruising on his torso was extensive. His left shoulder was dislocated, and with Pidge's help they managed to pull it back into place, though it seemed to bring Lance closer to consciousness as he moaned, it was the first sound he had made since being back. He leaned forward slightly and Pidge got a look at his back.

"Hunk." Pidge's voice was choked and strange.

"Hmm?" He looked up from checking Lance's face and doctoring the cut on his cheek and his split lip and eyebrow.

"You'll need to work on his back too. I think they whipped him."

Hunk closed his eyes and breathed deeply. It was not time to panic or puke. Lance needed him.

"Okay. I am going to lean him forward against you so I can get a look. That's probably what caused this cut and the one on his thigh, I wondered what they were from." Pidge held Lance close to her chest, his head rested facing the wall on her shoulder.

Hunk checked his back and began cleaning. "Most of them are welts. There are only a few that are open, and it looks like someone may have cleaned them once." He managed to get salve on the worst places and then leaned him down back facing out again. They managed to prop him with minimum contact to his back. Lastly Hunk worked on his wrists. They were burned, bruised and cut, in short a horrible mess.

Once he was done he tried to wake Lance again. He had been moaning and shifting for a while.

"Lance?" He gently touched his head. "Lance?"

Ocean blue eyes blinked open at him and he smiled as much as he could around his swollen jaw. "Hey Hunkalicious." His voice was rough and soft.

"Hey Lance, we've got you all doctored up, just need to get some nutrition in you." Hunk brought the bowl forward. He had already watered it way down, using some of his own water portion, though he didn't tell Pidge. "Just sip, nice and slow." He held the bowl and tipped it gently for him. Pidge hummed softly. He thought it might be a lullaby.

Lance managed about half of the soup before he shook his head, "I can't. That's all for now."

"Okay." Hunk put the bowl to the side.

"Hey, Pidge." Lance turned his head to look at her, her face was flushed and her eyes were red. "No crying on your birthday."

"How did you know? I didn't tell you?"

"How could I forget a girl's quinceanera? I'm sorry I don't have your present here, it's hiding in my room under my bed." He managed to grin at her.

"You being not dead is my present today." She swatted him playfully on his arm.

He chuckled softly, "Glad I could get you something. There will be a proper celebration when you get back, right Hunk? Cake, decorations, music, the whole deal?"

Hunk nodded, "Promise, we are going to throw you one awesome party." His heart did a little stutter step when Lance said you not we, but he wasn't going to bring it up now.

"How's the escape plan going?" Lance asked turning more serious.

"We have two shields and located the hanger." Hunk smiled. He expected Lance to be happier about it, but he didn't smile he just nodded seriously.

"Good, 'cause we need to get out of here as soon as possible. The General said there is a druid coming tomorrow."

Chapter Text

They discussed tactics for their escape that night. They were going to make their move when No, as Pidge called him, came to bring their food. They would bring him with them so he didn't get hurt. They would make it to the hanger, take out a droid, open the door, and escape in the first ship they could get to blast open the hanger doors.

Totally simple and completely not. Lance and Pidge were barely mobile and Hunk had one good arm right now. Hunk was going to have to take out the droid so he was going to have one of the shields. Pidge and Lance argued about who was to have the other - Lance said Pidge and Pidge said Lance - and then decided to delay the decision until after Pidge's next shift in case she was able to grab a third. Lance assured them that if they could get a ship running he could figure out how to fly it. Pidge gave him a doubtful look, but he reminded her he had flown Blue within moments of sitting in the pilot's seat. She reminded him that Blue was sentient.

It came down to they didn't really have a choice. Maybe if they were lucky their own shuttle would be in the bay and that would be easier all the way around, because once they got out they would have to contact the castle.

Pidge had trouble sleeping that night. Her fever was burning and the shivering kept waking her up. She wanted to snuggle closer to Lance, but she was afraid of hurting him. This was not how she had planned to spend this birthday.

She remembered her last birthday, at home, with her family. Mom woke her up early. Matt had decorated the door to her room with signs and banners saying things like "Happy Pidge Day!" and "Birthday Girl!" and "You still stink!". She laughed and rushed down the stairs. There were peanut butter pancakes and bacon for breakfast already on the table, green balloons hanging from the chandelier, and her whole family gathered around the table singing Happy Birthday to her.

Tears slid down her face as she remembered how happy they had all been together. She remembered every detail of each face, making sure even the finest line was etched in her memory permanently. Eventually she drifted into a fitful sleep wondering if she would ever see any of them again.

When Pidge woke, she found her vision blurred and her body felt like it was burning and freezing at the same time. She must have made some sort of sound, because before she knew he was even awake Hunk was next to her offering her water.

"Pidge, try to drink."

She sipped the water carefully and it felt wonderful to her parched throat. Lance groaned and shifted next to her. She tried to move to the side and was startled by how weak she felt.

"Give her the rest of my food." Lance muttered, barely opening his eyes, "I really can't eat it Hunk."

Hunk frowned, but fetched the bowl. Pidge felt like her brain was trapped in sludge. She wanted to object, but the food was in her mouth before she even got the thought together. She frowned in frustration.

"Hunk. I don't feel so good." She was furious at the way her voice quivered.

"I know Pidge, your fever has spiked up to like 102 or something." Hunk took a damp cloth from the spare bucket and wiped her face with it.

"Tear up one of the blankets and get it wet. Put it behind her neck and at her elbows and under her armpits and under her knees. Try to cool her down before she has to go for her shift." Lance spoke from where he had settled lying on the floor.

"How do you know that will help?" Pidge asked.

He started to shrug, but winced and stopped. "It's what my mom would do for the little ones when they were sick with a high fever, seemed to work most of the time."

Hunk did as Lance suggested. His own body was crying out in pain at his movements and he couldn't make his left hand close into a fist today. Pidge did seem to be more comfortable even if she kept shivering.

Half a varga later the guards showed up for Hunk. He was marched out of the cell, looking back in worry at his nearly incapacitated friends.

"See ya later, Hunk." Lance raised one finger to wave.

Hunk smiled at the effort. "Yeah, see you later." It was more of a promise than a goodbye.

The guards came for Pidge next, she managed to get up and they let her keep the compress around her neck. It wouldn't stop her from working.

Lance felt a chill down his spine. He didn't want the others to know, but he was completely terrified of facing the druid. He couldn't help but think of Shiro's screams in the middle of the night. Whatever they had done to him had been horrible - the metal glowing arm while cool was pretty definitive proof. He was afraid they would kill him or worse get him to betray his friends. He would rather be dead than that.

A few varga later three guards came in and dragged him down the hall to the room. Always the same stupid room. He really wished he could see some other part of the ship. He didn't even bother trying to walk. He didn't want to go anyway. The table was back in the room this time and the guards lifted him and strapped him down. He put up a token struggle but a sharp blow to his cracked ribs took the breath from him and they had him strapped down before he could catch it.

"So. This is the Paladin that the Great General Zantier could not break?"

The voice alone made Lance want to puke, it was cold and slithering like a snake. The masked figure stepped up beside him and looked at him carefully.

"He does not appear to be strong. But looks can be deceiving. You have certainly proceeded at a an accelerated pace with his questioning, General. Did you think to gather all the information before I arrived? Perhaps take the credit and use it to gain position?" A bony hand reached out and grabbed his chin, forcing him to turn toward the masked face.

"He's all yours now. Don't expect me to wait around. When and if you get anything useful out of him, come and find me. I will be on the command deck." Lance could hear the General. He seemed to be preparing to leave.

"No! You won't. You will stay." The druid's face turned away toward the General. "He doesn't like you. It's better for you to be here."

The General growled, "How would you know that?"

"Because I am already working my way into his mind and his pleasure at your being dismissed was plain to read."

Lance breathed out in shock and clamped down on his mind. The General clamped down on his wrist and twisted it to the side. He screamed and forgot all about his mind as the bones grated together and splintered in his arm.

"Ah, see how helpful you are. He was trying to block me out and you stopped him so nicely." The druid placed a clawed skeletal hand on each side of Lance's face and stepped behind him where he could not see it. "Now, lets begin."

Lance felt the claws dig into his head and then nothing but blinding pain. It was like being shocked, but a thousand times more powerful and completely concentrated in his mind. The druid was ripping and shredding looking for information about the castle.

Lance could feel himself thinking about the first time he saw the castle when they landed with Blue. He struggled to put up a different picture. The melodious tunes about a sponge who lived in a pineapple at the bottom of the sea began playing through his mind.

"Gah!" The druid drew back. "His mind is much stronger than I expected. He is blocking again. Distract him."

The General grinned wickedly and twisted Lance's broken wrist. He screamed again and almost choked on vomit. They turned the entire table top to let the liquid pour out of his mouth onto the floor, and at the same time the druid was back in his mind digging for more about Voltron, more about the Castle.

His mind was playing the memory of them sitting in the castle using the mind meld machine thing to work on forming Voltron. He wrenched control back and threw out more Sponge Bob.

"Why do you keep fighting me? I will destroy your mind if I have to in order to get the needed information. Give it to me and save your sanity?" The druid's words whispered in his mind.

"My sanity? I think you underestimate what hours of this song can do to a person. You should be worried about your sanity!" He yelled back, out loud and in his mind. Then in the loudest voice he could muster he belted out "It's a small world after all, It's a small world after all, It's a small, small world!"

Chapter Text

Pidge swayed in her seat. Her eyes blurred and her hands shook. She was struggling. Kay kept looking over at her with concern and twice had reached out to keep her from falling out of her chair. At water break, Kay carried a drink back to Pidge who couldn't get out of her chair. Pidge hadn't finished the first shield yet and felt her heart breaking with fear that she might not be able to get two done today.

Pidge struggled to hurry, but every time she thought she had gotten ahead, she would find something she had done wrong. Not only was Kay going to die, but so was she. Tears were streaming down her face in frustration. This was such a stupid way to die. After all they had been through and done, to die because she couldn't hook the right wires together. She was going to die failing at the thing she was the best at and it wasn't fair. She wanted to be fifteen for more than a day.

With less than a varga to go she felt Kay's hand cover hers. She pulled Pidge's mangled shield back and placed a fully completed one in front of her. The poor one she sat in Pidge's lap. Pidge slipped it into her belt and looked up at Kay in shock. Kay smiled and gestured down and Pidge saw there was a shield in front of her as well.

"Pidge, we will not let them kill you. The others saw you save me each day and they worked together to save us today." She patted her hand against Pidge's. "How old are you?"

"Fifteen years." She answered.

Kay covered her mouth and gasped, "And is that grown for your species?"

"Um, grown?" Pidge's fuzzy brain couldn't come up with the answers.

"Are you considered an adult?"

"Oh. No, some consider 18 to be an adult, some 21. Somewhere around there." She kept blinking her eyes and trying to focus. So she missed the look of horror on Kay's face.

"And your friend, the other crewman?"

"Hunk? He's 17 I think. So's Lance." She looked over to Kay and could see the others were straining to listen as well.

"The Paladin is not of age?!"

Pidge shook her head no, though Lance would probably have argued with her that years don't matter. Matt used to say that too when he had skipped ahead grades.
Their conversation was cut short when the Galra arrived to check the shields. No one died for the second day in a row.

***

Hunk was marched back to the arena waiting area. He was placed in the last cell again. He watched as the others were forced from their cells one after another. He felt dread begin to build in his heart. They were taken out as pairs, but only one was returning after each fight. He kept glancing over at the cell next to his. The Hasran male looked fit. He had red hair, was about a foot shorter than Hunk, but looked lean and fit.

"Hey." He tried to get his attention. "My name's Hunk."

"I know who you are." He answered in a tired voice. "it doesn't matter who anyone is here, though, we are all just here to entertain or die or both." He laughed, a cold mocking sound.

"What's your name?" Hunk tried again.

"Don't you get it. I don't want to know you! If I want to live I have to kill you. I don't want to like you!" The red head turned and glared at Hunk.

"Well tough, my name's Hunk. I'm 17. I was captured by the Galra on your planet because your government betrayed us and ended up getting all of you caught too. I work for Voltron and I'm helping to free the universe from Zarkon. I like to cook and I promised my friend Pidge that I was going to make her a cake to celebrate the anniversary of her birth. She turned 15 years old yesterday in this stinking place."

"Stop!" The male put his hands over his ears and refused to listen to Hunk. He had tears streaming down his face. "It doesn't matter. I can't stop it."

"It does matter. Even if you can't stop it, it matters. It matters that you try it matters that you know my name. If you kill me it will matter if you care and are sorry, because then you will be stronger to stop it next time. It does matter!" Hunk was screaming right back with tears streaming down his face.

"Marcus," he whispered, "my name is Marcus."

Hunk reached through the cell with his hand. Marcus grasped his hand.

"Pleased to meet you, Marcus."

***

Pidge was dragged back to her cell. She tried to walk, but kept staggering into walls and the guards had gotten impatient. She was sitting on her butt in the middle of the floor when No arrived.

She couldn't help it, she felt too sick and too tired to stop it and the moment he entered the cell she burst into tears, sobs. She was alone. Their plan was already ruined.

No stared at her. Her face was red and her body shook. She wrapped her arms around herself trying to bring herself some comfort. He couldn't stand to watch it. He stepped in and put his rough hand on her shoulder.

"Is it true, little one, are you not yet considered an adult on your world?" he asked in his gravely voice.

"Yes." She sniffled, "Why does it matter?"

"It matters," he patted her soft hair, "It matters, little one. Some things cannot be tolerated." He left her an extra bucket of water and handed her a small tablet.

"Take this. It will help the fever."

She looked up at him with watery eyes, "I'm still going to try to take you with me. Our first plan didn't work, but I'll come up with another one. You don't deserve to be here either."

He nodded. No one deserved to be here, but the fire in his gut that burned over the thought that these were children in this cell would not be extinguished. He had spent many long years as a slave to the Galra, many long years since he was a rebel fighter on a doomed colony, many long years since that fire had burned. Now it was rekindled and it burned with a vengeance.

Pidge watched No leave the cell. She dried her eyes and swallowed the pill. She managed to drag the buckets and food back to the corner. She pushed down the despair and started planning again. This was no time to dwell in failure, it was time to push forward. New plan, jump the guards when they came for her tomorrow morning. Good. Now she had a plan again. She ate her paste and plotted through all the scenarios she could come up with to make the new plan work.

Chapter Text

Hunk was escorted to the narrow tunnel. He was handed a club. The guard behind him had his blaster planted firmly against Hunk's head, just in case he thought he was going to get out of here.

He made his way into the light and into the arena. Marcus was entering through the opposite door. He was wielding a short sword. Hunk knew he had reach on Marcus and the larger weapon, that didn't make him feel better when the other guy had a sword. He moved across the field familiar with the terrain. Marcus was also moving toward him. He wasn't sure what to expect. Would Marcus just lay down his weapon and refuse to fight? Hunk didn't think so. From what Marcus said if you didn't fight you were killed and Marcus wasn't any more ready to die than Hunk.

When they met at the middle of the field, Hunk circled warily. His left hand was barely gripping the club, so in reality he was wielding it one-handed, but he didn't want Marcus to know that. Hunk took in his surroundings as he was moving. Three foot to the left he saw one of the large throwing rocks, like the ones he had used in his first battle. He moved cautiously, edging toward it. Marcus's eyes flicked down and he seemed to realize what Hunk was doing.

He charged. The sword swung high and drove down at Hunk. Hunk dodged and brought the club up to block, but it was difficult. His grip on the club was challenged. He swept a leg out to try to trip Marcus, but he jumped back. Hunk scrambled up and reset. He was disappointed to see that Marcus had succeeded in driving him back from the rock.

He swung the club around in his good hand and circled back toward the rock, Marcus drove in again. He swept the sword up from low and the left this time. Hunk dodged right avoiding the blade and brought the club down on Marcus's arm instead. Marcus managed to maintain his grip on the sword, but the blow had clearly caused damage.

Hunk pushed his advantage and brought the club around for a second hit on Marcus's arm. Marcus tossed the sword to his other hand and swung it at Hunk. Mid charge Hunk couldn't completely avoid the blade and it sliced down his right side. He flung himself to the left, but landed hard.

Marcus stood and brought his blade up in the air to plunge it down into Hunk's back. It wasn't personal, he just didn't want to die. Just as the blade was about to drop, Hunk's hand wrapped around the rock and he flung it at Marcus catching him in the chest. He went down gasping for breath.

Hunk stood. The crowd was screaming and he heard a voice over the speaker. It was Malek.

"You know what must be done. Finish it."

Hunk looked down at Marcus. He was hurt bad, but he could live. He wasn't dead yet and Hunk wasn't going to be the one to do it. He dropped his club. The crowd booed and hissed.

"Oh, Hunk, I thought you had learned this lesson." A shot was fired from the stands and Marcus was dead. "You are going to regret your choice." Hunk limped to the tunnel where the guard waited. He was afraid that he might.

***

"It's a small…small…small…world…small world…tiny…itsy bitsy…stupid druids…." Lance muttered and mumbled as the druid dug through his mind. He was losing. He knew he was losing and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. He kept fighting and the druid kept shredding through his defenses. The general had broken his leg earlier below the knee and now he kept switching back and forth between his leg and wrist to "distract him" as the druid said.

He was thinking about shredding paper, how the pieces slide through the machine and come out like snow. The druid changed the snow to sand and suddenly he was in the desert in Keith's house looking at his research. They were going to find Blue, they had already rescued Shiro.

Lance pulled back on his mind and thought about the plot to Star Trek IV. He'd already been through the Star Wars movies, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and the complete Harry Potter story line - from the books not the movies. The druid would get particularly frustrated during the movie time, because it couldn't always tell what was real and what wasn't. Then Lance wondered if he could do that either, because he didn't remember Keith playing the role of Spock in that movie and since when did Pidge have an accent like Chekov?

"General?" The druid asked.

Lance's world turned white with pain again as the General slammed a rod across his broken leg. He screamed and screamed and the General laughed as he swung again. The druid drove in his brain digging deeper with each hit and each scream. He found Blue. He knocked on the barrier, but it didn't fall. Seems Blue knew better than to let a druid in. Lance pulled and pulled his mind back, he wanted it back, and then he was in the ocean, in the water swimming. The sun was shining and he was just swimming. He concentrated on the feel of the water and the sun, the smell of the salt water, the sound of gulls and laughter.

"You are indeed frustrating." The druid drew back it's hands. "Have him cleaned and bandaged. I require nourishment and I don't want him dead before I am done removing everything I can from his mind."

"Mind, mind, mind, mind over matter, if you don't mind it doesn't matter." Lance muttered his head turning from side to side.

The General huffed and shook his head in disgust. He didn't know what the druid expected to get out of him now. He had been talking nonsense for hours. He turned to the guards and ordered them bring a slave in to have the Paladin cleaned and then left the room himself.

***

Lance felt gentle hands on his face. He blinked open his eyes to see Lira standing over him.

"Peace, Lance." She ran her hand through his hair. "I am going to dress your wounds. I have water and bandages. I have sent for another to set your broken leg and arm. I am not skilled enough for that." He nodded slightly and his breath hitched trying to hold back tears.

"You have been very strong. We have seen. You have fought very well." She took her cloth and washed his face. The tears began to flow over her hand. He reminded her so of her own son. She was glad that he was still back on Hasran, but she missed him terribly.

"It's not good enough. He's still getting through, still finding them in my mind. I can't keep him out." He closed his eyes and his body shook. He looked so tired.

"Hush, I know that the druid is surprised at your strength, that you have held him at bay and he is frustrated. I heard the guards say that it does not usually take so long for the druid to do his work. You are doing well." She carefully cleaned the cut on his check and the one on his thigh. She cleaned his wrists and ankles and under the straps that were holding him to the table, where they had gouged into his skin. She couldn't help but picture her own son lying on this table and her heart hardened against the Galra. No mother's child should experience this sort of pain. She wondered where Lance's mother was and if she knew what her son was going through. She heard the door open behind her and turned to see Oman Tor enter.

"Oman." She greeted. The large green alien reached a hand out to her in a gesture of greeting.

"Lira. He lives I see." His deep gravely voice echoed in the room.

"He does. I had not thought he would be so strong after all he has been through, but they are amazing people."

"Hm…yes. Amazing children." He reached forward and lightly touched the broken leg. The bones were broken in several places, crushed by repeated blows from something. He looked through the bag he had brought and found two flat boards. He applied one to either side of the leg and wrapped them tight against the leg. The Paladin shifted and cried out, but Lira stroked his hair and whispered to him.

"The wrist is worse, young Paladin. It will cause you much pain for me to set it straight again, but if I do not then you will lose your hand. Do you understand?"

The Paladin looked up at him and nodded tightly.

"I understand No." Oman smiled at the name the little one had given him.

"Lance, just a little longer, if you can just make it through today. Just make it to tonight brave Paladin." Lira whispered.

Oman reached out to set the wrist and with a scream Lance was out again.

Chapter Text

Hunk felt his spirits fall even further when he got back to the cell and saw Pidge already eating tonight's paste. They had missed their window. He shuffled back to Pidge and sat heavily against the wall. As soon as the guards had left Pidge leaned over to whisper in his ear.

"New plan, tomorrow morning when my guards come. The worst thing is I don't know how to find No. We may have to take him with us, but we were going to come back for the others anyway. So anyway, yeah new plan."

Hunk nodded. He leaned his head back against the wall. He wanted to believe this was really the new plan, but he was having trouble thinking positive just now.

"You're bleeding!" Pidge scooted around to Hunk's other side and put pressure on his wound. The medicine No had given her seemed to be working already. She felt clearer than she had all day. She put pressure on the gash in Hunk's side. It wasn't too deep, but it was over six inches long. She got some water and washed it out. It had sand in it. The arena must have sand for the floor. Hunk barely flinched as she spread some of their remaining salve on the wound.

"Hey, how come you didn't get patched up this time?" She asked worried about him.

"Didn't do what they wanted." He answered flatly. "I wouldn't kill the other guy when I beat him."

"Good. Good for you Hunk." Pidge was proud of him. They could have easily killed Hunk for his disobedience. Hunk knew it too and stood up to them anyway.

"I don't know Pidge. They killed him anyway and Malek is going to punish me somehow. It's not gong to be good."

"Well, then we'll deal with it when and if it comes. Maybe we'll be out of here by then?" She offered trying to cheer him up.

"Maybe, but I have a bad feeling."

***

Lance woke up screaming, apparently the druid didn't need him to be awake to start digging in his head. He was dreaming about the explosion in the castle and then the contamination of the crystal. He woke up as the airlock opened.

As soon as his mind caught up to reality he pulled it back and put himself firmly at his first primary dance, trying to work up the courage to ask Vivi Harris to dance. The druid growled and pushed around further. He found himself in the Garrison sitting in the cafeteria with Pidge and Hunk. They were discussing a past exam. Suddenly the pressure stopped and the druid pulled out of his mind shouting.

"General!"

"What? I'm standing right here." he growled. He was getting really tired of doing whatever this thing wanted, but everyone knew the druids had pull with Zarkon.

"What were the names of the other human prisoners? I believe I heard one before."

"I don't know. I don't bother finding out the names of random slaves." The General snapped annoyed.

"Sir." One of the goons spoke.

"What?!" The General rounded on him.

"Sorry, sir, but I was watching in the arena when the other human fought the Darcats. His name was mentioned as Hunk, sir."

"Thank you." The druid turned back to the Paladin and jabbed his nails back into the sides of his head. He had a new target. A new suspension to be confirmed. "General?"

Zantier grinned, at least he still got to do this. He slammed his fist into Lance's side, breaking at least two ribs. Lance screamed and the druid dove into his mind again. This time seeking Hunk.

He found him as a child talking to another child, as a young man fixing a car, in a uniform standing by a primitive ship, inside the cockpit of Blue, inside the castle of Lions, and then finally wearing a Paladin's armor. He was a Paladin, the Yellow Paladin. He could feel this Paladin's crushing sorrow as he pulled this from his mind. He drew back out and realized his subject was struggling to breath as well.

"I told you not to kill him until I had all of the information I could get! You idiot! Prop him up, you've punctured his lung." The Paladin was starting to cough up blood.
The druid growled he wasn't done yet. He gestured with his hand over the side with the puncture and purple energy flew from his hand and into the Paladin. His body tensed and he screeched, a high pitched sound like an animal. When he stopped he was unconscious again.

That patch done he went back to work pulling whatever he wanted out of the mind of the unconscious Paladin, all of his natural defenses had been broken down, the only way he could stop him now was by actively resisting. The druid enjoyed the challenge of fighting the Paladin when he was conscious, but his body would not live forever and he needed the information before he died. Though he now knew he had two Paladins to work with and was determined to find out if he had three.

"General, bring me the guards who have been working with the other two human prisoners. I have questions." The druid growled. The General left the room. He would get them himself. He needed to retake some control over the situation. He was in charge of this ship, not the druid.

***

Two star systems away…

Allura banked the castle hard to the right. The ion cannon blast just missed them.

"Coran, I need the particle barrier back!"

"Working on it, Princess!" He was sliding down the hall, racing from one repair to the next.

"Shiro, Keith, what is your status?"

"Red took a hard hit, we are having trouble targeting and she's a lot slower than normal." Keith was being swarmed by fighters. "Shiro, I need help!"

"Coming." Shiro had just finished destroying a Galra cruiser and he and Black were coming back to help Keith. There were still two remaining cruisers and a lot more fighters. The new to space people they had been meeting with had naively set up a similar meeting with the Galra at the same time. It hadn't gone well. For the last five days they had being playing hide and seek with five Galra cruisers and the three extra that had shown up as back up. Allura had also been trying to reach the other Paladins with no luck. They could really use three more lions and Voltron about now.

***

The guards from the Green Paladin, as he had now gleaned from the Blue Paladin's mind, were nearly useless. They had not realized she was a Paladin and only reported that she was ill and had been getting progressively worse. The Lieutenant in charge of the Yellow Paladin had proven more useful. The druid could see great potential in this Galra.

"Lieutenant Malek," the druid purred. "Tell me more about the Yellow Paladin."

Chapter Text

Hunk and Pidge were waiting in the cell when they heard footsteps coming down the hall. The door swung open and two guards came in dragging Lance between them. He was limp and unresponsive, his arm and leg were splinted and his shirt was torn mostly off a purple glow could be seen under his skin on his left side. They laid him in the middle of the cell and stepped back.

"What did you do to him?" Hunk rushed over and knelt at Lance's side.

"I have questioned him, Yellow Paladin." A dark voice answered emphasizing Hunk's title. A robed and masked figure entered the room. "He was not cooperative, but I have learned much anyway. Such as, how is your leg, Green Paladin?"

The druid swept over toward Pidge. The two guards that had carried Lance grabbed Hunk when he made a move to intercept and held him back. Pidge scooted as far back against the wall as she could. The druid reached down and ripped open her pant leg showing the red streak going all the way to the fabric at her hip.

"Surgery, perhaps? Take it off at the hip? I have something I've been wanting to try. She might survive." Pidge shivered at the cold tone.

A large Galra in full battle uniform walked in the cell along with Lieutenant Malek. He walked up behind Pidge and pulled a knife, he pulled her up to a standing position in front of him and placed the knife against her throat. "You can play with her if she survives the night."

"Oh, Hunk, or should I say Yellow Paladin." Malek sneered. He dropped a knife on the ground in front of Lance. "I told you that you would regret your decision, didn't I?" He walked over to Hunk and pointed to the knife by Lance. "Kill him or the General will dispatch the Green Paladin. We do not need three Paladins to question."

Hunk started in horror at the Galra general holding Pidge and at Lance lying unmoving on the floor. There was no way. No way he could do that.

"It's your choice. Kill him or she will die!" Malek was nearly gleeful at the panicked look on Hunk's face.

There was just no way for him to do it. He couldn't kill Lance and Pidge was going to die. He fell on his knees tears streaming. He didn't ask. He knew Malek would not have mercy. He looked down at Lance, he was lying so still and was so pale. This wasn't a choice. He couldn't kill either of them. This was impossible. He looked to Lance's face and was surprised to see that he had opened his eyes.

"It's okay", Lance slurred barely understandable and then before Hunk could even react he grabbed the knife and drove it into his broken arm, from his wrist nearly to his elbow. Hunk screamed, he knew he did, there was so much blood. From the other side of the room he could hear Pidge screaming and struggling, calling for Lance. Hunk rushed forward and wrapped his hands around Lance's arm trying to hold the skin together to stop the blood from escaping, desperate to try anything.

The Druid standing near the General hissed, "Cheating! Not allowed!" Purple flames flew from its hands and fell on Lance's wounded arm. The heat from the flames burned Hunk's hands and he pulled back in pain. Lance wailed. His body writhed on the ground, the smell of burnt flesh filled the air. Hunk couldn't control the nausea and vomited. The fire burned the wound closed on his arm and stopped the bleeding. Malek laughed.

In the chaos no one saw Oman creep into the cell - that is no one but Pidge. For a big green turtle person he moved very quietly. When the druid struck Lance with the fire the General dropped her to enjoy the show. Pidge fell forward and crawled away into their corner. She wasn't retreating though, she had a purpose. As soon as she was away Oman made his move. He stepped behind the General and drew a blade across the General's throat. Purple galra blood splattered in the cell and he made gargled sounds as he fell.

Malek stopped laughing as Hunk stood and dove for him. One of the two guards turned to attack Hunk and pull him off of Malek and the other took aim at Oman. Pidge dove in front of Oman and as the blast reached her it was soaked into a green glowing shield. The druid began forming a ball of black and purple energy in front of it.

"See if your shield can absorb this!" It moved to finish it's spell when a thrown knife slammed into it's face, clear to the hilt.

"Guess I'm not the one with a broken brain now, huh?" Lance spat from where he kneeled on the floor as the druid fell lifeless.

Oman turned and tackled the guard who had shot at him, sending the blaster flying loose. Pidge scrambled to get the blaster. Hunk was still fighting two. He was not winning. Lance didn't have any other weapons at his disposal. When Hunk took a hard hit to his already wounded side and cried out in pain, Lance managed to get up enough to tackle the guard around the knees. He basically grabbed his legs and fell with him, knocking the guard to the ground. Lance didn't have the strength to hold him though, so the guard wasn't down long. He got up turned and kicked Lance in the side. Lance curled up in pain.

The guard grinned and leaned back to kick again when a shot fired from a blaster stopped him dead. Pidge moved to try to get a clear shot on one of the other combatants. Oman twisted behind the guard he was fighting and broke his neck. Hunk was not faring as well. Malek had him pinned against the wall. His arm pressed against Hunk's throat. Pidge fired and hit him in the shoulder forcing him to drop Hunk. Oman grabbed the blaster from the guard he had just taken out and pointed it at Malek's head.

"Stop. Now." Oman's voice didn't offer any other options.

"Are you going to kill me?" Malek sneered.

"That is up to the Yellow Paladin." Oman handed Hunk the weapon as he was climbing back to his feet. Hunk pressed the barrel against Malek's head right between his eyes. He wanted to, he really did, but at the same time he didn't. It wasn't him. It was what they tried to make him.

"We need him to get out of here." Hunk concluded. "Pidge, put the other shield on Lance. I'll use Malek for a shield."

He turned back to Malek, "Now we are going to march down to the hanger. You are going to let the other slaves go as we go past their cells. Then you are going to open the hanger and we are getting out of here."

"You'll never make it past the guards." Malek snarled.

"Actually, Paladin, I have already released the other slaves, they have secured the way to the hanger and have a ship ready." Oman smiled softly, pleased.

Hunk blinked a few times and then finally spoke, "Thank you."

"Thank you. I have lived in this world for over 10 decophoebs. You three gave me the courage to leave it behind. Let's go now and save as many as we can." Oman picked up Lance gently as Pidge had finished installing his shield and walked out into the hall.

Hunk gestured with the gun and Malek moved. Pidge brought up the rear limping heavily blaster at the ready. The Hasran cells were empty just as Oman had said. Up ahead Hunk could see the hanger doors were open and there were many Hasran slaves fighting a wave of droids coming up the main hall with a few Galran blasters. Several were using the shields like Pidge, apparently her theft had inspired them as well.

When they got to the crossroads the current wave of droids had been dealt with. Hunk saw several of the survivors from the arena on the front lines. One of them turned to him and saluted. Hunk nodded back.

"You know Malek. I've decided. I'm not going to do a thing to you. I won't kill you." Hunk stepped back and lowered the blaster.

"I will find you. I will hunt you down." Malek spat. "You will never be safe as long as I live."

"I said I wouldn't kill you. I didn't say I'd let you live." Hunk whispered as the blade of a sword pierced Malek from behind.

A Hasran slave woman hissed in Malek's ear, "That was for my brother, Marcus!"

Pidge pulled on Hunk's sleeve and guided him away from the mess. There would be time to deal later, now was the time for escaping. She was being aided by an older Hasran woman and her limp was getting worse. They led him to a large Galra shuttle, where many Hasrans were already boarding.

***

In the cockpit, Oman had sat Lance in the pilot's seat. He was doing his best to figure out the controls, but his breathing was labored and his good hand shook. He felt scrambled confused, like he couldn't remember something important, but he didn't remember what it was.

"Lance?" A gentle hand touched his shoulder.

"Lira?" He turned and smiled.

She smiled back and held out some bandages and salve, "May I dress your arm?"

Lance looked down at the broken arm in question. He wasn't questioning the numbness right now because it looked horrible. He couldn't even feel the broken bones in his wrist. Blistered and red and somehow the knife wound was already an ugly bumpy scar. He couldn't stop starring at it. He had almost killed himself. He was trembling when Lira touched his arm carefully and began applying the salve and wrapping it against a splint.

"I was glad to see Oman bring you through the door. Are all three of you, here?" She hardly dared to hope they had saved them all.

"Yes." No thanks to me, echoed in his mind.

"My heart is warmed. Perhaps some day my people will be able to make amends to the wrongs we have done to you." They were certainly going to try. It was time for the Hasran people to stand up to the Galra. When she got home she was going to do everything in her power to make it happen.

"Getting us out is a pretty big deal." Lance shook himself and tried to focus. He touched her arm with his other hand. "Thank you."

"Oh." She blinked back tears. "No, don't thank us even for that. It was the three of you who inspired our escape. We would never have done it on our own. Thank you." She kissed his forehead. She would see her son again because of the courage these human children had brought her.

He leaned into her touch. It reminded him so strongly of his mother. He heard movement and Hunk sat in the co-pilot seat next to him. He glanced over and a Hasran woman and Lira were now fussing at Pidge to sit down in another seat.

"Lance, are you sure you can do this?" Hunk asked.

"I'm sure if we wait too much longer I won't be able to. Fire it up, Hunk. I promised if you could start it, I could fly it." Lance's voice was so weak that Hunk literally had to lean closer to hear him. Hunk finally nodded and began starting the ship. Pidge was hacking into the computer and preparing to lower the forcefield over the hanger bay.

Lance turned his head to cough. It felt like he was being ripped in half, but he tried to downplay the pain for Pidge and Hunk. He was the pilot and it was his job to get his crew home. He wiped the blood he coughed into his hand on his pants leg. There was nothing to be done about that now. He wouldn't object to getting in a healing pod today, maybe it was time he got over that particular fear.

Oman stepped into the cockpit, "Everyone is aboard that is coming. Some have stayed and are attempting to take the base. With no leadership the remaining droids will not be as hard to defeat."

"Okay, engines are a go." Hunk announced as the ship roared to life.

Pidge closed the hanger doors that went into the ship and opened the forcefield.

"Let's go home." Lance whispered.

Chapter Text

When they took off from the base they thought they had gotten away clean. Four varga into the trip back to Hasran and they hadn't seen a single Galra ship. Pidge's fever was starting to spike back up. Oman said he didn't have any more of the medicine he had given her. He carried her back to the cargo area and the Hasrans made her a bed to rest on. Kay was going to try the trick of using cool rags to keep her temperature down. There was a small Hasran child sitting beside her.

"Pidge, I have more rags." The green paladin looked back toward Kay. Kay placed the rags under Pidge's knees. She had already added several others.

"Pig" The little girl echoed.

"Not quite." Pidge laughed. "Pidge."

"Pid," the little one tried, face screwed up in concentration.

"Close enough." Pidge smiled and the little girl clapped her hands. Kay had said this was her granddaughter. Her name was Nat.

Pidge could feel the fever burning under her skin. She was too hot. It wasn't good. Kay changed the cloth on her head. Her skin felt dry and hot and the cloth was cool and damp.

"Thank you," Pidge closed her eyes and relished the feeling. Maybe they would be home soon.

"Her fever is very high." Oman was standing behind Kay watching.

"Yes, nearly 40." Kay's looked up into his green eyes. "Were we too late?"

Oman shook his head, he didn't know.

***

"Hunk?"

"Yeah, Lance." Hunk opened his eyes, he had nodded off.

"Hey, you're bleeding." Lance nodded to the blood dripping on to the floor.

"Oh, huh." Hunk had found a first aid kit of sorts earlier. He pulled out a roll of bandages and began to wrap it around himself.

"You'll never get it tight like that. You need help. Come over here at least let me hold an end." Lance snapped his fingers.

Hunk chuckled and came closer. Lance used his good hand to hold the bandage, while Hunk attempted to use his good arm to wrap it around himself. Hunk had to laugh or cry, they were kind of pathetic.

"Between the two of us we could clap." He shook his head trying not to laugh too hard it hurt.

Lance started to laugh with him, but broke off into another cough. He kept doing that Hunk had noticed. When he caught his breath Hunk leaned over to check on him. He was only slightly surprised to find blood on his lips.

"How you doing?" Hunk asked.

"Not good, but I'm going to get us to Hasran. Only about a varga to go. Any luck contacting the castle?" Lance waved him off. He felt mostly dead, but there wasn't anything to do about it when they were flying back. Flying a sentient lion was not like flying a ship all on your own and while Hunk and Pidge could do it if they had to, it wasn't their thing.

"No. I've been trying and can't get through at all. I'm worried about them. I don't know why they didn't come to get us. They should have known we were missing and we weren't that hard to find." Hunk sat back down the blood loss had made him dizzy.

"You okay?" Lance noticed Hunk's sudden change in elevation.

"No, but better than you." Hunk stated.

"We can compare scars later. I just want to get us back to the castle." Lance watched his hand shaking again on the stick. He was almost done, they were almost there. He shouldn't have even started to think that. Alarms started blaring and Hunk was scrambling to figure out what was wrong.

"We have fighters incoming. There is a cruiser circling Hasran. They must have been waiting for us." Hunk hollered.

"Do we have weapons on this thing?" Lance asked trying to get his eyes focused on the screen showing the fighters coming at them. He was going to need to do some pretty fancy one handed evasive flying.

"I don't know…yes, yes, there's something here. Oman!" Hunk yelled.

"Yes, Paladin?" He stuck his head in the cockpit.

"There's a gun mounted in the rear. The control is back there, can you man it?" He asked not even looking back as his hands flew across the keyboard. "Also I need Pidge in here. She's a lot faster at accessing this stuff and I need to man the front guns."

"On it." Oman disappeared and shortly later Kay assisted Pidge into the cockpit.

"Hey guys." her voice was breathy and weak and it was clear she was struggling. Her body trembled hard, but her hands flew over the keys. "Both weapons systems are online and I have a com set up to Oman. Oman, you read?"

"Yes, little one." His voice crackled back.

"The panel in front of you should now be active. There is a display showing the targets and big purple button to shoot, should be that easy." She turned to Hunk and pointed to a panel on the right side of the cockpit.

"There is your panel Hunk. There are three guns on the front of the ship. Apparently the Galra are used to being attacked even in cargo ships. Your panel is more complicated…and…" she swayed slightly in her seat and grabbed the console in front of her. "um…yeah…but you can handle it."

"I need everyone strapped down or holding on to something like now." Lance yelled as loud as he could with what lung capacity he had right now. This was not going to be a smooth ride.

He felt Lira fasten the safety harness around him. He didn't even remember her coming in. He banked to the right. He didn't want to face the fighters head on, but there was nothing out here. He was flying a cargo ship one handed into a battle with Galra fighters that were faster and had better fire power. There was no way to survive that. He turned to Pidge and saw the same realization in her eyes. Hunk reached over and grabbed Pidge's hand. Pidge reached over and grabbed Lance's arm above the splint.

If this was it, Lance thought, at least they were going to face it together. He wished Blue was here. He closed eyes and thought of the feeling of her mind with his. If she was with him he wouldn't have any trouble taking out these fighters. He would have liked to fly in her one more time.

"Goodbye, Blue." he whispered. The fighters would be in range in ten dobashes.

***

Two star systems away…

Allura was wrapping Shiro's arm. He really should get into a pod, but with Keith in one he had refused to go until he was out. Keith floated safely, it had been a very near thing, but Coran had managed to get the cryopod system up in time. Allura wiped sweat from her eyes. She hadn't slept properly in days and with the near constant fighting she was exhausted from flying the ship. Coran was still trying to reach the other paladins. There was no word from them at all and Allura was becoming increasingly concerned.

She had just stood and was getting ready to get to the flight deck when she felt something wrong. Something was very wrong. Blue roared from her hanger and Allura could feel it. She needed to get to Lance, now. Then Yellow and Green were joining in full voice.

"Coran!" She shouted her fear evident in her voice.

"I hear them, what is it?" He jumped up, throwing off his exhaustion like it was a cloak.

"We need to get to them now. I need to wormhole. Prepare the pods. Something is very wrong. Blue is terrified." Allura ran for the control deck and she could hear Shiro on her heels.

Chapter Text

Lance went for the fighters like a crazy game of chicken. He drove the shuttle straight at them. Hunk was on the guns as soon as they were within range and that was about the time the fighters started their attack as well. They spun away and around the shuttle. This was the point Lance had been waiting for, he broke off sharply and headed for the planet.

It become pretty clear that the fighters were targeting to disable the shuttle and not just blow it up, otherwise they'd be dead already. Apparently the Galra wanted their paladin prizes back. Oman shouted from the back and one of the fighters exploded. Hunk took another out with one of his guns. There were still seven buzzing around them like bees. Lance was having a hard time getting the shuttle through the swarm.

"Ahh!" The shuttle rocked violently as it took another hit to its shields. "How are the shields holding up, Pidge?"

"We can take a couple more hits, I've channeled some extra power to them." Pidge's fingers flew across the keyboard, but her face was as white as a sheet.

"Yeah!" Hunk knocked another fighter ship out. Only a few more left, that is unless…

"Another wave of fighters approaching." Pidge announced. There were another dozen coming from the cruiser and headed their way. Two more blasts concussed the shuttle. "Shields down to 50 percent."

Lance drove forward, actually clipping one of the fighters in effort to make it to the surface. It spun the shuttle and he found himself struggling to stop the spin, by the time he had it back under control the remaining six had gotten between him and the planet and were blocking his path.

"Not good, not good." The clip had damaged one of the wings and he was having trouble trying to dodge around the fighters. They kept blasting around him if he tried to move, buffeting him and the ship and sapping both of their energies.

"Shields down to 30%, Lance if they drop too much more we won't make it through the atmosphere." Pidge hollered.

"Take that!" Hank knocked out one of the fighters as it drifted within range of his gun. The fighters were clearly aware of the blindspots on a Galra shuttle's weapons and were staying in them.

"The second wave is closing. They'll be on us in two dobashes!" Pidge yelled.

It was like hearing through a long tunnel. Lance was struggling, his breathing was shallow and fast and his hand felt cold on the stick. He couldn't get them out of this. They weren't going to die here, they were going to be recaptured and his mind refused to process what that would mean for them. His vision was starting to gray out around the edges.

"YES! YES! YES!" Hunk yelled suddenly.

"Fuck Yes!" Pidge screamed with such conviction Lance had to look over and see what had them so excited. And there right there on the screen was the most beautiful site he'd ever seen. The Black Lion was taking out the second wave of fighters and the Castle was going head to head with the cruiser.

***

Allura collapsed as the wormhole dropped them out beside Hasran and into the middle of a Galra cruiser and it's fighters. Shiro had already made his way to Black and exited as soon as they were clear of the wormhole.

"Shiro, Allura is down. There is a Galra cruiser and a contingent of fighters. I have a group of fighters shooting at a shuttle craft near the planet's atmosphere and another group of fighters is heading toward it."

"That's our Paladins." Shiro stated.

"How can you be sure? Communications are down, I can't hail them." Coran shouted bringing up the particle barrier, even though it was barely functioning.

"I just know. Black's sure too. We are moving to intercept the second wave." Black was off, still slightly damaged from the last fight.

"Okay, I'll just hold off the cruiser by myself with the barely functional barrier and no primary weapons…" Coran smiled cheerily and waved Shiro off, inside screaming at the insanity of his life.

"I know you can handle it." Shiro answered as Black blocked the second wave and began to attack.

***

"Galra shuttle to Black Lion. Black Lion come in." Pidge got back on the radio, but there was no response. "Damn, I can't tell if we aren't sending or not receiving." She began to tap away again.

With the second wave cut off Lance got a crazy idea, "Everyone hold tight." He pulled the stick and dropped sharply below the fighters. They moved to intercept, but he kept right on spinning all the way around in a loop and came up above them. He could hear Hunk puking in the background and had to smile. He set a course straight for the planet. Once the fighters figured out where he was going they were faster, but he'd set Oman and Hunk up to use their guns again. Lance howled as two more fighters were taken out.

As they made the outer atmosphere, Pidge shouted something about diverting life support to the shields, but Lance focused solely on getting them to the ground. The fighters continued to buffet around him and the shuttle took additional wing damage. They seemed to be getting a little more reckless, a little more willing to let them just blow up. As they broke atmosphere a sight caught Lance's eye that made he laugh out loud. There was a deep canyon ahead complete with a natural bridge over top.

"Just need to thread the needle." He spiraled toward the canyon and Oman was able to take out another fighter that did not anticipate the move.

"Come on Tailor, you got this." Pidge whispered to the keyboard in front of her as she diverted power back to the thrusters.

Lance laughed, hysterically as the shuttle slipped into the canyon under the natural bridge. He didn't even clip a wing. The second of the fighters behind him wasn't so lucky as Oman blasted the bridge and dropped it on the ship, taking out the third fighter in the blast. Only one remained and apparently it was no longer worried about them living because the next shot took out their starboard engine.

The shuttle lurched horribly and Lance screamed as he tried to pull it away from the canyon wall. They scrapped the side, but didn't take the full brunt. He pulled back as hard as he could.

"Pidge, divert everything into forward shields, we are going down hard." He held it as long as possible and then began the rapid decent. They had to make it down before the next bend in the canyon or they were going to be a smear on the wall. He had one last vision of the ground coming up fast and time to yell "Brace for impact!" before the lights went out.

***

Coran spun around in two quick circles before making up his mind. He checked Allura and confirmed she had passed out and was breathing fine. He activated the automated secondary defenses, transferred primary control to his tablet and went running down the hall to the damaged conduit that was stopping the primary weapon from firing.

Shiro and Black smashed through six fighters on their first run. They spun back around to find the others had scattered and begin exchanging fire.

Coran got to the conduit and found a section of crystal completely fried. It was preventing the power flow needed to activate the primary weapon. He was about to run for some parts to patch it when an alarm went off on his tablet. The particle barrier was down. The Galra cruiser would be preparing to fire. He didn't have time.

"Oh quiznak! I hope I live through this." Coran grabbed onto either side of the malfunctioning area and used his nose to press the fire button for the primary cannon on his tablet. The energy zapped through him and over to the other side. The cannon fired a direct hit on the cruiser. It was obliterated.

"Coran! Coran come in!" Shiro had heard Coran over the coms, but couldn't get him back. The cruiser was down. The fighters Shiro had been fighting were down. There were still fighters tailing the shuttle though. "Coran, I hope you are okay."

Shiro and Black pushed through the atmosphere and reached the shuttle in time to see it have an engine pod blasted off and go careening into a canyon wall before plowing into the ground. A single Galra fighter was coming back around for another shot.

"Not today." Black rushed forward and crushed it in her jaws.

Chapter Text

Pidge woke up in darkness. She was laying down on the ground, no floor, it was cold. Well at least cold to her because she felt like she was on fire. Everything hurt. She tried to focus on where she was, there was something above her. Solid, dark, hard, metal, she turned her head and realized there was the base of a chair there. She had slipped out of the harness. Apparently Galra sized harnesses are not made to hold Pidge sized passengers. The console must have held her from spinning around in the cabin.

She crawled out from under it. The cabin was wrecked. There were sparking wires and broken bits of ship everywhere. Turning to her left she saw Lance leaning against the side of the cabin. Apparently Galra harnesses weren't made to hold tall skinny teenage humans either. She army crawled over to him. She couldn't even get up on her knees. Everything was blurry and her head was spinning, but she needed to check on Lance. Part way there two hands lifted her up and placed her next to Lance.

Hunk's arms were bloody and shook, but he managed to get her there. Lance was unconscious and barely breathing. He didn't have long. Pidge's fever was raging and it wasn't clear how much damage she had taken in the crash. They were all in bad shape, so Hunk sat her next to Lance and he sat next to her. He'd tried and couldn't get the door to the cabin open. They were trapped. He could hear the Hasrans on the other side trying to get them out, but it didn't seem like they were going to get in quick enough to matter. He wrapped his arm around Pidge and over to rest on Lance's shoulder. Pidge curled up on Lance and pulled Hunk's other arm around the front of her holding his hand. Hunk ignored the blood dripping from his head wound and laid his head down on top of hers and closed his eyes.

***

Shiro was out of Black's mouth before she stopped moving. He used the jets to lower himself to the ground and he was off running for the shuttle. He could already see Hasran people pouring out of an open door in the side. The ramp wasn't down so some were on the ground helping others out.

"Hello?" He called as he approached. Startling people in duress is never a good plan and he wanted to be sure they saw him coming. He could hear mutters of Paladin and an undercurrent of fear. He wasn't sure what was going on, but he needed to find his people. "I'm looking for my friends."

"This way Black Paladin." A middle aged Hasran woman waved urgently at him from the door of the shuttle. "They are trapped in the front cabin and we cannot get through to them!"

Shiro activated his jet pack and climbed up next to her. She grabbed his arm and pulled up through the crowd. There must have been over a hundred Hasrans on the shuttle. At the front he could see several Hasrans and a large green alien trying to pry a double set of doors open.

"In there." She pointed through the doors.

"Stand back." Shiro activated his arm and sliced through the doors. Nothing as simple as metal was going to stop him from getting to his team. He pried the hot edges back with his Galra arm. Several of the Hasrans had taken a few steps back recognizing the technology, but the green alien hadn't so much as budged. Shiro scrambled through the hole he had made and the green one continued to pry a larger opening after he was in.

The lights on his armor activated and he scanned the wreckage. He finally saw them laying together in a pile on the left side of the cabin. At first glance he thought they were dead and it was like being kicked in the gut. He thought he'd lost all three, and he couldn't breath. But then he could see the rise and fall of Hunk's chest at least. He scrambled over to them, jumping over a broken chair and other strewn bits of shuttle. He reached out his human arm trembling and found a pulse on Pidge, though her skin was hot to the touch. He then moved to Lance and while it took him several panicked heartbeats he finally found a pulse there as well.

"They're alive!" He hollered back to the people working at the door. A general cheer went up. It seems these three had a few fans.

"This is the Black Paladin, calling the Castle of Lions, Castle come in." He knew the castle hadn't been receiving before, but he had been able to hear Coran, who was hopefully still in one piece. Maybe they'd gotten the radio back up.

"Shiro?" Allura's groggy voice came across the com.

"Allura, I've got them but we need pods now, all three." Shiro's voice was as close to panic as Allura had ever heard it, and given the situations they had faced that really spoke to the urgency.

"I'll bring them to you. I have your coordinates; I'm bringing the castle to the surface." She struggled to stand, knees wobbling and grabbed the controls. The castle lurched, but began moving toward the planet.

"Coran?" she called, but he did not answer. She was passing through the atmosphere when he practically crawled onto the control deck. His suit was burnt across his back and his hands were cradled against his chest. "Coran?!"

"Sorry, Princess, I managed the radio, but I'm having trouble maneuvering. I was wondering. Oh good, I see you are landing. I think I may need to take the afternoon off." He collapsed on the floor face first.

Allura couldn't do more than cry out as she was in the middle of landing the castle. And if the castle dropped the last few feet and thudded a little more than usual who could blame her. She rushed over to his side and was relieved to find him conscious.

"Coran," she reached under his arm and tried to help him up. He flinched but managed to get to his knees. "The paladins are in trouble we need to prepare the pods."

"Right-O Princess," he started to stand, but his knees refused to lift him up. "Seems I may need some assistance."

She smiled at him and helped him down to the med bay.

***

As Shiro waited for the castle to land he couldn't help but take stock of the injuries on the paladins. Hunk looked like a mummy with all the bandages wrapped around him, his face was bruised and swollen and a gash bled over his right eye. Pidge was burning with fever, one leg looked red and swollen, clearly the source of the infection and the other was bent at the wrong angle near her ankle. Lance was barely breathing, his face was white as a sheet and blood flecked on his lips and chin from each breath, he had an obviously broken leg and Shiro didn't even know where to begin describing the damage to his arm. What had happened to them? Where had they been? It was supposed to be a friendly trade with farmers, not a harrowing near death experience, at least he hoped it stayed near death. He didn't want to think of the devastation if he was to lose any one of them.

He heard the green alien manage his way through the door and a few other steps, but he did not turn as he spoke, "The castle is landing, once it is down I will need to transfer them to the cryopods to be healed."

"Will it heal the small one's fever?" The big green one asked. He had knelt down next to Shiro and gestured to her leg.

"I believe since it's an infection not an illness, that yes it will."

The alien smiled, "I am Oman Torr."

"Oman," Shiro nodded. "I am Shiro."

"Yes, the Blue Paladin called out your name, before." Oman's eyes darkened with a shadow of remembered pain.

Shiro clinched his Galra hand and it glowed with his anger. What had they done to make Lance call out to him? What had he thought when he called to his hero to save him and Shiro didn't come?

"I don't know what happened, they were supposed to be trading for crops." Shiro nearly let a sob out.

"They were betrayed over to the Galra as soon as they landed. They have been on a moon base in this system since then. There is much to tell and we will do our best to fill you in while they heal."

Shiro shuddered, he could only imagine. They had been nearly a week in enemy hands, so much could have happened, apparently had happened based on their appearance.

"Just know that they have proven themselves worthy of their titles. I know of no other beings who could endure as they did with any more honor than they showed." Oman spoke gravely.

Shiro knew he should be proud, but at the same time his heart was breaking into a million pieces, because "endure" and "proven" meant things he never would have wanted for them to experience.

"Shiro, we have landed and I will have the pods on-line by the time you get here." Allura called over the radio.

"Oman, is there anyone that could help us get them in the Lion? I'll need to fly them up out of the canyon to the castle." Oman nodded and waved to some Hasrans men who came in. There were three of them and they all were bandaged with various wounds and hurts. They moved forward and picked up Hunk, two at his arms and one at his legs, carrying him as flat as possible. Oman scooped up Pidge and an older Hasran woman fussed beside him watching her leg. Shiro reached over to lift Lance; he didn't see any way to do it without causing harm, but he was as gentle as possible.

"Mind his back, if you can. The worst ones are on the left side. The General was right handed." The Hasran woman from earlier advised. She laid Lance's mangled arm across his chest once Shiro had him up. He had caught a glimpse of the welts as he lifted him and he knew what she was describing. Someone had whipped him. Shiro blinked back tears. He was exhausted and his defenses were pretty much done.

"He will need you. They all will, when they are physically recovered." She murmured as they walked to Black. "When all is calm and safe, I will tell you what I know to help." Shiro stepped into Black and nodded. The Hasran men and the older woman had already left, but Oman was still in Black.

"If it would be okay, I would like to see them to their pods." His eyes begged even if his voice was steady and unemotional. He needed this.

"Yes. I will need help getting them there anyway. Thank you." Shiro nodded his thanks to the ones leaving and hurried into Black.

Chapter Text

Black landed lightly so as not to disturb her precious cargo. Blue, Yellow, and Green were still roaring, distressed. Shiro looked over to Oman, who was using a cloth to mop Katie's brow. She was murmuring, but had not become fully conscious. When Shiro looked to Hunk he was surprised to see warm brown eyes looking back at him.

"Shiro, you came." He whispered.

"Yeah, buddy, I'm here. Think you can walk? We're getting ready to go to the cryopods."

"I could dance if it means we're home." Hunk smiled and spoke with a little more strength. He looked back over to where Lance was leaning on his shoulder. "Lance, we're home." Lance didn't respond, but he could feel his struggling breaths against his cheek and that was enough for now.

Shiro smiled gently and laid his hand on Hunk's other shoulder. "I don't think dancing will be required today. I'm going to pick up Lance and then you see if you can use the wall to get up. If not, you'll wait here and I'll be back for you, okay?" A brief panic flickered in Hunk's eyes.

"Don't leave me alone…um…I can…I can do it." Hunk reached out and grabbed Shiro's arm.

"Okay, hey, okay, of course you can do this." Shiro tried to reassure him.

"I just don't want to be away from them, bad things happen when they take them away." Hunk choked back sobs.

"Alright, then we'll all go." Shiro reached down and picked up Lance gently. The teen had lost weight. The fact that he'd held him like this before, nearly dead so that he had a really good comparison made him want to lock him somewhere safe for the rest of his life.

Hunk scrambled up using the wall for support. Shiro noticed he was really only using one arm. The other didn't seem to have much strength and there was a bloody bandage wrapped around it. He saw what looked like claw marks on his shoulder. Once he was up he wasn't steady, but he looked determined.

Oman scooped up Katie. She was still mumbling what sounded like some sort of computer code, but he couldn't tell. It was time to get them to the med bay.

***

"Coran, I have four pods online and ready." Allura turned to the advisor sitting on the floor.

"Four, did you convince Shiro to get into a pod?" He looked up at her somewhat confused, reinforcing her decision.

"One is for you, dear friend, you need it." She gently touched his face. His eyes were glazed with pain and his hands still curled protectively against his chest. He was clearly in pain and struggling.

"I can't do that, Princess, there are repairs to be made. The Castle is barely flying!" He struggled to stand. "Besides, the Paladins come first. They need to…"

"No, Coran, one of the pods is for you, unless you want to disobey your Princess?" She gave him a grin. "The castle is sitting, not flying right now, and Shiro is adamant he will not have all the Paladins down at once if he can help it. So I will let you wait until the other three are safely in their pods, but then you will be joining them." She gestured over to the pods were Keith was already looking better than before.

As if summoned, Shiro, spun around the corner carrying Lance. Allura's hand flew to her mouth and she cried out in shock at his appearance. When Hunk walked in and Pidge was carried in her knees went weak and she nearly fell. No wonder the Lions had been so afraid.

"Put them on the exam beds." Allura gestured to the beds. "Hunk, let me help you onto this one."

"We need to hurry Allura, they aren't doing good." Shiro responded.

"Shiro, start the scanner for Lance, the suit is under the table." She turned to the one setting Pidge down. "Hello, if you would press the large button under the table there the scan will start for Pidge, then just step back. Coran, will let you know if more is needed." She pointed to the advisor on the floor.

Allura took a gentle hold on Hunk's arm and steadied him as he climbed onto the table. "I'm going to start the scan Hunk and then we will need to remove your clothes and the bandages so that the cryosuit can work." Hunk cringed, but laid back as instructed.

"What are you scanning for?" He asked.

"These scans check for foreign matter that would need to be removed, infection that needs treated, or residual energies that could impact the healing process. They also serve as the base information that is fed into the cryopod."

Hunk blinked slowly processing what she said. "Pidge's leg is infected bad, I think it's in her blood now."

Allura nodded, "The scan will show us then and tell us what medication to apply to treat the infection before she goes into the pod."

Hunk was relieved that she didn't seem overly concerned about it. Then he remembered another potential issue, "Druid magic? Is that what you mean by residual energy?"

"It's one source, yes." Allura frowned.

"Lance's side was glowing. I don't know what it did to him." Hunk pointed out.

"It will show up if it's a problem and I can double check. Thank you Hunk." Allura soothed. He was so concerned about the others he was having trouble staying still for the scan.

"Allura, Pidge's scan is done and we need some assistance." Coran called.

"Just rest and try to be still, Hunk, I'll be back." she patted his shoulder and moved.

"Okay, the scan shows infection, just like Hunk said. The source is here in her leg and I need to inject Hawthred Trioxide into the site." She cringed realizing what that meant. This sort of thing was usually Coran's job, though she was trained, it made her ill. She went to the cabinet and pulled the correct bottle and the injection device. It would automatically sync with the table and inject to the correct depth and amount. She only had to hold it in the correct locations, but it was unpleasant and painful for the patient. She loaded the medicine into the device and walked back to Pidge.

"Pidge, it's Allura, I have to put some medicine in your body to help you heal in the pod. It will likely hurt. I am sorry. Pidge, can you hear me?" Her eyes opened, but didn't seem to focus.

"Mom? Mom, I think I'm sick," her voice was thin and weak, so different from her usual tones.

"Oh," Allura touched her hand to her forehead. She looked up at the newcomer, he hadn't moved from her side. "Could you hold her leg still?" She asked and he nodded.

Allura placed the device for the first injection. It was the deepest and likely in the spot of the initial infection. It beeped and activated and Pidge screamed. Loud. Hunk jumped off the table and Lance's eyes flew open and his good arm flailed as he also tried to get up. Allura's eyes teared as she ssshhhed Pidge and ran her hand through her hair. Three more sites according to the scanner, but none of the others were so deep.

Shiro was trying to calm Lance and Hunk had come to stand next to Allura, talking to Pidge.

"Hey, Pidge, we're back at the castle. Allura just needs to give you some medicine and then you're going to go in one of those pods and be just fine." He held her hand and rubbed his thumb back and forth over it.

Allura placed the device for the second injection and this time while Pidge cried out it was quieter and the reaction in the room was also. The third and fourth sites were much easier.

"Allura!" Shiro called alarmed.

"Hunk, start removing bandages and cutting off her clothes. There is a blanket under the bed if you finish and I am not back." Hunk was every bit as much a patient as Pidge right now, but Allura was out of hands that she knew. Perhaps the newcomer could do it, but she didn't know him and it wasn't something you asked of a stranger.

"Shiro?" She rushed to Lance's side. His breathing was worse and Shiro had propped him up some to help ease it. He coughed hard and deep and managed to cough up a mouthful of blood.

"The scan picked up some residual energy, is it a problem or can we go ahead to the pod?" Shiro asked in a tense strained voice.

Allura quickly looked over the data and then used her own quintessence to check the spots indicated. Her hands glowed pink and when she passed over his side the skin glowed sickly purple. She frowned and intensified her own pick glow until the purple finally faded away. She then moved to his arm. This was brighter and took even more of her energy to dispel. She could feel herself fading and her vision tunneling out when she moved to his head. She put everything she could into her glow. He was starting to choke and his breaths were short sharp gasps, his chest hardly moving. The purple glow persisted here and was so much harder to root out, but with one last surge she pushed it away. Her knees folded and she landed less than gracefully on the floor.

"Shiro!" Coran cried out from the floor. "You must get Lance into the pod as quickly as possible. Remove his clothes, lay him flat on the table and press the green button, there is an emergency suit loaded in each table. As soon as it is on put him in the first available pod and press the pink and yellow buttons at once." He began moving over to Allura as Shiro worked frantically. Lance was drowning in his own blood, unable to breath properly likely due to puncture to his lungs. He could see Hunk sobbing as he worked on Pidge. The green fellow was looking solemn and he could feel his own tears flowing. When he reached Allura he was relieved to see the steady rise and fall of her chest. Her eyes were closed. She had simply passed out, likely due to expending too much quintessence between their recent battle piloting the castle and removing the druid's energy from Lance.

Shiro was placing Lance into the pod as Hunk activated the suit for Pidge. As soon as Lance was in Shiro moved to Pidge and placed her into the pod Coran indicated. Shiro helped Hunk back over to his table and into his suit. All of the energy seemed to have left him when Pidge's pod had activated. He didn't respond at all as Shiro unwrapped the bandages, exposing claw marks, blaster burns, and gashes. Shiro activated the scan and the instrument indicated a need for medication on the wounds on his legs. Coran helped direct him to the correct bottle and he got him doctored, in his suit and into his pod.

As Shiro was activated the pod Hunk looked up into his eyes, "Thank you."

Chapter Text

Shiro leaned against Hunk's activated pod. There was still much to be done. He turned and picked Allura up from the floor. He laid her on the last table in the room that hadn't been used in the last few varga. Keith's uniform still occupied one table.

He activated the scanner and moved over to where Coran was sitting on the floor talking with Oman.

"Coran, there are Hasrans still at the crash site that could use our help, but I don't want to leave Allura alone. Can you wait to go in the pod, I hate to ask, but...?" Shiro looked carefully at Coran, trying to judge if he would be okay or not.

"Of course, Number one, please go assist those poor people." Coran waved from the ground.

"I know we just met, but I could stay if you want." Oman offered. "I would be honored to assist Voltron."

Coran smiled up at his new friend, "Well there you have it Number One no worries."

"Coran, I think you would tell me that if you were dying, I need to know for sure you're going to be okay when I get back." Shiro asked with a tight smile.

"I will, Number One, now off with you. I'm sure Oman here will call you if something changes." Coran waved Shiro off and laid down on the floor. "I'm just lay here and talk with Oman."

When Shiro returned nearly a varga later, Coran was still on the floor snoring lightly and Allura was covered with a blanket and a pillow had been added under her head.

"Shiro." Oman nodded at him. Oman was clearing off one of the tables.

"Oman." He nodded. "The Hasrans had a lot of good things to say about you. I want to thank you. They said that they never could have made the escape without your help."

"And I never would have done it without your paladins. Shiro, I spent 10 years as a slave, I thought all the fight and care had been beaten out of me. I watched slaves come and go. I watched people die over and over. I was nothing." Oman spoke quietly as he worked. He laughed shortly, "and then three children showed up and everything changed. A little girl yelled at me to give her more food for her friend. I am three times her size and she would have punched me in the beak." He shook his head fondly and looked over to where the green paladin floated. "So much spirit, it spread out of them into those around them. It's like they brought us all together to do something great."

As he finished talking he picked Coran up and laid him on the table. He activated the scanner.

"They are pretty incredible." Shiro smiled pride for his team swelling in his heart.

Once the scan indicated no need for additional measures other than cleaning, they worked together to remove Coran's uniform. It was difficult around the burned edges, were the fabric had stuck to the wound.

"Quiznak!" Coran gritted through his teeth awakened by the pain, "that smarts."

"Are you sure there isn't anything we can put on it to numb it?" Shiro asked again as he was pulled more fabric that seemed to have melted to Coran.

"Not if I'm to get in the pod." Coran answered, the last part going high as another piece of fabric was removed from his back.

"How did this happen anyway?" Shiro asked trying to distract Coran from the cleaning as he moved to his hands.

"Oh well there is a burned out section of crystal in the primary weapon conduit. I'll need to fix that before we take off." Coran half answered.

"So the crystal blew when you were there? Is that how you got burned?"

"Oh, no I got burned acting as a bypass for the conduit." Coran answered with a smile, his injured hand twitched with the desire to twirl his mustache.

Shiro just started at him for a moment. "I see."

Shiro didn't say too much after that. Coran cried out a few times as they finished his hands. It was unsettling to Shiro to hear him in pain. Something about the advisor seemed so untouchable that realizing he had nearly died and had been hurt so badly just seemed to make the whole situation even more wrong that it already had been. He and Oman got Coran into the last pod and activated it.

Shiro checked on Allura and the scans all showed that she was sleeping deeply and just needed time to recover.

"Well, Oman, it looks like it will be at least a quintant before anyone is out of the pods or awake, can I offer you some substance? I can't promise it is good, but it is nutritious."

"Yes, well, I would be glad of something to eat that didn't come from a bucket in a Galra prison. I'm sure it's better than that."

The two walked to the kitchen discussing Galra prison food and food goo.

***

A quintant latter, the Hasran government had contacted the castle. A woman named Kay was currently in command. She informed him that the Hasrans that stayed behind on the moon base had been successful and that it was currently under their control. They were no Galra cruisers currently within range of the sensors of the base. They set up a meeting for the next quintant to further debrief when the Princess at least would be available.

A little later the alarm sounded for Keith to come out of the cryopod in a varga. Shiro was there to greet him with a warmed blanket. Truth be told it was his second attempt at warming a blanket, the first was an unfortunate smoldering pile in the trash area now. He did learn that Oman had a very loud guffawing kind of laugh.

Keith wobbled into the warmed blanket and opened his eyes to Shiro's tired smile.

"Hey Shiro." he ventured.

"Hey, yourself, you feeling okay kid? Everything healed?" Shiro held him close. The last time he held him there had been so much fear and the overwhelming smell of blood.

"Yeah, the leg feels good." He stretched it out and took a couple of steps. "Thanks for getting me to the pod." He smiled gratefully at Shiro. His surrogate brother was nothing if not dependable. And also woefully self sacrificing. "Shiro, why is your arm still wrapped? Didn't you get in a pod?"

"They were occupied. A lot has happened since you went in."

Keith spun around to see the pods, Shiro's somber tone scaring him. And even that didn't prepare him to see his friends floating there behind him. When he had gone in they were supposed to be on a safe trading mission and Coran had been fine.

"Shiro, what the hell happened?"

"Language, Keith, " Shiro admonished.

"Quiznak then Shiro, I…," he spun around eyes searching until he found Allura asleep still on one of the exam tables. "Is she okay?"

"Exhausted, but she will be." Shiro answered putting a hand on Keith's shoulder to steady him. He might not be the most expressive human on a regular basis, but his relationship with the team was very important to him and Shiro wasn't shocked by his strong reaction. "Keith, they'll all be okay, they just need time." Keith relaxed under his hand and he could feel his shoulders rise and fall with a deep breath.

"Okay, but now, I'm out, we need to get you healed up too." Keith focused amethyst eyes on Shiro.

Shiro shook his head, "No, we have other concerns. We are planetside, there is a meeting scheduled for tomorrow. The castle is not fully functioning. We have company," Shiro gestured toward Oman.

"Shiro, it will only take a varga or two to heal your arm and ribs. Don't think I forgot that you have cracked a few of those. I know enough about the pods to get it set up and get you in." Keith nodded to Oman. "And as for our company, I'm assuming he is a friend since he's walking around down here with you?" Shiro nodded and Keith continued, "so I'm Keith." Keith held out a hand to Oman.

Oman smiled and took it in his, "I am Oman Torr. It is an honor to meet another Paladin of Voltron."

"There. Now we are putting you in that pod." Keith turned to Shiro determined.

Shiro held up his hands in surrender, he had heard that tone from Keith before and this was a losing battle. "Okay, Okay, as long as it doesn't take too long."

Keith huffed and pulled him over to a table to start the process.

Chapter Text

Keith liked Oman. He didn't feel the need to fill the silence with words. They quietly worked together to clean the med bay and when that was done they began running diagnostics on the castle to find out where repairs were needed.

Within two varga, as promised, Shiro was out of the pod. It wasn't long after that Allura awakened and promptly scolded the two paladins for letting her sleep so long. She was somewhat appeased with Shiro's report of contact with the Hasran planetary government.

Another varga and the alarm letting them know that Coran would be out in an hour sounded. Keith checked the other pods and said that Hunk would be the first out, but it would be at least another quintant.

With Coran restored, Oman suggested that they ask Kay and another Hasran woman named Lira to come tomorrow morning so that they could give the story of what happened to their paladins at least as fully as they could. Allura nodded her consent and Shiro went to send the message. Coran took Oman to the kitchen to prepare a meal.

When Shiro returned he informed them that Kay had obtained some footage from the Galra facility. She said after the copy was made the original had been erased. It was clear whatever she had seen had bothered her a great deal.

Oman told them of his time with the Galra, planets visited in this area, people who were working for the Galra willingly and those being forced to comply. He explained that there were only two major Generals in this remote sector and they were able to determine it had been the other General they had taken on in the battle with the castle. Oman did not believe there was another significant facility within 15 star systems and based on the many complaints he had heard from soldiers on the moon base, it wasn't likely that the area was significant enough to warrant any immediate action to retake it.

The next morning, Kay and Lira along with four other Hasrans, three men and a woman, arrived for their informal debrief. Shiro had tried to talk Keith out of attending the meeting, but the glare he got was enough to make him give in.

"I don't really know where to begin." Kay started nervously, "other than, you have the most sincere apologies of the Hasran people. It was our betrayal that led to the capture of your paladins."

Keith glared at her and the other Hasrans. He had suspected based on what he had pieced together, but having confirmation made his blood boil.

"I understand your anger, Red Paladin, and the tale we have to tell will not lessen it. Please understand that the government that was in power, is no longer, many were killed by the Galra, and those that were not have stepped down willingly. Their mistake was grave. Our people had been trading with the Galra for years, and General Zantier used this to capture some of our children to strong arm our planet into turning over your paladins to him. Though we thought it was only one paladin at the time." Kay began the story. Lira would interject what she knew and Oman what he knew. The other Hasrans present had been in the arena and provided what they could as well.

Shiro visibly flinched at the mention of the arena, especially when he found they had billed Hunk as being of the same species as the "Champion". Keith reached over and rubbed his shoulder until he relaxed. When the druid was mentioned Shiro's arm glowed for awhile, but he stayed in control. By the time the talking was done Keith was stony faced, Shiro looked like he was watching ghosts, Allura trembled with effort at keeping a calm demeanor and Coran openly sobbed.

"Here is the footage I promised." Kay handed a disc to Shiro. "It contains the recorded interrogations and communications between the druid and whomever it reported to. I couldn't watch it all. I had to turn it off. I only provide it in the hopes that it will help you aid them to full healing of not only their bodies, but their souls as well."

"In addition, I would like to offer you any assistance we can provide with the repair of your vessel or anything you require while you are on our planet. I made a vow that my people would restore our honor by aiding Voltron and I mean to keep it. I would not be alive and here now if it were not for your brave paladins." She turned and formally offered to Allura.

"I will accept your aid, Kay. We have much work to do to repair the castle and make it ready to return to the fight." Allura stood and reached her hand out to Kay in agreement. "I would welcome the Hasran people to the Voltron alliance."

Kay took the princess's hand and the agreement was sealed. Oman left with the Hasran people. He wanted to make contact with his own people if possible and Kay offered to assist.

***

Hunk stepped out of the pod into Shiro's waiting arms. He was wrapped in a warm blanket, Coran was there and Allura and Keith, standing awkwardly nearby. He didn't realize he was crying until the sobs started and he couldn't make them stop. He was just so glad to be home, glad they were all there, even if Pidge and Lance were in pods still they were all going to be okay. He cried himself to sleep. Shiro and Coran took turns holding him and Allura whispered calming words until he simply fell into exhausted slumber.

When he woke up again he realized he was still in the med bay cocooned in a mountain of blankets. Someone was holding his hand and talking. It was Shiro. He was talking about Japan, about mountains and oceans, and fishing boats. Hunk opened his eyes and looked around. Keith was sitting propped against Lance's pod. Allura was sitting on a couch a data pad in her hand tapping away.

"Hey there," Shiro smiled at him. "Glad to see you awake. Do you think you could sit?" Hunk nodded and Shiro helped him up. "I've got some food goo here if you think you could try to eat?"

"I'd really like that Shiro, it's like Lance said that food could make Paladin surprise sound good." Coran sputtered indignantly. Hunk took the bowl and ate slowly. He knew his stomach had been through the wringer and had no desire to puke today.

"According to the scans, you are completely healed. Does everything feel okay?" Allura stepped over having sat her tablet down on the couch. She smiled and gently wiped the bangs out of his eyes. He was going to need a new headband.

"Nothing hurts." He flexed both hands, everything seemed to be back to normal. "I feel okay."

"Good." She smiled brightly. "I am very glad to hear."

Hunk ran his hand down his arm where the blaster had hit him and the beast had bitten him. He could feel the rough thickness of a scar. Tears were forming in his eyes again. He couldn't stop thinking about everything that had happened. It just rushed down on him like a mudslide.

"There is some scarring on your arm." Allura put her hand over his. "I'm sorry." Her frown matched his and she wiped a tear from his check as it started to fall.

"Oh, it's not like I'm afraid of a scar. I just didn't want to think about all of it yet." He looked up at Allura, it was best just to get this over with. No need to delay. "I shouldn't be a Paladin anymore Allura."

"Why ever not?" She asked shocked.

"I killed an innocent person." Hunk hung his head in shame. "I killed him and he was just sitting there waiting for me to do it. I shouldn't be a Paladin after that. You need someone better, stronger."

"Oh, Hunk." She wrapped him in a hug. "We do not need another Paladin. The Hasrans told us what happened, we know the whole story. You did not have a choice. That Galra," she spit the word out of her mouth distastefully, "would have kept killing if you had not done what you did. You had no choice and you behaved so honorably."

"It doesn't feel that way." Hunk felt wrong, dirty, he'd killed an innocent, fought and killed for entertainment, he didn't feel worthy.

"Hunk, what you did was honorable. The situation you were put in was not. You have to find the difference." Shiro put his hand on Hunk's shoulder. "Believe me when I say I understand how you feel."

Hunk nodded, Shiro would understand, he spent much longer in the arena than Hunk did.

"I wish Hunk, that I could say I behaved as honorably as you did the entire time I was in the arena, but I cannot. I could not be more proud of you and would never think of replacing you as paladin."

"As Shiro said, Yellow could not have chosen better." Allura nodded decisively as if that was the final say on the topic.

Hunk smiled, Yellow, he could already feel her warmth spreading in his mind. She was not displeased. She was proud of him. She was glad he was her Paladin.

Chapter Text

Hunk was certain that Keith was following him. He'd gone to his room and changed. When he came out Keith was in the hall. He'd gone to the kitchen and gotten something to drink. Keith had lounged in the common area. He'd walked up to the control room to see if he could help with repairs. Allura had politely told him that he could tomorrow, but he needed to rest today. Keith was outside the control room when he left.

"Okay, you are making me paranoid, are you following me?" Hunk stopped to ask Keith as he passed him. To his surprise Keith actually blushed, like red cheeks and bashful, blushed.

"Oh, I didn't think you'd notice." He answered quietly.

"If you were practicing your ninja skills I think you need more practice." He offered a smile.

"I wasn't I just, I don't know, wanted to make sure you were okay? I mean, Shiro gets, like flashbacks and stuff sometimes. I kind of know what bothers him now, but at first I never knew what would bother him. I just wanted to be there if you needed me." He was staring at the floor at this point and Hunk couldn't remember him ever talking so much about feelings. He was incredibly touched, Keith had been watching out for him, also sort of freaked out because he hadn't thought about flashbacks.

"That's really nice of you. I mean, really, thanks Keith." Hunk would have grabbed him in a hug, but everything about him screamed don't, so he settled for putting a hand on his shoulder. "I am supposed to be resting, but I need something to do and I was hoping to do some cooking. Would you like to join me? It's more fun with someone to talk to."

"Yeah, Hunk, I can do that. I would like that." Keith gave him a genuine smile.

"Maybe you could tell me a little about what happened to you guys, I mean what happened to the castle?" Hunk hooked his arm around Keith's and started leading him off to the kitchen.

"Well, when we got to the meet and greet, the planet leaders told us they had invited another "space faring race". They were all excited to have met two aliens at the same time." Keith shook his head. "And then the Galra ships showed up. It went really downhill from there." Keith walked with Hunk to the kitchen continuing the story as they went.

When Shiro found them later Keith had flour in his hair and on his face. He was attempting to knead some sort of dough. Hunk was humming and stirring a large cookpot that sat on the stovetop. He just sat and watched them for awhile. Keith was nervous about what he was doing and kept asking Hunk questions. Hunk calmly answered each one and kept encouraging Keith that he was doing fine. Shiro noticed ever few minutes Hunk would look over at a tablet propped up on the counter and he wondered what it was. Craning his neck around he saw it was a security feed from the med bay and he could see Lance and Pidge's pods.

Keith looked up and made eye contact. Shiro smiled to reassure him and he nodded back.

"Hunk, does it look done?" Keith held the dough up for Hunk to look at.

"Here, you stir for a minute and let me check. I can't tell just by looking at it. It has to feel right." They switched places and Hunk floured his hands before kneading the dough a few times. "Yep it's ready. Let's just do a big loaf so we can get it into the oven. You want to shape it?"

"Um…no. I don't know how."

"Okay, I'll do this one, but just watch it's easy and next time I'm sure you'll have it no problem." Hunk rolled the loafed and then pulled and folded it onto it self over and over tucking the bits to the bottom. "This is a really quick and easy way to do this. You can get loads fancier. The one time I had to make french bread it took me like six hours. But I think rustic goes better with the stew anyway." Hunk turned and finally noticed Shiro. "Oh, hey, lunch in about an hour? It's a little later than usual, but we wanted to do the bread and the first batch did not go well." Hunk gestured and Shiro noticed a white blob floating on the ceiling. "When we set it out to rise…it really…rose."

Hunk smiled warmly and Shiro couldn't do anything, but smile back. It was good to see Hunk back in his element. "It smells worth waiting on. I'll let Coran and Allura know. We have communications fully restored and the particle barrier is back up to 50%. Just thought you'd want to know how the repairs were going."

"I can help Shiro, really, I'm okay." Hunk offered as he put the bread in the oven.

"No, you need to rest at least as long as you were in the pod according to Coran…now if I could get him to follow his own rules…" Shiro smiled and headed back into the hall to track down the two Alteans.

***

"Allura hand me the, yes, that's the one." Coran's feet were sticking out of the wall and Allura was sitting beside him with a pile of tools on the ground. She had grease on her face and her hair was pulled into a tight bun, but bits and pieces were sticking out. She was wearing what looked like pink overalls, they also had what looked like grease on them, though come to think of it he didn't remember seeing anything in the castle that would need grease.
Honestly they were kind of cute and Shiro had to muffle a laugh under a cough. Allura looked up at him and smiled brightly.

"Oh hello, Shiro," she handed something else to Coran.

"Oh, yes, very good, I needed that." His voice echoed out of the wall.

"You've done this before?" He asked kneeling down next to her.

"Oh yes, I used to help Coran work on the castle when I was young. I would follow him all around carrying the toolkit." She patted a worn tool bag that had what looked like a child's drawings in pink marker decorating it.

"Young, huh? You're not exactly old, Allura." Shiro smiled and wiped the smudge from her cheek with his thumb.

She blushed and looked amused, "And you are an old man?"

"After this week, I feel like one. Where do you need me for the repairs?"

"Number One, is that you?" Coran called before a banging sound and some grumbling indicated he might have hit his head.

"Yeah, Coran."

He slid out from wall and handed Shiro a tablet. "Here, here, and here," he pointed to places on a picture of the castle. "I need a better idea of the damage in these areas, can you take Black out and get a visual. Just call me on the com when you're there. The sensors are not reading clearly."

"No problem, Coran. I'm sure Black wouldn't mind stretching her legs."

"Technically she doesn't need to stretch anything, she doesn't have muscles…" Coran paused at the look Shiro gave him, "oh this is another of your earth expressions."

Shiro patted Coran on the back and headed out.

"Alright, Princess, on to the next repair." Coran stood wiping his hands on his orange coveralls and twitching his mustache.

"Yes, Coran." Allura pulled the tools together and followed along, happy childhood memories chasing away her current woes.

Chapter Text

It was later that evening when the first flashback hit him. It was the blaster fire from the training room. Keith had gone off to train and Hunk had been watching Pidge and Lance in the med bay. The tablet had worked for a while, but then he had to go and see them in person. About a varga later he had been satisfied and thought he'd go and get Keith. Hunk had been touched by how kind Keith was and was pleased to see the older boy opening up to him some. Hunk got the feeling that Keith had been alone a lot on earth. And he spent a lot of time alone on the castle, but maybe it wasn't always because he wanted to be, maybe he was just used to it.

So it was at the doorway to the training room, with his hand on the door panel that he froze. The blasters sounded and suddenly he wasn't there anymore…

He climbed down from the rock and held the remaining rock in his right hand. He could hear the last two droids approaching. The one aligned with his rock and the one to the far right of the field. He waited until he could just see the one to the far right and spun to the left of his rock bring the rock down on to the head of the second droid. It's arms tried to throw him back, but it was too late to stop his attack.

"Hunk!" Keith was yelling at him. Hunk blinked his eyes. Keith was on the ground by the door holding his chest. Hunk was sitting on his butt on the other side of the door. Hunk realized his hands were clutched in fists and Keith had tears in his eyes.

"Did I? What happened? Did I hit you?" Hunk was starting to hyperventilate.

"I'm okay, you just surprised me. I'm okay." Keith was on his knees next to Hunk. He took his hand and tried to make eye contact. "Look at me, Hunk. Breath with me - in and out, in and out - that's it. Nice and slow, good, you can do this."

Hunk slowly calmed down and looked at Keith with tear-filled eyes. "I hit you."

"Yeah, but I have my armor on." Keith patted his chest. "And I'm tough." He gave Hunk a quick smile.

Hunk smiled back tentatively.

"So flashback?" Keith asked.

"Yeah, I was in the arena fighting droids. I think it was the blaster fire." Hunk stood slowly reminding himself he was in the castle and that he was safe.

***

After the evening meal the alarm sounded warning them that Pidge would be out in about an hour. They were waiting for her when the pod opened. She practically jumped out into Shiro's arms and the warm blanket.

"Good to see you, Katie." Shiro wrapped her up and carried her over to the couch they had stationed in the med bay.

"Don't call me that," was muttered from within the blankets.

"Pidge," Shiro corrected.

She poked out of the blanket burrito and Hunk handed her glasses over to her. Her eyes roamed around the room taking in each face and finding Lance in the pod. She relaxed back into the blankets comforted by their presence.

"Hey, how are you?" Hunk asked.

"I am cold." She snuggled deeper into the blanket. Shiro rubbed his hands over her arms trying to get more heat into her. She shivered again and looked over to Lance her eyes glazing slightly.

"Pidge, hey, you're okay. He's going to be okay." Hunk laid his hand on her cheek getting her attention. She shivered again, but her eyes focused back on Hunk.

"Of course, I'm fine, just cold." Her voice was small, but steady.

***

When Oman heard that Pidge had awoken he requested a visit to the castle. He found her in the control room. She was arguing with the Princess, he could hear her as he came down the hall.

"Allura, I'm just typing on a keyboard, that doesn't count as work." Pidge whined.

"You heard Coran, rest. This is not rest. You need time to completely recover." She reasoned.

"I need to get back to my life. I need to update my search for Dad and Matt with the information we downloaded from the Galra base."

"And all of that can be done when you recover. I understand, Pidge, but your health comes first. While the pods have physically healed your wounds and the infection, your body needs time to recharge the energy it used. Your quintessence has been lowered and needs time to recover." Allura sounded frustrated, maybe she had explained this a couple of times already.

Oman walked into the room. The little one was standing nose to nose with the Princess a computer clutched to her chest that the Princess was trying to pry away.

"Hello, little one." Oman called.

"No! Hello!" Pidge yanked the computer free and turned to him with a smile. "Or Oman I guess, I heard that's your real name."

"It is," he confirmed. "It is good to see you."

"Told you that we would get out of there." She smiled smugly at him.

"So you did. I should never have doubted your resolve." He chuckled softly.

"Perhaps, Pidge, you would take Oman on a tour of the castle." Allura offered eyeing the computer like she was still trying to get it.

"No, I mean, Oman, would you like to see the castle?" Pidge offered.

"I have only seen a small portion. It would be wonderful to see more." Oman inclined his head.

"Then you can leave your tablet here." Allura offered.

"Nope!" Pidge smiled and waved as she took Oman's hand and lead him out of the control room leaving Allura behind.

***

"So on her twelfth birthday, my wife bought her a lovely dress. It was pink and had bows and ribbons, very appropriate for a beautiful young lady on my home world. She took one look at it and turned to me and asked if she could trade it in for a Ridingboard…a board the hovers over the ground and you balance upon it as it moves." Oman held his hand out and moved it in a serpentine type motion. "You should have seen my wife's face. I laughed so hard. Our oldest would have loved the dress, Opal, enjoyed dressing up and dances and all of those things, but Malla," Oman shook his head. "That child took pleasure in doing everything she wasn't supposed to do. She once threw a "clothing optional" party at our home when we were away for the weekend."

Pidge giggled. Oman had been telling her stories of his family for better than a varga. He was so animated and happy, it was almost better to have a new name for him.

"Oman, I would very much like to meet her." Pidge answered.

"I would like that, too, Pidge, but I'm afraid you cannot." Oman sobered. "Malla was taken by the Galra five years after I was captured. I found out yesterday when I contacted my home. She had joined the rebels and was captured delivering supplies to a world under a barricade. I don't know where she is." Two tears slid down his face.

"I don't know where my family is either Oman. I came here to find them. I have been searching prisoner records and databases since I got here. My dad and my brother are out there somewhere and I'm going to find them." Her jaw set and her eyes bored into his. He knew not to doubt her again.

"I believe that you will, little one. And I will find my Malla. I will search for her as well."

"Oh damn! I just had a brilliant idea. We are going to input Malla's data into my search program. I already have tons of data, maybe she's already in here." Pidge tapped her computer. "And if she's not, I can search for her every time I search for Matt and Dad." Pidge cracked open the computer.

Oman put his hand over the computer pushing it closed, "Tomorrow, I will not risk your health even for a day more with Malla. I will be back in the morning and we can look together."

"Okay, fine," Pidge huffed a little, she wanted to get started right away, but she would need details from Oman to get the search right. Then again, they couldn't stop her from downloading data tonight so that she had more to search through tomorrow. "I get it. Tomorrow, but I'm starting first thing in the morning, so don't be late."

She smiled and they went back to story time. She told him of the time she had filled Matt's pillow with chocolate pudding and the time her Dad had programed a drone to deliver flowers to her mother. She didn't even notice when she started yawning or when her eyes drifted shut or when Allura slipped the computer from her grasp or when Shiro covered her with a blanket not even when Oman left smiling fondly.

Chapter Text

It was midday the next day when Allura finally caved and handed over the computer. A full three varga before she had intended, but her sanity required it. Pidge had made it her personal mission to drive the Princess insane until she got it back. The green paladin hadn't been allowed to help with the repairs yet as she was still resting and she didn't have anything to distract her. Allura decided then and there that Pidge must never be bored. Bad things might happen if Pidge were allowed to stay in that state for too long.

Oman arrived and by the evening meal the computer had been updated with new data from the moon base and inputted with Oman's daughter's information and the computer had started it's search. Keith had made supper since Hunk was working on the castle repairs. Most everyone was happy about it, though Coran and Allura were highly confused as to why something called chili was so very hot.

"This is really good Keith." Hunk offered, finishing his second bowl.

"It is, I like spicy stuff and I feel like I'm still cold from the cryopod, this is making me finally feel warm." Pidge took another bite savoring the burn.

"It's good as always Keith." Shiro complimented.

Oman, declined as he preferred a vegetarian diet and was partaking in food goo that he actually seemed to like. Allura and Coran were chugging hydration pouches between bites, but assured everyone that they would be okay. Hunk suggested adding something he found that was similar to sour cream and they seemed to be able to consume the food much easier after that.

They had half expected Lance to come out of the pod tonight, but after Coran checked he said it would be sometime tomorrow. The castle repairs were going well. The Hasrans had provided labor and materials to assist as promised and it had made a world of difference.

One by one they wondered off to their rooms for the night, or off to his temporary home in Oman's case, everyone except Shiro. He sat on the couch and worried. Hunk had been very open about his experiences, he'd already talked to himself, Coran and Keith. He wasn't sure if he'd talked to Allura or not after the first time, but it wouldn't surprise him. He had already experienced a flashback and had dealt with it as well as could be expected. But Katie hadn't talked to anyone. She hadn't cried. She hadn't hardly reacted other than she seemed to constantly be cold. Shiro was worried she was bottling it up and that eventually it was going to have to come out or she was going to explode.

He was right to worry, but he didn't have to worry long. As he walked past Katie's room he heard screaming. He rushed in and found her flailing in the grips of a nightmare.

"No! No! Stop!" She accidently connected with Shiro's nose as he tried to catch the arms wiping about.

"Pidge! Pidge!" He tried to get her attention. He got a hold of her arms and her eyes flew opening, still screaming at the top of her lungs, she didn't seem to see him.

Shiro could hear Keith and Hunk arrive at the door. Their rooms were too close for them not to notice this much noise.

Finally Pidge stilled in his arms and actually looked at him.

"Shiro, why are you here, and your nose is bleeding." She seemed calm enough. "Keith, Hunk, I'm sorry if I woke you."

"Do you need us, Pidge?" Hunk asked. "We can stay."

"Sure." Keith offered.

"No, I'm fine, really." She gave them a smile and they slipped out the door. Shiro was still sitting on her bed holding his nose. "I'm fine, Shiro."

"Didn't seem that way, Pidge." He was a little nasally with his pinched nose. "You can't just ignore it. It won't get better. I know." He managed to catch her eye and get her full attention.

"I just want to go back to my life, Shiro. I didn't get tortured. I didn't have to fight in the arena. I built some shields and then came home." She dropped her eye contact partway through.

"No, you were shot, you nearly died, you watched others die, you were feverish and in pain, you were deprived of proper food, you nearly froze…Pidge that stuff counts."

"I should be okay, Shiro, I need to be okay. I have things to do. I have to get back to looking for Matt and Dad. I don't have time to have a little pity party for myself." Pidge started crying.

"Recovering from what you went through is not a pity party. It won't stop you from doing what you need to do, but you need to heal, not just your body. Pidge, this does not make you weak." Shiro drew his arms around her. "Katie, what you went through was horrible and it will take time to get better."

"I just want it not to be real. I don't want to have to recover. I just want to be better." She yelled in his shoulder.

"Katie, I will do everything I can to make this easier for you. So will everyone else on this ship, you just need to let us help you." She nodded into his shoulder.

"So, you know what happened? Did Hunk tell you?"

"Some, some the Hasran's told us, your friends Kay and Oman were able to fill in much of what happened to you, but not all. Do you want to talk about it? Maybe what your dream was about?"

"In my dream I was in the cell with Lance, and it was so cold. He wasn't shivering anymore, but I was and my leg hurt so bad. Then they came to take me away, but when I turned around it wasn't Lance anymore it was Matt and he was dead." She sobbed softly. "When I was there I kept thinking about them, wondering if this is what they are going through, what you went through." She raised watery eyes and looked up at him.

Shiro couldn't stop his own tears, he too wondered what Matt and Sam were going through. Wondered who they would be when they finally found them. He refused to consider that they might not be alive. It wasn't a possibility he could live with.

"We are going to get them back, Katie. We are going to find them and bring them home and in the meantime, they are strong, just like you, and they will stay alive, just like you did. And when we get them back we'll know what they went through and we'll be ready to help them, right?"

She wiped the tears from her eyes and nodded. She gave him a sad smile, "I'm fifteen now, you know. My birthday was last week."

Shiro's mouth hung open. He had known it was coming up, but with the battle and recovery, he'd forgotten. Finally he managed a smile for her.

"You know, my birthday is February 29th, so I very rarely got to have a party on my birthday. On the years when I didn't have a birthday, my grandmother would tell me that they were special years and that I was one of the few people in the world that got to pick my birthday, so she would have me pick a day that I wanted to be my birthday for the year and that was the day we would celebrate. I'm thinking that we need to do that for you this year. Pick a day and for this year that will be your birthday."

Pidge grinned, "I think four quintants from today. The castle should finish repairs in three and then I can celebrate properly before we leave."

"I think that is perfect. I will let everyone know and you have to follow the rules. You won't officially be fifteen until then." He patted her blankets back down around her and she curled back up for sleep.

"I do feel better after talking to you."

"I know it always helps me."

Chapter Text

The next morning, Pidge was quieter than usual, and when Hunk asked if she was okay, she said that she would be. He had, of course, given her a huge hug. Keith had awkwardly patted her back and Shiro had smiled proudly. The castle work was going well, all primary and secondary systems were on-line and they had moved on the upgrades and cosmetic repairs. There was only one piece that needed to fall back into place and their world would be restored to right again. Coran said it would be after lunch.

Pidge happily applied herself to upgrading the shields in the Paladin armor. The technology she had learned form the Hasran shields should enhance their own shields ability to resist blaster fire by nearly 30 percent. Her search program was running in the background of her computer humming away. No hits yet, but she knew it would take time.

Some of the other fighters from the arena showed up at the castle and took Hunk for a tour of the planet. They had remembered his love of cooking and wanted to fulfill their original promise to teach him about the foods grown on their world. Keith tagged along, looking at them all a little suspiciously and carrying his concealed knife with him just in case.

Shiro was meeting with planet officials to give his advice on their proposed planetary defense strategy. He had more military-based training than anyone on their planet. Coran was patching ceiling tile in the main hall, hanging from a rope in a less than safe looking manner. Allura was updating data in their computer for this system and reviewing their meet and greet procedures, some changes were in order.

Without any prompting lunch was a hurried affair, and when the alarm went off indicating Lance would be out within the hour, everyone practically ran down to the med bay. Hunk warmed the blanket and he was waiting to catch Lance when the pod slid open.

Lance stumbled out and into the waiting blanket. He blinked his eyes and tried to focus. He was back in the castle. He looked around and everyone was here. His brain was having a really hard time catching up with the fact that he was not dead.

"Lance? You okay?" Hunk asked from the other side of the warm blanket. "All healed up?"

Was he all healed, he wondered. A quick inventory didn't find any pains and he wasn't feeling sick, just cold and hungry. So he shook his head yes. Yes, he was healed. He just couldn't seem to find any words right now. He felt kind of numb and out of it, like he wasn't really in his body, it was just moving without him.

"Lance?" Shiro asked. He looked over at Shiro and gave him a nod. He didn't have words for him or even a smile. He just didn't have them. "Hey, how about we get you something to eat? You hungry?" Lance nodded, he was hungry.

"I'll get it." Keith offered and was off running for the kitchen. A quiet Lance unnerved him far more than he'd ever admit.

Coran came over to the other side of Hunk and helped him guide Lance over to the couch. "I checked the pod readout and it seems everything is 100% in the clear. You should have no lasting physical impacts from your wounds." Lance looked at him and nodded. Coran's throat closed up a little and he had to take a minute to collect himself. He wasn't sure what he had expected from Lance when he got out of the pod, but silence was not it.

Keith got back with the food goo and Lance ate it sitting on the coach. Hunk sat next to him and kept the blanket around his shoulders. When Pidge edged in close, Lance patted the other side of the couch and she crawled up too. By the time he was finishing the goo his eyes were starting to slide shut. Hunk wrapped his arms around him and Lance leaned back against his chest, relaxing and starting to drift to sleep. Pidge started to get up, but his arm snapped out and he grabbed her wrist. He looked silently at her begging her to stay, so she curled up at the end of the couch and propped her legs over his. Shiro added a couple of extra blankets to the pile and with an arm around Keith headed back into the castle. Allura nodded to Coran as she left. She had no doubt that the advisor would be staying and watching over them as they rested.

***

When Lance woke, Pidge was tapping away at her computer and Hunk was reading a book. Neither of them had moved from their spots. Their presence made him feel safe. He wanted to say "Hey" and crack a joke, but he just couldn't make his mouth work. He felt like part of him was still asleep, still healing in the pod. Hunk noticed he was awake first. He nudged him with his elbow and gave him a grin. Lance leaned his head against Hunk's arm.

"Hey, you want to go get cleaned up? I'll walk you to the showers?" Hunk wasn't comfortable leaving Lance alone. Not when he was so quiet. He hadn't said a word since he'd gotten out of the pod. Unlike the others, Hunk had seen Lance quiet before. When he had found out he didn't make fighter pilot he hadn't spoken for hours. At the time it had sincerely freaked Hunk out because, quiet and Lance do not go together in the same sentence. He told Hunk later that sometimes feelings are too big to feel all at once and he'd just needed time to figure out how to he was going to let himself feel about it all.

He nodded and Hunk walked quietly with him to the shower. Lance might not usually be quiet, but Hunk's dad was one of the quietest people ever. He just didn't feel the need to "fill the air with words" as he said. Hunk had grown up used to just quietly being with someone he loved and he had found so often in life when someone needed comforted it was the perfect way to be. Lance didn't smile, he didn't talk, he really didn't look much at Hunk, but somehow Hunk knew that being there, just making sure he wasn't alone was the right thing to do.

***

Pidge scurried off after Lance left. She was feeling sad again and she needed to find something to do. She thought about finding Shiro to talk to, but decided maybe not yet. Shiro had looked as freaked out as she felt when Lance hadn't so much as made a sound. She had been expecting screaming and crying or joking and pretending everything was okay. This hadn't even made her list of things that could happen. Sighing she found herself at Green's hanger. She hadn't been to see Green yet. She knew Hunk had been to see Yellow, but she just wasn't sure what to think about specifically going to see a robot lion. It seemed strange to think of a machine like a person, but she was coming to feel there was so much more to Green that just parts and pieces and maybe Altean magic was more than just complex science. As she entered the hanger, Green's familiar presence swirled around in her mind. Sharp and inquisitive, but today there was something remorseful and sad.

"What is it Green?" She walked over and up in Green, to the pilot's chair. Curling up she focused on Green and their link. There was the sadness, the fear? "What's wrong?" Green showed her an equation. There were statistics and variables. Pidge started picking it apart. The odds of surviving a Galra prison, compounded with the prestige of the prisoner and the length of the stay, the nature of the Galra in charge of the prison, the presence or absence of a druid. So many variables, so many unknowns, and no way to calculate the result. No way to know for sure that she was going to make it back. "You were worried about me." Pidge looked about in awe, glowing lights switches, buttons, every bit a machine, but one that had worried for her. "I love you, too, Green. I'm going to be okay." She promised. Feelings of pride and confidence filled her from Green. "I'm glad I'm your paladin too!"

***

Hunk was getting worried. Lance had been in the shower a long time and still hadn't come out. He covered his eyes and stepped into the shower area.
"Lance, I'm giving you a chance to get dressed if you aren't, but I was worried about you." Hunk waited and heard some shuffling somewhere in front of him. When the sound stopped he uncovered his eyes.

Lance was sitting on the bench outside of the showers with a towel wrapped around his waist. His hair was dripping and he was shivering, like he hadn't really bothered to dry off. He wasn't even looking at Hunk he was just staring at his arm. His arm that still had the ugly scarring. There was a clearly jagged line from his wrist to the inside of his elbow. Around it the skin was puckered and twisted, scarred from the druid's fire spell. Hunk realized there were tears dropping onto his arm and Lance was silently crying.

"Oh, Lance." Hunk pulled a second towel out of the bin on the wall. Advanced Alteans had hit the jackpot of great ideas when they invented warmed storage cabinets for shower towels. He put the towel around Lance and could feel how cold his skin was under the towel. He wondered if he'd been sitting here nearly the entire time. He got another towel and dried Lance's hair. He helped him stand and handed him clothes to put on. Lance moved almost robotically, doing what Hunk asked, but not responding beyond that. His eyes kept drifting back to his arm. He looked so lost. The tears had stopped falling by the time he was dressed and Hunk lead him to the common room. He sat him on a couch and went to fetch him some more food goo.

Lance hadn't even moved while he was gone. He just sat and stared into the distance, not seeing really what was in front of him. Hunk wondered what he was seeing. He wondered what he was thinking. Lance's hand moved up and down rubbing his scarred arm. Hunk sat down and handed him the food goo. He started eating automatically. Hunk sighed.

"Lance, I'm here for you, when you're ready. I'm here." Hunk's words echoed in Lance's mind. He heard him and he was grateful. He knew Hunk was with him, helping him, it was like his mind was trapped in a hole and it took all of his energy just to look up and out of it. He wasn't ready to try to climb out just yet, not even with help.

Chapter Text

Lance had patted Hunk on the back like three times before he shoved him out of his room. It was obvious Hunk was exhausted and needed to rest. It was also just as obvious that he wasn't going to rest with Lance, because he kept watching him like an obsessive compulsive mother hen. The last thing Lance wanted was for his friend to suffer more because of him, so out the door he sent him. He knew that Hunk was worried he wasn't speaking, he knew they all were, but he just didn't feel like he could.

That night they were assured that Lance still had a voice. Shiro and Keith were walking back to their rooms from the training area. Shiro had woken up and found Keith doing late night training alone and was ushering him back to bed. Shiro heard it first and went running to Lance's room. Lance was lying in his bed tossing and turning, screaming and screaming.

"Lance!" He rushed over and put his hand on Lance's shoulder. Lance screeched and scrambled backwards away from the touch.

"Lance?" Shiro edged forward. He didn't try to touch him again, he was just trying to get him to hear him. "Hey, buddy, you're in your room. You are in the Castle of Lions. You're safe." He talked quietly and smoothly. "Lance, it's Shiro can you hear me?"

"Sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry." He looked at Shiro, and tears started streaming from his eyes. "I told them your name. I don't remember. I don't remember doing it, but I must have and I don't know why and I'm sorry."

"Hey, nothing to be sorry about, Lance. Nothing." Shiro edged closer and Lance didn't retreat, but pulled his arms up defensively.

Shiro crept slowly forward until he could put his hand out and touch Lance's foot. Lance flinched, but didn't move. Shiro continued forward, slowly allowing Lance to adjust to his nearness. Eventually he was close enough to put his arms around him. Lance stiffened and then relaxed into Shiro's hug. He sobbed. Shiro rubbed his back and he hummed softly.

Keith stood awkwardly at the door, he knew this song. Shiro used to hum it to him when he couldn't sleep at night. It was a lullaby that his mother used to sing to Shiro when he was small. Something about horses or ponies. Shiro had told him the words once and they were actually kind of creepy, but the music was soothing.

Lance finally fell back to sleep. Curling up against Shiro with his hands gripped tightly onto the Black Paladin's shirt. Keith remembered doing that was well, he remembered nightmares that left him terrified to sleep, terrified that when he woke up he'd be alone.

"Shiro, we are going to have to watch those videos." Keith didn't beat around the bush.

With the information they had received from the Hasrans and Oman, Shiro and Allura had decided not to watch the interrogation videos. They hadn't wanted to add additional horror to the story and somehow they just knew that they would. Keith had argued that they needed to know what Lance, Hunk, or Pidge might have told the Galra. At which point Coran had gotten quite vocal and angry at any suggestion of weakness or betrayal from the youngest three.

Keith didn't mean to imply that his new friends were weak or would purposely betray Voltron, but torture is torture and they weren't trained to handle that. They hadn't even finished basic training. He couldn't deny that in his heart he wondered if he could withstand a week of torture, of what he would reveal if forced. When Coran denied it so strongly, he felt ashamed and weak for thinking that he might break under the right circumstances, so he had let it drop.

Now though, it was clear Lance was concerned about what he might or might not have revealed. They needed to know for sure, to be prepared.

"I know."

***

Lance woke slowly the next morning, he felt safe and super warm. He snuggled into the warmth and felt a vibration of a chuckle under his head. He opened bleary eyes looking up expecting to see Hunk's familiar face and was shocked to instead see Shiro's jawline. He pulled back embarrassed. He had snuggled Shiro, that was a little mortifying.

"Hey, good morning. You okay?" Shiro asked. Lance nodded, yes, he was okay. "You feel up to heading down to the common room? I'll wait while you get ready?" Lance nodded and felt his cheeks redden. He ducked into the bathroom and quickly slipped into his comfortable clothes and washed his face and combed out his hair. Shiro was still sitting on his bed waiting for him when he got out. His hair was a mess, sticking up at odd angles. Lance just stared at him a minute and then handed him his comb.

"That bad, huh?" Shiro stepped into the bathroom and checked his reflection, chuckling a little. "Okay yeah, it could use a comb through. You ready?" He asked as he stepped back out. Lance nodded and they walked to the common room together.

Pidge was already there tapping on her keyboard.

"Good morning." She greeted without looking up.

"Any luck on your search?" Shiro asked. Lance pulled up a stool and sat next to Pidge glancing over her shoulder at Shiro's question.

"Nothing new on Matt or Dad in the new data." She answered, though not with as big a frown as Lance would have expected at the disappointment. "But I have found the prison Oman's daughter was taken to five years ago. It looks like she was transferred from there, but I haven't tracked where yet."

"That's good news, though, the first step to finding her. I'm sure Oman will be glad to hear it." Shiro encouraged.

"Yeah, I guess, but it doesn't get him to her yet, and I really just want to be able to tell him where she is now." Pidge tapped some more. "I still have another 50% of the old data to go on the search though, so hopefully there will be more."

"I'll let him know you have an update for him today, maybe he will stop by?" Shiro patted her on the back and she nodded.

Hunk came rushing in the room, "Lance isn't in his…oh, there you are." Hunk looked relieved to see him sitting there. Lance nodded to him and went back to staring at Pidge's search. There was something soothing in watching the numbers stream across the screen.

"Sorry, Hunk, I brought him down with me this morning." Shiro gave Hunk a look that said there was more to the story, but now was not the time to divulge.

"No problem Shiro. I will just get breakfast going." Hunk hurried into the kitchen to get cooking.

"Lance, you good here? I need to go take care of a couple of things." Shiro asked and Lance nodded again.

Shiro left the common area, his gut churning with what he knew he needed to do next. He was looking for Allura when Keith caught up to him.

"Not without me you don't." Keith muttered as he fell into step next to him.

"Keith, this isn't something you should see. It's not going to be pleasant." Shiro admonished.

"No, it's not and it's not like I want to see it, but there is no way I'm letting you sit through it without me." Keith just kept walking not even pausing when Shiro stopped and looked at him with a shocked expression. "You coming?"

"When did you get so mature?" Shiro asked shaking his head as he caught back up to the Red Paladin. Keith just shrugged and Shiro couldn't help the grin that tugged at his lips. He had known Keith was worth so much more than people had given him credit for when they first met, but he was beginning to think even he had underestimated him some.

Finding Allura wasn't hard, she was already on the bridge working. Shiro quickly updated her. She nodded gravely and agreed that it had become necessary. She alerted Coran to their intentions and then quietly messaged Pidge so that she would be aware of what was going on. Allura did not want one of them to accidentally walk in on the video playing or not be able to reach them if they were needed.

Pidge responded quickly, still on her computer, that the three of them were together in the kitchen and she would let Hunk know when she could.

Pidge wasn't thrilled about the idea. She had found out about the video by accident, overhearing a conversation between Keith and Shiro. Honestly the idea that there was a recording of what they went through filled her with a kind of icy dread. She did not want to see any of it. She didn't want anyone else to see any of it, but the logical part of her brain had instantly told them they should watch it. Watch it and then destroy it. At the time they had told her they had decided not to watch it, so something had happened last night, something involving Lance.

She looked over at him, he was currently stirring something oatmeal like for Hunk. It was like he was sleepwalking. He didn't seem to even be there with them. She wondered how long he would be this way. What if he didn't get better? Worry thumped in her brain like a throbbing headache. Then in the back of her mind Green pushed back with reassurance and comfort, shoving the worry out of the way and giving her a great idea. She smiled and resolved to take Lance down to Blue's hanger after breakfast.

Chapter Text

When they started the video, Allura told them it was partly corrupted. It was pieces and clips, not the entire security feed. She thought there was around six hours of viable video included. Shiro nodded. Six hours seemed like plenty long enough. Keith gripped his shoulder and gave him a squeeze. They needed to do this. He needed to be able to address any potential security breaches.

The first video started - Water boarding, Shiro called it. It made it feel like you were drowning. When Lance called out for him, Shiro broke the console in front of him with his Galra arm. Keith was there at his ear talking quietly slowly, calling him back. Shiro pulled in deep breathes and calmly told Keith it wasn't a flashback, he was okay. Allura had informed him he was anything but okay, none of them were, and they would need to take a break. This wasn't the type of thing they could do all at once.

Coran went and fetched breakfast for them all. Hunk had it all prepared on a tray for him when he got to the kitchen.

Lance was sitting on the floor sketching something with Pidge sitting behind him.

"What are they doing?" Coran asked Hunk.

"Well, I mentioned Pidge's party coming up in three days and Lance started drawing ideas for a dress. He's pretty insistent she needs to wear something fancy for the party. Fifteenth birthdays are a big deal in his family for girls, kind of a coming a age thing I guess." Hunk was washing up the dishes in the kitchen and smiled fondly at the two in the other room. Pidge was fussing about too many bows and Lance just kept drawing different ideas.

Coran peered over his shoulder and considered the dresses on the page, "I like that one." He pointed to the one covered in bows and lace and all sorts of frills. "It looks like something Allura had as a child." Lance looked up at him intently. He pointed down at the dress. "I'm not sure if she still has it or not. I can check for you?" Lance nodded and flipped the page in his sketch book and started some more drawings, maybe ways to modify the existing dress. Pidge snorted and complained, but he just kept going.

Coran took the tray back. Shiro and Keith were doing some sort of exercise. Allura told him it was supposed to be calming and it seemed to be working. Shiro's arm had stopped glowing and his breathing had slowed. Keith still looked pale, but he was so focused on Shiro it was hard to tell how he was doing.

They restarted the tape and the next recording was of Hunk. They knew what was coming, this part had been relatively well described by the Hasran survivors, but knowing and seeing are different things. The arena survivors said that it was an initiation of sorts. A way to break them before they went to the arena. Shiro trembled. He could feel the memory trying to work it's way out, but he kept trying to push it back. By the time the section of video was done he was sweating and felt nauseous.

"Shiro, I'm not sure you can keep doing this." Keith was sitting in front of him looking up into his face.

"I need to do this for them." He took deep breaths and asked them to restart the video.

Keith had to turn away from the next part of the video. He sat with his back against Shiro's back. He wished he couldn't still hear it, but he had to keep his ears open for Shiro. He couldn't watch Lance smart off and get..., he didn't deserve that, no one did. The sounds of his screams and the buzz of the electricity made Keith's skin crawl. Shiro wasn't doing so good. This one was worse than the last and Keith just knew it was only a matter of time before he had a full flashback. It was inevitable at this point. He could tell from Allura and Coran's worried looks that they were anticipating the same thing. It really spoke to Shiro's strength that he had made it this long.

Allura skipped the next video, there was no need for Shiro to watch Hunk's arena battles, there was no way he'd make it through those without reliving his own. The next video was back to Lance and this time the General had a whip. If Allura had ever had any doubts about the need to defeat the Galra empire they were gone. The barbaric, cruel, and just evil way they had treated her paladins was unacceptable. She would never treat the most horrible creature in the universe in such a manner.

When they left him hanging there unconscious, she heard Coran choking back a sob. They knew about this part from Lira.

"Coran, I think we need a break, can you fetch some hydration pouches and nourishment. I know no one feels like eating right now, but we are all recently recovering and cannot sacrifice our health for our feelings."

"Of course, Princess. I needed to check on something in your closet as well if you don't mind. An old dress I thought might fit Pidge?" Coran asked.

"Certainly, she is welcome to anything that might fit, though I don't know that they will suit her taste?" Allura raised an eyebrow, aware of how frilling her dresses were from the time she had been Pidge's height.

Keith snorted his disbelief. He had a hard time picturing Pidge in a dress.

"Actually she used to wear dresses when she was little. I remember seeing her with her Dad on the base sometimes. Bows in her hair and everything." He smiled at the fond memory of the adorable little girl marching about the base like she was a commander.

***

The break was over and the video was restarted. Keith started not looking this time, but he could still hear. He had his nails dug into his thighs so hard that they had started to draw blood. He wasn't sure how much more of this he could take. Shiro's trembling had become extreme, his whole body was shaking and then he just stopped moving. Keith spun around quickly and Shiro was staring off just to the left of the screen. He wasn't watching the video anymore, he was somewhere else.

"Shiro?" Keith grabbed his arm and instantly wished he hadn't as Shiro tossed him across the room.

"Keith!" Allura jumped up alarmed and rushed to his side. He was picking himself up wincing, but moving. "Are you okay?"

"Sore, but nothing more than bruises I think." Shiro was still sitting, not moving or reacting to their words. Frozen in his memory.

"I shouldn't have grabbed him. I've seen him react before, but not this bad. Shiro? Hey Shiro." Keith mimicked Shiro's words to Lance. "You're in the castle of lions. We are in the control room. You are okay. Shiro, can you hear me?"

Shiro's eyes slowly came back into focus. His breathing increased in speed and then decreased back to normal. He had sweat standing out on his face and he looked ashen.

"Shiro, hey," Keith reached out his hand and gently touched Shiro's. Shiro looked down at his hand and then up at Keith. "Oh, I'm sorry." He blushed red and bowed his head.

"Shiro, we are all pushing ourselves to watch this and none of us have comparable memories to yours. Do not be hard on yourself." Allura turned off the video. "There is not much left to watch. We have seen the sections recorded from several days. Lance did not tell the general anything he didn't already know. Shiro, I am not certain you should watch the recordings of the druid at all. If the simple mention of it's coming was enough to throw you into a flashback, then watching it will…"

"Allura, I may have another flashback. It's true, but I think if I take another break and come back to it fresh I could control it. I'm sorry I should have asked to stop sooner. Did I hurt anyone?"

"No." Keith answered too quickly.

"Keith, said he is fine, just some bruises." Allura offered and Keith glared at her.

"I'm sorry kid." Shiro looked over at Keith searching for wounds or hurts.

"I'm fine, Shiro, it's no big deal."

"It is to me." Shiro grabbed his hand to convey his sincere apology, "I'm sorry." Keith nodded. He didn't even need an apology he'd made the mistake as far as he was concerned, but he would accept to keep Shiro happy.

"Let us convene again after the evening meal then?" Allura suggested.

***

Pidge dragged Lance behind her. She had his hand and was not going to let him go until they got where they were going. He had latched on to the whole dress fiasco after breakfast and hadn't quit until lunchtime. The others hadn't joined them, but she hadn't expected them. Lance had looked around a few times, but when the other's didn't say anything he didn't do more than that. After lunch she had said they had something to do and took his hand. He was walking so slow, but she tugged and pulled and finally got him to Blue's hanger.

Lance pushed the panel to open the doors and walked through. Pidge was standing back watching him. He guessed in case he needed her. As soon as he got here he realized why Pidge had brought him. Blue's soothing thoughts poured through him like the water she represented. It was cleansing. She was so very glad to see him and he could tell. He didn't know how exactly, but she made her thought known. Love, worry, comfort, pride, she let him sense all that she was feeling. She was so vast and impressive. Lance was constantly in awe that a lion as wonderful and beautiful as her had chosen him.

She gave him what he felt was a wink. Or a "not bad yourself" kind of vibe. He unconsciously grabbed his scarred arm, frowning at the imperfection there. He had tried to kill himself. It felt like giving up. Blue pulled him up short and let him feel in no uncertain terms that wasn't how she saw it so that wasn't how it was. He was brave and he had never quit. He tried to save his friends and protect them. He was never to think poorly of himself again she said. He wasn't sure he could make that promise. She huffed, like literally out loud, even Pidge heard it and started. The tiniest twinge of a grin crooked his lips and he leaned onto her paw.

Chapter Text

The evening meal was a hodge podge of all sorts of creations. Hunk had literally cooked all day.

"Pidge, what do you think? Which ones for the party?" Hunk had made space ravioli, space lasagna, space cannoli, space manicotti, space garlic knots, space tiramisu, space minestrone soup, and space peanut butter cookies.

"The cookies for sure." Pidge smiled as she shoved another in her mouth.

"Pidge, eat some real food, too." Shiro admonished.

Oman chuckled at her antics. He was enjoying the manicotti that had been made vegetarian.

"Pidge, Lance says the menu should represent your heritage, and this is as close to Italian as I can make out here in space." Hunk tried again.

"I know, Hunk, and it's pretty good, but not quite right you know? Not quite Mom's? And I'm not sure about this whole Italian thing. I mean it's not like we lived in Italy." Pidge looked over at Lance who was looking at her with narrowed eyes like he was thinking. He had been a lot more expressive since visiting Blue, but still wasn't talking.

"So I was thinking, what I would like, not that this isn't good," she assured Hunk. "But what I would like is some of the cajun food you made for me. I want to celebrate our space family with this birthday. It's only because of you guys I'm even alive to have this birthday." She blushed and bowed her head at the last words.

Lance jumped up, ran around the table and gave her a huge hug, it wasn't long until Hunk had joined them.

"That is so perfect Pidge!" Hunk beamed.

"But you still have to make the cookies," Pidge's hand snuck out of the hug pile and snagged another cookie.

Oman laughed, "Little one, many will be honored to celebrate this occasion with you. Kay has requested that the Harans be allowed to provide you with supplies for your party."

"Oh, wonderful." Coran pulled out a long roll of paper. "Lance made me a list of decorations we would be needing. Do you suppose some would be interested in assisting with the decorating?" Coran was looking a little nervous at the length of the list. He'd seen royal weddings with less decoration, but Lance had pointed very insistently at the list. Apparently this was all needed.

Oman nodded, "Of course, I can have workers and supplies here tomorrow to begin."

"Wonderful," Allura smiled, "we will have it in the grand hall. Apparently it is important for Pidge to make a grand entrance and she can use the staircase. I remember when we used to have balls in the castle." She looked wistful.

"I am not dressing up like Cinderella." Pidge pulled out of the hug pile. "Lance, no puffy, bowy, lacey, ball gown." Lance smiled and patted her head. "Lance, I'm serious." He nodded still smiling and waved. He gestured for Coran.

"Oh yes, I am to show Lance to the clothing storage area, apparently we all most wear our finest for the event." Keith cringed more than Pidge. Coran hurried behind Lance off to show him what the castle had.

"You should have seen his sister's Quinceaneras, I have never seen so many decorations and the dresses. It was amazing! And Lance's mom made like a feast for like hundreds of people. Well the whole family helped out and when I mean the whole family I mean the whole family. There were aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins and third cousins. It was crazy." Hunk gestured wildly.

"It sounds magnificent!" Allura's eyes sparkled in girly wonder. "Oh that reminds me Pidge, I have a pair of shoes that you need to try on. I'll bring them to you tomorrow morning, if that's alright?"

"Yeah, I guess, what for?" She looked at Allura.

"For your party of course, something about changing shoes. Anyway I think you will love them." Allura practically gushed.

Pidge looked a little more cautious, "As long as they aren't something crazy that are going to make me fall down when I'm dancing. Alright enough party planning for now. Oman, I wanted to show you what information I'd gathered." She grabbed the big man's hand and lead him out of the common area. She had the data set up in Green's hanger where she had a projector so it would be easier to discuss. "Hopefully you can give me more information about the planets in the area I pinpointed to help narrow the search."

Hunk looked around at the three others still in the common area. He waited until Pidge was out of earshot. "So, what happened last night with Lance? I've been waiting all day to ask you."

Shiro cringed he should have realized Hunk would notice, "He had a nightmare. I was up and so was Keith so we heard him."

"Wait? Heard him? So he talked?" Hunk asked.

"Well, screamed? Then talked some. He was worried about having told someone my name and very upset. I stayed with him so that he could fall asleep. I think we need to keep an eye on each other right now. Pidge has had nightmares, I'm guessing you have as well?" Shiro looked over at Hunk.

Hunk nodded yes.

"I think for at least the next few nights we should set up a bunk room, a common sleeping area. It's possible some nightmares will be avoided all together and if not at least we'll all be close." Shiro suggested.

"I think this is a good idea, I can recall sleeping at the foot of my parents bed when I was much smaller, their mere presence was often enough to chase the bad dreams away." Allura smiled fondly. "And will there be a bunk for me and Coran as well?"

"Certainly, if you are comfortable joining us, we would be glad for you to have a place as well."

"Good, it's settled. Hunk, I'm afraid we must leave you to organize this endeavor. We have something we need to finish tonight. When it is over we will come and assist moving any beds required. You have my permission to find whatever room seems suitable." Allura stood and gestured for Shiro and Keith. "Coran will meet us in the control room."

"Okay." Hunk cringed the idea that his fights were on a video somewhere soured his stomach.

***

When Coran joined them in the control room they started the video of Lance's first interrogation with the druid. Shiro's arm activated at the first syllable the druid uttered. They had to stop and with some breathing exercises Shiro was able to power it down, but it was an indication of how this was going to go. When the General broke Lance's wrist Coran vomited. When he twisted the broken bones Keith had to turn away again, but the sound of Lance's screams echoed in his head. When Lance started singing "It's a Small World" Keith couldn't stop the hysterical laugh that came out of his mouth. He had tears running down his face, but it just struck him and he couldn't stop at least not until the next screams started. By the time the druid had finished the first session they all felt miserable.

The next video was of the druid's communication to it's superior.

"Priestess," the druid whispered.

"Report."

At that word, Shiro's world went white. He may have screamed, he wasn't certain, but suddenly he was in a lab of some sort, there were instruments and glowing purple things and druids, one in particular. They were cutting off his arm. They did not use anesthesia. It was like the pain was real and now, he could feel the blade cutting in, he could feel the heat they used to cauterize the bleeding, he could smell the burnt flesh…his breath whistled in and out of him as he hyperventilated.

Then another pungent smell assaulted his nostrils. He turned his head away from it but it followed. He tried to swat it away and realized his eyes were closed. He opened his eyes to see Keith holding something that must have been the Altean equivalent of smelling salts.

"Sorry, Number One, I know the smell is unpleasant, but I took the liberty of bringing them in case the video did trigger another flashback as you call them." Coran spoke from behind him.

Shiro looked up into Keith's concerned eyes, "It was the voice. It was her, Haggar." He unconsciously grabbed his Galra arm.

"Okay, I think maybe you shouldn't see this." Keith tried to help him up, because apparently he had fallen on the floor.

"No. It just caught me off guard. I'll expect it now." Shiro rose and retook his seat. "I can do this."

Allura looked concerned, but nodded and restarted the video.

"The subject is more resistant than expected. I was able to determine he found the Blue lion with assistance. It seems the Voltron team is new to the technology required to run the lions. There appear to be creatures with magical powers on his home world. Some cast spells, others seem to have mind power, and there are creatures called whales that are apparently critical to some other spacefaring race, but I did not recognize the technology, maybe Olkari?"

"You are to find the Castle of Lion. You are to locate the Black Lion. You are to discover weakness. The information you have collected is trivial at best." Haggar's angry voice echoed. "I am displeased."

"I am sorry High Priestess, I will do better with the next session. He is weakening." The druid practically fell over itself apologizing.

"If you do not, you will stop the interrogation and bring the subject to me. I will get what I need out of him. You have one more chance. And if you fail, I will have to re-teach you the proper interrogation techniques."

"Yes, High Priestess, that won't be necessary." The druid's voice actually shook in fear.

Shiro shook right along with it. They needed to take a break after that. Shiro was terrified. Lance had been a day away from being shipped to Haggar. Deep breaths were not really staving off the panic attack. Keith kept trying to talk to him but he just wasn't getting through. Shiro's mind kept spiraling, how could he have brought these kids here, how could he have let them out of his sight, what kind of leader was he, and in the background Haggar's horrible laugh as he felt his arm being severed from his body and the other magically bonded with purple fire.

He wasn't sure how long he stayed that way. He felt a pinch near his neck and then suddenly he was relaxing and drifting off to sleep.

"I'm sorry. I should have brought the sedative as well, then he would not have had to wait so long." Coran patted Keith on the back. The kid looked as bad as Shiro and that was saying something.

"Thank you, Coran. I believe we should finish the last video. We know that very little information made it off the ship, but Lance was concerned about what was discovered, so we must be able to set his mind to ease if he should have another night terror. I also think we should go ahead and do it now. I understand Shiro would object, but I cannot subject him to this anymore. Keith, I think you should leave as well." Allura gently ran her hand through Shiro's hair, seeing him so paralyzed had frightened her, she had grown used to his strength.

"No, I'm staying." Keith looked up at her, "I agree that Shiro shouldn't watch, but if he doesn't then I need to, that's what Voltron's right arm is for, correct?"

Allura nodded. She would not deny him and he was not wrong. Once they made Shiro comfortable with some cushions, she restarted the video for the final recorded session.

Keith regretted his decision. He was going to have nightmares tonight. Lance's screech when the druid cast the spell left a permanent mark on his soul. He never wanted Lance to make a sound like that ever again.

"He didn't tell them anything. That thing dug in his head when he wasn't even conscious and that only thing it managed to figure out was that Hunk and Pidge were also paladins." Keith paced trying to clear his head.

"Yes, but if you were Lance, knowing that information came from you, how would you feel?" Coran asked sadly.

"He shouldn't feel anything but proud. Not many warriors can withstand such interrogations and fewer still have the mental strength to stand up to a druid." Allura declared. Her pride in him was evident.

"Yes, and that is something we must tell him, but I do not imagine that is how he feels now. Am I wrong?" Coran looked to Keith.

"No. I don't think you are wrong. It makes sense with his nightmare last night, he felt guilty. He shouldn't be. He didn't even go through training to resist interrogation at the Garrison. That's a higher level course. The only one of us even graduated was Shiro." Keith continued his restless pacing, "We're not trained for this. None of us, but we need to be." He turned to face Allura.

She nodded, "I agree. The best training I have to offer you is mental strengthening using the headset devices. I will add it to your training. I should have foreseen this possibility."

"Now Princess, you don't need to add to those feeling unnecessarily guilty. The universe has thrown us into a nest of Skulvarian Raptors for certain, but we can't let ourselves get discouraged."

Coran gave them the weirdest pep talks Keith decided.

Chapter Text

Once Keith managed to talk Hunk out of panicking, they got Shiro loaded up onto a floating gurney thing.

"What happened?" Hunk asked, now that he could put coherent words together.

"A bad flashback, Coran gave him a sedative." Keith met Hunk's eyes. He knew Hunk would both understand and hate that answer.

"Oh. Well, I've got the room picked out and one bed already there, so we can put him in that one and then move the rest of the beds in." Hunk led them through the halls.

The room he had picked was larger and open, with basically nothing in it but the one bed. Keith wondered why he had picked it, because it is so plain, it looked like a big closet. He shrugged it didn't matter to him where he slept, except it did remind him of one of the big dorm rooms he'd stayed in at a boys home.

They got Shiro transferred over to the bed. He was still breathing evenly and calmly, his face relaxed. Whatever Coran had given him it was apparently strong stuff.

"Let's get the beds set up. Number four, if you would stay here and monitor Number one, I don't expect him to wake up, but if he does he will likely be disoriented and I would expect a little dizzy, maybe nauseous from the medication." Coran patted Keith on the shoulder and he, Hunk, and Allura headed out of the room.

***

When Lance walked into the storeroom he was certain an angelic choir was singing somewhere. He could feel Blue's amusement. He dove into the room with glee. There were isles and isles of clothes. Like a 50 foot room of clothes, all kinds of colors and sizes and styles. Coran had said the castle had used this to supply anyone in the castle and they had needed various styles for diplomatic missions.

There were formal suits that looked almost like tuxes, there were things that looked like wraps, pants with three legs, formal ball gowns that made Cinderella look plain, there were scarves and jewelry, there were hats and shoes, socks and all kinds of things, some of which he couldn't even come up with a good way to describe them. And in the middle of the room was sewing equipment, measuring tape, thread, buttons, chalk, scissors, it was a set up to custom fit anyone getting an outfit, Coran had told him. He showed him how to use a few of the pieces. There was a lot of automation, so as long as you knew how you wanted something to look, you could pretty much make it happen. Coran had also left the dress he had mentioned before. It hung in brilliant green glory in the middle of the sewing area. Lance had danced around the room, grabbing things from hangers and shelves. It was glorious, he was going to have the perfect outfits for Pidge's party for everyone.

When Hunk came by to get him later he was subjected to some sort of scanning measurement machine. He stepped into it and it did a full body scan. Lance grinned at him. Hunk felt a little like one of the dolls in Lance's house when they were kids. Lance used to help his sisters dress them properly for whatever they were playing. Veronica was never much on fashion, but it was important to Lance.

Lance pulled clothes out from the side of the measurement machine. He handed Hunk a pair a grey wide legged trousers, charcoal socks, soft black loafers, and held up a Yellow bottom down top. It was embroidered down the middle with gold and the cuffs and collar were also patterned with gold thread. It looked like it would fit perfectly.

"Nice. Is this for the party?" Lance nodded and then picked up a grey double breasted jacket and a gold bow tie. "So formal huh?" Lance nodded again.

Lance had other piles of clothes laid out so Hunk figured he must be working on something for everyone. "We are all having a sleepover. I found a great room, just wait till you see what it does, you are going to love it!" Hunk pulled him toward the door. Lance hung back a little looking back over his shoulder at the clothes.

"Hey, you can get everyone down tomorrow for their fittings, right? In between getting the decorations started?" Lance nodded and followed Hunk. As they walked Hunk let him know about Shiro, so it didn't scare him when they got to the room. He wasn't sure if Lance was aware of what the others had been up to today, but he wasn't going to tell him. He wasn't even talking, it didn't seem like he'd be ready for that.

Lance tensed thinking about Shiro. He'd apparently had a nightmare or something, because why else would Shiro have been in his room, but no flashbacks yet, as a matter of fact, he really didn't remember a lot. He wasn't entirely sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing. He remembered being trapped on the planet. He remembered the General and the thought of him made him feel phantom pain all over his body, but he really didn't know why. He remembered being cold. He remembered Hunk and Pidge taking care of him. He remembered slitting his arm open to try to save Pidge and Hunk, but he wasn't really clear on why he thought that would save them. He remembered being in a ship and he remembered crashing. The details weren't there. Blue sent waves of comfort over him. She loved him. He was safe. He took a deep breath. He was afraid. He was afraid of remembering and he was afraid of not remembering, of having flashbacks like Shiro.

When they got to the room Pidge was perched on one of the two top bunks straight in from the door. Shiro was asleep on a single bed against one wall. Allura was piling pillows on a bed against the wall opposite the bunks and Coran was sitting on a bed on the remaining wall twirling his moustache. Lance climbed up to the second top bunk as soon as he got into the room. Hunk smiled, he could have guessed that move. Keith looked annoyed when he almost got kicked in the face, but didn't say anything. Hunk wondered how long it would be before those two would be comfortable enough to be back to bickering.

When Lance was up in his bed. Hunk went over to the wall. He opened a panel and flipped a switch. The lights in the room went out and a pillar rose up in the middle of the room. A round projector at the top of it. It lit up and the walls turned into swirls of stars and planets and nebulas.
"So I thought this made a good room for sleeping under the stars. I just thought it would be nice."

"I love it." Keith smiled looking up at the stars. It was like the night sky in the desert. This didn't remind him of the boys home at all.

The smile on Keith's face was worth every minute he had spent searching for the perfect room. He smiled warmly back. About that time, Lance half tackled him from the top bunk. Hunk laughed and was glad he had enough sense to catch the goofball before he hit the ground and managed to spin him around and back to his feet.

Pidge wacked him in the back of the head with her pillow. He paused for a moment then pointed his finger at her and dove for another pillow as she continued to wallop him. He returned the favor and then caught Hunk with the backswing. Hunk had a pillow and was joining them within seconds. Coran and Allura were convinced to join in. Keith held his pillow and sat on his bed. It was too much to join in with all of them, but he was enjoying watching them and laughed out loud when Allura slid across the room on a pillow and swatted Pidge after the Green Paladin had tossed a pillow on her head.

When the pillow fight was done, they all settled in for the night. The release had been good. It was good to laugh together. It was good to be able to relax. There had been too much pain and tension and fear and they needed to let it all go for a few minutes and just be friends. Breathing slowed and eyes closed they slipped off to dreamland, hoping it would last.

Chapter Text

Two vargas later Shiro woke with a start, not exactly from a nightmare, just confused and disoriented. Luckily Keith had taken Coran's advice seriously and there was a bucket available, because he was quite nauseous. Coran got up and took the bucket and got him a hydration pouch while Keith sat next to him and whispered.

"You're in the common sleep area we made. Coran gave you something to relax, but it's hard to wake up from. It's making you sick and maybe dizzy." Keith rubbed circles on his back and he nodded. He was dizzy. "it's okay, he said you'd be sleepy for awhile too, so maybe try to close your eyes and go back to sleep."

Shiro laid down and gave Keith's hand a squeeze. He was too out of it and too worried about throwing up again to say anything, but he was very grateful to have his little brother next to him.

The next disturbance was quieter. Lance was startled awake by Pidge's whimper. She was so quiet, he barely heard her, but soon realized she was crying. He crawled across the top bunks over to her and slid into the bed next to her. She rolled into him and buried her face in his chest crying softly. He remembered curling up with Veronica like this when he was younger and he wrapped his arms around her just like she used to do for him.

"I thought you died. I really thought when I left you that you would die and I'd never see you again." He laid his head against hers and gave her a tight hug. She cried softly for awhile and then drifted back to sleep.

About halfway through the night Hunk heard Coran pacing the floor. He blinked his eyes and watched as he walked from bed to bed checking on each occupant. When he got to Hunk he smiled.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you." His mustache seemed to droop.

"I'm okay, are you okay? What are you doing?" Hunk sat up slowly.

"Oh well, I just needed to check that everyone was okay. I feel responsible for you all and it has been such a trying time."

"Coran, did you have a nightmare?" Hunk hadn't considered the Alteans having nightmares too. It seemed like they were used to this kind of thing and handled it all without it messing them up.

"Well, maybe, just a little one. Alteans and humans aren't that different Hunk. I may be a war worn veteran," and the ridiculous grin and poise he gave really didn't go with the words, "but even I found the last week to be challenging. But then as they say morzazops may be unstable, but they rarely fall on their faces."

Hunk stared at him blankly.

"Weebles wobble but they don't fall down." Pidge's voice echoed above him and Hunk smiled.

"Oh."

"Weebles? Do weebles have five legs as well? Morazops have five legs, but they are all different lengths." Coran held his hand out wobbling it about to demonstrate.

Hunk and Pidge laughed and they launched into a whispered conversation about Earth and Altean sayings for the next varga trying to find any other similarities. Soon though, they all starting getting quieter and drifted back to their beds and back to sleep.

All in all they thought they'd gotten off easy until a scream shattered the night.

"Don't go! Don't leave!" Keith sat up straight in bed sweat pouring off of him. It had been over a year since he'd had that dream and this time it had been worse. Instead of just the mysterious shadow that was his mom, his dad, and Shiro leaving, they were followed by Pidge, Hunk, and Lance being dragged away by shadowy hissing druids. His breath panted and his chest heaved as he tried to rein in his panicked heartbeat.

"Keith?" Allura was sitting at the side of his bed and his face blushed bright red. This was not who he expected to see.

"Sorry, Princess." He tried harder to gather himself and balled his hands into fists in his blankets.

"No, need to be sorry. Are you okay?" She laid her hand over one of his fists.

"I will be. It was just a dream."

"A nightmare?" She asked knowingly.

"Yes. One I haven't had for awhile." His breathing was slowing.

"What is it about? I heard what you yelled." She met his gaze softly, she really wanted to know.

"People leaving, my mom, my dad, Shiro, and then tonight there were Galra taking away the others - Pidge and Hunk and Lance. That part was new." He was calm now.

"I have that dream." She whispered and looked away. He unclenched his hand and turned it to take hers in his. She looked back at his violet gaze and found understanding. "It is hard to be left behind." She stated simply.

"Yes."

She pulled her hand away and stood, reaching down she brushed his bangs from his face. "Try to rest some more. There is much to do tomorrow." She moved gracefully back to her own bed and climbed back under the covers. He heard others turning and repositioning in the dark. It was comforting to be able to hear them and know they were there. He closed his eyes as his head hit his pillow and was back to sleep.

***

The next morning brought voices and activity that the castle had not seen for thousands of years. They had all day today and tomorrow morning to prepare for the party, but as extravagant as Lance seemed to think it should be it might take the whole time. Lance was in the hall with a drawing directing the Hasran people as they hung banners and streamers and flowers. The colors were predominately a deep green, with browns, golds, and white accenting.

Hunk was in the hall directly the offloading of crates of food as they floated into the castle on floating pallets. Coran had shown him the automated portion of the castle kitchen that had been used to prepare meals for banquets in the past and after a few tries he had programmed in the food. He had a staff filled kitchen preparing the ingredients for their addition at the correct time. He was standing in the middle of the hall when a group came to ask him about the proper way to clean the onion thing.

Lance had stopped and was taking a step back to make sure everything was flowing. This was going to be perfect for Pidge. It was then that he noticed a load of crates on one of the floating lifts starting to wobble. It looked like the hover mechanism on one side wasn't functioning properly. It was sputtering and Lance had the bad feeling it was about to give out. Looking down, right were the crates were headed, Lance saw Hunk oblivious to his predicament. He was too far away to knock him out of the way, he waved his arm and Hunk did not see him. He took a deep breath. At first he hadn't talked because he didn't know what to say and was just so overwhelmed, and then it was more like he couldn't talk. Like he didn't remember how, but now he had to do something or Hunk was going to get hurt. He pushed and nothing happened. Tears welled up in his eyes and the crates tipped and started to fall.

"HUNK! MOVE!" He screamed it across the hall. Hunk didn't even pause he just dove forward. The crates crashed to the ground. Lance had no idea if Hunk had made it out of the way or not, he ran as fast as he could. He slid around the crates and found Hunk lying on the ground.

"Hunk? Hunk? Are you okay?" Lance reached down toward him as Hunk started moving and sat up. He stared at Lance with tears in his eyes. "Are you hurt? What's the matter?" Lance reached his hands out to check Hunk. He didn't see anything wrong. Suddenly Hunk was laughing. "Did you hit your head?"

Hunk wrapped his arms around Lance and continued laughing and crying.

"Seriously, Hunk say something!" Hunk laughed all the harder and picked Lance up in a huge bear hug.

"It is so good to hear your voice." He managed between laughs.

"Oh," Lance blushed and ducked his head against Hunk's shoulder. "Well, I'm glad you're okay. Now put me down. I have party work to do."

Lance didn't smile or laugh at Hunk, like he'd wished he would, but he was talking and that was enough for now.

Chapter Text

Lance wasn't exactly back to his talkative self, but when Pidge bounded into the common area for lunch and he said hi, her squeal was enough to make Shiro and Keith come running to see what was the matter. Lance even managed kind of a half smirk for them as they came around the corner out of breath and looking around for the problem.

"Hi, guys."

Shiro gave him a smile and Keith nodded.

Allura took the news in stride and simply greeted him when she came in for the meal and he told her hello. Coran on the other hand, couldn't stop grinning and twirling his moustache. He hummed and chatted happily most of the meal. It became clear that he kept asking questions just to hear Lance answer him. Pidge started giggling and soon Hunk joined in. Lance finally gave up and went and gave the poor man a hug.

"I'm okay, Coran."

"Of course you are dear boy." He wiped his eyes and gave him another grin.

After the meal, Shiro and Keith were ordered to the clothing area, where Lance shoved them each into the Measur-o-matic as he had dubbed it. He handed them their clothes for the party. Shiro had a pair of pleated front dress slacks in a black on black pin stripe and a matching single breasted jacket. He had what looked like a white tux shirt, but the bow tie was an impossible swirl of red, blue, yellow, and green on a black background. Lance said he needed color; it wasn't a boring party after all. Black socks and short black boots finished the outfit.

Keith's get up didn't include a jacket. He had a long tunic looking shirt with a stand up collar in red, with black embroderied on the edges and around the collar. His pants were very broad and light weight in black and he also had black boots.

They each assured Lance that they would wear everything as instructed. Lance huffed and made them promise. He seemed pleased with the result, but both of them were disappointed to not get a bigger smile or sense of happiness from him. There was a sense of missing, Lance would have been over the top dramatic about this before everything had happened, and as much as they were pleased with his progress they missed the carefree joy.

As they were walking away Keith asked Shiro if he thought Lance would ever be the same again. Shiro had sighed.

"Keith, none of us are going to be the same again. You can't undo things like what happened just like you can't undo a scar. What's left for each of us to decide is who we are going to be now. Lance may go back to very much who he was before, or he may not. He is the only one that can make that decision and we have to be prepared to support whatever decision he makes." Shiro had seen Lance step out into the hallway after them even if Keith hadn't and he nodded back to the frowning boy. Lance nodded to him as well and turned and went back into the clothes room.

***

Oman was hanging out with Pidge and Allura in the control room. Allura was updating information in the regions that Oman was describing to her and Pidge was researching prisons. Pidge had managed to track Oman's daughter through two labor camps and a third transfer, but they had not located the final stop just yet. Pidge had thrown herself into the task after the latest intel brought her no new information on her family.

It was becoming obvious to Oman that Pidge was more than a little obsessed with the search. Once he had Allura up to date on the current region he moved on to his next objective.

"Little one?"

"Yes?" Pidge looked up from her tablet.

"You are only staring at the screen, isn't there something else you need to do to get ready for your party?" He sat next to her.

"What, oh, no. I think it's all squared away. Lance isn't done with my dress yet, I'm guessing I'll have to go try it on or something at some point, but I've already approved the menu and decorations and Lance and Hunk said they had it all under control." She smiled fondly, because Lance had actually said it. She didn't realize how much she missed his voice until it had been gone.

"So, you have nothing that needs your attention?"

"What? Well I'm watching this search and as soon as it turns something up I can focus it or redirect it." She gestured to the tablet.

"And will it not notify you if it does? Are you really needed to sit and stare at it?" Oman looked at her steadily.

"Well, no, not exactly, but if I'm here I can react quicker." Pidge tried again.

"Hmm…Allura, would you mind if I borrowed the little one for the afternoon." Oman asked.

"No, as long as she takes a communication device." Allura trusted Oman completely, but she wasn't that ready to have anyone out of communication with the castle ever again.

"What? Hey, Allura! Oman, you should be asking me." She stuck her chin out defiantly.

"Of course, I just thought it proper to have your leader's permission first. I think you forget to ask sometimes." He chuckled at her indignant look. "We have been invited to an evening meal at the governor's house. Kay is most excited to see you again and she would like to introduce you to her granddaughter."

Pidge hesitated, she didn't want to leave the search unmanned, but Oman was right, until it pinged something she was pretty much just staring at it and she really did want to see Kay again.

"Okay, but I'll take the tablet with me, in case I get a notice." Oman put his hand over hers and laid the tablet back down.

"The communications device will let you know if you get a notice and I will bring you right back here. You do not need this with you tonight, only you are required." He took her hand in his away from the tablet and the computer console. "Come little one, you can leave it behind tonight."

Pidge wondered if he meant just the computer, but she did not question him. She took the communications device and clipped it to her belt before following him out of the bridge.

Allura covered her smile with her hand. She would have to remember how well Oman handled Pidge. She had noticed the Green Paladin had a habit of working obsessively. It would be good to have techniques to break her away from an unhealthy level of work.

***

Lance made his way around to Allura and Coran and each already had appropriate formal wear for the party, though he did promise to help Allura with a new more Earth-like hairstyle in honor of Pidge's party.

He was returning down to the hall when it happened. He had just passed Coran working in a panel in the wall. Coran had said something about tracing a possible short in a newly upgraded defense system. Apparently Pidge's new improvements to the internal sensors required more power, which was well within the castle capabilities, but had pinpointed a potential weak point in the system. A loud crackle of electricity came out of the panel and Coran jumped back, missing the possible shock, but not missing the way Lance had thrown himself down in the hall.

He had covered his head with his hands and curled protectively into as small a space as possible against the wall. His entire body was shaking and he was making some sort of sound.

"Number Three?" Coran approached cautiously. He had seen Shiro react violently from such a position before. Lance didn't even acknowledge him. He crept closer. "Can you hear me?"

He was close enough now to make out the occasional word.

"nononnonnonononononono….not going to tell not going to tell… hurts…"

"My dear boy, you are in the castle. It is okay, you are safe. No one will hurt you here. You are safe." He edged closer, afraid to startle him too bad. Carefully and slowly still telling him he was safe Coran reached out a hand and touched his shoulder. Lance flinched away and curled up tighter. "I won't hurt you. It's Coran, It's safe, you are on the Castle of Lions." He tried again and this time Lance didn't move away. "Dear boy, it is safe. It is okay. No one will hurt you here." Lance seemed to become more aware of his surroundings. He blinked blurrily as if waking from a sleep.

"Coran?"

"Yes, Number Three, I am here."

"I remembered something." Lance answered quietly.

"Yes." Coran waited. He was surprised by the implications that there were things that he did not remember.

"It was bad." Tears dripped down his face as he stared across the hall.

"Yes." Coran answered softly. There was no getting around that, it had been very bad.

"I feel broken, like the pieces don't fit together right anymore. How can I ever be me again?" He leaned his head on his knees that were pulled up to his chest and he continued to cry quietly.

"Not broken, damaged, hurt, for certain, but not broken. It will only take time to heal. You are strong and you will heal. You are you, now. There is no way that you have to be." Coran unconsciously supported the words Shiro had spoken earlier. He wrapped an arm around Lance's shoulder and sat with him in the hall in silence. Lance leaned his head onto Coran's shoulder and cried, his shoulders shaking with his sobs.

Chapter Text

Hunk thrived in the kitchen, there was a sense of home in every smell, every movement, every moment of the practiced chaos. The kitchen was the place of his first memories as a child, of watching his mother and grandmother cooking together with his aunts, fussing and fighting, laughing and crying, creating the most wonderful smells. He would see his father lean in the doorway to the kitchen with a satisfied smile on his face watching his mother as she took charge of her kitchen and danced around like a culinary ballerina.

He remembered his cousins trying to get him to come outside to play and he would just shake his head no. He started with the simple chore of washing the dishes, then stirring something, then measuring here and there and before he knew it he got his own dish to make. He would never forget the first time he served a cake he had made completely by himself to his family. The pride in his mother's eyes, the sense of accomplishment at the smiles he put on their faces with just a little flour and sugar.

Today the kitchen brought him even more. It brought him normalcy. It brought him healing. When he had walked in this morning he was briefly stunned with a memory of the crowds of Galra around the arena, but the smells quickly dismissed that memory and brought so many better ones. The kitchen would not let him down, it was his safe place, and it would never betray him.

As the rest of the temporary kitchen staff did the prep work for the main courses tomorrow: gumbo, jambalaya, ettouffe, Po'boys, vegan muffulettas, and bread pudding, oh and the peanut butter cookies; he had a birthday cake to handle. A peanut butter birthday cake fit for a Paladin at an Interplanetary ball in a Castle. This was not going to be a small cake.

He had perfected the batter and began baking. He planned to do something sculpted, structural, but he wasn't sure what just yet. He considered doing a Green Lion, but it was too much Paladin and not enough Pidge. He needed to find the right balance of who she was and what she did. This was her day to be celebrated. At this point his plan was to bake lots and lots of cake and mix up the peanut butter frosting so that no matter what he decided to make he'd have enough materials to make it.

Pidge was family, she was strength, she was courage, she didn't break, she always kept growing and reaching, she was so much wiser than her years, she was feisty, she was …how did he put that all in a cake? He pulled another pan from the oven. It would come to him. He would figure it out.

***

Coran had walked with Lance down to get some food goo for supper. After he had calmed down he'd stayed for awhile to help Coran, and Coran suspected to not be alone. It was okay with him, because he hadn't been ready for him to leave. Allura showed up later. She said Pidge had gone to a meal at the governor's house and that Hunk had refused to leave the banquet kitchen. He had promised to get something to eat. Shiro and Keith showed up as they were eating. They were both freshly showered and had, apparently, been working out. They were laughing and relaxed as they came in and settled down with food goo.

Lance felt out of sync. His trip down memory lane earlier had him on edge. He really didn't want to remember any more details if they all went like that. He remembered the feel of the jolts of electricity, the way his body moved involuntarily, and how he'd thought that he was going to die. He was lost in thought when Shiro finally got his attention.

"Lance? Hey, did you hear me?" He asked calmly, liked he'd already done it once, but wasn't bothered by repeating himself.

"Oh, no, I'm sorry Shiro, I guess I wasn't paying attention." He looked up and wondered what he had missed.

"I just suggested we all stay in the common room again. I think it was beneficial and everyone else agreed. I wondered if that would be okay with you?"

"Oh, sure, sleepovers are good." Lance gave him a nod and went back to his food goo. He had a feeling more nightmares were heading his way and he wasn't looking forward to facing them alone. He wasn't really looking forward to facing them in a room full of people either, but it didn't seem like there was an easy in between. "I need to go work on Pidge's dress. I'll see you all there later." He left barely glancing at his mostly uneaten bowl of food goo. The others at the table noticed, though.

***

"Pid. Pid. Pid." The little girl danced around her with pure joy on her face. Pidge couldn't help, but laugh at the little smile and the little hands and the insistent little soul who seemed to have laid claim to her. She smiled softly at the little girl and took her hand. She lead Pidge to her seat at the table and then frowned mightily as she was ushered back to a table full of other children.

Kay had placed her and Oman at positions of honor at the table to her left. She smiled and warmly introduced them. Pidge was not surprised by the cheers, the Hasran people had been very helpful getting the castle fixed and had been working to prepare for her birthday party all day. She was surprised by the limited, but not unnoticed undercurrent of resentment coming from a few at the table. One female in particular was glaring at her the entire meal.

Kay kept up a pleasant conversation. She knew Pidge was interested in technology and as a teacher had a lot of information on the history and abilities of her planet. Pidge enjoyed talking to her. She had often been at odds with the teachers she had growing up because most of the time she was just smarter and challenged them. She was old enough now to admit she hadn't always been kind about it and had sometimes been downright confrontational, but not always, sometimes the teachers had simply been intimidated. Kay was not intimidated by Pidge's intelligence. She welcomed it. If she didn't have an answer she called over someone who might, and if they didn't have an answer she was happy to discuss ideas with Pidge and see if they could figure it out between them. It was honestly very pleasant to be academic for awhile, thinking and puzzling for no other purpose other than just to learn.

At some point the conversation strayed onto the Galra. It was bound to come up.

"It was almost 100 years ago when the deal was struck." Kay explained. "We provided raw materials and they began teaching technical expertise in regards to space travel. Later as we learned and expanded on their teaching, we also began to barter in shield technology, farming and mining knowledge including equipment and scanning capabilities. I would like to say we only provided knowledge and materials to be used for exploring and cultivating new worlds, but we were aware of how this technology could be abused. We had heard the rumors of what happened on other worlds." Kay shook her head.

"Why should we believe those rumors? What proof did we have? Nothing ever went wrong between ourselves and the Galra until these showed up!" The glaring woman snarled across the table.

"Osha, you speak out of turn." Kay's voice was hard and left no doubt she was in charge.

"My apologies, Leader Kay, but it's true." Osha didn't look particularly apologetic.

"You are wrong, Osha, you were simply not aware of everything that had happened."

"Oh, and you were then? He told you, did he?" Osha anger made her voice quiver and Pidge got the feeling this was more personal than political.

"No, not all of it, and he was not the only one to speak to his old headmistress." Kay's voice softened. It was clear she cared about this person.

"Then enlighten us, if it didn't go wrong when they showed up then when?" Osha challenged.

Kay sighed, "The first part that went wrong was that we are not a warring people and we knew in our hearts that our ores and our shields were being used in war ships. It ate at many in power, they were ashamed. He was ashamed of it Osha." Osha bowed her head. "Then the worst trouble began nearly a Solar turn ago, when the new General took control of this region of space. General Zantier was not like the previous Generals we had worked with. They were content to produce materials and technology and provide it to their empire. I had heard more than once from government officials that they considered their task a pleasant and easy one. He on the other hand sought power. He found this assignment beneath him. He treated our officials with disdain. He demanded more than we had ever provided before. He stopped the flow of technology from the empire. He cut all ties we had with scientists within the empire. We were on our way to being nothing more than another slave planet to them." Kay's voice raised as she spoke and by the end no one else at the table was speaking.

"How can you know that? You can't see the future! If we had just handed over the Paladins when he asked the first time, no one would have been taken. No one would have been hurt or killed." Osha's voice hitched on the word killed.

"I am sorry for your loss, Osha, such pain is hard to bear." Oman spoke gravely from beside her. His eyes soft and kind and full of empathy. "But I can tell you that I do know. I served as a slave under General Zantier's command for six of your solar turns. He would never enter into a deal without having the upper hand. He would have taken your planets children even if you had immediately agreed to his every whim. He would have continued to do things like that until he pushed your planet into reacting in some way, giving him the opportunity to attack and take over by force. I know this because this is what he did to three other systems during the time I was on his ship. He did not want to be in charge of trades and supplies. He wanted to be a conqueror and he was determined to prove that is where he was of most use to the empire. He would have slaughtered every man, woman, and child on your planet if it could have gotten him the power he sought."

Osha turned her full glare to Pidge, "And what of them, why are they better? Do they not simply seek the Galra empire for themselves? What makes them so much better?"

"Hey! Princess Allura lost her entire planet to the Galra. Everything and everyone she ever knew where wiped out, including her family. She is not trying to create a new empire! We are trying to free people under Galra control. We just freed a Balmera and the people living on it from slavery. Hunk's friend Shay hadn't even seen the sky her entire life! She grew up in a prison forced to work for the Galra." Pidge wasn't known for her diplomacy, but she was pretty determined when it came to defending her cause.

"And because of you and your friends my daughter and husband will never see anything again!" Osha spat.

There was silence at the table for a moment. Pidge opened and closed her mouth stung by the fury directed at her. Who had been her family? Had they been one of the ones killed on the assembly line?

"Osha, enough!" Kay stood and Pidge noticed Oman's bulk had risen next to her protectively. "Osha, the deaths of Gia and Gib pain us all, but none as much as you. But you are wrong to place the blame with these." Kay gestured to Pidge.

Pidge's brain clicked back on with the names, "Osha, we are all very sorry for what happened to your family. For all of you who may have lost someone during this time." She raised her eyes up to look at the rest of the table as well. "I came here, to space, to find my family. My father and brother are scientists, explorers, they were on a mission to learn about a planet in my home star system. It was the farthest we had ever travelled. My people are not as advanced in space travel as some. We had never made contact with people from another planet. They were taken by the Galra, along with their pilot. I know this because their pilot escaped and made his way back to us." All eyes were on Pidge now as she spoke softly.

"He had spent a year in captivity. He was imprisoned, and tortured, and forced to fight in their arena. They cut off his arm and replaced it with a mechanical one for their experiments and amusement. The Black Paladin does not fight to build an empire, he fights to free people who suffer like he did. I fight to find my family. They are still out there, still prisoners of the Galra. I spent a week in captivity and my sleep is haunted with nightmares. It breaks my heart to think of what they are experiencing every day." Pidge took a deep breath to fight off the tears, "Oman spent 10 Deca-Phoebs in captivity, others lifetimes. What happened to your planet was wrong. What happens to all of these planets that the Galra enslave is wrong. Use your pain and anger for something good, stand with Voltron, fight against this injustice. Fight to stop the empire from hurting any other families." Pidge turned and looked directly at Osha, "fight to stop any other mothers or wives from losing their family. Join us." Applause erupted from the table and Pidge was startled. She had been focused on Osha, who raised a tear stained face to nod slightly at her, maybe not agreement, but at least acceptance.

Chapter Text

Lance stood back and admired the dress. It was done, at least he hoped so, he would need Pidge's final approval in the morning, but he thought it was perfect. It was a rich satin, dark green in color. He had started with a dress of Allura's. He stripped out he didn't know how many underskirts, transformed the full length skirt into extremely wide pant legs. He pulled the excess fabric to make a gather at the left side and used some of the extra fabric to create a sash that tied just above the waist

Then he went to work on the bodice. He cut the starch out of the sleeves and then left them hanging with a cold shoulder cut. The layers that used to puff and stand up now hung like delicate leaves, layered almost down to the elbow. He created a wrap effect on the body, pulling one layer over the other and gathering down to the same point as the pants. It made for a V neckline, perfect for the gift he knew Allura was going to give her. The best part of the dress though was something special he found by accident poking around at the machine. He could embed little twinkling lights into the material. So he had added lighting to the sleeves, the bottom layer portion of the bodice and in a pattern like they'd splashed up in her pants legs around the bottom.

He hoped it wasn't too over the top for Pidge. It was definitely not ruffles or bows, but a girl's quinceanera dress was supposed to one of a kind amazing, not just a nice dress. Also he hoped he hadn't gone wrong with the pants. To top it off he had found a silver tiara with green stones. It was delicate and wrapped around itself like wires on a motherboard, the stones sat like the little soldered joints where the wires crossed. He suspected it was meant to be something more organic, but he was going with the motherboard description when he tried to talk Pidge into wearing it.

His own suit was completed as well. He had pale gray pleated slacks, a long single breasted matching jacket and a ocean blue button up with a narrow gray tie. He didn't really care if it was fashion forward or not, it was fun to wear and he hoped the others found theirs fun as well. He knew they all looked good in them.

Putting the dress away and standing for a long stretch he realized how late it had gotten. It was almost time to turn in for the night, but honestly he didn't feel like sleeping, he was stiff and sore from sitting too long and needed to run off some physical energy. He was mentally exhausted, but his body wasn't so sure. He stopped by his room and changed into something appropriate for a workout and headed to the training deck. He hadn't done this for awhile anyway and he knew he couldn't afford to be too long out of practice. No one was around when he got there so he powered up the system and set it for voice command.

He warmed up by doing some stretches, running laps around the training area and then doing some harder stretches and a couple of yoga moves he remembered. Once he felt the stiffness was out of his muscles he started up the simulation.

"Hand to Hand simulation, gladiator level one," He wanted a work out not a butt kicking, and it had been awhile. He proceed smoothly through the blocks and defensive moves this level focused on. He was building up a sweat anyway, it really had been over a week since he'd set foot in here at all. He was pleased that he wasn't out of breath though and as the simulation ended he felt energized enough to do another round. He grabbed a staff from the wall and got into position.

"Staff combat, gladiator level one."

He was doing fine until Keith walked through the door startling him. He turned and lost his footing on a blocking move. The gladiator's staff caught him behind the knee and the spun around and whacked him in the chest.

"Stop simulation!" Keith yelled.

"Ow." Lance winced as he sat up. It was only level one so it wasn't like he had anything broken, but he imagined a bruise was a very real possibility.

"What are you doing?" Keith made his way over and reached out to help him up.

"Well, I would think that was obvious." Lance gestured to the room around him, "training."

"Alone?" Keith raised an eyebrow.

"Sure. It was set at a level I've done before." Lance shrugged.

"You practice alone?"

"You look all surprised like you don't do it all the time." Lance frowned at Keith.

"I do, but I didn't know you did." And at this point Lance decided he was getting a little insulted with the shock.

"Right, because I'm so horrible you thought I never practiced." Lance pulled away from Keith. "For your information, we weren't all born with some weird ninja skills, some of us have to work at it."

"I didn't…" Keith sputtered, "I mean, that isn't what I meant."

"Okay, then what did you mean?" Lance put his staff back on the rack and grabbed a towel from the shelf. He sat down and started doing some leg stretches to avoid cramps later.

"Well, I just, I meant," Keith was blushed red and seemed so off guard that Lance relented his anger.

"Just spit it out Mullet, I'm not going to get more insulted."

"Oh," Keith took another breath and started fresh, "What I was going to suggest was that we could train together sometimes, since we were both getting in extra training. Shiro won't let me try higher levels by myself, but if there was someone here… Well then we could both do more, right?"

Lance thought about it for a moment and nodded, "Sure, but I don't practice for hours on end, I'm not getting my butt kicked by the gladiator so you can do higher levels, and I will check with Shiro and see how high he is comfortable with us going with just the two of us here."

Keith gave him a big smile, like he'd just given him a present or something. Lance thought he could think of better presents than extra workouts.

"So why are you here?" Lance asked as he got up and Keith started to follow him out the door. He had kind of thought Keith had shown up to do training.

"Oh, I was checking on you." Keith gave him a nod and headed out toward the common area. Lance decided Keith might be the most awkward person ever to come from the planet Earth, but he really did seem to be trying to be a good friend. He would have to keep that in mind the next time he did something that drove him nuts.

***

Hunk was quivering with anticipation. The vision had finally come to him and he had enlisted Coran to help him with some of the trickier parts of the mechanics. They had suspended over fifty floating star cakes above the cake area. They were round cakes with a mechanism implanted in the middle to hold them up. Hunk had decorated them with spikes of royal icing sparkled and glittered in what looked like edible glitter, but was actually a pollen from a flower that tasted lightly of lavender and honey. He had checked with Pidge on this before and knew it didn't bother her allergies. These cakes he had made vanilla flavored and the white icing was flavored with honey - or alien honey anyway. Those bees had been really big!

The cake area was to the side of the staircase so you could see it both from above and below so he and Coran had spent nearly the entire evening getting the stars right. The next piece was the planet earth as tall as Hunk. It was peanut butter flavored and the frosting was as well. He had used some weird Altean ingredient that stiffened the frosting so that he could sculpt it. Sitting perched on top of the earth was a green lioness, like an earth lioness. She was sitting on her haunches her head tilted slightly to the side as her raised paw batted at a nearby star. The lioness was as tall as Pidge. It was beautiful and perfect just like the girl it was to represent.

Coran clapped Hunk on the back, "I have never seen the like Number Two. It is truly a work of art."

The squeal coming from behind them was music to Hunk's ears.

"HUNKKKK! AHHHH!" Pidge ran toward him and jumped up and grabbed hold of him. "I LOVE it!"

"You like it, really?" He asked. Hunk looked down at her beaming face. Every bit of hard work was completely paid and then some with that adoring gaze.

"I love it, Hunk. It is awesome. I never would have even thought to ask you to make something like it. You are the best." She squeezed him hard.

He chuckled, "Don't break the chef, Pidge, I have to finish the meal tomorrow."

"I don't deserve a friends like you!" She hugged him again.

He reached down and put his hand under her chin, lifting her face up to his, "Oh yes you do." He then swiped some peanut butter frosting on her nose. She giggled and chased him around the room, away from the cake sculpture.

Oman stood with Coran watching the youngsters chase each other around, laughing and sliding on the floor, rolling around when they tackled each other. His eyes sparkled with unshed tears. This was how they were meant to be.

***

Allura came into the room to admire the sculpture, "It is breathtaking. I didn't know Hunk was such an artist."

Coran smiled twirling his moustache. "Indeed, Number Two is full of surprises. He has worked so very hard to put this all together."

"Lance's decorations are quite spectacular as well." She turned and took in the entire room. Rich green tapestry, gold cords, brown branches, white blossoms - it was elegant and not over the top, a level of taste she would not have guessed the Blue Paladin possessed based on his usual extravagant nature.

"I believe, Princess, it shall be a ball as lovely as any we had on Altea. Your mother would have been pleased." He wrapped an arm around her and gave her a squeeze.

Allura's eyes teared slightly. She was reminded of her father frequently in this war she found herself in and she had, for a time at least, his memory to access. It wasn't often she was reminded of her mother. The Queen had been a lady of grace and delicate refinement. Allura remembered her kind smile, sweet words of encouragement, and gentle hands. In Allura's memory she was like a perfect imagine, not a hair out of place, clothes perfect, make up perfect, everything perfect. To think this ball would have pleased her was precious to Allura.

"I wished I remembered more about her." Allura whispered.

"She was an amazing person, Princess. I see her in you every day." Coran smiled sadly at her.

"Really?" She looked over at him hopefully.

"You are the image of her, Princess, every time you walk into the room I see her beauty, when you help others I see her kindness, and when you command a room I see her royal upbringing. You know it was her line that lead to the throne, not your fathers." Coran winked at her.

She knew that of course, but she smiled at him and the memory. King Alfor was a brilliant king and commander, but he had not been born to it. It was the Queen with a line of royalty back to the beginnings of Altean society.

***

Lance took a nice long shower, before deciding it was time to make his way to the common sleep area. Hunk had been on his way into the shower when Lance left, something about washing peanut butter frosting out of his hair. Lance shook his head, but didn't ask. When he saw Pidge waiting in the hall for her turn at the shower he actually managed a smile at the peanut butter frosting smeared across her face in the shape of Hunk's hand.

"Um, Pidge, you have a little something on your face," he gestured to his entire face, "about here."

"You're lucky I've been waiting to see you smile." Pidge gave him a grin and a pass on the sisterly beating it would normally have gotten him to tease her so.

He nodded with a small smile and headed on his way. Coran and Allura were already in the room sitting on her bed looking at a book when he came in. They were both smiling openly; it was nice.

"Lance," Allura gestured him over. "Coran found a picture book from a ball that my mother organized on Altea when I was a little girl. We were just commenting on how similar the decorations you did are to what she had done. Of course she decorated in pink, teal, and silver, but the placements are all almost the same." Allura was almost giddy.

Lance had never seen her look so young. He came over and looked at the pictures. He didn't think his decorations looked as good as these and he picked up a couple of good ideas for the next time he helped decorate. At the last page was a picture of Allura's mom standing in the middle of the hall arms raised directing someone.

"You look just like her!" Lance looked over at Allura who was now blushing.

"Thank you." She ducked her head and traced a finger over the picture.

"So you believe it when he says it." Coran huffed and gave her a playful push.

***

Shiro was the next in, followed by Hunk with a towel on his head and Keith still munching a late night snack of food goo. Pidge was the last to join them.

"Did you enjoy your time?" Allura asked.

"I did." She looked over at Allura serious for a moment. "There were still some Hasrans that were not convinced that the Galra were actually their enemies. They have worked together for a long time. I think I talked several of them that were there onto our side, but it's possible that there are others that remain on the other side."

Allura nodded quietly, "I know Pidge, I've known for awhile. Kay let me know the first time we talked. We have been taking precautions and Kay has posted security for us and for her staff. So far nothing has come of it and she hasn't found anyone who is militant about their pro-Galra feelings. As you said they were partners with the Galra for years and from what Kay said, had actually worked with Galra that treated them well." Allura frowned still finding that part very hard to believe. "It will take time to win the hearts of all of the people, but Kay has carefully chosen her leadership and they are all working together to bring it about."

Pidge nodded. She felt good about how she left the house tonight. Words of encouragement and genuine discussion about what the Galra Empire was doing in the universe filled the room as she left. Maybe she could get used to the diplomatic portion of her role as paladin after all; it felt like she had made a difference tonight and Kay's grateful smile and warm hug had reinforced that feeling.

"Oman, told me what you said earlier." Allura smiled. "I am so proud of you." She gave Pidge a huge hug until she started squirming. Shiro raised an eyebrow and Allura mouthed, "later". She would update him on the Green Paladin's latest accomplishment.

"It wasn't anything special." Pidge muttered.

"I disagree," Allura declared and let the subject drop as it was clearly embarrassing the girl. "Now everyone get some rest. We are going to throw the biggest party every held on Hasran tomorrow."

Chapter Text

The screams woke everyone up. When Lance did a nightmare he didn't do it halfway. He screeched and the sound made the hair on the back of Shiro's neck stand up. Pidge's own shriek echoed her fear. Hunk was tying to climb the side of the bunk and Keith just vaulted over the side. Lance was screaming sitting up in his bed, clawing at his head.

"Get out of my head! Get out! Get out!" the words interspersed with unintelligible screams and inarticulate screeches. Keith captured Lance's hands and pulled them away from his face. There were a few bleeding scratches around his forehead and one under his left eye. He struggled and screamed even more.

Hunk had made it up to the top of the bunk and crawled up behind Lance wrapping his arms around him. "Lance, Lance, it's Hunk. Hey, man it's me. You just need to wake up. No one here but us good guys." Hunk rubbed his hands on Lance's shoulders.

Keith released his hold on Lance's arms as soon as he quit trying to claw his face. "It's just us Lance." Keith whispered.

Pidge crawled over with them next to Keith. "Lance, can you hear us? Open your eyes."

Lance slowly opened his eyes. His body was trembling with remembered pain and fear. The door swished open and Coran came rushing in.

"Ah, good. You managed to get him awake. Here, then Number three. I have something for you to drink." Coran gave him a hydration pouch and took his medical kit back over to his bed, grateful he wasn't going to need the injection he had used on Shiro to calm the Blue Paladin.

Lance took the pouch and sipped, wincing when his scratches pulled. He gently touched the marks.

Keith, pulled his hand back down, "You scratched yourself a little. It isn't bad."

Lance nodded. He was still trembling and staring wide-eyed at nothing. Keith wasn't sure he was entirely awake or aware of them around him. He sipped robotically at the pouch.

"Lance?" Pidge touched his arm with her hand. He looked down at her hand and caught sight of the scar. His stare zoomed in on it.

"More than a scratch," he mumbled. "I thought I would die. I mean, I was ready that time." His voice was flat and unemotional. Hunk's breath caught in his throat and Pidge choked back a sob.

Lance looked up at Keith, "Was that wrong?"

Keith's violet eyes reflected back solemn thought, "I guess it depends on why you did it?" Pidge's sharp gasp and Shiro's sharp "Keith." echoed warnings, but he knew what he was doing.

"Why?" Lance echoed. "Hunk couldn't do it. I knew he couldn't kill me. They were going to kill Pidge. It would have killed Hunk to watch that thinking it was his fault. I was dying anyway. Something was broken inside." He touched his chest were the broken rib had punctured his lung. "I couldn't let that happen, not if I could stop it." His eyes went from Keith's back to the scar. "I'd rather die." Hunk was sobbing and Pidge was crying softly her hand gripping Lance's tightly.

"How could it be wrong to try to save your friends?" Keith asked.

Lance looked back up, the fuzziness from the dream starting to leave. Blue wrapped around his mind purring with Keith's words. He felt Pidge's small hand in his and Hunk's arms wrapped around him.

"The Blue Paladin is a protector, one who puts others above themselves." Allura whispered in the darkness standing by his bed.

He turned to her and saw tears in her eyes. She would understand sacrifice. She understood what he did and was telling him it was part of why he was chosen as the Blue Paladin.

Coran sniffled next to her and reached up to touch his hand. Shiro had climbed partway up and had an arm around Keith. He smiled softly at Lance when he looked up at him.

"I'm sorry, I woke everyone up." Lance blushed strongly, fully awake and aware he was the center of attention in the room. He liked attention on his terms, this wasn't the kind of attention he preferred.

"This isn't a thing to be sorry for." Shiro patted his leg.

"Okay." He wiped tears from his face that he hadn't even realized were falling.

"Here then." Coran rushed to his bed and came back with a little jar. "This will help with your scratches."

Pidge grabbed the jar. Hunk had stiffened behind him. The look on Pidge's face was one of pain. She opened it and sniffed carefully. Her arms relaxed and she looked over to Hunk.

"It's okay, it doesn't even smell the same. It's okay." Hunk relaxed behind him. Pidge took a small amount on her finger and smeared it on Lance's scratches.

"Smell the same?" Coran asked thinking he had made a misstep without even realizing it.

"As the cream Malek gave Hunk, from the arena. It sealed wounds, but didn't stop infection." Her voice was hollow as she continued working on Lance's face.

"Ah. I know what you speak of, it can be used on a clean wound or to seal a surgery, but it is not best for field triage as it traps dirt or infection inside and it hurts. That does explain some things." Coran nodded sadly.

When Pidge finished she handed the jar back to Coran. She gave Lance a pat and crawled back to bed. Keith nodded and vaulted over the side only to find himself in Shiro's arms. Shiro tossed him onto his bed with a grin. Coran and Allura each gave Lance's leg a squeeze and moved back to their corners.

Hunk was still behind him and seemed reluctant to go.

"Can I stay? My legs have fallen asleep." He muttered embarrassed. "Also I was already having a bad dream when you woke me up, I don't want it to come back."

Lance nodded and laid down scooting to the side of the bed making room for his best friend. Hunk slid down next to him and closed his eyes. A little while later Lance was glad that these were bunked full size beds as Pidge slide back over from her bunk and into the space between him and the rail.

***

The next morning Hunk rushed off to the kitchen. The staff was showing up early he said as he made a beeline. Lance joked he'd be glad when Hunk was done cooking so that they could have something other than food goo for breakfast. Hunk gave him a knowing grin and informed him there were pastries in the kitchen that he had finished last night. Lance whooped and jumped out of his bunk. After securing Pidge's promise to meet him in the clothes room after lunch he spun off to his room to get ready for breakfast. He had put off his skin routine too long.

Pidge pulled the cover back over her head and muttered something about getting up later. Keith bounced out of bed and down the hall, presumably to go train, because that was usually how he started his day. Coran, Shiro, and Allura all had things to do to get ready for their guests tonight and made their way out of the group room. Pidge smiled delighted and curled up like a kitten. Sleeping in was a luxury a girl deserved on her birthday.

It was nearly lunch time when Lance came to get her.

"Out of bed birthday girl!" He nudged her and she sat up, hair sticking every possible direction. "Ah!" Lance stood back in mock horror. "Here I brought you brunch in bed." He handed up a floating tray with a selection of pastries and a cup of not coffee and a cup of juice.

"Thanks." She pushed the hair down a little in a half-hearted attempt to make it behave.

"Don't thank me yet. We have work to do. After brunch you will need a fresh shower so we can do your skin care and fix your hair. Then it's off to wardrobe and make up, we need to have you ready for your big entrance."

He ticked off the tasks on his fingers as she nibbled the pastries, they were really good.

"And what are you my groomer for the day?" She wrinkled her nose. She felt a bit like a pampered pooch, but she wasn't sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing.

"Sure. Works for me." he shrugged.

As soon as she finished she realized he had not been kidding. He escorted her into the shower and then pointed to an entire row of products she was supposed to make use of, pointing out the proper use of each and declaring no 3-in-1 alien shampoo body wash combo for her today. She shoved him out of the shower and stared bemused at all of the things he wanted her to do. Oh well, what harm could it do.

An hour later she knew what harm it could do. Her shower took forever and she smelled great and she was loving it. Damn him and his tempting ways, she was going to want to shower like this all the time now. She found the plush robe he had left for her. It was velvety soft and fluffy warm. When she left the shower he was there waiting in the hall for her.

True to his word he escorted her to his room and began running her through a skin care routine. He then started working on her hair. She freaked out a little when he pulled out the scissors, but he promised he was just trimming the edges to get rid of split ends. He said he did his all of the time. She gave him a look that promised more pain than her bayard could provide if he messed it up an he swallowed and swore to be careful.

She fidgeted and squirmed, but he finally got her hair done. He had completed a tight braid on the top of her head so it looked like she was wearing a headband made out of her own hair. He worked her usual spiky look in the back to make it a little more even and less clumpy.

He then handed her some undergarments and told her to put them on under her robe. He said he'd be in the hall. He only had to explain a couple pieces. She wasn't used to wearing anything more than her underwear under her clothes. Girl clothes were stupidly complicated. Bras hadn't been a requirement in her life yet, but Lance said it was important to wear the right underclothes to make her dress look right. The pantyhose were some weird alien things he'd gotten from Allura and he pointed out a button and told her to be careful to put them in the right place or they'd give her a horrible wedgie. She vowed to ask him about how he knew that sometime soon as his face blushed horribly and he made a quick exit.

Once she was properly attired she made her way out into the hall. She had to a admit everything seemed to fit and wasn't as dreadfully uncomfortable as she had thought it was going to be. Maybe alien pantyhose were better than earth ones. She remembered shredding them as a child and refusing to wear them.

Lance sat her in a chair in front of a zipped up bag. He said he had to do a big reveal so she could appreciate it properly. She closed her eyes and tried not to cringe. She was not a traditional girly girl and was really afraid she was going to hurt Lance's feelings when she didn't like the dress. She was surprised when the first thing she saw as he unzipped it from the bottom where pants. He'd made her pants. Then there was a belt and a top. She wasn't sure about the floppy sleeves and the cut around her neck and shoulders, but really he'd listened to what she said she wanted. He had her step into the Measure-o-matic and when she got out he handed her the dress and pointed out the changing room. She slipped on the pants. They were so wide cut they almost looked like a skirt. They fit perfectly ending in a high waisted cut. They even had pockets. She smiled as she slipped her hands in. She then slipped the bodice on. The wrap part fit tightly at her waist and she was a little surprised at the feminine form in the mirror. It had been awhile since she'd worn anything that highlighted the fact that she was a girl. The sleeves weren't that bad on, she actually kind of liked them. She felt attractive, not sexy, that seemed weird and not her, but attractive, beautiful even. It wasn't something she usually thought about, but it was really nice. Lance knocked.

"Come in."

He opened the door. A smile lit his face when he saw her, the biggest and truest she'd seen since they got back. "You like it?"

"I do. I actually do." She knew she sounded surprised, but she was. He didn't seem to mind. He took the belt and tied it around her just above her waist.

"There is one more thing." He pushed a button on a little remote and tiny lights lit up in different places on her dress twinkling and sparkling.

She couldn't help the stupid grin. She felt like some kind of magical robot creature with lights on her body. He quickly fitted something on her head while she was looking at the lights and she frowned slightly at the tiara.

"I think it looks like wires on a motherboard, don't you?" he asked hopefully.

Pidge looked at the thing on her head, at first it just looked like a princess crown, but now that she looked close she could see what Lance was talking about.

"Okay, I'll wear it." She allowed. If she had any doubts they were erased by another smile on his face.

Chapter Text

Lance practically had to tie her down to finish her nails in the pale pink French manicure he managed. He rambled on about how his sisters loved to have him help with their make-up something about steady hands. He did her make-up in mostly neutrals with a bronzer and a slight shimmer for depth and highlight. He did her eyes in gold and a relatively thick liner. No points are anything too glam, but certainly more than she usually did. Her lipstick he also went golden. When she looked in the mirror she just stared. She looked like an adult: a grown up, dressed up, fancied up, adult. It was a little bittersweet she decided.

As she was staring into the mirror Allura appeared behind her, "I have a gift for you, Pidge." She reached around and clasped a necklace onto her. It was gold with a pendant that hung perfectly with the V-neck in her dress. The pendent looked like an emerald the size of a quarter.

"It was my mother's," she added, "I hope you like it."

Pidge choked back tears, Lance would not be happy if she messed up his make-up work. "Allura, I can't take something that was your mom's. That's too important."

"No, I want you to have it. It was given to her by the first Green Paladin and now I am giving it back to the Green Paladin. I would be honored if you would keep it. I am proud to know you and honor you today."

Pidge gave her a tight smile and gently touched the pendant. It was a wonderful gift. "Thank you, Allura. I will be honored to wear it."

Lance slipped some little black slippers onto her feet. She remembered she had to change into the fancy boots Allura had found for her when she got to the party. She smiled nervously at him.

"You ready?" He asked. She nodded. She hadn't even noticed when he'd gotten himself ready for the party.

Oman was waiting outside. He had on some sort of black tied garment that reminded her of something she'd seen in an old movie with people living in the desert. He held out his arm to take hers. Lance waved and grabbed Allura's arm and they hurried off ahead of them.

"Lance has told me you need to be escorted to make your entrance to your party. It would be my honor to escort you, if that would be okay with you?" Oman looked a little unsure of himself.

"I would like that very much, Oman." She patted his hand and they made their way to the hall. She could hear cheering ahead of them and figured that Lance and Allura had made their entrance.

They stood at the top of the stairs and Coran's voice echoed from below. "May I present the Green Paladin, Katie Holt, or as we call her Pidge. Pidge is escorted this evening by Oman of the Greckolians."

They walked down the stairs, every eye on them. Pidge clutched Oman's arm, "Don't let me fall." She whispered to him.

He nodded in response and only had to catch her once when her feet crossed going down a step.

As they reached the floor the spot light left them and the music resumed. It was all fantastic. There were hundreds of people in the hall. The decorations looked even better in the lighting and her cake had a crowd around it owwing and awwing over it. There were color changing spotlights on the different stars and the lighting on the lion made it look nearly real. Green echoed her approval and amusement in Pidge's mind. Oman led Pidge up to a little stage where Princess Allura, the other Paladin's and Coran were waiting. There was a chair that looked like a throne. Oman led her to it and she sat carefully. Shiro stepped over to her.

"You look wonderful, Katie." He smiled aware he was one of the few people in the universe that could get away with calling her Katie. "I know that this is traditionally done by a father, but if you would allow me the honor?" He held out the gold boots she was to put on.

She fought back tears again and nodded. He slipped off her little black shoes and slid on the golden boots. They weren't too high or she would have fallen on her face. They were a soft brushed golden color in a material similar to leather in feel and weight. They came up to her ankle and the heel was just an inch wedge. She stood and the room erupted in applause. She was wondering if that was something she was going to have to get used to.

Keith walked over looking nervous, "Um, Pidge," he held out his hand, "could I have this dance?" She could see Lance giving him a thumbs up behind her and she had to smile at this clearly coached wording.

"Of course." He escorted her out to the dance floor and the music they had picked started. Keith had asked early on if he could teach her the one dance he knew for the party. She didn't think he realized he was being roped into dancing it with her when they started or that it would be the opening dance, but here they were. They waltzed across the floor gracefully. Keith may have an awkward personality, but his body was strong and graceful and they looked beautiful if a touch Chrismtasy in their red and green as they spun about the dance area. When they finished Keith spun her around into a dip and the crowd cheered. He pulled her up into a brotherly hug and she thanked him with a kiss on the cheek.

She danced with Hunk next, then Lance, then Coran, and Shiro. She danced with Oman. She danced with a whole slew of young Hasarns, most of them blushing and tripping over themselves, a few that could meet her eye and a couple she even gave a smile. She danced with Allura, a stately spinning dance that she could barely keep up with and they had ended laughing in each other's arms.

About two vargas into the party, they served the meal. The smells filled the hall and the murmured approval from the crowd was putting a huge grin on Hunk's face. They were sitting on the dais where she had changed her shoes. They had invited Oman, Kay, and a few other officials to the head table, along with Kay's granddaughter who was thrilled to sit next to "Pid".

***

It was sometime after the meal that Lance found himself out amongst the crowd by himself. It had been the first time since they'd entered that he'd felt calm enough to wonder off without someone right by his elbow. If Keith had found it strange to have Lance clinging to him, he hadn't said anything. He was standing near a pillar watching Pidge dance with a handsome young Hasran male when a voice startled him.

"Lance."

"Lira." He turned and took her hands in his. She was not a head of state or official or scientist, so she hadn't really been around the castle, and he hadn't really left the castle; so they hadn't seen each other. He had to admit the sound of her voice made his hand shake. She hadn't come to him in good circumstances, but she had brought him comfort when no one else could. She smiled and laid her hand on his cheek.

"You look wonderful."

He ducked his head and probably blushed, "Thank you."

She pulled him into a tight hug. "I am so glad to see you well."

He nodded and could feel tears falling from his eyes, "I almost gave up. You helped me." He whispered into her ear.

"You gave me strength." She whispered back, her own tears mingling with his. They cried softly together as she held him; tears of happiness, tears of regret, tears of joy, tears of relief, and tears for things that could not be as they were before. After awhile he pulled back and she wiped his tears from his face. He smiled shyly at her and she asked him about his family. She asked about his mother. He told her about them all from brothers and sisters to aunts and uncles. She smiled and nodded, her heart overflowing imagining the faces of each member of his family happy to know he was alive and safe. Sometime later she took his hand and led him over to the young man Pidge had been dancing with earlier.

"Lance, this is my son, Lino. Lino, this is Lance." Lance reached out his hand to shake. They were the same height, they must be nearly the same age. Lino smiled brightly at him and pulled him into a hug.

"Thank you, Lance. Mother tells me she never would have had the courage to escape if it wasn't for you and the other Paladins and she said it was your flying that saved them all. I can never thank you enough for bringing her home to me." His eyes glowed when they looked at her. His love for her was so clear. It put Lance's heart into his throat thinking of his own mother.

"I wouldn't have made it without her either, Lino. She helped me when no one else was there. I would have died without her." The pride in Lira's son's face glowed and Lance patted him on the back. "She is an amazing woman. You are lucky to have her as a mother."

"I am." He nodded and took his mother's hand. "Would you dance with me?" She nodded and patted Lance's hand as they headed out to the dance floor.

"You, okay." Keith appeared at his side.

"Yeah." Lance wiped a tear. "Just needed to thank someone."

His eyes and nose were red and it was obvious he had been crying. Keith took a deep breath, unsure of what he could do to help. "Um, I need some air, there's a lot of people in here. I'm going up to the balcony for a bit, want to come?"

Lance nodded and Keith took that as a sign he had done the correct thing.

***

Several varga later they had gathered on the stage again. Lance seemed to be doing okay and Keith had relaxed, giving Shiro a nod when he had looked over checking on them. Pidge walked to the front of the stage and everyone cheered for her. Lance stood and cleared his throat and walked up to the area with the sound amplification and led them all in singing.

"Felicidades Pidge en tu dia que lo pases con sana alegrioa muchos anos de paz y armonia Felicidad, Felicidad, Felicidad."

Hunk joined him and they both sang,

"Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Pidge happy birthday to you!"

The crowd tried to join in as best they could not knowing the songs and they sang each through twice to help. Afterwards they started serving the cake. Hunk went to direct and got the first piece for Pidge. As soon as she finished eating, Lance grabbed her and spun her out onto the dance floor again.

By the end of the night her feet hurt and she sat on the bottom step with her boots off happily waving to people as they filtered out. Oman had given her a hug and promised to talk with her often via the communicator she had given him. He was leaving in the morning to search for Malla, starting at her last known location. He would send Pidge any data he found and she promised to keep searching for Malla as well. She was going to miss him, but understood why he had to go.

They would be leaving Hasran in the morning too. It was time to return to their responsibilities out there, to the universe, as it's defender. Lance leaned across three steps next to her, his long legs stretched out in front of him. He seemed okay. Not better, not all the way anyway, but okay. Hunk came over and joined them on the step, his kitchen help waving to him as they left. They had cleaned everything up for him and he had wished them all a tearful farewell. Lance didn't even open his eyes, but had scooted over for him.

"it was a magnificent feast Hunk, and I have never seen a cake like that, not even on those baking contests." Lance smiled softly with his eyes closed picturing it.

"Pidge, Happy Birthday." He pulled a package out from behind his back and laid it on her lap. "It's from me and Hunk, like I said before I had it under my bed, hidden until we had the chance to give it to you together."

She pulled the paper, which looked like Lance had sketched lions on it, off of the long rectangular package. Inside she found a intricately welded silver double picture frame, on one side was a picture of her, Lance, and Hunk, smiling and holding onto each other and on the other perfectly fitted was her picture with her brother.

"Hope you don't mind I stole your picture and made a copy." Lance opened one eye to check her reaction. "Hunk made the frame mostly. I'm not good at putting stuff together."

Her eyes teared up and she tackled them both in a hug. "Thank you! Thank you for the gift and the party. This has been one the of the best days of my life!" Lance smiled and wrapped his arms into the hug. Hunk wrapped them both up. They had made it, all three of them and they were going to keep making it until they won this war, until they got home.

***

Earlier that evening Hunk had sat with a group of Hasrans, they were enjoying the food and asking him loads of questions about how to cook it properly.

"Well you see, this style of cooking, there is a key to it. It starts with three vegetables. It is their combination of flavor that makes everything else fit together. You hardly even notice them in the final flavor as individuals, more as a combined flavor. No one ever eats my gumbo and says wow, that was good celery in there, not even the onion or the pepper seem to be the star of any of the dishes. The thing is though, that without the three of them, none of the rest of it would work. They make all of the other flavors better. They make everything work together and they make the great flavors even greater."

THE END

Chapter Text

EPILOGUE

A few phoebs later…

"In here," Pidge motioned for Lance. He spun around and moved over to stand guard at the door. She started hacking into the computer. Lance kneeled with his bayard in rifle form at his shoulder. He could hear the others over the com.

"Hunk, to your left." Shiro's voice commanded and a sound echoed over the com indicating the firing of Hunk's cannon. "Good work guys."

The rest of the team was moving slaves and prisoners out of cells a level down from where Pidge and he were accessing the computer system to gather intel.

"How's it going, Pidge?" He whispered back at her, not turning.

"Good, eighty percent already." She was watching the computer and didn't hear the door on the other side of the room open. Lance was focused in the hall.

"I've got droids incoming." She heard the sound of his rifle firing. "I can handle it, but this is going to attract attention.

Pidge jumped as she was grabbed from behind. Two strong green arms wrapped around her, one covering her mouth and a harsh voice hissed in her ear, "What are you doing here?"

Pidge threw an elbow back and stomped down hard on the foot behind her with her boot. The voice hissed and the grip loosened enough for her to spin around and pull her bayard out. She was turning and preparing to use it when the face came into focus. Green, turtle-like, with a cracked beak and a scar above her right eye.

"Malla?" Pidge asked hesitating to use her bayard. The green girl also paused at the sound of the name.

"What did you say?" She held a shank in her hand and had been prepared to use it on Pidge.

"Is your name Malla?" Pidge asked.

"How would you know that name?" She narrowed her eyes and backed away, knife still held at the ready.

"I am friends with a person from your planet named Oman, he is looking for his daughter Malla. I am helping him." Pidge explained.

"Oman was taken by the Galra over ten Deco-Phoebs ago. He is dead." She hissed.

"No, he isn't. He escaped the Galra with me and my friends and he is looking for his daughter. Are you Malla, are you his daughter?" Pidge asked again.

"I…I was Malla." Her hard eyes softened for a moment and then hardened again.

"Okay, well we are getting people out of here, do you want to come with us?" Pidge offered.

"I…"

"Pidge we need to hurry, there is something wrong here, I feel something bad, really." Lance sounded strangely nervous. His rifle continuing to fire.

Pidge glanced at her data stick as it beeped. One hundred percent download complete. "Come with us. Whoever you are now, your father will want to see you."

"How can you know that?" She looked at the ground. "I am not who I was, I have done things, things to survive." She sounded bitter and angry.

"A lot of people have. Your father was a prisoner for a long time, you don't think he will understand? Either way come with us, get out of here." Pidge grabbed the stick and made toward the door and Lance. Malla followed.

"Look out!" Hunk's voice yelled over the com.

"Keith!" Shiro's voice echoed in pain.

"Shiro? What's going on?" Lance called.

"We are caught in the cross fire at the intersection south of the entry point. We can't hold for long. You need to hurry. The prisoners are on board. Keith is down." Shiro answered through panted breaths, probably fighting.

"On our way." Lance turned to Pidge and Malla, "you heard him Pidge. Malla we need to double time." He took off running at a pace he hoped they could keep.

As they rounded the hall he could see Shiro fighting in hand to hand with way too many droids and Hunk trying to cover two halls. Keith was propped up against the wall, unconscious. Pidge waded into the fight with Malla beside her. There were an effective pair. Lance slid to one side and nodded to Hunk as he took one hall and Hunk took the others. They had soon cleared the filled halls of incoming droids and Shiro, Pidge, and Malla had taken out the ones that had already gotten through.

"We need to get out of here." the words were out of his mouth before he even thought about them. A coldness filled his heart and he knew what was coming. "Shiro we need to go."

Shiro didn't question, he grabbed Keith and was making to go through the hall when a ball of purple lighting hit the wall where Keith had been.

"Druids!" Hunk yelled firing down the hall at the two cloaked hissing figures. Lance shoved Malla back through the door where Shiro had gone and slammed his hand on the panel shutting the door. He wished he could have gotten Pidge and Hunk through as well, but he needed to give Shiro time to get Keith and the prisoners to safety.

Pidge looked back shocked, but nodded her resolve. She readied her bayard. Lance fired but the druids seemed to shift from place to place and he kept missing them.

A blast hit Hunk and he fell, his bayard returning to his side in it's neutral form. Pidge nailed one of the druids with her bayard and while she held it Lance lit it up with shot after shot from his rifle, until it fell dead. The second druid was kneeling over Hunk and threw a blast winging Pidge hard enough that she couldn't hold her bayard. It turned back to Hunk and Lance fired at it again. It blinked and the shot missed. It reached it's clawed hand out for Hunk.

"Oh, I see, you don't want to challenge my mind. Already heard what I did to that other one of your kind. How it couldn't even get anything out of me and how I broke it's poor little brain?" Lance mocked firing again hoping to hit it.

"Lance?" Pidge gave him the you are crazy look.

The druid hissed and moved toward Lance casually blinking out of each shot he fired at it. Pidge slipped over to Hunk behind it's back. The druid slapped the bayard out of Lance's hands and grabbed him by the throat throwing him back against the wall.

"Do you think to challenge me?" It hissed.

"Nah, I mean it's not a challenge when I know I'm going to win." Lance shot back with as cocky a smile as he could muster when he was struggling to breath.

"Insolent brat. I will destroy you." It raised it's other hand and stuck lightning down into Lance. He screamed and tried to twist away. "I will break your mind." It's clawed hand moved from his neck and he fell to the ground. It kneeled over him and jabbed the claws into the side of his head. He screamed, but the so did the druid.

Pidge's bayard drove into the druid, her arm shaking with the effort of just holding it. Hunk barely conscious pointed his cannon and blasted the druid into oblivion.

"Pidge, Lance, Hunk!" Shiro yelled over the com.

"Sorry, Shiro, we had to deal with the druids. I'm going to get that door back open." Pidge limped over. Her whole right side felt weak and there was definitely blood running down her shoulder from the druids strike. Hunk sat blinking against the wall, not really registering but trying to cover the halls in case anyone else came. Lance was just out.

Shiro managed to get each of them to the shuttle. Malla helped Hunk, Pidge limped, and Shiro carried Lance cringing again at the repeat.

***

A week later Oman's shuttle docked at the castle. Pidge was down in the hanger, waiting to meet him.

"Where is she?!"

"Oman, please, she wanted me to talk to you first, to prepare you." Pidge hooked an arm around Oman and led him to a quiet room. She explained to him that Malla had been at many work camps, that in order to survive she had been forced to kill one of the leaders at the last work camp, and as such had been given the choice to take his role or die. She had chosen to live, but the choice meant she had become the new taskmaster to the slaves at the workcamp. She was hated. She had done things to keep them working that were distasteful, but she had felt she had no choice.

"Oman, she is depressed. She is ashamed. She is hurting. She was afraid to see you." Pidge patted his arm trying to offer him comfort.

"It does not matter to me. I just want to see her, to hold her." Oman had tears in his eyes.

Pidge looked toward a door in the room and smiled, "See I told you." she yelled through the door.

Malla stepped in, her own tears falling freely, "Truly father, you are not ashamed of me?"

He grabbed her in his arms and wept with joy. "My daughter, you live, you are brave and strong. Whatever you had to do to live, I know it was because you had no choice. I know your heart, little one" He kissed the top of her head. He looked up and gave Pidge a heartfelt smile as she slipped out of the door. "Thank you."

Pidge headed to the kitchen where Lance and Hunk were cooking. Keith and Shiro were sitting at the in the stools chatting.

"So, did it go as planned?" Shiro asked with a smile. The grin on Pidge's face as she entered the room had been answer enough.

"Of course, I'm a genius" Pidge pushed the glasses back on her face and joined them by pulling up another stool. "What's cooking?"

"Well it's not Paladin surprise," Lance offered with a smirk. He had been quiet for a while after getting out of the pods this time and had a flashback the next day, but he was quickly coming back to himself.

"I'm trying a new recipe. We need to find a food for all of us. The seven of us. We have the food for our friendship Pidge, now we need to expand and have like a Castle Food, something for all of us and since Allura and Coran are vegetarians, we settled on a vegetable soup."

"Yeah, a Cuban, Italian, Samoan, Japanese, Texan, Altean vegetable soup," Lance added with a laugh. "I am making garlic knots."

As it turns out the soup wasn't bad at all.