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Lance's Home for Wayward Shiros

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The next clone they tracked down proved to be more difficult to find. The owner — Carvelt Reslic— had moved seven times in the past five months, crossing galaxies to hide their trail. The paperwork after that... vanished. The final building was an abandoned warehouse covered in blood.

This was a Galra model clone and Lance had a bad feeling.

“We should report this,” Takashi said, looking pale as he surveyed the gruesome scene.

Lance felt numb. “Do you think this is his blood?”

“It’s too much,” Takashi said it like he was trying to convince himself as much as Lance.

“Are they forcing him to fight? Like they did with Shiro?”

“Maybe…” Takashi closed his eyes, eyebrows drawing together. He was likely fighting off those memories — memories that weren’t his of a horror he never personally had to experience. That didn’t change the mental scars it left behind, however.

“Come on,” Lance said as he turned and made his way back to Blue. “Let’s find the fucker that did this.”

It became an obsession for Lance. He barely slept and the others had to force him to eat. If he was too late, once again… No. He wouldn’t allow it. Not this time. Not again. He would find the clone and save him. There was no other option.

“The Galra clones never should have been taken out of stasis,” Asahi said one night, his fingers tracing along the scar that hid behind his shirt, his eyes distant. “They take out their fear and anger on us. They think it’s okay because we’re not really alive. But we are.”

Riku had gone over to soothe and comfort Asahi as Lance tried not to lose his lunch. Asahi wasn’t wrong. There would be lingering anger over the Galra for centuries to come. So soon after the war, people wanted something — someone — to focus their anger on. A Galra android in the image of a Paladin that came millennia too late was the perfect candidate.

Ethan had disappeared for a few days after that comment, only taking meals in his room— he told Lance it was the least he could do for the clones.

It was nearly a week before they came across even a scrap of information that might prove useful. There was a report about an Unilu who had been captured and quoted saying, “You’ll never find him in time.”

The name of the buyer was wrong, but the letters were all there, and Ethan admitted there was a chance that — with enough money — one of his shopkeepers allowed the Unilu to purchase the “android” without the proper identification. Asahi had been livid upon hearing that news, but at least it was something to go on, however small the chance.

At this point — Lance might have gone with no letters in common.

Clevart Liscer was the criminal that they tracked down, already in a holding cell of the local government. They granted the two Paladins access almost immediately to speak with Clevart in an interrogation room. A few of the aliens would monitor them outside of the room in case anything went wrong, but there were shackles on the Unilu’s four wrists that were bolted to the floor, not allowing for much movement.

“That one’s gone crazy,” one of the wardens said. “Be careful.”

Lance, Takashi, and Ethan entered the room with the seemingly calm Clevart, who simply laughed at the sight of Takashi. The criminal leaned back in his chair with a smirk, the chains on one leg rattling.

“Do you all feel one another?” he asked. “The druid supposed you might.”

Takashi glanced over at Lance. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Guess not then… It’s a shame I could only afford the one,” Clevart said, leering at Takashi. “You would have been just as pretty strung up.”

Lance grabbed Takashi before he could lunge, shoving him towards Ethan and pointing to the door. Takashi didn’t like it, but Ethan was bigger and stronger — with an extra set of arms to restrain him — making it easy to manhandle him out the door. Once alone in the room, Lance turned a dark look on Clevart.

“Where is he?”

“I always wondered about a human’s skin,” was the breezy response, one hand waving at Lance’s bronze skin, the chains attached to the table pulling tight. “Does it break like a Galra’s?”

“Where is he?” Lance wasn’t about to play into this sick game. He wasn’t going to lose another clone to being just a little too late.

“I would have loved to have the extra credits to afford a real clone — not the Galra reject I got.” He shrugged one shoulder, “but he had his uses, even if he did talk too much.”

“Clevart. Where is he?”

Lance watched as all four hands pressed onto the table. “He couldn’t do anything right, even after I spent so long training him. Still tried to get hard, even when we finally gave him a cage. Barely even started taking my tentacle properly before I got caught. Hardly made any of my friends happy before that. Shame I couldn’t have enjoyed that for longer.”

Clevart had a glint in his eye and Lance knew what it meant, which made his stomach roll. Clevart obviously wasn’t able to indulge in his sadistic urges while in lockup, but he could still torture people with his words. He knew how to get under people’s skin. Lance had to keep his cool and not give him the satisfaction of a proper reaction.

That was easier said than done. The date of sale from the datapad kept flashing into his mind. It had been three years. Three years since the clone had been sold to the psychopath. Lance felt sick.

“He couldn’t even die right,” Clevart continued, eager to force a reaction from Lance. “I tried. The slut just healed, though.” He paused and sent a smirk at Lance, “every time.” Clevart then shook his head, face pinched with distaste.

“Where is he?” Lance asked again, putting more force into it.

“How long have I been in here?” Clevart returned as he picked at his nails.

Lance scowled at the smug look on Clevart’s face, but he didn’t answer. He wasn’t sure what the right way to respond was. How did he get Clevart to talk?

“Perhaps if it’s been long enough, I will tell you where to find the mutt.” He grinned. “Assuming you tell me the truth.”

Lance grit his teeth, trying to remember anything about Galra anatomy that might help him… If he could remember how long it takes a Galra to starve… There was a good chance that Clevart would give up the location if he thought the clone was already dead, so long as he believed it would hurt Lance to see the corpse.

“Pretty little Paladin can’t even come up with a measure of time. So unprepared. It figures... the reject black paladin was just as worthless. How you all won the war, I’ll never know.”

“Where is he?” Lance demanded, fists clenching, panic and anger burning in his veins and threatening to burst out of him.

“You know, you came 11,000 decaphobes too late, right? No matter what, I would have found that worthless clone — the perfect symbol of our fall from glory — and I would have made him suffer.”

“Where is he?” Lance wanted to punch the prick in the face and only years of forced diplomatic training stopped him.

“First, the Galra destroyed our planet, and then they persecuted us as pirates— doing our best to survive in the skies they forced us into, can you even imagine that? Forced into the life of a pirate then punished for it! Then the first Paladins came, promising peace — we agreed, we helped... and we get stuck in the malls as shopkeepers." Clevart acted as if this was some great offense and his race was the only one to suffer from Galra rule, as if being a shopkeeper was somehow worse than what others had experienced at Zarkon’s hands.

Lance couldn’t take hearing anymore, so he took a shot — three weeks should kill anyone left unattended. “It has been three movements,” he gritted out as if it was information he didn’t want to provide.

“I knew they were messing with my lights!” Clevart let out a howl of laughter, one hand slapping the table, the chains rattling as he kicked his feet. “Trying to convince me it was mere quintants! I’m smarter than them, you know. Smarter than all of you!”

Lance tensed. “I answered your question, now answer mine.”

“You’re lucky I love to bargain, Paladin.” There was a manic joy in Clevart’s eyes, and it was obvious he was relishing the idea of Lance finding the dead clone however he had been bound up and abandoned. “You will find him at my Uncle’s barn. In the underment, where the dung falls.”

“What is your Uncle’s name?”

“Amvrick. Amvrick Glarmpul,” Clevart leaned back in his chair, satisfied and suddenly looking bored with the conversation now that everything was said and done.

Lance stormed out the door and found one of the captors— officers… whatever, pulling up the information on the uncle. He hoped that there was still something left to save. Takashi was standing in a corner, back to the monitors, trying to control his breathing. Ethan looked ready to murder Clevart himself.

Lance really wished they hadn’t let the others listen.

“Found him,” the person at the monitor said. “Sending the information to you now.” They didn’t waste any time, all three of them immediately making a run for the door. Blue rumbled loudly in Lance’s head, more than ready to carry them to anywhere they needed to go in record time.

The ride there was the tensest thing Lance had ever experienced. They couldn’t say for sure if the clone was still alive, and if he was, what kind of physical and mental condition he’d be in. There was also the possibility of them being lied to. What if there was nothing there to be found? All they could do was hope.

They arrived at the farm to the stench of rotten flesh and stale blood.

Lance dug his nails into his palms so he wouldn’t be pulled into thoughts of battle and death and pain.

The farm was in disrepair — the fields barren and the animals missing. The main house was abandoned, and a barn off to the side was missing its doors. It was empty inside. They did a sweep of the area, looking for signs of use in any of the buildings.

The smell of blood grew stronger the further in they got and led them to a small building. It was somewhere between a barn and a coop. Lance wasn’t sure what kind of animal it was meant to hold, but there was nothing there, just dirty slotted floorboards. Then Lance found the door to the basement.

Ethan opted to continue doing a sweep of the area to check for traps while Lance searched the dark, cramped room. Takashi didn’t hesitate and was on Lance’s heels as he made his way down into the pungent dark.

Despite the dual suns being high in the sky outside, the light from the cracks in the floorboards above them illuminated barely enough to see by, leaving everything in the room cloaked in shadow. In the center of the room was the outline of a kneeling person that Lance assumed was the clone. The figure didn’t look up, move, or acknowledge them, which had him panicking.

Lance pulled out a flashlight and it caught the chains stretched across the room. Lance let the light follow them, noticing how they were bolted into the walls. Each chain led to the thick band secured around the clone’s neck. The beam of light shook as Lance lit up piece after piece of horror.

The clone’s arms were chained together, not quite behind his back, both legs clamped to keep him kneeling and chained to keep his legs open. It became apparent that he was naked and still breathing, but not moving at all.

“We need light,” Lance said, and Takashi made a noise of agreement. As much as both of them wanted to rush to the clone’s side, they had to be careful. There was no guarantee that this wasn’t a trap, for them or for the clone — or both.

Lance snapped the light around to scan it across the wall, hoping to find a power source that would turn on any possible overhead lighting. What he found instead was chilling. The walls and floor had hooks everywhere, some with chains, some with weapons. The more Lance looked, the sicker he got. Takashi was getting closer and closer to him as they surveyed the room, both of them terrified and unsettled. Lance could feel the worry radiating back from Blue.

Finally, his small circle of light landed on a switch right as Takashi whispered to him about the creepy stare.

Lance looked back at the clone. The yellow eyes were following Lance around — well, he thought they were until Takashi abruptly moved closer to the wall.

The clone was staring at Takashi.

“Maybe he recognizes you,” Lance soothed before waving at the switch. Takashi nodded and flipped it on, causing both of them to barely hold back the urge to vomit.

The walls weren’t just covered in hooks and weapons — there was blood and what he assumed were patches of skin. Some were neatly removed, with neat edges hanging from clips, and some were still hanging from hooks where it looked like the clone had just been forced onto and ripped off of.

There were patches of jello-looking stuff that made Lance pretty sure he’d never have room for Jello again.

He finally turned back to the clone and flinched. The small bit of him that he saw in the flashlight’s beam was the best part. The collared areas were mostly untouched whereas the rest was littered with scars, burns, scabs, and blood.

There were chunks taken from his one ear, looking like an alleycat that fought a long battle and lost. The other ear was bent over — the stress obvious in his features.

When Lance walked around behind him, he found his arms chained to the floor.

The clone hadn’t budged from staring at Takashi who stood frozen across the room.

Satisfied that there wasn’t anything set up to blow them sky high, Lance walked around and into the clone’s line of sight. “Hello, I’m—”

“Lance,” the clone growled.

“So you know me, that's — that's good.” Memory was a good thing. That meant his mind was still working and—

“I want to talk to the pretty one,” the clone rasped.

“The pretty one?”

“The Shiro that isn’t Shiro.”

Lance turned around in time to see the purple tuft rapidly shaking back and forth from his hiding spot by the stairs. Takashi must have been fighting off a PTSD attack, seeing the clone so injured and strapped down. That look of Galra rage in the clone’s eyes probably wasn’t helping any.

“He, uh, doesn’t want to talk right now,” Lance said, voice calm as he could get it.

The clone laughed, something deep and dark and unfamiliar. “He’ll talk. Or I won’t.”

Lance walked back over to Takashi and took his hands. “Are you alright?” he whispered.

“When I was in the arena— I mean… When he was… There was this fear that… that it would change us. Turn us into a monster. We were so close to breaking…”

Lance squeezed Takashi’s hands. “That’s not going to happen.”

Takashi gave Lance this pained and haunted look. “It did happen. It happened to him."

“No.” Lance shook his head. “He’s strong. You’re all strong. We can help him.” He tugged on Takashi’s hands and thankfully, Takashi stepped forward. “Come on. Let’s go save him.”

The clone smirked at them as they approached. “I didn’t think Master was serious about selling me.”

“He didn’t,” Lance replied. “We are here to rescue you.”

“No thanks, Paladin,” he spat out the word like it was an insult.

Takashi tightened his grip on Lance. “Please, let us help you.”

The clone said nothing and stared them down as if waiting for the other shoe to drop. He didn’t believe in being rescued, not anymore. He only believed in more pain, more tricks, more lies… it was just another shapeshifter.

Ethan came down the stairs and stood near the doorway, taking in the scene and the state of the clone. He cursed under his breath. The clone didn’t look surprised to see him.

“Please,” Takashi begged. “We’ll get you out of here. We’ll care for you. Please let us.”

Ethan let out a sigh behind them. “Why don’t we just rescue him and deal with the fallout later?”

Art by Hymn

Lance hushed him, slicing a hand through the air. If they let him loose, he might attack, running on pure survival instinct and fear. They would have to subdue him, injuring him further and ruining whatever trust they could build between them for who knew how long.

Takashi took a step closer to the clone. “Please?”

The clone just laughed. “You’d never have made it.”

“Probably not, but you did.”

“You were from my store.”

Takashi nodded. “I remember you.”

He reached out, slow and careful. The clone eyed the fingers coming closer to him with wary anger, his lip twitching like he was fighting not to snarl. Takashi didn’t relent. The tips of his fingers settled on the clone’s cheek and slid up to cup it. The clone’s eyelids fluttered and he leaned into the hand like he was desperate for that display of kindness, but he caught himself and jerked back with a growl.

“I’m not going back there!”

Takashi shook his head. “No, you aren’t.”

The clone still had the cruel smile etched into his features. “Even if I was still rental material, no one would take me. And we already had one reject working there.”

Lance tensed up at that. This clone had been sold after the trauma Asahi went through? That meant that they already knew the type of people who might rent or buy the Galra clones and — no. Lance couldn’t go there right now. This was not the time.

“Lance bought us a home,” Takashi said with a valiant attempt at a reassuring smile. “There’s no more rentals and nobody to force us to do anything. Not anymore.”

The clone snorted. “Sure. Out of the goodness of his heart, I’m sure. He’s just building a harem, you weak-minded idiot. Gain your trust first then fuck us all.”

“That’s not true, he wouldn’t—”

“Oh, please. I can smell him all over you. Did you even bother cleaning off his cum before you flew off to save me?”

Takashi pulled away. Lance’s stomach dropped to his shoes.

“It’s okay.” The clone flashed his pointed teeth in a mockery of a grin. “My owner left his cum in me too. Then he told me I had one last chance to kill myself before he left me to starve to death.”

Lance made a strangled noise. “He did what?”

The clone turned his head as much as he could, offering a mock pout. “What annoys you more, pretty boy? That he handed me a knife to gut myself… Or that he fucked me?”

Lance spluttered.

“It wasn’t exactly the first time for either. Wasn’t even the first time he did it together.”

Takashi let out a pained sound, drawing the clone’s attention again.

“That’s right, love. The first few times, I actually did try to die. But he’d heal me just enough to save my life and then fuck me as I bled. Master found a way to fix me up without taking away any of the pain.” He tilted his head a bit. “Figured out fast that it was better if I just made it look bad.”

Lance was too numb to realize he had moved forward on his own, coming close to the clone and the horror of what was being said. He dropped to his knees, bringing them face to face, and reached out to soothe him, earning a growl.

“No more,” Lance promised.

“Fuck you and your games,” the clone spat.

Lance shook his head. “No games.”

Takashi took Lance’s free hand and reached for the clone with his other. “We should pick you a new name.”

The growl got louder. “Of course. Master loved names—”

Lance tried to cut him off, but the clone jumped forward as much as he could, chains rattling, causing the other two to pull their hands back with a jerk.

“Slut, bitch, whore, galra reject, mutt, slave, paladin, prick, slit, cum bucket—”

“Enough, please,” Takashi whispered. He looked like he was struggling to stay in the present instead of spiraling into past memories. He moved his hand forward again, desperately offering comfort, needing to know he could do something.

There was a long pause, the clone eyeing Takashi’s hand and face in turns. Perhaps it was the familiarity of someone who the clone was reasonably sure wouldn’t hurt him, of someone who understood what their life was like, but he calmed. The harsh look on his face eased, changing into one of forced disinterest. He carefully tilted his head into the hand Takashi had extended. “Okay, babe. You always were soft, weren’t you?”

If pretending not to care calmed him, neither Takashi or Lance were going to argue. Takashi offered a tremulous smile. “How about the name Kasha?”

The clone laughed. “No. Absolutely not. I will not go by the name some worthless human called him while they fucked, a human who abandoned him.”

They went back and forth a few times before Kuro was picked. He liked the idea of his name meaning black. The conversation went a long way in relaxing Kuro, allowing him to focus on the task of naming himself rather than focus on his surroundings or paranoid expectations. It also gave him a chance to claim a part of his own self-identity. For however much he acted as if it was trivial, Lance knew from the others how profound that was.

Lance and Ethan started to slowly unhook Kuro as Takashi held his hands. “We’ll clean you up outside. Blue can make you new clothes, too. She’s wonderful. Even better than our memories.”

Kuro didn’t respond much. He let Takashi talk as he eyed the other two, waiting on a wrong move to be made. As much as he looked ready to attack and fight his way to freedom, his body refused. He was injured, starving, dehydrated, and his muscles were weak and cramped from the position he’d been trapped in.

When the chains around his arms released, Kuro collapsed against Takashi, shaking arms wrapping around Takashi’s sides for some semblance of balance. Takashi murmured soothing things as he pulled Kuro into his lap. Lance tensed up as he watched, afraid of Kuro’s trauma and what that would mean if he suddenly lashed out.

When the final shackle was removed, Kuro tried to stand while still holding onto Takashi. It took a few tries before he gave up and accepted help to gain his feet. Ethan could have lifted both clones easily, but any attempt to touch Kuro resulted in laid back ears and hissing. So instead, Ethan hovered as Takashi helped Kuro walk painfully slowly towards the exit. Lance ran ahead to Blue in order to find something to rinse off all the blood, bandage his wounds, and get clothing started.

Kuro refused to let go of Takashi for long, only letting him strip down to his briefs before clinging tightly to him again. Ethan helped by spraying the hose when they needed it, Lance gently rubbing down Kuro’s back and blocking direct contact from the water when needed. He could identify some of the marks, the burns, and slices… but there were others that he could only guess at, and that broke his heart.

It took two full shampoos for the blood to stop flowing from Kuro’s hair, and three rounds of conditioner to release the mats in his fur. Kuro’s breath was shaky, his body trembling with exhaustion, but he still growled at Lance whenever anything was too tender. Though it was becoming clear that Kuro would be unable to follow through on that threat, Lance still played it safe. Staying wary would at least leave Kuro feeling reassured of his own safety.

Lance knelt to clean the grime off his legs and spotted two issues. He had something stuck in his ass, and he was locked into a cock cage. Both should be taken care of, but he wasn’t sure how to approach either.

“Okay…” Lance murmured to himself before carefully placing a hand on one scarred hip. Kuro flinched but didn’t immediately pull away. Lance hoped that was a good sign. “I should be able to get this off fairly easily,” Lance said, his fingers moving forward only enough to indicate what he was talking about without touching yet. “Just let me see what kind of lock I’m working with and then I’ll—”

Kuro’s arm came out of nowhere, knocking Lance away with force enough to bruise. Kuro was growling, lips pulled back to bear his teeth, eyes flashing dangerously. He stumbled as he hid more of his body behind Takashi. "Don’t touch me!”

Lance held up his hands in surrender and froze where he stood. Takashi made soft shushing noises and ran his fingers through Kuro’s hair. “Shhh, it’s okay. He’s just trying to help.”

“No!” Kuro growled. “He’s looking for an excuse to touch me!”

“I’m not going to touch you like that,” Lance promised. “I just want to get that thing—”

“NO!” Kuro tried to back away but his legs gave out. Takashi went down with him and immediately pulled Kuro close, setting them into a rocking motion. Lance and Ethan stood awkwardly by as they watched and waited for Takashi to calm the upset Kuro.

“We can worry about the cage later,” Takashi murmured. “You can take it off yourself. Nobody will touch you. Right now, we need to get that plug out. It’s not healthy.”

Kuro scoffed. “But the torture is no big deal, is that it? We’re just worried about keeping my ass healthy for totally innocent reasons.”

“Don’t be stubborn,” Takashi gently chided. “If you can’t move solid mass out of your body—”

“What solid mass?” Kuro sneered. “He kept me on a liquid diet to make it easier to stay clean. He wanted to make sure his cum stayed undisturbed inside of me.”

Lance did his best to keep his stomach firmly inside of his body.

Takashi took a moment to compose himself before he wrapped a hand around Kuro’s and slowly guided it down. “From now on, you’ll eat real food — good food. Now, pull it out yourself. It’s your body. Take control of it.”

There was silence as Kuro’s hand hovered over his backside. It was obvious that he didn’t want to. Perhaps it was the fear of being vulnerable in front of strangers. Maybe Clevart had forced Kuro to do the same thing once. It was hard to say when they didn’t have a clear picture of what all Kuro had been through and how his trauma would manifest.

Finally, Kuro reached down and tugged on the base of the plug, pulling it out bit by bit, and setting his whole body to trembling. Takashi held on tight, a solid rock of support as Kuro worked through his own inner demons in order to pull the thing from inside of him. Lance was horrified at how the base kept growing. It was big. Far too big.

At last, it thunked onto the ground, the jello-like substance Lance had seen before poured out of Kuro. It occurred to Lance that it was cum. Clevart’s cum. Lance’s whole body felt numb and cold. He couldn’t move as he watched Kuro tremble and Takashi coo praises. He should probably look away.

Ethan was the one to slowly move around and aim the hose, washing away the offending piles of goop, leaving Kuro clean and empty at last. They all stayed where they were for a long moment, coming to terms with their new reality.

“Lance.” Ethan’s voice snapped Lance out of the ringing silence of his own head. Ethan jerked his head at the med kit that sat off to the side. Nodding a little too fast, Lance collected it and made his way over to his injured patient. So long as he could keep his mind on the need to treat a patient, he could block out everything else.

Lance set to work sanitizing and patching the wounds, Takashi occasionally having to prevent Kuro from lashing out at him on tender areas. Kuro was alternating between growling and purring when Takashi would rub behind his ears. The fur was still clinging to the cat-like outline of purple ears, barely sticking out from the long hair. He was both strange and familiar in so many ways.

The suns had long since set by the time Lance was through, the only light coming from Blue who had been growling almost as much as Kuro. She was about as worried and upset as Lance was.

Ethan dropped the hose and grabbed the towels, helping Takashi dry off so he didn’t need to let go of Kuro and rolling his eyes when Takashi didn’t want to finish getting naked in front of him to swap out the wet briefs. Kuro allowed Takashi fretting over him, but shied away from Lance and snarled at Ethan. Takashi spent a lot of time reassuring Kuro as Lance pulled out the bandages as started wrapping the patches to keep them all in place as they healed.

Lance was yawning every few seconds as he finally came to Kuro’s leg wounds — the shackled area just as swollen and raw as his neck had been. It looked like his leg restraints had been moved more often, the flesh under hadn’t been quite as infected, though Kuro growled at him just as much.

Ethan was passing him supplies and barely able to look at the wounds. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I didn’t know.”

Kuro let out a loud snarl. “Even if I wasn’t real, this is despicable. You were going to sell something with a personality to the lowest bidder.”

Ethan hung his head.

Kuro imitated a high pitched voice. “Discount for the mistake!”

“I never—”

“No, but that’s what Norom said when she sold me.”

Lance stored that name in the back of his mind— if he ever met this woman he was going to make his Abuela ashamed of him, but it would also be worth it.

They finished the rest of the process in silence, Lance occasionally wiping tears from his eyes as the bandages got layered on— Kuro was more bandage than skin and fur combined by the time everything was done… in a better mood, Lance might have cracked a mummy joke.

It was a solemn group that finally made their way back to Blue, who immediately made the bed in the cockpit big enough for all of them. She jumped, aiming the unnecessarily large blast from her takeoff directly at the outbuilding, destroying one of the dungeons her newest cub had suffered in.

Takashi helped Kuro onto the bed, curling them up into the corner so that Kuro’s form was shielded from everything else. Too exhausted to think of anything more to do, Lance crawled up after them and sprawled on his back, eyelids heavy and body aching. When Ethan hesitated, Lance waved the man down onto the open space beside him. Thankfully, Kuro didn’t protest.

Silence descended over them in time for Blue’s anger to lash across Lance’s mind, upset and confused. His biggest mistake was asking her what was wrong. Apparently, the problem was that he had already started bonding with Kuro. She was overwhelmed with what she was seeing and feeling.

Lance was assaulted with memories she drew from Kuro — his physical form reacting to the intense images. He flinched as the whip cracked down, cried as the laughter rang from Kuro’s lips, despaired at knowing it was Kuro’s way of coping.

“Worthless little slut couldn’t even make my friend cum before you passed out. Got blood all over her, too.”

His head dropped, and Lance watched the blood pooling beneath the body he was in, naked and sore everywhere. The whip wrapped around him and tore the skin on his stomach and ripped another round of laughter from his body.

Lance blinked away the memory, shaking and out of breath.

Kuro was yelling at Blue. “You invasive little shit! I didn’t want you digging around in my memory!”

Takashi tried to intervene. “That’s not why she’s—”

“No! She’s just going to keep going. I know it. No sense of boundaries!”

“Blue, you don’t have to—” Lance tried to reason, to give Kuro some small dignity... but the Lion just responded with a blast of anger. One of her cubs had suffered and she insisted on showing what needed to be fixed.

Lance was now in Kuro’s body, roaming free, body still in pain and an obvious plug in his ass… Clevart across from him with a knife.

“Paladin, here’s where I say goodbye.”

“Bullshit.” Kuro’s lip curled in a snarl, his fatigued muscles feeling like lead weights.

“Uh uh, be nice or I don’t give you the option to die fast.”

Kuro laughed, a pain radiating from his ribs as the sound tore through him. “You’ve said that before.”

Clevart smiled, a gross fake smile. “I won’t be your Master much longer. You’ve outgrown your usefulness. So, you can kill yourself or—”

“Or what? You’ve already fucked me enough times today that you aren’t going to be back for a week.”

Clevart laughed. “Your new master might show up before you starve to death. Or they might not. Who knows if they’ll be as nice to you as I am.”

Kuro laughed again, but grabbed a knife from the wall and slid it across his stomach, then grazed it along his arms, occasionally pressing deeper to draw out more blood. The pain was there, he knew it was, but it didn’t feel right anymore. It was all so distant…

He threw the knife off to the side again. “There. I’m all cut up. Now we’ll see what your new lie will be.”

“Such a little slut, doesn’t even take time to enjoy something shoving into you anymore.”

“I never enjoyed anything shoving into me.”

“Only because I didn’t let you. On your knees, reject.”

Lance struggled as the body complied, taking the position he found Kuro in, feeling all the chains clipping heavily on his pained body.

“Fucking Lions.”

Lance was left staring at the glowing cockpit around him, his body recovering for phantom pain. He wondered how Clevart knew — if Clevart knew it was the last time. He wondered how often Clevart talked about some fake new master. He wondered how Kuro survived.

Kuro was holding Takashi tight as they all relived the last moments Clevart was in control of Kuro. Blue must have decided that was good enough because she just growled once and then went silent.

Lance rolled away from them and curled into Ethan’s side who obligingly threw two arms around him. He needed the comfort of a strong presence, but was unwilling to seek it from Takashi who was trembling in Kuro’s arms. Lance felt cut off and distant from the two of them in a way he couldn’t explain.

They all ended up falling asleep before Blue got them home, and she happily landed on her perch overlooking the property, keeping the cockpit warm and peaceful for them. On a remote planet and ensconced in a Voltron lion, they were as safe as they could possibly be.