“Has anyone seen Lance?”
Hunk’s question generated a series of head shakes and shoulder shrugs about the kitchen.
“He better get his ass down here quick though,” Pidge said, slurping up a noodle from her plate. “Or there might not be any food left.”
“You outdid yourself, Hunk,” Allura praised, more daintily twirling the pasta dish Hunk had perfected that afternoon. “This is delicious.”
“I also find the taste pleasing,” Lotor inputted, visiting for the week to collaborate with Allura on some special Altean project they were being very mum about.
Hunk felt himself color with pleasure at the compliments.
“It was nothing,” he rubbed the back of his head.
“It is the opposite of nothing,” Coran countered, on his third plate while Shiro next to him, with almost no real palette to Hunk’s horror, nodded his agreement. “Truly you’ve hit this one out of the parka, Number Two.”
“Park,” Hunk corrected on instinct. Coran was always trying out Earth phrases Pidge and Lance enjoyed teaching him, some with less success than others.
And that brought Hunk back to his wayward best friend.
“Has anyone see him though?” he asked again, trying to wrack his brain for when he had actually last set eyes on Lance. The last three days had been spent aboard the castle without any sort of fight or need of Voltron and no Coalition duties. He’d been holed up in the lab with Pidge for most of it or with Coran down in the engine room attempting to fix some scaultrite panel, and he stopped only really to sleep and eat. He thought he might remember seeing Lance once, maybe in the kitchen?, during that time period. He probably would still have been in the lab today except Coran had burst in that afternoon with a new spice he’d discovered in the back of the castle’s stores and Hunk had to try it and the idea of a new cooking ingredient had spurred Hunk to a different kind of creation that had resulted in the dish before them.
Somehow everyone had shown up as though knowing there was actual food that evening.
Everyone except Lance.
“He assisted me with the laundry this morning,” Coran piped up. “But I have not seen him since.”
“I’m gonna bring him a plate,” Hunk said, reaching over Pidge for the pasta bowl, knowing if he didn’t there wouldn’t be any left when they returned.
That, and his stomach was clenching a bit and he didn’t think it was from the food.
When had he last seen Lance? Like, actually talked to him?
He couldn’t remember.
As he walked down the hall towards the living quarters the knot grew.
He’d seen Lance at the Coalition meeting maybe five days ago, he remembered Lance had been trying to make some joke and he’d shushed him as the presentation was starting.
He winced at the memory.
That… that couldn’t have been it.
The day before that there’d been a battle with Galra forces but it had been over within half a varga and everyone had gone their separate ways after.
They’d had training in there somewhere, right?
They had, once. But Lance had spent it doing solo target practice while Shiro had worked with Hunk on his footwork with Lotor offering pointers that were both helpful and far too snarky and Allura had shrunk herself down to demonstrate some close combat moves for someone of Pidge’s size.
Surely though Lance had been hanging out with other members of the castle. He and Pidge were— nope, Pidge had been with him all week. And Allura with Lotor. And Shiro… well, no one really knew what Shiro did anymore but doubtful. Coran had seen him likely for some chores around the castle but otherwise…
Otherwise Lance had been left alone.
Hunk’s stomach was definitely twisting now.
He knocked on Lance’s closed door, the sound barely audible. He swallowed and tried again, louder.
“Hermano?” he called when there was no answer. “Lance? Are… are you in there?”
Just a peek, Hunk reasoned. And if he wasn’t he’d go look for him in his other usual haunts and he’d keep looking until he found him.
He needed to find him.
The urge to do so was becoming painful.
The door slid open and Hunk’s search came to an immediate end as Lance was in his room on his bed.
But Hunk’s relief was short-lived as he took in the form of his best friend.
Lance wasn’t flopped out as he should be, stretching to fill the entire space like a starfish. He wasn’t listening to music or wearing a face mask or flipping through his space phone.
He was lying curled up, pillow hugged to his chest, in the pitch black (and Lance hated the dark, why was it so dark?)
Hunk could tell he wasn’t sleeping; no deep breaths that he knew by heart to accompany such a thing and Lance had tensed ever so when the light from the hall fell across him.
He looked so sad.
“Lance?” Hunk hovered on the threshold.
Lance’s response was to duck his head into the pillow.
Hunk caught the faintest glimmer on dark cheeks before they were hidden.
Lance had been crying.
What had they done?
What had he done?
“Lance, hey,” Hunk stepped fully into the room, the motion activating the dim corner ceiling lights. He placed the plate on top of Lance’s vanity and crossed to the bedside.
Lance curled up more.
“We… we missed you at dinner,” he said.
No they hadn’t.
No one had except Hunk, and that had been at the very end of the meal.
He swallowed thickly.
“Um, I, I brought you a plate. In case you were hungry. It’s a new dish that I think you’ll really like. It’s got this sort of garlicky flavor although it’s more butter than anything but…”
He trailed off.
He was rambling.
And this was no longer about dinner.
“Can… can I sit down?” he asked.
The words were foreign. He and Lance… they never asked each other permission for anything. There had never been an awkward silence, been any sort of distance between them since they’d meet at the tender age of seven when Lance had practically dragged him, chattering a mile a minute despite the fact Hunk couldn’t understand Spanish, into his house for a game of hide and seek.
Now Hunk felt like there was a chasm separating them and Lance was just a hand’s breadth away.
What had he done?
Lance didn’t answer.
“What do you want?”
The words were short, bitter in a way Lance never was.
They were also high and thick with tears.
Hunk placed a careful hand on Lance’s upturned shoulder.
His heart broke as Lance pulled away.
“I, I just…I…I know I haven’t been around much. I’ve been so busy with this project with Pidge and we finally got the—”
Hunk cut himself off.
“I tried, you know,” Lance said before Hunk could properly formulate the apology he desperately needed to make. “I tr-tried not to be annoying. Or, or a bother. I tried to contribute. But… but…”
He curled more about the pillow.
If Hunk’s heart had broken before it was shattered now.
“I didn’t want to be needy. Or cl-clingy. I asked you once, the, the other day if you… if you wanted to watch a movie with me. You said yes but you… you never came.”
That must have been when he ran into Lance in the kitchen.
He didn’t even remember the conversation, so focused on eating, sleeping and the lines of code running in his mind.
For two days Lance thought he’d purposely ignored him.
Or forgot about him.
And the worst part?
He wasn’t wrong.
“And I get it,” Lance’s voice was high, breathy. “Everyone… everyone has more important things to do then, then to hang out with m-me. You and Pidge. ‘llura and Lotor,” there was a sob at the sound of the Galra Emperor’s name. “‘s fine. I don’t… I don’t…”
“Lance,” Hunk was stricken. “Lance, I’m so sor—”
“Just go,” Lance whispered.
“Please,” Lance’s voice broke. “Just go. Please. Por favor. I… I want to be alone.”
Hunk knew how wrong that was.
Lance never wanted to be alone.
But he was choosing it now so…
So they couldn’t do it to him first again.
So they didn’t hurt him anymore.
“Lance, please, hermano, I—”
Hunk snapped his mouth shut as Lance let out a low sob.
He had no right to call himself Lance’s brother.
He’d done this.
He’d hurt Lance.
And now he was only hurting him more.
“I’ll… I’ll go,” the words tasted like ash. “If… if that’s what you really want.”
Lance didn’t refute him.
Hunk took a shaky step backwards from the bed, never having managed to sit.
And then another.
Three more until he’d backed up to the door.
Lance remained curled up tight.
His shoulders were shaking.
Hunk had done that.
He’d made Lance cry.
The door slid open with a hiss, sending overbright light into the dim room.
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered.
And Hunk left.
Hunk didn’t go far.
He barely made it to the bathroom where he proceeded to puke out all of his dinner and by the look of it some goo from lunch.
He still felt awful after the fact but he did feel better without all of that mucking up his insides.
It let him think.
He needed to fix this.
He needed to fix this now.
He was an engineer. It was in his blood to repair broken things.
And his friendship with Lance was broken.
The others would need to be involved at some point too, he knew. It had been an unintentional group effort that had hurt Lance, all of them too busy, too wrapped up in their own projects and other relationships to see what they had done, had pushed Lance away and made him feel not just unneeded but unwanted.
But right now Hunk knew this was on him.
Lance had reached out to him and he hadn’t listened. And Lance should never have had to do that, it should have never gotten to that point. He called Lance his brother. He knew Lance, knew how much he thrived on positive attention and hurt from negative and even moreso needed to be around people, especially in this huge, echoing castle when he was far, far far away from home. He knew that Lance tended to take blame even when it wasn't his to take, how he often compared himself to others and found himself wanting, and how all of those things combined with the silence, the loneliness, the fact he had nothing of note to contribute would have felt, especially after nearly a week of it.
He should have known.
He’d messed up. He’d really hurt Lance.
But now he was going to set things right.
And here he was back outside Lance’s door, hovering.
Politeness would dictate he knocked.
He and Lance never knocked.
He took a deep breath.
And let himself in.
Lance was exactly as he’d left him nearly a half varga ago, but at the sound of the door and the hallway light he twitched ever so.
But he didn’t so much as glance over.
Hunk crossed the room in three steps and then before he could hesitate clambered onto the bed.
At that Lance finally moved, head lifting to reveal tear-stained cheeks and red-rimmed eyes.
There was something Hunk couldn’t quite pin down in the forlorn expression but he tried — a combination of surprise and hurt mixed with a flicker of anger and the spattering of hope.
He’d really really messed up.
Now it was time to make it right. It was time to fix what was broken.
He broke off as Hunk flopped down lengthwise next to him, threw one arm over Lance’s raised shoulder and tugged him fully against his chest.
Lance always used to joke that Hunk’s hugs could fix anything.
Hunk knew a hug wouldn’t be enough for what had been done, but it darn well couldn’t hurt.
“Hunk, wh-what—?” Lance wriggled and Hunk only tightened his hold. “Hunk, let me go.”
Hunk shook his head. “I can’t do that.”
“Hunk,” Lance was pushing at the arm across his front now. “Hunk, please.” He sounded like he was about to cry again.
“No,” Hunk said. “No. I can’t do that, Lance.”
“Why?” came the broken sob.
“Because I’m not leaving you alone again. Not until you can look me in the eyes and tell me that’s what you really want.”
Lance stopped pushing at his arm.
He also made no move to turn to face Hunk.
A sob ran through his body that Hunk felt.
Hunk managed to worm his other arm beneath Lance’s torso, bringing it around to intertwine with his left hand and fully embrace Lance, tucking his head down and pressing his nose against the nape of Lance’s neck.
A proper hug.
Lance let out a choked sob.
He didn’t try and pull away. He did the opposite: his hands grabbing hold of Hunk’s shirt sleeve, fingers digging in as though he was afraid Hunk would try and pull away now.
If Hunk had his way he would never let go.
“I’m here,” Hunk whispered as he felt another shudder shake them both. “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. Not again. God, I’m… I’m so sorry. I’m so so sorry. I didn’t mean to. I got so caught up in things that I… that I forgot what’s really important.” He squeezed Lance. “You.”
Lance sniffled and the hands tightened on his arm.
“I’m sorry,” Hunk whispered. “I’m so sorry, Lance. I’ve been a horrible friend. A horrible brother. You are the most important thing to me up here. Not some tech. Or project. Or cooking or, or even Voltron. You. You’re my brother, mi hermano. And I am an idiot.”
Hunk felt Lance give a shake of his head, hair tickling Hunk’s chin.
“Don’t argue,” Hunk told him, breath hitching. “Don’t. I am. The universe’s biggest idiot genius, that’s me. You were hurting and, and lonely. You reached out to me and I didn’t… I didn’t hear. I wasn’t thinking. I’m not going to make excuses. There’s no good ones.”
Lance shook his head again. “You were busy.”
It went unsaid but not unheard.
Hunk was busy with important things, everyone was. Tech and coding and translating and repairs and special Altean projects and Coalition duties and alliances and Lance…
Lance helped out with the chores around the castle.
It wasn’t that he wasn't smart or talented, but his skill set just wasn’t something that could be quantified the way theirs could, could result in products and plans. Even Lance’s budding diplomacy skills had been shut down of late by Shiro, telling him to leave it to Allura, and so he hadn’t even been doing much with the Coalition.
They needed to talk about that later, Hunk decided. For now though he focused on what he could control and repair.
Or so he hoped.
“I’m never too busy to spend time with you,” Hunk said. “Except, well, apparently this past week. Because again, I’d like to point to me being the universe’s biggest idiot genius.”
Lance huffed out a sound that might have been a sob mixed with a laugh.
“I can’t do anything about what’s happened except to promise that it will never, ever, happen again. Ever. You mean too much to me, Lance. I don’t ever want to hurt you again. And I’m so so sorry that I did.”
Lance sniffled. “‘s okay.”
“No, it’s not,” Hunk said gently. “I hurt you.”
“... you didn’t mean to,” Lance whispered.
Hunk’s arms tightened and he pressed his forehead flush against the back of Lance’s head.
“No,” he agreed, words muffled. “But I still did. And I’m so sorry.”
Lance was moving then, not pulling away but rolling over and Hunk had to lift his head to avoid his chin getting clipped as Lance settled with his face pressed into Hunk’s chest just above his heart and his hands tangled now in Hunk’s shirt.
Hunk knew the sound of a heartbeat had always been comforting to Lance and he gently drew him in even closer, one hand on the slender back and the other going to rest in Lance’s hair, carding fingers through the dark locks.
Lance let out a soft little sigh.
“Está bien,” Lance murmured.
“Estará bien,” Hunk corrected and he felt Lance’s head tilt to the side. “It will be. Because this is never going to happen again. I’m going to be better at checking in and not letting some stupid project, no matter how important it is to the universe, get between us. And you…” he squeezed Lance gently. “I need you to speak up too, hermano. And, and if for some reason I don’t hear it then you make me hear it. Dump food goo over my head. Take a hammer to my tech.”
He heard Lance’s little gasp. “Hunk, no—”
“Lance, yes,” Hunk butted in. “I don’t want you to ever feel like you can’t come to me, even if I’m being the aforementioned…” he paused and then gave Lance a little nudge. “Say it.”
“Say it. It’s true. Come on.”
Lance let out another one of those laughing sobs. “The, the universe's biggest idiot genius.”
“That,” Hunk squeezed him again. “Please… I don’t want you to ever feel that alone and hurt again. Okay?”
“Okay,” Lance whispered.
“Te quiero, hermano,” Hunk murmured.
“Te quiero, hermano,” Lance repeated and Hunk could feel the smile pressed into his chest.
Hunk knew there were still things that needed fixed, things that not just his words and a hug could accomplish.
But for this moment all was right again in the universe.
And that was enough for now.