When Shiro heard the frantic breathing from the hallway outside his room, he wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. He was on a ship full of teenagers who had just been flown out to space, and were faced with staying out here away from their families for the foreseeable future; he had a feeling that tensions were running a little high among all of them. Lots to process. Hell, he was still reeling himself. It had been a long few days.
He’d suspected that it was either Pidge or Keith outside- so far, they were the ones that tended to lean on him the most. They were both kindred spirits in a way. Two kids that had a difficult time expressing themselves and opening up to others; Shiro had a feeling that they would both have a lot of growing to do if Voltron was to reach its full potential.
However, it was neither of them that he found crying outside when he opened his door. It was- “Hunk?”
“Shiro! I- I don’t know where I am. Just got lost.” Hunk’s eyes had a wild look to them that let Shiro know right off the bat that that wasn’t really the problem. And the deep shuddering breath that quickly dissolved into heart-wrenching whimpers was caused by something far more intense than simply not knowing where you were.
“Hey, it’s alright. Talk to me. It might help to get it off your chest. Come on,” Shiro added gently when Hunk shook his head. “What is it? I know this is all a lot to take in, but it’ll be okay. We’ll get the hang of this Voltron thing and-“
“I don’t have any insulin!” Hunk finally fully broke down and started to wail over Shiro. “Or any other supplies! All I have left is what’s in my stupid pump- after that I’ll be out, and- and-“
He didn’t need to finish. Shiro was all too aware of what could happen to a diabetic without insulin. How had he not noticed the small device at the boy’s hip before? He could just make out the tubing that snaked under his shirt where it was no doubt attached to his body somewhere.
Some leader he was. His only defense was that it had been an incredibly busy few days. But that wasn’t an excuse. 'After I help Hunk,' Shiro realized, ‘I need to check in with the others.’
He was brought back out of his thoughts by a particularly harsh sob.
“Hey now,” Shiro said patiently. It was looking like calming Hunk down might end up being an even bigger challenge than coming up with a steady supply of some life-saving medication. “We can get this figured out. You’ll be okay, I promise. I’m not going to let anything bad happen to you. It’s like I said earlier, I’ve lost one team out here, and I’m not losing anyone else.”
“No it’s not- Shiro-“ Hunk’s face was pale, like the tears streaming down his face were draining him of his usual healthy color. Shiro was becoming increasingly concerned over the younger boy’s breathing. Or lack thereof. He needed to get Hunk down to a place where they could talk.
“Deep breaths. In. Hold. Out. In. Hold. Out.” Shiro took Hunk’s hands and started to breathe slowly to his mantra of ‘in, hold, out’, repeating himself until it looked like Hunk was at least breathing a bit more regularly. However, apparently no amount of deep breathing would stop the tears. That would just have to wait until his eyes went dry. But as long as Hunk was getting oxygen, for now Shiro could accept it. Without either man really even noticing, they had both sunk to the floor, Shiro still holding Hunk’s hands.
It was hard to say how long they sat there together. At some point, Shiro shifted to wrap one arm around Hunk’s shoulders, while Hunk continued to clutch onto the other one like a lifeline.
“Type one or type two?” Shiro asked quietly after Hunk’s sobs had reduced down to hiccups. While neither was good by any stretch of the imagination, type two could sometimes be managed with a careful diet. If it was type one, then they’d have a bit more urgent crisis on their hands.
“One. Early on-set, I was diagnosed when I was seven. I didn’t know what it meant at the time. All I really knew was that it meant I had to be poked with needles all the time. I had to go to the office before lunch to check my blood sugar and take insulin. And I was the only one who had to. I didn’t understand why. It wasn’t fair. It felt like a punishment, and I didn’t even know what I’d done to deserve it.”
Shiro listened carefully; he had a feeling that this was something that Hunk had been needing to get off his chest even before they came to space. Seven. What a young age to have the sort of responsibility that came with a chronic disease being thrust upon you. The tears had been replaced with a sort of numb expression that almost had Shiro missing the crying. He slowly started to rub Hunk’s back in a weak way of showing support, halfway expecting to be shrugged off. It was a pleasant surprise then, when Hunk leaned over and let himself rest against Shiro’s side.
“It wasn’t until I was thirteen or fourteen that I really came to... terms with it,” Hunk continued quietly. “I mean, as much as you can come to terms with it. Understanding it helped. I realized that it wasn’t going away, so I tried to learn to live with it. At home when I cooked, I knew everything that was going into the food. I could control the ingredients, and that meant I could control what I ate and how it affected my blood sugar. And I got good at it. I could make great food that I didn’t have to guess about. But out here... none of it’s familiar. I don’t even know how to count the carbs in that goo crap. I don’t know anything, and I don’t know how t-to handle this, Shiro, I don’t know-“
“Alright,” Shiro interrupted when Hunk’s voice broke and he sensed another breakdown coming on. “I know, this is scary. There’s a lot out here to be afraid of without being sick-“
“I’m not sick.” The sudden venom in Hunk’s voice threw Shiro off. He hadn’t imagined that the soft-spoken Yellow Paladin could’ve ever sounded so bitter. Of course, he had yet to get to know him- two days was hardly enough time to bond. But in that short time, Hunk was the only one of the teenagers that hadn't blown his fuse. What was it about the word ‘sick’ that set him off? “That’s not what it is.”
“Okay,” Shiro said, electing to backtrack and start over, “we can still get this figured out. We aren’t going to just make you go without your medication. How much longer do you think what you have will last?”
Hunk shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know. Like I said, I have no idea how much I need to bolus for the food on here. Hopefully another couple of days? You’re not supposed to leave the site attached for a long time.”
“Okay. So we still have some time. Why don’t we take this to Coran and see if he has anything that could help? The technology that they have here- I’d be surprised if he couldn’t come up with something.”
“He’s probably asleep.”
“This is important. I’ll wake him up. Besides, he was asleep for ten thousand years, he’ll live. Come on, we’ll get this sorted out, and you’ll be able to rest easy. You need it, it’s been a busy few days.”
“Insulin? I’m afraid that’s not something I’ve heard of before. Do you happen to have a sample of it with you?” Coran had woken up easily enough, and didn’t appear to be too annoyed about it. Perhaps he had just picked up on the general attitude of the other two and realized that being annoyed would only cause more issues.
“Our medical station was built with the purpose of healing folks from all over the universe. One of the more impressive appliances, in my opinion, is the Medic-Mimic. Created it myself. If you give it a bit of whatever medication is needed, then it should be able to reproduce it as much as one needs. I’ve only seen it fail twice, and then the only issue was that the substance it provided wasn’t the correct dosage.”
Shiro chanced a glance over at Hunk to gauge his reaction. Cautious relief was the only way to describe it. Of course, the lack of supplies was still a problem. No fresh tubing, no new cannulas, not even any replacement batteries. But they would just have to cross that bridge when they got there. Just having a steady supply of insulin would do much in the way of easing Hunk’s mind. As long as the Alteans has some needles (and there was no way they didn’t) then he could administer the insulin. It would be inconvenient, but it would work. And no doubt he and Pidge could come up with something to monitor his blood sugars.
“How much are you going to need?”
“Well, what sort of substance is it?”
“A few drops should do. Come, let’s go collect a sample so we can put your mind at ease,” Coran said with a kind smile. Even if Hunk had stopped crying, it was still clear as day that he was upset.
It only took them a short period of time to reach the Medic-Mimic thing that Coran had been telling them about, during which Hunk had disconnected his pump and was fiddling with it to offer up a few precious drops of insulin. He was struggling to ignore the voice at the back of his head that was telling him he might just be wasting it if this didn’t work.
“Now, it can sometimes take a while for it to create new-“ he was cut off when the Mimic started making several loud noises that made the humans jump. Coran quickly went about studying what was going wrong. It didn’t take long for understanding to flash across his face. It wasn’t that something was wrong- the machine just already knew what it was making. And Coran recognized it too. “Oh! That’s what insulin is? I thought it smelled familiar! Hunk, why didn’t you say so? Is your body unable to process- er, well, certain parts of food? I’m not sure what the human words for them might be.”
“Sugars, mostly,” Hunk said, looking vaguely self-conscious. “And yeah. Why?”
“Well, Alteans have a similar condition. We call it ‘reimaken,’ and it was treated with this same medicine that you use here for your- what was it?”
“Diabetes. What do you mean, it ‘was’ treated?”
“We managed to create a cure for it long ago. I remember my grandfather was afflicted with reimaken. Nasty business. It nearly claimed his eyesight before-“
“Coran. Are you saying that you can cure me?”
Shiro looked over at Hunk when he interrupted. He was staring at the Altean with an intensity that made both of the older men shiver. His eyes were wider than what seemed possible, and the tenuous hope shining in them made Shiro’s heart clench. He was holding his breath, like he was waiting for Coran to start laughing and yell ‘sike!’
Shiro would’ve beaten Coran to a pulp if he tried to pull that. The look on Hunk’s face was far too fragile right now to withstand that sort of cruel joke.
But it never happened. Instead, Coran smiled gently and walked over to put his hands on Hunk’s shoulders. “Yes, lad. That’s what I’m saying. The procedure takes a bit of time- a few of your Earth days, I believe- and I’ll warn you now, it might be a bit uncomfortable at times. But it passes quickly enough. You’ll be cured.”
He’d stopped listening after Coran had said yes. He couldn’t care less about a few days of being uncomfortable. Not after ten years of living with the constant threats that came with diabetes. Tears filled his eyes once again as his head was spinning, and all he could think was ‘I’ll be cured. I’ll be cured. No more shots. No more pricking my fingers. No more waking up in the middle of the night with a low blood sugar. No more having to explain my pump to teachers. I’ll be cured.’
He didn’t even realize that he was laughing until he felt Shiro clasp his shoulder again. “Hunk? Are you crying or laughing?”
“Both,” he managed to choke out. How long had it been since he’d felt hope that there was a cure for this? It had been ages, it seemed, since he’d accepted that he would always be a diabetic; now Coran was telling him that he was wrong. And oh, how amazingly fantastic it felt to be wrong right now. Like he was walking on clouds, far out of reach of any bad thing that was coming after him. He couldn’t think of a single thing that could upset him right now. To think, in a few days he could do everything that he’d ever wanted to do with his insulin pump- throw it against a wall, stomp on it, destroy it, anything to get the little beast of a machine away from himself and start to clear his body of all evidence of the disease that had been one of the worst parts of him for over half his life.
He would be cured.