Lance hit the ground as a burst of black energy sailed where his head had been just a tick before and the sizzling sound it made had him gulping.
This fight was not going well. And describing it as a fight was being generous.
The Paladins of Voltron had launched a mission on a Galra plant that intel showed was the main operations site for the ion cannons.
The intel had not showed that a Druid was visiting.
They were really in trouble.
None of their attacks were having any effect; he phased through both Lance’s lasers, Keith’s sword and Pidge’s katar, and even if Hunk and Shiro were available (they were elsewhere on the base destroying the cannon operations) they would likely have little luck either and Coran and Allura were being kept busy up in the air with the castle taking out the charging ion cannons that kept trying to target both them and the Lions, parked outside where they were fighting.
They didn’t need to beat the Druid, Pidge had panted a few minutes ago. They just had to keep him distracted while Hunk and Shiro finished.
Lance hated being bait. At least Keith was in the same pecking order and having just as much difficulty. It made him feel a little better about the situation.
But not really, because none of them were being very effective and at this rate the Druid would grow bored of them and teleport away (and Hunk and Shiro were not being subtle as to their location as smoke wafted from the far west side of the base) and they could be hurt.
Lance would never forgive himself if they were put in danger because they couldn’t handle one quiznacking Druid.
“New plan!” Lance shouted, hoping it came out more of a yell than a shriek as he dove sideways again to avoid another blast.
“Working on it!” Pidge called back, hunched behind a pillar and typing madly at the hologram projected from her armor.
“Work faster!” Keith yelled as he went soaring past him, shield fortunately up and taking the brunt of the blast.
Pidge cursed them both and somehow managed to flick them off while still typing.
Lance grinned despite the circumstances, comforted by the vulgar gesture. If Pidge was doing that it meant her genius brain was on to something.
He could hold off a Druid for a little longer.
“Eat this!” he shouted, laying down a barrage of his bayard.
He didn’t aim it at the Druid but behind him where a series of large metal crates stood.
The resulting boom was music to Lance’s ears and the Druid let out a shout as he was caught up in it.
“Score!” Lance allowed himself a fist pump.
“Concentrate!” Keith snarled, the Druid already back on his feet in a flutter of black robes even though half of his mask was missing, pale purple skin and a glowing yellow eye visible on the right side.
He looked pissed.
“Lance!” Pidge summoned him, her voice crackling in his helmet.
She didn’t want to be heard.
“Get to Blue and activate your sonic cannon,” she instructed.
“How is that—?”
Lance didn’t question the order again, the science mumbo-jumbo likely to go over his head anyway, and besides, he trusted Pidge and her ideas with his life. If she said go, he went.
Pidge leapt into the fray as Lance exited, sprinting for where Blue was parked about a hundred yards out.
He was nearly to her when he heard his name screamed — both inside his helmet and outside — and he had barely even turned his head over his shoulder when the ground beneath his feet erupted.
Lance went flying with a shriek, bayard dissolving into his armor as he threw his hands out to catch himself although his head still smashed into a chunk of the tarmac and even with the helmet he felt pain explode across his temple.
There was a roar in his mind and a flash of blue light outside and he realized Blue’s particle barrier had just come down and he was safely inside of it, the hit propelling him right in front of her paws.
“Gracias, beautiful,” he gasped, scrambling to his feet, head pounding and the sensation of blood trickling down his forehead sending him swaying for just a second before he regained his balance and angled for her ramp.
Blue’s soothing waves washed over him — comfort and protection in equal measure — and Lance soaked it up as he got into the pilot’s chair, letting it ease the pain and steady his hands.
“It’s razzle dazzle time, girl,” he said, plugging his bayard into her console. “You ready?”
Her roar echoed both outside and in that time and he felt her shift to her feet in the same instant he turned his bayard to summon the sonic cannon.
“Pidge?” he called, static hissing angrily that had him wincing.
His helmet had really not liked that hit.
“—ance, hit the—- my cou—”
“Pidge, wait, wait, I don’t copy—”
There was a burst of green light from the battlefield and Lance could have laughed in relief.
It was shaped like a target.
That was simple enough.
A tick later Blue shook as the sonic cannon went off, the resulting boom leaving Lance’s ears ringing.
Even above that he could hear the Druid’s scream as whatever Pidge had done enveloped him, a shimmering field of green and blue lights racing over one another in a cacophony of sparks.
It was beautiful.
And then black lightning shot through it.
Lance’s scream rivaled the Druid’s as the bolt struck the Blue Lion and the entire cockpit glowed a mixture of black, green and blue and pain pain pain as lightning sang in his veins, and flowed down his throat, choking him, drowning him, and he felt his body being pulled and destroyed and Dios Dios Dios it hurt oh Dios what was happening?
Blue’s roar of terror, her presence slipping away as he was dragged under the maelstrom of agony, was the last thing he heard.
Lance awoke to a stabbing ache in his head, the taste of blood on his lips, and pressing silence.
He cracked open his eyes, not sure what to expect as all he seemed capable of thinking of was how much he hurt.
He still did not expect to see Blue’s cockpit.
And he especially did not expect to see it through a blood-streaked visor.
A moan was dragged up his throat and he lifted shaking hands to pull his helmet free, wincing as doing so jostled his head and it felt like little bolts of lightning—
Lance gasped and lurched forward, the helmet falling with a clunk to Blue’s floorboards.
What had happened?
Without the bloodied visor obscuring his vision, although a smack of his lips revealed that there was definitely blood on his face, Lance looked out Blue’s front window.
Her hangar stared back.
In the castle?
He’d been hurt, clearly, and he felt a shiver at the remembered pain, so...
So where was everyone?
Why had no one come to help?
Something cold twisted in his chest that hurt more than his headache.
They’d… they’d left him?
That… that couldn’t be right.
But then… where were they?
“Blue?” he whispered, more of a rasp than anything. “Do you—?”
He cut off as there was no answering purr, no brushing of a consciousness against his own.
The silence felt even louder at the realization.
Blue was gone too.
That couldn’t be right.
Lance took a shuddering breath, closed his eyes and looked for his Lion, straining his senses in every direction for some indication she was here, she was—
The faintest glimmer of ocean waves touched his mind and he reached for them. But they flowed through his fingers like ebbing tide and a moment later he was alone again and he shivered at the sense of loss anew.
But Blue had been there. He’d felt her. That had to mean something.
It still didn’t explain why the others hadn’t come by yet.
Lance pushed back the swell of hurt that tried to rise up and tried to think logically past the pounding in his head and the little trembles and aches still prickling through him.
Something was clearly wrong. His team — his friends — hadn’t come after him and Blue wasn’t responding. But he was inside the castle and that meant everyone had to be here. He just had to find them and they could explain.
There… there had to be an explanation, right? Some reason why they’d have just… just left him here, injured. There had been that attack, that black lightning from the Druid when it broke free of whatever Pidge had designed.
Something colder than the sense of abandonment filled him then.
What if no one had come because… because they were all hurt? Unconscious in their own Lions (somehow? How did they get to their Lions? What about Allura and Coran?)? Lance couldn’t worry about the particulars as the fear that they were hurt, they needed help overtook his own.
He just needed to find them.
Lance pulled himself to his feet, staggering and catching himself on the front console. He pulled his bayard free from where it was still in the port and dissolved it into his armor as the weight was tipping him sideways.
Slowly he shuffled out.
By the time he reached the floor of the hangar his steps were steadier though and the worst of the pain was fading although it still felt like something was prickling over his skin.
It felt like someone was watching him.
But a quick glance around revealed no one and Blue’s eyes were dull.
Lance hurried out.
His head hurt and a gentle touch under his bangs revealed some cut, no doubt from that explosion right before he’d gotten to Blue. But the blood was dry (how long had he been sitting there?) and he rubbed as much of it away as he could that had dripped down his face.
Where should he go?
Yellow’s hangar, he decided. It was at the opposite end of his and if Hunk was stuck in his own Lion…
But the Yellow Lion’s hangar was empty and a slightly precarious scramble up her side revealed no Hunk in her cockpit. Lance slid down her front paw with a thump that rattled his head and he blinked away the sudden spots.
He wasn’t sure what to make of it.
So if Hunk wasn’t hurt inside his own Lion too (and why would he be? He hadn’t been in the fight, but Lance was well aware a lot of things weren’t making sense at this point so why not try every angle?) where would he be?
The kitchen, he decided as he exited Blue’s hangar hallway. That’s where Hunk tended to go and it was an informal gathering place.
As Lance approached several minutes later he could hear something that might be voices and the vice around his heart loosened and he shuddered out a sigh of relief.
They were there. They were okay.
But if so…
Then why had they…?
He entered the kitchen but was brought up short at the sight in front of him.
Maybe they weren’t so okay.
Pidge was crying, seated at the table but the chair was pulled out and Shiro was kneeling in front of her, both of her hands in his and looking so lost that Lance blinked because it was such a foreign look on Shiro, who normally didn’t allow the more vulnerable emotions to show in public. Allura was crouched next to them both, one hand on Shiro’s back and the other threaded through Pidge’s hair, stroking through the short locks.
Tears trailed down her cheeks as she cried silently.
What was going on?
Hunk wasn’t even at the table; he was collapsed on the floor next to it and his sobs were echoing in the kitchen, hiccuping gasps as though he couldn’t get enough air. Coran, well, Coran was larger than Lance remembered him being as he was sitting behind Hunk, his legs on either side of him, and arms fully wrapped around the large boy, tears streaming down his own face but with none of the theatrics of when Coran typically burst into noisy tears.
And Keith… Lance blinked, almost disbelieving. Keith wasn’t crying but his eyes were bright and his lips thin although he didn’t look angry.
He was sitting on the floor next to Coran and Hunk and one of his hands was being gripped by Hunk’s. It had to hurt because Hunk looked like he was trying to squeeze the life out of it, but no pain showed on his face.
“Um, did somebody die?” Lance asked the kitchen at large as no one took notice of him, too caught up in their grief.
No one responded.
As though they hadn’t heard him.
Lance ignored the cold prickle that struck him at that.
That was impossible.
“Hey!” his tone was sharper, bordering on the edge of panic.
He crossed the room, beelining for Shiro who always had the answers and reached a hand out to the broad shoulder, which closer inspection revealed was trembling.
Lance tried not to feel even more unnerved by that.
“Shiro, man, what is—?”
His hand went through Shiro’s shoulder.
Lance choked on his breath as he yanked the appendage back to his chest, gripping the wrist with his own hand.
He was too scared to reach out again.
Pidge let out a gasping sob.
“Hunk? Coran? Keith? Someone? Pl-please, I…”
Lance might have thought it was a joke except that none of them were that cruel and the small matter that his hand had phased through Shiro.
Had he died?
“Guys?” he pleaded. “Guys, please. Answer m-me.”
“My fault,” came a whisper.
“‘s my fault,” she said again and her head lifted up, brown eyes bright and unobscured by glasses she had yet to put back on. “I, I…”
“No, no,” Shiro murmured. “Pidge—”
“I did this. I… I k-killed…”
Lance stumbled back as Pidge broke into another sob and Shiro shifted forward, pulling her fully into his arms.
She didn’t mean…
He couldn’t be…
“I’m not dead,” he whispered. “I’m not dead. I’m, I’m right here,” and he reached forward again as though the first time had been a fluke. His arm passed through both Shiro and Pidge, coming to a rest as though inside of them.
Lance fully retreated then, standing between the two despairing groups, and hands tucked up against his chestplate, shaking.
This couldn’t be happening.
How was this happening?
“We don’t know that,” Shiro said softly.
And Pidge snapped, sitting up in the chair and pushing at Shiro’s hands and such rage and grief on her face. “I did this!” she almost screamed. “Me! My stupid plan! I killed Lance!”
“Number Five!” Coran’s voice was sharp, such a contrast to his normal tones that Pidge’s mouth snapped shut and even Hunk cut off mid-sob. “We do not know that,” his voice gentled, repeating Shiro’s words.
“Dead, departicalized, it’s the same thing,” Pidge sniffled although she was quieter. “I, I should have never tried to do that. I thought I… the math made sense, but… but the Druid’s magic…” She shook her head, hiccuping on a sob. “I was so stupid.”
“Lance would not want to hear you speaking of yourself thus,” Allura said gently.
Speaking as though he were already dead. Lance wavered on his feet.
“You are not stupid, Pidge,” Allura continued. “This… this was just an… an oversight.”
“That killed L-Lance,” Pidge choked out. “Fuck, Allura. I can’t… I can’t fix this.”
No one said anything that time.
Hunk let out a whimpering sob.
“No,” Lance whispered. “Guys. I’m not dead.”
Departicialized Pidge said, right? That had to be what he was. On some, some other plane or dimension or whatever the quiznack this was because he could not be dead.
He refused to be dead.
But he had no idea how to get back.
And it seemed neither did they.
He sank down to the floor himself then, legs no longer wishing to support him.
“Is there anything we can do?” Keith spoke into the silence, a hoarse edge to his voice.
“I do not know,” Allura said after no one else answered. “Druid magic is not something I am familiar with. I admit,” and she let out a laugh that was bitter for her, “even most Altean magics are far above my knowledge.”
“So we do nothing ?” the last word was snarled. “We just sit here and assume he’s dead because there’s no body? We move on just like that?”
“Guess we should make a posting,” Keith continued, steamrolling over Shiro’s attempt, his voice growing louder. “Voltron needs a Blue Paladin because ours is rumored dead and we can’t be fucking bothered to look for him.”
Despite the situation Lance was touched that Keith of all people was this upset over his loss.
But darn it, he wasn’t dead!
“No,” Hunk’s voice was thick with tears. “We, we don’t move on. Lance… Lance has to be alive. He can’t be…” he shook his head. “He’s not.”
“I concur with Number Two,” Coran said quietly but firmly. “We should not give into despair so quickly. Number Three, Lance, has shown to be a very tenacious young man. He would not give up on us so we shall not give up on him.”
There was a quiet murmur of consensus around the room and Lance felt warmth bubble in his chest as horror and despair was replaced with determination and hope.
This was his team.
His space family.
Pidge rubbed her eyes and sat up straighter. “I, I can start dismantling the code I used. See, see if there were changes from what I programmed. Hunk, could you—?”
“Of course.” His voice still wavered but it was strong.
“I shall join you,” Coran said. “My background of both science and some magic may spot something.”
“I will consult the library,” Allura rose gracefully to her feet. “Perhaps we have a tome that may prove useful.”
Only because he had still been watching Keith did Lance see the flicker on his face. Lance knew that look, that feeling. He had just never seen it on Keith before.
Something twisted in his chest at that.
Such a look did not belong on Keith.
“Come on, buddy,” Shiro addressed Keith after squeezing Pidge’s shoulders. “You and I are going to go back to the Blue Lion. See if we can find some clues.” Keith’s face marginally brightened, brow smoothing, and he accepted Shiro’s hand up while Coran easily pulled Hunk to standing.
Lance stood up too, his legs feeling stronger now. He’d join Shiro and Keith as the others’ work was most definitely going to go over his head. And, he felt his heart race, maybe they’d notice the missing bayard (had it been visible to them or was it invisible like he was?). Maybe they could—
Lance whirled around at the unfamiliar, rasping voice.
The Druid stood behind him on the threshold to the kitchen, half of his mask still missing, and visible yellow eye narrowed at the scene in front of him.
No one except Lance took any notice.
And Lance now had a feeling he knew who had been watching him in Blue’s hangar.
The Druid took a gliding step into the kitchen and Lance had his bayard in his hands a tick later.
“Don’t move,” he ordered.
The Druid ignored him, heading for Pidge who was moving in their direction anyway for the door.
“I said,” Lance’s finger hovered on the trigger, “don’t move.”
A pale purple hand reached out…
And Pidge walked right through him.
He couldn’t touch them either.
Gracias a Dios.
The single yellow eye swiveled onto Lance and he forced himself not to take a step back at the sheer hate in that gaze.
“I cannot interact with their plane,” the Druid mused. He held up a hand and a ball of crackling black energy formed. “But I wonder if I can with you. I owe you much in the way of pain, Paladin.”
“Oh yeah?” Lance asked with far more bravado than he felt. His gun had been near useless against the Druid before, he didn’t expect much to be different now. Worse, actually, as he had the Druid’s sole attention.
“The little Green Paladin is of course who I truly wish to see suffer, but I suppose you will make do in the meantime.
“Don’t you touch her,” Lance growled.
“Not yet,” the Druid agreed, a sneer twisting his visible face. “But once your team figures out how to summon you back… I shall join you. And when I arrive in their plane with your near-dead corpse… well, they won’t have long to despair anymore.”
“I’ll stop you,” Lance promised.
“I’d like to see you try.”
And the Druid released his energy ball.
Lance fired his bayard.
His blast struck first, but just like in their fight the Druid merely phased through it.
Lance was not able to phase through the Druid’s attack.
He yelled as it struck his chest and he went flying backwards, through Hunk, through Coran… and then through the kitchen wall.
He landed harshly on his back in some sort of conference room.
The Druid floated through the wall just as he was struggling to a sit, ears ringing and chest aching although the armor seemed to have absorbed most of the damage. He hovered though just beyond, something that looked like… like amusement twisting his face.
“I’ve always enjoyed a good game, Paladin,” the Druid smiled unkindly. “And since we both seem to be trapped here for a while longer… let’s have some fun, hmm?”
And with no further warning the Druid lunged forward.
Lance managed to roll to the side and summoned his shield, intercepting the booted foot on it. He pushed up, hoping to unbalance the Druid, but the pressure vanished as the Druid teleported away and Lance was the one unbalanced, falling forward.
“Poor performance,” came a whisper just behind him.
And then fire.
Lance screamed as he felt it engulf his armor and he stumbled to the side, falling back to the ground.
The foot came again and that time he could not stop it as it collided with his side, sending him rolling until he crashed into one of the many chairs around the table.
He vaguely wondered how he went through walls but couldn’t do the same with furniture.
“I cannot believe,” the Druid came at him again and Lance clumsily brought his shield up, blocking the kick only for it to vanish again and reappear on his other side, “that this,” — block — “is a Paladin” — another barely caught block — “of Voltron.”
That one connected, aimed at his left side and Lance hadn’t been able to turn around quick enough, to anticipate where the Druid would pop up.
Something snapped in his chest through the armor.
Lance couldn’t even scream as the breath was pushed out of his lungs and he fell onto his back, spots dancing in his vision.
“Shameful,” the Druid sneered at Lance, placing his foot on the broken rib, broken armor, and pushed.
Lance choked on another inhale from both the pain and the words.
It was, wasn’t it?
He couldn’t believe he was a Paladin of Voltron either.
The foot pressed down harder and Lance felt something else break under the pressure.
“I had hoped for more of a game, a hunt,” the Druid sounded disappointed. “I supposed I’d have needed the Red or Black Paladin for that though, hm? Not the weak Blue one.
“I will not kill you, yet,” the Druid continued. “I need something to amuse me after all.”
That and likely he couldn’t die, or, well, more than he already was.
Lance wasn’t the brightest but he hadn’t missed the Druid’s earlier statements. Near dead corpse and the team summoning him back. He was the Druid’s ticket out of here.
He wasn’t entirely sure yet what to do with that information because something dark was tickling the edges of his mind that if he allowed the Druid out as they were now…
He would kill his entire, unsuspecting team.
Lance would rather die than see that happen.
At this rate though he was going to die as his ribs screamed and he couldn’t draw a full breath.
“But you should know, Paladin,” and the Druid leaned forward, his face directly above Lance’s now and the yellow eye boring into his own. “There are so very many ways to hurt someone. Especially,” his visible lip curled, “one as pathetic as yourself.”
Lance hated that he couldn’t refute that statement and it was not due to the lack of air.
His lungs felt frozen, his tongue heavy.
The word echoed, grew colder.
Was this the Druid’s doing?
Or his own?
Lance knew the answer to that.
“Number Three, Lance, has shown to be a very tenacious young man.”
Coran’s words from just a few minutes before echoed across his mind.
“He would not give up on us so we shall not give up on him.”
That was right.
They weren’t giving up on him.
He couldn’t give up on himself.
Not like this.
That was pathetic.
“No,” Lance choked out, denying the Druid’s cruel comments, denying his own state and weakness.
“No?” the Druid sounded amused.
Lance would fix that.
He was the Blue Paladin.
The Blue Lion had chosen him above everyone else.
He was not pathetic.
And he would not allow this Druid to hurt his family.
There was a tickle then in the back of his mind, like waves burbling over toes buried in the sand.
Lance reached for it, trying to grab onto that feeling, that safety and strength and hope all mixed together with sunshine and laughter and joy.
He felt a pull in his chest, but not the painful crush of the Druid’s foot nor the one that had ripped him out of the mortal plane.
And then he was falling.
Lance let out a breathless yell as he slammed into the ground of…
Of Blue’s hangar?
And there was no Druid to be seen.
Had he just…?
Another word tickled in the back of his mind then.
He had just been summoned by…
Or had he summoned…?
He craned his head up.
His Lion’s eyes were still dark but he felt the waves wrap about him, a warm purr reverberate through him, before it was swept away.
This time the loss, while still painful, was not so bad because Lance knew now that Blue was not actually gone. She was there, waiting for him.
He was linked to her, no matter what plane he was on.
He stumbled to his feet and pain whited out his vision as broken ribs compressed on one another, the heavy chestplate digging into them.
Lance weighed his options. He could remove the armor and breathe easier, reduce the pain. Or leave it on because it would prevent worse injuries (although the Druid had still broken through it so…)
He took it off.
The Druid had already confirmed he wouldn’t kill him, so there was that. And, and if he could sort of teleport… he could escape.
Although if he could only teleport to Blue he probably needed to get out of her hangar before the Druid found him and he lost his only escape route. He didn’t understand how it all worked but it was all he had right now.
He was just approaching the open hangar doors when Shiro and Keith strode in… and through him.
They walked right through his discarded chestplate too to his disappointment and made for Blue.
He needed to go.
He… he also needed answers.
He followed them.
His steps were silent to them but heavy to him as even with the armor gone his chest ached with each movement and his back felt like it might have a case of bad sunburn.
“This feels wrong,” Keith muttered.
“What part?” Shiro asked and it drew a huff of laughter.
“All of it,” Keith admitted. “But… going into someone else’s Lion like this…”
Keith had apparently not been on the initial “open up Blue and retrieve Lance from cockpit” crew then, Lance concluded. That had probably belonged to Hunk, or maybe even Coran since he’d have already been in the castle.
“I don’t have anything to hide,” Lance told him, if that would help.
Lance’s breath caught.
Had he somehow heard him?
“What the hell?” Keith growled. “Allura said no food in the Lions!”
They’d found his snack stash. Not too difficult considering the compartment it was normally stored in had been jostled open; likely when another Lion had had to cart Blue back to the castle if she’d gone unresponsive.
“Hey,” Lance defended as Keith bent down and picked up a candy bar. “I get hungry, okay?”
“Yeah, I saw that earlier.” And mark Shiro down for the initial crew. That was a good thing, because if his bayard had vanished Shiro would be the one to notice its new absence. “Come on, help me put it back before Allura does find it and kills Lance herself.”
And while Lance knew that they were all trying to find him… hearing Shiro’s comment made the warm feeling grow.
Shiro had already decided he wasn’t dead, that they were going to find him.
And Shiro never broke a promise.
Keith seemed to have picked up on it too. “You… you really think…?”
“You were the one scolding all of us back there for thinking otherwise,” Shiro told him and Keith grumbled, shoving a handful of snacks into the compartment. Shiro’s voice softened. “I’m proud of you, Keith. To see you so worried for a friend…”
Keith ducked his head but there was no missing the highlight of pink on his cheeks.
“He’s right, mullet,” Lance said softly. “I, um…” he reached a tentative hand out even though he already knew the result. But it felt right to follow through on the action that in normal circumstances he wouldn’t have likely even tried. “ Gracias.”
His hand passed through Keith’s shoulder just as he knew it would.
But he did not know to expect the sudden rush of emotions and thoughts — embarrassed, concerned, angry, why did this happen? Scared — to hit him and Keith’s head shot up with a jolt and a gasp.
“Keith?” Shiro sounded concerned as Keith swiveled his head around the cockpit. “Everything okay?”
Lance held his breath.
“I just…” Keith looked right through Lance. “I thought…” He shook his head. “Nevermind.”
Lance deflated with a whoosh.
For the better though as his ribs were not liking the holding his breath bit.
“No, tell me,” Shiro said. “We’re looking for clues. What did you see?”
“...nothing,” Keith said slowly. “But I… I felt… God, I sound crazy, but I… I thought I… felt Lance?”
“I don’t know,” Keith growled, shaking his head. “It was like… like…”
Lance realized the sensation now too, why as strange as it had been it had felt familiar.
They’d done that before.
“The mindmeld,” he and Keith said in tandem.
“Shiro, it felt like when we form Voltron. When we mindmeld.” Lance had never seen Keith look like that, passion and something almost giddy in his expression. “He’s here, Shiro. He’s not dead.”
Lance could have cried.
Shiro was already looking about the cockpit, his eyes too passing through Lance but they were calm, steady.
“Lance? Buddy, you here?”
“I’m here,” Lance whispered.
Should he reach out again? Would it work? It hadn’t worked before when he’d tried with Shiro and Pidge had passed through him, but…
But maybe he had to be in the right mindset for it.
Lance took a steadying breath and focused.
He brushed his fingers through Shiro’s hand resting atop the console.
—breathe, patience, hope, control, stay in control, be strong, stay strong, concern—
Shiro gasped and his hand jerked.
“Lance?” and that time it was more of a breath, almost a sob.
Lance wondered what emotions he was projecting that had made Shiro sound like that.
“Oh how very touching.”
The warm feeling continuing to grow in his chest was replaced with an icy tingle down his spine.
He turned his head very, very slowly as though that would make the Druid go away.
It did not.
“Get out,” Lance growled lowly, “of my Lion.”
“So this is where you hid yourself. I admit, I'm glad you have a bit more to you as otherwise this may have grown boring.”
“Lance,” Shiro sounded, unaware he was interrupting a conversation. Lance tensed but the Druid seemed inclined to listen as well. “We’re going to rescue you, buddy. Just hang on, okay? We’re coming. I promise, we’re coming.”
“Sickeningly sweet,” the Druid shook his head. “I head heard of the vaunted Arena’s Champion, but he does not sound all that inspiring. He sounds,” teeth pulled back to reveal a cruel smile, “desperate.”
“Quiznack you,” Lance summoned his bayard in a flash, wincing at the weight and trying to brace it on his shoulder. He needed a smaller gun
“That is the best you can do? Very well, Paladin. Let’s continue our game. Our,” the smile came again, “hunt.”
And black lightning crackled inside the cockpit.
Lance had nowhere to go, the chair firm at his side and the console and Shiro behind him and phasing through objects didn’t seem to be working very well for him.
He should have drawn his shield instead of his bayard.
He attempted to shield himself with the gun but the Druid’s attack was too powerful for that and he was blasted off his feet…
And through Blue’s front window.
Keith and Shiro didn’t so much as blink.
The drop to the hangar floor was as though in slow motion.
Lance severely regretted now taking off his chestplate which his jetpack was connected to.
If he hit the ground right now…
He didn’t think he’d be getting up.
He needed someone to catch him.
Hunk would catch him.
Hunk was always there to catch him.
And to Lance’s surprise and pleasure he felt that same warm pull in his chest.
And he blinked out of the hangar…
And fell onto a table covered in tools.
It still hurt, no lie, but he was not a mess of broken bones and so injured escape was not feasible.
He’d take it.
And even better…
He heard Hunk.
“—see, this line right here is off by—”
Lance painfully picked himself up, hands going right through screwdrivers and wrenches and tools he didn’t know the name of, and pushed himself off the table.
He almost fell right back down as his ribs protested and spots flared in his vision.
Pidge, Hunk and Coran were all gathered around the table next to the one he’d fallen on, this one clear of supplies save for hologram projections and propped up datapads.
The target Lance had shot through hovered above all of it.
Lance scowled at it and turned his focus onto the people.
Pidge was silent, hunched over her tablet in such a pose that her back was going to start hurting soon, even though she’d removed her top half armor pieces so at least that wasn’t digging into her neck.
Hunk too had removed his upper half pieces but he and Coran were talking quietly, the advisor nodding along as Hunk traced something on his datapad.
It was a familiar sight and Lance was comforted by it.
He looked down at his hand and then back up.
Should he try to communicate with them too?
Pidge first, he decided.
He needed her to know that she hadn’t…
Hadn’t killed him.
Because as determined as she was he could see her eyes were still red and puffy and her fingers were clenching and unclenching on her lap, worrying the fabric between them.
He could guess that since he was picking up the emotions of the others that they were picking up his as well.
What did he want to say?
“I’m sorry I scared you,” he whispered to her, hovering right next to her and calling the thoughts to mind. “It wasn’t your fault, Pidgeon. You’re a genius. And… and you’re going to get me back, all right? I know you can. So don’t…” he lifted his hand to the tear trekking down her cheek. “Don’t cry.”
He brushed it away.
—guilt, fear, hope, sadness, such sadness, confusion, why can’t I figure this out?, anger, rage, heavier guilt —
Pidge dropped her datapad with a loud clatter.
Lance was more shocked than she was as her tear was resting on his gloved finger.
“What?” Hunk and Coran and looked up at the disturbance and there was something heavy with hope and fear of it not being real in Hunk’s question. “Pidge, what did you—?”
“Lance,” Pidge called again, standing abruptly. “Lance, where are you?”
“Here,” Lance said unhelpfully.
He didn’t really know either.
“Pidge, what is—?”
“Shh!” she shushed Hunk with a flap of her hand but she followed it up quickly with an explanation as her eyes darted about the Green Lion’s hangar turned lab. “I felt him. Lance. He’s here. He…” her voice hitched. “He… he told me not to cry.”
Hunk’s eyes widened.
Lance took that as his cue to head for his best friend, his brother in all but blood.
“Hunk,” he murmured.
No words were needed here.
Instead he gingerly lifted both arms, ribs protesting, and wrapped them gently about Hunk’s middle.
He felt Hunk’s warmth, smelled the faint scent of honeysuckle, — hope, scared, please be okay please be okay, hermano, love, determination — before he phased out Hunk’s back.
“Lance,” Hunk let out a low sob, wrapping his arms about himself as though he’d felt the hug. “Hermano. L-Lance.”
“Fascinating,” Coran murmured. “Lance, my boy, if you can hear me… and I don’t mean to be demanding of you, but please, can you try and reach me as well?”
Lance had already planned on doing that but his brow crinkled in slight confusion at the request.
And the way Coran had said ‘try’ as though he did not expect Lance to be able to do so...
Lance took a steadying breath and went to place a hand on Coran’s shoulder.
He passed through it.
No emotions followed.
He tried again.
Why wasn’t it working?
“Ah, I realized if you can’t do so we won’t very well know, will we?” Coran chuckled, although it sounded a tinge sad. “If you were unable to do so, can you reach back out to Number Two now?”
Lance was almost afraid to.
What if whatever this was was broken?
Still he lifted a hand to Hunk’s cheek.
— hope, love, oh please please please, loss, determination, anxious—
“He’s here!” Hunk burst out. “I just felt him!”
“As I thought,” Coran said, tapping his chin. “Lance is communicating to you through your Paladin bond, the ties that bind you all together through Voltron. Fascinating. And more important,” he turned soft jewel eyes to Pidge, “you have not killed your friend, my dear girl.”
Pidge hiccuped on a sob as she nodded her head.
The doors to the Green Lion’s hangar burst open and Shiro came striding in, Keith on his heels. “Paladins—”
“Lance was here,” Pidge interrupted before Shiro could say anything. “He’s here, Shiro.”
“It’s the Paladin bond,” Coran piped up. “He is able to reach out through that connection to each of you.”
“And doesn’t that just make this game more fun?”
The Druid had come in with Keith and Shiro.
He strolled into the hangar, no hurry to his step.
“The Paladin bond, hm?” he repeated and Lance felt his stomach bottom out. “Is that how you have been escaping me, Paladin?”
Oh Dios no.
Lance took a step back as the Druid stepped forward.
“But my my, your escape trick won’t work so well when everyone is gathered together, now will it?” the Druid chuckled. “And so the hunt comes to an end. You were better prey than I expected, but all weak things must fall.”
The others were talking behind Lance but their words were muted behind his pulse thrumming in his ears.
What did he do?
Dios, what did he do?
He couldn’t fight.
Now he couldn’t run.
No, that wasn’t true. He could still teleport to Blue. The Druid had found him there but he’d assume it was because of Shiro or Keith. He could go there, hide for a bit, and then relocate once the group had split up.
He summoned the memory of Blue, of her calming waves and purrs. He tugged and Green’s hangar changed to blue accents and to his relief he entered it on his own two feet, no falling required.
“Hey, beautiful,” he called up to Blue, still sitting and waiting for him. “I, I need to hide here for a—”
The air rippled, cracked, a few paces from Lance and his heart leapt into his throat as the Druid stepped through his self-made portal.
“There you are,” he smiled. “I didn’t think you’d have gotten far.”
Lance backed up, nearly tripping over his feet.
“Our hunt has come to a final close, Paladin. I have discovered your paths through the plane and you are limited. Whereas I can be anywhere I choose. Now,” the Druid flicked back his sleeve and gripped in his hand was a black blade wreathed in matching fire. “Shall I show you the true meaning of pain?”
Lance closed his eyes and thought of Hunk.
He tugged out of existence, hearing the hiss of a blade just missing, and came to back in the Green Lion’s hangar.
Everyone was still there.
“—need to get Allura, she knows the most about the Paladin bond,” Coran was saying.
“—headsets for the mindmeld, I can use that as a base,” Hunk was talking just as feverishly. “Don’t you worry, Lance, we’ll have you back—”
The air cracked right in front of Hunk and the Druid stepped through, sneer twisting his face. “You can run all you like, Paladin, but there is nowhere for you to go.”
He was right.
There was nowhere to run.
Lance summoned his bayard once more.
He was going to have to fight.
His stomach rolled unpleasantly and it grew worse as the Druid laughed, throwing his head back.
And then he attacked.
Lance fired off several rounds, three perfect headshots, but it didn’t matter because the Druid phased right through them.
Lance somehow managed to dodge the first strike of the flaming sword and summoned his shield to intercept the second.
He was not so lucky on the third.
It cut across his upper right arm and he screamed as blood splattered across his chin, the floor, and it felt like fire had just been set to his limb.
He went down.
The others were still talking.
The Druid didn’t give him time to rest, to think. He was there a tick later, sword cutting a flaming arc and while the blade did not strike the fire still did, a whisper across Lance’s back as he rolled.
It made the earlier hit feel like a caress.
This was not normal fire.
“Is that all you had?” A booted foot caught him under his chest and catapulted him across the hangar.
Lance slammed into the tool-covered table.
“Only the ability to run away?”
The foot came again.
Something cracked once more in his chest.
Lance’s scream was swallowed by the pain.
“That is not strategy.”
The sword came down that time and Lance’s hastily erected shield shattered beneath it.
“That is cowardice.”
The sword came down.
Lance blinked at it, the hilt pressed flush to his right thigh.
The pain registered a moment later.
It grew as the Druid yanked back on it and blood arced through the air.
Someone was screaming.
It was him.
He couldn’t seem to stop.
To his surprise there was no follow up.
He faintly supposed the Druid enjoyed watching him cry as much as he enjoyed inflicting the pain.
His leg was pulsing and Lance brought a left hand down to it.
Dios Dios Dios.
He dropped his hand from the wound, gloved fingers coated in crimson.
He wasn’t dodging anymore.
No more running.
This was just… just going to be torture now.
Lance cast bleary, tear-lined eyes up, looking past the smirking Druid who had no doubt come to the same conclusion, towards where everyone had been.
Coran had left somewhere in the fight.
So had Shiro.
Lance’s breath caught.
He had to try.
He closed his eyes, curling up under the pretense of trying to protect his mangled leg, while he sucked in a deep inhale.
What was it Shiro always said?
Patience yields focus.
Concentrate on Shiro.
Safe. Protector. Strong. Hero.
Lance flickered a moment later.
He landed in a hallway right behind Shiro, who was near jogging.
He was headed for the training room where the mindmeld helmets were stored.
Lance let him go out of sight and then flickered again.
On the third time he realized, this location within sightline of his previous one, that he was leaving a trail of blood, dripping both down his arm and from his leg.
The occupants of the castle could not see it, but no doubt the Druid could.
It’s not like he had much choice.
He tugged himself with Shiro all the way to the training room, watching with dull amusement as Shiro gave up trying to open the cabinet’s lock and powered up his arm, slicing right through it and gathering the headsets into his arms.
He ran back out.
Lance did not follow.
He’d be going to the others, where no doubt the Druid was waiting. At least here he would have one more jump for all the good a few seconds would do.
He wondered if anyone was missing him in all of the planning. Was anyone calling out for him and growing concerned that he wasn’t responding?
Lance’s eyes widened.
He needed to get back there.
Pidge… Pidge had heard his thought. He could let them know of the Druid. That he was here, with him.
That he was hurting him.
His leg gave a throb as though to point out how inadequate that thought was to what was happening.
Lance knew though this wasn't torture. Not yet.
But he knew it was coming.
He would wait, he decided, until the Druid found him here.
He used that time to try and get back on his feet.
His right leg was a mass of fire and putting even the slightest bit of weight down made the entire thing collapse.
No more running that way.
So Lance instead tried to bandage it. He pulled off his arm guard and shoulder pads and then the utility belt and then more slowly removed his underarmor shirt.
His vision went dark a few times as his ribs protested and the cut on his right arm flared with more pain than it should.
Of course the Druid couldn’t just use a normal sword.
He pulled off his gloves and laid them overtop one another and then put them on top of his thigh.
Even that hurt.
It was going to get worse.
He had to do it though. He was already feeling woozy and could feel the blood dripping not just on top but out the back where the exit wound lie.
He folded his shirt three times into a long band and then, sucking in a breath, wrapped twice around his leg.
And then he pulled.
Lance chomped down on his tongue to keep the scream locked inside as he forced himself to push down, to tie the knot, blood oozing up and staining his fingers.
A moment later there were not footsteps but something he could feel was coming, the slither of fabric on the floor.
The Druid stepped into the training room.
“There you are,” he said, eyes narrowed and he clucked his tongue. “Cease these useless attempts, Paladin.”
“Or what?” Lance managed, his tongue feeling thick and hot blood filling his mouth from where he’d bit through it.
“Or I will make this pain look like child’s play.”
Lance tipped his head back against the wall, both in exhaustion and to try and think.
The Druid had come after him rather than staying to listen to the team discuss their plans further.
As Lance had suspected before…
The Druid needed Lance.
It was possible if he was not there when Lance was “summoned” back that he would be trapped.
Could Lance avoid him that long?
He glanced at his leg.
Would he try?
He needed to get back to the others, to warn them.
It was going to hurt.
Their deaths would hurt more.
He pulled together thoughts of Hunk — warm and safe and honeysuckle and engine grease — and appeared back in the hangar.
As he’d feared, they were all there, Allura now too.
And he was a few feet away.
Lance grit his teeth…
It was more of a drag as his right leg refused to work with him and his right arm kept trembling, but he forced himself forward.
The Druid had yet to reappear, perhaps going to Blue first.
Hunk’s leg came into reach.
Lance pushed every thought he could to the surface.
Druid. Trap. Teleport. Time. Pain. So much pain. Please. Help.
He brushed his fingers against the white leg guard just as a crackle sounded behind him and he felt a hand wrap around his ankle and drag him away.
But not before the fleeting — so close, determination, hope, anxious — touched on his mind and even better (and worse) was Hunk’s breathless shout.
Lance watched as dark honey eyes looked down at his leg where Lance’s presence would have been and they widened.
“Bl-blood,” Hunk stuttered.
Lance prayed he didn’t faint.
“Blood!” Hunk repeated louder. “L-Lance!”
Lance couldn’t watch what happened next as the Druid lifted him by his ankle, dangling him upside down and all of his weight hanging from his injured leg.
“Foolish,” the Druid sneered, the look no less cruel even upside down.
And he smashed Lance into the ground.
His arms took the brunt of the damage, lifted up to protect his face.
He still heard something snap and white-hot fire assaulted his eyes.
There was the sensation of being airborne then and it only stopped when he struck a wall and crumpled to its base.
His vision went in and out.
He tasted bile.
The Druid stalked after him, the flaming sword now replaced with a flaming whip.
“Lance!” Pidge screamed his name. “Run!”
And he realized in that second that she was the only one still in the room.
They’d gotten his message.
The Druid realized it too.
Lance didn’t know who he thought of then, only thinking safe and he was whisked away just as a purple hand tried to close about his arm.
He crashed to the ground next to Shiro, who was hastily writing a message on the castle wall with a giant marker.
He’d been writing it all over.
Put on headset. Pidge. Twenty hundred.
Druids, Lance realized with a start, could not read English.
He needed to see a clock.
Shiro was not by a clock.
Lance summoned up the feelings of safety again, trying for Hunk.
To his surprise he ended up sprawled next to Keith, who was writing the same.
They were in the lounge.
And there was a clock.
Thirteen minutes to go.
He didn’t know if…
He felt so tired.
But he had no choice.
Keith was moving away now but Lance remained where he was, the rug beneath him almost comfortable. He needed to tell someone he’d gotten the message, that he understood.
But he couldn’t move anymore.
Just a minute.
He’d rest for a minute.
The Druid hadn’t found him yet.
One minute turned into four before Lance heard a familiar crackle.
He tugged himself away before he caught sight of the Druid coming out of his portal.
He felt a grim satisfaction that it was the Druid who was one now desperate.
He wound up that time with Hunk, who was in the kitchen.
Clearly waiting, with a cup of water and a blanket spread out on the tile before him.
Lance dragged himself over and onto the blanket, which like the rug felt soft.
His hand passed through the water though despite how much he could go for a drink.
Not a strong enough connection?
He instead reached up and hooked his fingers into the swell of Hunk’s leg guard.
—scared, he’s hurt, hold on, anxious, fear, terror, please hermano —
“Lance,” Hunk breathed. “Oh God, Lance. Don’t… don’t let go, okay? I’m here. I’m here.”
Lance let out a breathy sob and obeyed.
“I know you’re tired, I know,” Hunk murmured, feeling Lance as surely as Lance felt him. “I know you’re hurting. I’m so sorry, hermano. We’re almost there. I promise. Pidge is recalibrating them now with Allura. You’re, you’re gonna be okay. Stay with me. I’m here. I’m here, hermano.”
Lance was lulled by the words, even moreso Hunk’s emotions through their link. There was still fear and worry but Hunk had and always would be his support and those feelings — love and hope and warmth and care and comfort — outshone the others like a brilliant ray of sunshine.
“I think I hear something,” came a whisper, a hiss, from the hallway and Lance froze.
The Druid had heard Hunk.
Hunk heard Lance’s thought and fear.
“Go,” he whispered, voice shaking. “Six left.”
Lance forced himself to move again.
It was harder than it was before.
When he arrived he had difficulty opening his eyes.
He’d dropped back to Shiro, who like Hunk was stationary now and sitting cross legged in some conference room Lance didn’t recognize.
He was too tired to crawl over.
“Sh-Shiro,” he whimpered.
Shiro didn’t react.
Lance bit his lip to keep the sob locked in.
He didn’t want the Druid to find them.
He was so tired. His vision was starting to gray around the edges.
He instead tried to count out minutes.
“Lance,” Shiro said into the air by Lance’s count nearly five later. “If… if you’re here, it’s time to go, buddy. Go to Pidge. We’ll… we’ll be there soon. It’s gonna be okay. I promise.”
“‘Kay,” Lance whispered.
He closed his eyes and focused on Pidge; cleverness and sass and sweet and family.
He appeared in Blue’s hangar where Pidge and Allura were sitting. Pidge had a headset on and the other was in her hand.
He forced himself that time to crawl over.
Blood smeared behind him.
By the time he reached them the dark spots were taking up more of his vision and he had no grace as he fell forward, his chin smashing into the ground as his hand barely brushed Pidge’s knee.
—hope, fear, where is he? Did he get the message? Please hurry, please please please, I’m so sorry—
“Oh!” she gasped. “Oh, oh, God, Lance.”
“What? What is it?” Allura looked sharply down as though if she stared hard enough he would materialize.
“He’s hurt,” Pidge said, voice small. “It’s… it’s really bad, Allura.”
Allura drew in a breath.
“Lance, you need to take this,” Pidge said, holding the headset out. “And then you need to get into Blue.”
“I’ll, I’ll go too,” Pidge told him. “So you can, can relay to me. Come on, Lance. I know you can do it. Please,” her hand trembled. “Take it.”
Lance reached one just as shaky upwards.
To his surprise he felt the smooth metal of the headset.
And while nothing changed in his view both girls let out gasps and he could only imagine it had vanished.
“Okay, okay,” Pidge babbled. “Hang on, I’m going up now.”
And she sprinted.
“Lance, if you can hear me,” Allura’s tones were low, gentler than Lance was used to being directed at him. “Please… come home. We are waiting for you.”
Lance felt a smile turn up his lips and his heart picked up tempo at the love and sincerity in Allura’s words.
Maybe… he wasn’t just a goofball to her after all.
“Go,” she whispered. “Pidge should be there now.”
It took all Lance had to focus on Pidge that time and to his relief he found himself inside Blue’s cockpit a moment later.
Pidge was standing next to the console.
And next to her was the Druid.
Lance felt his heart stop.
“Lance, you need to get into the chair,” Pidge was pointing at it.
He couldn’t move even if he’d wanted to.
“You heard her, Paladin,” the Druid’s lips pulled back in a smile. “Get in the chair.”
If he did then the Druid would somehow hitch a ride back too and… and…
“No,” he breathed, the word tasting like blood.
“It was not a request.”
And a purple hand reached over and wrapped about his neck. Lance gagged as he was lifted up and dropped into the seat.
Not like this.
“P-Pidge,” he gasped.
“Lance, you need to be in the chair,” she sounded anxious, wringing her hands.
He needed her to be too.
He needed to tell her the Druid was here.
He was going to hurt her.
He would kill her.
As if reading his mind the Druid spoke. “I cannot wait to hear her scream. Oh, the sounds of agony she will make.”
Blood dribbled down his chin as he uselessly flailed in the chair.
The Druid chuckled.
“Your resistance is most amusing. There is nothing you can do.”
Lance kicked his leg out again.
He wasn’t aiming for the Druid.
It batted against Pidge.
She inhaled sharply and gave a nod.
Footsteps sounded on the ramp and a moment later the other Paladins were cramming in.
“Hurry,” Keith said, voice sharp with urgency. “Before he gets here.”
“Yeah,” Pidge said. “Wouldn’t want an elephant in the room or anything.”
The Druid frowned.
“What is she saying?” he turned to Lance.
Lance kept his lips sealed.
If they lost the element of surprise it was over.
“What is she saying?” the Druid demanded. “What is this jibberish?”
Lance just shook his head.
“Lance, focus,” Shiro instructed. “You’re going to need to act fast, buddy.”
The Druid was holding him pinned with one hand to the seat but lifted his other one, sword back in it.
“Tell me what you are planning.”
Lance shook his head again.
He didn’t honestly know.
The others were moving now, forming a circle about the chair. Shiro was in front of him, Hunk to his right, then Pidge, then Keith. Why?
He didn’t know.
His stomach clenched.
What if…? What if he couldn’t figure out what they wanted him to do?
What if he failed?
“Tell me now,” the Druid hissed, the sword poised now above his other leg.
“Okay, get ready, buddy. Focus on us. Think of us.”
Lance did. He stretched his senses, his mind, his connection to the others.
And he felt them.
Their fear. Their hope. Their love and concern and anger and anxiety and guilt and pain and he tethered himself to it, aware of the Druid shouting at him but focusing on them.
“Think…” Shiro’s voice echoed, louder than the Druid’s. “Think of Blue.”
Apparently the Druid had had enough of being ignored.
Lance screamed, the blackness both receding and growing, as the sword sank into the seat below him, through his left thigh, jolting him from the connection.
Sound pounded in his ears.
He realized a moment later it wasn’t just his screams and pulse.
It was ocean waves.
The Druid pulled the blade free in a shower of blood.
Lance desperately tried to ignore him, ignore the screams coming from his own throat.
Blue Blue Blue Blue.
Blackness flashed across his vision.
A second later a green target filled the cabin.
They… they wanted him to shoot it?
But his bayard wasn’t…
Think of Blue.
“Bl-Blue,” he choked out, hand twitching at his side and the armor glowing as his bayard reformed. “H-help… me.”
His bayard grew lighter.
It wasn’t his blaster.
Lance lifted it up from where it was hidden on the side of the chair.
It was a long, thin cannon.
The Druid’s eyes widened.
Think of us.
Lance closed his eyes, picturing his team. Allura. Coran. The castle. Blue.
And without looking he knew it had been a perfect shot.
There was a tug and pain and the blackness around him turned into a kaleidoscope of colors that made the nausea come back full force and he dropped his bayard somewhere in the turning and twisting but he never heard it clatter.
He heard gasps and a shout and he wrenched his eyes back open.
The horrified gazes of his team were locked on him.
They could see him.
And that meant they could see the Druid, standing there with a bloodied sword.
He never even stood a chance.
And it wasn’t from his team, all of their bayards raised and Shiro’s arm glowing purple, and prepared to take permanent measures.
The rushing sound had returned and Blue’s roar rattled Lance. Water pounded in his ears and waves raced across his skin and foam curled beneath his feet but for Lance it felt warm.
Blue’s roar was fierce but it was full of protection and love and promise that this, this creature, would never harm her Paladin again.
To the Druid…
To the Druid it must have felt so cold.
He was clawing at his throat as water streamed out of his nose, his mouth, his eye, and slowly, slowly it began to freeze, frost creeping upon him in a blanket.
Not even ten ticks later he was a frozen statue.
Everyone seemed to be in a similar frozen state before Hunk let out a sob and Lance found himself being pulled from the chair into large, warm arms.
But it was a good pain.
“Lance!” he wailed. “L-Lance!”
“Easy, easy,” Shiro cautioned even though Lance could hear his smile, his relief, and a hand descended atop his head, smoothing back his hair with a tender caress and gently easing off the headset.
“‘s okay,” Lance managed as Pidge’s small hands latched onto his arm with a sob. He caught Pidge’s gaze. “‘m okay.”
“You are not okay,” she sniffled.
She was right.
But she was also wrong.
“You got… got me home.”
“Damn right I did,” she choked out. “I, I put you there—”
“No,” Lance interrupted.
No more guilt.
Not because of this.
Pidge quivered but gave a shaky jerk of her head.
“All of y-you,” Lance let his eyes drift about the cabin. “Th-thank you.”
“Don’t thank us,” Keith muttered, but even as he said that one of his hands was gingerly coming to rest on Lance’s shoulder, the same one Lance had first brushed his.
Lance shook his head in disagreement.
“No. You guys… I, I felt you. You… you saved me.”
“You saved yourself, buddy,” Shiro said gently. “We helped, but that was all you. Your strength and courage and,” his lips quirked up, “tenacity.”
That warm feeling of before filled Lance’s chest, and it only grew as he felt Blue brush against his mind, a gentle purr reverberating through him.
“Paladins!” Allura’s voice echoed from outside, and Lance gave a start at how worried she sounded.
That morphed into a groan as his body reminded him he was very, very, much hurt.
“Okay, that’s enough,” Shiro said as Pidge hollered over her shoulder that they would be right there. “Hunk?”
“Got him,” and Hunk’s hold shifted from a hug to a carry and Lance found himself cradled against Hunk’s chest a moment later, an arm very carefully slipped under his knees although even that was making his legs ache and he couldn’t hold in the whimper at the light jostling. “Lo siento, hermano,” Hunk murmured.
Lance just pressed his face against Hunk.
He felt them descending from Blue and there was a flurry of movement, new hands lighting on his shoulder.
He forced his head to turn, his eyes to open, exhaustion tugging them down, and a pair of jeweled ones looked down.
“There you are, my boy,” Coran murmured. “I have a pod all prepped for you.”
That sounded amazing.
His eyes fluttered closed.
“Number Two, if you could follow me to the infirmary?”
“One moment, please,” Allura’s accented tones sounded and Lance felt her slender hand come to rest on his cheek.
That had his eyes flying open, feeling despite the circumstances his cheeks heat at the tender look Allura gazed upon him with.
“Welcome home,” she said softly.
He managed a smile in return and she nodded, stepping back. That was the cue as everyone else echoed good byes and feel betters and Hunk started moving again. Lance let his eyes close, lulled by the gentle cadence of Hunk’s footfalls and the warmth spreading through him that chased away the worst of the pain.
He wasn’t directly connected to the Paladin bond right now, no other emotions or thoughts filtering through his mind.
But he didn’t need to be to feel their love and care and to know that no matter what, no matter where he went…
He would always find his way back home.