“—so cool,” Lance gushed, twirling on the stool in the Green Lion’s hangar where Pidge and Hunk were sitting at the work table and making headway on a special project assigned to them by the Olkari. “So it’s like, a living metal you’re working with? Is it warm? Is it breathing? Is it like tree bark?”
He reached for a piece and Pidge, without looking up from her computer smacked his hand away, drawing a yelp of the word “ouch,” even though it hadn’t really hurt.
Hunk was completely oblivious to it as he was examining one of the metal pieces with a pair of magnifying goggles bugging out his eyes and his tongue sticking out in concentration. It made Lance smile even as he exaggeratedly rubbed his hand and mock-glared at Pidge’s bowed head. He loved how into projects Hunk would get, only his stomach ever letting him know when he’d been at it too long as he tuned out the world around him.
Lance twirled around on his stool a few more times but if he’d wanted a wheelie chair he could have spun around in any of the ones in the abandoned conference rooms.
He’d come here because he’d wanted company.
Hunk and Pidge had been holed up in the hangar since yesterday morning when Ryner had dropped off the samples and the project with a quick deadline of four days for some summit meeting and Lance understood but that didn’t mean he wasn’t bored.
He’d tried to amuse himself around the castle but playing video games on his own wasn’t very much fun and he’d already finished all of his chores and wasn’t tired enough for a nap. He had debated going to the training room after he’d paused for lunch but it looked like Keith and Shiro were in there and he’d felt a pang of jealousy that Keith got one on one training with Shiro and swallowed it down and hurried away. Allura he knew was on the bridge but last he’d seen she was doing princess-y paperwork things and no thank you. Coran had disappeared somewhere — no doubt some chores of his own — and the mice were nowhere to be found. He’d already cleaned Blue up yesterday but had visited her for a little while although she’d nudged him in the direction of his friends and it had been her warm purr that had given the push to go down to the hangar after avoiding it as long as he could because he knew how important this project was and he didn’t want to distract them.
He always liked watching Hunk work with engines and hearing Pidge clacking away on keyboards. There was just something soothing about it, although he liked it best when they’d talk as they worked; Hunk patiently explaining what he was doing and Pidge sometimes talking at him as a sounding board for her own ideas and brilliance, and he felt like he was a part of it even if he’d never even be half as smart as them.
But Lance had been on his own practically since yesterday and the silence here other than the clack of keys and Hunk’s quiet mumbles to himself and the soft clank of tools was too quiet. So he had started talking, anything and everything; what the project could be, how cool the Olkari were, how smart Pidge and Hunk were, just to feel like he was a part of it too.
He hoped that maybe, someday, he’d get something special like this assigned to him. Outside of chores no one ever asked him to do anything; not science or engineering projects, not missions, not fighting or training or even trying his hand at diplomacy (and he thought maybe he might be good at it but that was always for Allura and Shiro and sometimes Coran).
He tried not to let it get him down. It wasn’t their faults he didn’t have any special talents despite how loudly he would claim he was the best at everything.
He spun around again, slightly dizzy, and caught himself on the table, watching as Pidge went from typing to some hologram projection above the screen, the light reflecting scarily off her glasses, while Hunk was still in nearly the same position although his head had tilted to the left now.
“So,” Lance broke the quiet again, “how long are you guys going to be working on this today? I know Ryner needed it back pretty quick but breaks are important too and I was thinking we could try making space chili with those weird pepper things Coran got last week for dinner and if anyone could figure out a way it would be Hunk since—”
Pidge’s hands slammed her keyboard shut with so much force the items on the table rattled and she whirled to face Lance, eyes narrowed and flashing.
“Do you ever shut up?”
She… she didn’t mean it like—
“We are trying to work on a beyond important project with foreign components that shouldn’t even fucking exist and I can’t fucking concentrate because you keep talking !”
“I—” Lance tried to apologize, guilt curling in his stomach and the whisper that he hadn’t thought she’d minded, not really.
“No, no more talking,” Pidge snapped. “God, Lance, seriously.”
But she was…
She was so angry. At him.
“I’m, I’m sorry,” the words came out higher than he’d like, throat trying to clog with tears he was desperately trying to push back. “I didn’t… I didn’t realize—”
“Of course you didn’t,” she muttered, already turning back to her laptop. She let out a sigh. “Just, please. Be quiet. Hunk and I need to focus.”
“Huh?” Hunk’s head jerked up at the sound of his name, ignoring the background noise with practiced ease of working in his dad’s loud repair shop. “What?”
“We need to focus and to focus we can’t have distractions," Pidge said, shooting another glare at Lance.
Hunk missed Pidge’s glare but his expression was contrite as it meant Lance’s. “We really do need to concentrate, Lance. Ryner needs this ASAP and—”
“Say no more,” Lance held up his hands, forcing a smile onto his face. “I get it. I’ll, uh, go and...
He trailed off as Hunk had already turned back to his work and Pidge was hunched over her laptop, fingers typing far harder than they needed to on the keys.
Lance got the message.
He left the hangar, shutting the door soundlessly behind him.
He… he knew Pidge hadn’t meant it, that she was under a lot of stress and they did have a deadline and working on a project like that had to be hard and of course she didn’t mean it.
Her dismissal hurt.
And he knew Hunk had missed it — and… and would Hunk have agreed with Pidge on this? He was too scared to ask and not just because he didn’t want Pidge to yell at him again — and he knew Hunk got into his work zone but even he had so… so quickly dismissed him.
It hurt a lot.
Standing outside the closed hangar door though wasn’t going to make it hurt any less or make it better so the best thing he could do was give them space, give them quiet, and leave.
But he was so tired of being alone. The castle was meant to house hundreds if not thousands of people and it was just the seven of them plus a cow and four mice and it was so empty and quiet.
He missed people.
He missed home.
He missed Mamá’s hugs and Papá’s shoulder squeezes and Rachel’s gentle teasing and Marco’s hair ruffles and Veronica’s clever quips and Luis’ contagious laugh and… and...
He shivered, wrapping his arms about himself.
He didn’t want to be alone right now.
He didn’t want more quiet.
Pidge and Hunk might be busy and need quiet but maybe… maybe the others wouldn’t mind his presence.
Lance’s feet carried him upstairs towards the bridge. He knew he wasn’t the smartest but maybe he could help Allura sort papers or something and keep her company. It wasn’t very often (never) that he got to hang out with Allura one on one and maybe… maybe he could show her he really did want to get to know her and not just flirt with her.
His steps became more confident as he entered the bridge, Allura leaning over a table with a spread of documents in front of her. She looked up at the sound of his footsteps and before Lance could even wave, smile, and ask how her day was going, Allura sighed, hand going to pinch the bridge of her nose (a habit she’d picked up from Shiro that normally made Lance snicker but now… now it made something uncomfortable settle in his stomach).
“Lance, I am incredibly busy—”
“I know,” Lance cut in, wincing as that was so rude, especially to a princess, but he wasn’t here to bother her as she had assumed and he didn’t want her to kick him out. He didn’t want that again. “I know, and I thought maybe I could help you.”
Her face softened and Lance felt his stomach flip for a different reason.
“That is very kind of you to offer,” she offered a small smile. “However these missives are not in a language you are familiar with.”
That was a bit of a problem.
“Well, um, maybe I could keep you company?”
“Your offer is appreciated, but I really must concentrate on these documents.”
“I’ll be quiet, I promise,” Lance sensed where this was going. “You, you won’t even know I’m here.”
Allura let out a soft sigh but inclined her head towards one of the seats at the table. Lance contained the loud whoop he wanted to make and sat himself almost primly at the chair, showing her he could be on his best behavior.
Allura turned back to her missives.
Quiet, save for the gentle rustle of papers, pressed in.
It was the same as the hangar.
This… this wasn’t what Lance wanted.
Lance bit his lip to keep from saying anything, drumming his fingers on his thighs, and studying Allura. She was as beautiful as ever, of course, but there was something… something exhausted in her face, in the way she was not so much leaning but slowly slumping against the table.
How long had she been working on this? When had she last taken a break? Had she even had breakfast this morning?
She needed a break. And maybe a nice face mask and he could easily provide both of those.
“Um, Princess?” Lance hedged.
Allura let out a sigh. “Lance—”
“I know, but—”
Jeweled eyes lifted and met his and there wasn’t just exhaustion on her face.
There was disappointment.
“You gave your word you would be quiet.”
“Go,” she pointed at the door.
“Lance, go,” her tone grew sharper.
He blinked back the hot stinging in his eyes.
He hadn’t wanted to upset her. He just wanted to help her and…
Dios, why could he do nothing right?
Why did he always have to mess things up?
He kicked his shoe against the floors, a hot mess of anger and frustration and guilt churning his stomach.
He headed for the training room.
Even if Shiro and Keith were doing their own thing and didn’t want to include him he could go run laps, see if maybe he could outrun the heavy press of failure starting to press on his shoulders. And at least he wouldn’t be alone, it wouldn’t be quiet.
He hated the quiet.
There was no sound of fighting or of a simulation in effect when he reached the training room and a check of the light above the door indicated that the gladiator wasn’t running amok either (Lance had learned the hard way when he’d come down to nicely get Keith for dinner and almost been impaled by the gladiator who didn’t know Lance wasn’t part of the training simulation).
Lance opened the door, stepping into the bright white room and easily spotting the two figures across the way.
Lance’s eyes widened as he stepped closer.
They were fighting blindfolded.
Lance watched, awed.
Shiro’s strikes were obviously more powerful, both because of the crazy strong prosthetic and his size in general, but Keith was quicker and dodging around Shiro in a way a blindfolded person had no business doing.
He knew Shiro had experience in hand-to-hand and Keith probably had to too in some degree given that swords were close-range but, holy crow, they were…
They were amazing.
Maybe they could teach him?
Lance shoved on the burst of pride and jealousy that flared at the idea. No amount of bragging could deny the fact that he really wasn’t very good at combat skills outside of shooting and he’d never be as good as Keith. But… but he could learn. And if he did that, learned from Keith and didn’t antagonize him or make it into a challenge, then maybe… maybe he and Keith could actually be friends.
He really needed a friend today.
“Hey!” he called, stepping towards them as Keith pushed Shiro back with a two-handed strike, the man letting out a soft oomph at the impact. “You guys have got to—”
The crack of cartilage as Shiro’s fist made direct contact with Keith’s face, now unprotected as Keith had lowered his hands, was turning in Lance’s direction, was distracted by him , was like a gunshot.
The shower of blood and Keith’s pained cry as he stumbled backwards, tripping over his own feet and collapsing only reinforced that.
Lance’s shout was swallowed by Shiro’s hoarser, louder, panicked version.
Shiro had ripped off his blindfold and was kneeling on the ground with Keith, both blindfolds pressed to Keith’s nose and face, by the time Lance had made the few sprinted steps to them.
The back of Shiro’s hand was splattered with red.
“K-Keith,” Lance stuttered.
Pained, violent, purple eyes lifted to meet his.
Shiro may have been the one who punched him but everyone knew who was at fault.
“I, I didn’t… I’m so sorry, I—”
“Lance,” Shiro cut him off. “Not now.” His voice softened as he looked to Keith. “Come on, let’s get you to the infirmary.”
Keith gave a jerk of his head and Shiro wrapped an arm about his waist, pulling him to his feet.
Lance continued to hover, not sure what he could do but wanting, needing, to do something.
To fix this.
“Here, let me hel—”
“Doh,” Keith snapped, meaning clear even if he was nearly unintelligible.
Lance’s hands fell back at his sides.
He said nothing else as Shiro escorted Keith from the room.
Neither of them looked back.
Lance didn’t move long after the door closed behind them, rooted to the spot.
He hadn’t meant to…
Dios, he didn’t… he hadn’t…
Why did every time he open his mouth something go wrong?
Pidge and Keith were angry with him, Allura and Shiro disappointed. He was preventing people from getting work done, from concentrating and now he’d hurt someone. All because he couldn’t shut up.
A low sob worked its way out of his throat as he sank down to his knees.
Why did he always mess up so much? Why, when he was only trying to help, did he make things worse?
Why was he such a bad friend?
Everyone had asked for or needed one thing.
And if he’d just… just listened, just shut up, then… then no one would be upset. No one would be hurt.
So… so if Lance just stopped talking then…
Lance pressed his lips together, swallowing down the next sob.
No more talking. No more noises. No more distractions.
He’d be quiet.
And then maybe…
Maybe things would be better. Maybe they wouldn’t be mad at him anymore. And, maybe then, finally, he’d stop messing up everyone else’s lives.
Not talking was both easier and harder than Lance thought it would be.
Hard because his first instinct was to join a conversation, observe aloud what was happening, and draw a smile or a laugh, and he had to chomp on his tongue to keep those reactions inside.
Because no one was talking to him.
He kept his eyes trained on his dinner plate, food goo that on a good day wasn’t all that exciting was nearly downright inedible tonight, sort of shoveling it around with his spoon but he had no appetite.
The one exception he’d made to his no talking rule was trying to apologize to Keith again — who had a giant bandage taped over his nose, bruising already spreading out across his cheeks, because apparently Coran had been in the infirmary all day doing a diagnostic on the cryo-pods and they wouldn’t be available until tomorrow so Keith had to wait with a very badly broken nose — but Keith had shut him down before he’d so much as inhaled with a dark “Don’d dalk do be” that should have been hilarious but only made Lance feel worse and reinforce the realization that talking was now taboo.
Everyone knew about it too, Shiro pulling him aside before dinner although not far enough where everyone could still hear and while he had not been anything like Iverson yelling at him Lance had never felt smaller as Shiro told him how dangerous it was to interrupt a training situation, how Keith could have been even more seriously hurt had Shiro struck him with the prosthetic, and that Lance needed to be more careful.
Lance wouldn’t have been able to speak even if he’d wanted to, his throat clogged and trying not to cry, merely nodding at everything Shiro said and not even trying to defend himself.
Just like with Allura he’d never really had a one-on-one conversation with Shiro no matter how much he wished he could, and this was not anything like what he’d envisioned. He’d wanted to go to his room, skip dinner completely, but Shiro had told him he owed Keith a real apology as though Lance hadn’t already tried that only to be refuted again and to sit with the team.
Lance glanced up from his plate, looking around the table. Hunk and Pidge were talking to Allura, all of them looking various degrees of tired, about their projects, Coran was being questioned by Shiro about the healing pods and Keith was holding a glass of water to his head, eyes closed and expression drawn in pain that Lance had caused.
Lance near silently pushed back his chair and stood up, bringing his plate to the counter to scrape the food goo into the trash and set it in the sink (Pidge was on dish duty this week).
No one said anything as he inched for the door.
They said nothing as he left.
And Lance said nothing either.
It seemed to be working.
Shiro had called a training session the next afternoon after Keith came out of the pod for everyone — earning loud, profanity-lidden complaints from Pidge that they didn’t have time that ended with Shiro telling her it was good to stretch her body as much as her mind and that she was in five minute time out for the language — and Lance had kept silent as Shiro explained their workout routine and then gotten straight to work.
Hunk had cast him a confused look, a touch of concern highlighting his eyes, at Lance’s lack of verbal reaction but he’d given him a wave and a smile because Hunk hadn’t done anything wrong, not really, and it was all Lance’s fault anyway, and Hunk had grinned and waved back.
Lance had completed his tasks without delay, without shouting challenges at Keith as to who could finish the track first or get the most hits on the dummy bots, and it had earned him a, “Nice focus, Lance!” compliment from Shiro and that had made him smile for a moment before he’d realized he couldn’t actually respond and it had fallen.
Shiro hadn’t seen though, already circling around to give encouragement to Hunk as he made his way up the alien version of a rock wall.
After training had been the showers and Lance hadn’t even tried to sing in the shower — it bordered Keith’s room and he didn’t want to disturb him if he could hear — and then retreated to his room to change.
He spent the rest of the day doing chores, giving the Yellow Lion a little beauty treatment too because he couldn’t go talk to Blue right now, not even in his head, although chores had gone slower as he hadn’t allowed himself to sing, not even whistle, and the closest he got was sort of tearing up by Kaltenecker and she had given a soft moo and her rough tongue had rubbed across his face and the tears, drawing a watery laugh.
He’d hummed for her then as he milked her but nothing more.
Practice makes perfect.
And no one yelled at him.
He didn’t speak once at dinner but Allura asked him to pass the butter — Keith of all people had cooked that night since Hunk was still neck-deep in the Olkari project and it was surprisingly good but Lance shouldn’t have been surprised because Keith was good at everything — and he’d listened as Coran told one of his stories, laughing aloud twice but no one scolded him because Shiro was chuckling too, and it…
It was different but it wasn't bad.
He’d had the courage to write Keith a note and put it in his room — and Keith’s room was so empty and it made Lance feel… sad? He wasn’t sure but it was sad — apologizing again for what had happened and offering to do dishes for Keith next week. He knew it was pathetic but when he got into fights with his siblings they would often offer to do each other’s chores as part of the apology, especially the ones no one wanted, and, well…
He wondered what his family would think of his vow of silence.
His lips quirked up at telling Marco he’d gotten his wish of a mute button for Lance. It fell a moment later though because Dios, he missed them so so much and even if they got annoyed with him his siblings would never, ever, have allowed him to do this.
But no one was stopping him here.
They all seemed to be… happier.
It was for the best.
Even though, surrounded as he was by people at the table…
Lance had never felt so alone.
“You are a very hard human to track down.”
Lance jerked his head up, banging it on the underside of the Red Lion’s ear where he was flush against her neck and buffing out one of her many dents because like Keith she was a bit reckless and dove headlong into things, debris and explosions included.
He didn’t even yelp at the impact, biting down on his tongue instead, even as he turned from his perch to see Coran standing at the entrance to Red’s hangar.
Despite the light tone to his words there was something… something serious in the set of Coran’s expression.
Lance swallowed thickly.
What had he done now?
Hunk and Pidge were in the hangar turned lab on the last leg of their project, Keith and Shiro were training and Lance had steered very, very far clear of the gym, and he’d just finished the project Allura had asked him — she’d asked him! — of sorting some texts in the library by edition number with a keycode to translate the numbers.
He slipped silently down Red’s neck to a few quick steps across her back before climbing down her back leg, feet tapping lightly on the hangar’s metal floor, turning to find Coran only a few feet away.
This close he could see that there was a darker cast to Coran’s normally bright eyes.
Lance swallowed again. He’d never seen Coran look so serious. So…
“May we speak for a moment, Number Three?”
Lance gave a tiny nod.
And just like that all of the anger vanished in Coran’s face.
Now he just looked tired.
“Oh, Lance,” he murmured and Lance started as wasn’t sure Coran had actually used his name before. “What are you doing to yourself, dear boy?”
Lance didn’t know why his eyes began to sting.
He squeezed them closed, feeling a tear sneak down his cheek at the same time a pair of arms wrapped tenderly about him in an embrace and Lance sank into it with a silent sob.
“You do not speak,” Coran said softly. “You barely laugh. And now… now you even cry without a sound. What has happened?”
Lance gave a shake of his head where it was pressed against Coran’s shoulder.
“Can you not speak?” Coran asked gently. “Or is because you have chosen not to?”
Lance said nothing, his hands tightening where they had latched automatically onto the front of Coran’s jacket.
“Chosen,” Coran said sadly, as though Lance had spoken.
He felt another tear trek down his cheek.
He wasn’t saying anything but…
But Coran was still hearing him.
Coran gave him a squeeze and then stepped backwards, ending the embrace, but one of his hands remained on Lance’s shoulder. “Come. I think we are in need of a nice pot of tea.”
Lance let Coran steer him to the kitchen, his eyes drawn to his feet and he couldn’t seem to lift his head. He both wanted to run away from Coran — everything was about to be ruined, he could feel it — and at the same time throw himself into Coran’s arms and never let go because he’d felt so alone and now someone was here.
Coran directed him to a seat at the table and Lance remained there, hearing Coran bustle around the kitchen, and a few minutes later a warm mug was being pressed into his hands. Lance’s fingers curled around it, the heat a direct contrast to the shiver going down his back.
There was a soft screech and he realized Coran had pulled a second chair out, angling it so his knees were nearly bumping Lance’s.
“Drink your tea, lad,” Coran’s voice was so gentle.
Lance’s eyes stung again.
He took a tentative sip, bracing for the worst, but the tea was surprisingly pleasant and not scalding either, and he took another sip.
He glanced over the rim of the mug to see Coran drinking his own tea. Lance averted his eyes back down before Coran caught him staring.
The only noise in the room was the soft slurping sounds as they drank their tea.
It didn’t feel too quiet, not the way other silences had.
Even though Lance could feel the tension starting to creep back in as he took his last sip, the distraction gone.
“How did you like it?” Coran asked. “It’s my favorite blend from Altea.”
Lance gave a nod in place of an answer.
His throat was closing up again.
But Coran did not give an impatient, a tired, sigh. Instead a hand brushed Lance’s cheek and he found his head being lifted up.
Coran’s eyes were only kind, if sad.
“Do you know what one of my other favorite things is?” he asked, thumb brushing Lance’s cheek and he blinked back tears at the gesture.
Coran’s touch felt just like Papá’s.
He gave a soft shake of his head.
“Your laugh,” Coran said softly.
Lance closed his eyes.
He felt another tear sneak down his face.
All he could seem to do today was cry.
“It is such a delightful sound,” Coran continued. “It reminds me of spring, of that beautiful, innocent, time. It is a light in this very dark universe and it always brings a smile to this old man’s face. But it is a sound I have not heard much in the past several days.”
Lance kept his eyes closed.
What was Coran thinking?
“And I can only hazard a guess,” Coran said softly, “but you laugh when you are happy and given the lack of such I can assume that… that you are not happy. Instead, you are hurting. And I know this may be difficult and I don’t wish to cause you further distress but I ask you… please, will you allow me to help you?”
He didn’t know.
He didn’t like this.
He didn’t want this.
But he didn’t know how to stop.
His tongue wouldn’t move, his lips wouldn’t open.
He didn’t know how to talk anymore.
“Lance,” Coran’s other hand moved to squeeze his knee. “May I help you?”
He… he didn’t want this.
Coran was offering to help.
And… and maybe…
He took a breath...
And then he nodded.
He could practically feel Coran sigh with relief. “Thank you, my boy. It has been far too quiet—”
He broke off as Lance winced at the word.
“Quiet,” Coran repeated it. The hand tightened on his knee, although not painfully. “I see,” Coran’s voice was lower. “Did… did someone aboard this castle ask you to be quiet in, perhaps, a not so kind way?”
Lance gave a tiny nod, even now able to feel Pidge’s anger, Allura’s frustration.
“And… did one of these incidents perhaps involve Number Four’s accident?”
“And you made the decision to thus,” Coran’s hand twitched on his knee, “become permanently quiet?”
Lance lowered his gaze.
Coran tipped his chin right back up.
“Tell me why,” he said, gentle and firm all at once.
Lance gave a minute shake of his head.
“Lance, tell me why,” Coran said.
Lance swallowed thickly.
His lips parted.
Dios, was that his voice?
It was so small, hoarse and raspy and wavering.
He didn’t even recognize it.
Coran gave his knee an encouraging squeeze.
“When… whenever I t-talk I…” Lance trailed off, giving another shake of his head.
It felt wrong to be speaking.
It felt right.
He didn’t know anymore.
“I… I hurt people,” he whispered. “Or, or annoy them. And d-disappoint them, even when, when I’m trying to h-help. And I… I don’t mean to, but… but I do. And, and I just thought this way they… they won’t be… And, and no one said anything and everyone’s seemed happier, so… so...” Lance’s voice hitched. “So I guess it’s… it’s better this way.”
Silence echoed as he finished.
And then the sound of a muffled sob.
But it wasn’t from him.
Lance slowly, slowly turned his head around from where his back was to the entrance to the kitchen.
Everyone was gathered on the threshold, looking a mixture of horrified, sad and guilty, the sob coming from Hunk who had both hands plastered over his mouth.
“Did everyone hear that?” Coran asked quietly although he may as well have been shouting.
Lance shivered at both the sheer ice in Coran’s tone and the fact he’d have seen them all there, had… had likely told them all to come.
He didn’t know whether to feel betrayed or relieved.
But… but Coran had been the only one to come after him so…
So he couldn’t be mad.
“Lance,” Pidge whispered his name, shaking next to Hunk. “I…I...”
“I think there have been too many things unsaid these last few days,” Coran said, “and not just on Lance’s side.”
“You’re right,” Shiro’s voice was shaking. “You’re right.” He took a step into the kitchen, eyes seeking out Lance’s.
Lance ducked his head, feeling his cheeks heat.
Shiro’s footsteps were heavy and Lance felt more than saw him crouch down next to his chair.
“I owe you an apology,” Shiro said quietly. “I was unfair to you; I know it was an accident. And I… I should have noticed something was wrong and I didn’t. And I’m sorry.”
“Me too,” Pidge sounded, her steps so light Lance hadn’t even heard her come over, although small hands landed on his upper arm. “I’m… I’m so sorry, Lance.”
“I too apologize,” Allura said. Lance saw the hem of her dress stop next to Shiro’s knee. “For both my earlier actions and for not seeing how hurt you have been. I consider myself well versed in manners and diplomacy, but… but not when it mattered most. For I hurt you, Lance, and I am so very sorry for the pain I have caused.”
“I’m sorry too,” Keith said quietly, hovering somewhere behind the others. “I… I know it was an accident.”
Hunk didn’t say anything.
Instead Lance felt a pair of arms encircle him from the other side and found himself being pulled off his chair into Hunk’s embrace.
“I’m so sorry, Lance,” Hunk whispered, voice high. “I didn’t even notice. I’m the horrible friend, a, a horrible brother and—”
“No,” Lance interrupted him. “No. You’re… you, you were just busy—”
“Not an excuse,” Hunk interjected. “This is on me, Lance. And I’m sorry.”
Lance sniffled and rubbed his face against Hunk’s shoulder, before turning to look at everyone else.
“I’m… I’m sorry too. If, if I wasn’t so—”
“No,” Shiro cut him off. “Don’t finish that.”
“You are you, Lance,” Coran smiled softly. “And we would not have you any other way. However,” Coran’s gaze drifted about the room, “what this has shown us is that we must learn to listen to one another so we do not have anything like this happen again. Agreed?”
A murmur of agreement ran about the room, Lance a part of it.
“Excellent.” Coran turned back to Lance. “How are we feeling, my boy?”
“I’m…” Lance pulled his lips into a tentative smile. “I’m… I’m okay now. Gracias, Coran.”
Coran’s smile that curled his moustache spoke for him.
“Excellent,” he said again, softer though, holding Lance’s eyes. “And well then,” he clapped his hands, “since we’re all here and it’s dinner time it is my vote that Number Two makes us something delicious.”
“I vote yes to that,” Pidge said. Her hands squeezed Lance’s arm. “I was thinking… maybe space chili?”
He turned wide eyes to her and she smiled at him, something still sad and guilty lingering in her gaze.
“I…” his throat was thick again. “I’d like that.”
“Then let’s hop to it!” Coran cheered. “Number Two, how can we help?”
As Hunk set about assigning tasks and everyone went about gathering supplies Lance was surprised to feel what felt like a piece of paper shoved into his hand and he turned to see only Keith’s back walking away towards the pantry.
In his hand was a note.
I’m sorry too, it read. I’ll do dishes AND laundry for next week. And, this part was written small, smudged, if you want, I can teach you some hand-to-hand. 8am tomorrow.
Lance closed his hand over the note, a soft smile playing over his lips.
And then Lance joined his friends in the loud, clattering task of making dinner where the quiet was no more as laughter took its place and although he was so very far from Earth, Lance was finally back home.