Rest Stop Part 3
The nest always felt so empty without Lance.
Keith knew his wings flickered with the thought. The soft nest of blankets hidden in the corner of the common room was well rounded with seven out of eight of the team cuddled up inside, but without Lance, it felt like there was a desolate spot, a blank filled with grey longing and melancholy. Keith frowned. He wanted Lance to fill that space.
The others did too. Pidge sat in Shiro’s lap, and Allura leaned against Coran like always, but this time everyone stared at the empty spot next to Keith. The spot Lance would fill. It was normal, expected even, the cuddle a teammate or family member before they went off to do something dangerous by themselves, like Pidge was going to, but Lance still hadn’t come. Did he still feel unsafe with the team, distrustful and unsure, lacking trust in them to show his wings? He never let them out either. It wasn’t healthy, for Lance or for their relationships. Keith was so surprised when it hadn’t hindered them forming Voltron. Was it like the first time on repeat for Lance, all about survival and having to or die?
Lance hadn’t come, even after Keith had caught him in the nest after he skipped a preening session. He always skipped, or was pulled away, or was sleeping. Keith was hoping he had reassured the other, at least enough for him to come and have his wings cleaned and cuddle a little. Apparently, he hadn’t. There was no way they weren’t filthy. Was Lance, who loved skincare and being clean, deliberately leaving his wings dirty so he wouldn’t have to show the team, show Keith? Was he really that suspicious and uncomfortable, did he have so little faith in them, even Hunk? Keith wasn’t sure to be hurt or concerned.
Deep down, he knew. He was both.
“Lance, c'mon! we’re going to fly with Pidge before she leaves!"
He sighs at Hunk’s call. Just how long until they know?
He pokes his head in the doorway.
"I want to, but Blue needs some re-wiring. I promised her I’d do it this morning.”
“You could ask Hunk to do it afterwards.” Shiro kept deliberate eye contact. “Blue probably wouldn’t mind an engineer like Hunk fixing her up so you could fly.”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t mind either. Space ships were going to be my career anyway. It’s no trouble, Lance.” Hunk appealed. His arms were crossed reassuringly, and there was a cocktail of emotions on his face. Lance didn’t miss the fleeting glances out the open hangar doors.
“I would, but…” Lance trailed off, eyes sliding away.
Blue’s commanding roar echoed from her hanger.
“The lion has spoken.” He finished, slipping into the hallway, away from the team, away from Shiro’s disappointed-dad frown, Hunk’s sigh and sad eyes, Pidge’s frustrated huff and scuffling feet, from Keith’s melancholy stare and lonely apathy.
Slicing through a sentry, Keith kicked it down to finish it, letting the others coming at him trample it. The rescue mission hadn’t gone as smoothly as hoped - they had had to clear the hallways and send the prisoners into escape pods through the PA system, instead of straight to the castle when the work camp surprised them with a small fleet of jets crowding around the castle. The prisoners had been ejected around the planet, some floating in the water and others on islands. It had been Lance’s idea, and it made something warm like pride tickle Keith’s chest. It was safe, it was sturdy, it was clever. Better than anything else they had come up with.
Now, they had to finish off the connected hangers filled with Galra robots and soliders.
A bright blue laser, a streak through the mundane purple ones, cut past Keith, knocking a solider to the ground. He kept hacking and slashing, sword pulling through cold metal bodies, but a small smile was hidden in his helmet at Lance covering him. The fluidity of them working together always brought Keith home from the battle, from the war he was fighting, from the war he wasn’t fighting alone. From the sharp knives and purple fur and screaming aliens.
Lance never left him alone.
Keith sends three hunks of metal crashing to the floor, wings arched high. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see a sentry lining a shot at his wings. He can see the hand pulling the trigger squeeze. He can see Lance jump over him.
He can see Lance get hit and fall to the floor hard enough to bounce, clutching his arm.
He can see the blood spilling on the floor, not purple blood, not purple, red, red, crimson, scarlet, red, paladin-
The half dozen robots in front of him are done away with a few swift movements, he’s screaming at Shiro and Coran through the coms, and he doesn’t recognize what they’re saying other than “bring him to medical”. Lance is staring in shock at his arm, and then Keith is picking him up. The others materialized from thin air and create an opening that Keith dashes through, and if there’s anything following him, he’s lost it in seconds. Lance is still in shock, but his good arm is gripping Keith. His wings knock the shit out of a sentry when they turn the corner, then the castle is in front of them, and he’s running up the ramp, giving Lance to Coran. He spares a moment to stare at Coran rushing Lance down the hallway, the bright red trail behind them worrying him.
Don’t leave me, Lance.
He spins on his heel, and heads back into battle.
Coran doesn’t waste time inputting the code for the pod to put Lance in the medical suit when he walks in. The pod rises from the floors, cool steam escaping into the room, and he sets the half-conscious paladin inside. Blood loss out in space without human donors is dangerous, Coran had figured that much day one, so he sets the pod to do a full scan and heal as fast as he can.
“Sleep well, Lance.” He nods, locking the pod closed on the boy he sees as a son. Wistfully, he stares at Lance’s sleeping face, before placing a hand on the glass. With a sigh, he pushes off and strides out into the corridor, heading back to help the princess destroy the Galra who hurt his grandchild.