When Lance woke up, his arm wasn’t a bloody mess anymore and he could hear something other than his heartbeat trying to dash out of his body. Exhaling, he scanned the room and realized the quite chatter he heard was from upstairs. It was probably the refugees. He blinked.
The refugees. Wait.
Sleep chamber knees or not, Lance scrambled out of the pod, his armor ruining the impact of the floor when he tripped. Lance kind of needed something to smack some sense in him as he frantically ran for the door.
Keith? Is Keith okay? Is Pidge? Where’s the team? I don’t see anyone in a pod, so that either means everything’s okay or someone’s dead-
Where’s my helmet?
Really, Lance? Now? Of all times?
The itch for to find it doesn’t make much sense until Lance remembers there are communication systems in his helmet. I’m a genius!
After three seconds of looking around the room like an idiot, Lance spots it on top of his folded jacket and jeans. His shoes sat next to them. Someone must have thought to leave them there for him, which was nice, but he wasn’t going to take off his armor until he knew no one was dead or in danger. Picking it up, he pushes it on his head and sighs as it turns on at his DNA signature. “Hello, anyone there?”
“Lance!” Allura’s pleased voice overwhelms him for a second, but he focuses on what she says. “I’m glad you’re awake. All the prisoners are located in the ballroom, and there were only a handful of injuries. Your fellow paladins are safe and doing recon at the moment. You can change into your regular clothes and join them in you wish, but Coran and I wouldn’t mind you hanging back.”
He smiles. Good, everyone was accounted for. “Nah, I’ll go.” He says, shucking off the armor on his calves. He pulls it off while Allura chatters on. “Okay, I’ll send them a message to let them know you woke up and will be joining them shortly. They’re on the coast of this island, which is relatively small, so you’ll be fine walking out the castle door and straight. Rest up when you’re done. We can’t have a paladin tired from battle injuries. Don’t think you can get away with it either. Hunk has a drone with him that monitors the rescue and I will see if you try anything reckless.”
“Okay, Allura.” He laughs, removing his chest plate. She huffs, and says goodbye, the switches off the coms. Lance pulls off his helmet and peels away his flight suit. His back is wide, exposed, and easy to see.
He knows. He knows. He should hurry.
Keith toes a thick chip of metal, flipping it over in a pile of rubble. They’ve just cleared out another jetty, reeling in prisoners with Pidge’s bayard on the floating escape pods, and pointing out the direction they should walk for help. A furry pile of three distinct round mounds hops past quickly, fluffy pastel fur tickling the other colors. It chirps in thanks before speeding up. Cold, dry hands pat Keith on the arm in gratitude as a leathery mix of tree and human walks past, thin legs extending to move the whole body like it’s floating above it.
He huffs. He wants Lance.
Yeah, he could admit it. Lance, was a solid person to have beside him. He always had Keith’s back, he was loyal and funny, and he had just taken a bullet for him. He wanted to make sure he was okay. He wouldn’t stop looking back, searching for a rustle in the bushes and a bright smile, his heart lighter but impatient without Lance.
Keith sighed and crossed his arms, smiling tiredly.
Yeah, he really couldn’t wait to have his sharpshooter by his side again.
After all, a good team takes two.
Lance tugs on the waistband of his jeans and slips on his shoes.
His armor is a heap on the floor in front of the pod - he’ll have to come pick it up later. Anxiety twirls around by his feet and dances up towards his back. His exposed back. There’s a problem. He needs to cover his tan skin immediately. But he hadn’t been left a shirt. He’d have to wear just his jacket and not take it off.
They did “salvage” in casual clothes for a reason. The armor, as protective as it was, added weight. It might have been light and flexible, but it still got in the way of some maneuvers, and if someone fell in water, it would weigh them down. Even if the helmet had life support, it only lasted so long. There were too many “what if’s” when it came to the armor and water. Their best chance at surviving was getting to the surface as fast as possible. Unnecessary weight would slow them down.
Funny how Lance was only physically light. He sunk like a rock everywhere else.
It was ironic how many people would want him to drown when he was the only one who could swim.
Stuffing his arms inside, Lance shrugged on his jacket, and zipped it up. He passed through the halls like a ghost, the survivors busy chattering around him. Demon held inside his jacket, he walked out into the semi tropical rainforest.
It was the worst possible situation.
Lance had just brushed past a leafy bush to have the sea roar in his ears and salt hit his lips. The team was hovering over the rocky coast that disappeared into the blue ocean, craving to save the pod tittering on a small cliff of rock, but unable to risk crossing the water. The pod was absolutely trashed , the spike of obsidian piercing the buoyancy - if it fell, it’d sink to the bottom. Flying out would get them both killed - the pod could fall and take one of the team down, trapping them in the waves, and both the prisoners and them would drown. But what made it horribly, horribly worse was who was in the pod.
Two recongzinable faces peered out the door way, the door probably having been ripped off in the crash. Matt was gripping the edge, bracing himself and using his leg to hold back a weary Samuel Holt. He was definitely injured, unconcious, the small trail of dark blood dripping off into the ocean. The sea rocked and churned underneath them, an uncomplete death sentence, and the pod creaked ominously, ready to give in and crash at any second. Dread sat heavy on Lance’s tongue.
Shiro was grasping Pidge by a hand, his face terrified but trying to gain control. Pidge wasn’t struggling against Shiro- she was struggling against herself, desperation written in her features, but the menacing roll of the ocean warded her away. All she wanted was to save them, Lance could tell, but her body was screaming to flee the water, to fly, to escape being dragged from the sky, dragged to a heavy, wet death. Hunk and Keith looked like a watered down version - scared, cautious motions back and forth, unsure and scared.
Lance’s hand was already playing with his zipper.
Everything about Matt screamed tense and near frantic. Tensed like a cat, his body locked against the open air, sagging like an acrobat on ropes, Matt clearly was trying to find a way out of this without killing himself, his dad, or his sister. But he hadn’t found a possibility. If he moved, the pod would tilt with his weight, or his dad would fall into the water. No one could fly out to them - he’d have to get off himself. But he couldn’t move, the floor of the pod wrecked with a spike behind him and Samuel supported by his leg.
Lance could be that possibility.
Like a sick bird that had finally had enough, the pod plummeted in the water with the screech of torn metal.
Pidge’s heartbroken scream matched it.
Lance was tearing out of his shoes and jacket, tossing it in the sand, head leaps and bounds ahead of him. Sand kicked up from his sprint sprayed the droid and the team as he raced past. Lance could feel their incredulous stares go from the flooded hunk of metal to his bare back, but it didn’t freeze the determination in his veins. He dove in the water with a splash.
Calm was the first word in his mind when the swirling blue washed over his head. It was calm here, the gentle roll of the current miles below him. He was light, weightless. The second word was control. In water, Lance was in command, a quiet authority. He pushed and pulled himself along, arms scooping out his way. Quick, strong kicks brought him to the submerged metal ship, and he pressed two hands to the metal, looking for the window. This ocean wasn’t his, wasn’t theirs’s. They needed to get out soon.
Gliding in through the empty window frame, Lance slinked up to search over the jagged metal and broken, dead wires. Matt’s transfixed face meet his. His eyebrows furrowed, and for someone who should be drowning, he was doing remarkably well at staying calm.
Matt stared at him as if he was a mirage almost, but Lance could tell Matt was the kind who didn’t care as long as they didn’t die. Tapping the roof of cramped pod, Lance waited for Matt to nod before reaching over and working Samuel over the barrier with him, pulling the older man into his arms. A cut craved out a thin line across his calf, a blood came from a smaller one of his head. He was clearly passed out and needed to be brought to the surface ASAP. Lance smiled and held up one finger, then two. Realizing Lance would come back for him, Matt nodded sagely and floated back.
Propelling off the wall, Lance left water dragging behind him. The weight in his arms was incredible - the man wasn’t much shorter than him but had to weigh almost twice as much with his wings.
Thick and waterlogged, they curved and looked fluffy like Pidge’s. Lowered with age, his wings dragged behind him like a pair of broken airplane wings. Streaked with brown and gray darker than Pidge’s, they’d ironically cause the man they made light to drown like an anchor if Lance let go.
He doesn’t dare tempt this new ocean.
Breaking past the surface with a gasp, Lance clutches Samuel to his chest and awkwardly swims to shore with one arm. Scrambling up the loose, wet clumps of sand, he ignores the stricken staring of them team and flips Samuel on his back.
He starts pumping Samuel’s chest.
Come on, come on.
He’s on a time limit, damnit!
He pushes harder, and Samuel suddenly jerks against him, coughing water out of his lungs. Lance takes the second to arrange him on his side so he doesn’t choke on his own vomit, then dashes back into the ocean. His kicks are a last-ditch effort that pay off, literally almost ramming himself into the pod. He yanks himself through the window and nearly slices his hand open on the broken metal wall. He might not be able to fly, but he can swim and save someone drowning. He can. He can, no matter how worthless he is. It is called a trash can - not a trash cannot. (He thinks that’s a line from some anime, but he doesn’t have time to really ask himself if he made a refrence while saving someone drowning. He probably did).
Matt’s lips are turning blue when Lance arrives. His jaw is set and cheeks ballooned out, precious oxygen held inside. Quickly, he reaches out to Lance, who helps him over the wreckage. Wrapping his arms around Lance’s neck, he tucks himself against his body. Lance latches an arm around him, careful to hook it under his wings. They are near replicas of Pidge’s, though clearly entering the final stages. Less childish, more rectangular in design, with darker hints of brown. The tops poke Lance gently in the face, but the bottoms are pressed to Matt’s knees.
Using the smooth sheet of metal as a boost, Lance rushed up to the surface, leaving the pod to sink even faster than before. The distance was greater, the weight heavy, and the time less, but he’d have wings before he let go of Matt.
Bobbing to the surface, he gulps in air. Matt is sucking in giant breathes against his neck, giggling and trembling with relief. He even happy kick-spams to shore with Lance.
But relief is far, far, away from Lance.
The weight of a wingless world crashes on his back, so, so much heavier than Matt or Samuel.
His shoes are too far away.
He doesn’t wait for the team to ask questions, doesn’t give the anxiety and self hate a chance to strike, snatching up his jacket. There’s a quick “Hey-” before water is filling his ears again, and he’s swimming out, swimming away. Desperation and adrenaline sing in his veins, overruling this sea’s temper. This isn’t his ocean. The pushes and pulls are closer to shoves and yanks, semi-aggressively telling him to leave, but Lance makes his way through anyhow. Currents a similar shade of blue to the ones from Earth twirl around him, tiny air bubbles decorating them like stars. It’s frigid, a cold, agitated embrace that makes Lance burn in a satisfying way. He wasn’t like the others, he couldn’t be. No one wanted a wingless. Nothing was ever permanent, not even love.
Lance comes up for air, swallowing a lungful before smoothing back down into the deep. The few seconds he’s up, he hears the team,incomprehensible , but they’ve figured out he’s leaving. Fear pounding at the brittle door calm forces up in his head, Lance dives deeper, the water turning darker without the sunlight. He can still see, but the water is a murky, dusty blue, not the clear, aqua where the light reflects easily. His speed is probably breaking any records he’s had before. Nothing like the people you came to love hating you to make you have a lighting fast exit.
Rocketing through the water, Lance left giant disturbances in his wake. Air bubbles burst out of existence behind him. He had already shifted when he came up for air - his hands curved out his path with the webbing, and the water pressure boxed gently on his ears. His knees weren’t knees anymore, just two long, flat masses of flesh and bone that shot him through the water. The second pair of eyelids he had blinked out any grime in the water, the rhythm different and more pronounced than his first pair. His tongue pressed against the sharp eyeteeth in his mouth, the threat of nicking his tongue grounding him.
He doesn’t know how long he swims, limbs throbbing with fluid energy. He goes until rocks start to spike up, some gentle curves and other sudden daggers slicing through the water. Miles below, he can spot the muddled, bright light purple and galaxy red glow of underwater volcanoes in the darkness. Lance hasn’t seen anything alive yet, but he knew better than to test it by exploring near lava.
Gliding up against the smooth rock, Lance spots the openings to caves, pretty corals fanning out from them and shells dotted here and there. Clutching his jacket tighter, he twists through one. It’s small, and hallow, the water pooling much lower than the majority of the rock. The roaring of the waves crashing washes over the cave, but the cave shelters him. Coal black rock juts out here and there, blocky, but gorgeous in the way only sea caves were. Soft colored crystals lit up small patches of shadow, a handful clustered around an alcove.
Carefully, he clambers up the dry rock to the opening and settles back into it, his knees pulled to his chest, cheek resting against the even rock. The anxiety coils up inside his neck.
Now they despise you.
I mean, why wouldn’t they?
Even you despise you.
Useless, ugly, waste of space. Wingless.
Just drown in that goddamn ugly water you call home.
It suits you.
Nothing but extra weight.
God, why do you exist?
Chilly air pricks at Lance’s bare feet. He tucks himself tighter, wriggling his toes. His jacket is drenched, but he drapes it around the exposed parts of his back. He clings to the rock, hoping the warmth will come back. He’s not freezing, but numb, like rain soaked pavement.
He could stop here, lulled by the tune of a sea that wasn’t his, void emotions filling up his silhouette, abandoned by himself, half asleep in a crevice with a mundane storm brewing over head.