For illnesses that the healing pods couldn’t be used for, Lance had sort of been elected the team nurse. It wasn’t that he knew anything about healthcare, not in the slightest. It was just that he was better at not knowing what to do than the rest of them were.
Keith often worked himself into exhaustion, and though it was rare for him to seek help at all, when he did, he always went to Lance (though it should be noted for the record that it was much, much more common for Lance to intervene uninvited.) Keith would let Lance take care of him in these rare and vulnerable moments. He’d complain about the list of things he had to do, and Lance would listen astutely and tell him not to worry. A special lavender candle that very secretly calmed Keith’s nerves would find its way onto his bedside table, and he’d close his eyes as Lance massaged the tension out of his shoulders and neck util he fell asleep. And the next morning, when he woke to relaxed muscles, the candle hidden away to prevent the others from embarrassing him about it, and an inexplicably finished list of chores, he would greet an always-tired looking Lance with unspoken gratitude and a mutual agreement to never tell a soul about those nights.
While Hunk was used to the motion sickness, every once in a while, it made him really miserable. After a particularly harrowing battle, when he was already exhausted and sore and just wanted to go to bed, the vertigo and nausea associated with flying his Lion back to the castle was sometimes too much for him to handle. At times like this, Lance would set Blue on autopilot and join Hunk in Yellow, rubbing his back and not even flinching when he occasionally vomited on his shoes. Lance had cleaned his shoes more times than he could count. Sometimes tears would escape from the corners of Hunk’s eyes, much to his embarrassment, and only in front of Lance would he not feel the need to immediately wipe them away. Lance would simply wait until Hunk’s stomach calmed down and wipe his mouth with a soft cloth, then wipe away the tears with gentle thumbs. Hunk would allow himself to lie exhaustedly against Lance until they arrived at the castle, where Hunk would once again put on the mask of strength for the others. Lance would never tell anyone about it.
Pidge’s allergies sometimes made it hurt to breathe. Though it was normally nothing beyond a benign but annoying congestion, every once in a while, they would get bad, and she’d end up feeling like there was a weight on her chest. She’d been a bit intimidated to go to anyone at first. At home, her father had always helped her rub vapor rub on her chest, but she’d been younger then, and it was her father. She knew that it wasn’t something she’d expect or even want from the paladins. And when Lance had asked her privately whether she needed anything when he caught her wheezing after a particularly rough sparring match, she’d hesitated. She’d told him she was fine through a blocked nose and a rough voice. But she hadn’t protested when he entered her room just a short while later with a bowl of hot water and a towel, and she hadn’t shrugged him off when he’d rubbed light circles into her back as she breathed in the steam. She’d even been open to the spicy soup (or, as close as the Alteans could get, anyway) that his mother had apparently sworn by. When Shiro commented at dinner that she sounded like she was feeling better, she’d simply nodded, and Lance hadn’t said a word.
Shiro himself was perhaps the most insecure about seeking help when he wasn’t feeling right. It wasn’t uncommon for him to wake in the middle of the night dripping in sweat and shaking with the memories of his time in the Galra prison. He could never go back to sleep after that. So, he always made his way (usually rather loudly) (past Lance’s room) to the common area to sit on the couch and read. It never helped. Shiro couldn’t get his racing thoughts to focus on the books in front of him. It was easier, however, to distract himself with the two cups of tea that Lance was always so conveniently about to enjoy on these nights, but wouldn’t mind sharing with Shiro, since he was up. If he wanted to talk about the nightmare, he could, though Lance never asked. Usually, he was still too nervous to keep good conversation, and if the nightmare was bad enough, sometimes he felt like it was a strain just to stay grounded in this reality. Lance’s feet outstretched on his lap helped with that. Shiro didn’t like having his back rubbed, not like Pidge and Hunk, but the non-invasive contact was a good reminder of where he was, and the stupid stories about all the pets Lance had ever owned and who Lance believed of the team would look best in drag (besides himself, of course) and theories about the cutest space animals helped him remember that he’d never, EVER be back in that horrible place again, because he had people that would die before they let that happen. And if Shiro fell asleep listening to Lance talk, he’d always wake up to find a book in his lap and a blanket on his body that made it look as though he’d simply fallen asleep reading. If the others questioned it, Lance was always just as confused as they were.
Not only did Lance take care of his friends, but he respected their privacy enough to ensure that they all believed they were the only ones he ever sat up with through sleepless nights and worriedly-nursed fevers and queasy tummies. Maybe Lance didn’t always understand why that secrecy was so important to them, but he respected it. He didn’t need the recognition of the others, after all, or even a thank you from the person he was caring for. Often, he didn’t get one. But that was okay. As long as they knocked on his door again the next time they needed someone, that would be enough. As long as he could take pride in knowing that each of his friends felt safe showing a side to him that they couldn’t show to the others, he was okay. That unguarded Keith, that sensitive Hunk, that candid Pidge, that vulnerable Shiro–those were his and his alone.
So if Lance had to build up his own invincible walls of cockiness and flamboyant confidence in order to keep them coming to him, then so be it. If he had to hide probable bruised and broken ribs and laugh off his own migraines and tension, then that’s what he’d do. Whatever the cost of keeping that trust, whatever the price of that naked bond; he’d pay it.
He’d pay it if it was the last thing he did, if it was the only reason he was on the team at all, if it was the only impression he ever left on the world while the other four Paladin names went down in history as the greatest heroes the universe had ever known.