Routine Maintenance

A fan fiction by Velkyn Karma

Summary: Being an amputee with a prosthetic limb is difficult enough. Having a solid metal alien prosthetic forced on you by another species entirely is even worse. Five times Shiro's Galra arm caused him trouble in some way and another member of the team helped him out with it, and the one time the same arm is the only reason any of them survive. Friendship only, no pairings.

Rating: Teen/15/PG-13

Warnings: Some spoilers for the entirety of Season 1. Some minor bad language. References to PTSD and amputation-related medical scenarios. References to blood or injury (in later chapters graphically).

Note: Written because I've seen a lot of stories about Shiro's arm that revolve around the same themes—mind control, the emotional trauma of getting it, the psychological ramifications of it and the way he perceives it as connecting him to Galra. But I've seen almost no fic about just dealing with the pros and cons of even being an amputee with a prosthetic limb in the first place. Much less an amputee with an alien prosthetic limb that can do really weird things that was forced on by a species unfamiliar with humans.

Disclaimer: I do not own, or pretend to own, Voltron: Legendary Defender or any of its subsequent characters, plots or other ideas. That right belongs to Dreamworks and associated parties.

It's a miserable, exhausted, sweaty, mud-coated team of paladins that Shiro leads back to the Castle of Lions, after three days of trekking through the swamp-infested lands of the planet Ssagessh.

Every single one of the teens under his command are already pushing their limits, and he can tell the majority of them are close to their breaking points. Pidge is grumpy and snappish, her usual blunt opinions reinforced with laser-guided sharpness that cuts like a knife whenever she expresses her annoyance with anyone. While Lance and Keith are never exactly the best of friends, their bickering typically at least has some degree of restraint and even amusement to it. But now the two are unleashing venomous barbs with an air of ever-increasing violence, and Shiro is sure it would have come to blows hours ago if he hadn't insisted they walk on opposite sides of the group. Even Hunk, by far the most passive and easy-going member of the team, is looking distinctly frazzled after three days of uncomfortable hiking conditions stuck in each others' company. It was fortunate Voltron hadn't been needed recently, as Shiro doubted the four of them would agree on the time of day, much less on mentally collaborating to form the massive robot.

The misery had been necessary for the mission, of course. Allura and Coran had picked up a distress beacon from a nearby planet, ravaged by the Galra for resources, and the team had dutifully intervened to provide aid. The Galra forces had been smaller, with only a minor fleet in orbit, and the Lions (and Voltron) had defeated them easily. But their assistance hadn't stopped there. The inhabitants of the planet had become severely ill due to the Galra's invasion, when the conquerors had tampered with the sensitive environment of Ssagessh in its resource harvesting, and its people had begged Allura and her paladins for aid.

The cryo-pods weren't equipped to handle illness—and they certainly couldn't handle the volume of people living in the villages across the continent—but there had been alternative options. The village elders had told stories of a plant deep in the swamplands that held incredible healing and restorative properties, and that a few drops of the oil it produced distilled in water could cure an entire family. It was considered holy and incredibly sought after, but was rarely found due to the dangerous nature of the swamps and the creatures living within it that made searching for it difficult.

So, of course, the paladins had gone straight in.

The good news was that they had managed to find the mysterious plant, once they got farther into the swamp. There were a number of large, dangerous predators, but while they might have threatened an unprepared Ssagessh villager, the things were no match for the paladins of Voltron and were easily put down or driven away.

The bad news was that the plant was quite widespread, and not easy to spot, the way it blended in with the rest of the plant life. Its roots were also under the slimy, muddy water and had to be carefully extracted, which often meant wandering in waist deep and nearly submerging in the muck just to pull it out. By the time the massive backpack they'd been sent with was full of the life-giving medicinal plant, three days had passed, and every single one of the team was coated head to toe in slimy, green-brown muck. Shiro wasn't sure the paladin armor would ever be white again.

So it's a sorry, exhausted group that returns with their spoils, fed up with each others' company and desperate only for hot showers, clean beds, and food that doesn't taste like mud. Not even Lance bothers to gloat about their success, and he barely gives the bulging backpack in Shiro's hand a second look.

"You guys go ahead," Shiro says, nodding in the direction of the showers, as the four teens turn to give him blank, expectant looks. "Clean yourselves up and get some dinner. I'm going to deliver this and do the same." He hefts the backpack full of medicinal plant in his left hand.

The others need no further encouragement, and all four are off like a shot, tracking green-brown streaks on the clean floors of the castle as they make for the showers. Shiro mentally winces at the lecture Coran is sure to unload later, but he's too tired to really feel sorry about it at the moment. Really, he's just glad the others are gone for now. The obvious tension building in the group has finally disappeared, but more than that, they aren't any more watching eyes to eventually catch on to the fact that his right arm hasn't moved at all in the past six hours.

As much as he loathes his Galra prosthetic, he has always grudgingly admitted it's a remarkable piece of technology. It grants him incredible levels of strength, and it can cut through or burn nearly anything when activated. It works flawlessly with other Galra technology. And its integration into his nervous system is sophisticated enough that he can operate his metal fingers with incredible dexterity and grace, if he so chooses.

But it is metal, and not, apparently, immune to dirt or mud. And after three days of trekking through swamplands, constantly splashed by and submerged in all manner of slimy mud and water, it has apparently reached its limit. His joints are completely locked up, and attempting to twitch his fingers elicits a strange grinding sensation that he feels with vibrations more than actual sensations of pain or discomfort.

Even worse, it's heavy. The Galra prosthetic has always been hefty, but something in the mechanisms always allowed it to compensate at least somewhat for its own weight. Whatever did that before, the mud and slime of the swamplands have definitely put a halt to it. The arm hangs awkwardly at his side, straining his shoulder and sending a throbbing sensation through what's left of his right arm. The effort of supporting it at all is exhausting.

Shiro is sure the only reason the others hadn't noticed was because everyone else had been in a stumbling, drooping walk by the time they exited the swamplands and returned to the castle, and it hadn't looked out of place. Now, though, with their energy returning and their enthusiasm raised with the prospect of a hot shower and a decent rest, the others were sure to notice. He doesn't want to bother them with it. It's his arm, his prosthetic, and his problem, and they were exhausted enough as it was without heaping his problems onto it.

Besides, it won't be much of an issue. A shower and a chance to clean it off will do the trick…he hopes, anyway. No reason to worry them over it.

He delivers the bag of medicinal plants to the infirmary, where Allura and Coran are hard at work preparing other ingredients for the healing mixture, with the input of one or two of the village elders. Shiro drops the mud-spattered bag on the table while keeping his body angled enough that his metal arm isn't clearly visible. None of them take notice, instead praising him for retrieving the plants and immediately unpacking the bag of its contents to get to work.

"Let us know if you need anything else," Shiro says. Allura and Coran barely nod, already focused on their work. Shiro thanks his luck and slips out the door, heading for the showers.

The others are gone by the time he arrives. It's taken him longer than usual to make his way around the castle, with the heavy, dead weight at his right side weighing his already exhausted body down and throwing him off his gait. He prefers it this way, at least. Better to not have company while dealing with his currently dead arm. He awkwardly peels off his armor and the dark undersuit with one hand, watching in disgust as crusty, hardened mud crumbles onto the floor, and gets to work cleaning himself up.

It doesn't go as planned. He's able to rinse the caked mud off the surface of his Galra arm, which is thankfully waterproof and can be run under the water with no issues. But the joints still remain stubbornly locked, even after run under a steady stream of water for twenty minutes. The usual steady hum and whir of the inner workings is gone, and it's eerily silent. But trying to force his fingers, wrist and elbow to bend—either naturally or by grabbing the metal limb with his real hand to flex it—results in a sharp, awful series of grinding and cracking noises that send chills up his spine and make his teeth clench. He doesn't try to force it again, too scared of breaking something he knows he can't fix.

Running his natural fingers over the surface of the metal, he can feel a grittiness at each of the joints, like dirt has gotten caught in the crevices and gearworks and jammed up any movement. The port where the prosthetic attaches is even worse; it's like he can feel individual grains of dirt rubbing between metal and flesh, irritating his skin and his sanity alike. It's like he remembers from the beaches back on Earth, getting sand in his clothes and being unable to shake it out, only ten thousand times worse.

Something dark in the back of his mind seems to remember this being a problem before. He has vague flashes in the back of his consciousness, of trying to flex his metal fingers, only for them to be stiff and unyielding. He thinks he remembers sitting in a prison cell, using his water ration to desperately try cleaning out the joints, gummed up with arena sand saturated in blood and other fluids—

Stop. Stop thinking about it. Don't go there. Not now.

But even then, even with those vague but ever-sharpening memories clawing at the back of his consciousness, Shiro doesn't ever recall the arm's functionality being quite this bad. If it had locked up like this in the arena, he'd be dead, end of story.

It also makes cleaning the rest of himself off extremely difficult, with only one functioning arm, and in the end his shower doesn't feel very refreshing at all. He's gotten most of the caked mud off of himself, but he isn't able to really scrub clean or wash the grime out of his hair. His white fringe is currently a grungy shade of brown.

He glares at the useless metal arm. He really needs to get this fixed.

Drying off and getting dressed in a new set of clean clothes is a veritable chore in itself, and the arm still hangs awkwardly, useless and unmoving. Hungry as he is, Shiro decides to forego dinner for the moment. There's no way any of the rest will miss his arm in this state, and he's really not interested in drawing attention to himself.

Instead, he makes his way to Hunk's workshop. At this hour their engineer is almost certainly preparing dinner and enjoying it with the others, which means Shiro has a small window of opportunity to browse the yellow paladin's tools. With luck, he'll have something he uses for maintenance of the various ship mechanics that can also be used to clean out this stupid prosthetic and get it working again.

The workshop is a mess, but Shiro can tell it's an organized chaos sort of mess. There's projects, notebooks, and parts everywhere, but there appears to be a system to it. He's careful not to knock anything over or dislodge any of the precarious piles as he slips through the room, left hand holding his metal one in front of himself so he doesn't accidentally break something with the unresponsive limb.

It takes him a little bit, but he eventually finds something that looks like a cross between a dentist's pick and a pair of tweezers abandoned on one workbench. The tool is small enough he thinks it might get into the cracks and crevices of the joints; it's probably used for more delicate machine work with extremely tiny parts. He picks it up in his left hand, braces his metal hand awkwardly against a discarded stool to hold it still, and sets to work.

Not surprisingly considering his current string of luck, it doesn't go as well as he hopes. Holding the tool in his left hand is awkward, and it feels clumsy in his fingers. He's been teaching himself to use his left hand for everyday tasks ever since he received the arm from Galra out of necessity, of course. His memories of the arena, the ones he can remember, frequently have him wielding weapons in his left hand when the prosthetic was too new and painful and lacked any coordination. But most of his newfound left-handed experience is from combat, or relatively simple tasks like opening doors or drinking from a cup. The more delicate, detail-oriented tasks—like holding a pen and writing—are still clumsy affairs, where his left fingers don't quite know what to do. Using the pick to try and clean out the joints of his useless right arm apparently falls into the 'delicate and detail oriented' category, because it's incredibly difficult to aim and direct, and his left hand can't seem to figure out the coordination. If Galra metal wasn't so sophisticated, he's sure the arm would be scored with scratches by now.

Not only that, but's difficult to reach all the cracks and crevices in his metal plating. The prosthetic is not cooperative, and he can't flex it in order to better reach areas in the back, or to get a better angle into the joint. He stops bracing the arm against the stool after a while and sits on it instead, awkwardly curling forward to place his stiff right arm in his lap, twisting uncomfortably to try and reach the most awkward locations on the arm.

It doesn't really work. He manages to dig out a small bit of mud and grit, and there's a tiny dusting of dried out dirt on his lap and at his feet, but the arm remains stubbornly locked and unresponsive.


Shiro actually starts, and is on his feet in a flash, twisting the little pick from the awkward hold to a much more familiar grip to use it like a knife. His metal arm hangs uselessly, dragging his shoulders down a little with the weight. He doesn't like feeling so vulnerable with his arm like this; as much as he hates it, it is his only real defense, and with it out of commission he feels helpless. The pick won't do much but it's better than nothing—

But it's no enemy in the doorway—just Hunk, looking surprised to see him and holding a plate of the strange pink cubes Coran calls food in one hand. The other raises up, palm out, in a gesture of peace and surrender. "Woah," he says, looking startled, "Didn't mean to make you jump, I just…what are you doing in here? Something wrong? Keith was looking for you earlier when you didn't show up for dinner, we figured maybe you went to the training deck, but, um…"

Shiro blinks at him, absorbing the meaning of the rambling, as he lowers the pick. A quick glance at the Earth-based clock Hunk has installed in one corner tells him he's been trying to clean out his prosthetic for over an hour; he hadn't even realized he'd gotten so absorbed in the task. He mentally chastises himself for zoning out so much he lost familiarity with his surroundings. That's not a habit he should be building when he's supposed to be some kind of leader in a war. The memory blackouts he knows he has are bad enough as it is.

"Sorry," he says, as calmly as he can. "I didn't mean to worry anyone by disappearing on them. I'll track down Keith in a bit and grab something to eat from the kitchens."

"Okay," Hunk says, still looking a little puzzled, "But, um, Shiro…is something wrong with your arm?"

He's staring at the Galra prosthetic with a frown. There's no real way for Shiro to hide it; it's hanging like a broken arm, which in a way it is, and clearly unresponsive. No point in denying the truth, but no point in worrying Hunk either. "It's not a problem, I'm taking care of it," he says smoothly. "I just stopped by to pick up this, I hope that's alright. I can find something else if I need to." He gestures absently with the pick. "You've had a long couple of days, so I'll just get out of your way—"

"Woah, I didn't say you had to go!" Hunk says, frown shifting to apologetic alarm, like he's afraid he said something to accidentally offend Shiro. "You can stay, it's fine. It'll be easier for you to get any tools if you need it. But, um…" He glances at the pick, then the arm, and then says almost hesitantly, "Well, y'know, if you're trying to clean up a little, a brush might be easier than that…"

Shiro blinks at him, and Hunk gestures over Shiro's shoulder to a small plastic case. Shiro works it open awkwardly with his left hand and finds a number of soft, small brushes, presumably intended for cleaning smaller electronics and mechanics. He glances back at Hunk. "Thanks. I'll try these out then."

Hunk gives him a funny look, like he's trying to figure Shiro out. After a moment he says, "Do you want any help with that?"

But Shiro shakes his head. "It's fine. I got it. You must have come down here for a project of your own, right? You even brought snacks." He gestures to the plate. "I don't want to keep you. You've been working really hard for the past few days and you deserve a little downtime. I'll just stay over here and take care of this without bothering you, okay?" He offers a smile that he hopes is more confident looking than he actually feels.

Hunk gives him a bemused look, like he's not quite sure he believes what Shiro's saying but doesn't want to say something to contradict him him. Eventually he nods. "Okay. But let me know if you need any help with that."

"I will." He won't. He already burdens them with enough of his garbage as it is, far more than he should as their leader; he's certainly not going to start whining to them about his poor stuck arm and how he can't use it.

He settles back onto the stool, this time in a corner with the case of brushes, and sets to work again. The small brushes are moderately better, in that they can slip a little more easily into the cracks and joints of his Galra arm than the pick, but he still lacks the coordination and skill to actually use them effectively. Before too long he's doubled over in place again with the arm in his lap, trying to get at the joints, with very little success.

He's aware after a little while that he's being watched, and glances up to see Hunk staring at him. The yellow paladin has unpacked his tools and is now sitting down at one of the benches in front of a jumble of metal pieces, but notably hasn't actually started working on it. Instead he says with a mix of fondness and exasperation, "Okay, seriously Shiro, please let me help you with that. This is actually physically painful to watch."

Shiro frowns. "You really don't need to—"

"Look, it's kind of in my job description, right? I'm the team engineer. I take care of our mechanical things and make sure they keep working. Your arm happens to fall into that category. I get that its yours and maybe you don't like people messing with it, and okay, that's fine, I guess, for the small stuff at least, but c'mon Shiro, you're obviously having trouble with it. It's the mud, right? All that dirt is drying out and gunking up the gearworks. I've seen it happen before with all kinds of stuff, it's really not a problem, I can help fix it—"

"Hunk." The yellow paladin's ramble screeches to a halt, and Shiro says, "I appreciate the offer, but it's really not needed. Your project there—"

"Can wait," Hunk says firmly. "C'mon, Shiro, you really don't look so good. I think having an arm that works kinda takes priority over my down time, right?"

Well he's not wrong, exactly. But Shiro chafes at the idea of letting any of the other paladins take care of him when he's the one who's supposed to be protecting them. And another part of him just doesn't like the idea of any of them messing with his arm. It's a dangerous thing and he hates it, and he's still not entirely sure what it's fully capable of. And right now it's also sensitive and painful, and doesn't need even more irritating.

But Hunk seems to guess at the thoughts going though Shiro's head based on his hesitation, because he says earnestly, "I'll be very careful, I promise. Please let me help? You look like you could use some rest too, and you probably won't get that until you have a working arm again."

He clearly means well…and Shiro supposes if any of them could handle the Galra tech safely, it would be Hunk. He is, as he just pointed out, their engineer, and it is kind of in his job description.

Besides, Shiro really just wants to stop feeling helpless, and it's exhausting to keep holding up this dead weight attached to his irritated stump of an arm. And he does want to have an actual working arm back, even if it is this awful Galra thing, and he is pretty sure he's getting nowhere trying to clean it on his own. So he sighs tiredly and nods. "Okay then."

"Great!" Hunk says. "Here, set it down on this worktable so I can get a better angle at it." He moves aside several projects to make space for Shiro's arm, and starts collecting several tools from the various other workbenches.

Shiro carefully lifts the dead metal arm with his natural one to take a little of the weight off his shoulder as he moves, and steps carefully across the workspace, avoiding parts and projects, until he reaches the table. He lets the Galra prosthetic thud onto the worktable, and it's so weighty the entire table actually shakes as the sound seems to ricochet around the room.

Hunk's eyes widen as he stares at the arm. "Wow…I didn't realize it was that heavy. And you've been dragging that around all this time?" He sounds impressed.

Shiro curls forward awkwardly over the table, which is slightly too low, to rest his prosthetic there. He barely bites back the edge of fatigue from his voice as he says, "Well, normally it does something to compensate for its own weight, but whatever mechanism does that it's..well…not, not right now."

Hunk pushes an adjustable stool over for him, so he can sit at the proper level for the arm to rest comfortably on the table without him curling forward or putting any strain on his shoulder. Shiro sits gratefully, and this time can't hide the flicker of relief that slips across his face for a bare second.

"Don't worry," Hunk says, placing the last of the tools on the table in easy reach, and turning on a lamp so he's got better lighting over the arm. "We'll get this cleaned up and functioning again right away, promise."

At first, Shiro is tense, as Hunk leans forward and gently lifts the metal palm, examining the fingers and wrist carefully. He tries to flex the wrist, much like Shiro had attempted to do in the shower, and the same awful grinding noise from before screeches through the workroom. Shiro winces at the noise, and Hunk says, "Ouch, sorry…this is a little worse than I thought. You don't even have a little bit of mobility…how long has it been like this?"

Even as he asks, he reaches for one of the tools, and carefully, gently, begins working at one of the immobile knuckle joints on Shiro's fingers.

"Ah…a few hours at least," Shiro admits with a sigh. He's more tired than he realizes when he catches himself admitting that. Between the mission and lugging that dead weight around, he must have exhausted himself more than he thought. Sitting without having to maintain the metal arm or compensate for its weight is like a little piece of heaven.

"Since before we even got back to the castle?" Hunk looks half impressed, half exasperated, and hums sympathetically. "I wish you'd told us earlier," he says. "I could maybe have done something out in the field, before some of it dried up."

"You couldn't have seen it anyway under all the mud," Shiro says, with a slight smile. "We were all a mess. I doubt it'd have done any good."

"I guess." Hunk sighs. "Still. Wish I'd known earlier. We could have at least carried the bag for you."

"It wasn't that heavy," Shiro reassures. "It's fine, really."

Hunk doesn't exactly look happy with this answer, but is easily sidetracked when Shiro asks him about the project he'd been planning to work on tonight, and he starts to chatter as he works. The talk seems to relax him a little. While his handling of the Galra arm is hesitant at first, as though he's afraid of breaking something or accidentally hurting Shiro, it becomes more confident as time passes and he becomes more used to the technology.

Even so, he's surprisingly gentle and very dexterous in the way he handles the prosthetic. He carefully turns and and adjusts it to clean out the joints and maneuver parts of it without ever causing that awful grinding noise or feeling again, or causing Shiro's stump any discomfort. He works methodically and carefully, taking care of each individual finger one joint at a time, swishing out the dirt and swiping the joint interiors squeaky clean. Before long Shiro can wiggle all four mechanical fingers and thumb with no problems, and the soft whir and click of the prosthetic is back. Shiro never realized how much he could possibly miss he noise he'd long since come to hate. From there, still chattering cheerfully, Hunk moves on to the wrist, then the elbow, and finally the panels set along the outside of what's left of Shiro's bicep, until the whole prosthetic moves smoothly again under Shiro's power.

It's much better than before, but Shiro still winces slightly when he lifts the arm. Whatever function that made the limb compensate for its own weight is working again, and it doesn't feel like the dead, useless weight he'd been dealing with earlier. But the strain on his shoulder is still pretty bad, especially around the port where his flesh meets metal, which still feels sandpapery and raw.

"It looks like some of the mud may have irritated the port," Hunk says, frowning a little. "Um…do you want me to…?"

He's hesitant again. Shiro thinks it's probably because they're moving out of his machinery domain into something straddling the line between engineering and medicine. Or maybe he's just nervous about hurting Shiro, especially when the grafting scars connecting his upper arm to the prosthetic are so clearly visible right now.

Shiro doesn't want to make him uncomfortable. But he knows those scars will be difficult to handle on his own—to reach, much less to try and clean out—and he doesn't want them getting infected or have his skin irritated painfully even further. At this point Hunk's already seen the scars; there's nothing left to really hide. And accepting the help so far really hadn't been so bad…"I won't force you," he says slowly, "But I'd appreciate the help, if you're willing."

"Of course!" Hunk says hastily. "Hold on, let me just grab some water…"

He does, while Shiro rests at the table, slowly flexing his metal fingers open and closed, reveling in the fact that they're moving again. He hates the damn thing, but at least when it's functioning he can use it against the Galra. As dead weight not only is it useless, it makes him useless too.

When Hunk returns, it's with a pouch of water and a couple small hand towels, one of which he carefully wets and uses to wipe down the port where it meets skin. It's sensitive and it hurts, but Shiro is careful to keep any indication of pain from his face so he doesn't worry Hunk any further, and Hunk works as gently as possible to keep from causing Shiro any additional discomfort. He finishes and pats the port and surrounding skin dry very carefully with the second towel, and Shiro can't help but close his eyes for a moment at the relief of not having that gritty, sandpaper feeling where dirt had been trapped between the port and his flesh anymore. He feels so much better than he had when they first got back to the castle.

He makes to stand, but Hunk gestures hastily for him to sit. "One more thing, super important," he says, as he produces what looks like a tiny sphere with a long nozzle on one end. "Oil," he says, as he dabs the thin nozzle carefully against one of the knuckle joints of the Galra prosthetic. "Keep those joints moving nice and smooth."

Shiro frowns. "I've never had to use that before."

"No, and I can tell you've needed it," Hunk counters. "Trust me, man. I've gotten a lot of lectures about the proper lubricants to use with engineering machinery. I've got this. It'll move a lot smoother with the proper maintenance." He frowns slightly. "They didn't ever teach you how to take care of this thing?"

Shiro frowns slightly, and says neutrally, "If they did, I can't exactly remember it at the moment." Though privately he thinks, But I doubt they ever bothered. Every other memory I still have, the Galra have reveled in sink-or-swim and survival of the fittest. I wouldn't put it past them for a second to have attached this thing to me just to see if I could figure out how to survive with it.

Hunk's eyes widen and he looks momentarily horrified, like he's just realized he accidentally crossed a line. "Oh man, I'm so sorry," he says hastily. "I didn't mean to—that wasn't what I—"

"It's fine, Hunk," Shiro says patiently, and he means it. He knows Hunk didn't mean anything degrading or cruel by it. If Hunk was that kind of person he wouldn't have just sacrificed his time off to clean out his wreck of a leader's busted prosthetic.

"Okay, well…" Hunk pauses for a moment, and then sets down Shiro's metal arm to grip his real, natural one. He curls Shiro's fingers around the small oil applicator and guides it to the metal thumb, saying, "Well, I can help you with that, at least. You'll want to apply oil like this—not too much, just enough to get smooth movement…"

Shiro pays close attention to (but is still a little amused by) Hunk's quick lesson on how to maintain his own arm, and is surprised by how much Hunk manages to teach him about it in just half an hour. He's learned more in this short span of time than he has in months of having the damn thing grafted to his arm through his fights, escapes and everything else. And he's surprised to find that Hunk's lessons do actually help a lot. The joints flex more smoothly now with the oil he never knew he needed, and the little tips for keeping it clean will save him hours in the future, he's sure.

"—but don't forget," Hunk finishes, "even if you can do all that for self-care, I'm still here if you need help with anything. I don't mind helping you take care of it at all. And some things will just be easier with an extra set of hands, rather than just the one." He glances at Shiro's left hand.

"Yeah," Shiro says slowly, flexing his metal fingers again absently. "Yeah, I may take you up on that offer in the future, if I need it." Hunk was their engineer after all…and more importantly, it was nice to know he had some kind of reliable back up when he couldn't handle certain problems by himself.

"Great! I'm glad to hear it," Hunk says, and he really does look happy at the prospect. The Yellow Lion really had chosen well, Shiro thinks fondly; Hunk's compassion and care for the rest of his team mates is truly on a different level.

"Uh, one more thing, though, before you leave," Hunk adds, as Shiro stands up from the stool and flexes his now much less heavy arm experimentally.


"You, uh…you might wanna…" Hunk looks hesitant, but after a moment points sheepishly to Shiro's forehead. It takes Shiro a second to realize the engineer is actually indicating his normally-white fringe of hair, which is still a grungy brown from his failed attempt at a shower earlier.

"I mean, not that I'm complaining," Hunk says hastily, raising both hands placatingly, as Shiro raises an eyebrow at him. "It's just, well, you maybe kinda brought half the swamp back with you, and I'm not gonna lie, man, that place was not Febreeze fresh. Just so you know."

Shiro snorts. "Point taken," he says dryly. But internally, he's only barely hiding a smile at Hunk's sheepish discomfort. The kid had just put up with him for the better part of an hour or two reeking like a garbage dumpster without complaint, just to help him clean out his arm. If that wasn't dedication to the team, he didn't know what was. He places his (now significantly cleaner) metal arm on Hunk's shoulder, and says, "Thanks, Hunk. I mean it."

Hunk just beams. "Any time, Shiro," he says, and Shiro has a feeling he really will take him up on that offer in the future.

As with all my stories, this fic is fully completed and will be posted on a regular basis. Enjoy!