He knew he was dreaming, but oh did it feel real. It felt like a movie being played out before him on a screen. And he was the main character. It was strange, but he wished that the dream could have been real. That's how it made him feel. It felt like a memory more than anything, but he knew it was not. That would be impossible. "Lance!" It was a cheerful, loving shout that filled the blue-eyed boy with elation. His older sister moved towards him quickly, and Lance didn't even have to think as he flung himself into Allura's open arms. She set him down and took his hand, her white hair loose and swinging in the faint breeze that ruffled throughout the meadow. "Come along, Lance," she said with a smile to her younger brother, "Let's go see Dad!"

The biggest grin split across Lance's face at the mention of his father; he ran off towards the palace, eagerly pulling his elder sister with him. It wasn't long before they reached the Castle of Lions. The two bright-eyed children busted in, not caring about the chuckles their silly behavior gained as they dashed through hallways.

"Uncle Xio!" Lance cried, dropping Allura's hand and instead throwing himself at the Blue Paladin. Xio Almanty picked up his 'nephew' swinging him into the air, both his and Lance's giggles bouncing around the room. He was a very handsome man, with his wind-tousled, salt-and-pepper hair and aquamarine eyes that glimmered has he laughed boisterously. His skin was the same rich tan as Allura and the rest of her family, but the small, glowing patches were a shimmering admiral blue, only a few shades away from Lance's midsummer sky blotches.

"Catch, Auntie Aria," Xio shouted as he swung Lance through the air, letting go at just the right time to allow the current Yellow Paladin, a pretty young ginger by the name of Aria Chast, to catch Lance as his short flight through the air ended. She chuckled, allowing the young prince to scramble up onto her shoulders. The kind and caring, yet stern, person she was showed through as she shook her head with mock disapproval.

"Now, now, Xio. You should know to be careful by now. How do you think Alfor would feel if he knew you were tossing his son around like a sack of potatoes." But despite the chastising tone, she bantered and smiled brightly at her fiancee.

Michael "Mickey' Balor, the Red Paladin, lept forward, pulling Lance into his grip. He then swung the young, giggling boy onto one shoulder, before he reached down picking up Allura and settling the princess onto his open, left shoulder. Mickey chose that moment to march the children further into the towering villa, leaving his teammates to their playful coze.

He strode forward with deliberate steps that slapped the tile as he pranced through the fortress, heading towards where the king sat. Crooning with happiness to the children on his shoulders, Mickey spoke, "You little tykes need to head off to bed soon. It's getting late in the evening."

"But I don't want to!" Lance protested, even as he yawned. "'M not tired at all."

"Lance," Darby, the petite Green Paladin who had appeared somewhere along the walk, said lightly, a smile hanging onto her words. "I think your father would disagree. Besides, don't you want to grow up big and strong, so you can be a Paladin when the time comes?"

"Of course!" the small boy chirped, "And 'Lura will be there, too!"

"You'll need to rest a lot to get there then," Mickey said, knowing he had won the argument.

"Oh, alright," Lance conceded, just as the four arrived at their destination. The two Paladins gently sat the young royalty into their father's lap and smiled. Darby brushed aside the excitable boy's cinnamon hair out of his eyes. She and Mickey bowed to the king with short farwells of, "Goodnight, King Alfor. See you in the morning." and the like.

Alfor smiled down at his son and daughter. Both were already half asleep, curled up on his lap. "Shall I tell you a story?" he quietly asked his progeny. They both nodded happily, snuggling deeper into his embrace. A slight laugh escaped his lips, "I think I have the perfect one. Are you two comfortable?" The king continued with encouraging nods from his offspring. "Then let me tell you about Balmeras…"

It wasn't until an hour later that the King of Altea finished his story, yawning. Allura and Lance had fallen asleep halfway through, but Alfor finished his tale anyway. He picked them up, walked down the halls and settled them both in the bed in Allura's room. Pulling the covers over them, the mirth-filled man decided that letting them sleep together for one night was acceptable. After all, Lance had less nightmares that way.

Letting out a sound, half drowsy sigh, half exhausted yawn, Alfor headed towards his own room, in need of sleep. Ultimately, the brewing tensions with the Galra would soon turn into a boiling war, and the King was unsure how long it would be until then. He was even less sure of how much sleep he would likely get in the months to come.

Lance woke up on the verge of tears, yet he did not know why.

Lance was homesick. That was not unusual, but this was a different kind of homesick. This wasn't the normal sadness and missing his family. No, it was a deep yearning that furrowed out from his soul, covered in nettles of sorrow, a deeper connection than that he had to his family back on Earth.

There was a word for it, and as Lance drew himself from under the covers, he struggled to remember it. Hiraeth. Yes, that was the word. Luciana, his eldest sibling had explained it to him when he was seven. He had caught her writing the word for a paper and had asked what it meant.

"Hi-wrath, Lancey. That's how you say it. It means a homesickness for a home you never had, or can't return to. Isn't that sad?" she had said, smiling and pulling her younger brother into her lap. Lance remembered the moment with a soft sigh. He had been young, but he had also been bright. Luciana was going to be a writer, and many a times growing up would he sit in her lap and watch her write. Beg her to read him or tell him stories before bed. It had become their little tradition.

Tears prickling his eyes, Lance stood and blinked them away. His throat was dry and tight, so, swallowing the lump lodged there, he pushed open the door and wandered down the halls toward the kitchen for a glass of water. Once he had the cup of water clasped in his hands, Lance sat in a chair and allowed himself to reminisce in the old times, something he rarely indulged in.

Luciana fresh on his mind, he wasn't surprised the next fond memory to make an appearance was one with her.

It was late, and Mamá was going to be out even later, so with Luciana in charge and all of Lance's younger brothers and sisters in bed, a twelve year-old Lance and Luciana sat in the living room and the older of the two read her current story aloud. They had been quietly giggling and chatting for a good thirty minutes when the door opened. It had been Elias, who was 16 at the time, returning from the late shift at his part-time job. "Luciana, żqué hace Lance hasta esta hora? Mamá tendrá su cabeza, ya sabes [1]," he had said shaking his head in mock disapproval, but joined them all the same. The three joked and laughed and smiled, listening to the brontide roll in the distance. And that was how Carla McClain found three of her children when she returned, all of them huddled and spilling across each other, sleeping peacefully and overlapped on the small couch.

Lance let out a heaving sigh. He missed Eli the most, as they had been the closest. He had only been four years older, and after Luciana left for college, the two would spend days wasting away playing silly games and pretending they were from the Garrison flying through space and finding new planets and alien life. Eli had been the one Lance had gone to crying after the 'death' of Takashi Shirogane, Lance's life-long hero.

But he still locked away the memories of Elias as much as possible. He tried his best to not think about everything that had happened not too long ago. Lance had just started at the Garrison, only two months in, when it happened. It was a letter, a second letter inclosed inside. The first page had been a message from his parents. Just looking at the smudged page, tears pulling at the ink, Lance had been filled with cold, bitter dread. And he was right. By the end of the leng message, he was in tears. He had bawled his eyes out. How could he not when his older brother, his best friend, had taken his own life? When he had only left a letter specifically addressed to Lance? And only Lance? No, the Blue Paladin refused to speak of it, to even think of it. He just could not do that to himself.

Taking a deep breath, Lance locked away those thoughts once again. He stood and, glass of water still in hand, let his feet wander, guide him to wherever he needed to go. Where he needed to go ended up being the hangar where all the lions 'slept'. He liked the lions, all of them. They liked him too, all of them. And sometimes it seemed like they were the only ones.

Lance? Blue Paladin? Red's thoughts poured into the teen's head. Her comforting touch slid around his consciousness, like an invisible hug; the comfort tangling him with fiery warmth, like a carefully-tended hearth. Awake? Why?

Lance chuckled, gliding over to carefully pat her foreleg. Whenever he ventured out into the hangar alone, no shields ever stayed up. All of the lions allowed Lance to wander between them, talk to them, as if he was each of their Paladins. Maybe it was how unguarded they were around him that constantly pulled him back to the hangar. "I'm fine, Red. Just couldn't sleep. That's all." He wandered off towards Blue with one last reassuring pet on Red's paw. He hummed a tune soft and familiar as he crossed to stand next to Blue.

He settled down, sitting with his back against her cobalt forelimb. He pressed his cheek to the cool metal. He absentmindedly thought about how she was the same aegean color as azure skies back in Varadero Beach, back in Cuba. He hummed a little louder, before he finally let a few words tumble forth from his lips,
"Las estrellas en el cielo
Tienes una historia para contar
Si solo escuchas [2]"

The lullaby Mamá used to sing to him as a child coated his tongue with the heady flavor of homemade caramel and kettle corn, and he could practically smell the warm vanilla musk she carried with her wherever she went. It was almost like a cloud followed her everywhere, brightening everyone's day. Lance let out a content sigh, allowing the cool calmness that flowed like a stream into him via the bond he and Blue shared.

Paladin, her voice flowed into Lance like a babbling brook that puttered along smooth, clean riverstones, adding music to the silence of a sunny meadow. The affection and warmth in her tone had the tension unwinding from Lance's shoulders, melting away his anxieties, in a matter of seconds. Why are you here? You should be resting. Did the princess not say you and your allies would be heading out on a diplomatic mission tomorrow? Are you not trying to gain alliance with the Holdsugár? Blue gently chided Lance. He flushed slightly, caught red-handed. But Blue always seemed to know, so he had gotten used to it. It was their bond, he supposed. She knew everything about Lance and slowly, painfully so, Lance was beginning to learn everything about her in return. He knew how to gently stroke her when he felt rage and a burning desire to destroy the Galra, and she knew how to brush up against his consciousness when his farce of fanfaronade began to crumble. They bolstered each other and the bond they shared was more than any other affinity there could possibly be. They were one in two, and when they fought battles, they were no longer Blue and Lance, but became BlueandLance. A smush of perfect coordination and perfectly aligned emotions.

Lance exhaled, turning to their mental link, the one Blue shared through, too paranoid not to. I couldn't sleep. I had a dream, not a bad one though. In fact, it was rather pleasant. But i can't remember it and i feel homesick but not for Earth or my family. For something more. You should go sleep. Try, at least. For me, Paladin, she hummed through their connection. Rest well, then, in the morning, make me proud. Be the best envoy you can, with all the charisma of a mighty prince.

Lance smiled fondly at Blue's proud advice. Yawning, he stood. "I think I'll do just that." As he walked towards the door, farewell-ing and caressing each lion as he went, Lance couldn't help but be excited. Though he was often pointed out for his falsified nescience, diplomacy was the one thing he excelled at. And Lance was going to show everyone he had merit to himself. That he wasn't just a placeholder. That he had value. But maybe, just maybe, he was also reassuring his own self-doubts and uncertainties that colored his mind in ashy fog and current animosity and juniper resentment.

[1] Luciana, what is Lance doing up this late. Mama will have your head, you know.

[2] The stars in the sky
Have a story to tell
If only you'd listen

Fun fact: the 'song' Lance sings is actually a poem I wrote for this fanfiction specifically, then translated to Spanish. It's called Stars in English and Estrellas in Spanish.