Inspired by Speak to Me by Amy Lee, so have a listen if you want. It's a beautiful song and I really felt the feels driving home from work one day when it came on my playlist and just fit so perfectly.
The question Lance feared the most, the one he didn't want asked because he knew he'd be forced to repeat the answer over and over and again and again…it started the minute they returned to the Atlas. And Lance was looking forward to answering to Coran the least.
Unfortunately, he was the one who asked that damned question first.
"Where is Allura?" he asked, voice a little shaky as his eyes roved over the group of them standing just inside the door of the bridge. He had walked in, taking up the rear. The urge to turn back to his lion was strong, the feeling of disbelief overwhelming to the point he felt like he could search the entire universe for her.
But she was gone.
"I'm sorry, Coran," Shiro managed to reply, somehow sounding way more composed than Lance felt he would be if he opened his mouth.
"She sacrificed herself to save all of us," Keith breathed, clearly still as in shock as the rest of them. Hunk had an arm around a tearing Pidge, pulling her to his side as they stood there awkwardly in front of Coran and the others who had been working on the computers there.
The question…then the story.
"What happened?" Coran demanded, eyes watering but fists clenched. The bridge was silent.
He didn't want to listen to a retelling of Allura's bravery, her sacrifice. Lance turned on his heel and moved to leave the bridge, but he hadn't seen Veronica approaching. He brushed past her, ignoring whatever words were coming out of her mouth. He couldn't hear them anyways. He could only hear Allura.
But she was persistent. She followed him down the hall, trying to keep up with his long legs and fast pace.
"Lance stop," she pleaded loudly, grabbing his wrist. She tugged and forced him to turn around, but he couldn't look at his older sister. How could he? "Lance…"
"Veronica, please," he whispered, hating how broken his voice sounded.
"I am so…sorry," she emphasized gripping his face gently.
Lance crumbled in front of her, alone in the hallway outside the bridge. She wrapped her arms tightly around his shoulders, wondering when he had gotten so tall.
"I just want her back," he bit out around his silent sobs. "I don't care if every reality is destroyed. I just want her back." And he felt so very, very guilty for thinking it. The words tasted bitter and they both knew he didn't mean it. But saying it wouldn't change what had happened, and it wouldn't bring her back.
Veronica's arms tightened around him. "It'll get easier, you know this."
"I couldn't protect her. I couldn't save her…"
"She didn't need protecting, Lance," Veronica whispered. She pushed Lance away gently by his shoulders and reached up to wipe his cheeks with her sleeve. "She loved you, and she did what she needed to save us all." She ran her fingers across the two blue markings on his cheeks. "She gave you a gift to show you how much she loved you."
Lance felt anger well in his chest, but he choked back the biting words he wanted to whip out at his innocent sister. Did she not think he didn't know that? He'd been trying so damn hard to not be the one that needed saving. He wanted to be the hero, the guy that stood proud as a paladin. They were supposed to be the ones to save everything.
Now he was just alone…
"I'm going back to my room," he muttered, gently pushing her hands away. "I just need to be alone right now."
The door to the bridge opened and Lance spun on his heel and continued towards his room.
"Lance!" Pidge called down the hallway after him.
"Let him be for a while," he heard Veronica murmur. "We'll check up on him in a little while. But for right now, I think he just needs to process what just happened."
Lance ground his teeth. He didn't need to process, he just needed to think. There had to be a way to bring her back.
It kept him up all night. He'd managed to dodge everyone, leaving his room when he felt like they'd come looking for him. Sleep he knew was a lost cause, and didn't even try. He laid on top of the blankets, still dressed in whatever clothes he'd managed to put on himself after a lengthy tantrum of throwing his armor around the room that ended in him sobbing on the floor.
He glanced down at the spot on the bed near his feet. That had become a favorite of theirs when they wanted to be alone. She fit right into his side, like they were made for each other.
Lance wasn't exactly sure when he had fallen asleep, he just remembered the dream. Bright and vibrant and vivid. So real he wanted to scream at whatever forces were out there torturing him like this.
"Allura?" He cried out, suddenly surrounded by flowers. Endless fields of purple juniberry flowers.
Her voice was ethereal, bodiless. It felt like water in the air, heavy and refreshing.
"Allura," he pleaded, "where are you?"
"I'm right here, Allura!" he choked out. And suddenly she was there, in front of him. Her pale hair tangled with the wind at her back, her deep skin glowing under the bright Altean sun. A strangled noise left Lance and he pitched forward towards her. Her mouth opened to tell him something, and urgent look on his face.
And then she was gone.
Lance jackknifed in his bed, bolting upright in a panic. "Allura?" he asked aloud. But of course there was no response. Frantically, he kicked the blankets off his bed before rolling out of it himself. He needed to get out of the room. It was too small, too suffocating.
His footsteps echoed in the hallway, a steady thumping that reverberated off the walls in a way that only happened in the dead of night. It was like a heartbeat, loud and clear. Lance swallowed thickly and stopped, leaning heavily against the wall. He stopped walking and thinking and missing.
God. Why did it have to hurt so much? Why did he have to hurt so much, all the time?
Somehow Lance made it back to his room and managed to lie down, but sleep didn't take him this time. He wasn't aware of what time it was, or that it was nearing mid-day, until a knock came at his door and Keith let himself in when he didn't answer.
"Come down and get something to eat."
"I don't feel like it," he sighed, turning his back to his friend.
"No one does," Keith admitted, crossing his arms. "But just come and show your face for twenty minutes and then you can disappear until dinner. Hunk has been working on something in the kitchen for hours."
But Lance didn't move, and Keith bit back the anger rising in him.
"Look, Lance," he ground out. "I get how you feel. We all do. Allura was our family, too." There was a pause and Lance welcomed the guilt that came with Keith's words. "I lost my dad when I was little. I thought I lost Shiro—the only family I had left—multiple times. I understand." His voice softened. "But you can't let it destroy you. Allura wouldn't want that. She would want you to celebrate her, not mourn her. So get off your ass and—"
Lance rolled over and sat up, unwilling to rise to Keith's bait, and Keith took note. "I just don't know how to do this."
"One day at a time," Keith answered automatically. "It's all you can do."
Lance took a deep breath, a realization washing over him. "I'll be out in a few minutes," he sighed. "Just give me a minute."
Keith nodded, but left silently.
Lance stood slowly after a few breaths, and glanced around at the clothing on his floor. He knew he owned one, somewhere. Veronica had gifted him one once as a joke, but he wasn't sure if he had it on the Atlas. Now, it wasn't a joke. It was a mission. And he was the leader this time.
Veronica choked on her water when the door slid open and their eyes met. The action had people around the table stopping their conversations to turn their attention to Lance.
"I've never seen you in…that is a bright pink," Veronica commented roughly, wiping her face with her napkin.
"What was wrong with what you had on five minutes ago?" Keith groaned, earning a gentle whack from Shiro.
Lance stood as tall as he could despite the raging emotions in him and tried his best to act like himself. As much of himself as could, considering how much of himself he felt he'd just lost…
"On Altea, they wear this color to honor their fallen," he managed to state loudly without fluctuation.
The room fell silent for an entirely different reason now.
"That they do. She would really like that."
Lance looked over to see Coran on the other end of the table, standing now. He didn't miss the way Coran's hands gripped the table tightly, his face red and eyes watery.
Lance took a deep breath to fight back the pinch behind his eyes again and made his way towards Coran. He let himself be embraced by the older man.
"I'm sorry, Coran…"
Can gripped Lance tighter, pulling him closer to murmur in his ear where no one else could hear. "There's nothing to be sorry about. Allura decided to save us all. It was her decision as Princess of Altea."
Lance pulled away and wiped his face. "She was way more than that."
"We know," Shiro said from his seat across the table, having heard anyways.
Lance looked around at the faces around him, glad that it seemed to only consist of the closest of them. The paladins, his sister, and Pidge's brother. Keith was sandwiched between Acxa and Shiro.
A new wave of sadness took over him again, any positive thoughts and feelings vanishing. This was wrong. Allura should be at this table, eating and celebrating with them. Making jokes with him and Hunk, teasing Coran…
With a heavy heart, he fought the urge to flee and sat in a seat next to his sister, but he didn't touch any of the food Hunk slid in front of him.
He fought sleep later that night after avoiding dinner, but exhaustion won out, and Lance found himself standing in that same endless field of juniberry flowers. The purples on the horizon blending into the pinks and blues of the sky where they met miles and miles away.
He didn't smile when she appeared in front of him again, and he was mildly aware he was dreaming.
"This isn't fair," he mumbled, jamming his hands into his pockets. "I'm dying to see you, but this is just torture. And worst part is I'm literally doing it to myself." How was he supposed to move on if he was going to dream about her every time he shut his eyes?
"You will never be alone," she told him softly with a sad smile.
"I know," he sighed. "I still have Hunk and Pidge and the others. I have my family…" He cut his own words off as Allura's smile seemed to grow sadder.
"Yes, you have them," she said with a small chuckle. She stepped closer, her footsteps soundless. Not even the flowers moved as she seemed to pass through them. Her fingers ghosted over his cheeks. "But I'll always be with you."
"I know that, too," he whispered brokenly. "But you're alone. I can't be with you. Obviously."
Allura placed a hand over her heart. "You're with me just as much as I'm with you, Lance."
"You're gone, Allura," he muttered, turning away from her and looking out across the fields. "This is a dream."
"I'm not a dream, Lance," she pressed. She reached out to touch him but went right through his shoulder. He glanced down at her hand behind his shoulder.
"Well, if you're not a dream," he said, playing along with his own subconscious desires, "then come home soon."
"I will return to you, Lance. I swear it." She reached out to touch the spots on his cheeks again. He could vaguely see them glowing in his peripheral vision. "No matter how far you feel from me, you are never alone. I'll always be with you."
"I'll always be waiting," he grinned, but he could tell from the look on her face that it didn't look as genuine as he'd hoped.
"And I'll always be watching you…"
Her voice faded to an echo in his mind, her voice as clear as if she were in the bed next to him. He woke up to the darkness, the pure silence of his room. Sadness washed over him, heavy and thick and dark, and he couldn't take it. He rolled over, curled into himself and cried until he felt numb. Until the thought of her not being there, of them not even having a body to bury, of them never getting to see her again didn't make tears come.