Unfortunately, it wasn't a call from Lance that came to them from Earth.

They had known it would be coming eventually, but they still weren't prepared for it.

The Galra had arrived on Earth.

The first words out of Allura's mouth after activating the alarm to call them to the bridge were to warn them of this. "We have received a distress signal from Earth." She was the calm of the storm as technicians and Coran scrambled about to ready the teludav. Her expression was pained though, as if reminded of the fate of her own planet. "But it's - "

"What?!" Keith snapped, patience already long gone as it had been over a couple weeks since Lance had last attempted to call him. His only consolation was that Lance didn't appear to be calling anyone else either. But between that and the clear and present danger to his home planet, he didn't understand why they weren't already on their way.

Allura pursed her lips, clearly trying to keep her own temper in check. "Apparently the signal is already several days old. There must have been some sort of interference in getting the message out."

Keith's insides turned cold.

They had all seen the destruction the Galra could cause in just a few hours. But with a few days…

Lance… ?! He sucked in a sharp breath at the realization.

"To the Lions!" Shiro ordered, coming back the fastest from Allura's news. Pidge, Keith, and Hunk immediately complied, heading to the chutes leading to the Lions. "Join us as soon as we're through the wormhole." He told Allura, before giving Adam a quick kiss on the cheek as he passed his station on the bridge and followed through on his own orders.

Keith and the others launched out of Sekhmet just as the wormhole opened, and they escorted the ship through. Keith's hands tightened on the handles. This was the battle that they'd been preparing for since they'd first started, but he still didn't feel ready. The stakes seemed higher than ever.

It really made a difference that he actually had someone on Earth now.

Red attempted to soothe him with a comforting growl, but Keith frowned as he felt some part of her distracted, as if her mind was elsewhere. He sent her a questioning brainwave, but she merely sent him a wave of reassurance. He tried to brush off her concern that he could still feel, but it still lingered like a malignant cloud.

And besides, he couldn't pay it much mind as they emerged from the wormhole to find four Galran warships bearing down on Earth.

As he threw himself into the fray, he heard Pidge's cursing over the comms. "They must have gotten their jamming signal back up, because I'm not picking up any signals from Earth. I'll try to get us onto the same frequency!"

"Do as best you can." Shiro reassured her, as they all got caught up in the fight.

It actually wasn't as tough as Keith thought it would be. The experimental fighters that the Garrison finally finished and tested must have done some runs as the Galran fighters were fewer than one could expect from the number of warships present. It still wasn't as easy as it could have been as they were unable to form Voltron and Pidge had to take a backseat as she tried to hack into the Galra's communications to get around the interference.

And he was so focused on the fight that he didn't even notice that…

"Allura! What's taking you so long?" Shiro called out, sounding slightly harried as he ripped into the side of one of the warships.

...that Blue wasn't even fighting with them.

Over the comms, Keith heard Allura take a shaky breath. "She's not here."

"What?" Hunk yelped as he dodged a laser blast.

"What do you mean 'she's not here'?" Keith asked, but deep in his guts, he already knew exactly what she meant.

"Blue's not in her hanger." Allura sounded on the verge of tears, and Keith was suddenly reminded of another Blue Paladin, not too long ago, also breaking over a comm line due to their absent Lion. "I've been trying but - I can't feel her. I can't sense her. She's not - "

All of them took a second to mull that over, it was all they could afford in the heat of battle, before Shiro took charge. "Okay, we can work with this. Allura, return to the bridge and lead the assault from there. We'll figure out where Blue is later."

Keith sensed Allura's displeasure with the order. "Very well," she acquiesced. After all, what more could they do if Blue was truly missing?

As Keith distantly heard Allura taking charge of the Sekhmet over the comms, he instead turned his attention to the warships hanging over the Earth. The fighters were finally thinning out and some of the warships had actually been hovering within the atmosphere since before they got there. Hunk, clearly following the same wavelength, also began attacking these threatening ships.

It was as he and Hunk were striking one of these ships that was over the ocean that Pidge gave a triumphant, "Got it!" Static quickly cleared as they became connected to the Garrison communications, and Keith felt a surge of pride at her accomplishment.

That pride sizzled out as frantic words made their way through the dissipating static. "- DO NOT ATTACK! I REPEAT! RED AND YELLOW, CEASE YOUR ASSAULT! DON'T ATTACK THAT - "

The wave of alarm from Red at the words caused Keith to react instantly. He turned on a dime, narrowly avoiding hitting the ship that was already smoking and limping in the air. Red was fast and able to pull off such a feat instantly.

The Yellow Lion was not as capable of a quick change. Once Yellow got going, it was really hard to stop him.

Hunk collided with the ship. It was the final blow for the mostly wrecked ship as it burst into pieces, the smoldering parts dropping down into the waters below.

Normally such a sight wouldn't have affected Keith, but the voice on the other end of the Garrison line screaming in horror and the sudden clenching in his gut told him this was different.

Something was wrong.

"No no no no…" The voice from the Garrison, a woman's Keith realized, trailed off in despair.

Shiro naturally took charge. "Excuse me, why did you - "

"ARE YOU GUYS IDIOTS?!" Despair had turned to fury, as the woman snapped at them. "WHY DIDN'T YOU ESTABLISH COMMUNICATION BEFORE ATTACKING?!"

"I had to work around their jamming signal! I only just got it working!" Pidge protested.

"And you should have been allowed to do that! Not started attacking them right out the gate! Communication is important!" It sounded like someone was trying to get the woman away from the comm line, but she stayed where she was.

Irritation over this whole situation boiled over. "Sorry for trying to take out the threat when we got here!" Keith snapped back. "You sent a distress signal!"

"And if you'd shown up when we first sent it five days ago, before they started fully blocking us, that would've been fine! But we've made due since then!" She yelled. "They are barely a threat! We've already taken out their large cannons with our missions, so all they can really do is harass you with their fighters! Besides, our information has told us that they're waiting for the main flagship as back-up!"

That made Keith pause, even as he dodged another fighter. She's right. All they'd really have had to deal with since getting here was the fighters. The actual warships had just been… hanging there. Not doing anything. No signs of any of the large and powerful cannons they'd had to deal with in the past.

"Marino," Keith was glad that Shiro at least recognized the woman, though there was something about her that felt familiar to him, "I understand your frustration but that's not - "

"MY BROTHER WAS ON THAT SHIP!"

There was a startled silence that hung suspended in the air. Keith shivered, feeling as if a guillotine's blade was over their necks.

Wait… a woman… Marino… brother…

With a click, Adam's voice joined them on the comms from his position on the bridge. "Veronica, what do you mean Lance was on that ship?"

Veronica. Lance's sister who was about Shiro's age. The one with the glasses and the teasing smile who had jokingly asked while Keith was visiting about making sure he and Lance connected with a wink.

Who was apparently a member of the Garrison. Probably who Adam had mentioned being friends with before.

Veronica took a shuddering breath, and Keith was amazed at how quickly she managed to compose herself. "The MFE fighters can only make short runs before they have to recharge. Lance led the initial assaults on that first day, but we quickly realized we wouldn't get far with that since our signal was being jammed and you wouldn't be able to reach us quickly.

"So Lance proposed a plan where we'd do quick flybys and drop several people onto the ship to interfere and buy us time, as well as hopefully take out their signal. Lance is familiar enough with the ships to know where to hit them where it hurts. And that's what we've been doing the past few days. With the fighters acting as a distraction, Lance would lead a team onto the ships, they'd take down the cannons and gather intelligence, and then escape using a pod to be picked up by a different MFE fighter.

"But today," Veronica's voice shook again, "on that ship, something went wrong; the Galra knew they were coming. They were nearly caught after finally taking out the jamming signal. Lance managed to get the team into the escape pod, but he stayed behind to buy them time… and…"

"No…" Allura's voice was faint. And from the way Hunk was whimpering, Keith could almost see the green invading his complexion. He could understand why. After all, Hunk had dealt the final blow.

And Keith couldn't help but believe her. It was all just so… Lance. Taking charge. Leading the way around Galra ships. Sacrificing himself for his team.

"I'm… sorry." Shiro said, heavy with emotion. "You're right; we should've made contact and assessed the situation before jumping in. We just panicked a bit with how the distress signal came late."

Veronica sniffled. The words didn't make anyone feel better.

But war didn't wait, and even as it felt like his chest was being strangled in a vice, even as his eyes burned and his hands trembled, even as his heart shattered, filled with all the things he had never told Lance, Keith knew he had to carry on.

With a scream, Keith tore through the remaining fighters. He and Red were almost literally on fire as they sped through them, and he didn't stop until the skies were clear. He wasn't even sure how he took them all out, his memories were such a blur. He panted from the deluge of emotion.

It still hurt.

"Keith…" Black hovered over him, and the worry in Shiro's voice was enough to set Keith's teeth on edge.

He stubbornly kept his eyes down, not looking up as Shiro apparently decided it was safe enough to bring up the video comms.

Huh. Was he really sweating enough for him to be dripping into his lap? That was the only reason Keith could think of as to why liquid was falling down his cheeks and chin.

"Are you… are you sure he was on that ship? Did you have any way of tracking him?" Pidge asked, moving forward like she always did, already trying to think of their next move.

"No, maybe if he'd been wearing his MFE suit, but for these infiltration missions, he's been wearing his old Voltron armor."

"Then I should be able to find him!" He could hear hope spark in Pidge as she began clicking away on her tracking mechanism. "We installed trackers in all of the helmets so we'd hopefully be better able to find each other when separated. And he's right… here!"

A red dot blipped into existence on a map on one of Keith's screens.

"Alright, I'll head over to the Garrison to begin the debrief. Keith and Shiro, you should join me while Pidge and Hunk - "

Keith was gone before Allura was even finished giving her orders.

"Keith!" Shiro called for him, looking slightly panicked over the comm screen, but Keith turned off the visual feed with a flick of his wrist.

As if he was going to stay back for talking when there was even an iota of a chance of finding Lance.

He heard Hunk swear softly over the comms, but both he and Pidge followed in Keith's wake. All other noise on the comms was disregarded as white noise as Keith raced towards Lance's signal.

Red balked as Keith approached the ocean. "C'mon, it's for Lance." He muttered. She continued forward, but Keith could tell that she wasn't pleased being near so much of her opposing element.

Keith activated his scanners, hoping to pinpoint the exact location. There was an unfortunate amount of debris floating around, making it hard to pinpoint the distinctive Voltron suit among the waves.

Keith tried to smother any shreds of hope, but he couldn't help it. Lance is the best swimmer I know. He's survived worse than this. Lance always makes it through.

A treacherous part of his brain revealed his worst fears though. The last time you left Lance behind, he died. And this time there was no Allura to save him.

The scanners finally pinged off Lance's signal, and Red drifted downwards, nudging Keith to get a closer look. He followed her lead, hopping out of his chair and hurrying through the Lion as she willingly opened her jaw so he could get a better view.

His eyes searched for a moment, and then his heart dropped when he spotted it.

"Do you see him?" Pidge asked over the comm as she and Hunk finally caught up and hovered overhead.

Keith hesitated, before he reached out. "No." He grasped the blue and white object bobbing in the water. "It's just his helmet."

Disappointment blanketed Keith even though he should have known better. He clutched Lance's helmet close to his chest, taking in the cracked and broken glasslike visor and traces of red inside the helmet itself.

With this, any chance of Lance being alive were gone. Even if Lance had somehow survived the warship's destruction, he wouldn't have been able to survive in the water. Lance may be the best swimmer Keith knew, but even he couldn't hold his breath for this long, and a lost helmet took away his only method of breathing underwater.

If he'd even been alive by the time they'd started their attack.

Lance was known in the Galra empire. Both from their many attacks against the empire and from those stupid shows the team had done. They knew he was a Paladin, and his armor would have confirmed it. Why would they have let him, their enemy, live?

Keith didn't know what would be worse: Lance being killed by the Galra, Lance dying as they ripped the warship apart, or Lance drowning in the waters he had loved so much.

"Keith, are you okay?"

Keith jumped at Shiro's voice and realized he was once more sitting in the pilot's seat. He didn't even remember walking back to the cockpit. The lights on his console showed that Shiro was talking to him on a private line.

"I'm fine." And even Keith winced at how thick his voice was. He looked down once more at the helmet in his hands, then he stood and quickly stored it in one of Red's compartments. He'd have to give it to Lance's family later. "Just - sorry. I haven't been paying much attention."

Keith could just tell Shiro was about to say something comforting and sympathetic but that was the last thing he wants right now, so he traded the private line for the regular line and tuned back in to what's going on.

"Excellent job gathering information." Allura complimented as Keith sees Sekhmet approaching the planet. "However, do you have any idea when Sendak and the rest shall arrive?"

Sendak? It was freaking Sendak behind this?! How much had Keith missed?

"From what we can tell," Veronica informed them, "whatever his secret project is was supposed to be done within a few days of the first scouting ship arriving on Earth. So it really could be…"

A wormhole opened up over the Earth, attracting each of the Lions' attention.

"... any time now." Veronica weakly finished.

Through the wormhole emerged one of the largest warships Keith had ever seen. The sight of it sent a thrill of fear down Keith's spine, but then anger sparked anew and he gripped Red's handles tight.

Sendak always warned that he would hit us where it hurts. And now he has in more ways than one.

He targeted their home planet. He sent warships to pave the way for his arrival. His men captured Lance when he and his team were escaping. He was the reason Lance was dead.

Keith was going to make him pay.

Allura was cursing. "I didn't realize any of the druids besides Haggar were left." Keith could practically hear her silently berating herself.

"None of us thought of that." Shiro reminded her before he took charge. "Paladins, let's go."

The four Lions went to battle once more as Sekhmet pulled a U-turn to back them up in battle. Unfortunately, the MFE fighters still weren't fully charged, but Veronica promised they'd be out as soon as possible.

Within a few seconds, Keith knew they'd need it. Unlike the fairly easy fight that had greeted them, Sendak's ship had not been slowly worn down by Earth's forces. This ship was fully armed and had its whole host of fighters to send after them. The swarm of fighters was so thick that none of them could even get close to the warship.

And something told Keith that they needed to get closer before something terrible happened.

It didn't help that all of them had already been through a fight already, and combined with the news about Lance…

They weren't doing so hot.

Keith could feel Allura's frustration growing by the minute, even as Sekhmet's defenses helped cut through the waves of fighters. "Blue, where are you?" She growled. "Why aren't you answering me?"

It was odd given Blue's title as the friendliest Lion to cut her off so suddenly. Plus her Paladin was cleary in dire straits, so what exactly was she doing? They needed Voltron! If they managed to form, they would be able to cut through these fighters like tissue paper, and whatever Sendak was planning would surely need it.

"I know this helps, that we do need someone to lead our back-up," Allura continued. "But do you really expect me to stay on the sidelines? Why aren't you - " Her breath caught. "I have to fight. To protect everyone, I need to fight!"

Without warning, Sekhmet burst into light.

Pidge, who was closest at the time, yelped and steered back away from it. The bright light caught everyone's attention and for a moment, the battle came to a standstill.

"Allura, are you alright?!" Shiro yelled into the comms, but he received no reply.

In what felt like hours but was probably only a few seconds, the light faded away and in its place…

The White Lion.

Given Sekhmet's larger size, the White Lion towered over the Voltron Lions. Her body gleamed the same white as Sekhmet's hull, and she shook her massive head and mane as if just waking up from a long nap. And then she set her glowing yellow eyes on Sendak's warship and roared.

"Allura?!" Shiro's panicked yell jolted Keith from his shock, and he heard a clicking noise as Shiro tried to get her up on screen.

"I don't remember us designing that into the ship…" Pidge weakly muttered as Hunk just repeatedly said, "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god…" under his breath.

With a beep, the video comm sprang up on Keith's screen revealing Allura and the rest of Sekhmet's bridge.

Allura was aglow, but it wasn't with the usual pink of her alchemic powers. Instead, a white light came off her and as she opened her eyes, Keith saw that her eyes were also overtaken by the light.

"I am the White Lion." She intoned, her voice both hers but also ringing with a power not her own. "And this is my chosen Paladin.

"Protect the universe and you shall have my aid."

The glow faded from her eyes, but the White Lion's aura didn't stop surrounding her as she blinked back into consciousness. She glanced around in awe, before turning to her stunned crew and Paladins.

Allura grinned.

"What are you waiting for?" She asked. "Let's get to it!"

As if the pause button in a video game was pressed, the video comm clicked off and the battle resumed once more. With Allura and the White Lion ripping through the ranks, it became a lot easier to deal with the fighters, and to no one's surprise, they soon called a retreat, withdrawing back to the warship.

But that just left a different kind of anxiety in its place. It felt like they were dangling on the edge of a cliff. They had no idea what Sendak had in store for them now.

"Okay, so what - " Pidge began to ask when their communication line was hijacked.

"Paladins," Sendak's familiar sneer echoed over the line, "it seems you're one Lion short. Or has it been replaced by this new monstrosity?"

Keith and Red growled in tandem. Tension crackled over the line as all of their hackles were raised.

"Must not have been too important." Sendak hummed thoughtfully. "After all, while I told my men they could play with him, I did make sure your little Blue Paladin would be left alive for me to deal with myself." He laughed. "And here you struck him down yourselves."

From the corner of his eye, Keith could see Hunk and Yellow practically vibrating. It took a lot to get Hunk truly mad, and Sendak was right about to tip Hunk over the edge. Fury curled in Keith's own chest.

How dare he...

Luckily, Allura took the lead. "This planet is protected, Sendak. Leave now or face the consequences." White fell into a pouncing stance.

Sendak seemed to contemplate that before a rasp chuckle rang through the comm. "Perhaps this will be the end. But my men and I would rather die than surrender to you filth. We shall raise the empire anew! Vrepit sa!" He exited the line just as the warship began to shift.

Gigantic doors on its hull began to open and from it descended some sort of capsule. A prickling feeling in his guts told Keith it was bad news, and he shot forward, intent on taking it out before it could fully emerge.

He slammed into a force field before he could even blink. Red bounced off it and Keith took a moment, slightly dazed from the whiplash, before he ventured closer and attempted using his laser to break up the shield.

It didn't work.

Hunk, Pidge, and Shiro tried to demolish the shield to take out this threat but it was too strong. It was too similar to the shield at Naxzela and that just pushed Keith harder to take it out. Allura and White started charging up her main cannon to destroy it but Shiro called it off, because if it ricocheted the consequences could be deadly.

Hunk, however, was apparently on a different train of thought as the capsule came out into the open and fell away to reveal something that looked like a giant black circuit-patterned egg. "This has to be whatever Sendak was cooking up, right? Do we have any idea what it is?"

"We couldn't find any exact name for it in the information we extracted, just descriptions of what it was." Veronica explained, finally turning away from her inquiries as to how close the MFE fighters were to fully charged. "Lance seemed to recognize it though. The blood drained from his face when we were finished translating the data at least."

The egg began to crack.

"Lance called it… a robeast."

"Oh, quiznak." Pidge said what they were all thinking as the egg exploded outward.

It had been ages since they'd faced a robeast. Quite frankly, Keith had been hoping that there was no one left to make them as they hadn't seen any since they had managed to take down Zarkon that first time. Because you never quite knew what you'd get from these things.

This one seemed more energy based, not as solid as any that had come before it. Its body, as it were, was made of dark red energy spiraling into a humanoid form that reminded Keith of the old Slenderman tales from his cryptid research. From this "body" extended whips and tentacles of that red energy that crackled with electricity and Keith could just tell they'd hurt. Worse of all, the pieces of the "egg" continued to float around it, but now they seemed to move with purpose.

Though it didn't appear to have any eyes, Keith could feel the weight of its gaze on them.

Without warning, it struck.

Keith dodged and weaved around the limbs that cracked past him, barely avoiding blows and keeping out of its tendrils. He did his best to strike with his lasers, but Keith's aim had never been the best when it came to firing weapons and he kept missing. Still, he managed to avoid the brunt of the assault.

However, the other Lions weren't exactly built for speedy dodging.

Hunk cursed softly every time those tentacles wrapped around Yellow, but he managed to activate his claw extensions to more easily cut through them. However, the sight of the cut bands of energy snaking back to each other to reform did not bring much hope for a short fight.

Pidge yelped whenever Green was brushed, her Lion not as heavily armored to protect her from the electrical surges, but she was still dodging better than Hunk given her smaller size.

Keith was pretty sure the only reason why Shiro had managed to avoid damage was due to his piloting skills. Black may not have been as fast as Red, but Shiro was able to draw out his full potential and used the debris of the destroyed fighters floating in orbit to act as a barrier between the robeast and himself.

Allura, White, and the crew of Sekhmet were not as lucky. Sure, White had power, strength, and size (Keith was fairly sure he'd seen White release a laser roar earlier that reminded him of some memes Pidge had insisted on showing him), but mobility and flexibility were not really her best features. Considering she housed a full crew and was made to carry the other Lions, that made sense. So Allura tried to catch hold of the robeast, but it was like a cat chasing after a laser dot with it always slipping through her paws.

Plus, those shell pieces were causing problems all on their own. There must have been some sort of telekinetic link between the robeast and the pieces, because on the few occasions someone did manage to almost hit it, the shell would link together to create a shield and block the blow. They'd also latch onto the end of the whips to create better battering attacks.

The robeast was fighting rings around them and they were practically helpless to stop it.

"We're giving it too many targets!" Keith shouted as the robeast slipped between him and Hunk once more.

"Pidge, does it have any weaknesses?" Shiro asked, cursing as it demolished the fighter remnants he'd sent towards it as a distraction in hopes of getting closer.

"Uh, it appears to have a mechanical and organic core that acts as the control center." Pidge answered in between dodging attacks and her analysis finished. "But it's in the center of all that red energy, so we can't get to it."

Hunk grunted. "We need Voltron! We'll be more mobile than White and have enough power to push our way through!"

"You think we don't know that?!" Keith screeched as the robeast disappeared into the debris field. His eyes twitched back and forth, trying to find it before it could attack again.

"Keith, you don't - look out!" Shiro's worry slammed into Keith as he whirled around to come face to face with the robeast's shells heating up bright red at the end of several tentacles, which could not be a good sign. He saw the glow of laser beams start to shine from the shells.

Keith would never be able to get out of the way in time. He flinched back and shut his eyes in preparation.

Lance…

I'm sorry.

He braced himself, and then…

And then…

Nothing.

Keith peeked out one eye and then opened the other.

He was alive.

How…?

He looked up at the view screen and blinked in confusion.

The pieces of shell that had been creating the lasers were destroyed. The robeast's tentacles had recoiled from the impact, just as shocked as the rest of them.

What had…

Allura's gasp was the first hint of what had conspired; the click on the comms that followed was the second.

But the chuckle coming down the line revealed the truth.

"Hey, guys," the voice was rough but Keith could hear the smile behind it, "I heard you could use another Lion?"

Keith's eyes widened as a blur of blue streaked across the skies, lasers firing from it at a rapid pace to accurately hit the shell pieces and eliminate them.

"Lance?" Keith called softly, but it was overshadowed by Pidge and Hunk's gleeful cries of "Lance!"

In moments, the video comm popped up and there he was.

Lance.

He sat in Blue's pilot seat, face fully exposed due to his lack of helmet allowing Keith to see that familiar beaming grin and sparkling eyes, full of life. He was drenched, water literally dripping off him and some mingling with blood spilling down the side of his face from just above his left eye.

Undeniably Lance.

And undeniably alive.

Keith felt like an anchor had been cast away from his chest so he could breathe freely and it instead kept him centered so he didn't float away.

"Did you really think I'd die so easily?" Lance joked, eyes flicking over to whatever screens showed them and his smile never faltering. "I mean, Keith was incommunicado for how long with the Blade and we never started planning his funeral."

Keith scowled, even as some part of him relaxed at the words. "Not funny." Because it was way too soon to be making jokes about Lance dying.

Preferably never.

"LEANDRO ALEJANDRO MARINO-DIAZ, YOU GOT SOME EXPLAINING TO DO!" Lance jumped at Veronica's shout, and Keith heard Pidge snicker at the reaction.

"I uh, yeah, I will." Lance stammered. Despite the distractions, Blue weaved through the debris like water in a brook, continuing to use her tail laser to fire shots. "Can we kick Sendak's butt first?"

"Excellent idea." Shiro didn't hesitate for a second more. "Form Voltron!"

"Right!"

This time, unlike every attempt in recent memory, they came together seamlessly. In a flash, Voltron stood, proud and strong.

No shakiness, no tentativeness. The bond between them and Voltron itself was stronger than steel.

Through their bond, Keith could feel the stirrings of confusion coming from Lance as everyone else felt a surge of relief, but unfortunately there was no time to answer Lance's unasked question.

The robeast had finally recovered and returned to the offense.

Without prompting, Keith and Pidge shoved their bayards into their ports to form their weapons. Voltron's sword and shield excelled at blocking its attacks and made quick work of the tendrils, but they needed a new plan. The robeast was pretty much regenerating as fast as they were shredding the tentacles.

"Lance, how were you able to destroy the shell bits?" Shiro asked as Voltron's sword glanced off them once more to Keith's frustration.

"One hit wasn't enough to do it, but if I fired shots to the same point in quick succession, the first two shots would weaken it and the third would destroy it before it could recover." Lance explained as Voltron danced out of the way of another attack. "The red parts seem to recover easily, but the shell doesn't if you actually destroy it."

"What we really need is to take out its core! If we could get rid of that, this thing would be toast." Pidge pressed.

"Well, the sword isn't working. Hunk, do you think your shoulder cannon could hit it?" Shiro asked.

"No, it's too widespread; it's not really made for the precise hit that we need."

"Well, maybe we could - " Lance cut himself off with an inquiring noise.

"What?" Keith asked as he parried the robeast's attacks.

"The bayard port just opened…" Lance sounded a bit dazed and Keith didn't know if it was his head injury or if he was surprised that the port had actually opened just for him.

And given the usual form that Lance's bayard took, it wasn't hard to guess what his Voltron weapon would be.

"If you could lure him into position, I could use White's cannon as a momentary distraction to let Lance take his shot." Allura was luckily on the same wavelength as them. "It may also disrupt its energy somewhat."

"Excellent. Lance, be prepared!" Shiro ordered as they led the robeast into their trap.

"Gotcha!"

They all tensed as they acted as bait but Allura was prepared and as soon as the robeast was in her sights, White roared out a blast with her main laser.

"Now!" Shiro yelled, and Pidge and Keith deactivated their bayards just as Lance activated his.

A sniper rifle formed in Voltron's hands and Lance had them swing it up to Voltron's eye as he took aim with it, predicting where the robeast would reappear. Keith heard him take a breath in as the glow of White's blast began to fade.

Lance took the shot as he exhaled.

It ended in a second.

The laser blast flew straight and true. Keith had a brief glimpse of the metal of the robeast's exposed core as the robeast was left afloat from Allura's attack. And then Lance's shot went right through it. The red energy flickered once, twice and then completely dissipated, leaving the remnants of its core and shell behind.

They all cheered, and Keith could hear the cheers from White and the Garrison as well through the comm line.

"That's our sharpshooter!" Pidge yelled, and Keith could hear her bouncing in her seat.

"Nice one, buddy!" Hunk joined in.

Keith smiled. "Good job." He said softly, not even sure if Lance would hear him over the ruckus.

He'd had no doubt that Lance would be able to do it.

Lance laughed. "Thanks." He simply said.

Shiro chuckled, too. "I'm happy we beat it, too, but the fight's not over yet."

The mood instantly sobered, and they turned to meet Sendak head-on.

Only to see a wormhole closing and Sendak's ship completely gone.

"He ran away?!" Keith yelled, indignant. Sendak showed up, caused all this crap, and then just left. The nerve.

"With his robeast gone, he would've been at a disadvantage now that we have both the White Lion and Voltron." Allura mused. "It makes sense."

Keith scowled, because he didn't particularly care about it making sense. He wanted to hunt Sendak down and make him pay for what he did to Lance.

Speaking of which...

"Alright, everyone, back to the Garrison." Shiro said, and Voltron disbanded. It almost felt weird to be able to break up so freely when lately it had just fallen apart the moment they weren't forcing it together.

With a flash, the White Lion was just the Sekhmet once more. Keith would be wondering how that all worked, especially given the number of people who were needed to keep Sekhmet running, but he had bigger issues on hand.

As they flew back to the Garrison, Keith kept a close tail on the Blue Lion and parked next to her when it came time to land. He rushed out of Red and saw Lance walking out of Blue, holding his side and stepping very carefully, just as he rounded Red's paw.

Lance perked up as he noticed his approach. "Hey, Keith." He raised his free arm. "Welcome ba - "

"You stupid idiot!" Keith violently hugged Lance, drawing him in for a hug as Lance gave a startled squeak.

Keith knew that he probably shouldn't do this. After all, with all he'd been through, who knew what sort of injuries laid beneath Lance's armor? Lance needed to get to medical, they all needed to debrief…

But Keith needed this more.

Lance was alive. He was here, right in Keith's arms and encircling his own arms around Keith to return the hug.

"Hey," Lance said softly, "I'm okay."

"But you almost weren't." Keith felt his eyes burn again, but he refused to let any tears fall, not this time. Not when Lance was perfectly, well mostly, fine despite everything that in any other circumstance would've killed him.

The fact that Lance wasn't refuting him made the sentiment hit home even harder.

"I was going to answer." Keith admitted. He wasn't sure why he was saying it. "Next time you called, I was going to answer."

Lance blinked. Keith could feel it. At the same moment, he realized that Lance had gotten taller than him again. "You actually listened to my messages?"

"Of course!" Keith stepped back a bit to gaze up slightly into Lance's eyes. "I - "

"LAAAAAAAAAAAANCE!" Hunk scooped them both up into a bear hug from out of nowhere. This time Lance actually hissed in pain, prompting Hunk to immediately set them down.

As he did so, Pidge slid into place next to him, slipping her glasses onto her nose and giving Lance a flat glare. "You." She poked him in the chest. "You are not allowed to go dying on us again."

"Yeah, man," Hunk sobbed, tears overflowing down his face, "you cannot do that to us."

"Ah, sorry, sorry," Lance flashed them a strained smile, "it's not like I do it on purpose."

"Your sister said that you stayed behind to buy time! That is clearly on purpose!"

"I legit thought I killed you, dude!"

Their argument was cut short by Shiro and Allura coming up between them. "Lance," Shiro gave him a relieved smile, "excellent job out there."

Allura and Lance only stared at each other though. Lance cracked first, "I would apologize for taking Blue from you, but it seems that a different Lion has called dibs on you." He smiled sheepishly.

Allura laughed softly before pulling Lance into a quick hug. "I believe Blue has been waiting a long time to reclaim you." She said. "She's missed you dearly."

The two parted and shared a smile, and then Allura turned away to make her way into the Garrison.

"Now we really should get you to medical." Shiro hinted at the order as he followed Allura.

"Yeah, plus it sounds like Veronica's gonna have some words with you." Both Hunk and Pidge snickered and took their leaders' lead.

"Oh, joy." Lance flatly said as he and Keith just stood there.

And they remained that way for a few seconds. Keith wasn't exactly sure what they were supposed to do with themselves. With what he had almost admitted -

His racing thoughts were cut off as a large hand wound its fingers with his. The same hand that had guided him to the beach all those months ago.

Keith looked up.

Lance smiled, a gentle smile meant just for him. "C'mon." He tugged Keith's hand and lead the way to the Garrison.

Keith knew that they were going to have to have another talk. This time, he felt like it would have more to do with them than Lance's position in Voltron. That it was time for Keith to get some things off his chest.

Though Keith got a feeling that Lance had some things to admit, too.

A hopeful flame sparked in Keith's chest once more, and Keith didn't think it would be doused with disappointment.

But first they had some work to do.

Lance needed help, they had to discuss the return of robeasts and druids, they should figure out what Sendak's next move was, they would probably be hearing back from the Blades about the Alteans at any time now -

And yet, all Keith could think about -

All Keith cared about -

"Hey," Lance was looking back at him and grinning, his eyes alight with the glow of life, "welcome back, mullet."

Keith smirked in return, stepping up to walk side by side with Lance, their fingers still entwined. "Welcome back yourself, sharpshooter."

Lance was back.

And despite everything else, that meant that all was right in the universe.


AN: Okay, so, first off:

IF ANYONE ON THE TEAM WAS GOING TO GET THEIR OWN PERSONAL GIANT ROBOT, IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ALLURA! You know, the one who has magical alchemy abilities? Who's journey ended up having nothing to do with her being a paladin but focused on her own personal goals and abilities? THE ONE WHO ACTUALLY MET THE WHITE LION AND PASSED ITS TRIAL?

Sorry, that's one of many things I am salty about. Like Paladin Allura seemed cool at first, but they didn't really do anything with it except create unnecessary angst and spit in the face of all the lore they'd established up until that point. So yeah, if they were gonna do it, they should've done something with it. Besides, Allura had foreshadowing as the Lion Goddess, so yeah, this ties back to that.

Next thing, the original Lion set-up just works so much better (both for the Paladins involved and as a team dynamic) which is why I returned to it.

And why didn't Lance ever get to form a Voltron weapon? Like I was salty in general about Shiro never actually getting to use his bayard, but like, they teased Lance forming a Voltron weapon in the comics (saying it wasn't the right time) and then he never got to use it in the show. The wings of Voltron being Keith and Lance is sweet and all, but Lance never got his moment to shine. Not to mention that all of those awesome add-ons to the Lions that they made such a big deal about in S2 were pretty much never seen again.

And the robeasts? The basis of Voltron as a franchise is giant robot fights robeasts and we only got like 3 in the entire show and they're all in the first 2 seasons. Those had so much potential and they just dropped it for essentially bigger and bigger Voltron knockoffs. Ugh.

And this is a build-up to Klance as you can tell though I'm not going to be getting more into it.

So like I said, I started this fic after season 6 as how I imagined the following seasons would go, and while this is pretty much everything I originally planned (though looking at my initial outline I ended up changing Lance's situation and set-up when they got to Earth, though Blue rescuing him was the same), I also added some stuff from what I was angry about.

I do have one more thing to deal with this story that should be coming soon. It'll be from Lance's POV.