WARNING: Brief Drowning Scene.
This was not Lance's day.
In fact, since the Galra had shown up a little less than a week ago, this had not been Lance's week. But today was especially bad.
Over the course of the past few days, Lance and the other MFE pilots, several of his former classmates actually, had been targeting the warships that had appeared above Earth. Today, they had planned their run to hit the last warship they hadn't gotten to yet.
However, Lance's day had not started well. James had decided to be a prick and burst into his room well before he had to get up and make it seem like his sister was in trouble. Veronica did not appreciate being woken up before dawn, especially to an overly worried brother, and in his haste, Lance had also left his phone in his room. And then James had the nerve to be shocked when Lance had assigned him cleaning duty, having forgotten that Lance was his superior officer and fully capable of calling out his stupid pranks.
Though Lance would admit he did feel a bit of vindictive pleasure at finally getting back at the boy who had made both his and Keith's (as he had later learned) time at the Garrison miserable.
After that debacle, Admiral Sanda had been acting sketchy during the briefing, trying to hold off their planned assault, but luckily, Lance's results had garnered him more support from other officials and officers so they proceeded as planned. It had felt… odd to have people actually take him seriously, but he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Lance had warned Veronica to keep an eye on Sanda though. He'd seen the exact same behaviors from too many aliens that had tried to stab Voltron in the back.
It turned out that Lance had good reason to be suspicious.
The Galra had known they were coming.
And not just the logical oh-hey-they've-hit-every-ship-but-us-we-must-be-next thought process of knowing, they had known they were coming.
The red alert had already been going off by the time Lance had slipped aboard with Kinkade and Rizavi for this particular run. Lance took a page from Pidge's book and led them through the vents instead of the corridors to avoid further detection, and that's when they had overheard them.
"The Admiral said it would be two human males and one female. One of the males is the Blue Paladin, so it should not be hard to find them." A squad leader ordered. "Spread out."
Lance exchanged a glance with the other two as Rizavi cursed softly.
Sanda had sold them out.
Still, they'd managed to complete their mission. Pidge's codes got everything from the computers they needed, and they each took a copy just in case. Rizavi dismantled the controls for the cannons and communications, and Lance and Kinkade shot up the computers to take care of the final jamming signal.
Now, hopefully, Voltron and the Sekhmet would get their message.
Which Lance hoped would be sooner rather than later, as the Galra finally caught up to them just as they reached the escape pods.
Yeah, this was not his day.
Lance ducked behind some crates as the sentries shot at him and the others. He quickly dissolved his handgun into his thigh holster and exchanged it for a larger blaster more similar to what he used to use when he was with Voltron. He looked up to see where the shots were coming from as they passed overhead and then popped up to take out the sentries that were crowding the doorway.
"Now what?" Rizavi shouted over the blasts as she and Kinkade took shelter behind the control console near the open pod doors. Their weapons were already out of ammo as the newer weapons the Garrison were making still didn't have the same longevity as the Altean guns that Coran had given Lance, so all they could do at this point was hunker down.
"Get in the pod!" Lance ordered, slowly making his retreat towards them as he took shot after shot. Despite each blast hitting its mark, the number of sentries was growing faster than he could put a blast through them.
And Lance could see some Galra making their way down the corridor over the tops of the sentries' heads.
Rizavi and Kinkade made their way into the pod, Kinkade having to tackle Rizavi into it as a few of the sentries' attacks got a little too close for comfort.
Lance assessed his current situation.
The Galra were too close; he couldn't stop shooting for even a moment or else they would close in and nab them all. Rizavi and Kinkade were unarmed and they had both the intelligence they'd gathered from the computer and the knowledge of the traitor in the Garrison's midst. With the way the Galra were gunning for them, there were too many laser blasts between the pod and Lance.
With the interference gone, Sekhmet and Voltron would get the distress signal and probably get here as soon as possible. But with a ship and crew that big, and having to get all the Paladins together for debrief before launching the Lions, it would take a bit of time. Plus, wormholing wasn't instantaneous. It was faster, sure, but it did take time, and it varied depending on how far away they were. Still, he knew they'd get here eventually.
Lance wasn't about to let his team get captured.
He made his decision.
Lance continued hitting the Galra with each shot using his gun in one hand as he reached for a second weapon in his pouch and he slowly made his way to the console. Once there, he took a quick glance at his target and he seized his chance.
His knife embedded itself in the control panel next to Rizavi and Kinkade's pod, short-circuiting it and sealing the pod doors. Now the Galra wouldn't be able to reach them.
Lance wasn't just an ace shot when it came to guns. No matter what, he always hit what he aimed for.
Rizavi was the first to react. "Lance?" She began to pound on the door's window. "Lance?!"
Kinkade was a lot calmer. "Lance, what are you doing?"
"Buying time." He placed his hand on the console, using the bits of sentry tech he'd sewn into his glove to activate it. "Complete the mission and warn the Garrison and Voltron, okay?"
"But you - " Rizavi looked close to tears, but Kinkade's face fell in grim acceptance.
Lance launched the escape pod just as the first Galra pushed past the sentries and entered the room. The tall, bulky soldier growled at the sight of the others escaping before his eyes fell on Lance. Lance met his gaze as he exchanged his blaster for his handguns once more.
It was times like these he wished he still had a bayard; a sword he could instantly materialize would come in real handy at a time like this.
Lance didn't know how long it took. He shot dozens and dozens of sentries, fought with punches and kicks as well once they got too close. But there were too many and he was only human.
The last thing he saw was that first Galra's fist glowing purple just as it aimed for his face.
Being part of Voltron meant that there was some risk of getting captured. From the Galra themselves, mercenaries, opportunists, potential allies, the list of those who'd like to get their hands on one of Voltron's Paladins was probably endless.
However, they'd luckily managed to avoid that a lot, or, with the exception of Shiro, they'd been able to recover who was captured in a little amount of time.
As far as Lance knew, Allura held the record of about a day and a half from when she was taken at the quintessence plant. Lance was the next record holder from the half day he spent unconscious while in Sendak's grasp when he took over the Castleship. Every other time, the captive had only been held for a few hours at most.
Just because it was always a risk didn't mean that it was something Lance cared for.
Lance bit back a grunt as the Galra kicked him again before he retreated with a grumble.
"Do you have any idea how many of my comrades you've killed?" The Galra whirled around to him, glaring and clenching his hands, one of which had a prosthetic similar to Shiro's old one.
Lance blinked through the blood falling down his face from a cut on his forehead, most likely from when this Galra punched right through his helmet to knock him out. "Don't know." He finally croaked. "Do you know how many have died at the hands of the Galra empire over the years?"
The Galra growled as he yanked Lance up by the collar guard of his suit so they were face to face. Lance hissed slightly at the strain from where his hands were handcuffed to the wall, but fell silent at the Galra's rage. "If I had my way, I would gut you right now and throw your corpse at the feet of your planet's futile resistance." He shoved Lance away and back into the wall. "Unfortunately, Commander Sendak has forbidden us from killing you."
Huh, who knew Sendak could be helpful.
"You see," the Galra grinned, "he has plans for you."
Quiznak, that didn't sound good.
"The remaining druids have sided with us." Lance's eyes followed him as he paced, until he stopped in front of him once more. He sneered. "I wonder what sort of robeast you'd make."
Lance's eyes widened as Sendak's plan clicked.
Just then the alarm went off once more.
The Galra straightened up and frown at the door. "Get comfortable. You aren't going to be leaving any time soon." He stalked out.
Lance waited a full five seconds before moving. "Quiznak that." He lifted his leg up and carefully pulled his handcuff disruptor from its hiding spot with his teeth.
After the Nyma Incident, Lance hadn't wanted to get caught like that again, so he had Pidge whip him up a device that would mess with the electrical energy handcuffs that most Galra and mercenaries favored. Plus, they'd often not cuff his legs, so with his flexibility, Lance could easily hide it there and be ready to break out in no time at all.
Within moments, Lance was free and cautiously peering out the door. Between his team's previous efforts and this red alert, it seemed like things were pretty deserted. He quickly slipped out, ignoring the general aches and occasional sharp pains radiating from his various injuries.
It took him a second to get oriented, but then Lance headed off in the direction of the hanger. Given the alert ringing through the ship and how close he'd gotten to it before, they would probably have the escape pods guarded. If he could steal a fighter though, he could probably blend in enough with the chaos to slip away and make his way back to Earth easily.
Keith had piloted one of the Galra fighters before, it couldn't be too hard.
Lance found himself cursing when he finally arrived at the hangar though. Apparently, they'd been a bit too efficient when it came to taking care of the enemy fighters. The only ones left seemed to be in the middle of being repaired.
But… Lance asked himself as the ship suddenly rocked back and forth and the lights above flickered. Do I really have any other options?
Lance dashed over to the nearest one and brought up the screen listing its information. His brow furrowed as he glanced over the analysis. It looked mostly okay, but…
The ship rocked once more and Lance made an executive decision by getting into the fighter and turning it on with his sentry tech glove. As long as he could get to the ground, he'd be fine.
After a quick start up sequence, Lance had the fighter launched -
And it was falling.
Lance ignored the explosions going on around him, he ignored the colored streaks in the sky darting around the warships and put his entire focus on steering the fighter he'd commandeered.
A couple of the newly repaired thrusters were already sputtering out, but Lance wrenched the controls upright to at least make it a controlled fall. It was more falling with style than flying, but he'd take what he could.
And then he noticed that he was over the ocean.
There was no way Lance would be able to get to land in time, and given its state, he wasn't confident in this fighter's airtightness, especially since his helmet was long gone.
It'll be okay. I'll land as best I can, get out and use the fighter to help me float, and then I'll figure out a way to contact base.
No problem, he could work with this -
The warship he'd just been on exploded.
The force of the explosion ruined the careful balance Lance had maintained, sending the fighter careening down into the ocean. The impact jerked Lance with enough force that he heard something crack and pain flared up in his side. However, he had some bigger problems on his hands. The fighter plunged into the waters, sinking down further and further, and Lance realized he'd been right to be skeptical as almost immediately water began to trickle in from some unseen seam.
"Quiznak, quiznak, quiznak…" He stood from the pilot seat, clutching his pained side, and checked around to see if there was any survival gear.
Unfortunately, the Galra were a bunch of ride or die extremists, so there were no flotation devices or breathing apparatuses that Lance could find.
The water was already up to his knees.
Lance would just have to swim for it and hope for the best.
Lance slapped at his holster and summoned his handgun, partly shocked that the Galra hadn't taken away any of his weapons in all the confusion. Then again, he didn't know how one would take away dematerialized Altean weapons in the first place.
Lance took a few calming breaths to prepare himself before taking a final deep breath and shooting out the window.
Water rushed in and Lance waited for the pressure to stabilize before swimming out the broken window. He looked around, trying to figure out which way was up. The fighter had sunk more than he'd anticipated, but one direction did look a smidge lighter than the rest so he swam in that direction.
Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…
Out of all his siblings, Lance could hold his breath the longest. They used to have contests all the time until Mamá caught them doing it and been convinced that Lance was drowning given how long he'd been under. He'd freaked out Keith once on Castleship as well, the other boy leaping into the water to "save" him and ending up looking like a disgruntled soaked cat as Lance had revealed he'd been in no danger at all.
So Lance was familiar with the burning need to breathe that eventually came. He knew the feeling of stale air in his lungs and he knew how to power through it until the last possible second when he could finally burst through the water's surface and take that much needed breath.
But the surface was still too far away, if he was even going in the right direction, and he needed to breathe now.
Lance tried to hold it off just a bit longer as he swam up and up, but -
Lance released his air and inhaled.
He choked on water; his hands instinctively went to his throat.
He tried to take a breath, but there was just water, water, water, and he never would've thought that his own element would betray him like this. His body seized up as he tried to fight back but there was nothing to fight.
He couldn't breathe.
He couldn't move.
He could barely think.
Darkness crawled across his vision and Lance could feel his brain shutting down.
All he had was some final, stray thoughts drifting across his mind as everything slowed down.
Hunk, Pidge, Shiro, Allura…
Luis, Veronica, Marco, Rachel…
As Lance fell into darkness, he thought he saw a massive shadow approaching him in the water.
Lance woke up.
He was so surprised by that fact that it took him a moment to realize that he wasn't in any pain. He could breathe freely and there were no aches from the various injuries he'd collected over the day. And as that revelation settled he finally glanced around and saw how odd his surroundings were.
It was like he was still underwater, except he could breath. Blue surrounded him on all sides and he could feel the tug of currents even as he floated in one spot. As he looked up, he could see through the shimmering surface of the water above and shining stars beyond that. As he looked down, he could see that he was glowing, blue just like his surroundings but with an inner light coming from inside him.
Lance had no clue where he was, but it felt similar to when they'd all ascended to the astral plane. Except while there they'd been caught in the turquoise flow of Voltron's quintessence, streaming around them like a river. This was different. This was as vast and deep and still as the ocean, the blue a bit richer and darker than Voltron's bright colors, more like the blue that adorned his armor.
It felt like home.
Movement caught Lance's attention and as he looked up, his breath caught in his chest.
A massive lion padded her way towards him, walking as if she were traveling on the ground rather than floating in some weird watery world. She stood taller than Lance, her fur almost entirely blue with the exception of her white underbelly. Like Lance, she too was glowing, a light within the darker waters.
Lance instantly recognized her.
Lance swam over to her and reached out to touch her as she stopped before him -
But then he remembered and jerked his hand back.
"No, Blue, I'm not your Paladin, remember?" I'm no one's Paladin. "You chose Allura, remember? Why aren't you with her?"
I chose you.
"I know." A lump formed in Lance's throat at that thought, and he felt his eyes burn. He thought he was done crying over this. "And then you chose Allura; you got a better Paladin. Blue, you should be with her. After all, you - you guys are clearly meant to be."
I didn't want to choose her.
Lance looked away. "Maybe. But you - you didn't even say goodbye."
Honestly, that was what had hurt the most. Blue had known him better than anyone. She'd been inside his mind and seen everything. She knew him in the most intimate of ways. But then, she'd just - shut him out. No response, no goodbye, no explanation.
At the time, the fact that Red still kept in contact with Keith, that he sometimes still talked to his previous Paladin, made it hurt worse.
It hurt. I didn't want to say goodbye.
"I didn't want to, either." But it had still happened, and without even a final word to take with him.
Blue was quiet for a moment before crouching down to be more on Lance's level.
Water takes whatever form is needed. You did that for Red's Paladin. Because he could not have anyone else stand by his side as his right hand. He needed you.
Lance knew that. He'd been… flattered by how Keith had turned to him of all people. He'd been fine with being there for Keith, he'd wanted to be there for Keith. He'd wanted Keith to be okay more than anyone. He just… hadn't anticipated the price of that.
I did as well. I had to adjust and accept the Princess for the sake of the Pride. That was what was needed from me.
Lance blinked. He'd never thought of it like that. He looked up into her sad eyes as she stood up once more to make her point.
The Princess is a Paladin, but she is not mine. She has many things I look for in a Paladin. She is loyal and kind, empathetic and compassionate, similar to you.
But she is too set in her ways, she is not as flexible as you. She can be only that which she already is. She inspires many but she cannot draw in and keep them together as you can. She is supportive but she is not a support, she is meant to lead.
Slowly, Lance reached out and cradled Blue's face in his hands. She purred as she nuzzled into them.
My raindrop, my ocean, mi mar de estrellas…
I'm so sorry. Can you forgive me?
"Aw, Blue," Lance smiled fondly as he looked her in the eye, "I forgave you from the very start."
She blinked her eyes in understanding, and then Blue leaned forward to press their foreheads together. Lance closed his eyes and pressed back, taking in her presence as well as a shuddering breath.
As they drew apart, prickles of fear suddenly struck Lance's heart. "What - what if the others don't want me back? They've probably been so amazing together. It doesn't seem like they've had any problems."
Or at least, they seemed to be doing great. None of them had said anything was wrong in the calls he'd shared with them. The reports from their missions proved that they were still completing things with the usual flare, although they seemed to be using Voltron itself less. And they were all so capable and wonderful that it would make sense that the team would be better than ever.
Keith still wasn't talking to him though. Lance left messages, but when his calls had stopped going through, he figured Keith had gotten fed up with his calls and blocked him. In hindsight, a Galra scout had probably already started cutting off their communications.
He knew that Keith had taken the news of him leaving the hardest. Lance had hoped he would understand but…
Would Keith, would the others, really want him back?
A deep and rolling laugh like crashing waves interrupted Lance's train of thought. Lance looked up at Blue and he could've sworn that she was smiling.
Oh, my Paladin.
She nuzzled his face, ignoring Lance's quiet protests.
You have no idea how much they need you.
Lance woke up and immediately rolled onto his side, coughing up water.
He took great gulping breaths of air and closed his eyes to center himself.
Was that…? Did I…?
As he caught his breath, he looked around and recognized the inside of Blue's mouth.
So that was -
Blue's presence filled his mind for the first time in forever with a rumbling purr.
Lance's face lit up and he scrambled to his feet.
As he entered the cockpit, the pilot seat came up behind him and scooped him up, depositing him right in front of the handles, just like the first time he'd ever entered. Sitting on the dashboard was the blue bayard, as if it'd been waiting for him.
He picked it up and felt its familiar weight. His fingers tingled. Was he really doing this?
Blue nudged him through their bond. Gentle reassurance fell upon him like the first rain of spring.
Lance took a steadying breath. "Okay." He smiled slightly as he sheathed his bayard.
He grasped the handles and Blue responded to his touch. In no time at all, they shot out of the ocean into the air. Lance laughed as neither of them could resist doing a loop de loop as they flew, totally in synch.
"Let's go and show them how it's done!" Lance grinned. Blue purred in agreement.
For some time, despite how busy he was and how involved he was, how people actually listened to him, he had still felt adrift, like things weren't quite right.
Lance knew exactly what he was supposed to be doing.
And he was ready for anything.
Maybe this was his day, after all.
AN: So I've got a bit of beef with Blue, too. Like, she knew Lance better than anyone and she just freaking shuts him out without a single word? Lance literally crawls on his hands and knees, begging for an explanation, and she gave him nothing. Talk about harsh. Especially when you contrast it with when she chose him as a Paladin. She was so happy that she did loop de loops and spins in the air before taking him to fight the Galra.
(Speaking of Lion BS, what the fudge was up with Red not responding to Lance until after he nearly died and was accepting the fact that he was gonna die? Lance never really had many problems with flying Red and at that point had flown Red more than Blue, so what was with that BS. I heard someone postulate at the time that that scene was supposed to be Blue reclaiming Lance as a Paladin which would have explained why he was so unsure of them coming, but - whatever.)
Anyway, so I figured maybe Blue had to adjust just like Lance for the Lion Switch because that whole situation contradicted the original lore of how the Paladin has to match the Lion's quintessence. And water, by nature, is very adaptable. FYI, the traits I have Blue talk about here are from my own theories of what it takes to be the Blue Paladin as outlined in my fic "With Flying Colors."
(Also, if I had had to guess which element Allura was connected to, I would've always figured it was fire since she and Keith were so similar and she has a fiery, passionate personality.)
Also, "I Am Moana" is such a self-affirming song! I love it! And it reminds me so much of Lance. Like "I am a girl who loves her island and a girl who loves the sea" (he loves both space and his friends, but he also loves the ocean and his family), "I've delivered us to where we are" (who brought them to space?), "I have journeyed farther" (no thought he'd get that far), "I'm everything I've learned and more" (he learns a lot in space and uses it to his advantage), "And the call isn't out there at all, it's inside me" (he is meant to be a Paladin). Agh! It's just so good.