Unbroken

Disclaimer: I do not own Voltron or any of its characters.

What KAEX Challenge? Ah, yes, my THIRD submission for the challenge topic of "Broken." See Setting below details of where this fits in my story arc.

Rating/Setting: Rating is T due to violence referenced – but none happens in this story. Setting is in DotU during my Retaliation story and you need to have read that to understand this. The story revisits one portion of the torture from Retaliation and it takes placebetween chapters 23 & 24 (after Keith is rescued and the day after he's released from the med wing). If you read Retaliation with no problems, this will be a breeze. If you have concerns and talk about physical violence disturbs you, then skip this story.

Lance glanced around the corner toward the exit to the castle bridge. No one was in sight. He quickly moved behind the wheelchair and began pushing it toward the exit. The pace was quick but not so quick that someone would think that anything was amiss. However, it wasn't the pace of the apparatus that would draw the attention, but the occupant. Lance glanced down at the ebony black hair. Keith had only been released from the hospital yesterday and his visitors had been limited. Not wanting any well-wishers stopping them, Lance moved quickly. The destination was the pedestal of Black Lion. Breathing a sigh of relief as he exited the castle, Lance nodded in acknowledgement to the guards stationed at the entrance.

It was a long walk across the bridge, but Lance was gladly doing it. There was no way that Keith could take the traditional way to the Lion and even if they went down to the tunnels, it would have been difficult for Lance to help him into the transport. Then there would be the fact that Allura would be furious at him for letting Keith go alone to the Lion. She was in lioness mode when it came to Keith and he didn't want that ire directed at him anytime soon.

However, when his friend had asked if he would help him find a way to the pedestal, he couldn't deny him. Unless you had seen his body when they rescued him, you would just think that he had been in some kind of accident. Keith's face only bore faint bruising and he obviously had a broken leg. You wouldn't know that his shoulders were recovering from dislocation or that he wore stimulant patches to help his broken ribs. You might notice that his fingernails were discolored but you wouldn't know it was the result of a treatment to heal his nail beds from a torture technique. This wasn't even a complete list of his wounds, and that's why there wasn't a reason or a person who could have stopped him from helping his friend.

Lance drew his gaze up to the Lion ahead. A lift was built into the base and the two of them would ride it to the top. Keith hadn't said a word since Lance agreed to help him and the silence continued as they rode the lift up. Pushing the chair off the lift, Keith raised his hand and Lance let go of the handles.

Keith slid his hands from the armrests to the wheels and slowly rolled the chair to the left front paw of the giant guardian. Putting the brakes on, he moved to stand and let out a soft irritated curse. Instantly he felt Lance's arm around his back, supporting him as he stood uncertainly on his one good leg. Keith wanted nothing more than to shrug off the assistance, but instead he sighed and said, "Thanks." Turning to look at his friend, he added, "I'd like to sit and lean up against the paw… if you'd help me."

Knowing it had cost his friend a lot to ask for assistance, Lance just smiled and nodded. In just a couple of minutes they were both seated against the large silver paw.

Keith had his broken leg stretched out in front of him and his other leg bent at the knee. For a couple of minutes, he sat in silence. Knowing that Lance would sit there quietly the whole time unless he spoke, he decided it was time to open up and answer any questions that his friend might have. "Is there anything you want to ask?"

Looking over in surprise at Keith's profile, Lance carefully said, "Keith, you don't have to tell me anything. What you went through-" He stopped when he saw Keith carefully raise a hand to stop him, wincing in pain at the movement to his shoulder.

"I know I don't have to tell you anything. I asked if there is anything that you want to ask. If it's something I can't handle talking about right now, I'll let you know. I just don't want all of you walking on eggshells around me." Turning to look at Lance, he said, "Go ahead. Ask."

Drawing a deep breath and looking his friend in the eye, Lance cautiously broached the subject that had been on his mind since the shuttle ride back. "In the shuttle, Dr. Canalor told me that he didn't think that Lotor broke you, but he did tell me that you had decided to give up." He saw Keith give a slight nod. "Was Canalor wrong? Was I wrong in thinking you were unbroken?"

Keith turned his head back around to look over the sweeping vista that was before him on the pedestal of Black Lion. His mind returned to the horror of his captivity. "Did Canalor tell you why I had decided to 'give up?'"

"He said that Lotor was going to use you against Allura and you couldn't allow it."

"That's right, but there was more." Keith closed his eyes for a moment before opening and continuing. "My concept of time while I was there is very… off. I believe it was the day that you rescued me that it happened. Lotor decided that my current state of injury wasn't enough, he thought that I needed another wound that would bleed." Keith was almost in a trance and didn't notice the clenching fists of his friend as he dispassionately related segments of his torture. "I was restrained on a table. He leaned over to tell that he would bring Allura there. I could smell the wine on his breath; he was so close to me." Keith's voice was soft as the memory drove him to relive the moment vividly. "He pressed the stiletto through my side and for a moment I couldn't see or hear anything. The drug that they gave me just made everything even more painful. When I was able to focus again, Lotor's face was still right there. That's when he said it." Keith stared out over the vista.

Lance was almost afraid to ask, "What did he say?"

"He said that Allura would do anything he asked to stop the pain that he would inflict on me." Keith turned a face full of pain toward his friend. It wasn't physical pain, but emotional. "I knew he was right. If he managed to get Allura, there was no way she would be able to watch what he did to me if she could stop it."

Knowing his friend was right, Lance remained silent as Keith turned back toward the view

"Canalor had been doing all he could to help me. At that point, I think that his medical care was the only reason I was still alive. When I got the chance, I asked the doc to stop trying to help me. I knew that without his care, I would bleed out. I just asked him to let nature take its course. I was devastated when he told he couldn't do that. Then my devastation turned to hope as he told me that you were on the way." Keith let several seconds of silence pass before he asked Lance a question. "Do you think I was broken?"

Lance thought for a moment. "No. You weren't broken. You were using your reasoning. If he had broken you, you wouldn't have used rational thought."

"Thanks."

Puzzled, Lance asked, "For what?"

Giving Lance a rueful smile, he said, "For shoring up doubts I was starting to have about myself."

Anger tinged his voice as he answered, "You didn't give up, you made a choice to sacrifice yourself to save your wife. It wasn't any different that you giving yourself over to Lotor in place of Allura. It's amazing that you could even think rationally after what that SOB did to you. I didn't ask that to make you doubt yourself. I didn't know the whole story and now I do. I don't doubt you and neither should you." His tone was firm and brooked no opposition.

Keith gave Lance a real smile. The words of his friend washed over him like a balm as he put the doubts that had started to surface away. He knew that his impatience and frustration at his physical condition had led to doubts about whether he broke under Lotor or not. The doubts were at the door to his mind, just waiting for a chance to get into his thoughts. He would just have to steel himself against them as this wouldn't be the only doubt he would have during his recovery.

"Thanks for listening, Lance."

"Anytime, friend. Anytime."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Allura ran into the Medical Bay and right into Dr. Gorma. Fear was evident in her features and voice as she asked, "Is Keith here, Doctor?"

Steadying the young monarch, he answered, "No, but it's okay, I know where he is."

"You do? Why didn't he tell me?"

Kindly eyes looked at her as he responded, "He was afraid you wouldn't let him go." He felt her tense and bristle as she answered.

"Why would he think that?"

"Walk with me, your Highness." Gently taking her arm, he took her to the balcony that overlooked the lake and Black Lion.

Allura looked out. She considered this balcony to be hers and Keith's. "Why did you bring me here, doctor?"

"I wanted to show you where your husband was." Feeling her tense again, he comforted her saying, "He's not in the Lion. He's on the pedestal with Lance. Don't worry, I'm sure Lance wheeled him out there. There really isn't another way for him to get there in his current condition." His statement had its desired effect.

The tension left her body as she responded. "He needed to get out didn't he?" She saw Gorma nod and then added, "He wanted a chance to talk to Lance without me hovering?"

Giving her a smile, Gorma said, "Yes, my Queen. He needed to get out and talk to someone before the psychiatrist arrives. And before you ask, no, I'm not worried about his mental state and it's because of this," and his arm swept toward the Black Lion, "that I'm not concerned. He's willing to talk and he's thinking things through. You just have to accept there are some things that he might feel more comfortable talking to Lance about right now." Seeing the hurt come into her eyes, he added, "I'm sure he'll share with you as well, but you've been through a lot emotionally as well. He's trying to give you time to process what happened as well."

Allura nodded in understanding and then looked to the Black Lion. Dr. Gorma quietly took his leave as she stood at the rail gazing out to the Black Lion. Speaking softly to herself, she said, "Take all the time you need, my love. All the time you need."