A/N: For mood music, considering Crystals by Of Monsters and Men. I listened to it on loop while writing this chapter.
Lance entered the blue lion's hangar at a run, and then he stumbled to a halt. He stared up at his lion with huge eyes, just taking her in. She really was beautiful. One of the most beautiful sights Lance had ever seen. She rivaled the ocean off Veradera Beach.
"Hey, girl," he said, not even trying to hide the tremble in his voice. "You wanna let me in? I think we need to have a talk."
In the cockpit, he tried to do what Shiro recommended. Tried to make himself comfortable, tried to relax. But his heart was pounding, and even though he'd sat in this chair dozens, maybe hundreds of times by now, he just couldn't seem to find the right way to sit. After a frustrating couple of minutes, he decided to turn sideways and pull his legs up, knees to his chest, temple leaning against the headrest. He took off his shoes and let his socked toes wiggle on the seat. And he curled up a little harder, arms hugging his legs, and closed his eyes.
"C'mon, Blue," he murmured. "Mi linda. I'm gonna try not to be afraid anymore. I want to listen. I want to see whatever you have to show me. I won't pull away this time, I promise."
He understood now that that was what he had been doing. Everytime he had tried to connect with Blue, he had touched upon the guilt and sadness in her great soul, mistook it for his own, and pulled back as if he had been burned. Blue must have felt like he was rejecting her, rejecting her feelings, which must have only compounded them. He'd been making it worse without realizing it this whole time.
But he was done being guilty and sad now. Done being ashamed and afraid. Shiro had told him it wasn't his fault, that he shouldn't feel guilty anymore, and Lance had always done everything he could to follow Shiro's commands. Even if he wasn't always the best at it. He wanted to try. He wanted to open himself up to Blue with no barriers, no fear, only trust.
Blue was waiting for him, as always. Her great rumbling purr undergirded the world, a deep current far beneath the surface of the sea. Lance fell into it. He let it pull him under. He took a deep breath, and he let it out.
And he was there. Lance closed his eyes, and he opened them as Blue. They were still in the hangar. He didn't understand. Then he heard through her ears, the echoing of the empty space all around her, the squeaking of the Altean mice in another part of the ship, the voice of Coran on the control deck muttering to himself as he watched from above.
The majority of Blue's attention, though, was focused on the distant voice of her paladin down on the nearby planet. He was doing one of those funny little meeting things. Blue did not understand the purpose of all the meeting and greeting and talking her pilot was often part of. She would much rather be flying, much rather be chasing comets or darting beneath the surface of a world-swallowing ocean to play with the monsters of the deep. But she understood that her paladin had other responsibilities that must be dispatched, even if she had no interest in what they were.
Still, she kept an eye him, always. Now, Lance seemed happy enough. He enjoyed meeting new people and new cultures, even when they were as seemingly stuffy and stuck-up as this one. He enjoyed looking beyond the surface, finding the quirks and absurdities present in every culture. Blue was pleased with Lance's happiness, his eagerness and interest in everything around him.
Then, disaster. Lance reached out to touch a stranger, as he had done many, many times before. He meant no harm by it. He meant only good. Blue, connected to her pilot's soul with a thousand gossamer threads, knew this without question. But this time, this time out of all the many times, Lance was misunderstood.
She felt his shock. Felt his pain. Felt his dismay and anger as the guards drove him to the floor and then took him away. He fought. Of course he did. The Blue Paladin was a warrior of word and deed, and he would not sit by quietly and allow himself to be mistreated. But to no avail. Blue's pilot was locked away, shoved to the floor and left alone in the cold.
He called for help. Blue felt the agitation of the other pilots, and of the Altean princess, too. They were all working for Lance, all fighting to get him back, though it was taking far too long. Coran on the control deck was all but ripping out his hair, running back and forth and digging into the archives for more information on the people of this planet. They were still hoping to salvage the situation, hoping to both bring Lance back unharmed and form a lasting alliance with the strangers who had taken him away. This struck Blue as foolish and naive, but it was not her place to command the others.
On the planet, the black lion called for patience. It was a growl that rippled through the invisible sphere, and Blue held still, though her great joints shook in agitation. She could feel her pilot's distress, feel his emotions degrading from anger to fear. He was losing energy rapidly. He was cold.
He was in pain.
Blue leapt to her feet and roared. Lance was in pain. Her paladin was in pain. This could not be borne. It could not.
Coran shouted into the comms, alerting the others to Blue's activity. The agitation of the other pilots increased. Again the black lion growled, louder than before, but Blue wasn't listening anymore.
Lance called for her, pained and terrified and pierced to his core. He was calling. He needed her. She was going to go and get him out, no matter if worlds upon worlds stood in her way. She would freeze oceans and blast continents and tear cities down, if that was what she needed to do to retrieve her paladin.
Blue leaped out into space and raced toward the planet. The castle tried to bring up a particle barrier to keep her inside, but she dodged through the last open space just as it closed. All of her intentions, all of her being was fixated on the city below, on the range of icy hills and snow-covered glaciers that lined the edge of Ustar's civilization. Her pilot was hurting. Lance was down there, trapped and in pain, and Blue would not allow it to be thus for one tick more. Her gaze was aimed on the far-off beacon of her pilot's presence, and she was aware of nothing else.
Blue was already opening her jaw to let the lasers blast down when something struck her from the side and knocked her off course. They spun through the air, interlocked in screaming disharmony. The black lion, with both the Black Paladin and the Red Paladin in the cockpit. They had intercepted her and kept her from destroying the place where her pilot was suffering.
Blue fought back, desperate and enraged. But without a pilot, she was a creature of pure instinct. She only knew where she wanted to go and why; she cared for nothing else. Black, piloted by an analytical mind and a decisive heart, was able to anticipate her every move and counter it more swiftly than she could attempt it. Bit by bit, Blue was herded away from the city and forced down to land on an icy plateau.
Lance was still crying for her. She could feel him huddled on the icy ground, shaking so hard that he could barely hold himself together. He was hurting. He was dying. Blue roared in pain and rage and desperation. Her claws dug into the ice beneath her and propelled her forward, but Black blocked her way. She spun, tail whipping for balance, and charged again, and again the black lion cut her off.
She screamed in his face, but Black stood tall and regal and adamant. They wouldn't let her go to her pilot. They were going to let Lance die. And Blue, on her own, could not counter the black lion. It wasn't even close to a fair fight. She tried again, and again, driven by instinct and fury, only to be driven away every time.
At last, Black finished the fight. A final leap, a lithe pounce on the ice, and he dropped on Blue from above and pinned her to the ground. Blue fought, but Black was too heavy. She could not raise his mighty bulk, though she tried, joints straining, wires popping, ice cracking and creaking and shattering in shards beneath her massive paws. Lance was dying. Lance was dying. Why didn't they understand? Why wouldn't they let her save him?
It didn't matter. She couldn't rise. She couldn't escape. She couldn't save her pilot. In the end, Blue had failed, brought down by the only entity in the universe that could have made her pause even for a moment. She subsided on the ice and was still. If she'd had blood, she would have been bleeding, letting it pool around her in a bright and terrible flow. As it was, only cracked and broken ice surrounded her, and she could do nothing.
Lance was dying, and she couldn't save him. Blue had failed, and she would mourn this failure for the rest of her existence, no matter how long that might be. She felt Black's regret and sadness, too, but it was nothing beside her own.
Then, new sounds. Shouting on the comms. The stranger Lance had offended with his touch said something that roused to a frenzy the other pilots, the princess, the advisor, all and each together. Horror and grief and anger and fear charged the atmosphere like an electrical storm, and Blue heard and felt the movement of the others.
Her pilot was silent in his cell, nearly unconscious on the ice. But the Yellow Paladin was running to find him, bowling down every guard who had not yet heard the order to stand down from the priestess and dared to stand in his way. The Altean princess was yelling in the anteroom, held back only by the slim strength of the Green Paladin dragging on her arm.
Black and Red, Shiro and Keith, were the most horrified of all. They had only meant to defend an innocent city. They hadn't meant to sentence their companion to death. At last, Black's tremendous bulk was lifted from Blue, but she was unable to rise. A connection had been torn in her final desperate push, perhaps several, and she would need time to recover. But now, she knew the others were moving, so she could afford to be broken. Just for a time.
All her perceptions focused on Lance. She felt when Hunk found him and lifted him, felt his pain and despair, and her mighty heart yearned to reassure him. But she had failed. She had given her all, and she had not been able to save him. She lay there in the ice and let it be.
Lance blew out a slow, shuddering breath, and he opened his eyes. "You did that," he murmured, barely above a whisper. "You did all that. For me. You ran away from the castle. For me. You fought your leader. For me. You would have torn down the city and ripped apart that jail. For me."
All that and more, the sense of Blue told him, though it did not come in words. It was deeper than words. It was the depths of the darkest sea.
Lance couldn't prevent the shiver that passed over his shoulders, but he nodded. "I understand. Thank you, Blue. Thank you so much."
Fear and hope and gratitude and guilt.
"No." Lance shook his head. He reached out and stroked his fingers over the back of the pilot's chair he was curled up in. "No more guilt. No more sadness. Not for either of us. I'm glad Black kept you from destroying that city. Yeah, the Ustarese were jerks, but there were a lot of innocent people there. A lot of them have to suffer under that cruel justice system, too. We shouldn't make their lives any harder."
Love, deep and strong and abiding. Lance laughed a little wetly and swiped at his eyes. "Yeah, I love you too, linda. You're the best. You didn't fail me. I bet because you were fighting so hard, the others realized something was really wrong. They might not have, if it wasn't for that. They might not have asked the right questions to figure out what that priestess meant when she said 'punishment.' Or if they did, it might not have been in time. You saved me. You did. No more guilt, now. Neither of us deserve it."
Blue purred, and Lance smiled and snuggled deeper into the pilot's chair. "Yeah, I'll stay for a while. Thanks, darling."
He was going to have to leave eventually. He needed to discuss this with Shiro and Keith and make sure they didn't feel guilty anymore either. Allura too. He needed to thank Hunk and Coran and Pidge for all of their love and support. He was going to give them all the biggest hugs he could manage, and he was going to pet the mice, and eat Hunk's food, and play video games, and get some sleep, and train with Keith, and talk to Coran, and thank Shiro for the advice. He was going to do a lot of things.
But for now, he would sit here with Blue. Here, he was happy, and content, and warm, and loved. Blue purred, and he knew that she was, too.
A/N: Yep, we're done! I considered doing another chapter of wrap-up with the rest of the crew, but I honestly think it would be extraneous at this point. Blue and Lance are together again, and they understand each other, and that's what matters. No, Lance's insecurity issues are not resolved, and Lance and Allura probably need to have a talk, and Shiro needs a half dozen hugs, and all kinds of things. But the boy and his lion are content for the moment, and sometimes that's the best you can get in a time of war.
Here's to lots more S2-based angst in the future! I'm sure there will be plenty of it. This was just the very first idea that popped into my brain. I know there are others waiting in the wings.
Thank you for all of your support! I treasure every kudos and subscription and comment and bookmark, I truly do. I hope you found this ending satisfying. Feel free to let me know.