Lance never thought he was the most important member of team Voltron. Hell, even when Allura began piloting Blue and proved how much of an effortless badass she was, he knew he was never going to be the best.
But, he'd never been told to his face that he was the weakest link. No. Not until now.
"Don't listen to him, Lance!" He heard Hunk say off to his right, ever the faithful friend.
Their enemy stood in front of Team Voltron, plus Shiro. They had received a distress signal from some obscure uncolonized planet in the Gamus Quadrant. He'd had his reservations about answering the call, but Pidge had seemed incredibly excited and Shiro seemed like he needed to go on this mission. So, who was he to hold his team back because of his worries.
And yet, here they were. Fighting against some of the toughest enemies they'd had to deal with… excluding Zarkon and his son.
Lance felt his attention waver as the words struck a chord within him. This was no time for him to be distracted.
He realized his mistake too late, when his bayard was knocked out of his hands by one of the villain's robot lackeys. Lance tried to refocus himself as he kicked the robot away from him. A flash of purple indicated that Shiro had dispatched the robot permanently.
"Stay focused, Lance!" Shiro snapped angrily. His worry for his teammates causing him to be unnecessarily harsh.
"S-sorry!" the new red paladin replied as he ran to fetch his fallen bayard.
The enemy, who had taken advantage of Shiro's distraction and had managed to smack Keith away, laughed. "Aww, need someone to help take care of you during battle?" Keith swiped angrily at him and the alien blocked the blow. "Where did you even find this guy? Is he the newest member, or something?"
Ignore him. Ignore him. Lance sniped a few robots as he chanted the mantra in his mind. Stay focused. Stay focuse-
"Ah!" came a startled cry to his left. Pidge was laying on the ground dazed.
"Pidge!" Lance swung the barrel of his gun over to the robot that had just hurt the green paladin and fired at its head angrily. "You alright?"
"Y-yeah." She answered as she stood and kicked the robot's remains before launching into battle again.
Lance looked over and found Shiro and Keith slowly overwhelming the antagonistic alien. He was still smiling, even if the two men attacking him were gaining the advantage.
Lance felt his blood boil. The sounds of the fight faded away. He didn't know where this sudden dark feeling came from. Maybe it was all his insecurities pooling together and causing this dark emotion to rear its ugly head? Or maybe, "I've had enough of this shit." He announced darkly as he knelt to make himself less of a target and took aim. When there was a space between Keith and Shiro, Lance took the shot.
With a harsh splattering, the aliens head was blown from his shoulders. Lance, who had been so focused on the shot, sat horrified as he noted the charred remains of the neck from the heat of the blast. The body twitched as it fell to the ground.
Keith and Shiro, who had spared a glance at Lance's outburst, watched with disgust as the blood slowly seeped from the fatal wound.
Pidge, Hunk, and Allura had managed to subdue the robots they were fighting and the few that remained fell to the ground, their objective of protecting the alien failed.
Shiro was the first to speak. "Uh. Nice shot, Lance."
The red paladin still watched through the scope lens at the scene. Shiro's voice didn't reach him as he realized he'd just killed someone. He was fine with destroying robots. They were robots, after all. Their fried circuits and exposed wires were nothing like the exposed flesh that greeted him now.
He'd just… he'd… he'd-
Lance finally looked up to find Allura standing in front of him. Her face stern as she held out a hand. "C'mon. We have to get out of here before any reinforcements arrive."
"Oh. Okay." Lance answered numbly. He stood on shaky legs as he followed the team back to their lions. He didn't notice the worried looks that everyone was giving him. Shiro's gaze was filled with understanding.
When Lance crawled into Red he felt a faint hum of concern, but it was nothing like what he felt when he had his connection to Blue. He really missed her. He shook his head, but she had chosen Allura now. So… he would get through this without her.
When they arrived back at the castle, they each separated to recover from their battle. Pidge headed into one of the healing pods to fix the bruising she'd suffered from the robot attack. Hunk went to the kitchen to start preparing a meal along with Coran. Allura informed them that she was going to the training room before she showered. Shiro and Keith followed her. Lance shuffled to his room claiming that he wanted to 'chill' for a bit.
Lance shouldn't have gone to his room. He should have gone with Hunk. Hell, he should have followed Keith and Shiro to watch Allura train. Why was he so dumb sometimes?
Now he was alone, left with his thoughts. Thoughts that were consumed with the battle they just fought. The hateful words that spilled from the enemy's mouth.
Lance shook his head. Those thoughts, wouldn't do. He tried to think of something else. Anything-
The charred flesh that remained of the alien's neck. The awful, pungent smell of burnt flesh. The stomach churning feeling that built-
Lance felt bile rise again with the memory. He threw off his suit, his helmet having been removed after arriving at the castle. He sunk into the mattress of his bunk, pulling the cover over his head. He tried to focus on his breathing instead of -smell- anything. Lance squeezed his eyes shut and whimpered. Wishing there was someone there to comfort him.
"I don't know, Shiro. Lance didn't look too good." Keith mumbled next to the previous black paladin.
Shiro kept his arms crossed and his eyes on Allura as she sliced through the training bots. "I imagine that was his first real kill, Keith." He pointed out, "Don't worry, I'll talk to him. I'm just giving him time to process what he did. I remember I wanted to be left alone after the first time." Shiro confessed before he sighed, "Unfortunately, I was just made to do it all over again the next day."
Keith looked down, feeling a swell of remorse for making Shiro remember his dark past. He still didn't think it was a good idea to leave Lance alone. He knew that Lance liked to dwell on the past too much.
He looked up and watched Shiro observe Allura's fluid movements with building worry. He remembered their enemy had called Lance useless and weak and knew, intimately, that Lance already felt like that from their little talk not too long ago. He'd sent him off with a joking remark after offering words of comfort and had thought that Lance was doing better.
Keith worried that the recent battle had set him back. Shiro didn't know any of this, though. Which was why Keith felt the weight of Lance's misery more profoundly.
"I'm gonna go check on him." He announced. Regretting that he hadn't pulled Lance along with their little group to go train.
Shiro sighed, about to protest, but Keith was already out the door.
Keith stood outside of Lance's room wondering what he should say to make the other feel better, without causing Lance to feel belittled and lash out. He heard a pained cry from inside.
Feeling startled, Keith's brows furrowed as he opened Lance's door. He found a Lance shaped lump on his bed. It jumped at the sound of the door opening and stiffened.
There was a sniffle, "What, Keith?" Lance asked, his voice hoarse with tears.
Feeling awkward, Keith ventured further into the room. "Uh, I'd ask how you're feeling, but… it's pretty obvious." Keith winced. Why was he so terrible at this?
Lance still chuckled and Keith felt a moment of relief.
"Yeah, like the most useless piece of murdering space garbage." Lance joked hollowly.
Keith marched over and pulled Lance's shoulder until the previously blue paladin was lying on his back so Keith could see his face. His tear stained cheeks and glassy eyes were partially blocked when Lance turned his face away from the other.
"You. Are. Not. Useless. How many times do we need to go through this before you get it through that thick skull of yours?" Keith squeezed the other's shoulder meaningfully.
Lance didn't answer. But he did look up at Keith. When they locked eyes, Lance's tears filled his eyes before spilling out again. Keith's arm was knocked away as Lance brought his hands up to clutch at his face like he was trying to stop himself from crying.
"I know. But… it's just sometimes. I can feel it! And then stuff like this happens and I just-" he choked off with a sob.
"Lance." Keith grabbed Lance's wrists and pulled gently. "Look at me."
Lance allowed his hands to be pulled away before he looked at Keith, fat tears spilling over.
"It'll be alright." Keith's words seemed to be what Lance needed to hear if the fact that Lance burst into unrestrained sobs was any indication.
Keith felt lost with how to console the other now. He patted the other's back as Lance sat up in bed hunched over and his body wracking from the force of his crying.
"You, uh… want a hug, or someth- ooff!" Keith found Lance's face pressed into his stomach as he squeezed his waist. He felt his body stiffen at the sudden contact and tried to will himself to relax. He slithered down until he was in a more comfortable position and held Lance through his tears.
They lay like that for a long time after Lance's tears had dried and his gasping breaths settled. His hiccups finally giving way to steady breathing. Keith had taken to rubbing the other's back soothingly as he ignored the cool wet spot on his chest.
A muffled voice came from Lance. "Don't tell anyone about this or I'll tell Hunk about your secret stash of chocolates." He threatened.
"Hey!" Keith felt a moment of horror that someone knew about it. "That's where they went?"
Lance chuckled weakly. "Ya caught me."
"Dammit, Lance." Keith sighed in mock aggravation. "But don't worry… I won't tell anyone."
Lance gave a final sniffle, "Thanks."
Keith gave into the urge to squeeze the other reassuringly, "You feel better?"
There was a knock on the door that had the two separating in a flurry of flailed limbs that had Keith dumped on the floor and Lance tangled in his bed sheets.
Hunk stepped through. "Hey, Lance. Coran and I made- what are you two doing?"
"N-nothing!" They answered in unison.
"Right…" Hunk answered suspiciously before he returned to his cheery demeanor. "Well, I just wanted to let you know that Coran and I tried really hard to make your favorite meal."
"You didn't?" Lance asked in disbelief. There was no way they'd made one of his favorite Earth dishes.
Hunk rubbed the back of his neck, "No, we didn't. But we did make something delicious and not green and goopy." He confessed.
Lance laughed and the other two paladins watched him fondly. "Well I guess thank goodness or small mercies."
"Yeah. I thought I was going to go crazy if we had to eat any more of that goop." Keith griped jokingly.
"Hey! That goop is full of essential nutrition, you ungrateful-" Hunk was interrupted by Lance's laughter.
"Alright, Hunk. Let's go eat this wonderful 'not green and goopy' dinner you and Coran made." Lance offered after he settled down.
Hunk rubbed his nose to hide his pleased smile, "Then let's get going."
Keith walked beside Lance as the three paladins walked down to the dining hall in silence. Lance's eyes were still slightly red and puffy, but no one said anything.
When the three of them finally reached the dining hall, they found a massive feast spread out on the table. There was something that kind of looked like tortillas and there was an array of colorful, alien vegetables that had been diced and each in its own bowl. There was a large bowl of something that smelled incredibly flavorful.
Lance saw Shiro, Allura, and Coran chowing down on the food, each had the tortilla looking thing stuffed with the other foods on the table and looked like they were in flavor heaven.
"Hunk… you-" Lance couldn't finish, feeling something get stuck in his throat. He was glad he'd cried himself out earlier, or he'd be tearing up again.
"Are the best friend, ever? Yeah. I know." Hunk replied smugly before he pushed on Lance's back to get him moving toward the table. When he complied, Keith and Hunk followed him.
They filled their own tortilla-like things with the other foods and sat around the table to enjoy the food. They didn't taste like anything Lance could describe, and they didn't taste anything like tacos either, but they were one of the best things he'd ever eaten out in space. Of that, Lance was sure.
"Thanks, Hunk." He said meaningfully before he caught Coran's eyes. "And you too, Coran."
"Not a problem at all, Lance. Glad we could make something to cheer you up!" The mustached Altean cheered.
Lance felt his heart swell as he looked at everyone around the table. They all stared at him with soft, understanding smiles and Lance felt ridiculous for ever thinking that they would see him as useless. He felt touched that they were all there for him, ready to listen to his problems and concerns and to comfort him. He nodded as he looked down at his food to hide his slightly watering eyes.
"You're welcome, Lance." Hunk replied and everyone nodded to show they had the same sentiments.
There were footsteps that approached the dining hall before Pidge appeared, refreshed from the healing pod.
"You guys made tacos and no one came to tell me? What the fuck, guys?"
"Pidge!" Shiro cried out scandalized. "Language!"
Pidge scoffed before she made herself two "tacos". When she sat down she shot Lance a look.
"I'm glad you're feeling better." She answered sincerely through a mouthful of food.
Lance nodded with a smile. "Me, too."
Lance caught Keith's eyes from across the table and shared a small smile with him. Keith's words echoed in his mind from earlier.
'It'll be alright.'
And Lance believed them.