Disclaimer: I do not own Voltron. I like to think that my understanding of a cohesive story and an ensemble cast is better than that.
I Told You So
Food was a huge part of Hunk's family. Some people may think that he was just interested in food for the sake of it, but to him, food was an instant connection to his family.
Mealtimes were a production at his house. They always had meals together, his mom stopping whatever she was doing in the shop and kissing his mama before taking her seat at the table. His brother, before he got married, would drag himself out of his room and his little sister would bounce right in. Then, of course, he and Mama would unveil whatever they had made. This happened at breakfast and supper, and on days when there was no school, at lunch as well. So food time was also family time to Hunk.
Plus, Hunk had always loved helping out in the kitchen, helping Mama out with whatever was in the oven or on the stove. And he became an invaluable help, because he always knew what was good and what was bad. He could take one look in the fridge and know what was good, what should be eaten in the next few days, and what had to be thrown out. It was an immense help while cooking. And as long as he was on the job, no one got food poisoning under their roof.
And by some miracle, Hunk was glad that his ability somehow extended to alien food as well.
"I wouldn't eat that." Hunk declared sternly, eying the strange shish kabobs that had been served to them.
It seemed… off to him and not in the usual alien way. The meat-like substance was a deep purple while the fruits and vegetables were shades of orange, brown, and turquoise. Then the entire think was covered in a green sauce whose consistency reminded him of barbeque. It smelled delicious.
Still, something was not right.
Pidge and Keith paused as they were bringing up their skewers to their mouths, but Lance set his down entirely.
"Alright." Lance said pragmatically. "If Hunk says not to eat it, I'm out." He looked around at the food set on the table that they'd been told to enjoy while Shiro and Allura talked with the officials. "Anything here get the Hunk Stamp of Approval?"
Oh, yeah. Hunk remembered that Lance at least had seen his abilities first hand at the Garrison. There was a reason why the two of them were the only ones on their floor who didn't get the stomach flu that one time. "Try these." Hunk handed him one of the fruits he'd been eating. It kind of taste like a mix of apples and oranges to him.
Lance took a bite with no fear, and his face brightened at the taste. "Cool!"
Hunk smiled at him, but it turned into a frown as he saw that Pidge and Keith had ignored his warning. "Seriously, guys?" He asked as the two exchanged excited looks and tucked into the shish kabobs. "I'm pretty sure those do not agree with humans."
Keith rolled his eyes. "It'll be fine. You should really try one at least, to be polite."
Lance snorted. "I'd trust Hunk on this kind of stuff, dudes." He gestured at another dish and gave Hunk a questioning look. At his approving nod, he snatched some up.
"It's your loss." Pidge snarfed down another shish kabob within moments.
Keith shrugged. "More for us, I guess." He and Pidge shared a smirk as they continued to eat.
Hunk pursed his lips but didn't say anything more. After all, they had made it clear that they weren't going to listen.
Instead, he and Lance explored the other foods that Hunk's gut told them were safe.
And, of course, a few hours later, Hunk was proven right.
Hunk tutted a bit as Pidge bowed over the toilet and hurled once more. He patted her on the back a bit and couldn't help the sigh that escaped his lips.
"You know, I did warn you." Hunk pointed out. "I said not to eat that, and what'd you do? Eat half a platter of them along with Keith. I mean, didn't you even take a good look at those things? There were alarm bells ringing, man, but, nope, you didn't listen. But then again, what would I know? I was just the only one who – "
"Hunk." Lance looked up and interrupted him from where he was holding back Keith's hair as he joined Pidge in emptying the contents of his stomach with vigor.
"How about you save the gloating about being right for when they can actually listen to you." And Lance grimaced as Keith coughed out a particularly bad smelling batch of vomit.
"Well, I guess that's fair." Hunk agreed, turning his attention back to Pidge.
And he did once both of them were done and curled up, miserable, on the couch. However, from that point on, neither of them questioned Hunk when he said something wasn't good to eat.
Hunk still made a scanner with Coran's assistance to check food when he wasn't there though.
"You know if I had fully realized the lengths you would go to snoop into other people's business, I would have had an easier time convincing you to sneak out of the Garrison." Lance said as he crept right behind Hunk down the hall, Pidge following after him.
Hunk ignored him and focused on finding something, anything, that would get rid of this churning feeling in his stomach.
Technically, the three of them weren't supposed to be in this part of the palace. They were supposed to be getting prepared for the hard part of this mission. However, Hunk's gut was telling him something was wrong and he was going to get to the bottom of this.
The planet they were on, Niknak, had a very strong monarchy, but apparently, they had been plagued for years by rebels. The ruler had finally gotten fed up with it and called upon Voltron to help locate the rebels and take them into custody.
Hunk couldn't exactly put his finger on it though. There was something about the story that hadn't felt right, something in the way that the ruler hadn't been able to look them in the eye. Hunk had briefly considered that maybe it was a matter of cultural differences here, but the advisors certainly hadn't shied away from meeting their eyes as they furiously spoke over their ruler and pushed for the rebels to be found.
And yet anyone other than the ruler or the advisors immediately found excuses to not talk to them when Hunk or the rest of the team tried.
It was suspicious.
The ruler and the advisors were nervous about something and obviously trying to cover it up.
Except there was technically no proof of anything amiss. Or so Allura had told him when he had brought this all up to her.
"Don't you think this is all a bit fishy?" Hunk had asked her when they were given a bit of time to themselves after the request.
Allura stared blankly at him. "Fish-y?"
Hunk shook his head and gestured away the metaphor. "I mean, isn't this kind of suspicious? They haven't even told us why there are rebels! That's usually a bad sign, and their story is kinda weird."
Allura had thought it over. "You do have a point but they did send us a distress signal. They have no reason to lie to us."
Lance was the one to back him up. "Yeah, but are we sure the distress signal was from these guys and not the rebels? They said that the booster that put it out was from one of their bases they'd located."
"Exactly!" Hunk shouted. "We don't even know how all this started, and – "
"Hunk." Allura said firmly. "I'm sure they will tell us, but this is a time-sensitive matter. It will be fine." She had looked over at Shiro who had given the orders.
"Get ready, everyone. Tonight, Pidge will work with their scientists to track the rebels and we'll head out tomorrow."
That hadn't sat right with Hunk. Lance, of course, was on his side, and it hadn't taken much to rope Pidge into exploring either.
"Do we even have any idea what we're looking for?" Pidge asked, adjusting her glasses as they ducked around a corner to avoid another servant.
"Records, history accounts, stuff like that." Hunk replied, peering around before waving the others to follow them.
"You can't go around reading these aliens' equivalent of their diaries, Hunk." She gave him a disgruntled look.
"That's not – " Hunk began to protest. Okay, so maybe he shouldn't have read her diary all that time ago, but it had just been sitting there and they had time before Shiro woke up. What was he supposed to have done?
Wait, that wasn't helping his case.
Luckily, Lance saved him from answering. "And Bingo was his name-o." He said from where he was peeking through a nearby doorway.
Hunk nudged his way past him to enter first. It looked like a war room from old WWI and WWII movies: a giant map in the center with blocks to represent troop movements, a conspiracy board worthy of Keith on the wall, and half a dozen filing cabinets situated around the room with piles of books and papers.
"Come on." Hunk went over to the nearest cabinet. "We should find something here."
Pidge and Lance followed his lead, each taking a different cabinet.
"Paper." Pidge snorted and grumbled as she leafed through files in a cabinet. "This planet entered a digital age decades ago."
"So did Earth, but we still use paper for things." Lance pointed out.
"Well, maybe you do."
"Actual books are still pretty popular, Pidge. And didn't you have a diary?"
Hunk ignored their chatter as he came upon a book. He held up his translator because it looked fancier than anything else they had found so far. "The Royal Lineage?" He read the translation aloud to himself. Huh. He started to flip through it, almost absentmindedly.
It was towards the end when he caught sight of a certain photo and Hunk immediately stopped, staring at the image with wide eyes. Behind him, he heard Pidge give a small gasp and a soft "Holy crow" from Lance.
Hunk whirled around. "Guy, look at this!"
"I think I found – "
"You guys will not believe – "
They all turned around at the same time, beginning to declare their discoveries but stopping as they each realized that the others were talking. With a single look, they all nodded and slammed down their documents in the table in the center.
Looking at the pieces each of them held, the story laid itself out all too clear to Hunk. And from Lance and Pidge's expressions, they had figured it out too.
"We've got to show Allura this." Hunk firmly said, and he scooped up the evidence they had found and turned on his heel back through the door. The others followed in his wake.
Considering how much time it had taken them to find the old war room while they were cautiously sneaking around, it didn't seem to take them long to get back to the rooms the Niknakians had given them to stay in.
"Allura, we have to talk." Hunk said as they burst into the room.
Allura frowned. "Where have you been? Pidge, you should be getting ready to help assist – "
"I am not helping these people find anyone." Pidge crossed her arms stubbornly. Hunk could relate.
Shiro's brow furrowed from where he had been sitting on the other end of the couch. "What's wrong?"
"Look at this." Hunk ordered as he plopped the book and files before their leaders. "The ruler we've been dealing with isn't even the real ruler."
"What?!" They exchanged a startled look, before they began to paw through what the three of them had found. Keith wandered over to give it all a curious look.
"It's pretty bad. Like, Hamlet or Lion King bad." Lance admitted, as he took his place next to Hunk as a sign of solidarity.
Hunk began to explain what happened aloud. "Pretty much the current ruler was placed there by the advisory council after they killed the previous ruler. The so-called rebels are the royal consort, the true heir, and the advisors who actually stuck by them.
"The people showed support for the old ruler. But he wouldn't go along with the advisors, especially when they pushed for policies that mostly would only benefit them, so they had to off him. Now they use force to keep the citizens' mouths shut and try to get rid of the real competition." Hunk continued.
Lance picked up where he left off. "Most likely, the royal family was who set the distress beacon, but they gave themselves away in doing so. They had to retreat before they were found and before they could properly talk to us. They're just trying to stay alive."
Hunk's book had shown what the current royal family should look like, Lance's files had revealed the plot to overthrow the throne and the follow-up, and Pidge's document had told of how the advisors had planned to use Voltron to tie up the final loose ends. All the evidence was right there, and by the looks of horror on Allura, Shiro, and Keith's faces, they were realizing how close they had come to aiding some people who really, really did not deserve it.
"Geez, isn't it great that someone decided to look into all this before we helped a bunch of murderers?" Hunk crossed his arms and couldn't help the sarcasm leaking out as Allura finally looked up.
She appeared pained. "Hunk…"
"Seriously, Allura, it shouldn't have come to this." Hunk pushed, because it's not like this was the first time this sort of thing had happened where people portrayed themselves as allies and they turned out to be lying. Heck, that whole thing with Nyma and Rolo should have shown this.
Allura closed her eyes and took a deep breath before reopening them. "You are right, Hunk. We have no reason to take such parties, even if they do appear to be distressed, at face value. From now on, we will be sure to check out the stories of those we help."
Hunk nodded, satisfied.
The conversation moved on and plans were made, with the main point that Pidge would locate the rebels but conceal it from the scientists. Then they would use the information to find and talk with the rebels themselves.
Hunk couldn't help the glow of pride that smoldered in his chest as Shiro pat his shoulder with a "Good work."
And he couldn't help the smug feeling that he had been right all along.
Sometimes Hunk enjoyed having someone else around that was truly on his level when it came to engineering and mechanics.
Other times it was nothing more than a headache.
Hunk slowly realized this was one of those other times as he stared at the atrocious wiring in the device Pidge was working on.
She didn't even bother looking up from where she was salvaging more parts from broken Galra tech.
"What." She still didn't look up, and it was like she wasn't even registering what he was saying.
"What?" Pidge finally looked up, obviously annoyed.
"You do realize wiring it like this is totally unsafe, right?" Hunk tried to curb the glare he was sending the monstrosity before him but Pidge's deadpan look told him he had been unsuccessful. "I mean, with the way you have it, the wiring could easily overheat and then – "
"Hunk." Pidge sighed and pushed her glasses out of the way to rub at her eyes. "It's perfectly fine."
"Uh, no." Hunk pointed at it with all the distaste it deserved. "That thing is an accident waiting to happen." He took a step towards it, "Here just let me – "
He yelped as Pidge slapped his hand away, just like she usually did when it came to her stuff. "No touchy." She practically growled.
Hunk frowned at her and rubbed at his sore hand. She could really hit hard despite her small size.
"Look," Pidge relented, pushing her hand through her hair, "I know you think you're right, but you're wrong here. It's going to be fine – "
"And in any case," she spoke louder to cover up Hunk's indignation, "I know what I'm doing. I've been building and programming stuff since I could walk."
Hunk bit back his protest that he'd been helping his mom out in the garage since he could walk. That she'd shown him how to tell when something was going smoothly and when it was likely to blow up in your face. That both she and Mama had been encouraging him to build, study, and experiment as much as he wanted to when it came to both engineering and cooking.
But Pidge had that self-satisfied smirk on her face that meant she was convinced she was right and wouldn't hear a word otherwise. It was an irritating trait that reminded Hunk how young she really was for all her smarts. But there was nothing he could do at this point.
"Fine." He huffed out a bit passive-aggressively, and he walked over to collect some spare parts from their salvage pile for his own projects.
Pidge hummed in mild agreement and they both got to work.
It was just as he found the part he needed when he heard Pidge muttering, "And let 'er rip!" It was followed by the hum of a machine turning on and Hunk couldn't help but roll his eyes at her testing that accident waiting to happen.
If anything, Pidge's soft curses at it obviously not working the way she intended it to validated Hunk's warning, but he kept his slight smirk to himself as he turned to leave. He quietly noted that Pidge had left the device on but was turned away, muttering calculations to herself as she tried to sort through the parts she had on her desk and figure out where she went wrong.
Hunk was just about to exit through the door when he noticed a shift. His mom had drilled into him, and then the Garrison had enforced, what sounds a machine was supposed to make and what sounds they really, really should not be making.
And Pidge's device was making a bad sound.
The gentle hum had kicked into high gear, accompanied by the whirr of a dying computer. Hunk turned around and noticed some slight sparks coming from the open panel on it.
"Pidge." He slowly approached the table and Pidge, not even noticing that he had dropped what he had come into the room for. Hunk's eyes didn't leave the device.
She gave a disgruntled hum from behind a screwdriver in her mouth, fully engrossed in her task. She hadn't even noticed what was going on with the device.
"Pidge!" His anxiety started to prickle at him as the whirring sound got just a bit high-pitched. This was seriously not good.
Pidge spat out the screwdriver. "If this is about the device, it's going to be perfectly – "
"Pidge!" Hunk yelled as he couldn't hold himself back any more. The device was letting out a beeping sound that was like the countdown to detonation. Without another thought, he launched himself across the remaining distance and curled up around Pidge while simultaneously dragging both of them underneath the workbench.
"Wha – !" Pidge spluttered indignantly and tried to wrestle her way out, but Hunk just clutched onto her tighter.
All her struggling stopped as there was a booming noise above them.
Hunk waited for a bit before allowing them to emerge from under their shelter. He waited through the slight sprinkle of debris that hit his back. He waited as the acrid stench of fried circuits and melted metal filled the air. He waited until his heart finally settled and his senses told him that it was finally safe.
And only then did he pull back from Pidge and step out from under the workbench, giving a hand to Pidge as she scrambled up after them.
The two of them looked over at where the device had been sitting. Hunk winced at the sight of the burnt-out device, its wires blackened nearly beyond recognition.
Pidge slowly walked over to the smoking corpse of her work and just stared at it.
Hunk couldn't help it. "Well – "
"I get it, Hunk." Pidge groaned, leaning over to rest first her arms and then her head on the desk. "You don't need to say it. I can already hear it."
There was a short silence between them, but neither of them had to really say anything.
Pidge was the one who broke first. "Could you… could you help me try again?"
Hunk smiled. "Sure. I can do that." His own project could wait. After all, he had no desire to pass up on working on something with his friend.
As they did more and more missions, Hunk was slowly realizing that everything going to heck, them getting shot at, and having to switch their intended plans on the fly was really the normal for how things would go.
Like, he or Pidge or Lance or Keith could complain about wanting a normal mission, but this was probably as normal as it was going to get.
Hunk and Pidge ducked into an alcove to avoid getting blasted by sentries. The moment they paused, Hunk stepped out and shot them into oblivion. "Go go go!" Hunk ordered Pidge as she slipped out and continued to lead the way back to Green.
At the very least, Hunk could say that they got the data they needed. Hunk almost thought that they'd get away from this intact.
Until a scream followed by a shout came through the comm.
"Hunk! Hunk! We need you here, man!" Lance yelled, panic coating his voice.
"No – don't – " Shiro's orders leaked through the comm but were obviously strained. The fact that Pidge and Hunk could hear Keith practically screaming Shiro's name was not helping his case.
Pidge and Hunk exchanged a look. At the start of the mission, it had made sense for Shiro and Keith to act as a distraction with Lance providing cover if things got too hot. Plus, considering they were dealing with tech, Hunk and Pidge made quite the dream team. But if Shiro was in trouble…
Pidge's eyes hardened. "Go. Green's just off that corridor. I'll be fine."
Hunk's eyes darted between her and rest of the way. "You sure?"
At her nod, Hunk decided to trust her and immediately turned away, pulling up the armor trackers on his helmet's map so he could find them. "I'm on my way. What's going on?"
"No, Hunk. Leave with Pi – " Shiro was cut off as it sounded like he sucked in a painful breath and Lance took advantage of it to start explaining.
"Shiro is – " Lance grunted as if trying to pick up something heavy. "The sentries were shooting but ended up missing. I swear, their aim is worse than stormtroopers."
"Lance, what – "
"Anyway, so they missed us, but the shots did damage the ceiling, making it cave. Shiro's – " Another frustrated grunt echoed through the line, but it was still better than paying attention to Keith's frantic breaths and curses. "Shiro's stuck underneath it. Lower body and his Galra arm, so he can't get good enough leverage to push it off."
Hunk's heartbeat kicked it up a notch. "How bad?"
"I'm – fine." Shiro practically growled. "You need to get out of here!"
"Not without you!" Lance shouted back. "Keith, can you get these sentries off our backs already?!"
There was a pause over the line as that seemed to snap Keith from the panic spiral he seemed to be in. "With pleasure." He growled before Hunk knew he jumped right into battle.
Hunk made his way around another corner, blasting away any sentries in his path. This was taking a lot longer than he wanted. "Okay, so what do you need me to do?" Hunk asked.
"I'm pretty sure you're strong enough to lift the panels enough for me and Keith to pull him out." Lance said. "I mean, the armor's preventing Shiro from becoming a pancake, but that won't last forever and we really do need to split."
Hunk thought it over. In terms of pure strength, he did have the advantage on the team. Shiro only ever beat him when he was using his prosthetic. "Let me have a look-see."
"Thanks, man." The relief was palpable in Lance's voice, and luckily, that was when Hunk turned the corner to see Keith taking down the last of the sentries.
Keith shot him a grateful look as he straightened up from his crouch. "Over here." He led the way over to where Shiro and Lance were.
Lance was trying to nudge some of the smaller stuff away, being careful not to disturb the delicate balance that was preventing Shiro from being totally smooshed. Hunk cast a critical eye over it.
It looked fairly simple enough. The bottom most layer trapping Shiro's right arm and lower half appeared to be a large panel that under normal circumstances, Shiro could probably easily push off himself. The real problem came from all the debris on top of it: charred machine parts, electrical wires, broken struts, the whole works.
Lance glanced between Hunk and the fallen debris, silently asking Hunk if he could lift it.
Hunk didn't answer the unspoken question right away. Ignoring Shiro's soft protests telling them all to get away, Hunk stepped beside him and tested what weight he was dealing with.
He frowned a bit. It was heavy, but it was probably within his range and with a bit of assistance…
"Well?" Lance asked aloud.
"It's doable." Hunk confirmed, before pawing through some of the debris Lance had knocked off. "And if I – "
"No." This time Shiro's voice cut through, almost steely in its resolve though still in pain. Shiro sent a weak commanding glare at them when the three turned towards him. "You can't do this, Hunk. The three of you need to get out of here."
Hunk narrowed his eyes at Shiro, but Keith beat him to the punch. "We are not leaving you!" Keith's eyes were wide with fear.
Shiro coughed a bit. "You – you need to." He tried to crack a grin. "I'll be fine."
"Actually, I can do this." Hunk promised, and then he finally caught sight of what he needed. He carefully pulled out the length of piping. He signaled for Lance and Keith to get into position. Keith looked a bit unsure, but Lance immediately followed his silent instructions.
"No, Hunk, you can't – "
Hunk snorted a bit. He knew he most certainly hadn't known Shiro the longest and he wasn't the closest member of the team to him, but this underestimation was getting on his nerves.
"Yes." Hunk shoved the pipe into the crack. "I." He pushed down using it as a lever to help elevate the panel pinning Shiro. "Can!"
The panel began to rise and the more force Hunk used the more it lifted. Hunk could feel the slight ache in his muscles that came from using his full force, but it was still doable. Finally, the panel was high enough to give them some wiggle room.
"Lance! Keith! Now!" And at Hunk's order, the two quickly worked in tandem, each grabbing a side and sliding Shiro out from beneath the panel. Hunk's arms trembled a bit from holding everything steady, but luckily, Shiro was soon in the safe zone and he let the debris fall back down with a crash.
Shiro was staring at him with wide eyes. Keith was as well, his expression warring between gratitude and astonishment.
Lance was the only one grinning unabashedly at him. "Now, that's why you're called Hunkules!" He laughed a bit.
Hunk threw him a smile before he turned and gave Shiro an unimpressed look. "I know my own strength, Shiro." Nothing else needed to be said to make his point. "Let's get out of here."
"Ri-right." Shiro stammered a bit, from the shock or his injuries, no one quite knew.
And with Hunk's cannon clearing the way and Keith and Lance supporting Shiro, they safely made their way first to Red and then back to the castle.
This was totally a trap.
Everything about this screamed a trap.
The Kullimans were a cold species, almost as cold as their planet of snow and ice. They had rubbery skin and blubber similar to seals which helped them stay warm, but their personalities reminded Hunk more of the most stuck-up Vulcans to appear on Star Trek. Their gazes had a frosty bite to them and they believed in logic above all else, handing out judgements with about as much warmth as liquid nitrogen.
In the past they had been neutral in the Galra conquests, having enough technology to defend themselves in case the Galra tried anything but not lifting a finger to help anyone else. Still, they had felt the need to send a distress signal for a supposed emergency. So Allura had sent him and Lance, being the most diplomatic after herself and Shiro when it came to high tension situations, to deal with this.
Hunk could tell that nothing good could come from this; his instincts were screaming at him that they were lying to them.
But the moment they mentioned that children were in danger, Hunk knew that Lance was going to help them no matter what he said.
People tended to think that pretty faces were Lance's biggest weakness, but anyone who actually got to know him would soon figure out that Lance had a soft spot for children that was the size of a Balmera.
Considering how many cousins, nieces, and nephews he had, and that Lance had been the family's designated babysitter, it was all too easy to see why that was.
"Several of our children are being held at ransom by the Galra." The Chancellor of the Kullimans said, his spine as stiff as a ten-day old baguette. His eyes were narrowed in disdain, clearly looking down on the Paladins even as he asked them for help. "They will see us coming, but you have a greater probability of retrieving them safely."
Hunk glanced over at Lance. And, yep, sure enough, though Lance's face was still set in the serious expression it had been since they had arrived, there was a softening around his eyes, an empathetic gleam to the ocean blue.
"Lance." Hunk practically breathed the other's name, quickly catching his eye when he looked over. With subtle gestures and his eyes, he tried to tell Lance that this was totally a trap.
But Lance's eyes just replied that there were kids involved. And Hunk just knew that if he pushed he'd be face to face with the puppy dog eyes of utter persuasion.
Hunk sighed and a flash of a smile crossed Lance's face as he turned back to look at the Chancellor. "We'll do it." Lance said. "Give us all the information of the situation you can."
It didn't take long before Lance and Hunk were making their way across the tundra towards where the Kullimans had determined that the Galra were holding the children in a temporary camp. They had one of Lance's plans based on what they knew but it could be adjusted accordingly.
As they were finally alone, Hunk felt free to speak his mind. "You do know this is a trap, right?"
"Most things involving the Galra end up being a trap." Lance pointed out, and Hunk was glad for the confirmation that Lance was aware of this. "Frankly, I'm surprised that it's taken them this long to stir up distress with the sole purpose of trapping us. Usually it's more coincidental."
Still, there was something else nagging at Hunk. "I think the Kullimans are in on it though."
Lance paused and stared at him. "What?"
"Look, it's just – I don't quite trust them. Something's off." Hunk said, wishing he could explain it better.
Luckily, when it came to things like this, Lance just got him. "I kinda know what you mean." Lance admitted. "But at the same time…"
Lance met his eyes head-on. "Do you… do you think they'd willingly put their children in danger? Just to trap us?"
Now Hunk wasn't sure about it. He didn't want to think they'd do something like that, but still…
"I don't know…" Hunk avoided looking at Lance until he felt a comforting pressure on his shoulder.
"Look, if I'm wrong and they really are involved, I'll even let you say 'I told you so.'" Lance's smile was probably meant to be comforting, but it didn't ease Hunk's anxiety.
As they got closer, the two of them slowed down and began to creep forward. Upon seeing the shack where the kids were being kept, Lance transformed his bayard into his sniper rifle to get a better look.
"Everything appears to be just like they said," Lance said softly, carefully checking out the site. "Looks like we can proceed."
And their plan went off without a hitch. Hunk and Lance took out the Galra pretty easily and made their way into the shack.
It was as they reached the kids that Hunk's instincts began screaming at him and everything went wrong.
Hunk stood at the door as a lookout while Lance approached the three kids, being the more experienced of the two when it came to children.
"Hey," Lance called softly, a reassuring smile on his face, "we're here to rescue you."
The three kids stared up at him blankly, not even appearing scared over their current predicament.
Finally, one of the kids spoke. "Wow, you paladins truly are foolish."
At that moment, Hunk heard the whirr of a charging cannon. His head snapped up as he tried to locate the source. "Lance!" He yelled out in warning, summoning his own cannon.
It wasn't quite needed as Lance had heard it too. But his instincts led him in a different direction than Hunk's as he threw himself over the kids instead.
A purple blast went right through the spot Lance had been only moments before, large enough that it still managed to clip Lance's back. His shout of pain moved Hunk into action.
Later, the whole thing would be kind of a blur to Hunk. He took down the Galra who had hidden themselves away to take them out while the kids distracted them, Lance assisting with precision shots despite his injuries preventing him from standing. He had scooped up Lance in his arms as he reluctantly admitted that he couldn't get up. Hunk couldn't bring himself to leave the kids even though they were the cause of this and because of Lance's insistence, so he forced them out and back towards their city. Once they were close enough, he took Lance away, knowing that if they actually returned to the Kullimans, things would not be in their favor.
The next thing Hunk could clearly remember was setting Lance down in Yellow before making his way to the pilot seat. He didn't let any of the tension drain from his body until they were on their way to the Castleship and he let out a sigh.
"You were right."
Hunk startled at Lance's pained voice. He looked back at Lance, who was avoiding his gaze as he tried to steady his breathing. "Lance…"
"You were right. You can say it." Lance continued, closing his eyes and nearly sending Hunk into a panic until he blearily reopened them. "We shouldn't have trusted them."
Hunk glanced up and received a nudge from Yellow in return. Confident that his Lion could handle piloting for a while, Hunk made his way back to Lance. He gently lifted his friend off the floor to get a better look at the wound, the sight of which made him grimace. Then he settled Lance so that he was leaning against him.
"It's just – I never thought that they would use their own kids as bait. That they'd put them in danger." Lance stared up at him and it was times like these that Hunk was amazed by his friend's belief in the good in people. Even when having those expectations shattered hurt him. "Like, who even does that? They're kids."
Hunk let Lance ramble on as he tried to sort through what had happened verbally. He knew that Lance was just trying to cope with the pain, and that Lance already knew what he would normally have been ranting about by now.
But he couldn't bring himself to say anything about how he had been right.
Sometimes, Hunk hated being right.
Especially when it led to his best friend being hurt in more ways than one.
Hunk silently vowed, as he softly brushed back Lance's hair, that next time whoever pulled a stunt like this would be learning why he was the Guardian of Land.
"I can't do this." Hunk was trying very hard not to hyperventilate but it was a real struggle. "I can't – I can't – "
"Yes, you can." Lance reassured him, his hands an anchoring weight in his own as he crouched down in the corner and tried to breathe along with Lance's steady rhythm. "You got this."
"Nope." Hunk shook his head frantically. "This is a disaster. Won't work. I simply can't."
"It won't be a disaster." Lance said for what was probably the umpteenth time. "I know you can do this."
"But I – "
"I believe in you." Hunk looked up to see Lance smiling warmly at him, and sheer force of the belief in his eyes finally began to calm him. "We've talked about this, we've rehearsed this, you've gotten tips from me, the master. Everything will work out."
Hunk shut his eyes and inhaled deeply, centering himself. The anxiety scrambling in his chest was dying down, but it gave one final push. "Are you sure – "
"Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh." Lance quickly waved his concerns away. "I am sure. And if you're still not sure, then simply believe in me who believes in you." He grinned, eyes shining in excitement.
A burst of laughter came from Hunk's lips. "Okay." He wiped away some errant tears from his almost panic attack. "Okay."
Trust Lance to calm him with an outdated reference.
"See, it's fine." Lance clapped his shoulder and helped him to his feet. "Now go forth and do me proud, Hunk." He gave a grand wave and Hunk chuckled a bit as he re-entered the ballroom.
It was a more formal party for the Coalition. Allura had wanted to celebrate the string of victories they had had recently and she had decided to double it with a show of gratitude for the members of the Coalition. People from most of the planets they had saved and worked with, rebels, and even Blade members milled around the ballroom on the Castleship.
As Hunk made his way through the room, he idly listened to the music playing and guests chatting away. Some people were even out on the dance floor, moving to the beat with no worries. They had really upped the security from the last time they held a party on Arus. No one wanted a repeat of that. Luckily, that meant that they could relax against interruptions from uninvited guests.
However, there was really only one guest that Hunk was concerned about tonight.
Despite his anxiety making him want to rush back into hallway and hide, Hunk tried to clutch onto Lance's encouraging words. Lance believed he could do this, so he could believe too.
And then it was like the crowd parted and he finally saw her.
Shay didn't look all that different from when he first met her. She had gotten a new tunic at some point, so her clothes weren't as threadbare and the green and yellow of the cloth was brighter. But otherwise, she was pretty much the same. She was smiling as she spoke with an Olkarion and maybe it was just Hunk's imagination, but there seemed to be a glow to her.
She looked perfect.
Hunk was suddenly aware that given he'd just been panicking, he probably was not looking his best. He made to do an abrupt turn and abort this mission.
However, at that moment, Shay looked up. "Hunk." She smiled.
Well, no escape now.
"Hey, Shay." Hunk was eternally grateful that his voice didn't crack as he finally responded. He walked over to her, hoping he didn't look as nervous as he felt. "Are… are you enjoying yourself?"
"Oh, yes." Her smile seemed to get bigger as he got closer. "Before I met you, I never would have even imagined attending something like this." Shay looked around the ballroom, taking it all in. Her head tilted slightly in a cute manner.
Hunk felt himself relax a bit, his smile becoming more natural. "I'm glad you can now."
"Indeed." Shay giggled.
As she spoke, the music in the background changed, turning into something with a slower rhythm.
Hunk took a deep breath. This was the moment. The one he'd been preparing for.
"Hey, Shay," Hunk waited for her to turn to him with a curious and serious look, probably from his tone. "Would – would you do me the honor of dancing with me?" He held out his hand and was glad that it wasn't trembling with the amount of nervous energy that threatened to eat him whole.
There was a beat. Maybe two. During which Hunk felt like the whole world was holding its breath.
And then it all released as Shay smiled and took his hand.
"I believe the honor is mine, Hunk." Shay shyly said, looking down and then back at him. "You'll have to show me how they dance on your planet."
Hunk didn't know if the whooshing sensation in his stomach was from relief or joy, but either way it made his grin widen. "Of course!" He pulled her out onto the dance floor. "Just follow my lead."
And the two of them fell into step like it was the most natural thing in the world. Hunk felt himself relaxing as they swayed to the beat. They didn't talk but really, they didn't need to. Hunk could feel himself having entire conversations just by meeting Shay's eyes and matching her smile.
Hunk caught a bit of movement from the corner of his eye and glanced over to see that Lance had managed to pull the team's wallflowers onto the dance floor, and he appeared to be trying to teach Keith and Pidge how to do a basic polka step. Not that it appeared that he was succeeding. Lance looked up and caught his eye, flashing him a grin and a thumbs-up.
"I told you so." Lance mouthed before turning back to their less than graceful teammates.
Hunk chuckled and turned his attention back where it belonged, on Shay. She'd apparently been watching Lance and the others as well as she giggled again and met his eyes. Hunk felt his heart swell in his chest.
This was way better than he had ever expected it to be.
For once, Hunk didn't mind being wrong.
AN: Ta-dah! Here's my contribution to the Hunk Revolution Bang! It ended up being longer than I originally thought. Hunk does tend to have more common sense than the average Paladin and he can be somewhat petty when he'd proven right (like, did you see his reaction to being right about Nyma and Rolo?), so I hope I gave him justice here.
rightlegblue made some awesome art for this here so please check it out!