Disclaimer: WEP owns Voltron. Much as we'd like to . . .
Sven stood, staring up at the battlements of the Castle of Lions. It had been a long time. But the castle, though scored and scorched by laser fire, was still unbroken. Nothing had changed here.
But still, everything had changed. He lowered his eyes to the entryway into the castle, and wondered again why he had felt so compelled to return here.
~ "All my relationships are about leaving."~ He could still hear Lance's slightly bitter words. They had been ringing in his ears since the moment he'd boarded the shuttle to return with Romelle to Pollux.
Taking a deep breath, Sven straightened his shoulders and walked past the guards. They recognized him, or had been told to expect him; in any case, they didn't challenge him. And that was good.
He needed to find Lance.
Having exhausted all other possibilities, he finally made his way towards the Control Room, thinking that Lance was probably on duty. His mind wasn't quite on the ball; he was caught up with what, exactly, he was going to say to ... his friend? lover? ex? Heck, he wasn't even sure what to call Lance any more. Which was probably why he never heard the sound of running footsteps down the corridor.
"Ooof!" A solid body careened into him, knocking him sideways with the impact, and he staggered.
"Oy!" a familiar voice gasped, and strong hands grasped Sven's shoulders to prevent them both from sprawling across the floor. "Hey, sorry about ...."
Sven looked up into surprised blue eyes, instinctively drinking in everything he could about the man he had most wanted to see ... and had dreaded.
Lance's arms fell away. "Sven," he whispered softly.
The way Lance pulled away from him was disconcerting, to say the least. He hadn't been expecting emphatic hugs and hard kisses, but this . . . recoiling, almost, from even the slightest touch . . . that hurt. It hurt more than he would like to admit.
"Lance . . ." ~ I missed you. ~ But the words caught in his throat and would not be said. Instead, he continued to study his . . . My lover, he told himself firmly. Lance's hair was slightly longer than he remembered, falling into eyes wide with shock . . .
Shock? Didn't Keith relay the message that he was coming?
A tentative smile quivered on the edge of Lance's lips. "Hey," he replied, his voice only just above the whisper it had been. His evident surprise faded a little, to be replaced by ... Sven wasn't sure ... a softness? "What're you doing here?"
"Didn't Keith tell you?"
Lance shook his head slightly. "Ahm, no ... I've just gotten off duty, and ... well, everything's all off kilter today, what with all the messages back and forth about these latest Drule attacks." He gave a sheepish grin. "Sorry 'bout that. I guessed I should've worked it out when we got the call from your shuttle. There's not too many Polluxian envoys on our books, after all ... is there?"
Sven shook his head. "No, I guess not . . ." He didn't miss the slightly accusing tone, but chose not to respond to it. It wouldn't do any good to get into a blazing row here in the corridor, he thought. ~ Not when we can do it properly in private later. ~
Nothing had changed. But everything was still different.
Despite the fact that he needed to talk to Lance, he still had no idea what to say. So the first words that came to mind tumbled out.
"When are we leaving?"
"We?" Lance blinked.
"Ja, we." Sven smiled. "I get to go along for the ride. Backup pilot and all that."
For some reason unknown to Sven, Lance's chin went up a notch, defiantly. "Well, then," he replied somewhat offhand. "You'll have to speak to the Captain about mission details."
Sven was taken aback at the cold words. This wasn't like him at all.
No, on second thought, it was just like him. He always took refuge behind his wall of sarcasm and unfeeling when things came out that might hurt him. This wasn't so very different . . .
The words still stung, though, and he had to school himself into replying in the same cool manner. "That's no more than I expected. Where can I find . . . the Captain?" It was hard not to say ‘Keith’, he mused. But if Lance is going to be all formal . . .
Lance shrugged, his nonchalant air poised like a shield. "Who knows. Probably working out the finer details with Coran, I guess." Shoving his hands in his pockets, for want of anything else sensible to do with them - not to mention, to keeping them far, far away from the temptation that was Sven personified - Lance nodded his head in the direction he had been taking before this ... encounter.
Sven gestured for Lance to precede him down the hall. But as the other crossed in front of him, he grabbed Lance's wrist and said, "But we'll talk later." It wasn't meant to be a question, but his voice rose at the end nevertheless.
Lance's characteristic grin slid into place as he stepped forward. "Well, I damn well hope so, or I'm gonna be in a lot of trouble if my backup won't speak to me!" He sobered a fraction at the look of frustrated disgust Sven shot him, and added seriously, "But, yeah ... we'll talk. K?"
Sven nodded and released Lance's arm, then followed him as he started down the hall.
Trying to ease into the subject he truly wanted to discuss, he asked, "Where were you going in such a hurry?"
In spite of himself, Lance chuckled. "Hey, you know me, Sven ... always in a hurry to get somewhere, right?"
"Ja," Sven murmured, softly enough that Lance thought it was just his imagination. "I know you."
When Lance glanced at him quizzically, he just shook his head. "How are things here? " he asked instead. "You hook up with anyone yet?" As soon as the words left his mouth, he wanted to rip out his tongue. Very nice, Sven, he thought angrily. Very diplomatic.
And by the filthy look shot at him, it seemed Lance was even less impressed with Sven's tact than Sven himself was. "What's it to ya?"
Sven gave a half hearted shrug and slid his own hands into the pockets of his tailored trousers. "Oh, nothing really. I was just wondering how things were. That's all." He offered Lance a tiny, apologetic smile for good measure.
The uneasy tension between them dissolved somewhat with Lance's heavy sigh. "Oh. Sure." For a moment, the only sound was the clicking of boot heels as they walked in silence. "The answer's no, by the way," Lance tossed out casually as he tilted his own half-grin in Sven's direction. "But thanks for asking."
Sven felt his smile grow slightly. "You're welcome." Lance glanced at him again, eyes twinkling slightly in amusement. Feigned or not, it was still nice to see. Try not to stick your boot in your mouth again, all right? Sven reminded himself.
A few more paces down the hallway, then Lance chuckled. "So, enjoying the taste of boot leather for a change?" Sven blinked with surprise at how accurately Lance had read him, eliciting a genuine, teasing laugh from the Red Lion pilot. "Hey, I know a thing or two about you, too, y'know," he winked, then playfully nudged Sven with his shoulder, throwing the other man slightly off balance.
Sven gave a soft, husky laugh, even as he staggered into the wall. "So you do." He leaned against the wall for a moment, just studying the man he hadn't seen or touched or even talked to in such a long time . . .
Sven's laugh . . . Lance couldn't control his shiver. It had always done things to him, as had that accent. He had to admit, he’d always been a sucker for an accent. He moved slowly, until he was standing just in front of Sven. He wasn't sure what had drawn him over, so close to temptation; he just knew he couldn't stay away.
Then Sven reached out to touch him, his smoky grey eyes captivating . . .
"I missed you, Lance," he breathed.
For the briefest of moments, so short Sven wasn't even certain it had happened, Lance started to lean towards that delicious touch. But, once again, his mind got in the way, and he reluctantly jerked back. His eyes darkened with his palpable distress, and he took a hesitant step away from Sven, not knowing where to look.
"Uh ... no .. Sven, I ... I can't do this right at the moment, k?" Warily, he lifted his gaze to the man he had be so, so close to ... until Doom had come between them. "Please? Can we do this later?"
Sven’s hand hovered in the air a second, then he let it fall to his side, and nodded reluctantly. It was so hard to rein in his emotions, now that they had finally worked their way to the surface. But he knew Lance. He knew that he had pushed too hard . . . despite the fact that it felt to him that he hadn't pushed hard enough.
Lance needed time and space to deal with all of this . . .
Sven smiled gently, trying to ease Lance's discomfort. "Let's find Keith, so I can get briefed on what's expected." He straightened slowly away from the wall, giving Lance every opportunity to move away.
Lance jerked his head once in assent, and took off down the corridor again. Once more, the only sound was the ring of their boots, as neither dared to speak further.
Keith stood, at the rec room windows, watching the stars go by. Now a definite threat had been identified and a plan of affirmative action established, a previously unknown secret regarding the Castle of Lions had been revealed.
He realised with no small irony that his facial expressions when what he had thought to be a stable, immovable edifice almost magically transformed into a fully operational Space Fortress would remain the butt of many a joke in days to come … if they were lucky! As it was, it felt quite disconcerting to be surrounded by both familiar, almost homely surroundings and the never ending depths of space both at the same time.
He frowned a little, now deep in thought.
“This will be a tough challenge,” he remarked, turning to face the rest of the room. “But at least we’ll have friends.”
“You mean . . . the guys from the OTHER Voltron force?” Lance questioned suddenly.
Hunk nodded. “Yeah, Coran said that we’re gonna join forces.”
“That’ll be great!” Pidge left his position beside Hunk, and stood next to Keith by the windows. “My brother Chip is on their team! And we’ve all got friends from the space academy.” From his reflection in the window, it seemed that the youngest member of their team was lost in thought, and when he smiled, Sven knew he was remembering the fun that he and his brother had enjoyed at the academy.
“Remember our karate lessons?” Hunk asked, somewhat rhetorically. They all remembered them very well. “Me and Rocky used to go one on one. He was quite a guy.”
With a laugh, Lance tried to top him. "I remember when Cliff first came to the academy. He was hanging around by the pool, and Wolo and I just yanked him right in!"
A dreamy smile drifted across his face. "Y'know, I gotta admit, Cliff's not all that badly built, if y'know what I mean. Hell, he looked almost as good in a pair of speedos as ...."
Suddenly, he trailed off, seeming to come back to himself as he looked around nervously.
"As good as who, Lance?" Pidge asked curiously. He didn't exactly expect Lance's reaction, though. As a dark flush crept up Lance's neck, accompanied by a distinctly uncomfortable look, mischief lit Pidge's eyes. "C'mon, Lance ... tell us ... who's this mystery guy?"
"Ahm ... no one in particular," Lance hedged. Unfortunately, at that moment his eyes drifted in Sven's direction, and he became snared in the hard iciness he found in the other man's eyes.
Shit. Now what do I say? he thought helplessly.
Sven was surprised at the undeniably . . . blissful expression that crossed Lance's face, but the words were completely unexpected. His eyes narrowed, and he scowled. Who was Lance thinking about? Who had made him so happy?
~ And why didn't he ever tell me about it? ~
He was certain that Lance's minute smile of appeasement - the second that day, mind you - was meant to make him feel better ... but it didn't.
Eyes flickered from one to another, right around the room, as the rest of the team picked up on the awkward tension that had begun emanating from their two friends. Even Pidge looked distinctly uncomfortable, aware that somehow his friendly teasing had brought this on.
It was Allura, ever the peacemaker, who finally cut through the silence. "You know," she said wistfully, "I’ve never met any of them, but afterward, maybe some of the girls will come visit me on Arus ..."
Relieved, Pidge laughed. "I know Ginger would LOVE that!"
And as quickly as it had sprung up, that uneasy feeling was gone, caught up in Keith's reminiscence on the shooting match he'd once had with Jeff, and Hunk's joking remark that it must have been the longest match in history, because neither of them missed a damn shot.
But, from then on, there were two of their crew who uttered not a word.
While Coran sent them all off to bed like children, admonishing them to rest while they could, Sven did not take his eyes off Lance. He knew Lance felt the pressure of his gaze, too, because he would not look at him, would not even acknowledge his existence.
When the team filed out of the rec room, Lance was first out the door, but Sven was right behind him. "Lance, wait."
The others, knowing they did not want to be party to whatever was going on between Lance and Sven, quickly made their way down the corridor, talking loudly about how great it would be to see their friends again.
Slowly, reluctantly, Lance turned to face Sven.
"Sven ... I'm kinda tired. Do you mind if we ...?" Lance winced slightly at the sudden cold look which inevitably gave Sven that impenetrable air he was so well known for. He had known it'd be a long shot to try and worm his way out of this tonight, after everything else that had happened today, but he had figured it was worth a go.
"I came here to work things out," Sven said frostily. "I'm willing to give it a try. Obviously, you're not."
Lance shook his head, more to himself than anyone. "Y'know, Sven . . . as much as I appreciate the sentiment and all, the fact is your timing is just plain lousy!" With a resigned sigh, he gestured for Sven to go back into the rec room with him, and slumped into the couch without even waiting to see if he'd follow.
Sven clenched his fists, then forced himself to relax as he trailed Lance back inside. "Lousy timing?" he asked, not caring any more that his anger was plain in his tone. "I didn't think reconciliation had a time that was best! Excuse me for wanting to talk to you as we face certain death!"
He strode over to the windows and stared unseeing out into space.
"Yeah, well, it's a shame you didn't think about that before now, then, isn't it?" Lance shot back. "I mean, hell, you've had the whole year since you came back to talk to me, but no, not you! You wait until I'm so damned overloaded I don't know which way's up, and then you decide the time's come for a deep and meaningful. Sheesh! And you wonder why I say your timing's lousy!"
The momentum from his self-righteous anger now spent, he collapsed like a rag-doll, elbows on knees, arms dangling. "I wasn't kidding when I said I was tired, ok? And I just don't have the energy to fight with you right now. And, you know damn well that's what's gonna happen, as well as I do. Can't we just call it a truce for now, and deal with this later if we get home?"
Almost, he gave in. Almost . . . but it was the "if", the possibility that they might not make it back this time, even with help . . . Sven found he couldn't let it go.
"No, Lance." He shook his head, surprised that his anger had melted away. "No. We can't leave it unfinished." He caught Lance's eyes in the reflection of the glass. "I can't."
If Lance's words had come close to breaking his resolve, then the sudden look of weary resignation that made his one-time lover wilt in defeat all but broke his heart.
Nearly too drained to be annoyed, Lance smoothed the palms of his hands up over his face, then slid his fingers through his rumpled hair. "Fine. Fine. Whatever, Sven," he muttered half-heartedly. "Go ahead, ask. Right now, I don't give a damn what I say any more."
Sven turned around, startled at Lance's words. "Ask?" Then, the words- the look- that had been nearly forgotten in the heat of his anger came back. "Who was he?" he whispered. "Did you love him so?"
A purely ironic smile spread across Lance's face. "You wanna know the truth? I never loved Shannon as much as I did you. The difference was, when he left me, it was because he was ordered to leave. When you left me to go to Pollux, it was because you chose to go. But, hey ... I don't expect you to believe me, anyway."
"And that's supposed to make me feel better, that you loved me more? You never told me about him . . . you never told me you'd been with anyone before us!"
"Well, excuse me! Y'know, I don't recall you ever talking about your past, either! Besides which, I always had the impression you didn't want to know. Like you couldn't deal with it, or something. Which is why I ..." Caught with his mouth running away with him again, Lance sank back into the couch. "Which is why I didn't want to say anything before. Because I knew it would upset you. Ok?"
"I'm upset because you never told me!" Sven found he was trembling. "I never talked about my past because you never talked about yours. If it was painful, I didn't want to dredge up old memories." Sven crossed his arms, glaring coldly across the room. "I didn't think you'd rather just keep secrets."
One eyebrow went up. "If it was painful? If it was painful?? So, you didn't want to dredge up old hurts before, but all of a sudden it's ok to do that now? Great! Thanks a lot. A really helpful frame of mind to be going into battle with right now!"
Subconsciously, Lance mirrored Sven's stance, likewise folding his arms. "I'm not keeping secrets, because there's nothing to keep secret, Sven! So, I spent some time with this guy. So what? Yeah, we had a relationship ... a sexual relationship, as it happens ... is that what you want to hear? So? Since when did I claim to be all pure and innocent anyway? And, it's not like you ever complained about my abilities in that department, y'know. Where'd you think I learnt all that? From the back of a cereal box?"
Now seriously incensed, Lance glared straight back. "And, why the hell are we discussing this now, when you didn't even know about Shannon when you said earlier you wanted to talk? Or is this just another way for you to weasel out of whatever it was you really came here to say? huh?"
"Weasel out? Weasel out!" Sven took a step forward, balling his fists. "When you told me to ask? Damn it, Lance, you are not going to pin this one on me! I came here to talk about us, not your relationship with Shannon, whoever the hell he is! I would have cared less had you come out and said something before, rather than having to find out this way. Now you say it's not a secret? How can I think otherwise, when you get such a look of . . . of happiness, of contentment on your face when you think of him? What am I to think but that you've been pining for him all this time?”
He paused, and the words that had haunted him for this past year whispered in his mind again. "He's who you meant, isn't he?" he asked, his tone suddenly gone quiet. "He's who you meant when you said your relationships were all about leaving . . ."
"Congratulations. Give the boy a prize," Lance bit out scornfully. "But, like I said, Sven ... he had to leave, you didn't. And that's why you're really here, isn't it?"
His sudden bark of rueful laughter surprised Sven to no end. "And as for that 'look of contentment', you great bloody ninny, I was actually thinking how much both Cliff and Shan reminded me of you, in some ways. Except, y'know ... Shan actually talked to me before he left, whereas you ...," With a deliberately challenging look, Lance left the rest of the sentence fall where it may.
"I had to leave, Lance," Sven whispered, closing his eyes. "I couldn't stay here and stay sane."
A soft snort was, at first, his only reply. Then Lance's hushed voice cut through his private reverie. "But you could go to Romelle? And you say I've got secrets, Sven. What about you?"
"I've kept no secrets from you." Sven opened his eyes again, and looked steadily at Lance. "Maybe it was just that we shared the trials of Doom together. I don't know. Maybe Romelle was attracted to me. I never asked and she never said. I never wanted her. I wanted you."
Sven turned away, then, his arms falling to his sides. "You keep throwing it back at me that I never talked to you. What would you have me say? Did you want me to tell you about each and every torture those oh-so inventive Doomites devised just for me? Did you want me to tell you that they didn't stop until I was so hoarse from screaming that they couldn't get their kicks from it any more?
"Should I have burdened you with the feeling that I didn't belong here any more? Or, the worse thought, that this was all a dream, and when I woke up, I'd be back on Doom, back to being the crazy man who lived beneath the Pit of Skulls? Fine. Now you have it. Happy now?"
Without thinking, Lance sprang from the couch and took a step towards him. "Yes, Sven, that's exactly what I damn well wanted to hear, if that's what you were going through! How the hell do you expect to salvage anything if you keep me shut out? I sit there and watch you, and I have no idea what's going on inside your head, simply because you just won't let me! All I can do is stand by, and do nothing ... because there's nothing else I can do! Can you really see me living like that? Hell, you've only said all that shit right now because you want to make me back off ... yeah, you know I'm right.
"But you're the one who's pushing for this so-called 'reconciliation', so you're gonna have to damn well live with the consequences. Because I simply can't live the way I did before. Gotit?"
Again, having divested himself of the burden that had weighed him down since they had discovered that Sven had survived Planet Doom, Lance’s indignation burned itself out and left him completely fatigued. He collapsed dejectedly back onto the couch and buried his face in his hands.
"I can’t go back to that … I just can’t, and that’s that, ok?” His weary, tired voice barely a whisper, he leant his head back and shut his eyes against the inevitable grief that was to come.
Sven studied Lance for a moment, imagining there was a faint glow about him from the force of his emotions. Then he smiled sadly and shook his head, half turning towards the door as he did so.
After a momentary pause, he spoke. "I didn't say those things because I wanted you to back off, you know. I said them because I can say them now. And if you didn't know that . . . then you were right, and I shouldn't have pushed this at all. Because it's not worth the pain."
It seemed like he stood there for an eternity, back rigid with apprehension as he waited for Lance's reply. He didn't even feel as though he had the courage to face him, not really certain of which way Lance would take his last remarks.
Finally, when the silence had dragged on longer than comfort permitted, he hazarded a peek over his shoulder. He wasn't at all certain if he was relieved or disappointed with what he saw.
Somewhere in the last few minutes, Lance’s obvious weariness had apparently taken over ... he was asleep.
Sven sighed, and leaned over Lance's slumbering form. "You never even heard me, did you?" he murmured. Unable to stop himself, he trailed his fingers over Lance's pale cheek, and smiled when the other muttered and twitched.
Shaking his head again, this time at Lance's inopportune nap, he gently swung Lance around so his feet were on the cushions, and his head rested against the arm. A brief search revealed a well-worn blanket, which he spread over the sleeper before quietly letting himself out.
A quiet, mechanical hush followed by the snick of the closing door wormed its way into Lance's subconscious, niggling at him. It wasn't long before his eyes fluttered open and he registered his currently horizontal position.
What the ...? Damn it, did I fall asleep? he thought crossly. Hell, Sven, I told you I was tired, but would you listen?!
With a garbled groan, he sat himself up and was in the processes of directing his feet towards the floor when something occurred to him. Hang on ... wasn't Sven saying something? He paused, searching his foggy memory for even the tiniest snatch of the words his ex-lover had spoken.
When nothing came to mind, he absently scrubbed at his face, palms pressed against eyes in a vain hope it would help them focus, then decided he should head for his own bed after all.
Knowing how stubborn he is, it was probably the same old crap anyway, he rationalised as he ambled wearily from the room. I'll deal with it later. All I want now is sleep!!
The path to his quarters took him past the Control Room, something he did a dozen times a day with few surprises. Tonight, however, was to be one of the exceptions. His curious nature made him pause, firstly at the partial open door which was usually firmly sealed and then at the two crew members quietly talking inside.
Casually poking his head around the door, he waited a moment for a break in the conversation. "Hey, guys," he interrupted softly. "Can't sleep, huh?"
The sound of his voice clearly startled both Hunk and Pidge. Pidge, seated on the control console, visibly jumped and Hunk spun the chair around.
Their expressions took Lance aback for a moment. Hunk looked decidedly guilty, while Pidge's face was full of remorse, as if he was reliving a moment he much regretted.
"Guys? Are you all right?" Lance asked, stepping inside.
Hunk raised a hand in greeting, his expression clearing. "Yeah, we're fine. Just couldn't sleep, like you said. So I said I'd take the watch from Coran."
"And I said I'd keep him company for a little while," Pidge added.
Inside, Pidge was groaning at Lance's untimely interruption. It was almost as if he knew they were talking about him and Sven, and had appeared to take vengeance. ‘Well,’ he thought, considering Lance's actual appearance, ‘sleepy vengeance, but vengeance nonetheless.’
"Fair enough, I guess," Lance replied, unsure of what else he was meant to say.
He had the feeling there was a lot more going on here than what appeared on the surface, however, but he was too damned drained to worry about it right now. And, as if to prove the point, he was caught by a sudden, jaw-splitting yawn that left both Hunk and Pidge chuckling in spite of themselves.
"Been sampling some of Haggar's sleep spells, have ya, Lance?" Pidge grinned.
"Ha, ha," Lance scoffed back with a wry smile, wishing he had something in his hand he could pelt his younger friend with right at that moment. "Like any of Haggar's spells could sneak their way in here, anyway, brat ..."
About to add more, he was instead startled by the appearance of a group of lightning-fast, miniature inhabitants of the Castle, bolting between his feet and headed for their green-eyed interpreter as fast as they could scurry.
Pidge quickly scooped up an overwrought, excitable Cheddar as the tiny Space Mouse chirruped out his urgent message. The boy's amused countenance fell rapidly to earnest seriousness.
"I think you might have spoken too soon, Lance," he all but barked as his feet hit the ground at a run. "C'mon!"
There’s nothing quite like seeing the stars from space, Sven thought, staring out the window. Starry skies seen from a planet's surface were certainly beautiful, but it seemed they were spoiled, somehow, by the bright fall of moonlight, dimmed by the blot of a passing cloud, or simply dully reflected by some overreaching city. Here, though, flying among them . . . each star was bright and piercing . . .
He sighed and shifted, bracing his shoulder against the wall, facing the window more fully. It had been a long time, he realised. Almost too long; he'd nearly forgotten the shiver of awe the sight always gave him. The last time . . .
~ The last time you really looked at the stars like this, you were leaving Arus for Pollux. ~
Funny how his most condemning thoughts were in Lance's voice.
Lance. He'd looked forward to seeing his friend – ‘God, that word hurts!’ - had looked forward to a reconciliation. Now it seemed that everything was ending.
Face it, he thought, almost spitefully, he's right. You didn't talk to him for a year. Even when you were together, you never really said what you felt. You thought "I love you" was enough.
Fine, I admit that I was wrong. But still . . . how can Lance say he loved me and not understand the kind of person I am? That it just isn't easy for me to talk about my feelings, not to mention what happened on Doom? It hurts so to think that I've been agonising over this, what to say and how, and he thinks I just want him to back off from my comfort zone.
He glared out at the starscape, watching the twinkling light. Then he blinked, frowning thoughtfully.
There was a star winking where there shouldn't have been . . . where there hadn't been just a moment ago.
~ Wait a minute! That's not a star; that's a ship! ~ Quickly, he searched the field of vision afforded him by the window, and quickly counted at least a dozen more ships. Instinct took over, and he dashed for the control room.
Coran groaned silently to himself as several warning alarms suddenly flared across all the controls.
Things had just gone from calamitous to disastrous, and now the situation had possibly turned to lethal ... all in a matter of minutes.
Cutting across the intense discussion between Lance, Pidge and Hunk on how the hell Haggar had managed to ‘convert’ herself to a spirit form in order to, apparently, steal away the Princess’ soul from within Allura’s very Castle, Coran spoke with his accustomed, cultured-yet-clipped manner in such situations.
“We're under attack! They're trying to stop us before we reach planet Akkarra." With deft skill, he directed his fingers to an array of buttons on the console, and added determinedly. "We'll answer their challenge . . . with these!"
He allowed himself a small smile of triumph as he hit the activation key to open the turrets of the mammoth laser guns which were intended to defend the Castle of Lions while in ‘space fortress’ mode.
At the quick reply of acknowledgment of the situation from the three remaining pilots on board, he swung around to stop their hasty retreat towards their Lions with a brief warning.
"Remember, while Keith is with Alfor, trying to retrieve Allura’s spirit, we’re in a vulnerable position. Don’t take any unnecessary risks," he admonished sternly.
Lance threw him a cheeky grin. "Would we do that, Coran?" he laughed a tad recklessly, a dangerous sparkle to his lively eyes as he and the other two dashed out the doorway.
The door had been empty for scant seconds when Sven pounded through it. The tall Swede was slightly out of breath; it was obvious he'd been running for quite some distance.
"Coran! I saw ships . . ." he panted. "I was halfway here when the alarms went off. There's a lot of them …" He trailed off when he saw the threat screen overhead.
"Why are there only three Lions out there? What's going on?" There was a challenge in his voice.
As succinctly as possible, Coran outlined the situation.
Sven stared at him in shock for an instant. "Well, damn it, give me the key to Blue Lion! I've got to go help them!"
Coran gave a swift shake of his head. "I don't think that would be advisable at the moment, Sven. As I said, Alfor's taken Keith to help rescue Allura's spirit; you might be needed for Black Lion, should it come to that. You are certainly more skilled in that area than I. And ..."
He paused to consider how to best phrase his remaining concern.
"And..?" Sven pushed urgently.
Coran sighed. "Well, the fact is, Sven, while you might be more adept than I within Voltron itself, you've had little chance in the past year or so to upkeep your solo skills. Especially with a Lion." His steady gaze fixed an irate Sven in place. "Perhaps it would be best if we left it to the other three for the time being."
Sven scowled. Everyone in the Castle knew that when Coran used the phrase, 'Perhaps it would be best ...', it nearly always meant, 'This is the way is shall be ...'
He turned away from the adviser before he could give in to the urge to throttle him. "Then what's the sense of having a backup pilot?" he muttered furiously. "Why am I here, if you're not going to let me fly?!"
"The situation has somewhat altered, young man, since that decision was made," Coran rebuked him coolly. "It is one thing to have an extra pilot when all the others are present, or when only one is missing ... it's another thing entirely to potentially waste someone of your skills and talents when we are not one but two pilots down, and all for your damnable pride! Now, unless you can convince me as to why that would be an acceptable risk, you shall sit there until I say so. Understood?!"
Sven straightened, but did not face the older man again. The words stung, but what stung more was the sense of truth in them. Pride, was it? No, he admitted silently, just the need to prove himself, to prove TO himself that he hadn't lost his skills, along with so much else on Doom.
To prove to Lance . . .
So, instead of saying anything, he just shook his head and stalked to the door. "Fine. I'll man a turret. Unless you have some objection to that?" The coldness in his tone envied that of space.
"None at all." Somehow, Coran's calm reply rankled all the more.
Sven stormed down the corridor to the nearest wall turret. ‘So much for being a backup pilot,’ he thought bitterly, climbing into the space with the monstrous gun. He took an instant to examine the miniature threat screen, centred a Skullship in his sights and fired. The fighter exploded in a fiery flower, but it wasn't as satisfying as he had hoped. He quickly shot down another, then another, each burst punctuating his resentful thoughts.
Supercilious bastard . . . who does he think he is . . . playing with me like that . . . I'm a pilot . . . not a bloody stupid grunt …
In the clear for a moment, he quickly scanned space and found the Lions, ripping through the Doomite ships.
A flash to his left took out another skullship, making Lance scowl.
"I'll take one bet who that is," he grumbled to himself. "Can't leave well enough alone, can he? Noooooo!"
He flinched as a Doomite laser sheered a little too close for comfort, then dove in to take out the culprit with a vicious snarl. "Piss off, ya bastard!"
He didn't know if it was the Skullship, or someone else he was referring to ... and right at this moment, he couldn't care less.
The momentary respite was over, as the skull fighters swarmed over the castle. Reluctantly, Sven pulled his eyes from the Lions, and returned to studying his threat screen.
I'm sure Lance didn't appreciate that, but . . . Being stuck in the castle, courtesy of Coran's stiff neck, it was the best he could do.
"Kyyyyyaah!" His battle cry echoing in the small space, Sven resumed firing.
"Damnit, Lance!" Pidge's voice was strained and monumentally pissed off. "Would you mind remembering we're on your side!"
Lance grimaced and shot out a terse, "Sorry, ok! Sheesh!" Pidge was right; he'd have to watch it. Taking out his friend with a couple of misplaced ion knives was not going to help things.
~ Hell, Keith ... why'd you have to do after Allura?! ~
Momentarily distracted, he nearly missed Hunk's sharp warning to watch his right, before being rocked by the explosion of a skullship bursting apart.
"Sven!" Coran's voice cracked over him though the com. He sounded a bit angry.
Good, Sven thought a bit sourly, he can be just as angry as I am. "What do you want, Coran?" he demanded. "I'm a little busy here!"
"Please direct your fire away from the Lions! They do not need your assistance!" The old adviser sounded quite put out.
Sven smiled, and flipped off the com. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Coran," he murmured, taking aim. "The communications link just cut out. Didn't hear a word you said."
Pandemonium broke out inside Red's cockpit. Still shaken from the initial blast, Lance was trying to clear his head enough to register what was going on. Warning lights flashed across the panel which, combined with a cacophony of squealing, beeping alarms and the desperate hails from Green and Yellow Lions, were making his stomach churn and his ears ring.
He could barely make out Hunk's attempt to get him to respond, and he thought he heard Pidge giving Coran one hell of a serve about what the hell he thought he was doing, but that could have been sheer hallucinations. Right?
He was just beginning to ghost his fingers across the controls to try and re establish some sort of order and hopefully figure out if any vital functions were out, when a second blast hit him, rattling his teeth in his skull and sending Red spiralling completely out of control.
Sven felt his heart thud hard in his chest. Lance had left himself wide open, and one of the skull fighters had noticed. It had plastered him a good one, and now Red was in a nosedive, legs flopping uselessly.
For an instant- just one!- he considered the fact that Lance was arguably the best pilot of all of them, that this was just a ploy to draw in more fighters . . . but when they flocked around him, firing at him almost tauntingly, he did not respond.
Come on, Lance, he thought, watching, his fingers resting lightly on the trigger. “Come on! Pull out!”