In the Endby Taryn
Disclaimer: The story of Voltron in all its incarnations is the property of World Events Productions. The idea for this story, as well as the title, comes from the Linkin Park song by the same name.
Wiping the sweat off his brow with the ripped cloth remains of his coverall, Lance paused on the top of the rocky outlook and stared in horror down at the valley below. For years they'd fought for this world. The six of them had given everything- blood, sweat, tears, and every ounce of courage they'd possessed- for the satisfaction of seeing the people live free.
In the end it had all been for nothing.
The proof was here, stretching out as a wasteland before him. The pocked arid landscape shimmered with waves of heat below the smoky blanket of dust that intensified the rays of the Denubian sun. Not even the sharpest imagination could paint the landscape with the cool summer greens of the forests and meadows, or pick out the tinkling sounds of the thousand tiny streams from the ceaseless drone of dust and sand against rock.
How much time was left?
He wasn't sure he could remember.
Keith shifted against him, a line of unseen warmth in the darkness of the bedroom. Lance sighed and shifted slightly, maneuvering to increase the line of contact even as his mind drifted towards the hazy blanket of much-needed sleep.
It was the hesitancy in his name that drew him back to the world of wakefulness more than anything else.
"Are you still awake?"
He yawned slightly and rolled over, face to face with his lover. After three years of a steady relationship he didn't need light to imagine the tension in those familiar features, and he began to run soothing fingers down Keith's bare arm.
"I am now."
"Sorry. I just…"
"What?" Keith's muscles tensed again under his questing fingers. Lance frowned and leaned up on one elbow. "Keith? What's wrong?"
Keith sighed and pulled away, sitting up and pulling his knees to his chest. "Have you ever wondered if this is all there is?"
Lanced frowned. "If what's all there is? Arus? Voltron?"
"No." Keith took a deep breath. The bed shifted as he sat up straighter. "No. I mean you and me."
Lance froze. "I…"
"You don't have to answer now. Sometimes I just wonder."
His mind reeling, Lance grasped the one question that seemed to be dangling over his head in the void. "Wonder about what?"
"Allura." The name escaped from Keith's lips, whispered with the reverence of a prayer. Lance closed his eyes, shaking his head in denial. "No, Keith, you can't-"
The bed creaked again as Keith stood up and started fumbling around for his clothes. "Not tonight, Lance. Just think about it, okay? I'll leave you alone for a while. You'll see that I'm right- it can never work between us. You'll see."
The door slid open, illuminating Keith's silhouette in the soft light. He didn't glance back as the door shut behind him.
Lance lay back, staring wide-eyed at the ceiling as anger began to overpower the numbness. His only companion as he waited alone in his lover's bed was the indifferent hum of the air conditioning.
Lance glanced down at the valley one last time before giving up and climbing back down the hillside. It was no more than a foolish hope, if that. There wasn't a single living thing left in this waste that Arus had become.
His ship remained where he'd left it, alone on a wide-open plain of baked red stone, dusky and barely visible in the swirls of sand and dust. Throwing the torn cloth over his face he stumbled back to the dubious shelter, ignoring the black stains where the ship's reactor had blown out of its lead casing a couple of hours after the impact.
He should be far away, beyond the rocks at the very least, where the leaking radioactivity wouldn't kill him. Out there, though, there was nothing. No water, no shelter, no chance of salvation. Nothing but the dubious comfort of memories of days gone by.
Cursing softly under his breath, Lance threw open the hatch to the glass-strewn cockpit and climbed inside.
A hand gripped one shoulder and spun him around as he headed towards Red Lion's launch bay, the fingers tight enough to bruise.
Lance spun around and threw off the offending hand, one fist cocked and ready for a fight. He wasn't prepared for the fire blazing in the Keith's black eyes. Crossing his arm over his chest, he took another step back and glared. "What do you think you're doing?"
"That's what I should ask you."
Lance blinked, thrown momentarily off guard. "What am I… I'm on patrol, remember? You write the schedules. What else would I be doing?"
Keith's glare deepened and he started to close the distance between them, but Lance threw up one hand in warning. He had to keep his distance to keep up his anger. It was the only way he could keep from losing himself in the onyx depths of his former lover's eyes, even after nearly a year apart.
Keith stopped, as tense and still as a statue. "Don't be cute. You know what I'm talking about."
Lance shook his head slightly, wondering what exactly it was he was supposed to be in trouble for now. "I don't have the slightest idea."
"Let me help you then. Sven."
It actually took a few seconds before the implications behind his friend's name hit home. His eyes widened and he backed up another step before he could stop himself. 'Oh God, not this, not NOW…'
"Ring a bell, does it?" The fire in Keith's eyes flared. "I thought it might."
The momentary surprise gave way to a renewed surge of anger at the sarcasm in Keith's voice. "And what if it does?"
"Damn it, Lance, you're MINE!"
"No, Keith, I'm not. That was your decision, remember? Broadening your horizons and all that?"
Keith spun around and stood too straight, his shoulders heaving with the force of his breathing. Lance blinked and squashed down ruthlessly the surge of hope that was trying to cajole its way to the surface. He wasn't going to wish for this. He'd been hurt enough. But still… "Keith?"
Keith didn't turn around, but his head dropped. Lance closed his eyes, determinedly NOT thinking about rubbing the tension out of the taut muscles under that silky skin. Instead he let the sadness from the well that he sometimes thought would drown him color his tone. "You can't have us both."
"I know." Keith's voice was a barely audible whisper.
Drawing on the anger, Lance spun around and headed for his lion. This time, he was the one who didn't look back.
The heat was worse when Lance woke up, and his throat was as parched as if he'd swallowed a pound of sand. Which, in retrospect, he probably had. He stretched as much as the tight fit of the remaining cockpit allowed. His head was pounding, and his clothes felt as if they'd been glued to his skin by a layer of sweat. The fragments of the radio crunched under his feet as he shifted his weight, and he glared down at them accusingly.
The air outside felt hotter. The constant grating of the sand against the skin of his fighter was punctured with loud booms and groans as the islands of uncertain earth shifted on their bed of molten rock. Already the air contained the tinge of sulfur so familiar from years spent deep in Red Lion's underground lair.
It was almost over, and there was someplace that he needed to be.
Retrieving the remains of his rag, he covered his face and fell from the cockpit to the quaking ground.
The day of the wedding a year later had been beautiful, a true benediction from the gods. It was all Lance could do to keep from screaming out loud with the unfairness of it all.
Still, he'd persevered. His duties were done, and now he could escape. He didn't know where he was going, but it didn't really matter. All that mattered was getting far away from Arus, away from the battle that he'd already lost.
The small ship was a gift from Coran. Lance didn't know how much the Minister really understood, but he was grateful for the gesture. It was packed and ready. It was more than time.
He stopped in the hatchway and let his eyes drift over the familiar contours of the world he'd considered home one last time. He never intended to step foot on Arusian soil again.
The sound of his name shocked him nearly as much as the sadness in the voice that spoke it. Turning around, he forced a thin smile back on his face, knowing Keith would see through the lie in an instant but determined to try. "What are you doing out here? A man shouldn't abandon his bride on her wedding day."
Keith ignored the question, his dark eyes raking over Lance's face as though they were memorizing every detail. Lance felt the familiar answering sadness responding and turned aside with a flicker of annoyance. It was over. Why did Keith keep doing this to him?
"Do you really have to go?"
The annoyance very nearly gave way to anger at the question, but Lance fought it down. If there was one thing he could give Keith, it was this. He wouldn't cause another fight on his wedding day. Instead he glanced inside the door, making sure the charts he'd requested were waiting on the seat. "Yes, I do."
Silence descended, broken by shouts of revelry from the party spilling across the lawns.
"Keith? Where are you?"
They both glanced involuntarily up at the shout, and Lance felt a real smile play across his lips at the drunken lilt in Allura's voice. "You're being paged."
"I'd better go."
They met each other's eyes, and for one moment it was like nothing had changed. He would wake up and this would all be a bad dream. Keith would roll over and wrap one arm around him, and everything would be all right.
Or maybe not.
The sadness rose inside Lance's chest and broke, burying him under a wave of grief and regret. "So am I," he managed. Their eyes stayed locked for a minute longer before another loud shout of laughter shattered the moment.
Lance turned to climb into the cockpit, but paused to look back. Hazel eyes met black one last time before Lance tore himself away with a physical effort. He climbed into the safety of his new ship, slammed the door behind him, and sobbed for the first time in the two years since their last night together.
The ground was tilting crazily under his feet, and fresh gouts of bright red lava were spurting up from newly made holes and crevices. Lance ignored them as he stumbled across the plain towards a rock pile at the far end. There weren't any landmarks he recognized, nothing that could lead him home, but he knew without a doubt where he was, as if a compass was pulling him towards the only place that had mattered since his childhood. He knew where the castle had once stood proud, the home of the defenders of Arus for centuries of warfare.
He had to get there in time. It was the only place he truly belonged.
That was the only explanation. Yesterday, when his ship lost power and plummeted through the atmosphere without any warning, Lance hadn't truly realized the significance of where he was. His only thoughts had been on the dispatches he was transporting from the new front line back to Garrison Headquarters. He was so distracted not even the familiar readings on his view screens had set off the old warning signals. He'd fought with every skill the years had granted him to keep airborne, to not crash into this world that appeared to be going through its death throes. Arus was completely unrecognizable to him.
He'd heard the stories at the time. One year to the day after the wedding Arus had been destroyed. The enemies supposedly put to rest had risen up in one last show of defiance, wreaking havoc on the whole Denubian system before help could arrive from the Garrison Reserve Forces. Friends told him there was nothing left, but he'd refused to listen. If he believed, he couldn't go back. If he couldn't go back, then everything- all the pain, the loss, the heartache- had been for nothing. He couldn't believe that their efforts hadn't been enough.
It wasn't supposed to end that way. He wasn't supposed to be a million light years away on another world, on another assignment. They were a team. They lived together. They fought together.
They died together.
Only he'd failed that part, hadn't he? Now it was time to make amends. The end was near, and he couldn't remember any other way it should be. He should have been here twenty years ago, but the gods themselves were correcting that mistake.
When Arus died, her last wayward soul would die with her.
The ground bucked harder beneath his feet and Lance fell flat on the churning rock, an involuntary scream escaping his parched throat.
There was a searing wave of liquid fire, punctuated by a distant roaring that sounded like a lion to his confused ears, then there was only blackness.