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If Only We Had More Time

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   "It's really sad to see how one day, it seems like you have everything. But then, in the blink of an eye, you loose it all."

   - Anonymous

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 9,988 years ago...

 

 

   People always say that the first thing you forget about a person is their voice. But that can't be true. Because her voice is the only thing I remember.

   I can't remember what her hair looked like, or the color of her skin. But I can vividly remember how her voice always dominated whatever room she was in. How her voice could easily go from a contemptuous storm, to a silky choir of melodies as she sang my nightmares away.

   Tiny slivers of her voice still reside in my mind from the many nights she whispered 'I love you' into my ear. A voice of a sibling that slowly became my mother. 

   A voice I never thought would whisper goodbye.

   "It's over Lance. I-I'm so sorry," she said. "Our last fleet has been destroyed. Blaytz and the rest...they..."

   Tonight, under the light of destruction, her voice had taken another tone.

   A tone of defeat.

   I had never heard such a tone from her.

   As I glanced at my sister, seeking comfort, all she gave me was hopelessness. The ocean of hope she once had was now only a shallow pond. What was once mighty like a mountain had turned into a pile of sand.

   Scattered away.

   All she did was stare at me with silent tears falling down her cheeks.

   I had never seen Allura cry before.

   And it was too much to bear.

   I whirled around to my Father.

  "No, it can't end like this. We have to keep fighting!" I yelled. "What will become of our people? What will become of Altea?" 

   My Father walked over to me and crouched to my level, brushing a tear from my cheek with his thumb. His gaze reflected Allura's. All I found in it was defeat.

   "Lancelot I..." His gaze flickered to Allura and he sighed. "You're just like your mother, Lance. Always worrying about other people. But sometimes...there is nothing that can be done."

   I glanced at Allura. Those words seemed like a slap to her.

   And I understood why. What he was saying went against everything we had been taught. 

   She stepped towards us, wiping furiously at her tears. "No, Father. You're wrong. Please listen to yourself! You're talking about giving up! That's...as children, you taught us many things. But one of the lessons that really stuck was this: that there is always another way. And right now, we still have some options. Father, we must form Voltron and fight before it's too late!"

   "It's already too late. We must send the lions away! We can't risk them falling into Zarkon's hands!" my Father answered, stepping closer to Allura. "I know what I taught you. And I'm proud of what you've become. But there is a lesson that I still haven't taught you. One that I prayed to the Stars you would never have to go through. Allura, you have no choice as to how you loose, but you have a choice as to how you come back and prepare again." 

   Out of all my Father said, only one of the sentences remained in my head. A sentence that piled up on my losses.

   The lions.

   Father wants to send the lions away. But then that means...

   "I'm sorry, my little cub. Maybe this is the only way," a voice whispered in my head. 

   Having Blue's voice in the back of my head reassured me, but it wasn't enough. Just the thought of losing her felt like a blow to my heart. I had worked so hard to get her attention once I realized I had the possibility of flying her. Black was off limits because of Zarkon. Green matched my free spirit, but her alignment with nature did not match my own. Besides, she told me herself she was waiting for someone else. Yellow said I had a big heart, but I would not reach my full potential as his paladin. Red... His rejection hurt the most out of all.

   He didn't even say why.

   Out of all the lions, Blue was the most accepting. Blue said I would always have a place with her, but it was not time yet.

   And upon Blaytz's word, I hadn't told anyone that the blue lion had chosen me as her next paladin. He told me it would be best to wait until the ceremony of my Markings, but then everything had gone downhill after that.

   "Blue. I don't want to loose you," I replied.

   "I know, Lance. But sometimes what we want isn't necessarily what we get," she answered, and went silent.

   "We can't give up hope!" Allura yelled, her voice bringing me back to the present. 

   Her voice still carried defeat, but a bit of hope accompanied it. And if she still had hope, than maybe so could I.

    Blaytz could still be alive! There's no way he could've died... And the other paladins...

   Father smiled softly at her. He opened his mouth to reply but suddenly an explosion rocked the ship and all the lights began to flicker. 

   Allura was thrown against my Father, nearly causing them both to tumble. I fell face first on the ground and smashed my nose. I sat up on one elbow and touched it. Blood soaked my fingers. Coran quickly rushed over to me and helped me up, his face grave.

   "Aww my poor boy. I'll get you in a healing pod in just a second," he murmured, wiping at the blood with his sleeve.

   "Thank you, Coran," I said, wincing at the pain.

   Coran looked over my shoulder and met my Father's gaze. Father gave the smallest shake of his head. Coran looked down at me and tightened his hold on my shoulders.

   "Please don't struggle Lancelot."

   Struggle...?

   "I'm sorry daughter. If all goes well, I will see you again soon," Father said. "Like I said earlier, sometimes we don't have a choice. But I will do all that I can to assure that you do." 

   Allura's eyes widened as the weight of his words sunk in. She whirled around to run towards me but Father held her back. 

   "Lance!"

   I tried to get to her but Coran held me back. No. No no no no no. It really was the end. I called on Blue to help but she ignored my pleas. And if she wasn't willing to help, what good could I do? Tears streamed down my face and I went limp.

   Allura turned to my Father and opened her mouth to argue but he waved his hand at the markings under her eyes. They glowed faintly and Allura collapsed into my father's arms.

   "Allura!" I cried.

   "I'm sorry, Lance," Coran whispered. "We have to give you your best chance."

   Anger coursed through my veins.

   "No! I get to decide what's best for me! You can't! You can't!"

   I tried to push Coran away from me, I even pulled his mustache, but there just wasn't much a five year old could do against a grown man.

   Father cradled Allura into his arms and walked towards the control panel. He entered a combination and a sleeping pod emerged. He planted a small kiss onto her forehead and sealed her inside. 

   "No Father, we have to fight! I have to save Blue! I have to save Altea!" I yelled. "Blue choose me!"

   At this my Father turned and gave me a small smile.

   "I know, son. Which is why I have to do everything in my power to protect you."

   I went limp against Coran's arms as my Father approached me. I knew what was coming. This would be the end. Altea was lost. 

   More tears fell down my face as my Father took me into his arms.

   "Shh, it's okay Lance," he whispered, stroking my face.

   "Father. I-I...I'm frightened. What will become of our kind?" I whispered.

   When Father looked down at me, a single tear slipped down his cheek. He didn't say anything. He didn't have to. 

   "I love you, Lancelot. I wish I could stay with you longer but... In war, sacrifices must be made. Always remember that. The Blue lion choose you as its paladin because you have greatness within. Never forget that, my son."

   My Father pressed a small kiss to my temple. 

   "Father, please-" 

   "Goodbye, my son."

   He waved his hand across my markings and I instantly grew drowsy.

   I tried to reach out to touch his face one last time but my body was against me. Through a blurry vision I watched as my Father said a few words to Coran before putting him in a sleeping pod as well.

   Coran's face was now like Allura's. Asleep and hidden behind a layer of glass. I didn't even get to say goodbye.

   Father hugged me tightly to his chest and raced to where the lion's hangers were. My vision wouldn't work anymore but I knew where he was headed.

   Blue's hanger. 

   I could feel it.

   Something brush against my chest and face. A force as unexplainable as the universe. A bond that stretched back to the dawn of time. Blue's energy suddenly intensified, stronger than it had ever been.

   And then nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chapter Text

"I smile all the time so no one knows how sad and lonely I really am."

            -Anonymous 

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Earth

9,988 years later

 

  Almost like flipping a switch, the air rushed back into my lungs.

   There was a silent hiss of air and I fell forward. I yelped as gravity took hold and I fell on my face. The sound of my fall seemed to echo on forever, clashing with the stillness all around me. My breathing came out in harsh gusts as if I'd just run a marathon. With my vision blurry, I sat upright and threw up whatever I had left in my stomach. I rose up shakily, leaning most of my weight against a metal wall. Images crowded my head, adding to the confusion.

   I felt as if someone had cut open my head and placed cotton inside.

   The last thing I remember...

   I suddenly stood upright.

   Father and Allura! Oh my Stars... Altea!

   I chocked, tears threatening to spill out of my eyes. 

   "If all goes well, I will see you again."

   "The Blue lion chose you because you have greatness within."

   "I love you, Lancelot." 

   I sank into the ground, sobs shaking my body.

   Altea was gone.

   Father and Allura were probably gone.

   And Blue...

   Through a blur of tears, I looked up and finally took in my surroundings. It looked vaguely familiar. Almost suspiciously like...

   A flash of blue light followed by a deep purr echoed through the cockpit, instantly settling my nerves. 

   Maybe all was not lost.

   "Blue...?" I whispered.

 

 

 

 

 

   "Hello, my cub. It's been a while," she said.

   I walked over to the pilot's chair and sat down. My feet didn't even reach the floor.

   I was afraid to ask but knew I had to. A large part of me knew that Altea had been destroyed, that Father was gone. But another part of me still harbored the hope that maybe...

   "Blue...what happened? Where is Altea? Father...?" 

   Blue sent me a comforting purr. "I'm sorry, cub. Altea...was destroyed. Your Father...he perished... Zarkon was his demise."

   That news alone sent my mind tumbling. I'd lost my Mother, and now my Father? What else would Zarkon take away from me?

   "H-how long has it been?"

   "Cub, I don't think-"

   "How long has it been!?" I yelled, voice cracking with despair.

   Blue growled lowly in disapproval.

   "It's been 9,988 years since Altea's destruction."

   I broke down crying again. "Then all is lost. There's no way Allura... I'm the last Altean alive. I don't even know where I am. Oh my Stars... Blue, I'm so scared."

   "I know, my cub. But you must be strong. You must put away your grief if you want to form Voltron again and defeat Zarkon."

   At her words, I bolted straight up.  

   "Zarkon lives...? Impossible!" 

   "Nothing is impossible with the Galra, you of all people should know. You saw what happened to Zarkon when he descended into the quintessence field."

   I shivered at her words. Of course. Quintessence. 

   "B-but I can't form Voltron, not without the other lions... I...I'm barely a child!" I whispered, curling into myself further. 

   "That's true. You are barely a child, and so are most of the other future paladins. Voltron cannot be formed, at least not yet."

   "So the paladins of old are gone... Is Blaytz...?"

   Blue's mood instantly soured, despair leaking through her next words.

   "He's gone. You're the new blue paladin, Lance. The rest of the lions are gone, scattered into the universe so Zarkon doesn't find them. The time of Altea is gone, but there's still so much to fight for."

   I wiped at the tears on my face.

   "You're right Blue. We can't let what happened to Altea happen to any other planets. Voltron must be formed. We must give hope to those who have lost it."

   I twisted around in the chair and tried to reach the controls.

   "What are you doing, my cub?"

   "I'm gonna find the new paladins and form Voltron. I will avenge Altea and my Father's life."

   An amused purr echoed through the cockpit. I ignored Blue and managed to grab hold of the controls, only to fall on the ground face first.

   "My cub, I'm afraid... I'm afraid forming Voltron is not possible right now. As I said earlier, the new paladins of Voltron are still too young to take on such a responsibility. It's not time yet."

   "Well, they better learn fast, because I need them." I sat up and climbed onto the chair again, mind set to reach the controls. "We're forming Voltron." I grasped one control without managing to fall. "And we're going to kick Zarkon's quiznak."

   Blue purred again. "I don't think you're using that word correctly, cub."

   I grasped the other control, standing on my tiptoes. My arms trembled as I waited for the screens to flash to light, but they didn't. 

   "Blue...?"

   "I'm sorry Lance. But I already told you, Voltron cannot be formed. Not yet. You must wait a little longer."

   "And what am I suppose to do!? Go back to sleep!" I shouted.

   "No. I'm afraid that's not possible. Your Father wanted you to wake up earlier than necessary, my cub. He wanted you to get accustomed to life here so that you could better understand the paladins of Voltron and get a deeper sense of your new responsibility."

   "Live here? I don't even know where the quiznak I am! I don't want to stay here! I want to see if Allura is alive! I need to help! I can't and will not stand by as more planets meet the same fate as Altea."

   "And you will help, but only when the time is right. I'm sorry it had to come to this, cub."

   The pilot chair began to move backward.

   "Blue? Blue, what's going on!?"

   The doors slid open and a hole opened up in the ground. Before I could do anything, the pilot chair suddenly disappeared from under me and she ejected me into whatever world this was.

   I landed face first on something hard and grainy. Everything was dark around me, the walls only illuminated by my markings and Blue's aura. I appeared to be in some sort of cave, the walls arching high above me almost like the palace walls back home.

   I looked up at my lion, tears streaming down my face.

   "I'm sorry cub, but I have to do this. You must live amongst the humans and find the new paladins of Voltron."

   I crawled over to her metal paw.

   Humans.

   I'd only heard of them in tales Coran use to read to me as a child. They seemed civil enough and resembled Alteans greatly, but it wasn't the same thing. I want to be at Altea.

   I want my family back.

   "Please Blue, please don't leave me!" I sobbed. 

   "You'll know right away who they are. All you need to do is look at their quintessence. The ones with the purest quintessence are the ones that will pilot the lions."

   "Blue-" 

   "When you find them you mustn't tell them who you are, not yet. You'll need to live amongst them first for a couple years."

   "Please, Blue. I-I can't. I don't look anything like them... I-I can't do this!"

   Blue leaned her head down to me, making me feel smaller compared to her. Blue's yellow eyes shone briefly. 

   "Yes, yes you can. That's why you're my paladin. I chose you because I see greatness within you, the type of greatness that is found in great warriors. You must do this, not only for yourself, but for Altea too."

   More tears slipped down my face. I knew what I had to do. As a prince of Altea, I had known that my status required sacrifice. But now Altea was gone and being a paladin of Voltron required a different kind of sacrifice. I clenched my fists and lowered my head. I called on my quintessence and felt it surge through my veins. 

   

   The marks on my cheeks disappeared, my white hair grew chocolate locks, the pointiness of my ears was replaced by a smooth, circular edge. I reached up and took off the tiara from my head, placing it on the ground in front of Blue.

   "H-how do I look?"

   "Like a true paladin of Voltron. Now go, my cub. Find the new paladins. Live amongst them and regain your strength. The worst is yet to come. Good luck, my cub."

   Blue's head retracted back into the air. A blue light shone at the top of her head and cascaded down over her body, forming clear blue hexagons. They kept coming down so I quickly stepped back, tripping on air and falling on my butt. The hexagons formed some form of barrier around Blue, keeping me out. 

   "Blue?" I whispered in my head.

  She roared loudly, reassuringly, then she was gone. Her mental link with me shut down, leaving me all alone. The sudden realization of it sent me into panic. This emptiness in my head where Blue should be was too much to bear. I raced forward and banged my fists on the barrier. 

"Blue! Blue, answer me! Please! Don't shut me out! I need you! I need you!" I cried. "Don't do this! If you ever cared for me you would help me!"

   I don't know how long I banged on the barrier, but by the time I collapsed on the ground there were no more tears for me to cry and my knuckles were bleeding. Hiccups tore at my body, covering the dull throbbing on my hands. 

   "Please, Blue," I whispered. "Please..."

   I got no reply from the lion. She had gone silent; perhaps back into her hibernation. Or she was just ignoring me. That reason seemed more likely. I closed my eyes and leaned against the barrier, tired both physically and mentally. 

   "Y'know Blue... I think I get it," I whispered again. "I don't blame you. I can get pretty stubborn when I want to."

   No response.

   I quietly stood up and dusted off my robes. I was still wearing my pajamas. Allura wouldve killed me for it. If she was still alive...

   I sighed deeply and looked back at Blue. 

   "Goodbye, girl. I will find you again," I whispered. "I always do."

   Then I turned around and left her behind.

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Chapter Text

   "There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more elequontly than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love."


            -Washington Irving


--------------- 

 


Earth


12 years later...

 

 


      "Hello? Someone, please, help me..." I whispered.


   I stumbled through the streets half asleep, swaying on my feet. All sights of my mission were gone, all I wanted was to go home.


   But you have no home anymore, remember? Zarkon took everything from you! That's why you have to fight, you have to assemble Voltron, you have to-

 

   I lurched forward and threw up on the ground. Once my stomach was empty I laid back against the pavement, heart beating fast.


   Up above, a blanket of darkness surrounded me like a death shroud. So this is how it would go? I would die here on Earth. The last Altean alive.

   Father had put his faith in me and I had failed him. 

   I'd wandered through the forest for days, crying and starving, hoping someone would hear my cries. But no one came to me. Hunger tore at my stomach. My once smooth skin was dry, my lips chapped. I felt like I was slowly dying on the inside. 

   And no one in this world seemed to care.

   All around me, the houses suddenly seemed to take different shapes, following my fevered state. The buildings became walls, the ground my bed. Two figures stood in front of me, smiling.


   "You saved us all, Lance," Allura grinned. "You did it. Zarkon is dead."


   A smile painted itself over my lips. I reached out towards her, wishing I could memorize her every feature into my mind.


   "Allura? Y-you're alive? But I thought...?"


   "No, my son. She's alive, and it's all thanks to you," a voice said. 


   The second figure came into view. When I realized who it was, tears formed at the corners of my eyes.


   "Mother... You..." I suddenly broke down crying. "Is it really you? I thought you were... I'm so sorry."


   "Dead? You saved me, Lance. You saved all of us." She brushed a strand of silvery hair behind her ear. "I knew you would succeed."


   She and Allura shared a smile. They looked so much alike.


   "W-where's Father?" I asked.


   Their smiles didn't falter.


   "He will be here soon," they said in unison.


   "A-and Altea? Is Altea all right?" I asked.


   "You can ask him when he gets here," Mother said, turning away.


   I glanced at Allura but she had vanished. The walls began to crumble away, the scenery changing into a hospital room.


   A very familiar hospital room.


   "H-hello?"


   I glanced back at my Mother and stiffled a scream. She laid on the hospital bed, blood pooling out of her body as if it was repulsed by her very being. Beside her, my Father stood there, a small bundle in his arms.


   "Mother!" I cried, rushing to her side.


   She gave me a sinister smile that didn't match the warmth in her eyes. "It's all your fault Lance. I would still be alive if it wasn't for you!"


   Tears blurred my vision and I quickly reached for her hand.
 
   "I'm so sorry. I didn't... I didn't mean to be born!"


   I glanced up at my Father, but he only regarded me with cold eyes.


   "She was the love of my life, Lance. And you took that from me!"


   I tried to grip my mother's hand tighter but she snatched it away from me.


   "I-I'm sorry... I-"


   "No Lance. You're not sorry yet!"


   My mother lunged at me and I screamed.


   "Hey!"


   The vision shattered around me. I was not in Altea. My Mother was gone, and so was Father.


   I collapsed.


   Small arms wrapped around me and managed to catch me before I hit the ground. I was too weak to fight their grip. Maybe it was an assassin? Someone sent to kill me? I was too weak to fight them off.

   A pack of yalmores could've made a meal out of me.

   I glanced up at the person, hoping to plead my case. But whatever words I was hoping to say completely disappeared from my head once I looked at the human.


   Had I died and gone to heaven?

   That must be the only explanation. The person before me was simply too beautiful. Hair darker than the night fell over pale skin, fanning out at the shoulders. Two violet eyes peered down on me, a gaze both intense and captivating. It looked like someone had grabbed the universe and put it in the humans eyes. More slender, pale skin peeked out from the collar of a red sweater. Thick eyebrows were furrowed in on their face, soft pink lips pounting at me. I had never seen a being more beautiful.


   The humans beauty rivaled that of any Altean I had ever seen. And it could only mean one thing.


   It was Galra.


   I looked directly into their eyes and searched their soul, praying to the stars that I was wrong. A sudden burst of red flooded my senses. Their quintessence was so red, so pure. This human had to be one of the paladins. I searched deeper and discovered other traces of quintessence. He was half Galra. Purple quintessence mingled with the red, tainting his being. Some green and yellow, even a bit of blue, but it was all mostly red.


   The human cleared their throat and I tracked the movement, mesmerized by their very existence. I know I should feel threatened by this half-blood, but instead I felt right at home. I felt like I could trust the pretty violet eyes. Like I could give him the world...


   Snap out of it, idiot!


   I shook my head slightly to clear my thoughts and studied the human. Up until now I'd made the assumption that this human was female. But those thoughts quickly scattered when they spoke.


   "Hey, you're alright. It's alright. Are you okay? Who are you? Can you hear me?" the boy said.


   I snapped out of my trance. Had someone else spoken? No, it'd defiantly been the girl. But then why had her voice sounded male? Perhaps human voices worked differently from Alteans?


   "I thought you were a girl?" I blurted out.


   His eyes narrowed on his face, going from captivating to dangerous in a matter of seconds. He looked like he was about to pull out a knife and cut out my intestines. That somehow made him more beautiful.


   It made him more Galran.


   "Excuse me?" he said. "I'm a boy!"


   His voice cracked slightly at the end, betraying his anger. He had a really strong southern accent, so it took me a few moments to discern what he said.

   A boy? With long hair?

   "My Father had long hair, but he didn't look like a girl. Are you sure you're a boy? Maybe your parents mistook you for one when you were born," I answered.

   My eyes widened slightly as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife. He was gonna kill me! Maybe calling a guy a girl was considered an insult here on Earth? Or maybe his Galran side was taking over, just like with Zarkon! I squealed and began struggling in his arms.


   "Let go of me! Get away from me you filthy animal!" I screeched, pushing him away.


   The boys eyes flashed slightly as I landed a punch on his cheek.


   "Oh you are so dead!" he growled, eyes flashing yellow.

   He dropped the knife and launched himself at me. I let loose a high pitched girly scream and tried to push him off of me. He twisted around like he was made of taffy, fast and nibble.


   "You take that back!" he growled.


   I pulled at the ridiculous hair framing his neck. Was that a mullet?


   "You take it back! It's all your fault! You and your kind took everything from me!" I yelled, tears threatening to spill from my eyes.


   "What the hell!? You crazy maniac! I'll end you!"


   The boy cursed profoundly as his fist made contact with my elbow. Despite myself, I admired the way he fought. He was no Altean, but he sure looked like he could handle himself.


   "Keith!"


   My ears twitched at the sound of another voice and I hesitated. Loud footsteps and heavy panting soon followed. The boy in front of me froze,  fists held up midair, eyes widening slightly. The yellow glow seemed to fade from his purple iris'. He looked around frantically towards the source of the voice. 


   Keith.


   So his name was Keith.


   Keith's bangs fell over his eyes and he angrily blew them away, grabbing the knife from the ground and putting it back in his pocket.


   I tried to sit up but he placed a palm on my chest.


   "Stay," he commanded, violet eyes demanding.


   I growled under my breath but made no sudden movements.


   A figure suddenly emerged from the darkness, racing towards my saviour and Galran foe with quick steps.


   "Keith, what are you doing out here so late!? Father is gonna-"


   The boy stopped short a couple steps in front of us, looking down at us with a surprised expression. 


   "Who's this?" he asked, taking in my appearance.


   I in turn took his. He was much taller than Keith, but his hair was just as dark. His eyes flashed briefly in the moonlight, reminding me of black glass.


   "No one!" Keith snapped, violet eyes flashing. "I said I needed to be alone! Why did you follow me Takashit?"


   The other boy leveled a glare at Keith.


   "Hey, watch it Keith. Honestly, when did you get such a potty mouth?"


   "I had a great teacher!"


   "Stop being such a brat, Keith. Father is worried sick about you!" the other boy replied.


   Keith lashed out again and the two started to bicker, completely ignoring me.

   I cradled my bruised face with one hand, thankful for the fast healing my body gave me. In a couple hours, the bruise would be gone. 

   If I survived.


   My muscles suddenly turned to jelly and I collapsed completely to the ground. A low whine escaped my lips as I felt, once again, like my stomach was eating me from the inside.


   The arguing immediately stopped and both boys looked down at me with concern.


   The older boy rushed towards me, ignoring Keith's protests.


   "Oh my god Keith. Who is this? He's in really bad shape! Did you beat him up?"


   Keith's worried eyes looked down at me. All traces of anger were gone and now he just looked plain concerned.


   "I-I don't know. I-I found him like this," the boy answered. "He was walking through the streets crying for some girl named Allura."


   His voice seemed to sour at that, and he pouted.


   "And he called me a girl," the boy added in a quieter, more embarrassed voice. "That's why I punched him."


   "Well I punched you first, mullet head," I muttered under my breath.


   The young man in front of me arched an eyebrow at that, looking mildly amused. Before I could say anything he suddenly reached down and softly touched my forehead. That brief flash of contact was enough for me to peer into his soul. Pure black. Some red and blue was in the mix, along with green and yellow. But most of his being was covered in the inky black substance of the black paladin. But even he had small traces of Galran quintessence in him. I gasped slightly and pulled my head away from his touch.


   "Hey, are you alright? Where are your parents?" he asked, his voice taking on a fatherly tone.


   Keith rolled his eyes. "Maybe he's homeless? He certainly smells the part."


   "Keith, be nice," the other boy scolded, giving the other boy a disapproving glance.


   He then looked at me with a soft expression. "My name's Takashi Shirogane, but you can call me Shiro. Can you tell me your name, or where you live? I don't believe I've ever seen you around here before, but I can try to take you back to your parents if you'd like."


   I almost laughed out loud. He couldn't take me back to anyone. My parents were dead. But something about him tugged at my heart. He reminded me so much of my Father.


   "I-I don't have any parents," I whispered softly. "My mother died when I was born and...and we'll, my Father's gone."


   Beside me, Keith's breath hitched. Shiro looked over at him in concern before returning to me.


   "Okay, can you tell me what happened? Or your name? Are you injured?" he asked softly.


   "M-my name is Lance. I-I don't remember anything," I lied. "I have no idea how I got here."

 

   "Okay. I'm gonna take you to the hospital. Is that alright with you? " Shiro asked.

 

   "Hospital? What's a hospital?" I frowned.

 

   Keith snorted. "Are you stupid?"


   Anger surged through me at his tone. This galran half-breed was really testing my patience. If he wasn't so goddamn pretty...


   "Keith," Shiro scolded. "He may have temporary memory loss. Or he could be delirious. There's no time for arguing. Come on, give him over to me."


   Keith gave another adorable pout before placing his hands around my waist and hauling me up towards the taller boy. Shiro took hold of me and carried me bridal style towards a strange vehicle I'd only red about in stories. 


   "I-Is that a car?" I asked.


   Keith scowled at me. "No, it's a dragon."


   Shiro gave Keith a strange look before giving me a reassuring smile. "Yes Lance, it's a car. Is it alright if I sit you in the back with Keith?"


   I glanced over at the boy in question. To my horror, I realized he was several inches taller than me. Damn his Galran genetics!


   I nodded slowly, feeling slightly dizzy. "Yeah, it's fine. Keef can cradle me in his arms again."


   Two spots of red colored Keith's cheeks and he angrily stomped inside the car. I grinned softly to myself as Shiro placed me in the car. Keith shifted away from me slightly, allowing his hair to fall over his face.

   What a total emo. All he had to do was dress all pink and he'd look the part too.


   I watched his profile, somehow attracted to the mysterious aura that hung around my red paladin. 


   Why had he been chosen by red?


   Red chose his paladins based on their skill and instinct, but he also chose them based on loss. The type of loss that tears a person apart, but instead of collapsing under it, they use it to build themselves up again and become stronger by the experience. 


   So what had this human lost?


   I felt something warm settle into the pit of my stomach. I'd barely met him but already felt a deep connection to him. It could've just been the connection shared amongst all the paladins, but something about it felt more intimate.

 

   Almost as if the ties of faith had decided to bind us together. As if we were meant for one another.


   He's probably messing with your head again, my mind supplied.


   I'm gonna marry him someday, my heart whispered.


   Keith's eyes darted over to me.


   "Will you stop looking at me?" he growled, eyes flashing.


   I had a sudden urge to check his teeth for fangs.


   Shiro hopped into the car and started it. 


   "You're just...mysterious? What kind of sorcery is this?" I whispered, feeling my senses slip away. "Why isn't your skin purple? Shouldn't you have fangs or something?"


     Unconsciously, I reached my hand out and pocked his plump cheek. Keith's blush deepened and he slapped my hand away, his eyes bordering on murderous once again.


   "Stop it!"


   Up in the front Shiro chuckled and the car started to move. 


   "Why Keef? I'm not hurting you," I answered, coughing weakly.


   When Keith turned to speak to me, his voice was completly off.


   "Lance, I swear to god I will dump this water on you!"


   My eyes snapped open in a flash and I leaped out of bed.


   "I'm up! I'm up, don't do it!" I screeched, banging my toe on the bed post.


   I yelped and hopped on one foot, the room spinning in circles around me as the last of my dreams was swept away.


   I wiped at the saliva on my mouth and glared up at the larger boy in front of me. 


   "What the hell, Hunk?" I frowned, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes. "It's too early for this crap! I need my beauty sleep!"


   My best friend ran a hand through his dark hair, having the audacity to look sheepish.


   "Sorry Lance, but this had to be done. Do you have any idea what time it is?" he asked.


   I glanced at the clock, then did a double take.


   "Oh, quiznak!" I yelped.


   Hunk chuckled as I began to race around the room in record time.


   "Stop laughing!" I screeched, struggling to get into a pair of black pants. "Why didn't you wake me up sooner?" 


   "I tried. But you were too busy yelling Keith's name in your sleep," Hunk smirked.


   I gave a loud gasp and tried to charge towards him, only to fall on my face. 


   "I-I wasn't calling out his name!" I snapped, face cherry red.


   I picked up my face from the ground and continued to change, not missing the way Hunk's face softened at the sight of me. For the millionth time, I felt my heart shatter as I saw someone else in place of Hunk. The first time I'd seen Hunk, I'd nearly had a heart attack. He looked exactly like my childhood best friend back on Altea. Except, Hunk wasn't Balmeran, he was human. But he easily had the biggest heart in the entire universe. I was more than rejoiced when I discovered he would be the next yellow paladin.


   "Sure you weren't," Hunk said smugly.


   I tried to slip on a shirt but only succeeded in tripping again. I thankfully managed to catch myself. I poked my head out from the shirt and glared at Hunk.


   "Fine, so maybe I was dreaming of him, but only because I dreamt I finally kicked his ass," I snapped, slipping on the bright orange jacket.


   Hunk sighed. "Lance, Keith's been gone for three years. Give it a break. Your dumb rivalry was always one sided, either way."


   I froze in my steps, heart now clenching in my chest for a whole different reason.


   It was all my fault he'd been taken. All my fault. I should've been prepared, I should've seen it coming...


   I shook my head and cleared my thoat, pushing those thoughts to the back of my head.


   I forced a smile and gasped dramatically.

   "Hunk, how dare you!? It was not one sided! Keith was always trying to one up me!"


   "Well, you no longer need to worry about him one uping you. Today's the day we do the simulator, remember?" 


   I gave a small shriek and practically dragged Hunk out of our dorm.


   "Then what are we waiting for!" I grinned. "Lets go kick Keith's score from the top!"


   Hunk ruffled my hair on his way out. I lost my smile as soon as he was out of sight, feeling waves of despair wash over me. 


   I'd failed.


   First Keith, then Shiro. Who was next, Hunk?


---------------


   "Galaxy Garrison flight 5-11-14. Begin decent to Kerberos for rescue mission."


   Hunk groaned behind me. "Lance, can you keep this thing straight!"


   "No I cannot. I have no idea how to straight, Hunk. You know that," I grinned. 


   "Haha we get it," another voice answered. 


   I gave a small glance at the small green paladin.


   "Seriously Pidge? Would it hurt you to let loose for a while?" I snorted. "Will you combust? Turn to a puddle of dust like the witch from Tangled?"


   The little gremlin gave me a glare before turning back to the controls, not rising to the bait.


   "Whatever man. Lets just get this thing over with," they muttered.


   Hunk groaned again, and I felt a twig of sympathy for him.


   "Relax Hunk, I'm just getting a feel for the stick," I grinned. "It's not like I did this!"


   I pushed forward the controls and the ship lurched forward. Hunk gasped behind me and covered his mouth with one hand, face green.


   "Okay, unless you want to wipe beef stroganoff out of all the nooks and crannies of this ship, I suggest you knock it off, man!" Hunk yelled. 


   I was about to reply with a sarcastic comment when the screen next to Pidge began to flash with a blue light.


   "We've picked up a distress beacon!" they said.


   I reached up and inserted the coordinates into the system, feeling a rush of adrenaline course through my veins.


   "Alright, look alive team. Pidge, track the coordinates that I inserted into the ship! "


   "Copy."


   Their fingers began to fly fast on the keyboard. Hunk groaned again, his arms clutching the sides of his chair. 


   "Knock it off, Lance! Please!" he yelped.


   I gave an exasperated groan.


   "Oh, this ones on you buddy. We got a hydraulic stabilizer out."


   Hunk immediately began to type things into the computer in front of him. The ship lurched forward again and Hunk gulped, eyes darting around the ship for a trash bag. My eyes widened.


   "Hunk! Fix now, puke later!" I yelled, trying to get the ship back into a smooth flight.


   "I lost contact!" Pidge added helpfully. "The shaking is interfering with our sensors!"


   "Come on Hunk!" I growled.


   "Ugh, it's not responding," Hunk groaned, twisting his chair away to get up.


   Another beeping noise attracted my attention back to the front. Relief washed over me.


   "Never mind fellas, thar she blows! Preparing for approach on visual," I reported, grasping the controls tightly in my hands.


   "I don't think that's advisable with our current mechanical and gastrointestinal issues," Pidge said, face forming into one of disgust.


   Hunk looked up at me and nodded weakly. "Agreed."


   "Stop worrying, this baby can take it. Can't you champ?" I grinned.


   The ship lurched forward again, much more severally than all the other times. I gulped, already knowing where this was going.


   "Um, yeah, she was nodding, she was nodding," I gulped. 


   Pidge raised a single eyebrow at me, face as deadpan as always. I groaned again.


   "Pidge hail down to them and let them know their ride is here."


   Before I could say anything else Pidge unbuckled their seat belt and stood up.


   "Attention, luna vessel, this is-" The ship lurched again and they fell on the ground. "Ow."


   I glanced at Pidge incredulously. "Pidge, what are you doing!? Put your seatbelt back on! And Hunk, stop the shaking!" 


   "I'm trying." His voice broke at the end and he gulped. "Oh no!"


   He bit his lip but it was too late. He lurched forward and threw up onto the controls. 


   "Attention lunar vessel, this is Galaxy Garrison Rescue craft one victor six three tango. Coming in for landing and extraction," Pidge said, clutching the microphone tighter as they cast a glare at me. "Against crew recommendations."


   "No time for your sarcastic comments now, Pidge. They're going under, and we're going in."


   I pushed forward the controls and conducted the ship into a steep dive.


   "Look out for that overhang!" Pidge yelled, now clutching the seat like Hunk. 


   "No worries," I chuckled, feeling plenty worried. "My first year in flight school, you know what they called me? They called me the tailor because of how I thread the needle."


   I twisted the controls to the left and dove for the overhang. The controls around me began to beep louder, warning me. I clutched the controls tighter, muttering pleads under my breath. We went through but suddenly there was a loud crash.


   Hunk glanced down at his screen and his face turned green again.


   "Uh, we just lost a wing! We're going down!" he yelped.


   "Oh man," I groaned, releasing the controls. 


   The ship beeped louder, the screen projecting our incoming doom. There was a crash and all the lights turned off.


   "Simulation, failed," a voice said pleasantly.


   Pidge twisted in their chair and gave me a signature glare. "Nice work, Tailor."


   Before I could reply the doors opened behind us and the world's most infuriating teacher came through. 


   "Come out, donkeys!" he yelled.


   I gave a small grin. 


   "I'm bi!"


   Professor Iverson gave me a glare almost as bad as Pidge's. "Now!"


   Pidge scoffed but as I passed by I caught a small grin on their face.


   I instantly felt a little better. 


   "Lets see if we can use this complete failure to teach the rest of the class!" Iverson yelled as we formed a line in front of him. "Can anyone point out the mistakes these so called cadets made during the simulation?"


   Hunk began to twitch nervously and I instantly felt bad. He hated being criticized. And now, because of me, that's exactly what was happening.


   A dark haired boy raised his hand.


"The engineer puked in the main gear box!"


   "Yes," Iverson spat. "As everyone knows, vomit is not an approved lubricant for engine systems! Anyone else?"


   Hunk jumped as Iverson glared directly at him.


   "The com spec removed their safety harness!" another girl said.


   "The piolet crashed!" another chimed in.


   "Correct! And worst of all the whole jump they were arguing with each other!" Iverson yelled. "Heck, if you're gonna be this bad individually, you better at least be able to work as a team! Galaxy Garrison exists to turn young cadets like you into the next generation of elite astroexplorers. But these kinds of mental mistakes are exactly what cost the lives of the men on the Kerberos mission!"


   Beside me, Pidge perked up, anger washing completely over their features.

 
   "That's not true sir!" they blurted out.


   "What did you say!?" 


   I quickly reached over and covered their mouth before they started cussing out Iverson. Knowing them, that's exactly what they would do next. The gremlin tried to bite me but I thankfully had gloves on. They glared at me but I ignored them.


   "Sorry sir, I-I think they might've hit their head when they fell out of their chair. But point taken," I said, giving a small sheepish grin.


   Iverson then turned his glare on me and I gulped. His eyes looked me over with nothing more than pure disgust and disappointment. He crossed his arms behind his back and strolled over to me. 


   "I hope I don't need to remind you, that the only reason you're here is that the best pilot in your class had a discipline issue and flunked out! Don't follow in his footsteps."


   I stiffened at his words, not daring to glance over at my companions. I couldn't bear to see their looks of pity. I hung my head slightly and looked at the ground.


   "Yes sir."


   Iverson gave me one last glance before stepping away from us.


   "Next!" he yelled.


   Three more students stepped forward for the simulation. The rest of the students began whispering among themselves, some snickering while others gave me sympathetic glances. I stepped back awkwardly and tried to blend with the crowd. I suddenly felt a small punch my forearm. I glanced down and realized Pidge was staring at me with an awkward smile on their face.

 

   "I'm sorry Iverson yelled at you," they said, shuffling their feet slightly. "And uh...thanks. I mean, for standing up for me."


   I gave them a soft smile in return, taking the opportunity to glimpse at their pure green quintessence. It washed over me in soothing waves, comforting my nerves.


   "No problem man," I grinned.

 
   They gave me another small, awkward smile before shuffling away. I glanced after their small frame, wondering where the sudden thanks had come from. Maybe she was slowly warming up to me.

   A few moments later, Hunk stepped up to me and wrapped me in his famous bone crushing hugs.


   "I'm so sorry man!" he cried. "It's all my fault Iverson yelled at you!"


   "Hunk," I gasped. "Ribs!"


   His eyes widened and he quickly released me. "Oh, sorry."


   "And hey, it's not your fault, buddy. That was all on me," I sighed.


   "That still doesn't give Iverson the right to yell at you! Next time he does that I'll...I'll...um..." Hunk searched his mind for a valid threat. "Um..."


   I burst out laughing, drawing the attention of several of my classmates. I ignored them and squeezed Hunk in a hug of my own. 


   "Oh my god, Hunk. You're too much of a cinnamon roll. You wouldn't hurt a fly," I grinned. "But thanks."


   Hunk squeezed me again. 


   "For you, I would," he grinned. "I'll always have your back."


   I forced a smile on my face, remembering when my Balmeran friend had said the same thing once upon a time.


   Before he was killed.


   "I know Hunk. I know."


---------------


   Finally alone in the bathroom of my dorm, I allowed the fake smile to fall from my face. I sat down on the toilet cover and gazed back at myself in the mirror.


   The whole day had been filled with disappointments. Not only had I flunked the simulator, but I had gotten the worst score out of the entire grade.


   I touched my skin slightly.


   "Well, at least you still have your flawless skin and devilishly good looks," I whispered, finger gunning myself.


   I finally allowed the glamour to disappear from my face. I sighed in relief as my ears grew to their pointiness and the marks on my cheeks appeared. My hair turned white as I ran my hands through it, but instead of turning completely, the roots stayed brown. I concentrated again, but my hair remained the same. 


   "What the quiznak?" I muttered. 


   Maybe it was from overextending my powers?


   I touched my cheekbones, a smile growing on my face as my markings illuminated a soft blue glow. I turned around and realized that I had a stripe of light on my back, as well as on my forearms. My markings had matured. 


   "Oh Father. I wish you could see my markings," I whispered. "You would be so proud."


   I had grown so much in these past years, matured not only physically but also mentally. I no longer blamed Blue for shutting me out. She did what had to be done. I'd come to terms with that. The five year old Altean boy that had crashed onto earth 12 years ago was no longer here. With each passing year, I forgot more and more about my Altean heritage. I lived with the fear that one day I wouldn't even remember where I came from, or what my mission was. The longer I stayed human, the more I was actually becoming one.


   I should've told them they were paladins. I should've revealed my secret when they were all complete. But now I was missing my black and red paladin.


   And it was all my fault.


   I bit my lip to keep the tears from forming. What was done was done. There was no changing the past. And now, I had to do what I'm best at.


   I looked at myself in the mirror and willed my appearance to change back to Lance McClain. I forced a smile on my face and went out to face the world.


   I raced to Hunk's room and kicked open the door.


   "Hunk! Lets go out!" I yelled, startling the poor man.


   Hunk yelped slightly and glared up at me with one eye. Apparently, he'd been taking a nap.


   "Lance, no. Let's just sleep the rest of the night, y'know, like we're suppose to," he muttered, closing his eyes. "Maybe for once you won't get me in trouble."


   "Okay, I get it, you're still sour about earlier but please! I want to go out!"


   "No."


   "Hunk!" I whined.


   "Nope."


   "Hunk, pwease!" I ran to his bed and jumped on top of him. "Please, I'm begging you, man!"


   Hunk immediately looked anywhere but at my face, knowing what was coming. 


   "Nope, nope nope. I'm not falling for that face again," he shrieked, trying to throw me off his body.


   I tickled him, forcing him to remove his hands from his face.


   "Please! Please!" I begged.


   Hunk made the mistake of glancing over at my face. I gave him my best puppy eyes and he immediately groaned and covered his face.


   "Fine. Give me five minutes to get ready," he muttered.


   "Yes!"


   Ten minutes later, we were on a mission. I looked to both sides of the hallway before darting forward, Hunk in tow. 


   "Oh, I knew this was a bad idea!" Hunk whined.


   "You know, for being in a space exploration program, you don't have much of a sense of adventure!" I shot back, pressing a hand to his chest to stop him.


   "All your little adventures always end with me in the principles office!" 


   I dropped to the ground and began to crawl forward.


   "Aww come on Hunk, you heard Iverson. We have to bond as a team! Lets just grab Pidge, hit the town, meet some cute girls. Or boys, really, I'm not picky. After all, how could I deny either gender the gift that is muah?" I grinned.


   Hunk groaned again. "I don't know what's worse, you being out of the closet or in it. We get it, you're bi Lance. Now please, lets go back to the dorm before we get caught."


   I ignored Hunk and pressed forward, spotting Pidge's room just ahead.


   Just as I was about to walk forward the door slid open. I pushed Hunk against a wall and hid in the shadows.


   "Where are they going?" I muttered.


   Pidge's eyes darted around once before they took off down the hall. I frowned slightly. It seemed like my resident green paladin was more than they were letting on.


---------------

 

Chapter Text

 

 

   "Do not confuse a broken person for an evil person. A broken person can be fixed, an evil person cannot. An evil person causes pain, they hurt others. They deliberately cause chaos. A broken person would never do any of those things because they know what it feels like to be on the other side of those actions. Don't confuse someone who can be saved with someone you will need to be saved from."


   - Anonymous


---------------


    As a child, I used to wake up in the night and wish for the sun. Yet I wasn't afraid of the dark. I was only worried about what it concealed from me. The darkness worried me, my imagination supplied many beasts with teeth like knives to lurk beyond the range of my vision.


   And ghosts.

   I would see the ghost of a mother that had left my brother and me for dead. Shiro didn't remember her. And my Pops never spoke of her. I had always wondered why.

   I wish I hadn't gotten my answer.

   They were ashamed. Ashamed that I wasn't fully human. I was tainted. The blood of my captors coursed through my veins. 

   I am a mistake.

   The result of a one night stand between a Galra and a human. And every single person in my life made sure I knew.

   The day they took me is the day Keith Kogane Shirogane died. It is the day Akira was born. My old life had to die if I was to embrace my new one. This was no place for a sane person.

   Now, my old life seems like a dream, a distant luxury I once had. I would die in the arena or as one of Haggar's lab rats.

   Away from all the people I loved. Just like I deserved.

   "Keith...?"

   Almost everyone.

   I gazed down at my brother and wiped the patch of gray hair away from his face, his skin like a hot furnace under my touch. Perhaps it is wrong for me to be glad I'm not alone, but I guess that's just the way broken people love.

   "I told you not to call me that, Shiro. That boy is dead," I whispered, tucking his long hair behind his ear. "He had to die so I could live and survive. If you try to cling to your humanity you will die."

   Shiro shivered violently, his gray eyes out of focus.

   "H-how? How did you manage to survive for two years here by yourself?" Shiro whispered. "I've only been here...for almost a year. I can't take it anymore."

   "I don't know."

   Shiro winced again and shifted uncomfortably. The cut across his nose started to bleed again so I wiped at it with the back of my sleeve. Shiro turned away and raised what was left of his arm. His gaze was haunting, adding to my guilt.

   "It hurts," he whispered, not turning to look at me. "It hurts so much yet... I know it's gone but...it's...it's almost like I can still feel my arm. It sounds crazy, right? Tell me I'm crazy."

   I choked slightly and turned my head away from him. 

   Shiro didn't deserve this fate. Yet I had condemned him to it without a second thought.

   Tears formed at the corners of my eyes again.

   "I'm so sorry, Shiro. It's all my fault. You should've just let me die!" I whispered, voice breaking. "You would still have your arm. You could've made it out of here!"

   Shiro reached up and wiped away one of the tears with his thumb. He gave me a smile.

   "Keith, you're my brother. There's nothing I wouldn't do for you," Shiro whispered. "We're gonna make it out of here. Alive. Have faith. This nightmare has to end somehow."

   His eyes were full of determination, but also pain. Pain that I'd brought upon him. I brought my other hand to his clammy face.

   "How many times are you gonna have to save me before this is over?" I asked, blinking back tears.

   Shiro released my hand and rested his head on my lap, breathing faint but harsh.

   "As many times as it takes."

   "I didn't ask for this. I didn't ask for any of this," I whispered.

   Shiro closed his eyes.

   "You don't have to, Keith. The second I laid my eyes on you I knew that I would fight for you till my last breath. You're my family," he said, voice trailing away.

   Before I could answer, he began to snore faintly. I sighed deeply and looked around at the darkness around me.

   Some would think the enemy was all around me.

    But the dark isn't my enemy.

   Not even the garla.

   I am.


---------------


   I traced the outline of the brick wall beside me for what seemed like the 100th time.  You'd think a civilization as advanced as the Galra would figure out a different way to make a prison.

   I gave the porcelian lump in front of me a flat stare. At least we had a toilet. 

   My gaze drifted to the many scars littering my arms. A constant reminder of where I was and from where I would never leave.

   All these years they'd been trying to break me, and while they may have done that physically, they would never do it mentally.

    The day Shiro came was the same day I thought I would finally die. I was done fighting. I wanted nothing but to close my eyes and fall into an eternal sleep. 

   Maybe finally, in death, I could rest.

   But then, like a miracle, Shiro appeared. I remember our meeting being bittersweet; both of us marching towards certain death but we were finally together again.

   And that day, I made myself a new promise: I would never break. But I wasn't fighting for myself anymore. No. I'd given up on myself long ago. I was doing it for Shiro. For him, I could hold on a bit longer. 

   Now, I'm only left to wonder one thing. If I had died that day, Shiro would be okay. Haggar wouldn't have experimented on him because she would still be focused on me. I should've done more to protect him, but I was too weak.

   Shiro began to wheeze loudly, startling me from my thoughts. I quickly grabbed the bowl beside me and forced some water down his throat. Most of it spilled, but I had to keep him hydrated.


    Shiro was getting worse. God knows what experiment Haggar had done on him. I was gonna kill that slimy grape when I got my hands on her. 


   Shiro's shifted again, his face twisting in pain before his eyes snapped open.


   "Adam!" he yelled weakly, struggling to sit up.


   "Shh, it was only a dream," I muttered, pushing him down.


   "N-no! Adam, he was here. He was calling out to me... He..." Shiro blinked several times and seemed to regain his senses. "Oh..."


   I helped him sit up and leaned him against the wall.


   "Try not to move around too much or your wound will start to bleed again." I gazed at the bandages wrapped around his wound. "I'm gonna check your arm. Don't want it getting infected."


   Shiro nodded and leaned his head back. It was silent between us as I got to work. The skin around the wound had been poorly disinfected. Maintaining Shiro in top health was obviously not one of Haggar's priorities. The entry to the wound was a eggplant purple. Probably not a good sign.

   Shiro groaned and leaned his head back against the wall.

   "I'm so stupid," he groaned.

   "At last we can agree on something," I said dryly.

   Shiro ignored me, his gaze miles away.

   "He warned me, Keith. He warned me not to go. I should've listened to Adam. I should've chosen him." Shiro winced slightly and sighed. "But I couldn't stay. I couldn't be selfish. Not to him. I had to go. I had to leave him before I could hurt him... Adam gave me an ultimatum, him or the mission, and I chose the mission. I told him the mission was more important but... But I loved him Keith. I loved him more than my life. And that's why I had to leave him."


   I chocked out a laugh, remembering Shiro's awkward gay years.

   "You guys were so gross. And you, you were such a mess. Who was it that finally confessed after years of dodging? Wasn't it Adam?" I said, feeling warm for the first time in years.

   "A-actually," Shiro coughed. "It was me. I...I um, yelled it at him though. From the roof of the Garrison. I was too shy to say it to his face."

   I let loose a small laugh at the thought. "Didn't you...didn't you say something like: listen here you little shit, I have feelings for you and it's about time you ackowledged them?"

   Shrio tried to laugh, but it came out more like a wheeze.

   "Something like that. But hey...it worked. We started dating and... I was ready to spend the rest of my short life with him. But then you disappeared and the...the Kerberos mission came. I...I ruined everything. He probably doesn't even know that I did what I did because I love him."

   "No, no you didn't Shiro. You did what you thought was right. I'm...I'm sure he knows that," I said. "You know I'm not good with words but, trust me. Things will work themselves out for you two when you get back."

   If anyone ruined your life, it was me.

   "When we get back, Keith."

   I gave him a small smile, opting to not say anything else. 

   "You'll see him again. I'll make sure of it," I answered.

   "Yet another promise you won't be able to keep, half-breed," a voice answered.

   My head whipped around to the cell door just as it slammed open. Half a dozen Galra soldiers poured in, guns trained on us. Before I could even move, there was a flash of light and Haggar appeared in all of her wrinkled glory. I stood up quickly and placed myself in front of Shiro's body, teeth bared. Her glowing amber eyes met mine and I shivered despite myself. It was no secret that the witch was an Altean. Yet the monster in front of me didn't even resemble the graceful creatures I'd heard about. Her shoulders were hunched in on each other, her frame small. But with a single look she could send the strongest of the Galra whimpering for their mothers.

   "Hello, Champion. I see you're recovering well from my little experiment," she cackled, taking a step towards us.

   "Stay away from him, you wrinkled old grape!" I snapped, stepping closer to Shiro.

   "Keith, stop," Shiro whispered, grabbing hold of my ankle.

   Under the hood of her purple robes, her golden eyes narrowed in anger. 

   "Are we really gonna do this again, Akira? The last time you tried to fight me I took your brother's arm. Are you really so eager to see me take away the other?"

   "I want to see you try," I snarled, ignoring Shiro's protests.

   Haggar tensed angrily.

   "Take Champion to my lab. I'm not done with him yet," she commanded, clearly dismissing me from being a threat.

   That only made me angrier.

   I launched myself at her but she simply flicked her wrist and sent me flying against a wall. My back collided against it with a crunch but I bit my lip to keep from crying out in pain. I would not give her the satisfaction. I stood up and launched myself at the nearest soldier. He yelled in surprise but I sunk my nails into his skin, kicking his legs from under him and slamming his head against the wall. I took his gun and aimed it at Haggar, my long bangs falling over my eyes. The rest of the soldiers turned their guns on me.


   "Get. The Hell. Away from him, or I'll shoot you," I growled.


   Haggar gave me a smirk. "My, such courage. It really is unfortunate that you were only born a half-breed! You would've made a fine Galra soldier."


   I shot her with the gun but she simply disappeared, her laughter echoing in the cell. Everyone in the room tensed, not knowing where she would appear. Before I could register what was happening she appeared behind me and shot me with a bolt of pure quintessence. I let loose a blood-cuddling scream and fell to my knees, the gun falling from my grasp.

   One of the soldiers smacked their gun on the back of my head and I collapsed. My ears began to ring, my vision blurred away. The rest of the soldiers advanced on Shiro and grabbed hold of him. I could see his mouth open in a scream as he tried to fight. Stop, I wanted to say. Don't make it harder than it needs to be. I tried to reach out to him but it was too late.

   He was gone.

   Haggar turned to me and started to talk, but her words lost to me. My head throbbed where they'd hit me. I could taste static for some reason. The ring in my ears faded just in time for me to hear her last words.


   "-and take this filthy half-breed to the arena. Someone else has challenged him."

   I didn't try to fight the hands that took hold of my wrists and hauled me to my feet. I had failed Shiro. I should've protected him from Haggar. But how would you have done it, you stupid boy, my mind whispered. You can't even take care of yourself. 

   I lost count of how many corridors we walked past, how many turns we took. I knew what awaited me. I couldn't avoid death forever.

   As we got closer to the arena, the bloodthirsty cheers grew louder. I didn't hesitate to grab a sword from the weapons rack when they told me to arm myself.

   Not that it mattered what I got.

   Whatever awaited me beyond those metal doors would be my demise.

   The door was opened and I was shoved inside the arena. I fell on my face and tasted dirt before shakily getting on my knees. The cheering instantly intensified at the sight of me. Cheers for my victory and some for my death. Shaking, I scanned the crowd but was only greeted by calls for my name.

 


   Akira! Akira! Akira!

   The most bloodthirsty gladiator after the Champion. Death oozed from the walls from past warriors, the metallic scent of blood heavy. And my blood would soon join theirs.


   Yes.


   Victory or death, this would end today.


  ---------------

 

 


   

 

Chapter Text

   "Moonlight is the proof that there will always be light in the darkness."


        - Anonymous


---------------

 

   I'd never felt so alive.

   It was almost too much to take; the adrenaline running through my veins instead of blood, the satisfying hiss of my sword as it cut through skin.


   I would only realize later that my Galra side had taken over. There is no way I could've survived this.

   I shouldn't have been able to defeat my opponent.

   Everything became a blur, like a recording being played backward. 

   The Galra was a good fighter, but I was a one-man army.

   My anger and instinct took over my senses. Dodge, roll, strick, block. Never use the same moves or your opponent will know how you fight. Metal clashed against steel.

   The roars of the crowd resonated in my ears. They wanted blood, and blood they would get.

   I was insane.

   I was a demon.

   I was Galra. 

   And I was gonna destroy everything that stood in my way from getting back to Shiro. I would destroy anyone that dared hurt my brother.

   With a muffled shout I jumped into the air, higher than humanly possible. I rose my sword high above my head as the Galra soldier looked up at me with a startled expression.

   Gravity took hold.

   The force of the jump sent us both tumbling down, my sword speared straight through his chest. The Galra gasped as his back collided with the ground, blood pouring out of his mouth as he took his last breaths.

   The shouts of the crowd were blurred, as if I were listening to them while underwater, my mind only focused on the task at hand. I speared my sword deeper into the Galra's chest, breathing heavy.

   His eyes widened in pain as blood poured from his mouth. His claws raked across my cheek, a fighter to the end. 

   "V-vrepit...sa!" he whispered, and closed his eyes.

   "당신의 영혼이 평화롭게 지내기를 바랍니다," I answered.

   May your soul rest in peace.

   Snarling, I pulled my sword from his chest. The light behind the Galra's eyes faded, just like another section of my humanity.

   Another part of my soul went dark.

   I was becoming more Galra.

   Something cold was dripping from my cheek and onto the ground.

   My blood.

   The cheers moved into one, their rhythm matching the fast beating of my heart.

   "Akira! Akira! Akira!"

   For a moment, I simply stood there, leaning heavily against the sword with one knee propped up. I felt like my face was on fire, my cheeks tingling from the heat. If I were to wipe a hand across my brow, it would surely come back soaked.

   The adrenaline rush left me for good this time. Weariness washed over me as surely as the dead body in front of me. My human side had finally caught up to me. And it was horrified by what I had done.

   And then I heard the footsteps. 

   It was over. I'd won.

   And for what? What had I won? One more day in this hell? Another chance to get experimented on?

  I stood up just in time to receive a blow in the head for the second time today. I couldn't even fight them as they dragged me away and back to my cell. My will to live was gone. 

   Death still had its claws on me.

   I want to struggle, I really do, but the fight in me has been locked away. The Galra have the key and they've hidden it away from me.

   Maybe they'd finally done it.

   Maybe they'd finally broken me.

   I ignored the pitiful stares of the other prisoners as I was tossed inside the cell again. Down here, a victory in the Arena was nothing to celebrate. It was something to pity, especially for one of my kind. Each kill, each victory, only insured another day of life for me. But what kind of life was this?

   I yearned for Earth. For the loneliness of the desert and the solitude of my shack. But I'd given it all away the moment I discovered the blue lion. Groaning, I clutched my bruised side and shakily got to my knees. The Galra soldiers were staring at me with their bright yellow eyes.

   They are the hunters and I the prey. 


   "Those were some moves, half-breed. It really is a shame your blood is tainted," one of the said, chuckling at me. 

   "Go to hell!" I spat, brushing the bangs from my face. 

   The soldier raced forward and kicked my stomach. It pulled another groan from my throat, but I refused to let him see the pain he brought upon me.

   "Watch it. We are under orders from Haggar to not hurt your pretty face but that doesn't mean we have to turn you in whole," he said, showing rows of sharp teeth.

   "Too bad Champion isn't spoken for. What did Haggar take this time? His leg?" another laughed. 

   Shiro.

   I launched myself at him, snarling in anger. The Galra quickly tossed his gun to his comrade and punched my jaw. I swore I saw stars but I attacked him again, racking my nails across his face. They had no right to talk about Shiro that way.

   He would be fine.

   Another punch to my stomach sent waves of pain to the other bruises I'd gotten during my match.

   As if sensing my anguish, my body transformed again. I let out a groan at the feeling. My skin stretched over and my bones rearranged themselves to accommodate the height of a Galra. My head sprouted cat-like ears, my fingers their claws. But even after the transformation was complete, I was still smaller than the average Galra.

   Much smaller.

   The group of soldiers only laughed at my pitiful attempt.

   "If only this was your true form all the time, Akira," he chuckled. "Then you wouldn't be such a disappointment!" 

   The Galra formed a circle around me and I shakily got to my feet, already knowing what was coming. The least I could do for myself was remain standing while it happened. I would not let them intimidate me. I tried to wrench myself away but the two Galra in front of me pushed me forward.

   "So small, so defenseless," one of them mused. "No wonder your mother left you."

   "S-shut up!" I snarled, feeling as if he'd driven a huge nail through my heart. 

   They couldn't be more right.

   I lashed out at the Galra but he caught my hand and smashed it. I cried out in pain, clutching my arm to my chest. A foot lashed out and struck my stomach, then my head. The Galra began kicking me mercilessly and all I could do was curl up in a ball. My consciousness faded in and out, the pain following me whenever I awoke. Blood poured out of my nose, my skin swelled into dark bruises but they didn't stop. The fury of the Galra was unbreakable. Their message clear.

   Unbearable pain.

   Pain so blinding I craved death. And death listened. It knew when it was called upon. I wanted it to sink it's claw in me, to take me away from this miserable world. 

   And that's when the alarm rang.

   The pain stopped. 

   "What's going on?" I heard someone ask. 

   "All personnel report to the hangers! There's been a breach! Prisoner 13456786669 is trying to escape! I repeat, all personnel to the hangers immediately!" 

   Black spots danced in my eyes as I struggled to sit up. My muscles felt like jelly, the pain almost enough to send me under. I fell on my face.

   "Let's go!" 

   "What about him?"

   "Leave him. The only way he's getting out of here is if he crawls."

   Their voices faded away. Or maybe it was just my conscious. I couldn't tell anymore. When I opened my eyes again, a figure was looking down at me urgently.

   "-eith! Keith, please! We have to go!" 

   I tried to open my eyes completely but all I could see was a mop of white hair amongst the flashing red lights. His face was beaded in sweat, but I could recognize his face anywhere.

   Relief washed over me like the soothing waters of the ocean. He was alive.

   "Shiro?" 

   Before I could say anything else I felt a lurch in my throat. I quickly turned to the side and threw up, the rotten smell of stomach acid filling the air.

   "Oh my god, Keith! Buddy, please stay with me! I'm gonna get you out of here! We're gonna make it out alive!" 

   I coughed out blood in response.

   Alive.

   What a distant memory, a distant wish. Shiro hauled me up and over his shoulders as if I were a sack of potatoes, ignoring my cry of pain. 

   "I...I survived the fight. I...killed him," I slurred, mind delirious. 

   "Shh,  it's okay. You did what you had to."

   Shiro grunted under my weight and secured me better across his back. I let out a chocked scream as he brushed his hand against my side with his arm. My ribs had to be broken, but I just couldn't bring myself to care.

   Shiro ducked into a corridor and leaned me against a wall. He slapped my face lightly before cupping my face with both hands.

   Hands...

   "Hey, stay with me Keith! I need you!" he said frantically as my head lolled back.

   "Just leave me here, please. It hurts," I slurred, closing my eyes.

   "Keith-" 

   "At least one of us...has to make it out. I'm slowing you down. Go..."

   "No, you don't get to make that call. Come on, get up!"

   "Shiro-"

   "The Galra are coming. We have to get to the pod."

   Before I could protest he scooped me up in his arms and ran, the alarms blasting all around us. Shiro rounded a corner and came face to face with a robot.

   "Hey, stop right there!"

   Shiro evaded the first strike and continued to run. 

   "We're almost there. Stay with me, Keith."

   "I should've died in that match," I whispered. "It's all my fault they took you..."

   Shiro opened his mouth to respond but when he spoke, I couldn't hear a word he said. Once again, I was lost to the world of the living.

 

---------------
   

Chapter Text

   "Being lost is worth the being found."

   -Anonymous

               ---------------

   If I had known today would be my last day on Earth, there is a lot I would've changed.

   I would've checked on my foster family just like I promised I would but forgot to. I would've woken up earlier to see the sunrise one last time. Heck, I wouldn't have skipped breakfast.

   It's funny how one chain of events can change one's thinking. How you never would've guessed a choice would lead you to where you currently are.

   And it was all because of one green gremelin and a pissed off ex-fiancee.

              ---------------

   "Can we go back now?" Hunk whispered for the 100th time.

   "Just a second."

   "Laaance!"

   I whirled around to look at the larger boy.

   "Don't you want to know what Pidge is hidding? I knew that little gremelin was more than they seemed. Those tricksters, back on Altea..."

   "Uh...what?"

   "Nothing. Come on."

   Ignoring his protests I turned my gaze back to the shorter paladin. They were so short and small they could easily be lost in the darkness of the night.

   Shadows stretched out across the floor, ever so often disappearing as the lights flickered on and out. The occasional footsteps could be heard as the officers made their rounds.

   I wonder what would happen once they discovered we weren't in our rooms.

   In my head, I could hear the song mission impossible playing out, adding to the thrill of sneaking out. Back on Altea, my sister and I always snuck out whenever we could (it took a lot of convincing from Allura's side) and we'd sneak into the kitchen to steal pastries.

   Ah, happy times.

   Pidge rounded a couple corners, following the signs that lead upstairs.

   And up up up they went. Hunk was panting after the third set of stairs. I had to bribe him with cookies to keep him going. Finally, they stopped at a metal door labeled 'keep out' and disappeared inside.

   "We made it!" I whisper-yelled.

   Behind me, Hunk collapsed against the nearest wall.

   "Ugh..." he wheezed.

   I lifted a hand for a high five and he weakly complied. Then I turned, pressed my fingers to the door and gently pushed on it. No noise. Perfect.

   "Come on," I whispered, and pushed the door open just enough for me to fit through.

   A gust of wind greeted me as I stepped outside and onto the roof. It looked like someone had sprinkled salt onto the sky, millions of stars glowing like beacons of hope. Beneath us the whole Garrison seemed to be alive. Lights flickered across the mountain, seeming to reflect the stars. The sun had long ago set, a few strands of pink and orange the only traces it left. At first glance the roof appeared empty, but I knew better.

   Forgetting all secrecy I forged ahead and walked to the very edge of the roof, a part that was slanted in such a way that you wouldn't even see it unless you walked up to it.

   And there they were. Their small frame was hunched over, headphones almost the same size as their head covering their ears. But that wasn't what caught me off guard. What did, was the strange technology that surrounded the green paladin. True to their title. The gremelin made no signs of acknowledgement towards us so I figured those headphones made them lost to the world. I strolled right to them and took off an ear bud.

   "This doesn't look like garrison tech," I whispered.

   They shrieked loudly and I instantly jumped away and hid behind Hunk, trembling in fear of the tiny monster.

   "What...? How...?" they exclaimed, trying to hide everything away.

   Hunks eyes widened at the sight of all the technology. He reached out to touch it but Pidge slapped his hand away.

   "Don't touch my equipment!"

   Seeing that they weren't gonna attack me, I stepped forward again from behind Hunk.

   "That's right. You're busted, Pidgy. Now are you gonna tell us what the hell is going on?" I demanded.

   "Funny, you stole the words right out of my mouth," a new voice said.

   This time, we all shrieked. Our heads turned towards the source of the voice, hearts pounding at the thought of being found.

   I would be expelled! My mom would be so mad she'd follow me around the house with the chancla!

   A million scenarios roamed through my head but they all disappeared as soon as I saw who it was.

   "Professor White!" I shouted.

   A tall, lean figure emerged from the shadows. Skin a warm coffee, hair a fawn brown. Eyes like honey. Looking at him up close, I could see why Shiro had been so smitten with him. 
 
   Pidge and Hunk straightened and saluted the young man. He rolled his eyes at us but the hint of a smile was playing on his full lips.

   "Drop the act, cadets. I know why you're here," Adam said walking over to us.

   He was wearing olive green cargo pants, a tight-fitting black shirt, and a sleeveless gray jacket. The lack of uniform meant he'd just ended his shift.

   Which also meant...

   Pidge glared at him, pushing their glasses higher up their nose. "It was you! You've been following me whenever I went up here."

   Adam smirked at her acussionary tone. "You're not as sneaky as you think, Miss Holt."

   Pidge's mouth dropped open.

   "Wha-"

   "All you did was what? Cut your hair and put on Matt's glasses? Come on, I saw right through you," Adam smirked.

   Pidge shut their mouth and leveled a glare at him.

   "Then if you know about my real identity why haven't you told the Garrison?"

   Adam walked past them and stepped to the clear edge of the roof. His gaze swept across the stars.

   "Because I know the Garrison is full of fucking liars." He turned back around to face us. "My Takashi is the best pilot that's ever walked this earth. There's no way the crew was lost to a pilot error."

   "What? Why would the Garrison lie to us?" Hunk asked. "It doesn't make any sense!"

   Adam's words sent my mind on overdrive. They confirmed my darkest of hopes. If Shiro was still alive then maybe...

   "So if you're not here to stop us...?" Pidge let their question trail away. "What are you doing here then?"

   Adam puffed out his chest slightly. "I'm here to join you."

   For a second their gazes locked together, their separate pains becoming one. Adam and Pidge understood each other because they were both going through the same kind of pain and loss. The guarded look on Pidge's face faded and they gestured to the tech surrounding them.

   "I think Adam will agree with me when I say this: the mission wasn't lost due to some pilot error. No, it was far from that. With the equipment I made I am able to scan as far as Kerberos, to where the mission failed. My scanners have picked up faint traces of alien radio chatter. After cross examining the time difference between Earth and space I was able to pinpoint the exact time and location in which they appeared. The radio chatter first appeared on the same day that the Kerberos mission was lost. Coincidence? I think not."
  
   "Woah woah woah. Time out."

   Everyone turned to look at Hunk.

   Pidge raised an eyebrow. "Is there a problem?"

   "I hate to be the voice of reason here but, aliens? Are you insane!?" Hunk asked.

   "I'm serious Hunk. They keep repeating one word, 'Voltron.' And tonight, the radio chatter has gone bongos. Somethings gonna happen tonight, I just know it."

   Voltron. They know about Voltron! If they know then they must be coming to Earth for Blue!

   "Look, I'm all for conspiracy theories but just take a moment to think this through!" Hunk exclaimed. "Maybe you're just allowing your grief to take over. Or maybe this alien mumbo jumbo is real. Either way, there are too many maybes and no solid answers. I vote we stay out of this before we get on trouble, or worse."

   I gazed at Hunk incredulously.

   "Seriously Hunk? The gain is worth the risk. If Pidge and Adam are working to see what happened to the people in the Kerberos mission then it doesn't matter if we get expelled. We have to help them. I have to see what happened to Keith!"

   I bit my tongue too late. The last sentence was meant only for my ears. Yet now it was out in the open for the fiance and little gremelin to feast on. They exchanged knowing glances with Hunk.

   "Keith, eh? You got a thing for my adopted son?" Adam grinned.

   "Ex-adopted son!" I snapped. "And no!"

   "Oh, he totally does," Hunk added helpfully.

   Before I could say anything, the alarms began to ring and Iverson spoke on the loudspeaker.

   "Attention students. This is not a drill. We are on lockdown! Security situation Zulu Niner. Repeat: all students are to remain in barracks until further notice."

   Pidge looked at Adam.

   "You ratted us out!"

   "I did no such thing!" Adam snapped, looking up towards the sky. "Look!"

   My eyes widened as soon as I laid eyes on the object in the sky.

   The Galra.

   They found me.

   "We have to get out of here!" I said, feeling a blanket of fear drape over me.

   Pidge placed binoculars over their eyes and gazed at the sky.

   "That is not one of ours," they exclaimed.

   Just then, the ship crashed and a huge explosion echoed across the desert. My senses went on overdrive. I had to keep my two paladins safe.

   "We have to go," I repeated, pulling at Hunk's hand.

   "Oh, now you want to leave!" Hunk sighed.

   "Is that one of our ships?" Adam whispered. 

   "No," I said solemnly. "It's one of theirs."

   Pidge's eyes widened. "We have to get to that ship and find out what's going on. Come on!"

   "Pidge, no. It's dangerous!"

   I can't loose you too. I can't.

   "Lance, I have to. If there's anything I can do for my family I'm gonna do it. Are you coming or not?"

   They packed their computer in a bag and raced away. Adam gave us a small glance before racing after them.

   So much for staying safe.

   "Come on Hunk, we gotta move and make sure that gremelin doesn't get themself killed."

   Pidge and Adam didn't even look at us as we stopped next to them, each sporting a set of binoculars over their eyes. I strained my eyes towards the ship but it was lost in a cloud of smoke and debris. Pidge handed me their binoculars and opened her computer again. They didn't help much but I got a clearer view of the ship.

   It confirmed my fears. It was Galra, but there was something different about it. I guess 10,000 years does that to technology.

   "They set up a camera inside and I hacked into the feed. Look!" Pidge said.

   Everyone huddled around them. The feed was slightly blurry, but I could make out the outline of several people inside. They were dressed in lab coats and were surrounding a large figure strapped to a bed that looked like...

   "No way," I whispered. "Could that be...?"

   "Takashi!"

   Adam covered his mouth quickly, tears shining at the corners of his eyes.

   He looked much older, with a patch of white hair covering his forehead. A scar ran across his nose. One of his arms was gone, replaced with a fancy prosthetic. And he was dressed in the clothes of a Galra prisoner.

   Pushing aside my guilt, I squinted my eyes at the screen.

   "Is that blood on his clothes?"

   A figure emerged into the room and walked up to Shiro's bed.

   "What is Iverson doing there?" Hunk asked.

   "He's probably gonna try to cover this up," Adam spat.

   "Shh, Iverson is saying something," Pidge said.

   "Hey, what are you doing?! Leave him alone?" Shiro yelled, his gaze on something away from the camera's range.

   Him?

   "Calm down, Shiro. We just need to keep you quarantined until we run some tests. We need to be cautious here."

   "You have to listen to me! They destroy worlds! Aliens are coming!" Shiro yelled, struggling against his binds.

   "Looks like Pidge was right," Adam whispered.

   "But where's the rest of the crew? This isn't right. They should be here!" Pidge muttered.

   "Don't worry, we'll find your father and brother," Adam added.

   "Do you know how long you've been gone?" Iverson asked.

   "Months? Years? It doesn't matter! You have to listen to me. They're coming for us. Aliens are coming here for a weapon. They're probably on their way. They'll destroy us. We have to find Voltron!"

   "Voltron," I whispered.

   "Voltron?" Hunk asked.

   "Sir, take a look at this. It appears his arm has been replaced with a cyborg prosthetic," one of the scientists said.

   The feed blacked out for a bit and Pidge quietly cursed. When we got a clear visual Shiro was being injected with something, the officer and scientists ignoring his pleas.

   But he knew. Shiro knew about the Galra's plans but more importantly, he was alive.

   "They didn't even ask for the rest of the crew. What the hell?" Pidge muttered.

   "We have to get Shiro out of there!" I exclaimed.

   "Lance is right. If we get Shiro out of there we can ask him ourselves where your family is," Adam said.

   "Oh my god are you guys listening to yourselves? The reason were even watching from out here is because there's no way inside," Hunk said.

   "We need a distraction."

   "Maybe we could get some hazmat suits and sneak in like med techs," Pidge said.

   "Or we dress up like cooks, head back to the dorms, sneak into the commissary - little late-night snack," Hunk said.

   "I have a better idea."

   Adam raced to the door of the roof and pressed a code on the panel. Alarms began blaring once more.

   Adam reached inside his pocket and produced a radio.

   "Attention Garrison. This is Adam White of Unit 3. This is a code nine. Everyone out of their rooms! We are under attack!"

   "Code nine? You'll cause panic among everyone!" Hunk exclaimed.

   Adam grinned. "Exactly."

   On Pidge's computer, Iverson yelled something at the scientists before racing out of the room and back towards the Garrison.

   "You are totally gonna get fired," Pidge deadpanned.

   "Oh I know. Let's go!"

   We watched Adam's figure dissapear into the darkness.

   "That's one badass teacher," Pidge grinned.

   I sighed. "It's really hot."

   Both paladins groaned. Pidge elbowed me before racing after Adam.

---------------

   I felt like my heart would explode once we stepped inside the ship. Each step brought me deeper and deeper into enemy ground.

   But if this would save Keith and Shiro it would be well worth it.

   "This way," Adam whispered, sinking deeper into the darkness.

   "Funny, this is the second spy mission I've gone to today," Hunk whispered, glaring at me.

   I gave him a sheepish smile in return.

   "Over here!" Pidge exclaimed, pointing to the metal doors.

   Adam frowned. "Pidge, wait-"

   Suddenly they opened up and light poured into the darkness. I hissed at the sudden light and blocked my eyes.

   "Hey! You're not allowed in here!"

   With a roar of anger Adam raced forward towards the scientists. I watched, open mouthed, as Adam single-handedly took out the four scientists.

   "Totally hot," I whispered to Hunk.

   Adam ignored my comment and raced towards his ex-fiancee's side.

   "Takashi!"

   Shiro groaned, but gave no reply. He was out cold.

   I quietly walked to Shiro's side and studied him. Up close, he looked worse for wear. His skin was pale and clammy. Even under, his expression was pinched with pain. But he had survived.

   "Hey Lance, you might want to check this out," Pidge called out.

   I chuckled to myself. "What? Don't tell me you found a-"

   I turned around. The grin melted off of my face.

   "Man, it's almost like they're...frozen," Hunk frowned.

   Pidge gave a reply but I didn't hear them. Everything was lost to me except what was in front of my eyes.

   "It can't be..." I whispered.

   The camera the Garrison had set up clearly hadn't shown the whole ship. There's no way an Altean healing pod had just magically appeared. This must've been who Shiro was talking about.

   The sleeping beauty hidden behind a layer of glass, untouched by time.

   With a hiss, the sleeping pod opened.

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Chapter Text

   "Darkness is the proof that there is hope in the light."

   -Anonymous 

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   For the first time in many years, I felt safe. Was I dead? Was I finally free? No, death seemed too merciful.

   Besides, I didn't feel dead. I felt as if someone had taped a hazy green paper between my eyelids. All I could see was green, yet at the same time I knew I wasn't actually seeing it because my eyes were closed.

   Then, as if someone had pushed play, a whole bunch of voices came rushing into my consciousness. I felt like I should know them from somewhere, but I couldn't bring myself to care. I want them to go away. I want to be left alone in my silence.

   If life owed me anything, it was that.


   But the voices kept persisting. My mouth twitched into a frown.

   Why wouldn't they go away?

   Suddenly there was a soft hiss. The green began to unravel before my eyes. The feeling of being suspended in zero gravity disappeared and I found myself suddenly falling forward. Then everything seemed to be happening at once. I tried to catch myself, but someone beat me to it. They wrapped their arms around my waist and hoisted me up. A sudden aroma of the ocean and cinnamon hit my lungs. My muscles gave out on me. I would've fallen if it weren't for the person holding me.


   They grunted softly under my weight but their hold on me was strong. I opened one of my eyes and instantly regretted it. The lights were too bright. I placed my hands on the person's shoulders to try and stand up myself but my muscles were jelly.

   I whined softly at the pain and decided to stay put. The person holding me began to vibrate under me. It took me a second to realize they were laughing. And another one to realize their laugh was the most beautiful thing I'd heard.


   "Who is that?" someone asked.


   "I don't know, but for some reason she looks familiar," my savior replied.


   It was a guy. I could feel the broadness of his shoulders and the leanness of his arms. I instantly felt a bright red blush coat my cheeks.

   I'd forgotten how gay I was.


   Wait a second...

   She...?

   There was only one person in the entire universe that had called me a girl and lived to tell the tale.


   "Who the quiznak are you calling a girl?" I growled, lifting my head up to meet his eyes.


   Lance's eyes.


   Those big ocean orbs met my own and they widened instantly.


   "Keith...?"


   Then he promptingly dropped me.


   I landed on my ass, hard. I let loose a string of curses at Lance but he only stared down at me in shock, frozen. And I stared right back.

   He hadn't changed much in the past few years. The freckles across his nose were as prominent as ever, meaning that it was summer. His brown locks looked like they'd been recently cut, his skin looking smooth as ever.

   I pushed the hair out of my eyes, ready to give lance a piece of my mind for calling me a girl for a second time, but then all hell broke loose.


   A large guy with coca skin and an orange headband wrapped me up in a hug so hard I thought my ribs would break again.


   "Keith! You're not dead!" he bellowed. "Oh I knew it!"


   I awkwardly patted his back, trying to place his name in my mind. Big hugs, always smells like a bakery, biggest heart in the universe...


   Hunk.


   "Hunk, ribs!" I squeaked.


   "Oh sorry dude."


   He released me and a small green thing latched onto my leg. Their ginger hair was an unruly mess and they looked like they hadn't slept in weeks.


   "You asshole. If you disappear like that again I will find you and murder you," Pidge growled, their arms tight around my leg.


   "It's nice to see you too, gremlin," I said, fondly patting their head.


   Everyone suddenly turned to look at a figure that was obscured by the shadows. A million questions were running through my head but they all stopped as soon as I saw who the figure was.


   I tried to stand up but my muscles rebelled against the strain.


   Adam walked towards me slowly, tears brimming at the edges of his amber eyes. Up until now, I thought this was all a dream, like the one's Haggar had used to torture me. I would dream of saving Shiro and returning home, only to wake up and realize that it was all a figment of my imagination. Of course, my dreams had always gone a bit differently, but Adam never appeared in any of them. Seeing him made it all real. Everything would be okay.

   Adam was here, I was finally home.


   "Oh my God, Keith," he whispered, his expression mirroring my own.


   He ran towards me and crushed me in a hug, tears falling down his face.


   "My beautiful boy... Oh Keith, you're alive..." he whispered. "I never thought I would see you again."


   I hugged him fiercely, hiding my face on his shoulder. Me too, I wanted to say. I missed you.


   But when I opened my mouth to speak, alarms began ringing all around me. I tensed up in Adam's arms, wondering if I could ever really rest.


   "Come to think of it, how are you here? What's going on? Wait, where am I?" I suddenly remembered one important detail I was forgetting. "Where's Shiro?"


   Panic gave me strength. I rose to my legs shakily, almost falling again. Adam quickly stood up and supported my weight.


   "Takashi is okay, Keith. It's all over, you're home now," Adam whispered.


   "I hate to break up this reunion but, we have to go."


   Everyone turned to look at Lance. It was the first time he'd spoken since he'd dropped me. I'd almost forgotten he was even there. His eyes met my own with an almost tender gaze and I panicked.


   "I'm sorry, who are you?"


   His eyes widened with indignation. I mentally kicked myself.

   Nice going, Kogane.


   "What!? Who am- It's me, Lance! We were in the same class at the garrison," he exclaimed. "You know Lance and Keith, neck and neck?"


   "Are you an engineer or something?"


   Just shut up, Keith. You're gonna hate yourself later.


   "No, I'm a pilot! How do you not remember this you emo mullet?"


   "Listen, we don't have time for your gay shit. The garrison's coming back and they do not look happy," Pidge cut in.


   Lance squawked indignantly again and began arguing to himself in Spanish. Beside me, Adam snickered.


   "Like brother, like brother."


   "Oh shut up," I muttered.


   "Uh, guys. there's a problem. How are we gonna get Mr. Shirogane out of here?" Hunk asked.


   I turned to look at Hunk and realized he had Shiro thrown across his shoulders like a sack of potatoes.


   "Don't worry, I have that covered," Adam said, then he turned to me. "On a scale of one to ten, how mad are you gonna be when I tell you I remodeled your hoverbike?"


                                                         ---------------

   "I was gone for three years! Three! It only took you that long to move on?" I huffed.


   "Aww come on, Keith. Give me a break," Adam said sheepishly. "I needed a ride to use around the garrison. And Shiro wouldn't let me use his so I borrowed yours."


   "Borrowed! You painted it green!"


   "They're gaining on us. Could we please have a little less arguing and little more driving?" Lance snapped.


   I bit my mouth to keep a retort from escaping my lips. The wind was whistling loudly so I doubt he would've heard me anyway. Even so, I wasn't gonna let Lance of all people ruin my mood. I accelerated the bike, reveling in the screams of my passengers.

   Behind me, Adam gripped my shoulder tightly. I winced slightly at the headache that suddenly blossomed.


   "Don't exert yourself, Keith. You just got out of a...pod thingy."


   "Altean healing pod!" Lance put in.


   "Yes, that. So please be caref- Keith watch out!" Adam took hold of the steering wheel and he jerked it to the left, narrowly avoiding crashing into a wall. "See, this is why you should've let me drive. You're in no condition to drive."


   "And then who was gonna hold Shiro? You're the only one I trust besides me to take care of him," I answered, only half lying.


   Adam sighed but didn't reply. I risked a backward glance and saw him stroking Shiro's face with a trembling hand.


   "Um, are you okay?"

   "I-I don't know. It feels so unreal to have him back... I know the last time we saw each other I said a lot of things that I regret but... I'm just glad he's back and that he brought you home to us again."


   "Hold up, is that a cliff up ahead!?" Hunk yelled.


   I took a sharp turn. Behind us, another garrison car crashed.


   "Oh no," Pidge yelled. "Don't even think about-"


   "Yup."


   I pressed my foot on the gas and we lurched forward. Adam tightened his hand around my waist as we went over and down. Everyone screamed and Lance fell forward to my side.


   "What are you doing? You're gonna kill us all!" he yelled.


   "Shut up and trust me!"


   If I timed everything correctly, we should avoid smashing into the ground.

   But if not, the good news is that everyone would be too dead to care.

   At the last second before we crashed I leaned the weight back, waited about three seconds, and accelerated. The hoverbike scraped against the ground slightly before resuming it's smooth path. I shot Lance a smug look but he just stuck his tongue out at me.


   "Heh, just like I taught you, eh Keith?" a voice whispered.


   Since we were out of danger I put the bike on autopilot and turned back to face Shiro. I felt really dizzy but I managed a small grin.


   "Don't worry Shiro, you're safe," I whispered. "Adam and some other kids from the garrison helped rescue us."


   "Adam...He's here...?"


   "I'm here, Takashi." Adam pulled Shiro down onto his lap. He gave Shiro a small smile. "Hey..."


   And that's all he needed to say for Shiro's face to melt into one of happiness. He was obviously still delirious from whatever the garrison had injected him with, but he bore the smile that only Adam could get out of him.


   "You came for me..." he whispered.


   More tears formed at the corners of Adam's eyes.


   "You idiot, I told you not to get lost in space. And what was the first thing you did?"


   Shiro coughed weakly. "I got lost in space."


   "You're an idiot."


   "But I'm your idiot."


   Behind them, Pidge gagged.


   "You two are so gross. You seriously make me sick. Where are we headed to, anyway?"


   "The shack," Adam answered, wiping at his tears. "There's something there that I need you all to see."


   I turned around to drive but a wave of nausea nearly caused me to fall out of the hoverbike.


   "Oh no, that's enough of that for you. You're gonna rest," Adam scolded. "You Shirogane-Kogane's have a huge reputation of overworking yourselves."


   "Adam, I'm not five anymore. You don't have to mother me," I muttered.


   He pushed me back with Shiro, his actions making it clear that there was no arguing with him.


   "You sure act like you are. And I will always mother you, even when you're old and wrinkly. Now rest!"


   His words were like a command to my whole body. I didn't try to resist it as I was pulled under yet again.


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   The second I realized where I was, I knew this would not end well. My vision was a bit blurry but the familiar scent of chemicals and sweat was intoxicating. Ignoring the pounding in my head I sat up and tried to take in my surroundings. I was sitting on a cold metal bed, a large light blaring down on me. Across from me was a table with different kinds of tools and quintessence jars. For some reason the whole room had an eerie purple light.


   I felt different. I couldn't remember anything, how I ended up here.

   Or what they had done to me.

   I stood up and cold air hit my body. I was completely naked. I took one shuddering step forward and collapsed. The sound echoed across the empty room. I let loose a small whimper and curled up into a ball, my tail wrapping around my stomach.


   Tail...


   I shrieked and quickly tried to back away from it. The tail followed me. My heart began to pound impossibly fast as I finally looked down at my body. My nails were long and volcanic black. Purple fur covered my arms, my legs, my whole body. Trembling I quickly rose to my feet.

   Mirror.

   I need a mirror. I looked around the room and found one at the end of the room. I raced to it and nearly fainted on the spot.


   I was one of them.


   "No," I whispered, touching my face.


   I pulled at the ears on my head, hoping they would go away.


"No...Oh God no, please."


   You're a monster, my mind whispered. Look at you.


   "No, this is not me. I'm not one of them!"


   Galra blood runs through your veins. This is who you really are.


   "No..."


   You're a monster.


   "N-no..."


   You're the reason Shiro was captured. How does it feel to stare at the face of the enemy and realize you are one of them?


   "No!"


   With a gasp of air my eyes flew open. I fell off the bed and threw up into the nearest container I found. Shuddering, I looked down at my body and ran my hands across my skin.

   No purple fur. No tail.

   Someone knocked on the door and I slapped a hand over my mouth.


   "Keith...? Are you alright? We heard you fall."


   It was Hunk.


   I cleared my throat and willed my voice not to break.


   "I'm fine. I'll be out in a second," I answered.


   "Alright...There's food in the kitchen if you want some."


   "Thanks Hunk."


   I leaned back against the wall, goosebumps running over my body.


   It was just a dream.


   Just a dream...


   I allowed myself a few more moments to breathe before I stood to freshen up. I realized, with a start, that I was in my old room. And it looked exactly as I left it three years ago. I smirked as I ran my hands over my old MCR posters and the glow in the dark stars I'd hung on the walls and ceiling. My telescope had gathered a bit of dust but it also looked like it hadn't been used in a while. I bet if I looked under the bed I would find my old garrison uniform rolled up in a ball.

   But it was all from a different life.


   I grabbed a pair of dark jeans and a gray shirt from my closet before going into the bathroom to shower. The feel of the warm water on my skin was almost heavenly. And actually being able to wash my hair? I felt almost normal again.

   Anxious to see Shiro again, I quickly left the room in search of him. The wooden floor creaked under my feet as I walked down the dusty hall. Pictures decorated the walls. Past Keith on his first day at Galaxy Garrison. Adam proposing to Shiro (because no matter what Shiro says, Adam is the one with the pants in the relationship).

   On impulse, I took the picture out of the frame and stuck it in my back pocket before continuing down the hall.

   I could hear voices from the room next door that sounded suspiciously like Adam and Lance. Taking a deep breath I entered the living room.

   The voices in the room stopped momentarily and everyone stopped to stare at me.

   They were all still dressed in the same clothes as yesterday and it looked like they hadn't slept all night.

   "Good morning?" I said timidly, crossing my arms in front of me.

   Pidge hardly spared me a look before looking down at their computer again.

   "Afternoon, actually," Adam said, stepping up to give me a quick hug "How'd you sleep?"

   He was wearing an apron over a sleeveless black shirt that said 'Kiss the cook.' I tried not to stare.

   "Fine. Where's Shiro?" I asked.

   Lance gave me a strange look from behind Adam.

   "He's in the dining room having a meal. You should eat something too," Adam said.

   "I'm not hungry," I answered, at the same time as my stomach growled.

   Adam whacked my forehead with his finger.

   "Liar. Now come on, everyone's having breakfast too anyway."

   Behind me, Pidge yelped as Lance picked them up. 

   "That includes you too, gremlin."

   "Fuck off, Lance!"

   Shiro poked his head from the dining room.

   "Language!"

   I chuckled to myself and followed Adam inside the kitchen. Hunk gave me a warm smile as soon as he saw me.

   "Good morning, Keith."

   "Morning."

   I looked over at Shiro and we locked gazes. Our eyes seemed to be asking the same question.

   Are you okay?

   I gave a slight nod and Shiro did the same.

   "Alright everyone, eat up. And Keith, no running off on your own. You need to take care of yourself and rest. Just because running away runs in the family, it doesn't mean you need to follow the example," Adam said, hardly sparing a glance at Shiro. 

   Shiro suddenly seemed to develop a fascination in his scrambled eggs.

   Pidge snorted and took a seat across from me.

   "Anyway, Hunk and I have been working on deciphering energy being transmitted from the biospectrum of the wavelengths. We used the energy signatures of the codes you gave us, Adam," they said.

   Lance took a seat next to me and Adam quickly placed a plate of food in front of him.

   "Did you now."

  "Yeah, and we noticed that the repeating series of numbers the aliens are searching for looks a lot like a Fraunhofer line," Hunk said.

   I shoveled as much food as I could take. "Frowgh oine?" 

   "It's a number describing the emission spectrum of an element, only this element doesn't exist on Earth," Hunk said. "After cross examining the electromagnetism of the elements we were able to come up with a possible explanation to the crazy energy."

   "Well, we should get to it. I feel like we're sitting ducks," Shiro said, standing up.

   Adam quickly took off his apron and motioned for us to follow him into the other room.

   Sabers of sunlight were the only source of light in the room. A table had been turned over, probably in anger. Stacks of paper littered the floor. But what really drew the eye were the twin boards hanging side by side on the wall. Red string covered the board in a mass of webs. Words covered most of the papers in Adam's neat handwriting. Lance stepped ahead of is and studied the boards.

   "Hey, what's the board over here?" he asked.

   "Oh, that's just a side project of mine," Adam dismissed.

   "It literally says operation kill Takashi and all the little shits that followed him," Lance deadpanned.

   Adam threw a blanket over the board before Lance could say anything else. 

   "I started this other board a while back when..." Adam glanced back at me. "When Keith disappeared. Over the course of the years I tried to...to find an explanation as to why he disappeared. We never stopped searching, but over time we began to loose hope. It was as if you were no longer on planet Earth. And then...and then Takashi left. That year he was gone I...made a discovery."

   Adam pointed to the hazy picture of a blue lion. 

   "That symbol right there. It means something. I didn't know what until I stumbled across this area." Adam's finger trailed down to the image of a cave. "I went there a couple weeks ago. Didn't find anything except for more blue lion symbols. After that, my searches kept going to dead ends. But, with the new information you've been able to find. I think we may just have the answer to all the crazy energy out here."

   Beside me, Lance stiffened.

   "Do you really think it's a good idea to be looking for trouble?" he said. "You have no idea what you're up against."

   Shiro placed a hand on Lance's shoulder. "Lance, those creatures. They destroy planets. I...I watched them destroy an entire civilization just to get a hold of this Voltron. They will stop at nothing until they get what they want. It's only a matter of time before they find Earth." 

   Lance held Shiro's stare.

   "Are you ready to sacrifice everything for the planet you call home?" Lance said darkly. "Once you discover what your up against, will you have the courage to do what is necessary? Will you fight to protect the weak?"

   "Woah, Lance. What the hell?" Adam frowned. "Takashi can't-" 

   "Yes," Shiro inturruped. "I'm ready to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of my loved ones...and the people of this planet."

   Lance and Shiro stared at each other for a while longer before Lance finally looked away. 

   "Fine. Then there's something you need to see."