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Forget the Stars, Bring Me Flowers

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The first time they land to make camp, everybody’s quiet except for the crackling of the fire.

Pidge sits close to Allura, not saying anything. She’s not good with words, and Allura has this dangerously blank face that tells Pidge she checked out a long time ago.

Pidge wants to do the same, but instead she lets a handful of dirt sieve through her fingers, staring at the fire until her eyes ache.

The stars change around them, ever slowly, and Pidge spends most of the time either making new programs or talking to Matt.

After almost two weeks stuck between planets, squeezed into the Green Lion’s cabin, Pidge is ready to strangle her brother if he glares at her one more time, so she suits up and drifts out of her Lion’s mouth with nothing but a thin ankle tether keeping her from drifting away.

“Pidge?” Allura’s voice comes over the comm, sounding tinny and far away, even as the Blue Lion slides in next to her. “Are you all right? Is anything broken?”

“No, Allura, I just needed to step outside for a bit.” She hopes they’re on a private channel, for some reason that the rational part of her brain can’t explain.

The Blue Lion stops so close that if Pidge wasn’t floating in front, she would worry about being crushed. “Well, I’ll wait for you to get back inside then.”

“Allura, I do have a jetpack. I’ll be fine.” Pidge grins, and feels almost giddy at the attention.

“Aw, are you worried, Princess?” Matt’s voice cuts through the channel, turning the moment sour.

“You know we can’t afford to lose any Paladins,” Allura’s voice slips into the silky smoothness that Pidge has come to realize is her ‘Royalty Voice’. “I believe there’s a planet ahead with a breathable atmosphere. I’ll meet you two there.”

The Blue Lion sails away, and Pidge tries to tell herself that she’d not disappointed, not at all.

The desert hasn’t changed in the years they’ve been gone, except for the sand piled against the side of Keith’s house that they clear away.

Inside, dust motes swirl through the air and Romelle can’t stop sneezing. The furniture is old and faded from too much sun, while the floorboards are cracked. But it’s a place to stay the night, and none of them mind too much.

There’s no water or gas, so they make a fire outside and watch as the stars twinkle into life, one by one.

“You know stars, don’t you, Pidge?” Pidge is sitting on the ground in her undersuit when Allura comes over to ask her.

“Yeah, I guess,” She shrugs, “but Matt’s a lot better at it than me. Why not ask him?”

She glances up, and Allura has that blank face again, but it’s sadder than the first night post-castle, like looking at the stillest part of a river.

“Walk with me, Pidge,” she says, and Pidge scrambles to her feet without protest.

They leave the warmth of the fire behind, and the desert night closes around them. The sky is hazy from wildfires, and Pidge can barely see the Big Dipper. Allura’s shoved her hands deep in her pockets, staring morosely at the ground.

“I didn’t call you out here to talk about the stars,” Allura finally says. She finds a boulder and sits against it, tipping her head back.

“I kinda figured.” Pidge shrugs before kicking at a rock. She doesn’t say anything else, just watches Allura nibbling at her lip.

Allura takes in a deep breath, her chest stuttering. “I just needed to talk to someone about what happened lately. With Lotar and the Castle.”

Pidge tilts her head. “No offense Princess, but why come to me? Why not Hunk or Lance or, hell, even Coran?”

In the ensuing silence, she goes to the other side of the boulder, so they’re sitting back to back.

“I needed someone who wasn’t as…close to the situation.”

Ah, now Pidge understands. Something deep down stings a little at the truth, and she soothes it with the knowledge that she’s here with Allura and not anybody else.

“Well, take as long as you need.”

Allura starts out halting and slow, tripping over her words in a way completely unlike her, in a way that reminds Pidge of the ghost of ‘I’m Katie now’ tumbling past her lips so many years ago. Soon though, everything Allura has kept bottled up is coming out in a flood

Allura cuts herself off with a wet, choking sob, and it takes Pidge a moment to realize she’s crying. She pushes herself further up the rock, until they’re touching shoulder blades, and she can feel how Allura’s shake.

Pidge has never been good at comfort, even worse at comforting crying people. And based on what she’s hearing, it’s the ugly kind with runny noses and swollen eyes.

After chewing her lip, wondering if it would crossing a line, Pidge swings blindly, settling her hand on top of Allura’s.

“Hey,” she says, and it sounds too inadequate, too small for everything she wants to say, “I know it’s hard, but no matter what happens, we’re here for you.”

Pidge draws her knees close to her chest, letting Allura lean against her back to finish crying herself out.

When she’s done, Pidge gets off the boulder and offers her hand again. Allura takes it with a soft, sad smile.

They hold hands all the way back to Keith’s shack, pressing shoulders like there’s nothing else in the world.

And when they divide up the rooms, Pidge and Allura sleep on the porch, alone except for the Lions and the open night sky.

The Garrison is alive with cadets swarming the grounds, rising out the desert like a silver oasis. The huge ion cannon attached to the roof of the main building powers online, glowing threateningly.

“Unknown aircraft, identify yourselves,” a voice cuts through their helmets, but it makes Pidge grin so wide that her cheeks hurt.

“This is Katie Holt of the Paladins of Voltron, requesting clearance,” she says as she bounces up and down in her seat. Sure, Keith is the leader, and he probably should announce them, but Pidge hopes he won’t mind.

The cannon lowers back down, the glow dissipating.

“Voltron Paladins, you cleared to land on Pad Three.”

“Three?” Lance asks incredulously, “That’s two more than were here last time.”

“The grounds have gotten a lot bigger too,” Hunk remarks quietly.

“It’s…blockier than I originally imagined,” Allura joins them, her tone coming through in a way that Pidge wouldn’t describe as much disappointed as much as…thoughtful.

“Hope you weren’t expecting any crystal spires, Princess,” Pidge teases her as they get into position above the landing pad. “The U.S. military’s not big on architectural innovation.”

The Lions settle on their haunches as people gather at the edges of the courtyard.

“Guys, I just realized that the paperwork’s gonna be a nightmare,” Hunk says before signing off.

Pidge goes down her Lion’s ramp, and the heat hits her like a dry, static filled blanket. The crowd that’s gathered ripples away from the Lions like a deer turning to run. Others try to push forward, desperate to sate their curiosity.

She sees her parents and runs towards them, Matt at her heels, before she meets them in a tangle of arms.

Pidge hides her face in her mother’s shoulder and keeps mumbling apologies of ‘sorry, I’m so sorry’ through her tears.

When she’s finally ready to separate, she sees Allura and Coran watching Iverson leave, Coran swaying back and forth and glancing around in a way that means he’s feeling awkward.

“Coran! Allura!” Pidge yells, before taking her mother’s hand. “Mom, I want you to meet my friends.”

The paperwork is just as bad as Hunk warned, and by the fifth hour of briefing, Pidge is half-ready to bite someone.

Finally, they let her go for a break and she steps into the hallway. Allura’s sitting on a bench in the middle, tightly clutching a datapad and chewing her lip.

“Is everything okay, Allura?” Pidge feels the bench give under her weight and almost tumbles backwards. “Fucking quiznack that is definitely broken.”

“Coran is still being interrogated. They gave me this to fill out my personal information but it’s not in Altean, and, well…” She trails off, her fingers fluttering as they tuck a piece of hair behind her ear.

“You can’t read English?” Pidge asks, and immediately wants to slap herself because, wow, way to be a complete shitheel, Pidge, that’s a great idea. Apparently her filter decided this would be the perfect time to take a vacation.“Fuck, I didn’t mean to sound like that, I’m sorry. What were you saying?”

“I don’t understand.” Allura slams the pad down on her lap, before sighing. “Pidge, your language is dumb.”

She can’t help but snicker, and holds up her hands when Allura’s glare turns on her. “Do you want help?”

“Please?” Allura sounds almost like a lost child as she pushes the datapad towards Pidge.

Pidge looks it over, carefully typing in Allura’s answers until they’re both called back into their briefing rooms.

It takes a week to finish the paperwork (and for Hunk’s smug ‘I-told-you-so’ smile to go away), so, of course, the first thing the higher-ups decide to do is throw a party.

Pidge puts on her best uniform, making sure that all the folds hang just right before patting down her hair and stealing some of Lance’s perfume to dab on her wrists.

It’s in full swing by the time she gets down there, filled with chattering and enough food to make her mouth water.

The cadets aren’t sure how to act around her, sometimes approaching her before stopping halfway like they’re nervous. The oldest of them don’t look much younger than her. Maybe they’re even the same age. But after everything Pidge has seen and done, she feels decades older.

Finally, Pidge spots Shiro along the wall, holding a cup of juice and people-watching. She makes a beeline for for him before tapping him on the shoulder.

“Hey, are you doing okay?” She frowns when he almost jumps.

“Fine, fine,” Shiro waves it off, which makes her frown more. ”Promise.”

Pidge notices Romelle hovering around the drink table and gently elbows Shiro. “Quick question, is apple juice poisonous to Alteans?”

Shiro notices where she’s looking, and his face drops. “I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out.”

Pidge watches Shiro run over and try to take Romelle’s cup and chuckles when it tips dangerously to the side. Krolia has a circle of officers around her, and Pidge is fairly certain she can see the glint of Keith’s knife as she shows it off.

Allura and Coran are in heated discussion with Iverson, Sanda and her dad at one of the far tables, probably about ship engines or wormhole jump angles.

“Excuse me, does Commander Iverson know you’re drinking?” Matt teases her, smirking lazily as he pushes a cup of ginger ale into her hand.

“Shut the hell up,” She elbows him. “I’m apparently old enough to kill people but as soon as I leave here, I can’t drink a beer. Also, where’d you get this soda?”

Matt puts a finger to his mouth. “Sorry, that’s classified. Big brother’s authorized only.”

Pidge elbows him again, harder this time. “Asshole. I know you have a secret stash in your room.”

Matt spins away gracefully, before noticing Keith being trailed by an over-excited crowd of cadets and looking a little lost. “Be right back, I need to save Keith from his adoring fans.”

With Matt gone and the room starting to feel just this side of too crowded, Pidge decides to head outside.

It’s cooler in the courtyard, and sand crunches under Pidge’s boots as she makes her way towards her Lion.

Their connection goes blue and smokey in greeting as Pidge touches her Lion’s muzzle. “Hey girl,” she whispers, leaning her forehead against the warm, thrumming metal. “I’m sorry I haven’t been out to see you much.”

Red and brown swirls sandstorms through her mind, annoyance and relief in equal measure. Pidge climbs up Green’s leg, using it as a springboard to get to her head. Sitting between her Lion’s eyes, she sips her ginger ale and feels the knot in her chest that’s been there since the Castle was destroyed finally begin to unravel.

Pidge’s parents leave the Garrison on a wave of well wishes and goodbyes to prepare the house for Pidge and Matt to follow a week later.

The train they take speeds through the desert, and slowly it changes from dry scrubland to green, forested mountains. Pidge puts her head against the window, letting the gentle rocking put her to sleep.

Matt wakes her up when they reach their stop, helping her off and grabbing her bag. It’s mid afternoon on a weekday, and the streets are almost empty of cars or pedestrians. Neither of them talk on the bus, looking out the windows instead and seeing what’s changed since they’ve been gone.

The hill that their house sits on top of hasn’t changed, and Pidge begins walking so fast that Matt has a hard time keeping up.

At the door, she stops dead, hand already half-raised for the doorknob.

She turns it into a fist, and lightly raps her knuckles against the wood. She suddenly feels awkward, standing on the front steps of her childhood home and knocking like she’s a stranger.

“Dude, Katie,” Matt gently shoves past her, opening the door, “you don’t have to knock. It’s your house too.”

They go to hug their parents, and Pidge is on the outer edge, feeling like she doesn’t belong

The Garrison calls her back to help create a way for their technology to communicate with the Lions, and it’s Allura who meets her on the ramp before hugging her so tightly she can't breathe.

And normally, Pidge isn’t big on hugs, but somehow, Allura has become one of the few exceptions. She returns Allura’s hug with as much enthusiasm, feeling her heart flutter wildly.

“Pidge, I’m glad to see you!” Allura hooks her arm through Pidge’s as they walk towards the Lions hanger. “How was your trip home?”

She half-shrugs before saying that it went well. Allura’s smile goes soft, and she gently prods Pidge for descriptions of her house and the scenery in Oregon. Pidge doesn’t talk about her moment at the door, instead choosing to regal Allura with tales of Bebe’s antics.

“So, what’s the problem?” Pidge asks once they get inside the hanger. The Lions are situated in a half-circle against the far wall, and in the center sits a small table crowded with laptops. Hunk is hunched over one, typing away.

“Well, it’s not so much a problem as Hunk just needs another set of eyes to look over his work.” Allura explains. She smells like alien cinnamon, Pidge notices, half her brain now thinking about cinnamon and the other half already running through possible debugging programs.

“Pidge, there you are!” Hunk waves. “I need your help with this!”

Allura squeezes her arm. “I’ll let you two get to work.” She leaves, taking the cinnamon smell with her.

Things begin changing in small, subtle ways. If Pidge didn't have her training, they would have passed her right by. Allura constantly glances at her communicator and datapad, or huddles with Coran, frowning and whispering in hushed tones. Rings show up under her eyes; she avoids the mess hall.

“Hey, do any of you know what’s been wrong with Allura lately?” Lance asks one night over his plate of Swedish Meatballs. The four of them are sitting in the corner if the mess hall, all leaning close together to be heard over the noise of the crowd.

“What’s been wrong?” Keith raises an eyebrow, pushing his plate aside so he can hear better.

“Allura. She’s been acting funny lately,” Hunk explains, tracing patterns in his alfredo with a fork. “I’ve been noticing it too.”

“Do you know, Pidge?” Lance points a meatball at her.

“Why are you asking me?” Pidge swallows a mouthful of pasta and twirls another strand.

“Well, you two seem to have gotten a lot closer lately,” Hunk steals a meatball to blow on it, “we were hoping she might have told you.”

Pige snorts. “Trust me, we’re not that close,” she says, and it comes out far more bitter than she intended. Lance holds up his hands

“Woah, sorry I asked.” He frowns before spooning some sauce to pour over his food.

“Fuck, no, I’m sorry. I’m just worried, but I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.” She sets her fork down. “I don’t know either. I'll see if I can find the time to ask though; maybe she’ll talk to me.”

“Would you?” Hunk asks, smiling softly. “We’re all just really worried about her.”

“I’ll try,” she says, but makes no promises.

Pidge is awake when she hears the footsteps rush past her room.

She almost misses it, lost in the clacking of her keys, but it barely registers on edge of her hearing. She sits up, setting her laptop aside, and pads to the door, letting it slide open on silent tracks.

Somebody turns the corner, and Pidge follows silently, grateful for her socks.

They lead her all the way to the Lions hanger, and now Pidge is really starting to wish she had grabbed her Bayard or something because she's not that big when you get down to it.

The shadow runs towards Blue, and Pidge splits off, circling around the Lion in the hopes of heading them off. Her feet are silent against the bare tile, but she can hear the boots of the other person slapping on the ground.

She races around the side of Blue and crashes into the other person, sending them both tumbling to the ground.

“Allura?” Pidge asks, almost stupefied at seeing Allura pinned under her.

“Get off me, Pidge!” Allura yells. Pidge scrambles away before Allura can shove her off.

“What’re you doing here?” Pidge asks. She notices how Allura’s gaze flits anywhere but her face, just how cagey she’s acting.

“That’…”Allura wipes at her face, “classified. It’s classified.”

“What the hell, Allura?” Pidge whisper-yells. “You’ve never classified jack shit!”

“Pidge, I don’t have time for this.” Allura pulls herself away, and the Blue Lion dips her head like she’s getting ready to open her mouth.

“No! You know what, no!” Pidge gets around Allura and shoves her back hard enough that stumbles. “You don’t get to act all mysterious and keep shit from us, and then flounce off without a word to anyone!”

Allura rubs her face, grimacing. “There’s...been a problem in the Coalition, and apparently I'm the only one who can solve it.”

“Why didn't you tell us?” Pidge is hurt, that Allura would keep something so important from the team.

“I didn't want you to worry about this. Not when you’ve just come home,” Allura says to the floor, before putting her mask back in place. “Coran will stay here and take care of any diplomatic inquiries.”

Pidge grabs her by the arm, stopping her. 'Please don’t go’ she wants to say. Wants to be selfish and take Allura into her arms and never let go.

“What if you need help? What if you get lost or get stuck in a trap and can’t get out?” Words spill from her mouth without control. If the situation weren’t so terrible, Pidge would be embarrassed.

“Pidge, I’ll be fine,” Allura snaps, before letting out a sigh. “If you’re so worried, here.” She pulls out a small round communicator from one of her pockets. “This will keep us in contact. I’ll be busy, so I might not be able to answer.”

“Please don't go,” Pidge finally begs. Everything she has, she puts in those words. The last acts of a desperate man.

“Don't make this harder than it needs to be, Pidge.” Allura chews her lip, before reaching for Pidge’s hand and squeezing it tightly. She opens her mouth like she wants to say something else, but then snaps it shut and turns on her heel to flee to her Lion.

Pidge watches her go, hand close to her chest, feeling the backwash from Blue spackle her face. She waits until Allura is a pinprick of light against the darkness to leave.

She sneaks back into her bed, puts the communicator under her pillow, and doesn’t sleep for the rest of the night.

Pidge keeps the communicator a secret, even as Lance rants about ‘how could she have not told us?’ and Hunk rubs his hands before diving back into baking. She takes it to meetings, running her thumb over the grooves as Matt brings up the blueprints of Empire ships on-screen.

She pretends not to notice the way Hunk watches her hand in her pocket, or how he’s begun standing closer to her during briefings.

One night, Pidge pulls the communicator out and grips so tightly it cuts grooves into her palms.

“Allura?” She whispers, but the screen remains dark.

“Please, tell me where she went,” Pidge pleads with Coran after he comes to check on her. Everyone else went to bed a long time ago, but she can’t stop scanning the radio waves for the sound of Allura’s voice.

(The rational part of her brain knows that Allura is too far away for her radio to be picked up by Earth-based receivers.

The other part doesn’t care.)

“I’ll be honest, I don’t know.” Coran sits next to her, and a stiff Nevada breeze sends his hair in all directions. Pidge kind of wants to cry, so she takes off her headphones and lets them settle around her neck.

“You know, I used to sit up here and scan when Shiro and my family were still missing, hoping for something, anything really. That’s when I first started hearing about Voltron. And now I’m back up here, years later, trying to do the same thing.” She wipes her nose with the back of her hand. “I need to find her Coran. I need to-fuck Coran, I don’t know, I haven’t felt right since we got back and it’s only when I’m around her that I feel like anything makes sense.”

The Earth has changed, and so has Pidge, if she’s being honest. Changed and grown and left the girl in the desert cave behind. Two perpendicular lines, destined to never intersect again.

She glances at Coran, and he’s staring at her with a sad, old expression that exposes all his centuries.

“What?” She asks without heat.

“Nothing.” He looks away, out into the dunes. “You just remind me of when I was your age, chasing the man I loved.”

“You’re saying I’m in love with Allura?” Pidge scoffs, even though inside she’s singing because of course, of course she's in love with her, the realization settling in herself like a ship coming home.

“Now, that’s not what I said, and you know it.” Coran waggles a finger at her, making her grin. “I’m just saying that when I found someone who made me feel like Allura does for you, I followed that feeling for as long as I could.”

Pidge thinks for a moment, tapping her fingers against her headphones. “Was it Alfor?”

Coran chuckles, stroking his beard. “It was so long ago, I suppose it doesn’t matter anymore.” He stood up, squeezing Pidge’s shoulder. “There was a problem with trying to bring in several neutral plants into the Coalition, and they needed Allura to try and help with negotiations. Go to Olkarion, and if she’s not there, at least you have a starting point.”

She doesn’t thank him as he leaves, but she does take off her headphones and stare at the sky for so long it feels like lifetimes.

Pidge doesn’t pack much, and she thinks of her cluttered room back on the Castle as she swings her bag up on her shoulder. Allura’s communicator is heavy in her pocket. She touches it for courage before sneaking into the hallway.

This late at night, nobody wanders the halls, and Pidge is completely alone. She gets to the Lion’s hangers without an issue, and quickly heads towards Green, sitting closest to the bay doors.

She stops when she sees someone leaning against Green’s paw. “Hello? Can I help you?” She calls quietly. She gets closer and realizes it’s Hunk. “Hunk, what are you doing here this late?”

He turns to face her, and in the faint light, she can see him frowning. “I could ask you the same thing.” There’s somebody else next to him in Green’s shadow.

“Katie?” Her mom’s voice sounds too quiet, pressed too thin from the weight of losing her entire family. Pidge feels her knees go weak.

“You shitheel,” she snarls at Hunk, storming over to him and standing on tiptoe so she can get close to his face. “You brought my mom?”

Hunk at least has the decency to look embarrassed before Pidge’s mom pulls her away.

“Katie, come over here.” Coleen takes her to the other side of Green, and Pidge looks at the ground, feeling embarrassed. “Katie, look at me.”

Her mom’s hands are soft, and smell like the baby lotion she uses every day. She tucks them under Pidges chin and tilts up, making Pidge feel like a child all over again.

“No matter what you say Mom, I’m still leaving,” Pidge says. It sounds like a petulant foot stomp, and she licks her lips. “I know I wasn’t gonna tell you and I’m sorry but-” Her words fall apart and Pidge wants to kick herself. How can Pidge tell her mother that the home she worked so hard to build doesn’t make sense? How can Pidge explain about her dreams of killing and blood and getting vaporized in light?

“Katie, I’m not here to try and keep you from leaving.” Coleen lets out a low, huffy breath. “I couldn’t stop you the first time, either.”

Pidge pulls herself away, feeling ashamed. “If it makes you feel any better, I’ve realized that it was a really bad decision.”

“I just want to know why,” Coleen says gently, and something in Pidge breaks. Her throat closes up, and she has to take a deep breath.

“So. Ever since we got back, I haven’t been feeling...right. Like I’ve grown too fast and left everything on Earth behind.” Pidge glances away. “And there’s something else, another reason I’m going.”

She swallows. Her throat is dry. “There’s...there’s this girl, Mom. Allura, you know her, right? Well, she had to leave, and I need to go find her. When I’m with her, I don’t feel out of place or too loud or weird. I don’t have to be a Paladin of Voltron or a savior of the universe. I feel like everything makes sense when I’m with her. I-” Pidge’s whole chest shudders as the words she needs stick in her mouth, “I’m-I’m in love with her, Mom. I love her so much that I’m gonna get in a giant magical lion and go halfway across the universe to find her again.”

Coleen is silent, while Pidge fidgets back and forth. Before she can say anything, her mother signs and smiles softly. “Sometimes I look at you and I’m just amazed at how quickly you grew up.”

Mom,” Pidge groans, but she’s smiling, just a little bit, and some of the weight in her chest eases.

“No, Katie, listen to me.” Her mom emphasizes, and that’s enough to get Pidge to look at her again. “You’re an adult now, and if there’s someone out there who makes you feel like you’ve come home, then I want you to go and find it.”

Pidge’s eyes sting, and she hugs her mom while using her free hand to swipe at them. By the time they seperate, she’s recollected herself.

Colleen holds her hand and squeezes it tightly. “Just please be careful. I don’t think I could handle losing you again.”

She leaves Pidge, looking back once at the threshold before stepping across and disappearing. Only Hunk is left, standing by the Green Lion’s claws and wringing his hands.

“So,” Pidge sets down her bag, crossing her arms, “you were hoping that my mom could make me stay?”

Hunk doesn’t look at her, shame-faced. “You were just gonna leave us, like Allura? Not tell anyone where you were going?”

Anger flashes in Pidge’s chest, and her fingers dig into the elbow of her armour. “Coran knows, isn’t that enough? He would have told you.”

Hunk’s frown gets deeper, and his hands stop tumbling over each other. “No, it isn’t.” He gnaws his lip. “Did you even think about how this would affect anybody else? Your parents, Matt, any of us?”

The anger collapses into a curdling shame. Pidge digs her fist deeper into the crook of her elbow. “No,” she mumbles. Hunk sighs, aging in moments.

“I suppose if you won’t stay for your mom, you won’t stay for me either?” His tone is flat, like he’s already resigned himself to losing her.

“Not really.” Pidge tries to grin, lighten the mood, but it turns into a half-baked grimace. She turns away to pick up her bag.

“If you leave, we won’t be able to form Voltron.” Pidge snorts before bending back up.

“We already can’t form Voltron.” The duffel strap slips, and she resets it without looking. “You heard what I told my mom. I’m going no matter what.”

Hunk sighs again, before opening his arms. Pide almost falls into the embrace, relishing the feel of him squeezing her tightly.

“Do you ever regret getting assigned to me?” Pidge asks, her words muffled by Hunk’s neck. His laugh is rumbly against her face.

“Sometimes.” She punches his arm, making him yelp.

“Dick,” Pidge leans back, echoing his smile, relaxing as everything is set right between them.

“Just make sure to come back and visit us,” Hunk reminds her, planting his massive, warm hands on her shoulders.

“I promise.” Pidge turns to go to her Lion, before turning back. “I know it’s shitty of me to ask, but can you apologize to everyone for me? Tell them I’m sorry that I left without telling them?”

Hunk frowns to himself thoughtfully. “Okay, I will. But you owe me some serious favors.”

Pidge laughs, and the sound stays with her all the way to the edge of the atmosphere

Space is much emptier without the flicker of radio static, Pidge comes to quickly realize. Sometimes Green rumbles in the back of her head, but just as often is completely silent. Her Lion has had ten thousand years to get used to being alone, but Pidge is only human, and the utter desolation is hard to bear.

It takes several weeks to reach Olkarion. Pidge takes odd jobs on the planets in between, programming and repairing to get just enough supplies and fuel to get to the next planet, and the next.

In the quiet spaces between awake and asleep, Pidge thinks of what she’ll say when she finally sees Allura again. Scream maybe, rage against the cruel fate that took her away. Or perhaps beg her to come back to Earth.

No, no begging, Pidge decides a second later. She hasn’t begged in years, and won’t start now. If Allura wants nothing to do with her, then she’ll travel as far as it takes to find a new home, where nobody knows her and she doesn’t have to fit into a prefabricated box.

And if the thought of Allura turning away makes her chest hurt, well, Pidge will deal with it when she gets there.

Olkarion welcomes her with open arms. Ryner listens to her story, nodding and humming in all the right places. When Pidge finishes, she gratefully accepts a glass of water and waits for Ryner to speak.

“The Blue Paladin was here several weeks ago,” she begins. Pidge keeps a carefully neutral face. She expected something like this. It’s fine.

Totally fine.

“But I’m guessing she’s not anymore,” Pidge fills in, steepling her fingers.

“Unfortunately, yes. She went with one of our diplomats to the planet Scaran, and we haven’t heard from her since.”

“I need to find her.” Pidge stands up, her eyes pleading.

“We can supply you,” Ryner takes her hand. “And I’ll give you a copy of the star map that we gave her. At the speed your Lions travel, it should only take a couple days.”

Space is still just as empty as it ever was, but Pidge feels a little less alone. She knows where to go, and Green purrs in the back of her head, (amusedhappylight) at getting to see them again.

“I know girl, I know,” Pidge laughs, adjusting the course based on the charts. “You'll see Blue again soon.”

They pick up a distress signal near Scaran, faint and weak. Pidge pushes Green towards it, and after a couple minutes, it repeats with a slow and steady monotone.

They finally reach the source of the signals. A small fleet of ships, probably Scaranian based on their organic design.

She spots the Blue Lion curled protectively around one of the ships, and Pidge can now start to hear work crews under the constant drone of the distress signal.

Pidge has just opened her hailing channel when she sees the Empire ship coming in from above.

It’s huge, gargantuan, dwarfing the fleet. Even Blue looks tiny against it, like a pebble. Two of its auxiliary cannons fire at the same time, sending out beams of plasma to hit several of the Scaran ships, silently turning them into red and orange blossoms

“Fuck!” Pidge yells into her comms as she pushes her engines to full power. “Allura, come in! Do you copy?”

“Pidge! Why the quiznack are you here?” Allura yells as the cannons begin to fire in earnest. “Help me draw their fire!”

“On it!” Pidge dives into the fray without hesitation. Plasma beams blasts past her ship in a wide spray. Pidge feels a few skirt her armour as she tries to get close.

“Allura, use you ice beam!” She yells, a plan starting to form in the back of her mind.

Blue aims, scarring the hull before peeling away as most of the weapons turn on her. Pidge takes the opportunity to activate her growth cannon and fires it at the bridge.

“Okay, Allura, here's the plan!” Pidge quickly turns, flying along the top of the ship. “Turn on your infrared and find the hottest area of the ship. That should be the engine bay, and if you use your ice beam on the hull, it might break through.”

A stray beam hits Green in the flank, making her yell.

“Pidge, are you all right?” Allura asks. Pidge turns Green wide and pushes her engines to full throttle.

“I’m fine, Allura! Just aim for the engines, I’ll take care of the rest!”

Blue fires her ice beam at a spot just below the bridge, and the metal splits open wide, revealing the engines. They pulse with quintessence and Pidge readies her weapons.

Just as she gets herself into place, she sees the ion cannon begin gathering quintessence, aimed right at the remaining Scaranian ships. Allura's on a course to intercept, but she'll never reach them in time.

In milliseconds, Pidge makes a decision.

She’s the shield, she’ll be able to protect them.

Ordering Green into a wild dive, she plunges toward the exposed core of the ship.

As she releases her emergency bombs, the last thing Allura yells is her name before the ship explodes and everything goes white white white.

Pidge comes to in darkness. The cockpit is silent, no systems or life support online. She's been flung against the back wall, her limbs sprawled in painful twists. Outside, Pidge sees stars drifting in front of the windows, before looking closer. What she took for stars are actually machine parts, millions of them, catching the light as they tumble end over end.

“Okay, let's get you back online,” Pidge mutters, dragging herself back into the pilot's seat. Grey and white (fearpainhurt) bleed into her head. “I know girl, I know it hurts, give me a minute.”

Her head is throbbing like she woke up with a hangover, and there's a black streak across her visor that turns red as she turns on the backup lights.

The comms suddenly crackle into a sort of half-life, and now Pidge can faintly hear Allura yelling for her to respond, almost on the edge of tears.

“Here,” Pidge says, dropping her head between her knees to fight off a wave of nausea. “Allura, I'm here.”

“Pidge?” Allura asks. “Pidge, can you-” static cuts through. “Are you-” more static.

“Allura, I can't hear you,” Pidge explains. My engines are offline. If you can hear me, I need you to tow me back.”

The Blue Lion sweeps to a stop in front of them, tail hanging down. Green clamps down on it, and Pidge feels inertia press her back into her seat as Allura activates her engines.

They land at an isolated Coalition outpost on a rocky moon. It seems to take hours, and maybe it does, with the gargantuan space between planets and moons.

Pidge curled up in her seat early on, knees drawn up to her chest, letting out tiny whimpers at every jolt. The nausea has gotten worse, to the point that her stomach swoops into her mouth, and she can barely keep from vomiting.

Blue lowers Green to the floor, carefully manipulating her tail so Green curls up into a ball. Pidge doesn’t notice the chaos going on outside and the troops crowding the Lion, too focused on trying not to throw up.

There’s a low rumble that tells her that Blue is landing, before it goes quiet again.

After a few moments, Pidge faintly hears Allura pounding on her Lion’s closed mouth, yelling to open up. Allura’s voice pitches up an octave, like she’s almost on the edge of panic, except that makes no sense because Allura never panics-

“Green,” Pidge moans, “please let her in.” Green pushes back, all (Hurtfearpainprotect). “I know, we’re both pretty banged up. But Allura’s here to help us. So please let her in?”

Green considers it for a moment, and Pidge feels another alien presence, faint as a radio wave; it must be the Blue Lion, to be so warm and reassuring.

After another long second, the Green Lion levers her jaws open slowly, metal screaming as it scrapes past itself. Pidge tries to stand up, walk out and meet Allura with as much dignity as she can muster, but she slides from the chair to the floor, boneless. The world swims, tunneling at the edges, and Pidge maybe throws up a little.

“Pidge? Pidge!” Allura yells as she runs up the ramp and into the cockpit. Pidges clutches her head as the sound jackhammers against the edge of her skull.

“Allura?” She whispers as Allura gets closer, tipping her head back, mouth agape. Something’s gone wrong, all the words Pidge needs to say are slipping away and her head’s spinning like a top-

“It’s okay, Pidge, I’m here,” Allura reassures her as she crouches and quickly runs her fingers over Pidge’s neck and spine, checking for injuries, before scooping her up.

The motion makes Pidge throw up again, and she mumbles apologies while trying to wipe it off of her armour.

“Don't apologize,” Allura says, “and don't die, Green Paladin. That's an order. I still need to yell at you later.”

Pidge’s vision starts to tunnel in, and she reaches up towards the white halo of Allura’s hair, mumbling her name, before everything goes dark.

Pidge drifts up through what must be a painkiller-induced haze, clawing her way back to a fuzzy sort of awareness.

She turns her head slowly, and sees Allura in a chair next to the bed, carefully braiding her hair in massive plaits.

Pidge tries to say Allura’s name, but it comes out as an undignified groan.

“You’re awake.” Allura doesn’t even look up from her braiding. Her voice is flat, devoid of any emotion. “That’s good. How do you feel?”

Pidge tries to say “okay”, but her head goes blank, and all she can make is a quiet sound.

“The Scaran ships are fine. They landed at their home base two vargas ago. You've been asleep for six vargas since you hit your head so hard.”

Pidge reaches up to her forehead, careful not to jar the needle in her arm, and feels a soft bandage covering her head wound. She smiles, and let's out a small chuckle as she begins poking it.

Allura takes her hand away and sets it back over her stomach. Her expression is tight, her lips pressed together so hard they've almost vanished.

“What's wrong, ‘llura?” Pidge asks in a raspy voice.

Allura pulls away, clearly angry, and suddenly all of Pidge is sad sad sad because she knows Allura’s angry because of her.

”You, you…” Allura throws her hands up in the air and lets out a tiny sound of frustration. “I want to yell at you, but I'd feel bad if I yelled at you when you're so injured.”

“Sorry.” Pidge slurs. She feels like she’s going to float away, with all the painkillers they must have her on.

But in any universe, any lifetime, she’d do it again, and again, as many times as it took to keep Allura safe.

So maybe she isn’t as sorry as she should be.

“You’re not that sorry,” Allura snaps, leaning her elbows on her knees. She suddenly looks like Matt, or Shiro, or Coran, and Pidge wonders how she could ever look young when the Universe is balanced on her shoulders.

“Sorry,’ she says again, and means it this time.

Allura snorts, a little more fond, and looks at her again. Her smile is watery, wobbling at the edges like she’s just barely keeping control. It frightens Pidge, to see her so off-kilter.

A small alarm begins going off, and Allura reaches over to push a button next to Pidge’s head. Something cold and sluggish enters her arm, making the floaty feeling increase until she’s flying.

Allura slips a hand into hers, rubbing a thumb over her knuckles. “Go to sleep, Pidge. I’ll keep you safe.”

Pidge barely hears her words, but it’s enough for her to finally let go.

The next time Pidge wakes up, her throbbing has faded to a manageable pulsing. Allura is gone. The lights are off.

Somebody knocks, before poking their head inside. They're covered in purple-blue scales, with a wolf-like snout.

This must be her nurse, Pidge realizes. The fuzziness has abated somewhat as the alien strides inside, holding a datapad.

“Ah, you’re awake!” Their voice warbles, like a birds. “That’s very good.” Their upper arms tap away at the datapad. “You had a pretty severe concussion, and so we’ll keep you on bedrest for a few more quintants and then see how your recovery goes from there.”

“Water?” Pidge asks, her voice raspy.

“I’m sorry,” the nurse does a good a impression of being apologetic, but Pidge is certain that they've practiced on other patients and isn't sorry at all, “but we won't be able to give you any until we're sure you won't aspirate. If you keep resting though, then your recovery will go much more quickly.”

Pidge sighs, leaning back into her pillows. “Okay,” she says, even though she thinks the idea is absolutely not okay.

The nurse leaves, and Pidge quickly lets the medication drag her back under.

Over the next few days, Pidge goes from bedridden, to sitting up, to walking a few stumbling steps. Her legs feel weak, and they sway as Allura and the nurse hold her up to make a circuit of her room.

When they’re finished, the nurse leaves them alone. Pidge picks up her spork and pokes at the purple meat they left for lunch.

“Pidge,” Allura says, too loud in the quiet, “I think it’s time to finally talk about what happened.”

“Do we really need to?” she stuffs a piece of meat into her mouth to stall. “I didn’t die, and Green’ll get fixed soon enough.”

“Yes, Pidge, we do.”

Her expression is serious enough that Pidge swallows, setting her fork aside and carefully folding her hands in her lap. “Okay, talk.”

“Why?” Allura’s question is immediate, harsh. There’s an anger kindling somewhere deep in her eyes, underneath the exhaustion that’s been permeating her for the past several days. “Why would you go and do something like that?”

Pidge shrugs, trying to remain blase. “I’m a Paladin, Allura. A penchant for self-sacrifice is kinda part of the job description.”

Allura slaps her hand on the table, the anger finally breaking free. “No! Why would you say something like that? We need you! I need you!”

Pidge becomes interested at the last sentence, but keeps her face neutral. “Allura, face it, I’m replaceable. If we could replace Shiro, then we can do the same for me. But, you, well, you’re the Princess. Pretty much the face of the Coalition. Everybody knows who you are. You’re the one thing we can’t lose.”

Allura shoves back several pieces of hair that have come loose from her bun. ”I’m not much of a princess,” she says, sardonic and bitter. “I don’t even have a castle.”

“You have an army. You have people who love you, would die for you.” Pidge swallows, mouth dry. “You have me.”

Allura stands up; her mouth is pale, bloodless. “I’m done talking,” she snaps before going to storm out.

“Oh, I see, now you don’t want to talk?” Pidge yells at her retreating back, before throwing her spork across the room.

It’s nighttime when Allura comes back. She sneaks through the door almost silently as Pidge is working on a datapad.

“Allura?” Pidge asks as she sits on the edge of the bed. “Why’re you still up?”

“I came to apologize, for my rashness, earlier. I shouldn’t have snapped at you.”

Pidge sets down her datapad and pushes back some hair that had fallen in her face earlier, careful to avoid the bandage covering half her head. “It’s fine, Allura. Really. You were just super stressed. It’s fine.”

Allura glances away. “No Pidge, it’s not fine, because I didn’t want to say what I really wanted to.”

Pidge goes quiet, contemplative. “Then what did you actually want to say?”

Allura’s hands fist in the fabric of her pants. Pidge notices they’re dark with oil, like she’s been working on a machine. “When I looked at you diving, all I could think of was Keith, doing the same thing back for us on Naxzela.

“And this time, there was nobody to save you.” She licks her lips. “I need you, Pidge. That’s what I was trying to say.” She smiles, and it’s bittersweet. “Guess I’m not as good of a communicator as I originally thought.”

Pidge feels her heart begin banging against her chest, and hopes it doesn't show. “Need me how, Allura? As a Paladin, a soldier? A friend? A-” the word stops in her throat, and she has to force it out, “lover?”

Allura is silent, and Pidge’s chest goes tight.

“What if I wanted all of the above?” Allura is looking at the wall as she says this, before her head swivels and catches Pidge’s gaze. “Would that…?” She can’t finish her sentence.

Something in Pidge lights up, and she wants to laugh and cry with relief. She reaches over to grab Allura’s hand. She smiles and it’s stupidly fond, but she doesn’t care. “Allura, I’ve traveled across whole galaxies and nearly killed myself to save you.” She bumps their foreheads together, maybe unconsciously hoping that will make her answer stronger. “What do you think?”

It takes Allura a moment, but when the weight of Pidge’s words hit her, it seems like everything she’s been carrying falls away.

She lets out a laugh, and soon Pidge joins in too. They hug, and Pidge buries her face in the crook of Allura’s neck.

“Come sleep with me tonight, Allura.” Pidge says after they pull apart. “In my bed. Help me feel safe.”

Allura lays down next to Pidge, pulling her close, and Pidge lets the smell of cinnamon take her into a deep, dreamless sleep.