Takashi Shirogane sat alone on the steps of the newly flourishing castle, needing to escape the joviality of those inside, the silence and warm sunlight soothing his frayed nerves. It was still hard to swallow; flying mechanical lions, giant robots made from those lions, the feel of slotting the heavy key into the console, how many times his hands had been almost too sweaty to properly grip the blue lion’s controls. Those hands were shaking now. Sighing raggedly, he tugged on his dark hair, now nearly shoulder length. ’It’s better than slavery, Takashi.’ he reminded himself, lightly tracing the skull tattoo that had been branded into the flesh of his right arm. ’Anything is better than the slavery of the Galra.’
“Quiet.” A soft voice sounded through the courtyard. “Why am I not surprised?”
“I don't know Kogane, why aren't you?” Takashi smiled slightly, tilting himself to look back at the other man.
Their leader laughed, face splitting in a grin. “Too loud for you, Quiet?” His eyes twinkled, and Takashi could feel his body relaxing.
“You know me.” He responded.
Akira sat down next to him, bumping their shoulders in a friendly manner.
“How is it in there, Chief?”
“Well, Seidou hasn't tried to fight anyone, and Suzuishi is staying out of the vents, if that's what you're asking.” Akira chuckled.
“And Kurogane?” Takashi quirked his lips.
“Well, he's happy there's food.” Akira nodded. “Fala seems happy.”
Takashi frowned at the slight wistful sound he heard escape Akira’s lips. “Crushing already, Chief?”
“Takashi!” Akira sounded scandalized. “She's sixteen! She's like a little sister, already. Raible doesn't seem to like us much though, don't you think? And Princess Fala seems to be too trusting.”
The two sat in silence, both lost in their own thoughts. Distractedly, Takashi ran his fingers through Akira’s hair, which had grown past the mullet stage and was just long now. Akira hummed in pleasure, pressing as close to Takashi as he could.
“How long will it take, do you think?” Akira whispered, staring off at the mountains in the distance, where they still hadn't been able to convince the Alteans hiding there to aid them.
“What take?” Takashi asked.
“This war, defeating Emperor Daibazaal.” Akira sighed, resting his head on Takashi’s shoulder. “Do you think we’ll spend our whole lives entrenched in this?”
“We’ll be free of this.” Takashi said with force. “We’ll survive and build a home.”
“Sounds good.” Akira laughed, nuzzling into Takashi’s neck.
The two lounged there, until the ominous shaking of the castle began… again. The Galra really were persistent.
Takashi sighed as he glanced at Akira, noting the excitement lighting up his eyes.
“Time for action, Quiet.” Akira sprang to his feet, pulling Takashi along with him. Pressing a quick peck to his lips, Akira dashed off into the castle, leaving Takashi to sigh and follow.
If Takashi ever saw another cat again, it would be too soon. Takashi rolled his eyes at Kurogane’s impulsiveness. “Moody!” He yelled at the retreating back. “Get back here, we don't need to chase a cat of all things! Shorty didn't need to get so worked up over this!” Curse Suzuishi and curse those space mice. Kurogane wasn't usually the one to run off, that was Seidou’s job-which was why he'd been nicknamed Hothead in the first place-Kurogane must be trying to piss Akira off, or impress him. It was always hard to tell with Kurogane.
Takashi came to a screeching halt at the loud scream that pierced the air.
“Kurogane!” He yelled, scrambling to pull a sword from a pile of rubble, entering the collapsed ruins of some long destroyed building to see Kurogane entangled in a net, slowly being drawn to the Galra Witch Honerva. With a shout, Takashi sprung forward, bringing the blade down on the net, slicing it to ineffectual ribbons.
“Shirogane.” Kurogane breathed in relief. “Boy am I glad to see you.”
“No time now, go get the Chief, tell him to get the Princess back to the castle safely, I'll hold off Honerva.” Takashi barked, relieved to see Kurogane actually following his orders as he scrambled desperately off back into the city.
The fight wasn't impressive, consisting mostly of Takashi running around after illusions, almost missing her true form in his frustration to see through his third eye, real eyes having been blinded by one of the witch’s attacks. He didn't notice the Beastman that had snuck up behind him until it was too late, heavy appendage colliding with the back of Takashi’s head, sending him
crashing to the floor. Another hit and Takashi felt his skull cave. With a cackle the witch and her minion disappeared, leaving him for the death he could feel pushing at his consciousness.
“Quiet!” A loud screech echoed as two sets of footsteps thundered into the ruins.
’Nononononononono, he can't see me like this, Akira can't be here, he can't see this.’ He thought frantically, but ultimately unable to produce more than a small groan.
“Takashi!” Akira sobbed scooping Takashi’s uncooperative body into his arms. Kurogane collapsed on the other side, stricken eyes filling with tears as he looked between Akira and Takashi.
“H-hey Akira.” He managed to gasp, blood pooling over his lips, sluggishly joining with the streams dripping from the cranial fractures leaking over his face.
“T-Takashi, stay with me, please, stay with me.” Akira stammered, rocking slightly back and forth.
“Chief?” Kurogane whispered, hands hovering ineffectually over Takashi’s unresponsive body. ’Must have broken the spinal cord.’ Takashi thought distantly.
“It was nice fighting with you, Akira.” Takashi gurgled choking on his own blood.
“No, we won't let you die, who will pilot the blue lion?” Akira sounded broken. Then, quieter; “What will I do without you?”
“What you always do, Chief.” Takashi coughed. “You fight. And I'll see you in the next life.”
With those words, and the final rings of sobs, Takashi submitted to the darkness.
In the next life he was Sven Holgersson, and things were much like his first life, nearly identical, though without the sharp angles of death that had followed them before. The weirdest, smallest details were different, names mostly. Keith and Allura-or Akira and Fala as he'd known them first-were actually involved this time, oddly enough Keith was also half Arusian, the replacement term for Altean. Honerva still attacked him and Kurogane, he still was hit by the Beastman, but this time he didn't die. He thought he had, until he'd woken up in a sterile room, with cold and impassive faces hovering over him.
He'd worked hard, building his strength back up after his injury, suffering through hours of therapy, hoping to be able to rejoin Akira, to help fight the good fight.
He'd died again, pushing Prince Lotor over the edge, falling himself. He'd hit his head on the way down, killing him instantly.
Next he was Sven, again, ex-blue lion pilot, now stuck on the icy planet of Crydor, using the temperatures to stave off the infection the drule witch Haggar’s cat had infected him with. Even in this life Honerva and her stupid cat Jaga were his downfall. So maybe stealing the blue lion to trade to a crazy alien wasn't one of his better moments, but he'd done it for the son he had in this life, and he would do it again in a heartbeat. He'd been disappointed to see Akira-or Keith as he was still called-had not recognized him, though this might have been for the best, not only because of the incident with the blue lion, or the fact that Keith and this life’s Fala- Allura still- were obviously together, but because while his fellow pilots were all in their early to mid twenties, he was in his thirties, nearly his forties, and he had a son. Akira was not to be his in this lifetime either, but that was ok, as long as Keith was happy.
Now he was Takashi Shirogane once more, but instead of being “Takashi” or “Quiet” he was Shiro, one of the best pilots in the Garrison, hand picked for the Kerberos mission, with Matt and Sam Holt, good friends of his.
He hadn't remembered Takashi or either Sven until after the Galra had captured and tortured him.
Back on Earth, the first thing he'd really recognized upon awakening was a pair of deep violet eyes staring at him in concern.
“Akira.” Shiro whimpered, reaching out with what once was his flesh and blood right arm, and was now a prosthetic. Thanks Hagger. Again. Damn could that witch-Druid-could hold a grudge. If she even remembered.
“Shiro?” The too young voice of the boy above him echoed worriedly. Right, this was not Akira, this was Keith-his brother (or as close to a brother he'd had since Ryou), Keith.
“Is he ok?” Another voice said. Kurogane, he'd recognize the voice anywhere.
“Maybe he'd tell us, Lance, if you'd just shut up.” Keith snapped, and Shiro nearly rolled his eyes.
“I'm fine, Keith, Kuro-Lance.” Shiro sighed, sitting up, rubbing at his temples, almost wishing the memories would disappear once more into the recesses of his mind.
“Great, now that Shiro’s up, shouldn't we be getting back to the Garrison? To, you know, explain?” The voice was so startling removed in his mind from the words spoken, that Shiro could only gape for a second. This kid was nothing like Seidou, like the first ‘Hunk’. “Or not. Not is fine too.”
The four got to squabbling, and Shiro stood and left the shack they were hiding in.
“Shiro?” A hesitant voice spoke from his left. “Are you really okay?”
“Fine, Keith. You know me, I love the quiet.” Shiro sighed, crossing his arms.
Keith stayed silent for a minute, analyzing him, before seemingly finding what he needed in Shiro’s face.
“Who's Akira?” Keith asked slowly.
“He… he was an old friend.” Shiro sighed, honestly he should have seen this coming. He had called his adoptive brother by his old lover’s name, after all. “He would have liked you Keith. You have the same fire.”
“Shiro! Mullet Head!” Lance’s frantic voice called from within the hut. “Hunk’s got something!”
Shiro gasped, basking in the presence of the lion. Never once had he escaped Voltron, and he suspected he never would, honestly. But this, this felt different, the blue lion felt alive. Shiro stepped forward first, ready to take his place as Blue’s pilot, he pressed his palm to the force field, expecting it to shatter under his touch. Nothing happened.
“How are we supposed to get in?” Keith was arguing with Lance.
“Well, you could try knocking.” Lance rolled his eyes, striding up to the energy shield confidently. “Like this.”
One tap was all it took, the force field releasing in an instant. Shiro’s eyes widened, Lance would be piloting the blue lion? But Kurogane and the Lances after that had all piloted the red lion. Did that mean Shiro would take over as the red pilot? Not as if it mattered in the end, he thought uneasily as the five boarded the lion, taking off through the atmosphere; only to come face-to-face with a Galra ship, much more streamlined than the ones he remembered from being Takashi.
“Go.” He whispered. “We’re not prepared for this, Lance, not without the other lions, not without Voltron.”
The others shot him suspicious looks, but he could visibly watch it in their features as each one decided to write it off as something the Galra had done. All but one. Suzuishi- Pidge studied him over the rims of his glasses. Shiro looked away, not wanting to catch the eyes of the ninja. Or was he something else in this life? Someone else… his eyes widened in understanding, but, just as Pidge had decided, now was not the time for this.
The wormhole led them to a huge planet, then a looming castle. Something seemed to strike a familiar chord in his chest, but it was soon gone as Blue decided it no longer wished to follow Lance’s directions, instead wanting to touch down in the castle courtyard, then usher them inside. Uncomfortably, Shiro took point, two parts of himself warring within, one; Shiro, having been cut from the cloth of leadership and wanting to help with all the confusion, and two; Takashi, who had always been the right hand man-funny, now that he himself no longer possessed a right arm. With a sigh, Shiro let go, letting Takashi slip to the back of his mind. Now was not the time to be having an identity crisis, not when this team depended on him. With much more confidence, Shiro led the four teenagers to what seemed to be a med bay, activating some of the machines there on accident, ending with Lance having an arm full of a woman.
Shiro recognized her at once, how could he not? This was Allura, princess of Altea-or was it Arus in this life? It didn't matter, not really. Despite his better judgement, the Takashi portion of him relaxed at her appearance. The princess was soon followed by Raible, or Coran as he was now, looking younger than in any life previous.
Shiro was surprised, Allura’s run down on Voltron was much better informed than Fala’s had been, though that might be because she seemed to be in her twenties as compared to Fala’s sixteen. Takashi really had been stupid to have been jealous over Fala, especially if she had grown into a woman like Allura when Takashi hadn't been there to see it.
“And you, Shiro, will pilot the black lion.” Allura finished her spiel.
“The black lion?” He rose an eyebrow. “That's the head, are you sure?”
The others stared, obviously confused on where he kept getting his information. With a long look, Allura turned back to the others. “Pidge, you and Shiro will find the green lion, Hunk and Lance the yellow lion, and Keith, you will stay here as we try and locate the red lion.”
Keith shot a look at him, waiting for Shiro’s nod of approval before affirming Allura’s plan. Shiro followed Pidge off to a shuttle that they would use to find the green lion.
“So, Shiro.” Pidge started awkwardly, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “What's the plan?”
Shiro, once he was sure the shuttle would be steady for a while without his piloting.
“Well, Lance could feel the call of his lion, I assume it'll be the same for you. The lions seem more sentient than I expected.” He frowned, frustrated that the situation didn't allow him to form a proper strategy.
Pidge nodded, not pressing anymore.
Retrieving the green lion was… easy. Almost impossibly easy. And hearing Lance and Hunk’s tale, Shiro and Pidge had gotten unbelievably lucky. Good news was that, by the time both groups had gotten back, Allura had located the red lion. Unfortunately that location was aboard a Galra ship, specifically, the one targeting the planet they were on. As the team began to fall apart, Shiro took command, calming Hunk especially and putting forth strategies the princess quickly approved.
“We’ll be ok.” He reassured his team. “We can win this. We’ll form Voltron and we will beat the Galrans.”
He got a firm nod from Pidge, a shaky smile from Hunk, a grin and wink from Lance, and reassuring pat on the arm from Keith. Shiro was getting used to command, and his memories from before were beginning to prove helpful rather than harmful. Their story always ended the same, they would form Voltron, and they would defeat Zarkon. It was the way history had always been written.
Slipping into the familiar armor had been a comfort, one Shiro had taken a second to revel in before returning his attention to his team. They all wore the armor like a second skin, even without the memories of other lives and other wars. They wore it well. And everyone’s armor matched their lion. He was going to call that a win.
Bayards had been passed out, a new variable to the everlasting equation, and he'd been skipped. Well; his lion’s last pilot had neglected to return it after their resignation. But he'd made do before, and he'd do the same now. Even if that meant picking up a sword again; he would not let any of his team die. Not this time, and hopefully he'd avoid death himself, though he acknowledged the odds were not in his favor.
The plan was simple, so of course complications had arisen the moment he, Pidge, and Keith took a step onto the Galra ship. He couldn't begrudge Pidge from wanting to find her family though, and actually, that did explain a lot. Though how she'd managed to pull his fake identity out of thin air had Shiro suspicious on just how accessible the others memories really were. He had no time to dwell, and the mission went well after that, everyone getting out in one piece and with all the lions as well.
They hadn't been back at the castle long before they'd been called into battle yet again, one that wouldn't be won without Voltron.
Through the panicked yelling of his younger teammates, Shiro frantically searched the dash for the lever or button that would prompt the formation of Voltron; but there was nothing.
“How did Akira do this?” Shiro grit out quietly, to himself. “He was always talking about ‘interlocks’ and ‘mega-thrusters’ what does any of that mean in this context?! Come on Shiro, think!”
Emotions. It was all linked to emotions, and telepathy, but mostly emotions; so much simpler, yet at the same time, harder than in the old days. But it got the job done, and that was what was important, in the end.
When they had returned from the battle, bruised, battered, and breathless, but oh so alive, Allura had nearly tackled him, laughing and cheering for all of them. Her body was a solid, warm weight in his arms as he laughed and spun her around until she was pushing at him to let her down, still laughing and joyous. Keith was next to envelope him in a hug, squeezing tight for a minute, before releasing him and going to stand by Hunk and Lance.
They had won the day, and the outlook looked good for the war as well.
The next days were full of training, but how does one train their bonds with a group of people who were virtually strangers? Even Shiro, with his intimate knowledge of his friend’s past lives, couldn't work through this with any sense of speed. But they got it, it took a while, but they got it, and Shiro had never felt prouder.
His time as a gladiator was not something Shiro wanted to remember, but he didn't have a choice. Just as Takashi’s memories had been forced on him, so too were the missing bits of his memory. It wasn't easy; he'd been forced to hurt a friend to save him, been forced to fight and kill to stay alive, but he couldn't change the past, and his knowledge had kept his team safe from a robeast.
Noticing Pidge had wandered off after that particular fight, Shiro had been the one to set out to find her.
“Pidge.” He called her back. The girl stiffened at his voice. “I thought you'd find you out here.”
“You hurt him, hurt my brother.” She whispered. “Why?! Why would you do that?! You were friends!”
Shiro sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I did it to save him.”
“When we were in the arena, he was to go first. He froze, and I knew he couldn't fight. So I wrestled a weapon from our guard and cut his leg, then pretended to be so bloodthirsty as to need to go first. They bought it. I didn't see Matt again after that.”
“Y-you hurt him to save him!” Pidge’s body collided with him. “I'm so sorry, Shiro. I should have got the full story first, not just blamed you. I'm sorry.”
“It's alright, Katie.” Shiro smiled. Once again, she tensed. “I won't tell, don't worry.”
They sat there for a bit staring out at the sunset. It really was beautiful, and it fueled Shiro’s drive to protect the universe. They could do this, and no one would die this time.
“Thanks, Quiet.” Pidge murmured.