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A Warmer Place

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Thace took shelter from the sentries’ fire behind the control panel, occasionally pulling up to shoot one of them down. The power core was about to explode, leaving Zarkon’s ship vulnerable to Voltron’s attack. It was a cause worthy of sacrificing his life, Thace told himself. It was the only way. He knew it would come to this at some point, but there was still so much he wished he could have done. He wanted to see the war through to its end; the plan might fail, and even if it succeeded, it would only be the first battle in a long and gruesome war.

He wanted to see Ulaz again. The last message Ulaz had sent Thace on their private encrypted channel from the Thaldycon base said that he was going to investigate an unidentified ship that had appeared in the system. Thace had replied, Be careful, and never heard from him again. The sinking feeling of dread when Ulaz didn’t reply had turned into panic, which gave way to numbness. Maybe the ship had been an undercover Blade of Marmora craft picking up Ulaz for a top-secret mission, but Thace feared the worst more often than he hoped for that. Now, it was with resignation that he thought about Ulaz, and the sacrifice he was about to make.

Thace watched the core turn white hot. He smiled, knowing that he had done everything he could, and that Ulaz would be proud of him, wherever he was. Thace closed his eyes.

The only sensation he felt was one of weightlessness. There was no ground to touch, no difference in temperature, no sound, no smell. All around him was only blackness. He couldn’t feel his body. He looked down and he couldn’t see it either, like his consciousness was floating in empty space.

One by one, white stars began to appear in the blackness, and light illuminated the space around him. One of the stars turned into a large portal of light and a shadowed figure stepped out of it. The shadow drifted closer, into the glow that had appeared around Thace, and familiar shapes started to reveal themselves. He recognized the tall and graceful body, although the purple glow emanating from the silhouette was strange. An ethereally beautiful lavender face and compassionate yellow eyes came into the light.

“Ulaz!” Thace cried out. He couldn’t hear his voice in his ears, but it echoed in his mind. Ulaz seemed to hear it, turning his eyes toward Thace. Ulaz moved closer to Thace and pulled him into his arms. Moments ago, he had been floating through emptiness. Now, Thace suddenly felt safe, he felt real.

It had been so long since he’d held Ulaz. Even before Ulaz had disappeared in the Thaldycon system, their undercover missions had kept them apart for all but a few stolen moments out of several years. There must have been a time when he had been this close to Ulaz and been this happy, but he couldn’t remember it. Finally, he felt Ulaz’s warm embrace again.

But it wasn’t really touch, it was something more. It was warm, but what filled him was more of a deep feeling of ease than an actual sense of heat. It felt like his and Ulaz’s souls were entwined. Their bodies had only made it so that they couldn’t occupy the same space, and without them, they could be closer than ever before.

“Thace, I’ve waited for you for so long…” He heard a message inside his mind again, familiar like his own thoughts. This time it had the rich tones of Ulaz’s voice, heavy with longing and desperation. “But not long enough. What are you doing here? You have to go back.”

“Ulaz, are we… am I… dead?” Thace inquired.

“No, you are not,” Ulaz said. “You’re close, but you’re still translucent, you still have time.” Ulaz’s eyebrows furrowed and he looked down, not meeting Thace’s gaze. He squeezed Thace tight for an instant before he let go and pushed him away. Thace felt cold in his absence immediately. “I’m sorry, but I can’t keep you here.”

Thace felt stung by Ulaz’s words. They were together again after all this time, and now, Ulaz no longer wanted to touch him?

“But I want you to,” Thace insisted. Thace reached out and took Ulaz’s hand, and for the first time he saw the faint outline of his own hand materializing, surrounded in the same purple glow that Ulaz had around himself.

“No! You—you need to go back,” Ulaz pleaded. “The universe needs you.”

I need you,” Thace countered. He sent a pulse of energy down the connection between his hand and Ulaz’s, the equivalent of a comforting squeeze. “What happened to you, Ulaz?”

“I don’t want to upset you,” Ulaz said, looking away and frowning. He was still the same stubborn Ulaz, which was a relief in this strange place.

“I want to know,” Thace insisted.

There was a moment of profound silence before Ulaz responded. “I met Voltron at the Thaldycon base. They were almost defeated by Prorok’s robeast form, so I sacrificed myself to save them. I put my faith in the paladins… and in you.”

Thace shed tears as his heart broke. Ulaz had disappeared without a trace, without so much as a last goodbye. Thace had always held onto a faint hope that he was still alive and just deep undercover, because if a Blade member had died, he would have found it in the reports. Kolivan must have kept it from him to make sure that he didn’t do something reckless in his grief. But now Ulaz was right here in front of him. Thace would still grieve, for reasons he didn’t quite understand, but Ulaz would be here through all of it to hold him and comfort him… that is, if Ulaz would let him stay.

“Then I followed your path,” Thace said. “It led me back to you, and that’s everything I could have wanted.”

“But your path hasn’t ended yet. I want you to live, Thace,” Ulaz begged, desperate tears breaking from his eyes. “You were supposed to live.”

“But why would I want to live in a world without you when I could be here, with you?” Thace reached out and wiped the tears from Ulaz’s cheek.

Ulaz took hold of Thace’s hand, inspecting it. “It looks like it is too late for you now,” Ulaz murmured, the raw despair in his tone replaced with dull resignation. Thace ached to comfort Ulaz, but he was distracted by the observation that he couldn’t see through his hand anymore. He could feel Ulaz touching him, feel the weight and warmth, although that sense of their energies mingling was still there and even stronger than before.

Thace pressed his hand to Ulaz’s cheek again, and Ulaz leaned into the touch. Now that there was no chance of sending Thace back to the world of the living, Ulaz allowed himself to accept Thace’s comfort. Thace was grateful that he did. He had missed him so much.

They couldn’t tell who moved first, as the threads of their being were woven together, but in an instant they were holding each other again. Ulaz’s arms wrapped around Thace, his hands clutching his back and his head buried in Thace’s shoulder. It reminded Thace of their rushed goodbye at the Blade base before Ulaz had boarded the ship to the Galra empire. Every time they had held each other like this before, it always meant goodbye. It always had to end. Thace relaxed into Ulaz, shuddering with happy sobs as he realized that this was forever. Ulaz pulled him tighter to his chest, rubbing his back and purring to try to soothe him.

Thace sent him a signal that he was fine, that he was crying because he was happy. Ulaz also picked up that Thace didn’t want him to let go, and so he didn’t. They were so close that they didn’t need words anymore, but Thace wanted to hear Ulaz’s voice again.

“The war is finally over for us. We finally get to rest,” Thace said softly.

Ulaz laughed. That was the moment Thace knew he was home. He hadn’t heard the sound in so long that he’d almost forgotten the beauty of it. The stars around them seemed to grow brighter, but they couldn’t compare to Ulaz’s radiant smile.

“I never hoped that it would be like this,” Ulaz admitted. “But yes. I waited all this time so that I could rest with you again.” Ulaz tenderly touched his forehead to Thace’s as a bright white light washed over them.

In Galra culture, it was said that the spirits of the dead reverted to pure quintessence, the energy that fuels everything in the universe. Spirits that still had ties to the living world were barred from this fate, like Ulaz while he waited for Thace. It was painful for a soul to wait instead of passing on, but it had been worth it to Ulaz so that Thace had someone to meet him on the other side. Now that he and Thace were reunited, Ulaz could let go. Let the memories of their dreadful time away from each other fade. Let their love for each other meld into one perfect energy, that would go on to create some beautiful thing in the universe.