Chapter 1: Meeting You Changed Me
Allura was always more kind than she ought to be, according to her friends. She helped old ladies cross the street, she taught the children at the ballet studio she herself had studied at since she was a child, and she tutored the other students at their school. She had captured the idea of being a kind person and made it into something admirable. Her friends teased her about it, but they all knew it made her happy- helping had always made her happy. That was how she and Lance had become friends, after all, and that was how Allura had met him.
She hadn't even graduated high school yet when she met the man who held her heart. Allura had taken up a volunteer position at a local hospital. It was another way she could help people- another way she could make people's lives better. It had started the winter of her senior year, and the administrators at the hospital were overjoyed by the way she kept the patients company, made them happier. At first, it had just been a way to give back while also getting experience for her resume, but the day she stepped into Shiro's room, her reasons changed ever so slightly.
It had been a cold day, rainy and dreary, but Allura kept a smile on her face as she made her rounds- bringing the patients food and gifts, flowers and cards. She had just left the room of one of her favorite patients, a kind and elderly woman named Laia, when she saw a nurse leave the room next door in a rush. Allura managed to get the nurse to pause with an outstretched hand.
“Are you okay?” Allura asked, the upset expression on the nurse's face causing worry to seep into her voice.
The nurse nodded shakily, managing a smile. “Yes, that patient... He's not having the best of days today.”
And with that, the nurse left Allura standing in the hall by herself. Allura, ever the loving soul, felt she ought to visit this patient, but she didn't have a clue who he was. With a quick trip to the food cart, she decided it was time for his lunch to come early. Allura would always have to apologize to the nurse making food rounds today, but she was sure he would understand her reasoning. This was all to make someone happier, to make someone's day a little brighter. It was always her reasoning for doing most things.
Allura knocked on the door before cracking it open. She peeked her head inside and held the tray up for the patient to see. “I've brought your lunch!”
The man's appearance almost shocked the smile off her face, but she held it. He was gorgeous, but the frown on his lips made a chill run down her spine. He was covered in scars- a prominent one slicing across his nose- and his right arm was gone. The man's skin was littered with red patches, obvious burn marks, and Allura found herself wondering how he had gotten them. She shook the thoughts out of her mind and took the table to his bed. The patient just stared at her, silent, as she set the tray down.
Finally, he spoke. “Isn't it too early for lunch?” His voice was harsh, as if his vocal cords had been burned and scarred like his skin. Or maybe he'd just not been using it often.
Allura just smiled, her eyes softening as she looked at the man before her. “I knew I'd never stopped by your room, so I thought I'd bring you lunch early to introduce myself. I'm Allura.”
The expression on his face showed that he didn't care, but Allura wouldn't let herself get discouraged by one person who was having a bad day. She held a hand out to the tray and kept her gaze steady. “What's one extra thing you'd like to have on your plate, sir.”
His eyes narrowed, but he answered her nevertheless. “I'd prefer if if I could have a fried egg or two. They never serve those here.”
She had never been more pleased over having connections in the hospital's kitchen before. Allura brushed a lock of hair from her face and shot the patient a grin. “Three fried eggs coming up!”
With that, Allura was out the door and on her way to the kitchen. With a few sweet words, she convinced the volunteer in the kitchen, her friend Hunk, to whip her up some eggs.
“Heeey, my best friend,” Allura greeted as she slipped into the kitchen. The boy beside her hardly glanced away from the cake he was making for one of the patient's birthday.
“I thought that was Pidge, but I'll buy into it.” Hunk was teasing, and Alura knew that, but she still pushed her bottom lip out in a pout.
“You're both my best friend!” She continued quickly, noticing the side-glance Hunk gave her. “Lance is too, before you say something to that.”
Hunk chuckled and finally set his icing bag aside. He wiped his hands off on his apron and turned to Allura fully. “Alright, what is it, Lu? You don't slide up to me with that-” He motioned to her grin. “-look on your face without wanting something.”
Allura began to explain the situation, but the moment the words 'I want to help' were out of her mouth, Hunk had held up a hand to stop her. He agreed, albeit not without a promise of new icing tips in return, and within no time at all, Allura was back in the room of the patient she didn't know why she wanted to impress. She placed the eggs onto his tray in one fluid motion and held her hands open in a 'ta-da' motion. The man's eyes were locked onto the plate for a moment before he looked up at her.
“Thank you?” It was like a question, as if he wasn't sure if this was actually happening, if he should actually thank her for this. His eyes shone with suspicion, but he still turned away to dig into the eggs.
“Not a problem, sir!” Allura responded, her voice more chipper than it had been when she had first entered the room. She turned to leave when she head him speak up again.
“It's Shiro- uh, Takashi Shirogane. If you, y'know,” he explained, “wanted to know.”
Allura tilted her head to glance back at him, her smile finally fully reaching her eyes. “It's nice to meet you, Shiro. I'll see you tomorrow!”
She waved and closed the door behind her, taking a moment to stand there and collect herself. She had gotten his name, and she KNEW she'd heard that name some where before. The only problem was trying to figure out where she'd heard it. Allura shook her head and clapped her hands, pushing the thoughts away.
“Alright!” she said to herself, focusing on going back to work. She still had a long day ahead of her, and she wasn't going to let herself get distracted by thinking about how and when she'd heard the man's name before. It was probably just a coincidence!
“Yeah,” she muttered to herself as she headed to the food cart to deliver lunch to the other patients. “Just a coincidence.”
The first few days Allura visited Shiro, he was less than willing to speak to her. He seemed to be reserved, lost in thought, or annoyed any time she visited. She brought him gifts, like she did the other patients, but the more she saw him, the more she wanted to help him. The more she visited him, the more she wanted to continue doing so. She began to grow attached to him, wishing she could be his friend if only he'd let her.
The day she finally broke through his walls was the day she realized just how she had heard his name before. She had waltzed into the room with a sing-song 'I've brought your lunch!' and held his lunch tray above her head. She stumbled, ever so careful to not drop his food, when she realized he wasn't the only person in the room. The guest was turned away from her, seated in a chair facing Shiro's bed, but she could clearly see Shiro's face as he looked away from his guest and landed her with the most shocked expression she had seen on his face.
“I-” Allura began, her grin fading to a small grimace. “I wasn't aware you had a visitor! I'll leave your lunch her-”
“Allura, it's okay.” That wasn't Shiro's voice. The volunteer looked over at the guest, only to be greeted with the face of one of her friends from school.
“Keith? What are you doing here?” Allura asked, setting the tray in front of Shiro as she spoke.
Keith gave her a look as if he didn't understand why she was asking him that. “He's my brother? Did you forget that?”
It only took a second for realization to dawn on Allura's features. It made sense why she had recognized the man's name when they had first met. Of course, she remembered, she had never seen Keith's brother, so she hadn't assumed the connection. Allura pulled at a strand of her hair and glanced away, silently proving to Keith that she had actually forgotten about Keith's brother, Takashi.
Keith rolled his eyes and turned back to Shiro. “I'll bring by some books for you tonight.” He turned to leave, gently bumping Allura's shoulder with a small smile on his lips. “See you at school, Lu.”
She nodded, her expression slightly bashful still. The sound of the door closing resounded through the silent room, reminding Allura that she was still standing in Shiro's room with him. She dropped her hair and gave Shiro a smile. “Sorry, again. I didn't realize you were the Takashi Keith brags about all the time.”
Shiro raised an eyebrow, his normally stoic face painted with amusement. “Brags? What exactly does he brag about?”
A chance to tease her friends was something Allura always jumped at. When Lance's mother had asked her if she and Lance were dating, she had responded that they were and held hands all the time. Lance had been beet red for a week straight before he finally managed to convince his mother that Allura had been kidding. So now, with the chance to embarrass Keith laid out so nicely before her, Allura knew she had to take this chance before it was lost forever. She sat herself down in the chair Keith had just occupied and began to speak, her voice filled with mischief.
“Oh, he brags about everything you do- every day to every one he meets,” she explained, only slightly over exaggerating. “He always starts by telling everyone that you bought him his first knife and taught him how to fight.” Shiro's face twisted as he held back a laugh. “He'll go 'oh, Takashi is the best big brother ever! He's super smart and strong and has these arms that can lift a truck!'”
Shiro finally burst out in laughter as Allura held her arms up in a mock of how she portrayed Keith to do, flexing her arms with a teasing expression on her face. Allura dropped her arms, her lips twitching in laughter of her own, when Shiro covered his face with a hand. He was still giggling when he pulled his hand away, a smile plastered across his face. Allura's own smile widened when she realized that she had finally made the man before her smile- had finally taken away just a little of that anger he kept written on his features.
“He really does look up to you, though,” she continued, the taunting tone gone from her voice. “I hadn't realized until now just why he's been so distracted lately, but it's because he's worrying for you.”
And the smile was gone from Shiro's lips like a flash. His eyes lost the light from laughter and his lips quirked downward, making Allura think she'd said something wrong. That thought was pushed aside when Shiro began to speak.
“If I had been more careful in that building, I wouldn't be here missing an arm, and he'd probably not be struggling with school.”
Allura reached forward, placing a hand gently against Shiro's shoulder. He looked over to her, his eyes filled with a sadness she wished she could erase. Her finger's tightened, squeezing his arm in an attempt to convey her own feelings. “Don't blame yourself. You can't fix anything by thinking about the what if's.”
Chapter 2: Broken
The weeks passed by in the blink of an eye, and Allura found herself wishing more than once that she could slow time down. Shiro was finally getting up and walking, with the aid of nurses and volunteers like herself. His burns were nearly healed, leaving behind more scars to paint Shiro's skin. The man was even beginning to get use to only having a single arm- he even made jokes about it occassionally. There were still some days where he wouldn't be able to get out of bed, wouldn't be able to eat, wouldn't be able to think of anything but the fact that his career was over for good. He'd never put out another fire again with just one arm.
Those were the days Allura abandoned the other patients and let her fellow volunteers visit them. She stayed with Shiro, sitting by his side and talking to him about anything he wanted- if only to get his mind off of his missing arm and the implementations behind it. Sometimes he cooperated with her and let her visits bring a conversation, but on other days she was talking on her own- telling him about her dancing and school, college applications. Those were her least favorite days, but she was always happy to help him however he could. She was always happy to lessen the suffering look in his eyes however she could.
One day, though, he had simply vanished. The doctors, nurses, and Shiro- none of them had told her he would be leaving, that he was going to be discharged. Allura had walked into the room and stopped at the sight of a neatly made bed, the books Shiro loved gone from the table beside it. She had turned around so quickly that she almost ran into a nurse. Her voice nearly broke when she asked the nurse where Shiro had gone, and the woman looked at her as if she had no idea what she meant.
It made Allura wonder if she'd imagined him these past few months, but she knew that she hadn't- that she couldn't have just imagined a person like that.
So Allura went back to her volunteer job, and she helped the other patients just as she always had. She brought them gifts with a smile, took them extra foods when they were feeling down, and she made sure she could help these other people heal- just as she had with Shiro. Later, years down the road, Allura would wonder why she had never thought to ask Keith where his brother had gone. Instead of thinking to ask Keith, Allura forgot about Shiro and went about her life just as she had before he had appeared in it. She was soon graduating high school, and the man from the hospital was entirely forgotten in her past.
Allura stove toward the future, graduating with honor and scholar awards and with a set goal in mind for her future. She had gotten into the university she wanted, much to her guardian, Coran's, own excitement. Allura was going places with a goal before her, and she wouldn't let anything stop her from it. She wanted to dance, to teach others to dance, and she had everything she needed to let this dream come true.
Until one night in the middle of July.
A night that, in Allura's eyes, could only compare to the night her parents were killed. The agony, the panic, the pain- it would sear itself into Allura's mind for the rest of her life, and she would never be the same after it. It was the night her entire world finally crumbled and fell around her.
It had been like many other nights she and her friends had spent together during summer break. This time was different, though, because they had all just graduated. Keith and Lance had gotten into the dream colleges, just as Allura had, and Hunk was excited to go to one of the top culinary schools in their area. Pidge was just as happy to have gotten into the same school her brother had gone to, so their entire group was happy- excited!- for the fall to come. For their future.
They had gotten together with a few other people, just classmates from their graduating class, and were enjoying the crisp feeling of a summer night by the lake. Laughter filled the air as fresh graduates chased each other around like children, living in peace and calmness one last time before the grip of college pulled them all apart. Promises were being made, relationships created, and life was at it's brightest on this night for many of these teenagers.
But one small group of friends stayed huddled together, away from the rest. Allura, Lance, Hunk, Keith, and Pidge- the most closely knit group in their school had taken a seat on the edge of the dock and were talking softly white laughter and screams echoed from those around them. Pidge laid against Hunk, half asleep after a full afternoon of swimming, and Hunk was talking wildly about a cake he'd had to make for the entrance exam at his culinary school. Allura was gazing out across the water, glancing to Hunk every few seconds to assure him she was still listening.
Hunk suddenly stopped his story and turned to Lance. He noticed how Lance was gazing hazy eyed at Keith, unknown to the latter, and a wicked grin stretched across his lips. Allura noticed and snickered.
“Hunk, don't-” She began speaking, but was quickly cut off by Hunk raising his voice slightly.
“So, I said to the head chef 'You want me to make a cake as big as Lance's crush on Keith? Impossible!'”
Pidge jerked awake, looking at Hunk with a startled, sleepy expression. Lance's entire body froze, his gaze drifting away from Keith and to Hunk instead. Slowly, almost in sync, both Keith and Lance turned red. Keith whipped around to look at Lance, shouting a “You like me?” just as Lance screamed out for Hunk to shut up.
Allura explained to Pidge what had happened and the two began to giggle. Pidge gave Hunk a high five as Lance and Keith began to splutter to each other about their feelings. Allura stood up, stretching up high as she cleared her back from the kinks of sitting down too long. She turned to face the lake again and braced herself, diving head first into the sparkling depths.
She didn't feel the pain at first.
Allura suddenly felt limp, like she couldn't move. Her skin began to feel like it was covered in ice and bugs crawling all over her, and her heart began to beat faster in panic. Allura didn't know what was going on, but she was trying not to let panic over take her. Panicking never helped anything, and even if she felt like she couldn't move, panicking wouldn't fix it. It might make it worse. Muffled through the water, she heard a voice ask where she'd gone, and she wanted to bob back to the surface and wave to her friends to assure them she was okay- but she wasn't. She couldn't feel anything, and she couldn't move.
Then the pain came.
She felt the pain rush through her body like an electric shock, sudden and strong. It was everywhere but she couldn't tell where it was all radiating from- where she had hurt to make her body react like this. Her fingers began to feel numb as she laid face down in the water, and her eyes searched the water around her. She couldn't tell where she was compared to the surface, and the thought that she might die here was prominent in her mind.
Later, she would still remember the hopeless feeling coursing through her veins in that moment. She would remember just how long it took for her to start feeling light headed from lack of air, but she wouldn't remember how when Lance pulled her to the shore, tears were streaming down his face. She wouldn't remember how she had gasped out that she couldn't move when he pulled her to the land, and she wouldn't remember that those words had been the reason Lance's tears had begun to flow.
Later, Allura would remember the feeling of doom over taking her body as she finally released her breath in the water, but she wouldn't remember the feeling of arms wrapping around her. She wouldn't remember that she had lost consciousness for just a few precious moments, and she wouldn't remember Keith and Pidge screaming her name as she laid, unconscious and unmoving.
Allura wouldn't remember losing consciousness once again when she had finally been dragged ashore and had told her friends she couldn't move. She wouldn't remember how her friends had called the ambulance, and she wouldn't remember the sob Coran had held back when he finally saw her at the hospital. She wouldn't see the pain in his eyes as he reached forward to her, only for the nurses to roll her away to the emergency care wing. Allura wouldn't remember the nurses telling Coran what had happened, his eyes welling with tears the entire time, and she wouldn't remember the nurses telling Coran that she was lucky to still be alive.
Allura's memories began again when she opened her eyes to a stark white room .
Doctors and nurses were walking around her room, checking the equipment around her. She could hear a soft beeping beside her, but she had been in a hospital enough times to know it was the heart monitor. The only problem was- why was she hooked up to one? Allura's memory was hazy at best, and her surroundings felt dull, unreal. She couldn't quite grasp what had landed her here, but slowly it began to come back to her. She had hurt herself some how, hadn't been able to move, and had almost drowned; however, now she was in the hospital and the nurses and doctors were doing the initial check up on her. She knew that much, could tell that much from her surroundings, but what exactly had happened that made her be so badly hurt?
Allura tried to sit up, but her body wouldn't respond. She barely tilted her head to the side, yet even that hurt her, a stinging feeling spreading up her neck. A finger twitch was all she could manage for the rest of her body. She felt her skin grow hot at the realization that all she could move was her head and her finger. She wasn't even sure she really had moved her finger- she couldn't lean down to look, and she couldn't life her hand to see if she really could move her finger. She felt like she might be able to move if she tried hard enough, but it felt useless right now. She couldn't move, and being stuck here was something that terrified her.
“No,” Allura whispered, catching the attention of the doctor beside her. He smiled down at her, but there was a sad look in his eyes. He almost looked like an older version of Lance.
“Oh, you're awake?” he asked, reaching down and grasping her wrist to feel her pulse. Allura tried to watch him, but her head wouldn't lift. She only realized a little later that she hadn't been able to feel his hand.
“What happened?” Her voice was scratchy, and she faintly remembered a man with the same scratchy voice months before. “Why am I here?”
The doctor opened his mouth to speak before closing it, looking over to the other doctor in the room. The other man came forward, his appearance reminding Allura a bit of Pidge, and motioned to the bed.
“May I sit?”
Allura nodded and the man took a seat. He set his clipboard on the chair beside the bed and turned back to look at her. She watched as his kind expression took a mask of pity. She never liked people looking at her with pity, but this time she wasn't angry- she was scared. Allura lay in quiet fear as the man began to explain to her what had happened.
“Your friends told us that you were all at the lake for a graduation party, yeah?” Allura tried to nod. Instead, the movement wouldn't come so she lowered her eyes. “Yeah. Well, they told us you dove into the lake and didn't come up for a while. When they'd pulled you out, you said you couldn't move. That's still true now, isn't it?”
Allura took a shaky breath. It felt harder for her to breath than it should have. “Y-yeah, I can't move.”
The doctor nodded, reaching over and grabbing his clip board again. “You must have hit something when diving because you have a C5 spinal injury, with a small C4 spinal fracture. Right now you can't move your arms or neck- I can tell just from watching- but we can help you use them again, but...”
Allura could tell what the doctor was going to say. She could hear it before he even said it. In her mind, she knew all this before he began explaining- she just couldn't bring herself to believe it. It couldn't be happening- not to her.
“You'll never walk again.”
Hearing the words said out loud was worse than knowing they were coming. Allura felt her entire body grow weak, and she shut her eyes tightly. Maybe this was all a bad dream, or maybe it was all a joke. It couldn't be real- it couldn't be happening to her. This wasn't possible. She had her whole life planned out and now... now none of it would be possible. She'd never dance again.
Faintly, in the back of her mind, she heard a man say his own career was over. She knew, now, how he must have felt. Scared, useless-
The days passed like hours. Allura turned away friends coming to visit, turned away Coran even. She couldn't handle the thought of their pity- the sadness in their eyes because of her situation. They were looking at her like she could never do anything again, like she was useless now and her life was at an end. The worst part about it was that it was. She knew it was all over now. Her life was over in her mind, and she wasn't having the easiest time accepting that. She couldn't handle it, and she wasn't sure she ever would accept it.
Slowly, she started letting Coran in. It took a month, but she finally let him in. She let him come to her, helping her try to move her arms, her fingers, and she let him look at her with those pity filled eyes. She knew he wasn't looking down on her, and she knew he was just trying to help her, protect her, but she hated the way his smile would falter when he walked into the room to find her lying there like she had been for the past few weeks. She hated watching the tears well up in his eyes, blinked back and away in the last second, any time she mentioned wishing to move.
She still never let her friends visit her. They needed to focus on school, not her, and while she wasn't mad at them for doing so, she wanted them to not worry for her. She turned them away every time they visited, and soon the visits began to decrease. Eventually, they stopped trying, and when she realized that, the moment came when she realized maybe she'd pushed them away too far, she knew it was too late to fix anything. She had cried herself to sleep that night, worrying the nurses who brought her dinner and concerning the nurses who came to check on her in the night. The tears had flowed freely, heavily- almost like the had the night she found out her parents had died. Her whole world had come to an end once again.
The weeks began to pass in a blur of pity filled eyes and barely noticeable frowns, running together into one long, unbearable day. Allura began to sleep at random intervals at random times, but the nurses didn't stop her. They would come in her room to wake her up and tell her to go back to sleep. She found herself wishing there was something she could do, but she could still hardly even move her fingers, so she had no way to do anything. She hated asking the nurses, asking Coran, for things because it made her feel weak.
It made her feel useless.
Allura began to get over the feeling of being useless when Corn finally wore her down. She would ask him for things, giving him the look to let him know she didn't want to ask but knew she needed to. He would comply, without a word of complaint, and soon she began to ask the nurses for help too. She still turned Keith, turned Lance, away when they came to visit her. She still turned Pidge away without a word, crushing the younger girl's smile with a small turn of her head. Allura wouldn't even let Hunk in the room anymore, hating the sadness he held in his eyes every moment he tried to come in. Her friends had stopped trying every day, and soon she only heard from Lance.
She still didn't let him in like she had Coran, and she knew she was hurting him with every glare, every snap in her words, but he was the one who needed to worry the least. She knew he was already having trouble in classes because of her- so she finally told her nurses she wanted no visitors but Coran. She stopped getting texts of worry from Lance, too, but Pidge still texted her occasionally. Allura wasn't sure why she was pushing them all away so strongly, why she was so adamant on forcing them to stop caring for her. Coran had brought it up to her once, but once was the only time he did.
Coran had taken a seat in the chair by her bed, placing a hand on her wrist. She couldn't feel his hand properly, but the sensation of something near her was barely noticeable. She had glanced over to him, confusion in her eyes.
“What is it, Coran?” she asked, looking down at his hand.
He pulled his hand away and reached up to twist at his mustache. “Well, Allura, dear... Hunk tried to visit again today. He's very worried that you don't want to see anyone.”
Allura's heart twisted in guilt, but her mind reminded her of all the times he visited- all the pity in his voice and expressions. She hefted a sigh and twitched her hand in an attempt to pull it closer to herself.
“I don't want to talk about it.” Her voice was stern, a tone she had once heard her father use when he was still alive.
“But Allura-” Allura cut Coran off with a narrowing of her eyes, her lips twitching into a small scowl.
“I don't want to talk about it, Coran. I don't want anyone visiting me, and I don't have to explain my reasoning to anyone.” She knew she was being mean, but she didn't care at this point. She didn't care because she needed her peace, she needed her space- and right now, her life only had room for one person to look at her with such pity and worry. It only had room for Coran to worry for her because that was his job as her guardian.
That was what his job had been since she had been placed under his care.
She had ended the conversation there, turning her head away from Coran and leaving the room filled with a silence. Coran hadn't tried to bring it up again, turning away her friends himself when they had somehow managed to get past- to sneak past, knowing them- the help desk. Allura knew it wasn't their fault- it wasn't her fault either- but that it was better for them to not see her. It was better for her to not see them either, but some days it felt like she was more alone than ever and wished she hadn't pushed them so far away.
Allura began to not sleep as often, though, and she hardly ate her food when it was brought to her, but she assured to nurses and Coran she was okay. She didn't need anything more than what they were doing, but she knew she needed something. She couldn't fix what she'd done, and she couldn't pull her friends close again after pushing them so far away, but she needed someone. She needed someone to be there for her like Coran was doing, but she needed more than just Coran. The nurses were only there to do their job, but aside from Coran, they were the only ones there for her. She needed more.
But she couldn't bear seeing someone else with pity in their eyes. Coran had finally stopped looking at her with such sorrow, and she was so happy about that- but the sadness and despair from the possibility of seeing it again had still struck her with a fear. A fear that kept her from telling the nurses to let her friends see her, a fear that kept her from telling Coran to stop keeping them from her room.
But soon that fear began to fade- just slightly, just enough to allow her to catch Coran's attention as he was leaving one day.
“Coran-” Allura stopped, her hear beat rising in fear. She swallowed it down as he turned around to raise an eyebrow at her.
“What is it, dear?” He looked at her expectantly, so she finally took the plunge- a dive to change her life once again.
“Will you leave the door open today?”
Allura knew fear was painting her face a shade lighter, that it was obvious in her eyes as she met Coran's. She knew she looked like she was gazing into the face of death itself, but she knew she had to do this. She knew she had to give it a chance, give into the fear and let something happen. She knew she had to do this to progress, even though she knew she was still so far away from progressing in her acceptance of this new life. Coran studied her face for a moment before a smile took hold of his lips. His eyes held a proud shine to them, something she hadn't seen since the beginning of summer when she had told him she had gotten into her dream college. Something she thought she would never see again.
“Of course,” he answered, turning back away and leaving the door wide open for her to gaze into the hallway.
She began to let the fear fade away, letting herself relax as she looked out into the hallway. She watched the nurses and doctors walk past her door. Allura saw other patients drifting though the hall, patients who could get up and walk with assistance and some without it. She watched patients with their families, smiling and laughing. She saw families with sorrow coating their features walk alone, without their loved ones, and she saw someone she never thought she would see again.
The man she had cared for months ago.
She saw the shock of white hair before she saw him. She knew it was him before she remembered his name, but even as he glanced over into her room, he didn't react. She watched Shiro walk past her door, there for one second before he was gone again. He had kept walking as if he hadn't recognized her, and it made her heart falter. She had almost called out to him, but she soon remembered her own position. If he had remembered her, he might had come in to greet her. Though... if had done that, he would have looked at her with sadness, just as she had when she had first seen him lying on his own bed all those months ago. He wouldn't look at her the way he had then- when she could still walk, and she wouldn't want him to see her like this anyway. The thoughts of how he would treat her differently, like she was as useless as she now felt, made her regret ever asking Coran to leave the door open- even if the way he had merely glanced into her room proved he didn't remember he anyway. Allura would have never seen Shiro if she hadn't asked Coran to leave the door ajar, and she would never had felt the disappointment of him not showing any recognition at the sight of her.
Allura closed her eyes, holding back tears as her mind began to replay all the terrible thoughts she had been having since she found herself here. She was useless, unworthy of anyone's pity or attention. She didn't deserve to be here, but she still was. It was her own fault she was here- her own fault and she could never change it. Allura had began to think of the what if's: what if she had never suggested holding the party at the lake? What if she had never planned the party, and what if she had never pulled her friends aside to sit at the dock? What if she had never gotten up to swim, and what if she had jumped in instead of diving? She could have changed everything, could have avoided this- so it was all her fault. It was her fault her friends didn't visit anymore, and it was her fault she was lying here unable to move.
And now it was her fault that she had seen Shiro and wished he had seen her too.
Allura's thoughts were interrupted as a nurse knocked on her open door. She opened her eyes and offered the nurse a half smile. The man took a few steps in and placed the tray of food on her table.
“Do you want me to call for your guardian to help you, or would you like me to help you eat today?” he asked, the kind smile on his face showing no pity.
Allura glanced back toward the door, thinking of Shiro once more. She remembered the times she had brought him food, helped him cut things when he couldn't with just one arm. Allura returned her gaze to the nurse and managed to tilt her head down in a nod. “I want to eat now.”
It took only a few moments for her to get full and tell the nurse she was done. He had hesitated, asking if she was sure she didn't want to finish the rest of her meal. She hadn't eaten much, but she couldn't bring herself to eat any more. She denied being hungry, and the man left with the rest of her food. Allura knew the nurses were staring to worry with how little she was eating, but she hardly needed the energy with her lack of movement.
“You know,” a voice said, startling her from her thoughts, “even if you're not moving, you still need the energy.”
Allura turned to look at the door, surprised to see Shiro there. Her eyes widened, her heart racing in her chest. She saw his eyes, but she saw no pity. She saw no sadness directed toward her, but instead she saw a small smile- a small smile and eyes brighter than she ever seen while he was in a bed himself. He didn't know what was wrong with her, though. He didn't know why she was here. Once he found out, though-
“You,” she whispered. Shiro chuckled quietly, taking a few steps further into the room. She made a strangled noise, and he paused. Allura took a shaky breath and turned her head away from him. “I'm not accepting visitors right now.”
“I wasn't either when you started visiting me.”
His words almost made her turn her head back to him, but she kept her gaze away from him. She needed to make a point, make it obvious she didn't want to see anyone. She needed to prove she didn't want to see him. If she saw him, her friends would start coming again, and she would have to see more pity, more sorrowful eyes and frowns directed toward her. She would have to start all over again in accepting people looking at her useless and still form, and Allura... Allura couldn't handle that. She couldn't handle accepting more than one person looking at her like that at a time. She had taken over a month to finally accept Coran's sad eyes- Allura knew she couldn't accept more than one person at a time.
So she kept her head turned away. She kept her gaze off of the man at her doorway. She stayed silent, listening- waiting- for him to turn away and leave her room. To leave her alone just as all her friends finally had. He stayed for a moment longer than she expected, and before he left, he spoke to her.
“I'll visit tomorrow, Allura,” he had said, his voice soft and kind. She finally heard steps retreating from her room a second later.
Allura looked back to the door and saw the man missing, and she let out a breath she didn't know she had been holding. She made a mental note to ask Coran to keep the door closed tomorrow.
The days began to pass at a slower rate. Shiro kept his promise and visited the next day... and the next... and the next. She tried to turn him away in the beginning, tried to make him stop coming however she could. She still told her nurses she didn't want visitors, but some how, for some reason, he kept coming. He kept slipping past the nurses, past Coran, and he continued to visit. The first few days, she would ignore him until he went away. He left her flowers and gifts, chocolates and trinkets. Shiro left her notes with each gift, telling her how he hoped she was having a good day. After a week, she finally let him in. She finally spoke to him when he visited, and she finally began to look at him when they spoke.
Coran had come in a few times while Shiro was there, and the first time he did, Shiro had introduced himself to Coran. When he had left, Coran and Shiro had spoken quietly outside her door. She hadn't been able to hear them, but when Coran came back into the room, he had been smiling. He didn't tell her what they had spoken about, but Coran had always allowed Shiro into the room after that day. Allura had asked Coran about it once, but he just smiled, shook his head, and said Shiro was a good man.
One day Shiro came into the room and something was different about him. Allura hadn't noticed it immediately, but when he reached forward with his right hand she had blinked in confusion.
“Shiro, your arm,” had been all she could muster up, the confusion obvious on her face.
Shiro grinned and held it up, pushing up his sleeve to show her where the prosthetic met skin. Allura's eyes widened, twitching her hand and managing to push it slightly closer to him. He lifted her hand with his other hand and placed it on his prosthetic for her to feel. She was silently thankful for his help, finally accepting that she needed it sometimes. Her fingers moved slowly as she moved her hand across the separation between skin and metal.
“This was actually what I came here for the first day I visited you,” he explained. “I was here for a prosthetic fitting that day, and I was actually late for it when I passed your room the first time.”
The lack of pause in his step that day finally made sense to Allura. She let a small smile spread across her lips, less genuine than they once had been but more so than she had expressed in the past few months. She stopped tracing the separation on his right arm and let her hand fall back to her bed.
“When I had seen you that day, passing by my room without even pausing, I thought you had forgotten me,” she muttered, her eyes avoiding Shiro's own. “I thought maybe you didn't remember me or didn't care to stop even if you did remember me. I thought that even if you did remember me, you would look at me with sorrow like every one else does- did.”
Shiro shook his head, taking her hand in both of his and lifting it to his lips. She met his eyes as he placed his lips against her hand, the feeling just barely noticeable to her broken nerves. Allura saw the happiness, the love, in his eyes and felt her heart jump into her throat. She saw the smile on his lips, and she watched as his smile spread all the way to his eyes for the first time. He slowly puled her hand away from his lips and lifted his head.
“I could never forget you,” he whispered, the love in his eyes spreading to his voice. “And I could never see you as anything less than the strongest woman I've ever met.”
Shiro continued to visit Allura daily. When he wasn't there, Coran was. When Coran wasn't there, Allura was lost in her thoughts. The only difference from those first few weeks when her thoughts had overtaken her mind was the quality of those thoughts. She no longer thought about the guilt she felt when alone, and she no longer thought about the despair of never walking again. She no longer thought about all the bad in her life. Instead, she thought about what she could look forward to. She thought about what she had, and she thought about what she could do with her life. She thought about how she felt about Shiro, and she thought about the joy he always expressed when he was with her.
Allura thought about her parents and how they would want her to move on with her life however she could.
She finally began physical therapy when the doctors decided she was ready. She would be taken to a quiet room by a nurse, often accompanied by Shiro or Coran. Sometimes she went alone, but those were the days she didn't make much progress. They had her moving her arms, her hands. She still had little feeling in her hands and forearms, but after a few weeks of therapy, Allura could finally hold a cup on her own. She had been so happy when she had been told by her doctor that they could finally start working on leg movement.
They had warned her, though, that she would never be able to really walk again. The news was something she already knew, something they had warned her of when she had first woken up here, but the news had still crushed her hopes. She had known, but it still hurt to be told again, to be reminded that her life would never be any where near the same as it had once been. That day, she had asked Shiro and Coran to both leave her alone, to let her accept it on her own. That day, she remembered what she had told Shiro on his bad days- on the days where he would be reminded that he would never be able to do his job ever again. She reminded herself of all the good she had to look forward to.
That day, she finally called Lance and asked him to visit.
He had dropped the phone when she asked him to come visit- the thud had been loud enough for her to pull the phone from her ear. He had yelled that he was on his way and hung up on her. Allura had smiled at his excitement, putting her phone aside. It had only taken him thirty minutes to run into her room, gasping like he'd run the entire way from his house. Knowing Lance, he probably had.
The instant he saw her, there was no sorrow or pity in his eyes. Joy coated his face the moment he had opened the door, his eyes wide in happiness. He jolted forward and enveloped Allura in a hug, surprising her more than the lack of pity had. He held her tightly, still breathing heavy.
“I've missed you, Lu,” he whispered between gasps, and she felt a wetness against her cheek.
He lifted his head, his eyes overflowing with tears. She felt her heart tighten at the sight of what her pushing him away had caused, and the guilt over her actions surged up stronger than it had before. Allura reached a hand out, still slow in her movements despite the weeks of physical therapy, and placed a hand on his cheek.
“I've missed you too, Lance,” she began, a small smile on her lips despite the guilt coursing through her body. “And I'm sorry for pushing you away.”
He lifted a hand to wipe away his tears as he let himself fall back into the chair by her bed. Once he was seated and his tears had been wiped away, he reached out to grasp her hand in his own. His smile was sad, but his eyes sparkled in happiness. “Don't apologize. We all do things we regret when we're hurting.”
Allura's smile widened, and she felt tears prickling at her eyes. He had forgiven her so easily despite how far she had pushed him away from her, despite how often she turned him away. Allura had always been thankful for Lance's friendship, but never had she been so happy for how kind and forgiving the man could be to anyone- even those who did not deserve that kindness, that forgiveness. She twisted her hand to grab one of his and squeezed it as tightly as she could. The tears began to slip down her cheeks when he looked at her again.
“Lu, I'll always be here for you, okay? Even if you push me away, I'll stay by your side. That's what a best friend does.” Lance squeezed her hand as if to prove the truth in his words.
She would have believed him even if he hadn't.
Lance stayed for several hours that day, all through the night too. They talked about his school, how he was doing in his classes, and Allura was pleased to find out he was doing great. They talked about his relationship with Keith and how they had just put a label to it a few weeks ago. Allura was thrilled to learn that the two had finally accepted their feelings for each other, and Lance was even more thrilled when Allura brought up Shiro.
Lance had nearly squealed when Allura had confided that she had feelings for the former firefighter. She expressed how he had helped her, more so than she had tried to help him when he had been in her place. Lance had nodded along with her, smiling the entire time in support, and he had even told her to try for something with the man when she was ready- that he would be there for her the whole time.
The two talked more about school, about the fact that the current semester only had a few months left before finals would take over Lance's life. Allura had paused on that topic, almost hesitant to continue talking about school once she remembered that she should be dreading the start of finals as well. She had gone quiet for a moment before Lance had noticed.
“You know,” he started, “you could always try for the spring semester. You won't be able to go for the same major, but...”
Allura sucked in a breath, forcing away the anger at the reminder of how bad her injury was. Lance had gone quiet, looking at Allura with a hint of worry. It took him a tick before he found the heart to continue.
“But you could do something else you like.” There was something in his voice that suggested he already knew what she would pick. “Something that can help you help people. You've always loved helping people, Lu.”
Allura nodded, thinking about all the times she had helped people through things similar to what she was going through now. She did love helping people, so maybe... maybe she could go into therapy. Maybe she could help people as a profession. Maybe she could still do some good in the world.
“You're a genius, Lance,” Allura admitted, smiling at the grin that broke out on Lance's face.
Allura had finally gained enough movement in her hands and fingers to use a laptop again. She began to ask her doctors when the soonest she could go home was. Allura had finally gained a fire within her that she had never thought she would have again after her accident. She began to ask her other friends to visit, apologized for how she had treated them from that moment she awoke in the hospital. They forgave her- some slower than others, some with more difficulty than others- and Allura had never felt more grateful for her friendship with them before. Her friends began to visit her regularly between their jobs and their schooling, and Shiro began to stay with her some nights.
Allura began to feel more like her old self again, and even her doctors were saying she was more healthy now than she had been the first few months she had been admitted to the hospital. They noticed her change in behavior, and her physical therapy was going smoother and more successful than it ever had. She had some movement in her legs again, and she could finally move her arms- though not very high-and hands properly. She could write again and feed herself, but she still had trouble reaching some things.
Despite everything that had happened, Allura was finally feeling happy again. Allura's doctors had started working her with an electric wheelchair, and she was finally roaming the hospital almost freely. She saw some of the nurses she had once worked with, and she saw some of the former patients she had helped. The questions of what had happened to her weren't uncommon, but she didn't get upset at them anymore. She answered them sometimes, and other times she changed the topic entirely.
Shiro's presence on her trips around the hospital made her enjoy them even more. They still talked about everything under the sun, as if they could never run out of topics to bring up. He never made her feel less capable in anything, and he only offered help when he knew she would ask for it anyway. He had been the anchor for her happiness at first, the one who had finally helped her smile again. He had been there for her despite how much she had tried to push him away because he didn't know her like her friends did. He didn't know that sometimes it was better to wait for her to ask for him, but Allura found she didn't mind him pushing himself into her life. After all, hadn't she done the same for him?
So she opened a spot for him in her life, in the life she would make once she was released form the hospital. She held him close to her heart, and Allura was happy to find out that he held her just as closely to his own heart. She found out his own feelings mirrored his own on the day she was being released from the hospital.
He had come to visit her just as he did ever day, and as he was entering the room, Shiro was surprised to over hear the doctor telling Allura and Coran that she could go home today. Shiro gave a smile to the doctor, Matt, as he passed by him, giving his old friend a short greeting before continuing into the hospital room. He grinned at Allura, giving a nod to Coran.
“I'll go fill out the paperwork so we can leave soon, then,” Coran announced as Shiro took a seat by Allura's bed.
“Okay, Coran!” Allura responded, a grin on her lips as she turned to Shiro. “I get to go home today!”
“I heard.” Shiro was smiling, but there was something else in his expression that caused Allura's grin to falter.
“What's wrong?” she asked, reaching a hand forward to grasp his own.
Shiro looked up at her, his eyes holding an uncertainty that Allura wished she could wipe away. She tilted her head, giving his hand a squeeze of assurance. He took a slow breath, as if he was bracing himself for something.
“Nothing's wrong,” he began, his tone hesitant. “But I wanted to ask you something.” Allura felt her heart jump to her throat, hammering hard against her skin. Shiro enveloped her hand within his other before he continued. “It's nothing bad, really. I promise.”
Allura nodded slowly, but she didn't speak. She had a feeling that she knew what was coming, what he was about to ask, but she was afraid of assuming. Allura didn't want to be disappointed, so she just nodded, staying silent and letting him continue.
Shiro swallowed, nodding to himself. “Okay, so... I was wondering if- not now or soon or ever if you don't want to- if you'd want to, and like I said, if you don't want t-”
“Shiro, just ask what you want to ask,” Allura interrupted, her tone calm despite the panic and nervousness dancing across her skin.
Shiro nodded again, squeezing her hand a little tighter. “Okay, yeah. What I'm trying to ask is if you would want to go on a date with me some time in the future when you're ready to date or ready to go on a date- with me, but if you don't want to-”
Allura pulled her hand away, feeling bad at the pained look on Shiro's face when she did, but it disappeared from his features the moment she cupped his cheek in her hand. She smiled at him, trying to pull his face closer to hers. He complied, slowly, and she felt him relax as she pressed her lips against his.
It was short and soft, a fleeting promise of more to come, but it was the best kiss Allura had ever had in her life. The moment they pulled away from each other, Allura opened her eyes to see Shiro's own fluttering open, his lips quirking up into a small smirk.
“Well, that's one way to stop me from rambling,” he chuckled, opening his eyes to meet Allura's own gaze. “And should I take that as a yes?”
Allura pulled her hand away from he cheek and laughed, the sound so similar to how she could laugh before her accident. It wasn't a mocking laugh, and judging from the grin on Shiro's lips, he knew it wasn't. She was nodding, happiness spreading through the room. “Yes, take it as a yes because it's a yes for sure. I would love to go on a date with you when I'm ready to start dating you.”
“I'm glad,” was his response, though his eyes told her he was more than just glad that she had said yes to him.
Allura began college that January for the spring semester- only a semester later than she had been planning on- and she was thankful that the school hadn't made her reapply to go there because of the suddenness accident. She changed her major the week before classes started to therapy, and she couldn't have been happier with her new career path. She could help people going through what she had gone through, what Shiro had gone through. Allura was happy with her choices, with how her life would be once she graduated.
She began to hang out with her friends again, happy that they had all forgiven her in their own way. They couldn't hang out in the same ways they use to, and she couldn't do a lot of the things they use to do, but her friends still found ways to spend time with her. They often stayed at her apartment and played games with her, though it was sometimes awkward for Keith to come over and see his brother with Allura.
Allura and Shiro had practically moved in together since she had been released from the hospital. He was always at her apartment to help her when she needed it, to be there for her when Coran had to work. The two had grown closer since she had been released, and she was happier with him than she had ever been. They hadn't officially named themselves a couple, much to Lance's annoyance.
(Any time he brought it up, she had to remind him that it took Lance and Keith two entire years of dancing around each other and avoiding the topic before they finally accepted their feelings for each other. Even then, she would press on, it still took them almost three months to finally get together. He would usually drop the topic afterwards.)
Shiro was bound to start his new job as a trainer at his old firehouse within the next few weeks, and Allura was sure that things would be okay for the two of them. She was sure things would be okay for all of them, their friendships and relationships alike, and sometimes she wondered if maybe all that had happened to them had happened for a reason.
Allura was happy with her new life just as she had been happy with her old life. There were still times when she missed her old life, missed being able to stand longer than a single second and missed being able to dance. There were still times when she would sit in silence for hours, alone and wishing that she could do everything she once could- just one more time at least. There were still times when Shiro, too, would look down to his prosthetic and remember that, despite having something which looked to be an arm, he would never return to his old job. There were still times when he would refuse to put on his prosthetic because it reminded him of the day he lost his actual arm.
Those times, for both of them, were the times they needed each other the most. Those were the times that Allura would remind Shiro that he would be training new firefighters soon, that they would carry on his legacy and save the people he no longer could. She would tell him that even if he could not be on the edge of the fires with the other firefighters, he could still help drive them to the scene and he could still help them from the station. She would remind him that he would still be there to help save people even if he could not physically pull someone from the fire on his own.
Those times, for both of them, were the times they needed each other more than anyone else. Those were the times that Shiro would remind Allura that she would still be doing good in the world by helping people struggling through hard times in their lives. He would tell her that the ballet studio still asked her to teach a class of students every week, that even if she could not stand and demonstrate a move herself, she could explain a move and adjust their movements with her words and her hands. Shiro told her every night that she was still the strongest woman he had ever met and that he loved her no matter what happened.
They had met on a day when Shiro had been needing someone to be there for him despite how strongly he could shove them away. He had needed someone to help him, and that was what Allura had been for him in those dark days of his life. Shiro almost hadn't let her in- almost had forced his loneliness to grow even stronger in his heart. He had let her in, though, and it had changed his life for the better.
They had met once again on a day where Allura had tempted fate and tried to better herself on her own. She tried to force him away, but he stayed and that had been what she needed in that time of her life. She had needed someone to help her, and that was what Shiro had been for her in those dreadful days of her life. Allure almost hadn't let herself be helped, almost hadn't let someone care for her in the way she needed. She had let a fear fester in her soul, and she almost had fed Shiro's help feed the fear's fire in her heart- but she didn't. She let him in, and from his help, she learned how to be happy again.
They had been there for one another since the day they first met, and together they had helped one another heal.