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Pidge hurried to the bridge, eager to hear what message was so important that Coran had summoned them all. She was the last to arrive; there was a fast way down to the Lion’s hangar, but not a fast way up.

“What message-- Keith!” Pidge smiled brightly when she saw their wayward Paladin on the vid screen.

“Good to see you guys.” Keith gave them all one of his small smiles.

He was in his Marmora armor, so she assumed this was something related to the resistance group. She went to her chair, ready to pull up whatever information they’d need to assist.

“Go ahead, Keith.” Shiro said.

Keith nodded, down to business. “The Blade of Marmora have picked up some strange anomalies in the Srograac system. Kolivan says our resources are stretched too thin to pull operatives to investigate, but there have been whispers that Lotor is interested in the anomaly, though no one’s seen him in that sector.”

“If Lotor’s involved at all, we can’t ignore it.” Shiro decided. “We’ll investigate.”

“The Castle is going to draw attention if it suddenly shows up, but I can go in Green with the cloak. At least get some readings.” Pidge offered.

“I’ll go too.” Keith said. “Kolivan instructed me to rendezvous with y’all and assist. I’m already en route to you.”

“We’ve got you on our scans, Keith. See you in twenty doboshes.” Coran confirmed.

Half a varga later, Keith and Pidge were aboard the Green Lion and on their way to the Srograac system. Once they were out of the wormhole, Pidge checked the scanner. No nearby vessels, so she left the cloak off for now, and flew them in closer to the anomaly. Already her scans were showing an increase in gamma radiation and magnetic interference, which was certainly odd since there weren’t any planetoids in the area that could be causing it.

“This is fascinating.” Pidge murmured.

“What is it?” Keith asked, frowning at a display.

“I think it’s a gamma-ray burst.” She smiled, excited. “They’ve only been seen in far off galaxies and science hasn’t been able to determine what causes them.”

“Is it safe?”

“Not in the least.” Pidge laughed, delighted to encounter something so interesting, so close. “The Green Lion is protecting us from the radiation, but we’d fry if we got out.”

“Let’s not do that then.” Keith stated.

Pidge’s hands flew across the displays as she took readings. “This is amazing. To think, we’re actually close enough to something that scientists back home have been scratching their heads over, we can actually see it outside our window. We could learn definitively what causes them, solve a mystery of the universe!”

“Fascinating for us, but why would Lotor be interested?”

“Gamma radiation is wicked deadly and gamma-ray bursts produce huge amounts of energy in a very short amount of time. He might be looking for a weapon, or maybe an alternative to quintessence since he’s fallen out of favor with the Galra Empire.” Pidge theorized.

“Not liking either option, Pidge.”

“It could be neither.” She offered. “Maybe he just likes weird spacial anomalies.”

The proximity alarms blared as a ship arrived from hyperspace. A quick scan showed it was definitely Lotor, so Pidge threw up the cloak and prayed she’d been fast enough. More alarms on her screen had her swearing. The radiation was messing with the cloak!

“Maybe he won’t notice us?”

Lotor’s ship adjusted course and headed right for them.

“Time to go!” Keith ordered.

“No kidding. Allura!” Pidge opened a comm as she ran the Lion through evasive maneuvers trying to dodge Lotor and return fire.

“We read you Pidge, you’re early.” Allura said.

“We need a wormhole!” Keith shouted, hanging on to the back of Pidge’s chair as she did a barrel roll.

“Just a tick!”

The wormhole opened and Pidge floored it through, sacrificing evasion for speed. They entered the wormhole, but before they could relax, Pidge noticed the structural integrity seemed to be weakening and it became very difficult to maintain course through.

“What’s happening?” Keith asked, bracing himself against the violent shaking.

“I think the wormhole was hit.” Pidge groaned, trying to fight the controls. “It’s a like when we escaped from Zarkon after rescuing Allura, but the energy readings are different. I can’t see… I need to access that monitor, but I can’t take my hand off the controls or we’ll risk hitting the wall of the wormhole.”

“Okay, hold on.” Keith moved until he was wedged between her dashboard and the chair, and then reached up to grasp the lever. He wiggled his fingers under hers until he had his hand where hers had been, and she was free to use her hand to check the monitors.

Pidge scrolled through until she brought up the correct screen and skimmed through the data as fast as she could. It was different. The wormhole was unstable, but also seemed distorted, like it was branching out from its original exit point.

“This is bad.”

“We survived falling out of the wormhole last time; how bad could it be?” Keith grit his teeth against the strain of holding the Lion’s controls.

An energy surge through the monitors shorted out the displays and shocked Pidge violently enough for her to cry out and lose her firm grip on the other control lever. The Lion veered violently to the right, tossing them both around in their seats, as they crashed through the walls of the wormhole.

The temporal void Pidge remembered going through the last time this had happened was different this time around, more uncomfortable, and rather than free fall, she felt almost like she was being ripped apart. When it ended, and they were out, she tried to grab the controls again, but Green appeared to be dead in the water.

“Damn it.”

Keith was up and in front of her in a blink. “Are you okay?”

“Got a shock when the system shorted, but I’m okay. You?”

“A few bumps. Nothing major.” He confirmed. “Green?”

“Not sure. Power is out, but that happened last time too.” Pidge groaned. “At least we didn’t crash into something. Let me see what’s out there.”

Keith moved to the side so she could see out the window. No planets, no nearby stars, no asteroids, no nothing. Just empty space.

“Well. Statistically speaking, this was the most likely outcome of being spat out of a wormhole at random.” Pidge sighed.

“What now?”

“Hold on a tick.” Pidge stood and moved to a console near the back of the cockpit. After the last time, she had made sure each Lion was equipped with an emergency distress beacon just in case. She activated it and then sat back on her haunches, looking up at Keith. “We should take a look at Green, make sure there aren’t any structural issues, and then I’ll see about getting the system rebooted.”

“What about radiation? You said we’d fry.”

“We aren’t close to the gamma-ray burst anymore, and there shouldn’t be any residual rays lingering around. We’ll be fine.”

Keith put his hand on her shoulder and forced her back down when she tried to stand. “Let me check it out first. My suit is a little more resistant than yours.”

“Not enough to make a difference if there really are harmful rays.” Pidge argued.

“All the more reason for me to go first. If you’re wrong, and there is still a danger, you will still be alive so when Green does eventually come back online, you can pilot her out of here.” Keith insisted.

“Well then we should just wait for the system to come back so we can make sure.” Pidge grabbed Keith’s arm as he made for the hatch. “We’re not in any hurry.”

Thankfully, he nodded and turned back to the cockpit. “How long do you think?”

“Probably half a varga? I lost track while I was building trash people last time.” Pidge snickered remembering her trash paladin collection.

Keith smirked and shook his head. “You got lucky. Shiro and I did not have it so easy.”

“Well, since I see neither a trash nebula or a giant angry lizard planet, what should we do for the next half hour?”

Before Keith could answer, a ship dropped out of hyperspace. They both made their way to the front of the cockpit to look out the window as the newcomer glided toward them. It was unlike any ship that Pidge had ever seen. Smaller than than the Castle, but still bigger than Voltron by a good margin, its front was round and smooth, but it tapered down until it branched into three prongs that curved towards each other.

“Have you ever seen a ship like that?” Pidge asked.

Keith shook his head.

“I’m going to try get a comm channel open through my helmet. Give me a tick.” She jammed the helmet on her head and brought up the suits systems on the HUD. She adjusted the frequency of the in-suit comm to wideband receive and broadcast, hoping to reach whoever had just arrived.

When she thought she had it, she opened a channel. “Attention approaching vessel, this is Pidge, Paladin of the Green Lion. Do you copy?”

Keith watched the ship out the window as Pidge tried to contact them.

“Try again.” He encouraged.

“Can anyone hear me?” Pidge continued to make adjustments as she tried to establish contact.

“Pidge, look.” Watching the ship, Keith noticed when a smaller vessel departed and flew toward them. Concerned, he activated his mask so he could get a closer look. Pidge did the same, bringing up her helmet’s HUD. “It’s an entirely different construction.”

This one had weapons, and was small. One- or two-man craft most likely. It was about the size of a Galra fighter, but the design wasn’t Galra, and it looked completely different from the larger vessel. If Pidge had to guess, she’d say they were made by two entirely different species.

“Still not anything I’ve seen before.” Keith shook his head. A single fighter was not match for the Lion, even deactivated, but if they deployed more, they could be in trouble.

“Almost looks like an X-Wing.” Pidge smirked, amused.

The static from her open channel crackled and then a voice came over the comm. “That’s exactly what I thought. Nice to see some people still enjoy the classics.”

Pidge jumped in surprise, and Keith frowned.

“Did he just recognize a Star Wars reference?” Keith asked, using a private channel. “Wouldn’t that mean…?”

“This is John Crichton, astronaut with IASA, do you copy?”

“We copy.” Pidge replied, frowning.

“What’s IASA and what the hell is a human doing out here?” Keith asked. “Are we near Earth?”

Pidge shrugged and said, “My Lion was damaged and will need some time to recharge. Any chance we could come aboard while we wait? I’d like to make sure nothing is too badly damaged and make repairs if necessary.”

“It’s not me you have to convince. One sec.”

The line went dead as John Crichton, whoever that was, presumably made contact with someone else. Keith shifted from foot to foot uncomfortably. “I don’t like this.”

Pidge ignored him. “My name is Pidge, Paladin of the Green Lion of Voltron, and we have no idea where we are. The wormhole that brought us here destabilized while we were in it and dropped us here.”

“Wormhole?” John asked. “You came through a wormhole?”

“Yes.”

There was more silence over the comm for a time, then the large ship started to move closer, and the channel reopened. “Okay, Pidge, Paladin of the Green Lion, Moya is going to bring you aboard with the docking web. Sit tight.”

“And now we’re caught in a tractor beam. Should we really be trusting them?” Keith asked as the small ship flew away.

“I don’t think we have a choice.” Pidge sighed. She had an inkling of an idea, and if she was right, they were going to need some help.

The docking web pulled them aboard the large ship into a hangar that was just barely big enough to hold the Lion. Any other Lion other than Red wouldn’t have been able to fit. Idly, Pidge thought it was a good thing that Green was the smallest of the Lions.

“Be careful.” Keith cautioned, leading the way down the ramp and onto the alien ship.

“The Blades have made you a little paranoid.” Pidge remarked, teasing him lightly.

“Maybe.” He agreed. “But I prefer to be careful, especially… when one of my friends is at risk.”

Pidge smiled and bumped his shoulder. “I missed you too, you know.”

They arrived in the hangar before Keith could formulate a response and were greeted by a group of aliens that they had never seen before. No two seemed to be from the same species either, which was a little odd, and he didn’t seen any humans. Three of the aliens were carrying weapons, one had a sword, the other two had guns. Neither were pointed at them just yet, but Keith recognized the threat and stepped between them and Pidge protectively.

“Whoa, whoa! Relax, everyone just chill. Okay?” The human, John, ran into the room and started yelling at his shipmates. “D’Argo, Chiana, Sikozu, come on.”

Behind John was another human, a woman, and their arrival seemed to be enough for the others to relax. When their weapons were stowed, Keith felt Pidge place a hand on his arm as she stepped forward. She sent him a glare, probably mad that he’d felt the need to put himself between her and danger, but he didn’t care. He’d do it again if necessary.

“Okay, green armor, green paladin, yes?” John asked, addressing them.

Pidge removed her helmet and offered her hand. “Pidge Holt. This is my friend Keith Kogane.”

“Holy crap.” John swore. “You’re just kids.”

Pidge bristled. She was young, yes, but she wasn’t a child.

“That’s the part you’re worried about?” The red haired female sneered. “What are humans even doing out here?”

“And what is it with humans and wormholes?” The largest alien asked.

Pidge didn’t bother to hide her surprise at that. As far as she knew, wormholes were still only theoretical back on Earth. She looked to Keith, but he was still wearing his mask, so she couldn’t see his face to tell what he was thinking.

“How many humans traveling by wormhole have you met?” She asked.

John pointed at himself. “Just me, but I took them to Earth not too long ago via wormhole.”

“Earth knows there are aliens now? How’d the Garrison react?” Pide wondered.

“Don’t know what that is?” John shook his head.

“The Garrison? The organization in charge of space flight for Earth?”

John shook his head again and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “So this wormhole you came through, you said it destabilized?”

“We were under fire. I think it may have been hit as we went through.” Pidge confirmed, her theory sounded more and more likely the more she heard. “We came out earlier than expected when we hit the temporal rift.”

“I see.” John sighed. “I think I know what happened.”

“We’re in an alternate reality, aren’t we.” Pidge guessed.

John nodded. “I think that’s a good possibility.”

“Or maybe they’re just lying, Crichton.” The red haired alien said.

The grey alien agreed. “Yeah, alternate realities seems a little…”

“Farbot.” The little hovering alien grumbled.

“I know it sounds crazy, guys, but believe me, it’s a lot more real than you’d think.” John told the others knowingly.

“We should at least make sure they’re not Sebacean.” The other human offered. “This could be a trick by Grayza.”

“What’s Sebacean?” Pidge asked.

“Looks human. Isn’t. Aeryn for example.” John pointed to what Pidge had thought was another human.

“Okay, well we aren’t Sebacean.” Pidge stated.

“Then you won’t mind if we check.” The large one said.

“Uh, I mind a little. I don’t even know who you are.” She protested. He growled, and Keith moved between her and the alien again. Frustrated, she stepped to the side and added, “Look, I’m not trying to be difficult, I’m just saying… names would be nice so I can stop referring to you by description.”

The alien stood up straight and glared down at her, but he stopped growling. “I am Ka D’Argo, captain of this ship.”

The grey one waved with a smile, “Chiana.”

“I am Noranti, child. A pleasure to meet you.” The elderly one smiled.

“Sikozu.” The red haired alien stated.

“Aeryn Sun.” The sebacean nodded politely.

“And I am Dominar Rygel XVI of Hyneria.” The small one declared imperiously.

“Right. Uh, like I said. Pidge, Keith. Nice to meet you.” Pidge looked to Keith and he gave her a nod. “Okay, we’ll do whatever tests, short of dissection, but while I’m totally human, Keith is only half human.”

“What’s the other half?” Chiana asked, head tilted in curiosity.

“Not sebacean.” Keith said.

“We will see soon enough.” D’Argo grumbled. “Take them to the lab.”

After a simple blood test, Noranti was able to confirm their identity as non-sebacean. Keith’s Galra DNA had apparently been entirely foreign, only further confirming Pidge’s guess that they had jumped to an alternate reality. Keith didn’t much like the idea. Getting back to their own reality would be problematic at best.

He stood next to Pidge as she talked with Crichton and a few of the others about the Lions and Voltron, carefully observing their surroundings. Just because they’d passed whatever genetic test these people had demanded, didn’t mean he could let his guard down. They might still decide to turn on them, and he had to be ready.

When a small robot sped their direction, Keith moved to block its path, but Pidge practically squealed in delight and got right down to its level to look at it.

“They’re DRDs.” Crichton said. “They do most of the maintenance for Moya.”

“They’re adorable.” She smiled.

“Moya is the name of the ship?” Keith asked since Pidge was too busy shaking hands with the droid.

“Yeah, she’s a Leviathan, a biomechanoid.”

That caught Pidge’s attention. “What do you mean biomechanoid?”

“Part machine, part being. She is alive, and I do mean that literally.”

“Amazing.” Pidge ran her hand along the nearby wall reverently.

“Is it not so with your Lion?” Noranti asked. “I can feel a spirit of great strength connected to your own.”

“The Lions choose their own Paladins, and we share a bond that transcends science as I would normally understand it. They certainly have their own personalities too.” Pidge said fondly. “You’re right, they are alive, but not quite the same way as Moya. They’re 100% machine, they’re just… more as well.”

Keith agreed. He’d never doubted that the Lions were more than merely machines, and Red had certainly acted on her own often enough for him to recognize she had a consciousness all her own.

“That’s crazy.” John grinned. “You know, you’re lucky your surprise trip across the universe turned out so well.”

“It’s definitely had its moments.” Pidge shrugged.

A loud crash and the sound of rending metal had everyone on their feet and Keith’s hand on his blade.

“Pilot, what the frell was that?” D’Argo demanded.

A clamshell like fixture on the wall lit up with another alien, this one far less humanoid than the others. The alien--Pilot, presumably--reported, “Moya’s internal sensors are reading four new lifeforms aboard. I believe they’re scarrans.”

“Scarrans?” Pidge asked.

“Big, angry, genocidal lizards, and pulse rifles aren’t going to do more than piss them off, Aeryn.” Crichton said.

“How did they get so close without scans picking them up?” Aeryn had her gun drawn and was checking it over anyway.

“I do not know.” Pilot said.

“The frell with that, how’d they even get aboard?” Chiana shouted at the image of Pilot.

“There appears to be an external hull breach on tier nine.”

“They must have crawled their way through the exterior hull until they found an access point.” D’Argo guessed. “Where are they now?”

“Tier eleven. They are making their way toward the starboard hangar.”

“My Lion!” Pidge had her bayard out in an instant.

“You two, stay put. These guys are bad news.” Crichton insisted.

“We can help!” Pidge argued.

“You said pulse rifles weren’t going to work,” Keith activated his Marmora blade, “that won’t be a problem for us.”

“We need all the help we can get.” D’Argo nodded.

Crichton swore under his breath, “Gonna get the Geneva Convention on my ass for this, fine. You two, go with D’Argo and Aeryn. Pip, you and I are going to find that hull breach and seal it before we get any more nasty surprises.”

Everyone agreed so Keith and Pidge followed D’Argo and Aeryn as they led the way to tier eleven. It didn’t take long to find the invaders, and Keith could see why Crichton was concerned. Scarrans were big with tough looking hide. They’d found two scarrans trying to force their way through a door, and it looked like they were winning.

“The other two are around here somewhere.” Aeryn whispered. “Keep your eyes open.”

“We should try to separate them.” D’Argo suggested.

Keith pulled on his hood, and reactivated his mask to make himself harder to see and then nodded to Pidge.

“On it.” She typed a few commands into a screen at her wrist and then there was a duplicate of her at the entrance to the next hallway. She jumped out at the same moment as the double and shouted “Hey ugly!”

As expected, the scarrans each took off after a different Pidge. As the one following the real Pidge charged, she ran toward a waiting Keith. She ducked and slid under his swing at the last moment, leaving the scarran completely unprepared to face his blade as buried it in its chest. The scanner in his mask confirmed the thing was dead before he pulled out the blade and helped Pidge to her feet.

“The other one is still in pursuit.” Pidge reported, looking at her readout. “I can lure him back this way if you’re ready for round two.”

“Do it.” D’Argo commanded.

“It’s just a hologram, so feel free to swing at it when it comes toward you.” Pidge advised and ducked down behind one of the arches in the hallway. Keith crouched in front of her, able to keep watch behind her, sword at the ready in case the scarran got past D’Argo.

The hologram came running round the corner and headed straight for D’Argo. Once again, the scarran didn’t see the danger until it was too late. D’Argo didn’t hesitate as he pushed his blade through hologram Pidge’s head and into the scarran’s chest. He twisted once for good measure and then pulled the blade free once the scarran was dead.

“The other two scarrans are nearly to the hangar, and I’ve just picked up another vessel on Moya’s long range sensors. It’s a scarran battleship. They will be here in less than five microns.” Pilot relayed.

“Frell!” Aeryn cursed. “Can Moya Starburst?”

“Not yet, she has not fully recharged.”

“Can Moya fight back against a scarran battleship?” Keith asked.

“She is a Leviathan, she has no weapons and her only defensive capability is Starburst.” D’Argo spat.

“If I can get to my Lion, I can probably take it out.” Pidge stated.

“You said it wasn’t active.” Aeryn countered.

Pidge closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them again, she smiled. “She’ll be up. We just have to get there.”

“Then let’s go.”

The scarrans were attempting to cut their way through to the hangar when Keith and the others found them. They’d created a barricade around each of the entrances, blocking easy access to the room, but it could be vaulted.

“I can get that cutting tool away from them, then you two can engage close range while Aeryn provides cover fire long enough for me to get to Green.” Pidge suggested.

Keith nodded his support as soon as she finished, but D’Argo took a moment to follow. At his nod, Pidge fired her bayard, wrapping the cord around the cutting tool and pulled, ripping it from the scarran’s hands. As soon as it was out of reach, D’Argo and Keith vaulted the barricade and attacked. Even weaponless, the scarrans were difficult to take out when they didn’t have the element of surprise. Keith had faced worse though, and dispatched his opponent without serious injury.

Once the way to the door was clear, Pidge raced in. The door opened for her at her approach and Keith saw that the Green Lion was indeed active within. The particle barrier dissolved as Pidge arrived and she used her bayard to pull herself up and into the Lion’s jaws.

“She’s in.” Keith reported.

“Crichton, how’re the repairs going?” D’Argo asked over the comm.

“Nearly finished.”

Aeryn went to both dead scarrans and checked them as she said. “Be careful, we’re about to have more company.”

“Roger that.”

“Meet us on the bridge when you’re done.” D’Argo ordered and then led the way there.

The bridge offered them a huge view of the outside despite the lack of observable windows on the hull of the ship. They arrived just in time to see the scarran battleship drop out of hyperspace. It was huge, about the size of a Galra battlecruiser, but Keith trusted Pidge to be able to handle it.

“Where is she?” D’Argo snarled.

“The Green Lion has cloaking tech,” Keith smiled, dropping his mask, “she’s out there.”

“I am out there.” Pidge confirmed via their closed circuit comm. “Green’s hidden just underneath Moya while I get a look at the ship.”

On screen, Keith saw several small fighters deploy from the main ship and streak toward them.
Pidge took them out with one sweeping laser shot from Green’s tail before they got close enough to fire on Moya.

“Go loose, Pidge!” He shouted.

She flew out from cover as her cloak dissipated and closed the distance with the scarran battleship, scoring deep gouges along its hull with her jawblade. She got a little distance on it and then fired her main laser into the weakened hull, setting off a chain reaction of explosions all along the scored line.

“More fighters coming on your six.” Keith reported.

She used the tail laser again and took out most of them, but a few managed to dodge. She caught one that was foolish enough to get close in the jaws of her lion, crushing it, and then tossed the dead ship into another oncoming one, firing her laser one more time for good measure.

Crichton and Chiana raced onto the bridge. “What did we miss?”

“The scarrans are charging their main cannon!” Pilot sounded very worried, and with good reason. If it was anything like the ion cannon on a Glara ship, Moya would take heavy damage from just one hit without a shield.

“Oh hell no!” Pidge growled and flew Green to the bow of the scarran ship, materializing the vine cannon.

“Well that’s not something you see every day.” Crichton murmured.

“It get’s better.” Keith told him.

Pidge fired the vine cannon, landing a direct hit to the scarran’s main cannon before it could finish charging. Keith expected the huge vines that suddenly sprouted forth from the destroyed weapon, but the others didn’t. He enjoyed their shocked faces, remembering his own the first time he’d seen Pidge unlock her Lion’s secret power. Still not done, Pidge fired the main laser as she scorched the battleship from nose to tip, using her tail laser to fend off fighters as they attacked. When she reached the end, she flew back towards Moya, leaving the decimated battleship in ruins behind her.

The view screen changed, giving them a view of the Green Lion’s cockpit and Pidge as she opened a channel. “Is everyone okay? Moya?”

“No damage.” Pilot reported, surprised. “Moya is unharmed. Thank you.”

“That is a formidable warship.” D’Argo commented.

Pidge shook her head. “Voltron is the Defender of the Universe; we protect those who can’t protect themselves. The Lions weren’t built to wage war, they were built to end it. The unfortunate truth is that to do that, we have to be able to defeat those who would oppress and enslave others.”

Keith could tell that Crichton wanted to say something from the distant look in his expression and the way he shook his head slightly. Before he could say whatever it was, though, Keith told Pidge to come back aboard. She closed the channel and he watched as the Green Lion flew back towards the hangar.

“Does no one in your universe have a problem sending children to fight on the front lines?” Crichton demanded.

“So what, because she’s young she can’t make a difference? Can’t save lives?” Keith challenged him.

Crichton grit his teeth and insisted, “She shouldn’t have to--”

“The Galra shouldn’t have abducted her father and brother. The Garrison shouldn’t have lied to her and told her they were dead instead of looking for them. The five of us shouldn’t have had to make the choice to run across the universe to save Earth from a Galra attack.” Keith shouted, silencing the older man. “Life isn’t about what should or shouldn’t happen; it’s about doing what you can with what you have.”

After his outburst, Crichton didn’t immediately respond. Aeryn went over to Crichton and placed a hand on his arm comfortingly as she said something to him quietly. Crichton closed his eyes as she spoke and reluctantly nodded, sighing heavily.

“Sorry. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful.” Crichton said. “I know life forces us all to make tough choices, and sometimes you just get dealt a bad hand.”

Keith shrugged one shoulder, waving off his apology. He got it. Seeing Pidge and the others risk their lives was hard, but he knew they were capable and had each other’s backs. It helped, but not a lot. Being out there with them was better, but he wasn’t a Paladin any more so that wasn’t always an option. He was sure the same went for Crichton and his crew.

When Pidge arrived on the bridge, led by a couple of DRDs, Chiana scooped her up into a hug. “You were drad. Thanks for the save.”

“Happy to help.” Pidge squeaked.

When Chiana put her back down, Pidge made her way over to Keith. “I should apologize though. I think it was my distress beacon that lured the scarrans to us. I’m sorry.”

“The scarrans have been chasing us for some time now.” Aeryn said. “They would have found us eventually. Thanks to you, we won’t have to worry about them for a while.”

“It should give us enough time, at least, to figure out how to get you two back home.” Crichton added. “Come on. We’ve got some numbers to crunch.”

Keith grimaced as Crichton and Pidge walked away already talking animatedly about wormholes. Aeryn smiled at his obvious displeasure and said, “Not a scientist?”

“Not really, no.” Keith admitted with a sigh.

“Me neither. Come on, they’ll be fine without us for a while.”

Keith followed Aeryn down to a training area set up for sparing. She set her jacket aside and pulled her hair up before turning to face him across the mat. “I’ve been watching you since you came aboard.”

“I’ve noticed.” He said, as each of them took their stances before attacking.

“Yes, you seem the observant type, always stepping between your little friend and any perceived threat you notice. At first, I asked myself: are you her bodyguard or her boyfriend?” Keith glared at her, but Aeryn continued as they sparred. “Then Moya’s boarded and you go from protecting her from the DRDs to seemingly reading each other’s minds in combat, completely in sync with each other. It’s an odd dichotomy.”

“Not really.” Keith broke free from a headlock with a grunt and added, “I trust Pidge to have my back in a fight, no question, and she knows I’ve got her back too, but if I can take care of a threat before it reaches her, you’re damn right I will.”

Aeryn rolled when he threw her over his hip and jumped onto her feet, ready to attack again. “So why let her fly solo against a scarran dreadnought? If there can only be one pilot, why not you?”

“It doesn’t work like that; the Green Lion chose Pidge, no one else can fly her. Even if I could, I’d never take Green away from her.” Keith objected. He knew what it was to surrender a Lion, not even once, but twice, and the loss of that connection was still something that ached despite knowing they were in better hands now. It wasn’t something he wanted Pidge to feel.

“I see. I think I get it now.” Aeryn pinned him to the mat and kept him there easily. “Humans are a complicated species, your emotions in particular took me a while to understand, but this one I recognize. You’re in love.”

Keith tapped out and rolled onto his back as soon as she let him go and stared at her impassively. “Why do you care?”

“Because you were right before, what you said about life. It’s about what you do with what you have.” Aeryn told him and helped him to his feet. “It took me a long time to realize that it doesn’t just apply to the bad things in life. Think about it.”

In less than an hour, Pidge and Crichton were able to come up with a plan. Without Allura or a teludav, Pidge hadn’t been sure they’d ever be able to get home, but it seemed in this reality, neither were required to open a wormhole. Crichton was able to do it, though he wouldn’t explain to her how. She understood when he explained that the knowledge had earned him some dangerous enemies and he hadn’t shared it with anyone, not even his shipmates, because it was so dangerous.

What he couldn’t help with was finding the correct branch in the wormhole to slip them back into their own reality, but that’s where Pidge took over. The Green Lion had taken continuous scans during their journey through the first time, and she believed she would be able to find the correct one to take them home. Most of her surety came from the Green Lion’s confidence that she’d be able to identify the correct branch, but that probably wouldn’t be as comforting to anyone but maybe Keith.

Plan set, Pidge and Keith said their goodbyes to the others and boarded the Green Lion, ready to go on Crichton’s word. They waited, anticipation climbing. Pidge didn’t even notice she was drumming her fingers on controls until Keith put his hand over hers.

She looked up at him and he smiled at her comfortingly.

“Alright kids, Thundercats are Go!” Crichton shouted over the comm, startling them both.

Pidge wasted no time, however, launching them from the hangar. The wormhole came up on the sensors. Right away Pidge could tell it was different than the ones Allura created, but that actually worked in their favor. The slightly less stable wormhole wouldn’t need to be shot at or disrupted in any way to generate the same conditions they’d had coming through.

“Last chance to turn back.” She whispered. “Any doubts about this?”

“I trust you.” He squeezed her shoulder, and then braced himself.

At his nod, she flew them into the wormhole. The shaking was just as she remembered, and she hoped that was a good sign. The monitors were already set to show the data she needed, and kept an eye on them as she fought the controls. It wasn’t too long before her target appeared on the screen. The Green Lion had located the correct path home, but it was up to Pidge to hit her mark. She readied herself as the target approached, and with a mighty shove, she steered them straight into the temporal rift.

All they could do now was hold on as the Lion jerked violently in the shift between realities, then it was over and they were still. Pidge took a couple deep breaths and tried the controls, but there was no response. She hadn’t expected one, but it never hurt to check. Outside was void of anything they could use to discern if they’d made it to the right reality.

“Let me guess; dead in the water?” Keith groaned, stretching his shoulder.

“I don’t think she likes going through the rift like that.”

“Can’t say I much care for it either.” He agreed and looked around outside. “No Moya, and it looks like the right spot, but I don’t see the castle.”

“Who knows where they went when we didn’t come through the first time.” Pidge shrugged. “It’s only been a few vargas though, they can’t be too far.”

“So…” Keith leaned against the front console. “What do you want to do for the next half hour?”

Pidge stood and removed her helmet, setting it on one of the control levers. “Actually, I was going to suggest something before Moya showed up.”

“I spy?” Keith joked.

Pidge smiled and rolled her eyes. She’d fucking missed him while he’d been gone, and everything that had happened in the other reality just rammed that fact home for her even more. She missed the easy way they fought side by side, the absolute trust he had in her, even his habit of stepping between her and potential danger. She missed his face, his smile, his dry humor. All of it.

She took a small step forward--there wasn’t that much space between them to begin with--and kissed him. His hands found their way to her waist and pulled her closer, settling her between his legs as he returned the kiss eagerly. As first kiss, she didn’t have anything to compare it to, but it was good to her. Great even. He was warm, his lips were surprisingly soft, and being held in his arms was so comfortable, she never wanted to leave.

When they broke apart, he smiled at her and brushed a stray hair behind her ear. “I spy with my little eye… something beautiful.”

Pidge blushed and hid her head against his chest with an amused groan. “You’re such a dork.”

He guided her head away from his chest and kissed her again.

Eventually the castle found them, and they were forced to put their new favorite past time on pause. Kolivan was aboard as well, so the two of them debriefed everyone starting with the gamma-ray burst, then their time spent in the alternate reality, and their return trip in a wormhole created by Crichton. Apparently they’d been gone a little longer than they’d thought--a full quintant--but Coran attributed that to their trip through an unstable wormhole. There was a reason the Alteans had created the teludav, after all.

When they’d finished their story, Kolivan turned to Keith. “Retrieve a copy of the data from the Srograac system and say your goodbyes. We leave in half a varga.”

“Yes, sir.”

The other Paladins took turns saying their goodbyes to Keith while Pidge stood aside and watched. She’d have to get the data from Green for Keith to take, so there wasn’t a point in her saying goodbye yet. When the others were done, Keith followed her back down to the hangar so she could collect the data.

“Pidge…” He ran his hand through his hair nervously while she pulled the information for him.

“I know. You’re leaving soon, and it might be a while before we see each other again.” She voiced what they were both thinking. “But I don’t see why that has to stop… us. It’s not perfect, but I don’t know what is in this messed up universe. When we’re in the same place, we’ll spend time with each other, and when we’re away, we’ll vid chat or something.”

“Do what you can with what you have.” He murmured with a short laugh.

“Exactly.” Pidge said. “So? What do you say?”

Keith smiled and nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”

“Good, because I know a great way we can spend the next half hour while the data compiles.” Pidge grinned.

“More I spy?” Keith helped her to her feet.

“Definitely.” She said and kissed him.