The Black Lion sits next to his sister, Green. Both are offline, quiet, with shields up. Meanwhile off planet, Blue, Red, and Yellow are in the middle of fixing the Omega Shield.
Despite the time constraints, all seems calm - but not inwardly.
Deep within the consciousness of the Black Lion lies - for lack of a more concrete term, the soul of Takashi Shirogane - sealed away by said Lion at the moment of his death to preserve his essence.
Shiro’s mind was racing with worry about the other Shiro, the clone that took over his place.
He can feel it. He can feel his fear and anger grow inside.
He can sense that Witch’s influence- her magic- seep into the clone’s mind. That dark, sinister energy trickle into his heart and into his being.
Both the Black Lion and Shiro have been doing as much as they can to ease his mind, center him to the present as not to succumb to the Witch’s will. But their connection only exists as the clone sits inside the Black Lion.
But the Witch grows stronger as time passes, Shiro feels like they are merely prolonging the inevitable.
He only wishes that the clone, who has his memories and very much a copy of himself, persevere as much as he can.
Shiro’s influence to the physical world has been very limited to the confines of the Black Lion. His awareness only limited to what the Black Lion can sense himself.
With Black offline, Shiro is left to his own thoughts and the quiet humming from the Lions as Black is connected to them in a way that Shiro has only the tiniest glimpses.
Suddenly there is a loud piercing scream that echoes throughout the shared consciousness of the Lions.
Both Black and Shiro are at alert.
That was the Red Lion…
Something has happened to Lance.
Together with Black, Shiro tries to telepathically sense the status of the Red Lion.
Shiro and Black can't sense anything.
Can't sense the Red Lion or his Paladin - Not even the smallest spark of that usually fiery energy.
Shiro was dreading the worst has happened as he feels a sudden change of atmosphere- the space around him was suddenly morphing and shifting.
Where are you taking me?
There was energy all around him, borrowed power from the Black Lion that was keeping him in place… whatever this place was.
This space was no longer within the Black Lion himself - but somewhere beyond that, even further beyond the Astral Plane.
There was when Shiro sees Lance, beyond this space’s horizon.
His flickering silhouette glows in red and blue energy.
Shifting and merging - taking form of that loud, outgoing boy with radiant smiles and mischievous but kind blue eyes that Shiro cherishes.
‘This is his soul, his essence…’ The Black Lion explains, ‘We are in the space in between spaces - a space further than that of the Astral Plane and closer to the Beyond. The Blue Paladin has perished and his soul is transitioning, but the Red Lion is trying to hold on to him as I did to you… but Red has taken too much damage and is much too weak…’
Lance is dying, has died, is dead---
Despite not having a physical form, Shiro feels himself running - faster and faster… just to get near enough to him.
“Lance! Lance! Oh god, Lance!”
Lance was lying on the ground, eyes closed and body unmoving. His outline was faint and blurry. His very image was weak and flickering - a sign that he did not belong in this place, that his essence needs to go somewhere else, to a place further than here.
To a place that Shiro cannot follow.
“Lance! Can you hear me? Lance, Please…” Shiro continues to plead as he is brought to his knees by grief.
He tries to hold Lance’s hand, but he can't - his hand just goes through Lance's being, like wading through water.
Shiro can feel the Red Lion’s energy surrounding Lance.
He was using all his power to keep Lance's essence from fading into nothing.
But as Black said earlier, the Red Lion was weakened by the hit and can only hold Lance in this In-Between space.
In this space that even Shiro is not suppose to be in and only with borrowed power from the Black Lion was he here, to be with Lance.
He feels the Black Lion’s presence once again, urging Shiro to use their shared power to aid the Red Lion keep Lance’s essence in this place, to not let him cross that line into the Beyond.
He feels the Red Lion’s desperation as well, a cry for help - for himself and most importantly, for his Paladin.
That is when he sees it---
Like clips from a movie long forgotten in his head, he sees Lance inside the Red Lion, looking down at the Omega Shield.
He sees the panic and fear bloom on the young man's face as he notices the build up of power from the one broken panel and Allura in the Blue Lion, right in the line of fire.
Shiro sees the image of the Blue Lion get closer and closer as Lance piloting Red boost up their thrusters to get the Princess and her Lion to safety.
Red pushes Blue out of the way and just moments later lightning and bright lights fill his vision.
...And the screaming from earlier is back, Shiro will never forget the screaming -- and the scene ends and Shiro is once again in the In-Between, kneeling in front of Lance.
Shiro calls out to him in hopes to ground him in this moment.
Lance’s eyes slowly open, but they remain almost unseeing - staring blankly upwards. Shiro can see that Lance was trying so hard to move, but even the smallest efforts are too much and he remains lifeless, motionless.
Shiro asks him to wake up and only then do his words reach him. Lance turns his head slightly towards him, confusion but also recognition in his eyes.
“Shiro?” Lance's voice sounded so weak and so small, more than a whisper but it echoed within this space, “Shiro, you're here… wha-”
Shiro feels an ache within him, seeing Lance like this.
He recalls that incident on Arus from a literal lifetime ago - the time Lance pushed Coran away from that explosion and was near death already, just right after their first major victory as the Paladins of Voltron.
It was Shiro who did what he can to protect Lance throughout that whole ordeal… until he was captured by Sendak and taken hostage.
If it wasn't for the rest of the team, they would have lost everything so early, so soon. They would've lost Lance so early, so soon--
He couldn't protect Lance then, he couldn't protect him now.
“Lance, I'm so sorry…”
This shouldn't have happened. This shouldn't have happened.
If only I was strong enough…
I would still be alive - then Lance would still be alive.
This would have been different.
Shiro was in desperate need to touch him, to hold him - but he was scared, afraid.
Lance was just inches away from him and he was too scared to close that gap.
Lance was almost see-through, made up of only dim glowing blues and reds.
Every now and then the reddish light gets brighter and he looks more solid, but it quickly weakens.
“Oh Lance…” Shiro hides the aching sob that is trying to come out of him, “Lance, you’re dying…”
That was a lie- Lance is dead. Dead just like me. Trapped in this place just like me.
But Shiro can't say that… not right now when Lance can just vanish into nothingness.
Keep him here… with you.
Shiro wasn't sure if that voice was his own or the Lions’.
Lance’s eyes widen as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing. There was a look of silent horror on his face.
“What do you mean?”
And there, at that moment - Lance slowly fades, losing shape - until he is nothing more than a blurry smudge of blues and reds.
Lance! No… I cant-
Shiro is trying to fight the urge to hold on to Lance, whose very fragile state is very slowly recovering. Shiro can see the faint outline of Lance's body, still clad in his armor, illuminated by red-blue light.
“I'm so sorry… if only I-”
If only I didn't die.
Shiro can see the details of Lance's face again, gradually, like a photography coming into focus.
Keep him grounded to this moment-
Or else he’ll fade away and leave you alone…
“You're not suppose to be here, you shouldn't be here… ”
Shiro can feel the energy within him start to weaken- something is happening somewhere else - but he can't think about that right now.
“Not now… not so soon…”
Lance is important.
Hold on to Lance, don't let him go-
“You saw what happened?” Lance's asks, Shiro almost didn't hear him.
The memory of Lance's agonizing screaming plays in the back of Shiro’s mind.
“You did amazing out there, Lance.”
That was the truth. Even back when he was --- still with the team, he remembers how hard Lance trained to improve his aim, to become familiar with the form his bayard took.
Why does Lance sound like he didn't believe him?
Shiro remembers during a sleepless, nightmare-filled night from long ago --
Shiro hates the fact that he missed sleeping, even with the nightmares.
-- when he was walking aimlessly around the castle, he passed by an occupied training room.
He initially assumed it was Keith.
Shiro had a lecture ready when he saw a glimpse of blue armor instead of red.
Quietly, he entered the control room as to not disturb the other in the middle of a simulation.
Shiro saw the raw determination on Lance's face, hyper-focused and intense.
There was purpose in his movements, though they lacked grace or familiarity. There was potential there.
Shiro can see the moments Lance would falter, due to him over-analyzing or doubting himself.
Shiro can no longer recall how long he stayed observing Lance or if he did eventually make his presence known and encouraged him to get some rest---
Something catches Shiro’s attention.
Small bursts of energy coursing through his being, alternating from the sensation of cool waters to the warmth of a sunny day - not unlikely that of a day on the beach.
Shiro sees Lance's fingers brush against his. Slow, careful movements.
He holds on to Lance's hand - he doesn't break apart - if he concentrates hard enough, Shiro might be able to transfer a little bit of energy to him… if it was possible, if the Black Lion will allow it.
“You died a hero, Lance…” Shiro continues as little bits of energy trickle out of him and into Lance, who is still lying on the ground, blue eyes watching him carefully.
He feels Lance squeeze his hand.
If Shiro was still breathing, he would probably sigh in relief.
“It didn't have to end this way - but I'm proud of you, I always am.” Words Shiro should'l have said multiple times over.
Lance finally has the energy to lift his head. His eyes slowly taking in his surroundings.
“Is this the afterlife?” he asks and Shiro takes a moment to chose his words.
“I-I… I don't know.” That's all Shiro can say.
“Are you dead?”
Shiro is not sure why he doesn't answer Lance, he instead chooses to pull Lance closer to him, to feel that energy from before - reminiscent of warm sand and the refreshing sea lapping at his feet.
He places Lance's head on his lap and smiles at him despite the tears building up.
Shiro shifts his concentration to feeling his environment.
He feels the endless void of this place, as well as its lack of permanence - with it being an In-between.
His connection to the Black Lion echoes in his core, like a tether - that was his “afterlife”.
Shiro will be eventually called back into the consciousness of the Black Lion, he can't stay here forever.
He was now a part of the Black Lion as the Black Lion is a part of him.
The place where he and Lance are currently on is not a place for souls to linger.
Shiro is afraid of what will happen to Lance here.
Shiro lets himself cry, his tears falling down on to Lance's face - like the rainy days on Earth that they both miss dearly.
“This must really be heaven if you're here,” Lance says softly. His features were gentle, the blues in his eyes glowed bright, almost gem-like.
Oh, how I miss you- will forever miss you…
“- or this is your version of hell and you’re stuck with me for all eternity.”
Shiro let's himself go even further. Joy and laughter explodes within though tears continue to fall. He kisses Lance on the forehead, catching him by surprise.
“It's not so bad,” Shiro couldn't help myself as his fingers run through Lance's hair, something he longed to do ever since he met Lance.
Shiro imagines those brown locks to be really soft, fluffy even. If he concentrates hard enough, Shiro might even remember the smell of Lance's shampoo.
“I've always wanted to hold you like this. To wrap you in my arms, to kiss you, and to keep you safe…” he whispers as he wraps his arms around the other, pulling him closer that Lance was practically sitting on his lap.
Shiro indulges himself by leaving kisses any part of Lance that he can reach - into should-be soft brown hair, his temples, even the tips of his ears, which Shiro was happy to find out Lance was ticklish there.
Shiro feels Lance shift in his arms. His hands are carefully pushing on his chest as Lance turns to face him. He places his head on Shiro’s shoulder.
If they still had their physical bodies, Shiro would like to imagine he can feel Lance's soft brown hair on his cheek, or Lance breathe against his neck.
“Stay with me, Lance… please, please…”
“I don't think I'm going anywhere, Shiro.”
Shiro's fear slowly grows deep within him as he falls in love even more with the smile that lights up Lance’s face. A little piece of Heaven, this moment.
Shiro can sense the Black Lion calling him--
B-but Lance? Can I… Can I take him with me?
Lance’s arms wrap themselves around Shiro, and in return, he holds him closer than ever.
He lets the energy of the Black Lion that was inside him radiate to Lance.
Electric, ethereal Purple weaving into the already intertwined burning Red and chilling Blue.
Two souls, lost in the sea of stardust, becoming one.
Please… I-I don’t want to be alone anymore…
A new presence, an astral projection of the Princess made of blinding white and soft blue light, appears behind Lance. She wraps her arms around Lance, one of her hands covering his eyes.
“What’s happening? Shiro?” Lance cries out in uncertainty.
Shiro is overwhelmed by the strong energy radiating from Lance, from the astral projection of Allura
There’s a way! Lance can be saved!! I can be--
“Go to them-”
Shiro feels Lance harden his hold on him, clinging to him.
“I can’t leave you here, Shiro! I just found you! I can’t-” Lance protests as image of the Princess glows and engulfs him in light until he is nothing but a bright blue sun.
“It’s okay, Lance… Everything is going to be okay…” Shiro reassures Lance as the light continues to burn itself out. Lance’s essence returning to the World of the Living.
An after image of Lance calls out to him one last time before he vanishes completely, leaving Shiro alone once more.
Shiro’s arm wraps around himself, the remnants of sea breeze and saltwater linger.
The Black Lion politely calls for Shiro.
“Lance is safe… he came back! They found a way!” Shiro laughs in delight as his tears return in full force, streaming down his face. “There’s still a chance--”
The Black Lion hums happily as he takes Shiro with him and closes the opening to the In-Between.