We’d been together for ages, it seemed, and won so many victories in that time. Freed worlds, saved innocents, protected those who needed protecting. Working as a team, we were invincible. The trust that we had in each other was unwavering. Trust that any of us would give our life to protect the others.
And we would, in an instant.
We fought together. We laughed together. We loved together.
Until Zarkon turned against us.
We died together.
Pidge was screaming. She was screaming, and there was nothing any of the others could do about it.
“Pidge?! Pidge, what’s wrong?!” Shiro was frantically trying to reach his youngest teammate to no avail. None of the Paladins could even reach her; they were in the middle of a battle.
In fact, they were battling as Voltron. Normally, there were no secrets when they were together like that, but now…
Now she was in so much pain she couldn’t even form a coherent thought. The others could feel an echo of her pain, an ache in each of their chests like a day old wound. Of course they’d shared injuries before, but never on this scale. Never to the point that they couldn’t handle it.
“ Pidge! What the hell happened?”
13 Doboshes Earlier
“Well shit, this isn’t working,” Pidge grumbled to herself, crouched low behind a door. It wasn’t often that she regretted things- she preferred not to dwell on the past- but damn she was ready to kick her own ass right now. Forgetting her helmet was such a rookie mistake. She’d just barely managed to finish what she had come in here to do. Now she was pinned down and in desperate need of assistance with no way to contact her team.
Her bayard was out and buzzing as she stared directly into the yellow eyes of none other than Haggar. The fucking head witch herself.
“Lovely to see you again, Green Paladin.” Her voice was a sandpaper-y croak that sounded like it hurt. “It’s been too long.”
“You must be mistaken. We’ve never met before,” Pidge replied with as much gusto as she could muster. She rose to her feet without breaking her stare. If she was gonna die, she was gonna die standing, god damn it.
“Perhaps not in your lifetime. I was referring to your predecessor. Trigel was a worthy opponent. She put up a good fight. You’re just a cheap imitation. By the time we got to her, there was no one left but Alfor, and we knew where he was. We had no reason to keep her alive. You, however, may have a purpose for me. You have knowledge of the other Paladins, the Lions, of your little coalition plans. I believe I’ll keep you alive. For now.”
I could remember when Zarkon first fell for Honerva. He was about as subtle as a warship. No one could really blame him- Honerva was beautiful, strong, and smart enough to give me a run for my money. We all saw him stumbling over his words, and teased him for his awkward attempts at flirting. In all fairness to him, the Galra courted differently than the Alteans. But whatever he did worked. He and Honerva were married and in love, and he was happier than any of us had ever seen him.
It wasn’t until after they had their child that I noticed Zarkon start acting differently. He became a Galra obsessed. I was sure the others noticed it too. I think we all tried to ignore it, tried to brush it off as a besotted couple living a new life together. He was our friend, our family, and our leader. He would never forsake us for selfish reasons. We believed in him.
We didn’t realize the mistake in that until it was too late.
Ten Doboshes Earlier
Haggar was impossibly fast for someone her age. She was over ten thousand years old for fucks sake, Pidge should at least be able to outrun her. And there were a lot of her. So far, Pidge had only been on the defense, trying hard to gauge the witch’s strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths she had to be aware of: Fast. Magical. Clever. Didn’t need a weapon to inflict fatal blows.
Weaknesses she could exploit: None apparently.
Not even remotely useful. But if Pidge didn’t go on the offensive then there was no way she would make it.
Against her instincts, Pidge closed her eyes a moment, listening carefully for the real Haggar’s cackle amongst all the nearly identical faces in front of her. If she could just pinpoint where she was…
There. Taking a deep breath, Pidge took aim at the Haggar making the most noise and shot. The sharp blade of her bayard missed Haggar, but she managed to get the connecting wire wrapped around her. She sent the largest shock down the line that she could muster, and Haggar fell to the ground with a screech. Without waiting for her to recover, Pidge sent three more shock waves to Haggar to keep her down.
Unfortunately, she was too focused on her target that she didn’t notice the dark figure creeping up behind her.
At least, not until its claws tore into her.
“Just like before, Green Paladin.”
We didn’t have a chance to defend ourselves. Zarkon and Honerva- or Haggar, as she became known- were clever. Alfor and the rest of us had unintentionally given them a rallying cry for the Galra to rise against us. They had the numbers, the technology, and they had what they viewed as a just cause the fight for. Avenge their destroyed planet, then spread the glory of their empire. A classic, used by dictators to justify evil actions countless times throughout history.
He went for our homes first. He specifically targeted where he knew would cripple us. Zarkon always did have a head for military strategy. There was a reason he was the Paladin of the Black Lion.
Being betrayed by our friends- I had come to think of Honerva as a friend as well- hurt. It hurt almost as much as watching my other friends fall at his hands. In all honesty, it was rage that kept me fighting. I’d lost nearly everything important to me. All my loved ones either gone or turned enemies. Only the determination to defeat Zarkon, and to restore what peace I could drove me to go on.
But I was never the military mind that he was. My people were not fighters, like the Galra. There was little I could do against his army.
Eight Doboshes Earlier
Although she liked to think she was a reasonably skilled fighter- she was able to give Keith a run for his money- it was more luck than strategy that got her away from Haggar. As soon as she retracted her bayard, she somehow managed to twist her arm around place a hard blow into Haggar’s chest with the small blade. The witch stumbled back in surprise. Her hands tore away from Pidge’s chest and the bayard fell down to Pidge’s side, and they both screamed in pain as they started losing blood.
‘Come on, Holt, keep it together,’ Pidge thought as she stumbled forward, away from Haggar. She was incapacitated- now was Pidge’s chance to get away. All she had to do was muster up the strength to run for it. Breathing heavily, she took one step, and then another, and another, until she worked her way up to a sprint. She refused to look back and could only pray that Haggar wouldn’t- or couldn’t- follow her. One hand was clenched helplessly at her chest. When she changed a glance down and saw the glowing purple mixing with the dark red of her blood, she nearly vomited. ‘Not the time! Just need to make it to Green, I’ll be okay once I reach her, she won’t let anything bad happen to me. This isn’t even that bad, it just looks scary because of the glowing.’
Thankfully, she wasn’t that far from her Lion. Green must’ve sensed that her Paladin was in trouble, because as Pidge neared her, she heard loud crashes and screams, and then the hallway in front of her exploded. Pidge felt herself suddenly being sucked into space, and ‘shit, without my helmet-‘ and the jaws of her Lion closed around her. She dropped to the ground, gasping. Her heart had to be close to beating out of her chest, but she was safe now. Or at least, as safe as she could be when she was in the middle of a space war with a glowing fuckin’ wound on her chest.
“Thanks girl,” Pidge said quietly as she caught her breath. Moving slowly so she didn’t aggravate her aching chest any more (a futile effort at this point, the amount of blood she was losing was absolutely not ideal), she rose to her feet and made her way to the pilot’s seat. “Guys? Guys, where is everyone at?”
Luckily the others had their comms on in their Lions.
“Pidge! You’re okay! When we saw the explosion we thought- well, you can probably guess what we thought.” The relief in Hunk’s voice was palpable.
“Yeah, that was just Green.”
“Wait, Green did that? Without you there to pilot her?” Shiro asked, immediately suspicious. Generally the Lions only acted independently when their Paladins were in danger. “What happened?”
“Um, that’s gonna have to wait,” Keith cut in. “We’ve got Galra, incoming. Pidge, are you up for fighting?”
“Well, I don’t have much of a choice, do I?” Without waiting for a reply, Pidge shot off to join the others as fast as her Lion would go. All the while trying to shake an odd sinking feeling in her gut.
‘Why does it feel so… familiar?’
Alfor and I were the last two left. Zarkon, Honerva, and the Galra empire had proven to be the downfall of the Voltron Paladins.
Two Doboshes Earlier
“Let’s form Voltron!”
A simple command, one she’d followed countless times. Why was she suddenly filled with a wave of foreboding? So she was injured- happened all the time. Forming Voltron would actually help to make her feel better. Her team would be able to take some of the pain from her and into themselves.
Initially she had hated forming Voltron when she was hurt. They all had. Passing off the pain to others just didn’t sit right with any of them. But as time went on and their bond grew stronger (and injuries became more commonplace), they began to accept the relief that was offered.
But this time, it felt more wrong than it had in awhile. Maybe it was because this wasn’t a normal injury (was the purple radiating from it getting brighter?). Maybe it was the sickening deja vu that she had been experiencing since she stumbled into her Lion. Maybe it was just her experiencing some weird anxiety she thought she’d moved past a long time ago.
Whatever. Pidge shook her head to clear her thoughts and the pain clouding her vision. She was forming Voltron, bad feelings or no.
So they formed Voltron.
And it was going fine.
Until the pain in her chest increased ten-fold and all she could do was scream.
At the very least I was in my Lion when I died. I wasn’t completely alone. My Lion made sure of that. She helped dull the pain and the fear. I could only hope that she would forgive me for getting blood in her cockpit. My Lion helped me face death with bravery. I never was one to give up, but the glowing wounds on my chest weren’t getting any better.
I felt so bad for Alfor. After I was gone, he had no more friends left living. I was sitting right in the pilot’s seat when he found me. My Lion had given me enough strength to last to see Alfor one last time.
Our goodbyes were simple. There wasn’t much for either of us to say.
No one knew what to do. Hunk and Lance were panicking, Keith was cussing, and Shiro was trying desperately to reach out to Pidge. But she wouldn’t- or couldn’t answer.
The bond between Paladins is unique. As we grow stronger as a team, we become more in-tune to each other.
Nowhere is this connection stronger than on the astral plane. There we are without physical limitations to connect to each other. This becomes the closest living creatures can come to becoming one with others. This is how Voltron is formed, and how he is so powerful. He is the combination of five minds, working together with a near indestructible vessel. We draw strength through each other, and through the spirits around us.
In the astral world, the bridge between living and dead is blurred. The dead may attach to the living, may channel feelings through them, knowingly or not. Those feelings could amplify through the living person and come out in bouts of euphoria or rage. Or of extreme pain.
Someone must have set fire to her wound, surely that was the only explanation. Because it just-
Hurt so bad-
She could hardly stand it-
Was this what death was?
Why had she gone through this before?
Pain, made worse by betrayal.
But she hadn’t been betrayed.
Oh gods it hurt.
Didn’t matter. All that mattered was the pain. Blooming from her chest, red hot pokers skewering her. Any other time she might have rolled her eyes at the cliche, but right now she could think of nothing but the awful, unending-
Pain. That’s all there was.
“Please stop,” Pidge bawled. “Please just make it stop!”
“That’s it, back to Lions! Keith, Lance, you two take care of the Galra, Hunk you come with me to the Green Lion.” Shiro finally gave the command. They needed to get to Pidge and find out what was wrong. He didn’t need to say it again. Actually, he hadn’t even finished off saying ‘Lions’ when the others broke apart. Every Lion sped into action except Green.
The pain retreated marginally when they disbanded. However, the gash along her chest was still glowing and still bleeding. And it was still hard to breathe.
“Green… what happened?” She was out of breath and halfway expecting to not get an answer. But her Lion hated not having answers as much as her Paladin did. Suddenly images and feelings began to appear in her head. Images of the Lions being created, of them choosing their original Paladins. Of Zarkon. Of Haggar. Of Trigel.
The first Green Paladin. Betrayed and killed by Zarkon. Another vision of Haggar, accompanied by a feeling of utter rage, enough to make Pidge gasp again. Then Haggar was behind Trigel and- and then claws digging into her chest. In the exact same place that Pidge was bleeding from. Just like before. “No… she wasn’t killed by Zarkon. She was killed by Haggar.”
As much as Pidge would’ve enjoyed to unpack that, her energy was quickly fading. Her eyes squeezed shut and her arms were wrapped around her chest as tightly as she could bear. “Guys.” Her voice shook and broke. “Help. I need help. Please.”
“Hunk and I are on our way Pidge, it’s okay. What happened?”
“Ran into some unexpected company. Apparently Haggar was touring the facility.”
“Haggar?! Like, the witch-druid thing?”
“Lance, I need you to focus on what you’re doing, okay?” Shiro reminded gently. The mention of Haggar had his stomach in knots as he thought back to the times he had spent with her. He was suddenly more grateful to the Green Lion than ever, knowing that she had helped Pidge to get away from that. “When did she show up?”
“As I was finishing up. She… she acted like she knew me. I think she knew Trigel. Then there were so many of her… please hurry, Shiro, I don’t want to be alone.” She sounded sacred, and for the first time since any of them had known her, they were reminded that she was only fifteen. Just a kid, really.
Shiro shuddered, remembering the last time he’d fought the witch. He and Hunk were nearing the Green Lion, and she opened her mouth just enough to let them in. As soon as they touched down, her mouth closed again and they hurried to the cockpit.
“Pidge? Pidge, we’re… here…” Shiro trailed off, visibly paling. His hands started to shake as he took in the blood and the glowing, and he could remember the pain in his chest when they formed Voltron, the pain in his side when he had been attacked by Haggar and that godawful glowing purple-
“Shiro! Come on man, stay with us. We need you!” Hunk had his hands on Shiro’s shoulders, trying to ground him. He couldn’t handle a critically injured Pidge and a deeply traumatized Shiro alone. “Shiro, just breathe, you’re okay, you’re with me and Pidge in the Green Lion- crap, Keith, Lance, how’s it coming out there? Please tell me you have good news.” He carefully helped lower Shiro so he was sitting on the ground before turning back to Pidge.
“We’re almost done. Just got one more-“
“-no more ships to take care of. You guys still in Green?”
“Yeah, and I’m the only one up and running. I need one of you getting in here and the other one to go back to the Castle and get us a tow away from here.” Hunk was actually keeping his head on very well, and Keith and Lance immediately went about carrying out his orders. It only took a moment for Lance to join Hunk in the Green Lion’s cockpit, and they soon felt Green being pushed away from the action. Keith was towing them all away from the action. Just in case.
“Okay, what’s… happening?” Lance asked as he took in the sight in front of him.
“You want Shiro or Pidge?”
“I- Shiro? What’s wrong with him?” Lance slowly approached Shiro, who was crouched on the ground, trembling.
“I think he’s having a flashback. Just try and help him through it.” Hunk sounded a lot more in-control than he actually felt. He’d actually been hoping that Lance would choose Pidge. He had plenty of experience dealing with panic; he absolutely no idea how to treat a shimmering purple injury. Still, he owed it to Pidge to try and help. “Okay… here Pidge, I’m going to get some cloth to hold over that,” he said, pulling off his armor and his shirt underneath that. “Here, this is gonna hurt- I’m so sorry- but we need to try and stop the bleeding.”
Hunk winced when Pidge cried out as he pushed his shirt firmly against her chest. “I’m sorry! Keith is getting us to the Castle where you can get all healed up. That looks really bad… oh my god, Pidge, I’m so sorry…”
Over on the other side of the cockpit, Lance was sitting in front of Shiro and speaking softly. “Hey. I know you’re scared, but what you’re seeing right now? It’s not real. Not anymore. You’re safe now, you’re with us in the Green Lion, and we need you back with us- Pidge is in trouble. Come on Shiro, you’re like her big brother, you make her feel safe. She’s really scared right now. She needs you.”
He seemed to be coming round, albeit slowly. “Pidge… she’s hurt.”
“She is. She’ll be okay, but she is,” Lance said, helping him to his feet. Sure, he wasn’t one hundred percent positive that she would be okay, but Shiro didn’t need to know that right now.
“Lance,” Hunk cut in, “Lance, my shirt isn’t doing anything to stop the bleeding. It’s gotta be something to do with the glowing. Something Haggar did isn’t letting her blood clot.”
Lance and Shiro hurried over to where Hunk and Pidge were. Shiro paused a moment and squeezed his eyes shut. His breath hitched, and for a moment Hunk and Lance were worried they’d see another breakdown. But instead he took a deep breath and knelt down in front of Pidge. “Hey Pidge. You’re okay. We’re all here, and none of us will let anything happen to you. You know that, right?“
She managed a weak smile. “I know.”
“And I know it hurts now, but you just have to be strong a little longer. We’re almost there.”
“Shiro… this is how Trigel died. She died… right here. Same injuries. And it was… Haggar who killed her.” She was breathing deeply, trying to ignore the pain as best she could. Still, she couldn’t fight back the tears. Sure, it wasn’t the unbearably searing pain she had experienced in the astral plane, but having a lethal injury still hurt enough to warrant some crying.
Her words threw everyone off momentarily before Lance piped up. “Trigel didn’t have her team there to take care of her, right? She was alone, without any help. We’re here with you though, and like Shiro said, we aren’t letting anything happen to you.”
“Keith, how far are we from the Castle?” Shiro asked through the comms.
“Almost there. We’re in sight. I got ahold of Allura and Coran, they’re waiting for us.”
“Hear that Pidge? We’re almost there.”
She just nodded and let her eyes shut. Lance was right. She was not Trigel. And her team would never let her go.