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If You'll be my Star, I'll be your Sky

Chapter Text

He found himself standing in front of wall again. Staring at the wall of names of those who had died fighting against the Galra. There were so many names that he recognized. So many from his graduating year that had made the ultimate sacrifice; friends, past teammates…

But one name stuck out among the others, and Shiro ran his hand over the name as he had done nearly every time he was there.

“Hey Adam…” He said softly, the quiet of the room almost deafening. “It’s been awhile, right?”

Silence answered him and his throat ached. He swallowed, trying to push the knot in his throat away. He looked around, clearing his throat.

“We’ve been busy rebuilding Earth, helping some of the aliens get acclimated here. The Garrison is in full swing...I…”

He looked back at the picture, thumb gliding over it. He sighed. The ring hidden under his uniform felt heavy around his neck. A reminder of what he lost. Of who...

“Honestly I’ve been avoiding coming here as much as I can. Not because I don’t want to see you...just...it’s hard. It…” His throat ached too much at that point to go on and he cleared his throat. “It’s not the same.”

“Don’t expect me to be here when you get back.”

Shiro’s eyes burned. It was ironic, he sometimes mused, at how literal that phrase had become. Adam had been angry right then, and deep down Shiro had known there wasn’t any weight to those words. He had been planning after he got back from Kerberos to try and work things out with Adam. And even if things hadn’t gotten better between them...at least it would have been resolved.
But it was never meant to happen.

He could almost hear Iverson saying that it was for the better good, that these ten pilots lost their lives trying to save Earth from the Galra. That it gave the Garrison enough time to get as many civilians and other officers into the base as they could.
He could almost hear Iverson saying that...but it didn’t matter.

He was gone.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I should have been here. I should have been by your side. I…” He felt his eyes grow warm, the beginning sting that had become familiar. He squeezed them shut to prevent the inevitable betrayal. His hand pressed against the smooth wall as he inhaled and exhaled slowly. He needed to calm down. He needed…

“What do you think? I look pretty good with glasses right?”

“Takashi, I need those to see. You just look like a blurry mess right now.”

“But I’m your blurry mess.”

An eye roll was the only response and Adam made an attempt to swipe the glasses away from him, Shiro dodging with ease, a grin on his face.

“Takashi, come on I need to finish this chapter before-! TakashiiiIIII!!”

They fell backwards onto their bed, Adam landing with a huff on top of Shiro who grinned.

“Can you see me now?”

Adam rolled his eyes.

“Yes, and you you look handsome, now give me my glasses back.”

“Well that wasn’t very convincing. Come on. How do I-”

He went quiet as Adam kissed him, and his eyes fluttered shut, leaning forward to the kiss. He felt the glasses being pulled off, but was far too preoccupied to fight him. When Adam moved away, his eyes fluttered open catching the sight of that smile adorning Adam’s face as he pushed his glasses up.

“You’re always handsome to me, Takashi.”

His eyes clenched closed at the memory, teeth gritting as it fought the burn in his throat and he took a sharp breath to try and lessen it, failing miserably. It felt like a knife dug into his throat. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you,” he said, pushing through the ache. “I’m sorry. I regret so much...but I’m going to make sure your sacrifice isn’t in vain.”

Silence greeted him again and he took one last look at the face of the man he had loved, before turning away, walking towards the conference room. That was at least a promise he could keep and he would do whatever it took to protect.

He could do that.


The meeting was over, much to Shiro’s relief. He was starting to see why he had yearned to be a pilot. Diplomacy and meetings were killing him. If he had to sit down and listen to another official droll on about aliens coming into Earth, so help him-

“Shiro? How is everything? Everything okay?”

Shiro glanced up, blinking at Keith.

“Yeah? Everything’s fine, why wouldn’t it be?”

Keith was quiet for about a minute, glancing around at the remaining Garrison officers and the rest of the Paladins. Lance was chatting with Hunk and Pidge, while Allura was talking to Veronica with Romelle, Coran not far behind them, chatting with Krolia.

The request was silent and Shiro followed the younger man out of the room after bidding the others a goodbye walked out. It took only a few minutes before they reached the roof. Shiro glanced at Keith, curious now.

“So, what did you want to talk about?”

“Adam.”

Something crashed sharply into Shiro’s diaphragm, and he struggled to keep his breathing calm.

“I know that the anniversary of the first battle is coming up. It’s all the Garrison higher ups are talking about.”

“Keith-”

“You don’t have to pretend to be alright, you know.” Keith interrupted. “At least with me. I mean...why didn’t you say anything? Or ask to take a break or a day off?”

“The Earth is still recovering from the Galra Invasion, and a lot’s happened since we got back to Earth. There isn’t time for me to take a break.”

“That’s a load of crap and you know it.” Keith replied, sharp yet gentle at the same time. “Everyone needs a break. And that includes you.”

“...alright who are you and what did you do with Keith Kogane?”

“Ass.” Keith responded, punching Shiro lightly in the shoulder.

“It was Lance wasn’t it?”

“...Maybe. But that’s not the point.” Keith said, cheeks a soft pink and Shiro managed a grin. “Adam’s parents called, and somehow they wound up talking to me wondering if Voltron and the Coalition were going to do a ceremony or something. And it made me realize you haven’t talked about him. At all since we got back.”

“There was a war going on, Keith,” His tone was even, almost parenting, “and people die in wars. We weren’t together when I left for Kerberos, and we never patched things up before I left for space again. I don’t see the point, I-”

“Don’t.”

Shiro paused, glancing at Keith.

“Don’t downplay your relationship with him like that. I know you still cared about him when you left. And I know for a fact he still cared about you even to the point of when we became Paladins. Probably after too.”

His vision was blurring and he looked away, trying to stop the inevitable. Keith looked at him, uncrossing his arms, eyes uncharacteristically soft.

“The Battle for Earth is over. We’ve saved Earth and countless other planets. You’re allowed to think about him again. You’re allowed to miss him.”

A part of him wanted to laugh at the fact that Keith, Keith of all people was the one doing this speech. He so wanted to laugh.

What came out was a choked sob and the world blended into a mess of colors.

“Adam…”

He slid down the wall, covering his mouth to quiet himself, his shoulders shaking.

“He’s gone. Keith. He’s really gone...”

Keith was quiet, swallowing roughly.

“Yeah...he is. He died protecting everyone.”

“He died because he was dragged into this thing. It was my f-”

“Shiro, the Galra would have eventually come to Earth again. If not for the Blue Lion then to just conquer Earth. This wasn’t your fault.”

“I shot Sendak out of the Castle.”

“And Haggar found him. And couldn’t control him. This wasn’t your fault.”

“Then why do I feel like it is!?”

“Because you’re a good person? Because you got here and people you cared about were gone and you felt guilty?” Keith suggested. “Adam wouldn’t want you to do this to yourself.”

“He’s dead, Keith! Earth got dragged into this war, and he paid for it! He...He was probably terrified. He was alone up there and I wasn’t there for him when he needed me! I wasn’t…” He slid down the wall scrubbing at his face. “He died thinking I didn’t care about him.”

Keith sat down next to him, silent for several minutes.

“...you would have died alongside with him. Knowing you, you would have died in his place if given the chance.”

Shiro swallowed audibly.

“And he knew that too. Up until the end, he knew that. I’m sure of it.” Keith said softly and Shiro rested his head on the back of the wall, eyes closing. He let out a weak sound.

“I should have been here.”

“...I should have been here too. I should have been there for him before that. After the Kerberos Mission I pretty much ghosted him. I didn’t...I didn’t want to deal with it, his memories of you. Any of it. He didn’t deserve that.” Keith said. “I was going to apologize but…” Keith shrugged before shaking his head, “still he was always trying to look out for me. Even if I didn’t really do anything to deserve it.” Shiro sniffed as silence took over again. Keith offered a slight albeit bitter smile.

“I remember the first time I met him. You had snuck out to ride your hovercraft after a doctor’s visit and I just followed in mine. When we got back, they had been looking for you.”

Shiro let out a weak laugh.

“Yeah. He was not pleased with me.”

“What did he say again?” Keith asked before laughing. “Oh right, ‘you just enlisted the kid, and now you’re trying to kill him? What are you going to be teaching our kids?’ Technically it was my fault because I just snuck out after you, but he seemed more interested in scolding you.”

Shiro laughed, smearing a hand under his eyes.

“Yeah, and that’s just what you heard. I got an earful when we got back to our room.”

Keith chuckled, before smiling sadly.

“...Did he mean that? The kid thing. The two of you were planning on adopting?”

“Eventually yes...we had talked about it once in awhile. Teased the idea of two or three kids.”

“Three?? Why three?”

“I’m an only child. Adam’s the middle child of five. We wanted them to have siblings but not a crazy amount.”

There was a silence for a moment and Shiro rubbed his eyes, the burning returning.

“He said he wanted to adopt at least one girl. He only had one sister, but they were really close. So it wasn’t a surprise.”

And the tears returned, because he could imagine it. He could imagine having a small family, where war was a distant memory and the mornings were filled with getting kids ready for school, laughter. But now it was just that. A dream. An imagination.

“...Adam’s gone, Keith. He’s gone and I never got to tell him what he meant to me. I never should have left him. I never…”

“It’s not your fault, Shiro. It’s not your fault.”

This time he let the tears fall. The two sat there in silence, time passing by slowly around them. Neither knew how long they were up there when they heard steps coming up towards the door to the roof. Hastily, Shiro wiped his face and the two stood as the door opened and Pidge stumbled out.

“There you two are!”

“Sorry, needed some air.”

“What is it, Pidge?” Keith said, giving Shiro some time wipe away any other tears before he straightened and looked over at Pidge.

“You two have got to see this! We received a signal from Charon!”

“...Pidge, even before Voltron we had been receiving data from Pluto’s moons. That’s not exactly crazy.”

“That’s not it. It’s the type of signal that we received that’s crazy. Come on.”

Both men glanced at each other before following the younger Paladin back into the Garrison.

“So why is the signal so strange?”

“Well for one it’s coming from Galra transmissions.” Pidge remarked as she slid next to her brother, gesturing to the signal. Shiro stiffened.

“Is it Haggar making a move? Trying to finish what Sendak started?” Keith asked.

“That’s what we thought at first.” Lance replied. “Bbbuuuutttt…”

“But it wasn’t like any type of Galra signal we’d seen before.” Hunk continued, bringing up a recording screen. “Here, take a listen.”

Hunk pressed the play button on the screen and rhythmic beeps filled the room.

“...that’s morse code.” Shiro muttered in realization.

“Exactly. That hasn’t been used since pre-World War III. Lance figured it out pretty quickly though.”

“My great-grandpa taught us about it when we were younger.” Lance admitted with a grin while Veronica snorted. “Said it’d be useful. It’s super old though. So either the Galra suddenly have an interest in outdated Earth tech…”

“Or someone on the ship has general knowledge of it.” Keith finished.

“It was taught during a semester by Professor Bletchley as part of his history class. If anyone was interested in it, he had no problems showing some antiques he had. He was crazy about it.”

“What about Bletchley?”

“He was one of the pilots in the Black Squadron.” Iverson replied and Shiro glanced away, his gut rolling.

“...Anyway, we zeroed in on Charon and got this.” Hunk said hurriedly, and a hologram of a fuzzy ship appeared. The shape was all too familiar.

“Definitely Galra. Looks like a prisoner’s ship.”

“So there could be prisoners there?”

“If there are they aren’t going far.” Hunk surmised, pointing to a corner of the ship. “That’s where the main engine is, and it’s pretty damaged. They might have been close to when the fighting started and it got damaged and they were forced to retreat.”

“Apparently ‘victory or death’ didn’t apply to whoever the Captain on this was.”

“Or they didn’t want to risk losing hostages.” Shiro commented. “Regardless, we need to check it out. The Atlas will accompany the Lions. If there are prisoners on the ship we should be able to carry them back to Earth between all of us.”

“Got it.”

Shiro felt a smirk settle on his face, a quote from an old movie Adam had loved popping into his head unbidden.

It’s showtime.

Chapter Text

The hustle and bustle of the Garrison was back, Shiro mused as he followed Sam and Iverson to another meeting, the Paladins following behind. It was going to be hectic for awhile, that was for sure. Earth was free. Finally free.

“We’re getting more calls from several planets in the Coalition.” Iverson remarked, and Shiro nodded, recognizing some of the names that he had helped liberate. The Olkari would be arriving soon and that would help with-

“Takashi?”

Shiro froze mid-step as the others slowed, Keith’s eyes warming in understanding, though several paladins looked behind them in confusion. Shiro turned and spotted the petite woman standing there, waving away an official who was likely telling her she didn’t have clearance, because who was going to tell her that she couldn’t see her son-

“Mom!”

He was at her side in a matter of moments and she dragged him into a hug, not caring she was nearly a foot shorter than him, and he clutched her just as tightly, pressing his face into her shoulder.

“You’re alright.” He whispered, voice wavering.

“Of course I am.” She whispered, not even bothering to hide the tears that slid down her face, she laughed, brushing back strands of now silver hair. “Oh, what happened to your hair?”

“Really Mom? You’re not going to ask about the scar or arm?” He asked weakly and she chuckled.

“Your hair looks like starlight, that’s the first thing that’s noticeable.” She said brightly and he laughed, tears sliding down his face, pulling her back into a hug. She clutched him just as tightly, running a hand over his back as his shoulders began to shake.

“Welcome home, Takashi.”

Welcome home.


Shiro felt his eyes open sleepily. He had...when had he fallen asleep?! Taking a quick look at his clock, he scrambled up, cursing. Meeting up with everyone was in 15 minutes! Dammit all, why did he fall asleep right then-!

“Well it’s nice to know even now, you still fall asleep in a matter of minutes.”

Speak of the devil. Shiro glanced up as he pulled on his shirt and rolled his eyes at the smug look on his mother’s face.

“How long have you been here?”

“Only a few minutes.”

“I’m sorry Mom, but I don’t have long. I have to be at The Atlas in ten.” He responded easily and Tsukiko sighed.

“Are you sure you have to go? The Paladins should be able to handle it on their own.”

“We don’t know if there are other Galra there. And backup is never a bad thing.” Shiro replied, glancing over with a soft smile at the petite woman standing there, “Mom, I’ll be fine, I promise.”

“Funny, I remember that six years ago you said the same thing to me.”

Shiro sighed. Well he had walked right into that one.

He couldn’t really blame her though. It had only been him and his mother for years. After his father had passed away when he was eleven, it had just been him, his mother, and his grandfather. When his grandfather had passed, Tsukiko had taken the reins of their family. She was not one to be messed with; Shirogane’s rarely were. And he was proud of that. They had been close as he got older, and she had supported him throughout his training at the Garrison, and hadn’t even flinched when he had come out to her. He couldn’t imagine what she had thought for six years for him. How her only son was gone. Dead. And then he was back, alive, albeit not in the body she had last seen him in was gone forever. The dream of the memory was still prominent in his mind, as he glanced at her, offering a smile.

“I know Mom, but things are bit different than six years ago. Promise.” He replied and Tsukiko sighed before holding out two bento boxes.

“Well, I know I can’t stop you. And I know I can’t go along with you up there, bbbuuutttt I can give you lunch, can’t I?”

“Mom…” Shiro said, a warm smile on his face. She chuckled.

“I also have one for Keith, with enough in there for his friends.”

Shiro held back the snort, just picturing Keith’s face getting one of these. He may have grown up because of the years in space, but that didn’t mean he was still used to parental affection, even with his mother now.

“I’ll be sure to give it to him.”

“Alright. Be safe, alright?”

“I will.” He promised, kissing her cheek. “Love you, Mom.”

“Love you too, Takashi. Stay safe.”

“Aren’t I always?” He asked, before hurrying out of his room, hearing his mother laugh. He grinned and hurried down the hall.


It hadn’t taken long to reach Charon. It was almost amusing how short of time it took the Lions and The Atlas to reach the outer edges of the solar system, Shiro mused. He could still remember how long it took to reach Kerberos six years ago. What had taken months only took a few hours. And as they reached the small moon they easily spotted the familiar purple colored ship. The lions careened forward, and soon they could see the familiar fighters exiting the ship's hold.

“Man some of these look like they’re being held together by duct tape.” Hunk’s voice echoed as Shiro watched the Yellow Lion ram several of them, exploding into fire.

“Be careful around the ship. We don’t need any more casualties if there are prisoners!” Keith’s voice called out.

“Pidge, you and Lance are going to need to dismantle the rest of the engines. Allura, see if you can dismantle the ion cannon.”

“Got it!”

It was clear that the ship was on its last legs and Shiro felt satisfaction as the second engine sputtered before dying off. There were still a few fighters flying, but it was almost pathetic. They had this fight, if he would even consider this a fight, in the bag.

“Shiro, we’re going to land and enter the ship.” Keith’s voice rang out.

“Alright be careful. The Atlas will cover you.”

“Roger that.”

There was silence as the Paladins landed, and Shiro could hear them breaking into the ship, the sirens of loss of pressure and the blast of air exiting the ship so familiar. The sound of the paladins running became prominent as Pidge worked on cell doors. Other voices began to appear and Shiro felt relief.

“We got survivors.” Hunk’s voice called out and there was a rush of joy filtering through the bridge of the Atlas, several of them cheering at the proclamation.

“Allura and Pidge will start directing the prisoners to where the Lions are, alright? Depending on the amount, we might have to start making trips.”

“On it. Hunk, here’s the direction that the original signal was.”

The voices separated, a second blip marking Allura and Pidge splitting off and hurrying in the other direction. Hunk, Lance, and Keith’s voices and hurried steps became prominent as they went straight.

“The signal is straight ahead!” Hunk’s voice echoed and the group’s footsteps quickened, before pausing.

“The panel’s been damaged. One second…”

After a few moments the sound of a door opening, quickly followed by gasps.

“Guys? What is it? Guys?”

“They’re...they’re dead.”

Shiro felt his stomach drop and the atmosphere that had been joyful moments ago was now sad, the sorrow stifling.

“It looks like the crew barricaded the communications room that the prisoners were in and made sure they couldn’t get out. Then the crew just released the air from the room. They-”

“...oh dios…”

“Lance? Lance what is it?”

“It’s Bletchley.”

“...What?” Iverson voiced after Shiro’s own voice seeming to vanish. They heard Lance shifting something and a familiar clink of dog tags echoed through his helmet.

“Bletchley, Jason D. And I’d recognize his face, even if it looks like...this.”

They could hear Lance swallowing, muttering to himself about not puking.

“Here’s another one.” Came Hunk’s voice, wavering a bit. “Officer Petra J. Clemson. Oh man...”

“Hunk, deep breaths.” Lance’s wrecked voice rang out, though no one on the Atlas voiced a similar sentiment. It had gone deathly silent, or at least Shiro was sure it had, because now all he could hear was his heartbeat.

One glance at Iverson was answer enough and Shiro was turning around, heading to the door.

“I’ll meet you guys in the ship.”

“Captain-”

Whatever look that was on his face silenced Iverson,. Shiro exited the bridge and had to force himself to not break out into a full on sprint. He shouldn’t hope. He couldn’t hope for the impossible. It would destroy him if he did.

It took a few minutes to grab his helmet, before he was heading to the stricken ship, and a few more to actually enter it. He swallowed as he looked around, the familiarity of it sickening. He hurried to where he knew the Paladins were, taking out several sentries that were rushing around the halls. After a few moments, he spotted Keith, a haunted expression on his face.

“Were there…?” He trailed off at Keith’s headshake. “How many?”

“Seven. Five humans, two Olkari. Iverson confirmed that the they were all from the Black Squadron. It was probably the Olkari who managed to help Bletchley...who managed to help Bletchley send the signal out.”

“Was Adam…?”

Keith shook his head again.

“No. Maybe they had managed to eject during the fight but were picked up by Sendak’s men. You could see burn scars on them, so they were probably pretty injured when they had been captured and-”

Keith stopped abruptly and Shiro turned in time to see a figure standing at the corner, before they vanished around it.

“Hey! Stop!!”

A clatter echoed as they turned the corner and they spotted a small opening, likely damage from the ship. Bending down, Keith shone a light into the vent and both men stared in shock.

“That’s…” Keith murmured unable to finish the sentence, Shiro equally stunned.

“Hey guys, what’d you see?”

“Guys?”

They didn’t respond to Lance and the others peered around the two men, looking at the small form curled up as far as it could from the hole. Staring at the small girl who was staring right back at them, curling up behind the mess of pipes and wires, just out of reach of everyone. She was wearing an outfit that seemed about twice her size, dwarfing her even further and messy curls cascaded around her, framing her face, a scar cut through her left eye. In all honesty, she looked like what any prisoner of the Galra would have been.

But this was a child.

“Sorry it took so long. Allura says that she could handle it and you probably needed-! What’s going on?” Pidge asked.

“There’s a kid here.” Lance said, frowning as Shiro knelt further down.

“Hey there. What’s your name?”

The girl remained silent, pressing herself further to the wall, clutching a pipe near her.

“It’s okay, we’re not going to hurt you sweetheart.”

She didn’t move. Shiro was silent before looking at the others.

“I’m taking my helmet off.”

“What, why?”

“She’s been around nothing but sentries for god knows how long. She doesn’t need to think that’s what surrounding her right now.”

“Well...you should be good. But I’d be careful. Any lightheadedness and I would suggest putting it back on.”

“Got it.” Shiro replied, going to his helmet and unlocking it with a soft click. He pulled it off and peered back in the small hole, smiling at the little girl. She responded with a blink and shifted, looking at him curiously.

“See? I’m just like you.” He said and she shifted a little bit closer, still wary though. “We’re not here to hurt you, I promise.”

There was hesitance for a moment, before she scooted closer to the entrance of the hole small arms outreached, wanting to be picked up. Shiro didn’t hesitate, leaning as much as he could before scooping her up. He frowned as he stood, adjusting her accordingly.

Maybe it was because he had been spending time with Lance’s family and had grown used to the weight of Lance’s niece and nephew, or maybe it was the fact she was clearly younger than them, but she was too light, way too light in his opinion. She curled up to him, pressing her face in the crook of his neck, silent.

“Oh man…” Hunk remarked softly, “Poor kid. Can’t imagine being here at that age.”

“Let’s get her back to Earth, she needs-”

She however moved and tugged softly on Shiro’s hair, pointing in the opposite direction.

“She wants to go...further into this place?” Hunk asked, glancing at the dark hall. “Why?”

She squirmed to get down, sliding out of Shiro’s grip with relative ease and plodded down the hall, pausing to look back at them, expectantly.

“There might be other survivors, come on.” Shiro replied, quickly following her as she scampered down the hall. Shiro’s nerves on alert as the further they went in the more damaged the cells were. “Be on alert. We don’t know if there are any other galra or anyone else here.” He added, earning an affirmative from the rest of the team as they followed her through the dark halls spotting her as she turned and crawled under a damaged door. Peering into the room found it was almost impossible to see with the shadows in the room. It took a few moments before they could see a very still shape lying on the ground

“Hunk, give me a hand.” Lance said, returning his bayard to its holder, heading over the door with his friend. The two Paladins grunted with exertion but the door screeched slowly open.

A groan softly echoed and Shiro blinked, his heart skipping a beat. It couldn’t be. Pidge shone her flashlight in there, and shifting over the little girl who was looking at them, standing next to a form laying on the ground, covered by a thin blanket.

Shiro felt as though he had been suckerpunched.

“Adam?!”

Shiro was by the prone’s man side in an instant. Keith snapped out of the stupor and cursed under his breath.

“Coran, we’re going to need a medic when we get back to the Atlas!”

Whatever the response was, was lost to Shiro as he began to assess Adam, pressing fingers against his throat, trying to remain calm as he tried to get a heartbeat.

It was faint and slow, but much to his relief, still there.

Adam sluggishly inhaled, eyes fluttering as they struggled to open. Shiro’s own breath constricted in his chest, his eyes burning. A small form situated itself next to Adam and Shiro looked up to see the girl sitting there, patting his hand in a soothing manner, tiny fingers wrapping around several of Adam’s. Slowly Adam’s hand wrapped around hers, and he forced his eyes open, glazed over from fever and exhaustion. He stared weakly up, blinking several times as though he couldn’t process who was looking down at him.

“Ta….shi…?”

Shiro let out a choked sob, brushing back long strands of hair from Adam’s face.“Yeah...yeah it’s me. I’m right here.”
He looked so different. His hair was longer now, and his once pristine glasses were horribly cracked on one lense. And even in this lighting, Shiro could see a multitude of scars etched into him; one starting at Adam’s hairline traveling south, ending at his nose, a long thin scar over the corner of his mouth, burn scars wrapped around his throat…

“What did they do to you?” He whispered and Adam shuddered in response. He looked at Adam, cupping his cheek and the other man stared at him, blinking slowly as though convincing himself this was all real. His eyes began to glimmer, a tear tracking it’s way down the side of Adam’s face.

“Shi...s...rry…”

“No, no...sshhh...it’s fine. You’re going to be fine.” Shiro whispered, cupping Adam’s head softly. “I’m going to have to move you, okay? We’re getting you out of here.” Adam shifted wearily, glancing around, looking for something...or someone. Shiro glanced at the little girl, who was staring at him, realization settling in.

“Lance.”

Lance didn’t even question it, instead heading over to the little girl, who stiffened, staring at him with distrust. He pulled off his helmet, offering a grin.

“Hey there, I’m Lance. Red Paladin of Voltron.”

The girl blinked and then glanced down as Lance offered her his helmet, before looking back up at him.

“If you want, you can listen to what everyone is saying and wear this while we’re getting to our ship.” Lance said with a wink and the little girl shyly glanced at the helmet again, before holding her hands out. He handed it to her and clumsily she put it on, blinking several times as she stared at them through the visor. Lance easily picked her up and she settled into his arms, looking over to where Adam was as Shiro helped him sit up up, slowly wrapping an arm around Adam.

“Alright Adam. On three. One...two...three!”

He stood, dragging Adam up who leaned heavily on Shiro, favoring one leg over the other. Shiro stumbled at the dead weight before Keith hurried over, taking Adam’s other side. Adam slumped forward, barely conscious. Shiro felt his stomach turning in knots.

“Shiro. Let’s go.” Keith said and Shiro nodded and the entire group hurried out of cell.


He was alive.

He had been alive the entire time.

The hope that he had been shoving down flooded through him, making him weak-kneed. But he had to keep it together. He had to.

For Adam.

Shiro could barely breathe as the Black Lion opened its jaw and he and Keith hopped in, dragging the barely conscious Adam along with them. Shiro glanced at the others, noting the girl’s growing panicked expression as she saw Lance head to a different lion. She kept staring at them as the Red Lion’s jaw closed, and Shiro felt guilt flood through him.

“I have to go pilot the Black Lion.” Keith said and Shiro nodded, resituating his weight as Keith moved away and hurried into the cockpit. Shiro slid down slowly, cradling Adam in his lap. The other man shivered, face flushed with fever. Shiro brushed the bangs back.

“It’s okay. You’re going to be...you’re going to be okay.” Shiro muttered over and over again.

“Taka...shi…”

“Yeah...yeah it’s me.” Shiro said, looking at Adam, but the man’s eyes were closed. Shiro swallowed, tears burning in his eyes, as Adam leaned into him, relaxing. Shiro cupped the back of Adam’s neck, pressing him close, just wanting the other man know he wasn’t alone. It seemed to take hours to reach The Atlas, when it was probably only a few minutes. Shiro clung to the man passed out in his lap, listening to the slow heartbeat that was just underneath his fingertips. He was alive. He was alive. It was a mantra repeating in his head, so focused on that he only realized they had arrived when he heard Keith’s footsteps and looked up. Keith was silent as he helped the two stand again and exited the lion. Medics swarmed around them, but Shiro’s focus turned to the Red Lion as it landed. The Lion had barely opened the jaw before the little girl had exited and was dashing over to where they were, ignoring Lance’s calls before she spotted the men in the hazmat suits. She froze as she stared at the other adults, then backpedaled at the sight of the stretcher, eyes wide in panic. Shiro moved away from Adam, hurrying over to her.

“Hey, hey it’s okay.” Shiro said, picking her up. Her struggles grew frantic, trying to kick him to get free.

“What is she-”

“Mars.”

Both the girl and Shiro looked over at where Adam was, supported now only by Keith. His focus was solely on her, his gaze the most coherent Shiro had seen since his rescue.

“It’s...it’s going to be alright.” He said tiredly, squeezing his eyes shut, before forcing them open and looking at her, his focus fading quickly. The girl made a small sound, the first noise any of them had heard from her, her bottom lip wobbling. Shiro scrambled, trying to think of something, anything to keep her calm.

“I’ll stay with you, okay? How about that?” He finally suggested and she looked up at him, the one green eye searching his face for any hint of a lie. “Then after everything we can go back to Adam okay? I won’t leave you alone.”

The girl’s grip tightened on Shiro and she let out a soft sniff and they watched Keith hand Adam over, to being wheeled away. Keith glanced at Shiro, the two sharing a silent exchange before nodding and following Adam as Shiro went in the other direction, Hunk and Lance tagging along, with the little girl clutching him tightly. He recognized Doctor Ami Yang as she ushered him into the room, but as the little girl glanced at her and shuddered, burrowing her face back into his neck.

“I feel you. I’m not fond of doctors much either.” Shiro said good-naturedly trying to lighten the mood. She glanced up at him. “But don’t worry, they’re really nice here.”

“Captain, I think you all should step out of the room.” Yang said

“I promised I’d stay here, and I am.” Shiro replied to Yang as a nurse handed him one of the lead apron.

“I will be doing an X-ray. Your arm could compromise the machine.”

“Here, we’ll hold onto it.” Hunk offered, earning a snicker from Lance and the yellow paladin paused, “That was weird...did that sound weird?”

“Yeah Hunk, it did.”

“Well I mean, it makes sense right?”

“Not arguing with you there buddy, still sounded weird.”

Whatever Hunk’s response was vanished as the door slid shut. Shiro offered a soft chuckle, before looking at the little girl and settling her on the hospital bed. Gently she squeezed his index and middle finger and Shiro swallowed. She was so small and yet she was trying so hard to be brave. She looked at him and he offered a smile.

“It’ll be alright. I promise. I’ll be right here.” He whispered softly squeezing her hand and slowly she nodded. He looked up at Yang, before nodding.

“Let’s get this started.”


Keith stared through the window, stared as medics moved around Adam, taking his vitals, recording data. He shoved his hands into his pockets, frowning.

“Keith?”

The Black Paladin turned, looking over and offering an attempt at a smile as Lance made his way over to him.

“Hey.”

“How is he?”

“Stable at the moment.” Keith admitted with an exhale. “They’re a bit worried about his leg though.”

“What? Why? What’s wrong with it?”

“There must have been a pretty bad break recently. It didn’t healed right and they think there’s an infection going on.”

“Ow.”

“...how’s the girl?”

“Clinging to Shiro and really, really doesn’t like the doctors around her...not that I can blame her.” Lance admitted and Keith looked over at him. “I doubt the Galra were exactly kind to her when they did anything medical related.”

“Probably not.” Keith replied. They were silent for a few moments before Keith heard Lance shifting.

“What about you? How are you?”

“I wasn’t injured in the fight, so I’m all good.We can get some intel to-”

“That’s not what I meant, Keith.” Lance interrupted, folding his arms. “How are you?”

Keith was quiet for a moment, before slumping back against the wall.

“...I don’t know.” Keith finally admitted. “I mean, he was alive. All this time he was alive. How am I supposed to feel about this?”

Lance shrugged, walking over and leaning against the wall next to Keith.

“Dunno man. It’s a lot to take in, in my opinion.”

Keith was quiet, before swallowing, pushing his hair back.

“Yeah.”

“...Were you two close?”

“Sort of? I don’t know. He was...I don’t know. They always invited me over for dinner, looked out for me, that sort of thing. He was like another parent to me. And when everyone thought Shiro was dead, he tried...really, really hard to be there for me. And I was horrible to him.”

“You were grieving.”

“Doesn’t mean I wasn’t awful to him.” Keith muttered. Lance was silent, almost uncharacteristically so, until Keith felt a hand press on the other side of his head and force him to lean it against Lance’s shoulder. He almost protested, but the sentiment was felt and his vision blurred.

“I won’t say a word. Being your right-hand man and all that.”

Keith let out a weak snort as the world blurred before he silently nodded, closing his eyes, accepting the comfort where it was. It was quiet as the two men just stared at the window, for awhile Keith figured. It was a comfort one that made his heart skip a beat. But silence wasn’t Lance’s forte and he felt him shift his shoulder, before Lance sighed.

“So I was wondering, Mom suggested I invite you guys over for dinner. Hunk will eat anything, Pidge probably will too. Allura’s curious about human food..what about you? If you want I can ask her to make something that you like. Anything in particular?”

It was a distraction, changing the subject.

Keith couldn’t be anymore relieved.

“Lance, I guarantee your Mom could burn something and it would taste better than the goo and whatever that shit the Blade had for food.”

Lance let out a laugh, leaning into Keith.

“Roger that, Team Leader.”


It had been a few hours, Shiro was sure of it as he shifted to get comfortable in the seat next to Adam’s bed. The little girl was curled up to Adam, fast asleep. Now in silence, without the hustle and bustle of everyone around him, asking questions, trying to find answers, helping freed prisoners, now just staring out the window looking at the endless vast of space as they made their way back to Earth, it was so quiet, deathly so.

So when Adam exhaled slowly, shifting slightly and letting out a soft hiss, and his eyes opened up, staring up at the soft light above him, it was startling. His gaze scanned the room, before settling on Shiro, blinking several times.

“Takashi…?” He murmured, lips barely moving. Shiro smiled weakly, eyes burning.

“Yeah...it’s me.”

“You’re alive…” Adam whispered, his voice cracking a little bit, his eyes glittering. “I thought you were dead.”

“I could say the same about you.” Shiro replied, clearing his throat. Adam blinked several times offering a weak smile. A smile that sent Shiro’s heart skipping.

“My death was greatly exaggerated.” He murmured and Shiro let out a breathy laugh.

“You and your movie quotes.” He murmured and Adam offered a small smile, blinking inquisitively.

“...what happened to your hair?”

“Honestly, why is that the first thing everyone notices?” Shiro teased and Adam let out a weak laugh.

“”Well excuse me...would you prefer me...to discuss your arm...or the fact that you’re now ripped?”

“Ripped, definitely the ripped part.” Shiro replied with a chuckle, cupping Adam’s cheek. A shudder passed through him, and he swallowed.

“This isn’t a dream.” Adam muttered finally, almost in realization. “This is real. Actually real?”

“Yes. This is real. It isn’t a dream.”

Adam let out a weak sound, one of relief.

“Oh thank God. I was beginning to think I was lying to Mar…”

Adam trailed off, his eyes abruptly widening before suddenly trying to sit up.

“Maris, where-”

He hissed in pain and Shiro stood quickly, gently pushing Adam back down.

“Hey, hey. Easy. If you’re talking about the little girl, she’s right next to you.” Shiro assured and Adam looked down, exhaling in relief at the small girl pressed against his side.

“She...She’s alright?”

“Yes. A little malnourished and dehydrated, but fine. She basically passed out right after she realized she was back with you.”

Adam exhaled weakly, running a hand over the top of her head, shaking in relief. Shiro offered a slight smile, looking at the girl, before back at Adam, swallowing.

Might as well bite the bullet.

“She...ah...is she…?”

“...she’s not mine, but I’m the closest person she has to a parent right now.” Adam admitted softly as the girl snoozed next to him. Shiro blinked.

“What happened to her parents?”

The little girl twitched, curling further into Adam’s side. Adam rubbed her back comfortingly and she calmed instantly, her thumb finding its way into her mouth.

“I don’t know. All that I can figure is that she was born on the ship, and probably her mother was killed or died in labor.”

“Wait, wait...she was born on the ship?”

“I think so? She was a baby when she was literally thrown at us. And considering how small she was…” Adam trailed off before shaking his head, “the Galra who was our warden said that what happened to her would depend on how we behaved.”

Shiro swallowed, before looking at the girl.

“So..the name Maris? And the nickname Mars?”

“Cass named her.” Adam admitted with a smile. “Petra thought it was cute. The nickname just came from that.”

“So it had nothing to do with that being one of your favorite planets?”

“...No comment.”

Shiro mouth twitched into something resembling a smile as Adam laughed, before he stared at Shiro.

“...What about the others?” Adam finally asked.

Shiro stilled, blinking before looking back at Adam. He hesitated. How was he going to tell him that of the Black Squadron, only he was the survivor? How could he tell Adam that probably only a few days ago, at least five others had been alive, but now they were gone, suffocated to death?

How was he going to tell him that?

However, it seemed his expression said it all as Adam’s grip tightened on Shiro’s hand. Shiro swallowed before shaking his head, wordlessly confirming what Adam already knew now. Adam let out a wounded sound, before staring at the ceiling, silent and still. The tears gathered and silently fell down Adam’s face. Shiro clutched Adam’s hand, swallowing thickly around the knot building in his throat. Adam looked at him, brows furrowing.

“Stay?” He forcibly whispered, looking at Shiro with desperation and Shiro gave a watery smile, running a thumb over Adam’s knuckle.

“Always.”

He pulled his seat as close as he could to Adam’s beside, refusing to let go of the other’s man hand. Adam tried to smile, desperately so, but it wavered and broke all together, and the beginnings of a sob escaping. Shiro felt tears burn down his cheeks too.

“I’m so sorry Baby…” He whispered and Adam squeezed his eyes shut as he inhaled shakily and Shiro could only clutch his hand, unable to say or do anything but be support.

He was alive.

But Shiro secretly wondered now if it was a blessing or a curse.

Chapter Text

Shiro didn’t know how long he sat there, gripping Adam’s hand tightly as the other man grieved for the loss of his team. He didn’t say anything, because he didn’t have the right to. Not after what Adam had lost. Soon however, he heard the unmistakable sound of a stomach begging for food and Adam shifted, almost as though he was embarrassed.

“...When was the last time you ate?”

“An actual meal?” Adam asked weakly with a snort, “I honestly can’t remember.”

Shiro was quiet, before reluctantly pulling his hand out of Adam’s grip as the idea entered his mind. He could feel Adam staring at him as he went to his bag, and pulling out the familiar box that he had received a little while ago, silently thanking the heavens for it.

“Here.”

“What is it? Because I have a suspicion you’re cooking didn’t improve that much when you were in space.” Adam remarked dryly and Shiro rolled his eyes.

“It’s my mother’s if you must know.” He replied petulantly, though there was no heat in it.

“Oh thank god.”

“My cooking wasn’t that bad.”

Adam shot him a look, glancing down as Maris shifted and sat up, wiping at her eyes sleepily. She sniffed the air, looking at Shiro in confusion. He smiled and lifted the lid spotting a heaping pile of white rice and pulled some out, holding it out for her. She looked at it hesitantly, glancing at Adam who nodded and after another moment of hesitance, took it, taking a small nibble. Her eyes widened and she shoved the small handful into her mouth. Shiro smiled.

Bingo.

They were slow about it, Shiro not wanting to make things worse if they ate too quickly. Adam apparently relishing his first taste of human food in three years, and Maris seeming to be just amazed at solid food. Shiro made a mental note to ask Hunk to make some other type of food, or at least ask if he had some recipes he could make. Soon however, another officer entered the small room, informing Shiro that they were approaching Earth. Adam glanced at him, offering a tired smile.

“You probably should head out, hm?” He suggested.

“They don’t need me to land.”

“You’re the Captain of this ship right?”

“Well yeah, but…”

“Then go.” Adam said softly, rubbing his thumb over Shiro’s knuckle. “I’ll be fine. I’ve survived worse.”

Shiro didn’t want to think about how truthful it was.

“...Alright. Just so you know, you’ll probably be transported to the Garrison hospital so you and Maris can be looked over more thoroughly along with other prisoners. I’ll...I’ll see you soon.” Adam nodded, offering a weak smile as a response. He swallowed and quickly, before his nerves got the best of him, kissed the back of Adam’s hand before standing and hurrying out of the room.


“Here you go.”

“Thank you, Paladin.” One of the prisoners said, looking at Hunk, taking the offered cup.

“We were sure we were going to pass by the hands Sendak and his men.” One alien said, his many eyes blinking owlishly, as though in shock.

“We’re happy to be of help.” Allura assured them.

“How is the youngling?”

“The youngling? Who...oh! You mean the little human girl?”

“She was located, was she not?”

“Yeah! Yeah, she’s fine.”

“That is joyous news. We’ve all witnessed her grow in the time since she could walk. That she is now found and freed is a relief. Where is she?”

“She’s with Adam Woolf right now.”

“Adam...Woolf? You mean The Conqueror?”

“The...Conqueror?” Hunk repeated, looking at Keith who had stiffened.

“Yes. The humans that raised the youngling were quite formable in combat. They attracted the attention of our Galra enslavers. To protect her, they would fight other prisoners and warriors. Several were talented in the ring; the one female was given the name Vanquisher, another male was called Defeator. But the Conqueror was chosen to fight the most out of the them, even volunteering for the bloodshed. Something he must have loved. He-”

Keith stood abruptly and stormed out.

“Keith! Keith, wait!”

Lance hurried after him.

“Keith!”

“He didn’t volunteer to fight!” Keith snapped, spinning around. Lance slid to a stop, before nodding.

“You’re right.”

“He didn’t!”

“Yeah, he didn’t.”

“He wasn’t some bloodthirsty monster!”

“He wasn’t.” Lance repeated softly as Keith slid to the ground, covering his face. Lance walked over and settled next to Keith.

“He wasn’t a monster.” Keith repeated in a whisper.

“I know. He was one of our professors when we were in the academy. And he was one of the nicer ones. I remember him because he was willing to take the blame for us if he thought another professor was being too harsh. He protected us.”
Keith shifted as Lance glanced at him.

“And I guarantee that the reason he volunteered so often for these fights, wasn’t because he loved to fight, but because he was trying to protect his teammates, and the little girl.” Lance continued and Keith rubbed his face, exhaling shakily.

“...How am I going to tell Shiro?”

“What do you mean?”

“You really think it isn’t a coincidence that the Galra let Adam and the few Black Squadron members live? The other prisoners, the human ones at least, were probably to be experimented on. But them? They probably reminded them of Shiro...their Champion.” Keith spat angrily. “How am I going to tell Shiro that?”

Lance was quiet as they sat there.

“Keith...you’re going to have to just tell him that they were forced to fight. You don’t have to explain your theory that they kept them alive for sport because they wanted to see if they were like him, but he needs to know. If anything to help Adam.”

“...I know.” Keith said. “I just…” he trailed off before looking at Lance. “Would you be willing to sit in when I tell him?” He asked. Lance blinked in surprise. It was the opposite of the Keith he remembered. After a moment, Lance nodded.

“Sure. Whatever you need.”

Keith was quiet, resting his head against the wall, and as Lance looked at him, the exhaustion of the day creeping up in Keith’s expression became obvious. Worry and guilt flooded in. He shouldn’t have been surprised about the way Keith was, and honestly it was a mistake to think he would have been fine with all this. He may be Keith Kogane, current Black Paladin of Voltron, half-Galra, but he was still human. He was still human and he had gone through so much and lost so much because of this stupid war.

Before he realized it, he had pulled Keith into a hug, the other man stiffening in surprise, his arms at his sides for a moment, before wrapping around Lance’s sides, face pressing into Lance’s neck.

“Maybe you should go and visit Adam.”

“I don’t want to be in the way.”

“Come on, you won’t. He’s family, and I bet he wants to see you.”

“You sound sure.”

“Keith, you said that he tried to be there for you after Shiro was presumed dead...the first time...if he thought you were in the way, he wouldn’t have tried that. He would have just left you alone.”

“...yeah. I guess.”

“Just go and visit him, Mullet.”

“When are you going to stop calling me that?” Keith asked with a roll of his eyes and glanced up. His mouth went dry at the warm expression etched on Lance’s face, and Lance brushed back strands of hair with a grin.

“It suits you.” He joked and stood, patting away unseen dirt from his pants and walking away. Keith stared at him, his face turning red and he covered his mouth.

A memory came unbidden to the front of his mind, a flash of the future when he was in the Quantum Abyss. Glistening waves, the sound of seagulls crying into the air, laughter echoing around him. A smiling boy extended a hand towards him. His chest warming, fluttering as that familiar laugh echoed.

“Come on Mullet, scared of a little water?”

“...oh Quiznak.”


He really, really wished he had argued a bit more on heading to the Bridge. Because this was turning out to be something he was regretting, Shiro groused as he trudged along other officials, debriefing them on what they had discovered in the prison ship. What he wanted to do was find where Adam was and make sure he was doing alright, and make sure Maris was comfortable. They had already gone through enough. The didn’t need anymore trauma or stress.

“Oh hello, Shiro.”

Shiro paused and relaxed as he spotted the Holt matriarch walking up to him.

“Hey Colleen. How is everything?”

“It’s been fine. We’ve brought Adam and his ward into a private room for him to recover. Doctor’s are still a little worried about his leg, but that is a bridge we’ll have to cross when we get there.”

Shiro frowned, glancing back towards the group of officials. Colleen glanced over and smiled.

“Why don’t you go see Adam?”

“I want to, but-”

“If they start complaining, I’m Sam will figure out an excuse. You’ve done enough for the planet. Missing a meeting or two won’t end the world.” Colleen said with a smile as Shiro looked at her.

“You sure? Sam likes meetings about as much as I do.”

“You saved our son, and then protected our daughter. This is the very least he could do.” She said softly. Shiro glanced back once more and then, with a nod, hurried the direction of the hospital ward. He stopped every now and then chatting with those who stopped him.
Finally he made it to the room he’d been directed too and opened it, just in time to watch Maris bury her face into Adam’s chest, the older man chuckling.

“It’s just a haircut, sweetheart. Don’t be stubborn.” Adam said. Shiro laughed, and Adam looked up, before smiling.

“Bad hair day?”

“In her opinion. She’s not used to having her hair cut.”

Maris buried her face further into his chest and Shiro smirked as Adam brushed her hair back.

“Come on Mars, don’t be shy. Takashi’s nice and he won’t make fun of your hair.”

“Promise.” Shiro added and reluctantly Maris looked up, clearly pouting.

It seemed that the doctors had finally managed to get her to change out of her old clothes and cleaned her up. Tangled black hair was now straight cut short just below her ears, and she was no longer wearing a prisoner outfit, but a small dress that was likely donated by Lance’s older brother from his niece Amanda’s hand-me-down collection. It was a bit bigger than her, but it was better than that Galra prisoner outfit she had been wearing. She didn’t look like a prisoner anymore. Just a little girl. What she should have been all along, Shiro thought angrily, before shrugging it away.

“So who did her hair?”

“Your mother. She came in for a visit. Went right to gossiping with me like nothing had changed.” Adam admitted with a smile, earning a laugh. There was a comfortable silence for a few moments. Adam glanced at him and gave a slight smile.

“Hi.”

“...Hi.” Shiro breathed.

“I’m surprised you’re here right now. Your Mom said you would probably be in meetings all afternoon.”

“It’s more like I ran away and am in hiding. They’re relentless. Makes me glad I started out as a pilot and not a diplomat.”

“Oh no...poor Takashi Shirogane. Trapped in a meeting. Worse than death.” Adam teased and Shiro rolled his eyes.

“So...how are you feeling?”

“Better. Leg still hurts, but I have a feeling that is something I’m going to have to get used to.” Adam assured him, gesturing to the cast on his leg and though he looked marginally better but it did little to erase Shiro’s worries. Instead of voicing it, however, he shook his head.

“Has Keith come over?”

“I don’t think so. Then again he could have come over when I was asleep. The Garrison does not mess around with drugs.”

“No, no they do not.” Shiro affirmed with a chuckle. “I still remember when I came back from the Galra, and Iverson knocked me out while I was trying to warn them about the Galra.”

Adam frowned.

“I didn’t know you had come back until Sam returned. They hadn’t told me.”

Shiro blinked, and then frowned.

“I’m sorry...you should have been told.”

“Not your fault…it’s fine.”

“No, it’s not fine.” Shiro refuted. “Adam, you should have been told.”

Adam was quiet, before sighing.

“So...what happened to you?”

Shiro blinked.

“I joked about the hair earlier, but I want to know what happened. Sam told me what he knew...but even then I think he was trying to shield me from the worst of it.”

“It’s not...pretty.” Shiro said after a moment, Adam casting him a look.

“I think I can handle it.” Adam said and Shiro nodded after a moment. Adam was quiet throughout his story, just sitting in his hospital bed, running his thumb over his knuckle, pressing against a particular joint during harder parts of the story; his arm being removed, the gladiator ring, dying...that one in particular had Adam gripping his hand tightly. Maris was quiet...then again she was strangely quiet the entire time. Maybe there was something wrong with her throat, maybe she should have that checked. But that didn’t matter right now. Shiro didn’t stop in his tale or rather wouldn’t once he had started. It was as though his story was a boulder rolling downhill, unable to stop until the end.

And the end was met with silence

“So...you really did die?” Adam said after a few minutes of silence. Shiro swallowed before nodding.

“I got better.” He said and Adam let out a weak snort.

“God, Takashi.”

“I’m fine. Really.”

“Somehow dying and winding up in suspended animation inside a mechanized lion before being transferred into a clone like a computer program seems to be the opposite of fine.”

Shiro laughed, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Yeah. I can see why you say that.”

Adam was quiet for a moment, almost hesitating as though he was afraid of the answer.

“I missed you.”

Shiro felt his eyes burn, and he exhaled shakily.

“I missed you too.” He murmured. “So much.”

Adam chuckled softly, brushing back Maris’s hair. Shiro looked at the little girl and offered a smile.

“I don’t think I ever fully introduced myself to you, did I? I’m Takashi Shirogane, but you can call me Shiro for short.”

An innocent blink was her only response and Shiro glanced at Adam.

“Has she never spoken before?” He asked quietly as she continued to stare at him. Adam frowned.

“She had started saying a few words, but she stopped. Nothing we did made her talk again.”

“...maybe we can get Dr. Yang to look that over...With your permission of course.” Shiro added quickly as Adam glanced at him. “Right, that was stupid. Of course you’d have a say. I mean, you’re the closest person she has to a guardian so you would be the one to give Yang permission and-”

“It’s fine, honest Takashi, calm down.” Adam said with a chuckle. “I trust you.”

Shiro blinked several times, as he processed that. He trusted him? After everything, after the hell that he had gone through...he still trusted him?

They wouldn’t have even found him if the rest of the Black Squadron hadn’t died to get a message out. Shiro glanced away, swallowing down the grief. He hadn’t earned the right to grieve. If they had looked harder maybe they would have been found sooner. Maybe the others wouldn’t have died. Maybe-

“...when are the funerals for the others going to be?”

Shiro looked at Adam. He was looking down at his lap a sad expression crossing his face, before it returned to neutral and he looked up at Shiro with a small smile.

“I’d like to go to those.”

“Adam…you don’t have to. Everyone would understand.”

“They were my team. The least I can do is be there for them to...see them off.”

Shiro was quiet, swallowing down the knot that had formed in his throat, offering a soft squeeze to Adam’s hand.

“I’ll find out for you.” He promised and Adam smiled again.

“Thanks.” He said softly. Shiro returned the smile, taking Adam’s hand in his, squeezing it affectionately. A silence filled the air and Shiro swallowed.

“I-”

“I’m sorry.”

Shiro blinked, looking at Adam in surprise

“What I said...that was cruel of me. Putting our relationship over your head as though it was a guillotine. I didn’t get it...I guess it is the best way to put it. That when you’re dying...you want to do something that makes you feel alive.” Adam said softly. “I didn’t understand that. I do now. And I’m sorry, Takashi. So sorry that I put you through that.”

“It’s okay. I mean it, it’s okay.”

They were quiet for a moment, Shiro just staring at Adam, before letting out a soft laugh.

“We’re a downright mess, aren’t we?”

“Disaster gays at their finest.” Adam teased, earning another laugh. Maris let out a sigh and the two men looked at her, chuckling as she stared at them almost annoyed.

“I think we’re being judged.” Shiro commented and Adam snorted.

“Probably.” Adam commented, “she’s very opinionated.”

“Is that right?”

“Reminds me of a certain Captain I know.” Adam replied and Shiro grinned brightly, giving Adam’s hand a light squeeze.

“Reminds me of a certain smart-alec pilot I know.” Shiro shot back.

“You talking about yourself?”

Shiro rolled his eyes, grinning. How easy it was to forget everything when he was with him. If he hadn’t lost his arm and his hair hadn’t gone white, and if Adam hadn’t had any of his scars and was in the hospital, he could almost have easily forgotten what had gone on in the last five years. But he really should have known the peace wouldn’t last forever.

“Captain? Captain Shirogane?”

“...Dammit.” Shiro muttered, looking over his shoulder even as Adam snorted, and spotted a young officer standing there, clearly uncomfortable with having to intrude.

“I’m really sorry Sir, but Commander Iverson is demanding that you be at the debriefing.”

“Of course he is.” Shiro muttered before sighing. “I’ll see you later.”

“I look forward to it.” Adam replied with a smile that sent warmth flooding his stomach. He wanted to kiss him. Really, really, really badly.

But where did they stand now? Before they had been done, over...he didn’t know.

A part of him didn’t want to.

“I...I have to go.”

“Alright.”

“I’ll see you soon.” Shiro promised again and Adam smiled.

“I look forward to it.”

Shiro lingered for a moment longer. Too soon. Too soon.

He didn’t want to leave.

But he finally tore himself away from Adam and followed the officer out of the room.


He had hoped that the debriefing would have been simple, giving a total number on the rescued prisoners, maybe a discussion on why the ship was missed. And they did discuss it.

But now? Now, they were talking about Adam. About the Black Squadron.

It was difficult to listen to. Whatever Iverson was saying slowly vanished as he read Adam’s medical report and the preliminary coroner’s report of the other Black Squadron members.

Nearly all of them had burn scarring, likely from the original battle, though it appeared that several had other burns that came after the initial ones, the most concerning were the ones around their necks. There was also the other scarring, ones Shiro had an inkling about where it came from, but a thought he refused to listen to. His jaw tightened as he read over Adam’s report, listing the variety of scars and past trauma that they had found on him. He swallowed down bile at scars etched at the base of Adam’s spine and hips, his grip tightening on the arm rest.

“-ro?”

He glanced up, blinking as he saw they were now looking at him.

“Right...sorry, what was the the question again?” He asked, praying they didn’t ask what was wrong.

It seemed whatever was watching over them was merciful because no one asked him.

“Is there any information about the little girl that Officer Woolf had? We can see if we can locate her family.” Sam asked. Shiro sighed before shaking his head.

“No. From what Adam believes, it is likely that Maris was born on the ship.”

It became so quiet everyone could hear a pin drop, and glancing around, he saw that many of their jaws had dropped.

“She was born there?” Sam repeated after a moment, looking almost sick.

“...probably.”

“Some of the other prisoners might vouch for that.” Hunk added. “A few of them said that she’d been there pretty much since Sendak had attacked Earth.”

“Yeah. And that they’ve watched over her since she could walk.” Lance added.

“So there’s a high chance she was born in space?” A scientist with long curly brown hair asked.

“Yes.”

“...We’ll have to do studies on it to make sure of course. If it is the case-”

“Wait, wait. Studies? No. No way. She’s not some animal to be experimented on.” Lance snapped.

“We never said experiments, but if the girl was originally born in space, we’ll need to observe her to see what changes there are now that she’s on Earth.”

“That sure sounds like experimenting on her.” Hunk muttered, crossing his arms.

“The girl-”

“Maris.”

“Come again?” One of the scientists, Pax Jefferson, if Shiro remembered correctly, said blinking. Shiro frowned, standing up.

“Her name is Maris. Not ‘the girl’, not ‘it’. Maris. It’s the name Adam and the members of the Black Squadron that had initially survived gave her, and that’s her name. And she’s not going to be a test subject to see how space affected her at birth. We’ve never done that before to expectant mothers or infants for a reason, Dr. Jefferson.”

“With all due respect Captain, it’s not really your call.”

“I agree with Captain Shirogane.” Sam replied coolly, before any of the Paladins could angrily snap back at the scientist. “Disregarding the ethical problems of testing Maris without the consent from her guardians, she’s already uncomfortable with doctors and she’s just gotten to Earth. Nothing good will come from putting her on display.”

“She doesn’t have a guardian.”

“Adam is.” Keith snapped. “He’s been her guardian since she was born. Just because there isn’t paperwork to go along with it, doesn’t make him any less of one.”

“Kogane-”

“Keith’s right. You’re just trying to find a loophole.” Lance interrupted.

“But-”

“Jefferson.” Iverson cut off and the scientist went quiet.

“I’m not saying that there probably aren’t changes and that we can’t catalog them. But we aren’t going to separate her from Woolf to observe her for long periods of time and we aren’t carting her around to be looked at like some sort of attraction.” Sam said. “Let her doctors and Adam decide what is necessary and unnecessary. And what to look at if there are concerns.”

“...fine.”

Shiro glanced at Jefferson, noting the look of anger on his face. There was no way that this conversation was over. Not by a long shot. He frowned, returning his attention to the meeting. As the meeting adjourned, he could see several of the scientists glaring at them and sighed. It couldn’t get much worse, could it?

“Shiro?”

Shiro paused, looking back at Keith.

“Shiro...there’s...there’s something I need to tell you.”

“What? What is it?” He asked as Lance leaned against the table, nodding at Keith. Keith sighed.

“It’s...It’s about Adam. I think you should know what he went through in the last three years.”

Shiro froze.

Apparently, yes...yes it could get much, much worse.


He felt numb as he walked down the halls heading to his room, he slumped forward as he entered the room, the door sliding shut behind him. He rubbed his face. Apparently he didn’t have any more tears in him, because if there was a time to cry, now would have been good.

“Perhaps it would be worth the trip to your planet to see if the rest of your kind have your spirit.”

He exhaled shakily, dragging a hand through his hair. His fault. This was all his fault. He had not

True, if he hadn’t made such a damn impression on the Galra, Adam and the others would have probably been killed right away. But he wondered if that would have been the better fate than the hell they had gone through for three years.

“Takashi?”

He looked over his shoulder and exhaled shakily at the sight of his mother standing in entrance, a sad expression on her face.

“Hey Mom. Sorry I didn’t stop by. It’s been a long day.”

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah I...yeah. I’m fine. Just tired.” He replied. She was quiet for a moment entering his room, the door closing behind her.

“Because of Adam?”

His throat ached suddenly and he looked away, before nodding, suddenly unable to speak.

“Takashi-”

“Things need to be done.” He said quickly. He didn’t want to have this conversation. Not now. Not ever, if he was lucky. “Adam’s name needs to get off the damn memorial wall for starters. The family’s of the Black Squadron members that passed away need to be contacted and funeral arrangements need to be made.”

“I’m sure Iverson has that covered.”

“Adam’s family needs to be contacted. They should know that he’s alive.”

“Alright, fine. I’ll do it.”

“But you-”

“Kashi. Look at me.”

Shiro froze. He didn’t know if it was the tone his mother had, or the fact he hadn’t heard that nickname in years, but he finally looked at her, her expression soft and understanding. His breath stuttered.

“He was alive...Mom, he was...he was alive and he was in that hell that...that I was in...and-and I...I didn’t...they hurt him Mom. He...they...I didn’t stop them, I-I-”

Something in him snapped.

He felt his legs give, shakily sitting on the nearby chair, tears sliding down his face. He apparently did have tears left after all. When he felt his mother’s presence in front of him, he rushed to it, like he had when he had been a child, wrapping his arms around her waist, pulling her close. The first sob broke through as his mother gently ran her fingers through his hair.

“You did all that you could have done given what you knew, Takashi.” She soothed softly. “Adam won’t fault you for that.”

“They hurt him, Mom. Those reports...t-they hurt him. And they enjoyed it. I know they enjoyed it.”

“I know.”

“He was there for three years...three…” He whispered, tears burning down his face.

“I know.”

“Just...just why...why did it have to be him? He didn’t deserve this.” He forced out, his throat aching.

“No he didn’t. He didn’t deserve this, Kashi. But you have to realize that that wasn’t your fault. You were galaxies away when this happened.”

“They let them live because they wanted to see if they were like I was in the arena. They used them like that. And Adam? They used him for worse things. I’m sure of it.”

“That isn’t your fault.”

“But Mom-”

“Takashi, any one of us knows you would have taken their place in an instant. That is you. That has always been you. Adam knows this too.”

“But...But he blames himself, Mom. He...he thinks his team’s death is his fault. And I can’t fix it. I can’t make that hurt go away.”

“Nothing can make it go away, Kashi. Nothing will take away that pain. But you can be there for him.”

“How can that help?”

“It will help make the pain manageable. For the both of you. You love him, Kashi. And he loves you.”

“You don’t know that. Mom, he and I...we broke things off...we…”

“He loves you, Takashi. Make no mistake about it. A mother knows, remember.” Tsukiko promised.

“But I didn’t protect him!”

“You’re just one man, Kashi.” Tsukiko said and the tears fell down Shiro’s face.

“I want to help him.”

“And you will.”

“How? How can I make things better? I don’t know…”

“You’re Takashi Shirogane. You’ll find a way.” She said with a smile and he inhaled shakily before nodding. Her smiled gentled, and she cupped his face before she drew him into a hug and he clung to her.

“It’s alright, Kashi. It’s alright.”

Shiro couldn’t help but believe her. He couldn’t help but hope that she was right and that everything was alright.

For a few minutes he just let himself relax in his mother’s hold.

He wasn’t a Paladin, he wasn’t the captain of the Atlas, he wasn’t even the Champion. He was just Takashi Shirogane.

And that was enough.

Chapter Text

She was tiny.

That was what Adam thought whenever he looked at the small girl currently curled up in his arms. She was so tiny. Far tinier than his nephews and niece, far tinier than what he expected a baby to be.

And she was absolutely perfect.

“You are my sunshine...my only sunshine…” He hummed softly, brushing a thumb over the dark hair adorning her head and she squirmed in her sleep. “You make me happy, when skies are gray…”

She wouldn’t see a gray sky...she wouldn’t ever see a sunrise or a sunset. She won’t know what those things are.

He shook that thought out of his head continuing to sing softly to her. No. She would see those. She would. He was sure of it.

“You never know...how much I love you…”

“How is she?” He heard and looked up towards the connecting vent.

“Sleeping right now.” Adam replied and he heard Cassandra Nash snort.

“She certainly likes to sleep.”

“Well it’s better than crying.” Another voice; Jason’s, rang out. Adam was quiet, trying to keep as still as possible. It became too much however as the ache of his wounds began to sting. He hissed softly as he shifted, trying to get comfortable, listening to the prattle of the remains of his team. Footsteps echoed down the hall and all other conversations stopped, tension filling the air. Adam’s heart reached his throat and his grip tightened on Maris.

Closer.

Closer.

The door to his cell opened and his grip on Maris was like a vice. She began to squirm, the throes of sleep beginning to wane. A sentry stood there, a guard behind him.

“Inmate 933-1937. Get up.”

He hesitated, looking at Maris. He hesitated for only a moment.

A moment too long.

Suddenly Maris was snatched out of his grip, pulled away and he was slammed to the ground, leaving him gasping for breath. Startled out of her sleep, and now empty of the warmth that had surrounded her, Maris let out a wail, much to the guards disgust. Adam’s eyes widened in panic and he scrambled, trying to stand.

“No! Don’t hurt her!!”

“Silence, Inmate 93Z93.”

“Stop! She’s just sc-”

The kick was swift, and winded him before he was pressed into the floor again. Maris continued to scream squirming in the sentry’s hold. The two began to shrink as they moved farther and farther away. He was losing her. He was losing her!

“No! Maris!! Maris!!”

MARIS!!

“Maris!”

Adam flung himself up, gasping in pain and clutched his side as pain burned through his side straight to his leg. His mind whirled. Maris. He needed to find her. She was in danger, she was-

“Adam?”

He looked up, blinking several times as Keith stared at him, slowly standing up from where he was seated, picking Maris up from his lap, and walking over to him. She looked at him in concern, arms stretching to him.

“Keith?”

“Yeah, it’s uh….yeah.” Keith muttered setting Maris down on the bed, the little girl crawling over to him, concerned. Adam let out a shaky breath, ruffling her hair. “Are you...do you need me to get a doctor or something?”

“No, no. I’m fine.” Adam said, letting out another shaky breath as he settled back down. “Sorry. Bad dream.”

“Don’t apologize.” Keith said immediately sitting back down in a nearby chair. Adam glanced at Maris and then at Keith.

“She wasn’t bothering you?”

"No. She was just drawing with some crayons Veronica got her.” Keith said with a shrug, gesturing behind him. “She’s well...never seen them before so she’s having a lot of fun.”

“Ah.”

Awkward silence filled the void as they watched each other. Adam couldn’t believe that the short scrawny kid that had basically become Shiro’s shadow was standing in front of him. Now he was tall, strong, mature. Even though he was sporting that scar (honestly, what was with the people in his life and scars???), he was still Keith.

“I...can go...if you want, I mean-”

“Stay. It’s fine. You’re always welcome here, Keith.”

Keith visibly flinched at that, looking down. Adam blinked, then frowned.

“Keith?”

“I’m sorry.”

Adam blinked.

“You’re sorry? For what?”

“We abandoned you. We all just accepted that you were dead and-”

“My plane blew up. I’d think I was dead too if I had witnessed that from the ground. And you were in space, galaxies away. Why would I be upset with you?”

Keith looked down at his lap.

“Because of the galra.”

“...I’m not connecting the dots here, and I feel like I’ve missed something. Why would I be upset at you for the Galra? They were bound to attack us eventually.” Adam asked in confusion, glancing up as the door opened. He stiffened, and Maris pressed herself into his lap, latching onto him with a deathgrip. The Galran woman stepped in, but remained at the door, and for that Adam was grateful for. His grip tightened on Maris. If this was some idea of a joke, so help him-

“This is my mother.”

Adam’s gaze turned to Keith in astonishment, who was the most nervous he had ever seen the boy.

“Her name is Krolia, she...she works with a resistance group. The Blades of Mamora. I was working in the group too, it’s how I met her. She crashed on Earth years ago, met my dad...had me and well...I’m...I’m part Galra.”

Adam looked at Keith in surprise, blinking several times.

“You’re...part Galra?”

“...yeah. Look if your uncomfortable with me, I under-”

“How the heck are you so short then?” Keith blinked several times as Adam offered a smile, glancing at Krolia again. There was still fear, apprehension. But he wasn’t turning him away. “I’ve seen pictures of your dad, and given how tall your mother is, I would think you would have been taller.”
Keith let out a breath, offering a soft chuckle. He was still Keith, that wouldn’t change in Adam’s eyes, and relief winded him as he looked at the older man.

“Yeah, well...I’m taller than the last time you saw me.”

“Still short.”

“You are...Adam, are you not?”

“I am.” Adam replied, looking at Krolia, stiff but clearly trying to relax around her. Maris was not as kind, and clung to Adam in an almost deathgrip, her face pressed into Adam’s chest to the point where Keith was worried of her breaking his ribs. A look of hurt passed over Krolia’s face, but just as quickly vanished.

“Keith told me that you as well as Shiro helped raise him.” She said, voice soft, trying to be as passive as possible, which was difficult giving her size and the armor. Adam’s gaze shifted and he cocked his head to the side. “I’m thankful for that.”

“...well...someone had to make sure Takashi didn’t wind up poisoning Keith. He can’t cook if his life depended on it.” Adam joked and Keith chuckled.

“Yeah, well...your cooking wasn’t that great.”

“Says the kid that learned to cook a bowl of instant noodles and that was it.”

“Hey, those are good!”

“In what place in the universe are those remotely good?” Adam shot back giving Krolia a look, rolling his eyes, before gesturing to Keith.

“See what I had to deal with?” He asked and Krolia couldn’t help but laugh.

“He gets that from his father.”

“Mom!”

Adam snorted, running a calming hand over Maris’s back and she squirmed to look over at the others, still clearly nervous. He looked back at Keith with a slight smile that Keith returned.

“I...guess I should explain from the beginning.” He finally said and Adam snorted, casting a look at Krolia again.

“Well, I’m all ears, Kid.” He said and Keith smiled slightly, nerves kicking in, silently wishing he didn’t have to. He took a deep breath.

And started with the beginning.


“Cookies, definitely cookies.” Hunk muttered as he flipped through the recipes, humming softly as he began to read the list of ingredients, barely registering as he heard footsteps enter the mess hall. He only paused when he heard a chuckle.

“Crystal for your thoughts?”

The Yellow Paladin looked up and brightened as she entered the room.

“Hey Shay.”

The Balmeran’s expression brightened as she walked over, ducking to enter through the kitchen door. “So you are making those cookies?”

“Yeah, making my mom’s recipe. Kind of like your Grandma’s stew recipe.”

“Oh! Is there a special occasion?”

“Why would there need to be an occasion for cookies?” He asked and she chuckled softly and smiled, glancing at the oven before back to him.

“You bake when you are stressed, do you not?”

Hunk flushed before chuckling, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Right, I mentioned that to you didn’t I?”

“You did.” She hummed with a chuckle. He offered a grin, before sighing.

“It’s for Maris.”

“The little one that you found in the Galra ship?”

“Yeah. I figured she would want to try something that was homemade versus nasty hospital food.”

She hummed her agreement. “I can ask my grandmother if she wants to make her some of her stew as well.” She suggested and Hunk forced a grin, though inwardly he shuddered, and wondered how Shiro and Adam would react to that. Probably not well, though they would try to be polite. Then again, anything was probably better than the food she had been given by the Galra, and-

“You are worried for her.”

Hunk glanced back up at the soft expression on Shay’s face. She leaned against the table, head cocking to the side. He sighed.

“She’s only a kid, she never got to experience what it was like to just be one. Play around, laugh, eat cookies until she felt like puking. Instead she was in a cell with the fear of being killed or experimented on as a daily reminder, or losing the closest person she had to a dad.”

“I see.” Shay replied softly.

“She...I just feel so guilty. If we had gotten here earlier, none of that would have happened. She’d have been born on Earth, scientists wouldn’t be vying to get a sample of her, she’d be with her biological parents...just, so much.” Hunk said dimly, scratching his temple. “And then there’s the thing with Professor Woolf and how it wasn’t fair for what he and Shiro had to go through. I was scared to death for my parents and family, but Shiro thought Adam died. Gone. Just like that. And no one really noticed that he was grieving. And he’s still trying so hard to not break down, but you can see he feels guilty that Adam went through all of this.” Hunk explained, hurriedly. “I just...I don’t know...we could have-”

He paused when Shay rested her hand over his, offering a gentle smile.

“You know there is a belief among the Balmerans, that with every choice, every decision, the universe conspires to make it happen. Be it fate or destiny, there’s always a reason for something happening. Even if we don’t know why it happened the way it did.”

“I guess.” Hunk replied with a sheepish grin. “...She’s going to learn what a cookie tastes like, mark my words.”

Shay laughed brightly, looking at the ingredients.

“Can you teach me how to make them?” She asked and his grin brightened.

“Of course I can.”

“Wonderful!” She exclaimed happily, expression lighting up. He grinned, glancing at the entrance of the chow hall. He spotted a flash of green and sighed, rolling his eyes.

“Hey Pidge. Anyone else with you?” He called out and there was a soft curse. A few moments later, Pidge, Lance, Allura, Romelle, and Coran peeked into the room.

“Hey Hunk, buddy.” Lance said with a guilty grin. “How’ve you been?”

“Fine for the last half hour. Which is when you last saw me.” Hunk said with a smirk. Lance cleared his throat, and at least had the decency to look sheepish.

“So...what are you and Shay doing?”

“We were going to make some treats for Maris. Cookies specifically.”

“Oooohhh...your Mom’s?” Lance asked with a grin, Hunk nodded. Romelle cocked her head to the side.

“Are your mother’s cookies any good?”

“Any good? They’re the best!” Hunk huffed, earning a chuckle from everyone else.

“Think you can take a few extra hands?” Lance asked. Hunk glanced at them, all eager to help. He grinned again, rolling up his sleeves.

“Sure.”


Keith shifted uneasily as silence filled the room. Krolia had been pulled away by Kolivan to discuss Blade of the Mamora details, leaving him alone in there.

“So...your mother is Galra.”

“Yeah.”

Keith looked down at his lap, waiting for it.

“Keith, look at me.”

Slowly he did so. His throat burned at the soft look that Adam was giving him.

“Were you that worried that I would be angry at you?”

“Well, I mean you were held captive by the Galra...and with everything they did to Shiro. You and him could have made things work when he got back. Instead you had to live thinking that he was dead, and then the Galra attacked, and you became a prisoner of war, and-”

“None of which Krolia was a part of.” Adam interjected.

“I know, but still…”

“Still what?”

“I’m a part of the empire that hurt...so many people. Why wouldn’t you be angry with me? Or hate me?”

“...does Shiro hate you?”

“What?”

“Does Shiro hate you because of the Galra? Do the others hate you?”

“I...I mean, no.”

Adam smirked.

“So why should I? Forget DNA, you’re still Keith Kogane, the tiny pain in the a-!...butt that followed Shiro everywhere.”

Keith rolled his eyes.

“I was a kid, of course I was short.”

“I noticed how you didn’t argue the pain in my behind part.”

Keith chuckled, glancing back when the door opened. A familiar petite woman entered, and Ami Yang smiled.

“Finally you make an appearance. I was beginning to wonder…”

Keith cleared his throat, looking away as Adam chuckled. Maris pressed herself to Adam, looking at Yang distastefully. The young doctor laughed.

“I know, I know. Not a fan of me. But it’ll be quick, I promise. It’s just a few shots. Then you can go and explore a little bit while we check Adam’s leg.” She promised as Keith moved away. Adam rubbed Maris’s back.

“It’s okay, Mars.”

Maris didn’t seem to agree, but relented, sitting up. Keith moved away, letting Ami walk over as she began a brief exam. A few minutes later, he glanced towards the door, brow furrowing.

That sounded like…

“I’m going to be right outside, okay?”

The older man blinked, brow furrowing in confusion before nodding. With that, Keith stepped outside. Sure enough arguing echoed down it.

“Sir, I understand, but you’re not permitted to-”

“I’ll damn well do as I please, Nurse. Get out of my way.”

“Dr. Jefferson, please calm down.”

Keith’s frown grew and he stalked forward towards the arguing. He barely got any further down the hallway when Dr. Pax Jefferson strode around, another scientist and nurses quickly following him.

“This area’s off-limits, Jefferson.” Keith called out and the man stopped, glaring at him.

“Stay out of this Kogane.”

“Not if you’re going to Adam’s room. Dr. Yang is with him.” He said. That seemed to bolster him and he shouldered his way around him, stopped as Keith grabbed his arm.

“If Woolf is seeing another doctor, then the girl can as well.”

“No.”

Jefferson stopped, glaring at the younger male.

“Just because you’re a part of Voltron, doesn’t get you authority over me, boy.”

“Just because you’re part of the Research Division doesn’t make you have authority over anyone. Especially when you’re not the Head of the Division.” Keith snapped back.

“You little-”

“Dr. Jefferson, I think you need to step back.”

And there was definitely a growl there. A warning to back off. They turned to see Shiro glaring at them, the nurse scampering away and Keith couldn’t really recall any time Shiro had sounded like...well almost Galran as he did now. It worked though, as Pax took a step away from him.
The Paladin glanced at the scientist as he walked past him and stood next to Keith.

“We already told you, you’re not allowed near her right now, Jefferson.”

“It is imperative we examine her, Shirogane.”

“She’s been on Earth for what? Two days? Three? Four? Imperative or not, she’s overwhelmed and still trying to get her bearings.” Shiro replied.

“She’ll adapt.”

“She’s three.” Keith snapped.

“Listen-”

“Dr. Jefferson, I think you should head back to the offices.” The other scientist interrupted, looking at him sternly as he opened his mouth to object, but closed it at a look from the shorter woman, now realizing he was the minority. “Now, Pax.”

“Fine.”

With that he stormed off. The other scientist glanced at the two men, sighing.

“It’s been awhile, Shiro.”

“Yeah well, the same could be said about you Emilia.” He replied. “You never visited the hangars.”

“Yeah, right. Not like pilots hung out with us down at lower levels in the labs.”

“Gee, I wonder why.”

Emilia grimaced.

“I would like to apologize for his behavior. Pax isn’t normally this bull-headed about things like…”

“Like experimenting on a little girl?”

Emilia glanced at Shiro, sighing.

“You know you aren’t going to shield her from this forever, right?” She asked. Shiro folded his arms, defensive again.

“We already told you that-”

“We don’t see her as an experiment, Shiro.”

Shiro looked at Emilia, frowning. Keith folded his arms.

“Several of us worded it wrong at the meeting. And Jefferson isn’t helping at all. But you can’t think that she didn’t change at all if she was born in space. Even if she wasn’t born there, there is bound to be differences because the developmental years were in space. And those changes need to be spotted and noted. There are legitimate concerns for her health coming back into the atmosphere and how gravity and air pressure and everything is affecting and will affect her. There was artificial gravity, but that’s not the same. Not to mention diseases on Earth that she hasn’t been vaccinated for.” Emilia sighed, rubbing her temple.

“Look, I will be the first to admit that it was exciting to find out that she might have been born in space. Things are different up there. HOWEVER,” she enunciated at the outraged looks on Shiro and Keith’s faces, “after thinking about it, was it worth the trauma she probably had to endure? No. No person should have had to go through what she did. She had to have gone through living hell in that place. But we aren’t an enemy, Shiro. And whatever tests we do will be under supervision, and you and Adam can be there. We won’t hurt her, I promise.”

There was silence for a moment, the two old friends staring down each other.

“...if they are going to be doing tests, it’s not going to be all at once.” Shiro finally said. “We’re taking things slow with her and we aren’t knocking her out to see what makes her tick.”

“Understood.”

“Jefferson isn’t to go near her at all.”

“That can be arranged.”

“And don’t overwhelm her. I won’t be happy about it, which would be bad enough, but if you scare her, I can tell you that Adam will make sure no one gets close to her again.”

“I understand. I was going to talk to the Holt’s and see if there was any records on her from the galra ship. Anything we can glean from that will help in the long run.”
Shiro nodded as Emilia glanced at the door beyond them.

“We don’t have to start today, but the sooner the tests are done, the sooner she’ll be allowed to leave.”

“I’ll talk to Adam about it.” Shiro promised. Emilia nodded, glancing at the door again.

“For what it’s worth, I think he’s doing an excellent job.” She replied after a moment. “And I think you are too.”

Shiro looked at her, watching her leave before sighing heavily.

“Do you think she was telling the truth?”

“Emilia? Yeah. She’s not a good liar. Never has been. And she has a point. Jefferson, however I could care less about.”

“Yeah.” Keith muttered. “But do you think she was telling the truth about them letting Maris leave?”

“I’d like to see the Garrison try to stop Adam or me from getting Maris out of this place.” Shiro finally said and Keith snorted.

“Well if you two need a getaway vehicle, I’m pretty sure you’ve got a few volunteers.”

Shiro smirked, glancing back at the hospital room, before sighing.

“I might take you up on that.”


Shiro knocked lightly on the door as he opened it.

“Captain Shirogane, come in. We’re just finishing up with Maris’s exam.”

He smiled at Adam as the other man waved slightly, rubbing Maris’s back as she kept her arm out, nervously eyeing the shot that Yang was administering. She looked at Shiro, pleadingly though clearly had known he couldn’t do anything about it. She curled up to Adam after Yang had administered the shot, glaring at Yang weakly, who chuckled.

“I know, and I’m sorry.” She said, but it didn’t seem to help. Yang grinned, looking at her clipboard.

“Well she’s catching up on all the shots and vaccinations that she missed for the first few years. She should be all up to date in a few weeks.”

Shiro nodded.

“Is there anything you can tell us about her not being able to talk?”

“Well let’s see...Maris, sweetie, can I take a quick look in your mouth?” She asked. Maris glared at her, before looking at Adam, who ruffled her hair. Slowly she crawled back over to where Yang was and diligently opened her mouth, flinching when Yang gently lifted her chin up. After a few moments she moved away.

“Well good news is, she’s not suffering from any long-term physical ailment that is preventing her from talking.”

“And the bad news?”

Yang frowned, tapping her pen lightly to her lip as she thought on how to word it.

“Now I’m not an expert on speech related problems, but I think she has a mixture between selective muteness and Alalia, though the latter is likely a minor factor.”

“Which means?”

“Well Alalia is a disorder that refers to a delay in the development of speaking abilities in children. She would learn from observing everyone, but it’s not as if she was in a school setting or had a whole lot of one on one conversations during her first few years.”

Adam frowned, looking at Maris as she looked up at them.

“But what is likely the biggest factor of her not talking is the selective muteness.”

“Because of the Galra?”

“More than likely. It’s an anxiety disorder very common among young children, and it is characterized by the inability to speak in certain situations. In her case, everything is that certain situation. Her case is severe and it has everything to do with those years with the Galra. She probably saw plenty of traumatic things, and there’s no way for me to know how they punished her if she did speak out of turn.”

Adam flinched, looking away. Yang seemed to catch it and offered a sympathetic smile.

“I’m sorry, Woolf. I know this probably isn’t easy for you.”

“...No, I understand.” Adam said quietly

“It’s not my expertise, but I can suggest a few things for you two to work on with her to conquer those anxieties.”

Shiro was quiet, trying to calm his speeding heart and prayed that his face wasn’t a burning red before he finally nodded. There was a small reprieve as another knocking had him half turning, offering a slight smile as Doctor Derrick Eld entered, followed by a kindly nurse.

“Officer Woolf, if you have some time?”

Shiro snorted at the bland look on Adam’s face. Like he had any choice. However he sobered up as he glanced at Maris who was curled up to Adam, her grip tightening on his wrist. She looked like she was going to burst into tears at the sight of the other doctor and nurse. Shiro offered a gentle smile.

“Hey, why don’t you and I go exploring?” He said and Maris looked up at Adam. Adam nodded and brushed her hair back.

“Sounds like fun. See you two later.”

Shiro nodded and picked up Maris, who gave a small wave to Adam before the two headed out. He began to head to the cafeteria, but paused when he spotted Keith, Krolia, Tsukiko, and the space wolf.

“Hey.”

“Hey. Walking Cosmo?” Shiro asked as he set Maris down, the little girl hiding behind Shiro shyly. Keith frowned.

“His name isn’t Cosmo.”

Shiro rolled his eyes.

“Right, right. HE’LL tell you his name when he’s good and ready.”

“He will!”

Before he could reply, Maris was in front of Cosmo, her shyness forgotten, eyes wide with wonder at the space wolf, who stared back at her curiously. Shiro gulped.

“...Keith, is he safe with her?”

“Uhhh…” Keith began but started forward when she tugged on the wolf’s snout. “Maris-”

The wolf replied with a lick to her cheek, and her expression seemed to light up at that and she smiled sweetly, rubbing her cheek before snuggling up to the wolf.

“...Alright, guess we’re good.” Keith remarked and Shiro snorted, standing a little ways away as Keith went over to help with the space wolf, glancing back down towards the medical wing.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

He blinked and turned, blushing slightly at his mother.

“Nothing!”

She hummed lightly, clearly not believing him. She looked behind him and smirked.

“You want to go back to Adam.”

Shiro flushed and Tsukiko smiled.

“Go on then. I think we can manage with Maris.”

“Mom-”

“Go on. We won’t go far.” She interrupted. Maris looked at Tsukiko, clinging to Cosmo. Krolia smiled lightly, ushering him away discreetly. With a nod, Shiro headed back where he had just been, glancing in the door window to see Adam standing slowly, leaning heavily on a crutch, a nurse as well as Doctor Yang and Doctor Eld in there, ready to catch him if he suddenly collapsed.

He knocked lightly, entering the room with a smile. Adam looked up, curious.

“Hey. My mom said she’d watch Maris for a little bit.” Shiro explained to Adam who nodded. Doctor Eld smiled as he observed his knee, probing around the scarred flesh.

“Your leg is better, Woolf. Much better in fact. With the Alteans sharing what they know for healing, it should be as good as new in a few weeks. Though I can’t say whether or not there will be a limp.”

“Understood.” Adam said.

“That might mean you won’t be able to pilot a plane.”

Adam frowned, before shrugging.

“With the scarring I’ve got, I’m not sure how much of a good idea that is anyways.” He replied. Shiro blinked a few times. He was shaking minutely, refusing to look at him. He glanced at Dr. Yang and at Dr. Eld.

“...Alright.” Dr. Eld said, sounding unsure almost nervous. They spoke a few more minutes, what Adam could do to improve his walking, medication, possible surgery on his knee, before leaving. Silence filled the room.

“I thought you’d be more upset about not being able to pilot.” Shiro said after a moment. Adam shrugged.

“Nothing much I can do. It’s not like burn scars can go away.”

“That’s not it, so why...Wait. You’re not blaming yourself what happened, are you?” Shiro asked and Adam looked away. “Adam, none of this was your fault.”

“Sanda sent my team out and we failed.”

“Sanda sent your team out woefully unprepared.” Shiro argued. Adam frowned. “That was on her. Not on you.”

Adam didn’t seem convinced.

“Adam, look at me.”

Adam reluctantly did so.

“This isn’t your fault. None of this is your fault.” He said, even as the voice whispered that while it wasn’t Adam’s fault, it was his. Because of him, Adam had suffered. Because of him, Maris wouldn’t ever know her biological parents. Because of him...not of Adam.

“...I’m more worried about Maris than of me, Takashi.” Adam said with a sigh. “She’s trying really hard, but everything is new to her. She doesn’t...get the whole being a kid thing. I mean she doesn’t even talk.”

And there was the answer, clean and simple, Takashi realized.

“What Yang said about her speech is still bothering you.”

“It’s my fault.”

“And that’s your fault, how?”

“I didn’t protect her well enough. We tried...tried to make sure she had some sort of childhood...but there wasn’t a whole lot we could do. I mean, how can you make a normal childhood when you’re a prisoner on an enemy ship? And they made sure she saw us being hurt as a punishment for whatever they viewed she did wrong. She’s three and doesn’t know that crying out loud doesn’t mean I’m going to wind up being tortured because of it. And it was the same for us. Anything we did out of rebellion, she was punished for it.”

Shiro swallowed, feeling sick as Adam ran a hand through his hair, clearly aggravated.

“Her losing her eye was my fault.”

“Adam-”

“No. It was. They slated me to fight Petra, and I refused.” Adam snapped, his voice wavering and Shiro’s heart sunk. “I refused. So did she.”

“...then what?”

“We wore shock collars, so what do you think happened? They electrocuted us, because how dare we refuse? How dare we not want to fight each other? We passed out from the pain. When I woke up, I was back in my cell, and Maris wasn’t in there. And I knew, I just knew that they had taken her as punishment. I thought I had killed her. She was almost 2 at that point and I had killed her because that would be the ultimate punishment. Then a few hours later she came stumbling back in, one side of her face bloodied. She was so confused, hurt, scared, and I couldn’t take any of it away. They told me it was a warning. After that...they threw me back into fighting other aliens, or I was a prize to use for some of the officers. I knew that sooner or later I wouldn’t come back...the others knew that too so they must have been planning things...” Adam trailed off, shaking his head, “...but I didn’t know they were planning on trying to get an emergency signal out.”

“They didn’t tell you?”

“I was too sick at that point. They probably figured if they stood a chance to even get help they couldn’t be dragging my dead weight behind them. And they knew I would have tried to stop them if I did know.”

It was deathly silent for several minutes before Adam laughed bitterly.

“In the end they were all killed to get the signal out. Ironic, isn’t it? They leave my dying ass to try and save everyone and they’re the ones who wind up dead.”
“Adam…”

“They were my team, Takashi. I didn’t protect them and they died.” Adam hissed out.

“That’s not your fault, Adam.”

Adam scrubbed his face roughly while Shiro remained silent. An expression passed over Adam’s face, brows furrowing and he looked away. It chilled Shiro to the bone, and he cupped Adam’s neck, running a thumb against his jawline.

“Adam, don’t…”

“Maybe I should have died with them.”

“No.”

“Then I wouldn’t feel like this, they-”

“Maris would be dead, Adam. She wouldn’t have lasted long without you.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“You were there for her.” Shiro implored. “That was enough. Adam, don’t do this to yourself. This isn’t-”

“Me? For fuck’s sake, would you stop!? I can’t be the Adam you remember, Takashi!!” Adam snapped. “Hell, I don’t even remember what he was like! And I’m not going to force you to stay and have to see a ghost of the man you knew!!”

“...You don’t get it do you?” Shiro finally said after a few moments, his voice rough and low, as though he was holding back tears. “I lost you, before I thought you had been blown apart in the sky, before I became the Black Paladin of Voltron. I was selfish and I lost you. Then I felt like I had killed you.”

Adam stayed quiet, looking at him with an expression that Shiro couldn't quite place, and didn't want to. Shiro carded a hand through his hair, laughing bitterly as tears slid down his face.

“It was my fault that I wasn’t there for you. My fault! But you...you’re here! You’re alive! And you might not be the same Adam I remember from before, but I’m not the same Takashi that you remembered either.”

“Ta-”

“I know we can’t go back to the way things were. I know that. But I...I can’t...I want to try again. Yeah, things will be different. We’re different people then the way we were.”

“Why? Like you said...things will be different. I’m not-”

“Who cares?” Shiro asked, his voice cracking. “I love you. Exactly the way you are now. Just as much as I loved you then. As selfish as it is, I always will, because you’re you, and you’ll always be you. Nothing will change that.”

There was silence as the two stared at each other, Adam searching Shiro’s expression before swallowing. Shiro blinked as Adam cupped his face gently, running his thumbs over Shiro’s cheekbones

“Don’t ever say that about yourself. It’s human to want things for yourself. It’s human to be selfish sometimes. And you’re still human, 100% human….or at least 90%.”
Shiro snorted leaning into Adam’s touch, eyes closing at the touch. There were differences now. Adam’s hand was more calloused than he remembered and he could feel scars etched in the fingertips. But the touch, the way Adam’s thumb brushed against his cheekbone sent his heart fluttering rapidly.

“And I would love to try again. With you.”

And did Takashi Shirogane’s heart jump at that,moving faster than his mind in that split second.

“I want to kiss you right now.”

His eyes snapped open, his cheeks burning suddenly as Adam stared at him, almost stunned.

“S-sorry, I didn’t...I shouldn’t have said that outloud, I-”

But Adam was not apologetic.

He rose up to meet him, kissing him. The kiss was soft, gentle almost hesitant, but it left Shiro wanting more, craving for more. And it seemed after a few moments, Adam had a similar thought. He suddenly tugged Shiro closer, earning a startled laugh from the other man, before he went quiet as he was pulled back into another kiss. Fingers dug into his shirt, tugging him forward until he was pressed chest to chest with Adam, and he couldn’t stop the groan that escaped. Shiro leaned forward, cupping Adam’s cheek, because God he had missed this.

“...you know, I should have learned by now to knock on any room that has the both of you in it.”

They sprang apart, faces burning and Shiro spun around, now face to face with his bemused mother, Maris snug in her arms as she nibbled on a rice ball.

“S-sorry Tsukiko, we-”

“Adam, I’ve walked in on you two about to have sex, making out is less embarrassing than that.”

Ah, right...of course she would have remembered that night, Shiro thought with a groan. He knew now that trying to have sex at home was just begging to be caught, but teenage Adam and Shiro hadn’t been the smartest and hadn’t thought to possibly lock the door. Because why would his mother come in at 11 at night to ask what they would want for breakfast?? It had led to Tsukiko given them a talking about safe sex and all that fun, and left him wanting to go crawl into the hole and die of embarrassment.

Adam seemed to be remembering those events too, as he cleared his throat, his face bright red. Tsukiko smirked and walked over to Adam, handing the little girl to him and she took another bite of the rice ball, bits of rice stuck to her face. Tsukiko smiled as Shiro noticed the other paladins glancing in the room.

Oh quiznack.

“I would suggest learning to lock the door, though. You do have an impressionable toddler now, and she’s a tad too young to have the birds and bees conversation...”

“Okay Mom.”

“Or would it be the bees and the bees conversation, or the birds and the birds conversation with you two? I could never tell which was the male of that whole conversation, and quite frankly-”

“MOM!!”

Tsukiko snorted, clearly amused by the embarrassment, patting her son’s arm lightly, the others looking amused or confused in Romelle, Coran, and Allura’s cases.

“What’s the ‘birds and the bees’ talk?” Romelle asked, unable to stand it anymore. “I didn’t think any animals here spoke.”

Silence reigned for a moment, as everyone looked at each other, faces turning red. Lance grinned after a moment.

“...Well when a Mommy and a Daddy love each other very much-”

“LANCE!!”

Tsukiko laughed loudly, looking at her son in amusement.

“And I’m reminded why I like your friends.”

“I’m glad you’re getting joy out of this.” He grumbled. Tsukiko’s grin grew for a moment, before glancing at Adam.

“Speaking of conversations, Adam, do you think you would be up to having your family coming any time soon? Or do you want to wait a little while longer?”

Adam blinked several times, opening and shutting his mouth, before clearing his throat, uncomfortable.

“I mean...probably sooner rather than later, right?” He asked. She offered a slight smile, brushing her hair back.

“Alright, I’ll go have Iverson give me the information and I’ll give them a call.”

“Shouldn’t it be the Garrison?”

“It was their fault he was in that situation in the first place. As entertaining as it would be to hear his sister tear the Garrison to shreds, I figure that hearing it from me would be better.” Tsukiko replied easily to Hunk, shrugging.

“Wait, what? Tsukiko, you don’t-”

“I’ll see you all later.” She continued as though Adam hadn’t even spoken to her, waving as she walked away and turned the corner. Adam looked at Shiro, frowning.

“You’re going to let your mother call my parents???”

“She offered. Maybe they got closer in the few years we both weren’t here?”

“Takashi.”

“Okay, not really close, but maybe amicable?”

“Takashi, do you remember the last time they were in the same room??”

“It can’t wind up being that bad.”

“It’s my mother and your mother, Takashi.”

“...do I want to know?” Lance whispered to Keith as they watched the two men arguing.

“Shiro never really went into detail about it, but I think it had something to do with Adam’s family dog, a bucket of chicken, and sake.”

“....I can’t tell if that’s a no or a yes.”

“Yes from me. I think I want to hear this.” Pidge muttered with a grin.

“In any case,” Keith continued ignoring Pidge, “I don’t think Shiro’s mom and Adam’s mom get along.”

“Why? I mean Shiro’s mom seems pretty cool.” Hunk replied, frowning. Keith shrugged, frowning.

“I think Adam’s mom had trouble coming to terms with Adam being gay. And maybe still does. And Tsukiko’s been supportive of the two. It’s...well...a point of contention between them.”

Keith explained. The others frowned.

“Well….we’ll make sure everything goes smoothly.” Hunk said with a shrug, the others nodding. Shiro glanced at them, brow furrowing for a moment.

“So what’s up, guys?”

“...Oh, right. We made cookies!”

Maris looked at them curiously, glancing at Adam as though he would explain what this ‘cookie’ was. Hunk pulled out a chocolate chip cookie from a small bag and held it out to her. She perked up, looking at the snack with interest.

“Here you go.”

She took the cookie, sniffing it lightly, cocking her head in confusion as she looked at it. She took a small nibble, and her eyes widened and she took a larger bite, looking at Adam with excited glee. Shiro watched as Adam smiled gently, brushing her hair back and couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.

They’d be alright.

He’d make sure of it.

Chapter Text

The crowd was cheering as he dodged another swipe from his opponent, wincing at the tearing metal sound and he spun around, smashing his sword into the chest of the robot. They stumbled backwards, desperate to right themselves. Adam rushed forward, slicing at the arm. Blood, red blood splattered on the ground. His opponent grunted, switching their grip on the sword, before bellowing and running full force into him, knocking him off his feet. He gasped as crashed to the ground, his cry coming short as strong hands wrapped around his throat. He gagged, trying to squirm out of their grip.

The cheers began to morph, blending together as he stared at the masked opponent, trying to pry their hands off his throat to little avail. Their grip was like steel, nails digging into his throat. His vision swam, ears rang, drowning out the other’s yells. He couldn’t breathe.

Vaguely in a deep, back corner of her mind, he felt guilty because the others were probably watching this, watching all of this. Maris was watching this. They’d probably watch him die and Maris was going to be all alone.

They’d blame themselves, even if it wasn’t their fault.

His hand scrambled around trying to find anything, black spots slowly entering his vision. It wrapped around the hilt of the sword and he swung up.

There was a sickening crack and their grip tightened for a brief moment, before it went slack on his throat. Their mouth opened and closed several times, stunned, before falling forward onto him.

He inhaled sharply, air flooding into his lungs. He shoved the body off of him, rolling away, gagging as he struggled to catch his breath. There was silence before the crowd erupted into cheers, the roar deafening. He didn’t react, just glancing back, staring at the body.

The helmet splintered and broke apart and Adam’s heart, or was it bile, stopped in his throat as he stared at the face. Dark eyes, dark hair...a face he could never forget.

“T...tak...Takashi?!”

He reached for him, wanting it to be some sort of sick dream, no a nightmare. His fingers connected with solid flesh.

The scream he let out was quickly drowned out by the roar of the crowd.

He woke up gasping, sitting up quickly, the scream stuck in his throat. Sweat dripped off of him, as he tried to wrangle in his breathing, bile crawling up his throat. A dream. It had to have been a dream.

He wanted it desperately to be a dream.

Small hands gripped the sleeve of his shirt, tugging lightly on it. He jerked down, staring at Maris who was rubbing her eyes sleepily. He exhaled shakily.

“Sorry...didn’t mean to wake you.”

She responded with a yawn and he smiled. She was sleeping longer now, the worry of being yanked away for some experiment or reason gone. She could rest easy now and it was a relief. He was about to help her settle back down when there was a knock on the door.

“Hey Adam, you up?”

“Yeah, I’m up.” He called out with a sigh and the door opened. Keith cocked his head to the side.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah. Yeah, everything’s fine.”

The look Keith gave him was a clear indication he disagreed, but it softened as Maris turned and her eyes lit up, before she was scrambling off the bed and rushing over to the wolf next to him, wrapping tiny arms around him and nuzzling his neck.

“Great. Replaced by a space dog.” He groused and Keith rolled his eyes.

“Wolf.”

“Wolf. Dog. Same thing in my book.”

The wolf growled lightly in warning before his attention returned to the little girl snuggled up to him, and his tail thumping against the floor. Adam sighed, but didn’t have a heart to get annoyed with the wolf.

“Shiro said that you were going to have an appointment about your leg.”

“Yeah...wait, where is he?”

“He has another debriefing about The Atlas, they want to make sure everything went alright when we were out last.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. It was its second trip into space. First time out of Earth’s orbit though...so congrats?”

Adam rolled his eyes.

“Congrats on being a passenger on its maiden voyage back after going further into space to go against a hostile species. Hooray.”

Keith snorted.

“Touche.”

“How is everything and everyone?” He asked as Keith sat down. The younger man shrugged.

“Good all things considered. Rebuilding Earth is slow but steady. Nothing we can really do about that. The Olkari have been helping with rebuilding, so it’s going faster than expected.”

“And you?”

“I’m fine.” He said quickly, possibly too quickly. Adam’s brow rose.

“Mhm...right...try again.”

“Really, I’m fine. Just...it’s been hectic, that’s all.”

Adam hummed his response but didn’t press, and Keith looked away, only glancing back when Maris tugged on his pant leg, lifting her tiny arms to him, wanting to be held. Adam watched the two with a tired smile.

“She really likes you.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. She never really wanted to be held. Being held usually meant she was being taken away from me. She must trust you a lot.”

Keith blinked and then smiled.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Keith was quiet for a moment.

“Are you alright? Really alright?”

“I’m fine. Just...bored, I guess. I’m not used to sitting for such a long time.”

“What were you doing up so early? Usually you like to sleep in.”

“I haven’t slept in for a few years, Keith. Besides I had a nightmare and I-” He stopped abruptly as Keith looked at him in concern. He shook his head quickly.

“Don’t tell Takashi. It’s nothing he needs to be concerned about.”

“He’d like to know.”

“He doesn’t need to worry.”

“But Adam-”

“Keith, please. It’s fine.”

“What’s fine?”

The two men looked up as Shiro stepped inside. Maris perked up and Adam grinned, waving his hand dismissively.

“Nothing major. Just not looking forward to having the docs looking at my leg. But I should be able to walk on crutches soon.”

“Well that’s a relief.” Shiro said, ruffling Maris’s hair back. “You must be getting stir crazy.”

“You have no idea.”

Keith frowned, but remained quiet, glancing at Maris who was blinking at him innocently.

“...So when are they thinking of letting you out?”

Adam shrugged.

“They’re keeping that from me, so I have no idea. Hopefully soon, like I said I’m getting a bit-”

“Adam?!”

They all turned to see a young woman practically flying into the room, eyes wide, a messy braid flying behind her. Her eyes widened, tears gathering as she stared at Adam.

“Calis-”

He didn’t even manage to get her name out before she had thrown herself, wrapping him into a tight hug.

“We thought you were dead.” Calista sobbed. “W-We thought you were dead.”

Adam swallowed thickly, pressing his face into his older sister’s neck as he pulled her into a tight hug.

“You jerk! You’re an absolute jerk!”

Adam let out a watery laugh, a muffled sniffle escaping followed by an apology. Other footsteps echoed and grew closer, hurrying to the room. Shiro and Keith took a step out of the way as familiar faces, ones that Shiro had seen in multiple pictures flood into the room, all rushing past them and joining the pile. Adam’s older brother Gabe, his two younger brothers Justin and Liam, his father Max; who practically all of Adam’s siblings resembled, all came rushing in, joining in the group hug. Shiro smiled softly staring at the scene before them, only glancing at the door when another person entered. He recognized her almost immediately. How could he not? Adam was almost a spitting image of Elena Woolf after all, barring the lighter hair that he got from his father. She shot him a bland look and he shifted uncomfortably.

“Mom.” Calista called and Elena glanced at her after a moment, and her attention returned to her son.

“Oh Adam…”

“Hey, Mom.” He said softly, hesitantly, blinking as she pulled him into a hug. He relaxed into her hold, pulling her close. He glanced at Shiro, smiling apologetically. Shiro shrugged.

“So the Garrison finally let you all in. That’s good.”

They all looked at the door as Tsukiko came in, arms crossed. Elena stiffened and looked back at the door, glaring at Tsukiko, the other woman returning it.

“Elena.”

“Tsukiko.”

The air seemed to crackle as the two mothers stared at one another. Adam glared at Shiro who laughed weakly, before it tapered off and he scratched the back of his neck.

“Okay...so they still don’t like each other.”

“You think?” Adam hissed back.

Shiro laughed weakly, before nudging his mother who rolled her eyes at him. A glance at Keith and he ushered the two of them out, making sure to not

“We’ll see you later, okay?”

Adam nodded.

“Mom, try to be nice to Elena, okay?” Shiro said after they had stepped out. The petite woman snorted.

“I will. Can’t promise she’ll do the same.”

“Mom.”

“All I’m saying is that in all those years that you were assumed dead, she only tried to communicate once or twice, and while Adam didn’t say what those conversations entailed, he was always upset after it. And even after you two broke up, he still visited me for dinners occasionally. Even dragged Keith to them. I don’t think they ever went to her place.”

“Not at all.” Keith added and Shiro sighed.

“I know, but Adam is trying to have a relationship with his family. Try to understand that.”

“She didn’t really try to understand him.” Tsukiko said.

“Mom.”

Tsukiko sighed, before shrugging.

“But I will give her the benefit of the doubt and say that it’s possible she changed. Thinking she lost a son may have swayed her opinions on everything.”

But she wasn’t holding her breath, Shiro mused. It was left unsaid, but it was obvious to both men based on her tone.

“I’ll see you later for dinner, okay? Maybe Iverson will let Maris come with me outside the base.”

Tsukiko shot him a look.

“It’s a hope, isn’t it?” He said and she huffed.

“I suppose. And in any case, the McCain’s are going to be there.”

“...why?”

“Something about wanting to try my cooking.”

Shiro snorted.

“I’ll try not to miss it.” Shiro replied, just picturing Lance’s mother and his mother in the kitchen. It was going to be humorous to say the least with what possible combinations of food could be made.

“You’re still a better cook.”

“Oh flattery will get you everywhere.”

“Have to agree with Shiro there, Mrs. Shirogane.”

“One of these days I’m going to get you to call me by my first name.” Tsukiko sighed and Keith grinned, before glancing at Shiro.

“Shiro?”

“Yeah?”

“...nothing. Never mind.” Keith said, chancing a glance back at Adam’s door. “Nothing at all.”


“I’m just saying there’s a new training program that was being developed. Sounds interesting.”

“To the surprise of no one, Keith wants to train.”

“Hey!”

Lance snorted, following the group down the hall.

“Training is not bad!”

“I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, just...it’s so you.” Lance replied with a grin, and Keith flushed, looking away.

“I still don’t understand why you train so much.” Romelle stated as she glanced at Allura. “The fight for Earth is over.”

“We’re going to have to be prepared to bring the fight to Haggar.” Allura replied. “She’s been quiet so far, but there is no way she’ll remain quiet for much longer.”

The other Altean nodded after a moment, looking down, picking at a bracelet. Allura pressed her hand on the other girl’s shoulder.

“Are you alright?”

“I am. Don’t worry about me.” Romelle said with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. Allura frowned.

“Romelle, you can tell me if something’s bothering you.”

“I know. Don’t worry.”

Allura’s frown didn’t diminish, but she nodded nonetheless.

“What are you guys planning on doing tonight?” Lance asked, glancing at Pidge and Hunk, Pidge shrugging.

“Going to update some tech. Interfacing it with that Galra prison records could help locate victims and deliver them to their families.”

“Sounds...really depressing.”

“It will give families some sort of closure. But it involves Hunk and me downloading running the code through galra tech, then interfacing it with-”

“Well, guess I’m training with Keith.”

“Huh?”

Shiro held back a snort as he glanced at Keith who had whirled around to look at the Red Paladin. Lance paused.

“What?”

“You...you just said that you didn’t want to train.”

“No, I said that training every waking minute is your thing, I never said training was bad in general.”

He honestly didn’t know that Keith’s face could turn that red, but there it was. Shiro bit his inner cheek to keep himself from laughing.

“Captain!! Guys! Shiro!!”

The group turned to see Veronica practically sliding around the corner, face red.

“Veronica, what’s-”

“Jefferson!! He...He took Maris...said he was going ahead and doing tests…”

“What?!”

Shiro’s stomach dropped to his feet.

“Said...said she still didn’t have any legal guardians, so there wasn’t a need to wait, and-”

Shiro had already bolted past Veronica in the direction she had come from and he could hear the others following his lead.

“Where?!”

“In the Medical Labs! When we saw her with him, Curtis tried to get him to stop, but was dragged out by security. The others are trying to get in there but-”

The rest of Veronica’s explanation was lost to Shiro as they slid around the corner.

“Veronica, go find Iverson!” He heard Lance yell and she must have agreed because in his peripherals he could see Veronica split apart from them.

They made it around the last turn to see two Garrison guards and Jefferson just behind them, unlocking one of the doors.

A flash of red in his peripherals was all Shiro saw before Keith was upon them. The scientist barely had time to look over before Keith’s punch sent him flying to the ground. Security jumped, pulling Keith away before he could get another punch in.

“You lousy bastard!” The Paladin snarled, struggling against security, slamming his leg into one of the guards’s knees. The other Paladins rushed to their comrade.

“What is going on here?!”

Everyone froze, staring at Iverson, who was looking at them as though they had all lost their minds, Veronica just behind him. Shiro ignored him, whirling around to the scientists in the office past Jefferson.

“Where is she?” Shiro growled and one of the other scientists shakily pointed at the door with red light lit above it. A quick look through a thick pane of glass next to it,had Shiro’s heart plummeting again as he spotted the small girl staring up at an x-ray machine with wide eyes, strapped to the table. He went to the door.

“Sir, you can’t. The X-rays...you’ll-”

“Shut it down!”

“Captain, you don’t underst-”

“I said. Shut. It. Down.”

The others looked at the murderous expression on Shiro’s face before hurriedly complying. As soon as the flashing light abruptly stopped, Shiro slammed the door open, the sound reverberating all around him. Maris flinched at the sound. Tears began to glide down her face the moment she realized it was him, sniffling sharply and squirming. Somehow managing to not tear the bindings apart, Shiro scooped her up quickly and held her close. He glanced towards the observation window and could see Iverson railing the men in there, forcing himself to steady his breath and to calm down. Maris buried her face into the crook of his neck, tiny hands digging into the collar of his shirt, and he could already feel the fabric dampening with tears.

“Come on sweetheart, let’s get you out of here.” He said softly and she let out sharp sniffling sound, curling closer to him. He exited out of the examination room, trying to remain calm, but her crying was making his temper flare, refusing to look at anyone in the room. The paladins looked at him worriedly, quickly following him.

“How is she?” Hunk asked.

“Terrified. I’m not sure what the hell he was thinking. He’s lucky Keith only got one punch in.”

“I say you’re rather close to following his example.” Coran remarked

“...It’s still not off the table.” Shiro admitted softly before looking at the little girl, frowning. “I need to go and see if I can find a change of clothes for her.”

“Why?”

“...She wet herself.”

The Paladins frowned angrily before Coran shook his head, masking his anger with a smile.

“Wait just a tic, we should be able to find some clothes for her.” Coran said cheerfully to which Shiro was grateful for, walking away from the examination room. Nearly ten minutes later he found himself sitting next to the girl’s bathroom, waiting as Pidge and Allura helped get Maris dressed trying to keep a conversation going so she knew he was just outside the door and hadn’t left her alone.

“So, change of plans. I’m thinking of getting some food out. Maybe some pizza.” He said. “What do you guys think?”

“Ooh yes, pizza. Man it's been awhile since I had that. ” Hunk admitted.

“Are there even any pizza places still around?”

“Veronica said that some guy opened up a shop near the base. Could be worth trying it out.” Lance said.

“You’ll like pizza, Maris.” Shiro continued, glancing at the door. “And it sounds like the other Paladins are going to come over and have some too.”

A few moments later the door opened and Maris exited clutching Pidge’s hand. The moment she spotted him, she dashed over to him, wrapping herself around his leg. He sighed, picking her up, his anger flaring as she clung to his neck again.

She had just started to come out of her shell and hadn’t needed someone constantly watching her, and now because of that idiot, she had gone three steps back.

“I know, I know...It’s okay now. He’s not going to get close to you again.” He assured, but she pressed her face further into the side of his neck. He frowned, unsure what to do. The tension was palpable, and Keith looked guilt ridden.

“Shiro, I’m sorry...”

“It’s fine, Keith.”

“No it isn’t.” Keith argued. “I would have stayed there if-”

“Keith.” Lance interrupted, unusually soft, and the current Black Paladin looked away. Shiro sighed softly. Suddenly an idea came to him.

“I’ll be back in a little bit.”

“Alright. If you need anything…”

“I know. Thanks.” He said and walked down the hall, heading down to the hangar, rubbing her back soothingly. He stopped when he reached a familiar sight and looked up, smiling.

“Hey Maris, look. This is the Black Lion.” Shiro said softly, rubbing Maris’s back as she let out a sniffle, peeking slightly. “It’s the head of Voltron. I used to be Black’s pilot before I became the Captain of the Atlas. Keith’s the Black Paladin now. Though I think
people still see me as that.”

Another sniffle and she shifted a bit more, looking up at the Lion.

“Want to see if Black will let us in?” He asked and he felt the slight nod just under his jaw. He walked forward, looking up at Black, pressing a hand to her maw. Quickly enough, he felt the familiar feeling wash over him calm and welcoming, a purr seeming to ripple through him. She looked up in surprise and he smiled gently.

“Looks like Black is saying hi.”

She wiggled slightly, trying to get a better look at the mechanized lion and he brushed her hair back. However, she flinched as the lion shifted, its jaw opening and lowering to the ground.

“Ready?”

After a hesitant moment, she nodded, clutching his jacket tightly in her tiny hand. They climbed inside, his footsteps echoing. Finally reaching the cockpit, he sat in the pilots seat, and settled her on his lap. She sniffled, pressing her face to his neck.

It was quiet now, the sounds of the base and the Garrison vanishing inside the lion. He had always liked that; the quiet. Sure, it was comforting to hear everyone when they had been in space. It meant that everyone had returned from a mission alive. But there were times that he needed peace and quiet. The Black Lion offered that sanctuary.

And now he was sharing that sanctuary with her.

He hummed softly, and she sniffed, curling up to him as he rocked her. Soon enough, the feeling of the Black Lion sliding across his consciousness appeared, slow and gentle. She flinched and he brushed a hand against her temple.

“It’s okay. It’s just Black.” He assured and she looked up with watery, puffy eyes. Another purr answered and she blinked several times. He couldn’t stop the smile.

Black was, if nothing else, protective.

The sensation of a large cat circling around them came across his mind, and he could almost picture her curling around them. It appeared to work for Maris and she seemed to relax, exhaling heavily as she rested her head on his shoulder. He didn’t know how long they stayed like that before he slowly stood. Her death grip didn’t return, though she buried her face back into his neck. He blinked as they exited the lion at Curtis who was standing there, a worried expression on his face.

“How is she?”

“Fine. A little spooked. But better. Sorry I didn’t bail you out…I was, well...” Shiro trailed off. He didn’t know what to say. He and Curtis had been friends before all this. Friends with him and Adam. Since he arrived back home, they had talked, but barely and briefly, mostly in debriefs. Honestly, it felt like that outside work or on the Atlas, Curtis was full out avoiding him.

“No, no. Don’t worry about it.” Curtis said, “you had her to calm down. Besides, not every day I get to see Iverson yell that loudly at security detail.”

“Poor man is probably going to lose his voice because of today.”

A ghost of a smile crossed Curtis’s face before it vanished as she curled up further to Shiro.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t really get what he was doing before he was taking her into the exam room. Then security was dragging me out saying I was causing a ‘scene’.”

“It’s not like any of us thought he would go against orders, ” Shiro replied, “besides you tried to get her back. It gave Veronica enough time to find us. I can’t thank you enough for that.”

Curtis smiled, scratching the back of his neck.

“I...better let you get back to Adam. He’s probably wondering where everyone went.”

Shiro grimaced at the thought, rubbing Maris’s back.

“I’ll see you around.”

“Curtis.” Shiro called out and the other man paused. “You should come over and visit. You don’t have to be a stranger.”

Curtis flinched.

“I’m just saying I-”

“I don’t know if Adam wants to see me.”

Shiro blinked.

“I don’t...look I don’t know if anyone told you, but I had been ordered to send out the broadcast that led Sendak to us. If I hadn’t sent out that broadcast, Adam wouldn’t have gone through this. She wouldn’t have gone through this.” He said, looking at Maris. “Why wouldn’t he blame me??”

Shiro was quiet for a moment, stunned.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he did blame me. He could have been safe or not in the air, you would have been able to patch things up sooner. I-”

“He wouldn’t blame you.”

Curtis went quiet.

“I can’t say he wouldn’t be angry about the whole situation. Because he is, even if he isn’t showing it. But he wouldn’t blame you. You were following orders, just like he was. The one who made the bad call was Sanda.”
Curtis was quiet and Shiro offered a grin before heading out to leave.

“I’ll...I’ll come by later.”

Shiro paused, looking over at Curtis who offered a small smile.

“If that’s okay. Heard there was going to be pizza there.”

Shiro smiled.

“Yeah. Just like old times.”

Curtis smiled slightly, offering a small wave before the two parted, Shiro heading back to the hospital ward.


“Hey. There you are.” Adam said as Shiro entered the room. “I should be able to leave in time for the...” He trailed off when he spotted Maris in Shiro’s grip, brow furrowing as he sat up.

“What happened?”

She turned, reaching for Adam and Shiro deposited her in his grip. Adam’s expression turned to that of concern.

“Sweetheart?” He repeated, but she shook her head. Shiro sat down in a nearby chair with a sigh and Adam looked at him. “Takashi?”

“...Pax Jefferson decided to ignore orders that Iverson gave him about Maris. He’s been...adamant on testing her to see what changes between her and a kid born on Earth. Tests that are a lot more invasive than any of us would approve of. He was starting out some tests when we intervened.”

“...What?”

His voice was low, lower than Shiro had ever heard and when he looked up Adam’s expression was close to murderous. “What did he do? What was he doing to her?”

“From what I could see he was starting on x-rays. I don’t know what else he had done before that point but-”

And with that, Adam snapped and he was struggling to get out of the hospital bed.

“That lousy bastard! He probably saw her run out when Dr. Eld came in for my checkup. I’m going to wring his neck!!”

“Adam, Adam calm down. It’s alrig-”

“It is not alright! She’s already terrified of doctors and hospitals! He’s going to make it worse. He probably did make it worse!”

“She’s right here, and he’s been informed that he is not to touch her or get remotely close to her.”

“Informed??”

“Informed...threatened...take your pick. That’s probably not all if Iverson has anything to say about it. You should have seen him. It’s the angriest I’ve seen him in awhile.”

Adam huffed, settling back down, but looking no less angry.

“He has a soft spot for kids.”

Shiro hummed his agreement, ruffling Maris’s hair as she curled up to Adam’s side.

“...she’s okay? Really okay? You’re not just saying it to make me feel better?”

“She will be.”

Adam exhaled shakily, brushing Maris’s hair back. Both men looked up at a knock on the door before it opened revealing Iverson. Adam stiffened, eyes narrowing as his grip tightened on Maris. Iverson, to his credit stayed at the door.

“Officially, I came to inform you that Jefferson has been put on leave pending an investigation on his conduct today. Personally, I came to apologize. If I had had any idea that he was planning this, I would have had him transferred to a different base. He’s stubborn, but usually not unreasonable.”

Both men looked at him, Adam eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“I know my word is probably as valuable as a grain of salt at the moment, but-”

“She’s not staying here Iverson.” Shiro interrupted. “I know that you would never authorize what Jefferson did today, and I get that she needs to be looked at to make sure there aren’t any lingering problems, but she’s just a kid.”
Iverson was quiet and it spurred Shiro on.

“She’s just a kid, and she hasn’t had the chance to even go and run around outside. I think the most outside she’s gotten was when we walked out of the Atlas and into the Garrison. And since then she’s been poked and prodded by everyone. How is that fair to her?”

“...you make a compelling point.”

Both men blinked in surprise. That was...easy. They had expected him to argue about it, how she probably wouldn’t be ready to leave the medical ward.

“I’ll see what the doctors think about the both of you, and while I don’t think they’re going to let you off the hook completely, and likely you'll have to have a guardian to ensure you're acclimating back onto Earth, but you should be well enough to be released...” Iverson trailed off, glancing at the small form pressed against Adam’s side.

“I’ll see it’s done.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Shiro replied, still shocked. Iverson nodded and offered a rare apologetic smile before leaving. Adam and Shiro glanced at one another, before both relaxed.

“Guess we might have to start looking for a place.”

“Yeah guess we are.”

Chapter Text

Romelle had vanished.

Allura had checked the few areas she knew the other Altean girl to frequent. The cafeteria eating gobs of ice cream that the Paladins refused to tell them what it was made of, her room where she was watching as many Earth movies that were available, the observatory, the green houses, or even the hangar where the lions were.

The Princess of Altea frowned, glancing out the windows and staring at the expanse of desert. One last place to check.

A few moments later she was on the roof and there, staring out towards the sunset, was Romelle. The Altean girl didn’t even look back.

“Is she alright?”

“She’s fine. A little scared, but she’s fine from what Shiro said.” Allura promised. Romelle sighed.

“I just...froze.”

“Romelle?”

“When we got in there, and I saw those wires and machines, all I saw was what Lotor did to my friends and family...how he was draining their quintessence, and I just froze. It’s rather pathetic, isn’t it?”

“No. It isn’t.” Allura was quick to assure, hurrying over to her. “It isn’t pathetic at all. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

“And you?”

“...I was angry.” Allura said. “How she was dragged into this war.”

“Everyone was.”

“But we aren’t three.” Allura said. “We aren’t children.”

Romelle was quiet, staring out to the desert beyond.

“We’re close enough, aren’t we?” She finally said and Allura frowned. “We’re not three, but we are all still children. Fighting a war...getting hurt, others being hurt.”

“...I suppose you’re right.”

“I wonder about them. My friends...the others…” Romelle continued softly, curling up as she stared out of the expanse of desert. “Where they are.”

Allura sat down next to her, sighing.

“I do as well.”

“I hope Luka...and Savi...” Romelle trailed off, “ I hope they’re all right.”

“Savi and Luka?” Allura questioned.

“Friends. Luka was combative, I guess that’s the best way to put it.” She laughed, “We always had disagreements, and I didn’t think we’d get along, but we care for each other. Savi was soothing. Like a calm river...She would always get annoyed with us. ‘The day you two get along is the day that the cherulans will fly’ she’d say.” Romelle explained with a laugh. “They were both out when I left...I wish I had stayed longer to bring them with me.”
Allura looked away, biting her bottom lip. Guilt. She had trusted Lotor...she had...she had loved him. And he had betrayed them. Her. Even now the very thought of it stomach clench, made her blood boil, and her heart...her heart ached.

“...Do you think they’re even still alive?”

The question was soft, barely audible, and Allura hesitated. She wanted to say yes. That the Alteans were a strong race, and that they could survive anything. But with everything that had happened, with Zarkon, Lotor...she didn’t know.

“We’ll find out what happened to them...all of them. No matter what.” She finally said, and Romelle frowned, before nodding, staring back out to the horizon.


Keith panted as he blocked another swipe of the android, whirling around to dodge another attack. He jumped back a few steps, swinging the blade up, disarming the bot with ease before decapitating it.

“Well she was right. Still here.”

He glanced up in surprise to see Lance leaning against the doorway.

“End training sequence.” He muttered and the droids powered down. “What is it, Lance?”

“I was just making sure you were fine. You looked...well pissed is a nice way of putting it.”

Keith frowned, looking away, exhaling sharply.

“Want to talk about it?”

“No.”

“Figured.”

“If you’re just here to patronize me...”

“I’m not.”

Keith stopped, looking at the other Paladin suspiciously.

“Look, you’re clearly upset. And we both know you do stupid things when you’re upset.” Lance said, crossing his arms.

“I do not.”

“Really? So you going against Zarkon by yourself when we went to rescue Allura wasn’t you being stupid, or when we went against Lotor on that-”

“Okay, okay.”

Lance offered a small grin, before sobering.

“What happened with Maris isn’t your fault you know.”

“I should have-”

“Should have what? Known? It’s not like any of us knew he’d try to do something like that.”

“He was pushing to examine her.”

“So are plenty of doctors for both of them.”

Keith frowned, looking away.

“Fine. How about we spar?”

“...huh?”

“That’s why you’re here right? Well we’ll spar.”

“Your weapon is a gun, Lance. A long-ranged gun.”

Lance blinked several times at this before grinning.

“Holy crow, that’s right. I never showed you.”

“Never showed me...what are you talking about?”

Lance grinned and pulled out his bayard. The weapon glowed for a moment before forming and Keith gaped at the long blade.

“It’s an Altean broadsword according to Allura.” Lance’s grin grew, chest puffing in pride.

“When did this happen?”

“Oh, a while ago. I didn’t think about the fact that you were with the Blade when this happened.” Lance admitted. “Scared?”

“I’ve been fighting with a sword longer than you.” Keith reminded him, his own bayard coming to life. Lance grinned.

“Well one way to find out.”


“I say it’s a tie.”

“I say you’re being a sore loser.” Keith said as he exhaled loudly, glancing at Lance who was sprawled a few feet away, deactivated bayard still clutched in his hand. Lance glanced up rolling his eyes.

“Sure, whatever you say mullet.”

Keith’s mouth twitched, before forcing the smile away.

“What happened with Maris isn’t your fault, you know.” Lance said.

“I know.”

“But…?”

“But I can’t help but feel guilty.”

Lance sat up fully.

“Well then next time-”

“There won’t be a next time.”

“Exactly.” Lance said. “Because if Shiro or Adam don’t stop it, you definitely would.”

Keith sighed and Lance offered a grin.

“She reminds me of me.”

“What do you mean?”

Keith frowned, contemplating and Lance sighed.

“Look if you don’t want to, you don’t-”

“After my Dad died, I was...lost...for a long time. Until Shiro, I didn’t really...have a place. Just went from house to house, foster family to foster family. And I probably looked as lost as I felt. And she looks...the same way I did. And she was finally happy and she looked like she was getting her bearings. Then this happens and she looks just as lost as when we found her in that service corridor.”

“That’s not your fault.”

“But it feels like it.”

“That’s part of being a family.”

Keith glanced at him with a raised brow.

“You’re protective of her, and you don’t want anything to happen to her. Well mullet, that’s what it’s like being part of a family. You see her as a niece or something like that.” Lance continued with a grin. “And honestly, she’s lucky to have you as a niece.”

Keith flushed, looking away.

“How is she lucky?

“Why wouldn’t she be?”

And Keith’s face burned.

“You’re a know-it-all ass who has a temper, and literally got kicked out for punching Iverson. Despite that, you do care about people.” He said with a grin. Keith blinked. “It’s why Red chose you in the first place.”

“Red’s yours now.”

“I think she still misses you. Kind of hard not to.” Lance admitted with a grin and Keith looked sharply at him. Lance’s cheeks were a softest hint of red, but that could easily be from the sparring. Soon he stood, brushing off unseen dirt.

“Look, we’re going to have a pizza night at Adam’s hospital room to make Maris feel better. You’re invited to come if you want.”

“Alright…” Keith heard himself say faintly. Lance offered a small smile before hurrying away and leaving Keith there. Keith swallowed, his face burning brightly.

What was going on??


Shiro stood outside the hospital room, listening as the phone dial ring for a few moments.

“Hi Takashi!”“Fine since I last saw you. Which hasn’t been too long.” There was an unspoken question in her voice and Shiro sighed, rubbing the bridge of his brow.

“Mom I’m going to have to do a raincheck on dinner.”

“Everything okay?”

“Yes and no. Everyone’s fine, but there was...an incident. I don’t really want to leave Adam or Maris alone.”

“Sweetheart, that’s fine. They’re family, so be with them. There’ll be plenty of time for dinner later on.”

Shiro smiled.

“Thanks. I don’t think Lance will make it either. I haven’t seen him though.”

“I’ll tell Rosa. See you later.”

“See you later.”

Shiro sighed as he hung up, before entering the hospital room again. Adam glanced up offering a smile. Maris shifted, glancing up at him.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah. Mom said she’ll see us later.”

“I’m sorry, I know you were wanting to go visit.”

“Hey, I don’t mind. Neither does my mother.”

Adam sighed, pushing his hair back and grimacing.

“How do people do this long hair thing?”

“It’s stylish.”

“For girls maybe.” He groused and Shiro laughed.

“Some guys like that too.”

“Not me.”

Shiro was quiet as he observed Adam before standing.

“I’ll be right back again.” He promised, kissing Adam’s temple, before hurrying out. Adam cocked his head to the side, before settling. A few minutes later Shiro returned, holding a pair of scissors triumphantly.

“Takashi?”

“Managed to convince a nurse to give me one of these.”

“A pair of scissors?”

“You want shorter hair right?”

Adam blinked, before his cheeks turned red.

“You don’t have to.”

“I want to. Besides I cut hair better than cooking.”

“You do a lot of things better than cooking, Kashi.” Adam replied, though no heat was in his voice. After a moment, he sat up, helping Maris shift as she watched them, settling as Shiro began to get to work.
His hair was soft, Shiro noted. Had it always been this soft? Admittedly, it was longer than he could ever remember Adam having it. The Garrison had a strict code. Sendak just saw prisoners like Adam as objects to throw into a ring. That was it. Shaking himself out of his stupor, he began to slowly cut the strands away. He paused after a moment however, fingers stilling. Adam’s hair had turned white at the temples he realized, only hidden by other strands of hair. His thumb ran lightly against the back of Adam’s neck and the other man relaxed into his hold, eyes fluttering shut. Swallowing, he kept quiet, silence filling the air, broken only by soft snipping of scissors.

“You okay?” He asked after a few more moments.

“Fine.” Adam replied softly. “Feels nice.”

Shiro smiled and after a few minutes he moved away.

“And there we go. Just like before.”

Adam felt the back of his head, noting the shorter strands and glanced at the mirror in front of him. He smiled.

“Not bad.”

“And not a bald spot to be seen.”

“Oh my god, that was one time, and you promised to never talk about that.”

“I’m sorry, but it wasn’t you who had a buzz cut for nearly two months.” Shiro replied blandly.

“You learned didn’t you?”

Shiro stuck his tongue out and Adam grinned. They both looked over at the knock. Maris pressed her face into Adam’s chest again, the man sighing.

“I swear if that’s another doctor…” Shiro muttered, opening the door. Instead Coran smiled back at him.

“Hello Number One! Just the man we were looking for.”

“I can’t go to another meet-! Wait, ‘we’?” He asked, poking his head out further to see the rest of the Paladins, Allura, Romelle, and Curtis behind him.

“Um...what’s up?”

“We brought food.”

“Pizza, with some garlic knots.” Lance added with a grin.

“You didn’t-”

“We wanted to.” Allura assured with a smile, glancing behind him at Adam and Maris, the former of the two smiling in greeting. Maris peeked at them, blinking several times as they all settled. Curtis kept to the side, glancing at Adam and Maris nervously. Adam looked at him.

“Curt?”

“H-hey...sorry I’ve been...well, sorry I haven’t visited.” He finished lamely. Adam blinked before offering a gentle smile.

“Takashi said you tried to intervene on Maris’s behalf?”

“I did. Didn’t help a whole lot.”

“Thank you anyway.” Adam replied and Curtis offered a small smile.

“Er...what’s that?” Shiro’s voice interrupted their conversation, and they glanced over as Shiro gestured to a book.

“Oh this?” Coran said brightly. “This is the book for Monsters and Mana.”

“...Monsters and…??”

“Mana. We played it back in space, reme…” Hunk began but trailed off, before clearing his throat. Shiro shifted uncomfortably.

“You named your character Gyro. Paladin class.” Lance finished, shrugging. There was a snort behind him.

“You named your character after that dish I made for you nearly five years ago?”

“...technically my clone did. And that dish must have been memorable.” Shiro replied weakly as Adam laughed brightly. Maris peered over to them, blinking as she sucked on her thumb.

“So, what’s this Monsters and Mana?”

“It’s a fantasy roleplaying game.”

“Like Dungeons and Dragons?”

“Of course you would think about that.”

Adam stuck his tongue out as Shiro snickered. Curtis snorted.

“Yeah, like Matt and Adam didn’t drag you to our sessions.” He replied and Shiro rolled his eyes.

“You all played Dungeons and Dragons?”

“We played, Shiro observed.” Curtis replied.

“And back seat strategized us.” Adam muttered.

“You liked it, don’t deny it.”

“Anyways, we were thinking of continuing our quest. Maybe add a few more players if some of you are interested.” Pidge interrupted with a grin. Shiro grimaced.

“I don’t know, Maris is still-”

He stopped when he saw she was staring at the small figurines with interest, cocking her head to the side. She moved away from Adam, peering at the figures that Coran set out closer, reaching out to it, before checking herself and pulling back, looking away. Coran was the quickest to notice it, holding out a figurine for her and she grabbed it after a moment, sitting back down and observing the small piece, before looking up with a shy smile.

“...I think she could play as well. Adam would just have to aid her on certain parts, but it should be fun for her.”

“Isn’t she a bit young?”

“Nonsense! Why I was just about her age when I was introduced to this as well. And as you can see, nothing wrong there!”

“...uh-huh…”

“Um...not trying to be that person, but how is the...not talking part...going to work?” Hunk asked hesitantly. They all looked at each other.

“…how about a vow of silence or a witch stole her voice to give to Dakin or whatever character you come up with Coran?” Lance suggested, flushing when everyone looked at him. “What?”

“Like the little mermaid?”

“Little mermaid?

“I guess? Why? Is that bad?” Lance asked, ignoring Coran.

“I actually like that.”

“...oh.”

“So that would make you Ariel,” Adam said with a laugh, ruffling Maris’s hair back, “What do you think?”

Maris blinked before giving a small smile, curling up to Adam shyly.

“We’ll be mages.”

“Of course you would be a Mage, dork.”

“Don’t start with me, Gyro.” Adam shot back to which Shiro grinned.

“I’ll be a bard.” Romelle chirped with a grin

“Can I be a monk?” Curtis asked.

“...A half-barbarian for me.” Keith said, almost hesitantly as every set of eyes looked over at him. Lance grinned next to him, nudging his side.

“Sounds like you.” He hummed and Keith blushed. Shiro glanced at the two with an amused expression and Keith’s face turned a brighter red.

“Ooohhhh…” Pidge said with a grin and, if possible, Keith’s face turned a brighter. Lance followed suit. She cackled as both of them sputtered, while Romelle, Coran, and Allura looked at the two worriedly.

“Are you two alright? You’re quite flushed.”

“We’re fine!” They said at the same time.

“Are you sure? You wouldn’t happen to possibly Dryadress Malady would you? It usually starts with a red face, but then you get these warts all along your-”

“Coran!!” Both of them yelled, faces now almost purple while the others bore a range of expressions from humor to disgust.

“Ugh gross!! No one wants to hear-”

A soft laugh interrupted them and they all turned to look at Maris, who was watching them with a bright smile on her face. Her voice cracked as she took a breath, coughing for a few moments before continuing to laugh. Adam stared at her, before a bright smile, a smile Shiro hadn’t seen since before all this had happened, crossed his face and he pulled the laughing girl to him. She snuggled up to him, continuing to giggle. Shiro smiled.

They would be fine. Absolutely fine.