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Second Chances

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"Commander Iverson."

Sam Holt stood in the doorway to Iverson's office. It was just as he remembered it, clean and organized aside from the mountain of paperwork piling up on the edge of the desk. The commander in question looked up and smiled, a rare occurrence from him. "Commander Holt. Come in."

Sam smiled back and entered, but his serious demeanor quickly returned. "Mitch," he said, "I have a question for you."

Iverson raised an eyebrow at the change in address. "What is it, Sam?"

Sam stopped by the chair at the near side of the desk, but didn't sit. "Does Sergeant Adam West know of Shiro's return last year?" He asked.

Iverson shut his eyes, and Sam immediately knew the answer. "No. He didn't have the clearance to be on site when Lieutenant Shirogane crash-landed a year ago, and the Admiral wouldn't let me tell him after the Lieutenant was gone. I thought at the time that it was probably for the best, since Shirogane was gone once again and we couldn't give Sergeant West any real answers." He sighed. "Looking back knowing what I do now, I regret it."

"Does he still live in the same place?"

Iverson watched him for a moment. Then - "Yes."

Sam was out the door the second he heard the word leave Iverson's mouth. He moved as fast as he could down the busy halls, not daring to run, but refusing to slow down. He didn't even need to think as his feet guided him out the door of the main building of the Garrison toward the residential building for the live-in officers. He knew the route like the back of his hand. He'd helped bring Shiro back there many times after particularly bad days. He'd brought the two of them any work they missed when they had to stay home. He'd eaten dinner there with his wife more times than he could count. He'd become less welcome there as the Kerberos mission drew closer, but he'd never forget that apartment. The apartment of the two young men that he viewed as both friends and his own sons.

When he reached the door, he didn't even stop to catch his breath. He pounded on the door. "Adam! Adam, are you there?" He pushed the buzzer. There was a beep, and a young man's voice came through the speakers.

"Yes, I can hear you banging on my door. Who is it?"

"It's me, Sam Holt," Sam said between breaths

There was a moment of silence. Then, "…Sam?"

The speaker cut out, and a few seconds later, the door slid open. Behind it stood a breathless man with brown hair and skin, wire-framed eyes red from strain and widened in shock. Sam smiled. "Hey there."

Adam didn't move. "You're real," he whispered. "You really are here."

Sam nodded. "Yeah, I am."

Adam stood frozen for a few more seconds, then turned sharply. "Come in. I'll get you some tea."

It was exactly as it was all those years ago. The lone couch faced a flat screen TV surrounded by piles of movies, most gone untouched. Books and papers littered the coffee table where Sam and Colleen used to join the men for dinner, joking about how the Garrison could afford cutting-edge rocket technology, but not proper dining tables. Behind the couch the same old bookcase displayed all of the accolades Adam and Shiro had accumulated over the years. Sam's eyes lingered on the lone photograph on the shelf, the one of Adam and Shiro after the latter had broken the record for the highest orbital velocity. He'd taken that one himself.

Sam followed Adam to the bar dividing the living room from the kitchen. He sat on his old stool, the one where he would often chat with Shiro while Adam attempted to push him out of the kitchen so he could make dinner unimpeded. Adam's bag sat on the counter next to him, alongside half-corrected papers. Adam himself continued to the kitchen. He picked up the teakettle and filled it at the sink in front of Sam. He said nothing as he set the kettle on the stove and turned it on. Sam waited for the explosion, but it never came.

"I didn't believe it," Adam began, back still to Sam. "I heard rumors that you had returned, but it's not the first time that's happened."

"It isn't?" Sam asked.

Adam laughed. It sounded hollow. "Yeah. There were rumors that Takashi crash-landed with the asteroid in the desert a year ago, but they just faded away. I didn't want to get my hopes up again."

Sam watched Adam open a cupboard and pull out a box of green tea. "You never liked green tea," he commented.

Adam flinched, then reached to grab mugs from the rack. Shiro's galaxy mug remained untouched. "I guess I acquired a taste for it," he said.

Sam waited for Adam to put the mugs down. He couldn't let this go any longer. "Those rumors were true."

Adam froze.

"Shiro did crash-land here last year. He flew in on an alien ship. Keith, my daughter Katie, and two Garrison cadets broke him out of quarantine."

Adam had begun visibly shaking. "So… he's alive?"

"Yes."

Adam crumpled to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut. Sam jumped off his stool and rushed to him. Adam sobbed into his hands, tears streaming from underneath his glasses. Without thinking, Sam gathered the young man into his arms like he did with Katie and Matt whenever they were hurt or upset. Adam grasped his shoulders for dear life. "Takashi's… alive…" he gasped out between sobs.

"Yes. Yes he is," Sam reassured him.

He held the young man until he had calmed down, then led him to the couch. He left him there while he finished preparing the tea, falling into an old rhythm from so many years ago. He could hear the man's quiet sobs as he brought over the two mugs. "Here," he said as he handed one to Adam, "it will calm you down."

He sat down as Adam took a sip. When he brought his mug down, Adam spoke. "How is he?"

"He's doing well," Sam said with a smile. "He's been through a lot and he's a bit worse for wear, but he's doing well."

"Worse for wear?"

Sam chuckled. "Well, his right arm has been replaced by a Galra prosthetic and a bit of his hair turned white. He seemed to have adapted quite well, though."

Adam frowned. "Galra prosthetic?"

"Oh, right. The Galra are a hostile alien race. They were the ones who attacked us on the Kerberos mission. They replaced his arm while he was one of their gladiators."

"Gladi- never mind." Adam buried his face in his hands. "So where is he now?"

"He's still in space. He and the cadets that broke him out are now the pilots - paladins, they're called - of an alien superweapon known as Voltron. It’s a long story," Sam cut Adam off as he opened his mouth to speak. "They're fighting to liberate the universe from the grip of the Galra empire."

Adam laughed, but it sounded lighter. "That definitely sounds like Takashi. He could never back down when someone else was in danger." He fell silent.

When Adam didn't continue speaking, Sam began, "He was worried about you." Adam looked up. "Whenever the two of us were working on the report for the Garrison, he would always talk about you. He felt terrible about leaving you behind, Adam."

Adam sighed. "I don't deserve that man," he said. "After everything I said…"

Sam rested his hand on Adam's shoulder. "We both know Shiro. He can forgive everything short of murder. He never gives up on anyone-" Sam looked Adam in the eyes- "even those who give up on him."

Adam held his gaze, then looked away, chuckling. "Wow, it really stings when I hear that from you," he said. When Sam went to speak, he raised a hand. "No, no, you're right. I know you're right." Adam looked down into his mug. "When he said he wanted to go, I felt so… angry. Angry that he would leave me for space, for a stupid dream. But it wasn't just that. I was scared. I was terrified, and I didn’t want to admit it. I was afraid he would just throw his life away. That I would never get to see him again." A shaky laugh rattled through him. "Of course, because I was stubborn, I pushed everyone away: you, Keith, Colleen. I refused to talk to Takashi. I refused to go to the launch. And then, you all disappeared." Adam set down the mug and buried his face in his hands. "It was horrible. All my fears suddenly became reality. He threw his life away, and for what? Some stupid ice samples? A concept of the great unknown? And I realized that the last thing I said to him was that I wouldn’t be there anymore. He thought I'd given up on him. And I'd never get a chance to fix it." He began to sob. "I screwed up, Sam. I pushed away the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I never thought I'd get a second chance." He choked out a laugh. "It's like he always intended on giving me one."

Sam smiled and hugged him. "He did, Adam. He did." He pulled back and looked at Adam. "How would you like to have dinner with me and Colleen tonight?" He asked. "I have so many things to tell you."

Adam smiled through his tears. "I would love to."