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As the World Falls Down Around Us

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Great job, team, ” Shiro’s voice sounded over the comms. “The mission was a success.

Heck yeah it was! ” Lance’s exuberant cheer rattled Pidge’s eardrums. “Did you see it when Hunk clobbered that Gal--?”

“We can hear all about it when we’re back at the castle,” Shiro interrupted although he sounded amused rather than scolding. “Quick mission check first. Pidge, did you have any issues downloading the data?”

“No,” Pidge kept her voice upbeat. “All data accounted for and I wiped their systems after. We’re all good.”

“Excellent,” Shiro congratulated. “Nice work.” 

He turned to asking Hunk then about the hit Yellow had taken covering their exit and Pidge tuned them out and turned off outgoing audio on her side.

There had been no issues downloading the data, that was true.

But the concept of no issue was false.

The knife wound running the length of her entire outer right thigh and cutting at least a half inch deep, dripping scarlet in Green’s cockpit, said that much.

Pidge gritted her teeth and pressed her gloves, piled together in a compress, against the cut. Even knowing they couldn’t hear her she fought to keep the moan locked inside as pain rocketed up her leg.

God.

She’d really fucked up.

Green was touching in the back of her mind, a foreign feeling that even a few weeks out Pidge wasn’t entirely ready to accept because the idea that a magical robotic Lion was sentintent and capable of communicating with her went against every bit of science and reason she had ever known, worry flowing down their link.

“I’m fine,” Pidge hissed as the feeling came more intense as she ignored it. “Don’t… don’t you start too.”

Because Green was the only one who had yet to go into some version of overprotective mode since Pidge had revealed that not only was she a girl but that she wasn’t seventeen years old as her Garrison cover had said but actually just barely turned fifteen. 

And apparently those things on top of her small size had wrought a change in her team and it was one that Pidge hated. She was not a little girl, a damsel in distress, and she’d shown her strength plenty of times before and they had never argued against Pidge Gunderson but Katie Holt?

Katie Holt needed protected. 

Pidge hated it.

She had not cared for masquerading as Pidge Gunderson as she was proud to be Katie Holt and there had definitely been some teasing for how small he was because at least as a small female it was more understandable, but otherwise?

Otherwise all of the other problems that had plagued Katie Holt had gone away.

No one teased her for being interested in coding and hacking and engines and math.

No one bullied her for being a nerd.

No one had scoffed that it was only because her dad was a commander that she was first in her classes.

No one had told her that she was aiming too high, as though being a girl made her less intelligent.

And for once the fact that she didn’t really have friends, that she alienated those around her with her intelligence, hadn’t hurt because she hadn’t wanted to make friends. She’d wanted to find her dad and Matt and that was all she cared about.

But even then, even with all the shields and walls she had put up and her honestly rude behavior…

She had still found them. Lance had been persistent in getting her to hang out with him and Hunk and she had given in once with the promise he’d stop bothering her to do so ever again and then… then she’d done it again. And again. And before she knew it she was friends with Lance.

And then there had been Hunk, a near kindred spirit with her love of machines and a soft, welcoming nature that had made her feel safe. Even if, she scowled at the memory, he was nosy as fuck and when he’d found her diary she thought she’d been found out (and she’d been foolish to think that not going digital would make it safe), but he’d claimed he hadn’t seen anything although when she’d revealed her secret to the team he had not denied knowing her gender.

Jerk.

But he had kept her secret and played along with it and for that she was grateful.

But somehow revealing it to the group en masse had made him go from teasing and picking on Pidge Gunderson to fretting and worrying over Katie Holt and it pissed her off. She was the same person, goddamnit. She’d told the team because she wanted to be honest with them, honest with herself.

She hated that she regretted it and the changes it had brought.

And that was the reason why she could not, under any circumstances, let them find out about her injury.

Her injury brought on by sheer stupidity and when they found out she just knew she could kiss any solo ventures away because clearly she could not handle them.

Fuck. That.

She hadn’t been lying when she told Shiro there were no issues downloading the data. That had been easy, almost boring, and Keith, her assigned cover that she didn’t mind in that instance because she was busy with the tech and vulnerable, hadn’t interfered or hovered. Keith really hadn’t been all that bad on the overprotective front she would admit, but when he’d had to spar with her a couple days ago and he’d hesitated on a strike that would have taken her down she’d had it with him too.

He wouldn’t have hesitated had it been anyone else.

She knew it. 

And it pissed her off.

She wondered if Keith maintaining a perimeter by the door and giving her space and not asking what was taking so long was his version of an apology.

She supposed she would take it, whatever it was. Being on the defensive for all of their extra protective quirks now was exhausting.

She’d given Keith an even further pass when Shiro had sounded over the comms that he needed backup and Keith had turned to her and simply asked for a time check. Thirty seconds she’d told him, not looking up. “You good?” he’d asked and Pidge had nodded and that had been that. 

She had been grateful. He trusted her to take care of herself for a few seconds on her own and she’d finished downloading the data more wary of her surroundings then but humming regardless.

She’d scooped up the data drive, hurried out the door and went for where she’d parked Green.

A hallway later she’d run into a small contingent of sentries.

She should have called for backup as a couple on her own she’d be fine with but six? Six was a bit much for her weapon that she’d only been learning to fight with for not even a month and she was nowhere near as skilled as Keith or Shiro.

But she was determined to prove herself independent, that she was not a little girl in need of protection, and she could fucking do this.

Well, on the positive note she had. She’d taken down all six sentries in a combination of her shock katar shorting out their systems, her shield removing one’s head and her cord tripping up two. 

She’d just also managed to get sliced open.

In her defense she had not yet ever encountered a sentry who fought with anything besides a blaster and so she hadn’t been guarding for any close strikes. But there was no denying that sentry number four in the group had been armed not with a gun but a long sword and she had realized it a split second too late to draw her shield.

Removing that one’s head had felt darkly satisfying. 

Unfortunately doing so hadn’t made her wound any better.

She’d clumsily fought off the remaining two, tripping them and then shorting them out, and stumbled her way to Green with a scarlet trail following her.

And now here she was, trying to pretend it wasn’t serious because she could not, under any circumstance, go into the pod or seek medical attention because then she’d have to answer as to why she hadn’t called for backup and this would only hurt her argument that she didn’t need to be babied.

God fucking damnit.

Pidge gingerly lifted the gloves she was using as a compress up, hoping that maybe she’d imagined how bad it was and like a papercut it just bled a lot and wasn’t actually--

Nope.

It was still bad.

She swallowed and averted her eyes from the grisly sight of torn, jagged flesh as her stomach turned over and she could not afford to pull a Hunk on top of all of this. 

Deep breaths.

Inhale. 

Exhale.

It was fine.

Everything was going to be fine.

Pidge’s heavy breaths echoed in the cockpit and nearly drowned out Shiro’s voice but jolted as she heard her name called.

“--Pidge, could you bring the data chip to the bridge before you retire? Coran wanted to take a look at--”

Sure,” she interrupted, even though she had no idea how she was supposed to do that and hide her very obvious injury, but saying otherwise would cause immediate suspicion.

Great,” Shiro responded. “That’s about all I’ve got, team. Great work today, I’m so proud of you.”

“Aww, Shiro, I’m blushing,” she could hear Lance grin but knew he would still be ducking his head to hide the blush that he was actually wearing. It was actually pretty cute and endearing how he’d be so cocky and a braggart without any shame but as soon as someone said something sincere to him he’d color. And especially if said comment came from either Shiro or Allura.

Pidge scowled a second later.

She was still pissed at him for aforementioned things and therefore she was not smiling whatsoever.

She pushed all thoughts of them from her mind as she needed to concentrate on how to get from the hangar to her room without leaving a literal blood trail, fix herself up and deliver the data chip before her absence was suspicious.

First things first, staunch blood. 

She hoisted herself out of the pilot’s chair, wavering for a second as vertigo combined with the beginnings of blood loss pushed down, and Green gave a sharp, concerned nudge in the back of her mind, along with a string of numbers and probabilities of Pidge’s success rate of successfully accomplishing all of the tasks she had mentally outlined.

Two percent.

Pidge ignored it. She lived to beat the odds and this was just a number game that she would win.

One-handedly, her right still pressed to the wound for all the good it was doing, she opened the console compartment and pulled free the emergency med kit. There wasn’t much in it, as Coran had said he’d removed anything with an Altean label until he could translate them into characters the humans would understand, but there were bandages and a small bottle of what Coran had plainly told them were the Altean version of a painkiller.

She fumbled open the cap and dry swallowed two.

Grabbing the bandages she made her way back to her seat, slumping into it and her entire right leg shaking. The pain was starting to dull although she wasn’t sure that was entirely a good thing.

It came back in full though as she pushed down on the glove compress again and she couldn’t stop the groan that time. Keeping the pressure on it she held the end of the bandage roll in her teeth and used her left hand to maneuver it around and around her leg, her right hand joining in after a couple passes.

It was incredibly obvious what had happened as the bandages were stark white against the black of her uniform, but for the moment the blood flow had ceased and that was what was important.

Pidge tilted her head back in the seat, just as she felt Green begin her descent for the castle. She’d stay in Green for a few minutes, allow Keith who shared the same offshoot hallway with her to get a headstart for their living quarters as she knew she wasn’t going to beat him in a race. 

She’d get to her quarters, clean the wound with the water pouches from the med kit, apply the antiseptic cream also in there, and rebandage it tight. It wasn’t a scratch but she thought maybe, maybe, she could avoid needing stitches as it was more long than deep. It would scar, she knew that without a doubt but… 

But she’d take the scar over the restricted freedom she knew would be coming, because if that happened how would she ever be able to search for Matt and her dad when she finally got a lead?

Answer: she wouldn’t.

Green pushed on her mind, another piece of the equation.

The data chip.

“I know,” Pidge ground out. 

She hadn’t forgotten it.

She was still just piecing it into the puzzle.

As noted, the bandages were far too obvious and there was still smeared blood down her leg and some had dripped onto the white of her armor that would attract immediate attention. What she needed to do was fix her appearance and then bring the chip to the bridge. It wasn’t entirely like her to say she forgot, but she could say… say she really needed to pee and had decided since she made it all the way to the residential part of the castle to get out of her armor first and then go to the bridge.

That was plausible.

Green tentatively sent her an updated analysis of thirty-six percent success, as much of a validation as an apology for the data chip bit.

“Only that?” Pidge said back, although less harsh than before. She couldn’t -- and didn’t want to be -- mad at Green.

Green sent concerns over running into Keith at her.

“And if I avoid him?”

Seventy-two percent, doubled.

Pidge grinned sharply. “Perfect.”

Plan set and with Green’s modest approval, Pidge gathered up the emergency kit with her noted supplies as lugging it was no more of a giveaway than her bandaged leg. She retook the controls and guided Green down a minute later towards the castle and into the hangar with as smooth a landing she could manage, still wincing as the ship jolted around her and she felt Green’s apology.

She patted the console lightly in response and got to her feet, tentatively putting weight onto her right leg. It supported her even as a new lance cut through her thigh and the entire thing trembled like a sapling in a storm.

It would do.

Pidge limped her way from Green’s hangar and into the hallway. 

No sign of Keith.

She moved as quick as she could down the offshoot hall and then two turns and a painful staircase climb later she was in the residential hallway and still no others in sight. She still didn’t release her breath until her door swooshed open and she near tumbled inside, dropping the med kit and bracing herself against her dresser.

Made it without a single blood drop in sight.

Thank fucking God. 

She followed the med kit to the floor as she wanted to avoid getting blood on her bed. Her nose wrinkled though as she shoved the remains of a taken apart datapad away and the box of scraps she’d been sorting by color that Coran had given her a few days ago. She might need to clean up a bit as this wasn’t the most sanitary environment, but she worked best surrounded by chaos and so her room had taken on that feel even though she’d hadn’t even been here a month.

For now though it would do, the space around her clear, and she set about yanking off her armor, piling them as best she could to the side so she didn’t lose them in the mess. The heavy pieces removed a minute later, she debated her underarmor pants. The bandage had been tied atop it but to best treat the wound she needed clear access to it.

And that meant removing it for now.

Damn it.

Pidge hastily did so and pulled the now heavy gloves away too, dropping with with a damp plop to the floor. Pressure released, the wound began to well up once more with blood and Pidge hurried as much as she could to shimmy out of the ruined pants, leaving her in her underwear and the floor cold on now bare legs.

She did her best not to shiver, as doing so made a new line of pain run up her leg, and she turned her attention back to the wound, cataloging it now that she had an unobstructed view.

It was about six inches long down the middle of her outside right thigh, and the flesh was a jagged mess from the rough blade. 

Blood, both drying and fresh, surrounded not just the wound but trickled all down her leg to nearly her knee and no doubt would need some scrubbing lest she leave behind a red stain. For later though.

Right now she needed to clean it and apply the antiseptic to prevent any infection and then bandage it before she lost any more blood. 

Water first.

Grimacing, Pidge leaned over and opened the emergency kit to withdraw one of the water pouches.

This was going to hurt.

She sucked in a breath as she ripped open the top in place of the straw.

And go.

She couldn’t quite swallow down her cry as she upended the pouch on her leg.

God.

God it hurt. 

“Holy fuck,” she whispered, voice high, as she hunched over, hands hovering without touching as water and blood streamed away. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck.”

She forced herself to dump a second one, this time going from top of the cut to the bottom and making sure every inch was doused.

It somehow hurt even more. 

She bit down on her lip but even then the moan crept out and tears stung her eyes.

God.

God this was...

But she had to do it. She had made the mistake of not calling for backup -- would they have judged her weak for it? Maybe, maybe not, no use thinking on it now -- and now she had to deal with the consequences. 

One more water pouch. 

That ought to be enough as the drippage was running more water than blood at this point and that had to be good, right?

Right.

That done Pidge unwound a strip of clean bandages and used them to blot around the cut to dry it.

“Motherfucker,” she whimpered in place of crying as even though she wasn’t directly touching any part of the wound it hurt and God, she had been so stupid and that hurt even more. 

Pidge wasn’t like Hunk where the sight of blood made her squeamish, but given how much touching the whole flesh around the ugly wound, which was starting to line with blood again but it was definitely slower so maybe something deeper in was clotting and Pidge prayed it so, hurt so she didn’t dare try to apply the antiseptic directly to it.

Instead she folded a bandage several times until it made a compress and grabbing the tube of the paste she squeezed out a heavy line of the purple goo -- and God, she hoped it was safe for humans -- and smeared it with the nozzle cap.

Shaking hands then lifted both ends of the strip and she hovered it over the wound.

It couldn’t hurt anymore than her glove compress.

She just had to do it. 

Pidge pressed down.

It felt like she’d just set her leg on fire. 

She choked on the scream that time and the tears she had been holding back blurred her vision as they spilled down her cheeks, her only other outlet to express her pain.

Holy fucking shit. 

“You’re, you’re okay,” she whispered, blinking furiously. “You’re f-fine. This is, this is nothing.”

It was a good thing, she told herself, that it hurt like this. It was like hydrogen peroxide, cleaning out the wound and preventing later infection. It was a good hurt.

She let out a sob mixed with a snort.

Yeah.

Right.

And then she let out a gasp as a knock sounded on her door.

“Pidge? Er, you okay?”

Lance.

Motherfucking Lance.

At least he wasn’t Hunk who had no sense of privacy and would barge in (although he hadn’t done that actually at the Garrison or here since he’d found out she was female) but Lance wouldn’t just leave if he’d heard her. But she hadn’t been that loud, she--

“I, I heard you, um, sort of… crying?” Lance sounded again, a little more hesitant than she was used to hearing from him.

The tone didn’t matter.

The words did.

Fuck.

“Are you--?”

“I’m fine!” she shouted although the fact her voice was clearly thick and she hadn’t had time to clear it said the opposite.

“Pidge--”

“I said I’m fine, Lance!”

He could not come in.

He could not come in because he would find her, sitting on the floor surrounded by blood and water and the med kit with a clear injury that she had obviously lied about and he would tell Shiro and Allura and they would never trust her to take of herself again and he could not come in. 

Her door wasn’t locked, none of them were. Lance could ignore her order and there was nothing she could do about it.

Her heart thundered in her ears.

“Pidge,” Lance’s voice was softer now and she both hated it and craved it at the same time as the sudden sensation and feeling of Matt and safe washed over her. “Can I come in?”

“No!” she shot back, trying to keep the annoyance and anger fully in the word. 

Please let him go away.

Please please please. 

Her leg gave a twinge at that moment, reminding her that she still had that major concern, and she moaned, hunching over it.

“Pi--”

“Girl problems!” she practically screeched and Lance broke off immediately. 

If she was going to be penalized and coddled for having revealed as such she may as well attribute this problem to one she biologically could not control rather than admitting stupidity and pride to prevent this very thing. 

The irony was not lost on her.

“Girl probl--” Lance started to repeat before he interjected on himself. “Oh! Oh.”

And at least he got it, as he very well should having if she recalled correctly two older sisters the way he went on and on about his family.

“Do you--?”

“Go away!” she was out of patience and time as blood was starting to stain the compress. 

“Okay, um… I just…” She heard a soft sigh and then a moment later feet moving away.

She heaved out a breath of her own.

Thank God.

She returned her attention to the wound, although at least with the nerves and shot of adrenaline from the close call running in her veins the pain wasn’t quite so bad. She secured the compress with an entire roll of bandages and hid the cut beneath it completely. By the time she was done she could almost pretend there wasn’t a rather garish cut beneath all of her wrappings.

She stiffly got to her feet and made her way for her dresser. She didn’t have much in terms of clothes but Allura had given her some things -- and the fact they were Allura’s childhood clothes made Pidge flush -- and she had been avoiding wearing them as she liked her Earth clothes, the reminder of Matt in his old cargo shorts and shirt, but the shorts were not practical with her injury and should any blood seep out of the bandage (it shouldn’t, but it could) she’d be better off with a darker color than the khaki.

But nearly everything Allura had given her was pink. Pidge’s nose wrinkled. She had nothing against pink but it just wasn’t her. There were a pair of dark purple sort of lounge-like pants though with blue and white accents in the Altean style and Pidge hauled them out. 

She gingerly eased her right leg into them and although they hung a little long they fit all right and didn’t put any pressure on her cut.

She stripped then more slowly out of the top half of her underamor, exchanging the skintight bodysuit for a solid gray long-sleeved shirt that was also a little to big. She huffed and rolled the sleeves up to her elbows although the larger neckline could not be helped as it shifted to bare one shoulder, her camisole bra strap visible.

She looked like a little girl playing dress up.

She hated it.

A hooded sweatshirt fixed most of that problem, a muted green that Coran had given to her from some other stash found in the castle because it was most definitely not Allura’s style. It was a little bit too big but in a comfy way and Pidge allowed herself a few seconds to feel comforted by the heavy fabric and the hood that had drooped over her eyes, before she turned her attention back to the blood and water puddles.

Clean up time.

And then, she grimaced, she still had to go deliver the data chip. She was surprised at this point no one had come after her for it as she was well outside of her hopeful ten minute detour. 

A destroyed ugly shirt later that no one would miss as her cleaning rag, Pidge had the floor clear of blood and she’d pushed the med kit under her bed for safekeeping until she could smuggle it back to Green. The aspirin she pulled out though and the final water pouch and took one more and a few swigs of water.

The pain was duller now, a gentle throb instead of a sharp stab, and manageable. She could make it to the bridge she was certain, and given her shouted reason at Lance she could use that too. If Shiro was anything like Matt he’d stammer his way through and tell her to go rest and take it easy.

Again, the irony was near killing her.

Damn Lance. He’d ruined all of it.

Still though, her secret seemed to be safe and that had been what she cared about most. And if being on her “period” brought out another version of overprotective male hijinks at least this was one that physically she had no control over.

Even though she prided herself on having never let slip once in her months of masquerading as Pidge Gunderson this pesky female problem and she hated that once more she had made herself look weak to them.

She let the new surge of anger and frustration fuel her as she proceeded to gather the data chip from her armor pocket so she could head to the bridge and finish this horrible mission when someone knocked on her door.

“Pidge?” 

Lance was back.

Why?

“What?” she snapped as she opened the door.

Lance didn’t seem put off by her prickly demeanor and instead only offered her a small grin and raised his hands, revealing some sort of lumpy pouch in one and a mug in the other. “Can I come in?”

Saying no at this point would do no good and likely only wind up with either Shiro or Allura sicced on her to make sure she was all right and so she stepped back to allow Lance in, making sure he had a wide berth around her so he didn’t accidentally bump her leg.

She didn’t want to imagine what that would feel like.

“So, uh, you feeling okay?” Lance asked as he came to stand in the center of her room and unknowingly where she’d just been bleeding everywhere. 

“Peachy.”

“I brought you some things,” Lance gently bobbed his hands again. “For, uh, you know…”

“I don’t need to be fucking coddled,” Pidge retorted, crossing her arms over her chest. 

“What? No!” Lance’s eyes widened. “That’s not… I mean, sort of, but…” he shook his head as a light flush stained his cheeks. “Look, I’m not doing it to, to coddle you.”

“Really?” Pidge raised an eyebrow, putting as much disdain into the word as she could. “Given how the last few weeks have gone I highly doubt that.”

“The last few weeks?” Lance repeated, a frown of confusion drawing on his eyes. “What are you--?”

“Get to the point,” Pidge interrupted. She was not here to listen to him make excuses for his increasingly protective behavior towards her. 

But even as she said that she felt something twist in her chest at the quick flash of hurt that crossed Lance’s features.

A smile pulled up his face a moment later although it didn’t quite reach his eyes that time. 

The tight feeling in her chest increased.

Had she just… hurt him?

“Well, um, anyways, since you weren’t feeling well I just thought… thought these might make you feel better. Veronica and Rachel--” his sisters, Pidge mentally noted,“--say it helps. But if you don’t want to use them, you don’t have to. I just… yeah…”

Lance had turned away from her then, setting the mug down on her nightstand, gently pushing aside some motherboard pieces to make room. “That’s Hunk’s best brew yet of space hot chocolate. And,” he dug his now freed hand into his pocket, “I brought some cookies too.” 

He still was not looking at her as he set the strange-shaped beanbag down on her pillow. “And, uh, that’s a space heating pack. You just shake it and it it’ll activate for about an hour and you can repeat as needed for, you know, uh,” he gestured at his stomach. 

“Cramps,” Pidge filled in, voice softer than it had been and Lance gave a jerky nod but he did meet her eyes then.

She wasn’t sure what to think about all this. On one hand, it was incredibly sweet. On the other, it was exactly what she was trying to avoid happening. 

But she also couldn’t forget the expression he’d made a moment ago and how she had been the one to put it there. 

Maybe… maybe she had been rushing some of her judgments. 

“That’s… that’s very kind of you,” she decided on, going with the response that made her chest untighten and Lance’s hesitant, soft smile confirmed it. “Thank you.”

“Yeah, no problem,” he rubbed a hand through the back of his hair. “And um, if you want I can take the chip to Coran. So you can rest.”

“I’m not sick.”

“I know, I know. Just… you aren’t feeling well and you already had such a long day and…”

Pidge felt herself frowning with confusion now. Was this Lance being overprotective of her or just Lance… Lance being nice? 

He’d been nice to Pidge Gunderson plenty of times, she couldn’t forget that. And this… this offer didn’t feel like it was being made because she couldn’t do it. It was just genuinely… kind.

“I’d…” her throat was closing up and she hated it. “I’d appreciate that. Um, here.”

She held the chip out and Lance took it with a gentless she hadn’t been expecting. 

“Maybe you’d be up for a movie later? Me and Hunk, just like old times?” Lance smiled at her and Pidge wished she could blame hormones on the tight feeling in her throat again and the sting in her eyes. She didn’t trust herself to speak and so she nodded. “Great. We’ll be over in an hour?”

She nodded again. 

“All right then, Pidgeon,” Lance ruffled her hair and she squawked out of habit as Pidge Gunderson used to do although she didn’t mind, not really. “Be back later. Don’t miss me too much.”

“Ha ha,” Pidge deadpanned but she matched his grin and she held it until the door shut behind him.

Because behind the feeling of contentment spreading through her there was a new tendril of guilt. She forced it down. She’d had to lie, she couldn’t tell him the truth because all of that sweet concern would turn overbearing.

It was just a little white lie to him and the only one she was hurting with it was herself. 

It was better this way, honestly. And although her leg was still throbbing and she hated what her pride had gotten her into, she couldn’t deny it felt… it felt nice to not be actively trying to be defensive and walled off from Lance. 

It was just a little lie.

Just a little injury.

It wouldn’t hurt anyone.

xxx

Oh how wrong she was.

 

Chapter Text

Pidge woke up to a combination of her leg feeling like it was on fire and being stabbed with a thousand needles. 

She’d known, realistically, that simply putting a night of sleep between herself and the injury would not heal it like a headache might, but she’d held onto the hope that the pain would be significantly dulled and not hamper her.

That was a big fat fuck you to optimism.

“Fuck,” Pidge moaned, hands hovering just above the bandage as touching it would make it worse but doing nothing felt bad too. 

She probably needed to take a look, make sure it hadn’t gotten worse in the overnight because it certainly felt like it had. 

Maybe it was just stiff though and she’d no doubt rolled on top of it at some point as she normally slept on her side. She lifted the band of the pants up to look down at her thigh and was relieved to see that there was no blood staining the bandages.

She’d take that as a win. 

The pain was starting to go back to a steady throb as well and to help it along Pidge popped two more aspirin. She knew it still wasn’t good but… but it didn’t seem to be bad all things considered. She’d made it through the first night without any major complications and no suspicions, so she just had to keep it up until it had healed.

She flopped back down on her bed, running over the itinerary for the day. It was an easy one, no scheduled missions. She should go to the bridge and see what was on the data chip as while she knew it wasn’t related to her family it had been some type of Galra weapons factory and would likely be their next stop. So, bridge. But after breakfast, a quick shower too as she hadn’t taken one yesterday and, a sniff of her armpit in just the long-sleeved shirt, indicated she really ought to, plus the aroma of space popcorn that Hunk had made for their movie night and it had sort of perfumed her room.

Not the worst scent by far but she didn’t fancy smelling like butter and corn kernels (chappa seeds, Hunk had told her, not corn, but they’d popped and were fluffy and tasted similar even if they were bright orange) for the rest of the day.

Shower, breakfast of food goo, bridge. They had training scheduled for later but if she remembered correctly (and of course she did) today was supposed to be a shield lesson on the various ways to utilize it for both defense and battle. A shield, Shiro had said grimly with something lurking in his eyes that Pidg was scared to look into further, could be a weapon too. 

Even with that more ominous note, shield training was going to be less intense than say active combat drills and while Pidge was determined not to let anything slow her down -- be it her leg or her “period” that she’d always powered through before -- she did have a good reason if she needed to take a break and Shiro she knew would let her. 

She still hated that she might have to.

She was not weak. Keith she knew would power through something like this, Shiro too. Even Lance, for all his dramatics, would probably suck it up and do as asked and Hunk would follow Lance’s lead. 

So it was just her.

Again.

But she was getting ahead of herself. She might be able to get through the training without issue and then all of this worrying was for nothing. And honestly, really, all things considered it didn’t feel that bad now that she was awake and the worst of the pain was just a steady dull throb.

She could do this.

She just had to get up now, face the day, and that started with a shower.

But Pidge lied in bed for another lazy twelve minutes, watching the time tick by on her laptop, still propped open and paused on the closing credits from the movie last night, and relatively comfortable all things considered. She could almost fall back asleep, actually.

But duty called and unless she wanted to wait another hour once Lance roused and commandeered the bathroom she needed to go now.

Standing was the hardest, forcing her right leg to bear her weight and she bit back the curse as the ache turned to a sharp stab at the change. But a few shuffling steps later it was still holding her up, the worst of it had faded once more, and she could fucking do this. 

Then the emergency alarm went off.

“Allura, no!” Pidge shouted towards the ceiling as though the princess could hear her. 

She was not doing a training simulation this early. She refused. And once she finished her shower and had breakfast she would be happy to tell Allura where she could stuff all of the extra training practices.

The alarm cut off with a ringing silence a few ticks later and Pidge let out a breath. Finally. Allura used to keep it going until everyone had assembled but when Lance had not shown for nearly two hours one time -- and upon them all trooping to his chambers they’d found Pidge’s stolen headphones tight on his head and playing some music that must have been loud enough to drown out the alert and seeing him wake up to Allura dumping a water pouch over his head had only slightly mollified her from the headache she and the others had all gotten from the constant blaring -- Allura had started turning it off and on in increments rather than a steady beat. 

Pidge had a few minutes before it started again and if she was lucky she could be in the shower, turn the water up high, and pretend she hadn’t heard it at all.

But the alarm blared again before she could even reach her door and this time it was accompanied by Coran’s far too cheerful tone for the message.

This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill. This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill.” 

Not a drill?

Pidge cursed. 

Allura might be a complete hardass when it came to training, but even she wouldn’t disguise it under such pretenses.

Which meant this was a real emergency.

Pidge cursed again for good measure as she stumbled for her closet where a few spare underarmours hung; necessary as sometimes it took a week or so for the laundry to get done. Time was of the essence but Pidge still forced herself to be careful as she pulled the pants on and then buckled her armor up, the top of the leg piece flush on the lower part of the bandages and snug, but not painful.

She slipped Matt’s glasses on, the familiar weight comforting, pocketed the battle of aspirin in a her armor opposite her bayard slot, took a quick swig of water, and headed out.

She realized a few steps in she was going to need to stop at the bathroom as all of the hot chocolate Hunk had pushed upon her last night was making itself known. 

The universe, as dire as its need may be, could take an extra minute for a pee break.

Thankfully none of the boys were in the bathroom and Pidge made quick work of it and also did a just as fast teeth brushing as while she knew she didn’t have the best hygiene (they all failed next to Lance though, a point he regularly impressed upon them with head shakes and deep, exaggerated sighs) she did try to brush twice a day as cavities in space sounded absolutely awful.

Her leg was starting to protest all of the fast movement and she silently apologized to it for the handling but there was nothing she could do about it. Sitting out an emergency was the last thing she could do, not only to keep up her ruse but also she could not be sidelined when people could be in need of help.

She was a Paladin of Voltron,  a goddamn defender of the universe, and she was sure as hell going to defend it no matter what.

Even hurrying as best she could, Pidge was the last one to the bridge but considering Lance still had a bit of goop from a face mask on his chin and Hunk’s hair was flat on one side and bandana tied haphazardly they’d only just gotten there too and in the same hurry she had been.

Shiro and Keith looked as prepared as always and Pidge secretly hated them for it as she patted at her own hair and hoped she had gotten all the toothpaste spit off. Allura too was in high form, somehow already in her dress despite the early hour, and she wasn’t sure Coran had any other level other than bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Allura had apparently been waiting for Pidge as she launched right into her speech.

“We received a distress signal from the planet Nalia just shy of twenty dobashes ago. The signal does not denote the emergency, but we do not believe it at this time to be Galra. Coran?”

“Righty-oh,” the advisor stepped up, summoning a hologram of a large, rocky looking planet from the outside. “This here is Nalia. It’s a rather unstable planet, shifting plorairm core and plates, causing massive tremors and quakes. It is a regular occurrence and the Narians are well-versed in safety protocols, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely safe. The princess and I believe that a stronger than anticipated quake has struck and the Narians are in need of assistance of either evacuating off planet or to a more secure location.”

Pidge let out a silent breath of relief.

A rescue mission.

A rescue mission was so much better right now than a combat one. 

“Unfortunately due to the planet’s condition bringing the castle down is far too dangerous and so we will be using several of the Lions,” Coran continued. “You will also be in teams of two due to the fact that the plorairm core interferes greatly with communications; why, it is a wonder the emergency beacon managed to penetrate what with all that plate interference!”

“I shall accompany Hunk in the Yellow Lion,” Allura spoke, “and we will be stationing ourselves where Coran has identified the strongest activity due to the Yellow Lion’s affiliation with earth and rock. Shiro, you shall accompany Keith in the Red Lion and Pidge, you shall accompany Lance in the Blue Lion.” Her jewel-toned gaze swept about the gathered Paladins. “Your primary mission is evacuation as needed and securing the safety of the Narians. You may bring them to the Castle of Lions main loading bay and Coran will be on hand to assist in disembarking procedures as needed.” 

After Sendak they all knew better than to leave the castle wide open to visitors, no matter who they may be.

She turned then to Shiro. “Have you anything you would like to add?”

Shiro nodded. “As Coran said, this planet is going to mess with our comms so under no circumstance are you to go solo; stay with your partner. Trust your instincts, trust your Lions, and most of all trust each other.”

Pidge resisted the urge to squirm as Shiro’s gaze landed on her as something uncomfortable prickled in her stomach.

Trust.

Trust was about being honest and she had been anything but.

But, she huffed silently and met his stare, her team had shown that they did not trust her to protect herself and handle things on her own, so why should she trust them either? 

It didn’t make the feeling go away but it abated some in the face of such logic and the still there tendrils of anger and frustration at them.

“You will report back no later than two varga,” Pidge zoned back in to hear Coran providing instructions. “Should we need to regroup and go back we will do so, but given our lack of communications it is imperative you do not miss the check-in. Understood?”

A chorus of affirmatives sounded and Coran nodded, pleased. “Off you go then, we have Narians to save!”

“Lucky you, Pidgeon,” Lance came over to her with a grin. “You get to be work with the amazing Lancey-Lance.”

“I think you’re the lucky one,” Pidge shot back, smirking. “Lancey-Lance.”

“Pidgey-Pidge.”

“Ugh, no,” she grimaced. 

She was glad she had done so as when she turned to follow Lance her leg, immobile during the debriefing, flared with a new ache and the expression of pain was well hidden.

Lance had long legs and ate up space in a way that forced Pidge to nearly jog to keep up with his strides. She didn’t ask him to slow down though as it would only call attention to the fact she couldn’t keep up.

The whole reason she got this injury was in an attempt to prove she was just as capable as the rest of them. And if she couldn’t even walk properly… well, then all of this pain was for nothing.

“You, uh, feeling okay today?” Lance asked, turning to look over his shoulder as they hit the entrance to the Blue Lion’s hangar. 

“Fine.”

Lance didn’t ask further as they got settled in the cockpit and she was grateful for it on more than one front.

“Ready to go, beautiful?” 

Pidge jerked her head up from where she was securing her hand into the straps behind the pilot’s chair.

What?

She realized a tick later Lance was talking to the Blue Lion and she shook her head at herself, chuckling under her breath. 

Lance craned his head around the seat back. “And are you ready to go, pretty Pidgeon?”

“Ugh,” she stuck her tongue out at him as she felt her cheeks pinken and even with the visor cover no doubt Lance had seen it. 

She scowled a tick later though. 

There it was. 

“You wouldn’t call Hunk pretty,” she said, bracing her feet as Blue revved below them. 

“Psh, no,” Lance called and she felt her anger flare in time with the wound on her leg. Of course not.  “He’s not pretty, he’s hunky. Hunky-Hunk.”

The anger disappeared in a whoosh to be replaced with shame.

There she was, jumping to conclusions.

Again.

“His is actually perfect,” Lance continued, oblivious to the rapid storm of emotions behind him. “It’s got the ring of Lancey-Lance but you know, it actually is a word. You sure Pidgey-Pidge is--”

“Nope,” Pidge cut him off. 

“Well, since pretty is apparently out even though I stand by it,” Lance’s tone was casual but even still Pidge found herself blushing again and this time not accompanied by that sensation of not good enough, “how about perfect Pidge?”

“I’m not perfect.”

The words came out more bitter, more honest than she’d have liked.

She certainly didn’t feel that way.

Especially not now. 

“Well I like it,” Lance told her. “But we’ll work on it, okay? After we go rescue some Narians?”

“Let’s.”

She didn’t identify which she was referring to but she could practically hear Lance’s grin.

“All right, hold on tight now.”

Pidge hadn’t flown with Lance since they all ended up in space, but she noticed the difference almost immediately. Where Lance had always had sort of jerky starts on the simulation, this one was smooth, effortless, and she knew from learning to pilot Green it wasn’t just the Lion helping out.

“Nice flying, tailor,” she complimented, meaning it sincerely.  

Lance didn’t respond but she knew he’d heard her and she smiled softly. 

The ache was whittling away again.

Within a few minutes they were entering Nalia’s airspace to the coordinates Coran had given Lance over the comms before they descended and now there was a quiet hiss of static in her ear if she tried. That plorairm core was something else and had the planet not been so unstable she would have been interested in studying it. 

Pidge peered through the front window, taking in the dry and dusty orange and brown rocks that even from here looked as though they were shaking.

She gulped.

They were going to land on that?

As they drew closer Pidge saw something else against the dusty landscape.

Or rather someones.

The Narians, a bi-pedal species in the same color skin tones as the rocks with large heads and short limbs, were all about the shifting landscape.

And they were in trouble.

The section they were headed to was separating and houses, sort of rounded low dwellings but even then still much larger than the aliens, were being split apart and between them and rock formations that were crumbling the area was rife with danger.

Her resolve flared.

People needed help.

“Ready?” Lance asked.

“Let’s do this.”

Their landing was not smooth and Pidge winced as not just her leg but all parts of her jolted. 

The very ground below the Blue Lion was shaking and she heard Lance give a soft murmur of comfort to his Lion, taking a moment to pat the console even in their hurry. 

“I think we need to evacuate them off planet,” Lance said as he darted for the descending ramp. 

Pidge agreed and said so. 

If the rest of the planet was like this...

Pidge wasn’t sure there’d be much of one left at this rate.

Their appearance had not gone unnoticed and as soon as they were outside the Lion, the shaking even worse here and Pidge bit back the moan as she had to slam her feet wide to remain upright, the locals were swarming them, panicked cries mingled with grateful thanks and prayers.

“We’re Paladins of Voltron!” Lance had to nearly shout to be heard over the low roar from the rocks grating and tumbling. “We’re here to help!”

They ended up repeating that mantra over and over, with the additions of directing the Narians into Blue through the cargo hold and constantly reminding them to go single file as they pushed and shoved as the tremors continued to destroy the area. 

Pidge and Lance darted around with the aid of their jetpacks as the ground was beginning to split in places to assist semi-stranded aliens towards the Lion. All at least were more than willing to go, but it was getting them to leave behind possessions that was becoming the problem. 

And the alien that Pidge was with now, one of the last few to board that she’d found inside a home and making no effort to leave, had moved to the top of the stubborn idiot list.

“There’s no room,” Pidge told what she assumed was an elderly Narian, her skin displaying wrinkles, as the alien tried once more to get around Pidge with a some sort of giant vase. “You have to leave it.”

“No,” the word was a warble and stubby arms that were shorter than even Pidge’s tightened as much as they could about it. 

“Ma’am--”

Pidge broke off as the walls of the small dwelling shuddered and a large crack crossed the ceiling.

They didn’t have much time. 

“Ma’am, you have to leave it,” Pidge said. “I’m sorry, but the Blue Lion can’t--”

“No,” the alien said again. “No. I won’t leave him.”

Pidge paused.

“Him?” she repeated.

“My husband,” the woman sniffled. “I won’t. I’ll stay here if I must.”

And saying so she took a hard sit on the shaking floor.

Pidge’s annoyance took a sit with her. 

“Ma’am, get up. We’ll… we’ll take him too, okay?”

The Blue Lion could hold it, Pidge knew that, even if it would be more than a cramped ride back to the castle. But if they allowed one Narian to take a belonging then everyone would and they didn’t have the room for that or the time to spare. 

But…

But for this they could make an exception.

Tears sprung to the Narian’s eyes.

“Can I help you with… him?” Pidge asked as another crack cut through the walls and it was taking all she had to not just grab the vase. 

“Yes, yes please,” and a moment later the surprisingly heavy vase -- urn, Pidge supposed although she was starting to fear there weren’t just ashes inside -- was pushed into her arms and Pidge gritted her teeth as she instinctively went to brace it against her thigh. 

“Ma’am, hurry,” she managed as the elderly Narian pulled herself up. “We don’t--”

The entire home shook in a way that could only mean one thing.

“Go!” Pidge screamed.

They cleared the rounded doorway just before the home collapsed in on itself and sent a giant cloud of dust and rocks wafting.

“Pidge!” 

She could not see Lance through the dust cloud but the thermal readings on her helmet showed him incoming to the right and she pivoted in that direction just before he materialized.

She saw his mouth opening to protest as he caught sight of the vase and she and cut him off as the Narian hovered at her elbow, eyes still wet with tears. “It’s coming with us. We can make room.”

“All right then,” Lance didn’t argue. “Let’s go. She’s the last one.” He turned to the Narian. “Miss,” and Pidge resisted the urge to snort because seriously?, “would you be all right if I took your, er, vase from the Green Paladin?”

Pidge normally might have protested that she could carry it just fine but her arms were aching and her right thigh was pulsing now in a way it hadn’t before and she was really hoping she was imagining the damp feeling coming from it and she just wanted to get out of here.

The Narian nodded and with an unnecessary but still important to say, “careful,” from Pidge, she transferred it to Lance’s arms. She felt a faint smirk as his eyes widened at the weight and he gave her a second look, a flicker of admiration in his eyes.

She pretended not to notice, still not sure if she should be touched or offended that he thought her incapable of carrying something heavy.

She squashed the second thought with a shake of her head as she instead took hold of the Narian’s upper arm to guide her over the rough ground.

It was a compliment and she had to stop jumping down people’s throats. 

This last Narian had been one of the furthest homes out from the Blue Lion and the several minute trip back had Pidge’s heart pounding in time with what she was definitely trying not to tell herself was blood trickling down her leg inside her underarmour and each step was sending a flare up to the aggravated wound. 

Finally, finally though Blue’s bulk came into view and they cleared the last chasm, Pidge having to pause to adjust to lift the Narian over with her thrusters, and Pidge almost cried with relief. Everyone was safe, mission was a success, and her wound was still a secret (assuming the blood didn’t start to leak through the uniform). 

Lance was already on the cargo ramp by the time the two of them made it over and Pidge broke into a quick trot, trying to usher the Narian along.

And then the ground cracked with a rumble so loud Pidge thought the very scene would rip itself in two.

It practically did.

The ground all around the Blue Lion was falling away and with reflexes that would have made Keith jealous Pidge had activated her thrusters and hauled both herself and the alien into the air, her arm and shoulder crying at the weight but she held as the ground disappeared.

“Pidge!” Lance’s shout of her name that time was pure panic as Pidge stuttered forward a couple feet before landing, the ground shifting underneath her.

“Go!” she screamed as even without being connected to the Blue Lion she could feel the horror and fear emanating from her, flinging the Narian with a strength borne from adrenaline at the ramp and all concern for gentleness on hold. “I’m coming!”

Lance hooked both arms about the Narian and heaved her onto the ramp she’d crashed into, starting to retract, and dragged her up into the Blue Lion’s underbelly.

Pidge ran. 

She could feel the ground giving way with every footfall and pain pain pain erupting up her leg. 

Almost there.

Almost there almost there almost there.

The Blue Lion was beginning to lift off, thrusters firing, and the ramp nearly pulled in. 

She had to jump.

“Pidge!” Lance was hanging out of the cargo bay, one hand extended down to grab her.

She bunched her feet below her and activated her jetpack to propel her up, hands raised up to intercept his.

The ground gave way beneath her left foot.

Her gasp was swallowed up as surely as the rocks into new chasm.

She shifted her weight to her right on instinct, pushed and--

Agony as the limb protested the movement and she realized with sickening horror her attempt hadn’t been enough, her right leg not strong enough, the injury sending her rocketing forward instead of flying up.

Her fingertips brushed against Lance’s and her gaze directed upward met horrified, pinpricked ocean eyes.

And with a wordless, breathless scream she fell into the abyss.

Chapter Text

The momentum from her thrusters didn’t let Pidge fall straight down but rather she careened into one of the chasm walls, bouncing off it to strike another section.

She screamed, the sound swallowed by the collapsing planet, as her leg smashed into one such rock and agony made her vision go white. 

It came back to reveal that she’d flipped head over heels and she was in freefall now as she’d released the thrusters. 

Pidge desperately tried to propel herself upright as the sky began to disappear above and the inner parts of the planet surrounded her with a suffocating darkness, but she was falling too fast and her limbs wouldn’t cooperate as she clipped rock after rock and even with the protection of her armor and helmet pain was shaking and stabbing and her head was aching and her thrusters were not working and she couldn’t slow down.

She…

She was going to die.

She was going to die here and it was all her fault.

Pidge swallowed her sob as she still tried to stop her plummet, hands scraping fruitlessly against rock and her thrusters giving off little sounds that were nothing like the jets she needed them to be and a warning flashed across her visor that there was heavy damage to them, likely from smashing into one of the walls.

God.

God, she’d fucked up so bad.

“Matt,” she whispered his name, somehow audible over the cracking and breaking and the whoosh of wind resistance as she continued to fall.

“Dad,” she choked out. “I’m… I’m so sorry.”

Maybe… maybe the others would take up the search in her place. Shiro would; they were practically his family too. Somehow, some way, they would be saved.

She would not.

Her stupid, stupid pride was literally going to kill her. 

And her death was a few seconds away.

Her armor’s light, the only source now, was illuminating what looked like the ground of this chasm that had opened.

She would crash.

She gave herself ten seconds at her current velocity and the lack of obstacles now as the walls rose up with feet to spare on either side of her.

She hoped the impact killed her.

Otherwise…

Otherwise she was going to be in a lot of pain until she finally died from her injuries. She knew there would be no coming back from them.

She didn’t know if she should keep her eyes open to watch her impending crash (and death) or close them, but as soon as she did the latter she instantly regretted it as the unknown, even now, was scarier than reality.

And while Pidge knew it would do nothing at this speed, she still brought her arms up to protect her head, drew her legs beneath her to try and make the impact zone the smallest possible and give her maybe a tenth of a percent of a chance of surviving. 

She was going to die.

She knew it as surely as she knew how stupid she was.

There was no terror to the thought though, not anymore.

Just sadness.

Guilt.

A terrible sense of failure and the still remnants of denial that this couldn’t be it, it just couldn’t.

And yet it was.

Five seconds. 

And then…

She heard something above her pounding pulse and the rush of wind and the continued failed sputtering as she desperately tried to activate her thrusters, not so much to propel her out of this chasm (even though with the gravity here that would have been impossible) but just to slow her descent.

Her name.

And then something smashed into her back.

It wasn’t a rock.

It was Lance.

“Hang on!” he screamed right against her helmet but even then Pidge barely heard him.

The ground was closing in, three seconds until impact, when she felt his arms snake about her chest and there was a whoosh and then a horrible pressure she felt even through the armor and she distantly heard Lance shout out in pain but his grip only tightened.

The world righted itself but being upright wasn’t going to stop their descent.

It was slower though.

She…

She might have a chance.

But…

She couldn’t see Lance, his chest pressed flush to her back, but the heavy sensation of guilt kicked on full throttle. 

He was going to get hurt because of her.

He…

He could die because of her.

She tried to lean forward, to pull away, because this was her mistake and she couldn’t literally bring him down with her, but Lance held on tight.

He wasn’t going to let go. 

“Lance!” his name was torn from her.

She wasn’t sure what she was trying to say then.

A plea? An apology? A demand?

They hit the ground before she could figure it out.

Pidge’s cry mingled with Lance’s and she felt something snap in her right leg and it buckled entirely under her.

They were bouncing then across the surface, rock and armor and limbs in equal measure striking her and she could do nothing, not even scream, as all air had been stolen from her lungs.

A few seconds later she felt Lance’s arms loosen from around her and the next second she was alone.

She did manage a scream at that because if Lance had let go…

It could only mean one thing.

No.

God, no.

She bounced once more and then rolled before she finally came to a stop flat on her back. Her vision was going in and out in dizzying circles and her leg was on fire and her visor was flashing with warnings about the integrity of her armor that she could feel in her battered body but none of that mattered right now.

Because Lance…

Oh God.

She somehow managed to press both hands palm down on the ground and she pushed herself to a sit.

The world turned and she felt acid tickle her throat.

Pidge had no choice but to slump forward, sucking in shaky breaths and trying desperately not to puke because the air here was not safe for humans and she could not remove her visor and she needed to hurry goddamnit because Lance…

She was wasting time.

She needed to get up.

She needed to…

To…

God.

God had she just…?

She forced herself to take a full minute, breathing in and out until the acid tinge faded and the dizziness with it although the pain was growing worse and as she glanced down at her outstretched legs there was a definite dark, damp patch on her right thigh.

The wound had reopened and bled through her underarmor.

What was more her lower leg was twisted, bent in a way that was unnatural and made the bile swim right back up. 

That would have been the snapping noise.

She wrenched her gaze from it and looked instead across the bottom of the chasm, which was shrouded in darkness as no light from above pierced here.

It did make it easy to spot Lance though.

He was lying motionless maybe a hundred feet from her, the lights on his armor glowing soft teal in places like her own and highlighting the white of his uniform.

“Lance?”

Her voice was barely a whisper, a croak of sound.

“Lance?” she tried again.

He didn’t respond.

Didn’t move.

God.

Oh God.

Pidge knew she couldn’t walk.

She crawled.

Every push forward was agony, her body protesting and her right leg dragging behind her, every bump and rock sending a new burst of fire through it.

She kept going.

By the time she reached Lance she had fogged up her visor with heavy breaths and even with the protection of the gloves she was pretty sure she had blisters and rubbed raw skin from pulling herself forward.

None of it was painful compared to the silent stillness in which Lance lied there.

There was blood inside his visor that she traced to a cut on his forehead, bangs already matted down, but the visor had remained intact, a miracle really. 

His face was slack, lips parted the tiniest bit, and he was so…

Still.

Pidge had only seen him look like that once in her life and it had been the deciding factor that kept her from going solo to look for her family.

She had never wanted to see such a thing again.

“Lance?” she whispered, reaching a trembling hand out to press against his shoulder. “L-Lance?”

He didn’t move.

“Lance, please. Please,” tears were stinging her eyes as she gave him another nudge. “Please wake up.”

Please don’t be dead.

And while he did not wake Pidge felt the rise of his chest beneath her hand and she hiccuped out a sob of relief.

Not dead.

There was another tremor then and she was vividly reminded that the planet was still falling apart.

She felt the rip in the ground more than she saw it, the way the earth shifted beneath her with a groan.

Plates, Coran had said.

And given the fact that Hunk and Allura had gone to the highest source of the disturbance but she and Lance had clearly ended up on a massive one as well...

It meant that that this planet was one giant convergent plate boundary.

And they were still very, very much in danger. 

The ground shuddered again and while Pidge couldn’t see much outside of their circle of light she heard rocks crashing somewhere to their left and the ground shifted again beneath her.

They needed to go.

They needed to go now. 

But go where?

She had no idea where they were, no idea where safety would lie. She could just as easily navigate them into another fault line and they would fall deeper into the planet — and given its size they could fall very, very very far still, several miles deep at least.

If that happened…

They would die, no doubt in her mind.

Pidge didn’t know the temperature of the plorairm core, but even if didn’t have the heat like Earth’s magma center then no doubt  the pressure would and if not that then likely the fall if they did indeed go down and should they survive all of that then dehydration because there was nothing down here except for rocks.

“Lance,” Pidge tapped his helmet with more urgency than before as the ground gave another creak and trembled and she was not imagining the line forming a few paces outside of their illuminated huddle. “Lance, wake up.”

He remained out cold.

She was going to have to move him herself.

When she couldn’t even walk.

God.

God fucking damnit. 

But she would not leave him behind, never never never

He was the only reason she was still alive. 

But more than that…

He was her friend and God, she had been so fucking selfish. 

“Suck it up, Holt,” she ordered herself, voice raspy with tears and pain. “You did this. Now fix it.”

Fix it before she killed them both.

How?

They needed to go up.

They needed to get off this ground before it opened up and swallowed them any more and they would never find their way back to the surface.

Her bayard flickered into her hands, brief green and white glow lighting up their surroundings and Pidge took full advantage of it.

Crack, growing, twenty feety to their right.

Drop off, likely the boundary of one of the plates or a fault line, forty feet left.

Wall rising up, unknown height, fifteen feet straight ahead.

More cracks spiderwebbing out, nothing too dangerous looking yet, behind.

She turned her attention to the wall, dissolving and summoning her bayard once more to regenerate the light and holding it aloft over her head.

About twenty feet up she could make out a darker shadow, some sort of crevice.

It was a start. 

Assuming, of course, the wall didn’t collapse on top of them and they were squashed. But it was that or remaining on the ground where the fissures were widening and if by some miracle they survived another hurtle deeper into the planet it would be several hundred more feet they’d have to climb back out.

It was go up now…

Or don’t go up at all.

Pidge grit her teeth.

This was going to hurt. 

But she had to do it. No help was coming. 

They were on their own.

And they had to go.

The ground around them gave another shake as though to agree and Pidge yelped as the piece she was sitting on actually lifted slightly and shook violently as the crack further up widened.

Lance didn’t so much as stir even though he too slid a few inches at the movement. 

Pidge hurried then, rolling Lance onto his side — he still didn’t move and God what had she done? — and positioned herself behind him; arms wrapped about his chest and she got her left leg to wrap about his waist although her right refused to move any more and her vision grayed out when she tried. 

Three limbs would have to be enough. 

She looped her bayard handle then about her right wrist and her hand were small enough that she got her left one through it too and they clasped each other, securing the bayard in her hand and Lance in her arms.

She’d used her bayard as a grappling hook once, back in the castle when she’d been fleeing sentry fire after Sendak had infiltrated. 

She wondered if Haxus had felt the same fear, the same resignation of his fate, as he fell.

Her stomach swooped at the memory and she shoved it away.

It had been necessary. 

Same as this.

“Hang, hang on,” she choked out, repeating Lance’s words back despite the fact in both cases it had been the other party doing so. Her arms tightened and she craned her head back, adjusting the aim of her bayard.

She released it.

The glowing green cord snaked through the air with pinpoint accuracy — Lance would be proud, Pidge sniffled — to disappear into the dark crevice and she felt the line go taught as the barb connected.

She prayed it remained so.

But that was why she had situated herself behind Lance. If they fell…

She would take the brunt of the impact.

She would protect him.

Pidge took in a shuddering breath, bracing herself for the inevitable pain. Pulling her own bodyweight up on the bayard wasn’t bad, but that was on a good day when she didn’t feel like she’d been put through a blender and had a good, firm grip on her bayard.

Now she was trying to do so while carrying an entire other person with a more than busted leg and an unstable surface to boot.

The ground gave another rumble beneath them, a warning to get moving.

Pidge did.

She was surprised Lance didn’t awaken to her screaming directly behind his head as her arms burned and tore and God God God as the line retracted and she and Lance were yanked into the air and up the side of the wall.

Oh God.

She forced herself to hold on tighter.

She would not let go.

She would not lose him.

She was going to fucking do this.

An agonizing eight point two seconds later she had.

They rolled none too gracefully into the crevice, not even tall enough for Pidge to sit up in, but that was fine as she had no plans to do anything but lie there for the moment, arms still wrapped tight about Lance and she couldn’t let go even if she wanted to as they wouldn’t move. 

He was still so still. 

But lying as they were now she could feel his chest rising and she took comfort in it.

She counted each beat, matched her own breathing to the steady rise and fall, and focused on that over the still shaking movement of the planet, of the impending fear that the wall would come down atop them and they’d be crushed to death instead of plummeting to it. 

But as her pulse slowly stopped its rapid beating she was becoming more and more aware of not just how much her right leg hurt but how damp it was and the hot, sticky sensation of blood.

She couldn’t afford to continue to lose it. They had no supplies to replenish it and—

Her eyes widened.

She had the alien aspirin!

And as quickly as the elation hit her it faded as she had no way of navigating it from outside her helmet to inside without exposing her lungs to the oxygen-less air and that would kill her far quicker than dulling the pain.

Damn it.

It also meant that dehydration was just as dangerous a fear as being crushed as even were she to find a water source down here there was no way to drink it.

And now she was back to the pressing issue of blood loss. She didn’t think it was anywhere close to fatal but too much and she would get woozy and had nothing to try and combat it. And as much as it hurt, as gross as it felt, leaving it alone would be for the best. It would hopefully clot against the underarmor and it would have to be enough. So long as she didn’t make any excessive movements to reopen it could be okay.

She snorted.

Yeah. Right.

The planet gave another shake as though agreeing and Pidge braced one hand on the ground of their crevice and dug her other fingers into Lance’s chestplate as his body shifted with the quake.

She realized a tick later that although he was vibrating slightly from the plates there was a different sort of movement to him.

He was waking up.

Pidge removed her arm from Lance and pushed herself up on her forearms, swallowing the groan as her body protested, so she was hovering over him.

Beneath the bloody visor his eyelids were flickering and he shifted, rolling flat onto his back and giving Pidge an even better view. She took the moment to scan him as best she could for any obvious injury with the low lights of their armor illuminating the small space decently well even if in a teal cast  but to her relief other than the visible bloodied head wound nothing looked particularly wrong. 

She prayed maybe, maybe, Lance could at least escape from the worst of it although the fact he’d gone unconscious and definitely had a head injury was still bad.

He gave off a soft moan and tilted his head unconsciously in her direction and she stared, holding her breath.

A moment later dark eyes fluttered open.

“Lance?” she whispered as they stared blearily at her, unseeing. 

They blinked once.

Twice.

On the third blink the film was lifting and replaced with clarity if confusion as they focused on her. 

“Pidge?” he rasped. “What… what happened?”

“Don’t move,” she answered instead as his hand lifted at his side, no doubt to release his helmet, reaching her own out to push it down when it didn’t stop quick enough. “You’re… you’re hurt.”

Because there was no way he wasn’t a massive bruise just like she felt she was.

He let out a soft groan at that.

“The… the Lions play... fútbol with us?”

She didn’t like how breathy he still sounded.

Did he have broken ribs?

Punctured lung?

Was he going to choke on blood?

What the fuck had she done?

What had he done?

Why had he come after her?

“Why?” Lance said, frown pulling his eyes together and Pidge realized she’d said that last question out loud. Realization filled his gaze a moment later but rather than looking upset or angry he looked only…

Concerned.

For her.

Fuck it.

Fuck him.

He should not be allowed to make that expression.

“You okay?” he asked softly and God damn him, Pidge felt a prickle in the back of her eyes and her throat felt tight.

“Fine,” she bit out, pushing past it, burying the encroaching tears with the pain that she could not let herself focus on. “You?”

“Um…” 

She saw his throat bob as he swallowed, the wince as he very carefully shifted his fingers, his feet. 

She was watching so intently there was no missing the sharper wince as he took in a deep inhale and the choking sound he made from it.

Broken ribs. No doubt about it. 

Pidge didn’t have much in the way of first aid training but she reached one hand over and gently prodded at Lance’s ribcage where the armor didn’t cover.

Lance sucked in another sharp inhale and he gave a little jolt under her hand.

That jolt turned into a fullbody shake as the planet groaned around them and Lance’s eyes widened and he looked past her to take in their current location, pain momentarily forgotten in light of their surroundings.

“Where… where are we?”

“We fell,” Pidge said bluntly. 

Or, rather, she fell.

And he’d come after her.

And now he was hurt.

“We’re at least three hundred feet down, no sign of the surface,” she continued, voice more even than she felt but talking numbers always made her feel calm.

Even if these numbers were awful.

“My jetpack is broken but even so it won’t be able to propel more than about ten feet with the current gravity field. My bayard can launch a distance of about twenty-five feet for grappling purposes, but unless there’s somewhere semi-stable to pause in while disengaging it… We’re about twenty feet up from the current floor, but visibility is none outside of these,” she nodded at the glowing teal symbol on her shoulder, “and what my bayard produces when activated.”

Lance looked around the crevice again.

“You… you got us up here?”

Pidge bristled at the surprise in his tone.

Always the surprise.

Always underestimating her.

“Why? You think I couldn’t?” she snapped, not sure where the surge of anger had come from but she welcomed it as it blocked out some of the pain. “Because I’m small? Because I’m a girl? Because I’m weak?

“What? No!” Lance’s eyes were wide again and Pidge was strongly reminded of a similar conversation yesterday. 

It should have cooled her temper but it only made it worse as she was reminded all over again of why such a thing had happened.

Because as much as she was protesting now…

It was all true.

And she was going to kill them both. 

“Just say it,” Pidge growled.

Say it.

She deserved it.

“Say wh—?”

“That I fucked up. That I’m weak. That if it hadn’t been for me then…”

“Pidge, no,” and fuck him his voice was soft again and his eyes too soft even though he had to have no idea where this conversation had started or was going because she didn’t either. “None of that is… is true.”

“So you’re not hurt? We didn’t fall over three hundred feet? We’re not stuck inside of a collapsing planet?”

“Pidge—”

“It’s because of me, Lance,” she choked out, alarmed that the tears were creeping back in. “It’s my Goddamn fault. I fucked up. I did this. And, and… and you guys were right. This proves it. I…” her voice dropped to a whisper. “I shouldn’t be a Paladin.”

The words echoed in the small chamber that not even the shaking walls could penetrate.

“Shouldn’t be a…?” Lance repeated, brow furrowed.

And then to her surprise his gaze narrowed and something like anger flashed in his eyes before it evened out into something cooler although no less fiery. 

“Pidge you are a genius, but right now… right now you’re being an idiot.” 

She opened her mouth to say something but Lance kept talking and while breathy his words were strong.

“You’re not weak. You… you think I could carry H-Hunk?” he stuttered on the name as pain colored his features. 

“La—”

“I can’t. I can’t. And I hate it. He can… he can carry me. And you,” his eyes met hers. “You carried me t-too.” His voice went softer. “You’re not weak, Pidgeon. And… and you’re an amazing P-Paladin.” A smile turned up his lips even as the planet shook again. “You saved me.”

But Pidge shook her head.

“Saved you? Lance, I’m the reason you’re here. That you’re hurt. That, that…”

She swallowed.

“Why did you come after me?”

She braced for it even though the back of her mind was already chiding her for even thinking it because Lance…
Lance wasn’t like that.

“Because… because you needed help.”

He said it so simply.

“But why?” she pressed.

She needed to know.

Was it because he thought she couldn’t save herself?

Would he have done the same for any one else?

Or was it because it was her? 

He looked confused. “Why… why wouldn’t I?”

“If, if Keith or Shiro had fallen, would you have gone after them too?” The words came out a desperate rush.

This was it.

He’d go after Hunk, she knew that. But the others? The (in her opinion and one that facts supported) strongest two on their team? 

“Of course.”

Her breath whooshed out.

Of course.

Of course.

Of course.

It echoed in her skull above the pulsing of her heartbeat.

Of course.

God.

“Pidge, what is—?”

He cut off as a sob she couldn’t contain any longer wrenched its way up her throat.

She was in pain. She was drowning with guilt and shame for getting them into this mess, for attacking Lance like this when he was hurt and he had done it because that was what he fucking did. 

God.

God she was an idiot.

She was the biggest Goddamn, selfish idiot in the whole fucking universe.

And her guilt flared only more as Lance reached for her, no doubt based on the wince the movement hurting his ribs, and closed a hand around her arm still braced on the ground, as much a hug as he could offer. 

“Hey,” he murmured and it only made another sob strangled her. “Hey, Pidge, Pidgeon, it’s okay.”

“It’s n-not,” she choked out. “I, I did th-this.”

Her fault.

All of this was her fault.

“Pidge, no. The planet—”

“No,” she cut him off with a vehemence aimed not at him but at herself. “No. I fucked up, Lance. I… I…”

She swallowed thickly.

Time to be honest.

Time for him now to really be angry with her.

She deserved it.

“I’m hurt,” she blurted. 

“You’re—?”

“I broke my leg,” she said and he sucked in a breath. “But, but that’s not… that’s not what… I was hurt. Before. I didn’t… I was so stupid. I thought…”

“Is this… about your, uh, girl—”

“No!” 

But…

“But yes,” she said. “Sort of.”

Lance looked completely lost.

She couldn’t blame him. She had no idea what she was saying anymore.

Pidge sucked in a deep breath and let it rattle out.

Time to try this again. 

“I got hurt on the last mission. With the data chip.”

She was relieved when Lance stayed quiet even though his hand, still on her arm, gave a squeeze.

“It… it was bad. It is bad,” she corrected, lowering her gaze because she couldn’t meet his. “And I… I didn’t tell anyone. I just… ever since I told everyone I was a girl everyone has… or I thought they… I don’t know.”

Her eyes were stinging and she wished she could press her hands to them. 

“You thought we were… treating you differently?”

She gave a jerk of her head.

At least she didn’t have to spell it out.

Lance had always been perceptive like that. 

God.

She’d been such an idiot.

“Did… did I?”

“I don’t know,” Pidge admitted. “I thought… but you…” She finally lifted her eyes up. “You’ve… you’ve always been like that, haven’t you? You, you protected me at the Garrison even when you thought I was a boy. And you protected Coran. And, and I’ve seen you take hits in sims and with the Blue Lion to protect others and I just… God, I’m so stupid. I was so fucking selfish and prideful and, and now…”

“Hey,” Lance squeezed her arm again. “You’re not stupid. And…  and it’s gonna be okay. Okay?”

She just shook her head.

“How… how bad is it?”

Pidge glanced down where her right leg was somewhat piled atop her left as she was turned on that side. The light wasn’t good but even in it she could make out the fact the suit there was darker than the rest and with the attention on it she felt it flare with a familiar but no less painful pulse.

“Not good,” she whispered.

The ground quaked and that time there was a resounding crack and a jolt that sent Pidge from her spot rolling into Lance, her helmet headbutting him in the chest and she barely contained the scream as her injured leg was jostled and Lance too let out a sharp gasp. 

But more prevalent than the pain was the way dust and rock chips were falling from the ceiling of their crevice, pelting their armor.

And then the thick line snaking across the low ceiling.

It was going to come down.

They were going to be crushed.

They were…

They were going to die. 

And she would be the one to kill them.

Chapter Text

Lying as she was pressed to Lance’s side from the quaking even above the cracking and crumbling Pidge could hear his sharp inhale, could see the whites of his eyes and the fear on his face.

She also saw and felt the moment he made to move, to do something stupidly heroic and self-sacrificing like cover her. But not because she was a girl and needed protected.

Because he was her friend and he wanted to.

No.

Fuck no.

He’d done enough for her already, had already saved her life.

It was time she returned the favor, even if it was only because of her she had to do so.

But even as stupid as she had been, Pidge was still a genius.

And she had an idea.

“Shields!” she near bellowed. 

And saying so she summoned hers from her left arm, the brilliant teal and white glow flooding the compartment and she formed it standing straight up, the shield jammed from floor to ceiling. 

A tick later Lance did the same.

It wouldn’t hold for long, not with an entire planet trying to come down, but it would give them a few seconds.

Pidge was already fumbling her bayard free even though she had no anchor point yet planned.

But it could hook onto the wall if she shot it straight up.

She’d be dangling all of her weight, not to mention Lance’s, but…

But there was no other choice. 

It was go now or die.

“Move!” she shouted, already dragging herself towards the lip of the crevice, easily visible thanks to the shields.

The world outside was a chaotic mess of falling rocks and groaning walls.

And it was time they went into it.

Pidge glanced up, looking for something, anything, to latch her bayard too. 

There were no more crevices she could spot above them but the planet’s rock was rough and it would have to be enough.

“Hold on!” she screamed and Lance reacted immediately, throwing his arms around her from behind and clasping in front of her chest without a moment of hesitation.

He trusted her.

He trusted her after all she had done. 

And despite the fact she might very well be sending them plummeting in a few seconds if this failed she felt something warm burst in her chest that eclipsed the coiling guilt still taking up residence in her stomach.

He trusted her.

And she was going to save him.

Pidge released her bayard.

She felt it strike something above, felt the line go taut.

And then she heard the shields shatter.

Time to go.

She activated the retract.

And they flew. 

Pidge wasn’t sure if it was more or less painful than the first time as it was her chest being compressed (had she been the one to break Lance’s ribs? Had it been the fall?) and Lance somehow managed to wrap one leg about hers to decrease the drag but it pressed directly over her wound and her vision went dark for a second and not because of the lack of light.

All breath whooshed out of her with another scream as their momentum came to a stop as she reached the end of the bayard cord and her arms felt like they might tear out of her sockets as they hung there.

Pain morphed to panic as she felt her grip beginning to slip.

She couldn’t hold on.

“L-Lance—”

He was moving behind her and she felt her abused hands sliding more from the bayard.

God.

God they were going to fall.

And then the worst of the weight disappeared and she heard Lance groan behind her, his armored chin pressing uncomfortably down against her neck and somehow his legs going past her waist on either side so she was almost resting against him in a distorted version of a chair.

What had he done?

She glanced down, arms still trembling, to find his feet braced against the cliff, supporting what weight of his he could.

God though.

With his ribs…

Dios,” came a breathy, pained moan. “ D-Dios.”

“Hang on,” she blurted out and to her surprise the moan turned to a ragged laugh.

“Doing s-so."

She felt a hysterical giggle try to bubble out of her own lips at that but she swallowed it as this was no laughing matter.

They were stuck, dangling from the cliff face. Neither had any free hands to use so even if their shields hadn’t been destroyed they had no way to maneuver them into some sort of step, even for a moment for her to re-engage her bayard.

Think.

Think think think. 

What did they have?

What could she use?

Lance’s bayard would be useless here, hers was tied up (oh God, oh God, she did not just think that now), both of them were hurt. Her jetpack was—

She stiffened.

Hers was out of commission.

Was Lance’s?

“Lance,” her voice came out a waver as the planet shuddered beneath her and she felt her hands losing hold even more.

They’d fall in no more than eight seconds. 

“Your jetpack. Can you…? Three ticks. I just…”

It was going to hurt.

It was going to hurt so much and there wasn’t going to be any reprieve.

And she was going to fucking do it if it killed her.

“Y-yeah.”

His hands shifted, reaching for the release on his gauntlet, and she felt him slip some, his legs shaking.

No more time to waste. 

“Now!”

Lance hit the thrusters in the same instant she released her bayard.

For one terrifying second she felt like they were falling.

And then there was a spurt of blue flame and they balanced.

Pidge re-engaged her bayard, casting it up as high as it would go on the cliff.

And they shot up, flying far faster with the aid of the thrusters.

But Pidge could hear them sputtering, knew like her own they were either damaged, running low on fuel, or both.

“Turn, turn them off!” she shouted as they came to rest at the new point on the wall and her arms screamed as Lance’s full weight dragged on her until he somehow managed to brace a single leg past her on the rock again but it was shaking even more this time.

“We have to s-save it,” her breaths were coming in gasps. “Gonna, gonna go in one shot.”

“Pidge,” he sounded horrified. “Pidge, you…”

She could hear the can’t, her body not strong enough to support them for that long, that she wasn’t strong enough.

But he didn’t say it.

Instead…

“L-let’s do it.”

She could have cried.

Us.

And he trusted her. 

He believed in her. 

And they could fucking do this.

“On my signal.”

She took a deep breath.

“Go.”

What followed was a haze of pain and passing of time that Pidge couldn’t put any number on. She stopped trying to keep track of how many feet they’d traversed in the pitch darkness save for the barely there blips on their armor, the wash of Lance’s thrusters every time for a couple seconds and her bayard cord snaking upwards.

On what had to be the tenth release, she was having trouble remembering as her entire body was one giant ball of agony and numbers were failing her, she wondered if they were actually meant to ever reach the top.

But they had to.

Lance didn’t deserve to die down here.

Not for her pride.

She forced herself to do it again.

And again.

And again.

She wasn’t sure if the numbness starting to settle into her hands was good or bad.

Bad, she decided as she felt her grip loosening before Lance had activated the thrusters.

Bad.

Push through it.

She and Lance didn’t talk other than her breathy gasps of “go,” that became more and more just deeper inhales that Lance translated. 

So when he spoke hours — minutes? days? — later she nearly lost her hold on the bayard.

“P-Pidge. L-light.”

Pidge had had her head pressed against the wall between her shaking arms but she ever so slowly tilted it back.

Lance was right.

There was light above.

It was dull, no doubt from massive dust clouds being kicked up on the surface and blocking out the sun and it didn’t permeate into the gloom down below, but there was light.

Maybe fifty feet. 

“Go,” she managed that time.

They were going to get out.

The could do this.

Up they went two more times as they had been, the light so close now Pidge could almost pretend it felt warm. 

“L-last one,” she choked out.

She’d need to send her bayard up and over the edge, angle it moreso than they had been doing.

Almost over.

Almost out.

She repeated it as a prayer.

“G-go.”

Lance fired his jetpack and she released her bayard, preparing to launch it in the few seconds of pained buoyancy.

And then she heard the jets cut out.

Felt Lance’s sharp inhale as they hovered for one last weightless second.

No.

No, they were not coming this far only to fail now.

Pidge felt the jolt in her arms as the grappling hook caught on something and she made to pull them in.

She thought she’d been in pain before.

It had nothing on this.

No thrusters to aid their ascent, all of Lance’s weight hanging from her and her arms, abused and hurt from their journey, could not bear them any longer.

Pidge gritted her teeth as they went up.

No.

No, she was doing this.

She was going to save him.

She was going to save them. 

She didn’t see them reach the top.

She felt it though as her helmet smashed into rock and Lance let out a breathless shout as his arms were dragged between the edge of the cliff and her body, and then her stomach was going over the lip and she felt her uniform tear at the rough edges.

Then all of Lance’s weight was on top of her, crushing her, and her leg was on fire and her arms were both alight and dead and God, God, was it over?

They lied there, a heap of tangled bodies and limbs, neither capable of moving.

The planet still was though.

It was still shuddering and quaking and they were still dangerously close to the edge of a fault line where the reaction would be worse.

They had to get up.

They had to move.

She couldn’t move.

Her vision was graying around the edges even though the world was awash in browns and oranges.

She needed to move.

They were still in danger.

Her hand twitched in front of her where it was still hooked around her bayard.

Pain rocketed up her arm and she stopped.

She couldn’t.

Lance was moving now though, pulling on his arms trapped beneath her and a moment later he was rolling off her with a gasp and a groan. 

“We… we need to, to g-go,” he managed.

She knew that.

She couldn’t move.

It was like every bone in her body had turned to jelly and she had no control over them.

“P-Pidge.” A gloved hand swam into her vision as it knocked against her visor.

She blinked blearily at it, past it to where worried, pained eyes were surrounded by blood. 

“Go,” she whispered the only word she’d been saying of late.

Those ocean eyes widened.

“Go,” she repeated as the ground gave a terrifying tremble and she could feel the crack just past her feet widen.

Lance could still save himself. He could make it. 

She couldn’t.

And she wouldn’t take him down with her again.

Despite the pain and exhaustion she knew her own expression mirrored, something else flickered across Lance’s face.

“No,” he growled and Pidge wasn’t sure she’d ever heard that tone before from him. 

And then he was somehow pushing himself to his knees and reaching for her.

“Lance, n-no,” she mumbled as he slipped an arm below her back and another shaking one — was it him? The planet? Both of them? — beneath her legs. “Go…”

“Not without you.”

She wanted to tell him he couldn’t. That he was too hurt, too tired, and she was just dead weight and she was only going to drag him down.

But the protest died on the tip of her tongue.

Lance had believed in her. He’d let her protect him.

It was time she did the same.

“Let’s... d-do it,” she repeated his words back to him and a smile twitched onto his face.

She still wasn’t sure where Lance found the strength to lift her, cradle her against his chest with broken ribs and heavy arms and a bruised and battered body, but he did.

He somehow carried her away from the fault line, across shaking, tremulous ground.

And he was still carrying her when the sound of a roar that was not the planet wrent the air.

“Blue,” Pidge heard Lance choke out. “Bl-Blue.”

Another roar sounded and Pidge felt a spike of worry and warmth and relief and fear all at once through the back of her mind.

Green.

She didn’t have the energy to say her Lion’s name but she mouthed it, felt an almost caress wash over her and the sudden sensation of safe that warmed her from the inside out.

Another roar, that one too deep, too loud to be anything but the Black Lion, sounded above the rest.

She turned exhausted eyes skyward to see the three Lions swooping down.

There was a jarring tremble but unlike the ones of before this one wasn’t terrifying.

The Lions had landed.

They were saved.

There was shouting then and she faintly saw through the heavy dust and grit the Lions had kicked up to add to the already cloudy air, blurs of black and red.

Shiro and Keith.

She felt the moment Lance’s knees buckled.

She felt them fall.

But this time…

She never hit the ground.

Chapter Text

Pidge was falling again.

Her stomach gave a lurch at the disorientation, at the weightlessness.

It was over in a second as she fell not down but against something warm.

Something safe.

And she would know those hands wrapping about her shoulders anywhere.

Lance.

She slumped bonelessly in the hold, face smushed into his chest and a sterile scent permeating her nose. 

Infirmary, her brain supplied. Cryo-pod.

It would explain why she felt so cold and why upon opening her eyes everything was awash of white. 

One of Lance’s hands was gently rubbing her back now and she felt something heavy settle about her shoulders.

A blanket.

“I’ve got you,” came Lance’s voice, soft and gentle and as warm as the blanket. “You’re okay, Pidgeon. Easy now.”

She relaxed even more in his arms, dimly realized he was guiding her to the ground as her knees encountered it with a barely felt thump.

As the cold began to fade under the blanket and Lance’s gentle rub she became aware of the absence of another thing.

Pain.

She’d been healed.

Obviously, she’d known that based on the fact she’d come from a cryo-pod, but the sensation of not feeling that twinge, that ache, up her right leg threw her for a loop. 

It felt so strange. 

It…

It wasn’t right.

She shouldn’t be healed, she should have been forced to suffer for her stupid pride and wrong conclusions.

Because as Lance had just shown her, her team would protect her no matter who she was.

And she would protect them.

And she had been so goddamn stupid.

A sob shook her shoulders and Lance’s hand stilled.

“Pidge? Are, are you—?”

She raised her hands up, clenching the coarse texture of Lance’s own cryo-suit between her hands.

Perfectly unblemished, undamaged hands.

“I’m sorry,” she gasped out because how had she never said that once? “God, Lance, I’m so sorry. I’m so s-sorry.”

“Pidge—”

“I’m sorry,” she sobbed, feeling the tears come hot and heavy down her cheeks. “I’m sorry.”

“Shh,” he murmured, and one hand left her back to cup her head, long fingers trailing through her hair. “Shh, Pidgeon, it’s okay. We’re okay.”

Pidge only continued to cry as though her tears could wash away her guilt and shame.

Lance held her, soothing words flowing off his tongue and his hands so warm and gentle and she did not deserve this kindness but nor could she pull away from it, between his secure hold and her own selfish desire to not let go.

Lance…

Lance’s hug felt like Matt’s.

It made her tears come harder.

She didn’t deserve this.

Eventually though she had no more tears left to cry and her sobs and shudders came to a close. Lance, as if sensing her intent, carefully withdrew his arms from around her and she sat back some, lifting red-rimmed eyes.

Lance looked back at her, healthy and whole.

She traced his face still, overlying the image of the bloodied one with gasping lips to this one, soft eyes highlighted by a small smile.

She trailed them away and down, hearing his chuckle as she reached out to prod at his ribs and chest and her cheeks darkened at what she must look like with the intensity of her stare but she didn’t care because she had to know that he was…

He was solid beneath her hand, no flinching or short inhales of pain.

He....

He was okay.

He was actually okay. 

She glanced back up to his face where his mirth had faded but his face was no less tender.

“You okay?” he asked quietly, something sharp but not cruel, just… just knowing, in his gaze. 

“You’re okay?” she asked instead and he nodded. “Then, then yes.”

Even though still no, not really. 

Physically, yes.

But the rest of her?

Not so much.

And it wouldn’t get better until she’d explained, for real.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly, but unlike the choked ones of before her voice was even this time. 

“Pid—”

“Please,” she cut him off. “I… I need to say this.”

Lance gave her a nod.

He was listening.

“I’m sorry,” she repeated. “I messed up. I got you hurt. Almost… almost k-killed.”

Saying it here, in the brightly lit infirmary somehow made it sound even worse, to know how close they had come. 

“I was wrong. I was stupid. I did some really, really stupid things. I told you, I got hurt. I kept it to myself because…”

She swallowed.

“Because I didn’t want to be seen as weak. Or that I couldn’t handle myself. I made a stupid decision during that mission. Keith left and I encountered sentries and I thought… I thought I could take them all on.” She hung her head. “I just… I wanted to prove that I could fight too. That just because, because I’m a girl that I don’t need mollycoddled or protected and I can take care of myself. But… But it was too much. I should have called for backup but I didn’t. And then I couldn’t.

“And then I got hurt. And I couldn’t tell anyone because then… then everyone would know how badly I fucked up. That I couldn’t be trusted to take care of myself. So I… I treated it myself. Thought it would be okay if I was careful. But then we got that rescue call and of course I had to go — I wanted to go,” she clarified. Her eyes widened then. All those people they’d gotten aboard Blue… what had happened to them?

She jerked her head up, eyes pinpricked. “Lance, those aliens, did they—?”

“They’re all safe,” Lance interrupted kindly. “Blue got them to the castle.”

She read between the lines.

Lance had ordered his Lion away from him, from staying with him, to take those people to safety while he endangered himself to save her.

God.

“Their planet though it’s…” it was Lance’s turn to swallow. “It’s gone.”

He seemed to hear her unanswered question of horror.

“About… about twenty minutes after we…” his hand gave a little flop at his side.

Twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes later and they’d have been crushed, trapped forever in a broken, abandoned planet.

Pidge felt a chill shudder down her spine.

“Allura’s looking for a new planet for them,” Lance continued and he was saying something then about climate and temperature but Pidge tuned him out as the reality crashed down as surely as the rocks had.

Twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes later and they’d…

Lance would have…

Because of her. 

“—idge?” a dark hand landed on her shoulder and Pidge was jolted out of her circling thoughts to find worried eyes peering down at her. 

She gasped wordlessly.

“All of the Narians are safe. We got them all off, everyone accounted for. Hunk and the Yellow Lion went down yesterday to try and retrieve a few things that survived after it settled—”

“Yesterday,” Pidge interrupted, a new panic clawing at her insides. “Yesterday?”

How long had she been in the pod for?

How long had Lance been in a pod for?

How much time had passed?

And based on Lance’s widened eyes he hadn’t meant to say that.

“How long?” she demanded. 

How bad had been their injuries?

Lance didn’t look at her as he answered, voice pitched low.

“The planet collapsed three days ago.”

Pidge was glad she was sitting.

“You went straight into a pod,” Lance continued. His eyes flicked to her. “Pidge, Dios, you…” 

“Tell me.”

She needed to know.

“Your… your leg was bad. Only Coran knows, I think, that, that the injury wasn’t from, you know. But your arms…”

Pidge glanced down at them.

“You… you completely tore your deltoids, here,” Lance gestured at his own body, the muscle group said as though from hearing it multiple times and not any given familiarity with it. “And, and all of the muscles in your arms too. And your hands… Coran wasn’t sure if…”

She lifted them up between them, fingers looking as they always did, but she touched each one to her thumb as though to make sure they worked.

“You severed the nerves,” Lance said softly. “From, from all of that weight and holding your bayard and… and Dios, Pidge, I’m sor—”

“Don’t you dare apologize,” she snapped her head up from her hands. “God, Lance, what the actual fuck? You’re going to apologize for saving us?”

“You saved us,” he countered. “You, you hurt yourself so much and—”

“And so? I’m the reason we were in that spot in the first place. Remember? If I hadn’t hidden my goddamn injury, if I hadn’t fucking gotten it in the first place, you’d never have had to come after me. You… you wouldn’t have gotten hurt.”

Speaking of…

“Did you just get out of the pod too?” Pidge demanded.

She’d been in it for three days with nearly destroyed muscles and nerves not to mention her damaged leg and all the other bumps and bruises. She’d thought Lance had just had broken ribs but…

But had he almost…?

“A couple varga ago,” Lance said, “but I haven’t been in one this whole time. There were a lot of Narians with injuries and, well…”

“And Hunk didn’t force you into one?” Pidge couldn’t keep the note of incredulity out of her voice.

“I, er,” Lance colored somewhat and  averted his eyes. “I had a concussion and Coran said my brain waves were sort of… wonky, so he wanted to wait… but it was fine,” he said quickly. “I had lots of ice and pillows and a little beeper thing and I could make Keith bring me more pillows and blankets and the mice kept me company and—”

He was rambling, Pidge noted, eyes still averted, as he tried to downplay his injuries.

Injuries he’d gotten because of her. 

And he didn’t want her to feel bad about them. Had she not called him on the Hunk card (because Hunk was a giant momma bear and there was no way he wouldn’t have manhandled Lance into a pod if he’d had his way with those injuries) he probably wouldn’t have even admitted to having a concussion.

“—and those Altean aspirin really pack a punch so really it didn’t hurt much at a—”

“Lance,” she cut him off. “Stop.”

He did with an audible click of his jaw.

“A-anyways,” he lifted a hand to rub the back of his head. “I’m fine. Promise. I, I asked Coran if I could be here when you came out and he left just a bit ago. I… I wanted to talk to you. About what you said. About… about how you shouldn’t be a Paladin.”

“What’s there to talk about?” and that came out more bitter than she’d intended. “You know what happened. I didn’t trust my team. I kept an injury to myself that could have… could have killed you. Killed me. I made assumptions and jumped to conclusions. I couldn’t save myself, endangered you, and… and…”

“And you saved me,” Lance said softly. “Multiple times. Ah ah,” he held up a hand as she went to protest, “doesn’t matter the why or how, you did it. You hurt yourself to do so. You were brilliant, Pidge. And quick and smart and brave. And I didn’t go after you because you’re a girl or because I thought you were weak or couldn’t do it yourself. I went after you because you’re my friend. And I wanted to help you, the same as I’d do for anyone else I love and care about.”

Pidge’s breath hitched.

“Maybe, yeah, not telling us about your injury wasn’t the smartest thing, but we’ve all done stupid stuff. And… and you didn’t tell us because you thought we would… we would judge you and so even though I know none of us meant it we obviously made you feel that way. And… and I’m sorry for that. But I know I’ve, and while I can’t speak for the others I don’t think they’ve ever, ever, looked down on you for who you are. Because,” his hand carefully reached out and landed on hers clasped in her lap. “You’re the Green Paladin of Voltron. And,” his lips turned up. “You’re protective Pidge.”

Pidge blinked.

What?

“I’ve been thinking about your nickname,” Lance said. “Passionate fit pretty well too but I think, all things considered, I like this one best. Do… do you like it?”

Pidge rolled it over in her head.

Protective Pidge.

After all she’d done, all the stupid shit she’d pulled, Lance had selected that word for her.

Her lip wobbled.

Lance’s face filled with alarm.

“We don’t have to use that one, I can come up with—”

She launched herself at him in a hug that had him tumbling backwards.

“Thank you,” she whispered, feeling tears somehow coming back to sting her eyes. “Th-thank you. For, for everything.”

She knew that was not nearly enough to express all of the feelings threatening to burst out of her chest, but Lance seemed to understand as his arms wrapped about her back and he tugged her to rest more comfortably against his chest.

She could hear his heart beating beneath her head, strong and steady and safe.

He might call her protective Pidge.

But she was the one right now who felt protected. 

And for the first time in weeks she felt at peace.

xxx

Her leg had scarred.

Pidge examined it in the mirror atop her dresser, having shucked the cryo-suit as soon as she was behind her door to see what, if any, damage had been left behind.

The scar was an angry looking thing, dark red against her flesh extending from the top of her thigh all the way down it, in a puckered sort of line. 

But there was no pain as she prodded at it and other than a cosmetic look there seemed to be no lasting stiffness or debilitation.

And while it wasn’t a scar she was proud of in any way…

She was glad it had remained.

It was a reminder to her of who she had been and who she was now. Not Pidge Gunderson. Not Katie Holt.

But the Green Paladin of Voltron.

And one who, going forward, would trust her team. 

She had already made the first step.

She’d told them what had happened.

It had been awkward and uncomfortable, relating to them all when Lance had summoned them to the infirmary at her request, why her leg had been injured. She could have kept it secret; only Lance knew the why and while Coran and Allura were aware of the injury — calibrating the pod and clothing her in the cryo-suit respectively — Allura would not have known it was not from the planet and Coran would not have told without her permission but this… this felt right.

It felt more right than even telling them all she was actually masquerading this entire time as a boy.

She’d told them how hurt she had felt by their increased overprotectiveness, and she had seen Keith twitch and Hunk had shifted guiltily, and that it felt like they were saying she couldn’t handle herself. She was still the same person.

And they’d apologized, even Shiro who hadn’t done anything notedly different but she supposed he’d too also known from the moment he laid eyes on her who she was and she’d always been his best friend’s little sister and he’d always looked out for her and would doubly do so given his own experiences in space and the fact she was, no denying it, a child fighting in a war.

They all were. 

Shiro had gently scolded her for concealing her injury and she had taken it in stride, because she knew she’d fucked up and she honestly deserved a tongue lashing from it but Shiro had only been kind and understanding and even Allura had held off from anything severe, a different sort of understanding reflected in her jeweled eyes.

It was more than Pidge deserved.

But it was what she had gotten and she was not going to continue to punish herself when her team had made it clear they didn’t want her to and that what was important was they learned from it.

Pidge could work with that.

Her hand traced the scar again, bumpy beneath her fingers.

She had hidden this wound and it had scarred.

But she would not hide her feelings anymore, she would not create any more injuries to herself or others.

She would instead take those feelings, that passion, and channel it into protecting the universe, into saving her family. 

She was protective Pidge.

And it was a name she would live up to from this day forward.