Horizon – a fanfic oneshot

Category: Voltron: Legendary Defender (the animated series)
Genre: Scifi / Romance / Drama
Focused Ship: Shiro x Allura
Written: 2019

Note – Italicized dialogue are communication via sign language.

Summary:  As a refugee on Earth after escaping her dying planet, Allura couldn’t have known that meeting Shiro on her first day at the space exploration school would change her world forever.

– (I)-

When Allura first joined the Garrison, she had memorized the first thing she knew humans did to exchange a greeting – the handshake. It was a gesture she had practiced before arriving, first doing it with her own hand and then with that of her uncle, Coran. It felt a bit silly, and if she had been back in Altea, she knew it would have been improper to just demand someone’s limb so freely without knowing where it had been.

But it wasn’t about how she felt, nor did she think it was wise to make opinions in a school that was predominantly for humans. She had come long and far as the only Altean there, and to be among them meant it was imperative to get the greeting down before anything else. First impressions, after all, went a long way, and in her case, it needed to work ten times more. That’s why it was probably for the better, she thought, that their greeting involved some form of touch. Maybe it was all it took for someone like her to get her message across without words.

But that wasn’t quite the case when her hand made contact with him for the first time. When the Garrison student, Takashi Shirogane, had gripped her palm and followed it with words—a simple question in fact—she had remained frozen. It was not enough that it was her first attempt at a proper handshake, but the spark that went through her fingers at his touch was wholly unfamiliar. She couldn’t seem to look at his eyes without feeling heat from an unnamed source rise to her face. She wondered if this was normal, or whether it was a sign of danger.

Allura had quickly pulled her hand away, noticing his expression fall a little. It was only then when his mentor who had accompanied him decided to bring her situation to light.

“Sorry, Shiro, I should have mentioned this to you earlier. Allura is different than other Alteans. She is deaf.”

Allura caught the movement in his lips and understood clearly. It was only a matter of time, she figured, that they found out. But it irritated her that he would deem her as something ‘different’ than her own kind. Deaf or not, she was still Altean. She was here to fulfill an objective, and she hoped that at least the first handshake would establish alone that she was willing to assimilate, to appear normal like them. But her first mode of contact had already gone awry. She would have died of shame if the man known as Shiro in front of her did not return a warm smile and instead bring up his fingers.

Sorry for my ignorance. Let’s try again: Welcome to the Garrison. I’m Shiro. Can I show you where you need to go?” He repeated what he had asked earlier, but Allura was more shocked to see him relay it in sign language. But not the one practiced on Earth, it was the Altean version she knew so well.

Allura felt herself choke; her mother tongue alone was already ancient and starting to disappear from memory, but this was the last thing she expected to see in a human military academic facility in the middle of nowhere. It was the last thing she expected to be used by a human stranger. Allura welled up with tears, and she bent down and cried into her hands.

Allura’s first few weeks had been strange, but she had expected it. Her pointy ears and markings on her skin had lead to all types of unwanted attention, but being unable to hear or speak led to more disappointment than being treated as a rare commodity.

I didn’t know Alteans could be deaf.” A student had asked her in human sign.

I didn’t know humans could be narrow-minded.” She responded irritatingly.

Most of the humans were already familiar with what had happened to her planet, how the war and destruction from a powerful threat had left it uninhabitable. Some surviving Alteans had fled to other regions of the galaxy, and Allura, Coran, and a handful of her race had come to Earth as refugees.

Their arrival was met with mixed reception. Her presence in the Garrison led many to bombard her with questions, and the faculty saw it fit to expose her in any way possible.

“Our classes shouldn’t be a problem for you, despite your limitations.” Allura had struggled to catch one of her professors mouthing the words. “Your kind are supposed to be lightyears ahead of us.”

Allura found out later that the people on Earth saw Alteans as condescending beings who could overpower humans easily, so many chose to be cautious, if not arrogant themselves. She was lucky to have been accepted to the Garrison at all, and if it wasn’t for the help of a man named Samuel Holt, she would not have made it this far. But she knew very well that the threat that destroyed her planet was still out there, and if she did not have the tools and education to eventually fight back then there was no use existing. Allura learned human sign and a few of their spoken language, including English, within a few years. She made sure to train herself to read their lips and the words they spoke out loud, but only to an extent.

Her classmates were not all accepting when she rose to the top quickly. Some had found her odd while others saw it unfair that she became one of two with the highest marks in her class as a mere newcomer, the other being none other than Shiro himself. But unlike the reverence he received from his peers and senior officers for his sense of wit and charm, Allura was accused to only be so good because of special alien powers. When she wasn’t trying to deny her use of any magic, she usually found herself isolated and alone. It was for the best, she thought, to be considered as an object of peculiarity than nothing at all.

The day when she was paired up with Shiro for the first time was when she had to complete a hand-to-hand combat session as part of their physical training. His shirt did not hide his remarkably toned features, and he looked at her without any intentions to go easy. Allura liked it that way.

We meet again,” he had teased.

Her fight with him had been surprisingly challenging. Shiro was good at distractions, and he made sure to play with his space before issuing an attack. Allura caught up quickly, being flipped over only three times before dodging his technique to take on the offensive. Shiro took his first fall hard. She hardly noticed the crowd that suddenly surrounded them, or the fact that they started chanting Shiro’s name. She didn’t have to hear to understand whose side they were on, and when an opportunity came to throw a final blow, she stopped. Shiro took her down easily from there. The crowd roared.

Allura didn’t wait for Shiro to speak to her after their brawl. She had left feeling more miserable than satisfied. The next few days she had avoided him, but she could tell by the way he looked at her from the corner of his eyes from time to time that he was persistent. Something told her that their sparring had left an impression on him.

It wasn’t until she aced her first flight simulation test that Shiro finally stopped her in her path.

A perfect score, I see. Fantastic job.” He came to her using the same Altean sign language. “How do you do it without… you know…”

Allura recognized his gestures and responded with a chuckle. “I see a series of flashing lights on my controls, like a code, so I know the orders given to me without hearing them. The rest is just skill, I suppose.” She paused before adding. “Congratulations to your perfect score as well.”

Shiro smiled. “Thanks. It’s all practice.”

There was a pause where Allura contemplated her next topic, but he already beat her to it.

You never let me congratulate you for kicking my butt in sparring that day,” he continued. “And before you say anything, you’re the one who should have won.”

No, I hesitated. That’s a pure loss.” Allura looked down and shrugged. “Besides, that’s not what your classmates seem to think.”

Shiro was quick to touch her shoulder and catch her attention. “Forget about them. They don’t understand.”

Allura knew that without a doubt, but it was much easier said than done. For now, she could only appreciate his effort to ease her insecurity. In fact, she had always wondered about the man who had greeted her in Altean on her first day, whether he was approachable enough to befriend. But Shiro was always busy, always being followed by his peers or fans or being whisked away by professors who saw his potential at greater things. To others, he was the face of the future, but Allura knew it was something more that set him apart.

Thank you,” she took his hand and brought it off her shoulder gently. “Also, that isn’t how you say that phrase, ‘to forget one’s actions’ in our sign language.”

Oh,” Shiro fumbled for an excuse. “Then maybe you can teach me to do better?”

Allura hesitated. “Wouldn’t your peers mind?”

I told you, I don’t care.” Shiro let out a snort. “Though it’s funny. They do seem to think that you’re my rival. You and me, neck-and-neck, they’ll say,” Shiro chuckled. “Do you think I should be afraid of that?”

Allura waited before forming a devious grin. “I think…Mr. Shirogane,” she teased, “You should.”

They had both laughed.

Then it’s only fair that you give me a chance to get to know you.” Shiro was quick to add. “Since I missed out on that opportunity when we first met.”

Allura forced herself to hide the lightness in her chest. “I asked myself the same thing.” She remembered when she had cried in front of him, how his knowledge of her language had set her into a heap of emotions. Despite that, Shiro had not hesitated to make her feel welcome, dispelling her anxiety for the most part. He was still, above all, a worthy competitor. Even when they had spoken little to each other in publice, there was still a silent acknowledgement of respect. She liked seeing him as a rival, if not something more.

I’m sorry about the others, and for being ignorant about it. I hope we can start over?” Shiro continued, a bit hesitant this time. “There are many things I wanted to learn from you…if that’s okay.”

Allura could have waited to give it a thought, but she was already on the same page since he had approached to speak with her.

Yes, it’s okay,” she smiled at him, ending her sign ever so fervently. “My name is Allura. Nice to meet you.”

For the next few months, Shiro had found himself spending more and more time with Allura. They talked about everything – their cultures, the loss of Altea, and stories of their own. Shiro took heed in being careful on the questions he asked, but Allura didn’t hesitate to share some of her darker experiences.

Do you regret leaving home?” He had asked her while studying in the lounge area one day. “I know you must have been asked about Altea a thousand times, so you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”

Allura had become used to the tightness in her chest whenever she thought about her planet. “I don’t mind answering,” she continued slowly. “I don’t regret it, because it’s not home to me anymore.”

Shiro returned a look of dismay, of sympathy. Allura hated that look.

I am grateful to you though…for at least preserving my language,” she crossed her palms against her heart. “At least I know something of Altea is still kept alive here.”

Shiro had sheepishly shrugged. “It’s not a big deal. I had to learn at least five languages spoken outside of Earth for my academic track. Altean and all its vernacular and sign forms luckily became one of them.”

You seem to be the only one who knows it here.”

Because I chose to learn it outside of school,” Shiro looked at her apologetically. “It was never part of any curriculum.”

On other days, Allura had supplied questions of her own. She started to learn everything she needed to know about the Galaxy Garrison through Shiro than any class alone. He told her about the projects that were on the works, the subjects that were more useful to take than others, and the types of people that ran the system. He even revealed how some of the senior officers and professors played favorites, how there were those who were easily manipulated to give certain students more advantage than others.

When I was an underclassman, I knew a guy who was at the height of his game, the top student in the school,” He had exchanged with her on a sunny day on the facility rooftop where they both had lunch. “Everyone believed he would be a legend, fulfill a daring mission in the outer banks of the milky-way galaxy.”

What happened?” Allura responded, moving her hands quickly and eagerly for an answer.

He turned out to be a fraud,” Shiro shook his head. “His wealthy parents had been bribing his mentors for years to keep him on the top. In return, the Garrison were given good publicity in the media. After that scandal, the mission was cancelled.”

That’s terrible,” Allura answered, thinking about how something like this would not have been uncommon among Alteans. Politics and corruption were part of every society.

That’s why I had to give ten times more effort,” Shiro continued. “I came from a poor family that taught me hard work and perseverance are what matters. Of course, knowing some tricks of the trade helped too.”

Allura tilted her head inquisitively. “Oh? There are tricks to become the shining star of the Garrison like yourself is there?”

Shiro teasingly pushed her on the shoulder, and Allura fell back chuckling.

Oh geez, Allura, I don’t mean cheating,” Shiro blew a sigh. “I mean it helps to know the people you’re dealing with, things you have to learn outside of the textbook.”

I know, I know, I’m sorry,” Allura impulsively grabbed Shiro’s hand and placed it on her head. She sensed his slight disappointment at her inquiry, and she hoped he didn’t think she was being serious. “You are not a cheat. I should not have joked.”

Nah, don’t worry about it.”

Allura had to look at him once to notice the faint blush appear on his cheeks. She only realized then that he perhaps was not aware of the sign that meant ‘forgiveness’ on her planet, to place the other’s hand on the requester’s head and stroke it twice.

Oh,” Allura made a sound before taking his arm down. “That was to ask for your apology. In Altea, it is to show sincerity. Like a handshake.”

Ah, I see.” Shiro smiled before he ruffled his hair in embarrassment. “I guess I didn’t know that one.”

As days and weeks went by, Allura started to apply more of what Shiro had taught her into action. She kept less to herself and became more proactive in being open to her peers. She learned about their strengths and weaknesses, and in return she shared flaws of her own. She found about how a certain Commander Iverson hated when students stared at his face or his bald head and preferred those who kept their heads down. That eventually came to good use during a team exercise. Some students soon began to express interest in learning Altean sign, and Allura was happy to teach as much as she could outside of class.

The day when Sam Holt returned from one of his missions was when she voiced a desire to start an Altean language course.

Wouldn’t that interfere with your other assignments?” He had mentioned in regular human sign. “I don’t know if the Garrison would allow you to officially teach as a student.”

It will only be a small workshop during free hours,” she paused before adding. “Altea was an ally of Earth long before it was conquered. If this place teaches other languages from the cosmos, Altean should be one of them too.”

Sam took note of her steadfastness and smiled. “I’m so happy to know of your determination, Allura, and that things have been going well for you now. It must not have been easy in the beginning to be here,” he blew a quick sigh. “But okay, I’ll do my best to put in a good word with the faculty.”

Thank you,” Allura nodded, satisfied.

But I’ll only make it work…if you convince Shiro to teach with you.”

What?” She did not have to make a sign to show her confusion. “Why does he have to be involved in this?”

It’s nothing against your intelligence. But it does make sense to have someone who can teach the spoken language, don’t you think?” he grinned. “Besides, I was the one who encouraged him to learn Altean and Altean sign years ago.”

Allura rounded her mouth in surprise, but she knew no one other than the brilliant yet humble Sam Holt could be such an influence to a student like Shiro.

How did he learn it, if I may ask?” She expressed her curiosity. “Altean is not easy, and it’s a dying language.”

Oh nothing is dead when it’s kept alive by books and texts,” he mused. “Let’s just say I had some resources to supply to him from long ago. When Alteans visited our planet once.”

Allura found it hard to imagine that time. “You knew Shiro for a long time, then.”

Of course,” Sam answered enthusiastically. “I saw a young boy with a dream but no money and I promised myself to shape him into one of the greatest exploration pilots this place had ever seen!”

The Altean language workshop was soon met with great success. More and more students used their free periods to take lessons, and considering that the language itself was whimsical and complex, the students made it a competition among themselves to see who could learn it faster.

Shiro ended up agreeing to Allura’s proposal of being a co-instructor. She realized she needed him to teach the vernacular and the spoken, while she herself taught how to sign. They ended up working well as partners, although when it came to disagreements, it was hard to say who would win.

You are telling me…ME …that I used the wrong translation?!” Allura had aggressively asked him one day. “Don’t forget who is the Altean here, Mr. Shirogane!”

Altean or not, you’re a bit out of touch,” Shiro had rebutted back. “My source came from academic sources, written by Altean scholars themselves.”

Allura fumed at him. “Scholars as old as my dead ancestors, you shnitsav huzak!”

Shiro raised a brow at her. “What are you sayi—”

You’re fired, Shiro!”

She had walked away in a heated mess before he had time to register her words.

Of course, she was not being serious, and that night Allura made sure to go to him and apologize. Shiro waved it off before taking her hand over to place it on his head.

I should be the one to say sorry,” he looked at her sheepishly. “You were right about the translation all along.”

Allura could have nagged about her win, but she chose not to. She couldn’t. In the moonlight streaming from the glass ceiling, Shiro’s features became distinctive and soft, and his eyes seemed to have swum with the stars. He looked almost godlike. Allura felt herself flush before stroking his head as means of sealing her forgiveness.

Your neck…” Shiro was slow to make the sign, but she saw him staring under her face, and sure enough her markings began to emanate a glow. She clasped her neck and shoulders when she realized they had taken a different hue than normal.

“I never saw…”he spoke loudly“that color…”

S-sorry. I should go.” Allura understood the movement in his lips and turned to leave. It was the second time that day that she had left him speechless, but she knew that was not a color she had seen either. Not since the time her parents had kissed in front of her when she was a child.

In the months that followed, Allura found herself slowly assimilating into the Garrison culture. Most of her peers started to treat her kindly, inviting her to various hangouts and other events in and outside of the facility. The language workshop had helped to bridge a mutual understanding between both kinds, and while it wasn’t easy to juggle teaching on top of her other difficult courses, Allura felt a sense of accomplishment for establishing some form of diplomacy.

However, Shiro had started to appear less and less to the workshops, dismissing himself with the excuse that he had become extremely busy with other duties. Without a co-instructor, it was hard to do most of the lessons on her own. She wasn’t going to admit to herself, however, that she was beginning to miss his presence entirely.

Allura hardly expected anyone to volunteer to take his place, but Sam Holt’s own son proved otherwise.

Ah, Allura, my father told me so much about you. The name’s Matt.” He had approached her eagerly one day. “Sorry, I’m a friend of Shiro too, but in a different department. Science and research division. He felt bad not being able to help you out, so he sent me. I’d love to help you co-teach.”

Hello Matt,” Allura couldn’t match his enthusiasm, but she knew Shiro had meant well. “Your usage is good so far. I’m guessing he’ll be busy for awhile.”

Afraid so. Word on the block is that there’s an exciting mission on the works. But don’t take it from me.” He smirked deviously. “Anyway, I learned a lot of Altean through Shiro and my dad. Not completely fluent but enough to teach a beginner.”

Allura appreciated his honesty. “Alright. I suppose that will do.”

Matt had ended up being helpful despite his limited vocabulary. He leveled his mistakes with his sense of humor that made the workshop enjoyable. But he was also extremely intelligent like his father, carrying much more knowledge about the research side of the Garrison than Shiro did, and he was never hesitant to share them with her.

We humans have had a thirst for reaching the farthest reaches of our cosmos. Kerberos was once a dream years ago. Now we’re looking at the edges of our galaxy.” He had eagerly informed. “Thanks to a little help from your kind, we managed to find faster and more effective technology. Our department’s been flourishing.”

Allura felt happy for him. “If…Altea had survived, we could have helped more, but…”

She stopped her fingers and instead reminisced on the days when her planet and Earth had been allies in protecting the galactic terrain and preserving innocent exploration. That didn’t last long once Altea decided to bring the Galra from the planet Daibazaal into the alliance. The Galra were notorious for their imperialistic nature, and Earth wanted no part in their agreement, seeing the move as a sort of betrayal. Altea paid the price centuries later once the Galra took over and annihilated the planet. Perhaps, she thought, there was a reason why the humans found it hard to see her kind in a positive light.

None of it is your fault, Allura,” Matt made her aware. “Besides, we’ve made progress so far.”

She noticed him gaze out the window towards the sky, and he began speaking out loud. “Just wait…I smell something big around the horizon very soon.”

Matt was right.

Within the next few days, the big gossip was that the Garrison was preparing for a mission to the outer spiral of the Milky Way. It was going to encompass a journey through the Perseus arm and Scutum-Centaurus. What would have taken about 25 to 70 thousand light years could now be done within four Gregorian years.

Allura brought up her speculations while having tea with Sam one evening.

So it’s true then. They’re selecting crewmembers to lead the mission.”

Oh, I believe they already have,” Sam had grinned at her with a glint in his eye. “Let’s just say that I may not be as young as I once was, but I never miss on an opportunity to go on the biggest quest of my lifetime.”

Allura brought her cup down loudly on the table before emanating a high-pitched cry. “You were chosen?! Congratulations!”

Sam laughed back heartily and continued. “My son too, in fact. He’s been waiting for this all his life,” he paused before looking at Allura in the eye. “And uh…I don’t know if Shiro told you already, but he was selected as well. As the head pilot.”

Allura had never felt her enthusiasm drop so fast. Her face, however, did not betray the disappointment that was seeping into her skin.

Oh…that’s wonderful.” She simply stated.

Her classes had been in uproar from the news. The newly manned mission, so named Project Horizon, was to launch within a year. It was to send an exploration spaceship and five smaller ships carrying extra fuel and necessities to observe star clusters and planets never seen before in the outer arms of the Milky Way.

The farthest mission to date for the human race, Allura was informed. She could almost relate to the excitement. Back when Altea was young, many of these quests into the unknown brought great jubilation and anticipation. Their knowledge and reputation expanded the more they opened up gateways into the cosmos. She only wished she could have felt the same now as she did back then.

You know, I’m surprised they didn’t choose you for the mission,” Matt had inquired one day. “You have all the qualifications, not to mention as the only Altean you would have tons more to contribute.”

Yes, I’ve been told, but I don’t believe so,” Allura answered. “I haven’t been here long enough to get approval for something this big. Plus they wouldn’t want someone who’s…” she pointed at her ears. “Deaf.”

What? That’s not true…” Matt walked up to her but he paused before forming his next thought. “Well, I guess to be honest, I’m not really sure. We never actually had…I mean…though I don’t think that should have stopped them…”

Matt, it’s alright,” Allura dismissed his visible efforts to console her. “I didn’t want to be part of Project Horizon anyway. I only want to…just do some small missions.” She sighed. “Besides, this is more for you and your father to do extraordinary things and become legends. Shiro too.”

Matt smiled. “Thanks Allura. I’ll take that as a blessing from you.”

You all deserve it.”

Shiro had returned to a grand reception in class. Allura never doubted he would get rows of praise and cheer from his fellow peers. It felt like when she first started at the Garrison, seeing the star boy from across the lecture hall be surrounded by admirers and not knowing what kind of person he was.

She would have let him enjoy the limelight now on his own, but Shiro had already spotted her among the others and approached her in a heap of frenzy.

“Allura!” he cried out before turning to sign. “Allura, I’m going to pilot the spaceship Solaris for Project Horizon!”

Allura clasped her hands in exaltation. “I know! I’m so happy for you. Congratulations, Shiro!” It was hard not to share in his excitement. He looked like a young boy who had received the greatest gift he could have ever asked for.

“This was my dream…” he continued loudly, “for a very long time. I can’t believe…” He grabbed the sides of his head and laughed. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

Allura didn’t answer back, but she knew what this meant to him, what his hard work and perseverance and talent had done for him over the years. There was a saying in Altea that a true legend wasn’t someone who boasted their prowess or accomplishments but someone who defied all odds and obstacles to reach great heights while also taking the time to help others in need. Shiro was not who he was because of his skills alone, but because he had helped others, he was kind as he was determined, he was humble as he was frank. He had bothered, she thought, to give her the light of day and take her sincerely when no one else did.

How do I show my pleasure with touch?” Allura asked awkwardly. “Something that humans do to show they are happy for the other?”

Touch?” Shiro raised his brows as he blushed, but he understood right away. “Oh, you mean like a…like an embrace?”

Oh, similar to the Alteans?”

Shiro chuckled. “Yes. Embrace. ‘Miryath’” he added the Altean translation before slowly bringing her into a hug. “I think that’s a pretty widely accepted gesture. At least I hope so.”

Allura laughed as she wrapped her arms around him. His body was surprisingly warm and spacious. His heart beat fast, but she couldn’t tell if it was his excitement or something else. She took in his scent and felt herself relax.

I’m sorry I haven’t been around.” Shiro pulled back to form a sign of apology. “They took me away to do more intense training before considering me for the mission. Now you know why I was so distant. I couldn’t tell anyone for awhile.”

You did what you had to do,” Allura smiled. “I think they had you in mind all along. The Shining Star of the Garrison.”

Shiro shook his head at the nickname. “Well we still have a year. And I guess…some months before I have to disappear again for final training and preparations.”

Then I suppose we have some catching up to do.” She punched him playfully in the arm. “Until you’re gone for good.”

The Garrison dance was an event many of the students regarded as a chance to blow some steam after exams. Moreover, it was an excuse to get festive and turn an empty storage hall into a beautifully decorated space capable of holding about five hundred people.

When Allura heard about the dance from her peers, they had talked about potentially bringing a partner. The customs of a formal occasion were not something she was unfamiliar with, but in this case she felt nervous. She had one dress, the only one she could scavenge through her belongings and take with her before escaping Altea. Even then, her attire seemed too gaudy, and her biggest fear was that she would stand out like a sour thumb in more ways than one.

You’ll be fine,” Matt encouraged her in the cafeteria where he, Shiro, and her ate breakfast one morning. “Just be yourself, Allura.”

Yeah…that really worked for her so far,” Shiro added sarcastically. “And that phrase is really overrated.”

“Well you have any other suggestions, Mr. Genius?” Matt responded loudly.

Allura held up her hand for pause. “Please, just at least teach me what I should do at a human dance.”

Simple,” Matt imitated a waltz. “You dance.”

Shiro shook his head before touching her shoulder. “Don’t worry. We’ll help you. It’ll be fun I promise.”

Yeah, and my little sister is going to be there.” Matt grinned. “She’s not much of a dancer either so I guess we’ll have two students to deal with.”

Allura chuckled before continuing, “And a date. I heard some of the girls talk about bringing a date. What is that?”

Matt and Shiro exchanged looks before turning back to her.

Em…” Matt responded. “I think they mean bringing a friend to the dance. Yeah.”

Oh,” Allura raised her brows, and for a brief instinct, her eyes met Shiro’s. “Can I bring more than one date? Can I bring you two?”

They both nodded, a bit more enthusiastically.

Matt’s sister, Katie, is coming with, along with two of her friends. And I’m trying to encourage an underclassman I know, Keith, to attend,” Shiro added. “We can all go as a group.”

Allura had smiled at that.

The storage hall had truly been turned into a room of splendor. The harsh fluorescent lights were replaced by colorful LEDs and warmer tones to reflect a classic look. Streams of silky cloth decked the ceiling and walls, and the floor was illuminated with starlight.

Allura had run late at the last minute, asking Shiro and Matt to go without her. While she stared at herself in the mirror in her room wearing the periwinkle dress that had once belonged to her mother, she felt herself tear up.

“Cheer up, Allura,” Coran had communicated with her through a hologram device. “I know your parents would be proud to see you right now.”

I miss them.” Allura answered. “I miss home.”

We all do. We all miss Altea.” He looked at her sadly. “But you made some good friends at the Garrison I heard. You seem to be doing much better now than when you first started.”

Yes…” Allura sighed. “It helps to have people to rely on. Even when you know they won’t be here forever.”

Oh Allura,” Coran reached out a holographic hand. “It’s only for four years. Project Horizon won’t last forever. You’ll see those two boys and that Samuel Holt soon.”

Anything can happen in four years…” She leaned forward to let his hand touch her cheek. She felt some static. “And it’s not about that…”

Coran waited before throwing his speculation. “Do you mean…is this about Shiro?”

Upon his name, Allura stood up and headed for the door. “Nevermind, I’m wasting time.” She blew a kiss in his direction. “I guess I’ll have all eyes on me now after all. Wish me luck.”

She had not been wrong to assume her concern. Entering the hall sent about a hundred eyes towards her direction. She forgot what it felt like to be the only Altean in the room, but with her pointed ears that steadily hoisted dazzling silver earrings and her marks forming an elegant trail from her neck to her back, she knew she was going to stand out. Her bejeweled dress reached the floor in a fanback cut and the ornate sleeves went from her shoulders to her wrists. Allura had pinned her normally fishtails braids into an elegant side swept bun.

Within seconds, she was surrounded by new faces and microphones thrust to her face. She frantically tried to catch the movement in their lips, but too many spoke at once. Allura threw her hands out to show she could speak in sign, but the hype was too strong.

It wasn’t until a hand reached out and yanked her out of the crowd, pulling her to a solitary space behind a pillar, that her anxiety started to die down, and she could breathe again.

“Allura!” She looked up to meet Shiro face to face. “Wow, are you alright?”

No. I mean I don’t know,” She breathed in and out. “I expected crazy but that was ridiculous! Are humans really that pushy?”

Shiro chuckled back and she soon joined him. “Perks of being the only Altean here I suppose.”

Allura bit her lip after seeing how handsome he looked in his suit, his black hair pushed back without a single strand out of place.

You look beautiful.” he struggled to make the sign as his eyes went up and down.

You too…” Allura pointed at him. “Thank you for rescuing me.”

No problem. It was hard rescuing myself…” Shiro looked past his shoulder to see lingering eyes on them both. “There are some folks here from the media tonight, so people are all running around trying to catch the next big fish.”

I made it ten times worse by showing up late. I’m sorry I couldn’t have joined you all like I promised.” Allura paused before asking. “Where’s Matt?”

Without taking another breath, Matt had appeared next to them, mouth wide open as he gawked at her. “Well I’ll be damned!”

“Idiot.” Allura looked at the smaller person next to him who had mouthed the word and switched to human sign. “Ignore him. I’ll introduce myself. I’m Katie Holt. But you can call me Pidge.”

Allura nodded, smiling.

Pidge just got accepted to the program in the junior division. She’s too smart for her own good,” Matt chuckled. “Her engineer and cargo pilot friends are running around somewhere.”

“Hunk and Lance,” Pidge grumbled. “Honestly if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have come to this silly dance.”

“Keith wouldn’t come either. I guess he’s not ready for this much attention yet.” Shiro sighed.

“That’s a shame. But he’s not wrong about the attention though. We’re totally famous here,” Matt took a sip of his drink. “We have a press conference and a photo session soon, Shiro. For Project Horizon.”

Allura had remained silent the whole time they spoke out loud. A part of her then wished she had the ability to hear. To speak. Maybe if she wasn’t deaf, she could even enjoy their kind of music differently. The varying changes in vibrations from the speakers sounded nice, but it didn’t feel the same.

So what made you ditch our crew earlier, Allura?” Matt had turned to her. “You decided to come late. Was everything alright?”

Allura nodded before spreading out the helm of her dress. “Yes, it’s fine. I just…I just had a moment. You see…today is the anniversary of my mother’s death.”

Oh, we’re so sorry.” Pidge responded. “Was this before you…?”

Yes. She died when I was a baby, long before Altea was destroyed. Long before my father sacrificed himself to save me. I just have this gown to remember her.” Allura paused before waving her hand. “But forget about that. I don’t want to make things so grim for everyone.”

Shiro impulsively reached up and moved a strand of hair behind her ear. “Well…if it makes you feel any better, we don’t think your dress was a bad choice for tonight at all.”

Allura smiled. There was a silent moment when she looked down at her fingers and wondered if she should ask him to a dance.

Actually this may be random, but Shiro and I have been curious.” Matt brought up, “Since we’re going on the mission, what are your plans after we’re—?”

Their conversation was broken by a tall but slender figure appearing behind Shiro. Allura blinked fast when she noticed the woman’s height reached Shiro’s ear, and her black low-cut dress accentuated her green eyes and voluminous black hair. Allura felt something drop in her chest when he greeted her with enthusiasm.

“Oh sorry, this is Rayna,” Shiro spoke while translating in sign. “She is an extraordinary pilot, and will lead one of the smaller ships that will accompany our spacecraft to the outer arm of the Milky Way.”

Rayna waved, and Allura didn’t miss a beat to read her lips carefully.

“Oh he flatters me. He’s the star pilot here,” she grinned through her teeth. “But everyone is extraordinary in this crew. Everyone has to be to go where we’re going.”

She proceeded to compliment Matt and coo over Pidge.

“Disgusting…” the young Holt made a gesture towards Allura.

Allura didn’t notice when the woman had turned to her.

I heard so much about you,” She said in sign. “I’m so sorry what you and your kind had to go through on your planet. Such a tragedy.”

Allura gave a reassuring nod. “The gods gave us tough skin with titanium properties for a reason.”

The woman laughed uneasily before turning to Shiro. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt, but can I request a dance?”

For a moment, he hesitated, but his eyes did not meet Allura’s. “Oh, yeah. It’s my pleasure.” His answer sent a dull ache through her heart. He left with a nod and Allura became lost in her thoughts.

She didn’t know why she felt the way she did, or why she felt a little sadder as each day passed. She wondered what it meant when her markings had glowed that night Shiro was bathed in moonlight, or why she had denied it. But this was the wrong moment to delve into them, the wrong time to let her naive feelings get in the way.

When was the right time, she thought. When was it ever the right time?

For the next hour or so, the Holt siblings ended up being her companions. Allura kept her promise to learn a few dance steps from Matt, and when she wasn’t being constantly approached by those who questioned her past and future pursuits as the only Altean in the Garrison, she would usually be at the food table. Pidge introduced her to Lance and Hunk, and she had learned some peculiar things from them both.

“We three have been scoping the solar system and beyond for any traces of Galra,” Lance smirked boldly. “I think that’s a bunch of horseshit but these two here…”

“We don’t have much evidence but I’ve found some unique readings from a Fraunhofer line,” Hunk informed. “I mean, not to scare anyone of course. It’s just very very light speculation. 99.9% it’s nothing.”

“Well this Keith guy seems to think otherwise,” Pidge added. “I don’t know if you know him, Allura, but he’s got a leg up with the conspiracies.”

“Whatever, that mullet’s not beating us to anything,” Lace fumed. “Wait till they pull me from the cargo unit into a fighter pilot class, then he’ll see what I can do.”

Allura had followed their words diligently, but she didn’t know if their news or playful act was a good or bad thing.

The galra are nothing to be joked with,” she warned. “Best pray they never show up in your galaxy.”

After their first press conference that night, most of the people finally took to the dance floor. Allura had found Shiro be requested to dance on several other occasions than just with the first woman. Again, that feeling of anxiety filled her whenever she saw someone else take his hand. She knew this was just the beginning. She knew this was all for publicity, to have him be indulged by the influential people there. Soon he would be doing more interviews and parties and turning himself into an icon for the country, if not the world.

It was strange how the Holts didn’t seem to come close to his fame, but who ever regarded astrophysicists higher than an astronaut? Regardless, she was happy for him. She didn’t know what pulled her to him, whether it was his kind and collected nature or the way he sometimes reminded her of Papa.

Allura had the pleasure to dance with all sorts of people that night. Even aliens from allied planets, some who she found had also come to Earth as refugees. Though they spoke different languages, she enjoyed a sense of kinship among them, a mutual understanding of what they all went through.

It was when she was with a certain Balmeran named Shay that she felt a tap on the shoulder behind her.

“May I?” It was Shiro.

Allura raised her brows mockingly before exchanging a bow with Shay and taking his arm.

I thought you didn’t know how to dance this,” Shiro asked as he led her to a spot on the starlit floor.

I’ve had some teachers throughout the night,” she grinned. “And it’s not rocket science, Shiro.”

He shrugged. “Eh, I prefer rocket science.”

He had led her in a slow waltz, being as gentle with her waist and arm as possible. He paused momentarily to make his next sign, but Allura stopped him.

Shiro, it’s okay. You can use your voice if you want to.” She leaned forward towards his ear, and a series of words trailed through his brain. “I can communicate this way too.”

“Are you…using telepathy?” Shiro gasped. “How long did you—”

“I can only do it when I’m very close to someone. Like this,” Allura answered. “Sorry I didn’t want to scare you.”

Shiro let out a scoff. “I’m going on a dangerous journey to the edge of the Milky Way and you’re worried about scaring me. Alright.”

Allura laughed before the vibration and beats of the music became familiar, and she started to lead him without breaking composure.

“Allura, just so you know, the men are usually the ones to lead the women in a waltz,” he continued. “but I can get used to this.”

“Good,” she smirked before adding impulsively. “You already had your chance to sweep those pretty ladies off their feet, and that woman, Reyna. Now it’s my turn.”

Shiro didn’t respond, and Allura felt a rush of embarrassment for speaking her thoughts.

“Em…so your press conference was good, I heard,” she averted the awkwardness quickly. “You’re playing your cards right so far. Everyone is really rooting for you.”

“Yeah…” Shiro stopped his feet and removed his hand from her waist. “I hope you were having fun tonight with the others. Matt said you were doing fine on your own.”

“Well I wouldn’t say that but…” She trailed off.

Allura didn’t realize when they had stopped dancing, or when the music started changing to a different tune and the floor began to clear. She held her breath as Shiro continued to stare at her.

Hey guys!” Matt appeared with some sparklers in hand. “There’s going to be fireworks happening soon. Everyone’s moving to the rooftop and some of us are lighting sparklers. We should totally beat them to it!”

Allura broke from the gaze and turned to him. “Oh! Em, that sounds like fun. Will there be room for all of us up there?”

“Matt…can you give us a moment?” Allura looked back at Shiro, his expression a bit serious. “I just need to talk to her for a bit. We’ll be up there soon.”

Matt hesitated before complying, and Allura’s stomach began to churn once Shiro took her by the arm and led her away from the dance floor, past the entrance of the storage hall and into the open night. Most of the other people had deserted the area to move to higher spaces of the Garrison facility for the fireworks. It was only when Allura found themselves alone that Shiro began to use sign again.

Sorry…I didn’t mean to be weird like that,” he admitted. “I just thought…we could talk a bit more where there isn’t too many people.”

It’s okay. We really needed to take a break,” Allura blew a relieving sigh.

We did.” Shiro paused before looking up at the sky. It was clear and sprinkled with stars near and far. Allura noted his expression, his thirst for the beyond, and she couldn’t help but share his sense of wonder.

“You know, when I first joined the Garrison, I used to come out here a lot. Almost every night.” He spoke out loud. “I was so nervous. There were so many others who were better than me, who came from prestigious backgrounds or with raw talent…it amazes me how I even survived. I flunk so many tests and messed up so many simulations, I’d come here, look at the sky, and cry. And think how I’ll never make it.” He took a deep breath. “But I did…and it still feels so unreal.”

Allura read his lips and smiled. He didn’t have to use sign for her to understand that feeling very well. “You fought for what you believed in…and that matters so much.” She rubbed her fingers before continuing. “I was like that too…the failure. The late bloomer among the other Alteans. And with my deafness that I had my whole life…no one believed I would succeed.” Her face turned grim. “But here I am now. And look where they are…dead.”

Shiro looked at her before placing his hand on her head to give a light pat. “The universe has a lot of surprises.”

Allura threw a look of confusion before pointing at his hand. “You are using the gesture for forgiveness. That’s not the right way you say…”

This is a human gesture, Allura,” Shiro interjected in sign. “It means ‘you’re capable.'”

She prepared to move her fingers but stopped. There was no clever phrase or gesture to use as a response. Her body remained stiff and she swallowed hard.

The truth is…” Shiro continued while turning his eyes to the ground. “I’m a bit scared. I’m scared for this mission.”

Allura took in his words before looking at him, puzzled. “What do you mean?”

Shiro let out a sour chuckle before voicing his thoughts. “Project Horizon. It’s such a big deal, you know?” he talked fast.”We’re going to the farthest place in the galaxy. The galaxy. And I’m leading it. Me. Something never done before in human history. The biggest mission known to mankind, with me at the helm.”

He scoffed again before pointing towards the Garrison facility. “You saw how much attention I had in there, how much I will be getting for the next few months from people all over the country. No, the world! They’re counting on me for a successful voyage. They’re calling me a leader. A hero! They say I’m going to represent the human race even though I’m only the pilot. The Shining Star of the Garrison! They see me as a legend already!” he spoke frantically. “And I’m scared, Allura. I don’t know why but…it feels too much. And it terrifies me.”

For a moment, Allura had thought she saw a glisten in his eyes. Shiro—the man who normally would brush any negativity aside or say something witty or be the genius others wanted him to be, the man who would help others, and choose to be a friend than a foe—had looked more vulnerable than she had ever seen him.

Allura opened her mouth and almost wished she could say something, be more than just a silent companion. Her brain fished for the right word or the right action. She thought about what other humans would do, what her own parents would have done if they saw her cry.

But something told her this was different. Something made her move forward and pull him into a hug, just like she remembered doing the day he had relayed the news to her excitedly.

“It’s okay,” She whispered telepathically again. “It’s okay to feel that way. It’s okay to be scared…”

In the distance, she thought she felt a rumble. If she had looked up, she would have seen the sky setting the fireworks abloom. But her gaze turned to Shiro’s ear, then his cheek, and something told her his face had turned in an angle, catching her eyes as their mouths lingered dangerously close. Her breath stopped when she noticed his lips brush lightly on the corner of hers. Her fingers held him like a vice, and her marks began to glow the same unusual color.

Allura had remembered only seeing a few Alteans kiss, including her parents, and she was more thankful now than ever that it was a gesture her kind shared with humans too. Shiro kissed her softly, then slowly deepened it to include her tongue. She let his hand trail down her back and the other cup her face. He smelled like fresh metal from a newly crafted air vehicle and tasted like coffee beans from the cafeteria, and for once she was grateful that she could use those senses to the best of her ability.

When Shiro finished with a quick lick of her lower lip, Allura found her marks glowing out of proportion. It was only then when both of them began to laugh. Allura had never felt such a lightness in her chest, or a sudden exuberance that consumed her whole. She wanted to ask him how he had learned to kiss like a pro, or how he knew she would respond willfully. She wanted to ask so many things and revel in their little moment that she felt took a lifetime to come, but Shiro had started with words of his own.

“I don’t think I’ve ever told you how thankful I am that we became friends,” he said softly.

Thank you for being mine.” Her face was fully flushed.

“And eh…” he continued with sign. “I’m kind of glad too…that you didn’t choose Matt over me.”

Allura blinked fast. “What? What made you think…?”

He shook his head embarrassingly. “I don’t know. I guess…because you know his father, because you were hanging out with him more while I was busy being busy. And you let me dance with those women all night…” he shrugged. “I thought you didn’t like me that way.”

“Shiro, honestly…” Allura took his face, and sent a telepathic stream again. “If you expected me to decipher your jealous ass all this time, you’re really picking the wrong alien.”

Shiro laughed before enveloping his palms over hers. “Then…is this okay?” he leaned forward to join her forehead with his. “Can we see where this goes?”

If Allura had known this was real, she would have prepared for it. She would have considered the possibility or setbacks of being with a human. She would have arranged a better way to confess her feelings. If she knew he had felt the same earlier, she would have stopped torturing herself with expectations and hopes. With denial.

But there was no doubt now. She was in love with Shiro.

“Yes,” Allura answered confidently through his mind.

“Even when I’m gone, up there…” he hesitated. “Would you wait for me?”

“I’ll support you to the end.” She smiled. “Four years will come and go. For us, it’s like a day.”

Shiro grinned before he took her hand into his and gripped it sideways. “Then it’s a deal.”

Allura marveled at her first successful handshake.

The months after passed like a storm. Allura didn’t remember the last time she had felt truly elated, but dating Shiro had pushed her sorrow for Altea far behind. The news of their relationship spread fast, ensuing approval from some and disappointment from others. Shiro started to get busy as expected, but there wasn’t a time when he wouldn’t sneak away with Allura to exchange kisses or cuddle under the stars. He gave her updates of his training, and Allura surprised him one day with the news that she was going to be on a mission herself to detect new elements among a field of asteroids a little outside of the solar system.

It’s about time you were finally selected for something!” He responded excitedly as they sat together to watch the sunset. “When do you leave?”

A few weeks after your launch,” Allura answered. “It’ll be a year-long trip.”

Not bad, at least you’ll be preoccupied while I’m speeding into uncharted territory.”

Shiro had paused before planning his next thought. “Do you ever think that there’s a possibility that you would, I don’t know, look for other Alteans who escaped while you’re up there?”

Allura bit on her lower lip and threw him an understanding smile. “Actually Shiro…I don’t know if I told you…but that has exactly been my plan along.”

Matt had started hanging with them less and less, letting them both know how he and his father were preparing to collect new samples from their quest that they theorized would bring unlimited yet stable energy to Earth. He later admitted to have been upset that Shiro beat him to Allura’s heart, but he accepted it to preserve their friendship.

Lance was surprisingly given a spot in a fighter-pilot class, and as Shiro had mentioned to her at times, he started a heated rivalry with the boy, Keith, almost instantly.

Keith is quite something. Kind of lost in his own skin if you ask…” Shiro had noted once. “I do hope you get to speak to him at some point, Allura.”

As the date of the launch got closer, Shiro and the rest of the Project Horizon crew began to attend more press interviews and public events. Questions about his Altean girlfriend came frequently, and Shiro took his chance to add what he felt was necessary.

“I hope this allows all of us to understand how important our bond with Alteans, and other nonhuman races, can be,” he had declared during a government conference. “I hope we can be a strong allied force again, to work together and defeat whatever threat that lurks in the cosmos.”

Allura had been proud of him for that, but as the days went by, she started to feel a sense of uneasiness again. She couldn’t explain what it was, but she accepted it as a sign of dismay for both of them going separate ways for a while. Preparations for her own mission had kept her busy, and for a month, she and Shiro could not interact.

About a week before the launch, Allura decided it was time to invite Shiro to dinner at her home and meet Coran for the first time. She had explained to him that as refugees of war, they were first given temporary shelters until she, Coran, and other Alteans had to find their own places to stay. They moved to an apartment in a town miles away from the desert where the Garrison stood. Coran had brightened up the space with memoirs of their home in Altea, and upon meeting Shiro, he had teared up instantly.

“My niece dating the soon-to-be-legend and the voice of solidarity with our kind, human or not!” Coran had pulled him into a hug before changing course to whisper dangerously into his ear. “You do anything to hurt her…and I will harpoon you back to Earth before you even pass Pluto.”

The dinner for the most part, went very well. Afterwards, Allura and Shiro shared a quiet intimate moment in her room, and Allura told her about stories she used to take in as a child.

“There is a tale that we Alteans believe about an ancient and massive god that once protected our planet,” she snuggled up to Shiro’s neck and voiced her words telepathically. “We call it Voltron.”

“Voltron?” Shiro said out loud. “Hm…I think I remember reading that in an Altean text. “

“It was created by combining five massive celestial lions, don’t ask me how that happened,” Allura waved off while chuckling. “Anyway, these lions were said to have separated and disappeared into space, so Voltron was not able to be formed anymore. My kind thinks a big reason Altea perished is because Voltron was no longer around to protect them.”

“That’s a scary thought,” Shiro pressed his cheek against her head. “But you’re not thinking about going up there and looking for those lions are you?”

He had mentioned it as a joke, but Allura kept still.

“Someday…I want to, Shiro,” she slowly added. “I believe in them. I believe they’re out there.” She raised herself to look him in the eye. “I came to the Garrison to become a pilot, to then reinstate our alliance with the humans and other beings and find other Altean survivors in space,” she paused. “I need everyone’s help. But most importantly, I need Voltron.”

“Why?” Shiro had breathed.

“To destroy the threat that took everything away from me,” she frowned. “The Galra.”

There was a hollow silence where Shiro contemplated her words but said nothing. He then sat up to meet her eyes and run his hand through her hair before cupping her cheek.

“Then let’s find Voltron,” He simply stated with a smile. “Our next mission, after I’m back. You and me and whoever else, together. If the lions are out there, we’ll find them.”

Allura felt moisture in her eyes, but she ignored it to pull Shiro into a kiss. She didn’t care if what he said was true was not, or if he believed her at all. She was going to miss him dearly. The next night back at the Garrison, they made love for the first time.

When the day finally came for Project Horizon to go to space, Allura spent as much time as she could with her companions before sending them off. She gave both Sam and Matt an Altean stone for good luck, and to Shiro she presented a black crystal.

It’s made out of this rare substance called quintessence,” she informed him in sign. “If you ever feel something is wrong, hold it tight, and it will give you strength and clarity.”

Thank you, Allura,” Shiro held it close. “Thank you for everything.”

She smiled sadly. “The crystals choose the wielder based on their energies aligning. I believe this was always meant for you.”

Shiro pulled her into a hug and peppered kisses across the side of her face. “I will miss you. So much.”

“Me too.” She sent through his mind as tears trailed down her cheek. “Be safe, my paladin.”

The Garrison viewing ground was filled with spectators. Journalists and other people from the media stood in anticipation for the launch of the spaceships that were to start on their biggest journey to the edge of the galaxy. Allura stood among her peers as preparation for countdown began. It was there where she comforted Pidge, who had also been anxious for her brother and father. Her friends joined in to make her feel better.

Allura then caught Keith from the corner of her eye, and she noted his gaze fixated at the aircraft and his face plagued with worry. She wondered if he was as nervous as she was, or whether he felt the same uneasiness that was starting to creep up in her body again.

When the Horizon spacecraft finally disappeared into space, Allura got a call from one of the commanders. She found out that she had been ordered for her next mission to get cochlear implants to attain the ability to hear.

Sorry, Allura, but it’s part of protocol for this mission,” the commander added in sign. “Asteroid clusters are dangerous, and you have to be alert at all times.”

I think I would be fine…but if that’s protocol…” Allura had answered less than enthusiastically.

You will get something in addition to that too. Since we heard you can use telepathy.” He continued, pointing to a small device that went around the skull. “We had this built recently. It will help you to amplify your ability and send direct commands and thoughts to your crew.”

Allura swallowed hard and pushed back her uncertainty. “Alright. When is the surgery?”

A week from now.” The commander merely responded.

Allura nodded before leaving. She wasn’t looking forward to anything they wanted to do, but this mission was important. Going back into the abyss after being scared for so long meant that she didn’t have to hide. She didn’t have to keep running from her enemies anymore.

As Allura took one last look at the red sky, she prayed for the best. She prayed for herself, for Shiro, and for her friends. She prayed for the future.

She would not have known then the events that would unfold days afterwards.

She would not have known then how her worst fears would come to light, or how she would scream and scream desperate for a voice to translate her anger and heartbreak once the news of Horizon’s sudden disappearance would shake the nation.

At that moment, she would not have known or looked for an omen in the stars.

Right now, at that very second, all seemed normal.

Allura simply took a deep breath and went back into the facility. The sun dipped behind the horizon soon after, and all became still.

– (I)-

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