Somewhere Up Above The Stars – a fanfic one-shot

Category: Voltron Legendary Defender (animated series)  
Genre: Sci-fantasy / romance / speculative / angst
Focused Ship: Shiro x Allura 
Written: 2019

Summary: It had been a long time since Shiro disappeared from his flight-vessel and Allura wants to do everything in her power to find him in the grand expanse of space.

When Shiro had once asked her if she could recall a near-death experience, she had simply shrugged. It was a moment out of all their other moments together, her eagerly joining him on small ventures in-between their missions to share what made them distinctively different in their race and origins. This time he had posed his question ever so casually, a hint of a boyish demeanor cast under the last few strokes of light of a setting star on the solitary planet they had visited. 

 “Near death…” she had mouthed. It was an abrupt leeway into a topic that she felt he was using to seek something out of her, and when she thought she had had an answer ready for him, she didn’t.

 Allura remembered it being strange, she of all people not knowing what it was like to face death – really face it. She was always at war, always facing the high probability that her efforts could fall in vain against an empire that had such a terrifying presence in the universe. She could still see the day when Altea fell apart, still hear the screams of many through the smoke of warfare before everything became achingly silent. Even then, even now, there was a constant hum of panic of the unknown within her core that had become unnoticeable.

 Except that was not it. That was not what Shiro had described after her frustrated attempt to hold the reigns of such a knowledge had failed.

 “Have you ever felt it then?” She had asked in return.

 “Yeah,” he had responded with a soft chuckle. “As a child. I was struck by lightning on my father’s farm. It was…a weird feeling. Like I died and came back to life. My father said I looked so terrified that my hair had turned white.”

 They had both laughed when Allura pointed at the obvious absence of color on the strands falling over his forehead. She combed her fingers through them when he let her, bringing order to an otherwise unruly mass stained and sweaty from battle. It would have been their last attempt at peace, their last rendezvous under the half-lidden horizon before executing their greatest plan to end the war once and for all. His curiosity of death, however, had irked her, and she did not know why.

 She did not foresee or fathom what was to come afterwards, or why that moment swiftly crossed her mind weeks later after the impossible became possible and Zarkon crumbled under Voltron’s might. What would have been a victory only ended in distress, and as if losing her dearest friend, she had crumbled herself.

 On the surface, she could not betray her feelings. But that memory with him – all their memories together – had become a tool to keep her panic at bay. At the helm of her ship, she would scroll through hologram after hologram until her fingers began to ache, and using the mind-melding machine to reach out to the void would drain her incredibly. Each time, Allura felt the dread seep through her sense of rationality and leave cracks on her composure. On days when she felt wholly helpless, she let the tears flow before mustering a spark to continue her pursuit.  

 She had to find him. She had to find Shiro.

 Allura knew she had given orders to the team to reassemble. Ever since the realization had struck her that the Black Paladin had completely vanished from his lion, and from any vessel or space around them, she had to play her role as their commander. As their voice of reason. They had no other choice but to assign themselves new roles to make up for what was lost, and in some shape or form, they had to work together twice as hard. She had faith in the paladins, but in herself, she could not tell. She couldn’t tell if she could continue without knowing what had happened to him.

 An answer was all she wanted. Was he dead? Alive? What happened in that split second when Voltron had finally struck through Zarkon’s defenses and ended him for good? She wasn’t there to see, she wasn’t there to catch him in his last few moments before he was gone. The thought had plagued her over and over for god knows how long while they each tried to recuperate.

 Their mission had not stopped of course, but no matter how many days or nights passed since his disappearance, she kept seeing him in her sleep, and she kept sneaking away during odd hours to seek him in the stars. A sign, a presence, a miracle that she wished she could conjure with her newly-found powers.

 And just like that, one day it came.

 “Allura,” Coran had called for her softly behind her, appearing like any other time to make sure she did not exhaust herself from the futile search. “Allura, I think I know where he is.”

 Like a whip she had turned to face him, a knot in her core loosening through a rejuvenated sense of hope she didn’t expect to blossom so soon. She must have had done something different – she must have prayed harder, or persisted longer. Something always came back to give her motive again and again, but that one time, something told her that they were going to succeed.

 “Where is he, Coran?” her voice had come out breathlessly. She could have flung herself at him if she could, but she had to know. “Where did you find him?”

 “It’s em…it’s a bit odd,” he had merely said. “Slav kept mentioning alternate dimensions and we both looked into it – it seems Shiro is caught between two mediums of physical realities. Almost like a spirit.”

 “What do you mean?” A glimpse of hope had come and gone. It wasn’t enough of an answer to keep her steady, or to learn that he was somewhere beyond her scope of understanding. “C-could we reach him?” It wasn’t enough that she thought that he was possibly dead.

 But Coran had looked at her with the softness of a guardian she knew so well. “Allura…I would never present a problem to you unless I already had a solution.”

 As half of a truth that was, Coran had not failed to deliver. Leading her to the hangar that belonged to one lion in particular was just the beginning. What came next was something more complex, something that involved the genius of their valuable passenger, Slav. The creature had constructed a special teludav to access this middle plane with the help of the Black Lion.

 “It’s a temporary installment,” he had said. “I am afraid you can’t exist there for long if you want to return to this reality.”

 Allura had not questioned his antics, nor did she complain when she was told they had to wait until his location aligned with their trajectory, whatever that meant. That was nothing compared to the days and weeks when she had run restless from his absence, when the imminent threat of Zarkon’s son broke her young paladins but somehow brought them together when the need called for it. The wait was nothing when it gave her time to decide on what she wanted to tell him – one being in particular.

 “I believe we are ready now.”

 The hours came and went. It could have been a day or two days, perhaps many many ticks, she did not know or count. But Slav finally spoke the words she wanted to hear. With some act of untapped technology and extraordinary science, a wormhole was formed along the blackness of space that bent and sent their ship into a frenzy of confusion. Coran warned her that they could not get too close, but that the Black Lion was going to transport her through.

 “She’s fast. And she has this power, almost like a teleporting capability,” he informed. “She’s the only one that can get you to where he is.”

 Allura was never surprised by the beast’s prowess, and it only made sense that she would sense her paladin’s presence more than anyone. The time was ripe for the taking, and it wasn’t long until Allura positioned herself in the cockpit, feeling the surge of heat and revitalized remnants of what the previous pilot felt in the midst of war. She gripped on hard, but her faith in the lion was unwavering.

 “Remember, you can’t stay there for long,” Coran warned her through the intercom, voice veiled with worry. “Please be careful, princess.” 

 She merely cast a nod. Within seconds, something heavy had pushed her back, and even before she could take a sip of breath, her senses were knocked out as everything collapsed. The warped atmosphere consumed her, whirling to wherever their path ended. It was a sensation she had never felt while teleporting ever, nor did she have time to feel.

 In a blinding flash of light, she was suddenly there, suddenly in this dimension she could not explain, could not describe as being real. There in the intangible space that felt like a dream, she was weightless. A spirit. But she could think, she could sense. And with it, she moved forward and away from the lion that stood like a giant landmass – absolutely still and undisturbed.

 And then from the corner of her eye, she saw it. Saw him. He was there like a speck in the blackness, ghostly and faded like her. She recognized his defining shape, and as she inched closer and closer, she saw the calm in his eyes and the flighty specks of stardust illuminate his visage. White metal worn and grazed through time that never left his body, his artificial arm remaining lifeless against his sides –  there were so much that she could describe of him if a choked whisper had not escaped her lips.

 “Shiro?” she let out steadily, as if a single breath could have shattered him. She followed his gaze towards nothing in particular, and yet a smile had formed on his lips.

“Do you see it?” He suddenly spoke. “That boy right there?”

 Allura hesitated before answering. “Eh-no. I don’t see anything, Shiro.”

“Oh. You don’t?” He turned to look at her finally, but his expression carried no fear or dismay, no guilt, no sense of panic or need for apologies. He looked like he was right where he belonged. “I guess I sound a little ridiculous now, huh.”

 His chuckle slightly unnerved her. “Shiro, do you…” she lifted her hand towards him, but stopped. “Do you know where you are right now? Do you remember…what happened? With Voltron.”

 She half-expected him to react, to throw a sign of familiarity or awareness, but Allura feared the worst. She feared him forgetting. Forgetting them. Forgetting her. Whatever medium that had separated him from the universe he existed in, she felt it had obliterated his memory to leave him as a hollow shell. Out here, in this lifeless place that carried no matter but only apparitions – a tear between two realities – she felt the drumming possibility that it had changed him for good.   

 It was only when she felt a familiar weight on her head – his palm gently taking refuge to stroke through the bed of her silver hair – that she realized all was not lost. 

 “Allura.” She shivered at the softness of his tone, the warmth of his calling. “Yes I remember. I remember everything.”

She stifled her cry of relief and waited for him to continue. 

“But I did something stupid. I think that’s why…I’m here. Wherever this is.”

 He moved his hand away, much to her dismay, but her eyes remained on him, seeking every expression and every word to pick at his thoughts.

“Why do you say that?” Allura asked. “You had vanished when we went to search your cockpit, when we knew something was wrong. Right after Zarkon, you—”

 “I freaked out.” Shiro quickly interjected, and Allura noticed it. The guilt. “I became afraid, Allura. I told my team… I pushed them to give it our all – right then, in that exact moment, I charged in, not knowing or thinking if we were going to win or lose. Just letting all my anger overpower me until I didn’t know who I was anymore, or that I was risking the lives of these kids. And then…”

 He paused, leaving a gap of silence that echoed through her ears. Because she felt his fear.

 “And then I just…got so afraid. I remember delivering that final blow and just…everything turned black. It was so strange, Allura. I thought…I thought I—”

 “You thought you died.” Allura finished for him. She could have let him go further, to allow herself to access the situation with clarity, but this was not one of those times. Something gripped her senses at the urgency, and she broke her restraint to pull him into an embrace. Her skin searched for his in a desperate attempt to mend the signs of wear, to restore him in some shape or form to remind him that he was not alone.

 “Black heard me. I think she sensed my fear and tried to push me out…eject me to some other dimension or something if she could. She was trying to protect me.” She felt his hands wrap around hers, but the feeling was odd. It was odd for both of them, two lost beings trapped in a different chasm of space trying to touch the other and not knowing if they were themselves real. He was cold and immensely light, almost airy. But Allura kept him still.

 “She feared for you too.” Allura continued, reminding herself of the way his lion seemed more burnt out than normal when she piloted her there, more devastated by her actions to face her paladin again. “It’s the last thing you remember, isn’t it?”

 “Yeah.” He pulled away to face her again, uncertainty tugging at his eyes. “Did Black tell you that?”

 Allura shook her head before taking his hand into hers, adding whatever force she could muster to bring warmth to his veins. He was there, alive and well in front of her. This was not a dream, nor was she going to accept that he was some intangible presence in an astral space. The memory she was fishing for all this time came in like a burst of energy.

 “You told me once…that there was a common belief among humans that one saw everything that had happened in their life – every important memory – all at once right before they died, “ she spoke softly and surely. “But you believed that was not the case. You believed that you only saw…what you considered the most important thing at that very moment. At that very second. Before it’s all gone.”

 She saw Shiro cast an unknowing look, before trying to follow her trail of thought. “I did say that. But I don’t understand why…I mean how…”

 “Because that feeling. I felt it for the first time.” Allura interjected, keeping her hands firm around his fingers. “That feeling of a near-death experience. When Zarkon’s weapon got our castle, when I thought…I thought I was hit and was really going to die, I remember sensing something. For a split second, I was horribly afraid. But then it was gone…and I saw…” she took a deep breath. “I saw you.”

 A tremble in her skin, and suddenly he was gripping her fingers harder. She recognized this. She knew this so well about him – as if it had become etched to his veins – his selfless reasons to put her before himself. And she saw him search her eyes as if he had reasons to be in disbelief. As if it wasn’t obvious enough.

 “I saw you too.” he slowly breathed. “Before everything went black and I was here. I saw you and me…and we were…”

 “At peace,” she continued for him, revealing a timid laugh. “Together …with good things ahead.”

 “Yes,” Shiro returned a smile. “I remember seeing that…and it scared me. I lost control and Black sent me here.” A sigh. “I’m so sorry, Allura.”

 She shook her head and accepted the subtle but uncanny spark of joy. To think he had imagined her at the end of his life, above all else – just as she had of him – calmed the restlessness in her core. A chuckle escaped her lips once again, and she looked up for the first time to see the nebulous skies overhead engraved with stars and traveling streams of colorful light and clouds. This world would have been beautiful if it was inhabitable – if she could remain in this dream without a care of where time took them both.

 But it was childish to think of such things.

 “Shiro…” she began. “We are going to find a way to bring you back.”

 Her words were only followed by silence, and she prayed it was his way of agreeing with her. She looked back at him to notice his attention diverted by something she could not tell.

 “Shiro, we’ll get you out of here,” she repeated, a bit louder this time. “I’m going to do everything I can to return you to where you belong. With the others. With us.”

 He said nothing, and Allura found herself feeling the hollow hums of the astral world affecting her senses. A strain of dizziness swept through her as she took a step forward to catch his line of sight, but he was already lost.

 “Shiro? Shiro, please say something.” A drop of dread, a flicker of panic. His eyes had sunken into blackness, but she could not look away. She could not stop hoping to hear his voice. At all cost, he had to still be here alive. She had to know it was possible to return him to the physical realm, to make him the Black Paladin again, to reunite him with his teammates and be there for her when she needed him. To join her as her equal. To plan their future together.

 “I said I will get you back! I promise, Shirogane, I promise!” A reckless cry. “Do you hear me? No matter what I will …”

 She broke off when her fingers went through his body, and like smoke, he faded into the stardust. She could have screamed if it weren’t for the figure that took his place. Small, scared, at least a bit entranced, a young boy stood facing her, as skinny as a twig and garbed in a blue jacket labeled with icons of stars and space.

 Allura held her breath as he continued to stare at her. Nothing stirred, nothing moved, but she felt that surge of wonder and innocence emanate from him, and through his eyes she saw his thirst for flight, his deepest desire to fly into the cosmos as a commander of a vessel. The most important thing at that very second.

 And just like that, everything vanished.

 Allura found herself look up to the dimmest of lights, and she touched the softness of fabric underneath. When her vision cleared, she saw her mice find their way to her side. Coran was there. The paladins were there too, maybe even others they had recruited aboard their ship. But the moisture on her eyelids was still fresh, and her voice came out in a raspy whisper.

 “Did we find him?”

 She heard murmurs and some shuffling of feet before Coran stepped forward. His expression was recognizable even when his figure was immersed in shadow.

 “Allura…” he spoke. “You fell unconscious while working the mind-melding device again. You, em, overworked the systems and it may have affected your visual cortex.  I let you sleep for some time.”

 She could have asked for more. She could have questioned him and forced him to explain further. But in her heart, in the deepest crevice that burned a hole she did not think would widen so soon, she already knew.

 “It’s been over a year, Allura. We have tried everything,” he continued, knowingly. “Maybe it’s time…to give it a rest.”

 She bit her lip to hold back the urge to go against him. She wouldn’t stop. She couldn’t stop. Even if everything she had envisioned was all in her mind, or if her pathetic desperation had led to some obsessive hallucinative experience – she did not care. But she knew this was not the place. This was not her at all. To retaliate would demean her status in the public eye. There was no time for distractions when danger still lurked mercilessly, when survival was a mere luxury.

 “I saw him, Coran…” she chose to turn to him, to keep her voice low so only he could hear. “He was trapped somewhere between the world of the living and the dead. Only seeing memories of the past…the important memories…” She crept up a smile. “He was such a…thin little boy. With a dream to fly, to leave his planet and his home and find freedom in the stars.”

 “Is that so?” Coran followed along. 

Allura nodded, recounting a memory Shiro had once shared. “I felt it. He almost died on his father’s land when a lightning struck…but that’s all he saw at the end of his life. A pilot. A great one. That was the last thing…before he blacked out. It was always his wish…before…”

 She couldn’t continue, not when it was beginning to grow painful. Coran took this chance to lean over and plant a kiss on her forehead.

 “I’m sure what you witnessed wasn’t just a dream, Allura…” Kind eyes met hers as she took in his warmth for support. “I’m sure he’s still out there…somewhere.”

 Allura smiled again before blinking out the rest of her tears. Coran wasn’t always right, nor was he capable of imagining what she had seen, so distinctive and clear, a place beyond discovery or comprehension. But he wasn’t wrong either. Even when all she had was wishful thinking and a strong sense of hope to lead her on, he was her second voice in a world that still needed her, still needed Voltron.

 “Coran, sir,” someone had spoken from the far corner. Kolivan, she recognized. “We are nearing one of Lotor’s largest strongholds as planned…how shall we proceed?”

 The Altean did not waste time to look back at her, his expression raw with weariness but with a steadfast determination to wait for her command. “Princess?”

 Allura took a deep breath, letting the leader within her take over without hesitation.

 “Proceed with full force. And with caution.”

 There was a roar of eagerness from her paladins, along with battle-ready cries from the Blades and any new allies that had joined them for the same cause. Her soldiers shuffled out for battle, everyone that had journeyed alongside her to now bring down the Galra empire for good. Everyone except one.

 “I’ll find you someday…” She called out, somewhere in her mind, a place that was still so alive and real and waiting to see her world return to the peace it once knew. Allura cleared her face before sitting up with that unwavering goal.

 “Please wait for me, Shiro.”

-(|)-

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