Riassunto: Where Ulaz still saves Shiro, but when he can't reach the shuttle, Ulaz decides to bring Shiro with him.
When Shiro opens his eyes, he hears a loud thump, the sound of something hitting the ground. He looks up surprised, only to see one of the Galra hitting the others. He's quick, fast and doesn't leave them any chance to react.
It's over in a flash and Shiro is left there, looking at him and wondering what exactly it's going on. He remembers them saying that they had plans for him, that they had to prep him because Haggar wanted to do something special to him, and the memory of what this could be haunts him.
Shiro has been used and broken and beaten so much during this year that it always seems like it can't get worse, but it always does.
But now, as he looks into the eyes of this one Galra, he thinks that maybe, for once, something good has happened to him.
"We need to go," the Galra tells him, and he does quick work of the restraint that stop Shiro from moving. The moment of freedom seems unreal after so much time in shackles and he gets up, a little winded.
His vision still swims and he has to gripe the table only to stand. He doesn't remember if they gave him something, but lately he's always pumped up with some drugs or another. They need him docile, complacent, so that they can break him quicker.
"We need to go now," the Galra repeat. Shiro wants to tell him that it's not as easy as it seems, but they don't have time for useless protests. He needs to move if he wants to leave this prison, this nightmare, and there is nothing Shiro wants more.
He does as the Galra say and he moves. He pinches his own skin, using the pain to focus himself on the task at hand and he runs.
Shiro isn't going to be much useful in a fight, but it seems like the Galra has it covered. They avoid most of the sentinels, and it seems that, for a while, no one notices their escape. It's enough so that they can almost reach the escape pods and Shiro already tastes freedom on the tip of his tongue when the alarm finally starts blaring over them. It's jarring and loud and Shiro stumbles on his feet, his equilibrium already shot to hell.
"We don't have much time, a tick at the most," and seriously, a tick? what?, "you need to go. Reach earth and warn them of Voltron."
"Voltron?" he repeats, confused. He has head this name before. In the endless interviews with Haggar she had prodded him, asked over and over where Voltron was, where the Blue Lion was. He hadn't know what they were talking about. Still doesn't.
"We don't have time," the Galra repeats, with a growl. He seems agitated and Shiro feels worry spike inside him. What if they catch them again? Can they really do anything worse than what they were already doing? "Take a shuttle and go. I have my own."
Shiro hesitates, he wants to stay with this Galra, wants to feel safe for the first time in a year, but he also wants to go home.
He nods in the end, taking the best decision he can. If they really are interested in earth, he needs to go and warn them. The Galaxy garrison needs to know, and he's the only one now who can tell them. Make earth ready for the invasion that will come.
"Thank you," he tells the Galra, and he sees the other nod. It's a goodbye, a sign of mutual respect, and Shiro appreciates the first moment of actual friendly conversation for what it is.
He has a home to get back to, even if he's not the same person who left it one year ago.
Shiro runs towards the pods, sprinting and going as fast as he can, when the road in front of him closes abruptly. Lock down initiated, the siren blasts, and Shiro panics, hitting the metallic door that have just closed in front of him.
"No!" he screams, "no!" panic swells in his throat. He had been so close, and now freedom taunts him, a terrible mirage that he will never reach.
He almost wants to cry. For a moment he had thought, for a moment he had believed.
Something touches his shoulder and he turns, his arm flashing purple ready to fight. He will not be taken alive, he will force them to kill him, he will make this end. When he goes to strike, however, he immediately notices that it's not one of the Galra guards, but the one that had saved him.
Shiro looks at him, helpless, and the Galra just nods. "Follow me." and Shiro has no other choice but to do it.
This time they don't have an easy time like before, swarms of sentinels and soldiers intercept them in their escape and they have to fight their way out. The Galra is quick and deadly, but Shiro is desperate and angry.
He fights like he did in the arena, like a caged animal that has no other choice but to survive. It's a terrible way of fighting and every part of him feels terribly dirty because of it, but it's something you learn to live with once you're in the arena.
They work well as a team, Shiro notices, and they manage to put out of commission most of their enemies quickly.
"It's on the other side of this wall," the Galra yells, at one point, "there is a door. Open it and there is my shuttle. We take that and we go."
Shiro nods, punching another sentinel with his glowing arm. The robot gets crushed under the strength of his blow and Shiro watches as some circuits fly in the air. They can do it, they can, they are almost out!
He feels something hit him in the side and the pain that radiates from there is excruciating. Shiro screams, unable to help himself, and arcs under the pain.
Shiro punches back, feels his blow hit something and soon the pain stops. It's too late however. He feels consciousness leave him, and he sways on his feet. He's not going to make it, he's going to stay there forever.
"Kill me," he mutters, because he hopes to die. Because anything is better than staying there, as an experiment. A toy. He sees the Galra fight the last of the soldier before he falls to the ground.
He realizes that he doesn't even know the name of the Galra who risked everything to save him, and that he won't be able to thank him in his last breath. It's sad to think that he was so close, even if he didn't made it.
Takashi Shirogane, at least he tried.
He opens his eyes and he sits up in the span of a breath. Adrenaline still courses through his veins and he feels on the edge, scared and ready to fight. It takes a second to register that he is in a bed, and that there is no fight going on around him.
In fact Shiro seems to be in a very spartan bedroom, and if he has to judge by the decorum, he's still in space. Still with the Galra.
Haggar had never bothered with actual bedrooms for her experiments however, so he can't help but wonder that is this, where he is.
HIs answer comes quickly, when the door to the room opens and the alien from before enters. He looks stoic, and unscathed by their previous battle.
"You're awake," the Galra says by seeing him upright, and Shiro nods.
"You saved me," he mutters, surprised. The Galra just nods, almost as if it's nothing special. Shiro would like him to know how much that's not true. "Thank you," he says, feeling himself choking up. "Thank you."
The Galra looks at him before he moves towards the bed. He doesn't say anything else before he's right beside Shiro, and the silence feels strange.
"My name is Ulaz," the other introduces himself, and he seems almost apologetic. "I am sorry I could not reveal myself before. We didn't have the time."
"It's no problem," Shiro replies immediately, "you saved me, you could have gone the rest of our lives never telling me your name, and I wouldn't have cared."
The alien seems startled by Shiro bluntness for a second, but it quickly morphs into amusement. It's strange seeing a face that is so Galra and yet has no cruelty or evil in it. He looks good, kind. And yet his people have tortured him in ways he didn't think possible.
"I'm Shiro," he adds, "but I think you know that."
Ulaz nods and finally sits down beside him. The amusement goes away quickly, and there is a certain edge of worry in his eyes. "Shiro. The reason I saved you was so that you could go back home and rally your people on planet Earth. However due to the lockdown you couldn't reach your ship. To save your life I had to bring you to our headquarters."
"Headquarters?" Shiro repeats, confused. He had suspected that Ulaz couldn't be working alone and plan something of that magnitude, but it's still a little surprising to hear that there is an organization that has Galra in it that fights the Empire.
"Yes. I am part of an organization called the Blades of Marmora," Ulaz explains, his voice steady and calm, "we were formed with the only objective of freeing this universe of the tyranny of Zarkon's rule. We don't believe in his mad search for power, and we want to see our people restored to their names."
Shiro stops and winds puck what Ulaz just said. "Wait, you mean you're all Galra?"
Ulaz nods, confirming Shiro's suspicion. "Yes, only someone who is Galra or part Galra is accepted into the Blades. It is a sacred organization, tasked with restoring the equilibrium to the galaxy."
Shiro is still a little too shocked to register the whole fate of the universe aspect of it, and he just stares at Ulaz's face, trying to actually make sense of what he's hearing. The Blades must be Rebel Fighters, rebelling against their evil government. Shito can't believe he was saved by them.
"And what? You guys thought I could help with that?" he asks, trying to understand. Ulaz hesitates before answering, enough that Shiro knows that the situation is complicated. That the plans the Blades had for him, if they even existed, were now useless.
"Not everyone," Ulaz admits, "some criticize my choice to put my cover and mission in jeopardy for someone who is not Galra."
Shiro nods, thinking that it makes perfect sense. His life might b important for him, but in the face of an entire universe's fate, he's nothing. His own existence pales in comparison.
"But you did it anyway," Shiro concludes for him and Ulaz seems unapologetic about this too. He probably broke the rules, put his entire mission in jeopardy, and yet he seems calm. Sure of himself. He has more trust in Shiro than what Shiro has on himself.
"Why?" he questions, unable to stop. If he just needed to warn earth about the Galra, he could have found another method, he's sure.
Ulaz thinks about hi answer for a second or two before replying, and by the time he does, Shiro has almost given up in receiving the answer. "Because you're a leader," Ulaz reveals in the end, "because you became the hope of all the gladiators. Because I saw in you what we need to win this war. A leader that can guide us to victory."
His answer seems surprising and Shiro doesn't have the heart to tell him he's mistaken, that he chose the wrong person, but that's exactly how he feels.
Shiro is no leader, especially one that's supposed to lead people in their quest against Zarkon. He couldn't do anything when he was in captivity, couldn't even save himself.
Now, Ulaz wants him to save the entire galaxy? He hasn't been paying attention.
"I'm not sure..." he tries, but Ulaz stops him. The alien stands up, uncaring of what Shiro was going to say.
"I have seen greatness in you, but sometimes it is impossible to see if you're too close," Ulaz simply tells him and Shiro is left speechless.
He shakes his head, and decided that he will not focus on this part of the other's words. There are many other things he needs to address.
"You said the plan was to send me back home. What has changed?" he asks, because practical he can be. He can plan and strategize and think, much better than he is at accepting compliments.
Ulaz hesitates agan, and Shiro knows it will be bad.
"To save us from the fleet that was on our tail, I had to hide yourself inside the Blade's headquarters, but the entrance has closed."
"Closed?" SHiro wonders out loud and Ulaz just nods.
"No shuttle can come now in that storm. And we're cut off from the rest of the Galaxy," Ulaz explains. "Which mean you'll have to stay here until it opens again."
He feels a little faint, but he hopes that maybe it won’t be so bad. “How long will that be?”
“At least thirty vargas,” the other replies, but Shiro has no idea how much that is. It could be years for what he knows, or even decades.
He wants to ask, but how would he even explain to Ulaz the difference in time? Still he says, a little dejected, “I don’t know how much that is…”
Shiro thinks of home. At the family he doesn't have but always wanted. He thinks of Keith, the only real thing he will miss, But if doesn't sound like he has much of a choice.
"What can I do in the meantime?" he asks, but for once it seems like Ulaz doesn't have all the answers.
He fidgets and it seems like he’s uncomfortable. Might be for Shiro’s obvious show of emotions, or because there is not much for him to do. He was never supposed to be here, and he wouldn’t be surprised if they just kept him locked up.
“Parts of the ship will be open to you,” Ulaz explains after a second. “For security reasons we can’t allow you to roam free. But you’ll have access to most of the common areas.”
Shiro nods, relieved. It’s more than what he was expecting, and after the years he has just lived, it feels like a miracle to be allowed this much. He would still prefer to go home, warn the others, but if this is what he gets?
It’s still better than nothing.
“Thank you,” Shiro repeats. He doesn’t know if he really is the leader Ulaz believes him to be, but he will forever be grateful to him. He took a chance, and Shiro thinks it’s not one that was easy to take, and he owes him his life.
Ulaz just gets up, done with the conversation. “Once you’ll feel better, I’ll show you around.”
“They want you to keep an eye on me, don’t they?” Shiro asks, with a little smile. It’s smart, really.
Ulaz doesn’t bother denying it and he nods, taking his leave.
Shiro looks around at the room he’s in now, at what will be his room for the next thirty vargas, whatever that means, and just allows himself one second to breathe.
He’s safe, he realizes, and it’s such a strange concept nowadays it takes him a second to actually register. Even if he’s trapped in this base, there will be no more fights, there will be no more tortures. No more experiments.
He feels tear prickle at the side of his eyes and for a moment he’s unable to breathe past the shock. The relief that it’s over comes slowly, but overwhelms him.
Shiro breathes. He survived.
Ulaz doesn't come back for the entire night, or what Shiro thinks it's night, despite his earlier words. Shiro doesn't know if it is because he had seen Shiro's face and had understood that he needed to be alone. Or maybe the other was just busy.
All in all, when someone knocks on his door, Shiro is ready to get out of this room and actually explore the base he will be stuck in for thirty vargas.
Ulaz greets him with a nod and Shiro smiles at him. "I was going to eat breakfast," the alien informs him, "and I thought you might appreciate starting your tour."
Shiro isn't listening to him anymore, however. Breakfast. He had forgotten about food; in the prison it was never something to look forward to, always moldy and hard as a rock, but now, now maybe he'll be able to eat something edible.
He's not sure Galra have chocolate, but Shiro would kill for some.
"Yes. Thank you, that was very kind," he says and Ulaz just nods at him, starting to walk away. Shiro follows him closely, looking around as much as he can.
The ship or base seems to be minimal, it looks like any other Galra ship he has seen and it's almost eery to walk these corridors. A part of him expects a guard to jump up at him from the shadows and arrest him.
However, nothing happens. Ulaz shows him a couple of rooms on the way to the canteen - a bathroom, something that resembled a living room where Shiro could go and relax if he so wished and a training room to get in shape. Shiro tries to remember everything, but all he can focus on is that the fact that for every room Ulaz points out to him, there are three he doesn't mention.
Places where Shiro isn't allowed to go.
"Rooms will open for you automatically," Ulaz continues, walking, "we have recorded you in the system. So you don't have to worry about being accompanied.
Shiro wonders if he would be accepted in the other rooms if Ulaz was with him, but he doesn't want to push his luck for now. He owes much to Ulaz and his group, and he will follow their rules for a while.
They arrive at the canteen after a five minute walk, and when the doors open, Shiro finally sees other Galra beside Ulaz. And, at the same time, they see him.
All the heads in the room turns at the same time, or so it seems to Shiro, just to look at him. He feels like their eyes bear into him, almost as if they were trying to learn all of his secrets with just a glance. It would be unnerving, if Shiro hadn't spent an year fighting in an arena.
He's used to the attention, to the eyes of the crowd. Shiro has learnt to ignore them, he has learnt to perform for them.
He squares his shoulders and raises his chin, in a little act of defiance. He might have need Ulaz to be saved, but he survived. He fought. They can't scare him, not this easily.
"The canteen is open at every hour, but we ration the amount of food we can consume every day," Ulaz explains, dragging Shiro's attention back to him, "we're cut off from the rest of the universe for a lot of vargas, and we have to make sure to always have some reserve."
Shiro nods, assuring the other that it makes sense, and that he doesn't need much to eat. Ulaz looks at him, and Shiro is smaller than him by a lot of inches. It isn't difficult to believe that he's not going to eat more than them.
"Come, I'll show you how it's done," Ulaz instructs, so Shiro does as he's told. It's not as difficult as Ulaz made it sound: there is a robot arm that simply gives you the pre-approved portion of what Shiro has been told is called "food-goo". It doesn't taste like death, and that's the best thing Shiro can say about it.
Still, he eats with gusto, because it's something to eat and he will not waste it.
Ulaz seems content about Shiro's behaviour, so he hopes to continue in this fashion. He feels like he needs to make Ulaz trust him before he can try and convince the other Blades. Having someone on his side will be vital in maybe earning the security level to actually enter more than five rooms.
"You don't have to wait for me to come and get you to eat," Ulaz explains, eating as well.
Shiro thinks over his wording and it sounds strange, almost as if Ulaz is trying to say something. "I don't have to, but what if I want to?" Shiro wonders, because it would make him feel better not to eat completely alone.
Every other Galra is still looking at him, even if they are trying their best to make it seem like they aren't. For a spy group, they aren't that good at actually spying.
Ulaz, however, seems surprised by Shiro's question, but also happy. "I can come and pick you up. I find eating alone to be a little... lonely."
Shiro smiles, nodding and then he looks around, making sure to catch the eyes of as many Galra as possible, to show them he knows they are watching him. "Are you in trouble because of me?" it seems like a fairly easy assumption to make and while he's sorry to think that, he doesn't think he will ever regret being saved.
"Some believe I may have acted rash," Ulaz explains. "We were still talking about how to best release you when..."
Shiro knows what Ulaz means, and a shiver runs down his spine. He hopefully will never know what Haggar had in mind fo him that day, what she wanted to do with him, but it was terrible enough to force Ulaz's hand.
For a second he debates thanking Ulaz again, but he feels like a broken record. There are more meaningful things to show his gratitude rather than words. "I won't make you regret it," he promises, even if he's not sure how to actually do it.
At the very least, Shiro is a good fighter, he can be helpful in a skirmish.
Ulaz drops his gaze to his own plate of food, but he says, very seriously, "I don't. Regret it."
It sends warm feelings in Shiro's stomach.
In the end, he and Ulaz spend most of the day together. Shiro asks the alien more questions about Galra culture, and he manages to understand what varga means. By making some calculations, it because clear really quickly that Vargas are more or less Earth days.
His stay with the Blades, then, will amount to a month his time, more or less. What he worries about it's what could happen to Earth in that month. From what Ulaz has told him, it seemed like there were rumors about one of the parts of Voltron back on Earth, and the Empire was looking for it.
"We're monitoring Earth," Ulaz reassures him, "if something happens we'll know." But that doesn't mean they would be able to do anything about it.
That night, sleeps doesn't come to Shiro. Even though he's finally free, it doesn't feel like he is. He's used to being in his cell, and every time he closes his eyes he sees the image of Haggar. When he doesn't, he sees Earth, completely destroyed.
Shiro realizes pretty quickly that staying in bed won't bring him any comfort, and he gets up. His heart rate is accelerated and he feels even more tired than before. He needs to move, he needs to train.
As long as he's stronger, his instinct say, he's going to be able to do something. He will be able to fight them, and maybe he will be able to protect his own planet.
It's not rational, after all Shiro is just a single man, and it doesn't matter how strong he gets, he will never be able to fight an Empire on his own; and yet he gets dressed as quickly as he can, using some of the fesh clothes the Blades have given him - entirely too long and baggy - and he exits the room.
Shiro makes a beeline for the training room, thankful that, on the way back, he had asked Ulaz to show him how it worked. Now, it feels like a blessing that he had remembered.
The door, just as his alien friend had assured him, opens in front of him without any problems. It's empty, but Shiro thinks that it's probably not the only training area in the ship. Only the one Shiro can access.
They are probably looking at him, studying him, and the knowledge makes him even more on edge. He thinks of Haggar, watching him fight and calling him the champion with such an adoring look.
Shiro calls the training bot and redies his stance.
He fights like he's still in the arena because, by now, he doesn't remember any other ways to fight. His blows are precise and deadly, every movement studied to conserve energy and be as lethal as possible.
In mere minutes, the bot is down, defeated. "Again," Shiro says, and another bot appears. its fate isn't much different than the other. Or the one after that. Or the one after that.
At the fifth one, Shiro is finally starting to feel more like himself, and he stops, catching his breath. His muscles are starting to get a little sore, and exhaustion will soon follow. It will give him a chance to actually sleep, devoid of dreams, and Shiro knows he needs to push himself just a little bit further.
Before he can summon another bot, however, the door behind him opens again, and he looks back, startled. There is another Galra at the door, someone who is not Ulaz and who Shiro doesn't remember from their tour.
He's tall, a little more than Ulaz himself, and there is a rough quality to him. Galra are never particularly soft, even if they do resemble big cats, but there is something sharper about this member of the blades. Like his spirit was forged in combat and steel.
"Show me what you can do," the Galra says, almost out of the blue, and Shiro hesitates, a little surprised and confused, It's all that the Galra needs.
The Blade dashes forward, faster than Shiro had expected, and he strikes in Shiro's direction. He's not using weapons, merely his hands, but Galra strength is far superior to a human one. A punch will hurt.
Thankfully, Shiro's reflexes are good enough that he's able to avoid the hit at the last second, and his instincts overwhelm him. He strikes back before he even registers it, his Galra arm activating without his consent.
The Galra evades his attack, and doesn't look fazed by it.
Shiro doesn't want to fight, not really, but he doesn't think he has much of a choice. It's obvious this Galra wants Shiro to prove himself, maybe wants to know why Ulaz has chosen to save him.
So Shiro will give him what the other wants.
Soon they are fighting, and they are not pulling their punches. It just so happens that they seem to be matched in speed and strategic mind. The Galra predicts all of Shiro movements, and strikes back faster every time. But Shiro's strongest skill it's his survival instinct, and he dodges all of them, managing to always find the best angle to strike back. They are matched and after a while it actually starts to become fun.
That's the moment Shiro lowers his defenses, and the alien actually catches him by surprise. His giant hand closes on Shiro's neck and pushes him on the floor. It's a heavy blow and Shiro grits his teeth to muffle the groan of pain.
After that, everything stills. The alien looks at him, still keeping him pinned to the floor. He's panting, Shiro notices with a little bit of vindictiveness.
"You're not bad," the Galra admits, "for a human. But you're not worth all this."
Shiro blinks, surprised at the harsh statement. He never expected to make friends with all of the Blades, but that seemed a little bit harsh. "Ulaz should have never let his feelings interfere with the mission."
The alien releases Shiro after that, and he takes a big breathe on the floor, letting the oxygen fill his lungs back up.
It seems that the alien intends on just walking away now, but Shiro won't let him. Without getting up, he slides and manages to make the Galra trip. In a single motion he gets up and then puts a knee on the other's left abdomen, pushing in. Unlike humans, Galra's biggest weak point is their abdomen, and Shiro will make good use of all his knowledge.
"I will do my best," Shiro informs the Galra, trying to look menacing. "I can be useful and Ulaz saw that. He doesn't deserve your judgement, he made a call and he saved me and I will repay him as much as I can."
The Galra look at him, and for the first time there is something other than distaste there, some kind of begrudging respect. He doesn't know if he has earned it, but it feels like a step in the right direction to actually gain some footing and some peace in this month with the Blades. He starts to get up, but the moment the pressure from his knee lessens, the Galra springs up.
He has Shiro back on the floor in a matter of second, and this time, Shiro is face down. His cheek hurts because of the impact, and he grits his teeth. Shit.
"Never give the opportunity for the enemy to attack," the Galra tells him, "never let compassion have the best of you. This is war."
Shiro blinks and he laughs. His hands are stained of blood, there are more death on his conscience than he ever dreamed possible. "I will not hesitate to kill, when the moment requires," he reassures the Galra. He can say it for sure, having been already tested.
After a second the Galra lets him go and this time, Shiro doesn't react. He feels like they have both made the point they wanted to make. This feels more like a test, like a way to see who Shiro is.
From what he knows Galra are a race that speaks with actions more than words, and Shiro supposes that fighting is a good way as any to get to know someone.
"I'm Kolivan," the alien informs him, towering over him. Shiro waits a second more before he gets up. His face still hurts, but he does his best not to show it.
"You probably already know, but I am Shiro. I'd say nice to meet you, but..." he shrugs and it looks like the other smiles, just for a second.
He considers it a win.
Kolivan, he discovers the next day, is the leader of the Blades. What he did, was a test. If Shiro had failed, even if he doesn't know what the test as all about, he would have been kept in lockdown until it was time to send him back to earth.
"He wanted to make sure that the witch didn't already had her hands on you," Ulaz explains.
Shiro looks at his own arm, unable to help himself. Why did he pass the test? It's obvious that he's not just himself anymore, that a big part of him has been changed and manipulated by her, to fit some sort of design.
"Your body," Ulaz interrupts, "might have been touched by her. But it's your mind that we need."
Shiro laughs, a little hysterically. "He didn't seem that impressed."
Ulaz only responds with: "You're still here, aren't you?"
After that, Shiro's permanence with the Blades becomes more normal. All the other members of the organization don't look at him like he's an animal at the zoo anymore, and sometimes he even manages to talk with some of them for a couple of minutes at a time. It seems like he's being accepted, little by little, and he's sure Kolivan had something to do with it.
Kolivan and him still train sometimes, when Shiro can't sleep and he goes to the gym in order to drown the cacophony of sounds in his brain. Kolivan always seems to catch him up then, when Shiro is at his lowest.
He wonders why the other decides to show up only in these times, but Shiro thinks it might be part of a lesson he's not understanding. They train, they fight, and Shiro always holds his own.
They fight until Shiro's mind is quiet again, until there is no crowd cheering him on. No one to call him champion.
Still, Shiro spends most of his time with Ulaz. They don't do anything special: they just talk. Shiro discovers pretty early on that Ulaz is stuck, the same as him. It seems that his decision to save Shiro has put him in the "dog house" so to speak. He's not allowed to participate in meetings with the other members, or know much of the inner workings.
The only thing they tell him, and Ulaz is quick to report to him, is that a Galra ship has gotten close to Earth, only to leave it alone after a while in pursuit of the Blue Lion.
Ulaz explains about Voltron, then, what it is and how it works. Shiro is fascinated by the story, by the idea of this powerful entity that will be able to protect them all from the empire.
"You mean someone on Earth was able to fly one of the lions?" Shiro wonders, surprised, and Ulaz nods.
"It seems that earthling are more impressive than we gave them credit for," the other says, before he turns towards Shiro. "Or at least, the others gave you credit for."
It's the way he says it, a little soft, a little unsure. Shiro picks up the compliment under his words easily, but there is more to it. There is a shy quality to Ulaz, when they talk, that isn't usually there.
It's obvious when they are alone, and the other almost transforms into another person.
In the weeks they have spent alone, talking and getting to know each other, Shiro thinks he now knows Ulaz pretty well.
And the fact is: Ulaz likes him.
Shiro doesn't know when it started, if it's the reason why Ulaz went against orders to save him; if instead it's something that grew quieter between them. However Ulaz's feelings are written clear on his face.
Shiro's? They are a little more complicated than that.
He needs to go back home, once the month ends. He has a duty, a mission. Earth is safe for now, but how long will it be before the Galra spread their hands to it too? He needs to warn them, he knows.
What the Blades do, it's incredibly important, but they are playing the long game. They know that taking down the empire won't be easy and they are committed to it.
Earth might not have that much time.
So what do Shiro's feelings matter in this?
It's not something he'll be able to get. Nor something he'll be able to keep. Ulaz likes him, but Shiro won't do anything with the knowledge.
If there is one thing he has learned from Kolivan is to never let your emotion interfere with your duty.
However it's hard, sometimes, when Ulaz smiles at him, and Shiro feels emotions he thought he had forgotten, buried deep in nightmares and fights.
It makes Shiro which he could stay, it makes him wish he had a choice.
It's almost the end of the month when Shiro notices that the Blades are talking more, excited and curious whispers.
At this point, Shiro feels like he has integrated as well as one can expect with them. He will never be one of them, he knows, but he also thinks that they have accepted his presence.
"What is happening?" he asks Ulaz, over lunch, one day where the canteen seems to be more excited than usual.
"Voltron has been spotted," the other replies and Shiro stops, surprised.
"You mean the entire thing? All the lions?" he wonders, because he understands now how great of a news it is. From what Ulaz has told him, Voltron is their best chance at actually winning this war.
Ulaz nods, smiling, and Shiro sits shocked at the idea. With Voltron, the Blades will have a chance in this war. It won't be just a handful of rebels against a tyrannic empire, they have a symbol now. A weapon.
"We don't have many informations about their pilots," Ulaz reveals. "It's hard to talk with our informants when we are on lock down. But we can't get involved."
"Why not?" it's surprising to hear. Shiro would have thought they would have jumped at the idea. If they team up, wouldn't it be easier for them to actually win?
"Because they don't fight the Galra way," Ulaz replies, somber. "We have an honor. We're not made to collaborate with others."
It seems stupid, if Shiro has to be honest. And in a second he feels worry and anger prickle at his skin.
"This is war," he says, remember all of Kolivan hard lessons, "one should not let one's feeling cloud their judgement. Isn't that your motto?"
It's obvious that Ulaz seems surprised by Shiro's outburst, and he looks startled. He doesn't know what to say, and it's probably the first time someone has called them emotional. But Shiro doesn't care.
He rises and strides away from the canteen. After a second Ulaz is by his side. "Where are you going?"
"I'm going to talk with Kolivan," because if there is someone who can make this decision it's going to be him. Shiro won't let them be this stupid. Ulaz saved him because he believed Shiro would be a good leader.
So now Shiro is going to show them what being a leader means.
"The central command is not in an area you have access to," Ulaz reminds him, almost as he thinks this would stop him.
"But you can get me there," Shiro replies easily, and Ulaz stops, surprised.
Shiro looks back, halting his progress. Ulaz is just standing there, and Shiro thinks he might be hurt, or maybe he's just too surprised to move. "Why would I?"
"Because you know I'm right," it's the first and obvious answer. Shiro knows that Ulaz must have realizes the stupidity of that statement himself, it made no sense for them to stand by and watch from the sidelines. Voltron was a weapon, was a sign of hope, and their job should be to support him.
However, it's not the reason Ulaz will do this. And the knowledge weights on both of their minds. "Because you believe in me," Shiro says, strong and certain.
Ulaz watches him with a hard stare, and for the first time, Shiro doesn't know how to read his expression. Maybe he has pushed too hard, maybe he has lost Ulaz. But this, what they stand for, what Voltron will mean for the universe, it's too important.
Shiro needs to do this.
Moments pass between them, as slow as entire vargas, and then Ulaz starts walking again. "I do," he admits, the moment he arrives at Shiro's side, "and I hope I won't start regretting it now."
Shiro remembers his promise, made one month ago, and he really hopes that he's not going to break it this soon.
Kolivan stares at them with something akin to anger. It's shocking, considering how collected he usually is. He doesn't, however, seem surprised.
It's obvious he expected them to break the rules one day, and Shiro doesn't even care that he played right into his hand.
"You should not be here," Kolivan reminds him, almost as if Shiro has just forgotten and not deliberately broken the rules. Shiro would laugh if the situation was different than what it is.
"And you should be working with Voltron," Shiro tells him, feeling the fire of righteous indignation. He knows he's right, knows that the path Kolivan decided to take will only lead to the Blades losing.
"You don't know what you're talking about," Kolivan shuts him up and Shiro sees the other blades converging on them, probably ready to escort Shiro out at a single word from Kolivan. "You're not even one of us."
Shiro isn't. He's their guest at best, and he knows it, and still he feels for these people. He feels for some of them more than he should. His plan is to go back to earth, it hasn't changed, but...
But Voltron is something he hadn't planned for, something he hadn't accounted for. If Voltron can win the war, then maybe Shiro doesn't need to go back to Earth. Maybe he can find his place here,, at the frontlines, aiding who needs it most.
"I want to be," he says, before he even knows it and he hears Ulaz take a sharp intake of breath. It's obvious they are al surprised, but he thinks Shiro himself is the most surprised of them all.
And yet, he finds himself meaning it. He has seen the Blade fight, he has been training wth Kolivan for a month, and he thinks he could do good here. If the Arena has prepared him for anything, is to become a spy, to fight and to win.
Kolivan watches him for a second, studies him and a part of Shiro wants to hide from his gaze. But he doesn't. He squares his shoulder, raises his chin. He won't cower in front of Kolivan or in front of anyone else.
"Only Galra can enter the Blades," Kolivan reminds him, standing tall in front of him. "And as exceptional you might be, you're still an earthling."
Shiro is just an earthling. He's shorter than anyone else here, he doesn't understand how they talk sometimes, and looks very different from them, but he won't let this stop him.
He extends his Galra hand, and lets it glow. A purple light that colors his face, his eyes, his entire soul.
"I might not have been born a Galra," he says, "but I was forged a Galra. I was built Galra. I am part Galra in what matters," he says, because some days he doesn't feel like Takashi Shirogane. Some days he's nothing more than the champion, molded under Haggar's hand and in front of a Galra crowd.
Kolivan hasn't averted his eyes, and he seems to be wondering what to do with Shiro and his speech. It's obvious he's intrigued, and after all this time, he thinks he and Kolivan have cultivated some kind of strange friendship. But it's also obvious that this goes beyond what he expected.
Kolivan hesitates for just a second before he advances. Shiro doesn't looks around himself, doesn't dare. He doesn't know how the others are taking his decision, how Ulaz is reacting, but he can't go back now.
Earth will be there once this war will be over and Shiro will have to do what he has to do. There is no other choice.
When Kolivan reaches him, he extends his own hand and touches Shiro's own. They stay like that, for only a second, before Kolivan retreats.
"Then welcome to the Blades, Takashi Shirogane."
After that, they talk, and they discuss, and while Shiro doesn't convince Kolivan to go and meet Voltron right now, the other accepts to keep an eye on them and make his move sooner rather than later. It's more than what Shiro was expecting, really, so he won't complain
After that, Shiro discovers that Kolivan had already asked for a suit for Shiro to be made, and it almost makes him laugh. Was his choice so predictable from the start?
Kolivan shrugs and says, "You fought like a Galra."
It doesn't make Shiro happy, but he has to accept the ways this experience has changed him, he knows that.
After, he and Ulaz are walking back, side by side. There is a tension in the air, something that sticks to them, but that they don't know how to wash away.
Shiro will stay, it's obvious now, and with this decision more comes into play. He could touch Ulaz's hand, brush their fingers together, and hope the other understands, just as Shiro had.
He gets to have this, he thinks, because he's not leaving. He's staying here.
Shiro is part of this as much as Ulaz is, and while there is the possibility that this war will claim their life before it's over, they have the now and whatever time there will be in between.
"You changed your mind. I didn't know," Ulaz says, after a while.
"I didn't know either," Shiro admits, with a sheepish smile. "I didn't go there to join the Blades, that was not my plan. I just wanted to talk some sense into Kolivan."
Ulaz laugh, surprised. It's a nice sound, and Shiro revels in it. He'll be able to hear it for as long as he wants now. It's not a concept that he has completely accepted yet. "That means you'll be a perfect Blade."
Shiro smiles in return, amused despite himself. "I wanted to go back to Earth because I thought it was the best place for me, but maybe... maybe I'm more suited to fighting than preparing for a fight."
"You're a warrior, Shiro. In spirit and in body, and that's what makes you a great leader," Ulaz tells him and Shiro smiles, honored.
He doesn't know if that's true, sometimes he still feels too fragile, broken beyond repair. But he wants to be what Ulaz sees in him, he wants to be more than what the Galra made.
"If I stay here," Shiro continues, "i'll be more useful. I'll fight for my planet, and for all the others."
They have reached Shiro's room, and they stand in front of it, looking at the closed door.
It only takes a step, Shiro thinks, for him to have this. The man Ulaz thinks he is would not hesitate, so Shiro does not. He extends his hand, his human one, and he touches Ulaz's hand, clasping their fingers. "And if I stay here, it's also for you."
Ulaz looks surprised, almost as if he had never understood that his feelings were reciprocated, and Shiro smiles at him. Hopeful.
It takes a second for the alien to understand, but when he does, Ulaz raises his other hand and puts it on Shiro's face, gently caressing it. He's too gentle when he does this, almost as if he doesn't think Shiro could survive a stronger touch.
Or maybe, because he knows Shiro has survived it, and he wants to show him that touch can be kind too.
"I have not regretted saving you," Ulaz admits, his voice low and deep, "not for a second. And I feel that you will be the reason we win this war." Shiro can't reply, because a second later Ulaz is kissing him. It's obviously clumsy, almost as if it's not something he's used to doing, and Shiro wonders how the Galra express their feelings.
He promises himself he will ask Ulaz when the kiss ends, but for now he just lets himself go. Closes hi eyes and kisses Ulaz back, shows him the right way to fo it.
Shiro doesn't know what will await him in the future, what the war will have in store for them, but for now Shiro is finally free.
And he has a place to stay.