Hello Pala-dudes! This oneshot is the product of lack of sleep, the need for an angsty Shiro, and the stress of finals week. It's true. Writing is therapeutic. Not really much explanation needed for this story. It involves a lot of angst and fluff. Thanks to AprilOfTheStars for editing this for me!

Quick trigger warning: PTSD. There is death and torture, too, but it isn't a main detail or focus nor is it described in major detail.

Shiro stood before his demons, blade drawn parallel to his left thigh. His hand was glowing threateningly on the opposite side, warning away the most of shadowy devils. Each and every one of the figures were dull and lifeless despite aggressive stances. Some had the sickly yellow glow of the Galra while others wore the faces of his paladins.

A bloodied Lance slumped in the clutches of another evil shadow. Pidge's unruly hair was matted and dirtied almost beyond recognition, discolored by sweat and blood, not to mention the faded light in her eyes. A ragged Hunk wore a broken expression, empty husks staring dead into Shiro's. Allura couldn't even stand, the last Altean too bruised and wounded to properly cradle her now-dead guardian. Shiro's legs trembled as his gaze found Matt's, lifeless and hopeless, lips rambling broken mutters. And Keith. His face was so dirty Shiro struggled to recognize it. The purple eyes that used to burn now blinked coldly, distantly. Two clean streaks trailing down from his eyes formed the dried tracks of tears.

Shiro choked, unable to make any other sound. His vocal cords refused to call out to his dying friends. Something akin to a whimper dragged itself from within him, bubbling to the surface painfully. Tears of his own tickled his cheeks, and he whipped them away roughly. No matter how much it hurt, showing weakness here was fatal.

The determination that seethed in the Black Paladin dripped away, and his sword clattered to the ground at his feet, his hand deactivated. Shiro's legs sagged forward, bringing him closer to his tortured friends. But they were dragged backwards with cries of pain and protest. He shouted their names desperately, terrified for their fates, but before he could follow, a clawed hand wound around his throat.

The Black Paladin made a few strangled gurgles and kicked weakly, hands flying to his neck frantically. Even though his efforts did nothing, and the pressure tightened around his airway, black spots didn't bleed into his peripheral vision. Instead a horrifying presence grew in the back of his mind, and the shadowed demons seemed to close in on him. He squirmed harder.

Shiro crumpled to the inky ground beneath him, trembling uncontrollably. His body shook as he attempted to slow his breathing. When he rolled over to face the overwhelming monsters, Sendak's face loomed before him. The Black Paladin gave a panicked shout and scrambled away from the Galra. He ignited his arm and held it out before him desperately. It glowed violet in the face of... himself? Yellow eyes bore into him unblinkingly, lit by a cruel and overpowering grin. Kuro.

Shiro cried out as his evil persona threw him backwards and pinned him to the ground. Sweat and tears shook off of his face at the impact, mixing in the ground below them. Kuro forced his hand over Shiro's mouth at an angle where he was useless to bite or defend himself.

Glancing behind Kuro, the head of Voltron focused on his paladins struggling in the grip of the Galra. Haggar appeared before them and their eyes widened. So did Shiro's. When they screamed, so did he. Although muffled, his hysterical cries harmonized with his team's with sickening accuracy.

He had to help them.

Despite the unmoving pressure clamping him to the ground, Shiro writhed underneath Kuro. The demon's smirk grew until the Black Paladin managed to stab his burning Galra arm through the fake. Kuro shrieked unnaturally, causing Shiro to jam his now deactivated hands against his ears instinctively. The demon slipped away like a wraith.

Adrenaline immediately threw Shiro to his feet towards the Altean Druid. He roared protectively but halted instantly as Haggar raised a conjured blade underneath Pidge's neck. Desperate pleas bubbled over Matt's lips incessantly while the others cried out in protest. Shiro skidded to a stop before the Druid, in checkmate. She grinned at his predicament.

Haggar seemed to think for a moment before her shadowed face lit up with nauseating smile. "You or them," she proposed simply. The Altean Druid rotated the blade toward the Black Paladin. He took it without hesitation, understanding her trade.

Wordlessly he brought the sword before his torso, shutting out his paladins' awful protests. Shiro murmured an apology before plunging the the tip in between his collarbone. It wasn't overly deep, but he didn't stop there. The head of Voltron dragged the blade downward until he reached his right hip. Pain flowered over his senses and overwhelmed his mind, but he smiled softly as a bright violet substance soaked his tunic. At least I could save them this time, Shiro thought contentedly, albeit hazily. The presence at the back of his mind was obvious now, almost impossible to resist.

Any conscious thought suddenly froze, even the fiery burn of agony at the telltale sound of metal. The Paladins as well as Allura and Matt screamed in unison. A single, clean line of crimson intersected each of their throats. Fatal. His mind barely registered the detail but when it did, that was all he could focus on.

Fatal.

No.

P-please. Please, no.

The first sobs of a fresh storm of tears arrived.

No, no, no!

Please not them!

Shiro's scream of agony and denial was wet and rugged, hindered by the blood rising in his throat. He choked and coughed in it but ultimately ignored it as he dragged himself towards his paladins and family with his last responding arm; the Galra tech had never felt so foreign and cold against his skin.

The presence at the back of his mind was becoming too much to bear. He almost felt relived when his eyes fluttered shut, and his heart feebly trembled to a stop-

Shiro gasped hysterically as he threw himself forward, now surrounded by the dark walls of another room. A dark figure approached from the open cell door, and the Black Paladin lashed out at it in his feral confusion. The figure danced backwards away from his ferocious swipe. In a daze, Shiro ripped out from under his loosened restraints, straining towards his shadowed enemy. A whir sounded as the former Champion ignited his Galra arm. It burned through the darkness of his current cell. Shiro swung his prosthetic in a wide, curved arc and froze as it melted the shadows away from the trembling figure's face. Blue eyes met his barbaric expression and pulled him back into reality. The vision of his captivity bled away; a blink morphed the restraints into sheets, a cell door into an innocent doorway.

He scrambled away from Lance fearfully, scared now for an entirely different reason.

The Black Paladin fled from his room and the hallway, attempting to chase away the lingering terrors and the implications of a few seconds ago. For a while, his breathing pounded out almost louder and faster than his thundering footfalls. The evidence of pursuit sounded behind him, pushing the Black Paladin to run harder. Several hallways threatened to crush him, rushing his steps into an even faster staccato tempo, if possible. Rooms and doorways flashed by, too swift to identify. Shiro didn't make sense of where he was fleeing to, instead trusting his feet to carry him away from hurting his paladins, his family.

The Head of Voltron registered his name being called out, but he let the words die behind him. A despondent grimace tugged on his cracked lips, and he wasn't surprised as a fresh wave of tears flicked off his chin as he ran.

Soon the echoes of voices died like his adrenaline. Shiro slipped into a narrow but long room that seemed deserted enough. Somehow shadows found their way into the darkness, too. Quivering and exhausted, the pilot slumped into a corner blanketed by shadows and hidden from the door's line of sight. Tremors shook his sweaty limbs while he curled himself into a tight fetal position. Resting his head on his human hand, he blinked numbly at the room, drinking in the silence greedily.

The Black Paladin regretted ever trying to sleep. It only ended up with the near death of Lance. Shiro shook his head in self-disgust. He didn't even bother to check to see if Lance was okay. What kind of leader did Allura ever think she saw in him? If he couldn't handle his own demons, how was he supposed to support the other paladins? Shiro grunted in shame and disgust.

Mindlessly he bit his lip and gnawed at it incessantly. Something warm trickled down his chin, but he paid no attention. The room was getting too small, the silence too loud. But he couldn't risk leaving, or the paladins finding him. Shiro wouldn't hurt them again. This was all his fault after all. He deserved to suffer.

Time passed sluggishly. The shaken paladin snarled whenever the yellow eyes of his nightmares threatened to overwhelm reality. Every one of the hallucinations left him in a boneless mess, shivering uncontrollably and sinking underneath the weight of a thousand crushing possibilities.

Shiro was drowning in the middle of another hallucination, screaming for mercy despite his oath to silence. Something burst through the doorway, and the Champion was moving instantly. Once again, arm activated, he dove forward towards the face of Haggar but cried out frantically when she ducked underneath his attack with experience. A steadying pressure secured itself around his torso, and he squirmed manically. Haggar was chanting something that sounded like- his name?

The Black Paladin blinked furiously and shook his head to ground himself. Keith's fiery eyes burned into his own, not Haggar's, something akin to relief seeping into the Red Paladin's gaze. Shiro, however, looked back in horror, tears streaming tenfold. A sharp gasp kickstarted the first sob.

Keith didn't protest as Shiro fell apart in his arms. The older paladin shook with pain and grief, while the Red Paladin squeezed back tighter. The hug lasted well over a few Dobashes before Shiro felt some control bleed back into him. He pulled back with a watery smile ghosting his lips. Keith wore the same expression.

"I-I'm sorry," the Black Paladin stammered brokenly, smiling dropping away abruptly. "I attacked you and Lance. I thought you were the Galra. It's unacceptable. I-"

"Stop, Shiro. Just stop," Keith firmly interrupted. "We don't blame you. We can't. Give yourself some slack. You've done so much for the team, and I think it's time we repay that debt, at least a little." He dragged the Head of Voltron forward, through the doorway that no longer seemed imposing and threatening. The Red Paladin was a steady presence beside him, squeezing his human hand, keeping the night terrors at bay. As hallways passed, Shiro hesitantly relaxed to the familiar surroundings, although heavily dependent on the paladin next to him.

When they neared the bridge, Keith slowed their pace slightly. Lance was waiting at the doorway with jitters clear in his body language. The former Champion winced.

"Shiro!" the Blue Paladin greeted cheerfully but the Black Paladin thought it sounded a little forced. Although he might have been reading too much into it. He couldn't decide. He didn't even know if he could trust his thoughts anymore. Were they even his anymore or where they-

A tight pressure in his left hand broke his trance. Keith was looking at him in concern, calling out his name softly. Quiznak.

"You okay?" Lance asked bluntly. "I forgive you, man. Nothing bad happened. Well, except for scaring me halfway to the void. But Hunk thinks I deserved it after the prank Pidge and I pulled on him last week. Oh, good times." The sharpshooter chuckled dramatically.

"That was you?!" Keith yelled angrily. "Hunk made me help clean everything up! It took hours!" Shiro couldn't help the tiny grin that started to creep onto the corner of his lips as some of his shame trickled away like melting ice. Lance and Keith burst into a heated argument, only interrupted when the door opened behind them and Allura stepped out, dressed in her nightgown. She yawned a little before informing them that they were ready. For what?

Lance immediately beamed and practically dragged the Black Paladin into the bridge. Once he regained stable footing, Shiro noticed Pidge, Matt, Coran, and Hunk all standing near a pile of makeshift bedding looking mildly proud of themselves. Matt sent him a slightly worried look, and Shiro countered it with a small smile. Before he could protest, Lance pulled him over towards the mound of blankets and pillows. Allura and even Keith trailed behind, moving to relocate some of the blankets.

The Blue Paladin yanked Shiro downwards, and through sheer shock, he tumbled into the colorful hill of bedding. Despite its size, he was surprised that he didn't sink overly far into the fluffy mound. It was comfortable but not swallowing or enclosing. Keith chucked a blanket at him, and he caught it reflexively.

Pidge flopped down on his right, shifting until she found a sufficient position. Said position included her head resting on Shiro's stomach, providing a comforting weight that felt safer than the warmth of the blanket wrapped around his torso. Hunk followed soon after, curling naturally beside her at the oldest paladin's thigh. Allura joined after assuring that Keith didn't drop out. She stretched out with her head leaning against Shiro's shoulder, breath tickling his exposed shoulder from the tank top he wore at night. Keith lowered himself opposite of Pidge. To the Black Paladin's surprise, Keith snuggled in securely next to his stomach, which was more contact than Shiro had expected from the loner. Lance jumped over before curling up tightly on Shiro's calf, opposite Hunk. The Blue Paladin looked more content than Shiro had seen in a while. Matt flopped dramatically onto the mountain of bedding, hand ruffling Shiro's floof of white hair before settling down parallel to his oldest friend, his legs falling on top of Pidge's stomach. She huffed but didn't push him off. Lastly, Coran joined Allura above the former Champion's head, protective as ever in his movements.

Shiro was certain that the softest smile light up his face as he finally fell back asleep.

A few hours later, the Black Paladin gasped sharply, breath heaving and fluttering in his chest, tears streaming hopelessly down his cheeks. The wisps of his last nightmare plagued him, even while awake. That was, until Shiro was grounded by a warm weight pressing down gently on his body. The Paladins of Voltron surrounded him protectively, although strewn in their various sleeping positions. He was in the Castle of Lions. He was safe.

The former Champion laid back down again, blinking away the latest of nightmare, and a newly awakened Matt glanced at him questioningly and sleepily. He gave the other boy a weak smile, and the pilot felt a hand slip into his human one and squeeze it reassuringly, the comforting pressure helping him steady his breathing. He smiled again shakily and Matt relaxed, satisfied, though Shiro could tell that he hadn't slipped back into sleep. The tears refused to stop, so he just scrubbed them away before training his gaze on the stars through the windows.

And Shiro laid there until the tears did stop, protected and comforted by the team he would give his life for. He could feel sleep coming for him once again, but he concentrated on the soothing weights of his paladins while he could. It was then that Shiro realized he was situated in the middle of Team Voltron. A silent laugh tickled his lips as a final thought filled his mind before he succumbed to sleep.

I guess I really do form the head.

Now as for who the demons are in the title...that's up for debate. (I'm looking at you Keith!) Lance, stop! *cough* Anyway, thanks for reading! I hoped you enjoyed the fluffy angst!

~Kenobi1