Alright y'all, the time has come!
Once again, I just wanted to say a big thank you. It feels wonderful posting the final chapter of this fic and I really hope it's worth the wait. Like I said, this is the epilogue so it's more wrapping up everything together oh, but I hope you enjoy!
Trigger Warnings: Flashbacks, Trauma, Mentions of previous situations and violence
Pidge woke up from a pod a couple days later. Shiro, Hunk, and Keith were already out, waiting for her. Lance joined soon after from his own pod, and Pidge relished in the feeling of being able to hug her friends. There was no sign that she'd ever lost her movement and both her wrist and collarbone were completely healed. Pidge hated going into the pods as much as the other paladins, but she couldn't deny the scientific masterpieces they were.
"Pidge, I'm so glad you're okay!" Lance said, having broken from the group hug to give her an individual one. "I swear, I wanted to punch those guys for even thinking about doing anything to you!" His gusto drained and a bit of shame remained on his face. "But I guess I wasn't actually much help in stopping them getting to you."
Pidge frowned. "Lance, they were holding a gun to your head. There was nothing you could do. They wanted me, so..." Pidge shuddered but forced herself to finish without letting the nerves enter her voice. "So, they got me."
Based on the silence that followed, she must have not hidden the discomfort of the statement well or the other paladins didn't like thinking about it either. Probably both.
"What did they do to you?" Keith asked, the question small, like he wasn't sure if he wanted the answer.
Pidge clenched her fists. "Nothing worse than what they did to you guys. I was practically being pampered in comparison."
Hunk looked nervously between her and the others. "Did— did the pods heal your connection with Green?"
The moment Pidge reached out in her mind, the emptiness she was learning to hate took over. There was no sign of Green. "I... I don't know. I don't feel her."
"That doesn't mean she's not there," Shiro's authoritative voice cut through the anxious thoughts already filling Pidge's head. "You won't know for sure until you try."
Pidge nodded reluctantly. "Okay"
The team went down to the hangar together. Lance and Hunk tried to start a half-hearted conversation, but it was quickly swallowed by the tension in the air.
Pidge's nerves were on edge as they entered the room. This was it, if she couldn't...
Green's mouth opened.
Multiple sighs of relief joined Pidge's and Shiro offered a firm squeeze of her shoulder. "I knew she'd know you. Go on," he said.
Knowing that Green recognized her filled Pidge with the confidence she needed to force herself into the cockpit. The space was so familiar to her but felt cold without the familiar Green essence warming her mind.
Sitting down in the chair, Pidge put her hands on the controls before she could talk herself out of it.
Pidge looked around for any sign of Green waking up, the little hope she had in her mind fading quickly.
"Come on. Green, you know me!"
There was no reaction to her words either, and she gripped the controls harder in hopes that their connection might just need a bit more contact to brush off the dust.
"No!" Pidge said, pounding her fist on the panel in front of her in frustration. The shockwaves passed through her hand painfully, just as when... just like...
Protests and pleas flew out of her mouth as she watched the knife come down on Lance. The blood was everywhere. On the knife, on the floor. On her hands. Lance's blood was on her hands. It was because of her. It was all her—
Shiro's call brought her back to her lion, hands clenched on the controls hard enough to cramp. Letting go and rolling them out, she turned to her friend's worried faces. Right, even though she was healed, she was still the one causing problems. And now that she couldn't fly Green...
"Green isn't responding," Pidge admitted softly. "The cryopods weren't able to fix it. I'm not a paladin anymore."
A hand on Pidge's shoulder made her glance up to Lance, and she couldn't deny that the image of him standing there with no stab wound and no pain was grounding. "You're not the only one who's had problems with their Lion not responding, Pidge. Most of us have struggled with it at some point or another."
Lance had a point, but Pidge couldn't convince herself this was the same. After all, Green wasn't ignoring her; it was more like she couldn't even sense Pidge's attempts to connect in the first place.
"The role of paladin is not one you can lose, Pidge," Allura said with conviction. "Even as a dormant pilot, your position on this team has not changed."
Coran nodded. "Alfor himself had some struggles with his Lion. From what I've heard, you all have gone through quite the ordeal. Give yourself a chance to heal before you lose faith."
Pidge's throat tightened at the way everyone had such trust in her. But they weren't looking at the big picture. She shook her head. "Whether I'm a paladin or not doesn't matter really. If I can't fly Green, I'm useless to the team. You guys can't form Voltron anymore."
"We won't need to," Keith said, his voice level. "The Galra think the experiment failed, so they'll need a chance to figure out their next move. It'll be some time before they even know the serum's having lasting effects."
Pidge didn't feel as confident as Keith in that. While he'd made a logical assumption, the Galra would at least know the paladins were shaken and that alone could be enough to prompt them. Memories threatened to overwhelm her again, but she pushed them down as best she could. There was no way to predict how soon Voltron might be needed, so they needed to focus on using whatever time they had effectively.
"I hope that's true," Pidge replied. "We'll need the time if we're going to find another green paladin. You should all probably try it, just in case." She could see the way the paladin didn't like what she was saying and, hoping to lighten the mood, she added. "Maybe it's finally Coran's time to shine."
The joke fell flat and not even Coran's face lost any of the concern. Pidge's height meant she was looking up at the others, but sitting in the chair with everyone's worry trained on her, she suddenly felt like a child again—someone that needed to be handled carefully and was useless in most situations. She hated being such a liability.
Hunk was finally the one who broke the silence, shifting uncomfortably. "I hate to say this, but even if we looked, I don't think we'd find another green paladin. That was their plan in the first place, right? Green is still responding to you some, so there's little reason to form bonds with new paladins."
Pidge felt a rock drop in her stomach. Hunk was right, if Green didn't actually reject her as a paladin, then who was to say that she'd see a need to find other candidates? They might have lost Voltron for good because of her. Maybe they could force Green to reject her? Though, how could they do that if she hardly seemed to be reacting to Pidge? She couldn't exactly just turn off her curiosity in an attempt to reduce compatibility.
"None of this speculation is helpful," Shiro said firmly, cutting through Pidge's thoughts. As he turned to her, his face softened and Pidge realised he probably had a decent idea of how she was feeling. "Pidge, I know it feels hopeless right now, but back in that cell, none of the lions came but Green. Whatever the serum took from you, it wasn't everything."
The information was new to Pidge. She'd assumed that Green had known to come from the other Lions, but if it really was just her...
Keith and Lance on the floor, Hunk concussed and in the enemies' hands, Shiro on the ground, a foot over his neck. Desperation clawing through her as she wildly reached for Green. Dark dark emptiness. There was nothing there—
A hand shaking her shoulder brought her back into the moment, and Pidge distantly noticed that Shiro had taken Lance's spot at her side. His face was only a foot away from hers, and his mouth was moving.
"—ack with us?" Seeing her eyes meeting his, he stepped back a little to give her more space. The rest of the team seemed to relax a little and Pidge realized she must have been out of it for longer than she thought.
"Sorry, just got a little distracted," she said, hoping for casual but it was clear she wasn't fooling anyone.
"Pidge, you're not going to be able to just bounce back from this the way you do other things," Shiro said gently. "I know you want to be fine and able to pilot Green right away, but you need to give yourself more time to heal first."
"The pods heal the body quite effectively, but there's not much they can do for the mind," Coran added.
Pidge let out a breath, knowing they were right, but still feeling distraught. She might have just doomed the whole universe, after all.
Allura stepped forward, the concern from a moment ago now replaced with determination. "Shiro is right. You need more time to recover. We can slowly start working through the training exercises once you're feeling a bit better and move forward from there. Now you need to rest."
Her tone held no room for argument and Pidge knew there really weren't any options. Slowly, she nodded and pushed herself up from the chair. Hope shined in each of her friends' faces and she straightened her shoulders.
If rest and recovery was their best chance, then Pidge was determined to give it her all.
She would not let her team down again.
Two Months Later
Pidge stood alone in the bunker, staring up at the open door to Green. That had been consistent across the whole time of her recovery. Anytime she came down, Green would open the hatch, almost like she missed Pidge as much as she'd missed her.
The last few months had been quiet. The Galra were laying low and the team had only gone on a few missions. Pidge had stayed at the castle of course, and as much as she hated being unable to help, she rested easy knowing they were low danger expeditions. Even when actual fighting occurred, it only lasted a couple of minutes and left the team in good spirits.
True to her promise to herself, Pidge had been resting and recovering, but it wasn't easy.
The flashbacks had turned into vivid nightmares at the start. Apparently she'd been screaming so loud one night, she'd woken the whole ship. She'd been too rattled to deny herself the comfort of the others' presence and shared the details of her dream, the final battle but without Green coming in time. After a somber silence, Lance had quietly admitted his own fear watching the others go down one by one, unable to get up himself.
The night had gone on similarly, each taking turns to confess their own traumas from the capture. Allura and Coran had divulged their own doubts as distress calls came in and there continued to be no sign of them. As much as Pidge hated that her friends were suffering too, she couldn't deny the comfort she got in knowing she wasn't alone.
Those conversations had become somewhat commonplace after a while. Each time nightmares woke someone, they would all gather in that person's room and just talk. While most nights, the team ended up in Pidge's room, the others had their own share of nightmares too. Much had come out during these sessions and, while they might not talk about them in the morning, Pidge felt like she understood each member of her team better because of it.
Soon enough, the nightmares had begun to fade and the flashbacks stopped. While Pidge had never been a big fan of talking about personal stuff, she couldn't deny that the night conversations had reduced her feelings of shame and uselessness as well. And she wasn't the only one. She'd noticed the whole team gradually seeming less guilty and a small part of her wondered why they hadn't tried this before. After all, it wasn't just the trauma from this last capture that came up.
As the days went by, Allura and Coran slowly started implementing training techniques into Pidge's routine. It was nothing like the intensity of the ones they'd used when they all were just meeting, and Pidge found many of them more enjoyable than she expected. She excelled at the team exercises and did well in many of the others as well. It had been slow to start, with more failures than successes, but eventually a clear positive trend had presented itself.
Some days, Pidge thought she was feeling a flicker of green in the back of her head.
Today was one of those days. When she'd first woken up, she almost felt normal for a second before the shock woke her fully and it was gone. Then later during her training exercises, she'd thought she felt it again.
No one had brought up trying to pilot Green anytime soon, and no one knew Pidge was down here. Pidge herself was wondering if she was doing herself a disservice by getting her hopes up like this.
It wasn't too late to simply head to bed and give it a bit more time. Pidge knew this wasn't something she could rush and didn't want to push her luck too far.
But she had to know.
Clenching her fists, she forced herself to move toward Green's open entrance. Sitting in the pilot's chair, she relished in just being in her Lion again.
"Hey, girl," she said softly. "Thanks for not giving up on me."
Pidge waited a moment, in the hopes that she might hear a purr or feel some sort of response. When nothing came though, she turned her attention back to the controls.
Back when she'd first connected with Green, piloting was about the only thing she could do. She couldn't communicate or feel the bond back then either, so hypothetically, piloting should be the first thing to come back.
Pidge reached her hands forward and froze, remembering the intense flashback she'd had last time she'd tried this. It had been so long since she'd struggled with one of those and the idea of possibly triggering another was terrifying.
No, she couldn't back down now.
The memories still threatened to invade, but rather than fighting them, Pidge let them fade away on their own —a technique Shiro had shared. Keith spasming, Lance lying prone on the ground, blood pouring from Hunk's nose, a foot ready to snap Shiro's neck. Slowly but surely, each image came and left as Pidge kept reminding herself these events were all over. As her mind finally cleared, Pidge looked down at her hands hovering over the control panel.
She'd come so far. They all had. But it all culminated in this moment.
Taking a deep breath, Pidge let her hands fall.
The reaction was instantaneous. Lights burst into life and the familiar mechanical sound of Green standing up filled her ears.
"Whoa, girl! Take it easy!" Pidge said playfully. A laugh of pure elation bubbled out of her as Green's sudden motion jostled her in her chair.
Allowing the exhilaration of the moment to give her confidence, Pidge reached to the back corner of her mind.
Her eyes watered at the spark of Green she found there. As she reached out to it, it seemed to bolster and a muffled purr filled her mind.
Pidge felt more complete than she had in months. She knew now her worth wasn't just as a paladin, but this was a part of her and she'd hated being apart from it for so long. And she couldn't wait to tell the rest of her team. They'd all be so excited and Pidge could rest easy, knowing the universe would be safe once more.
But right now, this moment was for her. Closing her eyes so she could sense the flicker better, Pidge extended her focus to the corner of mind and was relieved to find it was just as strong as she'd felt the first time. It might be small and Pidge knew it would be a long time until she truly healed, but the beginning was there. That was all that mattered.
Giving the control panel a light pat, Pidge smiled.
"Welcome back, Green."
And it's finished! I can't believe it's finally happening. I've always known that I would come back and finish this fic, but it still feels a little unreal. I appreciate all of the patience you guys have had with me over the last almost three years. If you have a moment, please leave a like and comment! Your feedback means a lot to me.
By the way, If any of you are interested in the Pidge Angst Bang, sign ups for authors and betas are closing super soon. You can find the signup links on the Pidge Angst Bang tumblr pidgeangstbang. I'd love to see you guys there!
If you're interested in more of my fanfiction, you might want to check out my AO3 under Sakarrie as well. That's where I post normally now, and there are a couple of Pidge h/c as well as several other fics in other fandoms. My current obsession is Carmen Sandiego, so definitely check me out if you're into that.
Thank you so much again for your support, and have a fantastic day!