Hey everyone! I hope you all are staying safe and smart during this crazy time.

I know, I know, this isn't the fic I'm supposed to be posting. You see, I'm running into a problem that's... kinda a good thing in the long run? You may have noticed this fic is almost 5k words. Usually, my one-shots and chapters have been around 1-2k, but my writing has gotten a lot more detailed (I think that's what it is at least?) and so what I'm written on the next chapter of Fragmentation is already over 2k and only through a third of the action I wanted to cover in this chapter. But a 6k chapter would be really wonky amidst the 1-2k chapters. So I'm thinking of splitting up the chapter into two parts (no idea where or how yet, but I'll find a way!). That being said, I can't split it up until it's completely done. So, on one hand, you guys still have a bit of a wait. On the other hand, you have a guaranteed, second chapter written for whenever that one is done. Just know it's definitely still on my mind. :)

Anyway, in the meantime here's a story I didn't plan out at all and wrote in a bunch of 15 minute sprints around 1-2 am!

Disclaimer: I don't own Voltron.

Prompt: Quarantine

Potential Trigger Warnings:

Blood, Hallucinations, Fever, Self-Blame, Confinement via Quarantine, Fears of Infection

***While it is in no means related to or based off the coronavirus or current events, it does deal with similar situations and I don't want anyone stressing themselves further from a work of fiction. If you think a story dealing with a deadly infection/quaranting would be distressing right now, you may want to come back another time. Rest assured, there is a happy ending though.

Also a huge thank you to klove0511 for beta'ing this fic on such short term notice! They're super awesome and also a talented writer, so check them out on AO3 and tumblr if you're into Supernatural!

On with the story!

Keith ran through the rough terrain, following Shiro's instructions carefully. His face was flushed from the exertion, but otherwise didn't show any of the inner turmoil he was feeling. "How close are we, Shiro?" Keith called, eager to get the bundle in his arms to safety.

"Only a couple more doboshes. You should be seeing it any moment. How's she holding up?"

Keith allowed himself to look down at Pidge for the first time since he started running. He couldn't feel any heat through his paladin suit, but there were beads of perspiration on her face and her half-lidded gaze was clearly not seeing anything. She'd started murmuring unintelligibly a few doboshes after her leg was scratched but had fallen quiet soon after. Keith was relieved to see she was even still conscious.

"Not great, but still awake. I don't think she's really with me, though, and it looks like a fever might be settling in. Are you set up for once we arrive?"

There was a slight pause as Shiro processed the information. When he spoke, his voice seemed to carry the energy of someone who hadn't slept in years. "Yeah. They said they have a special space set aside for treating those infected. She should be fine."

Keith breathed a sigh of relief, though it was easily overtaken by his ragged panting. He smiled down at Pidge gently before turning his attention back to getting them to safety as quickly as possible. "We're almost there, Pidge. Just hold on a bit longer."

When Keith arrived, everything seemed to happen at once. Pidge had been taken from his arms before he even realised what was happening and instead replaced with a container of cool liquid.

He looked up to find Hunk smiling at him. "Don't worry, Shiro's got her. You got her here fine. Now take a moment to hydrate and catch your breath."

Hearing that his mission was complete, Keith did just that. His side ached, and suddenly he was very aware of how dry his mouth was. Keith was no stranger to long-distance running, but it wasn't often he did it while carrying another human. Even with Pidge's tiny size, he'd started feeling the weight about halfway through the run.

Just as Keith started to catch his breath, Lance flew into the room, panting almost as hard as Keith had been. His eyes fell on Keith and his face turned expectant. "Did you get her here in time?"

Keith nodded, Hunk offering an accompanying smile, and the worry lines seemed to fall off of Lance's face. The next time he spoke, the urgency had left his voice. "Where is she?"

Keith turned to Hunk, not actually knowing the answer.

"Through there," Hunk said, pointing towards a heavy door. "Shiro took her back so the Kalugians could get her into their treatment setup. Apparently they've dealt with this infection a lot before."

Lance nodded and gave Keith a firm pat on the shoulder. "You were great out there." He gave him a grateful smile and then headed for the room where Shiro and Pidge had disappeared.

As soon as the door opened, though, Shiro's alarmed voice rang through the opening.

"Exterminate? I thought you were just going to monitor her for signs of infection!"

The other voice was far quieter and nearly monotone. "That's exactly what we are doing, sir."

"And when exactly were you going to mention that it might kill her?!"

At that, everyone was up and in the room, the relief from just a moment before gone. Keith looked around the room briefly, noting the clear window where Pidge could be seen lying on a bed, still looking flushed but at least she looked more comfortable now. His attention quickly found Shiro's face, alarm racing though his body at the look of fury there. Shiro was often pretty good at keeping his cool, even in difficult diplomatic situations, but the look he wore now was one he'd only seen in relationship with his flashbacks. He towered over the Kalugian, and Keith got ready to hold him back in case he were to lose control.

"What's going on?" Hunk asked, his body language showing his hesitancy to jump in, but his tone making it clear he expected an answer.

Shiro didn't even look back at Hunk as he pointed threateningly at the smaller alien and growled, "This guy just informed me that the purification room is actually some type of extermination chamber for anyone showing symptoms of the infection."

Keith saw Hunk take a slight step back, though whether it was to his words or his tone, Keith couldn't tell.

"If she isn't affected, the chamber will let her out in a few vargas perfectly unharmed."

"And if she is, it will, what? Kill her?" Keith asked, incredulous, but too terrified at the implications to find the extreme reaction funny.

"Of course. One life is not worth a whole species to catch the infection." The alien sounded perfectly calm, as if Shiro's hostile body language didn't intimidate him at all.

Suddenly, the lights within the room where Pidge lay turned a shade of red.

A choked sound came from the back of the room, and Keith turned to see Lance launch himself at the door. He pulled at the handle desperately, a flood of curses and pleas leaving his mouth. But the door didn't budge and nothing happened.

"The door won't open for anything until the containment time is over."

Hunk was the first to speak, looking terrified, but to his credit, his voice didn't shake. "Why did the lights change? Does that mean...?"

The alien quirked his lips, perhaps trying to force a smile but the look was anything but comforting. "That does not mean she has been confirmed infected. Simply that she is exhibiting elevated body level malfunctions that may indicate infection. The machine will inform us of infection right before extermination. For most cases, the symptoms fade within the first hour and the rest is just cautionary. Very few actually require vaporization."

Lance made a pained sound in his throat, looking back at the door like he may try to open it again regardless of what this guy was saying. "Vaporization?"

The alien tilted his head slightly in confusion. "Well, we can't keep an infected corpse around, can we? The vapor is much more easily cycled back out of the building."

The flippant way the alien spoke about Pidge possibly dying made Keith clench his jaw, but Shiro had started to back away, the rage still clear on his face but seeming more in control.

"Is there anything we can do?" Hunk asked, eyes big.

The Kalugian shook his head and didn't elaborate, and Keith suddenly felt the helplessness behind the anger take over. "She better survive," he said darkly, then turned and left the room.

Once he was in the open space of the next room over, Keith took a deep breath, meant to steady him. When it did no such thing, he plunged his fist into the nearby wall.

He reveled in the pain for a moment, finding it far easier to deal with than the situation he was currently in. Quiznak, how could he have just handed her over like that?

At that moment, Shiro stormed through the door and out the way Keith came. Clearly, he wasn't the only one feeling guilty about entrusting these aliens with their youngest.

Hunk followed hesitantly, pausing to watch him leave the main door.

"Let him go," Keith said at Hunk's look of uncertainty. Nothing could be done now, and Shiro would handle being out and able to blow off some steam better than sitting around waiting. The guilt would fade once Pidge was better.

Cause she would get better.

Hunk took a seat next to Keith, and they waited in silence for a while. Keith could feel Hunk's desire to help, but Keith was grateful he didn't try to start a conversation. He wasn't sure if he could really handle that at the moment.

The pair continued to sit there for another few doboshes when Keith felt something being pushed into his hands again. He glanced down to see the water pouch and felt unusually touched by the sign of concern. Not that he was the one anyone should be concerned about right now.

He squeezed the water pouch slightly, hating feeling so helpless. Quiznak, they still had at least a couple more varga of this.

Hunk finally broke the silence with a gentle, "You really should drink that. You lost a lot of fluids in that run." The words didn't hold any of the prodding or scolding they normally would. Just a suggestion without judgment.

"Thanks," Keith said, giving Hunk a slight smile. He really didn't feel like smiling right now but he did appreciate Hunk's efforts. And there was a part of him that knew this was also what Hunk needed. Helping others where he could was his default coping mechanism, and if it made him feel just a bit better, Keith could make himself drink some water.

The time passed slowly, and Keith could feel Hunk getting more and more anxious. He'd nearly fallen out of his chair when the computerized voice came online, announcing to the room that the containment room examination would be complete in two vargas.

A few doboshes later and Keith had finished off the water pouch. His only distraction, gone.

Clearly, the universe heard him because at that moment, Lance came back into the room, slamming the door behind him. "I can't get in contact with the castle, and the little jerk won't let me use his communications." Despite the fury on his face, his voice sounded drained. He leaned against the table the other paladins were sitting by and looked around the room. "Shiro?" he asked, face inching back into concern.

"Outside," Hunk said, biting his lip. "Though he's been out there for awhile. Maybe we should check on him."

Keith didn't comment. He knew his friend would prefer no one see his breakdown, but Hunk was right. Besides, the creature that slashed through Pidge's suit was out there. If Shiro were to be attacked too...

Apparently Lance was thinking about the same thing, because his face balked at the news. "You guys let him go outside? Like, the toxin-filled, apparently home to some huge beast outside?" His voice was matching the anger on his face now, and, had Keith not seen Lance like this before, he may not have even noticed the terror that was fueling it.

"Relax," Keith said, stomach churning at Lance's words but knowing he was currently the calmest in the room and needed to keep a level head. "He's not stupid. He wouldn't have left the main clearing."

Then to prove his point, and if he admitted to himself, alleviate his own fears, he put on his helmet and opened the com link. "Shiro? Report in." It was a phrase they'd picked up while Shiro was training for the Kerberos mission, but Keith knew Shiro would recognise it for the invitation it was.

There was a moment of silence, not too long, but enough to make everyone's heart quicken a bit. Then Shiro's gruff voice came through. "How's she doing?"

Keith pursed his lips. Invitation denied.

"No updates so far aside from the hourly announcements," Hunk answered, both he and Lance having put on their helmets to hear Shiro's response. "That's good right? A little under an hour and she'll be all good."

Shiro didn't have a chance to reply before Lance's angry voice came flooding through the helmet speakers. "Shiro, are you crazy?! What are you doing out there!?"

There was another heavy sigh, and Keith could almost hear the pain in it. Shiro had probably been yelling for a fair bit of the last hour or so. It seemed like he got off what steam he needed to, though, because his next words were "I'm on my way," before closing the link.

Lance ran his hands over his face and let out a groan of frustration. "We never should have come to this stupid planet."

Hunk started to reply when the overhead voice cut him off.

"New symptom detected. Infection likely. Preparations in process"

They all froze for a moment, staring at each other in horror before they raced into the other room once again, Lance's bayard quickly changing into his gun.

The Kalugian looked remarkably unconcerned as Lance started firing at the door and Keith grabbed him by his coat. "Open the door!" he yelled, terror making his actions animalistic. When the alien didn't immediately reply, his grip tightened, pulling him inches from his face. "Open it!"

The alien didn't seem to notice the danger he was in, his disgust at the spit now on his face being his only real reaction to the commotion.

Lance's gun didn't seem to be doing anything, the lasers seeming to be absorbed into the door. "It's not opening!" he cried, the panic clear.

"Uh, guys?" Hunk's timid voice somehow broke through the chaos easily, bringing both Keith and Lance to turn towards what he was watching.

Pidge was sitting up in the reddened room, staring in horror in their direction.

"Pidge?" Keith asked, letting go of the man and putting a hand up to the glass.

But this only seemed to make things worse, though, as Pidge scrambled backwards, falling off the cot in her haste to get away.

Lance turned back to the alien who was just watching them in quiet confusion. He didn't give that another thought, though, before he was up in his face. "Whatever it's doing to her, you better stop it right now!"

Pidge had silent tears streaming down her face now, silently shaking her head in horror.

Lance looked terrified now, all anger swallowed by desperation and he took on a tone of pleading. "Just let her out. We'll get her out of here and make sure none of your people are infected. Just open the door!"

Pidge's scream shook through everyone in the room. She had her arms out in front of her in protection against whatever she was seeing, and it was quickly becoming clear that she wasn't looking at them. In fact, now that Keith was looking closely, her eyes were glazed over and bright from more than tears.

"Please! Stop it!" Lance cried, the scream clearly having rattled him.

Apparently Hunk had come to the same realisation as Keith, because his face suddenly morphed to one of comprehension. "Lance, I don't think-"

"I'm not doing anything to her!" The alien snapped, and the room went quiet again except for Pidge's quiet sobs in the background. He took a moment to compose himself but was clearly irritated with all the commotion in his office. When he spoke again, though, it was with the same quiet condescension as he had before. "She is merely hallucinating. Did you not hear the announcement?"

Lance backed down immediately, glancing over at the huddled form of Pidge in the corner. "But what about the part about preparations beginning?" he asked, voice small and sounding very lost.

The scientist's eyes darted up and down before resettling on Lance, and Keith briefly wondered if that had been some type of Kalugian eye roll. "Hallucinations is the final stage of preliminary checks before the room is able to confirm the patient is infected. Vaporization requires a lot of energy, so yes, the room is starting the preparation process. Though it is a surprise the diagnosis hasn't been confirmed already."

Keith's eyes quickly found Pidge, still trembling in the corner, but he also noticed shiny areas of wetness around her shin. They looked almost black in the red-lit room. "Quiznak, her wound is bleeding through!"

Lance was next to him in an instant. "Didn't you wrap it?"

Keith bit back the indignant reply and was relieved when Hunk appeared next to him as well and answered in his place.

"There wasn't much time, Lance. We wrapped it with what we could, but we were under the impression the infection was the bigger concern." He sent the Kalugian a scowl, who in turn looked on in indifference.

Just then Shiro came through the door, eye red and looking flustered. "What happened?" he asked, looking at Pidge through the room. She was lightly banging her hands against her head and muttering to herself.

"Hallucinations," Keith summarized, noting the new behavior with concern.

A concern shared by the other paladins as well, clearly.

"She's hurting herself! We have to get in there!" Lance said urgently.

"How much time is left?" Hunk asked, equal distress in his voice.

"About 20 doboshes, Altean time," The scientist replied, entirely unconcerned with the new development.

"It's been escalating," Keith added, looking to Shiro for guidance as he fought to keep his own panic at bay. "We have to stop it before she really hurts herself."

Hunk was now calling her name while Lance pounded on the window, but neither were succeeding in getting her attention.

Shiro gritted his teeth and closed his eyes. "There's gotta be a way to reach her. Think!" A hand came up to push into his forehead, but was met with his helmet instead.

His eyes snapped open and met with Keith's equally big ones. Together, they turned back towards the room, and their gazes fell on where Pidge's suit had been abandoned in their haste to get her in the room and ready for treatment. Her helmet lay on top of the pile, a mere two feet from where Pidge now sat, banging her head against the wall.

Keith met Shiro's eyes again and nodded.

Shiro started messing with the controls on the helmet while Keith took off his helmet and turned to Lance and Hunk. "Take off your helmets!" he said, throwing his aside.

Neither Lance nor Hunk questioned the order, whether in trust or because they'd come to the same realization, Keith wasn't sure. Either way, each was throwing their helmets away just as Shiro's voice boomed over the communication link.

"Pidge! Pidge, can you hear me?"

Everyone seemed to hold their breath, and even the Kalugian seemed to pause in interest.

Nothing happened. Keith cursed. Her banging her head was probably making her ears ring, so it'd be even harder to reach her. Bracing himself for the pain in his ears he knew was coming, he grabbed his helmet and slipped it on, Shiro nodding his understanding. His eyes strayed behind him as well, and Keith turned to see Lance and Hunk now wearing their helmets too.

Keith grinned, knowing this was going to suck, but suddenly feeling a fierce love for these people he'd come to know as family. He just hoped healing pods could fix hearing damage.

Shiro held up three fingers and slowly lowered them til he was just raising his fist. Keith squeezed his eyes shut and took a deep breath.


Everything hurt.

Pidge's head was ringing, her leg throbbing, and sweat was seeping from her body in waves. But none of that mattered because Matt was-

Nowhere to be seen.

Pidge's eyes darted around the unfamiliar room she found herself in, distressed. Her brother had been here. Her brother had been here, and he had been-


A small voice came from her side, and Pidge whipped her head around so fast, she almost toppled over. Note to self: turning quickly definitely did not help with headaches.

She found where the sound was coming from and crawled over to her helmet as quickly as possible, which wasn't actually all that fast. As soon as she reached it, she placed it on her head, the weight making her head feel impossibly heavy.

"Shiro?" she asked, uncertainty still in her voice. She had thought she'd heard Matt too, after all.

"Pidge! Thank quiznak!" Pidge jumped back at the sudden loudness of Lance's voice, a small whimper coming out against her will.

There was a whispered curse that still felt way too loud before a moment of silence. When the next voice came over, it was much quieter.

"How are you feeling?" This one was Keith, who Pidge also guessed was the one who had cursed.

How was she feeling? Dizzy, hot, gross, like her leg was on fire, any of the above. Pidge didn't know what to say. What she did know that she'd rather just not feel at all.

"Not great," she settled on. Her words had slight slur to them, but Pidge didn't notice.

Her teammates, on the other hand, definitely did, and it was Hunk's voice that came next. "Hold on Pidge. We'll have you out of there soon. Just ten more minutes and we'll have you in a healing pod."

Pidge groaned. None of the paladins were especially fond of the healing pods, but she knew it would be well worth it in the long run. But just what had happened to her? "Guys?" she asked tentatively, the panic of earlier quickly resurfacing. "I saw Matt. Is he...?" She swallowed, unsure of what she really was wanting to ask. Unsure if she could really handle what they might say.

"He's not there," Shiro said gently. "He never was, Pidge. It was just a hallucination."

Pidge squeezed her eyes shut, not sure how to feel. On one hand, that meant what she'd seen hadn't been real, hadn't happened at all. But on the other hand, he had been here. Right in front of her. And there was a part of her that had been so relieved just to find him, no matter what shape it was in. Besides, for all she knew the Galra were doing even worse to him wherever he was.

Pidge heard some talking in the background of the com link and a sudden realisation hit. "How do I know you guys are real?" Her voice shook, not wanting to relive her hallucination with her found family too.

There was another pause, before Lance's soft voice came over. "Pidge, we're right in front of you. Can you not see us?"

Pidge looked up for the first time since putting on the helmet, the movement making her vision swim. When it cleared, she hardly could tell the difference. The room just looked like a collage of red, nothing in focus enough to discern what the shapes were. But there was also a space that looked more grey-ish than the rest of the room, with three shapes shifting slightly. The forms moved in and out, sometimes looking more like six than three, but she was pretty sure that was just her inability to focus.

Was that them? Pidge tried to clear her vision, but the forms remained blurs. She could make out the colors blue and black, though. And something that could have been yellow.

It was enough for her, and Pidge smiled softly. She'd been able to see Matt in exquisite detail-something she was trying not to think about-so this must be real.

"I can't see very clearly," Pidge replied, mentally cursing at the concerned silence that came after. "I can see," she quickly amended. "'s jus fuzzy." Her voice was getting more slurred, and Pidge frowned. Not that she was paying attention, her eyelids also seemed to be getting heavier. She figured now that she had confirmed the paladins were real that it would be fine to close them now.

"Pidge?!" Hunk and Lance's alarmed voices still sent a wave of pain through her head, but she was too tired to tell them to be quiet.

"Pidge, listen to me." Shiro's voice came through more commanding than it had before, and Pidge found herself instinctually attentive, regardless of the exhaustion. "You got scratched pretty bad out there on your leg. We aren't going to be able to get in there to help you for another couple minutes, so you're going to need to keep pressure on it until then. Do you understand?"

And suddenly Pidge did understand, and the pull of sleep felt far more hostile than before. "Yeah," she replied, forcing her eyes open and looking down at her leg. It was dark and a wet puddle was forming under it. Now that she was aware of it, the smell of blood made her nauseous. Nevertheless, she pressed down on the darkest spot as hard as she could. She hissed at the bolt of pain, but held on tight. She only needed to last a little longer, and then her team would take care of things.

"Alright, you're doing great. Now you just gotta stay awake, okay?"

Pidge really didn't feel like she could, but she could tell Shiro was just as scared as the others underneath the leader-persona he was presenting. She grunted her understanding, knowing her slurred reply would just alarm her friends further.

"Allura's bringing the castle down now, and Coran is readying the chamber," Keith's voice cut in, and Pidge thought she could see a fourth figure joining the others. Squinting, Pidge now realised there was something small and green in the background too. Trying to focus on the new figure's quick movements though sent a wave of dizziness through her. One hand leaving her leg to press into her head.

"You gotta keep both your hands pressing down, Pidge." Shiro's voice came through immediately, but sounding more distant.

Pidge lowered her hand back down, but her eyes remained closed. The sound of sleep didn't feel as hostile anymore. Her friends would get her to safety soon anyway. "'M too tired," she said as clearly as she could, hoping to not cause further concern.

"Hey, no, open your eyes, Pidge!"

Pidge could tell Lance was trying to use the same authoritative voice as Shiro, but his distress was clear, and Pidge knew she couldn't just leave her friends to handle this mess on their own. Especially since she was the mess.

Forcing her eyes open, she tried to latch onto the sounds coming through the helmet. "Talk to me," she said weakly.

"We never should have come here."

That was Hunk, and Pidge winced. While he liked to complain during pressured moments, Hunk was usually an optimist when things were really bad. And the way the others were talking, things were really bad. "S'rry," she slurred. "Should've b'n faster."

"This isn't your fault, Pidge. It could have gotten any of us," Lance said reassuringly.

"Besides, you would have been fine if I hadn't just blindly handed you over to some strangers."

That was Shiro, and Pidge fought the need to wince again. Clearly, she was breaking all of her teammates with this. She tried to make her words clearer when she next spoke. "Not your fault either."

She heard a huff that she guessed was supposed to be a laugh.

"It doesn't matter whose fault it is." That was Keith, and if Pidge wasn't hearing things, it had a slight bitterness to it that made Pidge wonder if he was saying that for himself too. Gosh, this whole team was a mess of self-incrimination.

"Keith's right." Hunk's voice came through with determination, and Pidge would've smiled at it if her vision wasn't darkening. "All that matters is making sure-"

His voice was cut off by a loud alarm and the panicked voices of her friends. Everything was too loud, and Pidge couldn't stand it any more. Pulling off the helmet, Pidge crushed her sticky hands against her ears, desperate to get the sounds to stop.

The beeping finally ended, and a loud whoosh followed by a metal clang that went straight to Pidge's brain broke through the momentary quiet.

Pidge's vision was swimming again, but she could hear her friends' voices surrounding her. A sharp pressure was on her leg again, and she felt herself being lifted into the air. A small smile flitted across her face as she finally allowed herself to succumb to the darkness.

Her family had her, and they could handle things from here.

Whooop! A full one-shot written and posted! Starting to feel more capable again.

If you have a moment, drop a review! I love to hear from you guys, whether in reactions or constructive criticism.

Thanks for all your guys' patience with me! And remember that you're all amazing!

-Sakarrie :heart: