Learning to Walk

Summary: Pidge had expected to die when she dove in front of Lance. The shot was supposed to cut through her vital organs and seal her fate as dead. She did not expect to wake up in a bed, and certainly did not expect to lack function throughout her entire body.

Now, Pidge must learn to adapt to her new circumstance and pave the path to her future, with a little help from her friends along the way.

BTHB Prompt: Don't You Dare Pity Me

Timeline: Season 5, after Zarkon's death but before Sam leaves for Earth

Disclaimer: Voltron: Legendary Defender isn't mine. It likely never will be. This story is lightly inspired by the song Walk by the Foo Fighters, which isn't mine, either.

It had been a beautiful day when the Paladins' lives shattered before them.

The end of Zarkon's reign had meant peace for the imprisoned universe. The remaining Galra controlled planets were being freed left and right as the Voltron Coalition moved in to dispatch their ruthless Galra commanders. The planets that were already released from Galra captivity were beginning to recover with a little help from Allura, of course, and freedom was spreading exponentially.

Everything was going great.

As a celebration, Coran had offered to bring Pidge and Lance to the Space Mall. It was no secret that the two were falling head over heels for each other, with Lance having grown extremely flirty in her presence, and Pidge's obvious denial. It was about time that the two went out together, and now that Zarkon was gone and the Galra Empire was safer than ever (at least for now), it seemed like the perfect time.

The two strode down the Space Mall's main corridor, taking care to avoid the watching passersby and horrific screaming fans which Pidge particularly despised. She watched the Red Paladin as he strut with an air of confidence. The smile that was plastered across his face spread from both corners of his cheeks, his mouth lined with shockingly shiny, clean white teeth that sparkled in the light of the building. He looked so happy, and it was scary to think that he was happy to be with her. Pidge was surprised that anyone found her attractive, either personality wise or due to her appearance, and it was even more surprising when her admirer was a fellow Paladin.

"Where do you want to go?" Lance asked, whipping his head back and forth as he observed each of the stalls. "Hunk said Vrepit Sal's is good… he also said there's this one place, Therak's, I think, that sells expensive grilled duflax that's supposed to be really flavorful… and there's an alien sushi place…" Pidge blinked, perking up, a motion that did not go unnoticed by her date.

Somehow, his smile grew even wider. "Sushi it is!" Lance grabbed her arm and began to run down the hall. "Come on!" He cried as Pidge laughed. "We have to get there before the seats fill up!" She nearly tripped twice with how fast he was running; he was so excited, a kind of excitement that she had never seen before in him, even when he looked at other girls. It gave her an odd but comfortable warm and fuzzy feeling, one that she had never experienced before but quite enjoyed.

She wanted that warm, fuzzy feeling to stay.

But then she saw something.

A flash of purple, just quick enough that she could have just as easily imagined it, was what put her on edge. She was sure that she had seen a gun as it raised into place. The glow of the barrel was too familiar, and the bright light was aimed straight at Lance's heart.

"Look out!" She screamed.

Pidge didn't know what she was doing. Suddenly her feet had bunched and she had leaped into the air, bowling into Lance just before the bolt could inflict the killing strike. Sharp pain stabbed into her upper back, and she was sure she felt the spray of blood as it released from the wound. Something snapped, although she had hit the floor before she could begin to examine what it was.

"Pidge!" It was hard to pick out his voice amidst the pandemonium, but Lance was there. He rushed to her side, his fingers laced between her own tightly. "Pidge! What did you do? Don't black out on me! Say something!" She couldn't respond. Her throat was tight and her vision blurred.

I'm going to die, she realized just as she began to see doubles. I didn't think it would be on my first date… the universe sure has a wicked cruelty to it, doesn't it? At least I found my family. At least Lance is okay. I'm sorry I couldn't apologize to my mom for leaving… please forgive me… I had to save Lance…

She fell limp in his arms.

Pidge woke up to a bright room.

The moment her eyes opened up, they snapped shut a second later. The light was so glaring in a manner she wasn't accustomed to. It felt like the rays were knives to her sclera, a damaging radiance opposing the darkness of the Green Lion's hangar at night, where the only light was her laptop.

She swung her head to the side to avoid the bright glow. Points of light dotted her vision, mingling into the blotched image of the surrounding chamber. Several blob-like shapes stood at bay, watching over her like hawks, and it took a moment to realize that these were the other Paladins, a thought confirmed when her vision cleared.

"What the heck?" Pidge tried to jerk backward, but found that she could hardly move. For a moment she was awash with surprise, but it was quickly forgotten and replaced with irritation. "What kind of creeps watch people while they're sleeping? Are you insane? What the heck are you doing?" Her face flushed red with both embarrassment and annoyance. "Why would you even consider coming in and-"

Pidge stopped short. Something felt oddly wrong, like a cold sense creeping up her spine and reaching its freezing claws into her skull. Her team lacked the smiles, the humor, the personality each of them owned, but looked like a shadow of their former selves. Their rigid forms and bleak stares felt broken to her, like a song playing out of tune.

"P-P-Pidge," Hunk stammered. The life seemed to be sucked out of him. His skin was so pale that he appeared skeletal, and his wet eyes were red rimmed. "You… the-the shooter… you… he-he." He gulped as he raised a hand to wipe the tears from his eyes. "He-he, Allura, I can't do this!" He stumbled backward, his eyes remaining locked on Pidge and clouded with something reminiscent of agony. Next to him, Lance looked no better. His mouth hung agape and his throat pulsated, as if he was trying and struggling to suck in the adequate amount of oxygen. His body also shook uncontrollably, and the look on his face showed what was without a doubt very, very deep guilt.

"What's going on?" Pidge felt her head freeze up, but strangely could not feel anything below her collarbone. That was what scared her. She tried to slide out of bed, to move her legs and arms in any way possible, but they would not budge, as if they weren't even attached to her body at all. "Why can't I move?! What's wrong?!" She began to hyperventilate, her skin morphing into a sickened shade of green.

Shiro ran over to her, crouching at the side of the bed. "Pidge," he addressed, grabbing hold of her hand, an action which she could not feel. "You need to calm down. I know this is scary, but we can work through this. You just need to calm down." His stare was meaningful, but she quickly noticed the pity hidden within.

"What's scary!? What are you talking about!? What the heck is going on!?" In her panic she turned to Allura, who was watching with an expression comparable to Shiro's. "Allura, what's wrong with me? Why can't I move?" She bit her lip. This has to be some sort of temporary thing. Maybe they had to still my muscles for some sort of procedure. Please be that. It can't be the other thing. It has to be that!

Allura turned away from her, folding her arms over her chest. "Pidge," she breathed slowly, as if the word was hard to form, "When you took the shot for Lance… the ray missed your vital organs but snapped your upper spine." Pidge stiffened. "We got you back to the Castle as fast as we could, and managed to keep you alive, but not without cost." She swallowed hard. "Pidge-"

Time seemed to slow when Allura spoke the words.

"When you took the shot for Lance-"

Her blood went cold as ice.

"You were rendered paralyzed."

Time went still.

The Paladins stood, waiting for Pidge to say something, anything, but she didn't. She didn't want to say anything. She wasn't sure she could even speak, either. How could she, when her entire world had just collapsed before her eyes. What else was there to say? That she wished things could have gone differently? That her and Lance's first date hadn't ended in tragedy? What was the point?

She couldn't move.

She couldn't fight.

And she certainly couldn't pilot the Green Lion.

She tried to push her tears aside and to not show weakness, but already her eyelids bloomed with salty droplets. She hated how her team just watched her in her worst state, knowing that she couldn't do anything and likely never would again. The fact that they were silently judging her bothered her to no end.

Allura must have caught on, because she gestured for the others to leave. "We will leave you to rest," she said, before stepping out the door. Once Pidge thought everyone had left, she let out a low sob, only to notice that Lance was still watching.

"I'm sorry, Pidge," he choked out, tears streaming down his face in an uncontrolled flow. "I'm so, so sorry." He collapsed to the floor, buried his face in his hands and he wept, before it was too much and he howled.

Pidge turned away, the sight much too devastating to watch.

Pidge was miserable for the next three movements.

Not only had she lost her movement, but also her independence, her strength to do things herself. And that killed her. She hated having to have Coran feed her like a pathetic child. She hated that Allura had to help her change, even when the princess told her that she wouldn't look. She hated that Hunk had to help her with her private research, or that Shiro had to move her game pieces for her, or that the Paladins were constantly checking on her even when she told them not to. She hated all of it.

And she couldn't even blame anyone for it. Sure, she could blame the assassin, a great candidate since he was an evil person, but it really wasn't entirely his fault. He had intended to kill, and the shot hadn't been for her. It wasn't Lance's fault in the slightest, and she would have been devastated if he had died. And blaming fate was about as stupid as saying that the floor wanted her chair to fall over at dinner. No, it had been her own choice to take the bullet, and while she wouldn't go back and change anything if she could, she hated herself for it.

Pidge didn't want pity. She didn't want Shiro's hourly visits or the nice, fancy food that Hunk brought her before bed each night. In truth, the only Paladin who wasn't a complete nuisance was Lance, and that was because he never visited at all. Pidge knew that he felt guilty, and maybe even was worried that she hated himo, but that didn't change the fact that he was the only person she really wanted to see. Every day without him constricted her chest with vines and suffocated her lungs. She wasn't mad at him for not showing up, as she knew that he held no malice behind his solitude. She would let him come to her in his own time, once he had fully recovered. But being without him was more painful then she had first expected.

Pidge wanted her old life back. She wanted to see the bright smiles and hear the wonderful laughter of her team. She wanted her worries to be less heavy and less mental then they were now. She had liked it how it used to be. Now, she wasn't sure she could bear the weight of knowing that she had a permanent quadriplegia paralysis and had lost half of what had made her her.

One particular night, Pidge was struggling to get to sleep as always.

How could she, when her whole world had been tipped upside down? Like every day before, her mind was a churning mess of why me and what luck brought this down on me and now that I'm not the Green Paladin of Voltron, what am I? When she closed her eyes all that she could think of was the person she used to be, and everything she had lost.

Before I had a purpose, she thought to herself as she stared at the ceiling. I was a Paladin of Voltron, fighting to free the universe from Galra colonization. Never once did I doubt that I was going to remain on that path, because I knew who I was, and that wasn't going to change. But now… She quivered her lip, I've lost that purpose forever. Who am I when I can't move? What future is there for me? None, that's the answer. She slammed her head into the side of the pillow with heavy pants.

Thump, Thump, Thump

Pidge turned to see the door slide open, and Hunk standing in the doorway. He appeared less lifeless then the first day, but he still lacked the excitement he used to wear with pride, and the remnants of tears still stained his eyelids. He gave her a brisk wave with one hand, and in the other he held a cup of some sort of warm Altean drink.

"You still awake Pidge?" He was trying to sound casual, but his voice cracked in the manner of someone who certainly did not feel fine. "I brought you this drink. Coran told me to give it to you. It tastes oddly like hot chocolate, but mixed with honey and vanilla cream." He set it on the nightstand, the warm smell pleasant to the senses. Despite that, she glared.

"Go away," Pidge growled. "I don't need your pity. Besides," she used her head to motion toward the cup, "I told you last time not to bring me any extra stuff. You know I hate it when you pour it into my mouth like I'm some incapable 2 year old." Pidge knew that she truly was incapable, and yet she still abhorred it. However, in all honesty, a tiny part of her both appreciated and despised the company, but she would never admit it.

Hunk pulled from his pocket a strange, straw like device. He tugged on both ends, and the tube elongated, before he reversed the action and pushed it back in. "I engineered it right after you told me how much you hated how Coran and I fed you," he explained with a fulfillment, before his expression grew saddened. "The moment I realized how much you really needed it." He set the straw down next to the cup delicately, the slight drop creating the small cling of the metal hitting the table.

Hunk grabbed her torso carefully, his large hands placed firmly yet gently on each side. He lifted her into a sitting position, with her back leaning against the bed frame. Pidge tried and failed to withhold a sniffle as he brought the mouth piece to her face, and opened her mouth so that he could place it in between her teeth. She said nothing, but did not resist.

She sucked the beverage in, and was quickly filled with a satisfying sense of warmth. The tension she felt began to relax. She let her mind appreciate Coran for always knowing exactly what she needed at her worst moments, and Hunk for building whatever he could to make her life easier to cope with. Her new family really did care for her, even when she didn't want them to.

Hunk climbed up onto the bed beside her once she had finished her drink with an inviting smile in his face. His arm wrapped behind her back and pulled her closer, and Pidge soon found herself leaning against his shoulder. "Lance really does care, Pidge," he reassured. "He thinks that you don't deserve someone like him, someone who let you… get like this." Tears were forming in his eyes. "I wanted him to come visit, but he hasn't left his room at all. He hates himself for what happened- Oh, I'm so sorry, Pidge! You didn't deserve this!"

Pidge couldn't hold it back anymore. In moments both of them were sobbing, with her head buried in the crook of his arm. "I can't do this!" She cried between gulps. "Hunk, I can't do this! I can't live without my strength, my legs, my independence! I can't rely on others! I can't!" She shut her eyes tightly. "I've lost everything."

Hunk stroked her hair lovingly. "You still have us," he whispered with a saddened grin. "We count as something, right? You have your friends, your found family, your new boyfriend who really loves you, even if he can't visit. We care about you, Pidge. You mean something to us, and we're going to make sure that you're still capable of smiling." He helped her lie down so that her head rested in his lap, making sure that she felt comfortable.

Pidge wasn't so sure. Being capable of smiling is a bit far fetched, she thought to herself. I'm sure Hunk means what he says, but he isn't right. If there's something left to be happy about, I haven't found it yet.

She had fallen asleep before she could reply.

Pidge woke up to the sound of Matt's voice outside the room.

Both she and Hunk awoke at once with a cry. Hunk had to grab her to keep her from falling off of the bed, the movement having caused her to lose her balance. Even with the catch, her neck strained painfully, and it took some struggle to adjust herself into a comfortable position.

"It's your fault!" Pidge easily recognized Matt's voice a second time. Her brother hadn't been able to visit her due to an important Rebel mission, but must have been able to come today. He spoke with a hoarse cry, a ferocious scream of rage fueled by agony and fury. "You should have taken the shot, not my sister! It's because of you that she'll never walk again!" He knew the tone he used, it was the one he got when he was prepared to wring someone's neck. And she was fairly certain that she knew who's neck he planned on wringing.

Hunk had already begun to slide out of the bed when she gave him a cold stare. "Lift," she ordered, much to his displeasure. "I want to deal with my brother myself." Asking such of him was a challenge to her independence, but she wasn't going to stay in bed while he tried to solve the problem himself. Besides, she needed someone to yell at, and her brother was the perfect candidate.

Reluctantly he scooped her up into his arms, with a certain precision and caution in fear of further hurting her injured form. He carried her to the door and unlocked it (with a bit of struggle, as he was both holding her and trying to twist the knob), and revealed the two forms of Matt and Lance.

"I'm sorry." Lance stumbled back, trying to avoid the fuming Holt approaching him. The two boys had yet to notice their audience. "I'm so, so sorry. I was just coming to apologize to her. I should have taken the shot. I'm sorry!" His knuckles were white as they shook, as if drained of their blood.

"Matt," she breathed, but her brother didn't hear her.

"Well, you didn't, and now look what's happened to her!" He grabbed the collar of Lance's shirt and shook it. "You're a terrible excuse for a man," he growled, and Pidge grew hot with rage. "You don't deserve to live in this Castle, you don't deserve to pilot the Red Lion, and you certainly don't deserve my sister!" He pushed the Paladin away, knocking the tall boy to the ground.

"Matt!" Pidge screamed. Her brother finally looked up, his face instantly softening from a look of pure hatred to a grieved expression. "Don't you dare hurt my boyfriend!" Lance, with a hand to his skull, looked especially surprised by how she referred to him. Matt, on the other hand, didn't care in the least, and tumbled over to hug her.

"Katie," he sobbed, his eyes flooding with droplets of liquid sorrow. "Oh, Katie- I'm going to take you home, Katie. You'll be able to rest from the war, to stay away from this mess of a team." He kissed her cheek in brotherly love and brushed his hands through her unruly hair. "No one will hurt you again, I promise."

The words caught her by surprise. Take me home? She liked the idea, where she could spend the rest of her days in peace. But then, what was the adventure in that?

If I go home, I lose my chance to adapt to this life, if it's even possible, she considered. Maybe… maybe there is a way for my life to be great, for me to make a change in the world, and to be happy. Her eyes met Lance's, staring deep into his blue, ocean colored orbs. My team still thinks I can grow to live with this drawback, that I can still do things to put an end to this war. If I go home, I'll lose what has made me who I am. I'll lose my chance to avoid a normal life. I'll lose Lance.

I can't do that.

Pidge lowered her head. "Lance didn't hurt me, Matt," she said, much to his shock. "I chose to take the shot for him, and I would do it a million times more." She gulped. The words, as much as she meant them, were little pinpricks to her skin. Her dilemma was a tragedy, and she wouldn't wish it upon anybody, but she was proud to have saved Lance's life.

"I'm sorry, Matt," she whispered as she made her final choice, "But I need to stay here."

Matt looked confused, an eyebrow raised high above his other one. "But why?" he asked. "What's the point? You can't even do anything, Pidge. Wouldn't you rather go back home and live a happy, peaceful life, then staying here to fight a deadly war? The Paladins' first priority is to defeat the Galra. Mom and Dad will make sure that you are safe no matter what."

The words stung more than intended. They echoed through her skull, unforgettable chants that would never cease. Does he really believe that? She wondered, feeling unsteady. That I can't do anything? He might be right. Maybe my best chance is to go back home. My past life was wonderful, full of smiles and love and laughter. That could be mine again.

But then she thought of the other Paladins. They were her new family. The Castle of Lions had become a home like no other. Slowly, over time, her loyalties had changed from to her family into a loyalty to the universe. Even if she couldn't fly off into dangerous space missions and destroy ships and wreak havoc on a Galra controlled universe with her Lion, she sure as heck could wreak havoc without one. It was one of the things she did best.

She could still forge her own path.

Pidge glared at her brother. "I can still do things," she snarled, "And I'm staying."

The Holts said their goodbyes. Matt had grown increasingly adamant about her coming home, until her father, his wet eyes sparkling with newfound pride, told him that in the end, it was her choice.

"No matter what, you're going to make me proud, Katie," he had said prior to his departure. "You already have."

Pidge had watched him leave, her face soaked as well. She knew that she had made the right choice. Maybe the comforts of her past were wonderful fantasies, but her future was her own. Here she had her family, her friends, and her awesome new boyfriend, who maybe needed a little help with his insecurities. No disability would hold her back from them, and her happiness. None.

She was learning to walk.

"Make sure every piece is screwed on correctly," Pidge warned, observing Hunk as he pieced together the wires and sheets of metal. "I'd rather not break any more bones if I can avoid it." Hunk nodded and clicked his blowtorch as he finished up his work. She watched excitedly as each part merged together to build the machine, Altean technology and brains together to create something great.

"There we go!" Hunk exclaimed, removing his mask. He flicked a switch and the chair, its bottom the shape of a half sphere and its top a comfy cushion with a back and arm rests, turned on and began to float. The entire thing was colored pearly white with green accents to match her Paladin armor. The cushion was the same shade of dark grey as her flight suit. The entire object was perfectly symmetrical, formed by the perfect craftsmanship of her friend.

Hunk lifted her into the seat, and then placed her glasses (which had been previously removed) back onto her face. This time there was an earpiece and a few wires connected to the right frame, along with a green dot that flashed in the center. Pidge quickly realized joyfully that the hovering chair moved when she wanted it to, and in whatever way she thought of.

"It's not walking," Hunk mentioned when she had begun to break out into exuberant cries of laughter, the first since she had lost all movement. "You still don't have your independence, your arms, your Lion. There's a lot you still lack."

Pidge only smiled at him. "But I still have so much."

Hunk got to his feet. "Well then." He placed his hand on his side and moved toward the door. "I think it's about time that you spoke to someone." Pidge already knew who would be behind the door when he opened it. Lance stood in the frame, his eyes still clouded, his body still bent over. Hunk left the room as the Red Paladin entered, leaving the two alone.

"Pidge," he croaked. "I should have spoken to you sooner. I thought you hated me… until that argument with Matt, when you called me your boyfriend…" He turned away shamefully. "I understand if you don't want to be with me anymore. I'm supposed to protect you, and I failed at doing that, both on the first day and for the past month. It's my fault you're paralyzed."

Pidge floated closer to him. "Lance, shut up," she hissed. "It's not your fault, you big idiot. I chose to take that shot. And in all honesty, I haven't been the best friend to the rest of the Paladins, either. I'll give you a second chance if you give me one." He smiled, and she smiled back. "And if you think that some stupid disability is going to keep us apart, then you've got to knock this into that thick skull of yours. I love you, Lance. I always will."

"Are you sure?"


The sadness washed out of his face. "I love you too, Pidgeon." He moved in closer, and their lips touched. To think that a tragedy was what kickstarted our relationship, Pidge thought. As much as the realization choked her, it made her laugh. There were difficult times ahead, but they could fight through them, like they always were able to. She was finally happy.

She was learning to walk.