Title: As It Is, When It Was
Author: Sybil Rowan
Pairing(s)/Characters: No pairings/ Just a family story about Chip and Pidge.
Summary: The Explorer finds a new planet for Balto's survivors to colonize, but this tips off some hidden resentment Chip has over Pidge's choice in becoming a citizen of Arus. Cross between Lion and Vehicle Voltrons.
Warnings: None at all, just some sibling rivalry angst.
Author's Notes: I plan on writing a few more things like this, family angst and drama centered around the twins. It's a great way to cross the two Voltrons. I couldn't really find family background on their adoptive parents, other then last name, so I embellished some. If anyone knows anything more please drop me a PM.
Disclaimer: Voltron characters are owned by World Events Production. Named after a New Order song. Typical me.
Beta Reader: My wonderful hubby, WingedPanther73.
Date: February 28, 2009
Word Count: 5,131
"Sir, you wanted to speak to me?"
"Yes, Ensign Stoker. Come in," Hawkins said, waving the young teenager into his office off the bridge of the Explorer. Chip gave him a slight smile and took a rigid stance in front of the Commander's desk. "Please, at ease."
"I have an advance sheet from the Galaxy Alliance," Hawkins said, sitting back in his chair and grabbing up a blue sheet of paper.
"But those are top secret, Sir," Chip said. He took a seat when Hawkins waved at a chair.
"I'm going to make an exception this time because this will directly effect you and your family."
Chip took the sheet of paper with a little trepidation that melted away when he noticed Hawkins was grinning at him. His dark, chocolate colored eyes scanned sheet and halted halfway through.
"New Balto? Are you sure? This is right?"
"It's only an advance sheet so that means it's still being voted on, but my brother... you know the senator... told me it'll go through. Congratulations, Ensign Stoker, you have a home planet again."
"This is the best news ever! So it's going to be the planet we just scouted?" Chip asked, eyes glued to the advance sheet.
"The very same. We'll be orbiting it for three more weeks to make sure the colonists get here. I'm guessing the Stokers will be among them," Hawkins said, breaking out into a full smile. Chip matched it.
"It's been so long since I've seen my parents. I really can't wait!"
"Sam said that the vote will be within eighteen hours. Then Balto's refugees can take the Pilgrim's Pride and the Nina here. According to the census, there are a little over forty-five thousand survivors from Balto that will be joined by six thousand refuges from other planets that have been victims of Darulian overlords," Hawkins said.
"Oh... yeah. So many other people are hurting too," Chip said softly, growing somber.
"But it is a bright new future for your people and some others. We should keep focused on that."
"Yes, Sir." Chip handed back the advance sheet. "Is there a way I can talk to my parents and my brother?"
"I don't see why not. Use my computer for some privacy. I don't want this to get out until we get the official word."
"This is so great. Thank you so much, Commander. I won't be long." Hawkins rose to leave but was halted by Chip's baffled expression.
"What is it, Ensign?"
"Why tell me beforehand, Sir? I mean... not that I'm ungrateful, but it's against orders to let information on advance sheets slip."
"Because you need something to improve your morale. Jeff has been concerned about your demeanor over the last three months. I thought this might help put you back on track."
"Yes, Sir! It certainly does. Thank you so much," Chip gushed enthusiastically.
"Pidge! Wake up already!"
Pidge sat up at Lance's muffled voice and rubbed his light, brandy colored eyes. He couldn't quite rub out the heavy feeling or shake off his grogginess. Lance pounded on Pidge's bedroom door again, startling the young teenager. "Pidge, get your butt up already!"
"Alright!" Pidge screamed back, throwing off his covers. He opened the door and glared upwards at the red lion pilot. Lance gave him an annoyed look, grabbed Pidge's upper arm, and dragged the teen down the hallway towards Castle Command. "What are you..."
"It's your brother on the horn. Freaked me out 'cause I thought you were playing some joke. Man, it's easy to forget you have a twin. Spooky."
"You're kidding! It has to be an emergency if Chip was allowed to call Arus," Pidge said, feeling a surge of panic. He started pulling Lance along the hallway. "You think I'd cut my hair for a silly prank?"
"No... not really." Lance rolled his eyes, his annoyed expression melted into a bright blush Pidge didn't miss in the dim hallway. He snickered at Lance's abashed expression.
"Besides, we never have pulled off switching places," Pidge said as they hit Castle Command's massive doorway. Pidge hurried over to the massive monitor that had Chip's smiling face on it. His brother was dressed in a crisp uniform; he looked wide awake.
"Sorry, I didn't realize you were sleeping, but I really needed to talk to you," Chip said. Pidge chuckled and flopped back in the chair. He stifled a yawn and his surprise that Chip and he could still read each other from thousands of light years away.
"It's cool. I'm glad to have the chance to see you rather than exchange letters. It's been three whole months since we talked in person."
"I know. Too long," Chip said, a slight sadness passed over his sunny expression. It was so slight Pidge knew he'd be the only one who would have ever noticed it. He turned to Lance who was leaning against the door frame.
"Why don't you knock off and I'll take over the rest of your shift?"
"Thanks, Pidge." After Lance was gone and the large steel doors shut, he turned back to Chip.
"So what's going on? It must be something good. I can tell you're all excited. I mean... you're shaking."
"I just thought you'd like to know that the Explorer is now orbiting the New Balto outpost."
A shock ran through Pidge; his remaining sleepiness evaporated. Pidge started to share the smile Chip was wearing. They both broke out in laughter.
"So it finally happened? You guys found a planet for all the refugees?"
"Got the advance sheet. Commander Hawkins let me take a peek. Within three weeks our new home colony will be set up. Mom and Dad will be here! You know, you could get here by then. You need to get some leave from Keith and..."
"But I don't know where this planet is loca..."
"But leaving now? Things aren't going...."
"Pidge!" Chip looked angry quicker than Pidge expected. He knew being evasive was one of his twin's pet peeves. "Quit making excuses and get here."
Pidge flinched back and kept his face from showing his irritation with Chip. It was pointless trying to hide his emotions; Chip flinched back as well and gave Pidge a scrutinizing look.
"Why are you so mad at me?"
"I'm not mad! It's just that things are busy over here. I can't pick up and leave so easily. Green lion..."
Chip rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. "Not that again! Green lion is just a machine already! It has no magical consciousness. I'm getting a little tired of hearing your new-found belief in hocus-pocus. Get Sven to fill in."
"What's your damage already? You've been a nasty, little jerk lately," Pidge said, glaring back.
"I'm not the one with the problem. You're the one making excuses to not be a part of our family any more."
"What! When? Just because I can't leave Arus? You would do the same, if not more! You're the one who slavishly obeys every order from GG. That's not me."
"I know! Instead you rebel when it suits you... or when it suits Arus rather. You know, ever since you've become an Arusian citizen...."
"That's it! You're jealous," Pidge shouted, bolting out of his chair. "I wrote you three months ago about my intentions, but you never wrote one word back about it. I had a feeling in my bones you were angry about me becoming an Arus citizen. What do you want, Chip?"
"I want you to be my brother and have some respect for our parents and Balto. I want you to apply for citizenship of New Balto and retain the Stoker surname with me. Give up Arus citizenship and get back to where you belong; with us! I want us to legally be listed as brothers again... fully. I want us to be legally adopted by the Stokers again instead of everything being voided because of Balto's destruction. Don't you even care about that?"
"Of course I care about it," Pidge said, feeling his chest constrict so hard it was difficult to force the soft words out. "I'll call you later."
"Fine! Have it your way!" Chip shouted. Pidge felt a twinge of guilt seeing Chip shake. He knew Chip was at the point he would run, hide, and choke back tears. The monitor went black, Chip had broken the connection. Pidge slammed his hand down on the console.
The whole fight left him hot and angry. He had written Chip a detailed letter explaining why he had chosen to become an Arus citizen. He had worried his parents and Chip may not care for the idea, but his adoptive parents were supportive even thought it technically meant the adoption was now null and void. Pidge hadn't gotten a response from Chip, negative or otherwise, but he had a feeling Chip was upset. Pidge knew his twin was always the follower, shy, and dependent.
He sighed and leaned forward, elbows on knees. His anger gave way to concern. He had no idea Chip felt so slighted or rejected. He regretted his words; he should have known Chip would have been hurt by his decision to choose a new home, but he was so excited about Princess Allura's offer.
Pidge had hoped that Chip's stint on the Explorer would have encouraged Chip to be a little more independent. Pidge remembered back to when they were five and the Stokers adopted them. Chip's insecurity had deepened then and never really recovered. Pidge looked over on the console where a pad and pen rested. He quickly snatched it up and started scrawling a letter to Chip.
"Pidge? I thought Lance was here. He should have been finishing his shift."
"Keith?" Pidge jumped out of the Castle Command's chair and tossed aside the half used notepad. "Chip called two hours ago so I offered to finish up his shift."
"Is everything alright with the Vehicles? No problems?" Keith asked, taking a seat at the console.
"No, it was personal. Family things," Pidge said, watching Keith bring up an electronic document. It looked like a report for Galaxy Garrison.
"I hope your family is fine." Pidge could tell the majority of the Captain's attention was really on the document.
"Just fine. I'm going for breakfast." Pidge knew it was useless to try to talk to Keith when he was starting his daily GG reports.
He went to the dining room and sat at the table where Lance and Hunk were eating and engaged in a heated debate over the new irrigation system just sent as a gift from the Galaxy Alliance to Arus.
"Thanks again, Pidge," Lance said, waving a dismissive hand at Hunk's aggravated scowl. "How are things on the Explorer? Find any good planets lately?"
"Yeah. A great one named New Balto," Pidge snapped. Both Lance and Hunk blurted at congratulations at the same time and pounded him the back.
"Hey, why do you look like someone just some who just lost their puppy?"
Pidge turned to Hunk after glancing around to make sure the Princess wasn't around. He whispered to Hunk and Lance who leaned towards him, "Because Chip and I had a fight last night. He wants me to take time off and go out to the newly discovered planet. Our parents will be there in three weeks and the four of us haven't been together in a year."
"Keith wouldn't give you time off? I'll go talk to him..."
"No, Hunk, that's not the thing. You see, Chip has it in his head that I should become a citizen of New Balto so we can have our adoption papers renewed and such. I told him I couldn't leave because green lion just doesn't work for anyone. He went in a psychotic rant about how I didn't want to be a member of our family any more."
"Well, why would you put off going? At least you could see your folks? We could probably make it by having Sven fill in. What's really eating at you?"
"I don't want to give up my Arus citizenship. This is my home now. I love it here and the Princess has been so wonderful to grant me citizenship. It would be a real insult to her generosity to go back on it after only three months. At the same time, I don't want to hurt Chip or my parents. If I went, I'm afraid I'd be in a pressure-cooker. Besides, I really should be here to help you guys out; green lion is pretty picky. Other than Keith, she really won't budge for anyone else."
"Did you tell him Arus is your home? Honestly?" Lance asked. Pidge gave him wry smirk and looked down at his orange juice. "Don't mess around with it. Just tell him how you feel and leave it at that. He'll get it over."
Pidge shook his head and let out a dry chuckle. "You don't know Chip at all. He and I are nothing alike."
"Come on. You two look alike, are into all the same things, and came from the same family. How different could you be?"
"We're not clones. We have very different personalities because we're two different people," Pidge snapped. Lance flinched backwards and rolled his eyes.
"Picking on Pidge again? Lance you should be nicer to him," Allura said as she walked over to the table and had a seat.
"It wasn't anything, highness," Pidge said, shooting Lance and Hunk looks. He hoped his wish for them to remain quite would be conveyed.
"Oh good. So what were you talking about that got you so riled up?"
"Nothing much. I'm writing a letter to Chip and Lance is under the impression twins can't have different personalities."
"That's silly, Lance," Princess Allura said, smiling at Pidge. He stood up and turned to leave.
"I'll see you this afternoon," Pidge mumbled, going towards his bedroom. He hated to admit it, but Lance was right. He had to make his own choices now. When he took responsibility for defending Arus, it had thrust him into having adult choices even though he wasn't always ready for them.
He closed the door to his room and flopped on his bed. He glanced over at his night stand to see the picture of him and Chip. They were standing with their adoptive parents in front of a small cottage beside a grassy plain on Balto.
He did miss Balto as much as Chip. He also missed not living with his family, but he knew dwelling on it wasn't the answer. He put the nib of his pen on the pad of paper once again to finish the letter to Chip.
He swirled around at his name being called. His father was waving at him from across the crowded hanger bay of the Explorer. He threaded his way through the crowd of refugees and flight crew. He could see his mother now that he was closer. He stretched out his arm; his father grabbed his wrist and pulled him past Ginger who ruffled his neatly combed hair.
He was swept up into fierce hugs and several sloppy kisses from his mother. His face turned red hot hearing whistles from Marvin and Hutch. Chip glared and muttered, "wise apples," as his parents tugged him along towards the doorway leading to the rest of the Explorer.
When they reached the quiet and empty hallway they each hugged Chip again and told him they missed him. He sighed and leaned back against the bulkhead.
"It's so great to see you again, especially on this occasion," Chip said.
"We could hardly wait. We haven't had a chance to go down to the planet yet. We came straight over from the Nina to see you first. Your mother and I wanted to go planet-side with you. We have our camping gear ready so we could have a nice family vacation while you're still in the system."
"That's great, Dad, but I'll only be here another two days. I'm sure Jeff will let me stay the night planet-side though. It's so beautiful. I can't wait until you see it. It's more mountainous than Balto was, but I have no doubt you'll be happy here."
"How about showing us around the Explorer? We can't leave for another hour," his mother asked.
She put an arm around his shoulders as he lead them down the hallways. He felt giddy as he introduced them around to the crew of the Explorer. He felt a swell of pride as his crew-mates took turns complimenting the Stokers on Chip.
He was also proud when several people recognized the well-known Galaxy Alliance xeno-biologist, his mother. His father was also recognized by Commander Hawkins and Professor Page. Both of them were fans of Chip's father when he was a concert pianist touring from planet to planet. Recently, he was the Chair of Music with the Galaxy Alliance University until Balto was destroyed. He resigned, along with his wife, to help refuges and help organize Balto's survivors for the day they could relocate to a new planet.
The only thing that bothered Chip was Cric and Cliff's inquiries into the Stokers' latest political movement that was not Galaxy Garrison friendly. His parents, both Doctors in their fields, had gained some political clout and were calling for reform. Chip cut the conversation off and tugged his parents off towards his quarters.
"Do you two have to say those things on a GG ship? You know, it kind of puts me in a difficult situation."
"What? That we are critical about the Garrison's response to Balto? Your two crew-mates agreed it was inadequate and that the GG espionage network wasn't being monitored closely. How are we supposed to prevent these things from happening if we turn a blind eye to them. You know, Pidge would look critically at..."
"Oh Pidge! What would he know? He's lost his critical thinking skills! He claims Lion Voltron is run by magic. You two really should try to get him off of Arus. It's just rotting his brain," Chip snapped.
He didn't miss the silent glances his parents exchanged. His father laid a hand on his shoulder and was about to say something. Chip shrugged his father's hand off and glared up at him. "You've talked to Pidge haven't you? You can't tell me you think he's doing okay on Arus."
"Let's go in your room and talk in private," his father said, pushing him lightly towards his quarters. The three of them made themselves comfortable in the cramped space. His parents sat on his bunk while he sat on the only chair in the room, the one at his computer desk.
"Pidge did get in touch with us before we met you. He says you sent back two letters and wouldn't take any of his calls over the last few weeks. Why would you do that, sweety?" his mother asked, patting his hand.
"Because he's the one who doesn't want to be a part of our family any more. Doesn't it bother you how he's blowing us off? He should be here instead of Arus."
"You're being unfair to your brother. He has a good life on Arus. He loves it there and he has lots of friends who are gracious and kind. Aren't you happy for him?"
"Mom... you know I am... it's just... Whatever! He's happy there, well I'm happy here."
"Then why do you look so miserable? You miss him. It's no crime to admit that. You're not too old to say you want to hang around with Pidge," his father said.
"It's just that I don't see how he couldn't be here when something so important to our family is happening. It's like he doesn't care about Balto any more. Don't you understand at all?"
"Pidge still cares very much, but he knows he has to pick up and go on with his life. There is a piece of us each that will always mourn Balto, but you can't let that keep you stuck in the past. He's chosen to move forward and that is very healthy," his father said.
"I don't understand why he wanted to become an Arus citizen and throw away our family."
"Those are just pieces of paper. Pidge will always be our son no matter what the Inter-Galactic laws say. We know that Pidge belongs on Arus, but he still loves and respects us as his parents. Nothing changes between you and us either because we still raised you and we still love you. Most of all, nothing has changed between you Pidge. No one will ever be as close to you as your identical twin. Nothing, not even the destruction of Balto, can take that away," his mother said.
"The only thing that can truly separate you and Pidge is you," his father said. Chip felt himself blush horribly; he even felt his eyes begin to water. He was too choked up to respond. "We understand that it's been hard on you both... being so bright and so young. You got pulled into these wars before you really had a chance to be children and have some fun together. Don't let what you two have be wrecked by a silly argument. Try to understand that just because he has a home on Arus, doesn't mean that he doesn't need you any more."
"Okay, Dad," was all he could say. His father ruffled his hair and smiled.
"I hope there's some good fishing on this planet."
Chip plastered a smile back on his face and hopped out of his chair. He knew his parents were technically right and he felt so horribly sick over giving Pidge the silent treatment. He also felt a piece of himself that was irritated with his parents arguing Pidge's side rather than seeing his point of view.
Some shame crept into his stomach as they got ready to leave for planet-side. He quickly grabbed a pad and pen from his desk. He knew it would please his parents if he acquiesced to making up with Pidge. Still, his whole heart wasn't into an apology.
"Hey, Pidge, you got a big, fat letter," Hunk called out as he walked into the library. Pidge started, dropped the stack of ancient books and parchments, and gave Hunk a dirty look.
"Thanks a lot."
"I thought you would want this one. It's from Chip."
"Oh yeah! Thanks a lot," Pidge said, jumping over the mess on the floor and grabbing the proffered envelope.
Pidge let Hunk pick up the books while he went over to a windowsill and sat on it. He looked out over the late afternoon Arusian landscape while tearing open the envelope.
"Wow, he has legible handwriting compared to your chicken scratches. It's so nice and small. It looks like he used a ruler to write with."
"Aw, Hunk, do you mind? I don't know if he's cooled down any," Pidge said with clasped hands. Hunk chuckled and left Pidge alone to read the letter.
Pidge, let me start off by saying I'm so sorry for not responding to you since that fight. I really should have read your letters and not been such a jerk. Mom and Dad got here five hours ago. We're camping right now on New Balto. Enclosed are some photos. We took turns, Mom's are blurry as usual.
Pidge looked at the photos Chip enclosed and started laughing at his parents and Chip acting goofy in front of a gorgeous lake that was nestled in hilly, forested terrain. They looked cheerful and relaxed. Pidge admitted the landscape was beautiful, but he just couldn't think of it as home, let alone a replacement for Balto.
Mom, Dad, and I had a long talk about why you decided to become an Arus citizen and about my feelings over it. I understand a little better about why you wanted to move on, but it doesn't make it any easier for me. I do miss hanging around with you and I miss Balto. I miss our parents. I guess I'm so homesick I can't stand it. I want to hang on to every little connection I have and not feel like some nomad. You're probably laughing right now considering my Garrison assignment.
Pidge did snicker and shake his head.
I shouldn't make you feel guilty over choosing to stay on Arus. You found a nice home and good friends. It's just that I need to hear sometimes that we're family. Ever since I can remember we've been together through thick and thin. I hate the idea of drifting apart and I think I just need to know that isn't going to happen.
Why don't you write me back. I think we really have a lot to talk about, but I don't think we'll be in range to talk anytime soon. Chip.
Pidge gave the letter another shake of the head and hopped up. He quickly made his way to his bedroom and tacked up the photos all around his computer. He then picked up pen and a notepad.
"Thanks, I've been waiting for this," Chip said as he grabbed the envelope from Shannon and crawled out from under his air vehicle. He wiped grease on his coveralls as Shannon started snickering.
"Boy, his handwriting is horrible. Is that a S or a B. I mean the post master has just given up."
"Okay, okay. I'm the only one who can decipher it. Let me read it already," Chip said, hopping into his vehicle and opening the letter. Shannon gave him a half-hearted wave and went on handing out letters.
Hey, Chip, you can't expect us to get along all the time. It's not big deal. I'm sorry I accused you of being jealous. You have a lot to be proud of; you'll go a lot further with the GG than I will.
I know that my decision about staying with Arus hurt you. It wasn't my intention. I needed to make the right choice for me. I'm really needed here just as you're really needed on the Explorer. Just because we have different paths doesn't mean we stop being family. I know you want us to legally hold citizenship to one planet and to have a family again. We are family. It's doesn't matter about where I am or where Mom and Dad are. I hope they told you that when they visited. I told them you were too stubborn to hear me out.
I will tell you one thing because I know you don't like being played with. I can't do what you're asking. I'm an Arusian citizen now and it's what I want. I wish things were different, but we both have to move on and do what's right for our lives. This DOES NOT mean that we aren't twins anymore!!! You were right when you said we've been through a lot together, Chip!
Please don't cut me off. I know you have a tendency to shrink away and get hostile at things that hurt you rather than just shrug them off. Don't let this be something that drives you off to one of your week-long sulk-festivals. Call me when the Explorer gets in range and we'll sort things out face-to-face. Call me soon! Pidge.
Chip took deep breath and refolded the letter with precision. His first response was to get angry all over again, but at least Pidge had been forthright this time. He climbed out of his vehicle and started to wander off towards the bridge.
Pidge was reading one of King Alford's journals. Inside were some insightful observations about the lions and magic. He picked up a pen and his own journal. He looked up aggravated. He hated trying to study about the lions while on Castle Command duty. There was really no good place to prop his journal while writing in it.
A beeping noise caught his attention. He looked up at the large monitor to see the Explorer's logo flash across. His heart pounded in nervous anticipation. His first thought was of Chip being hurt. Chip's face appeared before him. His twin was dressed in a bathrobe and was in a darkened room.
"I had to sneak this call," Chip said right off. Pidge threw back his head and laughed.
"That's not like you at all," Pidge said, setting aside his work. He leaned forward on his elbows and smiled at Chip. "So I guess you forgive me?"
"Well... yes. I guess I'm going to get used to the idea," Chip said, with a half-hearted smirk. Pidge could still feel Chip's discomfort.
"I mean what I said. Nothing is going to change the fact that we are brothers. Okay?"
"Let's forget the whole thing. Can we?" Chip asked.
"Are you sure you're okay? I mean you seem like you have some things you want to say."
"Pidge, lets just drop the whole thing and go. I really just called to tell you that."
"Fine. If you're certain," Pidge said, not really trusting Chip's anxious demeanor. "I mean, you wouldn't start cutting me off now would you? I've seen you frost everyone at one time or another and not tell them how you really feel. Just please don't start doing that with me."
"I have to go. I just wanted to tell you that we're fine," Chip said, glancing off to the side. He met Pidge's eyes again. "Are we okay?"
"We're fine, Chip. We're cool," Pidge said. The monitor went blank, leaving Pidge more unsettled then before the call. He would just have to wait Chip out and keep writing in hopes of bringing him around. At least he was willing to open up some. Pidge tore a piece of paper from his journal and started a letter to Chip.