Pidge could clearly remember the first night she'd met him. A few years before Kerberos, when she'd just started middle school, Matt a year ahead of her. He'd come back with Matt after school, introducing himself to her family, an awkward and way too formal introduction (He'd gone by Takashi then) that had made her chuckle. He'd stayed for dinner that night, eagerly talking with her dad, an easy smile on his face. It was a nice smile, relaxed and gentle, she'd thought to herself.
Shiro still had that same smile, but it was often forced now. Blink, and you'd miss the strain showing through as he did.
That smile, the first thing she'd noticed, had been more frequent as he'd continued to visit. And with those visits, she'd noticed more about him. His tendency to offer assistance to her mom and dad. His refusal to leave her brother and her behind when some local bullies had decided that they'd be easy pickings. Takashi had been hurt, but he'd been unflinching, and had managed to send the idiots packing. She'd been shocked and teared up at the scar they'd left him with, cut with a bottle on the back of his shoulder.
Shiro flinched now, but still didn't back away. He'd protected them all, but not without some flashback forcing it's way into his head and making him hesitate in his actions. Pidge wondered if that scar was still there. Or if he even remembered that day.
She remembered the night she fell for him, right before starting high school. Her, Takashi and Matt had wanted to watch some Sci-fi movies; they'd spent all week planning it. Her parents had long since gone to bed, Matt had passed out in the chair, so only her and Takashi were awake still. They'd been laughing and trading quips about the horrible one-liners (they were B-films after all) and trading off pretending they were a part of some classic commentator series that her dad had showed them. Katie had been doing her best imitation when he'd broken into laughter, doubled over and trying hard to stifle the noise. She'd been unable to stop herself from dissolving into the same mirth and they'd ended up pressed against each other, each others laughter egging the other on more. The laughter had faded after a few more minutes, but neither of them pulled away from the contact. So they settled into each other and watched until they too passed out. Pidge remembered waking up with Takashi's face next to hers, breathing softly, and a quilt draped around them. She never heard the end of that from Matt.
Pidge sighed as she closed her laptop and rubbed her eyes. She missed those times. Not that she didn't like where she was currently, but Shiro wasn't the same anymore. His time as a prisoner had changed him drastically, and he kept his distance from everyone usually. It was rare that he'd let those walls down, but they'd be up again after only a brief time. She wondered if she'd ever get to see him relax again as she stood up, stretching ro relieve the ache in her back. Another night in the castle-ship's hangar wouldn't help Shiro relax. She'd just get another lecture and cause him more worry.
On her way back to her room, though, she noticed the door to the training room was open, light filtering through and the sound of blunt impacts reached her ears. Curiousity drove her forward, peeking around the edge of the door. It was...”Shiro? What are you doing in here?”
Shiro froze for half a tick in surprise, but kept on punching afterwards. “Pidge? You're up pretty late. You should get some sleep, we have an early morning tomorrow.”
Pidge frowned. “I could say the same to you. I know I'm not the most physically active, but i'm pretty sure exhausting yourself like this won't help your health, especially if you don't get enough sleep.” She crossed her arms, staring as Shiro kept attacking the sandbag before walking over and pressing a hand to his back. “What's wrong? You've looked horrible for the past few days...”
Shiro flinched at the unexpected contact, slamming his hand into the bag one last time, panting from the exertion.
He couldn't meet her eyes, choosing instead to stare holes in the ground, like he expected it to swallow him up at any moment. Pidge slowly rubbed her hand up his back, worried but not sure what to say. “It's alright if you don't want to talk about--”
“Nightmares. I've been having...nightmares.” Shiro closed his eyes, slumping forward onto the sandbag's post. “About my arm, prison, the arena...amongst others.”
“Yeah...of you guys.” He grimaced before letting loose a small sigh. “I'm afraid I'm going to en up hurting you. I don't know how. Just that something will happen, and this arm--” He flexed his right hand slightly, making indents in the bag, “--I'm afraid it'll be used to control me, and that I'll attack someone.” He shuddered at that.
“Shiro...” Pidge shook her head and reached up, pulling gently till Shiro sat down. This would be easier at eye-level. “Look at me.”
Shiro watched as she took hold of his hands, studying them. “Your arms look just fine to me. I don't see anything here that would make me afraid of you.” She let go of his left hand and let her fingers drift gently up his right arm. “I mean, yeah, this arm is a weapon. It -is- dangerous. On some Galra or someone I didn't know, I'd probably be afraid of it. Not that it's hard to stop. I can shut this thing down no problem.”
Pidge adjusted her glasses as she continued. “But I know that you won't hurt us. Not by your choice. You're our leader, and our friend.” And more, not that she intended on saying that right this second. “You'd throw yourself back into some stupid arena before you hurt us, though that's not preferable and if you actually do that, I'll personally drag your dumb ass back and strap you to the castle.” Shiro chuckled, and the sound made Pidge's heart flutter for a second, before he spoke again.
“Maybe. But that doesn't make that fear go away.” Shiro stood, sighing as he pulled away. Pidge's face fell as he walked towards the door, quickly fixing itself in a neutral look as he spoke up. “I'm headed to bed. But...” He stopped, looking back at her with a ghost of a smile playing at his lips. “Thanks for trying to cheer me up.”
Pidge watched as he left, waiting until she was sure he was gone to turn and punch the sandbag herself, hissing as her hand throbbed from the impact. She massaged her hand as a tear rolled down her face, muttering to herself. “You're an idiot. A stupid, insufferable, idiot, Takashi...”
Of course, life had to just try and make things worse. They had touched down on smaller planet in response to a distress signal they'd received. The mission wasn't taking long—the Galra's outpost was relatively small, but leaving it operational would leave the planet under Zarkon's thumb, so Allura sent the Paladins to take it out. Keith and Lance were busy handling the drones in the air while Hunk was dealing with the ground troops, defending a nearby market town from being caught in the middle of the destruction happening overhead. Shiro was with Pidge, guarding her while she looked for a way to shut down the drones from the inside.
“Any luck?” Shiro was leaning over the desk, watching as she typed away at one of the terminals.
“Not yet. Give me a little more time.” Her tongue poked out of her mouth slightly as she worked. “The encryption here is a little more difficult that last time—the Galra are probably ramping up their security since we keep breaking into their systems.” Pidge totally wasn't proud of that—hacking and disabling a 10,000 year old empire on her first try had been exciting, and the fact that she'd been able to surpass again and again made her feel even better.
“We don't have a lot of time to give--” Shiro stopped short as the door to their room opened behind him. A flash of purple, red, and black sprung towards Pidge, who had turned around just as the attacker leapt, eyes wide, only for the assailant to be stopped midair and thrown back across the room. Shiro stood between Pidge and the Galra. “Keep working Pidge! I'll hold him off.”
Pidge nodded and turned back to the terminal, fingers flying across the screen as she tried to get to the commands she needed. Shiro fought hard behind her, but he was being pressed as the Galra swiped at him with a sword. Shiro's reach left him at a disadvantage, but he managed to sidestep an attack and sprung forward, his arm activating to hit hard, leaving a large dent in the warriors armour.
The Galra snarled and latched onto the arm with a clawed hand, pulling hard and unbalancing Shiro, throwing the paladin to the ground hard. Dazed and wincing from the impact, Shiro raised his head in time to see the Galra preparing a killing blow. He started to stand, hoping to move away before he was killed, but his right arm pulsed in pain, forcing Shiro back to his knees as he screamed in pain, feeling the flesh at his shoulder burn in pain. The Galra grinned and started to attack again, but howled and dropped his sword as Pidge's bayard wrapped around his wrist and electrocuted him.
“Shiro!” Pidge rushed over to him, dropping to a knee to inspect him. “Shiro, are you alright?”
Pidge could barely move out of the way in time as Shiro's right arm thrust forward, glancing off her side as she fell to her right. Scrambling up, she backed away as Shiro fought against his arm, trying to keep it still. “Pidge—I—I can't stop--!”
Pidge nodded and started forward, ignoring Shiro's orders for her to keep back as he saw her move. She pulled up her wristlet computer and started typing, keeping an eye on Shiro for any signs of discomfort. After a few seconds, Shiro's arm powered off and fell limp at his side, and he slowly relaxed before hurrying over to Pidge.
“How badly are you hurt?”
Pidge shook her head. “I'm fine. It didn't hurt much at all.”
Shiro nodded once before wrapping his good arm around her, taking her by surprise as he hugged her close. “I'm sorry Katie. I'm so sorry...i didn't mean to--”
“Shiro. I'm alright, really...” Pidge returned the hug swiftly, squeezing tight. “Let's get back to the lions first, okay?”
Shiro nodded, before straightening, refusing to look at Pidge the entire way back.
Shiro tried to avoid her after they got back to the castle. Debriefing after a mission was one thing, but he kept finding excuses to leave the room as soon as she'd walk in, and she was getting annoyed. “He's overreacting! I'm perfectly fine, and he's being an idiot.” She scowled as she vented to Hunk, who was helping her with the hardware repairs on his lion.
“I mean, I'd feel really bad too if I hurt you like that. I can sort of get where he's coming from. And, like, we don't really know what he's having to go through mentally either. I know I'm thankful for that much.”
“That doesn't mean he has to avoid me and act like...like...like a child!”
Hunk didn't answer, so Pidge just steamed in silence for a while before setting her tools aside with a huff. “Sorry Hunk. Can we do this later? I can't focus right now. Need to do something else.”
“Uh, sure. I don't mind. Go relax or something. Want me to make you something to eat?”
“No. I'm not hungry right now.” Pidge stood as she responded, dusting off her shorts before waving goodbye, walking out of the hangar to go do...something. She didn't even know where she was going, she just needed to move, to do anything to ease her restlessness. She found herself standing outside Shiro's room, looking at the door. She wasn't sure if he was inside—but he hadn't been around while she walked, so there's only a couple of places he could be. She wasn't even sure if she -wanted- to see him right now. She was still upset with his behaviour, but…“Oh, quiznack, just do it.”
Muttering to herself, she knocked hard. She heard a rustle inside, and the door opened after a moment. Shiro looked down at her before looking away, looking past her instead of at her. “Hey Pidge. What's up?”
Pidge started to speak, but stopped and took a breath. If Shiro couldn't take his own advice here, she could. Patience first. After a deep breath, she looked up at him, a calmer look in her eyes than just a moment before. “That wasn't your fault Shiro. You know that.”
Shiro started to respond, but Pidge leaned up and covered his mouth with a hand. “No. Look, is checked my scan on your arm after I hacked it. That guy planted a bug on you, that's all. Druid magic or whatever it was that Allura called it. It wasn't you. You couldn't have even known!”
Pidge sighed as she removed her hand. “And...now you're avoiding me. And I know you're hurting, that you blame yourself, but...You know, that hurts me too.”
Shiro shook his head at her with a pained look. “Pidge, I could have stopped it—if I had more control, I could have kept myself from hurting you. I--”
He didn't get the chance to continue. Pidge's temper flared and she pushed him into the room, pinning him to a wall and leaning up as far as she could get to his face. “Shut. Up! It's not your fault! I don't blame you! I'm hurt because you're avoiding me, Takashi! I've -been- hurting because I'm watching you suffer and I can't do anything about it!” Tears pricked at her eyes, and she blinked, voice cracking as she continued. “Matt and Dad weren't the only people that I cared about that disappeared on Kerberos! You did too, and I spent just as long looking for you as I have them, and I—Dammit, Takashi!” Pidge pressed her face into his chest, sobbing and gripping the front of his shirt tightly.
Shiro stared wide-eyed at her, wrapping his arms around her, hugging her close and petting the back of her head. “I'm sorry Katie. I didn't even stop to think...”
Pidge sniffed and looked up. “Don't say it. I don't want words…” She reached up and tugged on his collar guiding him down until she could kiss him, teeth clacking clumsily as she tried to pour whatever emotion she could into him. Shiro froze for a moment before returning the kiss, slowly sinking down until he was seated on the floor with her in his lap, kissing and being kissed repeatedly. Pidge finally pulled away enough to catch her breath, eyes a bit wide from the moment. “A-Ah—I'm sorry, Shiro, I shouldn't have—I mean I liked that but I shouldn't have kissed you--”
Shiro smiled warmly, and leaned forward to peck her gently, voice soft as he pulled back and cupped her cheek. “Don't. I...I liked that a lot, Katie.” He wiped the tear-stains from her face gently, pulling her head to his chest as he adjust his hold on her. “I didn't get to tell you before I left, and I haven't been able to say it with our duties to Voltron, but...”
Pidge swore both of their hearts skipped a beat as he continued. “I love you, Kaite. I'm sorry for avoiding you, and making you worry and hurt.”
Pidge sniffed again, burying her face in his chest again, giving a muffled reply. “You'd better not be joking. Because I love you too, and I won't forgive you if you're joking.”
Shiro chuckled and kissed the top of her head, rubbing small circles on her back. “I wouldn't joke about that, Katie.” Pidge nodded and pressed closer, breathing evening as they calmed down, sharing whisper quiet confessions all the while.