Pidge knew she was not where she was supposed to be before she even woke up.
The size of the room, the space too open, too large, around her. It was the texture of the sheets, the fluff of the pillow, the softness of the mattress, the smell of it all. None of it was hers, none of it was right. But it didn’t matter until consciousness replaced sleep and questions and confusion settled in.
She rolled to her back and stretched and squinted up at the ceiling. Blinking through the fog of sleep and rubbing it out of her eyes, Pidge wondered where she was, then realized a tick later that this was Allura’s bedroom. The next were why was she there, how did she get there? She pinched the bridge of her nose, groaning at the lack of a needed memory. Maybe she had fallen asleep in some random place of the castle again and...was brought to Allura’s room? No, that wasn’t right. Pidge was always returned - either escorted or carried - to her own bed.
The mystery of her being in the Princess’s bed was replaced with another.
Her fingernails were painted.
Honestly, she couldn’t remember the last time she had painted her nails. It had to have been before she illegally joined the Garrison - heck, it might have been before Kerberos. She studied them, flexing her fingers and positioning her hands this way and that way. Voltron colors, in correct formation no less, was an odd choice. She had preferred shades of green, purple, or neutral colors. Bright, loud colors never looked right on her, she thought, and she was right. The yellow and the red and the blue on her fingers were too much.
Was this a prank?
The memory loss - or at least the fuzziness in her head - worried her, but she ordered herself to remain calm. She was obviously safe, being in Allura’s room, so there was no immediate need to freak out. Collect data and analyze what she knew and didn’t and go from there.
That in mind, Pidge sat up and pulled back the covers and frowned.
A mint green nightgown. Really? Well, at least it wasn’t white.
Then there were her toenails, perfectly matching her fingernails. Seriously?
This had to be a prank. And she already had a certain bonehead in mind for executing it.
Pidge had scooted out of bed and caught her reflection in the full-length mirror when the feeling of something against her back registered. Her eyes grew wide and she stumbled and tripped on the hem of the too-long nightgown. A messy braid slide over her left shoulder and all she could do for a few ticks was grip it and stare. Slowly, she leveled with her reflection - touched her face with painted fingernails, patted her torso and thighs covered in the foreign clothing, tugged on the braid. All of it was hers.
The hair was the last straw.
She stormed out of Allura’s room after a glance at the clock. It was roughly the tail end of breakfast and a miracle no one had woken her sooner. So it was no surprise when she met no one in the halls to dining hall.
“Lance!” Pidge growled, bursting through the threshold and marching to the table. All eyes turned to her at her entrance. She gestured at herself, gripping at the soft material in one hand and braid in the other accusingly. “What the actual quiznak is this?! What did-?”
And everyone was out of their self-appointed chairs and descending on her. All screamed her name and squashed her into a giant group hug, which surprisingly included Keith, as if hoping that would squeeze the anger out of her.
It didn’t, merely keep it at bay. The sudden affection had her more confused than before, yet oddly happy and content at the contact, though she was fairly sure Allura and Hunk were going to snap her in two.
But she still had questions. Them increasing when they said that they had “missed her” and that she was “back” and “normal.”
Pidge somewhat reluctantly wiggled free of the group hug. She looked for answers within their happy and relieved faces, fumbling for words when she found none. “What happened? Why are you guys acting so weird?” she finally managed.
They frowned, and guilt panged within her chest at the subtle disappointment. “You don’t remember?” Shiro asked quietly.
She looked at them again before shaking her head, “No.” Fear crept into her gut, up her spine. “Why? Seriously, what happened? Was it bad? Tell me.” She tried to swallow her panic. “Please.”
“It was nothing bad, Pidge,” Allura quickly reassured. “You simply…,” she trailed off, looking for help on how to finish her sentence.
She noticed the glances, the shrugs. “I what?” she demanded.
Lance caved first. He pulled out his phone and scrolled and tapped on something before showing it to her. “You...turned into a kid, Pidge.”
She blinked at the absurdity. “What?”
But she had taken the phone anyway and -
The air in the lungs, the blood in her veins, the anxiety in her chest, and the tension in her shoulders - it all halted. The picture was of her in the castle, mice in front of her on the table and her holding out a spork of food goo for them. Only...this was a child version of herself, in an outfit she’s never laid eyes on. Again, there was no memory of this being taken.
She choked back whatever emotion was clawing at her throat and handed him back his phone. “That’s pretty good,” she weakly joked. “Didn’t know you were so good at Photoshop. Almost had me there, though. The whole you-turned-into-a-kid thing really pushed it over the top.”
Shiro and Hunk and Keith pulled their phones out then, following Lance’s example and presenting more pictures of random kid versions of Pidge to her. It was too thorough to be a lie, a prank. The others wouldn’t go along with it, especially this far.
Paling, she found herself slumping into a chair surrounded by everyone. The pieces of the puzzle weren’t matching up. “How?” she began.
“Crazy alien youth serum,” answered Hunk.
Eyebrows scrunched together, she glanced up. “Huh? How did-?”
“Killbot Phantasm glove,” everyone said in perfect unison, as if rehearsed. It took Pidge a moment to string that information with what Hunk told her, and she knew she messed up, that she was in trouble in some form. “Ring any bells?” Shiro asked.
She ducked her head, feigning a headache from the shock of de-agement. “I plead the fifth?”
“That law doesn’t apply out in deep space, Pidge. Try again.”
“What does the glove for a videogame have to do with youth serum?” she diverted anyway.
“Well,” huffed Hunk, “according to the space mall shopkeeper that Keith and Lance tried to dismember-”
“Politely threatened,” corrected Lance, and Keith shrugged.
“Yeah, with a knife.”
“I’m still going to lecture you two about that,” warned Shiro.
“Aw, man,” whined Lance, and Keith clicked his tongue.
Shiro looked to Pidge, mouthing and pointing, “And you, too.”
She knew exactly why she deserved the lecture: She had left the castleship without permission and alone, the actions, not the destination, mattering. But that didn’t mean she wanted to be lectured. Pointing to herself with a hint of puppy eyes, Pidge mouthed back, “But I’m Pidge.”
“Anyway,” continued Hunk, raising his voice a touch to get their attention. “You hid in his shop, dripping water everywhere, and somehow a sample of it got into your backpack? We’re still not sure how or why or how it got onto you, though. Not sure of a lot of things, really.”
Questions were like decapitating a hydra, answer one and more fill its place. “Okay then,” Pidge breathed, picking through her questions carefully. “How long was I, you know, a kid? How old was I?”
“It’s kind of ironic, Number Five” chuckled Coran. “You were de-aged to an Earthling five-year-old. Not an Altean one, though. That’s different, and, well, you’re not Altean.”
Mental note: Pidge was not Altean, much to her and everyone else’s not surprise.
“And,” Coran continued, “you were a child for...about a movement?”
She jumped out of her seat. “What?! A week?! I was a kid for a week?” Pacing, her hands smoothed back her hair to her scalp with a groan. That braid aggravated her for some reason and she quickly undid it to the disappointment of Allura and Lance. Ponytail around her wrist, Pidge ruffled her hair, glaring at the guys. “And why is my hair like this, huh? And these clothes and the nails and my - and my head. Why can’t I remember” - she stopped to exhale a shaky breath - “anything about being a kid?”
Shiro placed a hand on her shoulder. “Breathe. It’s fine. Everything’s okay.”
“It’s a side effect of the serum,” added Lance. “You didn’t remember us as a kid, either.”
Somehow that made sense. But it didn’t help the turmoil in her head. Pidge told herself to listen to Shiro and breathe and everything was fine and her headache would fade eventually. Thankfully, he noticed her unease and suggested a new plan. “How about we eat and continue this later? Let Pidge have some time to herself and sort things out - maybe some memories will come back?”
That last bit sounded weak to her ears, but she didn’t argue and they went their separate ways.
Pidge sat cross-legged on the bathroom counter with a pair of scissors in her palm. She’d lost track of how many times she had the blades to her hair and couldn’t bring herself to follow through. It was difficult to do for the Garrison - Matt would always play with her hair when she was sleepy or upset and her dad had said it was beautiful - but it was necessary to pass as a boy.
Now, with her secret out, she didn’t have to hide that she was a girl. She could grow out her hair if she wanted. She missed the length, the weight of it brushing against her back and arms. It reminded her of home.
Maybe that was the problem.
Home was galaxies away. Her father and brother were still missing. Her mother was alone on Earth. She was fighting a war. Short hair was more practical, safer. It was too painful to keep it long. It reminded her that she was a failure, that she was helpless and too young, that the universe was broken.
Pidge tugged a lock of hair between the scissor blades again, glaring at her hand in the mirror to just do it. To be done with it. It was just hair. It grows back. After all of this was over - the war, Voltron - she would grow it again, when things were safe and whole. Stop being stupid.
There was a light knock on the door, and her pathetic resolve crumbled.
Funny how she knew who it was by the knock alone. She sagged and looked down at her hands, the painted fingernails, and tapped the closed scissors against her open palm a few times. “It’s open.”
Shiro cautiously stepped in and leaned against the counter next to her. “You okay?”
She felt his eyes on her, on the scissors. Swallowing the lump in her throat, Pidge sighed after a silent moment. “I can’t bring myself to do it.”
And he stayed quiet, patient. Classic Pidge 101 was, when she was upset, the best course of action was to shut up and let her rant and listen. So he played his part, and she played hers. Ramblings broke the silence that Shiro carefully created, words joining and breath catching. She talked through her jumbled emotions the best she could, repeating and reiterating herself to clarify her points. She talked with her hands, the scissors tagging along until Shiro wordlessly, gently, took them from her mid-sentence.
Brumming tears added to her feelings of being childish and stupid - like she was that same scared girl that was delivered her worst nightmares. It was just hair. She hated it, she loved it. She wanted it, she didn’t. Hair should not carry this much weight, this much sorrow and joy. Pidge sniffled and scrubbed her face with the collar of her shirt.
Shiro quietly drummed his fingers against the edge of the counter while she collected herself. “Pidge,” he started. “I’m going to say something very obvious.” When he looked up, she averted her gaze. He noticed it, though - the tears, the redness in her eyes and cheeks. “You are one of the smartest people I’ve ever had the honor of knowing and befriending. You are by no means stupid for feeling. You’re human.” He placed a firm, comforting hand on her thin shoulder. “It’s okay to be confused. Just take some time to think about it. You don’t have to make a decision right now. Cut it or don’t, we’re with you.”
Still, she refused to meet his gaze and when he went to pull his hand away, she settled hers over his. “You never answered my question. Why is my hair long?”
With a final squeeze of his fingers, Pidge freed him, quietly thanking him.
“You were crying,” Shiro answered, and she finally looked at him with surprise. “Lance was the one that found you that morning. You had no memory of us, of basically anything pass your age. He said that you were crying for your parents and Matt and asking why was your hair so short. So he did what he could to get you to stop - grabbed Coran’s nunvil and grew out your hair. It worked.” He scratched the back of his head, slightly grimacing. “Then Keith found you two, then you guys found the rest of us and....well, we went from there.”
She fiddled with a lock of hair, mumbling the conclusion, “You were trying to keep me happy.”
“Of course. We care about you, Pidge.”
She swallowed hard. She knew that they loved her, but it was different hearing directly. She was a pain, she knew, and not the best teammate or friend at times, but she was trying to do better for them. “For a whole movement?”
“Yeah, well, we’ve done it longer, if we needed to. But only for, like, two movements - three max,” he teased.
Pidge snorted a laugh. “Was I that bad?”
“You had your moments. Keep touching my face. A lot.” He reached over and squeezed her face between his fingers until she smacked his hand away with a laugh. “Just like that, every time you got near me. But, overall, it wasn’t so bad - kind of interesting to watch you with everyone.”
“I wish I could remember what happened,” she sighed. “Stupid serum.”
There was a mischievous twinkle in Shiro’s eye when he said, “Oh, don’t worry about that.”
When everyone regrouped in the lounge later, Pidge realized, much to her horror, what Shiro meant.
She could die from the embarrassment alone. Sure, she was cute and adorable, but some of it was outrageously mortifying. As they showed her more and more, she plotted each of her so-called friends doom. Well, Shiro, Coran, and Allura might be spared, but the others? Dead. Lance being the top of the list, followed by Hunk and Keith. Pidge alternated between doubling over in fits of laughter and peeking through her fingers at the pictures and videos and stories not captured by them.
No memories returned, sadly.
“I have one more video,” announced Allura. “You actually made it for yourself, Pidge.”
Questions were shushed as pixels formed on the wall. Grinning and perched on the edge of Allura’s bed, little Katie sat and waved at the camera. A deep breath was taken before she said, “Dear Pidge.”
It was...bizarre to watch and hear your younger self address your older self.
She blinked, suddenly quiet. “I don’t know what to say,” she whispered to Allura off-screen.
“Let’s start with...what do you think about the Paladins.”
Pidge sat up straighter, casting nervous glances at the Princess. She did not like where this was headed already.
“Yes. What do you think about them? Do you like them?”
“Well, duh.” Katie scrunched up her nose, cheeks a tint of pink. “Boys are ew, but I like them. They’re nice and play with me and they’re cute.”
“They’re cute?” Allura echoed with a chuckle, and Pidge did her best to become one with the couch as she pressed her hands over her face. “How so?”
“They’re just - they’re just cute, okay?! They have very pretty eyes! Am I gonna marry them one day?” Katie looked directly into the camera, asking, “Hey, Pidge! Are you gonna marry them? ‘Cause you have to. I like them.”
Princess Allura was doing her best to contain her laughter behind the camera. “Katie, darling, you can’t - you can’t marry all of them. You’d have to pick one.”
Katie pouted before flopping to the mattress with a whine. “That’s too hard!”
“You have to pick just one,” Allura encouraged, and Pidge wished with everything inside of her that the Princess would as her heartbeat roared in her ears.
“I’ve kissed them all, so I have to marry them all,” Katie explained as if it was obvious. “That’s how it works. You kiss people you’re gonna marry.”
“Do you not kiss your family?”
She thought about it, humming. “But they’re so pretty.”
There were no words to explain the level of mortified Pidge was at that moment. Correction: Allura was now the queen of her hit list. Her blood red blush spread from her face to her toes and she was fairly sure she’d stopped breathing. Her only hope was that she had succeeded in becoming one with the furniture, that she did not exist as a human in this reality anymore. Couches did not feel embarrassment. Couches did not get teased for the words of their younger self innocently shared.
Alas, the universe was ever cruel and she was still human.
Pidge slowly stood without a word, without a glance. And bolted.
Lance jumped up, pointing and commanding, “Keith, I choose you!”
“Why do I have to get her?” he yelled over his shoulder, already giving chase.
Short legs lost to long legs under normal circumstances, but the embarrassment dissolving her from the inside out gave her a powerboost. She was halfway down the hall before Keith made it passed the doorway. He charged after with a growl of annoyance and Pidge squeaked at realizing her fast approaching follower. She skidded a corner, gaze focused on an open air vent above, when someone yelled something far down the hall that had her halting from shock:
“Katie Marie Holt!”
That moment of hesitation was enough for Keith to gain some ground. Pidge bolted again, putting as much power into her legs as she ran, pushing off one pillar to the next, and leapt to the square hole in the wall high above. Grunting, her fingers grasped the edge and her bare toes raked the wall for purchase. A solid mass collided into her back, arms wrapping around her middle as a chin dug into her lower back and gravity worked against her with the added weight. A few ticks passed with a circled argument of “No, you let go!” before she lost her grip and they dropped to the ground.
Keith, the half-human that he was, landed on his feet and saved her head from crashing into the floor by inches. With an exhausted, maybe an aggregated, huff, he jerked her upright and over his shoulder in one fluid motion.
Being fireman-carried was uncomfortable, Pidge realized, but the embarrassment awaiting her was worse. “Let me die in the vents,” she begged.
“Quit being dramatic.”
“Eject me from an airlock,” she bemoaned.
He adjusted his hold on her a bit. “No.”
“Feed me to the Lions, then.”
“They’re not going to eat you?”
“Gave me Shiro’s and Coran’s cooking.”
“I would never let you do that to yourself.”
Pidge groaned all the way back to the lounge, immediately trying to escape when Keith put her down. Him and Lance had to sit on her to keep her in place on the couch. The video continued, the topic blessedly changing to what she had done with the Paladins over the past movement and their collective pictures previously shown completed the stories.
Still, much to her disappointment and relief, Allura stopped the video short. The ending was for Pidge’s eyes only, and Pidge wondered why the quiznak the entire video wasn’t for her eyes only. Save her the embarrassment and the endless teasing. The need for her to bury herself face-down into the couch, covering her face with her hands and unable to look at anyone in the room.
“C’mon, Pidge, it wasn’t that bad,” remarked Hunk.
“Yeah, you just have to confess your undying love for us and it’ll all be over.”
Pidge blindly kicked Lance in the thigh, satisfied with his yelp of pain and surprise. “It was worse than bad, okay. Leave me alone.”
“But we love you, Pidgey.”
Lance was smart enough to dodge her next swing. “Well, I don’t love you.”
“Aw, c’mon,” pouted Lance. “Yes, you do.”
“No!” she grumbled into a cushion.
The guys exchanged amused glances. “Fine,” he sighed dramatically. “Then I guess you don’t care that Shiro’s arm went a little berserk a few days ago and we haven’t found the problem yet.”
Pidge slowly lifted her head and turned her heat gaze to the boys. “Excuse me?”
Why did that sound more like a threat than concern?
She jumped up and brushed by the others, grabbing Shiro’s metal arm and turning it this way and that. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner? What did you do to it? How’s it been acting? Are you in pain? Is-?”
“It’s nothing, Pidge, really.”
She glared up at Shiro. “Your ‘nothing’ is always ‘something.’ Where are my tools?”
Before he could be drug along by Pidge, Shiro eyed Lance for starting this and Keith and Hunk for not stopping it. “I know what the...cause was, okay?” When she cocked her head to the side, waiting for him to explain, he relented to the situation and weakly said, “Cooties.”
Confusion washed over her face. “Did you just say...?”
His metal hand was on her belly, tickling her. Pidge squealed and giggled and backtracked, but he followed as his arm once again “lost control.” A human hand grabbed her arm and pulled her close, metal skirting against her stomach and ribs and neck. She bucked and wiggled and screamed and laughed, all the while she was batting at his arm, asking, “Where’s the off button?!” It wasn’t until she patted her way up to his face and pressed his nose did she find it.
The tickling ceased.
Breathing labored and sides aching, Pidge separated from him, trying and failing to glare. She settled for a smirk. “Found the off button.”
Lance stepped forward with a devilish grin. “It’s the on button, too.”
And he pressed Shiro’s nose.
She shrieked, “No!” But it was Lance that was the next victim, being within range, and the others scattered in fear. Hunk then Keith were next, both using her as a shield and she was subjected to the tickling along with them. Eventually, curled up on the ground, Pidge snaked her hand up and pressed Shiro’s nose again. He stopped immediately, breathless and grinning.
She slumped, panting and sweating. “I hate you.”
“Love you, too, Pidge.”
It had become routine for Lance to call Pidge for breakfast. This morning was no different, now that things were back to normal. “Pidge!” he shouted, banging on her bedroom door. “It’s time to get up, sleeping beauty, c’mon.”
Deja vu and anxiety pinpricked his gut. “I’m coming in,” he announced and stepped inside to find nothing. No Pidge and, thankfully, no Katie. “What the…?”
Lance took off to the dining hall after checking her usual haunts along the way, nearly crashing into the doorframe. “Have you guys seen Pidge? I can’t find her.”
“Maybe she’s in the lounge?” Hunk suggested.
“Already checked. Kitch, training deck, corners, and there’s no open air vents.”
All at the table exchanged wary glances and they were jolting out of their seats in the next moment, the start of the previous week fresh on their minds. They searched and called for her and finally - quiznaking finally - Hunk found her tucked away in her Lion. Curled within a blanket and hair sprawled out, there Pidge peacefully slept in her pilot’s seat. Allura’s video on screen gave the option to exit or replay, and they kindly overlooked the dried tears on her cheeks.
She awoke while they debated to either wake her up or carry her to bed. Rubbing her face, Pidge yawned and stretched, enjoying the popping in her back and the return of blood flow to her limbs. “Hi?”
“Morning,” greeted Hunk. “Would like some breakfast before noon, sunshine?”
Carefully, she stood and wrapped the blanket around her shoulders. “It tastes better for dinner, but, sure, sounds great.”
They rolled their eyes at her sarcasm.
She waited for everyone to exit first as she tried to wake herself up more. Apparently, it was not enough and her shoulder and hip rammed into the doorframe on her way out. “Ow, ow,” she hissed, rubbing away the pain.
“Are you alright?” asked Allura, suddenly by her side.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Pidge readjusted her hold on the blanket around her shoulders and carried on with a final hiss at the soreness in her leg. “I’ll get Keith to kiss it all better and….”
Pidge looked up with wide eyes, him immediately doing the same. Many, many things were shared the day before, but that was not one of them. She wiped her palms against her thighs as she glanced at a cut that was no longer there on Keith’s forearm. Did she just...remember…?
Her suspicions must have been correct because Hunk snickered into his hand and Keith’s face turned red while the others looked very confused.
“Wait, wait, wait.” Lance turned to them, shit-eating grin forming. “Are you telling me that our Keith kissed Katie’s boo-boos away?” He cocked his head to the side. “Aw, now that’s just adorable.”
“Shut up,” Keith growled. “I did not.”
He turned to Pidge. “Did not.”
“There’s video cameras in the med bay,” she smirked, then looked to Shiro. “And in the bridge.”
Narrowing his eyes, Keith threatened, “You wouldn’t.”
“I would!” Then she threw her blanket over his head and raced out of her beloved Green Lion to retrieve her laptop. Laughter and grunting trailed behind her. It was time for a taste of their own medicine. She would find every embarrassing thing not shared during her period of de-agement and present it to the team.
After all, that’s what little sisters do.