was the first thought to enter Pidge’s head when she spotted Hunk standing over her desk in the Green Lion’s hangar, his face much too close to her computer screen and his hands hovering over the keyboard.
The second thought that entered her head wasn’t a thought so much as an immediately vocalized screech. “HUNK!”
Hunk turned slowly, Pidge’s heart pounding wildly in the intervening time. She’d told him she didn’t like anyone touching her stuff, and dear God, did he see anything? What if he saw the old goofy photos of her and Matt, like the one where she wore a bikini to the beach and acquired a livid red sunburn on her shoulders? What if he saw the shoujo manga she used to read in her rare free time? What if he saw that never-to-be-seen-by-the-light-of-day half-finished love letter for–
“Hey, you wrote pretty well when you were a kid,” Hunk observed with a smile, pointing at something on her screen.
Pidge, surprised, blinked at him, any retort she might’ve made at any half-imagined comment fleeing her mind. “Uh…what?” she said dumbly.
“You wrote really well,” Hunk said. He beckoned her closer, and when Pidge joined him and let her eyes fall on the screen, she coughed.
“Wait, what?” she said again, stunned and hot with embarrassment as the face of her old, buried in both memory and digital dust, fan fiction stared back at her. “That’s not…that’s not…that’s–” She cleared her throat, pretending that she didn’t notice Hunk’s concerned frown, and said, “I didn’t write that.”
“You didn’t?” Hunk pointed at a line near the top. “Then why does it say ‘By Katie Holt’ here?”
Pidge narrowed her eyes at the screen and said, “Okay, I wrote it, but I didn’t write it.”
“That makes absolutely no sense,” Hunk told her.
Pidge rubbed her warm face and groaned. “What I mean is that I wrote this document you have open–”
“The one about the fighting cats with their rituals and stuff?”
Pidge scowled at him, the very act of him daring to utter a summary of her childhood endeavors in writing offended her, and said, “Yes, that one. But what I’m saying is that I wrote this story, but it was from…” She waved a hand, searching for a word that didn’t sound as bad - that didn’t make her want to curl up into a ball and hide under the desk or, better yet, throw herself out of an airlock - as fan fiction.
(Not that she knew what fan fiction was at the tender age of eleven; she just wanted to play in another author’s world for fun, never mind that there was an actual name for what she was doing!)
“They’re not…my characters,” Pidge explained carefully to Hunk. “It’s not my world; it’s based on a book series I loved as a kid.” She stared at the floor between them, pulse racing as she awaited his judgment.
“Oh, so it’s fan fiction?” When she glanced up in surprise at his nonchalant tone, he raised an eyebrow at her. “Did you think I’d laugh at you?”
“Yes,” she admitted.
Hunk smiled and said, “Why would I do that? I mean, this Fireheart guy is pretty relatable.”
“That’s because he’s always worried,” Pidge deadpanned, but something in her was soothed by Hunk’s ease.
He chuckled and said, “Oh, that explains everything. But seriously, Pidge”–he patted her back–”I think it’s pretty cool! How old were you when you wrote this?”
“Eleven,” Pidge said.
“Wow, yeah, that’s really awesome,” Hunk said. He angled his head towards the screen and said, “My older sister is a high school English teacher for AP kids, and some of the stuff she made me help her grade isn’t nearly this good.”
Daring to hope she would get out of this encounter unscathed, Pidge smiled at him. “Really?”
Hunk nodded. “Really.”
Pidge grinned at him, and as Hunk said something about going to find something to eat, she remembered why they had this enlightening conversation in the first place. “Hey, Hunk,” she said, “what were you doing here anyway?”
Hunk froze with his back to her, but then he slowly turned, pressing his fingers together. “Oh, uh, well, Allura wanted to talk to you about your brother, and your computer was on and open, so I, uh…” He smiled sheepishly and said, “I’m a snoop, Pidge. You know this.”
Pidge reached across her desk and snapped her computer shut - maybe she’d leave the hard drive intact, at least for now. But she crossed her arms, tapping her foot irritably, and said, “You know I don’t like it when you touch my stuff.”
“I know,” Hunk said, “but it was too hard to resist the temptation. Also…” He smiled, something in it downright mischievous. “Maybe, after you meet with Allura, we can do a little quid pro quo?”
Intrigued, Pidge raised an eyebrow at him. “What did you have in mind?”
They linked arms as they walked through the hangar and back towards the entrance, and Hunk said, “Well, let me tell you about that time Lance and I binge-watched the worst, most violent anime in existence…”
By the time Pidge found Allura and Hunk found his lunch, both of them were breathless with laughter.