Pidge was fidgeting nervously with her passport. It seemed pretty ridiculous to be nervous about flying on a plane when she’d spent several years of her life piloting a giant lion through space, but sometimes that was just how things worked. It had been three years since the lions had taken off, scattering until they were needed again, and four years since the war had ended. She’d flown since then, of course. The Paladins of Voltron, though no longer on active duty, were still fairly important diplomats. In fact, her passport had gotten more stamps in the last three years than it had in the 15 before it. Still, she dreaded the 15 hours ahead of her almost as much as she dreaded handling the smiling attendant her passport and boarding pass.
She had considered making herself some fake identification. She’d done it before, she could certainly do it now. Unlike before, now she ran the risk of being court martialed with stunts like that. So, when she handed the smiling baggage attendant her boarding pass and identification, they were her real ones. The attendant, her name tag read CeCe, almost dropped them the second she read the name on them.
“Y- You’re,” CeCe began trying to recover herself.
“Going to be late for my plane?” suggested Pidge, though not unkindly.
“Lieutenant Commander Holt!” the girl shrieked. People were craning their necks to get a good look at her. People started murmuring, she caught pieces of what they were saying Voltron, lieutenant, paladin, galaxy garrison, Voltron, Voltron, Voltron.
Pidge tried not to let her annoyance show on her face, “That’s me,” she said wearily.
Cece was staring at her in such amazement that one would think Pidge was decked out in her paladin armor or full military regalia. Even Pidge had to admit that those things were pretty impressive, but her messy bun, leggings and ratty t-shirt weren’t exactly anything to write home about. She guessed she didn’t blame the girl for being shocked, you don’t usually expect to find famous space pilots flying economy to Cuba. When it became apparent that Cece wasn’t going to do much but stare, and the crowd around them seemed more and more likely to attempt to approach her, Pidge swung her suitcase up on the scale. “How much for the bag?” she asked.
Cece stared at the bag as if it housed super cool, space stuff instead of socks and other personal effects. It didn’t – Pidge kept all her super cool, space stuff in her carry-on. “For you? Not a thing!” she said, finally finding her voice.
“No, really I can—“ Pidge protested but CeCe had already slapped the stickers on the bag and sent in down the conveyor belt behind her. “Well, thank you but—“
Pidge was cut off again when CeCe turned behind her and shouted, “John! John, come take over my line!” and proceeded to hop the counter before John, whoever he was, had the chance to comply. “Come with me,” CeCe told Pidge, smoothing her skirt as if this were an entirely normal occurrence.
“Um, okay?” Pidge complied, only partially certain she wasn’t about to get murdered. She cast an apologetic glance behind her at the people who had been left in line and saw a burly man, John she assumed, take CeCe’s place at the counter.
“You’re basically my idol,” CeCe confessed as they walked towards the security checkpoint. “I’m in school studying organic chemistry and you and everything you’ve done has been such an inspiration to me. I’m a senior this year and I really do feel like I’m graduating thanks to you. ”
Pidge was silent for a moment. Maybe this girl was graduating thanks to her, but she had the opportunity to go to school at all thanks to Allura. “Congratulations,” she said instead, “and I’m not the one who put in all the hard work for you to get that degree. That’s all you.”
CeCe blushed deeply. She looked around 21 or 22, which made Pidge feel weird in a different way. Pidge was 24. Her identification said she was born 24 years ago, anyway. She only felt, and looked about 19 or 20. Having someone that looked older than her call her an inspiration and an idol was an unsettling experience she thought she’d never get used to.
CeCe bypassed the line for security and strode right up to one of the guards on duty. “This is my girlfriend, Lindsey,”
“Hi, Lindsey,” Pidge greeted her before glancing to her watch. Her flight boarded in 20 minutes and as much as she liked this CeCe person she didn’t have time to be introduced to all her loved ones.
Lindsey nodded her head in acknowledgement to Pidge and CeCe leaned up to whisper something in her ear. All the color drained from her face at once, “You’re Lieutenant Holt?” she asked quietly.
Pidge was about to answer in the affirmative, not wanting to start a conversation on rankings and honorifics when CeCe chimed in, “Lieutenant Commander Holt.”
“You can call me Katie,” Pidge supplied, “or Pidge.”
“Ok, Pidge,” Lindsey said her name as if tasting it very slowly and unsure if she liked it, “we can fast track you through security just step over here and we can do a quick check of your bags and get you to the gate.”
“Wow, thank you so much!”
Lindsey guided her to an alcove off to the side and opened up her carry on. First thing she pulled out was Pidge’s weapon. It was a recreation of her bayard, made by Coran when the Lion’s had disappeared. It didn’t have the same transforming abilities as the bayard had and was black instead of white, but still got the job done. Lindsey held it in her hand gingerly as if she expected it to go off and shock her immediately.
“I, uh, have a permit for that.” Pidge said lamely.
“Right,” said Lindsey, but she didn’t ask for it. She made a show of looking like she was inspecting the bag, but Pidge suspected that she really wasn’t. “You’re good to go!” She said handing the bag back to Pidge.
She bid them both goodbye, took a selfie with CeCe when it was requested, and secured a complementary upgrade to first class before she finally got to her gate with only 5 minutes to spare. She settled in two layovers and 15 hours she would finally see Lance again.
When Lance had received a cryptic message from an unsaved number to meet be at the airport in 2 hours he had almost decided not to go. He didn’t need any intrigue or mystery in his life. He had had enough action for a life time. Several lifetimes in fact. But 30 minutes ticked by. . . and then 45 and he couldn’t stop thinking about it or the hour drive it would take to get there in time. Almost as if possessed by a force outside of himself, he got up, grabbed his jacket, and went to his truck
He had left with plenty of time but between traffic and finding a parking spot, he was walking into Jose Marti International Airport about 10 minutes later than the mysterious text had indicated. It was a clear, yet humid day and he found himself wiping sweat from his brow as he searched the area for someone he might know.
He figured if someone had wanted to meet him at the airport then they had probably flown, so he made his way towards the baggage claim. Only one conveyor was distributing bags and the crowd of people around it was so thick he couldn’t pick out individual characteristics. A figure, smaller than the others broke from the crowd, a bright green suitcase trailing behind her. Her hair, longer than it had been the last time he’d seen her, was held up in a bun on the top of her head with a scrunchie of the same green as her bag. She was dressed more casually than he was used to seeing her, which admittedly was when she appeared on the news, but her leggings and old t-shirt reminded him of late nights on the Castle of Lion’s before—well before everything happened. She looked around and finally spotted him across the room.
They met in the middle, but it was not the running and hugging and crying that it might have once been. “Lieutenant Commander Holt,” Lance heard himself saying in a cool tone.
She raised her eyebrows as if she had expected a different greeting from him. “Ensign McClain,” she replied, matching his tone.
“I’m guessing you sent this?” He asked, showing her the message blinking on his phone.
“Set a computer at my lab to send it on a timer,” she confirmed with a shrug, “didn’t think you’d come if you knew it was me.”
“Yeah, well, you were right,” he quipped, but he took the handle of her bag from her anyway and began briskly walking towards the parking lot. Pidge had to jog to catch up with him on her much shorter legs. “What, Galaxy Garrison couldn’t manage to send a car for their special girl?”
When Pidge looked at him, it was if she was study some piece of alien tech that fascinated her, yet that she couldn’t understand, “I’m on sabbatical, I came to see you.”
Lance stopped in his tracks when he heard that. Pidge almost tripped over her own feet to halt with him. “Hm,” was all he said before he began walking again, “and they’re letting you?”
“As you said, I’m their special girl. I do what I please.”
Lance looked her up and down. She walked with a confidence and level of posture she’d never had before. “I don’t doubt that. Can you tell me why you’re here for sabbatical, ma’am?”
“Can you quit with the ‘Lieutenant Commanders’ and the ‘ma’ams’, please?” She said punctuating her words with air quotes. “Or are you determined to make me call you Ensign McClain or the Red Paladin?”
“No one calls me those things,” Lance said carefully, “everyone calls you Lieutenant Commander.”
“Well, you were never everyone, were you?” She asked. Lance didn’t reply. When she came to the conclusion that he didn’t intend to, she sighed, “Look, Lance, I’m sorry – I’ve said I’m sorry I don’t know how many times.”
“I know you have,” They were walking into the sunlight now. If the change from the dry heat of Albuquerque to the humidity of Havana bothered Pidge she didn’t seem to show it. She did however, raise her eyebrows yet again at the red pickup as he tossed her suitcase into the bed.
“Doesn’t this run on gasoline?” She asked inspecting the exhaust suspiciously.
He reached his hand out for her backpack “Yes it does.”
“I’ll hold this,” she said griping the backpack a little tighter. “You know that’s really bad for the environment right?” She swung herself up into the cab of the truck.
“People like you are always telling people like me what is and isn’t good for the environment, yet only one of us works in it,” He grumbled as he started the truck. Pidge winced at the rumble of the rumble of the engine and the puff of fumes as it backfired. She opened her mouth to retort but then closed it just as quickly.
“Why are you hear, Pidge?” he asked quietly as he pulled out of the parking lot and onto the busy street.
“Lots of reasons.” Pidge said noncommittally, though he could tell that she was satisfied that he had used the nickname.
“To say I’m sorry and. . . because I’ve missed you, because there was a time when you were my best friend and I was yours, because I want you to come home.” She listed everything off in a single breathe as if it were difficult for her to get out.
“I am home, Pidge” he said without looking at her.
“That’s what you think.”
Chapter 2: Eating Out and Catching Up
Chapter by asut_guaiya
Lance and Pidge head to Lance's favorite diner in Havana for a late lunch and a chance to catch up.
Lance took Pidge to his favorite restaurant. He made a point of going anytime he was in Havana and he wasn’t going to let being blindsided by an old friend change that. It was a fairly small diner with mismatched chairs and folding tables topped with vinyl tablecloths. All their drinks were served in jars and none of their plates matched but they had the best tacos he’d ever tasted. It was 3 in the afternoon and the restaurant was deserted.
“Hey! If it isn’t Lance McClain in the flesh!” called a voice from behind the counter as soon they walked in. Ed, the owner of the restaurant, came walking from the kitchen calling, “A celebrity has graced us with his presence!” He stopped when he saw Pidge standing behind Lance. He glanced back in forth between Lance and Pidge for a moment before rushing forward.
He squeezed Pidge in a bear hug that would have made Hunk proud. “Ay! But she’s beautiful!” He exclaimed before setting her down and kissing her on both cheeks
Pidge seemed to be at a loss for words, she looked at Lance quizzically. “Ed, I—” He started, but Ed was having none of that.
He wrapped Lance in the same hug, “Of course you had to bring your new girl to meet old Eduardo, eh?” He kissed Lance’s cheeks as well, “I’ll tell you, friend, it’s been too long for you!”
“Ed!” Lance exclaimed finally getting the older man’s attention. “This is my friend Katie Holt we uh. . . used to work together?” The word friend seemed foreign in his mouth. Pidge was his friend. . . even though they hadn’t spoken in nearly a year. Yet the word seemed both too much considering the distance in their relationship and too little considering everything they’d been through together.
“Oh?” Eduardo looked at Pidge for a moment before his eyes lit up with recognition, “Oh! la chica que ves en la tele?” He said it with a suggestive tone, waggling his eyebrows at Lance.
Lance wanted to run his hand across his face in embarrassment. Pidge, to her credit had hidden her smirk with a cough into her hand and seemed to be feigning confusion. It was a common habit of Ed’s to assume that any and all white people he met couldn’t understand Spanish let alone his Cubano accent. He would always try to talk about people right in front of them if Lance would let him. “Ay, Dios mios. Si, la chica de la tele. ” Lance groaned, “Can you please just bring us some food?”
Ed hit his arm playfully and retreated into the back muttering under his breath. Lance jerked his chin toward his favorite table closest to the bar. Without looking at her, Lance knew Pidge had an enormous grin on her face.
“You watch me on TV?” she asked, her eyes glittering.
Lance leaned back in his chair and said nothing as Ed's son Ricky, a shy kid about 16 years old, set silverware and glasses of water. When he was gone Lance gestured toward the TV over the bar and remarked, “Kinda hard to miss you on TV, Pidge. With all the press releases and the Voltron Coalition.”
Pidge’s eyes were glittering and she took a long sip of her water, “Yes, but do you specifically watch me enough for Eduardo to comment on it? Besides other people are in the news with the coalition. . .” She trailed off but he read the unspoken words in her expression. He could have been one of them had he wanted.
“Well, maybe I come in here and watch a lot of TV,” Lance quipped.
“That so?” She was leaning towards him across the table with her fingers steepled under her chin. “Hunk has a cooking show, if he walked in here would Ed say ‘oh look it’s the boy Lance watches on tv?”
“Hunk has walked in here,” He replied, “and Ed basically forgot me in the presence of the most famous chef in the galaxy. They talked about chili powder for three hours.”
“Well, you are the only member of team Voltron who hasn’t been on the show,” Pidge prodded, “he’s been saving a garlic knots episode for you to come on.”
Lance stiffened at that. Pidge noticed; Of course she did, Pidge noticed everything. Her face fell as she realized what she said. “Lance I—” She reached her hand across the table for his but he scooted back out of her grasp.
He tried to think of something to say that would save the awkward moment. Talking to Pidge had used to be so easy for him. There had been a time where he would have told her anything. They had often stayed up late talking for hours and when they’d run out of things to say they’d just sat in companionable silence. He hadn’t thought the two of them would ever lose that closeness. Yet the woman sitting across the table from him was one he barely even knew.
“So, are you still seeing that guy? Dylan or Dante or something?” He asked just for something to say.
Pidge’s eyebrows raised so high they disappeared behind her bangs. “You mean Dalton?” She fiddled with the jar that held her water without looking at him. “Well, if you’d have come to Christmas at Shiro’s you’d know he dumped me.”
“ He dumped you ?” Lance asked incredulously. He caught Ricky’s eye from behind the bar and signaled for a pitcher of beer. “And at Christmas time?”
“Right in the middle of Christmas dinner, actually,” Pidge admitted just as Ricky approached the table with a pitcher of Lance’s favorite draft and two frosted mugs. She took the pitcher and a mug straight out of his hand and poured her drink. Ricky gave Lance a wide-eyed expression that probably meant something like why didn’t you tell me you had such cool friends before he set down the second mug and left without a word.
“ What!?” Lance was feeling a familiar surge of protectiveness he’d always felt towards Pidge. He suddenly wanted to go find this Dalton What’s-His-Name and wring his neck for breaking up with Pidge like that. He’d never much liked anyone Pidge had dated.
She’d had a couple of boyfriends before he’d met before Dalton. The first was some skinny guy that was in her biochem class. Lance hadn’t thought he was good enough for Pidge. She was a literal genius and defender of the universe and he was some kid who’d never left New Mexico. They’d broken up when Pidge had graduated early and gone full time in the Garrison. She had said it was mutual, but she had also cried for three days straight afterward. Veronica had told Lance that she and Pidge had actually seen him when out at lunch kissing another girl. He, Matt, Hunk, and Keith had snuck over to the guy’s apartment and put dead fish in all of his air vents. They’d seen him pull into the parking lot as they were headed out and had decided to let the air out of his tires to boot.
“Yeah,” Pidge took a long drink of her beer, “then James punched him in the face.” She smiled as if looking fondly back on the memory.
“James Griffin?” Lance asked, “Since when is he invited to Christmas?” James, the M.F.E. pilot had been Pidge’s second boyfriend. Before the two of them had started dating, James and Lance had gotten along fine. They’d grabbed drinks a couple of times and always been civil. When he had asked out Pidge, Lance had suddenly realized that the most defining feature of James’ personality had been his hair cut. They’d dated for over a year, but Lance had never really gotten used to the idea of them together. Something about it rubbed him the wrong way. Eventually, they’d broken up, though Pidge had refused to tell anyone why. He’d known they stayed friends afterward, but he didn’t realize that anyone wanted their exes of any kind to show up to Christmas.
“He was never uninvited to Christmas, Lance,” Pidge said dryly, “As a matter of fact, neither were you.”
“I wanted to be with my family,” Lance told her with a shrug.
“Yeah, well, we used to be your family too,” she said and drained the rest of her beer.
Ed came out then with a large plate of steak tacos in either hand. He stood behind Pidge as he placed them on the table and made several suggestive faces at Lance as he did it. When Pidge turned around and thanked him for the meal and complimented his restaurant in fluent Spanish all of the color drained from his face. He looked at Lance with a guilty expression mumbled a hasty, “ de nada, cariño ” before retreating into the kitchen.
“Did he just call me cute?” Pidge asked staring after Ed with a mildly concerned look in her face.
“What?” Lance asked before remembering that Pidge spoke Italian as her first language and Spanish as a third. “Oh no that’s more like. . .” He thought about it for a moment. “Like dear or sweetheart. Anyway, tell me more about James punching Dallas.”
“Dalton,” she corrected, rolling her eyes. She dug into her first taco and threw her head back in pleasure. “Oh my god, these are good,” She said her mouth still full.
Lance thought he was starting to realize what Hunk was talking about when he said he loved giving people food. Watching her eat he suddenly wanted to take her to all of his favorite places on the island just to see her make that face. “Anyway,” she continued between bites. “I was late to dinner because—”
“You had to work?” Lance guessed with a quirk of his eyebrow. He began eating as well, the tacos were as delicious as they always were.
“Because we had an interplanetary emergency that needed smoothing over before a second war started? Yes.” Pidge retorted. She shot him a glare over the taco in her hand that dared him to argue the importance of her job.
“ Anyway ,” she said again, “it wasn’t the first time work had called me away from something Dalton thought should have been a priority. I sat next to him at the table to eat and leaned over to give him a kiss. He leaned away from me and told me, right in front of everyone, that I was a selfish bitch, I thought I was better than everybody, and that the Galaxy Garrison was the third person in our relationship and I had to choose between him and work.”
“And you chose work?” Lance asked, and this time he didn’t fault her for it. If Dalton had really loved Pidge he’d have done anything for her. And he’d have understood how much her work meant to her and been okay with that. If Allura had still been around, Lance would have just been thankful to be in her presence for even a few minutes. He’d never have picked a fight for her being a little late to dinner.
Pidge wiped at her face with a napkin, “Actually, James punched him in the face before I could answer. But, yeah, I would have chosen work.”
Lance snorted which nearly caused beer to come out of his nose. “Serves him right. Then what happened?”
Pidge shrugged, “And then Dalton left and we finished dinner and I returned his gift the next day for store credit. I mean it stung because. . .” she trailed off and shoved another taco into her mouth.
Lance, so taken up in talking to Pidge the way he used, to had almost forgotten about the fight that they had months ago. He was sure that the things Dalton had said had echoed a few of the harsher things Lance had yelled in her face the last time they’d spoken. She had said hurtful things of her own, sure, and Lance wasn’t entirely sure he was over all of them but. . . “Pidge I—”
She waved her hand and shook her head. Swallowing before she spoke she said, “Don’t worry about it. We’d only dated like 6 months it wasn’t that big of a deal.”
“If you say so,” he said and reached into his pocket for his wallet.
“No please, let me,” Pidge said reaching into her backpack for her own wallet. “I came here without telling you and you’re letting me stay so the least I can do is buy your dinner.”
Lance couldn’t argue with that logic so he returned the wallet to his pocket. “So, has there been anyone else?” He asked as Ed came and took her credit card from her. “After Dalton, I mean.”
Pidge look startled at the question. “No, there hasn’t. How about you? Seeing anyone?” She looked as though she regretted the question the second she asked it, but it didn’t sting as much as Lance expected it to.
Eduardo returned with the check for her to sign and bid them farewell. “No, there hasn’t been anyone since. . . Since Allura.” He stuck his hands in the pockets of his shorts as he stood. “I don’t know. I guess I just think everyone gets one great love in their life and I’ve already had mine.”
At that Pidge looked up from filling out the check with an expression Lance couldn’t quite interpret, “Don’t worry,” he said quickly, “I’m sure you’ll find yours.”
Her eyes were sad when she replied, “I’m worried that I already have.”
The hour drive it took to get back to Lance’s was a fairly quiet one. He spoke only occasionally to point out landmarks and marks to Pidge along the way. He leaned toward her side of the cab and gestured to a brightly painted building with a lot of windows, “that’s the school I went to before the Garrison.”
He didn’t mention it, but as they sped by she thought she saw the words, “Lance McClain Junior High” emblazoned across the stone fence.
A few minutes later they rolled into a small town with a sign that proclaimed it the ‘Former Home of Voltron Paladin, Lance McClain’ in blue paint.
“You’re pretty popular around here,” Pidge remarked good-naturedly. Even though Lance had claimed he was going home for a normal life, it didn’t seem to be as normal as he planned.
“I grew up here,” he said by way of explanation.
Pidge wondered if the small town in rural Italy where she had spent the first several years of her life had a sign for her. She hadn’t been to visit in nearly 10 years; her family had been planning on going once her dad and Matt had returned from Kerberos. Obviously, nothing had gone as planned after that. She was hardly the most interesting thing to come out of Roswell, the town she’d been raised in most of her life and location of the headquarters for the Galaxy Garrison. All the commemorations they had were for Voltron, not her specifically. “I think it’s nice,” she told him, “that they love you.”
He kept his eyes on the road ahead, “This is the nearest town to the farm so we have to come out here ride the train.”
As if on cue the barriers lowered on the road ahead of them. Flashing red lights indicated the approach of a train. Lance slowed to a stop and clanked at his watch. “Must be the 4 pm from Varadero.”
“Varadero? That’s the beach you told me about right?”
“Yeah,” he drummed his fingers against the steering wheel as he waited for the train to pass. “My family used to go out every summer when I was a kid?”
The barriers lifted and Lance shifted back into gear easing the truck forward. “Do you make it out much now?” She asked.
He smiled a little sadly, “Not so much. No.”
When they rolled into Lance’s farm Pidge decided that farm wasn’t really the correct word for it. The word ‘farm’ conjured up, to her at least, images of a quaint house and rows of field and maybe a petting zoo assortment of animals. This was something else.
A huge sign hung over the dirt road proclaiming the place as “Arusian Farms.” A field that went on nearly as far as she could see was filled with juniberry flowers immediately to her right. She glanced out of the window on Lance’s side of the truck and spied an enormous pasture filled with horses. Past that she could make out cows and a small but. . . maybe a chicken coop?
The sudden halt of the truck startled her and she glanced around, for all of the many interesting things there were around her she did not see anything that resembled a house. Ahead of them, the road continued on weaving around a field of trees. Were they going to walk the rest of the way to wherever he actually lived? She glanced at Lance to ask and found herself screaming instead. She flung herself back against the door of the truck. He had rolled down the window and an enormous chestnut colored horse had stuck its head inside.
Lance looked amused at Pidge’s outburst. “Pidge, this is Dr. Murry,” he turned back to the horse and stroked its muzzle. “Dr. Murry this is Pidge, she’s going to stay with us for a bit.” The horse nickered as if it understood.
Pidge was too stunned to say anything. She stared for several more seconds before finally finding her voice. “Why is he, Dr. Murry? And why is he out?” She asked, not moving any closer to Lance or the animal.
“She,” Lance corrected, “Dr. Murry doesn’t believe in fences. And because it’s short for Dr. Margaret Murry-O’Keefe of course.”
The realization hit Pidge, “Oh, after the book character?”
“Yeah, A Wrinkle in Time. It was my favo—“ He paused as he looked back at her still pressed against the door of the truck. “Pidge. . . you’re not afraid of horses are you?”
“No!” She said and immediately straightened up. “I’ve just . . . never really encountered one.”
A teasing light had entered his eyes. “You are! Dr. Murry, do you hear that? She’s afraid of you! She doesn’t have to worry ‘cause you’re a big old sweetie. It’s fine, really, she thinks she’s a large dog.” He began making kissing noises at the horse as if it were a baby.
“I am not!” Pidge protested. “I’m not afraid. I’m wary!”
“So you’d get out and ride up to the house on her? It’s only about a mile.”
“Well someone has to drive the truck if we did that and. . . I just don’t know how okay!” She crossed her arms and slumped in the seat ready for his teasing.
“The great Lieutenant Commander Holt doesn’t know something. Imagine that” He said under his breath before sending Dr. Murry away. He waited till she followed the fork in the road and disappeared around the corner before starting the truck up again. “Just let me get this straight. I have seen you swing from rafters to kick bad guys in the head, you are some badass military officer, you flew a giant metal cat in space for more than 2 years and yet you’re still wary of horses? You’ve ridden a cow for Christ’s sake!”
“Hey, that was one time! And I was holding on to you and the cow was on a hoverboard – there were extenuating circumstances.”
“Horseback is a way easier than riding with 5 people on a single cow on a hoverboard.” Lance grinned, “Besides, it’s a perfectly acceptable means of transportation.”
“Yeah, I drive places, Lance.” She gave a pointed look to the dashboard of the truck, “In an electric car.”
He laughed but his voice was soft when he spoke again. “I could teach you.”
“Teach you to ride horseback. It’s fun and I could take you around the property,” He shrugged as if it wasn’t a big deal.
She really hadn’t been expecting that. She found herself saying, “Yeah . . . yeah, that sounds nice,” and turning her head so he wouldn’t see the redness that had brightened her cheeks.
Pidge was immediately distracted as the truck emerged from the copse of trees into an open area filled with buildings. There was a large house in the center with four houses of varying size on either side. The paths between all of the houses were paved and covered. The houses were all different colors with detailed archways and balconies. They were gathered around a large courtyard with flowers. Juniberries and others from different planets across the universe. In the center of it all, only slightly taller than life-size was a statue of Allura a replica of the one that stood in Altea.
“This is beautiful,” Pidge breathed as he shifted to a spot at the edge of the east most house.
Lance opened his mouth to reply but was cut off by another voice saying, “So this was the mystery airport visitor?”
The door on Pidge’s side of the truck opened and she looked to see Lance’s older brother Luis standing there. “I’m sorry my brother is so rude,” He told Pidge offering her a hand to help her from the truck. “He never opens doors for anyone.”
“Nope, never do anything for anyone,” Lance said with a pointed glance at what Pidge assumed to be Luis and Lisa’s house. Lisa had just emerged with a baby on her hip. It must have been Lance’s two-year-old niece, Maria.
Pidge accepted Luis’s help down and couldn’t help but note that Lance had lunged to grab her luggage from the trunk before Luis had the chance. “Besides, isn’t it rude to drop in unannounced? I’m not the only rude one,” Lance continued.
Luis elbowed him in the ribs and laughed at Lance’s flinch, “Don’t listen to him, he’s always grouchy these days,” He told Pidge conspiratorially. “If you need any real company we are around,” He gestured back towards his wife.
Pidge exchanged a wave and a smile with her, “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind,” She told Luis.
He gave her a quick hug and a kiss on each cheek, “The parents are out on a cruise and the twins are away at school, but we’re happy to have you here! Drop by our place any time.”
Pidge thanked him and at Lance’s behest, she followed him to the house that stood directly opposite Luis and Lisa’s. It was sizable. Definitely much bigger than Pidge’s apartment but not as big as some of the other homes surrounding the courtyard. It was sky blue featured a wraparound porch and a second story with a lot of windows. Pidge glanced over her shoulder as she entered behind Lance and could have sworn she saw Luis and Lisa share a significant look.
“This is my place,” Lance told her unnecessarily as they came into the entryway. He kicked off his shoes by the doorway and she followed suit. “I have a guest room upstairs that you can have.”
The house was stunning. Pidge’s apartment was nice too, of course. But if it hadn’t been for the windows overlooking the New Mexico landscape someone might think they were in space or on the Castle of Lions. Pidge liked it that way – it made her feel at home. Lance’s house was a more traditional type of homey. The walls were blue, because of course, they were, though not the same bright sky blue as the outside. It was more of a soft blue like the ocean on a cloudy day. The floor was done in bamboo, Pidge mentally gave him extra points for the environmentally conscious choice. A very fancy, very modern looking chandelier draped from the ceiling above her. She must have been gaping because Lance was grinning at her. “I’ll take you on a tour,” he said abandoning her bag at the foot of the stairs.
The foyer opened up into a living room that was just as nice. It had windows overlooking the courtyard and big squashy looking armchairs. She was surprised to see an entire wall dedicated to bookshelves. She moved to insect some of the titles but Lance was beckoning her on to the kitchen. “Hunk designed it,” was all he said as he led her into the brightly lit room. It was painted a cheery yellow with beautiful blue mosaic tiles. Pidge didn’t know much about kitchens but she could tell that everything in the room was top of the line. Next, they visited a screened in porch off the back of the house. It overlooked a small lake with a dock reaching out into it. In each room, he gave her some fun facts about how he picked certain things or difficulties he’d run into when they’d built it. All in all, it was pretty fascinating.
“Wow,” was all Pidge could say as they walked back into the entryway. “This is incredible, Lance!”
“But I know what your favorite will be,” He said with a teasing edge to his voice. Pidge turned to face him and saw him standing against a door under the stairs. She had assumed it’d been a broom closet.
“Who am I, Harry Potter?” she joked but he simply gave her a knowing look. He pushed the door open and gestured for her to enter. She had to stoop to make it through the slanted entryway under the stairs but the room she emerged into was a gamer’s paradise. This was the only room she’d seen in the house that had no windows. The walls were painted a deep navy and the floor was ebony stained wood. One wall was occupied by one of the largest screens Pidge had seen outside of a science lab. The other end of the room featured a desk with several monitors and a holographic keyboard that glowed red. Separating the space between the two was a series of old school style arcade games. There were bean bags scattered across the floor and a large very squashy looking leather couch. The whole room was lit by glowing LEDs that faded to a new color every several seconds.
“You like it?” Lance asked with his hands in his pockets as if he were trying to act casual.
“You are such a nerd!” Pidge shrieked and ran to expect his gaming set up. He had every gaming system that she had ever even heard of. His Game collection spanned shelves that covered nearly half the room. From the titles that she caught it was a wide variety of games both old and new. “What the hell, McClain! You’ve been holding out on me!”
“Still think you can beat me at Killbot Phantasm I?” He taunted grabbing up a controller that must have been custom because it featured little cartoon versions Voltron all over it.
“Oh please,” Pidge shot back, “I can journey to the depths of the demonsphere in my sleep.”
“Sounds like the Lieutenant Commander is scared,” He said casting his voice in a high tone as he dangled a controller in front of Pidge’s face, “of getting her ass handed to her!”
“Give me that!” She snatched the proffered green, glowing controller and vaulted over the back of the sofa in one fluid motion.
Lance just laughed and sat at the end of the sofa opposite her. He seemed to be very careful that their shoulders didn’t brush as he leaned forward and booted up the game. Several magnificent defeats later Lance thrust his arms in the air in disgust. “Say it!” Pidge demanded, falling into an old tradition when they’d played aboard the castle of lions.
Lance swore under his breath in Spanish, “Fine,” he rose to his feet with absolutely no dignity. He dropped to his knees in front of her, “Katherine Holt,” he began with a terribly executed British accent, “you are the undisputed champion of Killbot Phantasm. I have never beaten you and I never will. You are the queen – nay empress of gaming and I have no hope of surpassing you.”
Pidge sighed happily, “Music to my ears.”
She stood and extended her hand to Lance. He seemed to take it automatically, but he dropped it immediately as he stood as if her touch had burned him. Pidge chose to ignore that. “As much as I’d love to keep beating you,” She told him with a yawn. “I think I need a shower and some sleep.”
“I’ll find a game I can beat you at and then I’ll make you pay,” Lance muttered as he led the way from the room. The sun had set in the time they’d been playing and the entryway was lit only by moonlight. Pidge reached to grab her own bags as they started up the stairs but Lance beat her to it wordlessly hefting them under each arm. He opened the first door on the left with his foot, too stubborn to let her do it herself. He dumped her stuff rather unceremoniously on the bed in the center of the room. Pidge envisioned her weapon accidentally going off within her bag and tazing Lance and internally cringed.
“This alright?” he asked gesturing to the room at large. It beat any adorable bed and breakfast Pidge had ever seen. The bed was wrought iron and looked antique. It was covered with so many pillows Pidge could have buried herself in them. The walls were a soft green color and there were lacy, floral curtains hanging from the windows. The quilt on the bed looked homemade. Not that she would know. Her family members weren’t exactly “homemade” kind of people.
“Yes, it’s perfect,” She told him. She stopped him before he could turn to leave, “thank you for letting me stay.”
“Well,” he looked like he was about to say something and thought better of it. “goodnight” he walked out, shutting the door behind him.
Pidge waited to hear his footsteps retreating down the hall before she grabbed her tablet out of her backpack and flung herself across the bed. A few keystrokes had a loading screen up on the device. Hunk’s face appeared immediately as if he had been waiting for her to call. “Pidge!” He exclaimed as he saw her. “Did it work?”
Pidge laughed, “Yeah, Hunk, he picked me up from the airport.”
“And things are alright?”
Pidge pulled the scrunchy from her bun and ran a nervous hand through her hair, “It was tense at first. He kept calling me Lieutenant Commander Holt.”
“Oh man, that is not a good sign,” Hunk told her, “Do you want me to come out there? If you guys need a buffer I can—”
“No, it’s fine,” Pidge cut him off. “I don’t want to constantly have to have a buffer between Lance and I. Besides after a while things were pretty normal. We fell back into how we used to be pretty quick.”
Hunk didn’t look convinced, “I don’t think that’s a good sign either.”
“What do you mean?” asked Pidge. “That’s why I came here. I wanted us to be friends again.”
He quirked an eyebrow, “ Right, that’s why. You didn’t want to be friends again you wanted to be in his life however you could.”
“Shh!” Pidge hissed with a quick glance to the door. “He could hear you!”
“Hear me? Pidge, where are you that Lance would be able to hear me?” Hunk asked obviously confused.
She’d told Hunk she’d been planning on staying with Lance if he’s let her so Pidge wasn’t sure why Hunk looked so dumbfounded, “Um, I’m in his guest room?”
“His guest room ?” Hunk repeated, the confused expression not leaving his face. “Pidge every time I’ve been down there, even just dropping in. I’ve stayed in a guest house .”
“Is this some weird way for you to point out that he likes you better than me because I thought we established—”
“No Pidge,” he interrupted, “only 4 of those houses belong to anyone. The other four are for guests if there’s not anyone there why did he put you right down the hall from him when you could have had an entire house.”
Pidge thought back to the strange look she’d seen Luis and Lisa exchanging as Lance had brought her into his house. “I don’t know maybe he doesn’t trust me and wants me sticking close?”
Hunk rolled his eyes at her, “Oh, he doesn’t trust you with what? His fancy guest linens? I’m telling you that this has to mean something.”
“I don’t know, Hunk. . .”
“Well, are you getting anywhere with him?” He asked, “He might be more receptive than you think to hearing how you feel.”
“Yeah, well you didn’t hear him tonight at dinner,” Pidge shrugged and rolled over onto her back. She held the tablet out over her head staring up at the rattan ceiling fan beyond.
“Well? What’d he say?”
“That he believes that each person only gets one love their whole life and he’s already had his,” her voice wavered slightly now that she was recounting to her friend.
“That’s bullshit!” Hunk exclaimed with more vehemence than Pidge expected. He looked a little surprised at his own outburst and softened his voice. “I’m sorry but I am positive that is just an excuse to mope the rest of his life.”
“I don’t know, Hunk,” Pidge said quietly, “Maybe Allura was the only one for him.”
“I have a lot of commentary I’m going to withhold on that topic.” He said. He fumbled with his screen a bit as if he were moving around, “That’s it I’m going down there.”
“Hunk, no you can’t fix this for me.”
“I’ll be damned if I can’t!” He said. “You can come pick me up at the airport, I’ll take the first flight out.”
“Hunk, Lance and I are both adults. We can work out our issues. I know my feelings for Lance are. . . complicated. But I’d never do anything to hurt Allura’s memory or hurt Lance. He doesn’t have to love me back. I just want to be best friends again.”
Hunk pursed his lips but Pidge saw that he had sat back down. “Fine. But you tell me if you need me and I will be right there.”
Pidge chuckled at that, “I know you will, buddy.”
“Be careful. I know you love him but I don’t want to see you hurt again,” He sighed and ran a hand over your face. “I just wish. . .”
“That things were different? Yeah. I think we all wish that.”
Pidge and Hunk exchanged their goodnights and ended the call. She had wanted to get in the shower but a glance at the clock on the nightstand informed her that it was nearly midnight. She was exhausted after the eventful day and slid between the covers in the clothes she’d been wearing. She could always get up early and get cleaned up.
She drifted off to sleep nearly immediately. Yet the rest was not so peaceful as she might have hoped. As she entered the world of dreams, walking across a field of juniberries she heard a voice call her name. She turned to find Allura, dressed all in white, waiting for her.
Chapter 4: Visits and Dreams
Chapter by guaiya (asut_guaiya)
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
When the dreams started, Pidge had told no one but her therapist. Who else would take her dead friend appearing to her in dreams in stride? Who else could tell her why the princess and showed up in the dream, insisting that she was speaking from her new home within the cosmos? Something was obviously off with Pidge’s psyche. Yet when Allura’s visage refused to stop appearing, it was Dr. Ngyuen, the most awarded psychotherapist in North America, who had suggested that perhaps it was real.
Pidge had told her that of course, it wasn’t real. Of course, dead girls couldn’t speak in dreams from beyond the grave. They were both women of science, surely they could agree on that. Dr. Ngyuen had merely replied that 4 years ago scientists around the world had agreed that girls couldn’t correct timelines by merging their essence with them. And 4 years before that they had agreed that everyone on the Kerberos mission was dead and those kids who went missing from the Galaxy Garrison were no big deal. Pidge couldn’t argue with that logic so she’d decided to accept Allura’s nightly presence.
She had gotten rather used to the princess’s comings and goings in her dreams. If she was being honest, she had really missed talking with her. Pidge turned to face Allura, who was just as radiant as she had ever been all bedecked in white. “It’s good to see you, Pidge,” she said with a warm smile. She waved her hand and two chairs appeared, both women sat.
Pidge had always looked at Allura as something of an older sister. Looking at her now and being physically 3 years older while Allura remained the same made Pidge feel strange. “I did it,” said, mostly to fill the silence, “I’m in Cuba.”
“I know,” Allura replied. Of course, she knew. She was practically a goddess.
“He isn’t the same since you. . . left.” Pidge admitted. “He’s so serious, he’s not the same goofball, y’know?”
Allura looked thoughtful for a moment. “Would you have told me?” She asked, leaning forward earnestly in her chair. “If it were different would you have told me you were in love with him?”
Allura, who had seen all timelines play out at once, must have known the true answer but her face revealed nothing.
Pidge heaved a sigh and pushed her hair back from her face, “I don’t know. Maybe? But. . . probably not.”
Allura nodded as if that checked out with her many timelines, “Why not?”
“I don’t know. Because that’s what you do when your friend has a boyfriend. Even if you had broken up it would be weird for me to try anything. I wouldn’t risk my friendship with you over that.” Pidge removed her glasses, which somehow always followed her into this dreamland whether she was wearing them or not, and rubbed at her eyes. “I almost told you, when you asked me about the date. I knew that if I told you you would call off the date. I was even pretty sure that you wouldn’t have counted it that big of a loss at the time.”
Allura didn’t correct that statement. She simply gestured for Pidge to keep going. “I didn’t tell you because he was in love with you. And even if you weren’t 100% in love with him I wanted both of you to be happy.”
“But he isn’t happy,” Allura said. Pidge wasn’t sure whether it was a question. “And you aren’t happy,” she added as if the two things were directly correlated.
“It’s not like I have the power to make him happy. All he wants is still you and even if he didn’t I still feel like I’m conniving to steal your boyfriend.”
“He isn’t my boyfriend, Pidge,” Allura said with a bit of a laugh. Pidge liked it when Allura smiled and laughed. It was when she seamed most like the Allura that she remembered.
“Try telling him that,” Pidge muttered in reply. She pulled her knees up to her chest and rested her head on him. “It’s not like being with him is the end all be all for my happiness. I love my life. . . it’s just. . .”
“That you’d love it more if he were in it.” Allura finished the thought. “Pidge, I’ve seen universes play out in their entirety. I can tell you a hundred ways what you eat for breakfast in the morning will affect the outcome. I know I’m not exactly the same girl I was, but I still care about you.”
“What should I eat for breakfast then?” Pidge joked, her voice a little weak.
“The eggs,” Allura replied with a knowing glint in her eye. Pidge new better than to ask. Allura already knew everything that would and could happen in this universe, but asking her the outcomes of decisions had never gotten Pidge anywhere. Allura could only be relied on for cryptic advice now that she was a god. “What I’m trying to say is, the universes where I stayed on Earth and Lance and I stayed together were some of the unhappiest for everybody.”
Pidge leaned forward in her seat, unable to help herself, “what do you mean?”
Allura sighed, “It’s a long story. Perhaps I will show it to you another time if you need the incentive.”
“What do you—”
“Do you believe in soulmates?” Allura cut off Pidge’s question with one of her own.
Pidge scoffed immediately, “Of course not!” Allura merely raised her eyebrows in question so she pressed on, “It’s statistically improbable. The universe is too vast. Not only is it unlikely each person is destined for one other, but what if they were? What if my soulmate is on another planet, or was born a thousand years before or after me? There are too many variables”
“So Lance isn’t your soulmate?” She asked simply.
Pidge sputtered at that, “I. . . Uh— No! He doesn’t even like me that way. There’s such a thing as compatibility just not as soul mates.”
“So why did you break up with James? You two were certainly compatible.” Allura had the look of a chess master that knew she was poised to win.
“Is it?” Allura folded her hands gently across her knees.
“Are you just here to taunt me?” Pidge asked grumpily, folding her arms across her chest in a huff.
“No,” said Allura with the patience of a teacher speaking to a young child, “I’m here because this is the universe most of my essence is from. It’s the timeline I care the most about. I want to see it end happily.”
“Then why don’t you talk to Lance too? Why did I have to come all the way to Cuba to get him to branch out more? Why couldn’t you just poof into his dreams and tell him its time to stop grieving and start living up to his potential?”
“What do you think would happen if I did that, Pidge?” Allura's face lost a little of its serenity, turning sad. “If Lance knew I still existed in some sense or the other? If he knew he could speak to me?”
Pidge did know. The same thing she would do if Lance were the one who had left. She would never let him go. Allura saw the realization in her face and continued, “I wish I could share with you everything I know, but all I can tell you is that you are the only one who can fix this now.”
Before Pidge could respond, Allura disappeared and shortly after her dreams faded to darkness.
Lance didn’t sleep well. His mind had just refused to shut off. He was used to nights like this. After playing on his phone and tossing and turning for a couple of hours, he finally gave up. Pidge’s presence loomed in the house. He was so used to being alone that even though her bedroom door was shut as he tiptoed past everything about the house felt acutely different. He couldn’t decide if he liked it or not.
It was too easy — falling into old routines with her. But though that easiness was still there, though it was easy to imagine that they were best friends now the way that they were back then, there was a tension there too. He couldn’t erase their fight, or the awful things they both had said, or the fact that they had spent nearly a year without each other. He reached the kitchen and put water in the kettle for a cup of tea. He told himself that the extra water he poured was in case he wanted a second cup, not in case the house’s other occupant decided to wake up too. There had been many nights that neither of them could sleep aboard the Castle of Lions. They’d find each other, almost as if pulled by threads, and spend the night talking until they could finally fall asleep. The others had teased them at first, but eventually, it became commonplace to find Pidge and Lance asleep at the dining room table or on the sofa, never far apart, half-finished cups of tea that had grown cold in the night never far apart.
The kettle began whistling and Lance pulled it from the stove mechanically. He took his favorite mug down from the cabinet and, after a moment's hesitation, pulled out a second one as well. He prepared both cups of tea and took a seat a seat at the island waiting for the tea to cool. The second cup taunted him as it steamed away next to him. No smiling lips to blow on it. No Pidge to tell about all of these jumbled feelings in his head.
They had learned so much about each other that way. They had talked about missing home and their families and showing each other their hometowns one day and missing the taste of peanut butter and the way no other planet’s sky looked the same way Earth’s did at sunset. They had been best friends. They had shared everything. There had been a time that Lance had been unable to imagine his life without her. Now, she was finally here visiting his home for the first time and he was drinking his tea alone. He was just as alone as ever.
It was about 3 AM when he had finished both cups of tea, the second tasting just as tepid and pathetic as he felt when he finally decided to drag himself up to bed. The trip up the stairs seemed more arduous than usual. He could still feel Pidge;’ presence. Almost as if those strings were pulling him towards her again. He paused in front of her door and then pushed inside. She looked so childlike when she was sleeping. Her hair was mussed out of its bun, her glasses tossed haphazardly on the end table and her legs were entangled in his Abuela’s homemade quilt. Her cheeks were rosy and her mouth was open in a soft snore. It didn’t seem like she had trouble sleeping anymore.
Looking at her, his heart skipped a beat in a way he didn’t quite recognize. A lump formed in his throat and he felt inexplicably warm all over. She was here. She was still his best friend. They would work their problems out even if it was hard. He wasn’t letting her go again.
Just as he turned to leave Pidge snuggled down into her mountain of pillows. He froze, unsure of what excuse he would make if she woke and saw him watching her sleep. He didn’t even know what he was doing there himself. She didn’t wake, just drew the quilt back over herself fully and murmured “Lance.”
Heat rushed to Lance’s face. Was she dreaming about him? He retreated quickly from the room on cat-soft feet. He eased the door quietly shut behind him and returned to his own room. He didn’t allow himself to think. He just slid between the covers and nestled into his pillows. And then, just to try it, he whispered “Pidge.” He liked the way her name felt on his lips after so long. He fell asleep and dreamed of sleepless nights in space.
Wow, I haven't updated in a while. I haven't forgotten I promise! Please comment what you think! It definitely helps me find motivation to update!