The first time is characterized with confusion and mild hysteria.
“Hey guys, have you seen Pidge?” Hunk says holding a bowl of something that cannot be identified. Between his pink oven mitts, the dish wiggles and Lance swears that it’s alive. Yet once again to Hunk’s magic, it smells delicious so it’s definitely on the menu tonight. “The table is ready, but I can’t find them anywhere.”
“Nah, did you check her room?” Lance’s hand hovers close for a taste while Keith waits to see the drama enfold.
“Gee Lance, why didn’t I think of that.” He smacks the blue paladin fingers hard enough to sting, “Knock it off. Of course, I checked her room! And the workroom with all their tech and the common areas such as the one you lazy gentlemen currently reside.”
“Hey!” The other two cry offended. “I’m nothing like him!”
“Jinx! That means you can’t talk, Mullet!” Lance declares, but apparently Keith doesn’t understand the rules of a sacred children’s game.
“I haven’t seen her either, but I know Pidge isn’t on the training deck. I just came from there.” Keith stands, “Do you want me to check if they’re with Shiro and the others?”
“Yeah, and tell them that dinner is ready too. Shay sent me a new recipe to try and I think I completely owned it.”
Grinning from the couch, Lance can’t help himself, “Oooooh, after the honeymoon, who’s going to play homemaker? You or Shay?”
“Dude, don’t make me pour this on your head.” Hunk threatens. “Now help me put the plates out.”
“Huuunk, they’re flying plates! You don’t really need me to…” Glancing at Hunk, he changes his tune. “A-alright! Wow that’s a really scary face, Hunk.”
“Thanks, I’ve been practicing.”
But Pidge isn’t with Allura, Coran or Shiro.
Resting a hand on Keith’s shoulder, Shiro thanks him for the news, “Allura is there something you can do?”
“Here, let me bring up the Castle’s surveillance system,” Allura remarks making the panels glow. “The Green Lion is still in its bay.” She flips the screen to Pidge’s room. “And it appears her bayard is still with their belongings.”
“So is her computer.” Shiro states, cupping a chin in hand, “She doesn’t go anywhere without it.”
“Thus our shortest must still be in the castle somewhere!” Coran announces, “Flip through the cameras, I bet my mustache the dear’s in a hallway somewhere.”
But each camera reveals nothing. Just blank screen after blank screen.
“Well, looks like you have to give up your mustache, Coran.” Shiro expression turns serious despite Coran’s squawk. “Everyone get a com and put dinner on hold. We need to comb the castle top to bottom.”
Getting the plan, Lance and Hunk join the search with a minor groan. They spread out, keeping their lines wide open.
The first hour is kind of amusing.
“Hey, this is kinda like Hide and Seek! I rock at this game!”
“Piiiiiiidge! Where are you?” Keith calls near the power generator.
“Pidge! Dinner’s getting cold! Shay said the taste drops with temperature!”
But after three hours, the panic sets in.
“PIDDDDGE! WHERE ARE YOU?”
“Can you hear us?”
“This isn’t funny, Pidge!”
“Now if I was a Pigeon where would I be?” Lance thinks aloud.
“She’s not a bird, Lance.” Shiro buzzes through the com.
“No! But she’s small as one. Poor puny, tiny Pidge….WAIT! Did anyone check the air ducts yet?”
“Why Lance can any of us, but Pidge, fit in the vents?” Keith jabs.
“Shut your useless face.” He snarls back.
“Guys, guys. I know it’s been a long night, but calm down.” Even through the com, Shiro can break off a fight. “Allura? Could you send the mice in there?”
“Most certainly. I’ll ask them to immediately.” Allura makes the request and off they go.
Somewhere a fan drones creating the perfect white noise. The metal is cool against their cheek and Pidge dreams. Sure she didn’t expect her teammates to share a role in them. Especially when their voices become worried. Are they fighting or something? Wait, they are, but why is Zarkon wearing a tutu?
Little paws click and scratch closer, closer, closer. A wet nose presses against her eyelid. “Chu?” A squeak asks. But Pidge just moves an arm over her head and curls tighter. “Chuuu!” At the lack of response the leader looks at another comrade and gives a command. “Chu.”
The blue mouse gives a quick chomp on the arm.
“Ow!” Pidge jerks up and forgets where they are. CLANG “Agrh!” Clutching the goose egg now forming nicely, she glares at the rodents. “What was that for?”
“Chuu.” The mouse chides.
“And what's that supposed to mean?” But now Pidge can hear the others. Hey, their voices weren’t a dream! Nice to know her subconscious isn’t is trying to ‘imply’ something. But that mean they’ve been looking for her…for who knows how long. “I’m here! I’m okay!” Pidge shouts as loud as she can, and hears what seems a positive response echoing down the shaft.
“Oh. I must have fallen sleep when I was checking the insulators. Can’t I just stay here forever?” She mutters embarrassed.
The mice somehow give a disappointing look. “I’m just saying!”
They crawl up to her neck and one pats her on the chin. Well…it’s time to face the firing squad.
“So…I might have a problem,” She begins in front of her disgruntled team. They barricade the hall. Their expressions have a hint of relief, but no mercy. Most of them have folded their arms demanding an explanation. “I can’t really sleep until I’m tired…and I never quite know when I’m tired enough to sleep? I mean I just drop off whenever it happens.”
“How did you function at the Garrison?” Lance yells. “Human beings need a decent sleep cycle Pidge!”
“Well, it’s not like the Garrison was hard, Lance.” Lance balks and when Pidge opens her mouth to say more, Hunk shoves a spoon in it.
The bite actually vibrates down her throat. “Blaaah, gross! What is that Hunk?”
“It’s Beliash. And it would have tasted good if you had it when it was still hot. Three hours ago Pidge.” Hunk thunders.
“What Hunk is trying to say is that we were worried Pidge.” Shiro tries to intervene.
“No, what I’m saying is you scared me to death and you’re gonna sit down and eat my Beliash. All of it!”
“I’m s-sorry.” Pidge stammers, “Please don’t be mad!”
Shiro sighs, “Give her a break, Hunk.” He reaches over and pulls her in a one armed hug. “We’re not mad, Pidge. It’s just…we’ve been through a lot together. Haunted ships, Galra attacks, the works. To add a missing green paladin on top of that is a bit much, you know?”
“I get it.” Pidge muffles against his chest. “I’ll try to not let it happen again.”
Shiro smiles, “That’s all I ask for.”
“Yeah, and aim for a bed next time!” Lance always has to get a word in.
“Now let me at her!” Hunk demands and swoops to squeeze both Shiro and Pidge. Which promotes Lance to join in. Who then antagonizes Keith to join. Which leads Allura and Coran to think that this is a necessary bonding ritual so they join.
“Yeah.” Pidge wheezes, “This is never happening again. Ow….my ribs.”
But it does.
The second time, Lance officially coins the term, “Pidge Hunting.” Which basically turns the situation into the weirdest Easter Egg Hunt ever. First one to find and get Pidge wins.
“That’s not the goal here, Lance.” Shiro tries as Lance and Hunk crow their victory from on top of the table. They found the unconscious Pidge underneath the sink. She regrets everything.
“Sure it is! You’re just jealous we found her first!” He points to their spoils while Hunk holds up Pidge by the armpits. He’s bellowing a version of The Circle of Life at the top of his lungs.
Which Pidge doesn’t like at all.
Which is probably why Hunk’s gaining battle scars with every warbled note.
Lionesses do have vicious claws after all.
The third time, Keith finds her crammed behind the console in the training observatory deck.
It seems there’s a theme here.
“…I won’t say anything if you put stealth mode on my Red Lion too.”
“Done. Do we have a deal?”
“We have a deal.”
Their relationship improves mightily after that.
The fourth time doesn’t count and Lance demands a rematch.
“I knew where she was, Shiro!” Lance declares, gesturing madly at Pidge. Shiro’s hand rests on Pidge’s nape, steering the groggy paladin in the right direction for bed. “So did Allura! And Hunk! We just couldn’t get her out of there!”
“Lance, this isn’t really important.” He starts to support Pidge’s weight a little more. Wow. She’s really out of it. Pidge has pulled too many all-nighters.
“Yes it is! Just because you’re the only one the Green Lion would open up to, doesn’t mean you win the Pidge Hunt!”
“Lance, I don’t care. Go back to bed.”
“B-but it’s not fair! Couldn’t you just hide her and count to-”
“No. Not doing that.”
“Go to bed, Lance.”
The fifth time Pidge actually found a bed first. It just wasn’t her own.
Shiro has very mixed feelings about this.
On one hand she didn’t squish herself in the smallest space available. That’s an improvement right? On the other hand…he does need his bed back.
Pidge exhaled softly and turned over. Shiro just covers his face with a hand and groans.
At least no one has officially screamed a Pidge Hunt over the coms yet. If Shiro gets Pidge back to her room, no one has to know she was here. It’s fortunate it’s so late too. Shiro suspects that he’s the only one still awake in the castle. Then again no one but Shiro wanders the halls at this hour. As if the action will keep away the memories, the things that still crawl inside his head.
But that must have been enough of an opening for Pidge to collapse here. Well, it’s good the room offers comfort to someone, Shiro muses. He moves towards Pidge as if to wake her, but hesitates at the dark circles tracing her eyes. Could he pick her up without disturbing her?
One way to find out.
Shiro slowly sinks one arm under her knees and one behind her shoulders. Then carefully, gently he lifts the paladin. Pidge mumbles something, a word or a name, under their breath but doesn’t stir. Eyes softening, Shiro quietly walks down the hall cradling the girl.
Reaching Pidge’s room, he enters and lightly deposits her on the bed. Pulling the covers to her chin, Shiro mentally pats himself on the back and turns to go.
He doesn’t get far.
Not with the death grip on the back of his shirt anyway.
“Shhiro?” The paladin slurs, rubbing an eye and squinting at him.
“Shhhhh, go back to sleep.” He tries to untangle her fingers, but to avail.
“You go back to sleep” She yawns back. “Whaaat are you doing up anyway?”
“Doesn’t matter. Did I wake you?”
“Hmmmm. But it’s okay, I wanted to talk with you anyway.” She wiggles closer to his back. “It was something important.”
“What is it?” He prompts. Maybe after she tells him, she’ll let go. Plus she’s barely coherent; Pidge might even forget this encounter in the morning.
“I can’t remember.” She pulls on his shirt sulkily. “It was really important.”
“I’m sure it was.” Shiro chuckles fondly.
“Stay with me until I remember?” Shiro freezes at the request, looking at the half-asleep girl.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Pidge.” But Pidge raises her eyes and breaks him.
“Please?” She whispers.
And he melts. His resolve dissolves like an ice cube in front of a laser. “Fine. But just for a little while.” He stretches out beside her, but on top of the covers. After fifteen minutes she’ll probably be dead to the world.
“Thank you. Pidge breathes. Her grip finally loosens. There’s nothing keeping Shiro from leaving now…but he did promise. He watches Pidge’s eyes seal closed and starts to count.
Ten minutes to go. They’re about a foot and a half apart. Surely there’s nothing inappropriate about this.
Five more minutes. He’s just supporting someone on his team. Everyone knows how terrible insomnia is.
Two minutes. It’s…just…nice. Comforting to have someone near. It’s a decent sleep aid. Nothing is off…here.
One minute. Soon…he’ll get up…just. Just a minute or so….
But he doesn’t.
Time stretches, breathing syncs. They rest guarding the other from worry or nightmares. For the longest time? It’s the best sleep they’re ever had.
But pray no one call a Pidge Hunt in the morning…