This isn’t the first time she’s fallen asleep while working. Tinkering until she passes out has pretty much become the norm, be it on her computer, or on her lion, or on any manner of alien tech she can get her hands on. It makes for a phenomenal (and oftentimes necessary) distraction.
Pidge isn’t sure what wakes her from exhaustion-fueled unconsciousness this time, but she can tell almost instantly that it’s early morning. Possibly three or four am if they were going off Earth hours. The lights around her makeshift workstation are glowing a soft blue, everything silent except the quiet hum of alien machinery. She barely remembers what she’d been working on last; nine projects going on at once, last she checked. So, with a groan and a stretch, she leaves everything exactly where it is and get to her feet.
The halls back to her room are just as quiet, the sound of her footsteps echoing loudly against alien metal. She’s got maybe three more hours before everyone will be up for training. She could probably do with some slightly more comfortable sleep. Though the thought of her bed is both inviting and unbearable.
Passing out rarely leads to dreams, at least not ones that are coherent. Going to sleep willingly, on the other hand-
A noise she’s certain she didn’t make echoes along the hallway in front of her. Pidge pulls to a stop instantly, ears poised, listening. For a long, drawn out moment, her breath held tight in her chest, nothing happens. She exhales on a sigh, running a hand through her tangled mess of hair. As much as she appreciates her ability to pass out wherever her body and mind decide to shut down, it doesn’t exactly make for a healthy amount of rest. She probably just imagined-
Again, the sound brings her thought to an abrupt halt, a chill running down Pidge’s spine. It was distant and soft, but strangled. Pained. Cautiously, Pidge takes a step forward, waiting for it to happen again. When it does, two things become instantly clear.
The noise is coming from Shiro’s room.
He sounds like he’s in trouble.
Pidge’s first theory: Intruder. Maybe a Galra spy managed to sneak aboard the castle, break into Shiro’s room, and attack him in his sleep. But the sounds Shiro is making are quieter, like he’s attempting to hold them in and failing. Which leads to her second theory: Nightmare. Pidge knows what those sound like; she’d stumbled upon her mother’s more often than not in those first weeks after the “Failed Kerberos Mission” aired on TV.
But more than that, Pidge knows what those feel like. She’d held it together well enough in front of her mother, used sneaking into the Garrison for information as her first string of necessary distractions, but sleep always came. And the nightmares with it. Which is why she started tinkering, why she started keeping herself awake until her brain forcefully shut itself down. Which is why, despite the fact that Shiro probably wouldn’t want her to know, definitely wouldn’t want her to see, Pidge finds herself walking on autopilot up to his room.
The noises from before become slightly louder, slightly more recognizable the closer she gets. Whimpers, grunts, soft words that she can’t quite make out but can understand the plea behind. About two feet away, she sees his door, slightly ajar, and inches her way towards it. She can’t see inside very well, only the dim glow of the castle’s lights in the hall keeping her from walking blind. But what she can see from that angle is the edge of Shiro’s bed and the telltale movement of someone thrashing about in their sleep. She takes another step towards the door.
Pidge’s heart clenches, memories of her own nightmares creeping out from the recesses of her mind. The cold sweats, the racing pulse, the fragmented images that haunt her even after she wakes. She remembers moments of overwhelming vividness, enough to shatter the illusion of reality, moments of crying, screaming, begging for someone, anyone to pull her out of it and make it all go away. Pride didn’t matter, weakness didn’t matter. In those terrifying moments of lucidity, she would have suffered every ounce of embarrassment if only somebody would have just been there to wake her up.
If Shiro is feeling even a fragment of that fear…
Resolve strengthened, Pidge inches inside Shiro’s room, leaving the door ajar and letting the hall’s blue light guide her to his bed. Not that it’s difficult to find, Shiro’s pained mumbles luring her easily to his side.
Once her eyes adjust to the new level of darkness, the sight is even more distressing. Shiro’s face is pinched tight, teeth clenched, his chest heaving with labored breaths. His good hand, his human hand, is gripping at the pillow by his head while the other, all Galra tech and painful memories, is clenching and unclenching repeatedly at his side. Pidge watches as his legs twitch, one knee bending as if in preparation to kick. In fact, his whole body looks poised for attack, which doesn’t surprise her as much as break her heart.
Not quite sure how to proceed, Pidge reaches a hand out in his direction and pauses. She doesn’t want to startle him, but she also doesn’t want him to keep torturing himself. Would calling out to him be safer? Maybe a gentle nudge? She decides on both.
“Shiro,” she whispers, probably too softly, poking at his good shoulder even softer still. He doesn’t seem to notice, shifting uncomfortably against the mattress. His sheets have fallen almost completely off his body, his shirt sticking to his chest with a fine layer of sweat. “Shiro,” Pidge repeats a little louder this time. He grunts a harsh breath through his teeth, mumbling a hiss of half formed words that sound like stop or please or no, and Pidge winces at the tortured display.
With a determined breath, Pidge places her entire hand against the juncture between his neck and shoulder, shaking him firmly. “Shiro, wake-”
She barely registers Shiro’s eyes snapping open before her whole world is spinning, her back hitting the floor with a hard thud, knocking the air from her lungs. She thinks maybe she hit her head too, but she’s too discombobulated, too terrified to tell. What she does notice, is Shiro’s weight against her chest, strong legs pinning hers down, paralyzing the parts of her not already frozen solid with fear. His human hand is wrapped around her throat, not tight enough to cut off her air supply, but enough to make swallowing almost impossible.
On top of all of this, however, what Pidge finds herself unable to pull her wide and panicked gaze from, is Shiro’s other arm, Galra machinery buzzing to life in front of her face with an eerie, purple glow.
“Sh-Shiro,” Pidge squeaks, but in the brightening light of his cyborg prosthetic, she can see that his eyes are glazed over, darting about in his own panic. A sense of fight or flight settles in past the initial shock of Shiro’s attack, and Pidge kicks at his legs. This seems to get his attention, his eyes latching onto her face with a growl. His hand tightens around her throat and for the first time in her fifteen years, for the first time in the months since meeting the rest of her team and forming Voltron and fighting fucking aliens, Pidge actually fears for her life.
“Shiro, it’s me,” she chokes out, clawing at the grip around her throat with both hands. “Shiro, s-stop!”
Kicking doesn’t seem to be working, and Shiro isn’t looking at her anymore, mouth set in a snarl and eyes downcast, as if he’s still not quite here, still fighting something only he can see. The grip around her neck tightens just enough that she can’t breathe at all, his Galra prosthetic raising over her head for some kind of strike, and her panic reaches a boiling point.
With all the force she can muster, she removes one hand from Shiro’s grip and rakes her nails down the side of his face, a gasp of pain and surprise and something possibly resembling cognizance passing between his lips, his grip to loosening.
“Get off me!” She screams the moment she has the air to do so.
Shiro jerks away from her as if burned, the purple glow of Galra tech fizzling out, leaving an afterimage of Shiro’s wide set gaze behind Pidge’s eyes.
“P-Pidge?” Shiro’s voice whispers, filled with his own shock, and even though she can’t quite see it, she can feel him reaching towards her.
With the adrenaline still coursing through her veins, and in the sudden onslaught of renewed darkness, Pidge can’t help but scramble away from him, putting as much space between them as the room will allow. Her back hits something solid and her heart leaps into her throat, especially when she hears movement in front of her, the sound of Shiro getting to his feet.
She trusts Shiro, she does. He saved her brother, he treats her like family, they’re friends. But right now, the phantom weight of his hand on her throat still fresh in her mind, she doesn’t feel like a friend. She feels like prey.
The whole room is suddenly illuminated in bright, oversaturated light. Pidge blinks once in shock, covering her face with both arms.
“Pidge,” Shiro says her name again, voice soft and broken. She doesn’t need to see his face to know that it looks guilty, possibly even afraid. “Pidge, I’m so-”
His hand lightly brushes her arm and her whole body flinches, fight or flight kicking back into full gear. She nearly trips over herself jumping to her feet, recoiling from his touch ungracefully enough that she knocks multiple objects off of Shiro’s desk in her haste.
“I’m sorry!” She nearly shouts, inching along the perimeter of the room towards the door, instinctually keeping him in her sights. The look on his face makes something in her chest crack and shatter. His eyes are wide, expression pained, his human hand reaching towards her but frozen in place, not willing to cover the necessary distance. Like she’ll bolt if he does.
And she wants to. God, she hates herself, but she wants to. Needs to. She needs to get out of here. This was a mistake.
“I’m sorry,” she says again. “For… For waking you, I-” She can’t keep looking at his face, the guilt there gripping almost as tightly at her throat as his hand had. “I didn’t mean to, I just. You were having a nightmare and I wanted-”
“Pidge, wait,” Shiro chokes out, and when she makes the mistake of looking up at him out of reflex, his eyes are wet, brows pinched and pleading. And no, no, no, she needs to leave, because she can feel her own eyes burning, and she is not crying in front of him on top of everything else.
“It’s not your fault,” she tries, her voice bordering a bit on hysterical. Because she knows it’s not, even though it feels like it is.
Finally, after what feels like years of staring at each other in panic and guilt-filled tension, Pidge’s back inches into the empty space of the open doorway. She forces herself to step through it, quickly turning to leave.
“Katie,” Shiro practically whimpers, whimpers. It’s that more than her given name that gives Pidge pause, forcing her to look back over her shoulder.
They lock eyes again, hers still a bit frightened, his bordering on grief stricken.
It takes a long moment, possibly many, but eventually, Shiro runs a hand over his face, his sigh trembling and weak. Both his arms fall limp to his sides.
“I’m sorry,” he says to the floor.
And when he looks back at her, eyes waiting for acceptance or condemnation, all Pidge can manage is a hastily repeated, “It wasn’t your fault,” before escaping from the room.
Her words make neither of them feel better about it.
“Goodness, Shiro, what happened to your face?” Allura gasps in expected concern the following morning.
Shiro tenses, reaching up towards where four definitive marks run along his cheekbone. He winces when skin touches broken skin, smiling nervously in attempt to shrug it off. “Probably just scratched myself in my sleep,” he says. But nobody looks convinced.
Pidge waits the allotted amount of time necessary to not look suspicious and then makes her escape.
No one follows her.
The next few days are unsurprisingly tense, and by the end of the week, everyone seems to have noticed. There are only so many times Pidge can opt for individual training (sometimes skipping it all together in order to, “upgrade the lions’ defense systems” or, “recalibrate some Galra-inspired design data”) without raising any attention. Add Shiro’s sudden desire to log even more hours into the training deck than Keith, and it’s not difficult to see where the tension manifests.
“What’s going on between you two?” Lance asks one day, paradigm of subtly that he is.
“Nothing,” Pidge shrugs, keeping her eyes locked on the computer in front of her. Her list of projects has grown from nine to fifteen. She tries not to think of why.
“Bullshit,” Keith spits, walking up behind her. She feels her shoulders rise slightly against the anticipated onslaught, but her fingers keep typing, feigning indifference.
“Keith,” Hunk tries to placate, an ever-present comfort in Pidge’s life, but Keith is having none of it.
“No,” Keith hisses, and a sound behind her makes Pidge think that Hunk was holding Keith back, a rustle and a grunt and suddenly Keith is in front of her, pushing her laptop closed.
She looks up at him with a glare. “You’re lucky I installed a failsafe that constantly saves and updates my work,” she huffs, reopening her laptop only to have Keith shut it again, nearly catching her fingers.
“Hey, Keith,” Lance sighs. “Come on, man.” But Keith isn’t listening, focus entirely in Pidge.
“Because of whatever the hell you did to Shiro, we barely managed to form Voltron yesterday.”
“What I did?” Pidge scoffs before she can stop herself. She shakes her head and gets to her feet before she gets baited into continuing that line of thought. This isn’t a conversation Shiro would want her to have, and as much as it still hurts to think about, she would never out him like that. “Just stay out of it, alright?” She bites back, swiping up her laptop and leaving the room before any of them can get another word in.
It doesn’t take long for one of them to follow behind her, though. She expects it to be Hunk. Out of all of them, he usually plays therapist more often than not. If someone is having a rough day, Hunk is there to talk or listen or make a comforting non-goo-related snack. She doesn’t know if she’s all that eager to deal with that right now, but the idea alone is nice.
It’s not Hunk that finds her in Green’s hanger a few minutes later, however.
Lance clears his throat. Pidge ignores him, working on attaching the wires to the console along Green’s back right paw. She’s already done plenty of adjustments in the last few days, but maybe she could work on adding some kind of long range, Galra-specific tracker into her mainframe.
“Hey,” Lance keeps trying, clearly not taking the hint. So Pidge sighs, loud and overly dramatic.
“I told you I don’t want to talk about it.”
“I know, I know,” Lance sidles up next to her, hands in his pockets. “I just wanted to say sorry about Keith.”
“You his keeper now?” Pidge snorts, and she knows it sounds bitter and childish, but she can’t help herself. It feels like her hackles have been raised all week.
“Wha-? No!” Lance balks, taking a step back, and all Pidge needs is the sound of his voice to know that he’s probably blushing. Paradigm of subtlety, once again. “All I’m saying is,” Lance attempts to recover, even though there’s a defensiveness in his tone that wasn’t there before. “Keith was out of line. And I’m sorry.” A moment of silence lingers between them before he adds, “But even though he was being an asshole about it… He does kind of have a point.”
Pidge groans, the sound near theatrical in its teenage reluctance. She even throws in a dramatic gesture, arms rising in exasperation before falling back to her sides with a definitive thwack. When she looks over at Lance, it’s with utter contempt. “I’m fine. Shiro and I are fine. Everything is fine.”
Lance looks at her for a moment, eyebrow raised, and then crosses his arms over his chest, obviously unconvinced. “Yeah. Uh huh.”
“Seriously,” Pidge rolls her eyes, reattaching the console panel to the back of Green’s paw and taking a step forward, her complete and total focus on Lance, just like he wanted. “Thank you for the concern, but it’s misdirected and unnecessary.”
“Something’s wrong,” Lance frowns. “Everyone can tell.”
“The only thing that’s wrong, is everyone’s assumptions,” Pidge counters, walking past Lance with a less than gentle nudge against his shoulder. “So if you would kindly stop making an ass out of you and me, I’d greatly appreciate it.” For good measure, as she exits the hanger she adds, “I’m sure Shiro would appreciate it too.”
Considering that he doesn’t follow her this time, Lance apparently doesn’t have the will to argue that one.
The thing is, Voltron doesn’t function well the longer its Paladins are out of sync. It barely takes a day and a half after Lance’s confrontation with Pidge before things go to shit.
“Alright,” Keith storms into the communal area in a huff after everyone has returned their lions to their hangers. He even goes out of his way to remove his helmet and toss it rather dramatically to the floor. But as melodramatic as it seems, Pidge can’t fight back a genuine wince. She was there for that complete clusterfuck of an attempt to form Voltron. She knows it’s her fault. But when Keith’s eyes land on her, she can’t help the way her mouth stays firmly shut. “Enough is enough,” Keith hisses through clenched teeth, walking right up to her and practically spitting in her face. “Whatever the fuck is going on with-”
“Keith,” Shiro barks in the same tone of voice he uses when commanding them all on the battlefield. Everyone goes unnervingly silent, his next words practically echoing between them. “It wasn’t her fault.”
Be it Pavlovian response or respect, Keith straightens away from her instantly. Pidge tries not to be too obvious about the relieved breath she lets out in response.
“Then whose fault was it, yours?” Keith scoffs, looking over at Shiro as if the very thought is absurd. Shiro is quiet for a moment, stern and unflinching. And eventually conflicted.
A sigh passes between his lips before he ultimately replies, “Yes.”
All eyes shift from Pidge to him, and for some reason, Pidge’s heart jumps into her throat. They can’t know. They can’t.
“What are you talking about?” Keith asks him, everyone waiting for a response, and a desperate panic grips at Pidge’s chest.
Think of something, it says. Do something. Say. Something.
“Look,” Shiro sighs again, removing his helmet and running a hand over his face. “I-”
“Shiro,” Pidge cuts him off, blurting out his name with far more squeak than she would have liked. She clears her throat before trying again, knowing that no matter what she says, she’s already condemned herself. But they can’t know about this. They just can’t. “Will you, um,” she starts, taking off her own helmet and putting on her glasses, ignoring how shaky her hand is. “Will you come with me for a second? If that’s okay?”
“Uh,” Shiro blinks, the same surprise written on his face as everyone else’s. Good. Let them focus back on her. “Sure,” Shiro says, shrugging away everyone’s confusion as he heads in her direction. She nods, turning on her heel and walking much too quickly from the room, taking solace in the sound of him following not too far behind.
When they get two hallways away, Pidge rounds on him.
“You were just going to tell them?” Pidge hisses at him, keeping her voice low despite the distance she’s put between them and the rest of the team. Shiro takes a step back, just as surprised now as he was before.
“I… Yes?” He starts. “They need to know why there’s been a discord between us.”
Pidge can’t hold in her groan, turning away from him for a second before turning right back, staring him in the face. “No. They don’t.”
Shiro frowns, still confused, and possibly even a little disappointed. “Pidge…” He tries, but she takes another step towards him, the complete invasion of his personal space bringing him up short.
“They can’t know,” she clarifies. “Don’t you get it? Everything is still too… too fragile. You’re…” She pauses, willing herself to make the next admission with confidence instead of embarrassment. “You’re too important.”
Honestly, she doesn’t know how else to explain it. Shiro is human, everyone knows that. And it would come as no surprise to anyone that their leader has been traumatized by his experiences with the Galra. But the idea of the Head of Voltron being above all that, stronger than all that, like he might somehow, impossibly, have no weaknesses… Sometimes it feels like that’s one of the only things holding them all together. Shiro’s unwavering strength. And even though Pidge knows it’s not true, even though she’s seen first hand that it isn’t, she couldn’t let him put it into words. It would make it too real. It would make it too true.
And it would make it seem like what happened all those nights ago was only the first of many, many breakdowns.
A hand is suddenly on her shoulder, and while she still startles, the need to recoil isn’t there. In fact, the touch is comforting. Grounding. When she looks up at him, Shiro is smiling, albeit sadly.
“I did a terrible thing to you, Katie,” he says, and the sincerity alone is enough for Pidge’s throat to tighten uncomfortably. “To say that I wasn’t in my right mind is no excuse, but just know. I would never, never intentionally hurt you. And I can never apologize enough for what I put you through.”
“I have them too,” Pidge hears herself choke out on half second delay, the words completely involuntary, begging for release. Shiro cocks his head to the side and drops his hand from her shoulder, waiting for her to explain. “The nightmares. I… I have them too.” She feels her face heat as she looks away, then back. “So I get it.”
For a second, Shiro looks surprised. Then guilt bleeds into his expression. “Kerberos,” he says, and all Pidge can manage is a tight affirming nod. “I can’t begin to imagine what you and your mother-” he starts to say, but Pidge abruptly shakes her head, cutting him off at the pass.
“I had all kinds of nightmares at first,” she explains. “Weird, vivid messes. Like things that didn’t make any sense.” She runs a hand along the back of her neck in frustration. “I mean, logically I knew they were stress dreams, but it didn’t make them any more bearable, you know?” Shiro nods, and somehow, that gives Pidge the push she needs to go on.
“They weren’t even in my dreams at first,” she admits. “I’d dream about school or birthday parties or Christmas, and something would always be going wrong. Something that I could fix, if only I knew where to start. But I never had enough data. I was always missing something.” The words get stuck in her throat, but she forces them out anyway. “Then I started sneaking into the Garrison.” Pidge leans heavily against the wall, frowning at herself. “I don’t know why I started dreaming about them after that, but I did. Every night. Sometimes it was that TV broadcast, sometimes it was their ship crashing into the lot behind our house. Either way, my dreams went from vivid messes to fucked up nightmares real fast.” Her last words are barely a whisper. “I just kept losing them over and over again.”
The weight of her admission settles heavily between them, and after a moment, Shiro leans against the wall at her side.
“We’ve both suffered far more than anyone should have to,” he says, glancing down at her with that same sad smile. “Haven’t we.”
Pidge can’t help but blink up at him in surprise. For him to rank his own suffering with hers just seems wrong. But also very, very kind.
In the silence that passes between them after that, comfortable but fragile, Pidge feels her next words bubble to life at the back of her throat. She didn’t realize this was something she needed to know, but suddenly she does.
“Shiro,” she starts, hesitant. When he glances at her out of the corner of his eye, she has to look away. “Shiro, what did you see when you were…? When you…?” She doesn’t finish. She can’t, really. But thankfully, she doesn’t seem to need to.
“Event though my memory is still… Empty in places,” Shiro answers. “Sometimes I can’t help thinking about all the horrible things I do remember. Not just things I’d seen or things they’d put me through, but… But things I’ve done. Things I can never take back.” Here, he looks down at her again, an even deeper sadness in his eyes. “Like hurting your brother.”
Pidge’s heart clenches at the secondhand memory. “You did that to save him.”
“I know,” Shiro says, a breathy laugh escaping him that sounds hallow and guilty. “But I still hurt him. And lost them both. And that’ll stick with me for the rest of my life.”
He pauses long enough after that that Pidge starts to think he’s done talking. He hasn’t answered her question yet, not really, but she doesn’t want to push it. Thankfully, Shiro runs a hand over his face then, taking a breath to continue.
“I’ve escaped from that prison in my nightmares more times than I can count,” he says. “It’s always the same, like a flashback, sometimes so vivid that it’s hard to convince myself it’s not real.” Pidge knows instantly what he means, a chill running down her spine. “But the worst nightmares, like the one you walked in on…? Those are the ones where I fail.” This time, when he runs a hand over his face again, even Pidge can tell that it’s trembling. “Sometimes I don’t even get halfway out, sometimes I make it all the way to the ship, but in the end, I wind up being dragged back to that god damn cell, kicking and screaming the whole way there.”
The look in his eyes is distant, face pinched in so much fear and pain and overwhelming frustration that it’s hard for Pidge to look at him. But she does, she owes him that much.
“It all feels just as real as it did then,” Shiro goes on after a moment, his focus distant, trapped in the memory. “Real enough that it’s hard to believe I’m not still there sometimes. That Voltron and our team and the Princess… That none of it happened. That I never made it out.”
She can hear an edge of panic creeping into those last words, and Pidge rushes to cut him off before it gets worse. She’s heard enough. She’s made him talk about it enough. “You did though,” she says, and he startles a bit, as if he’d forgotten she was there. When he looks down at her in surprise, she makes sure to look confident, to sound even more so. “You escaped and we found you and Lance nearly killed us all flying Blue back to the castle. That happened. That was real.”
“Pidge…” Her name leaves him on a breath, like it was involuntary.
“Nightmares are just that. Nightmares.” She goes on. “And they suck and they’re scary as shit sometimes, but they’re not real. And I know I’m not one to talk, considering I’ll choose working in the hanger till I pass out over actually attempting to go to sleep, but that doesn’t make it any less true.” Shiro’s still staring at her in something akin to surprise, and she feels a blush return to her cheeks, her voice loosing some of its steam.
“Look, Shiro,” she says, glancing away. “I’m sorry I freaked out on you. And avoided you. And made it difficult for all of us to form Voltron. And I’m sorry if I made it seem like I blamed you for it, because I don’t. What happened back there wasn’t your fault. I remember mom waking me up from a nightmare once and I kicked her in the stomach. So, we don’t really… We don’t really have control of ourselves when part of us is still stuck in it, you know?” She knows she’s rambling, but suddenly she can’t stop. “I guess I’m just… I don’t know, I guess I’m just trying to say that it’s all right. And I don’t blame you. Even though I already said that, but it deserves repeating. Because I understand why it happened. And I should have been there for you. I shouldn’t have run away. So I’m sorry.”
The last apology leaves her in a rush, hanging in the air between them long enough that she starts to feel her blush darken, her heart start racing. Was it too much? It was probably too much.
Another soft laugh escapes Shiro, and this time, the sincerity behind it was shocking enough to pull Pidge’s attention back to his face. He’s looking down at her again, his smile still sad, but less so. Fond even. “You’ve really grown up a lot, haven’t you?”
When she looks away again, her cheeks darken for a completely different reason. “Of course I have,” she huffs, and Shiro laughs again, louder this time.
“Thank you, Katie,” he says, voice still tinged in that same laughter. A strong, human hand is suddenly ruffling her hair, and everything feels safe for a moment. “Thank you for talking with me.”
She nods, allowing herself her own soft smile. “I’m sorry it took me so long.”
Things go back to normal after that. Voltron forms as easily as ever, the banter between the group increases, and all suspicion linking Shiro to Pidge evaporates as quickly as it had come. Pidge suspects that the group might have followed them to eavesdrop, but nobody brings it up and the morale doesn’t change, so she decides it’s not worth it to pry.
Everything is back as it should be. As least for a while.
The knowledge that her father and brother are probably alive out there somewhere has lessened the occurrence of her own nightmares considerably, that hallow grief replaced with burning determination both in sleep and out of it. But some nights Pidge isn’t so lucky.
The images aren’t vivid this time, but the intent behind them is irrefutable. Galra ship, quiet hallway, empty prison cell. Running, searching, finding. Zarkon standing faceless and menacing, her brother’s neck in one firm grip, her father’s in the other. Her voice screaming, screaming, Let them go! Please let them go! A laugh, a crunch, the ground giving way beneath their feet. She gets there too late, too late, too late.
Pidge doesn’t just jerk into consciousness, she flails into it, scrambling out of bed and to her feet. Her heart is pounding in her ears and her eyes are burning and her throat is raw like she’d really been screaming and she needs to calm down. She knows she needs to calm down. But it’s been a while and the nightmare is too fresh and she hasn’t had to combat this in a while so she’s out of practice and- And she takes a breath, pacing from one end of her room to the other. She does it again. Again. Again. She can still hear Zarkon’s laughter ringing in her ears, overwhelming her family’s screams. But she can hear those too. She can hear them getting quieter and more strangled the more Zarkon tightens his grip and-
Pidge groans, covering her face with both hands. They’re shaking worse than they have in a long time, and in the confines of her palms, she can feel just how harsh her panting breaths really are. She’s practically hyperventilating. She needs to calm down. Why can’t she calm down?
In the end, she’s not really sure why she does it. In fact, she barely registers making the decision to do so. But suddenly, she finds herself hesitating at the threshold of Shiro’s bedroom. This is such a stupid idea, but she just… She doesn’t want to go through this alone. Not this time.
“Sh-Shiro,” Pidge whispers, taking a step inside. She hears him shift in his bed and her heart stutters for an entirely different reason, memories of the last time she was in here flooding back uninvited. She bites them down and tries again, louder than before. “Shiro.”
This time, there’s recognition, a muffled sound of waking, and Shiro sits up, rubbing at one eye with his good hand. “Pidge?” He says, surprise muffled by grogginess. But when he speaks again, he sounds wide awake. “Pidge, what are you doing in here?”
And if it felt stupid before, it feels really stupid now. “I don’t know,” she hears herself say. She should just go back to her room, deal with this in private like she always does. Why did she think coming here would be a good-?
“How bad was it?” Shiro asks all of a sudden, interrupting Pidge’s train of thought. She looks up at him, stunned, and his smile is knowing. “The nightmare.”
For a second, Pidge thinks she might cry, her throat clenching painfully. “Bad,” she chokes out.
Shiro nods, as if that’s enough, and maybe it is. Then, even more surprising still, she watches as he scoots to the far inside of his bed, close to the wall. “Do you want to…?” He offers her the empty space, an invitation, and thinks back to all those time when she’d crawled into her mother and father’s bed, or her brother’s when she felt too old for parents but not too old for comfort. When nightmares were spawned by horror movies and not from real life trauma.
Pidge glances from that empty spot in the bed, to Shiro’s door, and back, finally taking a step forward. She climbs under the sheet and curls up on the mattress, hyper aware of the feeling of another body close by. It’s something she hasn’t felt in a long, long time, she suddenly realizes.
Shiro huffs out a soft laugh and lays back down, making to roll onto his side, his back to her. Again, acting on complete autopilot, Pidge feels herself grab for his shoulder, keeping him turned in her direction. She can practically feel his confusion, but before she can overthink it, she scoots in closer, burying herself in his chest. He goes tense for a moment, probably in surprise, but she stays right where she is. He’s warm and strong and for just a moment, she feels safe, the nightmare fading into something bearable.
A strong arm wraps around her shoulders, pulling her in just that little bit closer, and Pidge is reminded of her brother, how he’d rub soothing circle into her back and say things like, “Monsters aren’t real,” and, “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.”
So when Shiro whispers the words, “It was just a dream. You’ll be alright,” into her hair, she can’t help but believe him. Her heart calms, relief and comfort and Shiro’s embrace slowing her breaths and easing the tremble from her hands.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Pidge says as she closes her eyes, the adrenaline bleeding out of her and leaving her inches from sleep. Before she succumbs to it, however, she hears Shiro whisper back, the quiet laughter in his chest vibrating against her cheek.
“I’m glad you’re here too.”