"Matt, get out! I have to make a wish!" Pidge hits Matt repeatedly with her pillow to usher him out the door. She's never seen a meteor like this before, and she intends to take full advantage of it, no matter how illogical science may think it is to wish on them. "Can't you go any faster?"
But Matt's resistance and playful laughter are not helping.
"Matt, get out!" She throws her pillow at his back with all the force she can manage, and he finally crosses the threshold to her room. Room clear of older brothers, she slams the door shut and immediately runs over to her window. The cool Hawaiian breeze brushes her cheeks as she kneels and leans against the windowsill, arms folded over each other as she watches the green smoke rise from the meteor's impact site all the way into the starry black night.
Pidge would love nothing more than to go explore the meteorite, but Matt would never let her go out this late at night on her own, and she certainly doesn't want him to come along.
Besides, this wish is more important. A wish on a meteor like this surely has to come true.
So she sifts carefully through her wishes, her heart's desires. Her own rocket. No more bullies. Admission to the Garrison. Her parents alive and back home with her and Matt, and that they'd never left for that stupid trip four years ago.
She settles for something realistic.
"Just...please, I need a friend. Someone nice and who wants to be my friend. Someone who'll take away some of this loneliness. Please."
She sighs after a moment, knowing that her breath is probably better spent elsewhere.
Because of the sigh, though, she doesn't hear the soft click of her door shutting. Nor does she hear the distant roar coming from the meteor.
The next day, Matt surprises Pidge: they're going to the adoption shelter so she can pick out a new pet. At first she's confused, but as Matt gently guides her towards the kennel before talking with the adoption clerk again, her nerves calm. Some unknown part of her knows that this is it. She's going to walk out of here with a cat or dog to call her own. A new friend.
But when she walks through the kennel, Pidge finds it empty. Her shoulders droop with each passing cage and she thinks that maybe, just maybe, she's destined to be alone, until the skittering of claws catches her attention.
She whips around to see something she definitely wasn't expecting: a lion cub, she thinks, but with green-and-white fur, unnaturally yellow eyes, and its front left leg replaced by a silver-and-green prosthetic. She sits there, watching her, her tail gently sweeping the floor. A beautiful creature.
"Hi," Pidge squeaks with a small wave.
Definitely unprepared for it, she hears a hello in the back of her mind, which causes her to stumble back a few steps in shock. Did the cub just...talk to her in her mind?!
She tests her theory. "Um, I'm Pidge. Do you have a name?"
I am the one known as the Green Lion.
Pidge can't believe her...mind, or any of her senses for that matter, not even when the lion trots over to her and rubs up against her leg with a welcoming purr. But by the time she walks back out of the kennel, she's a believer. Even as Matt and the clerk recoil in shock at her choice of pet, and she finds out that only she can hear the lion, she knows: her wish was granted.
After the initial doubts wear off, the clerk asks for a name.
"Her name is...Rover," Pidge declares confidently.
"That's not a cat's name," the clerk begins, only to change gears when Matt quietly warns him. "...in Italy, but here it's a great name! Very unique!"
As Pidge watches her new cat stand alert on the shelter's front porch, she hears another thought. Rover? Is that my Earth name?
Pidge does a double take. "What? Earth name?"
Rover quickly looks away. Never mind.
After what Pidge can only describe as one of the most peculiar afternoons of her life, she finds herself staring across the table at Rover, who's perched on a seat of her own, at Matt's place of work: Galactic Luaus.
"No pets at the table, Pidge," Matt reminds her for the fifth time that night as he picks up her empty dinner plate. He takes stock of the way his little sister sighs and he wants to ask what's wrong, but he can't. Not while he's working. So instead he offers, "Want some cake?"
She merely shrugs and mumbles, "Sure," but he can see the way the corner of her mouth ticks up into a grin, and he smiles as he leaves for the kitchen.
Allura, one of his coworkers (and his crush, according to his journal), then walks by, fresh off the stage after another successful fire-dancing performance. Pidge perks up and waves her over. "Hey, Allura, check it out! I got a cat!"
It takes all of one look for things to turn from an innocent introduction into a spiteful standoff. In an instant, Rover is on all fours in a ready stance, growling at Allura, who looks like she's ready to bolt but doesn't want to make a scene. In the next, Rover is pouncing on Allura and pinning her to the ground, snarling in her face as nearby tourists stand up from their seats to get a better look at the scene.
Pidge goes to pull Rover off of Allura, but before she can walk two steps, her head's filled with not one, but two sets of thoughts. She tries to hear them through all the noise of the crowd.
Tell me where–––Lion is!
–––on your life, you–––
I will find––one way or–––. ––for's on his way.
I'm not go–––let him or––––itch take you–––
It's only when Matt rushes by her that Pidge can even comprehend that Rover was talking to Allura. An eerie feeling snakes down her spine. Why can Allura converse with Rover? And what in the world are they arguing about?
Matt's quick to pry Rover off of Allura, who's hair and outfit got ruffled in the skirmish. Rover simply hisses down at her, paws swiping violently at empty air as she wiggles to break free of Matt's grip. Lotor, their boss, strides into the half-circle now surrounding the three of them and glances between Allura and Matt.
"Is that your cat, Holt?" Lotor demands.
Matt stutters, willing himself not to look at Pidge before nodding affirmatively.
Lotor closes his eyes and sighs, closing the few steps between him and arm's reach of Rover. He's much quieter now. "Leave. I don't think this is going to work out."
As Lotor returns to help Allura up, Matt's gaze falls to the ground. He sets Rover down, then turns and walks slowly past Pidge, simply beckoning her to follow with a wave of his hand. She makes sure Rover's following her, and together, they leave.
The next morning, Pidge awakes to the sound of a knock at the front door and Rover nowhere to be found. In a scramble, she grabs her glasses off of her nightstand and scurries down the stairs, pausing before she comes into view of the front door. She hears whispering and can feel the tension radiating from her cat. She's about to peek around the corner, when she hears her in her mind.
Pidge wants to question why, even though she can't. So she stays still and listens.
"-I can't keep covering for you with Iverson, Matt. I'm sorry."
"Look, just tell him I'm in between jobs right now, okay? I'll find a new one by the end of the week, by the end of today if I can help it."
"And when are you going to study in that time?"
"I've been studying. I got this, Shiro, okay? I promise."
A sigh. "You better ace that exam. Otherwise, I don't think I'll be able to stop Iverson this time. And you have 'til the end of the week for the job." Another sigh. "I know things are tough, but you can do this, Matt. You have greatness within."
The door closes after a few seconds, and by then, Pidge is already back up the stairs in her room.
That afternoon, Pidge and Rover join Matt in his search for a new job. Or rather, he searches while they hang out nearby, observing the scene.
While Matt tries his hand at a coffee shop, Pidge and Rover sit inconspicuously at a table, far away from other patrons. Pidge sips triumphantly at her coffee; it was the only way Matt could get her to stop teasing him about his crush on Allura.
As she revels in the warmth of the drink, she hears Rover ask, Who is Shiro?
Pidge sighs. "Shiro's...an old family friend, and Matt's commanding officer at the Garrison."
Rover squints her eyes, making them catch a ray of sunshine. Her tail twitches defensively. Your brother is with the government?
"Not quite yet. He's in prep school right now." Pidge's expression drops. "He's...been having a hard time with it lately. Pretty much ever since our parents died, he's been on thin ice there. I guess, between earning money to pay for his tuition, and taking care of me, it doesn't leave him a lot of time to actually focus on school..."
They both fall silent, but Pidge shakes it off. She knows her brother's doing the best he can. It's not his fault he got stuck having to raise his little sister. She decides to shift the attention.
"Can I ask you a question?" she asks Rover, and when the cat nods, she continues. "What's your deal with Allura?"
Rover tilts her head innocently. Whatever do you mean?
"You know what I mean." Pidge's voice drops to a whisper as she leans in, making sure others can't hear her. "Why did you attack her? And why could I hear her thoughts as well as yours?"
A few ticks pass by before Rover replies, ignoring her questions altogether. Did you hear anything specific?
Before Pidge can call her out on it, Matt calls for them.
Ah, we should go, Rover thinks a little too quickly. She leaps off of her chair towards the older Holt sibling. Looks like he did not get the job. We should comfort him.
But Pidge doesn't move. The conversation begins swirling around in her head as she tries to combine it with everything else that's happened. Rover was suspicious of Shiro and Matt's involvement with the Garrison. She flat-out attacked Allura. They seemed to know each other, and they definitely shared common knowledge about...what? Another lion? And some guy that was "on his way?" And they could both talk to each other through their thoughts.
Pidge's eyes grow wide. The meteor.
She knew from the beginning that her cat, her lion, was different, from her appearance to her telepathic abilities, but Pidge must've been too focused on the fact that she has a friend now. But now, things are starting to fall into place.
Are Allura and Rover...aliens?
Pidge wakes up late the next morning. Yesterday had drained her, Matt even more so. They had walked and backtracked all over town with no luck in finding Matt a job, and Pidge had been on high alert ever since her realization. She hadn't said anything to Rover or her brother about it, but she watched carefully and stayed up well into the night, trying to make sense of it all.
A small part of her loves this: another alien conspiracy to try and solve, just like she's done so many times in the past. But the part of her that knows that this one is real, that she's right in the middle of it all, is frightened. It feels like she has no one to turn to, that everyone she's close to is a part of it, even Matt and Shiro. They might not be aware of anything going on with it, but they're with the Garrison. She can't just tell them and actually drag them into this.
Worst of all, it feels like she's going to lose what she thought was a friend specially sent for her.
With a groan, Pidge rolls over and reaches for her glasses first, then her phone on her nightstand. She has a text from Matt, telling her that he went into town with Allura to look into a "very promising job lead." She texts him back "good luck," and almost adds a warning to be careful, but decides better of it.
As she gets up from bed, she notices that Rover is, once again, nowhere to be found. Anywhere in the house, it seems, a quick check downstairs and outside tells her.
Pidge's shoulders slump. She knew it was too good to be true.
As she starts to get out Matt's secret stash of coffee, the consideration of putting out "missing pet" flyers enters her mind.
The next thought that enters her mind is not hers, and is accompanied by the sound of shattering glass.
Pidge immediately wheels about, sending coffee grounds flying everywhere, and backs into the counter. Matt's gonna kill her for that.
But any and all thoughts of coffee leave her mind as chaos enters the room. She watches in stunned disbelief as a fully-grown black lioness sprints through the kitchen, pursued shortly by Rover and two pointy-eared men, one with white hair and a beard, the other with orange hair and a mustache.
Well, that explained some things.
Pidge quickly follows the scene into the living room, where it has escalated even further. The lions are thrashing about in a literal catfight, and the two men––aliens––look like they're trying to capture the black one without getting scratched.
And oh god, the thoughts. Pidge can't make sense of any of them, just that she can hear all four yelling in her head in addition to the actual yelling and growling echoing off the living room walls.
She can't do anything but stand there, spellbound by the fight and worried for Rover as her living room's torn to shreds. Her cat seems to be holding her own though, enough to at least keep things in a deadlock. It isn't until the white-haired alien pulls out what looks like a blaster and aims it at the lions that Pidge actually moves.
Pidge knocks herself into the alien's arm, causing the blaster to shoot a searing hole through the ceiling. A split-second of silence follows: the alien glares at Pidge, and she looks to Rover, who looks betrayed either by the alien or Pidge herself, she can't tell.
When the black lion takes the opportunity granted by everyone's hesitation to slip free and crash through the front window, the two aliens move first, but Pidge grabs onto the white-haired one's wrist. He practically snarls back at her, then yells to his companion, "Coran, don't lose her!" The orange-haired alien, Coran, yells back some sort of affirmation as he takes off through the front door. With an exaggerated yank of his wrist, the white-haired one breaks free from Pidge's grip and follows him.
"Hey!" Pidge huffs after him, but it's no use.
As the dust settles, she's surprised to see Rover still standing there.
The only thing she can think to ask is, "Mind finally explaining what's going on?" She doesn't mean for it to come out so angry, but she doesn't miss the wince that crosses Rover's features as she looks away.
The Black Lion and I, we are...experiments. Weapons. From outer space. Rover carefully glances back up at her, and relays, I never meant to drag you into this. I am sorry.
Pidge eyes Rover's prosthetic leg, and her heart falls. That someone would do that to anyone, let alone an innocent animal, and just use them like that is beyond her. It makes her wish that she'd been completely wrong about this conspiracy theory of hers. She wills herself to breathe, and asks, "So...Allura is...?"
An alien as well. Her father sent her here to protect the Black Lion, but...things have changed since then. I was sent to find them both, and when I–
The sound of wood breaking above them makes them both jump and Pidge screams as a giant net covers them both and turns everything dark. There's a flail of limbs and paws jumbled together with yelling and growling as she finally latches onto Rover's neck, she thinks. They're being carried by someone who's obviously very strong and has deafening footsteps.
Despite these correct assumptions, though, Pidge is still very surprised when she's shaken out into a glass tube and meets her kidnapper face-to-horrifyingly-giant-purple-fluffy-face. No matter how much she tries to back away in her confined space, she can't escape the sight of him. "Giant" seems too small a word to describe his size once she actually sees how tall he is.
Sendak, Rover thinks, causing Pidge to look over at her. She's in a defensive stance, snarling at him.
Sendak laughs and taps the glass, which has been latched onto some sort of vehicle. When he speaks, Pidge has to cover her ears, his voice is so loud. "Alfor may not be able to capture the Black Lion," he begins. "But with your help, I will."
He laughs again when Rover tries to bust through the glass and walks out of view. A few seconds later, they're driving...up? No, they're flying. Pidge gulps. If their captor is the one flying, then this must be a spaceship. That thought alone is enough to cause a swell of panic in her chest, which only rises when Rover tells her, I will return, and then vanishes from view.
Pidge's mouth is agape. Here she is in a situation that's so unbelievable she can't even begin to explain it, let alone understand it, and the only thought she has to comfort her is I will return.
What else can she do but trust it?
It's not even an hour that passes by the time Rover rescues her, yet things have changed so much.
For one thing, Rover's now working with the Black Lion.
While Rover rescues Pidge from the glass tube (there are several frantic thoughts of do NOT look down), the Black Lion fights Sendak in the cockpit, and wins. She tosses him deep into the Pacific Ocean, and destroys his ship.
When the two lions leap from the burning wreckage, with Pidge's arms wrapped around Rover's neck, she screws her eyes shut. The next time that she opens them, she's hanging onto the wing of Alfor and Coran's spaceship. Matt and Allura are cheering alongside the two men inside.
They are also on our side now, Rover explains at Pidge's confused look.
As the ship crash-lands into the shore, some sense of calm finally winds its way into Pidge. There'll be time for full explanations later, but for now, everyone's safe and on the same page, and the bad guy's gone.
Or so she thinks.
When they all step out onto the sand, the first thing she hears is, "Guards, capture them!"
Pidge quickly blinks back the sunlight to see that everyone but her and Matt are being held by robotic sentries. The one who gave the order is standing about twenty feet away: a tall, lanky blue alien woman, wearing a purple hooded cloak.
"Haggar," Allura spits out, fighting against the sentry who's holding her. "What are you doing here?"
Haggar's voice is deep and chilling when she talks. "I knew your father would betray his oath, and so I've come to retrieve the Black Lion, and the Green Lion, myself."
"You're deranged if you think I'm going to let that happen," Alfor answers. "I'm not going to be your prisoner anymore."
"And what makes you think that's the case?"
Alfor smirks. "Because I've got five lions, and you've got none."
Before Haggar can react, Rover and the Black Lion teleport from the grip of their sentries closer to her, and are joined by three other lion cubs – a red one, a blue one, and a yellow one, each with a different prosthetic leg.
Haggar whirls around and holds up what looks like a black ball of plasma to Pidge, with the intent to use it against the lions. Just as she's about to aim it at Rover, however, the Black Lion shoots her in the back with a laser from her mouth, and the other lions join in on the action until nothing remains of the witch.
At the same time that this happens, Shiro ambushes the group with a clear shot to the side of a sentry's head, which spurs Allura, Coran, and Alfor to fight back against the ones holding them as he knocks all of them out.
Matt smiles at his friend, while Pidge can hardly believe her eyes.
"How did you even know...?" she asks Shiro as he approaches the group.
He smiles, twirling a blaster in his hand and winking at her. "Matt called me. Said I should come check out your new cat?"
Yeah, she missed a lot in Sendak's ship.
As introductions are made and damage control begins, Pidge searches through the growing crowd to find her cat, her hero. When a soft meow reaches her ears, she twirls around to find Rover standing proudly.
Looking for me?
Pidge laughs and runs forward, wrapping her arms around Rover's neck as she falls to her knees. She plants a soft kiss into her fur, then says, "I'm so glad you're alright."
Rover nuzzles her shoulder. As am I with you.
They sit down and curl up together and watch everyone move around them. The sun's low in the sky now. It makes everything golden, including Rover's eyes.
"Does this mean you're going back into space now?" Pidge asks. She's afraid of the answer, but she has to know.
I do not think so. That earns a look of surprise. I am sure Allura and the Black Lion can vouch for me, and that the other lions will agree, but I want to stay right here by your side.
Pidge can only smile gratefully as she leans back against Rover and they watch the beginning of the sunset together.
Wish well spent.