“Oh, this is terrible! Simply terrible.”
“Forgive me, Princess, but is something wrong?” Shiro asked the clearly distressed Altean princess who has been pacing back and forth in the bridge. As soon as warped to the star system where their next host planet is located, Allura has called for the Paladins to assemble in the bridge. Judging from her body language, she has some bad news.
Allura paused from her pacing and addressed the Paladins congregated before her. “Do any of you remember the invitation we received from the planet Hyperia?”
There was a collective nod from the Paladins. “Yes, well…” Allura fidgeted a bit which was unusual for her usually decisive stance. “I might have forgotten a teeny-whimsy, important detail.”
Hunk raised his hand politely. “Uhhh…how important are we talking about?”
“Well…” Allura paused for a moment, as if wondering how she would break it down to them.
“THIS IS AWFUL!” Everyone jumped in surprise as Coran bursted out from the doors. “We are doomed. I tell you, doomed! I cannot believe I have forgotten about the most important Hyperian custom.”
Shiro spoke what everyone else was asking. “Wait…what custom?”
Allura cleared her throat before answering. “Well, the dwellers of Hyperia are known to have the ability to read emotions. The royalty can do more than that. They can read emotions as well as the memories that happened with it. This is how they gauge a visitor to their planet. In their first time of setting foot in their home, they are mandated to be present themselves to the royal court. One of the royalty will touch a part of their clothing and see where their intentions to Hyperia and its residents lie. This is how they judge whether they should be allowed to stay or not.”
“So…you’re saying that they touch a part of our clothes and then decide whether to yeet us back to space or not?” Lance asked.
“I do not know what yeet means but I suppose yes.”
“What for?” Keith asked, rising off the corner he previously occupied. “They know we’re the Paladins of Voltron and they’re the ones who invited us. Isn’t that enough to know that we’re in the good side?”
“Yes, they are aware of who we are.” Allura nodded. “But the purpose of it is to know each of you as individual beings. Not just as Paladins of Voltron.”
“How about our Paladin uniforms?” Shiro suggested. “Should we wear them in the ball? I mean, it won’t be the first time-”
Allura looked mortified. “Goodness, no! This is a formal function, a ball no less. You must wear proper attire and not just any proper attire. It must be woven by hand. Either by your own or by the hands of others. How it was woven, as well as the feelings and memories that accompanied it, will be embedded on each thread. It is from these very threads that the Hyperian royalty will glimpsed on who you are.”
“That’s pretty complicated.” Shiro frowned. “But we can’t turn down a chance to forge an alliance with Hyperia either.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t have any problem with sewing and knitting.” Lance announced, jumping off his chair. “I’ve patched up clothes and made tiny, keychain dolls and sweaters for my nieces and nephews but making a full suit is something out of my hands. It will take weeks to months to make one.”
“I’m more of a cook than a tailor.” Hunk apologized. “Sorry.”
“I’m with Lance this one.” Keith said. “I know the occasional patching but not making clothes. Plus, the ball is just two weeks from now. There won’t be enough time.”
Pidge hummed her agreement. The Green Paladin laid sprawled on her chair – legs draped over one its arms. Her eyes remained glued on the screen as her fingers tapped on the keys at practiced speed.
“I…I have clothes that my mother had woven for me when I was a child.” Allura admitted. “But I doubt it would fit me now. Pidge perhaps, but the memories…” She trailed off and pursed her lips.
The others shared worried glances but Allura shook her head and waved it off. “Listen, everyone.” She called out. “I know we are in quite a debacle right now but our duty demands we must go. The potential alliance we may forge with Hyperia will be another step to victory against Zarkon. We have to find a way to make it happen.”
“If that’s the case then,” Shiro turned to the blue-eyed Cuban. “Lance, you know more than any of us when it comes to sewing. I’m appointing you as the head of operations.”
“Oh, yeah!” Lance pumped his fist and whooped excitedly. “Team Bonding Operation: Sewing is on!”
Team Bonding Operation: Sewing? Definitely not!
Pidge has half the heart to not immediately shoot down Lance’s enthusiasm yesterday and no heart to climb up the vents the next quintant just to avoid getting dragged into the stupid sewing circle the Blue Paladin has formed almost immediately the moment the meeting was concluded yesterday. It has been two vargas since the first sewing session started and the others have scourge the whole ship just to find the wayward Green Paladin. Thankfully, they have given up around the first-hour mark and Shiro announced that once she’s found, they will have long talk about the importance of the operation.
Nope! Definitely not gonna happen.
Pidge crouched near the grating overlooking the lounge as she strained to hear and see through the bars. They tried to find her in the vents but without anyone else but the mice and her capable of worming their way in such narrow spaces, it was nothing short of futile (she had to bribe the mice to not tell once they found her sneaking her way in above the residential corridor). From what she can see, they have done such smooth job on making their own formal wear. None of them even have started to piece the basic cuts of the fabric. It seemed that only Lance was doing an acceptable job on his future suit.
“Am I doing this right?” Shiro has his eyebrows bunched together as he inspected the cut he made on the roll of fabric. Right after the meeting, Lance and Coran took it to themselves to buy the necessary sewing supplies they will need. They even managed to buy an electrical sewing machine that is similar to those in Earth in the early decades of the 2000s.
“No offense, Shiro, but the right sleeve is shorter than the left one.”
“Oh…oh, right.” Shiro scratched the back of nape sheepishly. “Sorry. I’ll just cut another one.”
“I think made mine a little too big.” Keith said as he lifted up the cut-out. “Maybe you should take this, Shiro. I think this will be in your size.”
“Oh my! This is so much fun!” Allura was practically bouncing in energy right now. “I have not touched the art of sewing and fashion for more than ten thousand years.”
It shows. Pidge thought as she winced at the splay of colors on the Princess’ lap. She wondered if Allura’s planning to make use of all of that in one formal dress. Talk about an overkill.
Coran and Hunk were not any better. Hunk has already a pile of cut-outs behind him. All which by some quiznaking sorcery did not match his size despite taking measurements beforehand. Pidge wondered if they actually got the sizes right. Coran, on the other hand, was taking a bit too long on picking what color he should wear and Pidge could only pinch her nose at his selection. She did not even know that such horrendous colors exist. Maybe it’s an Altean thing.
Pidge decided she has seen more than enough and for the sake of her eyes and her sanity, she retreated further in the vents and out to Green’s hangar where she stayed for the duration of the day.
On the third quintant, she almost got caught. Sort of.
Pidge barely had any decent sleep the night before due to the slow progress on the modifications for Green’s cloaking ability (and partly because of her trying to avoid her own teammates all day). She was on her way to sneak into the kitchen for early breakfast when she bumped into Allura. Sure, she expected that the Altean princess would be awake by now but she assumed that she will be at the bridge waiting for the right time to call in a fake drill. There was a brief moment of surprise before Allura’s eyes lighted up and Pidge knew she fucked up.
“Oh, Pidge! Just the person I wanted to see.”
“Uhhh…good morning?” Pidge smiled sheepishly. Her mind ten steps behind her mouth. “What do you need from me?”
“Well, it is more of a favor actually.” Allura answered. She has that familiar glimmer in her eyes when she tried to make her come out about her gender. “You see…I am looking for a design for my dress. I wanted it to perfect so I looked into my closet. There is a lot to choose from and I cannot settle on one. I was hoping you could help me, considering you are a girl like me. It would be a bonding moment for us.”
Pidge blinked blearily at her. What time is it? Are the others already awake? “Sorry, Princess. I can’t. Not now.”
Allura seemed deflated. “But…but why? Are you not going to the ball?”
“I plan not to.” Pidge admitted. “Not really my type of setting.”
Allura placed her hands on her shoulders. “But Pidge!” She insisted. “You are the Green Paladin. Your presence is a must just as much as the other four. You need to go with us and have fun.”
“I think you can all do fine without me.” She gently removed the Princess’ hands off her shoulders. “I’ll just watch over the ship and act as backup if things get rough on your side.”
“Pidge…” Allura looked worried. “What’s wrong? Did something happen? Did I do something to make you upset?”
The tone in her voice made her feel guilty. Both of them started at the wrong footing and the first few weeks were the most strained between the only two girls in the Castle of Lions. Since that food goo war on the second day, Allura has been careful in treading around the Green Paladin and became an elusive presence to Pidge for quintants after the capture of the castleship on the planet Arus. They barely spoke with each other and Pidge felt responsible for it.
The Princess might be pushy at times but she has changed her ways since then. Both Alteans have been trying to understand human culture more and teaching them their own culture at the same time. Allura has put aside her wariness of the Green Paladin and has been trying to reach out to her – from simple greetings when they met in the hallways to attempting bonding moments for just the two of them. Pidge, at most times, will return the same but considered only a very few of those bonding moments. Allura didn’t insist which she appreciated but it did nothing to curb her guilt of giving the Princess a cold shoulder too many times she would have liked.
And she’s doing it again.
Pidge wrapped her arms around herself and looked away. “Just…” She shook her head. “It’s nothing.”
Allura tried to reach her but she took a step back. “Look, Allura. I know you’re worried but I’m fine.” She tried to placate her but it did not sound convincing even to her own ears. “I’m just tired and was hoping to get through the day without a hitch. Maybe we can speak about this when I’m feeling chipper.”
It wasn’t a suggestion but a plea, and Pidge could only thank whatever gods the Alteans are worshipping that Allura understood and backed off. They exchanged quiet goodbyes before parting ways. Pidge could only wait for her to round at the corner before slamming her head on the wall and reprimanding herself in the cold corridor.
It was only two quintants later when a cruel realization dawned on the Paladins. Between their daily training and their encounters with the Galra at the most inconvenient times, the time frame to work on their formal wear has been limited. The lounge looked like a battlefield for tailors when Pidge decided to pay a visit while the others were away for a break. Rolls and cut-outs of different-colored fabrics and tangled threads were scattered all around. Pidge has to be careful not to step on the occasional pin cushion and put away the pair of scissors haphazardly placed aside back on the table. At one side of the sofa, Allura’s childhood clothes were piled up. Some of them were missing some parts. She could barely see the sewing machine in the mountain of fabric which she assumed must be parts for their outfits. None of them seemed halfway done and alarms blared in her head at the condition of Allura’s supposed dress. She gently tugged it from under the pile and her eyebrows knitted themselves as she surveyed everything. She wouldn’t even consider it befitting a princess, much less call it a dress. She placed it back among the boys’ handiwork and looked at the minefield before her.
She turned and lowered her gaze to the mice standing on the floor beside her. They scampered up and settled down on her shoulders. Their tiny noses twitching in curiosity.
“Hey there.” She gave them an apologetic smile as she raised a part of Allura’s fabric for them to see. “They’re a bunch of terrible designers and tailors, aren’t they?”
Chuchule scuttled on her hand and sniffed at the fabric. “Chu!”
She sighed. “I would like to help, but I just…can’t.” She ran a frustrated hand through her hair. “I made a promise. I made a promise not to wear any dress, not until I find my father and my brother. Anything that is Katie Holt, I kept it under lock and key. I only left what is necessary free. Her motivations, her knowledge, her determination, everything crucial that makes Pidge Gunderson.”
Pidge let out a hollow laugh. “A dress doesn’t exactly fit that description though.” She looked down sorrowfully on the bunched fabric in her hand. “I…I missed sewing, you know. It’s one of the few things I don’t get bullied for. My mom and I may not always agree with each other but sewing is one of the things we enjoyed doing together. She taught me the basics and did the sketches. I’m not much of an artist as she is, but between the two of us, mine’s the better result in the end.”
She pursed her lips. “I wished we could it again. I wished I could see my family again so, I can make and wear the clothes that I want.”
“Chu…” Chulatt rubbed its cheek affectionately on hers. Pidge smiled sadly at her and mouthed her thanks. She barely noticed the other three mice climbing off her and scurrying toward the mannequins standing on one side of the lounge.
“Chu!” Platt squeaked and motioned under one of the mannequins. It was covered in green fabric pinned at the sides which Pidge assumed to be the curves. It was smaller than the others and definitely feminine, with surprisingly more progress than the others. A sneaking suspicion made her hesitant as she walked toward it.
Plachu and Chuchule were standing on one of its shoulders and were offering her a notepad. She gingerly took it and she felt her throat constricted with emotions. It was largely Lance’s handiwork with side notes contributed by the others. It was a sketch of a dress. A large PIDGE’S DRESS was written in impressive calligraphy above.
Her palm tried to muffle the gasp that escaped her mouth. Despite the blur in her eyesight, she could make out the wet splotches painting the inside of her glasses and the lower part of the paper. She took off her glasses and wiped the tears spilling on her cheeks with her free sleeve.
“Goddamit, you guys!” A choked laughter on her throat. “Geez! Didn’t Allura give you the memo?” She must have looked terrible right now and she hoped that none of her friends would come in. She felt an absolutely shit; her tears stubbornly refused to stop and broken sobs bouncing off the walls. The mice comforted her and waited patiently as she placed the notepad on the ground and scooped them in on trembling hands.
How come she didn't notice it before?
Pidge sniffed and coughed until she found her voice. “T…Thank you…” Her voice was garbled but the mice heed no mind.
“You’re right. All…all of you are right.” She smiled softly. “They’re family too. Lance, Hunk, Keith, Shiro, Allura, and Coran. Even the four of you are family.”
The mice perked up and rubbed on her cheeks affectionately. Pidge wiped the last of her tears and nodded at the mess of a room. Determine lighting anew in her eyes. “They’re family and I want only the best for them." She looked at the mice, hoping they will understand what she wanted to do. "Someone has to clean up their mess or else, they will embarrass themselves. Will you help me?"
The mice squeaked enthusiastically and listened carefully to her plan.
“Stupid mice!” Lance grumbled as he stomped his way toward the lounge. He has been searching for the mice for the last varga for stealing a pin cushion and a half roll of deep blue fabric that he was supposed to use. He already looked into the possible hiding places that the mice might have squeezed themselves to as per Allura’s suggestions. Even the Princess failed to get ahold of the mice as they scampered off to some corner of the castleship.
Their sewing supplies have been mysteriously disappearing for three quintants now and nobody has seen the culprit (or culprits) until now. Even the excess from cut-outs didn’t escape the same fate. They thought of buying more but their hands have been tied for the past days because of the onslaught of distress signals from nearby planets. They only have less than a week to finish up their attires, but Pidge was less than cooperative to them than usual and now the mice were stealing their stuff.
A familiar yell came from the lounge and the doors yawned opened as blue, pink, yellow scuttled past his feet and an angry Keith following right behind.
Lance swore he’s going to quiznaking lose his mind. Why did he accept this role again?
“You all looked like shit.”
For the first time in eleven quintants, all of them were gathered in the lounge. It was already past two o’ clock in the morning (according to Pidge) and all of them decided to screw sleep and make further progress with their attires. Pidge was seated on the small flight of stairs, nursing a cup of hot coffee as she watched them worked. When she entered the lounge and saw them gathered in there, she almost had a mini heart attack. She thought that Shiro was going to seize the opportunity to lecture her but he decided to postpone it and resumed his work.
“Gee, thanks Pidge.” Lance grumbled as he slotted in the end of a white thread through the eye of the needle. “We’re feeling the love here.”
Pidge raised an eyebrow at the grumpy Cuban but said nothing. They’re all committed to their work despite the obvious lack of sleep in their eyes. Heck, even Shiro didn’t call her out to her use of a vulgar word. Maybe he’s just piling it up with her postponed lecture. Her attention shifted to Hunk who yelped and was nursing his pricked finger. “Try using a thimble, Hunk. I think I saw one in that sewing kit on the table.”
Hunk blinked at her as her words processed slowly in his exhausted state. “Oh, thanks Pidge.” He reached for the sewing kit on the table and picked out a yellow thimble before resuming work.
She sipped her coffee as she lifted her laptop on her lap. Her eyes subtly darting behind Coran where the mice were waiting for a signal. Their eyes on the prize – an unused, folded, white fabric before the Altean. Slumping down toward the screen as she waited Coran to reach for a new spool of thread, she tapped three keys in quick succession when he did so, and what followed was a moment of utter shock, the sound of the doors sliding open, and the yelling.
Pidge simply sipped her coffee through all of it with a conspiratorial gleam in her eyes.
Shiro woke up to the defeated sighs of Team Voltron on the day of the ball. They decided to camp out in the lounge the night before in hopes of finishing the clothes to no avail. Most of them were almost done but are nowhere what they envisioned to wear. Lance’s is the only one that looked respectable yet the way the Blue Paladin clicked his tongue conveyed his dissatisfaction on the final product. Breakfast was a sullen affair as they all eat in dejected silence. Even Pidge who hasn’t planned to join the ball seemed out of sorts. Hunk has to find the Green Paladin and carry her on his back just to get her to breakfast. The bandages on Pidge’s fingers didn’t get past Shiro’s tired eyes but held back any statement upon seeing the youngest Paladin snoozing softly right beside her full plate. He will just have to add that to his lecture later.
They’re not going anymore.
It was the common denominator that Keith concluded just from the looks of others. They didn’t even have to discuss it; it was clear the moment they woke up from an all-nighter. They all retreated to their rooms right after breakfast to catch the sleep they missed and wasted. Training was moved in the afternoon to occupy their minds. It did, albeit temporarily. Once they’ve finished and in fresh clothes, Lance and Hunk began wailing about the missed opportunity. Allura and Coran seemed antsy as they discussed about turning down the invitation in the last dobosh and making excuses to save face. Shiro was assisting them, throwing in sound suggestions. Keith…well, he couldn’t be bothered. He’s not exactly looking forward for the ball but it doesn’t mean he wasn’t disappointed that all his hard work going to the trash bin. He admitted that he enjoying sewing with the others, even though he’s bad at it and his work, along with the others, disappeared when they woke up. He suspected the mice but none of them tried to find them to get the outfits back.
Though something has been troubling him and her name is Pidge. The Green Paladin has been withdrawn for two weeks and has spoken little to them. At times, she would not be in her usual spots and it worried him that she might have ended up again sleeping in somewhere in the castleship. He could still recall that one time Shiro almost had a heart attack when she was found curled up inside the vents in his room. He couldn’t ignore how gone she was during breakfast nor the bandages in her fingers that weren’t there the last time he saw her.
He decided, as he roamed the residential corridors, to find her. Allura called in for everyone to gather in the bridge while they establish communication with Hyperia as they neared the planet’s orbit. They have to at the very least, make an appearance to alleviate and clear any misunderstanding should one emerge. Shiro, Allura, and Coran were already in there and he just passed by Lance and Hunk who are both on their way. Stopping in front of the youngest Paladin’s door, Keith wondered if the night owl (or lioness) of the Castle of Lions was still awake. He was about to knock when a yelp sounded from the other side of the door followed by something being scraped on the ground. Alarm bells rang in Keith’s mind.
“Pidge!” He knocked loud, almost banging on the door. “Pidge? What happened? Hey!”
There was no answer but as Keith pressed his ear against the door, he could hear hushed voices talking. Did an intruder sneak in the ship without them knowing? Did they get Pidge? Shit!
He banged the door louder. The sound echoing in the corridor. “Hey! Open up! Or else-“
Keith never got to complete that sentence when the door slid open and a disgruntled Green Paladin stepped out of view. She pushed past the threshold and the door slid shut behind her. The space mice, all four of them, were sitting on her shoulders.
“You’re loud.” Was Pidge’s greeting to him. She has her arms crossed over chest and was looking at Keith with irritation. As if he interrupted her in the middle of something important.
Keith has to blink once, or twice, as he looked down at the smaller Paladin. Only did he realize she was in a green bathroom robe and her Green Lion’ slippers. Most of her hair was blown dry but some parts were dark due to moisture. She looked…more feminine than he ever seen of her. He felt his face flushed. “Uhh…did you-“
“Just came from the bath? Yes.” Pidge scowled. “I was in the middle of drying off when you started demolishing my door. And yes, I heard Allura calling. I plan on coming if you’re going to ask me.”
“Ah…” Keith shifted anxiously. “Sorry for disturbing you.”
Pidge hummed, letting her arms fall to her sides. “It’s okay. I will appreciate it if you don’t destroy my door next time.” Her eyes flickered at the end of corridor that leads to the bridge and back to the older man. “Why was Allura calling for us? Did something happen?”
“Shiro and Allura decided to turn down the invitation for the ball. She wanted us to be present-“
“H-Hold up!” Pidge raised her palms to stop him. “Ran that through me again. Shiro and Allura did WHAT?”
“They turned down the invitation.” Keith repeated slowly, though Pidge’s consecutive interruptions are starting to grate on his nerves. “We didn’t get to finish the clothes. We’d rather not go to the ball than make Voltron a laughing mess.”
Pidge made a sound at the back of her throat. She looked like a few ticks away from mauling Keith from where he stands. She pinched the bridge of her nose. “Of all the quiznaking things!” She grabbed Keith’s arm and started dragging him in the corridor. “Nope. NOPE! Not gonna happen. I didn’t work my ass off just for all of you to NOT go at the last minute. Fuck that!”
Keith protested and tried to free himself from her iron grip but his complaints fell into deaf ears and Pidge is strong when she wanted to be. The bandages wrapped around her fingers earlier the morning were gone and her nails (Keith just noticed that they’re manicured and designed in clear polish with tiny white, gold, and baby blue flowers dotting the sides) were digging on his skin like the claws of a lioness.
As they reached the doors leading to the bridge, he could hear Allura speaking with what supposed to be the queen of Hyperia. Pidge had let go of his arm and for some reason, Keith expected her to kick open the door and let all hell loose. Instead, the doors slid open and Pidge calmly stepped in the bridge just as Allura was about to tell the queen about the not-so terrible news.
“-expect you to come, Paladins?”
“About that, Your Majesty. We-“
“We’re coming.” Pidge answered loudly enough to cut off Allura. All eyes turned to her. Lance and Hunk immediately ducked out of sight at seeing her indecent. If Pidge has any concerns about it, she didn’t show. She surged forward with such decisiveness and stood just beside the platform Allura’s standing on.
Allura looked at her questioningly. “Pidge?”
“Forgive me for barging in so suddenly, Your Majesty, and in such a state too.” Pidge continued. Her tone uncharacteristically even and polite for someone who rarely joins in diplomatic meetings. “We had some problems along the way in preparation for our attendance to the celebration but I assure you they were addressed properly and swiftly.” She straightened and placed her hands behind her back. “The Paladins of Voltron will be honored to join you, the king, and your people in this grand celebration.”
“Wait…WHAT?” Lance exclaimed but it was drowned out quickly by the queen’s elated response.
“Wonderful!” She said, clapping her hands together. “My people will be happy to hear this. We shall expect you in five vargas. I will send the finest of our guards to escort you.”
“That’s generous of you, Your Majesty.” Allura said as she glanced at Pidge on the corner of her eye.
“Nothing less for the defenders of the Universe.” The queen chuckled. “We’ll see each other soon, Paladins.” Then, the communication cut off and the holographic screen winked into nothing.
“What the quiznak is that, Pidge?” Keith asked as he moved in the growing circle of Paladins.
“Yeah, what was that?” Lance jabbed a finger at her general direction. “And you’re the one who doesn’t want to go at all.”
“Well, yeah?” Pidge crossed her arms and jutted her chin. She met their gazes straight on. “Change of plans. We’re going.”
“You heard me, Lance.” She narrowed her eyes. “We. That includes me. Unless you got some qualms about it, you before say it now before I shove my bayard down your throat.”
Shiro stepped in between them, hands keeping the two at bay. “No one’s maiming anyone.” He placed a hand on one of Pidge’s shoulders. “Though I may not understand the sudden change in your mind, Pidge, I’m afraid we can’t go. We got nothing to wear. Well, at least something decent for Hyperian standard.”
“It’s in the lounge.” Pidge replied. A part of her wanted to be openly smug about it. Maybe later. “Your clothes in the lounge. It’s all fixed up if that’s what you’re asking. Except for Allura’s.” She regarded the confused princess. “Hers in my room. I’ll be bringing it in her own room while we prep her up. Five vargas isn’t exactly enough to get a girl ready.”
“What do you mean fixed up?” Hunk asked. “Like fixed fixed up?”
A shit-eating grin crept on her lips. “Why don’t you find out, you sewing noobs?”
“I cannot thank you enough for this, Pidge.” Allura said. She looked at the mirror of her vanity, watching the Green Paladin worked methodically on her hair. Her slim fingers running through her white hair as she separated a few thick strands at the side and braided them. The mice were assisting her – holding up the comb and Allura’s hair and handing out bobby pins at her request. The quintuplet has already braided three separate braids – two supposedly running down on both sides of her head.
Pidge hummed approvingly as she gently pulled the braid halfway to see if it’s still tight. “’It’s fine.” She said. “Consider this as our bonding moment but don’t get used to it.” She took the small band that Platt was offering and tied it to secure the finished braid. After that, she gathered all four and tied them together. “I will not be doing this again anytime soon so, enjoy it while it lasts.”
Allura couldn’t help but chuckle. “I will.” She watched Pidge moved around her and picked the box she brought with her on the bed. “Though, I was wondering what changed your mind, Pidge. You were the most against in attending the ball.”
The younger girl set the box on the vanity and slid the lid off. “Let’s just say that some adorable mice reminded me that my family is not just the one I left on Earth and the ones that I’m searching for.”
She gingerly pulled a bundled cloth the size of her palm. She peeled the fabric off and presented her find. Allura could only gasp in awe. It was a golden hair comb. The top was a mosaic of an array of blue, green, gold, and black and arranged in what seemed to be bird of some kind. Pidge handed it to Allura who cradled it as if it was a baby on her palms.
“It is beautiful…”
Pidge grinned. “I made it in between fixing up your clothes. The design came from a male peacock, a beautiful and regal bird in Earth. Peacocks are known to symbolize royalty and spirituality and are called the queen of the birds. I thought it suits you the best so I made it as a reference for your outfit.”
Allura fumbled for words. “I…I got nothing to say, Pidge.”
“You don’t have to.” She said as she walked back behind her and began gathering her hair together. “You know, I thought that I’m just tolerating all of you out of duty as a Paladin of Voltron. I never had any real friends in Earth. The ones I have are my family. My classmates always bullied me for being a nerd. “
She began twisting her hair into one, long rope. “Then, you guys suddenly came along. A small, dysfunctional group made up of a romantic failure, a big softie with motion sickness, an emo with a mullet, a sudden Space Dad, an alien Pringles man, and a bossy alien Zelda. All supposed to be the hope of the universe.”
Allura blinked at her in confusion. “What’s a Zelda and am I really bossy?”
“Pretty much.” Pidge deadpanned as she pushed the ends of her hair inwards, thinking over to leave Zelda a mystery to the princess. Allura reddened in shame. “Don’t worry. You’ve improved lately. I’d say you graduated from bossy to a kickass royal big sister. But don’t get that in your head.”
Allura gaped at her. “You…you think of me as a big sister?”
“Don’t you dare cry, Princess.” Pidge warned. “I’m not doing your makeup again. And yes, you heard me right. I’m not going to repeat that twice.”
She shrugged. “My point is…you guys are family too. Dysfunctional and weird, yeah, but still family. Space Family, if you want.” She finished inserting the rest of her hair in and popped in a few bobby pins to secure the loose ends. She reached for the hair comb that Allura gave with trembling hands. It slid down effortlessly in her hair and stepped back to admire her work.
“We’re done!” Pidge said proudly. “What do you think?”
Whatever answer that left Allura’s mouth was drown in a hug that fiercely engulfed the smaller girl. Damn, Alteans are strong! Pidge took it as a positive sign and patted the princess on the back. When Allura finally pulled out, Pidge chuckled despite the sore limbs.
“Wait until you see the dress.” She grinned.
Hunk has to give it to Pidge. She caught them off guard. And really good too.
For one, she got their sizes right without actually asking to get their sizes. Hunk’s fitted snuggly on his body, not too tight but not too loose. It was a grey suit like those in Earth, partnered with a grey bowtie and yellow polo shirt as accent based from his position as the Yellow Paladin. Pidge didn’t pass the chance of using a bit of Altean flair and Voltron-themed designs. All of them have a Voltron-themed brooch pinned on their right chest and cufflinks that were etched with the symbol of Voltron. The fabric of the suit slightly shimmered in earthen-patterns when directly hit with light. A yellow handkerchief was folded in his breast pocket with a single bloom of juniberry flower. From where Pidge got it, that’s anyone’s guess.
Lance got a blue suit that shimmers in wave-like patterns. A blue bowtie complements his white polo shirt. He had his suit open rather than buttoned up. Just like him, he too has a blue handkerchief in his breast pocket with a single juniberry flower.
Keith got a black suit partnered with a black polo shirt. His necktie, however, was his signature red. His suit shimmered in flame-like patterns and buttoned up to the middle. A red handkerchief was tucked in his breast pocket with a juniberry flower.
Shiro’s suit was black with swirling patterns and pointed dots that looked like stars if you looked closely. His polo shirt was deep purple and his necktie is black. A purple handkerchief was folded in his breast pocket with a single juniberry flower that complimented his accents well.
Coran has the more surprising attire yet. Instead of an Earth suit, Pidge opted for the Altean to wear proper Altean attire. She must have done her extensive research well that Hunk did a double-take at the usually goofy alien. He looked more like a royal advisor than he has ever seen of him. It was a generally light-blue attire with golden ropes running over his chest from the white cape falling down his right shoulder. He too, has the same cufflinks but the brooch was located on his left chest. The ends of his sleeves were gold that ran up to the edge of arms. His clothes shimmered in patterns that resembled a juniberry flower.
Just when, any of them thought it couldn’t get any better. Allura stepped in the lounge where they were waiting. Everyone sucked in a breath at the sight of the princess. She was wearing a deep blue, tailed dress that glittered against the light. Peacock-like feathers flowed from her shoulders and down to her front, resembling a letter V. Her arms were bare except for the golden armbands on her upper arms. A carefully arranged feathered layer of skirt trailed behind her like the bird’s tail. Her dangling earrings were smaller feathers with edges dipped in gold. Her hair was pinned in a braided chignon with three feathers jutting out at the right side and her circlet on her forehead.
If Lance could get any redder, he would probably combust. “Allura…you looked…”
“Just like your mother, Queen Melenor!” Coran bursted out awe. “You looked like a queen! This is…” He wiped off his tears. “Oh, if King Alfor would see you now, he would be proud to see his only daughter all grown up.”
Allura chuckled good-naturedly. “Thank you everyone but this is not my doing. It’s Pidge and the mice. They’re the ones who did this.” She gestured to all of her. “All of it.”
Lance shook out of his mesmerized trance. “Wait. WHAT?” He looked more offended than shocked. “You said Pidge did that? Our Pidge? You gotta be kidding-OWWW!” Lance stumbled backward after a small, round object zeroed on his face.
“Say that again on my face, you lovesick Romeo!” Pidge was standing by the doors. A comb, a few towels, and a couple of the same circular object that she has thrown at Lance in her arms. She’s in her casual clothes with the mice cheering on her shoulders.
“Not the face, Pidge!” Lance complained as he rubbed his nose. “Don’t damage the goods. It’s my bestselling asset.”
Pidge joined them by the sofa with a scoff. “Oh, please. As if they actually have any use.” She dropped the items on the table and pointed at Hunk. “Hunk, you go first.”
Hunk looked a bit nervous. “Uh...for what?”
Pidge raised the circular object with one hand. “I’m gonna do your hair. You’re not gonna go there with your hair like that, right?”
Hunk deliberated for a moment but with Pidge glaring at him like that, he decided to admit defeat. He plopped down on the sofa and let Pidge do her magic.
“Since when do you know how to style a guy’s hair?” Keith asked as he circled behind Hunk.
“Matt and the Garrison days.” Pidge popped open the lid of the circular object and scooped up some gel-like substance. She began smothering Hunk’s hair with it. Hunk realized that it was actually hair gel. Earth-based hair gel. “The first time I did it was to help Matt prepare for junior prom. God knows he has one of the most terrible fashion sense whenever he’s aware of having to dress up to impress. As for while I am in the Garrison, I have to look convincing as a boy. Simply cutting my hair is not enough. I have to up my game. I never do things halfway.”
Wiping her hands off with a towel, she picked up the comb and began piling up his hair in one direction. She regarded Hunk. “Good thing you left your bandana or else, I have to take it off you, Hunk.”
“I think it’s not really appropriate for the clothes.”
Pidge nodded approvingly. It was a quick work and before Hunk knew it, Pidge was already done with his hair. She was quite deft in her hands, given at how smooth and swift she worked behind the screen. Shiro was next, given he’s more willing to comply with the whims of youngest Paladin. Keith was reluctant at first but Pidge was prepared. With a pout that she knew all the other residents have the weakness for when it comes to her, she got the Red Paladin sitting on the sofa with her hovering above his head. Lance was a bit tricky but Pidge knew she already got most of his defenses down with that pout earlier. She went for his big brother instincts and then, threatening him in spoiling his beauty products while he’s asleep. It worked. Coran, she decided, is off the hook, given his usual hairstyle complements well with his attire.
Pidge admired her handiwork and whistled appreciatively. “You all cleaned up good.”
“You’ve surprised us, Number Five.” Coran said as he posed before a mirror that he brought in prior. “You got quite an impeccable sense of fashion.”
“He’s right, Pidge.” Shiro smiled in agreement. “You’re our savior.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Lance grumbled as he smoothed his suit. “But next time a little warning, okay? I’m not used of you doing…I don’t know, feminine stuff. It doesn’t scream Pidge Gunderson for me.”
Pidge crossed her arms and scowled. “Be grateful that you're wearing my work and we still have a party to attend or you’ll find yourself at the sharp end of bayard.”
“Wow, Lance.” Keith said disapprovingly at the Cuban. “Way to thank her.”
Lance raised his hands defensively. “I’m weirded out, okay? Am I the only one weirded out?” The rest of the crew looked at him with the same, deadpan expression. “Seriously? Why does this feel like a déjà vu?”
Allura ignored him and glanced at the time. “We still have two vargas before the escorts arrived.” She smiled at the Green Paladin who was already picking up her things. “I think you should get yourself ready, Pidge.”
“M’kay.” Pidge nodded as she gathered everything in her arms. The mice scampering up on her shoulders and throwing in a weird-looking bottle in the items. If Pidge noticed, she didn’t say.
“Will you need help?”
“I’ll be fine. The mice will be helping me.”
“Take your time then.” Shiro said. “We’ll be waiting for you.”
“You better will.”
“You said you’re going to warn us!”
Pidge blew her bangs off her eyes. “Warn you about what?” She asked sweetly as she matched it up with a fake, innocent gleam in her eyes. “We’re not in danger, you know, and I promised nothing.”
Pidge finished up dressing up by the time the escorts arrived. It was intentional, of course. She wanted to see the priceless looks in their faces, especially Lance’s, and take a picture of it. She could still remember the appreciative smile in Shiro’s face, the buffering look in Keith’s blushing face, the jaw drop from Lance’s, the stuttering mess that is Hunk, the praising look from Coran, and the excited and squealing Allura. She swore she heard someone choking but she was busy capturing the scene using the cameras in the lounge. She will have to review that later and make a lot of backup copies for that footage.
“You’re the danger!” Lance jabbed a finger to her direction. “I almost choked one of Hunk’s cookies. I could have died and Team Voltron would be one less Paladin.”
“Eh, doubt that.” She replied as she lazily inspected her nails. The guards escorted them to a room with curtained doors that lead directly to the ballroom. She could hear the swell of music as the event begins. “You’re too thick-headed to die easily, Lance. Bet you’ll outlive all of us.”
“Uh, no. No thanks.” Lance said before looking at her from top to bottom. He scratched his nape as he appraised her. Lance has to admit…she really looks beautiful. Well, Pidge is already pretty and cute even in casual clothing. He and Hunk talked about it a few times and Keith sometimes would joined in the conversation. Shiro would always affirm, recounting the few times he met Pidge before the Kerberos mission. They know from the photograph of her and her brother Matt what Pidge looked like before disguising herself as a boy and sneaking in the Garrison under a fake identity. It might not be outright obvious like Allura but once hers was let to shine, the princess might even pale compared to her.
Lance blinked at her before realizing he was staring at her. “N-Nothing!” He squeaked.
Pidge raised an eyebrow but didn’t say a word. The music has died down from the ballroom and the royal chamberlain swept inside the room to tell them that they will be presented to the court soon. Pidge rose to her full height and Lance couldn’t help but stare. She was wearing a sleeveless, knee-length green dress. The torso up to the first layer of the skirt was green and resembled the pattern of leaves before opening up the succeeding layers like a white rose. The front was cut in a diamond, just on her collarbone. A single white and gold flower adorned the side of her green choker and two flower bands circled her upper arms where a translucent gold shawl was connected behind her. Her hair, now long after rinsing with nunvill (Pidge said she will be cutting it later as to not get caught while working on projects) and curled at the ends, was masterfully pinned to one side with a bunch of flowers. She strode past him in an elegant gait, despite the laced, heeled, green sandals decorated with similar flowers. Two extended fabrics attached behind her shoulders made of the same material as the shawl, billowed behind her. The light catching the intricate, laced patterns of nature like a shimmering net.
She looked a nature goddess and a fairy queen melded into one absolute, divine deity. Which makes sense since she is the Guardian Spirit of the Forest and the way the extended fabrics behind her back resembled wings.
The chamberlain opened the door and the noise died down from the ballroom. Lights of different colors streamed from the ballroom and to the room. With a loud and clear voice, he captured the attention of the guests below.
“May I present to you all, Princess Allura of Altea and her escort, Sir Coran of Altea!”
Allura and Coran who are both at the front of the line stepped out of the room and applause bounced off the walls. Shiro took his position followed by Hunk who was fidgeting on his spot. Shiro whispered something to calm the Yellow Paladin who nodded. He clapped him on the back and stepped out as soon as his name is called.
“The Black Paladin, Sir Takashi Shirogane of Earth, leader of Voltron!”
Lance took his position after Hunk. It was Coran’s fault of choosing to arrange them by their height. Pidge stood behind Keith who will be sixth to be presented after Lance. Their brief conversation drowning at the swell of applause from the guests.
“The Yellow Paladin, Sir Hunk Garett of Earth!”
A thought occurred in Lance’s mind and he grinned. He tapped the chamberlain on the shoulder and whispered something at the chamberlain. He looked at the Blue Paladin with questioning eyes but nodded anyway.
“The Blue Paladin, Magnanimous Lance McClain of Earth, the catch of women and vanquisher of his foes!”
“Seriously, Lance?” Keith asked. Pidge simply make a gagging sound.
He grinned and raised his arms wide. “It’s free real estate, baby! Whooo!” And then, he was gone.
The two looked at each other with same That’s Lance for you look. The chamberlain coughed to catch their attention and looked at Keith patiently. As if waiting if he will be making an odd request just like Lance’s.
“Uhhh…no. Just Keith Kogane.” Keith said. “It’s only Lance who likes showing off.”
The chamberlain nodded and called out. “The Red Paladin, Sir Keith Kogane of Earth!”
Keith tapped Pidge on one shoulder. “See you on the other side.”
Pidge watched him disappear into the light (metaphorically speaking) and the applause that followed drumming in her ears. A horrendous realization dawned to her. This is a mistake! All of her confidence suddenly ran down the drain as she stood disoriented before the open door. She didn’t think this far. The mere thought of being on the spotlight alone, surrounded by hundreds of strangers made her want to puke. They have attended parties but none of them required them to make their entrance one by one. What to do? What do I do? She glanced at the chamberlain who was now waiting for her. What do I say?
Deep breaths, Pidge. Keith told her. Both us are not fond of this type of event but just take a deep breath and remember, patience yields focus.
She took a deep breath and urged her body to relax. She focused on the purring of Green in her mind and the image of her friends waiting down below. She motioned for the chamberlain and whispered her introduction. The chamberlain nodded and she took her position behind the threshold. It’s now or never.
“The Green Paladin, Lady Katie Holt of Earth!”