.

.

Despite knowing it's somewhat the truth, Shiro doesn't believe in a thing like fate — he doesn't believe in something that cannot be mathematically calculated or trajected by formulas, and cannot prove a substantial, semi-tangible existence in matter or practical theory.

The stars are real; the unknown worlds beyond Earth are hypothetically real.

Your voice will come when you meet your soulmate, Takeshi…

(Like everybody else apparently.)

He humors his mama's confidence, her innate belief in a concept so whimsical and precious like a soul existing out there only for yourself, smiling blandly and laughing and hugging her when she cradles Shiro's face with both of her hands, fussing and kissing the tip of his nose.

Both of Shiro's mothers claim to have been able to use their own vocal chords since their initial meeting, right after his mama's separation with Shiro's father when he and Ryou had been three.

His mom — a bit younger than his mama, with no Japanese heritage — dyed, blonde locks and a crooked nose, and a penchant for being adventurous and outspoken — ends up moving in with them. She teaches Shiro about astronomical theorem and how to chart land-maps, how to ride and repair a broken-down, abandoned speedercraft, and how to treat other women — respectfully, equally.

They're technologically advance enough on this planet to not require spoken word, for education or medical visits or building a life of their own — Shiro is accepting of the notion that he may never "find" a voice within him. Many others are like him, young and old, have already done the same.

Shiro gets recruited for the Garrison Galaxy when he's just shy of seventeen, able to graduate a year early from his local, overcrowded high school. It's a reprieve. Shiro wants to pilot the universe, to discover and explore. He says goodbye to his mothers and to a teary-eyed Ryou, promising to send them all transmissions every week about his progress — without any of those unnecessary spoken words.

.

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Commander Iverson introduces him to the newest troop of entry-level cadets. As the youngest senior officer on record, Shiro knows he'll be expected to take on a mentorship role for one or two.

He doesn't expect it for the sullen-faced boy, with that shock of dark, visibly thick hair against pale skin and unusually bluish-grey eyes, who vanishes effortlessly within his peers. "Kogane has a record of isolating himself from his assigned teams and causing trouble periodically," Iverson explains, with a hint of a smirk. "But he's outwitted and outmatched every skilled fighter that's faced him so far."

You're saying you want to make a weapon?

As if sensing it off of Shiro's expression first, Iverson gruffly laughs and claps the other man's shoulder. "I want YOU to help him become the finest soldier this garrison has ever seen," he says. "Teach Kogane to obey and respect orders from his commanding officers without question and without giving any lip, and to work as a unit with his teams instead of arguing through every simulation."

It's something that should have stuck before getting recruited, Shiro thinks. However, he doesn't argue, saluting stiffly to excuse himself and walking away towards the canteen.

Deception — that's what Iverson wants. He wants Shiro to befriend a cadet with the intentions of gaining something personal out of it, mostly because of Shiro's likeability and reputation. Shiro grits his jaw, blinking rapidly. No — no, not like that. If he is truly going to obey his own superior's commands, as questionable as they are, Shiro wants to do it his own way. A better way.

Getting to know this Keith Kogane as a person is a start.

Shiro remembers the adjustment in scheduling hours, for the garrison's canteen, and hurries for the entrance-doors. Most of the first and second-year cadets have already finished their lunches, inserting their crumb-flecked, dirtied trays into the return-slots and catching up to their friends.

He glimpses Keith on his own, slowly passing by one of the humongous storage crates. Two boys edge by him, knocking Keith on the shoulder purposely, as the crate rattles and groans on impact.

His focus, as a now frowning Shiro draws nearer, would be following after and getting their cadet badge-numbers, leaving disciplinary action up to Sergeant Vince. But, he's distracted by the topmost barrel of the crate. It shudders and tilts forward with its noticeably heavy weight, aiming for Keith's skull.

"Watch it!" Shiro yells out, his voice hoarse and ripping out of him. Purely on his instincts, he lunges at Keith and grabs him around the middle, falling over and skidding onto the canteen's floor.

The barrel crashes thunderously, narrowly missing them, rolling away.

Shiro pushes himself off the floor, sitting up gradually as Keith does the same. They glance wordlessly at each other, and then the storage crate, and back at each other, panting. A small, strangled noise like laughter flies from Shiro's lips, as he grins and clasps onto Keith's upper arm, squeezing down.

"Thanks," Keith murmurs, also hoarse — he goes impossibly wide-eyed after a moment, touching his fingers over his neck, Keith's divinely pink mouth hanging open slightly.

Shiro feels it then, like a stirring of warm, electrified air between them, syncing their heartbeats.

.

.

It's not something like fate.

He doesn't want to tell his mama or his mom, or Ryou, just yet about finding his voice. They'll make it familiarly humilating and question who Shiro met that triggered this life-altering occasion.

Keith… he feels this energy and life around Keith, burning up, raging, completely warm.

Shiro disregards Commander Iverson's orders — or rather he forgets — hanging out with Keith after classes, during meals, and spending their free hours in the training simulator. Keith spars with him, challenging his stamina and agility by being so much faster, dodging and blocking and ferociously striking. He nearly beat Shiro in the afternoon, twisting their legs and slamming the older boy against the mats, holding Shiro down breathlessly and smiling so genuinely, triumphantly that Shiro got dizzy off it.

In half a year, they're inseparable. Shiro wouldn't have it any other way, practicing with Keith talking and scream-singing along to the radio, watching a collection of holo-films projected on the wall of their bunk and quoting the lines back to each other, dramatically jumping up and acting them out.

Keith's mouth gravitates to his, spit-sticky and soft. "Mmhm," Shiro mumbles, breaking the long, pleasant kiss to nestle his cheek up against Keith's neck, hearing a low, annoyed noise. "Keith, you're supposed to be helping me pass this medical exam… okay, so," Shiro's fingertips run over the ball-like joint connecting Keith's right hand and wrist, and he recites, "pisiforme…" Shiro's thumb and the curve of his forefinger pinches gently over Keith's lower jaw, "mandible…" his palm touches the back of Keith's upper left shoulder, moving up and wrinkling his undershirt, "and the scapula which…"

Shiro halts, pushing his empty hand through his black, tufted bangs, considering over his answers.

"The frontal area is called the costal surface, or ventral surface… and the ridge connecting this bone structure nearest the spinal cord is called the… the infraglenoid tubercle… …"

"You mean the scapular notch," Keith interrupts him, unmoving.

Shiro's eyebrows go up. "How do you know that?" he asks, chuckling good-naturedly at Keith's sudden snort.

"… I pay attention to the lessonwork, Shiro. That's how."

The textbook relocates into Shiro's lap, as he shifts behind Keith. The holo-files to his notes work great, but he prefers to hold his information as well. "Well, turns out we're both wrong," Shiro concludes, looking down and massaging over Keith's shoulder-blade and his nape. "It's the acromion."

Keith doesn't say anything as a response to that, grunting and leaning fully into Shiro's chest, wrapped loosely in Shiro's arms until he dozes. Shiro presses his temple and forehead onto Keith's dark, sweaty hair, inhaling sharply. If he passes all of the background checks and training and exams, like Iverson and the government officials anticipate, then… Shiro will leave the garrison and Keith.

There's a space mission for Kerberos, and they need a highly experienced pilot with medical and combat training. A natural-born leader. It's what Shiro always wanted to do — ever since he was a little boy.

He needs to tell Keith.

.

.

"I'll be here, when you get back," Keith says lowly, pushing his whole face into Shiro's throat.

Shiro tries to cling to that brilliantly vivid memory, of Keith's white and orange, freshly laundered uniform, of how the Earthlight haloed the shuttle and the distant treetops and Keith's eyelashes, and how he physically hugged Shiro like it was for dear life. Shiro was all he had left as a family.

And now, all Shiro has is that memory, to comfort him in the murky shadows of his Galra-cell. They did something to him. Galra — the aliens who captured him and Matt and Dr. Holt.

They've gave him a new identity, took Shiro's arm and gave him a monstrous, bio-technological weapon. He's the undefeated Champion of Emperor Zarkon's death-arena. Not by choice. Not because it feels good. Shiro would rather endure the torture-sessions again, until he vomited up his own blood.

He tries to exercise his voice, often by himself, fearing somehow losing it. Shiro carefully uses the purplish, thin beam of a laser emitting from his prosthetic hand, to carve teeny, slanting mark against the cell-wall, guessing when time passes. By his own estimate, today would be Shiro's birthday. And he'll spend it once again trying to not be killed within the gloriously gory, colossal arena.

A shuddering breath leaves him. "My name is Takashi Shirogane," Shiro mumbles, over and over, pressing a fist to the cold, hard wall. "My name is Takaaawk—"

He chokes out for air, eyes bulging. It hurts. Shiro grasps onto his throat with his organic hand, buckling under his own weight. His vocal chords feel arrested inside his body, and like they've gone and burned into flames. Shiro lies on the ground, quivering, opening his mouth to say anything.

Keith…

Shiro's blood chills. Keith… is Keith okay? Did something happen? Is he… …?

No, he thinks, over and over, and over. No, nono! Panic rises up Shiro's gut, creating nausea and lightheadedness, quickening his heart into an unsteady, hammering rhythm. NonononoNO!

The guards ignore Shiro's attack and drag him out, tossing his rag-covered body into the corridor.

.

.

Once he crash-lands to Earth, escaping the Galra by some chance, Shiro's head still feels messed up. The desert smells wonderful — real and hot, like the sensation of Keith's hand steadying him on his abdomen.

Keith.

Shiro thought he was dreaming at first. He knows he looks different himself, with his enormous body, his silvery-white hair and the multitude of facial scars, but Keith's taller and thinner than Shiro believes he was before getting abducted, Keith's arms visibly muscular beneath the red-and-white jacket.

"Watch it," Keith murmurs, tucking himself underneath Shiro's armpit and walking them to the shack where the other members of their ragtag group wait inside. His voice loud and clear in Shiro's eardrums.

Shiro finally understands… that he doesn't. He won't ever be able to theorize an emotion like this, seizing him within his core, compelling a misty-eyed Shiro to throw his arms fiercely around Keith. He nearly collapses them onto the dusty, yellowing soil, grinning so hard his lips ache.

"Thanks…" Shiro's voice feels hoarse, and it's blessedly, remarkably real.

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Voltron isn't mine. This was the (last?) pitch hit for the Shiro Birthday Exchange so woot woot! It's done! Requested by koganeisms. A big thank you to glove23 for helping me out when I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I got a few ships to try out for the request, but then I saw Sheith and I knew what I would be doing immediately lmao I'M PREDICTABLE AND I KNOW WHAT I LIKE! anyway I hope yall like it! Comments/thoughts appreciated!