Word Count: 3001 (Fidipù)
Rating: SAFE; Warnings: Torture; Fights to the death
Scritta per il COWT 8, Missione 1 Voce
Summary: Shiro keeps hearing Keith's voice everytime he wants to give up.
The first time it happens, Shiro is trying to train himself to ignore the pain. He doesn't know how much time has passed since he was taken.
He hadn't understood then the reason behind it, and if he's honest with himself he doesn't understand it even now. They had done nothing to provoke them and had posed no threat to them.
It doesn't seem to matter to the Galra. From what the other prisoners have told him, the Empire just takes and conquer, uninterested in the sacrifices or the deaths. Shiro hadn't really understood that either.
Even with the terrible wars that had happened in human history, he had never come in contact with such cruelty like today. He know that what the Galra are doing it's not that different from ancient human practices, where Gladiators fought beasts and other humans, but the brutality of it still shocks him.
Yet, Shiro had survived.
It had been pure adrenaline then, fighting to survive. He had been able to ignore the pain and the reality of what he was forced to do. Now he's alone with his wounds and his mind.
Shiro doesn't know if his avversary still lives, they had dragged him away before he could check, but he knows that he had hurt him deeply. Most importantly, he doesn't know what has happened to Matt.
Did he make a mistake? Did he send Matt to an even worst death? There is no way to know. Their captors haven't brought him back to their cell and, by now, hours have passed.
But as he says, this is the first time it happens. He's sitting on the floor, an hand covering a poorly bandaged cut and he's thinking about his life. If he's doomed to spend the rest of his days like this, tortured and used as entertainment, is it really a life worth living?
He doesn't know why his thought go to Keith - or better, he knows, but not even the thought of his crush can make him feel better now. There is no certainty that he will ever see Keith again, after all, and he regrets not doing anything; he regrets not telling him what he felt.
Shiro wonders if regrets will be all that his life will amount to, once the arena will have the better of him.
He tries to think about what Keith would tell him now, if he was here with him. He tries to play pretend and cheer himself up in any way.
You have to do your best, Shiro, he imagines Keith say. And even if it's not real, immagining his voice gives him a little bit of strenght.
I'm waiting for you to come back. You promised didn't you?, the voice in his head asks, a little bit annoyed. It sounds like a challenge, like he's daring Shiro to survive this.
He almost smiles to himself.
He's immagining the voice of his friend, who will never be anything more, to find the strenght to keep going.
Shiro closes his eyes and tries to immagine Keith beside him, bue he fails. Only his voice comes clear in his mind, a mix of worried and pretended disinterest, "I never thought Takashi Shirogane was one to give up."
And Shiro isn't. So he nods and sits up straighter.
There will be another fight and he will have to survive again. And again. And again.
He has promised Keith he would come back soon.
Shiro's prediction comes true in the end, and after two days guards come to his cells. There is still no sign of Matt, and when he had tried asking the other prisoners they had told him that Matt had been taken away and never seen again.
They bring him to the same arena of the first time, and the crowd cheers for him. He had impressed her the first time, taking down one of their strongest fighters. They think he's a bloodthirsty beast, probably. And they love him for it.
He feels nauseous at the thought. He doesn't want to be recognized or appreciated for that, and he almost drops the weapon there and there, refuse to fight. He can die with his integrity intact, at least, holding onto his humanity as much as he can.
Don't do it, he immagines Keith saying. In reality he doesn't know what choice would Keith make in his situation, but it's obvious that his own concience is telling him to live.
Keith would probably be disgusted with him, with what he's becoming to survive, but he doesn't think there is anything else for him to do. He has to adapt and surive or stubbornly hold hig ground and die.
You have to survive, Shiro, Keith's voice says, as clear as the audiene's screams of joy and excitement.
Maybe Shiro should be worried, but that voice is a comfort he needs right now. So he nods to himself and tightens his grip on his weapon.
He fights much like two days before, in a dance for survival and nothing else. He lets the most tactical part of his mind, the one who had taken top mark in Strategic Warfare at the Garrison, take control and he doesn't hesitate.
Shiro kills that day, the blood of his enemy staining his clothes and his soul for eternity.
You're alive, Keith says, so close to his ear, that is the only thing that matters.
Shiro isn't sure if that's true, feels pretty terrible right now, but the guards are advancing towards him to bring him back to his cell, and Shiro doesn't think about it anymore.
Just because he's listening to the voices in his head - or, most accurately, the one voice - it doesn't mean he's crazy.
He's doing what he needs and what he can to survive.
It becomes a much more usual occurence. Keith's voice arrives always at his lowest point to encourage him, to push him to surivve another day. Keith's voice is there at night, while Shiro tries to sleep but finds his night plagued by some of the most gruesome nightmares.
Shiro does what the voice says and he survives. They call him the Champion and he had ammassed a certain amount of fame. He's their best fighter, the one who the audience wants to see fight the most.
They want him to lose, to see him fail, but it hasn't happened yet.
Keith's voice is proud of him, or at least so he says. He likes the idea that, maybe, even the real Keith would be proud of him. Wouldn't hate him for the monster he's becoming. It is, all in all, a nice thought.
Even if he doesn't think it would be possible.
He hates himself, and the idea that someone else could see him as something else from this terrible thing he's becoming it's almost impossible to consider.
Then. Then he gets noticed.
He's special they say, he's going to be their best weapon yet. They whisper softly in his ears and they almost drown the voice of Keith.
Shiro had heard of the druids, obviously, everyone had. Haggar and her elite and private army. They created monsters, little experiments they enjoyed to use and just play with. He doesn't know what they see in him, probably something terrible and dark, a thirst for blood and cruelty.
Probably what he sees in himself.
They are trying to turn him, from what he understands. Haggar calls him her greatest weapon yet and she wants him to shine in her hands in the name of the emperor.
He wonders sometimes if it wouldn't just be easier to do as they say. Why should he kept fighting? What does he have to look forward to?
The probability of him going back to earth is minimal. He knows and he has to accept that. Shiro's life is already proprierty of the emperor and the Galra, so why not just make it official? Because this is not you, Shiro, Keith's voice returns. It's warm and bright, like the light of the sun he hasn't seen in what it feels like forever.
Is this what Shiro thinks Keith would say to him? He doesn't know. Shiro still replies, because he wants to force Keith to talk more, wants to hear something else but those terrible whispers.
He asks the voice, mumbling under his breath, "But who am I?" because it feels like he's lost in translation, something that once was clear and now it's blurried at best.
Is there really Takashi Shirogane anymore?
You're what I remember you to be, Keith's voice tell him. Sure and forceful. He talks like he knows what he wants and that Shiro will bend backwards to give it to him.
The thing is, he's not wrong. You're what I want you to be, the voice continues and Shiro nods, wordlessly.
He remembers one afternoon Keith, illuminated by the warm rays of the sun, that had laughed at something and told him that Shiro was the most stubborn bastard he had ever met.
So Shiro closes his eyes and he resists.
The druids and Haggar don't desist, but they let him return to the arena with a new arm. After every fight they bring him to their chamber and try again.
He does his best.
"You're so stubborn, aren't you?" Haggar asks him, a little annoyed at Shiro's persistent refusal to bend. "How long do you feel you can go on?"
Shiro asks himself that and Keith's voice answers immediately, voice as clear as the first time, as much time as it takes.
So he nods and lets Keith's resolution guide him.
When the Galra saves him, Shiro is still too confused to react. The treatment today had been different than usual and he knows that Haggar had been building up to something big.
He feels dizzy, pumped up with some kind of drug, but he still tries his best to follow the mysterious Galra.
It seems to be the only possibility of escape, of actually surviving this, and the first thing Keith had asked him to do was survive. So that's what Shiro does.
"We don't have more time," the Galra says, "you have to go back to your own planet. They are coming for you and your planet. They think one of the lions is there."
Shiro turns towards him, confused. "A lion?"
"You need to find Voltron, Champion. It can't fall into Zarkon's hands. You think you can do that?" before Shiro can finish the Galra drops him and looks back behind them.
"Go, I'll keep them occupied," he orders Shiro and then runs in the opposite direction of where they were directed before.
Shiro still feels groggy and slow, but he understands that what the Galra had given him is a way to go home so he tries his best to get up.
He doesn't feel he has much strenght left, but he has to make it.
You can do everything you put your mind to, Takashi,, Keith's voice is back and it feels so good to hear it again. It's the only sounds that manages to push inside Shiro's confused brain and he latches onto it with all the strenght of a dying man. You can come back to me.
Shiro looks up at that and moves. He doesn't know whwere this strenght comes from. Doesn't know how the voice of Keith created by his own delirious mind can be so powerful, but he's grateful for it.
When he sees Keith again he won't say anything about this, but he hopes he can tell him how he feels at least.
It would be nice if he could remember it.
Shiro forgets and when he remembers, he realizes that the voice hadn't came back, confirming it has mostly been in his head, something that he had created to give himself the strenght he had been lacking on his own.
Keith, the real one - who smirks at him, has a real body and doesn't whisper sweet encouragement in Shiro's ears - seems to be the same as always and it gives a little bit of comfort to Shiro.
The promise Shiro had made to himself before boarding the shuttle towards earth still haunts Shiro's mind.
He can't seem to find the courage to actually go along with it. He tries to immagine Keith's voice telling him to do it, like he had done many times in the days he was captured, but it seems that it doesn't come as clear now. He still can immagine it, Keith's annoyed but amused huff, the way he would call Shiro a big coward, and yet he can't hear it.
Maybe by being so close, finally, to the real Keith his immagination doesn't need to be strong enough to conjure what he needs. Maybe Shiro doesn't need it as much as he had needed it then.
Or maybe Keith doesn't want him to do it.
Keith's voice had been so adamant in his time as a captive, so steadfast and strong, maybe because Shiro had knows Keith would have been that way in the situation, but if he himself doesn't think Keith wants him to confess, how can the voice in his head give him the push he needs?
So he just... lets it go.
Sometimes he thinks about it, with a detached sort of way, and wonders if maybe he should do it. He dimsisses the idea quickly everytime.
It seems that even outside of the Galra prison, Shiro's life will always amount to nothing but regrets.
Keith, the real one, tries to talk to him about the captivity sometimes. It's obvious it's hard for him, who was never good at processing his emotions and has problems knowing how to handle other people's, but he seems genuine enough in his questions.
Still, Shiro doesn't know how much to tell him.
Would it be strange to say that the only reason he's alive it's because he had immagined Keith's voice? The Keith of his immagination had been harsh, but also always there for him. He had pushed Shiro when he had needed a push, and he had supported him when Shiro had felt like letting go.
Still, he doesn't think it's something one can do to a friend without receiving a strange look. So he tries to say as much as he can, but he never mentions the voice in his head.
This Keith doesn't say anything when Shiro is done. He doesn't tell Shiro he was proud of him, or doesn't say he's happy he made it.
This Keith stays silent while he reaches for Shiro's hand and holds on tight, something the voice in his head had never been capable of doing.
It's warm, warmer than anything Shiro had felt in over a year and it brings tears to his eyes.
Keith in reality speaks more with actions rather than words, allows his feelings to express themselv in his movements, in his eyes and his little smiles.
The way he talks is much more private and indirect, but still as beautful as the voice in Shiro's mind. Just as powerful.
Maybe the reason why Shiro can't hear the voice anymore is because he doesn't need it anymore.
He starts to think that he could do it, now. He could say to Keith that he loved him, that he was Shiro's strenght when he needed it most.
Words, however, doesn't seem to have a place in this conversation they are having.
Keith is still holding his hand, almost as if he could carry the weight on his shoulder with just that little touch. Shiro is sure that Keith could, that Keith would be stronger than Shiro ever was.
So he tries to convey what he's thinking without talking, just as Keith is doing right now.
Shiro leans forward slowly, so that the other can back away if he wants, and puts his forehead on Keith's, keeping his eyes wide open.
The surprise is easy to see in Keith's eyes, but the other doesn't retracts, after a second Keith replies to Shiro's gesture by rising his free hand and touching Shiro where the prostetich touches his skin.
It feels intimate, even more than anything else they have shared. It feels like Keith is saying, in his own way, that he accepts the way Shiro is now.
The voice had once told Shiro he was what Keith remembered of him, but now maybe it's chainging. Shiro is what Keith sees right now, and that's still okay.
Even with everything he has gone through, even with the things he had to do, maybe he's still someone who can be worthy of being near Keith.
Shiro wants to tell the other that in those months he had been his strenght, but he's still strangely reluctant to talk about it, even with this new resolution in himself.
Keith's voice had been a mean to survive, a way for Shiro to force himself out of a terrible situation, and he doesn't want to put that kind of weight on Keith's shoulders.
What the real Keith is doing, after all, is all Shiro needs.
In the end, what he does instead is lean forward a little bit more and kisses him. Purs into the gesture everything he doesn't think he will be able to say.
Hopes it makes up for it. for everything that Shiro is and has done.
He wats to tell Keith that he survived for him, but he thinks in the end he did it entirely for himself, and Keith was just the right medium to make him see that.
Shiro doesn't know if he can like himself still, not after everything, and there will always be a part of him that will remember those dark days where he had almost given up, but maybe he can start to like himself better if he focuses in the Takashi Shirogane he sees in Keith's eyes.