Riassunto: If he's not Takashi Shirogane, he's not sure who he is.
Note: Written for COWT8, Finale
In the end, in a spectacular twist of events: everything turns out okay.
No one had ever really dared to hope out loud. It was something left for the dark, the solitude, where it could be whispered and shared in secret. It had seemed too much of a pipe dream, and he knows Keith had been the most affected of them all.
He had tried to help Keith, but it had been clear that it wasn’t his job. His every attempts had been met with reluctant acceptance and a regretful smile. He doesn’t think Keith had done it on purpose, because his every expression had screamed that he was trying. It had been a comfort, even if fruitless.
Keith didn’t hate him. No one hated him, in the end. Again, everything turns out okay.
They find Shiro and everyone embraces him; Keith looks at him like he finally has his center back, like he has found himself too. He can’t see the others faces, their backs to him, but joy dances in the air with a flowery scent, sweet and light.
He looks at them, stares into the face of Takashi Shirogane—the same face he, himself, has—and can’t help but wonder.
Everything turns out okay.
He just doesn’t know, if he’s not Takashi Shirogane, who he is.
They tell him that his code name is Kuron, and he guesses it’s a name like another. In the beginning, he’s too shocked by everything else to really care.
Names seem a miniscule problem in the face of the discovery that he’s not who he thought he was. He’s a clone, born in a laboratory, bred to be a weapon. What is a name in front of this?
Kuron works as best as anything else. He sees the others slip sometimes, catch themselves before they call him Shiro. It’s easier now that the real Shiro is back, but he also notices that Shiro avoids being in the same room with him.
He can’t really blame him.
Every single scar, every single cell, every single memory he has is modelled after Takashi Shirogane. He knows what Takashi Shirogane wanted to be when he was five, he knows his most intimate secrets. But he’s not Takashi Shirogane.
He’s not even Kuron, if he has to be honest.
Keith tries to talk with him while the real Takashi Shirogane is recovering in his healing pod.
He can see the way Keith fumbles, how he’s not used to doing this but he’s trying. It’s surreal seeing the Keith now and trying to reconcile him from the one of his (Shiro’s) memories.
Keith had been rougher at the garrison, like an animal ready to strike. He remembers thinking that it was what gave him the upper hand, because Keith had been raw in anything: talent, emotions, but also fear.
Shiro, whose life had been an exercise in control and organization, had been fascinated. Entranced before he even had the chance to resist.
Now Keith is familiar and unknown at the same time, a contradiction in terms and it unsettles him. There is a part of him—the layer that is still intrinsically Shiro—that warms at the mere thought of Keith.
His core, however—the part that is starting to be him—is resentful and wary.
Keith looks at him straight in the eyes and tells him, “Don’t worry. You’re still part of the team.”
He wants to ask if he ever really was.
He avoids mirrors. His image reflected on the surface is a reminder of things he prefers to forget. When he does, questions he tries to push down stare back at him, unrelenting.
Who are you? Shiro’s face screams at him from the other side of the mirror. Why do you have my face?
He breaks the mirror in his bathroom and doesn’t tell anyone.
“Can I…” Lance says, tentatively. Lance doesn’t finish, but looks at Hunk, a little helpless. After a second Lance continues, more confident, “Can I ask how you want to be called? I mean. For real. You don’t seem to like Kuron very much.”
He looks surprised for a second before answering, “Kuron is perfectly fine.”
This time it’s Hunk who speaks, with a little grimace. “No, you don’t. You always make a strange expression. There is no need to force yourself.”
Lance nods with a smile, “Yeah, I mean you can pick anything you want! Isn’t that great?”
They don’t say it with malice, and it’s obvious they really mean it. He envies the fact that they don’t understand how lucky they are. Or maybe it’s just that they are facing this with a naiveté that feels almost out of place in their lives.
“Kuron is fine, really,” he repeats. Because, again, in the end it doesn’t really matter.
Lance and Hunk look each other in the eyes, conflicted. They don’t say anything else, however, and he walks away.
He’s not really surprised when, one day, Shiro enters his room. There was never a doubt that Shiro was just taking his time, absorbing everything that had happened and trying to make sense of the situation.
He would have done the same thing faced with the choice, which isn’t really all that surprising.
Shiro’s expression is soft, a little hesitant. He understands how difficult it must be, and he thinks he knows what the other is here to say.
Some might imagine Shiro to be angry, disgusted or scared, but he knows that’s not the case. Shiro is probably feeling responsible, taking every responsibility on his own shoulder and trying to find a solution quickly and effectively.
He has been trying too.
“I think we should talk,” Shiro says, knocking uselessly on the open door—the castle doesn’t seem to be able to differentiate between them, so their doors open for each other without input. He nods, gesturing with his hand to enter.
This experience is probably going to be painful enough without the added stress of someone walking in while they stare at each other like crazy people.
Shiro lets the door close behind him and steps towards the middle of the room, looking around. After Shiro’s return he had left his—theirs—room, feeling unsettled in a bed that was his and another’s at the same time. Now he watches as Shiro takes the new room in, one as far as he could from their previous one.
“Lance and Hunk are worried,” Shiro starts, as diplomatically as possible. Every word seems to be measured, as if they had been written somewhere and rehearsed before. “Keith is too, but he isn’t talking about it with me.”
He stays silent, because there is nothing he can say about this. He wants Shiro to say his piece and go away, satisfied that at least there was an attempt.
The fact that he already knows that won’t happen makes this entire endeavor even more painful.
“So. I am here because I think we should get to know each other,” Shiro explains, his gaze staring determinedly at his face. It’s surreal to recognize every single movement the other does, like watching a recording of himself.
A little out of tune, slightly out of focus.
“We already know each other,” he reminds him, brisk. He knows everything about Shiro, and since he hadn’t existed until six months ago, Shiro knows everything there is to know about him too.
The other thinks for a second before taking a step forward and folding up his own shirt over his stomach. He looks at him, a little confused by the gesture, until Shiro points at a certain scar on his side. The cut looks red, darker than the ones beside it.
He doesn’t have that scar. He knows because he remembers every single scar on their bodies. He remembers how they got them, how painful it had been. He doesn’t remember that scar.
“We’re not the same,” Shiro repeats, leaving no room for arguments. “We’re different people, who think different things. You’re not me.”
Honestly, it’s what he has been waiting to hear, a confirmation he had needed desperately. Yet, the words burn inside of him, brand him with a new awareness. Because, again, if he’s not Takashi Shirogane, who is he?
“But I’m not myself either,” he says. His voice cracks at the end, and he hates this show of weakness. “My life is not mine, my voice is not mine, my face is not mine. If I’m not you, who am I?”
Shiro doesn’t answer immediately, but he hadn’t expected an answer. His problem is one that doesn’t have an easy solution, that won’t be solved quickly or without a little bit of pain.
“I guess we’re going to figure it out, don’t we?” Shiro settles for, in the end.
He can only nod.
After that the others talk to him more and a little more freely. No one calls him Kuron, in fact they keep trying their hardest to not call him anything at all, but they all include him in things they normally wouldn’t invite Shiro to.
Hunk tries to teach him to cook, but it seems that he still has too much Shiro in him to be any good in a kitchen. Lance makes him take a spa day with him. Pidge makes him help build a computer. Keith and Shiro don’t do much, just sitting with him on the observation deck.
He spends most of their time on the deck looking at Keith. He feels the burning of Shiro’s feelings inside him, as strong as they had been before he had discovered he was just a clone, and wonders what exactly makes him different to Shiro.
This certainly is the same.
He’s glad that he decided to change his clothes and haircut when they had found him, because now, looking at Shiro, he can start focusing on what makes them different. On his shorter hair, on his bare arms.
They are the same, but they grow apart more and more everyday.
He spends most of his time with Lance and Hunk, while Shiro spends most of his with Keith and Pidge and while it had been hard in the beginning, he starts to like it now.
Now that the real Shiro is back, there is no need for him to stay alert all the time, a luxury Shiro never had, so he starts to discover that he likes being relaxed, not always ready for the next crisis.
Little by little, he starts to discover who he is and it’s like he’s finally being born, not as Shiro, but as someone else.
So when he looks at himself in the mirror he focuses on the differences and it becomes easier to spot them little by little, so much so that he starts to see that even the others have a better time keeping them apart in their heads too.
Lance touches him more than Shiro, and Hunk actually lets him help a little in the kitchen. Keith slowly stops looking at him like he doesn’t know how to talk to him and, most importantly, Shiro looks more relaxed in his presence.
Sometimes, he still has a hard time remembering that he’s not Shiro, that the feelings that reside in his chest are not his. Those are the bad days, where he doesn’t really want to see Shiro or Keith, and isolates himself in his room.
Those days he tries to remember the moments he lived that Shiro never did. The escape from the galra ship, those terrible seven days slowly dying in pursuit of Voltron. Even the terrible memories help in the long run, make him feel real.
But those days are now further and further apart.
In the end, he asks Shiro for help. It seems appropriate, considering the circumstances.
He had already asked Hunk and Pidge with help in creating the dye, but he let’s Shiro do the work.
The other works methodically and in silence, almost as if he’s attending a sacred ritual. He appreciates it, the care he puts in this.
He’s nervous to see the finished product, if this is actually a good idea, but everyone had seemed happy to help when he had asked.
“I’m done,” Shiro announces takes a step back, allowing him to finally raise his head.
Gone is the white streak of hair on his head, and now a bold purple, as deep and rich as Galra fur, stands in its place.
He look at himself and he finds that he’s smiling, happy of the result.
He might not be Takashi Shirogane and he’s not a Galra weapon, but he’s both and none of those things at the same time. He wants to own himself, reclaim every part of his story.
“Ryou,” he announces to Shiro, with a smile, “you always wanted a brother and grampa liked the name Ryou.”
Shiro looks at him, surprised, before smiling. “Yeah, Ryou sounds fine.”