Riassunto: In Shiro's life nothing comes easy. He has a disease to overcome and a hunger to sate.
Note: Scritta per la M2 di Lande di fandom per "Malessere"
The doctors aren't very optimistics. Ten years, they say, before his muscles degenerate enough that he won't be able to run. He won't be able to walk. He won't be able to do anything at all.
They talk about it clinically, with a detachment that comes from years of practice. He wonders how many young men like him have they seen in their careers, how many cut down at the base like him.
Wasted potential. So promising, and yet so quickly fallen.
It's easy, thanks to them, to see this with as much distance as Shiro can have. It's his life, his muscles, but it's far ahead in the future. He can do so much in the meantime. He has to do so much.
The stars are have been his dream up until now, a goal born of wonder and stubbornness. Now? Now the stars are his battle ground. He will conquer them, he will fight them in a bloodless battle and then. Then he will accept his defeat.
Shiro's glad he didn't ask his grandpa to come. He won't tell him anything, he'll keep him in the dark. He's sick too, a illness that comes with age, that relaxes his features every day.
Shiro can only pray that he will die as happy as his grandpa seems to be, but he knows now that it won't be like that. Shiro's life will always be a war.
He's stubborn, however, and he has an army in his heart. He will win this too.
He has to disclose his situation to the Garrison and he sees the way they look at him. There's pity in their eyes, yes, but also the knowledge that Shiro won't arrive far.
They think him weak; they think him easily defeated.
So Shiro strikes them down. He studies more than them, trains harder than them. Every waking moment Shiro is working towards his future, building to what he knows he can achieve.
He thought he had years to get there, and even if it turns out he has half of that, it only means that he has to make up for lost time, not that he won't succeed.
They don't understand it, not in the beginning, and Shiro doesn't bother explaining it to them.
He beats them in every test, he climbs to the higher scores of the Garrison. He graduates quicker than them.
There's a restlessness inside him that will never cease. A fire that will never be quenched.
Their gaze change. Pity becomes respect; awe grows in their eyes, but Shiro never really cared about them.
He's doing it for himself. To beat his own body, his own sickness.
It's a race he’s doomed to lose.
Adam doesn't understand, not really. He’s as supportive as someone can be, but Shiro knows that Adam expects him to stop at one point.
Adam doesn't have the hunger, the monster in his chest demanding to go further, see everything he can in the time he has. Adam is ambitious, but it's not his native tongue.
Ambition is something Shiro was born with, yes, but it's also a language he has carved in his very bones.
At night, Adam lies awake and asks him: "Will it ever be enough?"
Shiro might answer him, but he knows it's not what Adam wants to hear. They both know it. There's no need to hurt them more than this.
Keith is a surprise. He's young, and there's an hunger in his eyes that Shiro recognizes. It's different from his in all the way that matter, but Shiro knows how it feels to get stretched so thin by something that is growing inside of you.
Keith's hunger might be for somewhere to belong, for someone to believe in him, but Shiro is sure that the feeling is the same.
It's why he gets closer to him, to that cadet with the haunted grin. There are scars in his bones too, and Shiro doesn't know if he's the right person to soothe them, but he also know from experience that not many other people will try.
Keith grows under his attentions; he thrives and the more time they spend together, the more he sees Keith's hunger decrease.
Shiro's only becomes stronger with the ticking clock inexorably getting closer to his deadline.
"Why did you help me?" Keith asks him once, while they are looking at the stars.
It's not something they have ever talked about, but he's sure that Keith knows about his sickness, and he wonders if this is Keith's way of giving him a possibility. An in.
It's not a fight, just a gentle suggestion, and it's as appreciated as it is unknown. Not many things don't come as a struggle for him.
Still, Keith is wrong. It's not the sickness that made Shiro sympathetic over Keith, is everything else.
"It's because we are the same," Shiro tells him. "We want things too much, so much that we let them consume us. Not many people understand this."
"I don't..." Keith starts, but he lets the words die on their own. There is no refuting this truth. They might be different things, but they both long for things that are in front of them.
"You can be great, Keith. You have so much potential, but most of all you have the drive to arrive there," Shiro tells him, with a smile. "And I believe you'll be better than I will ever be." Not because of the sickness, Shiro has never left that define him.
Keith tells him to shut up, but he looks almost close to tears. Shiro can't help but laugh at him.
They won't give him the Kerberos mission, not because of his scores are lacking, not because his abilities are lacking.
Just because he's sick.
This is something he can't do anything about. A limitation that doesn't come from inside him, but from others expectation. It doesn't matter how much he pushes, how much he proves himself, it seems. There will always be a smudge in his ledger, something that people will use to try and stop him.
Adam thinks it might be for the best, that he doesn't have anything to prove to anyone, and while that might be true, Shiro can't be satisfied with this.
He has three years left and his goal is so close to him that he can almost taste it.
Stopping now is impossible.
Samuel Holt supports him, convince everyone that he's ready, that there's no one else better than him and suddenly they let him go.
"You deserve it," Sam tells him and Shiro nods.
He wonders, in the darkest nights, if the Galra are a punishment. Shiro wanted too much, could never settle on what he was given, and now he has to be punished for it.
Alone in his cell, a fight waiting for him the next day, he wonders about the people he left on earth. What will they think of the boy with too big ambitions and too many obstacles?
In the end, he was stopped. In the end, he found his match in the stars he so longed for.
Poetic, in a way.
A man less used to fighting might have given up, but giving up isn't something contemplated in his faulty genetics. He might be useless soon, but until then he'll fight.
Haggar discovers his sickness after a fight. Shiro doesn't know what she sees, but she throws him a calculating stare and she touches his damaged arm.
"A gladiator who can't fight is useless to me," she tells him. She's not as detached as the doctor had been that day of many years ago. "I will make you better. I will make you perfect."
Shiro doesn't want her to, but he knows that his wants and wishes are something he has to fight to achieve.
After. When he escapes the Galra and he joins the others; when Black is everything he hears in his head, he wonders what will happen to the team once his body gives in to the fight it has been struggling with for Shiro's entire life.
Without Shiro, who will pilot the Black lion? Who will save the universe?
It's a weight that sits uncomfortably on his shoulders. It can't be his fight, not all the way to the end, not in the way they expect it to.
His hunger is silent, now. He conquered the stars, conquered the Galra. He did everything he set himself up to do.
He has another year, at maximum, and then his muscles will start locking themselves up. Time isn't something he never had the luxury to waste, but now it seems even more imperative.
He trains the rest of the group, hopes that maybe one day Allura will be able to join them, and for the first time he worries about what his sickness will do to other people. To an entire galaxy.
How terrible of a illness, to condemn the entire universe.
And then Keith pilots the Black lion, the hunger in his eyes stronger and wider than ever before and Shiro smiles.
He remembers now, that he and Keith might be different in all the important ways, but also similar in all the right ones.
They will be fine, he thinks. As always, Shiro's condition is no one else's problem but his own.
For someone used to be on his dying breath since he was a teenager, Shiro doesn't really know what to do with himself when they tell him he's cured.
Haggar really did cure him, and isn't that irony all in itself?
He looks at his hands—at his clone's hands—and they feel the same; move the same: shake the same. There's something fundamentally different in them, however. They are meant to last.
The trade off is his ability to connect with Black, but he has a life in front of him now. A life where he can choose what to do, who to be. The hunger is silent, sated.
Maybe he did have something to prove to someone, and that someone was himself.
Voltron wins. They return to Earth shaken to the core by their loss, by the gaping hole left by Allura, but they survive.
Shiro knows intimately the feeling of surviving and the compromises that one has to do for it, but this seems too big of a sacrifice. Allura deserved to be here with them; Lance deserved to get old with her.
"Shiro," Keith calls him and he turns towards him.
They've been back on Earth for what feels like years (three hours, really), and Keith looks like he still hasn't slept.
He tries to muster a smile for him, but he fails. He feels tired, but most of all he feels empty.
The drive that has accompanied him all his life, all his hunger and his ambitions, they are gone. Destroyed in the wake of what they have accomplished.
There is much to do, much to rebuild, but there is no hurry. Shiro has time to waste now. He doesn't know what to do with it.
"We did it," he says, in the end, because it's true isn't it?
Keith nods, but steps closer. Stops at Shiro's side, unyielding.
"Yes, Shiro. You did it."
Shiro should have been dead by now. Or maybe strapped to a chair or a bed unable to move. But he isn't. He defeated it, he won the war, didn't he?
He looks at Keith, the relaxed set of his shoulder. Keith has achieved his goals too, hasn't he? There are people who love him, a place that accepts him.
So Shiro reaches with his hand and takes one of Keith's in his own.
"No," he repeats, "we did it."
Keith's blinding smile is enough of a prize.
Two weeks later the lions roar in the night, and when they rush to see what's happening, Allura smiles at them from the deck. She's alive, and that's all that matters. The hunger is a silent beast inside him, gone and sated.
They did it, he thinks, leaning a little more on Keith.