The sounds of the castle ship echoed about Shiro, the hallways seeming oddly silent of signs of life aside from his own. Of course, that made sense given he was the only one on the ship at that moment, the others being out and about at the giant party being held at the Garrison.
It hadn’t been very long at all since Zarkon had finally fell, with the assistance of his only son, Lotor. Knowing that this was likely to be the best time for the human (and partially human) Paladins to see their family after five to six years, and so they had returned to Earth, three families reunited while Keith and Shiro just enjoyed seeing what they had known in their younger years, and just in time for a large celebratory party to be held.
The party, however, was celebrating not just the return of the Holts, Lance, and Hunk, but also the Christmas season. While Shiro was more than glad that they had made it home, that they had found their families, he just...wasn’t feeling the holiday season.
When others had tried to stay back as well, they had been convinced. Hunk assured Keith and Coran that his mother would love them. Lance said the same to Lotor and Allura. So everyone else had gone, leaving Shiro on his own with the castle ship, parked out by the Garrison.
Of course, everyone had expected that Shiro would be there, no one tried to coerce him to go, so it wasn’t until it was too late, after the party was in full swing before anyone realized that he wasn’t there. And honestly, he didn’t mind that, it meant he wouldn’t ruin the mood for the party, and he would have some time for himself.
The only thing he hadn’t anticipated was that it would be so lonely. It was nice for a little bit, but then the lack of sounds of life were starting to get to him before long. So he turned himself around, moving away from the bridge and making his way to the Black Lion’s hangar. War might be over, but the lions were still there -- and there was always the chance that Voltron would be needed again in the future -- was still needed even now. The bonds between the Lions and Paladins were stronger than ever, especially Black with Shiro.
If nothing else, at least he wouldn’t feel so alone, even if Black didn’t make much in the way of sound. Her presence would be enough...theoretically. However, his arrival in the hangar was met with a rather cool silence -- even feeling her presence it was somewhat faint, almost as if she was enjoying a nap. (Who knew giant robotic cats enjoyed naps as much as their natural counterparts?)
He went to sit beside her paw, not wanting to go anywhere else, before hearing a beeping sound. Curious, he hopped up, moving to the nearest console to let the communications patch through. Coran’s face appeared on the screen, somewhat shaky and in lower quality than they were used to -- must be using someone’s phone.
“Hello? Hello? Shiro, are you there?”
“Yes, Coran, I’m here, what do you need?” Shiro tried to not sound too eager, but he really did want something to do.
“Number five is missing, we don’t know where she is. We’re looking but we don’t have access to the things we’re used to over here -- can you see if you can track her? It shouldn’t be too difficult, and she can’t have gone too far, we just…”
“Alright, don’t worry, Coran, I’ll find her. You keep looking, and I’ll let you know when I find her if you don’t find her first, okay?”
“Thank you, Shiro.” The smile on Coran’s face looked less relieved and more...scheming, but Shiro thought nothing of it. Coran never really did respond how one would expect, so he just brushed it off as a quirk of the older Altean man as he shut off the communications, quickly tabbing to the program that kept track of the castle’s inhabitants. The program was something that was kept going just in case, so that there was a bit of security, knowing that they could always find each other so long as they kept the trackers on them.
Thinking it highly unlikely that Pidge would have run into trouble, that was the first place Shiro had looked and luckily, he had a clear ping to her location. He didn’t even hesitate before grabbing a jacket to toss over his outfit and slipping on a pair of gloves. While he wasn’t ashamed of his prosthetic, he knew that there wasn’t anything quite like it on Earth -- and he was in too much of a hurry to find Pidge, find out what had happened with his youngest teammate.
It didn’t take too long for him to find her -- using the cycle that loaded into his lion, he managed to get to where the tracker said she was, which was not too far from the party. He didn’t see anyone out there initially -- neither Pidge nor those who were supposed to be looking for her. Hopping off the cycle, he removed his helmet and looked around cautiously.
The war was over, but that didn’t mean that danger was completely ruled out. Still, just looking wouldn’t get the job done, so he cupped his gloved hands around his mouth and began to call, “Pidge? Katie? Are you here?”
He called for a couple of minutes before something came into view. For all that the Galaxy Garrison was a military installation, there were civilians there as well, and they wanted things to look nice and not just utilitarian and functional. There was a little fountain spouting water upward, splashing into the container below, and a young woman stood before it.
There was a long, long moment before Shiro realized the woman standing in the light of the setting sun was in fact the woman he had been looking for, clad in a clingy green dress, revealing the curves that had been hidden by her typical choice in attire, her hair left to cascade past her shoulders in gentle curls. While they all knew that Pidge was indeed a lady, they didn’t really see it. Even as her hair grew out, she never let it hang loose like it was now, and her clothing was always baggy -- but functional. But this...this was far from the small teen they had initially known, had initially thought was a boy.
“Oh, Shiro, I wasn’t expecting you.” Pidge’s voice sounded amused -- as if she expected the opposite , had known he would be coming to look for her. “I was just admiring the view out here...it’s so different, knowing what we know now, knowing what all is out there…”
“Pidge, you’ve been out here a while, the others were getting worried about you,” Shiro let out a sigh, shaking his head. “Coran even called me to look for you...are you alright?” He stepped closer, still somewhat in awe of how she looked now -- wearing heels that made her seem even taller, even older, definitely looking more like a woman.
‘Get it together, Shirogane, Pidge has always been a woman,’ he thought to himself irritably, because it was true -- she had always been one. But it had never been quite so noticeable as it was now. Standing beside her, he could easily lean forward and take a deep breath and inhale her scent -- lightly covered with perfume and oh how he wanted to but he wouldn’t because he had to protect her, his precious teammate.
“I’m sorry, I just wanted a moment alone. You know, I was kind of sad you didn’t show up to the party,” large brown eyes turned to look up at him, “I wanted to be able to just hang out with you a bit, let you meet my mom and all -- ‘cause I don’t think she’s actually met you yet. She’s just heard about you from me, and Dad, and Matt.”
“I’m sorry, I just...wanted some time on my own, that’s all.” Shiro felt guilt swelling up inside of him, but luckily Pidge was right there, ready to stomp it out.
“No, no, it’s alright, I get it. We all do. But, really, you don’t have to distance yourself from us. You don’t have to hide from us, from me.”
“Why would I hide from you?” His response was instinctive, even as he realized Pidge was right -- he had been pulling away, hiding himself from the rest, much like Keith had before. “I -- I didn’t mean to, I just --” He sighed, shaking his head. “I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?” Trying to lighten the mood was always a good distraction, even if it wasn’t something Shiro was the best at -- he could at least make the attempt.
Though seeing the small smirk on Pidge’s face almost instantly had Shiro shaking in his boots metaphorically. She was absolutely terrifying when she got an idea in her head, and it was made worse whenever she smirked. Before he could ask, see what was going on, she was speaking, “Well, you could call me Katie for starters.”
“Huh?” Now Shiro was utterly confused -- she had been the one to insist on Pidge, years ago, and it had stuck as what they used, but now suddenly she wanted to be Katie? “Well, I -- alright, I can do that, but I can’t do that for the entire team.” Nervous laughter bubbled out.
“Of course you can’t, but that’s just for me...besides, while the others are worried, I don’t think they’re in quite the same situation as me. Shiro, you...do realize I’m an adult now, right?” Those large brown eyes looked up at him again, and he was struck once more by how much older she looked than when they had first began. They all looked older, granted, but Pidge -- Katie had been the one to change the most. The others had gotten a bit more refined, but were all so close to adulthood that there wasn’t much left.
Katie had been fifteen when this all started. Now, she was nineteen and clearly not just their tech expert. (Though, really, Shiro, she never had been just the tech expert.)
“P--Katie, what does that have to do with anything…?” He felt his stomach doing flips, his heart fluttering a bit in his chest even as his face flushed lightly.
“I mean, Shiro, that I want...I mean, if you wanted to, I wanted to...perhaps...if you’d be willing, if you wanted to be my boyfriend?” Katie wasn’t all that great at getting words out, looking flustered at the thought of talking about emotions, and Shiro was overwhelmed with feelings.
Feelings, and an urge to just lean forward just a little, just enough that their faces were a scant distance apart and -- oh no, he gave in to that urge, feeling her breath on his face, her eyes -- not hidden by glasses -- right in front of his and he closed the distance, pressing his lips against hers, firm but gentle, there only for a short time before Katie was pressing back, her arms going to wrap around Shiro’s neck.
The kiss didn’t last long, Shiro pulling his head back to break the kiss, pressing his forehead against Katie’s, smiling softly. “I think I’d like that, Katie.”
There was soft laughter from the woman wrapped about his neck, his arms moving to hold her close. “Good! My boyfriend...that will take some getting used to.”
“I’m sure we’ll get there, eventually.” Shiro smiled. “Merry Christmas, Katie.”
“Welcome home, Shiro.”
And he really was home. Because home wasn’t a place, it was those that he loved.