Everyone knows how it works: on the day of your seventh birthday, exactly to the minute, you start to feel the beginning of the soulbond. Initially, it's just residual feelings, impressions that could go ignored if someone wished to. If the other part of the bond wasn't of age yet, the oldest one would still receive something , only more muted and less vibrant.
It would take time for the bond to be completed, possibly years, where the two would just get glimpses of each other and learn who was on the other side of their red string of fate.
Once formed, the bond allows the pair to feel each other emotions completely. It is said to be the deepest connection that there could ever be.
Everyone knows how it works, but not many know about Shiro.
On the day of his seventh birthday, after having spent days making calculations with his grandfather, Shiro spends hours seated on the porch of their house, awaiting for something . Everyone got something the day of their seventh birthday, that's what everyone knows, and Shiro just thinks they might have done their calculations wrong, that maybe it’s not his birthday. That he was born later than his grandfather remembers. So he waits. And waits.
Hours pass and Shiro just sits there. Alone.
There is no tingle under his skin, no phantom touch in his soul. There is silence to answer his call.
For everyone gets a soulmate, but Shiro doesn't.
Mornings inside the castle of Lions are never as lazy as Shiro would like. The times he doesn't wake up in the middle of the night because of a mission, an alarm or a nightmare are few and rare, and he tries to appreciate them all.
It's why Shiro would love to stay in bed today. He's not sure what time is it, but he knows that there is nothing beyond basic training and routine controls that he has to do. He could spend the entire morning in bed without attracting too much attention to himself.
And yet he feels restless. There is something inside him that wants to get up, a nervousness that he can't understand. He's sure he's not forgetting anything and he doesn't want to give up one of the only mornings where he could actually relax. He closes his eyes again, stubbornly trying to make it go away.
He tries for five solid minutes before he has to admit defeat, it seems like relaxation will elude him today. Shiro sits up on the bed, annoyed at himself.
It will be probably another three years of this war before another opportunity like this will come again, and Shiro is wasting it. There is nothing to be done, however, and crying about it won’t make it better. He gets up and goes to get ready.
He thinks he’ll go to the kitchen to eat some breakfast, possibly say hi to the team and then he'll go to the gym, trying to exhaust this strange energy that's running inside him.
When Shiro enters the kitchen the first thing he sees is Hunk and Pidge putting a lot of snacks in a bag. It seems they are getting ready to start another of their usual engineer madness marathons. It usually means that no one will see them for a couple of days, or until a mission comes along.
He's glad he caught them, then. "Hi," Shiro says, entering the room.
Pidge doesn't even stop looking at the snacks, picking up the ones she wants, while Hunk actually looks at him and smile. "Shiro! Hi, what are you doing up?"
"Couldn't sleep," Shiro admits, shrugging, "is there something left to eat, or are you guys taking everything?"
"We left you guys a couple cookies from the last batch," Hunk reassures him, going back to his work. "But Pidge and I are working on a new project so we need the energy."
Pidge appears from behind Hunk, fixing her glasses, "Also the kitchen is on the other side of the castle and it's tiring."
"Also that," Hunk admits. Shiro smiles at their shenanigans and goes in search of the promised cookies.
"Do you guys think it will take long this time?" he wonders out loud. Pidge and Hunk look at each other and Shiro thinks they’re having some kind of conversation made up mostly of glances.
Sometimes it's strange to think that they are not each other’s soulmate when they act like this. Lance is Hunk's soulmate, however, and Matt is Pidge's. They just go along better than most normal people.
"It depends," they admit at the end. Shiro turns around to find the cookies, leaving them the time to articulate, if they want. Hunk’s cookies might be a way to make him feel a little better about his inability to go back to sleep and he’s looking forwards to them. They’re not as good as earth cookies, but after four years Shiro has gotten accustomed to alien food. "I think we're very close," Pidge continues, "but we have a couple of calculation to make. So it could be a matter of hours..."
"Or days," Hunk concludes, putting a lot of food goo in a jar. "But I think we're close too. We just don't want to say anything. It's supposed to be a surprise."
A part of him wants to know, but he has learned to trust them when they get like this. He doesn't need to be always in the loop on everything his team does. He has a plan for the day, although not the plan he had hoped. "I'm sure it will be great as always," and he means it. The last time he has seen them like this, Voltron had another feature by the end of the week.
He lets them go, watching as they whisper excitedly between themselves. He hoped that talking with someone for a little while would make this anxiousness go away, but it has only been getting stronger.
It feels like his body is telling him that there is something he needs to do, something he has completely forgotten. But he has been going over everything since he woke up, only to always come up blank.
He bites into another cookie and refrains from pouting too much.
Shiro will hit the gym and force his body to relax, and then everything will be okay. He has to believe that.
Shiro walks towards the gym a little faster than usual, almost as if there is something pulling him there, and he wonders what exactly is happening. It feels almost like he's back to those first months after he escaped from Galra captivity, where every second spent relaxing felt like he was getting weaker. Like he was letting them win.
Shiro has grown since that day, healed and scarred where before there was only festering wounds; it worries him that he can go back to that mindset so easily and suddenly.
He's so focused on his own thoughts that he almost crashes into Keith, not realizing the other is just in front of him. Shiro blinks, surprised, and then smiles at the other.
While Shiro is not in the best mood, Keith's presence is a balm for his anxious mind. Just Keith’s presence is enough to make him feel better, a little more rooted in the present.
"Shiro," Keith says, a little surprised. His tone is winded and a little clipped, the way Keith sometimes get before he goes to the gym to burn some energy. It seems that today they are perfectly aligned.
He smiles at the other man, then, "Going to the gym?" The other just shrugs as an answer. "Me too. I feel like I have too much energy inside me today."
"I know," Keith replies, a little curt. Shiro looks at him surprised and the other diverts his gaze quickly, almost as if he's hiding something. "What I mean is that I'm feeling the same," Keith clarifies, before he shrugs. "Sure, I can't wait to kick your ass today too."
"I want you to remember that right now I'm winning actually," Shiro says with a smile. In reality, he has no idea if he's really winning. Over the years they haven't kept score as diligently as they had at the Garrison and Keith has improved a lot.
"Dream on," Keith retorts, but there is a little smile on his face. He looks already more relaxed and Shiro can't help but feel the same way.
The strange feeling in his gut isn't gone, but it feels like Keith's presence can make it quieter somehow. Maybe it's just that Shiro's heart is so loud that it dulls all other sounds.
Over the years, Shiro has resigned himself to forever have an unrequited crush on his friend, and while he got better at hiding it and controlling his emotions, sometimes he just has to let his heart do its thing.
When they were at the Garrison, Shiro had hoped for a short while. Maybe Keith had a platonic soulmate, just like Lance and Hunk. He had been so infatuated that he had tried once to ask the other about his soulmate. Keith had looked surprised, taken aback and a little shy, but Shiro had recognized the look on the other's face. Whoever Keith's soulmate was—and the other had never revealed any specific detail—it was clear Keith was in love with them.
Ever since that night, Shiro has made peace with his emotions. Whatever he feels for Keith will have to remain inside him. After all, just because Shiro doesn't have anyone, it doesn't mean he doesn't believe in soulmates. It's difficult not to when he's surrounded by them.
Keith keeps glancing at him while they are walking, almost as if he's confused by something, and Shiro tries to look as normal as he can.
This really isn't his day.
They train for hours, and by the end of it they are smiling at each other, sweaty but satisfied. It feels like whatever was gnawing at Shiro's stomach has disappeared and he hopes that it will stay gone for the rest of the day.
The only thing he can feel now is contentment. And a little bit of hunger.
He opens his mouth to propose to Keith to go and eat something when the other says: "I'm starving. Can we go and get something to eat?"
Shiro blinks, surprised, but nods relieved. "Yeah, sure."
Keith smiles up at him, with a knowing look that Shiro doesn't really understand, when the doors to the gym open abruptly. They both look towards them in time to see Hunk, Lance and Pidge run inside, smiling.
"We did it!" Pidge says, with a manic look in her eyes. Hunk nods so fast that it's difficult to follow. Shiro has the sneaking suspicion that they might have already eaten everything they just stole from the kitchen.
"Did what?" Keith asks, brow furrowed.
"I heard Hunk's excitement so loud I was almost scared," Lance says with a smile. He looks as excited as the other two, but Shiro knows that a part of it are Hunk's emotion bleeding with Lance's.
"We managed to count how much time has passed on earth ever since we left!" Pidge exclaims, laughing, "we even know what day it is today!"
Shiro blinks, and then smiles. With all their jumping around in wormholes, while they have a general idea of how much time has passed, they have never been able to calculate the exact days. It would be good to be able to celebrate some of earth's most known holidays.
"That's great!" he says, smiling, but Hunk talks over him.
"Do you want to know what day it is today? We couldn't believe it!" the Yellow Paladin smiles and doesn't wait for anyone to answer before continuing, "February 29th! It's a leap year! Isn't that incredible?"
What? Shiro stops, surprised. They haven't really celebrated anyone's birthdays during their stay in space. Lacking a real calendar they had decided to celebrate everyone's birthday one day of every year.
It's a little strange to think that today it's his birthday.
The others are smiling between themselves, and Shiro realizes that they probably don't know it's his birthday. He won't tell them, there is no need, he doesn't want to make the day about himself and not their discovery.
"Wait. You said february 29th?" Keith says, behind them, and Shiro turns towards him realizing that there is one person who knows his birthday here. As expected Keith is looking at him, there is something soft in his eyes, and for a moment Shiro drowns into them.
It's like he can't think about anything else. A warmth he has never felt spreads over his body like a blanket. It feels... strange.
Keith must think there’s something unusual too, because he looks confused now. And it takes a moment for Shiro to realize that he feels it. Keith’s confusion, and then his shock. He has to concentrate on them to really feel them, almost as if their connection is growing, building itself up.
How is it possible?
"What's going on?" Lance asks, stepping between them, "why are you two looking at each other like that?"
"It's Shiro's birthday," Keith says. He sounds hoarse, like he's not really there. Keith is shocked, Shiro can feel it .
"Whaaat?" Lance exclaims, loudly. "Shiro, man! You should have said something! That's incredible!"
Shiro wants to smile at him, but he doesn't think he's able to look away from Keith.
"A leap baby," Pidge snickers, "how does it feel to turn seven?"
Shiro stops. His entire world crashing on him. He sees the same realization hit Keith and they both turn towards Pidge. "What did you say?" Keith asks. Shiro is glad the other asks, because he doesn't trust his own voice.
It seems that the rest of the group might have caught on that there was something strange, and they are looking a little worried. "It was a joke," PIdge explains, "Because he's turning 28, which means he only celebrated seven birthdays, right?"
And Shiro can't believe this. Can't believe this is how his life decided to work out. He's seven years old now and he can feel Keith's emotions, a little clouded but there .
"Oh shit," Lance exclaims, looking between them, "do you mean to tell me that Shiro actually just turned seven here? As in soulmate seven years old ?"
And yes. That is exactly what happened. Shiro can't believe it.
"I thought I didn't have a soulmate," Shiro says. He still feels a little lost, like he has completely lost his balance.
"And I thought mine was a one way bond," Keith replies in kind and Shiro feels even more confused.
They hear the others leave the room, saying that they were going to bake a cake, but Shiro can't really muster the energy to look at them. Keith is his soulmate .
"You could never hear me!" Keith explains, a little hysterical, "but I could always hear you! It was always a little dull, like there was a barrier between us and I thought..."
He realizes what Keith must have thought. It was rare, less than 0,03% of the population received a one way bond, but it happened. A bond where someone's soulmate had someone else as his soulmate.
Shiro can't believe any of this. And in this moment he doesn't care.
He dashes forward and takes Keith by the collar of his shirt, dragging him towards his face. He kisses the other like he had dreamed for so long and Keith melts under him.
Shiro can feel the way Keith feels, and he tries to drown in it. For years he had believed he would never have this, and now he vows to never let it go.
When Shiro was seven years old he had waited for hours for
to happen and when nothing had, he had thought he was alone in the universe.
Turns out, he just had to wait a little bit longer.