Two shadows went, Ch. 24
Updated: Sep 20, 2019
Following dutifully behind his mate, Lance tried not to seem like he was too curious of his surroundings. The palace around him had shifted so much he barely recognized some corridors and with such little light it was harder still. The dark halls were less familiar as they continued. They went down a series of staircases, Shiro only looking back a couple of times to his mate to make sure he was keeping up. Otherwise, no words between them were exchanged, and judging from Shiro’s rather reserved and withdrawn expression, Lance wasn’t gonna risk anything.
It wasn't till Shiro approached a dead end to a hallway, and paused to open a dark inlet door that Lance realized where they were going. Lance’s breath stalled as he paused before the door. He'd never been here really, but he'd seen others go there.
It wasn’t like most of the other doors in the palace. This one was set with sturdy dark latches. It was solid and the cast iron of its frame would hold probably against ten Galra. It was a door reinforced from hinges and locks. One of the few doors in the palace that absolutely needed to be opened manually, every time it opened. And Lance had rarely even seen it. And though he knew where it went, he knew what it held—he’d never personally gone through it.
He'd never wanted to.
Did Lance—there was no way. Not now. Shiro wouldn't go back on his promises now. He'd lost favor already for Lance. He’d defended him—he wouldn't now. ...would he? Lance had started to do everything he could to keep on Shiro’s side.
Lance looked around. All the guards had been sent away. They were entirely alone in that hallway. He should talk to him. If what was happening was real, Lance at least needed to know why now.
Shiro was already leaning forward, his finger under Lance’s chin as he leaned in. “No one can know,” he murmured low.
Lance knew his eyes were wide. His breath was stalled. What was going on?
Shiro’s soft kiss to Lance’s forehead sent chills through Lance’s frame. He felt cold and his lips trembled. Was this what it was like to truly be at the mercy of a King? A Kon?
"This way," Shiro’s vice was quiet as he led them on.
Swallowing Lance stepped up to his king. His body shook his heart raced. What line had Lance crossed? Why was he down here? Was this some sort of threat? Was Shiro trying to intimidate Lance again, to make him see this all? To pound it into his head that this was it? This is where Lance could end up in all of this if he didn’t start acting like the good prince Shiro wanted.
The light in Shiro's hand was quickly the only source in the dark hallways. The echo of their steps as they entered into the rough stonework of the palaces underbelly rung in Lance’s ears. Where the rest of the castle was beautiful with rich stone work and fine craftsmanship, the halls were smaller down here, narrow, and devoid of any adornment beyond the cold brick of the foundation. The alabaster white of the palace above was faded away to the dingy grey utilitarian stone.
Finally, there was another light, and Lance’s breath caught as a Galra guard in all black stirred at the end of the hallway, just before a second thick door.
“Your Majesty,” the guard didn’t spare them even a second glance as he gave a deep bow and stepped aside.
The door lit up as Shiro presented his Galra hand and the locks slid open on command.
He held the door for Lance, beckoning before he followed himself.
These halls—were lined with bars.
Lance swallowed. The dungeons underneath the palace to Lance’s knowledge hadn’t been used in nearly a century--they were relics. But now, through the dark, Lance could see as Altean beyond those bars as the light from Shiro’s crystal refracted off the whites of eyes blinking and staring up at them. Bright marks at their cheek bones caught the light and they stirred from the dark. Were they always kept in utter darkness like this? How impossibly cruel.
Shiro started walking again without a word, and with out another option, Lance followed behind. He swallowed and tipped his head to look just forward. If he didn’t want to be a new cell mate he couldn’t look overly concerned.
There was the sounds of stirring as they passed cell after cell, feet scuffing against the floors and clothes rustling. Fingers would appear through the bars, though as of yet there was only whispers, no real cries to be heard.
Lances eyes were wide as he followed. Nearly every cell was full. And he could barely see the occupants. Who were all of these people? Desentors? Alteans--yes, but who?
It was then he caught a familiar face and Lance stopped.
His breath shook out of him as a very familiar face came to the bars. His face was dirty but Lance would always recognize that red handlebar mustache anywhere.
“Coran...” Lance let slip.
Memory couldn’t be stopped as Lance’s head spun. Coran had been the first servant to attend to Lance after his bonding to Shiro. ...it felt ages ago, lifetimes, eons. And yet it had been less than a year even. Coran had always been at Alfor’s side. His family had served the king’s since before time.
“Your Highness,” the man still smiled at Lance. Like an uncle down at his nephew.
But—the feeling wasn’t mutual Lance realized. It felt like he was looking at a stranger then. Like it was a man that was supposed to be of worth to Lance and yet—he just felt distant. Was this what betrayal did? Was this what helplessness did? Lance could do nothing for Coran. He could barely do anything for himself.
“Lance,” even with a quiet tone, Shiro’s voice boomed in the cramped halls.
“I’m sorry,” Lance murmured. He gave one more glance to his former friend before he turned and followed after Shiro.
It wasn’t much farther until they were at the end of the hallway. Lance’s steps slowed as he saw the cell that capped off the hallway. There were two sets of bars with a small amount of space, about a foot between the rows.
“Are you here to take more from me? Is my crown not enough? Is my blood?"
Her voice was raspy, hoarse. Lance wondered if they were giving her enough water.
Shiro’s demeanor changed. His posture stiffened and his chin lifted as he looked over, his eyes narrowing like he was looking down at a filthy flea.
“I’m not here for you.” Shiro’s voice took on the same disgust, his lip turning.
The muscles in Lance’s legs felt stiff and cramped as he pushed them forward, as he took a step closer into the light. Tentative he tried to see through the bars, his heart pounding in his chest.
She emerged at the bars at the same moment. Her hair had been gathered up into a bun, possibly in effort to keep it clean. She wore the same flight suit she’d been pulled from Lance’s side in. She was dirty and clearly worn thin.
Her crystalline eyes widened as she seemed to finally focus and her hands came up to grasp at the bars.
“...Lance?” Her voice trembled as Allura whisper her brother’s name.
Lance’s head jerked to Shiro. What was Lance supposed to do? What did Shiro want from him here? What could Lance do here? What was his options? How could Lance further his goals here? How was he supposed to free his family as he looked at them across the bars of a prison cell?
It was a comfort that as Shiro looked back at Lance his expression changed. It softened. His mouth relaxed and he shifted, giving Lance his attention.
Lance still owned him. That was at least something Lance could hold onto.
“Go,” Shiro gestured with the light over to the cell.
A rush of breath left Lance as his eyes still searched over Shiro’s face. Did he mean it? Was he really letting Lance go to his sister?
“We don’t have long,” Shiro’s voice held a rougher edge. “Our absence will be noticed.”
There was something about it all, that Lance didn’t trust. Even as he took a step forward his eyes flashed back at his Kon. He may have Shiro—but he wasn’t sure how far he could sway him. And this—there was something off about it.
Even when Lance had begged, Shiro had denied him any contact with Allura. What had changed now? Was Shiro more convinced of something now?
Lance’s steadied his steps though and even with another fleeting glance Lance over his shoulder to Shiro he waited till Shiro gave a nod, before Lance was fleeting forward.
“Baby brother?” Allura voice was so hoarse as she dropped to her knees, her hands reaching through the two rows of bars. Th