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 Otherwise, no words between them were exchanged, and judging from Shiro’s rather reserved and withdrawn expression, Lance wasn’t gonna risk anything.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. They were shaking even as she reached through to him.
“Allura,” Lance dropped to the floor as well, grasping at her hands. His gloved hands in contrast to her scrape and worn bare ones.
“You’re alive,” Allura breathed like she could hardly believe it.
“Yes,” Lance nodded.
“He wouldn’t tell me,” Allura gasped. “He would never tell me what happened to you.” Here yes darted to glare at Shiro only a moment before focusing back on Lance.
Lance felt like his breath was rushing through him. What ever calm stillness he had before this was gone` and he felt the rising tsunami of emotion swelling in his chest.
“I thought—“ Allura mouth fell open. “I thought for sure, you were dead.”
“I’m fine,” Lance gasped. “Shiro hasn’t hurt me.”
Shiro still stood over them a few feet away, he held the crystal lantern aloft to illuminate the siblings but he didn’t venture closer and didn’t intervene in the conversation.
“He hasn’t hurt you?” Allura brushed her fingers at the edge of Lance’s face. “Are you in a cell as well? Where is he keeping you?Have you seen any of the others?”
Lance did still then. What did he say? Did he tell her the truth? Could he trust her with the truth? Allura had betrayed his trust before...
“No,” Lance shook his head. “No. I’m fine.”
Her eyes finally seemed to move from Lance’s face then, and her hands rest over Lance’s clothes—and her eyes rest there as well. The deeply adorned and intricate gold embroidering of the Kon’s sigil seemed to finally sink in.
Lance couldn’t bear when Allura’s breath stopped. Her face went slack as she looked over him, and her lips parted like she wanted to speak but couldn’t’ find the words.
She was surprised.Truly surprised at that moment.
“Are they—are you hurt?” Lance looked over his sister.
Allura‘s eyes flicked up to meet her brothers.
There was nothing he could do to stop this situation. He could already feel her fingers pulling away.
"I love you," Lance felt the well in him. He knew—Shiro was trying to be kind to him. This was supposed to be a gift to him. But—Lance... there was no way this could end well. "I’ve missed you so much."
Allura eyes had not returned to his face.
"Where is he keeping you?" Her eyes stared at the richly adorned embroidered symbol at Lance’s chest.
What could he say? She was down here in a prison cell—and Lance was sleeping with his head on a feather pillow in the King’s chambers?
"I don’t have a choice," Lance’s voice dropped. “He’s kept me with him since the moment we landed here.”
She’d never understand. She’d never lived in a gilded cage. She’d never had a father tell her she couldn’t leave the planet, never had a mate that assigned six guards to keep everyone ten feet away from him...
“I see,” She murmured.
“I’m doing everything I can,” Lance grit. H glance to hire behind him. Could. He say that here.He was so torn—please his sister of please his Kon?
“Yes,” Allura nodde.d “Your struggle seems quite taxing on you”
“Allura,” Lance pleaded knowing the dismissive tone he heard in his sisters voice. She had always thought him frivolous.
"What have you given him?" Her vice had changed as well. Her eyes did finally flick up to meet Lance’s, though narrow and unkind. "Have you handed him our kingdom?"
Lance’s hands fell away. He couldn't defend this.
What could he say to her?
"I’m doing everything I can." His voice was just a murmur. “There’s little more resources here than I have at my own disposal.”
"You’ve let him make you a pet," Allura hissed.
Lance’s spine relaxed and his shoulders squared a bit straighter. "A pet?" He shifted his head. He was doing everything in his power to save this woman, and she was suggesting he was just letting himself become a pet?
“I’m no more a pet than you are a rat in this cell.” Lance found himself saying.
That set his sisters eyes alight. “You came here standing with a man that destroyed us.”
“Or face utter destruction myself.” Lance countered.
Allura pulled her hands back completely through the bars, withdrawing from Lance. "You’ve never fought him—you just rolled over and gave him everything, didn’t you! The lions, this palace, all of our legacy!"
He wasn’t sure—Lance tipped his head.
"Shiro saved my life," it fell out of his mouth before he could stop it.
Allura looked at him with sharp turn of her head.
"He saved yours," Lance continued. "Because I begged him."
"You whined," Allura corrected.
"And he listened." Lance spoke. "He’s always listened which somehow, has managed to keep us both alive.”
There was a long silence.
Lance glanced back. Shiro stood still just a few feet away, his face expressionless as he held the crystal still to give them some light.
"I need to go," Lance said.
They couldn’t spend too much time away before it was noticed. The last thing Lance needed was a court in turmoil of gossip and scandal.
"You’ve betrayed your family." Allura lifted her chin as she spoke.
Maybe, ages before, lifetimes ago, that would have hurt him.
But Lance didn’t feel it now. He betrayed his family? His father had sacrificed his mother. Allura had sacrificed Lance. His family had led a trail of blood for decades to keep a people firmly under their control—and Lance had betrayed his family? No. That didn’t make sense. He’d done all he could for his family.
"You’re pathetic." Allura snarled at him. Her anger always turned to this, the personal slaps and insults.
He felt—abandoned suddenly. And Lance looked back at Shiro. He’d threatened to hate that man, and still Shiro had still done everything in his power to save him.
Was that the bond or more?
"I won’t leave you here," Lance said, glancing to his sister before returning his eyes on Shiro.
“You’ll go back with him?” Allura hissed. “Your family is here! Your kingdom is being buried here!”
Lance somehow—he knew that wasn't’t quite right. “No.” He shook his head. “I’m not—I can’t be the Second Prince of Altean any more.”
Allura‘ s eyes widened. “You really have given it all to him.”
“That happened the day e gave me a mark,” Lance admitted. “You gave me to him. And I don’t have the option to leave him now.”
“You could break it,” Allura sneered. “If you really wanted to save us, you’d break it.”
Lance shook his head. “I’d create a mouse, and I could never leave him in the dark like that.”
“So you’ll leave me in the dark?” Allure hissed.
Lance didn’t have an answer for that. “I won’t let you be left down here,” He repeated.
"I don’t ever want to see you again,"
She was hurt. Lance could see that with a new clarity as he looked back at her, she had been maybe from the very start of this. Just a wounded animal howling at every shift now, she didn’t have anything left but to give him biting words.
"I love you dearly, my sister," Lance pushed up from the floor, standing. The golden adornments of his outfit gave soft tinkling murmurs as he moved. "I will do everything in my power to help you."
"Except slit his throat, avenge your family! What you should do without thought!" Allura hissed at him. "What you should have done the night you married him!"
He didn’t bring up the fact he’d been forced to marry Shiro yet again, that Allura had forced him and they both knew it—repeating it over and over wasn’t the answer.
But—Lance looked to Shiro again. Lance was supposed to be a pawn, Shiro had said as much, and he’d still saved him. That was something Lance wasn’t sure his sister would ever do for him.
"I’m sorry," Lance said as he looked down at her. "I have to go."
She glared up at him, but if she said anything more, Lance didn’t hear as he turned away.
Shiro didn’t speak either on their way back up. At the door the single guard gave a bow before he scrambled to secure the many locks.
"I’m sorry," Shiro finally said as they started back up the stairs into the palace.
Shiro urged Lance forward with a hand at his back. "I thought she would be happy to see you."
Lance pondered his words. "It’s—" he stalled for a moment. “It’s inevitable.” He Glanced back down the hall to the darkness they’d just come from. “We’re both changing.”
Shiro looked back at him, pausing as well.
"I don’t think," Lance tried again. But it didn’t seem right either. He looked down before huffing out a breath, his body relaxing with the action, shoulders slumping. "I don’t know if there’s anyway she could have won." He felt like crying. "And I don’t know how to help her—I don’t know how to make this end without her hating me."
He sniffed only to realize—he was crying.
Shiro stepped forward, his hand sliding out from his cloak to urge Lance forward.
Lance only paused for a moment before he stepped forward, letting Shiro draw the dark galaxy cloak over Lance, holding him against his chest.
“I’m sorry,” Shiro murmured. “I didn’t imagine it would turn out like that.”
“I know,” Lance shook his head. “I just—“
The brush of Shiro’s warm breath over his hair felt wonderful. Lance closed his eyes, tucking his head under Shiro’s chin.
“She’s your family,” Shiro hummed. “I know she means so much to you.”
Lance looked up.
“I—“ Lance started before frowning.
Shiro leaned forward to kiss at Lance's bright cheek markings. “I hope I can mean as much to you.”
How could Lance say he did?
“I’m here,” Lance murmured as he fell forward to bury his head in at Shiro’s chest.
There wasn’t anything more Lance could do.
The servants were more attentive than usual as they helped Lance clip his sleeves on under the cloak.
"He requested you there first thing this morning," Antok reminded.
Lance glanced up. "A few moments won’t make much difference."
It would be the same that day as it had been before. Nobleman after nobleman would just hand over their legacy to the Galra, swear fealty to a foreign Kon—or they would die. There hadn’t been a man yet with the courage to die.
The light of the morning had greeted a groggy Lance that morning. Lance hadn’t moved till the warm mass of Shiro over him had started to shift and stir. It was always Lance’s favorite part of the day. When the king, Kon, Black Paladin, had messy bed head and gave soft sighs and grumbling noises against Lance’s skin. It was a brief moment that reassured Lance every morning that Shiro was just a man. He’d accomplished a lot—but he was still just a man.
As the servants finished up, Lance gave a quiet ‘thank you’ and Antok was already pushing Lance out the door by the time the servants were answering.
The Throne room, as Lance entered, was full of people.
At the stairs he heard a familiar, "Prince Lance!”
It was like an echo out of a dream almost--and LAnce paused even as he came through the main entrance.
Looking over, it seemed —almost from another life—wo small girls waved their hands at him as they stood next to their father.
Lance should have continued on, but he held up a hand to halt his guard.
"Your Highness," Antok sighed. His gentle chiding that morning were starting to become more pleading.
Lance only spared him a look. Shiro wouldn’t punish either of them for being late. He tried to convey that with a glance at Antok before he stepped over to the familiar small girls. An indulgence in another lifetime was something Lance couldn’t pass up.
"C-cousin!" Their father nearly squeaked as he turned to Lance, his hands fidgety at his sleeves.
Lance nodded. Atticus? Was that the nobleman’s name? Lance was quite sure. The man was a distant cousin, from Lance’s grandfather, if he remembered correctly.
"How wonderful to see you!" Atticus stumbled out.
“You as well Atticus,” Lance chimed with a nod of his head.
Antok stepped forward coming up directly behind Lance, like a looming shadow.
"Your Highness!" Atticus hastily corrected.
Lance just gave a smile. He commented. "I speak for his Majesty when I say, we’re very pleased to have you here, Atticus."
The chuckle Atticus gave was—quite nervous. Though it was to be expected. Lance wished he could reach out to place a hand on his shoulder in comfort--but he had no intention of pushing Antok’s already strained morning.
The girlish squees brought Lance’s attention down and an effortless smile came to his lips.
"Alena," Lance smiled wide as he turned to the two small girls. "Corena,"
It felt—eons since he’d raced with the two girls through the palace gardens. The meadow they had given him a flower crown in—Lance was more that certain it was destroyed. If not by war then construction. His palace was becoming a fortress, and the small and delicate things were all fading away.
"My lovelies," Lance said as he shifted down to one knee.
He dusted his hand through the air to brush away his shuffling uncomfortable guards as the two girls came up.
"We’ve missed you so much!" Alena cried as she surged forward to throw her arms around Lance’s neck.
Lance smiled as he hugged the tiny Altean. "I’ve missed you," he hummed.
Corena was more nervous as she approached. "What’s gonna happen?" She honestly asked, her wide eyes on Lance. She was looking for reassurance with wide eyes and slight frown.
"It’s all gonna be okay," Lance soothed. He beckoned the two girls closer. He smiled as he spoke. "Your father is going to pledge fealty to His Majesty and everything is going to go back to—" he couldn’t say normal, it felt wrong. An new normal would have been the right way to put It. "It will all be okay."
”You’re sure?" Corena asked in earnest—her eyes flicked to her father standing with his nervous fidget a few feet away.
"I’m positive," Lance assured with a smile. "I’m married to Shiro, remember."
Alena nodded her head vigorously. "The Black Paladin!" She proclaimed like she knew the answer.
"Yes," Lance chuckled. "But be sure to call him His Majesty when you guys are called up, alright."
Alena nodded with as much earnest as before and Corena gave her own short nod.
Lance could hear the irritation in his personal guards voice as Antok leaned over him this time. He was practically humming with that military instilled need to be compliant completely and Lance wasn’t doing that. He’d been tasked with delivering Lance a while before and was finally losing patience with Lance’s meandering.
With one last hug to the beautiful small girl Lance was standing.
“It will all be alright,” Lance murmured. “I need to go.”
Corena nodded to him again before Lances fairs was flanking him, and he was directed away.
There was already a nobleman on his knee before Shiro as Lance approached. He waved away his guard as he stepped up to the throne and approached from behind.
Shiro didn’t look up from the man pledging his life, title, and purpose to him. He raised his hand though, offering it to Lance.
Without hesitation, Lance took the hand. Shiros fingers caressed over Lances smaller delicate hand.
“Your loyalty is accepted,” Shiro’s voice rumbled.
Lance breathes out, letting Shiro’s hand stray further back and carrels at Lances cheek softly.
It would all be alright.
He’d promised him mercy after all.