Two Shadows Went, Chapter 28
He didn’t have a lot of time to get up the palace stairs. With Blue at his back, she held any advancing guards off as Lance raced up the stairs and through the massive doors.
He found the grand entryway deserted, luckily for him. Any guards must have been outside with the proceedings. Lance looked around as he topped the stairs up to the marble foray. The palace around him was silent. He gripped the blue bayard and felt the rush of waterfalls through him as it flashed out into a blue short sword. Even with the ceremonies outside there had to be someone waiting for him. He hadn’t hid the fact he was headed in this direction.
He gave one last look around before he stole forward run again.
It wasn’t until Lance encountered a Galra servant that he remembered he was practically a lightbulb still. The small Galra shrunk away from him, and Lance looked across to a tall mirror in the halls. Every mark he had was lit bright blue. He looked utterly ethereal and as Lance glanced at the Galra -- he must have been terrifying to them. A beacon of the last empire, the villain they all feared would seize power again.
It was the pounding feet of guards that jolted Lance back into a run. They must have gotten Shiro to safety and were already regrouping.
He had a lot to accomplish, Lance turned away from the shivering servant to keep running. They may have sent guards out looking for him but he was counting on them still being disorganized enough, he could slip through their fingers.
As Lance mounted the final steps leading to the throne room he stopped. He had no plans to go past the doors to the massive hall, but he needed to pass this way.
This was bound to happen.
Lance gripped the short sword at the ready as he watched Keith across from him. He stood at the doors, solemn faced as he watched Lance.
His black and red armor gleamed. It was new, galra made, and gleamed with his new position as the right hand to a Kon.
“How dare you,” Keith grit out to Lance. His jaw was tight as he spoke to Lance.
Lance opened his mouth to answer. His eyes pleading he wasn’t sure he could say, wasn’t sure there was anything he could say--
But he snapped his mouth closed as with a cry Keith rushed forward and Lance was forced to dance out of striking range.
“He trusted you with everything!”
Lance leapt out of the way as Keith swung his whole body into the seep of his sword wide enough he probably could have cut Lance in half, had he not skittered out of the way.
“Lance!” Keith advanced again.
And Lance just danced away. He didn’t lift his sword. He knew this wasn’t a battle he could win by force. Keith had always been a much better swordsman and Lance sharply couldn’t forget it now.
He’d been through this enough with Keith. There was no way Lance could beat him now. Keith had trained all his life for this moment, for his chance to defend a Kon. Lance had trained a couple of months, and finally gripped his resolve less than a few days before.
“Face me!” Keith snarled as he chased after Lance again and swept his red long sword back through the air.
Lance shook his head as he watched keith for a second, ready to leap out of the way again when he needed too. “You know I can’t.”
“You’re--” Keith's teeth ground so hard his jaw clenched.
Visibly Lance winced as he saw Keith searching for the right words.
“You had to know,” Lance shook his head. “It’s all I’ve ever asked of him.” Lance knew there was a desperation in his voice, but he didn’t have any ounce of will to stop it. He needed every bit of what he had for what was ahead. “I just needed him to save her. That’s all I wanted from him. I would have done anything he wanted for the rest of my life if he just--he would have come through on his promise.”
With another cry Keith leapt at Lance--and again and again--he charged forcing Lance to skip away faster and faster.
He wasn’t fast enough though, Red’s were always swift--it was in their nature after all, like a wildfire, they consumed and soared like none of the other Paladins could--and Lance was finally forced to lift his sword and deflect Keith.
Lance used the deflect to push himself away though, the force of Keith’s blow still shook through his arms as Lance steadied his feet again.
Visibly angry, Keith’s enraged face broke into a new level as Lance managed to get away yet again.
“I’ll kill you for this,” Keith finally spat at Lance. “I’ll kill you!”
Lance just shook his head. “You won’t.” He couldn’t. Lance couldn’t let him right now. He still had things to do.
“I’ll have to,” Keith huffed. “Sooner or later I will have to,”
His voice cracked this time, for the first time.
“I’ll have to,” Keith repeated as his stance finally faltered. His shoulders dropped as his deep magenta eyes watched Lance. “You don’t understand, I won’t have a choice.”
Swallowing, it finally fell together for Lance. “Shiro would never make you do that.”
“You think they’ll let Shiro have any say after you’ve done this?” Keith pointed to the palace entrance with his sword. “You--” His teeth grit. “They’ll make me slit your throat for this.”
Lance’s sword dropped to his side , the blade flashing back to his bayard. “I couldn’t do nothing. You have to know that I couldn’t.” Lance took a step closer. “If it was Shiro--could you let him die like that?”
“I--” Keith stopped, but his mouth hung open. He clearly wanted to say something but he couldn’t. He shook his head, whether in response to Lance or in an answer to his own internal turmoil it wasn’t clear.
“I’ll face whatever consequence they have for me,” Lance said,. “I just have to finish what I started.” He held his hands up, the Bayard held loosely hooked with his thumb. “After today--”
“You won’t be allowed to live after today.” Keith huffed. His chest heaved with every breath. “Kollivan has already demanded you be brought before the war councils to answer for charges of treason.”
“Shiro won’t let anyone kill me,” Lance said with as much confidence as he could muster. He raised his chin, letting his self assurance lead If he sounded confident, he at least wouldn’t sound scared.
“It won’t be his order,” Kieth looked down. “I can’t--” His head shook as his arm went limp.
Lance stepped closer. “Keith,” he murmured low. “There’s nothing you have to do,”
“Doing nothing is all I’ve ever been allowed to do,” Keith hissed as he stole forward, in long steps charging on Lance again, but his sword still dropped this time. “You’re destroying everything!” He snarled at him as his hand struck out.
Lance didn’t move, even as Keith slipped closer into his personal space.
“There’s nothing I’ll be able to do,” Keith's voice broke again.
There really wasn’t. Lance had already demonstrated power and already commited a crime. He’d already undermined his Kon, put that man in danger and committed treason. Lance didn’t have a way to just slide out of it unnoticed.
“Keith,” Lance sighed.
Keith looked like he wanted to grab Lance, like he wanted to shake him and snap him out of his actions. “You don’t understand.”
“I think I do,” Lance tipped his head to try and look into Keith’s magenta eyes.
“I--” Keith shook his head, his eyes closing as his face scrunched. “I can’t.” He swallowed in a think depp sound. “They’ll order me to do it. Kollivan knows Shiro will fight the decision and he won’t do it himself--so I’ll be ordered to do it.”
Keith finally lifted his head to look at Lance. “And I can’t.”
Lance took one last step forward, nodding. “I know.”
“You don’t.” Keith shook his head again.
“I think I do,” Lance corrected.
Keith let his gaze drop again. “It wasn’t an accident.”
“No,” Lance concurred. “I know it wasn’t.”
“I--” Keith started, a shaky breath escaping him. “I didn’t want to--I just--” he looked back up. “I love you.”
Lance gave a small nod, his face held unreadable as he nodded. “I know.”
“Since the first moment I saw you--I just wanted--” Keith reached out but his fingers never made contact--he just held his hand there, staying himself from committing his own crimes.
“Do you--” Keith looked up hopeful.
The sad smile on Lance's face broke without any hope for Lance to pull it back. “No,” he answered honestly. “It was never possible Keith.” He explained. “There was never any chance for me to--I’ve been bonded to Shiro. It’s simply impossible for either of us to love anyone but each other.”
Keith’s gaze dropped again.
“I’m sorry, Keith,” Lance hummed as he reached for Keith’s soft head.
Tipping the black mop of hair down, Lance leaned up to press a small kiss to Keith’s forehead.
“Maybe if things had been different,” Keith murmured low. His heartbreak bled through his words so visceral it hurt Lance to even hear him.
Lance couldn’t answer that. He didn’t know. He never even had a possibility to give Keith what he wanted.
Behind them, the sound of guards at the palace doors thundered through the hall, shaking up through the marble staircase.
“Go,” Keith's voice turned gravelly as he planted a hands square on Lance’s chest and pushed him away.
Startled it took a second to regain his feet as Lance looked over to Keith.
“I can point them in the wrong direction and give you a few minutes at least.”
Lance still paused as he looked at Keith. “Thank you,” he murmured.
Keith gave a nod.
With a look over his shoulder to his friend, Lance turned to the hallway to continue on.
Dashing through the halls and swinging over the fence to scatter across the quartyard Lance knew when he’d been spotted again as he ducked through the doors and made a beeline to the stears headed to the lower levels of the palace.
It didn’t take long before Kollivan’s guards found him despite Keith’s offer of distraction after that. Lucky for him, Lance still knew this palace like the back of his hand and Lance managed to skitter away enough times to make it down to the marble hallways leading to the hangers, the rush of hearing the heavy footfalls of the guards boots behind him every step he managed.
As he slid down the last few steps though--Lance’s breath stopped.
Towering--Antok had always been utterly towering over any man around him--Galra or Altean. And it was no different as Lance’s heart pound in his chest looking at his bodyguard.
This could be the end of the line for Lance, depending on Antok’s orders.
“Admiral,” The guards behind Lance came to a stop as they trailed down the stairs as well, meeting the stalemate but not immediately advancing on Lance.
Lance pivoted, unsure which threat he needed to address first, but the devil he didn’t know seemed more of a concern than the one he did to have at his back.
The metal resound og Antok’s boots as he took a step forward resounded in the bare marble hallways. Lances hair at the back of his neck stood on end but he didn’t look back behind himself.
“General Kollivan has ordered the apprehension of His Highness on charges of treason,”
Lance let out a long breath as he felt Antok step up directly behind him. There was no further reaction from him and the hallway held an eerie silence for several long seconds.
“Did you hear me, Admiral?” the guard tried again, his head tipping towards Antok.
There was still no answer from Antok.
The guards before Lance faltered for a second as they looked on. Antok’s emotionless helmet gave no tell as he took a ready stance. The metallic slice of sound as Anotk pulled his Galran jagged blade from its sheath at his side, sent a shiver though Lance. He gripped his own bayard. There was no guarantee Antok would come through on his promise to Lance.
“Admiral?” The black clad guard asked.
“My orders do not come from General Kollivan,” Antok’s voice rang hollow through the helmet.
He didn’t want to look behind himself. If Lance did, he was afraid of what he’d see. If Shiro had sent Antok to retrieve Lance as well there was no telling what sort of force he’d be allowed to use.
But if it came down to it, Lance trusted Antok over the guards before him. There was no telling what Kolivan was planning. He seemed too rigid, too strict and too ready to pounce, and this was a good opportunity to eliminate an influential force on the Kon.
The guards before Lance faltered though, exchanging looks between them as they took a step closer.
“Admiral,” the lean guard repeated. This time it wasn’t a question, more an admonishment, as if to remind Antok his place in the Galran empire.
Antok didn’t waver from where he stood over Lance.
“His Highness is under the protection of the Kon,” Antok’s hollow voice resounded.
Lance let a breath out slow.
“He’s been charged with treason.” The same guard said.
“Not by my Kon,” Antok spoke.
The hair at the back of Lance’s neck stood. He hadn’t intended for Antok to catch up to him this fast and thinking his way through this one--
Kollivan’s men advanced and stole forward at a breakneck run. In return, Lance froze as Antok surged past him.
It was only a second before Lance raised his own blade to give Antok the added man power to dispatch the guards before them.
When the hallway stilled, and Lance heaved a breath to face his next battle, he swiveled on his feet, his bayard flashing into the short sword as he faced off his next threat. He tried to calm his pounding heart, but he could feel it through his chest, like an explosion ever beat. This wasn’t Keith. This wasn’t a man he had any hope against.
Antok’s head tilted as he looked down at Lance.
“What has the Kon ordered you to do?” Lance’s voice felt rough even in his mouth. He stood several paces from Antok, ready to bolt if need be.
“Protect you,” Antok snorted. “Keep you alive--though you make that harder every minute.”
It wasn’t a total lie. Lance huffed a half smile.
“I can’t let him catch me just yet,” Lance kept the sword raised. “I know he’ll get his hands back on me,” Lance shook his head. “It’s inevitable at this point, You can’t meld two souls together and expect any different.” Lance pressed his lips together. “But I can’t let him find me yet.”
Antok straightened as his shoulders relaxed. “I know,“ he admitted.
Clearing his throat, Lance let out a long exhale. “I value your--”
The clank of the jagged black-metal broadsword hitting the marble startled Lance into silence, the harsh metallic clank sending a jolt through Lances’ spine.
“I have no intention of fighting you,” Antok spoke in that same hollow voice from his helmet.
Careful, it was a long moment before Lance relaxed, letting the tip of his sword drop.
“I was tasked with keeping you safe and alive.” Antok continued.
“I’m going to cripple him,” Lance blurted. “What he wants won’t be possible when I’m done. The Galra will despise me--”
Anotk took a step forward, raising his hand. “I know.”
Lance wasn’t sure what to say.
Antok would be as hated as Lance. There was no way he wouldn’t be held to an even worse standard--he’d have no protection beyond what Lance could offer. And Lance was putting all his chips on the table right now.
In a streak of blue Lance’s bayard reverted.
“Pick up your sword, “Lance said as he started forward. “You won’t be much help with out a weapon.”
Descending the second level of stairs, now with his towering shadow back, Lance continued through the underbelly of the palace to the hangers.
She was waiting at the arching doors leading into the hangers. It felt like years since Lance had seen Pidge, but it had only been a week at most.
She raised the charged green bayard as Lance stepped down from the stairs onto the final floor, the marble made no sound under his soft boots.
“I knew you’d come here,” Pidge hissed to him. It was a clear accusation. “All those stupid men running around the palace--and it was so obvious you’d be headed here.”
Pausing, Lance already could hear Antok’s boots behind him stepping forward. Lance gestured to his side, bringing the lumbering guard to a halt.
“You of all people have to understand what I’m doing,” Lance spoke in an even tone.
“Yeah,” Pidge snarled. “You’re fucking everything up.”
“I can’t do nothing!” Lance countered.
“If you wouldn’t have butted in he would have kept his promise!” Pidge stepped forward. “He promised me he’d bring Matt back and he did, you didn’t give him time to come through on his promise!”
Lance shook his head. “He wasn’t going to let any of them live.”
It had been obvious, they both had seen it--but Pidge’s blazing eyes still looked at Lance.
“Shiro--” Lance started as he took a step forward.
“You can’t tell me you were stupid enough to think she could even live,” Pidge lifted her chin.
Lance stopped. “Pidge,” He breathed.
“She’s a war criminal,” Pidge shook her head. “Allura couldn’t be allowed to have a chance to rule.”
“I know,” Lance said as he took another step holding out his hands. He breathed. “My sister wouldn’t make a great ruler--not here, after she’s been spurned--she’ll only seek revenge, and I can’t let that happen. I can only offer her a distant kingdom--one without me or Shiro.”
“Then why are you here?” Pidge screamed at him.
It was then she broke, the bayard dropping as Pidge seemed to crumble inward.
Pointing out her immediate contradiction wouldn’t have made anything better, so Lance stayed silent.
“He kept his promises to me.” Pidge whined, as tears started to run down her face. “You didn’t give him a chance to keep yours.”
Lance nodded. “He did keep his promise to you.” He took his own step forward. “Because without Matt you wouldn’t have pledged your service to his cause, and Matt was a friend--whatever that’s worth to him. It was only self interest.”
Finally golden eyes met Lance.
Lance swallowed, giving his own sad expression. “This isn’t like Matt.” He gave a sad smile. “This would only benefit me, and I’ve got no teeth to come after Shiro with if he doesn’t keep his promise.”
“She never went after Matt--or my dad.” Pidges face turned ugly again. “Your father never sent anyone after that research ship! Shiro could have died out there!” Her lip trembled. “My father did die.” Her bayard flashed out into the curved blade. “And Shiro was the only one that got Matt home.”
“They’re my family.” Lance cut in. “Just like Matt is yours.”
“Shiro is your family!” Pidge defiantly gestured. “And you’ll destroy everything he’s built!”
“He’ll build it again.” Lance was very confident of that. “But he’ll do it from scratch this time--I won’t let him take hold of the foundation my family built.”
“Your family was built on a pile of corpses.” She looked indignant as he stood there. “They slit the throats of their own for power--over and over again. Just to give those lions enough juice to stay awake. To keep following commands a little longer.”
“I know.” Lance nodded.
“Then why are you trying to save them?” Pidge demanded.
“Because Allura has never done any of those things.” Lance shook his head. “She’ll lead a new generation--without me. There’s nothing she’s done to deserve murder.”
Pidge thrust her arm up as she took a step forward. “She’s the one that left you to this mess! You’re here because she married you off to Shiro! She’s no better than your father! She sent her only lamb off to slaughter and she will never even thank you for this!”
She wouldn’t. Lance knew that much was true. He’d never get a meaningful apology again. But that didn't matter.
“I’m Shiro’s,” Lance spoke. “And he is mine. There’s nothing I can do to go back on that.”
Pidge stopped and her lips pressed to a tight line before she burst out. “You’re stupid!”
With a smile and a small laugh, Lance nodded. “I’m aware.”
Pidge swallowed hard as she stood before him. “You’re my--” She stalled as she looked away for a moment. “You mean something to me.”
Lance took several steps forward. “I’ve always enjoyed your company Pidge, even when you were rather mean to me.”
The bayard finally faltered, flickering. “I hate you. I hate all the royals--you’re all scum.”
She didn’t mean it. Lance could tell as he took his own step forward closer. “You’ve been a very dear friend to me, and I will never forget that.”
“Your family, left mine to die--in the middle of Galra space!” Pidge wore such a horridly pained expressions as she spoke.
“I’m so sorry.” Lance held his open hands out to her. “I never knew--and I wish so badly I could have made that right for you!”
Pidges ducked head finally lifted. “Shiro made it right,” as she looked at Lance her brows dropped though. “And then he married you.”
“He did.” Lance answered.
Pidge shifted towards Lance. “You were supposed to be a stuck up, snotty brat…” She frowned again and this time her hand came up to scrub away at her eyes. “You weren’t supposed to be kind or inquisitaive, or so fucking--so nice to me.”
“I’m sorry,” Lance said, not sure what else he could say. “I can’t let this opportunity pass.” Lance shook his head. “I won’t get another one.”
Like a flash of lightning Pidge had the bayard raised and pointed at Lance again. “You can’t defend her.” Pidge kept on.
Lance shook his head. “I’m not.” He showed his own unarmed and open palms. “I’ve done the last thing I can for her.”
“You think he’ll forgive you for this?” Pidge went on. “After you destroy his reputation, after you tear away his last moment of victory, you really think he can do anything for you after this?”
Lance sighed. That was a good question. “He’s my mess.”
“Just like Allura--”
“No.” Lance cut in. “I told you, I’ve already done the very last thing I can for her.
Pidge cocked her head. That lovely mind of hers finally seemed to slide the knobs and figure it out. “What are you here to do?”
Lance stayed quiet for a long second before he decided on an answer. “I need to go into that hangar, Pidge.”
“To do what?” Pidge pressed.
“You don’t have to come with me,” Lance gestured to Antok behind him, still close and watching, his sword still drawn and ready. “I just need you to step out of the way.”
“What are you going to do?” Pidge pressed.
“I have to get into that room,” Lance pressed again. “And I don’t have very much time to do it in. So please for the love of the goddess Pidge, step aside.”
“You destroy this empire and you will take my brother away from me again!” Pidge shouted this time. “They already treat Alteans here with disdain, and you had the chance to change that! You’re their Kon’s mate!”
“Just let us through those doors.” Lance still tried his very best to bargain.
“You could have fixed all of this!” Pidge hissed. “If you just let her die!”
Lance wasn’t repeating the conversation. “It’s already done, Allura will be fleeing to space as we speak.”
“Any so you’ll leave us here to die?” Pidge questioned her golden gaze now pinpoint accurate as he looked up to Lance.
“I have to get into that room.” Lance made his own stance clear.
“They might kill all of us after this,” Pidge spat at him. “Your actions here, could convince them to cull all Alteans--even my brother.”
Lance wanted to shake his head, and while he had no doubt Shiro would come out back in power--at the current climate it sounded like Kollivan was calling a lot of shots, and Lance couldn’t promise anything from a man like that.
“You won’t take my family away from me again--” Pidge stole forward, her bayard flashing out into the two curved blades.
Not enough time for his bayard, Lance deflected with Keith’s dagger. Pidge’s curved blade slid up the blade though and Lance released before his fingers could be taken off with the bite of steel.
The Galran dagger barely clanked to the ground before Pidge scooped it up and with a swift action she threw her whole body as she hurled the dagger at Lance’s heart.
Antok had already charged forward though and the spit of blood across the floor was black as he thrust Lance to the marble floor and took the knife to the hollow of his own shoulder. It sunk just between the plates of his armor.
“Antok!” Lance let out as he reached up to the blade, scrambling to push up and off the floor.
Lance didn’t have time to react though as with a harsh shove from Antok he found himself pushed to the far wall as Pidge with a snarl struck forward with her Bayard again and Antok raised his black jagged blade.
The next second more blood splashed onto the marble.
The whimper Pidge gave as Antok pulled his sword back out from her middle was sickening and her small body dropped to his feet.
Scrambling across the floor, Lance grabbed at his small friend.
“I’m sorry,” was all he could manage to say as he carefully cradled Pidges head in the crook of his arm.
Towering over head, Lance glanced up to Antok.
His bodyguard had just killed a dear friend--who had been trying to kill Lance. What--what could Lance even feel in this situation. What madness drove them all to this.
Pressing a kiss to Pidge’s forehead, he saw the blood that dripped from her pale lips and her chest heaved as she gasped for breath. Lance glanced at the jagged Galran blade Antok still gripped, ready to finish his job if Pidge managed to move again. THe jagged edge was meant to do this--it would slice through flesh horribly, leaving the edges of wounds horribly shredded.
Lance cursed. What had made them all do this?
“I..” Pidge gasped her golden eyes rolling up to look at Lance. “I… my brother...wasn’t dead...” the wet sound of her swallowing was harsh to Lance’s ears. “Shiro… brought him back… from the dead.”
The cool rush of emotion through Lance was too much to bear as he searched for the words. “He’s just a man. I’m so sorry Pidge, Shiro’s nothing more than a man.”
Her eyes had stopped moving before Lance could ask anything further, and her chest stilled.
Lance felt his own heart still as he watched the life leave such a small dear child.
It was the creak of armor as Antok bent to take a knee, that pulled Lance from his own quiet mourning.
“We must go, Your Highness, Kolivan’s men will not be far behind.”
Lance looked over his shoulder at Antok, Pidges still quiet body still in his lap. “You killed her.”
Antok nodded. “She would have taken your life.” There was no remorse in his tone.
Lance looked back to the hanger doors. “She should have just let us through.” He wished--how did he fix this? How did he fix the hole slowly bleeding out of his friend?
“How could she believe that?” Lance turned it look to Antok. “That they might all die if I wasn’t caught?”
“I don’t know that she had much choice.” Antok shook his head.
Lance frowned. “She was in just as much of a cage as me…”
Antok paused as he seemed to consider.
“My sister did nothing to her.” Lance tightened hsi fist’s in Pidges cloak.
The heavy hand Antok rest on Lance’s head felt like a weight finally dropping. He may not feel remorse, but the small gesture of comfort was enough for Lance.
Frowning deeply, Lance hugged his small friend close, giving himself a few lingering seconds to mourn. His eyes squeezed tight, he knew he still cried a little before he could release Pidge.
Lance looked up to Antok when he could finally compose himself, considering a new problem.
“You’ve killed the green Paladin,”
Anotk pushed up to stand. “Thus it seems,” his loud voice resounded.
Maybe they would let the two of them rot in the same cell, Lance mused to himself.
It took all his energy to push up off the floor. Holding Pidge gently he let her body rest back to the marble, folding her hands over the green bayard before he straightened himself. If what she said was true, he doubted she’d have the chance to be given a true Paladins funeral. But a marble tomb in the bowels of the Palace was as close as any he supposed.
Standing at the feet of the Black Lion, Lance was struck with its vast size yet again.
Antok had swiftly cleared any guard from the room as Lance raced down the corridors to the Black Lion.
The footsteps approaching from behind, brought Lance’s attention back as Antok flicked his black blade, casting any blood left off before he stepped up next to Lance at the feet of the Black lion.
“They may hang you for this,” Antok spoke up. “Probably in the throne room itself.”
Lance looked up with a shaky laugh. “I don’t think after I’m done there will be much choice.”
“Are you going to take control of it?” Antok asked. “Am I in the presence of an Altean Majesty yet again?”
Lance laughed at that. “No.” he sighed. “I’m afraid the Altean dynasty is over.”
Antok didn’t answer.
And his silence brought Lance’s attention, looking over to his guard Lance went on. “I want to stop all of this.”
“You think taking a weapon away will stop the fighting?” Antok cocked his head.
“No,” Lance looked down reluctant. “But I can stop the Goddess from picking her winners and losers.”