The dagger bit through Lance’s skin just as before, the blood welling at the opened wound as Lance drew away the knife. He never needed a lot of pressure from the jagged Galran blade. Keith would be the kind to have kept his knife well-maintained and sharp, Lance reasoned as he watched his blood pool in his palm.
As his bright red blood welled and ran down his wrist, Lance stepped forward to again place his hand on the Black Lion.
There was no delay as the eyes over head lit up immediately. And as he had hoped he heard the roar of two other lions within the hanger.
Startled, Antok grabbed for his sword again as Lance stepped away. His hand print flared to life in vivid teal as before and Lance knew he had woken them all this time.
There came a long hollow sound through the hangers then. The cry was panicked and low as it echoed through the hallways.
“What is that sound?” Antok questioned.
Lance wrapped a handkerchief over his hand. He was already covered in blood, some his own, some was Pidge’s. As well, it wasn’t like he’d need the cover over his wound for long, but he wasn’t keen on leaving a blood dripping train for his lover to follow.
“The lions and their Paladin’s have an intrinsic bond. It's completely irrevocable,” Lance lifted his head to look up at Antok. “Much like a life bond.”
Antok looked over to Lance.
Lance’s sad expression only deepened as he explained. “One of those bonds was just brutally severed. And now the Green Lion is mourning it’s lost Paladin.”
As Lance wrapped his hand, the two of them stayed still and quiet for a moment, giving the Green Paladin their own due, a moment of silence for a dutiful service.
Considering, Lance looked down at his bandaged hand. “You know,” He swallowed hard. “I never heard the Yellow Lion make that sound.” He looked up to Antok. Looking for any hope.
There was little to be found. “Shiro never told you..”
Lance closed his eyes. “The first night I slept in the Black Paladin’s chambers--I heard Rax making a deal with Shiro, I think.” He tried to give a second, just long enough for Lance to articulate his words. “It was for the Yellow Lion, wasn’t it?”
Antok didn’t answer.
“He sold my best friend to the Balmara.” Lance concluded. “And in return they grounded every Altean ship the moment Shiro asked them to.”
Stepping closer, Antok--he must have felt responsible, which Lance found odd. Moments before, at the death of Pidge, Antok had shown so little remorse. How was this death different?
“Is he dead?” Lance asked. He was surprised himself how lackluster his voice remained.
Antok pulled in a long breath. “No word from the Balmar has surfaced.”
“Has Shiro even asked?” Lance pushed.
Antok looked back down to the floor. “From what I know--no. He’s made no effort to recover the Yellow Paladin. He’s just tried to renegotiate for the Yellow Lion itself.”
Lance let out a mirthless laugh. “Greedy enough to try and steal back what he’s already bargained away!”
Antok gave a deep sigh. “The Balmara feel we swindled them.”
“They must,” Lance nooded. “Unless they kill Hunk, Yellow will not take a new paladin.”
“Shiro was unaware he sold them a statue.”
Lance’s eyes narrowed as a sly smile spread on his face. “I’m sure he was.”
Just then, the deep thundering footsteps of Red interrupted them. When Lance looked up she was standing before the two of them. Her low growl in greeting sent a wave through Lance, it was like the crinkling sound of hot coals.
Curious, Lance reached back out to the Black Lion, laying his hand over the bloody palm print to feel through her link to the rest of the Lions. As odd as it may seem, Lance easily identified and felt the thread that bound the Red Lion to her Paladin then, and it was as strong as any other. For whatever other trickery Shiro had pulled--this had been real. Keith was a Red Paladin.
As the great steel beast took another lumbering step towards them, Lance heard the tell tale of Antok drawing his sword, Sticking out his hand, Lance grabbed at Antok’s forearm, stopping him.
He simply nodded to the seeking Lion. “You can go to him.”
With a great leap, the Lion bounded over them and through the open hangar doors.
Antok looked back over his shoulder to Lance.
His question was clear enough in the way Antok tipped his head to Lance.
“I owe Keith.” Lance commented. “And I don’t think I have it in me to deny him this last thing. I can’t take that connection away from him.”
Looking out through the hanger doors, Lance could see the sun setting in the distance. the brilliant colors swirling through the clouds pulled at him. The dusk of night fall lit his altea home brilliantly. In the distance Lance could see Mai hanging startlingly close. It was a low hanging moon on most days but it’s orbit had taken it directly over Altea’s capital that nightfall.
He looked back to the Black Lion eyes shining down at him before he spoke. “You should go,” He swallowed. “I owe you as well, and I don't —“ he paused.
The heavy hand that felt on Lance’s shoulder was a small comfort.
“I lied to my sister.” Lance admitted. His eyes shifted up to look at Antok. “She asked if I’d be alright—and I—“ Lance shook his head. “I don’t think I will be. “
Lance hoped the smile he wore was sincere enough as he looked up at Antok. “You should go, before it’s too obvious you were here.”
“That’s not the promise I made you.” Antok’s bent to speak to Lance in a soft tone.
“I don’t think I’m coming back,” Lance’s voice cracked as he tried to clarify. “There’s no way for him to love me after this—but I—“ Lance heaved for breath. “I can’t let you die too and I can’t let my sister pay for crimes that aren’t hers, and I can’t just let Shiro keep fighting for me and—“
Antok’s grip on Lance’s shoulder tightened.
“They’ll kill you if they know you're helping me.” Lance said. “You’ve killed everyone that's seen you help me get down here—I’m sure you could leave now and no one would know.”
Antok shook his head.
Lance frowned. “There’s no place left for me. I’ve betrayed my own people and I’m about to betray any hope of being Galra.”
“I will get you to whatever end you choose.”
The assurance in his voice told Lance it didn’t matter what he said. Antok was coming with him.
“They’ll hate you too,” Lance murmured. “You’re siding with the Altean traitor Prince.”
“I’m where I need to be,” Antok straightened. “I swore to defend my Kon Karnate.”
Lance resigned as he glanced at Antok before looking back up at the Black Lion.
“Alright then,’ Lance gave a sad smile. “I’ve got no options to go back now.” Lance sighed. “This is what backing myself into a corner has earned me.”
He could feel it this time as his marks lit up, it was like taking hold of the controls in his own Lion as he breathed out, reaching and the great Lion before him bowed, opening it’s jaw for him.
Lance looked back at the Lion. “One paladin dead, the other is just simple gone, one is a King, one is on his last hope--and the last is a fleeing prisoner.”
“Were you hoping to summon Voltron?” Antok inquired.
Lance shook his head before he took his first step forward. “No.” He concluded. “I’m going to tear Voltron apart.” Lance smiled. “I’ve no doubt the goddess herself is going to hate me for what I’m going to do. ...at this point though--she can get in line.”
As Lance stepped into the familiar cockpit, purple light lit his way. Pulling the wrap from his hand he squeezed his aching hand again to watch the blood well over his palm.
Behind him, Antok slid the doors closed before he stepped up behind Lance.
The glass top of the controls lit up purple before Lance and wordlessly Lance opened his palm, pulling the meager wrappings away. Blood dripped over the screen before Lance leaned down to press his hand over the glass.
The Lion roared to life, and leapt from its hanger, before spreading its massive paws, it launched into the sky.
Everything must end.
As Lance launched into the sky he was swarmed almost immediately with Galran fighters.
Lance felt the heat at his cheeks as his markings lit again and he kept his palm pressed to the glass surface, directing the black lion up—
Lance paused as the landscape of the warring Altean skies became clear and Antok behind him stepped forward, his own surprise apparent.
“No,” Lance grit through his teeth.
Ahead of Lance, launched into the sky itself and lit like a beacon in the last lingering light of the day, the Castle of Lions, no longer dormant and no longer sleeping was pointed up towards the heavens, quickly approaching Mai.
“She was told to leave,” Lance grit out.
The Castle’s defenses flashed up and the shields shimmered to life.
“How can that be?” Antok looked confused as he looked to Lance.
“My sister,” Lance answered before turning to Antok. “She and I are the only ones that can access that ship.”
Realization dawned on Antok as he stilled. “You need that ship.” He concluded.
Lance gave a swift nod. “I do.”
But vacating Allura from a fortress was another matter entirely than just swooping into an unguarded ship. Beyond that Allura had done the one thing Lance had wished she wouldn’t--She was being conspicuous.
Lance had wanted to just slide in through the Castle of Lions doors and warp to space the second he could but that didn’t appear to be a possibility now. He’d hoped they would still be looking for him in the Palace and by the time he’d jettisoned out of the Palace in the Black Lion there wouldn’t be enough time to mobilize an attack on the Castle of Lions.
But the shining ship before him rising as the thrusters lit had already alerted the hive of Galra and they were swarming. From every side, the fighters converged around the Castle of Lions.
Lance let out a long breath. “I have to get to that ship.”
It was that ship that had been the birthplace of the Lions, it was that ship that had been the alter for Lance’s mother’s sacrifice.
“This is the Black Lion,” Antok pointed out.
He was right. They were flying a deity made from the very same life force as the ship before them.
Pressing his hand back to the cool glass of the controls, Lance voiced his concern. “I can’t let my sister retain that temple or this Lion especially.”
“It seems she’s already seized power of it,” Antok said in a rather detached voice.
Lance grit his teeth. Allura never did as he asked. Never. Not even once. And now was not the exception.
Could he still accomplish this with his sister in the way?
“At a certain point--” Lance let out a long breath. “I’ve done everything I can to remove her from this war.”
Antok gave a nod as he looked back out to the Castle. “Then forward we charge.”
Lance pressed his bloody palm down. “Forward we char--”
The intercom echoed in the cockpit before the video link was established and his Kon appeared. Shiro was in a fighter pilots seat. Lance smiled, He shouldn’t have even wondered differently, there was no way his husband would be left out of the fray.
“My darling” The waver in Shiro’s voice suddenly hurt.
Lance froze. What was he to do now? His fingers over the control panel trembled. He could have the Black Lion sever the connection if he wanted--but did he want that?
“Land the Black Lion.” Shiro’s voice regained the firm assuredly he always demonstrated when giving orders.
Lance swallowed. “I can’t.”
The deep chuckle as his mate looked away for a moment vibrated over Lance’s skin.
“You’re playing this game again?” Shiro asked. “When we both know much better?”
Lance shook his head. With his other hand, he gestured to Antok off to the side of the cockpit, a sweeping of his fingers to let him know to stay out of frame of the camera pointed at the cockpit chair. If they only thought it was Lance he still had a chance of catching them by surprise or at least an underestimation of his ability.
“I’m not playing games.” Lance looked back up to his lover. “I never have been.”
That brought on a dark look. “What makes you think I have--”
“Everything is a game to you.” Lance cut in. “And you never lose.” Lance swallowed, licking his lips. “Except --I’m afraid just this once, I have to win.”
The surprise on Shiro’s face was enough to keep him from snapping back at Lance.
Lance smiled. Was it really that shocking to be interrupted? Had he grown so accustomed to being treated as an Emperor already?
“Lance,” Shiro’s eyes narrowed as he spoke again.
It was when Lance saw Shiro swallow that he knew he may actually accomplish what he’d set out for.
“I love you,” Lance let slip from his lips.
“Land the Black Lion,” Shiro repeated.
“I can’t,” Lance repeated himself as well.
“You won’t,” Shiro corrected. “I swear no one will touch you. I will not let anyone harm you for this. I am their Kon, they will listen to me. You just need to trust me.”
“I can’t trust that,” Lance shook his head.
“You can trust me,” Shiro grit his teeth this time. “I’ve never gone back on what I promised for you.”
Lance chuckled. “You’ve made me a lot of promises.”
“And I meant them.” Shiro nodded. There was a spark to his gaze, like he’d found a thread to tug at, a path to reel Lance back in.
“You said you’d give me galaxies.”
“I will.” Shiro affirmed. “I need time for that.”
“You said you would forge me solar systems.”
“I still plan to do that. I’ve already started.”
“You promised me an empire at my feet.”
“I have laid out this very one for you.”
Lance leaned over the control panel, speaking soft as he locked his gaze with Shiro’s.
“You promised me exile over death.”
The grey storm of Shiro’s eyes swirled with Lance’s words as his mouth hung open.
Had he caught his Kon speechless for once?
“I love you.” Lance repeated again, like a mantra it felt like the last thing he could hold on to.
“Wait--” Shiro reached forward.
But Lance had already cut the connection.
As the Black Lion screeched through the sky, it became very clear which ship belonged to his Kon. Doing his best to navigate the massive Lion around the fighter biting at Lance’s heels he managed to out maneuver him on possibly luck alone.
“Your Highness,” Antok wasn’t nervous often but Lance could hear it in his voice now. The radars around them all screamed at them as Shiro's fighter was quickly being joined by others, a steady stream.
“I just need to get through the castle shields.” Lance didn’t look away from the projections.
The Black Lion moved mostly on her own, but even with Lance pointing the way, she was massive and the small fighters were much easier at maneuvering.
It was with a roar, that Lance looked up. The Red Lion’s eyes blazed as she leapt through the sky.
“What makes you think we can get past those shields?” Antok had shored up his stance, hold onto the bars of the cockpit to keep himself from being flung around in the cockpit.
Neither of them sat in the pilot seat.
Lance made no pretenses to having any right to take up that seat.
He could already feel the pressure of the Black Lion. She was--she wasn’t like Blue. It was like standing in the middle of a storm, it was chaos and power--and more than Lance could ever claim.
“She’ll let the Black Lion through,” Lance assured as he looked over his shoulder to Antok.
“You sound confident.” Anotk pointed out.
Lance gave a nod. “Even if she thinks it’s Shiro--she’ll let the Lion through. She wants the Black Lion.”
Antok cocked his head. “So we’re flying in on a trojan horse?”
Lance looked back to the screen. “Exactly.”
The Red Lion crashed through the air, surrounded by fighters, it seemed whatever qualms Keith had before he’d worked them out with Kollivan as it streaked across the sky to Lance, massive paws outstretched and ready to crash into Lance.
The Castle’s shields shimmered with every wave of assault.
“Let’s see if I’m right,” Lance murmured as the Black Lion swerved, narrowly keeping distance from the Red Lion before Lance pivoted the Lion.
The Red Lion before didn’t fall for the same trick it had when Lance had played the cat and mouse game at the fall of his palace before and this time pivoted as well.
Lance’s cheek marks lit again as he directed the Lion to fly straight at the shields.
Red was at his heels with a swarm of fighters as well.
And as Black approached--just milliseconds before they were hit, the tile of the shield flashed open and Lance slammed the Black Lion forward, crossing through the shields.
Red behind him pulled up short, forced to as like lightning the tile was back up the second the Black Lion had crossed.
He almost wished he wasn’t right, that his sister would let the Black Lion go, and wouldn’t let him cross.
Put Line here
From the Black Lion, Lance could open the baydoors he realized, across the shield the connection with the Castle of Lions thumbed through Lance.
He bowed his head as the doors before him opened and the Black Lion glided in.
This was his mother's only legacy to him.
A war machine’s parts and its carrier basically.
It was the last spark of life left of her, and it washed over Lance as the Black Lion touched down into the massive chamber. Lifting his head, he recognized the room.
The bay doors behind him remained open as the Lion had entered.
She’d died here, he fully grasped as he looked at the hollow chamber. The raised pillar stood solemn in the cold room. the five massive enclaves surrounding them were clear through the dimmed light.
As the Black Lion stopped and bowed, Lance moved away from the control panel.
Standing within the Black Lion’s open jaw, Lance observed the room around him. Antok was already at his heels, ducking out of the cockpit to join him standing in the lions open mouth.
The castle shook then, the sound of an explosion outside.
“They’ve raised the warships.” Antok filled in for Lance.
“We won’t have a lot of time then.” Lance concluded, remembering the vast black warships he’d seen descend on Altea just weeks before. As the deep boom and crack of another attack hitting the Castle shields shook them again, Lance could only think what a full assault from one or more of those ships could manage to do to the Castle of Lions.
As Lance’s foot touched down on the carved floor the room lit up, the carving on the floor strung with light that soared out from Lance. Soon the room was lit with the same teal blue light that shone from Lance’s cheeks.
Antok stepped forward, his head turning every which way to watch. Lance gave a small smile. It was rather beautiful he supposed. Terrifying though it may be that this was Lance’s blood. He looked down through the bandage he’d wrapped back around his hand, the blood had seeped through still, dripping from his fingers, it was the only sound in the room as it dripped to the floor. One drop, then a second.
The ancient Altean symbols glowed through the room.
“Brother!” The voice of Lance’s sister could be heard over head.
It jolted Lance into action. His head jerked up as he deftly strode forward.
“Lance, we can--”
Lance strode across the room, his footsteps hastened as he approached the all too familiar circular platform. He snatched the bandage away before he reached out with his bloody hand and pressed his palm to the one of the two crystals at at either side of the raised pillar. Immediately his sister’s voice cut out over head.
Antok gave an amused sound as he strode forward himself. “That was rude.” He commented with a smile Lance could hear in his voice.
“I’ve listened to her for a very long time.” Lance said over his shoulder. “It’s not her turn any more.”
Antok stepped closer to Lance, letting his hand rest at Lance’s shoulder again. “Oh how far you’ve come.”
The castle around them shook again. A deeper more menacing boom.
Lance lifted his own hand to grasp Antok’s. “I still have farther yet,” he murmured.
The Castle shook deeper still as another blast hit them.
“The shields won’t hold up much longer.” Lance murmured as he looked past Antok through the open bay doors. He saw Mai there, so close to them he realized.
They were breaching the atmosphere.
Lance turned to the platform. He needed to get those doors sealed. He needed to get this all over with.
It was just as he turned the Castle was hit and this time the blast knocked Lance and Antok from their feet. The scorching sound of a fighter screamed in Lance’s ears as he lay dazed and sprawled across the marble for just a moment.
As his vision focused though and he pushed himself up he saw the fighter, it streaked through the still open bay doors and pulling up sharp it skittered across the marble floors.
Lance knew who the pilot would be so without a second thought he pitched himself forward at a full run.
And before Shiro could vault from the pilot seat Lance stood between the two crystals on the raised pillars, his hands out and at the ready, hovering over the crystals.
Antok circled around before seeing Shiro--he dropped to one knee. “My Kon,” he greeted.
Shiro looked to Antok for a moment before back to Lance. If he held any minor surprise Lance couldn’t tell from his stoic expression.
“I’m sorry,” Lance blurted before anything more could be said.
“Lance.” Shiro raised his hand as he stepped forward.
“I can’t watch you descend into a person I don’t know.” Lance shook his head.
“You know me.” Shiro snapped. “I’m your mate, I love you and I will protect you.”
Lance felt it, the cloying almost instantly at his throat, the constriction of the bond pull at his chest. What Shiro said was true and the bond between them was searing hot with it. “My love,” He let the pet name slip from his lips.
Shiro took several slow steps forward. “Yes.” He nodded. “Please come down from there, and let me take you back home.”
Lance gasped for breath as he gave a sad smile to his lover. “Shiro.”
“Nothing will happen to you.” Shiro said very quickly. “I promise. No one will hurt you.”
Lance could feel his shoulders shake even as he kept his hands extended.
“You’ve hurt me,” Lance murmured.
“Darling,” it seemed all Shiro could give, his own expression desperate as he looked at Lance. He took another step forward.
“You took my home.” Lance felt as he finally broke. “There’s nothing left of it now.”
“Lance,” Shiro’s own face smoothed with his own plea.
“I love you,” Lance's voice broke as he said it, a terrible confession spilling from his lips like blood.
“I’m sorry.” Shiro said.
Now was when he apologized? Lance let out a choked laugh. “You’re sorry that I love you?” He questioned.
“Yes,” Shiro nodded. “I am so sorry.” His expression hardened. “Because I--I don’t just love you, I absolutely adore you. Because you’re my soul. And I’ll never let you go.” He swallowed, his jaw tight as he further admitted. “And I did that to you. I bit that promise into your neck and I sentenced you to this fate.”
It hurt, like feeling a knife through his hollow chest, it hurt more than Lance could imagine to hear that from his lover.
“Don’t leave me,” Shiro reached forward as he approached the platform. “That was your only promise to me.”
Lance shook as a sob broke from him.
“I’ll give you all the mercy in the world,” Shiro begged. “Just don’t leave me.”
Head bowed, Lance grit his teeth as tears streamed down his face.
“Lance,” Shiro’s voice sounded so horribly desperate.
“I’m giving you victory,” Lance gasped.
“No,” Shiro hissed. “You’re my victory, come to me please--”
Lance grasped the crystals in each of his hands, clutching them in a vice like grip as he finally let go, letting the power of the Lions rush through him.
There was a crack in the room as Lance felt his body snap suddenly. His back arched. His weak and crumbling position morphed as his feet left the ground and he became a pillar of light. His hair swirled around him as his markings all lit like beacons. His eyes, pupil less now, shone with the same light. His chest filled with a breath that felt like the world was breathing through his lungs and exhaled with the release he’d always wanted.
There a rumble through the room before directly behind Lance the massive enclave shot up a pillar of light, a deep powerful purple. Then to right side a fiery burning inferno of red light. At the enclave to Lance’s left a cool swirl and waterfall of blue light, then though the earth broke the vines of green and at the far right and last the quake and breaking of the yellow pillar of light.
He could feel them all. And his chest heaved.
He felt the last moments of Pidge, her desperation and her torment, then Hunk--he was alone. He was alive. But alone. He’d had to abandon his lion. And the last feelings Lance could trace from him was--despair. Hunk had been alone and bleeding and terrified. And Keith--he was so--he hurt. Like a wounded animal he was acting on desperation he couldn’t escape.
And then, he felt the crippling feeling of betrayal, of loss, of--loving someone. And his soul filled with endless galaxies and a sea of stars and it all felt empty.
Lance panted with the feeling before grasping at his own convictions again--why was he doing this? Why would he cause this feeling in his friends--in his lover?
Fumbling-- it was the rush of--Blue that steadied him. She was there. Forlorn and on the brink of her own loss but the rush of waves though Lance was enough--
“You’ll never be used again.” Lance gasped.
And he thrust the Lions away from him.
Outside through the bay doors, the streak of blue could be seen through the sky as Blue shuttered off into the clouds. The swirls of Green in the distance followed.
It was only Red that tugged back at Lance, that stilled.
He had meant it. He owed Keith his life for letting him through the Palace. So Lance let the tug of Red go. She could stay with her Paladin. Keith needed someone after all of this. And they both knew he wasn’t very good at making friends.
And the Black Lion. Taking a massive step forward over her Paladin, she glowed violet as she approached the platform.
Letting the crystals fall from his fingertips, he exhaled again. And the Black Lion strode forward, she entered the enclave, circling back to face Lance and her Paladin, before her head dropped.
The door to the enclave swung shut. And slowly Lance descended.
His feet touched the ground just before the door.
With what little strength Lance had left, he lifted his bloody hand and pressed his palm over the doors. Teal blue light shot out like sparks around him, as he sealed the Black Lion into her chamber.
She would sleep now, Lance promised.
As he took his hand away, the palm print shone brilliant blue.
Spent, Lance finally let himself drop to the floor. Both hands bled freely now, around him as he rest his head back on the marble.
He let sleep take him as well.
Maybe he’d meet his mother now. He wondered as the infinite second of let his eyes closing washed over him. He could tell her he undid it all. And he lost everything.
And he undid it all.