Two Shadows Went 3
Updated: Apr 13, 2019
The morning was sunny and bright and so effortlessly beautiful, the elk under Lance was a beautiful crisp white and pranced as it carried him down the gravel trail. He was in the Paladins precession. His elk adorned was in brilliant blues. Next to him on a more bulky chestnut Elk was Hunk.
They were seated after green and red, and far behind at the front of the precession, on a tall, thickly muscled black elk, Shiro sat straight backed and regally, leading the spring day precession from the temples and down through the meadows where the real fun would take place.
Already Lance had sat through the grueling ritual at the temple waiting for this moment. Up ahead his father and Sister and the whole host of courtiers would already be in mid celebration. And with the arrival of the Paladins—the games would finally begin! Every thing from foot races to sword matches would take place and Lance was so excited he stood up in his stirrups to see if he could see the picnic tents yet.
"Dude," Hunk next to him huffed. "We are like, still a mile away."
Lance smirked. “Well, maybe I have super duper good vision!"
He didn't, he couldn't see a thing up ahead. He still stretched in his saddle again just to prove his stubbornness.
"Right, or you're just ogling Shiro again." Hunk sighed.
Lance gasped. "I do not openly ogle Shiro!" In their bedroom on the other hand... But well that was Lance’s now Goddess given right!
Hunk smiled at that and cleanly combated. "Yeah, you do!"
Lance gave a grand gesture as he swept his gaze pointedly forward. "Oh Hunk, my dear unfortunate unmated friend! You just don't understand what it's like to have a perfect mate!"
Hunk snorted rather audibly. “Yeah, keep the grossness down a touch, won't ya!"
"I am trying to lecture you," Lance was already starting to laugh though.
Hunk was still smiling away as he adjusted in his saddle. “Yeah, I'm still not convinced.”
"I'm in mated bliss!" Lance persisted.
"Yesterday you also came to me complaining that Shiro doesn't even talk to you all that much. And that he wears his boots around your bedroom all the time. ”
Lance did have to concede to that. "We're still in the get to know you stage." He paused. “And what sort of heathen has their boots on inside your bedroom! He’s gonna get it all dirty!”
The elk they rode, like everything, were purely ceremonial. It was what the Paladins of old had rode into battle on! Though by now, that was literally THOUSANDS of years ago. Lance still leaned forward and scratched behind his white elk’s ear. It was the softest, sweetest thing! He almost considered asking Shiro if he could bring his home...
"Lance," Hunk said, though this time his voice was a lot more hushed. They had fallen a bit behind and were mostly all alone at that point. Their elks walking at a slower pace than the others. It was the first time in a very long time Lance had just been with his best friend. "I'm sure you're aware of this, but I don't think there should be a ' still getting to know them' stage for a life-bond mate."
Lance didn't look away from his elk. He wasn't exactly surprised. Hunk was always the voice of sanity, the wise best friend with the usually cautious, but apt advice.
“Life bond mates—should be a slow decision.” Hunk said in an equally sure and yet unsure tone. “You know not like an, ‘oh I just met him a few days ago’ kind of thing. It’s something you should decide together to go through with, and have thought about—like a lot!”
Lance didn’t say anything. Hunk wouldn’t understand. He was plucked from his family and friends and a small city he’d grown up in when Yellow chose him. He hadn’t lived the life Lance had behind the palace gates.
“Hey, are we going to talk about it now?" Hunk pressed. He leaned in on his saddle a bit closer to Lance.
Lance finally looked up to see his friend looking at him very intently. The small yellow Altean markings under Hunks eyes were drooped even as he looked at Lance with concern.
"You know I couldn't have said no," Lance dropped his voice another few notches. He pulled on a smile too though as he launched back into bragging. "Besides, you've seen Shiro, it's not like I was getting a horrible bargain."
Hunks expression didn’t waver. “What happened—you can see it wasn’t right, can’t you?” He pursed his lips. “Life-bonds aren’t supposed to be out in the open like that. It’s supposed to you know—happen while your intimate. You screamed, Lance! That is not what a life-bonding is supposed to be like at all!”
Lance tried not to falter in his expression. “We’ve always done things like this. I know you wouldn’t understand but it has to be done like this. It has to be clear there’s a connection.”
“That is what a mark is for!” Hunk huffed. He shook his head sadly the next second. “There’s no reason you had to go through that much pain. It’s supposed to be a bond formed slowly over time that’s just cemented with the final bonding.”
No, that’s not what had happened to Lance. It was fast, and burned hot. Like Lightening searing through him, Lance shivered as he remembered.
Hunk sighed. "You never even really talked to him before now. Yeah, he was a captain in the royal star forces, but you never met him. He was chosen to be the Black Paladin less than a week before your bonding was announced!”
Yeah. Lance had mentioned that in his own defense as well. He gave a shrug. "He's kind of a quiet guy anyway."
This time a sneer was met from Hunk. "I'm not so sure quiet is a good fit for you." He shook his head now more vehemently. "This stinks, Lance. He’s—he's so serious all the time! That's not you."
Lance looked away.
Hunks voiced tipped to a whisper, just barely audible. "And he's a freaking Alpha! You've never been attracted to Alpha's! You were chasing Omega skirts since you were twelve!"
This time Lance couldn't mange a smile as he looked up at his friend. The reins in his hands were held a bit tighter.
"What do you want me to say?" Lance asked, his own voice still hushed.
Hunk seemed a bit taken back by that and he gave a deep frown.
"You know why I did it." Lance murmured.
"Because Allura told you to." Hunk filled in. "Yeah, the whole palace knows about that. They all talk about it you know. Red up there,” Hunk tipped his chin to Iso the red paladin up ahead of them, “actually had the balls to say you wouldn't go through with it."
Lance just looked down at the reins in his hands. He wasn't popular in the castle. He was very well aware of the fact. He wasn't charismatic or beautiful. He wasn’t regal or always pristine. His hair was the dark deep brown of his mothers, not the shimmering starlit silver of the rest of his families. He goofed things up too much and he managed to cause trouble too much.
It just stung a little more coming from his best friend.
"You know, I had to." Lance mumbled.
Hunk was frowning so deep his lip was trembling. “She gave you away, Lance!"
Peeking up, Lance knew he was frowning too. "She's my sister."
"And she bargained you," Hunk hissed. "For a few measly brownie points to consolidate her claim."
"It had to be done."
"Did it?" Hunk asked, this time looking Lance straight in the eye.
Lance pulled on the reins of his elk, slowing her down. Hunk had done the same. Up ahead the party was already reaching the grand picnic tents. Their elks both meandered their way in a turtle slow pace through the trees.
"Yes," Lance said firmly. "It did." He spared a glance ahead.
Shiro had kicked his elk into a run, instead of slowing her like Hunk and Lance. He was galloping into the camp, and was met with cheers and exclamations as he pulled the animal to a skidded halt. He was smiling as he dismounted. There were already people waiting for him.
"Allura has to be on the throne." Lance affirmed.
"Who said she won't be?" Hunk had his hands up in the air in an exasperated shrug. "Who fucking thinks that she isn't going to end up Queen? She is the proclaimed heir! She has the blood line! There isn’t any reason to challenge her.”
"But she doesn't have a Paladin seat!" Lance hissed back.
Hunk gave him a look. "Your sister is acting paranoid."
"I sincerely fucking hope so!" Lance snarled back.
Hunk was quieted with that.
Lance gave a sigh as he looked up ahead. Their elks had entirely stopped at this point and they were getting some lookers from the picnic tents.
"I just want you to be a bit angry with it," Hunk explained in a much kinder tone. "It's really obvious sometimes when you're so horribly faking it."
Lance looked down at the reins again. "I'm trying not to fake it." He said in a steady voice. “I'm trying to be okay with it. I don't exactly have any other options right now."
With that, he dug his heels into his elk and guided her into a gallop down into the meadows and to the picnic tents. Lance heard Hunk call after him, but he dint stop till a footman was reaching for the reins of his elk.
Lance slid off in a smooth motion and in a brisk walk headed straight to the nearest private tent.
He didn't make it as a cold metallic hand caught his arm. Lance tried to fling the intruder away before he looked up, realizing what he'd done.
"Hey," Shiro said. His eyes moved between Lance and across the way to Hunk, before shifting back to settle on Lance. "What was that about?"
Lance tried to calm his raging nerves. This all would have been so much easier if Shiro wasn't so damn caring!
"Nothing," Lance huffed. "Please release me," Lance tried to pull out of his grip again.
Shiro's brow lowered and his metal hand held firm.
They were already getting a couple of glances and Lance heard a whisper. He could only imagine the talk now, 'that fuck up for a prince already was managing to pull Perfect Shiro into his puddle of trouble!'
"I'll deal with it," Lance insisted. "Now please just let me go."
Shiro didn't say anything for a moment before he shook his head. "No."
A second later he was pulling Lance into one of the tents.
"Leave," Shiro said calmly to the few servants gathered in the storage tent.
They all quickly nodded and gathered up their small betting game before fleeing out the door. Once they were gone, Shiro let Lance go. Lance pulled himself in, shooting a few feet from Shiro.
"Now, what was that about?" Shiro asked again.
His voice was so fucking calm it pissed Lance off even more. "I told you it was nothing."
"And you lied to me," Shiro established. "And I thought we went over that a few nights ago, we don't lie to each other."
Lance huffed and sat on one of the metal storage containers. "Can't you just leave me alone?" He wondered out load. His hands rubbed over his face before he gestured to the door. "You really should be out there, they're probably already talking out there!"
"Talking?" Shiro's expression shifted to confused, "Lance, I'm trying to talk to you right now."
"Fine!" Lance figured giving in would get him out of this fastest. "I just had an argument with Hunk, okay?" He stood again. "He said some things and I said some things and I would really just like to cool down."
Shiro stepped closer. He looked absolutely striking in his regal black attire. It was nearly startling to just be in the same space as him.
"What was said?" Shiro asked, his face twisting with concern as he offered his hands out to Lance, Like he was going to embrace him or he was just trying to be so insufferable sincere again and just be there for Lance.
"You don't want to know." Lance said firmly,
Shaking his head, Shiro seemed to finally start getting agitated with Lance. "That doesn't make any sense. What were you guys arguing about?"
Lance considered staying quiet, but he was reaching his limit. So with a drawn brow he glared up at Shiro. "You."
That took Shiro back.
"We argued over you."
It was quiet for a heartbeat and Lance seized the moment, stalking past Shiro.
A hand struck out to try and stop him again, but this time Lance managed to dance out of its way as he flung the tent flap up and hurriedly exited.
It took too long for Lance to cool his jets. But by lunch, he was trudging back through the trees to the tents.
He'd wanted to go find Blue, that was his usual tactic when he was upset, but they were miles from the palace, so Lance had settled near a stream and let his mind race through his tissy before finally calming.
As he tried to sneak in under the main tent, it was evident the meal was already well underway. Lance glanced around for a free spot, hoping there was one close to Hunk. He owed him an apology anyhow, he might as well give it to him while Hunk was in his natural habitat: half way through a plate of food.
“Prince Lance," the strong baritone shot through Lance, as always, like an arrow.
Hesitant, Lance looked up to see Shiro coaxing him forward with a flick of his fingers. There was an open seat next to Shiro and it was evident he'd saved it for Lance specifically.
Like a dog with a tail between his legs, Lance trudged over, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. He didn't miss the look from Allura though on his way to the end of the table. The message was clear, it wasn't exactly princely to lose an argument, and it was even less so to run off to go sulk about it after wards. Lance reasoned it was probably just better if he looked at the ground for the rest of the evening.
"Darling," Shiro's tone had no hint of mocking as Lance sat down.
Looking up a bit startled, he was caught further off guard as Shiro tipped his chin, caressing a finger across the bond mark.
The affect was almost instant. The world melted away into nothing but dark grey eyes and a white fore lock of hair... It tingled through Lance’s veins still so surprising it was nearly unpleasant.
"Are you feeling better?" Shiro asked in a hushed tone.
Lance swallowed, licking his lips, before he gave a nod.
Shiro glided two fingers over the mark again before he leaned in and pressed a kiss to Lance’s temple. "Good," he whispered into Lance's hair. “we can talk about it later, yeah?”
Lance just nodded again, too filled with butterflies to do anything else.
With a smile, Shiro withdrew and turned back to keep speaking with the rest of the table. But he was already passing a plate to Lance. It was with clear intent that he expected Lance to eat.
Lance was finding all sorts of things out about Shiro. Like he liked his liquor hard. He couldn't care less about the soft and smooth flutes servants placed before Lance. It was always dark ambers and deep umbers in heavy bottomed glasses that were slide to Shiro’s hand.
He enjoyed his drinks as well, not gulping it down like some of the others. He’d had maybe a third of the alcohol than most of the barons and noble men, in about the same span of time.
It quickly became apparent as well he preferred the company of A. other soldiers and B. Lance.
At first Lance had thought it was probably easier if he snuck off to be with his—one friend, but Shiro hand’t allowed it. He was constantly looking at Lance, or pulling his arm around him. He would turn to Lance and ask him if he’d tried something at the table or if he knew who someone was.
He was—surprisingly inclusive. And the old generals and current and former soldiers of the court all by now mingled and meandered their way to Shiro’s corner of the table were even smiling at Lance, looking at him in a way he’d never experienced before.
And it was all culminating in the most surprising but largest bit of info about the Black Paladin.
Shiro was ferociously competitive.
The real physical matches had yet to begin and Shiro was already started into the fun. He’d had Lance even list out all the competitions for him. When Lance had inquired which Shiro was think about, he’d only been granted a smile in return.
“Oh, the foot races are starting!” Lance heard a woman from his left exclaim.
“I’m gonna go,” Lance cooed to Shiro, half way through another betting game. He was winning. In fact, it was becoming very clear, Shiro didn’t play unless he intended to win.
Shiro folded his cards as he creased his brow and looked at Lance. “You told me the foot races were for the kids.”
Lance nodded and smiled. “Yeah, that’s the really fun part.”
A smile broke on Shiro’s face and he laughed. “Should I bet on you?”
Lance shook his head. “Not unless you have money you need to get rid of.”
It was a full blown laugh Lance got this time.
With a smile, Lance took that as a blessing and slithered out from under Shiro’s arm.
“Prince Lance!” A little girl squeed as Lance approached the group of tiny girls all waiting for the foot race to start.
“Hello Alena!” ‘Prince’ Lance beamed as he went to one knee before the girls.
He was never popular. He was a lousy diplomat and an even worse leader. He was a good fighter, but not exactly notable. But there was one thing Lance would always be—a prince. And to a seven year old daughter of a nobleman he was the shit!
And Lance always ate every little bit of it up!
“Are you going to run with us, Prince Lance?” A younger one, maybe 5 asked, if Lance remembered right her name was Leila. …it was very populate after Allura’s birth to have a name ending in ‘a’s. She had bright blue eyes and cherry red hair. Her teal little cheek stripes were absolutely adorable peaking out from her red hair.
“Absolutely!” Lance answered.
“But we were just talking,” Alena started in, she had the most curly platinum blonde hair Lance had ever seen. “And we think that who ever wins, should get to marry you.”
“Nah uh!” That was Alena’s older sister, Corena. “I told you Prince Lance is already married!” She looked at Lance. “And it’s rude to try and marry a person that’s already married!”
Lance could barely contain his smile. “That is a good point, Corena!”
“But you said last year that you would marry me,” Leila pouted as she pressed in closer to Lance.
A bit flustered that A. she had remembered that, and B. that it was a promise he very much could not keep. Lance was unsure what to say.
“Who did you marry instead?” Leila tipped her head at him.
“Now don’t be mad at me,” Lance said as he cupped Leila’s little hand. She had a creamy freckled skin tone. Lance smiled as he thought of all the attention she would get in the future. He doubted she would want for any type of marriage. “But you see someone asked me to marry him, and I just couldn’t say no.”
“Who?” Alena this time was asking.
Lance smiled. He hadn’t really had the chance to brag to anyone about this so far. Everyone he knew had been at the bonding ceremony after all! But a seven year old was one he could tell giddily.
“Well you remember the Black Paladin?”
Leila got very excited, clapping her hands together. “You mean the new one! The one with on the big Black Elk!”
Corena had her hands up to her face. “Oh, Prince Lance he asked you to marry him?”
Well not exactly! Lance just smiled though and nodded. “And I’m afraid my little Ladies that I did marry him.”
“Can we meet him?” A quiet one, Mila asked, her mousey fine hair and dark complexion peaked at Lance as she finally edged closer.
Lance gave a look. “Well, I don’t know,” He drawled. “Maybe though, if you girls can win against me.”
“We’ll win.” Corena concluded. She was the oldest though and clearly knew the formula by now for these things.
Lance could talk a good talk, but every time he’d let the little girls win.
The thought occurred so suddenly just how different that was from Shiro at that moment. Lance had no doubt once the major competition got going Shiro would be competing and he would more than likely be wining. Lance always competed in Archer on Elk stride, but never any thing more. He guessed he could try hand to hand or swordsmanship but there was plenty others better than him for those two. The archery was the one thing he was very good at and he didn’t get to do it very often so the opportunity was pleasant for him.
Maybe Hunk was right, Lance looked down at the sweet girls all around him. He was so very different from Shiro. He enjoyed letting a group of girls win against him in a foot race. It was just—he enjoyed it. The giggles and the flower crowns and the soft little hands and bright colored little dress swishing around as they ran circles around him.
“Alright,” Lance said bringing himself out of his small revelry. “Lets go see if you get to meet my Paladin then,”
The girls all squeed and Leila and Mila both clutched at either of Lance hands, leading him to the starting line.
He maybe wouldn’t have come in last place for once—except then Mila had tripped on her pretty little yellow dress and Lance had stopped, helping her back up and urged her back into a run.
As he crossed the brightly flowered and ribbon adorned finish line he conceded to his inevitable loss.
“It seems I am just no match for all of you!” Lance exclaimed as he was hoarded by little girls again. He found himself pitched to the ground and presented with a white and blue flower crown.
“We won!” Alena exclaimed as she clamored into his lap.
“You all have beaten me!” Lance conceded with an exasperated sigh. “I was just so enamored with your beauty, I couldn’t concentrate on the race!”
The girls all giggled and Leila was already wiggling next to him with anticipation.
“Can we meet him? Can we meet him?” She chanted next to him, she was tugging on his sleeve.
“We have an extra flower crown too!” Corena exclaimed as she held up the dark blue flower crown. “It was supposed to be for Winny, but she couldn’t come today.”
“Oh,” Lance said as he tried to think how to react. He wasn’t positive, but he was pretty sure Shiro wouldn’t be so willing to be pulled around by tiny women while sporting a flower crown on his head.
“I wanna meet him too,” Mila said as she blinked her big long lash framed eyes at Lance.
Lance of course gave in, He knew he would after all.
“Well alright,” He scooped Mila up into his arms as he stood. “But you all have to promise you’ll behave.” he eyed all the girls.
“We promise!” Leila shook her head vehemently. Her bright red hair bobbed cutely with the action.
“Okay, you guys have to be my sweet little ladies,” Lance pressed. “Shiro hasn’t met you all before and I want him to have the best of impressions of you all.”
“Okay! Okay!” Alena joined into Leila’s emphatic nodding.
“Alright,” Lance held his free hand out for a little lady to take as he started back towards the tents. “Let’s go meet him.”
Shiro was in armor as Lance approached. And he was still fitting some of it on. No doubt he was headed off to some of the actual competitions.
“Lance, hey, there’s someone I want you to meet—“ Shiro stopped as he got a good look at Lance. “Hello,” His voice had just a small tick of unease to it.
Lance smiled and stepped closer. “Shiro,” He gave as good of a bow as he could manage while still holding Mila in his arms and holding Alena’s hand. He also gestured to the herd of girls he’d brought with him as best he could. “These Ladies said they would very much like to meet you,”
Shiro looked frozen for just a moment before he turned to them. “Oh.” He breathed.
Lance helped him out quickly going on. “You see it must have slipped my mind but I promised a couple of these lovelies that I would marry them one day and well—I’m sure you know but I somehow managed to marry you instead.”
“A mix up indeed,” A smile slid onto Shiro’s face.
Lance smiled in return.
“What are your names?” Shiro asked as he very gallantly went to one knee before the girls.
It was quiet among the girls for just a beat and Lance wondered if he’d managed to overload their tiny capacities for new things already.
“I’m Corena,” The eldest and tallest stepped forward and very princessly offered out her hand to Shiro.
With another smile, Shiro took the hand and gave it a small peck. “It is a pleasure to meet you my lady Corena.”
In another moment, Alena was pushing her sister out of the way as she exclaimed, “I’m Alena, Corena’s younger sister.” She practically pushed her hand into Shiro’s.
“What a lovely name,” Shiro said as he gave it a peck as well.
Lance urged Leila up next and she giggled an exceptional amount as she gave a small bow to Shiro.
Shiro looked so terribly amused as he pecked her hand. “You look exceptionally lovely today, Leila.”
“Thank you,” She giggled even more.
Shiro stood as he noticed the last of them all.
Mila had burrowed in against Lance, bashful as she curled in under his chin.
“And who is this very pretty girl?” Shiro asked.
Too embarrassed it seemed to answer she just very hesitantly held out her hand.
Shiro gently took it, tipping his head to give it a peck. “Its very nice to meet you.”
Mila blinked again bashfully and hid her face in against Lance’s shoulder.
Giving a chuckle, Lance filled in for her. “This is Mila.”
Shiro nodded before looking down at the rest of the girls. “Well, Ladies, I am sorry that I have stolen Lance aways from you all.” He gave a sigh. ”But you see I very much adore Lance and selfishly wanted him for my own.”
Lance almost blushed more then the girls at that moment, puffing up just a bit at the praise Shiro showered him with. He spent a bit more brain power than was probably reasonable thinking about wether it was a true statement or not. Was he just saying that for the girls? He wouldn’t lie to them right? It was a group of girls it’s not like lying to them would change much!
“It’s alright,” Leila patted Shiro’s hand in a way that was reminiscent of someone much older. “We understand.”
“We forgive you,” Cornea proclaimed. “In fact, we even made you this,” She held up the deep violet and blue flower crown.
That stumbled Shiro up again as he looked down at it.
“It goes on your head.” Lance pointed to his own.
“Right,” Shiro broke into another smile. He slid back down to one knee again, “If you would do the honors, my lady.” He chuckled. “I’m not sure I would know how to put it on myself.”
Corena stepped forward, no doubt still emulating the Princess as best she knew how. “Of course, Black Paladin!”
She placed the flower crown there, fitting it perfectly on Shiro’s head.
Shiro straightened and looked to Lance. “How does it look?”
Lance gave a sly smile. “If I wasn’t already married to you, I’d ask if we could get married again.”
Shiro let out a chuckle at that for which the girls all joined in with melodic giggles.
Lance looked up to see his sister was making her way then in a brisk walk. She was in armor as well. It wasn’t surprising, Allura enjoyed the competitions very much and it was really good for public relations.
“The archery matches are about to start, why aren’t you ready?”
Allura approached just in time for Alena to excitedly exclaim, “Princess!”
“Oh hello, my dears!” Allura gave a dazzling smile. “You all look so wonderful in your Spring Festival dresses!”
“Lance just introduced us to Shiro!” Liela told her.
“He’s quite dashing, isn’t he!” Allura said as she flashed a look up to Lance.
“He kissed my hand!” Alena proclaimed holding her hand out.
“He kissed all of our hands!” Corena broke in. It inevitably started a bickering from the two sisters.
Lance could only smile up at Shiro. It had gone surprisingly quite well.
“Alright, Ladies!” Allura said as she started to usher the little gaggle away, she even stepped up to Lance slipping Mila out of his arms, and onto her feet. “Prince Lance is running late for a very important match!”
It was the only match he ever won. It was good for the family and the only thing Allura had to brag about her brother. It was very important to his sister that the royal family came out of the competitions with as many wins as possible.
When their father had been competing it was always a laughable concept that the Royal family wouldn’t come aways with the most match medals! But with the decline of Alfor it had become more of a struggle. Allura was hell bent on cementing herself in Alfor’s place and this was one avenue of doing it.
Lance did take a bit of pride from the knowledge but still reluctantly watched the little girls all leave. “Good bye Ladies!” he said as he waved.
“We’ll cheer for you, Lance!” Little Mila said as she was pulled away by Leila.
“I will be so very honored!” Lance exclaimed.
When he straightened and looked back to Shiro standing next to him, he just smiled.
“What?” Shiro asked, suddenly concerned with the look he received.
“You were ridiculously adorable with them.” Lance proclaimed.
A smile worked it’s way on Shiro’s face as well then.
And back popped Allura. This time she pushed at her brother in the direction of the royal family tents. “You have to go,” she said exasperated.
Just then, another approached from behind Shiro. He only came up to Shiro’s shoulder and approached as if he knew Shiro very well. Wearing light armor, he was a rather compact person, dark eyes staring moodily out of the dark fringe that framed his face.
“What the hell is on your head?” The stranger asked as he crossed his arms.
Lance didn’t know the guy that had just stepped up to Shiro, but he considered asking the same question. That hair style was beyond reproachable. Yeeshhhh!
“A flower crown.” Shiro admitted with a chuckle and a grin.
The guy wasn’t Altean, but Lance couldn’t place his race. He was possibly mixed. He glowered grouchily still at Shiro, clearly not enjoying the irony of the situation.
“Lance, come on,” Allura said in a manor Lance knew not to ignore. “You have got to get ready!”
“On it!” Lance said as he was crowded by a few servants this time.
“I’ll find you later!” Shiro said as he cast a look at him. He was still smiling so easily.
Lance nodded and finally let his sister push him off to get ready.
Lance didn’t compete in any of the normal Archery competitions. He’d grown out of that at about twelve. It was easy when he had master marksmen training him since he was four.
No, Lance completed in the Archery Course. It was an obstacle course, of sorts. The competitor rode atop an elk and was give their choice of a bow and a full quiver of arrows. The course had twelve marked targets. The competitor had fourteen arrows. As one continued through out the course the goal was to get as close to the center of each target as possible while still going the fastest. The person who hit each target the fastest typically won, though the final medal usually took a few minutes of score compiling since bulls eyes counted for extra points.
In the last three year, Lance had hit every bullseye on ever target, handing him the win every time without contest.
He was strapped into the light breathable armor as he pulled himself up onto his white elk. She shuffled a bit in place, her antlers overhead creaking just a bit with the moment as the others all mounted as well.
Lance’s bow was a beautiful white subtly curved long bow, it was delicately adorned in Lance’s signature royal blue and gold. It had been a gift from his father though it had felt at the time more like a rite of passage.
Lance guided his pretty white girl to the starting line, before sliding on his helmet. Everyone wore helmets, it was for safety and to some extent not to get caught up in recognizing an opponent.
She knew the way. Technically all the elk did. But most were trained to take guided cues as well.
Lance notched an arrow. Last year the first mark had been with in twenty feet of the starting line and he wasn’t going to be taken by surprise this year again.
On either side, elks pawed into the dirt and breathed audibly as they all waited for the starting mark.
Lance leaned just a bit more over the utilitarian saddle. It was made to be as light as possible so the elk wasn’t carrying extra weight.
Suddenly the starting light flashed and there was a whistle.
Lance held into his elk and they were off in a flash, as she rounded the first corner Lance spotted the first mark with a smile. He’d been right. He raised the bow, pulled the string back and let the first one fly.
As his elk cleared over the first obstacle though, suddenly it had to veer off to the right as from the side a grey elk jumped in, pushing Lance to the side. It’s black clad rider was someone Lance didn’t recognize. His own bow was short and a red lined black and he raised it so close to Lance’s head Lance could feel the ‘thummm' vibrating in his ear. Luckily he’d already release for the second mark just as the interruptors arrow flew past his head.
Lance gritted his teeth and dug his heels into his elks sides. Like hell was he going to let who ever that guy was steal Lance’s victory!
Lance was breathing so hard he felt like his lungs were constricting by the time his elk halted to a stop. She was dragging in breath just as fiercely, her cheat heaving so hard Lance could feel it under him.
Next to him, coming in first by just a foot or so was the grey elk with its black and red clad rider.
Lance looked up, the scores were being calculated and the winner was to be announced any moment now.
Swinging down from his mount, Lance ripped off his sweaty helmet as he watched up at the judges. suddenly a holograph flashed up and fist place—
“Fuck,” Lance said before he even realized his mouth was open.
At the flash of scores, the guy raised his hands, pulling off the helmet—so an inky black mess of hair could fall out.
He knew that guy. It was Mullet head. Now that they were flashing his face next to his 1st place status it was obvious. Lance had met him just moments before the match with Shiro.
Lance froze. He did not want in any way to answer his sister. He could already hear the cooling tremors of icy cold agitation in her voice.
If there was ever an Ice Queen her name was probably Allura.
And he’d just lost a match that was almost always basically promised to Lance.
With an extra long exhale to calm his nerves, Lance turned, just in time to be engulfed in an arm full of Shiro.
“You did so great,” Shiro actually sounded genuine as he embraced Lance to him. His hand tangled in Lance’s hair, holding him to his chest, which at he moment was covered in armor so it wasn’t as pleasant as Lance had hoped.
When Lance was finally allowed to breathe again, and Shiro had stepped back he was smiling down at Lance, his hand pet through Lance’s hair like he was the proudest person possible of Lance and even pressed in a kiss to Lance’s sweaty forehead.
“I lost,” Lance panted.
Shiro cocked a brow. “You came in second, by a tenth of a tick.” Shiro broke into a chuckling smile. “Against Keith.”
When Shiro leaned in this time, he tipped Lance’s head forward to press another kiss to his head. “Trust me you did amazing!” He murmured.
And at that moment, Lance probably should have been thinking about the way Shiro was being so affectionate towards him, in public even, but instead all he could think was, “Who’s Keith?”
“Oh,” Shiro breathed at that and had Lance at arms length suddenly. “Right, I’m so sorry,” He was still smiling. “I got caught up, but” He glanced over his shoulder. “I want you to meet someone.”
Shiro was smiling just so perfectly Lance knew there was no way he could say no.
He was tugged through the now thralls of people to meet—Keith.
He peered at Lance like he had no business standing that close next to Shiro.
But Shiro had his hand at the small of Lance’s back as he gestured to Keith. “This is Keith Kogane. He’s a very close friend of mine, and he’s just got back from space.”
Shiro just looked so proud as he looked between Lance then Keith.
“So this is your mate,” Keith whistled as he eyed Lance up and down.
It irked Lance way too much the wrong way as he saw Keith looking at him like that. Lance couldn’t stop himself from crossing his arms. He bit his lip though, trying to keep quiet. This was someone close to Shiro, and Shiro was Lance’s mate and Lance was not gonna fuck this up!
“He’s pretty scrawny.” Keith said as he looked up at Shiro.
Shiro just laughed. It was one of his genuine laughs.
Lance gritted his teeth. He hated Keith. He hated that Shiro laughed like that around Keith. He hated that stupid mullet head. He hated all of it.
Shiro turned to Lance again. “Keith has helped me out of some pretty bad spots. He’s practically my brother at this point. I’ve really wanted to have you meet him, but—“ Shiro paused and the two exchanged a look. It was a very significant look, the kind of look that communicated so much and could only develop over time and coordination with one another.
“He was in space.” Lanced filled in.
Lance couldn’t give Shiro that kind of look. They’d only been bonded for a little over a month now.
“Yeah,” Keith said with that snort. That snort of knowing something that no one else did. Something that clearly Shiro knew and they were keeping from Lance—God, Lance was spiraling faster then ever!
“Paladin Shiro!” It was a messenger.
Shiro turned, his hand was still at the small of Lance’s back. “yes?” He answered.
The messenger looked a bit nervous, though who wouldn’t be in Shiro’s presence.
“The swordsmanship competition is starting sir.”
“Right.” Shiro gave a brisk nod. He turned. “You in for this one, Keith?”
Keith shook his head, sliding his helmet up under his arm. “Naw, I’m done for the day.”
“Wimp,” Shiro playfully jabbed with a chuckle.
“Just cause I’m not stupid enough to climb in the ring with you,” Keith snorted again.
Lance knew he was missing something again at that point. Was Shiro a great fighter? He'd never actually seen Shiro fight. He’d seen him in training as the Black Lion, but nothing beyond.
“I’ll come watch though,”
Lance was startled out of his thoughts and looked over to see coal black eyes watching him.
“Me and Lance can watch together.” Keith said.
Lance narrowed his eyes. He rarely felt the urge to correct someone but this time he couldn’t let it slide as his brow creased he hissed. “////Prince,”
Keith gave a smile. It was like watching a snake smile, it was slimy and scaly. “My apologizes, Prince Lance.”
Lance didn’t smile back.
Shiro leaned in to his ear. “Play nice, kitten.” Above all else though, he sounded amused.
It gave Lance pause for a moment. It was like getting a glimpse of Shiro he’d never seen before. As Lance looked over at him. so close to his face he could swear—
Then Shiro was smiling his usual gentile smile and it was gone.
“He poked first.” Lance defended.
It only earned him a chuckle before Shiro was sliding a hand down Lance’s spine unfairly and bidding them good bye.
Shiro wasn’t a good fighter—he was a damn near made for it! He was quite possibly the most perfect warrior Lance had ever seen.
As Lance watched how Shiro expertly dealt with another opponent, he realized something as well. Shiro liked to play with his victims.
The knight could barely get a good slash in at the other end of the ring, but he made the mistake of standing every time Shiro beat him down.
Lance suddenly saw it again as he looked closer at his mate. The crowd around him was cheering, a chant of “Black! Black! Black!” had started up. It was clear Shiro was the favorite. Lance would be surprised if he wasn’t Tournament Champion by the end of the day.
Lance stayed still where he was though, watching as Shiro prowled back closer to his prey, waiting, watching for him to try and stand again.
“There is so much you don’t know about him,” Lance heard Keith whisper from next to him. Or at least he thought he heard—when Lance looked over Keith wasn’t speaking. He was looking at Lance though, he wore that same snaky smile too.
“Having fun, Prince?” Keith asked as he took a sip of his drink.
Lance hastily looked away, not bothering with an answer.
The answer was actually—no. he wasn’t. He looked down as Shiro’s sword skidded across the knights armor, hurling the knight back to the ground and even in the advanced armor leaving a long scratch across the front.
Finally the knight tapped out, holding up his arm in surrender.
Shiro smiled as he stepped back.
It was the smile of—of something with fangs. Lance looked away and back over at Keith.
“How many more are there?”