Two Shadows Went, Chapter 8

Updated: Apr 13, 2019


Shiro had asked if they could have breakfast alone again. And it was—it would probably never be with in Lance’s power to refuse his mate for such a sincere request.


But now—Lance looked around the corner, he’d seen Shiro off and now briskly walked as quietly as he could to the main council meeting rooms. He glanced around himself a few times. Keith was still gone—where ever he was—and Lance was not going to let the opportunity go to waste.


And as if by some grand stroke of luck, Lance saw his sister just as she came out of one of those meeting rooms.


He swooped in and sidled up to her as casually as he could. She was surrounded by people all trying to get their say into her, but Lance pressed past them all to gently lay a hand on his sister’s arm, letting her know he was there.


“I need to speak with you,” He whispered to her.


Allura gave a subtle nod before Lance fleeted off and down the hall. Escaping from the other clamoring courtiers made Lance appreciate his lack of popularity in the Altean Royal Palace.


He was having a hard time getting used to Keith, if he had to get used to several lackies he wasn’t sure he could stand it. Lance ducked through a hall way and out onto an enclosed balcony looking over the gardens. It was an oddity in the castle and he knew his sister would know to meet him here.


Though a few minutes later when Allura appeared… She had Iso with her.


“Allura,” Lance said as she came through the door.


“Brother,” She said cordially. But she warmly came forward.


Lance smiled as they embraced, hugging his sister tight.


“It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve been able to be around you,” Allura said.


If nothing else, Lance found himself pleased at the wistful quality in her voice. She really meant it. It wasn’t just another ploy of hers.


Iso was already folding his arms over his chest, “What in the world was so urgent?”


Lance looked up at the Red Paladin, his expression creased, he glanced back down to Allura.


“We’ve both been worried.” Allura said then, drawing Lance’s attention back.


Of Lance? What was to be worried about with Lance and even more--


Wait — Lance looked back at Iso then Allura. They’ve ///both been worried? As in a ///we? Lance’s eyebrows rose all on their own. This was — unexpected.


Completely involuntarily he looked back to Iso. He wasn’t a horrible choice, Lance figured. But then again—the guy was insufferable. He was hot headed, temperamental and worst of all, so damn condescending.


Looking down at his sister — Lance couldn’t read her expression.


Iso was Red Paladin though. And Allura was to take the throne. With a union with the Black Paladin impossible--of course the next obvious choice would be the second in command Red Paladin, unless she planned to convince Pidge to consider her or even more unlikely Hunk to leave Shay. That didn't alienate all of his worries though. Iso was so--he wasn't exactly Shiro. But the problem being he thought he was.


Even beyond. Lance looked between the two. It didn’t sit comfortably with Lance that Allura was choosing her company based on how much political clout it could win her.


“Allura,” He knew his voice sounded unsure.


Allura quieted him with a hand to his arm. “I trust Iso entirely,” She said as she looked Lance in the eye.


That didn’t make Lance happy about his presence still.


“He’s a greatly needed ally.” Allure continued, trying to assure him. It only solidified Lance’s suspicions that this was another power ploy.


Lance huffed. Since when did they need allies with in their own home? Besides it was so unfair, to Allura, to Iso. Lance sincerely hoped there was connection and feeling between them, but he also doubted it greatly.


He tried to shake it off. “Allura,” he tried to start again, but his eyes snapped back to Iso. There was just something—Lance wasn’t sure he felt comfortable saying much in his company.


“You smell like him,” Allura observed. She lifted a hand to Lance’s cheek, as if to signify she was pleased. “The two of you must be doing better.”


Oh, he wished he knew. He felt like he was holding onto Shiro with one hand, Allura on the other and the problem was they were both starting to drift in different in directions. But Lance managed a tight lipped smile. He could pretend he knew what was going on in his marriage for her.


“I need to speak to you, about him.”


Allura’s hand dropped, but her attention was consumed with Lance.


Glancing at their uninvited guest, Lance quickly made the decision not to tell most of the events of the night before.


“Shiro—he assured me war is coming.”


Allura blinked. “Lance,” She said as if she was tired of his games.


Lance was already shaking his head though, “You don’t understand.” Shiro was so clearly already preparing for it. He was surrounding himself with people he trusted, he was setting up informant networks, he was practically setting up a personal guard for Lance! His actions were all pointing to a brace for the future.


But looking, Iso looked like he had already dismissed the idea. There was no way he was handing over a scratch of information of his mate over to that pompous ass. But without it— Lance gazed at Allura, there might be no convincing his sister that he knew he was right.


“Look this isn’t some prank of mine,” Lance tried to plead, taking his sister’s hand. “Last night, when I spoke to Shiro. He didn’t suggest war might be coming, not like any nobleman here. He was assured it was coming.”


Allura wore an expression of doubt. It was a slight pause before she spoke. “Lance, you haven't been in council meetings, you don’t know what you’re talking about. The Galra have already deescalated on our borders. This will blow over, I assure you.” She placed her hand over his. “Once father is able to sit back in his throne again, you’ll see. This is an empty threat from a war-nation. The Galra would be fools to attack Altea.”


Because of Voltron. They wouldn’t attack because they had already tried in the past. And Voltron had decimated them, everyone knew that. But now— Lance glanced at Iso. There was no denying there was a rift between the Paladins. Between Iso's discontent and Shiro’s reservations they had never even mind melded.


Lance looked back to his sister. “Please,” He sighed. “Just consider it. You said he was the best possible suitor for me. Please take that into account when I tell you I don’t think he would say anything to me unless he was certain.”


Iso snorted. "He’s fear mongering.”


Lance turned a scowl to the red Paladin. Just the notion made Lance’s lip curl in disdain.


“Shiro would never use fear to convince me of anything.” Lance said in a surprisingly steady voice.


Lance could see Iso's hackles already start to raise.


Allura looked in thought as she crossed her arms. “What has made Shiro so convinced?” She wondered aloud.


“I—I don’t know,” Lance admitted. He fully turned back to his sister.


“What has he seen in these last few weeks that we haven’t?” Allura wondered further.


Lance stood a bit straighter at that. He—the night before flashed in his mind. Shiro had lived as a Galra prisoner for years, he’d admitted to Lance.


Allura gave a frustrated sound. “it’s just more posturing!” She waved her hand. “They’ve done this before. It’s all in patterns I’ve been assured are meaningless in the end.”


Lance shook his head. “I can’t tell you what he sees,” Lance shifted uneasily. “But what ever it is, I want—“ he stopped, unsure how to express himself. “You should be just as prepared for it as he is.”


Looking over at him, a smile did creep into Allura’s expression. “You’re right,” she admitted. “I should be as prepared as he is.”


It was a sudden swell of Lance’s chest that allowed him to smile back so fully. She was going to listen to him. Thank the lion Goddess! Allura was actually going to listen to him for once.


“He’s the one posturing!” Iso cut in.


Lance looked over to Iso .


“Shiro is trying to divert attention.” Iso said plainly. “What better way to occupy his mate than have him chasing his tail on a war that will never come.”


“On a war that will never come?” Lance hissed. “Are you deaf?” He set his feet as he squared off to the Red Paladin. “Even if what I’m saying isn’t true, rumors of war are on everyones tongue right now! I can’t walk down these halls without hearing at least one hushed conversation over the Galra!”


Iso huffed, “It’s always been like this! The big, bad Galra have always been at our doorstep. They’er only letting themselves be known now became King Alfor has taken ill. Once he’s back on his feet, the war cries will die down.”


Lance just looked to Allura. “You said it yourself,” He said evenly. “Shiro has that arm for a reason. He hasn’t shared with me what he sees, But I’m telling you he’s preparing.”


Leaving, Lance felt a knot in his stomach. He had a feeling his sister wasn’t going to take his advice.



 


His father—was awake. And he was holding court. Lance had sighed from relief so audibly at the news, Shiro had stepped closer towards him.


Hurriedly Lance had dressed in some of his finest cloths—since being mated he hand’t really bothered with Court. Finding something cute to flirt with was the main point after all, and Lance skin crawled at the notion now. No, since his bonding he would have much rather snatched up every morsel of time Shiro gifted him from his impossible schedule.


Dressed in a light blue Lance had made sure Shiro as well was in full presentation, smoothing his hand over Shiro’s black uniform.


“He’s alright,” Lance exhaled as Shiro had gently cupped his shoulder.


Shiro had just nodded, clearly indulging his mate.


But dutifully, Shiro didn't put up a single word as Lance hauled them to the throne room. He dusted off Shiro one last time, making sure his own appearance was pristine, much to Shiro’s chagrin, before Lance chastely took Shiro’s crooked arm and nodded to footman at the ready.


The footman opened the doors and billowed:


“Announcing 1st Paladin of Voltron, Pilot of the Black Lion Takashi Shirogane, and his bond-mate His Royal Highness, 4th Paladin of Voltron, pilot to the Blue Lion, and second heir to the throne, Prince Lance.”


It was all formalities and once Shiro stepped in along with Lance, their presence was almost immediately dismissed. They were expected to be here. It wasn’t interesting gossip that they were here or that Lance clutched at Shiro’s sleeve fiercely as he led them into the chamber. The great hall that was usually the great expanse of the throne room had been cut down.


Up ahead make shift walls of dark fabric draped from the high ceilings all the way to the floor. It created an inner sanctum where only a few were allowed in.


And Lance knew he was one of those few as he tugged and prodded Shiro forward. At his side, Shiro gave him a look that suggested he’d like Lance to calm down.


But Lance only set his brow and tugged Shiro more insistent, pulling them through the throngs of people.


Lance’s father was on the others side of that wall. The King of Altea and the one man that had always been the absolute kindest to Lance. It had been months since Lance had seen his father, since he’d hugged him, and just because Shiro found Lance’s behavior perturbing wasn’t a good enough reason to stop Lance from basically racing to his father’s side.


The drapery was immediately pulled back just enough and Lance squeezed in and past, finally releasing Shiro and skittering on ahead.


Shiro had to duck his head as he entered, despite a footman holding the drapery back, Shiro raised his hand to hold up another end of the drapery to allow for enough room for himself to pass through.


Lance froze in the middle of the room.


Before him was the enclave of the throne. His father’s throne had been brought in and propped with pillows and rich thick fabrics.


But King Alfor — wasn’t there. He wasn’t anywhere to be seen.


“He’ll be taking his time,” Shiro slid a hand onto Lance’s shoulder, drawing his attention back to where he stood behind him.


“Everyone is watching closely,”


Lance tipped his head to see the much smaller new Green Paladin had joined them. She looked up at the throne — her expression suggested she was bored but her eyes… they were scanning the room. Lance doubted much was getting past her.


“There’s been too many rumors he’s dead, so he’s going to reveal himself only when he has his full strength to do so.” The little strategist went on.


Lance wrinkled his nose at the little intruder.


“Pidge,”


There was a lift of fondness in Shiro’s voice Lance found himself insanely jealous about, and he even looked back over his shoulder at his mate.


The younger Paladin took it as a scolding through and looked up at Shiro. “He’s had to of heard the talk by now.” She tried to defend her self. “I mean I’ve been here all of five days and I’ve been informed of it all!”


What an insensitive little twit.


Lance’s gaze floated between Shiro and Pidge. All of his mates friends were pure heathens!


There was a blare of a great horn then though and Lance’s head snapped back to look to the head of the room. There was no announcement for his father. There never was. It was a sign of reverence, His name didn’t need to be spoke. It was on every tongue as an opening was pulled back in the drapery.


At Alfor’s first step through there was a wave through the small assembly, each participant taking to their knees. Allure bowed gracefully, her head reverently bowed in an effortless moment of grace as she descended first, setting off the ripple in the room.


Lance followed her example, casting his eyes downward, Lance slid to his knee cleanly. He could feel next to him as first Pidge went down then a bit more stiff Shiro went to one knee.


He tried to flick his eyes closed as his sister had done, showing her self perfectly subjugate, but as always Lance was too eager and looked up through his lashes as his father entered.


He—he no longer stood quite as tall. Or quite as broad. He used to hold up the framing cloak at his shoulders as effortless as his mantle of King. But now, it formed around him more awkwardly, it looked to be holding his shape more then he held it. Lance winced as he saw his fathers slow and concentrated steps towards the throne. They were—there was a deliberateness about them Lance found uncomfortable.


When Alfor had mounted the dais, he stood before his throne and raised a hand. The guards at this sides gave a clear ringing pound of their semiteirs on the cold marble. The sound rang out signally the release.


As gracefully as she had bowed, Allura tipped her head forward, crystalline eyes springing forward to greet her father with a grand smile.


Lance wasn’t sure why he did it, but just as he straightened himself, he looked back over his shoulder to Shiro.


Shiro was still—but more over, his eyes were that of black storm clouds, and his grave expression was pointed straight ahead to the king. His gaze never wavered either as he stood, taking up his full height as if—Lance swallowed. It was almost as if Shiro looked like he was facing off towards King Alfor.



 


Allura had rushed forward and embraced the king once he’d waved her up. It was a warm embrace. And Allura looked elated as she clutched at her father’s hand.


Then those wrinkled crystalline eyes had turned in Lance’s direction.


Lance went to step forward—only to find the hand on his shoulder, Shiro’s metal hand clutching at him. His fingers dug in possessively and though he’d affixed his face back to the stoic state he usually wore it, his eyes were still forward to the King.


Shiro carefully turned his head to Lance, regarding him for just a moment before he leaned in over Lance’s shoulder and pressed a small kiss to the peak of Lance’s cheek bone, right over the bright blue eye marking.


Lance flushed immediately and as though Shiro was giving him his blessing he smoothed his hand away from Lance, sliding it down his spine before he fully let him go.


The heat didn’t dissipate, instead spreading as Lance took a small step forward.


Shiro was making it clear—he was allowing Lance to go up to his King.


Regaining his balance, Lance pulled on a smile as he jogged up the steps of the dais and into a hug from his father.


“I’ve missed you, my pearl.” Alfor hummed into Lance’s hair.


Lance breath caught. His memory usually turned to his mother at the nickname. Queen Iphigenia had died when Lance was very young, she had had Lance’s dark hair and same, though slightly teal shaded eye markings. After losing her, Alfor had graced the closest thing to his wife with the small pleasantry.


Lance had thought he’d grow out of it. But he never did.


But that’s not what Lance thought about. No, he thought about someone else calling him ///a pearl.//. His eyes shifted from their embrace back through crowd.


Shiro was looking at him, he wore an easier expression this time, not so taunt, or severe—but it was still trained up, this time on Lance embracing his father.


“Please don’t go away again,” Lance murmured.


With eyes crammed shut, Lance threw himself even more into the tight embrace of his father.



 


Allura had been allowed to stay up upon the dais with her father, gracing a small chair brought up for her. She stayed most of the night at her fathers side.


But that wasn’t what bothered Lance. After a while, Lance had resigned his place and trailed back down to his Black Paladin. As was usual, Shiro had quickly attracted the company of various military men. They all drank dark amber liquors and a few puffed away on thick cigars.


Shiro seemed to content himself halfway through the night with running his hand lightly down Lance’s back. At first Lance had looked up at him. He was clearly activating the glands down Lance’s spine, though in a casual motion. But as Shiro had continued Lance relaxed into the movement, drifting closer to his mate and into his touch.


When Lance was drowsy on the affection and leaning into Shiro’s side was when Shiro chose to look up at the dais.


“Your family seems to be favoring Red’s company.”


A bit surprised, Lance blinked as he shifted to look up at the dais, and immediately regretted it.


Allura was—she was moving things too quickly. If this was her plan of action even Lance could see this was too fast. She needed to ease into an introduction.


But there Iso sat on the other side of Allura, his hand casually around Allura’s shoulder.


If Iso had taken up the spot to Alfor’s right, Lance wasn’t sure he could’ve have gotten away without a direct challenge to Shiro. So staying at Allura’s side was the smarter tactic.


But still… Lance blushed as he looked away and down at his feet.


“Have you talked with your sister recently?” Shiro’s tone was casual, but Lance doubted he meant it casually.


Lance wanted to be honest—but there was still that inkling. The memory of Shiro’s stormy gaze up to the throne still lingered. “No.” He exhaled the word. “We’ve quirlled a bit in the last little while,” Lance looked up to his sister. “Besides her schedule is almost as ridiculous as yours.”


With a raise of his brow, Shiro shifted to look down at Lance. “The two of you are fighting?”


Caught in his own words, Lance started to unconsciously nibble at his lip. “I mean, it’s not bad—we always disagree.”


Shiro nodded as his gaze traveled back up to where Allura sat laughing openly with a baron that had approached to give his respects to the king.


“I’m sure it’s nothing,” Lance tried to urge.


Shiro nodded again.


He didn’t in the least look convinced.


And Lance felt like his sister had just handed over something she would have been better served kept close.



 


For the first time in what seemed like months, Lance and Shiro attended breakfast in the grand hall. Lance had grown accustom to the private meals in their room or out on the garden terrace so as he sat next to Shiro at the head table he rather awkwardly tried to look away from the expanse of the room.


Shiro had already been up for a few hours, his day started well in advance. Lance was pretty sure he’d already attended a council session as well as another smaller meeting. He still graciously greeted Lance as he sat down at King Alfor’s side.


For which, Lance looked around his Black Paladin to his father. His father’s eyes were on Allura.


Lance frowned.


She sat to his left—but more so, Iso was by her as well. She had her hand lightly placed over his own as she conversed.


That wasn’t—Lance frowned. She was playing this too obviously.


But breakfast was already being served. At the very least next to them Shiro seemed unperturbed and even smiled softly at Lance.


Lance tried to pretend that it was just the two of them as usual. Things were always easier without the royal entourage of an audience watching him. Lance’s gaze itself was drawn across the room, he felt like he needed to analyze every detail, and he hated it.


“Where’s Keith?” Lance abruptly asked.


Shiro looked up in surprise, but a smile quickly overtook the expression. “I thought you didn’t like him.”


“I don’t.” Lance insisted. He even crossed his arms as he pointed his chin in defiance. “He’s messy. And tactless.” He let his posture relax. “But that doesn’t mean I haven’t noticed his absence.”


Shiro chewed the food in his mouth slowly as he nodded to Lance before giving an answer. “He’s out on my request.”


“Where?” Lance persisted.


“Space,” Shiro answered in the same insistent tone. He was smiling though.


Lance crossed his arms again. His mates chipper mood was leading in one direction—he was teasing Lance. And it was just an inkling, because Lance had yet to witness a perfectly relaxed Shiro—but he was pretty sure Shiro enjoyed teasing Lance almost as much as the Mullet enjoyed saying inappropriate things.


“That’s a vague answer.” Lance chided.


Shiro just chuckled. He smiled at Lance again, making it clear it was the only answer Lance was going to receive.


“Will Keith be gone throughout the festivals?”


Iso.


Both Lance and Shiro peered past King Alfor and Princess Allura at the intrusion of their conversation.


When Lance exchanged a glance with his sister he knew she had picked up on it as well.


She quickly chimed in, “I am so excited for the picnic to begin tomorrow!” She smiled brightly.


King Alfor chuckled at her side. “I told Coran it wasn’t necessary.”


“Oh but father it is!” She kept up. “You’re well, and we should celebrate that fact.”


With a dip of his head, Shiro’s expression spoke confusion enough to Lance.


“Coran has arranged for a festival picnic in celebration of my fathers return to court.” He explained in a hushed tone this time.


“Ah.” Shiro sounded as he started at more of his food.


“You’ll be attending won’t you, Black Paladin?” King Alfor addressed SHiro.


Well Lance had doubted it before, but at request of a King…


Shiro ducked his head, accompanying the nod with a gracious smile. “I’d be honored, my King.”


“Oh good, I have heard you are rather fond of competitions.” Alfor went on.


Lance laughed at Shiro’s side. Right, ‘fond’ was a kind way of putting it.


“I enjoy a good sport now and then,” Shiro said, that smile turned just a smidgen smug.


“You’re competing then?” Iso spoke up. He was leaned over the table, hands clasped and plate of breakfast forgotten as he regarded Shiro.


“More than likely,” Shiro answered before he contentedly took another bite of his food.


“And my son?” Alfor raised his eye brow.


Lance let his laugh be much more audible this time.


From down the table Allura giggled in response, her hand coming up to her mouth.


“I think I’ll have a great time, “ Lance exclaimed. “Under the tents, drinking plenty of wine and enjoying watching everyone else.”


Allura chimed in her brothers defense, “Father, as much as you try, I’m not so sure you’ve quite grasped how much my younger brother doesn’t enjoy any sort of sport.”


Alfor sighed, though in a loving way. “I suppose you’re right, your brother has quite a great deal of his mother in him. I remember I became Solstice Tournament Champion in her name, though when I approached her afterwards she informed me she would have much rather I just picked her some flowers.”


“Should I be taking notes?” Shiro gave an unexpected commented, looking to Lance. “Would you prefer white or blue flowers after the competitions tomorrow?”


It was—Lance smiled as he observed his Black Paladin. It was a rare mood indeed that Shiro dropped flirtation with Lance.


“Both I think,” Leaning away, it gave Lance the perfect opportunity to lounge back in his chair. He pressed a finger to his mouth as if considering something. “You could take me to stroll through the gardens if you were feeling very generous.”


The level gaze from Shiro sent a lovely, pleasant feeling through Lance. His smile only grew more sincere as he looked at Lance. There was a notion in the back of Lance’s mind though. There was something about Shiro that terrified Lance. A potential Lance could see in him every so often that made Lance tremble. But in just a shift of his smile, Lance found himself forgetting all of it. How was it, at times, Lance could be so completely enamored with the man next to him?


“As if his Highness doesn’t already spend copious amount of time indulging himself.” Iso drawled


Lance felt like sighing. It had always been this way with Iso. He was always making comments about how Lance didn’t train enough or didn’t invest himself in his Paladin role enough.


Lance just glanced at his sister though. She knew Lance’s distaste of Iso, and still she had invited him into their inner sanctum.


About to give a retort, Lance didn’t notice Coran until he stepped up to Shiro’s side.


His words were hushed enough Lance couldn’t catch any specifics but from the way Shiro nodded before turning to Lance he was pretty sure he got the gist of it.


His Alpha was needed else where.


Conceding to Shiro’s pleading look, Lance let him nuzzle in against the bond mark before slipping from his chair, excusing himself.


“In quite a short time he’s become almost irreplaceable to my kingdom.” Lance didn’t expect the comment from his father.


With a wide-eyed look Lance turned to his father.


“He seems very fond of you though,” Alfor was smiling as he spoke.


Lance didn’t know what else to do so he smiled in return giving a small nod. He hoped it was true at least.


“That makes