• Pitchgold

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 me very happy to see,”


Lance smiled wider though—there was a sad quality to his father voice. If Lance wished, he was sure he could dissect a meaning.


But at that moment, there was little he wished to over think.





At one point in his life, Allura would whisk past him, snatching up his wrist and towing him off to some secret corner all to the mounting delight in Lance. They would scheme and giggle and commiserate. They were mischief incarnate. Allura was always blinking mirthful eye at him and Lance would smile back with a grin from ear to ear. His sister was his partner in crime.


And though she never got caught compared to Lance’s alway getting caught and always taking a punishment. He still adored running off into the servants halls with her, still flourished the moment she would say, “I have an idea,” or “baby brother, this way…”


But now—Lance sighed heavily as he felt his sister brush past him, taking his wrist she started to lead him down and around to a secluded balcony.


When had the shift occurred?


The obvious answer was the moment Lance felt Shiro lift the moon flower wreath from his head. But the answer felt premature. It was before that. Maybe around the time Allura stopped racing with Lance through the gardens and started attending court every evening. Or maybe when instead of bursting into canterous laughter at one of Lance’s stupid jokes, she instead would give him a scolding look.


Allura checked to make sure no one had seen them before she flicked the drapery shut, effectively secluding them in the small enclave of the balcony.


“Are you serious?” Lance shot at her before Allura could barely turn to him. “Come on Allura, I was having a good day.”


Allura blinked several times before smelling blood her eyes narrowed. “What the hell was that last night?”


Lance backed up a step. “Last night?” he cocked his head “You mean at court with father?”


“I mean with Shiro.” Posturing her hands on her hips, she brought herself up to her full height.


If they had been younger Lance would have pointed out he was still a couple inches taller.


But they weren’t younger, and it was just another stinging reminder of the spiraling relationship he had with his sister. “What’s your issue with him?” Lance said past gritted teeth.


Allura shook her head. “Don’t you try and pretend you don’t know what I’m referring to. I know you see it too. You clearly saw it last night, I could see it in your face.”


Lance just narrowed his gaze. His mouth set in a tense thin line.


“He was practically prowling last night,” Allura went on, crossing her arms. “With that fierce look he was giving off, he could have been the Black Lion himself.”


“That’s rich,” Lance hissed. “After what you did, in front of the entire court!” Lance shook his head. He slowed his speech to give clear emphasis to the next line. “I thought you were smarter than that.”


Allura’s eyes lit. “I am trying to set a foundation.”


Lance shook his head. “You’re poking a stick at the nose of a wolf.” The madness his family had descended into was making him sick. “Shiro is the first paladin of Voltron, and you’re undermining him every time you bring Iso up like that.”


There was a rippled of agitation in Allura’s depression. “You know my plans for Iso.”


With a vigorous nod, Lance set his own hands on his hips. “Oh yes I do, and unfortunately for you—so does the rest of the fucking castle!”


“I’m making my alliance clear.”


“That may be from your point of view, but—“ Lance gave a sweeping gesture. “If any of this really comes down to what you’re afraid of, you will regret letting everyone know your intentions.”


Allura stopped at that cocking her had at Lance. There was a quiet for a solid moment.


“You’re seeing it too aren’t you, you’re finally seeing it.”


Lance shook his head. “I live with him, Allura.” He huffed. “And Shiro, if he’s playing any games, it’s going to be in the shadows. Don’t bring something into the light unless you know—“ Lance broke off. He wasn’t even quite sure what he wanted to say.


“Iso can take care of himself.”


“When Iso gets hot-headed he can’t tell his hand from his arse!” Lance hissed back. “And you putting a giant target on his back, while rubbing Shiro the wrong way to do it will just make this worse!


Allura crossed her arms. “What would you purpose I do differently?”


Lance threw his hands up in the air. “You’re serious?”


Allura nodded, cocking her hip as she impatiently waited for her brothers reply.


“Why would you care what I think?” Lance shook his head. “My value at this point in time is as the Black Paladin’s mate.”


“You’ve always been worth more to me than that.” ALlura hissed.


Lance wasn’t convinced. “Then tell me what you really feel for Iso. Beyond the fact, he’s second Paladin of Voltron, or that he’s one of the fews fighter, that just might,” Lance paused to emphasize. “just ////might be able to be Shirp’s equal or that he might have control over a garrison larger than any nobleman at court. Tell me what you talk about when you’re alone with him.”


Allura blinked. It was as if it was a concept she hadn’t considered Lance to push her on. Her mouth dropped open just a fraction. “Of course, I care for Iso!” She gave an appalled snort. “I’m slightly hurt you would imply otherwise.”


Lance stepped back. “Then announce your engagement.” The words popped out of his mouth before Lance even realized they were less advice and more of a challenge.


“What?” Allura’s arms uncrossed as she shot back. “Lance, it’s too soon.”


“It’s clearly your intention.” Lance just went on. “And just alluding to it will only keep everyone on edge. You need to make this less about picking allies and more about your feelings for him then.”


Allura seemed to consider. She raised her hand to her chin. “Iso won’t go for that.”


“Iso wants to be king.” Lance rolled his eyes as he snarled the words. “And he thinks he’ll get there through you.”


Allura shook her head. “That doesn’t stop the threat of Iso sliding in to Shiro’s place.”


And there it was, clean confirmation. Allura had no feelings for the Red Paladin. She saw strategy in her union with him.


“It will narrow his focus away from you,” Lance provided though his voice had lost some lack luster.


Allura seemed to finally consider. But there was something in the shift of her eyes before she changed the subject. “What is your real advice?” She tipped her head. “This is unlike you. What do you really want me to do?”


Lance raised himself up. “You won’t do it.”


“Who says?” Allura chided. “I may find it sound.”


“Drop Iso.”


“Lance!”


“I hate him!” Lance huffed. “You don’t even like him! I’m not even sure if Iso’s mother likes him all that well. But beyond that, you’re forcing yourself into a corner. If you ascend without a mate you’ll be considered—more independent. It will look better for you.”


Allura just frowned. “I need him to make sure I do ascend.”


Lance couldn’t help the expression he knew was forming. His mouth sagged in a frown and his eyebrows kneaded together. “Allura—you’re using him.”


“I don’t have options.” Allura shook her head. “You were there, you heard father, Shiro has made himself irreplaceable.”


“So to fend off one wolf you’ll let another into your home?” Lance shot back. He vehemently shook his head. “Iso is worse than Shiro and you know it.”


Allura didn’t react.


It was finally a moment that clicked in Lance’s head. He had never considered—his own sister.


“You know everything I’ve said is true,” Lance breathed. He looked over his sister trying to decipher even the tiniest bit of remorse. “You’re using him. It’s so much more—you are fine with that target on his back. He’s not just a puppet, he’s your shield. If Shiro thinks his fight is with Iso—that leaves you ample room to maneuver.”


“You wouldn’t understand,” Allura’s face spoke the most. It was motionless and had pulled on that Queenly vainer that had become her trademark as of late.


There was a flood of ice in Lance’s own veins. He stepped back, his hand going to the thick stone railing of the balcony. His chest roe and fell with a shaky breath.


“I understand all too well.” Lance said surely. “You’re the one that put me between you and Shiro.”


Allura cocked her head. “The marriage was his solution put forward to us—”


“And it was supposed to be you!” Lance hissed with venomous malus towards his sister.


Eyes wide, Allura’s breath seemed to catch in her throat. “Lance—“


“I was never supposed to figure that part out, was I?” Lance hissed.


Allura’s face looked caught, a stuck in a spotlight she hadn’t fathomed.


“You never involved me until it was absolutely necessary.” Lance spat. “And it’s embarrassing to think it was because you didn’t want me to figure out you were flipping our roles.”


Allura shook her head. “No—Lance— you don’t understand—“


“According to you, I understand nothing!” Lance barked.


Allura staggered forward her hands held to her brother. “You haven’t needed to! Lance, this—all of this is my territory. Not yours! My sweet baby brother, this is a fight you’ve never engaged in. You still stroll through the gardens everyday, you sill take dessert at every opportunity. I love you—“


“You traded me!” Lance finally felt the sting of tears at his eyes. He looked away from his sister as he pulled in a strong breath.


Allura stepped closer. “He was so open to a union with you, you have no idea what it was like negotiating with him.“ She shook her head. “The second it became clear a life bond had to be establish—he only wanted you. You don’t know what it was like facing him down like that—”


There was a rift at that moment, as Lance stared up in his sister in disbelief. “You—Allura, the one here that’s ignorant is you.” He shook his head. “If you think his presence is overwhelming in a council room, you have no idea what it’s like to sit next to him in bed, or feel him come up behind you.”


Lance side stepped his sister, stepping away from her. “I can’t—you really.” He breathed out slow before as he pulled breath in he tried to bring himself up to his full height. “I can’t believe it’s taken this long for me to realize you—you used me as a shield out of your own fear.” His brow stitched together in a pained expression.


Allura lunged forward, her hand grasping out to his arm. “Lance, it wasn’t like that—“


Lance brushed her away. “Don’t.”


Tipping her head, Allura changed tactic’s. “I need you as an ally, Lance. I need you on my side—“


“Then don’t make the same mistake twice.” Lance hissed. His hand raised to brush over his face. “You—don’t do this to Iso. I’ll forgive you, but I’m not so sure he will do so kindly.”


Lance slipped out from the balcony then, hoping his sister would take his advice.





The day was bright and sunny, From the window in the bedroom, Lance could see as the white and light blue tents popped up, long spindly flags waving in the air as the attendees started to come in. There was no missing his fathers precession or Allura’s grand entrance.


By the time Lance arrived, dressed in bright blues to the picnic tents, most of the small, conservative group invited had already arrived. His mind still swirled from the day before but he cordially sat at a table with Hunk and Shay under the cream colored tents.


Of course, running characteristically late, Lance had already missed the opening ceremonies. His father was already sitting at the long head table, laughing with Allura that sat next to him. Out on the grass, it looked as if a few of the games had already started.


Lance frowned, not seeing Shiro out on the lawn. He had thought Shiro was coming… then again he couldn’t blame Shiro. There was nothing official about these games, it wasn’t like the big grand production of the Spring festivals. There were no swordsmanship competitions or archery trials. It was all for fun. It was polo astride elks or stick pulls or javelin throws, nothing that was really challenging probably to Shiro. And there was much going on despite the insistence upon the picnic.


This was an event strictly of friends and family, at most sixty people was there, all fitting under four tents and most all wondered about in the sunny grass.


Much to Lance’s surprise, Pidge took up the seat next to him. She did so though with a deep sigh.


Lance looked over to her.


“You missed the breakfast.” She said unabashed.


Lance rolled his eyes. “Oh, what a travesty.”


Already slender eyes narrowed on him. “I almost had to talk to someone.” She had brought with her a small crumb cake. “They kept pestering me the whole meal.”


“I’m not sure how I could have helped with that.”


Pidge shook her head as if it were obvious. "If you had been here, I wouldn’t have had to sit by anyone else.”


Lance’s face twisted in an unsure expression. Was this the same Pidge?


Lance didn’t have a moment to dwell though as in a sweeping motion He was suddenly engulfed in the smell—of cloves. The effortless smile on his face he was sure spoke volumes, but Shiro loomed over him, hand on the table to balance himself as he leaned over and down to Lance. Without hesitation, Lance turned his face towards Shiro, wishing very much they were alone so he could burry his face in his partner’s neck.


Shiro was smiling though, and not his more easy smile. It was slightly—mischievous. He leaned forward to peck at the bright blue eye marking at the tip of Lance’s cheek.


“You are rather late,” Shiro spoke in a hushed tone. “Lucky for me.”


Lance hummed. “How is that lucky—“


Shiro slid up, smiling as he confidently slighthanded a small flower just in at Lance’s ear.


A furious rush of a blush crept up on Lance possibly faster than ever as he raised his hand to touch the small flower. It was a powdery lavender bleeding heart.


Shiro’s smile at Lance seemed to grow just a shade more genuine. His eyes shifted up to Pidge. He offered a second flower, this one a bright yellow. “Would you like one, Katie?”


Pidge made a disgusted sound. “Absolutely not!”


“I’d doubted you would,” Shiro chuckled. His eyes turned back to Lance.


Still in awe, Lance felt over the silky smooth petals of the flower. It was so soft. His head tipped just so as he smiled at Shiro. His fingers pulled from the flower as he reached out to Shiro.


“You really brought me a flower,” Lance hummed as he stroked his fingers along the hard line of Shiro’s jaw.


Shiro just gave a simple smile. “Of course,” He offered out the small yellow flower as well to Lance.


Lance gave a small laugh. “You’re giving me Pidge’s cast offs?”


Shiro fixed a narrow eye on him. “I’ll have you know, that was my back up flower.”


Lance couldn’t help the laugh that burst form him then. “Why in the world would you need a backup flower?”


“You said you wanted one that was blue!” Shiro chuckled along. “I had to find one, and the guards—“ his eyes shifted around but another smile arose. “Lets just say, picking flowers from the royal gardens was a lot harder than I had previously thought it was going to be.”


Lance giggled in utter delight. “Oh my god, you stole a flower for me!” He scooped the yellow flower up holding it close to him. “I’ve married a henious criminal!”


“It was actually—“ Shiro’s nose scrunched. “I’m really shocked I actually got called on it.” He was already breaking into chuckling.


Lances hands went back to his face shielding over his eyes. “Please tell me you tried to pull rank over a flower.”


“I” Shiro looked for a moment like he might deny it, till another breathless smile broke. “I actually did. ” Shiro burst out laughing with one of the best smiles Lance had ever seen on his face. “And the humiliating part is they still wouldn’t let me take it! “


“So you stole one,” Lance giggled.


Pidge next to them snorted. “Yes, Shiro, I’m sure will be sent to the prison ships for this!”


Lance just looked smugly at his criminal as he ran his fingers over the yellow flowers velvety petals.


Shiro smiled back, his eyes level with Lance’s in a way that was so horribly pleasant. He swallowed past a sudden bout of shyness, but his body still turned to the table leaning over the yellow flower before him, he knew he shyly tipped his head away.


“Looks like the games are starting,” Hunk finally entered into Lance’s peripherals again.


Shiro’s gaze lingered a few moments more before he looked up.


As he straightened to walk up, Lance abruptly reached out his hand grasping at Shiro’s vehemently.


Shiro stopped, looking back at Lance as he pulled his fingers around Lance’s in a firm grip.


Lance gazed up at him through his lashes, his other hand was at his lips, fidgety and delicate in their long slender nature.


Shiro quirked a smile at Lance, squeezing his hand.


It was enough to build Lance’s confidence up and he pulled his hand from his lips.


“Go win for me,” Lance said softly.


Shiro’s brow raised but the surprise seemed to almost immediately be over taken with a warmth as he took a deep bow to Lance, sweeping Lance’s hand up to his lips, to press a small kiss.


“Anything for you, my prince.”


With one last lunge in, Shiro pressed in a parting nuzzle to Lance’s bond mark, sending him smiling and a flutter though his veins before he was whisked away off to the lawns.


Lance sat back in his chair finally, feeling immensely more happy than he had on his way there.





The day was absolutely lovely, Lance observed as he looked around. Even Pidge next to him seemed to perk up as the first competition started. There was plenty of laughter and the drinks started to be poured almost immediately.


Without having to say anything, Lance was given a tall flute of something sparkling gold.


Pidge looked at the spread of cakes and cookies and farther in small fish and chicken sandwiches, deviled eggs and salads.


Lance let him self relax as he watched a competition being described to Shiro and several others. His nose twitched as he saw Iso was also standing up there but Lance refrained from comment. From where he was, he could only lookup to the grand tent, and the raised table where his father sat. At his fathers right was two seats—empty. Lance pursed his lips. Right that was where he and Shiro were supposed to have sat…


Allura sat on their father’s other side, wearing a light lavender dress that hung from her shoulders by tiny interlocking silver chains. She looked like a goddess. Her hair was strung with small gemstones and her perfectly creamy, smooth skin shone with the sort of ethereal nature Lane had never grasped.


But his stomach still churned at the thought of approaching her or speaking to her. He looked away. He’d get over it. But right now he just wanted some space.


So instead Lance looked away to the lawn.


A metal disc spun through the air and struck into a target a good fifty feet away. Shiro stood confidently as he observed his struck mark before his gaze flicked to Lance. He smiled.


Before unexpectedly—he gave a slow wink to Lance.


It wasn’t a dashing wink. It was very deliberate and had a quality of subtlety to it and even more so held an air—of desecration Lance knew he as a person entirely lacked.


Lance looked away, his own smile rising as he tried not to blush again. His fidgety hand returned to his lips, as he studied the linen fabric of the table cloth.


“You two are disgusting,” Pidge stated in a flat voice.


“I think they’re adorable,” Shay giggled from the other side of the table.


“I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone wink at Lance…” Hunk said as an offhand information. The way he nodded just slightly suggested he was actually proud of Lance at that moment.


No one ever had, Lance could confirm. A hand came up, covering over his face. He covered over his eyes especially. Cause he wasn’t sure he could look at anyone at that moment.


“What is it, Prince Lance?” Shay asked as she leaned into look at him. The large stone earrings jangled softly as she tilted her head in concern.


“Oh he’s fine,” Hunk waved off with a laugh. “I’m just pretty sure no one has given him this much attention before.”


“Lance is a flirt?” Pidge was sitting so straight as she marveled over at Lance, he had to question whether she’d just stood or not.


It was Shay’s giggled answer that popped up first. “The first time I met him, he kissed my hand and told me I ‘rocked his world.’”


Lance buried his face more firmly in his hand. He had been fifteen when he’d first met Shay. And if he could manage to do anything at that moment he might have pointed that fact out with vigor.


Hunk was already nodding. “It used to be all the time.”


Lance tried to mount his defense but it was harder then he planned as his mouth opened but no words cam to his lips.


“He was really cheesy,” Shay said with a small smile. Her hollow eyes still somehow managed to hold mirth. “It made him very approachable though.”


Pidge turned her gaze to Lance and a sneaky smile started to form.


Lance finally dropped his hand enough to look at her.


“You’re still blushing.” Pidge provided.


Lance almost dropped his head to the table he looked away so hard.


Pidge just laughed.





The servants all bustled around as lunch was served. Unceremoniously, Shiro had picked Pidge up, whom gave an uncharacteristic laugh as he moved her over a chair so he could occupy the seat next to Lance.


His stormy gaze rolled over Lance for a moment.


He managed to handle the brunt of that gaze possibly a whole ten-seconds before he looked back down at the table. Shiro’s chuckle beside him was a wonderfully low, gravely sound as he smiled wide.


“Sir,” A rather slight looking servant approached, “Your highness,” he ducked his head to Lance. “Your sister inquires if you would like to take lunch with them.”


Lance was ashamed to say his gaze didn’t leave the table. As much as he wished he had the same control of his face as his sister—he didn’t and he knew the sweet smile he had just dropped from his features.


Cool and quickly becoming absurdly comforting, a metal hand slide up Lance’s spine.


“Thank the princess, for the both of us, and give her royal highness my regards” Shiro spoke, “But we’re quite comfortable here.”


The servant stopped, bitting at their lip as they continued to stand there. They were probably not used to ever having to carry back a negative response.


But Shiro had already looked away with an air of dismissal.


Lance still just looked to the table cloth. His folded arms over the table’s surface did a better job of hiding his gaze.


“She won’t appreciate that.” Lance murmured.


There was only slight nod from his mate, an acknowledgement to Lance speaking. With a wave of his fingers, he brushed the still stammering servant off.


“This isn’t an official event, and both of us are more comfortable here with friends.” Shiro’s voice held an amount of lack luster Lance noticed.


It was enough Lance managed to lower his tense shoulders as he looked over at his mate.


“You’re quarreling with her still?” Shiro inquired.


Lance frowned as he sat back in his chair, his voice lowered as he spoke. “She expects unrealistic things—when its just me its fine, but she’s starting to do it to others.” Lance shook his head. “I’ll recover. I’ll forgive her. I just don’t want to talk to her right now.”


Shiro’s gaze on him was a blank slate. Nothing could be gleaned, but Lance still looked at him. He half expected Shiro to say something wise, something Lance already knew but he was going to confirm.


Instead, Shiro just nodded.


In an instant though, his expression shifted and he leaned forward to run a hand down along the bleeding heart at Lance’s ear.


“It suites you,” He spoke low. “I almost wish I’d managed a few more.”


It was an easy drift closer to his mate as Lance spoke as well. “Just as I’ve noticed that winning suites you.”


The smile on Shiro’s face curled at one side in a way Lance rarely saw, but still admired.


In the bright sunlight of the warm summer day, there wasn’t much Lance didn’t truly admire about Shiro. But at the same time he scared the hell out of him. The dark shifts of those eye’s made Lance fear for everything in his life. But at the same time—it was utterly enchanting. The way Shiro dominated an entire room just by stepping into it. The way he faced off a king without a single word falling from his lips.


Everything with Shiro was deliberate.


“We are so different, you and I.” Lance whispered. His hand fluttered up to caress his knuckles over Shiro's jaw line.


That smile, the kind Lance knew but didn’t wish he did didn’t leave Shiro’s face. “I think I prefer it that way.”


The slender arc of Lance’s brow accompanied a tilt of his head. “I can’t imagine why.”


“Oh, but you should,” Shiro chuckled. “I’m sure you know,”


Lance wasn’t sure he knew at all what Shiro was referring to.


The man only leaned closer to him. “I have no idea why in the courts it’s so common to marry among your own presentation.”


Lance blushed deep crimson, keenly aware of those around him suddenly. “Sh-Shiro,” He squeaked in a hushed voice.


The slight smile on his mate’s face lingered and gave no tell if he was embarrassed. He didn’t push the subject though as his eyes roved over Lance again, seeming to soak in Lance’s flustered blush he still leaned away back into his chair.


It was unnerving being the focus of that stormy gaze—and exhilarating.


Lance was caught between wanting to look away and not being able to take his eyes from Shiro.


“If I may be so bold,” there was rustling and those around them all stilled as Iso’s voice rang out through the tents from where he stood at the head table.


Lance blinked but his gaze still lingered on his mate. Shiro’s smile at that only deepened and he made a swiping flick of his hand to indicate they should be looking up to the main table, not watching each other.


It seemed inconsequential though, and Lance even let his eyes pour over Shiro for a few more moments before he looked back up to the main table. Shiro had done the same, tilting his head first before his eyes shifted slowly from Lance. It was the sort of lingering Lance was sure he’d never get in his entire life. He felt so entirely numb from it.


“I would like to make an announcement.” Iso’s voice rang clear through the tents.


Those words stirred Lance enough to reality, his body first turned to the head table.


Allura.


Lance knew it was her speaking just upon sight.


Oh no, she wasn’t uttering a word. She sat there in her fine linen dress, looking like the goddess she knew she was destined to become.


But the moment Lance’s eyes landed on Iso, he knew.


Iso was for one, for once, clad in formal attire that was befitting. It was almost as if Lance had dressed him that morning. His cloths fit too close to his frame, the fabrics rich and a dark magenta to highlight the soft almost etherial white to his blond hair in the mid day sun. Beyond that it was all too artfully done. He held a slender flute of something deep red as he smiled to those around him.


Oh what foolishness, Lance thought. He was a puppet thinking he was the master, and all the while behind him his mistress plucked at his strings in a gentle caress. Lance could only guess at his sister’s reasoning, was it really manipulation after all if it came in the form of a gift?


“Though her royal highness, the Princess Allura and I have had much deliberation over this,” Iso smiled, not knowing it was too smug. He wasn’t aware that his eyes were too narrow. “We have decided to announce our engagement to be married.”


Those around them already all broke into soft aw’s and a small roll of gentle clapping broke out. Lance stared at his sister and though pausing—just long enough, just enough to send his sister a clear message Lance pulled on his own pleasant mask. A smile graved his lips and he smoothed his face so his eyes sparked with just enough mirth and he gently gave a small clap as well.


Because unlike the fool that stood before them, Lance was aware that the less he told others with in the palace the better.


Allura smiled as well, but as she looked down at Lance she did mouth one phrase,


‘It was sound advice.’





“Your Highness?”


Shiro so rarely addressed him like that any more, Lance blinked rapidly as he realized the Black Paladin had slid to a knee at Lance’s side, gazing at him, Shiro’s smile was gentle.


He held out his hand, “If I may?”


Lance’s brow creased.


In the moments following the engagement announcement he’d been consumed suddenly with thoughts of—everything. His mind whirled through all the games being played and what his own next moves should be.


“…pardon?” Lance breathed his eyes flicked from Shiro’s hand to his face.


There was a smile there. ..and it wasn’t... Shiro wasn’t hiding anything with it. It was absurdly shocking at that moment.


“He wants a token.” Shay giggled from behind Lance. “The polo competition is starting.”


“Right,” Lance’s back shot straighter as he tried to look around himself. He had—nothing. His hands scrambled around himself. He hadn’t even bothered with a circlet that morning. And where was at least a handkerchief when you needed one? “Of course.”


“The flower,” Pidge mock coughed from next to him.


There was deep chuckle from Shiro before him, clearly enjoying watching his mate’s flustered scramble.


But—Lance’s fingers went to the flower at the table. Lance hesitated. At least for now. Lances eyes alighted to the yellow flower at this fingertips on the table. The blue one was at his ear.


He slid his fingers up a carefully removed it before he slid forward in his chair to where Shiro had regally gone to one knee. Carefully Lance slid the flower in along Shiro’s shirt pocket. Lance even unclipped and used one of his own cuff links to secure the flower.


Shiro watched with the sort of amusement he seemed to hold only for Lance before as Lance finished smoothing his hands over Shiro’s chest, Shiro lifted his eyes to meet Lance’s gaze. His stormy gaze almost caught Lance’s breath as he looked at him but instead Lance managed to give a breathy smile.


“I’ll do my very best to win for you,” Shiro’s smooth deep voice was in a soft tone as if he were speaking to Lance in a private room.


The appreciation Lance gave was to smooth his hands up the column of Shiro’s neck, petting at the edges for his face as Lance admired the stormy gaze still focused on him. As subtly as Lance could he took his hands away in a caress but in such a way that led them down, slipping down to slide just barely over the glands Lance knew were tucked just under Shiro’s jaw line.


If Shiro gave an initial reaction it wasn’t noticeable. His eyes still just lingered on Lance. He dipped forward as he started to rise, the press of a soft kiss to the teal eye markings at Lance’s cheek had Lance squirming with a blush.


He reached out, lacing their fingers just briefly before letting Shiro slip from his grasp.





The game was supposed to be a refined competition. But nothing was ever really refined. Every person in that court had secrets, had flaws and hatreds that ran deeper than was acknowledged. In this, there was no difference. The great elks pawed at the ground as two teams squared off. It was a simple game, knock the ball through the opposing teams poles faster and better than they did while astride the tall elks.


Lance usually never watched. He’d never found it interesting. Besides it usually—It wasn’t hard to get knocked to the ground.


So as Shiro soared past down the field, striking the ball and sending it flying back towards the goal posts Lance swallowed and his hands fisted in his napkin.


It was just a game.


But was any of this really a game?


Lance cast a look back to his sister. She seemed so demurely unaffected. Allura wasn’t even watching as she chatted with a Duchess at the far end of the table. It didn’t slide past Lance’s notice though the way her eyes shifted through the people present, settling on Lance.


Lance looked away.


There was another thunder of hooves and a whoosh.


It gave him something to look at and Lance focused his gaze away on the competition.


It was the opportune moment as Shiro’s massive black elk streaked across the field and knocked the ball back to his team. But the grey elk Iso rode struck out, hooves hitting the ground on hard impact as he stopped the ball and sent it back with a whack.


It was too close quarters though and Lance knew the spark in Shiro's eyes—it was a flash, like a distant storm thundering on the horizon. He jerked his elk back, pivoting and it collided with Iso’s grey.


The grey elk stumbled before dropping to its knees, but more importantly it threw Iso.


There was a collective gasp from those watching.


Lance went still as his eyes tracked back over to his family members. His father watched intently, but gave no sign. Allure sat up straighter first, her posture taking on that queenly manner as she lifted her chin and looked out to Iso.


Iso had landed with an ‘oomf.’


Shiro’s team members had regained control of the ball and were sending it back towards the goal posts, but Shiro stayed where he was.


His elk was restless and Shiro had to rein him in as he looked down at Iso on the field.


Out of the corner of Lance’s vision, he saw Allura carefully stand.


In front of him, Lance almost thought—he almost saw the ghost of a smile on Shiro’s face.


Iso groaned and pushed up to an elbow.


Lance watched Shiro though as the restless elk underneath him gave an impatient sound and pawed, tearing up the ground under it’s hooves.


Shiro was purposefully looking down at Iso, watching him.


Lance still didn’t move, his gazes on Iso.


It would be so easy for Shiro to—His elk was now rearing lowly, his front feet bouncing up as it watched the action in the distance.


Suddenly though, Shiro jerked on the reins, bringing the beast under firm control before he slid off smoothly.


It was when Shiro stepped up to Iso, gaze still down. Lance sucked in a sharp breath. At the edges of his vision he saw his sister take a step forward.


It was all just a game.


Then without hesitation Shiro offered a hand.


Iso looked up at him, his expression was unreadable but after a moment he gave the slightest of shake of his head. He pushed himself all the way up and to his feet, completely ignoring Shiro’s hand.


As he stood, Iso gave an unveiled glare to the Black Paladin before he narrowly missed running into Shiro as he strode off towards his elk.


Lances eyes lingered on Shiro a moment more.


He was unreadable. His stance was still perfectly straight, He’d dropped his rejected hand as he gave one last look after Iso before he himself turned to his black elk. He mounted effortlessly and with a kick of his heels was trotting back into the game.


Immediately Lance looked to his sister.


She was trying very much to hide it, to stomp down her emotion under a blank face and an elegant hand poised on the table.


But Lance had been around his sister far longer than anyone else under those tents and he could see it in her subtle details.


The hand not on display was holding her skirt though a bit too tightly. Her eyes were leveled on Iso, no wavering from her mark.


It was all just a game.


But Iso had just misplayed.




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