Updated: Apr 13, 2019
He didn't look like a king, Lance thought as he sat close to the massive draped bed. The room was a wash of deep royal blues, and the light fixtures around were all dimmed. Lance reached for the long wrinkled hand over the bed covers.
The man before him — looked like a paper cut out. His skin was thin, speckled with the dark veins beneath. His white hair seemed thinned as well, wispy almost like the ghost Lance was so terrified he’d become.
They were letting Lance in... That fact scared him more than looking across his father’s withered figure in the bed. There was no denying at that moment — Lance knew his father's fate. And so would anyone that entered that room.
He sat next to his father, sitting close to the bed.
"Your highness," from the shadows crept a long figure.
Lance looked up with dull eyes and a numb expression.
“We're doing all we can," Honerva said in a quiet tone.
Lance gave a nod. Of course. Honerva had saved his father before, after all.
Lance’s other hand came forward, at the edge of his chair he leaned forward as he grasped his father’s hand within both of his own.
"Has my sister been informed?" Lance spoke to the servant hovering nearby.
"Yes, your highness," servant gave a fervent bow.
Lance nodded to himself. That was good. That was very good.
He wasn’t proud to admit it—but the second his father passed they needed to secure his sister for ascension.
When Lance couldn’t find his sister in her room he knew where she was. All the lights were dimmed in the Palace. Lance wasn’t sure how many knew about his father but there was no keeping the death of the Red Paladin a secret. The funeral processions were already starting to organize. He’d be laid with the other Paladins of old.
There was no longer any use for the window walled turrets that lined the long chapel, which used to serve as the Paladin’s alters . Lance stepped through to see the statue of the Lion Goddess bathed in candle light. The moon light streamed through the vast towering windows though, the luminous blue light dominating the room — as well as his sister.
Lance kept his footsteps light as he approached. Allura didn’t move from where she sat at the curved stone benches circled around the statue. In return, Lance didn’t say anything as he slid in next to her.
For the first time in a very long time, there was no exuded confidence from the woman next to him. She was dressed in a simple black gown and looked for once — less like the goddess statue before them, and more like the sister Lance once knew. Her face was still attended to by servants, Lance had no doubt, but the way — she looked so deeply hurt in that moment. Her eyes down at her clasped hands in her lap, her forehead lined with worry and mouth set in a tremble frown.
Lance opened his mouth, his mind — he’d so dearly wanted to find his sister to talk to her, but now that he was next to her, Lance couldn’t think of anything to say. What could he even say?
“Galra forces — are still on Mai.” Allura’s voice was held at a careful, even tone.
Lance nodded. “We encountered a cruiser.”
Allura’s head turned just slightly, just a bit towards Lance, though she didn’t look at him. “You were there when—?”
Lance shook his head. “No. I wasn’t.”
Allura gave a small nod, looking back down at her hands.
The moment was still as Lance reached forward. He moved his hand over Allura’s in a soft gesture, before calsping over her hands, covering her hands with his own.
She frowned deeper as she tuckered her chin in, and Lance could see her eyes watering. Whatever spell she’d woven to keep it all in was crumbling at the caress of a loved one.
He remembered — there was a moment like this, when she had clasped his own hands. He hadn’t crumbled though. At the time, Lance had felt so abandoned, sitting in the great hall, as his sister has reached across the table to him, clasped his hands tightly as she explained — there was no better match for Lance. He would marry the new Black Paladin. Lance had pulled away, feeling like he’d just been pushed adrift at sea — by the caress of a loved one.
The memory drained the kindness in Lance at that moment, but even so he kept his hands over hers. He could be bigger than that, he thought to himself.
“Have you,” For the first time, in a long time, Lance heard his sister’s voice shake. “Have you been in with father at all?”
Lance nodded. It was like all words had faded away with in him. What was he to say? ‘Our father looks like a paper cut out of the man I used to know?’ Pointing that out just seemed cruel.
“They told me,” Allura said. “I just—“ her eyes searched across the stones of the floor.
Lance looked to the floor as well. Carved across the floor surrounding the Goddess’ statue was the images of the five Paladins, each of the Paladin’s symbols carved deep into their lion’s chest as the rock around was morphed to look of their corresponding element.
And right before where Allura was sitting — was the Black Paladin. The clouds swirled directly at their feet and around the massive winged lion.
Lance’s expression morphed as he looked at the lion before angling his head to look at his sister.
A tear was finally streaking down over her face.
And Lance knew that look.
It wasn’t tears of bitter regret — it was tears of anger. No doubt, in her mind, if only the Goddess had chosen her — none of this would have happened.
There was a gusting wind then through the open windows. Lance stood, but before he could step up to close them — a gust blew across them, tousling Lance’s hair and the deep dark hood over his sister's face before… It was just the lightest breeze and the candles at the Goddess’s feet were snuffed out, leaving ghostly trails in their wake, spindling in the wind.
The room was engulfed in darkness immediately, Mai and Var over head the only light as the deep blue of night swallowed the two siblings whole.
Allura was still dressed in black hours later in the small sitting room. She stood at the open window, gazing out, several courtiers near her. In small pockets, many conversed among themselves. The room housed military leaders, as well as Council members, and even a few red-robed Acolytes. Though as Lance’s eyes scanned the room, there were none in black. Lance had yet to even remove his form-fitting flight suit as he spoke with Hunk quietly.
“The council has been summoned.” Hunk said, though his voice lit a bit in a way that Lance didn’t like. "And Shay told me the Balmara are sending in a war ship. It should be hovering over Altea with in a few days. Her brother Rax, the Regent, ordered it."
“Then why have nearly less than half our councilmen responded?” Lance asked, as his brow lowered.
“Rats,” Pidge scowled from where she leaned against the arm of a chair. She had dressed, since Lance had last seen her. Her soft leather boots and short cape of emerald green fit her quite well. “They’re running scared.”
Lance looked down at her. From where he and the other two Paladins were huddled together, they probably weren’t going to be heard. But he didn’t need Pidge’s loose sarcasm at that moment. She didn’t know how to play the game well enough, that Lance was certain.
Hunk looked down at her though, before his eyes flashed up to meet Lance’s.
They were a regime teetering on the tip of knife. And with turmoil literally at their horizon, Lance could see it too. His jaw felt tight as he looked over his friends. Yet again, he was so unsure as of what to even say.
The doors opened then, and Lance looked past Hunk as black-clad Guards opened the double doors and strode in.
Lance fleeted forward immediately, light on his feet, as he rounded the sitting arrangements to get to his sister.
Allura had turned from where she stood at the window, her face like stone as she looked to the door. She never even moved as Lance came around to her, lifting his hand to her shoulder.
It surprised no one in the room when Shiro strode through in his polished Black Paladin’s armor.
But the entire room lost it’s breath as Keith strode in behind him--in armor stained red.
He stood tall and he held his chin up in clear sign of confidence. Shiro looked much the same way, his eyes narrowed as he came to a stop before the sitting area.
Shiro formally straightened in a way Lance recognized now as his fall back.
“This is Keith Kogane.” Shiro introduced him to the room, holding his hand out.
At his side, Keith advanced another step, coming up to stand at Shiro’s right hand.
“Keith is the new Red Paladin of Voltron.”
Lance pushed out breath then, and his eyes shot around himself. His sister had gone still, her stoic expression nearly serene in it’s control next to him. Most in the room didn’t move, though with wide-eyed, slack-jawed looks it was clear most had yet to bury their shock under serene masks.
Lance’s eyes darted to Hunk. His eyes were large and his mouth clamped shut as his dark eyes ran over Shiro and Keith. Pidge — Lance’s expression narrowed. Pidge looked neither surprised nor displeased as she crossed her arms over her chest and looked on to Shiro. It was slight just around the edges in the slightest way she lifted her lips, but it was approval there.
It hadn’t even been eight hours since Iso’s body had been moved in through the hangers. …and Keith stood in the armor of the Red Paladin before what remained of the royal court of Altea.
Lance’s eyes finally shifted up then, to find Shiro was looking at him. His dark eyes steady on him. Lance opened his mouth.
But what would he say?
What in the world could he even say at that moment?
“The new Red Paladin of Voltron?”
Lance was so startled, he nearly stumbled away from his sister’s level, confident voice next to him. For once, Lance wore no circlet so as he jerked his head to look to his sister, there was no jingle of crystals. She lifted her hand gracefully to gesture to Keith.
“Another from Varr?” She clarified with a raise of her brow.
“Yes.” Shiro answered in turn. “The Red Lion has chosen him.”
To prove the point, at Shiro’s right was a brilliant flash of red as Keith struck out with his arm and the Red Bayard flashed to life and morphed into the legendary short sword of the Red Paladin.
“The Council,” An elder spoke as he stood.
“There is very little time to assemble a council when the nation is already in crisis, besides the Lion has already chosen.” Shiro cut in, not even turning his head.
“It was unexpected,” Keith spoke for the first time.
“But what’s done is done.” Shiro finished off.
A council member stood then, younger than most before he gave a bow as his eyes connected with Shiro’s. He gestured to a servant before taking a deep bottomed glass of red liquor, and tipped it into the air.
“To the new Red Paladin,” His voice rang through the room.
Shooting his gaze around him, Lance couldn’t believe how many took glasses as well and toasted.
“Allura,” Lance breathed.
But his sister already grasped his arm tightly, holding him still, her eyes narrowing ahead of her.
They were outnumbered now.
Lance let out a shaky breath as the courtiers around him drank to the appointment, all fanfare seemingly forgotten.
“Your highness,” A servant approached. He held out a tray with two glasses of the same red liquor.
Caught without an escape, Lance’s eyes went up to meet Shiro’s across the room.
His head was tipped forward at an angle, standing just off to the side, his hand on his own glass set on a side table, but he was still very definitely watching Lance. Lance couldn’t say if he or another had prompted the servant forward, but his mouth dropped open as he looked at his mate. How could he…?
What did Lance even say to him?
“Excuse us,” Allura said coldly as she stepped away from the servant, with a flick of her fingers, urging her own hand maidens into following her.
Lance quickly followed.
Only at the door, as Allura passed through there was no movement, but as Lance stepped through the threshold two black-caped Guards stepped up, chests sporting emblazoned amulets with the Black Paladin’s symbol.
Lance glanced to his sister. From behind, Antok’s broad figure overshadowed Lance. If he wasn’t Lance’s exclusive shadow before, he certainly was now.
Gaze calculating, Allura stepped up to Lance to press a kiss to his cheek.
“I’ll speak with you later,” She spoke quiet as Lance embraced her. He gave the slightest of nods before releasing her.
As Allura turned away, she lifted the black skirts of her mourning gown and briskly was already headed in the direction of the council chambers.
Lance stood still for a breath longer, Breathing in deep before letting the air rush out of him as he closed his eyes. When he opened his eyes back up, he looked to the guard next to him. “Let the Black Paladin know I’ll be waiting for him in the west sitting rooms.” Lance’s chin lifted. "His Prince would like a word with him."
Lance’s gaze swiveled around as he heard the door behind him. Eyes narrow, he watched as Shiro waved away any sort of guard as he closed the door behind him. In the time since Lance had seen Shiro Lance had cleaned up, bathed and dressed back into his ornate princely attire before setting out to one of the west parlors.
Once he turned back, Lance’s arms uncrossed as he charged across the room. He was a prince and even now as he charged forward the ornaments and metal of his outfit jingled softly.
He opened his mouth, “What the hell—“
Before Lance was engulfed. Shiro gave a very long, tired breath as he clasped Lance close to him, squeezing in around his waist to press him in against him, burying his face in at Lance’s hair to breath deep.
Taken so abruptly by the beast he’d just planned on fighting, Lance shuttered out a breath as he was held so close. It was such a rush as Lance’s hands settled at Shiro’s shoulders, it was another moment before the gossamer tethered at Lance’s middle ring finger settled as well.
“I’ve missed you,” Shiro rumbled against Lance’s hair, shifting down to kiss at the peak of Lance’s cheek right over his royal eye markings.
Lance huffed out another breath.
“How could you do this?” Lance gasped as finally he pushed away, stepping several feet away from Shiro.
Shiro didn’t lift his head as he gazed at Lance. “Keith was chosen fairly by the Red Lion.”
“You’ve set all of this up.” Lance hissed. He shook his head. “You have no idea, what limbs I’ve gone out on for you in this court,” Lance’s face morphed as he looked at Shiro like he’d stabbed him in the back, “what I’ve said for your favor to my sister.”
“Your Highness,” Shiro shifted another step forward, his hands out as if to capture Lance again.
Lance took three steps away, standing firm with a narrow gaze. “If you really mean that, you will respect me as your Prince.”
Shiro blinked, before giving a nod and let his hands fall away to his sides. “Of course, Your Highness.”
“You will hand this over to the council.” Lance bit out. “Keith will not be ordained at the temple steps until he has—“
“He already has been.” Shiro cut in again. “I just returned from Honerva finishing with him.”
If felt — like his insides were shattering. His insides were shattering and cracking and bursting apart. Like his heart was made of glass and with each time Shiro constricted his arms around him it cracked a bit more, till now it was finally brilliantly breaking apart. Lance knew he wasn’t hiding it on his face very well as his useless mouth dropped open again in a silent plea to his counterpart, his eyes narrowing in a completely different way this time, trying desperately to keep from tears.
“Keith is the most trusted man I know.” Shiro said stalwart. “And he will now be at my right hand.”
How could he…? Lance gasped for air as he backed away another step. He wasn’t sure what inside of him kept him from begging at that point. His eyes searched frantic over his mate’s face.
“I love you,” Lance finally struggled out.
Don’t do this, never said but Lance could feel it at his tongue, hanging in the breath he struggled out.
“Your Highness,” Shiro’s face softened then as he looked over Lance, stepping closer to him again, though more careful. “I will always protect you.”
“Then what are you doing?” Lance swallowed. “What is all of this?” He’d reached the back of the couch, nowhere else left to escape, to back away anymore.
“Lance,” Shiro’s voice was so soft. “My darling.” He reached out gently to the Altean Prince.
Lance nearly burst apart at the pet name. “This can’t happen, Shiro.” Lance desperately pleaded now. “You are not an Altean Royal, you cannot just appoint a Paladin.” Lance shook his head. “Even I couldn’t — my own father couldn’t pass on the Black Bayard —You have no authority.”
Shiro was already advancing again, gently ever so lightly letting a hand rest at Lance’s upper arm, tentatively seeing if Lance would jerk away.
“The lion chose him,” Shiro reaffirmed. “You can’t deny yourself that Keith is a characteristic Red.”
Lance shot his gaze away, squeezing his eyes shut. “You promised not to lie to me.”
“I never have,” Shiro said very quiet as he took another inching step forward, his other hand coming up to brush through Lance’s hair.
“You said yourself, we’re in crisis,” Lance hissed as he turned his face back. “This is only making this worse, you cannot just seize something you want!”
Lance could feel himself crumbling, the shards of himself breaking with every soft caress of Shiro’s cold metallic hand brushing a thumb over Lance’s cheek.
Lance morphed into an ugly frown as Shiro stepped closer again, tipping his forehead into press against Lance’s.
“I love you,” it was the last plea on Lance’s lips.
“You will always be my Prince.” Shiro purred in return, breathing deep. “I will never let you go.”
Lance lifted his hand, fingers brushing over Shiro’s face, over his scars. He frowned deeper.
What was he to say?
His heart was being so viciously broken, and he was still being caressed through it all.
The door opened then and a guard stepped respectfully through. “Paladin Shirogane, Your highness.”
Shiro took one breath more to press his forehead against Lance before he exhaled slow and turned to the guard. “Let him in,” He gave a nod.
Lance’s hooded eyes went startlingly wide as he looked up. “What?” Who? Let who in?
“Keith’s spoken to me.” Shiro said soft, his eyes still on Lance.
Keith stepped in just then, red armor still on as he faced Shiro and Lance.
Neither of the men turned their heads as the door was closed behind Keith.
“Your highness,” Keith ducked his head.
Lance stayed quiet, refusing to acknowledge him as the Red Paladin.
Shiro turned, shifting around to Lance’s side as he placed a hand at Lance’s shoulder, holding him still there as he faced Keith.
“Keith made a confession to me,” Shiro spoke levelly.
Lance’s head jerked to Shiro. His earrings jangled and jostled as his head whipped to the side. “What?” His voice gasped out in a whisper.
Shiro’s eyes were still gentle as he looked at Lance. “He’s kissed you.” he said plainly.
Lance was frozen. Not a single muscle in him felt like it was anything but chilled to the bone as he looked to Shiro. His eyes still wide, Lance knew his mouth was open, though no words came.
After everything, after all the words passed between them, Lance wasn’t sure— his defense had to be clear.
“Shiro,” his voice broke the silence. “that’s not—“ Lance shook his head.
Keith took another long step forward. His hands were clasped behind his back, face held still and eyes trained between Lance and Shiro.
“It was—“ Lance tried again. “It wasn’t his fault, or mine,” Lance shook his head. “It was an accident.”
Those grey stormy eyes were still on him, showing no signs of emotion.
And Lance felt like his shattered heart was being dashed across the rocks in the storm. “I would never.” Lance whispered.
It was a very long moment, Shiro blinked at him before a small smile lifted at his lips. “I know.” His deep voice rumbled like thunder through Lance.
Keith took another step forward, and Lance’s face jerked to the approaching red armor. He felt cornered in, the couch at his back, Shiro a fierce storm to his side and Keith was stalking closer, boxing him in from the front.
He had nowhere to run as a hand rest at the small of his back, keeping Lance steady, Shiro’s metallic hand still at Lance’s shoulder.
“You pulled away from him,”
Lance’s face jerked at the whisper in his hair. Soft, almond-shaped eyes still watched him.
“He barely let me kiss him, before he crawled away.” Keith took another step forward.
It was true, but Lance could barely breathe, let alone raise voice in his own defense.
This could—destroy them. Word of a cheating Prince could utterly destroy whatever capital Lance had in court. Shiro could demand that Lance be asked to do penance for the crime. Lance would be made a laughing stock —his family could be at the least undermined. And Keith. Lance’s eyes flicked to Keith.
Shiro’s eyes finally flashed to look at Keith then as well. “You still adore him.”
Keith’s next step forward, put him very close to Lance. He looked—so confident. “He’s absolutely beautiful.” Keith spoke, his violet eyes shifted over Lance. “He reminds me of moon orchids. I swear when the moonlight hits him — he’s breathtaking.”
Lance wasn’t even sure if he was steady, his gaze stuck to Keith. Lance couldn’t remember to breath. Speaking felt foreign to him. He was closed in against the couch, and Lance’s arms moved in closer over himself, though protecting himself from what he couldn’t name.
“He is breathtaking,” Like thunder, again, Shiro’s voice rumbled against Lance.
Lance shivered, and hoped lightening wouldn’t strike too close to him.
Keith fell, crumpling to a knee before Lance then. “Your Highness,” his head bowed.
Lance swallowed down a gulping breath, though kept himself from breaking apart.
“Your Prince,” Shiro spoke.
“Lance,” Keith breathed so quiet, his eyes lifted just enough before his head was bowed.
“I give you my deepest apologies,” Keith breathed out.
From behind him, Lance felt Shiro’s hand move, careful and gentle as he reached for Lance’s hand.
Lance felt like he couldn’t find breath again as he looked down. Shiro slowly and ever so gently offered Lance’s hand out. It was like the kiss. Lance never expected Keith’s touch to be so soft, to grasp under Lance’s fingers like he was cradling a fragile bird. He held Lance’s hand up and his eyes shifted up just before he pressed his lips to Lance’s knuckles.
At the same moment, Lance felt struck by lightning, his breath gasping as Shiro leaned into him, pressing his own soft and tender lips to Lance’s temple.
“My affection for you,” Keith breathed. “will always be to honor you.”
Lance felt like he was breaking, his insides shattering, he gave a gasping voiding cry as he let Keith press his lips to Lance’s knuckles again.
“Baby,” Shiro’s thunderous voice rumbled through Lance again.
Lance could finally breathe, and he felt utterly caught in the storm, his breath in tumultuous gales.
Keith stood then, his eyes still focused on Lance as his fingers lingered just a moment longer before releasing him.
With his hands free, Lance collapsed into the storm, his hands clutching at Shiro’s breast plate as he finally shipwrecked and resigned to his fate, breaking into a sob as he buried his face at Shiro’s throat.
And Shiro caught him. His arms wrapped immediately around him, Holding Lance flush to him as he sifted a hand through Lance’s hair.
“My darling,” Another crash of waves and thunder.
Lance felt the tears pouring through him, but could only let out another sobbing cry as he tried to collapse closer in against Shiro’s armor.
“Come on,” Shiro’s voice was so soft and gentle. “Let me get you back to our room.”
Whatever protest Lance had couldn’t have made it out past the drowning sobs and his hands flattened over the breastplate of the Black Paladin, his cheek pressing against it as well.
Shiro’s metal arm swooped under Lance’s knees, as he held Lance’s shoulders in against him.
He was trapped. Caught at the eye of the storm—Lance was now trapped. A simple mistake, not even Lance’s fault, and any capital he’d thought he had, was ripped away from him.
When Lance finally lay back on their bed, eyes up at the endless galaxies of the canopy, he shivered. But lightening was so close at hand, a rumbling thunderous voice as he was pulled him back in closer, pressing him against the god of the storm himself.
The grove of the gardens at night was darker than Lance had thought, but he could still make out his sister before she ever pulled back her hood.
“He’s let you out of your room.” Allura said as she stepped up to her brother, her hands clasping his before one lifted to Lance’s face. “Your eyes are red.”
Lance gave a sad smile. “Please pardon me,” He said knowing the smile was breaking.
“He’s hurt you.” Allura’s face morphed.
“Never,” Lance gasped.
Allura looked at him a moment longer, it all finally sinking in for her.
“It hurts very much to mourn for what you’ve lost.”
Lance managed a smile again. “I love him.”
Allura nodded. “I know.”
The gardens grove was quiet for several long breaths then, the twin moons over head. The gentle sway of the wind around them had the siblings huddling closer together. Lance grasped at his sister’s hand over his face still.