“From the beginning to the end- I have loved you with every breath and every beat of my heart. No matter the time or the place, or the name by which you are called. I have always been yours and you will always be mine.”
The sun beat down on the forum, brutal and blistering. The harsh reflection gleaming off the helmets below caught Lance’s eye. Reluctant to leave what little shade he had managed to find, he slowly stepped to the edge of the platform for a better look.
The centurions had made their way back from whatever far off land he could only dream of, far smaller in number than they had been so many weeks ago. Lance’s eyes darted across the crowd. He wasn’t foolish enough to ever hope, war was war, but he couldn’t help the stutter of his heart when he finally laid eyes on the Primus Pilus, the bulky galea doing nothing to hide his striking features.
“Boy!” Lance jumped, turning back to his master.
The soldiers were gone by the time Lance was dismissed. As the life of slaves went, his was easier than most. Bought at a young age by the wealthy editor of the local arena, Lance had become a favorite of the household and therefore permitted small luxuries typically unheard of for his kind. He felt more like a member of the family than he ought to, requesting various tasks over others, letting them fall on the other slaves of the house.
The sun was nearly swallowed by the horizon and Lance breathed a heavy sigh as he made his way to the baths. His mind was hazy, frustration clinging to him like the humidity in the air. He stripped, lost in thought and waded into the large pool of water. He slumped against the edge, willing his muscles to unwind when he heard a small splash.
Across the bath sat the chiseled god Lance couldn’t seem to shake free from his thoughts. Old scars littered his body from his time in the arena, and Lance could unfortunately recount the stories for most of them. Despite the newer fading wounds, and the clear exhaustion etched into the lines of his face, the former Champion smiled at Lance. It was suddenly far too hot in the bath house and Lance wondered if he could smoothly turn tail and run without offending the Primus Pilus.
The shifting of the water around him broke Lance’s thoughts of an escape. Steely eyes were locked onto him and the heat in his cheeks flared once more.
“Do I… do I know you?”
Lance’s eyes went wide. He swallowed in an attempt to clear his throat. “I- uh- surely one in your position-“
“No,” he gently interrupted. “We’ve met before…”
He studied Lance’s face a moment or two before realization washed over him. He pushed away from the side of the bath and moved forward, the gap between them shrinking. If Lance didn’t know better, he would have described the approach as timid.
“You were in the arena…”
“I’m not a fighter,” Lance murmured. “Just a slave.”
“No, you were there after… you were the one that would bring me food and water… stop the bleeding…”
Lance blanched. He wasn’t the only slave to tend to the prized gladiators that belonged to his master, but he’d be lying if he said he hadn’t looked for any chance to go down there. With the frame of mind the Champion always seemed to be in, he had assumed he was nothing short of invisible.
“Just doing my job…” he looked up into the other man’s eyes, now so much closer than Lance had ever thought they would be.
He felt his heart stop when large hands took his own. “Thank you… you were… the only reason I still felt human most days.”
Lance couldn’t find words as he stood there staring. The bath water rippled around them in the warm embrace of dusk. If he were a braver man he would lean closer.
“I wish I didn’t always have to watch you go,” Lance finally managed. “I’m never sure if I’ll see you again.”
“Come with me.”
The offer hung heavy in the small space between them. Lance let himself picture the two of them marching into battle side by side, patching up his wounds until one or both of them fell, each night meeting under the stars. His shaking fingers traced the scar across the bridge of his hero’s nose and Lance smiled, filling the quiet space with giddy laughter.
“The first time I saw you we watched the sun chase the moon across the sky. How many sunrises and sunsets have we sat and watched together? How long have we been chasing each other? You could tell me an eternity and it would still not be long enough.”
Shiro paced the corridor, the beginning of a headache making itself known.
“Yes, Coran, I understand, but I really don’t think it necessary for me to be nice to Prince Keith,” Lance complained loudly as he entered the hall.
Here was his headache now.
Perhaps that was unfair. Shiro really hadn’t spent any one on one time with the prince, but every time Lance was around, his workload seemed to double.
“He’s marrying your sister, your highness,” Coran said, as chipper as always.
“Yes, well he’s not marrying me, so I don’t believe it matters.” Lance sighed in exasperation as he plunked down on the large chair in his chambers.
Shiro tried to stifle a laugh but must have done a poor job as the prince shot him a petulant look. He straightened up, clearing his throat, but the prince’s stare remained on him. Coran excused himself, reminding Lance that they were to ride out to the neighboring kingdom to meet with the King and more importantly his sister’s betrothed.
“What do you think?”
Shiro jumped a little but kept his eyes ahead. “My thoughts mean very little.”
“Please,” Lance scoffed. “I’ve seen how my father listens to you in council.”
Shiro finally met Lance’s eyes. “Battlefield strategy is vastly different from affairs of the heart.”
“Is it?” Lance laughed, though the humor did not reach his eyes. “Besides, this is not a matter of the heart but of diplomacy.”
A sadness Shiro had not seen before passed over Lance’s features before he straightened himself out again. “You’re worried for the Queen-to-be.”
“Of course!” Lance glared in Shiro’s direction. “I love Allura and I can’t stand to be in a room with Keith for more than ten minutes, I don’t know how she’s supposed to do it for the rest of their lives.”
Shiro laughed despite his better judgement. “I beg your pardon, Your Highness, but perhaps she does not feel the same way about the Prince as you do.” Shiro had heard the servants whispering to each other of the various spots around the castle that the Prince and Princess had been caught hiding away in.
Lance slumped in his chair. “I’m afraid that’s almost worse.”
“Is it such a bad thing to love Prince Keith?”]
The prince was silent for several moments. Shiro had begun to wonder if he’d overstepped his boundaries. “I want her to be happy, and if that means marrying Keith, then she is lucky to have found her match in someone that also happens to be advantageous in marrying our kingdoms together.” Lance quieted again, lost in the view through the window. “Things are going to change… and I don’t want to be next.”
Lance was so much quieter than Shiro had ever seen him. He was starting to think perhaps he had misjudged the Prince. “You don’t want to find love?”
“I’m afraid I won’t,” Lance whispered. “Father won’t have a need to marry me off for awhile yet, but… I don’t think I’ll be as lucky as my sister.”
“Your highness, I have seen your reception at the balls thrown in the great hall. The people love you. I have never seen you without a partner to dance with, the young ladies of the court have referred to you as Loverb-“
“Do you watch me dance, Sir Shiro?”
Shiro felt heat rise in his cheeks as Lance fixed him with an odd look, one eyebrow cocked high. “I- uh-“ he coughed to clear his throat. “It is my duty to watch over the Royal Family.”
Lance hummed in thought as Coran re-entered the room. “Coran, who is to escort me to Galra to bring Keith here?”
“Sir Shirogane here,” Coran gestured as he packed a few things from around the room into Lance’s already stuffed trunk. “That’s why I left him here with you, I had hoped it would speed up the process, but it looks as though you’re exactly where I left you and there’s still several creams on your washbasin I know you are not leaving without.”
Lance jumped up, the unsure sadness of moments before vanished as Shiro watched him race around the room until he’d decided he was done. He smiled brightly at Shiro while he’d hefted the heavy trunk out to the carriage, despite Coran insisting some servants could handle it. With the carriage packed and Lance stowed safely inside, Shiro readied himself to sit up front as he usually did when escorting the family, but Lance popped his head out of the window and caught his attention.
“Will you not ride with me?” Hope glittered in the Prince’s eyes.
“I doubt Your Highness wishes to spend the long trip trapped in there with me.”
Lance waved his hand in the air, dismissing the thought. “What better way to watch over me than with your eyes actually on me?” A coy smile pulled at one corner of his lips. “And I do believe I heard you are fond of watching me.” He smiled brightly, popping the door open and shuffling over to make room. Shiro looked around him, wondering if this was some sort of joke, but when no laughter came, he climbed into the carriage.
Shiro never thought of Lance as a headache again.
“I have loved and lost you as many times as there are stars in the sky. But even here, beyond the stars, you find me. Waiting patient as ever.”
It has been months since I saw you in that bar in XXXXX, but I can’t stop thinking about the lights hitting you, dancing across your skin while you sang. I wish we were back in that bar.
I’ve seen too many men die out here. I’m glad you’re nowhere near the frontlines anymore, despite how much I miss having you near me, I couldn’t bare to think I hope you are well where you are. I miss you.
My dearest S,
It seems absence does make the heart grow fonder. I partially recall I was drunk up on top of the piano and the French guy playing begged me to stop. I wish we were back there as well. I pray every night to hear good news from the front. Please don’t worry, we both have leave coming up. We can meet in the middle. I’ll be waiting.
PS don’t forget some poor shmuck reads over these, pal.
Let them read.
My dear S,
I can’t wait. The rooms on you, I’ll bring the wine. I love you so much it hurts. Until then, here are some things I found here that made me think of you.
RETURN TO SENDER
RECIPIENT TAKASHI SHIROGANE KIA,
“I would wait for you an eternity. The hardest thing I’ve done in all my lives is leave you. Nothing can keep me from you, not time or distance. Not even death.”
The bass vibrated through Shiro’s bones as he weaved through the writhing bodies, a glass in each hand. This wasn’t his scene; too many people, too much noise. He could feel the sweat of the crowd on his cheeks as he made his way across the dancefloor.
Dancing in the flashing blue and purple light was his reason for being here. The only person he’d go so far out of his comfort zone for. He couldn’t help the smile pulling at his lips and thanked the low lighting of the club for hiding his blush as he watched Lance dance, his boyfriend’s lithe and languid body so perfectly suited for a place like this. He looked good in Shiro’s flannel, the worn black and blue fabric billowing around him as it hung off his shoulders, showing off his new Spice Girls shirt and those damned acid wash jeans that hugged his ass just right, never failing to drive Shiro absolutely crazy. It almost made up for just how many times he had heard Backstreet Boys tonight. Almost.
The dancing bodies were closer together here in the middle of the room, and Shiro had to nudge people out of the way, ‘sorry’s and ‘excuse me’s falling from his mouth despite being sure the music was drowning him out. As he waited for a couple grinding to get out of his way, he realized Lance had stopped dancing. He peeked around the couple to see a man leaned into Lance’s personal space, speaking into his ear.
Shiro could feel his hackles raising.
He finally pushed his way through to Lance, mouth in a tight line. The stranger stepped back and Shiro felt something ugly flare up inside him at the man’s proximity to Lance and the smile his boyfriend was directing at him. Lance finally looked at him and the bright smile he gave Shiro helped to put him at ease as he handed one of the glasses to Lance.
“Who’s this,” Shiro asked loudly, barely heard over the thumping music. The guy took one look at Shiro’s build, his loose Hilfiger sweater doing nothing to diminish his bulk and muscle, and immediately vanished into the crowd.
Shiro smirked, but the look fell from his face as he turned back to see the sharp look Lance was giving him. His drink sloshed as he was pulled back through the crowd. Lance dragged him into the bathroom, the only place in the building moderately shielded from the blaring music.
“What was that,” Lance asked as he turned on him the moment the door was shut.
“Why were you trying to intimidate that poor guy?”
“What do you mean? He was all over you,” Shiro huffed. Lance blinked back at him with wide eyes before he busted out laughing. Shiro’s frown deepened. “How is that funny?”
“Are- are you jealous,” Lance weezed. When Shiro didn’t answer, Lance eased up, reaching out for his hand. “He was asking about my shirt you beautiful idiot. He thought his girlfriend might like one.”
Lance rolled his eyes. “It’s a good thing I love you.” He stood on his toes to kiss Shiro fondly on the lips. “And that you’re like really hot when you’re trying to be a tough guy.”
Shiro rolled his eyes, but the easy smile on Lance’s lips was enough to forget anything and everything else around them. He kissed Lance again, pulling him close before pressing him against the ugly tiled wall. Shiro loved the way he fit between Lance’s legs as he lifted him off the ground. Loved the feel of the tight acid wash jeans in his hands. Loved Lance.
Twenty minutes later the two emerged disheveled and red faced to a line of irritated people waiting to pee.
“The birds were made to fly, the fish to swim. And I must have been made to love you, as I cannot fathom existing any other way.”
The crisp morning air nipped at Shiro’s toes as he walked across the front porch. He’d always been one to greet the day early, but through the years he’d had to greet it alone less and less.
Lance sat in his favorite rocker, several blankets piled on him as he watched the sun rise. Like every morning, Shiro was overwhelmed by how much he cared for his husband, and with every wrinkle and grey hair he loved him more. Lance smiled and yawned, reaching for the cup of coffee Shiro extended to him.
Lance had grown a gut, and Shiro’s hair no longer held any distinction from the forelock to the back. They were just two old and grey men, enjoying the kind of comfortable silence only two kindred souls can.
“Each life, each time, each day is different. Even when I am angry or hurt, my love for you outshines my darkness. Your love for me brings every comfort. When I am lost, I look to you and I know where I am meant to be.”
“I don’t feel like myself.”
Lance shook his head as he made his way back to his room. Those five words scared the quiznak out of him, but he pushed the image of Shiro calling out to him in the astral plane out of his mind as he approached his room. He juggled the mugs and snacks trying to open the door, but Shiro must have heard the commotion because the door whooshed open to reveal the Head of Voltron.
“What’s all this,” Shiro asked, stepping aside and clearing some room for Lance’s haul on the table cluttered with his video game setup.
Lance set everything down with a grateful look to Shiro. “I thought we were gonna talk.”
“What does all of this have to do with talking?” Shiro picked up a bright pink bag with Unilu symbols and what appeared to be a crying Weblum caricature on the front.
Lance took the bag, opened it and tossed a crunchy morsel into his mouth before he handed Shiro a mug. “Talks are always better with snacks, and I don’t know, it felt right for us to have something warm to sip on.”
Shiro took a tentative sip from his mug and was pleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t half bad. He followed Lance’s lead and sat on the floor, their backs leaned against the bed. They sat in relative silence, the only sounds the crunching of the Weblum snacks.
“So…” Lance started, actively not looking at Shiro. “Do you like movies?” He winced, smacking himself on the forehead. “What am I saying, of course you like movies. Everyone likes movies.” Lance muttered to himself before Shiro chuckled and saved him from his building embarrassment.
“Yeah, I like movies,” he teased. “My brother used to make fun of me for liking what he called ‘history nerd movies’. Old war movies, westerns, regency films, that sort of thing.”
Lance smiled at how bashful Shiro seemed to be admitting it. “90’s flicks, especially romcoms.” He shrugged. “My great Aunt was kind of a pack rat and I found a box of old movies in her attic, I couldn’t help myself.”
“You watch that junk?” Shiro laughed.
“Hey!” Lance playfully shoved Shiro. “I didn’t make fun of your nerd movies!” Shiro laughed again, his head tipping back against the bed. Lance had to bite his lip and look away.
They settled into sipping the warm sweet beverages in amicable silence. Lance normally hated sitting this still and quiet when anyone else was around, but there was just something soothing and comfortable about sitting here with Shiro like this.
Shiro could feel himself unwinding. Since leaving Earth for Kerberos he hadn’t really had an opportunity to fully relax, there was always something to plan for or the aftermath of a situation to handle. Even when the team was supposed to be enjoying free time, the stress of this life was like a current under his skin making him a constant live wire. Lance had pushed his buttons frequently in the past, questioning Shiro and prodding him when Shiro wasn’t entirely sure he could stand up to it and so he had lashed out, but out of everyone on board, Lance put Shiro strangely at ease. He knew that Lance would always be honest with him, even if it wasn’t something Shiro wanted to hear. It was almost always Lance that told him what he needed to hear. He treated Shiro like they’d known each other forever, Lance always so comfortable to be himself around him, in turn making Shiro feel like he could maybe do the same.
“Thank you.” The words were quiet, but the soft look on Shiro’s face told him they carried significant weight.
“For what,” Lance teased, hand rubbing at the back of his neck as he aimed for lightheartedness. “Getting you off your strict I’m-the-Leader-can’t-be-seen-eating-junk-food diet and making you sit in awkward silence?”
Shiro’s eyes were fixed to something across the room, but his brows creased ever so slightly. “You think this is awkward?”
Lance swallowed. “N-no.”
“Me either. Feels right.” Shiro opened and closed his mouth a couple times, searching for the words. “I feel more like myself when I’m with you.”
Lance’s eyes widened briefly. He reached across the small space between them and laid his hand over Shiro’s. “Hey, we’re gonna figure this out. We need you, Shiro. Can’t lose you again.”
Something about what he was saying pulled at something deep within Lance, like he’d cracked open an old wound. It ached. He wondered if Shiro felt it too as his hero turned their hands over and laced their fingers together. “I think you’re stuck with me, kid,” he said, squeezing Lance’s hand gently. “Hope that’s alright.”
Lance hoped it was true. He’d give anything for it to be. His smile may have wobbled a little, but it was wide and toothy and like sunshine to Shiro.
“He- he tried to tell me, but I didn’t realize...so sorry Shiro, I- I didn’t know, I- I coulda-“ Lance felt the tears stream down his cheeks and something painfully familiar fell heavy in his gut.
“From the beginning to the end- I have loved you with every breath and every beat of my heart. No matter the time or the place, or the name by which I am called. You have always been mine and I will always be yours.”