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A Hand to Hold

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    Lance flinched at the sound of the front door slamming closed. His azure eyes quickly falling to his two children. His daughter Katie was burying her face in his in the faded blue fabric of his apron; he could already hear her sniffling. Hunk, her older brother, stared nervously at the doorway to the small family kitchen.

    Just moments ago, the trio had been happily preparing what was to be that night's supper. Oh how quickly things change.

    "Hunk, sweetie, why don't you and Pidge go upstairs and play now?" Lance put on his bravest smile for his babies. Hunk looked up at his maternal parent with wide, brown eyes. Lance could tell the 6-year-old knew what was coming but the boy simply nodded and took his little sister by the hand. Pidge pulled back and rubbed her eyes with the back of her tiny fist. Lance ruffled her hair and shooed the two off to their rooms.

    As soon as the children were out of the kitchen, a large man thudded in. His hair was a sandy shade of brown that seemed to compliment his fairer shade of skin, but it was his eyes that drew Lance's attention. Despite them being a gentle honey color, they held deep malice in them. And it seemed to be directed at the lithe brunette in his kitchen.

    Without little warning, the man had stormed over to his mate and seized him by the arm. After a quick shake and a slap to the face, Lance was tossed to flood. He winced as he pushed himself up.

    "How many times do I have to say make sure everything I need is put together when I leave, huh?! Do you understand how embarrassing it is to go to present something and NOT have everything you need?! If you can't even do that right, what's the use of having you around?!" The man swung again, catch Lance's cheek hard enough to knock him back down.

    "I'm sorry, Jeruon," he mumbled, voice hushed and broken. "I thought I had everything gathered in the case like you asked." The man, Jeruon, sneered down at Lance as he pushed himself up once again.

    "I bet you did this on purpose! I bet you WANTED me to fail!" This time Jeruon kicked Lance, his foot pressing hard against the darker man's side. Lance coughed as he hit the floor a third and final time. He was in too much pain to even bother getting up.

    "I-it's no like that. I promise, Jeruon! I was an accident," he choked the words out when he finally caught his breath again. Jeruon simply grunted and kicked the crumpled form again for good measure. He wanted Lance to hurt. He ALWAYS wanted Lance to hurt.

    "Can't have me a suitable child, can't have dinner ready by the time I get home, can't even pack my suitcase right! What use are you?!" He grabbed Lance's arm and jerked him upright. "This is why you aren't marked yet! Why would I want to put a claiming mark to a piece of shit like you?" Jeruon pushed Lance into the wall. "Why would anyone WANT to claim you? Hell, you're only here because out parents arranged this. If it weren't for that, you'd probably be in a ditch somewhere."

    Lance, who had slid to the floor after hitting the wall, bit back his tears. Crying never helped in times like this. Times where his spouse was enraged and need to work off some extra steam. Sure, it hurt, it hurt a lot, but what else could he do?

    "Momma?" Lance's eyes shot open to see Katie peek her head around the corner. Oh, no. No, don't come in here! Not right now!

    "G-go back to your room sweetie. M-momma's fine." He did his best to smile but the split in his lip caused him to wince. The man clicked his tongue.

    "You're bleeden momma," the little girls wide, honey eyes were full of concern. "Papa, momma needs a band-aid." Katie walked into the kitchen and the man clicked his tongue.

    "Go back to your room, brat. Grown up are talkin' right now." Lance visibly flinched at the tone in his mate's voice.

    "But momma's hort," The way she said it almost sounded like she was asking a question. Like, why hadn't her papa helped her momma yet? Why was he just standing there when her momma looked like he was gonna cry?

    "I said go to your room!" It was the child's turn to flinch.

    "B-but momma-" Lance's breath hitched in his throat and a white hot rage filled his chest. His mate, his alpha, the father of his children, had just backhanded his daughter, throwing her to the floor next to her maternal figure. His stomach churned and twisted and he no longer felt the throbbing pains of his body. How could he when his little girl was laying there with a bloody lip and tears pouring down her face. She was too afraid to even make a sound.

    Lance growled. It was a sound so deep and loud that it was Jeruon's turn to be afraid. In all the years that Jeruon had been abusing him, Lance had never growled. He'd never fought back. So long as Jeruon was only hurt him, he was fine with it, but this time he'd hurt their child. He'd hit a 3-year-old little girl. He'd hit their daughter, Lance's daughter, and he may not live to regret it.

    Lance stood up slowly, fist's clenched at his sides.

    "Go to your room, Katie." She listened this time. After all, a mad momma was a scary momma.

    The moment she was out of sight, Lance tackled Jeruon to the ground. The large man toppled over with a heavy thud at the sudden attack.

    "You bastard," Lance growled, "How dare you hit my little girl!" One of Lance's hands was wrapped firmly around Jeruon's neck, the other swinging wildly at the man's face. "Hitting me, hurting me, was one thing! But you! You fucking scum licked rat shit, hit one of my babies!" Jeruon resisted, hands pulling at the claws digging in his throat, but the strength Lance had in his rage seemed overpowering.

    "L-Lance!" he gasped out the words but Lance wasn't listening. He returned the blow to their daughter ten fold and didn't stop until the man had passed out.

    Lance stood up, chest heaving, and spit on Jeruon's shirt.

    "I'm leaving you," was the last thing he said before walking out. And he did just that. He grabbed a couple of bags and stuffed them full of his and his children's things and left.


 

    Lance held the two sleeping children tight in his lap. It had taken a bus ride, two different trains, and a cab to finally make it to the palace in the capital city of Altea. He'd hoped that his uncle wouldn't mind the surprise visit, if he did, well then, Lance wasn't sure what he would do. He had nowhere else he could go now.

    Once the cab stopped, Lance gingerly woke the children.

    "We're here," he said softly, "Wake up sleepy heads."

    "But momma," Hunk whined as he rubbed at his eyes. Poor thing was so tired, well, it had been a long night for him. Lance simply hummed and paid the driver, Katie still out cold, his shirt held tight in her small hands. He grabbed their bags and they made their way to the guard's post.

    "Hi!" Lance said in the most chipper voice he could muster for such early hours. "Do you mind paging Coran and letting him know his nephew is here?" The guard grunted and stared at Lance for a moment before speaking into his com.

    "Someone's 'ere for you, Coran, says 'e's your nephew."  There was a moment of static before the sound of an older man with a thick accent called out 'PASSWORD!' Lance couldn't help but laugh a little. His uncle was so eccentric that a simple ID check wouldn't work. He had to have some crazy password. Which, all in all, didn't sound very safe.

    "Hmm, if I remember correctly, it's 'Coran, Coran, the gorgeous man'." The guard repeated Lance's words into his com with disinterest and the old man's laughter could be heard loud and clear.

    "It's actually butterscotch nunvil now but let him in!" The guard rubbed the bridge of his nose in frustration but opened the gates anyways.

    It was a bit of a  long walk to the castle's doors, especially with three bags and two clingy children, but Lance's made it.

    "Can I pull the thingy momma?" Hunk asked looking at the large, lion head knockers. Lance smiled and set the bags down at his feet.

    "Of course sweetheart, c'mere," Lance picked up the chubby boy on his now free hip and lifted him so he could reach the silvery metal. Three thunks later and the door swung wide open to reveal the smiling mustached face that was Uncle Coran.

    "Lance, my boy! It's been ages!" Lance flinched as the man pulled him into a tight hug.

    "It's good to see you too, Uncle, but you're going to wake Katie up if you don't calm down." Lance readjusted the two on his hips and beamed a smile at his uncle.

    "Uncle 'Ran!" Hunk reached out to the older Altean who happily snatched the boy from his mother.

    "My word, Hunk! You've grown so much since last I saw you!" While the two chatted away, Lance picked up their bags. He winced as he bent over; it didn't go unnoticed. No matter how much he wished it had.

    "We came to have a slumber party, Uncle 'Ran! Momma said we had to ask Princess 'Llura 'bout it first though!" Hunk jabbered on and Coran gave Lance a worried look. Lance simply returned it with a tired smile.

    "I'm sure the Princess will think it's a grand idea, little Hunk! First, let's get you three to a room and then we can go find Allura! Maybe even get some waffle along the way! How does that sound?" Katie lifted her head from Lance's shoulder and blinked wearily her momma.

    "Faffles?" The three boys laughed and made their way to one of the many guest rooms in the castle.


    Katie was wide awake and practically humming with energy as she and her brother ran out in front of Lance and his uncle. The events of yesterday all but forgotten in the sweet sound of their giggles. Lance couldn't help but smile, even with the rather severe ache in his side.

    "So, Lance," Coran said as he twirled the end of his mustache, "Mind telling me what's really going on? I know you're not here for just a random visit." The elder's periwinkle eyes never left the children galavanting in front of him, but his smile had faded into a hard pressed line.

    "Wh-what? A boy can't come visit the uncle he get's his devilish good looks from?" Lance tried to be smooth about it, avoid the topic, the real reason. His uncle raised an eyebrow and put a comforting hand on the other's shoulder.

    "I'm old, not stupid, my boy." The younger Altean sighed, his eyes flickered towards the floor and then back to his children.

    "It's one thing to hurt me. I'm his omega, bonded or not, but it wasn't just me this time, Uncle. He hit Katie," his eyes began to water, "H-he hit her, Coran, and I," he came to a complete stop, "I just lost it. All those times he hit me, all those horrible things he said, even when he refused to bond, it hurt so bad. I wanted to fight back, but I didn't. And that was fine," the words come flooding out with his tears, "But when he hit her, I-I hit him back. Not just a little, Uncle, I wanted him to hurt. I wanted him to hurt so much I hit him until he fainted and then I left him there." Coran pulled Lance into his arms, petting his hair softly.

    "It's alright, Lance." Suddenly, there were two sets of small arms wrapped around Lance's legs.

    "S'okay, momma. Don't cry no more." Hunk rubbed his cheek against Lance's pant leg.

    "Faffles make you better momma!" Katie said as she looked up at him with a smile.

    Lance scooped the two into his arms and spun them around.

    "Then how about we go make some waffles!" Happy shrieks and giggles echoed through the halls as the trio headed off to the palace kitchens.

    Coran stared after them for a moment, he wasn't sure how to feel about all of this. His nephew was a kind and wonderful child, he deserved happiness. Instead, he got dealt a bad hand and was arranged to be mated with an alpha who held little respect for omega. The red-hairedn man shook himself out of his train of thought and followed suit.

    Lance set his children down just outside the kitchen's large wooden doors.

    "Now, I need you both to be on your best behavior. I'm sure the staff is working very hard right now so that the princess can have a yummy breakfast." He said as he propped his hand on his hips.

    "But Momma is the one who steals all the blueberries." Lance choked on his breath.

    "Ahem, never mind that, Hunky Money, momma will be on his best behavior too." Katie giggled while Lance tried to hide his embarrassment. Since when were 5 year-olds this smart.

    No matter how many times he'd seen this kitchen, it always awed him. The cerulean floor tiles were bright and worked so well with the darker blue of the walls. The ivory colored cabinetry still looked new and the gold accents were shined to perfection. All so clean despite the constant flow of cooks and servants.

    Lance pushed the heavy doors open and ushered the children inside. Coran slid in just behind them, one hand twirling his mustache. He spun around on his hill to face the trio.

    "Welcome to Cafe' Altea! If you'd kindly follow me, I'll show our most esteemed guest to their table," Katie giggled and happily ran after her great-uncle. Hunk, on the other hand, chose to stick close to his maternal figure.

    "Faffles Unc 'Ran!" Katie shouted as she was lifted onto the stool by the counter. Lance laughed at the eager little girl as he lifted his son onto the seat next to her.

    "Patience little one," Lance cooed softly as he ruffled his daughter's hair. Lance himself stood at the end of the counter space and watched the people run about, busying themselves while they prepared for day's meals.

    A moment later and the three of them were scarfing down the waffles like they hadn't eaten in ages, and they hadn't. The last thing they had eaten was sandwiches for lunch. There wasn't really time for much else after that. They'd started to make dinner but things had taken a quick turn down a dark path before they were even close to finishing.

    Hunk was the first to finish his breakfast and so he sat quietly, patiently waiting for his family. Lance smiled at his adorable little boy.

    "Hunky Monkey, do you and Pidgey want the rest of momma's waffles? I'm already full but I don't want the rest to go to waste." Hunk's eye lit up a little and he nodded eagerly. The kid was a heavy eater and Lance could tell that he was too shy to ask for more. Lance put the half waffle from the top of the stack onto Katie's plate and then swapped the dish out with Hunk's. There was no hesitation for the two to continue eating.

    Lance had insisted on washing their plates after the children had finished eating. Even going as far as to argue with Coran and another of castle's servants. Lance won in the end of course. He'd been humming happily, Kaite on his hip and Hunk sitting on the counter drying the last plate when the kitchen's door swung open with a bang.

    "Where are my babies?!" Allura shouted, her silver hair pulled into a messy bun but otherwise as regal as one would expect a princess to look.

    "'Llura! 'Llura!" Katie squirmed out of her maternal's grasp and ran right into the princess's legs. Lance sighed and would have scolded the little girl had the princess not been just as excited to scoop her up. Picking Hunk up off the counter, Lance strolled over to the two giggling girls with a small smile across his lips.

    "As beautiful as always, Allura. How have you been?"

    "Much better now that I've gotten to see these cuties again! You really should visit with them more often, Lance!" The woman huffed as she pinched one of Hunk's cheeks.

    "Um," Lance hesitated, "I actually need to talk to you about that." It was then that Allura noticed the darkening spot on Lance's face. The once caramel skin was faded into a sickly yellow-purple bruise.