The steam of the water sent a soft fog throughout the room, flower petals of a light pink and white floating along the surface, a few droplets of water slipping over the edge of the porcelain. A light breeze filtered in through the open balcony, the translucent sheets hung from the ceiling dancing in the disruption. Sunlight filtered in through the gaps of tall pillars, cascading the room in a golden glow. The surface of the water glimmered as if it were a pile of polished gold, tan skin resting beneath, and it was warm.
A head tipped back, soft hair, stained darker from the sopping water, a sigh escaping two lips though drowned out by the slight bob of the water around the body. Two eyes fluttered between shut and open, gazing towards the painted ceiling. The years old decorations of angles in the sky, naked with wings and colorful silks and skies. Oh, how Lance adored those paintings. They made the room feel a little less lonely, and the certainly made his husband feel a little more lavish.
Of course, nothing could ever please his husband too much.
“Your grace,” a voice popped up as the door was pushed open a crack, creaking from the sudden movement. A bit of water spilled over the edge of the tub as Lance moved to sit up, looking towards the woman that presented herself. “I’m sorry to disturb you, but the lord wishes to see you.”
“I see,” Lance replied shortly, turning his head to gaze toward the balcony, another gentle breath escaping past his lips. “I’ll be out shortly. Some privacy, please.”
“Of course, your grace,” the woman nodded with her head bent, stepping backwards and letting the door fall shut, a loud bang echoing through the room without something to brace it.
Lance spent another lingering moment within the tub, sinking down until his entire body was underneath, keeping his breath stored within his rib cage until he physically couldn’t bare to remain underneath for a moment longer, coming up with several short breaths.
He rose from the water, the warm droplets tracing the dimples and curves of his legs and hips, a small puddle forming in the gaps of his collarbones before they overflowed and water trailed down his bare chest, tan skin glistening moistly, glimmering underneath the rays of golden sun. A maid was quick to hand Lance a robe as he stepped out, the fabric dampening slightly as Lance slipped into the silk, tied tight around his waist. The woman worked quickly to dry Lance’s hair with a soft towel, the long brown strands jutting out in all different directions with that fluffy texture that could only be accomplished when wet, until Lance ran a hand through the locks to smooth them down. After all, appearance was everything around here.
Lance kept his hands clad at his sides while he walked from the tubside down to the door, opening the wooden gateway and then venturing out into the hall, his bare feet slapping gently against the carved tile. His hair tapped heavily at his back and slipped over his shoulders, getting a bit lighter as the warm breeze wafted in through the open windows.
“Where is he?”
“In your bedroom, sir,” the servant replied, her head bowed and Lance spared her a passing glance as he took off towards the master bedroom, the muscles in his body tensing to slow the journey down, if even slightly.
He could hear noises from inside the room. Noises he recognized all too well. Noises that drove a sword through his abdomen and twisted the blade, churning his organs and burning a nauseating sensation in the back of his throat.
Moans of women presumably purchased from whore houses, laughter and pleasured cries. And worst of all, his husband’s voice, clear as day behind the large wooden doors, the room guarded by a large man in full metal armor, whose name Lance didn’t care or bother to learn. Grunts and deep chuckles, noises that should’ve been reserved for Lance’s ears only, were being broadcasted for the whole damn corridor to hear, and Lance could do nothing besides wait outside of the room until his husband decided he was tired of the women and sent them away.
It must’ve been hours, from the distant soreness in Lance’s bare feet and leg muscles, his hair growing nearly dry now, a slight chill running through him from the draftiness of a simple silk robe, but finally those painful noises stopped and the doors swung open.
A handful of women erupted from the bedroom — where Lance slept — some topless with their bosoms out and exposed, pushing past each other and Lance to head towards the exit.
It was disgusting.
“Quit standing there,” Lotor called out from within the room, wearing that damned blissed out face and sitting on the edge of the bed, completely nude and shamelessly exposed to Lance. “Come in.”
So Lance did.
He walked inside and gently closed the door behind him, standing near the doorway. He tried to hide the bitterness in his expression, wanting nothing more than to lash out because they were married, not Lotor and any of those damned prostitutes that would seek themselves out to anybody for measly bronze coin.
“What did you need, my love?” He spoke out instead, head bowed towards the ground so Lotor wouldn’t be able to detect his detached and cold state behind his blue irises.
“Dear, how long have we been married?” Lotor asked, his unusually sharp teeth chewing at his body lip while his eyes raked up and down Lance’s silked body, curling a beckoning pointer finger.
“A little over three years now,” he answered, taking a few cautious steps forward, continuing forward when Lotor’s demanding finger didn’t cease its movement. “Why do you ask, love?”
Lance knew exactly why.
“When will I be king, presumably?”
“Your father’s health is slowly deteriorating, dear. I couldn’t see him surviving past the winter.” Zarkon had grown old, and sickly was a strong word, but it certainly wasn’t inaccurate. It was true he was dying, but to Lotor, it could never happen quickly enough. But, it was what Lotor wanted to hear. “And then you will ascend to the throne.”
An almost evil grin curled at the corners of Lotor’s mouth, his large, calloused hands raising to Lance’s slim waist, toying suggestively with the sash tied around his frame, which was holding the robe just so as to not indecently expose himself.
“And, Lance, do you care to tell me why the future king has yet to have a son?” His voice was teetering. On the verge of a deep snarl, paired with narrowed eyes and bared teeth.
“Don’t you dare address me as something so informal, you half-witted serf,” Lotor snapped suddenly, immediately clamping Lance’s jaw shut, the man tilting his head down some. There was the Lotor Lance knew. “I need an heir to the throne.”
“My love,” Lance spoke precariously, not daring to move his head a meet centimeter from its bowed position. “We have tried countless times. We have yet to find the perfect time to assure my impregnation. You will get an heir, I promise.”
Tell him what he wants to hear.
“I do hope you are correct, Lance,” Lotor said, his voice rumbling softly in his chest, his hands trailing down to slip onto his bare skin beneath the robe, traveling back up to feel every inch of the bronze flesh, squeezing and kneading.
Lance, for his own damn safety, wished the same. If he couldn’t produce a male heir — which was his whole intended purpose, to reproduce — he’d surely be killed. Or at the very least tortured and banished for tarnishing Lotor’s royal name and reputation. And yet, every time they’d attempt it, Lance never ended up pregnant. He couldn’t exactly tell Lotor that the reason for this was that Lotor got tired of the slutty women he invited over almost daily — when he didn’t go into town to see them that is — and decided to fuck his actual husband for once on all of the days where he wasn’t ovulating.
Every. Single. Time. Without fail.
And this time was no different. But once Lotor got into this sort of rut, there was no stopping him, even when Lance was far from the mood he’d like to be in when Lotor initiated intimacy.
Hey, it was very difficult getting aroused when he’d just had to stand alone in the hall for an hour, listening to his husband being intimate with women whose names’ he undoubtedly had no knowledge of.
Still, Lotor took what he wanted, lips and teeth skimming over Lance’s soft skin, the robe having been long discarded at this point, laying in a small heap on the floor. Lance was laid out on his stomach, face buried into one of the soft pillows scattered among the mattress, likely rummaged around during Lotor’s previous activities. His brows twitched as his entrance was breached, a wince quietly escaping through his teeth.
Lotor hadn’t even cared to prepare him, and Lance wasn’t even slightly damp. He was as dry as a desert, but that didn’t slow Lotor down at all. Deep guttural noises came from Lance’s husband as he thrust in mercilessly, Lance muffling his pained cry in the embroidered pillow.
It hurt so badly. Each snap of Lotor’s hips made Lance feel like he was being torn in half, his body absolutely trembling underneath him. Of course Lotor seemed to be enjoying himself, Lance practically able to see the smirk on his lips at just the satisfied chuckled, dark and low, that tumbled in his throat.
Lance wanted to tell him to stop. To yell that word so loudly and so demandingly that Lotor would refrain from touching him for a month at least. But he didn’t dare utter it — he just let Lotor take what he wanted, even when he could feel something warm trickling softly from inside of him.
Something else warm flooded inside of Lance as Lotor released inside of him with a deep grunt. Lance trembled, a relieved sigh mixing with a wince as Lotor finally slid out.
The bed dipped from Lotor’s weight as the male climbed to the floor, leaving Lance alone. Lance could just faintly hear Lotor speaking something of wine, and of the whereabouts of the consorts he had purchased earlier, over his own heartbeat in his ears, thundering away like the beat of drums.
Lance just hoped for an heir soon — he didn’t know how much longer he could stand to live like this.
Lotor was out of the room quickly enough, off to somewhere Lance didn’t particularly care about knowing. Lance rose slowly, his limbs trembling with the effort, and he reached for the silk that had been dropped at the foot of the bed. Standing, he pulled the fabric onto his body, tying it tightly, uncaringly so, and he proceeded to stumble from the room, legs slowly regaining feeling with pins and needles as something warm trickled down his legs.
“Your grace, are you alright?” A servant woman asked, concern laced in her voice and gaze, reaching out to press a consoling hand to Lance’s shoulder, but he slapped it away before it could land.
“Don’t touch me,” he spoke through gritted teeth, clenching his fist where it stood. “Just— please— draw a bath,” he continued, breath vibrating, though he couldn’t he sure whether it was from pain or anger.
“As you wish, your grace,” the woman said quickly with a bow, and then she was rushing off towards the springs, leaving Lance to slowly limp his way there — but this was fine.
Lance wouldn’t let himself grow weak, or else he wouldn’t survive.
When Lance had reached his personal bathing hall, the room was filled with warm steam from the water’s heat, fresh rose petals placed along the water’s golden surface, the sun slowly beginning to sink down the horizon to signal the end to another day.
Lance walked forward, drops of scarlet blood trailing behind with each heavy footstep. His hands came to his front to undo the knot he had tied, the fabric inching from his arms to lie useless in a pile on the floor. He raised one foot to step in.
“Your grace, the water is too hot—“ a servant choked out, but Lance did not listen.
A gasp drew from his lips from the immediate impact. The water was searing, immediately reddening his skin some from the rush of blood flow, but further he went. He slowly sank down once both feet were in, breath stuttered and random as he let his mind and body be overcome by this heat, his unfocused gaze trained on the bright sunset from beyond the balcony and silk curtains.
The garden was particularly peaceful that morning, cast under the rewarding rays of warm sunshine, the skies scarcely overcast over the last several months aside from the occasional rain showers to keep these flowers in bloom, and it showed. The sprouting flowers and vines nearly overwhelmed the beautiful architecture of the castle, looming arches and fountains wrapped in tight flowery hugs from the twisting vines and pink buds.
And there, in the middle of it all, was Lance, surrounded by the shrubbery while resting on the ledge of the fountain, the rippling of the water nearly drowning out the endless chatter of birds.
Two blue eyes were trained on the waterfall that cascaded from the uppermost story of the marble, so clear that he could almost see his reflection. Looking farther up, Lance could see a statue of the King, Lord Zarkon, Lotor’s father, built completely of marble and gold.
Soon enough, Lotor’s statue would replace that one, once his father passed and the crown was given to him, as was his birthright.
Lance tried his best to not think of it.
Lance tore his eyes from the statue and towards the voice, staring towards the servant woman that stood before him.
“There is someone here to see you.”
Lance furrowed his brows slightly, chest pushing out just a tad. Defensively. You could never know who was here these days, and Lotor certainly wasn’t the most popular official among the other kingdoms. It was only a matter of time before Lance was dragged into the middle.
“Who is it?” Lance asked, straightening his spine.
“It’s the prince of the Marmoran Kingdom,” she answered, her head bowed politely. “He just arrived.”
Lance stood upon this, his hands curled slightly at his sides. “I’ll be right there.”
Lance felt light on his feet, his heart racing between his ribs. This was a dream, there was no way that he was here.
Three years. It was amazing how even after three years, Lance’s heart still swelled as he approached the scene, those broad and muscular shoulders covered by that large leather and furred coat, and Lance couldn’t even think about how the hell he managed to wear that thing in this heat when he was just there.
The horse galloped along the trail, indented with the steps of horses that had traveled before him, its rider bouncing along with each forward step upon the heavy saddle. Heads turned at his arrival, and word must’ve travelled fast, servants scurrying to alert the nearest lord of the prince’s arrival.
He was stopped at the front of the castle, something that was to honestly be expected. No kingdom was very welcoming of foreign visitors these days, and for good reasons. Someone completely trustworthy was incredibly rare to come by.
The doors opened, and a woman walked out, her light violet hair darker underneath the shadows of the pillars upon the marble staircase, golden eyes casting a searing gaze.
“Well,” the woman hummed, and he could hear the bitterness behind her voice, with little surprise. “If it isn’t Keith Kogane.”
“In the flesh,” Keith nodded, a little smirk yanking the corners of his mouth.
“Now how long has it been since a Marmoran has graced this place with their presence?”
“Quite some time, I’ll admit.” Keith jumped from his horse, feet hitting the ground with a small grunt, and a servant was quick to come and lead the horse away by the reins. “Careful with him, he’s feisty!” He called out, before turning his gaze back up towards the woman before him.
“Your brother sent you?”
“You can read me all too well, your grace,” Keith hummed, leaning forward with one hand behind his back, taking the woman’s hand into his own and pressing a formal kiss to the back of it.
The voice had the prince standing up straight, head whipping around to look for the source. His eyes fell upon an all too familiar pair of blue irises.
“Lance.” The word left Keith’s mouth as a punched out whisper, his throat feeling tight, chest clenching. He could hardly breathe. His feet were carrying him before he even realized it, forward, quick, until he was standing right before Lance, separated by just a few inches.
“You…” Lance trailed off, eyes quickly dancing up and down Keith’s frame, along the muscled chest and arms, across the pinkish scar on Keith’s right cheek, into those deep violet eyes that Lance had dreamed about getting lost in for the past three years — and Keith noticed. “You’ve gotten taller.”
Keith couldn’t help the laugh that left him.
He also couldn’t help but gaze over Lance’s form as well, eyes taking over every smooth expanse of skin, over each curve of his hips and soft, slender legs. The purple silk that covered the man’s chest loosely, leaving little to the imagination from the gold collar and sinch around the waist, tapering down into two pant legs that hung loosely around his hips, just missing where the bones jutted out at the sides. It was quite a contrast to the blue that Keith had known to be Lance’s staple color, but it seemed that a lot had changed about him. The hair was certainly a change, long brown locks swaying at the small of his back, two pieces strone over his shoulders.
He’d been counting the days it had been since he’d last seen Lance. The days when Lance was a wild, free spirit. When anyone being able to tame him was a crazy fantasy, and Lance did whatever he pleased whenever he pleased.
Even if things had changed — and things had changed — Lance was still just as alluring as he was back then.
“Or maybe you’ve just gotten shorter,” Keith quipped, gaze flickering back up to Lance’s eyes.
“Oh, shove it,” Lance snorted, and god Keith missed that laugh.
“I missed you.” The words slipped out before Keith could even think about them, though he didn’t regret them. It was the truth. The whole truth, and nothing but it.
The breath in Lance’s lungs left him, bringing a smug little smile to Keith’s face. And the delectable pink shade that dusted Lance’s cheeks just a moment later made years of waiting worth it.
“As did I.”
Keith wanted to kiss him, as he had done those three long years ago. Wanted to kiss him hard and steal the breath from his lungs, to hold him close and never let go. To get back on his horse with Lance in his lap and run back to his kingdom, and never look back. But when Keith took Lance’s hand into his own, leaning down to press a gentle kiss to the back of it, he saw the ring on his finger.
Gold and beautiful. And it sent a sword right through Keith’s heart, the metal searing his skin.
“Mother, what is going on—“
Keith stood up straight again, both him and Lance looking towards the man that stood at the top of the steps.
Lance yanked his hand away quickly, and Keith felt a cold shiver run through his body.
“Your highness,” Keith spoke, walking towards the steps again, folding one arm across his waist as he bowed down.
“You have some nerve coming here.”
“Lotor, my love,” Lance spoke as he walked past Keith and up the steps, standing in front of the tall prince and clasping his hands in his own. “He’s a friend, at least hear him out.”
Keith tried to hide how Lance’s words made him feel nauseous, swallowing the lump in his throat as he stood up straight.
“What do you know?” Lotor hissed, and Keith had to clench his fists behind him to hold himself back as Lotor shoved Lance to the side, as if he were some piece of junk. Something that didn’t matter. The yelp that escaped Lance as he hit the ground was enough to make Keith fume with murder.
But that’s not why he was here.
“Lotor,” Honerva reprimanded with a single word and side eyed glance.
“Explain yourself.” It was directed towards Keith this time, who managed to tear his eyes away from the recoiled body on the marble, Lance’s head bowed down so that his hair was shielding his face.
Once Keith was certain his voice wouldn’t come out as dark and murderous as he felt, he spoke. “My brother sent me here for a peace offering. If accepted, me and a few of our best Marmoran soldiers will remain here to protect your family and the castle during the transition of power.”
“And what makes you think we’ll require your assistance?” Honerva spoke, Keith’s eyes flickering towards Lance as he finally stood up, his head remaining in that submissive angle — something so unlike the prince he had known before — and it made Keith’s stomach churn.
“Well we hope it won’t be necessary,” Keith answered, looking back towards the Queen. “But we are offering regardless. We hope to renew our relationship with Daibazaal, as is my brother’s wish.”
“I do not need protection,” Lotor nearly growled, and he might as well have, and Keith watched, filled with fear and anger and that nauseous feeling again as Lance reached out for the man, holding his arm against his chest.
“My love, it would bring me much pleasure to know that you were safe,” Lance cooed, running the backs of his fingers along Lotor’s cheek as the prince looked down at him.
That seemed to convince Lotor, a begrudging sigh escaping the man. He looked back to Keith, eyes narrowing in a bitter glare.
“I’m glad you—“
“You will stand post outside of my quarters at all times, night and day,” Lotor continued, stepping out of Lance’s embrace, walking down the steps until he was standing right before Keith, and the distance, or lack thereof, would have been intimidating if Keith already didn’t want to murder the man for shoving Lance down just a moment ago. “Until your squadron arrives.”
“As you wish, your highness.”
“And,” Lotor said, voice hushed, just for Keith to hear. “If I even hear about you laying a finger on my consort, I will have your head on a spike.”
Keith felt like he was going to puke. Not touching Lance? Impossible. Death seemed like a worthy consequence for just being able to feel a pair smooth lips against his own just one more time. Hell, Keith would do it just to hold his hand, or to run his fingers through his hair.
But then again, dying meant he wouldn’t get to look at him, and that simply wouldn’t do.
“I wouldn’t dream of it.” And he was lying straight through his teeth. He had dreamed of nothing else since the day Lance had left.
Lotor flashed a satisfied smirk and turned away, Keith’s glare following him and he approached Lance again, and he just about gagged when Lotor tilted Lance’s head up by his chin and planted a deep kiss against the other’s lips. Keith could taste the bile in his throat when Lance kissed back.
Thankfully, Lotor had pulled away before Keith could spill that mornings rations onto the marble, and he turned to enter the castle again. Honerva followed swiftly behind, and before he could focus on something else besides puking, Lance’s eyes were on him.
Then Lance was in front of him. Just inches away from his grasp.
So, so close, and yet Keith couldn’t reach him.
“You’re happy here,” Keith finally said, breaking the silence as well as his heart.
“I… guess you could say that.”
Keith wasn’t sure if it hurt more for Lance to be happy with Lotor, or if it hurt more for Lance to be unhappy. Either way, his chest hurt.
“Do you love him, at least?”
Lance breathed out a smile, glancing back towards the castle, where Lotor had disappeared within.
Fuck it. If he didn’t touch Lance now, he might actually die.
Keith reached, taking Lance’s hand in his own, squeezing and regaining the shorter male’s attention. It was silent, but looking into Lance’s eyes, Keith knew everything he had to. Lance didn’t have to say anything.
“I… heard about you father,” Lance spoke up, his voice quiet, a respectful and timid tone that Keith had hardly ever heard from him. “I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you,” Keith nodded, voice just as soft.
“He was a great man. I wish I could’ve seen him again, before he passed.”
“He remembered you fondly, Lance. We all do,” he assured, stroking his thumb along Lance’s knuckles. God, he couldn’t even begin to count all of the sleepless nights he’d had, plagued with the simple thought of getting to see Lance again, and here he was, touching him, wanting so much of what he couldn’t have.
“How is my mother?”
“She’s well,” Keith answered, a gentle smile finding his expression. “She speaks of you constantly, whenever I visit.”
“He’s also well, doesn’t speak of you as much, but always smiles fondly whenever your name is mentioned.”
“My father never was the talkative type.”
It felt good to talk again, to catch up on the three years lost. Every curve upward of Lance’s lips made Keith’s heart to skip a beat, and he still hadn’t figured out how Lance had managed to make such a scary and threatening man so goddamn soft. Then again, Keith wasn’t complaining. Not at all.
Even as their hands left one another and Lance lead Keith into the castle, down the large and twisting halls, Keith couldn’t find it in himself to be focused on the gorgeous architecture when there was an actual angel next to him, glowing as bright as the northern star.
“And this is where you’ll be staying,” Lance explained, pointing towards one of the several rooms along the hall, pushing the door open to show off the large bed and a window giving a view of the whole kingdom. “If Lotor lets you sleep, that is.”
“I’ll figure something out.”
“You always do,” Lance finished for him, flashing Keith a hint of that smirk that had pissed him off when they had first met, but now he just thought was endearing. It certainly didn’t make him any less kissable. “It’s nothing much, but I figured you should still have a room.”
“It’s wonderful, Lance. Thank you.”
When Lance looked at him and flashed that kind and welcoming smile, Keith wanted to kiss him. Again. Not like he never didn’t want to do that, but still.
In fact, Keith slowly moved closer, something rumbling in his chest when Lance had to tilt his chin up to look at him. A hand moved to cup Lance’s cheek, his thumb grazing along the skin along Lance’s cheekbone, his calloused fingers gently scratching the smooth surface. It was when Lance’s hand came up to rest over Keith’s, did Keith realize what he was doing.
And that ring, bright as ever, was mocking him.
“I appreciate the hospitality,” Keith managed to say, holding back that untamable urge to pull Lance flush against him and devour him.
“It was nothing,” Lance nodded as Keith stepped away, and when Keith stepped into the room and the door fell shut, Lance couldn’t help the disappointment that washed over him.
“Pull yourself together, Lance,” he groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose.
Lance wanted so much. Too much. Keith was just in that room, a small walk away from his grasp, and yet Lance couldn’t have him.
Not unless he wanted himself and Keith to keep their heads.
Lance sighed out a breath, turning his head as he heard footsteps approaching down the hall. A servant, presumably doing their rounds.
“Draw a bath,” Lance ordered as he walked by, willing himself to not look back. He couldn’t look back.