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Story [Voltron] "Said the Voice From the Stars" | Monday Mush Mania | Allura/Shiro, short-story

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade , Sep 17, 2018.

  1. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Title: “Said the Voice From the Stars”
    Author: Mira_Jade

    Fandom: Voltron: Legendary Defender
    Genre: Friendship, Romance
    Rating: PG
    Time Frame: Post-Series, (Canon Divergent - now AU)
    Characters: Allura/Shiro, Ensemble Cast

    Summary: In some ways, it was easier fighting a war together than figuring out what came next. But this was one thing, at least, that Takashi Shiro was determined to do.

    Notes: So, I have to start by saying that if you are here as a new reader, this story is canon divergent from Season Four of Voltron on, as per my "Universe to Wake from Sleep" series. This series started as speculation, and is now my rather personal answer to the canon writing decisions in Seasons Five through Seven. I'm still going to finish my stories leading up to here, but I needed to write my happy ending for purely cathartic reasons first. And, for that, I'm so glad that the return of Monday Mush Mania gave me the perfect opportunity to do so!

    This story is going to be five parts, it looks like, and I will hopefully post every other Monday in keeping with MMM tradition. So . . . this is just the first manic Monday. Apparently my muse had a lot to say! Yada, yada - you all know me by now. ;) [face_love]

    If you are curious about the differences between my world and canon, I will start, first and foremost, by saying that Allura/Shiro has been my OTP from the very first episode. I have always connected with their relationship on screen, and that hasn't changed for me after the dumpster fire that was Season Seven. So, if that's not your cup of tea, I ask that you please look for something else to read.

    Within this story you will also find: Justice for poor clone Kuron, ALWAYS BLACK PALADIN SHIRO, and an Allura who is an actual integral leader in her crusade. Here, there is nothing more than friendship between Allura and Lotor - and that goes double for Lance. There is only Mature Good Friend Lance here. There is also a three dimensional Lotor who's risen above the sins of his parents, to go along with what's hopefully a more satisfying and logical end to Zarkon's reign than . . . whatever it was the show was trying to do. My depiction of Romelle and Lotor's generals are also greatly canon divergent. But hey - I had this story plotted back in Season 4, so it is what it is and I am just writing what I want right now. So . . . there's that. :p For the whole two other people out there who want to read this, I thank you for your support as always and hope that you enjoy! ;) [:D]

    Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words. The opening verse and title are taken from poet Jomny Sun. :)

    "Said the Voice From the Stars"
    by Mira_Jade


    “i just want to come home,” said the astronaut.
    “so come home,” said ground control.
    “s o c o m e h o m e,” said the voice from the stars.



    There was no planet with skies as blue as Earth.

    Maybe it was his own bias speaking, but by that point Takashi Shirogane could safely say that there was no place like home – quite literally. Earth, with its oceans and mountains and everything in between was special; a gem tucked away from most events of cosmic importance, sure, but now a tiny oasis of peace and healing for all those who looked towards what it promised.

    If, even a year ago, someone had said that this was where they’d be - when he first blinked his eyes from a new body, amazed and unsteady on his feet again after spending so long in the astral realm - he wouldn’t have believed them. He would've wanted to believe, of course - this was what he’d fought and lived and even died for, after all - but, with the odds stacked against them as they were, even at that point in time . . .

    . . . well, that was behind them now, and it was time to lay their war to rest. It was time for them to rest and regain their strength before the - admittedly - equally arduous task of helping the universe heal from its wounds and knit itself back together again. In some ways, defeating Zarkon was just the beginning; his empire had toppled, yes, but his power had been widespread and deeply entrenched. Wisely, he'd known how to delegate to subordinates to control so vast a territory, all the while conserving his power in the center of his domain. There were his still loyal generals and galactic governors they had to subdue by the thousands – and that wasn’t even counting the third parties who were spewing out of the shadows to exert their power and establish their control over their neighbors with the all-around state of disarray in the cosmos. Their work had only begun, and, once they were done taking this moment for themselves, back to the fight they would return.

    But, for the first time since the original Coalition of old, in the Lunar Halls right outside of the Galaxy Garrison’s moon base, there was a summit meeting with delegations from all over the reformed Coalition to sign a formal peace treaty with the Galra Remnant. The Summit of Free Worlds was a momentous moment in history, but also a trying, tedious event that Shiro would happily see put behind them as soon as possible. It was hard enough to get such a massive, diverse group of people to decide on anything, let alone the exact wording of a treaty that would serve as the building blocks for diplomatic relations the entire universe wide throughout the immediate future to come. In its own way, fielding the war at Voltron’s helm had been simple; a battle of blows was just that when you broke it down, and their objective had been clear and ultimately obtainable. But this, the arena of politics, was as deep and murky a quagmire as any they’d ever faced together. He didn’t envy Allura the burden she had of holding the Coalition together with little more than her sheer will and stubborn determination. Not one bit.

    But, thankfully, the summit had called a recess for three days – understandably so, with tempers running as high and thin as they were. (And that included Allura too – during that last session, it was all he could do to keep her from lashing out at the representative of the Si’hian galaxies in a way he’d thought she’d regret later – physically, even, if the clenching of her fists had been any indication of her fragile control.) So, as they’d been doing the last few months since Zarkon’s defeat, they were continuing their tour of visiting the paladins' families on Earth. They’d already spent time with the Holts at the Garrison's North American base while they initially convalesced, and they'd visited the McClains on the Atlantic coast just after. Now, it was Hunk’s turn.

    Shiro had never been to Hawaii before – nor to any of the Polynesian islands, for that matter. But he thought that Hilo was quickly becoming one of his favourite spots in the universe, just that quickly. There was a reason that this place was considered to be paradise on Earth, and he already wished that they had longer than three days to stay and better explore.

    Hunk’s mother and grandmother had pulled out all the stops to welcome them – as had the entire community, for that matter. Currently, there were men and women setting up imu ovens in the earth to host a luau later in the evening. Strings of lights were being hung while a large fire pit was being prepared. Somewhere, someone was plucking on a stringed instrument and singing in a language he couldn't understand. Already the sweet-salty air was heavy with the pleasing aroma of roasting pig and fish and fruits and vegetables. The glittering black volcanic sand of the beach was abuzz with the happy clamor of activity – both from the locals readying for the party later, and from the paladins themselves. The day had dawned with cheerful, puffy clouds dotting the impossibly blue sky above, while the waves danced into the cove with cresting caps of bubbling white seafoam. Hunk and Lance had both taken out their boards with unrestrained enthusiasm, and were currently showing the Alteans from Allura’s council the time honored tradition of surfing. Coran - who’d gleefully declared the touristy kitsch Hawaiian shirts the height of Terran fashion, and was even then wearing a particularly impressive pink and green floral shirt over his wetsuit – had taken to the art as if he’d done so his entire life, and was goading Lance to keep up with him.

    Just up the shore from where the water met the sand, there was a vigorous game of beach volleyball going. On one side, Lance’s visiting sisters had teamed up with Acxa and Zethrid and Ezor, as well as a few of General Romelle’s Altean soldiers, to take on a group of the local boys. They were currently winning – by quite a bit. The human teenagers were admittedly starstruck by the non-humans, and didn’t seem to mind losing too much. A few of the braver boys even tried their luck flirting with Ezor - no matter how imposingly Zethrid frowned at her side, fascinated as they were by her vibrant pink skin and cheerful, chipper attitude. Her taste for bright and colorful swimwear hadn’t hurt in that regard - she’d gleefully chosen a sparkly blue-green two piece swimsuit for the day, while Acxa and Zethrid had both taken a liking to the tropical scenes printed on the swim trunks in the shop without paying attention to the gendered sides of the store. In Zethrid’s case, the men's section simply fit her more comfortable, and even then her shorts were pulled tight over her muscled legs. Humans just weren’t as built as impressively as even the half-Galra, and that was the simple-most fact of the matter.

    Pidge, meanwhile, was slathered in sunscreen from head to toe, and had a wide-brimmed straw hat pulled down low over her face to protect her from the sun. No matter her efforts to the contrary, there was already a pink flush warming her skin, but she was smiling and happy as she waded in a tide pool with Hunk’s little sister Moani. They’d found Green sea turtles feeding there earlier, and were waiting to find another one of the creatures to follow out to the barrier reef. Moani had her canoe held at the ready, and the girls were eager to paddle out again. Pidge had made fast friends with the younger girl since returning to Earth – Moani could keep up with her technical jargon as well as Hunk could, and had a wicked sense of humor to match, and they were rarely found apart. For that, Shiro was grateful – he could admit to worrying about Pidge even more so than the others, no matter that she’d only roll her eyes and huff at him if she knew. She’d had to grow up so fast after losing her father and brother, and he’d worried about her missing out on the everyday things of being a teenager while she’d traveled the stars as a soldier of Voltron. This, he felt, was good and right and needed. For all of them.

    It was gratifying to see the paladins so at ease, as a whole. After spending more than three years away from home, the kids - though they were hardly that now, with even Pidge having celebrated her eighteenth birthday away from Earth - had been admittedly scarce during the proceedings at the summit. The younger paladins had little taste for politics, and were already trying to figure out their futures between their families and lives on Earth and their place within Voltron. Keith, at least, had shadowed the proceedings with the rest of the Blades, watching and then weighing in with their council when needed. It was Shiro alone who’d stood at Allura’s side to actively represent Voltron and tried his best to sound as a measuring voice to sooth the masses. He was just a pilot, a part of him was still overwhelmed to say - and then a soldier and somehow a commander, true - yet he thought that he could be this too, so as long as she had need of him.

    And, speaking of Allura . . .

    Shiro swallowed a sigh as he looked further up the beach, to where the Alteans had erected a white canopy near the line of tropical foliage and palm trees. A portable tactical table had been set up, and glowing starmaps were being studied by Allura’s circle of advisers. No matter that they were on recess from the summit, and supposed to be resting, that was all they seemed to want to talk about. As happy as he was that Allura had found more of her people – it didn’t matter that Haggar had hidden the colony away for her own ends, it only mattered that Allura was not alone, that she was not the last one left – he sometimes wanted to stand as a physical shield between Allura and General Romelle and tell them none too politely to let her be. Allura could only be everyone’s champion – their spokesperson and warrior and hope – for so long without taking a moment to breathe. She needed a moment for herself. This was supposed to be a vacation for all of them, and so far it was proving to be the furthest from – for Allura, at least.

    It helped, slightly, that she met his eyes and offered him a wry smile – clearly sharing his comiseration. He could feel a ghosting of her thoughts through the bond shared by the Voltron paladins – never mind that her presence was never quite as strong as the others in his mind. Near the end of the war, she had finally accepted that her quintessence simply didn’t match up with any of the lions of Voltron – not perfectly, at least. But, her overwhelmingly powerful aura and her heritage as their creator’s daughter meant that she could fly any of the lions as needed as she came into herself as a Sacred Altean and her confidence grew. Or, at least, that was the theory they were working with, even if they had yet to fully put it to the test. As of late, she shared the burden of piloting Red as Keith fluttered between Voltron and the Blade of Marmora – as was useful to them both. She was more than a foot-soldier in this war, and her value oftentimes placed her at the helm of the larger picture instead of fighting solely as Voltron’s arm. This way, she could be whatever she needed to be as the situation demanded.

    The smile he offered her in return was, maybe, slightly too fond and lasted slightly too long. Standing at Allura’s side, General Romelle’s own mouth tightened and pressed into a thin line, and she narrowed her eyes in a look that Shiro couldn’t wholly understand – not in full, but knew for the warning it was. As much as he understood why the general had so many hard lines about her – she’d needed that armor to stand up for and protect her people for so long, even before Voltron was ever aware of their plight – that didn’t mean that Shiro had to like just how much sway the general had with Allura. Allura wanted to honor what was left of her people – she wanted to be everything they needed her to be, but Shiro was more concerned about her needs. And her needs said that she should have been surfing, or playing beach volleyball, or following the sea turtles, even – whatever it was she needed to do to allow her body and spirit a moment to rest and unwind. The universe would still be there and clamoring for her attention when she was ready.

    But, at the very least, Shiro didn’t have to worry about holding Romelle’s ire for too long. Also trapped underneath the canopy with Allura was Prince Lotor – or, rather, Emperor Lotor now or whatever you called the leader of a collection of planets and galaxies who were no longer held together by a dictator but nonetheless required cohesive leadership as several peoples bound together by shared blood and common tradition – rather forced or otherwise was neither here nor there for many star-systems after so many thousands of years. That balancing act, in particular, was something the summit was still trying to put their heads together and work out. In the beginning, Shiro thought he’d understood what Lotor was taking onto his shoulders with accepting responsibility for his parents’ evils and opening himself to the judgment of the masses, but it seemed that he hadn’t even anticipated the half of it. Not even close.

    Even then, amongst allies, Lotor was standing with every muscle in his body held tense and coiled. His face was carefully blank, no matter that his eyes burned in a way that left his emotions clear for anyone to see. As to that, however, General Romelle was clearly unrepentant, and she stood up to her full height to return the prince glower for glower. Clearly having none of that, Allura physically put herself between the two and pushed them both back a step. Even without being able to hear what she said, Shiro could feel her annoyance spike against his mind – sharp and pointed and pushing him to action much as it ever did. This, he felt, was becoming ridiculous, and he was done sitting back and watching as she stretched herself too thin again and refused to -

    “You know that you’re smitten, right?”

    - hearing his own voice speak from someone who wasn't him was still something Shiro was trying to get used to, even a year later. Turning to see his own face smirking back at him like a distorted mirror – and even more of his face, Shiro felt at times, with his own hair having gone completely white when Allura reconstructed his body – caused a shiver to run up and down his spine. But that was something only time would fix, because Shiro now had the brother he'd always wanted growing up – hey, a clone was even closer to you than a twin, right? – and he was learning the other side of siblinghood. Namely: how there were times when he could happily punch his doppelganger in the face without feeling a moment’s remorse if it only meant that he would shut up about things he’d rather keep to himself.

    Shiro knew he was glaring, but Kuron – Ryou, only smirked a wicked grin, one that was so far from Shiro’s arsenal so as to belong to the other man entirely. Since understanding exactly who and what he was, it was curious for Shiro to watch this potential version of himself grow and evolve. Somehow, there was an ease to Ryou that Shiro had never quite mastered himself – he was Garrison trained through and through and his posture reflected the militarism of that institution to a fault. It was hard for him to let that go. Ryou, on the other hand, was ever quick to grin, not just smile, and he had a sense of humor that Shiro normally tried to dial back in himself. He knew that he could come of dorkish, rather than charming when he tried, so he usually tried to keep his quips to himself. Ryou, however, was happy to dive into any social interaction in a way that made even Lance proud; nothing shamed him. Even so, Shiro couldn't wrap his mind around how he could just be so easy, about everything. It was mind boggling and bizzare, watching Ryou become himself, especially when, sometimes, Shiro envied him for the freedom of his choices.

    Even then, Ryou – who’d just got back from a canoeing trip looking for dolphins (everything on Earth was new and exciting to him, experiencing things as he was for the first time with his own senses) – had no problem baring his upper body to the tropical sun. His already tanning skin was crisscrossed with long healed lines, some puckered and pink and some white and thin (Haggar’s deception had been so terribly thorough in every possible way), and his artificial Galran arm – complete with its ugly, mangled mess of scar-tissue where the alien metal interfaced with his skin – was proudly on display for anyone to see. When recovering his own body, Allura hadn’t been able to restore his natural arm – her powers had reformed the body she’d remembered, after all – so Shiro currently sported an off-white Altean prosthetic in place of Haggar's Galran tech. (A part of Pidge hadn’t been joking when she called him Shiro the White after his return from the mostly-dead.) Even so, his own inorganic hand clenched in sympathy, looking at the wreckage that Ryou so easily chose to ignore. He knew his clone’s every ache and pain better than anyone else, and hated that Ryou had those memories too. No one deserved to live through his year of captivity, even in thought.

    For Shiro, it didn’t matter that he was sweating in his own uniform – his typical black and grey ensemble that he refused to shake as long as Allura was also in her traditional dress of state on the beach. He couldn’t exactly find it within himself to go around in swim trunks and sandals. He wasn't ready for that; he didn’t understand how Ryou was so comfortable with putting that much of his past on display, there for anyone to see.

    But. First things first.

    Shiro schooled his features into as apathetic a mask as possible – knowing as he did every advantage Ryou had in reading him – and then took the very mature route of lying through his teeth: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

    He tilted his head up as if daring Ryou to challenge him. Ryou, perhaps somewhat predictably, was undeterred. “How easily you forget that you can’t hide things from me,” his clone was more than happy to remind him. He tapped the side of his temple with a knowing look. “What you know, I know. Literally.”

    “Whatever it is you think you know,” Shiro tried to brush past Ryou to get around him on the path. He still had to free Allura from her meeting, after all, and his clone was preventing that, “you don’t.”

    But Ryou only shook his head, and mirrored his step to block his way. “You don’t have to worry about that,” Ryou knew him too well. He gestured over his shoulder. “Lance has it covered.”

    Shiro glanced to see where – sure enough, just as Ryou said, Lance had come back in from the water. He had a towel slung around his shoulders, and was saying something to Allura and Romelle with a charming, too-wide grin. Predictably, Romelle had a brow raised while Allura was trying her best not to smile outright – but, at the very least, the Altean general was not shooing him away. Already, he could tell that Lance was winning when he held out his arm in invitation, and clearly inserted himself to lead Allura away.

    “Good,” Shiro nodded in satisfaction. “I don’t think that Romelle would have let her go with me as easily.”

    “No,” Ryou agreed with an easy drawl. “She doesn’t like you very much at all.”

    Shiro shot his clone a look. “Thanks,” he dryly returned. Some things really didn’t have to be said out loud.

    “Hey,” Ryou shrugged and held up his hands – somewhat unfairly, he was able to read that thought too. “I have the advantage of not needing to swallow everything you want to say, but don’t. It's actually kinda freeing - you should try it sometimes.”

    The words were just further teasing; it was easy to take them at face value. Even so, Shiro felt his shoulders tense as a note of warning stabbed at his gut. He’d grown used to trusting that instinct – it’d kept him alive over the years, after all. And, now -

    “ - that sounds ominous,” Shiro didn’t trust his clone in the slightest. Not one bit.

    “Relax,” Ryou was just too quick to say. He had no problem with placing his artificial hand on his shoulder in what was supposed to be a comforting gesture, but Shiro merely tensed underneath the cool metal touch. “It’s nothing like that; your secret’s safe with me . . . unless,” his eyes glinted, “you don’t want it to be?”

    Shiro rolled his shoulders – as much to keep up an air of nonchalance as it was to shrug his hand away. “You can say whatever you want,” he welcomed. “There’s nothing to tell.”

    Shiro may have said one thing, but he couldn’t quite keep himself from glancing around Ryou to where Allura had finally chucked her dress in favor of the pale blue and white wetsuit she had waiting underneath. Alteans, they’d come to find, had vastly different views of modesty than humans did – and that mostly involved covering every single one of their body’s markings they could for propriety’s sake. (Apparently, the glowing crescents under her cheeks weren’t the only shapes her skin was decorated with . . . which Shiro was respectfully not thinking about . . . at all or ever.) Even in the full suit, however, the skin atop her hands was visible in a way it never was in her dress or flight armor, and he could see a tell-tale pink glow contrasting against the dark, rich shade of her skin, even from across the beach. She was currently twisting the mass of her hair out of the way, and he watched as a few stray strands fluttered in the ocean breeze before she swept them up too. Lance, who was standing by her side with two surfboards ready, said something that made her laugh, and the sound was almost musical as it drifted over to them.

    His glance was turning to a stare, however, and when he snapped his eyes back front and center, Ryou was grinning like a cat who’d found the proverbial cream.

    “Wanna go surfing now too?” Ryou prodded. “It’s better than you just standing here just watching - ”

    “ - I happen to be enjoying the sun just fine right here,” Shiro countered, ignoring where he’d been inclined to do just that himself. “I’ll go into the water when I'm good and ready.”

    “Yeeeah,” Ryou didn’t buy his demurral for a second. “You need to work on that if you hope to help her with any of this,” he gestured from the groundbreaking group of local Terrans and honest-to-goodness aliens relaxing together, to the tent that still screened Allura’s council from the sun as they debated the peace talks at the summit. “Otherwise, you’re just hopeless.”

    “I don’t know,” Shiro huffed and crossed his arms. “We’ve managed so far.”

    “Yes,” Ryou tilted his head thoughtfully. “Yes . . . I suppose you have.”

    That same sense of warning was prickling underneath his skin just then – it'd turned from a vague itching to a flight or fight impetus that he was finding more and more difficult to ignore. But Shiro couldn't figure out just where the danger was stemming from until Ryou shifted, and moved aside on the path to allow someone else to pass. Someone who -

    - Prince Lotor was wearing a dark look, away from the council where none could see. Though a cease-fire had apparently been called between him and General Romelle for the time being, he was clearly still bristling and wouldn’t join the fun on the beach until he'd roped his temper back under control. No one wanted to be the wet blanket on someone else’s party – even ex-tyrannical Imperial warlords, it seemed. Lotor already stood out even more than the Alteans did with his height and striking coloring and the armor he refused to budge from, and the aura of a trapped hunting animal he was currently exuding wasn’t helping at all. He reminded Shiro of a tiger who’s tail was constantly being tugged, but who knew he couldn’t bite in retaliation without consequences. You’re a black cloud, you know that right? Pidge had informed him outright earlier in the day before pushing a garish pair of swim-trunks sporting pineapples wearing sunglasses (she was brave, their Green paladin) at him with a look that said she’d tolerate no arguments. You're being disrespectful to both Hunk and our hosts – and I won’t have it. So fix it. You will have fun on this trip too, you hear me? Or else.

    Yet that was, apparently, easier said than done.

    Ryou failed to lose his grin as he caught Lotor's attention. “Well done,” he clapped his hands in a round of applause. “Another day has passed in the friendly Voltron Coalition without bloodshed. You’ll have to share your secret with us.”

    For a moment, Lotor looked as if he’d continue on and pass them by. But he stopped, and clearly forced himself to stay. Shiro would bet anything that Pidge’s words from earlier were ringing in his ears. As best he could, he was trying his to abide by them.

    “The general is simply . . . fixed in her ways,” Lotor admitted on an exhale. Even so, he closed his eyes in a moment’s attempt to regulate his tone and breathing. “I wish to honor her wounds, knowing from whence they stem, even if she makes my doing so . . . trying, at times.”

    After all, every lash he currently bore was inflicted from someone who’d endured dozens upon dozens more injuries than that, each in their own way. Someday, they could only hope that the cycle would end. Until then, Shiro didn’t envy him his position in the slightest.

    “It’s hard,” Ryou nodded in sympathy, “building bridges between two vastly different cultures.”

    “That’s putting it lightly,” Lotor agreed. But, at the very least, the tense line about his shoulders lessened for his admitting so, and he didn’t look inclined to escape their company as they all turned down the path for the direction of the beach. But then, so much about Lotor had softened, in a sense, since his parents’ death. From what Shiro had heard, Zarkon had been himself at the twilight of their final battle, and he’d rightly returned both himself and the witch to the same void that had created them in order to spare his son the guilt and stigma of kinslayer. Shiro had no idea what had passed between the sundered family in those last moments – it was something that Allura wouldn’t talk about, not even to him, but whatever it was had since left Lotor confident in his own skin and ready to tackle the seemingly impossible task of rebuilding the same Coalition his father had once dedicated his life to with Voltron. It was the least he could do, to honor his memories of what used to be.

    For that thought – of honoring the old with the new, Shiro found himself turning towards the ocean again, to where Allura had, somewhat surprisingly, still not taken to the waves with Lance. Instead, the two were locked in a deep conversation. Lance’s back was turned to him, so he couldn’t see his expression, but Allura’s brow was furrowed and she seemed to be lost in thought. But her eyes were hesitantly bright, and her smile was soft. Shiro had first assumed that they were discussing Romelle and Lotor’s latest round of words, but something about that didn’t strike him quite as right.

    But Shiro couldn’t hold onto his curiosity for too long when she instead looked up the beach, and locked eyes with him again. He liked to think that her smile gentled – in a look that she always seemed to reserve for him, and she lifted a hand to wave. The newly revealed pink on her skin caught in the sun, and he felt something inside of his chest clench.

    Glad that they were turning her way, Shiro almost missed out on what Ryou and Lotor were saying, until -

    “ - actually, speaking of building bridges between disparate cultures and all that – there's something I’ve been meaning to ask you. Out of curiosity’s sake, of course.”

    That flight or fight instinct roared back to life, but it was hard to do anything about it when he had no clue where the threat was coming from. Shiro’s brow furrowed, wondering what on earth Ryou could be curious about until -

    “An interesting segue,” Lotor commented. His eyes narrowed with slow suspicion, as if he too was attempting to figure out the clone’s motives. “I will help as I can, of course. What is your question?” But Shiro had an abrupt thought strike him and then refuse to leave. A suspicion took root in his mind and he -

    - oh no.

    Shiro felt the blood drain from his face. Ryou couldn’t be about to do what he suspected he was about to do. There was no way. He just wouldn’t -

    “So, I have this . . . friend. Let’s call him Timmy,” Ryou started, thoughtfully steepling his hands together and pressing his fingertips to his chin, “and he’s in a bit of a bind about this Altean girl.”

    - but, apparently, he would.

    “He likes her – and he thinks that she may like him too. But, if he's going to do this, he wants to do this right. A lot of things about her life are far from traditional . . . she’s lost a lot, and he wants to respect that about her. So: Altean courtship. What do you know about it?”

    Lotor drew up short on the path, and raised a brow to stare at Ryou. If he was surprised by the nature of the question, he didn’t let it show any more than that. “I do not know how much assistance I can provide,” he chose his words carefully. “My knowledge of the Altean culture was largely academic instead of practiced – and I’m familiar with what was expected ten thousand years ago. Your guess is as good as mine as to now.”

    “No, no,” Ryou shook his head. “The norms ten thousand years ago are perfect – preferable, actually. Please, what do you know?”

    This wasn’t happening – really, it couldn’t be. Shiro knew that his skin had blanched – all but for where his cheeks were undoubtedly flaming red. His discomfort only multiplied tenfold when Lotor subtly glanced at him, and then down the beach to where Allura was still standing next to Lance. Clearly he'd put two and two together; he wasn't distracted by Ryou's hypothetical friend in the slightest.

    Was he really that transparent? Shiro felt himself panicking to wonder next. If even Lotor knew about everything he thought he’d kept to himself - after all, they'd had a war going on, and the last thing he wanted to be was a complication for her - did that mean that she knew too? Was he really so ridiculous, and hopeless as -

    “Alright then,” Lotor’s neutral acquiescence broke into his thoughts, and Shiro held his breath. “For . . . Timmy, then. I will share what I know.”

    Shiro couldn’t even bring himself to glare over at Ryou – not without giving himself away. Instead, he tried to control the way his cheeks burned, and listened.

    “Typically, Altean matches between the high houses were arranged - though not so much between the lower houses. Genetics were a factor almost as much as bloodlines; Altean scientists, during their Age of Enlightenment, tampered too much with improving their genes to the point where conception between couples was difficult, even with artificial aid.” That, Shiro knew - Allura had told him that much herself, he remembered one of those early nights aboard the Castle, passed in Black’s hangar while the stars wheeled around them. “Once a favorable genetic match was found, the offering suitor would then go about a series of three stages for a complete courtship.”

    The offering suitor – that could mean either member of the potential union, then, Shiro put together. For the sake of increasing the odds for childbearing, Alteans marriages could be polygamous, he remembered. They were naturally pansexual as a species. Shiro made himself think seriously about that. For him personally, he could count on one hand how many romantic partners he’d had over the years; for him, a deep emotional connection was a precursor to any sort of sexual attraction, and he still felt complete without either in his life. He’d never been the type to chase after partners, even as a youth. He didn’t like the idea of sharing a marriage mate – he didn’t like it at all, honestly, but, would Allura . . .

    Well, they’d cross that bridge when they came to it, he squared his jaw to decide. They’d have to talk about the differences between their cultures for quite a few things if they wanted to make any sort of relationship between them work. And a relationship with her was something that he did want – he wanted it more and more the longer he allowed himself to consider his future now that the war was over. (And, he thought with a fluttering feeling of hope, maybe, just maybe, this was something she wanted too.)

    Lotor glanced at him as if to make sure he was following along, and then continued, “Each of these three stages are signified by gifts. You must first open your courtship with the gift of your eyes; this gift should symbolize your attraction, and express what has drawn you to this person. Usually, this gift is more intimate than showy, and should encapsulate your understanding of your potential mate and express what they mean to you, personally.”

    Trust Altean customs to be a riddle as much as a clear-cut system, Shiro shook his head and thought to himself. Flowers and chocolate and a night out for dinner and a movie wouldn’t cut it here; he'd need to think outside the box.

    But he was already applying his mind to the problem, at least. This was a puzzle he’d enjoy solving.

    As they talked, they walked away from the boardwalk to cut a path across the black sand to the beach. They garnered a few looks as they went – with Lotor standing out in his alien garb and all around otherness and Shiro and Ryou usually earning a few stares of their own for their matching faces. A few of those stares Ryou found only fitting to return with winks and grins of his own. Just barely, Shiro kept from rolling his eyes. Somehow, his clone was nearly as bad as Lance was - which Shiro didn't understand at all. Clearly, those weren't his genetics.

    “The second stage is signified by the gift of your hands,” Lotor continued. “This gift should symbolize what you can bring to your relationship – usually it's a sign of your economic status or trademark skills. You must prove that you will be able to help provide for a family and any young who may come along. This gift is usually more practical then intimate, and traditionally shared with your potential mate’s family for approval.”

    Huh . . . Shiro wracked his mind, admittedly stumped by that one. Everything he was was wrapped up in being the Black Paladin of Voltron and a founding member of the New Coalition at Allura’s side – how did he encompass that in a gift? But Ryou just cupped his chin and nodded along. “Sounds good – Timmy can do that no problem.”

    Shiro just barely resisted the urge reach over and trip his clone as they walked. Timmy, really? Maybe it was better that he’d grown up as an only child after all.

    “I have no doubt,” was Lotor’s droll response. “Your friend sounds to be a clever sort.”

    He couldn’t quite hide his glower in response to that. Maybe he could trip both of them and make it seem like an accident? But Shiro was admittedly drawing up short on how.

    They passed the game of beach volleyball on their way to the shoreline. When they were close enough, Ezor gave a cheerful wave and a “hiya, sir!” in greeting before she took her turn serving. Her headtail was a vibrant whip of color underneath the tropical sky as she threw herself into the game. Acxa gave them a nod in greeting, but her gaze lingered on Lotor as if she was fighting an old instinct to come and stand by his side. In the end, she managed to hold her ground and instead simply smiled one of her rare smiles. She gave a wave of her own before Zethrid snapped her name and she recovered in time to return her attention to the game.

    Lotor watched them – her, really, Shiro felt a vengeful sort of satisfaction to notice – for only a moment longer, before shaking his head as if to clear it, and they continued on their way.

    “The third gift,” Lotor continued, sounding only slightly distracted as he continued, “is the gift of the heart. This gift is usually included with a formal proposal, and, as the name implies, should be symbolic of your love and commitment. Marriage is not entered lightly between Alteans, and only broken in extreme cases - such as betrayal or mistreatment. Your vows are considered sacred and binding, and so this gift should be properly solemn to acknowledge the sanctity of your union.”

    That, Shiro thought he could better do – in fact, he already had a hazy idea in mind for what he could give. Even so, that sounded -

    “ - that’s a quick process,” Ryou seemingly plucked the thought from his mind to comment. “Dating and an engagement all in one, it seems.”

    Lotor shrugged, not even bothering to ask about the Human terms, as was his norm. “The stages can be done over time, of course. Once the gift of the eyes is given, you may wait before moving onto the next step. That way there is time for the couple to explore their compatibility following. The first gift can be returned, but one does not usually move onto the second unless they are relatively sure that they want to offer the third gift as well. The giving of the second gift is when the family can raise their objections, too, if there are any.”

    Coran, Shiro thought, and thought seriously about the matter. He’d have to talk to the majordomo about his intentions in place of King Alfor and Queen Fala – from what Allura had mentioned, he was pretty much the third strand in her parents’ marriage as it was, and she looked at him as a secondary father even before she lost everything. Without his approval, his suit wouldn’t go anywhere.

    Well, he was relatively certain he could wrangle that if he played his cards right – he knew that Coran both liked and respected him, and he himself wouldn’t mind calling the quirky adviser family. The only potential obstacle he could think of, then, was that he was so glaringly not Altean. He was Human, and there were most assuredly voices who’d raise in protest to their mixed union from within her own council. With the discovery of the colony, he knew that there was a lot of pressure put on Allura to choose a mate from the remnant of her people and start the royal house back up again. Shiro wasn’t sure if Coran shared that wish for his princess, and he was, quite honestly, apprehensive to find out.

    But, that was another bridge to cross when he came to it. First, he’d have to see if this was even something Allura was interested in to begin with. So. The gift of the eyes – right. He needed to figure that one out first. Then, he could go from there.

    “You’ve given me a lot to pass on,” Ryou, meanwhile, thanked Lotor as they reached the water’s edge. “That definitely helps - I appreciate it.”

    “It was nothing,” Lotor said after a moment. Though he spoke to Ryou, he turned his blue-gold gaze to Shiro and added, quietly but firmly, “Tell your friend that I wish both him and his lady happiness and good fortune. If he has any further questions, he need only ask.”

    Shiro was about to end their ridiculous chirade and give himself away by thanking Lotor himself, when: “Oh good!” they heard from just down the shoreline. “You're back, Ryou! And you found Shiro – awesome! Now it’s time we all take our boards out; you’re not leaving this island without learning how to surf, or my name’s not Lance McClain!”

    Lance, Shiro turned to see, was running up to them with a grin splitting his face and his arms open wide to encompass the ocean and the crashing of the waves. Behind him, a sea-soaked Hunk was walking side by side with Pidge and Moani, who’d obviously given up on their turtles in order to drag more surfboards over to the group. Allura too followed, her eyes bright and a curious flush darkening her cheeks as she glanced at Lance – who gave her a thumbs up that Shiro was clueless to translate, before she turned back to stare at him.

    He was – somewhat goofily, even he could admit – returning her smile with one of his own when he heard Pidge’s voice rise in protest. “Just what do you think you’re wearing, Shiro?” her exasperation was clear for everyone to hear. “Aren’t you melting?! All that black in this heat – you’re just insane, that’s what you are.”

    Even at her full adult height, Pidge’s flyaway mop of chestnut hair hardly reached his shoulder. But she had no qualms about reaching over to poke his chest to punctuate her words. “I know that I picked out swim-trunks for you. Where are they?”

    Shiro was most definitely not wearing the Jaws themed shorts she’d bought for him; nope, no thank-you. But he didn’t have to say anything out loud - his look said it all.

    “And, if not those, I know that you're smart enough to find a wetsuit or something.” Pidge threw her hands up without hearing his protest. “If I can be out here burning in the sun and enjoying the beach for the sake of R&R, then so can you.”

    Allura was covering her mouth to hide her grin. “Truly, you look most uncomfortable, Shiro. You should change.”

    “Yeah,” he reached up to run a hand through his hair, somewhat abashedly. “That might be wise,” he could admit.

    “That might be wise?” Pidge huffed, spinning so that her sundress caught on the ocean breeze. “Of course,” she muttered underneath her breath, “you’ll do something when Allura says it, but not me.” And then there was something else he couldn’t make out but for fearless leader and ridiculous and girls have to do everything.

    But Shiro only smiled, and let Pidge rant – especially when her eyes turned to narrow on Lotor and her glower only intensified. Just like that, she forgot all about him.

    “And I know that you're not dressed all doom and imperial gloom here on Hunk’s beach,” she gave her best approximation of a Galran growl. “Lose the get-up, or I swear I will find a way to dunk you when we get out there – and don’t think I won’t.”

    If Pidge hardly came up to Shiro’s shoulder, she was only at chest-height with Lotor. But that didn’t stop her as she stood toe to toe with the alien prince, and defiantly craned her neck back as far as she could to stare up at him.

    Almost gently, Lotor held up his hands in the universal gesture for peace. Clawed and fanged and well over twice her size, he inclined his head in respect. “You mean the garment with the anthropomorphized fruit?” his deep voice rumbled. His nose scrunched in clear distaste, but his eyes were smiling to tease, even so. “I think not, paladin.”

    “Well it’s that or something – anything other than what you’re currently wearing, your majesty,” Pidge jabbed her finger once for emphasis and that was that. “But there will be no black involved – not on my watch.”

    “Exactly,” Hunk swung an arm over Pidge’s shoulders to support his friend. “We only have a few days to enjoy ourselves and then its back to being the defenders of the universe and all that. We’re not wasting any time here, so let’s go!”

    “Yeah,” Ryou nudged him before Pidge could pull him away to get changed. Lance was already waiting impatiently by the surfboards. “Let’s not waste any more time, Takashi." Then, quietly, he added, "You’ve got this.”

    For the first, Shiro didn’t bother wasting his breath with a protest. Instead, he inclined his head in acknowledgment and fixed his gaze firmly ahead. The gift of the eyes it was to start, then. He had a mission in mind and a goal in sight; now, it was time to act.

    ~MJ @};-
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2018
    Raissa Baiard likes this.
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh, HAWAII! Could there ever be a more exquisite place to distress? Not! [face_laugh] Thank you for writing this gorgeous, well-earned respite!!!!! =D= [face_dancing] [face_dancing] [face_love]