When Enemies Join Forces
Keith made his way back to his room slowly. His uniform jacket was unbuttoned now since all the Alliance representatives were now safely in bed and he no longer needed to keep up his appearance. Though he was used to wearing restricting uniforms, even Keith grew uncomfortable in the formal attire after wearing it for more than 12 hours straight. He looked forward to shucking his clothes and climbing into bed.
As he neared his room, Keith shrugged off his jacket and began to undo the fasteners on his shirt. He pressed the flat button by his door for it to open and stepped in, shutting it behind him. His room was dark inside. Not bothering with the lights, Keith let the dim moonlight peering into his room from the window guide him. He went to his closet and hung up his jacket. He then slipped off his shoes and socks and started to remove his shirt when he suddenly realized something. If he hadn’t been so preoccupied with sleep and distracting thoughts, he would have noticed sooner.
He wasn’t alone in his room.
Though he knew he had an intruder, Keith was not alarmed. He had a feeling he knew who it was. Sighing, Keith went over to his bed and sat down on the edge. The form underneath the covers shifted and turned to face him, revealing her long red hair, striking face and bare shoulders. Keith reached over and flicked on the lamp, then looked down at her. Hannah smiled back up at him lazily and stretched out a hand to pull at his shirt, which was now open but still covering his back and shoulders.
"Let me guess," Keith said, "You accidentally thought this was your room."
Hannah let out a laughing, sensual sound as she let her fingers find their way to the bare skin over his chest. Keith didn’t move.
"I thought maybe we could pick up where we left off," she admitted boldly.
Keith turned away for a moment, reaching up to rub the back of his neck wearily.
"I thought we had an agreement," he told her.
"That was years ago," she reminded him, "We were both still young. We were off on missions all the time. You…you said you weren’t ready for anything more. You said we needed our breathing space, to think about things."
Keith looked at her, trying not to notice how her soft touches on his bare skin made him feel. Hannah returned his gaze, sitting up so their faces were close.
"It’s been three years now," she told him, "And I’ve thought about us a lot. More than a lot."
She moved her hand up to caress his face. Keith breathed in deeply and swallowed. He raised his hand to cover hers.
"I still love you," she told him breathily, "I never stopped, not even after…after how we parted, all that time ago."
"Hannah--" he breathed, frowning and trying not to let her affect him like she had in the past.
Hannah placed two fingers over his lips to shush him.
"Don’t talk," she told him, "Just…let’s not talk right now."
She removed her fingers so she could replace them with her lips. Keith made no move to resist her, just as he hadn’t the first time she had kissed him. And as he returned the motions her mouth made over his, Keith tried his best to shut out the image in his mind of the beautiful blonde, blue-eyed beauty who was the only thing standing in between him and his former love.
* * *
Allura knew she should be in bed, but she knew she would never be able to sleep until she spoke with Keith. She had to know what he was going to do, and she couldn’t wait. If she waited it out, it would just torture her on the inside. And so, clad in her nightgown and robe, Allura left her room and made her way to Keith’s quarters, knowing that by now he would be back from Castle Control.
Allura stopped in front of Keith’s door and hesitated. Was it really her business to ask him what he was going to do? It was his life, wasn’t it? Did she really have to disturb him at this late hour to bother him with something she could ask in the morning? What if he was already asleep? What if he hadn’t even decided yet, and she was here for nothing?
Allura backed away a step. Perhaps she should wait until later to ask him. He was probably tired and wouldn’t appreciate being disturbed. Allura turned to leave, but then stopped. She thought she had heard a muffled noise coming from Keith’s room. That meant he was still awake. After only a short moment's hesitation, Allura returned to the door and decided to do it. Without giving it another thought, Allura rang the chime to his room.
She waited for a few moments for him to answer. Usually, when she rang, he would just call her in. This time she was met with silence. But then the door slid open and Keith appeared. Allura looked at him, their eyes meeting. His face was a bit flushed and he looked surprised to see her.
"Allura?" he asked.
"Keith, I…" she began, but then stopped. She looked him over, noticing he wore nothing but his pants. Even his feet were bare, and his well-muscled chest stood directly in her line of sight. Allura glanced down a bit shyly.
"I just wanted to talk to you about something," she told him.
Keith, who was leaning halfway out the door and blocking her view of the dark interior, hesitated. As he glanced away from her, Allura’s eyes were drawn to his bare skin. She tried her best not to stare, but found it difficult. Finally he turned to face her again, and she forced her eyes to meet his.
"Princess," he began, "do you think it could--?"
Allura frowned, and her body froze. The voice, most definitely female and coming from inside Keith’s room, sounded a lot like Hannah. Keith glanced nervously back into his room, then quickly stepped out into the hall and shut his door behind him. Allura took a few steps back. She once again took in his apprehensive, half-dressed appearance, this time with understanding dawning on her. With a heart-wrenching feeling she suddenly realized what was going on. She swallowed hard, trying not the let her feelings show on her face. It was hard.
Keith raised his eyes to look at her reluctantly. He crossed his arms over his chest almost shyly as he spoke.
"Um, Princess," he told her quietly, "I can explain—"
"No need to," she replied shortly, cutting him off. Though she knew she could not hide the blush that had invaded her face, she struggled to keep the tears out of her voice as she spoke. "Your personal life is your business," she continued, trying to sound unaffected, "I apologize for interrupting. Good-night."
Without another word, Allura turned on her heels and hurried away.
She ignored Keith’s call and fled back to her room as quickly as possible without appearing to be running away. As soon as she reached her room she went to sit on her bed and took a few deep breaths. She forced away the tears that were threatening to fall. There was absolutely no reason for her to cry. It wasn’t as if Keith belonged to her. None of them did. And they were all free to make their own decisions, especially when it came to their own lives.
Allura rubbed her eyes as the tears disappeared. She let out a big sigh and stood up to turn down the covers on her bed. She tried not to think about Keith and Hannah as she lay down on her soft bed. Their relationship was not her concern. And if Hannah managed to convince Keith to return to Galaxy Garrison, then Allura would just have to deal with it. He and the others owed no allegiance to Arus or its people. She was fortunate enough to have had them this long.
Allura closed her eyes, willing sleep to come. She had the Assembly to worry about now. Keith’s relationship to Hannah was not important, not to her. And as she tried to convince her heart of this fact, Allura knew she would be getting very little sleep that night.
* * *
Lance knew there was trouble as soon as he entered the Council Chamber that morning. He was the last of the team to arrive. The others were already standing by their chairs. Allura and the Admiral had yet to arrive. When Lance sauntered in he cast a grin at Keith. But his commander just ignored him. Lance frowned. Keith seemed to be more preoccupied than usual.
As Lance went to stand by his chair in between Keith and Hunk, he wondered what could be troubling his best friend. He cast a glance at the far end of the table at Hannah. He was surprised to see her equally downcast. It was the first time he’d seen her unhappy since she arrived. He knew very well about her feelings for Keith and that she had been excited about seeing him again. He wondered what could have happened to sober them both up so drastically.
And then Allura walked in, once again accompanied by Coran. She appeared calm and collected, but at a closer glance at her eyes, Lance could tell she was troubled. Deeply troubled. But she was doing a good job of hiding it. If he hadn’t known her and become a good friend to her over the past three years, he might not have noticed.
OK, now three of his friends had something wrong with them. Not only that, but Lance could swear that Allura was avoiding Keith. He watched with amusement as Keith stole glances at the Princess, meanwhile avoiding Hannah’s gaze as she herself glanced across the length of the table at him. Something had happened, Lance was sure of that. But he had no idea what. He determined that he would find out, though, one way or another.
The meeting officially began, and they all took their seats. Lance kept a close eye on his three friends. Hannah kept trying to catch Keith’s eye. Her expression remained blank, but her eyes revealed some sort of betrayal. Allura, strangely enough, had the same look in her eyes as she glanced every so often in Hannah’s direction. And Keith had managed to make himself appear at ease, something he was very good at. But Lance, who was sitting only about a foot and a half away, could sense something was bothering his commander; he could feel how tense Keith was without even having to look at him.
While he was staying busy keeping tabs on his friends, Lance even managed to forget about his uncomfortable uniform and how much he hated formal gatherings. He more or less ignored what he considered ramblings by the various Alliance representatives, and paid little attention to the boring data on the monitor in front of him. And when Keith leaned in toward Allura to convey in a quiet voice some information, he noticed how Allura flinched as his closeness. He also noticed Keith noticing. But Allura, without looking at him, nodded to Keith in thanks nonetheless.
As time passed, Lance found himself looking forward to the lunch break scheduled for early that afternoon. It would give him a chance to have a word with Allura, and maybe even Hannah. He knew Keith would never tell him what was going on if he didn’t want to. But he could probably weasel the information out of Allura, and Hannah had never hidden anything from him. Lance glanced at the timepiece on the far wall, willing the next two hours to pass by quickly.
He needn’t have worried about making it to the break, however. Only moments later the Castle alarms began to resound through the large Council Chamber. The Alliance representatives were disconcerted at the sudden alarm. Keith immediately pressed a button by his monitor to contact the control room.
"Castle Control," he spoke up in a muted voice, "What’s going on?"
"Enemy ships have been detected attempting to enter the planet’s atmosphere, sir," one of the men in the control room responded shortly, "There’s about two hundred strong coming straight at the Castle. Alliance fleet ships have already responded, but they won’t be able to hold them off."
"Doom ships?" Keith asked.
"We have Doom ships and V’Ki warbirds attacking, sir."
"Damn," Keith muttered under his breath.
The Alliance members, who had heard the conversation, started buzzing in startled chatter. A joint effort between Doom and the V’Ki had never been heard of before. Lance glanced at Keith for his reaction. Keith had dealt with the V’Ki before, and was more than a little ticked off at the evil race. Keith’s jaw was clenched and he did not look like a happy camper.
"Let’s go, team," Keith commanded seconds later.
The Voltron Force stood, including Allura. As they headed for the exit, Hannah joined them and fell in line with Keith, who lead the way to Castle Control.
"My squadron will help," she offered.
Keith nodded silently.
With the attack by the Alliance’s two worst enemies still not fully registering, the Force reached Castle Control while Hannah broke off for the hangar to get to her fighter. Keith and the others didn’t hesitate making the short journey to their Lions. Once Lance was settled in his cockpit, he steered his Red Lion out into the air and joined the others.
"Zarkon and the V’Ki," he mumbled under his breath, shaking his head, "Now there’s a lethal combination."
* * *
Keith gritted his teeth as he led his team into the thick of the battle. Fortunately, Lotor and Zarkon hadn’t released a Robeast - at least, not yet. But they still had their work cut out for them. Luckily, Hannah and her squadron were there to help, along with a few dozen small battle ships from other Alliance planets, including Gua’Dhon. The Guanese people supplied eight of their own fighter ships to help in the defensive and proved to be a great help. Their pilots were some of the best in the known galaxies.
Unfortunately, the V’Ki pilots were also very skilled, not to mention ruthless. The warbirds seemed to attack almost without thinking, but they proved very effective. The Alliance defenders had a tough time dealing with them, not to mention the Doom ships that only added to the chaos. For once, Keith had to admit that Zarkon and Lotor had done something smart by joining forces with the V’Ki. What amazed him was the fact that both sides were willing to unite.
Keith had fought V’Ki warbirds before. He had also learned a lot about them, both from lectures and from his own father, who had also had his dealings with the ugly aliens. Knowing what he had to do, Keith put himself into battle mode and recalled all of his knowledge of the V’Ki to the front of his thoughts. He mentally figured out a strategy as he used his own eye-lasers and missiles to fend off attacks.
"Lance, Allura," he commanded, "Pair up and cover the Guhren squadron. Hunk, Pidge, you two go help them take out the warbirds attacking the Nzae-Kkar fleet ships."
"And what are you going to do, Captain?" Lance asked.
Keith took hold of his Lion’s manual piloting levers and focused his attention on the flock of V’Ki warbirds making their way to the surface of the planet.
"I’m going to take these guys out," he replied.
Then, like his father had done over 23 years ago, Keith thrust himself and his ship into the thick of the battle.
* * *
Allura found herself growing more and more disoriented the longer she fought. There were ships everywhere, some enemy and some ally. It was hard to keep track of them all, and Allura’s eyes were wide as she kept them glued to her viewscreen. She did her best to keep up with Lance, who was mercilessly using his Lion’s array of weaponry to take out the V’Ki warbirds and Doom ships. Allura did the same, managing to keep herself out of harm’s way as she attacked almost instinctively.
She had no idea where Keith was. Ever since he had issued their orders, they had never heard another word from him. She did know that Hunk and Pidge were doing OK and had managed to protect the Nzae-Kkar ships. And with Lance and herself helping the Guhren combat fighters, they managed to repel the Doom warships and even destroy one of them. Though she was unused to such a massive, chaotic attack, Allura slowly but surely learned how to handle herself and make more hits with her weapons than misses.
"Nice work, Princess," Lance spoke up to compliment her, "You picked that up real fast."
"Keith always said I was a quick study," Allura replied automatically. She immediately frowned. Why did Keith’s name always have to pop up into the foremost of her thoughts?
Fortunately, Lance thought nothing of it. He also didn’t seem to notice the embarrassed blush on her face, which was partially hidden behind her helmet.
"Looks like these Guhren ships can take care of themselves now," Lance said, "Let’s go see if we can help Keith beat up some V’Ki. I have a feeling he’s put himself into the middle of their ranks."
Lance’s remark struck Allura, and as she maneuvered her Lion to follow his, she wondered what Keith’s involvement with the V’Ki was. She had heard snatched conversations and short remarks about Keith and the enemy race, and from what she could tell he had not had a good run-in with them. He had always seemed particularly grim whenever the V’Ki were mentioned, which prompted Allura to guess that something had happened to him that involved the V’Ki. She had no idea what.
Allura glanced down at the set of four small monitors that revealed the cockpits of the other four Lions. Lance, Hunk and Pidge could all be seen. Both Hunk and Pidge were preoccupied, as was Lance. Keith’s screen was blank, which meant he’d shut it off. She couldn’t imagine why, but began to realize that Keith’s feelings about the V’Ki were a bit more personal than she’d thought.
"Figures," Lance suddenly mumbled, his voice filled with a mix of aggravation and commiseration.
Allura pointed her Lion in the direction Lance was facing and took in the sight before her. She could barely make out the Black Lion amidst the flurry of V’Ki warbirds. She flinched when one of the smaller ships suddenly exploded right in front of Keith’s Lion. She relaxed moments later when the fire dissipated and Black Lion resumed its charge through the ranks of enemy ships. Keith’s flying seemed almost as reckless as that of the V’Ki pilots. Allura had never seen him so lost in a battle before.
"What’s he doing?" she asked out loud, not really expecting an answer.
"What he always does when he fights the V’Ki," Lance told her bluntly, "Steals all the fun for himself."
Allura looked sharply at Lance, but the wisecracking pilot was giving her no answers from his expression. His face was uncharacteristically grim as he watched Keith’s battle. As she turned back, she could see that Keith was more than a little outnumbered. The V’Ki warbirds were flocking around him like flies. But then Allura noticed the other ship, and recognized it as a Terran fighter. Without even being told, Allura knew exactly who was piloting that ship. With a lump in her throat she watched as the Terran ship and the Black Lion fought together against the V’Ki onslaught.
"Let’s boogie!" Lance exclaimed.
He moved his Lion to join the Black Lion, and Allura moved to do the same.
"Be careful, Princess," Lance warned her, "These V’Ki are a lot tougher than the Doom fighters. And a lot more agile. It could be a bit tricky."
"I’m all right, Lance," she responded quickly, determined to go help Keith.
Lance appeared to be about to say something else, but seemed to think better of it and closed his mouth. Then, setting his lips in a grim line, he pushed his Lion into the fray, lasers already firing. Allura activated her own lasers and entered the battle, right behind him all the way.
Almost immediately she found Lance’s warning to be credible. The V’Ki were indeed very skilled pilots, and their ships, though much smaller than the Lions, proved very quick and difficult to hit. She soon made quick calculations, estimating that out of every ten to fifteen shots she got out, she managed to hit a target maybe once or twice. Her confidence was slowly falling as she began to lose ground to the V’Ki. Only with Lance’s help did she keep from getting shot down.
Allura jerked her head to her monitors at the sound of Keith’s voice, her heart wrenching at the sound of him yelling out another woman’s name. On her viewscreen she could see small wisps of smoke coming out of Hannah’s V-Wing, which meant she’d been hit. Allura felt both disappointment and relief when she saw that the Terran ship was still in control. Seconds later, Keith’s helmeted visage reappeared on her small monitor, signaling he had re-activated communications on his ship.
"Are you all right, Hannah?" she heard him ask.
"I’m OK, Keith," Hannah replied.
Allura heard nothing more from Keith’s girlfriend. Even if Hannah had spoken again, Allura wasn’t sure if she would have heard. A part of her had switched off as soon as she heard Keith’s voice when he spoke to Hannah. It had contained both concern and affection. And she hadn’t missed his sigh of relief when Hannah told him she was fine.
"Hey, Cap," Lance spoke up, "Looks like you guys could use some help."
"Lance," Keith spoke up, as if just realizing his presence, "What are you doing bringing the Princess into a skirmish like this?"
"Relax, bro," Lance said coolly, "Allura’s holding her own."
Keith ignored him and set his sights on the Princess. Allura returned his look with regal calm.
"Princess," he told her shortly, "Disengage now."
"I mean it, Princess," he told her, his voice firm and unyielding, "Disengage from the battle and go join Hunk and Pidge."
"That’s an order!"
Allura clenched her teeth and glared at him. But Keith just ignored her and continued with the battle, obviously taking it for granted she would obey his command. Unfortunately, with things the way they were at the moment, Allura was not really in the mood to be babied by him. In fact, for the first time as far as she could remember, she actually felt angry with her Voltron captain.
Instead of adhering to Keith’s demands and joining Hunk and Pidge, Allura remained engaged with the V’Ki and began to get very aggressive, venting out all her anger and jealousy on the unsuspecting enemies. With the image of Keith and Hannah flashing before her, Allura showed no mercy as she fired lasers, missiles, and even used her Lion’s Rip Claw and Energy Weapon attacks, getting closer and closer to the enemy ships and closer and closer to danger.
"Allura!" Keith spoke up sharply, "What are you doing?"
Allura ignored him. Gripping her manual controls tightly, Allura sunk her Lion’s sharp teeth into one of the V’Ki ships and crushed the entire rear end, destroying the ship. With a toss of Blue Lion’s head, she thrust the damaged ship away to watch it collide into one of its teammates, completely obliterating both crafts. She watched the destruction and then, not yet satisfied, maneuvered her Lion in for another attack.
"What the hell…?"
She could hear Lance’s puzzled voice in her helmet-com, but paid it no mind. She noticed a group of V’Ki nearby and launched herself at them.
"Princess!" Keith commanded harshly, "Stop it, now!"
She didn’t stop. She just kept going. And only too late did she realize she was in trouble. The V’Ki warbirds she was so intent on taking on all by herself just sat and waited for her eagerly. She could barely hear Keith’s muffled curse as he moved in to come to her rescue.
She wasn’t really sure what she had been planning on doing once she reached the enemy ships. Since they were all more or less immobile, she figured they’d be easy targets. But as she drew closer, the cluster of warbirds suddenly separated and moved to surround her. With a sinking feeling, Allura instantly regretted her rash decision. She knew right away that she wouldn’t be able to get out of range of the V’Ki’s weapons without getting hit, but she attempted to swing right through them.
Her spur-of-the-moment plan failed, not to any real surprise. The V’Ki, who were by now surrounding her on all sides, opened fire and managed to strike the Blue Lion, sending Allura bouncing around in her seat, her hands slipping from her control levers. The Blue Lion lost equilibrium as much as its pilot, its momentum sending it hurling toward a stationary Alliance ship. As Allura desperately fought with the controls, she knew she wouldn’t be able to regain control of her Lion in time to avoid the impact.
Allura was suddenly jerked back in her seat. Something had impacted her Lion, but it was too soon to be the fleet ship, and too soft to boot. At a glance at her viewscreen she recognized Black Lion. The larger lion ship had its claws gripping Allura’s ship, slowing it down so she could straighten herself and grab her controls. With a sigh of relief, Allura realized the danger had passed. But her relief lasted for only a short moment as the realization of what she’d done dawned on her.
She averted her gaze from the image of her commander, who was glaring at her irritably on the monitor. She knew right away that he was angry with her, and couldn’t blame him. Allura hoped her face didn’t appear quite as red as it felt.
"Return to the Castle immediately," Keith told her evenly.
Mutely, Allura nodded and turned her Lion around. She didn’t fire another shot as she made her way back to safety. Her body tense and threatening to break down on her, Allura guided her Lion back into her planet’s atmosphere and to its resting-place in the Castle moat. She vaguely recognized Coran’s voice as he contacted her to inquire about her early return, but made no response.
As soon as the Blue Lion was settled down on its haunches underneath the water, Allura removed the key, then slowly lifted off her helmet. Only then, when the monitors were blank and no one could hear her, did the Princess begin to weep in shame.
* * *
The battle lasted well into the afternoon, but eventually was terminated when the Doom ships and the V’Ki ships all retreated. Though the battle was won, the Alliance was still grim as they returned to the planet’s surface. They had suffered a few losses in the battle, something that sobered up the victors. But they were relieved that they could defend themselves against the sudden unexpected attack. The Drules and the V’Ki had outnumbered them, but the Alliance ships of varying planets had managed to push them back in a display of pure battle prowess.
Lance followed Keith, Hannah and the others back to Arus, splitting off at the last minute to steer toward the volcano that was Red Lion’s resting-place. He had remained silent for the most part, the seriousness of the situation keeping him from making his usual smart comments. With the mood he was in, Keith probably would have had him flogged for making the slightest peep. Not only was Keith upset over the attack, but also ever since the incident with the Princess he had been particularly incensed.
Lance himself was shocked that Allura would so blatantly disregard Keith’s commands. She had never disobeyed him in combat before in such a way, and had never gone and committed such a thoughtless, insane act as trying to take on six V’Ki ships all by herself. Lance knew that whatever had happened between her, Keith and Hannah probably had something to do with her actions, but that still didn’t give him an explanation.
Lance arrived back at Castle Control a short while later to find Keith, Coran, Hannah and Admiral Kelven already present. Hunk and Pidge arrived seconds later. For some reason, Allura was not there.
"Where’s the Princess?" he asked.
"I’m not sure," Coran replied, "She landed her Lion safely, but she hasn’t come back yet. I tried to reach her, but she’s been ignoring my attempts to communicate."
Lance cast a glance at Keith. The Voltron captain was looking more than a little irritated as he stood stiffly with his arms crossed, watching the control room’s main monitor that revealed an image of the Doom/V’Ki force stationed out in space. Lance knew what this attack was doing to his friend. He had hoped Keith would get over his near-obsession with the V’Ki, but one look at his face told Lance it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.
A noise behind him distracted Lance from his thoughts, and he turned to see Allura finally coming into the room. Her eyes were a bit puffy and her face a bit red, which Lance knew to be sure signs she had been crying. Lance instantly felt sorry for her for the berating he knew was coming.
As soon as Allura entered, both Keith and Coran converged on her, and Lance could tell she was doing her best to avoid both. Her eyes darted towards the exit, as if eager to escape.
"Princess—" Coran began.
That’s as far as he got before Keith stepped in.
"What the hell was that back there?" he demanded of her angrily, "I gave you an order to back off!"
Allura ignored him and kept walking. Keith grabbed her arm and turned her to face him.
"Princess," he told her sternly, "Why didn’t you get out when I told you to?"
Allura glanced up at him momentarily, hurt in her eyes, and Keith immediately relaxed his grip. Allura then backed away and hurried out of the room. Keith watched her go, frowning deeply. Lance followed his gaze, then walked up to his commander and spoke quietly, so the others would not hear.
"What’s goin’ on, Keith?" he asked, "What did you do to get Allura all upset?"
Keith glanced at him absently, then cast a fleeting glimpse at Hannah, a guilty look momentarily crossing his face. Lance looked over at Hannah, whose expression reflected Keith’s. It was then that he began to understand what was going on. He mentally kicked himself for not noticing sooner.
"We must call a meeting," the admiral spoke up, "The sooner the better."
Coran, who had been wearing a puzzled expression ever since Allura walked out, turned back to the Alliance chairman and nodded.
"Yes, of course," he agreed, "Right away."
"I’ll organize patrols on the edge of Arusian air space," Keith offered, stepping forward.
Admiral Kelven and Coran both nodded. Hannah went to step up beside Keith.
"I’ll help," she offered, "We’ll contact the Alliance fleet ships orbiting above and have them prepare for defensive measures."
"And I’ll contact the Garrison and have them send us some battleships for support," Kelven added, "If the Drule and V’Ki combined forces come back for another attack, it may prove more difficult."
"We always have Voltron," Pidge spoke up.
"Voltron won’t be enough," Keith told them, "The V’Ki warbirds and Doom ships are hard enough to defend against. But Zarkon and Lotor have Robeasts up their sleeves too. I’m actually surprised they didn’t launch one today."
"The commander’s right," Admiral Kelven agreed, hands clasped behind his back, "We’ll need reinforcements right away. Coran, is it possible to get a covert communication back to Terra?"
"Yes," he said, "Right this way."
Coran moved to help the Admiral, then stopped himself and turned to Keith.
"Captain," he addressed him, "While you’re at it, do you think you could designate someone to fetch the Princess? She will be needed if we are to hold a meeting later this afternoon."
Keith was about to reply when Lance stepped forward.
"I’d be happy to find the Princess," he volunteered.
Keith looked at him, then nodded. Making eye contact with his commander, Lance returned the nod, then walked out of Castle Control in search of the Princess.
* * *
He found her in her bedchambers. When he knocked, he received no reply. So, after yelling a warning, he opened her door and walked in slowly. Fortunately Nanny was away, or else he would have received quite a lecture. He was in trouble anyway if anyone, especially Keith or Coran, ever found out he entered the Princess’s chambers without permission. But, he conceded, it was for a good cause.
Allura stood on her balcony, her head lowered and her shoulders shaking. She was disheveled and still in her flight uniform, but even so, Lance thought she looked just as regal as ever. Knowing she was crying again, Lance went up to her and gently placed a hand on her shoulder. Allura flinched slightly at the touch, and let out a muffled sob. Then she wiped her eyes with her hands and turned her head to look at him, trying to control her emotions.
"I guess I really messed up, didn’t I?" she asked.
Lance grinned wryly.
"Only majorly," he agreed.
Allura let out a sad little sigh, then leaned her head on his shoulder like she’d done quite a few times before. It made Lance feel good that she would trust him enough to vent her feelings out on him and lean on him for support. He put his arm around her and gave her a squeeze.
"He hates me," she said. Immediately Lance knew who she was talking about.
"You know he doesn’t hate you," he told her, looking down at the top of her head.
"He’s never yelled at me like that before," she told him sadly.
Lance looked down at her and frowned. He realized that Allura was really disturbed about Keith being angry with her - more than he figured she would be. Of course, she didn’t understand exactly why Keith was so angry. There were underlying reasons that she probably had no idea existed. In order to save her some grieving, he decided to set her straight, at least a little.
"Look, Allura," he started hesitantly, "There’s something you don’t know about Keith. It’s not necessarily you he’s ticked off at."
Allura looked up at him with hopeful, curious eyes. Lance sighed.
"You see," he told her, "Keith’s had a few dealings with the V’Ki before. You might say they’re arch-enemies."
"I’ve heard some things suggesting that," she admitted, "What happened between him and the V’Ki?"
"It’s really rather complicated," he said, "and I really shouldn’t be saying anything. I mean, it’s his business. But I think you should know."
He looked down at her, making eye contact with her ocean-blues. She returned his look, ready to input whatever he had to tell her. Lance drew in a deep breath.
"The V’Ki were responsible for his parents’ deaths," he told her.
Her eyes widened slightly at this revelating news.
"It goes a bit deeper than that," he continued, "but that’s the basic gist. So you see, it’s nothing personal, him being mad at you. Every time he fights the V’Ki, he gets paranoid that anyone around he cares about will get hurt too. That’s why he yelled at you. He was just worried. And Keith doesn’t like to worry."
Allura swallowed and nodded.
"I didn’t know," she said quietly.
"Well, now you’ve been advised," he replied lightly, "I guess I should have warned you about it earlier. I learned a long time ago to just keep my mouth shut and follow orders when we get around the V’Ki."
Allura let out a small humorless laugh.
"I guess I really pushed it," she said, "If I’d known…"
She trailed off. If she’d known, she probably would have done the same thing anyway. But then again, Lance didn’t know that. And neither did Keith.
Lance gave her a reassuring smile.
"Don’t worry about it," he assured her, "I’m sure he’s gotten over it by now. He’ll give you a little lecture, maybe make you run a few laps. But no real harm done."
She returned his smile.
"Thank-you, Lance," she told him, giving him a short hug which he returned.
"Hey," he told her, "anytime you have troubles, just come to Doctor Lance."
Allura let out a small laugh, then took in a deep, cleansing breath. She let it out in a woosh, then glanced back out over the Castle moat to the forest beyond. She was fully grateful that today’s battle hadn’t descended to the surface, otherwise some of her people could have been either hurt or killed. After a short moment she turned back to Lance, who was gazing down at her thoughtfully.
"You should go talk to him," he told her.
Allura nodded. She definitely had to talk to him.
* * *
She came to him in the pilot’s lounge. Only an hour after Keith and Hannah had began their mission to beef up Arus’ defenses, he decided to take a moment to gather his thoughts in private. His mind was in a jumble. It had been more than three years since he’d last dealt with the treacherous V’Ki. He had managed to put them out of his mind since coming to Arus, with Zarkon, Lotor, and Hagar giving them so much trouble. But now that his two worst enemies were joining forces, he had double the reason to be upset.
Just as he had finally calmed himself down back to his natural state of rationale, he heard the door slide open behind him and soft footfalls coming slowly, almost hesitantly toward him. He knew instantly who it was. If not from her whispered breaths, if not from her flowery perfume, than from her very presence. He didn’t move from his still position by the window as she came up beside him. He kept his arms crossed and his gaze outside, waiting for her to say the first word.
"Keith," she began uncertainly, "I, uh…I’m…I’m sorry…"
"You could have gotten yourself killed," he told her bluntly, "Not to mention someone else."
He could hear her draw in her breath sharply, and instantly regretted sounding so harsh. He stole a glance at her. She looked truly remorseful. Instantly his resolve melted into putty.
"I know," she replied after a moment, "I know I was wrong. I know I did something really stupid. And I’m prepared to take any discipline you want to give me."
She waited, and he looked down. He didn’t answer her at first, and instead cast her another glimpse. She was staring down at her feet, her shoulders tense, her brows furrowed, waiting for him to dish out his punishment. He finally uncrossed his arms and turned to her, speaking gently.
"I don’t want to discipline you, Princess," he told her quietly.
She looked up at him in surprise. He gave her a small smile.
"Just promise me you won’t do something like that again," he asked her, "OK?"
She smiled up at him, all uneasiness vanquished.
"I promise," she told him sincerely.
He nodded to her cordially, then took a step away to leave. But he stopped himself, thinking better of it, and turned back to her. She looked up at him expectantly. He managed to appear slightly uncertain as he spoke.
"And I, um…I’m sorry too, Princess."
He turned abruptly and left, not waiting for her reaction.
* * *
On to Part Three