When Enemies Join Forces
They gathered together once again early the following morning, despite the danger of their two enemies hovering thousands of feet above. The Alliance was not going to let their two combined enemies intimidate them. They had decided that the evening before, in the meeting that had been held in response to the sudden attack. Since the Drules and V’Ki had been defeated, and the Garrison reinforcements were well on their way, Admiral Kelven thought it was safe enough to continue with the Alliance Assembly as long as they stayed on alert.
Keith sat poised in his Lion, ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice. No one knew better than he did that the V’Ki, not to mention Zarkon and Lotor, could choose to attack again at any minute. Neither enemy could be discouraged easily, and he knew they’d be back before the Alliance Assembly was over. It had been established that the entire purpose of the attack had been to derail the assembly proceedings and perhaps discourage any further meetings. Fortunately, the Alliance members were not so easily discouraged. Even the weaker members of the union were reinforced by the stronger ones - namely Terra and Gua-Dhon, not to mention Arus and its mighty protector, Voltron.
Keith had noticed that despite the levity of the situation, Allura was in a much better mood than she had been the day before, and she was much more receptive to him. He knew she had been angry with him, most likely because Hannah had told her about the Garrison’s request to bring him back. Hannah had admitted to him her conversation with Allura the night before when they’d had a long, badly needed talk. Keith had been annoyed Hannah had went and told Allura about the offer before he’d even had a chance to input the information, but like always he had forgiven her.
Keith had actually thought that perhaps Allura had been angry with him because of catching him with Hannah in his quarters. He thought she might have been jealous, but he had been wrong. It had been a wild optimism, anyway. He knew she didn’t care for him as more than just a friend, and he knew just as well that he shouldn’t either. In fact, he was glad her reaction was due to the Garrison’s offer. It made things easy.
Keith managed to pay attention to the meeting’s proceedings over the open communication line to his Lion while still keeping his mind on battle plans and possible maneuvers. He had learned a long time ago how to concentrate on two or more things at once. It had been very useful in previous combat when Keith had to formulate battle strategy while already engaged in a fight. Now he listened to the various speakers from different planets all over the known galaxies while keeping a close eye on his sensors for approaching enemy crafts. But as he was performing both of those duties, he was also counting in his head how many ways he could take out a V’Ki warbird with his Lion.
It had been decided that Keith, Lance, Hunk and Pidge would excuse themselves from that day’s assembly and instead take to their Lions to patrol the cluttered space above. Hannah and her team were also in the air, ready for a strike. Keith had made it clear in the meeting they had held the evening before that the V’Ki would most likely strike again during today’s meeting. The Alliance members present had agreed with him and allowed him to take the necessary precautions, which meant the Assembly would be short five members. They had decided to have Allura attend the meeting, since she was hostess, after all, and would only call on her assistance if absolutely needed. Which meant if Zarkon and Lotor decided to unleash one of their infamous Robeasts.
Keith guided his Lion effortlessly through the vacuum of space. Lance did the same alongside him, and the other two Lions were not far away. Hannah’s ship was also within range of Keith’s visual sensors, and he found himself glancing back to it occasionally. The past two days had been a mixture of emotions for Keith, something he was unused to nowadays. With both his old girlfriend and his old enemies coming back at the same time, it was almost too much for him to handle all at once. Keith wasn’t good with his emotions. Usually he just bottled them up inside and didn’t let them control him. But sometimes they proved too stubborn and broke through, as they had the day before in the battle with the V’Ki and the Drules.
"You look like you’re in a whole other galaxy," Lance observed.
Keith glanced down at the monitor to Red Lion. He could see his old friend smirking at him underneath his helmet and wondered what Lance had on him this time. Of course, he knew Lance wasn’t blind. He’d most likely picked up on the tension between him and the two women the day before. Lance was good at that sort of thing. It always seemed to work to his advantage. When Keith and Hannah had had their first fight years ago, Lance had been right there to needle Keith shamelessly. From the look on his face, Keith could tell Lance would be giving him little mercy this time around.
"Troubles?" Lance continued after Keith failed to respond.
"You’re asking me if we have troubles?" Keith asked, "Were you here yesterday?"
"Yeah, yeah," he said, "I’m not talking about the enemy. I’m talking about allies. Two particular allies."
Keith inwardly groaned. He really did not want to discuss this right now. Besides, Allura was about to speak at the assembly, and he didn’t want to miss it fending off Lance’s annoying little inquiries.
"There’s nothing going on, Lance," Keith told him firmly.
The look on the other man’s face told Keith he hadn’t been very convincing.
"Don’t think I didn’t pick up on the vibes at yesterday’s meeting," Lance told him, "Something happened between you and Hannah that made Allura angry. Angry enough to go haywire in yesterday’s battle."
Keith sighed. He may as well come out with it. Making sure their com-line was secure, he finally gave in.
"OK," he acceded, "something did happen. Apparently Vice Admiral Brant is planning to ask me to come back to the Garrison to take a command. They’re also offering a promotion. Hannah mentioned it to Allura prematurely, and without my knowing. That’s why the Princess was mad."
Lance frowned. That had obviously not been the explanation he’d been expecting, but he was disturbed nonetheless.
"Are you considering it?" he asked, unnatural worry lines creasing his brow.
Keith regarded his friend with some amusement.
"I didn’t know you cared so much," he stated with a ghost of a smile.
Lance recovered quickly and threw his friend a cocky grin.
"Yeah, well," he quipped, "I’d just hate to have to spend all the trouble breaking in a new commander."
Keith grinned. He knew Lance cared, just as Keith cared for his nosey friend. The two of them had been together ever since they were made bunkmates at Junior Space Academy more than twelve years ago. There was little the two men didn’t know about each other. Sometimes it was convenient. Other times, more often for Keith, it was not. But as he regarded his grinning friend, Keith knew Lance wasn’t really worried. Lance knew that Keith wouldn’t leave Arus without first defeating Zarkon. So when Keith told Lance his decision, he knew it was only a formality.
"I already told Hannah I wasn’t going to accept," he told Lance, "At least not yet. That’s why she was angry the other day."
"Yeah, you sure know how to deal with women, don’t you, Pal?" Lance said jokingly.
Keith was about to relax, thinking the inquisition was over, when he flickered his eyes to Lance’s face. With a sinking feeling he saw that Lance was regarding him with an overly thoughtful expression. That was never good.
"Are you sure that’s it?" he asked, stroking his chin.
Keith turned away and shifted in his seat, wishing he could just shut off the communication line with Red Lion. But he couldn’t.
"Red Lion to Keith!" Lance spoke up a moment later, "Is that a yes, or a no?"
"I’m sure," Keith replied through clenched teeth, even though he knew he was lying.
"And I’m sure you’re sure," Lance responded with a touch of sarcasm.
Keith glared out into the empty space before him. He really wanted this conversation to end. He almost hoped—
"Keith!" Pidge spoke up, "I’m picking up a large mass moving in our direction. It’s coming from the last known coordinates of the V’Ki and Doom forces."
"Alert the others down below," Keith told him.
"Aye, Captain," the young pilot replied.
Keith then opened communications to all of the allied ships up in space.
"All Alliance defense squadrons, invasion force has been detected," he told them all, "All ships prepare for battle. Terran V-Wing Squadron, Gua-Dhon Hhar Squadron, Voltron team, move to intercept. All other ships, fall behind."
They all obeyed his command. Because of both his rank and experience, and the fact that he was the Voltron Captain, Keith had been put in charge of the defense force, and Hannah had been nominated his temporary second in command. Lance had not objected.
Forming a unified front, the four Voltron Lions, six Terran fighters, and twelve Gua-Dhon fighters positioned themselves to converge on the incoming attack fleet. Other Alliance ships brought up the rear. Keith knew they would still be outnumbered, especially since the Garrison’s reinforcements wouldn’t be arriving until later that day, but he trusted in the capabilities of the Alliance’s three main attack groups. Of course he had seen his own team in action many times, and he knew Hannah to be a great pilot. He had seen her in action before. In fact, he had helped her back at the Academy.
As for the Gua-Dhon’s, Keith knew them to be excellent pilots as well. Their universal battle prowess and advanced intellect was widely known to all, making them awesome warriors as well as adept scientists. In fact, two of the Terran squadron pilots were Gua-Dhon in origin. Keith held a lot of respect for the Gua-Dhon race, regardless of the fact some of their blood traveled through his veins. The superior race was key in helping Terra pave the way for intergalactic peace, as well as providing them with new advanced technology to use for both defense and attacks.
Keith glanced to his right at the Gua’Dhon fighters as they were seconds away from engaging with the enemies. The ships were smaller and less bulky than the Terran fighters, but quicker and more agile, much like the V’Ki fighters in fact. Keith was glad to have them on their side.
Once again using manual control, Keith led his team into the onslaught of V’Ki warbirds and Doom ships, lasers blasting, Lion roaring. The space around them suddenly erupted in a flurry of laser fire and was soon followed by the occasional explosion of a destroyed ship. Every time that occurred, Keith prayed it was an enemy ship and not one of their own.
The battle proceeded much like it had the day before. On the one hand, the Alliance ships were much better prepared for the attack and therefore more on top of their fighting. On the other hand, the V’Ki and the Drules had also reformulated their own attack strategies to correct problems that had occurred the day before. Therefore neither side entered into battle with an obvious advantage.
Every once in a while, Keith heard his teammates talking out loud during the battle, reminding him they were still there and doing OK. Lance would really get into it, whooping and shouting and making jokes at the enemies. Pidge would grunt and mutter under his breath, things like "Take that!" and "Aha!". Hunk just laughed out loud in triumph whenever he managed to hit one of the enemy ships, and would sometimes accompany his firing with words such as "Eat this, meatball!" or "Gotcha!".
Keith himself was a silent fighter. He spoke no words aloud except to instruct his team and occasionally communicate with the other squadrons. He made a special point to keep an eye on how Hannah was faring. It had been habit ever since they were back at the Academy, a habit that was impossible to shake. He had always been protective of her and kept an eye on her in battle. Deep down he knew she appreciated it, even though she wouldn’t admit it.
Keith concentrated on the V’Ki warbirds, since they were the most difficult of the bunch to take out. Not only that, Keith had other reasons for making them his primary target. Though he hated the Drules, he hated the V’Ki even more. They had caused not only him but countless others intolerable pain and suffering, and he made it a point to keep as many of them as possible from hurting another soul. It was the least he could do.
Keith didn’t know exactly how long it had been since the battle began when he noticed Red Lion fly up beside him. He only knew he had been able to take out at least an entire V’Ki squadron single-handedly, and was eager to start on a second. Lance’s voice in his ear, however, diverted him from his intentions.
"Keith, buddy," he said, "Sorry to distract you from your prey, but I have a little proposition."
"Better make it quick and important," Keith advised shortly.
Lance nodded, holding back his usual barb.
"I just happened to notice a Drule base ship over yonder," Lance told him, "If we could take that out, then our foulsome foes would probably have to call off their little attack earlier than planned. I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get a little hungry."
Keith considered. He knew Lance was right. In fact, he had been considering the same thing. He had just been so preoccupied with destroying the V’Ki that he hadn’t actually made a move to put his newly birthed plan into motion.
"Good idea, Lance," he agreed, "Better to send them packing now than risk anyone else getting hurt in the long run. The two of us will make a sweep at that base ship and put it out of commission. That’ll turn the tides in our favor."
Lance smiled broadly.
"Yeah!" he exclaimed, "That’s what I’m talkin’ about! Time to show those gruesome morons what real pilots are made of!"
Shaking his head, Keith flew alongside Lance as they made their way through the melee toward the base ship, being careful not to alert the enemies to their intentions too early.
"Lance," Keith commanded, "Skelter Maneuver 7-3!"
"Skelter Maneuver 7-3 it is!" Lance replied enthusiastically.
Black and Red Lions came as close to the Drule base ship as possible without disengaging from the battle. After feigning a run at a Drule command ship, the two Lions activated their boosters and took off straight for the scarcely protected base ship. Once the enemy was privy to the sudden surprise attack, a group of Drule attack ships broke off from the main battle to chase after the two Lions, who were by now halfway to the base ship.
As soon as the two Lions were within range, the base ship fired its own lasers to fend them off. Keith and Lance then had to take evasive maneuvers, but they had expected that and had little difficulty. Of course, the added attack fire coming from the pursuing ships behind them made things a bit trickier. But the two Garrison officers managed to reach the large Drule ship without being hit.
Now that they were so close to the base ship, the Drule ships coming after them had to cease their barrage of fire for fear of hitting their own vessel. This gave the two Voltron pilots a short break and let them concentrate on putting their maneuver into effect. They flew close to the base ship’s hull, to keep both their target and the Drule ships from outright attacking them. They were not, however, out in the clear, as the smaller ships began to stick to their rears and get off shots when they could.
Though it took only a few seconds, it seemed like longer as the two Lions made their way to the rear of the big ship toward the main engines, which were at the moment inactive. Keith and Lance, having worked together for so long, did not even need to consult with one another as they proceeded with their maneuver. They keenly anticipated each other's moves and knew exactly what they had to do. Before the stalking Drule ships could stop them, Black Lion and Red Lion fired their missiles directly into the base ship’s engines.
"Here come the fireworks!" Lance exclaimed in glee as the two Lions pulled away.
The difficult shots Keith and Lance had made to the base ship’s engines proved true, and the impact caused a chain reaction through the ship. Once the explosion reached the ship’s fuel storage area, the Drule ship was toast. Keith and Lance watched on their viewscreens as the entire base ship began to erupt into a huge ball of fire. Lance whooped in triumph, and Keith looked on passively.
"Nice shooting, guys!" Pidge spoke up once the others noticed the explosion.
"Yeah!" Hunk enthused, "That’ll teach those guys to mess with us!"
"Show-offs!" Hannah accused good-naturedly.
"And proud of it!" Lance responded quickly, his expression smug.
"We’re still not in the clear yet," Keith reminded them, "Let’s get back to work, Lance."
"Keith, you are such a killjoy," Lance told him frankly.
"He just knows enough not to count all his chicks before they’re hatched," Pidge piped up in defense of their leader.
Lance and Keith re-engaged with the Drule and V’Ki warbirds. Within moments they found that their enemies had been dispirited by the destruction of their base ship, and were soon pulling out of the fight. With his team hooting for joy, Keith watched as their foes beat a hasty retreat.
"We did it!" Hunk exclaimed.
"Not yet," Keith warned them.
"What’s up, Cap?" Lance asked.
Keith kept his eyes glued to his sensors.
"Looks like Zarkon decided to send us a farewell present," he replied grimly.
* * *
Allura sat stiffly in her chair inside the Council Chamber, forcing herself to concentrate on the business at hand. But it was hard, knowing that a battle waged just above. She could tell the others in the room were also feeling uncomfortable, knowing their people were possibly getting themselves killed. But they had to resume the meeting, for their sakes and for the sakes of all the planets in the Alliance. They were not about to let the Drules and the V’Ki get the best of them.
She wanted to be up there with them. That was what Allura had been thinking ever since they learned that the battle had commenced. She wanted to run to her Lion right now and help her teammates fight their enemies, but she knew she could not. Even if she had not been the official hostess of the Alliance Assembly, her duty as ruler of Arus would have obliged her to attend the meeting anyway. She would not be called into battle unless Voltron was absolutely needed.
However, she couldn’t help but worry. She performed her functions at the Assembly almost instinctively, speaking monotonously and absently following the agenda before her. Hours passed with little word on the situation above, and Allura, not to mention the others in the room, was beginning to wonder how her friends were faring and if they were able to fend off the attack. Unfortunately, very few transmissions from those above were sent down to those at the assembly. The last they’d heard, the battle was still very heavy, with neither side gaining the advantage.
Allura glanced down at the small signal receiver resting on her lap for what must have been the hundredth time that day. Keith had left it with her in order to alert her when they needed her help without exciting the members of the assembly. So far it had remained inactive. But Allura knew that at any minute it could start blinking, signaling she was needed. Part of her was afraid it would go off, because that would mean that they were having trouble fighting up in space. But a bigger part of her hoped it would be activated so she could see for herself that her friends were all right.
The chancellor of the planet Yuoalda stood up to speak just then, momentarily capturing Allura's attention. But as he began to drone on about matters of state that seemed so trivial in light of their current situation, the Princess' attention was soon diverted from the tiresome being. She cast a glance at Coran, who gave her an almost imperceptible grin that was meant to reassure her. She returned his smile wearily, then once again looked absently down at the receiver, only to find it winking at her in a steady, staccato rhythm.
* * *
The Princess wasted no time. Coran had looked none too happy when she told him she had to leave to help her friends, but he graciously stood in for her during the meeting while she left. Allura had received a few startled stares when she'd left the Council Chamber, including one from the Admiral himself, but she ignored them all. Her friends needed her now and that was what mattered.
She quickly changed into her flight uniform before entering the cockpit of Blue Lion and launching it out into the air. She then flew her ship straight up and out of Arus' atmosphere into the space above, only to find herself in the middle of a melee. There were ships everywhere, buzzing around her left and right. Most of them were allies that she recognized, some were not. She did manage to pick out the V'Ki warbirds that were still engaging with the Alliance forces. But she could not see any of her teammates. She quickly flicked on the individual monitors to the other Lions, and was relieved to see all four familiar faces pop up on the screens.
"Where are you guys?" she asked them.
"Is that you, Princess?" Lance asked, "Come to join the fun, huh?"
"This doesn't look like fun to me," she observed wryly.
She looked closer at her friends, and noticed that they all appeared to be rather preoccupied. She could only guess that they were engaged in battle, but with whom she didn't know.
"Tell me how to get to you," she told them impatiently. She wanted to help.
"I've sent someone to come get you, Princess," Keith told her, his face set in a deep frown of concentration.
"Yeah, we're kinda busy right now," Lance added, "Zarkon decided to unleash one of his little pets, who incidentally likes the taste of Lion meat."
"We're going to have to concentrate on this guy for a while," Keith spoke up again, "So we'll have to cut down communications for the time being. Your escort should reach you shortly."
"Escort?" she repeated.
She received no answer, as all four screens simultaneously went blank, signaling that they had cut communications. Allura sighed impatiently, then monitored her sensors for her escort, whoever he may be. As she waited, Allura kept her weapons at the ready in case any of the V'Ki ships decided to come just a bit too close.
Allura immediately straightened in her seat at the familiar voice.
"Hannah?" she replied.
"I'm here to take you to the others," Hannah continued.
At that moment Allura could see the Terran V-Wing popping out through the mess of battling ships to join her. Allura instantly gritted her teeth. Why did Keith have to send her, of all people? Embarrassed at having to be escorted by none other than Keith's love, Allura willed herself to remain calm and not let it affect her judgement. She had a job to do, after all. This was no time to let things get personal.
"Shall we go?" Hannah asked.
The Terran fighter moved away without waiting for Allura to respond. Allura mutely guided her Lion to follow Hannah's ship. The two of them skirted the battle and stayed out of the enemy's line of fire.
"We've managed to push away the Drule forces," Hannah spoke up as they flew, "thanks to Keith and Lance. Of course the V'Ki won't give up until the last minute, but I'm confident we'll be able to defeat them as well. With the Drules out of the picture and our defense forces taking care of the V'Ki warbirds, all we really have to worry about now is that Robeast."
Allura nodded at the report, glad that their side was winning.
"What was that about Keith and Lance?" she asked.
She could hear Hannah chuckle.
"They finally decided to take out that Drulian base ship," she told her, "As soon as that was destroyed, the Drule forces were dispirited and retreated."
Allura herself smiled. Trust Lance and Keith to steal the show.
"How are the boys doing now?" she asked.
Hannah hesitated on the other end.
"They're holding their own," Hannah replied after a moment, "I'm not really sure though. Keith doesn't tell me much about how he's doing in battle."
Allura had to hold back a laugh at that.
"That doesn't surprise me," she said shortly.
"Nor I," Hannah agreed, "He's always been a rather quiet fighter. Me, I'm just the opposite."
Allura was about to speak up her similarity, but stopped short. Was she trying to make friends with Hannah?
A skirmish nearby caught the women's attention, and their conversation was halted. A small Alliance fighter, one of the weaker crafts, was being chased by three V'Ki warbirds. They were coming directly at Allura and Hannah.
"We have to help him," Hannah spoke up immediately, moving her ship to intercept, "You take the left, I'll take the right."
Allura did the same, momentarily startled that Hannah would actually invite her to help. But without any further pondering, Allura and Hannah split apart and took either side of the allied craft, each intending to take out one of the V'Ki ships. Allura then fired her Lion's eye lasers for the first time in that day's battle, aiming for the V'Ki. For some reason, the V'Ki was preoccupied and did not see the Blue Lion plunging in for the attack until it was too late. Allura struck her target with deadly accuracy, and moments later the warbird exploded into space dust.
When she turned her ship around, Allura could see that Hannah had also succeeded in taking out the other V'Ki fighter, which meant there was one more left still chasing the allied craft. But this proved to even things out, as their comrade immediately turned his ship around to attack the V'Ki. The V'Ki pilot, knowing he was now outnumbered, attempted to retreat, but was caught in between Allura and Hannah's ships and the allied ship. Moments later the third V'Ki warbird was destroyed. The allied ship hit his boosters as he pulled away in appreciation for their assistance.
"Nice work, your Highness," Hannah spoke up.
Allura smiled despite herself.
"Please, call me Allura," she told the Garrison pilot decisively, then added, "And you're not too bad yourself."
The two ships then resumed their short journey to rejoin the Princess' teammates, flying side-by-side. Within a matter of seconds Allura could make out the raging battle before her, and finally laid her eyes on the four other Lions. They were fighting another one of Zarkon and Hagar's Robeasts, and it appeared as if the Robeast was winning. Almost as soon as they were in visual range, the others re-activated communications with the Blue Lion. Now Allura could see their helmeted faces once again.
"It's about time you got here, Princess," Lance told her teasingly, "What took you so long? Did you two ladies take a catnap along the way?"
"We, uh, had a little situation," Allura replied evasively.
Immediately Keith diverted his attention to glance at her inquiringly.
"What kind of situation?" he demanded.
"Relax, Keith," Hannah told him knowingly, "We're here safe and sound. Now why don't you concentrate on getting rid of that Robeast so we can finally win this battle?"
Keith hesitated, then nodded grudgingly. Just as he opened his mouth to issue an order, they all heard Pidge's startled yell pierce their helmets. They all focused their attention on the Robeast, which held Green Lion between its powerful jaws and was biting down hard. Yellow Lion swooped in to try to rescue the other Lion, but was brushed aside almost like an annoying insect by one of the monster's four long appendages.
"All right, team," Keith told the others, "First we free Pidge, then we form Voltron. Lance, Princess, Hunk - Tail Laser attack. Aim for the Robeast's head!"
The four Lions all aimed and fired at the Robeast simultaneously, striking its head from different angles. The Robeast roared and loosened its grip on Green Lion, giving Pidge the chance to escape. Once their little teammate was free, the other four pilots ceased their firing. Allura barely noticed as Hannah's ship pulled away to rejoin her own teammates in battle.
"All right, guys," Keith spoke up as they regrouped, "Let's put this guy away and end this. Get ready to form Voltron! Activate interlock…Dynatherms connected…Infracells are up…And megathrusters are…go!"
Allura set the Blue Lion's transformation sequence into motion, retracting her legs and positioning herself next to Yellow Lion and underneath Black Lion. As Keith continued with the audio commands for the transformation sequence, Allura and the others complied. Soon she found herself becoming the left leg of the awesome defender, Voltron. Once the mighty robot was complete, Voltron turned around to face its foe, which had been tailing them throughout the entire episode.
"Lion Head Attack!" Keith commanded.
Instantly Allura released the head of her Blue Lion and sent it careening at the Robeast, which jerked back in response. Moments later the Lion heads all returned and settled back into place.
"What say we send this guy back to Zarkon - in about a hundred different pieces?" Keith asked them, his expression blank.
"I say, what are we waiting for?" Lance replied quickly.
"Let's toast this guy!" Hunk agreed enthusiastically.
"Form Blazing Sword!" Keith commanded, delaying the kill no further.
Allura looked on excitedly as the robot warrior she was now a part of brought its hands together to form the powerful weapon and wield it at the Robeast. Their robotic enemy attacked them brainlessly, despite the dangers of the mighty sword, and was rewarded with a stab to the belly. Roaring helplessly, the Robeast convulsed, then exploded into countless tiny pieces. Voltron backed off, and the pilots watched their enemy's toy become one with the space around them.
"That should do it!" Pidge spoke up in satisfaction.
"They gotta back down now," Hunk agreed.
"If only the V'Ki were so sensible," Lance said, shaking his head.
"Let's separate and go join the others," Keith ordered, "They may need our help."
As always, Allura felt the odd sense of loss when the five Lions disassembled the warrior Voltron and became separate entities once again. The power of her one Lion did not compare to that of the five joined together, and she always hated to break the connection. But what must be done, must be done. Following orders, she joined the other four Lions as they made their way back to the main skirmish.
"Looks like they've got things pretty much under control," Lance commented.
It was true. Though the V'Ki pilots were still relentless in their attacks, they were by now outnumbered with no chance of a victory. Among the Alliance ships that were successfully fending them off was Hannah in her V-Wing, flying right in the thick of the battle and taking out any V'Ki that got in her sights. Pidge and Hunk both cheered at their comrades.
"Hey, Keith," Pidge spoke up, "Looks like your girlfriend is kicking their butts!"
Allura looked down at the mention of the word "girlfriend" and sighed. She had been feeling pretty good before that. But then Keith's reaction to Pidge's outburst surprised her.
"She's not my girlfriend, Pidge," he replied quietly.
Allura looked up at him sharply. No emotions played over his impassive face. He seemed not to be concerned about the subject, as if it were of little importance. What did he mean by that? Allura wondered. Could it mean that he and Hannah are really just friends? Is he hiding something? Allura couldn't decide, and Keith's poker face offered no explanation. She noticed that Lance was also staring strangely at Keith, but he wore a half-grin on his face that could mean anything.
"I think you'd better get back to the Assembly, Princess," Keith advised her shortly, "We can handle it from here on in."
"Are you sure?" she asked. She was reluctant to leave them - not because she thought they were sending her away, but because she enjoyed fighting with them.
"Positive," Keith replied with the hint of a grin on his face, "I'm sure Coran's doing a fine job, but he's no Princess. They need you down there."
Smiling in pleasure, Allura nodded and silently veered away from the others to return to her planet.
* * *
Five days later, the Alliance Assembly came to an end with the promise of another prosperous year. The Drules and the V'Ki had not been heard from again after their second attack, so the remaining assembly meetings had been conducted under relative calm, although patrols were made regularly around Arusian airspace. This particular Alliance Assembly heralded a precedent, since no other assembly had been held under such duress as an all-out attack by two enemy forces. Victory against the Drules and V'Ki was credited in most part to the Terrans, the Guanese, and the Voltron Force.
Everyone was well-pleased when the 47th Galaxy Alliance Assembly adjourned and all the representatives from various parts of the known galaxies gathered together in the Grand Hall of the Castle of Lions for a celebration both for the success of the assembly and for the victory against their enemies.
Allura wore one of her best gowns as she mingled in and among the guests at the celebration, making pretty conversation with all of the important members of either royalty or government from alien planets. She normally found situations such as this dull and tiresome, but in the present case she was so thrilled to have both hosted the Assembly and helped win the battle that the fact that the conversations disinterested her did not matter.
Keith stayed at her elbow for the most part during the little gala. Coran had separated from her long ago to pursue his own dialogues, leaving her in the care of the Voltron captain. Allura did not mind in the least, and Keith didn't seem bothered by the fact. He was even smiling occasionally as he led her around, the two of them stealing conversation together whenever they could.
"Can we take a short break?" Allura asked Keith in a weary tone after a long and rather dry chat with the Emperor of Rei.
Keith glanced down at her and grinned.
"Ears getting a bit tired?" he asked.
"I just want to not have to listen to anything about politics for at least five minutes," she told him.
Keith chuckled and directed her to a more or less private corner where they could catch their breath and escape from any meandering dignitaries. Allura kept her hand resting on Keith's arm as they stood, side-by-side, slightly turned toward one another. Allura was thankful for finally being able to break free from everyone else. It was the first time she and Keith had been more or less alone, and she had wanted to speak with him about a certain subject for quite some time now.
"Keith," she began slowly, "I spoke to Hannah a few days ago, before the entire Drule-V'Ki fiasco. She had a few things to say."
"Oh?" he asked, somewhat guardedly.
Allura nodded, not quite sure how to phrase herself.
"She mentioned the Garrison, and her father, General Brant," she continued, not meeting his gaze, "She told me they wanted you to go back to take a different command and receive promotion."
She glanced up at him hesitantly. Keith was staring at some indeterminate object behind her, seemingly lost in thought. He made no move to respond. Allura drew in a deep breath before she continued.
"I…I just wanted to say," she told him with some difficulty, "that if you do decide to accept the offer, then I'll understand. Neither Coran, nor I, nor any of my people will hold it against you if you decide to leave."
He suddenly looked down at her and smiled warmly. He put his free hand over hers as he spoke.
"Thank-you, Princess," he told her sincerely, "I know you understand. I appreciate it a lot."
She tried to smile, but couldn't quite bring herself to it. She had noticed how he did not answer the question that was haunting her thoughts, and was more than a little irritated. But before she could pursue the matter further, the Terran Admiral interrupted them.
"Your Highness," he greeted her, bowing slightly. He then turned to Keith and nodded. "Commander."
"Admiral," Keith said, returning the inclination.
Admiral Kelven turned to Allura.
"Do you mind if I steal him for a few moments, Your Highness?" he asked apologetically.
Allura nodded and forced herself to smile.
"Of course," she replied, knowing very well why he wanted to speak to Keith and wishing she could have said no.
"Thank-you," Kelven replied.
Keith gently pulled away from Allura's grasp, and she let him go, watching closely as the two men strolled away and out of earshot. As Allura watched their retreating backs, she wondered desperately what Keith's answer would be to the question he was now being asked. She did not notice the newcomer until she spoke up.
Startled, Allura turned her head to see Hannah standing right beside her, a small grin on her lovely face. Allura gave her a small, half-hearted smile in return.
"Hannah," she replied politely.
"I just want to say that was great flying out there the other day," Hannah told her with a straight face, "For a Princess, you're not that bad."
This made Allura smile, a real smile, and she shook her head when she replied.
"I'm not nearly as good as you and the boys," she said modestly.
"It takes a lot of practice," she agreed, "And it's not easy, flying with that bunch."
"They're fun to be with," Allura replied.
"They can be," Hannah said, "Remind me to tell you a few horror stories of Keith and Lance when we have the time."
"Were they really that bad?" Allura asked curiously.
Hannah rolled her eyes.
"You have no idea," she told her, "The two of them used to drive me crazy. Keith was so over-protective, and Lance, well, I'm sure you know Lance."
Allura smiled and nodded. She suddenly felt a sort of bond between her and the Terran pilot who had shared so much of her friends' lives before Allura herself had even known they existed.
"Um, listen," Hannah began hesitantly, "I mentioned a few things to you before, that I probably shouldn’t of. In fact, that I had no right speaking of. About Keith."
Allura instantly knew what she was speaking of, and listened closely as Hannah went on.
"I'd just like to apologize," Hannah told her sincerely, "To tell you the truth, I was feeling a little jealous."
"Jealous?" Allura asked in surprise.
Hannah nodded with embarrassment.
"I guess I blamed you for keeping Keith away from Terra for so long, even though I know it was never really your fault," Hannah admitted, "But I had to blame somebody. So I chose you, being the leader of Arus and all. I care a great deal about Keith, and I really wanted him to come back."
Allura raised her eyebrows and looked at her intently.
"You mean he's not?" she asked hopefully.
Hannah shook her head sadly.
"He didn't even need to think twice," she told her, "He really loves it here. And he cares a great deal for you and your people. I realize now that it was unfair to pressure him to leave."
Allura tried not to appear too pleased at this wonderful news, but her heart couldn’t help but beat faster in joy. But then, one look on Hannah's sad face brought Allura back to reality and made her realize just how much Hannah did love Keith. It made her feel bad, in a way, opting against the Terran woman all this time. Meanwhile Hannah was suffering.
"What about you and Keith?" she asked tentatively.
Hannah gave her another sad little smile.
"Keith and I are just friends," she replied, her voice betraying her feelings.
Allura didn't know whether to feel happy or sad at this news. She laid a sympathetic hand on Hannah's shoulder. Hannah gave her a warm smile.
"I guess that means you knew," she said.
"Lance told me," she admitted.
"You win some, you lose some," she said philosophically.
Allura smiled, glad Hannah wasn't taking it so bad. If the tables had been turned, Allura wasn't sure whether or not she would have been able to cope.
"Well, if it isn't two of the most beautiful ladies in the universe!"
The two women turned at the familiar voice to see Lance sauntering up to them, a cocky grin on his roguish face. He put an arm around their shoulders, snuggling himself in between them.
"Now which one of you two lovely damsels wants the honor of being my dance partner?"
Before either of the women could give him a teasing reply, another person interrupted them.
"I believe," Keith said, taking Hannah by the hand, "That this lady is already spoken for."
Lance shrugged helplessly. Then he turned his gaze down to the Princess, turning his broad smile on her once again.
"Well, Princess?" he asked, "Would you care to dance with the most handsome pilot on the planet?"
Allura gave him an impish grin.
"I would, if he weren't already dancing with somebody else," she told him slyly.
Lance rolled his eyes as she giggled and put a hand over his chest.
"You wound me, Princess," he told her with mock sufferance.
Allura allowed Lance to lead her out onto the dance floor, watching as Keith and Hannah left them to be by themselves one last time before she left the following day. But this time when Hannah led Keith away, Allura didn't mind.
* * *
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