VOLTRON:

Tainted Genes – Part Two

Sith stared at the candle, which was now about halfway burnt. The flame at the end of the wick was flickering, sending bouncing shadows across the ceiling and walls. The giggling light reflected in Sith’s bronze-colored eyes and set off an orange tinge in his white hair. Sith stared transfixed, waiting. The room was silent except for two things - the sound of Keith’s breathing, and his own. It was his roommate’s breaths that Sith kept track of.

Sith tore his eyes off the candle to look across the room at Keith. The sleeping commander was sleeping on his side with his back to Sith, with only his upper body and head visible. His breathing was easy and measured, signaling Sith that it was finally time. With a degree of impatience, Sith somewhat reluctantly pushed off the blankets and slipped over the edge of the bed onto the cool floor. He then padded on bare feet to the door of the bedroom, which opened as soon as Sith reached it.

As soon as he got out into the still-lit corridor, Sith closed his eyes to remember. Keith had taken him all over the Castle, and Sith had been paying close attention the whole time. Though most of the corridors looked the same, Sith had learned a long time ago to make distinctions. Opening his eyes, he decidedly turned left and began his short trek.

He was surprised there were so few guards, especially at night. But the Castle corridors were silent and bare, full of echoes that copied the sound of Sith’s bare feet slapping against the marble floor. If this had been a Doom residence, then whoever was in charge of security would have been flayed for keeping it so slack.

Sith’s amazement at the lack of security disappeared when he reached the central area of the Castle, away from the west wing sleeping quarters where the four male Voltron pilots slept. Sith had been told that Allura’s bedchambers were in the west wing, but had tossed that piece of information aside. He didn’t really care where she slept. All he cared about at the moment was getting to Castle Control and sending a message to his father.

As soon as Sith began encountering guards, he grew more cautious and slunk about as he had done escaping from the Doom transport ship. Unfortunately there were no air ducts or vents to creep about in. So Sith had to improvise a bit. Having spent half his life ducking around sentries, Sith managed to slink by each set of guards as they happened to be looking away, his feet no longer slapping against the floor but tip-toeing across smoothly and silently like a cat.

He managed to reach the central corridor that led to Castle Control. Once done, he peeked his head around the corner. There were no guards in sight. Though Sith was puzzled at this, he decided not to pass up his chance and hurried down the corridor. He reached the wide doors leading to Castle Control within moments, and came to a stop facing them. Unlike the bedroom door, the doors to Castle Control did not open with movement sensors. A bright keypad was embedded in the wall to the right of the doors. Sith looked up at it.

When Keith had showed Sith around Castle Control earlier that day, Sith had watched closely as Keith punched in the access numbers on the keypad to open the tightly shut doors. Though he couldn’t read numbers, Sith had a good memory for shapes. The access code on the tip of his memory, Sith quickly went over to stand underneath the keypad and reached up. It was barely within arms length. Very slowly, having to reach up on tip-toes for each depression, Sith punched in the 8-digit access code, then pressed the key that made the doors open.

It worked. The doors slid open smoothly with a muffled swish. Sith darted inside and went straight for the communications controls. Luckily for him, Keith had showed him some of the basics of how the machinery worked; that is, only after being hounded by Sith himself. Sith climbed up onto the swivel-chair and leaned over the console, scanning all the glowing buttons and screens.

He reached over to press one of those buttons.

"Sith?"

Startled, Sith snatched his hand back and whirled around at the call of his name. He had not heard anyone enter. But there stood none other than Keith, wearing a red robe over his blue pajamas. Though Sith could’ve sworn he’d been sleeping when he’d snuck out, Keith appeared wide awake. He also appeared to be a bit puzzled. Sith watched as the Voltron leader approached him.

"What are you doing up?" Keith asked, then added, "And what are you doing here?"

Not used to having to come up with excuses, Sith remained silent and unmoving, afraid of what might come. Surely now…

Keith squatted down in front of the chair so he was now looking up at Sith. Sith looked down at him.

"Couldn’t sleep?" Keith asked.

Sith shook his head. Keith then grinned at him, catching Sith off-guard.

"I understand," Keith told him, "It must feel pretty uncomfortable, sleeping in a strange place like this."

Sith just nodded.

"I think I know something that can help," Keith said, standing.

Sith made no move to resist as Keith picked him up and carried him out of Castle Control. They made their way to the kitchen, which was closed-up this time of night. Keith sneaked them in and prepared a glass of warm honey-milk for Sith, who gulped it down both eagerly and puzzledly. Once Sith was finished, Keith took him back to his room and tucked him back into bed.

"Now promise," Keith told him with mock seriousness, "next time you wake up in the middle of the night and you can’t get back to sleep, just come wake me up. OK?"

Sith nodded wordlessly, touched by Keith’s affection. Keith gave him another smile, then ruffled his hair and returned to his own bed. Sith watched Keith lie down under his covers and settle in. After a moment, Sith did the same, snuggling deep into the covers and closing his eyes. He decided against any more nocturnal escapades for that night.

* * *

"I have a surprise for you."

Sith looked up at Keith quizzically.

"Surprise?" he asked.

Keith nodded, grinning down at the boy. Sith was now dressed in regular clothing, even shoes, and looked mightily uncomfortable. He watched as Sith shifted his feet constantly, unused to the footwear.

"I want to show you something," Keith told him, holding out his hand.

Sith, now used to this gesture, lifted his own hand so Keith could take it into his own. He then led the boy out of his room and through the Castle corridors.

"Where are we going?" Sith asked.

"You’ll see," Keith replied mysteriously.

They ended up going to Castle Control, which was by now being attended by Castle officers, each one sitting at one of the consoles. Fortunately neither Coran nor any of his teammates were present, or Keith would have had some quick explaining to do. As it was, Keith expected some questions about his actions later, especially from Coran. But he could deal with that.

Keith picked up Sith and took him to the tiny elevator that led down to the Black Lion pod. Sith clung tightly to Keith as soon as the little round lift started moving down quickly. The ride lasted only a short moment before they stood in front of the small pod. Keith climbed in, settling Sith onto his lap, and set the pod going. Moments later they were in the Black Lion cockpit. Keith took the key from over his left breast and inserted it, activating the giant beast.

"Is this inside a ship?" Sith asked, staring around him in wonder.

"Sure is," Keith replied, "This is my ship, the Black Lion."

"We’re in a lion?" Sith asked, turning his wide eyes on Keith.

Keith smiled at the boy’s awe and nodded.

"I thought it might be fun to go for a ride," he said.

Sith turned around and settled himself eagerly on Keith’s lap, apparently anticipating the ride. Actually, so was Keith. Feeling only some of the excitement of Sith, Keith began to steer his Lion away from the Castle.

* * *

They were waiting for him when they got back. Keith had known he wouldn’t be able to escape it. As he and Sith came back up through the lift, he instantly saw their expectant faces – partly amused, partly stunned. Coran appeared especially perplexed as to the commander’s behavior. Keith approached them with a calm, cool, collective air and greeted them with an easy smile.

"What was that all about?" Coran asked before anyone else could speak.

Keith appeared to look puzzled.

"What was what all about?" he asked innocently.

"You know very well what," Coran said.

Keith shrugged.

"I thought Sith would like to go for a ride," he replied casually.

"You of all people should know that those Lions aren’t toys," Coran told him reprovingly.

"Oh, Coran," Allura spoke up in defense of her leader, "It didn’t hurt anyone."

"Still," Coran continued, "One should not take children for any sort of ride in those Lions."

"Lighten up, Coran," Lance spoke up, "You know Keith wouldn’t put Sith in danger. Besides," he cast a knowing glance in Keith’s direction, "I’m sure he had his reasons."

Keith returned his glance.

"That’s that, Coran," Allura told her advisor firmly, "Keith is the commander of Voltron. That said I think we should all trust his judgment when it comes to the Lions," she too cast a suspicious look at Keith, "even though it may seem strange at times."

Keith managed to look slightly sheepish under her look.

Coran looked about to rebut, then thought better of it and nodded.

"You’re right, Princess," he agreed finally, "Keith is, after all, in charge of the Lions."

With a final look at Keith, Coran turned and went back to his duties.

"So what’s with the joyride, Pal?" Lance asked as soon as Coran was gone.

"Yeah," Hunk pitched in, "You’ve never taken anyone up in the Black before. Except of course the Princess."

Once again, Sith spoke up before Keith had a chance to reply.

"You fly in the leader’s ship?" he asked Allura, eyes wide.

Allura smiled.

"When he’s kind enough to let me," she replied, stealing a look at Keith, who grinned.

"You’re not training him to be your replacement, are you?" Pidge teased.

Keith shook his head, his grin remaining.

"Not even close," he replied.

"So you’ll tell us when we’re getting warmer?" Lance asked.

Keith sighed.

"I just wanted to show him a good time," he told them seriously.

This excuse they had to take for face value. A few moments of silence ensued, as the others tried to think of how to reply to that.

"I have an idea!" Hunk spoke up, "Why don’t we take Sith out to the lake for a picnic!"

"Trust Hunk to think of an activity involving food," Pidge piped up.

"I think it’s a wonderful idea!" Allura enthused.

"I could go for a dip in the lake," Lance agreed.

Keith looked down at Sith.

"You want to have a picnic?" he asked.

Sith’s brow furrowed in puzzlement.

"What’s a picnic?" he asked.

Keith ruffled the boy’s hair once more.

"We’ll show you."

* * *

For the second time that day, and the third time in his life, Sith was smiling. Though he was surrounded by the entire Voltron Force, his father’s mortal enemies and therefore his as well, Sith was not afraid. He allowed Hunk to toss him up in the air, and he allowed Lance and Pidge to take him into the cool water of the Castle Lake to teach him how to swim. Sith had been frightened at first, never having swam before, but he soon relaxed and began to enjoy the new sensation.

Keith and Allura grinned at the three in the water from their perch on the blanket spread over the grass. Allura was sitting with her legs tucked up beneath her, and Keith was not far away, leaning back on his elbows. Hunk was rummaging through the large picnic basket Nanny had prepared, eager to begin the eating. He didn’t like just waiting around while all that food was sitting there, ready to be ravaged.

"Don’t you think they’ve been swimming long enough?" Hunk appealed to Keith, "Sith’s skin’s gonna get wrinkled."

Keith grinned up at his hungry friend.

"Why don’t you join them, Hunk?" Allura asked him.

Hunk plopped down on the blanket in between Allura and Keith and crossed his legs.

"I don’t feel like swimming right now," he admitted, then added, "What about you two? I could ask you the same thing."

"I’m quite comfortable where I am," Allura replied shortly. She didn’t want to admit she enjoyed watching the boys play.

"I forgot my suit," Keith replied lamely.

A high-pitched squeal brought their attention back to Sith and his two teachers. Sith was laughing as he and Lance were ganging up against Pidge in a dunking contest. Poor Pidge was losing bad and attempted to get them away by splashing water at them, which only made Lance redouble his efforts. By the time Lance, Pidge and Sith came dripping out of the lake, Pidge was so drenched he had water in his nose and ears.

"I’m gonna get you back!" he promised, wiping his face with his towel.

Lance chuckled loudly, his hand on one of Sith’s shoulders.

"In your dreams, Shrimp," Lance returned.

Allura had a towel ready for Sith when they arrived, and she wrapped it around him to dry him off. Sith let her, then sat down next to Keith, huddling inside the towel. Hunk picked himself off the ground with surprising speed.

"Time for lunch!" he announced excitedly.

"Quick everyone!" Lance spoke up, "We better get some food fast or Hunk’ll eat it all on us."

"What was that, Lance?" Hunk said testily.

"Ummm…"

Hunk abandoned the picnic basket long enough to chase Lance back into the lake. While he was gone, Pidge attacked the food, making sure to grab some before his big-stomached friend returned. Allura also dug into the basket for food, and passed some to Keith.

"Thanks," he said, taking the food and setting it down in front of Sith. "Eat up, Sith."

Sith didn’t need to be told twice. He was just biting into his sandwich as Hunk and a newly-drenched Lance returned.

"I hope you guys saved some for me," Hunk said eagerly.

"Don’t worry Hunk," Pidge spoke up, "Nanny put in extra just for you."

Rubbing his hands together eagerly, Hunk kneeled down to collect his lunch.

"Guess that means I get leftovers," Lance mumbled good-naturedly, tossing himself unceremoniously onto the blanket next to Allura.

"Did you have a good time swimming, Sith?" Allura asked the little boy.

Sith nodded, his mouth full.

"I never went swimming before," he said once he swallowed, "I like it."

"Then maybe the boys will take you swimming again sometime."

Sith’s eyes perked up hopefully.

"Really?" he asked.

"You and me can team up on Pidge again," Lance offered.

"No way," Pidge said, shaking his head, "You can pick on someone else next time. Like maybe Hunk."

"Maybe we could pick on Allura," Lance said hopefully, flashing the Princess a wide, sly smile.

Allura smiled.

"Count me out," she said, "I’ve been dunked by you enough times already."

"Are you kidding?" he said, "You can never get dunked enough."

"I say the rest of us all gang up on Lance!" Hunk spoke up.

"Now that’s an idea!" Allura agreed enthusiastically.

Lance backed off, gave them all an annoyed shake of his head.

"I’m really hurt!" he said playfully.

His friends just laughed at him.

"So what do you want to do next, Sith?" Keith asked him once he was done his sandwich.

Sith looked up at Keith in curiosity.

"There’s more?" he asked in a voice that made the others laugh.

"Only if you want it," Keith told him.

Sith looked down and furrowed his brows in thought, then looked back up at Keith shyly.

"Can you read me another story?" he asked timidly.

Keith smiled.

"I’d be happy to," he replied, then cast a glance up at Allura and added, "As long as the Princess lets us borrow another book, that is."

Allura caught his look and smiled.

"Of course I will."

Sith looked back down and released a sigh of contentment, thoughts of his father at the back of his mind.

* * *

This time Sith made sure Keith was asleep before sneaking out. It had taken him a while to remember his mission after spending a day full of fun and excitement, but shortly after Keith read Sith another story that evening and tucked him into bed, his intentions for being at the Castle inevitably re-entered his thoughts. It was hard, planning on turning against the people who had been so kind to him, especially Keith. But Sith had to do it, for his father and for himself.

Sith once again slipped out of bed once Keith’s breathing became normal. He stood there for a moment, watching the slumbering commander.

"Keith?" he spoke up in a quiet voice.

There was no response.

"Keith?" he asked, a little louder.

Still Keith remained still. Satisfied, Sith left the room and made his way back to Castle Control, the same as he had done the night before. He found everything the same as last time. Once he got into the room and knelt on the chair in front of communications, Sith reached out to activate the channel, then hesitated. He looked over his shoulder, half-expecting Keith to be there. But he was alone in the room. Slightly disappointed, Sith turned back and pressed the button.

* * *

Lotor had been enjoying the company of one of his slave women when he got the message that someone from Arus was trying to contact him. Both annoyed and curious, Lotor had swiftly left his bed, dressed, and hurried to his Bridge. A small hope formed in his head that it was the Princess, calling to tell him she accepted his proposal after all.

Lotor’s knee-high boots clapped in a staccato rhythm as he hurried through the dim, eerie corridors of his ship to the Bridge. Once he arrived he went to stand right in front of the viewscreen.

"Put them through," he ordered to one of his officers.

The man complied and patched in the communication to the screen. Lotor crossed his arms and tensed expectantly, waiting for that beautiful, pale, blue-eyed face to greet him. But seconds later Lotor frowned deeply, arms slowly uncrossing, mouth slowly opening in surprise. A small white-haired pointy-eared child appeared before him, his miniature visage staring back at him in anticipation.

"What’s the meaning of this?" Lotor demanded angrily. He had no time to waste on children’s pranks.

"It’s me, Father," the child spoke, "It’s your son, Sith."

Son? Lotor narrowed his eyes at him. He did seem slightly familiar….Then it came to him. He remember sending the child away a few days ago when he had been selecting his slave women. The child had insisted he was his son. Lotor had paid him no attention at the time. Many women of Doom bore sons they claimed were his. He had no doubt that some were, but he held no emotional ties to any of them. Children were nothing but a nuisance, and this particular boy was proving to be a great one.

Lotor gritted his teeth angrily.

"I have no time for…"

Lotor suddenly stopped as he recognized the room behind Sith’s small head.

"Just where are you, boy?" he demanded.

"I’m at the Castle where the Voltron Force lives, Father," Sith replied abruptly.

Lotor raised an eyebrow. His anger dissipated slightly as things began to get interesting.

"And how exactly did you get there?"

"I hid on one of your fighter ships," Sith explained, "When it crashed, I found the Voltron Force and they took me to the Castle. I wanted to do something to make you proud of me."

Lotor started to grin slyly, an evil plan formulating in his head. He scratched his chin thoughtfully as he regarded the boy who claimed he was his son. This bothersome child would prove useful, after all.

"You say you’re in the Castle of Lions?" Lotor asked, "Do you have access to the keys that activate the Lion ships?"

Sith nodded.

"I sleep in Keith’s room," he admitted, "He has the key to the Black Lion."

Perfect. Lotor’s grin broadened.

"That’s wonderful, Sith," he replied, "What I need you to do is to steal the Black Lion key. Can you do that for me, son?"

Sith beamed and nodded enthusiastically.

"Anything you want, Father," he replied dutifully.

"Excellent," Lotor told him, "Now you must hurry. Here’s what I want you to do with it…"

* * *

The alarms rang out through the Castle of Lions well before the morning sun arose. Within moments Keith and his team were up, dressed and on their way to Castle Control. Keith brought Sith with him, still in his pajamas. Even so, he was the first one to arrive after Coran.

"What is it, Coran?" he asked, setting Sith down on the floor and joining Coran at the console.

"Lotor is attacking again," Coran replied, "This time he’s targeting the village just a mile from the Castle."

The others arrived then, with Hunk trailing in last and Nanny shadowing Allura.

"Nanny," Keith said as soon as he saw her, "Could you take Sith, please?"

Nanny nodded promptly and pulled Sith out of the room. Though she would have liked to stay to keep tabs on Allura, she knew it was no place for children.

"Don’t tell me," Lance spoke up, "It’s old Prince Psycho again, am I right?"

"Please tell me he’s not attacking another village," Allura said tiredly, deep down knowing the answer.

Coran looked apologetic.

"I’m sorry, Princess," he told her.

"We have to get to the Lions," Keith told them.

They all nodded and headed out. Keith was about to follow, but stopped, glancing down where his Lion key should have been. He frowned. Coran noticed.

"Where’s your key, Keith?" he asked.

Keith shook his head.

"I don’t know," he said, then sighed and added, "But I think I might have a pretty good idea."

Coran was about to question him further when Nanny burst back into the room, alone.

"Ohh! That boy!" she cried, "Sith’s run away! I was just taking him back to bed when he ran off. I couldn’t follow him."

Keith nodded.

"Thanks, Nanny."

Coran turned to Keith.

"Keith, what…?"

"I’ll explain later, Coran," Keith promised, running out of the room.

Coran just shook his head in bafflement.

* * *

Sith ran on short legs across the bridge crossing the Castle moat, then towards the forest area that surrounded the Lion Force’s home. The Black Lion key was clutched tightly in one hand. Sith didn’t mind that it was dark or that he was in his bare feet. All he cared about was getting the key to his father so he would finally be proud of him and accept him. Sith’s heart was pounding hard against his chest as he ran, excitement coursing through his immature body.

Within minutes Sith reached the forestline and entered without hesitation. Just a few more moments and he would be with his father where he belonged. Lotor had told Sith to meet him in the forest as soon as the battle began to give him the key. He had also promised Sith that he would sit by his right side and rule by him for the rest of his life. Everything Sith had wanted. Or so he thought.

Sith ducked through a shrub out into a small clearing and stopped as soon as he saw the tall, ominous figure standing there waiting. His father looked even greater than he remembered, especially now that he was fully dressed in his battle gear. Lotor smiled and beckoned for Sith to come closer. Squaring his small shoulders, Sith lifted a foot towards his father.

"Sith!"

Sith froze, then turned at the familiar voice. Keith was running up to them. He stopped as soon as he reached the clearing, so now Sith was in between the two men. He could see Keith giving his father a guarded look, then turned to see his father glaring at the Voltron commander. He turned back to Keith.

"Sith," Keith told him gently, "You don’t have to do this."

"Sith!" Lotor commanded, "Give me the key!"

Sith looked back and forth between the two men in indecision. He hadn’t expected it to come to this. He didn’t want to disappoint his father, but he didn’t want to openly hurt Keith either.

"Sith, it’s OK," Keith said coaxingly, "You don’t have to give him the key. You can come back with me."

Boy was he tempted…

"No!" Lotor barked, "He is my son! Sith, you will come here right now and hand over the key. That is an order from your father!"

Sith swallowed soundly. He cast one last remorseful glance at Keith before walking up to his father and holding out his open palm. Lotor grinned evilly as he snatched up the key, holding it up in triumph for Keith to see. Keith sighed disappointedly. Sith suddenly felt guilty.

"At last!" Lotor exulted, "The great Commander of the Voltron Force has been outmaneuvered by a mere child!"

"You won’t win, Lotor," Keith promised.

Lotor just laughed in his face.

"I’m afraid I will, Commander," he told him, "My witch has already prepared a Robeast to take care of your teammates. By morning the Voltron Force will be defeated and both Arus and its ruler will be mine!"

Keith took a step forward, ready to fight Lotor for the key. Lotor quickly grabbed Sith by his collar and pulled out a dagger from his belt. He held it to the child’s throat. Sith’s eyes widened in shock. Keith halted in his steps and glared at the dark Prince.

"Holding your own son hostage, Lotor?" he asked contemptuously.

"You weak human," Lotor scathed, "I know you won’t let me hurt the boy."

With that Lotor started backing away with the boy. Keith could do nothing but stay still and watch. He briefly made eye-contact with young Sith before they both disappeared into the foliage. Sith’s eyes had been both bewildered and rueful. Moments later Lotor’s small fighter ascended into the night sky.

* * *

"We’ve got a Robeast coming in fast!" Pidge reported suddenly.

"OK," Lance said, "Anybody know where our leader is?"

"He should have followed us," Allura replied, confused as to Keith’s absence.

"We’ll need him to take out that Robeast," Hunk spoke up.

"Coran?" Allura asked, opening communication to Castle Control, "Isn’t Keith out here?"

"I’m afraid not, Princess," Coran replied after a moment, "He seems to have lost the key to the Black Lion."

"Keith lost his key?" Lance asked, "No way. Keith doesn’t lose anything."

The four Lions then had to make maneuvers to evade the Robeast’s attacks. The Robeast was another one of Hagar’s formidable mutations, and it was especially tough to fend it off without the fifth Lion to form Voltron. Hunk found himself at the tail-end of a powerful punch aimed straight at the Yellow Lion’s back. Hunk grunted as his Lion was forced to the ground, sprawling on its stomach.

"You OK, big guy?" Lance asked.

"Just knocked the wind outta me," Hunk replied.

He managed to get the Yellow Lion back in the air within moments to join in the battle. The ugly red Robeast had now focused its attention on Green Lion. It aimed a beam of fire-colored energy coming from its mouth at Pidge’s Lion and managed to connect on its right side. The Green Lion was knocked off-balance. Pidge had to fight with the controls to keep from hitting the ground.

"Pick on someone your own size, meathead!" Lance spoke up, veering his Lion in for an attack.

Since Lance had the Robeast’s attention, at least for the time being, Allura made another quick query to Castle Control.

"Coran?" she asked, "Where is Keith anyway?"

"I really have no idea, Princess," Coran replied, "When Nanny came in to say Sith had run away, Keith left in a hurry. I think he went after him."

"Sith?" she repeated.

"I knew there was somethin’ funny about that kid," Lance spoke up, then jerked on his controls to avoid being hit by another flailing Robeast-arm

"Do you think Sith took Keith’s key?" Pidge asked.

"But he’s such a sweet little boy," Allura said, not wanting to believe it.

"He may have seemed sweet on the outside," Lance said, "but who knows what’s been goin’ through his little mind."

"But why would he steal the key?" she wondered aloud.

"Maybe he wanted to take the Black Lion for a ride," Hunk suggested.

"Let’s just hope Keith gets that key back before we’re all turned into barbecued Lions," Lance said.

* * *

Inside his Doom ship, on the Bridge, Lotor watched the battle in absolute glee. The Black Lion key rested on his uniform. Sith stood just behind his father, watching the battle. The guilt that had invaded his being was mounting as he watched the Voltron team lose.

"The fall of the Voltron Force is at hand!" Lotor exulted, "The Robeast should destroy them completely."

"Indeed it will, sire," Hagar agreed. The witch was standing off to the side, also enjoying the battle.

"It gives me great pleasure to know that you had nothing to do with this victory, witch," Lotor told her without taking his eyes off the screen.

"That Robeast is my creation, sire," Hagar reminded him.

Lotor grunted.

"Anyone can build me a Robeast," Lotor said, trying to be insulting.

Hagar chose not to respond.

Sith decided to step forward to remind his father of his presence. He tugged on one of Lotor’s sleeves.

"Father?"

Lotor yanked his arm away and glanced down at Sith in distaste.

"What do you want?" he asked impatiently.

"Does this mean I get to rule the whole universe with you now, Father?" he asked, "Mother said…"

"Shut-up, brat!" Lotor cut him off, "You’ve outlived your usefulness. Get out of my sight!"

Sith felt as if he’d been slapped. While Lotor turned back to the battle, ignoring his young son, Sith felt tears form in his eyes. How could his own father play false to him like that? How could he, after all Sith went through just to make him proud? Sith’s stomach churned and his heart sped up once more. He clenched his fists, willing the tears to go away. Anger boiled inside him. He glared up at his father. How could he have betrayed Keith for this man?

Sith’s eyes settled on the key resting on Lotor’s uniform. It was too high up for Sith ever to be able to reach. Sith looked around him, and his eyes rested on a heavy-looking statuette of Lotor only a few feet away. Since everyone on the Bridge was concentrated on the on-screen battle, Sith had no trouble snatching the metal figure. It was heavy, and he barely managed to keep it off the ground. He brought it over to his father, positioned it carefully, then let go.

"Aaaargh!" Lotor roared as the statuette landed hard on his booted foot. Unfortunately the boots were more for show than protection. Lotor bent over to grasp his foot. Sith took that chance to grab the key from his uniform. But as he turned to run away, something jerked him back. He turned to see his father grabbing onto the tail of his shirt.

"Not so fast, brat!" Lotor seethed angrily.

Sith swiftly reached back and bit hard on his father’s hand. Lotor grunted and let go. Sith then bolted off the Bridge.

"Guards! Get him!" Lotor ordered, grasping his swollen hand and resting gently on his tender foot.

Sith knew exactly where to go. They had passed the escape pods on their way to the Bridge. Hearing the guards running after him, Sith ducked into the nearest pod and closed the hatch behind him. He then pushed "eject".

The pod jettisoned out into space and headed directly for the nearest place to land – Arus. Sith held the Black Lion key tightly in both hands as he waited for the pod to land. He didn’t know how he would get the key back to Keith in time, or what would happen once he did. He knew Keith would never be nice to him anymore, not after what he did. Sith would probably be locked away in the Castle dungeon with only bread and water and none of the delicious food he had been fed the past two days. But he deserved it, and he knew it.

A tear slid down Sith’s cheek as the pod entered Arus’ atmosphere. He wished he could go back in time and stop himself from stealing the key in the first place. He wished he could just go back to the Castle as if nothing had happened. He wished Lotor had never been his father.

* * *

Keith watched patiently as the escape pod made a rough landing in the Arusian forest. As soon as the pod as settled he rushed to it, hoping its occupant was unharmed. As soon as he reached the pod he waited for the hatch to open, since it could only be done from the inside. It did so moments later, and a mussed white head peeked out through the opening. As soon as Sith saw Keith, his eyes widened. But then he climbed out of the pod onto the forest floor. The two then looked at each other.

Wordlessly Sith stretched his arm out as far as he could and opened his palm to reveal the Black Lion key. Keith slowly took the key and replaced it over his left pectoral. He then looked down at Sith and crossed his arms. Sith ducked his head shamefully.

"Come on," Keith said shortly, taking Sith by the hand, "We’ll talk later."

* * *

"Ungh!"

Lance grunted as the Robeast managed to get a piece of his Lion, knocking him backwards right into the Blue Lion. The two ships collided, and their pilots struggled to untangle themselves and maintain control.

"Sorry I had to get so personal, Princess," Lance said as soon as they righted themselves.

"That’s OK, Lance," Allura replied.

"What are we gonna do about this Robeast?" Hunk asked, "If we hang around any longer we won’t stand a chance."

"How about we form Voltron?" Keith suggested.

They all turned their heads to Keith’s image in surprise. The Black Lion joined them only a short moment later.

"Keith! Where’ve you been?" Pidge exclaimed.

"He was probably hanging back, letting us soften this Robeast up before he decided to pitch in," Lance offered shortly.

"Not quite," Keith replied, "I’ll explain when we’re through here. Right now we have to form Voltron."

"About time!" Hunk spoke up with relief.

The five Lions then congregated away from the Robeast and prepared to form the awesome Defender. The transformation took only moments. Once done, Voltron stood before the Robeast, matching its size and strength.

"All right, Ugly," Lance said eagerly, "Payback time!"

* * *

Lotor watched in frustration as Voltron took out his Robeast. He grabbed up the statuette from the floor and hurled it at the screen, causing a very large crack. He then started to curse profusely.

"You should have been kinder to the boy," Hagar told him, more than a bit smug.

"Just shut-up, witch!"

* * *

"So it was Sith who stole the key?"

Keith nodded, looking down at the little boy who was trying very hard to keep himself inconspicuous. Lance mirrored Keith’s gesture, having already come to the conclusion. The others were also looking down at Sith in curiosity.

"Why did you steal the key, little guy?" Hunk asked him.

Sith remained silent.

"He’s Lotor’s son," Keith informed them.

They all looked at him in surprise, then in realization.

"I should have known," Allura spoke up, "I knew I recognized him somehow. I guess I just didn’t want to believe he could be related to such an evil man."

"The kid’s definitely got some tainted blood in his veins," Lance agreed, then added, "Looks like he did the right thing in the end, though."

They all heard Sith sniffle just then. Keith knelt down beside him and put a hand on his shoulder gently. Sith looked up, tears streaming freely down his face.

"I’m sorry, Keith," he said in a wavery voice, "I’m sorry I took the key."

Keith smiled forgivingly at the boy.

"That’s OK, Sith," he replied, "It wasn’t your fault. Lotor used you."

Sith shook his head and looked down.

"I just wanted him to be proud of me," he whimpered.

"Sith," Allura told him, "you don’t have to do things just to make other people proud of you."

"Especially Lotor," Hunk added.

Sith sniffled again, wiping his nose with his sleeve.

"You hate me now, right?" he asked.

Keith shook his head, looking at Sith tenderly.

"We don’t hate you," he assured the boy, "We know you’re sorry for what you did."

"You brought the key back, Sith," Allura reminded him, "That was a very brave thing to do."

Sith looked up, still not quite convinced.

"Are you gonna lock me in the dungeon?"

Keith grinned and shook his head.

"Of course not," he said, "Sith, everybody makes mistakes. But you made up for it. I’m very proud of you."

Sith looked up at him, his heart in his eyes.

"I wish you were my father, Keith," he said sincerely.

Keith reached out ruffle the boy’s hair, and Sith lunged forward to wrap his arms around his neck. Startled, Keith returned to hug. He felt a bit strange himself, embracing Lotor’s son. He caught Allura’s eyes and almost blushed. She was looking down at them with a tender look in her eyes, which were threatening to water-up. Lance rolled his eyes.

"Keith the daddy," he said, "That’ll be the day."

Keith and Sith parted, and Sith reached up to wipe the tears from his face.

"Sith," Keith told him, "I wish I could be your father, but I can’t."

Sith nodded sadly in understanding.

"But," Keith continued, "I do promise I’ll come visit you whenever I can."

Sith’s eyes lit up.

"Really?" he asked, "Can we even go for a ride in the Black Lion again?"

Keith’s smile faltered, and the others looked at him with grins on their faces. Keith hesitated.

"Ah, maybe we better hold off on that for a while," he finally answered.

But Sith smiled anyway.

"I have an idea!" Pidge spoke up, "Why don’t we treat Sith to some of Nanny’s berry dessert?"

"Mmm!" Hunk agreed, licking his licks and rubbing his stomach hungrily, "That’s sounds like a great idea!"

"There you go, talking with your stomach again," Lance said with a sigh.

Keith smiled and picked Sith up into his arms.

"How about it, Sith?" he asked.

Sith’s smile couldn’t get wider.

"Yummy!" he exclaimed.

Chuckling, Keith carried Sith off in the direction of the kitchen, Hunk and the others following closely behind.

* * *

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