Tannenbaum

Disclaimer: I do not own Voltron or any of its characters.

Rating/Setting: Rating is T. Setting is DotU.

Author's Notes: Independent One-Shot, not tied to any of my other stories...


Allura looked at the Voltron Commander sitting at his desk. His dark head was slightly bent over as he studied something he held in his hands. She knew that he had to be deep in thought as he didn't even look up when she triggered the door sensor and entered. In a way she felt a little guilty… like she was intruding, but then the door hadn't been set to require an entry request. He had left it on its least restrictive setting. But looking at him, she wondered if he would have set it to a higher security if he had known someone would catch him in what looked like a private moment. She took one more moment to think, does the object have something to do with that box that arrived for him last week from Earth? Then she cleared her throat and said, "Keith?"

Keith started and immediately put the object he was holding in his lap. Looking up, he asked, "How long have you been standing there, Princess?"

He didn't sound upset, only curious.

"Less than a minute. I'm surprised that you didn't hear me enter. It's most unlike you." Allura moved to take one of the leather chairs across from his desk.

Glancing down at his lap, he said, "Yeah, definitely unlike me." He looked back up at her and simply asked, "Are you curious about what had me so occupied?"

Blushing slightly, she honestly answered, "Well, yes. But I know you are a very private person; I don't expect you to tell me or show me what it is."

A sad smile crossed his faced as he brought the object up to lay it on the desk. "For once, I'm willing to share."

Allura's eyes opened wide in surprise. This was an unusual occurrence.

The Commander slid the object across the desk in her direction and pulled his hand back. He propped his elbow on the armrest and placed his chin on his curled fingers.

The object lay on the desk, waiting for her to reach for it. She looked at the object and then at Keith. Almost hesitantly, she reached for the item. She wouldn't have been surprised if he had changed his mind and snatched it back. However, he didn't. Turning the object so she could see it better, she gasped in surprise. It was a small metal frame with a loop and hook at the top. An ornament for tree she thought… at least the boys had described such things to her. Inside the frame was a family. A man with dark ebony hair and flashing blue eyes, a brown-eyed woman with dark chestnut hair, and a little boy about five who combined them both with ebony hair and dark chocolate eyes. Allura eyes snapped up from the picture. "Keith… I…"

"You don't have to say anything. Yes, it's my family. That ornament hung on our tree every year until they died in the accident six years later. It's been packed up ever since. I came across it this week. It brought back a lot of memories- good and bad."

"What are you going to do with it?"

"I don't know. It doesn't have much of a purpose right now, but perhaps one day it will." Keith looked at her as he said, "You know, when I have a family of my own."

Allura flushed as she laid the ornament back on the table. "Well, you know, Keith, we're your family now. All of us are family."

He smiled as she blushed furiously. Reaching to get the ornament, he looked at it one last time before opening a drawer and gently laying it inside. Once that was done, he looked back at her and said, "And to what do I owe this visit, Princess?"

The glimpse of the person that was underneath the Commander exterior was gone… for now. As she brought up a possible improvement to the transportation system, she decided she would try to get a glimpse of his soft side again. After all, he had been looking at her when he talked about starting a family….

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

Over the next few months, Allura watched Keith. Ever since that box arrived that contained the family Christmas ornament, he had been acting unusual. First, he confided in her about the ornament. Then a month later he had received another package from Earth. He had actually smiled when he had picked the box up from Coran. And finally, over the last month, he had been making trips into a couple of the nearby towns.

Allura watched glumly from one of the castle balconies as Keith went out in one of the speeders. Obviously, he was on another mysterious trip to a village. She had thought about asking him what he was doing on the trips, but she was afraid of the answer. What else could he be doing besides visiting a girlfriend? After all, he had spoken of starting a family. In fact, he had made that comment right as he started getting packages from Earth and going to the villages. He was probably ordering gifts for the girl and taking them to her.

Turning to go back inside, she bumped right into Lance, who had to have been standing right in the entryway. "Lance! I'm sorry. I didn't see you there."

Lance had moved his hands to steady Allura. Smiling at her he said, "It's okay." Putting a finger under her chin to tilt her face up he asked with a small smile, "Why the sad face, Princess?"

"It's nothing, Lance." She gave a weak smile back.

Laughing, Lance dropped his hand. "Come on, Princess. You know it's not nothing."

Allura glanced back over her shoulder to the Arusian landscape. "Does Keith have a girlfriend?" She turned back to find Lance's mouth open in surprise. It looked like he was at a loss for words.

"Girlfriend? Keith?" Lance managed to close his mouth, but the look of surprise was still there. "What made you think he has a girlfriend?"

Crossing her arms, she looked at him steadily. "He's been getting packages from Earth. He's made several trips to the local villages ALONE that aren't part of any official business."

Lance shifted from one foot to the other and frowned a little. "I have to say, that I never thought about it like that. Sure, he's gotten some packages. We all have. But, the trips to the villages… that I don't have an answer for."

Relaxing her arms, she sighed as she said, "I guess it doesn't matter. You boys have every right to date whomever you wish and it's none of my business." Waving a hand in the air in a dismissive gesture, she moved past him. "Forget about it."

As Lance watched her walk away, he knew he couldn't forget about it. He had thought that Keith and Allura had feelings for each other. It was obvious that Allura had feelings for Keith. But was Keith really seeing a village girl? If so, how had he managed to keep it a secret from everyone? Hunk helped manage the small group of speeders and hovercraft. Keith would have had to reserve one of the craft…. Yes, he would need to speak with Hunk about this.

With a spring in his step, he made his way toward the transportation bay of the castle.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Hunk had been no help at all. He had managed to look at his superior officer with a straight face and deny any knowledge of Keith and what he was doing in the village. Lance had barely managed to keep his temper in check as he strode away from the bay. Steam would have come from his ears if he had turned and seen the smile on the Yellow Lion's pilot. Well, if Hunk wouldn't give him any answers, he'd have to beard the lion in his den… so to speak.

Stopping in front of Keith's office door, he pressed the com for entry. When he heard Keith call for him to enter, he moved forward and the door swished obediently open and then closed behind him. He stopped cold as he looked around Keith's office. There was a box of ornaments on the couch, garland and tinsel spilled out of another box on the coffee table, and the piece de resistance was on the desk. Well, on the desk and strung around Keith's neck.

Keith looked at Lance with irritation as he said, "Well, don't just stand there; help me get these lights back into some kind of order."

Laughter erupted from Lance as he had to lean over and grab his knees. "What the hell are you doing, Keith?"

"What does it look like I'm doing? I am getting things together so I can decorate a tree for the Princess." Carefully rolling up a string of lights, he continued speaking as he tossed a tangled strand to Lance. "These lights were all neat, but I had to unroll them as they were blinking randomly and there was a light that had to be replaced. Seriously, random blinking lights. Who the hell wants those?"

Lance worked on the lights and continued laughing. "A lot of people like the blinking lights. You know, not everything has to be perfectly ordered."

Eyeing the lights with malice, Keith said, "Maybe so, but whoever designed these things should have made it so they stayed ON and you could change them so they'd blink. NOT the other way around."

Still untangling, Lance said, "How did you manage to get these to work with voltage on Arus?"

"Hunk hooked me up."

Lance stopped and glared at Keith. "So Hunk knew what you were doing? I just talked to him and he didn't mention a thing."

Grinning, Keith said, "Just as he was ordered to. I didn't want you to let anything slip to Allura." Shrugging he said, "So I decided to keep you out of the loop. I had to tell Hunk because of the power converters and the trips I made into the villages to get local artisans to make some special ornaments for the tree."

"Ornaments? That's why you've been going into the villages?" Lance asked with a laugh.

As Keith dropped his string of lights into the box, he raised an eyebrow at Lance and said, "Yes. That's what I've been doing in the villages. What did you think I had been doing?"

Smirking as he continued to untangle the lights, somehow managing to make them more tangled, he joking answered, "It's not what I've been thinking, Commander. It's what a certain lovely princess has been thinking."

Keith stopped what he was doing and turned towards his friend.

Not having noticed the silence that was tinged with concern, Lance continued as he still looked at the lights. "She's taken an interest in the packages you've been receiving from Earth. Princess has also noted that you've been making trips by yourself to the villages. Here's the kicker." Here he paused from his task that was nowhere near complete and glanced at Keith. Seeing the intensity that Keith was regarding him with, he put down the lights and said with seriousness, "She thinks you have girlfriend in the village and you've been taking her gifts from Earth."

Covering his face with both hands, Keith growled, "Seriously?"

"Yes. She asked me about it today." Tilting his head to look at his commander and friend a little better, he added, "She was rather sad at the thought of you having a girlfriend. Of course, she didn't say that, but it was obvious that she wasn't happy thinking about it."

Dropping his hands from his face, Keith placed them on his hips as he surveyed the boxes in front of him.

"So, are you going to tell her?" Lance asked.

Keith began pushing things into the boxes so that the lids could close… or at least try to close, but several sprung back open.

Not letting it go, Lance asked again, "So?"

Focused on his task, all Keith said was, "No."

"No!?" Lance watched Keith as he closed up the boxes. "You're not going to tell her? Keith, she's upset."

Keith went to the com unit and asked for the location of the princess. Discovering that she was in her office, he nodded to himself as he picked up his parka and put it on.

Lanced watched it all in silence until Keith shoved a box into his arms. "What's this for and what the hell are you doing?"

Glancing over his shoulder as he exited his office, Keith said, "Wait here, I'm going to get a hover-cart."

Watching the doors close on Keith and his enigmatic statement, Lance sarcastically said in a sing-song voice, "Of course, Keith. I have nothing better to do than hold boxes of Christmas decorations while you get a hover-cart." Shrugging and making a frown on his face he continued his monologue. "No. No worries. Don't be concerned that the girl you're in love with thinks you're seriously involved with some village girl. No, no worries at all." Looking around in disgust, he put the box on a chair and waited.

It wasn't long before Keith was back with the hover-cart. "Okay, let's load them up." He immediately headed to a rubber tote with tinsel hanging out from under the bulging lid.

Putting both hands in the air, Lance said, "Whoa there, Cap'n. Could you PLEASE explain to me what is going on?"

Shooting Lance a loop-sided grin as he loaded a box on the cart, he said, "Isn't it obvious? I'm decorating a tree to surprise the Princess."

"Obvious? Hell, no." But even with his comment, he started to load the cart with Keith. When they had the boxes on, Lance continued his questions. "So, you've been going in to the village to get artisans to make ornaments and you've ordered lights and other accessories from Earth. Is that right?" At Keith's nod, he finished, "But where's the tree?"

Keith smiled as he fastened his parka. "I thought I was going to have to cut one down and bring it in, but then I went on a search through the royal gardens just outside the castle proper. And there it was. In the far north corner, in a section that doesn't have many flowers or other ornamentation." Shrugging, he said, "It seems that part of the garden is there to display some of the evergreens that grow in this area. Since it's enclosed by a wall, there are receptacles there and it's perfect for what I want." He frowned a little as he continued, "I can't have her thinking I'm seeing another girl. I need to show her the tree tonight, so we need to get this stuff to gardens."

Eying his commander, Lance stated, "It sounds rather romantic, Keith."

"You said it, not me."

"But you're not denying it."

Sighing, Keith moved to the cart and motioned for Lance to go to the front. "Just drop it, Lance. It's between myself and the Princess." He continued to motion. "Go to the front and run interference for me. I don't want to explain what any of this is."

Moving to his assigned position, Lance looked back. "But you are going to tell Pidge what is going on aren't you? I mean, I know, Hunk knows, you know, and soon Allura will know. He'll feel left out."

Keith frowned as he stood at the controls of the cart. "Yeah, you're right. I'll tell him this afternoon." Looking at the items on the cart, he said, "After I get the tree ready."

Lance laughed, "How about I tell him. I assume you're not going to let me help decorate the tree." He saw Keith nod. "So, let me tell him. You're going to need all the time you can get to fix this up."

"Okay, but DON'T embellish it. I'm just surprising Allura with an Earth tradition."

"Sure. What else could I possible say?" Lance smirked as he saw Keith's irritated glare. Raising a hand, he said solemnly, "On my honor, no embellishing."

Keith raised an eyebrow, "On your honor?"

"Aye."

It was a somewhat uncertain tone that Keith responded, "Well, all right."

The two men headed out into the corridor with their cart of decorations.

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

At supper, everyone was in attendance, except for the always punctual Voltron Commander. The guys didn't seem at all concerned, but Allura's eyes shifted from Keith's empty seat to the dining entrance. Finally, she couldn't keep silent. "Do any of you know where Keith is? It's not like him to be late."

Lance continued cutting his steak as he replied, "Oh, he told me that he had some last minute things to do on a project."

"A project?" Allura asked with curiosity.

"Yeah," Hunk replied. "He's been making some trips to the village for parts."

"Parts?" Her brows knit together. He was going to the village for parts… for a project… not a girl?

"Yes, from what I've been told, it's an important project. I didn't even know about it until today." Pidge smiled at her.

"You all know?" Her voice sounded a little sad and she put her fork down on the table and looked at her hands. "I see."

"Oh, I doubt that Princess." Lance said as he dabbed the corner of his mouth with his napkin. At that moment, he received a text message on his com. He laughed and said, "Princess, Keith has something he'd like to show you. Can I escort you there?"

"Where?"

"It's outside. Let's grab your parka before we go out."

Pidge and Hunk said nothing. Allura might have thought it strange, but she was too caught up in the ramifications of the conversation they had all just had. Keith had told everyone but her about a project he was working on. 'Hurt' only began to describe how she felt.

Once they had picked up her parka, they headed toward the exterior garden access point. Thoughts and feelings were tumbling over and over in her mind. What was she to think? She finally began to take notice of where they were going and she stopped suddenly. "The exterior gardens? We're going to the exterior royal gardens?"

Chuckling, Lance turned back to her. "I was wondering when you'd notice where we're going. Yes, we're going to the royal gardens." Still looking at the stationary princess, he cajoled, "You comin' or what?"

Allura took several hurried steps to catch up with Lance who hadn't waited once he asked the question. "What's going on, Lance? Why does Keith want to see me in the gardens? Does it have something to do with the project he's been working on?"

"Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Princess. I think you know that I would be in big trouble if I answered ANY of your questions. You know, Keith, he likes to be in control. So, he'll tell what's going on, not me."Reaching the door to the garden, he entered the codes to open it. Moving to stand just outside the door, he held his hand out to her, "Come on out, Princess. I'll be here until Keith calls to let me know that you've found him."

Her blue eyes were wide as they looked at him through the white fur of her hood. "You're… You're leaving? Keith actually said that was okay?"

Winking at her, he said, "Oh, yes, Keith most definitely said it was okay." Moving his head to the side, he said, "Now go on and find him. When you do, maybe you'll find some of those other answers you wanted."

Allura gave him one last confused look before taking a few steps in the soft light and falling snow. She stopped and turned back to ask, "But where am I supposed to go?"

Pointing to the ground, she could see a set of tracks heading into the evergreen section of the garden. The snow had started filling them in, but they were still very clear. Moving to follow the tracks, she only had to walk a couple of minutes. Stepping into a small clearing, she found Keith facing her. "Keith?"

Keith watched as she stepped into the soft light coming from the castle. "I understand that you've been curious as to what I've been up to these last few months." Even in the soft light, he thought he could see a blush brighten her face.

Looking down at the snow, she replied, "It's none of my business, Keith."

Moving so he was only a few paces in front of her, he said, "It's okay, Princess. I'm not upset." He watched as her face lifted to his. "I was working on a project that required trips to the nearby villages." The princess nodded and he continued. "I was fixing something for you - something that was both Terran and Arusian. I hope you like it."

Her brows knit together in puzzlement and her lips moved to form a question when he stepped to the side. Looking past him, she saw one of the evergreens looked unusual.

Keith pressed the button in his hand and as the lights on the tree came on, he turned to gauge her reaction.

The lips that had begun to form a question, instead formed a soft "oh." Allura's gloved hands came up to her face as she looked at the beautiful sight before her.

Silver tinsel, spun-glass ornaments, icicle decorations made of glass and shiny metals sparkled amongst the colored glass ornaments. A bright jewel encrusted star sat atop the tree brilliant in its colors and the white lights set off the beauty of the decorations.

"I had artisans in the village make some of the ornaments and some things I ordered from Earth. I hope-" Keith stopped in mid-sentence as he watched the light change on Allura's face. His soft smile changed to a glare, but Allura didn't notice, she was still enraptured with the tree and the effort that Keith had gone to.

Keith turned slowly to view the tree and a soft curse crossed his lips.

At the explicative, Allura turned with a confused expression to Keith. "What?"

Blushing at his lapse of etiquette, he turned back to her. "Sorry, Princess," he said with a sigh. "I wanted it to be perfect. I thought I had fixed those blinking lights."

Allura looked from him back to the tree. "Aren't they supposed to blink?"

"Well, you can have them blinking or solid."

"I love them both ways. It's perfect the way it is." Allura reached out to lay a hand on Keith's arm. The white of her jacket and gloves contrasted starkly against the charcoal gray of Keith's.

Keith looked from the hand on his arm to her face which was shining with happiness. Wisps of her breath came out as vapor in the cold night. His eyes lingered on her lips and he noticed that the vapor coming from her mouth was suddenly coming out in short rapid puffs. Could she be thinking about a kiss just as he was?

Before either of them could dwell on it further, Keith's com sounded. Raising the com up, he responded, "Kogane."

"Sorry to interrupt, Keith, but there's an incoming call from Garrison." Hunk's voice managed to convey some remorse.

"Is it a priority messge?"

"Yes, Commander."

Keith cast his eyes down. "Relate to them that I'll be in my office in fifteen."

"Acknowledged, Commander."

"Patch me through to Lance." He waited a moment until Lance acknowledged and then said, "I need you here as I have a call from Garrison that I have to take." Hearing Lance say he was on his way, he ended the call. As Keith lifted his eyes at the end of the call, he realized that Allura had never removed her hand from his arm.

"It's okay, Keith." She turned to look at the tree. "It's a beautiful gift. Thank you." Spontaneously, she turned and placed a quick kiss on his cheek."

Keith looked at her in wonder. "You're… you're welcome, Princess." Keith cleared his throat. He hated stammering. "Before I go, there's one more thing."

Looking at him curiously, she wondered what more he could give her.

Taking both of her hands in his, they faced each other. Looking into her eyes, he said with seriousness, "EVERYTHING on the tree is yours… If you want it." Looking behind her, he saw Lance in the edge of the tree line. "Lance is here now. I have to go. Stay as long as you want; Lance will see you safely back to the castle." Looking at their joined hands he spoke once more before moving off. "Just remember, it's all yours if you want it."

The Princess didn't say anything. She knew that Keith meant something more than just the ornaments on the tree. He was just too intense and serious for it to be something unimportant. Her eyes followed him as he walked past Lance. She looked to Lance as he faded back into the edge of the trees. Obviously, he knew she wanted to be alone.

Turning back toward the softly blinking tree, she looked at it with renewed interest. There was more to this tree than just bringing Arus and Earth together in decorations and traditions. Allura walked toward the tree; he had said that everything on the tree was hers… if she wanted it. What would he have put on the tree that she might not want? Her gaze went to various ornaments. Some displayed Arusian scenes while others had scenes from Earth. Other ornaments were simply beautiful works of art – clear delicate spun-glass spheres, colored glass teardrops, and many others.

Then she spotted it. It was near her eye level. It was the ornament that Keith had shown her a few months ago- the one of him with his family in the old metal frame. With a rapt expression, she reached for the ornament, gently pulling it off of the tree. Cradling it in her hands as a few flakes continued to fall, she smiled as she looked at it. His words came back to her… "It doesn't have much of a purpose right now, but perhaps one day it will. You know, when I have a family of my own." The words of a few months ago mingled with those he just spoke… "EVERYTHING on the tree is yours… If you want it." She clutched the ornament to her breast as her eyes misted with tears. He had been planning this for months. His trips to the village were for her. This incredibly thoughtful and surprisingly romantic gesture was for her. Allura looked at the tree one last time before turning to walk toward the castle. She didn't even notice as Lance fell into step behind her with a smile on his face. Her only thought was of his words… "if you want it." And she knew without a second thought what her answer was.