A Christmas Tale

By (Kitty)Shannon

Disclaimers: Voltron and all associated characters are owned and copyrighted by WEP. Original/new characters belong to the author.

Rating: PG for Innuendo

In the Castle of Lions rec room, Lance stood near the window and stared out at the winter's night sky. Storm clouds gathered, smothering away the twinkle of stars. It matched his mood as his mind wandered a dark path.

Several months had passed since the Galaxy Alliance had sent five specially trained space explorers to the war torn planet of Arus. Their mission had been to seek out any surviving members of the Royal Court, hoping against hope, that there would be a way to restore the mighty robot Voltron, Defender of the Universe. With a little luck, they had found themselves within the shelter of the Castle of Lions. There they were discovered by Coran, the kingdom's Royal Advisor, who had mixed news.

The bad news, as the Galaxy Alliance had feared, most of the Arussian royal family had been brutally murdered by Zarkon's evil forces. The good news, King Alfor's youngest child had been secreted away - the Princess Allura, lived!

The five young men were quick to explain their mission, and were excited to meet the beautiful heir to the Arussian throne and set to work trying to restore Voltron. But Coran was hesitant - all the years of war and bloodshed had left the older man tired and suspicious.

Unknown to all six men, the lovely Allura listened closely, unseen by their eyes, but watching them from the shadows. Coran may have been wary, but she knew without any doubt that these five young men would be their salvation.

As she stepped from the shadows and into the light, it seemed she glowed, and perhaps she did. Her kind and encouraging words touched all their hearts and her gratitude for their desire to aide her planet cemented their resolve.

They all agreed nothing was more important than finding a way to bring back Voltron and destroy to Zarkon once and for all.

Coran quickly revealed the secret lairs where five mighty robot lions slept. . . . and that when these lions united, they would become the Defender of the Universe, Voltron! With the help of the ghost of King Alfor, Allura's father and Arus's slain monarch, this ragtag bunch was able to find they keys that would allow them to pilot the robot lions, and breathe life back into the legend of Voltron.

Once word reached planet Terra, home to the Galaxy Alliance headquarters, the news spread like wildfire! After so many years of being terrorized by the forces of Doom, hope spread to planet after planet. And the good people rejoiced; with Voltron's return, perhaps they would all be saved! But, the ancient King Zarkon and his evil Witch Haggar, seemed to have unlimited resources and never-ending Doom troops.

And so the battle would continue. Voltron tipping the balance to the side of good. King Zarkon's forces tipping that balance back to the side of evil. And on, and on, it would continue. . . Would this war never end?

~'Back on Terra, it's almost Christmas,'~ Lance thought as he turned away from the window to survey the room, quickly taking in the sullen mood of his fellow space explorers.

Sven, pilot of the Blue Lion, was attempting to write a letter, but it seemed he must be struggling, because from what Lance could see, the paper only had a few lines scribbled across it. Keith, their Captain and pilot of the Black Lion, was reading a book, but it looked as if he hadn't turned a page for some time now. Pidge, pilot of the Green Lion, and Hunk, pilot of the Yellow Lion, shared a game of chess. . .but Lance knew their hearts weren't in the game because if they had been, Pidge would have already won and Hunk would be challenging his friend to a rematch.

~'That poor kid,'~ Lance thought as he studied Pidge. ~'He's missed out on so much!'~

As if sensing someone's eyes on him, Pidge looked up.

"You okay, Lance?"

"Yeah," Lance stuffed his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket. "Just thinkin' about how much this sucks!"

Everyone turned their attention to the pilot of Red Lion, but Keith was the first to speak.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean all of this," Lance yanked his hands out of his pockets and gestured wildly. "This war, this place! It's been months since any of us were back on Terra; since we saw our families! Is this ever going to end?"

Sven spoke, his Norwegian accent softening his deep voice. "This war has been ongoing for decades now. Even with the help of Voltron, you had to have known it would not end quickly."

"If I could just get my hands around Zarkon's scaly throat it would," Hunk chimed in, pounding his fist against his open palm to emphasize his displeasure.

"Alright, alright," Keith said, raising his hands as if in surrender. "I know everyone is frustrated, and tired, but getting riled up isn't going to help."

"Hey Keith?" Pidge's voice seemed small amid the angry tones of his teammates.

"Yeah, Pidge?" As he spoke, Keith glanced quickly around the room, the black look in his eyes making his meaning clear. Enough was enough.

"Maybe it would help if we could have a small bit of home right now?"

Keith nodded, "I'm sure it would but I'm not sure what you're suggesting."

"Well, back on Terra, it's December -"

"It's almost Christmas!" Lance interrupted.

"Right," Pidge agreed. "Maybe we could put up a tree in here?"

"Do you think Nanny would let us?" Sven asked, clearly on board with the idea, but hesitant because none of the Voltron Force knew what to make of the Royal Governess.

"She don't like us nosin' around the Princess," Hunk said. "But I think she's an old softy underneath all her bluster."

"There's only one way to find out!" Lance spoke as he walked over and ruffled Pidge's hair. "We can't let Pidge down. Anyone volunteer?"

Keith looked up at Lance who lifted his eyebrows meaningfully. With an exasperated sigh, the Captain crossed the room. As he opened the door, he quickly glanced back and said, "I guess I'll go find Nanny."

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:)

As the kitchen door slid open, the Princess of Arus turned from her task and watched as the Captain of the Voltron Force stepped into the room. She felt the butterflies in her stomach stir to life and took in a quick breath to try and settle them.

"Hello Keith, would you like one?" She smiled as she set a plate of cookies on the counter. "They're still warm, I baked them myself."

"Sure," Keith returned her smile, his chocolate-brown eyes warming as he admired her grace and beauty. From the first time they had met, he had been absolutely taken with her. And the deeper their friendship grew, the more enchanted he became.

"Would you like something to drink?"

"Yeah, thanks, Princess." He watched as she poured two glasses of milk before crossing the room to the table and chairs where the kitchen staff took their meals. Setting the glasses on the table and pulling out a chair for herself, she turned to give him a puzzled look.

"Keith…?"

But the Captain of the Voltron Force didn't hear her; he was lost in his own thoughts. It was a fantasy he'd had since childhood. . . One where he was an ordinary guy, living an ordinary life on Terra. A sweet wife, three great kids, a small house with a garden in the back. Only this time, the sweet wife who had always remained faceless now looked just like Princess Allura.

"Keith? Keith! Did you hear me?"

Only the sense of urgency in her voice roused him from his daydream. ~'What's wrong with me?' ~

He quickly looked down to avoid the questions in her eyes.

"I guess I'm just a little distracted."

"I think we've all been feeling that way." The Princess offered a sad yet understanding smile. "Why don't you bring those cookies over here and we can share them while you tell me what brought you in here tonight?"

"Actually, I was looking for Nanny." He answered, crossing the room and settling into the seat across from the one she now occupied.

"Oh." She chided herself for feeling so disappointed that he hadn't been looking for her ~but, why would he be looking in the kitchen for anyone besides Nanny, anyway?~

She didn't really understand why she was feeling these things, but decided now wasn't the time to explore it further. Although, she had to admit to herself that, recently, her emotions had begun to run amok every time Keith was near. That had to mean something.

"I'm sure she's retired for the evening by now. Is there anything that I can do?"

The dashing Captain regarded her momentarily. "Actually, maybe you can." If they had the Princess on their side, maybe Nanny wouldn't be so hard to win over. "The guys were talking about Christmas, and getting a tree-"

"Christmas?" she cut him off. "That's a very important Terran holiday, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is. I see you've been brushing up on our history." His eyes shone with pleasure, knowing she'd been studying his culture.

She blushed with happiness, offering him a shy smile when she heard his warm tone and saw the twinkle in his eyes. "Hmm. . . Why don't you tell me some more about Christmas, and a tree?" she looked to him for confirmation. At his nod, she continued, "And I'll see what I can do to help."

"That sounds fair to me."

She picked up a cookie and took a bite as she settled in. Keith quickly followed suit, and they spent half the night talking about Christmas and all the wonderful traditions it entails.

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:)

The next morning, Princess had gone to Nanny, explaining the situation and asking if they could have some decorations and a special dinner as a Christmas celebration for the boys. It really didn't take much convincing for the Royal Governess to agree. So, together, they had all begun searching through all the trunks and boxes filled with decorations, ribbons, banners, bows and other assorted ornaments that had been saved from the many parties and balls that the castle had once seen.

As they hunted they found many beautiful things to use, not only as decorations, but also as ornaments for the tree. It took Allura, the Voltron Force and several maids three days to sort through all the treasures. When they finally finished, they gathered everything up and transported it to the rec room.

"Now all we need is a tree." Hunk observed, his soft brown eyes twinkling at the approaching merriment.

"Hey! Why don't we all go together to look for one?" Pidge exclaimed. He hadn't been born on Terra, but while attending the Galaxy Alliance Space Academy there, he had begun to look forward to the holiday each year.

"Yeah," Lance agreed, a huge smile spreading over his handsome features. "Like when we were kids and the family would all go together."

"Great idea," Keith looked around at his friends. "Why don't we go first thing tomorrow morning?"

Sven nodded, a warm look crossing his features. "That's perfect. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve."

"Then it's decided," the Captain announced, "tomorrow, we find a tree."

Allura watched the exchange and a deep emotion filled her heart. Right now, in this very moment, she knew these five young men were so much more than a team, or even just friends - they were a family. She cleared her throat and asked hesitantly, "May I come along too?"

She didn't want to intrude on their family-like venture, but she really wanted to be included. She had grown to love them all and couldn't imagine not being a part of such a special tradition.

They all looked at her for a moment before breaking into laughter and exchanging amused looks.

"Of course you can come," Keith smiled.

"We wouldn't have it any other way," Hunk added.

Her eyes began to fill with tears as she looked at the young men surrounding her. They were all smiling and nodding their agreement, which filled her heart to its fullest. She honestly didn't think she could feel any happier, but what Lance said next made her heart overflow with joy.

"You're part of our family, too, Princess."

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They all stood back, admiring their Christmas tree. It was at least eight feet tall and they had spent most of the afternoon decorating it, not only with the treasures they had found, but also with the simple decorations that Nanny and the maids had made. Among the bows and glittering ornaments there were strings of popcorn and gingerbread men. It was perfect.

"Oh! How beautiful!" Nanny cried out as she and Coran entered the rec room.

"Indeed, it is," the Royal Advisor agreed.

"And it was so much fun!" Princess Allura exclaimed. "You know, Keith was telling me the history of Christmas and some of their traditions for the holiday!"

"Really?" Coran was intrigued. Other cultures and their traditions had always fascinated him, but since the arrival of the five young men from the Galaxy Alliance, Terran culture had become one of his favorites.

"Yes," Allura said before launching into the details that Keith had provided her.

"No wonder it is such an important holiday to you boys!" Nanny's voice quivered.

All five members of the Voltron Force smiled and nodded their agreement.

"It reminds us to love one another," Pidge said, the young orphan's heart full of warmth for the people who had become his family.

"And even the smallest acts of kindness are of great importance," Sven added, offering Nanny a warm smile and his silent thanks.

"We should try to find peaceful ways to resolve our differences." Hunk's words meant all the more coming from a man who by all means could physically settle any disagreement.

"How we must share with those who are less fortunate." As Lance spoke, they all thought of the many times when, instead of getting a little R and R, these young men had worked to rebuild towns, they had taken medical supplies and food to those without and spent countless hours playing with the orphans.

"It's a time to remind us that a New Year is upon us and we should try to carry all the things Christmas really means into it. To practice our 'holiday manners' throughout the year. And that we should be thankful for the many blessings we all have, yet forget to see everyday." Keith's words hung in the room.

They all stood in silence, thinking about their lives and the deep meaning of their words; this wisdom that far outweighed their years. These young boys had earned a new respect from all three Arussians, today.

Finally, a teary-eyed Nanny excused herself, saying that dinner would be ready shortly. Everyone took this as their cue to go wash up and meet back in the dining room for a splendid meal. After dinner, everyone had gone off in their own direction. They all had last minute details they wanted to see finished before Christmas morning.

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The Captain of the Voltron Force sat on his bed. In his hand was a tiny box with a brilliant pair of Arussian blue-diamond earrings inside. He studied them intently, silently considering whether or not he should give them to the Princess. He let out a deep sigh and snapped the lid closed.

A few months before, he had used his personal time to make a trip to the Arussian marketplace, to have his favorite pair of boots resoled. While he waited for the cobbler to finish his work, Keith had decided to wander through the nearby neighborhood and do a little window shopping. Lots of things had caught his interest, but he wasn't the type to do much of anything on impulse, let alone make a purchase.

But, as he passed by the jeweler's window, he had spied them! At first he had been struck by how the earrings sparkled, almost as if they were alive with an inner light! Without even realizing what he was doing, he walked into the shop and asked the attendant if he could see the earrings up close. She had smiled, and as she handed them over, Keith noticed the way she brushed his hand with her own. He admired her for just a moment, noting that she was quite pretty, but he felt no interest in her sweet smile. All he could focus on were these magnificent gems.

Nestled in a black velvet-lined box, he turned them this way, and then that way studying their rich blue fire. . . And that's when he realized where he had seen that very same shade of blue before. They were the same shade of the cornflowers that had grown in his mother's garden when he was just a boy - that had been the first thing he had noticed about Princess Allura. Her eyes were that exact shade of cornflower-blue.

He just knew that these earrings had been created just to match those amazing eyes!

And for the first time in his life, Keith made an impulsive decision when he bought the precious gems for the most amazing woman he had ever known.

Of course, his sense of propriety stepped up just as the Castle of Lions had come into view, and he realized just how inappropriate a gift they'd make, and how his intentions could be completely misconstrued. . .

Suddenly his door opened and the pilot of the Red Lion appeared.

"Don't you know how to knock?" An extremely startled Keith almost shouted as he jumped up and tried to hide the earrings.

"Sorry. You shoulda locked the door," Lance said, undeterred. "What'cha got there?"

"Nothing." Keith scowled. "Did anyone get the Princess a gift?"

"Yeah, we all did. Why? Did you forget about her?"

"What did everyone get her?" With the ease of an older brother, Keith simply ignored Lance's questions.

"Well, I got her a snow globe with a music box attached to it. Pidge got her a fancy, sparkly, pin thingy. Sven got her a book of poetry. And Hunk got her a box of candy. So, what I wanna know is what'd you get her?"

The pilot of the Black Lion shook his head.

"I'm gonna see it tomorrow. What's the big deal?"

"Fine," Keith sighed in resignation and held out the little black box.

Lance popped open the lid and, after a momentary look of shock, grinned. "Wooo-hooo! Diamonds? Arussian blue-diamonds!? And big ones at that. Boy, Keith, you must REALLY like her."

Keith glared at Lance, which (of course) only egged him on.

"Maybe you more than like her? Huh, Chief?" Lance was grinning from ear to ear. "Keith has a crush on the Princess. . ." he sang teasingly.

"Shut up, Lance," Keith ground out as he snatched the earrings back and gave his annoying brother a shove out the door.

"Hey! I was just. . ." Lance began, but the door slid closed and the lock clicked. At first, his grin began to fade, but then. . .

~'He really does have a thing for her!'~

And his smile grew wider.

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:)

The next morning, after breakfast, they all gathered around the huge tree. The room was filled with laughter and good cheer as they took turns opening presents; everyone was so very touched at the thought and love that the others had put into picking out the gifts.

About mid-way through Allura rose. "I was going to wait until the end, but I just have to give these to you now." She handed each of them a small box of the same size and shape.

As they opened their gifts, they were all awed at what they found within.

"Yours belonged to my Father, Keith. I had a matching one made for all of you."

Each had received a golden ring with a lion's head carved into it, a stone sparkled from where it had been set into the lion's eye. Keith's was an onyx. Lance's was a ruby. Sven's was a sapphire. Pidge's was an emerald. Hunk's was a citrine.

"The stone's represent your Lions," she said, uncertainty filling her voice.

"Princess, I don't know what to say," wonder filled Sven's voice. "Thank you."

"Yeah, wow! Thanks, Princess!" Pidge jumped up and pulled her into a hug. Hunk and Lance repeated those sentiments and, joined by Sven, they followed Pidge's example, getting up and hugging her tightly.

Finally, Keith looked up from the ring and found her soft blue eyes. "This is the most thoughtful gift I've ever received. I will cherish it." There were tears in his warm brown eyes as he crossed the room and embraced her.

"Thank you," he whispered in her ear, his voice thick with emotion. He placed a small box in her hand. "This is for you."

She smiled up at him tentatively before opening it. "Oh! They're beautiful, Keith!" She threw her arms around his neck, hoping to hide her tears, "Thank you! Oh! I can't wait to try them on!"

The Princess quickly set to work removing the earrings from their box and put them on. As she did, Keith kept his back to his friends, already knowing they weren't going to let this go - once they were alone, they would give him so much grief over his gift. Their teasing would be merciless.

"Look," she said to the others, turning her head from side to side so they could see the earrings. The guys exchanged amused looks.

"Are those real, Keith? They must have cost a fortune!" Lance finally asked, triumph filling his voice.

"Yes, they are real and what they cost is none of your concern." Keith said, as he gave them all a warning glare over Allura's head.

"I always thought you gave diamonds to a girl when you were in- ouch!" Hunk was silenced by a jab in the ribs from Sven.

"When you were what, Hunk?" Pure innocence shone from Allura's eyes.

"When you see them as more than a friend," Lance smirked. But as he caught the black look Keith was throwing him, his cheesy grin began to fade.

"More than a friend?" she asked, her eyes filling with questions as she turned to the man beside her.

Keith's mind raced. ~'Do I think of her as more than a friend?'~ he asked himself and from somewhere his heart answered, ~'Of course you do. You're falling in love with her.'~ He opened his mouth, his jaw moving up and down, but no words came out.

"Like family. That's what Lance was trying to say. Weren't you Lance?" Sven said, coming to Keith's rescue.

"Yeah, like family," Lance said, fearing his Commander's wrath.

"Oh, Keith!" Allura said, throwing her arms around him again. "That means so much to me." She began to cry, everyone assuming they were tears of joy. In part they were and in part they were from a sadness she couldn't explain.

For a brief moment Allura had thought she saw a very un-family like love reflected in those depthless chocolate-colored eyes. But she couldn't figure out why it made her so sad to think that Keith saw her only as family. ~'It's not like I'm in love with him,'~ she told herself.

It only took a single heartbeat for her soul to respond.

~'Not yet...'~

End