Disclaimers: Voltron and all associated characters are owned and copyrighted by WEP. Original/new characters belong to the author.
Rating: PG - Mild Language and Innuendo
After finishing their meal, they all enjoyed a steaming cup of hot cocoa and some delightful conversation. When enough time had passed for their food to have settled and the dialogue to begin dying away, Lance stood up and cleared his throat.
"It's about time for all of us to really have some fun." He made a rather grand sweeping gesture toward the door. "If you would all step inside."
Everyone entered the ballroom and Lance headed over to a small control box. He pressed some buttons and the lights dimmed just as the room was filled with the sounds of a beautiful waltz. He returned his attention to the group and smiled. "I thought a little dancing would be a nice surprise."
As if on cue, Hunk and Kinra, and Pidge and Liann swept away to twirl about the room. Lance glanced over at his Captain and the Princess, giving them a quick wink. Feeling rather pleased with himself, he turned to Sophie and asked her to dance.
Keith took a deep breath and turned to Allura. He was going to wring Lance's neck later, but in the meantime...
"My Lady, Allura, may I have the honor of this dance?"
She smiled brightly. "Of course."
He swept her into his arms and they joined their friends on the ballroom floor.
"It was so sweet of you to agree to be my escort for the evening, Keith. I hope that I didn't keep you from asking some young lady to be your date." Allura hoped he didn't wanted to be with anyone but her.
"No, it's my pleasure," he responded while trying not to look down into those amazing blue eyes. He knew if he did, he'd be lost.
The Princess felt her heart sink as, once again, Keith did his best to hide his heart from her. She felt her own heart begin to break, her hopes and dreams falling further and further from her grasp with each passing moment. When the music finally came to a stop, much to her surprise, she felt a flood of relief. If Keith didn't want her, she would have to find a way to move on.
A familiar voice came from somewhere nearby her shoulder. "Would you mind if I were to have a dance with your date, Keith?"
Keith and Allura both felt their cheeks heat up. But while the Captain was busy giving his second a meaningful glare, the Princess quickly turned around and spoke up.
"Of course, he doesn't mind. That is, if Sophie doesn't mind dancing with him in my place."
"I wouldn't mind at all."
After a very uncomfortable moment, another waltz began and Keith was forced to dance with Sophie as Lance whisked Allura away. The Captain of the Voltron Force looked down at the tiny blonde and smiled, but even she could tell that his smile was a practiced, polite motion rather than one fueled by genuine warmth.
Keith followed the movements of the dance, never missing one step, yet did his best to catch every glimpse possible of Allura. The second time she cleared her throat, he realized that Sophie had been speaking to him. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that."
"I was saying how wonderful it is to see our Princess so happy and in love with someone who obviously loves her so much in return," she repeated, smiling hesitantly.
He felt his spine stiffen. "You mean Lance?"
"No! I mean you."
He blushed, looked away and kept dancing. ~'Is it really that obvious?'~ If someone who barely knew him could see things so clearly, then what about those with whom he worked with day in and day out. Did everyone know?
On the other side of the ballroom, Lance held Allura near as she confided in him, her voice choked with unshed tears.
"Keith won't even look me in the eyes. It's as if he doesn't want to be here with me."
"Maybe we should go out onto the patio and get a breath of fresh air."
"I think you're right."
Lance took Allura's hand and brought it to his lips, kissing the back of it softly. "I'll be here for you, we'll work this out."
The Princess gave her dear friend a dazzling smile as he led her out through patio door.
Keith looked up just in time to see the exchange and the couple leaving the room. Without pause, he stopped dancing and looked down at Sophie. "I'm sorry, please excuse me."
Not even waiting for her response, Keith dashed across the room, his mind racing. He wasn't about to let Lance take advantage of the Princess. But even as the thought entered his mind, somewhere inside, he knew that his reaction had nothing to do with wanting to protect the Princess's virtue - he was jealous.
The evening's cool air caressed their faces as they stepped outside. Still hand in hand, they crossed to stand near the waist-high rock wall that separated most of the patio from the gardens. Lance watched the Princess for a moment.
"Would you like to take a walk in the gardens?" His question was posed as he gently tugged on her hand in an attempt to lead her down the wide staircase that lead out into the lush landscape.
"No," she said as she pulled her hand away from his and swiped at a tear that was making its way down her cheek. "I need to compose myself so I can go back in there."
"You do know that no matter how Keith may be acting, he cares very deeply for you." He stepped in close and reached out to gently cup her cheek with his hand.
Allura smiled at his attempt to comfort her. "Thank you."
For a moment, she resisted her need to throw herself in his arms. But just for a moment.
"Oh, Lance..." she cried as she melted into his embrace. "Why does it have to be so difficult?"
He didn't have the answers, so he simply tightened his arms around her slender shoulders and rested his cheek against her hair. He knew right now she needed strength and that he was the only person she felt she could trust to offer it.
Neither heard the door swish open.
"I hope I'm not interrupting you two," Keith ground out as his jealousy spilled forth. His restraint was being sorely tested as he watched his brother and supposed best friend holding the woman he was in love with.
"Oh," Allura gasped, her cheeks stained a dark pink as she jumped out of Lance's arms and spun around to face Keith.
"Not at all. We were just..." Lance began but never got to finish because Keith interrupted.
"I could see what you were doing."
"Hey, take it easy, Keith. It's not what you think."
Before Lance could explain what was happening, Keith had crossed the patio's expanse to stand directly in front of his second-in-command, their noses just mere inches apart. "And, what do I think?"
"Leave Lance alone! He wasn't doing anything wrong!" Allura cried out.
Keith turned to glare at her. When he spoke, his tone was harsh, almost reproachful. "Stay out of this, Princess. You don't know what you're talking about."
"Hey! Don't talk to her like that! She wasn't doing anything wrong!" Lance shouted, anger filling his voice. He didn't show it, but he was actually a little worried; he knew his Captain could be jealous, but he'd never imagined this.
Keith returned his attention to Lance. His voice dripping with sarcasm. "Well isn't it nice to see you two sticking up for one another?"
That was all Allura could take; she had seen and heard enough. Drawing herself up to her full five feet six inches, she stepped forward and spoke, her tone full of authority.
"Lieutenant, you are dismissed. Return to the party. Captain, I would like to speak to you in private, immediately."
Both men turned to face her and found she had assumed her 'I am the Princess' disposition. There would be no arguing - or reasoning - with her now.
Lance stepped in front of the furious young monarch and gave a small bow. In a very serious, no-nonsense tone, he said, "Yes, Your Highness." As he straightened, he met her gaze head on and without warning gave her a quick wink. Within a moment, he had proceeded through the door and back into the ballroom.
Keith couldn't believe what he'd just done. Although he was still feeling very angry, a little jealous and rather foolish, he knew that he had no right to act the way he had tonight. Just as Lance had done, he stepped in front of the Princess and bowed. "I'm sorry, Your Highness."
Allura stared at him in disbelief. She had no idea what had gotten into this man - normally he was so calm and collected, rarely giving into a display of emotion. But tonight, he'd treated her as if he'd found her in Lotor's arms instead of Lance's. And poor Lance had fared no better. After several excruciatingly long moments, she still had no reply. "I don't know what to say to you."
"I would like to be dismissed for the evening," Keith said, looking at his feet because he couldn't quite meet her eyes.
Her temper began to flare. He had to know that after something like this, she wasn't going to let him walk away and not explain himself. "I'd like to know what you were thinking. I'd also like to know why you almost attacked Lance. And, just exactly, what was it that you thought was going on out here?" Her eyes held flames; her voice was filled with ice.
Keith's cheeks turned a deep shade of crimson. "I don't know what I was thinking."
He chanced a look in her direction. ~'You look so beautiful tonight and I couldn't bear the thought of another man's arms around you.'~ More than anything he wanted to speak his thoughts, tell her exactly how he felt, but he knew he could never say those words. After a prolonged silence, he realized she wasn't going to let him off so easily. So, he tried again. "I thought Lance was trying to take advantage of you."
She gasped and blushed, but recovered herself quickly. She watched him for a moment and could almost believe that he was telling her the truth, but she didn't think it was the whole truth. "And?"
Keith sighed heavily and ran a hand through his jet-black hair. Why did she always make things so hard? He steeled himself as he looked up at her. "I am sworn to protect you. I was defending your honor and virtue."
Allura shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest as she turned away from her source of irritation. She was beginning to think she'd never figure him out. After a moment, she spun back around. "And what if I were to tell you that I wanted Lance to hold me?"
The myriad of emotion that passed over his face told her everything she needed to know. At first he was shocked, then outraged, angry, jealous, and finally embarrassed. He sputtered for a moment, no words coming out of his mouth. Finally he managed to utter, "But he's only a pilot, a soldier-"
"Yeah, I know the drill," Allura spit out the words as if they left a bitter taste in her mouth. "I am the Royal Princess of Arus. I shouldn't cavort with those below my station. I've heard that speech so many times from Nanny that I know it by heart." She paused and took a deep breath, when she saw that Keith was unmoved, tears of frustration began to stream down her cheeks. "Let me tell you something, Keith. I may be the Princess of this entire planet, but in so many other ways, I'm just like any other girl. I have dreams of falling in love and living happily ever after."
She could read the protest in his eyes as he opened his mouth to speak. To keep him from interrupting, she rushed on. "Haven't I given up enough for my people and my planet just with this war? Do I have to give up my friends, like Lance, simply because he wasn't born into a Royal family? I refuse to give up and marry a man I don't love simply because he was born into a family of kings. If I were to do that, shouldn't I just marry Lotor - at least it would end this war! How can anyone tell me that I should never get to know what it is to be loved by a man who I love in return, just because he's a pilot and I'm a Princess? Do I have to give up loving you because it doesn't suit my station?"
Keith simply stood still and stared at her in shocked silence. He wasn't sure what had just transpired, but he thought she'd just told him that she was in love with him. He had known she had romantic feelings for him. He had considered the idea that she thought she loved him, but he had never actually given himself a chance to believe it could be possible. A smile tugged at the corners of his lips and he felt like shouting and dancing, proclaiming to the world that Allura loved him. But, he didn't. He just stood there in shock, his mouth hanging open.
Realizing what she had just admitted, and seeing no response from Keith except for his obvious shock and discomfort, Allura turned away. "I'm going for a walk. Leave me alone."
As she made her way down the steps and out into the gardens, her thoughts tumbled around in her mind. The one that troubled her the most was that maybe Keith didn't love her after all. She thought that the night they had kissed had meant something to him. And that just now, he had been jealous over seeing Lance holding her. She must look like a fool. A silly, childish fool.
She felt as if her heart had been torn from her chest, leaving a huge empty space where it had once resided. Her breathing came in giant gulps as tears began to flow freely down her she heard someone walk up behind her, she did her best to keep her voice even, attempting to sound as if everything was normal. "What is it?"
"You," Keith said.
She turned to face him. "I told you to leave me alone. That was a Royal Order."
"No." He stepped in close and caught her hands in his own.
Allura tried to pull away, wanting only to protect her broken heart from any more suffering. "If you're so concerned with my virtue, you should leave. Remember, you were the one kissing me. Lance just hugged me."
"How could I ever forget kissing you?" Keith's eyes softened as he looked down into her beautiful, tear-stained face. "I'm so sorry I hurt you tonight."
She was blushing, but refused to look away. She continued to struggle against him and her eyes flashed with anger.
"I listened to you, Allura, now it's your turn to listen to me." Allura's eyes narrowed and she opened her mouth, intent on arguing, but Keith rushed on. His words were both an admission of guilt and a proclamation of his love. "I was jealous. I hated the idea of any man, but myself, holding you. It was driving me crazy to think that you and Lance could be lovers. I do love you, don't you know that? But, I can't give you what you deserve. You have to understand that this war has to come first. I'm a pilot. It's what I do. Galaxy Garrison could send me anywhere. That's why I can't accept your love. I don't want to hurt you. Don't you see?"
Tears had begun to make their way down his cheeks as he stood and watched the woman he loved taking in all the things he'd just said.
She threw her arms around his neck, her slight weight almost knocking him off balance with the ferocity of her feelings. "Oh, Keith! I knew you loved me! We can overcome all of this. I know we can!" She looked up into his eyes and her smile widened.
Keith took a deep breath, wanting to believe her, but knowing that he simply couldn't let this happen. "I can't. Not now. Maybe never."
Her smile faded as she broke away from the embrace. His words echoed through her mind and she felt somewhat confused. She was terrified that Keith wouldn't give her an inch on this. "But, you do love me?"
"With all of my heart and soul."
"Then will you at least give me the time you have here on Arus?"
He began to protest, but she quickly cut him off by bringing her hand up and resting her fingers against his lips. Her heart in her eyes, all the love and longing she felt for him shining forth, she spoke.
"Just while you're here, Keith. We don't have to tell anyone and we won't let things go too far. Just a few stolen kisses, some softly whispered words. I just want to know you. Please, don't deny me. I know I will never find a truer love than yours."
"Allura..." his voice was pleading.
"Please, Keith, I'm not asking you. I'm begging. Please," her voice softened as once again, tears began to streak down her face.
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He'd never been able to deny her anything - how could he deny her this? He looked back down at her and, as usual, it tore his heart out to see her crying. But he just wasn't sure that this was a good idea, there were so many complicating factors - and so many things that could go wrong. Of course, on the other hand, they would keep things between the two of them, and he would never let things become too serious, or go too far. He looked down at her and smiled. "How can I say no?"
He pulled her back into his arms and held her tight. "We will have to be very careful, and we can't let this get too serious." His words may have been a bit harsh, but his heart was soaring as he thought, ~'If only for a time, I will get to love you.'~
She nodded her agreement, but her thoughts were of their future, ~'Now I just have to convince him to stay forever.'~
Keith tipped Allura's head back, his lips touching hers in the most gentle of kisses. He pulled away to look down into her eyes and smiled before returning to the task of kissing her senseless.
Neither of them knew what Fate had in store for them. But tonight, neither cared. They had each other and, really, what else matters?