"Happy Birthday, Keith."

Story by Adele
Story Copyright 2002
A story based on the series, "Voltron, The Third Dimension"

The characters of Voltron are the property of World Event Productions.  All other characters are the copyright of Adele.  Please do not use them without asking for permission.  Thank you.

Enjoy!


Chapter 5
Not "Horsing"Around


Keith was gathering his things in his quarters for the afternoon ride he had planned for himself.   With only a few days before his birthday, he wanted to make the best of his time alone.

He was sure that the Princess was planning some sort of gala event for him.  He just had that feeling...

And knowing the Princess as he does...it wasn't going to be just a few guests.

Nevertheless, he wasn't going to spoil her fun.  He actually found himself appreciating the gesture.  But in the meantime, he wanted some time alone.

He had planned an afternoon to himself, with nothing but his horse, a lunch, and a good book.

He chose the story of, 'Romeo and Juliet' for some reason.  It was one of his favorites. Although lately, it had reminded him of his own struggles with his feelings for the beautiful Princess of Arus. 

He felt as if he were playing the part of Romeo at times, while Allura played his Juliet.   And as
in the story, fate had continuously played a role in their tragic separation.

"Maybe some day..." he mused, referring to himself and the Princess.

Keith heard a buzz at his door, and lifted his head from the book, dropping it into his bag.  He turned to the door and opened it.  As if on cue...there stood Allura...radiant as always.

"Princess?" Keith asked, caught off guard by her visit. "Is something the matter?"

"No...I just wanted to bring you this..." she said, suddenly pulling her hand from behind her back, and offering him the satchel she was holding.

He looked at the bag, and then looked at her. "What's this?" he asked.

"I packed you a lunch for your ride." she said tilting her head shyly.

Keith looked at her. "That was very kind of you, but,...you didn't have to go to the trouble..."

"Oh, no trouble at all, Keith!" she smiled. "It was my pleasure!"

Keith extended his hand and accepted the lunch from the Princess.   They both stood there staring at each other.   Finally, Keith impulsively asked the question he was dying to ask:

"Princess...uh... would you like to join me?"

Allura smiled. "I would love to, but you need this time to yourself.   I thank you though for asking me along.   Besides, I have a few things I need to attend to here."

"Are you sure?" Keith asked again. "I would love your company."

"I'm flattered that you would, but I think you should get away and be on your own today... just as you've planned." Allura replied sweetly. "I'll be waiting here when you return...and you can tell me all about your adventures."

Keith chuckled at the comment. "My adventures?" he mused. "You'd think you were sending me off to slay a dragon or something!"

"I think you and I have had this conversation once before, haven't we?" Allura mused.

"I believe we have, Princess!" Keith chuckled.

"Well, if you happen upon one, kill it for me, please!  You know how much princesses hate dragons!" she teased back.

"Yeah, I do." Keith agreed, then bowed before her. "Especially one's from a certain place called Doom!  I promise that if I see one, it's toast, Ma-lady."

"Thank you, brave Lion Knight!" she exclaimed with a giggle in her voice. "And for your bravery, you shall be richly rewarded..."

Suddenly, Allura leaned in toward Keith, and planted a gentle kiss on his cheek.  Keith closed his eyes, savoring the moment.  As she retracted herself, she saw the blush on his face.   Her smile quickly faded.

"Oh, Keith.... I'm sorry!   I've embarrassed you, haven't I?" Allura said, her voice suddenly full of regret.

Keith simply shook his head. "No, you haven't. Really..."

The smile quickly returned to her face. "Someday, I should like to try that again..." she said.

Keith looked at her blankly. "What do you mean?" he asked.

"Well, its not often I invoke such a response on our brave leader.  I should like to make you blush more often.  The color suits you!" she teased.

Keith suddenly broke into laughter. "Okay, I think that's quite enough, Princess!"

Allura's hand quickly flew to her mouth, covering it as she too, broke into a fit of giggles.

Keith quickly grabbed her hand away from her mouth. "You know, you shouldn't cover your mouth like that.  It's nice to see your smile."

He hadn't realized that he was still holding onto her hand. 

Allura smiled at him. "Oh Keith, since you've returned to Arus, my life has had such great meaning once again.   I've missed you terribly."

"Me too.  There wasn't a day that drifted by, that I didn't see your face in my mind." he said, echoing the sentiment.

Allura smiled again, tucking her head down to stare at the ground.   She could feel the flush now coming over her face.  It wasn't until Keith took his other hand, and with his fingers, lifted her chin up, so that her gaze returned to meet his.

"Are you sure you won't change your mind and come with me today?" he asked again.

Allura stared fondly at him. "I wish I could, Keith.  But Coran has so much planned for me today, that I'm afraid I just can't get away."

"Tell him you need a vacation." Keith suggested. "What with running the affairs of Arus, flying the Blue Lion and all, you're worn out, and can't do another thing."

She chuckled a bit. "I wish it were that easy, Keith."

"It is!" Keith replied. "Do you want me to speak to Coran for you?"

Allura suddenly shook her head. "Oh no!  That wouldn't go over well at all!"

"Why not?  As Lance would say at a time like this... live for the moment!" Keith smiled, tugging her arm. "Come on, Princess...life is going to pass you by without you even enjoying any of it."

Allura smirked. "Seems to me that I've heard this speech before," she said amusingly. "I believe Lance gave you that same speech to convince you to take today off."

Keith shrugged his shoulders a bit. "Well, he's right...I hate to admit it."

Allura's face broke out into laughter, and Keith joined her.  He suddenly became serious with her. "What do you say, Princess?  Join me today?"

Allura stopped laughing. "Honestly Keith, I have far too much to do today.  But perhaps tomorrow..."

"I'm going to hold you to that, Allura!" he said, giving her a wink with his eye. "I mean it... clear your calendar tomorrow.   You and I are going riding."

Allura nodded in agreement. "It's a date!" she replied, letting the words carelessly slip out of her mouth, before she realized what she had said. "That is...not a date...I mean..uh..."

"A date it is, Allura..." Keith replied. "I would be honored to escort you tomorrow."

She quickly looked into his eyes, and saw the mirrored image of wanting, that was present in her own heart for him.  But neither of them had the courage to admit it to each other.

"A date it is." she agreed with a nod of her head.  Then, she looked at the time. "You'd better get going, or you'll spend the whole day chit-chatting with me!"

"That wouldn't be too bad," he admitted. "At least I'd be enjoying myself."

"I'll see you later." Allura finally said, attempting not to let her emotions run away with her, and go with him. 

She knew she had affairs to attend to... and then there was the matter of Keith's party to plan. With only a few days remaining, she hadn't much time left to pull everything together.

"Alright, I'm going!" he chuckled.

Allura nodded her head. "Enjoy yourself.  And don't worry about us!"

"If there's any trouble..." he started to say.

"Yes, yes...we'll call you at once!  Now go!" she practically shouted at him. "I'm leaving now! Tah-tah!"

"And a 'tah-tah' to you too!" he threw back at her as she left and his door closed.

Keith turned back toward his desk, the satchel Allura had packed for him was tucked under his arm.  He tossed it into the duffel bag he had packed for himself.  Quickly zipping it up, he grabbed it and flung it over his shoulder.  Grabbing his wrist communicator, he attached it to himself, and walked out of his quarters.



As he exited the Castle, he saw Pidge and Hunk, doing what they do best...tinkering.

Keith walked up to them both. "Hey guys, what's up?"

"Hunk and I are trying to repair this old unit.  We can use it as a prototype for a new cloaking device idea that Hunk's been working on." Pidge replied.

"Yeah, I think it can work!" Hunk echoed Pidge's enthusiasm. "If we can get it working, we can attach it Black Lion's circuitry board, and Voltron can be cloaked from all enemy eyes."

"Sounds good!  Need any help?" Keith asked.

"Not today, Commander!" Pidge replied with a wink of his left eye.  "Lance already warned us you were off today, and not to bother you with anything."

"Well, you can ask me." Keith replied. "I'm not off limits, you know."

"Today you are!" Hunk added. "And if Lance finds out we're talking to you, we'll kill us!  He said you need a rest."

"And he's right, you do!" Pidge said. "Now, get going!  The day's wasting by!"

"Yeah, have fun, Keith!" Hunk added.

"And no skinny dipping!" Pidge chuckled.

"I don't think you have to worry about that, guys!" Keith replied as he continued on toward the royal stables.

"And watch out for wood nymphs!" Hunk shouted after him. "I hear they just love overworked commanders!"

"Yeah, yeah...I'll be careful!" Keith chuckled.

"And, besides, the Princess might get jealous if you brought a girl home!" Pidge teased.

Keith whipped around, and began walking backwards as he spoke. "Then, I'll bring her home for Lance!" Keith replied with a smile.

"Me too?" Hunk shouted. "Bring me a wood nymph!"

"And me!" Pidge also shouted.

"Sorry...I can only carry one girl in my magic bag at a time." Keith teased, as he turned back around and began walking a faster pace toward the stables.





"Ah...this is great!  I forgot what fun this actually can be." Keith thought as he rode his horse through the field. 

The wind in his face gave
an exhilarating feeling,
an almost natural high of sorts.

He commanded his horse to gallop faster. 
The breeze flapped through Keith's
thick black hair with great ease as the horse quickened his pace, digging up chucks of dirt beneath his hoofs.

It reminded Keith of a time when he was a boy on Earth...young and free.  Free from responsibility and duty.  Free to live...and free to enjoy a beautiful summer day.  The only thing that was missing was the companionship of the Princess at his side.  He wished she could be
here with him...sharing this moment with him.

Nevertheless, he wasn't going to let her absence spoil his day.  Off he rode...the wind carrying his mind off to the adventure Allura predicted he would have.

Some twenty minutes later, he arrived at the idea spot... a place by the river with a shady tree to sit under.

Keith dismounted his horse and then led him to the nearby tree, tying him to a low hanging branch. Keith grabbed his duffel bag and opened it up, grabbing the lunch first, and the book second.  He opened the bag and spoke to his horse as he did so.

"Well fella, let's see what she's packed us." He said to the horse as he dug around in the satchel that Allura had packed.

"Ah-ha!" Keith exclaimed. Then he looked at the horse. "You're a lucky fella...she's thought of everything!" he told the horse as he pulled out two large apples. "One for you and one for me."

He tossed the larger apple to ground, and the horse quickly attacked it, chewing at it rapidly. Keith, meanwhile, found a sandwich buried deep in the bag.  He plunked the apple back into the bag and unwrapped the sandwich.  Settling himself up against the tree, he began to eat it as he looked around at the beautiful world that Arus was.

The river was especially beautiful. 
It was a fast moving river, but
beautiful nevertheless.

He ate the sandwich mindlessly,
and then grabbed the container
of water that Allura had sent along
with him in the satchel.
He took a long draw of it before
setting it down.

Next, he grabbed the apple
and the book, and settled back to read a
while. The breeze was light and airy...
an absolutely perfect day.



A few hours had passed, and Keith had fallen asleep while reading the book.  His mind drifted, taking him through a world a wonder and pleasure...



He saw himself walking hand in hand with Princess Allura.  She was looking fondly at him and he the same to her.

"Keith...when can we get married?" she asked.

"As soon as you'd like." he replied happily.

"What about tomorrow?" she asked.

"If that's what you'd like, tomorrow it shall be." Keith replied.

"Good. Then it's a date!" She said.

"A date it is, Allura," he confirmed.

Keith leaned in toward her, and she did the same toward him.  They're lips were inches away from each other... when he heard the sound...

"Wait!" Keith shouted.

"Wait for what?" Allura said.

"Did you hear that noise?" he asked.

"What noise?" she asked.

"The sound of someone screaming!"
he replied, now looking around.

"I didn't hear anything, Keith," Allura said.

Then the scream sounded once again.

"There, did you hear it that time?" he shouted.

"No...I'm sorry. I didn't." she said again.

The scream was growing louder and louder...



"HELP ME!  SOMEONE HELP ME, PLEASE!"



Keith suddenly jumped awake from his dream.  The horse next to him was going crazy. "What is it, boy?" he asked the horse, as he rose to his feet, grabbing his blaster from his side.

"HELP ME!  PLEASE! SOMEONE...HELP!" the young woman shouted from the river.

Keith turned and saw her...a girl, maybe in her mid 20's, grabbing onto a rock in the middle of the swift running river.  He quickly reacted...

"Hang on!" he shouted out to her. "Don't panic!"

"Help me, please!" she repeated hysterically, coughing and choking as she began swallowing water.

"I'll be right there!' he shouted back. "Just hold on tight!"

Turning to his horse, Keith opened the emergency bag he had attached to the animal before he left.  Opening it up, he found the rope that was inside, among other things, including a blanket. He pulled the blanket out and tossed it to the ground.

Keith turned back toward the tree and attached the rope around it, tying it in a slip-knot around the tree.  He then tied the other end around his waist.

Then, shouted to the young woman in the water. "Just hang on!  I'm coming to get you!"

"Please hurry!" she cried out. "I can't hold on... much longer!"

"Yes you can!" Keith called out to her, readying himself for the rescue attempt.

Keith immediately jumped into the river.  The current was strong... almost stronger than he was.

With all of his might, he swam against the current to get over to where the woman was.  The river current moved swiftly, and it was all Keith could do to keep his head above the water. Grabbing onto the rock, he pulled himself up onto it with her.

"It's going to be okay now," he assured her as he began coughing himself, gasping for much needed air. "Just stay calm!"

The woman was crying hysterically.  Keith tried to get her attention.  "Listen to me! I'm going to come around in front of you, and tie the rope around us both. As I do, I want you to grab onto me, got it?"

"I'll...I'll try!" she whimpered.

"I need you to just hang on a little longer!" he encouraged her.

The woman only nodded, choking over the water she had been swallowing.  Keith nodded and began to make his way around the rock.

The rock was slippery from the surrounding algae that covered it.  He carefully positioned himself in such a way that she was able to get a firm grip onto his shoulders.  With his right hand, Keith held onto he rock.  With his left hand, he untied the rope.

Using the water to his advantage, he allowed the rope to slip away just enough to be tied around them both.  Keith then grabbed the rope with right hand, while now using his left to hold on to the rock.  He then slipped it around her waist, and then back to the front of his body.

With careful skill, he drew off his survival instincts that he had been taught to home in on while attending the space academy.  Using only one hand, he tightly tied a knot in the rope that now surrounded them both.

After he was satisfied with his work, he leaned backward to talk into the young woman's ear.

"Alright, listen to me!  We're going to swim away from this rock.  I want you to hold on to me as tight as you can.  I'm going to pull both of us back to shore.  Are you ready?"

"Yes...I'm ready!" she said, spitting water from her mouth.

"Okay, stand by and let me get set." Keith replied.

He took his hand and cleared the sopping hair from his face, so that he could see where he was now, and where he was going.

"Okay, here we go!" he shouted as he kicked them both off of the rock.

The girl screamed, but held on tight to his waist, her head lying up against his back.  The water quickly pulled them both like a whip downstream.  The rope tightened, preventing them from being swept away.

With every last ounce of strength, Keith used one hand over the other, and slowly began to pull them both toward shore.  All the while, he kept shouting words of encouragement to the life clinging to him from behind.

"Just...hang on!  Almost...there!"

Keith kicked his feet underneath the water, trying to help propel his movements back toward shore.  Pausing for only a moment to catch is breath, and his regain his strength, Keith once again began pulling him and the girl to shore.

As they reached the outer banks of the shoreline, Keith could start to feel the ground beneath his feet.  He began digging them into the ground under the water in order to gain posture.

"Just a few more seconds..." Keith called out to the woman behind him.  He could feel her grip starting to slack, and knew she was goingout...possibly into shock.

He quickened his pace to land, grunting out loud as he used his hands to pull the rope, and his feet to drag them both out of the water.

As he reached the land, he grabbed the rope for one final effort, and hoisted them both up onto shore.

Nearly exhausted, Keith dropped to the ground, and the woman dropped beside him.  After only a few moments of rest, he used both of his hands to untie the rope around his waste.  Once freed, he scrabbled to the horse, picking the blanket up from the ground, and scurried
back toward the unconscious woman.

Her complexion was pale.

"Come on...work with me here..." he talked to her. "You're not going to die!  Do you hear me?"

He wrapped her in the blanket tightly and pulled her up against the tree.  He took her pulse and found she had a rapid heartbeat...better than 120 beats per minute.  She was going into shock.

Realizing that she needed medical treatment right away, and further realizing that his horse wouldn't be fast enough to get them both back to the Castle for help, he opened the COM on his wrist communicator.

"This is Keith!  Lance, are you there?  Come in Lance!"

Suddenly, the familiar-voice of his best friend and second in command echoed over the COM. "Hey there, Keith!  How's the day going...?"

Keith quickly interrupted him. "No time for that now, Lance!   I need your help!  Send one of the lions to my coordinates, hurry!"

Lance quickly went on the alert. "Were you attacked?"

"No!  A young woman fell into the river not too far from where I was.   I just got her out, by no small miracle...and ...I think she's going into shock!"

"Stay where you are, Keith! I'll send Hunk! Just keep this channel open!" Lance replied.

"Hurry, Lance! I don't know how much longer she can stand to be without medical attention!" Keith replied.

"I'll have Dr. Gorma standing by when you guys get back!" Lance assured.

"Great!" Keith replied.

"Keith...stand by on this line...I'm calling Hunk!" Lance said.



"I think I almost got it..." Hunk shouted, pulling with all of his might on the casing of the prototype he and Pidge had been working on. "Just a few...more...tugs..."

Suddenly, the COM went off.

"Hunk!   Hunk...do you read?" Lance shouted through the COM. "Hunk, come in, Hunk!"

Hunk dropped what he was doing, throwing Pidge an annoyed expression.

"Figures," he huffed to his teenaged friend, as he reached for his wrist to activate his COM link.

"Hunk here...and this better be good, Lance!"

"Keith's in trouble...is that good enough?" Lance replied coolly.

Hunk and Pidge perked right up to attention.
"Where? What happened?"
Hunk shouted.

"I'm sending you the coordinates.
Take Yellow Lion and get over there
quick!" Lance replied.

"Lotor?" Hunk shouted angrily.

"No, nothing like that!  He just fished a woman out of the river, and she's going into shock.  He needs us to bring her back to the Castle right away!" Lance replied.

"Gottcha!  Be there in minutes!" Hunk said, then turned to Pidge. "Go tell the Princess!"

"On my way!" Pidge yelled, scurrying to his feet and heading for the door, while Hunk headed toward the Control Room.




Minutes later, Yellow Lion was in the air, and heading for Keith's position.  It wasn't long before Hunk had them in his sights.



"This is Yellow Lion. I see them! I'm going in!"
he said to Lance.



Keith was shivering.  The comfortable cooling breeze that was his to enjoy all afternoon was now beginning to freeze him out.  His clothes and hair were soaked, causing the air to become a bitter enemy to his body.  He could feel hypothermia beginning to set it.

Yellow Lion roared from the sky while on approach, catching Keith's attention.  He rose to his feet, waiving his hands up into the air toward his approaching friend.  He quickly knelt back down to the ground to the young woman lying against the tree.

"It'll be alright now," Keith said to her, knowing that she probably couldn't hear him anyway.

Yellow Lion set down close by their position, spooking the horse.  Keith rose to his feet to quiet the animal down.

Hunk jumped out of Yellow Lion with more blankets in his hands.  He quickly ran up to Keith, and wrapped a blanket around his commander.

"Here, put this on!" Hunk shouted.  He looked at Keith's condition. "Your lips are turning blue, Keith. You're going to need medics too!"

"I'll be fine..." Keith said, his teeth chattering together. "Get her." He said, tilting his head down toward the tree.

Hunk quickly scooped her up in his arms. "Let me get her set, then I'll be right back for you. Can you hang on a few more minutes?"

"Yeah...I'll gather my stuff and start riding in.  Meet me on the way." Keith replied.

"Okay," Hunk nodded then ran with the girl in his arms back to Yellow Lion.

With the blanket hugged tightly around his body, Keith watched as Yellow Lion lifted off into the air, heading back for the Castle of Lions.

Once Yellow Lion was out of sight, Keith knelt down and grabbed his book and the lunch satchel, and stuffed them both back into the duffel bag.  He then went to the tree to retrieve the rope.

It was then that he started to feel lightheaded and dazed.  Grunting to himself, he grabbed the rope and put it back in the emergency supplies bag.  Mounting the duffel bag on the horse, he steadied the animal before mounting it.

"Easy boy, easy..." Keith soothed the horse.

He pulled the blanket off and tossed it on the horse, then mounted it.  He then wrapped the blanket back around himself for warmth.

Keith prodded the horse to start a slow return to the Castle.  The wind in his face was now an annoyance rather than a natural high.  No fun when you're freezing to death.

He opened his COM to the Castle. "Lance...is she there?"

"Yellow Lion just arrived with her, Keith.  Princess went out with Coran and Dr. Gorma to get her.  How are you hold up?" Lance questioned.

"I'm okay, just incredibly cold..." Keith replied, shivering in his voice.

"Okay, Hunk's on the way back for you and the horse." Lance advised.

"I'm watching for them." Keith replied.

"We'll see you back here in a few minutes.  Pidge will take care of the horse for you." Lance added.

"Thanks." Keith said to his friend.

"By the way, Keith..." Lance asked coyly. "What's she look like?"

Keith giggled in between shivers. "You just couldn't resist, could you?"

"Hey, you know me.  Ever the Casanova!" Lance replied.

"Yeah, well, I was too busy trying to save her, and not kill myself in the process, to notice. Sorry, but I didn't get a good look at her." Keith replied, his teeth now chattering together faster than before.

"That's okay.   I'll catch her in the infirmary when I come to visit you!" Lance replied.

"Gee...thanks." Keith sighed sarcastically. "You're such a good friend!  I'm so glad I can be your excuse for opportunity!"

Lance let out a hardy laugh. "You know I'm only kidding..."

"That's the trouble... I know you're not!" Keith replied with a snort in his voice.



Yellow Lion was in sight now, heading for Keith and the horse.  Hunk interrupted the COM... "I see Keith now.  I'm going down."

"Roger that, Yellow Lion." Lance acknowledged. 
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