"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.


Chapter 12
And So It Begins

Evening had arrived without any fanfares.  Lance had stopped by Gem's room, to see if she wouldn't mind an escort to dinner.  He buzzed the door several times, but received no answer. He became concerned.

"Gem... Are you in there?" Lance began shouting through the door.

Inside, Hagar was admiring her temporary form in the mirror of the vanity.  She frowned, thinking it was too bad that she couldn't keep the body she had borrowed to deliver the evil present to Commander Keith.

She had heard Lance beginning to pound on the door with more of urgency.

"Gem! Are you in there? Gem answer me!"

"What a stupid fool!" Hagar hissed silently. "Doesn't he get it?  I don't want to be disturbed!"

As the pounding grew more intense, Hagar decided that she should answer the door and send the miserable lout on his way.

"Coming" she said, as she rose up from the vanity and headed for the door.

Opening it, she found Lance standing there, obviously anguish over the silence. 

Lance looked her. "Are you okay?"

"Yes, I am, but I'm feeling a headache coming on." Hagar said, faking illness. "I'm not going to dinner tonight.  You go on without me."

Lance reached his hand over and touched Gem's face.   He shuddered.  "Geez... you're freezing!" Lance replied. "I think we had better get you do Dr. Gorma right away!  Something might wrong with you!"

Hagar had to think fast.  If the doctor looked at her, he would discover that her bodily algorithms are all off, and that her temperature would only reach 68 degrees.  A recently deceased humanoid might carry that type of a temperature, as the body began the decaying process. But for Hagar, the temperature was normal.

"Oh, I'm fine, Lance," Hagar lied. "On my planet, my people's temperature drops drastically when we don't feel good.   Even a simple cold can cause us to feel cold.   I really should stay in.  I'm not hungry."

"Maybe I should get my dinner and come back here to keep you company." Lance offered.

"Uh...no!" Hagar stammered. "Uh, what I mean is, that wouldn't be proper...you coming in here alone with me. People may talk..."

"Aw, who cares what people think.!  Let 'em think what they want!  We know the truth!" Lance replied.

"No, really!   I'll be fine.   I'm just going to go to bed now anyway.  You go on without me, and I'll see you tomorrow morning." Hagar said convincingly.

Lance hesitated for a moment, then gave in. "Alright...if you're sure..."

"I'm sure...really!  Now go on, or your dinner will get eaten by the plump one." she said, referring to Hunk.

"The plump one!  Hey, I've got to remember that one!" Lance chuckled.  "Okay...I'll see you tomorrow then."

"Yes.  Until tomorrow." Hagar replied, faking a smile.

"Good night, Gem." Lance said with a smile.

"Good night, Lance." Hagar replied.

As the door closed quietly, Hagar breathed a sigh of relief.

"That was too close." She said to herself as she returned to gaze at her figure in the mirror.

"Where the heck is Lance?" Hunk complained.

He, Pidge and Keith were awaiting his arrival, along with Coran in the dining hall.  Coran, in a very stately manner, cleared his throat in order to gain Hunk's attention.

"Hunk, I am sure that Lance is on his way.  Please try to remain patient until then." Coran said in a corrective manner.

"Geez..." Hunk sighed. Then he turned to Pidge, who was sitting right next to him. "Wish he'd hurry!  I'm hungry!" Hunk whispered.

"He'll be here in a few minutes, Hunk!" Pidge whispered back, rather annoyed at large friend. "He went to go and pick up Gem for dinner."

As Hunk and Pidge whispered to each other, Coran took notice of the Princess's absence.   He sat to her immediate right, and Commander Keith to her immediate left.

Coran couldn't help but shake his head. "Commander," he addressed Keith. "Where is the Princess?"

Keith looked up from his plate. "Uh, she's having dinner in her chambers tonight, Coran." Keith replied tiredly.

Coran suddenly took notice of Keith's apparent lack of energy.  "Commander, are you alright?" he asked Keith.

"Yeah, I guess so....just a bit more tired then usual, that's all."  Keith replied.

Hunk looked up from his conversation with Pidge. "Hey, Keith, I thought you said you were catching a nap for a few hours this afternoon?"

"I did, Hunk," Keith replied. "But I don't think it did any good."

Pidge sat up and looked at Keith.  He appeared to have circles under his eyes.

"Hey Commander, are you sure you're okay?" he asked, a note of concern in his voice.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm okay." Keith said, nodding his head, faking a sudden spark of energy. "I'm fine...just a bit warn out."

"...Must be old age catching up with you, Keith!" the familiar voice rang out from the doorway.

Everyone turned around to see Lance leaning up against the doorway, his arms crossed in front of him, and his feet crossed, one over the other.

"Nice thing to remind someone on the eve of on their birthday, Lance." Keith chuckled.

"Well hey, if the shoe fits!" Lance teased. "Old man Keith!  Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?  By the way, when you retire as Voltron's Commander, can I have your job?"

"Get in here and sit down, you clown!" Keith yelled, giggling as the words left his mouth. "Before I make you eat those words!"

"Oh!  A challenge!   I love a challenge!  What'll it be...fencing?  Darts at fifty paces?" Lance further teased.

"How about a good, old fashion, punch in the...hey...where's Gem?"  Keith asked, suddenly realizing that she wasn't with him.

"She's not coming." Lance replied matter-of-factly. "Said she had a headache."

Hunk wasted no time, immediately pouncing on the opportunity to dig Lance a few times...

"A headache?  Oh, so that's her pet name for you now?"

"It didn't take her long to figure out Lance, did it?" Pidge snickered, joining in on the fun.

"Oh ha, ha, ha!" Lance pouted. "You guys are totally funny!"

"Is she alright?" Keith asked on a more serious note.

"Yeah, I guess so," Lance replied. "But now that you mentioned it, something did catch me off guard.  She seemed very cold to me...her skin temperature, I mean."

"What do you mean?" Pidge asked Lance.

"Well, I went to touch her, and her skin felt incredibly cold to me." Lance replied, as he took a seat next to Keith. "Hey, where's the Princess?  She's not joining us?"

"No.  She is dining this evening in her chambers." Coran replied.  "Curious though, did you ask Gem if she felt well?"

"Yeah I did, and she said she did...except for the headache.  I don't know.  It kind of worries me..." Lance admitted.  Then he looked at Keith. "Maybe you can talk to her later, just to make sure she's fine."

"Okay, I'll check in on her after dinner." Keith replied, shaking out his arm.

"Something wrong, Keith?" Hunk asked.

"No, just that I'm noticing a bit of muscle strain in my left arm.  Nothing, I'm sure...probably just slept wrong on it or something."  Keith replied, letting his arm drop.

"Well, if there are no further conversations on this matter, I would like to summon the servants to bring dinner out." Coran asked.

"Bring it on, Coran!" Hunk shouted.

As Coran did so, Keith leaned into Lance. "Hey, I heard that you and Gem took a walk this afternoon in the garden."

"Guilty as charged..." Lance replied back with a bit of smile on his face. "Hope you don't mind that I swiped your girlfriend from under your nose...but hey, you were with the Princess...and you can't have it easy on both sides of the street, you know!"

"You won't see me complaining about it, Lance!" Keith said with a smile. "I'm actually glad that she's tuned into someone else other than me."

"Really?" Lance replied. "I'm glad you approve!"

"I knew something was up...she canceled our brunch plans tomorrow, which actually is a good thing.  I'm looking forward to just sleeping in." Keith said, a yawn now passing by his lips.

"You Keith?  Sleeping in?  Are you saying that Lion practice is canceled tomorrow?" Lance asked, trying not to sound so excited.

"Yeah, I've decided to give everyone the day off in honor of my birthday." Keith replied.

"Hey...now that's awesome!" Lance said cheerfully. "In honor of your birthday, Keith, I plan on sleeping in too!"

"Thanks, Lance." Keith replied sarcastically. "I appreciate the unselfish sentiment."

"Hey...anything for my old buddy!" Lance replied with a wink and a smile.

"There goes that word again... old." Keith said. "Just remember, you were born a few months before me!"

"So...a guy can be older without looking older!" Lance teased.

"You're not suggesting that I look older than you, are you?" Keith said, suddenly pretending to be defensive. "Because if you are..."

"Hey, when you're a commanding officer, and insist on playing by the rules as much as you do...you tend to look...well...older!" Lance teased him further.

"That's it!" Keith returned playfully. "You're here by ordered to show up for Lion practice by yourself tomorrow morning!"

"Oh, yes sir!" Lance snapped a fake salute before snickering. "I'll be there...in my dreams!"

The two friends began laughing heartily with one another, drawing a stern look from Coran. After catching the look, they calmed down.

"Sorry, Coran." Keith replied, begging forgiveness.

Coran couldn't help but crack a small smile across his face.

After dinner, Keith skipped the lounge room dessert and coffee, in favor of checking in on Allura once before he turned in.

He walked up to her room and rang the buzzer.

"Just a moment, please..." her voice sweetly sounded from behind the door.

Keith waited patiently, trying to think of what to say to her.  Things were kind of fuzzy between him and the Princess, ever since the afternoon ride.

The door slide open with a swoosh, revealing Allura standing before him dressed in her pink bathrobe and fluffy pink slippers.  Her golden blonde hair was flowing freely down her back and across her shoulders.

Keith was taken back by her appearance. "Uh, I'm sorry, Princess.  I didn't mean to disturb you." Keith stumbled through his greeting.

"Oh, it's quite alright, Keith." Allura replied. "Would you like to step in for a moment?"

"Uh...I'd... better not, Princess." Keith replied, thinking better of the idea. "It... may not look very good."

"I see..." Allura smiled. "Well then...what can I do for you?"

"I just came to make sure you were okay." Keith replied, suddenlyembarrassed about the whole encounter.

"I'm fine, but I have so much work to do for this ball, that I'm afraid I really can't stop to chat much unless its an emergency." she replied.

"No, no...no emergency...just a friendly visit to say good night." Keith reassured her.

Allura nodded her head slowly and smiled.  She could sense he was uncomfortable about seeing her in her nightclothes. "Well, that was thoughtful, Keith." she replied.

"Uh...yeah," Keith cleared his throat. "Well, I guess I should let you get back to your planning."

"Unless...there's something else you wanted to see me about..." she asked him.

As he looked up at her face, he once again found himself being drawn in by her deep blue eyes...

"Steady, Keith," he warned himself. "Don't loose it..."

"No, nothing else.  Just wanted to say good night." he finally settled with.

"Well... good night.  I'll see you in the morning for breakfast." She replied, smiling sweetly.

"Yeah...see ya in the morning." Keith agreed.

She gave a little wave and stepped back from the door, allowing it to close.  Keith remained there for a moment...laying his hand gently on the door.

"Oh Allura," he thought with a sigh.
"I wish you weren't a princess either..."

He turned and headed down the hallwayto make one other stop before retiring for the night. He approached Gem's door and stood in front of it.   He took a deep breath, and rang the buzzer.

Hagar, still inside the room, had been trying on some of the clothes that Allura allowed Gem to borrow.  She had the entire wardrobe lying out on the bed, and had practically tried them all on to see what she had looked like in them.

It wasn't often that she had the chance to become beautiful, and she intended on taking full advantage of the opportunity.  She had just put on a lacy powder blue dress, and was looking at herself in the mirror when she heard the door buzzer once again.

Annoyed, she turned toward the door. "Who is it?" she called out.

"It's me, Gem... Keith."

Hagar began to slowly smile. "I'll be right there..." she replied.

Hagar turned back to the mirror, checking her look one more time. "I would imagine Commander Keith is starting to feel the effects of the Albacorn Root by now." she thought. "By tomorrow, he should begin to feel pretty badly. And then, by evening, he should be completely effected! Prince Lotor will be most pleased!"

She whisked over toward the door, and opened it up.  Keith was staring at the ground when the door opened.  He looked up at her, and saw her in the dress.

"A bit elaborate for bedtime, don't you think?" Keith joked.

Hagar, realizing she was in spot, suddenly came up with an excuse. "Uh, well...the Princess sent over these gowns for me, so I thought I'd try them on."

"To see which one you were going to wear tomorrow night to the party?" Keith snickered with a smile on his face.

Hagar paused, allowing a smile to come to her face as well, playing along with him. "Uh...yes! Yes, of course!  The party!" she replied, not knowing what party he was referring to.

"Well, I like the one you have on right now...if I have a say in it." Keith replied.

Hagar stopped dead at the compliment.  The last time she received a compliment on her appearance had been from Allura's father, King Alfor...long ago.  Not used to being paid such a compliment, Hagar smiled uncomfortably.

"Thank you, Keith." she only said.

"You're welcome." Keith said. "Is Lance escorting you to the party?"

"Uh...well...I don't recall if he asked me or not." Hagar said, faking the response because she had no idea if Lance had asked Gem or not.

"Well, I'll get on my lieutenant's tail and make sure he comes for you." Keith replied.

"Uh...thank you, Keith." Hagar replied slowly.

Keith stared at the form before him that he thought was Gem. "Are you okay? Lance was worried that you had a headache and were cold to his touch."

Hagar winced, thinking she had been discovered. "Well, I'm okay.  A bit tired."

"Yeah, me too.  I'm feeling more tired then usual," Keith replied.

Hagar stared at him. "Really?" she said. "More than usual, you say?"

"Yeah, but nothing a good night of sleep won't cure, I suppose." Keith said. "Speaking of sleep...I'm going to get going.   I have a date with my bed!  Just making sure you're okay."

"Yes.  Thank you for checking on me. That was kind of you." Hagar replied, smiling brightly.

"Well then, good night, Gem.  And if you need anything, you know you can count on me or Lance." Keith then leaned into her. "Just...please stay out of my room while I'm in there.  I'd
hate to do something embarrassing."

Keith then shot her a friendly wink before turning to leave. 

Hagar stepped back from the door and allowed it to close.  She pressed the door lock and returned to the vanity.  She had a huge smile on her face.

"Oh how delicious!" she thought. "He's already feeling tired!  Little does he know that sleep will not cure it at all!   But soon he will sleep...eternally!  And once that happens, Voltron will be useless without it's commander, and Lotor will sweep in and capture Planet Arus...and its Princess!  And I will receive a great reward for my efforts in bringing it to pass!"

Hagar laughed aloud while whirling around in one place.

Somewhere...just outside of Castle Control, a tiny fly regained consciousness...after being knocked out for most of the afternoon.  It began to crawl around slowly...then, finally taking flight into the air.

In a panic, the fly began to whiz down the hallways of the Castle looking for one primary person ...but not really sure what to do once he was located.

In the form of the fly, Gem realized she was unable to help Keith, or even warn anyone about the poisonous chain that Keith most certainly had around his neck by now. 

But she knew she had to be close to him. 

And so, she headed for the one place she knew Keith most certainly would be.

In his room, Keith had slipped out of his clothes, and put on his pajama bottoms.  Before he slipped on the nightshirt, he caught sight of the golden chain that was dangling around his neck... the gift from Gem.

He thought to take it off for the night, but then remember how important it was to her that he like the gift, and wear it was often as possible.

He let his hands drop from the chain, deciding to leave it on for the night at least.

Yawning and scratching his head, he walked over to his bed.   Sitting down, he picked up the book he had started to read yesterday while out by the river...before he had rescued Gem.

Keith opened it up and flung his legs on to the bed, bringing his knees up to act as a podium for the book.  He quietly began to read but it wasn't long before he began to notice that his vision was becoming fuzzy...

"That's odd," he said quietly to himself. "Why can't I see the words clearly?"

He pulled the book closer to his face, but the words still remained a bit blurred.

Frustrated, he sat up in bed and tossed the book down on to the nightstand. "I'd better have Dr. Gorma look at that," he said to himself.

He stood up and leaned down to set his digital alarm, intending not to sleep the day away, but to rise in enough time to do some exercising before breakfast at 8:30am.  When he had finished setting the alarm, stood up straight once again...and suddenly lost his balance for no
explainable reason.

Catching himself against the wall next to the nightstand, he shook his head to clear his mind.

"What's happening to me?  An ear infection maybe?" he thought. "If I go to sleep, maybe I can ward off whatever illness I seem to be getting..."

He slowly and carefully moved to his bed once again, pulling back the covers and climbing in. Gently, he laid down his head on the pillow, and reached over his head to the panel on the wall.

He then clicked off the room lights,
bringing darkness all around him.  

He stared off into the blackness that
now surrounded him, trying to determine
how he felt, and whether or not he should
even bother Dr. Gorma at such a late hour.

Keith finally closed his eyes and allowed his body to get the much-needed sleep he apparently needed.

The only sound in the room was a single fly, buzzing quietly around, then coming to a landing on the nightstand next to the bed.  The fly remained there quietly...no longer interested in flying around...for its objective had been located.

But there was no way for Gem to warn Keith to take off of the necklace...or to tell him that Hagar was the one parading around as her.

All she could do now was wait for the spell to wear off and regain her form once again...hoping it wasn't too late to save Keith's life, as he had once saved hers.