"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 15
Allura's Ball

Keith looked at his digital watch nervously.

The time was almost six, and he hadn't quite mastered getting his uniform collar straightened
out just yet.  There was also another problem... he was starting to feel ill once again.

Shaking his head in an effort to clear it, he grabbed another flu patch from the dresser. Deciding that he couldn't do much worse with the uniform, he unbuttoned the collar a bit, exposing his neck area.

He applied the medicine patch, moving over Gem's necklace a bit, so as not to catch it on the adhesive.  Then, Keith proceeded to button up the collar once again.

As he struggled with it all over again, now becoming frustrated with it, he let out a primal grunt....audible enough that Keith could suddenly hear the unbridled laughter of a familiar friend, hovering just outside of his door.

"Come in, Lance!" Keith grunted impatiently.

The door swooshed opened, revealing a nearly doubled over Lance. "I don't think I've heard one of those from you in quite some time!  It suits you, Keith!" Lance grinned.

"Yeah, well I'll tell you what doesn't suit me!" the frustrated Voltron Commander said. "This stupid dress uniform!  You know, if this is in honor of my birthday, the least she could do is allow me to be comfortable while she tortures me to death, displaying me in front of all those people!"

"Yeah, and there's going to be a lot of 'those people' here tonight!" Lance said to Keith. "I overheard Allura say something like 450 people coming tonight!"

"Four-hundred-fifty people?" Keith gasped suddenly. "Is she crazy?"

"Aw, don't tell me our brave Commander is suddenly as nervous as a mouse?" Lance chuckled. "Just relax!  Just think of it as one of her formal diplomatic balls!"

"Yeah, right...!" Keith moaned, struggling with the collar some more.  "Now I've really got to make this thing look right!"

"Lighten up, Keith!  She wanted us to look our best." Lance replied, defending the Princess's request to have everyone in dress uniform for the ball.

"I feel stifled." Keith grunted his reply, wiping his brow with the back of his hand.

"Here, let me fix it for you." Lance offered.

As Lance played with the collar, he noticed the chain around Keith's neck.

"From Gem?" Lance asked, his voice subdued.

"Um-hum." Keith affirmed, lifting his chin into the air to give Lance room to work.

"Its nice." Lance replied quietly.

"I moved it outside of the uniform for tonight, because I put another one of those flu patches on my neck." Keith explained. "I didn't want it to get sticky."

"Oh, yeah." Lance said quietly. "Good idea."

Keith noticed his friend's sudden solemn mood. "Still can't find her, huh?"

Lance tilted his head to one side, while shrugging his shoulders.  "Hey...I'm not her keeper. She can come and go as she pleases."

"That's not what you're thinking, though." Keith replied.

"I don't much want to talk about it, okay?" Lance said defensively.  It was then that he suddenly noticed that Keith felt warm to his touch.

Lance paused in his work and looked at Keith. "Are you okay, buddy?  You're feeling a little warm."

Keith sighed. "I'm starting to feel sick again." He confessed. "Do me a favor."

"Name it." Lance replied.

"Don't let on anything to the Princess.  I don't want to ruin the party." Keith asked.

"But if you're sick, then you're sick!" Lance said. "You should stay here in bed and get some rest."

"And let you dance with the Princess all night?" Keith smiled. "Not on your life, pal!"

"You're greedy, you know that?" Lance teased his friend. "Next you'll be marrying her..."

"Wait a minute...let's not get carried away with things here!" Keith said firmly. "I'm just going to dance with her!"

Lance nudged his friend. "Hey, first there's dancing... then kissing...then..."

"Alright...alright!  I get the picture!" Keith said, hushing Lance before he could go any further.

"Admit it, Keith... you're a princess hog!" Lance teased.

"What's that suppose to mean?" Keith replied, feeling a bit worse.

"You're in love with her...but you won't admit it...to yourself or her." Lance said, suddenly taking on a serious tone in his voice.

"Lance...I'm not prepared to discuss this right now." Keith replied.

"Well, when will you be ready?  When some handsome prince comes along and steals her heart away?" Lance argued. "By then, it'll be too late."

"Lance..."

"It's so obvious that you two are pining for each other, that it's ridiculous!" Lance continued.

"Lance...don't..."

"And what's worse, you're leading poor Gem along on a string!" Lance finished with a raised tone of his voice.

"LANCE!" Keith shouted finally.

"WHAT?" Lance shouted back defensively.

"My love life is not up for discussion...that's my business to work out." Keith replied sternly. "I appreciate your concern, but you're wading in water that's over your head."

"Am I, Keith?" Lance said, standing his ground.

"Yes...you are!" Keith huffed. "And...I appreciate your watching over me.  But there are just some things that I have to work out on my own."

Lance suddenly dropped his defenses, realizing that Keith wasn't revealing any secrets this night. "Hey, you'd better get going.   Allura's waiting, I'm sure!"

Keith suddenly jumped to his left, grabbing the rose corsage off of the dresser that he had delivered to him from the Castle's flower nursery.  He had it specially made for Allura.  She adored roses, and what better way to show his appreciation for her efforts then to surprise her with it.

"Geez...I'm late!" Keith said in a tizzy as he darted for the door.

As Keith took off running down the hallway, Lance couldn't help taking one more pop-shot at his friend. "Go get her, Prince Charming!"

"You're going to get yours, wise guy!" Keith shouted from behind him.



Allura sat patiently, admiring herself in her vanity mirror.  She chose to let her hair remain down, laying around about her shoulders.

Her gown was soft pink in color, with lace around the neckline, and around the sleeves.  Her fingers moved to the crown on her head, and she began to mindlessly play with it.

The door buzzer sounded, and the Princess picked up her gown's skirt and gracefully waltzed to the door to answer it.

As the door slide open, Keith stood there, holding before him a corsage of like colors that matched her dress perfectly.

"Sorry I'm late, Princess," Keith apologized, out of breath from running down the hallway, and barely making it without collapsing.

"Oh," she gasped. "Is that for me?"

Keith nodded as he removed it from the protective box it was enclosed in. "May I help you with it, Your Majesty?"

"You may, Commander!" Allura responded with a giggle in her voice.

Keith fumbled as he attempted to put on the flower.  His vision was blurring up a bit, making it difficult to focus his eyesight.

"Here, let me help you, " Allura offered.

Keith relinquished the task to her, and she instantly had it pin on.

"There!" Allura said, then turned to Keith to obtain his approval. "How does it look?"

"It looks as exquisite as you, Princess!" he replied, complimenting her on her attire. "You look stunning!"

"Thank you!" she joyfully said. "And thank you again for the rose corsage.  It was very sweet of you."

"I thought you might appreciate it, knowing how much you love roses." Keith replied. Then he gazed at his watch. "Shall we go?"

"Yes, Commander. Your public awaits you!" she replied as she reached for his outstretched arm.

She fit it snuggly in the crook of Keith elbow, and together, they waltzed out of the room and down the hallway.

"So," Keith said, trying to make idle conversation in an effort to forget how sick he was feeling right about now. "What's on the docket tonight?"

"The docket?" she asked, staring strangely at him. "What's 'a docket'?"

Keith chuckled at her naivete. "Well, it's an old Earth term...it means, 'what's going to take place tonight'. Sorry if it confused you."

"Oh," she smiled. "Well, first dinner...and then, some dancing, and then, a happy birthday song, complete with cake and ice cream!"

"Sounds great!" Keith said, with all the enthusiasm he could muster.  "And of course, I get the first dance as the birthday boy, am I right?"

"Yes...and you get to have it with the hostess!" She said with a smile.  "And that would be me."

"I would have it no other way, Princess." Keith replied with a wink.

The two of them strolled casually down the hallway.



The ballroom was packed with nearly all of the 450 guests Allura had invited.  Only a few had sent their regrets for the occasion.  Pidge and Hunk were talking to Princess Romelle, Prince Bandor and Lieutenant Commander Sven B'Yourn.

The four anxiously awaited the arrival of Princess Allura; being escorted by the Guest of Honor, Commander Keith Hunter.

"This is such a wonderful gesture by my cousin."
Romelle commented, gazing around at the
entire decor.

There were balloons, and  streamers,
party favors, and one enormous cake in
the corner of the room.

There was also a huge banner that
stretched from one side of the room
to the other. It read simply:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY COMMANDER KEITH HUNTER


"No doubt Allura must have planned for
days to put this thing together."
Bandor commented.
"Just look at the size
of that cake!"

"I see, Bandor!" Romelle giggled. 
"It truly is a work of art!"

The giant birthday cake stood six layers high,
with the bottom of cake spanning an
impressive three feet across, and gradually
decreasing in size as the layers grew upward.

The frosting was white buttercream,
with blue and white flowers, and white trim. 

An incredible sight to see.

"Yep, she outdid herself this time." Hunk replied.
"Good thing Keith recovered from the flu in time,
or we wouldn't be here."

"Keit had da flu?" Sven questioned. "When?"

"This morning. The Princess said he woke up feeling pretty lousy, but after a few treatments with flu patches and some good, old fashion sleep time, he seems to be recovering nicely." Pidge replied.

Suddenly, Lance burst into the room, shouting to the multitude of people present. "Quiet down, everyone!  They're coming!"

The room grew dead silent, as they all waited for the entrance of the Princess of Arus, escorted by the man of the hour.




Just outside of the ballroom, Keith and Allura stopped dead in their track...just inches from the door.  Allura turned to Keith before they entered.

"I would like to give you a very special present
before we go in." she said shyly.

Keith turned to her.  "What is it?" he asked.

"It's a present...just between you and me"
she replied. "Call it a return sediment, if you'd like."

Allura leaned over toward him, and suddenly,
without warning, planted a delicate kiss right on his cheek.

Suddenly, Keith realized what she was referring to ...

...the kiss in the woods during their ride together yesterday.

He smiled at her as she retracted from him.  Then, his smile quickly vanished as he caught the look of concern on her face.

"You're warm again." She said to him. "Why didn't you tell me you weren't feeling well again?"

"Princess, I'm fine!  Let's not ruin things here and now." Keith insisted.

Allura removed the glove from her hand and reached up to feel his temperature on his forehead.

"You feel as warm as you did this morning, and I'm disappointed that you broke your promise to me!" she sighed as she put her glove back on her hand.

"I said I would tell you if I felt really bad. Well...I don't feel really bad!  And I promise that if I feel too ill, I'll take a seat.  But I also told you that I wasn't missing this for the world.  Didn't
I?" Keith countered her protests.

"Yes...but still I would have preferred... " she started once again.

"No...no more about it.  Now let's stop wasting time out here, and get in to the party." He smiled.

Weary of his sincerity, she reluctantly nodded her head, and allowed him to open the door.

As the two of them entered the ballroom, an enormous shout rose up from the equally enormous number of people that were in attendance...


"SURPRISE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KEITH!"


Keith was taken back by all of the people. "Whoa, all of this for me?" he said, turning to the Princess who had latched onto his arm to help give him the support she thought he might need, but was too stubborn to ask for.

People from throughout the galaxy were invited to attend.  Even diplomats from Galaxy Garrison were in attendance.  One in particular, who had always taken a special interest in Keith since his parents were lost.

"Keith, my boy!" Vice Marshall Jonathan Graham said, offering his hand in greeting to Keith.

The Voltron Commander quickly extended his in return. "Marshall Graham!" he shouted. "So glad you could make it!"

"My boy, I wouldn't have missed this for the world!" Graham replied with a smile, shaking Keith's hand firmly.  "When Princess Allura sent word to me only
a week ago, I quickly cleared my schedule!"

"I'm glad you did!" Keith replied with a smile.

While Keith was busy mingling, Allura quickly
approached her other friends, who were still
talking to Sven, Romelle and Bandor.

"Boys, we have a problem," Allura began.
"Keith's still sick."

"Oh no!" Romelle gasped quietly.

"How do you know, Princess?" Sven asked.

"Because, I felt his skin, and it feels warm to me again. 
I don't have a good feeling about this.  He should be in bed resting."
Princess said.

"Good luck with that, Princess." Lance replied, waving his hand.
"I already tried, but he didn't budge for me either."

"We'll watch him, Princess." Pidge assured

"Thanks boys." Allura replied. "I have to get back to the guests.  Please help me make sure he's alright."

"We'll do, Princess!" Hunk said.

Allura swiftly turned and moved toward the middle of the floor and grabbed the announcement speaker. "May I have everyone's attention, please?"

The room once again grew silent. The Princess continued to address the guests

"I'm sure everyone is very excited, and wants nothing more then to greet the Commander.  But at this time, if I could ask everyone to take your seats, we can begin with the formal dinner.  And by the way, I took a peek in the kitchen, and it does smell very good in there!  So please everyone, take your seats.  Thank you."

The crowd began to mill toward their assigned seating arrangements.  Keith turned and approached the Princess, who was still standing in the middle of the room.

"May I?" he said, extending his arm once again to escort her to her seat for dinner.

"Perhaps I should be saying that to you." she said, a worried look suddenly coming over her face. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine, Princess.  And if you're going to spend the whole evening worrying about me, you won't enjoy yourself or appreciate all of the hard work you put into this." Keith advised. "Stop worrying, I'm fine!"

"I can't help it" she said, nervously biting her lower lip. "I need to know you're okay."

"I'm okay." Keith smiled. "And hungry too. Come on...everyone's waiting for us."

Allura took hold of his arm, and allowed
him to escort her to the head
table. As they were seated,
Allura rose to her feet, and grabbed the
palm microphone.

"May I have your attention once again, please?"

All eyes focused in on her once again.

"Thank you for your attention.  If you will observe, located to the left of your plates, you will find a menu with this evening's courses on it.  Feel free to look it over, so that you'll know what's coming.  Dinner will be served in just a few minutes."

Lance, Hunk and Pidge picked up their copies of the menu and began to run down the courses:




Pre-Course
Soup De Jour
Dinner Salad with Orange Dressing
Liver or Vegetable Pate'
Mint Sorbet

Main Course
Roast Flank Steak with Mushroom Sauce
Twice Baked Sour Cream Potatoes
Corn and Carrot Melody with Garlic Sauce
Mint Sorbet

Finishing Course
Café Arus (open coffee bar)
Dinner Mint Assortment

Dessert
Cake and Ice Cream



Hunk stared at the menuhis eyes wide open. "Wow!  The Princess sure knows how to put on a party!" he gasped. "Bring on the vittles!"

"Hunk...you act like you haven't eaten in a week!" Pidge whispered abruptly.

Hunk chose to ignore Pidge's comment, instead, focusing in on something strange that he had spotted on the menu.

"Hey, did you guys notice how many times we have dessert?" Hunk commented.

"What are you babbling about?" Lance huffed, becoming annoyed with Hunk.

"This stuff...Mint Sorbet... look how many times we have it!  Then, we have more dessert at the end!" Hunk said, scratching his head.

"Boy, you really are uneducated, aren't you?" Pidge said, chuckling at Hunk's ignorance.

"What do you mean?" Hunk asked innocently.

"That Mint Sorbet is a kind of sherbet...to clean the pallet for the next course." Pidge replied.

"Clean the pallet?" Hunk echoed.

"Yeah, you know...get your taste buds clear of the other food you've just eaten, so that you can enjoy the next round coming." Pidge explained.

"Who cares?  As long as its food!" Hunk replied excitedly.

Lance and Pidge both shook there heads, with Lance bringing his hand up to cover his face in embarrassment, while Pidge looked upward to the ceiling and rolled his eyes.



Princess Allura, meanwhile, was keeping a watchful eye on Keith.  He turned to speak to her, and caught the look on her face.  He suddenly frowned.

"Okay...I know that look," Keith said with a smirked gaze.

The expression immediately disappeared off of Allura's face. "What look?" she asked with a sudden smile on her face.

"That look that says, 'I'm not sure you should be doing this', look."Keith replied.

"I'm just checking up on you, to make sure you're okay." she said innocently. "Someone has to watch out for you.  You certainly are the last person you ever think about!"

"Allura," Keith sighed lightly. "I'm fine.  Now, please...try to enjoy your party that you spent so much time getting together for me."

Allura frowned at him. "You are so stubborn, Keith Hunter!"

"You're just miffed because you finally found someone who's as stubborn as you are, Your Highness." Keith replied with a wink.

"Twice that, I'd say..." she huffed playfully. "And for that, I think that I shall dance with Lance for the evening."

Calling her bluff, Keith shrugged his shoulders at her. "Suit yourself, Princess.  I'll just dance with..."

"...no one else!" she said suddenly, cutting him off.

"Now Princess, that sounded like jealously rearing its ugly head!  Could that be so?" Keith teased. "That's quite unbecoming of a Royal Princess."

"I think that I should never speak to you again!" She huffed playfully, suddenly closing her eyes and faking injured emotions.

But Keith caught her peeking out of the corner of her left eye. "Well," he said as he grabbed her hand under the table. "Can you at least wait until the evening's over?  I'd rather have you
angry with me tomorrow."

"Well, okay," she said coyly. "But only because it's your birthday!"

"A thousand thank yous, Your Highness!" Keith replied, now really pouring on the fake appreciation.

She suddenly squeezed his hand hard from under the table, causing him to wince a bit.

"Ouch!" he whispered as he pulled his hand away. "You've got quite a grip!"

"Hunk's been teaching me strength training.  It helps me to protect myself from brutes." She replied, sticking her tongue out at Keith playfully.

"Okay, okay...I guess I deserved that one." he admitted.

"And let that be a lesson to you." she mused.

The Soup De Jour that was being served interrupted their conversation.  And as Keith stared at it in front of him, he mentally prepared to force himself to eat it, in order to keep up appearances with the Princess.

Outwardly, he appeared quite normal.

Inwardly... was a different story.

His stomach was in knots, and he could feel the beginnings of a powerhouse headache mounting.

Determined to not let on how poorly he was feeling, he just kept smiling.

But from the other side of the head table, Lance, while sipping his soup, knew his best friend well enough to know that Keith was far from okay.
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