"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 18
Red and Green Go Alone

Ten minutes had passed when Allura had shown up in Castle Control, prepared to fly Black Lion.

She quickly approached the team. "Ready?" She asked hastily.

Coran immediately stepped up. "Princess, I had suggested this to Lance, and he thought I might want to remind you.  Since Lotor has made a direct threat to us by attempting to murder the Commander, we should use caution at this time regarding the safety of Arus."

Allura looked at him curiously.
"What do you suggest, Coran?" she asked.

"As your advisor, I would like to
point out that if you leave Arus with
all of the lions, we will be left defenseless."
Coran reminded. "Lotor could take
advantage of our vulnerable state."

Lance stepped up. "But, if we send only two lions, that would still leave three remaining for defense."

"Do you believe Lotor may try to attack us, now that Keith is down?" Allura asked. "We still have Sven to pilot Blue Lion.  That still leaves us with five pilots for five lions."

Sven stepped forward. "Yes Princess,
but az Coran haz pointed out, Lotor will
stop at noting to take over diz planet. 
You muzt act wit extreme caution."

"Allura...Keith would insist on
leaving a few behind. You know he
would." Lance added.

Allura thought for a moment. Indeed Keith would have.   He would never do anything that would jeopardize Arus's safety.  She looked over to the team...and made her decision.

"Lance, what do you have in mind?" she said, giving him the decision to make.

Lance smiled and said, "Alright, Pidge and I will go to Neeve with Gem. The rest of you will remain here for defense."

Coran bowed his headthankful that his Princess chose to follow his guidance.

Lance turned to Allura. "Hold down the fort. We'll be back... hopefully soon."

Pidge had his nose to his monitor, making a quick calculation. "If everything works in our favor, we should have the Parma bark and be back to Arus in about four hours."

"Hurry boys, Keith's life is hanging in the balance..." Allura reminded urgently.

"Don't worry, Princess," Lance replied. "We have every intention of getting back here pronto. You just keep a watchful eye to the sky."

Pidge closed his monitor and looked at Lance. "I'm ready."

"Then let's go!" Lance shouted, then turned to take Gem by the hands.  "Wait outside the Castle.  I'll bring Red Lion by and pick you up."

Gem nodded, then blushed as Lance threw her a quick wink of the eye.  He then turned and joined Pidge at the tunnel entrances to the lion shuttles.

As they disappeared into the tunnel, Allura sighed, her heart heavy with grief.  She turned to Coran. "I'm returning to the infirmary.  Please alert me immediately when Lance and Pidge return, or if trouble comes knocking at our door."

"Understood, Your Majesty." Coran replied.

Allura nodded and turned to Sven. "May I depend on you to remain here in case we need help?" she asked the former Voltron Force pilot.

"Anyting for you, Princess." Sven replied with a wide smile. "I'll join Romelle and Bandor in da lounge.  We'll be on standby."

Allura smiled half-heartedly as she turned and left the room, heading for the infirmary.

Coran moved up along side of Sven and Hunk. Coran sighed as well.

"She's quite concerned for him.
Such a tragedy...I do hope they
can return in time." He said, referring
to Lance and Pidge. "I shudder
to think of the toll it will take
upon the Princess, if Commander Keith dies."

Sven nodded...thinking of the
love for Keith that she held in her
eyes.   "I hope so too, it will destroy her if Keit doesn't make it."

Dr. Gorma turned suddenly, startled to see the Princess walking back into the room. "Your Highness?  I thought you were well on your way to Neeve."

"I was, but we have since decided that two lions can do the job that five lions could.  We need some sort of defense here too, in case Lotor threatens Planet Arus." Allura replied. "Lance decided to send Red and Green Lions to Neeve.  Hopefully, they should be back within a few hours."

"I do hope so," Gorma replied, looking at Keith.

"Any change?' Allura asked.

"No...he's the same, and perhaps that's a good sign.  Thankfully, he's a strong young man. That will work in his favor regarding his endurance.  His will to live is fighting to keep him alive.  He's even been coming around for brief moments at a time.  He's asked for you a few times, Princess." Gorma replied.

"I'll stay with him now." She said.

Dr. Gorma bowed his head, and moved toward a different part of the infirmary.

Allura turned and walked over to Keith's bedside, pulling up a chair for herself, and taking a seat.  As she did so, she heard him stir, and leaned up toward his ear.

"Keith..." she softly breathed his name. "Keith can you hear me?  It's Allura."

Keith turned his head slightly back and forthas he was fighting for consciousness.  His eyes slowly opened to slits...just enough to see the lovely form leaning over him.

"Princess." he mumbled. "I...I thought you were leaving... I heard you tell me something about...hanging on until you got back..."

"You did hear me say that," Allura replied. "But I've since changed my mind.  Lance and Pidge are making the journey for medicine that can cure you.  Oh Keith...I'm so sorry all of this happened..."

"Listen...whatever happens...you...you can't give yourself up...to Lotor.  Understand?" he said weakly.

"Keith, don't worry about that right now." Allura shushed. "You just worry about getting well."

"Lotor's going to...pull some sort...of stunt.  I can feel it.  He didn't...try to bump me off...for nothing.  Be careful, Allura." he continued to mumble the warning.

"I want you to stop worrying about such things, and get some rest." Allura said softly, but firmly.

Keith managed a weak smile. "But...I like to worry...about you."

Tears came to Allura's eyes, as the thought of Keith's death flew past her mind's eye. Keith caught the look she had, and as if he could read her mind, he spoke to it...

"Don't worry about me...Allura. I'm not...planning on going out... this way.  I'm a fighter.  It's going to take...a lot more for Lotor... to get rid of me."

"I know," she said tearfully. "I know."

"Hey..." Keith sighed, drawing his strength to bring his hand up to her cheek. "We'll still have time for another ride, and one after that, and another one after that, too."

Allura smiled half-heartedly once again, as she attempted to grab onto the hope the Keith was offering her.  She sniffed, and then took her hand to wipe the fallen tears from her cheeks.

"I'm going to speak with Dr. Gorma. I'll be right back." she said gently, rubbing his shoulder with her hand.

"I'll be here..." Keith tried to joke, as he left his hand drop to his side.

Allura rose from the chair and lightly touched his forehead with her hand, brushing away the locks of black hair that fell toward his eyes. She then turned, and walked off.

Keith started to feel himself drift off again into sleep, deciding to allow it to happen, if that's what his body needed to help fight and keep him alive.

He lifted up a silent prayer to heaven as he drifted off...

"Please God...don't let it end this way, not for her or me.  She can't take it.  First her mother, then her father...and now me?  She can't loose anymore people in her life to Zarkon and Lotor's evil.  Don't let me die, God.  Keep me alive, please...for Allura's sake...please help me to find the strength to live..."

Keith drifted asleep as he finished his heavenly plea for divine help... and praying that he would wake again.

Red and Green Lions screamed through space with lightning speed, a race against the clock to obtain the needed tree bark that will save their friend's life.

Pidge had already made the course adjustments to coordinate with the area that Gem was directing them to.  She made it clear, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there were Parma Trees located in the caves they were headed for.

For Keith's sake...they had still better be there in one piece.  There'd be precious little time as it was to get what they needed, get it back to Arus, and hope Dr. Gorma can turn it into serum for Keith in time.

That time schedule left no room for foul ups and miscalculations.

Lance opened his COM from Red Lion to Pidge. "Green Lion...time to arrival on Planet Neeve."

Inside Green Lion, Pidge looked over his lion's instrument panel and directional gages. "We should be there in about a hour from now, Lance."

"Can we increase speed?" Lance asked anxiously.

"We're already at maximum output.  Can't go any faster without risk of destroying the lion ships." Pidge replied. "We'll just have be patient and stay this course."

"Understood." Lance replied, shutting down the COM link.

Behind him in the passenger chair, Gem sat quietly, replaying the events that had taken place in the last few days that led them all to this point.  She very much regretted even agreeing to help Lotor.  She now realized that that was a mistakeone that now could possibly cost Keith his life.

"Hey, you alright back there?" Lance called out to Gem.

Gem startled, lost in her thoughts. "Huh?" she said mindlessly. "Uh, yeah...I'm fine."

"You seem awfully quiet, that's all." Lance replied. "You know... when this is all over, I'd like to ask you out for a date.  That is... if you're not too stuck on my illustrious Commander."

"Uh...no...that was just a show.  I really don't have any feelings for him." Gem replied, knowing she was lying, and that her heart was tender for the Voltron Commander. "Besides, I know his feelings are elsewhere."

"Uh, elsewhere?  As in...duty maybe?" Lance chuckled. "That man is always working.  He never takes a vacation.  Why...the day he fished you out of the river, he was supposed to be on an afternoon ride... you know...off duty!"  Lance chuckled again.  "Keith is always the
hero at large.  He'd risk his life for an ant, I think."

"An admiral quality..." Gem responded. "But I wasn't really speaking about that.  I meant about his feelings for Princess Allura."

"Allura?" Lance said, surprised that her name fit into the same conversation as his. "The Princess?  Oh...she's just a friend... nothing more...I guess.  At least, that's what Keith's always saying.  But...I have trouble believing that."

Gem shook her head no. "There is something more there.  Something...undefined."

"Well, Keith never admits anything to anyone.  He's a machine.  He's duty minded and honor bound.  Maybe that's what you're seeing in him toward the Princess.  He's got this vow to protect her come hell or high water.  And he's determined to carry it out.  He's even almost
died a few times by Lotor's sword in doing so.  The man has a thousand lives." Lance replied. "And I should know... I've seen him lose a few."

"Well, I'm sure what I saw was more than duty driven intentions.  A girl can pick that sort of thing out in a man, you know." Gem said.

"Well, I don't know if your instincts are right on this one." Lance replied. "Keith's a loyal puppy.  He'd do anything to protect her.  I tried to get him to admit to that he's in love with her...and he totally blew me off."

"So, if there's nothing between them, why do you think he goes to such extremes for her safety and well-being?  Because of duty only?"  Gem asked.  "I don't think so.  When a man is bent that hard on protecting someone, its because he loves her. Perhaps he's just not ready to admit to it yet."

Lance remained silent...taking in what Gem had said.

"It's true..." he thought. "After all, Keith is always overly concerned about her.  He's like mother hen with her.  'Watch out, Princess!' or...  'That's too dangerous!  You're staying behind,' and even, ' Be careful, Allura!'  has come past his mouth at least a thousand times.  And what's up with asking her to go riding with him?  It can't be that it's out of friendship only...can it?  I knew it!  I knew he was in love with her!"

"So, what was that about asking me out?" Gem said.

It was Lance's turn to be startled in thought. "Huh?  What did you say?"

"Hey...are you flying this lion?  Or should I?" Gem teased. "I'd like to make it back in one piece if you don't mind."

Lance looked to his instrument panel and saw that he was drifting off course. "Uh...right!" Lance said administering course correction.

Pidge suddenly opened the COM. "Hey Lance!  Do your sleeping at home!  You're drifting off course there."

"Acknowledged, Green Lion. Course compensated."

"What's happening over there?" Pidge questioned with a hint of sarcasm in his voice. "Something you want to share with me?  A juicy conversation between you and Gem?"

"But out, squirt!" Lance lashed out, drawing a hysterical giggle from Pidge over the COM. "I was daydreaming...okay? Want my potty schedule too?"

"That's a bit more information then I need to know, Lance!" Pidge giggled back. "But thanks for sharing!"

"Red Lion out." Lance huffed, shutting off the COM.

Gem covered her mouth and laughed silently.  Lance cut off the laughter with the response to her question. "Yes...I'd love to take you out."

Gem stopped laughing suddenlyhearing the note of care in his voice.  "I'd love to go out with you, Lance."

Lance smiled. "Good...and I have just the place in mind.  It's a neat little café in a nearby village.  You'll love it.  It has atmosphere."

"That sounds fine, Lance." Gem agreed. "Perhaps we can ask Keith and the Princess to join us."

"Not!" Lance barked back sharply. "I went out on a double date with Keith and this girl he asked out once at the academy many years ago.  It was the most boring affair I'd ever been on. I promised myself that although he's my best friend, I'd never subject myself to that
again... or any other girl I take out for that matter."

"He can't be all that bad." Gem snorted.

"He's like dry toast!  You have to drink a gallon of water after going out for a 'fun' time with him! I'm telling you, the man doesn't know how to have fun." Lance bit back. "He's all duty and no play!"

"I still think it might be good for their budding relationship." Gem replied.

"Budding relationship?  Keith and the Princess?" Lance choked back a laugh. "You can't be serious!  Keith would never admit to a budding anything!  Not in a million years!"

"Yes!  I'm serious!  And I think you ought to consider it." Gem replied.

"Okay...okay... I'll consider it." Lance reluctantly agreed. "Now enough talking.  We've got to get that bark, or they'll be no budding relationship to talk about."

Recalling the fact that Keith lay dying back on Arus brought a chill down Gem's spin.  She agreed only with a nod that Lance could not see.