"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 29
Hideout

The ventilation shaft was no place to spend the night, and Keith knew it.  He had resigned himself into believing that they weren't going to get out of Castle Doom tonight, and he didn't want to risk giving away their position with another coded messaged.

Allura was getting tired, and her pace had slowed in front of him.  Keith had to keep motivating her to keep going.

Surmising that she hadn't slept for days as it was, he was looking to see her totally crash soon from exhaustion.  He had to get them all to a safe place before then.

Lance whispered from up front, "Keith, we've come to the end!"

"What do you see?" Keith whispered back.

"Looks like a storage room.  I can't really tell if its being used or not." Lance replied.

As the two men conversed back and forth in whispers, Allura began to slump downward to the floor of the vent.  Unnoticed by either of the men, she closed her eyes...only for a brief moment, to catch a bit of rest.

"Okay, kick the door out and go investigate, Lance.  See if it's safe for the night." Keith whispered back to him.

"Check!" whispered Lance as he pushed the door with all of his might forward, until it finally gave way.  He then slid out and down the wall to the floor.

Keith tapped the Princess's foot. "Allura...come on Princess, stay with us, just for a few more minutes."

There was no response, and her breathing began to sound even.

Keith took a chance and crawled on top of her to check her out.  It was a tight fit as it was.  His body gently slid on top of hers, making him feel a multitude of feelings all at once...some of which he would rather not think about.

Decidedly pushing the feelings aside, and returning his concentration to the task at hand, and gently pulled off her helmet, slowly, and then he pushed back the long hair that had fallen onto her face. 

Then, he looked at her... she was fast asleep.

"Oh, Princess..." he sighed quietly.  "We just needed a few more minutes..."

She was just too tired out, and had reached her maximum output.  Her body gave way and she just couldn't stay awake any longer. 

Keith continued to crawl past her, taking great care not to knee her anywhere.  When he had cleared her, he stuck his head out of the shaft, scanning the room for Lance.

He appeared out from behind a bunch of boxes, his blaster lowered.

"Coast is clear, Commander!" Lance whispered and shot his friend a wink. "How's our lady friend?"

"Out like a light." Keith replied as he looked back behind. "You're going to have to help me get her out."

"Aw, just leave her there.  She'll be fine for the night." Lance chuckled, knowing what Keith's answer would be.

"Are you kidding?  She'll kill us when she wakes up, and then finds herself still in there and us not!" Keith barked back in whispers. "I for one, do not want to have to deal with an angry Princess.  Do you?"

Lance giggled once again, shaking his head. "Nah, I guess not!"

"Okay then..." he smiled, knowing Lance was just joking. "Help me get her out..."

Lance returned his blaster back in its resting-place at his side, and lifted his arms up toward the shaft. "Okay, I'm ready for her!"

Keith crawled back over the top of her, and crunched himself in a very uncomfortable position. There wasn't that much room in the vent shaft as it was, making the task of moving her near impossible.  He hoisted her up just slightly from under her arms, and began to scoot slowly
forward, dragging her dead-weight body with him.

"Good thing she's light," Keith strained, then suddenly let out a muffled 'Ouch' as he hit the top of his head on the top of the shaft ceiling.

He paused for a moment to get a better grip on the sleeping beauty beneath him, while attempting to ignore the tremendous discomfort his body was feeling from the position he was in.  Then, with all of his might, he hoisted her forward once again, finally maneuvering her head and shoulders out of the shaft.

Keith called out to Lance. "Grab her!" he heaved, his breathing labored.

He was pushing her out, allowing her body to slide from the shaft, down the side of the wall. Keith still had hold of her legs, and now, he was starting to feel his own back buckle under the stress.

"Hurry up, Lance!" Keith called to him again. "I'm blind up here...do you have her?"

Lance stretched up and cupped her chin with his one hand.  With the other hand, he balanced one of her shoulders, until Keith was able to lower her further down.

"Almost!" he replied to Keith's question. "Can you lower her any further?"

"Not...without... falling out or here, myself!" Keith's voice echoed just above a whisper from inside the shaft. "You're going to have to catch her!"

Allura did not even stir once. 

In the shaft, Keith grabbed her feet and lowered her as far as he could.  Lance managed to turn her around to position her body so that she could be carried over his shoulder.

"Okay!  I've got her!" Lance called up to Keith. "Let her go!"

As Keith released her, he stuck his head out to make sure Lance had her.  Then, with a leap, he jumped down to the ground himself.  Keith immediately walked over to Lance.

"I'll take her from here." he said, with an almost possessive tone in his voice.

"What if I don't want to give her up?" Lance teased, shooting Keith a playful wink. "She doesn't have 'Property of Keith Hunter' engraved on her forehead!  So, she's fair game, if you ask me!"

"I'm not asking you." Keith replied back, his tone now more serious.

The silent but stern frown let Lance know that his joking wasn't being taken very well.  Lance snorted. "You're just no fun, you know that?"

"I'll be a lot more fun when we get out of here!" Keith whispered abruptly, letting his friend know he was in no mood for his shenanigans.

Lance dropped to his knees, allowing Keith's arms to grab onto the sleeping form whom moments ago was resting on Lance's shoulders.

Cradled in his arms, with one hand under her knees and the other around her shoulders, Keith walked over to a spot that looked good enough to hide behind for the night.

Lance followed right behind his friend, digging through the bag for a blanket of some kind. There was only one.  It was large enough to wrap the Princess in.  Lance quickly shuffled in front of Keith and began spreading the blanket out on the filthy floor.

As Lance prepared a place for Allura to rest, Keith looked down at her as she slept safely in his arms.  He was amazed that she trusted the two of them so much, that she would allow herself to drift away into peaceful sleep.

Keith caught a glimpse of her chest moving steadily up and down...and felt the beating of his own heart as he gazed at her...  becoming lost in her beauty, as he had so many times before.

A faint smile made its way across Keith's face, as he watched her sleep.

He knew in his heart that he had to keep her safe, no matter what the personal cost to himself. He found himself once again recalling what Coran had spoken to him before leaving Arus...



"That your destiny lies with hers?
Yes...that is exactly what I am
saying. Our good King Alfor once
told me that he envisioned that the
young man who was destined to be
Allura's intended would not be a
prince or noble. He would be someone
who would care for herbody and
soul. Although you are not ready to
admit your true feelings for
her, I had sensed you were the one
that King Alfor spoke of, since
the first time I met you those many
years ago in the hallway of the
old Castle of Lions. I knew it then, and your actions toward her have done nothing but confirm it for me."




Keith smiled again. "Someday Princess...someday, I'll be able to tell you all that's in my heart for you.  But for now...we both must be content with what we are to each other right now."

Hating himself for even thinking such a thing, Keith began to realize that his attraction for the Princess was far more then merely physical.

There was a deepening bond between them...as Coran had suggested.  A bond that goes far beyond space and time...a bond that has somehow linked them both to each other across the millions of miles that had separated them both for many years.

He suddenly saw in her as...a priceless treasure. 

Her goodness, kindness, her compassion for othersall of these things made up the marvelous and complex Princess Allura of Arus.  Her nobleness, her dignity, and even the stubborn streaks she could sometimes have.

All of these things made up the woman that he now cradled tenderly in his arms.

Keith suddenly wished that he could hold her close to him forever.  But reality, as cruel as it sometimes could be, would not allow such a desire to come to fruition. At least, not at this place in time.

The only thing he could do now was to protect her...with his life...if it came down to that.  He was not going to allow Lotor to have her.   Not while he still had breath in his body.  Lotor would destroy all that she is if he possessed her.  Keith knew couldn't allow that to happen.

"Hello?  Lance to Keith...are you there?"

Keith suddenly shook himself back to the present, and without revealing to Lance that he was daydreaming, he knelt down and gently laid Allura in the make-shift bed that Lance had prepared for her.

Keith then reached over and grabbed the other side of the blanket, covering her with it entirely.   Lance was still kneeling on the ground.

Keith turned to his second. "I'll take the first watch." He announced.

"No, get some sleep.  I'll take the first watch." Lance offered.

Keith only smiled as he placed his hand on Lance's shoulder. "Are you sure?"

"Sure I'm sure!  I'm too wired up. 
I can't sleep now.  You, on the other hand,
look like you could catch a few."
Lance replied, pointing out how
tired Keith had looked.

The Voltron Commander slowly nodded.   "Thanks.  Wake me up in an hour."

"You got it, buddy." Lance replied with a wink. "Now hunker down there, close your eyes, and dream of your lady who's only inches away from you."

"My what?" Keith asked with a
startled look on his face.  He suddenly
felt his face go pale.

"You heard me, Commander Romance."
The phrase slid out of Lance's mouth
smoothly as he emphasized the last two words.

"Are you nuts?" Keith said in a lowered voice.
"Do you realize what you're saying?"

"Do you realize how much she loves you?" Lance countered his protests. "Or... how much you love her?"

"I think... you're mistaken, Lance..." Keith said, trying to cover up his feelings.

"You're the one who's mistaken!  Look buddy... I don't know what's going on in that military brain of yours, but I do know that you are the luckiest man on Planet Arus... and the entire galaxy for that matter!   She loves you, Keith!  Don't you see that?"

"Lance, the Princess has nothing but feelings of friendship for any of us..." Keith tried to reason.

"And that's why she throws you a royal ball with all of the trimmings...because she thinks of you only as a friend?  She didn't throw a ball for any of our birthdays...now did she?  Keith... Allura's in love with you!  And if you don't allow her to get involved in your personal life, you're going to lose her.  Some handsome young prince is going to come along someday and sweep you under the carpet, while sweeping her off of her feet!" Lance argued.

"This is getting old, Lance." Keith replied with a sigh. "I believe we've already had this conversation before."

"Yeah, but you weren't listening!" Lance said back to him.

"Lance...I'm just a pilot, that's all!" Keith sighed. "I'm not in the same league as she is."

"Says who?" Lance barked back in a whispered protest. "You're more loyal to her then any royal yokel that I've ever met!  And she obviously has a growing attraction for you.  You've got to come out of that military shell that you've packed yourself away in for all of these years... and you'd better make it quick!  She's not going to wait around forever, you know."

Keith's head sunk low as he absorbed what Lance had said.  He slowly shook his head. "I...I guess I've always been so closed around people.  I never want to let my feelings be known, because there's always a fear that I'm going to get burned again somehow."

"Keith," Lance said as he gently placed his hand on his friend's shoulder. "Listen to me.  Not everything turns out like your parents' disappearance.  Allura isn't just going to disappear one day while on a mission.  She's not going anywhere...unless you drive her away, that is."

"Maybe that's why I'm so protective of her," Keith added, his thoughts moving a million miles a second. "If only...my parents...I couldn't help them, Lance.  They disappeared without a trace, and I couldn't do anything to help find them!"

"I know you miss them.  I miss my mother, and my brother and sister too.  We've all suffered at the hands of Zarkon and Lotor.  But don't let the past chase away what you have to look forward to in the future." Lance warned.  "Do you mean to stand there and tell me, that she doesn't mean the world to you?  Keith, listen to your heart, man!  All I've ever heard from you while we were in the academy was excuse after tiring excuse on why you would never get seriously involved with a girl.  But I do remember you telling me one night while we sat together in the woods, about a premonition that you had.  Do you remember our conversation, Keith?"

Keith tipped his head to look Lance in the eyes. "That was a long time ago..."

"No so long ago, Keith." Lance sighed. "You said that you felt in your heart that there was this girl in your dreams...calling to you.   Almost...begging you to find her.  I remember sometimes you'd wake up in the middle of the night...screaming about some girl calling for you in your head...calling for you to come and save her."

"Yeah, I remember...
back in the academy days."
Keith remembered, as he glanced
over toward Allura, lying peacefully
asleep on the floor.

Lance then looked down to gaze at Allura. 
He shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe it was
her, Keith.  In fact...I'll bet it was her! 
She was calling to your heart.  And I know
you know what I mean.  In fact...I'm sure
you know what I mean!"

"I...I don't know, Lance." Keith replied,
letting his head sink down once again.
"I've never been good at this sort of thing."

"There's something between you.  The power you two seem to share is enormous!  There's a fire in your soul that ignites each time you're together.  And if you don't take advantage of it soon, that fire is going to grow dimmer and dimmer...and finally... go out completely."

Keith sighed. "I'm not ready, Lance. I'm just not!"

"Fine...whatever!" Lance snorted back. "Just remember, if someday she gives up waiting for you, and finds another, don't come crying to me!  I'm only going to tell you that I told you so!"

Keith suddenly became annoyed. "Look, let's concentrate on more important matters, like getting out of here!  We'll leave at 07:00 tomorrow morning.  Okay?"

Lance shook his head and moved over to a neutral position to keep watch. "Get some rest, Keith." was all he said.

Keith remained motionless for several minutes before finally scooting over into a nearby corner.  Once he got comfortable, he closed his eyes, intending to sleep.  But his mind would not allow him the luxury.

As soon as he closed his eyes, they would opened once again.

He turned his head, and from where he sat, he had a perfect view of  the lovely Princess, asleep on the floor nearby.  His heart ached for her.   And deep down, he knew that Lance was right...she was the one that he had been waiting to find.

It was her... she was the voice he heard in his dreams those long five years in his late teens.  He knew it, almost immediately, upon hearing her voice speaking for the first time in the old Castle of Lions. 

He knew it then....

But now that he had found her...he suddenly felt afraid and vulnerable.   How could he let his heart go out to another?  He couldn't let the intense pain he had felt in his heart when his parents disappeared, rekindle again.  He had spent too much time putting out that fire.

Why should he start it again?  Why trust love again?

Why...

He suddenly stopped thinking when he saw the Princess move slightly, her body shivering.  She then moaned a bit before finally settling down once again.  He relaxed his body that had unconsciously tensed at her movement.

He did love her...

He did care for her...

And he would see to it that she was returned to her beloved world.  The world he had learned to call home. 

The world he knew, he would never leave again.
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