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There's Trust In These Wings

Chapter Text

There’s Trust In These Wings



1. The Meeting

The Amber Castle was not as its name would suggest. The bricks were black formed from the nutrient rich soil of the Marshes and the dark sands near the twin volcanoes that lined the border between the kingdom of Ko-gane and the Galra Empire. It was not a pretty black but for a strong stone worked almost into a metal by dragon fire it was malleable. The towers of the Amber Castle curved sensually, each topped with a dolloped shape hat of rose gold that was the real namesake of the castle. There were nine. The largest and most bulbous was stationed in the middle of the castle, a spotting post for the royals and their advisers. Surrounding that were the towers for each of the four quadrants of their government. The ruler’s men stayed in one, the consort’s in the other, then one for the military and traders, those that dealt with the people, and one for the bookkeepers and magic users, those that dealt with knowledge. The last four were the tallest, but the skinniest, barely an S line in their shape, but they didn’t need the fancy architecture to do their jobs. They were guard posts.

 

A young Ko knight stood guard at the Northernmost tower. He lazily twirled a small knife in one hand while a large saw-toothed sword weighed down his belt not small enough for his waist, but caught on his hips, a shield with the Ko-gane crest of a red lion resting on the tower wall beside him. It was a boring day for a knight, at least for a knight such as Keith, guard of Ko-gane Prince Commander Shiro. Keith had been born into fighting as had the last twenty or more generations of Ko-gane people. For something lasting so long, Keith dared not call it a war, at least it had not been recently. So few casualties had been presented over the last few decades, but it was fighting nonetheless. A quiet was good. Or it should be.

 

If Keith squinted, he could catch the glint from the crystals of the Altean southernmost watch spire off in the Altean Kingdom to their North. Keith had never actually been to Altea, but he had met many Alteans in battle in the Woods and Marshes and Plains that separated their two kingdoms and rolled eastwards to the unknown, battles that destroyed the very land they were battling for. It was said that once the Ko-gane Kingdom ruled all of the known world, but from the north came a great snowstorm that destroyed many of their crops and lands and the original Ko were forced to flee south until they reached the desert lands. Hungry, they fought back against their intruders, but the intruders would not stay their weapons and so the Ko-gane people learned magic, the magic of fire. The Alteans had much the same story on how the fighting between the kingdom of Ice Masters and the kingdom of Fire Masters started. Keith did not care anymore about who invaded who, many young soldiers didn’t, it was the years of battling that made them bitter against the Alteans enough to believe in old tales. However, the lands between both kingdoms had flourished even through all the fighting. Those they called the Builders could have united their tribes and risen up to overcome at least one kingdom, but they were appalled by war.

 

Besides, a larger issue had risen

 

Keith turned his head to the west. A fortress as dark as the Ko-gane castle had been built before either masters knew. At first, they had been unconcerned with the new invaders until all the Builders’ lands of the west were enveloped by them. A cloud of darkness had grown bigger and bigger where the sun set. After a few years, a castle tower could be seen throught the strongest of the observatory telescopes when the swirling darkness grew thin. It was that layer on the horizon that told Keith the Galra Empire was still there, waiting. They had already started making moves, attacking when the Masters were too busy with each other. The Galra could not be ignored any longer. The fighting between the Masters needed to stop and so they had a day of calm.

 

With a sigh, Keith pulled away from the ledge of the tower. He stopped spinning his knife around and cradled it between both hands. It glittered with the morning sun newly washed of blood and sharpened. Keith moved a thumb across the purple jewel that encrusted its hilt before slipping it into its sheath beside his sword. Today was an important day. Both the Ice Masters and Fire Masters had agreed to a truce and to form a treaty within that period. Everyone knew they needed to fight together to defeat the Galra, but with so much bad blood between them, there would have to be much compromising. One person from each side were to meet in the main gardens of the Olkari Woods located in the dead middle of the Builders’ lands between the two fighting kingdoms and exchange each kingdom’s wishes. The Altean kingdom was being slow, but Keith had not yet heard who would be representing their own side. He had been stuck on watch tower duty all day as his charge, Prince Commander Shiro, was stuck deliberating their wants with the other diplomats of Ko-gane.

 

“Lord Keith, you’re to see King Akira,” a soldier called from the door of the tower, saluting, every piece of his uniform to regime unlike the knights who wore what felt most comfortable to them when outside of official battles.

 

“Is the Commander there?” Keith asked tightening the fasten on one of his hide gloves.

 

“Of course, Lord Keith. Our Prince Commander would not dare leave his father’s side without his protector,” the soldier tease.

 

It was a joke, Keith understood that, a jab at the fact he had always been close to the third prince of Ko-gane and the Commanding officer of the Ko army. Such words were unnecessary and Keith had no business doing unnecessary things. He moved past the soldier and down the winding staircases of the tower. It would have been quicker to fly, but today was a day of rest and that included animals of war.

 

A long walk later Keith found himself outside of the grand meeting hall. The soldiers outside took one look at him, first sneering until being reminded of Keith’s position by the glare he sent to them. They opened the door and announced Keith’s arrival.

 

“Ah, young Keith, you’ve appeared,” the king said and met Keith halfway, an arm stretched out in greeting, gripping Keith’s shoulder. There was a brightness in his eyes that put Keith on edge, but also made him excited.

 

“I came as soon as I was called,” Keith said bowing his head, careful not to break the king’s touch as that would be seen as rude and he would not be seen as rude before the three princes and Queen Consort Fala.

 

Behind the king and a grand table stood the rest of the royal family and a few advisors. The Queen Consort stood beautiful in a pink dress, blonde hair tied up, but she was starting to look old just like the king. However, the three men beside her were in their prime. Prince Heir Sven was a fair looking man with a decent demeanor much like the king had now and Keith knew many of the young soldiers and knights adored him. The second prince looked like another version of Sven but smaller and younger. Then there was Prince Commander Shiro who resembled both his brothers, but stood out amongst them with a scar across his nose, bangs losing pigment and turning white, and then his metal arm, all reminders of his time spent as a Galra prisoner back when Keith had been too young to be his protector, back before they had taken the Galra threat seriously

 

“Of course you did,” said the king, “but now you will have to shower and I do hope you won’t be late.”

 

“Late to where, your majesty?” Keith asked.

 

“To the Olkari Woods, of course,” the king said. “We have chosen you as our representative.”

 

Keith’s eyes widened and he immediately sent a glance toward the Prince Commander. Where they sending the prince and he was just a guard or where they just sending him? Who would guard the youngest prince?

 

Shiro only gave Keith a soft look almost like pride. Yes, this was an honorable thing to do, be the kingdom’s representative for a peace treaty with the Alteans, but what if…

 

The king stepped away from Keith and shook his head. “If you are worried about your duties, do not fear. We have decided to widen your leash on Prince Shiro. As one of our best knights and best dragon rider, your efforts can be used better elsewhere. Prince Shiro will stay here in the castle walls while you discuss with the Alteans’ man about our demands. From there, we will decide where we are sending our military forces.”

 

Keith felt nervous. He had been sixteen when Shiro had been captured. The prince, not yet Prince Commander, had found favor in Keith and often came to train him personally. It had been a whole year before Shiro had somehow managed to stumbled back to them, memories blended and chopped and missing his right arm, replaced with a mechanical fraud. Builders had manipulated the arm as best they could in order to learn about it, but it had still taken another year before Prince Shiro had been able to use his new arm properly and go back to training. Keith had been eighteen when he was hired to watch over the youngest prince. Initially, it was because of his bond with a quick and agile red dragon that could easily maneuver around Shiro’s grand black monstrosity in the air while the prince relearned his riding signs, but as Shiro gained his status as Commander, Keith was kept on because he had proven himself time after time to be trustworthy in battle at the prince’s side.

 

Keith reveled in that trust. He did not think he could stand another heartbreak like the one when Shiro had disappeared.

 




Red was not happy to be woken. Between the military tower and the east tower was the Dragon Lair. It was a small building in one of the training courtyards that led deep underground where rocks sweated the farther the descent. Once past the maze of  winding paths, the cave’s entrance loomed ahead wide enough for a Black. It overlooked a hot springs that was the home of the Ko-gane dragons. Not all had formed a bond with a rider, but all old enough to fight would fight for them or more specifically, for Prince Commander Shiro’s Black. Keith had past the large ebony creature with a strip of gold on each wing as he had made his way to his own dragon’s lair. She was a giant monstrosity that even Keith had been frightened to hold eye contact with and that was after Shiro and the creature had bonded.

 

“Down girl, I know you thought you could rest, but we have work,” Keith told his dragon who was puffing out small bursts of smoke from her nose in agitation as Keith slapped on a riding saddle and harness. Keith wouldn’t tell her that he was happy to have some work to do other than staring north at the Ice Masters crystal towers, barely but a speck on the horizon. Red knew, though.

 

“Alright, all saddled up. I promise to oil your scales with the fancy stuff when we get back,” Keith said and placed a gloved hand against her face.

 

She nuzzled against Keith’s hand and let out a hissing purr.

 

Keith had been thirteen when he had impressed upon a dragon. He had been an official soldier in training for a year when the Consort’s pet Red had laid her first clutch. The small Red had managed four eggs, each an odd color for a Red’s eggs to be. They were half-breeds and no one knew exactly who had fathered them, but all the young soldiers were eager to impress upon one. They had gathered nine of the best young soldiers who had been training on their higher up’s dragons and Keith. Keith had won a contest against his other in-training comrades to participate. He had immediately went to the largest of the eggs no larger than a dresser. Each dragon had hatched into a red dragonling of various shades of red larger than most Reds were. Only two of them picked a soldier to bond with, the other immediately started looking for it's mother unimpressed with either being flown or just with what was presented to it. Most soldiers bonded with a dragon simply by going to the hot springs and standing before them hoping not to be eaten by the dragons that found interest in them. Keith had always assumed that was how he would go from being a soldier to being a knight. Being able to witness the birth of dragons had been enough of a reward for him, but then the largest of the eggs had hatched and the reddest of Reds was born. It was much too big to be a usual Red dragonling, but when Red had turned her head to Keith with oil slick eyes glowing with excitement, Keith had fallen in love.

 

No amount of teasing could ever take away from the fact that Keith had a dragon before he was even a full soldier, that he wouldn’t even need to go through soldier training once he was old enough. He was a knight even if his dragon wasn’t a pureblood. In that sense, they had something in common.

 

Red was sleek. She wasn’t serpent like like Greens were, but built more like a cat and flew with the same speed and elegance which made up for her lack of power. Keith loved flying on her. He was good because he was reckless and Red’s flying ability made it easy to be reckless.

 

Emerging through the trees of the Olkari Woods into a small clearing in a flurry of red scales certainly made for an entrance. Keith pulled his riding helmet off and dismounted from Red in one smooth jump. Red shook herself of twigs and leaves ignoring the Olkari Builders that came to take her to a nearby Forest Lair where they kept Dracolisks, cousins to dragons and made for long rides and glides, and the few Greens some of the native tribe’s Builders had impressed upon that preferred the trees and the suns in the plains to the hot springs in Ko-gane.

 

“Ko Lord, we greet you,” said one of the Olkari Elders, a Chief Ryner.

 

Keith bowed his head to her in respect. “I have come to meet with the representative of the Altean Kingdom to compromise on a peace treaty with my own kingdom in the Olkari Gazebo.”

 

“Oh, Lance is going to have a field day with this guy,” someone commented from the side.

 

Keith turned to see a young ginger haired Builder over by the lair wearing riding clothes, the under cloth green. One of the Builder’s Green riders, Keith presumed.

 

“Pidge, don’t rile him up, they're here for peace. You already know Lance will do enough of that. I can’t believe Regent Advisor Coran picked him,” said another Builder beside the first. This one was larger and wore riding clothes as well in yellow. A Gold rider and one from a plains tribe by the natural tan look his skin had.

 

Keith looked away from them not in the mood for antics. He was here for a peace treaty, not to be a source of entertainment for whoever this Lance was. He turned to the Olkari elder as Red was guided into the Lair. “Will I be allowed a Dracolisk to take to the Gazebo?”

 

“There will be no need for that, my lord. The walk is short. Those two knights will lead you,” the elder said pointing at the two gossiping Builders.

 

So they were dragon riders. Keith excused himself from the elder and approached them. “Shall we head to the Gazebo?”

 

The Green rider moved away from the lair and grinned. They had spectacles and looked to be just older than Keith had been when he had first ridden Red.

 

“Hi, I’m Pidge,” the Green rider said and held out a hand.

 

Keith toko the hand frowning at the fit of the hide glove on the other rider’s hand. It was much too large, but old as if passed down.  “I am Keith. It is good to meet you...Lord Pidge.”

 

The rider smiled. “I’m a Builder, no one calls you like that here. I like it, though.”

 

“Shouldn’t it be Lady Pidge then?” the Gold rider asked.

 

Pidge reached out a booted foot and smashed it down on the other rider’s foot causing him to hiss in pain. “If he says Lord than it’s Lord, Hunk.”

 

“Right, whatever you say Lord Pidge, just don’t stomp on me again. You’ve got a lot of spunk for someone so small.”

 

So the Gold rider was called Hunk. And Pidge was female. It didn’t matter. A dragon rider was a knight and a knight was a lord. It didn’t matter to Keith either way.

 

“Shall we head off to the Gazebo then?” Keith asked again.

 

“Yes, but the Altean’s’ representative hasn’t shown up yet, so I think I’ll stay back here and lead him there. I’m sure he won’t be much longer,” said Hunk.

 

“Fine, leave me with the angry looking Ko,” Pidge grumbled then started to walk waving Keith to follow.

 

The trek was silent. Keith didn’t often come to any of the Builders’ lands unless it was to fight. He always missed the beauty of the foliage when his attention was better spent on trying not to die or keeping Shiro safe. Usually, he was in the air anyways, dive bombing with trails of fire from Red. Fire that burned up all the emerald plants and dressed the trunks of trees with soot. Keith didn’t even want to think about the flowers in the plains. They rarely fought in the marshes. Too damp for fire magic.

 

“It’s funny that both kingdoms chose a young pretty boy to represent them,” the Green rider said after a few minutes of walking. “I wonder if they were each hoping to dazzle the others representative with something pretty to look at.”

 

“I’m a Knight,” Keith protested. “I am Prince Commander Shiro’s Right Hand.”

 

“I’m sure you are,” Pidge said so softly, Keith almost didn’t hear her.

 

“What was that?”

 

“Nothing, nothing. Man, you two have a lot more in common than I thought.”

 

Keith chose to walk closer instead of falling behind. He wasn’t interested in hearing more comments from the Green rider and hoped shortening their proximity would keep them quiet.

 

It wasn’t much longer before they arrived at the building. The Olkari Gazebo was a large octagonal structure made with a frame of lumber and decorated with winding tree limbs and vines. It appeared enclosed, but Keith could see the fires lit inside flicker between the branches. It was charming, Keith thought, even more so when he followed Pidge in and saw all the furniture also made out of branches and things that grew in the Builders’ lands. They were beautiful.

 

“This is it. Before you sit, I need to take your weapons,” the Green rider said and held out a hand.

 

Keith frowned, but understood. This was supposed to be an area dedicated to peace. He removed his shield from his back and took off his belt that housed his sword and dagger in their respective sheaths. Pidge took them, bowed, and went to stand guard outside the Gazebo. Now left alone, Keith grew irritable. He didn’t want to wait long for the Altean representative. He had flown so he could be here just on time, the walk calculated in and everything. He knew that there could be a five minute difference between clocks and thought to give the Ice Master ten minutes to get here before he really started getting annoyed. He took the seat on the south most end so Ko-gane was behind him.

 

Fifteen minutes. It took fifteen minutes for the Altean representative to show. And he didn’t come stumbling in out of breath and apologizing for being late. No, he came in after spending another two minutes making jokes with both Lord Pidge and the Gold rider that had walked him here. When the representative did finally walk into the Gazebo, Keith made sure to catch his eye with a glare, but the Ice Master had the audacity to uphold his grin and even wink at Keith.

 

“Wow, I hope Fire Masters can’t burn people with just their eyes or else I’d be a crisp lord,” the Ice Master said taking his seat in the northernmost chair opposite of Keith.

 

“You’re late,” Keith said and dug out a rolled up stack of paper from his jacket.

 

The Ice Master just tossed a folder with a miss mash of papers towards the middle of the table. “I’m Lord Lance of Altea, Blue Knight, and Heir Princess Allura’s main squeeze.”

 

Keith decided it was polite enough to just roll the papers across the table towards the Ice Master as he reached out to gather the other representative’s part of the treaty. “Main squeeze?”

 

The Ice Master, Lord Lance, picked up the rolled up bundle of papers and started to unravel them. “Protector, I’m her Right Hand. You?”

 

Keith sat back in his chair and started organizing the folder. “Lord Keith of Ko-gane, Red Knight, and Prince Commander Shiro’s Right Hand.”

 

“So we’re the same,” the Ice Master said looking over the papers bored.

 

Keith wasn’t so sure about them being the same. This Ice Master did seem about Keith’s age. His skin was tanned from the reflective sunlight on the snow or just from genes, Keith did not know, but it looked like he kept his skin condition in check. His brown hair was kept short and groomed nothing like Keith’s own fluff of hair where he just chopped at whatever was in his eyes and didn’t bother trying to keep it from puffing up in the heat. He looked very much like what Keith would think a princess’ protector would look like, but Keith could see scars on one of his hands and callouses on both. The jacket he wore seemed thick and warm, but from the placement of some of those callouses, Keith could imagine trained muscles in his arms. An archer perhaps.

 

Lance looked up then. “Did you finish reading already?”

 

“N-no,” Keith responded and immediately went back to his papers. There was a chuckle, but he ignored it. After a few minutes, Keith slid the file back over to Lance across the table. “I’m ready when you are.”

 

Lance rolled Keith’s papers back up and shot them across the table so they landed just shy of Keith’s reach without laying himself across the table almost climbing onto it.

 

Lance whistled. “Man, you’re flexible. Let’s get moving on all this peace treaty stuff, though.”

 

Keith sent a glare the Ice Master’s way as he righted himself. Quickly, though, he cleared his throat. “The Ko-gane Kingdom proposes two major parts to this treaty. First, is that we split the Builders’ plains, marshes, forests, and plateaus equally. Neither kingdom truly remembers who originally had control over them and the Builders are already thriving here peacefully trading with both our kingdoms. The Second is a marriage. We would like one of high standing in your kingdom to marry one with high standing in ours.”

 

Lance rolled his head from side to side before standing. “Right, here’s our counter. The Altean Kingdom would rather give the lands to the Builders. We both have plenty of lands and it would be unfair for the Builders to have to divide themselves. Their elders can sign new trade agreements with us as well as ally with us against the Galra. As for the marriage, we had a similar thought. The princess is our only heir and is preparing to rise to Queen. Her advisors would like for her to have a consort. Perhaps one of the three princes find fancy in her?”

 

Keith nodded. “We have heard the princess is beautiful and strong. I will report back to my King and his advisors and ask about the land dispute and come back with their chosen perspectives for the princess.”

 

“Well, if that’s all,” Lance said and reached above his head with a stretch and a yawn, “I will be heading back. Let us meet here again tomorrow at the same time with a final decision.”

 

“Agreed. It is best for us all if we quickly come to some semblance of peace with the Galra Empire sneaking ever closer.”

 

“Yeah, Princess Allura really hates the Galra.”

 

Keith scoffed and looked towards the west. He could imagine why.

 

“Hey, Keithy boy.”

 

Keith jumped suddenly feeling someone beside him. Lance stood there with his hand held out, one finely trimmed brow raised over a small but very blue eye. Keith hadn’t noticed how blue the Ice Master’s eyes were. Were all Ice Master’s eyes so blue? He’d seen many blue eyes on the battlefield, all glazed over and lifeless.

 

“Ready to shake on it?” Lance asked.

 

Keith stared down at the hand then reached out and took it. He could feel every callous over the uncovered parts of his gloved hands, they were rougher than Keith had thought. And yet, Lance’s shake was gentle.

 

“See ya later Lord Mullet,” the Ice Master said as he left the Gazebo.

 

Lord Mullet? Keith lifted a hand to his hair and sighed.

 




Keith took the long way back to the Amber Castle. They flew over the meadows in the east where a large lake flowed into the only river in the Ko-gane kingdom. It barely managed to cut between two mountains and disappear into one of the oasis in the eastern desert of Ko-gane. That one section of river was the only river K-gane had. The only other water sources were the random oasis that sparsely littered their desert lands and the hot springs, most of which were home to dragons and it was difficult to take their water even for those who were bonded. They had wells, but no one was ever sure how long each would last. It was only the land where the Amber Castle stood that was fruitful. And thankfully, there was enough land around the castle for most of the population to live. The Builders’ lands were imperative to the survival of the Ko people. Keith wasn’t sure how King Akira would take to the Alteans wanting to give the land to the Builders in full, but they needed this peace treaty. Keith could only assume it was the same for both sides.

 

Red dropped Keith off at the North facing tower in a literal sense. There was netting strewn from the north tower to the Master’s Tower, where the Fire Masters studied along with other scholars, for the dragonettes to sunbathe and play on. Fire masters in training liked to keep dragonettes as pets, small lizard like creatures that usually just lazed in the sun or skittered around people’s feet tripping them with affectionate hisses, scales changing colors to match in with their surroundings. He rolled along the netting and towards the Master’s Tower almost barrelling into a cuddled group of young dragonettes that hissed at him as he went by. He jumped to his feet before reaching the roof of the Master’s Tower and tried to keep his balance as he walked to the edge of the net. It would have been easier if he was in street clothes or his full military riding gear that hugged and moved with his form. He still managed to jump down from the net and swing himself onto the roofing surrounding the towers without getting snagged on anything.

 

As a child, Keith use to get in trouble for using roofs as streets, but it was that trouble that got him recruited for the military on a day trip to the Ko-gane capital. His father had not been ecstatic about it, but it was all they could really hope for coming from one of the poorer camps in the western deserts of Ko-gane so close to the threat of Galra attacks. Now, though, Keith was just chastised for messing around, but no one could deny that he certainly got places quicker this way.

 

Before Keith knew it, he was at the main council room door again, the King and his advisors still inside. They were seated this time when Keith walked in, all except for the princes and a few of the advisors’ assistants. When they noticed him, Keith bowed low.

 

“I apologize if you have waited long,” Keith said.

 

“Not at all,” King Akira said. “We’re actually surprised you have come back so soon.”

 

They did seem genuinely surprised even though Keith had taken the long way around. “Well, the Altean representative was quick with his words.”

 

“So they were serious as well, that is splendid,” King Akira said. “So, how did the compromising go?”

 

Keith handed over the rolled up papers he had received. “There was a disagreement on the major point of the treaty. The Alteans would rather give the Builder lands to the Builders on the condition that the Builders sign an alliance with us as well as trade agreements.”

 

“And what of the other major point?” King Akira asked as he looked over the papers. The Blue rider had scribbled in them, Keith knew, only a few points having anything that pertained to the actual information in the papers.

 

“They seem to be on the same page as us with the marriage. Actually, they would like to find a Consort for the Heir Princess. They would like for her consort to be one of the three princes,” Keith said and immediately turned to study the faces of the princes. The eldest prince was calm, a look of acceptance in his demeanor. The second prince was red, embarrassed. And Shiro, Shiro looked intrigued.

 

“Well, it won’t be Sven,” said the Queen Consort Fala. “Sven is our heir and the best Fire Master of his generation on top of being one of the only Blue riders among our Knights.”

 

“I agree. King Consort Alfor’s rule may still live on in his words, but this Princess Allura will soon take her crown. I suppose that is why they want her to have a consort. She is the only child of the past queen after all, heirs will be needed,” King Akira said

 

“Shiro can’t go because he’s the army’s commander,” Ryou said and stepped forward. “I will go then.”

 

“No, it should be me,” Shiro said and stepped forward.

 

No, no it shouldn’t be him. Keith thought Ryou was right. They needed Shiro to lead their armies. He was Prince Commander. Besides, after all he had been through, the King couldn’t just ship his youngest son off to be just a rod for childbearing.

 

“Shiro, think of your place,” the king warned.

 

“I am thinking of my place,” Shiro said. “I may be the Commander, but we have more than enough generals qualified to take over that title. I only have it because I am a third son of the crown. I am dispensable. Brother Sven doesn’t have a lover yet, but he is heir and he does so much for the people. And, Ryou, we all know you have a lover. I know of your relations with her. What if a scare was not a scare, how would you explain that once you were engaged to Princess Allura?”

 

Prince Ryou looked away ashamed. “I...would prefer to marry my lover over Princess Allura though I have heard the Altean princess is beautiful.”

 

“Exactly. Also, King Consort Alfor was the commander of his army and we all know what the Galra troops did to him and his knights. They’re gone and so is half the Altean army. I can help rebuild them so they are ready to take up arms against the Galra. It would be beneficial to our fight if I was to become Commander Consort of Altea. I already know who would be the best general to take over for Ko-gane and he has much more experience than I.”

 

King Akira stood and walked over to Keith. “So we have come to a conclusion on that issue then, so go and rest yourself, Lord Keith. You will have to take our revised treaty back to the Altean representative tomorrow.”

 

King Akira’s hand grasped Keith’s shoulder and Keith felt the weight of it drain him. “Are you really sending Prince Commander Shiro to become Consort Prince in Altea?”

 

“Yes, and you,” King Akira said.

 

“Me?” Keith asked.

 

The king smiled and squeezed harder. “I promised never to let my youngest son be alone again, did I not. And you made the same promise back.”

 

Keith bowed his head. He had made that promise and he did not wish to break it. He would go with Shiro and live with the Alteans.

 

The thought made Keith shiver.

Chapter Text

  1. The Treaty

Annoyance was thick in the air inside the Olkari Gazebo. Keith had been woken early and encouraged to wash up and don festival riding gear instead of his usual off duty knee pads and hides. Shiro had even helped him tie back the longer parts of his hair in a ribbon and tried to make something of the shorter fluffy front. All of this just in hopes that his more professional appearance would keep the representative from arguing on any more of the points they had revised in their papers. But what was the point of the get up if the Altean representative didn’t show up on time?

 

It had been fifteen minutes since Keith had taken a seat inside the Gazebo. He had arrived exactly on time and it had taken fifteen minutes to get Red calm enough to enter the Olkari Lair and then he had to follow the Gold rider today instead of Pidge who seemed to get lost a few times and continuously sent Keith nervous glances. And in all that time, that Blue rider had yet to show up.

 

He was insufferable, Keith decided. He couldn’t understand how the Heir Princess could stand to have such a man as her guardian. If this Lance guy was the best the Alteans had to offer as far as knights went then they really did need Shiro as their King Consort.

 

The thought of whipping some Altean soldiers into shape alongside Shiro sent shivers of excitement up Keith’s spine, but he kept those thoughts still. This treaty still wasn’t a done deal.

 

There was a small trough to one wall of the Gazebo with bamboo like pipes filtering water into it. Keith was just getting up to get himself a drink when a cool breeze blew into the Gazebo followed by the loud clinking of metal clad boots. The Altean representative walked into the Gazebo dressed in blue silks and stained hides with silver plates of metal decorating his boots and shoulders and chest along with bits of tricolored fur.

 

“Are you preparing for battle?” Keith asked surprised by his own question, but the garments did look similar to the uniforms he had seen Altean soldiers wear on the battlefield, though not the riders. And this was far more decorated.

 

The Altean representative looked at Keith unimpressed and let out a laugh in the same tone. “Funny, glad you can make jokes. These things are awful. Too clunky. If this thing is for fashion, shouldn’t it be a lot less metal? My designs are still on the wheel so I had to wear this. Seems like your king had the same idea. Cute ponytail.”

 

Keith had completely forgotten his own attire upon seeing the Blue rider. He hoped he would not be forced to wear such a clunky and outdated uniform on Shiro’s and Princess Allura’s wedding or any ceremony that befell his stay in the Altean castle.

 

The Blue rider managed to get himself seated then pulled out the messy file and threw it at Keith. Keith rolled his own files toward Lance then took his seat.

 

“We have agreed to giving the lands to the Builders, but we have written up a strict treaty and alliance agreement for them,” Keith said.

 

Lance unrolled the papers and flipped through the pages. “Looks good. A little stricter than what the Alteans wanted, but that can be back up if the Builders find your guy’s too harsh.”

 

Keith pulled out the correct paper from the messy pile and nodded. “We will agree on that. The King and his court also finds favor in marrying Princess Allura. They have decided on Prince Commander Shiro.”

 

“Prince Commander,” Lance whistled. “Why give up your commander?”

 

“The eldest prince has already been raised to take over our kingdom. The second prince would have been a better choice, but he already has a lover and it would be scandalous of us to allow him to break off such an affair when there is a possibility for a child,” Keith explained.

 

“Yes, Princess wouldn’t like that. Also, I’ve heard of your Heir Prince, he seems kind, but too by the book. Princess deserves someone caring and willing to take chances.” The Blue rider was looking at the small portrait that had been added to the files. “We know of what happened to your Prince Commander, but I’m willing to trust him with my Princess.”

 

Keith frowned. The more Lance talked of the princess, the more intimate he sounded. Perhaps it was because he was her guardian, but Keith only ever called their Prince Commander by name when alone and never just Prince.

 

“If she will be pleased, then let us finalize this meeting. The king would like for the wedding to take place after we have defeated the Galra unless there is a sudden dire need for an heir.”

 

“I agree the marriage shouldn’t be rushed, they have never even met. Will the Prince Commander bring court with him? We could use a few soldiers and higher ranking officials. Having a Commander Consort would actually be a good idea.”

 

Keith tried not to smile. Shiro had been right about the Alteans needing proper military guidance. “Yes, he will be bringing a few soldiers with him as well as a few from the servants court to aid the Heir Princess into our customs. I will also be accompanying him.”

 

“You?” Lance asked with a raised brow. “Are you quite certain?”

 

“Is there something offensive about me?” Keith asked. His hands itched to touch the top of his head. He did try not to cut it too short up there.

 

“You’re too innocent, probably.”

 

Innocent? That was the last thing Keith expected to hear. “I have been on the battlefield.”

 

“So have I. An eye for an eye. Well, it won’t matter I suppose. Let’s not make a mess of it yet, we have to get this treaty out of the way first.” Lance stood and stretched with a yawn. “Tomorrow as the sun lowers on the Galras, have your king and his witnesses meet Regent Advisor Coran here for the signing of the treaty. We will have the elders of the Builder tribe and their chiefs meet as well. Does that sound good to you?”

 

Keith tossed the file back to Lance. “The faster the better. Let us meet tomorrow.”

 

The Blue rider tossed the roll back and Keith caught it. Lance winked as he did and shot a finger at him. “Wear your hair like that again tomorrow, okay Mullet Knight?”

 

“What? Why?”

 

The look on Lance’s face was almost comical as he sighed. “Know what, nevermind, I don’t have the energy for this. I promised Hunk a date with a stocky Balmera rider from the mines and stars know that boy’s got a belt for a good bucking or two.”

 

“Bucking?” Keith asked. He had only got that the Gold rider was on friendly terms with this Altean if Lance was setting up dates for him.

 

The Blue rider laughed and waved a hand at Keith as he started to leave the Gazebo. “I knew it, you are too innocent.”

 

Keith stood at the Olkari Gazebo a minute longer, eyebrows pulled together.

 

Oh.

 

Hurriedly, Keith rushed out feeling redder than his dragon.

 

He knew it, the Blue rider was going to be insufferable.


 

Keith hadn’t meant to wear his hair tied back again, it was just how all riders with long hair did their hair for formal occasions or on the battlefield. The wind flapping the back of Keith’s hair around felt freeing in a way and tickled his ears and the hacked up locks of black framing his face were always puffier after a good ride. It definitely wasn’t a mullet, the front part of his hair was too long. The Altean Blue rider didn’t seem to understand that, though. Even though he hadn’t said anything to Keith directly as they all stood around the Okari Gazebo watching King Akira and Regent Advisor Coran go over the last details of the treaty, Keith knew Lance was making jokes about his hair. The rider had reached a hand behind his head and made a motion as if readjusting a ponytail before holding a thumb up at Keith. Keith tried not to look at him directly after that. This was not a time for jokes. This was serious business and he wasn’t going to make Ko-gane look bad and he wasn’t going to make Shiro look bad. As Shiro’s Right Hand, Keith represented him as well and the advisor could always decide Shiro wasn’t good enough and drop the engagement to Princess Allura if Keith acted out of place.

 

“So it is agreed,” Advisor Coran said pushing a small jar of ink towards the king. “From the moment we have both signed our name to this document, we will be forever partners and allies. The lands between our kingdoms will go to the Builders who have suffered our fighting while still managing to advance farther than either of us in technology.”

 

“Yes, without them, we would not be as advanced ourselves,” King Akira agreed. “And I look forward to combining our houses as well. I think the marriage between your princess and my youngest son will help us understand each other a little better.”

 

“Shall we sign?” Coran asked.

 

King Akira nodded and took up a phoenix quill dipping it in the ink well. The advisor stood to the side twirling a heavy orange mustache dressed in a tight and colorful outfit with little tattoos on his face. Keith found he quite liked the man. Though he had been given full responsibility over Altea until the princess was ready to become queen, the advisor was a funny man who had been early to the Gazebo (which meant it wasn’t an Altean thing to be late, just a Lance thing) and had welcomed them all warmly with much chattering and jokes (which must have been an Altean thing, but Keith liked Coran’s jokes more than Lance’s. They were hard to swallow, but it didn’t take long for Keith to understand them.)

 

“There, the kingdom of Ko-gane has agreed,” King Akira said stepping away from the paper.

 

The advisor nodded. “And what beautiful penmanship you have, Your Majesty. The princess has already given permission for me to sign in her place and I do so with full trust in our new alliance.” Coran’s signing was much quicker, but Keith could tell he was careful not to make his signature bigger than the king’s.

 

King Akira reached out a hand. “Let us be good friends, Coran.”

 

“I do love friends,” the advisor said and took the offered hand.

 

Keith wanted to sigh, but they weren’t done yet. The other guards and court officials the king had brought were restless, Keith could see it in the way they shuffled from foot to foot while trying to keep their faces blank, but the Alteans were as frozen as the lakes they were said to have. Other than Coran and Lance, they stood stark still in their ridiculous robes and metal plating except for their eyes. The Alteans’ eyes observed them with an eerie sense of interest, little tattoos below their lids twitching with each motion. They came from two different lands that had never tried to understand each other. Of course their looks would be jarring, Keith tried to reason.

 

Reasoning wasn’t Keith’s strong point. He still felt uneasy. But, Altea would be Keith’s home for at least the next few years, he would have to learn.

 

The Green rider that Keith knew as Pidge walked up and took the newly signed paper running a small wooden device across the document then went over to a much larger contraption and slid the wooden device inside of it. The contraption was filled with paper and it started to slide the document between mirrors that reflected light onto the papers below. Words shown faintly and then ink was splattered over the faint outline until two complete copies of the signed treaty were printed. Pidge laid the copies before the king and the advisor then slid the original into an overly secured box.

 

“Shall I call the Elders and Chiefs in now?” Pidge asked.

 

“Yes,” King Akira said and took a seat at the table.

 

The advisor took a seat beside him. The court and soldiers moved aside to make room for the Elders and Chiefs and a rider chosen for each tribe represented. Keith noted the Gold rider, Hunk, entering closely with a larger shouldered girl bearing the trademark wounds riding the spiky Browns who grew literal crystals from their backs when raised in the mining canyons. The Green rider took up residence beside the Olkari Elder and Chief, amber eyes set angrily behind spectacles.

 

Keith took a deep breath. This was the difficult part of the treaty. It was unfair, really, forcing the Builders to bend to the wills of the Altean and Ko kingdoms. They seemed almost no better than the Galra, but at least they used reasoning and persuasion instead of force. But, Keith knew it was mostly the Builder’s fear of their Mastery that persuaded them to agree. It wasn’t as if Ko and Alteans couldn’t advance on their own, but they had something much more interesting to study.

 

Builders did not have magic.

 

At the thought of it, Keith could feel his own magic building up heat inside of him. It had been many months since he had last actively used it outside of squirmish like battles with the Alteans. He would have to let himself play soon. Red carried fire as well, most dragons did though there were a few, like the Blues and Whites that mostly flew in Altea, who breath ice and could spit jets of water. Browns did not breath anything, but they were strong as were Golds though Golds did breath fire. As for Blacks, it was lightening. Heir Prince Sven considered lightening just a more concentrated form of fire, but so far no Fire Master had been able to conjure it nor had anyone seen a Black produce it in many years.

 

With only a few tweaks, the Builders agreed and each tribe’s Elder signed the Alliance.

 

“Now that this has all been wrapped up, I expect to see the Prince Commander and his entourage at the Crystal Castle by the end of the week, yes?” the advisor said.

 

“So soon?” the king asked then nodded to himself. “Yes, I believe it would be good for him to get to training his new group of soldiers sooner than later. We never know when the Galra will attack.”

 

Only one week? Keith wondered how many whole lambs it would take to keep Red from challenging the first dragon they met at the Altean Lair.

 


 

It took Ten.

 

Shiro bought a whole flock off a shepherd and split the sheep between Keith’s Red and his own giant Black. Red stuffed herself angrily until she became a curled up mass of itchy scales beside Keith, growling softly as Keith lathered the bright red scales with oils to the point they gleamed as if each contained a tiny fire. Perhaps they did. Keith had never paid attention in biology. He only needed the basics. He excelled more in the psychical realm of soldier training. Of course Keith knew the math, all knights did when aerodynamics came into play and being a knight with a good rank in magic also had its bookwork, but Keith followed instinct.

 

And Instinct told Keith a week wasn’t even close to how long he would need to prepare for Altea.

 

“You shouldn’t feed her so much so soon,” Shiro said as he threw chunks of the sheep towards the cliff that led to the Dragon’s hot spring. Smaller unbonded dragons tried to zip across and catch the bits of bloody flesh, but were always chased off or risked being eaten by the large snout that appeared around the cliff to snatch up the meal. “You can see her belly round as if she carried eggs, Keith. What if you needed to ride her?”

 

Keith didn’t like the idea of Red carrying eggs. She was plenty old enough to. He rubbed the red dragon’s protruding belly and frowned. “I know I shouldn’t overfeed her, but she doesn’t want to be out eaten by your monster.”

 

“Black is literally five times her size. She has to eat a lot,” Shiro pointed out and threw another piece of meat into the air. There was a hard gush of air as Black dived down from above this time and took another piece. “At least make her work for it.”

 

“Let her be, Shiro. It’ll be best if she’s too fat to move when we get to Altea. You know she’s going to want to rip the throats out of any of the Altean dragons that she’s fought with before.”

 

Red shivered beneath Keith’s pets and shifted so she could glare at him with oil colored eyes, letting out puffs of smoke from her nostrils.

 

With a sigh, Shiro heaved the rest of the cut up sheep towards a large cleared off area of the cliff they were occupying then wiped his bloodied hands on black leggings. He walked over and took a seat beside Keith, almost toppling over as Black landed on the cliff to finish her meal. “You’re not wrong, but I would hope you taught your dragon better manners than that. I expect you not to start slitting throats the moment we land, either.”

 

Keith’s hand itched to grab the dagger on the back of his belt, but he resisted. “I didn’t manage to kill that Altean representative, right?”

 

Shiro chuckled and lifted his right arm, the one that the Galra’s had given him during his captivity and enhanced by the Builders, to scratch at the blood that had gotten into the metal joints.

 

Keith tried not to stare. He grabbed a cloth and started to wipe off the excess oil on his dragon’s scales. They had been close before Shiro had been kidnapped, but no more than a teacher and their star pupil. But, a teacher had many pupils that were all good in their own way. The prince had struck particular chords with Keith as he struggled with training and getting along with the other soldiers. He still didn’t completely get along with the soldiers, but most of the knights saw him as an equal. It was special to be bonded to a dragon. He had surpassed even Shiro on that who hadn’t became a knight until after his return when he had gone to visit the spring and a dragon from the rest had come to settle there picked him.

 

And for someone like Keith, it was even more special.

 

“Does it hurt?” Keith asked.

 

“Hmm? Oh, the arm? I don’t think it ever has,” Shiro said and stopped picking at it.

 

Keith had kept from asking any questions pertaining to the prince’s arm when he had first been appointed to stay by his side. They had a mutual understanding not to bring up the parts of each other that made them feel inadequate. However, Shiro had grown accustomed to the arm and had started taking questions about it with more ease and even let some of the Builders play with the idea of decorations for it.

 

Keith didn’t think he could ever let the things that bothered him be brandished like that. “Does anything hurt?”

 

Shiro chuckled. “Is it time for my check up? What are you really wanting to ask me, Keith? I’ve lectured you already, it's your turn.”

 

Keith furrowed his brows before sighing. “The engagement, are you really okay with it?”

 

“It was my idea. Besides, princes aren’t usually the commanders of our armies. We have plenty of qualified Knight Generals, even you could lead them.”

 

“I prefer second in command,” Keith said.

 

Shiro lifted a hand to Keith’s hair, the Glara hand. It rustled against the fluffs in his hair roughly, but Keith didn’t complain. Shiro couldn’t actually feel his hand after all, he didn’t know his own strength around Keith. “Don’t put yourself down. Besides, the princess is beautiful.”

 

“I don’t think she’s your type.”

 

“Don’t I like the intellectual types?” Shiro asked and grinned, but there was a darkness in his eyes like the shadow of a ghost.

 

“I hope you do get along with her, but what about the rest of the court?”

 

I’ll be fine. It’s you I’m worried about. You have a temper. Are you sure you want to go with me?” Shiro asked.

 

Keith immediately set blazing eyes on Shiro. “Don’t you dare tell me to stay back. I made a promise.”

 

The prince scooted away. “I know, but there are other promises in this world to make. Like the promise I make to Princess Allura when we marry.”

 

“I don’t think I’ll be making that kind of promise,” Keith said and turned to his dragon pushing the creature lightly. Red groaned, but rolled away from Keith. She got up and trudged to a corner to preen herself.

 

“Well can you promise to keep your cool around the Alteans, at least until we’ve settled?” Shiro asked.

 

Keith stood and crossed his arms. “Everyone but that representative. He is a nuisance.”

 

“And the princess’ Right Hand,” Shiro reminded as he stood as well. “He’ll be the first you have to get along with. After that, everyone should be easy.”

 

Instinct told Keith there was no such thing as easy in Altea.

Chapter Text

3. The Arrival 

 

It was cold.

 

Of all the things about Altea Keith should have expected, the temperature was the most obvious and yet Keith was taken by surprise as he felt his skin pimple the closer they got to the Crystal Castle. For over a day they had traveled in a carriage not well suited for snow led by a team of dracolisks. The dracolisks grew slow with the cold that came when they reached the Altean boundary not able to warm themselves up with internal flames like fire breathing dragons nor made for the cold like Blues and Whites. They were replaced with large curly haired one horned creatures with colorful scales and thin hooved legs their Altean navigators called kirins. Keith pulled the only jacket he owned tighter around him and stared out his window as the strange new creatures as Prince Commander Shiro slept on the opposite side of him in the carriage.

 

Dragons would have been faster. Keith would have even agreed to try a Builder’s travel design if there weren’t so many trees in the way if it meant they got to Altea faster. He could feel Red’s annoyance as she flapped in circles high in the sky as not to arrive at the castle earlier than her rider. Shiro had said Black had gone ahead and taken up a clearing for herself to sleep until they passed her. That was before Shiro had fallen asleep himself. Keith was happy if the prince could get some sleep, he hardly allowed himself rest as the commander. Keith couldn’t rest, though. It was cold and he felt the same anxiety he had when he had been chosen to become a soldier for the Ko-gane people. He wasn’t someone born into royalty and manners. He had run barefoot and free for most of his childhood. He had stolen without knowing what stealing was and taught how to survive. That was all Keith knew. Being a soldier didn’t require much grace. He had to fight and yell when it was time to yell and stay quiet when it was time to be quiet and as a knight he could even bypass that. All he had to do was stand by Shiro’s side and protect him. It was a big job, but not a hard one.

 

Keith knew nothing about Altea. Only the royals had been taught any manners or history about their rivals. They had hated each other until the Galras showed up and became a threat.

 

How different were they?

 

Keith knew Alteans took pride in their looks, that had been obvious at the meeting. Being so cold, Keith supposed there was time to think about clothing choices even if the Blue rider had complained about their fancy wear.  In Ko-gane, the people wore enough for decency and to keep the sun from burning their skin. The nights were cool, but the days, especially out in the desert towns where Keith was raised, were scorching hot. As a child, he ran around with a sack made from two potato bags that went down to his feet and a bandana wrapped around his face to keep away the sun and the sand. As a soldier, their training uniforms had also covered most of their bodies and there were indoor arenas. And then there were riding hides that kept anything from getting to your skin.

 

With a sigh that came out in a puff of cold breath, Keith turned to the empty space beside him in the carriage. One single large bag leaned against the opposite window with all of his belongings that didn’t have to do with his dragon. Keith had little free time following Shiro around all day. When he wasn’t, he was flying with Red or on duty elsewhere in the castle. He hadn’t accumulated much, but it was still more than half what Keith had arrived to the Amber Castle with.

 

Keith went back to staring out his window. He could see the evening moon high up in the sky and a few stars that indicated afternoon was approaching, but they weren’t as bright in the cold. Did they have telescopes in Altea? Keith had assumed so. If he couldn’t fly, Keith liked to look up at the stars. The Masters had liked him enough to let Keith have free reign of their observatory on the odd night.

 

The carriage jostled and Keith tried to peek out of his window as he heard the kirins making hideous noises. The dead trees had cleared out and they were now sliding along a lake of thick ice. At least most of it was ice. There was a bridge on the other side of the lake, an ice bridge,and Keith could see Blues and their serpentine largeness dancing through slushy water around the columns as large whites rolled around in the snow on the banks digging up clumps of the white ice with webbed claws. Keith had not seen many Whites though they had the odd Blue rider in Ko-gane, Prince Sven being one. Keith thought they were beautiful, scales reflecting light like ice crystals.

 

Like the very walls of the Crystal Castle.

 

The Crystal Castle was derived of five towers. Keith could only guess that the outer four towers stood for each faction of the Altean government while the main tower could be considered the home tower for the royal family which only consisted of Princess Allura at the moment. One of the Galra’s recent surprise attacks had really done a number on the Altean royal family. It was one of the attacks that made both master kingdoms realize who their real enemies were.

 

Could they really ally though? Keith knew about the bad blood, he had it on his hands and woke up sweating from the nightmares, but the fighting had become pointless long ago.

 

“Are we there?” asked a groggy voice from inside the carriage.

 

Keith turned his head and looked at the Prince Commander as he woke up. “We’re just now getting to the bridge, but I can see the castle now.”

 

Shiro nodded and stretched. “If it was just us two, we could have taken the dragons and been here in less than half a day.”

 

Keith agreed on that and smirked. “Are you very eager to meet your betrothed then?”

 

Shiro chuckled and turned his body so he could look out of his window. “I am curious about her.”

 

Keith pulled his jacket further around himself. “I think we’re all curious.”

 

Behind their main carriage a few miles away was the rest of the court Shiro had brought with him. Their carriage was surrounded with the soldiers and a loyal line of knights from Ko-gane riding the kirins their dracolisks had been switched with carrying all their luggage. The new strange animals didn’t seem as nervous as dracolisks would have been travelling up the ice bridge with all the low roaring of the Blues and Whites in the slushy waters. This close, Keith could see a few riders on the dragons. The Blue riders had skin tight suits and followed their Blues into the cold waters.

 

Keith shivered.

 

“You’re going to have a hard time with the cold, Keith,” Shiro said.

 

Keith rubbed his hands together and straightened up in his seat. “I’ve dealt with worse than the cold. Besides, I think it's going to be the people that give me a hard time.”

 

Shiro got up from his seat and moved next to Keith, a hand coming up to grasp Keith’s shoulder. “You’ll do fine. You survived Ko-gane’s soldier training regime, you can survive this. Just keep an open mind. Just be more willing to listen than they are.”

 

“Of course, Your Highness.”

 

Shiro smiled and moved back to his seat.

 

Once on the bridge, it didn’t take long to make it to the castle gates. There was no fanfare at the gates, but a small procession of Altean servants did meet them to unpack their carriage and wait for the court Shiro had brought with him following a few hours behind. There were a few soldiers that had come travelling beside their carriage while the rest were leading the court. They surrounded Keith and their Prince Commander as they exited the carriage, servants carrying their bags.

 

“We welcome you,” said one of the servants before indicating to an Altean guard standing at the gate. The soldier reached for a thin rope beside him and pulled. Keith barely heard it, but from high up on the gate, a bell chimed and a few moments later, the great doors of the Altean castle gate opened.

 

The servants led them into the courtyard. Keith tried not to let the cold get to him as he surveyed the front court. Snow, everything was covered in snow. There were some trees and small ponds that servants were skating on while preening the bushes around them. Most of the plants looked alien to Keith, but there were bushes and vines of beautiful large petal blossoms that thrived even in the cold weather. Keith liked them. They were pretty and blooming, growing, as much as they could even in such an environment. They stood out, giving a familiarity to this new place that would be Keith’s home for however long he was here. They made a pretty reflection as well in the glass like material of the Crystal Castle.

 

They walked straight to the main entrance of the actual building itself. The guards immediately opened the doors and they were led down rounded halls. Keith looked on curiously at the architecture of the Altean castle.  The ceilings, the doorways, the columns, everything was much more pointed than in curvy and rounded Ko-gane. And yet, their sigil was similar to Ko-gane’s own -- a blue lion with a golden V-shape above it. So familiar and yet strange.

 

Keith walked closer to Shiro.

 

“This is it,” one of the servants said as they reached a pair of large ornamental doors of glass with etched designs. “Our Princess Allura is awaiting you inside with Regent Advisor Coran and their court. If I may offer advice, please do not look at anyone but her majesty or the regent when talking even if they were not the one that asked you a question.”

 

Shiro nodded his head. “Thank you, we will take the advise. Are you ready to go in, Lord Keith?”

 

Keith furrowed his brow. “If you are, Your Highness.”

 

The doors opened and Keith followed Shiro into the main hall.

 

It was ridiculous looking. The ceiling of the main hall was massively tall, more than needed until you saw the way the thrones and court seats were placed. There were chairs on the wall above cylindrical columns, smooth and shiny. The princess sat on the throne in the middle while Coran sat to her left and one seat over. To her right, but slightly lower was Lance.

 

It was the Blue rider that noticed them first. “It’s the Ko prince and lord Mullet.”

 

Keith frowned. Why did Lance have to target him in front of the Altean court? This was not a private affair and Keith bit his tongue to keep from retorting.

 

“Lord Lance, this is important business, please refrain from flirting,” the princess said. Her voice was pretty, Keith thought, as was she, skin darker than Lance’s, but hair falling in long curls as white as snow.

 

“I never get to do anything at these things,” the Blue rider complained.

 

“You get to sit there and look pretty,” the princess shot back.

 

“So you admit you think I’m pretty?” Lance asked and fluttered his eyes at the princess.

 

Princess Allura rolled her eyes and looked away. Keith chanced a glance at the rest of the court seated in large boxes above the elevation the princess was at, but they were all as still faced as they had been in the Olkari Gazebo except for their eyes. Twitching, studying, waiting.

 

Shiro cleared his throat and bowed. “Heir Princess Allura, I am Third Prince Shiro, previously Commander Prince Shiro, of the Ko-gane Kingdom, Black rider and Level 3 specialist in fire mastery.”

 

“Only Level 3?” Princess Allura commented. A third level mastery was average when it came to talents in fire mastery. Keith was a Level 2, but he rarely had time to study in magic these days. However, he had stook managed to overtake Shiro. “Well, we won’t worry on that, you’re here to be our Commander Consort after all.”

 

“Yes, Your Majesty, that would seem to be the case,” Shiro said and smiled.

 

The princess blushed and fidgeted in her seat. “Yes, that has all already been agreed upon. And that who stands beside you, let him greet.”

 

Keith straightened up and then bowed low to the princess. “I greet you Princess Allura, may your beautiful elegance reign when you rise to Queen more than it does now.”

 

The princess laughed. Keith hadn’t meant to make her laugh, but no one had told him how to properly address the next ruler of Altea correctly. The stood back up. “I am Lord Keith, Red rider of Ko-gane and Commander Protector Right Hand of the 3rd Prince, Level 2 fire mastery.”

 

“What an impressive young man,” Advisor Coran piped up and scooted closer to the edge of his chair as if to get a closer look at Keith. “Weird hair, but impressive all the same.”

 

One glance at Lance told Keith Coran had cracked the Blue rider up. He had a hand over his mouth, a hand covered by a hide glove with only the three middle fingers covered, with long eyelashes locked together making the corners of his eyes crinkle. Keith could see them even from his place feet below Lance’s elevated throne.

 

“Well, I believe the court is pleased with our Commander Betrothed. Since you are both riders, I expect your dragons will be arriving soon,” Coran said. “We have heard the Prince Commander’s Black his quite large and we have made accommodations for her. We also had the thought to keep Lord Keith’s Red with her as to lessen the agitation of the move if that would please you.”

 

“My Red is as loyal to Black as I am to Prince Commander Shiro. There will be no problems with them staying together,” Keith agreed.

 

“Alright then. For now we should get you two and your court settled. Tomorrow we will get the dragons settled more comfortably in our Dragon Lair, let them meet the others and then we’ll let the Prince Commander begin his duties. We will have the engagement party at the end of the week once the Ko have become more comfortable with the Altean way of life.”

 

“Yes, that sounds pleasing. That will give time for one of my own family members to be witness at the party,” Shiro said and then turned his eyes to Princess Allura and bowed. “Your Highness, we are truly grateful for you agreement in the treaty. Let us continue in such friendly manner.”

 

The princess bowed her head as well. “I second that, my lord.”

 

Keith bowed as well making sure to be lower than Shiro. When he came back up only after the prince did, he felt eyes on him. Well, all of the court’s eyes were on him, but this stare felt like cold arrows pricking his skin, a sensation he knew well from fighting the Alteans in aerial battle. Lance was glaring at him, not angry, but calculating. There was an unsure shape to his lips. When he noticed Keith was looking back, he turned his calculations to the court. Keith didn’t dare look at them, but from the expression on Lance’s face, Keith thought the Right Hand did not have a good opinion of  the court.

 

Keith took a deep breath as he followed Shiro out of the main throne room. Shiro was too optimistic about this whole treaty. It was Keith’s job to distrust.

 




The room Keith was given was far more than he thought he deserved. Shiro had been given a half of a whole floor for his own personal use with not only a bedroom and a study, but his own library and multiple sitting rooms and Keith could only imagine what the prince’s bathroom looked like when he looked at his own. The Amber Castle was large, but focused more on space for learning and storing. A whole section of the castle was dedicated to housing the soldiers in crowded rooms with bunkbeds, but they were rooms with cozy fireplaces. And those in the actual court and court servants each had their own cozy room. Keith’s room had been one of the larger unused studies in the hall that had been Shiro’s wing, but before that he had lived with the other knights in stacked comfortable ten by ten rooms. Keith thought the room he had been given in Altea on the opposite side of Shiro’s half of the floor was overkill. Everything was decorated in whites and blues with a few bits of very light pastels contrary to the very dark and rich colors that decorated the dark walls of Ko-gane. The bathroom had had a tub built into the floor and other bits of fancy gear to wash up with that Keith felt stupid for not knowing how to use. He had a study and a library to the side of the main sitting room, each had their own fireplace though Keith found it strange to see a naturally made fire. And there was another room for Keith’s clothing. But, the bedroom was the most strange to Keith. It was blocked off from the main sitting room by a wall of glass that didn’t reach either end of the room. Behind it was the bed, large enough for a whole family to squeeze on and tucked into a hovering oval bed frame. At least it seemed to hover at first. Ornamental glass legs held it up, almost invisible in the wrong light. And the whole back wall was covered by large panes of glass. Keith had never seen so much glass even though it was abundant to come by with their deserts in Ko-gane. The glass panes stopped just a few feet from the floor ending where cushioned window seats were placed all along the wall.

 

Slipping into bed that night, Keith found it hard to sleep. The stars outside the window were all wrong, the room much colder than Keith was use to even in desert nights. And then there was Red, agitation heightened by an overprotected and just as agitated Black bothering her. Eventually, Keith pulled the curtains down and turned off all fires in his chambers. He curled up under as many blankets as he could find and warmed himself with his own heat, reaching out to Red for hers as well. She seemed to calm down being touched by their bond and Keith eventually let exhaustion have its way with him.

 

Waking up his first morning in Altea wasn’t a slow peaceful process with servants knocking lightly at his door, food already prepared for him like he thought Shiro’s would be, but, no, Keith was sure Shiro had woken up the same way if he hadn’t already been awake. No, Keith woke up with a sudden painful tug at his mind. Red was angry. Keith dressed and hurried out of his room to Shiro’s half of the floor.

 

Servants were already walking about Shiro’s chambers and he followed them to where the prince was seated by a magical fire reading documents with a tray of small tidbit sized foods half eaten, black riding hides already on. He looked up, black eyes meeting Keith’s, and smiled. It wasn’t as bright as Keith was used to seeing Shiro’s smile. Black must have kept Shiro up as well and there was a bit of panic when he glanced at the servants. They were as blank faced as the court, eyes darting everywhere, but when any of them looked at the two Ko citizens, they smiled.

 

“Good morning, Lord Keith. Did Red wake you?” Shiro asked standing from his seat.

 

“Yes, have you been up long, Your Highness?”

 

“Well, you know how I can’t go back to sleep once I’ve woken,” Shiro said. “But, I would never leave without my protector. Shall we head to the Lair?”

 

Keith nodded. “I believe they’re suppose to be taking Red to her hold today.”

 

“Oh, yes, that would be for the best if you two went,” one of the servants said. “Usually, the lair handlers move the dragons around and take care of them, but it would appear Ko-gane’s bonded dragons are not used to being touched by others.”

 

Keith glanced over at Shiro. Now he understood why their dragons were so distressed.

 

“In Ko-gane, it is each Knights’ and riders’ responsibility to take care of their own dragons. We believe it builds trust,” Shiro said.

 

“There is a carriage waiting to drive you to the Lair in the courtyard. Lord Lance is waiting at the staircase to show you the way,” the servant said. “Or, at least he should be in the next few minutes. We did send a few girls to wake him up.”

 

The servant was blushing at the last words and Keith felt sick. He didn’t want to be around that Blue rider so soon.

 

“Where are his rooms, perhaps I could wake him up. We are both Right Hands after all,” Keith said. He didn’t want to wait around and perhaps he could show he wasn’t someone to be idled with in the mornings.

 

A few servants giggled as they cleaned up. The servant that had been talking just shook her head. “Do not worry yourself. It won’t be long now. If you went, we might have to wait on both of you.”

 

It was thirty minutes before the Blue rider showed up looking freshly washed and smug. Keith glared at him all the way to the gates, but kept his comments to himself as he knew Shiro would disapprove of any hostility. He could not afford to be hostile to the Alteans. He had barely gotten away with his hot-head around the other Ko boys. That didn’t stop the Altean rider from making remarks, most directed at Keith and his hair.

 

Was his hair really so bad? Perhaps he should let it all grow, but then his bangs would be smoothed back when he tied it up. He thought to come up with a few phrases to throw back at Lord Lance when they were alone together, but really Keith didn’t know what an appearance flaw would be. Lance was lanky muscle with tan skin and striking blue eyes. Keith didn’t think freckles and calloused fingers were a flaw and he knew next to nothing about haircuts obviously.

 

Well, Lance was obnoxious, Keith had that in his arsenal.

 

Luckily, the Blue rider did not ride with them. He had a kirin of his own that he rode close to the carriage. The carriage was probably just set up for the two Ko men’s comfort as they weren’t use to riding with cold in their face.

 

The Altean Dragon Lair was behind the Crystal Castle, far behind it. There was a canyon that led into a sheer drop with hot springs. Built over the hot springs was a cabin like structure of glass and crystal metal. Upon reaching it, they were led inside. There were grand areas for sitting and Keith saw a few Alteans walking about in sleepwear.

 

“Is this where the knights sleep?” Keith asked. He could understand why Lance and himself did not sleep here with their positions, but other knights should be close to their dragons, he thought.

 

“No, this is the Dragon Lair. The servants who take care of the dragons sleep here. All knights sleep in the castle. Sometimes they spend the night here,” Lance explained.

 

“Is everything so far apart like this?” Shiro asked. “In Ko-gane, everything is very close. It’s about forming bonds.”

 

“Oh, we do bond training. The princess is more about all that then King Consort Alfor was,” Lance said. “He was also about separation. He thought it would keep each sect safer if they were apart. If you haven’t noticed, a lot of our architecture is new. We actually have close bonds with the Builders.”

 

That explained why Lance was so chummy with the Green and Gold rider back at the Olkari Gazebo, but Keith didn’t like this seperation thing. Red was his family and he had very little of that.

 

“When can we see our dragons?” Keith asked.

 

Lance chuckled. “Follow me.”

 

They were led to a ledge that overlooked the hot springs far below. Lance stepped right up to the edge, spread his arms out, and fell. Instinctively, Keith ran towards the edge and reached out, but stopped as a gush of cold air flapped at him and then a large blue serpentine dragon rose into the air. Its tail had fins at the end and little fins, flowing and glittering with water, lined its cobalt blue body. Wings just as wide as it was long jutted part way down its body with webbed claws at the second joint with smaller wings closer to its tail near small legs. Its face was triangular and held few horns, but it's oilslick eyes stared at Keith with steady observation.

 

“Like my dragon?”

 

Keith looked up to see the Blue rider holding onto the harness on the mighty beast grinning down at them.

 

“What, dragon got your tongue Lord Mullet? Come on, that’s one of our most basic trust bond practices. Where you seriously worried about me?”

 

Keith took a few steps back from the ledge and crossed his arms, looking away. “No, but it would be bad if I didn’t at least try and save Her Majesty's Right Hand from his crazy antics.”

 

Lance’s Blue twirled its body in circles as it batted the air to keep afloat causing Lance to go upside, never once losing his grip as if he was use to it. He must have been to have a grin that was just as annoying upside down as it was right side up.

 

“Do you guys want to try it? I’ll signal the servants to unlock your dragons,” Lance said.

 

“That’s not a good idea,” Keith said.

 

“Why, chicken your dragon isn’t as trustworthy as mine?”

 

Keith did trust falls all the time with Red. It was half how he fought. He wasn’t afraid of jumping off a ledge. He would even do it backwards.

 

“It’s a bad idea because of Black,” Shiro said. “If Black was use to this place, certainly, but she is use to being the dominant dragon and is just going to go to the first largest dragon she sees if you let her out and I’m not close to her.”

 

“Red will just come straight for me,” Keith said. He could already feel her calling him to hurry up and let her out.

 

“Ah, then how about we wait until Prince Shiro here gets his dragon?”

 

“Lord Keith?” Shiro warned.

 

“Trust falls aren’t new to me. Black will protect you. I want to fly,” Keith said.

 

“Alright,” Shiro agreed. “Where are our dragons?”

 

Lance pointed towards a large hole in the canyon. “A rider servant will fly you down. Usually you just climb the ropes or jump. We don’t often lock up our dragons. We did last night in order to get your guys’ into the Black’s hold and then locked them in and let the others out.”

 

“Alright, give me a few minutes to get over there,” Shiro said and placed his hand on Keith’s shoulder before leaning in and whispering in Keith’s ear. “You play nice with Lord Lance. He’s the best guide you have here.”

 

Keith frowned. If this was how he was expected to act, Keith didn’t think it would be hard to surpass Lance.

 

Lance did a few tricks in the air while they waited for Shiro to meet with his dragon. A Green rider had Shiro with her and lowered them to a large opening in the canyon cliff. When Shiro was close to the fence at the opening, Lance raised a hand to signal the guards watching over the new dragons to let them free and get out of the way.

 

“Prepare yourself Mullet Lord,” Lance said and dropped his hand.

 

Shiro stayed on the Green as one of the two guards pulled open the fencing. They both jumped from the narrow space they had been guarding on, but chords broke their fall paired with little steam powered boosters. Keith had heard of the technology before, the Builders had given them prototypes, but only few ever ventured into the mountains and the Dragon Lair in Ko-Gane was just on the other side of the main city, nowhere as far as this lair was from the Crystal Castle. Keith didn’t even know where the Altean cities where. They had only passed one village on their way here.

 

As soon as the fence was gone, there was a blur of red. Keith walked up to the ledge and closed his eyes, spreading his arms. He could hear Shiro trying to reign in his Black, but Red was free. She was free! Keith could feel her joy as she looped through the sky of the new lair.

 

Here, I’m here .

 

Keith let himself fall.

 

A freefall was an adrenaline rush like no other. Before Red, Keith often played with fire, but once he learned how much mastery he had over fire, it was no longer enjoyable, but Keith couldn’t control gravity, he couldn’t control the air around him, he couldn’t even control Red, but he trusted her. Farther and farther he went and then he opened his eyes and saw her.

 

Reds were the smallest dragons, but Keith’s red was larger than most being a mixed breed. Her jaws grabbed onto his pant leg, teeth sharp and almost tearing into his skin, but not enough to really hurt with Keith’s riding hides in the way. She shook her head back and forth as if playing with Keith like a toy until Keith could get a good grab on one of her horns. Red wasn’t harnessed properly, but he only harnessed her close to battle. He settled himself along her back and held tight to the tufts of fur like scales at the corners of her round face. They flew in the icy sky until Keith brought her to land on the deck he had jumped off from.

 

“Sure took her a while,” Lance said. He had gotten off his dragon and had gear in a pile at his side.

 

“I like falling,” Keith said and dismounted.

 

“I’ll remember that when you piss me off,” Lance said and handed over a few red harnesses and a saddle.

 

“Don’t you have laying saddles?” Keith asked.

 

“Are you going swimming? Aren’t Reds the most fiery of fire dragons?” Lance asked, one brow raised and head leaning close to Keith.

 

“Swimming? No, it’s for aerodynamics. Reds are small even if my Red is large. If I lay against her back and use a chest harness, we go faster,” Keith said. “She’s very fast.”

 

Lance laughed. “I’m sure she’s quite a bit faster, but my Blue here is the fastest in Altea.”

 

Keith tilted his head to the side. “Really, I was fastest in Ko-gane last time there was a race. As the protector of Commander Prince Shiro, I have to be able to outrun his Black.”

 

The Blue rider frowned. “I can outrun Allura’s dragonette’s...the princess doesn’t have a dragon.”

 

“Oh,” was all Keith said and started to shift through the gear Lance had brought. He heard a sudden roar and looked up to see Shiro riding his Black high above the Lair. Many of the large Blues flapped their wings agitated below. Keith hoped they wouldn’t fight. Black would tear them all to pieces.

 

“Let’s race.”

 

“Huh?” Keith turned to see Lance soothing the head of his Blue between his hands. It was a large Blue. Since the princess did not have a dragon of her own, it was possible that Lance’s Blue was the Alpha of this heard though usually females commanded the most power.

 

Lance turned back to Keith. “I said, let’s race. Since you are to live in Altea now, you’re no longer number one. Let’s see who the real number one rider of Altea is.”

 

“Alright,” Keith agreed and picked up a coat of reddish brown fur. “What’s this?”

 

“It’s for you, it’s cold. Put it on and meet me in the air,” Lance said and jumped onto his Blue launching into the air.

 

The coat was indeed warm and about as long as the single jacket he owned, a fit he quite liked. He adjusted it before testing Red’s reigns. “Get ready girl.”

 

The Red hunched down, tail wagging slowly and black inky eyes shimmering as she concentrated on the Blue in the sky.

 

“Go!”

 

The Red launched straight up, flapping wings only when she touched a current near the Blue. She let out a noise, friendly, but not encouraging next to the other unfamiliar dragon. Keith supposed he had never been very close to Lance on the battlefield if Red was willing to be friendly. It would make sense as Lance appeared to be an archer and Keith preferred close up battle and as the princess did not seem to take part in the actual battles often, Lance might have been held back on a few as well.

 

Lance’s glance roamed both Keith and his dragon. “You’re actually kind of small, aren’t you. Fit your dragon pretty well.”

 

Keith frowned. “We’re a good fit, makes us faster.”

 

“Right,” Lance said and changed his grip on his dragon’s bridle, leaning down. “On go we’ll race to that pole in the distance, it’s the next closest town. Go around it then head back here. First person to jump from their dragon onto the deck wins.”

 

“Agreed,” Keith said and maneuvered himself to be in more of a laying position.

 

“Ready,” Lance began, eyes squinting shut and Keith could feel something in his demeanor change.

 

“3...2...1”

 

Red’s excitement grew. Keith could feel it and it blended with his own.

 

“Go!”

 

Lance’s Blue curled itself up then sprung itself forward. It moved in a slithering motion, tail paddling the air. Underwater, it was probably much faster than its impressive speed now. With how large its body was, each spring propelled it forward, but it was large, very large. Had Keith been able to get a take off from the ground, he would have been far ahead of Lance by now. Reds were very feline in body. They could pounce and it wasn’t just all in their legs. Red had a good stream and Keith stayed low, but kept a good line of sight. They kept up with the halfway point of the Blue’s body, hiding against the air resistance behind its wing.

 

“IS THAT AS FAST AS YOU CAN GO!” Lance yelled back.

 

Keith barely caught it with all the wind in his ears, but he grinned to himself.

 

Each time the Blue sprang itself forward, Keith realized it slowed down just a bit to uncoil. If Lance wasn’t so cocky, perhaps he would have better used those springs. If this was an endurance race, Lance would definitely lose, but so would Keith. Red could go fast, but not for a long period of time. It was when they reached the pole that Keith knew he had won.

 

The little city below was quaint and only partly made out of the crystal metal most of the Altean royal holds were like the castle and the Lair. There were people bustling about in coats and shaking fists at the knights as they raced, fluffy dragonettes zooming up to hiss at them playfully. Keith only had a few seconds to take it all in, though. It gave him a jolt of home sickness and so he concentrated on the pole. As soon as they reached it, Red shot out from behind the Blue’s wing and flapped her wings with such strength they managed to be at the Blue’s head. Around the pole they went. Then, they were a whole spring ahead of the blue as it was still pulling it’s long body around the pole. It was that length that slowed it down and Keith found himself in jumping range of the patio. Before Lance had a chance to catch up, Keith jumped. The landing was a bit hard, but he had taken worse landing surprise attacks from the air in the middle of a fight. Lance and his Blue swooped in not a second later.

 

“I told you I was fast,” Keith said turning initially with a smile, but it dropped when he saw Lance stomping over to him.

 

The Blue rider grabbed Keith’s shoulder and wagged a finger at him. “You cheated!”

 

Keith instinctively slapped the finger out of his face. “How did I cheat?”

 

“You stayed behind my dragon’s wings so you didn’t have as much resistance.”

 

“That’s tact, not cheating. Maybe you should learn some!” Keith yelled and tugged his shoulder away from Lance’s hold. They were racing, racing was suppose to be fun. They needed to get along for the sake of Princess Allura and Shiro. He didn’t want to yell at the other knight, but he didn’t want to be called a cheater or dishonorable in anyway and this guy was just so annoying.

 

“Now you listen here,” Lance said leaning back and crossing his arms. “I am Lord Lance, Blue Rider, Level 1 ice mastery, and Right Hand to the Heir Princess Allura of Altea and I will not be outshined by a cheater. Blues are the fastest. Their underwater speeds outshine any fire breather. If you weren’t cheating, my coiling technique would have left you in the dust. It was the best use in such a short race. There’s no way I could lose to a mullet headed Ko and his oversized Red”

 

Keith shook his head angrily and dug his fingernails into his hands, fists at his sides. It wouldn’t do for him to get too worked up, he had just gotten here. He needed to prove himself. “Underwaters speeds don’t count in the air. A Red can out speed even a Black just like a sparrow can escape an eagle. I know my dragon. I know what will make her win. I don’t need statistics to tell me I’ll win, I’ll make her win.”

 

“That’s cheating!” Lance argued.

 

“That’s tact! I’m good at instinctual tactical planning. I’m a commander’s Right Hand! Give me some credit here.”

 

“I’ll give you some credit when you fix that stupid hair of yours,” Lance grumbled.

 

“Oh for…” Keith cut himself off. He took a deep breath, turned, and mounted his Red before shooting off into the sky to where Shiro was doing laps with his Black. He settled Red near where Shiro was sitting on his dragon’s crown.

 

“I told you to get along with Lord Lance,” Shiro said not even looking at Keith as the tried to stay peaceful for Black’s sake.

 

“You heard all of that?” Keith asked.

 

“You both decided to race, that’s all anyone was paying attention to other than Black here.”

 

“He’s insufferable, Shiro. He doesn’t understand simple tactics. I use the same tactic all the time with you. And I’m sure he knew I was right so then he resorted to making fun of my hair. He always makes fun of my hair!”

 

Shiro chuckled. “Maybe he likes it.”

 

Keith sighed. “I think he hates me.”

 



Once the dragons were settled in the Lair, Shiro’s Black’s dominance inserted, and they had been given a tour of the Crystal Castle, they were allowed to begin training. It was the second morning, but this time, Keith woke up feeling no more refreshed, but at least he was calm. He could blow off steam while training and after all the glaring Lance had done during the dinner he had attended with Shiro in the private royal dining hall, he had a lot of steam to blow off. He had chosen to ignore the stares, but there was only so much Keith could take. That was half the reason he had become so good back in Ko-gane, if anyone had given him a problem, he had a place to blow off steam that was close and safe with good mentors eager to mold him for the good of the kingdom and not shifty crooks in the city slums close to where Keith’s camp had been.

 

With training clothes on, Keith followed Shiro to one of the other four towers of the Crystal castle where a landing pad was held. There were very private training areas in the castle, but only for the court and those that served them. The South tower was the tower that housed the training areas and the landing pad where both of their dragons were perched waiting for them. Black bowed her head for the Prince Commander and Shiro climbed on. Keith easily climbed onto his own dragon and they followed a pair of White riders to an enclosed area of graying stone with ice and snow weathering most of it. This was more what Keith had expected the Altean Castle to look like. There was a charm to the history an old building had and Keith found himself smiling as they flew in.

 

Below them, men and women who had previously been fighting with swords and shields and lances made of softened wood in a mock battle parted. They landed with a thump and a wave of silence fell across the the training field as all heads turned to the Ko newcomers. Black lowered her head and Shiro slid off. Keith held himself up taller and kept a firm hold on his dragon just encase he needed to order her to pounce on anyone who violently rejected Shiro as their new commander.

 

“I am Prince Shiro of the Ko-gane kingdom,” Shiro introduced standing tall with both hands behind his back, a habit formed when trying to hide his fake arm that the generals and even the soldiers had adopted through the years as a sign of authority. “You may have heard the rumours that the Altean Heir Princess Allura had been betrothed to a Ko prince  as part of the treaty between our two kingdoms. Though that is true, I want you all to know me first as your new Commander and judge me from there. You may hold anger for the friends and comrades and family that have died because our kingdoms had differences, because of my commands, but I want no deaths for the Altean people now. Now, we ride against the Galra Empire that swallows our sun on the west every night. Let them not swallow us as well. Do you accept me?”

 

There was a silence that stretched on for too long. Keith tightened his hold on his dragon and studied the Altean soldiers’ faces. They had that same look, the blank quizzical staring. Keith was reminded of hunters stalking their prey. They had once preyed upon each other on the battlefield, Keith wouldn’t expect such reactions to go away so quickly, but this was different. He looked away from the soldiers when there was the sound of another dragon’s wings. They landed on the wall of the training grounds and Keith turned his head just in time to see Lance slide down his dragon’s tail as if it was some toy. The moment he landed on the ground, he grinned at the crowd.

 

“Oh, what a greeting! Well, let's break this silence then,” Lance said and reach behind him to unhook a gray wood shortbow; shaped like an exaggerated m, flattened out, and balanced by small bits of metal and drilled holes along the bow. “I’ll accept him.”

 

Slowly, the other soldiers began to raise their weapons in the air as well and those without raised their fists. Shiro was smiling, a warm twinkle in his dark eyes. It warmed Keith as well.

 

“Let us get to practice then. Generals, please show me the ropes of the Altean training regime.”

 

A few older men walked over to Shiro. Keith thought they didn’t look quite rugged enough to be generals, but the best had been defeated along with King Consort Alfor years ago in the one and last large attack the Alteans had cast on the Galra when they had infiltrated the westernmost front of the Altean’s land. Now the land was Galra territory and Altea was left with what Keith only knew as a smart and beautiful princess.

 

Keith slid off of Red and followed some paces behind Shiro as they walked the field all the while ignoring the eyes of Lance over in the archery corner. When Keith did finally turned to glare at the Blue rider, he found the other knight was no longer staring. He was crouched with young soldiers showing them how to hold their bows and adjusting their stance. Keith had never had much talent with long range weapons which left him wanting as a knight, but he had learned to overcome that with his magic, and throwing daggers like the one he kept at his waist at a medium distance proved sufficient. Shiro and the generals ended up settling at the main arena where young soldiers were being tested with swords and shields, Keith’s favorite weapon of choice and he would have enjoyed watching had there not been the sound of laughter so bright it disturbed Keith.

 

It was Lance.

 

Again with the children. It appeared he had given up teaching them archery and had instead lifted one of the female soldiers-to-be onto his soldiers. She had a rubber tipped arrow pulled on her small bow pointed down at a few boys who were running around with their stick swords trying to get at her. Lance swayed his body to and fro growling. Like a dragon. And she was his rider.

 

Keith lifted a hand to his mouth and turned away, lips curled up. Well, at least the insufferable knight was well liked by children.

 

“Aye, Lord Mullet, what are you just standing around for?”

 

Keith turned back surprised at being addressed. Lance had let the girl down and was jogging towards him. The sudden close proximity to the other Knight after what had happened the day before at the Lair had Keith stiffening up. He straightened his shoulders and crossed his arms paying no heed the the glance Shiro threw his way as he talked to the generals.

 

“I’m doing my job,” Keith said.

 

“So am I, doesn’t mean you have to be Prince Shiro’s shadow. Princess Allura has no plans on even going outside today so I’ve got free reign to train, how about you? I know your prince wasn’t with you when you came to the meetings. He’s literally surrounded by fighters that are sworn to protect him,” Lance said and waved his arms at the hundreds of young soldiers, most too young to be actual soldiers, surrounding them.

 

Keith shifted his feet. “Your point is?”

 

Lance rolled his eyes and moved to the fence of the main arena grabbing two wooden adult sized swords from a stand and threw one to Keith. Keith caught it and looked at the other knight with wide eyes.

 

“Let’s duke it out,” Lance said.

 

“Is this about yesterday?”

 

“This is about all the days. I didn’t become the Princess’s Right Hand had just because I have a pretty face and a big dragon.”

 

Keith weighed the sword in his hand and raised a brow. “Are you sure you want to challenge me to a sword fight? Wouldn’t you rather challenge me to archery?”

 

Lance scoffed. “You think I’m stupid? That’d be an easy win. I can tell with how the muscles in your arms and shoulders are shaped that you have little talent with a bow which is odd for a knight. I want an actual challenge.”

 

Lance was right, but Keith still reddened knowing Lance had been able to tell Keith was no archer just by looking at him.

 

“If I’m not an archer, what do you think I fight with on dragon back?” Keith asked.

 

Lance tilted his head and looked Keith over. “You have a dagger on the back of your belt, probably a few more in that strange jacket of yours. You use throwing daggers.”

 

“That is my range weapon, but I also have fire magic so it’s not my go to weapon of choice,” Keith said. He finally found a comfortable grip on the Altean styled wood sword and swung it a few times. It was heavier than he was use to, but he always liked to warm up using a heavier sword. “My speciality is sword and shield combat, particularly the sword part.”

 

The ice master looked at Keith blankly for a moment before a slow grin spread across his face and he narrowed his eyes. “All the better for a sweeter defeat.”

 

Keith grinned himself. “Are tactics allowed this time?”

 

“What’s a sword battle without them?”

 

“Then I agree to your little game, Lord Lance,” Keith said. This was probably stupid, but Lance was right about him shadowing Shiro. In Ko-gane, everyone already knew Keith and those who did not were told. He was nobody here. He would get no respect unless he showed everyone he was worth his place at their Consort Commander to be’s side. If that meant he had to keep beating the princess’ right hand, so be it. Lance could just go throw another tantrum if he wished.

 

Lance left to clear off space on one of the smaller fenced off arenas before beckoning Keith over. Shiro tried to excuse himself from the generals, but Keith held out a hand to assure him he would be fine. Just a little friendly competition.

 

“Get ready to dance, Fluffy, and don’t let your hair get in your eyes,” Lance said.

 

Maybe not so friendly.

 

Keith moved to the opposite side of the arena and took up his place. “Don’t call me fluffy.”

 

“Oh, did I hit a nerve there? Let’s go with first to three hits.”

 

“That’s fine with me, but don’t go calling me a cheater again when I win. I warned you,” Keith said.

 

Lance slowly got into his stance, it was familiar from having seen it so often on the battlefield, but Keith thought it looked proper for once. Then he saw Lance’s eyes. The shocking blue looked colder than he’d seen it before. Blank, almost dead, but there was still thought behind them.

 

“When the kids clap,” Lance said, his voice lower, more like a true growl and less like the playful noises he had made with the children.

 

There was clapping and Keith was caught off guard as Lance lunged at him. He got a hit on Keith’s arm and a child on Keith’s end called out one and held up a finger. Keith retreated to a different corner of the arena and rubbed his arm with his free hand before compiling himself. Lance turned around and lunged again. He kept his sword low and close to his body. He had long arms and Keith calculated that Lance used that extra length to fool his opponent into thinking they had more time than they did to dodge. Keith dodged early, but he got away and set up in yet another corner of the arena.

 

“What are you, a scaredy lion? Do you keep your tail up your ass? You don’t have any other place for it with those tight pants,” Lance said, grinning again.

 

“There are children around,” Keith said shifting his sword handle in his hand and studied the way Lance switched holds in reaction.

 

“They’re pre-teens. They’ve heard worse from the generals. They’ve been told worse. Let me have fun since this battle seems too easy.”

 

It wasn’t easy, Keith just wasn’t use to it. He wasn’t running on adrenaline or following Shiro’s orders. It was just Lance and that left Keith time to think. He needed to stop thinking and act. He had already gathered enough information.

 

Lance lunged a third time, sword held closer to his chest. Keith saw and dodged this time slipping under the sword and onto his knees. He kicked out. Lance only got one foot away from Keith, but still managed to get knocked down. Keith was quick to get back to his feet sliding his sword once along Lance’s side. He twirled and slid behind Lance grabbing his head and pressed his sword to Lance’s throat. The boy on Lance’s side counted two before he could even count one and they all started booing Keith.

 

That was fine. It was all fine.

 

“That was a dirty trick,” Lance groaned.

 

“You said I could use tactics,” Keith said and moved away just as Lance used his strength to turn and wave his sword at Keith’s ghost behind him.

 

Lance got onto his feet and twirled his sword as he stalked towards Keith. Keith held his arms out and paced around the fence keeping watch on his opponent. Lance didn’t lunge this time, he fainted and caught Keith as he was dodging hitting his sword out of Keith’s hand. Keith ran, Lance following. He just needed one more hit. His sword had landed more in the middle of the arena, it would be easy enough to retrieve, but that also gave Lance room to get him when he reached for his sword. Unless he could get Lance in front of him. Keith kept the Blue rider right behind him then dropped to the ground so Lance didn’t have time to stop and stumbled over him, legs spread out as not to stomp on Keith. He turned with a surprised look on his face that twisted into one of pain as Keith brought his sword up as quickly as possible. It wasn’t until Lance collapsed that Keith understood what he had done.

 

The Blue rider was rolling around in the dirt cupping his crotch. Keith carefully approached him.

 

“I um...I didn’t mean to do that. I was going to stab you in the back or the stomach depending on how fast you turned,” Keith said.

 

Lance grumbled words.

 

“Do...you need ice?” Keith asked. He honestly felt bad. On the battlefield anything went, but this was practice. It was bad sportsmanship to stab an opponent in the genitalia.

 

“Ice? He asks if I need Ice!” Lance held up a hand hardened with ice before putting it back on his crotch.

 

Right.

 

Keith took a deep breath and looked around. Lance’ boy had three fingers held up with wide eyes while some of the girls were giggling. Shiro didn’t seem pleased, but the generals were laughing so it didn’t seem as if Keith had done something terribly wrong.

 

After a few more moments, Lance stood on wobbly legs. “That last hit doesn’t count.”

 

“Okay,” Keith agreed. “I’m sorry I hit you there.”

 

“Really? No, I think you like cheating. You have no honor. You’re a Hibridullum .”

 

“Hibri...Is that Voltean?” Keith asked. Just like with the stories of how the two masters originally began to fight, their language also stemmed from the same old one. Voltean known as Volganean to Keith was a language he knew little of. However, Keith knew when he was being insulted.

 

The children around them were quiet. Everything seemed too quiet.

 

“It means you’re honorless. You have no family. And if you have no family and no honor than you’re not human. You’re a monster!” Lance said speaking up, his voice steady even if his legs still weren’t.

 

“I’m...not a monster,” Keith said slowly. He had family. His father was in the extreme south adventuring, had been ever since Keith became a soldier-in-training. And he had honor or else he wouldn’t be Shiro’s Right Hand.

 

“Monster! Monster!” the children began chanting.

 

No, he wasn’t a monster. He was fine. He was Ko. He was fine.

 

“Monster! Monster!” Lance’s voice rang out above the children’s. He was leading them on.

 

The teasing about his hair had been fine.

 

The inappropriate occasional comments were confusing, but refreshing. They were fine.

 

But this, this was not fine and Keith was not fine.

 

Keith’s fists balled up. His nails dug deeper into his gloved hands than they needed, points still sharp no matter how much Keith filed them. They drew blood and that blood ignited into fire. He lunged at Lance with flaming fists.

 

Immediately, Lance held his arms in front of him covered in a thick layer of ice. The ice melted, but it also caused Keith’s fire to die down. It didn’t stop Keith from throwing punches at Lance’s face toppling them over and onto the ground. Lance reached up and tried grabbing at Keith’s hair tugging it this way and that, blocking his face with his long arms as much as he could. Keith was too angry to really pay attention. Lance’s hands were annoying.

 

“Fight, fight, fight!” the children chanted around them.

 

Eventually, Keith felt strong arms pulling him away from Lance, some of his hair pulling out frozen in Lance’s hands he had freezed over again. A general helped Lance up, a look more of bored annoyance than anger on their face. No, they were probably use to Lance acting like this.

 

Keith had been stupid. He turned his head to look at Shiro already knowing he’d be crushed by the disappointment in the prince’s face, instead he saw fear.

 

“Wh-what?” Keith asked.

 

“You were hissing and...your ears are out, Keith,” Shiro said, voice so soft and concerned behind the look of fear, fear for Keith.

 

Keith felt it, too. Fear. He looked around at the Alteans all looking at Keith now that he was properly displayed and not hunched over the Blue rider’s body. They must have seen them, large purplish black ears poking out of Keith’s head. They twitched and lowered as Keith bowed his head. The Ko people knew before they had recruited him. They didn’t care if he hid his ears, but Keith did anyways.

 

“His ears,” one of the generals said and pointed at Keith. “Those are Galra ears.”

 

Keith looked up slowly, looked over at Lance still holding the long parts of Keith’s hair that use to cover up Keith’s ears in his frozen hands.

 

“I’m...not a monster,” Keith said weakly.

 

Lance’s blue eyes were the only eyes not filled with fear. They looked heartbroken.

Chapter Text

4. The Galra

 

Keith had expected Altean prison cells to be cold, but they were strangely warm lit with the natural fires the Alteans used. However, they were old. If Keith wanted to, he was sure he could melt the bars of his cell over a day’s work enough for him to get out, Ko prisoners of war had done so before in the hands of the Alteans, but it was hard to survive with so much snow around. There wasn’t any point in escaping, though. The Alteans would probably just ship him off to Ko-gane.

 

Stupid, Keith had been stupid. He wanted to blame to Blue rider for revealing his secret, but it wasn’t as if his Galra heritage had been a secret, not in Ko-gane. The camp Keith had come from was nearest the Galra Empire. There were Galra who did not respect the rule of Emperor Zarkon that had fled his empire and gone to the Builders for safety, but some had come to Ko-gane. Keith’s father, an orphan himself, must have loved a Galra woman at some point and bore Keith. Keith didn’t remember his mother well, and his father rarely talked of her, but Keith had never had an interest in asking. All Keith had wanted to do was fight. Perhaps that was part of his Galra side, but Keith had never felt very Galra, though he wasn’t sure what feeling like one would be like. He didn’t look very Galra either. His teeth and nails were sharper and he had the ears, relatively small ones easily covered up by his hacked up hair, but they were there and they made him different.

 

Keith slumped forward on the seat he had taken in his cell, just a metal slab held up by squeaky chains that irritated his sensitive ears every time he moved. He felt like a caged wild animal.

 

Hibridillum , huh?” Keith said to himself and chuckled. He remembered the word now. In Volganean it was Hibridio -- hybrid. Keith was indeed a hybrid.

 

“Princess, wait!”

 

Keith’s ears flicked up at the sound of commotion coming from the entrance of his floor of cells. Without the extra bit of hair covering his ears, he didn’t bother trying to hide them anymore and it felt strange to let them move freely.

 

“I will not wait! You let a Galra into my kingdom, Prince Shiro, and I fully plan to make sure he is gone before he has time to make anymore plans to ruin Altea.”

 

Keith’s ears flattened against his head. Shiro and Princess Allura were fighting. They were suppose to get along so their marriage would be a happy one. Keith couldn’t let himself be the cause of their alliance with the Alteans falling out. He moved from his bench and walked to the bars of his cell to look out into the hall. He could see the princess staring angrily at Shiro. No, she looked hateful. He couldn’t blame her for hating the Galra, she had no family because of them.

 

“That is unfair, Princess. Keith is part of my court. He is my protector. I have known him since he was a boy and he has been nothing but trustworthy. I would give my life for him just as much as I would for any of my own brothers,” Shiro said.

 

Keith felt stinging at his eyes. Shiro didn’t need to defend him. Keith didn’t want to leave Shiro, but if that was all he needed to do, then he would peacefully take Red and go away, he wouldn’t even go to Ko-gane. There was a tug at his mind. Now Red was worrying, too.

 

“It’s alright, girl,” Keith muttered softly.

 

“You may trust him,” Princess Allura said and held a hand out thrusting a finger at Shiro, “but is he really as honorable as our people? Would he do the same for you?’

 

Shiro stared at Allura’s hand before taking it and grinning at her. “He wouldn’t even give me the chance to die.”

 

The Princess pulled her hand away placing it softly against her chest and turned away. Her stance seemed softer. Keith had to give it to Shiro for being so smooth and remembering his diplomatic meaning of being here while still defending someone he didn’t have to.

 

“I will speak with this Galra you have brought into my lands,” Princess Allura said. Her shoes clicked against the stones of the prison floor before coming to stop at the bars before Keith.

 

Keith was not eager to look up at her, but did so. So much hate. There had never been such an intense hate directed at him before. He was use to distaste, displeasure, jealousy, but not this and not by someone who had so much control over his life now. “Your Majesty,” he greeted softly.

 

“Lord Keith,” the Princess greeted, venom dripping from her words. “You are Galra?”

 

Keith nodded. “As I was told when I was young, yes.”

 

“You were told, you do not know?”

 

“There is proof enough,” Keith said, ears twitching. “I never knew my mother, she disappeared and was considered dead when I was only a few years old.”

 

“And your father?”

 

“An orphan, originally a nomad, but he settled down in the camp I was born in. He moved to the Extreme South after I was recruited with researchers and I haven’t heard from him since. The researchers do send word of their findings and well being, though.”

 

“So, essentially your protector is a Glara-hybrid orphan,” Princess Allura summed up.

 

“Yes,” Shiro said. “My family knew what they were doing when they set him up as my protector. Do you think they would have given him such a position if they did not trust him even after what happened to me?” Shiro raised his right arm and the Princess looked away.

 

“I would have thought you would have trusted Galra even less than I after that.”

 

Shiro lowered his arm. “I do not have many memories from my time imprisoned by the Galra, but what I do remember I will not forget nor forgive, but those were different Galra, not the knight you’re dishonoring in this prison cell. We were once enemies as well, did you forget that? The Ko and Alteans that have long since truly hated each other are gone. It has been so long  that we no longer remember why we fought to begin with. Let’s not fight the Galra for even half as long. Why don’t you try trusting a hybrid, first, Princess.”

 

The princess had gone back to glaring at Shiro, but it wasn’t as intense. Shiro was right, Shiro was good at being right and Princess Allura seemed good at being stubborn. Keith thought they may be a good pair after all.

 

“Well, does the knight not have anything to say in his defense?” she asked.

 

Keith took a step away from the bars and hung his head. “The Galra have done terrible things to both the people of Ko-gane and of Altea. I do not want such things forgiven. But, I am Galra. Though half, their blood still runs through mine and I have no knowing in which line of their blood that is. If I have to atone for that then I would rather leave the known kingdoms in their fullest than bare the dishonor of being sent back to Ko-gane. I made a promise and I will keep that promise. To break it would be to break the trust of who I hold most dear.”

 

“A promise? What is your promise?” Princess Allura asked.

 

Keith finally looked at her again. He wanted to look strong, but he knew this woman was stronger. He let himself be vulnerable. Who cared if she knew. “Before our lord Voltron, I vowed I would never let Prince Shiro be hurt again.”

 

Princess Allura’s face slowly reddened and she looked away. She cleared her throat. “A promise before Voltron? Only royals perform such promises in Altea.”

 

“It is the same in Ko-gane, but he insisted,” Shiro said. “Do you understand now?”

 

“I understand that he is still Galra and still poses a threat to my people, but I also understand I dishonored Voltron by locking him up here. I will order the guards to put him on floor lockdown for the next two days as I discuss with the court on this matter. It will not be an easy discussion.”

 

“Please keep in mind his vow,” Shiro said.

 

Allura would have to be on Keith’s side in her debates with her court and Keith could see in her eyes how much she did not wish to defend a Galra.

 

“Yes, but on other matters, he still fought with my own protector and that is an issue of it’s own. You are not my consort yet and therefor Lord Lance still outranks him. There will need to be a punishment for that.”

 

“Now Princess, is our relationship really only based off physical appearance?”

 

The fur on Keith’s ears fluffed up and he tried not to dig his nails into his hands again hearing Lance’s voice. The Blue rider appeared at the princess’ side swinging an arm around her shoulders and leaning close. She turned a much softer glare at him.

 

“Of course not, I would not care if you had the face of a monkey, but you were assigned as my protector and you do your job well. I am obligated to uphold your honor, however little of that you manage to keep on your own.”

 

Lance frowned. The motion made him hiss in pain as he brought up a hand to touch a plaster on one bruised cheek. Keith couldn’t help feeling a little proud at the one good punch he had actually gotten in on the other knight most of them landing against that stupid ice.

 

“You wound me, Princess, more than he did,” Lance said and jabbed a thumb at Keith. “Though, I gotta admit, I think I wounded him more. Look at those hands.”

 

Keith quickly hid his hands behind his back.

 

“Let us see,” the princess commanded.

 

Slowly, Keith held them out. There were crescent cuts in the palms of his leather gloves from his nails and the leather on his knuckles was scraped up. It was hard to see the real damage with the gloves on, but there were tell tale signs of dried blood that had seeped out. The ice splinters had long since melted. They still stung, though.

 

Princess Allura clicked her tongue. “They should have taken care of him before they threw him in here. Oh, why did you two have to fight in the first place.”

 

“I lost my temper. I will keep it in check,” Keith promised.

 

“What, want to make another promise in front of Voltron with me?” Lance teased.

 

“If I have to,” Keith sneered.

 

“Lance, you’re not helping.”

 

“Hey, I don’t have a problem with Lord Mullet being Lord Fluffy Brains,” Lance said. “So, we can drop the charges of battery. Besides, it’s my fault anyways.”

 

“What did you say to him?” Shiro asked this time, voice with an edge Keith only heard Shiro use with some of the Grand Masters back in Ko-gane when they annoyed him too much with their probabilities and theories.

 

“Ah, well, when a guy gets hit in the balls it’s normal to lose some sanity,” Lance joked. “But, that aside. I got mad because, well...this guy is a good knight, weird tactics, but a good soldier, alright. I might have called him a hibridillum .”

 

“A hibri...hibridio? A hybrid?” Shiro asked eyes wide. “Slang for a monster?”

 

Lance held up his hands. “I didn’t know he actually was a hybrid. Of course he got pissed off at me and tried to burn my head off. I’m not saying I like the guy or anything, but if he had said any certain string of insults at me, I would have probably stabbed him with an icicle.”

 

The princess shook her head and groaned. “That’s it, you’re also getting two days floor arrest after you tell the court this and you better use proper words this time. What am I supposed to do with such a filthy Right Hand?”

 

“Hey, I’m not filthy, I’ve got like five different skin care routines I do throughout the day,” Lance defended.

 

Princess Allura just reached up and grabbed Lance by his slightly pointed ear and began dragging him behind her.

 

“Hey, Allura, that hurts!”

 

“Don’t call me with such familiarity, I am your princess !”

 

Shiro turned to Keith and shrugged. “Think of it as getting a really annoying brother-in-law, alright. You two can butt heads, but try not to punch his head in again.”

 

“Only if you’re still my brother,” Keith said.

 

Shiro smiled and reached his hand into the cell pinky out, his other holding onto one of the bars as he moved closer. Keith reached out as well and hooked his pinky with Shiro’s and leaned his head against a bar.

 

“Wasn’t that part of your heartfelt promise to Voltron? I’ll always consider you a little brother, Keith. Don’t think I’ll let you be dishonored so easily.”

 

Keith smiled. “Thank you, Shiro.”




Floor arrest was torture. Keith almost wished he could have spent the forty-eight required hours sentenced to him by the princess back in the prison cells, at least then it would have felt like a punishment. Keith wasn’t use to the glitter and glam lifestyle. Though as pale as the snow that continuously coated the ground of Altea, Keith spent much of his time outside. He rarely went a day without flying Red and the dragon wasn’t use to this terrain, she wouldn’t dare go far without her rider. He could feel her nagging at him as well. Keith had tried opening his window to get fresh air, but a blizzard had fallen on Altea and the cold winds from it carried straight into Keith’s main room. He had tried practicing, but his weapons had been taken away as part of his punishment only leaving him with the single dagger he usually carried on his belt. Besides, he was afraid he would have broken the glass like metal that covered almost every surface of his quarters had they left him any other.

 

Keith was allowed to visit Shiro (or Lance as he found they all shared the same floor). Shiro was happy to have his company, but the prince was busy learning the ways of the Altean military. He couldn’t stay cooped up in his chambers as well just because Keith was being forced to. Lance had been put in charge of the Ko prince in Keith’s place as part of the Blue rider’s punishment instead of being kept to the floor. Apparently, Princess Allura could find many reasons to stay cooped up inside the Crystal Castle and she had a horde of handmaidens to follow her around as well as the Regent Advisor. Leaving Shiro in Lance’s hands hadn’t left a good taste in Keith’s mouth, but he didn’t argue. If Lance let anything happen to Shiro in two days, Keith would kill him, that was all there was to it. But, Lance wouldn’t let anything befall Shiro, Keith knew that. He was the princess’ Right Hand after all and he had skill even if it wasn’t as good as Keith’s.

 

Yet, Keith was glad to be free of his rooms on the third day. He dressed in training gear and called for Red after lunch. Two White riders had come to his room to announce his sentence was over and he was needed at the training grounds to resume his duties. They followed him in the air, whitetail coats that designated them as castle servants flapping behind them and small skinny swords at their sides. They weren’t knights, not even soldiers. They were just escorts and the swords were just there for decoration and minimum protection. Still, Keith was wary of the horns at their belts used as a warning and stayed just a decent amount ahead of them. He was still being scrutinized by the court and the princess. Any wrong move and they would blow their horns indicating him a danger. He wouldn’t risk being shot down out of excitement.

 

Keith landed Red outside of the training walls. More guards in silly white tailcoats pulled the large steel reinforced doors opened and let Keith enter. The clang of swords and shouts of practicing soldiers rang loud in Keith’s ears, louder than he was use to. His ears were out for everyone to see and they twitched this way and that excitedly being free of Keith’s unruly hair for the first time in years, but Keith immediately flattened them when he felt eyes on him.

 

An Altean gaze was truly unnerving. Keith tried not to cower as he passed by soldiers and made his way to the main fighting rinks were Shiro was overlooking young soldiers. There was whispering that caught Shiro’s attention, whispering about the hybrid that had just walked in. Shiro looked from them then to Keith and smiled.

 

“Lord Keith, you’ve come to join us,” Shiro said. He reached a hand out and gripped Keith’s shoulder. His grip was similar to the king’s. It only grew more and more so every day.

 

Keith stood still careful not to get too familiar with Shiro in front of others, but his eyes still twinkled with happiness. “I’m here to resume my duties.”

 

“Right, about that,” Shiro said and removed his hand. “You can’t just stand in a corner all afternoon while I make my rounds, so I have a chore for you to do for the rest of the week.”

 

Keith’s face fell. “Chores?”

 

“Yes, chores.” Shiro walked away and returned with a bucket full of miscellaneous cleaning items and another filled with straw. “The practice mannequins  need repairs. Also, the privy rooms need cleaning.”

 

Keith’s eyes widened. “You...don’t the trainees usually tend to those matters?”

 

“Lord Keith, if I can’t get my own Right Hand to do his share, what sort of leader does that make me to the Alteans? This is your punishment from me. You need to look disciplined, understand?” Shiro said.

 

Keith sighed. “Alright. Privies first then.”

 

“Thatta boy,” Shiro said nudging Keith in the direction of the little shack buildings kept at one end of the training area for soldiers to relieve themselves in.

 

There were quite a few privy rooms since they were so far from the castle and each and everyone was disgusting. Keith grabbed some string and tied back his hair then rolled up his sleeves. New place, new beginnings, Keith assumed. He remembered getting into quite a few fights when he had first been recruited. Many nights he had spent scrubbing just like now as punishment. He was the best with the worse attitude and if he hadn’t bonded with Red, Keith probably would have been kicked out. Being able to fly a dragon, being able to feel another creature's emotions, had mellowed Keith out considerably, but he still got angry quickly.

 

“What’s this? Did the Galra knight get demoted?” someone called loudly.

 

Keith peeked out of the privy he was scrubbing clean to see two young soldiers leaning against the door Keith had just finished cleaning. “Can I help you? That one’s cleaned, you can go in.”

 

The taller of the soldiers laughed and leaned away from the privy. “Knight of the shitters, that certainly fits Galra scum, doesn’t it? Zarkon, Emperor of Shit.”

 

“Yeah, he’s shitty,” Keith agreed.

 

Both soldiers looked at each other with a frown then back to Keith. “Aren’t you Galra? Shouldn’t you be angry?”

 

Keith tugged a red scarf out of his pocket and tied it around his face going back to cleaning. The smell in this privy was awful. “I don’t like the Galra Empire anymore than you do. And I’m Ko as well. If you’re trying to get me angry, it’s not working. I’m Ko, I already expected you to hate me for that.”

 

Both soldiers clicked then tongues. The taller one went into the clean stall while the other walked away. Keith sighed and continued to work. Suddenly, there was a splash behind him and he turned to see a rock had been thrown in the bowl he had yet to replace with clean water. He looked outside the privy door to see younger children with rocks in their hands, eyes glaring at Keith. Keith barely had time to get the door shut before the rocks reached him hitting against the wood door with loud thunks. These shacks weren’t made to withstand even this much force for long, but he didn’t want to go through the experience of being covered in shit again.

 

He never wanted to feel that low again. The Ko soldiers had never sunk to that.

 

“Hey, you kids, stop that!” a yell came. “The next one to throw a rock will get privy duty next and I’ll make the rest of you use the bushes! There was another shower of rocks against the privy door and a thunk against something softer. “Oh, that hurt! Who threw that one? That’s it!”

 

Keith could hear the laughter of children and the scuttle of feet that faded off in the distance. A few moments later, there was a knock on the privy door.

 

“It’s okay, you can come out now.” It was Lance’s voice.

 

Cautiously, Keith opened the door a brush in his hand. He peaked around. “They threw rocks at me.”

 

“Sorry about that, they’re kids so they don’t really know the power of words yet,” Lance said and held out a hand.

 

Keith took the hand without thinking then pulled it away when he realized he didn’t need help out of the privy. He was still working in it and there weren’t any steps.

 

“Habit,” Lance said and held his hands up grinning.

 

“Right, because of the princess,” Keith said and dug around in his bucket for more cleaning solution. “And what do words have to do with bullying? Rocks hurt a lot more. I’m use to words about being Galra. At least, I use to be.”

 

“Why would you say that?”

 

Keith was confused by Lance’s question. The Blue rider was looking at him with a raised brow, hands on his hips.

 

“Say what? I’ve been teased since I was born about being Galra. That’s why it was stupid of me to get angry at you the other day. I was out of line.”

 

“See, that right there. You’re saying too much and out in the open.”

 

Keith immediately clamped his mouth shut. Was he talking too much. Maybe he was more out of practice then he thought with being harassed.  “I apologize. I’m fine, though. It is not your duty to worry over me.”

 

Lance sighed. “You’re too innocent.”

 

“What, why?” That was the second time the Blue rider had said such a thing.

 

Lance waved him off. “Just give me the bucket with the straw in it and the needles. I’ll help you with your chores.”

 

“There’s no need for that,” Keith insisted.

 

Lance just reached around him and grabbed the bucket. “You’re not the only one our new Commander there has been humiliating. I’m terrible at cleaning up privies, but I can sew mannequins up just fine. My nickname was Tailor back when I was doing training.”

 

Keith raised a brow. “You must have been in trouble a lot to get a nickname off from mannequin duty.”

 

Lance laughed. “You joke, that’s good. You should do it more as well as that thing.” Lance gestured at his own hair and made a loop with his fingers. Keith’s ponytail.

 

Keith turned away. He didn’t look at Lance again until he was yards away with the mannequins. He had a stool pulled up by one and had a needle in one hand and a thread in the other, both held up and close to Lance’s face as he tried to connect them, tongue sticking out.

 

Keith chuckled and hoped no one heard as he moved on to the next privy.


 

“No, no, I told you to get the feed. Don’t ask a knight to get it for you.”

 

Keith turned hearing the familiar voice. He had been polishing the practice leathers still under punishment by Shiro now that they had moved on to learning about the workings of riders and knights in Altea. The upkeep of the Lair was more to Keith’s taste than cleaning after a bunch of minors that didn’t know the first thing about fighting. Most of their seasoned soldiers were patrolling the overtaken edge of the kingdom. It was also a good change of pace with the treatment Keith had been getting. He was still being threatened by the Alteans, but the other knights just ignored Keith here and asked him to do small jobs. Hower, just like at the training grounds, the riders and knights had lessened on their mistreatments and it was all because of that voice, Lance’s voice. Somehow or other, he was always close enough by to reprimand whoever was headed Keith’s way.

 

“What, I’m sure the Galra knight won’t mind feeding the egglettes,” said a young rider, not a knight, dressed in a green version of what all the guards wore in the Crystal Castle. He as only a few steps away from the cubby Keith was in inside the Lair’s main building. He was twisted around with hands on his hips as he glared at Lance who walked over with long strides.

 

“It doesn’t matter if he cares or not. It’s your dragonette that laid the eggs and your dragon’s cave they’re in,” Lance shot back.

 

The young rider huffed, but turned around towards the feed room.

 

Keith popped his head out. “I would have done it. I want to see the egglettes.”

 

Lance raised a brow and shook his head. “They’re just baby dragonettes. You have those in Ko-gane, don’t you?”

 

“Yeah, but...I like dragons.”

 

Lance laughed, it was a loud sound and he held his stomach as he did it. “Really? No. Of course you do, you’re a knight. Besides, I’m pretty sure his Green would have tried to rip your head off if you had gone to look at them and then your Red would have taken vengeance. We don’t need that.”

 

Keith frowned, but Lance was right on that. Still, the thought of playing with little slithery milk colored dragons barely the size of his palms was appealing to Keith. The dragonettes in Ko-gane liked laying their eggs on the roof tops. Keith had bared witness to many a hatching while running around up there.

 

Once all of the hides were cleaned up, Keith moved on to taking care of his own dragon. He went into one of the stockrooms to find oils and a clean cloth to give her a good run down. He found an impressive array and went to reach for one he was familiar with, but found himself pushed out of the way by someone’s hip. When he looked up, the bottle as well as the other three that had been up there with it were gone.

 

“Hey, I was going to use one of those,” Keith called out.

 

It was a Brown knight, scarred up skin more disfigured with his bulk. He just sneered at Keith. “Can’t you just go steal some from somewhere just like your Galra brothers still land from us?”

 

“I don’t have any brothers,” Keith shot back. “I have an itchy dragon and you’ve taken all of her favorite oil.”

 

“And what are you going to do about it, Galra? Are you going to punch me in the head, too? I’m level 1 Ice Mastery, just try me. Maybe this time you’ll get a death sentence,” said the Brown knight.

 

“Wow, that’s a lot of oil you got there, big guy.” It was that familiar voice again. Lance sauntered past the Brown knight yanking up one of the bottles in his arms as he went. He held it up to the light examining it. “Fire Blast, huh. Why do you need to make your dragon more flammable? Browns don’t even breath fire, they don’t breath anything but air, really.”

 

The Brown knight frowned and turned away. “That’s none of your business, Lord Lance, with all due respect.”

 

“Respect taken, but respect not felt,” Lance said and called after the knight as they left the stockroom. “Have you seen anyone more subtle than him? That’s a waste of goods that is.”

 

“Stop,” Keith said.

 

“Stop what?” Lanced asked.

 

Keith sighed. He was a knight, he could take care of himself. He didn’t know why Lance was suddenly looking after him like this. Was it part of his punishment? Keith didn’t want anyone treating him nicely out of punishment. It was probably Shiro’s doing. He and the Blue rider had spent two days in each other's company, surely Shiro couldn’t have lasted that long without spilling some worried older brother crap and on the one that was causing half of Keith’s misery.

 

“You don’t have to be nice to me, Lance.”

 

“I’m not being nice to you. Here,” Lance said and handed the bottle to Keith.

 

Keith couldn’t catch himself quick enough. He reached out and knocked the bottle out of Lance’s hand screaming. “I said it’s enough!”

 

Lance stood still for a moment. His hands were held out defensively. Slowly, he turned around. The stockroom door was opened and there were people standing in the halls now looking in in curiousity.

 

Keith’s ears flattened against his head. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell.”

 

“You’re so ridiculously naive,” Lance said and reached out a hand.

 

“What?” Keith asked.

 

“Take it and come with me.”

 

Keith hesitated.

 

“Come on now, I promise I won’t bite,” Lance said and winked.

 

The wink made Keith frown, but he took the hand.

 

Lance was quick leading them away from the store room and up onto one of the bedroom floors where the servant riders slept and knights spent the night. Once in a room, Lance locked the door behind them and pushed Keith onto a bed. The force was surprising to Keith and he started to struggle.

 

“Relax, would you? I took you for someone who likes a challenge,” Lance said and moved away.

 

Keith sat up. He didn’t understand what being pushed down on a bed had to do with challenges. “I don’t understand what you’re implying neither what you’re doing bringing me here.”

 

“That’s exactly why I brought you here,” Lance said and pounced off the bed straight back to his feet. “You’re too innocent, too naive.”

 

“You say that a lot and I don’t appreciate it,” Keith said.

 

“See, that’s what I mean. You wear your real feelings for everyone to see. When you’re angry, you’re angry, and when you’re happy...well I’ve never seen you more happy than flying a dragon so I don’t know about that one.”

 

“Quit rambling and cut to the chase. I have a dragon I need to oil,”

 

Lance waved his hands around. “Right, right. I’ll start simple then. It’s obvious to me that in Ko-gane, good hard work and talent is what gets you your position in life.”

 

“Ideally, yes,” Keith said.

 

“Right, so like you were an orphan’s kid and a hybrid and now you’re a prince’s Right Hand and a knight. That’s a huge leap,” Lance said. “Well, it’s not just working hard that gets you places here. It’s difficult to shine brighter than other stars when you’re all stars, right? And when the sun is out, there are no other stars.”

 

“Yes, so you become the sun,” Keith said. That was how he had thought of it.

 

“No, you don’t become the sun, you get rid of it,” Lance corrected.

 

“You kill each other for positions?” Keith asked. He didn’t like that. No wonder there were so few guards.

 

“Yes, but not literally,” Lance said. “There are power in words. Not just any words, though, in secrets. Honesty can get you into a lot of trouble here and when your secrets are revealed, you have to know how to make them your truth. Flaunt it.”

 

“I don’t understand what this has to do with you suddenly being nice to me,” Keith said.

 

Lance groaned. “You really haven’t noticed?”

 

“Noticed what? All I’ve noticed is you treating me nicely and it is far creepier than the creepy stares everyone gave me even before they knew I was half Galra.”

 

Lance suddenly clapped his hands the sound making Keith’s ears point up. “Yes, that, exactly. Creepy stares. Alteans are always trying to find out stuff about each other so they can one up them or use them in some form or fashion, that’s why they’re looking at you like that. Now that you being Galra is out in the open, everyone is trying to use that to knock you down a peg or two in hopes of getting rewarded.”

 

Keith reached a hand up and combed his fingers through his hair. “I don’t care about that kind of stuff. It’s already out, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

 

“But there is something you can do about it,” Lance said. “You can own it. You look so guilty every time someone brings up you’re Galra. They’re taking advantage of you and slowly crumbling your support.”

 

“I’m fine,” Keith said and stood. “I can take a little bit of bullying, I didn’t come all this way without it.”

 

“Wait, Keith,” Lance said and grabbed Keith’s arm. “Listen, and look into my eyes.”

 

Keith did no matter how much he didn’t want to listen to Lance rant anymore about his screwed up diplomacy, he looked into Lance’s eyes. Crystal clear piercing blue eyes. They were swirling with honesty, so open and true, the most serious Keith had seen Lance since the time they had first met at the Olkari tribe’s gazebo.

 

“I feel guilty about revealing your secret, Keith. It wasn’t something I knew of, but if I hadn’t said what I did, you wouldn’t be going through this. It’s my fault.”

 

“You’re not wrong,” Keith spit and tugged his arm away.

 

Lance only grabbed Keith back by both of his arms this time. He shook Keith a bit as he forced Keith to look at him again. “They’re going to eat you alive, Keith. You’re suppose to be Prince Shiro’s protector, that means protecting his secrets, too. I went to that meeting with you because the princess trusted me the most to make the right decision. You don’t want Prince Shiro having to come and speak for you every time you lose your cool, do you?”

 

Keith pulled himself away. Had Shiro been protecting him all this time? Keith was suppose to be the protector. Shiro had enough on his plate without always having to keep a watch over Keith. “No, I’m his protector.”

 

“So you understand you need to open those fluffy ears of yours and watch others more carefully, yeah? Because they’re doing the same to you,” Lance said.

 

“This is screwed up,” Keith groaned.

 

“This is Altea,” Lance corrected, grinning.

 

Right, Altea, Keith’s new home. He crossed his arms and cocked his head at Lance. “What does this have to do with you being protective of me, though?”

 

Lance scoffed. “Protective? No, you could get yourself flushed down a privy for all I care. However, what happens to you looks bad on Prince Shiro and what looks bad on Prince Shiro looks bad on my princess. Therefor, I have to care.”

 

Keith narrowed his eyes and stared at Lance. He tried to copy the way  he saw the Alteans looking at him all of the time. Lance only raised a brow at him.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

“Trying to figure out why you always refer to Princess Allura with my?” Keith answered.

 

Lance sighed and ran a hand through his short brown hair. Parts of it stuck up as if a dracolisk had licked it. “It looks like I’m going to have to teach you. There goes all my free time.”

 

“I don’t want to spend free time with you,” Keith said.

 

“Ow, that hurts,” Lance said and touched a hand to his chest. “Why not, I’ve been nice.”

 

“You’ve been nice because you feel guilty and I don’t think I want to be anyone’s friend in Altea. It sounds like everyone backstabs each other.”

 

“You’re not wrong that I would look for chances to get the upper hand on you, but I won’t backstab. Here, I’ll shake on it,” Lance said and held out a hand.

 

“I don’t think a handshake really covers it.”

 

“Fine, a handshake and I’ll tell you the answer to your question earlier about my princess,” Lance said.

 

Keith was interested. He knew Lance knew because he felt his ears twitch at the words.

 

“Those are cute, by the way.”

 

Keith’s ears flattened. “Shut up. I’ll shake your stupid hand, but this better be good.”

 

Lance’s face fell into soberness. “Trust me, I think this beats out your Galra identity crisis.”

 

Keith felt hesitant when he reached out and took Lance’s hand. Lance’s hand, calloused fingers and all, was tight on his, but gentle. It threw Keith off and he was pulled into something much more intimate before he understood. Lance had his arms around Keith’s shoulders and his lips were near Keith’s ears.

 

“Your fur is soft,” Lance whispered.

 

The words sent shivers down his spine and Keith tried to struggle out of the Blue rider’s hold.

 

“No, don’t break loose yet. Listen. Allura is my sister.”

 

“King Consort Alfor had a second child?” Keith asked, words barely able to escape from where Lance was holding him against his shoulder. Keith noticed the Blue rider was a bit taller than him. His shoulders were broad as well unlike his skinny waist.

 

“No, the Queen did. She died after delivering what others thought was a stillborn. I was given to my real father. I looked too much like him to be brought up as King Alfor’s child. It was a disgrace they didn’t need at the time. We were having large casualties with Ko-gane in battles. A few know and those few have helped put me where I am for what reasons, I don’t know.”

 

“You flirt with the princess, though,” Keith said.

 

Lance chuckled and his nose pressed into the fur at the nape of Keith’s neck just under his ear. “I flirt with everyone. It’s how I work. Now, quickly push me away.”

 

Keith did so without being told twice. He pushed Lance so hard he fell to the ground.

 

“Ow, you could have been more gentle, you know,” Lance said as he got up and rubbed his bottom.

 

Keith just shrugged.

 

“Whatever, I have got to get out of here while I still have some pride,” Lance said and walked to the door about to open it.

 

“Wait, Lord Lance,” Keith called out.

 

Lance stopped, but did not turn. “Yes, Lord McFluffy Ears?”

 

Keith’s ears flattened out again, but he chose to continue with his question. “Why did you chose to tell me that of all things?”

 

“Hmm, well, if you’re going to be my rival, might as well put everything at your disposal since you lay everything out flat,” Lance said and turned. “It wouldn’t be a fair fight otherwise.”

 

“Oh. Rivals? Who said we were rivals?”

 

Lance didn’t answer. He turned his head and winked the threw the door open to the room they had taken occupancy of. There were a few servants standing around outside trying to look busy, but they scampered away when the door was opened.

 

Rivals. Friendly competitors.

 

Keith smiled to himself and turned to look out of the window of the room he was in only to frown seeing a few Green riders staring directly at him through the glass. They grinned catching his eye and flew off.

Chapter Text

5. The Engagement

 

Parties, Keith had been forced to attend a many from the moment he entered the main city of Ko-gane. They were nothing like the campfire lit crazefests that happenend in the camps at night where Keith grew up. He remembered his father’s wry smile as he sipped a clay glass of strong whiskey sitting off just a little ways from the rest of the camp while pretty men and women danced around the fire with long hair flowing out and shawls held like wings as they made a swirling dizzying mess of themselves. There were wooden instruments with strings and holes that played loud while others sang songs Keith didn’t know the words to, but sometimes his father would hum softly as he took another sip from his cup. And in the farthest parts of Keith’s memories, he fantasized about a slender purple hand with sharp nails petting through his fluffy locks handing him one of the sweetbreads they toasted at the campfire before sending him off to bed in their tent.

 

Ko-gane parties were pretty wild as well, but Keith found he could hide within the festivities pretty well as a soldier, but when he became a knight, the excuse of simply needing air became too commonplace and he found himself twirling girls around ballrooms he had never dreamed of entering before. Then he became Shiro’s protector and being at parties became easier if not boring. All he had to do was stay close to the shadows and watch Shiro.

 

Altean parties reminded Keith very much of Ko-gane’s. The rooms were different in decor, bluer, whiter, the ceilings higher, and the banners waving with a blue lion instead of the red one from Ko-gane. And then there were all the stuffy people walking about in their best uniforms and dresses. It was the people that were different, though. It wasn’t the tattoo markings on most of their faces or the clothes they wore, but the essence they carried. The music was played by an intimate orchestra on a raised platform in the corner of the ballroom with a synthetic sound different from the clashing and brass sounds from Ko-gane, but it matched the fake smiles and laughs the Alteans gave each other as their eyes searched and searched.

 

Keith wanted to be able to trust people. He was untrustworthy on instinct, but he wanted to so badly and perhaps that was why he had denied the obvious about the looks in the Alteans’ eyes he had noticed since first arriving. After what Lance had admitted, Keith couldn’t help but find it true and he found himself on edge any time even a servant came near. Lance had tried to teach Keith how to act, but Keith didn’t care about other people’s personal issues. However, with Allura’s and Shiro’s engagement party coming up, Keith had at least tried to learn how to defend himself from being toyed with. Lance was taking time out of his day tailing the princess and whatever else it was he did to give Keith pointers even if he was only doing it out of guilt. And now he stood in a ballroom full of Alteans and a small court from Ko-gane brought by Prince Ryou as representatives to witness the festivities. It was time to test what he had learned.

 

As Keith followed Shiro to another platform in the room where seats were set for the royals, he hoped that Lance hadn’t just been boasting when he said he was the best teacher around.

 

“The party is lovely, Princess” Shiro said as he took his seat in the throne meant for the consort, but moved one level down from the princess’.

 

Princess Allura was sat in her throne looking as perfect as a sculpture of ice with one of the many beautiful gowns Keith had seen her wearing, long full head of white pulled up into a knot on her head which she had resting on a hand. Keith thought she looked rather bored of the festivities. She turned though, being addressed by her intended and gave Shiro a startled smile.

 

“Oh, when did you arrive?” the princess asked.

 

Shiro grinned and turned in his seat to better talk to the princess. Keith took up a place behind Shiro’s throne where he had been told to stay until after the speeches had been made in which case it would be polite of him not to linger.

 

“I have only just arrived, but you must have spent many hours here already,” Shiro said.

 

Princess Allura sighed. “Yes, I do have to coordinate all of this. I do adore the diplomacy aspects of ruling, but it gets tiring.”

 

Shiro chuckled. “It must be tiring having to plan out your own engagement party.”

 

“Oh, I did not mean to sound rude,” the princess said and sat up straighter in her throne. “I have been looking forward to this event, of course. I have not grown up thinking about my wedding day, but I do find myself lucky to at least be able to marry a man as highly respectable and well liked as you, Prince Shiro.”

 

“So it’s only my reputation that warms you up to me?” Shiro asked a teasing lift to one brow.

 

The princess turned her head away from him with a grin, eyes still trained on Shiro. “Well, it’s not bad you are a devilishly handsome man.”

 

“You are rather radiant yourself, Princess. I quite like your hair up,” Shiro said and the princess giggled.

 

Giggled. Keith wanted to gag. Instead, he turned his head. Shiro’s flirtations were not new to Keith. Before the Galra kidnapping, Shiro had had his share of romances and each were important to him, some more than others. Since being assigned to Shiro as his protector, the flirting had never quite been the same. As far as Keith knew, the Prince Commander had not taken another serious lover. Perhaps after so many years, Shiro might be excited to share the warmth of someone’s embrace again.

 

Advisor Coran appeared and the music in the ballroom died down. He walked to a throne sat off from the betrotheds and cleared his throat beginning to thank the other party attendees for showing up. Keith tried to pay attention, but there were movements in the back corners of the otherwise still ballroom. There were servants rushing here and about outside the open doors of the ballroom making it difficult for Keith to tell what was movement and what was just outside hustle changing the lighting. He was startled out of his observing feeling another body slide up near his.

 

Lance had arrived late as Keith found was usual, but looked well put together. The Blue knight caught him looking and winked before flickering his eyes toward Advisor Coran in a sign he should pay attention there. Keith thought to keep his attention back on the shadows, but remembered Lance’s teachings and focused back into the speech.

 

“Now, let us all give your blessings to these two young intendeds so that Voltron will shine down on them when their time for promises appears,” the advisor finished.

 

Lines began to form from all of the court and others of the aristocracy approached the throne platform to give their well wishes.

 

“Brother and my soon sister,” Prince Ryou greeted as his turn came. He bowed deep with a flourish and presented a small ornate box at the Altean princess’s feet. “In Ko-gane, we give gifts on the announcement day. It is just a few jewels our Consort mother Fala has saved for Shiro’s chosen. And may I also give my apologies for the upset we caused by not informing your kingdom that Shiro’s court does indeed contain rebel Galra blood.”

 

The princess’ eyes immediately glanced over at Keith with a cold glare. “Yes, it was upsetting, but I have come to understand that you have great trust in your court and that they our serious in their duties.”

 

“Yes, and Lord Keith is the most serious. I would hope Altea could help lighten him up a bit,” Prince Ryou joked.

 

From behind the princess came a snicker and Keith refrained from turning to glower at Lance.

 

“Perhaps after the Galra threat is over, we will all have time to lighten up,” Shiro said.

 

Prince Ryou bowed again and moved on.

 

It felt like an hour before the line was dispersed to make room instead for dancing and food was brought out. Shiro and the princess both stood and took each others hands making their way to the dance floor and suddenly Keith felt lost. He shouldn’t stay close to the thrones when royalty wasn’t around, but he didn’t want to wander off to a random corner. What if someone tried to talk to him. All confidence was lost in what Lance had tried to teach him. Keith’s feet moved on their own and he made his way to the food. At the very least he could inspect the food and prepare a platter for Shiro.

 

“Lord Keith?”

 

Keith turned quickly hearing his name said with an unfamiliar voice. Behind him stood a large set man. Keith thought he recognized him as one of the men in the Altean court, but he couldn’t bring a name to the face. It was a bit of a familiar face if not rounded by fat. “Y-yes? May I help you?”

 

The man chuckled. He had eyes a similar blue to Lance’s, but much colder. He reached a swollen hand out towards Keith. “I was wondering if you had a partner for the next dance, or if I may cut in.”

 

Keith felt as if he was feeding a bunch of egglings that thought his tongue was a worm and chose to eat it. It literally pained him to think up a response. Dancing, of course there was dancing. and yet he hadn’t expected to dance and especially not with people Keith had only known by existence for the past week. He was Galra, and though he now let his Galra heritage run free as per Lance’s advice, he still thought most would not be used to it and would shy away from him. It had to be part of that screwed up diplomacy Lance talked about.

 

“I uh…” Keith started then jumped when a hand suddenly grabbed his wrist.

 

“Now uncle, you know you can’t cut in on my dance time,” Lance said pulling Keith towards the dance floor. “This Red knight has his dance card all filled up I’m afraid, so you’re out of luck.”

 

“My apologies,” Keith managed to throw back at the man as Lance started to pull him towards the dancefloor. The man huffed, his round body wobbling with the motion, and walked off.

 

Lance stopped at the edge of the dance floor and turned to Keith. He leaned in and there were suddenly fingers on the back of his neck then along his collarbone before pressing a hand to the middle of his chest. “There, now everyone can see it.”

 

Keith looked down to see a small chain around his neck with a card attached at the end. He picked up the card and flipped it between his hands watching as words scrawled across the shiny surface changing every few seconds. “What is this?”

 

“A dance card,” Lance said and held up one of his own attached to his wrist. “We use to use plain paper ones, but the Builders made us these. I planned to hand you yours before Coran’s speech, but I was late.”

 

“You’re always late,” Keith pointed out.

 

“Not always. I plan to be late and if I plan to be late then I’m right on time. I was late today, though,” Lance said and took Keith’s hand. “Let’s get on the dance floor. Your first two dances are with me.”

 

Keith gave some resistance, but not enough to hinder Lance’s lead. “I don’t want to dance, though.”

 

“I figured you weren’t the dancing type,” Lance said. He pulled Keith to him and placed one hand on his waist before grabbing Keith’s other hand in his. “That’s why I’m leading. Just follow me and keep your voice down.”

 

Keith had only been able to get by in Ko-gane with his dancing skills. Fighting was more about avoiding other people while dancing was moving with others intimately, no adrenaline pumping, just nerves. Keith found himself stepping on Lance’s feet more than once with the unfamiliar steps of the Altean dance.

 

“You really aren’t very good at dancing,” Lance said after the fifth time Keith stepped on his foot.

 

“I don’t know this dance. It’s Altean,” Keith defended.

 

“And if we were to do a Ko dance, would you be any better?” Lance asked. Keith only glared in response which earned him a chuckle. “I’m glad I can at least beat you in this then.”

 

“This isn’t a competition. We’re just dancing.”

 

“You’re my rival, everything is competition,” Lance joked. Suddenly, Lance’s eyes went cold again and his grip on Keith’s hand tightened. He leaned in closer. “But you are right this isn’t a competition. In this room, on this dance floor, you are in a kind of battle. I made that dance card to help protect you.”

 

“And to protect yourself,” Keith said between gritted teeth. Lance’s hold was starting to hurt.

 

“Yes, and myself.” Lance let go of Keith’s hand as a twirl was initiated within the dance before bringing him back, closer this time. “You will dance many times tonight. I arranged everything beforehand. You may not believe it, but there were many who wished to dance with you.”

 

“I believe it if it has to do with being taken advantage of,” Keith said. He remembered the round man from before and wondered what information Keith could hold that would be useful to him.

 

“Not only that, but curiosity, and well…” Lance trailed off as he twirled Keith again. When he brought him back, the hand on his waist went to Keith’s hair and he tugged on the ribbon that held Keith’s longer strands back. “You know you’re not awful looking, right?”

 

Keith slapped Lance’s hand away. “Don’t touch that. Shiro did it.”

 

Lance raised a brow as he moved his hand back to place. “Shiro, huh? I’m not the only one to call my charge so intimately.”

 

Keith reddened. He hadn’t meant to let that slip. “Prince Shiro.”

 

Lance’s face softened. “You don’t have to correct yourself. To make a promise to Voltron, he must mean a lot to you. Like a brother.”

 

“Like a brother,” Keith repeated.

 

The music from the orchestra died down and another song began. It sounded familiar, a Ko song.

 

“Do you want to lead now?” Lance asked.

 

Keith sighed. “No, I don’t know the steps well.”

 

“Good thing I do,” Lance said and took Keith back into his arms, this time the dance more intimate, both of Lance’s hands were on Keith’s waist and Keith felt odd to have his hands on Lance’s shoulders.

 

Lance wasn’t wearing his usual riding hides or training clothes, but he also wasn’t wearing the ridiculous heavy outfit he had at their second meeting. He looked smart in dark blues and gold patterns, a sort of suit similar to the red one Keith had been given for tonight. The material was a bit stretchy and it pulled over Lance’s shoulders enough to show off the muscles he had gained from pulling back bow strings in quick secession.

 

“Admiring something?” Lance asked.

 

“Where you skinny when you were younger?” Keith asked.

 

“Gangly, yeah,” Lance said. “I grew into it. You must know quite a few soldiers that did.”

 

Keith nodded and was late to twist his hips on time like the rest of the dancers.

 

“And let me guess, you were always easy to gain muscle, but you’re small statured as an adult,” Lance said.

 

“I’m not small,” Keith defended. He had always had muscle, and as a teenager, he had been more fit than the rest, but then they grew.

 

“No, but even small people can be strong. The dance is almost done, I need to tell you about your dance card,” Lance said.

 

“No one is stopping you.”

 

Lance sighed. “I’m trying not to quabble right now, alright? You just have to follow what the card tells you. You have a few breaks, do not accept any dances during them. Always head straight for Shiro. I will come to you to deter questions. We have a few more dances together and I will check up on you then. I tried to get you quite a few dances with Shiro, but he’s got a card lined up a lot tighter than yours. Your Prince Ryou was willing to dance with you, he seemed to rather dance with men than women I suppose because of his lover’s jealousy. However, I did have to add a few you don’t know. Most just want to ask you about being part Galra. Be boring about it.”

 

“I don’t really have a lot to say about it,” Keith said.

 

“Good, then you have got the boring part covered. If they ask about anything else, just veer the conversation towards your dragon or start asking them questions about Altea. That will help give you information as well. Now, unfortunately, you have to dance with General Iverson.”

 

“Which general is that?” Keith asked. He recognized all the faces of the Altean generals, but he had not put names to those faces yet.

 

“He was our commander. He is going to be rude. Just see if you can’t get him to talk about fighting tactics and maybe have him start ranting about his own fights. I think you can handle him just fine.”

 

“I can talk about fighting,” Keith agreed.

 

“Fighting and dragons, I think that’s about all you can talk about,” Lance said rolling his eyes. “Anyways, Coran wanted to dance with you, you don’t have to worry about him, he’s gentle most of the time, like an uncle. Not an actual uncle, you meant one of mine and he’s a pervert. Oh, and...Allura.”

 

“The Princess wants to dance with me?” Keith asked.

 

“No, but she needs to. It’ll be best for both of you. Just compliment her or talk about Prince Shiro. Keeping quiet the whole time won’t look good,” Lance said.

 

“Alright, I respect the princess,” Keith said. “I won’t disgrace her at her own party.”

 

The music stopped and Lance stepped away bowing to Keith. “That’s good because she respects only your promise.”

 

Keith frowned as he bowed back. When he straightened up, Lance was looking at him, blue eyes soft like calm water. He reached out and clasped Keith’s shoulder. His grip was similar to King Akira’s and Shiro’s.

 

“Hey, you’re not that bad of a dancer, you’ll do fine,” Lance said.

 

“Thank you, Lance,” Keith said, his hand lifting to touch the one at his shoulder, but it was gone before he did. Lance dipped his head and disappeared into the crowd leaving Keith confused on what to do next. He looked down at his dance card, but felt a hand on his other shoulder, familiar, and he easily turned.

 

“I believe it’s my turn,” Shiro said smiling and waving his own dance card at Keith. “Shall we dance?”

 

“Of course, Your Highness,” Keith said and followed Shiro to the floor. As they began their steps, Keith’s attention was brought to the center of the dancers with a blur of blue twirling Princess Allura around and she was laughing. Lance was laughing, too, joy on his face and Keith wondered if dancing with Keith had brought the Blue Knight even a smidgen of the same happiness.

 


 

 

Dancing became easier. Speaking to Alteans did not.

 

Keith found his feet soon enough after the first six dances in a row and just as Lance had promised, the Blue Knight was immediately by his side during breaks. Keith went looking for Shiro only to find him on the dance floor with some lady or another all a twitter over their to-be King Consort which left Keith the perfect target for Alteans that had not made it onto his dance card to saunter up, but Lance was there having pulled himself off from some young strapping fella or a beautiful maiden to weasel into the conversation. Usually he mentioned either Keith’s flying skills or his sword mastery and at first it sounded like compliments and praise, but all he had to do was make one snide comment and they were off bantering. It seemed Alteans found friendly bantering boring, at least Keith thought it was friendly. Bantering with Lance came easily now that he had actually managed to punch the other knight in the face.

 

On the dancefloor, Lance could not swoop in like the knight in shining armor he was. Keith had to shine his own armor and that armor was his personality. He supposed he was actually dulling it. Most of the Alteans he danced with looked over him with those same searching eyes he had noted when he first stepped into a room full of them. They asked him questions, usually about being Galra, but there wasn’t much to say. Any comments made about him being half Galra when he was younger was the same as what the Alteans had said when his ears had first been revealed. He had very few memories of his mother, none of her face, and his father had left to the Extreme Souths years ago without ever really having a conversation with Keith about his Galra parent. They lost interest quickly. A few asked personal questions about Keith’s interests. When talk of dragons and fighting seemed not to do it, Keith chose to talk about the stars. The Crystal Castle did have its own observatory he had yet to find a reason to be allowed into, but he had seen it from the windows roaming the halls after Shiro.

 

Then there was General Iverson. The previous commander of the Altean army was mothered by Alteans, but fathered by a Builder of the Garrison tribe to the east where Lord Hunk seemed to hail from. He had been blinded in one eye, a detail he tried to hide by squinting, from a wound during the raid King Alfor had taken on the Galra settling in their region, the same raid that had lost the King and most of the Altean military heads only a few years ago. He asked Keith many questions, sharp and demanding, pertaining to the Ko army and its runnings, details more easily gotten from Shiro, and by the glance Shiro and he shared during one particular twirl, Keith’s answers were just repeats, but the man’s stories were at least interesting even if Keith’s feet felt twice as bad as what he imagined Lance’s feet felt like the first time they had danced together. Keith hoped General Iverson was a better fighter than he was a dancer.

 

Regent Advisor Coran was helpful. For the man that was currently ruling Altea, Keith had not thought him to be so comfortable. He talked like a sweet uncle, ginger mustache moving entertainingly with each word, and encouraged questions from Keith. His powder blue eyes didn’t look at Keith the same as the other court officials, either, though they did get that look when he looked out into the crowd. And he taught Keith the steps to their dance as he should be taught them, not just following. It was nice to have someone Keith didn’t have to feel on edge with.

 

“You’ve been doing well,” Lance said sliding a hand around Keith’s waist just as Keith had bowed to the advisor and they had parted. He pulled Keith onto the dancefloor and they began perhaps the most awkward dance Keith could imagine.

 

“Thank you,” Keith said copying the other followers. He placed a hand on top of Lance’s at his waist and the other he held out awkwardly. Lance was both behind him and beside him and he found it difficult to talk like this.

 

“I would not have pinned you one for interest in the stars. That’s a good topic to turn people to, makes you seem mysterious and romantic,” Lance said.

 

“How did you hear about that?”

 

Keith could feel Lance’s grin even if he couldn’t see it. “I’m a bit of a social butterfly, don’t you think?”

 

“You’re a stalker, is what I think,” Keith said. “Prince Ryou found dancing with me quite awkward, but said you insisted on it.”

 

“I did insist, it would look good on both your parts to be seen together,” Lance said. “Would you be surprised if I said you were the first one to call me a stalker?”

 

“Yes,” Keith said. “You’ve been flitting around flirting with every person in party clothes within our age range.”

 

“Oh, have you been watching me?” Lance asked and grabbed Keith’s stretched out hand to twirl him out then in, back to chest, other hand going back to its place on Keith’s waist. “I’m flattered,” he purred.

 

Keith’s stomach twisted where Lance’s hand was and he briefly wondered if Lance was injecting him with microscopic icicles. They would melt, though. Keith’s body was warm, much warmer than he was use to being. “Who would want to watch you, you act revolting.”

 

Lance chuckled and got back into position. “Have you checked your dance card recently?”

 

“No, you came up before I could even see who was after Advisor Coran.”

 

“It’s Allura,” Lance said.

 

The extra warmth left Keith’s body and cold began to seep into him. “Must I dance with the princess?”

 

“It took a lot of convincing to get her to dance with you, too. She knows it’s good showmanship. You just have to be as boring as you have been.”

 

“I’m not boring,” Keith defended as the song came to an end.

 

Lance removed his hands from Keith’s waist and stepped back. “Tell that to Lady Plaxum and she’s a theorists.”

 

Keith just frowned as he turned to face Lance. The Blue knight was already merging in with the crowd waving his hands at Keith.

 

“Come on now, you have to go dance with the princess. Put your best gentleman face on and go ask her to dance. You have to lead this time,” Lance said.

 

Dread filled Keith as he began to search the circle of people around him for the princess. At least the song playing was a Ko dance that he knew confidently enough. He spotted Princess Allura just coming off a dance with Advisor Coran and straightened up as he made his way to her.

 

“Princess Allura,” he said, just loud enough to break her laughter with the advisor.

 

She turned, eyes surprised then narrowed. “Oh, Lord Keith.”

 

Keith bowed lower than he ever had for a simple request and held out his hand. “May I have this dance, princess.”

 

“Go on now, Allura, the poor boy is shaking,” the advisor said.

 

Keith hadn’t needed to hear that to know the princess was looking for an out, but then he felt a slender hand slide into his and sighed in relief. He was gentle about pulling her to the floor and even gentler placing a hand at her waist.

 

“This is a Ko dance, I expect you to lead,” the princess said, her voice stern.

 

“Of course,” Keith said not looking at the princess. He could feel the venom in her stare, he didn’t need to see it, too.

 

At first Keith’s steps were unsure, but soon he was able to keep up with the spinning of the other dancers around the dancefloor.

 

“You should look at your partner when you dance,” the princess said.

 

“My apologies, princess.” Keith slowly moved his eyes to be the princess’. He barely had to look down to see them. The Altean princess was tall and slender and very beautiful. Her eyes, though glaring, were a beautiful shade of blue. Keith had noted most Alteans had blue eyes. Perhaps that was what made their stare so unnerving, but unlike Lance’s cobalt that could go from gentle to icey in a matter of seconds, or Advisor Coran’s gentle powder blue, Keith thought the princess’ eyes were a color that called for authority without needing words or a glare to force it. They held a heat. “Your eyes are the color of sea water.”

 

“Sea water?” the princess asked, eyes widening and lashes fluttering as she processed the words. “Have you ever seen a sea?”

 

“No, but I’ve seen pictures. My father sent me one, well the explorers send many back in the Extreme South and I was lucky enough to receive one as a gift,” Keith said.

 

“What a nice gift to receive from your father,” Princess Allura said softly, eyes looking away and off in the distance.

 

“I don’t believe it was from him. My father has never been much of a gift man.”

 

“My father made me loathed gifts. After every battle with the Ko he would bring me some trinket off a fallen enemy,” the princess said then scoffed. “Disgusting presents really, but he thought they would mean the world to me, I suppose they do now. All he ever really wanted to do was stop the war with Ko-gane, but I knew more fighting was not the answer. And then the Galra started terrorizing our western lands.”

 

“I heard he was a good king, your father,” Keith said.

 

Princess Allura looked at him once more, a coldness still in her eyes, but also sadness. “Yes he was. He wanted only peace, though he always seemed to make the wrong choice in getting it. He originally tried to make ties with the Galra, unite us against the Ko-gane kingdom. Well, we see how well those negotiations went through.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Keith found himself saying.

 

“For what?”

 

Keith turned away from the princess then sighed and met her gaze. “I’m sorry I can not take the blame for my Galra relatives for I know not who they are, but I can feel sorry for what, I, as a Ko Knight, have put your people through. Perhaps more than a Galra, as a Ko, I have the most Altean blood on my hands, generations of it.”

 

“If you’re to apologize for that, then so should I. I may not have participated in a battle, but it is I who gives Coran the go ahead for his orders. But, we have a treaty between us now, there is no need to dwell on the history of Ice Masters and Fire Masters. That, at least, is over.”

 

“And it’s that,” Keith said, “I am humbly thankful for.”

 

Silence fell between them again. That had not been the flattery filled conversation Lance had advised him to have, but it had been an honest one with little hostility which was all Keith could really wish for with the princess. As they twirled around the dancefloor, time to themselves, Keith found his attention once again caught by the movement behind the open doors of the ballroom where servants were dashing about making the shadows play strangely at the doors.

 

“The servants are quite busy,” Keith noted.

 

“Servants? Oh, well there’s many mouths to feed and with all the dancing everyone does, drinks are in large demand,” the princess said.

 

“The shadows on the wall are quite frantic, like firelight.”

 

The princess straightened up and began to look around as well. “We aren’t using firelight in here. The Builders call them, light bulbs. It’s an object they’ve designed using the Fire Masters’ technique of lightning. Haven't you heard of it?”

 

“We have them in Ko-gane, but most citizens can control enough fire to light their homes with,” Keith said. “It’s just odd. I noticed it when I first got here.”

 

“You know, Lord Keith, it’s rude to be distracted by others while you are dancing,” Princess Allura pointed out.

 

Keith immediately snapped back to looking at the princess. “You’re right, I apologise. Uh...your hair really does look nice up.”

 

Princess Allura rolled her eyes. “Your first compliment was much better. Perhaps you should take pointers from Lance.”

 

The princess’ eyes had traveled to another couple on the dancefloor. The Blue Knight had Lady Blaxum in his arms giggling and stealing small cheek kisses. Keith immediately looked away from the display.

 

“I would rather not.”

 

The princess laughed. “He’s a bit much, but you two seem to be getting along well now. Usually, he’s taunting me with his flirting words, but since this is my engagement party, I suppose he has moved his attention to you, Lord Keith.”

 

“I would prefer not to have his attentions,” Keith said,

 

“I understand your stance here in my court, Lord Keith. I ask, though, that you are gentle with my protector. He is my childhood friend, very much a younger but annoying, brother, and it was not always he who watched over me,” the princess said.

 

Keith was not surprised that the princess did not know Lance was her true brother, but he was surprised at how heart broken he felt seeing the softness in her eyes as she looked on at her Blue Knight as they stopped, the music fading away. “It is not my intention to fight with him. I do appreciate his advice, for this party in particular. I was glad to be able to dance with you, Your Highness.”

 

The princess turned to Keith and smiled taking him aback. “It was much more enjoyable than I anticipated. People are much too sensitive to bring up memories of my father. Perhaps you would find it agreeable to show your sea picture to me?”

 

Keith bowed. “Of course, Your Highness.”

 

Princess Allura lifted her skirts, bowed, and pattered off towards where Shiro stood with an outstretched hand within the ring encircling the dancefloor. Keith sighed and checked his dance card. A break. Shiro was on the dancefloor. Keith supposed he should stand at the edge and watch while he waited for Lance to show up, but he saw Lance twirling on the dancefloor with some girl Keith hadn’t been introduced to yet and crossed his arms. Lance had said he was doing well, but Keith didn’t think he knew enough to be left alone even for just six minutes. Coran was dancing as well and Keith thought he might be able to rake up another conversation with General Iverson, but that was luck he didn’t feel like risking. He could just stand there and watch his charge and the princess very intently and maybe no one would bother him.

 

Watching Princess Allura and Shiro dance together was awkward. Shiro was really spreading it on strong with how bright and bashful the princess looked. Keith both wanted to be happy and gag at the same time so he found himself looking elsewhere. Again, he began to notice the flicker of lights and shadows on the edge of the room where the doors were wide open. They made such strange patterns, like fire, but the princess said they used light bulbs in the ballroom. Keith looked up and was awestruck. He hadn’t noticed before, but what he thought was a white domed ceiling was actually glass with intricate white metal frames between the panels. It was covered in snow. Or at least it had been. There was a large patch missing and then small impressions that were refilling as the snow fell in the night sky outside. They looked like footprints. Maybe if they had been a dragonettes, or if there had been an added set of dragon footprints as small as a Red’s, Keith would have ignored them, but these were the footprints of boots. Keith’s eyes followed them and he turned his head to see the footprints led to the edge of the ceiling. It was dark in the frieze that decorated the space between the ceiling and the walls. There were deep set designs, deep enough for a person to fit in, and tall enough if they crouched. Keith doubted it would be easy for someone to get into the frieze without a party goer noticing unless they had set up before anyone had come, but those footsteps were fresh enough to not be covered by snow. Keith’s eyes moved below the frieze. There were windows just below the frieze, and the dim light that came from them made the frieze appear even darker. If you could get one open from outside, perhaps you could get inside if you were agile enough. And they looked like they would close with just a small breeze. No one would be able to hear it with the loud music and chattering. Without a second thought, Keith started walking towards the spot the footsteps led. As polite as he could, he pushed past the other party guests before stopping. He saw something glint and his ears twitched trying to filter in more sound from the wall, but in a round room, the orchestra’s music surrounded. Still, he caught it, the slight clicking of metal parts and then a small red light. Keith turned his head and looked for the light out in the crowd. He spotted it moving along the crowd to the dancefloor.

 

The target was obvious.

 

Keith started pushing past the guests not bothering to apologise this time. He made it to the dancefloor just as the red dot landed on the princess’ head as she and Shiro came to a stop and the song ended.

 

“Princess, watch out!” Keith yelled and launched at the princess pushing her down just as a shot rang out through the crowd.

 

“Wh-what’s going on!” the princess yelled and tried to push Keith off from her, but Keith stayed firm hissing as he felt a sharp pain in his thigh.

 

“Allura!” Coran yelled from the other side of the dance floor.

 

“Princess!” called out Lance rushing over as well.

 

Shiro stood protectively over them, his mechanical arm held out like a shield, fire wrapped around it in a spiral ready to attack like a snake. He began to bark orders. “Everyone, get down! Guards, check the frieze. Shoot ice darts in every shadow up there!”

 

Lance came to a slide on the floor next to Keith. “Is the princess alright?”

 

Keith moved off the princess slowly. Princess Allura was looking around with fright in her sea blue eyes and moved closer to Keith, hands coming to rest on his shoulders, as she searched for her attacker in the shadows of the ceiling. “She wasn’t hit.”

 

“But you were,” Lance said and reached out to touch Keith’s thigh. His pants material was torn up and there were scratches that were bleeding. He moved his hand down beside Keith’s leg and picked up a small metal object. “Was this it?”

 

“Probably. It’s just a scrape.”

 

“It’s strange, like an arrowhead,” Lance said.

 

“Sir!” a guard yelled coming up to Shiro. “Sir, the attacker fled to the Masters’ suite. He had a strange weapon, but we’ve disarmed him, however…” The guard's eyes roamed down to Shiro’s arm. “He had another strange weapon on his person. You’ll have to see for yourself.”

 

“Here,” Keith said urging the princess into Lance’s arms. “Take care of your princess. I need to help Shiro.”

 

Suddenly, there was a hand on Keith’s shoulder. “No, if you’re hurt, you stay put. Help get the guests out. Lance, go with Coran and get Her Highness to a safe place. I’ll need to call on you both later.”

 

Keith grabbed Shiro’s arm from his shoulder and caught his eye. “I’m suppose to keep you safe, Shiro. By saving the princess, that weapon could have hit you. She is an heir, but you are my charge.”

 

Shiro sighed. “Fine, let’s catch this assassin.”

 


 

 

The assassin was Galra. They found him hiding in a one of the study nooks in the Altean Masters’ Tower. He was wearing Ko military uniforms that did not fit him well. Keith stayed visible next to Shiro through the whole ordeal. A Galra in a Ko uniform was not good for Keith, he was a Ko-Galra hybrid and high ranking in the Ko-gane military. Once the assassin had been moved to a holding room within the castle, deemed unsafe to take him to the prison for now, Keith followed Shiro to a meeting room with the court and Princess Allura and Prince Ryou.

 

“Another Ko-Galra on our hands!” one of the court men yelled and slammed his fist against the table. “And this one tried to assassinate our heir.”

 

“He is not Ko,” Prince Ryou said coming up to the front of the lines. “Yes we have more than a few hybrid Galra in Ko-gane, but that one was pure Galra and I do not believe his is an ally of our kingdom.”

 

“Of course you would say that if this was your plan,” another court man said and pointed a finger at the prince. “You Ko and your tricky tactics. The whole treaty was probably just a way to get on our good graces so you could attack from within, but then we found out about your little secret too early so you had to send in an assassin, but you had to make sure he was Galra so we would think the Galra were attacking us.”

 

“He was wearing a Ko uniform,” Advisor Coran said. “Unless he really thought he could get away, an assassin from Ko-gane would be stupid to wear their uniform. Any assassin would.”

 

“And it was Lord Keith who spotted him first,” Lance piped up from his place beside the princess.

 

“Yes, it was Lord Keith, the Galra hybrid, that spotted him, thanks to you, Lord Lance, not being at your post,” the first court man said.

 

Keith glanced over to Lance and saw sadness on his face for a split second. Not being the one to save your charge, Keith could sympathise with that feeling.

 

“They were probably in cahoots,” the second arguing court man said.

 

Suddenly, there was a loud slam and everyone turned to the princess. She had her fist trembling on the table they all surrounded. Her teeth were clenched and her eyes were stormy and cold as she looked up at her court, words like daggers. “He saved me! You and all your bickering trying to put blame on each other. Lord Keith saved me. The weapon hurt him. I am not his charge and not yet his charge’s wife and yet he saved me and risked his own life to do so. No one in that room thought to be aware of possible danger. Not a single one of you all too wrapped up in your game of words to see we are in war. This isn’t some game we’re playing with people’s lives like we’ve done for generations with Ko-gane. The Galra are something else and Lord Keith was aware. He mentioned something being off when we danced and he had the mind to look for it. At this moment, I trust him more than any of you in this room. I trust a Galra!”

 

Keith’s chest tightened. He looked around the room. Most of the court looked angry or surprised. Prince Ryou and Shiro were both surprised. Unsurprisingly, Lance was glaring at Keith, but it was a sad glare. Keith chose not to voice the small bit of happiness hearing that the princess finally trusted him brought.

 

“The lights and shadows on the walls were weird, so I looked up and realized the ceiling was made of glass because the snow were filling in holes made by shoes,” Keith said. “I just happened to look up at the right time.”

 

“So it was all a coincidence,” one of the courtmen said. “That doesn’t clear the Red Knight of suspicions.”

 

“The assassin, he’s familiar to me,” Shiro intervened.

 

Keith turned to see Shiro. The Prince-Commander was staring down at his metal arm. There was something foreign in his eyes, memories that were lost he was trying to find.

 

“See, princess, even your betrothed is outing his own people,” one of the arguing court men said.

 

“No, not from Ko,” Shiro corrected. “Ever since we caught him, I’ve been thinking about it. I was captured by the Galra before, I spent almost two years with them. That’s where I saw him. If we can get information out of him, I might be able to remember more.”

 

“I believe the prince has it right,” Advisor Coran said. “I think our gentle courtmen have it backwards. The Galra must know of our alliance with Ko-gane and perhaps they know as well that Ko-gane has Galra refugees and hybrids in their army. Perhaps they wanted us to fight once again so we are easier for them to take down or they wanted a treaty with Altea because of our lack in useable military at the moment. The best way to know is to ask this assassin.”

 

“Fine, let us question the assassin,” the courtmen agreed.

 

“Lord Lance, please go to your post in the questioning room,” Advisor Coran said.

 

Lance immediately straightened up, his face hardening, and left the room.

 

“The rest, follow me, we will observe the questioning. Oh, but Lord Keith, you should go with Lord Lance. He can get a bit trigger happy,” the advisor said.

 

Keith blinked surprised, but quickly hurried after Lance.

 

He found himself on a balcony overlooking the holding area. Below them was a seat and in it, the Galra assassin chained down. There were guards hooking up wires to the Galra that growled out curses, most in a language Keith found himself partially understanding. It sounded familiar to the Ko and Altean Voltron languages and yet different.

 

“Is this the Altean torture room?” Keith asked. He was only met by silence and turned to see Lance had continued walking. He was slow to follow, hand on the railing of the balcony distracted by the Galra and memories. Altea had managed to win a few battles in Keith’s time. He remembered the prisoners of war they rescued and those that managed to escape and the haunted look on their faces. Of course Ko had a room of their own, but it was mostly just a room too hot for comfort where they left prisoners in solitude to get information out of them. As Keith would have thought, the room was cold, very cold. He thought to bring up a flame, but did not want to bring the assassin’s attention away from the questioning. Below the balcony, behind dark non reflective glass, Keith knew Shiro, the princess, and her court were watching.

 

“Hey, Lord Fluffy Ears, come help me lift this,” Lance called.

 

Keith jogged the last few feet over to Lance. The Blue rider stood by a large cloth covered build of some sort. He lifted one corner and Keith grabbed the opposite, lifting. It came away with the fly of little dust. Underneath was a contraption like none Keith had ever seen before. It had buttons a many and wires dangling thick below towards the chair the assassin was tied to. Lance pressed the largest button on the contraption and pulled a lever. The contraption popped before beginning to purr, a sound very similar to one of Red’s.

 

“Galra assassin, state your name,” a questioner asked from below.

 

Keith moved closer to the balcony to look. There were two questioners, both wore white robes and white masks, but Keith thought they looked an awful lot like the guards that had been in the room a few minutes before.

 

The assassin growled and spat at them fighting against his restraints. “Curse you plebeians. You know not of the power we carry.”

 

The second questioner raised one finger.

 

“Huh, tame,” Lance commented beside Keith then something rumbled through the contraption beside them and the Galra was convulsing in his seat.

 

Keith turned with wide eyes and looked at the contraption. Lance had his hand on a knob.

 

“State your name,” the questioner repeated.

 

“General Sendak, and this is not the last you will hear of that name. I will make sure Lord Zarkon gives me reign over Altea once his conquering has been fulfilled.”

 

“Why did you attempt an assassination on the princess?” the first questioner asked.

 

“Was that not obvious?” the Galra, Sendak, asked back.

 

The second questioner raised two fingers.

 

“That’s more how I like it,” Lance said and he turned the knob in his hand then switched another lever.

 

The Galra screamed louder and the wires against his head lit up.

 

“You’re a torturer,” Keith mumbled, but it was loud enough to get Lance’s attention.

 

“Hmm? Oh, yeah,” Lance said. He looked from the build then over at Keith with a frown. “Do you dislike it?”

 

“I...no, just surprised it is you,” Keith said. “You’re too...gentle.”

 

Lance sighed and moved his hand on the knob as the second questioner signaled him again. “You’re too innocent.”

 

Keith forced himself to look away from what Lance was doing. “I’m starting to understand why you say that.”

 

“I wasn’t always the torturer,” Lance said. “I didn’t like doing this to all those Ko soldiers, but we are much fewer than you knew. You know now, though, I’m sure. Altea was going to lose this war and perhaps all the Alteans with it if peace did not come. We distrust each other too much to depend on each other for victory.”

 

Keith nodded. He had noticed. Everything was so far apart here in Altea, so secluded as if each sector belonged to itself. In Ko-gane, most of the population lived in the capitals and there were nomad camps that allowed anyone to travel anywhere in the Ko-gane kingdom.

 

“How did you get in?” the first questioner asked.

 

Sendak laughed, a sound that roared through the questioning room only to have it cut off as Lance flicked a switch on his contraption. The Galra ended up coughing, his voice sounding hoarse. “There are some among you that are intelligent and understand the beauty that is the Galra Empire. They understand power and triumph. You should learn from those comrades. We have raided many lands on our way east. The end of the world is not far from Lord Zarkon’s reach.”

 

“Those among us? Does he mean spies?” Keith asked.

 

Lance groaned. “Just great, now we’re not going to be able to trust anyone in the castle.”

 

“He went to the Masters’ suites. Perhaps it was a Master,” Keith said. “But, how did he get on the roof?”

 

“You know, they say if you reach Grand Mastery, you can teleport via your element. Perhaps even teleport another,” Lance said. “I may be a Level 1 Master, but there are those in my degree that far surpass my ability and I practice abilities far beyond my current level.”

 

Keith nodded. “I’ve heard of such a rumor. We have the same in Ko-gane. I don’t see why Zarkon would not want to ally with Masters.”

 

“He’s signalling me,” Lance said. “This guy will probably pass out after this or the next one.”

 

“What is the weapon on your arm?”

 

The Galra laughed, a boom that ended with more coughs. He flexed his hand with a glint in his yellow eyes. “You fear this more than the gun? If only I had known you had a hybrid here, perhaps we would have seen use in implanting explosives in it. Perhaps the Alteans know not of such technology, but you will with your new consort. Unfortunately, he was just a test subject, a subject that ran away with vital information. But we are the prodigy race and every other race will bow down to us.”

 

Shiro’s arm. On closer look, this Sendak’s robotic limb did resemble Shiro’s more than a little. Keith had not been with Shiro the first few times he had gone to the Builders to have his arm reprogrammed, but from the following visits, he knew enough to know it should be feared.

 

“Tell us what your emperor’s next plans are,” the questioner commanded.

 

“The only plan that matters is the takeover of all,” Sendak said.

 

The second questioner raised a full splayed hand.

 

“This won’t be pretty,” Lance said and turned the knob all the way up.

 

Sendak shivered on the table, fangs biting into his bottom lip.

 

“Tell us Zarkon’s plan,” the first questioner repeated.

 

“Tell us and the pain will stop,” the second questioner added, voice softer.

 

Sendak gave no answer and the second questioner sighed and raised a splayed hand again.

 

Lance clicked his tongue and turned the dial all the way down. Keith noticed some relief come to the Galra by the way his large ears perked up just a bit. The Blue rider wasn’t long with his release and flicked on a few switches before turning the dial up again. Keith noticed liquids moving through some of the wire connected to the assassin. Sendak started to scream. It went on for more than Keith could stand, but the sound stopped as Lance began to flick off the switches and the liquids slowed.

 

“What is your Emperor’s weakness?” the first questioner asked.

 

“He...has...none,” Sendak croaked out.

 

“Tell us what his next plan is then,” the second questioner offered, again, voice softer.

 

“No.”

 

The second questioner lifted his splayed hand again and immediately Lance was on the contraptions flicking even more switches on.

 

“Stop! Make it stop!” the Galra screamed not long after the pain had started again. “Voltron. He wishes for Voltron!”

 

The second questioner lifted a fisted hand and Lance immediately turned the dial all the way down and began to flick his switches off.

 

“Good, good, just like that, just keep telling us and it doesn’t have to hurt,” the second questioner said and reached out patting the Galra’s fluffy purple face. He turned his head and looked at the second questioner, ears perking up.

 

As he looked at the second questioner, the first turned and nodded towards their spot on the balcony. Lance reached behind the machine for something and brought back a crossbow. It’s point was more like a syringe and the back of the bow was hooked up to the machine by a tube. Lance aimed it then turned and flicked one last switch on. The tube began to fill with a barely blue liquid and he shot it. The arrow embedded itself into the Galra’s clavicle and he tried to turn his head to look at it, but the second questioner was still petting his face keeping his attention. It only took a few seconds for the assassin to pass out. Slowly, the questioners exited the room.

 

“I wonder what that Galra assassin wants with our sovereign,” Lance said.

 

“I’ve forgotten the Alteans are said to have Voltron’s right leg,” Keith said.

 

“And the Ko have Voltron’s right arm,” Lance added.

 

“Yes, that we do, so they say.”

 

Lance hummed and pressed a few buttons on the contraption. “I wonder if that was why our two kingdoms originally began to fight.”

 

“We’ll never know. And what are you doing? Are we to stay here?”

 

“I’m filling the chamber with a freezing gas. It’ll help harden that liquid I injected into Fluffy Sendak down there so he’ll stay a prisoner in his own body while they transport him to a lock box in the actual prison. He needs guards constantly, We don’t know how long this stuff will last on a Galra,” Lance said. “You know, Coran probably sent you here with me to learn this contraption. It was a gift from the Builders.”

 

“I’m…” Keith started then hesitated. Torture. He had never been part of it back in Ko-gane. He barely knew the names of the men assigned to the torture room. Keith studied Lance as he leaned over the railing still in his nice clothes from the ball, his head on his arms staring straight down as cold fog began to envelop the bottom portion of the torture room. He’d killed so many Alteans without mercy. All he needed was one strike for there to be no room for regret, but torture was something without an end. He would rather just be rid of the assassin. “I’m too innocent, remember?”

 

“Not innocent enough to not watch, though,” Lance said, but sighed. “It’s fine. I’m use to it. Go and keep an eye on my princess for me, will you? I know you’re good at that, at least.”

 

Keith wanted to frown, wanted to argue he was good at other stuff, too, but the room was too cold and Lance seemed to be somewhere else. If it had been a Ko down there, Keith didn’t think he would have been able to watch and perhaps the look in Lance’s eyes would be even scarier. Keith took a step closer to Lance, hand stretched out. Those blue eyes wavered, muscles tensing beneath the fine fabric. Keith did an about face and left.

 

 

 

 

 

Link to Glossary Thing: LINK

It has descriptions of the dragons.

 

 

Chapter Text

6. The Builders

 

Flying was beautiful. That was the one truth Keith had known his whole life. In the camp he lived in, he would see many Golds and Browns flying past. It was said Blacks use to fly freely in that area as well, but not since the Galra appeared on the west. Keith sore he had seen one once wandering too close to the mountains that separated his camp from the Galra Empire’s black clouds. Even in battle, Keith felt a swelling in his chest watching enemy riders free falling from the sky or making vertical take offs. It was a terrifying beauty that matched perfectly what a dragon was. At least in training, though, Keith could marvel without worrying what came after the attack.

 

Well, Keith didn’t have to worry. It was obvious that there were few Altean knights worthy of their title in Altea. The ones that were were doing their part already couldn’t be bothered to show up for a practice off the Lair. Shiro had brought what was available into a warm clearing in between the Builder Garrison tribe’s lands and the Altean border. Keith was far more impressed with what the Builder riders could do than the Alteans. The Garrison tribe’s land had a bit of everything from forests to meadows, but most importantly, they had marsh and beyond that marsh was green for miles with no sign of stopping, the easternmost tribe.

 

Simply put, though, Keith found himself bored of the training and he could see the upset in the just there snap at the end of Shiro’s words that the Prince Commander was also not as excited for this training as he had hoped. The Lair was familiar. Altea was familiar to these riders. They were use to snow and trees that grew as tall as Blacks and mountains, not thick close cut trees and sticky marshes. And there dragons had been trained for large area attacks, not small pinpointed shots. Thank goodness for the Greens, small enough to actually maneuver through the trees. They had no new Reds save for Keiths.

 

If Lance was there, Keith was sure the Blue rider would shine compared to this lot. He was suppose to be here, but as always, Lance was late.

 

Keith could wait. He wanted excitement, but he didn’t need it in the form of a fluttery eyed egotistical two-faced liar. Well, he deserved at least some of that ego.

 

For now, Keith found his fun in racing the Builders he had met in the Olkari Gazebo.

 

“You have to be faster than that to get through these trees,” the Green rider, the one called Pidge, yelled from her spot a few trees in front of Keith, voice barely audible from the wind that snapped past Keith’s ears as he chased after her.

 

“I’m unfamiliar, but I can go faster,” Keith called back and pressed himself more against Red’s neck careful to keep his legs from hitting her wings. She dipped lower where branches were closer together. Keith’s Red was only slightly smaller than Pidge’s Green. Greens, though long, were considered the second smallest dragon breed just before Red’s and with a small rider, the wingless Green could slither on the air much faster than most.

 

Keith would not be beat by size alone. Keith’s Red was big for her breed, but she was his and they were bonded. As they moved between closer and closer branches, almost no room to see, Keith put his trust in his dragon. Emerging through the branches into the meadow clearing where most of the knights were training, Keith saw no sign of the Green.

 

“I won!” he called out, his heart beating, bounding hard in his chest and he could feel Red’s pulse beneath his palms as well.

 

“Oh, does the winner get a kiss from a knight in shining armor?”

 

Keith’s back went rigid and he turned to see Lance below him in a patch of small blue blooms, their fragrance lifting up to him as Lance’s Blue rolled around in the flowers, chewing on their puffy petals.

 

“If that was the case, we would be in lack of such a night,” Keith shot back bringing his dragon to land away from the flowers. These blooms in particular were said to aid in ice breathers powers. They would do nothing for red. “Not a single Altean Knight Shiro brought here is ready for the battlefield.”

 

“Oh, what about me?” Lance shot back coming over with an offered hand.

 

Keith took it as he dismounted then roughly pushed it away. “I see no armor.”

 

Lance laughed then pointed his finger at Keith with a snap. “You have got me there, Lord Keith.”

 

“Lance! Oh thank goodness you’ve finally made it,” called the Builder that rode the Gold. “Pidge has got her dragon stuck in the branches again.”

 

“Hunk, my man. How did she manage that this time?” Lance asked.

 

The Gold rider lifted a large hand to the back of his head and gave Lance a shy, but endearing grin. “Well, you know her. She’s the tinkeriest of us Builders in any tribe from the Garrison to the Balmera. She has been engineering wings for her Green. She thinks it’ll make her fly faster. She was racing Lord Keith here and tried to use them, but the branches were too close together and well...you can see what happened for yourself.”

 

Lance shrugged and turned to Keith. “Guess that doesn’t count as a win for you, Lord Mullet, so no kisses.”

 

“I’ll pray thanks to Voltron then,” Keith said.

 

Lance and Lord Hunk both started towards the forest. Keith took one step, but hesitated. The Ice Master seemed friends with the two Builder riders. The Gold rider’s voice had been urgent, but not dire when he asked for help with his smaller friend. Perhaps they did not need him, but he had just been racing Lord Pidge and it would be bad sportsmanship if he did not see to his competitor’s well being. Keith followed, but kept a slower pace.

 

Not far into the forest, they came across a mess of branches and the low rumble of an aggravated dragon. Looking above, Keith could barely make out the tangled outline of a Green as vines and moss ivy trapped it between branches. He could see the outline of metals spread out and broken in grotesque angles. Keith had thought the riding gear Lord Pidge had a bit odd, but Builders built and he had chalked it up to that.

 

“Guys, some help would be nice,” Lord Pidge called dismounted from her dragon and hanging by a leg from a tree a bit aways from her Green, one of the spiky points from her makeshift wings dangerously close to impaling her.

 

“Oh man, Pidge. Whatever you Builders pray to, you better start praying because you almost became a kebab,” Lance said beginning to climb a tree. He brought out a knife and started hacking at the branches and vines holding the Green rider up.

 

“Shouldn’t you cut the dragon down first?” Keith asked.

 

“Why? What if Pidge’s circulation gets cut off or that wing comes crashing down at her,” Lance called down.

 

“She might crack her head from the fall. Her dragon could reach up and grab her, but I see your point,” Keith said and looked around. “Red can fit in here. I can get her to burn the vines on Pidge and catch her. She could also burn the ones holding the Green up. Her fire should barely hurt a Green’s scales.”

 

“Dude, Lord Keith, no,” Lord Hunk said coming up to Keith and clamping a hand down on his shoulder. “This is Builder territory and a forest. We don’t use fire outside of a confined area and a forest is not a confined area, it’ll spread.”

 

Keith frowned and shifted his weight. “Right, well, I can still call her and she could catch Pidge and then I can ride up and help cut out the Green.”

 

“I like that plan,” the Gold rider said and moved aside.

 

“Oh, you like his plan, but not mine. I’m hurt, Hunk,” said Lance.

 

“You voiced no plan, Lord Lance,” Keith called up then reached out and called Red to him.

 

With the help of Red, it was quick work getting the small rider and her dragon down. Immediately, she went over to the Green and began to stroke its scales then moved on to the metal equipment starting to pull it apart and salvage what she could of it.

 

“Do you need help?” Keith asked coming up to her.

 

“No, I’m good, but thanks alot for helping me down and all,” she said. “You’re a real rich pal, yeah? I’m going to tinker around a bit before I go back to training.”

 

“A real rich pal?” Keith asked, struck suddenly with the phrase. It sounded familiar.

 

Lord Pidge just grinned at him more before continuing on.

 

“Oh, that reminds me,” Lance said. “On my way here, Prince Commander told me to retrieve you guys.”

 

“Does that mean I can’t stay?” the Green rider asked.

 

Lance shrugged. “I’ll just tell him what happened, it’ll buy you some time.”

 

“Thanks there, Lance, you're a real pal,” she said.

 

“Well, we’ll go on ahead then Pidge,” Lord Hunk said and started leading the party out of the forest.

 

“So, you’ve been trying to steal my friends away I see,” Lance said as they flew beside each other back to the rest of the knights.

 

“That was not my intent. Prince Shiro reverted back to basics and he didn’t need my help. Your...friends and the other Builder riders decided to do some training on their own and I joined. I won two races before this one,” Keith said.

 

“Figures she would try and race you the first chance she got,” Lance said.

 

“You did the same,” Keith reminded then tightened his hold on his dragon’s horns. “How did you meet them?”

 

“Pidge and Hunk? Well, I was Allura’s playmate until she reached puberty and then I was alone. When I was a teenager and started my soldier training things did not come to me easy. I had to read books upon books before the archery made sense to me and then I was a genius at it. I ran away once during a training session in this same area. I found Hunk and he hid me away, took me to his hut that was next to a lake, but there was a Blue there terrorizing his family with loud noises and splashing water, my Blue.”

 

Keith chuckled. “Of course you bonded with an annoying Blue.”

 

“Hey, he was just having fun, he didn’t know he was bothering anyone, did you Blue,” Lance said and petted a hand against the Blue’s neck. “Anyways, since I came back a knight, I wasn’t reprimanded. I mean, there were other reasons I wasn’t reprimanded too bad, but if I hadn’t met Hunk that day and found Blue, I probably wouldn’t have been eligible for Allura’s protector.”

 

“And what of Lord Pidge?” Keith asked.

 

“What, you interested?” Lance asked and waggled his brows.

 

Keith cocked his head to the side then straightened up. “What? No. I’m curious. I haven’t spent much time around Builders. Particularly not in the last few years.”

 

“Ah, well, she spent a lot of time with the Olkari. They’re the best Builders out of all you know. She only came back to the Garrison tribe a few years ago, or more than that, her mother forced her here as far away from the Galra Empire as they could get and stuck her with Hunk here who is awesome at fixing stuff, a real handyman.”

 

“Aw, Lance, you flatter me,” the Gold rider said coming up behind them.

 

“Aye, Hunk, gotten handy with that Balmera Brown rider yet?”

 

The Gold rider instantly reddened as did Keith.

 

“Lance, why do you have to ruin a nice flight like this, huh?” Lord Hunk asked and let his dragon drop below theirs.

 

“I guess that was a no then,” Lance said.

 

Keith rolled his eyes and dropped lower as well to fly beside Lord Hunk.

 

“What, I thought you two were having a nice time up there,” the Gold rider said.

 

“He’s obnoxious, I don’t know how you’re friends with him,” Keith said.

 

Lord Hunk laughed. “As long as there aren’t a bunch of Alteans around, he’s harmless. You should know that, you’re his friend, too.”

 

“Rival,” Keith corrected. “He refers to me as his rival.”

 

“Rivals can be friends,” the Gold rider said. “I think he doesn’t hate you even if he does complain about you all the time since you Ko arrived in Altea. He usually talks a lot about those he likes with people he likes.”

 

Lance complained about him to his friends? Keith cracked a grin. “Thank you, Lord Hunk, for the reassurance.”

 

“Hunk, just Hunk. I don’t need the fancy titles. Besides, after today, I understand the intrigue Lance has in you well enough to want to be your friend, too,” the Gold rider said and smiled.

 

It was a large and bright smile, as bright as his dragon’s gold scales. Keith returned it.

 

“Well, Hunk, are you actually dating this Balmera girl?”

 

Hunk laughed.

 


 

 

There were children. The Garrison tribe’s children came out in groups and began to picnic at the edge of the forest to watch the dragons fly with oil smeared on their cheeks and plasters on elbows and knees. Keith wasn’t very good with children, but Lance had immediately taken it upon himself to make sure the little tykes were entertained a safe distance from the training as Shiro continued to pound in the basics into the legion of knights he had been given. The fast learners were handed over to Keith and Hunk who Keith traded out for Lord Pidge the moment she dragged her dragon loaded high with equipment back into the training grounds. The Gold rider was a good fighter, but more of a defender and support and his instructions were not as strongly felt by the young knights, but the Green rider, perhaps to make up for her small frame, forced others to pay attention to her.

 

“You, Blue with the red hair, bend your back more when she curls. You need to become flexible so you can move with your dragon. Blues were made to twist and turn however they like,” Keith yelled out to one of the knights. “And you, White with the long hair, cut it or tie it back. In war you have to go fast and Whites have long enough mains as it is, you can’t both be blinded by hair. He needs to trust you to be his eyes.”

 

“These guys suck,” Lord Pidge said.

 

“They lost a huge part of their knights to the Galra. Their soldiers were relatively young, too,” Keith said. “This group is good on their basics, but they need to connect with their dragons more, fly with them more in open air and with obstacles.”

 

“The larger dragons will have a hard time in the forest if their rider isn’t experienced,” she said.

 

“It’s not the woods they will be battling in,” Keith replied then crossed his arms. They really did need obstacles. “Do you want to throw rocks at them?”

 

“Yes!” the Green rider immediately exclaimed, eyes twinkling with excitement.

 

“Alright, go gather some then come back. Nothing too large,” Keith told her.

 

With a squeal of glee, the Builder was off.

 

Keith chuckled and went back to observing the Altean Knights. A lot of them were young or newly bonded. Uninterested dragons must have gotten desperate with the threat on the horizon and chosen soldiers that looked strong to get this lot. Keith had a suspicion, though, that the Galra would use weapons like the one Sendak had shot at Princess Allura with at the ball. The arrow had been a very small thing. Keith wouldn’t even call it an arrow if he had another name for it. They would have to learn to avoid them. Something so small wasn’t easy to see and Keith doubted Galra would respect the sanctity of a dragon.

 

When Lord Pidge came back, Keith showed her what he wanted done them explained to the knights what they were doing. The stones were no longer than Keith’s thumb and so the knights actually seemed interested in dodging them as if thrown by the Green rider they would barely hurt, but a Builder would build and so Lord Pidge did filling a contraption with the stones and shooting them at the knights. It reminded Keith of Sendak’s weapon. They had brought Builders in to analyze it.

 

As the knights flew, Keith walked the perimeter of the area he had been given by Shiro to train. Clouds had moved in and it was getting chilly in this Southern region of Altea. He tried to chase the bits of sunlight and found himself closer to where Lance and Hunk were playing with the children. The Gold rider was giving some of the children rides on his dragon while Lance laid in the middle of a circle of children in the small blue flowers. They picked the flowers and tied them together making bracelets and rings and crowns, most going on Lance’s Blue circled around them like a protective barrier, all too happy to receive the gifts. Lance’s fingers were nimble with their tying and he talked gently to the children. Two girls older than the rest sat closely to Lance’s side with flushed cheeks as they tied their jewelry on him. The Blue rider looked up catching Keith’s eyes with his own and he waved a wreath of flowers at Keith.

 

“Want one?” Lance called out.

 

Keith shook his head and turned away quickly. Perhaps he could get on Red and observe from the sky chasing the sun from up there. He took one step in the direction of his lazing dragon and felt a tap on his elbow. He turned to see one of the flushed girls looking up at with with wide eyes then she held out a crown of blue flowers.

 

“This is for you, Lord Keith,” the little girl said.

 

Keith did not want to dawn a crown of flowers, particularly blue flowers, but he could not say no to a little girl. He got down on one knee and lowered his head for her to lay the flowers on. Her small hands touched the fur on his ears and they twitched. The girl jumped away surprised before her hand came back to pet them. Keith let her for the moment.

 

“Lord Lance said you weren’t scary,” the girl said.

 

Keith lifted his head to look at her and the girl pulled her hand away. “And what do you think now?”

 

The girl smiled brightly. “You’re soft. Lord Lance was right. I’m glad he asked me to take you his crown.”

 

“His crown?” Keith asked, but the girl was already running off and back to Lance’s side. Keith stared after her and watched as she lifted a ring of flowers and plopped them on top of Lance’s head where Keith’s own crown use to be. He lifted a hand to touch the crown, fingering the petals, and realized his hair had curled around their stems. He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to get the flowers out later. He wasn’t sure he cared.

 

Shiro did not let them break until the sun was high and the first moon showed on the horizon. Keith moved off to a corner with his bread and dried meat, resting beneath a tree. Lance and Hunk were cleaning up after the children who had been playfully chased off so the dragons could eat without scaring them. The Altean knights were all huddled together if not feeding their dragons and Shiro had the huge job of feeding his giant beast. Keith did not expect anyone to eat with him and jumped when he felt a small body settle beside his own. He turned to see the Green rider with her own meal laying down on the grass in his shadow.

 

“Lord Pidge?” Keith asked.

 

The Green rider glanced over at him and grinned. “I like when you call me that, but you don’t have to do it all of the time. Pidge is just a nickname, but you can call me by it.”

 

“Pidge, then what is your real name?” Keith asked.

 

Pidge hummed. “I suppose I can tell you since you let me throw stones at people with my new contraption. Katie. Katie of the Holt tribe.”

 

“Holt, not Garrison or Olkari?” Keith asked. “Hunk said your mother brought you here.”

 

“My mother is a Garrison, but my father is a Holt. We spent a lot of time with the Olkari, though, so I feel more like one of them. The Garrison isn’t terrible, though, just very Altean,” Pidge said.

 

“Why Pidge, though?” Keith asked.

 

“It’s just a word my brother picked out for me and it stuck just like Shiro stuck instead of Takashi. Everyone knows Shiro is the reigning family name of Ko-gane. Your last name is Ko, isn’t it, Keith?” Pidge asked.

 

“Yes. Ko is given to all orphans in Ko-gane. My father was an orphan and my mother gave no last name. Properly it is Keith Ko-gane and Takashi Shiro-gane. In Volganean, Ko-gane means gold metal. The royal family has been silver metal for years. They were the secondary reigning family before the Ko-gane family died out,” Keith explained.

 

“That’s nice and all, but I already knew all of that,” Pidge said and tore off a piece of her bread with her teeth.

 

Keith turned away and stared out onto the field. Shiro was cleaning his metal arm of blood from the meat for his dragon and Lance had just started feeding his own while trying to eat himself. He lost his dried meat to his beast and Keith chuckled.

 

“Are you two close?” Pidge asked.

 

“Who, me with Lance?”

 

“I meant the Prince Commander. Was that who you were looking at?”

 

Keith turned and looked at her with wide eyes. Pidge smirked and took another bite of her bread.

 

Keith turned back away and moved his attention to his charge. “Yes, Prince Shiro was my mentor when I first became a soldier and I often flew him places on Red. Then I became his protector when he returned.”

 

“Does he talk a lot about his time with the Galra?” the Green rider asked.

 

“I don’t ask, but he’ll mention it. He doesn’t remember much of it so I don’t like to make him feel uncomfortable. It’s been a few years.”

 

“A few years too many,” Pidge said.

 

Keith peeked over at her. She was looking to the side, her bread laid forgotten on her stomach, but Keith could see sadness in her amber eyes.

 

“We loss many good people to the Galra, but also to ourselves. You seem like a very bright Builder, Lord Pidge. Your brother would be proud of you,” Keith said.

 

Pidge sat up and peeked at Keith. “You figured it out?”

 

“You said you were originally a Holt. I met Matt once or twice. He was close to Prince Shiro. I did think you two looked similar and you talk the same. Calling those around him pal was something he did often.”

 

“My father and Matt were with Prince Shiro during his excavation of the mountain ridge bordering the Galra territory. Your prince was just suppose to be their guard while they were in Ko-gane, but then they were ambushed. The Alteans were saying the Ko had started kidnapping Builders in order to take over our lands, but I knew that wasn’t the case. And then Prince Shiro showed back up.”

 

“Yes, but only him,” Keith said.

 

“Only him,” Pidge agreed.

 

Keith turned and sat a bit closer to the Green rider. He didn’t think Lance’s friends were so bad. “Does Prince Shiro know who you are?”

 

“I thought he might not. I cut all my hair off when I bonded with Green so it would be easier to fly and it’s been a few years so I’ve grown, but you’re right when you said I look like my brother. I couldn’t hide from him at the treaty signing. We’ve had a very brief, but warm discussion. That’s why the Builder riders are here today. We want to fight, too, but our tribes believe in peace so they won’t form an army, that’s also part of our trade agreement, but we can join an army to help. Those closer to Ko-gane are joining the Ko.”

 

“We can use all the help we can get,” Keith said.

 

“Yeah, I want those Galra guys out of here fast,” Pidge said and leaned against Keith’s shoulder, surprising him, but not unwanted. “No offense to you.”

 

“I don’t like them either,” Keith said and lowered his shoulder a bit for her comfort.

 

“You know, I always did like Prince Shiro when he visited us. It would make sense I would like his friends.”

 

Keith reddened. “Thank you, Lord Pidge.”

 

“You’re welcome, Lord Keith.”

 


 

 

An oddity of living in the north, Keith found, was that he still sweated as much as he had in Ko-gane as he practiced. He had gotten use to the heat, and though it still felt hot, it took more than just standing in the blazing sun to get him drenched, but he could feel sweat soaked into his clothes as he stood in the battle simulation area fighting off the soldiers that came at him. The cold air ate at his warm body and it was like an icy shell keeping his warmth inside while freezing the tip of his nose and fingers. He was tempted to use fire when the thought came to him, but the soldiers were getting better and better with each passing day and he had less thoughts during training than before. He didn’t want to dampen their progress.

 

A sword came at Keith and he bent backwards sliding a few feet across the dirt before spinning himself around and catching the next attack with his sword. It was hard and heavy, but Keith had braced for worse. He thought this kid would do well with a long sword. Keith didn’t say that until he had hit the kid three times and had him curled up in fetal position on the ground representing a fallen body like the others curled up in the dirt, an act to help the others be aware of their surroundings and not lose their life simply from tripping over their own feet.

 

For a moment, Keith was clear of opponents. His side was winning, perhaps planned as they had also stuck Lance with him to lead the archers with their soft tipped chalk colored arrows. Keith looked around and saw the Blue rider behind one of the wooden cut outs shaped like a bush. He peeked out and drew his bow aiming, a grin on his face. Keith followed his aim and grinned as well. Since he had no opponent, he’d take one. There was a bulky girl beating down two scrawnier fighters and Keith rushed forward, jabbing with his sword after Lance’s first bow hit.

 

“Was that three?” he asked her.

 

“Yeah,” she said wrinkling her nose.

 

“Down on the ground with you then,” Keith said.

 

“Hey, you stole my kill!” Lance yelled from his cover.

 

“And you should watch your back!” Keith yelled back.

 

“Oh quiznacks! You blew my cover!” Lance turned and pulled out a sword from his belt beginning to fight off the other team.

 

Keith sighed and rushed over. He jumped over the bush cut out and started fighting off the opponents as well.

 

“Hey, get your own guys, these are mine,” Lance said and nudged Keith’s shoulder roughly.

 

“I thought you…” Keith started then paused to push Lance back hard, “...needed help...Be happy I’m helping.”

 

“Like I need your help,” Lance said.

 

“Behind you!” Keith called out.

 

“Right back at you, Mullet Lord.”

 

They twirled around each other and swung their swords at the approaching opponents.

 

A whistle blew and all swords were dropped.

 

“Alright guys, good show. The sun won’t be out much longer, it’s time to clean up,” Shiro called from where he had been observing on the wall of the training arena. “Group A is in charge of the battlefield. Everyone else on the losing team has to do the rest of the clean up. Winning team, put away your stuff then go wash up. I’m not allowing any night practice unless it's ranged. I advise everyone to work on their dracolisk riding if you get bored tonight.”

 

“I’m so glad we’re the winning team,” Lance said reaching up and stretching out his arms.”

 

“Of course we won,” Keith said. “It was unfair putting both Right Hands on the same side.”

 

“If I had put you two on opposite sides, you two would have caused a scene,” Shiro said from behind them. “You guys fight enough as comrades.”

 

“Prince Commander, good fight, huh,” Lance said grinning.

 

“Good fighting indeed, but shouldn’t you be hurrying to Princess Allura? She wanted a sunset stroll and she can’t go without her protector,” Shiro said.

 

“Oh, right! Come Lord Fluffy Ears, we have to get cleaned up,” Lance said and grabbed Keith’s arm dragging him to the makeshift shack of showers.

 

“Wait, Lord Lance!” Keith said and looked back at Shiro.

 

The Prince Commander just waved his good hand at Keith. “I’ll be here a while longer, it’s fine.”

 

Keith kept his head low as he stripped himself down to his breeches in one of the stalls and dumped a cloth into the bucket of half warmed water he had been offered. He had thought about warming it more with his own fire, but that would have been a waste of time when he had a much better bath waiting for him in the castle, something most of these soldiers didn’t have. He was rough with his scrubbing wanting to get all the dirt off his body.

 

“You don’t have to be so quick. The other half of the guys won’t be done for a while and they’ll have the actual hot water,” Lance said entering the stall beside Keith.

 

“It’s freezing,” Keith said.

 

“Aren’t you hot, though. Flying is fun and all, but ground training is where the real sweat is. I like Prince Shiro’s way of training, it gets me out on the field more. I have all the practice time I want with a bow, but I needed a good reminder with a sword. If we practice in the forests, I can use a short ranged bow. Pew pew pew!” Lance lifted his arms and moved them in a semi-circle around his stall imitating drawing his bow. His last imaginary arrow landed on Keith.

 

Keith had seen the callouses on Lance’s fingers many a time, but stripped of his shirt and gloves, Keith could see a few noticeable, but small scars on his arms decorating the flexed muscles beneath his tan skin. Farther up, there was a larger nastier, but old scar on one of Lance’s broad shoulders. Across his chest, Keith couldn’t find any noticeable markings other than one below a dusky nipple and a patch of dark hair at his belly button that went lower. His belly button moved, abs flexing with the sound of laughter and Keith looked up.

 

“You know, Lord Keith, you’re not suppose to oggle people in the training arena shower. Soldier code,” Lance said and turned away.

 

Faintly, faintly, Keith could see old, but fair scars from a dragon’s claw on the Blue rider’s back. A Gold’s or White’s claw, as if they had barely managed to catch his skin in passing. Keith turned away as well. “I wasn’t ogling. You have some bad scars.”

 

“So do you,” Lance said back. “You’ve got some pretty bad bite marks on your thighs.”

 

“You can’t see my thighs right now,” Keith said then lifted his head and glared at Lance. “When did you see those?”

 

Lance just hummed and scrubbed at his face with his towel. “That’s for me to know and you to be forever curious about.”

 

Keith didn’t force the subject. The teeth marks were Red’s from when he had first become a night and entered into battle. He had fallen off multiple times and Red had did what she could to save him. Unlike the other scars Keith had received from fighting a useless war, those marks he treasured. They told him how much Red loved him.

 

“Hey, aren’t you going to wash your hair?” Lance called.

 

Keith looked up. “Hmm, no I--”

 

Suddenly, there was a bucket of water thrown at his face. It was so cold, he gasped at the feeling and shook his head vigorously.

 

“Hey, you look like a dog shaking your head like that.”

 

Keith glared at Lance from beneath his wet bangs. “I’ll show you a wet dog, Ice Master. Freeze this!” He grabbed his own bucket and threw it at Lance.

 

The Blue rider didn’t particularly dodge, but he did hold his hands up, only a few drops of water catching him while the rest turned into a puff of snow. “I’m a Level 1 Ice Master, remember?”

 

“Whatever,” Keith said and grabbed a dry towel to fluff his hair with in hopes of drying it quicker. He hadn’t wanted to fly in the cold with wet hair in his face. “I’m done showering.”

 

“Me, too,” Lance said and exited his stall.

 

Keith ignored Lance as he followed him over to the area where most of the soldiers had laid their jackets across when it had gotten too hot just as much as he ignored the other shirtless soldiers, men and women, in the stalls cleaning up.

 

“Alright, I’m ready to go,” Lance announced.

 

“Then go, I have to wait for Prince Shiro,” Keith reminded.

 

Lance frowned. “Right. Well, then see you later!”

 

The Blue rider walked into the clearing close to the main gates of the practice arena. Not even a minute later, his Blue appeared, not bothering to land, just picking him up with his hind legs and lifting the waving idiot away.

 

Keith thought, perhaps Lance’s claw marks weren’t from battling, but from a Blue dragon that was just as much of an idiot as its rider.

 

“Are you ready to go, Keith?”

 

Keith turned hearing Shiro’s voice and bowed. “Whenever you are.”

 

“Did I startle you?” Shiro asked.

 

Keith straightened up and turned back to watch Lance leave. He had managed to climb onto his dragon properly. “Larger dragons, do they understand how to be gentle with smaller things?”

 

“As much as a toddler knows how to hold a flower,” Shiro answered. “The more experienced the dragon, the gentler they know how to be though they may choose not to. But even Red was a bit rough, wasn’t she?”

 

“Yeah, I guess all dragons are a bit like their riders,” Keith said.

 

“Most pairs are alike or complementary in some ways. Like you and Lord Lance.”

 

“We’re not a pair, though,” Keith argued.

 

“In some ways you are. You two will have a lot of time together and you seem to be spending more and more of it in each others company. I think you’re friends.”

 

“We’re rivals,” Keith corrected. “Lance’s words.”

 

“Lance?” Shiro said, tone lifted teasingly. “Not Lord Lance?”

 

Keith reddened. “He’s insufferable. He poured water over my head in the stalls just now.” He lifted the towel back to his head and draped it over his hair covering his face and slowly patted it against his black locks careful of his ears. He smiled though, hoping he had hid it enough from Shiro and added, “But, he’s a good guy.”

 

 

 

 

 

Link to Glossary Thing: LINK

It has descriptions of the dragons.

 

Chapter Text

7. The Risks

 

Two months passed before trouble came. The treaty between the Ko and the Alteans had come soon after a rough attack on a traveling Ko nomad group in the mountains in which there had been no survivors. The Galra had try to infiltrate one of the southwestern Builder tribes near the Ko border. Reminded of the kidnapping of Prince Shiro, the court urged King Akira to reach out to Altea who they knew had had more trouble with the Galra before the treaty, but had kept how bad it was to themselves while still trying to fight Ko-gane. Aside from the assassination attempt, there had been nothing but peace for two months. Keith had grown up in war, his every nerve tingled for it. Without an announced win, two months was two months too long. The Galra might not be taking this seriously, but the day they signed that treaty was the day Ko-gane, Altea, and the Builders announced war on the Galra Empire.

 

“Alright, troops, the ride to the Balmera tribe will be long, but you must stay strong and keep a look out,” Prince Shiro said standing next to the tallest kirin Keith had seen yet in Altea. “Pray to Voltron that by the time you arrive, the Knights would have already forced our enemy back beneath their dark clouds.”

 

There were cheers of agreement and Shiro handed the reigns of the kirin over to General Iverson. The ex-Chief Commander pulled himself onto the mount and picked up where Shiro had left off. “Ko soldiers have already started their march. Even by our allies, we can’t be shown up. We may not have dragons, but we have heart. Let’s head out, soldiers!”

 

Keith watched as two thirds of their ranked soldiers began to march into the closest woods. It had only been two hours since they had received notice of the attack. It had been the brother of the bulky Brown rider Lord Hunk was acquainted with, a Green rider new to flying. He had come urgently asking for their aid. The Galra had sent a party to one of their largest mines in the Balmera Canyon and overtaken it a day before where important gems and metals were harvested and used in the best of the Builders’ inventions. The Galra had tied down all dragons on the site and imprisoned the Balmer Builders, forcing a few to harvest metals for them. This brother had been one. Keith had been right that the Green rider was new to flying. He had only managed to escape because he had impressed upon a Green that happened to be napping in the farthest corners of the cavern. The beast had been wounded severely trying to get away.

 

“Come, to the Lair. Lord Lance should be ready with the Builder knights we’ve been training,” Shiro said as he passed Keith.

 

Keith followed the prince to where their dragons were nesting on the wall of the practice arena they were gathered in where the other third of the ranked soldiers stayed speed training those still not strong enough just incase the Galra showed up here as well.

 

The flight to the Lair was quick. Lines and lines of dragons and their riders waited in formation for their leader. Shiro landed, his mighty beast taking up most of the room left and so Keith rested Red against Black’s back. Black barely seemed to notice, but she wouldn’t have cared either way. He climbed down as Shiro began his speech and went to stand next to Lance who was strapped up from head to toe with weapons, but little armor.

 

“That’s not the armor I saw the other archers wearing,” Keith whispered to him.

 

Lance raised a brow. “Talking during the speech? Well, you’ve probably heard him say it once already. I’m not just an archer. If you didn’t notice, I have multiple bows and Blue has a satchel. They all do. I’m going to have to move fast. It’s easier just to have ice armor, it’ll move with me.”

 

Keith nodded. He could cover his body in fire, but never hot enough to really protect him, more of a scare tactic. He could see the Builders had brought weapons of their own. Pidge had a huge mess attached to her Green.

 

“Where is Lord Hunk?” Keith asked not seeing the Gold and its friendly rider.

 

“Someone has to guard the princess,” Lance said.

 

“Then shouldn’t you stay?”

 

Lance frowned. “I’m not a guard. She doesn’t like sending me out here, but I’m the best long ranged fighter we have and a top flyer. Plus, I can stay cool under pressure unlike others.” He gave Keith a quick pointed glance.

 

Keith let the look go, they didn’t have time for banter, Shiro was almost finished with his speech. “So you left Hunk? I thought he would want to save his lady friend.”

 

“Oh, he does and he’s not a bad fighter, but he’s all support and heavy weaponry. We don’t know a lot about the Galra so we don’t know what support we need. But, mostly, if something was to happen to the Crystal Castle, I trust Hunk to take care of my princess as much as Hunk trusts me to make sure Shay is safe.”

 

“I promise we’ll get her back,” Keith said.

 

“Hey, now, this is war. I didn’t even promise Hunk that.”

 

Lance’s face had slipped into a blank state, but Keith could make out just a hint of sparkle in them. He was determined. Keith could agree with that feeling. They were not going to go down to the Galra now.

 

“Alright, let’s fly!” Shiro yelled and mounted his dragon.

 

Red jumped off from Black and Keith hopped onto her as she flew past taking a spot on Shiro’s right. Lance flew up and gathered the line of archer knights perched on the top of the Lair’s main building. They rose with him and followed above the rest of the formation as they all followed the only Black dragon in Altea.

 

It was another hour before they made it to the canyons of the Balmera tribe’s lands. The mine that had been overtaken was already under siege by Ko knights. Dragons of all colors flew about spitting fire at running Galra and Galra contraptions. A few of the knights had proceeded to hando hand combat while their dragons moved on their own and were urging Galra soldiers out of in the caves.

 

And there was blood.

 

“There, Galra dragons!” a knight yelled.

 

Keith turned then looked down. Contraptions half the size of Keith’s Red hovered just below them, humming with bright lights, squeaking as metal wings rapidly flapped. Their scales were sheets of black metal that looked similar to the dragon ri the Amber castle was made from. From their mouths, they shot pellets. The pellets bruised, but didn’t penetrate their dragons’ scales, but Keith remembered the pain of just having one graze his own skin and made sure to stay close to Red’s neck and brought up his shield.

 

There were screams from behind Keith. Most of the Altean Knights had covered themselves with a layer of ice where their armor was weak and had begun to dive bomb the flying contraptions. Keith stayed close to Shiro, the Black dragon an unfathomable force against the machines, claws striking them down with heavy swipes and teeth ripping straight into the metal sheets. Shiro could only hold on, eyes closed tight. Keith couldn’t blame the prince. King Akira had not allowed his youngest son to fight any Galra raids on their borders. Keith was not certain of the thoughts going through Shiro’s mind, but he could see the emotions. Black was a good dragon, though, and a born leader, and Keith could take up the duty of guiding her when needed.

 

“Alright, Red, blast them!” Keith said and held tight as his dragon dived down and began to light the ground with fire right at the feet of the earthbound Galra soldiers shooting at them with their pellet weapons. They screamed, their fur singed and the flying machines’ attention was brought away from Black and to Keith. Keith moved his fight to the contraptions surrounding the mine. Loss of equipment had been covered in their briefing. Doing so would put back the work of the Balmera Builders, but Keith knew more than that, they needed to finish quickly.

 

“Collapse the bridges!” Keith yelled to the knights around him. “Burn the ropes. Those inside will be trapped where they stand. Browns! Ride into the canyon and start scouting the mines. They all get one chance to drop their weapons before you kill. Greens, get these guys off from me! The rest, keep holding them back”

 

“Keith!”

 

Keith turned hearing Shiro calling out to him. Black was spinning about trying to shake a Galra ship literally off her scales. The soldiers had crawled out of the contraption and were headed towards Shiro’s seat on Black’s head, using their knives to keep hold on the dragon’s back. Keith gritted his teeth and rushed forward. As soon as he was close enough, Keith jumped from Red and landed with a roll on Black’s back. He pulled out his sword, lighting his hands with the fire. Red and hot, it covered his shield and lit his sword making him just as dangerous to block as to attack. And unlike the Galra soldiers, Keith knew how to keep his balance on a dragon. He hurried along Black’s scales towards the soldiers headed for Shiro who had already unbuckled himself and was coming at the soldiers from the other end, right hand lit up with fire and the mechanical parts sparking while he held a sword in the other hand.

 

“Hey, behind you!” Keith yelled and one of the soldiers stopped and turned around just as Keith launched himself at them with a kick. The soldier fell and rolled off the dragon to fall hopelessly to the ground below. Keith turned to Shiro just in time to see him stab a fiery sword through the other soldier’s chest.

 

“Thank you, Keith,” Shiro said smiling at first then his eyes widened. “There’s another fleet coming. It seems they know who is leading this, but it’s not that easy to take down Black.”

 

“Don’t worry, I’ll get rid of them. I can be just as much of a target. You just stay on Black and out of harm’s way. I saw you earlier. Just stay here and we’ll go into the mines together. We’ve almost got all of these soldiers, next is the rescue mission,” Keith said and began to run down Black’s back and to her tail. When he felt Red nearby, he jumped, barely catching himself, the adrenaline in his veins throwing off his timing.

 

A fleet of new Galra dragon ships appeared from the mines. They were fighting off a few of the Brown knights that had followed them out, but most were headed towards Black. Shiro’s Black was powerful, but her usefulness went down in smaller areas like this. They were more of a decoy and Keith preferred it like that. If Shiro fell before any of them then they had all failed and Keith the most. Keith quickly got onto his feet and steadied himself on Red. She was just big enough for him to move around on her back without getting in the way of her flying. He reached inside his jacket covering his chest armor and pulled out a few of his throwing daggers. His hands lit up with flames and he threw them at the ships. That seemed to get their attention enough to follow after Keith. Once he was sure they were after him, Keith seated himself again and looked around. The archers were at the corner of the battle, most on the ground hiding behind their dragons that shot ice and fire at any incoming enemy. Keith grinned and hurried at them.

 

“Lance!” he yelled as he dove through two dragons firing at his incoming trail of ships.

 

“Everyone, fire!” Lance yelled from his position flying above the archers then dived down to meet Keith.

 

“The Galra soldiers are almost all down especially now that the dragons they were keeping down have been freed. What’s next?” Lance asked.

 

“Help me cover Shiro as we go down into the mines to rescue the Balmeras. There are definitely still soldiers in there and I didn’t see any holding facilities on the surface so the captives must be inside,” Keith said.

 

“What do we do if more Galra come to help? After this mine got captured, the ones closest were abandoned,” Lance said.

 

“You just leave that to me!”

 

Keith turned to see Pidge grinning from ear to ear, a bit of blood on one cheek. “Lord Pidge?”

 

“Remember the rock throwing thing? Well I think the Galra pellet weapons are similar. I rigged up some contraptions to throw rocks faster and harder that fit on Greens. If I can have ice and fire rocks, that would be even better.”

 

Keith nodded. “You are a real clever one. Gather as many Green knights as you need and any Ice and Fire Masters that will lend a hand. Keep us guarded from the outside while we go in.”

 

“Alright, let’s go get Prince Shiro down in those mines,” Lance said.

 

They flew back to Black. The giant dragon moved over to the canyon of the mine casting a shadow across most of it and Shiro jumped off. Lance flew in catching the prince on his Blue and Keith landed his Red at the bottom where Green knights were fighting off a few soldiers and keeping an eye out. Lance lanced with Shiro a few seconds later. They pulled out their weapons and started attacking until the Knights were free of the soldiers.

 

“Knights, have you learned anything about the captured Builders?” Shiro asked.

 

“Sir! Prince-Commander, the few Balmera riders we have with us said the most likely area would be in the east wing of the mines. We sent most of them there, but there doesn’t seem to be any luck. I would suggest the west side in order to cover more area,” one of the Green knights said.

 

“Thank you, keep up the good work,” Shiro said and gathered a few more knights to follow them into the mine.

 

Keith had never been in a mine before. The royal family rarely went to the few they had in Ko-gane and as he had become a night and Shiro’s protector quite young, Keith had missed the opportunity to. For the most part, they just looked like dark and sandy caves, but the farther they made their way into them, the more intrigued Keith became. They found a cave where crystals were still embedded into the rock, small, but shining almost as if they were pulsing with life. The farther in they went, the more crystals there were and other shiny rocks, buckets full, but the pulsing rocks stayed in the walls. Voltronite, a sacred rock only extracted for religious reasons in the master kingdoms, but the Builders used them to power their contraptions. They were usually much bigger than these ones when extracted and ground into a fine dust.

 

Eventually, they came to a stop. Shiro led them, Keith and Lance and a few knights, the others instructed to go down different paths as they passed them, to hide behind a wall as he peered around.

 

“Keith,” Shiro whispered and pointed to his own ears.

 

Keith’s ears twitched and he listened intentlly. He could hear voices, frantic and others more demanding. He nodded and turned to the knights signalling them to go. A couple of them moved forward and slinked down the path the others following behind. There was a large clearing where Galra soldiers were walking weapons out and ready and behind them were small caves blocked off with bars made of strange light that housed many of the Balmera captives. The knight at the front turned to get a signal from Shiro. The prince held up three fingers and nodded. The Knight put up his own fingers and started counting down. On three, they all leapt into the space.

 

Surprised, the Galra soldiers began to shoot immediately. The knights with high enough levels put up shields made of ice. Lance put up his own to cover both Shiro and Keith as they made their way over to the closest cave. Ice shattered everywhere around them and Keith was sure at least one of the knights had been downed, but more Galra had been disarmed.

 

“Is it the Alteans or the Ko that have come to rescue us?” said one of the Builders, an old woman past her time to be in the mines.

 

“Both, and fellow Builders,” Shiro said. “Lord Keith, stick your sword through these lights.”

 

Keith did only to find it immediately sliced in half. “It’s like a Black’s fire. How do we get you out?”

 

“We do not know,” the old Builder said. “A few have tried to walk out of the lights and have met fates far worse than your sword.”

 

“If it’s fire, let's try ice,” Lance said and moved his shield to the lights. It stood up longer putting a hole just large enough for a single Balmera to get through quickly, but then melted. “Well, it’ll be slow going, but if we can keep the soldiers off, we can get these guys through.”

 

“Keith, can you bend this fire?” Shiro asked.

 

“I’m not sure if this is even fire. That’s a level one ability,” Keith said. “I will try though.”

 

“Good, the faster we can get these guys out the better,” Shiro said. “I’ll go and see if I can’t trip whatever contraption it is that is causing these lights.”

 

“I’ll get these guys out, you go on to the next cell. See if you can’t find Shay. I won’t be able to look Hunk in the eye unless I know she’s safe,” Lance said.

 

Keith hurried over to the next set of caves and let his fire spread across his hands. He reached towards the bars of lights and urged his flames to lick them, coax them to his will. He had been studying for a level advancements before they left Ko-gane, but there hadn’t been much time for physical practice with all the battles against the Alteans that had occurred right before the treaty and Shiro never stopped to work on his own level advancements though Prince Sven would always be the better Fire Master, a Black would not choose a rider without promise. He hoped it worked, though. The lights didn’t seem to reject his fire’s touch and he stepped back to pull away hoping to pull the bars with him. They gave way and Keith reached out for more bars and bent them away just far enough to give room for the Builders inside to escape. This was definitely going faster than the Ice Master’s way of doing it, but he didn’t think he could keep it up for as long. This was new to Keith and it took more out of him.

 

The few Galra soldiers that had been inside had been taken care of. Two knights, low level masters, stood by the entrance while the others tried to get the other captives out. A few Builders armed with the fallen Galra’s weapons had gone off ahead to get help and clear the paths. It still sounded as if fighting was happening over head.

 

“How many friends did the Galra have close by?” Lance yelled across the clearing.

 

“They have contraptions. We don’t know how fast they can travel,” Keith yelled back letting down the bars of one cave to move to the next.

 

“Did Rax send you?” one of the Builders asked when she escaped.

 

“Yes,” Keith said barely recognizing the name of Shay’s brother.

 

“I’m his partner. I ride a Gold. He’s not the only one that got out of the Galra’s hold. Shay, his sister, she is held down that path. I use to hear screaming. I use to hear terrible screaming. I think her dragon was the one that went to the Ko people. That was when Rax had gotten out, too.”

 

“Thank you,” Keith said.

 

“She favors a Garrison Builder. I do not see him, but I know he is friends with you Kingdom riders,” the Balmera said then hurried over to the others.

 

Overhead, Keith could hear more commotion muffled by the layers of earth between them, but it shook the caverns in the mines and dust began to fall. He could feel Red screeching angrily, glimpses of weapons unknown to Keith filled his mind, but he knew enough to realize what those weapons could do.

 

“We need to hurry, the mine is going to collapse. Send the message to your dragon and have them spread it!” Keith yelled.

 

“This is ridiculous,” Shiro growled as he ushered Balmeras out, dark eyes darting everywhere in the cavern of caves. He stopped and brought his mechanic arm up twisting and turning small bits on it until his arm clicked. It sparked and then Shiro lit it with his fire causing him to wince.

 

“Your Highness, what are you doing?” Keith called.

 

“Don’t worry, it only stings a little. Matt use to tell me about this thing called overriding. I doubt I’m doing it correctly, but I can at least try and break these bars.” The prince moved over to one of the unopened caves and reached up. There were little metal bits crushed into the tops of the cave openings. He sent small balls of his fire sparking from his mechanic arm towards the metal bits where the lights were coming from. It took a couple, but eventually the metal bits sparked as well and exploded in a small puff and the light died out. “Alright, that worked a lot faster. Everyone, destroy the metal parts. Builders, stand back.”

 

The tactic switched, the knights began to release the Balmera captives much quicker.

 

“I think that’s all of them, sir,” one of the knights said coming up to Keith as Shiro gave instructions to the rest.

 

“Are there more elsewhere? Where’s Shay?” Lance asked.

 

“One of the Balmera said they had her held captive down that way,” Keith said and pointed to a side path.

 

“Why didn’t you say so earlier?” Lance asked, voice raised.

 

Keith looked away. “The Balmera we can actually see were more important...it seemed like they were torturing her. She hasn’t been heard for a while.”

 

Lance hung his head, the fight leaving his form. “Let’s at least retrieve her body. Hunk and her brother will want to see it.”

 

Keith nodded and started over to Shiro to tell them when the cave began to shake dangerously, rocks beginning to fall.

 

“Lord Lance, Lord Keith, we need to get out of here. The other knights sent message that there aren’t anymore captives in the other sectors. This mine is about to collapse,” Shiro yelled.

 

Keith turned his head to the hallway where the Balmera had said Shay was held captive. He had just promised Lance they would get Shay. It had slipped out and he hadn’t really thought about it, but a promise was a promise. “Prince Shiro, get to Black with the rest of the Balmera. If you don’t make it out then they wouldn’t have either. Red will make sure that doesn’t happen, though. You won’t be out of my site for long.”

 

“Wait, Lord Keith!” Shiro yelled. “Where is he going?”

 

“To get Shay’s body,” Lance said. “Quiznak! Keith, just leave her, the cave is going to collapse. She’ll be buried anyways.”

 

“What if she’s alive,” Keith yelled back already running. There were feet behind him. He glanced back hoping it wasn’t Shiro. It was Lance.

 

“Keith, let me get her, you go back to the prince,” Lance yelled. “Hunk is my friend.”

 

Keith stopped and turned with furrowed brows. “He said he was my friend, too, and I’m the one that made the promise.”

 

“You made that promise to me, not Hunk,” Lance said, but tightened his and sighed. “Fine, but let’s be quick.”

 

The hall was long, but they made it to the end quickly. A large set girl with yellow eyes looked over at them and tried to yell, but her sounds were blocked by a mask on her face. She was hung up by chains that went all of the way up and out of the cave. Rocks were falling all around her and there were lights encircling her like the ones in the cave entrances.

 

“I’ll pull the lights, you get her down,” Keith said.

 

“On it!”

 

Once Lance was inside, he threw ice at the chains holding Shay up. She fell down in a heap and Lance rushed forward to catch her all the while she was muffling urgently, yellow eyes darting towards Keith. Perhaps it was his ears, Keith wasn’t sure until Lance turned with his bow in hand and shot at Keith’s head. There was a groan as a Galra soldier fell to the ground behind Keith. Keith turned to see a few Galra soldiers coming in from another entrance of the cave close to the one they had come from.

 

“Hurry!” Keith called.

 

Shay came through first with Lance firing a close range bow with short arrows a the soldiers. Once he was out, Keith let go of the lights and went to Shay undoing her cuffs. “Hurry now, meet up with the rest, we’ll deal with these guys.”

 

“If you’re sure,” she said and hurried down the path.

 

Keith rushed forward with fire in hands and pulled his dagger from his belt. The dagger lit up with fire as well that reached out elongating it turning purple where it touched the blade. Lance pulled out his own sword and held icicles in his opposite hand ready to fight with Keith ending up back to back.

 

“Cool knife,” Lance said as he threw a handful of ice at a soldier.

 

“It’s Galra I think,” Keith said. “An heirloom.”

 

“I can tell. To your right! Did your mother give you that?”

 

“As a matter of fact, yes,” Keith said. “Duck!” He turned and swung his knife over Lance’s head just as Lance kneeled down, the fire whipping out.

 

“That sort of ruins the whole joke.”

 

“No time for jokes, let’s go.”

 

They hurried down the path with Lance lagging behind shooting arrows behind them at the chasing Galra. There was a sudden groan and Keith turned to see Lance holding one of his shoulders.

 

“Are you alright?”

 

“Fine, keep going, I can still shoot. But, just so you know, those pellets hurt more than a kirin’s bite. And their teeth are saw toothed.”

 

“How do you know what a kirin’s bite feels like?” Keith asked throwing a few fireballs at the Galra soldiers as well.

 

“I’ll show you when we get back.”

 

Keith didn’t want to know, but he was comforted by the thought of getting back. Up ahead, he was surprised to see Shiro and a few knights still waiting for them. He looked angry, but also relieved.

 

“What are you still doing here?” Keith asked when he was close enough

 

“Waiting for my protector to protect me,” Shiro answered.

 

“I was protecting you! We’ve got soldiers on our tails.”

 

“And we’ve got a mine collapsing, let's get to our dragons, now!”

 

“Lance, stop shooting and lets go!” Keith yelled back.

 

“If I stop shooting then they’ll shoot! Ah quiznaks! The pellets hurt, they really hurt! I’m running now!”

 

Keith paused a few feet away from Shiro and looked behind him. Lance was too far behind. He reached out his hand. “Come on!”

 

The whole cavern was rumbling now, more rocks falling and the soldiers still shooting at them. Lance grabbed Keith’s hand. Keith held it tight as they ran, but they only got a couple steps before Lance pushed him in front, almost throwing him as part of the ceiling collapsed, a pellet catching Keith’s ear. He hissed and tumbled forward.

 

“Lord Lance! Lord Keith!” Shiro yelled rushing forward.

 

“Your majesty,” Keith groaned and looked at the crumble of rocks blocking them from the pursuing Galra. He couldn’t hear them. He couldn’t hear Lance. The Blue knight was laid flat on his face at the feet of the rocks. Keith hurried over to him turning him over. Luckily, he hadn’t been buried beneath the debris, but his blue eyes were closed and his breathing shallow and there were indication that the impact had caught mostly him, plus the pellet wounds. The veins around the wounds were turning purple. “Lance! Lord Lance! Wake up!”

 

“Hand him to me,” Shiro said coming over to them.

 

“The pellets, I think they’re poisonous, and he won’t wake up,” Keith said holding Lance tighter.

 

“We’ll deal with that on Black. Right now we have to get out of here.”

 

Slowly, Keith looked away from Lance’s passed out body and up at Shiro. He wasn’t sure what kind of face he was making, but he had never felt this panicked before, never had his heart beat so erratically against his chest. He wanted Lance to be okay. He could only compare it to when Shiro had been kidnapped, but he hadn’t been there when it had happened, no one other than Shiro had come back that had. He must have looked pathetic enough for Shiro to kneel down and place a hand on his head.

 

“Shi...ro?” Keith asked and tilted his head to the side letting Shiro’s touch become more of a pet against his intact ear.

 

“He’ll be fine, Keith. I’ll carry him and you just make sure to protect us both from now on. If you cry, you’ll throw off your aim.”

 

Was he crying? Keith refrained from rubbing his eyes and stood helping Shiro carry Lance on his back.

 

“Let’s move out, now!” Shiro yelled to the rest of the knights still left behind.

 

Keith took a deep breath and followed.

 


 

 

The Altean medical bay was strange to Keith. The lights were low and glowed blue from the light bulbs the Builders had crafted and it was a cold just chilly enough to need one more blanket. Lance laid in a tub just deep enough to cover all but the very surface of his body in a teal colored healing salve Keith was familiar with. In Ko-gane, they kept you in a barrel like tub over a low fire pit with the same liquid. Keith wasn’t sure if the temperature really mattered or not or if it was just a precaution for their connection with the elements. There couldn’t be that much difference between Fire and Ice Masters. They were more similar than the Galra and the Ko and yet Keith had been created.

 

They said Lance would need to stay under a cold induced sleep for a few days as the salve healed his bones. Many of them had broken from the rocks that had hit him when the cavern’s roof had collapsed. He had also been hit in the head and had been bleeding, but Keith’s main focus once they had reached Black was the pellets lodged in Lance’s tan skin.

 

The medics had yelled at Keith for it once they had made it back to the castle, but Keith couldn’t bring himself to regret it. He had little knowledge in healing, but he could tell when something was poisoned. A show from other knights that had been shot proved it. The only reason Keith didn’t show any signs was most likely do to his Galra genes. As Shiro had laid Lance inside his carriage saddle on Black, Keith had immediately started checking Lance over and found the pellets hadn’t gone all the way through. They weren’t meant to. Without thinking, he had shoved his finger into the first hole he saw and dug one out. The pellet stung Keith’s fingers for only a second.

 

Shiro had taken it from him then with his mechanical arm, tossed it to his other, then immediately back into his right hand again as if he had been stung. He lit his hand on fire and took the pellet again, let it coat the small bit of metal then placed it back into his bare hand. Nothing. It was simply coated.

 

With that simple bit of knowledge, Keith had his fingers back into Lance’s flesh. The Blue rider barely came to for just a second to groan as Keith let a slow fire move from his fingertips and pulled out closing the wound up as he went. He continued for every pellet he found ignoring the smell of burning skin right under his nose. It wasn’t a smell he was unfamiliar with. None of this was really. Other than the Galra contraptions and weapons, Keith had experienced battles and rescue missions before, but nothing felt as frightening as this. Keith would be dead before he ever let Shiro get this hurt, every other soldier knew the risks. Comrades fell.

 

Lance couldn’t fall though.

 

Keith had stayed as close to Lance as he could while still being at Shiro’s side. He held him close the whole way back to the Crystal Castle and carried his weapons as Shiro carried Lance (Keith had tried but he had never felt so weak before) to the medical bay immediately. He hovered behind the medics asking if Lance would be alright doing more worrying to cover his, Allura’s, and Coran’s concern while they tried to keep face while getting the report from Shiro and the generals that returned afterwards, a few left to secure the mining site while they waited for the soldiers to arrive. They didn’t pay Keith any attention until the medics started yelling about the burn marks. They had wanted to examine the poisoned tissue, but as other knights found out, ignoring the pellets caused damage to their nervous systems. A few of the ones that hadn’t been fatally shot had found themselves a much less cooler version of the Prince Commander and every dragon had been ordered a washing. The poison didn’t seem to affect them, but any contact with the poison those pellets had been coated with for their riders was dangerous.

 

Once Lance had been fully looked over, they had brought him to one of the salve baths and left him to wake up. Shiro had patted Keith on the shoulder and told him he would be getting a meeting together and wouldn’t be leaving the castle for a while. Keith understood there was more meaning to that even without Shiro moving his hand up to Keith’s uninjured ear and scratching it when no one was watching. He had tried to leave the med-bay, no one was allowed in for at least an hour, but he found himself coming back to hover at the door and just watching Lance in his healing bath, replaying everything that had happened.

 

He was so stupid.

 

Six six hundred taps of his foot later and Keith pushed the door inside and went to take the seat by Lance’s tub. It was raised up on a platform letting the cool air in the room move in and around the tub. Keith wasn’t sure how long he stayed there staring at Lance’s naked body submerged in the salve, but it felt long enough for him to have made a story for each and every scar prominent enough to be seen on Lance’s color rich skin, a color not as bright as he was use to seeing, pale from the fever and the fatigue brought on by the fight to heal. There was a sprinkling of freckles across Lance’s cheeks and nose Keith had never noticed before so close to his skin color and his eyelashes were dark and long. Keith found himself begging and begging them to flutter, just once, to let him see Lance’s royal blues just once more, to know they still had mischievous life in them.

 

He missed Lance.

 

For however insufferable the Blue knight was, Keith did not wish him true harm. He was annoying and knew how to get on Keith’s nerves, but he paid attention to Keith and Keith knew he could be gentle. For however stupid Altean diplomacy was, Lance did not have to teach him to dance, run off bullies for him, encourage his friends to be Keith’s friends. He didn’t have to tell him his deepest secret.

 

Keith leaned onto the glass covering Lance’s body careful not to touch it with his skin and leave smudges. “If you don’t wake up on time, I swear I’ll tell everyone what you told me. Diplomacy is important to you, so you have to wake up, understand.”

 

“He’ll wake up.”

 

Keith immediately moved away from the glass and stood almost toppling the stool over and turned to the entrance to see Hunk with a solemn face though he still wore a smile. “It’ll take more than a mine collapsing to get rid of him.”

 

“Lord Hunk, I...I’ll leave you two alone,” Keith said. He bowed his head and started for the door, but the Gold rider caught his arm and urged him back into his seat. Keith didn’t have the energy to fight.

 

“You’ve been here for a while, I’m not going to run you out,” Hunk said. “You’re worried about him.”

 

“I feel guilty,” Keith corrected. It was true, but he was worried. “It was my fault he got hurt.”

 

“Why, because he chased after you?”

 

“I made the promise,” Keith said. “He said he did not promise you, but you trusted him.”

 

“And he made lots of promises to me about Shay way before you got here,” Hunk retorted. “And of course I trust him, I trust Lance to make the best decision for the good of the people.”

 

“We could have saved her earlier,” Keith said. “She was alive, they just gagged her.”

 

“There was that possibility, but no one knew that was the case. What’s to say that going after her then wouldn’t have risked the lives of all those other Builders still in the cages you opened. I heard your new little fire trick worked much faster,” Hunk said. “Oh, but the court isn’t happy about it apparently because of your fluffiness.”

 

Keith’s ears flattened. “I don’t give a quiznakking care about what they think.”

 

Hunk chuckled and stared down at Lance. “Ah, but you’re also the one that saved his life. He had multiple wounds from those pellet shooters, right? Shay said a Galra soldier called them guns.”

 

“Is Shay alright?” Keith asked.

 

“Better than dead or left to suffocate in a bunch of rocks,” Hunk answered. “That sounds harsh, but it’s true. I know Lance got hurt, but thank you for risking yourself to get her. She’s a sweet one, but she can cause trouble, too. If you want to put fault to it then we all have a bit to add and Lance the most. I’m sure he ran after you, didn’t he?”

 

Keith nodded.

 

“That’s our Lance. If it’s for a friend, he’ll go against his better judgement,” Hunk said and tapped the glass with his knuckles. “Hurry up and wake up now, buddy. Pidge will cry all over you the moment you see her. I know you want to witness that.”

 

“Is Lord Pidge coming, too?” Keith asked.

 

“No, she doesn’t like the castle,” Hunk said as he moved away from the tub and started out. He paused at the doorway. “Until his princess comes, will you stay with him?”

 

Keith’s eyes widened. Until his princess comes? Allura. They may be siblings, but Allura didn’t know that, yet Keith was sure she would come ready to stay even longer than Keith had. “Yes, I’ll stay until his princess comes.”

 

Hunk nodded and left. Keith watched the door for a moment before turning back to Lance. He began to watch his chest move up and down slowly.

 

His sister, his princess, the one Lance loved the most, surely Lance would rather have her by his side, have her fussing over the medics’ shoulders, be cradled in her arms on the back of a mighty dragon.

 

Keith took shaky breaths and leaned forward on his stool. If Lance had wanted to tell Keith a secret, he could have told him a million things, his favorite weird food combination, the first time he had woken up to wet sheets in the middle of the night, how many times he had fallen off Blue when no one was watching, all things embarrassing and all things Keith wouldn’t mind knowing.

 

He wanted to know them, though. He wanted to know about the scars. But, what was the point in knowing any of that or his deepest secret if Lance weren’t there to worry about Keith telling even if others knew, too.

 

Keith turned and put the back of his head against the glass trying to get comfortable. He closed his eyes and sighed. “Lance, I promise I won’t tell, so wake up soon and teach me more of your Altean dances.”

 


 

 

“Good flight today, Keith,” Shiro said as they entered the staircase up to the rooming floors of the middle tower in the Crystal Castle and out of earshot of the generals and other knights that had followed them home. “I’ve never seen you so eager to teach before.”

 

“I wasn’t eager, it’s just important that the new knights know how to do aerial battle. I don’t really understand ice powers well, but out of all the Ko, I’ve had the most up close experience with it on the battlefield,” Keith said. “I think explaining it from the experience of the target helps them understand better.”

 

Shiro nodded, but his face seemed thoughtful. “Still, you seemed more energetic today during practice. You were actually smiling and being encouraging.”

 

“I’ve encouraged other knights before,” Keith protested.

 

“Yes you have, but I don’t remember you actively doing it in Ko-gane,” Shiro said. “You only complimented people sincerely when they actually impressed you or stiffly when you thought you had to. It reminded me of someone, I wondered who you picked it up from.”

 

“If it’s something I’ve picked up, then it must be from you,” Keith said.

 

Shiro shook his head and peeled off his riding jacket as they made it to their floor revealing most of his chest and back and it was plain to see the scarring on his right arm where the mechanical appendage was attached. The sun had been hot even in the clouds of cold Altea. There were sweat marks dried on Shiro’s pale skin. Keith offered the prince a towel.

 

“Thanks,” Shiro said. “You have picked up quite a few things from me, but this is new. Maybe from Lord Lance.”

 

Keith frowned. “Why would I want to pick up anything from him?”

 

“He’s good with encouragement. Good with diplomacy. He knows how to make people feel needed and appreciated,” Shiro said.

 

“So I take it you didn’t mind having him as your protector when I was quarter locked?” Keith asked.

 

“Well, I can’t say I hated it,” Shiro said then reached out and ruffled Keith’s hair. “I’d rather have you, though. He gets distracted easily.”

 

Keith dipped his head and braced himself for the rough petting. Shiro was using his right hand and the metal caught on his hair. He didn’t mind, though. Shiro use to avoid touching anyone with his right hand. “I’ve noticed.”

 

Shiro laughed and pulled away. He walked to his quarters and into a room were a servant was already waiting with a pitcher of warm water and a basin in one of the sitting rooms. She scurried away to prepare Shiro a bath. Keith followed him in and took up residence on one of the white fur covered chairs.

 

“You know, I heard Lord Lance was being let off bed rest today,” Shiro said. “I’m sure if you went snooping around his hall you would catch him.”

 

Keith turned his head away and lifted a leg. “Why would I want to see him?”

 

Shiro sighed. “Everyone knows when you weren’t with me you were at Lance’s side in the med-bay worrying over him.”

 

“No I wasn’t,” Keith protested.

 

“Keith, ever since you stopped hiding your ears, it has been very easy to tell when you’re lying,” Shiro said and began to wipe his face and shoulders off with the towel.

 

Keith reached up and grabbed his ears forcing them flat against his head. His left ear stung a bit where he was missing a pellet’s worth of skin and fur leaving a hole that was still healing in its place.

 

“I...wanted to make sure he was okay. It was my fault he got hurt,” Keith said.

 

“You didn’t go see him after he woke up why?” Shiro asked.

 

Keith frowned. It was three days after the Balmera incident when Lance had finally woken. Allura had been at his side then and that had left Keith feeling empty, but he was happy the Blue knight had recovered. They quickly moved Lance to his quarters and the moment Keith knew the room was clear, he had gone to apologize for getting Lance into this whole mess only to find him surrounded by servant girls giggling and cooing over him while the Ice Master sported a doped up shit eating grin.

 

“I did go see him, but he was busy,” Keith said.

 

Shiro hummed and turned his attention to the servant that came in holding a fluffy robe out to the prince to slip into. “Well, go get washed up then see about that apology. My bath is ready.”

 

Keith let go of his ears and stood. He saluted Shiro before leaving. When he finally got to his hall, he felt drained. A warm bath would be enjoyable, but he had dismissed all servants from his room except during cleaning hours weeks ago finding it uncomfortable to be waited on. Only the court was waited on. In Ko-gane, Keith had both been a servant and part of the court being Shiro’s protector. Now, Keith supposed he was more of a shadow than anything else. A shadow that felt every ache in his muscles ease up with the feel of the warm water and he let his mind relax.

 

It had been hard work the past week while Lord Lance was out of commission. They had asked Hunk to stay longer to be Allura’s protector for a time and the Gold rider was happy to as Shay and her brother were staying at the castle having agreed to train with their dragons and fight against the Galra with them for the next few weeks. However, Hunk was a gentler sort and while Allura was looking into things within the center tower, Keith had been asked to teach Hunk some fighting skills in the courtyard. If the princess’ duties led her to strolling arm in arm with Shiro to work on their interpersonal relationship, then they often came to watch. But, when Allura wasn’t with Lance and Keith did not need to be by Shiro’s side, he felt an itch to go see the Blue knight, to watch his chest move up and down and retrace Lance’s body with the stories he had made up about each scar that marked it like ink to parchment.

 

But, Lance was awake and he would notice Keith staring. Keith didn’t want Lance to know about the stories. They probably weren’t as magnificent or ridiculous as Keith made them.

 

Shiro was right, though, he did need to apologize.

 

After his bath, Keith donned a long and loose shirt and soft red silk breeches then headed to Lance’s hall. It was about the time the medics had said Lance could start walking around, but there was the chance the Blue knight would take that as meaning he could run about anywhere and he may not be in his room. Keith turned a corner, but stopped when he heard giggling. He pressed himself against one wall and began to slide along it towards where he heard the laughter. There was a door to one of the sitting rooms on Lance’ floor left nonchalantly ajar. Keith approached it carefully criticizing himself for not bringing his belt with his dagger. He peeked in.

 

It was Lance. He was sitting on a large green couch with a servant girl in his lap, his hand up her skirt whispering things into her ear as she held onto him. She wasn’t the prettiest, but Keith was aware enough to understand there were other aspects of a person that could make them attractive. But with Lance...no, Keith didn’t think Lance would do something like this with just anyone. He was a huge flirt, Keith had seen plenty of that perhaps even experienced some of it, but he also encouraged people just as happily. This servant must be his favorite, or they at least had a mutual understanding. Keith had known knights that took carnal pleasure in each other every few moons without rumors of being lovers surfacing.

 

Lovers. Why wouldn’t Lance have a lover? Keith placed a hand to his chest, grasping the fabric of his shirt. He had never thought about it before, but the stupidity of him thinking otherwise left him feeling as if something had dropped out of his chest. His heart? No, that was still beating, faster and faster.

 

“S-So cold,” the girl moaned.

 

Lance chuckled, a dark chuckle that Keith had never heard before. It made Keith’s throat tighten up. “Is it cold? But you’re so hot. It’s like you’re a Fire Master moving your flames to such a naughty spot. You keep melting my fingers. They’re so wet, or maybe that’s just you.”

 

The girl giggled then moaned. “Move them deeper, my lord, please. I’ve heard so much about your long fingers.”

 

“Oh, has word got around? Are they better than Grand Master Blumfump’s?” Lance asked.

 

“Mmhmm, his are so fat and chubby and short. His tongue isn’t very good either. Ah, but he covers his manhood in ice when he puts it in. It feels good when it melts,” the girl said.

 

“That’s a trick I’ll have to try. I’m guessing you’re his favorite then?” Lance asked and his hand moved faster under her skirt.

 

The servant giggled and pressed her hips down. “Next time I’ll let you practice with me, Lord Lance. Grand Master Blumfump doesn’t like me much anymore, he says more than my pussy lips are loose, but these ones, too.” The girl leaned in and kissed Lance and that was when Keith looked away. He wanted to walk away, too, but he felt frozen.

 

“He’s not wrong,” Lance said a second later.

 

“Oh, please Lord Lance, I’m so close,” the servant girl began to scream. “Yes...It’s Haggar, Haggar is his new favorite! Ah yes...ah...mnh.”

 

Keith’s eyes widened and he turned and ran down the hall. All he could hear was the girl’s moans. It wasn’t the first time Keith had happened by people having sex before, but he had either been too young or had not known either participants well enough to care. How was he suppose to face Lance knowing he had magical ice fingers.

 

Magical ice fingers.

 

Keith felt warm and as he tried to force his thoughts away from it all, he found himself wandering the floor aimlessly until he was back at Lance’s side of their floor.

 

“Keith!”

 

Keith turned and his eyes widened seeing Lance waving at him while jogging in his direction. He almost started running again, but he had come to apologize and make sure Lance was feeling alright. Well, he already had the answer for the second one.

 

“Lance,” Keith greeted, voice coming out softer than he intended.

 

Lance came to a stop in front of Keith all grins, face a little flushed, but his hands were dry. “Hey, haven’t seen you in a while.”

 

“I’ve been busy doing your job,” Keith said and raised his arms to cross them.

 

“Oh, yeah, sorry about that, but Hunk was helping, right?”

 

“Lord Hunk was a help, yes,” Keith said. He felt snappy and short tempered. It wasn’t something new and especially not around Lance, but Lance hadn’t said or done anything to Keith in days to get on his bad side.

 

“Um, you seem a little...well…”

 

“What?” Keith asked harshly.

 

“Just, did you happen to walk down my hall a while ago?” Lance asked.

 

Keith’s eyes widened then he rolled them. “Yeah, maybe, why?”

 

“So, you witnessed that thing with the servant girl?”

 

That thing? Keith pressed his fingers into his arms and gritted his teeth. “Yeah, it was more than I’m use to seeing you do.”

 

“Oh, the flirting, that’s nothing. I’m just glad it was only you and not someone I have to worry about,” Lance said with a sigh.

 

“You don’t have to worry about me? Really?” Keith asked and raised a brow.

 

Lance laughed. “That’s not what I meant. I was doing questioning, you know. She had information and I needed to get it out of her. I won’t bother you with the details.”

 

“I saw the details,” Keith said.

 

“Yeah, sorry about that,” Lance said and reached a hand up to rub the back of his head. “No one really comes around this time of the afternoon.”

 

“Hmm,” Keith said. “Well, if that was part of your diplomacy tactics, what about the girls from before?”

 

“Which before?” Lance asked looking down at Keith surprised.

 

Keith didn’t like the way that question sounded. Was it really surprising Lance often had visitors in his quarters? He had said flirting was his way of working. “Uh, when you woke up there were a bunch of...I guess they were probably just taking care of you.”

 

“Yeah, a lot of people came to say hi when I got moved. Did you stop by? You should have come in, I could have made room,” Lance said.

 

Lance would make room for him among the other dozens of girls and boys he was flirting with. Keith didn’t like that. “Well, I thought I would stop by now.”

 

“Oh, really? Great!” Lance said all grins again. “Actually, I was headed to see you, too.”

 

Keith furrowed his brows not believing the other knight for a moment.

 

“No, really, really! I just...an opportunity arose suddenly and I had to take it while I had the chance. What did you want to tell me?”

 

“I um…” Keith trailed off. Right. He could do this. “I wanted to apologize now that you’re awake.”

 

Lance crossed one arm across his chest then tapped his triangular chin with his other hand looking up at the ceiling. “Oddly enough, I can not think of a single reason you should be apologizing. I really wish I had one, though.”

 

“Running off to get Shay. I handled all of that very badly and got you hurt in the process. I’m sorry for that,” Keith said and bowed his head.

 

“Hey, come on now. I mean, yeah that was really stupid, but in that situation I would have run in whether it was to go after you or not. Shay’s my best man’s girl,” Lance said. He was smiling, but it was a different kind of smile, one that was suppose to be comforting.

 

Keith didn’t want to be comforted. There was an annoyance egging him at the back of his mind, but he found himself grinning just a bit. “How are your wounds?”

 

Lance rolled his shoulders and made a show of popping muscles. “Awesome! Ah man, but if you want to apologize for something you should apologize for those burn marks you gave me. You know how cool a pellet wound would have been?”

 

“It would have just been a gross looking hole in your skin,” Keith said.

 

“Right,” Lance said, his eyes moving to Keith’s left ear making him twitch it unconsciously. He suddenly lifted his hand to touch it. “You have one.”

 

Keith bristled feeling Lance’s fingers touch his still sensitive wound. There were so many tiny blood vessels and nerves in it and he knew he hadn’t properly taken care of it soon enough for it to heal correctly.

 

“Oh, sorry. I heard it still hurts. You should just go ahead and stick an earring in it. That would look awesome,” Lance said.

 

“Who did you hear that from?” Keith asked.

 

“Oh, a little bit of everyone really,” Lance answered then grinned and leaned in closer to Keith, voice lowering with a hint of mischief. “I also heard you were practically glued to my side until I woke up, like a little puppy waiting for his master.”

 

Keith sneered. “I did no such thing.”

 

“Right, and you didn’t cradle me in your arms on the back of Lord Shiro’s Black crying your eyes out saying ‘Oh Lance, you have to live so I can show you how much better I am than you at everything’,” Lance said.

 

“I might have held you,” Keith said. “Who told you, Lord Hunk?”

 

“No, he would never tell a soul something so embarrassing,” Lance said grinning from ear to ear swaying on his feet like an excited child. “It was Allura. She kept gushing about how nice it was to have someone reliant by her protector’s side. She thought it was cute.”

 

Keith’s ears flattened. “I felt guilty, but it seems to me you have plenty of other people that could have sat with you. You probably would have preferred them, particularly the princess.”

 

“Of course I would have preferred the princ--oh, you’re jealous,” Lance stated.

 

Jealous? The thought had Keith going red. “I don’t even know what that would feel like especially when concerning you, Lord Lance.”

 

A slow grin grew across Lance’s face and he leaned back looking Keith up and down. “Wow, I didn’t realize innocence could be so attractive. I’ll have to put this in my armory to use later. Your face is really red.”

 

Keith knew his face was red. He growled.

 

“Oh, wow, you’re actually growling at me. Can you purr, too? I bet that’s sexy,” Lance teased.

 

“Don’t flirt with me, Lord Lance. I know your tactics,” Keith warned.

 

Lance clapped his hands and moved around Keith. “Wow, you know it’s flirting. You’re learning!”

 

Keith gritted his teeth then sighed. “I said my part. What did you want with me? You said you were on your way to see me.”

 

Lance paused and dropped his grins. He leaned against the wall by Keith and placed soft glittering blue eyes on Keith. They were so blue, so full of life. Keith felt relieved finally seeing that after the three days Lance had spent in the healing salve with them closed.

 

“Well, since you were too shy to come and join the party, I thought I would go to you. I wanted to thank you for burning the poison out of my system. I wanted to thank you for staying by my side while I was unconscious. You might think it was nothing, but I’m sure I felt you there worrying about me. Oh, and thanks for that, for worrying about me. It’s nice you know.”

 

“You’re welcome, Lance. I...didn’t want you to be alone. I don’t think you’re the type that can handle that,” Keith said.

 

“It seems you know me better than I thought,” Lance said. “You’re a real pal.”

 

Pal. Were they friends now? Keith thought he would be happier with that. “Well, I apologized already. I guess I should thank you for pushing me out of the way in the cavern and coming with me in the first place, but if you start apologizing then we’ll just come full circle.”

 

“Right, we’re both just sorry and grateful then,” Lance said, but he lingered. Well, it was his hall so Keith took a step back to leave.

 

“Oh, Keith, there was actually something else. I guess it doesn’t matter now, but I wanted to go ride Blue. I was going to ask you to come along, but you’ve already bathed for the night.”

 

“I’ll come,” Keith said immediately.

 

Lance just laughed. “I know you like riding, but don’t be ridiculous. I know you don’t know how to use the faucets here for hot water and you refuse to have a servant do it. I won’t make you warm up water yourself again. Don’t worry about it, I’m sure you’ve had a long day doing half of my job on top of yours.”

 

“I said I would come,” Keith repeated. “Someone should be with you if you’re going to fly. What if you fall.”

 

“Blue will catch me,” Lance said and started walking backwards down the hall. “Also there was a White rider I had a few words I’ve been meaning to share with.”

 

“Hey, haven’t you had enough tonight?” Keith shot after him.

 

“Hahaha, are you really jealous? Go to bed. I’m awake, you don’t have to worry about me now.”

 

Lance was almost around the corner when Keith called out to him again. “Wait, Lance! I had something else.”

 

The Blue rider stopped. “Yeah?”

 

“Dance with me! I mean, teach me more dances.”

 

Lance winked at Keith before turning around. “A man after my own heart. You have got yourself a date.”

 

A date? Keith knew it was just teasing, but he felt, at the very least, flattered.

 

Chapter Text

8. The Rivals

 

A date. In the middle of planning for a full war against the Galra, Shiro had asked Princess Allura on a date. Certainly the Prince Commander’s energy would be better put to training and brainstorming with the generals or visiting Ko-gane and the Builder tribes to decide how to dish out their available military or putting more protective measures on the western fronts around the Balmera, but everyone needed a breather and the air around Altea seemed to have grown warmer if only for the week. A real date between the princess and her intended would do their kingdom well. Perhaps something real could be made of their relationship. Keith wanted Shiro to be happy in his marriage. He had loved before. Keith thought, perhaps for someone like him who had never felt that before an arranged marriage would be easy, but Shiro was definitely forcing himself.

 

It was a good idea, but Keith felt annoyed having to tail the prince and princess with Lance.

 

“Man, I wish I could come on a date here,” Lance said running his fingers along a vine of flowers for sale at one of the stalls. “It’s so warm and alive.”

 

They had decided to visit the southernmost city in Altea. The streets were lined with cobble roads and stone apartments topped with thatch roofs. There were stalls on every street selling this or that and most had at least one assortment of flowers to hand off and entice customers to buy. Princess Allura was crowned from head to toe with flowers already and Shiro had taken a single crown of small white delicate things about his head. They talked animatedly together with smiles and light blushes a few feet ahead of their protectors.

 

“I think it’s fairly cool,” Keith said. “And it’s cloudy.”

 

“Partly cloudy,” Lance corrected. “I guess this is nothing to you, though. Oh, are there beaches in Ko-gane? Princess Allura told me you had a likeness of one.”

 

Keith blinked at Lance curiously. “Does the princess talk of me often?”

 

Lance held up his hands defensively. “Why, you’re not going to try and seduce her away, are you? She talks way more about Prince Shiro.”

 

Keith sighed and picked at a dying petal on a red lay that had been placed around his neck at the first stand they had walked passed. “That’s not it. I thought she hated me.”

 

“Oh, because of the Galra thing? She got over that the moment you saved her life,” Lance assured and placed a hand on Keith’s shoulder pulling him closer.

 

Keith froze at the touch and cautiously peeked up at Lance. The Blue rider grinned down at him, blue eyes safe and assuring like the first drop of water after a hard practice. Keith found himself staring into them as if trying to swallow more and more of that look. Perhaps he was staring too hard and Lance looked away with a deep swallow of his own, adam's apple bobbing. He pushed Keith gently away and went to a stall picking out a handful of red flowers from the seller. He began to tie them together as they walked.

 

When the sun started to break through the clouds high in the sky, they stopped at a shop selling picnic baskets already prepared.

 

“Lord Keith, Lord Lance,” the princess said calling to them as she hurried over, Shiro following behind her with slower steps and two baskets in hand. “We’re going to the gardens now for lunch. We’ve bought you two a picnic as well. It’s the most I could do for having to bore you two all this time.”

 

“It’s not a bore, Your Highness,” Keith said taking the basket from the princess. “I’ve never been to a place with so many flowers. The flowers in Ko-gane are large and have thick leaves. I could never imagine making so many of these delightful things with them.”

 

Princess Allura smiled wide and clasped her hands in front of her face with joy. “Oh, I am glad you like it here. I use to come often with my parents. They always went on dates here. They had such charming talks and walked close together, so in love. We were always covered in flowers by the time we went home. A lot like now.”

 

“That sounds lovely, princess. I should take you to Ko-gane. There is an oasis city my parents love to visit and my brother Ryou has taken his lover there a few times. She adored it,” Shiro said and began to lead the princess towards the city gates.

 

Keith started to follow after them, but stopped to glance back at Lance. He was staring after the princess with an unsettled look in his eyes.

 

“Is everything alright, Lord Lance?” Keith asked.

 

Lance’s shoulders raised as he took in a deep steadying breath and clenched his fists. “Those dates...I wonder how long before I was born did they stop going on them? I don’t want her modelling her relationship with your prince after her parents. King Alfor may have been in love throughout, but the queen became displeased somewhere along the line. She was six when I was born. I’m surprised she even remembers dates.”

 

Keith reached out a hand wanting to comfort Lance, but he was also unsure how the relationship between Shiro and Allura would play out.

 

“Come on, we don’t want to lose them,” Lance said suddenly grabbing Keith’s hand and tugged him along after.

 

“Right, of course,” Keith said and stared at their hands before squeezing Lance’s tight hoping it was comforting enough. If the Blue knight noticed, he didn’t make it known and let go of Keith’s hand the moment they were outside the city gates.

 

There was a short walk before they reached the gardens that had initially welcomed them to the Altean city. There were statues of Altean glass, some just for show and others throwing water from spouts. A few trees had been manipulated over years and years to make climbable structures for children to play. There was a pond to one side and they followed Allura and Shiro close to its edge. The princess and prince laid down a blanket shooing away curious waterfowl as they set up their lunch.

 

“Shall we give them their space?” Lance offered.

 

“Let’s go far enough they can’t see us,” Keith agreed.

 

They chose a tree closer to a the walkway of the garden where more flowers bloomed partially cut off by bushes with purple berries hanging heavy from their limbs. Keith touched the berries and picked off a few that had gone bad while Lance set up the blanket.

 

“Those are poisonous,” Lance said.

 

Keith turned and wiped his hands on his breeches. “Why are they here then? There are quite a few children around.”

 

“The berries themselves aren’t poisonous, but if you break the branches, red paste comes out and it makes rashes on your body. Some people are allergic to it. Eating one or two won’t hurt you, but when you gather the berries, you have to wash them off thoroughly and then cook them. They’re delicious. Hunk is a good cook and he always has snacks made with those berries. They grow mostly in the Garrison and those around,” Lance said.

 

Keith sat on the blanket and began to pull the food out. It wasn’t anything impressive, but Keith could never get use to eating in restaurants or large dining halls where everyone was seated. He always chose to stand outside during those events in which he had to follow Shiro to. “Sir Hunk seems like a very capable man.”

 

“He is. Do you think our dragons are eating alright?” Lance asked starting to break off clumps of a soft white cheese and spread it on a toasted piece of bread. He took an apple from the basket and started to cut it placing a few pieces on the bread as well.

 

“Didn’t the duke here say he had laid out sheep for them to hunt? They’ll be plenty full.”

 

Lance lifted the bread to his lips and took a bite a bite off, the juice from the fruit sliding down his lips and over the edge of his sharp chin. He lifted a thumb and wiped it away before licking the juice from his finger.

 

“I-Is that good?” Keith asked looking away and stared at his own apple.

 

“Hmm, oh fruit and cheese? You’ve never had it?” Lance asked.

 

“Unless I’m at a party with Shiro, I stick to the usual rations of bread, cheese, and meat that trainees get,” Keith said.

 

“That’s it? That’s all you eat? Blasphemy!”

 

“No, well, we have plenty of fruits and vegetables to snack on. In the main city where most people live, there are fruit trees on every street and the north grows most of our vegetables. The southerners herd our farm animals, but water is hard to come by. It’s hard to eat a lot when there’s nothing to drink,” Keith said. He remembered the water rations during the harder times of war with Altea before he had began his training and how he would have to cut the leaves off desert fruits and drink the thick mucus like sap that came out when his camp was out of water.

 

“I’ve never felt thirst before,” Lance said and looked off across the garden to the pond’s edge where Shiro had laid his head in Allura’s lap. “Well, not real thirst. A few vegetables we can manage, but other than berries, it is difficult to grow fruits past this city’s limits. That’s why we ended up trading so much with the Builders, but we don’t allow them to live here. This was the first generation where outsiders were allowed into Altea. We need others more than we like to admit.”

 

“But you can’t trust them,” Keith added. “I’ve learned at least that from living here these past few months.”

 

Lance grinned over at Keith. “You’ve learned some dances, too.”

 

“Yes, those, too,” Keith agreed and smiled back.

 

Lance’s eyes widened suddenly before settling back into a crinkling smile that seemed even brighter and made Keith feel warm. He turned away first and began to cut his apple.

 

“I’ve never seen Allura on a date before, I’m a little jealous. But, Prince Shiro is a nice man and I don’t feel as overprotective as I should,” Lance said.

 

“You still want to pull him away, don’t you?” Keith asked.

 

“Well of course. She’s my princess,” Lance said, eyes softening as he watched the prince and princess get cuddlier, but still maintaining an air of decency.

 

His princess. Keith was beginning to understand that Lance’s possessiveness of Allura wasn’t that, but it was the only way he could tie himself to his sister without letting it be known the real reason she was so important to him.

 

“Aren’t you the same with Shiro?” Lance asked.

 

Keith looked at Lance curiously. He was picking dried fruit out of a piece of moist bread from the basket, nibbling them slowly between his teeth and poking the holes they left behind. “I’ve seen Prince Shiro on dates before. Not recently. As far as publicly goes, this is the first date he has been on since returning from the Galra Empire. I’m not sure if you would call them dates, but he would take many young soldiers and knights with him to the Builder tribes or other camps for personal training with the prince and often we would eat with him and his lover. I don’t think it was because I was his favorite, but it was usually I that went with him. I did have a dragon after all. Trips with Shiro were also rewards for competitions. All I did was train so I won most times. I liked his lover well and I think Princess Allura is similar, but different enough.”

 

“Oh, I thought maybe you two had been lovers at some point,” Lance said and stuffed the cake into his mouth making his cheeks puff up. “Super innocent.”

 

“No, I’ve never considered him as a potential lover. But, I understand you wanting to tie the princess to you. I never had somewhere to be tied to. I wanted to be tied to that amazing and caring man more than anything. So I asked to make my pledge before Voltron,” Keith said. It was embarrassing to say, but at the time he had been knighted as Shiro’s protector, no one had thought twice about it.

 

“You wanted family,” Lance said. It was a question and a confirmation in one. Keith found truth in it. He always wanted Shiro to be his brother, but Shiro had his own family as did Lance. At the very least, Lance had Allura and he probably had a stepmother and a lord father, perhaps siblings if the whispers were right.

 

“Lance, do you have other siblings?” Keith asked after taking a few moments to eat. The fruit and cheese had definitely complimented each other.

 

“Hmm, oh, yeah. My family has always been known for being casanovas. I’ve got two older sisters and an older brother, all from different mothers. Most of them have kids,” Lance said, but he didn’t turn to Keith when he answered. Instead, his blue eyes were piercing as they stared in the direction of the stalls Builders were running. “Man, I wish I could go on a date, too. This would be perfect for one, but I’m stuck here with you.”

 

Immediately, Keith’s peaceful air become distorted with an uncomfortable burning. He frowned and turned his head away feeling the floating the peaceful heart to heart had had on him disappear as he came plummeting back to the ground. “You’re not much for companionship, either.”

 

“Hey, I’m a great companion, you’ve seen me at parties,” Lance said. His voice was loud, too loud worse than when he was just trying to get a rise out of Keith during practice. If he wanted to banter, Keith could play along, he didn’t hate it, but this wasn’t a bantering voice.

 

“Yeah, you dance around everyone promising sweet nothings and never committing,” Keith said bitterly.

 

“Hey, that’s not true. I commit sometimes,” Lance defended and his eyes shot behind him for a moment.

 

He was looking at someone. Keith looked at the people at the trade stands, but there were many that could have caught Lance’s attention. He didn’t know what Lance liked. There was definitely a difference between the people Lance flirted with and those he simply showered with praise and compliments, but they weren’t at the castle or any training grounds where that would be easy to identify. Keith didn’t know anyone here.

 

Keith sighed. “I can move somewhere else if there’s someone you would rather picnic with,” Keith said and stood taking only the rest of his apple with him. “I’m sorry if I’m such distasteful company.”

 

“Hey, Keith, come on, don’t go,” Lance said and Keith started for a tree closer to where Allura and Shiro were. He didn’t want to make a scene and disrupt the two, but he wanted to be away from Lance for a little while. “Lord Keith! Come on, buddy, I didn’t mean it like that!”

 

Sure he didn’t. Keith knew that. He was acting for someone. Maybe a lord was walking about.

 

And buddy? Was that suppose to be a friendly word? Keith didn’t like it much. He lifted his apple to his mouth and bit into it, the crunch somewhat satisfying if he thought about it being Lance’s stupid pretty head.

 

Ah, but that would leave a mark and Lance already had so many scars.

 

Keith licked his lips and sighed. He was being overdramatic. He could have left more smoothly, given Lance his space to work like a real buddy, like Lord Hunk or Lord Pidge would do. Or maybe he had gotten loud for another reason completely. Keith looked up and over to where their picnic blanket was. The basket and a few forgotten bits of food still weighed it down in the soft breeze, but nobody was there to warm it up. Immediately, Keith moved to look at the traders and their carts. At the last one stood Lance leaning against the counter and flirting with a blonde and purple eyed girl. She was giggling and leaning back towards Lance. They stopped talking for a moment and the girl turned around to talk to a man in the stall then exited. Lance waited for her then threw his arm around her waist leading her off to a path of bushes on the opposite side of the garden built like a maze that led off into a forest.

 

Keith stared after them for a long while hoping that whatever Lance was doing, he would be quick about it. Just a short conversation to get whatever he needed out of her, but no, he didn’t return right away. Keith felt a shiver rack his body. He wasn’t cold. Flying near the castle had helped with his tolerance for icy winds. It was an unconscious shiver that worked its way into his mind and his chest and he felt his throat tighten. He dropped his apple and immediately turned to try and focus his attention on Shiro and Allura, but seeing them close and talking happily did nothing but increase the tightness in Keith’s throat. His eyes stung, but they weren’t wet. He felt drained and clasped at the bark of the tree as he curled into himself, but continued to watch over his charge and his betrothed. This was his job, he would not abandon it like Lance even if his odd feelings only grew.

 


 

 

“Lord Keith,” the princess called standing from her spot on the picnic blanket. Shiro was busy gathering up the basket and throw aways. “Lord Lance.”

 

Keith slowly picked himself up from his curled spot against his chosen tree. He reached his arms up over his head and stretched. His muscles ached and his mind felt fuzzy, but he was calmer at least. He started his way over to the princess and prince. “I’m here, Your Highness.”

 

“Oh, and where is my protector?” Allura asked.

 

Right, Lance. Keith turned to look at the spot they had left their own picnic at. He still needed to clean that up, but he had hoped Lance would at least take responsibility for that when he got back, but there were no signs he had returned after disappearing with that girl.

 

“He went to discuss matters with a trader,” Keith said.

 

“Oh, then perhaps we should wait for him. Let’s gather up the other basket as well,” the princess said.

 

Keith followed behind Allura as they went to the abandoned picnic, Shiro joining them a few minutes later.

 

“You two didn’t eat much. Where you not hungry?” Allura asked.

 

“I appreciate the food you gave us, Princess Allura. I apologize it went to waste,” Keith said and bowed his head.

 

“Did you fight with Lord Lance again?” Shiro asked, his voice sounding disappointed.

 

“It wasn’t quite that, but he did leave with a trader girl some time ago,” Keith said and looked off towards the bushes near the stalls. “They went there.”

 

Allura frowned then turned to Shiro. “Let’s go have a look. Lance doesn’t have to stay as close to me as some would if he knows I’m in good hands, but I can tell it has been more time then he would usually allow before returning.”

 

They headed towards the bushes, walking around every path before finding nothing but footprints, many of them. Keith recognized Lance’s but most of them had been overlaid by other visitors and he hadn’t gotten a good look at the girl other than her face.

 

“I don’t like this,” the princess said.

 

“You two should go back into town. I’ll take red to the sky and search there,” Keith said.

 

“I’ll get Black to circle as well,” Shiro said. “Blue would have made noise if something bad had happened.”

 

Just as Shiro spoke, there was suddenly a roar that shook the gardens, loud echoing and with a warning. Keith looked up to see Black shielding the sun with her giant wings that kept Keith’s Red in shadow. The moment the mighty beasts saw their humans, Red rushed down and curled around Keith giving him flashes of the man from the stall the girl had been at throwing steel chains around them with dragon glass spikes at the ends that could bury into any dragon’s scales. It was a rare type of ore, dragon glass, found in the mountains and around volcanoes were dragon stone was found. Rarer still was it to find a piece large enough to cause a dragon to be immobilized.

 

“Dragon shearers,” Keith said. Shearers were not a new trade. Dragons often shed their skin and part of being bonded to one meant plucking larger old scales off. Even old scales could be used to make hides and other strong leathers. Some riders found they didn’t have time to do a decent job particularly during battles that raged for days and weeks without stop and so they would hire shearers to do a proper job of it once the battle was done. Usually that ended with a rather large blanket of loose scales, but most were unusable from battle. During the last generation, shearers had become thieves. They captured dragons bonded or not and forced the top layer of scales from their bodies leaving them bloody and prone until their new scales grew in.

 

“Lance’s Blue called out to them,” Shiro said getting the same visions from his Black. “When they went to save him, they were almost captured...Black was almost captured, Red is small and it seemed they weren’t interested in her.”

 

Keith rolled his eyes, but he was thankful. “I’ll go get Blue. He might know where Lance is. Go back to the city and stay in one building. Black will watch over you two.”

 

“Don’t do anything too dangerous,” Shiro commanded.

 

Keith grinned and jumped onto Red. “Putting a couple of thieves in their place is child’s play.”

 

They were in the air immediately. It didn’t take long for Red to get them to the area he had seen in their shared thoughts. The trees were spaced out enough that a large dragon, even a Black, could be pulled down into their branches, but close enough together that Keith couldn’t see anyone hiding in them from here. As he got closer, chains were thrown at him and he pulled out his dagger to knock them away, the blade of it holding traces of dragon glass as well. He then dove into the trees.

 

There were more than just the two from the trade stand, Keith noted as he flew about throwing aimed fire balls at the thieves. They fell with various degrees of harsh landings surprised by the fire and then Keith saw the two from the stand.

 

“Nyma, he’s a Fire Master!” the boy from the stand said. “I thought all Alteans were Ice Masters.”

 

“It’s fine, we’ll just use that weapon that Galra gave us,” the girl, Nyma said.

 

Galra weapon? Keith hesitated approaching them.

 

The man pulled out a pellet weapon, a gun, and aimed it at Keith.

 

“Alright, Rolo, start firing!”

 

It would still hurt, but Keith knew both he and Red could handle it. He drove straight in and grabbed at the man. He was a terrible shot and Red easily grabbed the girl who was preparing another chain before turning back on him. The man, Rolo, continued to fire, gun now aimed at Red, but the pellets only ricocheted off her closely connected scales. Then suddenly, they stopped all together.

 

“Rolo, it’s out, use the refill,” the girl called struggling against Red’s hold. Red’s hold wasn’t that large, but her nails could pierce and if the girl escaped, Red would opt to use her teeth. Neither would feel good.

 

The man went for a container at his waist and started pouring pellets into his hands only to hiss and drop them. Keith dismounted and hurried over.

 

“Those are poisonous, I wouldn’t touch them.”

 

“Stay back! We have more friends, they’re just waiting for their moment,” the man said rubbing his injured hand on his pants.

 

“Really? I should just set this whole forest on fire then,” Keith said and let fire touch his hair and his hands. “The Alteans will forgive me seeing as I’m to rescue their princess’ precious protector and his dragon.”

 

Rolo scrunched up his face then poured more pellets into his injured hand and threw them at Keith. The ones that touched his face stung for a moment before becoming nothing more than a nuisance. He picked a few that had fallen into the crease of his clothes and moved them between his fingers.

 

“You...doesn’t it hurt?” Nyma asked having stopped fidgeting in Red’s hold.

 

Keith twitched his ears. His hair had grown back enough that it covered their tips, but Keith hadn’t been hiding them. “That poison doesn’t affect Galra. I am Lord Keith, the Galra hybrid from Ko-gane and protector of Altea’s current Prince Commander and to be King Consort. If you dare to make another move, it will only worsen your sentence.”

 

Red growled behind Keith to add onto her rider’s threat. Rolo dropped the bullets and hung his head.

 

“If I run, what will you do?” he asked.

 

“Would you leave your partner behind?” Keith asked. “Well, Red here would capture you, mostly between her teeth and might hurt your friend in the process. Tell me where the Blue dragon is and its rider, Lord Lance.”

 

“South from here,” the man said. “There are more waiting, but not many.”

 

Keith nodded and gathered some of the chains. He wrapped them around the man and his partner and then set Red to guard while he traveled down following Red’s memories to the dragon. He could see Blue draped beneath chains with dragon glass digging into his scales. His muzzle was held shut by ropes that, had he been a fire breather, would have been useless. Keith approached quietly, flames blazing hotter and hotter in his hands and anger began to fill him. Blood. He could see blood.

 

Blue noticed Keith first and started to shake off the shearers. Keith rushed forward as they tried to get a hold of the dragon again. The ones that didn’t run were left with burns that hurt too much to move. Keith immediately grabbed hold of the chains holding Blue down and started removing them. After a few, the large dragon stood and shook himself off before limping over to a clearer area of the forest he had been trapped in.

 

“Blue,” Keith said and approached the dragon slowly. There was quite a large section of the dragon’s scales missing on a patch of its body near one of its small hindlegs.

 

The dragon breath cold air onto its wound before covering it in ice. It roared once then turned to Keith the closer Keith got. It stared at him for a moment with oil colored eyes before dipping down for Keith to climb. Keith was slow to mount. The only other dragon besides Red Keith had ridden was Black, but he had never steered her for more than a few minutes while Shiro was preoccupied. It was the rider that determined who the dragon would allow on. They had to trust each other.

 

The thought that Lance trusted Keith made Keith’s fire feel warmer, made his heart feel bright. Then again, this was a dire situation. He got into position on Blue and stroked the blue scales on his neck before kicking off into the air. “Let’s find your rider.”

 

Lord Lance was North of where they had taken his dragon, far closer to the gardens then Keith would have thought, but perhaps Lance hadn’t been a complete idiot about pursuing the girl and had stopped her leading him any further. Keith almost laughed as they landed not far from where Lance was, but he thought the other knight was already in an embarrassing enough position.

 

The almighty sharp shooter and royal flirt, Lord Lance, was chained face forward and on his knees to a tree, his pants obviously unbuckled.

 

“Hey, Lord Lance, I got your dragon back,” Keith said.

 

Immediately, Lance’s head whipped around and his eyes widened, shimmering with wetness as if about to cry. Perhaps he had been crying, they did seem red. No matter how much his dragon might have tried to shield its own pain from its rider, Lance would still know and the same went vice versa.

 

“Praise Voltron, Keith!” Lance yelled and stared up at the sky.

 

“More like praise the fact Reds are small and Black is too big. They came to get us without any warning just when we were about to go searching for you.”

 

Lance lowered his head. “Quiznak! So Allura knows I went off?”

 

“Yes. And so will the court. I captured some of the shearers, might have killed a few of the others.”

 

“Is Blue okay?” Lance asked and tried to peer around Keith at the large Blue dragon.

 

“It’s not as bad as it could have been, but you already know what happened,” Keith said and crossed his arms.

 

Lance sighed. “I’m going to be in so much trouble for this and I didn’t even get anything out of it.”

 

Keith raised a brow, his eyes going towards Lance’s undone breeches. “You sure? Nothing?”

 

Lance turned to Keith and glared. “I meant information, but I didn’t get any of that either. I knew that stall looked suspicious. Now, could you come and unchain me? The metal on the lock has that weird poison on it. I already burnt myself with it once.”

 

Keith unfolded his arms and placed a hand on one hip. “I don’t know, I think I’ll just leave you here. Maybe you’ll get something out of it.”

 

The Blue rider let out a sigh that ended with a growl only for Blue to growl in response. Lance rolled his eyes and stared up at the sky. “Fine, thank you your magnificent Lord Keith, old buddy old pal, for saving my dragon and coming after my sorry ass. It would be a great honor if you would unchain me from this humiliating state.”

 

The way Lance phrased it didn’t make Keith happy, it was too sarcastic, too forced, but he faked a grin and made a show of sighing before walking forward.

 

“Let’s get you free, people are waiting.”

 


 

 

The court was not happy, but more than anything, Keith thought it was the look of disappointment on Allura’s face that earned heartbreak its place in Lance’s blue eyes. They sat in the usual meeting room after returning from Shiro’s and Allura’s date with soldiers from the Altean city carrying the surviving shearers with them. Most of the aging men and women around them just looked grumpy and fed up. Keith had come to understand that Lance had talent and heart, but he was still a troublemaker. Unlike Keith’s rashness, Lance’s was hard to define. He made plans and didn’t voice his concerns until he had enough information to back them up. Considering his position, it must have worked most of the time and so he was just a nuisance, but when it didn’t work it was bad.

 

Keith felt for Lance. It wasn’t sorry or sympathy, but every inch of the Blue knight, sat in his chair beside a fuming princess as they read out Nyma’s confession, was covered in a very thin layer of ice as if to help keep him cool from the embarrassment he felt. The shearer girl had left no detail unturned. Lance had approached her and offered to show her the dragons as they hunted. If Keith had dared to check if Lance had come back, he would have seen Rolo leaving the stall as well. He had followed them hoping Lance would show Nyma the dragons and once he knew their location, Nyma had tied Lance to a tree while they made out getting his guard low enough with her hand down his pants.

 

“Lord Lance,” Coran said standing up. “I’m afraid we will have to punish you for skipping out on your duties to tend to your own desires. Not only did it potentially put Princess Allura in danger, but the dragons of both your Prince Commander and future king and Lord Keith’s. Not to mention the damage they caused to your Blue.”

 

“Though I can’t say we’re surprised this is how you would dishonor yourself,” said one of the courtmen. “Your father dishonored himself at his own wedding and don’t get us started on your uncle’s sodomising in Voltron’s temple. It is only your talents and flirtations that have brought you this far, Lord Lance. Be honored that even a Galra hybrid would be willing to risk his own position to save you and your dragon after such disgrace.”

 

“Oh, yes, Lord Keith,” interrupted one of the courtwomen, “we must thank you for rescuing the Blue and our royal protector. Though your flames were a bit messy to put out and there were lives lost, you certainly brought many criminals to our attention. At such times, the less we have to fight within our own borders the better.”

 

Keith bowed his head and stayed silent beside Shiro and tried not to watch Lance. Everyone else in that room had their eyes on him. It must have been hard enough to not struggle with guilt in front of them.

 

“Do you have anything to say in your defense?” Coran asked.

 

Lance took a slow breath in. “I have reasons. They are null now.”

 

“Alright, then room lockdown until Voltron’s Day of Prayer,” the Regent Advisor said. “Princess?”

 

Princess Allura stood not looking at Lance. “It is good to have thieves imprisoned and better that we did not lose a prized dragon. Lord Keith, I honor you. Prince Shiro has told me of your studies and I shall write to Ko-gane a formal pass on your level advancement in mastery. Since we have no knowledge in fire, we can not do it here, but consider yourself Level 1. As for others, let this time before the Day of Prayer be a time of reflection on your wrong doings and how to understand each other better as Alteans. We will call Lord Hunk of the Garrison to substitute and my protector and Lord Pidge if she is so inclined as to accept the invitation. To that, I dismiss this meeting.”

 

The courtmen stood and began to file out. Coran passed next with Allura and Shiro following after.

 

“Lord Keith, usher Lord Lance to his rooms, please,” Shiro called before he left.

 

Keith turned to look at Lance. The Blue knight had stood, body tense. He didn’t look at Keith as he passed them, nor as they walked to his wing of the floor they shared with Shiro. Not until they were in his hall did Lance stop.

 

“You must be ecstatic.”

 

“Huh, about what? The Day of Prayer?” Keith asked.

 

Lance chuckled darkly before turning, blue eyes icy as they glared Keith down. “No, about one upping me with the court. You must have really enjoyed all that praise.”

 

Keith furrowed his brows. “Praise? They might be a little thankful, but I’m sure the court still dislikes me because I’m Galra. They were just trying to rile you up.”

 

“Of course I know that, do you think I’m stupid? You must think I’m stupid.”

 

“I don’t think you’re stupid,” Keith said. Lance was definitely upset. There was anger he needed out, but Keith would not sit still and be a punching bag for that anger. Nor was he good at reflecting it. He was fire and fire only burned brighter the more fuel it was given. And yet, Keith found himself forcing the flame back down. Last time he had punched Lance in the face. A part of him wanted to do it again, he always did, but a bigger part of him never wanted to hurt Lance or see him hurt again and Lance was hurting so much now. “You’re smart. You must have had a good reason to go with the shearer. I shouldn’t have dismissed you when you started showing off.”

 

“Oh, so you think I’m a show off?”

 

“What, no. I mean, you are a show off, but you know that, everybody knows that. Why are you trying to fight with me?” Keith asked.

 

Lance turned away and made ugly faces at the tiled ground. “Because we’re rivals. All you want to do is be better than me, right? You come here to Altea all hot shot and stuff and take over my space with your tricky flying tactics and dishonorable advantageous opportunities in fighting. And now you have the princess trying to cheat you out of a level test.”

 

“It’s not cheating. I’ve been studying for a level up, but if you haven’t noticed, we’ve been at war!”

 

“Yeah we’re at war, you and me. Let’s do it right here right now,” Lance said and the ice on his skin grew thicker.

 

Rage burned in Keith. He couldn’t hold it back any more. Not only was he annoyed at Lance being dense, but Lance’s aggressions were making Keith’s nerves wrack beneath his skin. His throat felt tight again and that itchiness was back in his eyes. That was it. Keith reached forward and grabbed Lance by the shoulders before pushing the other knight up against a wall. Lance moved back with ease caught off guard by Keith’s sudden rage.

 

“You’re insufferable!” Keith yelled still pining Lance to the wall, but he moved back a bit and lowered his head so Lance wouldn’t see his face. “Was it I that challenged you to that race? Was it I that asked you to step into that arena? Was it I that said they would rather have someone else’s company? It’s you, Lance. Are we rivals or enemies?”

 

“Yeah I challenged you, but you were the one always talking big about how good you were at things,” Lance said and lifted his hands to grab Keith’s wrists trying to pull them off. “You were always acting like a big shot!”

 

That wasn’t true. Keith was good at things because that was all he had. He had never been good with making friends in Ko-gane, but he had earned respect. Keith shook Lance ignoring his hold. “I was trying to connect with you! I like challenges and I like your stupid jokes. I never wanted you to get in trouble. I didn’t want to embarrass you. I didn’t want this rival thing, but it’s like you don’t even want me to be your friend. It’s like you hate me!”

 

“Keith?” Lance asked slowly. Then, he softened beneath Keith’s grip, body growing limp. “I...I saw the pellets being exchanged, that’s why I was trying to get that girl’s attention.”

 

Keith growled and gave Lance one last shake before pulling away, head still bowed. “I don’t care, Lance. I trusted you would come back eventually even if I didn’t want you to go. If you’re going to use this rival business to just yell at me when I don’t deserve it then I don’t want it. Just hate me plainly already.”

 

Lance was silent. Keith didn’t look at him, but he could see a slight wobble to his legs as the tried to stand straight against the wall.

 

“Keith I…” Lance started then suddenly slunk to the floor, hands and face lowered as he pulled up his knees. “I’m a mess.”

 

Keith sighed. “I don’t want to be your rival anymore, Lance.”

 

“I don’t hate you at all, Keith. Blue would not have let you steer him if I hated you.” Lance lifted his head, but just enough for Keith to catch a glimpse of his wet blue eyes as he tried to continue hiding within himself, a small grin trying to force it’s way onto Lance’s face. “And Blue knew the situation, he knew who to trust.”

 

Keith’s chest felt like it had collapsed in on itself yet his nerves had gone from a scratchy drum to a singing hum pulsing through his veins. He lifted his head so he could meet Lance’s eyes fully aware they were wet and red. He softened his face and did smile even if it was only a forced pull. “All Blue needed was for you to trust me.”

 

 

Chapter Text

9. The Prayer

 

White upon white upon white. Keith was almost blinded by the radiance of it. They called it Voltron’s Shrine, a giant building made from snow stone with frosted glass of different opacities making up scenes on the giant windows. They depicted their metal God, Voltron, in moments of triumph. They were beautiful, but Keith much preferred the temples in Ko-gane, their glass was more colorful and temples smaller. There were ones on multiple streets in the capital alone and then a much larger one in the castle where their Right Arm was kept safe. In Altea, there was only one major place of prayer, this shrine made of snow stone built generations back, one of the few buildings made of the cold rock still standing in Altea. Voltron’s Shrine was far to the north where the stone could keep it’s frozen shape. Many of the court and servants had taken their leave a few days prior to the Day of Prayer. Allura had gone earlier than that with Lord Hunk and Lord Pidge, the later who did not step foot in the castle but agreed to stay in the Lair, as her protectors. Early, just as the sun rose, Keith and Shiro and the rest of the knights and riders fortunate enough to to be left behind rose into the pink sky and chased the midnight moon as it set.

 

It was beautiful though, Keith would give the shrine that. He stood by Shiro as villagers finished their pilgrimage and settled on gold benches in the shrine, most of them in the back and filing in high up on balconies covered in furs or layered in their own ice. The court and royals servants sat in the front seats while chosen members of the Masters stood to one side of the main altar. Shiro, Keith, and the other knights stood on the other side. The altar itself was a large piece of crystal with a blue colored crystal trapped inside shaped like a lion. The right leg of the lion was not made of crystal, but what appeared to be metal, the Right Leg of Voltron as the myth went.

 

It was a beautiful and mysterious thing, but Keith felt deep in his stomach that he should not be in its presence. Keith believed in Voltron as much as anyone needed to for a promise to be real. In Ko-gane, people did not rely on Voltron for their wins, but praying to the entity that was Voltron was not uncommon for a little luck. Weddings and namings took place in temples all of the time. It was just their way of life. On the Day of Prayer, they ate sweet meats and fermented juices after a trip to a chosen temple where they listened to a chosen Master babble on. Keith usually went with Shiro to the castle’s temple where Prince Sven had taken up the duties of the Temple Master. He usually liked the stories and he always had a warm feeling in his chest after the major prayer was over and they were released.

 

Keith didn’t think he would ever get warm in this shrine and he already knew that the usual two to four hours in Ko-gane would be doubled that here as more and more people filed in. He wasn’t Altean and he wasn’t the one who would be Consort of Altea. Keith thought perhaps he should have stayed to guard the door where Lord Hunk and Lord Pidge were bunkered down covered fully in furs where they had been ever since the princess had began her prayers.

 

Princess Allura was below them where the crystal that housed Voltron’s Right Leg grew. From the crack where the crystal was, Keith could see a pulsing blue light floating up. It made the water ring that surrounded the crystal emit a faint blue glow. Keith wasn’t sure how that ring of water hadn’t frozen, perhaps because it moved so quickly. The four small white dragonettes the princess kept as companions played happily in it helping it to not freeze and not seeming to be a concern for those around.

 

“They’re ‘purified’,” a voice said from beside Keith.

 

Keith jumped and turned to see Lance who had finally taken his place at Keith’s side in front of the line of knights. “You came.”

 

“Of course, I was going crazy being locked up in my room. Besides, this is my favorite holiday. I might not look it, but I’m a real big devotee. I was purified, too, that’s why I get away with so much,” Lance explained.

 

Keith raised a brow and looked Lance over. He was dressed in the fancy and clunky armor he had wore the second time they had met in the Olkari Gazebo all those months ago, but this time, they seemed to fit him much better. There were more layers and more fabrics with a helmet like a lion on his head bejeweled with bright blue stones. The other knights wore similar outfits in their dragon’s color only slightly less fancy than Lance’s. “Well, you look like you’re more than ready. What does purify mean?”

 

Lance frowned. “That ring of water, the High Master controls it. It’s called the Ice Chastity. You can not touch it or go below to the crystal's nest if you have not been purified. There are few members of the court that have been purified. All must be given recommendation by the King or Queen or their Consort. As we have no Queen or King, no one has been purified in years. The princess has not been granted that power. Ah, but if you wish to make a promise before Voltron, you can go below and you’re allowed one touch in the ring down there. Otherwise, a Shrine Master has to pour the water for you.”

 

Lance grinned at Keith and Keith felt embarrassed. Lance had been there when Keith admitted he had made his promise to protect Shiro before the Right Arm of Voltron.

 

“How did you get purified?” Keith asked.

 

“I was a baby. King Alfor did it. I guess it was to wash away the sins of my mother and father from my body. I suspect he had planned for me to be the princess’ protector all along,” Lance said in barely a whisper.

 

Keith nodded. There were many ears around, though, for once, Keith did not sense as many with that studying gaze. In Altean, there seemed many that were truly devoted to stories no one knew were true.

 

“I wonder if you were a quiet baby,” Keith said.

 

“Never,” Lance chuckled. “I cried all the time.”

 

“Unless there was a nipple in your mouth,” Keith mumbled.

 

“Hey, how’d you know,” Lance said and nudged Keith’s shoulder with his. It hurt a little. The metal of Lance’s shoulder pads were unforgiving.

 

“Lucky guess.”

 

Lance shrugged. “I became a fan of women fast. It was never my actual mother. Not even a step mother, just any woman my father or one of my uncles was with that could.”

 

Keith made a face. “I don’t even want to think about when you became a fan of men.”

 

Lance shook his head from side to side. “And who said I was a fan of men?”

 

“You flirt with literally everybody,” Keith pointed out.

 

“You’re not wrong.”

 

There was an itch in Keith’s nose. He grabbed at the clothe of his collar and brought it to his face, covering it as he tried to stifle a sneeze. It would echo in the shrine.

 

“Hey, are you cold?”

 

Keith glanced over at Lance. “Of course I’m cold. This shrine is made out of snow stone. Even the seats are cold.”

 

Lance narrowed his eyes and looked Keith up and down. “You’re wearing your ball outfit.”

 

“Yes as is the Prince Commander,” Keith pointed out.

 

“Ah, but his outfit comes with a nice princely fur cape,” Lance said.

 

He was right, Shiro did have a black fur cape around his shoulder. Perhaps Keith should have asked for warmer clothing. He had thought about bringing fire to his skin, but he was afraid of melting the snow stone even though it would not do much if he only used it in small bursts.

 

“I thought it would be warm. It’s warm in the castle,” Keith said.

 

“The castle isn’t made of snow stone. You could have worn your Ko-gane outfits for the Day of Prayer. It’s the same event, just a different part of Voltron’s body we’re staring at.”

 

Keith reddened. “I couldn’t have done that. Everyone stares at me enough as it is in Altea.”

 

“Why would they stare at you more?” Lance asked.

 

Shiro suddenly cleared his throat from where he stood beside Keith and slightly in front. He looked back and grinned. “As our Mastery is fire, you can imagine what are temples are like on the Day of Prayer. Our metal armor is basically just jewelry and we wear shirts that barely cover even our chests on some, armored belts with tight pants and flowing skirts. I did show the princess my outfit and she thought it was most innapropriate. Those who are not knights do not wear much better even on a daily basis.”

 

Lance’s eyes went wide and he turned to Keith with an excited grin. “You have to show me. I would have loved to have seen that.”

 

Keith made to look offended, but his heart thumped in his chest. “Never, I will not let you make a pervy mockery of our holy outfit.”

 

“No one kept those outfits very holy,” Shiro mumbled to himself causing Lance to chuckle. He stopped only when the doors behind the crystal opened and the princess entered.

 

Princess Allura was dressed in white from head to toe, a white so white it made her hair appear silver in comparison. When she made her way to the altar, her four white dragonettes flew to her outstretched arms and settled about her, one in her hair, two on her shoulders and the other, the smallest, settled in her hands as she brought them before her before moving to her neck wrapping around the long expanse of skin like a necklace. She was beautiful, Keith would never deny that, but there was something more today. It was a beauty like the sun rays shining against Keith’s window early in the morning and illuminating each individual snowflake stuck to the glass.

 

A week’s worth of prayers had left Allura with a holy beauty.

 

“Believers of Altea, Voltron welcomes you with much enthusiasm. Let us bow our heads in prayer as we give our thanks to his sacrifice. Thousands of years ago, our great deity arose from these lands: a leg from the snow, an arm from the sands, birth from trees another arm, and dug out of the ground another leg. Then Voltron sent to us his head from distant lands high above the clouds and our ancestors molded him together and with prayer brought our God to life. Happily we lived in Voltron’s presence until the great evil came that separated our lands and brought on the two moons. As our shores cracked, we moved farther and farther inland and Voltron fought valiantly for us and sacrificed himself for our protection. Again, his head rose to the clouds and there he watches over us unable to reach out, but here in Voltron’s Shrine he can take one step into our midst and guide us a step at a time. Let us pray in thanks for Voltron’s sacrifice.”

 

Everyone bowed their head. Keith found it odd, but followed along. In Ko-gane, you reached for the sky. Perhaps that was only because they had an arm. The summary of Allura’s story was similar to their own. It was just a body part, they were still so similar.

 

“Believers,” Allura said after a few moments of silent prayer, “I have spent the week conversing with Voltron through prayers at the base of the crystal that holds his holy leg from damage. Though he is silent, he has shown me what he wishes from us this year. As we know, peace was made last year and now he encourages us to war. The Galra has potential to bring back the great evil. He has given us his blessing to proceed with this fight and we must not let him down, I’m sure our allies have heard the same. Down with the Galra Empire!”

 

“Down with the Galra!” the crowd chanted back.

 

Keith couldn’t help but flinch at that. It was a delayed flinch. He had almost joined the crowd in their response. In Ko-gane, Keith found times where he forgot about his hybrid status. For the first time, he had felt that here.

 

“They’re just talking about the Empire,” a voice said from beside Keith.

 

Keith glanced over to see Lance looking over Keith with a wary look in his blue eyes. It was soft. Concern, Keith thought though was hesitant to think so.

 

“I know, I almost forgot about it myself,” Keith assured softly and tried to smile.

 

Lance blinked at him before going back to staring at Allura as she continued to speak of Voltron’s wishes. Keith didn’t look back even when the Shrine’s Head Master stepped up and brought the crowd’s attention to herself as she began to sing hymns and prayers Keith had never learned and didn’t know if Ko-gane even had though they did keep a similar book in each temple. No, Keith continued to stare at Lance.

 

The Blue knight had not lied when he said he was devoted to Voltron. His face was so serene as he sang along with the other Alteans. It was so soft, so calm. Perhaps here in the shrine on this day was the one time that Lance could loosen up around his fellow Alteans. No one was watching him here. Keith supposed it would be disrespectful to study another in such a place. If that was the case then Keith thought he must be performing blasphemy. But, he didn’t mean to gain anything by studying Lance’s face. He wasn’t even sure why he was doing so. He should see how Shiro was reacting to all of this, but he could guess the prince watched it all with an easy gaze. It was just, Lance looked so beautiful.

 

He was beautiful.

 

Keith felt heat suddenly rush to his cheeks and tore his gaze away. Beautiful. He was only beautiful because he looked so at ease. The last time Keith had seen Lance so relaxed was when he was recovering in the healing salve after the Balmera mine incident. It must be that. Keith had hated seeing Lance so quiet and cut off, he didn’t want him to be alone as well. He was quiet now, too. They had stopped singing and moved on to listening to the Master go on about Voltron’s gift of ice to their people. It was a part of the ritual Keith was familiar with only with the gift being fire in Ko-gane. Briefly, he wondered if Allura’s and Shiro’s child was to be blessed with fire, would they change their stories to accommodate their heir? Certainly, they must.

 

A soft hum brought Keith’s attention back to Lance. He was staring towards the Master, but not at them. It was as if he was watching the story play out. His blue eyes sparkled with such brilliance. Again, Keith thought Lance beautiful. When he closed his eyes as another prayer began, Keith missed the wonder in Lance’s eyes, but the soft kiss of his eyelashes brought a soft fluttering to Keith’s heart as if they had fluttered against it with the motion. So peaceful, so, Keith dared, happy. Keith wished Lance could be like this around him. Keith didn’t want to fight, didn’t want to be an enemy. He barely felt any sort of rivalry against Lance, he just enjoyed a challenge friendly or not. For once, Keith felt jealous of a deity.

 

Almost immediately, Keith closed his eyes and clenched his fists then shook his himself. Jealous of a giant leg? He was being ridiculous. It wasn’t as if there were any stories of Voltron taking lovers. He was beyond that.

 

Lovers? Keith was confused why he cared if Voltron took lovers.

 

No, not Voltron.

 

“Are you still cold?”

 

Keith opened his eyes and turned to see Lance’s sparkling gaze now on him. He caught his breath and it took him a moment to answer. “There are more people here, it’s gotten warmer.”

 

“Your cheeks are red,” Lance said and sighed. “They should have thought about you and Shiro more.”

 

Suddenly, Lance shifted and removed the top most layer of fur from his decorative amor. It was a cloak sheared from a White’s main and dyed a light blue. He moved towards Keith with it. Keith shied away from Lance, but there wasn’t much room for him to move without elbowing Shiro. Instead, he succumbed to Lance’s gesture and let the Blue rider lay the robe about his shoulders.

 

It was warm. Keith wrapped his hands in the cloth and brought the cloak tighter around him. “Thank you. But, what about you?”

 

Lance grinned. “I don’t need it. Most of the knights didn’t even bring theirs. I’m actually a bit warm.”

 

“Isn’t it strange for me to wear this? It’s blue,” Keith said. If it was red, Keith could pretend it was his own. Even white or black could be played as he was just wearing any old cloak.

 

Lance shook his head. “It doesn’t really matter. Besides, if anyone is going to seriously look at you right in my cloak and not come to the simple conclusion that it’s because you’re a cold Ko, it’s going to be when we’re outside and not in Voltron’s presence. Now just stand there and look pretty and enjoy my beautiful voice. There are going to be more hymns.”

 

Keith nodded and watched as Lance went back to devoting his full attention to the Master as she continued to praise Voltron. Indeed they sang more. Keith wouldn’t say Lance’s voice was beautiful, but it didn’t hurt his ears. It wasn’t the voice of someone who wasn’t a natural singer, but someone who had never taken lessons to improve their potential. Keith found it pleasing.

 

Keith brought the cloak up to cover his face and took in a deep breath. It smelled like snow and dew, but there was also a sharp freshness to it he knew well was Lance’s smell. He had never smelled it so close before and took another sniff then another. It was a nice smell, Lance’s smell. He wrapped the cloak even tighter until it swallowed him up. He felt silly, but how else was he suppose to hide the sudden sin that rushed through him in Voltron’s presence.

 


 

 

It was after the second hour that Keith realized what would make the Altean ritual so much longer than Ko-gane’s. They held blessings as more hymns and prayers were performed. Every knight lined up first and presented a weapon or piece of armor before Allura who dribblrd a spoonful of the water from the Ice Chastity ring onto the metal. Keith followed Lance at the end of the line. Unlike other archers, he simply laid an ornate archery glove before the princess with old Altean script sewn into the fabric in blue. It didn’t look unused, but the times it had been used must have been special. Keith thought it fit Lance to not want to put luck into his weapon. It was being unlucky that had got him where he was now.

 

When it was Keith’s turn, he stood before Allura unsure. They did blessings in Ko-gane, but there was never a particular day for anyone. If there was a Temple Master with a holy flame, you could be blessed.

 

“Voltron wishes to bless you Lord Keith,” Allura said with a soft smile. Her eyes were soft too, still holding that holy beauty.

 

Keith wondered if Voltron did want to bless him after the heat he had been fighting earlier, but he had been taught in Ko-gane that Voltron thought little about human sins. Worldly sins like death and injustice were his concerns. Still, guilt twisted in his stomach, but he reached behind his back and pulled out the dagger. The hilt was covered in cloth and he didn’t unwrap it, but he presented the blade for Allura to bless with the water. He had blessed it once long ago in flame. Twice blessed, it would certainly stand to be a formidable ally.

 

“A dagger, huh,” Lance said as Keith approached to take his place again. “It’s not one of your throwing ones.”

 

“No, but I can throw it,” Keith said.

 

“It’s special though,” Lance pointed out. “It’s the one from the Balmera.”

 

Keith nodded and watched as Shiro presented his metal arm for blessing. There were a few whispers in the shrine, but none loud enough to cause merit for concern. Shiro had also done this in Ko-gane after returning the year the blessing was for removing taint. It was mostly a Builder’s arm now anyways even if the parts were originally Galra.

 

“It was my mother’s,” Keith said.

 

“And she was the Galra? Blessing a Galra weapon for a fight with the Galra Empire, that’s kind of ironic,” Lance teased.

 

Keith grinned. “No, it’s not Galra, I think.”

 

Lance seemed curious about it, but didn’t press on as another hymn started and the court moved to receive their blessing with a splash of water to their foreheads, then the soldiers, then the servants, and finally the mass of townspeople.

 

It was sunset before Keith walked out into the light, the sky pink again and the evening mon high in the sky as the midnight moon rose from the south. He waited close to the entryway, but ways off from where Lance and his friends were gathered chatting. It would be awhile before Princess Allura could leave and she would need all three riders to escort her. He most likely could join them if he wanted, but he felt awkward doing so as there had yet to be a proper conclusion to their fight before Lance had started his room banishment. After Lance had said Blue trusted Keith, Keith had left, but the weeks in between had left him wondering how much the dragon's trust met unless their rider also trusted Keith. In such a situation, trust may have not been the issue. Lance was in trouble and Keith could save him, he had saved Blue as well. It wouldn’t take much, right? Maybe Lance at least respected his abilities as a fighter. He had been on the receiving end of them since Keith first arrived.

 

Keith would have been happy if it was Lance’s trust that allowed him to steer Blue. But, now, Keith wondered if he wanted more than his comrade’s trust.

 

“Keith!”

 

Shiro’s call brought Keith out of his thoughts. The prince approached him with long strides, black fur cloak bellowing behind him with the random low hitting winds. There had been a snowstorm while they were in the shrine, nothing big enough to cause a fuss, but many of the Altean who had taken a footed pilgrimage to the shrine now had their stuff covered in snow and many of the dragons outside were just mounds with only their colorful scales showing where they were. He came to a heavy stop beside Keith and placed a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Keith, are you ready to mount?” Shiro asked.

 

Keith glanced over to where Lance and the two Builder Lords were still laughing together waiting for the princess to finish her rounds then looked back at Shiro and nodded. “I’m ready when you are.”

 

Shiro nodded and looked back towards the shrine as well. “I thought about waiting to ride back with the princess, but we accepted an invitation to dinner at one of the northernmost Duke’s estates. Princess Allura has not been there for some time and wishes to see how their people are faring so far north. We’ll be spending the night there.”

 

Keith nodded. He had spent the night at other city duke’s homes before when following Shiro for visits. Usually he was allowed to stay in Shiro’s room as guard and ate with the servants after the meal had been cleared. Sometimes, the duke would allow him to eat with them as well. “It should be a new experience.”

 

There was an uneasiness to Shiro’s face. “I’m afraid the duke as insisted you not attend the meal.”

 

“Oh, then where shall I stay to guard you?” Keith asked trying not to show his sudden sour mood. Was it the Galra? Keith didn’t think the duke would invite them if he had a problem with them being Ko.

 

“If we had known his dislike for you, we would not have agreed to the dinner, but we had already both agreed to it first,” Shiro said and gave Keith an apologetic look, his hand squeezing Keith’s shoulder. “He will not allow you to dine with us, but he assured us you could keep guard on the roof with our dragons.”

 

“In this cold?” Keith asked then shook himself of Shiro’s touch. “My apologies, our dragons are plenty warm, I’ll be fine.”

 

“Lord Lance offered to stay with you,” Shiro said, “but I insisted that he had to be with us if my own guard wasn’t allowed. If he is so against a hybrid, he may have distaste for the Ko-Altean alliance as well.”

 

Keith nodded and again peeked over where Lance was. Those blue eyes caught his, smiled, lips parting as if about to call out, and Keith immediately looked away. He felt warm. His chest felt hot, but in a good way like when he used his flames in the dark corridors at night. It was comforting. He was happy Lance would offer to spend time with him instead of staying inside a warm and posh dining room even if he was just going to stand around the whole time. No, Lance wouldn’t just stand around, Lance would force his way into the conversation.

 

“You’re smiling.”

 

“Oh?” Keith looked up at Shiro in surprise to see the prince giving him a small smile back. “Um, no, I didn’t realize.”

 

“Was it Voltron?” Shiro asked.

 

Oh, right, it was the Day of Prayer. It would be natural for Keith to be spiritually happy. That wasn’t it, though he had definitely experienced some sort of deep rooted awakening in that shrine. “Something like that. Shall we go?”

 

Keith followed Shiro to the large lump of black barely covered by snow at all far in the distances of the snow covered field by the shrine. As they approached, Black shook herself and rose, wings stretching out to reveal a small lump of red accompanying her. Red lifted her head, blinked in Keith’s direction before letting out a small puff of fire at him. Keith chuckled at her and waited for his dragon to stretch out her tired muscles before mounting. Shiro had an easier time just setting up on Black’s head and letting the dragon start off with a short trot past the villagers headed back to their homes. Keith flew nearby as they walked.

 

When they approached the trees of the nearest forest, Black finally took to the skies and beat her large black wings. Keith ushered Red up to meet her above the thin blankets of clouds. It was beautiful up here. The reds and oranges of sunset melting into the dark indigo of night was a sight Keith would never understand, but he thought the twinkling stars that accompanied the rising midnight moon nice. They made him happy in a way. But, for some reason, Keith felt sad looking at night taking over. He missed the blue.

 

“Keith,” Shiro called as they lowered from the high skies once it became too cold to fly at that altitude. “Is there something wrong? Was it because of the blessing that was chosen? You’re always quiet, but you don’t seem to be enjoying your flight.”

 

“Oh, no, nothing like that,” Keith said riding close to Black’s head so they could talk. “You don’t have to worry about it, Shiro.”

 

The prince frowned. “I don’t think it’s anything serious, but if you have something you’re thinking about too hard, please talk to me about it. I may be your responsibility, but I am also your friend, Keith. I don’t want that to go away even when I became King Consort.”

 

Keith smiled at Shiro. He was happy to hear such a thing. “I look up to you as I think I would a brother, but I do not know if brothers talk about such things.”

 

Shiro’s face grew brighter. “Oh? My brother’s talk about a lot of things. I asked them many questions. I’d be happy to pass those answers down to a younger brother. Do talk to me.”

 

Keith frowned. Talking it out might be a good way to work out his strange feelings, but he felt embarrassed to admit to his sin in the shrine even if it had only lasted a few hymns. “I...when...when did you realize you liked the princess?”

 

“Princess Allura?” Shiro asked. “I have liked her since we met. She’s a beautiful woman, strong, and passionate. There’s not much to dislike about her. We get along better than I would have hoped.”

 

Keith shook his head. “No, the...the other kind of like.”

 

“Oh.” Shiro frowned and looked a bit troubled for a moment before sighing. “Honestly, I don’t. Do not get me wrong, I believe having an heir with Princess Allura will not be a problem, but my romantic feelings for her are scarce. I’m aware she has found favor in me more than I in her and I think she knows that as well, but as long as we can trust in each other, I think our marriage will work out. When we have a child together, that, I believe, is when I will love her. It’s hard not to love someone who has carried a part of you for so long.”

 

“I understand. You two know what you’re doing, though. I’m glad you get along,” Keith said.

 

“Ah, but that’s not what you wanted to hear. Do you like someone, Keith?”

 

Keith’s heartbeat quickened and he could feel Red’s sudden concern as she noticed through their bond. He lightly stroked her red scales to calm her down. It was fine. If anyone knew his true uncertainty, it was her. “I am unsure. How do you know if you like someone? It doesn’t seem to make sense to me to happen suddenly.”

 

“Well, I don’t think it does happen suddenly. I’ve had other love interests in the past. Before, it always started with a peak of interest and then a gradual progression. Some happened faster than others and some lasted longer. You find things you like and things you don’t like about them and if there are enough things you like then it happens.”

 

“That just sounds like friendship,” Keith said.

 

“Well, there’s the physical part as well. Not always, but there is that,” Shiro added.

 

Ah, Keith knew that. “But, can’t you have that reaction even to people you are not interested in?”

 

“Yes,” Shiro said. “And for someone who doesn’t take care of themselves often, I think it's not unlikely, but if you’re asking me this then I think it’s something more. If you’re asking me, I think you noticed before that, Keith. How did you notice?”

 

“I…” Keith thought for a moment. He didn’t want to give it away. He was almost sure Shiro would tease him since it was so ridiculous, but Keith didn’t think it was that ridiculous. A lot of people seemed to like Lance. Why would it be odd for Keith to be part of that pool? Except, that was it. “I get jealous.”

 

“Oh, so they’re popular with others? Shiro guessed.

 

“They like to make themselves popular with others,” Keith said bitterly.

 

“Do you not like that?”

 

Keith pressed his lips mulling it over before answering. “I understand it. And sometimes I admire it, but then I just wish he wouldn’t. And I want him to trust me. He backs away a lot when I only want to be closer. He’s insufferable, though, absolutely insufferable. But, I can’t say I hate being around him. I do...miss him...when he’s not around.”

 

“Anything else?” Shiro asked.

 

Keith stared down at a few scales around one of Red’s horns that were beginning to shed and began to scratch at them with his fingernails. Red seemed to enjoy it and purred low in her throat. The feeling of it through their bond and the comforting sound urged Keith to continue. “His voice. He talks too much, but I like how it sounds. It’s comforting to hear it even if it makes me mad sometimes, the words he says.”

 

“It’s not good if he hurts you with his words,” Shiro said.

 

“I’m not the best with words myself,” Keith said. “I know that more than anyone. I think that’s why I don’t take most of them too seriously. Some of it I don’t understand, but the ones I do...well, I...sometimes the teasing feels nice.”

 

“That’s called flirting, Keith,” Shiro said.

 

Right, probably. Lance flirted with everyone and he probably flirted with Keith out of habit. “I don’t really know about that. I just...I like his eyes when he’s not around others, when he’s comfortable. And I like his scars even if they’re all from stupid things. And his smell.” Keith turned his head and buried his nose into the fur of the coat he was still wearing. “It’s sharp, almost burning, but cool at the same time, like my flames.”

 

Shiro suddenly made a choking sound and Keith tensed up. Perhaps he had said too much.

 

“Well, I think I can safely say you at least have a crush on Lance.”

 

Keith jumped hearing the name and Red growled at him. “I...how did you know?”

 

“You’re wearing his cloak,” Shiro said. “And there are few others in Altea you even spend time with. Perhaps Lord Pidge, but you made it clear they were male and Lord Hunk is otherwise occupied.”

 

“I-it could have been you,” Keith countered.

 

“You started this conversation saying I was like your brother.”

 

Keith groaned. “He’s the one that forced the cloak on me.”

 

“I know,” Shiro said, “I was right there beside you. I could hear you two flirting behind me.”

 

“He wasn’t flirting, he was just being annoying,” Keith said. “How closely were you even listening anyways. You should have been paying attention to your betrothed.”

 

“I paid attention in my own ways,” Shiro said.

 

Keith understood what the prince meant. The Day of Prayer in Ko-gane was definitely not anywhere close to as holy as it was in Altea. “But, um, you weren’t listening closely enough to…”

 

“Hmm?” Shiro asked. He definitely glanced back, but Keith didn’t dare look up to see it. “Ah, your awakening, so one did happen in the shrine. Well, with how much you keep sniffing Lance’s cloak now, I can only imagine, but that’s solely between you and Voltron and our teachings never said Voltron cared about such things.”

 

Keith let out a groan of his own. “What do I do now? I don’t get how this all works.”

 

“And that’s the difficult part. In my opinion, Lord Lance is not a bad guy, but he will be difficult to handle. You could always keep such feelings to yourself, bury them inside of you like a treasure. It is your first crush after all. Or, you could face it straight on and tell him how you feel, but don’t expect him to feel the same, but if you did do that, you would definitely be trumping my first crush. Of course, I was ten not a full grown adult.”

 

Keith glared at Shiro riding mightily on his huge beast of a dragon with his black fur cloak waving behind him. “You’re having too much fun with this.”

 

“I respect your feelings,” Shiro said. “I won’t tell a soul. However, because it’s you, it’s awfully cute.”

 


 

 

Just as Shiro had said, the duke of the northern city refused to have Keith eat with them. Initially, Keith was going to stay with the dragons outside. They were warm enough even in the cold. However, the princess made a fuss about how the duke was being disrespectful and even managed to get him to agree to many of her stances on certain topics just so he wouldn’t look so bad when they made it back to the castle. Keith ended up staying in Shiro’s room curled up by the fire in a rather large and comfortable chair so he could ‘do his job’ as the duke so politely put it. However, when morning came, he was kicked back out and the members of court that had followed the princess to the duke’s home decided breakfast should include a meeting.

 

Keith pulled Lance’s cloak tighter around him as he buried himself in the embrace of Red curled around him on the top of the duke’s mansion. Black had flown off to hunt and he hoped she ate more of the duke’s livestock then she was allowed just to spite him. He wasn’t really all that angry about it, but the fact he thought the duke was right for disliking him made him angry. So what if he was half Galra, Ko-gane barely brought it up and even the Alteans in the castle and the Lair had stopped using it as an insult for the most part, more as just a way to tease like Lance did calling him fluffy ears, but Lance called Keith a lot of things, and softly, a lot softer than he use to.

 

Lance. Keith had barely gotten a chance to exchange greetings with the other knight last night when the princess had arrived with her entourage flying on the back of Lance’s Blue with her arms wrapped firmly around his waist. He had felt jealousy warp and twist his stomach seeing their contact, but instantly forgot it when Shiro moved forward to help her down, her cheeks flushed from the cold, but her eyes showing there was more behind the blush as she was politely held in Shiro’s arms. He had waved at Keith, though, before going inside. Hunk and Pidge had not followed him in. They had left to the castle. The way home would be quicker without the rush of villagers and most of the castle trying to get back and so the Builder knights were not needed. The wave had been accompanied by a small apologetic smile.

 

Shiro had been telling the truth that Lance had offered to stay out there with him. Keith almost wished he had, but he understood the protection of the royals was more important than Keith’s loneliness.

 

As his thoughts started to circle back to Lance, Keith suddenly felt a presence coming near and looked up to see Lance coming his way. He landed his Blue nearby and and took eager but unsteady steps across the roof to Keith before plopping down beside him.

 

“Hey, buddy!” he greeted grinning ear to ear.

 

Keith was a bit surprised and leaned away blinking. “Hello.”

 

Lance suddenly reached out and grabbed Keith’s hand trying to tug him out of Red’s hold only to have the dragon huff smoke at his face. “Hey, hey, calm down. You can come, too.”

 

“Come where?” Keith asked.

 

Lance grinned. “Well, the prince and princess aren’t going to be leaving for some time so we’ve got a while to play. I’m guessing you’ve never played in the snow before, right? You only ever train or fly if you’re not working. Sometimes I see you reading, don’t know what that’s about, but let’s play in the snow. This duke has a ton of it in his snowberry orchard.”

 

“Snowberry orchard?” Keith asked.

 

“Ah, well it’s not the right time of season for them, all the trees are bare, but they’re blue or white fruit almost the size of an apple, but they’re soft and squishy like a berry. They’re very sweet, like sugar, but also citrusy. Anyways, that’s not the point. Let’s go build a snow dragon.”

 

Lance again reached for Keith’s hand and Keith let him take it to stand then mounted Red. Lance got on his Blue and led them to a field in the back of the mansion where rows and rows of dead trees were lined with piles of snow in between them. They left the dragons before they got into the trees and Keith had to chase after Lance as he took of in an energetic run and then flopped into one of the piles.

 

“Lance!” Keith called out when the Blue rider disappeared.

 

A head popped out of the lump a moment later followed by a grinning head. “I’m fine. I could find my way out of an avalanche. You’d have to melt it all and then you’d drown.”

 

Keith frowned then glanced to the base of the snow pile. He picked up a handful of snow and then slammed it into Lance’s face. “Find your way out of that!”

 

“Hey!” Lance immediately dragged himself out of the pile and started after Keith who rushed behind the pile.

 

“Wait! What’s a snow dragon?” Keith asked as Lance approached him with a ball of snow in hand ready to retaliate.

 

Lance blinked at him then laughed. “Don’t you guys make sand dragons in Ko-gane.”

 

“I’ve seen children make shapes with sand. If you add water to it, you get even better structures. Is it something like that? I usually just drew in the sand. Mostly constellations or diagrams, sometimes war tactics on how to steal our neighbor’s meat pie the next time they left it out to cool outside their tent while they slept.” Keith chuckled remembering that. The day he had succeeded, he had been punched by the neighbor and his father came and yelled at them only to get punched as well. They both went back to their tents to put salt water on their bruising chins. At least his stomach had been full, though.

 

Lance suddenly frowned. “Really? You didn’t play with other children a lot, did you.”

 

Keith shook his head. “There weren’t many children in my camp and the closest city was always so busy.”

 

“What about when you started training?” Lance asked.

 

“I was too serious so I won a lot,” Keith said. “They didn’t like that. They liked it less than me being a hybrid. There are a few hybrid soldiers, I’m the only knight, though.”

 

“I see,” Lance said. After a moment, he moved back to the large pile of snow and kicked at it so some fell then began forming it with ice covered hands.

 

“Ah, I forgot, you’re a Level 1 master,” Keith said. “Couldn’t you build anything you wanted to out of snow just on a whim?”

 

“Not quite,” Lance answered, “but you’re not wrong. It’s more fun if I put more labor into it. I’ll work on the head if you do the tail. This lump will be the body.”

 

Keith nodded and pulled some of the snow off the top of the pile onto the ground and began to shape it. The snow was cold. He knew it would melt if he used even the slightest bit of fire. He had taken his hide gloves off some time ago having been petting Red’s warm scales. After a few pats of the snow, his hands were red from cold.

 

“Alright, head is done!” Lance called out not long after. When he looked at Keith’s tail, he frowned. “Not very creative now are we?”

 

Keith frowned and stood up. “It’s cold. I can’t do much with frozen fingers.”

 

“Ah, well, at least you tried,” Lance said and leaned against the pile. “You know what the best part is about making snow dragons?”

 

“No,” Keith answered. He had assumed it was the finished product, though his didn’t look anything like a mighty beast. It was barely the size of a small Red.

 

“It’s destroying it after.” Lance grinned and suddenly a ball of snow came flying at Keith’s face. He staggered back when it hit and blinked flakes from his eyelashes until he could glare at Lance.

 

“Hey, what was that for?” Keith asked.

 

“It’s payback for earlier,” Lance said.

 

Payback, right, Keith deserved that, and yet he found himself reaching down for a snowball of his own and throwing it back.

 

“Hey!” Lance yelled and went to hide behind their dragon. “Oh, oh, I see how it is. You’ve got a fight now, Fluffy!”

 

Lance started throwing snowballs from behind the pile. They came in rapid procession. Keith threw a fireball that went straight through the dragon’s body and Lance jumped out.

 

“Hey, no fire, this is a snowball fight.”

 

“You’re using your powers,” Keith pointed out.

 

Lance gave Keith a sheepish grin and lifted his hands as if to shrug, but then Keith felt two snowballs smack him in the back of the head. He was frozen for a second before rushing at Lance. The Blue knight ran. When Keith finally caught him, they were halfway into the orchard. He grabbed onto his jacket, a thicker one than he usually wore now changed out of his formal armor, and caused him to trip. Keith tripped with him and they went rolling onto the snow stopped only by another pile. Keith wrestled his way on top and started to pelt Lance’s laughing face with fistfuls of snow.

 

“Keith! Keith, stop!” Lance called out, hands moved around to grab onto something. He eventually caught onto the cloak Keith wore, Lance’s cloak, and pulled on the hood getting it over Keith’s head and then wrapped it roughly around Keith’s mouth.

 

It wasn’t really a hinderance, but Keith stopped and stared down at Lance, half out of breath, flushed, and laughing. He looked happy. He was beautiful when he was happy. Keith felt his heart start to beat faster and tried to hide more in Lance’s cloak.

 

“Hey, are you trying to escape shrinking back like that?” Lance asked.

 

“No,” Keith said, reply muffled.

 

“You’ll get cold if you slide out of my cloak. I do expect it back, you know.”

 

“I know.” Though Keith didn’t really want to give it back.

 

Suddenly, Lance’s face fell. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

 

“Nothing,” Keith said and shifted lower over Lance so he was on his legs instead of his stomach.

 

Lance let go of the cloak and it fell open. Keith looked to the side so Lance couldn’t see his face.

 

“Hey, you’re all red,” Lance said sitting up. He reached out and touched Keith’s face. It was a cold touch, but it made warmth boil in Keith’s belly.

 

“It’s cold. My hands are red, too,” Keith pointed out and lifted them in front of his face.

 

He didn’t expect Lance to suddenly grab his hands and lift them up into his own.

 

“Oh, wow, they are red. You should have said something. Quickly, warm them up,” Lance said already starting to rub Keith’s hands between his. Then he pulled them closer to his face and began to puff warm breaths against them.

 

Lance. What was he thinking doing something like this? Keith thought he might throw up from the sudden scratching his nerves were taking every time Lance touched him just a little more gently, a little more unneeded. There wasn’t anyone around or even close enough to be watching them. And his voice didn’t sound teasing as if he wanted to get a rise out of Keith. And what was the point of getting a rise out of Keith with no one to watch?

 

There was no way Lance could have similar nauseatingly sweet feelings like Keith had been experiencing for the past who knew how long for Keith, right?

 

When Keith turned to look at Lance, the other knight looked up and smiled. It was crooked, but it shot at Keith’s heart like one of Lance’s arrows. A bull’s eye, and Keith’s breath stopped.

 

“How do you feel now?” Lance asked, a honey soft voice lifted by his smile caressing Keith’s ears.

 

The warmth building inside Keith suddenly shot up from his stomach and then down his arms to form in a small lick at his hands that Lance still held. Lance suddenly let go leaning back, hands digging into the snow and he winced.

 

Immediately, Keith leaned forward. “I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean...was it too much?”

 

“Huh?” Lance asked looking surprised at first then lifted one of his hands from the snow and shook it. “No, no, I’m fine. I don’t think you burned me or anything. It was just hot.”

 

“That’s...good,” Keith said and leaned back. Stupid. It had been years since his powers had acted on their own. At ten, most children had complete control of their fire. It was because of his feelings. Even puberty had not made him lose control like this as he had heard it did for some.

 

Lance buried his hand back into the snow and gave Keith another grin. “Hey, it’s fine, really. You must have been really cold. Just warn me next time, alright? I might not burn easily, but I will burn.”

 

Keith stared at Lance’s hand buried in the snow. It definitely hurt more than he was saying it did, but the cold snow would keep it from getting bad. Why was Lance covering it up? He should be insisting Keith play medic or something outlandish like that. He was being nice.

 

Keith sighed, his breath coming out in a warm puff.

 

“Hey, Keith, really, it’s alright,” Lance said and started to reach out to Keith.

 

Keith looked up freezing Lance’s outstretched hand in place. He looked at him feeling confused, but determined. Shiro had been right, he really only had two choices and it wasn’t like he was a teenager. If Lance did have any true feelings for Keith, be they physical or just friendly, Keith wouldn’t be able to reach them unless he opened up first.

 

Lance’s blue eyes were cautious, but curious as they waited for Keith to speak.

 

“I like you,” Keith said.

 

Lance stared at him for a moment then furrowed his brows. “Okay. I mean, I don’t hate you either. I mean, that whole thing the other week was just because I was being stupid. I really don’t hate you. I guess you don’t hate me either.”

 

“That’s true,” Keith said, “but I’m not talking about that. I like you. Here.” Keith placed a hand on his chest over his heart.

 

Lance stared silently at Keith then at his hand. He lowered his outstretched hand, but only halfway. Part of Keith hoped he would reach out again and touch Keith, but it was fine if he didn’t, Keith would accept a rejection.

 

After a few more seconds of silence, Keith studied Lance’s face. It warped from blank contemplation to wide eyed and panicked.

 

He was scared.

 

Yes, that was reasonable, that was fine.

 

Fear. No, why fear, why was Lance scared of Keith’s confession? Apologetic, disgusted, those were reasonable reactions, but scared Keith couldn’t understand. It couldn’t be the first time Lance had been confessed to, Keith knew for a fact. And Lance wasn’t even trying to cover it up with a smile.

 

“Oh,” Lance finally said and looked to the side.

 

“Lance?” Keith asked and leaned forward again only for Lance’s hand to reach out and push him back.

 

“We should...I...go back. We need to go back. I’ve got to go,” Lance said and forced himself out from under Keith.

 

He was running away.

 

Keith stood and took a few steps after Lance. “Lance!”

 

Lance didn’t respond, only started running at full force through the orchard back to the mansion.

 

Keith watched him for a moment only looking away when wetness stung his eyes. He leaned his head back and stared up at the sun blurred out by the slowly rolling gray clouds. He wondered if it would snow today, not that it would matter. Nothing would be able to soften this hurt.

Chapter Text

10. The Wings

 

One. Two

 

A swing under.

 

One. Two.

 

A twirl then one from the side.

 

One. Two. Three. Block. Four. Five. Dodge.

 

One. Two. And final blow!

 

Keith repeated the steps in his mind as he hacked up one of the already pitiful training mannequins . Straw flew out every time he swung at it with a blunted sword. At some point he had even managed to sever part of the mannequins left arm which made the swing of the contraption unpredictable, but that was fine. Predictability was boring. Keith could go through the steps without thinking with predictability. That would deter the point. He just wanted to fill his mind with practice. That was all he wanted to do since returning to the Crystal Castle the night before.

 

“Lord Keith!”

 

Keith stopped hearing his name being called. He looked up to see Shiro approaching him, one hand on his hip, the other resting on the hilt of his sword. He lifted a hand to his forehead and wiped away sweat that was collecting there and on his bangs.

 

“Your Highness,” Keith greeted with a short bow.

 

Shiro frowned and looked Keith up and down then over at the mannequin . “You’ve totally destroyed it.”

 

“I’ll repair it,” Keith assured.

 

The prince frowned. “I think it’s beyond that now. You’ve been at this for over an hour.”

 

“I can go longer.”

 

Shiro sighed and reached out. He tugged at Keith’s hair and straw fell out. “Look at you, you’re a mess. I think it’s time to stop.”

 

“But, I have to train, too,” Keith protested. “We don’t know when the Galra will attack again. I don’t want to be rusty.”

 

“Well, then how about you train with me,” Shiro offered with a grin. “Actually, I command you train with me. The other soldiers want a turn with the mannequins, too, but all your swinging and grunting and hissing has them scared.”

 

Keith’s ears perked up and he looked around. Indeed, the other soldiers in the mannequin practice area were giving him uneasy eyes while leaving the mannequins closest to Keith untouched. He felt a bit embarrassed by it all.

 

“Shall I clean up first?” Keith asked.

 

Shiro just turned and waved for Keith to follow. “Don’t bother. It’s fine to let that one get destroyed. They’re probably going to try and copy what you were doing once we’re not looking.”

 

“Oh, did I look cool or something?”

 

Shiro laughed. “Does our number one Ko knight really have to ask?”

 

“I’m not number one,” Keith protested. “I don’t think we even qualify as Ko military anymore.”

 

“Then our number one Red knight,” Shiro said.

 

“Alright,” Keith agreed. There were few Red riders in Altea anyways, it wasn’t unreasonable that he would be number one among them.

 

Keith followed the prince off to an empty area between the training mannequin area and the short range archery boards. The thwack of soft tipped arrows close by and grunts as heavy swords were swung at straw and cloth set his mood as he got ready opposite of Shiro.

 

“It’s been awhile since we’ve done this,” Shiro said as he drew his sword and lit it in flames. “I’ll use my usual sword, so if you get burned you might as well have gotten cut.”

 

Keith grinned and held the blunted sword before him and let his fire blanket it as well. “Same goes for me then. I’d rather burn you than bruise you.”

 

They came at each other with a hard clash of metal and a sizzling ignited. Keith could tell some of the soldiers had stopped their training to watch never having seen two Fire Masters sword fighting. Keith had seen it plenty of times, had done it more than that. The sizzling, the hotness of another’s fire so close and so dangerous, it was a game he enjoyed. With each swing, Keith realized Shiro’s flames were less and less a danger and it was the sharpness that would get to him first. Of course he would never beat the prince in front of others if not in an official match, but, perhaps, he could make Shiro submit. He had been able to control the Galra fire based cell bars. Perhaps he could control a Level 3 master’s fire as well. When Shiro’s sword came in contact with his once more, Keith pushed towards the prince and urged his fire to grab hold of Shiro’s. When it did, he pulled it back and the flames on Shiro’s sword came with him.

 

Instantly, Shiro pulled back and looked at Keith surprised before his eyes crinkled up and he laughed. “I should add onto the princess’ level up pardon. That was amazing, Lord Keith. Have you been practicing?”

 

Amazing? Keith didn’t know about that. “Not much, I just thought I’d try. It felt like I could.”

 

Shiro laughed and moved over to Keith wrapping an arm around his shoulders. “Really, just felt like you’d try? You’ve gotten more in contact with your fire. I bet it’s all that new passion you’ve gotten.”

 

Passion? Was Shiro referencing his crush on Lance or just the passion of war with the Galra Empire? Keith wasn’t sure, but he was embarrassed when Shiro lifted his hand to his head and began to ruffle his hair like he always did in their private time.

 

Suddenly, something whizzed between their faces. It was followed by a person pushing between them forcibly. When Keith steadied himself and turned to see who it was, he saw Lance retrieving one of the soft tipped arrows the arches were currently practicing with. He turned to them only giving Keith a very quick and very mixed glance before grinning at Shiro.

 

“My apologies. Someone got distracted and let the arrow fly. You two probably shouldn’t use all of that flashy fire so close to the archers. As Alteans, we’re not really use to it, you know. It was pretty impressive and all, however,” Lance said and slowly walked back between them heading up to the archery boards again waving the arrow in the air. “Very, very, impressive.”

 

“He’s right,” Shiro said. “Swords are less likely to come flying at us if we’re a distraction than arrows.”

 

Keith narrowed his eyes after Lance. The arrow in his hand was tipped in blue. The usual soldiers had wine colored tipped ends to look like blood when they landed on the boards. Only knights had the color of their dragons. “Yeah, I guess.”

 

“Do you want to go practice archery instead? You don’t do that too often. I need to set up a practice battle with one of the generals,” Shiro said.

 

It was a good idea. Keith did need more practice with a bow, but when he looked over at the archers, his eyes landed on Lance and he felt that ache return to his chest. He swallowed with some difficulty and straightened up. “I’ll go work with the shields. I think they’ll be the most important weapon we have against those guns.”

 

Shiro tilted his head, but only studied Keith for a moment before nodding. “Just don’t go bashing children over and over or else I’ll have to come stop you again.”

 

Another couple hours passed before a knight came up to Keith, tapped him on the shoulder, and took his shield away with a careful smile. It was a large Brown rider bulky enough to withstand the hits from the soldiers without having their temper rise. Keith hadn’t meant to be an aggressive teacher, but when he focused on something, he went overboard. That was why he didn’t want to focus on yesterday with Lance.

 

Rejection was fine. Rejection couldn’t be helped. He was willing to be only friends with Lance and enjoy whatever the other was willing to give him until his feelings finally faded. That was possible, he was sure. Lance would probably find someone else and be happy with them and then Keith would be happy for him. And if it was just a crush then it couldn’t last that long once it was crushed.

 

But, Lance hadn’t rejected him, he had just run away. And he didn’t look disgusted by Keith’s confession. At least if he had Keith could have punched Lance for not respecting his feelings. Running away didn’t tell Keith anything. He wasn’t sure if he should be angry or if he should try and pick himself up.

 

Maybe he shouldn’t have confessed. Then again, wouldn’t that have been the same as being rejected without ever knowing? Keith didn’t like not knowing, but were there times when it would have been better?

 

Keith walked over to Shiro instead and listened in to his conversation with one of the generals.

 

“I’m not sure how that would work,” the general complained.

 

“Ah, I guess you don’t have that tactic with ice. But, we do have masters in the soldier ranks, right?” Shiro asked.

 

“Of course, but how will covering our swords with ice help out?” the general asked.

 

“Keith, show him how we do it with fire,” Shiro said.

 

Keith took out his sword and covered it with fire then made the fire grow tall at the end. “Fire is a bit lighter than ice, but we can elongate our attack range like this. If they can withstand the weight of the ice, you can swing down with a longer sword and have a larger attack range. And those who are a high enough level can even have their ice shoot out from their elongated sword on impact.”

 

“You are right ice is heavier, but the Galra knight does have a point when it comes to the shattering. If we miss on the swing, we can always get them on the shatter,” the general said. “I’ll gather some knights and we can do a practice of that in the cage.”

 

Keith followed Shiro towards the cage, an enclosed area of the training arena, for uncontrolled projectile tactics to be practiced. They waited there for a few minutes while the general gathered up Ice Masters and knights for the test.

 

“Do you want to participate?” Shiro asked.

 

“I’m not sure I’ll do any good. I’ll just melt everyone’s ice before it can reach me,” Keith said.

 

“Besides, I want him to watch my arrows for me. I’m going to shoot from my dragon,” a voice said from behind them.

 

Keith turned and his heart almost leaped out of his chest at how close Lance was to him looking between Shiro and Keith suspiciously. “L-Lance?”

 

“Oh, certainly,” Shiro said looking just as surprised.

 

Lance gave Shiro a tight smile before grabbing Keith’s hand and tugging him away.

 

His hand. Keith stared at it. If Lance had rejected him, he wouldn’t be thinking about it so much, but Lance hadn’t said anything and here he was dragging Keith towards the archery boards, a full set of archery boards. One was absolutely covered in blue and in need of repainting. The full archery practice set hadn’t been set up today. Lance wouldn’t be able to do long range inside the arena walls Keith furrowed his brows and pulled his hand away angrily.

 

“Lance!”

 

The Blue rider stopped. His hand squeezed the air behind him and he slowly turned around with wide eyes before shrinking down.

 

“Why did you lie to the prince just now?”

 

“What, no I didn’t,” Lance protested and stood up straight crossing his arms.

 

“Your board is completely covered in blue. Also, Blue isn’t anywhere near right now. Red went to have lunch with Black and I’m pretty sure your Blue chased right after them.”

 

“He did not chase after them. My dragon definitely does not chase tail.”

 

Keith raised a brow. “So he doesn’t take after his rider then?”

 

“N-no...I…” Lance suddenly looked down, almost lost.

 

Keith didn’t like seeing him like this. He was afraid he would run like he had yesterday in the orchard. He sighed. “Fine, what did you actually need me for?”

 

“I did need you for that, I just forgot Blue had left,” Lance said. “I was going to have you help me put out the long range boards, too.”

 

“There’s no room for them,” Keith pointed out.

 

Lance glanced around then sighed. “I forgot about that, too.”

 

Of course he had because it was an on the spot lie so he hadn’t thought through his plans.

 

“Anyways,” Lance continued, “why are you hanging around Shiro so much today? You shouldn’t slack off on your training.”

 

“Well, for one I’m Shiro’s Right Hand,” Keith pointed out unsure what Lance was getting at.

 

“Yeah, and I’m Allura’s. You don’t see her hanging around here, right? That’s because I have to train.”

 

“I have been training,” Keith said. “I broke a mannequin and almost gave a kid a concussion from how much I’ve been training. You even cut off some of my training with Shiro for whatever petty reason you had with that stray blue arrow.”

 

Lance’s eyes suddenly widened. Did he honestly think Keith wouldn’t notice? Keith noticed a lot and he noticed a lot about Lance. He had realized that when confessing to Shiro about his feelings.

 

“I just...he was fluffing your hair and stuff. I didn’t think it would look good for your guys’ image if you got too close. Shiro’s engaged after all,” Lance said.

 

Keith frowned. “It’s fine. I might be his protector, but he thinks of me like a little brother. Of course we’re close.”

 

Lance turned his head to the side and started muttering something. Keith barely caught it perking up his ears. “You like me, but you go to Shiro during practice.”

 

“I thought you didn’t want to be around me,” Keith said.

 

Lance’s eyes widened and he looked at Keith surprised then glared at his perked up ears. “Hey, don’t do that!”

 

“Then say those things in your head. I’m not a mind reader. I wish I was though. I don’t understand what you want from me right now.”

 

“I just…” Lance started then let his words mutter off unintelligibly.

 

Keith sighed then crossed his arms and stood straighter. “We can hang out, Lance, that’s fine. Yesterday, all you had to do was say you wanted to be my friend still. I don’t mind staying as your friend. I like being around you, but not when you’re working through some weird friend jealousy thing. I was trying to give you space so you didn’t run away again, but you’re not letting me do my job either.”

 

“It’s not some weird friend jealousy,” Lance said.

 

“Well then I don’t know why you’re acting like this when I said it was fine,” Keith said. “I only said it so there weren’t any what ifs. I would rather get my feelings in check quickly. Being sad takes a lot of energy and it makes me angry. I’d rather get it over with.”

 

Lance looked at Keith with his brows furrowed. “Wait, it sounds like you don’t think anyone would ever say yes to you.”

 

“Why would they?”

 

Lance’s eyes widened. He looked uneasily stunned. Suddenly, his face softened into a frown and he turned away. “I...you...were right, I can’t fly without Blue. I’ll just head back early and do some mastery work in the tower.”

 

“Wait, Lance!” Keith called out.

 

Lance stopped this time and turned waving one hand at Keith. “And you, just...just don’t spend all your time at the Prince Commander’s side, alright?” He then ran at a sprint towards the front gates.

 

Keith stared after him then turned his head up to the sky only to see the blue outline of Blue dashing towards them called over by Lance’s insistence to get away. He grit his teeth and growled before turning around, ears flattened, and marched back towards Shiro who was watching the practice in the cage.

 

“Keith, you’re on fire,” Shiro pointed out.

 

“I know,” Keith said and his flames flicked out. “He’s insufferable! Why did I confess to an insufferable idiot?”

 

“You confessed? Did he reject you?” Shiro asked. “It doesn’t seem like it. He’s been staring at you the whole day. Even shot that arrow at us.”

 

“You noticed it, too?” Keith asked surprised.

 

“Of course. I’ve been trying to leave him be today since he seemed out of it. If you confessed that might explain why.”

 

“I don’t know,” Keith growled. “He didn’t give me an answer, he ran away and keeps running away.”

 

“Hmm, well, at least that means there’s some hope,” Shiro said.

 

Keith didn’t want hope, he wanted an answer.

 

 


 

 

If there was one thing Keith had come to enjoy in Altea, that was a warm bath. The springs had been fun to go to in Ko-gane in the middle of the night or during the cooler months, but it was never as satisfying as when it was actually relieving from the biting cold. Leaving the warmth was always the hard part especially for a Fire Master. Keith held a towel and a small bucket in one arm while loosely wearing a robe and his breeches while headed out of his hall. He slowed down when he saw someone loitering at the end of it pacing back and forth. As he got closer, he noticed it was Lance and his ears perked up. He quickened his pace hoping to catch the Blue knight before he ran away again. There was no reason for him to be so close to Keith’s quarters pacing unless he had something to say to Keith. A few more days had passed since their first training together after the confession and it had just been a repeat everyday except Keith hadn’t been able to catch Lance. He was slippery, like water through Keith’s grasp.

 

“Lance,” Keith called.

 

Lance jumped a whole foot hearing his name called and looked up at Keith frightened then even more frightened when he saw who it was. “I, uh, Keith, hey. I just...yeah.”

 

“You’re pacing in front of my hall, Lance. Did you need something?” Keith asked.

 

Lanced looked Keith up and down, his brows furrowing as he studied the pail in Keith’s arms. “Were you going somewhere?”

 

“I heard there was a hot tub on one of the lower levels,” Keith said.

 

“Oh,” Lance said and his shoulders slumped. Everything about him slumped. It looked like he had been deflated. “I guess I’ll get out of your way then.”

 

“Wait,” Keith called out as Lance turned and started heading towards his hall. “I don’t have to go right now.”

 

Lance turned and waved a hand at Keith. “No, no, it wasn’t anything important.”

 

Keith reached out and grabbed Lance’s arm to keep him from running away. Lance shook it off the second Keith touched him, but stopped his attempt to leave. He looked to the side and stuffed his hands into the pockets of a large coat. A large coat with very little blue on it mainly made up of wild animal hides and fur. He had his riding breeches on, but his boots were much thicker and he had a pack on his back along with a large sturdy bow.

 

“If there was somewhere you wanted me to go, I can go to the hot tub later,” Keith assured. “It’s not like I was going to spend all day there anyways.”

 

Lance nodded and Keith could see him trying to rebuild a wall, perhaps it was confidence. He did seem reluctant to talk to Keith though he had been the one to come looking for him. “Right, well, if you want, I thought maybe you would like to go hunting with me. You know, since Shiro and Allura are stuck in the castle all day, we’ve got some free time.”

 

“And you think I want to spend my free time with you?” Keith said trying to look serious.

 

Lance’s eyes widened before his face reddened and he took a step back. “Oh, right, no no, it’s not like I want to spend my free time with you either or anything. I just thought…”

 

Keith sighed. Lance was still being weird. “It was a joke. I’ll go.”

 

Lance pressed his lips in a frown and looked at Keith with squinted eyes. “You sure? Don’t force yourself.”

 

Keith shook his head then looked at Lance seriously. “Of course I want to go. I want to go with you. Will you wait for me to change?”

 

Lance’s lips pursed into a different expression and he nodded.

 

Keith turned and hurried to his room. He felt jittery. Lance’s nervousness was making him twice as nervous. He wasn’t sure what this was about, but if Lance was willing to hang out with him again perhaps he could pry an answer out of the other knight as well. Just a ‘No thanks, but let’s be friends’ was all Keith needed. He hoped Lance wouldn’t assume he was off the hook just because he had invited Keith out.

 

Not having much in the way of hunting clothes, Keith dawned something warm and not flashy and grabbed his knives and a rarely used bow from his personal weapon stash before heading back to the hall. He was relieved to see Lance still pacing the end of it.

 

“What are we hunting?” Keith asked.

 

“Hmm, probably just jackalopes,” Lance said. “Honey rodents if we come by any.”

 

Keith nodded and followed Lance out of the castle. He was use to hunting vipers and dessert fowl. There was very little forests and the oases held mostly birds and other small game. Their jackalopes never got as big as he had heard the ones in Altea did, just smaller than a kirin.

 

Once outside the castle gates, they mounted their dragons. Keith followed Lance’s lead out past the lake the castle was built on and to a frosted tipped forest with uneven terrain leaving plenty of spots for wildlife to hide.

 

“We can only get a few,” Lance said. “I said we would bring in tonight’s dinner, but they already sent out a smaller hunting party this morning.”

 

Keith nodded. “I’ve not done a lot of hunting. We’re more gatherers in Ko-gane.”

 

Lance suddenly grinned and stood up straighter. “Oh, well lucky you I’m a great hunter being a sharpshooter and all.”

 

Keith didn’t doubt that, however he wanted things to go back to how they were between them so he raised an eyebrow at Lance. “Really, well I guess you’ll have to prove that to me, huh?”

 

“Are you trying to challenge me, Lord Keith?” Lance asked eyes widening.

 

Keith smirked and shrugged pulling his bow off his back. “I might not have the strongest shot, but I’ve got a good aim myself and stealth.”

 

“You can’t just knife your way into a jackalope. Those things run faster than you can in those shoes,” Lance said.

 

He was studying Keith, Keith could feel it. He didn’t mind though, he wanted Lance to look at him, get comfortable with him.

 

“We will just have to see. First to three?” Keith offered.

 

“Deal,” Lance said and a smile spread across his face. “But you have to stay close, I don’t want to accidently shoot you. And whoever gets a honey rodent is an automatic winner.”

 

Keith turned to Lance and held out his hand. “Agreed.”

 

Lance hesitated in taking the offered hand. He studied Keith’s hand then his face with lips pushed to one side before shifting his stance and placing his hand in Keith's, smile broad and almost as brilliant as Keith was use to. “Agreed.”

 

Unless Keith got a honey rodent, he was confident he would lose. So, instead of going off on his own close by, he hid behind trees while following Lance and watched him hunt. It took a while before they saw anything. Though Keith saw it first, Lance was the one to get into position. He knelt down and pulled an arrow to his bow. He twisted it just slightly narrowed his eyes and let it go. The arrow landed in the hind leg of a five pointed jackalope. It made an awful sound and limply hopped away. Lance took chase, but Keith was faster removing a throwing knife from his pocket and throwing it with fire on the blade at the animal. It hit its neck and Keith was quick to hold the creature down and slide the metal across the rest of its neck.

 

“Hey, that was my kill,” Lance protested as he joined.

 

“Really? I’m pretty sure I’m the one that killed it,” Keith said and wiped his blade before sterilizing it with his fire.

 

Lance crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes at Keith. “You...I’m watching you.”

 

“Are you really?” Keith asked and looked up blinking at Lance. He felt jittery doing it, but being so annoyed by Lance until recently, he wanted to tease the other a bit.

 

Lance seemed taken aback, his eyes going wide, but then he started to grin only to instantly force it down. He cleared his throat and turned away. “I’m going to have two before you even finish cleaning up that one.”

 

Right. Keith found the cleaning up quite annoying. He did what he could and put the large creature in a bag before burying it in the snow near Red so it wouldn’t spoil before going back out to find Lance. And as promised, Lance had one bag at his feet and had his bow drawn for another kill. Keith watched him, a smile growing on his face. If he wasn’t wearing so many layers, Keith thought Lance’s arms would look attractive as they held the bow steady and pulled back the taut string. Of course he had seen Lance as so, but that was during training. This was something natural, something sad and beautiful. It made Keith’s chest swell and breath uneven. Maybe these feelings would not be as easy to quench as he thought, but even so…

 

Lance let the arrow go. It flew straight at the jackalope nailing it in the neck. The Blue knight ran over and finished the animal off before dragging it back to his previous kill. He looked up noticing Keith only as the other approached.

 

“Hey, Keith, did you see? I got two just like I promised,” Lance said beaming.

 

“Yeah, yeah you sure did,” Keith said, his voice leaving his mouth softer than he intended. “You looked really cool just then.”

 

“Well yeah...wait, what?” Lance asked stopping in his cleaning process to look at Keith that was now only a few steps away.

 

Keith stopped and lowered his head a bit, ears twitching before swiveling flat against his headl. “I said...you looked really cool just now.”

 

Lance’s eyes widened and then sparked, his face going soft, words gentle. “Thanks, Keith.”

 

 


 

 

“Ugh, why did we park our dragons so far?” Lance asked after they had buried the two jackalopes Lance had caught beneath the snow near Red, Blue circling above them not far off.

 

“So the animals wouldn’t smell them,” Keith reminded as he held out a stripped off tidbit of jackalope to his dragon.

 

Lance reached above his head and let out a groan. “Maybe three was a bit much, but I still want to catch a honey rodent.”

 

“I’ve never seen one alive,” Keith said. “The castle usually bought theirs off Builders.”

 

Lance’s eyes suddenly gained a shimmer and he moved closer to Keith. “Really? Then let's go track us one down. We’ll find where their hiding spots are if we go from the sky.”

 

Keith nodded and started for Red but then was pulled back as Lance grabbed onto his elbow. He turned his head surprised. Lance seemed surprised as well, but didn’t let go of Keith’s arm only forced his face to relax and started dragging Keith with him to Blue.

 

“I know your dragon is better for small places, but those red scales are a huge signal for any animals below. The sky is pretty blue today so Blue would be better. Besides, Red would never let me steert her, right?”

 

“You’re going to let me take Blue’s reigns?” Keith asked. He had done it once, but that had been in order to save Lance.

 

“Blue will let you,” Lance assured and tugged Keith towards where the blue dragon had landed.

 

Keith grabbed onto the clasps on the saddle’s straps and tugged himself up feeling hot when hands suddenly pressed on his bottom pushing him up. He looked behind him startled then glared at Lance once he was seated.

 

“You did that on purpose,” Keith said. He didn’t need help just because his own dragon was fairly small and easy to mount.

 

“Hmm, maybe,” Lance said while staring at his hands, flexing his fingers as if grabbing something before looking up and grinning a Keith. “You’ve got a really round ass. Very squishy.”

 

Keith’s ears flattened and he looked away feeling Lance climb onto Blue behind him. He scooted up right against his back and wrapped his arms around Keith to grab onto the reigns of the saddle. He was close, too close. Keith could feel his warmth even through the layers of coats he wore. As Blue flew, they were jostled around and Keith found himself biting his lip every time Lance’s crotch pressed against his lower back. There was no way Keith had hit puberty late. He had gone through awkward erections just like everyone else, though his experience had been dealt with annoyance. Keith wouldn’t call the heat curling up in his lower stomach arousal, but something close.

 

When Blue curled its long serpentine body causing their world to go upside down, Lance let go of the reigns with one hand and pressed the hand against the warmth in Keith’s stomach and held him close to his body. Keith wouldn’t have fallen, but the small sign of protectiveness had his chest warming up as well. Lance being gentle was not unwelcome, but had he forgotten Keith’s confession? Was he just pretending it didn’t happen? Pretending it didn’t happen didn’t make Keith’s feelings go away. And forgetting, though that didn’t seem likely, just meant Keith would have to say it again. Not now though. Right now, Keith just wanted to feel this gentle warmth a little longer.

 

When they flew over the forest, they flew high, but Keith could see down into the trees enough to notice the change in elevations. Honey rodents would have caves and most of those were where the trees were the thickest, but if they were lucky, they would find one by a creek.

 

“There, water,” Lance said.

 

“It’s fast water. There’s something swatting at fish,” Keith said.

 

“It’s a honey rodent. Awesome, their fat is sweet around this time. Blue, dive in closer in ten,” Lance said. “Here, take the reigns, Keith.”

 

Suddenly, the dragon’s reigns were forced into one of Keith’s hands as Lance pulled out his bow and placed an arrow to the string pulling taunt. Just as Lance had instructed, Blue started to dive towards the stream just as a second honey rodent dashed up, growling at the first, but the growl was quickly cut off by Lance’s arrow. He sent two more flying as they swooped back up into the sky. The second one finished off the intruding honey rodent while the third just missed the first honey rodent who scampered away.

 

“You missed,” Keith said. He was amazed with Lance’s shooting ability though he shouldn’t have been.

 

“I know, your ear poked me,” Lance teased.

 

“Oh, sorry,” Keith apologized and tried to make his ears stand flatter against his head.

 

“It’s fine, the deal was only to three or a honey rodent and I did both,” Lance said and tugged on one of Keith’s ears, the one that was still trying to heal from the bullet hole. He barely felt the tug though.

 

Keith turned his head to glare at Lance as Blue steadied out into a soft glide around their kill. His forehead was bumped by Lance’s and he parted his lips in a small gasp when his vision was suddenly filled with the expanse of Lance’s blue eyes. They were unwavering, determined, like a solid wall of ice. No, not ice. Keith didn’t find that they were blocking him from something, but enticing him to come closer like the gentle waves on the sands in the largest oasis back in Ko-gane. Keith remembered dipping his toes in those waves when he was very young holding a slim purple hand, perhaps even too young to walk properly. But, it wasn’t just Lance’s eyes, the air between them called Keith closer, Lance’s breath warm and mixing with his own. Lance’s hand moved once again around his waist while he lowered his bow with the other.

 

“The winner gets a prize,” Lance whispered in a low tone that shook giving away the nervousness his eyes didn’t show.

 

A prize? So Lance wanted something? Did he have to be so close to ask it? Keith felt the ridiculous rhythm his heart always played when Lance was far too close. Yet, there was no other reply at his lips but, “Yes.”

 

It hadn’t been a question, but Keith understood why Lance waited for his reply when the Blue rider’s lips were suddenly on his.

 

Keith had never been officially kissed. Dares and jokes were left uncounted. They had made Keith think such touches more a sense of desperation than of something more similar to holding hands. Though Keith only had a second to think it, he thought he didn’t mind the soft touch. It left his lips feeling tingly like fruit peeled a day unripe. But then it ripened as Lance pressed his lips harder and Keith felt a bruising sweetness before Lance pulled back barely enough to matter.

 

“Open your mouth a bit, Keith,” Lance whispered, a tinge of that desperation Keith assumed would be with a kiss lacing his words.

 

Keith did open his mouth wider but only to ask why. However, Lance moved back in. His tongue slipped into Keith’s mouth, a hot foreign appendage that he initially tried to fight, but the slide of his own tongue against Lance’s sent that warm pool in his stomach a blaze. It made every nerve in his body vibrate, but not in a sense he was use to. He didn’t want to get away, he wanted to be closer and found himself reaching for Lance, twisting his body, reigns falling from his grip, to grab at Lance’s coat. His eyes had closed at some point, he was unsure when, his head tilted to the side by Lance’s guidance of the kiss. Of course Lance had experience in this. Keith was glad of that, his mind felt muddy and hot. He felt vulnerable, but he was in hands he trusted and wanted to trust more. And so he tried to relax more into the kiss hoping if he gave a little Lance would meet him there because he wasn’t sure why this was happening and he wouldn’t know until it stopped. But, Keith didn’t want it to stop.

 

Ah, so that’s what that desperation felt like.

 

When Lance finally moved away, Keith thought he must be on fire from head to toe. He took in quick little breaths as he slowly regained himself and opened his eyes. He was meant with blue worried ones. Why were they worried?

 

“I...didn’t do something you disliked, did I?” Lance asked and moved the hand that had been holding his bow to Keith’s face lightly touching his hot skin. Keith could see the bow poking out from his back. He must have put it back while they were kissing. He really was quite amazing to do that blindly.

 

“I...liked it I think,” Keith said and furrowed his brows. “But, why?”

 

Lance licked his lips. Keith followed the red organ, his heat twisting. Lance’s lips were chapped by the cold, but he hadn’t noticed during the kiss. There had been too many new sensations to notice something as insignificant as that.

 

“You wanted an answer,” Lance said and moved his hand from Keith’s face to meet the other one at his waist.

 

“That wasn’t an answer.”

 

“It was the start of one,” Lance said and moved to place his head on top of Keith’s. His sharp chin dug into Keith’s head, but he didn’t want to complain. This affectionate closeness, he liked it far too much.

 

“I want to start with an apology.”

 

“You started with a kiss,” Keith said.

 

“Well, then I want to follow up with an apology. I should not have run out on you like that in the orchard. I needed time to think about your confession and I should have told you that,” Lance said. “It’s not like you’re the first to confess to me, but I’ve never had a confession by someone I was close to, someone I cared about. The fight we had made me realize I was just being stubborn. You’re part of the Altean government now, but you’re not Altean. There aren’t many people I can trust in Altea so I wanted to keep you at a distance. I was already helping you more than I needed.”

 

“I’m thankful for that,” Keith said.

 

“I know you are. I had decided to consider you a friend, but then you confessed.”

 

“I’m sorry if that troubled you. They are unfamiliar feelings and I wanted them out,” Keith admitted.

 

Lance chuckled. “I figured as much. You’re so innocent and honest. I knew that from the beginning. I also knew you were way beyond attractive. If we hadn’t gotten close, even in a weird rivalry way, I probably would have taken that confession in a heartbeat. I just...I had to think about feelings. I already knew I got jealous when others were around you, but knowing you liked me and was still playing with others pissed me off.”

 

“It’s just Shiro,” Keith defended.

 

“I know, but it’s not like you two are real brothers like Allura and I are real siblings,” Lance said.

 

“So?” Keith urged. He still hadn’t heard it, a sorry or no thanks, though Keith was more feeling it would be along the lines of something he hadn’t considered before.

 

Lance sighed and moved his head from Keith’s. “You really do need a straight answer, don’t you? I guess what I’m saying is I don’t mind being lovers with you. However, I want to keep it quiet. This is a private matter and I keep all of my private matters private.”

 

“We are part of the court, of course we’ll keep it quiet,” Keith said. His heart was beating as hard as Black’s wings. “Though, are you sure? You can deny me, it’s alright.”

 

Lance’s face contorted into a scowl. “That right there is what made up my mind. I don’t know what makes your gorgeous ass think no one would want to be your lover, but I’m going to prove to you how very desirable you are physically and mentally.”

 

“Then do I do the same?” Keith asked.

 

“If you want,” Lance said and glanced away.

 

That made Keith frown and he let one of his hands travel down Lance’s arm. “What else should I do? I wasn’t expecting this outcome at all.”

 

“Just be like we usually are, but I’ll flirt with you more. I’ll flirt with you seriously,” Lance said.

 

“Oh goody,” Keith teased. He felt a bubbling his his chest and a tug at his lips. He felt happy.

 

Lance turned his head back and narrowed his eyes, but he was grinning. “And I’ll kiss you more.”

 

“Kiss me now,” Keith said. “I might decide I don’t like kissing if you wait.”

 

So many new feelings danced in his stomach and chest. He barely understood the words that were coming out of his own mouth.

 

“I’ll do that then,” Lance said and started to lean in only for his nose to bump Keith’s as Blue made a sudden jolt and growled.

 

They both looked down. A dracolisk was approaching their kill.

 

Lance sighed and reached around Keith for the reigns. “I’ll take my chances. When it comes to kissing, I think they’re pretty good.”

 

 

Chapter Text

11. The Mating

 

Keith made his way to the lake that surrounded the Crystal Castle via a silver kirin. It wasn’t often that Keith mounted anything other than a dragon and usually it was a dracolisk. Since kirins were native to colder climates, he had never even seen one in real life until the day they had boarded that carriage what felt like only yesterday but was already four months now. It was a scaled creature, but the scales were as soft as velvet beneath Keith’s fingers and its long main was even softer than anything Keith had ever touched. Its long tail was thin and tuft with fur at the end while it’s head paid home to a large ivory horn with many points similar to a jackalope’s. Kirins were definitely smaller than dracolisks, Keith thought as he watched the creature’s muscles move beneath him, but it had large fur covered claws and Keith understood why the Alteans prefered the creatures over dracolisks. They also didn’t need reigns. Just a press of your fingers against their necks had them going in the direction you wanted unlike the much more distractible and fowl tempered beasts Keith was use to.

 

They were also beautiful.

 

Still, Keith preferred dragons. However, it had seemed silly to call Red all the way from the Lair when all he needed to do was go to the lake below and retrieve Lance. Besides, Red would be busy trying to keep Black from ripping off the other dragons’ heads. It was her mating season after all.

 

At the shore of the lake, Keith slowed the kirin and looked around. White riders gathered snow from the banks to mix in with a sugar scrub for exfoliating their dragons’ scales and giving them something to lick at while their manes were cut and harvested for coats. Those already sheared were in the water staying out of the way of the Blue riders doing tricks in skin tight hides as they dived below the cold surface and into the lake’s depths. The thought of such an act made Keith shiver and he dismounted. He didn’t want the kirin frightened by going closer to the dragons and their riders.

 

“Where is Lord Lance?” Keith asked one of the White riders he recognized as a guard from the castle.

 

“With the other Blues,” the guard answered letting her small White eat the scrub from her hand. “He’s the one that started the race.”

 

“Race? Is it the typical end?” Keith asked. He got a nod and hurried over to a dock that extended over a deeper area of the lake.

 

It was cold, but Keith could feel the winds bring warmth from the south. He could almost smell the sweet spiciness he knew from Ko-gane. It would be like this for a few months, but not for long. There never really was a season change in Altea nor one in Ko-gane. The Builders often talked about the year bringing new weather. Keith had never understood such a thing. But, he understood cold now. There were quite a few things Keith had began to understand since coming to Altea.

 

Keith barely waited a minute before there was a large splash and a Blue pulled itself from the water onto the dock. It barely managed to miss him, but Keith knew this dragon had grown fond of him. It looked down at him with oil colored eyes squinted in affection as water dripped off its large magnificent blue scales even before its rider understood they had an audience.

 

“Oh, Lord Keith,” Lance said peaking around his dragon and waved before turning his attention behind him.

 

Keith watched other dragons raising their heads from the water, scrunching their bodies so parts of them broke the surface and gave their riders relief from the cold water.

 

“I win again!” Lance called behind him only to get grumbles and mostly friendly curses thrown at him.

 

“Lord Lance,” Keith called. “Princess Allura is expecting her Right Hand. Her and her intended are to visit the Masters’ Gardens tonight.”

 

“Oh, right,” Lance said and slid off his dragon.

 

He started walking towards Keith while shaking his short brown hair of water. Keith was annoyed as cold specks touched his face and flattened his own hair, but couldn’t help his eyes as they focused in on Lance’s diving clothes. He was lanky, but it had grown in with muscle. However, the diving hides he wore in a dark blue almost black did not appear to have grown with him. Across his shoulders, the thin material pulled taunt and when wet, it clung. Keith swallowed and looked away only looking back when Lance placed a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Did you bring Red?” he asked patting Keith’s shoulder to be annoying.

 

“No,” Keith said and glared at the hand, but the glare was more forced than anything. “I rode a kirin down.”

 

Lance stopped patting Keith’s shoulder and squeezed it once before letting go. “Too bad, we could have ridden Blue back together.”

 

“Both you and Blue are wet,” Keith pointed out.

 

Lance shrugged and kept walking. Keith’s ears twitched and he turned his head just enough to watch Lance walk away in his peripheral. Perhaps he thought the Altean’s weird staring strange because he rarely stared at people himself finding it rude, but Keith thought he was allowed to stare at Lance now and found it quite fascinating.

 

A warmth pooled in Keith’s stomach and burst forth when Lance suddenly turned his head. First, he looked down and then his eyes traveled up and he met Keith’s. He raised a brow at first before grinning.

 

“Like what you see, Lord Fluffy?”

 

Keith’s face reddened and he shook his head. “It looks uncomfortable.”

 

A softer grin pulled at Lance’s lips. “It’s like a second skin. Come on Blue, let’s go dry up.”

 

The Blue dragon suddenly stood and shook itself. Keith didn’t have time to dodge as large cold drops hit his face much more annoying than Lance had been shaking his hair. He turned to glare at the dragon all heat gone.

 

“I’ll meet you in the gardens,” Keith said and hurried back to the patiently waiting kirin.

 

The Masters’ Gardens were in a large dome larger than the entirety of the castle’s made of glass like ice not far from the Crystal Castle itself. It held many small plants that could only grow in the cold climates of Altea, but ones that needed to be protected from the icy winds and wild animals. Rare plants. It was a beautiful area with white tipped ivy growing up the sides of the ice from the outside connecting the dome to a watch tower where a telescope could be seen pointing towards the sky.

 

Shiro and Allura walked side by side down a path before stopping at a large area of purple flowers with orange stems. The princess leaned down and picked one, blowing softly on its petals. The purple petals came loose easily and floated down to the soil.

 

“Those are our kingdom’s national flowers,” Lance said from beside Keith watching their charges from under a purple leafed tree with branches just barely missing their heads. “Their petals hold their seeds, so the idea is that they will continuously keep growing, but it is hard for the seeds to land in good soil so pastures of them can be wiped out in one storm. There was a year when I was little that it was unusually warm and the flowers became a nuisance.”

 

“They’re beautiful, though,” Keith said leaning against the tree, arms crossed. “This whole place is beautiful. We don’t really have gardens in Ko-gane and none as big as this. We usually just visit an oasis.”

 

“Oases sound interesting,” Lance said and reached up to pluck a few of the purple leaves off the branch above their heads. “Since it’s mostly ice and snow here, we have to keep an eye on our wilderness. There’s at least one garden near every city. We visited the one in the south before.”

 

Keith nodded and watched as Shiro tried to blow the flower’s petals farther than the princess making her laugh. She had brought her four dragonettes with her and they flew about the flowers diving down every now and then to scatter the petals. Keith suddenly turned back when he felt something poking at his hair. Startled, he slapped at it catching Lance’s hand.

 

Lance moved back, purple leaves in his hands and he jutted out his bottom lip.

 

“Wh-what were you doing?” Keith asked and petted down his hair finding leaves stuck in it.

 

“Decorating you,” Lance answered.

 

“I don’t need decorating, thank you,” Keith said and went back to crossing his arms, but he didn’t turn his attention to the prince and princess again.

 

“Decoration never hurts,” Lance muttered. He was looking down at his hands twirling the leaves between his fingers. There was an uneasiness to his posture that made Keith feel guilty about slapping his hand away. If Lance wanted to play around, it was most likely fine. They were in an enclosed space. Keith would just have to be careful of his fire as not to melt the ice encircling them.

 

“Lance, what are you thinking about?” Keith asked.

 

The Blue knight looked up, but not fully as if he didn’t want to take his attention away from his hands and the purple leaves. It looked like he had started tying them together. He went back to looking at his hands before speaking, a blush dusting his tanned skin.

 

“Well, I was thinking about the last time we went with the Prince Commander and Princess Allura,” Lance started. “I...I should have made it a date with you. Jokingly or not, it would have been perfect even just for a reaction.”

 

“I would have gotten angry,” Keith said, but still felt intrigued by the thought. “I didn’t know if I liked you then.”

 

Lance looked up grinning. “I know, but it was funny when you didn’t know I was flirting with you. The past couple days, you still don’t get it sometimes. I’m okay with that though.”

 

Keith’s ears twitched slightly annoyed. It had only been a few days since he had gone hunting with Lance. The kiss had plagued his sleeping mind, but he had been fairly good about ignoring it during the day. During practices, he had been able to understand some of Lance’s teasing as flirting, but there was a part of him that liked being riled up. He wasn’t sure how he felt getting riled up by the occasional purposeful caress of Lance’s hand against his when they brushed past each other in the hall or during mock fights. And the stares, he became more aware of them, of Lance’s. They were suppose to be keeping their relationship professional and he tried not to react to anything Lance did, but he hoped Lance wasn’t being too obvious. Even if their relationship was to become something like Shiro’s and Allura’s, something truer than that, he still didn’t think he would want their affections to be so obvious.

 

Keith refused to think that far ahead, though. Their relationship was barely a thing now. If it wasn’t for their words, it could have been just a dream.

 

“My experience is little in interpersonal matters. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes,” Keith explained.

 

Lance chuckled. “Like I said, I don’t mind. It’s like roulette. You’ve played that before, yes?”

 

“Of course. I was dared to a lot.”

 

Another chuckle. “Right, I could see that. Ah, but in this case I like either result.”

 

Keith felt his own face reddened and stared down only to see Lance reaching for his hand. He didn’t pull it back. He watched as Lance held his hand and brought his other forward slipping a ring he had made from the leaves onto his middle fingers.

 

“You’re very good at that,” Keith said admiring the ring. It wouldn’t last long, Keith could tell feeling the leaves already grow crunchy against his skin, but it was still beautiful.

 

Lance moved Keith’s hand in his and entwined their fingers. “I have older sisters. I’m closest to them of all my family. They taught me how to make jewelry from lots of stuff. My father didn’t mind. We’re a family of wooers after all.”

 

Keith pressed his lips, but squeezed Lance’s hand. He wasn’t sure if he was happy about that or not. Lance hadn’t really been trying to woo Keith, but maybe he was now. “Is it wooing if you already know it’s going to work?”

 

“Just because you like me doesn’t mean it’ll work on you. It’s probably even more difficult to woo someone who already likes me,” Lance said and pulled his hand away placing his arm above Keith’s head and leaning in. There wasn’t much of a difference in their heights, but the bit Lance had over Keith looked far more at this angle. He didn’t grin or wink as he leaned in, there was just plain sincerity to his face and blue eyes, a look Keith liked enough already, but Lance’s voice held the real gold. “I just want to see your reactions, every face, every twitch, every sigh and groan. All of them.”

 

Heat pooled in Keith’s belly as Lance moved in closer. He didn’t guess, didn’t think, only instinctively leaned his face up and met Lance halfway with his lips. They weren’t as chapped as before not that Keith remembered that feeling only the sweetness that was a bit more numb now, but still as pleasant.

 

It was a hard press followed by two smaller presses and Keith didn’t realized he had closed his eyes until Lance moved away. Lance’s eyes stayed half lidded as he gazed down at Keith and one side of his mouth lifted in a grin.

 

“How about we make this a double date this time?” Lance asked still leaning over Keith.

 

Keith blinked at Lance and was surprised when his voice came out soft. “What does a date entail?”

 

“Hmm, the usual stuff we do, but we get to touch each other more,” Lance said.

 

“You mean kissing?” Keith asked.

 

Lance’s grin grew to both sides of his face and his eyes closed more as he let out an amused snort. “Yeah, kissing is part of that.”

 

Only part of it? Even though Keith knew, he still felt embarrassed. “Alright.”

 

Lance moved his other hand up and started to lightly caress his long fingers along Keith’s face starting at his jawline and chin then under his lip. Keith tried to follow Lance’s hand, but trying to look at something so close and out of his direct line of view made everything blurry. Instead he closed his eyes and the sensation of Lance’s touches made his skin irritated with a blooming sensation. It wasn’t bad though. Lance’s fingers moved across his cheek, the tip of his thumb touching his eyelashes until they moved up to his hair around his ears and he started to scratch. Keith shivered and tilted his head into the touch.

 

The touch suddenly stopped and Keith’s eyes flashed opened to see a wide eyed Lance looking at him.

 

“Galra purr?” Lance asked.

 

A flush ran up Keith’s neck and he pressed his lips together not sure if he should be embarrassed or offended. “Yes, was it...weird?”

 

“No, I…” Lance started, but trailed off. His eyes went half lidded again and his tone dropped as his hand started scratching behind Keith’s ear again. “Voltron’s ass, that’s adorable.”

 

Keith wanted to deny that, but Lance’s lips suddenly slammed onto his. Instantly, he started to purr again, a low rumble that turned into a deep groan before disappearing as his lips were urged apart by Lance’s tongue. That pooling in Keith’s stomach began to wind tighter.

 

Lance’s hand moved away from Keith’s hair and planted itself at Keith’s hips tugging him farther around the tree and so they were shadowed and out of eyesight of their charges before deepening the kiss. The slide of their tongues were gross and wet, but Keith didn’t find himself repulsed and tried to follow Lance. There was a part of him that wanted to be able to meet Lance on even playing fields in their romantic relationship. He had never really cared about the rivalry, but he had always loved a challenge and he wouldn’t lose to Lance here.

 

But, Lance was just so much more far ahead of Keith.

 

Lance broke the kiss to instead place wet kisses along the opposite side of Keith’s face he had been tracing with his fingers. Keith turned his head to give more room, scrunching up his face. It felt weird, but not unwanted. Lance’s lips moved to his ear and he nuzzled his nose into the dark purple-black fur surrounding it as he began to whisper low words.

 

“You taste spicy, did you know that?”

 

Keith’s chest thundered as his heartbeat quickened from those words. “What?”

 

Lance chuckled. “You really are too innocent. Too naive. I’ll take advantage of you if you don’t do something.”

 

“I’ll...hit you if you try,” Keith managed to growl out. It sounded no more fierce than a baby dragonette’s first growl.

 

“Sure, but first you have to unfold your arms,” Lance said and his hand moved from Keith’s hip to his crossed arms. “How can you even kiss while like this. Touch me back.”

 

Touch him? The thought hadn’t even crossed Keith’s mind before. He could touch Lance. That’s what being lovers meant, right? He let Lance unfold his arms, let Lance move one of his hands to his waist while grabbing the other in his and holding it again like before. Then, he came back for more wet kisses. Keith followed along and started moving his hand up and down on Lance’s back just enough to be a caress. The motion reminded him of Lance’s scars. He wondered if Lance would let him touch those, kiss them, lick them.

 

Just as the thoughts started, they were cut off.

 

“Lord Keith!” Shiro called.

 

Keith’s reaction was to reply back, but his voice was interrupted by Lance’s mouth and he made a muffled protest. Lance moved off only for a second, eyebrows furrowed and eyes wavering with a familiar emotion.

 

“I don’t like you calling out to someone else when we’re kissing,” Lance said, his voice was low, but more whiny than anything. He started to kiss and the edge of Keith’s lips instead giving Keith room to talk.

 

“Lance,” Keith hissed, but not able to talk loudly. He didn’t want to yell. He didn’t want to stop kissing either.

 

“They’ve been quiet for a while,” came the princess’ voice. It sounded like they were walking over to them. “I hope they’re not fighting again.”

 

Shiro groaned. “I should check first. I wouldn’t want you to see Lance beaten to a pulp.”

 

The princess chuckled and Lance squeezed their conjoined hands as he moved kisses to Keith’s ear again. “Let him check on us, see which one of us is pulp or puddy.”

 

Puddy? Keith refused to be puddy or pulp. Shiro had picked up his footing, Keith could hear it, ears twitching. He squeezed lance’s hand back, but his squeeze was harder. It gave Lance pause and Keith used that second to force Lance to turn around, bending his arm behind his back then kicked Lance to the ground for the prince and princess to see.

 

“Ow, Keith, that hurt,” Lance complained turning to glare at Keith.

 

Keith glared back and turned his head to see Shiro frowning at them.

 

Suddenly, Lance started laughing. It was a bright laugh that made the flush on his face from kissing look beautiful. “I guess I lost. You really are a fast learner at tricks, huh?”

 

Shiro sighed, but stopped walking over to them. Instead, he called out. “You two, stop messing around so much, you had us worried.”

 

Keith bowed to Shiro, but Lance only laughed more. When Keith set his eyes back on the other knight, Lance was smiling at him.

 

“Do you want me to teach you some more tricks?” Lance asked.

 

“Aren’t you afraid you’ll be vulnerable to me then?” Keith asked crossing his arms.

 

Lance had the audacity to wink. “Who said I already wasn’t?”

 


 

 

The click of metal against metal. The gush of blood from opened skin raining down warm on a battlefield. The smell of fire burning brush and flesh. It had only been a small group of them, Galra, on the western border of Altea creeping in. There had been an ambush at the Balmera mines only a day before, but nothing the soldiers both Ko-gane and Altea left there couldn’t take care of. That left the knights able to act quick when a rider had flown to the castle to warn them. The Galra didn’t have much for ways of attacking. It appeared more as a stealth mission with a cart carrying a large contraption that blew up most of the Galra the moment Red blasted her first breath at it. There was enough, though, for Keith to land. He slashed at any Galra that approached him with his fiery blade and any time they stumbled back, an arrow would shoot them true. Lance was flying Blue above Keith using Keith as a distraction for the empire’s soldiers or perhaps protecting Keith. Either way, it was a good tactic and it worked. Before long, the snow covered landscape was littered with the fallen Galra. Red’s fire had melted the ground until it was mostly dirt while large walls of ice slowly melted around them.

 

“Lord Keith!” Lance yelled coming to land on the ground, hopping off and proceeding into an immediate run. At first it seemed he would hug Keith, but at the last second, he grabbed Keith’s hand, shook it, then brought him into a one armed hug similar to those of friendly knights around them.

 

“Lance,” Keith said surprised at first, but then used his free arm to hug the Blue knight back. He could feel it, a sense of warmth like worry and relief radiating off Lance. They didn’t need anything more intimate than this and Keith didn’t think Lance wanted to show those feelings. They were lovers, but still new lovers. Keith wasn’t even sure if stolen kisses and wandering hands in hidden hallways counted as being lovers.

 

“Lord Keith, Lord Lance,” Shiro called. “We’ll be heading back now to report to the princess.”

 

Lance moved away first, but didn’t let go. He moved to Keith’s side and wrapped an arm around Keith’s shoulder only half way, his hand going to Keith’s neck and fingers curling in his hair petting it. It was a nice feeling and with the adrenaline pumping through his veins from the fight, Keith had a hard time not purring. Seeming to notice, Lance tugged on Keith’s hair as he gave Shiro a thumbs up.

 

A successful fight and yet no one felt assured. Keith could feel it as they flew back to the castle. Whatever the thing was on the cart was dangerous and Zarkon had a reason for trying to get it over the border. And he had tried to enter at one of the most northern points of Altea’s western border. Any more north than that...It was said passed Altea was a frozen sea holding beasts far scarier than a Blue breaking the surface from time to time. A frozen sea, the opposite of what was known to lay beyond Ko-gane’s south. And beyond that...the Galra? Others like them? And to the east?

 

Keith sighed. There would always be fighting it seemed, but he had never known anything else. Even if this world came to peace, what about beyond the stars?

 

But, it wasn’t just the anxiety of the unknown. Keith could feel something else rumbling through the knights as they landed in the Lair. Regent Advisor Coran met them there to escort Prince Shiro, Lance, Keith, and the other court knights back to the castle.

 

“Actually, I would prefer to leave both Lord Lance and Lord Keith here. Black needs looking after. She just had her heat and she’ll be irritable after a battle like that. I can only trust her in these two’s hands,” Shiro said.

 

“And what about you?” Keith argued.

 

Shiro placed a hand on Keith’s head. “I am literally going back to the castle with a horde of other knights. Besides, Lance’s friends are with us. They have proven to be trustworthy Builders to Altea.”

 

Keith looked up to see the familiar Green and Gold making rounds in the sky. For not being Alteans, Lord Hunk and Lord Pidge had began spending quite a bit of time here. Apparently, there were also Builder riders in Ko-gane acting as go betweens as well.

 

With a sigh, Keith gave in, but kept watch until the carriage with Shiro and Coran were just dots headed towards the castle on the large lake in the distance. At least he could see the Crystal Castle from here. A hand on his shoulder made him look away.

 

“Hey, let’s go change into some clean rags and give Black a good scrub down,” Lance said smiling.

 

“Alright,” Keith agreed and turned to follow Lance into the Lair’s cabin only then feeling the soreness of battle hit his muscles. The sun was setting. They would have to make it a quick scrub if they were to get Red and Blue as well before it was too dark. Night did sound nice, though. Keith looked forward to a bed.

 

Lance, however, did not lead them into a storage room. They ended up in a dark cabin with the curtains pulled and Lance locked the door after. Keith could feel Lance approaching him, felt his presence backing him up into a wall before he felt his warmth pressing him there, holding him there, lips falling onto his. Immediately, heat coursed through Keith. He wanted to complain, but he didn’t hate it. The adrenaline still in him had suddenly burst forward and he reached around Lance’s back to pull him closer. The kiss became sloppy quickly and then Lance’s lips were trailing along Keith’s skin.

 

“Lance...I’m...covered in blood, don’t,” Keith protested, but it was weak.

 

Lance seemed to hesitate for a moment, but moved back to Keith’s lips. “Then touch me back.”

 

Keith’s heart leapt and he moved his hands up and down Lance’s body. Lance’s hands followed as their tongues dance and eventually began to undo the hide armor Keith was wearing. Once the laces were loose, his hand quickly moved beneath Keith’s shirt. Keith was not unfamiliar with the touch of hide on his skin, but Lance’s gloved hands moved, creeping against Keith’s skin like he had never felt, it was almost like the touch of a dragon’s scales, but the openings on Lance’s left glove kept the touch human. Lance’s exposed fingers were hardened by callouses and caused Keith’s flesh to raise.

 

Hot, it felt hot.

 

Eventually Lance forgot about Keith’s protests and started kissing at his skin again. Keith tried to catch his breath enough to complain again, but then Lance’s presence was gone. No, not gone. Keith could feel him drop to his knees and Lance’s hands pushed against the fabric of Keith’s shirt lifting it up and exposing his stomach.

 

“L-Lance,” Keith groaned, but immediately bit his lip. They were in the Lair. Anyone could walk by. He had to keep his voice down. “What are you doing?”

 

“I want...to taste you,” Lance said, his hot breath making Keith’s stomach jump as it blew against his belly button. “I...I’ve fought with you before, but...every clash of your sword with someone else’s made me want to be sick.”

 

He had been worried. Keith had known that, but shooting at those aiming for Keith had worked. “I’m alive.”

 

“I know,” Lance said and pressed his lips to Keith’s abdomen. “And I want to taste how alive you are.”

 

It didn’t make sense to Keith, but he couldn’t see Lance in this room to glare at him. And having someone worry about him felt good. Shiro worried about him, but Shiro also knew it was Keith’s duty to put Shiro’s life before his own. Lance had no such duty to Keith. Other than being comrades, he didn’t have to care on the battlefield. It was a hinderance to fight like that, but…

 

Keith was happy. He was much too happy.

 

As Lance turned his kisses into opened mouth licks and bites, Keith tried to be quiet, but he wanted to reassure Lance that he was there with him. Lance’s touches were reassuring to Keith. So, he tried purring.

 

Hot. Heat began pooling in Keith’s belly and lower. Hotter. Much hotter than he had felt it before. He started to feel frightened, but why? Something scratched at the back of his mind.

 

More.

 

Hotter.

 

More.

 

No. Yes. No.

 

Suddenly, Lance paused. “Keith, you’re growling.”

 

Growling? Was he?

 

Lance went back to nipping at his stomach, no, biting almost enough to hurt.

 

Keith felt it in the back of his throat, a low growl. His skin felt stickier than it had before.

 

Hot, too hot.

 

More.

 

Colors started flashing in the back of Keith’s mind. He let out a loud growl as Lance stood up and grabbed at him forcing him to turn around and pressed him up against the wall. Fear clawed in the back of Keith’s mind when he felt Lance nosing his way through the hair on the back of Keith’s neck and then he suddenly clamped down. Keith let out a gasped followed by a growl. The pain made the colors clearer. Vivid red mixed with the purest blue.

 

No. No more.

 

Go away.

 

The thoughts called out to Keith.

 

The heat in Keith’s belly cooled and fell like ice and he reared his head back slamming it into Lance.

 

“Voltron’s nuts, Keith, what was that for?” Lance asked falling back. It didn’t sound like he hit the ground. They must have been close to a bed.

 

Keith rounded on Lance reaching out for him. Finding part of his shirt, Keith started shaking him. “Lance, your dragon, what is your dragon doing?”

 

“Huh...Blue?...Blue...Quiznak! Red!” Lance yelled and pulled himself from Keith’s hold bustling about until he had the window opened enough for light to give shape to the room.

 

Keith blinked his eyes a few times as he took in the new brightness. They were in a freshly cleaned double cabin with a set of changing rags on each bed. Lance reached for one set, his face bright red and blue eyes still glazed, but hurried, and threw them at Keith.

 

“Let’s get cleaned out of these and hurry to the caves,” Lance said.

 

Keith only bothered with is shirt. It wasn’t a difficult task seeing as Lance had unlaced his hide vest already, the more clunky armor disposed of the moment they landed. The material was loose and itchy, but made for getting dirty and wet. It only took minutes and then they were out in the halls chasing after other riders as they went to the docks outside.

 

Dragons were flying in a torrent of colors out of the south side of the caves only to snap at each other in the skies. Those who had been calmed by their riders flew above them or sat settled on the dock. Keith immediately walked over to a Gold rider.

 

“What’s going on?” Keith asked.

 

“Prince Shiro’s Black just finished her heat a few days ago so all of the female dragons have been going into heat around now. It is a little unexpected since we haven’t had a Black in the Altean Lair in a few generations, but all of our dragons are pretty use to each other. It seems that two of them got into a fight, though,” said the rider.

 

“Is it a fight or are they trying to mate?” Lance asked from beside Keith.

 

“Both maybe,” the Gold rider said and stroked his dragon’s face nestled on his shoulder.

 

Keith felt heat in his chest and reached out to Red. She wasn’t happy, but she also seemed to be blocking Keith which made him worry. “Take us to the cave. I’m positive it's my Red. She has always had a temperamental heat after Prince Shiro’s Black.”

 

The Gold rider seemed reluctant at first, but one look exchanged with his dragon had him assured. He looked at Lance curiously, though. “I haven’t seen your Blue, Lord Lance. He’s not one to cause a fuss usually.”

 

Lance nodded. “That’s why I’m going, too.”

 

They mounted the Gold and entered the dragons’ cave system through one of the caves close to the one the other dragons were pouring out of. Keith followed the heat in his chest until growls made it obvious where the fighting dragons were. They weren’t loud, no where close to a roar, but they were dangerous and Keith knew them well.

 

“There,” Lance said as they came to a large hollowed out part of the system big enough for even Black to fit, though she would take up the whole space.

 

In the middle of the space, a Red was growling low to the ground still in her saddle while a Blue circled her, both their oil colored eyes glossy. The Red’s body shivered and as she turned, Keith could see the slit in her scales under her tail wider than usual as she held her tail high. The Blue showed even more obvious signs of what had tried to go down with his half unsheath genitalia hanging out.

 

Lance’s Blue.

 

Keith wanted to be mad, but he wasn’t sure what had happened and went up to one of the Lair keepers keeping the other riders away. “What happened?”

 

“Oh good, you’re here,” said the keeper. “Your Red has been acting like she was getting close to a heat since yesterday, but we don’t have much knowledge on Reds so we weren’t sure because she spent a lot of time with the Black. We figured one of the dragons might find interest and might be a little pushy because she is particularly small but also strong, so we’ve been keeping an eye out. We weren’t sure if you wanted her to mate or not, so we didn’t break them up at first.”

 

“What do you mean?” Keith asked. Red had never mated before. She had helped Black through hers, but never more. Keith knew that, but had never insisted she didn’t mate. Dragons bonded to riders always took in their rider’s considerations even when mating. They wouldn’t even look at another dragon if they knew their rider was not on good terms with that dragon’s rider.

 

“Well, how about you two calm them down and then we’ll talk,” the keeper said.

 

“I’ll get Blue,” Lance said, face lowered as he hurried over to his dragon.

 

Keith didn’t dare go to Red right now. He knew her well enough to know she would be upset if he got in her way. She was already upset. Remembering the feelings that had gone through Keith while Lance was kissing at his skin told him she had already called out for enough help. She didn’t stop growling until Lance had moved his Blue out of eyesight. Immediately, she sat on her haunches and started to nibble at the scales between her hind legs. When she was done, Keith moved towards her and let her reach out for him first, her tail wrapping around his middle and bringing him closer. She nuzzled at the back of his neck that felt hot and stung when her long forked tongue licked it. He reached around her own neck, hugging her, and felt the puncture wounds there. They were bleeding, but nothing deep enough to cause worry.

 

Keith was worried though.

 

The keeper approached Keith slowly as not to get a rise out of the agitated dragon. “I don’t think Lord Lance will be back, so I will report to him later. I do apologize for letting your dragon get hurt. As a keeper, it is my duty to keep the Lair under control.”

 

Keith sighed. “It’s just a mating bite, you can’t control that.”

 

“As I was saying, Red doesn’t seem particularly close to the other dragons during her free time other than Black, but perhaps it is because Lord Lance and Lord Keith are forced together often that she developed a bond with the Blue. She was displaying herself ever since she got into the cave, but a lot of female dragons do that as a warning. Some dragons find it attractive, though. Lord Lance’s Blue was very slow in coming up to her, I assure, they started purring at each other immediately. She didn’t start struggling until after he had attempted to mounted her and then he bit her and she got pissed off. I don’t think he even got settled because she slid right out from beneath him.”

 

“So he didn’t try and force her?” Keith asked.

 

“No, not at all. Lord Lance’s dragon gets cuddly with a lot of dragons, but I don’t think he’s mated any females,” the keeper said.

 

Lance’s dragon hadn’t mated before. That meant he hadn’t fathered any children either. That thought somewhat reassured him and he pet Red’s face. “It’s alright, girl. It’s okay to be scared. You’re allowed to change your mind.”

 

“Will you be alright, Lord Keith?” the seeker asked. “I’m not sure if Galra are affected by their female dragon’s heats the same as we are.”

 

Keith sighed. Right, he should have known, but it was hard to tell the difference between his dragon’s heat pulsing through their bond and the own heat he felt towards Lance. One was a feeling he had learned to ignore. Usually, Red ignored it as well. Reds usually went through three to four heats a year though Keith’s Red was late in getting her next one since coming to Altea. It was probably the change in the environment, but Black’s heat had jump started it. The other, though, was something sweeter and overwhelming and when they combined...Keith blushed.

 

“I was a dragon rider before I was even a soldier. I know how to deal with a heat,” Keith said.

 

The keeper whistled seeming impressed and walked away.

 

 


 

 

A dragon’s heat was fairly easy to deal with. Keith had been seventeen when Red had her first heat. He knew the basics of it and what he needed to keep her happy and healthy, but he had not seriously taken into account the effects it would have on their bond. The first heat Keith had spent holed up in his bedroom with soldier and knights trying to get in to find where their number one rider had gone. It wasn’t until a keeper explained about Red that people finally left him alone. The following days he had more of a temper than usual and spent the nights with his hand until he fell asleep. But, as it was, the smaller the dragon, the more heats they had and the shorter they were, so Keith quickly grew use to it. Now, he kept his temper in check and excused himself to a privy or his room if things got out of hand. Since Red had no interest in mating, Keith never really had to worry about any other effects it might have. It didn’t even last a full week.

 

On the opposite side of the spectrum where the larger dragons. Blacks had one heat during the year. It lasted a whole month, though it was only really bad for about a week in the middle of it. Shiro had not been a dragon rider for as long as Keith and Black was nowhere close to being a dragonling when she imprinted on the prince. He hadn’t been ready for it the first time. Just like Red who stayed close to Black growling at any males that approached her and blowing fire at the scales of her hips to help ease them, Keith had stayed with Shiro. Mostly, it was water and food, but when he just needed a warm body, Keith would lay down and hold the prince. He hadn’t gotten over the trauma of getting kidnapped and the heat brought up forgotten memories in a feverish state. As the week progressed, Keith usually ended up just guarding Shiro’s chambers or wherever he may be when another rider whose dragon had gone into heat because of Black’s presence fell into his arms. Keith had been worried this time with the princess, but Shiro remained a gentleman and locked himself in his chambers during the worse of it.

 

Of course, heats were only a problem for riders with a female dragon. Unless mating as involved.

 

Being turned on was nothing new for male dragons. Though female dragons also performed same sex acts, even favored other female dragons over males particularly during a heat, male dragons mated other male dragons even as just a form of bonding. But, when mating, something else called to them. It happened during playing around, too, but only if they really favored each other.

 

Keith reached behind his head and moved his fingers into the hair at the base of his neck. It still felt tender where Lance had bit him. He wasn’t happy about it. He knew Lance had done it just because Blue had, that he had just been so eager because of Blue, but if it was to happen again, Keith didn’t think he would hate it. Though he didn’t want Red to mate, more so because he didn’t want her to be hurt than the fact he would be out of comission for a while if she got pregnant, if she was to decide that Lance’s Blue had been sweet enough to her to back off immediately and that he kept being sweet to her, Keith wondered if he and Lance, too, would go all the way.

 

The thought tickled Keith’s mind in a pleasant way. The thought of mating between people had never really seemed interesting, but to mate with Lance...no, to have sex with Lance...His flesh began to prickle with warmth as he remembered the touches. Keith moved a hand to his stomach where all the small nips had been placed only a few hours earlier. Just touching his stomach made him feel warm. Usually when Keith had to blow off steam, he just emptied his head and let pleasure do its job, but since they were lovers now, Keith wondered if he could think about Lance in that way. Would it be alright? Would Lance be alright with him thinking about him? Would he say yes if Keith asked? Would he offer to help?

 

Lance. The Blue knight hadn’t showed up to help Keith scrub Black. Passing by Blue, Keith knew he had at least cleaned up his own dragon. Keith was a bit bothered about not getting the help, but Shiro was his job and that made Black his job as well. Luckily, some of the Lair helpers were on Black’s good side. She had always liked pretty young girls to the point Keith wondered why she even chose Shiro. Shiro was a good rider, though, but this was about Lance.

 

Keith hoped he didn’t feel guilty.

 

Speaking of the Blue knight, Keith was surprised to find him on the way to the hot tub. Keith had already gone up to his own room to wash off, but felt soaking in salts and herbs and hot bubbly water would be more beneficial to his muscles after a battle. It appeared Lance had had the same idea though he was already done by the looks of it dressed in just a robe with his pajamas folded into his little bucket, one towel on his head as he ruffled his short hair with it.

 

“Lance, did you already soak?” Keith asked when he saw him. If Lance was going to go, they could have gone together. The hot tubs were a public space, but it wouldn’t have been strange, he thought. It wouldn’t have been obvious.

 

“Uh, yeah,” Lance said looking surprised then away as pink tinged his cheeks. “S-sorry for not helping you with Black. I thought she might be angry because of Blue since Red and her are friends.”

 

Oh, well that made sense, Keith thought. “It’s fine, Black has made other friends. We could have gone together, though.”

 

Lance looked at Keith then towards where he had come. “Well, I don’t think that would have been a good idea. I don’t think you going would be a good idea, either. Didn’t you already wash up?”

 

“Yeah, but why wouldn’t it be a good idea?” Keith asked and crossed his arms. Was there something wrong with the tubs?

 

“Because…” Lance started, eyes darting around everyone not wanting to look at Keith. He seemed embarrassed. “Well, you’re in heat.”

 

Keith’s ears flattened and he narrowed his eyes at Lance. “I’m not in heat. Red is in heat.”

 

“I know that,” Lance said and let the towel on his head fall around his neck so he could move his free hand around as he talked. “Riders of female dragons still get worked up and stuff. I’ve never done things with someone that was in heat because it feels like taking advantage of them though I’ve been asked. And especially with Blue trying to mount Red and all. We should probably slow down while your dragon’s in heat. I don’t want Blue to think it's okay for him to go after her again.”

 

Keith frowned as he tried to make sense of what Lance was saying. “The keeper told me what happened. Blue didn’t go after Red. He was doing it all properly, Red just got scared.”

 

“Right, right!” Lance exclaimed and pointed at Keith. “Red got scared probably because you got scared. I mean, I just forced you into a room and...I’ve never felt that before...All I wanted to do...you really must have been scared.”

 

Right, Keith remembered the keeper saying Lance’s Blue had never mated before. Bonded with other males, most definitely, but never mated, so Lance had never felt that feverish need through their bond before. He wouldn’t understand it.

 

Keith sighed. “I promise you I wasn’t scared.”

 

Lance laughed and lifted a hand to his forehead. “Sure you weren’t, that’s why you headbutted me.”

 

Keith had forgotten about that. He took a step forward trying to look at Lance’s forehead, but the Blue knight took a step back. “I wasn’t scared. I felt Red get scared. It was a reflex to get you off of me. I’m sorry it hurt.”

 

Lance looked down and removed his hand from his forehead. It did look red. “You don’t have to apologize. It was my fault, remember.”

 

Frustration started filling Keith’s veins and he clenched his fists. What was Lance on about? He had been surprised to suddenly be jumped, but he wanted to hold Lance, too. He was happy they were both okay. Never again did Keith want to see Lance in the medic’s tub so vulnerable like that.

 

“You don’t get it, Lance,” Keith growled.

 

“No, I think I do. Red’s heat is just getting to your brain. I heard Shiro spent a lot of time locked up in his room. You should go back to your own before someone tries to take advantage of you,” Lance said.

 

Take advantage? Keith felt angry. Did he really seem that week? “That’s it!”

 

“What!” Lance yelled as Keith dropped his basket and launched himself at Lance.

 

Keith pushed Lance against the wall behind him and grabbed his wrist forcing Lance to drop his basket as well. With only one look at Lance’s surprised blue eyes, Keith leaned up the few inches between them and pressed his lips hard to Lance’s. Lance tried to push him off, but Keith only pinned the other’s wrists to the wall until Lance slowly eased into the kiss. When Keith pulled away, his lips hurt and he could feel the warmth from Red’s heat feeding off his own rush of feelings. But, this was fine with him.

 

“I would like to see someone try,” Keith growled, voice low.

 

Lance stared at him for a while before relaxing with a sigh. “Keith, I know you’re strong, but…”

 

“And so are you,” Keith said and finally let go of Lance’s wrists. They fell to the Blue knight’s side limply. “You forget I’ve been a rider for far many more years than Prince Shiro, perhaps even longer than you. Red has a heats four times a year. Do you think I don’t know how to control it by now? This is nothing. Don’t belittle me like this.”

 

Lance’s eyes widened. “No, wait, I wasn’t trying to belittle you. You just don’t have any experience with any of this. I don’t want to manipulate you into doing things I want to do.”

 

Keith felt warm. Things Lance wanted to do? What were those? If Keith allowed himself, he could guess the basics of them, but then he remembered the girl he had seen in Lance’s sitting room with his fingers in areas that Keith didn’t have, but he did have other areas. He shook his head before his thoughts could go farther, but his cheeks were already red.

 

“Look, Lance, I confessed, not you. If there is something I don’t like, trust that I’ll tell you. I won’t let myself be taken advantage of so easily. So, if there is something you want to do, you can do it,” Keith said, his voice getting softer as he spoke and he looked down.

 

“You...You can say some really embarrassing things sometimes,” Lance said.

 

“Do I?” Keith asked and peeked up. Lance was staring at him with a soft smile. It made his ears perk up and Lance’s eyes glanced at them. “I’m just trying to be honest.”

 

“Hmm, well I admire that,” Lance said and reached out towards Keith.

 

Keith grabbed Lance’s hand and was pulled back against his chest. Lance wrapped his arms around Keith tightly and Keith felt him press his face into his neck, one hand coming up to entwine with his hair.

 

“It’s soft,” Lance said, his voice delicate against Keith’s ear.

 

“What is?” Keith asked trying not to be loud.

 

“Your hair,” Lance said.

 

Keith turned his head a bit, his face buried in Lance’s collarbone. He took a deep breath finding the hold comforting. Shiro sometimes held him, but never quite like this. Keith couldn’t remember the last time he had been held so gently.

 

“You smell good,” Keith said taking another whiff. Salt and a bit of that sharpness, not like a pepper or something sweet, more like a mint that Keith had come to know was Lance’s scent.

 

“I was in the hot tub. You don’t smell all that bad yourself. You don’t smell like blood and guts anymore.”

 

Keith let out a small laugh. Perhaps he should make more of an effort not to be kissed after mowing down twenty Galra soldiers.

 

Lance moved his head from Keith’s hair and Keith turned his head more to see what he was doing. Lance was staring at Keith. After a moment, he moved the hand in Keith’s hair to his chin and lifted it.

 

“What?” Keith asked.

 

Lance smiled softly, his thumb coming to touch Keith’s bottom lip and tugging. “Can I kiss you?”

 

“Please do,” Keith said.

 

There was something fluttering beneath Keith’s skin at the question and it erupted when Lance kissed him. It was soft and gentle, nothing urgent. Lance was probably doing it on purpose, but Keith found himself floating from it. He enjoyed the softness. It wasn’t something he had experienced before. He wanted more of it, but Red’s heat insisted on something hotter. It was like torture, a sweet torture that was cut off all too quickly.

 

“Wh-what?” Keith asked surprised when Lance suddenly pulled away.

 

Lance pulled Keith tighter to him and looked around, his eyebrows furrowing suspiciously. “I heard something.”

 

Keith closed his eyes and let his ears twitch about trying to pick up the sound. Yes, he heard it too, a light clicking and then feet barely loud enough to really be footsteps, unhurried. He pulled away from Lance and started towards the sound, but Lance grabbed him and made a shushing motion before awkwardly, but quietly, walking over their fallen items and down to the end of the hall. Keith pressed himself against the wall and waited on standby as the footsteps grew louder. Suddenly, Lance shot out and there was the sound of a sword being drawn.

 

“Whoa, hey! I’m unarmed,” Lance yelled.

 

Keith quickly made his way to Lance in time to see Lance charging at the owner of the light steps. The impact caused them to drop their sword and Lance wrestled them to the floor, arms behind their back. They were a man dressed in all black with a mask. Lance reached for the mask and pulled it off revealing a slim purple head and yellow eyes.

 

“It’s a Galra!” Lance yelled. “Quickly, Keith, go call for backup.”

 

Keith went to do so, but stopped when he saw the weapon the Galra had been carrying. The blade, there was a purple gem on it.

 

“Lance, let him go,” Keith said.

 

“Wait, what? Are you crazy? Were you suddenly brainwashed in the past two minutes?” Lance asked.

 

Keith leaned down and picked up the Galra’s sword and stroked the jewel on its hilt before showing it to Lance. “This is a Blade of Marmora.”

 

“Okay, and what does that mean?” Lance asked.

 

The Galra started struggling beneath Lance and managed to push him off then looked over at Keith and grinned then to Lance and frowned. “It means I am on your side, Altean lord.”

 

 

Chapter Text

12. The Rescue

 

“Are our defenses so weak that any Galra can just waltz right in?” one of the courtmen said, his fists slamming against the table they were all surrounding in the usual meeting chamber.

 

“This isn’t about your defenses but your people,” the Galra said. “The Blade of Marmora is not for many to know. We have been fighting the Galra long before you.”

 

“That doesn’t explain how you got in,” argued the courtman.

 

“I say it is the hybrid’s doing. I knew it was dangerous having him around,” a courtwoman added. “He did admit to recognizing the Galra when he came in.”

 

Keith frowned from his place with Lance by said Galra keeping him in check. Lance hadn’t asked many questions after Keith had ensured that the Galra was on their side and they had kept by him as they went to a meeting room and called a servant to gather the court. They had been surprised seeing the Galra, but the guards around had already been informed and were already at the ready encase the Galra did anything. All he did, though, was stand and look unhappy.

 

“He said he recognized the sword, not the Galra,” Lance piped up.

 

“Oh, and you trust his word so easily, a hybrid’s?” the courtman shot at Lance.

 

Lance straightened himself up. “He is Prince Commander Shiro’s Right Hand. And he has saved both my charge’s and my own life already.”

 

“Still, why would a Galra infiltrate the castle like this even if he was on our side? The Galra could have knocked,” said another courtwoman.

 

“His name is Ulaz, stop calling him the Galra!” Shiro suddenly shouted.

 

The court turned to their consort to be in surprise. Keith had recognized Shiro’s discomfort from across the table, but couldn’t move to his side having to both protect their Galra visitor and keep him from turning against them. It wasn’t as if he knew for sure the Blade of Marmora was on their side. He barely knew the name. It was all very unclear to him, like fuzzy memories.

 

“Prince Shiro, do you know this Galra?” Advisor Coran asked from his place by Allura.

 

The princess was just sitting silently glaring at the Galra, at Ulaz, not having said a word yet, but she did turn to Shiro when he talked.

 

“I...vaguely so,” Shiro said and stared at the table with haunted eyes. It was the look he had when trying to remember something from his time being kidnapped. “He helped me escape.”

 

“Ah, the Ko-gane prince. I remember you,” Ulaz said, his pale purple face lifting with a smile. “You gave Emperor Zarkon a hard time, but we got you out.”

 

“Yes, and I thank you for that,” Shiro said nodding his head at Ulaz.

 

“Lord Keith, what is the Blade of Marmora,” Allura said finally taking her eyes from the Galra to look at Keith.

 

Keith wanted to scowl at the princess. The question should have been directed at Ulaz, but he shouldn’t have expected her to react any differently towards this Galra as she had towards him when his heritage had first been revealed. Galra had taken much from her, they had taken much from all of them, but so had they taken from each other.

 

“I only know the name, really,” Keith said. “I believe my mother knew them. She may have been part of them.”

 

“Many Galra living within Ko-gane and the Builder tribes are,” Ulaz said. “We are a long standing group. The Galra Empire has stood in the west for centuries, but it only became tyrannical when Emperor Zarkon’s family took over. Our lands were wiped of all their worth and he began to expand. He has a treasure he believes to be the ultimate sign of power and believes its body lies elsewhere and that it is his duty to use it to take over this world. We, the Blade of Marmora, believe he is crazy. We want to live peacefully in a new home away from the destruction of our previous and what caused it.”

 

“If you are against Lord Zarkon, why haven’t you taken him down?” Allura asked, her voice stern. “If you are as old of a group as you say you are, why does he still stand?”

 

Ulaz sighed. “There use to be more that defied him, but they were cut down. Others were won over when they found a place at his side. But, even more fell to his feet out of fear the closer we made it to your land. You may not realize this, but many of your own people have fallen for Emperor Zarkon as well. He wants this mastery of yours. No, he wasn’t to surpass it and the weapon he has he believes could do so, apparently it has in the past when it was whole.”

 

“Then why come here yourself with no announcement? You are lucky our two soldiers here did not engage you any further,” the princess said. She seemed to have calmed a bit, a shine of interest in her eyes. Keith could guess what it was. A treasure with missing body parts, perhaps something related to Voltron.

 

“Because your two silly kingdoms have finally stopped waring,” Ulaz said. “It was always our intent to get help from Ko-gane and Altea. The Ko consort has been our go between for years in Ko-gane and that is why so many Galra live in Ko-gane. Originally, we were to have the Ko king talk on our behalf.”

 

“What changed?” Shiro asked.

 

Ulaz looked away. “Our hideout has been compromised. We have others, but this is our largest. We had just freed captives from one of Zarkon’s southern towers and brought them back for safety, but one of the prisoners had become a spy in exchange for Zarkon’s son’s hand. Since we had heard of a hybrid among Altea’s court, we thought we could visit in person, but I came alone and quietly as to not cause a stir. I meant to meet with the hybrid alone. It would have risked both him and I, but the risk was Altea’s as well.”

 

“What do you mean?” Allura asked slowly raising a brow at Ulaz.

 

Ulaz met Allura’s eyes straight on. “Our base was here in Altea, farther north than anyone dare go. Zarkon now has control of your north. We ask you help us get it back.”

 

Silence fell across the table followed by an immediate rise of whispered voices as the court all whispered to each other. Keith felt his nerves stretching thin and moved closer to Ulaz as if someone might try and harm him simply for bringing bad news.

 

The princess had her head lowered over the table, eyebrows pulled together as she thought. Suddenly, she stood and slammed a hand to the table getting the court’s attention.

 

“We can not allow the Galra Empire to proceed into our lands. We are not weak. We are Altea the leg of Voltron and we will stand so that our people can stand as well,” Allura said and turned to look at Shiro. “Prince Shiro, do you trust this Galra?”

 

Shiro had been going between staring at the table and staring at Ulaz, his dark eyes fighting with flitting memories. He popped his head up when Allura addressed him. “Huh? Uh, oh. Yes, Princess. It was, without a doubt, Ulaz who helped me escape. He was working in the castle as a medic and was examining me when he suddenly handed me a weapon and told me to run while making a distraction.”

 

“That I did and had to run myself soon after,” Ulaz said.

 

“You were working for Zarkon?” Advisor Coran asked, his mustache twitching, but he didn’t seem angry.

 

“Many of us still work on the inside. We work in secret, the Blade of Marmora, hoping to know all before attacking, but it is too late now. Other more naive and less put together groups rise up against Zarkon and they risk our plans. They brought us these prisoners, put us in danger and those still on the inside. They put you in danger,” Ulaz said.

 

“But they saved people,” Lance piped up. “They got prisoners out. It sounds like you’re angry with them.”

 

“Of course I am, we all are, they saved prisoners only to be imprisoned again. However, it was not an easy step to take and we admire that. So, we must rescue them. We will abandon the hideout and go elsewhere, but Altea still needs to take back their northern border,” Ulaz said.

 

“And we will,” Allura agreed and stood straighter, her cyan eyes fierce and cold. She looked strong, so much stronger than Keith had ever seen her before, like a Queen. “Prince Commander Shiro, collect your knights and fly. We will get the soldiers together, but we waste no time. Who knows how long it has taken this Galra to get here.”

 

“It took me no time, Your Majesty,” Ulaz said. “Even Galra can be what you call knights. I came on a small White. I will lead you.”

 

“If the Galra leads, it may be a trap,” one of the courtmen said.

 

“A trap it may be,” Ulaz argued back, “but you have dragons and magic. More than we and they would not expect it. Among Zarkon’s men, none have ever found the trust of a dragon and experienced that bond. Even few of us rebels have. Of the current group I hold knowledge of, only I hold a dragon’s bond.”

 

Again whispers, but Allura quickly cut them off and met Keith’s eyes then moved over to look at Lance. “Lord Lance will lead a first group with archers by Ulaz’s side. We will start with a surprise attack. Prince Commander Shiro and Lord Keith will lead a second with a few soldiers riding behind.”

 

“I agree with that,” Shiro said standing up as well.

 

“Then with that, shall we dismiss? There is much to do,” Coran said and clapped his hands.

 

The court hurried out. Keith quickly followed after Shiro and waited on the ice for Red to come to him. Black landed first and Shiro quickly climbed. Keith was just about to follow when he felt a hand grab his arm.

 

“Keith, wait,” Lance called. He was still in his bathrobe, but it was tied tight enough not to give anything away as the force of dragons landing around them stirred up the air.

 

“Lance, did you need something?” Keith asked. He could see Blue on his way as well.

 

“I just...are you going to be okay out there when Red is in heat?” Lance asked.

 

“Yes, why wouldn’t I? Her need will just turn into ferocity,” Keith said.

 

“And you?” Lance asked. His voice was soft, the worry from earlier still there.

 

“I’ll fight even harder,” Keith promised. He had the urge to lift his hand to Lance’s cheek, to assure him with a touch, but he kept still. Lance didn’t want others to know and Keith didn’t care for the attention.

 

Lance sighed. “Don’t misstep because of it, alright? I know you’re use to it, but I can’t worry about you all the time.”

 

“I know that,” Keith said and smiled. “But I trust your arrows to watch over me and the others.”

 

Lance’s eyes lit up and he smiled back then wrapped an arm around Keith’s shoulders bringing him in closer in a friendly matter, but his whispered words were far from it. “I want to kiss you right now, so when we get back you owe me one.”

 

“That I will look forward to,” Keith promised.

 

Lance squeezed Keith’s shoulder and let his hand slide against his hair and one ear as he pulled away. “Catch you in the north. Don’t be too late, Lord Fluffy Ears.”

 

Keith rolled his eyes, but still smiled. “Aren’t you suppose to be watching over Ulaz?”

 

“Oh, hey! Mr. Ulaz or whatever, I told you to stay six feet away, not twenty,” Lance said and ran to where the light purple Galra was combing the main of a small White, Lance’s Blue hovering over them curiously.

 

Keith laughed then sighed. He took one deep breath and turned away taking long strides to Red. They would go to the Lair for gear and then off to the north.

 

Just another battle.

 


 

 

By the time the second wave hit on the Blade of Marmora hideout, Keith could already see dragons hovered over their fallen riders. Dead or simply injured, Keith didn’t have time to consider as he moved ahead of Shiro. His initial thought was a reaction from any battle he had fought before and he immediately went diving in the thick of it to spread his fire with Red, but he hesitated and took a moment to look around as the thought of Lance rose in him. Briefly, he caught sight of Blue swirling through the air next to the entrance of a cave almost unnoticeable in the snow fighting off Galra soldiers and their tech as they tried to enter. He moved to swerve Red down in front of Blue and let out a flame at the approaching soldiers and made sure Blue saw them. He didn’t get any warning from Blue coming through Red and that was reassurance enough for him to head back to Black and Shiro.

 

“How did it look up close?” Shiro asked as Red came to fly by Black’s head.

 

“It looks like we’ve infiltrated. Blue is guarding the entrance here. I’m sure there are more, but the Marmora close by are already on those is what Red got from a Green passing by,” Keith said.

 

“Ulaz and Lord Lance seem to be leading the group inside,” Shiro said. “Let us quickly thin out the Galra here and help gather the prisoners. We want to get this area back from the Galra, but our first requirement is the prisoners.”

 

“Understood,” Keith said and flew towards the snow covered ground where he could see Galra tech piled together, some of it sparking already. They couldn’t have brought much with them in only two days. Who knew how long the prisoners had been here before the Galra had come after them, though. There was always the possibility that the Galra had planned to take the prisoners back in full force, but Keith couldn’t imagine what sort of prisoners would be worth that effort. The princess or even someone like Keith himself. Someone like Shiro, but Shiro had escaped long ago. It was probably why he kept so far back from the fighting now. Keith only spared a glance back to see Shiro’s positioning. It wasn’t a bad spot for such a large and powerful dragon and Keith would prefer for Shiro to be safe.

 

With the other load of dragons and the extra soldiers they had brought on their backs, it wasn’t long before the outside force was neutralized and Keith jumped from Red when she made a low swoop brandishing his flaming sword to get through the last throng of Galra soldiers giving Blue a hard time. There was a swoosh behind him and a powerful growl and Keith knew that Shiro had rushed in to join in order to command whatever chaos lay inside.

 

From the outside, Keith had slim thoughts on what this so called hideout really looked like. It had appeared as only a cave and he understood how any Alteans roaming so far north might just ignore it or even fear it containing a rabid honey rodent or any of Altean’s superstitious monsters. However, the inside of the cave reminded Keith of what he had seen so far of Galra tech. The similar black stone to what they had in Ko-gane pulsing with a purple life. It was strange, but Keith didn’t find this place unlikeable like the contraptions the Galra rode or those things they called guns. It reminded him of something warm and his hand went to his back belt where his dagger was, pulling it free. There was a pulse in it he had never felt before and it surged through him heightening his fighting spirit.

 

“Lord Keith, they went this way,” Shiro called a little ways ahead.

 

Keith jerked and slid his knife back. Galra in tight black clothing similar to what Ulaz had been wearing were pulling at levers and adjusting crystals all over the place, some brandishing their jeweled blades against other Galra while Altean knights and soldiers held other Galra hostage. There had been no order on whether to bring back Galra hostages or not, but Keith knew they wouldn’t be welcomed. They already had one in a frozen induced sleep, they couldn’t risk another. But, information would be good. Lance could probably do that without going all the way back to the castle, or an underling.

 

Keith followed Shiro down a hall half made of the black stone and half cave stone and ice until they reached a large training deck where he could see Ulaz fighting off two Galra soldiers while Lance was at a large stone box picking at some sort of lock. Keith immediately headed for Ulaz. He held both his flaming sword and his dagger and managed to get one of the two men off. He swung unapologetically at the Galra and used the opposite weapon to block the offending attacks. Stab. Block. Slash. Block. It wasn’t the most efficient way of attacking, but they had a time limit. Finally fed up, Keith pushed his fire out and it whipped at the Galra when he dodged Keith’s blazing sword. The split second the Galra took to wince, Keith had his dagger in his throat. He twisted away to let the fallen enemy meet the ground and immediately went to Ulaz, but the moment he caught site of the rebel Galra, his breath froze.

 

“Traitor Galra,” the Galra soldier said as he pulled his sword from Ulaz’s stomach. “You always were soft. A medic, huh, we don’t need medics. We only need to be strong. The weak can just die like you.”

 

Keith was frozen to place. It wasn’t an unfamiliar scene to watch a soldier be so brutal. Not a second earlier he had used his own dirty tricks against a soldier that could have been fighting solely on fear. He had seen his own fall not two steps from his own sword. And yet, he felt terrible sadness as he watched blood pool beneath Ulaz as the Galra rebel laid bleeding on the black stone floor.

 

It was red, the same as his, the same as the Altean’s.

 

Suddenly, the Galra soldier gave out a gurgled roar. Keith moved his eyes from Ulaz to the soldier only to see a metal arm crackling with thin yellow streams akin to fire, the finger tips morphed into a knife. His eyes followed that arm up to a heavily breathing chest then to Shiro’s face. The prince’s eyes were dark and his teeth clenched. He looked almost crazy. After a moment, he removed his arm and took a deep breath.

 

“A weak man wouldn’t risk his life for a prisoner,” Shiro muttered as the Galra soldier fell.

 

“Shiro,” Keith called out.

 

Shiro turned to Keith as if snapping out of a daze then turned his attention to Ulaz on the floor groaning. “Keith, help Lance, I’ll see to Ulaz.”

 

Keith’s reply was caught in his throat as he watched Shiro kneel beside the harshly breathing rebel, knees soaking in the blood. He forced his eyes closed and turned to Lance kneeling at the large box.

 

“Lance, what is this?” Keith asked peering over Lance’s shoulder. He had a small device in his hand that seemed to keep the box it was connected to closed.

 

“It’s some sort of lock. There are prisoners inside, they started calling out for help when we got here. I don’t know how to open it, though,” Lance said and started picking at the lock again with an arrowhead.

 

Keith studied the lock for a moment then his attention went to Lance’s hands. “How long have you been at this, your hands are red.”

 

“Not that long. The lock is hot. I tried opening it up by force, but that weird fire that they kept the Balmer captives behind shot out at my hands,” Lance explained not looking up from his prying.

 

“And you kept going?” Keith asked.

 

“What else was I supposed to do? I covered my hands in ice so it doesn’t hurt.”

 

Keith kneeled down beside Lance and pushed him away from the lock. “I’ll open it.”

 

“Oh, right, good idea. You can make the fire inside listen to you. I’ll help Shiro,” Lance said and got up going over to the fallen Ulaz and Shiro. Keith could smell the taint of burning flesh and assumed Shiro was trying to force Ulaz’s wound closed, at least enough so it wouldn’t bleed everywhere.

 

“Lance, can you take Ulaz out,” Shiro asked.

 

“Yeah, I’ll take him to Blue. Should I head back?”

 

“Yes, with a line of archers with you,” Shiro instructed.

 

Keith barely felt Lance pass by him as he focused his fire, fingers getting hotter and hotter as he concentrated on the lock. When he finally found the source of that heat, he dove his fire in then began to pry the lock open. When the Galra fire escaped, his own flames quickly caught them and merged making them his own. Fire did not have a mind of its own, so Keith still did not understand how the lock worked, but he got a sense of it just from feeling where the fire had been. A little bit more tinkering around and the lock clicked. The click was followed by a grown as the walls of the box seemed to creek and fall. Keith immediately moved away just as the four walls of the box fell away to reveal a cage of Galra fire forcing a group of mostly non-Galra into a small huddle in the middle. They all appeared worn and gaunt wearing tattered up dark clothing.

 

“Are you guys alright?” Keith asked coming up to them.

 

The prisoners all started talking at once and Shiro quickly came over to silence them.

 

“I am Prince Shiro of Ko-gane, Prince Commander of the Altean army. I repeat, are you guys alright?”

 

“We have to get out of this cage,” a woman said a bit older than Shiro, but not old enough to be considered elderly.

 

“You guys don’t have the technology to get rid of this fire, we’re stuck here,” a Galra male said, his arms around the woman’s waist.

 

“You don’t worry about that,” Keith said and immediately let out his fire. “Stay back and let me handle it.”

 

“Yes, stay back,” Shiro repeated. “We don’t want anyone injured. Are there other prisoners?”

 

“No, just us,” the lady said.

 

Keith took a deep breath and focused before beginning to pull at the bars until they were wide enough for a single body to move through, two if they were careful.

 

“Do you think the Fire Master could make that opening bigger,” said an old voice from the middle of the group. “We do actually have one injured, Prince Shiro.”

 

“Father, I’m fine, it’s just a burn. I’m more than use to that,” said another voice, a young voice or perhaps Keith just remembered it so.

 

Keith pulled at the bars more gaining another set in the mix and the prisoners began to pile out. As they moved, the middle of the group was revealed. An older man with a balding head of white hair and small amber eyes stood supporting a younger shorter man with ginger hair and large eyes of the same color. When he looked up, face tired and sweat soaked, Keith had to bite his lip to keep from letting the Galra fire bars loose from his control.

 

Beside him, Shiro had gone stiff, dark eyes wavering with memories and other emotions Keith didn’t dare imagine. As the older man helped his son out of the cage, Keith noticed a limp in the son’s gape as well as the rather large burn in one side of his clothes and against his face closer to his hairline and an ear missing anything more vital. Keith could already imagine what he had tried to do with the bars. He had tried to be a hero. And wasn’t that just like him?

 

The older man and the son stopped by Shiro and Keith let the cage close turning to silently watch the exchange. The son was breathing hard. He really didn’t look in good shape. However, he managed to collect himself enough to turn to Shiro and send him a wide genuine smile.

 

“It’s been a while, Takashi,” the son greeted all too familiarly.

 

Shiro’s face suddenly fell into something sad, eyebrows furrowing and his one word was short and soft. “Matt.”

 

“Yeah, that’s...me…” The son’s eyes fell and he started to crumple to the floor. His father tried to keep him up, but it was Shiro that moved the quickest and gathered the son into his arms then turned to Keith with frantic eyes.

 

“Keith, we need to go now! Order a cleanup crew then catch up to me, I won’t wait,” Shiro said.

 

Keith’s heart was beating hard against his chest.

 

Matt.

 

“There will be no need to wait.” He had already waited long enough.

 


 

 

It took hours to get all of the prisoners properly set up in the castle’s medic bay. Medics ran here and there with no time to deal with curious soldiers and knights as they took to the wounded as well. Keith stayed back, helping where he could with Lance as to keep his eyes on Shiro who seemed deep in thought as he handed out towels, Allura doing her best to encourage those at their worst with prayers of Voltron. When all was said and done, all Keith wanted to do was bathe. He was released to do so with a promise from Shiro that he would not leave the medic bay. They hadn’t taken any Galra prisoners and all Galra rebels were heavily guarded. Their only prisoner was frozen in sleep miles away from the castle.

 

Lance switched off with him after the bath to take one of his own looking just as worn out as Keith had felt. They had to keep an eye on everyone. They couldn’t trust the Galra rebels or the prisoners just yet and they couldn’t trust the Alteans not to make a move against any Galra.

 

Keith walked the halls of the medic bay now silent save for the beeping of contraptions and the soft hum of cold salve baths healing bodies. He caught site of Shiro outside one room plastered against the wall just out of sight of its inhabitants peeking in with dark troubled eyes.

 

“Shiro,” Keith said softly and reached out with one hand to touch his arm just above where it turned into metal.

 

“Four years,” Shiro said not turning to Keith. “It’s been four years since I returned. Add the time I was gone, that’s more than half a decade. That’s a long time, isn’t it?”

 

“It’s a very long time,” Keith assured.

 

Shiro sighed. “Too long, but…”

 

“Is Chief Holt and Matt Holt alright?” Keith asked.

 

“Chief Holt is fine, he’s just in there to keep an eye on Matt. Matt will be fine, though. He woke up a few minutes ago,” Shiro said.

 

“Oh, he woke up? They had him out for so long trying to heal the Galra burns,” Keith said. “It’s good he’s awake, right? Shouldn’t you go in and talk to him?”

 

Shiro’s body stiffened. “Right now he is talking to Pidge.”

 

“Lord Pidge is in the castle?” Keith asked surprised.

 

“I think this would be the only reason she ever stepped a foot in here. I figured I would let her get it over with so she didn’t have to stay long. It’s been a longer time for her than it has for me seeing him. It is her big brother and her father after all.”

 

Keith nodded and retreated his hand. It was just an excuse. Shiro probably just wasn’t sure what to say to two of the men that had been kidnapped with him. No, it was more than that.

 

Matt.

 

“Should we go see how Ulaz is doing then? He saved you before and you returned the favor,” Keith offered. He didn’t like seeing Shiro so confused. He knew Shiro was human. He had seen so many bad sides of Shiro since becoming his protector, but he had never exactly seemed vulnerable. He looked vulnerable now.

 

“Yeah, you’re right,” Shiro said.

 

Keith turned to leave, but Shiro didn’t follow. There was no way he was leaving this hall until he talked to Matt, Keith should have known. He felt a prick in his heart. “I’ll speak to Ulaz for you. Don’t go in there until I come back.”

 

“Yeah, it’ll probably be awhile for Pidge anyways.”

 

Keith nodded and started walking the halls to the area where they were keeping the rebels. Lance stood outside the most heavily guarded one with damp hair carrying an empty platter. He grinned as he past keith, a glittering to his eyes that Keith took as relief.

 

“Hey there Lord Mcflufferson. I just gave Mr. Pale Flufferson some food, but you can still go in and talk to him. I doubt he’ll be able to eat much of it with a hole in his gut. It’s just broth though,” Lance said.

 

“Thanks, you should probably eat something, too,” Keith said remembering his own missed meal.

 

“Back at you. How about we eat together?” Lance said and winked.

 

Keith knew he was teasing, but it didn’t sound like a bad idea. However, there were too many things to do still tonight. “I’ll take a rain check.”

 

Lance’s eyes widened, but he smiled. It was a promise for a potential future date.

 

As Keith approached Ulaz’s door, the guards moved aside, but they watched him with curious eyes. Speaking with a Galra when he was half Galra himself was not the best of ideas, but he didn’t care how he looked to others. He wanted to see how the man was doing. He had seen him fall before him, blood everywhere. Red blood, blood like his own, blood like Ko and Alteans. He had only seen Galra blood as enemy blood before. It shook him to truly realize they were the same. Keith was proof of that, but he only now understood. It had never been like that for the Alteans.

 

Sitting half in a tub of salve with a little tray beside him, Ulaz looked up as his visitor. He smiled a crooked and pained smile as he stirred a spoon in the broth he had been brought.

 

“I believe I am to call you Lord Keith,” Ulaz said in greeting.

 

“You are a rider, so I should call you Lord Ulaz,” Keith greeted back and smiled.

 

Ulaz chuckled. “I would prefer you not, but I understand it is an honor. Have you come to shove food down me as well? That Altean lord you flirt with was very insistent I eat. I didn’t mind it, though. It reminds me of my mate.”

 

“Mate?” Keith asked and came over to stand beside Ulaz. He felt a little uneasy around the cool salve remembering Lance sleeping mostly submerged in it for days before.

 

Ulaz sighed. “I haven’t seen him in a few years. He is still under Zarkon, but he’s working as an insider for us. I had to leave him when I helped your prince escape. Of course, no one knew we were mates. It was a very quiet and risky thing to do. Taboo in Zarkon’s Empire even.”

 

Keith cocked his head to the side, ears pricking up. “What do you mean by mates? Why is it taboo?”

 

Ulaz hummed and looked at Keith curiously. “Did your parents not mate?”

 

“I don’t know. I don’t remember my mother, they said she died before i knew many words. My father never really talked about Galra habits or her. I don’t think he really knew, he just loved my mother.”

 

The curiosity on Ulaz’s face grew and it made Keith a little more uneasy. “Well, as you may be able to tell, the Galra Empire is far more superior than either of the two kingdoms here. However, only technologically. And it all came with a great cost. We ripped our homes of resources and moved onwards to take more and more. Anything deemed unnecessary was gotten rid of particularly under Zarkon’s rule. Not but one generation ago they learned how to take a woman’s half and a man’s half and insert them into eggs. They preferred dragon eggs, particularly Blacks. Zarkon keeps them incubated in his castle and he grows his army from them. It has gotten rid of the need for mates and mating. I believe you call it marriage. He birthed his own son this way. Also I.”

 

“You and the prince?” Keith asked.

 

Ulaz nodded and lifted the spoon to his lips taking a slow sip. “You may not know because you have seen so few of us, but I do not look as most Galra should.”

 

“Neither do I,” Keith pointed out.

 

“Yes, but you are a hybrid. I am what you would call albino. I’m quite pale and have little fur. It is not uncommon to have short fur or to shave fur off, but I was born like this. Prince Lotor is similar. If you ever meet him, you will be able to tell.”

 

Keith nodded. He hoped he never had to meet Prince Lotor alive.

 

“Love is a precious thing though and I’m sure the time my mate has left in Zarkon’s care is even less now. They’ll find out about us soon. Oh, that reminds me, how are the prisoners doing? There was one in particular that was hurt I remember them yelling when we first got there? He seems to have tried to save the other prisoners, the one called Matt,” Ulaz asked.

 

“He has woken up. His sister is with him and his father,” Keith explained.

 

Ulaz nodded and took another sip of the broth probably feeling more parched than hungry. “I suppose she was the one that gave him that ring he kept fiddling with?”

 

“Ring?” Keith asked, his mind starting to spin with memories.

 

“Yes, I started paying attention to him when the rebels first brought those prisoners to our hideout because of the face he made while holding that ring. It reminded me of myself when I thought of my mate.”

 

Keith felt heat rise up on his neck. “No, it wasn’t from her.”

 

“Oh,” Ulaz said and took a few more sips. “Tell that Altean lord of yours thank you for the broth if you will. It tastes delicious.”

 

“He had no hand in the cooking, but I’ll tell him anyways,” Keith said. “Oh, but I must thank you on the behalf of Altea for your hard work on the battlefield.”

 

Ulaz chuckled. “I was the one that asked for help so no thanks is needed. I thank you for coming to the rescue.”

 

Keith bowed. “It is my job. Now, I will leave you to your meal and to get some rest.”

 

With that, Keith turned on his heel and headed back to the halls to meander them until his feet led him back to that of the Holt chief and his son. Shiro was still standing outside and Keith walked forward to peek in. Pidge was no longer there.

 

“How long ago did Lord Pidge leave?” Keith asked.

 

“Ten minutes ago,” Shiro answered still looking unsure into the room.

 

“I thought for sure you would go in without me,” Keith said.

 

“I wanted an excuse to not go in,” Shiro said. His voice wavered.

 

Keith sighed. This would be complicated, but Shiro needed to do it. “You’re out of excuses now.”

 

“Keith,” Shiro begged finally turning his eyes to his protector.

 

Keith just shook his head and went to the door walking in. There were two servants inside placing foods in front of Chief Holt, another tray set aside for Matt who was just staring down at his lap ignoring it. Keith tried to get the Builder’s attention, but wasn’t sure how to address him. The last time they had met, Keith was just an underling knight that followed Shiro around more than what was probably respectable. Eventually, he decided on just clearing his throat.

 

Immediately, Matt looked up at him and grinned. “Little Lord Keith! I didn’t recognize you earlier. You have grown.”

 

Keith couldn’t help but smile and walked closer. “I grew up, but you haven’t changed at all. You could almost be Lord Pidge’s twin.”

 

Matt laughed and lifted a hand to his hair. Indeed a ring glinted on his thumb too big for his other fingers. “My hair has gotten longer, I think I look more like my little sister than she does. I heard you and others became good friends with her. Thank you.”

 

Keith bowed his head. “I’m glad they could be friends with me. I ended up becoming very busy. I had to protect our youngest prince after all.”

 

“A prince’s protector?” Matt asked then his face fell and his eyes began to flicker around the room. “I don’t know why he’s in Altea, but it seems Ko-gane and Altea made peace. Is the prince very busy?”

 

He looked so hopeful. Keith shook his head. “He should be, but he’s been here the whole time. Prince Shiro, come in already.”

 

It took a second, but soon footsteps began to slowly pad across the room and came to stop a few feet from Matt’s bed.

 

Keith moved out of the way of the two. Shiro was staring everywhere but at Matt.

 

“It’s good to see you doing good,” he said.

 

“Takashi,” Matt said. “Come closer.”

 

Shiro took two steps more towards the bed.

 

“Closer. I don’t have my glasses, I want to see you properly.”

 

The prince walked until he was at Matt’s bed side. Chief Holt was still deeply conversing with the servants, but they were slowly losing the momentum of their conversation.

 

“Takashi,” Matt said and reached out, his hand touching Shiro’s metal arm.

 

That touch was Shiro’s undoing and he went to his knees at Matt’s bed. “Thank Voltron you’re alive.”

 

“Takashi, look at me,” Matt said and moved his hand up that arm and to Shiro’s face.

 

When Shiro lifted his head to look at Matt, Keith’s breath was caught. It was such a heartbreaking and beautiful look. Matt’s amber eyes reflected something similar, but fiercer. Before Keith could stop it, Matt had pulled Shiro to him and their lips met.

 

And Shiro didn’t pull away immediately.

 

Keith glanced over to where the servants were. Cheif Holt was surprised, but he had known. The servants had those eyes Keith had grown to understand of Alteans, but there was something more devious to them and one immediately ran out of the room.

 

“Shiro!” Keith snapped.

 

It took a moment, but Shiro pulled away and held Matt at arms length. “Wait, Matt, we can’t do that.”

 

Matt cocked his head, face flushed. His eyebrows furrowed at the sudden fear Keith was sure was in Shiro’s eyes because he felt it as well.

 

“Why not?” Matt asked. The confusion turned into sadness.

 

Shiro turned to look at Keith as if to ask him what he should do, but Keith knew even less what to do in this situation. Instead, he walked over to the other servant and grabbed her arm pulling her out.

 

“Tell him and then figure it out,” Keith said as he closed the door to the bay after them.

 

“Hey, let go of me,” the servant complained.

 

Keith glared at her. “I don’t care if you tell someone, but the rest of their conversation is deemed private.”

 

The servant scoffed, but hurried off.

 

Once the footsteps were gone, Keith leaned against the wall just as Chief Holt walked out. He didn’t seem happy, but he leaned against the wall with him.

 

“I understand now why Pidge refused to talk about Prince Shiro. Things are more complicated than we had hoped,” Chief Holt said.

 

By tenfolds, Keith thought. After more than five years, how were they suppose to know the third prince’s secret fiance was still alive?

 

Chapter Text

13. The Promise

 

It only took a couple hours for the castle to be up in a twitter. Keith tried to stay close to Shiro as they moved through the whispering halls. His eyes conveyed nothing but guilt. Keith couldn’t understand why Shiro had to look guilty. He had done nothing wrong. The kiss had been initiated by Matt, but Shiro had not pulled away as soon as what other might think as proper. On that, Keith could understand.

 

It wasn’t fair, though.

 

The youngest prince of the ruling Ko family had always been a star role model when it came to personality. Sven was a better Master, Ryou had the people’s hearts as an adorable idol free spirited and romantic, but Shiro was the one with a level head. It had always been evident that he would become a general, but after coming back from his time being captive, he had lost some of his more innocent aura. For a while he was a wreck, every forced smile more than obvious until he approached the new Black that had come to the Ko Lair not long after Shiro’s return. Every knight could understand the feeling. Flying through the air on the back of such a magnificent creature put your perspective anew.

 

Shiro deserved happiness and so did Matt. Who knew what sort of horrors he had been through with his father. Seeing how Shiro had come out of it, Keith would have thought those two would barely be able to speak a word to a Galra even a hybrid like himself.

 

But, there were the politics.

 

“Prince Commander Shiro,” a voice said from ahead of them.

 

It was Coran standing straight with arms behind his back and a few of the court behind him. Though he looked his ever pleasant stoic self, Keith could tell there was worry in the twitch of his orange mustache.

 

“Lord Advisor,” Shiro greeted.

 

Coran cleared his throat. “My lord, you are requested in Her Highness’ presence.”

 

“I was already headed to her,” Shiro said. “Will the court be joining us? I would prefer a private talk first.”

 

The court behind Coran began to raise protests, but Coran lifted a hand. “Of course. The princess had requested a private talk as well. Continue on then.”

 

They began to walk once more only to notice Coran and the court following behind. Without any indication of where they were to meet the princess, they headed straight to a common sitting room anyone could find the Altean princess and Ko prince conversing and getting to know each other on a normal day.

 

“They’re following us,” Keith pointed out.

 

“That’s fine, just keep them far enough away that they can’t hear,” Shiro instructed before walking in.

 

Immediately, Keith took out his sword and stood in the middle of the hall facing the on coming entourage. They looked at him in surprise, but calmed down when Keith pressed the end of his sword to the carpet and took up a wide set stance.

 

“I can not permit you to pass any further. You promised a private conversation and I know Alteans hear words all too easily,” Keith said.

 

Coran frowned. “We can’t have him in there with her just themselves. You both are under suspicion.”

 

Right, of course they were. They weren’t Alteans and now Shiro’s pass lover had shown up as a rescued Galra captive. “I understand that more than you can know. I’ve been under suspicion since the moment I stepped foot in this castle. I will stand here and take any judgement you have if something happens to the princess.”

 

“At least one must go in,” said one of the court.

 

Suddenly, the door opened and a ginger head popped out. Lord Pidge took short strides over to Keith, looked at the Alteans, then pulled out a small contraption before going to face the other end of the hall with her back against Keith’s.

 

“If you are fine with this then leave,” Pidge said. “A Builder wouldn’t risk either of these royal lines. We know your fury and my brother’s wrong is not worth it.”

 

“Alright,” Coran agreed. “We shall pass then.”

 

Both Keith and Pidge moved to the side for Coran and the hesitant court. As soon as they were gone, Keith turned to Pidge.

 

“I thought you didn’t like the castle?” Keith asked.

 

“I don’t like courts and all this stuffy stuff, but I like the royalty on both sides. I intended to leave after talking with Matt, but Hunk caught me and insisted I look around with him and then Matt pulled that stupid act so Lance asked me to comfort his sister. Something about being able to do it better because I’m a girl. What kind of stupid shit is that?”

 

“Oh, so Lance is…” Keith trailed off.

 

“No, Lance isn’t happy,” Pidge said, voice sour.

 

Keith felt a stab in his chest. Of course Lance would not be happy, Allura was his sister and his responsibility. He didn’t want her to get hurt and that included emotionally.

 

“Your brother isn’t at fault here,” Keith said.

 

“I won’t blame Shiro if you think I will. Five years is a long time to be unsure of your lover’s wellbeing. I gave up a few times, too.”

 

“This is a political arrangement,” Keith pointed out. Shiro had never stopped loving Matt, that Keith knew without a doubt.

 

“And it would have been easier if it wasn’t?”

 

Silence fell for a few minutes then there was the sound of the door to the sitting room opening. Loud voices rose after.

 

“Allura, you can’t just rush out like that, you haven’t even let me finish,” Shiro called.

 

“All you needed to tell me was that Builder was your lover and it was enough for me,” Allura yelled back, her voice strained.

 

Neither Pidge or Keith moved to try and close the door. This was suppose to be a private conversation, making any movement that might indicate someone was listening tocause the conversation to be cut short. They needed to talk without the influence of politics over their heads. It wasn’t as if Keith and Pidge didn’t already know the story, not as if they couldn’t imagine the words. But, it still hurt Keith to listen. It was more than obvious that the princess had let herself feel for a man whose love would always belong to the ghost of another.

 

And now that ghost had flesh.

 

“Allura, please let me talk. I am as confused as you are right now on what to do,” Shiro said. “Do you not think this shocking for me?”

 

“Shocking!” Allura yelled then suddenly there was an air of quiet when she talked. “No, of course it would be. I just...I hoped that when I heard the Builder boy had kissed you that it was just an old fling or perhaps he had been overjoyed to see a dear friend. To say he is your lover is too much.”

 

“Was my lover,” Shiro corrected.

 

“Is!” Allura insisted. “Do not disrespect a man who has already lost respect with his own desperate actions. You have not stopped loving him. You did not need to tell me there was someone else you loved when I could see it plainly in your eyes. But, as I thought it was just unrequited love, or one long lost, I held silly young hopes you would come to love me.”

 

“I will come to love you,” Shiro insisted.

 

“When my stomach has been stretched and my arms full of your child? Oh yes, I’m sure you will love me then. I prayed by then I would love you, too, but your lover is alive. I won’t be put second to a living being. Even if you don’t touch him physically, your heart will be his.”

 

“Then what do you propose we do?” Shiro asked. “We are arranged to be married. I told him that.”

 

“And what did he reply?”

 

What did he reply, Keith wondered. Surely the one most hurt now was Matt. Ulaz had mentioned Matt had a ring, a treasure from Shiro. Did he know Shiro had gotten out? Knowing that, he must have tried twice as hard to reach him. It must have been torture and he had every day’s memories full in his mind unlike SHiro’s scattered ones.

 

“There...is another complication,” Shiro answered.

 

“Oh by Voltron! Don’t tell me he’s a woman with your child. I won’t believe that. There could be nothing more ridiculous.”

 

“It’s not a child, it is a ring,” Shiro said. “I thought to keep quiet about it, but it would feel wrong.”

 

“A ring?”

 

“My ring,” Shiro clarified. “He has carried it with him every day since we were separated. I barely remember the days in which we were together in Zarkon’s castle, but he has five years worth of all those nightmares, and what got him through, what gave him strength was what that ring represented.”

 

“And what is special about this ring?” Allura asked.

 

“It’s my sigil.”

 

Shiro’s sigil, it was an important symbol. Each offspring of the ruling pair was made a ring. King Akira’s ring had been handed down to Prince Sven while Prince Ryou was given a ring their mother had designed. It had been generations since the ruling family had had more than two heirs that reached the age of eighteen. When Shiro had been crowned an adult, they had made him a gold ring with a Voltron prayer written in Volganean and encrusted with a small black lion made from dragon glass. They were rings to be given to the spouse of the princes.

 

Put simply, they were engagement rings. The prayers were a promise. Keith had assumed Shiro had lost his while with Zarkon, everyone had even Shiro assuming Matt was lost with it, so it hadn’t been brought up when the marriage with Allura was planned. They didn’t seem to have such a thing in Altea, so there was no need to mention it.

 

But, now it was very important.

 

When Ulaz had mentioned the ring, Keith had understood right away what this might mean.

 

“Then it is an important ring?” Allura asked.

 

“The most important. It symbolizes a promise. I gave him my ring when I was young, perhaps too young, and he younger than I, but there was an understanding that I would make good on that promise when we were older,” Shiro explained.

 

“And what was that promise?”

 

Keith couldn’t hear the sigh, but he could feel it in the air. Even Red could sending Keith unsure thoughts through their bond. Black must be agitated with all of Shiro’s feelings.

 

“The same promise I made to you when we signed that treaty,” Shiro answered.

 

Again, stillness. Keith could feel Pidge behind him tensing up. He would have liked to comfort her. She was worried for her brother’s happiness and Keith was worried for Shiro’s. And they were in a whole castle who worried for Allura in one sense or another.

 

“Then our treaty is void is it not?” Allura asked.

 

“Zarkon is making moves,” Shiro said. “We can’t simply fall back into war ourselves when a larger threat lays to the west. Our war was silly as it was.”

 

“I do not want war with Ko-gane either, but our marriage was part of it.”

 

“I’ll go through with the marriage,” Shiro insisted.

 

“For the sake of the treaty? I won’t have that. That Builder spent years in torture thinking only of you. He is mentally unstable at the moment and I won’t have his blood on my hands for such selfishness as fleeting thoughts. I am far from being in love with you, Takashi Shirogane, so I can let my feelings go far easier. I do not need you as my consort, but I won’t say I don’t need you at all.”

 

“The military?”

 

“Yes,” Allura said, “the military as well as other things. Altea is a cold place full of cold people. We need the warmth and the support of Ko-gane.”

 

“Then what shall we do about the treaty?” Shiro asked.

 

“I have it memorized and never once did it say that I had to marry you or marry at all. I made sure it was written so in the case we did not get along an alternative could be made. I would not submit myself to a man I thought displeasing. We will have to meet again and redo the details of the treaty and quickly.”

 

“What will you tell the court?” Shiro asked.

 

“You promised yourself to another when you were both of age, yes?”

 

“I was, but he was of aged before we were kidnapped and still held the same feelings,” Shiro said.

 

“Then the fact he is alive annuls our agreement. That is what we will tell them. They can not refute a promise made in the name of Voltron.”

 


 

 

Against everyone’s better sense, Prince Shiro and Keith were both put on house arrest. For the first few days, Keith was not allowed to leave his floor and he wasn’t terribly surprised that Lance didn’t come to find him. He knew the other was angry, but mostly he needed to be with Allura. After three days, they were allowed to roam the tower they stayed in. However, Keith didn’t find that movement quite enough. They would have the meeting with Ko-gane in the Olkari Gazebo at the end of the week, but Keith needed to keep on his toes. The stress made him antsy and he wasn’t use to going so many days without practicing.

 

When servants brought him breakfast on the fourth morning, Keith was informed there was a practice arena in the basement floor of the tower that was reserved for the royalty and their personal entourage. Keith decided to attempt going there though Shiro wasn’t technically part of Altean royalty and wouldn’t be as it stood now. But, as Shiro had been allowed guarded visits to the infirmary to meet his rescued fiance, Keith had time to busy himself exploring if the training didn’t work out. Perhaps he would run into Lance.

 

The basement of the middle tower in the Crystal Castle was darkly lit and had many walkways with nothing beneath them. There was so much empty space that Keith wondered if anyone had tried jumping off or been pushed. One of the walkways led to a large door and Keith could smell running water. He pushed it open to be met with a pool of water, its surface rippling with the slow motion of its filtering system into the earth. On the other end of the pool was another set of large doors and Keith moved to them only for it to open into an arena area larger than any Keith had seen before, little platforms stationed around it for different elevations in battle.

 

It wasn’t empty, though.

 

Lance stood in the middle of the arena heaving heavily with a long pole in his hands. His blue eyes were trained on another figure, tall and graceful. Princess Allura ran at Lance with another pole and smashed it against his. She wasn’t wearing a dress as Keith usually saw her in, but a set of training hides dyed pink and her long white hair was pulled up in a bun. The door behind Keith shut with a loud creak and both Alteans turned to look at him.

 

“I...was told there was a training area. I will leave since it is occupied,” Keith said.

 

“Keith,” Lance called out first.

 

Instinctively, Keith’s ears perked up hearing Lance’s voice. His lover’s voice. Lover. He suddenly missed the other very much.

 

Lance’s eyes held an eagerness to them before suddenly darkening and he looked away. “Aren’t you supposed to remain on your floor?”

 

Keith’s ears flattened. “I’m allowed to move around the tower now. But, I’m disturbing so I’ll leave.”

 

“You don’t have to leave, Lord Keith,” Allura’s voice came. “This is a training area free for you as well. It’s plenty large enough.”

 

“Princess,” Lance warned.

 

“Lord Keith saved my life. I have already mistreated him once and I will not do so again. Your involvement with him should urge you to see past your own prejudices far better than I,” the princess said and glared at Lance.

 

Lance glanced over at Keith. Keith wanted to hide how desperately he wanted to go back to how things were before Ulaz showed up. They were doing well. However, Lance truly loved Allura.

 

He was attracted to Keith. He liked Keith. That wasn’t love.

 

Lance looked away. “If you trust him then I’m going to the pool. My body aches from how hard you hit me with that stick.”

 

“Lance,” Allura called out to him as Lance pushed past Keith careful not to touch him.

 

Keith’s chest tightened. He wanted to call out to Lance, too, but his words fell dry on his tongue. Did he really have a place to tell Lance he was being ridiculous. It wasn’t Keith that kissed someone else. He wasn’t even Shiro’s actual family, he was his protector. It was his job. But, he did hold love for Shiro like Lance did for Allura blood ties or not.

 

“Lord Keith, don’t let him push you around, alright,” Allura said.

 

Keith turned to her surprised. “What do you mean?”

 

“I may not know you well, Lord Keith, but I know Lance. And I know what he holds for you. However, he puts his family above all else. And his duty, much like you. I am to be Queen of Altea and that puts me in both categories.”

 

“I know why he doesn’t want to be around me right now,” Keith said. “But, what do you mean about his feelings?”

 

“Well, he tried hiding it from me, but Shiro let your feelings slip so I put two and two together,” Allura said. “I don’t think it is bad, but he doesn’t know how to handle it.”

 

“Neither do I,” Keith said.

 

“You’re far more innocent than I took a Galra to be,” Allura said, her face soft.

 

Keith looked away. “What does being Galra have to do with it? We bleed the same, I’ve seen it. Ulaz bled. And they can love.”

 

“Yes, I’m...I have my own sins and I ask Voltron every day to help me be more understanding so that my actions are just,” Allura said. “I think it was those prayers that allowed me to be unselfish with Shiro.”

 

“Are you sure you’re okay with me being here?” Keith asked. “It is our fault.”

 

“You hold no fault, Lord Keith. The only fault lies with Prince Shiro, but he deserves to be able to move on,” Allura said. “I know that. I promise you I do.”

 

“But you’re heartbroken,” Keith said.

 

Allura laughed and put one end of her pole to the ground to lean on. “I suppose it was more than a crush. He is a charming man and strong. He is what I thought I wanted in a consort, but perhaps what I think I want and what I need do not coincide. I want to be crowned queen, but the court wants me married first so that there is an heir to be had, that was my initial reason for proposing the marriage.”

 

“But, it doesn’t have to be you.”

 

“No. I have cousins. Distant cousins, but cousins all the same. Besides, I don’t need a consort to have a child,” Allura said and grinned.


Keith flushed.

 

“Ah, truly innocent. I see what Lance finds in you, though I talk too much for the little experience I have,” Allura said then picked up her staff. “Will you train with me, Lord Keith?”

 

Keith’s eyes widened in surprise and he looked towards the door that Lance had left through. “Is that smart? I would rather not cause you harm.”

 

“Oh, do you think I’m incapable of fighting?” Allura asked.

 

“By how Lance looked, that is not the case,” Keith said.

 

Allura turned and walked to a wall of the arena main floor were other poles and staffs were aligned then threw one at Keith. “All you have to be is a punching bag for me. You’re my commander’s Right Hand, you should be able to block me easily.”

 

“A punching bag?” Keith asked. Well, he would rather punch something, but perhaps feeling the princess’ fury would calm his own anxieties. He caught the staff and held it awkwardly not as familiar with the weapon as most others. “Do you have something shorter?”

 

“Not available currently. Most of the practice weapons that were here have been moved to the training camp. Staffs are my specialty so they wouldn’t dare take them.”

 

“Alright,” Keith agreed and swung the staff around before getting into position. “I will only block.”

 

“That’s what I had planned,” Allura said then immediately came at him.

 

The princess was fast, much quicker than Keith had given her credit for. Everything about her was much more graceful and long without the large skirts. He barely managed to block the attacks, his arms screaming as the whack of the poles connecting vibrated through him. He started dodging, but that gave Allura opportunities her longer weapon could reach. She was indeed skilled with it and Keith had to roll back when his block was too slow. Allura’s staff’s end landed between his legs with an echoing smack.

 

Keith breath hard as he looked up at the princess. Her blue eyes were furious, but she smirked and looked away then held out a hand. Keith took it and was pulled up. He glanced around the gym and noticed Lance looking through a crack in the door, but he ducked away when Keith saw him.

 

“If you want to smack him around a little bit, he can take it. Lance is usually my sparring partner, has been since we were very young. Of course, I don’t mean that literally. But, perhaps for you two a literal fight now and then is good,” Allura said and took up her staff readying a stance.

 

Right, Keith had confronted Lance before, but he felt like it was his fault, too. And it wasn’t like they’d had this lovers relationship very long. He wasn’t unaware that relationships could be short lived.

 

“Lord Keith,” Allura called.

 

Keith snapped out of his thoughts and looked at the princess. It was then that he noticed ice beginning to crawl across her staff in an intricate pattern.

 

“I...these staffs are wood, I can’t use my mastery,” Keith said.

 

“Oh, but can’t you?” Allura said challenge in the quirk of her lips.

 

Could he? Keith huffed then took a stance and let fire cover his arms. “Come at me.”

 

The princess did. With every connection, Keith tried to lick at Allura’s staff with his flames only to reign them back when they fell to hot onto the staff. There were small burn marks already when he managed to flee far enough away for a moment’s breath.

 

“You lack confidence, Lord Keith. I know of your flying skills and your skills on the battlefield, but mastery is mastered through emotions, not just skill. I understand now why, though worthy of an upgrade, you have not fought for one. You can’t just close off your emotions. They are what will drive your inner flame. Let them burn,” Allura instructed.

 

“What are you saying?” Keith asked.

 

Allura twirled her staff around, ice crystals falling from it and taking the form of tiny dragonettes. “I am a level 0 Ice Master, a Grand Master. Being the heir I haven’t been able to devote myself to the potential of teleporting with my ice, but I have a very good compatibility with the ice around me. You could say I have bonded with the snow of Altea itself. I imagine it is not the same as a bond with a dragon, though. Ice, water, is not alive, but it reacts to an emotional state perhaps because it has no emotion. It is controlled by the heat of the fluid and all that makes it. I understand that fire is similar. It’s natural occurrence isn’t as abundant as snow or water, but it is still controlled by heat. Your heat. Your emotions. So if you feel something, let it be known. Be comfortable with feelings. You can apologize later. Perhaps it is not my place to say such things, but my people suffer from hiding their unhappiness. From hiding many things. I don’t want them to suffer, I don’t want Lance to suffer.”

 

“I have control over my feelings,” Keith said. “Lance...I will talk with Lance after some time. I know space is important.”

 

“Yes yes, that is true,” Allura agreed. “But, too much space and too much time will be forgotten. Too much control is also a problem, Lord Keith”

 

The look in the princess’s eyes was sad, but far off. It wasn’t Shiro she was thinking of. Keith wondered if perhaps she knew more about her parents than Lance gave her credit for.

 

“Basically, I’ve had many talks with Shiro about you. He talks about you often and in return I talk of Lance. I thought we bonded over that, but perhaps that was all we really had to talk about were other people. Perhaps, I think, I would like to talk to him like that again, as friends and comrades, but as you said, space is needed. But so is confidence. And you lack confidence in emotions. Shiro would never tell you so, but I am much colder than him.”

 

Allura smirked at Keith and Keith felt shivers run through is body. It was a similar look to when Allura had found out he was Galra, but this time it was friendly and it terrified him all the more.

 

“His stories told me you were very angry and very lonely when young. It seems you grew out of the anger for the most part, but you accepted being cast out too easily back when I was close to giving you a death sentence for simply existing. How unfair was that? You should have been angry, so get angry, Lord Keith, and stop me,” Allura said and came after him again.

 

The rush was unexpected. Keith didn’t understand what the princess was getting out of this. Perhaps trying to teach him something was her way of getting out her own feelings. But, Keith though she just wanted more of a challenge. There was a storm raging inside of her from heartbreak, but she needed a mature way of getting it out.

 

Mature, Keith thought he had matured. Perhaps he was still a long way from that.

 

He began feeling his heat grow. He was missing his blocks and Allura’s staff came down on his flesh, but he didn’t call out. He took each beating. He was a punching bag. He could have told Allura about Matt. He could have told Lance. But, so could have Shiro, so could have Pidge. Any trainee that had gone with Shiro to the Builder’s lands for adventuring could have spread the rumor of his lover. It hadn’t been a secret, but nothing important enough to speak about. Shiro was gentle and Matt was gentle.

 

Allura was not.

 

Keith groaned.

 

“If it hurts, say so,” Allura said before swiping at his feet and knocking Keith down.

 

No, he had to keep it in. He couldn’t look weak. Everyone already thought he was weak, easy prey.

 

Wait, no, Keith hadn’t thought that in years. Or, perhaps it had just become part of his daily life. But, he had grown stronger. He was the protector of a prince, him, a Galra hybrid born from a rebel Galra and an orphan father. This was more than he could have asked for. He shouldn’t have chased Lance down for an answer. Lance was already a duke’s son and potentially an heir to the kingdom of Altea. What was he thinking confessing? They should end it before anyone else found out.

 

“Get up,” Allura commanded. “You’re not even trying now. You look pathetic and I’ve seen you fight. I’ve heard Lance complain about how good you are more often than I care to.”

 

Lance complained about him. No, Lance complained about how good he was. Lance flirted with him and kissed him and paced in Keith’s hallways waiting to ask him on dates. Lance was cute.

 

Keith didn’t deserve Lance.

 

Suddenly, Allura’s staff connected with Keith’s head and he was tossed back.

 

“By Voltron! Lord Keith, are you alright?”

 

Keith laid on the arena floor and held a hand to his head. It hurt, but he’d had worse. But it hurt.

 

He didn’t deserve to be beaten. He’d never deserved to be beaten. He had to eat to survive. He had to fight to win.

 

Win what?

 

Dazed, Keith sat up and reached for his staff stopping the approaching Allura. He narrowed his eyes and bared his teeth at her feeling his flames spring forth. It wasn’t about winning, it was about what Keith wanted. Whether he deserved it or not was unrelated, he would work for it. He had wanted to prove himself so he became Shiro’s Right Hand. He wanted to be happy and Lance made him happy, so he should fight.

 

His flames spread across the wooden staff, but they didn’t mark the wood then he began taking unsteady steps towards Allura. “It...hurt.”

 

Before Keith realized he had fallen back to the floor, he heard a voice calling from the door.

 

“Voltron’s ass, Allura, you can’t go knocking out my lover just because you broke up with yours!”

 

“I didn’t mean to! I told him to tell me if it hurt.”

 

My lover.

 

Keith smiled a bit to himself as he watched the arena platforms above him swirling around. His head really did hurt. The platforms were replaced with a face of tan and blue twisted up in Keith’s blurry vision. He reached up and tried to catch a cheek. He managed to graze it weakly with his fingertips.

 

“Lance.”

 


 

 

A light knock on the medic bay door brought Keith’s attention away from his business. “Yes?”

 

There was a moment of quiet before the door creaked open and Lance poked his head in, eyes widening seeing Keith’s state of half dress. “Oh, sorry.”

 

“N-no, it’s fine,” Keith said and grabbed his shirt from the bed and slipped it over his head. He pulled his long hair out from the collar then went back to tying up the laces on the crotch of his newly brought silk breeches. His heart was beating quickly. He had woken some time yesterday afternoon in a bath of healing salve, his hair coated in the thick goo then cleaned and was shuttered into a medic room for observation over the next twenty-four hours. It was almost night now and Keith was ready to go back to his room.

 

Through all that time, he hadn’t seen Lance once.

 

“If you’re ready, I’ll lead you back to your rooms. The court is antsy about your health since they think Ko-gane will use it against them at the meeting,” Lance said.

 

“It wasn’t the princess’ fault,” Keith said. “I should be a better fighter.”

 

“Yes, but Princess Allura knew better as well,” Lance said. “We’re on even terms now.”

 

Keith sighed and touched the spot on his head the Princess had whacked him. It was a little tender, but nothing more than having his hair tied too tight would cause. “I’m ready. Did they send you as a guard?”

 

“I said they were worried,” Lance said and held the door opened, “so I came.”

 

He came, but he wasn’t sent. Keith held onto those words as he led the way back to their floor shared with Shiro. When they started down Keith’s hall, Keith’s ears twitched. He didn’t hear the second set of footsteps behind him and turned to see Lance had stopped in his usual pacing area.

 

“Lance?”

 

“Um, you’re okay now, right?” Lance asked, half of his face contorted as if he was trying to cover up his discomfort.

 

Keith wasn’t allowing him to get away, though. He knew this was uncomfortable, but he had at least understood one thing from Allura’s knock to his head. “Shouldn’t you make sure I’m comfortable if they’re worried.”

 

Lance’s eyes lit up. An excuse, but it was enough. He hurried to Keith’s side and followed him to the main door in Keith’s hall. Inside, Keith moved to the sitting arrangement he had before a large fireplace. Lance stood awkwardly by the door.

 

“Is there something I should get you? I can go inform the servants to come check on you once an hour. That’s probably a good idea,” Lance chattered.

 

“Sit down, Lance,” Keith instructed.

 

“I really...uh.”

 

“Sit.”

 

Lance tensed up, but moved to the sitting area. At first he went for an arm chair opposite Keith, but Keith sent him a glare and patted the space beside him on the loveseat. He sat as far away from Keith as he cold.

 

Keith sighed. “Are you ignoring me?”

 

“No,” Lance replied quickly not looking at Keith.

 

“You've been avoiding me, though,” Keith pointed out.

 

“I’ve been busy.”

 

“I know that, but you’ve also been avoiding me.”

 

“What else do you want me to do when the court isn’t on happy terms with you?” Lance asked.

 

“They’re not on happy terms with Prince Shiro, not me. I’m just an accessory. I did nothing wrong.”

 

“You didn’t tell anyone about Matt Holt and Shiro.”

 

“I didn’t know they were engaged, but others knew about Shiro’s relations with with a Builder. Most people thought it was just playing around. I was with him more often so I knew it wasn’t a fling,” Keith said. “No one expected Matt to come back after so many years. Lord Pidge knew, perhaps more than I did. Yet, you didn’t seem to avoid her sending her to do your job.”

 

Lance shivered as if Keith’s words were like a cold wind. “Pidge...I...Shiro hurt Allura.”

 

“I know,” Keith said. “But, how many times has your heart been broken from worse? She’s strong.”

 

Lance’s fists moved to his legs and he scratched at his breeches. “She’s my princess!”

 

Translation: my sister.

 

“Don’t you have multiple siblings, Lance? Are you protective of them the same way?”

 

“What, no. We grew up the same. If I tried to get in their way...it’s not like I haven’t, but they’re Alteans through and through. Allura doesn’t want us to be so suspicious of each other,” Lance said. “She has an innocence to her that I want to protect.”

 

Innocence. It pissed Keith off. “I don’t like it when you’re too overprotective of the princess.”

 

“What! It’s my job. Are you jealous?”

 

“Yes,” Keith answered and turned to glare at Lance. “Yes, I’m jealous. Why shouldn’t I be. I understand duty, but we are suppose to be something more than comrades. I don’t want you to unnecessarily chose her side all the time. She can be wrong. I mean, did you even come see me at all when I was in that medic bath? You certainly didn’t come by when I was on floor arrest.”

 

“I was busy doing my job,” Lance yelled turning to glare at Keith. “And the court would have gotten suspicious.”

 

“The court is probably already suspicious, but friends can hang out, too,” Keith said. “All I wanted was to see you. All I’ve wanted was to see you for these past few days. And yet you won’t come see me when I’m in a healing bath unable to move or open my eyes. Vulnerable. I spent hours on hours watching you when you were hurt.”

 

Lance leaned away, surprise obvious on his face. “Hours? I...but Allura was the one I woke up to.”

 

“Obviously, because I knew she was the one you would want to see.”

 

“I thought they were joking when they said you spent hours at my side,” Lance said. “But, you were just doing it out of guilt, right?”

 

Keith turned away. His face was red. He hadn’t wanted to admit to watching Lance sleep in the medic bath all those months ago. “Would guilt cause me to memorize every scar on your body? I didn’t just sit beside you, I watched you and wondered about you and missed you. You’re the first person I’ve felt this way for and you said you felt the same, but I don’t think we’re on the same page.”

 

“We’re not,” Lance said softly and Keith’s heart dropped. “However, you’re wrong. I did come see you. I went, but they would only allow me a few minutes. They thought I might try and finish the job or something like that. But, I did go. You...don’t sleep very peacefully.”

 

“I’m not a heavy sleeper,” Keith said. “I’m...glad you came to see me, though.”

 

“Yeah,” Lance said and moved a hand closer to Keith on the couch. “I also wasn’t told to come get you. It was an excuse.”

 

“Do you need an excuse for everything?” Keith asked.

 

“They sure make things easier.” Lance’s hand moved closer.

 

Keith wanted to take it, but he wasn’t done. He wasn’t going to be a pushover. He was going to fight for this whether he lost or won. “I can handle arguing, Lance. We’ve always argued, but it was never something serious. Not only for our personal relationship, but our professional one, too. It’s not good to only yell at each other.”

 

“You’ve already approached me about that,” Lance said. “It’s...difficult. I can’t yell at anyone else.”

 

Keith scoffed. “Don’t you have friends?”

 

“Well, Pidge just gives me a mean look and leaves. She’s not very sympathetic. But, she’s very honest and doesn’t beat around the bush. And Hunk...he gives me a look like he understands and it’s okay except it's not okay. Sometimes I just want to yell.”

 

“Then do it,” Keith said.

 

“I want to yell at someone, be angry with someone,” Lance said. “You’ll yell back. I like bantering with you, but it’s too much sometimes.”

 

Keith pulled his bottom lip between his teeth. He understood. Usually, he put all of his anger out during private practice, but he had to stay closer to Shiro in Altea and he had felt his fury trying to rush out more lately. But, he remembered also calming down simply by hanging out with Shiro or Red. He finally reached out and took Lance’s hand. Lance immediately flipped his over and let their fingers entwine.

 

“There are other things we can do besides yell if you just need someone to relieve your stress on,” Keith said.

 

Lance chuckled. “You don’t really know what you’re talking about.”

 

“Not really, but I know enough,” Keith said.

 

“Do you want me to kiss you?” Lance asked.

 

Keith’s ears perked up, but he didn’t say anything. He jumped feeling a hand on his ear and turned his head.

 

“Oh, sorry, I just wanted to touch them. Can I?”

 

Keith flattened his ears, but ducked his head a bit towards Lance. “Just don’t tug on them.”

 

“Okay.” Lance moved his hand from Keith’s and into the mass of Keith’s dark hair then brushed over the base of his left ear up and down a few times before scratching. “They’re soft. I’m glad you don’t hide them anymore.”

 

Keith tried to respond, but only a soft noise escaped his lips.

 

“Does it feel good?” Lance asked and moved his arm around Keith’s shoulder and began to scratch the other one.

 

“What do you think?” Keith shot back, but his voice was soft.

 

The seat dipped as Lance moved closer. He dropped his his hand from Keith’s ear to tug him closer as well until their warmth melted into each other. Keith tried to relax against him, his right shoulder on top of Lance’s chest and head almost in the crook of his neck. Lance sighed and moved his hand back to scratching Keith’s ear, one finger occasionally moving over the hole in the left where the Galra bullet had blew through. Lance’s other hand moved to grab Keith’s and held his wrist, thumb moving against the more prominent veins there.

 

“You’re purring,” Lance said.

 

“You already know I do that,” Keith said pausing the rumble in the back of his throat.

 

Lance brought up Keith’s wrist to his face and kissed it. Keith’s heart jumped and he turned his head a bit to look at him. The Blue knight kissed his wrist again then moved to look at him as well. He moved his hand from Keith’s ear to hold his chin up and placed his forehead against Keith’s.

 

“I’m sorry for being rude,” Lance said.

 

“I forgive you if you understand,” Keith replied.

 

“I do understand, but for all the experience I have, I’m not good with this,” Lance said. “I can romance the pants off anyone, but anything past that is new territory for me really.”

 

Keith grinned. “Well, you could try actually romancing me. It wasn’t ever like you really did that.”

 

“You’re right. It’s just that this feels...I like how this feels...but you’re right. I’ll keep that in mind,” Lance said and kissed Keith’s forehead.

 

Keith let out a sigh, a sweet warmth filling him from the kiss. It felt good to be kissed by Lance, treasured by him. “Lance.”

 

“Yu’re asking me for something,” Lance teased.

 

Keith moved his head up more. “You know what I want.”

 

“Then take it,” Lance challenged.

 

Right, Keith also had to fight back. He turned into Lance, one of his legs going across Lance’s lap and grabbed at Lance’s collar, pulling him down until their lips met. Lance’s one hand moved from his chin onto the back of Keith’s hair and his other quickly wrapped around Keith pulling him closer. Encouraged, Keith pushed upwards with his mouth trying to remember every kiss they had shared up until then and how to make it deeper, how to make Lance as pliant as Keith had become all those times. He wanted to make Lance melt.

 

Keith licked Lance’s lips. Lance groaned.

 

Then there was a knock on the door and Keith felt himself being pushed onto the seat cushions while Lance stood up and looked around the room as if frightened.

 

Keith rolled his eyes and picked himself up going over to his door and opening it not caring that Lance was there.

 

“Shiro, you have the worse timing.”

 

The Ko-gane prince chuckled. His eyes, though still swirling with restlessness, glinted with the know of what he might have ruined. “Well, I’m afraid that will have to wait, we need to have a talk about what we’re going to present to my parents at the Gazebo.”

 

 

Chapter Text

14. The Repair

 

The air in the Olkari forest was fresh and fragrant with the abundance of wild herbs that grew between tree roots and bushes. Keith took in slow deep breaths as he waited outside of the Gazebo for the Ko-gane royal court to arrive. He hadn’t liked the air that stayed flat inside the Gazebo with all of the Alteans and Shiro had wanted to meet with his family so he and a few Altean guards stood outside while Shiro and Matt walked the forest nearby. Keith felt agitated. There had been so much whispering that Lance even brought it to their own private conversations. His dragon could feel him and tried to reach out to him, but what Keith really wanted was to fly. However, Red had to stay in the Builder's Central Lair. There wasn’t room for all those dragons so close to the gazebo.

 

Rustling towards the main path indicated the arrival of the Ko-gane court and Keith immediately moved to greet them, Shiro hurrying out of the forest with Matt stumbling behind, bandages still covering parts of his body.

 

“Your Majesty,” Keith said bowing as King Akira passed with Prince Sven behind, the second prince and Queen Consort left to care for the kingdom. Altea had not left anyone behind. This wasn’t a simple treaty signing.

 

“Lord Keith, it is good to see you’re healthy,” the king said.

 

“Lord Father,” Shiro greeted and bowed as well. “Brother.”

 

“I never took you for the trouble making sort, Takashi,” Prince Sven said sending his youngest brother a reassuring smile.

 

“Well, it wasn’t as if we hadn’t heard of a young prince playing much too often in the Olkari area,” King Akira said then looked past Shiro to Matt. “It is good to see you...it’s just good to see you at all. The last time you were in my presence, you were holding your crying sister in your arms.”

 

Matt smiled and quickly bowed multiple times. “I’m sorry for making trouble.”

 

“This is no one’s fault. Unforeseen things happen and we must push forwards. Let us get started with the meeting. I fear there will be much to debate.”

 

Keith led the Ko-gane court into the Gazebo where Advisor Coran and Princess Allura were already seated at the table, the Master’s Tower’s Lord Grand Master of Ice to Coran’s left and Lance to Allura’s right. The rest of the the Altean court stood behind the chairs, their soldiers leaving to stand on the northern side of the Gazebo. King Akira took the seat across from the princess then Prince Sven to his right and each of their bodyguards until there were only two chairs left on the Altean side. Shiro took the seat of the Altean war commander and Keith took the seat to Lance’s right across from Shiro.

 

Silence fell over the Gazebo as both sides avoided each other's gaze. Finally, Chief Holt ,who had also joined them wanting to return to his adopted tribe before meeting up with his wife, cleared his throat.

 

“Well, first off, thank you for visiting the Olkari Gazebo. The Olkari forest is really a beautiful place. The Holt tribe has always been a wandering tribe and has dissolved as we have married into others, but I still have strong feelings for this forest after nearly six long years away. But, it seems that feelings older than six years have caused a newly patched rift to be reopened between the kingdoms that this beautiful forest lies between. If we are here today to fix that, shall we convene? How about we start with a formal apology. Matt, you start.”

 

The young Builder slowly walked up from the crowd surrounding the table and bowed. “I apologize for causing a ruckus. I was not aware that my personal relations had changed since I was kidnapped. I blame no one for moving on, we were gone for such a long time. If I had not acted so abruptly, we would have been able to handle the terms that were broken in a neater fashion.”

 

“No one blames you, young Builder,” Coran said. “You had every right to be elated finally being reunited with your lover.”

 

“And as that lover, I should apologize,” Shiro said and stood then bowed. “I am truly sorry for not coming clean the moment my past became my present. I was startled, but also scared of what this would mean for the treaty. I was happy enough just knowing the one I held so dear was alive and would have continued my duty, but a promise had been made, a promise I still treasure, that overrides the promise in the treaty. I have been engaged to the Builder Matt Holt for many years more than what would be appropriate, but every year he still wanted to marry me and I am and I still do today hold those same wishes. It would be a stain on the Altean royal family for me to continue my engagement to the Princess Allura. She is a beautiful and strong woman who I got along with more than I could have ever hoped for and I wish her all the happiness in the world, this I swear by Voltron.”

 

“Yes, we understand a prior engagement would overrule the engagement made in the treaty. The Altean side has decided to accept this situation and move forward,” Coran said and turned to look at King Akira expectantly.

 

King Akira held out a hand. “Before we continue with that, I believe one more apology needs to be made.”

 

The Alteans hunched forward and glanced at each other. After a few moments, Princess Allura stood. Her eyes pierced the Ko people gathered in the Gazebo in a slow sweep. When her gaze finally came to land on the king, she bowed deeply.

 

“I have deeply offended your people. Ko-gane is our greatest ally in this fight against the western invaders and I have shown terrible hospitality to those you have intrusted me with, much beloved and undeserving characters they are of such bigotry and mishandling in which I placed upon them. In particular, I would like to apologize for the mistreatment of Lord Keith Kogane, not only by my people, but by myself. It has come to my understanding that Zarkon’s rule affects even his own people in negative ways and many of them wish to be rid of his Empire. The Galra are not our enemy, Zarkon’s Empire is. However, I allowed mistreatment of Lord Keith, born of love between a Galra and one of your Ko. And after he risked his own life to save mine, I caused injury to him by my own hand. I still have a long way to go before I can be crowned a queen.”

 

King Akira nodded his head. “Yes, Lord Keith is very important to our royal family. However, I think you have grown quite a bit having him under your rule. I believe a flow of visitation between our two kingdoms would benefit everyone. Shall we work that into the revision of the marriage agreement?”

 

Coran straightened up. “Correct. We have a similar thought. It is not dire that our to be queen is married, but it is dire that we have the connection made between our kingdoms. We would like to send a few of our princess’ cousins to Ko-gane in hopes that Prince Sven or one of your high ranking officials take a liking to them within the month.”

 

“And we shall send a few more of our own Ko men and women to Altea. The marriage between our two kingdoms only needs to be between the royal house or high ranking officials,” King Akira agreed.

 

“I will take deep consideration in the Altean guests that visit us,” Prince Sven said.

 

“Then with that matter resolved, let us move to the matter of the placement of Prince Commander Shiro and his court,” Coran said.

 

“I would like to propose that Prince Commander Shiro stay in Altea,” Allura said. “Our army is weak and our commanding officers few and far between or much too young or much too old. Prince Shiro has done well in sorting out our army and helping the Builder knights and recruits to understand the structure of battle.”

 

“Prince Brother,” Prince Sven asked looking towards Shiro, “what do you have to say in staying in Altea?”

 

Shiro’s eyes moved towards Keith. It wasn’t as if Keith had not considered he and Shiro may return to Ko-gane, but that it hadn’t seemed like an issue. It wasn’t as if Lance couldn’t meet him halfway in the Builder’s territory if they desired each other’s touch. It would be difficult, but not impossible. Yet, Keith’s stomach dropped when he took a moment to truly think about how often he would be without Lance’s addictive smile constantly nagging him. It was an amount he found unbearable.

 

“I...believe I would like to stay in Altea. Though I have more work because I am the only leading commander of the knights, I enjoy the responsibility and I have made friends among the Alteans and wish to encourage them to embrace refugees from the Galra Empire as we have as Zarkon seems to be taking advantage of that and has been attacking from the northern areas,” Shiro said.

 

“I see. I agree my youngest son would do the best continuing his duty in Altea though his mother and I have missed him,” King Akira said. “And our new Lord Commander would put up a fight if we tried to give his position back to Prince Shiro.”

 

Shiro chuckled. The jest seemed to ease the meeting’s atmosphere.

 

“Then shall we move on to discussion of battle plans?” Coran asked.

 

“Ah, before that,” interrupted Chief Holt, “I would like to propose one more thing outside of the treaty. I would like for Prince Shiro to make proper of my son. They have been engaged for much too long even without the years we were gone.”

 

“Of course,” Shiro instantly agreed.

 

King Akira clapped his hands. “Splendid idea. With all of these weddings, Prince Ryou will have to marry his lover finally. I shan't have a grandchild from him without that girl as my daughter-in-law. Ah, but that aside, it seems Altea has finally found out about the Blade of Marmora.”

 

The Altean court suddenly looked surprised. Keith felt it only a bit. He had known the court had access to the rebels, but as he knew little about the Blade of Marmora, he had not suspected the actual royal family knowing.

 

“By those looks I would say you definitely need my son if no one knew they were hiding in your lands. Yes, lets talk tactics.”

 


 

 

Prince Shiro and Keith were sent north to an old battle arena with the rescued Marmora rebels and Ulaz as well as a few soldiers interested in learning Galra fighting techniques. It was a good decision, but also a way to give Princess Allura time to heal from her heartbreak. It took a few days to get the arena in a condition worth battling in and they could only be thankful the nearest town was scared enough to allow them showers and provide food for a small charge. By the end of the week, they had a schedule all worked out.

 

Keith stood off to the side where young Marmora rebels were slashing at each other with their specialty made blades and costumes. There was a movement to them that Keith found intriguing, but he could also tell the Marmora way of fighting was more about avoidance and planned out attacks. Keith was more one to strike hard the moment an opening showed itself and not to shy away, but he found he shared in the Marmora’s underhanded tactics. One of the young rebels picked up snow and threw it at his opponent in order to get away. In a test, Keith would never do such a thing, but messing around he would absolutely throw snow at Lance and sand at an enemy.

 

“That’s it! You must live to fight another day, evade, evade, evade,” called a large Marmora Galra. He looked quite a bit older than Ulaz and battle worn with a scar over his right eye and red painted into his face fur. He seemed to be balding on top of his head, though purple fur still grew there, but he had one long thin braid of white on the back of his neck. Ulaz had brought him and called him their leader by no better name. “Hey, the Galra lord, you fight with them, too.”

 

Surprised, Keith looked towards the leader. Keith had no particular feelings for the rebel leader, Kolivan, but he didn’t think he would like his fighting style had he been forced to learn under him. He walked over anyways. “How may I be of assistance?”

 

Kolivan looked Keith up and down then tilted his head to a larger and most likely younger man, face hidden, that was always beside him. “How about you go a round with Antok here? I want to see what a Ko-gane raised hybrid has learned to fight like.”

 

The way Kolivan requested made Keith bristle, but he was itching to try his hand against these Galra rebels. “Alright, but if you want me to go all out, I am a Fire Master on the verge of Level 1.”

 

Kolivan waved a hand. “I don’t understand these levels, but bring out your fire. It won’t help you against the empire.”

 

Keith frowned. “It has, though. Some of their technology is fire based. I can control it with my flames. Level 1 Fire Masters can control a flame without an owner. Level Zero can even force another’s fire to become their own.”

 

“I see,” Kolivan said and squinted his eyes then turned to Antok. “Take out your blade.”

 

The masked man held out his blade. Each blade the Marmora carried were similar, but differed slightly in shape and size. All had blackened iron for hilts, but their blades were made out of dragon steel, a combination of dragon stone and dragon glass. However, the rebel’s dragon steel was worked to the point it shined like dragon glass, but not as brittle. It wasn’t sharp enough to pierce a dragon’s scale, but definitely the skin between scales. On the hilt, though, was a dark purple gem that glowed with a light. Antok pressed the sharp end of his sword to a finger on his wielding hand. A small red dot formed and he grabbed the hilt, the red dot of blood touching the gem. The blade of the sword lit up with the same light and elongated. Keith had noticed the Marmora’s swords had an unnatural light to them, but he had not seen them activated like this before.

 

“Do all Marmora swords do this?” Keith asked, his eyes eagerly taking in the light like a pulse in the blade.

 

“What an odd question,” Kolivan said. “But, yes. This is an old magic. Blood magic. It still lays in our textbooks, but Zarkon no longer uses it in the way it was meant. It was a way to connect with our weapons, become one. You give your life to take another's. It was a way to stay humble during battles and encourage peaceful solutions, or at least less messy ones. However, it is not really magic. These are Blacks’ Gems. There use to be many Blacks in the west. However, when a Black is young, they’re almost purple and their scales are soft and round. They lose those scales quickly and can be sold at a high price. You may have never seen a Black shoot a concentrated fire, but you have surely heard of it.”

 

Keith nodded. “I have. It’s purpose is to strike fast and hard over a large area and leave nothing behind. Like lightning in a storm.”

 

“Correct, and a Black’s scales take in light and take in heat. That’s how all dragons generate fire if they do. The ice breathers have a different way of doing this, but it is similar. There is fire in these scales. Can you control that fire?”

 

Keith had never tried to control a dragon’s fire. With Red, their bond worked together to intertwine their fires if the need was there. To control a dragon’s fire sounded insane to Keith, but perhaps an abandoned flame would work. “I do not know.”

 

“Why don’t you try it then,” Kolivan said and Antok held out his sword, hilt first.

 

Keith stared between the two Galra before squaring his shoulders and focusing on the gem. He would have never guessed something lived inside. Was it technology or magic? Both seemed to be possibilities for anything now. All he could do was try. He lifted a hand and let his flames cover it like a glove. Slowly, he pressed his fingers against the stone careful not to melt it. It was warm. He could feel the life of another fire inside, but it was more than just a warmth. It was life, true life. But, he didn’t feel the dragon. It was something more. He quickly whipped his hand away.

 

“The blood magic you said, I can feel it.”

 

Kolivan smiled. “Good, so you can’t control our swords, but what about one without blood?”

 

“Perhaps,” Keith said. “These scales were not loved by their dragons, easily lost and misplaced. They have no owner without the blood, just a fire within a stone. Why?”

 

“The Galra still use these stones,” Kolivan said. “They make a good source of energy for technology. However, any that are blood bonded will be lost to you. Only those with a lineage to the blood can use it. It has to be a direct line, too. The blood will know. Is this not helpful to your cause?”

 

“Yes it is, but why tell me?” Keith asked.

 

“Ulaz told me you recognized the sword. Your Galra family must have been with us some time down the line. And if that is true, then you must certainly fight like a Galra,” Kolivan said.

 

Keith didn’t understand what that meant. The Galra he had fought up to this point had fought very differently than the Blade of Marmora. Well, most of Zarkon’s Empire fought with unfamiliar weapons. Perhaps how the rebels fought was closer to the historical way Galra originally battled. It seemed as if they had almost tried their hardest to be peacemakers. He wondered what happened to change that. He was about to ask when a call of his name was shouted across the arena.

 

Kolivan’s face fell. “Your charge is in need of you. I suppose that takes priority over a little squirmish. Another time then young hybrid.”

 

“Excuse me,” Keith bowed to the two Galra rebels before quickly making his way to Shiro on the other side of the arena. “Where am I needed?”

 

“Hmm, oh, no, you just seemed like you needed saving,” Shiro said and shot Kolivan and Antok a nervous look.

 

“I don’t think they’re bad,” Keith said surprised by Shiro’s suspicion.

 

“Neither do I, but they’re nosy. They keep their distance from the other Alteans and are respectful of me because of Ulaz and my position, but I’m afraid they’ll mess with you so I’d rather you not agree to just anything they ask,” Shiro said.

 

In that case, Keith was glad Shiro had pulled him away. He would have fought Antok and with the new information he had learned, he would have slipped up and made a mockery of himself not able to concentrate on the new style of opponent. “They told me some helpful information.”

 

“Is it about the blood scales?” Shiro asked. “They mentioned something like that to me when I asked about the Marmora swords, but they wouldn’t go into detail.”

 

“I got details.”

 

“Tell them to me later. Ulaz just took a few of the younger guys to the kitchen area. I want you to make sure they don’t mess around too much,” Shiro said.

 

“You want me to spy,” Keith corrected. “You’re really starting to become like an Altean.”

 

Shiro sighed. “I’m not distrusting them, I just want to know if there is anything useful I can do for them. Ulaz did save me and it was probably on orders.”

 

Keith grinned. “I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I’ll go.”

 

Off in the far north of the arena they had set up a fire pit with multiple tables and chairs sat under a tarp. Keith moved towards it, the smell of wood burning reaching his nose. It called him and Keith moved in closer urged on by the promise of warmth until he could see the figure bent over the opening of the pit.

 

“Can I help?” Keith asked.

 

Ulaz jumped hearing Keith, but smiled when his yellow eyes fell onto the hybrid knight. “Oh, Lord Keith. I just finished getting the fire going at a good flow and all the food is getting cleaned and prepared at that river close by with White watching over it. I’m afraid there’s nothing for you to do. Why don’t you sit and drink with me until the boys come back?”

 

Keith frowned and cast a glance behind him at the still training Galra.

 

“Ah, you’re the sort who constantly has to be moving, but it’s alright to take a rest now and then. Wouldn’t the Blue rider lord want you to rest?”

 

At the mention of Lance, Keith tensed up. He had started feeling the effects of being away from Lance again and it was a strange feeling. This time, he couldn’t just ambush him. They were in different places. He needed to get use to it. They may not be stationed in the same camps once the real war started if they needed to spread out. Still, he tried to keep his voice steady as he replied. “Why do you bring Lord Lance up?”

 

Ulaz grinned and pulled a cup out of a box filled with snow. It had a hide cover on it and he removed it before handing the drink to Keith. “Well, misery loves company. I suppose Prince Shiro is also without his lover for the time being.”

 

Keith felt heat hit beneath his skin. He was already red from the cold and now the warmth of the fire and didn’t think Ulaz would notice, but he had. “Don’t reference such things so much.”

 

“Take a seat, Lord Keith. You’re not terribly obvious about it, but Lord Lance is,” Ulaz said.

 

Keith looked at the chair Ulaz indicated. It was a small and uncomfortable chair, but at least it had a back. However, the back made it hard to sit with Keith’s usual belt clipped around his waist. He removed it and put it on the table closest to the fire pit then sat before taking a sip of his drink.

 

Ulaz grabbed a chilled glass of his own and took a seat beside Keith. He looked around seeming at ease until his eyes landed on Keith’s weapon belt and he reached out. “Oh, so you do have one. I wondered how you knew what a Marmora Blade looked like.”

 

Keith’s eyes widened and he quickly grabbed at his belt pulling it to his chest.

 

“You’re trying to hide it? Why?” Ulaz asked surprised.

 

Why? Keith had reasons, they were on the tip of his tongue, but they evaporated each time he opened his mouth. His reasons were gone now that the Blade of Marmora was known and now that he knew about them. “I guess it doesn’t matter anymore.”

 

“Bring it out and let's take a look at it. I believe Kolivan had a chat with you, correct?”

 

Keith nodded and flopped about with his belt grabbing at the back where his little dagger was held. He pulled it from its sheath. The blade was shiny and silver never scorched by Keith’s flames when he tipped the end with them. The base of the blade and most of the black hilt were usually covered by scrap fabric, but Keith could see a dark purple stone between the loosened scraps. He hadn’t realized it had come loose over the time they had been here, too afraid to take it out of its hilt. But it had just been that, fear, silly and unwarranted. “He told me the stone was a Black dragonling’s scale.”

 

“That’s correct. Though, I’ve never seen a Marmora knife made so small. Who gave it to you?” Ulaz asked.

 

“My father,” Keith said.

 

“Was your father the Galra?”

 

Keith shook his head. “My mother. He said it was a treasure from my mother. He gave it to me when I was recruited into the Ko-gane army training program. I kept it covered because the gem was priceless. It was rare, so rare that I would get nothing if I sold it. I never thought to since it was important to him. It’s been a bit of a luck charm. I don’t know where my mother got it from, though.”

 

“She was probably one of us. Do you know her name?” Ulaz asked. “I could tell you about her if I knew her.”

 

Again, Keith shook his head, ears dropping. “I’m sure my father knew, but he never told anyone her name.”

 

“Keith, let me look at you,” Ulaz said and reached out with a sharp nailed hand for Keith’s chin.

 

Keith was surprised, but didn’t pull away. He looked everywhere but at Ulaz waiting for the Galra to pull away. When he did, he looked a bit disappointed. “I’ve honestly never seen a hybrid before. Galra genes must be very weak physically. Other than your ears and the slight purple color to your hair, I think you must look an awful lot like your father.”

 

“No one ever questioned if he was my father,” Keith said. “But, my father has a bigger build than me, more sunlight, more facial hair, always has.”

 

Ulaz laughed. “You should have been extremely hairy then. Ah, but the royal family was usually very smooth. I wonder...Keith, have you ever tried to awaken your blade?”

 

“Awaken?” Keith asked. “The blood magic you mean? It never occurred to me.”

 

“Why don’t you try it? Each one of us has a custom made blade, I might know it. If it belonged to your mother, certainly you would be able to activate it.”

 

Keith was unsure, but his curiosity was peaked. He pushed the tip of his dagger into his thumb like he had seen Antok do then unwrapped his dagger’s hilt and pressed his finger against the dull dragon gem. He didn’t think it would work. Unlike Antok’s blade, he had never felt an unusual amount of warmth in his blade. Perhaps that had to do with the awakening, though.

 

“It’s not doing anything,” Keith said after a few moments went by and the blade still felt cold.

 

“Give it a moment. You’re only part Galra and it hasn’t been awaken for decades I would guess,” Ulaz encouraged. “Try and reach out to it.”

 

“Alright,” Keith said and closed his eyes. Warmth, he was looking for the warmth of the scale. Warmth, like the warmth of the fire pit, like the warmth of Red’s hot breath as she nuzzled his face after a job well done, no hotter like Lance’s kisses when he lost himself to Keith’s eagerness for experience. No, not that hot. Keith could feel it, a warmth, it was soft and strong, familiar.

 

Like a mother’s hold.

 

Suddenly, light flashed and Keith stood as heat coursed up his arm and his flames reacted protectively covering the dagger and growing. Growing. Until they died down into a cool purple flame around a much larger dagger, smaller than most of the other Marmora blades, but Keith thought it felt right. Beneath the purple flames that became more red the closer they got to Keith’s hand, the dragon steel blade and scale glowed. Keith breath heavy feeling the power from the blade and looked up at Ulaz.

 

It was as if Ulaz had seen a ghost. In a sense, perhaps he had if this was a blade belonging to a perished friend. He reached out, but dared not touch the dagger. “I...this...we sent her to Ko-gane to keep her safe. We thought she had done something stupid never hearing from her again. I suppose she did. Kolivan will not be pleased, but…”

 

“What?” Keith asked. “You knew my mother?”

 

“I knew the owner of this blade,” Ulaz said. “This was a blade made for her and only her direct descendent could have wielded it. She must have hidden its true appearance to keep Zarkon from finding her.”

 

“Why would Zarkon want to find my mother?” Keith asked.

 

Ulaz looked at Keith again and reached out a hand to one of his ears brushing back some of his hair. “Yes, I see it now. You do look like her. If you look like your father than you must be a much more beautiful version of him. The royal family was not the fluffiest of Galra, but these ears were definitely hers.”

 

“Royal family?” Keith asked.

 

Ulaz pulled away then looked around. He forced Keith to sit and he ended up dropping the blade onto his lap. The flames died and it went back to its knife sized state. Ulaz sat as well and leaned close.

 

“This is very important, Keith. What does Keith mean in Volganean?”

 

Keith’s ears perked curiously at the question. “Keith is Keit in Volganean and Keih in Voltranean. They both mean little leader. Kind of like prince. It’s a silly name. It doesn’t mean anything now. It’s just Keith.”

 

Ulaz’s eyes lit up. “Ah, but it does mean something. It’s a clue. You aren’t just Keith, you aren’t even just a lord. You’re a Keit, a Keih, a prince.”

 

“A prince of what?”

 

“OfZarkon’s Empire. Or Uncle Zarkon’s Empire to be exact.”

 

Uncle Zarkon?

 

Keith took in a slow breath, nerves shaking, and let out a very curt response. “By Voltron’s ass I am!”

 


 

 

A prince. A Galra Prince. Keith found it ridiculous. There was little known about the Galra Empire in Ko-gane and even less in Altea. They did know Emperor Zarkon had one son. Perhaps he had a sister, but that information was lost to them. And now they knew. After Ulaz had told him, Keith had stormed off to find Shiro. The Prince had taken one look at Keith before pulling him aside and demanding to know everything. Keith had told him finding it too ridiculous to be true. Shiro, on the other hand, believed it, ghosts of memories floating in his dark eyes. He had seen pictures of a beautiful Galra female, the only female he remembered without a uniform. She had his ears. They went to Kolivan that night and the rebel leader seemed to agree.

 

But, Keith didn't want to be a prince.

 

No, he didn't think he could ever be a prince. The life he had now was close enough. He would not ask for more. Besides, he held no real title. Zarkon would never just hand his kingdom over to his nephew just because Keith batted his eyes and asked nicely. He must have known his sister betrayed him if the Blade of Marmora had to hide her. She had basically given away any rights she had to the throne then. And if they won the war, what Empire would be left for him to take over?

 

No, it didn't matter. Ulaz and Kolivan had both agreed to keep quiet about it for the time being. Shiro would never tell a soul, Keith knew that without having to ask him. It would be more trouble than it was worth if Altea and Ko-gane found out they were holding a Galra prince and not just an over decorated hybrid.

 

A week later, they headed back to Altea.

 

The thoughts still mulled about in Keith's head as he flew at Black's head on Red, but the feel of flying and the chill he had become familiar, just cold enough to bite, but nothing close to their northern newly settled battle arena, helped lighten his mood. It wouldn't be long before he was back in the Crystal Castle and the comfort of self heated baths turned up as hot as he could get them and food that wasn't dried and took either one hour or twenty hours to digest. As it turned out, Ulaz wasn't the best choice for a cook.

 

Roars carried on the wind. Keith squinted his eyes as they were covered in a mass of clouds. He could feel Red's eagerness twittering in his own veins and suddenly they were diving. Shiro's Black flew low over the castle with Red on her tail and then the small entourage they had brought back from the rebel's arena dived down behind him. The Blues and Whites in the frozen lake roared louder seeing the approaching flight. They grew excited seeing their alpha and Keith felt happy knowing Black had taken her place among the Altean Lair dragons. One particular dragon in the lake caught Keith's eye as they circled the castle, the other dragons going straight to the practice field or Lair with their riders and passengers. It was swimming aimlessly in the icy cold depths and Keith didn't see any signs of its rider which meant he must have been inside.

 

Lance.

 

A sweet humming burst in Keith. Red must have sensed it as she purred and broke off a bit to dive close to Blue. He snapped at her, but it was playful. When Black finally landed on the lake's shore, Keith was vibrating and didn't wait for Red, jumping down before Shiro had even fully dismounted.

 

"You seem excited," Shiro said. He looked surprised, but was soon grinning knowing all too well.

 

"I am not, just...I want a bath," Keith said and looked away. Was it truly so obvious? How could he hide how much he wanted to see Lance? He had forced himself not to think about his lover too much while training and with the news of his mother's origins, it had been much easier, but now he was here and all he wanted was to feel Lance's warmth.

 

It was only a short ride on Kirin to the castle gates, but Keith had never felt so cold. His heartbeat quickened and he felt almost sick. He wondered if Lance would be waiting for him or if he was holding back as well. They probably weren't expecting them back so soon, but the winds had been good. When the gates opened, there were only servants to greet them and a few members of the court. They apologized that Coran could not greet them as he was busy in a meeting and as Shiro was no longer Allura's intended, as princess, she had no duty to greet him. And if the princess wasn't here neither would Lance.

 

Shiro made small talk short with the court tossing glances at Keith. He didn't want to seem impatient. He kept his eyes focused on the windows he knew belonged to the floor they all shared. By now Shiro's room had probably been moved to the other unoccupied hall on their floor to make room for any intended Allura took up in the near future or so the court hoped. They had allowed Keith to keep his rooms though they were on the same level as Shiro's perhaps to keep up looks. Keith didn't care, it gave him a reason to go looking for Lance as soon as they were on the floor.

 

It was odd. Keith had never been the one looking for Lance, just hoped to pass by him and charge him down here and then. He knew where the Blue knight's rooms were, though. It was familiar in the same sense as deja vu. Keith's feet seemed to walk on their own. All he could hear was his heartbeat. He felt hot. Parts of him screamed to stop, to calm down, to dunk himself into a bat of icy water and think rationally. This need couldn’t be healthy if it made it so hard to breath. When at the door to Lance’s main room, he stopped and pressed a hand to it. It opened just a creak and Keith’s heart sped up only to drop when he heard a soft giggling.

 

An ice bath. Why would Keith need an ice bath when Lance was such a powerful Ice Master. His thoughts had been too self-centered to presume Lance would not have company. He was a flirt after all and they were trying to keep their relationship private so of course Lance would have company in order to cover up how much time he spent with Keith outside of duty. That time would be even less now that Shiro would no longer be going on dates with Allura which meant their dates would also be cut in half. Keith took a deep breath and stepped back. He could wait.

 

But, who exactly did Lance have in his room?

 

Before Keith realized it, he was knocking.

 

The giggling in the room stopped and Keith held his breath as footsteps approached the door. His eyes grew wide to match Lance's when he poked his head out.

 

"Oh, you're back?" Lance asked.

 

Keith looked away suddenly afraid to look at Lance's expression. He had hoped Lance would be excited he was back, but his words were just full of half-hearted surprise. "We've just arrived back from the rebel training grounds. The Galra taught us some new tactics and I thought you would appreciate seeing them as soon as we got here. They're advantageous to the archers as well."

 

"Oh, yeah, I would absolutely like to see those tactics, thanks man," Lance said, voice a little too bright for Keith's taste. "Ah, but right now, I've got some company, so maybe in a bit. I'll come get you later, alright. We can go over them with the Commander."

 

"That sounds like a plan. I'll leave you to your business," Keith agreed and turned without looking at Lance. It was an act. It was all an act.

 

When Keith got to his room, he closed the door behind him violently and stomped his shoes and outer clothes off before flopping onto his bed. He felt irritated. He should have studied Lance's face, but the tightening in his chest just seeing his wide eyes scared him. All of these feelings scared him. He knew he was jealous even though he understood why they had to act like this. Keith didn't want others judging his actions based on his relationships and they were already watching Lance. But, it was more than jealousy. So many people around him that he cared about already knew. Would it be so bad to announce it? Surely the repercussions couldn't be any worse than what Keith's mind made up.

 

Keith sighed and remembered the tinkling giggles that he had heard in the room with Lance. Who was it? Another servant girl? Someone else Lance was trying to use to learn information on one of his fellow Alteans? How was he getting that information out of her?

 

Suddenly, a growl formed deep in the back of Keith's mind and forced itself out muffled by the mattress of the bed, Keith turned face down. It wasn't a growl from Red. It was his own possessiveness. He didn't want to be selfish. When Shiro showed favor to other soldiers, he had always gotten like this, but this was different. Lance was his for the time being. He didn't want anyone to know and yet he wanted everyone to know.

 

There was a sudden knock on Keith's door. He assumed a servant by how soft it was bringing up new towels or offering to start his bath or some other nonsense most of them already knew to not bother him with. Keith didn't like being waited on. Instead of going away, there was another soft knock and then the door creaked open.

 

"Are you asleep?" Lance called out into the room peeking inside.

 

Immediately, Keith sat up on his bed. "Come in."

 

"Oh, actually I was thinking we could go to the basement training grounds. You can get in with me," Lance said, his eyes darting around Keith's room. The last time Lance had been there, Keith had practically had to drag him in and it seemed like he would have to do it this time, too.

 

"Lance," he said, voice terse, "you would have to wait for me to get ready, so just come in."

 

"Right, right, that makes sense," Lance said and walked in only in lounge wear and nothing close to training attire. Had he dismissed the girl in his room and hurried over here so soon? The thought made Keith smile. "What? You're giving me a weird look."

 

Keith stood from his bed and approached Lance. The Ice Master slowly backed up as if ready to escape. Keith lunged himself forward before Lance could reach for the door and wrapped his arms around his neck, bringing their face's together. Lance tried to take another step back at first, but only found himself trapped between Keith and the door. After a moment of no reciprocation, Keith pulled away and glared up at Lance.

 

"Lance, am I not your lover still?" Keith asked, his voice steady, but soft.

 

Lance looked down at him, his blue eyes wavering with fear, but slowly they relaxed and he brought his hands around Keith's waist pulling him close. "Welcome back, Lord Fluffy Head."

 

Keith's glare grew and he forced his lips into a frown. Lance chuckled and brought one arm up to entangle in Keith's fluffy hair, tugging on it just a bit before kissing Keith back.

 

Relief suddenly washed over Keith. This was what he had wanted when he returned. The warmth of Lance's kisses were so sweet it was almost nauseating and he felt his head beginning to spin. When Lance broke away to give them air, his lips moved to Keith's neck and Keith found his lips moving no longer preoccupied by Lance's and unrestrained while they were in the privacy of his room.

 

"Who were you with?" he asked.

 

"Jealous?" Lance teased and nibbled a spot hidden under Keith's hair. It hurt a bit, but it only made shivers run through Keith.

 

"Yes. Who was it?" Keith asked again.

 

"No one that mattered, just a girl with a bit of a title. I didn't cheat," Lance said and pulled back to look Keith in the eyes, his hand moving from his hair to his chin and lifted it. "I only held her a bit, cuddled. A few others throughout the week as well. Only platonic intimacy."

 

"I never asked if you cheated," Keith said then moved his face to Lance's neck trying to copy his lover's action and finding a new exhilaration at the pulse beneath his teeth.

 

"Wh-what are you doing?" Lance asked, tensing.

 

"The same as you," Keith said.

 

"I don't have long hair like you, you'll mark me," Lance said.

 

"That's not fair," Keith complained, but pulled away and pressed his nose against Lance's neck. He could smell that cold sharpness and a floral perfume that must have been the girl's. "You smell like her."

 

"I'm sorry," Lance said. His hands had moved back to Keith's back and were roaming at his shirt's hem ready to push beneath them.

 

Keith shook his head then nudged Lance's chin with his nose. Lance turned his head and kissed the side of Keith's face, hands finally diving under his loose silky shirt. His hands were rough and calloused, but warm on Keith's back and they made him shiver pleasantly. He moved one of his own hands into the front of Lance's short robe like shirt feeling his naked chest beneath.

 

Lance's voice hitched. "D-don't."

 

Keith pushed some of the fabric away and let his fingers roam over a large scar he already knew was there on his side. It earned him a shiver. "Did you miss me, Lance?"'

 

"Huh? Yes. I mean, what's gotten into you?" Lance asked.

 

Keith pulled his hand away and pushed himself back enough so they could look at each other properly. "I asked you a question, don't answer with a question. We were having a moment I think."

 

"You think?" Lance asked and grinned. "Are you trying to be romantic?"

 

Keith suddenly felt irritated and embarrassed, feelings he was much too use to having around Lance. "I'm trying to touch you."

 

Lance's face reddened. The other's embarrassment brought Keith joy, but also made him shyer and he tried to pull away, but Lance only pulled him flush against his chest.

 

"Did I say something wrong?" Keith asked. Lance was squeezing him tightly and swaying slightly back and forth.

 

"No, no, you just made me happy. I just...of course I missed you. That's half the reason why I was even trying to make it seem like I was hitting on other people. I probably even made it too obvious. But...I'm afraid," Lance said.

 

"Afraid of what?" Keith asked and let himself sink into the strange hug. It wasn't romantic, but Keith found he enjoyed it. It made him feel needed, like a blanket or a child's doll.

 

"Those of the court who know, they might see this time as a time to take advantage. I don't want them to 'encourage' me to wed someone I don't like."

 

"You like me," Keith pointed out.

 

"I very much like you, but they don't know that."

 

"They could."

 

Lance sighed. "That would definitely dampen their plans, but I don't want to risk you, too. If I'm playing around, they won't want to force me on someone. No one wants the guy that's just going to leave them in two days for another fancy, or the guy with multiple romances at once. They'll play along, but they won't want me for something serious."

 

Keith moved his own arms and wrapped them around Lance hugging him back. "I don't really mind the flirting and cuddling. I don't like it, but I...jealousy isn't bad."

 

"You like being jealous?" Lanced asked, humor in his voice.

 

Keith just shrugged.

 

Suddenly, Lance's hands were back underneath Keith's shirt, touching his torso and his stomach before moving back to his back and he buried his face against one of Keith's fuzzy pointy ears. "Welcome back."

 

Keith could only describe the sudden wave of heat that came over him as melting. He immediately turned his head and pressed his lips against Lance's, but it only lasted a second before there was a knock on his door.

 

They both went still.

 

Another knock.

 

Lance looked at Keith frantically. Keith had never seen him this scared and the realization hit him hard just how much Lance was truly frightened by the court. It made him angry and he pressed a hand against Lance's mouth and a finger to his own telling the other to be quiet.

 

A third knock came followed by an aggravated string of curses murmured beneath the breath of a female. It must have been a servant. Keith had expected one to come soon, but he had forgotten, he had forgotten a lot, when Lance had walked in.

 

Once the coast was clear, Keith reached out and locked the door before taking Lance's hand and leading him to the couch. "Show me how cuddling works."

 

Lance chuckled. "You're really something. Ah, but don't worry, I'm the best cuddler in the world. You'll learn quick." He smiled brightly as he brought Keith into his lap on the same seat as last time.

 

Keith didn't believe that, but he could easily be swayed if Lance only kept smiling like that.

 

Chapter Text

15. The Compromise

 

The wave of new Ko to Altea brought with it an excitement Keith had never seen in the Altean castle. The younger the Alteans, the more eager they were to snatch onto a Ko visitor. From the look Lance studied his fellow young Alteans taking up the common and private rooms on the lower floors of the middle tower cuddled up to confused and cold Ko, Keith assumed it was less the thought of having a new and exciting relationship with a foreigner and more about getting as much out of their guests as they could to later use against Ko-gane in the future. Unfortunately for them, Keith and Shiro had informed Prince Ryou when he had visited about the habit Alteans had of learning secrets in order to blackmail. And because of that, flings were common, but not one serious relationship was made between anyone of high standing and that made Lance uneasy.

 

"It's only been a month," Keith said as they scrubbed at Black's scales in her large and spacious cave in the Lair, one of the only places Keith and Lance could really be alone with an excuse without it deeming them wanting to spend time alone together. "A relationship can't be made in a month."

 

"A month is long enough to know if you find someone attractive. And it's long enough for the Princess' cousins to realize they aren't going to get a Ko royal under their control. You are all too proud and too honest to fall into our way of thinking, I would know. It's just going to make you stronger. The Alteans in Ko-gane already know that."

 

"Prince Sven thinks the girls that were sent are too young for him," Keith said. "And since Prince Ryou finally proposed to his lover, there isn't such a big rush for an heir in Ko-gane. They're pretty sure she's pregnant or had a pregnancy scare and that's why they're finally coming out with it."

 

Lance sucked in air between his teeth as if he had been hurt. "Quiznak!"

 

"What is it?" Keith asked peeking around Lance to see if he had cut himself on Black's scales.

 

"It's just irritating. It's not even about heirs, it's about power. Altea has gotten so weak that they just want some control over someone. That's why they brought up the point of marriage, not as a peaceful unity between our kingdoms."

 

Keith sighed. He had already figured as much. It had already been half a year since he had come to Altea. He wasn't as blind to what they really wanted as he had been, but he also knew that Altea needed Ko-gane more than they wanted to admit and they all needed the Builders and their contraptions.

 

"I won't let them force you into marrying someone you don't like," Keith promised.

 

Lance chuckled. "Oh, because I'm yours, right?"

 

Keith felt warm, but nodded. "Something like that."

 

Something heavy suddenly slapped against the back of Keith's neck. He moved his hand to the exposed flesh there having tied his hair up higher than usual as he worked on Lance's request, and felt something soft that slid off leaving a sticky oily mess there. "Hey! Don't throw your rag at me."

 

Lance peaked up over Black's rump, teeth showing in a full grin. "But your neck is sexy. I thought it would look good wet."

 

Keith wiped at his neck, a few of the spots Lance had given him over the weeks stinging as he rubbed too hard. They really hadn't had a lot of time together to be intimate. The time they did had risked being seen so they just messed around which was well enough, but even when they did risk it, they only got a few kisses in before Lance just held him tight. Keith wouldn't complain about it, but there was that hunger in his belly pushing him to explore more. He wanted to know about more. They had been lovers for a few months already without actually being lovers. Keith didn't know any couple back in Ko-gane that had gone so long without more physical intimacy unless they had made a vow to Voltron or they were of a higher standing. Well, Lance was at a higher standing, but Keith knew he had made no such vow and neither had Lance. He never imagine he would be in a situation to consider it and found himself not wanting to. He liked Lance.

 

"I know where you sleep and I will set it on fire, Lord Lance," Keith threatened. This oil was awful to get off. It really stuck on and it was already dying Keith's hands purple. He didn't need it dying his neck as well. That would bring too much attention to the marks Lance tried to hide in his hair, marks he wasn't allowed to leave on Lance, though he fought his way into a few along Lance's collar and beneath his shirt. The Ice Master had at least given into going shirtless when they did get more physical and Keith was happy to be able to see his scars.

 

"Oh, I'm sure you could," Lance said and winked.

 

If only he'd let him. Keith dismissed the thought quickly and was about to throw his rag at Lance when Black lifted her head having been ignoring them in favor of purring at Red who had joined them in the cave. She huffed angrily towards the entrance of her cave then let out a deep growl.

 

"Lord Lance, Lord Keith," a trembling voice called. "I...wow she's big...I'm to retrieve you for a meeting."

 

There was a younger messenger staring at Black with large frightened eyes from around the corner of her cave entrance.

 

"A meeting?" Keith asked. "I haven't heard anything about a meeting."

 

"Really, the castle has been abuzz with it. Ah, but you two have been training all day and so has Shiro. I guess that's why you're here."

 

Shiro had been too busy running around in order to get things done by the afternoon. Keith had assumed that was because he had a date with Matt who had been given a room near the Masters' tower until they were wed, but that might have been wrong. Black really needed a good scrubbing and Keith had offered to do it while Shiro helped train ice breathers at the lake. It was also an excuse to be with Lance.

 

"Alright, we'll be there soon," Keith said then turned to Lance when the messenger left. "Do you know anything about it?"

 

Lance was glaring down at the floor. "Voltron's cock, I bet it's about the marriage."

 

"Let's hurry then."

 

Lance nodded and gathered his stuff. "It's better we get this over with."

 

Keith walked over and touched Lance's wrist. "Hey, I'll be there, too. I won't let them hurt you. You don't have to do anything you don't want to. Princess Allura won't make you and she's the only one that matters."

 

Lance suddenly smiled and nudged Keith tenderly. "Well, she's not the only one, but you're right, she wouldn't force me."

 

They took Blue back to the castle and stayed as close as they could in front of guards as they walked. Keith felt warm at Lance's comment, but didn't dwell on it. The warmth lasted until they got to the throne room where Keith and Shiro had first met Princess Alllura. It was odd to have a meeting in the throne room and Keith felt frigid the moment they walked in. The full court was seated in their box to the side while Regent Adviser Coran stood on the floor next to a single chair. The princess looked rigid on her throne staring straight at the chair. Keith tossed a glance Shiro's way. He was seated in the box opposite the main court where non-political members sat. It was only he and a couple of his chosen generals. Keith slowly made his way to the stairs bumping Lance as he did.

 

It took a moment, but Lance started towards his usual throne beside Allura, but was stopped when he passed Coran.

 

"Lord Lance, would you please have a seat here, it will be easier for everyone to talk to you this way."

 

Fear. Keith didn't need to see it on Lance's face, he could feel it. His stomach dropped as he took his spot beside Shiro. The Prince Commander didn't look at Keith or speak any words to give him a hint on what this was about. He seemed just as frigid as the princess. The atmosphere didn't bode well for him, it felt like someone had covered him with ice the way his nerves burned. Lance must feel even worse being watched by the court.

 

"Good evening, Lord Court," Lance said looking around seated in the chair. His hands were shaking, but he kept them clamped onto the seat of the chair as if hiding them. "I'm sorry to say, but I have not been informed what this meeting is about so forgive my confusion."

 

Coran suddenly placed a hand on Lance's shoulder bringing his attention back to him. The adviser wasn’t frigid, but he did seem apologetic as he shook his head before finally moving to take his throne beside Allura.

 

"Lord Lance," Coran started, "this is an intervention of sorts. We have noticed that you have become quite serious as of late. Your family's reputation is well known and you have done nothing up until now to prove such acts are not in your favor as well. With so many new and lovely visitors, we thought you would have taken an interest. You are a lord's son after all, it would be honorable to have one of our Ko visitors as a lover."

 

He did have a Ko visitor as a lover. Keith clenched his fists at his sides.

 

"It is a trying time and I'm getting older. I have become more serious. Flirting is a bit harder for me these days. I thought the court would be happy not to have me deflowering our youth here and about," Lance said trying to joke, but his grin was half-assed obvious to anyone.

 

"Yes, but we were hoping you would become serious in a relationship with one of the Ko visitors," Coran said. His words seemed sincere, but as much sincere as an actor's, a really good actor's. "Certainly, at least one of them must have caught your eye."

 

Lance didn't answer. Keith didn't want him to, yet he was beginning to want to shout it out that Lance was serious, serious about him, at least he hoped so. They weren't really lovers, but they were something and a lot of things and trying to become more things.

 

"Perhaps the young lord already has someone he has become serious with," spoke up one of the court men.

 

"Oh, I've seen him with many visitors in his room," said one of the court women.

 

"That's enough," Princess Allura finally said groaning. "I am tired of hearing you bicker about our lack of connection with Ko-gane. You can not force love and my guardian is not to be bullied by my court as so. I allowed you to call him here to ask him about how he likes the Ko visitors, but he isn't interested in such follies and I appreciate him being less troublesome. I have many other cousins that could be talked to."

 

"It would appear that the princess doesn't know then," said another court man.

 

Princess Allura suddenly tossed a glance to Coran. "What do I not know."

 

Coran sighed. "The court had a meeting without us, princess."

 

"I know that. They have many meetings without us. I allow them to come to a collective decision before bringing matters to us to approve just as my father and mother and their predecessors did," Princess Allura said.

 

"Ah, doing things as your predecessors did, Princess, would mean marrying, but that unfortunately did not work out," the first court man pointed out.

 

"Lucky for you, we have another potential heir," the court woman said.

 

"No!" Lance shouted suddenly standing up. His blue eyes were wide and he looked at the two court members with pleading blue eyes.

 

"No? Shall we introduce you to a nice beautiful cousin of the Ko princes then?" the court man asked.

 

Lance gritted his teeth.

 

"Lord Lance, sit down," Allura commanded and Lance did spatting things beneath his breath. She then turned to her court. "What nonsense are you trying to bring forth? What other heir is there? Neither my father or mother had siblings. The closest heir would be my mother's cousin's children."

 

"Or your mother's son," the court woman said.

 

Princess Allura sat straighter in her seat. "My mother's...a brother?"

 

"A half brother," the court woman corrected.

 

Allura narrowed her eyes. "That can't be. My mother bore no children before me. I would have known had she had one after."

 

"Oh, but didn't she?" the court woman said. "We all found it strange she passed after giving birth to a stillborn child none of us had seen. Perhaps it was because the child was so obviously his fathers? A father who was not the King Consort, but a lord with a devilish reputation."

 

Allura's eyes suddenly moved to Lance and Keith could see Lance flinch and look down the answer written all over his body.

 

"A younger brother? Lord Lance, did you know about this?" she asked.

 

Lance nodded.

 

"Since when?"

 

"Ten years or so ago," Lance said. "Before I became your protector."

 

Suddenly, there was murmuring moving through the court and they began to shout.

 

"Silence!" Coran yelled and the court fell silent it was rare to hear the adviser raise his voice over a cheerful call. "Since the court knows then let it be known that Lord Lance is indeed the half-brother of Princess Allura and that qualifies him to be her heir as he was the Queen's child. It is a sullied part of our history and kept under wraps. He resembles his lord father too much for King Alfor to have taken as his, but he would if he could have, that I assure you all."

 

"Then let us make him King," called one of the court.

 

Lance suddenly stood. "No! I am a knight and I will be on the battlefield. I have no interest in being king. The right to rule goes to Princess Allura. She has trained all her life for it and you all have denied her that respect simply for the fact she does not see a need to bare a child at this time. We are both still young and in the middle of war. You planned to wait for her marriage to Prince Commander Shiro until after we had won, but now that you see the situation is dire, you want to hurry and marry off another."

 

"Then let us make Lord Lance an official prince," offered another court member. "The Princess Allura can stay in the castle while Lord Lance battles. He already commands most of our archery squad. If Allura has a child in the near future, that child will be named heir before him."

 

"What say you, princess," Coran asked turning to Allura.

 

Allura was still staring at Lance, but she moved her mouth though clumsily. "I...have always held respect and love for my protector. I always thought of him as a brother...I...can not say as of now."

 

"The princess is too confused with such news. We should recon-" but Coran was cut off.

 

"We don't have time. There are already reports on the Galra gaining strength on our southern border and Ko-gane is doing more than they need to to keep them at bay on their own lines as well as the Builders. We need to attack, but we can't be overtaken by our southern allies."

 

Coran then turned to Lance. "What say you, Lord Lance. Will you take the title of prince and Allura's heir?"

 

"If it will make them stop bothering Princess Allura then yes. It's just a title. I want to help the princess and our kingdom," Lance said, head still bowed, but there was determination in his words.

 

"Then we are settled with the matter of an heir for the time being," Advisor Coran said.

 

"There is still the matter of a marriage between a member of our court and a member of Ko-gane," the second court man reminded. "We agreed this was the most important part of the original treaty with Ko-gane. Taking a prince for the princess' consort had been the favored idea, but as that has fallen through, let us have our heir here married off. He seems to be becoming more serious and many would find that desirable."

 

"I can't marry," Lance said. "I'm not that serious, it has just been tiring lately. No one would marry into my family even if I was the prince, nobody of any title worth the treaty."

 

"Not without a warrant to," agreed the second court man.

 

"I do not believe that is our knight's worry," said the first court man and he suddenly moved a look over to Keith. "Our Lord Lance has become serious about someone."

 

"Then he can simply wed his lover," the court woman said. "Whether they are a Ko or an Altean, an heir would work and we can continue on with our match-making."

 

"It's a man," the court man said.

 

Both Lance and Keith glared at him. They had been found out. Keith wasn't too surprised, but he knew Lance had not wanted the court to know and Keith could understand that. They were irritating.

 

"Oh, perhaps we can convince you then, Lord Lance, to find another lover. Unless they are Ko," said the court woman.

 

"Ah, I believe I know who you're talking of," said the second court man who had known of Lance's secret. "Hmm, but I do not believe he qualifies as worth being used for our treaty. Really, there could not have possibly been a worse lover for our heir to choose."

 

Keith was a bad choice? Indeed he was an orphan and a hybrid of their enemy, but he had become a knight and a prince's protector. He was worth something now. Ah, but Lance was going to be a prince. The realization struck Keith hard and he lowered his head and ears. He could feel blue eyes on him, could feel them as if they were trying to reach out to him, but there wasn't a point. He really wasn't worth a treaty was he?

 

“Do NOT speak ill of him!” Lance yelled again. “You have already spilled anything you have against me and I will not hold back what I have if you say anything against him. You know Ko-gane will not take kindly to another insult upon those they have sent to us.”

 

Lance’s protectiveness felt nice, but Keith couldn’t take comfort in them. He had never seen himself as a prince’s consort before, never dreamed of it. He wasn’t worth that much.

 

“Keith,” Shiro hissed under his breath. “Don’t let them berate you. I have no place now to speak up, but you do. Remember?”

 

Oh, right, apparently Keith was a prince, too. It made him want to laugh. He had forgotten about it being back with Lance and training as he had become accustomed to in Altea. A prince of their enemy, no, that wouldn’t do. Couldn’t they just leave them alone?

 

“And is this lover the hybrid Red knight that Prince Shiro brought with him?” the court woman offered grinning having known more than she was letting on. “I have a daughter much better suited than he. And if it is a boy, I have seen many of the Ko boys with faces much prettier. A marriage with a Galra can not be made even if Ko-gane holds them with much pride.”

 

“You speak with disrespect,” Allura said. “That hybrid you speak of saved my life. And he was one of the reasons your heir now sits here as well. He could have died from his bullet wounds or have you forgotten?”

 

“That still doesn’t sit well. We can’t consider a Galra as a potential consort for the throne. We have allowed you, princess your seat for so long without a consort because we know you are a good queen, but what comes after you?”

 

“If you aren’t going to say anything, then I will,” Shiro said and gripped the edge of the box they sat in and addressed the court. “You are disgraceful!”

 

“It seems the Prince Commander would like the floor,” Coran pointed out smiling a bit nervously.

 

“I know I have given up my right to speak above the main court, but I am still part of this court and a prince of Ko-gane which you talk so blatantly about in front of me. It is this talk that has made it hard for any of our exchanged visitors to find love. You do not seem to understand the sanctity of that word. I regret that I could not fulfill my part and marry Princess Allura, but it risked a relationship that would hurt our children in the future just as Princess Allura is hurting now and Lord Lance must have hurt for years. You can not push people together like this. But, more than that, it is disgraceful to see you belittle a relationship that is working and growing on its own. I will not force it, but he is my protector and my responsibility. Lord Keith should be honored as much here as he was in Ko-gane. He holds more power than you could believe. I do not condone the forcing of their relationship into a marriage, but would not recognizing them at least be enough for this treaty? It wasn’t suppose to be so complicated.”

 

“The court has heard you, Prince Shiro,” the court woman said, “but you know well how far our army has sunk. And Ko-gane must know how bad off we are by now with so many Ko in our midst. We need a good marriage.”

 

Shiro glanced at Keith. It wasn’t a worrying look, but an apologetic look and it made Keith’s heart stopped. They said they wouldn’t tell until it was needed. It wasn’t needed now. Shiro had promised he wouldn’t.

 

“Shiro, don’t,” Keith warned.

 

Shiro just shook his head. “I said he holds more power than you know. Did you know Emperor Zarkon had a sister?”

 

The court fell silent before another court woman spoke up. “I have heard of that. They said she died.”

 

“I have spent time with the Galra rebels. The Galra in the empire loved the princess and the rebels loved her more. She became part of the Blade of Marmora and then fell in love with a Ko orphan. And they had a child. Do you think those that loved the princess would love her child over Emperor Zarkon and his son?”

 

No, Keith didn’t want to hear this. Was this what Ulaz and Kolivan and Shiro had discussed before they returned? All Keith wanted to do was protect Shiro. And now he wanted to be with Lance. Had that been too much to want?

 

“Shiro!” he yelled.

 

“Lord Keith, did you have something to add to this?” Coran asked.

 

The adviser was supposed to be nice, but he wasn’t helping anything at all. Keith looked at Lance who was staring at him confused. His ears flattened and he opened his mouth, but he did not know what he wanted to say. He had promised to stay by Lance’s side.

 

Yes, he had promised that. He kept eye contact with Lance. “What if I was a prince? Would you leave my relationship with Lord Lance alone?”

 

“We would encourage a marriage, but the King and Queen Consort of Ko-gane only have three sons between them,” the first court man said.

 

Keith looked away from Lance and at the court. “What about a Galra prince? What about a Red knight whose mother was a Galra princess and leader in the Galra rebellion?”

 

Again, there were murmurs in the court. When silence fell again, the first court man turned to the princess. “Princess Allura, we would like to propose a marriage for the treaty. It would be to our benefit to encourage Ko-gane’s beloved knight to marry your own protector and heir.”

 

“That...would be up to them,” Allura said. She seemed even more confused by it all than Lance.

 

Poor Lance. He just stared at the floor with his shoulders tense seething.

 

“Lord Lance and Lord Keith, we recognize your relationship and encourage you take it to the next step,” Coran said summing up the discussion.

 

The next step? Keith thought it was more like trying to reach Voltron’s shrine from his humble bed back in Ko-gane.

 


 

 

As soon as the meeting had been adjourned, Keith followed Shiro to their floor and forced the prince into his own quarters. The times Keith had ever been truly angry with Shiro were few and far between, but now he felt more than anger, he felt betrayed. Shiro came with him easily and walked about Keith's sitting area considering the lack of decor. He stood straight as if he was unashamed, but he was trying too hard and Keith knew he was bracing himself for Keith's fury.

 

"How could you?" Keith growled. "I told you about my mother in secrecy and you just had to go and yell it out like that?"

 

Shiro moved to the fire place and leaned against the mantle, arms crossed and head lower. "I knew you wouldn't be happy about this."

 

"Then why did you say it?"

 

The prince sighed and reached a hand up to run his fingers through his white bangs. " I only promised I wouldn’t be the one to say the actual words. You did that. We had already planned on saying it."

 

"We?" Keith asked.

 

"Ulaz already knew and he has a responsibility to the rebel group over you. He told Kolivan and Kolivan talked to me, remember? Father also knows already," Shiro said.

 

Keith's eyes widened and he stumbled back against the door. "You told the king?"

 

Shiro lifted his head and pinned Keith with his dark eyes. "The rebels did. You being a Galra heir is extremely important to our fight, Keith. If we can weaken the love for Zarkon among his own people then we weaken Zarkon."

 

"Zarkon's love is fear," Keith said. "Why didn't you ask me if I wanted to be used like this? It's about me, I should have a say in it."

 

"The Altean court is difficult," Shiro said and rolled his neck. "I wanted to let you decide when to tell everyone, but I've been dealing with these guys all day. They just want to force Allura into a marriage and then they started hinting at Lance. I did not realize Lord Lance was the Queen's son, but we've been here long enough that I'm sure you have heard rumors of such a child."

 

Keith lowered his head. "I knew already. Lance told me a long time ago. He wanted me to use it as blackmail for him."

 

"Before you two had feelings for each other?" Shiro asked.

 

"Almost as soon as we arrived here," Keith answered. "He wanted an excuse for helping me out, I think."

 

Shiro sighed. "I think it's his fault you two got found out. He's been flirting with you since day one."

 

"Since the Gazebo," Keith corrected.

 

Shiro chuckled then groaned. "You're still angry, aren't you?"

 

"I’m furious and terrified," Keith said.

 

"You are precious to me, Keith," Shiro said and moved over to Keith placing his hands on either side of Keith's head, lifting it so he could look at him properly.

 

Keith averted his eyes, but didn't pull away. "Then why would you put me in a spot like that."

 

"Because I know you. I only hinted at it, you're the one that came full out with what you learned about your mother. You're a person who goes all in or nothing. Eventually, you would have exploded, but I didn't want you doing something that would look bad to the court," Shiro said. "When you're cornered you can be surprising and it is not always good."

 

Keith frowned. What would he have done had Shiro not brought that up. The court probably would have continued to berate Lance and his relationship and insist Lance marry another. He had promised that he would stay at Lance's side. Most likely, he would have started throwing fire at the court. Best case scenario, he would have run down and made a fool of himself begging. What else could he do? He wanted to be with Lance. Even after these months sharing kisses, he still couldn't believe Lance had accepted him. He had always been prepared for a refusal.

 

"What did King Akira say after he found out?" Keith asked.

 

Shiro removed his hands and took a step back. "He asked that I encourage you to find love. They decided to make you part of the potential Ko."

 

"Only because I'm a so called Galra prince?" Keith asked.

 

"They agreed with the Alteans that you were not what they intended for the treaty no matter how much the royal family loves you," Shiro explained. "But, as one beloved by us and a Ko, they still have advantage if you were to marry an Altean royal."

 

"And Lance is a lord by blood," Keith added.

 

"Lance is a prince, which would make it even more difficult for you as you were to be accepted. You two could have continued on like that, but I will not stand by and let you be bullied by these cold hearted people. And neither would Princess Allura. It would have been a fight between the court and the princess," Shiro explained.

 

Keith sighed. His head was hurting now. He had never liked politics. He just wanted to know where to stick his sword and who Red should bite. "So I'm a pawn now?"

 

"You're much more important than that. Besides, marrying Lance isn't such a bad idea, is it?" Shiro asked.

 

Keith looked Shiro over. This man, he had been about to marry a woman he only got along with and found attractive for the sake of their kingdoms even though he still pined after a lover he thought long lost. Couldn't Keith do the same for someone he actually had feelings for already?

 

"It's not about me, though. Lance doesn't...I didn't tell him about being a Galra prince."

 

"He's probably quite surprised then," Shiro said. "Why didn't you tell him?"

 

"Because it was ridiculous!" Keith could hardly believe it himself. "I just wanted...I like being around Lance."

 

"I understand," Shiro said and lifted a hand to Keith's hair, patting it.

 

Keith slapped his hand away. “I’m still angry with you. With Kolivan and Ulaz, too. And the court. And myself.”

 

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Shiro assured. “You’ve been innocent this whole time, Keith. I know you’ve tried harder than anyone to make it. You deserve happiness.”

 

“And is that happiness being forced into things I’m not ready for?” Keith asked. “Lance was right when he said I was too innocent. I should have made Ulaz vow to tell no one. I should have made you vow.”

 

“You’re right. I never promised I wouldn’t put you in this situation, that I wouldn’t bring it up at all,” Shiro said. “There will be Galra who are homeless and Altea needs more citizens. If you’re here, they’ll be willing to follow a rule like Altea’s and Ko-gane’s.”

 

Keith understood that. He understood the benefits of having him here in Altea. But, he still felt bitter about being forced. His relationship with Lance was something precious.

 

A sudden loud and brash knock on Keith's door forced them away. He didn't have time to answer it before Lance suddenly burst into the room.

 

"I already know you're in here, I could hear you in the hall," Lance said, head lowered not looking at either of them and his fists were clenched tight at his sides.

 

"Lance?" Keith asked.

 

"We...need...to talk," Lance said between gritted teeth.

 

"Lord Lance, I think you should go to your room and calm down first," Shiro said reaching out to touch Lance.

 

Keith grabbed his wrist and tugged the prince towards his door. "Shiro, leave us."

 

Shiro sent Keith a worried look, but pressed his lips together forcing his words down and left.

 

Keith could feel Lance's anger radiating off of him in cold sheets. It made his skin prickle and his nerves scratched beneath his skin. He stayed facing the door as if he wanted to run, but this was his room, he had nowhere to go.

 

"A Galra prince? Where did you come up with that shit?" Lance asked, voice a growled almost chuckle.

 

"I didn't come up with it. I have a Marmora blade. Ulaz recognized it," Keith said.

 

"So you've known all this time?"

 

Keith shook his head.

 

"If you're not going to verbally answer me then at least turn around so I can see you cower."

 

Cower? Keith immediately spun around, the anger from before coming back and redirecting at Lance. He had no reason to be angry with Lance, though, he knew that and it made him more frustrated. "I didn't know who my mother was. My father never told me. My father gave me a blade that was my mother's and Ulaz saw it and recognized it as Zarkon's sister's. That's it."

 

"That's it?" Lance lifted his head and glared hard at Keith. It was almost as if looking into a delayed mirror. Keith guessed this was the face Shiro had been squaring off against not only moments before, but this was different. He was being glared at not by a little brother figure but his lover.

 

Betrayal.

 

"I...I'm sorry."

 

The betrayal turned into astonishment. Lance straightened up and looked away. He hugged himself with one arm and licked his lips as he searched for words. "You're apologizing? There are literally a million things you could be apologizing for."

 

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you when I got back," Keith said.

 

"Ah, but you wouldn't have to be apologizing for that if you had told me. We could have been prepared," Lance said, voice rising. "Quiznak, Keith! This was really important information and you just blurted it out."

 

"Shiro blurted it out!" Keith yelled. No, Shiro had hinted it. "They were going to use it anyways whether I wanted them to or not. There was already discussion about it."

 

"But why didn't you tell me?" Lance asked, his loud voice pleading.

 

Keith sighed. "I forgot."

 

"Forgot? You forgot?" Lance started pacing. "How do you just forget something like that?"

 

"I thought it was ridiculous," Keith said. "I'm not a prince, I can't be a prince. I'm only a lord because I have Red. I only have Red because I can fight. I can only fight because I had to to live. It doesn't make sense."

 

"Why do you talk like that?" Lance asked. He looked incredulous, both arms now crossed on his chest and one hip jutted out giving Keith a look he hadn't seen since he was young and the nurses that took care of the younger soldiers to be were ready to scold him for fighting with the other children.

 

Keith frowned. "I don't know what you mean."

 

Lance shook his head. "No, of course you don't because your skull is too thick. Nothing makes sense to you because you won't let it. Did it ever occur to you that even if I didn't end up becoming a prince that you would be a Lord Consort if we got married?"

 

That was right, but it sounded ridiculous to Keith. He was a lord because he was a knight. A Lord Consort though...no, a Prince Consort now. "I wasn't thinking that far ahead."

 

"Right, because you never think ahead, Keith. This is our relationship and I wanted to keep it that way," Lance said. "But, now it's political. And now you're a Galra prince!"

 

"I'm not a prince!" Keith shouted.

 

"You are!" Lance shouted back. "And you will be if we get married."

 

Keith shook his head. "What does that even mean? I don't understand any of this. Why can't we just continue? I never asked to be a prince."

 

"Forget about the Galra prince thing then. Even without that, I could have convinced them to let it be you," Lance said. "The problem is either Allura or I have to marry a Ko. They're forcing us to get married, Keith. We're not ready for that."

 

They weren't, Keith agreed. But, it occurred to Keith, when would they know they were? It wasn't as if they were too young and they knew each other well. Keith had just never envisioned himself married. Perhaps he would have a swing once in his life when Red decided to mate and the heat got too intense, but there was never a face to put with the idea. And now there was.

 

Married to Lance, together forever. That's what that meant, right? So, the court wanted them to be together forever. Perhaps it was under their terms, but was that so bad? There was a part of Keith, the part where the jealousy and the protectiveness lied, that felt ticklish with the thought.

 

"Do you hate the thought of being married to me, Lance?" Keith asked. "Do you not want to marry a Galra hybrid?"

 

Lance's face went from confused to blank and then anger resurfaced. "That's not what this is about. We shouldn't be forced into a wedding. I don't want to be forced into anything."

 

"Neither do I, but shouldn't you be trying to find a way to make this advantageous for you? Or is it truly that bad to be married to me?" Keith asked. "I have nothing to bring to the table other than this ridiculous Galra prince thing, but it won't do anything for you. But, for me, I'll be elevated on the same plane as my own charge. That isn't fair to you to get nothing out of this, is it? It's not fair to you. I don't want to be unfair to you."

 

"Keith, I can't do this right now. We're arguing about something else," Lance said and covered his face with his hand, long fingers slowly sliding down before his whole body just slumped. "Shiro was right, I should have gone to my room first. I didn't think this through."

 

Keith lifted one hand to one of his arms and looked down. He felt exhausted, too. Had he said something bad? He hadn't wanted this either though he wasn't sure why anymore. Mostly because he didn't want to do what the Alteans told him to do, but also because he didn't want to hurt Lance. Was that it, though?

 

"You're right, we're not ready. Let's just drop it," Keith said.

 

"Stop, Keith, just stop," Lance said sighing. "I'm going to go see Allura. We'll...quiznak...I hate this."

 

Right, Allura. She was more important right now. Certainly she must be even more confused learning her trusted Right Hand was actually her half brother, that her parents’ relationship she had always idolized was a sham.

 

"Yes, of course, go to the princess. She's the one that needs you the most right now," Keith said, but he thought his words sounded bitter. He didn't mean them like that.

 

Lance growled under his breath and pushed past Keith to the door. He threw it open before walking out slamming Keith's door shut behind him.

 

Keith agreed with Lance, though. He hated this, too.

 


 

 

 

Night came with a fitful sleep. When morning seemed to be on the horizon, Keith lifted himself from his bed and changed only his breeches before grabbing a cloak from his ever growing Altean wardrobe to keep the chill of the early morning castle air off him as he began to roam the castle. There were servants about and guards, but he didn't make any indication that he wished to be unseen. It didn't matter, he had no particular place to go. Eventually, he found himself on the bridge to the Master's tower and stopped for a moment to watch the sun rise over the lake and trees that lay past it. He didn't think sunsets here were as clear as they were in Ko-gane with the horizon so much more covered, but there was something beautiful about the way the warm lights sparkled against the snow. For a moment, he felt peaceful. Then, he carried on wandering.

 

Keith hadn't made much time for visiting the other towers in the Crystal Castle. He use to visit the Masters often in Ko-gane particularly on sleepless nights when they would allow him to sit with a telescope and watch the stars, but it was much warmer in Ko-gane and the chilly night air was welcoming. He would freeze if he went outside if they even had an outside observatory. Keith hadn't seen a spot for one, but he had seen many glass roofs like the one over the ballroom that were covered in snow more nights than not. Other than studying the stars, there really wouldn't be a use for Keith visiting Altean Masters. They knew only ice magic and Keith was a Fire Master. Ko-gane had promised to send a few Masters to Altea to help in teaching the Ko visitors that were Fire Masters, but they had yet to do so. They had also been suppose to send a Master for Keith to test under and gain his Level 1 title, but that had been continuously postponed. He wasn't in a hurry for that. He wasn't in any hurry for anything.

 

Not even for the war to be over. It wasn't as if Keith knew what life was without one. It was scary to think about.

 

As was marriage.

 

Keith's thoughts were interrupted by a loud blast on the floor above him before he could delve down that hole of thoughts that had made it hard to sleep. He hurried up the flight of stairs and found himself in a hall with only one set of doors. They were made out of dragon steel, the first bit of dragon steel Keith had seen in Altea that wasn't for decoration or on weapons, and had metal chains holding it together that were rusted, but they seemed newly dusted and unlocked. He carefully undid the chains and pushed open the doors only for a rush of smoke to hit his face. He coughed and waved his hand as he pushed himself inside prepared to start his morning with a rescue mission.

 

It was a rescue mission of sorts. Keith hurried towards the contraption in the middle of the floor spurting fire at targets on a far wall while also spurting out smoke. Keith hurried over to the two petite figures crouched down by the base of the contraption wielding tools and covering their faces with damp cloths sporting the same chopped up orange-brown hair style.

 

"What are you two doing!" Keith shouted immediately reaching out towards the machine with his flames and urging the fires to stop before melting the wires inside that seemed to be forcing the flaming balls at the targets.

 

The contraption whirled loudly then puttered to a pathetic stop. One of the figures stood up and threw a wrench down at Keith's feet before removing their cloth from their face and glaring with amber eyes. "Quiznak! Keith, I was about to stop it, now I've got to start over from phase 2."

 

"Now now, Pidge," the second figure said standing up and removing their cloth as well revealing a similar face to the first, but slightly older, more angled, and with a red scar on one side of his face where his ear mostly was. "Lord Keith was just trying to help us. Fire can be unpredictable after all. You might not have figured it out in time."

 

Lord Pidge just clicked her tongue and crossed her arms.

 

Keith looked between the Builder siblings before looking around the room. It was a large metal padded room with equipment spread about and a small furnace to melt metal on one side. "What is this?"

 

"It appears to be an inventing room," Matt said going over to a basin full of water to wash off his darkened hands. "Since I'll be here with Shiro, they said I could use it for my research."

 

"Me, too!" Pidge added already kneeling by the contraption again, small hands tinkering inside where Keith had melted parts.

 

"You, too? I thought you didn't like the castle," Keith said frowning when he saw the scorched targets. "And I don't think you should be practicing with it in the castle."

 

"This is just a prototype. We'll test out the real weapon outside," Matt said.

 

"Yeah, outside. And, well..." Pidge looked up, her amber eyes curious, but calculating. It unnerved Keith. The look was different from what he was use to with Alteans, but it was similar. He wasn't sure of the intention behind it. "...I guess they haven't told you. Well, no surprise, they just told me today. Lance is going to be Allura's heir. They haven't made everything known yet, but everyone knows that at least. Matt, hand me the star shaped one. Also, make a note for Shiro to ask about getting Balmera metals to the castle. They've got some that burn real good."

 

"I already knew that. It doesn't explain why you're here," Keith said. He didn't think Pidge would willingly stay in the castle even if her brother was here. Chief Holt wasn't, though it did seem like he would be visiting often.

 

"Hunk will be here soon. He went off with Shay for a mating festival. They don't really do weddings on the eastern side tribes, but they still do mating festivals. He's going to be Allura's new protector," Pidge said.

 

"Allura's new protector? Why does she need a new one?" Keith asked.

 

Pidge sighed and rolled her eyes at Keith. "You don't really think Lance can be Allura's heir and her protector, do you? Plus, they need him on the battlefield even if they don't want him to be. Lance nominated Hunk and Hunk agreed."

 

"So what about you?"

 

"Well, Lance needs a protector now, too, so there's me. He doesn't trust anyone else. They weren't happy about it since I'm a girl, but since they know you two are lovers, there's not really much to worry about. They actually thought Lance and I were secretly lovers before they found out about you guys, how ridiculous!"

 

"They probably would have preferred it that way," Keith said before he realized it.

 

Pidge’s expression hardened, but she quickly went back to working on the contraption. “Why are you up so early anyways?”

 

Keith shrugged. “I had a hard time sleeping.”

 

“I’m sure there’s someone else roaming about that had a hard night’s sleep, too,” Pidge said.

 

It was a blunt hint, but Keith didn’t move.

 

“Keith, they said they found out who your mother was, isn’t that nice to know?” Matt asked coming back over with an armful of tools and a large book under one arm.

 

Again, Keith shrugged. “I feel like it would have been better not to know.”

 

“If they didn’t know then wouldn’t you have a hard time marrying Lord Lance?” Matt asked.

 

“I...think they should just mind their own business,” Keith said.

 

Pidge scoffed. “Now you know why I can’t stand being here.”

 

“And yet you are,” Keith pointed out.

 

Pidge stood and and wiped off her smudged hands on her breeches smudging them as well. “Do you know which kingdom was the one to finish off the rest of the Holt tribe? It was Altea. That left just my father before he married blood related to the Holt tribe. The Olkari took us in, but before Matt and my father went on their trip and disappeared, we went to the Garrison tribe where my mother is from and I met Hunk and Lance. I couldn’t stand being around Lance at first, but he grows on you, you know. Hunk knows more, but he was a real mess. I think you know it, too.”

 

“I...know he’s been through awful things. Altea isn’t as beautiful as it seems,” Keith agreed. That was just guess work, though. Lance rarely talked about anything serious from his pass.

 

“Keith, do you want to marry Lance?” Pidge asked.

 

“I never thought about it,” Keith answered. “It doesn’t really seem like something that would happen.”

 

“Why?”

 

Why? That was a good question. “I...never had someone I liked before.”

 

There was a small chuckle from Matt as he sat on the floor reading the handwritten book, possibly a manual for the contraption, but he said nothing. He had always been quiet listening on from the background until a proper phrase could be said that would hit Keith where he needed it. He hadn’t gotten much of it, but he did treasure the small advice Matt had given him when he was younger and didn’t want to listen to Shiro’s encouragement.

 

“Right, but you’ve had things you wanted. What about when you became a knight?” Pidge asked.

 

“I was just trying to do good. I had to do well or else I would end up on the streets. I just ended up doing better than others and was allowed to try and bond with one of the Queen Consort’s dragon’s dragonlings,” Keith said. “I was honored just to be there.”

 

“So you’re honored just to be Lance’s lover?” Pidge asked.

 

Keith squinted at the Builder. “I don’t think that’s the same, but it was more than I expected when I confessed.”

 

Pidge’s eyes widened. “Oh, you confessed? I thought Lance just went overboard with his flirting and you caught him on it. But, that makes sense. You’re an aggressor. But, it doesn’t really seem like you think too far ahead. And that’s where your lack of confidence differs from Lance’s.”

 

“What are you getting at?” Keith asked. He knew he lacked confidence. He was just trying his best to be something other than a Galra hybrid and he definitely didn’t want to be a Galra hybrid rebel prince. But, Lance...Keith was pretty sure everyone lacked confidence somewhere in their life. Lance had felt threatened by Keith when he first showed up in Altea.

 

“I’m saying that Lance is bad about making decisions without thoroughly thinking through them and sometimes he over thinks them to the point that he cracks and goes with the opinion of either the pushiest person or the one he trusts the most. They originally tried to keep him away from the princess when he hit puberty, but it was the princess that suggested him as her guard once he became a knight encouraged by her father’s wishes. He didn’t know what to do, but he agreed because he loves Princess Allura and trusts her. He wanted to protect her. If this was only about him, he probably would have agreed to anything just to get them off his back, but he has to worry about you and what you want, Keith. What do you want?”

 

“I don’t know what I want,” Keith said. Lance. His pacing, his hot and cold act right after Keith had confessed. So he had been fighting his own thoughts all this time and it was Keith that pushed him into making decisions, but Keith was just impatient. However, he didn’t care if they didn’t get married, he just wanted to be Lance’s lover.

 

Pidge rolled her eyes. “Then maybe you should figure that out first. If you don’t think you want to be with Lance for a long time then you might as well quit now.”

 

Quit? Keith wasn’t a quitter. And he had promised to stay by Lance’s side. Besides, if they ended it, then Lance would be forced to marry someone else and Keith felt that sting of jealousy at the thought. “I want Lance.”

 

Matt laughed again. “So blunt. You always were so passionate and stubborn on giving up. So you won’t give up?”

 

“I don’t want to give up on Lance. Even if I don’t have the right to, I don’t want to,” Keith said. “It’s selfish though.”

 

“It’s okay to be selfish sometimes,” Matt said. He was tapping the finger were Shiro’s emblem ring laid staring at it instead of the words in his book. He stopped staring at the ring and turned to Keith. “Perhaps you should give some thought to marrying Lance instead of thinking of it as a bad choice.”

 

Thinking about marrying Lance, Keith thought the thought might not be so awful to ponder.

 

 

Chapter Text

16. The Crown

 

 

The observatories were empty when Keith finally left Pidge and Matt once the room they had been building in had been cleaned of soot and burned targets. There were only a few Masters about in that area of the Masters' tower that were not otherwise occupied and they were quick to give Keith directions to an empty observatory. He thought their attitudes stemmed less from the rumors that were going around the castle or Keith himself and more about not having the time for others with their intense research into elemental control. Keith found he liked the Altean Masters. Only a few tried to coerce him into letting them study his fire magic and they were quick to leave him alone when he denied the tests. They didn't even ask him questions when they saw him huddled in a corner by one of the telescopes surrounded by books until midday.

 

It was hunger that finally brought Keith back to his tower and he stopped a servant on his way to his room to ask that a small meal be brought to him within the hour. He didn't want to leave the castle for the rations given out at the practice arena or the snacks held in the Lair's cabin with Shiro stuck in the castle not having said a word about his schedule for the day. Keith had expected to be called out at any moment, but most of the floors in the central tower were silent. Meetings were probably still going on or everyone was simply waiting. How long would they wait? Keith wasn't a patient person, and he assumed the court had an agenda to meet. They wouldn't wait too long before starting to push.

 

Approaching his hall, Keith heard the sounds of footsteps. They grew louder then fainter then louder and then fainter again as if someone was walking up and down his hall. Instantly, he knew who it was, but still felt surprised when he came around the corner and was face to face with them.

 

"Lance?"

 

The Blue knight looked up mid-stride and stumbled catching himself against one of the walls. "K-Keith! Um, hey, hi,...yeah."

 

Keith tilted his head and studied Lance. He was wearing lounge wear again except his pants were riding hides that had smudges on them as if he'd gone on an unceremonious ride on Blue. "What are you doing here?"

 

"Ah, well," Lance started and poked at the smudges, "you weren't in your room. Were you practicing?"

 

Lance was looking over him, too, a bit of red on his cheeks that made Keith curious. "I went to the observatory. I haven't had a chance to go yet."

 

"Oh, did you want to? I could have taken you. Do you like the stars?" Lance asked.

 

"I studied space in my free time in Ko-gane," Keith answered.

 

"Oh, I didn't know that," Lance said, his voice soft. Right, it wasn't like it hadn't come up, but Keith felt he understand that tone. "Ah, but it's daytime. You wouldn't have seen any stars."

 

Keith shrugged. "I read. A lot of the Altean lore for the constellation is the same as in Ko-gane, but you have some interesting ones"

 

"Oh, I could tell you a lot about all of that," Lance said and grinned. "They made me learn it all when I was little."

 

"I would love to hear about it," Keith agreed. "But, you came looking for me, right?"

 

"I was just kind of stopping by," Lance said combing back some of his short brown hair with his finger and looking behind him at Keith's door nervously.

 

"So, because I wasn't there you were going to leave?" Keith asked.

 

Lance lowered his hand. "I couldn't decide if I should wait or leave. I've been thinking and I was hoping we could talk."

 

Keith nodded and started walking down his hall passing Lance. "We can talk."

 

Once in Keith's room, Keith headed over to his fireplace and lit the half burned logs in it with his flames before turning to Lance. It was chilly in his room since he hadn't been in it all morning and the sun hadn't quite made its way to his side of the tower to warm it up. He wrapped the robe he had donned tighter around him and waited by the mantle for Lance to take a seat.

 

Lance sat in what had become his usual spot on Keith's two seater. Keith moved in to sit beside him. They sat silently for a while before Keith reached out and poked Lance's shoulder.

 

"Ow, that hurt. Your nails got long," Lance said rubbing his shoulder and glaring at Keith.

 

Keith shrugged and held the robe tighter around him. "You're the one that wanted to talk, so talk."

 

Lance sighed, cleared his throat, then sighed again and bent forward putting his elbows on his knees and hands clasped together in front of him, thumbs twiddling. "I agreed to become Allura's heir. Technically, I have all the right to as it was the king that married into the family, not the queen so I'm royal by blood not marriage."

 

"I know that, that'll make you a prince," Keith said.

 

"Right. And Princess Allura is pure. They have never had a princess so devoted to Voltron in years. She can hear his voice so much better than those before her. The reason they don't force her into a marriage is because of that. Shiro was a good bet with her, but he loves someone else and they don't want to push her into it. However, I'm not pure, Keith." He glanced at Keith to gauge his reaction.

 

Keith just shrugged. It wasn't as though he started liking Lance because he was pure. He knew the other knight was far from pure, but he wasn't a bad guy.

 

Lance grinned a bit and went back to staring at his twiddling thumbs. "I'm not pure and I've made myself out to be like the rest of my family, Casanovas. The court would have never let me stay single or in a secret relationship like this, there is no reason to. Basically, I have to get married."

 

"I don't think you have to, Lance," Keith said.

 

Lance moved his hands to his head holding it and groaned. "Keith."

 

Keith frowned. "I understand its difficult to defy the court. They would make it hard on you."

 

"Right," Lance said and let one hand fall back in front of him and he began to play with the fingers on that hand as if giving himself something else to concentrate on was the only way he'd be able to get out his words. "And you don't want to be a prince, right?"

 

"I never wanted to be one," Keith said. And yet, apparently, he was whether he married Lance or not, at least until the Galra empire fell.

 

"Exactly, and I don't want to force you to be something you don't want to be. I've been trying to think about how to go about this. We haven't been together long, but there's the option that I get engaged to some girl and continue dating you and if we get serious then I'll knock it off with her," Lance said.

 

"Won't they have you marry her immediately? Keith asked.

 

"Yes, so that won't work. There's the option of marrying someone else and still being lovers with you."

 

"That's cheating and I won't be a mistress," Keith said frowning even more.

 

"Yeah, I know. Allura chewed me out when I talked to her about it. Her mother already brought enough of a stain on the royal family with me."

 

"You're not a stain," Keith immediately said.

 

Lance busted out laughing suddenly. When he was done, he leaned back on the couch and stared up at the ceiling. "Neither are you. But, this is why I like you, Keith. I like you so much that I don't want to hurt you. So, maybe it would be best if you didn't have to be forced into anything. We could just break it off. I’ll marry whoever they want me to and you can be free from it all. Maybe we’ll get a new Commander and you and Shiro could both go back to Ko-gane and live like you were before.”

 

“No.”

 

Lance looked over at Keith surprised. “It’s the easiest way for us not to be forced into anything.”

 

“You would still be forced into something,” Keith pointed out.

 

Lance turned his head away. “I’m use to it. At least you should be happy.”

 

“What makes you think I would be happy back in Ko-gane?” Keith asked.

 

“Well, you certainly don’t like Alteans,” Lance said. “Though I can’t blame you.”

 

Keith shook his head. “I don’t like a lot of people. There were so many times I was almost thrown back onto the streets when I was still learning to be a soldier, even when I was learning to be a knight. I tried hard every day because I was terrified of what kind of life I would live otherwise, Lance. Ko-gane just learned to tolerate me and I learned to tolerate them. I...I like the Masters and I like the other knights well enough now. They’ll at least listen to me.”

 

“I won’t make you do something you don’t want to. I don’t want you to be miserable.”

 

“And marrying you would make me miserable?”

 

Lance brought his hands up to his face and covered it groaning. He stomped his feet for a few seconds in annoyance before his muffled words escaped between his hands. “I don’t know. I really don’t know what to do other than break up.”

 

“I don’t want to break up. You might think it is the easiest way, but it’ll hurt both of us. I don’t want you to care just about my feelings, Lance. What do you want?”

 

Lance spread his fingers across his face and looked over at Keith from between them. He blinked, blue eyes boring into Keith before he finally came up with an answer. “I want you to be happy and I want Allura to be happy.”

 

“The princess will be happy if you’re happy, I’m sure,” Keith said. “And the same is for me. If I don’t make you happy then we can break up.”

 

Lance removed his hands from his face and sat up. “No, you make me happy, you make me very happy right now. I’m just...what about later?”

 

Later? Keith couldn’t fathom his feeling for Lance disappearing any time soon, he couldn’t imagine a later. This was what he wanted now and he could deal with later when it came. “I never wanted to be a prince, Lance.”

 

“I know,” Lance growled and shook his hands out in front of Keith. “That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

 

Keith shook his head. “No, I never wanted to because I didn’t think I could, but I am one by blood to the Galra Empire. I also never wanted to have a lover because I didn’t think anyone could find me tolerable.”

 

“I don’t find you tolerable, I just like you,” Lance said.

 

Keith smiled. “Exactly. So, if you’re just worrying about me then it’s fine. I can work out my feelings on those things after they’re more than ifs. I don’t like ifs or could bes. I just want to stay by your side. I promised you I would.”

 

Lance nodded slowly and leaned back against the couch. “We’re far from being ready to marry each other. I didn’t even know you liked to read.”

 

“I like space, not reading,” Keith said. “ I didn’t have a school when I was little my father taught me how to read as best he could.”

 

“See, there’s a lot we don’t know about each other.”

 

“We can learn,” Keith said and leaned back against the couch, too, staring up at the ceiling. “I want to learn more and more about you, Lance. But, I know we’re not on the same page.”

 

“We’re two completely different people,” Lance agreed. “But everyone is.”

 

“And they still get married,” Keith added and felt a hand reaching out for his in the space between them on the couch. Keith grabbed it and squeezed.

 

“So, we’ll get married, but we’re going to do it our way,” Lance said.

 

“I don’t have a preference, but anyway we can piss off the court, I’m up for it,” Keith agreed.

 

“Right! Partners in crime then.”

 

“Partners forever,” Keith said.

 

There were eyes on him at those words. Keith turned his head and noticed Lance’s blue eyes staring at him. They were soft, but still held apologies behind them. Keith reached out with his other hand and touched Lance’s face stroking his cheek. Lance closed his eyes and hummed. After a moment, he lifted his hand and covered Keith’s with it.

 

“Keith,” he said and opened his eyes. “We’re going to do this our way. Our number one priority is keeping everyone safe.”

 

“That I can agree with,” Keith said. More than anything, all he ever wanted was to keep those he cared about safe. He had originally fought just to have a place to exist, but as he became a better and better soldier, he found things he wanted to protect and people he wanted to protect and those people had things and people they wanted to protect.

 

Lance tugged Keith to him. The Red knight easily fell into his arms taking in the warmth that emanated from Lance’s body. Lance slipped his hands beneath the fabric of Keith’s robe and began rubbing his hands up and down over the thin shirt Keith wore beneath it. His nose pressed into the top of Keith’s hair.

 

“It would be good to be able to hold you without worrying about other’s stares,” Lance hummed against Keith’s hair.

 

Keith pulled away then shifted closer to Lance, legs straddling his lap and he engaged his lover with his arms on the back of the two seater. “There’s no one watching us now.”

 

Lance stared up at Keith for a moment, surprised. A dark grin quickly spread on his lips, though, and he replaced his hands on Keith’s waist, slipping them beneath Keith’s shirt as well so his cool hands touched Keith’s heated skin. It made Keith shiver, but he didn’t look away from Lance. There was a challenge in the Blue knight’s eyes, a challenge Keith found all too easy to accept.

 

“We had a fight, so we should make up, shouldn’t we, Keith,” Lance said, voice barely loud enough to be heard, but they were steady words.

 

“Yes,” Keith agreed. “Yes we should.”

 

Keith moved down and pressed his lips to Lance’s. Lance reciprocated in a lazy slow press that was unsatisfying to Keith. When he pulled away, Keith began to press kisses along Lance’s jaw then down his neck. Lance hands immediately moved up and his fingers suddenly pinched at Keith’s nipples causing him to arch back with a gasp.

 

“No marks,” Lance teased and reached up pulling Keith back to his mouth with a tight grip in Keith’s hair that stung, but also heightened Keith’s flames.

 

Lance led them in an opened mouth kiss that became wet and sloppy the longer it went with little gasps of air to breath. Lance’s hands moved along Keith’s torso feeling him up then they removed and his hand was groping at the seam of Keith’s breeches.

 

“Lance!” Keith moaned and pulled back. He gripped the back of the couch tight, eyes closed.

 

“Can I?” Lance asked, his hand still rubbing at the seam.

 

Keith could guess a couple of things Lance could be asking permission for. Any of them would be exciting and new and Keith nodded his agreement before he had fully thought them through. Lance’s fingers were quick at the laces and then his hand delved beneath the silk material straight to Keith’s semi-hardness. He pulled it out slowly like coaxing a quivering animal out of its hiding spot, long fingers moving along Keith’s underside with a nurturing touch that had him growing within seconds. Then he started to stroke.

 

“Lance,” Keith groaned and lowered his head. He had never been touched by another. He barely got satisfaction from his own hand, but this felt amazing. Lance’s fingers were long and knew where to touch without having touched Keith before. Keith was shaking. His arms felt weak holding onto the back of the chair, still.

 

Lance used his other hand to grip and tug at Keith’s hair, pulling him to his mouth for messy kisses that Keith was desperate for with all of the other pleasure coursing through him. Occasionally, Lance’s thumb rubbed against the base of his ear just right and he purred loud. It made Lance stroke him quicker, fingers twisting with the motion. He had begun to mutter curses into the kisses.

 

Keith let out a small series of gasps before removing his hands from the back of the couch and grabbed Lance’s shoulders. He moved from the kisses and buried his face against Lance’s neck taking in his smell as his stomach twisted and his hips began to move on instinct. Then his body wracked with an intense heat that left him spineless and he found himself fighting for breath.

 

There were kisses on Keith’s hair and Lance’s hand began to stroke through the dark strands. “You did good.”

 

Keith purred. He hadn’t been expecting that sort of makeup, but he was learning that what he expected wasn’t what he got with Lance. He pressed his hips down against Lance’s hips and felt his lover half hard as well. “Lance, should I help you?”

 

“You don’t have to,” Lance replied. “It’s not unbearable. I just felt like doing that to you.”

 

Keith moved his arms about Lance’s shoulder and pressed more kisses to his neck. “That’s not fair to you.”

 

Lance chuckled and was about to reply when there was suddenly a knock on the door. Immediately, Lance started pushing Keith away, but Keith stayed where he was and continued to place kisses on Lance’s neck still purring.

 

“Keith,” Lance growled softly.

 

“It doesn’t matter if anyone sees us, anymore, right?” Keith said softly. They had just agreed they’d marry and the court already knew they were lovers.

 

Lance sighed and wiped his hand off on Keith’s robe which only mildly annoyed Keith. He then grabbed Keith’s hips and shifted them re laying across the couch and Keith wasn’t straddling his lap. “True, but for decency sake, at least change positions.”

 

Keith settled himself against Lance feeling his lover no longer needed the favor returned. It wasn’t as if Keith wanted to give the servant a show.

 

 


 

 

Marriage. Keith had began to imagine what marriage would be like with Lance. He knew little about marriage itself. He knew their marriage wouldn’t be like the marriages of those in his camp and he never saw the significant others of those he worked with in Ko-gane. The only marriage he saw was that of King Akira and Queen Consort Fala. They had a very professional marriage in front of others with distance that came both growing up in royal families. Queen Fala often bought gifts for herself and he had heard stories of how it was hard for King Akira to initially get closer to her when the match was suggested, but it was Queen Fala who agreed. It was rare that Keith ever saw the ruling lovers appear as such with intimate gestures other than holding hands at feasts or during a dance, but he did see it and found he liked the quiet romance. However, Lance wasn’t one to be fully quiet. He was definitely the jealous type as was Keith. He would definitely still flirt with Keith, but that was more because it was fun to wrile Keith up and fun to bicker. Keith liked the bickering, too. He liked having someone who he could fight with that wouldn’t leave him just because of it.

 

He liked Lance.

 

They decided against telling the court right away of their decision. They both wanted to make them wait and get annoyed though they knew that when the court finally pulled Lance away to force him into an answer or try and convince Keith to drop Lance, they would not get the satisfactory response. It would be dull and a bit disappointing, but that was fine. They were going to do this their way. And part of doing it their way was telling Princess Allura and Shiro first so they had an excuse to go to the Altean Voltron shrine.

 

The crowning of Allura and Lance would take place in the shrine. Allura’s and Shiro’s wedding would have as well, but according to Lance, the court would treat a wedding with the heir and a non-Altean as well as an ‘unbeliever’ in Voltron (even though Keith was a believer to an extent and being an apparent Galra prince had nothing to do with that) as any wedding between two members of the court and simply have it in the castle. That was fine, the wedding was just a formality. Keith didn’t care one way or another, but a marriage was still a promise before Voltron and Lance wanted to take that to heart.

 

Allura made an excuse of wanting to purify both Hunk and Pidge before they took on their new roles as protectors of Altea’s heirs. And since Pidge was Matt’s sister, Matt had to go and if Matt went then Shiro wanted to go and if Shiro went then Keith had to. And Lance was still the princess’ protector as well as a friend and the to be heir.

 

They had to wait until Pidge and Hunk had both been purified. They waited on the benches behind where they had stood for the Day of Prayer not so secretly holding hands while a small handful of court members sat on the front rows staring blankly at the large crystal housed in the tall building with the Shrine Masters humming hymns softly in their pews. There weren’t as many as on the Day of Prayer, but the songs were still nice and he felt calm with Lance humming with them and rubbing his thumb along the back of Keith’s hand.

 

“You look kind of happy,” Lance said softly when the Masters had taken a break from praising.

 

Keith tilted his head a bit towards Lance, ears twitching. “You’re humming. You’re not particularly good at singing.”

 

Lance frowned. “And that makes you happy?”

 

“No, but I like how it sounds when you try.”

 

“That doesn’t really make any sense,” Lance said, but his thumb was still caressing Keith’s skin so he hadn’t taken offense.

 

“It’s just nice. I like your voice.”

 

“For someone who likes my voice, you sure tell me to shut up a lot,” Lance joked.

 

Keith’s ears flattened. “I’m trying to say something nice.”

 

Lance laughed. “I know and it’s embarrassing. Shiro is literally sitting right beside you. He can hear you being sappy.”

 

“I prefer you two being sappy than you two arguing,” Shiro said from his spot beside Keith with Matt watching the doors that led to the area below where the crystal was rooted for Pidge to return. Hunk was already seated cross legged in front of the ring of purified water praying as a Shrine Master continuously dumped a ladle of holy water over his head for a whole hour. Keith was pretty sure Pidge wouldn’t last an hour having water dumped over her constantly, and would have to redo the whole purifying ritual again.

 

Keith felt red run up his neck and he turned his head just enough to meet Shiro’s soft side eyes with his own narrowed glare. “We’re not entertainment for you. Don’t you get enough sap with your own lover?”

 

Matt was teary eyed beside Shiro clinging to his metallic arm as he waited for his sister’s return seeming to be completely absorbed with the book the princess had given him as a sort of peace offering on Altean shrine practices.

 

Shiro shrugged. “He’s reading right now. He can’t hear a word I say even if it’s ‘I love you.’”

 

“I love you, too, now be quiet, I’m reading,” Matt said immediately upon the words, his eyes trained on the words printed in the book, quite a bit of it in Voltanean.

 

Shiro laughed as if that proved his point.

 

“Hey, Shiro, what does your emblem say?” Lance suddenly asked.

 

“You mean the promise on my sigil? Well since they’re suppose to be used as a promise for faithfulness, most say simply ‘I vow to Voltron to be eternally faithful.’”

 

“But, that’s not what yours says,” Keith pointed out. “That’s what Prince Ryou’s says. He ended up with the last known original sigil since your grandfather’s elder brother passed before marriage and didn’t inherit the throne. And King Akira was an only child.”

 

“Right, so the current second son’s sigil is the main sigil for our house,” Shiro affirmed. “Sven’s says ‘I vow to Voltron to be wise in speech and hand’ meaning he’ll never raise his hand against his lover or his voice and will talk civilly with them.”

 

Keith and Lance both turned to look at each other and shook their heads. They hadn’t punched each other since the time when Keith’s Galra half was revealed, but they argued all the time and practiced against each other in the practice arenas even more in the recent days since the proposal had been made and rumors were going about with them getting caught spending time together. It had only been less than a week, but still.

 

“Here, read it for yourselves,” Matt said, the book in his lap closed as he slid Shiro’s ring from his finger and handed it to Keith.

 

Keith held the band gently in his fingers and held it out towards Lance so the light hit the inside just right so he could see the inscription in Volganean.

 

“Hey, I don’t know any Volganean. I think I see the word rock, but it looks a little different than in Voltanean,” Lance said squinting.

 

“I don’t think it’s rock. It’s something about strength and fire,” Keith said and passed the ring back to Matt.

 

“You’re both sort of right. It’s ‘I vow to Voltron to be the wind that fans our passion’. It’s not rock, but a strong wind. Not fire, but passion,” Shiro explained and took Matt’s hand in his when the ring was back on the Builder’s finger.

 

“Fire would have made more sense,” Lance said pulling his hand away from Keith’s to cross his arms and fret.

 

“He already had me in mind when that ring was made,” Matt explained beaming up at the Ko prince. “Even though I was only sixteen.”

 

Keith shook his head and lifted a hand to brush his hair back before undoing the ribbon at his nape to retie it up. It was cold in the shrine as much as it had been before, but he had tried to dress up knowing what they planned to do and held his hair back because Lance seemed to like it like that. However, he had managed to grab his own red cloak this time to wrap himself in instead of the blue cloak he had long forgotten to hand over to Lance.

 

“Man, I don’t think my purifying ceremony even took this long,” Lance complained a few minutes later when Pidge had yet to appear.

 

“That’s probably because you weren’t the one sitting out here waiting. I’m sure they’re all the same length,” Keith said.

 

“Maybe we should get you purified,” Lance suggested.

 

“I doubt they’d let me, but I’ve already been through a similar ceremony in Ko-gane,” Keith said.

 

Lance shrugged and turned so he could lean against Keith, shoulders brushing.

 

A moment later, Pidge exited the doors and appeared in a white robe, parts of it translucent from water Allura flicked on her. She went to kneel by Hunk’s side and bowed her head, the look on her face serene and not the annoyed glare she had sported on the way here. She was becoming a protector for the ruling house that destroyed the rest of her tribe. Keith commended her on that. He didn’t think he would ever really understand why she would put herself through such a thing, but he could guess. Lance must have been very important to her. She couldn’t stay with her parents forever and Matt would go wherever Shiro went, so she couldn’t follow. Lance and Hunk were her new family. Pidge seemed to understand duty at least and whatever had happened below, it appeared to work to help ease some of the bitterness she still held for Altea.

 

A second Shrine Master came and began to pour water over Pidge as well. It soaked through the white fabric of her clothing quickly as it was so cold in the shrine, but she didn’t shiver just as Hunk hadn’t. But, unlike Hunk’s larger build and tan skin being revealed through the material of the robe barring him to Voltron and those he would serve, Pidge’s form looked delicate. It wasn’t a vulnerable delicateness, but something similar to how Keith remembered Allura looking when she had spoke praises on the Day of Prayer. And yet, it was still different from that.

 

Small and pure and wise and determined. Pidge made an alarming contrast next to the steadfast, strong, and compassionate Hunk. They looked good and in their official armor, they would look nothing more than official guards of Altean royals.

 

“They’re beautiful,” Keith said. “They’ll do well here.”

 

“Of course they will,” Lance said then nudged Keith. “But, don’t stare too much. Hunk might be big, but he’s got real muscle underneath all that food. He’s not unhealthy. And Pidge...I wish they weren’t naked under those robes. I didn’t care when I did it, but it feels awkward. She’s like my little sister.”

 

Fortunately, Pidge was crouched and so anything intimate was covered, but when she stood, she would be bare. Hunk, Keith had seen without a shirt on occasion. “It’s not as if I’ve ever been interested in women and Hunk is spoken for.”

 

“But, if he wasn’t spoken for, you would find him attractive?” Lance asked.

 

Keith turned his head. Lance wasn’t looking at him, but glaring softly at his kneeling wet friend.

 

Keith grinned and placed a hand on Lance’s knee to get his attention. “My type includes are obnoxious men with obnoxious blue eyes.”

 

Lance’s face contorted in a glare, but his lips were quirked in a smile. “If you’re trying to compliment me, don’t make it sound like an insult.”

 

Keith was going to continue the banter when Allura suddenly appeared at the doors. She held out a hand and beckoned to them. Lance immediately grabbed Keith’s hand and hurried to the doors behind the large crystal. They were going to do this. They were really going to make this proposal official. Cold air hit Keith as soon as Lance reached for the doors and Keith paused.

 

“Keith?” Lance asked. His blue eyes were curious then turned worried and he started to pull his hand away.

 

Keith grabbed Lance’s hand tighter. He shook his head. They weren’t ready for marriage, but they hadn’t been ready the first time they stood on a battlefield not even adults yet. They weren’t ready the first time they pierced an enemy instantly taking their lives. And they were never ready to watch a comrade fall. At least this was suppose to be for something good and they would do it together.

 

“Am I really allowed down there?” Keith asked. The air even outside of Voltron’s Leg’s nest seemed more holy than the nest for Voltron’s arm in Ko-gane. Perhaps it was just the cold and the white. The Voltron that the Ko worshipped was a headfirst immediate action but warm deity while Altean’s Voltron seemed more cold and sharp and calm, but Keith felt they were one of the same.

 

Lance smiled and tugged Keith through the door. “Voltron’s embrace touches anyone through his believers. If you’re scared, just hold my hand.”

 

That, Keith could do. He held Lance’s hand tight as they made their way below where the crystal containing the stone of a lion with its right leg made out of blue metal was rooted to the earth. At the base it appeared that a large trunk tree had grown, but fossilized over the years. The roots wove between each other and cradled the bottom of the crystal that seemed to go down even further below ground. Everything in the basement of the shrine was made out of stone even the water ring that circled the roots was carved out of the stone flooring. And it was dark, or would be without the glow the crystal gave.

 

Allura gestured them over the the crystal. Lance kneeled and Keith followed suit. He was familiar with this part of a vow before Voltron. Once they were situated, Allura placed a hand on both their heads. Her hands were wet with water and it fell down Keith’s hair and onto the back of his neck. It was cold and Keith’s ears twitched, but it also had a soft scent to it Keith found familiar. The scent that would accompany a protective hold. Lance reached out towards the ring of water surrounding the crystal pulling Keith’s hand with him and Keith quickly reached out his other hand as well. They dipped their hands into the water. Keith knew he was suppose to speak now, but he waited just encase he had missed a step that differed from Ko-gane. His last vow had been a vow of protection after all, not a vow of proposal.

 

Lance was the first to pull his hands out and turned to Keith. He urged Keith’s other hand out and linked both of them together before standing up and Keith stood with him. He smiled softly looking at Keith. Keith’s heart was beating quickly. He could feel the difference in their heartbeat between their fingers. The smile disappeared and Lance leaned in. He placed his head against Keith’s and closed his eyes taking a deep breath. Keith held his breath, lashes blinking quickly as he waited.

 

“I, Lance of the Iron House honored by dragon’s bond and loved by Altea’s blood, vow before Voltron our protector and sovereign to be like the water that nurtures growth and cools the torrent flames of trouble,” Lance said.

 

Keith took in Lance’s words. They didn’t feel romantic like Shiro’s on his sigil, but Keith found himself appreciating their meaning. This wasn’t a confession of love or wedding vows. This was a promise they were making for themselves to each other.

 

A promise. And Keith knew how to make promises.

 

“I, Keith of the Gold Children, honored by dragon’s bond and loved by the blood of the Ko and the Galra, vow before Voltron our protector and sovereign to be warmth all supportive all comforting and all embracing.”

 

Lance’s eyes opened as Keith vowed and a smirk played on his lips when Keith met his look. He mouthed something that looked like ‘repeat’ before he began to talk.

 

“Before Voltron,” Lance started.

 

“Before Voltron,” Keith repeated catching on.

 

“Before Voltron...we stand here and promise this to one another so that you may bless our union and encourage faithfulness, devotedness, and prosperity upon us.”

 

Allura came and placed water again on their heads before walking away. She clapped her hands and Lance pulled away from Keith beginning to drag him back up the stairs never letting Keith’s hand go.

 

Once back in the main area of the shrine, Keith could hear murmuring beneath the singing of the Shrine Masters. Hunk had moved from his spot and was wrapped in a gold cloak seated where Lance and Keith had watching Matt read his book. Pidge no longer seemed serene as the master over her continued to drench her with water, but Keith could understand why she would be displeased. Members of the court had stood up and were silently arguing with Shiro, hands gesturing towards the door Keith and Lance were exiting. They all turned when Allura locked the door behind them. She walked past them and went to stand behind Pidge, her dragonettes coming to land in her hair and on her shoulders as she looked on her upset court as smug as someone still trying to embody holiness could.

 

“This is it,” Lance said beside Keith and squeezed their held hands together.

 

Keith nodded and took the first step towards the court. As they walked, Lance held up their hands.

 

“My dear court,” Lance said as they approached the arguing men. His voice broke a bit on court, but a grin spread across his face as displeased looks came over a few of the men already guessing the announcement. “May I present to you Lord Keith, the next royal prince consort of Altea.”

 


 

 

The announcement of their engagement to all of Altea had no formality to it. There was no engagement party planned as Lance was not yet Allura’s heir and Lance’s family was greatly urged to not encourage one in their own city. Keith had not expected it to be a major point of talk around the castle, either and Lance seemed fine with that. There was enough talk about the crowning of Princess Allura and making Lance her heir. The fact that the last Queen of Altea had cheated on her much beloved consort left many citizens in shock. Just as Allura had had the illusion that her parents loved each other dearly, so had most of the Alteans. Keith didn’t want to overhear the conversation, but that was all anyone was whispering about inside the shrine as they waited for Allura and Lance to emerge from the nest having been forced to participate in days of prayers, Allura’s lasting longer than Lance’s.

 

Keith felt irritated. He missed Lance and he understood that part of his irritation came from the fact that without the other man’s kisses or idle bickering, Keith’s anger grew. Even if there was barely any talk of their engagement, there was still talk and mostly looks of disgust. He was a Galra, he was a low born Ko, an orphan. He had even heard others call him beyond unattractive, a point Keith had never really considered on his own, but assumed wasn’t true since he had had admirers before and Lance desired him to some degree. Mostly, it was the studying. Being a royal was far different than protecting a royal particularly in Altea. He was still allowed to be Shiro’s protector as long as Shiro stayed the Prince Commander of Altea, but they were now on the same level and that was the most terrifying fact to Keith. Always, always, Shiro had been on a pedestal in Keith’s eyes. He was far from being a king, but he was a leader and a good man, the best man, Keith would argue. Any wrong he caused was unintentional or made after much deliberation. He wasn’t perfect, but a good man shouldn’t be.

 

Keith was not a good man. It was those thoughts that irritated him the most. Lance didn’t seem to like it when he thought like that.

 

Unlike the Day of Prayer, there were less people inside the shrine, but many stood outside with little tents set up. Trading carts had been set up at the base of the hill the shrine was located, far enough away that their business would not sully the holy shrine. Most of their wares had not been put out yet, but Keith assumed they were things based after Lance and Allura. Inside the shrine were fancily dressed royals and mayors and men too rich not to invite. Then there was the court at the very front and the choir of shrine masters already singing. In the box where all the knights and soldiers had stood now only stood the knights and commanders and generals and a few honored soldiers, Shiro standing before them all dressed in a slightly different outfit than he had worn before, but still with the fluffy black cloak Keith had envied on the Day of Prayer. And behind them all in the empty space sat the Ko representatives and Matt. From where Keith stood, he could see them all.

 

It felt strange to be standing so close to where Allura had been. He stood between both Pidge and Hunk awaiting their ruling royals to arrive after finishing their prayers. Regent Advisor Coran stood with the Head Shrine Master, a young boy with similiar red hair dressed in white beside him holding a pillow with two crowns. One was gold with jewels that shown like the sunrise on the snow with a solid base and then twisted metal that rose up in V shape all around. The other was a lighter gold, almost white with blue jewels. It also had a solid base and had only one V that rose up not quite as tall as the other coming to a point like the symbol used often for Voltron. He had been told, as Lance’s intended and the ‘most’ honored guest, that he would be the one to hand the crown from the mysterious red haired boy to Allura to present Lance with and Coran would present Allura her crown as a sign of him stepping down from his pseudo role as ruler. And perhaps it was that that irritated him the most.

 

No, no it was definitely the chatter. He wasn’t terribly far from the front of the stands where the court were whispering to each other and with his Galra ears, he could hear far better. And then there were those that didn’t understand why he stood where he stood. Well, it had only been a week since the official announcement that the crowning would be happening and there had yet been a release date for Lance and Keith’s wedding. Keith was fine with there not being a wedding date, but he felt it would come soon and then the masses would understand why he stood there far better than he did.

 

The singing from the choir suddenly grew louder shushing the gossiping in the crowd. After two songs, the Head Master moved to stand where Allura had during the Day of Prayer and began reciting words from their book of Voltron. Most of it was in Voltanean. Keith’s ears twitched this way and that trying to pick up different voices, but Hunk nudged him every time he turned his head to actually get a better scope on where the gossip was coming from. Sometimes the pokes were for Pidge who Keith happily nudged to make up for his double nudging. She seemed even less interested in the prayers than Keith. He wouldn’t put it past her to have studied both Voltanean and Volganean, but most of it probably wasn’t from scriptures.

 

As the choir began to sing again, the doors to the nest opened. Their voices united and turned into one powerful crescending sound as Allura stepped out. She wore white with skirts so large, they seemed almost impossible to move in. But, her bodice had metal platings of gold. And where there wasn’t metal there was no material revealing her tanned skin and the rows of scripture tattooed into her sides transitioning from one color into the next. The cut outs made it almost silly with all the material on her skirt and the large fur cape that flowed behind her. But, she was beautiful. And then there was Lance.

 

Keith’s breath caught as he watched Lance emerge from the nest. He had gone longer without seeing his lover, but something was different. He looked stronger, fresher, almost completely different. It wasn’t the cut of his uniform in the purest blue Keith had ever seen, tight breeches and a long train made from his coattails. It wasn’t the same cut outs between bits of gold metal on his chest and back and low on his hips. It wasn’t even the new blue markings below his eyes similar to Allura’s. It was just his air, the air of a true prince.

 

They came to kneel before the Shrine Master, backs facing the masses. The Master began to chant a prayer over them, one hand drenched in holy water waving above their heads. Then, he moved aside and Allura stood then turned and faced the masses. Lance stood and moved to the side standing in front of Keith, but never looking at him. Keith swallowed hard, his chest feeling heavy. He felt nervous. Surely Lance felt it even more. He wanted to reach out for Lance, but stayed composed. Lance needed to look strong so Keith needed to appear so as well.

 

The Shrine Master started chanting again and the choir began a crescendo of song that reached a peak before immediately becoming soft holy hums. The master’s words turned from a chant to a prayer and he lifted a chalice from the ring around the crystal and brought it before Allura.

 

“Vow yourself before your masses to devote yourself to Voltron’s Altea until the day your soul is returned to his power,” the shrine master said.

 

Allura held the chalice towards the crowd watching and looked towards the glass ceiling of the shrine. “I, Allura of house Altea, honored by Prayer and loved by Altea’s blood, vow before Voltron to protect his stable sacrifice made for my people and to justly rule until the day my soul is needed to power his return.” The princess took one sip from the chalice then handed it back to the Shrine Master.

 

Coran took the larger of the crowns, the one made with milky stones that shimmered with rainbows, and lifted it to Allura’s head. “By the powers placed upon me by your predecessors and before the eyes of Voltron, I crown you, Allura, Queen of Altea. May Justice reign true in your heart.”

 

Allura bowed and Coran fitted the crown to her head. The shrine master handed her the chalice once again and she easily lifted it above her head allowing the rest of the water to pour over her wetting down her white hair and flowing down the metal of her bodice to the thick layers of her skirt.

 

“I, Allura, am grateful to be your Queen. As my first act as queen, I would like to name my heir, only second to any child I may bare in the future. Lance of the Iron House, please step forward,” Allura said and reached out one hand.

 

Lance straightened up immediately and moved forward. He took Allura’s hand and kneeled before her, kissing her palm. Allura removed her hand slowly and placed the kissed palm on Lance’s hair, eyes absolutely adoring. Keith felt happy in that moment. He had worried Allura might be upset about Lance being her mother’s bastard son, but their bond had always been strong. He had not asked because in the back of his mind, he knew they would not fight for long, not in the same way Keith and Lance did. They were family even before they knew they were family tied by blood. Keith wasn’t tied to Lance at all, at least not yet.

 

He dreaded the thought of the wedding, but the greedy part of him buried deep in the pit of his stomach eagerly awaited it. He wanted to be closer and closer to Lance.

 

Allura looked up, her blue eyes pining Keith for a moment before she jerked her head just enough to tell Keith it was his time. Keith straightened up and walked to where Coran stood. He bowed his head to the advisor then looked at the young boy. He certainly looked an awful lot like Coran. A son? A grandson? Perhaps just family. Keith didn’t look long. He reached out for the smaller grown of blue gems so blue they seemed unreal and lifted it with gloved fingers. It felt heavy in his hands. It felt like it didn’t belong in them. Keith tore his eyes away from the crown and stared at Allura instead. It only took a few steps to reach her, but it felt like an eternity. He knelt just as Lance did and held the crown out to her. Allura smiled softly and reached out with her own hands for the crown and held it above Lance’s head.

 

“Lord Lance, please arise and accept your blood and duty,” Allura said.

 

Lance slowly stood, the crown easing onto his head when he touched it and Allura’s hands fell away. When he was stood all the way he turned to the crowd. Keith thought such a small piece of jewelry shouldn’t change someone so much, but Lance suddenly felt so much further from him. He felt like he was falling.

 

“I am Prince Lance of the Iron House and mothered by the House Altea. I vow before you in Voltron’s shrine to uphold the duties of not only a prince, but one honored by dragon. By accepting this role, I also accept the responsibilities that come with being part of the royal house.” Lance suddenly turned and held out a hand to Keith.

 

Right, he was suppose to be part of this responsibility. No one had told him about this part. He took Lance’s hand anyways and followed his grip as Lance brought him to stand by his side. Suddenly, he pulled out a thin band made of dragon glass with a small upside down V that housed a red stone at its center and lifted it to Keith’s head. The weight felt a bit strange on his ears, but it fit none the less and he looked at Lance unable to hide his surprise.

 

Lance grinned and whispered softly, “You’re a Galra prince, you should get use to a crown.”

 

Allura suddenly cleared her throat and took a step forward. She didn’t seem annoyed, but perhaps Lance had surprised her as much as he’d surprised Keith. They had their way of doing things though. Keith turned back to Lance and smiled.

 

“And one of those responsibilities is marriage. It is my honor to announce the first marriage of the new generation of Altean royalty, a marriage that is of most importance as it solidifies our alliance with Ko-gane. Such a marriage shall have the honor of being between my heir Prince Lance and Lord Keith, Red knight and protector of Ko-gane and Prince of the Galra, nephew to Emperor Zarkon himself. The wedding will commence in one month’s time.”

 

One month.

 

Both Lance and Keith stiffened at the announcement. One month was a lot sooner than they had expected.

 

Chapter Text

17. The Wedding

 

There was loud chatter about the castle as servants hurried from one end to the other carrying flowers and drapes. They had sweat on their brows and their voices were strained as they yelled to each other, but they were all smiling. Keith had never seen so many Alteans smiling so genuinely before. It lightened his nervous heart to know they were happy. Whatever their reasons, they were happy, they were excited. Because there was a wedding.

 

A wedding.

 

Keith pulled away from the door he was peaking out of and turned to look around the room that had been set up for him to wait in down the hall from the grand throne room in the center of the Crystal Castle. It was decorated in shades of purple and accents of red. It was mostly a sitting room with benches by closed curtained tall windows and a small table to one side with bite sized treats for Keith and those who joined him in his room. They were mostly gone as Keith had been in this room since early morning with nothing more to do than snack as each minute ticked past pacing between visitors who were few and far between. There was also a vanity set in a cubby in the corner where Keith had sat most of the morning while three female servants had twirled his hair and brushed his ears twittering excitedly amongst themselves until Keith was blushing bright.

 

Lance was a popular stud in their opinion and Keith was lucky to have him. Keith agreed, but not in so many words.

 

When they were satisfied, Keith had been left alone for the rest of the morning until a male servant, perhaps not a servant at all as he carried himself with grace and wore patterned clothing, came in with two other men who carried a trunk and they pulled out an outfit then hung it on a wall by the three way mirror that sat beside the vanity in the cubby of the wall.

 

Now, Keith moved over to the mirrors and reached out for the outfit. He had been too nervous to touch it before and had sat at the vanity just staring at it until loud yells had gained his attention and he’d gone to look in the hall. He had been told not to leave. He wasn’t a bride, but they didn’t want there to be any chance of he and Lance seeing each other before the ceremony was ready to begin. It was silly, Keith thought as he rubbed his fingers against the stretchy white cloth of the outfit. They had posted guards outside his room the night before and he was sure Lance had experienced the same treatment. And he wondered if Lance was just as bored as he of waiting.

 

Lance. Keith suddenly wanted very badly to see him. He wanted the assurance that Lance still wanted to marry him. It really was a big deal and since the announcement had been made, they rarely had a chance to see each other. As a prince, Lance suddenly had more and more meetings and other duties that made it hard for him to go and practice with the other soldiers and knights and then when they were together, it was usually to plan their wedding. Keith had half expected the court to decide on everything for them, but it seemed they could care less how the wedding went as long as it happened appropriately. They had so much to thank Allura for when it came to setting the wedding up. She had already began preplanning for her own. And Shiro had helped, too, or at least had sent Matt to help. The Ko-gane prince was almost as scared as Keith and Lance when set before a wedding planner. Though Matt didn’t understand much about the Altean wedding ceremony, he did seem excited to learn and that helped.

 

The month had gone by much too fast.

 

“Keith,” called a voice from Keith’s door.

 

Keith turned to see Shiro peeking his head in. He smiled at the prince who smiled back then frowned as he looked around the room.

 

“Your sitting room is a lot less lively than Lance’s,” Shiro said stepping in along with Matt who smiled and waved. They were both already dressed in fancy clothing Keith had never seen before. They were both donned in black and white outfits similar to the ball attire Keith had seen on Alteans before, but they had trims of gold and flowers decorated one of both of their collars. Shiro even had a sash around his waist with his sword on it.

 

“What do you mean?” Keith asked turning back to look at his own outfit.

 

“Well, I suppose Lance just has more friend than you,” Shiro said teasing Keith.

 

Keith frowned and held his arms around himself. The girls that had played with his hair had forced him to change his clothes and don a silky white robe which he had been traipsing around his room in for much too long for it to be comfortable even with the warm fire place at the center of the room mostly encased in glass. “I already knew that.”

 

Suddenly, there was a hand on Keith’s shoulder and Keith turned to see Shiro looking at him with worried dark eyes. “Are you nervous?”

 

Keith lowered his head and let out a shaky sigh. “Of course I am. I’m getting married.”

 

“Is the commitment getting to you?” Shiro asked.

 

“Are you afraid of committing to Matt?” Keith asked back.

 

Shiro shook his head. “Of course not. But, I’ve loved Matt for years and I never want to lose him again. However, it’s not my wedding day so who’s to say.”

 

“No, I’m not scared of commitment. It’s not as if there has ever been anyone else I’ve felt attracted to. And I already made my decision. I just...it’s a wedding, my wedding. I never thought I’d be getting married,” Keith said.

 

“Here, I brought your knife,” Shiro said and held the small blade in front of Keith, unwrapped with it’s dragon scale gem glowing bright purple. “They didn’t want you to have a weapon, but I said it was a Blade of Marmora thing and then I told someone else it was to have your parents close to you when you walked. I figured you would be more comfortable with this at your side since they won’t let me walk you down the aisle.”

 

“Do I really need someone to walk me down the aisle?” Keith asked and took the knife stroking the jewel with his thumb.

 

“Yes. And since it would be impossible to get your father here in time since he is just now getting the news that you will be marrying however long that takes him to get, my father will be walking you down the aisle,” Shiro said.

 

Keith turned suddenly with wide eyes. “King Akira is walking me? He has yet to walk one of his own sons. Isn’t that bad?”

 

Shiro chuckled. “The name Ko-gane means gold in Volganean. A family by that name came into power in the earliest of our full history. Because of war, one of the rulers lost all family and there was no one suitable to be his heir, so he adopted a parentless child and named him so. But, that boy died in war as well and so the king, stricken with grief, named every child brought up without a parent his own and that all children abandoned and lost would be named Ko-gane for they were children of the king. We lost that war, and another family left nameless took over only to be married off to the Shirogane, but they all kept the tradition of naming orphans as the King’s Golden Children. Your father was a Ko-gane so you inherited that name. You are still part of the King’s Golden Children. And our royal family would never be dishonored by you, Keith.”

 

Keith felt himself reddened, guilt twisting in his stomach. He knew this story better than most. He wasn’t an orphan, but he held an orphan’s name. Galra held no last name, so he understood why the usual act of taking on your significant other’s last name hadn’t applied to his father and so he had inherited the orphan title.

 

Orphan.

 

Galra hybrid.

 

Prince.

 

One of those words didn’t match the other. But, Keith couldn’t think about that. He had been a prince without knowing it and now he was going to be one officially if only by marriage. Whether it fit or not, here he was.

 

Keith nodded and looked at his outfit. He had a sash of red to wrap about his waist like Shiro’s, but there was a long cloak like train on the outfit he wasn’t sure how to maneuver in order to get his knife onto the sash. “Shiro, will you help me dress?”

 

“I’m actually surprised you’re not already dressed. The servants had to cover Lance because he was running about everywhere in his room speed talking. He’s nervous too, by the way,” Shiro said helping Keith onto the podium of the tri-mirror setup.

 

“I didn’t ask you if he was nervous. I know he is,” Keith said straightening up then reaching for the ties at the front of his robe.

 

“You want to know, though,” Matt piped up. “Pidge is stationed outside his door. They won’t let her in. He was only allowed female servants for his hair and Allura paid him a visit very early, but they ran her out because she’s the one marrying you two.”

 

“Allura is?” Keith asked letting the silk of his robe slide down his shoulders.

 

“She’s the queen and a Shrine Master. Usually, the ruler is the one to marry any member of the court as long as they have the training to perform the Day of Prayer. Coran or the a Shrine Master would have performed it otherwise since it is a castle wedding. At the shrine, the Head Shrine Master would perform it or so I’ve been informed,” Matt said and ran a finger along his healing burn scar. Keith didn’t think it would heal completely, but it was more on his ear than his face and the hair was at least growing over the parts that the scar reached. Keith couldn’t even see the ones on his arm and body as they were covered by his outfit.

 

Shiro pulled down the outfit the tailor man had brought and messed around with it before getting it how he wanted. “Keith, you’re going to have to face me. I’ve seen you naked plenty of times and I won’t be surprised if you’re covered in marks from Lance.”

 

“I’m not covered in them,” Keith said turning around unashamed. They hadn’t had much time to mark each other. Keith could barely get a kiss in these past few weeks. Usually, it was just cuddling. Keith didn’t mind holding Lance close, though. His arms felt warm and they were strong.

 

“Hmm, surprisingly you’re not,” Shiro said as he held the outfit out to Keith to step into.

 

“I’m covered in them. ,” Matt offered mischievously making Shiro go red.

 

“I am unsurprised by that,” Keith said stepping into his outfit and letting Shiro pull it up along his legs and over his arms and shoulders.

 

Keith’s wedding attire was much similar to what Lance had worn at his crowning. It was made from a stretchy silky material much softer than what Altean clothing usually felt like, and most of it was white. It was a one piece outfit cut to look like it may be composed of multiple pieces. The trimming was a dark purple while the shoulders and a few of the cuts were made from a light purple. The light purple had bits of embroidery on it and it was thicker than the other material. The whole thing was skin tight and Keith stretched out a bit to get comfortable not exactly pleased by the large cut out on his back or the ones in a sharp triangle on his chest and his hips.

 

Hands suddenly lifted to Keith’s shoulders and the long cloak like train was attached to the two small gold buttons on his shoulders. It was only as Shiro shook the train out that Keith realized the fabric was sheer though it was also dark purple.

 

“Don’t forget his shoes and gloves,” Matt said walking over.

 

Shiro took the boots. They were much taller than any Keith had worn before going all the way up to his mid thigh and they were black with the tops that covered the legging parts of his outfits cut with the same purple fabric that he wore. He slipped his hands into the long gloves Matt held out matching his boots then held his arms up for Shiro to wrap the red sash around his waist and clip his knife to it. Finally, Shiro placed a shaw of red dyed White’s fur around Keith’s shoulders and beneath the hood of the translucent purple cloak.

 

“Done,” Shiro said.

 

“Not yet!” Matt exclaimed and pulled out something from a box Keith hadn’t seen him bring in. “Lance told me to make sure you wore this even though you’re going to get a new one in the ceremony.”

 

In Matt’s hands was the dragon glass crown Lance had presented to him at his crowning. Keith took it, his hands feeling unsteady, and lifted it to his head careful of his done up hair. He didn’t remember ever actually putting it on himself always leaving it in Lance’s room and Lance dragging it around with him. It wasn’t that he didn’t like it, but it was precious. A gift he didn’t think he deserved and he didn’t want to lose it.

 

“You’re beautiful,” Shiro said.

 

Keith pressed his lips together and scrunched his nose, ears flattening making the crown move on his head. “I don’t think that’s a word that applies to me, Shiro.”

 

“I agree with Shiro,” Matt encouraged and took Keith’s arm bringing him closer to the mirrors. “Take a real good look at yourself, Keith. You’ve grown into a gorgeous man.”

 

A gorgeous man? Well, Keith never thought he was terrible looking, but he did what Matt said curious how he fully looked in what would be the outfit he married Lance in.

 

Keith inhaled sharply as his gaze ran up and down his reflection. That was definitely a man standing before him. Not an Altean and not really a Galra. The servants had brushed his hair back into a high ponytail and his bangs were mostly held in a very small bump on his head allowing the jewel of his crown to rest on his forehead between thick, but shapely eyebrows. The outfit was tight, so tight, Keith could see his muscles. His build was fairly petite being on the shorter side for a man and not unproportionate, yet his muscles were defined enough to see he wasn’t to be messed with. And he looked clean. Keith wasn’t use to looking clean and put together like this.

 

Yeah, he might say he was beautiful.

 

“Do you think...will Lance like it?” Keith asked.

 

Matt suddenly snickered and moved away.

 

Shiro laid a hand on Keith’s arm to pull him away from admiring himself. “Lance was the one that picked your outfit, remember? You barely had any idea what the tailor was saying.”

 

Right, Keith barely remembered that day.

 

There was suddenly a knock on Keith’s waiting room door and Matt went to open it letting a guard in. The guard bowed, the large full petalled flowers that adorned the vest of his uniform and his head like a crown bobbing with the motion.

 

“My lords,” the guard greeted. “Lord Keith is required to be at the door to the Grand Throne Room in ten.”

 

“Thank you,” Shiro said and then excused the guard before turning to Keith. He reached out and straightened out Keith’s robes. “Are you ready?”

 

Keith’s ears twitched and he glared at Shiro. “Don’t ask again or I’ll bombard you with the same question on your wedding day. I’m not ready, but it’s happening and I decided on it already.”

 

Shiro sighed and pulled away with a soft smile. “Well then, I will be heading out with Matt. We’re your groomsmen so our spot in line should be coming up here soon.”

 

Matt met Shiro at the door and they both waved to Keith as they left the room.

 

Silence. Keith couldn’t even hear the rushing about in the hall anymore. Was it really so close to time? He turned and stared at himself in the mirror for a few minutes more. He would never have imagined himself looking this way. Was his father excited for him? They hadn’t exactly been close, but his father had done what he could for Keith and perhaps urging him into pursuing being a soldier was the best decision his father could make when his freelance work had started forcing him to the southern camps and beyond leaving Keith in a city for days on end to support himself. After becoming a soldier in training, days had become weeks and weeks became months and months became years until finally years became notes handed to Keith from the king himself.

 

“Lord Keith?”

 

Keith jumped hearing the familiar voice and turned to see King Akira suddenly at his door. His eyes widened and he immediately bowed. “I am sorry to force you all the way over here, Your Majesty.”

 

“It is my duty. And don’t bow so low, you’re a prince and you’re coming to become twice that here in the hour,” King Akira said walking in and up to Keith. “Hmm, you look...beautiful, Lord Keith.”

 

Immediately, Keith felt heat in his face and his ears flattened. “I am honored to be flattered by the king. I...feel weird dressed up like this.”

 

King Akira smiled. “It suits you, not that looking like you had just got into a fight or were going to get into a fight didn’t suit you either. I’m glad you’re well, though, and that you agreed.” He reached out his hand in offering.

 

Slowly, Keith took the Ko-gane king’s hand and allowed himself to be escorted off the podium. “It’ was what made most sense.”

 

King Akira chuckled. “You weren’t pleased with it, I can tell.” He moved his hand from Keith’s and placed it on his shoulder squeezing it, a familiar feeling that Keith had forgotten over the past few months he hadn’t seen his king. “I’m proud of you, Lord Keith. You have come far, but I always knew you would.”

 

Keith stood straighter and stared hard into the king’s eyes. “I have always tried my hardest. Thank you, Your Majesty.”

 

The king’s grip tightened then loosened and he reached for the hood of the cloak lifting it over Keith’s head so it shadowed his face. “I am honored to escort our best knight to his wedding podium.”

 

Keith suddenly smiled. “I would be honored to have you escort me, Your Majesty.”

 

King Akira held out an arm and Keith reached out for it holding his hand above the king’s and followed him out.

 

The halls were empty, all doors shut, but there were heads poking out here and there from servants not allowed to view in the throne room. At the end of their side of the hall by the doors that led to the Grand Throne Room were two guards and a man with a scroll. The man turned to look at them with wide eyes then smiled and ushered them over.

 

“Quickly, quickly,” the man said and situated them at the closed doors of the throne room fanning out the long train of Keith’s cloak behind him and hesitating on even touching the Ko-gane king, but still managed to adjust the scarf on his neck before giving a thumbs up. “Alright, the doors will open on my que and then you wait for the first measure of the song to play before starting to walk.” He started clapping his hands. “It’ll go at this speed. Don’t go faster or you’ll end up on the podium before the song is over. It’s better for the song to be over and you still walking. Are we clear?”

 

Keith nodded.

 

“It’s not all that different from a Ko wedding, we understand,” King Akira said.

 

The man with the scroll nodded before slipping into the throne room from a small door to the side to chat with some other coordinator.

 

“Lord Keith, are you quite content with marrying this Lord Lance? From what I’ve heard, he’s unpleasant,” King Akira said as they stood and waited.

 

“He’s not unpleasant, he’s insufferable,” Keith said, but he couldn’t help smiling thinking about it.

 

King Akira scoffed. “Not good when saying how you feel. I always did think you were like me. I had a hard time saying how I actually felt about my wife on our wedding day, too, not that she was much better.”

 

Keith rolled his shoulders feeling more embarrassed by the king’s words than by the fact he was getting married. Like the king? Never, that was one thing Keith would never believe even if it smacked him and forced him down like being a prince had.

 

The large doors suddenly flew opened and Keith straightened up, eyes going wide at what he saw. Rows and rows of royals and courtmen and high end officials filled pews in the large room. A long purple carpet was laid out already covered in purple and white flower petals a few red and blue scattered among them. Music started playing a bright sounding march and the king lifted Keith’s hand higher before starting to walk down the carpet. Keith took a deep breath as he suddenly bombarded by the sounds and scents and sites of the room. Everything was decorated with purple and white and accents of gold. Tons of those large bloom flowers were placed everywhere. Off to one side was a large organ being played by a single man while other musicians sat in a lowered box around him playing along. It wasn’t a chorus like in the shrine, but it was beautiful all the same. Opposite the musicians were the high officials of the court and the closest relatives to the crown to observe the union. And then there was the podium.

 

There were two lines of people on the podium. They were both dressed the same as Shiro and Matt other than the colors of their clothes specified by if they were a knight and if not then the white parts were silver so not to clash with the Gold riders and White riders and they all had the purple flowers on their clothes as well. Lance’s side was significantly larger than Keith’s, but that was fine. Keith only had Shiro and Matt and a few knights that favored him. If they had allowed the Galra rebels to enter, Keith was sure Ulaz would have been up there as well, though Keith wasn’t sure if they would have even come as they didn’t marry. In the middle of the podium was a large ridiculously ornamented throne in which Allura sat overlooking the procession with Lord Hunk to her right and Advisor Coran to her left with the same boy as was at the shrine beside Coran. And to their left standing a few steps down on the stairs of the podium was Lance.

 

Keith almost choked as he took in a second breath without exhaling. He was beautiful even though Keith couldn’t see his face. Lance’s outfit was almost the same as Keith’s except where Keith’s was white his was black and vice versa. Around his waist was a blue sash with a long thin sword attached to it, most likely a sword just for decoration. His hood was also up, but his crown showed through it easily with its single point. He had one arm over an older man’s whom Keith could never mistake as anyone but Lance’s father. They looked so much alike and there was a strange alluring air to his uncaring bored look. As Keith took his first step onto the stairs, he noticed Lance flinch and turn his head just a smidge to get a glance behind him. It made Keith want to hurry to him, but he remembered the coordinator’s words and kept his steps even with King Akira’s until finally, finally, he stood on the same step as Lance.

 

King Akira turned with Keith as did Lance’s father with him and the music faded away as they all looked at each other. Lance’s eyes bore into him and made him feel both excited and nervous. Did the outfit suit him? Was Lance pleased with his choice of partner? Lance ended up smiling and that calmed Keith. He could see it in Lance’s eyes that he wanted to say more, but this wasn’t their area. All the planning, Lance had had his fun with as much of that as he wanted, but this whole wedding was for show. Keith had to remind himself that, but he still suddenly felt extremely excited.

 

They all bowed, King Akira barely lowering his head.

 

“I offer my youngest son for this union with the knowledge that he bares all honesty before his intended,” Lance’s father said. And held out Lance’s hand before removing his from beneath it.

 

“I offer my beloved Golden Child for this union with the knowledge that he bares all honesty before his intended,” King Akira said and held out Keith’s hand until his fingers touched Lance’s.

 

Lance slid his hand beneath Keith’s and Keith let his hand rest on top of Lance’s then they both turned and continued the few steps left until they reached the top of the podium where Allura sat waiting. They both kneeled before her and waited. After a moment, Allura stood fully decked out in her new queen attire and held out her arms.

 

“My beloved court and those honored citizens gathered here today, I present to you a joining of souls and of words. Today we witness the marriage of Lord Prince Lance of the Iron House and Lord Prince Keith Kogane of Ko-gane and the Galra line. Today, they lay forth their feelings for one another for us to witness and not judge, but bless them with happiness as they choose to move forward in their life forever bonded to one another,” Allura said then looked at Lance. “My brother, my blood, I have heard your intentions and wish to receive them as Voltron has empowered me to do. Do those words still lay true?”

 

“Yes, Your Majesty, I still intend to pledge myself to Lord Keith Ko-gane, the one that kneels beside me,” Lance said.

 

Allura then turned to Keith. “My dragon bonded, my greatest ally, I have heard your intentions and wish to receive them as Voltron has empowered me to do. Do those words still lay true?”

 

Keith suddenly felt his throat go dry. He fisted the hand he held loosely as he knelt then nodded before verbally replying remembering how Lance said it. “Yes, Your Majesty, I still intend to pledge myself to Lord Prince Lance of the Iron House, the one that kneels beside me.”

 

“Then by the power of Voltron,” Allura said and reached out with a small scepter to tap each of their shoulders, “and the bond of our kingdoms, I grant your intentions and make them law. From this day forth, let it be known that Lord Prince Lance of the Iron House and Lord Prince Keith Kogane are united until the day their souls once again return to Voltron’s heart. Please stand.”

 

Keith was careful not to remove his hand from Lance’s as they stood back up and kept his head bowed even as they turned to face each other once more. A man from Lance’s side of the podium moved forward and grabbed at the hood on Lance’s head letting it fall away so Keith could see all of his beautiful face without the shadow of the hood and he could feel Shiro doing the same for his. His ears twitched when he saw Lance’s eyes widened as he inspected Keith’s face, more so his hair, then immediately look away.

 

Shiro had said Keith looked beautiful. So had the king.

 

Allura reached out and took their hands between both of hers. “I present to you, the witnesses, the seal of their intentions.” Then she moved away.

 

Oh, right. Keith had forgotten this part. The seal. The kiss. All of the nerves he had been holding in until then suddenly rushed out and he was hesitant to move in even when Lance moved his hand to properly hold Keith’s and bring him closer.

 

A kiss.

 

They had done this hundreds of times now, but it had always been private even when people walked in on them.

 

It was over before Keith had time to decide how to even go about the kiss. It was a soft quick press of lips on lips and then Lance had moved away, not looking at Keith. Perhaps he had been nervous over it, too. For however much a flirt Lance was, Keith had noticed he wasn’t much for public displays.

 

There were cheers after the kiss that died down when Allura lifted her hands again, the scepter held in one. “Let us symbolize this union. The rings and the crown.”

 

The boy beside Coran moved between Keith and Lance and held open the box. There were two identical rings of gold encrusted with blue and red gems all the way around. Then there was a crown exactly like the one Keith wore already, but gold. Lance reached in first letting go of Keith’s hand and slipped the smaller ring onto Keith’s fourth finger. Then, he reached up and removed the dragon glass crown and switched it with the gold one, pressing his thumb a little too hard into Keith’s forehead smirking when Keith glared at him. But, that little nuisance eased Keith enough to take Lance’s ring and move it in place on his finger. Then, they turned to the crowd and Lance raised their hands in the air.

 

Cheers. Whether they were excited for them or just excited in general didn’t matter.

 

Lance and Keith were married.

 


 

 

After the ceremony, there was a party. Again, Keith found himself quietly out of place in the Grand Ballroom of the castle. Except, this time, Keith wasn’t standing but was seated on a small backless ornate chair next to Lance seated in a throne to Allura’s right now sat in her respected spot as queen. Where he had stood before with Lance behind their chairs was now occupied by Pidge and Hunk both dressed better than Keith had ever seen them wearing a green and gold version of what the other knights and groomsmen and women wore lined up on the podium with them, but theirs had the sash about their waist like Shiro had and both Lance and Keith. Down by the foot of the podium, Shiro hovered close by. Keith was thankful for that. He was still bound by his vow to protect Shiro, and that would remain as his main job until one of them gained or lost a rank and were needed elsewhere. Still, Keith would internally keep his vow. He would never be able to trust another to watch over Shiro how he had all these years. He didn’t think he would have to, though. Lance wasn’t expecting to have to take over as king and that was the only way Keith would go up a rank now.

 

Keith did wish Shiro would walk around a bit more. Scouting out his charge in the crowd would keep him calmer than just sitting there listening to royalty and the court give their well wishes on their marriage. They were all wishes pointed at Lance. Even if they looked at him, it was only for a second or with newly lustful eyes that scanned his body up and down. The cloaks he and Lance had worn had been removed as soon as they stepped on the podium and were placed on the back of Lance’s throne. The cutouts in their outfits were now plainly on display. Keith wasn’t sure if it was the majority of the Alteans stepping towards him only now realizing he was attractive or worth finding attractive or if it was only other Alteans finding him attractive because he was off the market, but the feeling of being looked at like that made him uncomfortable. He put up with it, though. He assumed this party would be the last time he was the center of the Alteans’ attention.

 

They were suppose to dance soon. They had an hour of letting people trickle into the ballroom and give them their well wishes and then dances would begin starting with theirs. Keith had no idea what dance it was. He had only been told they were dancing on his way over from the Grand Throne room from Lance. The only words Lance had spoken to him since they had exchanged vows and been married. He wasn’t a good dancer, though, and Lance knew he had little knowledge. You would think it was important to teach your intended their wedding dance before the wedding. Keith finally gave in and moved one hand from his lap to his side and began to stroke the dragon gem on his dagger’s hilt. He felt eyes on him and glanced to the side to see Lance looking at him with what Keith would call quizzical concern, and it was enough to ease Keith into moving his hands back to his lap.

 

A few more people came to greet them and then a song began to be played by the orchestra that had had only just finished moving from the throne room to the ballroom and set up. Lance sudden stood and held out a hand for Keith. Keith took the offered hand and let himself be led to the dancefloor. The party goers moved for them easily giving them a clear path for the decorated part of the floor near the orchestra. Once in the middle, Lance pulled Keith close to him and placed a hand on his waist. Keith moved a hand to Lance’s shoulder guessing what genre the dance was by the way Lance held him. When his eyes met Lance’s, they were wide and ernest. He began to mouth numbers and Keith’s ears perked up realizing he was giving him the counts for the dance. The music started playing, Lance took a step forward, and Keith easily followed.

 

“I knew you could do it,” Lance said softly as they began to twirl around the room.

 

Right, Lance had taught him other dances. This one didn’t feel that different. And Lance was easy to follow. He trusted him not to lead him astray with steps.

 

1...2...3

 

1...2...3

 

1...2...3...Spin.

 

He could barely see the faces of those around them as they clapped softly and watched the two wedded partners take the floor together for the first time. He didn’t care. Lance had started to smile the longer they danced and Keith wanted to smile, too. This was their wedding after all. Certainly, they had been forced into it, but he didn’t want to keep up the professional facade if it looked so much better to have Lance happy. They were lovers, weren’t they allowed to act like it on their wedding day?

 

Keith started to speak, but then the song ended and Lance moved away to bow. It took a moment for Keith to catch on and he pulled back to bow as well. Before he knew it, though, he was being pulled into another dance with Lance and this time, their groomsmen joined them, Pidge and Hunk dancing together closest to them, Matt and Shiro within Keith’s eyesight, and even Allura joined in dancing with Coran.

 

“Where is Shay?” Keith asked suddenly. He would have expected Hunk to dance with his lover.

 

“In Balmera,” Lance said, lips curled up amused.

 

“What is it?” Keith asked as they twirled.

 

“Nothing, I just expected the first thing you asked me once we were married to be something different,” Lance said.

 

Right, Keith had been about to ask him something else. “Did you...did I look okay?”

 

Lance laughed this time, but quickly bit his lip to cut it off. He nodded. “I picked the attire for you. I wouldn’t put you in something I didn’t like.”

 

Right, Shiro had mentioned that. He jumped suddenly feeling Lance’s hand on his hips where deep Vs were cut out of the fabric of his outfit. He shivered as he was turned so his back was against Lance’s chest and the song changed to something much more sultry. Lance kept him close and leaned in against his ear.

 

“I didn’t expect your hair to be like this,” he whispered.

 

Keith nodded and scrunched up his eyebrows. “Are we not suppose to talk? You keep whispering.”

 

“What?” Lance asked and pulled away. He twirled Keith once then brought him back.

 

“You didn’t say anything to me until we got on the dancefloor. I thought maybe we weren’t suppose to talk to each other,” Keith said.

 

“Oh, no, sorry,” Lance said and moved one of his hands from Keith’s hips to his stomach. No one else had their hands in that placement and it eased Keith a little bit. “I suppose I’m just thinking too much. After this, we’ll be dancing with others. Dance with the queen a lot. Don’t dance with Lord Shiro as much as last time. You should dance with Matt, but Queen Allura needs to dance with Matt a lot for looks. There’s also Pidge and Hunk you can dance with. Coran is there, too. He brought his nephew so you can dance with him. Choose the generals yourself. You can decline any who asks as long as you’ve already danced two dances and haven’t missed more than two. And then there’s--”

 

“I can handle myself, Lance,” Keith said as the song ended. “You are thinking too much. This is a party and you like parties. Can’t you enjoy it? This is your party.”

 

“It’s the court’s party,” Lance argued.

 

The song ended and Keith pulled away and held out his hand. “It doesn’t have to be.”

 

Lance looked at him with stunned blue eyes then his gaze moved down to stare at Keith’s hand. He brought his bottom lip between his teeth and chewed it, more thoughts crossing his mind before he finally sighed and took Keith’s hand. He gripped it with fingers interlaced and gave Keith a sad smile.

 

“I wish I could enjoy it,” Lance said.

 

Keith shook his head slightly, but pulled Lance towards the food table. Lance immediately tugged him back and shook his head when Keith looked at him confused.

 

“I’m thirsty,” Keith complained.

 

“We’re princes and the guests of honor. They’ll bring whatever you want to you.”

 

He tugged Keith back towards the thrones where a small table had been set up piled with samplers of what was on the large buffet style table in the back of the ballroom. Servants waited around carrying trays of drinks and eyes watching the royals that ate from the small table as if to decide what should be refilled and what shouldn’t.

 

It only took Keith a few bites before he felt agitated. He usually did not eat much at parties, but he also only ever went to parties when forced to or for work. This wasn’t work though. And though it was a forced participation, he was a guest of honor as Lance had said. He wanted to be able to move around on his own and he would have thought the ever chattering Lance would be making the rounds as well. It was strange to Keith to see Lance like this. Didn’t he want to go and talk to people? Or was he not allowed?

 

Eventually, Shiro came to relieve Keith of his misery by offering a dance. Then he danced with Matt who played oblivious to the words the Alteans were muttering every time their dance brought them close to the edge where onlookers stood. A homewrecker, they called him. Forced a perfectly good arrangement out the window. And now they had a Galra for a potential King Consort. And yet, Matt smiled brightly at Keith even with a huge scar by his ear and down his body and who knew how many more from the years of torture as a prisoner to the Galra Empire.

 

After a dance with Allura, Keith had intended to rest. He had seen Lance only once on the dance floor with Allura and denying others. It upset Keith. Lance loved dancing. Keith only danced because he thought Lance wanted him to. When he headed back up to maybe quietly pry Lance from his throne and maybe have him dance with King Akira who was fighting off offers from Alteans himself near the podium, when he felt a tap on his back a little too sharp to be someone’s finger. When he turned, he gasped seeing who it was.

 

“Your Highness,” Ulaz said and bowed deep before Keith. “May I have the next dance?”

 

“Ulaz, I thought the rebels would not be here,” Keith said.

 

Ulaz grinned and held out a hand to Keith that Keith immediately took.

 

“You’re not wrong to assume that. Kolivan would have never come. I only happen to reason with them that having a representative here would be a good idea. I would have liked to have seen the actual ceremony, but I didn’t believe the Alteans would let that happen easily. I figured I could at least get into the party without too much commotion.”

 

“I’m sorry if it was troublesome,” Keith said and looked around them seeing the other dancers getting into position. “Do you know any Altean dances?”

 

“None,” Ulaz said. “I’ll let you lead.”

 

“I’m not very good myself, but I’ll try,” Keith said and placed one hand on Ulaz’s waist then grabbed his other and started to move to the counts of the music. It was a dance he was familiar with and that eased his steps.

 

“I told you before we don’t have weddings in the Empire. And matings are private,” Ulaz said.

 

“What do you do to mate?” Keith asked as he stumbled through a twirl. He hoped he wasn’t being too clumsy with his steps, but Ulaz seemed to be following well.

 

“Mating is simply that. We mate. I’m sure you’ll understand that tonight,” Ulaz said.

 

Keith cocked his head. “Tonight? I think it’s just this party and we’re done.”

 

Ulaz nodded. “Well, it probably won’t be any different from any other night you’ve spent with Lord Lance. You two were lovers already.”

 

Keith scrunched his eyebrows together. “I’ve never spent the night with Lance.”

 

Ulaz’s ears twitched and his eyebrows raised. He looked Keith up and down with his eyes then grinned. “I should have guessed it. Galra typically don’t have much of a sex drive until they find someone they’re interested in. You must have inherited that, or simply been as such. Well, I do hope your husband treats you gently tonight.”

 

Husband. Right, Lance was Keith’s husband now. They were married and tonight...tonight was their wedding night.

 

Keith could feel himself going red and he stumbled on a twirl that Ulaz easily covered up suddenly taking the lead.

 

“I think I’ve got the hang of it. You’re red. Did you not realize it? Is there not mating on the wedding night in Ko-gane?”

 

“I...we haven’t…” Keith trailed off. He was going to have sex with Lance tonight. His heart started beating faster.

 

“Don’t lose yourself in thoughts now, Lord Keith. You still have to keep up your innocent charade. Alteans are quite snarky. I’ve been having to avoid fights all night.”

 

Keith swallowed his nervousness hard. “I apologize that you’re not being treated with respect. And I’ll be fine. We haven’t...but we’ve done things.”

 

Ulaz nodded and pulled away as the dance ended. “I trust you’ll be happy with this prince.”

 

Keith nodded feeling all the more jittery as he went back to sit next to Lance.

 

“I didn’t think any of them would come,” Lance said staring at the dancefloor.

 

“Ulaz? Yes, I didn’t think they would either.”

 

“What did you talk to him about?” Lance asked.

 

“He talked about mating. Galra’s don't’ get married, they mate. And Zarkon’s Empire doesn’t even do that,” Keith said.

 

“Ah, and does he have a mate?” Lance asked still not tearing his eyes from the dancefloor.

 

“Yes.”

 

Lance’s whole body eased up at the answer and he turned to Keith smiling just a bit, but it was genuine. “Good for him then. You should dance with him a few more times. I’ll get Allura to dance with him, too.”

 

“You, too,” Keith said.

 

“What? Me, too, what?” Lance asked.

 

“You should dance with Ulaz, too.” Keith reached out towards a servant that walked by and grabbed a drink before handing it to Lance. “Drink something and go dance, Lance.”

 

Lance seemed to consider it. “You’re not wrong. It’d be good for me to have a dance with Ulaz, too. The court definitely won’t dance with him especially when they find out he’s taken.”

 

Keith nudged the drink into Lance’s hand, eyes narrowed. “That’s not what I meant. I want you to go onto the dancefloor and not return for the next five songs. I don’t care who you dance with or what kind of dances they are, just go dance.”

 

“No, I can’t go right now. Allura’s card is full and Pidge has most of hers crossed out. Hunk got asked to dance a lot before I could get on his card, though he’s obligated to push someone out for me since I am the Heir Prince,” Lance began to mutter off, the hand without the drink raised as if calculating.

 

Suddenly, Keith reached out and grabbed the hand pulling Lance closer and very quickly pecked the side of his mouth to make him shut up.

 

It worked, but only for Lance to instead look around frantically.

 

Keith tugged Lance’s hand to make him look at him. “This is our wedding and, by Voltron, you are at least going to have a little fun or else I will command Pidge to pour tickle powder in your seat and you’ll be forced on that dancefloor or else appear a fool.”

 

Lance’s shoulder’s hitched up at the threat and he narrowed his eyes. “You wouldn’t.”

 

“I wouldn’t even have to pull rank on her, she’d be happy to do it, I’m sure,” Keith said.

 

Lance made a face, but took a large swig of his drink and stood from his throne. “You win this time, Keith Ko-gane.”

 

Keith grabbed another drink and lifted it to Lance. “I’m not Ko-gane anymore.”

 

A true smirk lifted Lance’s lips. “No, no you’re not.” Then, he hurried down to the dancefloor.

 


 

 

The party continued late into the night, but the ballroom was cleared out before the day turned over to the next and Keith and Lance were excused. Those who wished to see them off stood at the stairs that led up to the floors above and bowed as they past or reached out for a friendly pat with friendly words. A few winked. Coran’s nephew escorted them to their usual floor before bowing and excusing himself and then they were left alone for the first time in what felt like forever.

 

No, not in forever, this was the first time. They had never been alone together for so long with others knowing of their relationship.

 

They walked in silence a half reach apart from each other. Keith stared at the white walls of the castle sparsely decorated with hands held crossed over his chest while Lance stared forward with arms held up and hands together rested on his neck cradling his head. It was quiet on the floor, but if Keith swiveled his ears just right, he could catch just the tiniest sound of music drifting up the many floors below them. He was sure Lance wouldn’t be able to hear it.

 

“How long will the party continue?” Keith finally asked.

 

“Well, they’ve brought out the recreational drinks, so probably until everybody has passed out. It’s mostly young people around our age now. Anyone with a title and responsibilities has gone off for their own private parties to talk commerce and soft rumors around a fire place. It’s all very posh,” Lance said.

 

“Did you usually stay during previous parties?” Keith asked.

 

“It depended on what information I was trying to get.”

 

“Did you want to stay? You started to have fun their at the end,” Keith pointed out. After being threatened, Lance had danced with many until the last songs had started to play and he had pulled Keith with him to the dance floor some of his energy getting overtaken again by a cautious mask.

 

“It’s customary to end your wedding party with your wedded partner. I had to be proper,” Lance said. “But, that’s over with now.”

 

“So we’re free now?” Keith asked.

 

“Not really. We’ve been chained even more,” Lance said moving his arms down from the back of his neck to fall loosely to his sides.

 

Keith finally turned and looked at Lance. His face was calm. “We’re just chained to each other. That’s not so bad.”

 

Lance tilted his head. “No, that’s not so bad.”

 

They passed Keith’s hall and Keith stopped to backtrack. Immediately, Lance turned around looking at him with a raised brow.

 

“Where are you going?” Lance asked.

 

“To my room. Was there somewhere else we were headed?” Keith asked.

 

Lance suddenly chuckled and shook his head. “Keith, it’s our wedding night.”

 

“Yeah?” Keith was more than aware of that fact. He wasn’t all that sure what it entailed in Altea. He had thought he could at least be in the comfort of his room, but perhaps Lance’s room was a better bet. He had experience. “Then are we going to your room?”

 

Lance shook his head again smiling softly in amusement and held out a hand. “We’re going to our room.”

 

Keith was confused, but took Lance’s hand. It was cold, but Lance entangled their fingers as they walked side by side now much closer and he felt his own inner flames moving to that hand and warming Lance’s. They walked all the way to Shiro’s old quarters where two servant ladies stood guard in white almost translucent gowns holding a basket each of purple flower petals. When the newlyweds approached, the servants pulled open the large double doors for them and followed them inside throwing the petals behind them then ushered them to follow their trail of petals to a bedroom with a large circular bed in the middle of the room. It wasn’t the same bed Keith had woken Shiro from a few times, but the room was the same just decorated differently. He didn’t think too much on it as Lance suddenly pulled them straight to the bed. His heart started to beat faster and faster as the girls threw petals on them. Lance sat them on the edge of the bed and finally let go of Keith’s hand. He lifted his hands in an upside down V shape to his forehead and closer his eyes then nudged Keith to do the same.

 

“I call for Voltron’s protection on this night and every night here forth,” Lance prayed. “Let him watch over us and bring us answers for a fruitful future.”

 

“Praise Voltron,” the two servants said and threw out the last of their petals before turning and leaving.

 

Keith watched them leave a bit confused. “What was that?”

 

“Just tradition. Most royal wedding consisted of two opposite sex partners expecting to conceive. We’re both guys so it’s just a formality,” Lance said with a shrug and leaned back on the bed. His movements made the mattress shift and some of the flower petals covering it floated up and one landed carelessly on Lance’s forehead.

 

Keith reached out for the petal only to have his wrist grabbed and suddenly he was laying on top of Lance, the other's lips pressed against his own. He let out a gasp of surprise that was lost when Lance’s tongue moved into his own mouth and heat rose up his neck and he easily melted into the kiss. Lance’s hands moved, one in his hair and the other touching the openings at his waist. Then, he was rolled over.

 

It was their wedding night.

 

Easily, Keith spread his legs and allowed Lance to rest between them as the Blue rider continued to kiss him. When Keith’s lips felt seared from the kisses, Lance moved away and pressed his lips along Keith’s neck. And then he was kissing the empty space of skin on his chest. Heat rushed through Keith like a piece of paper set aflame. He let out a soft growl and Lance pulled away to lift himself above Keith, eyes half lidded and filled with a sudden eagerness that made Keith’s stomach tighten with nerves, but left him burning.

 

“Quiznak. I honestly didn’t expect you to look this delicious in your wedding attire,” Lance said and moved his hand that was at his waist to pull at the cut out on his chest enough to reveal a pink poking nipple. Then he was down on it, licking it and sucking it.

 

“L-Lance!” Keith let out. It tickled sweetly. Keith moved his hand to Lance’s hair and felt his crown topple off. Lance didn’t seem to notice as he moved his mouth to the other nipple still covered by the white clothe. “You’re going to get it dirty. Just take it off if you want to touch me.”

 

Lance suddenly looked up licking his lips. He pulled his lips into a grin and held himself over Keith. “Oh, I plan to take it off, but not yet. You look so proper and pure. I really want to dirty you. Ah, but what a waste that would be.”

 

“A waste of expensive clothes,” Keith agreed though something told him that wasn’t what Lance meant and he was proven right when Lance chuckled.

 

“You’re not wrong. I’ll help you out of it. Take off your gloves then turn onto your stomach,” Lance commanded.

 

Keith frowned, but pulled himself into a sitting position and pulled off the long gloves that covered his hands. Then, he laid back and waited. He could probably get the outfit off himself, but if Lance wished to do it (maybe he thought Keith would tear it and he wasn’t wrong to assume that) then Keith would indulge him. Lance’s hand touched Keith’s shoulders then began to pull at the fabric, the small few buttons on the back coming loose with the tug. Lance’s hands urged Keith to lift himself by pressing his them against his leg. Keith lifted his chest and hissed as the fabric grazed against his sensitive nipples then pulled his arms free holding them above his head. Once his arms were low enough, Lance moved away and flipped Keith suddenly. He knelt at his feet and started to tug at his boots. Keith watched his expression finding it childish. Lance seemed excited, but calmer even though he was flushed with arousal that Keith could see plain as day in the tight fitting outfit, though where Keith’s was white his was black which hid Lance’s arousal unlike the white material which made Keith’s bulge appear much more than Keith felt, Lance’s was shadowed in black material. Yet, it still looked big.

 

Keith’s heart started to race.

 

“Alright, boots off. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll have to see you naked now,” Lance said rolling Keith’s outfit down.

 

Keith lifted his hips for Lance. “You’ve seen me naked before.”

 

“Yeah, well showering beside each other and sticking my hand down your pants is a lot different than having you splayed all flushed on our bed without a rhyme or reason to it,” Lance said and his eyes went wide as Keith’s privates were revealed. He seemed to get shy as he continued to pull off the rest of Keith’s outfit until he was completely nude.

 

It was their wedding night if Lance needed a reason.

 

And it was cold. Keith could feel his lustful heat subsiding now prone to the natural coolness in the Crystal Castle. He sat up and reached for Lance. “Let me undress you now.”

 

“Alright,” Lance agreed and climbed off the bed before turning so his back was to Keith removing his gloves and boots himself. “I could probably get it off myself, though. I’m use to these kinds of clothes.”

 

That wasn’t really the point, Keith thought as he got on his knees and splayed his fingers against the cloth on either side of the large cut out on Lance’s back. There weren’t as many scars on Lance’s back as his chest, but Keith leaned in and kissed the most noticeable pale line standing out on his tan skin.

 

Lance jumped. “What are you doing back there?”

 

“Undressing you,” Keith said. He moved his hands slowly up the material and undid the few small buttons at the neck of the outfit before pulling it down and over Lance’s shoulders.

 

“Are you stuck?” Lance asked.

 

Keith’s eyes were burning into Lance’s shoulders. He hadn’t realized he’d stopped moving. His fingers tingled and his lips felt like they had a heartbeat of their own. He wanted to touch Lance. He was always so overcome when Lance touched him with each new sensation that he sometimes forgot to reciprocate and it was so easy to just let it go at Lance’s speed when they were both stressed out. Other than the war, what did they need to stress about now? Surely there were things, but Keith didn’t think their relationship was one. They were married. They could be proper lovers. Keith leaned in and started to kiss Lance’s shoulders as he continued to push the fabric down.

 

Lance shivered and pulled his arms out of the sleeves. “Keith?”

 

“Hmm?” Keith asked as he pressed at Lance’s hip to get him to turn.

 

He turned slowly and placed a hand on Keith’s head pressing him to kneel lower. Keith looked up, his thumbs already pressed under the fabric to pull the outfit below Lance’s hips. Lance’s eyes were soft and there was a small look to his blue eyes and a lift to his lips that was probably supposed to be gentle, but Keith found it condescending.

 

“Red’s not having a mating season, is she?” Lance asked.

 

“No,” Keith said. “Why?”

 

“You’re awfully affectionate right now,” Lance said.

 

Keith glared. “Who was it that had their mouth on me a few minutes ago?”

 

Lance laughed. “I couldn’t help it, you looked so good in that outfit. They really made it skin tight on you. I had to let it out a little.”

 

Keith pressed his lips together embarrassed by compliments, but also angry with frustration. “Yeah, well you looked good, too.”

 

“Of course I did, I always look good,” Lance said and moved his hand to Keith’s pierced ear and scratched the base of it.

 

Immediately, Keith tilted his head towards the hand stretching his neck out and closing his eyes and a soft growl rose in his throat. The scratching was usually a nice feeling, but his skin was already hyper sensitive with the thought of his wedding night and Lance’s previous touches that it felt like a whole new sensation. He craved more.

 

“Quiznak! Your neck is long. You should put your ponytail high more often,” Lance said then removed his hand from Keith’s ear.

 

Keith bit back a whine of loss and opened his eyes with a frown. “Lance, let me finish.”

 

“Finish?” Lance looked down seeing Keith’s hands still at his hips. “You don’t have to do that. You should go ahead and take your hair down and get in the bath they prepared for us. Then we should hit the hay. I doubt they’ll give us a honeymoon time so it’ll be back to duties tomorrow. You’ll have to learn more prince stuff.”

 

Prince stuff? Weren’t they doing prince stuff, or at least trying to do stuff with prince stuff? And why take a bath first if they were just going to get dirty. He got the feeling Lance was trying to put this off. Keith was already worked up. He didn’t want to lose his nerve. It was their wedding night, they didn’t need to wait for anything. Setting his face determinedly, Keith yanked Lance’s outfit down enough that it was caught around his knees and his member starting to grow limp sprang free.

 

“Keith!” Lance called out. “You could have warned me.”

 

And Lance could have warned him. Keith’s eyes were wide staring at Lance’s penis long and red and in Keith’s face. He’d seen Lance naked before, seen this appendage innocent and as dangerous as a dragonette. Keith had known it was long, but he hadn’t paid much attention to it. He never paid much attention to anyone naked around him. He had only taken a few more seconds to look at Lance’s because they were dating, but it had been soft. Now, it was more like a dragon lifting its head to spit fire at Keith.

 

Keith loved fire.

 

“Hey, hahaha, are you really so stunned by the mightiness of my cock?” Lance joked.

 

“Yes,” Keith said softly and suddenly leaned forward to grab Lance’s member with one hand.

 

Immediately, Lance grabbed onto his wrist looking at him stunned.

 

Keith removed Lance’s hand with his other and looked up at him with ears flattened. “You touched mine. Am I not allowed to touch yours?”

 

“I...okay,” Lance agreed and placed his hands on Keith’s shoulders.

 

Keith stroked Lance slowly, the awe warying off and being replaced with awkwardness. He wasn’t all that good at this with his own hand in the first place. When Red was in heat anything felt good. He usually just let her own feelings wash through him to get himself off. He didn’t know what Lance liked. Friction was important, he knew that much just by being a man as well. But, he wasn’t as unknowledgeable as Lance seemed to think. He was inexperienced and uninterested, but Ko-gane was quite free when it came to sexual advances that weren’t penetrative. He had seen more than his fair share of dicks being shoved down throats. And feeling his own mouth water, Keith could very much understand that feeling.

 

“Keith, you’re playing a very dangerous game here,” Lance said watching Keith with one eye closed and teeth clenched. He was holding himself back, Keith could tell.

 

“Have you ever known me to shy away from danger, Lance?” Keith asked stilling his hand at the base of Lance’s erection.

 

Lance shook his head as a ripple of pleasure coursed through him. “No.”

 

“Then don’t be surprised,” Keith said and suddenly leaned forward and took Lance’s tip in his mouth.

 

“Voltron’s asshole, Keith!” Lance yelled and leaned forward, fingers digging into Keith’s shoulders.

 

Keith wanted to smirk hearing Lance yell like that, but it was hard to do with Lance’s tip in his mouth. He was careful of his teeth as he lowered himself more over it going just over halfway before stopping not wanting to risk hitting his gag reflex on his first try. It might not be enough to get Lance off, but he just wanted Lance to be riled up enough to throw away his hesitation and consummate like they were suppose to on their wedding night.

 

“I didn’t even know you knew how to do this,” Lance said, voice hoarse and close to Keith’s ears making them twitch.

 

He didn’t, but that didn’t keep Keith from continuing. He swirled hi tongue around the hot flesh in his mouth. There wasn’t a particular taste, just skin, but it wasn’t the same taste as kissing Lance’s neck or chest had. Maybe saltier. He didn’t dwell on it long as he moved off then covered Lance’s member again going up and down slowly. Lance moved one hand from his shoulder and straightened up. Keith looked up to see the hand covering Lance’s mouth as he leaned his head back. He was feeling it. Pride and more heat filled Keith’s chest and he started to move his head faster. Lance started to breath heavier and removed his hand then tilted his head down to look at Keith. Keith whined around Lance’s member seeing his expression. His eyes were foggy with lust and cheeks stained a golden pink. His long lashes fluttered with pleasure as he looked down at Keith, his removed hand reaching at empty air before suddenly falling hard on the top of Keith’s hair and gripping it. Keith gasped and pulled off Lance as his head was pulled back by that grip and then lips were on his hot and heavy.

 

Suddenly, he was on his back again and Lance was attacking him with kisses to his face, to his neck, to his chest. Keith moved his arms around Lance’s shoulders, nails scratching at his skin as something inside him started clawing out of him. It felt like a heat. A desire so strong he started to growl softly without Lance even touching his ears.

 

“Lance, Lance,” he registered his voice chanting in a tone he had never heard before. It wasn’t high pitched, but it was keening and lifted at the ends.

 

Lance’s kisses slowed and he trailed lazy kisses across Keith’s chest that felt painful in certain spots where Lance had left marks. Lance pressed his head against one of Keith’s shoulders and took in deep breaths.

 

Keith’s body was on fire, though, he didn’t want Lance to stop. But, Lance had the experience and Keith trusted him to decide how to go about this night.

 

“I...your lips around my cock...your eyes begging...Alteans have a saying. Ko know how to seduce, but Alteans know how to charm,” Lance muttered into Keith’s skin. “I don’t know if it’s the Ko or the Galra, but you really know how to seduce. I was so close to cumming in your mouth.”

 

“You could have,” Keith said.

 

“What?” Lance suddenly lifted his head and looked down at Keith with a raised brow.

 

“Or somewhere else I guess. Inside me? Or you? Or...however you want to do this,” Keith said. He just wanted Lance to continue touching him. His skin itched so much to be touched.

 

“Do what?” Lance asked and sat up.

 

Keith tilted his head to the side. He wasn’t sure if Lance was teasing him or if he was genuinely confused. “Have sex.”

 

“We’re not having sex right now,” Lance said shaking his head.

 

Not having sex right now? It was their wedding night, though. Keith blinked a few times. “You wanted to do it in the bath? Won’t it get dirty?”

 

“We’re not doing it in the bath.”

 

Keith cocked his head to the other side, the sheets of the bed rustling with the movement. “After the bath then? But we’ll just get dirty again.”

 

Lance crossed his arms. “What makes you think we’re having sex at all tonight?”

 

“It’s our wedding night,” Keith said blantly.

 

Lance seemed taken aback then suddenly covered his mouth as he spit out a laugh. “Keith, we’re not having sex just because everyone else expects it.”

 

“It’s our wedding night,” Keith repeated.

 

“Yeah, a wedding we were forced into,” Lance reminded and shook his head. “Where did you get the idea were were consummating?”

 

“Ulaz...he said a wedding night was the same as a mating ritual,” Keith said.

 

“I mean, probably. But, I’m not going to let the court dictate when we have sex for the first time, Keith,” Lance said.

 

Right, the court had set this all up. They had agreed to it, but on their terms. Couldn’t their wedding night also be their terms. Or maybe Keith’s inexperience was letting him be influenced by what he ought to do and not what he wanted to do. But to a few seconds ago, he thought he really wanted to let Lance have his way with him or the other way around. He didn’t have a preference just like he hadn’t cared if they got married just as long as Lance didn’t marry someone else.

 

“And it’ll be your first time. I’m not going to force you into doing it before you are ready,” Lance continued and leaned down to kiss Keith’s lips softly before pulling back with a grin.

 

Keith didn’t kiss back. His stomach was all tied up in knots and his heart felt like it was ready to jump over a cliff. He wasn’t ready? What gave Lance the right to decide when Keith was ready. Or maybe Lance wasn’t ready. He didn’t talk like he wasn’t. If they hadn’t become lovers after being friends but before then, Lance probably would have been all too glad to stick it in Keith and show him who was the better whatever he decided to shout during climax.

 

Keith stared up at Lance trying not to show the confused feelings rising up in his chest. “Do you want to have sex with me at all?”

 

Lance sat up again and looked to the side as if thinking. “I’m turned on enough that I could, but I don’t want to have sex with you.”

 

He could, but he didn’t want to. Lance didn’t want to have sex with him.

 

Keith’s eyes widened and he sat up suddenly, pushing Lance off him.

 

“Hey, what are you doing?” Lance asked from his spot now on the floor.

 

Keith couldn’t feel sorry for him as he rushed to the closet glad to see all their clothes had already been moved to their new quarters. He grabbed a pair of breeches and a loose shirt then a cloak and tightened it around himself before moving to the door and rushing out.

 

“Keith!” Lance called after him.

 

Keith didn’t stop. He felt embarrassed and ashamed. But, mostly, he felt disappointed.

 

His lover didn’t want to have sex with him.

 

His husband didn’t want to consummate their marriage.

 

Deep down, Keith understood Lance’s reasons and agreed with them, but the fact of the matter was, Lance was wrong. He was ready. He had been ready for a while.

 

Keith wholeheartedly wanted to have sex with Lance.

 

And that was what broke his heart.

 

Chapter Text

18. The Learning

 

The snow had thinned since the party began and Keith could see the stars of Altea twinkling bright in the night sky. Every now and then a dragon would fly across the sky, usually a White or Gold with their guard rider patrolling. It was difficult to identify the stars in the Altean sky from the ones he saw positioned in Ko-gane throughout the year. Keith had picked up books about Altean constellation, but the continuous snowfall made it difficult to see the constellations Keith read about often enough to memorize them. It was why many of the rooms housing telescopes were empty at this time of night. It wasn’t as if the Masters were partying as well. They didn’t care who their heir was or was not sleeping with. Keith had curled himself up on a window seat near a telescope with a pile of books spread around him staring out at the night sky and trying to distract himself with reading. He didn’t know how much time had passed since he had left his marriage quarters in a huff, but no one had come to retrieve him yet so it must not have been a big deal to leave his new husband on their wedding night. A part of him had wanted Lance to come after him and that same part hoped Lance would change his mind about sleeping together. The better part of Keith was glad Lance hadn’t come for him. Lance had been truthful and Keith didn’t want to force him into doing something he wasn’t ready for. And Keith was pretty sure he would have punched Lance if he’d tried.

 

He needed time to settle down his body, heart, and mind.

 

There was a knock on the door to the study knook Keith had curled up in and Keith sighed. He had known his silence wouldn’t last long. He pushed some of the books he had taken from the many shelves on the walls of the room and pulled his feet up on the window seat so he could face out the window more comfortably. Footsteps approached him and came to a stop beside the telescope. Keith waited, only acknowledging the other’s presence with the perk of his ears.

 

“Keith, are you still angry with me?” Lance asked.

 

Keith didn’t say anything, just wrapped his cloak tighter around his shoulders, red creeping up his face as leftover shame rose inside him.

 

Lance’s finger began to tap on the metal of the telescope and it made Keith flatten his ears. “I don’t know why you’re mad. I thought about.I thought about it for a while. I embarrassed you. I should have thought about how you felt before laughing like that. It must have taken a lot of courage for you to do what you did. And it was amazing, but I’m not going to make you do something you’re not ready for. This is your first relationship. We don’t have to go fast.”

 

Keith sighed and leaned his head against the glass of the window. Was Lance really all that worried about him? “I’m not going to make you do something you’re not ready for, either.”

 

“Exactly,” Lance said and stopped tapping the telescope. “So, will you come back to the room with me now?”

 

“I don’t want to,” Keith said.

 

“Then can I join you?”

 

Keith finally turned his head to look at Lance. He was dressed in a robe and a long loose shirt and his face looked tired. He scooted closer to the window and Lance climbed onto the window seat behind him. Lance’s arms moved around his waist and brought him closer to lean his back against Lance’s broad chest. It felt warm and secure and Keith bit his lip to keep thoughts of Lance’s chest pressed bare against his bare skin out of his mind.

 

“How did you know I was here?” he asked.

 

“You said you liked learning about the stars in your spare time. I didn’t know which room you’d be in, though. I usually go to the laboratories or test rooms, not the study nooks when I train here,” Lance said and lifted a hand to bet through Keith’s hair removing the band that had held the longer pieces in a high ponytail. His fingers then moved through Keith’s hair and it made Keith purr softly. “If I give you a head message, will you forgive me?”

 

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Keith pointed out. It had been his own assumptions that had brought him to that point of embarrassment. And it was his feelings that made Lance’s words hurt.

 

“I shamed you,” Lance said.

 

“It wasn’t your fault I felt that way,” Keith said.

 

Lance hummed and moved his fingers against Keith’s scalp. “Those servant girls stuck around. They definitely saw you running away from our room. Everyone’s going to think I hurt you with some weird kink on our first night together. It’s never good to introduce that stuff when someone’s a virgin unless they have knowledge about it.”

 

“Why would everyone assume I’m a virgin?” Keith asked.

 

Lance moved his fingers to the base of Keith’s ears. “Because you were wearing white.”

 

“Everyone wore white,” Keith pointed out.

 

“Yes, but not white with wedding purples. Only White knights and Shrine Masters wear white. And Allura. She took a vow of ‘chastity’ until marriage or being announced Queen. It’s a sign of purity if you’re not a White knight. Shrine Masters also take a vow. It doesn’t mean they don’t have some experience or prior experience.”

 

Keith frowned. “You designed those outfits. Yours was black.”

 

“Yeah, everyone knows I’ve made no such vow, but I wanted them to see positives in you. You might not have enemies exactly, but those friendly to you here in Altea are low. Their Prince Consort should appear pure. Even if we had had sex before the wedding, it still would have made sense since you married the one who you spent your first time with,” Lance explained.

 

Keith huffed. “You should have explained that to me.”

 

“Sorry,” Lance said and kissed the top of Keith’s head, arms going back around his waist and he held him tighter. “Did you like the wedding, though? Was it different from Ko weddings?”

 

“The atmosphere was,” Keith said. “I haven’t seen many royal weddings, but the Queen Consort’s niece got married to a high ranking knight and they got married in the castle. We have different flowers, but they were purple, too. Purple is our wedding color as well. She wore a purple dress and he wore a purple outfit. There was a lot of fire everywhere and louder music.”

 

Lance nodded. “Maybe we can get remarried in Ko-gane one day.”

 

Keith’s heart lept at that even though he could hear the joking tone in Lance’s voice. “Go back to the room, Lance.”

 

“Not without you,” Lance said and buried his face in Keith’s hair.

 

“Then do you plan just to sleep here?”

 

“If that’s what you’re planning.”

 

Keith nodded and settled in.

 

“Keith.”

 

Keith looked up hearing Lance call his name. Suddenly, there was a press of lips on his and he gasped softly. A tongue delved into his mouth, but it moved slow and sweet and Lance’s thumb rubbed softly against Keith’s stomach. When Lance pulled away, he plucked the strings from Keith’s cloak and pulled it out to cover them both in it.

 

“I can’t believe you still have my cloak,” Lance said tugging at the blue material.

 

Keith turned his body in Lance’s arms and leaned up to kiss his chin. “Lance, shut up and go to sleep.”

 

It probably wasn’t the Masters’ first time finding a couple asleep in their study nooks, but certainly a first for two newlyweds dressed mostly decent on the morning after as they screamed loud enough in surprise to rock Keith and Lance from the window seat and onto the floor. They both made their way back to their room ashamed and holding hands and in lighter spirits than the night before

 

As Keith had assumed, the court made no effort to clear their schedule for a honeymoon. As soon as Keith had washed up and gotten dressed, a servant came in to summon him to a lesson on his new duties as an Altean prince. After the lesson was over, Keith hurried to the training arena to catch up on his more familiar duties as Shiro’s second. Lance had not shown up as had become the usual as of late during training. He had far more duties than Keith to take over as second in line for the throne as well as his previous duties that had not involved him being Allura’s Right Hand, though that appeared to be what had given him so much free time in the first place. Keith was glad for the training, though. Exhausting himself always made him think clearly with no energy for useless thoughts.

 

“That’s right, swing with your right arm not your leading arm,” Keith called as he watched the younger soldiers practicing swordfighting techniques together, Shiro looking over the map table with newly appointed generals and captains, Pidge and Hunk among them. “Your right arm is your stronger arm, it’lll come down harder. You’ll need to learn to use your left eventually, though.”

 

“Yes, Your Highness,” the young boys called out as they switched up their stances.

 

Keith’s ears perked up. Your Highness? For a moment he was confused then lifted the hand that held his wedding ring. Right, he was a prince, he was more than just a lord. It had tak Keith some time to get use to being called Lord Keith when he had first become a knight, but he had always dreamed of riding on dragon back seeing them fly above him in the camps. However, dreams of being real royalty had never existed until now. And now they were reality. The title didn’t settle right with him.

 

After a while, Keith started to call the soldiers out for duties as Shiro was still busy. “Today’s A team will be cleaning the stables. B team is in charge of repairs. If you’ve only joined us in the past six months, you’re to sharpen the weapons and armor used today.”

 

“What about the showers?” one of the soldiers asked.

 

“No one gets a pass today. Everyone is to finish their duties and then you can wash up,” Keith said without looking at the soldiers he was addressing.

 

“That’s not fair. There won’t be any showers left if we all go at the same time. Just because you’re a prince now doesn’t mean you can just order us around like we’re a bunch of pigs. You’re more of a beast than us.”

 

Keith looked up hearing those words and frowned at the soldier that had been talking. “These our commands straight from Prince Commander Shiro.”

 

“You mean Prince-Commander Shiro won’t be anything more,” another soldier laughed. “His own protector is now on the same level as him. Why should we listen to him?”

 

Keith narrowed his eyes and took a step towards the soldier. “He is your commander!”

 

The soldier squared his soldier. “Exactly, he can be replaced. He’s no longer our Queen’s betrothed. He even brought his new lover before the court, we hear, and they’re living in the castle together. It’s disgraceful.”

 

Disgraceful? Shiro was doing Altea a favor by remaining here and commanding their armies. The amount of generals they had with enough experience and knowledge to take over was slim and old. “Ten laps. And anyone else who disrespects Prince Commander Shiro will join.”

 

“And what if I refuse? Are you going to go cuddle up to your new husband tonight and whisper more of your bewitching words into his easily swayed ears to get him to have Queen Allura banish us?” the soldier asked. “It must be real hard work to get him to do what you want, or do you just lay on your back and take it you Galra scum cumhole!”

 

The soldier spit at Keith. It landed in the dirt at Keith’s feet. He stared down at the darkened ground. He had felt the animosity of the Alteans towards him before, but it had been more passive aggressive and he had taken it in stride. Back in Ko-gane, before he was anything at all, it would have been nothing new, but now they weren’t only insulting him, but Shiro, and to some level, Lance. This was too much.

 

A growl rolled deep in the back of his throat and Keith moved forward grabbing the Altean by his training shirt collar almost able to lift him a few centimeters off the ground if it wasn’t for his heavyset. He bared his teeth at the soldier, ears flattened. “You should learn when and how to argue with your superiors.”

 

The soldier tried to spit at Keith again, but couldn’t do so with Keith’s grip choking him. He grabbed onto Keith’s wrist instead. “Superior? All I see is a fluffy slosh pumper for the horniest lord in all of Altea. Your ass must be raw after last night. They say he shot his load in you in every corner of the castle so much they could have polished the glass with it. Found you two in the Masters’ Tower this morning, isn’t that right? Not that it would take much to get that renowned Casanova going. Stick any ass in his face and he’s an idiot with his brain in his pants.”

 

Keith suddenly pushed the soldier away hard enough for him to fall to the ground. Quickly, Keith was above the soldier and lifted a hand with flames in it. “I don’t care if you call me names, but you have disrespected your commander and your Heir Prince as well as a knight of higher ranking which all three of us are. I have every right to punish you if only with the excuse of protecting Prince Shiro.”

 

The soldier suddenly looked scared.

 

Keith raised his arm in the air only for it to be caught. He turned, still growling in the back of his throat, and stopped seeing Lance. Lance moved his hand to Keith’s and the flames died instantly. He entangled their fingers and smiled at Keith leaning in for a small kiss to his cheek. It surprised him, this public display from his lover. Lance teased him, but other than what was needed for the wedding, Lance had done little to show they were actually lovers before their marriage even with the rumors free for all to hear. He didn’t want to become shy in front of the soldiers he was suppose to help command, but he softened up and squeezed Lance’s hand back.

 

“You,” Lance said now addressing the soldier on the ground. “I know your name. Scram and know your family will be dishonored by your actions here, newbie. As for the rest of you, this is no time for name calling. You have your rumor talk elsewhere. As Prince Shiro’s Right Hand, Lord Keith has every right to avenge his charge’s honor and he has every right to command you as your commander’s second. And if I need to remind you, yes, Lord Keith is my husband now, which means when you disrespect him, you’re disrespecting your Heir Prince Consort. And if you disrespect him, you disrespect me and the crown. And Queen Allura holds the crown and Voltron’s ear. Next time, I will not stop his flames and I know better than most how hot those flames are.”

 

Keith pulled his arm away suddenly feeling embarrassed. “Th-thank you, Lord Lance. I can handle this from here.”

 

“I’m sure you can, but you have another lesson before lunch. I’m here to switch off with you.”

 

Keith sighed and glanced towards the map table. Shiro wasn’t looking their way, too intent on strategizing. He couldn’t blame the other prince, a move would have to be made soon.

 


 

 

There was a knock on the door of the study nook Keith had taken as his own since starting his lessons for becoming an Altean prince. The Master in charge of teaching him was sat at the opposite end of the table grading a quiz he had given Keith after the lesson. He didn’t look up even when the door was opened, but Keith did as he finished a page in one of the many books he had been assigned. Advisor Coran stood in the doorway. His orange mustache lifted when he met eyes with Keith and he bowed. Keith bowed his head towards Coran in return fighting the urge not to stand up and do a full bend at the waist.

 

The Master finally looked up from his grading. “How may I help you Lord Advisor?”

 

“If you are done with Lord Keith, his presence is required by the Queen,” Coran said.

 

“Take him. There’s no point in grading his quiz when he’s just going to sit there idly without chatting. It’s a hundred questions, I don’t even know how he finished it with most of our lesson time still left,” the Master said and waved Keith away.

 

Keith stood and gathered his books walking over to Coran who held the door opened for him. They stayed quiet through the first couple of halls before Coran cleared his throat.

 

“The Masters tell me you are doing well in your studies. Do you enjoy studying?”

 

Keith frowned and stared at the bookmarked pages in the books he was suppose to read before the week’s end in between all of his other duties. “No. I like learning, but studying seems pointless if the information can’t be used immediately.”

 

“Really? It seems as though you’re good at it. Who was the fifth Queen Consort before the name of the ruling house, Altea, was given to the House of Crystal who currently rule now?”

 

“Queen Consort Luxia originally of the House of Pearl,” Keith said immediately then turned to glare at Coran. “Don’t quiz me. If I read or am told something, I know it. Just tell me who Queen Consort Luxia was, I don’t have to read a book about it. I don’t need to know her whole life story.”

 

“But what if she did something important for the country,” Coran questioned.

 

“She did, well, she was against recognizing same-sex couples as married and marriage was something sanctioned under Voltron. She believed that humanity should only be biologically motivated and marriage itself seemed a waste of brainpower, but then House Crystal and their lesser house, who late King Consort Alfor hailed from, House Aerus, pointed out that dragons and their kin only mate with the other gender if an egg is needed or they enjoy that dragon already,” Keith said then frowned more. “I don’t have to read a book to know that, though. The important stuff can be told. Whatever they want me to know, they can just put in the lessons. It isn’t as if I’ll have a say in court anyways.”

 

“Oh, but you will,” Coran said.

 

Keith raised a brow at the advisor. “I sense a however in that.”

 

“Yes, however they will initially always argue with you. I think you might enjoy arguing with them. You did seeme to enjoy arguing with Lord Lance.”

 

Keith sighed. “I don’t enjoy arguing with Lance. We bicker and banter. He teases a lot.”

 

“Yes he does, but never like he does with you. I was overjoyed when he found companionship with you. I knew his relationships with Lord Hunk and Lord Pidge were strong, but platonic and if anyone deserves love it is that boy.”

 

Keith brought his books to his chest and held them tight. “Have you known Lance long?”

 

“Yes, I have known your husband since he was born,” Coran answered.

 

Your husband. The address made Keith’s heart jump. Lately, it jumped even when the soldiers teased Keith about the change in relationship. They had stopped bad talking him, but the passive aggressiveness had resurfaced. Keith could deal with it better now than before as he understood his place within the ranks of the Altean military. He wasn’t just a Galra hybrid that had been sent over as a bodyguard. He was second to the ruling commander and a prince to those he led.

 

“Did you know he was Queen Allura’s brother?”

 

Coran sighed. “I was there when he was born. I was outside of course, but I did see the child when it was brought out and I stayed at the Queen’s side while she passed. She whispered to me many more secrets than any know.”

 

“She’s gone though, is it worth keeping those secrets now?” Keith asked.

 

“Oh, by far. Secrets of the dead are the most powerful. But, I knew King Consort Alfor’s secrets as well. He loved his wife dearly. I was the Queen’s sweet-heart when she was younger. This is knowledge among all in the castle. Children are not good at hiding their affections as adults are which is why you two would have never been able to go so long without getting found out. You could have gone longer if the court wasn’t actively looking into Lance’s life. Of course, I continued to love her dearly. When Alfor, just a knight at the time riding the largest of our few Reds and the most honored Red, came to call on her, I knew I had no way of gaining her affections again. I had never intended to as I was not made out for becoming king and she was the only child of her royal parents. But, as she fell in love with Alfor, so did I. I was by her side at all times. I was her protector without the name. When Allura was born, I loved that girl like my own daughter and treated her as such. I devoted myself to the two people I loved and yearned for and their beautiful child. And then Lance was born.”

 

Keith lowered the books as he listened to Coran. His chest stung. The boy that might have been Coran’s son was his nephew, he knew, but until now he had never wondered if the advisor had his own family. He was so in love with two people that were already in love with each other that he chose the selfish route and stayed by their side. “Does that mean you knew about the Queen’s affair?”

 

Coran sighed. “I saw it and I warned her against it. Allura is truly the daughter of them both. Her mother was a feisty hot headed girl and weak, but she was stubborn with her beliefs and did not let the court shake her. With a little guidance, she made a good queen. On a personal level, though, she was fickle unlike Alfor who was a gentle a strong man and most forgiving, but bad at not giving in to the court. He liked to meet them halfway. They made a good balance on the throne. Allura was two when her mother met the son of the House of Iron that is Lance’s father. Another name for that house is Cassanova. New house in Voltanean, but it is slang meaning a man or woman who makes many new houses from their bloodline. He was most charming. Younger than the queen and beautiful.”

 

“He’s old now,” Keith pointed out. “I saw him at the wedding.”

 

“And did he not look every bit like his son?”

 

“Yes,” Keith said. “He wasn’t at the party.”

 

“Oh, he was doing what he does best,” Coran said with a smile that seemed tired. “She was not in love with him, but nor was she in love with Alfor either. The war with Ko-gane and the threat of the Galra had both of them thin where affection was set. Alfor wanted to give the Queen time after having Allura so he rarely laid with her. It was odd as they did not hold out until even their engagement was official better yet until they were married. Rumors that Alfor couldn’t perform spread. Lance’s father caught on and approached the Queen. Their affair lasted many year. Towards the end of it, I had talked Alfor into gaining his wife’s affection back. He did not guess her affair was physical, but he knew he was losing her and that the crown would be tainted if she had an affair. But, being loved by both her husband and another man made her feel strong. Her rule became harder. When she was found out to be pregnant, Alfor was overjoyed and Lance’s father thought it could not be his.”

 

“He looks exactly like him,” Keith pointed out.

 

“Yes, and that was how Alfor knew whose child Lance was. Some time before giving birth I convinced the Queen to tell her husband about her adultery so he would not be surprised when the child was born. As King Consort Alfor’s line hailed from the lesser house of Altea’s current ruling house, they held the same genes of dark skin and platinum hair. Few were born that did not hold one or the other. And no child ever had brown hair. There would be suspicion, so Alfor had her carted off to a tower near the Builder’s land where it was warmer for her health as her late pregnancy was bad. And when the child came out tanned and brunette, he knew,” Coran said.

 

“He could have still said Lance was his,” Keith pointed out.

 

“And he would have if the Queen had lived. He couldn’t bare seeing the child after the Queen passed from complications and forced the House of Iron to take their son. I and a nursemaid where the only ones that knew where Alfor took the child. He held Lance for hours after the Queen passed with only a nursemaid before taking her with him off to the Cassanova family. He grew up as a ray of sunshine, the youngest and most precious of Lord Cassanova’s children based both on politics and the lord’s own feelings of pride having bore a royal son.”

 

“Queen Allura says they were playmates,” Keith said.

 

Coran smiled and nodded. “Allura had few friends. As the only known heir, she was kept in the castle all of the time and was forced to learn the words of Voltron which kept her busy. The court was against it at first as Lance was a male even if younger, but King Alfor wanted them to know each other. He had always adored Allura, so it wasn’t hard for them to get along. They were cute together and it was only natural that Lance become Allura’s guard. Though, I do remember him disliking class as well.”

 

Keith chuckled. “I can imagine he did, skipping a lot.”

 

“You would think that, but he only ever skipped to collect information the way all Cassanova lords are known for. He would smash his head between mounds of books trying to get the information into it. He studied very hard so he would be good enough for the princess.”

 

Keith frowned. “He wasn’t good at studying? Well, you don’t have to be the number one fighter and smart I guess.”

 

“He’s not the number one fighter,” Coran corrected. “Lance is decent with a sword and with luck could beat out our number one, but he is a far better archer and rider and tactician. He had never been the best at anything, though. He’s never won a registered competition, though the amount of rewards he has far outweighs the amount of first places anyone else has.”

 

Lance had never won? Keith was surprised. Lance had come at him so quickly when he had arrived he was sure the Blue knight must have been considered number one. He knew Lance wasn’t in actuality now, but he still thought highly of his husband.

 

“Maybe I could have him study with me,” Keith suggested.

 

“Oh, I think Lord Lance would love to study with you. You’ll have to ask him later. Perhaps on your shared bed instead of sleeping in the lounge room,” Coran said.

 

Keith tsked. “How do you know about that?”

 

“It must be strange for you to live in the same room as your lover, but there’s no need to stray to another room at night. The servants that come in in the mornings have been reporting that you two aren’t close,” Coran said. “I like to think you are very much in love.”

 

Keith’s ears twitched. In love? “How do you know you’re in love with someone?”

 

“Are you not in love?” Coran asked surprised.

 

“I don’t think Lance is, but how would I know if I’m in love? I’ve never been in love before,” Keith admitted. It was a truth Lance would not appreciate Keith spreading, but he had always felt Coran was trustworthy.

 

“Well, you would care deeply for that person and want to touch them,” Coran explained.

 

Want to touch them, yes, Keith very much wanted to touch Lance. And he cared about him, of course he did.

 

Did that mean he was in love?

 

 


 

 

“Coran,” Keith asked after they had been walking through the castle for some time. “You said you were taking me to see Queen Allura.”

 

Coran chuckled and took the lead holding an arm out in the direction of a door hidden in one of the basement floors of the middle tower. “I am, but I haven’t had the chance to talk with you for very long in the months you have been here. It’s been well over half the year. I feel as though I know you, but that’s simply because I’ve kept an eye on you and Lance has always had a bad filter among those he trusts.”

 

Keith frowned. A bad filter? Lance definitely talked a lot, but Keith felt that his now husband was careful with his words when he talked with Keith.

 

The advisor knocked on the door, a simple wooden thing that looked as if it would lead to just any old sitting room. The door opened and Hunk met them with a smile wearing a new set of gold hides, hair pushed back with gel instead of a headband. He moved to the side to allow Keith in.

 

“Her Majesty has been waiting for you,” Hunk said and bowed towards Coran.

 

Coran nodded back and waved at Keith. “I will be going now. There’s to be a royal family lunch tonight, along with close friends. Walk the queen there, will you?”

 

“Yes, of course,” Keith agreed and waited until Hunk had shut the door.

 

“Well, the queen is this way. You’ll have to be quiet though,” Hunk said.

 

They were in a sitting room, but Keith couldn’t see Allura anywhere. The sitting room was a bit more spruced up than Keith would have thought by the look of the door with little personal touches here and there. There was a single bookcase in the back and Hunk pulled a book from it causing part of the wall beside it to move. Keith could see more books inside, but didn’t dare put his head in.

 

Hunk laughed. “It’s just a storage room. Look behind you.”

 

Keith turned to see the fireplace’s back wall opened. There was a fire going, though.

 

“Go ahead,” Hunk insisted holding his hand out towards the fireplace.

 

“There’s a fire,” Keith pointed out.

 

“Yeah, so I can’t follow her. You’re a Fire Master, though.”

 

Right. Keith approached the fire letting his flames flicker out and reached towards the fire in the fireplace. It split and let him pass and he found himself in a much colder room with little light. The source of the light was faint and blue in color in the middle of the room on a tall cylinder of metal with a base. Keith had expected it to be one of the Builder’s light bulbs, but was surprised to see it was a crystal emanating the light. A shard from the Voltron crystal in the Altean Shrine. And kneeling before that crystal with a book on the floor was the Altean queen herself.

 

Keith stood off to the side unsure whether he should interrupt Allura’s prayers. She had her haired piled up on top of her head, her usual crown nowhere to be seen, but the jewelry in her ears and adorning her forehead and neck indicated her status even if she was only dressed in the training hides Keith had seen her in the few times he had been able to get alone time with Lance and they went down to the training basement.

 

A few moments passed before Allura lifted her head and turned. She smiled seeing Keith and stood beckoning him closer.

 

“Thank you for joining me here, Lord Keith,” Allura said.

 

“Of course, it’s my honor to be in your presence, Your Majesty,” Keith said and bowed his head.

 

Allura chuckled. “As queen, I suppose I can’t ask you to be more familiar with me.”

 

“Occasionally, I can still call you by your name if you like,” Keith said.

 

Allura sighed and placed her hands on her hips. “I feel like you’re the type to only drop the honorifics if it’s in a serious tone. However you please, though. I’m thankful Lance still calls me Allura, even more so now.”

 

“You’re his sister.”

 

A soft smile came to Allura’s face. “Yes I am.”

 

“Lance told me you took that news well,” Keith said. He had not gotten to talk to Allura about the news revealed only two months ago, but he had pried Lance into talking about it on multiple occasions.

 

Allura rolled her neck and sighed again. “It’s not as if I hadn’t heard rumors since the day I became an adult. I chose to ignore them, but I’ve loved Lance like a brother since we were young. I even held him in my hands when he was a baby. I don’t remember the circumstances well, but I do remember holding him. Such a small thing and very loud. He’s always been loud.”

 

Keith grinned.

 

“Oh, but you must know all about that, Keith of Iron,” Allura said with an eyebrow raised.

 

Keith looked away suddenly red. He didn’t know about that. Honestly, he was pretty sure he was the loud one purring up a storm at being touched. “We...well, Lance talks to you often.”

 

Allura tilted her head looking confused, but didn’t push the topic. Keith was surprised to know Lance hadn’t told Allura that his Galra groom was still a virgin weeks after their wedding night. Was he ashamed of it? What part was he ashamed of?

 

“Are you curious where you are?” the queen asked.

 

“Your private prayer altar?” Keith guessed.

 

Allura winked. “You’re right.”

 

“Why is it hidden, though?”

 

Allura held a hand out towards the crystal illuminating the room. “This shard. When I was born, the Head Shrine Master told me this shard had fallen from the main crystal. He said it was a sign that Voltron was returning and my life was an important one to him. I have always believed that, though some say it’s simply a chunk of ice that finally melted off the crystal because it’s been getting warmer with all the new technology we’ve been using in war. But, those people haven’t seen it glow in a dark room or heard the hum of Voltron deep in their chest guiding them.”

 

Allura’s eyes glittered and she moved her hands to her chest staring at the crystal with a fondness Keith didn’t think he could understand. He was a believer, but only as much as someone who needed to believe in something could. If there wasn’t some deity out there, Keith didn’t think he would have made it from a hybrid boy in a slum camp to an Altean Heir Prince Consort knight.

 

“Did you ask me here to show me this?” Keith asked.

 

“Yes,” Allura said, her face suddenly becoming serious. “Voltron has shown me what Zarkon desires. It was only briefly, but the Galra have tales of a hero much like ours. I’ve given Ulaz clearance for the Master’s Tower to have their tales written down. The Empire wants to resurrect Voltron. They believe their technology can do it, but their technology strips the land that Voltron desperately protected. The Balmera take the metal in their homes, they do not dig holes without a use. And the other Builders like the Olkari understand nature to such an intense degree it is admirable. We can not let Zarkon get his hands even on the protective crystal that encases Voltron’s leg or his arm. And the other pieces scattered like rumors throughout the land, we can not let him have them.”

 

“I agree with you, Your Majesty,” Keith said. “We are working hard to come up with a point of attack.”

 

“Yes, I know, but unlike Ko-gane, circled by cities with camps spread even farther and clear sands for miles, Altea is covered in forests and hills and our cities are far from the castle. If Zarkon was to attack here again, the Crystal Castle would be destroyed. The Ko did it once. With Ice Masters about, you would believe that sitting on an icy lake would be in our favor, but Galra weapons won’t see ice as a roadblock. If that time comes, you must lead people through here.”

 

Keith looked about the dark room. “Here? Won’t they be trapped?”

 

“Light your fire, Lord Keith, and see for yourself.”

 

Keith lifted his hands and let his fire pulse out. It was still dim, but Keith could make out doors lining a circular chamber leading away. “Passages.”

 

“From before the time we were Altea. They’re built from the same dragon bricks as your Amber Castle. They have stayed for many centuries.” The queen walked over to one passage and stroked the stone with a finger. “I walked the castle often when I was young. I came upon this room one day. A room with a single bookcase, how strange. I found the hidden room quickly with treasures placed inside of jewels and silks, dusty with age. It took me a few times to notice the fire in the hearth blowing strangely. I put it out with my magic and pressed at the dirty back board. It took some time for me to get the stones to slide enough for me to move through, but I got stronger and it was easier. I have to put it back when I leave, so it was left open for you. One of these passages leads all the way to Voltron’s Shrine, to the roots of the crystal. That will be our first place of defense if they attack the castle. I put the Galra rebels where I did so they could watch the skies for Galra headed towards it. Other passages lead to other mansions and one to the Lair. There are some that lead to the Builders and one, one I’m very sure leads to Ko-gane, but it is a long passage, much too long to take without provisions or adrenaline. It is this passage. This is the passage I want you to take whether with soldiers or with innocents. I give you this passage.”

 

Keith bowed his head. “I will hold your command in mind, Your Majesty.”

 

“Shiro has another passage,” Allura added.

 

Keith looked up suddenly. “I am bound to protect him.”

 

“You will be the heir to my kingdom with Lance. And if not you two then Shiro. Blood ties be damned, I will have good men lead my people and the Ko are trustworthy. I can not have all of you in the same place. Do you understand this? I will go to the shrine. Lance has his orders and Shiro has his. And now you have yours.”

 

Keith lowered his head. “You would make me break a vow to Voltron?”

 

“This is Voltron’s will. Would he make you break your own promise to him? I do not believe so,” Allura said then smiled. “These are just plans, Lord Keith. For the worst case scenario.”

 

The smile didn’t settle well with Keith, but he only bowed his head again. “I understand, but I will not stop protecting Shiro. He will be safe. We wil work hard to make sure such scenario does not occur.”

 

“He will be safe,” Allura agreed. “Now, I believe we are to have a family lunch. Come with me to my chambers. I will have my girls freshen you up while you wait for me to wash. I have been training my body while you have been training your mind.”

 

Allura reached out her hand and Keith took it. The queen then folded his arm in hers and started for the chimney passage they had entered through.

 

“I don’t believe it was training exactly,” Keith said.

 

Allura laughed. “Lance tells me you find it boring. I don’t know if that’s worse than his complaining when he had the same lessons.”

 

“He doesn’t tell me much about his lessons now or then. Advisor Coran told me he worked very hard for his position,” Keith said.

 

“Yes, yes he did and I understand why much better now than I did then,” Allura said, her eyes soft, lips slightly pulled in a smile. A look of love.

 

“You love him,” Keith blurted out.

 

Allura chuckled. “He is my brother. I felt it even before I knew it. It is a platonic love, pretty and pink. Nothing like the passionate red love you two have.”

 

Keith looked away. “I wouldn’t say it’s particularly red.”

 

“Oh, I’m sure it is. If one of you were a woman, a child would already be on the way,” the queen joked. “It would certainly put the pressure on me at ease if that were true, but I’ll have my own someday.”

 

“We could still have children,” Keith said.

 

“I don’t see you being the type to forgive Lance for bringing home a child that wasn’t yours,” Allura said.

 

“Your father did.”

 

Allura nodded. “But being forgiving doesn’t make you a good person, Keith. You have to be trustworthy.”

 

“It could be my child.”

 

“Lance would take it, I believe. He’s likes children if you didn’t know. His other siblings have many as is what they are known for.”

 

“I didn’t know that. I haven’t seen him with his family.”

 

“That is unfortunate, but understandable. I would not have married you two off if it weren’t for the circumstances, but you can learn about each other now. Besides, I doubt you would bring home a child that was yours. I get the feeling you have little interest in women.”

 

“Well, I have little interest in anyone, Your Majesty,” Keith protested. Children. Heirs. Their marriage wasn’t a marriage for heirs, but a marriage for the contract, the alliance. It would have been good if one or both of them had been women. If they were both women, they could carry a child from the same surrogate father. An heir for royalty and an heir for the house.

 

“I can see you bringing home an orphan, though. And there will be many of them before this is done,” Allura said.

 

An orphan? Raised with Lance? First they needed to make love, didn’t they? Keith wasn’t going to raise a child a virgin when he had a perfectly good husband.

 

“Oh, be a dear and get the fire out of the way will you, Lord Keith?”

 

They were at the fireplace already. Keith lifted a hand without thought and extinguished the flames in a single swipe of his hands.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

19. The Words

 

“What’s this?” Keith asked as a servant walked into the main sitting room of Shiro’s new arrangements going over battle strategies early in the morning before heading out for training. The servant had handed him a letter with the seal of Ko-gane on it.

 

“Did my father send you something?” Shiro asked pulling away from Matt who had been trying to get the prince to eat while he mulled over outlines sketched onto paper for formations.

 

“It would seem to be that,” Keith said breaking the red seal.

 

“It might be congratulations on your marriage as only the king made it to Altea,” Matt offered.

 

That wasn’t a terrible assumption, Keith thought. It had only been a few weeks since his marriage to Lance and with the little time he spent with his new husband, that hardly felt real in itself. But, skimming through the letter, Keith found the contents much less believable.

 

“What is it, you look confused?” Shiro asked.

 

Keith looked up and turned to the servant who had delivered the letter. “Who gave you this letter? Was it sent by carrier or flight?”

 

“Both, with a man who rode a Gold,” the servant said. “He handed me the letter as soon as he had greeted the Head Master of the Tower. He was sent from Ko-gane’s tower.”

 

“Oh, your teacher has come,” Shiro said smiling. “You’ll get your level upgrade now.”

 

“Yes,” Keith agreed and stared at the sheet once more before handing it to Shiro. “The Master sent a list of what I need to know to be upgraded.”

 

Shiro took the sheet only to pull back with surprise. “This isn’t a Level 1 mastery test. This is the Grand Mastery test. Are they planning to upgrade you to a Level 0?”

 

“It must be a mistake,” Keith said and tried to reach for the letter only to have Matt take it instead.

 

Matt pushed hair from his face as he looked over the parchment. “I don’t think this is a mistake. You can already do most of this list with ease. Considering you could easily pass a Level 1 test, they might have just gone ahead and decided it was only worth their time to send a Fire Master here if they were going to make a Grand Master out of one of the Ko visitors studying here. After your wedding, many went home, though.”

 

The Builder handed Keith back his paper and Keith looked over it again.

 

“Did you do something, Keith?” Shiro asked.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

Shiro leaned back, arms spread across the back of the couch he occupied with his fiance and studied Keith before smiling. “You showed the queen something interesting. I know she’s been calling you lately. Lance has less time for her, so she’s been lonely. She’s been calling on me, too, so I know.”

 

“That seems inappropriate,” Keith said.

 

“I usually go in his stead,” Matt said. “It looks better that way. I quite like Queen Allura.”

 

“And she likes you, Keith, so what did you show her?”

 

Keith leaned back in his own chair. He hadn’t shown her anything in particular. It was the queen who had been showing him her secrets down in her private shrine. Keith flexed his hands. He had extinguished the fire in the fireplace without calling out his own flames to make it his. An ownerless fire extinguished just like that, it wasn’t an easy task. And if he could do it on a grander scale it would be note worthy of a Grand Master’s title.

 

“Her Majesty asked me to extinguished a fire in her chimney one day as we were leaving,” Keith explained. “I just waved a bare hand at it and it disappeared.”

 

Shiro raised a brow and lifted his own hand with a small fire in it then closed it, his fire gone. “Like that?”

 

“No, bare of my flames. I did it without thinking,” Keith said.

 

“Really, you certainly are good with fire, Keith. Have you done it since, though?”

 

Keith nodded. “I can’t do it when I’m focusing, but when I get annoyed it’ll go out.”

 

“And that is why they’re leveling you up,” Matt pointed out. “It’ll be good to lesson damage to have a Grand Master on the battlefield against the Galra Empire.”

 

That made sense, and Keith would do all he could to help. It wasn’t just a threat to their kingdoms as they knew them, but Zarkon was a threat to his own people from what the Blade of Marmora described their life before leaving.

 

Shiro stood up and reached a hand out to Keith. “We’ll do knight training today, so you can stay in the cabin and study. I think Lance will join us today.”

 

“Alright,” Keith agreed.

 

After doing a few demonstrations, Keith left Red to fly on her own so he could keep an eye on the training through her and went to a secluded cabin to curl up with a few of his reading books. He prefered to practice his fire where others couldn’t see him. He had no fear of it going out of control particularly in a place surrounded by Ice Masters, but the embarrassment of not accomplishing a trick in the first few attempts was something Keith prefered to deal with on his own. He had a test later that night, anyways, over chapters he had been putting off though he already knew the lecture material.

 

It was just as Keith finished one chapter that the door to his cabin was pulled open and feet stomped inside. Keith looked up to see a mass of tan skin flop onto the single bed he had nestled himself between by the farthest wall. There was a sigh and then blue eyes met his piercing his chest like the arrow’s their owner was so good at shooting.

 

Lance.

 

The prince smiled and it only made Keith’s chest tighten even more.

 

Lance reached out a hand and scratched at Keith’s ear immediately earning a purr before Keith could pull away with an annoyed frown.

 

“I’m not a pet,” Keith protested, but let Lance continue.

 

Lance chuckled and moved his fingers to instead cup Keith’s chin and turned on his side so he could kiss him. It was a small sweet kiss, but it was the first one they’d shared in a full day and Keith followed it with fluttering lashes.

 

“I figured you would be in here,” Lance said and stretched out his long legs. They were clad in blue riding hides, but he didn’t appear as if he had gone flying. Keith knew he hadn’t. Red’ eyes often lingered on the Blue flying off in the distance with a flight of other dragons he was often with.

 

“Did you come looking for me?” Keith asked.

 

“Well, I came looking for somewhere to breath. I can breath around you,” Lance said then winked.

 

Keith threw his book at him.

 

“Hey, that hurts,” Lance said and picked up the book. “Oh, they’re making you read this? I remember having read it. It’s one of the more interesting ones at least.”

 

“I don’t like it. There’s too many unnecessary words,” Keith complained.

 

“Oh, are you having trouble with it?” Lance asked sitting up. “I could help you since I’ve already been through all of this. I’d love to get my mind off the court.”

 

“What happened with the court?” Keith asked and stood up climbing onto the bed behind Lance as he flipped through the book Keith had been reading.

 

“I finally exploded at them. They’ve been making me do Allura’s job. You’ve noticed Allura has been having a lot of free time lately, right?”

 

“She calls on me a lot,” Keith said and peaked over Lance shoulder.

 

“Right? They’re trying to give her time to find a husband or some dragon shit like that. And now they want me to go to all of the Dukes throughout Altea and get a count on their military and funds and sugar them into our demands. That’s Allura’s job. She’s good at that.”

 

“You’re good at talking, too,” Keith pointed out. “But, how long would you be gone for that?”

 

“Yeah, that’s another thing. I’m a newlywed. I should just be getting back from a boarder guest house with you, not taking over Allura’s job. At the very least, I should be helping Shiro with battle plans,” Lance complained.

 

“We could always go to a guest house another time,” Keith said and pulled his legs up on the bed so he could face Lance’s back, a hand reaching out to touch it.

 

Lance hummed. “I probably could have fought for a honeymoon, but I was thinking the same. We’ve got so much work here as it is with planning an attack.”

 

Keith dropped his hand. “You’re missed around here. The court shouldn’t take you away from your responsibilities.”

 

“Exactly, so I’m going to have to tattle on them to Allura. But, I wanted to breath first so I came here. I wanted to go flying together, but if you’re busy studying we can do that.”

 

“Alright, I don’t want to bother you with work, though,” Keith said.

 

Lance flipped through the pages of the book in his hands. “You’re pretty far already. What chapter were you suppose to read this week?”

 

“They just gave me the book a few days ago. I have a quiz over the first three quarters tonight and then I’m to finish the rest by the weekend,” Keith explained.

 

Lance’s hands stilled. “You’re reading a book a week? Isn’t that two cruel?”

 

“No, I’m reading two books a week, the other is less interesting,” Keith said. “I have more than one class.”

 

Lance frowned and closed the book. “That’s ridiculous. On top of all the other training you have to do? I’m tired just thinking about it.”

 

Keith curled the fingers of his hand tight. He remembered Coran said Lance had to work hard to learn all he knew now. He worked very hard. Keith picked up his hand again and placed it on Lance’s shoulder then moved the other and scooted closer on the bed beginning to press them into the muscles of Lance’s shoulders.

 

Lance chuckled, but leaned into the touch. “You’re the one that’s tired, aren’t you? Shouldn’t I be rubbing your shoulders?”

 

“It’s relaxing,” Keith said. “I want to touch you.”

 

“Suit yourself,” Lance said leaning into the press of Keith’s hands on his shoulders. He lifted the book again and started to flip through the pages. “Are you even remembering any of this stuff? I heard you were doing well.”

 

“I remember it. There’s no point in reading something if I’m not going to remember it.”

 

Lance turned his head and raised a brow at Keith. “Really? Tell me who Blaytz of Iron was.”

 

Keith paused his hand motions and frowned. “I don’t like being quizzed.”

 

“I’m not quizzing you, I’m asking you. You should have already read the chapter on him.”

 

Keith sighed. “Blaytz of Iron was the founder of the Iron House, your house. He apparently flew a Silver, the predecessor of the Blues and Whites. He could speak to Voltron and tried to burn the crystal that houses the Right Leg resulting in a curse that all Whites and Blues forever breath ice instead of fire. His story is the origin story of ice breathers and the Iron House.”

 

“Right. What about Trigel of the Sweet Lands?”

 

Keith sighed and stopped rubbing Lance’s shoulders reaching around with his arms instead. He grabbed the book from Lance and put it aside before nuzzling his ear against the Blue rider’s face. “I don’t care about Gyrgan of the Sweet Lands. He wasn’t important.”

 

“Gyrgan? Was it Gyrgan?”

 

“Yes, Trigel is in the next chapter. Also not important,” Keith said and kissed Lance’s cheek.

 

“How do you remember all of that?” Lance asked turning his head to look at Keith with squinted eyes.

 

“Because I’ve read it or heard it. I don’t like remembering things that aren’t important, though,” Keith said and tried to kiss Lance’s cheek again. It felt nice to have Lance so close to him again. If Keith didn’t fall asleep other places, they could be sleeping in the same bed at night, but Lance wasn’t ready to take Keith and Keith didn’t want to sleep with Lance not being able to trust his own feelings.

 

Lance pulled away and turned completely, one leg over the edge of the small bed. “Wait, so you’re smart, too?”

 

Keith tilted his head to one side looking confused. “I never really had schooling when I was young. I knew how to read and write, though. It makes it easier when you’re on the streets.”

 

“But you had lessons during your soldier training, right?”

 

“As much as anyone else did. I didn’t like going. I only went when they threatened to throw me back on the streets and then it just became too much trouble to not go.”

 

“What about studying, did you study?” Lance asked.

 

Keith rolled his eyes. “No, I don’t know how to study. I was planning to ask you to help me.”

 

“I was helping you steady, but you knew everything,” Lance said and finally stood up beginning to pace around the cabin.

 

“What’s wrong?” Keith asked. He didn’t like when Lance paced. It always meant he was thinking too hard about something unnecessary.

 

Lance stopped and took a deep breath. “You’re just too amazing is all. I mean, I was terrible at studying, but I studied so hard. As soon as I learned the information I needed to, though, I was set, but it took a long time for me to memorize it and you can just memorize it in a week. Was it the same for fighting?”

 

Keith shrugged, ears flattening. “I grew up on the streets and in a camp. I was already merciless. Fighting was fun, though. I didn’t consider whether I was doing the best or not because I always practiced it. I was top of my squadron, though.”

 

Lance shook his head. “I knew that. I just didn’t think you were smart, too. You’re so far ahead of me.”

 

“Not really. You’re already a Level 1 Ice Master.”

 

“Ice Mastery and Fire Mastery are different, though.”

 

“That’s true. How long until you’re a Grand Master?”

 

Lance crossed his arms and looked up at the ceiling. “I leveled up about two years ago and it’s usually a five year wait if you’ve got the time, but I haven’t had much time lately, but if you calculate how much I use my magic on the field perhaps it evens out. So, three to five years.”

 

“Oh,” Keith said and lowered his head.

 

“What? Why do you look disappointed? Level 1 is good. Did you want your husband to be a Grand Master?”

 

Keith shook his head. “It’s not that. I think you’re plenty cool how you are now.”

 

“Right, I’m awesome. I don’t have to be some weird genius,” Lance said though his words weren’t convincing. “Why do you still seem down, though?”

 

“I...Kogane sent a Grand Master today.”

 

“So you’re going to finally get leveled up to a 1?” Lance asked.

 

“I...will probably only be able to pass that far.”

 

“Only?”

 

Keith picked up the book he had been reading and pulled out the piece of paper he had been using as a bookmark before handing it over to Lance. Lance looked over the piece of paper confused before slowly handing it back.

 

“Are Fire Mastery tests more difficult than Ice Mastery ones?” Lance asked.

 

Keith folded the paper back up into his book. “No. It’s a Grand Mastery test.”

 

“Quiznak,” Lance breath out before heading with hurried footsteps towards the door of the cabin.

 

Immediately, Keith leaped up off the bed and grabbed Lance’s arm. “Lance, where are you going?”

 

Lance didn’t look at Keith. “I was going to ride Blue.”

 

“I’ll come with you.”

 

“You’re studying.”

 

“I don’t need to study.”

 

Lance’s shoulder started shaking slowly and he pulled his arm away roughly. When he turned towards Keith, the anger raging in his blue eyes behind unshed tears burned Keith and he took a step back. “Of course you don’t. And you don’t need to practice or beg. You’re perfect at everything. You’re just getting everything without having to fight for it or give up anything for it.”

 

Perfect? “Lance, I’m not perfect. Obviously, I’m not. I’ve gone through struggles, you know that. Don’t be so unfair if you’re angry with me.”

 

“Just because you’re Galra, you’re not perfect? That’s shit. You’ve got people protecting you left and right. You’ve just been gaining and gaining ever since you got here without having to fight for yourself. Quinak, I even helped. Yes, I was born into royalty, but you don’t know what I had to give up and sacrifice to be here right now. You don’t know the pressure I’ve been under.”

 

Pressure? Sacrifice? No, Keith didn’t know, he’d had nothing to sacrifice and so there was no pressure to make anything of himself until he had became something. But, he wanted to know. The Lance before Keith now was strong and cocky and had ghosts that tore at him. Keith wanted to know about those things, wanted to comfort Lance when it became too much and support him when he started to fall. He loved him.

 

He loved him so much.

 

So, he wouldn’t back down.

Keith took a step closer to Lance and glared. “You’re right, I don’t know, so maybe you should tell me. It’s not as if you tell me anything about yourself. You don’t tell me about your past, your troubles. Every now and then you let some of it out only to close up, to cover yourself in ice and throw shards at me, but I am a Fire Master, I don’t have to take that. And I swear on Voltron, no matter how much I love you, I will burn you. I am not patient and I am tired of hearing about you from other people. Coran already told me you’re bad at studying and your friends have been hinting at your troubles before bonding with Blue ever since I got here. I don’t want to hear it from them. I want to hear it from you. I am your lover and now I am your husband. I deserve to know you from you, don’t you think?”

 

Lance was staring at Keith wide eyed. His lips moved open and closed as if trying to form words, but there was only silence. Keith’s shoulders heaved. He’d said too much, but not even close to enough. He wasn’t sure how to form the words better than that, but he was tired of this hot and cold act from Lance. It was fine when they were friends even when they were lovers, but now they were stuck together for life. It was time to let loose.

 

But first, Keith needed to calm down. He could feel the heat beneath his skin and tears springing to his eyes. He wasn’t sure when he had realized he loved Lance, it wasn’t like the realization he was attracted to the other knight. However, he was sure this was the first time he’d said those words to Lance.

 

Of course his confession would come in the form of a threat.

 

Keith grabbed his book as Lance continued to collect his words and started for the door. He got it opened before Lance finally snapped out of it, an arm reaching out towards Keith, but not touching him.

 

“Keith, wait, you...said…”

 

Of course that was the only part Lance heard. Keith rolled his eyes where Lance couldn’t see. “I love you, what of it?”

 

“I...don’t…” Lance trailed off, words gone again.

 

Keith shook his head. “For someone who won’t shut up, your silence speaks volumes. I already know you don’t love me back. That’s been obvious long before our wedding night.”

 

With that, Keith walked out and slammed the cabin door behind him.

 


 

 

Red wasn’t pleased with him. Keith had rushed out of the cabin planning to go straight to her, but he could feel her resistance as he stood out on the deck long enough for Lance to come after him. He didn’t. Keith might have pushed him off the ledge if he had. He finally gave in and climbed down the rope to enter the dragon’s caves. He’d clean up Red’s cave. She had rocks for sharpening her nails that could use some polishing and there were always little targets in the main chambers for dragons when they were bored.

 

The cave of a Red was small, but large enough it should have taken Keith all afternoon to clean. It only took an hour. Many dragon hands had come along and offered to clean the cave for him and he suspected they had been cleaning the cave for his dragon since he’d been officially announced as Lance’s betrothed. Keith didn’t like others cleaning his dragon’s cave or touching her. She didn’t either, but Keith understood it was an honor. He’d been honored every time he had gone to take care of Black in Shiro’s stead. He couldn’t do that anymore, he was on the same pedestal as Shiro in this kingdom if it wasn’t for his promise.

 

He headed to Black’s cave after only to find a Gold rider there, large and strong, throwing dried leaves around to clear out the Black’s large nest.

 

“Lord Hunk?” Keith called out.

 

The Builder turned Queen’s guard turned, brown eyes widening with surprise. “Oh, Your Highness, can I help you?”

 

Your Highness. Keith cringed at those words. He had overcome the other soldiers calling him that and most just continued to call him My Lord like any old knight, but Hunk was suppose to be a friend. Pidge still only referred to him as Lord Keith when they weren’t alone, but Pidge also didn’t care for such pretty words.

 

“I...actually came to help you, I suppose,” Keith said and moved closer to the nest. He reached out to grab some of the leaves only to have Hunk move an arm to block him.

 

“Don’t bother yourself over this. You don’t have to clean up after Prince Shiro’s Black anymore,” Hunk said and reached out for Keith’s shoulders turning him around to head out of the large cave.

 

Keith glared at Hunk from over his shoulder and dug his heels in. “This has been my job for years. And I can clean as I please.”

 

Hunk sighed and let Keith go. “Well, you’re right on being able to clean as you please, but you’re part of the Altean royal family now. Shouldn’t you have more important things to do? How about studying?”

 

Studying? Keith had left his book back in Red’s cave, but he could finish the rest of the book tonight if he had to. “I don’t study, all I have to do is read the book. I’ve been passings so far like that.”

 

Hunk whistled. “Impressive. Lance always complained about guys like you during his study days.”

 

“Oh, I’m sure he did,” Keith said and crossed his arms.

 

“If you want to stay here, that’s fine,” Hunk said starting to maneuver the leaves again. “However, wouldn’t you rather see your husband if you don’t want to study? I heard he’s about here somewhere.”

 

“I did see Lance,” Keith said, “and now I’m here.”

 

“Oh. You two fought. What was it about this time?”

 

“He’s stressed out,” Keith said.

 

Hunk nodded and moved to the wall where there was a broom picking it up and starting to sweep. “Everyone is. I’m sure there is something you could do for him, though.”

 

“What?” Keith asked. Lance didn’t want to talk seriously, he just wanted to complain or yell. And Keith was fine with listening, but he wanted to listen to Lance seriously, too, he wanted to talk with him.

 

Hunk wiggled an eyebrow at Keith. “You know.”

 

Oh. Keith felt heat rise up his neck. “I understand what you’re getting at, but he doesn’t want that.”

 

Hunk laughed. “Oh, I’m sure it won’t take much to convince him.”

 

Keith sighed and moved over to a wall of the cave next to the nest before flopping down. Hunk wasn’t going to let him clean, but he could at least stay here and rest. He would often sleep with Red in Black’s cave when it was one of their heats for comfort with the large dragon shielding them from the patrol.

 

“He doesn’t want me, Hunk,” Keith clarified.

 

Hunk look confused then shook his head and started to sweep again. “Excuse my rudeness, Lord Keith, but you’re crazy if you think Lance doesn’t want you. He might just need some coaxing if you guys haven’t shared the bed in a while.”

 

Keith brought up his knees and hugged them, placing his head down between them. “We’ve never shared a bed, Lord Hunk.”

 

“Oh, you guys haven’t…”

 

“No.”

 

“That doesn’t make sense. Lance always talks about how attractive you are. Especially your butt,” Hunk said.

 

Keith peeked up surprised then pressed his lips. No, he already knew Lance was at least attracted to him, but not enough. “Just because he likes my butt doesn’t mean he wants to touch it. He’s told me as much.”

 

“Oh man, Lord Keith, I’m...well...do you want to touch him?”

 

“Yes.” The answer was easy. Keith knew it.

 

“Have you tried?”

 

Keith held out his hands and looked at Hunk helplessly. “Yes, on our wedding night. I thought

we’d...consummate. I sucked his...and then he laughed at me. I never did such a thing before, but he laughed at me and told me he didn’t want to have sex.”

 

“Did you use teeth?” Hunk asked.

 

Keith picked up some of the leaves and threw them at the Gold knight. “No, he wouldn’t have laughed if I had. He thought I was forcing myself. He just keeps calling me innocent. When did I ever say I wanted to stay a virgin. But, it’s not just that. I know it’s not that. There’s something more. He’s afraid of ruining me and I don’t understand why.”

 

Hunk sighed and moved over to the wall where Keith was. He leaned his broom against the hard rock and got to his knees beside Keith. He reached out a hand and squeezed Keith’s shoulder.

 

“Keith, I’m sorry. As Lance’s friend, I’m so sorry. Even knowing him for so long, I don’t know all the details, I didn’t live in Altea, but Lance had it rough growing up.”

 

“I know he did, but he won’t tell me about it. It’s not like I won’t understand. I was a thief until I started soldier training. I went hungry on nights when my father worked,” Keith said. “I know hardships.”

 

“Wow, does Lance know about all of that?”

 

Keith shrugged. “I don’t keep it a secret. I’m sure I’ve dropped lines and everyone else knows the basics. The life I knew isn’t a secret, he just has to ask.”

 

“Do you ask?”

 

“I’ve tried,” Keith said. “But if I try too hard, I’m afraid he’ll run. He always runs.”

 

Hunk let go of Keith’s shoulders. “It’s not my place to tell you about Lance’s past.”

 

“I don’t want you to,” Keith said shaking his head. “Everyone else tells me about Lance, but he doesn’t open up, even less since we became lovers.”

 

“Lance has never had a proper lover, I’m sad to say I’m not surprised he’s treating you the way he is, though I thought he’d be more open since you two were friends first.”

 

“I thought so, too. I never had a friend like that. Prince Shiro is my superior, I couldn’t fight back with him,” Keith said. He leaned his head back against the cave wall. “It’s so frustrating! I don’t know anything about relationships. I confessed first, but I thought he’d turn me down. He shouldn’t have accepted my feelings if he was going to act like this. We wouldn’t have had to get married. He could be free of me.”

 

“And you could be free of him,” Hunk added.

 

Keith sighed and dropped his hands to his sides. “That’s not the issue.”

 

“So you don’t want to be free of him?”

 

“No.”

 

“Do you love him?”

 

Keith chest clenched. He stood and went over to the pile of leaves Hunk had been changing. They were filthy. Filthy.

 

Filthy.

 

Filthy.

 

Filthy.

 

Just like him.

 

Keith reached a hand into them and began to throw them around.

 

“Keith, stop, you’re getting dirty!” Hunk called out.

 

Dirty. He was dirty. He’d always been dirty. Dirty blood, dirty hands, dirty attitude. Why should Lance trust him with his past? Lance shouldn’t trust him with anything.

 

But, Lance said Keith wasn’t dirty, that he was amazing, beautiful.

 

Lance really was insufferable.

 

Keith’s hands warmed and he let the leaves in them burn with his flames before throwing more handfuls around the cave burning the leaves into ash that rained down around them.

 

“Keith!” Hunk yelled and grabbed Keith’s arm.

 

Keith ripped away, his flames going to cover all of him and he threw more of the leaves around the large cave.

 

“He’s a whiny, jealous, loudmouth, who works too hard doing things that are too cruel, sacrificing himself for people who just want to use him. And all he does is glare at me with pretty blue eyes, and argues with a shit eating grin that’s too bright, and holds me with is warm scared up muscled arms and I...just...I want to touch them. I want to touch every single scar on his body and know where they all came from,” Keith said finally calming down.

 

“K-Keith, the new bed’s on fire,” Hunk said nervously.

 

Keith didn’t even look, he reached out a hand to the fresh mound of leaves and swiped it. There was a small sizzle and then it was out leaving only a small stack of burnt foliage.

 

“What...you just...wow.” Hunk seemed impressed as he walked towards Keith again.

 

“I’m suppose to take a Grand Mastery test soon. They sent a Grand Fire Master from Ko-gane here today. I told Lance about it. And he found out about my memory quirk. That’s what we fought about.”

 

Hunk placed a hand on Keith’s shoulder. The weight of the touch caused Keith to lose strength and he sank to his knees not able to hold his own with the weight of his emotions already pressing down on top of that.

 

“Sorry.”

 

Keith curled up on the stone of the cave floor and pounded the the hard surface with his gloved hand. “I love him so much.”

 

Hunk sat down beside him and started to rub his back. It was comforting. Keith supposed the Gold rider was use to comforting his friends. Pidge was more someone to go to when you needed advice and blatant truth, but Hunk seemed good just for working through things yourself, just a comfort. Keith wanted comfort.

 

He liked the back petting.

 

“Maybe you should tell him you love him. It would make Lance happy.”

 

It would make him happy? But, it hadn’t. Keith pulled his arms to himself and buried his face in them. His face felt hot and stretched, the back of his throat pulsing. He would cry, it had been a long time since he’d let tears fall, though. There had been so many more things to cry about as a child than this.

 

Emotions were stupid.

 

“You told him already, didn’t you?”

 

Keith nodded into his arms.

 

Hunk’s hand went from rubbing to patting. He let out a sigh that sounded tired.

 

Keith lifted his head and sat up. “I’m disturbing your work, I’m sorry. You should be with Queen Allura.”

 

“The queen is fine. She’d do the same. I’m more worried about you. I consider you a friend as does Pidge. I’ll get her to berate Lance for you.”

 

“Don’t do that,” Keith said shaking his head. “I would rather berate him myself.”

 

“You’re just going to give him the silent treatment, though.”

 

“I’ll get annoyed after awhile and corner him.”

 

“Like you always do?”

 

Hunk was right. “Then I won’t say anything. I was the one that wanted to stay with him so I’ll stay with him. It was my choice. If he doesn’t love me, that’s fine.”

 

“What about sex? You want to have sex with him, right?”

 

Keith lifted a hand. “It’ll only be a problem when Red’s in heat. Maybe he’ll finally take me during one of those.”

 

“That’s not fair,” Hunk said and stood. “How exactly did he react when you told him you loved him?”

 

“He didn’t react at all. It’s fine, I already know he doesn’t love me.”

 

Keith turned to look at Hunk as the Gold rider headed for the cavern exit of the cave. “Where are you going?”

 

“To give Lance some tough love of my own.”

 

“Don’t,” Keith said standing up quickly.

 

“This isn’t something for you to decide, Prince Keith. I’ve got other bones to pick with Lance. He is a married man. So, as another basically married man, I think it’s about time we had a chat. I won’t tell him anything you said to me, I promise.”

 

“Hunk,” Keith insisted. He didn’t want Lance to know. It was his fault, wasn’t it, for having these feelings. Lance just went with it.

 

The Gold rider turned and smiled wide at Keith. “Can you trust me on this, Prince Keith? And I’ll trust you to finish up cleaning Black’s cave.”

 

Keith’s ears perked up and he looked around. He had made quite a mess with the ashes. He might as well finish burning them. “I...I’ll trust you, Lord Hunk. Thank you.”

 

Hunk’s smile softened and he walked back over, a large hand lifting to Keith’s head, fingers rubbing against Keith’s ears. “Any time, alright. I’ve got big shoulders whenever you want to lean on them.”

 


 

 

The first attempt for Keith’s Grand Mastery level test was held a week after the Grand Fire Master arrived. It gave little time to prepare, but he had refined all his level 1 abilities and was now able to extinguish any fire with just a wave of his hand. Getting rid of Shiro’s was difficult, but if it was small he could do it and most dragon flames had no ownership once they had left the dragon’s mouth. It would be helpful for diminishing the amount of ruin their fighting caused in the coming battles. They held it in the grand hall of the Master’s Tower where a practice arena with targets was set up, usually for Ice Master, but today it was set up in a way that Keith was more familiar with. Around the arena were seats, most of them empty, for observers and graders. There was a row of seven seats taller and more prominent where the graders would be. Usually, it would seat seven chosen from the High Court of Masters, but since Keith was a Fire Master and not one of ice, only the Master that had come from Ko-gane sat with the Head Master of Altea and Queen Allura sat in the seats to grade him. Others sat in the observer bleachers watching, though. Shiro and Matt and Hunk along with half of the court. Pidge was nowhere to be seen as Keith looked around which indicated Lance had not shown up.

 

It wasn’t like Keith had seen much of his husband in the past week anyways. He had even ventured into their wedding bed in hopes of coming upon his husband, but Lance did not join him in their room at night. He had hoped he would at least come and watch him. It would have looked good for their marriage, but perhaps Lance was so disgusted by Keith’s confession that he couldn’t be bothered to wish him luck. Or was it the jealousy?

 

“When you’re ready, you may begin the first test, Lord Keith,” the Fire Master instructed once the room had gone quiet.

 

Right, this was a test. Keith needed to concentrate. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and tried to clear his mind, but his chest felt heavy. No amount of practicing could let him be rid of the nervousness that prickled beneath his skin because it wasn’t his test that made him so anxious.

 

Keith was disappointed in his performance. Everyone was, Keith could see it in their eyes as he left the testing arena, fists clenched around his results. He saw Shiro try and hurry down to speak with him, but he didn’t want to hear he had done well knowing full well he could have done better. In order to be at full potential, his mind needed to be empty so his flames could grow, but they were smothered by his thoughts of Lance.

 

Lance.

 

Lance.

 

He just wanted to be in his husband’s presence again. It was about time for Keith to run him down and corner Lance until he talked to him, but Keith just didn’t have the energy to force Lance into confronting him. It would just cause Lance to run away for another period of time before shyly coming to find Keith with words that weren’t quite what Keith wanted to hear.

 

No, he knew what he wanted to hear, but he didn’t know what he needed to hear.

 

There was a thought to go see Red, but Keith knew he could easily be pulled aside there. Others were less likely to follow him into his chambers this late in the evening. There would be dinner soon, but Keith didn’t even want to call for his nightly meal to be brought to the room. He had no appetite with the dread and disappointment filling his stomach.

 

He opened the door to the main sitting area of his chambers and flopped down on the couch with a groan. There was a fire in the fireplace already giving off a soft glow and warming his skin. Keith turned to look at the flames dancing and reached out his free hand to lower and raise the height if the flames causing shadows to dance around the room.

 

“Keith, please stop that. It’s the only fire I have going right now.”

 

Keith was surprised by the voice. He looked around to see Lance peaking out from the door that led to their bedroom chambers. He was already dressed for bed with slippers and sleeping silks on and a fruit partially bitten into in one hand. Keith stood, his heart racing seeing Lance this close for the first time in almost a week.

 

“Lance, you’re here.”

 

“Of course I’m here, it’s my room, too,” Lance said coming out of the bedroom. He walked towards the fireplace, his free arm wrapped around his waist tying the cord there so his chest, broad and beautiful, was covered. Once at the fire, he kneeled and poked at it with the metal tool that laid beside the extra wood.

 

“You haven’t been here at night,” Keith pointed out.

 

“My work has been keeping me up late. You usually fall asleep at your desk,” Lance reputed.

 

“You’ve been sleeping in the Lair. Pidge complains about having the one good thing about living in a castle taken away from her sleeping in Green’s cave,” Keith said. Pidge had been very adamant about coming to Keith to complain about Lance’s lack of fairness since their fight whenever Keith and Lance where in the same area.

 

Lance stopped poking at the fire and stood. He took another bite of his fruit, the juice running down his hand. He moved his hand to his lips and sucked the trails off before taking another bite.

 

Keith swallowed, anger growing in his belly as he felt twinges of arousal taking form.

 

“I’ve had issues in the Lair so I stayed there. You were training for your test, right? I wanted to give you space.”

 

Keith did think the response was a lie, but it was definitely more of an excuse. “You didn’t come to my test today.”

 

“I was in a meeting with the court,” Lance responded.

 

“Half of them, half of which showed up late to my test. You could have showed up late, but instead you’re here eating fruit. You didn’t even welcome me. Where you hiding?”

 

“I wasn’t hiding,” Lance answered and threw the pit of his fruit into the flames as he finished the last bite. He didn’t turn to Keith, but held his hands out as if to warm them. “You should hurry and bath. The water isn’t going to be warm for much longer, but I did leave enough for you.”

 

Keith tsked and crossed his arms. Lance was being strange and obviously so. “Don’t you want to know my results?”

 

“I’m sure you did amazing. You’re an amazing person.” His words fell flat, but they didn’t feel insincere. They made Keith even more confused.

 

“I didn’t do good at all, Lance.”

 

That made Lance turn, eyes wide. “What? Did you fail?”

 

Keith held out the fist he’d had clenched around his results and presented the little gold medal he’d received. It was shaped like a sunburst with a Volganean 1 in it, the same shape as a Voltanean 1.

 

“You got leveled up,” Lance said.

 

Keith sighed and placed the metal on the coffee table in between where he stood and Lance at the fireplace. “Yes, Level 1, but this was a test for Grand Mastery. I failed to make it.”

 

Lance stared at the metal then up at Keith and placed his hands on his hips. “Are you saying this is because I didn’t come see your test?”

 

“No, I wasn’t ready for a Grand Master test, I knew that even before I took the test. The results weren’t any different, but my husband didn’t even wish me luck better yet come and watch me on, cheer for me, pray to Voltron in the stands that I would do well. You didn’t even welcome me back and you’re not congratulating me right now,” Keith pointed out.

 

“You’re upset about it, why would I congratulate you?”

 

Keith threw his hands up in the air and let out a frustrated breath. “I don’t know, Lance, maybe because we’re married and I haven’t seen you properly in a week. A week in which the last time we talked we fought, Lance. All I needed was for you to welcome me back with a joke or sarcasm, anything but this icy nonchalant air you have going on right now.”

 

Lance stared at Keith for a moment before crossing his arms. He looked away and licked his lips as if preparing for words that Keith hoped wouldn’t just be a dismissal or were at least light hearted. “Last time we talked, you said you loved me.”

 

“Yeah, I did.” Keith wasn’t going to deny that. And he wasn’t going to take his words back. “And you said nothing.”

 

“You didn’t give me time to say anything.”

 

“I stood on the deck for thirty minutes, Lance. That was plenty of time for you to come after me. I was here every night in our bed. You could have crawled in with me for the first time, Lance.”

 

“And said what?”

 

“Nothing. You don’t have to say anything. I won’t force you. I just wish you would trust me enough to talk to me,” Keith said. He felt tired. The test had taken a lot out of him. “I just want you to talk to me of your own accord. We haven’t talked in weeks. It’s like as soon as we got married, you stopped liking me. If you don’t like me anymore, say it. There’s no point in hiding it now.”

 

“You don’t think I like you?” Lance asked.

 

Keith waved his hands around. “I don’t know Lance. Your flirting has been sort of nonexistent and...I’m not any better at this than you are. I’m worse. I have no experience.”

 

“It’s not like I’ve ever had a real relationship either,” Lance said. “I’ve messed around, so what. I didn’t have to see my past lovers every night. I wasn’t bound to them for the rest of my life.”

 

“Do you not want to be bound to me? It’s kind of late for that, Lance,” Keith said crossing his arms and turned away.

 

Lance turned back towards the fireplace and the room fell silent.

 

This wasn’t going to work. Keith didn’t know what point he was trying to get across. There were so many things he was frustrated with. Lance’s jealousy, Lance’s secrecy, and Lance’s reluctance to touch him. Ever since their wedding night, it was like they had taken a step back. Keith hadn’t expected them to always be in their honeymoon stage, but he wanted a comfortable stream to roll with and this was rampants.

 

“I love you, Lance. I never wanted to get married because I didn’t think I could not because I hated the idea of marriage. I didn’t want to be forced into it either, but if you asked me I’d say yes a hundred times. That’s the only thing I know for certain about all of this.”

 

Lance put both hands on the mantle of the fireplace and leaned over it, face shadowed as Keith turned to look back at him. “How can you love me?”

 

“I could ask you the same thing. Except, I know you’re not in love with me. I don’t blame you. Not only am I half Galra, but my very existence seems to make you angry beyond belief.”

 

“Keith.” The call of his name was short, but pulled, a warning.

 

Keith lowered his head. “I know you don’t like it when I talk about myself like that. Is it because you have the same thoughts?”

 

“I don’t think badly of you.”

 

“I wasn’t talking about myself.”

 

Lance turned his head, his eyes looking at Keith from beneath his arm. They were surprised and scared.

 

“I did say I love you. I know you enough to know you keep things from me, that you have a past I don’t know a lot about. I watch you enough to know, but I don’t know about that past. I want to know.”

 

“And what about your past?” Lance shot back standing up again.

 

Keith held out his arms. “Ask and I’ll tell you. None of it is a secret.”

 

“Then you ask, too. You don’t ask enough questions. Is it because you think you know everything already?”

 

Keith shook his head. “Lance, don’t start that. I’m trying to have a serious conversation and you’re closing up on me. You’re right that I don’t ask questions. I’m afraid to. I don’t want you to run away because I asked the wrong thing. Your past has secrets.”

 

“Quiznak!” Lance said and pounded his fist against the mantle. “Why can’t you leave it be, Keith? You’re in love with the me that’s now, right?”

 

“I am, but I can’t leave it alone.”

 

“And why not?” Lance questioned.

 

Why? Heat creeped up Keith’s neck and he looked away. “Because it’s keeping you from touching me.”

 

“What? Are we fighting about our wedding night or are we fighting about our lack of communication? Chose one, I can’t keep up with that many conversation.”

 

“Yes you can, you do it all of the time, Lance. You’re frustrated and so am I. The problems all go together. You said you wouldn’t take me that night because I wasn’t ready, we weren’t ready, and you’re not wrong, but it’s because you’re not ready to have sex with me if you even want to at all.”

 

“And why wouldn’t I want to?”

 

Why? There were a million reasons why and most weren’t Lance’s real reasons, but they still played there in the back of Keith’s mind over and over and over again. Most of the time Keith couldn’t hear them. He’d stopped listening to them a long time ago at first out of sheer spite but then they became meaningless, but they popped up here and again to remind him of where he came from, what he came from.

 

Trash.

 

Monsters.

 

Dirt thrown out with privy boxes. Not even good enough to be sand.

 

Keith shook his head. It hurt. “I’ll...go take that bath now.”

 

He would never be able to get Lance to open up to him. And if Lance wouldn’t touch him, Keith wouldn’t even be able to perform his marriage duties, he couldn’t even be a physical outlet and comfort for Lance.

 

He would be worthless.

 

Useless.

 

Unapologetically a waste of space.

 

That’s why he failed.

 

Keith started towards the bathroom on the opposite side of the sitting room. Suddenly, he was wrapped in warmth. His chest rose and fell quickly and he realized there was a burn in the back of his eyes as a face came to bury itself in his neck.

 

“I’m sorry, Keith,” Lance said, his voice cracking.

 

“Wh-Lance?” Lance was hugging him, holding him, tightly, so tightly. He brought his hands up and placed them on top of Lance’s. He could feel their warmth and it made him gasp.

 

“I’m a terrible person and I’m sorry,” Lance apologized.

 

“What, Lance, no, let go.”

 

Lance only held him tighter. “Hunk and Pidge have been hounding me and hounding me about you. They tried to be subtle, but I knew I was avoiding you. I know you wanted us to be able to fight, but petty fights are different than this. I’ll always be jealous of you, Keith. You’re my rival, my friend, my lover. We’re married. Just...I wanted this one thing to be pure and it’s been tainted.”

 

“I love you, how is that tainted?” Keith asked.

 

“It’s not. I was surprised you said it,” Lance said rubbing his nose against Keith’s neck. “You smell like smoke.”

 

“I had a test. I was burning targets for a good four hours. I should bathe.”

 

“No, I’m not letting you go. It was a mistake not to go after you when we fought before. Besides, you always smell a little like smoke. It’s warm and comforting. I want to smell you more, I want to touch you more. You’ll be scared if I do.”

 

“I’m not scared,” Keith said. “I’ll be excited. I want to touch you more, too.”

 

“Fear and excitement go hand in hand,” Lance said finally loosening his grip so he could grab Keith’s hands on top of his. “I know from experience and I’m afraid because I know.”

 

Keith frowned down at their hands. He moved his fingers so his callouses caressed against Lance’s. They were so different. Different shapes telling different stories just like each of Lance’s scars. Keith had his own, but the ones that shone most didn’t come from battle. Where had all of Lance’s come from. What about the ones he couldn’t see.

 

“Lance, how did you lose your virginity?”

 

The Blue rider breath harshly against Keith’s neck then sighed. “I don’t want to talk about that.”

 

Exactly. Keith knew Lance would push him away if he asked. He knew this was one of those questions, but Lance was here. They were trying to have a moment. He gripped Lance’s hand tightly in his and leaned back into his broad chest that just barely spanned wider than Keith's, enough to feel comforting. “Please, Lance, tell me.”

 

Lance groaned then pressed his lips to Keith’s throat. “You know, I hate when you talk yourself down because I know what that feels like. The look in your eyes a few moments ago, I knew what that was, I had it much harsher when I was younger. I still do it now, but I have reasons for it now. I have regrets and I’ve betrayed people to get ahead. Most Alteans have, but I never wanted to. I adapted. But, I saw you and I wanted to keep you from all of this.”

 

“You always make it sound like Altea’s so terrible. You have a screwed up diplomacy tactic, but it wasn’t as if I lived happily in Ko-gane either. People got use to me.”

 

“I believe you and you’ll tell me about it, right?”

 

“Yeah, it’s not anything that a hundred other children didn’t go through, they just weren’t half Galra.”

 

Lance nodded against Keith’s neck then moved away. He kept hold of one of Keith’s hands as he started to drag Keith to their bedroom and their bed. He pushed Keith down onto it then climbed on top. Keith laid there surprised, his eyes looking from Lance’s suddenly piercing and serious gaze down until he could see beneath the loose fabric of Lance’s shirt, eye traveling the golden marred skin there chiseled like Keith’s, but more defined in the upper area. The view was gone and Lance flopped himself onto Keith. He looked down to see Lance’s hands reaching out towards his and quickly grabbed on, awkwardly holding hands while Lance stared off to the side, his head on Keith’s chest, one ear against Keith’s heart.

 

“You got excited, but it’s calming down now,” Lance said.

 

“I...you don’t have to point that out,” Keith grumbled.

 

Lance chuckled and let go of one of Keith’s hand. Keith immediately moved his hand to Lance’s hair and combed his fingers through the short brown locks.

 

“That feels nice,” Lance said, eyes fluttering closed.

 

Keith opened his mouth, but bit his tongue. He wanted Lance to answer his question. He hoped the cuddling wasn’t to distract him, but he was thankful for even this much touch. It made his skin tingle, but it calmed a yearning inside him to be like this with his husband again. Just quietly comforting each other. He wouldn’t let it go, but he thought he’d give Lance some time first.

 

Time.

 

He still wasn’t the best at being patient.

 

“I was thirteen.”

 

Keith jolted surprised by the sudden words. Lance had opened his eyes again and was looking at the wall.

 

“I was thirteen and she was twenty years older than me.”

 

Keith’s hand stilled in Lance’s hair, but started up again when Lance sighed.

 

“Yes, it was illegal. I would like to say that I did it out of some heroic sense of duty to one of my sisters, but I didn’t. I was thirteen and she was hot. She was one of my brother-in-law’s mistresses, older than him as well, but not by as much. She had a kid with some other guy. She was an Ice Master. That was my excuse to talk to her. She taught me some cool stuff, but I had naturally advanced farther than she was at. It was the one thing I had better than others. She didn’t even seduce me. She was very standoffish. Cold. She was hard on me when she tried to teach me, but I was pretty obvious about how much I wanted her. All she did was ask if I wanted to have sex with her then got undressed and laid down right in one of the study nooks in my father’s mansion. She said I could do whatever. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I knew where to put things. I lasted pretty long and I poked around a bit, but it wasn’t good.”

 

Lance fell silent for a few moments. Keith’s stomach twisted. He wasn’t sure if it was his morals or his lack of attraction to women that made him feel so disgusted.

 

“At the time, I didn’t care. I was ecstatic to have sex. I was a Casanova. I knew I wasn’t going to marry Allura. They had told me that I was her brother when I was twelve so my crush on her was gone, I was free from that. It was great. But, I never had sex with someone more than two years older than me for years after that. First with another girl, that poor sweet chamber maid’s daughter, then with an older boy who was having an illegal relationship with one of the Masters in the tower. I blackmailed him into showing me how to have good sex. Having actual sex wasn’t part of the deal, he was just hot and I’m not bad looking myself. But I always remembered the one thing my first said after I had finished. I needed work.”

 

“Lance,” Keith said. His shirt felt wet.

 

Lance laughed. “She wasn’t talking about the sex, Keith, or maybe it was both. I had been doing algorithms on the table. She wiped herself clean with it. All the answers were wrong. I needed more work. I’ve always needed more work. I mean, I was taken advantage of, sure, but I hadn’t hesitated a single second more than what it took me to figure out what I needed to do and where. I rushed into it and I got used. I don’t even know how I was used, but my first time meant something to her or else she wouldn’t have offered. She was too smart to risk me telling on her. I was barely old enough to have sex as a minor and she was way too old to be in my age range. And then she told me I wasn’t good enough.”

 

Keith frowned. “I don’t really care if you’re good. I’m kind of sensitive anyways.”

 

Lance suddenly lifted his head from Keith’s chest. His cheeks were a little wet, but just a little. Keith reached one hand up to wipe away the tear streak and Lance grinned.

 

“Oh, no, I’m wonderful in bed, don’t doubt that. Learning is mostly studying and a tiny bit of experience. I’ll rock your world, Keith Kogane, I promise you that.”

 

Keith smirked. His heart felt lighter. “It’s not Kogane anymore.”

 

Lance’s grin turned into a soft smile. “Right. You’re mine.”

 

Keith was expecting a kiss, but not the fierceness he received as Lance leaned down. His free hand moved into Lance’s hair and tugged while his other was caught in Lance’s hand still. It was tongue and teeth and it had been so long Keith almost forgot how to follow along with it. He was mused and breathless when Lance pulled back.

 

“I’m sorry, Keith, for being cruel. But, if you’ll keep loving me, and stay by my side, I promise I’ll reveal more to you. I can’t stand seeing you look worthless. I can’t help my younger self, but I can help you, and I will. I’ll be a better friend, a better lover, a...well, an actual husband.”

 

Keith reached up and held Lance’s face in his hands. “All I want is for you to trust me, Lance.”

 

Lance placed his hands on top of Keith’s and smiled. “I entrusted myself to you in that cabin when I told you about Allura. I’ve known you were trustworthy from the start, but I forgot. Now that I think about it, my secret isn’t a secret anymore, is it. So, I’ll give you a new one.”

 

Keith shook his head. “You don’t have to. You just told me something.”

 

“Nah, that’s not much of a secret. My brother-in-law had a couple of known mistresses. They were all hot. Besides, my first died years ago in the same battle that took King Alfor and half our army with the Galra. But, I’ll tell you the name of my first kiss. It was after I had sex for the first time. I thought I was real hot shit. I pulled them aside and sucked the air out of their lungs. And then they knocked me out with one punch to the gut.”

 

Keith laughed. “And who could have done that I wonder?”

 

Lance leaned down and whispered a familiar name into Keith’s ear. It tickled his ear, but it was also so absurd he couldn’t help but laugh louder.

 

“Hey, don’t laugh. Mustaches were a sexy dream when I was thirteen!”

 

Chapter Text

20. The Embrace

 

“That’s it, keep your knees up higher and you’ll be able to dive faster,” Shiro yelled from his spot in the middle of the rush of knights and riders practicing their maneuvering. There wasn’t much he himself could do with such a large dragon while teaching the other riders, but Black made for a good moving obstacle for the riders who would have to face unfamiliar landscape when they took the fight to the Galra.

 

Keith watched from the sidelines helping those with smaller dragons with comments and advice. There had been a few skirmishes on the borderline with the Galra Empire, but mostly in Ko-gane who had began moving their forces closer to the mountains that separated the Ko-gane deserts from the Empire’s savannas. Talk of the rebel group camp seemed to be keeping Galra infiltration low in Altea. However, Keith wouldn’t say Altea was out of the clear for looking weak. Shiro was doing a good job, but new riders were new riders and it was the dragons that gave them the most advantage against the Galra’s machinery. And the dragons seemed to realize that, too. Many new knights had been made in the past year and more and more Builders climbed the backs of the mighty beasts. Even a few of the rebels had gained a bond with Whites like Ulaz had.

 

Something was bound to break between their kingdoms soon. Keith could feel it even without the reports from the border.

 

And yet, Keith felt the most peaceful he’d been in weeks.

 

“Don’t press your weight on her so much when you’re surfing,” Keith called out to a Green rider who wobbly stood on her dragon’s back. “If she doesn’t catch you, I will, so be lighter on your feet. You have to move like the wind does around her.”

 

The new knight shifted her footing on the dragon as it flew in spirals before forming a rod of ice in her hands tips sharp on both ends. She threw it and it shattered on the back of a familiar Blue. The larger dragon turned its head and let out an annoyed roar that had the girl toppling over, but quickly caught by the tail of her own Green. Keith shook his head. She still had a long way to go if she was so easily scared by every roar another dragon made.

 

“Dragons roar, no need to falter every time,” Pidge said coming up beside Keith.

 

“And they bite and their nails are long,” Keith said and nudged his head at other knights keeping away from the ones more brave to perform falls with their dragons. “You have to get bit at least once.”

 

“I’ve never been bitten by Green,” Pidge retorted.

 

“You also don’t practice falls with Green. You just both fall.”

 

Pidge raised her head and made a face. “See if I show you my newest invention next time. And it has to do with fire, your favorite.”

 

Keith shook his head. “If it has to do with fire than it must be a disaster.”

 

“I can’t believe I came over here just to be treated so rudely. At least you’ve got your spirit back.”

 

Keith tilted his head at the Green rider. Pidge smiled softly at him, an amused look in her hazel eyes, the fluffier bits of her short hair whipping about her face and Keith lost the expression quickly. He did notice the edges of her lips quirk up and a strange shadow forming in her glasses.

 

“You came over here for a reason, didn’t you? Where’s Lance?”

 

“Right here, babe.”

 

Keith turned his head hearing the noise only to suddenly have a face full of snow. Red dropped a bit as Keith let go of her horns to wipe his face and he sent his dragon a word or two for not warning him. Blue was large and had been close by all day and it was now Lance had decided to play? He glared up at the head of Blue where Lance was peeking at him from behind, the rest of the Blue curling around Red, Pidge with her Green nowhere in site.

 

“Weren’t you supposed to be helping Shiro with the larger dragons?”

 

Lance laughed. “I was, but it gets boring. They can only do so much with me yelling at them, they just need to practice.

 

“So you decide to come and throw snow at me? Where did you even get snow?”

 

Lance lifted his hand to show another snowball. “I’m an Ice Master, remember? I’ve got that magic touch.”

 

A magic touch? Keith was bias to think that was true. “So I’ve heard, but I’ve yet to experience that, Mr. Magic Fingers.”

 

Lance raised a brow at Keith, the snow falling between his fingers. Keith raised a brow back at him challenging. It wasn’t a good idea to start messing around, but it wasn’t often that he and Lance got to practice together. The only time they got were the meals Allura had started to make mandatory every other night and night itself where Keith had finally started surrounding himself with his study material on their shared bed instead of his chosen office in their chambers with Lance curling up around him or head in his lap. It had felt nice to fall asleep with his husband finally. To fall asleep with someone else in general.

 

“Why you...you’re going to get it now,” Lance said and tightened his hold on the snowball in his hand.

 

Keith took a firm hold of Red’s horns and lowered his body. “Oh, I’ll take it, if you can catch me first.”

 

“I’ve got you surrounded, Mullet, there’s nowhere to....hey!”

 

Red easily slipped between Blue’s coils and out of the cage the larger dragon had been making around them before jetting off between the practicing riders. Lance was quick on his tail. A chase was much different than a race, though. It was all about the tricks. Red wouldn’t be able to outrun Blue, but all she had to do was get away and for a smaller creature, that was far easier. With so many dragons in the air, it was to Red’s advantage to move between them. And it wasn’t a bad idea to give those training something to look out for.

 

“Come back here, Mr. Fluffers. I’m going to dye your fur with snow,” Lance threatened.

 

“Your threats are weak, Lord Lance!” Keith yelled back. “Are you chasing a cat or a dragon?”

 

“Good question,” Lance called back and used his spring technique to pop up in front of Keith. “Are you a beast or a kitten, Keith, cuz I sure can make you purr like one.”

 

Keith reddened, but he wasn’t going to back down. He pulled Red back and they spiraled down towards the ground and away from Lance. The Blue knight was right on their tail, Blue’s jaws nipping Red’s tip. Right before they reached the ground, Keith pulled back up. Being much larger, Blue had a harder time turning its long body. It twisted skidding along the ground before shooting up after Red.

 

“Hey, don’t play dirty!” Lance yelled.

 

Keith turned back to watch Lance begin his chase again and stuck his tongue out. He was sure the other rider couldn’t see him from here, but he would know. The Blue came springing at them again and Keith reached a hand behind them sending fire along Red’s soft spikes alighting her tail with his flames. She barely noticed the heat, but it would make Lance’s Blue think twice before nipping at her tail. He was on them almost instantly, but instead of the small hiss of a sizzle, Keith felt a cool breeze on his back. Turning around again, he noticed Lance throwing soft flurries of snow at him. Keith furrowed his brows and reached out behind him replying with small fireballs.

 

“Whoa, that’s hot!” Lance held and pulled back.

 

Keith used the distance to spring forward. Lance would be at their tail again, they’d have to aim for the ground once more. If this was a real attempt at getting away, Keith would have headed for the woods, but there was no real end game here. Either one of them gave up or Lance caught Keith.

 

Or Shiro stopped them.

 

The large black dragon rose in front of Keith just as he was about to turn. Red barely managed to keep from sliding against Black’s scales while Blue came barrelling straight into Black’s chest. Black roared loudly and moved her head close to both dragons and riders, fangs longer than a person staring them both down. She lowered her head even more so the carriage on her head was just above them with a glaring Shiro looking down upon them.

 

“You know, it’s difficult enough getting these riders confident with their dragon without snowballs and fireballs coming at them left and right. If you two want to do target practicing, you can go check up on the archers,” Shiro said.

 

“It was Keith’s fault,” Lance said pointing over to Keith. “He goaded me into it.”

 

Keith immediately glared at Lance, Red growling beneath him. “And how did I do that? You’re the one that used your guard to distract me.”

 

“You were goading me before that.”

 

“How?”

 

Lance suddenly grinned and batted his eyelashes at Keith. “By being smoking hot”

 

“I...I wasn’t even using fire magic!” Keith yelled, but he felt the flush on his neck and his ears swiveled to lower shyly against his head.

 

“Okay, enough,” Shiro said and sighed. “I’m glad you two lovebirds are getting along, but seriously, go check up on the archers and the others doing target practice. Lunch will be soon and I want to make sure they actually did some work without us watching over them.”

 

“Yes, sir!” they both said in unison before turning and flying off towards the ground.

 

They hadn’t meant for it to become a race again, but Keith and Red had a habit at staying at others heads and when Lance gave him that challenging look, it was hard not to accept. Keith reached the ground first, jumping off Red as she dive bombed for the snow covered earth only to dive back up to make a proper landing. Lance jumped off Blue only after his own dragon hand landed and started after Keith. His long legs moved much faster than Keith expected and he suddenly found himself tackled to the ground, snow being pressed into his hair.

 

“Why you sneaky prick,” Lance said laughing as he attacked.

 

“St-stop!” Keith yelled, though he was laughing, too.

 

Lance did stop only to grab Keith’s hands and pin them above his head. He stared down at Keith, his cheeks rosy and a bit of shine to his skin from the excitement. Keith’s chest rose and fell quickly as he stared up at the Blue knight slowing down, but his heart continued to race. Lance let go of one of his hands and lightly stroked it up his arm. Keith turned his head to watch those long finger move. They traveled across his shoulder and then cupped his face. Lance’s fingers pressed roughly against his chin forcing him to stare up at Lance. Keith inhaled quickly suddenly being met with a look softer, but much fiercer than any look he had come face to face with on a dragon. Then, they were kissing.

 

Lance’s lips were rough, his fingers were rugged, his movements rushed. He let go of Keith’s other hand to tug at his hair while the one at his chin moved to Keith’s stomach and beneath the fabric of his shirt. The touch of his fingers playing at Keith’s abs tingled and had him convulsing in small spurts of pleasure as their tongues rolled together between their wetted lips. It took Keith a moment to pull himself away from the kisses and regain himself finally moving his hands and he brought them both beneath Lance’s shirt to feel the muscles of his back as Lance moved his kisses to Keith’s neck, open mouth and harsh, leaving marks that would be obvious the next day. He let out a groan as Lance’s fingers moved up higher, touching his nipples with a touch too cold to be normal.

 

Magic fingers.

 

Suddenly, there was a loud long whistle followed by a few shouts. Keith sat up suddenly and pushed Lance off when he saw a group of archers about halfway across the grass from where they had been practicing and where Keith and Lance had lanced. They were in the middle of an open tundra. In the open. With hundreds of dragons and their riders flying over them and more dragons and archers not far in the distance. It was one thing to flirt and chase each other, it was another to be so intimate when they were trying to work.

 

“Well if it isn’t Lord Keith. We were wondering who Lord Lance was making out with in the middle of the field this time. I guess it wasn’t a forced marriage if it’s actually you,” said one of the archers as Keith and Lance moved over to them.

 

Keith narrowed his eyes at them. Had it not been obvious who Lance was with. He knew his husband’s reputation, but they were married. He did not appreciate that others thought Lance would cheat on him so openly.

 

“Why are you guys not practicing?” Keith asked standing and brushing the snow from his clothes.

 

“Who is to say we weren’t? We came to see if you two just came down here to make kissy faces at each other,” said one of the archers.

 

“We were sent because Prince Commander Shiro wants to make sure you guys are actually working. We came to reign you in,” Keith said as he started chasing the archers back to where the other archers were doing target practice along with riders throwing magic from their dragons higher up.

 

“Looks more like he sent you two down here as punishment for playing around,” the archers commented over their shoulders before rushing off back to their targets.

 

Keith huffed and sent a glare back at Lance who was remounting Blue most likely headed up for those doing aerial target practice. Keith would have rather gone up and let Lance take care of the guys he was actually in charge of, but he was at least good enough to give archers instructions. He stood on a platform and rang a bell for the archers on the ground to hear him. It took a few minutes before arrows stopped zooming about and they turned to look at him.

 

“Lunch will be soon. Prince Commander Shiro wants to see you hit at least 180 in ten shots before then,” Keith instructed. There was a collective grumble. “And this is long range.” The grumble turned to growls and the archers started to come up for more arrows and to rearrange their targets.

 

Keith stood there feeling a bit proud as the archer listened to him. The soldiers had been a bit more agreeable lately as well, more so than after Lance’s little speech and that might be just because Keith felt a bit lighter. He knew being in a bad mood could put your men in a bad mood, but he would be delighted to be more approachable if it got better results.

 

“Make sure to keep a tally mark of your scores, I’ll be coming around to check and help out with your form-AH!”

 

A loud smack resounded around the range. Keith’s eyes widened and his hands went to his back end, touching his stinging bottom before he turned and glared.

 

“Quiznak, your ass is a lot firmer than I thought it would be,” Lance said holding up a reddened hand.

 

“Why...how...what...Lance!”

 

Suddenly, there was a soft chorus of giggling and snickering about the range.

 

“Looks like something good happened between those two.”

 

“Maybe Galra dick is good.”

 

“Or vagina.”

 

“I don’t think male Galra have vaginas.”

 

“Guess they really are married.”

 

“Did you see his ears? They move, it’s kind of cute.”

 

Keith reddened and moved his hands to immediately grab Lance by the collar of his shirt pulling him forward. He growled low so only Lance could hear him. “I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I’m not letting this go. You’re embarrassing me in front of our men.”

 

“Oh, I don’t plan on letting you forget about it,” Lance said, voice matching Keith’s only to grow louder as he continued, “but please, by all means, punish me later my fluffy little husband.”

 

Keith growled and pushed Lance away intending on having a round about the range with Red. He was suddenly grabbed and pulled to Lance who held him gently.

 

“Don’t be angry,” Lance said against his ear, nose tickling the soft fur there. “I’m just giving them something to entertain them. And it’s not bad for them to see we actually like each other, right?”

 

“You did that on purpose?” Keith asked scandalized.

 

“The ass slapping yes, the making out in the middle of a field, no,” Lance said.

 

“You're infuriating,” Keith said and tried to pull away.

 

“Wait, listen, tomorrow after we wash up, come with me somewhere. We’ll go on a date.”

 

A date?

 

“Oh...okay,” Keith agreed, his heart fluttering.

 

Lance grinned and leaned in kissing Keith’s lips quickly then his head before finally letting him go, bounding off in the direction of Blue and the aerial archers.

 

Keith stood on the podium a few moments longer watching Lance rise up into the air. He sighed feeling hot in the face and lifted one hand to his forehead where he’d been kissed, the other arm going to hug himself around his waist.

 

Two female archers walked by giggling and whispering to each other. “Even a Fire Master can be melted by Lord Lance’s smile.”

 

Keith moved his hand from his forehead to cover his whole face hiding his embarrassed smile. “What an insufferable cretin.”

 


 

 

For a day in the cold tundra of Altea, Keith felt exceptionally warm. It was normal not to wear coats while practicing, but Keith felt even that wouldn’t be enough. He felt sticky and hot, but there was still the cold chill in the air nipping at his nose and it would bring no relief if he was to go shirtless. Maybe if he buried himself in the snow, but then he would risk frostbite. As soon as Shiro allowed them to head for the showers after two back to back practice battle simulations on the large field beside the arena, Keith had ripped his shirt off and grabbed a pail of water without warming it. The cold stung his skin as he lifted the bucket over his head in the nearest stall and he hissed. He started scrubbing at his skin and wished he hadn’t used it all when the cloth darkened quickly.

 

“Hand me your pail,” a voice said.

 

Keith turned and saw Lance staring at him from over the wall of his stall, a hand reaching out.

 

“We’re only supposed to get one pail each,” Keith refused.

 

“Yes, and you’re also not suppose to dump your only pail over your head like that, either. I’m not giving you water so hand me the pail.”

 

Keith’s drenched ears flattened on his head as he handed Lance his pail. Lance took it and held his other hand over it letting snow sprinkle down from his fingers until the pail was half full then he handed it back. “Warm that up this time and make sure to dry up. We’re going to be flying to our next destination. I don’t want you getting sick because of it.”

 

Keith’s ears perked up. Right, Lance had promised to take them on a sort of date today. “What about you?”

 

“My hair’s not as long as yours and I’m not an idiot when it comes to water conservation. Besides, I know where we’re going. You don’t have to be terribly clean, but I’d rather not ram you against a wall still coated in blood this time.” Lance winked and left.

 

Keith held the bucket in his hands for a moment, embarrassment causing heat to move from his hands into the handle of the pail and through the rest of the metal. The snow instantly began to melt. Would Lance be pressing him up against the wall like the time when Blue had tried to mate Red? Keith was rather fond of that memory. Lance had been looser, more out of control. Perhaps it had just been Blue’s link to him, but Keith wanted to see more of that, yearned for more, even if it was just kissing again.

 

He still very much enjoyed kissing.

 

Once the grime was off his body and his hair, Keith left the stall and the arena and went to wait by Red who was making clicking sounds at Blue perched up on the wall of the training area. He patted her red scales with a smile.

 

“I’m glad you two are friends now,” Keith said.

 

Red turned her head and purred at Keith before clicking more at the Blue who finally turned to look down at her letting out a friendly cold snort.

 

“Sometimes I can’t understand what they’re talking about,” a voice said from beside Keith.

 

Keith turned to see Lance walking past him with a bag slung over his shoulder. He raised a hand and Blue dropped down to let his rider mount.

 

“I read once that dragons don’t actually talk to each other. It’s all intention, almost telepathic. Like with a rider, apparently close dragons can just share thoughts or feelings to communicate,” Keith said and mounted Red.

 

“Then what was all that clicking about?”

 

“She use to do it a lot to me before she had her first heat. It’s just a sound of affection. She’d done it a couple of times for Black. Being smaller, not all of her sounds are roars,” Keith explained and followed Lance into the air. “Where are we going anyways?”

 

Blue curled around Red in the air, blocking her in and giving them room to speak more intimately. “It’s a surprise.”

 

Keith looked around. It was difficult to see between Blue’s coils, but he didn’t see any sign of Pidge or her Green. “Is it not far? Pidge isn’t here.”

 

“Pidge won’t be coming. Don’t worry, though, she’s going to guard Shiro for you,” Lance explained.

 

“Oh, and who is going to guard our Heir Prince?”

 

Lance grinned and adjusted the bag on his shoulder. “Why, my amazing husband will.”

 

Keith’s ears perked up. “Oh, does the court know we’re switching off?”

 

“Voltron’s balls, no,” Lance laughed and uncoiled Blue. “So, let’s hurry up before Hunk spills where we’re going and they find out I didn’t take Pidge with me. He folds a lot more easily under pressure than she does.”

 

Lance shot off into the distance. Keith was quick to reach his heels and kept Red in the larger dragon’s slipstream. He felt apprehensive about leaving Shiro alone, but the Prince Commander had created his own personal guard to train and Pidge would watch over him, Keith trusted Pidge. He knew being a Prince would mean he would have to leave his charge’s side from time to time, but he had never thought about leaving for personal reasons. Shiro would have no qualms about it, but Keith still felt guilty.

 

Not guilty enough to turn around.

 

The air they flew against was cold and only grew harsher as they headed farther and farther north. Keith counted at least half an hour before he saw mountains rising in the distance. As they flew closer, Keith noticed buildings, tall and magnificent, built out of the rock with wooden accents and accents of dragon stone on the older houses. They circled the town a few times before landing a ways from it. There was a large enough expanse of flat rock for both Red and Blue to land and Keith jumped off immediately covering himself with his flames in an attempt to warm himself up.

 

“Sorry about that,” Lance said rubbing his own hands together to warm them up even covered in riding gloves. “I didn’t expect it to get quite that cold in the afternoon. Let’s hurry inside.”

 

“Inside?” Keith asked and looked around. They were on a mountain ledge. Though there seemed to be a small pass that led to the town a ways off, Keith hoped Lance didn’t expect them to walk there when they could have easily landed at the town’s gates and had a much quicker walk to warmth.

 

Lance reached out with an ice covered hand as not to get burned by Keith’s flames and pulled him the opposite way of the path by his wrist. Keith reined back his flames and followed Lance confused. He stopped at a mess of rocks and started to climb them. Keith followed after surprised when Lance disappeared at the top. When he came up, he almost stepped into a large hole in the ground, the trees around it the only thing keeping it from being filled with snow.

 

“Come on down, I’ll catch you. Your feet are going to get wet, though,” Lance called out from within the cave.

 

Keith stared down at the hole suspiciously before lowering himself and sliding in. He got lumps of snow pressed into his practice clothes and felt colder for it as he slid down the slick rock and dirt landing in a rumpled heap in a pile of snow. He sat up quickly and looked around. He didn’t see Lance anywhere and hoped he hadn’t gone down the wrong hole or simply heard Lance through the tunnel he seemed to have landed in from somewhere off in the distance. A muffled vibration against his bottom brought Keith’s attention to the ground and he noticed a familiar pair of legs sticking out from underneath him. Hands reached out from the snow and pushed at Keith’s back making him lean forward.

 

“Quiznack, you’re thick, Keith,” Lance said, his hands moving from Keith’s back to press at his ass. He took a few exaggerated breaths before grinning at Keith. “I mean, sit on my face anyday, but not when I’m also smothered by snow. I couldn’t breath.”

 

“Sit on your...you were suppose to catch me,” Keith said and crawled off from Lance before standing up and offering his husband a hand, the flirtatious jokes only half understandable to Keith.

 

“Huh, never heard of facesitting, looks like I’ll have to teach you that one,” Lance said as he allowed Keith to help pull him up. He patted the snow off himself then reached out and started to pat at Keith’s clothes, hands patting more insistently at Keith’s bottom. “Not that I would mind.”

 

Keith pulled away feeling heat creep up his neck. He glared at Lance, arms crossed. “What is with your fascination with my ass lately, Lance? You slapped it in front of the whole archery circuit.”

 

Lance raised a brow and held out his hands as if Keith was missing something. He probably was, but he wasn’t in the mood to dig at the itch in the back of his brain. He was cold. He started to moved his hands up and down his arms to warm himself up. Lance’s face softened and he reached a hand out, modestly placing it on Keith’s lower back to push him forward in the tunnel.

 

“You may not be as innocent as I think, but you’re way more innocent than you think,” Lance said leading him.

 

Well, Keith couldn’t say he wasn’t innocent at all. He let Lance have his words and followed where Lance led. “Where are we going anyways?”

 

“Didn’t you see the waterfall? Can’t you guess?”

 

Keith shook his head. “No, it must have been on the other side of Blue.”

 

“Well, then I guess it’ll be more of a surprise. I did take you the secret way. I already reserved it for us, but I didn’t want a whole bunch of hub bub waiting for us and ruining our date.”

 

Keith hummed at that. He wasn’t sure why anyone would care that they were on a date. Maybe because they were princes. Fairly attractive princes with rumors and stories about them. Oh.

 

As they walked, Keith felt his skin getting sweaty. He was still cold, but there was a humidity to the air that overtook the cold and he could hear water that he had previously ignored, getting closer. They stopped when they reached a large cavern filled with layered pools of water. Some of the pools overfilled into the ones below while others were stand alone and all of them had a light cover of steam on their surface. They were dimly lit by torches and a few Builder lightbulbs closer to the other end of the cavern. The cavern itself opened up into a larger pond of the same warm water overlooking the setting sun in an infinitive like horizon dropping down into the waterfall Lance had mentioned. The cavern itself was made of black and white rock, the white mostly forming stalagmites and stalactites on the outside edges. It was familiar to Keith, but at the same time, different. He was use to hot springs covered by tropical plants with dragons flying overhead at all hours of the day, not this snowy warm oasis, but it was beautiful.

 

"A hot springs?" Keith asked.

 

"Yes, a hot springs. Hurry and get undressed so we can get in," Lance said. He seemed excited, but his voice was smooth, too smooth.

 

"I don't have swimming wear, unless you brought some," Keith pointed out, though he was almost willing to just jump into the warmth of the water as is.

 

"I brought stuff, but that would not be one of them," Lance said then leaned in against Keith, his chest against his back. His lips were suddenly at Keith's ears, his warm breath tickling his fur as he lowered his voice teasingly. "Get naked, Keith."

 

A shiver ran up Keith's spine and he choked on an inhale. He could feel Lance grinning.

 

"If you're embarrassed about anyone seeing you," Lance said, his hands moving to Keith's arms and lifting them, sliding until he held Keith's hands on top of his, "you could always turn off the lights."

 

Lance suddenly nipped at Keith's neck and Keith jumped, his hands clenching and suddenly the torches went out leaving most of the cavern in darkness.

 

Lance chuckled and moved away. There was rustling behind Keith and then a body quickly rushed forward and jumped into one of the larger pools. Keith's eyes darted after the shadow of a body swimming below the surface of the water then gasped as Lance sprang forward directly below a large circle of light in the middle of the pool from a hole in the cavern ceiling. His body glistened with the water, broad shoulders and muscled arms accentuated by the glint of water. His muscles flexed as Lance lifted his hands to push water away from his face and then he turned to Keith and flashed a grin.

 

"Care to join, Lord Keith?" Lance asked, turning his body causing some of the steam to move to give Keith a clear view of him. The water stopped three quarters up his thigh giving Keith plenty of view of what lay down below.

 

Keith swallowed thickly and started to pull at his own clothes.

 

Swimming naked wasn't an unusual concept to Keith. He had done it often enough as a child when traveling through oases with his father. Even in the city some of the citizens would offer up barrels of water on the more unbearable days for the city's children to play in. They had no way of knowing that Keith wasn't a city child with his mop of dark long hair unruly and sticking out so that the tufts of his ears matched in with them, so he always played with the other children until one of them ratted him out. He was only nervous because Lance had made it seem as if this was a public space. And because Lance was naked. So, if he got naked, too...the hopeful thoughts needed to be pressed down. Lance was a notorious tease even with his own husband.

 

Unlike Lance, Keith waded slowly into the pool Lance had taken occupancy in. The warmth of it immediately started to work deep into his sore muscles and felt heavenly. Before he could even make it to Lance, he was dunking his hole body in, hair only recently dried getting drenched again. When he came back up, he coughed on water dripping into his mouth coming face to face with a marked up bare chest.

 

Lance lowered himself so they were at eye level and reached out for Keith's hands. "Come with me, there's something you have to see."

 

Keith swam with Lance back to the center of the pool where the source of the light hung above them.

 

"Look up," Lance instructed.

 

Keith did as and was in awe. Above them, hundreds and thousands of twinkling stars looked down upon them. Lance pulled him flush against his side with an arm around his shoulder changing his angle and Keith was faced with a large almost red colored full moon.

 

"I've never gotten to see the evening moon so big before," Keith said. " Especially not when it reflects red. I didn't even realize it was this late."

 

"It gets darker the farther north you go. And both the evening moon and the night moon cross here. Before the sun rises, the night moon will. I can wake you up in time to see it if you want. It won't be as big as it is on the desert, but it should also be red tonight."

 

"In the morning?" Keith asked still staring up at the stars and the moon. "Are we staying here all night?"

 

"Well, if everything goes to plan," Lance said almost under his breath.

 

Plan? Keith was curious. He didn't want to ruin Lance's plan, so he chose not to question it any further. They were on a date, their first one as a married duo. He thought it was already rather romantic even if nothing more happened. Keith leaned against Lance still staring at the sky through the large hole. It was high enough that the steam wasn't blocking the view, but the warmth of the hot springs must have made it so it wasn't covered with snow. Or someone had cleared it.

 

There was suddenly something soft against Keith's cheek and he turned to see Lance giving him a look softer than the touch had felt. It made Keith's stomach flip flop and squeeze in a strange, but delightful way. He liked when Lance looked soft.

 

"I thought you might like it if we came at night since you like stars. I found out the moon was going to be at its biggest and reddest tonight. I had to pull a few strings to get this place reserved, though," Lance said. “Luckily, I have a lot of acquaintances.”

 

Keith smiled. "I like it a lot. I'm glad you showed me. Did you really have to reserve the whole hot springs, though? Others should see it, too."

 

"Almost every Altean has seen it. Perhaps not from this exact spot, but few find it all that interesting. I’ve always appreciated its beauty and I thought you would, too. Besides, we couldn't be naked if I hadn't," Lance said and winked.

 

Keith raised his eyebrows. "Oh? So being naked is part of your plan, Lord Lance?"

 

There was mischief in Lance's eyes as he replied, "Maybe."

 

Keith was about to poke more into it when Lance's arm around his shoulder suddenly pressed down and he was under the water again. When he resurfaced choking, he was fuming. He looked around the pool, Galra genes always making it easier to see in the dark, and spotted his offender off in one of the darker shadows on the water’s steamy surface.

 

"Lance, I swear, I'm going to make you pay for that!" he yelled.

 

Lance laughed and lifted a leg splashing water towards Keith with it. "Catch me if you can, Fire Master. I'm in my element."

 

"You're an Ice Master!"

 

"Level 1, baby. I've got some control over flowing water, too." With that said, Keith suddenly felt a splash on his back and yelped.

 

"That's not fair."

 

"Sure it is, you can still see me if it's dark, now hurry and catch me."

 

Keith growled and followed Lance's movements with his eyes. He slowly waded to a darker corner of the pool and began to move even slower in the direction he saw Lance trying to avoid the splashes Lance sent at him through the water. If Lance was good, he could probably detect Keith's movements in the water, but they were playing around. Still, it wasn't in Keith's nature to drop that possibility. Lance did hit him even while hiding multiple times and he tried not to make any noticeable sound of anger.

 

"Here, kitty kitty kitty," Lance called out. "I've never met a cat, but I hear they really hate water. Snow cats are rare in the southern parts of Altea."

 

Keith watched Lance move in the water with a predatory gaze. He had met a cat. They had many cats in the area bordering the Builder's territory and there were even sand cats that liked to visit the oases. Though, he had never met a lion, the sigil for both their kingdoms. It was said they were a rare beast in the far east where Voltron had originated. Or maybe it was so east it was west. Zarkon had heard of Voltron after all. Either way, Keith waited until Lance had waded into the pool of light again seeming bored by Keith's seriousness to their game.

 

"I'm right here, come and get me," Lance teased.

 

Perfect, Keith thought and launched up out of the water, his hands held out. The torches in the cavern lit up again. While Lance was distracted, Keith lept and pushed Lance under the water. When he resurfaced, Keith immediately latched his arms around Lance's neck and clung.

 

"Got you!" Keith exclaimed suddenly feeling ecstatic.

 

Lance's arms grabbed Keith around the waist and brought him closer, their wet chests touching beneath the surface of the water. He leaned in and placed his forehead against Keith's, teeth showing as he smiled, blue eyes, watery, but swirling with fondness as they looked deep into Keith's.

 

"No, I got you," he said.

 

Keith breath heavily after their play, but it slowed down the longer Lance stared at him. Lance’s smile also fell and there was a sharpness to the air between them. What little air there was. They were flush against each other in the water, chest touching chest, Keith’s hips almost straddling Lance’s lap as they crouched in the water. They were so very naked and so very close, as close and naked as they had been since their wedding night. Lance had been mostly innocent about getting them naked that night and Keith didn’t want to get his hopes up again. He didn’t want to pressure Lance, but there was heat creeping through his veins and a flush on his skin not from the steam of the hot springs. They hadn’t had this sharpness that night and it would have to break or pierce.

 

Keith stayed still and took steady breaths. He didn’t want to break this standstill, he didn’t want to be the one to make the move. Behind those blue orbs was something caged and clawing at its bars. But, they weren’t being forced to stay in the cage. They could leave if they wanted, or maybe they didn’t know when to leave. Eyes, they said so much more than words could. Unlike Lance, Keith had raised Red since she was a hatchling. He had trained her and part of training was being able to see what a wild animal wanted just in their eyes, to see them forcing themselves to stay when all they wanted to do was fly. Lance was anything but a wild animal, but he wasn’t Shiro either whose eyes held ghosts no one could ever explain, but Keith knew when to pry with Shiro and when to give him space. He wanted to do the same for Lance. And right now...Keith’s fingers moved before he could make a decision. It was barely a touch to the curling hairs on the nape of Lance’s neck, but it was enough for Lance to shoot from his cage and kiss him.

 

The kiss was searing. It slipped from a hard press into a kiss of tongues and teeth quickly. Lance’s hands around Keith’s waist pulled him closer until he was straddling the Blue knight and Keith held tighter around Lance’s neck, one hand going fully into the other’s short locks. He tilted his head and followed Lance’s lead in the kiss pushing back with his own feelings. However far Lance took this, Keith wanted it. The realization about how much he wanted Lance returned.

 

He loved Lance.

 

Lance pressed Keith closer and their groins touched. Keith threw his head back and moaned at the sensation, different when surrounded by heavenly warm water the steam musing up his mind. Lance’s kisses did not stop. Deprived of Keith’s lips, they found home on his neck. Keith gasped and shivered. It felt good. He brought his bottom lip between his teeth careful not to bite too hard, but he didn’t know what sort of sounds he would make. He felt like he should be making sounds, but he didn’t want to speak, didn’t want to do anything that would make Lance pull away.

 

Lance’s hips swiveled below the water surface pressing their groins together more. His lips moved along Keith’s neck to his collarbone instead then back up to Keith’s lips when they could go no further with the water in the way. He moved one hand from Keith’s waist and brought it up to his hair, tugging and tugging and Keith tugged back though there was little to tug on with Lance’s hair. The tugging on his hair wasn’t that harsh and Keith didn’t really mind it until it was and his head was forced back. He groaned in slight pain, but mostly unpleased, but that feeling went away when Lance’s lips were at his ear, his nose nuzzling into the fur that covered their pointed tufts.

 

“How much do you want me, Keith?” Lance asked, voice low and vibrating pleasantly against the tunnels of Keith’s larger ears.

 

What kind of question was that? Was Lance toying with him? It was unfair, but Keith wanted to answer truthfully. “I want all of you, Lance, so much.”

 

“Since when have you wanted me?” The second question came with a press of Lance’s hand on the lower of Keith’s back pressing their hardnesses together.

 

Keith moaned. Lance had groan big, he could feel it pulsing against his own almost as hard as he remembered getting in all his years of life. “Since our wedding night.”

 

“Before or after you stuck my cock in your mouth?”

 

Right, he had done that. The memory just made him more aware of the penis against his own. “After. Immediately after.”

 

Lance nipped at Keith’s fuzzy ear. “Quiznak! I should have bent you over that window seat when I got there and had my way with you like everyone thought I had if that’s how you felt.”

 

“You weren’t ready,” Keith pointed out.

 

“I was ready, but I would have royally screwed it up. We needed to have a talk. We talked. Now I’m ready to chip away that part of your innocence one might call virginity,” Lance said.

 

Keith’s heart fluttered, no, it erupted realizing what Lance’s plans for the night really were. He hadn’t been feeling needlessly hopeful. He tugged his head free of Lance’s hand and pressed against his hardness looking deep into his husband’s eyes. “How much do you want me?”

 

Lance chuckled. “I literally whisked you away from court and brought you to a rented out hot spring so we could swim naked under the moonlight and stars. How much do you think I want you?”

 

“I don’t know, a date is a date, it just shows me you like me. It’s all very romantic, but you’re a huge tease,” Keith said and raised a brow daring Lance to deny that.

 

Lance seemed a bit embarrassed, but leaned up and pecked Keith’s lips. “I’ve had sex in a hot springs before, but not at night and not planned. I wanted our first time to be special, your first time.”

 

“I thank you for the consideration, but wouldn’t our wedding bed be just as special?”

 

“I didn’t want the court to have anything to do with this. I wanted to be far away from everybody, but comfortable. Just us. I have been considering it, just waking you up in the middle of the night when you fall asleep in bed with me and all your books, but you’re too cute when you sleep. And I often fall asleep first.”

 

A slight smile tugged at Keith’s lips at that. He hadn’t known Lance paid attention when he slept. He had watched Lance sleep for days before. “And why can’t we go home tonight?”

 

Lance gave him a mischievous smile and moved both of his hands to Keith’s bottom, squeezing. It made Keith jump and bite his bottom lip again. He really wasn’t use to people touching his butt.

 

“Well, because one of us might be too sore to ride. I figured sleeping it off would help heal it up and we can both fly Blue, so whoever is sore can sleep on Blue and Red can follow.”

 

Keith sighed. “You really did plan this all out, didn’t you?”

 

Lance winked. “I even brought food and blankets and a change of clothes.”

 

Lance was a sappy idiot, Keith decided and pressed his forehead against Lance’s. “I love you, Lance. That’s all the permission you need. Whenever you’re ready, I’m more than willing to have whatever piece of me you want chipped away.”

 

Lance’s breath staggered. “I like it when you say that.”

 

“Say what? That I love you?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“I love you, Lance,” Keith repeated. Just saying it out like that was a little embarrassing, but Keith repeated it again. “I love you.”

 

Lance suddenly pulled Keith tight to him and put his face in the crook of Keith’s shoulder. “I want you.”

 

“Take me then.”

 

Lance rubbed his nose along Keith’s neck and moved his hands to his bottom again. “I want to give you a choice on how we do this, but I really, really want to...You have such a nice butt, is it okay?”

 

Keith chuckled. “However you want, Lance. I’m the inexperienced one here, I’ll trust you to lead.”

 

“Alright,” Lance said, voice gaining a bit of confidence. “Kiss me.”

 

“Gladly”, Keith said and pressed his lips to Lance’s.

 

As soon as their familiar rhythm from before returned, Keith felt fingers pressing at his hole. They were slow, teasing, and it was strange. He felt himself tightening with an alien excitement each millimeter Lance’s first finger entered. Then came his second, the water helping to ease them in. There were salts and other minerals in the water. And they were in one of the top pools of the spring so it was continuously being replenished by the water source further up the mountain. However, the farther Lance’s fingers moved into Keith, rubbing against his walls in an unfamiliar, but pleasant way, the more uncomfortable Keith got. He was already hard. On his own, he was usually a pretty difficult person to pleasure, but he felt close to cumming already and then Lance’s fingers pressed something that sent a jolt through him and he was sure that if he hadn’t already been leaking precum, he was leaking it now.

 

“L-Lance!” Keith yelled as Lance pressed that spot again. “St-stop.”

 

Immediately, Lance stopped. Keith whined feeling the lost of his lover’s fingers inside him as they were swiftly pulled out and Lance instead moved his hands to cup Keith’s face looking concerned.

 

“What is it? Did I hurt you? Did you change your mind?”

 

Keith shook his head. Seeing Lance’s worries written all over his face made Keith feel stupid. But, he couldn’t shake the feeling of not wanting to dirty the water even if it was going to be immediately filtered out. “The water...I’m close to...I just don’t want it to get dirty. It’s really nice water.”

 

Lance suddenly laughed. “Really, that’s your worry? Easily remedied. I needed to get something anyways. I did say I brought blankets.”

 

The Blue knight stood suddenly with Keith still in his arms. Keith wrapped his legs around Lance’s waist surprised. “H-hey, I can walk myself.”

 

“Not if I’m kissing you you can’t,” Lance said and swooped down as he waded through the water with Keith in his arms.

 

Keith didn’t argue anymore. He held on with one arm around Lance’s neck and the other around his shoulders feeling the muscles there move beneath his skin. Keith thought Lance had probably been a lanky teen with a small waist and hips more than butt, but he had grown into his body and Keith was very much fascinated with Lance’s body. He wasn’t sure what Lance thought of his own body, he had always been one to gain muscle easily, but he at least knew Lance had an unhealthy admiration for Keith’s bottom end and that was all that really mattered at this moment as Lance made it to the water’s edge of their chosen pool and laid Keith down onto something much softer than rock. A blanket, Keith hadn’t known it had already been laid out, just enough so Keith couldn’t feel the sharpness of the rock below. And there was a basket with a flask sticking out. Keith could already smell some kind of food within.

 

“A gift from the friend that helped me set this up,” Lance said smiling down at Keith and pulled the bag he’d brought over to them taking out a small vial from inside with a thick liquid tinted purple.

 

“Oh, it’s to help it go in, right?” Keith asked.

 

Lance beamed. “Yep, lube. Now spread them legs pretty for me, alright?”

 

Keith groaned, but did as asked. He hadn’t expected it to make him feel subconscious and he had to fight the urge to rid the cavern of firelight again. If he did that, though, he wouldn’t be able to see Lance and it would seem more like a dream.

 

To his merit, Lance didn’t say anything more embarrassing. He coated his fingers in the lube and held onto one of Keith’s legs, pulling it over his shoulder before pressing the two fingers he’d had inside Keith back in. They slid in much easier this time and Keith let out a surprised breath as they started scissoring. Keith watched them somewhat fascinated by how they moved inside him. But, he was easily distracted by Lance in front of him. His stomach was chiseled and there was a line of hair that went almost up to his chest scarred and beautiful. Keith wanted to touch it, but he was at an awkward angle. Besides, he didn’t want to take away from how Lance was looking at him. The Blue knight had his eyes focused on trying not to hurt Keith, but burning with lust staring between Keith’s legs. He didn’t really understand what was attractive about what was down there, but having Lance patient, but wanting, wanting him, had Keith feeling things he had never felt before and he leaned back, spreading himself even further, and tried to loosen up.

 

“You’re doing good, Keith,” Lance said. His voice was strained.

 

Keith thought Lance was doing good, too, much better than Red the first time Keith had told her to stay then waved a steak in front of her face. “I feel good.”

 

“That’s good, keep feeling good. You can cum if you want. I promise I can make you cum multiple times,” Lance said, his voice trying to sound cocky, though there was still a sultriness to his worry.

 

Keith moaned. “I don’t want to. I...I think I want you in me.”

 

“Well, you’ll have to wait. I need to add another finger. I’m not disappointing flaccid, but I’m definitely more of a grower,” Lance said.

 

That of course brought Keith’s attention to Lance’s member. He didn’t seem much longer than the last time Keith had looked. Off handedly, they were about the same size, but he did seem more girthy. And it had pearls of precum on its tip already. Had he really had that thing in his mouth only a few weeks ago? Never had Keith moaned at the site of a cock before.

 

“Like what you see?” Lance teased.

 

“Quiznak,” Keith said and leaned back covering his face with his arms.

 

Lance didn’t mess around with the third finger. He pushed it in and it was uncomfortable, but then the tips of his fingers milked at a spot close to that where he was pulsing to be touched and his hips began to jerk, his one cock bouncing with the movements. It was embarrassing, but he was fascinated by it watching it from between his arms until he finally gave up and leaned back up on his arms watching himself being prepped comfortably.

 

“Do you like watching me prepare you?” Lance asked removing his fingers.

 

“I don’t know. I just want to see it happen. I’ve never seen it before.”

 

“Do you want to see me enter you, too?” Lance asked taking a hold of his member and moving closer to Keith. His legs were still in the pool, but this close to the ledge, most of his hips were leveled with Keith’s.

 

“Yeah, I do,” Keith answered and sat up a bit more, both arms supporting him behind his back.

 

Lance reached out with his free hand and pressed down on Keith’s thigh that wasn’t in the air, the rest of his leg still resting on Lance’s shoulder. He moved forward the weeping end of Lance's member pressing at his stretched out hole. Keith felt himself twitch when it touched it and then slip in just enough to be anchored and give Lance guidance. Lance removed his hand and grabbed Keith’s lifted Leg at his thigh, spreading it out, too giving him more access to Keith’s hole. Then, he looked up and met Keith’s eyes.

 

It was strange, a little bit out of body as Keith had watched himself be prepared, but now that it was on the verge of happening, Keith suddenly found himself slapped with reality. It wasn’t a bad reality. His ears swiveled and flattened a bit and a low growl rumbled in his chest. He looked at Lance for a moment then nodded.

 

Lance slammed in. It was a shock, but not exactly painful. The first thrust was definitely uncomfortable. Keith looked down immediately seeing Lance buried to his balls inside him. There was an ache and he could feel a pulse, a heat, not his own. Lance. He could feel Lance. They were connected. His breathing got heavier. Lance’s hand left his free leg and moved to pet through his hair.

 

“It’s okay, you feel really good, just relax. I can pull out if you want, but it's probably better if we continue. I don’t want you to just think of pain,” Lance said through a strained voice.

 

Did he really feel good?

 

Keith shook his head. “It doesn’t hurt, I just...can you start moving?”

 

“Should I go slow?”

 

Keith shook his head again. “However you want.”

 

Lance pulled out halfway then pushed back in. He did that a few times, slow, still petting Keith’s hair. When he started to speed up, he moved his hand from Keith’s hair and wrapped it around his member stroking. Keith gasped and leaned back a bit. He didn’t really notice Lance moving inside him when he was stroking his member. Well, he did notice, but it neither hurt nor felt particularly good until it suddenly did.

 

“There!”

 

“There, huh,” Lance said and let go of Keith’s member. He pressed a hand against Keith’s chest forcing him to lay on his back then grabbed both of Keith’s legs and pulled him closer to him on the ledge.

 

Yes there. Yes, yes, yes. And the friction. It had stopped feeling weird and just felt good. That initial jolt had made everything suddenly feel good again. And Lance was rubbing against that spot again, not quite how Keith wanted it, but it felt so teasingly good.

 

“Lance! Please,” Keith begged.

 

Lance shifted and suddenly he was leaning over Keith kissing him, one hand on Keith’s thigh, the other in his hair. He pulled away from kissing and buried his face against Keith’s neck slamming faster into him. It made a provocative wet sound that had Keith keening.

 

“You’re purring, Keith,” Lance groaned against his neck.

 

Was he? It wasn’t like they didn’t already know he did that. His body jerked. He was close. Immediately, Keith wrapped his arms around Lance’s body. “Lance, please. I’m close.”

 

“Right,” Lance said and sucked on his neck, the hand on his thigh going between them to stroke Keith’s member in time with Lance’s erratic thrusts.

 

Keith wasn’t sure if Lance was close or not. He wanted to ask, but couldn’t find the words, all he could do was moan and shiver with pleasure. His hips started to canter against Lance’s, urging him this way and that where his body desired the friction most. And then that build up in the bottom of his stomach erupted and he dug his nails into Lance’s shoulders, taking them down as he stretched up against Lance with a sound he thought only Red could make when she was in heat.

 

Then, a wetness, not just between his body and Lance’s, but inside of him.

 

Lance.

 

Keith laid limp barely able to hold on to Lance over him. He stared with blurry eyes up at the ceiling of the cavern and took in slow shallow breaths, everything swirling around him emotions and senses and thoughts.

 

Lance groaned against his neck. “That hurt.”

 

Hurt?

 

“I forgot how sharp your nails were.”

 

Oh. “Sor...ry.”

 

Lance nuzzled his nose into Keith’s neck. “Nah, it’s fine. I’ll take love scars over battle scars anyday.”

 

Keith let his fingers trail along Lance’s scars as he finally let his arms fall to the side.

 

“And you growled. I mean, I kind of expected the purring. But the growling noises were hot. I knew you did those when Red was in heat, but she’s not even in heat and you did that.”

 

“I’m half Galra,” Keith reminded him, his tongue feeling heavy. “I do that...sometimes.”

 

“Well, I don’t mind, the scratching either,” Lance said and kissed Keith’s chin as he lifted himself to stare down at his husband. He grinned. “I mean it was hot, super hot. I think I’ll have to be the spokesperson for getting yourself a Galra lover.”

 

Galra lovers? That might not be a bad thing to encourage after they got rid of Zarkon’s Empire.

 

But still.

 

Keith glared up at Lance lovingly. “Shut up, Lance.”

 


 

 

Keith was not unfamiliar with waking up on hard surfaces, sweat covering his skin. Nor was he unfamiliar with waking up sore. What he was unfamiliar was waking up in both ways while also being naked with arms wrapped securely around him. Keith blinked slowly, dim light filling the cave around them, but it gave him enough light to make out the shadows on the face in front of him. Lance's face, so close he could kiss it. Instead, he wriggled an arm free and poked Lance's lips. There was a small scar on one he hadn't noticed before. Perhaps it was new. Perhaps it was from him, though Keith had learned to be gentle with his slightly sharper teeth. After a moment, Lance's lips parted, first in a small breath, then in a yawn that brought Lance’s breath to fill the air between their faces. Keith wrinkled his nose and poked his finger into Lance's mouth.

 

Lance gagged and immediately pulled away, sitting up a bit. He turned to look down at Keith in surprise holding his throat. "Voltron's balls, Keith, I almost thought you were trying to stick your dick in my mouth. Quiznak!"

 

Keith turned onto his back and frowned at Lance. "You think mine's that small? I'm offended."

 

Lance grinned and suddenly moved so he was hovering over top of Keith. "Small? Not at all, but I would rather wake up with you putting my dick in your mouth than trying to shove yours in mine when I'm still asleep. I'd rather not choke."

 

"What about me?" Keith asked. Lance...no way was Lance all the way turned on when Keith had attempted that on their wedding night. He'd seen it last night...last night...

 

Lance lowered himself so he was closer to Keith and pecked his lips. "I'll teach you how to do it first and then you can have at it all you like."

 

Keith hummed and looked away. He took in the cavern. The torches weren't lit up and he dimly remembered waving them off before falling asleep once his stomach was full last night. After they'd had sex, Lance had let him nap then woken him up for a snack and another dip in in the hot spring that involved Keith coming a few more times from just Lance's fingers and then Keith stroking Lance off curiously. After that, it was hazy. He thought he must have fallen asleep in Lance's arms.

 

"We missed the pass of the midnight moon," Keith pointed out seeing the sun high on the horizon.

 

Lance smiled apologetically. "Yeah, sorry, we can watch it another time. I know of other good places in the north to see the moons. My father's city is a northern city so when I was there and wanted to get away, I flew north. In the castle, I flew south to the Builders to see Hunk and Pidge."

 

"I always flew north to the Builders or east. I've crossed quite a bit of the endless grasslands," Keith said.

 

"Ah, I've never been. Seems scary."

 

"It's...strange."

 

Silence fell between them for a few moments and then Lance laid himself fully on top of Keith, lips lazily kissing the skin of his shoulders and chest. Keith closed his eyes, enjoying the tingles the presses left on his skin.

 

They'd had sex. Which meant their marriage was also consummated, but that mattered little to anyone. All that mattered was the fact they'd had sex. Keith wasn't sure if it had been mind blowing. Lance hadn't asked how it was for him. It was definitely something good and something Keith wanted to do again. It had been his first time and he was inexperienced and he suspected Lance had been much gentler than he could be, but it was good. He trusted Lance to make it good, to give him the first time he thought best suited them.

 

And if he wanted to start something right now, well that may or may not be a good idea, but Keith didn't always make the best decisions.

 

Lance groaned and pressed his nose into Keith's sternum stopping the affectionate kisses. "You're littered."

 

"Littered?" Keith asked.

 

Lance moved away and sat up giving Keith room to do the same. "Look at yourself."

 

Keith did and frowned at the bruises and red marks mostly on his shoulders and chest where they wouldn't be as obvious unless someone was looking down his shirt. He still glared at Lance, though. "I should have given you some, too. You didn't really let me touch you."

 

Lance shrugged. "I didn't stop you from touching me, I was just trying to make it about you. You did give me some pretty good scratches to remember the night."

 

He turned and Keith could see the healing lines from his nails. Only seven nails had really dug in, three on one and four on the other, the fourth only going half as long as the others, but they were there and plain for anyone to see. Keith reached out and touched them lightly then leaned in and kissed one.

 

"I'd let you kiss all my wounds right now, but we should head back to the castle. How do you feel? I didn't want to pound you too much, but I did play around with my fingers more than I should have for someone who has to ride," Lance said and made a motion with two fingers that had Keith clenching his bottom.

 

It was sore.

 

Keith pressed his lips together and considered if he should give flying Red a try. "Will I always be sore?"

 

"Well, you don't always have to take it. I haven't been on the receiving end in a while so it would take me a minute to get use to it, but I know you will get use to it unless we go like seven times in one day."

 

"Is that possible?" Keith asked. He supposed cumming seven times in one day was.

 

Lance's grin grew. "Wait until Red goes into heat again and we'll do a test."

 

Keith raised a foot and poked at Lance's chest with it. "Don't talk about that. I can't bare it."

 

Lance laughed and stood up going over to the bag he had brought along. “We should get dressed and head back, it’s already later than I meant for it to be. You’ll fly with me. I feel like unless you’re sexed until you can’t walk, you’ll force yourself to fly with Red.”

 

“I’m fine, I can fly,” Keith said standing up and gritting his teeth together at the unfamiliar stress on his hips. He’d flown with way worse just from battles.

 

Lance rolled his eyes and threw Keith a change of clothes. “My point exactly.”

 

When they got back to the ledge where they had left Red and Blue, there were already townspeople tracking up the path towards the hot spring Keith and Lance had just left, mostly young couples with children. It was the warmer months in Altea. Keith supposed the Hot Springs were as close as most families in northern Altea would get to swimming unless they became an ice breather’s rider.

 

Blue kept Keith from climbing over his body to get to Red in one last stitch to try and fly his own dragon. Red didn’t seem to care either way and shot up into the sky once Keith had given up. As a smaller dragon, it would be more fun to fly without a rider. Lance mounted Blue first then reached down and pulled Keith up sideways in front of him.

 

“Why am I sideways?” Keith asked.

 

“You might as well fly Red if you’re going to sit the other way,” Lance said and wrapped the reins on his saddle around one arm so he was free to hold Keith in the other.

 

“I feel like a child,” Keith said. He could have just lain down on Red, that was the prefered way of fly