“Got nothing over here.” Lance coasted along the vastness of space in the Red Lion. A few vargas ago Pidge had picked up an anomaly on the sensors that had then disappeared. Lance had volunteered to check it out. So far it was a whole lot of nothing. After the half a vargas, the blackness of space with stars smattered about had gone from interesting to mind-numbingly boring.
Lance had hoped he’d find a spacecraft filled with a bunch of beautiful babes by now.
Why was fate so cruel to him?
“Strange,” Pidge’s voice came over the comms. Pidge hummed in thought, and Lance could picture Pidge typing away at the castle’s consol. “You should have run into it by now.”
“You sure it wasn’t a comet?” That would make sense, right? Those things went pretty fast, Lance thought.
“If it was, I’d be worried about our sensors,” Pidge replied. “They should have no trouble identifying comets. I didn’t see anything off about of them earlier, but maybe I should take another look?”
“In the meantime, come back to the castle, Lance,” Shiro ordered, breaking his silence.
Lance hadn’t known Shiro had been nearby when he contacted Pidge. He wasn’t surprised though. Shiro liked to keep tabs on everything that went on in and out of the castle.
Shiro was such a closeted gossip.
“Aye, aye captain.” Lance gripped Red’s controls and steered her around in the direction of the castle. He mentally said goodbye to the empty expanse of space and plotted how he’d beat the upcoming boss in his video game. So far he’d died twice, and he still hadn’t discovered the boss’ weak points. He must have been missing something. Maybe there was a weapon he was supposed to get before he faced the boss?
Red jerked and Lance tightened his grip on the controls. “Whoa, girl. What’s wrong? Did something fly by us?” Lance summoned a few screens with different camera angles that would give him a better view of his surroundings. He didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Maybe-
Red whirled and zoomed off in the opposite direction of the castle.
“Whoa!” Lance yanked on the controls, but Red was not obeying. “This isn’t the way to the castle!” Lance did not know how, but this was all Keith’s fault. Keith had been Red’ partner first, and he clearly had encouraged her misbehavior.
“Lance? Lance!” Shiro shouted when Lance didn’t respond. “What’s going on?”
“That’s what I would like to know!” Lance released one of the controls and patted the dashboard. Worry roiled in his stomach. This was so not normal. “C’mon, Red, let me in on what’s going on. You’re freaking me out.” Blue would never do this to him. Red was almost just as moody as Keith.
He still loved her though.
“Red’s heading toward something,” Pidge’s voice came out a concentrated mumble. “Wait, that encryption. I think… yeah, that’s it! Lance, you’re headed to a Blade of Marmora ship.”
“I knew this was Keith’s fault!” Was Red dumping him for Keith? He thought they had something special! Keith was the one who had abandoned the team! How could she pick Keith over him? He was so much cooler than Keith, and he was more fun.
“You may not be incorrect, Lance,” Shiro said, and Lance snapped out of his agitated and panicked state of mind. Shiro never encouraged him when he blamed Keith for things. The closest he ever came was when he blamed both of them for getting worked up and causing trouble. Otherwise, Shiro either told Lance to back down or kept quiet and let Keith and Lance work it out on their own.
“Keep your guard up, Lance. Keith may be in danger.”
Lance’s arteries strangled his heart. The memory of Red racing off to save Keith when Keith had been in trouble in the past blasted to the front of his mind.
A screen appeared in front of Lance and displayed an incoming call.
Lance’s stomach sunk with dread. The screen didn’t say who or where the call was coming from, but he had a suspicion.
He answered the call.
Kolivan and a masked member of the Blade appeared on the screen. “Blue paladin,” Kolivan greeted. “We noticed your approach. Has something dire occurred?”
You tell me, Lance thought. Lance was able to make out that Kolivan and his buddy were in the control room. In the background, he saw a few other Blades operating and piloting the ship. It didn’t look like the Blades were in danger. Then again, the Blades were stoic and secretive as hell.
Also, last Lance heard, Kolivan and his most trusted were keeping on eye on Lotor.
Lotor so far had proven himself an ally to the Blade of Marmora and Voltron ever since he had helped them disable the canon on the Galra cruiser battleship at Naxzela. Lotor wasn’t the most trusted of allies, but he’d proven himself enough that the Kolivan allowed him to live amongst the Blade and gave Lotor more freedom than what Lance was comfortable with.
Lance wondered if that freedom had allowed Lotor to take over, and that this was some façade to trick Lance into leaving without investigating what had caused Red to bring him to the ship.
Lance kept his doubts to himself. “I have a message for Keith. Is he on your ship?”
There was a snicker in the background. Kolivan’s lips twitched and he casted an annoyed look over his shoulder at the source of the noise. Kolivan swiftly erased the hints of emotion from his face. “He is here, but he is not easy to find. Keith has been practicing his stealth quite a bit as of late. You may board our ship and search for him yourself. I feel you may have more luck than we would in finding him.”
Lance raised an eyebrow at that. He never thought he’d hear Kolivan say something like that to him. Also, Keith was out stealthing the masters of stealth? How the heck was that even possible? That show off! How come Keith was so good at everything? It wasn’t fair.
While Lance internally grumbled and cursed Keith, he agreed to enter the Blades’ ship—a ship that was lot more huge than what he was used to seeing them operate. Clearly someone had gotten an upgrade.
Red slowed down and finally allowed Lance to take control of her. As he docked her on the Galra ship, Lance cut communications with Kolivan but kept the comms open for Shiro and Pidge.
“A message?” Pidge deadpanned. “You know we can send them one across galaxies, right?”
Lance’s face heated. “Shut up! You said Keith might be in danger, and everything looked normal. I wasn’t sure if they were taken over or something. Maybe Keith choked on something and died in his room. That would explain why Red is acting up.”
“Lance,” Shiro gently reprimanded.
Lance threw one hand up as he finished parking Red. “I’m just throwing out theories. This is very weird.”
“It is strange,” Shiro yielded. “Do as you were. Let us know what you find.”
“Got it.” Lance powered down Red and hopped out of his chair.
Kolivan and a few others greeted Lance in the docking bay. The greetings were stiff for humans, but after interacting with the Blade of Marmora so much, Lance knew that their greetings were actually quite warm.
“So no Keith?” Lance scanned the room for the person in question. He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t disappoint by the lack of his favorite and least favorite mullet head.
Kolivan’s brow wrinkled. “As stated, he is in hiding.”
Lance huffed and waved away Kolivan’s words. “Yeah, yeah. Just thought he might have overheard us talking or maybe you found him.” Lance stroked his chin in thought. Was Keith “practicing,” as Kolivan put it, or was there something more going on? Keith was the type to obsess over training, but his preference had always been combat drills, not stealth runs. Also, why would Keith’s obsession cause Red to come looking for him?
Could Keith have been injured? Was he stuck somewhere in need of help?
Worry gnawed at Lance.
As much as he griped about Keith and made fun of him, Lance never wanted to see Keith hurt. Embarrassed, sure, but not hurt.
Lance exchanged a few more words with Kolivan. The brief conversation was enough to give Lance a gut feeling that Kolivan and the other Blades on board were safe and acting of their own free will. Nonetheless, Lance kept his guard up, just in case.
The strangest things happened in space, after all.
Lance wandered the corridors of the ship, a high sign of trust when it came to the secretive resistance group. He was intrigued to see so many of the Blade of Marmora gathered together. The last time he’d seen such numbers outside of battle had been when he and the other members of Voltron had been at the Blade of Marmora’s secret base.
What started as an intriguing journey through the ship turned into a frustrating and fruitless search. He wished Hunk and Pidge were with him. The ship was huge. It would take forever for Lance to find Keith on his own.
“Couldn’t even offer up a couple guys to help me out,” Lance grumbled about Kolivan. This had to be seem kind of test, right? What kind of dick invited someone onto their ship to search for their friend, but didn’t offer any help?
“It seems they are at their games again.” A deep voice chuckled.
Lance paused in the hallway. There was a T-intersection ahead, and it sounded like a few Blades were about to cross his path. Lance tucked himself against the wall and listened.
He wasn’t snooping. It was a public hallway and the warriors were being loud.
“Yes,” a female voice replied to the first. “Although, I don’t think either of them sees it as a game.”
“Perhaps,” a third voice—a tenor—chipped in. He snorted in amusement. “Prince Lotor seems highly amused. Although, he has drawn this out far too long to be a farce.”
“Perhaps he is just a poor comedian?” The woman added with a bit of bite to her tone.
Prince Lotor? What the heck was that guy doing? Also, Lance pitied whoever was the butt of whatever joke Lotor was playing. Lance had barely met the guy and he seemed like the type to kick you in the balls and laugh in your face about it.
Curiosity wrestled with Lance. He knew the responsible thing to do was find Keith, but he wanted to know about Lotor too. It would just take a few seconds to stroll up to the approaching Blades and inquire about it. Keith could survive a few extra seconds.
Lance peeled himself off the wall.
A gloved hand covered Lance’s mouth, and an arm pinned Lance’s limbs in place while it wrapped around his waist. Lance screeched into the gloved hand as he was pulled against a firm chest and dragged away from the intersection.
Lance struggled to break the hold as he heard one of the doors in the corridor whoosh open.
No! No! No! I’m not going to die because the serial killer caught me! I’m too pretty and smart for that! Wait! The pretty ones are the ones who always die! Nooooooo!
Lance rammed his elbow toward the solar plexus of his assailant, only to meet air as his captor released him into the room. The door slid shut as Lance stumbled with his footing.
Lance yelped and whirled with his bayard out and ready.
Lance froze as the Blade before him lowered their hood and revealed their identity.
“Keith?” Lance gawked.
Keith’s face scrunched with annoyance that soon smoothed away. He cocked his head as he studied Lance. “What are-”
“Keith!” Lance flung his arms around Keith and hugged him so tight, Keith punched Lance’s shoulders and demanded that Lance release him.
“I thought the ugly serial killer was going to murder me,” Lance wailed.
Keith paused in the middle of wrestling himself free of Lance. “Serial killer?”
Keith didn’t have the widest eyes, but when he was curious about something they grew larger, and looked like they belonged on some sweet, little kid. On Keith, they looked adorable, and brought out the cute side of his features.
Lance inwardly balked. He released Keith as if Keith had burned him, then jabbed his finger in Keith’s chest. “You are a creeper, you know that? Who grabs people like that? Hmm? Serial killers. You’re lucky I knew it was you all along, or else I’d have taken care of you.” Lance held up his bayard threateningly.
Keith was unimpressed. “Sure,” Keith said sarcastically, “you knew it was me all along.” Keith switched to a neutral tone, “What are you doing here?”
It wasn’t the first time Lance had been asked that question in the last vargas, and like before, he was confused and had no answer. One look at Keith was enough to see that he was perfectly healthy. Keith wasn’t in any physical danger either, so why had Red brought Lance here?
“Lance?” Keith pushed for an answer.
Lance flailed. “Listen, I don’t know, man. Red brought me here. The only explanation for why, is that you are in danger.” Lance gestured at Keith. “Except, you aren’t.” Lance frowned. He cocked his head. “Are you?”
“No,” Keith stated. A moment later, emotion flickered through his dark eyes. His perfect posture broke as his shoulders slumped. “Not any real danger. Nothing that should have caused Red to bring you here.”
Worry prickled Lance’s chest. Keith had a bad habit of downplaying danger when it came to himself. “What do you mean? What’s wrong, Keith?”
Keith gritted his teeth and looked away. A barely perceptible red glow appeared on his cheeks. “Nothing. I’m not in trouble.”
That was bullshit. Keith was hiding something, and Lance was going to find out what. Lance opened his mouth to demand an explanation, but the door slid open and a deep, melodic voice cooed, “There you are, Keith. I have something for you.”
Lotor waltzed into the room, with his white hair wafting behind him like he belonged in a shampoo commercial. The former prince of the Galra Empire did not look the least bit hampered or burdened from living amongst his former enemies. He looked as immaculate as always with his rich yet battle-ready form of attire and his hair styled like he was a model.
Lance both jealous and tempted to ask what products Lotor used to keep up his perfect and regal appearance.
That question was all but forgotten though when Lance spotted the sword in Lotor’s hand. Lance’s heart boomeranged in his chest. He tensed in preparation of a fight.
Lotor bent his head just enough to meet Keith’s gaze. A smile twinkled in his yellow eyes and curled his lips. In a graceful and elegant move, he raised the sword and displayed it across his palms. He outstretched the sword toward Keith. “A trophy for you. I know it is meager, but once I cross blades outside of the sparring room, I will present you with something far more worthy.”
Keith looked like he’d swallowed a lemon stuffed in a dirty gym sock.
“You shouldn’t have,” Keith grumbled.
Lotor ignored Keith’s less than pleased face. “It is custom.” Lotor inched the sword closer to Keith.
Keith, with his face restored to a more neutral expression, took the sword. He examined it. “It looks and feels well-made. I’m not a weaponsmith though.”
“Yet your eyes and sense of weaponry is keen.” Lotor took Keith’s hand in his.
Lance’s eyes almost popped out of his skull.
His brain just about died when Lotor brought Keith’s hand to his mouth and kissed the back of it.
“I beat Tahak in your honor and brought you his sword. However, my battles are not over. I promised to spar with many aboard this vessel. The battles shall commence in half a vargas from now. Just as I have honored you, I hope you will honor me by bearing witness to the occasion.”
Lotor lowered Keith’s hand from his lips.
Keith shyly took his hand back. “Thank you. I will try, but as you can see, Lance is here to discuss urgent business involving Voltron.”
Lotor glanced in Lance’s direction. There was no malice in his gaze or anger. Just intrigue and amusement. “I see.” He faced Keith. “Unfortunately, the safety of the universe comes first. If you have the opportunity though, please come. For now, I will leave you two be.” Lotor pivoted and marched out of the room with more confidence than a guy who had just been rejected should have.
The door closed behind Lotor’s back.
“Dude!” Lance whirled on Keith. “What was that? Is Lotor courting you?”
Keith’s neck and face turned red so fast, it was like someone had flipped on the light switch to a red bulb.
Keith propped the sword against the wall. “He’s just messing with me.”
“He’s courting you!” Lance shouted and gaped. Holy cow! Lotor was courting Keith. Lotor wanted to make Keith his boyfriend (or husband). Keith could become the prince of the Galra (or would have been able to if Lotor was still in line for the throne).
Keith was so freaked out by Lotor courting him, he’d summoned Red.
Lance burst out laughing.
Lance doubled over and hugged his gut. “Oh my god, this is hilarious. How did a nerd like you end up attracting him?”
“Lance,” Keith warned.
“Seriously! He’s a prince and he’s attractive. Political views aside, he’s got to have a few admires, and he picked you?”
“Also, your face when he gave you the sword! You are so not the dating type. Did you even have a girlfriend or boyfriend on Earth?”
“Lance! Shut up!” Keith snapped. “If all you are going to do is make fun of me, then leave. I don’t need you here.”
Lance flinched and frowned. That had been a brutal reaction.
Not that Lance hadn’t kind of deserved it.
Even so, a part of Lance wanted to yell at Keith. What stopped him was Keith’s defensive posture. He had his arms crossed and was glaring at the wall in place of Lance. His body was so tense that Lance’s muscles ached in sympathy.
Lance rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry, pal. I didn’t think it would upset you so much.” Except he had, hadn’t he? He’d come to the conclusion that Red had brought him here because Keith was upset about Lotor courting him. Even if the idea was funny, it really wasn’t; not if Red had come to Keith’s rescue. As close as Red and Keith were, Red wouldn’t come flying just because Keith was feeling embarrassed or a little uncomfortable.
Keith was scared senseless if Red had come to his aid.
“Hey, man.” Lance stepped up and placed his hand on Keith’s shoulder. The act caused Keith to soften his stance, which relieved Lance. Keith had a temper, but just as fast as it could erupt, it could be quickly quelled. “You can say, no. Lotor may be a prince, but he’s is not your prince, no matter who your parents are. You don’t have to marry him.”
Keith shrugged off Lance’s touch and took a step back. “I know.”
“If you know, then why are you freaking out?”
“Dude! Red brought me here. You’re freaking out.”
Keith crossed his arms and refused to look at Lance.
Lance didn’t know whether he wanted to smack Keith or kiss him. Keith needed a good hit to the head, but damn it all, if Keith didn’t look cute when he had that stubborn frown on his face. “Just tell me what stupid thought has got you all riled up, and I will squash it.”
Keith sighed and dropped his arms. His tension didn’t leave him though, it just transferred to his fingers, which he curled into fists. “Kolivan and I were talking, and he made a good point. What do you think happens after we beat Zarkon? Who is going to rule the Galra when their ruler is gone?”
“What does that have to do with Lotor courting you?”
Keith gritted his teeth. “The Galra will need a leader, Lance, and if we don’t have someone to put on the throne when we defeat Zarkon, there’s a good chance that someone just as bad as Zarkon may take over.”
“I still don’t get what this has to do with you.”
“Right now Lotor’s loyalty is questionable, but if we were to defeat Zarkon today, he’d be our best chance at filling the void of power Zarkon’s defeat would create. That doesn’t change the fact that we can’t trust him; however, if someone from the Blade of Marmora were to marry him, maybe-”
“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” Lance flailed his arms then formed a capital T with his hands. “Time out. Nuh-uh. Nope. That is a stupid reason to marry some guy who would probably stab you after he married you. For all we know, this courting business is just a ploy to lower everyone’s guard or something. No considering the pretty psychopath’s proposal.”
Keith bristled. “You’re not even-”
Lance pressed his fingertip to Keith’s lips and shushed him.
Keith went cross-eyed and glared at the offending fingertip.
Lance grinned and slung his arm around Keith’s shoulders, ignoring Keith’s grunt as he pressed Keith against his side. “We haven’t beaten Zarkon, and who knows how long it will be until we do. It could be years. Hopefully not.” Lance blanched.
Lance sincerely hoped that it wouldn’t take them years to defeat Zarkon.
He shook off his dour attitude and replaced it with cheer. “Point is, who knows what could happen between now and then. We might find another candidate. So in the meantime, don’t go marrying some furry eggplant just so you can be the sacrificial lamb that everyone writes boring poetry about centuries from now, you fame-whore.”
Keith knocked off Lance’s arm. “I am not a fame whore!”
“Says the show off.”
“I’m not the one who performs televised acrobatic dances for a stadium full of people.”
“Hey, I can’t help that the people want me.”
Keith made a sound that was a mix between a groan and a scream. It was the funniest sound Lance had ever heard. It also conveyed Keith’s aggravation perfectly, which made it all the more hilarious. Keith got worked up so easily. He was the perfect wind up toy, and Lance could never resist playing with toys.
“Forget it!” Keith stormed off. “You can’t take anything seriously.”
Hurt stung Lance like a whip. His temper flared and he opened his mouth to shout an insult at Keith’s back. Lance took a deep breath to add volume to his words, only to cut himself off as Keith bowed his head and hugged one of his arms.
The vulnerable pose caught Lance off guard.
A voice in the back of Lance’s head reminded him that he was here because the Red had sensed Keith was in trouble.
Maybe he really hadn’t been taking this thing with Lotor seriously? Even if he found the idea of marrying the guy idiotic, Keith was the hot-headed, self-sacrificing idiot that would kill himself if he thought it would save the universe or even just his closest friends. He probably saw it as his responsibility or duty.
Seriously, for a guy who liked to hog the wall and act emotionally distant in crowds, Keith was an emotional wreck.
What the hell was Lance going to do with him?
Lance rubbed the back of his neck. He didn’t have many choices, did he?
Lance hurried after Keith, and when he caught up to him, he grabbed Keith by the elbow. “Okay, fine. The void of power is a big deal, but my point about then and now still stands, and this thing with Lotor has made you so uncomfortable, Red brought me to you, so I’m going to help you.”
Keith huffed. He put one hand on his hip and jutted his hip out. “And how are you going to stop the Galra prince from flirting with me?”
“First,” Lance held up one finger, “cut the attitude. I’m trying to help. Second…” Lance smirked. He dropped to his knee and scooped Keith’s hand into his.
Keith jerked back a step as crimson raced up his neck to his cheeks.
“Keith, I will grant you the honor of being my fiancé.”
“‘The honor?’” Keith sputtered. “Also, how the hell does this help with-”
“The blue paladin is challenging Prince Lotor’s courtship?” a baritone voice from farther down the corridor inquired.
Lance and Keith snapped their heads to see three Blades of Marmora paused at the T-intersection. They were either on their way out to a mission or had just returned, because they wore their masks.
“Is this true?” The smallest of the trio asked.
Glee tickled Lance’s insides. This was going to be so much fun.
“N-no,” Keith sputtered. Keith snatched his hand out from Lance’s grasp. He glared at Lance. “He has no idea what he is talking about.”
Lance felt like a cat stroked the wrong way. He launched into a stance. “Excuse you?” Lance jabbed Keith in the chest. “I don’t go around proposing to just anyone, buddy. You better correct that attitude of yours, because we are getting engaged, and no prince is standing in our way.”
“Lance!” Keith seized Lance by the arm and dragged Lance close so his ear was centimeters from Keith’s mouth. Through gritted teeth, Keith hissed, “Galra have-”
“If that is the case…” The tallest of the trio stepped forward. He placed his fist over his chest and bowed. “We wish you luck in combat, Blue Paladin.”
The other two Blades nodded, then placed their fists over their chests and bowed. The trio then rose and marched away.
Keith buried his face in his palm and groaned.
Lance blinked and stared at where the trio had been. “Did they just say ‘combat?’”
“Yes, Lance,” frustration clipped Keith’s words. He crossed his arms over his chest. “It’s part of Galra courtship.”
Lance paused for a moment as his brain pieced together what Keith had told him and Lotor’s earlier actions. “Dude, how many people are trying to get in your pants? Are you really that attractive to Galra?”
Keith’s shoulders bunched and rose to his ears. “No. Lotor is just showing off. It’s a common practice during courting to show off any victories and share any spoils. It’s not a requirement though. Fighting another suitor is however.” Keith’s shoulders dropped. He speared Lance with a wrathful look. “So Lotor is going to be pretty pressed to fight you now.”
Lance frowned. He wasn’t wild about the idea of fighting the Galra prince, but he didn’t understand what Keith was so pissed about. He grinned and motioned with his hand as if he were batting away a pesky fly. “Hey, that’s fine with me.” Lance puffed up his chest and pointed his thumb at himself. “I’m the blue paladin, a warrior of Voltron. I can handle some whimpy prince.”
Keith went from angry to unimpressed. “You haven’t seen Lotor in hand-to-hand combat yet, have you?”
“No, what’s the big deal?”
The big deal was Lotor was flawless in combat. When Lance walked into the training room with Keith to watch Lotor spar, Lance had thought he would see the former prince struggling to keep up with the Blades. Instead, the first thing Lance saw was Lotor flipping one opponent out of the ring, then disarming the other. He didn’t break a sweat as he fought off one opponent after the other. His movements were fluid and graceful. The way Lotor fought was practically art.
Lance hadn’t felt so inferior since the Garrison.
Keith touched Lance’s shoulder and turned them toward the exit. “All right, now that you understand, let’s get you out of here before he realizes-”
“Keith,” Lotor raised his voice to get Keith’s attention. “Where are you going?”
Lance looked over his shoulder just in time to see Lotor carelessly knock his last opponent away with a backhand. Lotor sauntered up to Keith and Lance with a smirk on his face. “Are you not enjoying the show?”
“Lance needs to get back to Voltron.” Keith avoided answering the question.
“Ah, yes, Voltron.” Lotor rubbed his chin, and eyed Lance. “Surely, you can find your way back to your lion, Blue Paladin?”
It was the perfect opportunity for escape. Lance could leave Keith behind to distract Lotor and hurry to Red before Lotor ever found out about his challenge. By the time Lotor discovered that Lance had proposed, perhaps Keith would be able to convince Lotor that Lance wasn’t serious, so that the next time they met, Lotor wouldn’t insist on fighting.
That would be running away though. Even worse, it would be running away when one of his friends needed him.
Lance squared his shoulders and braced himself. “Lotor, I challenge you!” Lance grabbed Keith’s hand and held it up like he had literally put a ring on it and not just figuratively. “Keith is my fiancé, and I don’t appreciate you courting him.”
“Lance!” Keith shrieked. He tried to yank his hand away, but Lance insisted on holding it.
Lotor chuckled and cocked his head. “Really? Why is this the first time I am hearing of this? Blue Paladin, perhaps you are mistaken?”
Lance shook his head. “Nuh-uh, buddy. I am marrying Keith, and you are going to back off.”
Lotor’s grin grew. He gestured at the ring. “Very well, let’s fight here and now to show Keith who would be the superior husband.”
“Wrong!” Lance thrust a finger in the air. Panic pounded through his chest. He’d just had an idea, and he prayed it would work. “Keith may be Galra, but he’s also half human. Humans compete against each other too, but they don’t do it with their fists or weapons. If you really want to marry Keith, you should respect his culture and do battle the human way. Unless, of course, you are scared.”
Lotor wasn’t the least bit fazed by Lance’s demand. If anything, he appeared to be all the more amused by it. “All right, Blue Paladin, pray tell, how do humans compete?”
“Uh… there are a lot of ways.” Think! Lance’s brain shouted. He couldn’t let Lotor figure out he was bullshitting him. “They make things.” Lance snapped his fingers as ideas flooded his mind. “Sometimes it’s jewelry and sometimes it’s food. Usually it’s both. The idea is to show who can be the best provider and be a good support system for the person they are competing for. Strength is nice, but it takes more than muscle to be a good spouse. Oh, and you also have to show off how much more fun it will be to spend time with you, ‘cause, you know, you gotta like spending time with the person you marry.”
Lotor nodded. “I see. So there is no one way to compete. It’s a series of competitions.” Lotor rubbed his chin as he mulled. “You also bring up a good point about respecting Keith’s culture.”
Lance nodded enthusiastically.
“Which is why I think we should make sure these competitions include a bit of Galra tradition in them.” Lotor smirked.
Lance paled. “Come again?”
“You mentioned humans cook meals to prove they can provide for their spouse. Then let’s do that; however, not only will we cook, we must hunt for the ingredients to a traditional Galra dish.”
“Uh…” Lance had never hunted in his life.
“Unless, of course, you are incapable of providing for Keith.” Lotor smiled endearingly at Keith. “I swear to you, beloved, I will make you a feast that will erase any fears you have about me being unable to provide for you.”
Keith shifted in discomfort. “Thanks,” he said, dryly.
Lance was pissed. How dare Lotor flirt with Keith after Lance had made it abundantly clear that Keith was his fiancé? The nerve! “You’re on, eggplant! Just tell me what we’re making, and I will make you weep tears of joy with my amazing cooking skills.”
“Why does it always have to be giant worms!” Lance dove out of the lidawyurm’s path. He winced as the ginormous worm-like creature barreled through the purple and orange brush and toppled over the skyscraper-sized trees like they were twigs. The lidawyurm snapped its serrated teeth and tasted the air with it’s lilac tongue that sent slobber everywhere.
Lance shuddered in disgust and hugged his bayard.
There had to be some weak point on that thing. So far it wasn’t the face or the tail.
Lance gritted his teeth. He looked at the two suns of the planet overhead. Sweat beaded down his forehead. He cursed. The lidawyurm was going to find him at this rate. It could track by scent, and with the way Lance was sweating, there was no way the lidawyurm couldn’t find him.
Lance’s stomach churned.
He could see the moment he’d told Keith that he could handle the lidawyurm in his head. He had just challenged Lotor, much to Keith’s chagrin. Keith and he had then gone off to Keith’s room. Keith had wanted to talk, but he was being such a pessimist, that Lance had ignored him and called Hunk instead to get a few cooking tips and also let the other paladins know what was going on.
“So you’re fighting Prince Lotor for the chance to be Keith’s fiancé?” Hunk had asked over the communicator, which displayed his face. Hunk scratched his temple and frowned. “I don’t know, Lance. This sounds really unnecessary.”
“That’s what I have been trying to tell him,” Keith leaned over Lance and shoved his face next to Lance’s so Hunk could see them both through the communicator’s camera.
Lance huffed and batted Keith away. “And as I said, it’s totally necessary. I told him I was your fiancé and he still flirted with you. What kind of jerk flirts with someone when he already knows the person is taken?”
“Someone who knows you were lying,” Keith said. “This is Lotor. He’s more than just a pretty face.”
“Yeah, well,” Lance pointed his thumb at his chest, “same here. I’m just as smart and pretty as he is.” Lance wasn’t too sure about that, but he wasn’t going to let Keith or Hunk know that.
“Hunk, get Shiro on the line,” Keith demanded. “He’ll talk some sense into Lance.”
“Bye, Hunk, let Pidge and Shiro know I will be back after a quintant.” Lance shut off the communicator. He clutched the communicator to his chest and glared challengingly at Keith. He silently dared Keith to take it from him.
Keith sighed and rolled his eyes. “You’re being ridiculous.”
“I’m not the one who panicked so much about a prince asking me out that my lion came to my rescue.”
Keith’s shoulders bunched and his head drooped an inch. Anger thinned his lips. Lance expected Keith to snap at him, but instead Keith kept quiet.
Keith’s silence wasn’t the victory that Lance had hoped it would be.
“I’ll just tell Lotor to back off.” An internal strain contorted Keith’s face. “You were right. Better for me to tell Lotor I’m not interested and deal with the consequences than have you compete in some stupid challenge for me.”
“You know, you’re really taking the fun out of me being right.” Lance huffed. Of course Keith would suck the fun out of being right; he sucked the fun out of everything. Well, most things. Normal things. He was okay with Voltron stuff, as long as it didn’t involve diplomacy or PR.
“Also, that doesn’t matter. As I said, Lotor flirted with you even though I called dibs.”
“Dibs?” The corner of Keith’s mouth lifted in amusement. “That’s what you call your proposal?”
“Yes, Keith, jeez.” Lance rolled his eyes, but inside he was preening. Finally, he’d gotten Keith to lighten up a bit. “Besides, I just gotta hunt down this lidawyurm and cook it. How hard can that be?”
He had been so naïve.
The lidawyurm reared its head and roared at the sky.
Lance gulped and readied his bayard. Head was no good and neither was tail. The body looked like it was just as tough as the head and tail, so it wasn’t his best bet. He didn’t have much else to target though.
The lidawyurm slowly turned. It’s six amethyst-like eyes landed on Lance. It whipped out its tongue and scented the air.
Lance shot the tongue.
The lidawyurm shrieked as its tongue was blasted to pieces.
Lance scrambled away as his heart soared with relief. He had probably just dampened if not entirely destroyed the lidawyurm’s ability to smell him out. Also, now he knew the lidawyurm’s insides were softer than its exterior. He had a fighting chance against this monstrosity.
Lance’s hope crumbled as realization dawned on him.
He was going to have to let the lidawyurm swallow him, wasn’t he?
God! The things he did for Keith!
Lance took a deep breath and marched back over to the thrashing lidawyurm. A weight plummeted in his stomach as he listened to the lidawyurm wail. He grimaced as he raised his bayard and braced himself to become lidawyurm chow. “Hey, loser! Over-”
Lotor came out of friggin’ nowhere, and swung from the trees like Tarzan with a hookshot instead of a vine. With one motion, Lotor sliced the side of lidawyrum’s mouth open.
The lidawyurm barely had time to shriek as Lotor swung back like a pendulum then dropped down from the hookshot, and used the opening he’d made to cleave the worm in half with his sword. Blood, digestive fluids, and so much more spewed out of the lidawyrum’s flopping remains.
Smugness radiated from Lotor’s posture alone as he watched from a good few paces away as the worm writhed one last time.
Lotor kneeled and wiped his blade on the grass, then sheathed it. “A fine kill.” He strode to the carcass, which already smelled foul.
Lance snapped out of his stupor. He flailed his arms as he raced up to Lotor. “Hey! Wait! Wait! Wait! That was my kill.” Lance pointed at the lidawyurm. Blood flowed to his face and made his cheeks burn with indignation.
Lotor huffed in amusement. He rested his hand lazily on the hilt of his sword as he placed his other hand on his jutted hip. “Oh really? I recall cutting down the beast myself.”
“I shot off its tongue!” Lance stomped his foot and jabbed his finger at the lidawyrum. “Just look.”
Lotor made a considering sound as his gaze roved over the carcass. “Congratulations. You muted the lidawyurm.” Lotor’s eyes slid toward Lance. He smirked. “Or you tried to. It was making quite a ruckus, even without its tongue.”
Lance sputtered. What an asshole, he thought. It was so obvious that Lance had gotten the first hit on the lidawyurm; therefore, he should have been the one to kill it. “Excuse you, bud. I was on my way to kill it when you showed up like the frickin’ king of the jungle.”
“Your point?” Lotor asked.
Lance fumbled with his words. How could Lotor not get what he was trying to say? “It was my kill, but you stole it, so either we should both start over or split this thing.” Lance’s pride wanted a redo, but every other part of Lance pleaded for him not to have to deal with another giant worm.
Lotor chortled. “We could, but that is not the Galra way. We were hunting, Lance. There are no claims when it comes to hunting. It’s about about being more clever than your prey.” Lotor’s grin grew. “Or your opponent.”
Lance gaped as realization hit him. “You followed me, didn’t you? You were planning to steal my kill.”
Lotor scoffed. “Such paranoia.” Lotor’s grip on his sword hilt tightened and he lifted the blade an inch out of its sheath. “We could always solve this the more traditional Galra way, if you prefer. Winner takes the lidawyurm and Keith’s hand in marriage.”
Lance balked. The whole reason he was hunting giant, alien worms was because he knew in a one-on-one duel against Lotor, he’d have difficulty securing victory. He had better odds hunting lidawyurms and cooking them than a direct confrontation.
Nonetheless, it put a bad taste in Lance’s mouth to yield to Lotor, when Lotor wasn’t playing fair.
Lance feigned confidence and scoffed. He shrugged and backed away. “Fine. Whatever. At least I was able to find a lidawyrum on my own and didn’t have to rely on others to track it down.”
“Tell yourself whatever you need to in order to soothe your ego.” Lotor dropped his sword back into the sheath.
“Yeah, yeah.” Lance rolled his eyes then turned his back on Lotor. He bit his inner cheek as panic swelled through him. He hoped he could find another lidawyurm soon and kill it, otherwise, Lotor would win by default.
Lance shook off his doubts and squared his shoulders back. He refused to act like he’d already lost. He now knew how to kill a lidawyurm. That was progress. Plus, he was more determined now to show that smug eggplant just how great a hunter he was.
No one screwed with Lance and got away with it.
Lance smelled like sweaty feet and turnips as he dragged himself and his bag of lidawyurm meat through the Blade of Marmora ship’s corridor. Fat? Intestines? Liver? He didn’t know what he had in the bag except that it didn’t look like anything he’d seen before. Although, he was pretty sure he’d managed to grab one heart from the lidawyurm.
Lance’s movements were slowed by the dry drool and inner lidawyurm gick that drenched his clothes. It was as if he’d bathed in papier-mâché mix.
He was also bone-tired and only able to move because of remaining microscopic amount of determination he carried with him.
Lance was going to spend a vargas cleaning himself and then he was going to apply one his quick beauty treatments before he even got started on the meal he was supposed to cook with the lidawyurm. Lotor and he had agreed to a quintant for the time to capture, kill, and cook the lidawyurm, and he still had plenty of time before the quintant was over.
“Very surprising,” A Blade murmured to her fellow resistance member as they rounded the corner into the corridor.
Her companion nodded. “Not so pampered after all; although, he was raised a warrior. Perhaps we should not find it too surprising.”
She gave a curt nod. “Hunting does become important for a warrior on the move.”
Lance stopped in the middle of the hallway.
The two Blades passed, giving him curious glances. They almost strolled by Lance without a word, but Lance called out to them, “Are you talking about Lotor?”
The two Blades paused. The second one gave a short nod. “We were. Are you looking for the dining hall or the kitchen, paladin?” He eyed Lance’s bag, which was dripping with blood and other fluids.
“Lotor already cooked his food?” Lance cried out in frustration and despair. This was so unfair! Shouldn’t Lotor still be cooking? Lotor may have had a head start, but Lance hadn’t given him that much of a lead.
Lance launched into a sprint toward the dining hall. He heard the Blades murmur something as he raced off to see with his own eyes the meal Lotor had cooked. As he neared the dining hall he almost had a heart attack.
Blade after Blade was strolling out from the dining hall with satisfied looks on their faces. They were so happy, Lance wondered briefly if he had fallen into an alternate universe where most of the Galra didn’t brood.
Lance pushed his way into the dining hall and froze on the spot.
A banquet was sprawled across two long tables, which were packed with one Blade member after another. Everyone chatted as they ate and drank. Some formed groups and stood in rings as they spoke. At one of the tables, Lotor stood at the head. He laughed as he carved into a large meat dish that looked like a giant glazed ham with fruit pinned intricately on it.
Lance dropped his sack and gaped. A sweet and salty armora teased Lance’s nostrils and his stomach growled with hunger.
He had to be in an alternate universe. He just had to be. How else-
A hand clamped onto Lance’s shoulder.
“You’re back,” Keith said behind him. “I was getting wor-”
Lance spun around and pouted at Keith. He could feel tears welling in his eyes as he whimpered. “Keith, he made Galra-Thanksgiving.”
Keith tensed. His hand was poised awkwardly in the air from having taken it off Lance’s shoulder.
Keith shook off his surprise. He lowered his hand and stood a little taller. “But you got the meat, right?” He crossed his arms and jutted out his hip. “It doesn’t matter how much Lotor makes. What matters is if it tastes good, and even if his does taste good, you just have to make yours taste better.”
Hope fluttered in Lance’s chest. He sniffled away his tears. “You’re right, Keith.”
“Keith.” Lotor sashayed over to Keith with a plate stacked high with food in hand. “I was wondering when you would show. You haven’t tried the lidawyurm yet.” Lotor picked up a fork off the dish that held a chunk of white meat dipped in a green sauce. He held the bite-size piece of meat to Keith’s lips.
Keith scrunched his nose. He murmured his gratitude as he took the fork from Lotor, silently refusing Lotor’s offer to feed him.
Keith popped the meat in his mouth and chewed.
Keith went ramrod straight. His eyes-widened.
Emotions ping-ponged inside Lance. Keith’s adorable face had Lance internally cooing, meanwhile he was panicking. Did Keith’s expression mean Lotor’s dish was delicious or had Lotor failed spectacularly?
A small part of Lance hoped that even if Keith liked Lotor’s cooking, Keith would lie and say it tasted terrible.
“It’s good,” Keith said in surprise.
Lotor smirked. “Did you doubt me? I would never serve subpar food to someone I cared about.”
Hurt and fury rampaged through Lance. Shoving his nose up high, Lance bent and scooped up his bag of lidawyurm. He scoffed and raised his head to the sky as he slung the bag over his shoulder. “You better have cleaned up the kitchen after you were done, Lotor. A chef always cleans up after himself.”
“You will find the kitchen spotless,” Lotor said to his back.
God damn it all, if Lotor wasn’t right about the kitchen being spotless when Lance arrived. Everything was clean and perfectly in place. Well, Lance assumed it was in place. He didn’t recognize some of the utensils hanging from the small hooks on the wall. He also couldn’t identify everything on the steel-like shelves, but he could name most of the things.
The kitchen was small, but usable. He wouldn’t want more than two people in the kitchen with him at a time, but he didn’t have to worry about that. He was on his own. No one was going to help him make the best lidawyurm dish in the history of the universe.
Lance slapped his bag onto the table and sighed.
Beating Lotor was seeming more and more impossible.
He opened the stack and stared at the contents. Had he managed to the grab the right sections of meat, or had he already failed?
Lance ran his hand down his face. He cringed when his fingertips stuck to his cheek. He was so gross right now.
Lance went to the sink to wash his hands.
His back was to the kitchen door so he didn’t see the person when they came in but he heard their footsteps. Lance braced himself for another comment that would chip away at his confidence.
He startled when he heard the person fiddle around with the bag on the table.
Lance whirled around.
Keith’s face was scrunched with befuddlement as he scanned the contents of the bag. “This doesn’t look anything like the stuff Lotor cooked.”
Friggin’ Keith! Always kickin’ Lance when he was down. Lance scoffed. “Well, excuse me, princess. I worked very hard to get that, and all for you too, you ungrateful jerk.”
Keith flinched. “I wasn’t saying it was bad.”
Lance scoffed. “Of course not, you’re just here to tell me how good Lotor’s food is.”
Keith’s cheeks puffed with indignation. “I am not. I’m here to help.”
“Oh really? Why would I want the help of someone who likes Lotor’s cooking? You’re probably going to sabotage me.”
“Do you hear yourself?” Keith grabbed the edge of the table. He pinned Lance down with a frustrated and determined look. “I’m not on Lotor’s side. The exact opposite. I rather you win this stupid thing. I’m not going to lie though and call Lotor’s cooking terrible just to stroke your ego.”
“You could though,” Lance said petulantly.
Keith brought a hand to his forehead, closed his eyes, and sighed. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes. “Maybe, we should forget about this cooking competition. As I said, I can tell Lotor that I am not interested at the moment.” His brow furrowed as he mulled over something. “Maybe if I phrase it right, Lotor and I can still have a good enough relationship that if it becomes necessary in the future, he will be willing to marry me.”
“Oh my god! You’re seriously still thinking about marrying the guy?” Lance gesticulated wildly.
Keith frowned. “I have to keep an open mind.”
Lance groaned. “You’re so stupid.”
“You’re the one who is in here crying over the fact that I complimented Lotor’s cooking.”
“I’m not crying,” Lance snapped. “And even if I was, I am completely justified after you betrayed me.”
“How did I betray you? I was just being honest.”
“You should always think your fiancé’s cooking is the best.”
“One, I didn’t say your cooking wasn’t the best. Two, you’re not really my fiancé.”
Heat rushed to Lance’s cheeks. “Well, I could be. It’s not my fault you didn’t take my proposal seriously.”
“How am I supposed to take it seriously when we haven’t even dated and you’re always making fun of me?”
“It’s called pulling pigtails.”
“I don’t have any pigtails!”
Lance and Keith glared at each other. Both were tense and their breathing came in quick and short pants as they stared each other down.
“You make no sense,” Keith stated.
“Yeah, well, look in the mirror.” Lance took a step toward the table. He wrinkled his nose as a new stench emerged from the bag of guts and junk. He had a feeling if he didn’t refrigerate or start cooking soon, the meat would go bad. “I don’t think I have the right parts for the recipe Lotor gave me. Do you think it would be okay if I called Hunk? The important thing is to use the lidawyurm, right?”
Keith sighed. He strolled over to one of the shelves and grabbed a giant, metal bowl. “Here, I’ve only had lidawyurm a few times, but I know a couple recipes.”
“Nu-uh, Keith.” Lance wagged his finger at Keith. “No one can help me. Even asking Hunk for more help than I already have could get me in trouble.”
Keith set the bowl on the table then headed toward the row of cabinets next to the sink. “Did you and Lotor agree to that?”
“No, but it’s a challenge to prove who’s the best guy for you. So obviously-”
Keith snorted. “The only person who knows who is the best guy for me is me.” Keith pulled out what looked like a bag of flour out from the cabinet. “This competition between you and Lotor is pure ego.” Keith set the “flour” down. He aimed a crooked smile at Lance. “Which is why you need to calm down. Lotor could make the best meal in the entire universe, and it wouldn’t change how I feel.”
Something loosened around Lance’s chest; he hadn’t even realized how constricted his chest had been feeling until the figurative band around it gave an inch. “Really?”
“Yes.” Keith side-eyed Lance. “Did you really think I would suddenly fall for Lotor just because he can cook?”
Heat flooded Lance’s cheek. He rubbed the back of his neck. “Not really, but I mean...c’mon, you’re supposed to be on my team.”
“I am on your team.”
“Well, it doesn’t always feel like it.” Lance huffed and slouched. It wasn’t even the bickering that made it feel like they weren’t on the same team. It was the fact that Keith had up and left to hang out with the Blades, which, okay, maybe Keith deserved a chance to connect with his Galra heritage. Also, yeah, it had put the pressure on Shiro and Black to reconnect so the team could form Voltron, which was good. However, Keith had basically abandoned the team so he could play, badass, lone-wolf warrior with the Blades.
And just when Lance felt like they had really connected too.
It wasn’t fair.
Keith touched Lance’s shoulder and squeezed. “I’m always going to be on your team. Even if you drive me crazy.”
The corners of Lance’s mouth twitched upward. “Thanks, buddy.”
“Good.” Keith nodded. He reached into the bag and pulled out what Lance thought was the lidawyurm’s heart. “Now, let’s get to work.”
Cooking with Keith was different from cooking with Hunk. First off, Keith didn’t hog most of the work, and second, he didn’t panic as much when he saw Lance add an unknown spice or ingredient into the food. As they created a stew and a stir-fry, both of which looked less than appetizing, Lance debated whether they should have called Hunk or not. Hunk would have saved the food, but he wasn’t sure if Keith and him would have had as much fun.
The experience was a guessing game as Keith tried to recall the exact amount of ingredients, while Lance would ask if they could try adding this vegetable or that spice. There was one frightening moment with the stir-fry when the flames had jumped so high, Lance feared they were about to burn down the ship; however, the flames quickly died down. Soon after, every mistake and fumble became a joke until they completed the two dishes.
Lance ladled the stew into two bowls, and Keith spooned the stir-fry onto plates.
“Are the leaves supposed to be brown around the edges?” Lance teased Keith about the stir-fry.
Keith snorted. “What are those white puffs in the stew? I don’t remember you adding potatoes or cauliflower.”
“Ha ha, at least mine smells edible. Your stir-fry smells rotten.”
“That’s the stew.”
“Liar!” Lance said with mock offense.
The two chuckled and passed each other their bowls and plates until they both had stew and stir-fry in front of them.
Lance bit into the stir-fry as Keith slurped up the stew.
Lance coughed as spice attacked his tongue. He blinked as his taste buds took in the flavor. There was a hint of salt and something similar to paprika. Lance took another bite and savored the juicy texture of the meat. Even the vegetables weren’t too bad. Nice and tender. The spice was a little too potent, but otherwise, it was a pretty good meal.
“Not bad.” Keith smiled as he downed another spoonful of stew. “I’d add a few more spices, but I think it tastes pretty good.”
Lance scoffed. “Says the guy who overspiced.” Lance popped another bite of the stir-fry into his mouth. He chewed then swallowed. “Still pretty good.”
Keith rolled his eyes.
Lance grinned from ear to ear and raised his hand for a high-five. “Best team ever, right?”
Keith chuckled and high-fived Lance. “Sure.”
“So…” Lance started shyly. “Does it beat Lotor’s?”
“Honestly?” Keith cocked his head, and Lance nodded. “Lotor’s was better.”
Lance folded his arms on the table and slumped. “Dang. I knew it, but still.”
“It’s okay. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m sure I know what to say to get Lotor to back off without offending him.” Keith looked sheepish. “Sorry that I wasn’t able to help you beat him though. Guess we should have called Hunk.”
“It’s okay.” Lance sighed and scuffed his foot across the ground. “I guess you were right. This competition was more of an ego thing than anything. Still,” Lance pushed himself out of his slouch, “what a jerk for flirting with a guy who’s already spoken for.”
Keith shook his head. “I told you, Lotor knew you were lying. This competition was purely for him to show off and mess with you. He knows you have no interest in me.”
Lance stared at Keith. Keith and him really did speak two different languages, didn’t they? How else could Keith be so clueless? “Keith, have you really never heard the phrase: ‘pulling pigtails’?”
Keith scowled. “What do pigtails have to do with anything?”
Dear all that was good in the universe, where had Keith been raised? In a hole in the ground?
“Keith, when a boy—think about five-years-old—likes a girl—or another boy—he likes to pull on the girl’s—or the boy’s—pigtails to get their attention. So when someone says they are pulling on someone’s pigtails, that means they like the other person, and that they are picking on that person because they want that person’s attention.”
Keith blinked then stared at Lance.
Warmth pooled in Lance’s cheeks. He rubbed the back of his head and looked away from Keith. “And you know, I kind of just told you that I pull on your pigtails, so…” Lance held his hands up and shrugged. “Take it as you will.”
“Are you being serious right now or joking?” Keith asked.
“Hey,” Lance snapped. “I’m being one-hundred percent serious.” Did Keith really think he would joke about this? Then again, Lance had just admitted that his form of flirting was picking on Keith. He hadn’t exactly been giving Keith the clearest of signals until this point.
Keith was quiet a moment. “I’m not sure how easy it would be for us to date with me here and you at the castle.”
Lance’s shoulders dropped. At least Keith’s rejection wasn’t cruel. A little overly pragmatic, but a fair point to lead with. “Yeah, not like we could date like we would back on Earth.”
“I think we can make it work though. It may not be the kind of dating we’re used to, but we’ve never let something like that stop us before.”
Lance perked up. Was he hearing things? Was Keith messing with him for revenge? “Are you for real?”
Keith lips pursed and his brow furrowed. “Unless you rather not date.”
Lance shook his head and flailed. “No, no! I want to! I’m just- You really want to date me?”
Keith snorted in amusement. “Yeah, Lance. I want to date you. Do you want to date me?”
Lance nodded vigorously.
He must have died inside the lidawyurm. There was no way this was really happening.
Keith smiled and held out his hand toward Lance. When Lance remained frozen on the spot, Keith grabbed Lance’s hand and tugged him out of the kitchen toward the dining hall where Lotor and only a handful of Blades remained.
The feast from before was decimated. There were only a few plates of food leftover, and Lotor was gathering a pile of dishes at the end of one of the tables.
At Lance and Keith’s approach, Lotor turned. His gold eyes slid to their interlocked hands. He raised one thin, white eyebrow.
“Prince Lotor.” Keith came to a stop in front of Lotor. He held up Lance and his intertwined hands, and Lance went three shades red. “Thank you so much for your offer. It really is an honor, and you truly have won every competition you’ve held for me—this one included—however, I still choose Lance. As he said, when it comes to human courting rituals, part of them is showing how much fun the two of you can have together.” Keith squeezed Lance’s hand and sent him a small smile, then looked back at Lotor. “You’re a great hunter and an excellent chef, but Lance is the one who I want to spend time with.”
Lance’s heart melted into a puddle of goo.
“I hope we can continue to work together for the betterment of the universe,” Keith said to Lotor.
Lotor’s gaze scanned Keith and Lance. He contemplated the two of them. Slowly, a grin spread across his face. “I see. No matter how skilled one is, or their status, when it comes to matters of the heart, a fool is on equal footing with a king—or a former prince, in this case.”
Lance glowered at Lotor. Had he just called Lance a fool?
“Thank you for understanding.” Relief filled Keith’s voice.
Lotor smirked. He rubbed his chin. “I can’t say I don’t see the appeal. Lance, what hunting and cooking skills you lack, you make up for with a vast knowledge of cosmetics. Your beauty could almost rival mine.”
Lotor flipped his hair over his shoulder and pivoted. “That being said, I am not a gracious loser. I will leave the dishes for you two to clean up.”
Lance’s face puffed with rage. “That-”
Keith squeezed his hand and put a finger to Lance’s lips. He smiled when his actions effectively silenced Lance. “I’m not the best with diplomacy, but I think just this once, you can let the insult slide, and we can clean this place up.”
Lance considered Keith’s words. He hummed in thought. He smirked as he snatched up the hand touching his lips and kissed the knuckles. “I’ll let it slide, if you kiss me and call me pretty.”
Keith rolled his eyes.
“Keith,” Lance whined.
Keith sighed and smiled fondly. “Okay. Fine. You’re pretty.” He leaned forward to kiss Lance.
Lance pulled his head back to prevent the kiss. “Say it like you mean it.”
“You’re pretty—gorgeous—Lance. Now will you let me kiss you?”
Lance smiled wickedly. “Why, Keith, I never knew you wanted me so bad. I’m wondering if I should make you wait a little bit longer. The anticipa-”
Keith kissed Lance.
Lance would have to teach Keith that he couldn’t shut him up with kisses whenever he wanted to. For now though, Lance enjoyed the kiss.