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Who Wears the Crown

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The bot is set to easy when he walks onto the training deck and that should be his first sign that something is wrong.

Allura hasn't needed the bot to be set to easy since she was seven decaphoebs old and she certainly didn’t need it now.

No, if it was set to easy that meant she was taking out her frustrations on something that would go down with next to little thought.

She was just angrily smashing away to hide her tantrum, to put it simply.

He leans onto the control panel and presses the speaker button, trying to keep the tease out of his voice just a little as he speaks, “Princess, don’t you think that’s enough?” Because they both know he sees through her, and the army of busted bots at her feet can only be explained away by so much.

“Keitan!” She shouts his name in surprise initially before her expression drastically sours and she plants the end of her spear in the ground, sending up sparks from the training deck that probably meant it would be in need of repairs shortly, “It’s Allura. All-ooh-rah!”

Keitan rolls his eyes and presses the speaker button again, “Are you sure? Because Allura is a name befitting someone who would be mature and straight forward about her problems, seeking immediate and worthwhile resolutions that would benefit everyone. A princess— well, she might hide herself away and take her frustration out on inanimate objects because for some inane reason she still believes the title to somehow leave her powerless...”

Allura responds by opening her mouth to spout something in retaliation, realizing she has nothing, and stomping her foot, “Oh, would you get down here already?”

“Can I change the settings?”

“Only if you don’t actually want to know why I’m upset and would rather enable me to avoid my problems.”

“...”

“Keitan!”

“Hold on a tick! I’m deciding!”

“Kei—”

He keeps his finger over the speaker button while he laughed before affectionately rolling his eyes, “Down in a minute, Allura.”

He smiles but he’s turned off the battle simulator completely.

It takes another few minutes cajoling before she lets go of the spear and walks around the grounds with him, but he always manages somehow.

“They’ve hired me a bodyguard.” She grits out finally, her legs bent at an awkward angle beneath her as she slumps into her favorite juniberry flowers.

He picks one and tosses it at her, “Oh, woe is Allura, another man she’ll surely best in combat who will swoon over her every move.”

She catches the flower with an outraged scowl before reaching over to shove him, “Oh come off it, it’s not like that. This one is… this one is Galra.”

“...Oh, woe is Allura. A purple man she’ll—”

She groans and falls back into the greenery, nearly disappearing if she hadn’t chosen the exact moment to throw her hands up.

“Galra are old fashioned! And what’s worse, their emperor is an old friend of my father’s, so this isn’t just business. Lord Zarkon has never once recognized my independence, he’s sure to send over the strictest but hopelessly servile creature he can find. Or worse— someone who’s supposed to guide me to be more docile.”

Keitan shrugs and flops down into the grass beside her, “Or maybe he’ll pick someone from that new elite team I've been hearing about. Blade of… momasda? Marmainta? ...marshmallow?”

“Marmora, and why would that be any different? An elite team, that sounds even worse than a normal trained Galra soldier.”

“Yeah that’s the one. Well, I heard the marmorites were basically an antigovernment rebel force prepared to start a revolution until the Prince located them and decided to hear them out. It would actually be an excellent show of faith to place a blade operative among the Galra allies so that they can have a close eye on all angles of how the empire proceeds with their work, both on and off world… this may not even be about you.” He feigns a gasp and Allura shoots up to lean over him for a moment, a more genuine confusion in her voice.

“...Well...I suppose that makes sense… but if it’s just a farce why am I to put up with some rebel operative?! I’d hardly consider bodyguard of the princess to be some sort of integral political position.” She flops back into her patch of grass and stares up at the sky.

Keitan props himself up on his elbow and rolls his eyes, “Guardian to the heart of Altea? Sounds pretty important to me.”

Allura blinks, flushes, and shoves him back into the grass.

It’s a day before the new Galra operative is said to arrive on Altea when Allura bursts into his chambers in a cold sweat.

Keitan shocks awake, nearly throwing himself from his bed as she storms up to him, a flurry of pink and blue and silver as she crawled right into his bed and clasps her hands together.

“I have been struck by inspiration!”

Keitan glares at her from his position of clinging to his own mattress with one very cold foot on the floor before dragging himself up and throwing the covers over her head.

She shrieks but it devolves into giggles and alerts no one so as he snuggles back into his nest of too many blankets and too many pillows (+one princess) he ignores her.

“Keitannnn. Don’t you want to hear my brilliant plan?”

He burrows his face into his pillow, “I’m positive not, since it looks like you want to ask me something.”

She remains seated under his attempted blanket barricade and brings in a draft that makes him scrunch up his nose in distaste.

“Oh, don’t be that way it’s not… so terrible. I think.”

“You’re letting in the cold, Allura.” He grumbles.

She makes a little “o” shape with her mouth before crouching down over her knees and tilting her head up at him, “You know sir, some might find this scandalous.”

“And then they’d remember that I have utterly no interest in women, princesses or otherwise, yes, yes, now what is your brilliant plan?”

She shoots up again and pulls the blanket off him in the process. He smacks himself in the forehead as if he should have foreseen this and spares her another glare between his fingers.

“Okay, okay, now hear me out— what if… you take my place?”

“...”

She smiles at him, far too bright to be natural.

“...”

It stretches thinner and thinner the longer he stares at her.

“...”

“Oh, come now, Keitan!”

“Oh? Was that the whole plan? Cause if that’s the whole plan then no, absolutely not.” This time he takes his blankets and cocoons himself entirely, “You know princess, some castle hands only get so many days off…”

“And only so many castle hands are given the opportunity to play prince!”

He pulls the blanket down to show just his eyes, those features of his that could nearly pass as Altean royalty if they both thought about it enough, “So, this… doesn’t involve my cross dressing?”

“No! Good heavens, no. Father just went off world with Coran and won’t be back for a few quintant, it’s the perfect opportunity to claim some documents were unclear and that Altea’s crown belongs to a prince, not a princess.” She grins and pokes his cheek through the blanket.

Keitan finally sits up, dragging a hand through his long black hair and stares at her for another moment, “And the rest of the castle is just going to go with you on this?”

Allura nods, “Leave all of that to me! Your only job will be to allow others to call you Prince Keitan, you can carry on as you would normally.”

He eyes her suspiciously again, unsure how much longer he can hold out when she looks so hopeful, “Your father leaves you in charge for a couple quintant and you decide to get the whole castle in on a practical joke against his longest standing ally.”

Allura bites her lip and puffs out her cheeks, “Could you not say it that way? Besides! It’s not like we’re entertaining the emperor himself.”

“Just the future emperor and his chosen company.”

“Keitan the more you poke holes in my plan the more it feels like you don’t want to help me!”

He sighs, “Well princess, how terrible would it be if you just received this Marmoran guard as you were directed?”

“Horrendous! Awful! Quiznaking vile! Even a moment under special protections like this would undermine my status! My people will understand their princess needs no guard, this joke would simply be a fun little shove so the Galra place their emissary elsewhere!” She crosses her arms defiantly.

He’s left staring at her still, hoping to see the cracks in her resolve but there aren’t any, before releasing a long-suffering sigh, “Alright, and what will you be up to while I’m off playing… royal?”

She grins again, broader this time, “Why, I’ll be proving myself most capable in your stead, as head of the castle guard, of course!”

He groans and throws himself face first into his pillow again, “Of course, I’m sure this won’t blow up in our faces somehow.”

“Fantastic, oh this will be exciting! Might I raid your closet for some comfortable armor?” He feels her shift off the bed and can hear how happy she must be. Who was he to deny her anything, really?

“Yeahhhh, go ahead.”

It’s not until she advises him that they’d have to do up some fancy Altean royal attire for him that he finally truly starts to regret his decision.

They were just about on schedule, if not a few minutes early which Lotor thanked his own meticulousness for.

Honestly, he couldn’t wait to disembark, to stand on Altea once more, the land of his mother. It also helped that exiting the ship meant one step closer to not having to answer the marmoran operative’s excessive line of questioning.

“I still don’t understand how placing me with the Princess of Altea helps back your claim that the emperor isn’t an energy sucking vampire,” says the operative. In this moment his name escapes Lotor and he loathes the idea of having to ask for it again.

Instead he offers his fellow Galra an apologetic smile.

“Well we’re not trying to dissuade that claim, that much is true.”

The operative narrows his eyes and his frown appears unimpressed.

“My father and his elite are… energy sucking vampires, as you so delicately put it, but by placing your men around our allies who help provide him his necessary energy we simply hope to prove that the empires needs are met as humanely as possible.”

The operative leans back against one of the long bridge chairs and props his legs up over the armrest, “With all due respect, that is a slippery slope to stand on.”

Lotor has no energy to devote to telling him that added to his demeanor there was very little respect in those words. He was a blunt thing. Possibly due to his ancestors interbreeding some time ago with some primitive creatures in another star system. He resembled the usual Galra, of moderate height though he was a bit thinner than most. Broad in the shoulders but someone who could easily be overlooked in a fight. His ears were pointed with tufts of blue fur beneath them, a shade that matched his skin tone but was much lighter than his hair. His eyes were also blue, like Lotor’s only deeper. But he always carried himself so differently, so much more casually than Lotor could ever manage. As if he hadn’t a care in the world sometimes, despite his looks Lotor would say he was probably more human than Galra, which might not have been the worst thing.

That was why his name was somewhat strange. Suitable for a Galra soldier if Lotor remembered correctly because he was named after some sort of weapon, but still strange.

Pike? Halberd? Spear…

“Lance,” he guesses, “While I agree that we are in a somewhat precarious situation, I promise we are doing the best we can with what we are given. You’re about to meet with our strongest allies to combat our energy crisis, the Altean provide nearly a third of the energy needed to carry out all operations on Daibazaal and you can see firsthand that out alliance is of amicable standing.”

Lance, as he hadn’t corrected him, grunts, “By shadowing a princess. Heck, we never even knew there was a princess of Altea. Sounds like a set up.”

“I assure you, she is real, and she is to be their ruler one day. I hear she’s quite capable.” Lotor thinks fleetingly of the few moments he’d spent with her as a child. Perhaps she didn’t even remember meeting him at this point. Quiznak, it was so long ago.

Lance quirks a brow, “What’s she like?”

Lotor pauses, trying to remember any defining characteristic. He wanted to say she was brave and vibrant and strong but somehow his brain couldn’t form the words at the image in his head.

He remembers her beautiful eyes, and her silver hair, the dimples in her laugh…

“Never mind~” Lance chuckles as it takes Lotor a moment to realize the silence had stretched on, “Jeez, I didn’t realize I was looking after your girlfriend.”

Lotor pales, “She isn’t— we aren’t— I met the girl once and she was quite charming, is all!”

“Don’t worry don’t worry, I won’t steal her from you. Honestly now my job is finally more interesting. If you and the Altean princess are supposed to merge empires one day I can almost see how this is important—”

Lotor smacks a hand down on the flight console before him, “There will be no more talk of that! I would never seek to merge the Galra with Altea— perhaps I would submit to her someday, renounce my own claim so her people would be safe, but to subject the Altean people to— to… Lance, why are you looking at me like that?”

Lance shrugs, “It’s fun to get you worked up.”

Lotor stares for a long moment before sighing and staring down at his own hand. Given he’d been forced to wear something a bit more fitting of a diplomatic assignment, his armor was hidden away on board while he was made to endure the discomfort of bright blue linens with elaborate and pointless embroideries, something more becoming of a prince. It left his hands bare and he disliked that tremendously. He can see his claws starting to accentuate themselves and he has to take a deep breath to restrain them.

The Galra had very little history where they didn’t take over and consume everything they touched.

He had spent most of his life trying to make sure his father didn’t exacerbate this tendency and he would be damned if he would take such a pure and noble planet like Altea and tarnish it with Galra’s violence steeped histories. It was already obvious to him that in that kind of merger, the Galra always won out, like the situation with his claws or when his father’s eyes would stare back at him from his own reflection.

“Hey man. Hey Lotor. Hey princeykins.”

Lotor drags himself out of his thoughts to focus on Lance again just to find the man back on his feet, sauntering over carelessly. He’d probably put on some manner of intense face. He should apologize for making his company uncomfortable, his issues with his kind were his own not—

“No worries man, I’ll totally put in a good word for you with the princess.”

“...You really don’t have to.”

“Nah, it’s cool. Ladies love me, I can have the two of you canoodling in no time~!”

“There will be no- no canoodling— Lance!”

Before Lotor can make a decision based on his pride instead of his planet (like say, throwing Lance out of an air-lock) one of his private general’s voices sounds over the intercom.

“We’re entering Altea’s atmosphere~ so if you’re going to roughhouse make sure you do it in a place Zethrid and I can get a good look okay~?” Announces Ezor.

Lance waggles his eyebrows, Lotor puts his face in his hands, and there is the sound of someone struggling for the mic over the intercom.

“Please, no rough housing, but do sit down we will be arriving soon!” Clarifies the far more level headed general Acxa who had clearly won that battle if the drawled out “oooooowwwww” in the background was any indication.

When they land Lotor makes some small adjustments to his suit as if anything he did could make him look more presentable.

“I’m gonna be real with you man,” Lance drawls, one arm over Lotor’s shoulder, “You’re a real soft looking Galra, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Hell, I’d date you based on your looks alone.”

Lotor stares into space, unsure who it was that indulged this lanky blade to go and spout so many unwanted opinions, when suddenly his line of vision is filled with the lovely visage of the princess Allura.

Honestly. Sometimes he thinks he’d made her up given how little anyone on Daibazaal was willing to discuss the fact they’d soon have to contend with her female rule.

In Lotor’s mind there had never been any doubt that the fairer sex was equally capable as their rougher counterparts (if not more so) sadly, Daibazaal had some struggles keeping up with concepts like that.

But no, he remembers her from their short meeting sitting astride her father’s knee while he tried to show her the drawing he’d done. He hadn’t exactly been an artist at the time, but she’d seemed so delighted. Perhaps he could paint her something else, during their stay? He’d certainly improved over the years…

And yet, when he moves to greet her, she steps back and motions broadly with her hands to a man standing beside her.

“My lord, why don’t you greet our guests?!” the woman preens. It was in that moment that Lotor realizes she’s not wearing her jewels or even a gown which would be customary for an event like this.

Rather, she’s dressed like a guard.

Who...was she trying to fool...?

“Princess—”

“Yes, my apologies, it’s a pleasure to meet you, prince Lotor,” starts the stranger, a long black braid over his shoulder as he offers his hand and steps firmly in front of the woman who Lotor is sure is the princess. The man’s eyes are violet, and he could certainly fool some lesser Galra into believing he was a royal but—but he wasn’t Allura.

He eyes the princess who simply smiles brightly at him as he takes the strangers hand.

This…makes no sense. Would he be rude to question it?

“Wasn’t I supposed to watch over…a princess?” Lance mumbles, a hand over his mouth as he leans toward Lotor in a manner no one would ever consider subtle.

Lotor opens his mouth to try and respond but the princess (because she is the princess…right?) leans over the shoulder of the stranger, displaying quite the bit of familiarity, and waves her arm, “Oh yes you see, there was a bit of mix up, you were contracted to guard the crown, and the crown lay with prince Keitan,”  She nudges him politely for added emphasis.

The one addressed as Keitan appears as uncomfortable as Lotor feels but right there on his forehead lay the very jewel that should have been sitting atop Allura’s brow.

“Ah, yes, what my…head of guard says is true… this mistake has happened so often I’ve had to start wearing my hair up to avoid…err…further misunderstandings?” His eyes dart over to Allura who continues to nod enthusiastically.

Lance looks ‘the prince’ up and down and gives a short whistle before chewing on his bottom lip for a second.

Lotor restrains the urge to kick him with every fiber in his being, as if his Dayak stands over him herself demanding he be still.

“Yeah… I can see that.” Lance finishes, eyebrow raised with clear intentions.

The prince, as the princess had apparently decided for the day, seems embarrassed by his tone and softly presses his knuckle to his lips as he turns away, “Anyway...shall I… show you to your rooms?”

Allura continues to beam, vibrant and beautiful as ever. Several other guards smile too, playing along with this ridiculous charade. How on earth was anyone supposed to mistake Allura for captain of the guard the woman was a damn near queen—

“Princess—” Lotor starts again, unable to wrap his head around the joke, when Lance grasps his shoulder and speaks over him.

“Actually, prince Keitan, our prince Lotor was charged with his own jobs while we were here that he’s so eager to get to, might he be able to shadow your captain of the guard while he’s here?”

Lotor raises a brow, immediately concerned by whatever it is Lance is planning.

Allura’s face turns a little less bright at the idea, “Does your prince not speak for himself?”

Lotor tries again to respond but just like last time, Lance interrupts him. He was starting to feel awfully put aside but given his confusion he was inclined to allow it. Had he imagined Allura’s rank? Had she always been some manner of castle staff that he’d simply grown a little too fond of? Day dreamed about the beautiful girl being a princess so that maybe one day it wouldn’t be unheard of that they could grow closer?

“My apologies… miss, our prince is a bit shy, but I was addressing your prince. Or does he not speak for himself as well?” Lance’s voice is clearly challenging and Lotor restrains the small sound of outrage trying to claw its way out of his throat.

Oh, good merciful heavens Lotor could utterly strangle Lance.

Miss? Who talks to a princess like that?! Because she is, she is the princess, what lunacy is this that Lotor was starting to doubt that—

Prince Keitan seems unperturbed, giving a simple and very unroyal shrug of his shoulders, “Sure, why not. I don’t think we got your name, you are…?”

The marmoran smiles, something almost dashing as he leans forward to offer the slightly shorter man a hand, “The name’s Lance. I look forward to guarding your body.”

Lotor feels his throat cease up, imagining how he would have needed to drag Lance right back on board his ship if he had even remotely approached the princess like that— But instead, while the fake prince handled the wayward guard, the not so secret princess was finally acknowledging him.

“Right then...Prince Lotor… it seems I’ll be your guide.”

She presses her shoulder against her chosen prince— oh. Oh, why was that such a strange thought. What if the man was some manner of royalty, what if he was her betrothed and this whole thing was only a slight farce? What if…! No, stop, Lotor, try and see sense— she whispers something that sounds an awful lot like: “You were wrong, he’s blue.”

Keitan (prince Keitan?) laughs and Lotor’s keen ears pick up on the sarcastic: “Nah, still purple.”

Lotor glances down at the back of his palm again, bites his lip and clenches his hand into a frustrated fist at his side. No claws. He can handle this.

It’s Fine.

He has no idea what is going on in this kingdom but if princess Allura wants it this way he’ll play along.

Lance may not have thought too highly of this mission before, but now, standing in front of the two most gorgeous creatures he’s ever seen, watching fire dance in the woman’s eyes and the slow blush creep up on the man’s cheeks, he could probably do to reevaluate that stance.

This was probably going to be the most fun he’s had on assignment since— well, ever. Assignments were never fun. They usually involved a lot of dead. The Blade wasn’t so big on protecting their people when the mission was always more important.

Lance glances over to Lotor who seems to be having difficulty wrapping his head around the fact he’d been wrong about his princess and spares him a soft smile.

Before Lotor had found them out he’d lost a lot of comrades to needless struggle. But the prince had always been known for his less than Galran approaches to most things. Like trying to find peace with a rebel organization rather than just executing the lot for treason. Everyone had told him that Lotor’s finding them was the worst thing that could ever happen to the blade, but Lance didn’t think so.

Lance had been happy to be shoved into a ship where he was able to witness the man work first hand, to be able to study him, see how careful he was, how guarded, how… once you got past all of that, he was actually so incredibly soft.

When Lotor was emperor, there would be no need for rebellion, Lance was sure of that.

Of course, until then they had the questionable Zarkon and his energy sucking army still looking for ways to keep Daibazaal afloat after that nasty business (*) that almost left the planet an empty husk.

But spending time with their future ruler and getting to see firsthand that it really would be alright someday was reassuring.

This was why, as he watches Lotor struggle over the verifiable goddess standing before him Lance decides to do his best to help the wreck.

And if that meant he got to stay with the gorgeous black-haired prince, by all means, it was a sacrifice he was more than willing to make.

“Please, lead on, my lord.” Lance concedes to the prince with a smirk and a low bow.

Keitan’s soft flush never leaves his face but he and the girl Lotor had seemed most bothered by turn guide them into the palace.

--

The walk to their rooms had been relatively silent save for a few cordial nods for small talk and a clearly friendly banter between the Altean couple. Lance ignored most of the spoken word to make observations about the building and the way Lotor’s hands didn’t unclench—the poor guy had to learn how to relax, how was he ever going to survive to rule the Galra if he gave himself heart failure first? —and alright, let’s be fair. The prince was walking a few paces in front of him and he had certain assets that simply could not be ignored.

It was so much that Lance actually forced himself to remain polite for most of the walk lest he offend the woman in their company. And, well, Lotor was an excellent swordsman and Lance was positive he’d pushed his luck enough already.

The woman, the castle guard who carried herself far higher than one should, was the one who was more vocal; “I’m sure you must be tired from the voyage, we’ll send for your crew to join you once they’ve finished looking over the ship but for now feel free to take a moment and gather yourselves, we’ll have dinner shortly where we can discuss the rest of your stay with us.”

The prince nodded along, averting his gaze and fidgeting with his hands. A nervous tick of his maybe.

Regardless, the moment they were gone Lance had to turn to Lotor with the brightest grin on his face because he simply couldn’t hold it back any longer, “I had no idea Altea was full of all these beauties! Oh man, I guess that explains you a little bit doesn’t it?”

Lance throws himself into one of the elaborate beds with a dreamy sigh. The bed was probably more for Lotor than for him as once he was properly situated as a castle hand, he’d have a much less lavish room somewhere near his charge…so he’d live it up while he could, thanks.

“Beautiful Altean everywhere… should have taken a job like this years ago.”

Lotor’s face flushes, running his hands through his hair before he wanders into the joint restroom with a pensive look on his face. It’s barely a moment before he wanders right back out looking incredulous, hands out in front of him because he can’t fathom how the day’s gone, “Lance, hold on, I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re going on about,” he lies in a rush, unable to mentally handle Lance’s compliments, “Just—let me first establish— you cannot continue to speak that way to royalty!”

Lance rolls onto his stomach and props himself up on his hands, “I talk to you like that.”

As is becoming habit with Lotor’s inability to understand how Lance exists, a feat Lance is rather proud of at this point, Lotor stares into the blank space in front of him with his eyes wide, “...yes, and that has never been acceptable either.”

“...right. Well, I’m not gonna stop, we’re friends now, you’re cool people, Princeykins.” Lance shrugs and rolled over once more to hop off the bed and saunter up to Lotor, grabbing his shoulders as the flush takes over his whole face.

“W-wait—Friends—”

“Yes, and you know what friends do? Friends help friends get with the people who make their chests feel all light and fuzzy.”

Lance turns Lotor around and pushes him toward the bathroom again, “So go pretty yourself up for that captain of the guard. Or whatever she is.”

Lotor grabs hold of the doorway to keep Lance from being able to push him any further and turns his head to face Lance, “I’m not— she’s not— she is the princess I swear to you, I honestly haven’t the vaguest idea what she’s doing with this—”

Lance blinks, releasing Lotor to tap his own chin thoughtfully, “Huh…I wonder what that makes Keitan then…”

Lotor mumbles something under his breath but Lance doesn’t catch it, nor does he care enough to ask.

“Anyway, it’s not like it matters much what she is, you look at her like she put the stars in the galaxy so she’s gotta mean something to you, and if she does then I’m here for it. If I happen to get to hang out with what is basically a prince—” Lotor pulls a face and Lance rolls his eyes, “Whether he is or he isn’t, he’s gorgeous and he blushes when I smile at him and I’m living for it so. Whatever— what’s the harm in our playing this game with them?”

Lotor worries at his lip for a second before sighing deeply, “Well, I suppose if I am by the princess’s side for our stay, she’ll still technically have a Galra protector, so the mission won’t be a complete farce…”

Lance beams and puts all his strength behind the hard shove that forces Lotor into the restroom the rest of the way.

“Then it’s decided! Now go shower, I’ll find you something nice or wear for dinner.”

As the door shuts Lance can hear Lotor groan at nothing and he stifles his own little laugh over it. He glances around the room to find where some very quick and apparently very stealthy castle hands had delivered their belongings and goes about picking something dashing for his prince to wear.

Well, his first prince. If Lance got his way, he’d get a second one in a short while too, one he could hold in a different respect, one that hid bright red cheeks behind his knuckles in a very unprincely manner. It would be a bit of a mission, but Lance was sure he’d do just fine.