The rest of the evening passed went by both in the blink of an eye and at a snail’s pace to Keith. He continued to spend the evening towards the sides of the ballroom, hovering with the unspent energy of a hummingbird as his eyes flicked between Lance, then the stationed guards, then Shiro, then Lance, then the main entrance, then Lance’s smile, then the food table, then Lance’s swaying hips, then Lance’s eyes, then the waxed castle floors, and then Lance. Again. It always came back to Lance.
But Lance was in no rush to come back to Keith.
Nine songs with nine different dance partners since Lance spoke to Keith. Just short of two hours since they wrapped their pinkies. Dozens of smiles caused by new friends and old flings since the last one directed at Keith.
Not that Keith was keeping track of any of this. He was simply… observant. Part of the job. And he kept busy during the time. He spent much of it talking with Hunk, or Pidge for the short span they had chosen to attend the function. He was jealous of their ability to hide out during the festivities, though he wasn’t sure he would have followed them back to the lab even if he could. Keith talked to some other guards, though he avoided Shiro and the raised eyebrow upon his face. It was a conversation which felt dangerous to have.
But suddenly, Keith’s communicator beeped, indicating that festivities were to be wrapping up soon. While the rest of the guards would be seeing guests out and ensuring no lingering figures, he was to keep a close distance with the Prince. The Prince who apparently seemed to have taken back his decision to dance with him, as the last song played for the evening. He had instead pulled his Father and sister onto the dance floor, pulling a chuckle and eyeroll from the older gentleman, before he shook his head, and began to dance with his shining son and graceful daughter.
Keith forgot about their missed dance for that moment, smiling at the sight of the family together and sharing the last dance of the evening, as other families and couples around them also took part in this traditional Altean folk dance.
“He starts this at every ball.”
Keith looked up at his brother, who was similarly admiring the scene. “I’m not surprised by Lance. I’m surprised by the King.”
“From what I can tell, it’s been a tradition in their family. Allura once told me that their mother usually was the one who asked the King to dance. Lance must have picked up the tradition after their mother passed.”
Keith stayed silent. He could understand why rumors surrounding the social Prince had spread from watching Lance this evening. With each song, he looked for someone new to bring to the dance floor. Someone to flirt with while getting punch. Someone to tell a joke he laughed at more regardless. It was as if this was his natural state. He had been turned on and roared to life at this ball.
Yet, how could this sincere moment be left out? He had heard only a small fraction of who Lance was. Who could talk about the rule-breaking Prince Charming without mentioning that the rules were only broken to keep his friends, even those without rank or wealth, smiling? Without a hint towards how eager he was to keep everyone happy? Without acknowledging the heart of gold spurring the family scene which ended each evening? Were all these guests too accustomed to the heartwarming moment before their eyes? Because Keith couldn’t imagine it getting old to him.
He hoped Lance knew how valuable he is.
After the last song finished, everyone left on the dance floor clapped, before the last remaining guests made their way towards the door, chattering on their way. Keith moved towards Lance, staying behind him as he said his final goodbyes and waited for the front doors to close.
Once the doors closed, Lance slumped, falling backwards into Keith’s arms, pushing the air out of the guard’s lungs.
“Exhausted. Carry me?” Lance looked up at Keith, eyes blinking innocently. Keith sighed and reached down, lifting the Prince’s legs off the ground, causing his back to shift off of him, resulting in Keith carrying him bridal style.
“Where to, my Prince?”
“The kitchen. You need your dinner.”
“I can eat after you go to bed, Lance. That’s what we usually do.” Keith looked over to Shiro who was already leading Allura to her chambers.
“Well I can’t go to bed yet. We still have one last dance.”
“I thought you forgot,” Keith said, before he could stop himself. He felt a bit embarrassed to admit that, but it was the thought clouding his brain. That and how close he was holding Lance.
“I just figured you wouldn’t want to dance with a bunch of eyes on you. Plus, I wasn’t sure if you’d get in trouble for that. So I thought we could dance after the ball ended. Just you and me.”
Keith felt his face get warm. Lance was so considerate right now. He lowered Lance onto his feet but stayed close.
“Well we don’t have any music. And I don’t know how to dance.”
“I asked the violinist if he would stay a bit longer. And I’ll lead. No excuses, Keith.” Lance wrapped his arms around Keith’s neck, and looked into his eyes. “Trust me.”
Keith gently rested his hands upon Lance’s waist, scared to put too much pressure.
The violin music slowly began, a soft melody that soothed Keith’s nerves. Lance led their steps, though Keith was swaying more than dancing.
“You know, you can relax. It’s just us.”
“Why did you want to dance with me?” Keith blurted.
Lance chuckled slightly and leaned closer, resting his forehead on Keith’s shoulder. “I like myself when I’m with you. I know it’s a bit selfish.”
“I… I like myself when I’m with you, too.” Keith moved one of his hands to run through Lance’s hair, slightly stiff from hairspray. “Though I feel like you purposefully make my job difficult.”
Lance leaned back, looking at Keith, mouth gaped. “What? What are you talking about?”
“You talked to me during the ball, which isn’t normal and I’m sure I’ll get teased for. Plus, your trip to a crowded market on a relatively predictable schedule? Not ideal.” And that I’ve already gotten so attached. Keith didn’t voice the last one.
“Well if you get in trouble, tell them to come to me. Besides, it would make me a bad Prince if I didn’t spend time outside of the castle. I like my traditions.”
“Lance, I’m just teasing. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I like those things about you. And thank you again for this,” Keith said, pointing towards the band in his hair.
“You know, it was a bracelet, not a hairband.” Lance flicked Keith’s ponytail.
Keith scrunched his nose but smiled nonetheless. Lance rested his head back on Keith’s shoulder and Keith tightened his arms around his waist. They swayed slowly as the violin tapered out, though neither of them noticed at first. Finally, after Lance yawned for the second time, Keith picked him up again and carried him to his bedroom, laying him down on his bed and handing him his night wear.
“Goodnight, Keith. Thank you.”
Keith smiled and brushed his hand through Lance’s hair again as he whispered goodnight.
And as he went through the motions for the rest of the evening, the ghost of Lance’s arms remained around his neck.