The Black Lion of Voltron was the fastest ship in either galaxy. It could maintain speeds that would rip the hull off 90% of the Alliance fleet. It wasn't fast enough.
"Damn you Lance." Keith muttered to himself. "You insubordinate, cocky sonofabitch. DAMN you!"
Red Lion had landed. Keith grit his teeth and tried to coax more speed out of the Black, but even it had limits. It would be at least ten minutes before Keith could reach whatever planet Lance had set down on.
Keith had been jarred awake by the castle alarms. He rushed to Castle Control only to find it in chaos. Pidge, Nanny and Coran were there, Lance and Hunk stumbled in behind him. Nanny screamed and wailed, "She's gone! It's all your fault! All of you!" there was more, but he quickly tuned her out and turned to Coran.
He nodded grimly. "Nanny noticed her window was open from her room, and went to Allura's to close it. When she got there, Allura was gone."
"She could be in the castle."
"Not likely." Pidge spoke up. "There's a faint lazon trail from her window."
"A ship?! How would a ship get past Castle security and all the way up to Allura's window?"
"It's all your fault!" Shrieked Nanny.
"I don't know." Pidge confessed. "But the trail is there. I reconfigured the cameras so they could pick up lazon. I can show you." They crowded around a monitor as Pidge keyed in some commands. The picture of the outside of the castle shifted colors, and they could all clearly see a faint reddish-purple streak.
"Review security footage." Keith snapped.
Pidge typed in more commands. It seemed to show nothing. Then, "There!" cried Keith, pointing. The background of the picture in one area seemed to shimmer. The shimmer drifted down to Allura's balcony, and stopped. Moments later, Allura floated out of her room as if she was being carried, but there was nothing there. She drifted into the shimmer, and was absorbed by it.
Immediately arguments broke out over what they had just seen. Keith was horrified to remember how long they had spent senselessly trying to figure out HOW it was possible instead of acting immediately. Well, some of them. Nearly twenty-five minutes had gone by before Keith got everyone calmed down and had a plan formulated. Until he looked around.
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he knew the answer.
Striding to the main console, he hailed Red Lion. "Lance!"
As if the anger in Keith's voice was nonexistant, Lance responded with a chipper "What's on your mind, Captain?"
The view screen showed him looking happily curious behind his flight helmet.
"Get your ass back here, Lieutenant. That's an order."
Keith was taken aback by Lance's acquiescence. That was not like him at all! Then Pidge spoke at his elbow. "Um, Keith? Red Lion isn't changing course."
"Lance, why aren't you changing course?"
The face in the screen looked surprised."Oh, you meant now?"
Keith ground his teeth in frustration. "Now. Lance. Get back to the Castle."
Lance grinned. Keith closed his eyes. He knew that grin. "Uh, sorry Keith, I didn't hear that last part. Could you repeat?" The connection flickered, then again. "Could you repeat?"
"Lance, don't you dare turn off your communicator!" By the end of the sentence, Keith was talking to an empty screen. Mentally employing ever curse word he had ever picked up from Lance, he stalked quickly to the launcher. "I'm going after Lance. We are NOT going after the Princess without a plan. They'll be expecting us, there will be a trap. Pidge, get a lock on that lazon trail. I want to know where they went."
That had been nearly an hour ago. Lance had refused to pick up his hails, no matter how dire the threats Keith threw at him. And now Lance had landed, probably putting himself right in the middle of whatever trap Doom had set. If he got himself killed... Keith slammed that thought away, and checked his instruments instead. What he saw shocked him. Red Lion was moving again, coming toward him! His communicator flickered, and without waiting for the hail, he yelled "Lance! Are you okay?"
"It's not Lance." Allura's voice came back as her picture snapped into view. "Oh, Keith! I don't know what happened! I was asleep, then suddenly I was on a ship, with Lotor! He took me to this planet, and was trying to force me into a bigger ship when Red Lion showed up! Lance distracted Lotor long enough for me to get away, but he's still back there!"
"Allura. Get back to the castle. I'll go get Lance."
She nodded through teary eyes moments before Red Lion flashed past Black, going the opposite direction. Keith bit down on his lip, hard. How could Lance love her? It was obvious he did. He flirted with her incessantly...well, Lance flirted with everyone, even him, but Allura most of all. He blushed whenever she touched him. And, when she was kidnapped, he flew to save her without a thought for his own safety. Keith liked Allura, respected her in some ways, but couldn't imagine loving anyone so... pink. Even if he did prefer women. Fighting down a jealousy that almost competed with his worry, he followed Red's trail to the surface of the small planet.
He was surprised to scan only one ship on the surface, and only Lance and Lotor. If there was a trap, apparently Lance had reacted too quickly for it to be set. Following his heart. Lotor would have been expecting Keith's more rational reaction. But Lance... Keith shook his head as the two came into view. Fistfighting. They broke apart as Black Lion settled to the earth, with Lotor scurrying for his ship. Keith watched him go, then his eyes swung back to Lance and widened in horror. Lance had fallen to the ground. Quickly, Keith fired missiles at Lotor's ship, and it detonated. He frowned. That wasn't right, it couldn't be that easy.
Then he was hailed. Lotor's face appeared on the screen. "Missed me." he taunted in a sing-song voice. "But then, it's so hard to hit what you can't see, isn't it? I'd love to stay and chat, but I have a Princess to catch up with."
The invisible ship. Keith didn't have time to berate himself for not thinking of it, he was too busy activating the lift to lower him to where Lance lay, unmoving, on the ground.
Keith ran over and went to his knees by his fallen friend. "Lance! Are you okay?" He saw blood against the blue and white of his uniform, leaking through just above Lance's left hip. Not a vital area. He sighed with relief as Lance looked at him in irritation. "Lotor doesn't fight fair. We agreed, no weapons." He complained. But Keith could hear the pain in his voice despite the lightness of the comment.
"Don't talk. I'll go get my medkit out of the Lion."
"Ha. I'm not that easy to shut up."
But Keith was already gone. He returned in moments with a blanket and first aid kit. He muttered angrily as he deftly cut Lance's uniform away from the wound. "You know, if you hadn't disobeyed orders and gone running off like that, you wouldn't be in this mess."
"Hey, would you be careful with those? No sharp objects for you if you're going to be all cranky."
Keith sat back. "CRANKY?" he barked. "You run off and nearly get yourself killed, and you think Iím just cranky?"
"Well I knew if I didn't you would, and Lotor would've killed you. I was expecting him to cheat. OUCH! You'd've been caught off guard, expecting him to be all honorable like you are."
"No, I wouldn't have chased after Lotor. Notice how I didn't?"
"You're here, aren't you? You wouldn't have let Lotor take Allura. You're too much in love with her."
Keith snorted. "I'm not in love with Allura. Don't worry, you have nothing to be jealous of." He couldn't keep the bitterness out of his voice. He hoped Lance didn't notice, but Lance grabbed his arm and was looking at him warily.
"What do you mean, I have nothing to be jealous of?" He said with low intensity, his hazel eyes flickering quickly, probing Keith's gaze.
Keith looked back at the wound he was dressing. "I mean, I'm not interested in Allura. I'm not competing with you. She's all yours."
Lance released his arm and lay back with a gasping laugh that quickly turned into a wince of pain. "Oh, it only hurts when I laugh." he said dramatically. "What are you talking about, Keith?"
"Hang on. I'm injecting an anesthetic so I can stitch this up." Lance propped his head up to see Keith jam a needle into his hip, decided he would rather look at the sky and lay back down. "I'm talking" Keith continued, "about you and Allura. I'm not blind. I mean, come on, you just risked your life to rescue her."
Lance wheezed a painful laugh again. "You think I came out here for her?" His expression became exasperated. "Gods, Keith, I know you're not that stupid."
Keith started stitching the ugly wound closed. What the hell was Lance talking about? "Okay then, enlighten me. Why did you come out here?"
"I already told you."
"Did I miss that part?" The needle pushed through skin, and Keith pulled the thread tight, wincing in sympathy as he did so.
"Keith." The tone in Lance's voice, so different, serious, almost... vulnerable? drew his full attention. He looked at Lance, and was surprised by the sadness in his face. "Don't."
"I have to close this, Lance. Do you need more time for the anesthesia to kick in?"
"That's not what I mean and you know it." Anger flashed through the sorrow. "Donít make me say what you already know, just because you choose to ignore it."
Keith sat back with a frown. "Lance, sometimes I have no idea what the hell you're talking about. I would rank this as one of those times. What are you mad at me for?"
"For refusing to just accept it. Why do you have to pretend? Why can't you just cope with the fact that I challenged Lotor to keep you from doing it, to keep you from getting hurt? I know you don't love me back, but this little game of yours is really getting old, and that Allura shit? That was low."
Keith dropped one hand to the ground to make sure it was still there. He leaned closer to Lance so he could see into his eyes. "What?"
Lance stared at him belligerently for a moment, but the look quickly crumpled to one of pain and he looked away. "Stop playing, Keith. I'm too tired for this."
Vaguely Keith realized he was still holding a needle. He numbly finished Lance's stitches. He didn't seem to be able to form any coherent thought. I know you don't love me back. Slowly it settled into his mind.
It worked its way past his defenses, past his disbelief. Lance still had his face turned away, so Keith slowly stood up and walked around his feet, then sprawled on the ground next to him looking into those now rather startled hazel eyes. Keith reached a hand out to touch Lance's face, and his friend flinched slightly with a look of confusion and reproach. With a voice far huskier than he expected it to be, Keith replied "No. I can't love you back, because I loved you first. I'm afraid it's up to you to love me back."
He leaned forward and, tentatively at first, touched his lips to Lance's. The hesitation was short-lived, and the kiss grew in intensity and fervor as they twined together until Lance broke it with a laugh.
"Now what?" Keith snapped, a little irritated at the interruption to a moment he had so long anticipated, so long believed was impossible.
Lance looked at him, wry amusement snapping in his eyes. "I've just become disappointingly aware of the side effects of a shot of anesthesia to the groin."
Keith laughed with him, and wrapped him in a tight embrace. But Lance's irrepressable sense of humor, ill-timed as it seemed,brought him back to reality. They still had to deal with Lotor. Keith wasn't afraid of the Doom Prince catching Red Lion on the way back to Arus. Doom hadn't built anything that fast, no matter what new cloaking device they had come up with, but that cloak was going to be trouble. And soon. Plus, everyone was probably worried. He sighed. "I should go let everyone know we're fine."
He started to disentangle himself, but Lance held on. "Keith? Is this real?"
The vulnerability in the question, the emotional impact of this revelation, the remembered feel of Lance's lips on his own and the press of that lithe body, were too much. "As real as anything I've known." He lowered his head again, and this time, Lance did not laugh.