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Shut Up and Trust Me

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Lance awoke in his tiny shack in the forest just outside the kingdom walls. He had been living there for a little over a month and was getting used to his new lifestyle. He was living in self-exile because he had built up quite the reputation as a petty thief in the Kingdom of Lyon, they were even calling him the Blue Bandit. He decided it was better to leave the city than wait around for them to find him and put a noose around his pretty neck. 

He looked out the window and squinted at the daylight, based on the sun’s angle it had to be almost noon. He rolled out of bed and slipped on his pants and favorite blue vest, then searched the cabinets for food, though all he came up with was cobwebs. He was just thinking about hunting when he heard a branch snap outside. 

Lance froze. 

He dropped to his knees and crawled to the window. He doubted the royal guard would search for the Blue Bandit out here, but that didn’t mean he was entirely safe. Even though his shack seemed abandoned, he was always afraid the owner would return and find him. He snuck a look out the window. Nothing but trees.

“Lance?” A familiar voice called.

Lance shot up and ran to the door. Suddenly a gentle giant appeared in the clearing, it was Hunk. Lance ran out and leapt into Hunk’s arms. 

Lane buried his face into Hunk’s yellow tunic, he hadn’t seen him in a couple of weeks. He understood it was hard for him to come out and visit, but Lance got so lonely.

“Are you two done?” Came a biting voice from behind Hunk. Pidge, no doubt. Lance pulled out of the embrace to see her standing there with a basket of food. 

“Perfect timing, guys!” Lance exclaimed, taking the basket out of Pidge’s hands. Lance flipped open the top and breathed in the intoxicating aroma. It was filled with fruit and cheese, plus bread and cookies from Hunk’s bakery. Much better than anything he would’ve caught out here in the woods. “I was beginning to think you’d make me get my own food for once.” 

Pidge rolled her eyes, but then she allowed herself to crack a small smile. “Yeah well, I guess we miss you.” She said, punching Lance’s arm. 

“Where are my manners?” Lance dropped into a deep bow. “Wont you step into my mansion? Though, be warned, the maid hasn’t cleaned up yet. I simply must fire her.”

The trio laughed as they entered the run down shack. Hunk pulled sat on a stool whose stability looked questionable, Lance sprawled out on a dusty arm chair and Pidge opted to just sit on the ground, it was probably the cleanest surface in the place anyway.

“So,” Hunk said, exchanging a glance with Pidge, “aside from the food, there’s another reason we’re here.”

Lance raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“Yes.” Hunk continued. “We wanted to bring you back with us.”

Lance casually swung his legs over the side of the arm chair and looked up at the ceiling. “You’re joking, right?”

“Come on, man, no one even suspects you’re the Blue Bandit.” Hunk reached inside his breast pocket and pulled out a little card. “Would they have sent this to a criminal?” Hunk handed the card to Lance. It was an invitation to the annual ball at the Castle of Lyon. Everyone in the kingdom was invited. Lance’s eyes danced across the curly, cursive letters of his name. “See? In their eyes, you’re still just Lance McClain.”

Lance forced a laugh. “Lance McClain died of the plague.” He shoved the card into his pocket. “Just like the rest of his family.”

“Except he didn’t” Pidge chimed in from the floor. “I know it’s hard to go about your life now that your family’s gone, but being out here alone doesn’t help either.” 

Lance continued staring at the ceiling, schooling his features to appear cool and aloof, the wall he always put up when Hunk and Pidge tried to get him to talk about his family. 

Pidge sighed, “Please come back with us, Lance. Matt said he’d be happy to share his room with you, it’s too big for just him anyway. “

Hunk leaned forward in his chair. “Plus you finished second in our class at the Garrison Academy, so you should have no problem finding a suitable job.”

Lance snorted. “Who would want the second best? The guy who was always the runner up.”

Hunk’s face softened and he leaned forward, placing a comforting hand on Lance’s leg. There was nothing in his eyes but the purest form of kindness, that was a the face that made his bakery so successful. People came for the food, but stayed for that famous Hunk-empathy. “That means you’re still better than 99% of the class.”

Lance eased up at the thought of returning. Perhaps he could go home with Hunk and Pidge. His years with them at the Garrison had been some of the happiest of his life, though his family was still alive then too. He ached to remember how fast he lost them. He had spent an all-nighter in the library studying for finals when he received a letter from his mother saying not to return home because the whole house had fallen ill. They had all died before the week was done, leaving Lance as the only surviving McClain. After that he fell into a life of thievery, and everything just went downhill from there. So no, he could not return to Lyon.

Lance sat up. “Did you two forget? The Blue Bandit has been accused of stealing the royal jewels. That’s punishable by death!”

Pidge pulled herself from the floor and dusted off her green shirt. “Right, well that is a bit of a problem.” She and Hunk shared a glance, both unsure of how to phrase their next question, though Lance already knew what it was. 

“It wasn’t me.” He said, before they could ask. “You guys believe me, right?”

“Totally, if you say it wasn’t you then we believe you all the way.” Hunk said, then added, “it really wasn’t you, right?” 

Lance rose from his chair and wondered over to the window. “Of course not! Whoever did do it, though, is dragging my good name through the mud.” He pouted for a moment but then shot one of his award winning smiles at his friends. “Now the only thing good about me is my looks.” 

Pidge pinched the bridge of her nose. “I see your life of solitude hasn’t affected your stupid sense of humor.” She glared at Lance, but her face slowly softened. She approached him and clasped him on the shoulder. “But seriously, will you consider coming home soon?”

Lance didn’t have time to answer as he heard the sound of hooves outside. A caravan. He shot out the door and crouched behind a bush. Hunk and Pidge followed him. He looked over the hedge to see a few horses leading a fancy looking purple carriage through the woods. It was definitely from the kingdom of Daibazaal, home of the Galra people. Lance squinted at the carriage, it was someone very wealthy, but not too wealthy that they had a lot of guards with them. Perfect. Following close behind the carriage was Emperor Zarkon’s most trusted guard, Commander Sendak. It had to Haggar in the carriage, Zarkon’s favorite courtesan. 

Lance shot a smug smile at Hunk and Pidge, “you guys are in for a show!” Before either of them could protest he ran through the bushes and towards the caravan. He ripped some vines off a tree and draped them over his shoulders. Then he hunched over, making it look like he’s been a hermit in these woods for years, then he ran right in front of the first horse and threw himself to the ground. 

The horse whinnied and the rider tried to get ahold of it as he yelled at Lance, “you there, what is the meaning of this?” 

Lance pulled himself up and responded in a fake accent, “you fancy lads, with your high britches, coming into my woods like you own the place.” The soldiers just looked confused. Excellent. Crazy beggars didn’t get a second look from people like this, which is exactly what Lance wanted. He stuck a palm in the rider’s face. “You got any money?”

The rider waved Lance’s hand away. “No, now get out of our way.”

Lance grabbed the horse by the reigns and pulled it’s face to his. “What about you, young lady, you got any money?” 

The rider hopped off his horse and pushed Lance, “get lost, peasant.” 

Lance noted the fancy sword on the soldier’s hip. He pointed a finger at it and approached. “That’s a fancy weapon you got there.” The soldier grabbed Lances hand to keep him from touching it. “Real shiny, real pretty.” As the solider was preoccupied with keeping Lance away from his sword, Lance slipped the golden ring from his finger, the Galra soldier didn’t even notice. Idiot. 

Lance slipped the ring into his pocket as the soldier approached him. “Now scram.” Lance stumbled into the leg of the rider behind him. He turned and made a show of patting his leg and apologizing to him. “So sorry, mate, my fault entirely.” The solider tried to kick him off while Lance discreetly pulled some of the golden beads decorating his horses mane. 

“What’s the holdup?” Called Sendak from the back.

“Nothing, sir, we’ll be moving momentarily.” The first soldier called. Lance knew it was time to leave. He didn’t want to face Sendak, he was rumored to be a brute who enjoyed making his enemies suffer. Besides, this was enough gold to take care of him, Hunk and Pidge for the next few months. 

“My apologies.” He bowed clumsily and backed away.

“Wait.” Came Haggar’s cold voice from the carriage. Lance froze, this could be bad. Although she remained hidden behind the door of the carriage, she stuck her long, clawed fingers out the window and pointed at him, making his blood run cold. “We should give this poor boy some money.” She said, throwing a few coins at his feet.

He dropped to his knees and gathered it as quick as he could. He wanted to make a fast exit. “You’re too generous, m’lady.” 

“Clearly you need the money,” she tapped her wicked fingernails on the windowsill, then hissed, “Blue Bandit.”

Lance’s eyes shot open. 

Uh oh. 

Suddenly, a bejeweled dagger was flying towards his head. He ducked and it pierced the tree behind him. “Seize him!” She cried. Sendak leapt from his horse along with two of the guards from the front. Now it was really time to go.

Lace jumped to his feet and made way for the forest, but not before pulling Haggar’s fancy dagger from the tree. “I can keep this, right?” He joked as he dashed away. 

Lance’s lungs burned at he sprinted through the trees. Branches snapped in his face but there was no time to slow down and find a better path, the two guards were right on his tail. Sendak was a little farther behind, his giant arm forged of gold slowed him down a bit, though Lance knew the horrors he was capable of once he did catch up. He could feel the guards gaining on him. They were fast, but he didn’t need to outrun them, he just needed to stay ahead until he reached a certain tree.

“Stop in the name of Zarkon!” One of them cried. Lance could hear him unsheathe his sword. 

Lance pulled back a branch as he ran by and released it behind him. He heard a grunt and then some swearing, that oughta distract them for a couple of seconds. Lance looked over his shoulder, neither one was looking at him, so he leapt into the towering tree before him and began to climb. When the soldiers looked again, he appeared to be gone.

The other soldier drew his sword as well, “he’s hiding.” He whispered to his companion. They both crept around, peeking behind trees and under bushes for Lance. Lance tried to climb as silently as he could, but as he neared the top a branch beneath his foot broke. Both the soldiers whipped their heads upward, “in the trees!” One called to the other. They hadn’t spotted Lance yet, but it was only a matter of time before they saw the movement. Lance began climbing at a rapid pace, breaking branches left and right.

Finally, he reached his destination. He pulled himself onto the thick branch and reached into the hole in the tree. He pulled out the bow and arrow he used for the rare occasions he had to hunt. He pulled the arrow back and waited until he had a clear shot. He could barely see the soldiers through the branches, but eventually he caught a glimpse of a purple uniform and he released his arrow. He heard a cry and then a loud thump. Direct hit. The other guard ran to the body. Lance shot another arrow before he was spotted and took the other solider out too. That’s why they called him “Sharpshooter.” 

Now all that was left was Sendak. 

Lance knew he couldn’t take Sendak out, he was too good a warrior to be taken down by some measly arrows. Perhaps, though, he wouldn’t have to fight Sendak, he just needed him to go away. Lance pulled the invitation to the ball from his pocket. It was the perfect distraction. Daibazaal and Lyon had always been enemies, and the Galra probably didn’t know that this year the ball was to celebrate the union of Lyon and Altea through marriage. King Alfor of Altea and Prince Coran of Lyon were to be wed, making both kingdoms far stronger than Daibazaal, and since Lance no longer had any allegiance to Lyon, why not use this information to save his own neck? He stabbed the invitation through an arrow and shot it at a tree down below, then he waited. He could hear Sendak smashing through fully grown trees with his giant golden arm like they were twigs, Lance could even see some trees toppling over in the distance. Man, Sendak was strong. He was screaming out, “come out, you coward! Face me, Blue Bandit!” 

Lance pressed himself against he tree as the cries grew closer, but then they ceased. Sendak must’ve spotted the note. Lance peaked through the branches to see. Sendak was reading the invitation. “This can’t be.” He mumbled to himself. “I must inform Emperor Zarkon at once.” 

Lance pumped his fist in the air. It worked.

Lance leaned out of the tree and put his middle finger up at Sendak as he walked away, but he suddenly turned. “You got lucky, Blue Boy!” He yelled, then strode away.

Lance tried to pull himself back against the tree so Sendak wouldn’t spot him, but the motion was so abrupt he overshot it and fell over back wards. Lance’s stomach dropped as he felt himself hurtling backwards off the branch. He squeezed his eyes shut, ready for the plummet, but then, something grabbed his leg. Lance opened his eyes, he was hanging upside-down and a grappling hook was thrown over the branch and wrapped around his ankle. He looked down to see who had thrown it. There at the foot of the tree was Pidge with a smug look on her face. 

Lance laughed. “I told you two I’d give you a show.”

Pidge began letting out the slack of the rope to lower him to the ground. “You’re welcome, by the way.”

Hunk picked the bow and arrow off the ground, which Lance had dropped when he was falling. The string had snapped, but Lance could easily fix it later. “You know,” Hunk called up to him. “If you’re not going to come back with us you should at least come to the ball. Since they’re celebrating the marriage alliance this year Prince Keith has to be there.”

Lance scoffed as Pidge gently lowered him to the ground. “Prince Kieth, that pretty boy?”

Pidge untied the rope from around Lance’s ankle. “Don’t you always refer to yourself as a ‘pretty boy’?”

Lance smiled. “Doesn’t everybody?” Hunk pulled Lance to his feet and dusted him off. Lance pulled the golden ring and beads out of his pocket, then grabbed the bejeweled dagger from his hilt and handed them to Hunk. “You should fetch a handsome price for these, almost as handsome as me.” He dropped them in Hunk’s hands. “And make sure to keep half for yourselves.”

Hunk shoved the items in his pockets. “Are you sure, Lance? You did all the heavy lifting.” 

“You guys have taken care of me for so long, it’s the least I could do.” Lance replied, waving a hand in the air.

“Find.” Pidge said, attaching the rope back onto her belt. “But lay low for a while. You don’t want to draw too much attention to yourself and that was intense.” Lance pouted at her but she stood firm. Even though she was a good foot shorter than Lance, she was intimidating when she wanted to be. “No heists for a few days, got it?”

Lance looked at Hunk who merely shrugged, even if Hunk did side with Lance they both knew Pidge was going to win. 

Lance sighed. “Got it.” 

Chapter Text

Prince Keith slumped down in his chair and groaned, “they were supposed to be here fifteen minutes ago.” 

Shiro, the Captain of the Guard and Keith’s best friend, remained calm. He leaned on the back of the couch and stood like a statue, waiting patiently for the Altean princess to arrive, unlike Keith who squirmed in his chair.

Shiro smiled at Keith. “If you keep slouching you’re going to ruin your nice clothes.”

“And if you keep telling me what to do I’m going to ruin your nice face.” Keith shot back.

Shiro only laughed. “You think my face is nice?" Shiro knew Keith wasn’t exactly a people-person, and Keith was grateful he didn’t force him to be nice. Keith preferred gently bullying Shiro to show him that he was like a brother to Keith. Shiro came around and sat on the arm of the couch. “Your mother, the queen, left me in charge of you, remember?”

Keith begrudgingly sat up as to not wrinkle his clothes. “Yeah, whatever.” 

Keith thought about his mother and how things had changed since his father died. Now that she was the sole ruler and Keith had yet to marry, all their allies were skeptical of Lyon’s strength. He barely saw his mother anymore because every week she was jetting off to some far away kingdom to assure them Lyon was still a formidable ally, especially with the new marriage alliance. 

Keith was lost in thought when Matt, the palace physician, burst through the doors. “Am I late? Did I miss her?” He asked.

Shiro stood up and clasped Matt on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, you’re both fashionably late.” Shiro raised an eyebrow. “It seems I have a type.” 

Matt, Shiro and Allura, the Altean princess, have all been friends since childhood. Keith couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealously, the three of them were practically inseparable when they got together. 

Just then, Allura glided through the doors with her guards flanking her. Keith rose to greet her, but Matt beat him to the punch. Matt bowed much deeper than necessary and kissed her hand. “Princess, you look ravishing, as always.”

Allura laughed, “Matt, how have we not found a woman for you?”

Matt shrugged. “Beats me.”

Shiro stepped forward next. He straightened his back and kept his face neutral, then he stuck his hand out to shake hers, ever the professional. “Princess.” 

She shook his hand but then pulled him into a hug. “Come here, you idiot.” 

Shiro’s body tensed, but then he melted into her, wrapping his massive arms around her small body. “I’ve missed you.” He murmured into her shoulder.

“And I you.” She replied.

When they finally let go Allura approached Keith. She extended her hand to him and he shook it. “Keith,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve seen you since Shiro was putting you in headlocks.” 

“So, yesterday, then?” Matt chimed in. Shiro bumped Matt’s shoulder with his own, and Matt playfully bumped Shiro’s back. Even though Shiro and Keith were close, Keith still wished her had a friendship like the two of them, someone he could banter and laugh with. Shiro was more of a mentor figure or older sibling to Keith, not someone he could let loose with, though Keith wasn’t entirely sure he was capable of letting loose. 

Keith stood there awkwardly as Allura smiled at him. “So,” he began, struggling to find something to talk aboout, “how do you feel about your father marrying my uncle?”

Allura brushed her fingers through her long white hair. “Actually, I’m quite pleased. My mother’s death left a hole in my father and Prince Coran makes him happier than I’ve seen him in years.” Keith’s mother had offered to marry Alfor herself, or to marry Keith off to Allura, both would’ve given Altea far more power than this arrangement, but Alfor insisted on marrying the late king’s brother instead. Keith hadn’t realized Alfor and his Uncle Coran were genuinely in love, though the whole concept of love seemed trivial to Kieth anyway. Allura squeezed Keith’s hand, “I do hope someday I can have a marriage filled with the same amount of joy.” She said, trying to hold her gaze on Keith, but at the last moment her eyes flickered towards Shiro. Keith had no doubt Shiro was behind him, reciprocating the same soft look at her.

Keith gingerly slipped his hand from hers and stepped aside, giving them a moment to make goo goo eyes at one another, but the moment was ruined when General Lotor paraded into the room. Keith was not a fan of the general, he was too cocky. He strode into the room, gaudy as ever with his flashy armor and an unnecessarily large fur cape slung over his shoulder, white as his flowing hair. The general was the exiled prince of Daibazaal, Lyon took pity on him and gave him asylum here. Due to his brilliant fighting and strategic battle skills, he quickly climbed the ranks of Lyon’s army. 

Lotor dropped into a deep bow, sweeping his fur cape behind him, “My Prince.” He shot Keith a devilish smile before adding, “might I say, that red cape looks ravishing on you.” 

Keith pulled the cape around his shoulders, he hated when Lotor did that. He often flirted with Keith, knowing full well when Keith was a kid he wanted to marry the “beautiful prince of Daibazaal”…but that was before Keith actually met the pompous jerk.

Shiro stepped forward. “General, there better be a good reason for this intrusion, we are in the middle of a meeting.”

Lotor glared at Shiro, he seemed unfazed by his reprimand. “A thousand apologies, Captain.” He said, with an arrogant smile still on his face. “But some of my spies heard chatter that Daibazaal knows about the marriage alliance.”

“What?” Shiro’s eyes shot open. “That’s impossible.”

Allura sagged into the chair behind her. “This is bad. Now Zarkon could attack before we can combine our forces.” She rubbed her fingers against her temples. “How did he even find out?”

Lotor picked his nails and shrugged. “Perhaps there is a traitor in Lyon.” 

Keith’s blood was boiling. Lyon could be in trouble and it’s best general was tending to his manicure. “How can you be so casual about all this?” He yelled. 

“Because it’s nothing I can’t handle.” Lotor replied, not even bothering to look at Keith.

Keith took a step toward the general but Shiro grabbed him. “You don’t have to handle anything, General Lotor, we’re going to deal with this diplomatically first.” He shot Keith a look. “Violence is a last resort.” 

Keith and Lotor both pouted at that.

“Zarkon wants us to attack first.” Shiro continued. “That way he can justify a full on war, claiming we started it.” He turned to Keith, who was now brooding in the corner. “Since your mother is still in the Kingdom of Balmera, you need to go to Daibazaal and meet with Emperor Zarkon.” 

Allura shot up from her chair so fast she knocked it over. “What is that going to accomplish? Zarkon is a heartless dictator who only cares about power.” She glared at Shiro for a few moments, then glanced at Lotor. “No offense, General.”

“None taken, my father is quite terrible.” He said, twirling his dagger between his fingers, as if he was bored by the conversation. That made Keith even angrier, unless they were talking about Lotor, Lotor wasn’t interested, even when people’s lives were at stake.

Shiro placed a hand on Allura’s shoulder and she calmed a little. “It doesn’t matter, the meeting will at least buy us time to assemble our defenses.” He assured her. “Plus we can get a feel for how much Zarkon knows about the alliance.”

Keith chewed the inside of his lip. “What if we’re walking into a trap?”

Shiro smiled at him. “Don’t worry, you’ll have me with you.” 

“That’s not very reassuring.” Matt said from where he had sprawled himself out on the couch.

“Besides,” Shiro continued, throwing a couch pillow at Matt so hard it knocked him to the floor, “I’ll send some guards out ahead of us to sweep the place and be our backup if it comes to a fight.” Keith maintained his grumpy expression, he wasn’t so sure about all this. Shiro sighed, “plus we’ll take an obscure route, that way we can’t be ambushed on our way.” 

Keith wanted to argue further, but Shiro was making some good points.

“Or,” Lotor chimed in, “we could just strike now before my father gets the upper hand.”

Keith paused, Lotor’s plan did sound better to him. There was no way they could bargain with Zarkon, but he also trusted Shiro with his life. He took a step forward and raised his chin, trying to look like a king. “We do it Shiro’s way, we leave first thing tomorrow morning.”

Lotor growled, but didn’t argue. “As you wish, My Prince.” He said as he twirled on his heel and strutted out of the room, with his ostentatious cape blowing behind him.

Shiro scowled at him as he left, but when Allura grabbed his arm he instantly softened. “Be careful.” She said, “Zarkon is not to be trusted.”

He patted her hand. “We will be.” He stared into her eyes, making Keith feel both sick to his stomach and jealous all at once. How could anyone feel so strongly about another human being? He didn’t understand, and yet, he wished he felt that way about someone. Finally, Shiro broke his gaze and turned back to Keith. “You made the right decision.”

Keith was going to respond but Matt popped up from behind the couch and asked, “Will you guys bring me back a souvenir from the Galra gift shop?”

Shiro laughed and pushed his face away. Keith couldn’t help but crack the tiniest of smiles.

Chapter Text

Lance sat on a stump outside his worn down shack, admiring his newly restrung bow. The wood groaned as he pulled the string back, making sure it was to his liking. It was his mother’s bow, his father had given it to her as a present. His dad was never much of a shooter, but his mom, she could hit anything. She was the one who taught Lance everything he knew. He recalled the days when they would go into the yard and shoot at the makeshift targets his siblings carved into trees for him, how his mother’s breath would catch when he hit the bullseye, how his dad and siblings would cheer them on from the porch and place bets on who would be the sharpest shooter.

But all that was gone now.

Lance ignored the tightness in his chest as he blinked away the memories. Those days were gone. He didn’t have time to dwell on the past, he needed to focus on the present. 

Just then, he heard the clopping of horses in the distance. Lance leapt to his feet, but paused, remembering his promise to Hunk that he would lay low for awhile.

Lance bit his lip. “Well,” he said to himself, “Hunk didn’t say anything about observing.” He rested the bow on the stump and ducked behind the bushes just in time to watch the most expensive carriage he’d ever seen in his life cart by. The horses pulling the carriage had shining white coats and clean white manes, no doubt they were Altean horses. The carriage itself was painted royal red and lined with gold accents. The wheels were encrusted with jewels, it was like they were begging to be robbed.

Lance cursed under his breath at the fact that he couldn’t swindle them. People with this much money could afford to lose a few pieces of jewelry anyway. 

He couldn’t really see into the windows but he could see enough to know who it was. He caught a glimpse of the shining back hair and knew it was Prince Keith, he’d recognize that mullet anywhere.

Lance looked for more security other than the few guards riding on the back of the carriage, but he saw none. Usually when the crown prince traveled he took half the guards with him, though Lance figured they took as few guards as possible so they didn’t draw too much suspicion. Clearly they wanted to lay low, or else they would’ve taken the main roads instead of this unmarked dirt road. 

Their plan didn’t work though, because just then, a galra jumped from a tree onto the carriage and threw her dagger, instantly killing one of the few guards. Two other galra slinked out of the woods and began attacking. Lance gulped, this may be his fault, he did give Sendak the information about the wedding, which Zarkon would go to war over, but how did he learn of the prince’s movements so fast?

The galra moved quick, far too quick for the guards, they cut them down one by one. As the last one tried to pull himself from the ground, one of the galra soldiers came down on him with the final blow. Captain Shiro burst out of the carriage and stopped her sword before she could kill the guard. Lance perked up, Shiro was his hero. He was the reason Lance worked so hard to get into the Garrison, the finest school in all of Lyon, though once he got there his accomplishments were always second to Keith’s. 

Lance shuffled a little in the bushes, trying to get a better view. Watching Shiro fight up close and personal like this was something he used to dream about when he was a kid. Shiro took on all three of the galra without even breaking a sweat, though these galra wouldn’t go down easily. Lance recognized their faces from the wanted posters all over Lyon. They were top generals in the galra army, there was Zethrid, Narti, Acxa and…wait, where was the fourth one? Ezor. 

Something hard smacked into Lance’s side. She had him pinned to the ground before he even knew what was happening. Ezor. She smiled at him, “What do we have here?” She asked. She pulled a dagger from her hilt and placed it against Lance’s neck. He tried to break free from her hold but his arms were stuck under her legs. She stared at the dagger she held dangerously close to Lance’s neck. “I’d hate to leave a mark on this beautiful skin though.” She brought her eyes to meet his, her eyes were shining, Lance could see the ruthless joy she was getting from this. He turned away but she gripped his chin with her claws and jerked his face back towards hers. Slowly, she bent down until their foreheads almost touched. “You’re too pretty to kill.” She purred, sheathing her dagger. 

Her head whipped away at the sound of Acxa calling to her. “Ezor, he’s getting away!” 

Lance turned his head to see Shiro holding off the other three generals while Keith made a break for the woods. Ezor shot Lance another one of her beautifully cruel smiles and said, “Sorry, gotta cut the date short. You’re not my prey.” She leapt off of him, “at least, not this time.” She winked before taking off after the prince. 

Lance stayed on his back, listening to the pounding of his heart. He was all for flirting but that was a bit extreme. He sat up, Ezor and Keith were nowhere in sight, good, it wasn’t his problem anymore. Why should he help anyway? The Kingdom of Lyon had discarded him like trash, besides, Keith was the best at everything at the Garrison, he didn’t need Lance’s help.

Lance glanced back over towards Shiro to see him hauling the last living guard over his shoulder and running the other direction into the woods, all three of the generals in tow. Lance’s chest tightened as he turned his head the opposite direction to where Keith and Ezor had disappeared.  

“Dammit.” He said, jumping to his feet and grabbing his bow and quiver. Lance hauled himself into the tall tree he used for scouting, he could see for miles at the top. He climbed as quick as his limbs could take him. Within minutes he was at the top and scanning the forest for Keith and his dumb haircut. He kept one hand firmly on the branch above, tying not to repeat the falling mishap from yesterday.

His eyes shot towards movement in a meadow not too far from Lance’s cabin, Keith appeared. Ezor was right on his tail. She whipped her dagger from her belt and dove for him. Keith dogged, but his moves were frantic, unlike the galra general, who was calm. Chaos was her element. She seemed to enjoy this game of cat and mouse. 

Keith unsheathed his sword. “Stay back!” He threatened.

Ezor merely laughed. “I guess I’ll show you mine since you showed me yours.” She put her dagger away and substituted it for her sword.

She shot forward towards Keith but he was quick with a block. They both moved so fast, Lance would’ve been impressed if it was anyone but the prince, the Garrison’s golden boy. Ezor swung right, but Keith blocked it, she went left, he was there too. She went for his legs but he was already leaping over her sword. 

Lance knew Keith was an impressive fighter, he had never fought him personally, but professor Iverson from the Garrison often compared Lance to Keith. 

Keith would’ve done this and Keith would’ve done that, why can’t you be more like Keith, blah blah blah.

Sometimes, he did wish he was like Keith, but today, Lance didn’t want to be in Keith’s shoes at all. Keith was unfocused, Lance could tell. Everything was happening at once and the prince was overwhelmed, it was too much for him. Ezor saw this as well and used it to her advantage. She finally caught Keith off guard and knocked him to the ground. He tried to stand but she shoved him down with her foot and raised her blade to finish the job. 

Without hesitation Lance pulled an arrow from his quiver and shot it at her hand. She cried out in pain and dropped her sword. She turned to see where it came from but Lance was already shooting another one. She jumped out of the way and ran back towards the trees for cover. Keith wasted no time scrambling to his feet and running back into the woods. Ezor turned back to the prince, contemplating whether or not to go after him, but Lance answered for her, shooting an arrow through her leg. Clean through her calf. She cried out and stumbled to the ground, receiving a face full of grass. Slowly she pulled herself up and limped back towards the woods. 

Lance couldn’t help but smile, his mother would’ve been proud of that shot. 

He nocked another arrow, knowing that he could easily finish her now, but decided against it. She spared him so he would return the favor. A life for a life. He scanned the field for Keith but he was long gone, probably off to find Captain Shiro. 

Once Lance reached the bottom of the tree he dropped his quiver and bow on the ground. What was he doing? He wasn’t a hero, he was a thief wanted for treason. Better yet, he was accused by the family of the very boy he just saved. 

“Stupid Keith.” Lance mumbled, leaning against the tree. But he paused, remembering the sight of Ezor pinning Keith to the ground. Lance could’ve sworn he saw the genuine fear in Keith’s face, even from up in the tree he could tell. Perhaps Keith wasn’t the god the Garrison made him out to be, perhaps we was just a kid like Lance.

Yes, that was why Lance saved his rival, they were both kids in crappy situations. That had to be it. 

Lance pushed off the tree and bent down to grab his bow and arrows, but a knife was at his throat before he could reach them. 

“Who are you?” A low voice breathed in his ear. It was Keith. Lance didn’t need to turn his head to know. He must’ve followed the direction where the arrows came from.

“The name’s Lance, though you can call me your hero seeing as I just saved your life.” 

Keith didn’t remove the blade from Lance’s throat. “I had it under control.”

“Sure you did.” Lance said, rolling his eyes. 

Before Keith could react, Lance grabbed the knife at his throat by the blade and twisted out of Keith’s grip. He turned to face the prince, hand still on the knife, which caused his palm to bleed, but the wound wasn’t deep. Nothing Lance couldn’t handle. 

Keith kept a firm grip on the knife’s handle, refusing to let down his gaurd. Lance sighed, “could you put the knife down, hot-head?”

Keith’s eyes flickered down at the knife, then back up at Lance. “How do I know I can trust you?”

“Oh come on, you don’t recognize me?”

Keith stared blankly at Lance.

“We were in the same class at the Garrison.” 

Keith finally put the knife down. “It’s not ringing any bells.”

Lance scoffed. “Wow, I save you and all I get is a knife in my hand and a knife in my back.” He studied Keith’s face, searching for any ember of recognition. Nothing. “Seriously? Lance McClain?” 

Keith ignore the question and brushed passed him, his focus was now on Lance’s shack. “What are you doing out here?” Keith asked.

“I could ask you the same.” Said Lance, examining his bloody palm. He had some cloth inside to wrap it in, but he was afraid if he went in now Keith would follow him, so he stayed put. 

“Wait a minute.” Keith whirled back around to face Lance. “Alone in the woods, a sharpshooter with a bow and arrow, blue vest…you’re the Blue Bandit!” Keith grabbed Lance and pulled him close, so close Lance could feel Keith’s warm breath on his face. “You’re under arrest.” The prince growled.

Lance poked a bloody finger into Keith’s chest, not caring if he stained his majesty’s nice clothes. “Are you kidding me? I just saved your life.” He sneered.

Keith didn’t back down. He took another step toward Lance, getting right in his face, to the point that their foreheads touched. “I don’t care, you’re a criminal.”

Lance let out a humorless laugh, “Oh calm down, you samurai wannabe.” 

Keith opened his mouth to make a retort but paused when a tree branch snapped in the distance. Suddenly his hands were on Lance’s shoulders, pushing him down to the ground. Lance’s back connected with the earth, and before he had time to question what was happening, Prince Keith was lying on top of him. 

Lance squirmed. “Hey, what are you-”

“Shut up and trust me.” Keith hissed. 

So he let Keith lay on top of him in silence, but it didn’t take long to realize what was appening. Female voices came within earshot on the other side of the bushes. Lance could see the four of them through the leaves. Ezor had an arm slung around Zethrid as she said, “the prince got away.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Acxa said, bending down to break the arrow in Ezor’s leg in two. Ezor let out a hiss. “The Captain of the Guard made it back to Lyon and he’ll tell everyone what happened, now the city will fall into mass hysteria while the prince is missing. Just what we wanted.” 

Acxa wrapped her hand around the remaining part of the arrow in Ezor’s leg. She looked up at Ezor and Ezor nodded, as if to say do it. Acxa ripped the arrow from her leg. Ezor choked back a scream. A shiver shot through Lance’s body at the sight, almost feeling bad for putting it there in the first place. Almost. 

His physical reaction caught the attention of the prince, Lance saw Keith turn to face him out of the corner of his eye. He tried to ignore Keith, but he could feel those eyes burning a hole in the side of his head. Lance caved and looked up to see those blue-gray eyes studying him, piercing his soul. Lance held his stare for a moment before the prince turned his attention back to the galra generals. Relief washed over Lance as he returned to watching the generals as well.

Zethrid threw Ezor over her shoulder. “Let’s get you back to Daibazaal to fix that leg. We’ll inform Sendak that the prince is out here and he’ll flood the forest with sentries.”

“There’s no way the prince is getting back into Lyon,” Acxa added, “not before we can begin the next phase.” Narti nodded as she and Acxa followed Zethrid and disappeared into the trees. 

Keith waited until their footsteps faded before he even dared to move. At last, he pulled himself off of Lance. Lance instantly rolled away and pushed himself back onto his heels. “Finally.” He exclaimed, rubbing his chest.

Keith glared at him before saying, “we gotta go.” 

“What is this we you’re talking about?” Lance asked, pulling himself into a standing position. “A minute ago you were trying to arrest me.” 

“Sendak is going to personally oversee my capture, and you don’t want to run into him out here.”

An icy shutter ran through Lance’s body. Sendak now knows what Lance looks like, and he might not survive another run in with him. Lance looked back at his shack then to the prince, carefully weighing his options. “Fine.” He sighed. 

Keith nodded and began marching towards the woods

Lance called after him, “where are you going? Lyon’s the other way.”

“I’m not going to Lyon.” Keith said not even bothering to look back at Lance. “We need to get to Daibazaal and stop Zarkon before the second phase of his plan starts, whatever that is.” Keith paused, realizing Lance wasn’t following him. His head whipped around, irritation all over his face. He looked Lance up and down, which made Lance’s blood boil. Keith thought he was better than Lance, Lance knew he did. He thought about saying something to bring the prince down a peg, but Keith grabbed his arm and pulled him into the trees before he could. “Let’s go, Blue Bandit, you’ll be fine.” He looked over his shoulder at Lance. “The galra are expecting me to try to get back to Lyon, so I figure no one would think I’m crazy enough to go into Daibazaal instead.”

“Lead the way, Your Majesty.” Lance groaned, already regretting his decision. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Lance pouted as he examined the make-shift bandage he put on his bloody palm. He had to use the old handkerchief from his pocket since Keith dragged him away before he could get a real bandage from his shack. Lance groaned as he slapped a mosquito on his neck, he could be home right now eating one of Hunk’s legendary pastries, but instead he was out here with Prince Hot-Head.

The two boys had been walking for over an hour in complete silence, but when Keith let the third tree branch in a row snap back into Lance’s face he couldn’t keep quiet anymore. “You did that in purpose!”

Keith looked back at Lance for the first time since they started their journey. “You’re walking too slow and I can’t hold the branches forever!” He snapped.

“I expected the prince to have better manners!” Lance yelled back.

Keith grabbed lance by the vest and pulled him close. “Keep your voice down.” He whispered in a harsh tone. “The woods are probably crawling with galra by now, do want them to hear you?”

Lance pushed Keith off of him, but didn’t step away, oh no, he wasn’t gonna back down first. “If you want to stay unnoticed maybe you should lose your bright red cape.”

Keith opened his mouth to say something but then stopped. He shot Lance a venomous glare as he clutched the cape tighter around his shoulders. Keith’s face fell as he quietly added, “this cape was my father’s.” Then he turned on his heel and continued walking.

Lance snorted. “Whatever, Little Red Riding Hood.” 

Lance’s chest tightened at his own sharp words, deep down he understood the prince’s pain. Lance, more than anyone, understood how hard it was to lose a family member. He suddenly felt the weight of his mother’s bow strung to his back. 

Lance opened his mouth to apologize but Keith spoke before he could. “If you be quiet and follow my lead then we wont have any problems.” The prince grumbled.

“Why am I following you?” Lance grabbed Keith’s arm and whirled him around, forgetting all intentions of apologizing. “I’ve been out here for a while now, I know these woods like the back of my hand. I can get us there the fastest.”

Keith swatted Lance’s hand away from his shoulder, hitting his cut palm. Lance hissed at the pain that vibrated up his arm, but Keith didn’t seem to notice, or just didn’t care. “I was head of my class at the Garrison, I know my geography.” Keith growled.

The Garrison. Of course he would bring that up. It took all of Lance’s will power to bite down his nasty response, but with Keith scowling at him, he couldn’t hold it in. Keith was challenging him. He wanted to see which of them could hurt the other more, and Lance wasn’t about to let Keith win so easily. “Didn’t you drop out of the Garrison?” Lance snapped.

That one riled Keith up. “I didn’t finish my last year because my father died and I had to help my mother take up his responsibilities at the palace.”

“Yeah, okay, dropout.”

Keith’s face was contorted with anger. He clenched his fists so tight he looked like he was about to punch Lance in the face, and for a moment there, Lance thought he might. Lance took a step back.

“Why am I even listening to you?” Keith spat. “You’re just a lowly thief. A thief who stole my family heirlooms, but I wouldn’t expect a criminal like you to understand the importance of family.”

Keith turned to keep walking but Lance jumped in front of him. His face was hot with rage and tears welled up in the corners of his eyes, threatening to spill onto his face. In any other situation he would rather die than let Keith see him cry, but he was too angry to care. “First of all, I did not steal your stupid family’s jewels, I’m a teenager. I’m good but I’m not that good.” With each word Lance got louder and louder, he didn’t care if Sendak himself heard them, he was too mad to be quiet. “And second of all, don’t you dare talk to me about family. Got it?”

Lance was practically screaming by the time he finished. He stood there, huffing his chest while Keith just gawked. He honestly seemed surprised at Lance’s reaction. For a moment Lance could’ve sworn he saw a pang of sympathy cross Keith’s face, but it was gone in seconds, replaced by an arrogant smile. Keith bumped Lance’s shoulder as he strode by and hissed, “pinched a nerve, did I, Little Boy Blue?” 

Lance stood there seething. How dare Keith ruin everything for him. He ruined his solitude, he had a nice quiet life in the woods before all this, and he ruined his anonymity, now that the prince knew he was the Blue Bandit he could say goodbye to going back to Lyon with Pidge and Hunk, he even ruined the Little Boy Blue nursery rhyme, which his mother use to sing to him. 

Lance was snapped out of his thoughts by the sound of voices. He turned to face Keith, who was already keenly aware. They both dove down into a bush and listened. Narti and Acxa came into view. 

“Everything’s going according to plan.” Acxa said as they strode along the path. “We just have to keep the prince at bay long enough to cause chaos within Lyon.”

Narti nodded.

“Zarkon is already planning an attack.” Acxa continued. “Altea’s forces aren’t close enough to stop it, but when they do get here there’ll be an all out war, which is exactly what we want.”

Narti nodded.

“The prince is somewhere in the woods, it doesn’t matter if we find him or not, as long as we keep him out of Lyon.” Narti grabbed Acxa’s arm and pulled her to a stop. Acxa stared back at her hooded friend for a few moments until she finally said, “I know, I know, that other kid Ezor found is probably the one helping the prince.”

Narti nodded.

“Oh come on, we don’t need to worry about him. He’s nothing.”

Those words made Lance tense up. All his life he was told he would be nothing, and he never took it lying down. He dug his nails into the ground to keep himself from leaping at Acxa.

Keith placed his hand on Lance’s arm and he instantly eased. He turned to look at the prince but Keith kept his eyes forward. Perhaps he didn’t even realize he was doing it, maybe he was using Lance to keep himself steady in his crouched position, either way, the touch sent a sensation through Lance. For some reason butterfly’s fluttered in his stomach, he wanted Keith to stop, and yet, he never wanted him to let go.

Narti and Acxa disappeared into the woods and Keith stood, “we need to move.” He said.

Lance rose to his feet, brushing aside his thoughts about Keith’s touch. The two boys began making their way through the woods again, careful not to step on any branches and alert any nearby galra.

They both paused when heavy footsteps where heard coming down the path. They ducked behind a tree to see a hoard or galra soldiers march by.

“What is all this?” Lance whispered.

“They’re trying to stop my uncle from marrying King Alfor.” Keith said, peaking around the tree at the soldiers. “But I don’t understand how they found out, we were so careful with that information.”

Lance’s eyebrow shot up. “Didn’t you guys print it on every invitation to the ball, though?” Part of him felt guilty for giving the invitation to Sendak and endangering Lyon, but he wasn’t about to tell Keith it was him, Lance didn’t owe the prince an explanation.

“Yeah, but there were explicit instructions on the back to burn the invitation immediately.”

Lance’s face went white.

Keith didn’t didn’t even notice, he kept his eyes on the soldiers as they marched away. “Maybe General Lotor was right, maybe there is a traitor in Lyon.”

“Or,” Lance chimed in, “maybe, and I’m just spit balling here, but maybe someone didn’t see the back and just threw it out, then the galra went through Lyon’s trash.”

Keith whipped around to face Lance. “That’s,” he hissed, but then he paused for a moment, his features softening. “That’s actually not improbable.” He shook his head. “I don’t know what’s worse, being betrayed or being sent into a war because of some careless idiot.” 

Lance hadn’t realized how close he and Keith were. They were practically on top of each other crouched behind the tree. Keith looked at him with those eyes again and Lance couldn’t bring himself to turn away, no matter how much he wanted to. Thankfully, Keith broke first, something on the path catching his attention. Lance suddenly felt the need to get away from Keith. “Haha, yeah, some idiot.” He said, popping up onto his feet without even thinking.

“Get down!” Keith cried, diving for Lance just an arrow shot at him. More galra soldiers, that’s what had caught Keith’s attention a moment ago. Lance felt like a fool, jeopardizing Keith’s life again. 

Keith landed on top of Lance with a thud. The prince’s head rested on Lance’s chest for a few seconds as they both caught their breath, then he looked up, meeting Lance’s gaze. 

“We need to stop ending up like this.” Lance laughed.

Lance could’ve sworn the smallest of smiles flashed across Keith’s face, but it was gone as quick as it came. The prince stood, then pulled Lance to his feet too. “Were you hit?” He asked.

Lance shook his head, but Keith looked him over just to make sure. As soon as he was done he grabbed Lance’s hand and broke into a sprint.

Two galra sentries appeared behind them which only made Keith go faster. Lance pulled their hands apart and ran up beside the prince who, despite being shorter than Lance, kept in step with him quite well. Keith effortlessly jumped over a fallen branch and Lance laughed, “pretty graceful, guess that’s why they call you Your Grace.” 

Keith glared at him.

“I’m just saying, mommy fed you your Wheaties this morning.” Lance panted out. “Though I guess she didn’t give you enough milk, based on your lack of height.” 

“Seriously, you’re doing this now?” The prince growled. Three more sentries appeared to Keith’s right and he veered left into Lance. “This way!” 

Lance followed him, trying to map out the forest in his mind. He had been out here so long that he had walked almost every inch of it. He knew he’d been here before, he vaguely remembered a clearing up ahead, he once lured an animal there on one of the rare occasions he had to hunt. 

Lance’s stomach dropped. They were being lured there like animals. 

The clearing must be where the troops they saw pass had stopped, and these soldiers were leading them right into a trap. Lance noticed the soldiers on the right falling into formation, forcing Lance and Keith to head straight. They were herding them like sheep.

Keith glanced over his shoulder, “come on, there’s a clearing up ahead.”

“Keith, no!”

Lance grabbed Keith’s red cape and hauled him backwards. The momentum sent them flying back into a tree. Keith tried to pull away but Lance yanked him against his chest so he wouldn’t give any their position. 

Just as the sentries came into view Lance whipped his bow off his back and shot one square in the shoulder. They soldier hurtled backwards into the sentry behind him, tripping him over the large roots of a tree and rendering them both unconscious. The remaining three sentries barely had time to gather what was happening before Keith and Lance were running again. This time, not towards a trap. 

Lance used his bow to knock branch after branch out of his face, groaning at the deja vu this was giving him, didn’t he just do this yesterday with Sendak and his men?…That was it! Sendak’s men.

He glanced behind him at the sentries then to Keith. “Hey mullet, remember when you snapped those branches in my face?” Keith stared at him for a moment, but then his eyes filled with understanding.

Lance slowed his pace, just enough to give the sentries some hope of catching up. The one closest to him unsheathed a dagger but before he could use it Lance was sliding to his knees, narrowly avoiding the branch snapping into the soldier’s gut. He flew backwards into the sentry behind him, both fell to the ground with a thud, both unconscious. 

Lance pulled himself to his feet, smiling at the fact that his branch snapping idea worked, just like it did the day before. Keith came to his side and let out a joyful laugh. Lance couldn’t believe his ears, the prince was genuinely laughing.

Lance poked Keith with his bow. “What are you laughing at? You almost took my head off!”

“At least without your head we’d be the same height, then you couldn’t make anymore short jokes.” Keith cocked a smile at Lance, then quickly added. “It was a pretty good plan, Blue.” 

Something about the way Keith looked at Lance made his stomach do flips, but he didn’t have a chance to investigate it further because the final sentry grabbed Keith and held a knife to his throat. Lance felt like an idiot. He forgot there was one more.

The sentry held the knife right against Keith’s pale skin, and something in Lance came unhinged, he didn’t want to see anyone touching Keith that way.

The sentry snarled at him. “My fight isn’t with you, let me take the prince and you may go in peace.” Lance didn’t move. “But if you take even one step towards us I’ll slit his throat.” 

Keith made eye contact with Lance, his face was neutral, but Lance could sense a tinge of fear. 

Lance raised his hands in defeat, “okay, okay, take Prince Know-It-All off my hands.”  He lowered himself to the ground, allowing the sentry to feel dominant, trying to hide the fact that he was actually reaching for an arrow on the ground that slid out of his quiver when he was sliding under Keith’s tree branch. 

The sentry seemed pleased with Lance’s submission and eased up a bit, which was enough for Keith to seize the opportunity. Just as Lance wrapped his fingers around the arrow Keith threw his head back, smashing it into the sentry’s nose. The soldier plunged his knife towards the prince’s neck but Lance’s arrow was in the sentry’s heart before he could even leave a scratch on Keith’s skin. He hit the galra soldier with deadly accuracy, it was a hair’s breadth away from piercing Keith. The sentry dropped to the ground, dead. 

Lance leapt to his feet and grabbed Keith’s shoulders. “What were you thinking? He was about to slit your throat for attacking him like that!”

Keith shrugged his shoulders, unfazed. “You needed a distraction so you could nock your arrow.”

“Yeah but if I was one second slower or one inch off you’d be dead right now!”

“But I’m not because I’ve got a sharpshooter with me.” Keith said as he began walking towards Daibazaal again. Lance just stood there, gawking at him. Keith stopped and turned back towards Lance. “Aren’t you going to lead the way? You know the woods better than me, right?”

Lance quickly wiped the dumb look off his face before Keith could see it and strapped his bow to his back again. He casually strode in front of the prince, ruffling the boy’s black hair as he passed, “if that’s what His Majesty commands.” He teased, taking the lead.  

Keith pushed him and let out another laugh. Lance laughed too, realizing he hadn’t laughed like that in a long, long time. 

Chapter Text

Matt dropped his head into his hands and rubbed his temples, this was not how he expected his day to go. A few hours ago Shiro arrived at the castle, bloody and bruised, with a half-dead guard slung over his shoulder. Matt was the best physician in the kingdom so naturally Shiro insisted he tend to the guard first.

After Matt saved the guard from death’s door, he spent the next few hours patching up Shiro as the Captain of the Guard waded in and out of consciousness. Now that the worst was over, Matt just needed a few moments to wrap his head around all this, sadly, he didn’t get those moments as Allura burst through the doors. 

“Where is he?” She cried.

Matt had ordered everyone be kept out of the infirmary while he worked, including Allura. He was already in enough of a panic trying to save his best friend, he didn’t need her worrying to distract him. 

Matt pointed to a closed curtain, head still in his other hand. “He’s resting behind that.”

He listened to her footsteps as they hurried over to the curtain and drew it open. When he heard her breath catch his head shot up to see what was the matter. Shiro was standing there, leaning heavily against the bed for support trying to get to Allura. Matt specifically told him to lie down for a while so of course Shiro ignored him and was now trying to walk. 

Allura’s eyes traced every inch of the captain, taking in all the cuts and bruises that littered his body. Bandages covered his chest and arms, so many of them that Matt didn’t even bother to put a shirt back on Shiro, it would’ve been far to painful for the captain, and for Matt to watch him suffer through that. Allura blinked away tears, snapping herself out of her trance so she could help Shiro sit back down on the bed.

Matt shook his head. “Great, Allura, you woke him up. And I just got him to go down for his nap too.”

“There’s that humor I know and love.” Shiro said through gritted teeth, as he painfully eased himself into a seated position. “For the past few hours I’ve only seen worried Matt, and he’s no fun.” 

“Maybe,” Allura added, sitting next to Shiro on the bed, “you should thank Matt for saving your life, twice.” 

Shiro raised an eyebrow at her. “Twice? When was the second time?”

“The first time was after the galra beat you up, and the second time will be after I beat you up for scaring us like that.” 

“I see.” Shiro let out a small laugh. Allura tried to laugh too but she couldn’t stop the tears from falling. Shiro’s face fell. “I’m sorry, for scaring both of you like that.”  

Allura placed her hand on Shiro’s, tracing circles over it with her thumb. He grabbed her hand in return and squeezed as if he would never let go again. Matt leaned back in his chair, allowing them this brief moment of happiness, one he knew he was about to ruin with bad news, but he had to. Shiro had been out of commission for hours, and a lot had happened during that time. 

“Shiro,” Matt began slowly, “you should know, Prince Keith has not returned to the castle.”

Shiro’s head snapped towards Matt. He opened his mouth to respond but no words came. Matt swallowed, this would not be easy for Shiro to hear. 

“And we cannot go out and search for him, galra soldiers are right outside out gates.” Allura added. “Plus, reinforcements from Altea wont be here for days.” 

“If they can even get through.” Matt grumbled. “The forest is crawling with galra sentries.”

Shiro remained silent for a minute, going over every possibility in his head. Matt couldn’t imagine what Shiro was feeling now, Keith was like a little brother to him. If anything like this ever happened to Pidge Matt would fight anyone and everyone to get her back. 

Suddenly, Shiro placed his hands on the bed and pushed himself into a standing position. “I need to get Keith.”

“You must be joking, look at the state you’re in!” Said Allura.

“I’m the Captain of the Guard, it’s my job to protect him.” 

Shiro took a step forward and stumbled, Allura grabbed his arm to steady him. “You almost just died protecting him!” She shot back.

“And I’ll do it again!” He screamed. 

Matt had heard enough, he shot out of his chair and grabbed Shiro’s shoulders, “well you’re no use to him dead now are you?” He yelled.

The room fell silent. The captain stared at him, wide eyed. Matt rarely raised his voice but he wasn’t about to let Shiro go on a suicide mission. Finally, Shiro nodded and allowed Matt to help lower him onto the bed.

Allura placed a hand on Shiro’s cheek as she said, “Keith is strong. He’s probably hunting down every last galra sentry out there.”

Shiro leaned into her touch and chuckled. “That’s what I’m afraid of.” 

“And Matt,” Allura turned to him as he sat back in his chair, “remind me to never get on your bad side.”

Matt winked at her. “You never could be, Princess.” 

She smiled. “Thank you, Matt.”

“Oh sorry, Allura, I was talking to Shiro.”

The three of them shared a much needed laugh, which was interrupted all too soon as General Lotor swooped through the door. 

The arrogant jerk glided into the room and tried his best to feign sympathy, “tried” being the key word. “Captain, how wonderful it is to see you are recovering from your injuries.”

Shiro frowned. “General, what do you want?”

“Very well.” Lotor said, striding a little too close to Matt for his liking. “Yesterday you said violence was our last resort, but I believe at this point, we are all out of options.”

Allura jumped in before Shiro could get a word in. “Are you suggesting we go to war? Lyon doesn’t have the numbers to face the galra, you’d be sending all those soldiers to their deaths.” 

Lotor let out a low laugh. “I wont be mobilizing the troops, Princess Allura, I will sneak a small and elite group of soldiers into Daibazaal. Then we can plant a bomb in the center of the city. With all the chaos on his own soil my father will have no choice but to pull his sentries back.” 

“Do you understand how many civilian casualties that will cause?” Shiro growled. “Prince Keith would never allow that.” 

“Well last I checked he isn’t here.” Lotor snapped. “And the queen cannot return from her travels with the galra outside our gates, and our Captain of the Guard can barely stand right now, so someone needs to take initiative.” 

“And who said that someone is you?” Shiro spat. 

The room seemed to drop a few degrees as Lotor and Shiro glared at one another. Eventually though, Lotor turned away, instead focusing his energy on touching the various vials on Matt’s desk. 

Matt mulled over their options in his head while he watched Lotor put his dirty hands on his nice clean bottles. The general was right about one thing, the castle was in shambles right now, but perhaps, then, what they needed was someone from outside the palace.  

“I think I have a better idea.” Matt said, slapping Lotor’s hand away from his stuff. “I know some nerds who can cause mass chaos without any casualties.” All eyes fell on him. “Trust me, I’ve seen them do it a thousand times before.” 

Shiro and Allura shared a glance, then nodded. Lotor was less agreeable, however, he snarled and grabbed Matt by the shirt, lifting his feet off the ground. “Do you think your plan is better than mine? If you think you’re smarter than me, peasant, then you-”

But Allura was there in an instant, yanking Lotor’s long, white hair back and whispering in his ear. “Keep touching Matt and see if you keep that hand.”

Matt almost laughed, it was the first time he ever saw genuine fear in the general’s eyes. Slowly, Lotor lowered Matt to the ground and pushed Allura off. He retreated towards the door, muttering, “I hope you three know what you’re doing,” as he left.

The moment the door latched shut Allura whirred around and grabbed Matt by the wrists. “Matt, are you all right? I’m so sorry I let him even touch you.”

Matt just threw his arms over her shoulders. “Are you kidding, Allura? You’re my hero!”

“Just wait until I’m healed, Matt.” Shiro grunted from the bed. “I’ll teach Lotor not to speak to you like that.”

Matt released Allura from his embrace and chuckled. “Two champions fighting for my honor? I’m blushing.”

Shiro and Allura visibly calmed at hearing Matt’s joke. His humor had kept them from losing all hope during tense situations in the past, and today was no exception. But after a few moments Shiro’s face turned cold again, remembering the weight of the situation they were in. He turned to Matt and said, “these nerds you were talking about, are they who I think they are?”

Matt nodded.

Shiro scratched his chin. “Are you sure Hunk, Pidge and Lance are up to it? There’s a lot riding on this.”

“Don’t worry, they’ve pulled off some incredible feats.” Matt said, propping his feet up on his desk. “This one time, right after the king died Iverson refused to give Keith an extension with his assignments so he could grieve.”

“Keith is the prince, if he needed time to mourn couldn’t he have just told Iverson?” Allura cut it, poking at the various herbs and antidotes on Matt’s desk.

“Yeah but Keith is…Keith.” Matt scoffed. “He would never feel comfortable talking about his emotions to someone.”

“That’s true.” Said Shiro.

“Anyway,” Matt continued, “the Garrison Trio thought that was unfair, so they conjured up a stink bomb that somehow covered every inch of the Garrison. The school had to be closed for a week, plenty of time for Keith to get his bearings.” Matt shook his head. “I still can’t figure out how they did it.” 

“Oh yeah, Iverson is still scratching his head about who did that.” Shiro laughed a little too hard, instantly regretting it as he clutched his bruised ribs.

Allura walked over to Shiro and helped him lie back. “You need to get some rest.” She looked over to Matt, “and you need to call upon this Garrison Trio, they sound like they could be of great help.” 

Matt rose to his feet. “I think you’ll like them, princess. Lance is the idea man, Pidge is the brain and Hunk is the architect. These crazy kids could be our saviors.” Matt crossed his arms over his chest, then added, “just don’t tell them that, they can get real cocky.” 

Allura shot Shiro a glance that Matt was very happy to not be on the receiving end of. “Sounds like someone else I know.” She said.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Shiro replied, closing his eyes.

Allura frowned, but then her face softened as she leaned down and spoke softly in Shiro’s ear. “You must rest and regain your strength. I could’ve lost you today, I cannot bare the thought of that. I don’t know what I would’ve done if you died before I even told you how I - that I…”

As she struggled to finish her sentence Shiro reached up and placed his hand on the nape of her neck, entwining his fingers in her snow white hair. He gently tugged her closer until their foreheads touched. “I know.” He whispered, eyes still closed. “Me too.” 

Allura let out a breathy laugh and kissed him on the forehead, then she turned towards Matt and said, “come on, we all need to get some sleep.” 

“You can say that again.” Matt sighed as he walked over to Shiro’s bedside. “Go to sleep, idiot, doctor’s orders.” Shiro grunted and Matt turned to join Allura at the door, but then he pivoted back and leaned in close to the captain. “You almost died today, and before I could tell you that you’re…you’re my sun and moon, my earth and sky, my knife and fork!”

Shiro cracked an eye open. “What are you doing?”

Matt cocked his head. “What? Is that not how we’re saying goodnight to you now? 

“Matt.”

“You seemed to like it when Allura did it.”

“Shut up.” 

Allura grabbed Matt from behind and pulled him away from the blushing Captain of the Guard. Neither of them could suppress their laughter as he and Allura closed the door behind them. 

Matt was glad he could lighten the mood, if only for a minute, because tomorrow was going to be Hell.

 

Chapter Text

As Keith extinguished the campfire with water he could see Lance out of the corner of his eye scoping out a place to sleep for the night. 

After a long day of walking the two boys found a place to settle for the night, which thankfully, was near a river so they could gets some water. Lance had used his bow and arrow to shoot them some dinner, and although Lance was a natural at hunting, he was pretty squeamish about actually having to kill the animals, which Keith found sort of endearing. However, once Keith had cooked the animals, Lance had no problem gobbling them down, which Keith teased him about all through dinner.

As the last of the fire’s embers died Lance sat up from the ground where he was laying. “Why are you putting that out?” He asked. “It’s gonna be cold.”

“You want the forest to catch on fire while we’re asleep?” Keith asked, hitching the pouch of water back onto his belt. “Besides, the fire practically guides the galra to our location, it was risky having it for as long as we did.” 

“But without the fire how will you see my beautiful face?” Lance joked. 

Keith rolled his eyes. “Don’t worry, I’ll still be able to hear your annoying voice.” 

Lance let out a huff of air that Keith could’ve sworn was a little laugh, but then he fell silent. The prince waited for him to say some snarky comeback, but when it never came Keith figured their conversation was over, so he headed for the other side of the campsite to lie down. 

“Where are you going?” Lance called after him.

Keith turned, a little confused. “Uh, to bed?”

Lance propped himself up on his forearms, it was dark now that the fire was out, but the moonlight shone brightly on the boy. Silver streams of light danced in his captivatingly blue eyes as he stared at Keith.

“Without the fire it’s gonna be cold.” Lance said. “You need to come lie next to me so we can share some body heat.”

Keith shifted awkwardly on his feet. He wasn’t very good at sharing his personal space, especially not with strangers, though, was Lance a stranger? The second half of the day they’d gotten along pretty well, really well, actually.

Lance could probably see the internal struggle Keith was facing because he reached out a hand and calmly whispered, “Keith, trust me.” 

Something about the soft way Lance said his name and the delicate way the moon shone upon his brown hair made Keith’s heart pound. He suddenly found himself aching to lie next to the Blue Bandit, so he nodded and made his was over to Lance.

Keith laid down on his back next to the him, just so their arms were ever so slightly touching. Even this minuscule contact with the boy next to him made the prince go as rigid as a board. He couldn’t even look at Lance, not even as Lance turned his head to the side and stared at him, Keith kept his eyes on the night sky instead. 

“Hey man.” Lance said in a hushed tone. “There’s no need to be so tense. We can sleep back to back, that way we still share body heat but it’s not weird for you.”

Lance slowly rolled on to his side, facing away from Keith now, but Keith wasn’t ready to roll away from Lance, not yet. He stayed on his back, mapping out the constellations as he felt Lance breathing beside him. He smiled up at the cosmos as he said, “you called me Keith.”

“Oh, uh sorry, I’ll use your title, Your Royal High Lordlyness of Curtsies and Castles, or whatever.” Lance grumbled tiredly, still facing the other way.

Keith couldn’t help but laugh. “No, that’s not what I meant. I mean, you’ve been calling me nicknames all day, but just now you called me Keith.” 

Lance picked his head up a little. “I can go back to calling you names if you’d like. Believe it or not, I have a whole list of them in my head.”

“Somehow, I don’t find that hard to believe at all.” 

Lance lowered his head back to the ground and Keith let the silence fall between them, but after a few moments he added, “if you have an entire list, does that mean you’ve been working on it since we met?”

Lance’s neck snapped around to face Keith. “What? No!”

“Aw, you’ve been thinking of me all day?” A mischievous smile grew across Keith’s face.

“No I - you are - that mullet must be growing into that brain of yours!” Lance finally stammered out. 

Keith locked eyes with him and they glared at each other, ready to face off, but instead they both burst into laughter. The noise reverberated off the trees which shocked Keith a little, he wasn’t sure he’d ever laughed this loud before. 

“So,” he said, turning his face back toward the sky, “tell me about yourself, Blue Bandit.” 

The joy instantly drained from Lance’s face as he clamped his jaw shut, and Keith thought he might ignore the question, but slowly, he rolled over to face the prince. 

Keith was suddenly very aware of just how close Lance was. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Lance’s piercing blue eyes staring at him, but he kept his own eyes on the stars above him. 

“There’s not much to tell.” Lance began. “My family died in the plague epidemic, I became the Blue Bandit, got framed for stealing the Royal Jewels and now I live out my days alone in a shack.” 

“Yeah, my shack.” Keith mumbled.

“What?”

“That shack you’re living in, it’s my family’s old hunting cabin. We haven’t used it since my father died though.” 

“Wow,” Lance breathed, “all those days I was afraid the owner would catch me and it finally happened.” He jabbed Keith’s shoulder and winked, “you’re not gonna start charging me rent, are you?”

But Keith didn’t respond, his mind drifted away, back to the days when his father was alive, back when life was simpler. He remembered the days when he would spend the weekend at that cabin with his father, when the kingdom wasn’t about to fall apart at any minute like it was now.

Lance touched Keith’s arm, practically sending a jolt of electricity through his body, snapping him out of his trance. “Are you thinking about your dad?” Lance whispered. “I’m sorry about that, man. I won’t pretend to understand the pressure you must be under now that he’s gone, but if you ever want to talk, I’ve been told I’m a pretty good listener.” 

Keith felt a pang of guilt run through him, Lance was comforting him when he just said his entire family was dead. Not to mention Keith still had his mom and Shiro to by his side, plus Uncle Coran, Allura and Matt had always been there for him as well, whereas Lance had nobody. Lance was in exile for crying out loud. 

Keith finally turned his head to look at Lance. “I’m going to ask you this once, so please don’t lie to me. Did you or did you not steal the royal jewels.” 

Keith silently cursed himself for being so blunt when he knew Lance was hurting, but he needed to hear the truth, and he needed to look Lance in the eyes when he said it. 

“Of course not!” Lance snapped back. “I didn’t even want to become the Blue Bandit in the first place, it just kind of…happened.”

“How do you just happen to become an infamous thief?”

Lance scowled at Keith, but then something sad washed over him as the memories came back. The dam that held back Lance’s pain seemed to break, Keith’s chest ached as he watched this happen. He was too much of a coward to try and comfort lance, perhaps his attempt at comfort would only make the boy feel worse anyway.  

“It was right after my family died.” Lance began with a shaky voice. “I was sitting on the roof of Hunk’s Bakery, trying to escape society for a while, when I saw this little girl enter the alley. She was proudly carrying a loaf of bread that was practically the size of her, and it reminded me of when my mom would send me out on errands like that.” Lance let out a hollow laugh, the smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Some guy came up behind her, pushed her down, stole her bread and sauntered away like nothing had happened.” He paused, picking at the leaves on the ground. “Something in me snapped. I threw the hood of my blue cloak over my head and leapt into the alley. I knocked the guy to the ground and gave the bread back to the crying girl.” 

Keith thought back to when he first heard of the Blue Bandit. Lance’s story seemed to line up with what he knew, some guy claimed he was attacked in a back alley by a cloaked figure, after that, the bandit was popping up everywhere.

“The guy wasn’t ready to give up, though.” Lance continued. “He threw some punches at me, even landed a few. Ah, those hurt.” He reached up and touched his tan face where bruises must’ve been, Keith prayed he’d never have to see Lance’s face beat up like that. “Eventually, I was able to catch one of his blows, then I pulled his wrists behind him, tied his sleeves together and got the heck out of there.” Lance kept his eyes on his hands as he twittled a leaf between his fingers.” I didn’t even realize until I got home that I ripped his cuff links off his shirt when I tied his sleeves, his golden cuff links.” Lance fell silent as he tore the leaf apart. 

Keith wanted so badly to say something reassuring, but he couldn’t find the words. Something deep inside him said that Lance was innocent. He may have stolen in the past but he didn’t steal the jewels, and he deserved to know that Keith believed him, that he had a friend, but his stupid mouth couldn’t muster up the courage to say anything. 

Lance went on, “the next day the guy was telling anyone who would listen that he survived an attack from Lyon’s most notorious thief, and he didn’t even report the missing cuff links. That’s when I realized if I stole small things from people that they wouldn’t really miss, I could support myself, and my friends who were helping me.” Lance let out a breath. “And that way I wouldn’t be such a burden on them.” 

Without thinking, Keith placed a hand on Lance’s cheek and looked him dead in the eyes. “You’re not a burden, Lance.” 

Lance’s eyes welled with tears. He tried to respond but something was caught in his throat. He snapped his eyes shut in an attempt to stop the tears from falling. Keith snatched his hand away from the boy’s face, unsure of how to comfort Lance, so he just allowed him a private moment to collect himself. 

When Lance opened his eyes again he merely said, “that’s the first time you’ve called me Lance all day.” 

For a moment, Keith was insulted, he’s addressed him “Lance” before, but as he thought back on the day, he realized that wasn’t true. Lance may have been calling the prince nicknames the whole day but Keith was no better. How did this boy push his buttons enough to get him to stoop to his level? Maybe Lance had more influence over him that he realized. 

Keith tried to act nonchalant about it as he shrugged. “I suppose we’re on first name basis by this point.” 

Lance traced his finger along the ground between them. For a half a second Keith had a strong impulse to grab that hand and hold it in his, but he pushed that feeling away. 

“It’s just,” Lance said, “you’ve been calling me things like Blue Bandit or thief or criminal all day.”

Keith’s heart sank. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Lance said, bringing his eyes up to meet Keith’s. “What bothers me the most is the fact that your nicknames aren’t nearly as creative as mine.”

A smile tugged at Keith’s lips. How did Lance do that? Make him smile when things were so grim just a second ago. “Oh yeah? Then tell me, what names would you use?”

“I don’t know, off the top of my head, maybe Sharpshooter, Sir Lancelot, or even,” a devious glint shone in Lance’s eyes, “Loverboy Lance.” 

Keith groaned. “I am not calling you that.”

“Oh, come on, Prince Pouty Pants.” Lance said, playfully poking Keith’s side.

Keith began to laugh but it immediately faded when he noticed the bloody rag wrapped around Lance’s hand. He grabbed Lance’s wrist and pulled it closer to himself, even in the darkness he could see the blood staining through the rag. 

“This doesn’t look good.” Keith said, sitting up.

Lance propped himself up on his elbows. “Yeah, well, the healthcare system out in the woods is garbage. When you’re king you should fix that.” 

Keith would’ve laughed at the dumb joke if he wasn’t so worried. He pulled the rag off to get a look at the wound, it wasn’t deep but it could still easily get infected. Not to mention the handkerchief Lance used to wrap it was filthy.

“Does it hurt?” Keith asked. Lance shrugged, but Keith knew he was trying to play it off. He leaned down so their foreheads touched, Lance tried to pull away but he tugged him back. “Don’t lie to me, Lance.”

A bit of Lance’s nonchalant facade faded as he whispered, “if I’m being honest, it hurts like crazy.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“I dunno, I was kind of busy complaining about everything else all day.” 

Keith unclipped the water pouch from his belt and poured some of it on Lance’s palm. Lance hissed as the water touched his cut but he didn’t complain. Without hesitation, Keith picked up a handful of his cloak and brought his dagger to it, but Lance grabbed his hand. “What are you doing?” He asked, a panicked look on his face. 

“My cape is by far the cleanest thing we have to wrap your hand in.”

“But it was your father’s.”

Keith blinked in astonishment. “I…I can’t believe you remember that.” Man, this boy was full of surprises, wasn’t he? “It doesn’t matter, it’s my fault you have this wound in the first place.”

Lance shook his head. “Don’t blame yourself, we both knew you weren’t gonna kill me. I was trying to impress you and I got too cocky.” 

Under different circumstances Keith would’ve teased Lance for admitting he was trying to impress him, but there were more important matters at hand, Lance needed to know that Keith never meant to hurt him. 

“Everything happened so fast, I was just trying to get some control over the situation.” Keith said. “In my defense, I didn’t think you were gonna grab the knife.” He added with a half smile.

Lance brushed his fingers under his chin. “People often underestimate me, I like to prove them wrong by impressing them.”

“Well consider me impressed.” Keith mumbled as he brought the knife to his red cloak once more.

Lance squeezed his arm, stopping him again. “I really don’t think I’m worth cutting up your father’s cloak.”

“Lance, as your prince I order you to let me cut this to help you.”

That seemed to get through to Lance because he let go of Keith, allowing the prince to cut a small portion out of the corner of the cape. Keith thought cutting his father’s cloak would feel like he was cutting a piece of his soul, but, surprisingly, it didn't. The only thing he felt was the overwhelming need to get the fabric over Lance’s wound.

Keith tried to be gentle as he wrapped Lance’s hand in the red fabric, hyper aware of Lance’s eyes watching his every move.

“You know,” Lance said softly as Keith tied the ends into a knot, “you’re the first person I’ve ever told that Blue Bandit story to.” 

“Oh?” Was the only stupid thing Keith could muster. He kept his eyes on Lance’s hand. Now that he was done wrapping it, he knew he should pull his hands away, but he desperately wanted to keep them there, keep holding his soft hand. 

“Yeah, not even my two best friends know that story, I mean they know I stole some guy’s cuff links, but I never told them about the little girl.”

“Well,” Keith said, finally making the decision to pull his hands away from Lance’s. “I’m honored you shared it with me.” 

Lance shot him a warm smile that made Keith’s insides turn to goo, which made him decide right then and there to stop being such a coward and say something nice to Lance. Keith fumbled through his mind trying to find the right thing to say. He looked at the boy sitting across from him, who was humming as he examined his new bandage, and Keith knew he had to say something, anything reassuring. 

He took a deep breath. “You’re not a burden, Lance, if anything, you seem like a great friend to have. I’ve known you for less than 24 hours and you’ve save my life how many times?”

At first, Lance was caught off guard by the compliment, only staring at Keith with doe eyes, but then he tried to recover, cooly replying with “Too many times to count.” 

Keith smiled at him but Lance turned away, his eyes returning to the red fabric around his hand, the next thing Keith knew, Lance was shoving his hand in the prince’s face. “Will you kiss it to make it better?”

“What? No!” Keith chuckled, playfully knocking Lance’s hand out of his face. “Now go to bed.”

“Yes, oh Royal Red-Caped One.” Lance groaned jokingly as he laid back down. 

Keith sat there for a moment, admiring the boy before him and just how brave he truly was. Lance had lost everything and still preferred to make others laugh rather than get swallowed by his own despair. 

Keith watched a shiver go up Lance’s spine as a cold gust of wind blew by. He was right, without the fire it would be a chilly night, so Keith unhooked the cloak from his back as he lay down, spreading it across both Lance and himself as a blanket.

Lance’s only response to the action was snuggling up close to Keith. He nuzzled his nose into Keith’s neck, and for a second, Keith panicked, he’d never been this close to anyone in his entire life, but the panic quickly subsided. Something about this just felt right. Slowly, he rested his chin on the top of Lance’s head and was asleep within minutes.

Lance and I are only doing this for warmth, he told himself as he drifted away. 

Only for warmth.  

 

Chapter Text

Lance’s eyes fluttered open, but the light stung, so he snapped them shut again. It was morning, that was for sure. He could feel the steady rising and falling of something beneath him, it reminded him of when he was little and his mom would pull him onto her chest to help him sleep. He hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep in years, but last night, he slept like a baby.

He began to drift back into unconsciousness when he felt the flutter of a finger across his back. His eyes shot opened and he realized just exactly what, or who, he was sleeping on.

Lance was lying on top of Keith…the prince, he was lying on top of the Prince of Lyon. Great, Lance thought, so that steady rhythm that helped me sleep so well came from Keith’s chest breathing up and down…what was even supposed to do with this information? To make matters worse, at some point during the night Keith had wrapped his arms around Lance and now they were stuck. 

Keith was still asleep so Lance thought he could just slide out of his iron death grip, but that was easier said than done. As Lance tried to shimmy away the prince rolled, taking Lance with him, now they were both on their sides, Keith spooning him. Lance had longed for someone to hold him like this for years, but of course, now that it was actually happening it was with his he old school rival. Careful what you wish for he thought as he tried to remove Keith’s arm from around his waist. 

Just as Lance was making some progress, the prince nuzzled his face into the back of Lance’s neck. Intense butterflies shot through the Blue Bandit’s stomach, and before he could catch himself he let out a loud squeak, which was enough to jolt the prince awake. 

Lance instantly played dead, dropping Keith’s arm and pretending to be asleep. He could practically feel Keith’s eyes scanning him, assessing the situation and trying to remember where he was. After a few seconds Keith tried to sit up, but something stopped him. Lance tried his hardest not to laugh when he realized this was because Keith’s arm was trapped under his neck. 

Lance could’ve cut the guy a break and just rolled away, but this was too funny. In fact, Lance tried his hardest to place all of his body weight on Keith’s arm so it would be harder for him to get it back.

Keith tried to gingerly tried to pull his arm away, careful not to wake Lane, but it wasn’t enough. He tried again, this time with a little more force, but he still he couldn’t seem to get his arm free.

Lance nearly broke character when Keith gave up on being careful and just forcefully grabbed his arm and attempted to heave it away. If Lance wasn’t already awake this definitely would’ve woken him up. 

“Shoot… no…dammit…ah” Keith grumbled under his breath.

This was the best idea Lance has ever had.

With one final attempt, the prince put his foot against Lance’s back and ripped his arm out from under his neck. The force from the action violently rolled Lance onto his stomach, giving him a face full of grass. He instantly popped up, shooting an accusing look at Keith.

He would’ve been mad at the prince for being so careless with his unconscious body if the site he saw before him wasn’t so funny. Keith was trying to act natural, like he had nothing to do with Lance’s rude awakening. Keith was leaning against a log with his legs crossed, pretending to inspect his nails. When he glanced over at Lance, he did the fakest double take in the world. “Oh, hey!” He said with way too much enthusiasm. “You’re awake.”

It took everything in Lance’s being not to burst out laughing. How was this boy a politician, he was a horrible liar. 

Lance narrowed his eyes. “Morning. How long have you been up?”

Keith scoffed. “Oh, hours…all morning, actually… you know what? I didn’t even sleep. I watched the sun rise.” Keith pointed towards the horizon. 

“What a rare thing to see.” Lance drolled, “especially since the sun rises in the other direction.”

Keith looked down at his finger, pointing west instead of east, and instantly reddened. “I um - it’s…” 

Lance pursed his lips to hide a smile. If he didn’t know any better he might’ve thought the prince was actually flustered by him. He decided to stop teasing the poor boy and get the day started. “Anyway, let’s get going, the sooner we get to Daibazaal the sooner this is all over with.” Lance pulled himself to his feet and felt something fall off his shoulders, he turned to see the prince’s cape in the dirt, he had forgotten they used it as a blanket. “Oh jeez, I’m so sorry Keith.” He picked it off the ground and dusted it off. 

Keith didn’t say a word as he stood and strode toward Lance. Lance felt his chest tightening, he knew the pain of losing a family member, and how important the few objects you have left of them are. Lance couldn’t believe he’d been so careless with it. He batted away at the dirt. “Okay, it’s not that bad, I can-”

“Lance.” Keith said in a low voice.

“No Keith, let me just-”

“Lance.”

Lance licked his finger and rubbed it over a smudge. “Look at that, good as new-”

“Lance!”

Keith grabbed the cape and Lance flinched, expecting him to be angry, but when he looked into the prince’s eyes there was nothing understanding. He almost seemed amused at Lance’s sad attempts to clean the cloak. Lance was embarrassed, now he was the one who was flustered. 

Heat rushed to Lance’s cheeks when he realized they were both holding the cape and their fingertips were ever so slightly touching.

“I’ll pay to have it cleaned.” Lance said, releasing his hold on the fabric.

“I’m the prince, Lance, I think I can afford to clean it myself.” Keith said, slinging the cape over his shoulders. 

“Was that a joke? From the emo prince, himself?” Lance let out a hideous snort, which Keith tried and failed to hide his amusement at. 

The prince turned to him and shot a half smile in his direction. “Since you’re one with the woods and all, you should lead the way to Daibazaal.”

Lance couldn’t help but think how handsome Keith looked when he wasn’t scowling (although, he looked rather handsome even when he was scowling too.) The way the morning light bounced off his silky black hair did something to Lance, and he wasn’t sure he liked it, but he knew he was gonna make Keith pay for making him feel this way. 

Lance recomposed himself, raising an eyebrow at the prince. “You want something from me?” He leaned over and whispered in the Prince’s ear. “At least buy me dinner first.” 

Then he strutted away, towards Daibazaal, quite pleased with the faint blush he noticed on Keith’s cheeks. It was the perfect payback. 

 

————-

 

The boys walked for a couple of hours, but unlike the day before where they walked in silence, they talked practically the whole time. They discussed their families, their friends, their days at the Garrison, though Keith still didn’t seem to remember they went there together.

Lance could tell Keith had a hard time not taking charge, but he was being really good about letting Lance take the lead. 

They stopped by a pond to eat some berries they found for lunch. Lance licked the juice off his fingers then wiped the rest on the cheek of the unsuspecting prince.

“Hey!” Keith protested, trying to get the sticky purple juice off his face. “What was that for?” 

Lance merely shrugged his shoulders. “I know you like red, but I think purple might be your color.” 

“Stop messing around, we’re almost at Daibazaal.” Keith said as he marched over to the pond and slapped some water on his face. 

Lance watched him hastily rub his cheeks. “You know,” he said casually leaning against the rock behind him, “I understand that what you do is important, but you are allowed to have fun every once in a while.” 

Keith shot him a look over his shoulder. 

“Some might say it’s even good for you.” Lance winked at the unimpressed prince.

“I know how to have fun.” Keith grumbled.

“Oh yeah?” I dare you to have fun right now.” 

“You dare me?” Keith laughed. “What are we, six - what are you doing?” He asked when he noticed Lance taking off his shoes. 

“Having fun.” Lance replied as he threw off his vest and shirt. “Taking a little dip in the pond.” 

Lance began to shimmy off his pants and Keith jumped up. “Woah, woah, wait.”

“Relax, I’ll leave my underwear on.” 

Keith crossed his arms. “The only thing fun about this will be watching you shiver in the cold water.”

Lance walked to the edge of the pond and looked into the blue water. He noted that it dropped off quick, so maybe he could canon ball in and get Keith all wet. It wasn’t exactly swimming weather, but he didn’t mind, he loved the water so much, it was his element, and for some reason he wanted to share this thing that he enjoyed with Keith.

“Well,” Keith deadpanned from beside him. “Happy swimming.”

“I knew it, I knew you couldn’t have fun. You’re such a-”

But Lance was cut off by a swift hand pushing him from behind. The next thing he knew, he was plunging into the icy cold water. Of course Keith was right about it being cold. He plummeted to the bottom, but quickly pushed his feet against the muddy ground and broke through to the surface. 

Keith was doubled over laughing, and Lance gasped. “You…you pushed me?!”

“You’re right, Lance, this is fun!”

Lance wanted to be mad, but the truth was, he was just glad the prince was having a good time. Lance began to laugh too as he splashed some water at Keith.

“Watch it, these clothes are quite expensive.” Keith mused

Lance swam towards where Keith was standing. “And here I thought your good looks were effortless.” 

Keith’s face paled at that. Lance, having realized what he just said aloud, began searching for a way to cover his tracks, but before he could make up an excuse, Keith was unhooking his cape and pulling his shirt over his head. At first, Lance was confused, but it quickly registered that his plan had worked, Keith was going to join him in the water.

The prince stripped down to his underwear and Lance couldn’t help but stare, under all that fabric you couldn’t really tell how toned his muscles were. He turned away before Keith could catch him looking. 

The prince strode over and stood before to him, dipping a toe in and immediately pulling it out. “Jeez Lance, you’re tougher than you look if you go swimming in water this cold for fun.”

“I had a little push getting in.” Lance said, shaking the water from his hair, purposefully getting it all over Keith. The prince laughed and Lance could feel his heart beating ferociously, he looked down at his chest to make sure everything was all right, but everything seemed normal, what could make him react like that? He glanced back up at Keith, who was looking down at him with a soft expression. Lance cocked his head. “What?” 

Keith snapped to attention. “Nothing, I have a headache, you give me headaches.” He stammered.

“You know what helps with headaches?” Lance asked, wading a little closer to where Keith stood at the water’s edge. “Water!” 

And with that he grabbed Keith’s ankle and pulled him in. He fell into the water with a splash and disappeared into the blue, but a moment later Keith popped back up to the surface, whipping his hair out of his eyes. Dang it Lance thought even when he sopping wet he looks good, but he didn’t have time to expand on that thought because Keith was on top of him. “You’re gonna pay for that, Blue!” He laughed. 

Lance threw Keith across the water like he was a stone, but the prince bounced back quick, leaping on him again, this time from behind. Lance stuck his face into the water and gulped to up, then turned his head and spit it right into Keith’s eyes. Keith let out a strangled sound as he dropped into the water to protect himself. Keith emerged from the water again and grabbed Lance’s legs, trying to knock him over, but Lance used to wrestle with his siblings and had mastered the techniques of this type of warfare. 

As Keith tried to take out his legs, Lance jumped into his arms and wrapped his legs tightly around the prince’s waist, they stopped when they realized they were face to face now, Lance practically in Keith’s arms. He noticed a spot of purple still on the prince’s cheek. Without thinking, he used his thumb to wipe it away. “After all this, you still didn’t get the stain off.” He said in a soft voice. 

The water may have been cold but Lance’s body was suddenly very hot. 

Lance had the urge to disappear beneath the water but when he tried to get away Keith wouldn’t let go. The prince held tight to his back, keeping him safely in his arms. “Lance.” He whispered. “I just wanted to thank you.” 

“I told you so.” Lance mocked. “I told you this would be fun.” 

For the second time that day Keith tried to hide his blush, letting his hair fall into his face. “I mean it, Lance, I haven’t-”

“Hold on, I can’t take you seriously with that mop over your eyes.” Lance said, brushing the hair out of his face, which was a mistake, a big mistake. Lance now had a front row seat to look into those piercing gray eyes. He could hear his pulse in his ears as his hand ran through Keith’s hair as he pushed his bangs back. 

Keith cleared his throat. “Is that…better? My hair I mean. Is that good for you like it’s good for me?”

Lance tried to speak, but his throat could only produce mangled noises, so he just settled for nodding instead. 

“Um, good.” Keith said, trying to compose himself, but Lance could tell the prince was discombobulated by his touch. “As I was saying, I haven’t allowed myself to have fun in a long time, so, thank you for freeing me.” A genuine smile spread across his face. “Shiro’s never had success in trying to get me to relax, he’s gonna hate you when he finds out you did in two days what he hasn’t been able to do in years.”

Lance smiled. “How could anybody hate me?” 

“Yeah, you’re an absolute peach.” Keith snorted as he dropped Lance back into the water. 

They splashed around for a few more minutes before putting back on their clothes and heading for Daibazaal. As he pulled his blue vest back on, Lance realized that he was in trouble, cause all he could think about was a boy with gray eyes and a red cape. 

 

————-

 

At long last, Lance and Keith came upon Daibazaal. It’s dark walls were large and ominous, Zarkon’s castle, which looked more like a dungeon, loomed in the center of the kingdom, let’s just say it wasn’t exactly a vacation hotspot. 

When Lance heard the crunch of a leaf nearby he immediately froze, holding up a hand to signal to Keith to do the same. He honestly couldn’t believe the Prince of Lyon was willingly taking direction from him, but he didn’t have time to think about that right now. He took the bow from his back and nocked an arrow, carefully scanning the woods. When he saw movement and pulled his bow string back, but a familiar and comforting hand on his shoulder stopped him. 

“There’s a time for action and a time for waiting.” Keith whispered in his ear.

Lance begrudgingly put his bow down and crouched behind a tree with Keith, waiting to see who it was. “But action is so much more fun.” Lance huffed.

“It’s also more reckless.” Keith said, keeping his eyes on the figure in the distance. “Patience yields focus.”

“Who taught you that cheesy pickup line?”

“Shiro.”

Lance slid his hands over his face. “Oh god, don’t tell him I said that. He already has enough reason to hate me seeing as I got you to have fun before he did.” 

Keith smirked at Lance and gave his shoulder a playful punch. “Your secret’s safe with me.” 

Both their heads snapped towards the clearing when they heard voices. Lance’s spine chilled when he at the sound of a familiar voice, it was Sendak. Good thing Keith stopped him from shooting his arrow, Sendak definitely would’ve lived through that, and then he definitely would’ve killed Lance for shooting at him. 

“Why are we meeting out here?” Sendak growled.

“I fear there may be a spy amongst our ranks.” A wicked voice shot back. Haggar. “It’s not safe within the city walls.” 

“Zarkon wont allow me an audience with him. I have information that could justify an attack on Lyon.” 

Haggar mulled this over. “let me see it.” 

Lance peeked out from behind the tree to see Sendak pull the wedding invitation from his uniform’s pocket. The invitation that he gave Sendak. Lance could hear Keith’s breath hitch beside him. 

Haggar traced a boney finger over the cursive font. “Alfor and Coran, yes, this information will be most useful, but Zarkon is too caught up in trying to figure out who’s been leaking our information.” 

“Then I guess,” Sendak snatched the invitation from her hand, “we must continue to pursue this ourselves.”

“I will try to get you an audience with the emperor.” Haggar replied, walking away.

“Did you hear that the Prince of Lyon is lost in the woods?” Sendak added, stopping Haggar in her tracks.

She didn’t turn to face Sendak as she said, “rally the troops, we attack at dawn.” 

A unsympathetic smile appeared on Sendak’s face. “Vrepit sa.” Then they went their separate ways.

A cold air settled over Lance and Keith. This was bad. This was war. As soon as the two galra were out of sight Keith leapt out of his crouch. “How? How did they get an invitation? This is bad!”

But Lance couldn’t answer. His palms were sweaty and he felt dizzy, he knew he had to tell Keith. He couldn’t keep this from him any longer, but he also knew Keith may never forgive him. 

Lance thought he may throw up, he placed his hand against a tree to steady himself. Keith was immediately at his side. “Lance! Are you okay?”

“Keith,” He mumbled, “I have to tell you something.” 

“What is it? Hey, look at me.” The prince cupped Lance’s face, and he tried to savor the moment, knowing it was the last time Keith would ever look at him that way.

“It was me.” He croaked. “I gave Sendak the letter.”

“What…what are you saying?”

“I was trying to steal from him, cause I’m a bandit you know? Gotta live up to the reputation.” He tried to joke, but Keith just stared at him, stunned. “He was after me, so I dropped him the invitation to get away.”

Keith’s hands shot away from Lance’s face as if it burned to touch him. Lance wasn’t sure what hurt more, the stab wound on his hand or the betrayed look Keith gave him. 

“Is this true, Lance?”

Lance took a step toward Keith, but the prince stumbled backwards. Lance desperately tried to find the right words to say. “I was hurt and alone and I wasn’t thinking, but I’m here to fix it now!”

“You,” Keith growled. “you are a traitor. Get away from me!” 

Lance dropped to his knees. “Keith please, I care about you!”

“You don’t care about anyone but yourself.”

“He was gonna kill me!”

“And now he’s gonna kill everyone in Lyon because of you! I have never met anyone more selfish in my life. Just get out of here, and if I ever see you around Lyon again, I’ll have you arrested for stealing my family’s jewels.” 

At hearing that, something within Lance broke. He was a lot of things, an outlaw, a coward, a liar, but he did not steal those jewels. He had trusted Keith with the story of how he became the Blue Bandit, a story he had only confided in Keith about. 

Lance was shaking trying to contain his anger. “Keith, you don’t mean that.” He whispered.

Keith ignore him. “Why didn’t you just burn the invitation like you were supposed to?”

“Like how you burned the bodies of the plague victims?” Lance spat back.

It was a low blow. It wasn’t Keith’s fault that the plague swept the kingdom, but he did pass the decree to immediately burn the bodies in an attempt to stop the virus. Lance hadn’t gotten to see his family’s bodies, to say goodbye. They were ashes in the ground before he even knew they were dead. And now Lance was gonna take that pain out on Keith. 

For a moment Keith was taken aback by the comment, but he quickly shot back, “you’re a coward and a thief, Blue Bandit, and now everyone in Lyon is going to suffer for it.”

“No, everyone in Lyon is going to suffer because they have you for a king.” Lance snarled. 

A shadow crossed Keith’s face, and for a moment, Lance genuinely thought he was going to kill him, and Lance probably would’ve let him if he tried. But then Keith turned away, clenching and unclenching his fists. “Just go.” He grumbled. 

Tears stung at Lance’s eyes, he wanted to leave, but he needed to know one more thing. “Are you pushing me away because I’m a criminal…or because I got too close and you’re scared?”

A pained scream ripped from Keith’s throat as he hurtled his sword at Lance’s head. Lance ducked out of the way just in time for the weapon to pierce the tree behind him. He broke off into a sprint, not turning back to look at the prince. He was terrified of Keith, but even more terrified of himself, and what he’d done.

Half of him knew Keith hated him now, and yet, the other half was well aware that if Keith truly wanted to hit him with that sword, he would be dead right now.

Chapter Text

 

Matt leaned on the railing of the castle balcony. From here, he could see over the kingdom’s walls to the woods beyond, where sentries surrounded them, waiting to strike anyone who tried to enter or exit Lyon. There were probably galra all over the woods by this point, but he couldn’t get distracted by that, couldn’t get distracted by his worry for the prince’s safety. 

He wasn’t sure how Keith could possibly be okay out there, but if anyone were to survive, it would be Keith, if only for the fact that he was too stubborn to die. 

“My lord, they’re here.” Came a servant’s voice from behind him. 

Matt turned around to greet Hunk and Pidge and…no Lance. 

Nevertheless, he ran to them and pulled them into a hug. He knew it was dangerous to incite one with Hunk, who’s embraces were back breaking, but he didn’t care, after everything that’s happened he was glad at least a few of the people he cared about were still okay. 

When Matt wrapped his arms around them Hunk immediately lifted him and Pidge into the air. The servant ran over to help but Matt shook his head, he needed this, no matter how uncomfortable he may look. The servant understood and bowed out of the room. 

“So, what’s going on, Matt?” Pidge asked as Hunk lowered them to the floor.

Matt crossed his arms. “I could ask you the same, where’s Lance?”

Hunk and Pidge suddenly became very interested in looking at anything but Matt. He knew whatever the answer was, he wasn’t going to like it. 

“I thought you guys went and got him a couple days ago.” Matt tried again.

Hunk tapped his index fingers together nervously. “Yeah, about that…”

“You didn’t get him?!” 

“He wouldn’t come with us.” Pidge added. “He is accused of treason, so we couldn’t really blame him.” 

Matt rubbed his temples. “Did you tell him Shiro wants me to move into the castle full time, so he can have my entire room to himself?”

“We’ll lead with that next time.” Pidge said, dryly. 

Just then, there was a knock at the door and Shiro came hobbling in with his cane. He had the audacity to smile like everything was fine, though Matt was about to lose his mind. “You’re…you’re out of bed?” He stammered. “Does no one listen to me?”

Shiro attempted to make his way over to a couch in the corner of the room, but he moved so slow that Matt signaled for Hunk to go over and help him. As Hunk grabbed the Captain’s arm Shiro frowned at Matt. “Who else isn’t listening to you?” He scanned the room, assessing the situation. Matt knew Shiro was too smart to not see what was going on here. “It’s Lance, isn’t it? Is he okay? Is he in trouble?” 

“He’s fine!” Matt lied, shifting awkwardly on his feet. “He just couldn’t make it cause he’s dealing with, uh, dead family stuff, you know how it is.” 

That shut Shiro up. Every time he inquired about Lance Matt just brought up his dead family. It made Shiro so uncomfortable that he instantly drops the subject. Matt hated lying to his friend, but he also knew that duty came first for Shiro, and he might arrest Lance for being the Blue Bandit, which Matt wasn’t going to let happen. 

Matt turned to the door as a few red faced nurses came running into the room. Clearly they were the ones who were supposed to be watching Shiro, the ones the captain had given the slip. Matt pointed towards the couch where Hunk was struggling to sit Shiro down. The nurses ran over to help as Hunk slipped away and rejoined Matt and Pidge. 

“So let me get this straight.” Matt said, dropping his voice to a whisper so Shiro wouldn’t hear. “Lance is in his shack, alone, in the woods crawling with galra?”

“Not exactly.” Pidge whispered back, rubbing her neck. “He isn’t really in his shack anymore.”

Matt’s head was about to explode, could nothing go right? “What do you mean he isn’t there anymore? And how do you know that? Did you two leave Lyon recently?” Matt pinched the bridge of his nose. “How…how did you get out with all the sentries?”

Hunk and Pidge shared a knowing glance. Pidge smirked at him. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Team Punk has their ways.” Hunk added nonchalantly. 

Matt clenched his fists so hard he could feel his nails digging into his palms. It took everything in him not to scream at the top of his lungs. “So you’re telling me he’s lost in the woods somewhere?”

“Are you guys talking about Keith?” Shiro cut in from the couch. Shoot Matt thought, clearly he wasn’t being careful enough with his volume. Shiro went on, “I know we lied to the public, saying he’s in hiding, but we didn’t want to spread panic about him missing out there.”

Hunk paled. “Hold on, the prince is lost in the woods too?”

Shiro blinked. “Wait, who were you talking about?”

“No one.” Matt panicked. “Dead parents!”

Shiro threw his head into his hands. “What are you saying? Come over here so I can hear you.”

Matt pointed at him sternly. “No! You’re in a time out for disobeying my orders.” 

Shiro let out a groan and slumped down on the couch, defeated. 

Matt just needed a minute to get a handle on what was happing: The galra were attacking, the Captain of the Guard was severely injured, the prince was missing, and Lance might be dead, yeah, that seemed to cover all the bases. 

“You two.” He pointed at Hunk and Pidge. “I asked you here because I need you to create a distraction in Daibazaal. Something that will cause chaos but no fatalities.” 

Hunk rubbed his chin and looked down at Pidge. “Man, I wish Lance was here, he always has the best ideas.” 

Pidge bit her lip, deep in thought. Something must’ve popped in her head because she grabbed Hunk by the shoulders and pulled him down to her face level. “That’s it, Hunk, you’re a genius!”

Hunk squinted. “Uhh, thank you?”

“Don’t you see? Lance has already come up with a great idea for us!”

Hunk abruptly straightened. “You’re right. His itching powder plan!”

Matt glanced over at Shiro, who was still lying down on the couch, hopefully falling asleep. Once he was sure the captain wasn’t eavesdropping he took a step toward Hunk and Pidge. “What are you two talking about?”

A wicked smile that Matt both adored and feared spread across Pidge’s face. “Before he went into self-exile, Lance wanted to go to the ball, but he didn’t want the guards to see him in case they recognized him as the Blue Bandit.” She explained. “So he hatched this great plan to sneak past them that involved itching powder.” 

“Pidge and I actually started to make it.” Hunk cut in. “But when this whole ‘royal jewels’ debacle went down, Lance didn’t want to risk it.” 

Matt’s heart started racing. This was the first good news he’d heard in days. “Did you hear that Shiro?” 

“You know I didn’t!” Shiro called over from the couch.

Matt, Pidge and Hunk walked over to fill the captain in. Hunk and Pidge took the chairs opposite the couch and Matt sat right next to Shiro, gingerly pulling him back up into a sitting position, careful not to touch any of his wounds. 

Pidge leaned forward on her knees. “Itching powder, Captain.” Shiro gave Matt an inquisitive look but said nothing as Pidge continued. “We set off an itching power bomb in the center of Daibazaal. It will cause the citizen’s great discomfort but wont kill anyone and it wont leave any permanent damage.” 

Shiro’s face lit up. “That’s perfect!”

“Perfect enough for you to finally get some rest?” Matt asked, clasping the captain’s shoulder. “As much as I hate to say it, I think you need to let General Lotor handle this one.” 

Shiro opened his mouth to protest but then stopped himself. He lowered his eyes and nodded. Matt released a breath he didn’t even know he was holding in. At least that’s one thing going his way. 

Shiro leaned back on the couch and closed his eyes. “Your nurses are outside the door, I guess they can help me get back to bed.” 

“You’re impossible.” Matt huffed, rising to his feet. “This is where Keith gets it from.”

“Hey, no he doesn’t!” Shiro called after him, but Matt was already heading for the door, Hunk and Pidge falling into step behind him. 

Matt  pushed open the doors and sent the nurses back in to help the captain, then he turned to Hunk and Pidge again. “I hate to ask this of you, but you’ll need to tell Lotor how you snuck out of Lyon so he can do the same.” 

The pair merely nodded at each other. “We understand.” Said Hunk. 

“Perfect.” Matt placed a hand on each of their shoulders. “And if Lotor’s mean to you, come and get me…and I’ll get Allura to beat him up for you.”

Pidge smiled. “That is oddly comforting.”

“Come on.” Hunk nudged Pidge’s shoulder. “We got work to do. For Keith and Lance!” He cheered. 

“For Keith and Lance!” Pidge and Matt responded

“…wherever they are.” Matt added under his breath. 

Chapter Text

Lance bolted through the woods as fast as he could, snapping branch after branch out of his way. He didn’t even try to be quiet, the galra could find him for all he cared, it didn’t matter anymore. Finally, his legs gave out and he collapsed in a heap, sobbing. 

He hadn’t felt this much pain since his family died. He forgot what it was like to let someone care about him, and of course when he was able to let his walls down again it was the boy from school that he used to admire, and he somehow still managed to ruin everything. Now he remembered why he hadn’t let anyone in since his family died, not even Hunk and Pidge, because losing his loved ones was more painful than he could bare, and now it was happening again. 

Did he love he Keith though? If he didn’t then he was damn near close. At The Garrison he had a crush on him, they didn’t talk much, but when they did they always worked really well together. They would often get into verbal jousting matches but Lance always enjoyed them, and he got the sense Keith did too. It must’ve been refreshing for someone to not treat him like a prince for once.

But apparently Keith didn’t remember any of that, and Lance didn’t blame him, he wasn’t worth remembering anyway. 

Lance was pulled out of his thoughts when he heard movement in the trees. He scrambled to hide in some brush, placing a hand over his mouth in an attempt to calm his sobs. 

He watched as a familiar galra came into view, Zethrid was her name, she scanned the woods for a few moments before saying “who’s there?”

Lance froze. 

But then a sweet yet cruel voice answered from the trees. “Who do you think?” Ezor limped out of the shadows, a large bandage around her leg where Lance had shot her with an arrow. 

Zethrid leaned against a tree and casually crossed her arms. “How’s the leg?”

“Why don’t you come over here and find out.” Ezor replied, playfully. 

Lance watched as the two galra circled each other like vultures. What are they doing out here? He wondered. Probably plotting something evil. 

But then Ezor jumped into Zethrid’s arms and began kissing her. 

…Or they’re doing that. Lance almost laughed. Well this is…unexpected. 

Ezor wrapped her legs around Zethrid’s torso as Zethrid pushed her up against a tree. Lance felt like that was his cue to leave. 

Zethrid slowly rubbed her hands up and down Ezor’s thighs. “Watch the wound.” Ezor teased.

“If I irritate it,” Zethrid growled against her lover’s skin, “then I’ll carry you back through the sewers myself.” Then she began leaving a trail of kisses down Ezor’s neck.

Lance made his move to leave but stopped himself. They had just informed him that the sewers were unprotected and the perfect way to sneak into Daibazaal, he wondered what other useful information they could give him. It struck him that he didn’t need this information since Keith had turned him away, nevertheless he decided to stay put.

“What about Prince Keith?” Ezor breathed. “Isn’t he roaming around the woods somewhere?”

“Then he can watch, if he so pleases.” Zethrid replied, biting Ezor’s shoulder, who let out a delighted squeal in response. 

Ezor grabbed Zethrid’s face and pulled her back up for an aggressive kiss. When she finally pulled away she frowned, “you know what I mean.”

Zethrid brought a hand to Ezor’s face and stroked it gently. Lance touched his own face, feeling the ghost of Keith’s hand there. “Don’t worry, Zarkon is going to kill the prince when he finds him.” She cooed. “Everything is going according to plan.”

The thought of Keith’s demise brought the tears back to Lance’s eyes. Once again, someone he cared about was going to die and there was nothing he could do about it. Lance got up to leave but stepped on a twig, instantly causing the two galra to look his way. 

Zethrid had him pinned against the tree before he could even flinch. Ezor stood behind her, watching him with a malicious smile on her face. Lance didn’t struggle, he didn’t even try to get free. He probably deserved whatever was coming, seeing as he was the reason Lyon was about to go to war.

Zethrid’s grip tightened around his neck as she said, “I’ve heard of you, you’re the legendary Blue Bandit who creeps around the woods.” She looked him up and down, her eyes catching on the bow strapped to his back. Something in her face darkened. “You. You’re the one who shot Ezor, aren’t you?”

“Guilty.” Lance wheezed out, barely able to speak with her hand digging into his windpipe. “So just get it over with and kill me already.”

Zethrid pulled him away from the tree and slammed him against the ground, resting a knee on top of him to keep him down. “Oh no,” she said in a terrifyingly calm voice, “I’m not going to kill you, that would be too easy. I think I’ll find that little prince of yours and make you watch me kill him. For you, watching him suffer would be worse than death.” Lane felt panic seize his body. He tried to move but Zethrid only dug her knee in deeper as she leaned down and whispered in his ear, “I’ll make sure it’s slow and painful when I kill the man you love.” 

Without even thinking Lance spit in her face, causing her to let go of his neck. He used the opportunity to smash his forehead into hers, and the galra was knocked off his body. He knew he was running on adrenaline, but wherever this spike in confidence came from, he needed to act before it ran out.

Lance was still on his back as Zethrid tried to rally beside him. Before she could rise, he clamped his legs around her and rolled backwards, throwing her into the ground over his head. He heard footsteps and could tell Ezor was coming to her aid, but he had the bow off his back before she could touch him. He shot the arrows through her shirt sleeve, pinning her to the tree. Zethrid heaved herself off the ground and charged at him with full force, but Lance was quick as he leapt up and grabbed the tree branch above him, pulling his legs up so she would miss him. 

Lance watched as Zethrid dove to tackle where he was standing a moment ago, instead running right into her lover and the tree, knocking them both unconscious. 

Lance dropped out of the tree and ran back towards Daibazaal as fast as he could. There was something about hearing Zethrid say that he loved Keith that truly confirmed it in his mind. He didn’t care if Keith hated him, he was going to do everything in his power to save him. 

Lance was determined to make things right, or he would die trying. 

Chapter Text

Getting into Daibazaal was easy enough for Keith, Lotor had gone over its weaknesses countless times with him, just in case they ever needed to infiltrate it. Just as the General had said, there was a brief window when no guard on the western tower. Keith used this opportunity to run up to the great Wall of Daibazaal and slide under a bush just as the next guard made his round.

He began furiously tapping the stumps bordering the wall until he found the hollow one. He pushed it aside to find a ladder leading down into the emergency escape tunnels, matching Lotor’s description perfectly. The prince shimmied down the ladder, pulling the stump back over the hole and plunging himself into darkness. 

Keith fumbled around in the darkness until his eyes finally adjusted. He wasn’t really sure where the tunnels led to, they were built a long time ago in case the galra would ever need to evacuate the city, but Zarkon sealed most of them off because he believed it was cowardly to run, even if staying cost his citizens their lives.

Keith scowled. He was going to put an end to Emperor Zarkon…all by himself…without an incredibly skilled sharpshooter at his back…who also happened to be devilishly handsome…and knew how to make Keith laugh.

Keith shook those feelings away, reminding himself how Lance had betrayed him. How Lance had sold Lyon down the river. His adoration for The Blue Bandit was replaced with blinding fury, Lance was selfish and only thought about himself, just like the galra, and Keith was going to do everything in his power to bring people like that to justice. 

 

—————

 

When the prince finally reached another ladder he climbed up to see where it let out. The entrance was disguised as a sewer cap by the town square. He lifted the cap ever so slightly to see what was going on. The galran people looked so normal…it bothered Keith. Everyone was milling about, buying goods from vendors and talking with neighbors, just like they do in Lyon. Keith didn’t have time to think about that, though, and he shifted his view to see the gates of Zarkon’s castle, guarded by two measly sentries.

Keith smiled, Perfect, he was so close to the emperor he could taste it.  

A familiar, gruff voice forced his attention back towards the square. It was Sendak, and he had Acxa by the arm, and although he towered over her, she didn’t seem the least bit scared of him. “Where are you going?” He snarled at her. 

“Where do you think?” She shot back. “Into the woods to search for the prince.” 

“Did the emperor ask you to join the search, or do you have your own agenda?”

Acxa ripped her arm from his grip. “What’s the matter? Scared if I find him first I’ll be promoted above you?”

Sendak let out a low chuckle. “Not a chance, little girl, I’m Zarkon’s right hand man.” 

“Is that why he’s refusing to see you right now?” She asked back sweetly. 

Sendak swung his fist at her, but Acxa was quick, and was out of the way before he could lay a finger on her. 

Keith wished he could stay and watch them fight, but he thought it better to use the altercation as a distraction. He heaved the sewer cap aside and pulled himself onto the cobblestone ground, then dashed to hide behind an unattended fruit cart.

In all the excitement, Keith hadn’t noticed that his cape had gotten caught on the sewer cap, not until the fabric around his neck ripped him backwards and sent him hurtling back on top of the metal cap. The sound of his body ricocheting off the metal disk brought a hush over the square, and all eyes were on him, so much for the element of surprise. 

“Seize him!” Sendak cried, and all the sentries in the square ran towards him. 

He pulled his cape out from under the cap and jumped to his feet, unsheathing his sword. He cut down the first few sentries that attacked him and then kicked the fruit cart at the next wave of them, taking them all out. 

Keith dove behind a gigantic statue of Zarkon to catch his breath. “Stupid, stupid, stupid.”He mumbled to himself. He could hear the sound of sentries’ boots on the cobblestones running towards him, he didn’t have much time, he had to think fast. Keith peeked over at the castles gates only to see that the guards that had been there abandoned their post to fight him. “Maybe I’m not so stupid after all.” He mused.

There was no time think. He launched himself into a sprint, an all out mad dash for that gateway. He could hear the sentries behind him, he couldn’t tell how close they were but there was no time to look, or to formulate a plan, his only hope was to get inside that castle.

He charges forward, that is, until somebody threw themselves on top of him, tackling him to the ground.

It was over. He failed. Or so he thought until he saw the arrows that would’ve pierced his chest if he hadn’t been thrown to the ground. Had the galra on top of the prince actually saved him? He looked up to see his savior, it wasn’t a galra at all, it was Lance. 

He couldn’t believe it, The Blue Bandit was sitting on top of him, firing arrow after arrow at every sentry that approached. 

Lance noticed Keith gaping up at him and shot him a cocky smile, still hitting an oncoming galra with deadly accuracy without even looking. “Are you really that surprised? The woods are still crawling with galra, and I’d rather die by the hands of a handsome prince than some ugly sentry any day.” 

Something tight in Keith’s chest released. It was like the world was in black and white before and now everything was in color. He could see right through Lance’s cocky act, he could see that he was genuinely trying to help. Yesterday, Lance was a scared child hiding in the woods, but today he was a man fighting to save a kingdom that did nothing but let him down, all for Keith. 

The Prince lay there frozen, watching Lance in awe as he shot down enemy after enemy, redrawing his bow so quick Keith barely saw him reach for the next arrow before it was already shot off.

Lance laughed. “Another reason I came back for your sorry butt-” he picked a fallen sentry’s dagger from the ground and hurled it into the shoulder of a guard attempting to sneak up behind him, “you’ve already tackled me to the ground twice, so I thought it was only fair I got to do it to you at least once.” 

Lance drew his bow again but froze when he realized the square was all but abandoned, he had taken out all the guards stationed here and all the civilians had ran. Keith knew every sentry in Daibazaal was on their way here, so there wasn’t much time to tell Lance what he needed to say. 

The prince leapt to his feet and grabbed Lance’s hand, pulling him behind a pillar for cover. “Lance-”

“Look, Keith.” Lance grabbed his shoulders. “I know I messed up, but now I’m gonna fix it.” Keith couldn’t speak, he couldn’t express how thankful he was that the boy in front of him came into his life. All he could do was sit there like an idiot, dumbstruck by Lance. 

Fear spread across Lance’s face, he was mistaking Keith’s silence for anger, Keith responded by pulling Lance into a crushing hug.

“You’re an idiot, Lance.” Keith growled into his neck. “But I’m an even bigger idiot for misjudging you.” Keith pulled away so he could look into Lance’s eyes, those crystal blue eyes that took his breath away every time. “The Kingdom of Lyon failed you, your family died, you were accused of treason and forced into exile, you owe it nothing, and yet here you are trying to save it.” 

Lance let out a sheepish laugh and looked to the ground, rubbing the back of his neck. “Actually, I’m here to save you.” 

Lance kept his focus on the cobblestones, but at hearing that, Keith grabbed his chin and forced him to look at him. His heart was pounding a million miles a minute as they stared at one another, then Keith jerked Lance’s chin forward as he went in for a kiss.

Just before their lips touched an arrow flew by Lance’s ear. Keith leapt into action, cutting down the sentry that dared to hurt his sharpshooter. As the galra slumped to the ground Keith heard a heinous laugh. He turned to see Sendak at the other end of the square, and he brought the Calvary with him. There were a hundred sentries with him, at least. 

“All of this for us, Sendak? You shouldn’t have.” Lance mused. Keith whipped his head back towards the boy to see that he had climbed onto the statue of Zarkon and was now lazily hanging off the emperor’s leg, which Keith was sure was some kind of sacrilege. The prince couldn’t hide the smile the scene brought to his lips. 

“This is just embarrassing,” Lance continued, “now when our children tell this story, you’ll look even worse, this many galra taken down by only two of us.” 

Lance casually paced around Zarkon’s leg, Keith had to keep reminding himself they were in the middle of battle and he could not kiss him right here and now, no matter how much he wanted to. 

Sendak looked like he was about to blow a gasket. “Kill them both!” He screamed, and the sentries charged them. 

Lance shared a confident smile with Keith before he leapt down from the statue. It was Lance and Keith, back to back against the world, Keith kind of liked the ring to that. 

The prince swung his blade at the hoard of sentries that ambushed them, cutting down soldier after soldier while Lance fired arrows at them. After several minutes of fighting it was a miracle they weren’t dead yet, but the galra just kept coming. A couple of soldiers tackled Keith, he was able to throw one off but couldn’t shake the others. Out of the corner of his eye he could see anther one coming for his back, but he couldn’t pull his sword away from the ones in front of him, he was finished. 

Just as the solider raised his sword to strike the prince down an arrow pierced his neck. Keith looked beyond to see Lance, staring at him with determination. “I got you buddy!” He called over. 

Keith was so distracted by Lance that he forgot he was mid-fight, so the galra before him knocked the sword from his hands, he was defenseless. The galra swiped his sword at the prince but he dodged and threw a punch, at least he wasn’t completely useless without his weapon, he could still fight hand to hand. He kicked the sentry back and tried to get to his weapon but another galra blocked his way. Several more sentries approached and he realized he was as good as dead without his sword, that was when Lance slid over, picked up Keith’s blade, and began fighting off the sentries with it. 

The metal clanged as the sword connected with the galra soldier’s weapon. Keith had to admit, Lance was rather skilled with the sword, he took out four sentries before throwing the weapon back to Keith and redrawing his bow. 

Keith cocked his head. “Since when could you wield a sword?”

“Since always.” Lance shrugged his shoulders. “It hasn’t seemed important to bring up until now.” 

A sentry pounced onto Lance, pinning him to the ground, the soldier raised his weapon to deliver the final blow but Keith sliced his sword through him. He held out a hand to help Lance up. “Hasn’t seemed important? We’ve been in the middle of the woods fighting for our lives, how have you not utilized this skill?”
Lance took Keith’s hand and he hauled the boy to his feet. “Sword fighting is your thing, I guess I didn’t want to upstage you.” 

“Oh really?” Keith asked, whipping around and kicking down a sentry trying to attack him from behind. He turned back and stared at Lance with raised eyebrows. “I guess we’ll have to see who’s better after all this is over.” 

Lance fired an arrow that buzzed so close to Keith’s ear he could feel the wind from it. He heard the air dispel from a sentry’s lungs behind him, then heard them fall to the ground with a thud. Lance kept his eyes on Keith the whole time. The corner of his mouth perked up, “you asking me on a date, Your Majesty?” 

Before Keith could answer more sentries flooded into the square, every soldier in Daibazaal must’ve been dispatched to their location. Keith’s stomach sank. This was bad.

He and Lance stood back to back, ready to fight until the end, but just then, a round, metal object flew at their feet. Keith looked down at it, then to Lance, who’s eyes were wide, he appeared to know what this object was. 

“Keith get down!” He cried as he dove on top of the prince. 

Lance covered their faces with the fabric from their shirts as the round object exploded, releasing a gas that caused the sentries to cry out in pain and drop their weapons. Lance grabbed Keith’s hand and ran out of the town square.

“How did you know what that thing was?” Keith asked once they were away from the gas.

“Because I helped invent it.” Lance replied. “With my friends, Hunk and Pidge.” 

Hunk and Pidge? Keith thought. He’s heard Matt talk about them before, that meant, reinforcement from Lyon! 

Keith bounded up the stairs to a rooftop to get a better look, Lance followed. From the top they could see the chaos Daibazaal had descended into. General Lotor was coming out of the same tunnel Keith had come from, and he had brought some of Shiro’s best soldiers with him. Keith looked to the castle to see the gas was seeping out of there too, it was over, they had ruined Zarkon’s plans. 

He watched with growing excitement as the remaining galra began surrendering to Lotor. “Lance,” he said, giddily leaning over the rooftop railing, “we won!”

“Not quite.” Came a deep voice from behind him. Keith turned around to see Sendak holding his sword to Lance’s throat. 

“Let him go!” Keith roared. 

Sendak dug the blade even further into Lance’s skin. “I’m getting out of here alive, and if you or any of your friends down there attack me, the Blue Bandit here gets it.” 

Keith raised his hands in submission and took a step back. He looked over his shoulder to see Lotor was staring up at him from the square, watching the whole scene unfold. The General placed a hand on the pommel of his sword but Keith shook his head, if he did anything Lance was dead. Lotor nodded and dropped his hand. 

Keith’s eyes darted down to Lance’s discarded bow and arrows on the ground.

“Try me.” Sendak purred. “I’m faster than you, I’ll dodge the arrow and then I’ll have an excuse to kill the Blue Bandit here.” Sendak grab a chunk of Lance’s hair and pulled his head back. It made Keith sick. “I was going to make it quick when we met in the woods a few days ago, but now, I think I’ll take it nice and slow.” 

With shaking hands, Keith bent down and picked up the bow, he was not as good a shot as Lance, but he had to do something.  

Sendak stroked one of his long fingernails over Lance’s cheek and laughed. “I’m going to enjoy making you watch as he suffers.” 

The prince looked into Lance’s eyes, and he could read in his face what he wanted Keith to do. It was the kind of life saving trust that usually took years for soldiers to build with one another, the kind Ezor had in Acxa when she pulled the arrow from her leg the day before. Lance nodded at Keith, and the prince knew exactly what he meant, do it. 

Keith released the arrow right into Lance’s thigh, a scream escaping his throat. Sendak let go in shock, he couldn’t believe the prince shot his own ally. Keith took advantage of Sendak’s disorientation and plunged his sword into the him. 

Sendak fell to the ground, dead.

Keith waited a few moments to make sure he wasn’t breathing, then he rushed over to Lance, who was lying on the ground clutching his leg. “I’m sorry, Lance, I’m so sorry.” 

Lance put a bloody hand to Keith’s cheek. “Keith, it’s okay, this is exactly what I wanted you to do. Didn’t you see my nod?”

Keith let out a laugh of relief. Lance was alright, they were both alright. Lance winced as he broke the arrow in half, making it easier to pull it out. Lance continued, “besides, mullet, you hit the fleshy part of my thigh, didn’t hit anything vital, like a vain…or my face.”

Yup, Lance was definitely alright if he was still making jokes like that. Keith pulled Lance to his feet and wrapped his arm around his shoulders to help him back down the stairs. With each step, Lance let out a hiss. Keith gripped his waist tighter in an attempt to take on more of his weight. 

“When we get to the bottom you should really let me wrap that wound.” Said Keith.

“No, no, no, I know where this is going.” Lance stopped. “You are not ripping your father’s cape for me again, Keith. I’m not worth it.” 

“I’ll do what I see fit.” Keith said, trying to continue down the last few steps, but Lance wouldn’t budge. There was worry written all over Lance’s face, he thought he was being a burden, making Keith tear up his late father’s cape, he didn’t realize Keith wanted to do it for Lance. He didn’t realize how important he was, but Keith was going to change that. Keith sighed. “What? You’re not going to move now?” 

Lance tried to argue back but before he could Keith swept an arm under his legs and picked him up bridal style.

“I’m the Prince of Lyon and if I want to cut up my cape then I’ll do it, and if I want to help you walk then I’ll do that too, even if it means carrying you.” 

Lance let out a chuckle. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this side of you.” He wrapped his arms around Keith’s neck to hold himself up better. “But I think I like it.” 

At the bottom of the steps Keith carefully eased Lance back onto his feet. The Blue Bandit leaned on the wall for support as he said, “Keith, I should tell you something. I think I, well I’m falling in lo-”

But he was cut off by Lotor in the distance yelling, “I think I saw Prince Keith go this way!”

Keith grabbed Lance’s shoulders. “I know he heard Sendak call you the Blue Bandit.”

Lance’s eyes widened. “They’ll kill me if they catch me.” 

“Then you need to go.” Keith grabbed the back of Lance’s shirt and practically threw him down another alley. Lance stumbled a little as he half ran half hopped on his wounded leg. Keith watched until he rounded the corner and disappeared. He let out a breath. Lance was safe.

He turned to regroup with Lotor, trying to think of a good reason how he let Lyon's most wanted criminal get away, but then he chuckled at himself, he didn't have to explain anything to that jerk, even if he did just save his skin. Keith smiled, the first genuine smile in a long time, he was safe, Lyon was safe, Lance was safe.

That happiness was short-lived as he was brought back to reality by a foot slamming into his back, sending him flying to the ground. He let out a cry of pain as his head connected with the cobblestones. Black spots danced across his vision. He could feel the blood seeping out of his temple. A knee pressed into his back as a woman’s voice whispered “you almost ruined everything.” It was Acxa. “But I’ve got you now.”

Acxa unsheathed a dagger and rolled him over. He was helpless to stop her as she brought the dagger to his throat. “Give Sendak my regards.” She sneered as she made to slit his throat. 

Suddenly, a flash of blue was upon her. The world spun as he attempted to turn his head, but he had to know what was going on. 

Lance. Of course it was Lance. He had come back for Keith. Again. 

Even though Lance was injured he seemed to be running on pure adrenaline. Acxa  screamed as she struggled but Lance clocked her in the head, knocking her unconscious. The boy fell to the ground, breathing raggedly. Then he slowly and painfully dragged his way towards Keith, barely able to move after exerting his leg like that. “Keith,” he said, pulling the prince into a hug, “I heard you cry out in pain and I knew Lotor was too far away to help you. I had to come back. I’m sorry.”

Keith steadied himself on Lance’s shoulder as he rose to his feet. “What are you sorry for?”  

That’s when he heard Lotor’s voice getting closer. He pulled Lance to his feet, “you have to run!” He begged. 

But Lance didn’t move. 

Lotor and his troops came around the corner. “My Prince!” He yelled. Then he halted at the site of Lance. “Sendak was right, it is The Blue Bandit. Arrest him!” 

“What are you doing?” Keith cried. “Run!”

But Lance just looked at Keith and shook his head, they both knew he wouldn’t be able to outrun the guards with his leg wound. A fond look formed on Lance’s face as he drank in the prince for what was probably the last time. 

That stupid fond look remained on Lance’s face even as the guards tackled him from all sides. 

“No!” Keith screamed, but General Lotor held him back. “Let him go, please let him go!” He screamed, not recognizing his own voice.

“I can’t my prince,” the general whispered in his ear, “he is a criminal accused of high treason.” 

“It’s okay Keith.” Lance said calmly as the guards hauled him away. “It’s okay.”

Keith helplessly watched as they dragged Lance away from him. That idiot knew exactly what he was doing when he saved Keith’s life, he knew he would get caught and he knew they would probably kill him, and he came back for Keith anyway. 

Keith hated him for it. 

Keith loved him for it.

Chapter Text

Keith paced back and forth in the infirmary, Matt was right behind him, trying to finish wrapping a cut on his arm with gauze. Shiro forced him straight to Matt as soon as he got back yesterday, and no one has let him leave this room since. He tried to sneak out a few times to go see Lance, but Shiro was waiting for him right outside the door. 

Lance.

He was all alone down in the castle dungeons. Keith’s stomach twisted in on itself just at the thought of him rotting away down there. Oh god, what if they sent Lotor to interrogate him? Keith clenched his fists, how was it that he was the prince and he had no power to save Lance?

Keith reached the edge of the room and turned on his heel to pace the other direction, just as he’d been doing for the past hour or so, Matt was still right behind him. 

“Jeez, Keith, if you’re not gonna sit still while I patch you up at least slow down a little.” Matt whined. “I know you train almost everyday but I don’t, and I’m getting winded.” 

Keith halted abruptly, causing Matt to crash into his back. 

“Now I know why Shiro’s hair is already going white.” Matt grumbled as he tied off the gauze. “There, you’re done, now you can pace till you drop.” 

Keith let out a little snort, it was the closest he’d come to laughing in the past 24 hours. He attempted to continue the humor by slyly looking over his shoulder at Matt and arching an eyebrow. “Aren’t you gonna kiss it better?” He teased.

Matt threw back his head and cackled. “Wow, you spent so much time with Lance you’re starting to sound like him.” 

That sucked the air right out of Keith’s lungs. So much for keeping up the humor. No one had even dared to utter Lance’s name since they got back yesterday, that was, until now. 

“Oh, um, sorry.” Matt said, rubbing the back of his neck.

Keith sat down on his infirmary bed. “It’s okay, it’s about time we stop tiptoeing around that subject anyway.” Matt sat across the room at his desk chair. For a few moments the two boys stared at one another in silence until Keith cleared his throat. “You, uh, you knew, didn’t you? That he was The Blue Bandit.” 

Matt shrugged his shoulders and gave Keith one of his award winning, awkwardly endearing smiles. 

Keith rolled his eyes, so that’s a yes.

Matt let his arms droop down and rest on his knees. “Look, all jokes aside.” He said in a much more serious tone. “Lan-” he stopped himself, noticing how tense Keith got whenever he said that name. “…He Who Shall Not Be Named, is loud and obnoxious and cocky and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. He is a good friend to Pidge and a good kid.” Matt was getting more and more heated as he went on. 

Keith realized Matt was misreading the situation, he was under the impression the prince didn’t like talking about Lance because Keith thought he stole the Royal Jewels. Matt had no idea how far from the truth that was, how the mere mention of Lance’s name sent pangs of regret through his body, but the he couldn’t tell Matt just how much he cared for that beautiful boy down in the dungeons. 

“He would take an arrow for Pidge, Hunk or me.” Matt continued. The prince stood there aghast, Matt was always joking around, Keith had never seen him be this firm before in his life, it was almost intimidated. “So throw me in the dungeons for harboring a fugitive if you have to, I would do it all over again, because he’s my friend, and he’s worth it.” And with that, Matt swiveled around in his chair.

Keith let Matt’s words sink in, and as the silence between settled, he whispered “I know he is.” 

He assumed Matt wouldn’t hear. He assumed wrong. 

Matt’s head whipped around so fast it’s a wonder he didn’t break his neck. “Wait a minute.” Matt paused, and the physician’s eyes slowly widened. “No… no.” The most devious of smiles appeared on his face and Keith was moments from bolting out the door. “Can this be?” Matt gasped. “Prince Keith, actually likes-”

Lucky for Keith, someone burst through the doors, cutting Matt off. Matt rubbed his temples with his fingers and sighed. “Why does everyone kick down my doors? Can’t you just walk in like a normal,” Matt stopped talking when he saw who had entered the room, it was Keith’s mother. Matt dropped into a bow. “Queen Krolia, my apologies!”

Keith and his mom locked eyes and she ran to him, pulling him into an embrace. “Keith! I’m glad you’re okay.” She brushed a hand over his hair. “I should’ve been here, I could’ve protected you.” 

Keith pulled back but kept his hands braced on her forearms. He smiled up at her, glad that she was finally home. “Protect me? Those galra sentries are the ones who need protection from me.”

His mother chuckled. “Tell me, Matt, did my son receive any blows to the head yesterday? Because he’s cockier than usual.” 

“Nope, though he did receive a few,” That mischievous smile returned to Matt’s lips, “blows to the heart.” 

Keith kicked Matt in the shins, thankfully his mother was too focused on Shiro’s arrival to the room to pay any mind to the comment. 

Shiro bowed. “Sorry to bother you, Your Majesty, but they’re here.” 

“Send them in.” His mother replied.

The guards opened the doors and Pidge, Hunk and Lotor shuffled in, bowing as the came before the queen.

Krolia smiled at them. “I understand you three played a pivotal role in saving the day,” she glanced over at Shiro, “well, four, really.” Shiro waved her off as he headed back to his post, he was always saving Keith’s butt, it was nothing out of the ordinary for him. The queen returned her attention to the three before her. “I just wanted to thank you all for saving my kingdom,” she placed a hand on Keith’s shoulder, “and my son.” 

“It was nothing.” Pidge said as she and Hunk fist bumped.

Lotor bowed deeply and dramatically. “It was my honor, Your Majesty.”

Keith rolled his eyes but approached the general anyway. “Look, I know you and I don’t always see eye to eye, but you really came through for Lyon while Shiro was hurt so, thank you, General.”

Lotor looked down the bridge of his nose at the prince, but then his face softened, and Keith could’ve sworn he saw a flicker of genuine emotion in Lotor’s eyes. “Actually, the plan would’ve been all awash if it weren’t for you. If you hadn’t caused that distraction in the town square, the sentries would’ve heard us in the sewers breaking down the barriers that blocked off the tunnels to the castle.” 

Lotor stuck out his hand, Keith eyed it, making sure there was no knife or anything up his sleeve. When he was sure it was safe, he took the general’s hand and shook it.

Keith’s mother wrapped her arm around his shoulder. “Lyon is indebted to you, General Lotor, to all of you. If there’s anything you want, name it.”

Pidge and Hunk shared a knowing glance, and Keith knew exactly what they wanted, he wanted it too. Hunk stepped forward, “actually, Queen Krolia, there is something, our friend Lance…”

Krolia’s hand on Keith’s shoulder clenched. “I know he supposedly helped but I am powerless in that department. He is the infamous Blue Bandit, I cannot simply let him go.” 

Hunk opened his mouth to respond but the queen raised her hand to stop him. Hunk retreated back, but Pidge wasn’t done fighting. “If Lance hadn’t found Keith in the woods he would be dead right now!”

“And Lance was only in the woods in the first place because he was hiding from The Law.” The Queen noted, cooly. “Now I don’t wish to hear anymore on the matter.”

Matt piped up. “But, Queen Krolia, he-”

“I said, no more.”

Now it was Keith’s turn. “Mom.”

“Enough!” She yelled, her voice reverberating off the walls. Keith and his mom stared each other down, while everyone else in the room suddenly became very interested in their shoes.

“Please leave my son and I alone for a moment.” His mom said, not breaking eye contact with him. 

Everyone else shuffled out, and as the door closed behind them Keith growled, “mom, that boy is a hero.”

She pinched the bridge of her nose. “Keith, I swear to you, if I could do anything I would, but my hands are tied. The people are already unsure if I am fit to take your father’s place, what would they think if I just let The Blue Bandit walk away.”

“But he didn’t even steal the Royal Jewels.”

“I know.”

“And he…wait, what do you mean you know?”

“I know that nice boy down there didn’t steal the Royal Jewels, I’m not an idiot, but he’s also the most wanted man in Lyon.”

“So you’re going to keep an innocent man in jail?”

“I have to, Keith, we have to. Ever since your father died, people have been questioning whether I, a galra half-breed, is fit to rule the kingdom. They say I’m weak, but making a display of The Blue Bandit will change that.”

Keith scoffed. “Weak? Your son just snuck into Daibazaal and helped conquer it, who would dare to call us weak again?”

His mom leaned back on Matt’s desk and crossed her arms over her chest. “Yes you did do that, with the help of another galra half-breed and an outlaw.” 

Keith flinched. He hadn’t thought how it might reflect badly that Lyon can’t protect itself without questionable characters like Lotor and Lance helping them out. The situation was more complicated than he originally thought. 

His mother sighed. “I really am sorry, Keith, but you have to start thinking politically.” She began organizing papers on Matt’s desk. “I hate this as much as you do, but all of my advisors are telling me The Blue Bandit has to be the sacrificial lamb.” 

With that she dropped the papers and made a b-line for the door, but Keith grabbed her wrist. His voice was shaky as he asked, “did - did you just say sacrificial?”

She remained facing away from him for a brief moment, he hoped, he prayed that when she turned around there would be a smile on her face. She would playfully push him and tell him he’s being ridiculous, that he misheard her. Sadly, his prayers weren’t answered. 

When she turned to him her face was writ with shame. “I’m so sorry, my son, I know we said we wouldn’t because he’s just a boy, but all the advisors agree. Unless The Blue Bandit produces the Royal Jewels, he will be put to death.”

Keith’s knees buckled below him. His mother dropped beside him and pulled him into a hug, but he barely registered that she was even there. Lance couldn’t die, not when he sacrificed everything to save Keith, not when he made Keith happier than he’d felt in a long time.

“I’m sorry, please don’t hate me, I love you.” The queen whispered over and over again in his ear. 

Keith just plopped down onto his butt, staring blankly at the wall. “Leave me.” He breathed, barely audible.

His mother nodded and rose, gliding out of the room, her skirts sweeping behind her. As soon as she shut the door behind her Keith let the tears fall. He hadn’t cried since his father’s funeral, but here he was, sobbing like a fool on the floor. He didn’t understand, if the universe wouldn’t let him keep his father then why couldn’t he at least have Lance?

He wouldn’t be surprised if his mother died soon too, because it seemed he wasn’t allowed to keep anyone in his life that he loved.  

Chapter Text

Lance pulled his knees up to his chest, he had been in the dungeons for over 24 hours and hand’t seen a single person save for the guy who patched up his leg and the guard who threw him some bread. There weren’t even any other prisoners in his wing, since The Blue Bandit was the most wanted criminal in Lyon, he was to be in solitary. He had hoped someone would try to come see him, Pidge, Hunk, Matt…Keith.

Keith.

He pulled his knees to his chest and recalled when he first met Keith at The Garrison, when that beautiful pain-in-his-butt first ruined his life. A smile came to his lips as he thought of those days before everything fell to pieces:

 

—————

 

“McClain.” Iverson barked. “Get your act together or else you’ll always be at the bottom of the class. Why can’t you be more like Prince Keith? He’s got the best grades every week.”

Lance kept his head down, he was fully aware that he was struggling in his classes, and he didn’t need Iverson keeping him after and yelling at him as a reminder. 

“Just do better. Understood?” Iverson snarled.

Lance stood at attention. “Yes, Sir.” 

“Good. Dismissed.”

Lance shuffled out of the room, glancing at the leaderboard on his way out, with Keith’s name at the top, and Lance’s at the bottom.

He exited the room as quickly as possible, but much to his dismay, Haxus was waiting outside with his gang of jerks. 

“Hey McClain.” Haxus taunted. “In trouble again?”

“Careful, man,” one of his friends chimed in, “he’s too stupid to understand words that big.” 

They all burst out laughing, but Lance just ignored them and walked forward, he didn’t want to get into it today. He hurried down the hallway hoping he was in the clear, but suddenly two hands were shoving him from behind. “Don’t you know it’s rude to walk away when someone’s talking to you?” Haxus growled as Lance’s face collided with the ground.

He tried to get back on his feet but one of Haxus’ shoes was pressing into his back before he could stand. “Bottom of the leaderboard, meet the bottom of my foot.” Haxus joked, and the boys around him erupted into laughter as Lance struggled to get free.

But then, the foot was dramatically ripped away and the laughter was silenced. Lance heard his attacker let out a pained sound. Lance pulled himself up to see that Keith The Prodigy had Haxus pinned against the wall. 

“Leave him alone.” Keith sneered.

A flash of fear appeared on Haxus’ face, but he quickly regained his air of nonchalance. “Sorry, Your Majesty, you may be a prince out there, but in here you’re just another schoolboy, you can’t tell me what to do.”

Keith slid Haxus’ body up the wall. “Believe me, I have my ways.”

At seeing this, the other boys quickly stepped away from Lance, one of them whispering, “I didn’t know McClain and the prince were friends.”

Funny, Lance didn’t know that either. 

“Are we clear?” Keith asked Haxus. When he didn’t respond Keith slammed him into the wall again and yelled, “I said, are we clear?”

Haxus nodded and Keith dropped him. Lance didn’t stick around to see what happened next, or to even thank Keith, he just ran, a mixture of embarrassment and fondness swirling in his chest. The prince had never spoken to him before, but Lance had always admired him from afar. Let’s just say Lance had a proclivity for beautiful things, and one of those things was Prince Keith, the very boy who had just come to his defense, and who he had just run from.

 

 

A week later, The Garrison began them on their archery unit. Lance was excited, finally something he was actually good at. He walked by Haxus and his crew, who all grew very silent as Lance passed. They stared at him for a moment but then all averted their eyes.

Lance smirked, he guessed the prince really scared them.

Lance selected a bow from the rack and got in the back of the line as the teacher instructed. 

“It’s the first day so I don’t expect any of you to be experts” Said Professor Sanda. “We are only taking these preliminary shots to have a baseline, that way by the end of the unit you can see how much you’ve improved.” She paused, before adding,“and please, try not to shoot any of your classmates…I’m looking at you, Mr. McClain.” The whole class laughed at that, and Lance let out a tiny chuckle, though he’d be lying if he said it didn’t sting to know how little faith she had in him. 

Student after student stepped up to the target and shot, a few of them hit the rim, but most of them missed it all together. Keith, of course, came fairly close to the bullseye, closer than anyone else in the class had. 

“Very good, Your Majesty!” Professor Sanda cheered. 

Lance scoffed, why did Keith have to be good at everything? But he couldn’t focus on that right now, it was his turn, and he was going to show his class that he wasn’t completely useless. 

He stepped forward and pulled an arrow from the quiver.

“Hold on,” said Professor Sanda. She took a few steps back. “Alright, you may proceed.” The class chuckled again, but Lance blocked them out. He took a deep breath as he drew his arrow, ignore them he told himself, you know what you’re capable of.

And with that, he released his arrow, watched it soar through the air, right to the center of the bullseye. 

That shut them all up.

Lance couldn’t hide his smile as he walked back to the rack to put his bow away.

“You’re a regular sharpshooter,” came a rugged voice from behind him. Lance whirled around to see none other than Prince Keith standing there. 

Lance’s heart was pounding, he always felt so small next to the prince, so he decided to overcompensate with bravado instead. “Sharpshooter, eh? That’d be a good nickname if they didn’t already call me The Tailor.”

Keith crossed his arms. “Who calls you that?”

“Lots of people.” Lance shrugged. “Because of how I thread the needle.”

“That’s stupid.”

“So’s your haircut but you don’t see me making any rude comments.”

Keith’s face turned red. Lance knew that probably wasn’t how the crown prince was used to being spoken to, but once Lance got started he just couldn’t stop. Keith’s eyes narrowed, “I’ll have you know, my hair is cut by the royal hairdresser.”

Lance feigned indifference as he leaned against the rack behind him. “Yeah, and I get my hair cut by a guy down the street, and he’s twice as good for half the cost.” 

“What?” Keith shook his head. “That doesn’t even…You are…I just…Never mind.”

Lance was surprised, in class Keith was always so calm and sure of himself, but if Lance didn’t know any better, he would almost say Keith was flustered. 

Lance stared at the prince, who was turning redder by the minute, it was almost endearing, but suddenly Lance snapped back to reality, realizing he was just gawking like an fool. He panicked, trying to think of the right thing to say.“What’s the matter, Prince, you afraid I’ll take your top spot in class?” 

That defiantly was not the right thing.

“Please, maybe I’d actually be worried if you weren’t at the bottom of the class.” Keith snapped back.

Lance stiffened. And just like that, Keith wasn’t so endearing anymore. The prince held his gaze, not a hint of remorse in his eyes. 

“Whatever man.” Lance said as he walked away, making sure to bump Keith’s shoulder as he passed.

Haxis and his friends looked to the ground again when Lance huffed by. “Hey McClain… nice shot.” Haxus mumbled, in a submissive voice. Although it seemed sincere, Lance stared daggers through him, Haxus immediately looked elsewhere. 

Lance was done being walked all over, it wasn’t going to happen again, not by Haxus, and definitely not by prince Keith.

 

 

After that day Lance worked as hard as he could, staying after class and taking on extra credit. He even enlisted in tutors, which is how he met his two brainiac best friends, Pidge and Hunk. After getting their help, he actually began climbing in the class rankings.

Every week he checked the list and celebrated when he saw his name went up a spot, but every week Prince Keith also checked the list, somehow always at the same time as Lance did. Lance never spared him a snide remark. Though after weeks and weeks of meeting the prince by the list, he almost expected to see him there. Lance even started preparing his insults ahead of time.

One week towards the end of the school year Lance approached the list and his stomach did flips, he was in the top five. He couldn’t wait to tell Hunk, he was gonna be so proud!

“Is that your name so high up, sewing boy?” Came a gruff voice from beside him, he didn’t even have to turn to know it was the prince.

Lance cocked his head. “Sewing boy?”

Prince Keith casually leaned against the wall. “You know, because you thread the needle?” 

Lance would’ve laughed if Keith wasn’t his declared rival. Instead, he settled on the usual: insults. “Don’t you have some classmates to beat up or something?” Lance retorted.

The Prince scowled. “You act like a spoiled princess.”

“Look who’s talking.”

Keith pushed himself off the wall. “Seriously? Why do you always have to have the last word? Can’t you just walk away?” Keith turned on his heel and made to leave, but after a few steps he stopped. “And another thing.” He said, turning back and getting in Lance’s face. Lance wanted to laugh at the hypocrisy of the prince’s previous statement, but Keith wasn’t allowed to know he made Lance smile. Keith pressed a finger into Lance’s chest,“I’ve only gotten in one fight all year, and it was a special circumstance.”

Lance opened his mouth, crude response at the ready, but he stopped himself. Wasn’t he the special circumstance Keith got into a fight for? In previous years the prince had gotten into so many fights that Iverson had threatened to kick him out. Keith was clearly trying to be better this year, so why did he risk expulsion for Lance?

Before he could respond though, Hunk and Pidge were upon him. “Good job, Lance, I said you could do it!” Hunk shouted, sweeping Lance into his arms and spinning him around. “I’m gonna bake you an extra special cake in celebration.”

As Hunk put Lance back down, Pidge punched his shoulder and said slyly, “top five, maybe you’re not such a dummy after all.”

“Thanks guys.” Lance said, briefly glancing over his shoulder, only to see that the prince was gone.

 

 

It was the last week of school, the day before final exams, and the king had just died. The whole kingdom was in mourning, though apparently no one had told Iverson that. 

“If any of you miss the test tomorrow you fail, if any of you are even a second late you fail, if you forget your pencil, fail, no name on the test? Fail.” Iverson said, walking up and down the rows of desks. 

The whole room had an air of gloom, but mostly Prince Keith, for obvious reasons. Lance couldn’t believe Keith was even here at all, though he did seem like the kind of person who wouldn’t ask for time to mourn, and Iverson was the kind of person to not understand that Keith would need that. 

Haxus raised his hand. “Professor Iverson, what if we get tears on our test because we’re sad the king died, is that a fail too?” He joked, his buddies burst out laughing, clearly taking advantage of Keith’s emotional inability to fight back.

Keith just sat there, staring the floor. It broke Lance’s heart. 

Lance whirled around and glared at Haxus. “Shut up.”

“Stay out of this McClain, I wasn’t talking to you.”

Lance swung his leg over the back of his chair so he was fully facing Haxus. “Oh I know you weren’t talking to me, because if you were you’d have more respect.”

“Oh yeah?” Haxus raised an eyebrow. “And why’s that?”

Lance pointed to himself.“Because this dummy is five spots higher than you on the leader board.”

Haxus stared at him in disbelief. “You’re…second in the class?” 

“Yup.”

Haxus clenched his jaw so tight Lance thought he’d crack some teeth for sure, “yeah well, second ain’t first, McClain.” He gritted out. 

“Then have some respect for the guy who is first.” Lance spat.

Haxus was so mad he was nearly blue in the face, but Lance just stared him down. Finally, the other boy submitted and leaned back. “Whatever, McClain, you’re not worth it. You’ll always be one step behind the prince anyway. His little charity case.”

Lance sneered at the comment, but he was satisfied with Haxus’ compliance, he faced forward again only to find the prince leaning over his desk. 

Prince Keith leaned down.“I’m not a maiden who needs defending.” He whispered, so close he and Lance were breathing the same air. “So stay out of my business.”

Lance was a little shaken, hadn’t he just stood up for Keith? Lance refused to back down, however, the prince wasn’t allowed to walk all over him anymore, no matter how nice Lance thought his eyes were. Lance rubbed his temples.“Look, I don’t know what your problem is but-”

“My problem is you.”

Lance could feel the frustration rising up his spine. “Okay, clearly your royal dressers clasped your cape too tight because not enough blood is getting to your brain, I’m trying to help you.”

Keith laughed in his face. Laughed. “You’re only helping yourself, bragging because you’re number two…but just remember that I’m number one.”

Lance stood so fast he knocked his chair to the ground. “That is not-”

“You two, cut it out!” Iverson barked from the front of the room. “You can flirt again when class is over.” 

At hearing that comment, Lance and Keith flew away from each other as fast as possible . Keith collected his things and sneered at Lance one last time before leaving, “you can have the top spot, if that’s all you care about.” Then he slammed the classroom door behind him, Iverson yelling after him to come back.

Lance picked up his fallen chair and sat back down, wondering if Haxus was somehow right, that Lance would always be in Prince Keith’s shadow. He also mulled over Iverson’s words, wondering if he was right too, about the flirting. Maybe it was time to admit it to himself, he had a huge crush on Keith, The Prince of Lyon. 

 

————

 

Lance chuckled softly to himself, the pathetic sound echoing off the dungeon walls. Even back then he had it bad for Keith, but never in his wildest dreams did he think he would fall in love with the royal idiot. 

Lance looked down at his hand where the scrap from Keith’s cape was still wrapped around his palm. He brought it up to his nose and sniffed, it smelled overwhelmingly like the prince, like impulsive decisions and sharp words and silky hair and gray eyes and an infectious laugh and just, Keith. 

A door opened down the hall and Lance jumped to his feet, finally someone was going to tell him what was going on, he hoped it was Keith, though he could also work with Shiro or the Queen. Much to his chagrin, though, it was the worst possible person he could think of, General Lotor. 

The general peered at Lance through the bars of his cell. There was a sadistic smile on his face as he said, “finally we meet, Blue Bandit, what an honor.”

Lance just looked Lotor up and down, deciding silence was the best tactic. Lotor let out a horrifyingly happy chuckle as he pulled out the keys and unlocked the door. The general walked right up to Lance and towered over him, Lance held his stare, even though he was terrified. Lance gulped, the general was here to torture him, wasn’t he?

Lotor purred, “they say a lot of things about The Blue Bandit, but nobody told me just how beautiful you are.”

Well…that was not what Lance was expecting.

Before he could respond the general swept a leg under his own, knocking Lance to his knees. Lotor grabbed Lance’s chin and jerked it upward. “Look at me,” the general said in an unsettlingly calm voice, “I’ve been sent here to tell you that your execution date is set.”

Lance’s eyes widened with fear. How could this be? He wasn’t going to get a trial?

The general clearly reveled in Lance’s fear, his smile deepening as he added “but the way I see it, you have options,” Lotor grazed a long finger nail down Lance’s cheek, “you can either stay loyal to Keith and die, or pledge allegiance to me and live.”

Lance jerked his chin away from Lotor, but the general grabbed him by the shirt and threw him against the wall, snarling “you see, Blue Bandit, the Queen knows that you didn’t steal the Royal Jewels…but what she doesn’t know is that I was the one who did.” 

Lance froze. General Lotor stole the Royal Jewels? He wanted to say he was surprised but he never really trusted Lotor anyway. Lance resumed struggling against Lotor’s death grip as he retorted, “and I supposed you’re gonna monologue about your evil plan now?”

Lotor leaned in closer, clearly enjoying every moment of Lance’s helplessness. “You seem trustworthy, at least Prince Keith seems to trust you,” Lance hated hearing Keith’s name come out of Lotor’s mouth,  “so I’ll let you in on a little secret, when my father cast me out of Daibazaal I knew I would get my revenge. I climbed the ranks of Lyon, planning to cause conflict between the two kingdoms and one day claim them both as my own.”

Lance let out a humorless laugh. “Your plan is slightly flawed, General, Zarkon’s reign may be over but Keith’s is just beginning.” 

“Ah yes, well I was planning to let him die heroically fighting in Daibazaal yesterday, but I decided to take the glory of saving him instead. And now that he trusts me, I can take the throne without any suspicion.”

Lance shot Lotor one of his award winning smiles. “And why do I have the absolute privilege of knowing all this?” 

“Because,” Lotor said, now whispering in his ear, “I have taken a liking to you, so you can either be mine, or be executed.”

Lance spit in Lotor’s face.

The general  hissed and threw him to the ground, Lance’s leg wasn’t fully healed yet, so he was helpless to defend himself. Lotor kneeled right on his chest, Lance could barely breathe as the general went on, “now that Lyon is absorbing Daibazaal, the Queen made me the galra ambassador, I now have some friends in high places, I can save you.” 

Lotor dug his knees further into Lance’s chest. 

“I…I won’t.” Lance wheezed out.

The general leaned over Lance, his long white hair tickling The Blue Bandit’s face, making him itch to get away from the garla on top of him. 

“And if you try to tell the prince about this,” Lotor growled, “then I will hurt him in unimaginable ways.” 

“Don’t you touch him!” Lance yelled, using all the air he could squeeze out of his crushed lungs. 

Lotor pulled Lance up by his shirt, allowing him to breathe again, but also keeping him hoisted in the air. “Don’t worry, I’d never touch the pretty little prince, it’s his mother that I’d go after, I have access to her now, she did ask me to be her personal guard at the ball.” Lance kicked his legs but it was useless, Lotor had all the power, he had Lance right where he wanted him. “Could you ever forgive yourself for being the reason Keith loses his last living family member?”

Lotor dropped Lance, and he fell to the floor in a heap, unable to restrain his hideous sobs any longer. Lotor was right, Keith would never recover from losing his mother just a few years after his father, and Lance couldn’t be responsible for causing the man he loved that kind of pain. He would do anything to keep Keith from falling into the pits of despair that he did when he lost his entire family. 

Lotor crouched down in front of him and cupped his cheeks, pulling Lance’s face up to his, Lance didn’t even have the strength the pull away. “There are three options on the table now, Blue Bandit. One, you take the fall for stealing the jewels and you get executed. Two, you try to tell Keith about my plans and I kill his mother, frame you for it, and you get executed. Or three, you forget Keith and be mine, and you don’t get executed.” 

Lotor wiped a tear off Lance’s cheek and his skin crawled at the touch.

Lance,” the general cooed, “once I conquer Lyon and Daibazaal, I’ll make you my king, I’ll make sure you never suffer again.”

Lotor pulled his hand away from Lance’s face and he crumpled to the floor once more. The general swept out of the cell, slamming the door, fur cape billowing behind him

“Think about it.” Lotor called as he strutted down the hall, leaving Lance battered and broken on the floor.

Chapter Text

Keith had locked himself in his room for several hours until Shiro forced him to go out to the tavern with him. As they sat at the bar in silence Keith scowled at the ale in front of him. 

For a while Shiro watched him with a concerned look, but after a long while he finally cleared his throat and said, “you know that you’re a prince, right? You can afford to get your cape resewn?”

Keith glanced down at his red cape to where a piece of fabric had been torn off. Just enough fabric missing to wrap around the wound on the tan skin of a strong and warm palm. “I don’t want it resewn.” Keith grumbled, not even looking at Shiro. He returned to his staring contest with his drink. 

“What happened out there?” Shiro asked in a low voice. 

Keith finally met his mentor’s gaze, “I - I don’t even know.” Keith took a swig of his ale, Shiro’s eyes were still on him, filled with worry. “Shiro I - once Lance and I started talking we didn’t stop, I opened up to him, I laughed with him, I cradled him in my arms!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Shiro blinked in disbelief. “You actually bonded with him?”

Keith shot him a look. “Stop the presses, the Loner Prince of Lyon actually has feelings.” 

Keith returned to moping but Shiro placed a hand on his shoulder. “Keith, I’m not making fun of you. I’ve been waiting years for you to find someone you could talk to.”

The Prince shrugged his hand away. “Yeah well it doesn’t matter anymore.”

A lump rose in Keith’s throat and he tried to push it down, he didn’t feel like crying again, and he really didn’t feel like doing it in public. He just stared at the wall, letting the weight of his words seep in, it doesn’t matter anymore… because the one person he could talk to was on death row. 

Shiro took a long, pensive sip from his ale before saying, “I heard they’re going to make you a Paladin of Voltron. Congratulations.” 

Being made into a Paladin was the highest honor in the land. Several nobles from several kingdoms had to cast a vote for your name, and even after that you weren’t guaranteed to receive the title. Only the greats became Paladins, Keith’s father was being considered for one right before he died. It would be an honor to fulfill that role, yet Keith couldn’t bring himself to care about that at all right now.

Keith shook his head. “It should be Lance who’s receiving that title. He’s the one who saved Lyon, who saved me. He’s one of the bravest people I’ve ever known.”

Shiro just stared ahead with dead eyes. “Then I guess he’ll be brave until the very end.”

Venom shot through the prince’s veins. “Are you kidding me, Shiro?” Keith slammed a fist on the bar. “You’re okay with sending an innocent boy to his death?”

“And you’re okay with causing a civil war in Lyon by freeing its most wanted criminal?” Shiro shot back. 

Keith let out an exasperated sigh before downing the rest of his drink. When he put his glass down Shiro was frowning at him, but then the captain gestured for the bar tender to send over two more drinks. 

Shiro pinched the bridge of his nose. “Look, this is impossible for me, because of Matt and Pidge I’ve known Lance for a long time, but-.” Shiro’s voice broke, it was a pitiful sound and it caused Keith’s anger to flicker a little. “But you’re like a brother to me and I couldn’t protect you when you needed me and I wont allow that to happen again,” the captain continued regaining his composure, “so if executing The Blue Bandit means our people wont overthrow you and our enemies wont see us as weak and attack you, then…” something cold flashed across Shiro’s face, “then I chose you over Lance.” 

The bartender slid two more ales their way and Shiro nearly downed his in one gulp. It dawned on Keith that Shiro wasn’t as easy for Shiro as he had originally thought, this decision was killing him inside. The captain may have said that he was okay with Lance dying if it meant Keith would stay safe, but there was no conviction behind it, Shiro wanted to save Lance as much as Keith did. 

The prince slid his finger around the rim of his mug, trying to find a way to change the subject. “What are they going to do with Zarkon?” He asked, not really caring about the answer.

Shiro shook his head. “Zarkon has offended many kingdoms over the years so his punishment had to be a unanimous agreement by the rulers or all those lands, the only one that made everybody happy was sending him to a work camp for the rest of his days.” 

“So Zarkon lives while Lance dies?”

“Guess so.” 

Shiro looked down at his empty mug despondently, it was ironic that the captain had brought Keith here to cheer him up, but Keith ended up bringing Shiro down. The prince seemed to have that effect on people. 

“Want to know the worst part?” Shiro continued. “Zarkon had no idea about our marriage alliance with Altea like Lotor said. I’ve interrogated enough people to know when they’re lying, he really had no clue.” 

Keith mulled this over for a minute before it dawned on him. He shot out of his chair. “Do you realize what this means?” He grabbed Shiro’s shoulders. “If Zarkon didn’t know, then someone else was running that whole operation. Maybe there really is a spy among our ranks!”

Shiro glanced over his shoulder towards the people in the bar who were taking notice of them, then he leaned forward and whispered, “and why in the world are you so excitedly yelling about that?”

“Because if we catch the spy we can execute them instead of Lance!” Keith exclaimed, completely ignoring Shiro’s attempt to be more subtle. 

Shiro’s eyebrow shot up. “I like Lance too, but you seem almost…overly concerned about his well being.” 

Keith shrugged. “I don’t want an innocent man to die, sue me.”

“No, that’s not it.” Shiro rubbed his chin and narrowed his eyes at Keith. “It’s almost as if you… like him.”

Keith felt a red hot blush run up his neck and into his cheeks. He knew hiding the truth from Shiro was futile seeing as his face was probably as red as his cape. 

Shiro let out a hardy laugh. “I never thought I’d see the day! I’m honestly impressed with Lance, how did he break down your many, many walls in such a short time?”

“It wasn’t that short.” Keith shot back. “Besides, we were also in the same class at The Garrison.” The Prince couldn’t ignore the flips his stomach did at the very thought of Lance.

Shiro leaned his elbow on the bar, a dorky grin plastered across his face. “Do you even remember Lance being in your class?”

Keith fell silent.

“You forgot him, didn’t you? Oh god, Lance must’ve hated that!” Shiro teased.

The tiniest of smiles cracked on Keith’s face. “Oh, he did.”

Shiro punched him in the arm and laughed. Keith was even able to let out a small chuckle too, even when Lance wasn’t here he was still able to cheer Keith up.

Shiro’s laughter subsided and his face grew more serious. “You’re right, Keith, we can’t give up on Lance. I’ll help you find the spy.” He said, laying some money on the bar. 

“Then there’s no time to lose.” Keith said, heading for the exit, Shiro in tow behind him. . 

The prince was almost at the door but stopped in his tracks when he heard someone say, “so Lance McClain is The Blue Bandit?” It was a gruff man with one eye who had spoken. Keith recognized him from The Garrison, it was Professor Iverson. “I always knew he wouldn’t amount to much.”

“Oh yeah?” His companion replied. 

“Yeah.” Iverson continued. “I thought if I knocked him down a peg, compared him to the prince, then maybe he’d be motivated to be better, but I guess not.”

Something in Keith’s chest tightened, like a knife being twisted into his body. 

“I’ll admit he had potential, but I always said he was too light hearted to really go anywhere in life.” Then Iverson had the audacity to laugh. “I told him he was a disappointment every chance I got, I wish I could see him in his cell now and tell him ‘I told ya so.’ Man, he is nothing but a-”

Before Keith knew what he was doing, his fist was connecting with Iverson’s face. The professor flew to the floor and suddenly, chaos ensued, all the other drunken patrons were inspired by Keith’s punch and began fighting. Shiro picked Keith up and ran out of there before he got further involved with the bar fight.

Keith.” He hissed as he let the prince go, but instead of scolding him Shiro merely shook his head and started walking back towards the castle. He looked back over his shoulder at Keith, “well, aren’t you coming?” 

“What, no lecture?” Keith asked, running to catch up with the captain. 

Shiro shot the prince a sly smile. “Honestly, I was about ten seconds away from doing the same thing.” 

And with that, Keith let out a hardy laugh, filled with a new sense of purpose to clear the name of the man he loved. 

Chapter Text

Acxa followed Lotor through the winding halls of the castle. She glanced over her shoulder to see Narti, her second in command, walking slightly behind her. Ezor and Zethrid were in the back, walking hand in hand with Ezor was wildly swinging their arms, Zethrid looked annoyed but Acxa could tell she thought it was cute. 

She turned her attention forward once more to see that Lotor had stopped just outside Captain Shiro’s office, he glanced back at her, “remember everything I told you to say?”

She grunted in confirmation and he smiled in return. “Excellent,” he purred, “then let’s begin the next phase of the plan.”

He knocked on the captain’s door, a faint response came from within so Lotor cracked the door open. “Captain Shiro, do you have a moment?” He asked. Acxa was always surprised how good he was at playing the people of Lyon, when he wanted to he could seem so genuine, yet he would stab them all in the back at the first opportunity.  

“Of course, General,” Captain Shiro said from within, “what’s up?”

Lotor pushed the door all the way open so the Captain of the Guard could see her and the other galra. Shiro was on his feet in an instant, reaching for his sword. 

“They’re with me, Captain!” Lotor yelled, grabbing Shiro’s arm before he could attack.

Shiro snarled in Acxa’s direction, “but those are the galra that attacked me and Keith.”

Acxa and the others stood at attention like good soldiers, allowing General Lotor (though he would always be Prince Lotor to her) to work his magic and trick the captain into trusting them. 

“They were still loyal to me even after my father kicked me out.” Lotor explained. “They were my eyes and ears on the inside.”

Shiro sheathed his sword, but he still glared towards Acxa with nothing but hate in his eyes. “Even if they are your spies, General, their attack nearly got me killed and put the prince in immanent danger.”

“I agree it was an… unfortunate turn of events.” Lotor said as he casually sat down on top of Shiro’s desk, as if they were talking about the latest jousting match and not the captain’s near death experience. “But, I ordered them to stay close to Zarkon and his plans, and being out in the field was the only way.” He clicked his tongue. “They were also part of the reason I got into Daibazaal with such ease in order to save Keith.”

The captain relaxed a little after that, but he still didn’t seem to trust them. Good, Acxa thought, he’s not a complete idiot. She hated it when her opponents were too easy to take out, that was no fun. 

He sat back in his chair and scanned Acxa and the others. He lifted his gaze to hers and said, “so in order to stay in Zaron’s good graces, you had to kill the prince and I?”

Acxa took a step forward, careful not to appear as a threat. “No Captain, our orders were to keep you alive while still making it look real.” She said, the words Lotor told her to say rolling off her tongue so naturally she almost believed them herself. “However, we had no idea how aggressive the sentries we were assigned would be, nor did we foresee that the prince would run into the woods.”

Shiro lifted an eyebrow, he needed some more convincing, but Acxa was more than prepared to ease his mind. 

“We also greatly underestimated how good a fighter both you and the prince would be, which caught us unaware, causing us to lose our chance to help you to safety.” 

Shiro let out a deep sigh. “Okay fine, so you’re on our side, now what?”

The corner of Lotor’s lips lifted ever so slightly as he nodded at Acxa. She couldn’t help the warmth that crept into her chest at the thought of her Prince being proud of her.

Lotor hopped off of Shiro’s desk. “I’m glad you asked, Captain. As you know, the Queen is making me Ambassador to Daibazaal while Lyon absorbs it.”

Shiro nodded. 

“So, I would like to make these four my cabinet members, since they know the in’s and out’s of the galra’s lives. They could help bridge our two kingdoms.”

The captain sifted through some papers on his desk for a few moments before saying, “very well.” 

“Thank you, Captain.” Lotor said already backing out of the room.

“On one condition, Matt has to join you.”

Lotor froze. “What?”

Shiro looked up at him. “You said you wanted to bridge the two kingdoms, well Matt is from Lyon and has a pretty good grip on what the commoners of Lyon are like.”

Lotor took a step towards the captain, “but-”

“Or,” Shiro cut him off, “we could discuss with the Queen the fact that you had spies inside Daibazaal all this time and never told us about it.” 

The captain and the general stared each other down, but eventually Lotor gave. “Okay, the physician may join us…even if he is a low-born.”

Shiro slammed a fist on his desk. “Watch yourself, General.” 

Lotor raised his hands in submission. 

Shiro glared at him but then jerked his chin towards the corner of the room to where someone lay sound asleep in the couch. Acxa hadn’t even noticed him until now, which she cursed at herself for, she should’ve scanned the room for all the dangers towards her prince.

Shiro picked a paperweight off his desk and threw it at the sleeping boy, who was presumably this Matt creature. When the weight ricocheted off Matt he jolted awake and sat straight up. 

Matt threw some punches in the air, still disoriented from his slumber. “Who is it? What’ya want? Fisticuffs?”

Shiro cupped his hand in his cheek. “No need for fisticuffs, Matt, the big bad paperweight is gone.”

“Well,” Matt said, regaining some composure. “If that paperweight wishes to finish what it started it may meet me tomorrow at dawn for a proper duel.”

Shiro smiled and shook his head. “How noble of you.”

Matt laughed but it died quickly as he realized there were galra in the room with him. His reaction was no surprise to Acxa, she knew the people of Lyon hated the people of Daibazaal, at least that’s what Lotor had told her. 

Shiro folded his hands on the desk in front of him. “Matt, I know you’re exhausted after saving me and then working on Keith nonstop these past few days, but you have been appointed to the board for New Daibazaal.” 

Matt rubbed his eyes. “…What?”

“Congratulations.” Shiro smirked. “Try not to mess it up.”

Matt stuck his tongue out at Shiro as he got to his feet. Acxa thought it odd how childish they acted with one another. Were these not two of the most respected men in Lyon? When Lotor gave her a list of people to look out for both of their names were on it, were they not?

“Come along, we have work to do.” Lotor barked.

Matt just rolled his eyes and walked over to Shiro. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll be there in a minute.” Acxa couldn’t believe how unfazed he was by Lotor, even when he raised his voice at Matt.

“Very well, we’ll wait for you in the hall.” Lotor growled, seizing Acxa’s arm and pulling her out the door. 

The general dropped his voice to a whisper, “this throws a bit of wrench into out plans.”

Acxa crossed her arms and leaned against the wall behind her. “We can handle Matt, My Prince. He wont stop us from breaking Lyon from the inside like we did with Daibazaal.”

“I’m a just a general here, Acxa.” Lotor murmured. “And he better not, Matt is a mere commoner and has no right telling me what to do. If he’s the reason I fail I shall never forgive you.” 

“I wont fail you, My Prin-, uh, General.” 

“Good. Filthy peasants like him make me sick.” Lotor spat. “I cannot wait to be rid of them when I build my kingdom anew. The scum of the earth must be purged, only those I deem worthy may remain.”

Lotor pulled away from Acxa when Matt and Shiro’s laughter erupted from inside the captain’s office. Narti, Ezor and Zethrid came out, Matt sauntering behind them, still chuckling softly to himself. He stopped in front of Lotor and just smiled at him. “Alright, General, now what?”

Lotor looked him up and down. “Now, we build a new world.” He said as he walked away. “I trust you wont fail me, Acxa.” He called over his shoulder. 

She knew she wouldn’t. She couldn’t 

 

———

 

Matt led the girls to one of the castle conference rooms so they could sort things out. Acxa had to give it to Matt, for all his joking, he took his new role very seriously. Acxa was surprised as he rattled off the possible futures for Daibazaal. Among his ideas were making it another kingdom of Lyon, colonizing it, leveling it completely and bringing all it’s citizens here, and so on. 

It was going to be harder than Acxa thought to work around Matt so she and the others could sow seeds of doubt among the Lyon empire, but that wouldn’t stop her from trying. 

Matt was rambling to Narti about the transfer of Daibazaal’s trade to Lyon when Acxa cut in, “Matt, let’s be realistic, do you honestly think any of your plans will work?”

Matt stared at her with a blank expression. Perfect. She had him right where she wanted him, make him doubt his own intelligence and his kingdom. She went on, “the people of Lyon hate the galra, most of them want to overthrow Queen Krolia for being from Daibazaal. The best thing you can do is make the galra prisoners of war and forget the kingdom of Daibazaal ever existed.”

Matt was stunned, he looked towards Ezor for some hel, but she just shrugged at him. When he looked away Ezor gave Acxa a thumbs up. “No, no…I can’t…that’s not…” Matt babbled. This was exactly what Acxa wanted, to place the idea in his head that his kingdom wasn’t as perfect as he thought.

Acxa feigned indifference, which always drove her victims wild. “Never mind, I’m sorry I brought it up, you know your kingdom better than I, don’t you?” She stood. “Excuse me.” 

She turned and headed for the door, smiling from ear to ear. It was a tactic that worked a thousand times in Daibazaal. Plant the seed of doubt, then leave to let them argue amongst each other. Acxa was nearly to the door when a hand grabbed her shoulder.

“Acxa, wait.” Matt spun her around. 

She was not expecting this, normally her victims sat wallowing in their stupidity while she left, asking themselves how they could be so blind to not see the corruption in their government. That’s how it always went in Daibazaal. 

“I know there are people in Lyon who don’t like Queen Krolia, and they are very…passionate about it.” Matt began. “But, just because they shout the loudest does not mean they speak for the majority.”

“And how would you know what the majority wants?” She hissed back at him. “You and the other nobles spend all day cooped up in your fancy castle.” 

Acxa recoiled at her own words, she wasn’t entirely sure where these feelings were coming from, they certainly weren’t part of the tactics Lotor taught her.

A shadow crossed Matt’s face. “I may work here but I know my people. I am of lowly birth and the king took a chance on me, and now I have become one of the greatest physician’s Lyon has ever known.” 

Acxa was almost impressed by Matt, he was intimidating when he was angry, especially since he was usually so laid back. She glanced over at the girls, still sitting at the table, too far away to hear anything. She lowered her voice just to make sure they couldn’t hear what she was about to say. Look, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”

“And I wont say everyone in Lyon is perfect, but we try to stay connected with our people. Keith even went to a school in town instead of being tutored here like all the kings before him.” Matt placed his hands on both of Acxa’s shoulders, part of her wanted to swat him away, but for some reason she allowed it to happen. “I get it, I come from nothing. People sneered at me in school, but I’m here now, and I’m ready to help your people…our people.”

“I understand.” Acxa replied before she realized what she was saying. She was surprised by her own words again, but still she continued, “I’m a half-breed galra, all four of us are. The galra are not so accepting of our kind. If it weren’t for Lotor we never would’ve been accepted into the army, but even so, we were still blamed for every little problem because of our lineage.”

Matt scratched a small scar on his cheek, Acxa hadn’t noticed it before and she wondered how it had gotten there. Something inside her burned at the thought of his face being slashed in the first place. 

“I’m sorry you had to go through that, Acxa, but now we get to change that type of thinking.” Matt said, running a hand through his sandy brown hair.” The queen has already met with many galra who didn’t approve of Zarkon’s bloody rule, like this one guy, Kolivan, has a whole rebel group, and he’s really cool and-”

“Matt.” Acxa shook her head, coming to her senses. “It can never be how you picture. The scum of the earth will purged.” She said, remembering Lotor’s words from earlier.

Matt blinked at her. “You don’t…you don’t mean yourself do you?”

Acxa froze. Did Lotor mean her? He referred to Matt as a filthy peasant before, and she was of low-birth just like him. She stood there dumbstruck until Matt pulled her into a hug. She tried to pull away but the fool was a lot stronger than he looked. Eventually she just dropped her hands to her sides and let it happen, knowing it would be over soon anyway. 

“You and I both know that your birth doesn’t define you, it’s your life that truly matters.” He whispered in her ear.

His words rang in her ears and, ever so slowly, she allowed her arms to raise until she was clutching his back and hugging him in return.

“Okay,” Matt said, releasing her from his embrace. “Now that the melodramatic portion of the show is over, we can get back to business, does that sound good to you?”

Acxa didn’t reply, instead she just stared at Matt, wondering how he got to his position of power without being cold and cunning. Him and Shiro both were kind, and even Lotor had to feign niceties to climb the ranks here, it didn’t make any sense to her. 

Matt tilted his head. “You know what? You seem tired, let’s call it quits for today.” He headed for the door, patting her on the shoulder as he passed. Just before he left he turned and said, “I got other things to do anyway, you know, like teach Shiro a few fighting moves.”

Matt let out a hardy laugh but Acxa only pursed her lips. “Why would you need to teach the captain-”

“Oh! No, it was a joke!” Matt leaned on the doorframe. “Not a very good one, evidently.” He smiled at her. “I guess if we’re gonna be on the board together you might want to get used to bad jokes.”

And with that, he swept out of the room. Acxa stared at the doorway where he had just been, realizing there was a faint smile on her face, she supposed it was funny, the thought of Matt teaching Shiro how to fight.

She heard footsteps approaching and looked over her shoulder to see Narti come to her side. Her second just stared at her, but that’s all Acxa needed to understand what she was thinking. 

“I don’t know what just happened,” Acxa said, shaking her head, “but I think I would protect that boy at all costs.” 

 

Chapter Text

Lance was lying on the ground with his cheek pressed against the cold stone floor, and Lotor’s foot pressing down on his head. The general comes everyday to try and convince Lance to take his offer, and everyday Lance denies him, which Lotor never takes well. 

“Come on Lance.” Lotor growled. “I’m losing my patience. Join me.”

Lance peered up at the general as best he could and drawled, “I humbly decline your offer.”

A roar ripped out of Lotor’s throat and he slashed his nails down Lance’s back, ripping right through his clothes to the skin. Lance let out a scream, Lotor had roughed him up a little these past few days, but never anything this violent, Lance must really be getting under his skin if he’s reacting like this.

Lotor flipped Lance over so they were facing each other and leaned in close. The general’s hot breath tickled Lance’s skin, which made him want to throw up the stale bread they gave him for dinner. 

“Lyon has failed you!” The general screamed. “It let your family die, framed you for crimes you didn’t commit and when you saved its prince from death, how does it repay you? By making you it’s scapegoat and sentencing you to death?”

Lance squirmed under Lotor’s grip, part of him knew everything the general said held some truth, but the other part knew he couldn’t break. “There’s nothing you can say to make me join you.” He spat back. 

Lotor’s face when rigid, then, he slowly let out a maniacal laugh. 

Well, that’s never a good sign Lance thought. 

“You remember those friends in high places I told you about, Blue Bandit?” Lotor licked his lips. “I got them to agree to make you a Paladin of Voltron, if you live.”

Lance’s eyes widened at that, and Lotor was quick to notice.

“Ah, I knew we were cut from the same cloth. You want to be a hero but you also want the glory and fame. You want to be remembered.” Lotor grabbed a fist of Lance’s hair and jerked his head upwards. “Lance McClain, the Blue Paladin…doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?” Lotor’s eyes drifted down to Keith’s cloth still wrapped around Lance’s hand. “Or would you prefer the Red Paladin instead?” He sneered. 

Something tightened in Lance’s chest, was Lotor right, were they one in the same? Lance had always wanted to be a Paladin of Voltron, and all the fame and recognition that came with it. The Lance that had given Sendak that invitation in the woods a few days ago to save his own skin probably would’ve given in, but the Lance lying here on the dungeon floor was different. For the first time since his family died, Lance had a sense of purpose, and that was to protect the people of Lyon at all costs, especially Keith.

Lance turned his head away from Lotor’s. “Yeah, that’s gonna be a no from me.”

Lotor grabbed Lance’s cheeks and yanked his face forwards again. “You are the most ungrateful-”

A door down the hall swung open and a guard yelled, “please, you can’t go back there! Lotor’s orders are that no one may see the prisoner but him!” 

Lotor growled and leapt off of Lance. He charged out of the cell door to confront whoever was approaching.

Lance felt too weak to move, so he just remained lying on his back, listening with eager ears for the upcoming fight Lotor was about to have with the person disregarding his orders. At least it would be some entertainment. 

“The Queen put me in charge of The Blue Bandit,” he heard Lotor say, “and I declared no one may see him but me.”

“I know,” came another voice, one that Lance would recognize anywhere. Keith. “But I figured since you were down here I could at least have a supervised visit…especially since I’m the prince and all.” 

It warmed Lance’s heart to hear the smile in Keith’s voice as he goaded the general.

“Well you figured wrong.” Lotor snapped back. 

Keith’s voice dropped to a low growl. “General.”

“My Prince.” Lotor replied with equal bite in his voice.

Then there was silence, which Lance figured was them having the stare down of the century. He was upset he was missing this and wished they were by his cell so he could see. After a long silence Lotor finally gave in, grumbling, “make it quick,” and Lance heard feet fast approaching his cell. 

Lance was in so much pain that even the thought of sitting up hurt, but when Keith appeared before his cell all of that melted away and he instantly pulled himself into a seated position. 

“Lance!” The prince called over to him, “are you okay?”

A devious smirk flashed across Lance’s face. “I bet you say that to all the prisoners.” He decided that despite all the pain he was in, he didn’t want Keith’s last memories of him to be painful, so he would put on heirs if he had to just to comfort the prince. 

Keith let out a breathy laugh. “Are you serious?”

“As a death sentence.” Lance said in a much smaller voice than he intended.

His ill-suited joke sucked the humor right out of the air, but the small smile never left Keith’s face as he stared back at Lance. He hoped it was because Keith knew Lance was dying for a greater cause. That had to be the reason the prince looked at him so fondly, what other explanation could there be?

Lotor stepped out of the shadows and placed a hand on Keith’s shoulder. “That’s enough,  my liege, don’t you think?”

But Lance wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet, he had to tell Keith how he felt, or make fun of his mullet, or thank Keith for wrapping his wound so nicely, or, or anything before he lost Keith forever. 

“Keith, wait!” He yelled, jumping to his feet far faster than his bruised body could handle. He instantly regretted getting up so carelessly and he broke into a fit of coughing. He turned away from the prince and the general to steady himself on the back wall, that’s when he heard Keith gasp. 

Lance had forgotten about the scratch marks Lotor had so nicely left of his back, but he knew that’s what Keith had seen. He slowly turned to see the absolute horror written all over the prince’s face.

Keith gripped the cell’s bars so tight his knuckles turned white, obviously trying to keep his cool. His voice was barely a whisper as he asked, “where…did you get those?”

Lance didn’t know how to respond, Lotor was right there and if he told the truth then he could be putting the Queen in danger. He just shook his head at the prince, his eyes pleading for him not to pry any further into the matter.

Keith slammed his hands against the bars. “Where did you get those?!” He yelled, his attempt to remain calm clearly thrown to the wayside. He turned on Lotor and grabbed his lapels. “Did one of your men do this? Did you do this?”  

“No!” Lance yelled, scrambling towards Keith as quick as he could. “It was my fault, when they brought me down here my leg was still messed up from the arrow and I fell and scratched my back.” When he got to the front of the cell he was so weak he had to grip the bars to hold himself up. “It was all me, I swear.” 

Keith took a few ragged breaths before calming down. He released Lotor’s shirt and smoothed out the wrinkles, mumbling a small, “sorry.” Then he turned his attention back on Lance

From behind the prince, Lotor gave Lance a look of approval, pleased he was willing to keep the general’s secret. Lotor placed a hand on the prince’s shoulder, “you should go, being down here is obviously too much for you.” But Keith shrugged the general’s touch away, then he snatched the keys from off his belt, all without taking his eyes off of Lance. Lotor gasped, “what are you-”

“I’m getting a closer look.” Keith replied, unlocking the cell door.

“Like quiznak you are!” Lotor yelled. 

“I just want to talk to him!”

“Down here you follow my orders, Prince!”

Keith’s voice broke, “General, please.” It sounded so defeated even Lotor was taken aback, 

The general shuffled on his feet before finally saying, “fine, but I’ll be watching the entire time.” He narrowed his eyes at Lance, a warning that he better not try to tell the prince anything. 

Keith pushed the cell door open and rushed towards Lance. Lance instinctively backed up, muscle memory from all the times Lotor approached him with the same determination. Keith noticed Lance’s retreat and slowed down, he put his hands up to show he didn’t have any weapons. “Lance, I’m not gonna hurt you.” 

Lance grimaced, it was like the prince knew exactly what he was thinking, but he was still embarrassed he couldn’t hide his fear from Keith. He tried to cover it with a joke, “hey, I’ve been in small spaces with handsome men before and nothing good can come from it.”

Keith took another step towards him. “Lance.”

Lance forced himself to laugh. “I’m just being cautious.” 

“Drop the act.” 

Lance fell silent.

Keith took a few more steps until they were practically chest to chest. “It’s okay to be scared, you don’t have to put up a mask with me.”

Lance nodded. He knew he didn’t have to pretend with Keith, but at the same time, if this was the last time they saw each other then he didn’t want the prince to remember him as weak. In this moment, though, Lance knew Keith would never think of him that way. 

Keith’s eyes scanned Lance, his mouth fixed in a thin line. “Can I…see?”

Lance knew he was talking about the scratches. He shrugged off his blue vest and turned around. He didn’t have to take off his white shirt because it was practically ripped open in the back already. 

For a few moments, they just stood there in silence as Keith gaped at the torn skin on Lance’s back. Then, suddenly two gentle hands skirted down his scratches, and he let out a soft gasp. Keith traced his hands all the way to the bottom, then he brought his hands back up to the top and started all over again. After repeating this a few times, the prince dropped his head into the nape of Lance’s neck and whispered, “I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry.”

The pain in Keith’s voice broke Lance’s heart, and all he could muster in return was a weak, “it’s okay.” 

Keith let his face slide down Lance’s back until he was hovering over one of the scratches. “It’s not okay.” He sighed into Lance’s skin. “I can’t stand seeing you like this.” And before Lance could respond Keith kissed the scratch mark. Lance tensed up, but Keith just kept going down Lance’s back until he kissed the entirety of the long, deep scratch. When he was done, he did the same with the scratch on the other side.

Tears rolled down Lance’s cheeks, he couldn’t believe the boy he wanted so badly back at The Garrison was grazing kisses down his back right now. He swallowed the lump in his throat. “Keith?” He asked.

“Hm?” The prince hummed against his skin between kisses.

“Does…does this count as my sponge bath?”

Keith let out a soft chuckle, his breath hot against Lance’s back. 

“If it does, then I’m writing a strongly worded letter to your superiors, because I was really looking forward to one last bath before I die.” 

Lance could feel Keith smiling against his backside. The prince gripped his hips tighter as he mumbled, “do you want me stop, then?” The vibration of his voice against Lance’s skin was a glorious feeling that sent goosebumps all over his body. 

“Goosebumps?” Keith teased. “If you’re cold then maybe I should help warm you up.” He wrapped his arms around Lance’s waist and held him from behind. Lance leaned back on the prince, allowing him to bear some of his weight. “So, you think I’m handsome, Sharpshooter?”

Heat rushed to Lance’s cheeks. “What? No!”

“You said so yourself, you’re in a small space with a handsome man.” 

Lance realized he had said those words. He tried to think of an alternate meaning, but it was pointless. He was going to die anyway, might as well let Keith know how beautiful Lance thought he was. “Okay, maybe you’re a little handsome.” 

The prince squeezed him tighter. “You admitted that pretty fast, are you sure you didn’t hit your head when you fell too?”

Despite the fact that Lance was in a dungeon, and had been beaten by Lotor, and was being executed tomorrow, Keith still somehow made a laugh bubble up in his chest. This truly was one incredible man. “You know, Samurai, I would do it all again if I had to.” He said in a soft voice. 

Keith rested his chin on Lance’s shoulder. His voice barely audible as he said, “but you’re going to die.” 

“Yes, but you’re going to live.” 

The prince grunted. 

Lance leaned his head against Keith’s. “Come on, Prince Pouty Pants, if you care about me-”

“Who said I care about you?” Keith asked, a playful edge in his voice.

“Well if you feel anything for me-”

Keith’s eyebrow popped up. “Feel?”

“Even if that feeling’s hate” Lance laughed. “Then you’ll live a long and happy life.” He couldn’t wipe the smile from his face, he was glad he and Keith got to tease each other one last time. “Do it for me.”

Keith spun Lance around so they were face to face. “I’d do anything for you.” His eyes darted over to Lotor, who sneering at them from the corner, then they fell to the floor.“Well, almost anything.”

Lance knew he was talking about the death sentence. The prince couldn’t prevent it without sending Lyon into a civil war. The political ramifications of saving The Blue Bandit without proof that he didn’t steal the jewels were too great, but Lance understood. He placed a hand on the prince’s neck and rubbed a thumb across his jaw. “Just promise me you’ll be a good king, and bring Lyon back to an age of prosperity.” Lance leaned his forehead against Keith’s. “And that you’ll take care of your family, and yourself.” 

Lance thought now was probably the perfect time to kiss Keith, seeing as he was going to die and all, but part of him was afraid that it would ruin everything. If Keith didn’t reciprocate his feelings then he would forever remember Lance as the freak who forced a kiss upon him, so it was probably better to leave things as they were. 

Keith chuckled to himself. “I will never forget the idiot in a blue vest that came back for me…when nobody else did.” 

It was nice to hear Keith say, but in all honesty, Lance figured in a few years the prince will probably have forgotten him completely. He didn’t recognize him from The Garrison even though Lance thought they had bonded there, so why would he remember this?

Just then, Lotor barged into the cell and pulled them apart. “I think I’ve been more than generous, My Prince, so now it’s time to go.” 

The prince began to follow Lotor out of the cell but Lance grabbed his arm. “Keith, wait!” The general growled as he went to tear them apart but Lance caught his wrist. “Please, just one more thing.”

Lotor looked between him and Keith, both staring at him with pleading eyes. “Very well,” he snarled, pulling his hand away. “But make it quick, Blue Bandit.” 

Lance looked at Keith. “Just a piece of advice, from an outlaw to a dropout.”

The smile that appeared on the prince’s face was priceless, Lance wished he could make Keith smile everyday for the rest of his life, though seeing as his execution date was tomorrow, that goal was easily attainable. 

“Back at The Garrison,” he continued. “Iverson told me I was good, but my biggest downfall was when I realized people were watching, because then I always had to put on a show. He said the general public would be the death of me, do you understand, Keith? Don’t let the general-” a wet cough ripped from his throat, “be the death of you. Don’t let the general-” he coughed again, “don’t let the general-” he coughed and his knees buckled under him.

Keith caught him before he could hit the floor and lowered him to the ground, placing a hand on Lance’s neck to steady his head as it lolled back. “Lance? Lance!” He cried. “Don’t let the general what?”

Lotor grabbed Keith’s arm and hauled him up. “My liege, you need to go, you could catch whatever illness has befallen him.”

“But he needs-”

“Don’t argue with me.” Lotor snapped. “Haven’t I already given you enough leniency by allowing you to be here?” 

Keith glanced down at Lance one last time. Even in his deteriorating state, Lance winked at the prince, letting him know it would be okay. Keith nodded, ducking out of the cell and leaving the dungeons. 

As soon as he heard the door at the end of the hall slam shut, Lotor grabbed Lance’s shirt and pulled him up. “Don’t you see what’s happening, Lance? You’re dying. So I’m going to give you one last chance. It’s me…or the executioner.” 

Lance stared blankly into Lotor’s eyes. “Sorry, you walking-shampoo-ad, but my answer is still no.” 

Lotor threw Lance to the ground “Then die!” He screeched, slamming the cell door behind him as he stormed into the hallway.

“But you’ll leave Keith’s mother alone, right?” Lance called up to him, still lying on the floor.

Lotor sneered at him through the cell bars. “You’ve been a good little boy, so yes, they both may live.” A shadow crossed the general’s face, and Lance didn’t like what it could mean. “Perhaps, I’ll even marry Prince Keith. It would help to unify Lyon and Daibazaal, seeing as I was once the prince there.” Lotor crouched down so he was on Lance’s level, this way Lance could see the general meant every horrible word he said. “And I’ll be sure to remind my dear husband, Keith, every night about the Blue Bandit that abandoned him, just like everybody else does.” 

Lance rolled onto his side so he could get a better look at Lotor. “Please, don’t.” He begged.

“Hm, maybe I’ll reconsider, but it’ll cost you.” 

Lance crawled over to the bars so he was face to face with the general. “Name your price.” 

Lotor licked his lips. “A kiss.”

Lance gagged at the mere thought of kissing Lotor, but he couldn’t risk the general emotionally abusing Keith like that, so he leaned forward and placed a light kiss on Lotor’s lips. He made to pull away but the general reached through the bars and grabbed his cheeks, pulling him back in for an aggressive and sloppy kiss.

When the general pulled back he was smiling. “What did you think of that, Lance?”

Lance shrugged. “It can’t be any worse than being executed.”

Lotor dug his nails into Lance’s skin. “I cannot wait to see your pretty head on a spike.”

“You can do whatever you want to me as long as you keep your promises.” Lance replied calmly. He wasn’t as afraid of dying as he was before, he knew there was no way out, so it was better to just accept it. Lance pulled a letter out of his pant's pocket. “Here’s the letter for my next of kin.”  

Lotor snatched it from his hand as he stood. “These usually go to the criminal’s family, isn’t yours dead?” 

“Family isn’t necessarily blood.” Lance shot back. “It’s for Hunk and Pidge.”  

Lotor tore it open and examined it, obviously checking to make sure Lance didn’t reveal what Lotor was up to in it. After he was satisfied it really was just a goodbye the general said, “your last testament, so you truly have accepted your death then.” Lotor looked down at Lance. “Or you could be mine.”

“No thanks.” Lance leaned against the cell bars. “I’m kind of looking forward to tomorrow anyway, then I can compare if kissing you or being executed is worse.” 

The general dragged his tongue across his teeth. “Such a pity, you and I could’ve brought this world to its knees.” 

“And Keith and I could’ve raised this world up, there are lot’s of missed opportunities here.”

Lotor folded the letter and tucked it into his belt. “Since you insist on playing for the losing team, Lance, I guess this is goodbye.”

Lance snorted. “Wish I could say it's been a pleasure, General.”

Without another word Lotor strutted down the hallway and out the door. Lance was alone again, and knew he wouldn't see anyone else until someone came to take him to his execution.

Chapter Text

Keith huffed through the hallways of the castle desperately trying to find Shiro. He was so distraught at seeing Lance he couldn’t even remember the layout of his own home, as he accidentally opened a door to a supply closets thinking it was a room. His and Shiro’s efforts to find the true spy among their ranks had been fruitless so far, but seeing Lance again rekindled his desire to save that boy. 

He stopped at one of the lounges Shiro and Matt often frequented hoping to find the Captain there, but when he flung open the doors, he instead found Hunk, Pidge and Lotor inside. 

Everyone’s heads whipped towards the Prince, who stood awkwardly in the doorway. “Oh, uh, sorry to interrupt. I was looking for Shiro.” He mumbled. 

A detestable smile came to Lotor’s lips and he sauntered over to the Prince. “You’re not interrupting anything, My Prince, I was just giving these two Lance’s next of kin letter.” The General stopped before him and clasped his hands behind his back, casually looking the Prince up and down. “Interesting that he didn’t choose to leave it to you. Perhaps he was playing your emotions the entire time so he could be pardoned of his crimes.” Lotor added nonchalantly. 

The General patted Keith on the shoulder as he walked by, and it took everything in the Prince not to snap his hand in half. It didn’t matter if Lotor was finally growing on Keith, he hated that he was insinuating Lance was faking. 

“Nevertheless,” the General added before he exited the room, “The Blue Bandit has made his choice, so now it’s time for you to make yours. Are you going to be a king who looks to the future for his people, or a king who lingers in the past daydreaming about a traitor?” And with those lovely parting words, Lotor slammed the door behind him. 

Keith stared at the door, clenching and unclenching his fists, trying to remind himself that Lotor was just trying to do what’s best for Lyon. 

A warm hand rested on his shoulder and Keith jumped in surprise, but it was only Hunk. “Are you okay, Your Majesty?” He asked, big round eyes staring sympathetically at Keith.

Keith rubbed the back of his neck, he didn’t know Hunk and Pidge very well and he felt like he was interrupting something private. Keith muttered, “I’m fine…I should probably get back to searching for Shiro, though.” 

He made his way to the door but stopped when Pidge shoved Lance’s letter in Hunk’s face and shouted, “this is nothing but a bunch of sentimental mumbo jumbo! What was Lance thinking?” 

Pidge flopped onto a couch as Hunk patiently took the letter from her. “What did you expect?” He asked, carefully smoothing out the wrinkled piece of paper. “Lance is going to…well, you know…he’s gonna…”

“Die?” Keith butted in, sharply. 

Hunk and Pidge looked at him, almost startled, as if they’d forgotten he was in the room. Keith took it as his cue to leave but then Hunk just sighed and agreed, “yeah…that.” Hunk’s eyes slowly lowered to the letter in his hands and he began reading Lance’s last testament. 

Over on the couch Pidge was laying on her back, staring up at the ceiling. “I don’t know what I expected. I guess I just thought the letter would have some elaborate plan with how to break him free or something.” She paused for a moment, and when she spoke again her voice was much softer, “but there’s no smoke bomb, no itching powder, no nothing. He’s really willing to die tomorrow.” 

“He couldn’t have added that even if he wanted to.” Keith added without even thinking. 

Pidge sat up and stared at him. Keith felt bad for inserting himself into their conversation, but Pidge didn’t seem bothered by it, she just seemed curious. “Why not?” She asked.

Keith leaned back against the door. “Because the letters get read to make sure prisoners don’t put escape plans in there.”

“Oh.” She sunk back down on the couch. She stared ahead at nothing while Hunk stood beside her reading the letter, his face completely stoic. Keith shuffled on his feet, debating whether or not he should leave. 

Without taking his eyes off the letter, Hunk asked, “Pidge, did you read this?”

“I really just skimmed it.” She replied.

“Well, come look at this.”

Pidge stood on the couch and looked over Hunk’s shoulder at Lance’s letter. Keith decided this was a good time to sneak out so he reached for the door handle. 

“Prince Keith, come listen to this.” Hunk said, stopping Keith in his tracks.

Keith turned around to see them both staring at him expectantly. He slowly released the handle and walked over to them, though he still stood a little off to the side, not fully comfortable with the pair just yet.

“Listen to this.” Hunk said, and he began reciting Lance’s letter aloud; it said:

 

Dear Hunk and Pidge,

 

Wish I was writing under better circumstances, but I just wanted to thank you two for all you’ve done for me. You’ve been the best buddies I could’ve ever asked for. I’ll always treasure all the pranks we pulled on Iverson. Él was always so mad ¡Oh! And tell Matt thanks for all the laughs. I’ll never forget when he made me laugh so hard té came out of my nose… ¡Oh! It’s so hard to say goodbye to you guys, you really were a second family to me, but at least I get to see the rest of the McClains real soon. Don’t be sad you guys, soon my soul will return to the open aire, and I’ll be free of The Blue Bandit forever. 

 

-Lancey Lance

 

Hunk looked at Pidge, who only shrugged in response. Hunk turned to Keith, who had the same reaction as Pidge. Hunk sighed, “come on guys, don’t you see it?”

Pidge shook her head. “See what?”

“The Spanish of course!” 

Pidge grabbed the letter from Hunk and looked it over. She bit her lip and looked at Hunk apologetically. “Sorry, big guy, it’s not that weird. Lance is bilingual, after all.”

Hunk snatched the letter back from Pidge and was suddenly grabbing Keith’s shoulder and pulling him in for a closer look. Keith wanted to pull away but Hunk was quite strong. “Yes.” Said Hunk, now basically holding the Prince in a headlock. “But after going to The Garrison where he always had to write in English he never had this problem.”

Keith looked at the letter, still not entirely sure what he was looking for. “So? He’s probably under a lot of stress and isn’t thinking straight.” . 

“So.” Hunk said, releasing the prince from his iron grip. “It’s a secret message!”

Pidge scratched the back of her head. “You sure? What could the Spanish words for “he,” “oh,” “tea,” and “air” possibly translate to?”

Hunk leaned against the couch’s arm and studied the letter again. “Hm, él, oh, té, oh, aire…” He mumbled to himself. 

Suddenly, Pidge’s eyes lit up. “You just spelled Lotor in Spanish.” She whispered excitedly. 

Hunk grabbed her shoulders and pulled her to his face. “Holy quiznak, that’s gotta be it!” They began jumping up and down like fools so Keith marched over and grabbed their wrists.

“Will you two keep it down?” He hissed. “Even if it does spell Lotor, we still don’t know what it means.”

Pidge and Hunk stopped jumping, clearly upset he ended their celebration so soon. Pidge dropped into a seated position and rolled her eyes. “I suppose the prince is right. We don’t know if he’s saying go to Lotor for help or stay away from Lotor at all costs.”

Hunk sat on the arm of the couch and pouted along with Pidge, both of them looking defeated once again. Keith felt bad about ruining their momentary victory, but he was just so frustrated. The prince rubbed his temples vigorously. “Lance isn’t making any sense! He tried to tell me something earlier but he was cut off by a coughing fit. Something about not letting the general public be the death of me.”

Pidge raised an eyebrow at him. “What did he say verbatim? Maybe we could try and figure out together what he was going to say.” 

“All I could make out through his coughing was ‘don’t let the general be the death of you.’”

And suddenly all the air rushed out of Keith’s lungs. The color drained from Hunk and Pidge’s faces, so they must’ve figure it out too. 

“The general…as in General Lotor.” Hunk whispered. “He’s out to get you, and Lance tried to warn you!” Hunk jumped up with new found purpose. “We finally have a lead, we might be able to save Lance after all.” 

Pidge leapt into Hunk’s arms and he spun her around. Keith smiled as he watched them twirl around the couch. For the first time in days, things were finally looking up. Hunk put Pidge down and turned to the Prince, Keith knew what he was thinking and put his hands up in protest. “Watch it Hunk, I am the Prince, I can put you in the stockade - ah!” He cried as Hunk swept him into his big arms and spun Keith around just as he did with Pidge. Keith wanted to be mad but, admittedly, it was kind of fun. 

When Hunk put him down again Keith dizzily dropped onto the couch beside Pidge. His vision was still spinning as he said, “wow, he made two separate attempts to warn us. I can’t believe Lance was smart enough to come up with both of them.”

Pidge poked him in the ribs with her elbow. “Well, he did have a lot of time to think in the dungeons…which must’ve been a first for him.”

Hunk leaned over the back of the couch and frowned down at her. “Seriously Pidge, he’s on death row and you’re making jokes?”

She shrugged. “It’s what he would’ve wanted.”

“…Okay, true.” Hunk conceded.

Pidge pushed herself off the couch and headed for the door. “Come on you two, let’s go find Matt and Shiro, I bet they can help us.” Then she bolted out the door, not even waiting for them to respond. 

Keith stood to follow her but stopped when a warm hand touched his shoulder. “Your Majesty?” Hunk asked, a little sheepish.

“Keith is fine.”

“Okay, Your Majesty Keith.” The Prince would help Hunk with that later. “Lance left a little P.S at the end of the letter for you.” 

Keith’s breath caught, which made Hunk’s mouth twist into a knowing smile. Was it really that obvious how much Keith cared about Lance? Hunk ignored the Prince’s mini crises and began reading the final line in the letter:

 

P.S. - tell Keith I meant everything I said…especially the part about him having a mullet…though it was beginning to grow on me (okay, maybe don’t tell him that last part)

 

Keith laughed, that idiot had the Prince wrapped around his finger even with that one incoherent sentence. Heat rushed to Keith’s cheeks and he dropped his head in his hands in an attempt to hide his blush. 

Hunk began to follow Pidge, tussling the Prince’s hair as he walked by. “Lance always said red was your color.” He teased.

Keith groaned and followed him out the door.

 

————

 

Acxa stood at attention in Lotor’s office. He sat at his desk, admiring the oversized ruby ring on this finger. “Despite the little blip in our plans, I’m assuming you’ve gathered all the intel I wanted?” He asked, not even looking up at her.

“Yes sir. We’ve learned all about the Castle of Lyon’s weaknesses and strengths, and we have Matt completely fooled.” She bit her lip as he played with the light bouncing off his ring. “Although,” she continued, despite her better judgement, “he actually has some good ideas, perhaps the assimilation of Daibazaal and Lyon is for the better.”

That got Lotor’s attention. His head whipped up at her. “What did you just say?”

“I mean, if you allow the two kingdom’s to combine with Matt’s plan, then when you take over the kingdom will be be twice as powerful.”

Lotor came around the desk and got right in her face, but like the well trained soldier she was, she didn’t even flinch. “You better not be questioning me, Acxa.” 

She realized what she said sounded foolish. What was she thinking? Lotor was her Prince who she’s been loyal to her entire life. “Of course not, Lotor.” 

“Good.” He leaned in a little closer. “And just so we’re clear, I don’t want anything from that fool, Matt. When I make my new kingdom he will be the first to die.” The General licked his canines. “His death will be very slow and very painful.”

Something deep within Acxa’s chest burned, she wasn’t quite sure what this feeling was, but she ignored it and tried to keep her features neutral. Lotor pulled away and sauntered over to the window. He gazed out into the courtyard. “Acxa?” He asked with his back fully turned to her. 

“Yes?”

The next thing she knew, he was hurling a dagger towards her face. Luckily, she caught it right before it would’ve sliced through her neck. She was a bit taken aback and angry, what if she hadn’t caught it in time? Lotor, on the other hand looked unimpressed as always.

“Just making sure you weren’t getting soft.” He shrugged.

Something about his nonchalance at the whole situation made her eye twitch. Thankfully, he was too caught up in himself to notice.

He sat back down in his chair and propped his feet up on his desk. He waved his hand at her. “You’re dismissed.” He said, regarding her, once again, without even so much as a glance in her direction.

She placed the dagger on his desk, using all her will power not to throw it at his head. She knew he would catch it if she did, his reflexes were just as good as hers, but she would also prove that her aim is just as good as his. “Yes, sir.” She saluted, and left the room.

Acxa stalked through the hallways, she wasn’t sure what these strange feelings were but she was pretty sure she didn’t like them. She desperately needed to beat something up, hopefully the guards were training somewhere so she could join and turn a Lyon soldier into her personal punching bag. 

“Hey, Acxa!” Came a cheery voice behind her.

Quiznak. She knew it was Matt.  

“Acxa, wait up.” He called, but she didn’t stop, she didn’t even slow her step. Hopefully he would get the message and go away on his own. But of course, he didn’t. He was half jogging when he finally got to her side, he looked kind of flush and she almost felt bad, so she slowed her pace just the tiniest bit for him. 

“I’m not in the mood, Matt.” She bit out. 

“Oh.” His face fell. “Are you okay?”

She stopped at hearing that. This was strange, normally when she was in a bad mood everyone avoided her. She decided she would try again to scare him off, she leaned in close to him and growled, “I said, beat it, brainiac.” 

But Matt didn’t beat it, instead he grabbed her hand. Well…this is a first, she thought. What was he doing? He should be running for the hills right now. 

“I don’t know how you guys handled your problems in Daibazaal.” Matt paused. “Though I’m assuming it was usually a fight to the death.” 

Acxa snorted…actually snorted. “You’re actually not that far off.”

Matt squeezed her hand tighter. “But you’re in Lyon now, and here we ask our friends for help.” 

This felt like some sort of trick, perhaps Lotor sent Matt to test her? She narrowed her eyes at him. “Friends seems like a strong word for us.”

“That’s what Shiro says that to me everyday.” He said melodramatically.

She bit her lip to keep from smiling. How dare he make a joke at a time like this, when Lotor is questioning her loyalty and throwing knives at her.

She shook her head, trying to brush these strange feelings off. “Look, Matt I-”

But she stopped herself, realizing he was looking back at her as she spoke to him. She moved her head a little and his gaze followed, she tried it in the other direction and he did it again. “What are you doing with your eyes?” She asked.

“Um, making eye contact?” 

She blinked in disbelief, Lyon certainly was a strange place. Lotor hardly ever showed her that kind of respect. 

Acxa was painfully aware that they were still holding hands, and to make matters worse, Matt began walking down the hall and tugged her with him. She was reluctant at first, but she was too emotionally drained to fight it, so she allowed herself to walk with Matt, hand in hand. 

“Where are we going?” She asked.

“To cheer you up.” He beamed at her. “And I know just the thing.” 

 

————

 

Matt had brought Acxa outside to where a some of the palace workers had set up an axe throwing tournament. They were offered ale and Acxa asked if it was a good idea to mix throwing axes and alcohol, but Matt claimed that made it more fun, and Acxa couldn’t fight with that logic. 

She had won, of course, putting all those Lyon guards to shame. Matt, much to her surprise, had actually done quite well and had come in third place. He, too, seemed surprised by his high placement as he smiled like a dork all the way back to the castle. “So,” he said, poking her in the shoulder, which normally would’ve led his finger being broken, but she would allow it this one time, “I did pretty well, didn’t I?”

She let out a breathy laugh. “All I have to say about that is, you should probably stick to saving lives.”

“Oh, come on!” He whined. “You got to give it to me, I was really out of my element there. I mean, you came in first, but we all knew you were gonna be good at it.” 

Acxa stopped walking and Matt did the same. He looked at her with those puppy dog eyes, doing that eye contact thing again. 

She pursed her lips. “How did you know I was gonna be good at it?”

“Because you’re one of the best fighters in the land?” He shook his head, as if the answer was obvious to him. His praise was strange, she had won many a victory for Lotor but he never once commended her on them. “Come on, Acxa, you’re incredible! I’m so glad you’re on our side now.” 

Her stomach did a somersault, but she pushed those traitorous feeling away. Matt began walking again but she grabbed his arm, startling him a little. She wasn’t really good at this but she knew what she was supposed to say. “Um…thank you, Matt, for this, it really did cheer me up.” And she meant it, which scared her. 

Matt opened his mouth to respond but he was cut off by his sister running towards him yelling, “Matt!” 

She was coming from the castle, her friend, Hunk, was right behind her, and so was the Prince. “Pidge, what’s going on?” Matt asked as she came to a stop before him, trying to catch her breath. “Did you guys run all across the castle to find me? Aw, that’s so sweet!”

“No time for jokes.” Pidge said, still out of breath. “Excuse us, Acxa, but we need to borrow him.”

Before Acxa could respond, Pidge was grabbing her brother by the wrist and dragging him into the castle, Hunk and Prince Keith in tow. Keith gave Acxa a quick sneer over his shoulder before he closed the door behind them.

Acxa didn’t know what all that was about, but whatever it was, it could’t be good.

 

-———-

 

Keith followed Pidge as she pulled Matt into a broom closet and closed the door. It was a tight space and wasn’t exactly where Keith would’ve chosen to have this little meeting, but secrecy was a top priority so it would have to do. 

Matt leaned against the door and crossed his arms. “Okay, somebody want to tell me what’s going on?”

Keith realized how strange this must’ve looked, the three of them dragging Matt away just to cram him into a closet. Matt looked at them expectantly but no one answered, none of them really sure where to begin. Eventually, Hunk just blurted out, “we have to clear Lance’s name!”

Matt shook his head. “Guys, I hate what’s happening to him too, but the political ramifications of-”

“We found the real traitor.” Keith cut in.

Matt’s eyes widened. “You…what?”

All eyes were on Keith now, and although he wasn’t planning on being the one to fill Matt in, he couldn’t stop himself once he started. “Lance left us clues, it was General Lotor who was behind the galra attack. Now we just need the proof.” 

“Which is going to be hard to find in a day, since Lance’s execution is tomorrow.” Pidge added.

Everyone in the closet deflated at that reminder. Pidge plopped down on a box nestled in the corner and Hunk sulked while leaning against a broom, but Keith wouldn’t be disheartened that easily, not after everything he’s been through. “But you’ll still help us, right Matt?”

“Of course I will.” Matt smiled. “I’m insulted you even had to ask.”

Pidge crossed her legs on top of the box as she asked, “where do we even begin to look for proof?”

Hunk shrugged. “Lotor must keep a record of all the bad stuff he’s done somewhere. I mean, that kind of guy is probably gonna print a memoir about it someday.”

Keith nearly jumped for joy. “Hunk, that’s it!” 

“Oh no, Keith, buddy, I was joking.” Hunk waved his hands in the air frantically. “I know you’re not too great with the whole joke thing but we’ll get you used to it.”

Keith rolled his eyes. “I am used to jokes, I spent a lot of time with Lance, remember?” Everyone in the closet muttered in agreement at that. “And, I sincerely think you might be on to something, Hunk. Remember at The Garrison, how we had to study famous battle strategies? I know Lotor wants his added to the annals of history, so he must to document it all.”

“Oh he definitely has a record somewhere, he records everything he does.” Pidge said, standing on the box now. “But he’s not stupid enough to keep them in the castle where they could be discovered, so where?”

“I might have an idea.” Matt scratched his chin. “Because Lotor’s a General he gets sent on a lot of recon missions, which means he can leave Lyon constantly without any suspicion, and he did always know an absurd amount of details about Daibazaal, even things that would’ve changed after he left…”

“So, what you’re saying is,” Pidge jumped in,” he has to have a hideout somewhere near Daibazaal, so he could easily get info from his galra spies!”

“Yes!” Matt yelled triumphantly, quickly followed by a surprised gasp as someone opened the closet door he was leaning on, sending him hurtling backwards. It was Acxa. She grabbed Matt with one hand before he hit the floor and threw him back into the closet, then she walked in too and slammed the door behind her. 

Keith pulled a small knife from his belt and held it up to her neck, but she drew her own knife and did the same back. They were at a stalemate, but then Acxa raised her arms in surrender and dropped her weapon. “I’m not here to hurt you, I’m here to help.”

A  collective “huh?” echoed through the room. 

“Don’t you work for Lotor?” Matt asked.

Acxa sighed. “Yes, I do. I’ve followed him blindly my whole life, I’ve never known anything else, but now that I have known something else,” she scanned the faces of the room, landing last on Matt, “I don’t want him anymore.” She turned to Keith. “I now see that there is a better way to rule than with cruelty and suffering, perhaps kindness will work better.” 

“Corny.” Matt coughed into his sleeve. 

Pidge punched him in the arm. “Are you trying to get her to switch back to Lotor’s side?”

But Acxa didn’t seem to mind, in all honestly it almost seemed like she thought it was funny, but Keith was probably reading the situation wrong. She bumped Matt’s shoulder and said, “I will help you take down Lotor and save your friend, just as he’s saved you many times.”

Keith’s heart warmed at the thought of Lance. He decided that as soon as Lance was free he was going to do everything in power to make that boy a Paladin of Voltron. If Acxa, their sworn enemy, noticed his bravery then it must something great.

Acxa leaned back, propping her foot against the wall. “Lotor gave him a lot of information, actually, so I’m surprised he so cleverly passed it on to you, especially since the General threatened harsh punishments if he tried leaking any of it.”

Keith was going to kill Lotor. “What type of punishments?” He ground out through gritted teeth.

“At first they were physical, but those didn’t work very well, so then he moved on to threatening you, and that seemed to do the trick.”

Keith nearly choked on his own spit. “Lotor threatened Lance through me? But I’m the Prince, why is he worried about me?”

“Lotor’s the General who just saved Lyon, no one would stop him from getting too close.” Acxa said matter of factly. “Besides, he threatened to hurt your mother, claiming Lance would be the reason you’d have no more family, that’s what really pushed The Blue Bandit over the edge.” 

Keith couldn’t hold his increasing anger back anymore. He swiftly turned and rammed his fist into the wall with a loud scream, leaving behind a deep dent. Nobody scolded him or told him to calm down, he was pretty sure everyone else was close to snapping as well. 

Acxa allowed him to recollect himself before she continued, “your friend is very strong, Lotor offered him his life in exchange for betraying you, and he wouldn’t do it. And I can assure you, Lotor was offering Lance a good deal, he would’ve been his prince.”

“Uh oh, Keith, Lotor’s going after your man.” Matt teased. 

Oh, Keith was definitely going to kill Lotor now. 

Suddenly, the door swung open again and Shiro was standing there. For a secret hiding place there sure were a lot of people finding them.

“Keith? I thought I heard you in here.” Shiro's eyes narrowed as he realized there were multiple people huddled in the closet with the Prince. “What’s going on here?”

“Oh just get in here.” Matt said, grabbing the Captain’s arm and pulling him into the already overcrowded closet. Everyone shuffled a little to make room, Keith squeezed closer to Hunk who was pressed against Pidge who was getting well acquainted with the wall. 

“Okay, the short version.” Matt said, basically in Acxa’s arms. “Lance is innocent, Lotor’s evil, Acxa’s switching sides because we’re nice and we make eye contact.”

Shiro blinked a few times as he processed the information, then he shrugged. “Sounds legit.” 

“So you believe us?” Hunk asked.

“It’s all starting to make sense.” Shiro mused. “Zarkon didn’t know about the royal wedding, but Lotor told us that was why he was attacking. The General must've used his contacts in Daibazaal to flood the woods with sentries and make it look like his father was our true enemy.” Shiro nodded, and Keith knew he was convinced that it was Lotor all along who was behind everything.  

“Great, now we just need to find proof of Lotor’s betrayal, which we think is in a hideout somewhere.” Pidge added from somewhere between Hunk’s back and the wall.

“I was listening before.” Acxa chimed in. “And you weren’t far off, Matt. There is a secret bunker outside of Daibazaal where Lotor and I would rendezvous, he kept his personal things there, perhaps the plans are there too.”

“Then let’s go.” Keith said, attempting to move towards the door despite all the bodies in his way.

“You’re not going anywhere.” Shiro ordered, and Keith halted his fruitless attempt to get to the door. “Your kingdom needs you right now, you can’t go disappearing into the woods…again.”

“But-”

“Besides,” Shiro raised a hand, cutting Keith off, “should we fail, I think Lance would want you at his execution.”

Keith wanted to argue, wanted to say that if he was on the mission he would make sure they didn’t fail, but he knew Shiro was right. For all they knew, nothing was in the bunker and Lotor had covered all his tracks. “Fine.” He huffed.

“There’s one thing I still don’t understand.” Acxa said to more herself than to anyone else. “Lotor told Lance that he stole the Royal Jewels, but Lance didn’t try to give you that information. Instead he hinted about Lotor’s plans to go after the Prince and Lyon, but the other information would’ve saved his life.”

The room grew very quiet, no one wanted to say it aloud, but they were all thinking it. Finally, it was Shiro voiced the truth. “Because Lance was fully prepared to die, but he didn’t want Keith to be in danger, or the people of Lyon.” 

“Oh.” Was the only thing Acxa responded with. 

They all let that information sit for a few moments, staring at one another in silence until they were interrupted by the door opening for a third time, this time by a maid. They were so packed in there that when the door opened they all went falling into the hallway. The maid let out a scream before realizing that among the people lying at her feet were the Captain of the Guard and the Prince. She bowed quickly muttering, “I’ll come back later.” Then she half ran down the hallway. 

“Everyone got their assignments?” Matt asked as he pulled himself off the floor. Everybody nodded in confirmation. “Good, now let’s go save that brave idiot down in the dungeons.”  

 

———-

 

Matt, Shiro, Hunk and Acxa rode at the speed of light towards Daibazaal, while Pidge stayed behind with Keith. Lance’s execution was at dawn so they only had a few hours to find what they needed and get back in time. 

Matt was no good at horseback riding, in fact he was no good with horses at all, so he rode with Shiro. He wrapped his arms around his friend’s waist and hid his face in the Captain’s back. 

Acxa, on the other hand, was so skilled with a horse that she was able to do tricks like flip around and faced backwards while riding. She smiled at Matt while her horse galloped on as if she was still riding it normally. “So you can save a life from the brink of death but you can’t ride a horse?” She teased.

“Shut up.” Matt muffled into Shiro’s shoulder blades. 

Matt could feel Shiro’s back vibrate as he laughed. “You’re clinging to me so tight I think I’m gonna have bruises.” 

“I wish a man would cling to me that tight.” Acxa remarked, swinging her legs back around to face forward again.

Everyone laughed at that, even Matt. He was just happy Acxa was finally loosening up, so at least some good came from this experience. 

“Oh man, Pidge is gonna be mad she missed out on this.” Said Hunk, throwing his head back as if he was somehow enjoying riding his hoofed beast. 

Matt peeked over Shiro’s shoulder at Acxa up ahead of them, who was now standing in her saddle. Show off Matt thought, but there was no real anger in it. She wore the same smile that appeared on her face during the axe throwing competition, so he was still happy for her. 

“It’s up ahead!” Acxa called back to them.

Finally, they could get off these running death contraptions called horses. Shiro brought his horse halt and dismounted with ease. He patted her mane and spoke softly to it, cooing “thank you, Atlas.” 

Matt attempted to dismount too but ended up falling flat on his face. He picked his head up from the dirt and hissed, “yeah, thank you, Atlas.”

The Captain pulled him up by the back of his shirt and chuckled, “Acxa’s right, how is it you can make a precision cut on a human body but you can’t figure out how a horse works?”

“The world may never know.” Matt said as he brushed the dirt from his shirt. 

They both headed towards Acxa and Hunk, who were standing near a row of bushes. Acxa pushed some of the underbrush back to reveal a trap door in the ground. Hunk reached down and pulled the thing up, revealing a ladder that headed down into the bunker. The four of them shimmied down to find Lotor’s lair at the bottom. There was a large, lavish bed with far too many pillows, a wall filled with trophies from his battle victories, both from his time serving Daibazaal and Lyon, and a gigantic portrait of himself on another wall. 

“Where do we start?” Hunk asked. 

Shiro grunted, “anywhere, we don’t have much time.” 

The four of them began shuffling through the General’s things. Matt sifted through his war memorabilia, which mostly included pieces of his fallen enemies’ armor or jewelry. Matt even found a glove with a finger still in it which made him gag, he may be a physician but he was not expecting to see that. 

After some time searching they still hadn’t found anything. Hunk ripped open the last of Lotor’s pillows and yelled, “there’s nothing here!”

Acxa looked at all of them apologetically. “I’m sorry, I wish I could’ve helped you save Lance.”

They sat in silence, all knowing that the sun would be rising soon, all knowing that they had failed. Matt stalked towards the garish painting of Lotor and spit at it. “You monster.” He sneered. The portrait stared back as if it was mocking him and he screamed louder, “you monster!” He ripped the painting off the wall and threw it across the room. He was about to stomp on it when he froze. There, tucked in the back of the Lotor’s picture, were several pieces of paper.

All four of them dove towards the painting at once and sifted through the papers. Matt scanned them as quickly as he could, realizing they were detailed accounts of Lotor’s plans to destroy Daibazaal and then Lyon. 

Matt threw back his head and laughed. “This is it! This is basically Lotor coming forward and admitting that he’s the spy.” 

Hunk looked at the documents, speechless, until he was finally able to croak out, “it’s all here. How he gained Lyon’s trust, how he took down Daibazaal, how he plans to take over Lyon.” 

Shiro began stuffing the papers into a bag. “Let’s go, Lance’s execution is soon and we’ll barley make it back in time.” 

They all helped get the papers into the bag and rushed up the ladder. This was exactly what they needed to save Lance. They were in the clear, or so Matt thought. 

He was the last one up the ladder, and when he reached the top Ezor and Zethrid were waiting for them, and something told him they hadn’t had a change of heart like Acxa did. 

There was a fire in Zethrid’s eyes as she stared Acxa down. “Acxa, does Lotor know you’re here?” She spat. 

Shiro drew his sword and growled, “step aside, this doesn’t concern you.”

Zethrid smirked. “That’s what I thought.” She cracked her knuckles, and Matt knew they’d have to fight their way out of this one. 

Ezor leaned on Zethrid’s shoulder and rolled her eyes. “We should’ve seen this coming, she’s been getting sweet on that one with the flippity hair.” Ezor’s eyes landed on Matt, he turned around to see if she was referring to somebody else, but it seemed to be him. 

Without another word Zethrid roared and charged at them, she body checked Hunk into a tree but Shiro came to his defense, stopping her with his sword. Ezor went for Acxa, who skillfully dodged the attack. The girls swung at one another but never landed any hits, both knowing the other’s attacks to a tee.

Matt looked down at the ground where Shiro had discarded the bag full of Lotor’s writings. He realized he could grab the bag and get out of here in time to save Lance, the only problem was, he would have to ride a stupid horse by himself. He looked back at the others fighting, none of them paying him any mind, and he knew what he had to do. 

He grabbed the bag and made a b-line for Atlas. He very ungracefully threw a leg over her torso and tried to get into the saddle. He wrapped his legs around the beast and clenched his hands tightly into the mane, but the horse didn’t move. Normally Shiro just hopped on and the thing went, maybe there was a secret code? “Um…go?” He whispered. Still nothing. “Fly like the wind? Giddy-up?…I’ll give you food if you run?” 

Now that made Atlas go. 

As she galloped past Shiro and Zethrid, Matt felt invincible. He conquered a horse all by himself. With Ezor and Zethrid distracted, he would be home free once he got out of this clearing. He was about to pass the tree line when he saw out of the corner of his eye that Ezor had Acxa pinned, there was a knife in her hand and it was plunging towards Acxa’s heart. Matt made a split second decision and turned the horse in their direction, and the next thing he knew, he was throwing himself from Atlas to between the two galra. 

Ezor’s knife plunged right into his back. Thankfully, it missed the spine and anything else important, but man did it hurt. Matt slumped on the ground as his vision began to go black. He heard screaming and he honestly couldn’t tell if it was Acxa’s or his own.

Matt watched as Acxa pounded Ezor into the ground, a new found determination taking her over. A rough hand grabbed his shoulder and turned him onto his back. He let out a small scream at the intense pain the sudden movement caused him. It was Zethrid standing over him, smiling. “Looks like we got a hero on our hands. Didn’t you learn from Lance what we do to heroes?”

She wrapped a hand around his neck, but then a fist connected with her jaw and promptly knocked her out. Matt tilted his head to get a better look at his savior, who he assumed was Shiro, but it wasn’t Shiro at all, it was Hunk. Matt didn’t know Hunk was capable of knocking someone out, but there was a warrior’s look in his eyes as he stood victoriously over Matt. Hunk bent down and grabbed his shoulders and yelled, “Matt, Matt stay with me!”

Then Shiro was kneeling next to Matt, desperately trying to keep him conscious. “Hey, you’re gonna be just fine, do you hear me, Matt? I’m gonna pick you up now, okay?”

Matt nodded weakly.

“Wait.” Acxa said from Matt’s other side, clearly having defeated Ezor. “Allow me.”

“I’m not so sure-”

“You need to ride as fast as you can to get the evidence back in time and save Lance, and Matt’s extra weight will slow you down.” She protested. “Besides, it was me he saved, let me return the favor.” Her voice was so soft Matt hardly recognized it. He was almost convinced it wasn’t Acxa speaking at all when her voice broke as she said, “please.”

“Okay.” Shiro said as he hopped up and grabbed the bag with all the evidence off the ground. “Hunk you’re with me.” The two of them mounted their horses and galloped away, leaving Acxa alone with Matt.

She very gently slid her hands under Matt and hoisted him into her arms. His head lolled on her shoulder and he could barely keep his eyes open as he croaked, “you really think my hair is flippity?” 

She adjusted her shoulder so his head would be more comfortable as it rested there. “Really, you’re trying to be funny now?” 

“Hey, Lance had to learn his bad humor from somewhere.” He smiled, now on the edge of unconsciousness. 

Acxa delicately propped him on the horse and mounted behind him. Then she wrapped her arms around him and grabbed the rains. He was too weak to hold up his own body, so he leaned back against hers, but she didn’t seem to mind. 

She placed her chin on his shoulder and whispered, “why did you jump in front of that knife for me?” 

“Honestly?” Matt said, his head fully slumped against Acxa’s neck now. “It was still less scary than riding a horse.” 

“You’re an idiot.” She breathed, as he faded into unconsciousness. “An idiot that I will not let die.” He heard her add as everything faded to black.

Chapter Text

Sunrise had finally come.

Lance hadn’t slept at all, so he watched the sun come up through his tiny cell window. He didn’t even turn around when he heard the door down the hall open, he already knew who those heavy footsteps approaching belonged to. 

“Well, Lance?” Lotor asked, smugly.

“Hm?” Lance didn’t turn around, if this was to be the last sunrise he ever saw then he wanted to make it last for as long as he could.

“I’ll give you one last chance to change your mind.”

Lance ignore the General. Instead, he thought about Keith and hoped that he would figure out Lance’s message. Perhaps he could even team up with Hunk and Pidge, and learn about his secret message for them too, but maybe that was asking too much of the universe. At least after he was dead, Keith could protect Lyon from Lotor, and that’s all Lance really wanted.

A sharp growl escaped from Lotor’s throat. “Look at me when I’m talking to you.” Lance slowly turned, no longer fazed by the General’s threats anymore. Lotor ripped open the door and seized Lance by the neck. “I could’ve given you everything you’ve ever wanted.” He breathed into Lance’s ear.

“If you believe that, then you don’t know what I want at all.”

Lotor’s nostrils flared, but then he took a deep breath and released Lance. He forcefully pulled Lance’s wrists out in front of his body and began to bind them together. Lance didn’t complain as the thick rope dug into his skin, too tired to fight back anymore.

The General escorted him out of the dungeons, and once they were up the stairs and in the castle they were flanked by an overwhelming amount of guards; Lance quickly realized this was because the Queen was waiting for him. It was a public execution, after all, so Queen Krolia would make a show of escorting Lance. 

As the Queen approached, Lotor leaned over to him and whispered, “I’ll never understand why you still choose Prince Keith over me. He’s a fool letting the boy he’s so clearly in love with die.” Then he turned on his heel and swept away.

“The boy he so clearly what now?” Lance called after the General, but it was no use, Lotor was gone.

The Queen stood before Lance and stared him down. Lance thought maybe he should bow, but the two guards who suddenly grabbed his arms prevented him from moving. Queen Krolia’s faced softened a little as she waved the soldiers away. “Give us some space, I need to talk to him.” The guards bowed and backed up. 

She placed her hand the the crook of Lance’s arm and began walking, the guards behind them followed, but kept their distance like she asked. “Blue Bandit,” she began calmly, “I swear to you, if you hand over the Royal Jewels right now I will pardon you of all your crimes.”

Lance’s heart sank. It would’ve been a fair trade, if he had actually been the one to steal them. “Your Majesty, I really didn’t do it.”

The Queen clicked her tongue, she didn’t seem surprised, she probably expected this plan to fail. “It’s a shame, Keith really seems to like you.” She paused for a moment, then added in a softer voice, “thank you, by the way, for saving my son, he’s all I have left now.”

“I know.” Lance said, averting his eyes to the floor. They walked in silence for a few minutes, every palace employee they passed stopped to watch as The Blue Bandit was paraded by in all his glory. Lance glanced over to the Queen, and she looked almost ashamed, perhaps she knew Lance was innocent, so he made one last attempt to convince her. “You have to believe me, I didn’t steal them.”

“Don’t you see?” She whispered back harshly. “I’m not of royal blood, if I just let you go free with no evidence of your innocence, then no one will take me seriously. I was just a galra soldier before I met Keith’s father, I’m not a queen, but it doesn’t matter, I need to stay strong for Keith.” 

Lance realized she really did know he was innocent, but she was going to serve him up as a sacrifice to appease her people. He wanted to be angry, but somehow he understood. She wanted to build a better world for Keith, and she needed to gain her kingdom’s trust in order to do that. 

The Queen brushed his bangs away from his face and softly added, “I’m sorry, Blue.” A tear escaped from Lance’s eye, and she looked away, as if she couldn’t bare to watch him cry. 

They came to a grand door that led out to the courtyard. The guards pulled it open and Lance squinted at the blaring sunlight, since it was the first time he’d encountered it in days. The courtyard was filled to the brim with people who all woke up nice and early to watch his execution. There were even people here with their children. A public execution didn’t seem like a nice, family friendly event to Lance, but to each their own he guessed. 

“By the way,” said the Queen, a little choked up, “what is your actual name, Blue Bandit? I feel as though I should learn it.”

“Lance McClain.”

“I see.” She smiled at him. “Keith calls you so many different things I wasn’t sure; Loverboy Lance, Sharpshooter, the Tailor.”

Lance cocked his head at her. “The Tailor? I never told him about that. They only called me that at The Garrison…wait.” 

Lance’s heart was about to leap out of his chest. He frantically began scanning the crowd for Keith. Eventually his eyes were drawn to the mullet, which was standing on a wooden viewing platform.

Lance bolted into the crowd. The guards that were following him surged forward but Krolia just so happened to trip, forcing the soldiers to stop and make sure their Queen was okay. Lance silently thanked her for allowing him this one last chance to say good-bye to her son. 

The civilians dove out of Lance’s way as he charged through the crowd, determined on getting to Keith. The guards surrounding Keith rushed down from the platform towards him, but Lance was prepared to fight anyone and everyone to get to the Prince. His hands were still bound in front of him so he would have to get creative. Two guards leapt at him from either side but he dropped down, allowing them to crash into one another. A third guard ran at him, but Lance jumped onto his back and kicked with all his might, sending the soldier careening backwards into the rest of the guards. 

Before the guards could recollect themselves, Lance hopped to his feet and dashed up the steps of the platform. When he reached the top he fell to his knees, exhausted from not using his muscles for days and then exerting all his energy at once. Keith ran to him and pulled him up; and even though the Prince’s face was tight with fury towards Lance’s recklessness, he still looked like a vision. Lance couldn’t believe the Prince hadn’t had the bottom of his cape mended yet, a part of him hoped Keith didn’t want it fixed because the rips reminded him of Lance, but that was probably just wishful thinking.

Keith held up his hand to halt the guards who were hounding up the steps after The Blue Bandit. “I got this,” he barked over his shoulder, then he turned back to Lance and whispered harshly, “What are you doing you idiot? Nobody’s going to believe you’re innocent if you pull a stunt like this.”

Lance brought his bound hands to Keith’s shirt and gathered the material in his fingers so he could pull the Prince forward. Lance reveled in the fact that Keith’s breath caught as he yanked the Prince mere inches from his face. “Keith, shut up and trust me.”

And with that, Lance kissed him. 

For a moment, the Prince was stiff, but within seconds he was returning the kiss with a passion. Keith wrapped one arm around Lance’s back and pressed their bodies even closer together, and brought the other arm to Lance’s cheek, tilting it slightly so he could get a better angle. 

Due to his wrists being tied together, Lance couldn’t really move his hands, even though he so badly wanted to card his fingers through Keith’s stupid mullet. Lance was jealous that Keith could greedily touch him as much as he wanted, the way Lance wished he could return the favor; but all those thoughts melted away as the Prince let out a deep sigh, and Lance remembered that it was him who was making Keith do that.

Both boys pulled away, practically breathless. Keith shook his head, clearly still in shock. “What…why did you-”

“You remember me from The Garrison, don’t you?” 

Keith’s eyes widened, his secret was out. He looked like he was about to bolt, but then he let out a contagious laugh and shrugged. “Obviously! How could I ever forget the handsome boy I used to wait for by the leaderboard every week? The boy who verbally sparring with was the highlight of my day? The boy that almost dethroned me from my number one spot?” Keith gently rubbed his thumb across Lance’s lower lip and smiled. “The key word being almost.” 

It was Lance’s turn to laugh. He dropped his head to Keith’s chest and let the giggles overrun him. He used to get excited knowing he would run intoKeith whenever he checked the rankings, but never in his wildest dreams did he think the Prince felt the same way. “So back in the woods,” he sighed into Keith’s collar bone, “why did you pretend you didn’t remember me?”

The Prince ran a hand through Lance’s hair. “Because I panicked, okay? If you hadn’t noticed I’m not very good with my emotions.” Keith placed his hands on Lance’s shoulders and pushed him upright so he could look into his eyes. “And I’m sorry about that, and about the time you came to my aid after my father died. The truth is, I desperately needed someone to stand up to Haxus for me that day, or I might’ve fallen apart for good.”

Suddenly, the Prince was pulling Lance in for another kiss. This time it was heated and fast paced, but if Lance had proven anything these past few days, it was that he could keep up with the Prince. “Thank you, Lance,” Keith breathed against his lips, “Thank you for everything.” 

Lance wasn’t sure how long they kissed for, it felt like an eternity, and yet, when the Queen’s voice pulled them apart, he still craved more. 

“Blue Bandit…I mean, Lance.” Queen Krolia said, standing in front of the platform. “It is time.” She nodded at the guards and they marched up the steps to collect him. 

Lance looked at Keith, who was helplessly watching as the guards approached. Lance threw his hands over the Prince’s head, doing his best to hug him with his bound wrists. In response, Keith pulled him into a crushing embrace.

“You know,” Lance whispered into Keith’s ear, “You’re lucky you dropped out of The Garrison, because if you’d stayed, I would’ve bumped you out of that top spot for sure.” It was one last jab for Keith to remember him by. One last smile he could bring to the Prince’s lips. 

Keith snorted, “Yeah, okay, I don’t believe that for a second.” 

“Well, a week ago I’d’ve never believed that I could get the Crown Prince to kiss me back.” Lance placed his forehead against Keith’s. “Yet, here we are.”

The guards grabbed Lance’s shoulders and yanked him away. He didn’t fight them. Keith instinctively reached for his sword, but dropped his hand when he realized the guards were acting under his mother’s orders. They were his allies, or at least they were supposed to be. 

Lance smiled. “All it took for you to notice me was a death sentence…still not the craziest thing I’ve done for love.”

“You’re insufferable.” Keith shook his head and ran his hands through his hair, but Lance could tell he was hiding a smile. The guards began leading Lance back down the stairs when a hand gripped his shoulder. “hey, Tailor.” The soldiers stopped, allowing him to turn his head back. “I…” Lance’s heart stuttered, hoping there was an I love you at the end of that sentence. “I…I’ll never forget you, the real you, not The Blue Bandit you.” 

“That’s all I could ever ask for, oh mighty Prince of the Mullets.” 

“So long, Sewing Boy.” Keith barely choked out. 

Lance wasn’t surprised Keith didn’t love him back, Lotor must’ve been lying earlier to get him to succumb. It didn’t matter though, because the smile that dawned on Keith’s face made everything else seem insignificant. That stupid smile on that stupid face that he sacrificed his life for, and would gladly do so again. 

As the guards dragged him down the stairs, it dawned on him that Keith had pulled him from the bottomless abyss that his family’s death had left in him, Keith reminded him what it was to really live; and for that, he would forever be grateful. 

Chapter Text

Lance was so kindly given the option of how he wanted to be executed, so he chose drowning. He had always loved water, felt safe in it, almost like it was his element; so he decided that if he had to die then he would do it surrounded by water.

Lance was led down a dock on Lake Lyon, a cinder block waiting for him at the end. A rope connected to the block was tied around his ankles, but he wasn’t scared. He stared at the morning sky, still in that beautiful pink-yellow faze, and was glad he got to see such a gorgeous sight before he died. 

A few guards hauled the cinder block to the end of the dock so it teetered off the side; now all it would take was one small push to send Lance and that block to the bottom of the lake. 

Queen Krolia stood beside him, her jaw clenched as she stared up at Keith, who still on the viewing platform. Her voice was heartbreakingly soft as she whispered, “I’m so sorry I have to do this, Lance. To you and Keith both.” She wiped her tears away before any of the spectators could notice. “If you have a last request, I’ll give it to you, if I can.”

Lance sighed. “A statue in my honor might be nice.” 

The Queen’s head snapped towards him. 

“I’m joking.” He laughed, and she cracked a smile too. He cleared his throat, taking on a more serious tone as he said, “Just take care of Hunk and Pidge for me, okay?”

“You have my word.” Krolia placed a hand on his shoulder, it was almost time. The crowd parted to allow his executioner to come forward, Lance gulped, of course it was Lotor. 

Narti escorted him until they reached the dock, where she was forced by the guards to wait at the end. Lance wondered where the rest of Lotor’s cronies were, though he assumed probably off somewhere making trouble. 

The General prowled towards Lance as a predator would its prey, a terrifying hunger in his eyes. When Lotor winked at him, Lance quickly leaned over to the Queen and whispered, “Actually, I do have a last request. I don’t want Lotor to touch me. I want…I need Keith to be the one who pushes me in.” 

Without hesitation Queen Krolia raised her hand. “Halt, General.” Then she pointed up at her son. “Keith, come here.”

Keith stared at her in confusion, but when his mother beckoned for him to come once again he began descending the steps of the platform. Lotor had obeyed and had stopped his approach, though he looked beyond furious. “Forgive me, Your Majesty, but as a General, this execution is mine to carry out.” 

“Not today,” Krolia replied cooly. “I think it would be best if Prince Keith executed The Blue Bandit.”

Lotor dared to take a few more steps towards Lance. “Don’t you think your decorated General should have the honor of avenging Lyon for this boy’s crimes?”

“No, I don't.”

Lotor’s eye twitched. “My Queen, I do believe-”

“I don’t care what you believe,” she hissed, grabbing the General by his lapels. “This boy saved my son’s life, and this is the thanks I give him? If he wants Keith to do this then it’s the least I can do.” She released him and he stumbled backwards. “Now step aside, Lotor.” 

The General quickly recollected himself, smoothing out his shirt and straightening his fur cape. He bowed his head and grumbled, “Yes, Your Majesty,” through gritted teeth. He turned on his heel, glaring at Keith as he passed, the Prince glaring right back.

Keith approached Lance, looking like something out of a romance novel as the wind swept his hair back. Lance nodded at the Queen. “Thank you.” 

“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more,” she said as she walked down the dock towards the eagerly awaiting crowd. She raised her hands in the air and addressed them, “People of Lyon, today we witness the execution of a criminal who has threatened us for too long -” She continued on, but Lance tuned her out, mentally preparing for what was about to happen.

“It’s funny,” Keith mused a tiny smile coming to his lips. “I always thought’d be you killing me. You know, so you could take my top spot and all.”

Lance playfully bumped his shoulder into Keith’s. “Do my ears deceive me or did Prince Keith just crack a joke?”

“That’s right, you heard me make a joke.” Keith’s eyes narrowed. “So I guess I have to kill you now.”

Lance wheezed. It was an ill humored joke, yet exactly what he needed to hear right now. He looked out at the crystal clear water that was about to claim his life. “It is a nice day for a swim.”

Keith shook his head. “I think that can be arranged.” 

Both boys fell silent as Krolia continued with her speech, talking about how Lyon would prove it’s strength to the other kingdoms and such. The Prince looked like he was about to throw up, and Lance so wished he could reach out and touch the boy, bring him some comfort. Lance looked up to the sky and sighed, “Hey man, I’m sorry about this.”

Keith looked taken aback. “Sorry about what?”

“About this date of course!” 

Keith gave him a puzzled look.

“I mean, on our first date we went swimming,” Lance clarified. “And now on our second date we’re also going for a dip in the water? I’m sorry, I should’ve mixed it up a little.” 

A hideously adorable snort escaped Keith’s lips that nearly sent Lance into cardiac arrest, but he found a way to continue on, “For out next date I wanted to take you to the ball, but I’m sorry…I don’t think I’ll be able to make it.” 

Keith’s face fell when he realized what Lance meant. They both fell into silence as the Queen’s speech ended. The audience applauded her and she turned to the two boys. “Prince Keith, you may proceed.” 

Keith took in a shaky breath and stepped closer, his eyes glassy. “I…I don’t want to. Please don’t make me,” he uttered so only Lance could hear. 

“I’m sorry, Keith, I need it to be you,” Lance breathed. “I want the last thing I see to be your face.”

Those words must’ve broken the dam in Keith that was holding back his tears because he doubled over his knees and sobbed. The sight of Keith in such pain caused a few tears to roll down Lance’s cheek as well. 

“Keith, it’s okay,” he soothed. “Remember what I told you in Daibazaal? I’d rather die by the hands of a handsome Prince, remember?” It was an effort to keep his voice from shaking. “Go ahead, push me in.”  

The Prince seized his shoulders. “Lance I…I need to tell you-”

“Just get it over with!” Lance begged.

So Keith pushed his shoulders back.

Lance began falling towards the water, until Shiro’s voice broke through the crowd yelling “STOP!”

With lightning speed Keith grabbed Lance’s shirt before he could fall off the dock and take the cinder block with him. 

The crowd parted as Shiro and Hunk came galloping through, Lotor came to meet them. “What is the meaning of this?” He barked.

“People of Lyon,” Hunk addressed the crowd. “The Blue Bandit is innocent, and we have proof.” The crowd gasped, heck even Lance gasped, even he didn’t see this coming at all.  

Shiro dismounted from his horse. “He speaks the truth. The true traitor is General Lotor!” He pointed an accusatory finger at the General, and the crowd gasped again. Shiro pulled a bag from his horse’s saddle and opened it to reveal some letters. He shot a smug smirk at Lotor. “And he wrote it all down right here.” 

Before the crowd could gasp for a third time, Lotor had drawn his sword and was charging right at the Captain of the Guard.

 

———

 

Keith intercepted Lotor’s strike before he could get to Shiro. He couldn’t believe they did it, they found evidence to save Lance. The General swung his sword at Keith, who ducked and then jabbed back at Lotor, who maneuvered around the Prince’s weapon with ease. 

Shiro drew his own sword and came running to help, but Narti was quick to join the fight as well. 

Swords clashed and civilians were running for cover. Hunk began grabbing the stragglers and leading them to safety, which Keith was thankful for. Lotor was an extremely skilled fighter, so the Prince didn’t have time to worry about not hitting a bystander. 

He and Shiro fought side by side, both fending off their galran opponent. “Some Captain of the Guard you are,” Keith teased between strikes. “Needing the Prince to come and save your butt.”

Shiro huffed out a laugh. “My hero.” 

Lotor swiped Keith’s feet out from under him and he landed on his back in a heap. The General brought his sword down at the Prince but he raised his sword to block it. They were at a stalemate, but ever so slowly, Lotor’s sword inched closer to Keith’s face. He took a page from Lance’s book and kicked the General with all his might, sending him careening backwards. Keith jumped to his feet and threw himself at Lotor, tackling him to the ground. He knocked the sword out of Lotor’s hand and punched him in the face. “Don’t you ever touch Lance again!” He screamed as his fist connected with the General’s jaw again and again. 

He only stopped when cold metal touched his neck, and he realized it was a knife. “Get up, Prince,” came a voice behind him. He knew that voice belonged to Ezor. She pulled him onto his feet so Lotor could get back on his feet. 

Shiro froze when he saw Keith was in danger, and Narti signaled for him to drop his weapon. The Captain dropped his sword and raised his hands in the air. The castle guards looked on in horror, unsure if they should help, and the Prince understood why. They didn’t know what to do since Lotor was their superior officer. Were they supposed to take arms against this man they’ve followed into battle for years?

“Forgetting something?” Came Zethrid’s rough voice from somewhere in the crowd. She stepped forward, holding Hunk by the hair. A vicious smile came to her lips. “You left this unprotected, Your Majesty." 

“No!” Keith tried to move but Ezor only brought the knife closer to his jugular. 

Lotor nodded at Zethrid and she pulled out a dagger. “Sorry, Keith, but there are consequences to your actions.” She raised her weapon and brought it down on Hunk. Keith screamed, but just before she pierced Hunk’s heart a knife flew threw the air and struck Zethrid in the shoulder.

It was Acxa. 

She leapt from her horse and stood over Hunk, protecting him like a mother would her young. Murder in her eyes. “If you touch one more of my new friends I’ll end you.” She spat at her former companions. 

“Traitor.” Lotor growled back at her. 

Acxa turned to Narti and her features softened ever so slightly. She held a hand out to her second. “Narti, please,” she pleaded. 

For a moment, Narti kept her weapon aimed at Shiro, but then she turned her sword on Lotor. Acxa let out a breath of relief, at least one of her friends chose her over the General.

Keith heard Ezor gasp from behind him, now he thought while she’s distracted. He elbowed her in the stomach and pulled the knife out of her hands. Then flipped her over his back and ran to Shiro and Acxa before she could strike back.

Acxa leaned over to him. “Sorry I couldn’t get here sooner, I had to get Matt to Pidge for immediate medical attention.” 

Keith wanted to know if Matt was okay, but before he could get anymore information Lotor roared, “Acxa, Narti, how could you betray me after all I’ve done?” 

Acxa pulled another knife from one of her boots. “After everything you’ve done to me it was almost too easy. Lotor.” She winked at Keith, then turned and addressed the crowd. “People of Lyon, Lotor has been deceiving you this entire time. He tried to have the Prince murdered and the The Blue Bandit framed.” 

The people murmured. 

“Does the General have the Royal Jewels as well?” Keith heard his mother ask. He turned to see she was still at the end of the dock with Lance.

Lotor wiped some blood off his lip and laughed. “You can’t prove anything.” 

Everyone was silent, until Narti pounced on Lotor with cat-like agility. She threw Lotor to the ground, and before Ezor or Zethrid could react, Narti was cutting open the voluptuous fur cape he always wore. She gutted the thing with her sword, then pulled out the Royal Jewels out of where they were hidden between the hem.

Keith frowned at Acxa. “I thought he didn’t tell any of you where he hid them.” 

“He didn’t,” Acxa smirked at her friend. “Narti may not speak very much, but she is very perceptive.”

The Prince couldn’t believe it, he should’ve figured it out himself. Lotor was always wearing that stupid cape, so the jewels would never be out of his sight; and it was the perfect disguise since the fur was thick enough to hide a secret compartment. 

Keith stepped forward. “Are you convinced of Lotor’s treachery now?” He called to his people. He needed his guards to join the fight, which would be difficult because soldiers were like brothers, and didn’t turn on each other easily. But then, the guards drew their swords. “For Lyon!” They cried and charged at the galra traitors. 

Chaos ensued as they were overrun by guards. Zethrid and Acxa weren’t going down without a fight though, and Keith joined the attempt to subdue them, he couldn’t see Lotor amongst the fray, but he hoped someone had restrained that conniving scumbag; because when this was all over, Keith was going to show the General exactly how he felt about almost losing Lance to his schemes. 

 

———

 

Lance watched as a mob formed around Lotor and his goons. He turned to the Queen, who looked just as dumbstruck as he felt. “So, does this mean I don’t have to die today?” He asked.

She let out a breathy laugh. “No, Lance, you’re a free man.” 

He nearly collapsed from relief. “Cool, just making sure," he squeaked. 

Queen Krolia placed a hand on his cheek and smiled. It reminded him of his own mother, the way she used to look at him with such pride and love. He leaned into the touch, which, thankfully, the Queen didn’t mind at all. “Now I can thank you properly,” she said in a gentle voice. “Maybe I will build you that statue.” 

“YOU.” A voice snarled at them. 

Lance turned to see Lotor charging up the dock, his face contorted with anger. He must’ve slipped away amongst all the confusion. The General spit some blood onto the ground and screamed, “Prince Keith stole my victory, so now I’ll steal something from him!” 

Lance watched in horror as Lotor dove right for the Queen.

Without a second thought, Lance pushed his body into hers. His wrists and ankles were still bound, so it was all he could do to protect her. Lotor missed Krolia as she landed safely on the dock, which was good, it was exactly what Lance wanted to happen; what was bad was when Lotor went careening into him instead, pushing Lance into the water, the cinder block quickly following.  

Chapter Text

 There were people all around. Keith could barely breathe amidst all the chaos.

More and more guards piled on the galran traitors in an attempt to restrain them; and despite the abundance of royal guards, Zethrid and Ezor were skilled fighters and not so easy to take down. 

Keith broke free from the mob, finally able to catch his breath. That’s when he spotted Lotor down on the dock…right next to his mother. 

Keith bolted, but he was taken down in an instant by someone grabbing his leg. He turned to see Ezor seething over him. He wasn’t surprised that she was able to wiggle away from the guards, especially since most of them were caught up in trying to restrain Zethrid, who was basically a force of nature. 

Thankfully, Narti had Ezor pinned in an instant. She said nothing to the Prince, but she did give him a sharp nod, which he knew meant something along the lines of I got this, now go.

He sprinted towards his mother, who was lying on the dock, Lotor lying right next to her. Keith’s mind reeled at how they both ended up on the ground, but he swore that if the General had hurt his mother then he would actually kill him. 

Lotor pulled himself up, a bit disoriented and that’s when Keith struck. He leapt upon the General, slamming his back into the dock. Lotor drew his sword but Keith kicked it into the water and seized him by his neck. “It’s over, General, give up.” 

Lotor stared up at the Prince with dead eyes, until a low and terrifying chuckle escaped from his lips. Ever so slowly, the chuckle grew until he was convulsing with laughter. Keith gripped his neck tighter, causing the General to gasp for air. “It is over, isn’t it?” He wheezed out. “And yet, I’ve still taken something dear from you.” 

Keith’s eyes widened with fear. His head whipped towards his mother, but he sighed in relief when he saw she was back on her feet, and completely unscathed. But wait, he wondered, if he wasn’t talking about his mom, then who?

Lotor clicked his tongue. “I’ll never forgive that beautiful boy for falling in love you instead of me.”

Keith’s heart stopped. Where was Lance?

But before he could do anything the General was flipping him over and pinning him to the dock. Keith couldn’t think fast enough to stop him, he couldn’t think of anything except about what the galran had done with Lance. Lotor pulled a knife from his boot and held it against the Prince’s throat. “Send The Blue Bandit my regards,” he sneered.

Keith’s mother grabbed a fistful of Lotor’s white hair and ripped him off of the Prince before he could do any harm. She punched his face with a fury Keith had never seen in his mother before. “Don’t. You. Touch. My. Son.” She huffed out between hits. She smacked him until he was unconscious and Shiro had to pull her off.

“It’s okay, Your Majesty.” The Captain soothed. “The three criminals have been apprehended. Everyone is safe now.” 

His mom closed her eyes and slumped against Shiro, taking a moment to catch her breath. But then her eyes shot open again. “Not everyone,” she said, looking out at the lake.

Keith shook his head. “Mom, what - what happened?”

“Lance pushed me out of the way.” Her eyes darkened. “He saved my life.”

Keith didn’t need to hear another word. He ripped off his cape and leapt into the water. Lance was a good swimmer, perhaps he could hold his breath long enough, maybe he wasn’t…wasn’t…No. Keith wouldn’t think like that. After all this, Lance had to be alive. 

As Keith swam deeper and deeper into the murky water a lifeless body came into view. 

Lance.

He was at the bottom. His hands still bound and his feet still tied to the cinder block. The thought of Lance slowly suffocating down here made him kick his legs harder, determined to save that self-sacrificing idiot. 

He swore that if Lance lived through this he would tell that boy he loved him. 

He unsheathed a knife from his belt, ready to uncut Lance from his ropes and swim him to safety, because he was sure Lance was alive…he had to be.

Please let him be alive.

 

 

————-

 

At first, Lance had panicked. He struggled with all his might against the ropes, but the cinder block just pulled him down, down, down to the bottom of the lake. 

As his breath depleted so did his hope.

He was going to die, but at least he could find comfort in the fact that Lotor had been exposed, Lyon was safe, and Keith was going to be okay. 

Keith. 

Surprisingly he didn’t think about how he was going to die alone at the bottom of a lake, instead he allowed his mind to drift to those gray eyes, that husky voice, and that flowing mullet…though part of him was glad he was going to die before anyone could learn he was attracted to a mullet.

He rubbed his thumb along the red cloth still wrapped around his hand. He couldn’t believe that stupid piece of cape had stayed on his wound this entire time. Say what you want about the Prince, he ties one helluva knot. 

Black blurred the edges of his vision and Lance realized just how tired he was. It was over. He was done fighting, and now he was going to rest. He opened his mouth and allowed the water to fill up his burning lungs.

But as darkness took over, something touched him. You’ve got to be kidding me he thought, teetering on the edge of consciousness, I’m already drowning and now there’s some Lyon-ness Monster in this lake that’s gonna eat me? Can’t I catch a break?

But then the touch drifted down to his legs and it almost felt like it was cutting the rope. Was the lake monster saving him? Although, it sort of felt like hands were touching him. The next thing he knew, he was free and something was wrapping around his waist and pulling him up. If this monster was planning on killing him it wasn’t doing a very good job. 

Then they broke the surface, and he heard people yelling, but he could barely hear what they were saying as he was slipping into blissful unconsciousness; that is, until one voice in particular brought him back to reality. 

“Lance? Lance!” Cried Keith’s deep voice in his ear. 

Ah, so his savior was the Prince. Lance’s head rested limply on Keith’s shoulder as he began swimming them over to the shore. If only Lance had the strength to open his eyes and look at the man he loved. He couldn’t talk either, not when his airways were still filled with water.

“Lance, you gotta open your eyes.” Keith begged as he pulled Lance onto the shore. The Prince cut off his wrist bindings, but Lance just laid limply on the grass. Keith gently cradled his head and rested it in his lap. He placed a hand on Lance’s cheek. “Please don’t leave me,” he whispered in a weak voice. 

Lance was fading fast, the only think keeping him tethered to reality was Keith.

The Prince carded a hand through Lance’s wet hair. “You can’t die now, not after everything we survived.” He pulled Lance closer to his chest, anger filling his voice. “As crown Prince I forbid you from dying, do you hear me?” A sob escaped his lips. “I…I love you. Are you happy now? I admitted it and I don’t care who knows. I am in love with you, Lance McClain.” 

Lance so badly wanted to respond, to tell Keith he loved him too, but no oxygen was getting to his lungs. He was dying and he couldn’t hold on much longer.

“He’s not breathing,” Keith wept.

“You need to resuscitate him, you idiot!” Came a high pitched voice that Lance could’ve sworn was Pidge.

Keith laid Lance flat on the ground. “What do I do?”

“He’s suffocating!” Pidge yelled, her voice strained with fear. “Give him mouth-to-mouth.”

A voice he knew to be Hunk’s spoke next, “The kiss of life, Keith! It’s basically what you and Lance did in front of everyone a few minutes ago!”

Lance was almost proud, his habit of making a joke during a time of crisis was rubbing off on Hunk. He didn’t stick around to hear what happened next, though, because the lack of air had become too much; his head lolled to the side and he passed out.

 

———--

 

-eathe.

breathe.

BREATHE!

Lances eyes shot open to find Keith’s lips on his, pushing sweet air down into his lungs. He lurched forward and coughed up the remaining water lodged in his throat. The crowd began cheering to see that he was alive, which was ironic, because they all came here with the intention of watching him die.

Lance laid on his side, too weak to get up. He took deep breaths, marveling at the sensation of air in his lungs once again. Two hands scooped him up and pulled him close. Lance smiled weakly up at the Prince.

Keith’s cheeks were littered with tears. “I got you, Lance, I got you,” he breathed.

“Hey mullet,” Lance croaked, “For such a beautiful boy, you sure are an ugly cryer.” 

Keith buried his head in Lance’s chest and let out a laugh through his sobs. 

Lance reached a shaky hand out and tangled it in the Prince’s hair. Keith seized the hand and slid it to his cheek. Lance couldn’t believe how handsome Keith looked, even with his hair wet and dangling in his face.  

“My hero,” Lance rasped out, wiggling an eyebrow.

“My…God,” Keith shook his head, “you are insufferable.”

Lance rested his head against Keith’s chest, he felt safe there, like nothing could hurt him again. He closed his eyes, and he felt Keith’s hand brush his bangs back.

“Keith,” came Shiro’s voice, “we need to get him to the infirmary. I’ll get some guards to carry him.”

Lance heard the boots of guards approaching but Keith’s voice suddenly became very official and Prince-like as he said, “I got it.”  He slid his hands beneath Lance’s neck and legs and picked him up bridal style. Lance would’ve swooned if he wasn’t about to pass out again. As Keith began walking he pulled Lance close so his head was nestled in the Prince’s neck. He whispered in Lance’s ear, “Never scare me like that again, if you do, I really will execute you, you idiot.”

“That’s not a very nice thing to say to the guy that saved you,” Lance replied without opening his eyes.

“I can say what I want, I’m the Prince.”

“Well I didn’t vote for you.” 

Keith’s breathy laugh was the last thing Lance heard before he blacked out again.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Lance’s vision was blurry as he cracked an eye open. Am I dead? Is this Heaven? He could tell he was lying in a bed, and after a few blinks he could make out a fire place and some chairs too. Huh, Heaven looks a lot like a room in the palace. 

Lance could feel a weight pressing on his chest, but he was too tired to try and pick his head up right now. His heavy eyelids flickered shut again and he could feel sleep tugging at him once more. What had happened to him? Where was he? He tried to piece together the events of the past few days as he drifted off. Oh, that’s right, Keith saved him…

His eyes shot open. 

Keith saved him.

And cleared his name, Lance was a free man.

He tried to sit up, instantly regretting it as pain shot down his side. He hissed through clenched teeth and eased himself onto his elbows. The weight on his chest lifted up, and when Lance looked to see what it was, the sting in his ribs was immediately forgotten.

It was Keith.

The Prince was waiting for him to wake up and had fallen asleep with his head on Lance’s chest. A chest, Lance was just now realizing, that was bare. He wasn’t wearing a shirt. Suddenly feeling very self-conscious, Lance tried to cover himself with the blankets, but his task was abandoned as soon as Keith threw his arms around Lance. 

He couldn’t help the blush that rose to his cheeks as the Prince held him. For a minute or so, they quietly hugged one another, tenderly stroking one another’s backs. When Keith finally pulled away, he clutched Lance’s face with his hands. “Lance,” he said softly. “Are you okay?”

Lance, idiot that he was, responded with, “Did you undress me?”  

Keith’s face went bright red. “Well, I mean, we had to get you out of your wet clothes…and, I didn’t want to leave your side so I helped…” The Prince swallowed hard. “I left your pants on though!” 

Lance laughed. Genuinely laughed. Somehow he had the power to make Prince Keith, the suave and unbothered Garrison Golden boy, flustered. He placed a hand on the Prince’s shoulder. “Hey, thank you for saving me, and for everything else.” 

Keith’s face scrunched up, which Lance knew meant the Prince was struggling with vocalizing his emotions. It was a dumb face that was so cute it could kill Lance on the spot. “I hate to admit it,” said the Prince. “But I think I should be the one thanking you.”

“Oh really?” Lance wiggled an eyebrow.

“Some people might say…from a certain point of view…if you really thing about it… you-” Keith sighed. “You saved my life. You saved all of Lyon, so thank you.”

Lance didn’t care about the stabbing pain in his side, he needed to touch the boy in front of him right now. He pushed himself off his elbow towards Keith. As he moved, his ribs screamed in agony, prompting him to let out a strained cry.

The Prince reacted immediately, supporting Lance under the arms and helping him to sit up. He pulled Lance towards his chest and held him there. “I got you,” he whispered in Lance’s ear.

Moving like that was draining for Lance, so he rested his head on Keith’s shoulder and tried to catch his breath. He tried to ignore the fact that he was shirtless while the Prince was practically cradling him, but he shook those thoughts away. Priorities Lance, you almost just died and you’re worried about this right now?

Keith slid his thumb along Lance’s bruised ribs, a gift from when he was Lotor’s personal punching bag in the dungeon. He closed his eyes as the Prince ran his fingers all along the purple and blue mark on his skin. He thought about how nice it was to not be The Blue Bandit anymore, to just be Lance. When he finally picked his head off Keith’s shoulder he saw that the Prince was glaring daggers at his wounds. 

Lance forced a laugh. “Don’t worry about my injuries, you should see the other guy.”
Keith’s face softened ever so slightly. “I have.” He pulled Lance closer so he was practically sitting in the Prince’s lap. “And even though my mother did a number on him, there’s still a long line of people that what to beat Lotor up.”

“The Queen roughed up the General’s pretty face?”

Keith’s eyes fell. “Hating seeing you get hurt must run in my family.” 

The Prince stared at the floor and Lance’s heart sank. The idiot probably felt guilty about everything that happened, but Lance knew it was out of the Prince’s control. He brushed the hair out of Keith’s face. “I’ll have none of that,” he said, combing his fingers through Keith’s mullet. “You have nothing to be sad about. You’re alive…shockingly, you’re the Prince of Lyon and New Daibazaal, and-” Lance’s gaze shifted to the red cloth still around his palm. “Apparently you’re the king of tying knots as well, holy crow this thing is still on there.”

Keith’s eyes met Lance’s. “Tying knots was a requirement to be number one at the Garrison,” he teased.

That’s why I was always number two,” Lance laughed. “But seriously, man, I was dragged through the mud and this thing never fell off. Did you sell your soul to the Devil so your knots would never come undone?” 

“I can’t sell what I never had, Lance.” 

Lance punched him in the arm. “I knew you were a soulless brute.”

They erupted into laughter again, but that only irritated Lance’s ribs even more. He doubled over in pain, but strong arms supported him.

“Easy,” Keith breathed in his ear as he slipped a hand behind Lance’s head and slowly lowered him down to the pillow. Once he was lying down again Keith sat at the edge of the bed and gently brushed the hair from Lance’s eyes. “You need more time to rest, or else you’re not going to be better in time for the ball tomorrow.”

“The ball’s tomorrow?” Lance leaned into Keith’s touch. “How long was I out for?” 

“A day and a half.” 

Lance let out a slow whistle.

“But it’s all over now, which reminds me…” Keith braced his hands on both sides of Lance’s head and leaned down. He was close enough that Lance could see every shade of the Prince’s beautiful, gray eyes. Lance’s heart was beating so loud he was sure the Prince could hear it, though he didn’t care. He had almost died so many times in the past month it was a miracle his heart was beating at all. 

Lance wore his best poker face as the Prince inched closer and closer. This is it, he thought giddily, he’s going to kiss me. But Keith didn’t go for Lance’s mouth, instead he went to his ear and whispered, “They’re making you a Paladin.” 

Lance’s breath caught in his throat, though he wasn’t sure if it was from the anticipation of kissing Keith or from his childhood dreams coming true. “W-what did you just say?”

The Prince pulled back, a dorky smiled plastered on his face. “You heard me. The council met and decided you’re the newest Paladin of Voltron.” 

It was cute how pumped up Keith was about this, so cute Lance wasn’t even mad the Prince hadn’t kissed him.

“Do you understand what this means, Lance? You’re free. You can travel from kingdom to kingdom - no- you should travel from kingdom to kingdom.” Keith jumped to his feet and began pacing beside the bed. “Lotor’s plans revealed that he was going to decimate all the surrounding kingdoms. You saved a lot of people. Letters have been pouring into the palace, everyone wants to throw you a parade.”

Lance’s heart sank a little. “So, you want me to leave?”

“Lyon has beaten and bruised you. You should honestly leave and never come back.” The Prince smiled, completely oblivious to how much Lance wanted Keith to ask him to stay.

“Is that you want?” 

“I only want what’s best for you,” the Prince replied. “I think you deserve to leave Lyon behind, in fact, I order you to.” 

Lance shook his head, he knew it was too good to be true. Keith was a prince and Lance was mere a peasant. He knew the Prince would be his friend for life, but clearly love was off the table, and although it hurt, he would learn to be fine with it, because Keith was alive and happy, and that’s all Lance could really ask for. 

As Keith paced by, Lance reached out and grabbed his hand, halting his movement. “And what about you, Keith, what’s next?” 

“I guess, I’ll start preparing to become king. I’m not as worried as I was before, now that I’ve learned to accept help.” He squeezed Lance’s hand. “And I’m not worried about the galra. Acxa and Matt are all over the New Daibazaal plans.” A small laugh escaped Keith’s lips. “And get this, someone told everyone in Daibazaal about how Matt nearly died saving Acxa, and now they all love him.”

Lance shrugged. “It was portably Narti, she’s a pretty big blabber mouth.”

Keith snorted. It was a hideous sound and yet Lance couldn’t stop thinking how adorable it was when the Prince did it.

“Keith.” Lance tugged the Prince’s hand so he’d sit back on the bed. He pulled too hard, however, and Keith ended up falling right on top of him; neither of them moved out of the position though. “When I asked you ‘what’s next’ I really meant more along the lines of marriage.”

Keith’s eyes went wide. “Marriage?”

“I mean, yeah,” Lance tried to come off as nonchalant as possible. “Now that you have Lyon and Daibazaal, you’re going to be ruler of a pretty powerful kingdom. Royals are gonna throw themselves at you for a marriage alliance.” 

Keith crinkled his nose. “I don’t want to marry a stranger, though. I just got used to having Shiro around for quiznaks sake.” 

“Look on the bright side,” Lance chuckled. “At least Shiro is house trained.”

Keith rolled his eyes. “Barely.” 

“In that case,” Lance bit his lip. “If the Captain’s no help, I guess, if I must, I could give up my travels to help get things in order around here.”

Keith went quiet, and for a moment Lance thought he was considering it, but then the Prince smirked and said, “No way, am I letting you pass up your parades. Besides, Shiro might bite you and give you rabies or something, you should stay as far away as possible.”

The two boys erupted into laughter once more, just as the door swung open. It was Captain Shiro who poked his head in. “Do my ears deceive me or does it sound like you two are bonding in here?” Shiro’s eyes almost popped out of his head when he noticed that Lance was shirtless, and Keith was basically lying on top of him. “Oh, oh, forgive me I didn’t realize.”

Keith looked down and realized the compromising position they were in. He threw a pillow at the Captain. “Find somewhere else to be, Shiro.” 

Shiro moved towards the door but then turned back and slyly added, “I must say, Lance, congratulations. I didn’t realize you were so…well-built.”

Keith covered Lance’s bare chest with his own body and snarled, “stop ogling him and get out.” 

“Okay, okay, sheesh, I’m leaving,” Shiro conceded, backing out the door.

Keith watched him every step of the way, his body still shielding Lance’s. Lance couldn’t help but feel a little flustered by how territorial Keith was being over him. It was nice, though, that someone wanted to protect him. It was a feeling he hadn’t experienced since his family died.

After he was sure Shiro wasn’t listening outside the door, Lance spoke again, “He’s like a demon, you speak his name and he appears.” 

“Yes, thank you, Lance!” Keith said, getting off the bed. “Finally someone who understands.” 

Lance stared fondly at the Prince. He had so much he wanted to say but he just couldn’t bring himself to say it. For the first time in a long time he was genuinely happy, and he didn’t want to ruin that by pouring his heart out to Keith.

“Well,” Lance said meekly. “I guess me and my well-built body should get some rest.” 

Keith huffed a laugh and shook his head, but then he grabbed the blankets and pulled them over Lance. Lance could’ve sworn he saw the Prince’s eyes glance down at his chest for a moment, but he was probably just imagining things. 

Keith crossed his arms over his chest and stared down at Lance. “Alright, Paladin, get some rest, that’s an order.”

“Yes, sir.” 

The Prince walked towards the door, then added with less conviction, “I also order you to come to the ball tomorrow.” He began closing the door behind him, then stopped once more. “And to wear the fancy outfit my mom bought for you.”

Then he slammed the door. Lance rolled his eyes, how could someone so smart act so dumb? 

But he fell asleep with a smile on his face just the same. 

 

 

———-

 

 

Keith had to admit it, the ball was actually really nice. They even extended the invitation to multiple kingdoms, so along with the people of Lyon, there were also arusians, bulmerans, alteans and even some galra too.

Keith leaned against the balcony railing and watched the people dancing below, he could see Matt, who was sitting on a couch with Axca. His bandages were sticking out from under his jacket, but Matt didn’t seem bothered by his injuries; all his attention was on Acxa, who was laughing at something he was saying, which was probably something dumb. 

Keith scanned the crowd, and his heart stopped when he caught a glimpse of a beautiful boy in a blue suit. He was going to chew his mother out later for buying Lance such a gorgeous outfit for the ball. Lance was wearing a tight blue jacket and black pants with shiny leather boots pulled over his thighs. Keith downed the rest of his nunvill when a crowd of girls stopped Lance and begged him to dance with them.

Shiro leaned against the railing beside Keith and took a sip of his own nunvill. “Lance is pretty popular tonight, eh?”

Keith shrugged. “Apparently being both a bad boy thief and a good boy Paladin is very appealing to the ladies.”

He watched as Lance began dancing with one of the girls.

Shiro swirled his drink in his hand. “I hear you’re pretty popular too. Sixteen different rulers have offered their children’s hands in marriage in the last two days alone.” The Captain turned his back to the crowd below and draped his arms across the railing. “And I’ve seen these suitors, they are not ugly.” 

Keith watched as Lance gracefully swept his dance partner across the floor. They danced right past Alfor and Coran, then past Allura who was dancing with Pidge, and right by Hunk, who was blushing profusely as a pretty Balmeran girl laughed at the crushed cookie she found in his pocket. Lance titled his head back and laughed, which brought a tender smile to Keith’s lips. It was more beautiful than a sunset to see Lance so happy.

“I don’t care about those marriage offers,” he said, still smiling like a dope. “None of them are the guy I want.”

“Speaking of that, how are things with you and Lance?” Shiro took another swig of his nunvill. 

Keith gulped. “Oh, that, yeah I kind of told him to leave the kingdom and never come back. In fact, I ordered him to.” 

He couldn’t even bring himself to look at Shiro’s face out of fear for what it must’ve looked like right now. At first, the Captain didn’t respond, then Keith heard his glass fall to the floor and shatter. 

“How do you mess it up that bad?” Shiro yelled.

Keith suddenly became very interested in the thread on his gold and red jacket. “I panicked.” 

“So you told him to get away from you and never return?” 

“Is that…not what you’re supposed to do?”

The Captain let out a loud groan. Keith dared to glance in his direction only to see Shiro’s face was buried in his hands as he muttered, “Lord give me strength” over and over. 

They both jumped when Keith’s mother snuck up behind them. “You two are setting a bad example for the guests, go dance.” 

“Mom, we’re talking.” 

She placed her hands on her hips and looked between them. They both knew they weren’t going to win this fight. “Well talk and dance.” She began ushering them down the steps. “Now go.” 

Once they reached the bottom they stared at each other awkwardly. Shiro cleared his throat, “Um, may I have this dance?” 

Keith rolled his eyes. “Fine, but no funny stuff or I’ll sic Allura and Acxa on you.” 

Shiro paled. “Okay, I know you’re joking but the thought of that is genuinely terrifying.” 

Keith laughed as he took Shiro’s hand and attempted to waltz with him. The Captain sort of knew how to do it, Keith, on the other hand, was hopeless. “Speaking of Acxa, how are she and Matt?” 

“They’re surprisingly cute,” Shiro said as he attempted to spin Keith around. “She refused to leave throughout his entire surgery, and then she stayed until he woke up. It’s strange, really, she’s a galra who’s never known love her whole life and she’s handling her feelings toward Matt better than you are with Lance.”

“Shut up,” Keith groaned, glancing over his shoulder to see if his mother was still watching. Lo and behold, there she was at the top of the steps, glaring at him. He put his head down and continued to dance. “And how’s Matt’s recovery?” 

The Captain frowned. “Once he woke up he kept saying ’tis but a scratch’ … but-”

“He almost died didn’t he.”

“He almost died,” Shiro emphasized. “Why do all the people I care about insist on throwing themselves in life threatening danger?”

“Sorry,” Keith muttered, partly because he’s always in harms way, but mostly because he stepped on Shiro’s foot. 

Shiro went on, “I mean there’s you, Matt and Allura, and now I’ve basically adopted Lance, Hunk and Pidge.” He swung Keith around as the music sped up. “I can’t protect you all. My hair’s gonna go completely white at this rate!”

Keith sniggered, but was cut off when he caught a glimpse of Lance dancing across the room with another girl. Lance’s gaze met Keith’s and he smiled at the Prince, in response Keith quickly looked away. 

Shiro glared at him. “I’m no expert at flirting but you can’t be doing it right.” 

“Let it go. I already told my mother I would marry a strong political ally. Besides, after everything Lance’s been through why would he want to stay here? This is the place where his family died, after all.”

Shiro scoffed, “It’s also apparently the place where he’s banished from because the Prince doesn’t understand how emotions work.” Shiro’s face softened a bit. “But seriously, Keith, Lyon is his home, he wants to stay here with Hunk and Pidge, and with you.” 

The Prince peeked over his shoulder to find his mother was still watching them like a hawk. She was definitely going to make him and Shiro go until the music stopped. He looked back at the Captain and sighed. “Whatever.” 

“We’re talking about the same guy, right? The guy who’s bedside you refused to leave until he regained consciousness?” 

“Shiro."

“And when the council was meeting to vote on whether or not he should be a Paladin, I had to pry you away from his side?”

“Stop it.” 

“And when the meeting was over you literally ran back to him?”

“Seriously, I-” Keith was cut off as he stumbled over Shiro’s foot again.

“The guy who’s bare chest you fell asleep on?”

“ENOUGH,” Keith cried, dropping Shiro into a dramatic dip as the music can to an end. All the dancers paused and applauded the band, but the Captain and the Prince just stared each other down, breathing heavily.

“I can’t believe,” Shiro said between huffs. “That the guy who ran headfirst into galra territory is afraid to tell the man he loves how he feels.” 

Keith just helplessly shook his head. He couldn’t do it. Lance had already been through so much, he shouldn’t have to be burdened with Keith and his annoying emotions too. 

Allura strode up to them and laughed, “Did I walk in on something private? I can come back later.” 

Keith raised an eyebrow at her until he realized he was still dipping Shiro. He pulled the Captain back onto his feet and straightened his jacket out. “No, no, we’re done.” 

Allura’s face lit up. “Good!” An Altean girl with long blonde hair and intricate braids zig-zagging across her head stepped out from behind her. “Keith, this is my friend Romelle.” 

“A pleasure,” Keith said, trying his best to sound princely. 

“It truly is.” Allura bounced on her toes. “And I’ll show you why.” 

Before Keith could protest, Allura was dragging him back up the steps towards his mother, Romelle and Shiro followed, soon joined by Hunk and Pidge. 

Keith’s mother smiled at them as they reached the top. “Allura, Romelle, thank you for collecting my son for me.”

The Prince crossed his arms. “Wait, you know Romelle too? What’s going on here?” 

“Keith,” Allura said, leaning casually against the railing. “We know part of the reason you won’t,” she hesitated, searching for the right words. “…Go after what you want… is partly because you want to do what’s best for Lyon”

Keith pinched the bridge of his nose. “You all have to understand that the smart thing to do is create a strong marriage alliance.” He pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes and groaned. “And what does any of this have to with Romelle?”

“It has to do with me,” Romelle stepped forward. “Because I work as a teacher in Altea. Ever since The Blue Bandit’s failed execution my students have been making these non-stop.” She pulled a stack of papers out of her purse and handed them to Keith. He flipped through them, most of them were doodles of one red stick figure and one blue one. “Apparently, it’s all of their parents’ favorite new love story, so they drew these pictures for them.” Romelle smiled. “Of course, there are hundreds more of those, these are just the ones I was allowed to keep.”

Keith sifted through the stack. There were drawings, poems and even rewritings of his and Lance’s story, he couldn’t believe it. 

“Plus,” his mother added. “It’s not just Altea.” She clapped her hands and guards stepped forward with more stacks of paper. The Queen pointed to the first stack. “These are letters from the people of Lyon asking when you and Lance are going public.” She began stacking the different piles into Keith’s hands. “These are letters from Olkarion, these are from Arus, these are  from Balmera, and these, believe it or not, are from Daibazaal.” 

Keith breathlessly stared at the stacks of letters, drawings and writings from all the people who wanted him and Lance get together. He didn’t know what to think about all this. 

His mother placed a hand on his shoulder. “My son, I genuinely believe that the actual smart thing to do is to pair you off with Lance.” She took the stack from his arms and handed it to a guard. “Politically speaking, our allies will revolt if you don’t.” 

Keith looked helplessly at his mother. “I - I don’t understand.” 

Shiro smacked his hand into his forehead as he yelled, “If you don’t get with that fine boy then you will probably cause an all-out war.” 

Hunk nodded in agreement. “It’s true. That Bulmeran princess I was just dancing with told me that her dad didn’t even think about offering a marriage alliance because he wants you to be with Lance so bad.”  Hunk eyed the stack of papers. “One of those drawings might honestly be from him.” 

Everyone nodded in agreement. Every one except Keith. “You guys don’t understand…I can’t.” 

Allura pushed herself off the railing and seized him by the shoulders. “Why the quiznak not?” 

“Keith?” 

Everyone froze at the sound of this new voice. Slowly, their heads turned to see that it was Lance, standing halfway up the stair case. 

He cleared his throat. “I mean, Prince Keith?”

Keith was well aware that everyone’s eyes were on him, but he couldn’t stop the smile from taking over his face. “There’s no need to call me that, Lance.” 

Allura released his shoulders and brushed his jacket off. “Yes, calling him Royal Idiot will suffice,” she muttered.  

The Prince stiffened as everyone around him broke out into laughter. He pushed passed Allura and jogged down the steps to where Lance stood. “Do you need something?” He asked, desperately trying to hide his blush.

Lance extended a hand to him. “May I have this dance?” 

Keith couldn’t breathe. The way the light shone against Lance’s brown hair, the way his mouth curved upwards into a playful smirk, the way his blue jacket popped against his tan skin, it was all too much for the Prince. The universe was really testing him, wasn’t it?

He almost reached out for Lance’s hand. Almost.

But then he saw the red cloth still wrapped around Lance’s palm and he remembered why he couldn’t be with Lance. He had been the cause for all the boy’s pain and suffering; starting with cutting his hand and ending with him almost being executed. Lance would be safer and happier without all the chaos Keith would bring to his life. 

“Sorry, Lance, I don’t think it’s the best idea.” 

Lance’s hand recoiled as if something had bitten him. His beautiful features twisting into a pained expression. It broke Keith’s heart to see Lance this way, he didn’t think he would ever forget how betrayed he looked. 

“Oh, okay,” Lance laughed, though Keith could see him blinking away tears. “I guess I’ll get out of your hair then.” He shot Keith some finger guns. “I wouldn’t want to be in your hair anyway…since it’s a mullet and all.” 

The Prince’s hands absentmindedly slid up to his hair. He could feel the ghost of Lance’s hands carding through it, but he knew if he allowed himself to touch Lance even one more time, he wouldn’t have the strength to let go again. 

He heard someone descending the stairs behind him until Pidge stopped beside him, hands in the pockets of her suit.

“It’s better this way,” Keith croaked as he watched Lance push through the crowd towards the doors. “Lyon has caused him too much pain. Now it can’t hurt him anymore.” 

Pidge patted his shoulder. Her voice was full of emotion as she whispered, “The only thing hurting him right now is you.” 

Keith walked to the bottom of the stairs in a haze. He plopped down on the last step and watched the dancers glide by. A throat cleared next to him and he turned to see Coran leaning against the banister. 

“What?” Keith snarled. “Are you gonna judge my choices too?” 

Coran stared at the dancing guests and shrugged. “You don’t meet a boy like that every quiznaking quintant.” 

Before the Prince could respond Alfor swooped in and pulled Coran onto the dance floor. For a brief moment, Keith watched as Coran did a stupid dance move and Alfor rolled his eyes, through Keith could tell the Altean King was suppressing a smile. 

A moment later, Keith was dashing across the dance floor at full speed after Lance. 

 

 

————

 

 

Lance hurried through the castle of Lyon’s hallways, desperate to get out as soon as possible. Now that he knew how Keith really felt, there was nothing keeping him here, in fact, the Prince had practically thrown him out the kingdom.

He was almost to the front door when a hand grabbed him from behind and whirled him around.

“Lance,” the Prince panted.

“Keith?” 

Lance quickly tried to wipe away his tears before the Prince could notice he was crying, but Keith grabbed his wrists and pulled them away. He stared in horror at the tears on Lance’s cheeks and whispered, “No, no, no, this isn’t what I wanted to happen.” 

Lance’s sadness suddenly melted away into something stronger. A sense of anger at how Keith was treating him after all they’ve been through. “What did you expect?” He pulled his hands away from Keith’s. “I can’t believe you want me out of Lyon so badly that you’ve basically packed my bags for me. I thought we were starting to become friends, Keith.” 

“No, I-”

“You know what,” Lance crossed his arms. “You’ve said enough. Now it’s my turn to talk.” 

The guards lining the hallway all looked in various directions, pretending that they weren’t listening. Lance knew they were but he couldn’t bring himself to care. 

Lance continued, “I have been stabbed, shot at, beaten, drowned and Voltron knows what else! And none of that hurt as much as you turning your back on me.” Lance really couldn’t stop the tears from falling now. “I thought we were partners, we had a bonding moment for quiznak’s sake!”

“Lance, please-”

“And since you’re kicking me out anyway, I might as well just say this, I love you too.” 

His words echoed down the hallway. Keith’s voice was quiet as he asked, “…Too?”

Lance’s voice broke. “That’s right, I heard you say you loved me when you pulled me out of the lake. I guess it was just the adrenaline or the heat of the moment for you since you clearly didn’t mean it, but I just needed you to know that I’m - mmm!”

He was cut off by warm lips meeting his. Keith cupped his jaw and tilted his head so he could get a better angle; Lance let him, mostly because he was so surprised he couldn’t even think straight. 

Lance wanted to push the Prince away and demand answers, but instead he grabbed a fistful of his mullet and kissed him harder, as his other hand grazed down Keith’s side, resting on his hip. 

Keith pulled away first. “I’m a fool,” he breathlessly explained. “Make no mistake, I am in love with you, but I thought you’d be happier away from the mayhem that is me and my life.” The Prince’s hands roamed all over Lance’s body; they brushed back his hair, caressed his jaw, massaged his neck, it was as if Keith was making sure Lance was really there. “But, Lance, the way I feel when I’m with you is like nothing I’ve ever felt before, and will probably never feel again.”

Lance’s hands slid up to Keith’s chest and he clutched his jacket. He was so emotionally drained he didn’t even know how to respond. Instead, he settled with asking, “What are you saying?” He buried his head in the Prince’s chest.

Keith gently stroked his hand down the back of Lance’s head. “I’m asking,” he whispered in a voice so soft Lance could barely hear it. “No, I’m begging you to stay.” 

Lance let out a sob. Those were the words. The exact words he needed to hear. He clutched Keith’s jacket tighter, but the Prince brought his hands to Lance’s cheeks and lifted his head up again.

“It’s killing me to see you cry like this,” Keith cooed, tenderly wiping Lance’s tears away with his thumb.

“Hypocrite. You’re crying too.” 

Keith almost seemed shocked when he realized there were, in fact, tears running down his face. Lance pushed the Prince’s bangs back as he lightly teased, “Aw, did I make the Big Bad Prince cry?”

“It’s been a stressful few weeks,” he huffed.

Lance rubbed his hands up and down Keith’s arms as the Prince swatted his tears away. They were silent for a few moments, until Lance finally said, “Yes.” 

Keith raised his eyebrows at him, as if to say yes, what?

Lance rolled his eyes. “Yes, I’ll stay with you.” 

A giddy laugh escaped Keith’s lips as he wrapped his arms around Lance and lifted him off the ground, then spun Lance around in the air and cheered. 

When he put Lance back down again, the Prince was beaming. “Lance, I’m so glad you’re staying, I don’t know what I was thinking before.” He crinkled his nose. “I think I was in the mentality of ‘if you love something let it go’?” 

Lance placed his hands on his hips. “And if they won’t go then literally order them to leave?”

Keith scratched the back of his head and blushed. “Yeah, sorry about that.”

Lance’s heart was pounding in his chest. He couldn’t take how cute Keith looked when he was flustered, so Lance pulled him close and wrapped his arms around him. The Prince reciprocated the hug, tucking his head between Lance’s neck and shoulder. Lance breathed Keith in, unable to fathom that this was actually happening. 

Lance could feel a smile form on Keith’s lips. “Your heart is beating really fast,” the Prince teased. He pulled back and leaned their foreheads together. “I could make it beat even faster.” 

Keith placed a hand on the back of Lance’s head and pushed it forwards until their lips collided. The Prince slid his other hand down Lance’s back while Lance dug his fingers into Keith’s shoulders. At first the kisses were fast and messy, until the two boys realized that, for once, time was not counting down on them. There was no where to be, no one to save, and nobody to fight. They could take their time with one another.

Keith’s hands dropped down to Lance’s thighs and he hoisted him up. Lance complied and wrapped his legs around the Prince’s waist. Lance gasped as Keith ran a trail of kisses down his neck.

“Shiro was right yesterday,” the Prince breathed against his skin. “You are well-built” 

“Oh yeah?” Lance slid his hands under Keith’s jacket. “And when do I get to see how you’re built?” 

“Not in front of the guards,” Keith laughed. 

“Oh please, I’m sure you’d much rather do that in front of the guards than cry.” Lance nipped at Keith’s ear. “Like you just did.” 

Keith let out a small chuckle, then he captured Lance’s lips with his own again. The kiss was long and slow. “I’d rather cry in front of the guards than lose you again,” he breathed. 

Lance stroked the Prince’s cheek. “And you won’t.” He untangled himself from Keith’s arms and the Prince put him down. “Under one condition,” Lance said, poking a finger at the Prince’s chest.

Keith lovingly wrapped his hand around Lance’s finger. “Name it.” 

The Prince’s smile was so fond Lance nearly melted at the mere site of it, but he stood his ground. “Never,” he said sharply. “Ever deny me a dance again.” 

Keith’s eyes lit up with mischief. “Come on.”

As the Prince pulled Lance back towards the ballroom, he could’ve sworn he heard one of the guards sniffling, and another one whisper under their breath, “that was just how I pictured it would happen.” 

 

 

———-

 

 

Hunk was almost in tears when he saw Keith and Lance come back to the ball hand in hand. Everyone was staring, but Keith didn’t care. He led Lance to the center of the floor and began to dance. 

Lance didn’t seem to care at all that Keith couldn’t dance to save his life, instead he just kept staring at the Prince with an affectionate smile. That dumb look was the final nail in the coffin for Keith, he had to make Lance his.

“Lance,” The Prince began, but then he glanced over his shoulder and noticed Shiro and Matt were dancing together…and they were suspiciously close. He danced Lance away from them and began again, “Lance, when I asked you to stay, I meant I wanted you to stay…with me.” 

Lance looked unamused. “Well I should hope so, cause if not then you’re gonna have to break it to those hallway guards that those kisses were false alarms.” 

“They were very excited for us.”

“They’re not the only ones.” Lance jerked his chin towards something over Keith’s shoulder. Keith turned to see Shiro and Matt sitting on a couch nearby pretending to drink nunvill, although it was obvious they were listening seeing as Shiro’s glass was empty and Matt’s was upside down. 

Keith looked back at Lance. “What I’m trying to say is I want a relationship. Just you and me, and no one else.”

Lance’s face was full of understanding as he said, “Are you sure Keith? We can take it slow if you need. Out in the forest you said that there’s a time for action and a time for waiting.”

He pulled Lance closer and growled, “Yeah, well I’m not waiting any longer for you.” 

Lance’s mouth tilted into that smirk that made Keith weak in the knees. “Just to be clear, first you order me to leave, and then you order me to be your boyfriend?” 

Keith leaned in so their lips just barely touched. “And now I’m ordering you to shut up and kiss me.”

Lance complied.

Keith could hear Shiro and Matt high-five in the background. He whipped around and barked, “Don’t you two have somewhere to be?” 

Matt pretended to wipe a tear from his eye. “Yeah, at your wedding.” 

 

 

——--

 

 

5 Years Later:

 

Lance sat on the dresser, excitedly kicking his feet as he watched Keith prepare for his coronation ceremony. His boyfriend’s outfit was all black except for his father’s red cape, which still had the rip in it from their little adventure five years ago. Keith hadn’t allowed anybody to fix the tear, he said it reminded him of Lance. Sentimental idiot, Lance thought as he hopped down from the dresser.

“And now, for the pièce de résistance,” Lance said, picking up the crown and holding it out. 

The crown sparked in Lance’s hands. It was pure gold and adorned with blue and red jewels. Lance couldn’t wait to see how it contrasted against Keith’s dark hair. He’d been waiting for this day for a long time, partially because he was proud of Keith, but secretly because his boyfriend was going to look so hot in a crown.

Keith crouched down so Lance could place the crown on his head. “You know they made this crown especially for me.” He chuckled softly. “The jewels they used are some of the one’s Lotor stole.” 

Lance snorted. “How nice of them to commemorate the robbery that I was almost murdered for.”

“I think they’re commemorating the robbery that brought us together,” Keith replied as Lance gingerly rested the crown atop his head. 

It was true, if he hadn’t been accused of stealing the royal jewels he wouldn’t’ve been living out in the woods, meaning he and Keith never would’ve crossed paths. He shook his head, life is funny like that sometimes.

Keith straightened up and examined himself in the mirror. Lance whistled. “Looking good, Your Majesty.” He leaned against the mirror and whipped his nails against his vest. “Almost as good as me.” 

Keith attempted and failed to suppress a smile. “Can’t you give me this one Lance? I’m wearing a crown of pure gold.” 

“Yeah, but it has to compete against me and my new blue vest.” Lance strutted across the room, showing off his new threads. When he reached the wall dramatically turned back and danced toward Keith. 

“Alright, enough messing around,” Keith laughed. “Matt and Shiro will be here soon to escort us to the ceremony.” He leaned back against the dresser, his face falling a little bit. “Besides, I know what you’re trying to do.” 

Lance winked at him. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” 

“You’re trying to distract me so I won’t be stressed about the coronation.” 

Lance threw his hands in the air. “You caught me, now take me away boys.” After all this time together, he knew Keith well, which meant his thoughts were probably running wild about becoming king. Lance took a step closer to the Prince. “Are you nervous?” 

Keith shrugged. “Not as nervous as I thought I’d be. A few years ago I never thought I’d be ready to lead.” His eyes flickered to Lance. “But then I learned to work on team, so I think I’m ready now. Despite all my past mistakes, I know I can be a good king.” 

Lance smiled so big his cheeks hurt. “Good.” 

He reached out to touch Keith, but the Prince grabbed his wrist and pulled it to his face, examining the scar on the palm of his hand. “Although some mistakes I can never forgive myself for.” 

Keith traced a finger down the scar. He often told Lance how guilty he felt about it, but Lance didn’t care. Keith giving him the scar was just another thread in the tapestry that led them to this point. 

“You’re such a drama queen,” Lance huffed.

“I learned from the best.” Keith brought Lance’s palm up to his lips and he peppered the scar with kisses. Lance’s breath grew shallower with each peck. 

His heart was so full. He wrapped his arms around the Prince - his Prince…soon to be his King - and said, “Keith, you’re everything to me. I know I’ve already proved this to you, but I would die for you. I mean, almost being executed really stunk, but I’d do it all again for you.” He thought for a moment, then added, “Probably.” 

A small laugh escaped through Keith’s nose. “You’re everything to me too, Lance. You’re like…the Haggar to my Zarkon.”

“Babe.” Lance slapped his hands over his heart. “That may be the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me.” 

“Oh really?” Keith adjusted the crown on his head. “More romantic than ‘will you marry me’?”

Lance’s body went numb. “Um, well, you would…you would have to say those words to me first for that to be true.” 

Keith opened up the top drawer of the dresser and pulled something out. Lance’s heart was beating a million miles a minute. “Keith, what’re you - are you going to - is this really the best time to-”

“Lance, shut up and trust me,” Keith said with the most loving and dorky of smiles plastered across his face. He dropped down to to one knee and held up a ring. To Lance, that tiny ring was worth ten times more than the crown of gold atop the Prince’s head. “Lance McClain, will you marry me?” 

A lump formed in Lance’s throat. “But, it’s coronation day,” he gasped out. “It’s your day.” 

Keith shook his head. “I don’t want to be king of you’re not beside me.” 

That was it. That’s what undid Lance. 

He leapt into the Princes arms and covered his face in kisses.

“Is that a ‘yes’?” Keith asked.

Lance shrugged. “I suppose.” While Keith slid the ring onto Lance’s finger, Lance pulled a ring of his own out of his pants. “This baby’s been burning a hole in my pocket for year now, so I guess you can have it now.” 

Keith’s eyes widened. “You’ve had that for a year?” 

“I knew you were the one for me.” Lance scratched the back of his neck and looked at the floor. “But as much as I wanted to make you mine, you were getting ready for your coronation, so I decided to wait until the time was right for you.” 

“I love you so much,” Keith sighed, pulling Lance in for a kiss. He pushed Lance against the door and kissed him harder. Lance clenched Keith’s hips and pulled him closer, he wanted his fiancé as near as possible right now. 

“I love you too,” Lance breathed against the Prince’s lips. “And I can’t wait to marry you.”

Keith braced a hand against the door beside Lance’s head. The passionate, territorial look in his eyes was one reserved only for Lance. “Oh yeah? Well I’m gonna marry the quiznak out of you.” 

They leaned in for another kiss, but stopped to laugh when they heard Shiro and Matt cheering on the other side of the door.