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Don't You Ever Tame Your Demons

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         It’s always one thing after another. It’s attending proper etiquette classes, learning how to properly ballroom dance, and even handle the vague possibilities of war. The idea of having time to relax and take time for one’s self is almost impossible outside of the lights out hours. Even then, one would be too tired to sneak out and do anything. Seriously, nothing is like trying to fly out to another planet while falling asleep at the helm. Almost crashing the shuttle was not a conversation to have with the King, especially after crashing one and having to be rescued a deca-phoeb ago. Instead, that’s designated bedtime.

         Being a royal means there is a specific value to uphold. To carry on the traditions, to take care of the planet’s people, as well as to keep friendly ties with neighboring planets in the galaxy. It’s not a job for the faint of heart, but when one is born into it, there isn’t much of a choice. But rather than complain, the prince does what he can. Thankfully he isn’t the next in line for the throne but that doesn’t mean he can slack off or not be prepared. If his sister wasn’t taking the role as Queen later down the road, then it would fall back down the line.

 

         Despite the tall ceilings reflecting the gradually brightening sunlight coming from the windows, Lance couldn’t help but yawn. Sitting in the conference hall surrounded by other members of the royal family as well as two ambassadors chatting amongst themselves isn’t a very exciting occasion. Especially so early in the morning, he didn’t even have the chance to have breakfast! Sure, might have been the Altean prince’s fault for waking up meer doboshes before the meeting, but that’s beside the point. This was something that could have been planned later in the afternoon, but whatever the King wants, he gets. Allura sat to his right, thoroughly engaged in some sort of private conversation with their mother, judging by the whispers before a loud clearing of the throat caught the room’s attention.

         “Thank you both for agreeing to be here today, especially on such short notice. This meeting is definitely the first of its kind because someone has a problem scaring off his help,” King Alfor emphasized his point with a subtle side-eye to the prince whose feet lay settled upon the top of the large oak wood table, “But this might help with future bonds between two people.”

         Alfor wasn’t wrong, it was Lance’s fault for this meeting. He was very particular in who got to follow him around every day and be his personal escorts, and almost every Altean bodyguard Lance’s been assigned he just couldn’t get along with it. They’re usually old and just too strict, almost as if they were just another parent. Or a babysitter, and that’s just insulting. So Lance just does his very best to annoy and drive whoever is with him mad, while whining to his mother. Since his adolescent years, he’s probably gone through seven different guards. His only wish was to pick who got to basically be his companion, and finally, things were rolling in his favor. 

 

         Alfor reached onto the table in front of him, letting his hand waver over a small crystal blue orb that lit up at the attention. “Each of you will put forth your best candidate or candidates, talk about them and why should they be chosen. Remember, they will be accountable for the Prince’s safety as well as keeping the integrity of the kingdom,” The large man explained while nodding toward the closest ambassador to his side. “This decision is brought down to the Prince himself, so be mindful in how you approach the subject.”

         The first was a human commander of the Galaxy Garrison, sent from earth. Iverson had been a tough gentleman to get used to at first, especially due to his gruff nature as well as his disheartening one eye. The other looked as if it were closed, probably if something happened to his other eye that couldn’t be saved. Perhaps if he had been on Altea at that time, their pods could have done something to save him. But alas, that’s old news. As he approached the head of the table, a beam of light erupted from the ball, creating a hologram of a tall and almost stoic young man, poised in an orange cadet uniform, as they call it. 

         “This is Cadet James Griffin, the top pilot in his class at the academy. He values teamwork and is very focused, taking any role thrown at him very seriously. Obedient and by the book all of the way, quick to learn as well as a natural leader. He’s well respected back on earth by his classmates and would be very fortunate to prove what Earth has to offer here on Altea by your side.” Commander Iverson remarked as the hologram rotated to give a complete three-sixty view of the cadet. Alongside held general information such as his name, his age, height, words of recommendations. Lance studied the face floating in front of him, feeling the different eyeballs around the room more focused on him instead of the guest at the head of the table. He didn’t say anything other than a little smile and a quick nod to continue the rest of the presentation. No point in picking one until all options are presented. Either way, something felt off to the Prince. By the book? A stickler for the rules? Doesn’t sound too much fun to be around; rather he sounds just like the others he tries to escape from. 

         Quickly the figure switched from James to another tall young man, yet automatically had a different feel. He seemed cool and collected, different from his strict counterpart. “This is Ryan Kinkade, another cadet from the same class. James and he are both belonging to the same squad. He’s a natural in combat and very skillful when it comes to weaponry. On the reserved side, he’s much more of a quiet partner than anything else. Agreeable and friendly once he opens up, ready to share his interest in photography as well as learning new things.” Iverson’s face almost lit up, perhaps favoring this cadet over the other. Could be due to his quiet nature in comparison to the other who might just be more outgoing. The hologram rotated along with the floating information just as it did before, following the same basic information. A very bland job application but may be vague enough to warrant curiosity. Out of the two, Lance favored Kinkade. Could just be due to the fact it could be an interesting challenge to get him to speak, but mainly for seeming to not have a stick lodged somewhere.  Yet there was another ambassador who had yet to bring forth his suggestions and should be given the same respect.

         “Thank you, commander, if those are your only candidates, you may take a seat,” Alfor interjected in the silence, watching his son study the image of the cadet. The King knows when his son is properly interested in a subject or a person, it’s the way his face lights up. The way his shoulders tense in anticipation or eagerness. None of that is here. Curiosity, a hint of yes, but other than that, no other emotion could be read off of the Prince. Maybe the next group could have a better chance. 

 

         Next to the approach was an entirely different, both in appearance and how his presence captures the room. He was very tall for a Galra commander, with a long white braid that settles over the front of his shoulder and down his chest. With broad and stiff shoulders, it’s clear that he drives a hard and strict regiment for his soldiers. Just as it had done for Commander Iverson, the blue crystal flashed from the previous cadet to completely different species. Kolivan was the leader of the Blade of Marmora, a category of Galra that split from the original empire over a hundred deca-phoebs ago due to the war between the Altean’s and the Galra. Because of his organization, the bond between the two kingdoms eased and was brought back to its friendly nature. Thus the organization contains both pureblood as well as half-breed Galra. 

         “I only have one candidate for you today Prince Lance, but I’ll find you both share the same spirit,” Kolivan’s deep baritone voice directed at the prince almost startled him out of his daydream, his face void of any emotion and his deep yellow eyes crossing the table to stare almost through Lance. “This is Keith, one of our newest soldiers, adopted from the Galran empire and shows promising skills. He’s determined as well as stubborn to complete a mission or to get what he wants for himself. For what he lacks in discipline, he excels in his capabilities to overcome any obstacle. Fluently trained in combat while having the almost highest level of intuition, fully following through listening to his gut in a range of life-threatening situations. Quiet and reserved, he’ll follow you with little to no question. He was born and raised to serve the Galran empire, yet some things fell through for lack of better terms. Having grown up around royalty, and with minor cultural adjustments, he is the most qualified for the position.”

         To be completely honest, the Prince zoned out completely after Kolivan said the name of the floating figure in front of him. His eyes were almost like steel, and even from the distance that Lance sat, he could still see the purple hue. His lips were in a rested frown as if he didn’t know how to smile. But more than anything, his broad chest and shoulders were something to admire. Without noticing, Lance pulled his legs down from the top of the table and instead leaned on his arms. The room settled into silence, just watching Lance’s inner thoughts unfold. After a moment, Allura jabbed her brother in the side with a light laugh, bringing the other down to Altea.

         Lance stood up with a flourish, adjusting his lilac satin gown and flashing the room with one of his dazzling smiles. “Why thank you gentleman, I really do appreciate the two of you coming over to our wonderful home planet. We should really consult you in the future, you’ve clearly had much more wonderful options than what Father subjects me to.” He giggled lightly, walking around the table to the two ambassadors. He shook hands with Iverson first before heading toward the Marmora leader, doing his absolute best to get at least a smile out of the man. Clearly, he wasn’t getting anywhere.

         “After careful deliberation, I’ve decided that I’d like to go with Keith. Not only because you mentioned his qualifications, but I think we need to invite more Galran representatives. I’d love to learn a thing or two from the flesh rather than a textbook huh?” He lightly poked the leader before shaking his hand with a bright smile only to be met with the still face and a slight eyebrow raise. One day he’ll crack and Lance will most definitely be there to see it. 

 

         “So when do I get to meet wonderful Prince Charming? Sorry, I mean Keith,”

 


 

         Over the next few quintants, the castle was bustling in preparations for their new hopefully permanent house guest. There were of course some of the older folk in the royal party who were against having a non-Altean as a bodyguard, as all as disliking a Galran soldier roaming the halls. None of them were around for the war years ago but fear still sticks around. Not that it’s affected the family, especially not Lance. He’s been practically buzzing through his daily practices in excitement. Every day is a countdown into hopefully a new freedom, that is if Keith doesn’t completely have a stick up his ass. But if Kolivan was right in sharing the same spirit, then this should be just a piece of cake. A little bit of charm and magic, and everything Lance wants will be at his disposal. Who can resist a face like his?

         But the day has come, The Blades are landing today with a small team to help Keith get situated as well and discussing plans between the Alteans and the Galran Empire. Nothing has come up in specifics, but something will come of it. At least that’s what Coran and his mother have been discussing behind closed doors. It’ll probably be nothing, it can’t be any more important or exciting than what’s going on today. Nothing can beat that.

         Lance did his best to appear even better than usual for this first meeting, it’s important to have a good first impression. His nightly routine the evening prior had taken double the vargas it usually did, as he wanted to make sure his skin was glowing and soft. Any inkling of imperfection was washed away leaving nothing but his sun-kissed tan skin plump as ever. He was adorned in gold jewelry, small dangling cuff earrings long enough to accentuate his neck while he was dressed in a deep cobalt chiffon gown with long floor-length sleeves. Allura thought he was overdressed but clearly, the woman has never seen a more gorgeous man. If there’s one thing Lance does well, it’s dress to impress. Sure, he could have gone with a suit or rather one of his decently formal pieces, but something about a flowy dress makes him happy inside. Gives him room to dance and to properly express himself, so gowns shouldn’t only be a female thing. Can’t have his excellent fashion sense going to waste.

         With Allura on his arm, Lance leads the two out of the castle to the large clearing as a designated landing pad. Coran just got notice of the galran shuttle breaking the atmosphere and should be landing any moment, so why not wait outside for them. The clearing had a large stone circle in the center with a paved trail that leads to the castle but was in a beautiful field of juniberry plants. The flowers were Altea’s pride and joy, and a staple gift to other planets. It’s a symbol of tranquility and the promise of something greater; signifying the bond between the two groups of creatures. Besides the fields, the castle has a magnificent garden. Especially during the evening when it’s lit up in the moonlight, different fauna begins to glow. Maybe that’ll be the perfect place to take the new bodyguard and get to know him. Lance has been told by many suitors that he seems to glow in the evening, and the garden’s multitude of colors, it’s the perfect environment to admire the Prince. He’s not full of himself, he just enjoys the attention alright?

 

         Soft whirring sounded above their heads as the wind began to pick up around the pair. Lance clutched his sister’s arm in excitement as they watched the sleek black shuttle ease into its landing position. The strong gusts of winds caused the flower fields to quiver but raised their strong floral scent, the best part about anyone landing on this side. A back panel door hissed open as it eased onto the brightly lit ground, revealing a small crew. Kolivan was the first to step out, completely in uniform but without his mask. Next came a significantly larger than the leader shockingly, with a thin and wispy tail trailing behind him. His face was hidden with a mask but Lance was convinced he would be even more intimidating if he saw what was behind it. Finally, someone who’s more reasonably sized. The last to exit the ship was significantly smaller than the other two but looked equally deadly. His face too was covered but as only the three came off of the shuttle, it had to be Keith. Their uniforms were different shades of black and deep purple to leave the center symbols slightly illuminated. Together they walked with stiff shoulders toward the pair who were no longer alone. Other members of the royal guard and servants prepared a simple welcoming part. Nothing big or worthy of attention, but some of the servants brought drinks after the long journey. Allura pulled herself away from Lance to adjust her garments but gave the prince room to properly address the group.

 

         “Good afternoon friends!” Lance cheered as he approached the group with open arms, quickly taking Kolivan’s hand in his, “It’s so good to see you again. Please come and introduce us on the way.”

         Kolivan nodded with a firm shake, turning slightly to gesture to the other two attendings. “This is Antok and behind him is the one I’m sure you’re hoping for, Keith.”

         Up close, there were plenty of other physical features he had missed through the hologram. Unlike Lance thought, this galran soldier had a few inches on him causing the prince to tilt his head upward to make eye contact. Through the mask at least. Not to mention his framework. Lance was thin, sure, but he had his own workout regiment and kept his muscles toned and tight while keeping soft appearances. Keith on the other hand looked as if he lived to serve, with his wide shoulders and broad chest that filled out his uniform. Very proportional thankfully, unlike others that are just a bit too bulky on the top or the bottom. Antok nodded but was fully aware that he was not the one on display and instead leaned toward Keith to mumble a few words. The other didn’t reply but instead tipped his head forward slightly to remove his hood and the mask fizzled away revealing a lightly fuzzy and lilac man with jet black hair that fell forward to frame his face. Behind the group, someone coughed, and the sound brought forth two decently sized feline-like ears to the top of his head. Unlike the rest of his face, Keith’s ears were a slight gradient. Lilac at the tips and gradually got darker the closer they were to his hair. Probably to help blend in when they were pulled back, but that’s not something he’s ever seen in a Galra before. Lance automatically took a fascination to the pair and reached a hand to touch but quickly retracted. Hasn’t said a word to the soldier and is already trying to touch him, where are his manners? But Keith seemed to notice the prince’s inner turmoil and instead cautiously reached across the gap and lightly grasped Lance’s hand in a slight shake. His violet and grey eyes studied Lance’s face as he made his next move, almost holding his breath. From there Keith tipped his head forward and allowed the honey-toned man to graze over the sides of his ears, only to be surprised how soft they were.

         Lance’s face flushed at the gesture and only kept his hands on Keith for just a tick before pulling his hands back to his chest, “Thank you, I didn’t mean to overstep. I’m Prince Lance along with my sister Princess Allura, but please just call me Lance.”

         Their eyes met for a moment as the redness in the prince’s face seem to become brighter and more pigmented as the galran began to speak. “I shall keep that in mind Prince Lance, but that is alright, the honor is all mine for you to have interest in the Galran traits,” Keith’s voice came out just a tad quieter than expected but making a statement. It was slightly rougher than Lance would have thought, having somewhat of a raspy undertone to it. Could be from how often he spoke as he was told ahead of time that Keith was quieter and reserved. But the prince wouldn’t mind hearing more of it. Kolivan seemed to be proud, in his never showing any emotion way, and turned tail to follow the rest of the welcoming party. Before Lance could do his best to chat, he was whisked away by the servants who thoroughly complimented his outfit but offered a change of clothes for the rest of the afternoon. He looked over his shoulder to wave only to find Keith’s eyes already studying his figure, but nothing revealed his thoughts. Instead, they nodded to each other before the Blades followed another small group, probably to go over the job details along with Keith’s new living quarters. Kolivan led the way of the trio, but Keith seemed to hold back just a tad to keep a silent conversation with his new boss. As much as Lance wanted to be a part of that, it’s important to let him settle on his own. No need to be breathing down his next on the first day and expect the pair to be friends. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t enjoying the attention from the soldier and winked in his direction with the addition of blowing a kiss. Flirting was friendly, right? Didn’t mean any harm. Keith on the other hand looked slightly confused and quickly turned his attention back to the group he should be following with.

 

         “What an interesting pick you made,”

         A squeal punched out of Lance’s lungs as he whipped around to see Allura standing smugly to his side, her hair delicately curled and setting down her back. Following behind was Shiro, a human-appointed bodyguard. He was one of the first from Earth to make an alliance with Altea and to prove his dedication, he offered his hand at the job. They started as friends until Coran, the King’s advisor, and their uncle suggested the job. Since then, Shiro’s been a part of the royal family, along with his husband Adam. Adam is a professor on Altea who helps teach the altean children customs of other planets, and is one of the best people to do it since he too is from another planet. Shiro carries a parental aura, despite trying to stifle a laugh while walking behind the two siblings. Lance would be sure to have the mice sneak some food into his hair when he wasn’t looking.

         “I think I made a perfectly good choice! He was respectful and looks like he has a good head on his shoulders,” Lance squabbled back at his sister and reached to shove her, only to have his head grabbed and shoved under Allura’s arm in an awkwardly positioned side hug.

         “Uh brother, if you seemed to have forgotten, you touched Keith’s ears. Touching a Galra’s ears is a much more intimate interaction you may do after getting to know them, let alone you petting him. I was genuinely surprised he didn’t bite your hand off!” Allura all but gasped while using her arms to squeeze Lance’s head tighter. She wasn’t wrong though. Galra were very particular in certain traditions and aspects of their relationships with each other and other species. Many are not fond of physical contact and will reserve touching of the face and head for their close familial families. Of the older generation, it would be seen as rude to even have your ears completely on display as they’re one of the most sensitive parts of the body. Sounds are much louder to them and are much more sensitive in comparison to an Altean or human for that matter. For Lance, a Prince, to completely ignore such a boundary is absolutely appalling. His mother would be horrified! She would most likely have one of his own ears for it if she found out. A strict woman of power she was, the whole castle feared her. Not that she was abusive, his mother was the kindest of all of them. But if she wasn’t happy with someone for something well deserved, they would know.

         Shiro cleared his throat behind them, gathering the two fighting siblings’ attention. “Don’t forget that Keith did allow it to happen. Given his background, it would be very unlikely for the boy to accept touch like that from a stranger, so you must have left some form of good or at least comforting impression on him.” Ah, a very diligent and organized human. Something that Lance was not. Like with anyone applying for a job or having some importance on the kingdom, a file is provided about whoever is traveling. There are many different species and guests that come by and are stored in the library in a special office, mainly to be looked at before their first arrival and to be forgotten about. In all the excitement he was facing, Lance never read up on his guest. He wanted to experience everything Keith had to offer in real-time, not to know about it beforehand. That’s just not how to make friends properly. But what exactly did Shiro mean by ‘his background’? Lance awkwardly turned in Allura’s grasp to look at the man in confusion and noticed a folder held in his metal altean arm. He was unsure of how it happened as his file didn’t give specifics on who caused it, but Shiro managed to get into a skirmish with the Galra and lost his arm a couple of years prior. After coming to Altea, Alfor saw too that the man would be fixed with a proper arm for which the bodyguard was internally grateful. 

         “Say uh Shiro, is that Keith’s file right there?”

Allura’s grasped weakened just enough for the prince to shove against her side and wiggle out, cheering triumphantly. Thankfully she didn’t try to grapple her brother again and instead went to hang off of the human guard’s arm, quickly snagging the folder before anyone could do anything to stop her.

         “Oh you mean, this little ol file right here? I thought you didn’t want to read about him before talking to him?” The princess giggled and clutched it close to her chest. Takashi quickly backed off realizing that all she was doing was egging Lance on, and a sibling brawl was not something to get in the way of. He made that mistake once before and got poked in the eye and jabbed in his ribs, both sent him to the infirmary. Altean strength is no joke

         “But I did talk to him, right there on the landing strip!” Lance lunged toward his sister with renewed vigor, eyeing the folder as if it were candy. While Shiro watched from the sidelines, the siblings ran up and down the corridor in some form of a game called ‘tag’ as Shiro explained. Allura’s laugh echoed off of the walls as the pair did their best to keep the file to themselves. It was nice to see the two be pleasant with each other. Recently things have been tense between the pair, mainly due to Lance’s disdain for bodyguards. Allura felt as if her brother was being immature and should be better, but out of the pair, she had the better partner. Lance had always been stuck with snobby older men or nosey women who try to meddle in his personal life. Lance wanted a friend, a partner to do things with, rather than the typical royal-bodyguard relationship. 

 

         Unsurprisingly enough, Lance managed to snag the pale blue folder out of Allura’s hands once she appeared tired. Out of the two, the Prince did always manage to have the better stamina. The old lady that she is, the princess could never last very long when it came to endurance unless it was completely necessary. The term ‘old lady’ is only used endearingly, as Allura was only two years older than her brother. Nineteen-year-old Lance wasn’t even in his prime, yet he was still wooing ladies and gents with a simple wink. Allura didn’t seem to notice the ones devoted to her, or she’s choosing to ignore them at least. Nevertheless, they’ll most likely end up betrothed if they don’t seek a royal partner on their own. But that’s something of a future problem. 

         Lance cheered triumphantly with both hands in the air, clasping the goal of his curiosity tightly in both hands. “Remember ‘Lure, I’m always faster th-”

         The prince’s sentence was cut off with a squeal as his body suddenly crashed into something behind him. As he rejoiced, Lance had been walking down the hall with his back turned, leaving another adjoining corridor to his backside. Without paying attention, he managed to collide with someone walking in this direction. In the fumble, the long fabric under the dress managed to catch itself underneath Lance’s shoe causing him to further the incident by falling backward. Somewhat fits his dramatic presence, even if this was entirely accidental. 

         “Are you alright Prince?”

         Strong arms wrapped around Lance’s middle as he slipped, keeping him from hitting the floor and slowly pushed upwards so he was able to stand on two feet. His voice seemed clearer than before but was still had a gruff smooth sound. Once steady on his feet, Lance turned around in the pair of arms to come face to face with his savior. The same violet eyes as before seemed brighter but that may be because of their proximity. After a beat passed, Keith retracted his hands and placed them back down at his sides, no longer worried the man would fall.

         “I apologize for handling you in such a manner, I” The Galra began before Lance held up a finger, catching him off guard. His eyebrow raised in confusion but closed his mouth so he didn’t say anything to further upset the Prince.

         “You saved me from falling, there’s nothing you should be apologizing for,” Lance smiled up at Keith, using his hands to smooth out any wrinkles that might have formed. “If anything, I should apologize to you for not paying attention. I was all caught up in playing a childish game with Allura.”

 

         Almost as if she knew she was being summoned, the princess quickly jogged down toward the pair and scooped the folder that managed to make its way to the floor. “I’ll see you later brother!” She cooed as she ran off with the prize once more, leaving Shiro to trail after her with the shake of his head. He nodded to Keith who didn’t seem to meet his gaze before turning the corner and disappearing out of their sight, leaving Lance and Keith alone for the very first time. Keith stood very stiff and still, appearing just a little out of place. He stood out immensely against the white walls and the very tall ceilings in his rather dark clothing, but that’s not something Lance would point out right away. Especially since he looked like a fish out of water, so might as well show him a line.

         “I wasn’t expecting to see you so soon, were you impatient to see me?” The prince laughed lightly while turning to stand at Keith’s side, gesturing to walk down the hallway. Keith immediately followed, keeping his hands clasped behind his back and kept his eyes forward, looking down the hallway to Lance’s disappointment.

         “They were just passing updates and news that might have been missed the last time we were together. The King’s advisor suggested I find you to get a tour of the castle if you’d like of course.”

         A tour huh? Meaning Lance would have Keith’s complete and undivided attention for the rest of the afternoon? It’s almost as if Coran knew the prince so well. Instead of using his words, he just nodded and smiled. He reached and grabbed Keith’s wrist before taking off into a sprint down the call toward the very front of the castle, leaving a very bewildered and shocked Galra trailing behind him.