by Patty

Part Twenty-One

"I still think this is a bad idea," Lance sing-songed as the transport landed on the mining satellite. Keith silenced him with a glare.

"Just out of curiosity," Pidge asked as he unfastened his safety belt, "what did you tell Allura and Koran?"

"I told them we had some Garrison errands to run."

"You LIED?!"

"It's a half-truth. Galaxy Garrison always has its eye on places like this..."


"They don't look too close at who they hire," Hunk explained as he looked around anxiously, "these rocks are crawling with fugitives and deserters..."

"That's going to be our cover," Keith continued. "We're checking up on a lead about someone's location."

"Won't Lotor get in trouble if his boss thinks he's a criminal?"

"Maybe, maybe not, Pidge," Lance frowned, "but I doubt it'll put him in a very cooperative mood."

"What is with this sudden negativity, Lance?"

"This is all wrong, Keith. I'm supposed to be the one who comes up with a crazy, poorly planned scheme, and you're supposed to veto it and come up with something better. This whole idea is insane and I just know something's gonna go wrong."

"Relax, okay? Trust me. Look, there's the head office."

The squat, shabby building was both unimpressive and uninviting. A young boy, obviously at least partly Drule, was sitting on the steps before the main entrance. He was reading from what looked like a textbook.

"Excuse me," Keith addressed him, "we'd like to speak with Mr. Wagner."

"Wagner's in his office, " the boy replied without looking up, his tone disinterested. "I don't remember him having and appointment today. He'll be cranky if you haven't got an appointment."

"Is this kid the receptionist?" Lance muttered.

The boy snorted. "I'm the courier, so I'm in the office a lot. Who are you guys, anyway?"

"We're space explorers from..." Keith never got to finish. The boy's head snapped up, his eye's wide.

"Really?! Awesome! I'm gonna be a space explorer someday."

"That's nice..."

"I wanna be a captain! A friend of mine says all captains are anal and stressed out, but I think he was just joking." Lance looked at Keith and snickered. Keith ignored him.

"Okay... We really need to..."

"Hey, is that a Garrison issue laser? Can I see it? Have you ever shot anybody? Have you ever been shot?"

"Yes, no, yes, and yes. I'm happy you're so interested, but we really need to see Mr. Wagner, now."

The boy's face fell. "Okay..."

"Hey, Keith," Hunk sat down on the stairs, "you guys go ahead. I'll stay out here and talk to..."

"My name's Vallahi."

The other three entered the dingy building. There was a small sitting area inside the door with two more doors to the right and to the left. The right hand door had "Department of Records" stenciled in black paint. The other door was similarly labeled "Wagner." An angry, and rather loud, voice carried through the door.

"Do you like your job, Jones?"

The other half of the conversation was a little distorted and was probably coming from some sort of communicator. "I'm sorry, sir, but I don't think anyone else should go down there until we figure out what went wrong..."

"Then figure it out! What am I paying you for?! How much light do you really need to break rocks? We're losing money just sitting around!"

"With all due respect, sir, the shafts can be dangerous. Last time something like this happened..."

"You have until the end of the first shift today to get this moving again. Understand?"

"Yes, sir."

The noise settled to grumbling and shuffling papers.

"Geez," Lance whispered, "I think I might just wait outside, too!"

"Go, if you're going," Keith replied, "but if you stay, act professional." Then he knocked on the door.

"Who is it?! This had better be important!"

"Space explorers, Mr. Wagner," Keith called back. "We'd like to talk to you about..."

The door suddenly flew open to reveal a short, greasy man with the beaming grin of a salesman about to make a pitch.

"Please come in, gentlemen. How can I be of assistance?"


"We do have one recently hired employee who matches your description. He works security. Right now he should be at..." Wagner shuffled through the papers on his desk, presumably seeking a schedule. "Anyhow," Wagner moved the search to an old filing cabinet, "we've never had any trouble from him. Keeps to himself, mostly." Wagner looked around his office a moment and then frowned.

"Val! Hey, Val!" Wagner's sudden shout made Pidge jump. "Kid's the courier around here," Wagner explained. "Darned if I know how he does it, but he always knows where everyone is. VAL! Good kid. He's like a son to me. Took him in after his parents died in an accident. It was the least I could do. VAL!! Where are you boy?! He was just outside earlier. VALLAHI SILVA'AR!!"

The door opened. "Yes, Mr. Wagner?" The boy was all innocence, but the space explorers knew he had been just outside the entire time.

Obviously, Keith thought to himself, Vallahi doesn't like this man. 'Like a son to me.' Yeah, right.

"Didn't you hear me calling?" Wagner berated the boy. "Now you've kept out guests waiting."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Wagner."

"These men want to talk to Lotor." Vallahi's body tensed almost imperceptibly at the name. "You know where he was assigned today, right?"

"Yes, sir. I'll take them."


"Did you see that?" Lance asked Keith in a low voice as they followed Vallahi out of the office. "He recognized Lotor's name. Do you think he knows him?"


"So," Vallahi called back over his shoulder, "what do you need to see Lotor for? You gonna arrest him?"

"We really just want to talk to him." Keith decided to try fishing for a little more information. "Why? Has he done something we ought to know about?"

Vallahi stopped and turned around. "You guys are from Arus, right?" When Keith nodded, he continued. "He talks about that place all the time, an' he talks about you guys, too. I know you don't like him, but he's been real nice to me. If you're here to say something that's gonna upset him, then..."

"We don't want to upset him," Keith reassured him. Well, what they said probably would upset him, but that wasn't the intent. "We just want to talk, then we'll leave."

Their guide narrowed his eyes and stared them down for a moment. "Okay." They started off again.

"Hey," Pidge addressed the other space explorers quietly, "did anyone else notice that we're moving in a different direction, now?"

"Clever," Lance shook his head, "he wasn't going to take us to Lotor until he knew why we were here."

"Hopefully, he'll lead us straight where we want to go, now," Keith frowned. "This has already taken longer than I'd hoped."

"Yeah, well," Lance rolled his eyes, "I won't say 'I told you so.' Yet."

They came to a mine entrance that for the life of him, Keith couldn't distinguish from any of the others they had already passed. Vallahi pressed the button on a decrepit intercom and waited.

"Checkpoint One," a bored voice answered a few moments later.

"Lotor has visitors," Vallahi responded.


"Important visitors that Wagner sent all the way out here."

"Hold on, he's down at Checkpoint Three." There was a long pause.

"Lotor speaking." All four space explorers instantly recognized both the voice and the irritated tone.

"There are some space explorers from Arus here to see you."

"My shift is over in thirty minutes. Take them to my quarters. They can wait there."

Vallahi, who had overheard Keith's comment about how long this was taking, glanced nervously from the intercom to the space explorers and back. "I don't think Wagner would mind if you left early..."

"I would mind. I'm sure, Keith, because I know it's you, that you had this planned out to the minute. However, you never thought to factor in whether it was convenient for me. Forgive me for not going out of my way to accomodate you, but you're just not one of my favorite people and I'm having a bad day. I'll be up at the end of my shift."

Everyone looked at Keith, who took a deep breath and counted to ten.



Lotor waited for his eyes to readjust to the darkness of mine level three. For some reason this section of tunnels had lost power. The miners ahd been reassigned, but security had been told to remain in order to "maintain the integrity of the site."

As far as Lotor was concerned, this was sheer stupidity. There was nothing down here any of the workers would want and there was no good place to hide anything that might be taken, anyway. Regardless, somebody ahd to do it.

Lotor knew that he was here for several reasons. Firstly, he was still the newest guard. He was also younger than most of the security staff. Then there was the whole Drule thing...

He supposed he really couldn't blame them. He had been one of the most ruthless conquerors in recent years. Oddly, no one seemed to recognize him-- he was just another alien. He did feel bad for those like Vallahi, though. Some Drule were regular citizens of Garrison planets and didn't deserve to be bombarded with anger and bitterness.

Some rock dust sifted down from the ceiling. Lotor coughed and then sneezed violently.


Lotor startled and turned sharply toward the elevator. "Mr. Jones, sir?"

"Shift's over. Go home. I'll take over down here myself."

"Yes, sir." It was probably time he dealt with his unexpevted guests, anyway.


When Lotor arrived back at his quarters, Val was showing a politely interested Pidge and Hunk his collection of oddly shaped rocks and Lance was warily eyeing a suspiciously calm Keith.

"So..." Lotor felt a large drop in hisformer irritation fueled bravado, "what was so important that you had to come all the way out here?" Before they could respond he had a terrible thought. "Is it Allura? Is she okay? What-"

"She's not hurt," Keith cut him off, "but she is the reason we're here. Her coronation is next week."

"Congratulations to her. What's that got to do with me? Are you here to make certain I don't ruin the special occasion?"

Keith really wanted to say yes, but it would be counterproductive.

"I'm sure she'd like you to be there," he said instead.

Lotor's eyes narrowed. "What about you?"

"I just want Allura to be happy. I thought..."

"What? That you could win her over by dragging me back? Sorry, but I'm awfully tired of being used."

"That's not how I meant it!" Keith felt himself losing his temper. It shouldn't be this difficult to have a civil conversation with Lotor. "She misses you."

"You think me going back will magically fix everything? Don't be naive."

"It would certainly be a step in the right direction, don't you think?"

"I think you should keep out of other people's business. It was my decision to leave and I'll decide when, if ever, to go back!"

Keith felt a restraining hand on his shoulder and realized that he had risen to his feet, fists clenched.

Lance tightened his grip on Keith and pulled him to the far corner of the small room. "Excuse us for a moment, " he gave what he hoped was a disarming smile. "I just thought of something important."

"What?!" Keith hissed through his teeth.

"You were about to blow it! That's what!" Lance sighed and rolled his eyes. "He's yanking your chain Keith. He's trying to piss you off so we'll just leave."

"Why would he do that?"

"You mean besides the fact that provoking you is fun?"


"You're forgetting who you're dealing with here, Keith. I guess we all did. We got used to seeing him as a regular guy, but Lotor is a proud man. He's not just gonna fold and come crawling back with his tail between his legs! We need to offer him a way out that won't make him feel weak."

"Such as?"

"I have an idea."

When they turned back around, all eyes were on them.

"So, Lotor," Lance broke the rather awkward silence, "how do you like working security?"

Slightly taken aback by the sudden change of subject, Lotor found himself answering without much forethought.

"The work's alright, but I'm not real fond of being the lowest rung on the ladder."

"Get bossed around a lot, huh?"

"That's what happens when you're low ranked."

"Out of curiosity," Pidge chipped in, "why security?"

"Back on Doom, I monitored the security staff. It was a more comfortable fit than mining."

Lance looked pointedly at Keith and then casually stated, "You know, Allura's been reorganizing the royal guard. She's looking for a chief of security."

"Of course, she'll need someone with experience," Keith was catching on to Lance's plan. "It would also be nice to find someone familiar with our enemies."

"You could do that." They were all surprised when Vallahi spoke. "I think you should go."

"What?" Lotor almost felt hurt. He switched to Drule. "You want me to leave? What about you? You'd be all alone again."

"What about you?" Vallahi retorted, also in Drule. "You know you want to go back. You loved it there. Besides, you shouldn't have to worry about me-- I'm not your kid..."

Lotor turned back to the space explorers. "You want me to go? On one condition..."

"Which is?"

"Vallahi comes, too."


Keith was grumbling to himself when he came back out of Wagner's office an hour later. He slapped a piece of paper in Lotor's hand.

"You have no idea how much you owe me for that. I have never had to blackmail anyone before."

Lotor was looking over the document. "So, it's official?"

"Yeah, congratulations. He's officially your responsibility now."

"Awesome!" Vallahi crowed. He latched himself onto Keith in a bear hug. "Thanks, Keith!"

"Yes," Lotor clasped Keith's hand firmly, his voice sincere, "Thank you."

"You're welcome. Can we go now?"


They were just leaving the transport in the castle hangar when the sirens began to blare. That meant they were under attack.

"Why not?" Keith groaned. "Everything else has gone wrong..."

"You know what could make this even more awkward?"

"Don't jynx it, Lance..."

A voice called from the hall outside. "Guys? Is that you?"

Part Twenty-Two

Lotor had a sudden urge to run and hide. He would probably be surprised to know that Keith was having that same thought. However, both men found themselves frozen in place.

The hangar door slid open, revealing a harried Allura. She began to speak, but stopped-- mouth open-- when she saw who else had come back. Her face went through a rapid-fire series of emotions: surprise, joy, disapproval, anger, more surprise, more anger, and back to the worried expression where she began. It took about three seconds.

There was a long moment of awkward staring.

"Hey," Vallahi's voice broke the standoff, "Is that alarm important?"

"Who--" Allura started to ask but then changed her mind with a shake of her head. "We don't have time for this now. The castle is under attack. We have to go.

"Promise me," she turned her attention to Lotor, "that you will still be here when we get back. We need to talk."

"I promise."


Lotor and Vallahi were left in the control room with Koran, several guards, and Nanny. The Prince of Doom couldn't help fidgeting under the woman's death glare. Val was more or less oblivious, gazing in awe at all the equipment and peppering Koran with questions.

"So," Nanny spat the word with such venom that Lotor flinched, "I suppose that, that... *boy* is yours?" She absently waved a hand in the general direction of Vallahi.

"Only legally." Lotor was reminded of the time he had been caught sneaking a kitten into his room when he was eight.

"You have a lot of nerve," she continued, "coming back here after what you did. You made Allura very unhappy." The former governess punctuated each word of the last sentence with a poke from a surprisingly sharp finger. Lotor was finally spared by Keith's voice coming through a communications terminal.

"Alright, Castle Control, we're making our approach."

"Standing by," Koran acknowledged.


The robeast was typical: big, ugly, and heavily armored. What caught the Voltron Force's attention was the escort. At least a dozen fighter ships were accompanying Hagar's creation.

"It looks like they'll be trying to divide our attention, team," Keith observe d.

"Koran," Allura mused, "could you cover us from the castle?"


"Heads up, everybody," Lance called. "That robeast is up to something."

Indeed, the robeast had raised its hands above its head and appeared to be charging up an attack. Suddenly, it brought both arms down with a snapping motion. There was a flash.

"Pidge? What was that?"

"I'm pretty sure it was an electromagnetic pulse. That seems pretty stupid, though..."

"Yeah," Hunk agreed, "aren't we shielded from that?"

"Yes," Keith frowned as he started to see the enemy's plan, "but the castle isn't. That pulse just fried their systems."

"There goes our backup," Lance sighed.

"Looks like we'll have to manage on our own."


Lotor blinked in the suddenly dark control room. This was not good. "Val?"

"Over here. What just happened?"

Koran slammed a fist down on a now useless panel. "All our systems are down. Voltron needs us and we're helpless!"

"What exactly hit us?" Lotor had a guess, but he wanted confirmation.

"It was an electromagnetic pulse of some kind."

"Your weapon turrets have manual operations systems, don't they? If they weren't activated at the time of the pulse, we may still be able to use them."

"Our people are not warriors," Koran's frown deepened. "We've become dependent on the computerized guidance systems, I doubt we could hit a single target."

"I could, and I'm sure I could show some of the guards. How can the turrets be accessed?"

"Our first priority is to get the people to safety, but our communications are also down."

"I could help." Both men turned to look at Vallahi. "What? I'm a courier! Give me a message and tell me where to go. It's what I do."

"Very well, let's see what we can do."


"Allura, do you have a clear shot?"

"Yes, I only need a moment to--"

Voltron was rocked by a blast from the left.

"There's too many of them, Keith," Lance fumed, "whenever I get a lock on one, another fires."

"Our shields are weakening," Pidge reported.

"I bet that's what the robeast is waiting for, huh?" Hunk scowled.

The robeast had not advanced from its original landing site. It watched silently as the fighters harried Voltron from all sides. They had managed to take out a few, but it didn't seem to make much difference.

"Man," Lance sighed exasperatedly, "I'd take any kind of help right about now!"

Just then, one of the fighters exploded.

"Gee, " Lance blinked, "thanks!

"Look," Allura smiled, "that shot came from one of the castle turrets."

At that moment, another turret fired, clipping a second fighter's wing, sending it spiraling downward.

"I hope they can keep us covered for a while. Focus on the robeast. Form blazing sword!"

Another ship blew up behind them as they sliced through one between them and Hagar's monster. The robeast shifted into a defensive stance.

"Scan it, Pidge."

"Already on it, Keith. So far it doesn't seem to have any special defenses."

"We know it can generate large amounts of energy," Keith's eyes narrowed. "Let's not give it a chance to charge up again."

The monster thrust an arm forward and Voltron jolted.

"What was that?"

"According to the computer..." Pidge blinked. "That can't be right."


"It was just air-- very pressurized air."

"Great," Lance scowled, "so that's going to happen every time it moves?"

"So," Allura mused, "how can we keep it from moving? Do you guys remember the time Doom tried encasing black lion in stone?"

"Do you think a similar tactic could work here?" Keith glanced at their surroundings. "I don't see much of anything we could use."

"Do you see that river to the east?" A plan was coming together in Allura's mind. "We have a village there which exports clay pottery. It's prized on other planets for its strength and durability."

"I think I see where this is going," Keith chewed his bottom lip, "but do you think it would hold?"

"We only need a few moments."

"We'll give it a shot."


As the last alien fighter went down, a ragged cheer could be heard all along the castle battlements. Then the makeshift defenders saw something unsettling. One man voiced their common fear.

"Look! Voltron is retreating!"

Indeed, the mighty robot was backing away from its opponent. The robeast appeared confused, cocking its head to one side.

"If Voltron has given up," it was the same voice as before, "we're all doomed!"

"Be quiet, you coward!" As was his wont, Lotor used brashness to mask his own concern. "I don't believe that for a second! They must have some kind of plan..."

All the same, Lotor held his breath as he watched the robeast slink slowly after its fleeing prey.


"How much time do we have?" Keith asked Lance, the current lookout.

"Um... Another thirty seconds or so?" He sucked a sharp breath in through his teeth. "Make that any second now-- it's charging!"

"It's okay," Allura said with a calm she did not truly feel, "we're ready."

With a triumphant roar, the robeast crouched for a final spring and was met with a facefull of red-orange mud. Taken aback, it stood stunned as it was pelted by more mud.

"Lion torches," Keith commanded, "now!"

Only a few moments of the searing heat served to harden the clay enough to seriously hamper the robeast's movements. The blazing sword finished it off nicely.

"Quick thinking, princess!"

"Where'd that idea come from anyway?"

"Economics reports," Allura divulged, "I've been doing my princess homework."


Val was almost disappointed that the excitemnet was all over. It was nice to feel needed and important. A few castle guards had looked askance at him at first, but soon enough they respected his speed. Exploring this incredible castle had been great, too.

"Living here would be so great," he whispered to himself.

"What?" Lotor temporarily emerged from his brooding worries about his upcoming 'talk' with Allura.

"I hope we get to stay."

"So do I, Val," Lotor watched the Voltron Force eneter the control room, "so do I."

Part Twenty-Three

"So," Allura gazed intently at the man across from her. Even though he had been gone a relatively short time, he seemed older somehow. At the same time, he wouldn't look her in the eye and was fidgeting like a child about to receive a lecture.

"Yeah..." Lotor was compulsively picking lint pellets off the upholstery on the arm of his rather uncomfortable chair.

"I never thought of you as a very parental person." That made him look up.

"Huh? Oh, Val. I don't really think that either. It's more of a brotherly thing. He kind of has a new hero figure, anyway."

As if on cue, Vallahi burst into the small conference room.

"Hey, Lotor, guess what!"

"You suffered a blow to the head that caused you to forget all your manners?"

"Sorry for interrupting." He was only momentarily abashed. "Keith says they have stables here and he can show me how to ride after dinner! Can I go? Please?"

"Horses can be dangerous, so listen carefully to everything he tells you. Be back before dark and let me know if the plan changes."

"Thanks! Bye!" The boy was gone as quickly as he came.

"Take a jacket in case it gets cold!" Lotor yelled out into the hall.

"Okaaay!" The reply drifted back.

When Lotor turned back around, Allura was smirking at him. "Brotherly. Right."

"Yeah, well, look at you. When I left, you were an overwhelmed princess, and now you're about to be crowned a respectable and capable queen."

"Perhaps, but all work and no play makes Allura a dull girl. I really missed having you around. Bad influence and all."

"I wasn't doing anything useful," he held up a hand to cut off an attempted interruption, "but if you'll let me, I'd like to work here as a guard."

"You'll have to apply and go through the same process as everyone else."

"That's fine."

"It's not just my decision, you know- there's a commitee."

"I'm still going to give it a shot."

Allura smiled. "I'll put in a good word for you."

"There's one more thing," Lotor chewed his bottom lip. "About what happened, you know, right before I left?"

"Yes," Allura's face became an expressionless mask and her eyes dropped so Lotor couldn't read them, "I do know."

"We can't ever go back to the way things were before, can we?"

"No," Allura agreed, "it can never be exactly the same again. I am glad you're back. I hope we can be good friends again. We can't pick up where we left off, but we can make a new start."

"I look forward to it."

"Me, too. Now give me a hug or I'll hit you."

"Fine, but only because you told me to."


Keith stood on the ramparts massaging his temples and enjoying the quiet. Vallahi had kept up a steady stream of talking and questions the entire time they had been out. Apparently, Drule children, unlike humans, did not require air. Heaven knew Keith had trouble finding enough air to walk and answer all those questions at the same time. A door opened behind him and he heard approaching footsteps.

"Please, God," he muttered, "let it be anyone but Vallahi."

"Um... Hi, Keith!" It was Lotor.

"I guess I should have been more specific."


"Nothing. Did you need something?"

"I didn't know why I hated you."

Now Keith was confused. "What?!"

"I was talking with Val and he asked me why I hate you. Would you believe that I had no answer?" Keith really didn't know where this was going but he nodded politely and let Lotor continue. Maybe he would finish and leave so Keith could seek out some aspirin. "At first, I guess I just chalked it up to you being my enemy or a rival for Allura's affection, but that doesn't really cover it, you know?" Nod. "You know what I think it really is?" Head shake. Keith had thought some of his old professors liked to ramble, but after today... "I think I envied you."

"Say what?" For a moment, Keith completely forgot about his headache.

"I envied you," Lotor repeated, "because you had all the things I ever wanted. You were acknowledged by your superiors, respected by your peers, self-confident, and totally dedicated to your cause. Hell, given a different set of circumstances, I could have been you!"

Keith blinked. "I honestly never thought about it."

"Anyway," Lotor seemed a little reluctant to proceed, "I'd like to apologize for the things I said earlier. You were doing what you thought was right and I really did want to come back here... I guess my point is-"

"Do you really have a point?"

"Well, yeah! Did you think I came up here for no reason? Oh. That was a joke, huh? My point is: if I stay, I'll be dealing with you a lot. This is me presenting the olive branch. I know I made a mess of this, but I have very little experience with this sort of thing-"

"If?" Keith had latched on to only part of Lotor's speech. "You said 'if' you stay."

"Well, a job isn't guaranteed. Apparently there's a commitee."

"I know. I'm on the commitee."

"You are? No offense, but how come?"

"Allura asked me to act as a Garrison representative with regards to security. You were saying? After the if?"

"Basically, I have no real reason to dislike you, and it seems a shame for you to continue hating me when we could just start all over."

Keith started laughing and Lotor looked at him like he was insane. "Should I take this as a bad sign?"

"No, no. This is just a very familiar conversation. I didn't like Lance at all when I first met him. I thought there was no place for a Space Explorer who wouldn't follow orders. Turns out he only follows the ones he really feels are justified. One day he came up to me and said something really similar."

I'm not perfect. I tend to be pretty close-minded and don't often think outside the box. Every now and again I need some one to call me on it. Do you really think we can just start from scratch? That's a lot of history to just erase."

"I can't promise I won't drive you crazy on occasion, but..." Very solemnly, Lotor held out his hand. "Hello. My name is Lotor and I'm going to be applying for a position in the Royal Guard."

Without missing a beat, Keith shook the profered hand. "Pleased to meet you, Lotor. I'm Keith, Captain of the Voltron Force."

"I've heard a lot about you. I'm honored to make your aquaintance."

"I don't suppose you have any aspirin on you?"


Allura took a deep breath and tried to focus on calm. Her coronation was in a few hours. She tried to remind herself that nothing would really change except her title. It wasn't helping that she had apparently been elected Ms. Fix-it for the day. First, Lance had begged her to convince Keith not to make the guys wear their Voltron uniforms. Then Koran had asked her to approve the final seating arrangement for the guests. Keith had changed his mind to Garrison dress uniforms and Hunk couldn't find his cufflinks. A shortage of a main ingredient had forced a last minute menu change she had to okay. She also had to give a toast at the banquet. All she wanted was a moment alone...

Nanny stormed by the door in a huff. A moment later she was back, looking confused.

"Princess! Why are you not getting ready?"

"I just needed a moment to myself."

Nanny nodded understandingly. "Have you seen the boy?" Nanny never refered to Vallahi by name- he was just "the boy."

"Why? Is he in some kind of trouble?"

"He has all but ruined his new suit! What will it say about Arus that we cannot even make children presentable?! Oooh... That boy!"

"I'll make sure he knows you're looking for him." Nanny bustled out, only slightly more calm for having vented. "She's gone."

"Thanks." The boy scrabbled out of his hiding place. There was a hole in one elbow of his jacket and grass stains were on both knees. Allura straightened his tie. "I told her it was a bad idea to wear this all day."

"Don't worry about it."

Vallahi ducked back to his hiding place and presented Allura with a bouqet of wildflowers. "Happy coronation day!"

"Yes, well, I'm still working on the 'happy' part."

"Oh yeah! Lotor said to tell you: 'Welcome to responsibility- most of the time it sucks.'"

"I suppose he got that from the Royal Guard. It's true, though."

"Maybe. He also said, 'That's why you have friends who'll listen to you complain.'" With that, he slipped out into the hall.

"Oh, he'll get to listen..." She took a deep breath of the sweet perfume of the flowers. It was time she got back to the hustle and bustle. At least now she had a toast for the coronation banquet. "Here's to good friends and new beginnings!"

The End