Author's Note: Well, we've finally made it to the end of Book #1. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I'd like to thank everyone who followed this story, favorited it and/or me, and left me feedback either via FFN or a Voltron forum. An extra-special thank-you to Emie Mac, Sally On and my girl Wade Wells for their continual feedback and support. I hope to see you three for Book #2!
So that's it for now. I've done my best to keep you all entertained and happy, and I hope that I've haven't butchered anything too much. Hope to see you all again for Book #2.
Title Song: "Arms" by Christina Perri (really beautiful!)
They sat around the table in the conference room with Allura at the head. Keith smiled a secret smile, thinking about their incredible night in bed together. He didn't know who the man was who taught her those insane moves, but he wanted to thank him personally.
Or maybe not. He might beat the man for getting there first.
She had insisted that, no, it wasn't Lance. Lance was his first guess, but she shook her head. It wasn't anyone from the Voltron Force, it wasn't a rape - which ruled out Lotor or any other over-zealous prince - and it wasn't a one-night stand. It had happened during the four years that the lions had been impounded by Wade, and therefore when Keith had gone into hiding in his covert operation to win back Black Lion.
She might never tell him who he was. Or maybe she would. Everything would unfold in time. Right now, he was simply grateful enough that she was his. For now and for always.
"My correspondence with the Galaxy Garrison has been better than ever, considering what it has been like in previous years," Allura began her speech to her teammates. "Unfortunately, the latest news is that Wade has disappeared entirely. Despite the best surveillance money can buy, between the NYPD and the Garrison, no one can figure out how Wade got freed, who helped to bust him out, or where he went."
"Our tuition dollars, hard at work," Lance deadpanned.
"Indeed." Allura glanced around the table, locking eyes with every member of the Voltron Force, the cadets included. "In a somehow-related matter, we have not heard anything from Doom in a long while. The last time we battled Lotor was on Crydor, when Sven stole Blue Lion."
"After everything we've been through, that feels like a lifetime ago," Hunk threw out. "You're right, Allura. It really has been that long."
Pidge nodded. "Factoring that information in with possibility of dark magic or occult science helping with Wade's escape, I'd say that the probability of Wade and Doom having joined forces is exponentially high. And if that's the case, then when Doom finally attacks, it will be at a much stronger level than we've previously experienced."
"So what do we do about it?" Larmina asked. She was a little annoyed that her aunt had been corresponding with Lenora and keeping her out of the loop. "I thought you guys all said that Voltron is the defender. As in, the defender of the universe. We can't go looking for a fight, can we?"
"No. We can't. And we won't." Keith stood up wearily, addressing his team as a cohesive unit. "What we need to do is always be on guard. We can't slip up on our training, and we can't rest on our laurels. We help this planet's citizens to become less reliant on Voltron and more able to help defend themselves. We forge stronger alliances with other planets - not only Earth, Balto and Pollux, but Exxus, Scilos, Tyvel, Brann and even Ebb. We stay ever-vigilant so that we're ready when Doom attacks us again, with whatever allies they may have accumulated."
"Sounds like a game plan," Lance agreed. "I suppose that means that when we send ambassadors out to the different planets, Red and I get Brann, eh?"
Hunk suppressed a laugh. "Well, Lance, you did say that Prince Luthcar was Red Lion's soulmate..."
"And it's gotta be you, Lance, 'cuz I sure as heck won't be going there," Larmina announced. "I had nightmares over that guy."
"Me too," Vince added.
Keith sighed. "Can we please get back on topic?"
Allura nodded. "Of course. In another matter, updates and renovations have been made on both the S.S. Explorer as well as Vehicle Voltron, so the mission of the other Voltron Force is expected to resume in as little as three weeks. Though they will not be coming out as far as the Azure Quadrant - they're sticking closer to Earth."
"Wow, I'm so happy for Chip," Pidge smiled. "But tell me, why would they be leaving so soon? I thought they were going to wait until after Len and Hawkins got married."
"About that...they moved the wedding date up."
A look of surprise washed over the team. "When are they getting married now?" Larmina asked.
Allura checked the clock on the wall of the conference room. "Well, depending on what time it is on Earth, they probably already did."
It wasn't a traditional wedding reception, but it was a fun one nonetheless.
They'd eaten dinner - Per Se had really, truly outdone themselves with the food - and cut the cake, a deconstructed wedding cake from Magnolia Bakery in red velvet, coconut and carrot flavors. There had been plenty of Veuve Clicquot on hand for the numerous champagne toasts, including one truly heartfelt best-man speech from David that welcomed Jon into the "family" and told him that he was thrilled to finally have a brother. The first dance went smoothly, and everyone noticed afterward when Ginger, Bombay and tonic in hand, asked Shannon to join her on the dance floor.
Amidst the revelry, Aidan Dalloway excused himself to go outside and have a cigarette.
Blast it. Aidan hadn't smoked in a long time. Today? Today he needed it. He had cursed himself out when he stopped by the gas station after his usual run at the Tea Shoppe to buy a lighter and a pack of Marlboros. He thought that his smoking had stopped when he and Lisa started seeing each other. He obviously thought wrong.
Outside the blue door of the restaurant, he removed the pack from his pocket. Fingers shaking, he pulled a cigarette out of the pack and placed it between his lips, lighting it. As he inhaled, his fingers calmed down.
"Mate, you'd better not be doing what I think you're doing."
He didn't need to turn his head to know who was scolding him. "Shut up. I need it."
"No you don't."
"Yeah, I do. I just had to watch that...jerk...marry my girl. How in David Rackens' seven hells do you figure I don't need one?"
Cliff placed his hand on Aidan's shoulder. "You do realize that you just referred to Lenora as your girl again, don't you?"
"Dude, any girl I buy an engagement ring for is my girl, whether she ends up wearing it or not."
"And that's just it. She never wore it." Cliff was treading carefully into dangerous waters. He remembered how obsessed his old roommate had been with the girl back at the Academy, how he'd wanted to beat Sven to a pulp for making it official with her. And how much he hated the commander now for hiding her away right before he'd worked up the nerve to give her the ring. "You never proposed to her, Aidan. She was never yours."
"Ten months. For ten months, she was mine. And I freakin' blew it. I should've proposed to her the day I bought that ring."
"Mate, get ahold of yourself. This isn't like you. You're the captain of Albegas - act like it. Or I'll get Jeff and Morgan out here to talk some sense into you."
"Ha." Aidan inhaled again. "Jeff and Morgan. I'm surprised they never hooked up."
"Stay on topic. You told me you blew it with Len. So you know what? Don't blow it with Lisa. Lisa's fantastic. She's the best girl you're ever gonna get. Why don't you propose to her? God knows you two have been good for each other, and she'd love to marry you, I'm sure of it."
Aidan passed the cigarette over to Cliff, who finally relented and took a drag. "So I just danced with Cinda."
"Yeah? She looks good in that dress. Blue, green, one shoulder? Hot on her. She's workin' that blue skin of hers." Aidan took the cigarette for a drag. "So tell me, when I do finally buy a ring for Lisa, will you come with me and be my bodyguard again?"
Cliff took the cigarette back. "God, I can't believe we're having this conversation. Yes, of course I'll go with you and be your bodyguard. Again. But that's the last time I'll do it for you. No man should buy more than two engagement rings in his lifetime." He took a drag.
"You're telling me."
"So then you think you will propose to Lisa at some point?"
"Yeah." Cliff passed him the cigarette, and Aidan took another drag. "Not any time soon, of course. Probably in a couple of years. I'm in no rush." He leaned his head back against the building and closed his eyes, awash in regret and bitterness. "I do love Lisa, you know. I'm not a complete jerk. It's just that -"
"- there's something about Len?"
"Yeah. She's like a frickin' drug." Aidan threw the cigarette butt on the ground and stamped on it with his foot. "We should probably go back inside now, I bet people are looking for us."
As they turned to go back inside the restaurant, Lisa walked out through the blue door, hoping to find them. "Oh, there you are," she said, relieved. "I think you'll both be needed inside, we're having some issues."
"Issues?" Cliff asked. "What kind of issues could they possibly be having that they need our help for?"
Lisa rolled her eyes. "Aidan, Ginger's had a few too many gin and tonics, and it looks like she's one drink away from making a sequel to the Lemon Drop Incident with Shannon. And Cliff, Modoch's been stalking Kelly all night and Taye is this close to taking him outside and beating him into the ground."
"That's awesome," Aidan laughed, making no move to go inside.
She shot him a dirty look, then begged, "Please?"
Looking into her dark eyes, Aidan grinned, then grabbed her hand. "Kiss me first, Sweetheart. Then I'll go break up the Irishman and my other girlfriend."
Cliff rolled his eyes and muttered, "What a life," as Lisa wrapped her arms around her boyfriend's neck and kissed him deeply.
Standing between the two friends, Lisa grabbed each of their hands and dragged them back into the private room. "Hey, since when did you two start smoking again? You'd better not make it a habit."
Cliff laughed in reply. "I started when I found out that I have to break up two guys who are bigger than me."
He thought they were on their way to mending their relationship. Making love to his wife should have been just the thing to make sure her anger against him abated.
It would have been nice if it had worked.
After they finished, she pushed him off of her, rolling over onto her side of the bed. Though she wasn't his elskede, he had to admit that Romelle was beautiful with her creamy skin, golden hair and aquamarine eyes. Really and truly, he hadn't done so bad. And they had a shared history, one that included working together to help thwart Lotor's plans and ultimately defeat him.
How could they not love each other?
She sighed, seemingly pleased. She looked satisfied enough, and he hoped that the look on his face demonstrated the same feeling. How could she stay mad at him? She didn't know for sure that he had cheated on her. She only had her suspicions, and suspicions simply weren't enough for her to remain angry with him indefinitely.
"How was that?" he asked her, smiling. He tried his best to push everything - and everyone - else out of his mind and focus on his wife. "Did you enjoy that?"
Instead of a positive response, she turned her head to face away from him on the pillow. "I'll have you know, I was merely scratching an itch," she responded icily, closing those aquamarine eyes. "I have not slept with a man since before Erik was born. More than six months. What transpired between us just now, dear husband, was nothing more than a physical act."
Her words stung.
Too stunned to respond, Sven dropped his head to the pillow and closed his mouth. Her words had the desired effect, and she let herself drift off to sleep, sated physically and mentally. She would break him, she knew. It was only a matter of time.
Maahox had a gut feeling that it wouldn't be long before Lotor and Wade began their disagreements in earnest. Unfortunately for him, he was right. Very, very right.
Cossack shook his head as he and the occult scientist listened to the two warheads bicker over the right time to attack. Lotor, as usual, wanted to attack hard and as often as possible, while Wade believed that form and strategy were simply too important to be ignored. Although he served King Lotor as his lord, Maahox agreed completely with the former Sky Marshal. Their next battle should not be made in haste.
"My lord," he ventured wisely, "perhaps there is some merit to what the Sky Marshal is saying. We might stand a better chance at success if we take our time, get all of the details ironed out, and then strike flawlessly. There will be no chance for error."
"Thank you, Maahox," Wade responded, grateful for the support. "I'm glad that someone around here has his wits about him."
Lotor cursed under his breath. "Sky Marshal, I must insist that you try not to make a mockery out of me while you are on my ship and, especially, in my presence. Have you no idea how easy it would be to turn you in to the Galaxy Garrison now?"
Wade narrowed his eyes angrily. "And what if I told you," he retorted slowly, hatred filling his voice, "that I know of the one common denominator that can single-handedly bring down the Lion Force, the Vehicle Team, and Albegas? Would you listen to me then?"
"What's Albegas?" Cossack asked Maahox in a whisper.
Maahox sighed. For all his superb military tact, the general could be completely clueless at times. "It is the Voltron-like counterpart that defends the Galaxy Garrison."
Lotor seemed to humor Wade and consider the idea. "Only if you know. Otherwise, be prepared to land back in the Galactic Prison we sprung you out of."
Wade only raised his eyebrow. "If I know, your Majesty? Of course I know."
Carlo brought them back to the apartment building. Back to the triplex. Their home.
As they stepped out of the car, still clad in their bridal attire, the doorman clapped. "Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins!" he greeted them, looking them over. "Mrs. Hawkins, you look absolutely beautiful."
"Thank you so much," she smiled broadly.
In the elevator, they held hands, and she looked up at him. "Mrs. Hawkins. Wow. That will take some time for me to get used to."
"Not for me." Jon smiled back at her. "I love hearing that. Mrs. Hawkins. I can't believe we're finally married. Moving the date up was a fantastic idea."
She nodded. "It was. That's why I insisted on it."
The elevator doors opened, and Jon unlocked the door to their triplex. Then, bracing the door open with his foot, he picked up his bride and carried her over the threshold. But he didn't stop there. He carried her up two flights of stairs and to the master bedroom, with her laughing and protesting the entire way, until he finally set her down at the foot of their bed. Then, smiling, he reached underneath her pillow and pulled out a blue Tiffany box.
"Your wedding present, my angel."
"What?" She frowned. "But I thought -"
"I know that we said no gifts, but whether you know it or not, you gave me a huge gift yesterday." He sat down on the bed next to her, removing his tuxedo jacket and loosening his tie. "You took off your necklace again. The one with the three pendants. And I think this time you mean to keep it off for good."
She swallowed. "Yes."
"So I went out this morning and got you something to replace it with."
Trembling, she took the box and untied the ribbon. As she lifted the lid, she saw the diamonds on the platinum chain. The Mosaic pendant from Tiffany. It was small, it was beautiful, and it was perfect. Perfect like him.
"Jon, I don't know what I ever did to deserve you."
He encircled her with his arms. "You loved me back."
Choking on sobs, she laid her head on his chest. Hers. He was hers, for now and forever. "You're my home."
He held her in his arms silently for a moment, kissing the top of her head, waiting for her to continue. She did. "In your arms, I'm home. With you, I'm home. No matter whatever else happens in life, wherever you are is home. And maybe after everything I've lost in my life, I actually do deserve you."
He was touched. "Oh, Lenora. I love you."
"And I love you." Batting her eyelashes to dissipate the tears, she stood up and placed a solid kiss on his lips. "Now I have another wedding gift for you. I hope you enjoy it."
As her new husband watched, she slowly unzipped the back of her wedding gown and let it fall from her shoulders, letting it pool on the floor in a heap of ivory silk organza. Then, shooting him a playful smile, she joined him on the bed, wearing nothing but her corset and high heels.
Sven, now fully dressed, moved from his bedroom to the adjoining nursery, where Erik was fussing. Normally, he'd let his son try to self-comfort for a few minutes and see if he would wrestle his way back to sleep, but after hearing the words from Romelle's mouth, he himself was in need of a little comfort. He scooped the boy up from the crib.
His son was a delicious comfort.
"Come on, let's get you a bottle," he said soothingly, rubbing Erik's back gently. The boy was still fussing, but it had become less urgent in tone. He carried his son to the kitchen, protectively nestling him against his shoulder as he prepared a bottle of formula. He wanted to shelter him from everything that was going on, particularly from his parents' marital discourse.
Finding a place to sit, he fed Erik the bottle and watched the boy's blue eyes dart around. Poor Erik had gone from Crydor to Arus to Pollux. He had gone from having only his father, to Nanny, and then to both of his parents. And his parents were fighting with each other.
Worst of all, Romelle and Erik were not bonding the way they should. Romelle had tried, of course, and Sven assumed that part of the reason his wife was holding such a grudge against him was because she had missed the first five months of her son's life. She'd missed them because Sven had taken Erik and gone to Crydor. Because Bandor snuck them out in the middle of the night to avoid a trial and certain death. Because Sven was merely a pilot who had been infected with Haggarium, one who was disliked by the corrupt members of Pollux. And Romelle, likely suffering from post-partum depression and torn between loving her family and pleasing her people, allowed Bandor to sneak them off of the planet to avoid execution and a certain downfall of the Polluxian royal family.
Sven knew he could never be anything more than a royal consort; no, the former king had decreed that only sons could take the throne on Pollux. Romelle could not become Queen, and Bandor couldn't be crowned King until he was married. It was a miserable, unfair ruling, but it was the ruling nonetheless. The decree could not be overturned unless Bandor, as king, changed it. Even so, it would be too late for Romelle and her children.
If. If only.
There were too many questions unanswered. Too many ifs for him to think about. What if he had never been hurt by Haggar's cat and robeast; what if Morgan Feld had gone to Arus in his place? What if he had never met Romelle; what if he had not married her, if Erik had never been born? What if he had never left for Crydor with Erik; what if the vast majority of Pollux's people had accepted him and not feared the Haggarium infection within him?
What if he and Lenora had never been separated?
With a satisfied sigh, Erik finished his bottle, and the peaceful look of sleep came over his face. Kissing the baby's head, Sven realized that Romelle would never be someone like Lenora, but she was his wife, for better or for worse. He had made those vows, and now he needed to keep them.
There were a million truths and a million lies glittering around him in the air. He didn't know what to believe. But the only thing he knew of a surety was that, as long as he had his son in his arms, he was home.
To be continued...
Watch for "Icicle" to continue the SLY trilogy.