Author's Notes: This episode actually occurs in the middle of one of my longer fics, "We'll Always Have Arus." Earlier in that story Sven and Romelle, who are visiting Galaxy Garrison Headquarters on Planet Paxa, have a little tet, so to speak. She is a bundle of nerves because she is terrified the Garrison will take him back. Then when he is discharged due to injuries, she is less than supportive. Brahal Brashia, Viceroy of A'Lystaer, is also on hand, seeking our princess's hand (and thereby securing an alliance with Pollux). Romelle is too distraught to say "No way!" and then makes the mistake of telling Sven--who storms off to stay at his family's home in Norway. Both search their hearts we are. :)

Run to You

by Rachel

Part I

Galaxy Alliance Headquarters, Planet Paxa...

ROMELLE STOOD IN the garden in the shadow of a graceful tree heavy with curling crimson flowers. At the sound of approaching voices she lifted her chin. She recognized the Viceroy's rich baritone at once. Straining, she could make out two distinct other voices. His bodyguards? She sighed. Trust Brahal of A'Lystaer to bring his faithful watchdogs to what, for all appearances, could be construed as a tryst.

That thought brought back to her a wave of fear and indecision. Had he misinterpreted her summons as a tryst? Her words had been in no way suggestive, or so she thought. And even had the man approaching her niche in the garden been the one she so desperately wanted, this would certainly be one of the last places she would select for a seduction! She disliked the indoor feeling of the arboretum, the glaring, artificial light, the humidity that caused her hair to cling to her cheeks and throat unalleviated by any cooling breeze, the silence uninterrupted by any sounds of animal life. She found it stifling. Or perhaps, she thought dryly, it was the matter she now had to face that made her want to bolt. Her foot, encased in a daintily pointed shoe, twisted under her nervously, hidden, fortunately, by the satin fall of her gown. What was taking Brahal so long? Idly, she plucked a blossom from the tree beside her. The petals were crisp and damp from a recent watering. She turned it over in her hands, plucked at the petals, and let them scatter at her feet. They looked like droplets of blood. She thrust the remaining stem from her and shoved it out of sight away from the path with her heel.

After another aeon during which time, no doubt, Brahal's bodyguards were very busy searching each shrub for hidden recording devices and masked assassins, Romelle heard the sharp click of metal heels on the path. She straightened, held her head high, and watched the Viceroy's approach with feigned serenity.

He moved with the easy, lazy grace of a lion, his long arms held rigidly at his sides, his fingers curled into half-fists. So different, she thought, was this man whom she might have married from the one she truly wanted. Sven would have been at her side fast as heat lightning, taking no time to let his gaze wander appraisingly over her face and form for all the world as though she were some jewel he had just purchased for his coffer! The image shook her and for a long, painful moment her legs trembled beneath the clinging satin of her skirt. She forced her body stiff and fought down the rising scarlet in her cheeks. Soon it would be done and he would never look at her so again.

For all his liquid gait Brahal crossed the distance between them swiftly. He stopped a few paces before her, gesturing for his two impassive shadows to remain behind. His stern face actually managed to fold itself into a smile as he knelt on the damp path at her feet and kissed her hand with all the courtly elegance due a royal princess. She let her gaze slide down from the two armored men who waited just beyond earshot to the bowed head of the Viceroy. In the glaring light of the arboretum his platinum-blond hair appeared almost white and she found herself shuddering and praying he missed her sudden irrational fright. Brahal wasn't Lotor. He was possessive and cold, she knew, but she doubted he had it in him to take pleasure in cruelty. He tilted his head, turned his turquoise gaze on her, and rose smoothly.

He was exceedingly handsome. Well, Lotor had been handsome! Again she could not suppress a shudder and this time he was aware. His fine silver brows drew together, forming the slightest crease in his otherwise flawless face. That was uncharitable, she knew. He did look concerned.

"Your Royal Highness," he said, and she was surprised at the gentleness in his tone--had she misjudged him? Did it matter? "Are you not well?"

Would he be hurt by her rejection? She had not thought of that, before. Had she been wrong not to consider his feelings before this? She flushed as she realized his troubled gaze was still upon her. She tossed aside her sudden qualm. This was not a matter of indecision, and if she used the right words, the proper tone, perhaps he would not be hurt at all. Her choice had been made and would not be altered.

"I am quite well," she replied, summoning for him a modest smile. She dipped into a gentle curtsey. "And I trust Your Grace is, too," she went on, rising.

"Very well," he said, a little too hastily. Was he nervous? His façade showed no sign of it. He looked, she thought dryly, rather impervious to any arrows she might sling his way, in that jewel-encrusted armor and dashing cape of azure velvet.

"Can you not dismiss your escort?" she asked in a low voice. At his surprised look she tilted her head in the direction of his bodyguards who seemed to have rooted themselves to the concrete path beneath their feet.

"My bodyguards?" Why so surprised? "Does your Highness truly think it necessary?"

"Not necessary," she replied. "This is a private matter we discuss, Your Grace, and I would feel more comfortable if we were alone."

His brow softened, but the corner of his mouth twitched slightly in-amusement? "But is a royal engagement and planetary alliance truly a private matter? Nevertheless, since you wish it…" He raised one hand in a gesture to his guards and they automatically snapped to life. Without turning, he said in a slightly bemused and indulgent tone, "Leave us. Wait for us outside the arboretum. We are quite safe, here."

One of the guards looked as though he might protest, but he stopped. In perfect mirror images of each other, both men pivoted on their heels and strode back down the path, disappearing around a bend. Romelle waited until their footsteps had died away before she began to wonder why she did not feel as comfortable as she thought she would in their absence. She glanced up again to find Brahal looking down at her. His mouth had curved into a real smile, now, but a lightless one, one she did not care for.

"We are alone now, my lady," he said in a soft tone, as though she were a bird he were cajoling closer. "As you wished it. We may now discuss the matter freely and…without formality."

She frowned. What did he mean 'without formality'? Surely Brahal Brashia was the very acme of formality! She supposed he wore his ceremonial armor even in bed. Because she did not understand him, she chose to ignore his words. "Yes," she said, "let us discuss, by all means…"

"I did wonder, with your parents deceased and yourself having reached your majority, is there someone I should speak to? Your brother, perhaps-though I am aware he granted you full diplomatic power, at least in the dealings here at Paxa."

"Your Grace?"

"About the marriage," he explained, gently, as though she were a child. "Is there one I should consult beforehand? There must be a formal treaty, naturally, declaring Pollux and A'Lystaer as allies; that goes without saying."

Did he have to mention the alliance? Romelle quailed within, but hid her distress by forcing herself to breathe deeply. Let her brother worry about empires and alliances. It was her happiness at stake now, and weighed against even the prize of one strong ally, she understood now that that was a price she was not willing to pay. She thought, instead, of Sven, waiting for her-would he be waiting for her?-and found the strength to square he shoulders and face him boldly. "My lord," she began, impressed with the strength of her tone, "I hope that what I am about to say will not be interpreted as offense to your self or to your planet. I pray as well that you will not rescind your gracious offer of alliance to my brother's planet on the basis of what I am about to say." She paused for breath and stole a glance at his eyes. They had hardened, frosted about the edges, but not yet congealed with ice, as though he were still unsure of what she was truly saying. She decided to play at formality no longer. "My lord, I can not marry you." There. Once again she could breathe deeply.

Brahal stood looking at her for the longest time, studying her face, her pale composure. A slight frown once again marred his beautiful features. "I do not understand," he began, and his voice shook faintly. He had clearly anticipated no rejection!

Romelle stood firm. "Please understand, my lord. I have the utmost respect for you and for your planet. I would be proud to call you my ally-but I can never call you my husband."

Still her words did not seem to make their full mark. His frown deepened perceptibly, but beyond that he features remained smooth and composed.

"You do understand what I am saying," she began, faltering, herself rendered unsteady by his continued solemnity. Could he not at least be angry?

He held up a hand to forestall further speech. "I do understand. You wish there to be no wedding, no marriage. That is what you are saying, is it not?" When she nodded, he went on slowly, again as though he were trying to make a thing clear to a stubborn child. "But you can not mean that." He smiled as though he had just found the answer they were both seeking. "Don't be absurd. You and your planet have everything to gain from this match, and to not go through with it-" He broke off and glanced over his shoulder. When his gaze again met hers his smile was gone, replaced with a look of kind understanding. "Ah," he said. "I believe I understand, now, why you wanted my men gone. You feel that in marrying me, the shame in your own family would tarnish my name and standing, taint our marriage. But, my lady, it would not do so. The name Brashia is one known well throughout the Denubian Galaxy, and it is one not easily scorned. Once you accept that name as your own and your place as my consort, there are none-none-who would dare even whisper slander. I assure you of that."

As the Viceroy spoke, Romelle felt her cheeks growing brighter, hotter, until she felt she would boil over with anger. She had to clench her fists tightly against her sides to keep from flinging herself at him and rending his perfect marble face with her nails. "Shame?" she hissed. "What do you know of my shame?"

He raised a quizzical eyebrow. "Know? Of course I know. I did not enter into this match knowing nothing of your past, my lady." For the first time there was the hint of impatience in his tone. "I know of the rumors concerning your lady mother's death, know it is said she died not of some illness incurred bearing your younger brother but was but by the hand of your father on the grounds of adultery and treason." His voice had grown hushed and his blue-green eyes swam before her own, flashing with feverish light. "I know about your late father's pact with King Zarkon, how he sought to retain his own paltry kingdom by aiding Doom's assault on Planet Arus, whereof your own cousin is ruler. I know of your elder brother's willingness to be made into a robeast-" he spat the word "-and of his defeat at the hands of the Voltron Force who are now your allies." His voice fell even further, hissing like flames all around her. "And I know of your own shame at the hands of Prince Lotor of Doom. You might have been his queen, but he put you aside after your father's defeat."

She struck him. Full in the face. Her body was no longer her own; she had no power over it, numb and chilled as she felt. Her hand left its imprint, red against his pale face, and he stumbled back, though it could not have been due to the strength of her blow. "How dare you!" she spluttered, wondering, through her rage, that she should still be capable of coherent speech. "How dare you? You know nothing of my pain, nothing of my past and you have no right to render judgement upon me."

"Your Highness," he said, stiffly, shaken by her fury, "I meant you no disrespect. I am trying to understand. You are overwrought, though I can't understand why-"

"Can't?" she spat. "Can't? Then listen to me, Brahal Brashia. You dare speak of my shame? The shame you speak of with such trepidation is his alone-and none of mine! If I must feel any shame it is in having let myself surrender my own judgement to you for even this small amount of time. I know very well the actions of my father and brother. Do you think taking your name would erase them? My own name-and my actions-are proof enough against the past! And starting from this moment I will make no action-none-that goes against the wishes of my own heart. I will not marry without love. And I do not love you. I can't love you-ever. You've made that plain. And so I will not, can not marry you."

" 'Will not'?" His dark voice crackled now with unmistakable anger, but she would not be moved. " 'Can not'?" His eyes narrowed suddenly. Perhaps without even meaning to he reached out and clutched her arm in a painful grip. She writhed, but his fingers dug into his arm. "Can not-because of someone else? Is it that pilot who left? I know you are not a maiden-" he said this quickly, as though it embarrassed him. "If that is your fear, set it at rest. It matters not to me-"

"How dare you speak of Sven-Lieutenant Bjørnsen! Release me at once!"

He did, surprised. Her tone had hardened to steel and her eyes flashed with their own fire.

"I am not answerable to you-nor to anyone save myself! Move aside, my lord. I wish to be gone."

He clearly did not want to, seemed to be struggling with his own inner turmoil. Finally, though, he stepped aside. "Princess Romelle," he said darkly, as she gathered her skirts and moved past him, "you are making a grave mistake."

"If so, may I pay for it-but this is what is right…for both of us. Please do not hold my refusal against my planet! I did not mean for this interview to end so. You still have much to gain from an alliance with Pollux…"

Behind her, she heard him say, "But not its fairest jewel… Princess…we must talk again. When we have both had time…"

Not a chance!

She nodded without turning, and then, lifting her skirts in her fists she fled from him down the winding garden paths. She thought he might have called out again, but his voice was lost in the roaring of her heart. Wet leaves brushed her hair and gown, dampening them both and clinging to her. Why had she chosen this garden for their meeting? Was it because she had almost thrown herself at the wrong man, once before, in another garden? At the door Brahal's two bodyguards waited, solemn and expressionless as though they had turned to stone. They mobilized once they had taken in her sudden bedraggled appearance.

"My lady-"

She brushed past them, unthinking.

One of them seized her arm in a painful, pincer-like grip and spun her about.

"The Viceroy, my lady! Has something-?" His companion had already burst back into the arboretum, no doubt dreaming up whatever hideous misdeed she could possibly have dealt his lord. She laughed at the notion.

"My lady!" The guard shook her, his steel-dark eyes searching her own and she had to fight down the tightening knot in her belly. She had to run! Why was he accosting her?

"Your lord is fine!" she flung back. She heard footsteps and voices from the arboretum. Brahal! Was he coming for her? Did he think to stop her, after all? "Let go of me!" she insisted, urgency rising in her voice.

Later she would realize his intentions must have been proper in regards to her own wild appearance, her barely coherent speech. But all she could see then was his solid form blocking her way. His grip on her arm tightened and he said, "My lady, I think not. In your state…"

She struck him across the neck in a move Sven had taught her. Her blow could hardly have done him much physical harm, but he released his grip on her instantly, actually took a step backward. She seized her freedom without hesitation and was gone before he could recover his composure, running and running as though she expected him to give chase.

If he did, she never knew. She crashed unheeding through the long corridors of the station, brushing past officers and civilians without taking any notice. She lost her shoes somewhere-she hardly noticed, hardly cared. One moment she felt the soft material that lined for floors under her feet, the next she felt nothing beneath her at all.

She did not return to her quarters, as she had thought she might do. She realized, somewhere in the back of her mind at some point during her mad dash, that had she wanted to, she might have taken the lift to the correct level when she'd had the chance- But as she flew around a corner and a familiar figure materialized before her-then she knew at last where her feet-and her heart-had intended her to go.

Hunk saw her the moment she entered the lounge. For a fleeting moment he thought she was Allura; there was something about her free-flowing hair, the bedraggled gown, and the glow of her eyes that put him more in mind of her younger cousin.

Once she caught sight of him, though, and began to bridge the distance between them, he recognized her. And he knew as well, somehow-he was never sure how-what she would ask of him, even before she seized his two huge hands in her small ones and almost collapsed against him. Her skin was cold despite her flush, she was trembling, and the eyes she turned up at him were lit with a feverish light.

And once she did that, well, he knew there was no way he could refuse her. Keith would not be pleased. Nor would Admiral Sura when she found the files he was supposed to be cataloguing still undone. And even beyond that, once he left Paxa, what with the sanctions the Garrison had placed on the spaceport, there was only the slimmest guarantee he would be able to get back…if he could get away at all.

Her face changed as he watched, seemed to fall inward on itself, her smile collapsing into a thin little line, her brows arching upward in supplication. "Please."

He had long decided Romelle's resemblance to her cousin Allura was superficial. Having now seen them both together at some length he knew he could never mistake one for the other. Aside from slightly darker coloring, Romelle's face held a shy, worldly sadness that he both found very beautiful and at the same time hoped Allura would never acquire. That was irrelevant now, though. The effect both women had on him was the same, it seemed.

He thought fleetingly again of everything yielding to her would bring upon him. Keith would be livid and Pidge would be saddled with the remainder of Hunk's paperwork. Well… He thought of Nemur. Would she be pleased? He thought perhaps she might. Maybe that was the real reason-though he hoped it wasn't the only reason-he found himself saying, helplessly, "All right."

He had his reward then and there when Romelle's lips fell open into a smile that was joyous and grateful-and utterly bedazzling.

To: Part II
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