In the Darkness Binding
In the Darkness Binding

Allura sat up in her bed, finally giving up on falling asleep anytime soon. Reaching for her crutches, she got out of bed and crossed the room to a window. The night was cloudless with a bright full moon.

She went to her closet and got out a robe and a pair of shoes. She would just go outside for a few minutes, she told herself. Keith would never have to know.

She had honored the captain's wishes for months now. She had not stepped one foot outside the castle without two or more guards. Yet, the watchfulness had taken its toll. She wanted to sit outside by herself without armed guards right there. Lotor hadn't attacked in weeks. Besides, no one would know she had gone out.

The door swished open quietly and Allura entered the hallway silently. It was just about time for a guard change, she noticed. It was a perfect opportunity for her to slip out.

She went down the hallway to one of the outside doors. The two guards were preparing to leave to get their replacements.

"Your Highness," one said as they both bowed. "What are you doing at this time of night?"

"I thought about a stroll on the grounds, but now that I'm here, I've changed my mind."

"May we escort you to your room, Your Highness? We're about to get our replacements."

"No, please, go on. I know where my room is and I would only slow you down."

"As you wish, Princess." The guards bowed again and left.

Allura waited for them to be out of sight and went through the door into the night. She hadn't wanted to talk to the guards but the crutches prevented any stealth. 'Oh, well,' she thought, 'no harm done.'

* * * * *

Keith wandered around the castle, checking the security. As he turned the corner, he encountered Ayc and Wetol, who had been guarding the door to the castle gardens. The three stopped to talk for a moment.

"Have your replacements arrived yet?" Keith asked.

"No, Captain, we're going to get them now," Ayc answered.

"You left the door unguarded," Keith said, disapproval in his voice. "You better hope nothing happens tonight."

"The princess is safe, sir," Wetol volunteered. "We just saw her. She was about to return to her chambers."

"Good," Keith said, not entirely believing that Allura would go the door of the gardens only to return to her bed. "I'll walk by while you find your replacements."

The two guards saluted and hurried to find their replacements. Keith rounded the corner, heading for the gardens door. He hoped to find Allura returning to her room but knew she probably would not be there.

'Oh, well,' he thought, increasing his pace. He knew that Allura would try to sneak out of the castle sooner or later without the guards. He really hadn't expected her to wait this long.

He arrived at the unguarded door. He listened and heard no evidence of the princess returning to her room. Without even looking down the hall, Keith entered the gardens.

Allura was seated in a bench underneath a huge weeping willow. The branches formed a translucent curtain behind her in the moon's glow. 'How beautiful,' Keith thought.

The princess had her crutches propped against the end of the bench beside her. She rose and got the crutches in hand. She stopped for a moment, still studying the night around her.

"You can join me, Keith," she called, even though she hadn't turned in his direction. "I promise to be civil."

Chuckling softly, Keith walked around the willow to the princess. She was leaning on her clutches slightly, diverting some of her body weight off her injured leg. The wheelchair had been abandoned long ago.

"It's sad that you did not get to see Arus before all this," she said, looking past him toward the horizon.

"What do you mean, Princess? I thought this war has been going on before you were born."

"It has," she answered, still not looking at him. "But for several years, only a small fraction of Zarkon's forces attacked Arus. He was trying to conquer the whole system at one time. My father was successful in defending Arus, minimizing the destruction."

She paused, her eyes become glossy as she remembered. "Arus used to be a center of technological advancements. And a center of beauty, some would say. Voltron and the Castle of Lions were only some of the successes here. The people would come to weekly festivals at the castle. Everyone was so happy." Her voice trailed off.

"What happened?" His voice was soft and soothing, almost a whisper.

She looked at him, her eyes welling with tears. "Arus became the only planet in this system not under Zarkon's control. He turned his whole armada against the planet." She closed her eyes and tears rolled down her cheek.

"So many people died," she whispered. "So many innocent people gone."

She wiped away the tears, attempting to regain control of herself. "I'm sorry, Keith," she said. "I'm just so tired of fighting. It seems like we'll always be fighting Lotor or someone else for the rest of our lives. And to see you and the team risk your lives repeatedly for Arus scares me. Don't you ever feel like giving up?"

Keith looked at her, deciding how to answer the question. "At times," he admitted. "But then I realize what surrender would mean to Arus and to you, Princess. I couldn't stand to see you and your people at Lotor's mercy. I fight because Arus is home to me now.

"But mostly," he took a breath, "I fight for you, Princess."

His words caught her off guard. She studied his face to be certain of what she had just heard. She prayed that she was not dreaming.

"Get away from her!" a voice growled from beside them, destroying the magic of the moment. The two turned toward the voice.

"Lotor!" gasped Allura, identifying the visitor. "What are you doing here?"

"I have come for you, my love, as I had promised. Did you enjoy the roses?" The laser gun in his hand gleamed in the moonlight.

Quickly, Keith placed himself between Allura and the gun. "Get out of here, Lotor. You're not welcomed."

Lotor's eyes narrowed as he studied his opponent. "You're always in the way, Captain. Will you ever learn that Allura and Arus will be mine?"

"Not while there's still a breath in me," Keith growled.

"Easily remedied." Lotor aimed the gun at Keith's chest.

"Lotor, don't!"

Allura pushed Keith to the side, knocking her crutches to the ground. She threw herself at Lotor, who caught her arms and tossed her to the ground.

The princess had given Keith the opportunity he needed. Leaping at the prince, Keith knocked the gun out of his hand and tackled him to the ground. The two men punched and rolled trying to get the advantage over the other.

The gun landed not far from Allura's feet. She dragged herself along the ground to the gun. Lotor saw Allura's intention and kicked her in the left leg before Keith had pinned him to the ground again.

Despite the pain, Allura continued to force herself to the gun. Grabbing it, she rose slowly to her feet and pointed at the prince.

"Enough!" she cried, and the two men stopped and looked at her. Lotor started to back away. Allura kept the gun aimed at Lotor's chest.

"Stay away from me, Lotor." Her voice was low but determined. "I will never belong to you, and neither will Arus." Allura limped toward the prince, the gun now inches away from the prince's chest. Keith stood behind her.

"Leave. Leave and never come back here. If you ever find yourself at the end of my gun again, you will not live."

"You wouldn't harm me, love. You don't have it in you."

Without flinching, Allura raised the gun and fired at his head, grazing his ear. Lotor's eyes widen with disbelief. Allura aimed the gun back at his chest.

"Leave, Lotor. I wouldn't trust my patience anymore tonight."

Lotor backed away, turned, and fled into the darkness of the night. The two guards suddenly appeared in the garden. Keith sent them after Lotor, not believing they would capture the prince that night.

Allura turned to him and handed him the gun. He placed his arms as Allura began to sob. Keith stroked her hair, trying to soothe her.

"I couldn't do it," she cried, her tears dampening the front of his shirt. "I could have killed him and ended all of this, the battles, the nightmares, everything. But I couldn't. I just couldn't kill him."

"It's okay, Princess. Everything is all right because of you. You saved us both."

Allura looked up, her face glistening with tears. Reaching down, Keith began wiping them away.

"Killing Lotor wouldn't have ended the war, Princess. Zarkon would still want Arus and he would want you even more," he explained. "We will face Lotor again and we'll beat him. Have faith."

"Thank you, Keith."

"For what?" he asked, brushing a hair off her forehead.

"For keeping your faith in me."

"Love is the greatest force of all, Princess," he told her. Looking up at the night sky, he began to laugh.

"What?" she asked. "What is so funny?"

"Lance told me that, that love was the greatest force of all."

Allura tried to stifle her giggles. "You were getting love advice from Lance?"

"It was unsolicited, Princess. But, like Lance, surprisingly astute in the estimation."

"What else did he tell you?"

"That I should quit depressing myself and tell you how I feel about you. That my waiting was hurting the both of us, which is true. I should have told you long ago, Princess."

"Keith, call me Allura." Placing a hand behind his head, she drew him down for a kiss.