Disclaimer: I do not own any of the wonderful Voltron characters. *Sigh* I do own Dr. Canalor, and the royalty of Farnell.

Beta: Dawn!

Rating/Setting: T Rating. Setting is in my Mistletoe/Valentine DotU setting. It is story number? hmmm, M/V, Hidden Hearts, Retaliation, Unbroken, Ready to Engage, and now Duchess. So story number 6 in this arc. Whew! Can be read as a stand alone, but things will make more sense if you at least read at least a couple...


Chapter One

Coran closed the video feed and leaned back in his chair. He would have to figure out the best way to present this to the Queen. She would be extremely hesitant, if not outright hostile, at the proposal he would be making. However, there was the health of the prince consort to think about, and he knew that she would do anything to speed up his healing process. Yes, that is the approach he would have to take. A visit to Farnell would benefit Arus with trade negotiations and it would benefit Keith with access to some rehabilitation techniques that they didn't have access to on Arus. His decision was made; he would visit the Queen now before she left her office for the day.

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Allura stood at the floor to ceiling window in her royal office. She stretched a little and leaned up against the transparent material. It wasn't the most beautiful day on Arus; the heat and humidity from the day had caused large cumulonimbus clouds to form. Late afternoon thunderstorms would be a given today she thought, noticing the dark, heavy underbellies of the clouds. Well, at least Black Lion should like this since his element was lightning. The first droplets started hitting the window as she heard the knock at her open door.

Coran saw her at the window and watched at the rain started running down the window. A flash of lightning appeared behind the Queen as she moved toward him. Not the most auspicious start to his proposal.

"Coran! Come in. Is there a new item of business?"

Allura's tone was pleasant, so Coran harbored hope that the weather outside was not indicative of her mood.

Keying the panel to close the door, he turned back to her. "In a way… I just got off a video call with Dr. Canalor-"

A smile lit up Allura's face as she interrupted. "How is he? Is he enjoying his new position? He's been there about six weeks hasn't he?" The questions sped out of her mouth, and she didn't provide much opportunity for answers until she stopped to take a breath.

Chuckling, Coran held up both hands in mock surrender. "Just give me a moment, my Queen." He watched with humor as she sat in a chair across from him and then folded her hands in a picture of royal patience. "He is doing quite well and he thanks you and the prince consort for providing him with such wonderful references so that he could get the position. He says it is a dream job." Coran was feeling even better as he watched the broad smile form upon Allura's lips. Maybe there wouldn't be any opposition at all to his proposal. "He has indeed been there for over a month, which leads me to the reason for his call…"

Sensing his hesitation, Allura prompted him. "And that reason would be…"

"Dr. Canalor says that Farnell has a treatment that would aid the prince consort in getting full range of motion back in his shoulders-"

Allura's eyes lit up and once again she interrupted Coran. "Oh, Coran! That's wonderful! You know Keith is still not at 100%, and it's driving him crazy. When will Dr. Canalor be able to come?"

Coran desperately wanted to wipe his sweaty palms on his pants, but instead placed them firmly on his knees. "Dr. Canalor can't come here." He watched as her eyes started to narrow. "The treatment could be done here, but the facility that will be most useful is on Farnell. The prince consort would need to go to Farnell for two weeks to complete the process." He stopped at this point and waited. The silence stretched across the room to him as the thunder rumbled in the background.

The queen's voice was pleasant, but her words came from between gritted teeth. "Coran… I appreciate the offer, but there is no way in hell that I'm sending my husband near that bi-"

Coran jumped in quickly at this point and lifted a hand to stay her words. "My Queen, I'm not suggesting that Keith go alone. You and Prince Cardin got along quite well and spoke of trade negotiations at the ball. I thought you might be able to use the time there as part of a diplomatic event." Relief flooded him as he saw Allura visibly relax. "I know that Prince Cardin's sister was a little… forward in her attention to the commander." Coran saw her bristle and continued despite her non-verbal cues. "Allura, she had no idea that you and Keith were involved. She just saw him as a very attractive target."

Groaning in frustration, Allura reluctantly responded. "I know, Coran. I know that she didn't know. The only thing is I don't know that he being married would stop her from trying again." She leaned back and closed her eyes. "I don't have any doubt that Keith would rebuff her, but I don't think he should have to go through that when he's recovering."

Coran was thinking that things were moving in the right direction until she spoke again.

"I'd just really hate to create an intergalactic scene by kicking her ass for touching my husband."

Laughter and shock vied equally in Coran's mind as he listened to the rude language coming from the queen's mouth. Finally, mirth won out and he couldn't contain his laughter.

Allura opened one eye and looked at Coran speculatively. "Do you doubt that I could do it, Coran?"

Getting his laughter under control, he responded honestly. "No, my Queen. I have no doubt at all. I know that you are quite capable of 'kicking anyone's ass' that touches Keith. Male or female."

With a firm, confident nod of her head, she opened both eyes and sat up with a sigh. "You and Dr. Canalor are right. Keith should go. It would be childish of me to deny him a chance for faster healing due to my jealousy." She looked at Coran and arched an eyebrow as she said, "Is there any chance that Keith will let Lance accompany us to Farnell?"

Laughing, Coran shook his head. "I'm sure he will not, my Queen. You know that he will want Lance to stay here, and most likely Hunk and Pidge as well. Although I'm sure that Hunk and Pidge wouldn't have been much help in what you were planning."

Allura's face turned a bright pink. She had opened up this line of conversation, so she should have been prepared for his answer. After all, he was correct. It was just… If Lance went, he might distract Duchess Mariah from her husband as he had done at the ball. Using her friend as a sexual object in this manner, however, made her face darken further with shame.

Coran leaned forward and patted her knee. "Don't think twice about it. I'm sure that the Lt. would completely understand."

She just gave him a nod before saying, "I'll talk to Keith and I'll let you know when we can leave. If you would coordinate things with Dr. Canalor, I'll work with Prince Cardin's people to plan the diplomatic side of the trip."

"Of course, your Highness. You know this is the right decision for you and Keith." Coran stood and moved toward the door. Stopping in the doorway, he turned back to her and said, "You know, it's possible you won't even see the duchess during your stay."

Allura didn't say anything as she watched Coran leave, but her thoughts were moving at lightning speed. Out loud she said, "Fat chance of that." Her thoughts drifted back to the ball on Arus and the various things that Mariah had said… asking her if she had taken Keith as a lover… offering to barter sexual favors for equipment… and finally, basically telling Keith that she was going to pursue him. Of course, Coran was correct. The ball occurred before it was known that Keith was courting her. It was possible that Mariah would behave differently now that Keith was a married man. However, she just didn't believe it in her heart. She saw the way that woman looked at him. No. Mariah wouldn't give up that easily. Getting up from the seating area, Allura went over to the com unit and placed a call to Nanny. There was sure to be a ball during their stay and numerous diplomatic dinners. She planned on being dressed so that Keith wouldn't be able to look at anyone but her. After speaking with Nanny, she was off to find Keith.