Allura made her way to Castle Control where she found Lance slouched down in the chair by the monitors.  She walked up behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder.

            "How's it going, Lance?"  She asked.

            He shrugged, "All clear so far."

            She squeezed his shoulder, "When are you off duty?"

            "Another half hour or so."

            "Why don't I cover for you and you sneak out early?"

            Lance looked up at her, confused, "What?  No, you should be resting."
            "I'm fine Lance.  I know what to check and what to write in the log.  Go."

            "Why?"

            "Because I think you need to go see Darcy."

            He sat up straight, "What happened?"

            "She and I had a talk.  She was afraid your feelings for her would change if she couldn't have children."

            He jumped to his feet, "That's ridiculous!"
            "That's what I told her, but I think it would be more convincing coming from you."

            "You're sure about this?"

            "Of course, go Lance."  Allura smiled and waved him toward the door.

            Lance gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, "You're amazing Allura.  Thanks."

            He entered the hospital wing just as Dr. Gorma was leaving Darcy's room.

            "Hey Dr. Gorma, you got a second?"  Lance asked.

            "Yes, Lieutenant.  Would you like to step into my office?"

            Lance followed him in and waited until Dr. Gorma closed the door behind them.  "Um, now that you know where the poison is derived from and what to expect, what happens next?"

            "Sergeant Barlow is lucky.  With rest, she should be fine.  Apparently, the witch only held her arm for a couple of seconds."

            "But she will never be able to have children?"

            Dr. Gorma sighed and sat down behind his desk.  "To be honest, I don't know.  I've never dealt with Ttechkan poison.  It is a side effect, but it depends on how much was absorbed into her bloodstream.  I think it's safe to say Dr. Franziena will never be able to have children, but the other women who have already left the hospital may be able to."

            "So there's still a chance."

            "I don't want to give her false hope."

            Lance nodded, "So all she needs now is rest?"

            "Yes.  She may need some pain relievers if she continues to have cramps, but otherwise she'll be fine."

            "Can I take her back to her room?"

             "I want to keep an eye on her."

            "You can do that while she's in her room.  She'll sleep better there."

            Dr. Gorma sat back in his chair and rubbed his chin, thoughtfully.  "I guess I can check on her, it's not like she'd be leaving the castle.  I'll give you some pain relievers if she needs them."

            "Great. Thanks Dr. Gorma.  Can I see her now?"  Lance asked.

            "Yeah, I just checked on her.  She was awake when I left her."  Dr. Gorma watched the Lieutenant leave and smiled.  Ah, to be young and in love.

            Lance knocked on her door.

            "Come in."  She called.

            He slipped in and shut the door behind her, "Hi there."

            "Hi."

            "I've come to spring you."  He whispered, conspiratorially.

            Her pale face lit up, "Really?"

            Lance brought a finger to his lips, "Shh.  We have to be quiet.  If they catch us, they'll behead us."

            "Oh yeah?  This sounds exciting."

            He walked over to her bed and pulled back the covers, "Babe, with me in your life, there will be plenty of excitement."

            Darcy laughed, "I don't doubt that."

            "Can you walk?"

            She swung her legs over and stood on shaky legs, "Um, not very far or fast."

            "Hold on a sec."  Lance walked to the door, opened it a crack, and looked out.  He looked back at Darcy and winked before slipping out the door, returning a moment later with a wheelchair.  "Your chariot, milady."

            "Why thank you, milord."  She lowered herself into the chair and watched as Lance placed a blanket on her lap.

            "We've been caught!"  Lance said in an exaggerated stage whisper when there was a knock on the door.

            "What do we do?" 

            "Wait here."  He opened the door a crack.

            "Is everything alright, Lieutenant?"  Dr. Gorma asked.

            "Yes, sir."

            Dr. Gorma held out a small bottle, "Here are the pain relievers.  She can take two every four hours as needed."

            "Thanks, Doc."  Lance accepted the bottle.

            "Make sure she gets plenty of rest."

            "Yes, sir."

            Dr. Gorma smiled, "Just contact us here if you need anything."

            "Yes, sir."

            Smiling and shaking his head, Dr. Gorma left to check on Dr. Franziena.

            "How did you get him to let me out?"  Darcy asked.

            Lance winked at her, "I didn't.  I'm sneaking you out."

            "Lance, come here."

            He walked over and stood in front of her wheelchair.  Darcy took his hands and pulled him until he was bent over her.

            "I love you," she whispered and pulled him into a kiss.

            He smiled and kissed her forehead, "I love you too."

***************************

            Keith left the hanger and headed toward Castle Control.  He had just spent over half an hour going over order forms with Hunk and Dante, unaware of how much work all the lions needed.  Green needed a new thruster, Blue needed some brake work, Black needed some new belts, and Red and Yellow needed various new parts.   It wasn't going to be cheap.

            "Hey, Lance, how're things going?"  Keith asked as he entered the room.

            The large chair in front of the console swiveled around and he was greeted by the sight of Allura.

            "I can't speak for Lance, but things are all clear here."

            "What are you doing here?  Where's Lance?"

            "Don't get upset, Keith, I dismissed him.  He and Darcy needed to talk and I told him I would cover for him."

            Keith sighed deeply and ran a frustrated hand through his hair, "I know he's worried about her, but he can't shirk his duties."

            "I made him do it.  He did not shirk his duties."

            "Allura, you know as well as I do that we need to be able to depend on these guys, they need to be able to concentrate on the work at hand."

            With a smile on her lips, Allura stood and walked to Keith, "You know we can depend on all the guys, but don't expect them to be superhuman.  Are you going to tell me that you were never distracted by me?"

            The corner of Keith's mouth twitched, "Nope, I was never distracted."

            She slipped her arms around his neck, "What about that time when you weren't paying attention and almost crashed Black into the mountain."

            "I don't remember that."  He wrapped his arms around her waist.

            "Oh, I do and if I remember correctly, you saw me in the garden with Prince Donato and were distracted.  Lance had to yell at you to get your attention, but you still skimmed the mountain and scrapped the bottom of the lion, it was out of commission for two days."

            "I don't know what you're talking about.  I remember Black malfunctioning and I had to pull him up fast.  I don't even remember a Prince Donato."

            "Sure you do.  He was tall and handsome with brown hair and big green eyes.  He was very charming and funny."

            Keith's eyes narrowed, "You seem to remember him quite well."

            Allura smiled charmingly, "He was a backup."

            "A backup?"

            "Yeah," she teased.  "If I got tired of waiting for you to come to your senses, I had to find someone to marry."

            He looked down at her, incredulously.  "You had backups?"

            "Don't worry, I didn't need them anymore."

            "Damn right you don't."  He lowered his head and kissed her senseless. 

            Allura felt it all the way down to her toes.  "Wow."  She whispered when he pulled back.

            "Did Prince Donato ever get a wow from you?"

            "Prince who?"  She asked quietly.

            "Uh huh."  Keith grinned.

            Neither Keith nor Allura noticed when the door slid open and Pidge entered.

            "Oh for Pete's sake.  Go.  I'm here to take over."  He announced.

            Keith looked over his shoulder, "You're a good man, Pidge."

            "Yeah, well maybe I'm sick of all the facing sucking that goes on around here."

            A giggle escaped Allura's lips, "What?"

            "If it isn't you guys, it's Lance and Darcy or Hunk and Paton."

            Keith took Allura's hand and started toward the door, "Your day will come soon."

            "Yeah, well."  Pidge mumbled, walking toward the console.

********************************

            Lance stopped the wheelchair in front of Darcy's door and punched in the code to open the door.

            "Thank you, Lance, for breaking me out of there."  She said as they entered the room.

            "I think we all agree that you have spent way too much time in that hospital.  But I did promise Dr. Gorma that you would get plenty of rest.  Oh, and he gave me these in case you had any more cramps."  He handed her the bottle of pills.

            She pushed herself out of the chair and walked around to him, wrapping her arms around his neck.  "I don't know how I can ever thank you for everything you do for me."

            "You don't have to thank me, Darc, I do it because I love you."  He whispered into her ear.

            Lance supported her weight as she leaned against him.  It wasn't that she was tired so much as she was very weak.

            "Why don't you lie down?"  He suggested.

            "You know what I want to do?"  She asked him.

            "I do, but I think we should wait until you have your strength back."      

            She rolled her eyes, "Not  that, I want to take a bath.  A long, hot bath."

            "Oh, well, I think we can do that."

            Darcy felt the heat rise to her face.  "I can handle this alone."

            "No, I'm not leaving you alone.  What if you slip?  Or fall asleep in the tub?  Sorry, but if you want to take a bath, you're going to have my help." He told her.

            She nodded.

            "Don't worry, I won't try anything.  This will be strictly clinical."

            The corners of her mouth tugged up, "I'll believe that when I see it."

            He gave her a quick kiss, "Do you need any help getting undressed?"

            "No."

            "Then I'll start the bath."  He crossed to her closet and pulled out her robe, tossing it to her.

            Slowed by her weakness, it took Darcy over five minutes to pull off her sweatshirt and hospital gown, and wrap her robe around her.  She sat on the edge of the bed and listened as water filled her tub and Lance hummed.  He was actually humming.  She couldn't help but smile. 

            A moment later, Lance appeared in the doorway.  "You ready?"

            "Uh huh."  She stood and shuffled toward the bathroom.  The warm steam enveloped her and fought the chill that consumed her. 

            Darcy loved her bathtub.  It was the greatest of indulgences.  A big, old-fashioned, footed tub, it filled quickly and, for some reason, the water stayed warmer longer.  To add to her enjoyment, she collected bath salts and oils and treated herself to a long bath at least once a week.

            "You have more smelly stuff for your tub than anyone I've ever met, and I have two sisters.  I went with the purple stuff."  Lance held up a bottle of lavender scented bath oil.

            She stood awkwardly beside the tub, "Thank you, Lance.  This all wasn't really necessary."

            He set the bottle on her sink and leaned over to kiss her.  She was so involved in the way his mouth plundered hers, that she didn't notice he had untied her robe and slipped it off her shoulders.  The next thing she knew, Lance lifted her off her feet.

            "Lance," she sighed against his lips.

            "Shh."  Very gently, he laid her in the tub.

            She leaned back, allowing the curve of the tub to cradle her sore muscles.  Inch by inch, she felt herself relaxing. 

            Hearing her soft sigh, Lance smiled as he picked up her robe and threw it on the edge of the sink.  He unbuttoned and removed his shirt,

            The hot water, swirled with the milky white residue of the scented oil, came to just above her breasts.  Lance kneeled at the head of the tub behind her and laid his hands on her shoulders, massaging them.

            "I promise," she whispered.  "As soon as I get my strength back, I am going to pay you back for all of this."

            Dropping a kiss on the top of her head, he replied, "You better believe it.  I have a running tab going.  You owe me big."
            He ran his hands down her arms and back up to her shoulders.  Sweeping her hair to the side, he ran his lips across her shoulders and stopping to kiss the curve where her neck met her shoulders and the nape of her neck.

            Darcy felt the tingle below her belly and her relaxed muscles tensed.  "I thought this was going to be clinical."

            "I lied," he breathed against her neck.

            "Oh, Lance, I wish I could…"

            "Shh, we're not going to do anything.  I just want you to relax.  I want you to stop worrying about things you have no control over."

            She felt the tears prick her eyes.  Silently, she cursed herself.  Over the past few months, tears had come too easily. 

            Lance caught sight of the single tear that slid from under her closed eyelid.  He wrapped his arms around her neck, resting his chin on his arm so his cheek rested against hers.  "It's alright, Darcy.  We'll get through this."

            She brought her hands up and rested them on his arms.   Emotion collected in her throat and built into a lump she couldn't speak around.  She laid her head back so it rested on his shoulder, gathering strength from him, giving herself to him.  There was a time when she found it hard to allow herself to depend on him.  Now she didn't know what she would do without him.

            Neither of them knew how long they sat together. They both jumped when Lance's communicator beeped.  He turned his head and gently kissed her temple, "I'll be right back."  His voice was low and raw.

            He stood and walked into her bedroom, unclipping the communicator from his belt.

            "Yeah?"

            "Hey, Lance it's Hunk."

            "What's up?"

            "I just wanted to let you know I talked to Keith.  He cleared the order for the parts for Red."

            "Great, thanks Hunk.  Were you able to find the spring needed to fix the seat?"

            "Not exactly the one, but I found one I can adjust to fit."

            "Okay, let me know when the parts come in, I want to help."

            "Sounds good.  How's Darcy?"
            "She's better.  Dr. Gorma cleared her to return to her room to rest."
            "Ahh.  Okay then, I'll talk to you later." 

            Lance could hear the smile in Hunk's voice.

            "Talk to you later, Hunk."  Snapping the communicator shut, he set it on the desk and went back to the bathroom.  He watched from the doorway as she tried shampooing her hair.  She would rub the lather into her scalp and then drop her arms as they became heavy.  Then she figured out she could use one hand at a time.  As one arm became weak, she would drop it and raise the other.

            Kneeling behind her, Lance took her hand from her head and began massaging her scalp.

            "Mmm," she sighed.      "Who was that?  Is everything alright?"
            "Yup, Hunk just wanted to let me know he ordered the parts for Red.  He got a new spring for the seat."

            Her cheeks turned bright red, "You didn't, uh, you didn't tell him what happened to the seat, did you?"

            Smiling, Lance kissed her cheek, "I told him it happened after a rough landing in practice last week."  He reached over and picked up a cup that sat on the shelf beside the tub.  Placing a hand over her face, he began pouring water over her hair, rinsing the shampoo out.

            "We could lose our commission if anyone finds out."  She mumbled against his palm.

            "Don't worry, I don't think Red will tell anyone," he teased.  "Besides, it's the Arusian version of the Mile High Club."
            "What?"  Darcy sputtered.

            Lance laughed and stood.  "Ready to get out?"

            She held her hands up, "I guess I am getting wrinkled."
            He helped her to her feet and wrapped a large towel around her.  After helping her change into her old PT sweats, he led her to the bed.  "You need some rest."

            "Will you stay with me?"

            In response, Lance sat on the edge of the bed and took his boots off.  He stretched out beside her and pulled her close.  Darcy laid her head on his bare chest; her body was limp and relaxed.  He picked up the televiewer remote control from the bedside table and turned it on.

            "How do you feel?"  Lance asked after a few minutes.

            "Completely exhausted."

            "Get some rest."

            She nodded.  "Lance?"

            "Hmm?" 

            Can I ask you something?"

            "Of course."

            "Will you promise not to get angry?"

            "No."

            "Oh."

            Lance smiled and stroked her back, "Talk to me Darcy."

            She was quiet for a moment, trying to figure out what she wanted to say, "I feel…I don't know, I'm afraid..."  She sighed, frustrated with herself.  "Are you disappointed?"

            Faster than she could blink, Lance had her flat on her back.  Bracing himself above her on his elbows, he pinned her with his intense gaze.

            "I want you to know that what I'm about to say I say out of love," he growled.  "But that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard you say."

            She studied him.  He was angry and hurt, she saw it in his eyes.

            Averting her gaze, she whispered, "I'm sorry."

            He framed her face with his hands, forcing her to look at him.  "You are alive.  Dr. Gorma said with some rest you'll be fine.  I have nothing to be disappointed about.  As a matter of fact, I'm thrilled."

            "Th-that's not what I meant."  She muttered.

            "I know what you meant, Darcy.  None of this was your fault.  You are still the same smart, beautiful, talented, strong woman you were before this happened.  You need to have faith in me."

            "I do have faith in you."  She whispered.

            Lance lowered his voice, "Then you need faith in yourself, in us."

            She slid her arms up his back and laced her fingers into his hair, gently forcing his head down until it rested on her breast.  His weight brought her much needed comfort and warmth.  After a while, she summoned the strength to speak again.

            "Lance, I'm sorry.  You are the most amazing man I have ever known.  For the first time in my life I have found true happiness when I am with you and that scares me.  I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, something to screw this up.  I think I have finally figured that the problem is with me.  If the other shoe drops, I dropped it, not you.  I do trust you.  I do have faith in you.  I depend on you and need you.  I love you.  I do.  Please don't give up on me."

            He lifted his head and shifted his weight off of her.  A friendly smile crossed his face.  "Baby, I'm not going to give up on you, I love a challenge."

            Darcy gave him a weak smile.

            Brushing the hair off her forehead, he continued, "You are so lucky that I am a patient man."

            "I'm lucky to have you."

            "Damn right you are."

            "I'm sorry."

            "Don't be.  I want you to always feel like you can talk to me about anything.  I've screwed up a lot in the past, I don't want to screw this up.  The best way to strengthen our relationship is for us to talk."

            Her eyes widened, "Have you been watching afternoon talk shows again?"

            "Hey, I'm sensitive."

            She snorted, "Since when?"

            "Since I found out sensitivity equals sex."

            Darcy laughed and hugged him, "I love you, Lance.  I love you, I love you."

            "Good, then you'll be willing to accept an assignment I have for you."

            She furrowed her brow, "What assignment?"

            He lowered his head and nuzzled her neck, "I need someone to help me test the new spring and suspension in Red's seat after it's repaired."

            She threw her head back and laughed, "You're on Lieutenant."

***************************

I know this story took a serious turn, but I thought it necessary in order to show the true madness and evilness of Landor.  This story took on a life entirely of its own, I never thought it would continue on this long.

This is the end of this story, but not the end of these characters.  Thank you so much for all your wonderful, helpful reviews.  I truly appreciate them all. A sequel is already in the works and as soon as I get a few chapters finished, I'll start posting.

Thank you,

Failte