The Arusian dawn found Saber in the Castle's libraries, thumbing idly through an old though obviously beloved copy of the Arabian Nights. His sleep had been surprisingly deep; he thought he'd be up for hours, tossing and turning over this new development, but as soon as he lay his head on the pillow he'd dropped off.
He'd woken up early, though. The sun had yet to rise when he pulled on his clothes – a little more casual than what his parents would like, but they were quite formal (and uncomfortable) enough, in his opinion. He wandered around the castle silently, feeling little shocks of recognition here and there. Not enough so that he'd know his way around, but…he'd been here before. And often.
The soft voice startled him, and he whirled, still clutching the book, to see a blonde young woman standing in the doorway.
"Al…Your Highness," Saber said, in his surprise almost calling her by a nickname. Allura came into the library, closing the door behind her as she entered. She was, like Saber, already dressed for the day – and like Saber, her clothes were much more casual than they had been yesterday. She looked at the book he was holding.
"That used to be one of my favorites when I was a child," she told him, smiling.
"Really? What was your favorite story?"
"Hmm. I'm not sure. I liked all of them. I think, though…the story of Sherezarde herself. She was clever to trick the Sultan like that. What's yours?"
"I think I like the one about the prince and the djinn in the horse-shape." Saber was getting a little wary of this small-talk. They did after all have a rather large problem staring them in the face. No matter if she was apparently his childhood friend – a fact he still somewhat hard to acquaint his mind with – he still did not want to marry her.
But first he wanted to find out…
"Who was your best friend when you were little?"
Allura looked a little confused at this total departure from the topic. Too surprised not to answer, she replied, "Why, I suppose it was…" she thought back. She remembered him – how could she not – but it had been years since they'd seen each other. She remembered blond hair, a little paler than her own, and…laughing…green…eyes…
Lions preserve me.
"It was you!" she said, sounding more accusatory than welcoming. "I remember now! The boy…I called him Sei because I couldn't pronounce his name properly when I was younger and it stuck so that I never thought of him as Saber and I didn't think about him…you…because we haven't seen each other for so long and…I forgot! I forgot it was you!" She was rambling now.
"So did I," Saber agreed, a little sheepishly. "I can't believe it, but…well, I remember now. Mother showed me a picture of the two of us when we were small."
Allura shook her head. "This is weird. And why didn't Koran or Nanny tell me this?"
Saber shrugged. "Who knows? Speaking of our respective guardians…what do you think they'll try to do today? I mean, this whole business of the betrothal…"
"They'll try to make us agree to it."
"Then we'll just have to dissuade them of that, shan't we?" Saber said. They shared a conspiratorial grin.
"Well, Lan, what do you think?"
"Koran and I have been going over the numbers. If we do this right, then our economies' projected growth will jump by about ten percent – ten percent, Jal! – and that's not even counting the increased market size when we adopt free-trade practices between our sectors…"
"That's nice, dear, but I meant what do you think of Saber and Allura?"
A quiet smile. "They seem to be friendlier nowadays, don't they? Though Saber tries to hide it. It's obvious they would be a good match – their temperaments are similar, they complement each other."
"He still thinks he can convince us out of it."
A snort. "Not bloody likely. Treaty's all but signed."
"Saber's stubborn, and I don't think the princess is weak-spined, either."
"If Saber's stubborn, whose fault do you think it is?" Lan grinned at his wife. "He'll see the light soon enough."
"I don't like it," Lance announced as he stared out the window. The four Explorers were in the rec room, lounging about. There was nothing for them to do – no repairs, no attacks, and no princess to guard. Allura was currently ensconced in her throne room, going over wedding plans with the Prydaini royals and Koran.
That is, the older Prydaini and Koran planned the wedding, while Allura and the prince took every opportunity to remind their elders that they had no intentions of being wed, so they might as well not have all these party plans either. Allura had told the boys about the prince's own dislike of the betrothal, and that he was working as earnestly as her to overturn the decision. It hadn't really made them like him any more, though.
"What don't you like, Lance?" Pidge asked after it became obvious that Lance wanted a response to his question.
"The way Allura and that prince guy are getting all buddy-buddy," Lance said, scowling. Everyone pretended not to notice how Keith's knuckles grew white on the book he was holding.
"Um," Hunk said hesitantly, hoping to calm his captain somewhat. "Maybe you're reading too much into stuff, Lance?"
"They're calling each other by their first names, Hunk!" Lance said impatiently. "Not just first names, nicknames! I heard that surfer-boy reject – " Lance's description made Pidge and Hunk grin a little, since as far as they knew, aside from his coloring Saber was the farthest thing from a surfer they had ever seen. " – call her Ally."
In the corner, Keith's mouth tightened.