A/N: Hi all! We're ba-ack! For those of you just joining us, some important notes: Teela, Marlena, and Randor now know the truth about Adam and Adora. With Skeletor gone and the Horde defeated, Adora and Sea Hawk have moved to Eternia. Serena is the new Sorceress. Adam and Teela are engaged, as are Sea Hawk and Adora. This story picks up at the end of the engagement party that ended "A Brother's Forgiveness" (formerly "Into Etheria"). I think that covers it! Hope you enjoy the new story, and as always, reviews/private messages/etc. are welcome!
Princess Adora smiled to herself as she strolled down the hallway towards the ballroom
Princess Adora smiled to herself as she strolled down the hallway towards the ballroom. She was incredibly pleased that Adam had chosen to propose to Teela tonight, and that the two of them were celebrating their engagement along with her and Hawk. The sudden announcement had taken a lot of the pressure off of her. After all, being the prodigal princess had its drawbacks. The nobility had reacted to her with wild differences. Some of them fawned over her, others stared at her in open distrust, and still others were kind to her face, but whispered behind her back…like the two whose voices were carrying down the hall from a nearby alcove.
"You know she was raised by the Horde, don't you?" a woman's voice said, not quite quietly enough.
"Everyone knows that," another female voice replied. Neither of them sounded familiar to Adora. Her step automatically slowed and softened as she tried to decide whether to march past as if she hadn't heard or retreat back the way she had come. Her face flushed as they continued.
"I can't believe Randor and Marlena welcomed her back so easily," the first voice said. "I don't care if she did help stop the Horde last month. It was probably her fault they were here in the first place."
"I quite agree," said the second voice. "I'm sure she learned horrible things growing up under such a terrible influence. It must have damaged her in some way."
"Well of course," the first woman replied in disgust. "Look at her taste in men. A pirate? What ever would we do if anything happened to Adam? We would have a former pirate for a king! How disgraceful!" The woman's voice rose as the horror of this thought permeated her mind completely.
A mixture of anger and shame filled Adora from a tight ball in her stomach to the tightness in her throat. She turned on her heel to leave, but their voices followed her.
"He's not much better," the second woman sneered. "Marrying the captain of the guard. Not only a commoner, but a warrior! That's hardly a suitable background for a queen."
"Well look at the example their father set, marrying an alien," the first woman pointed out, her voice finally fading as Adora put distance between her and them. Her eyes filled with tears.
Maybe she should have confronted them, but in spite of the fact that Adora had faced countless evil villains, the pettiness of the royal court was something she was rather unprepared for. The rebellion had, oddly enough, accepted her pretty quickly, considering that she had been raised by the Horde. Part of that, she knew, was because the Whispering Woods had allowed her inside. If she had been evil, the woods would have known. Her rebel friends had accepted that easily, and welcomed her leadership and skills. She had been surrounded by good people who were fighting for freedom.
Eternia, Adora was finding, was different. Without an evil ruler to unite the current leaders, some of them had become obsessed with finding ways to increase their power, or had become focused on things that really didn't matter in the grand scheme of life. Adora knew she shouldn't let their comments get to her, but she hadn't learned yet how to handle them with the aplomb Adam did.
Adora rounded a corner and slammed into a hard chest. Strong hands caught her arms and steadied her as she lost her balance.
"Adora!" Prince Adam exclaimed. "Sorry about that!" He immediately caught her mood. "What's wrong, sis?"
Adora quickly shook her head, her blond hair flying about. "Nothing, Adam."
"Adora," Adam said, his voice full of reproach. His blue eyes compelled her to answer. "Come on, spill it."
She gave him a brave smile, blinking back the tears that had threatened. "Really, Adam, it's nothing. Just a few gossiping courtiers."
Adam's face hardened slightly. "What did they say?" he asked quickly.
"Nothing I haven't already heard over the last month."
Adam sighed. "It's just awful. You're a dangerous Horde warrior who is marrying a pirate, and your cowardly brother is marrying his bodyguard," he guessed.
That brought a smile to Adora's face. "You're close. They left out the coward part, and added that Father married an alien."
Adam's jaw dropped. "An alien?" He burst out laughing, throwing his head back. "I never thought of it that way. I must find out who these ladies are and congratulate them on making me think of my mother in a new light."
Adora chuckled with him, though it wasn't as heartfelt as Adam's laugh. "I'm afraid I don't know who they are," she admitted. She shook her head. "I envy you, Adam. How do you let it roll off of your back so easily?"
"Practice, my dear sister, practice," Adam said, offering her his arm. Adora slipped her hand into the crook of his elbow, feeling better. "When you've been called a cowardly lazy goof-off as much as I have, you start to realize how little other people's opinions matter." They strolled past the alcove, but it was empty now.
"I guess we missed them," Adora said as she glanced over.
Adam grunted noncommittally, then abruptly changed the subject. "Have you seen Grandfather?"
"Not since he first came in and congratulated us," Adora said slowly. "Why?"
Adam shrugged. "I was just hoping to talk with him, but I haven't seen him in the last couple of hours."
"Maybe he got tired and turned in," Adora suggested. "He did arrive only an hour before the party began."
"Yeah, probably," Adam agreed.
Miro, former king of Eternia, watched the celebration before him from a darkened corner. The radiant joy on the faces of his grandchildren and their espoused was incredible. He absently scratched at his white beard. He had felt that joy once, but it had never been publicly celebrated the way Adam and Adora were getting to celebrate tonight. He felt a surge of jealousy towards his own grandchildren, and he turned away, ashamed of the feeling.
If only things had been different. If only I had dared to defy my father.
The familiar ache in his heart returned as he remembered things he had buried for some time. So much had gone wrong. And still, after all these years of searching, he had found nothing. Yet…Miro gazed at his grandchildren. Had things worked out differently, he wouldn't have them, or Randor. Part of him balked at the very thought. If only he could find-
"It's a happy day, isn't it Father?" Randor asked, his voice booming with cheerfulness as he came up alongside Miro and clasped a hand to his shoulder.
"Yes indeed," Miro quickly agreed, hiding the turmoil he felt inside.
"I bet it brings back quite a few memories," Randor said meaningfully.
"That it does," Miro said more quietly. Just not the ones you're thinking of. He had hidden the truth from his son for years. He had no intention of revealing it now.
"Adam, I've been thinking," Teela said the next morning as they prepared for their training session. Her tone was so solemn that Adam's heart went into his throat. With an effort, he cast a grin her way.
"You changed your mind already?" he quipped. "I thought I had at least three weeks."
"Oh no, you're not getting out of marrying me that easily," Teela teased back. Adam's heart slipped back into his chest where it belonged. She handed him his sword and shield, which Adam pulled a face at. He rarely used a shield as He-Man, and as Adam he found it cumbersome. Teela ignored the look.
"So what have you been thinking about?" Adam asked as they took a few test swings at each other.
"Well, I know it's customary for royalty to have at least a year-long engagement," Teela began, drawing out her words.
"And you want ours to be longer so you can stay on as Captain of the Guard?" Adam guessed. He had expected her to have problems with resigning her post, which she would eventually have to do. "You don't have to resign until you're queen, Teela."
"It's not that!" Teela snapped in protest. She swung hard at him, the force of her sword against his shield sending him back a few steps.
"Hey, take it easy!" Adam protested. He swung his sword at her shield half-heartedly. "I'm not a mind-reader, Captain. Spill it."
"I think we ought to have a shorter engagement." Her voice turned into an odd mix of pleading and determination.
"Okay," Adam said, ducking behind his shield again. "Like what? Ten months?" His mind raced ahead. He was pretty sure he could get his parents to accept that relatively easily.
"Actually, I was thinking that we should honor our childhood pledge," Teela said in a rush, giving a backhanded swing at the same time. Adam dropped his guard and stood rock-still as her dull blade slammed into his right arm. He staggered slightly to the side. "I'm sorry!" Teela exclaimed, her face reddening.
Adam's blue eyes sought her emerald green ones and locked on. "Teela, that gives us less than five months," he said in shock.
Teela bit her lip and broke eye contact. "I know, Adam, but if it was important enough to keep me from becoming the next Sorceress, it's important enough to honor, isn't it?"
There was a short silence as he considered her words. "You're right," he said, as if that had never happened before.
"Besides," Teela added, bringing her eyes back up to meet his gaze, which had never left her face, "we've been through Blazes and back, Adam. There are no promises in life, and I don't want to miss a single minute of being with you." Her voice broke slightly.
Adam dropped his sword and shield and stood in front of her in two strides, cupping her face in his hands. "Your impatience is going to cause me a lifetime of trouble, you know that Captain?" he asked roughly.
Teela grinned saucily at him. "Would you have it any other way?"
"No," Adam admitted easily. "I'll talk to my parents, Teela, and see what I can do. But they may not agree to it. It's bound to start the rumor mills grinding."
Teela didn't get a chance to respond as Adam kissed her. When he pulled away, she couldn't help but tease him again. "Aren't we supposed to be practicing?"
"You started it," Adam pointed out with a wicked grin. "I guess I'm finally rubbing off on you."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Teela asked, waving her sword threateningly.
"You're starting to relax and have some fun," Adam pointed out. He ducked as she swung her sword over his head. "Hey, you're supposed to protect me, not chop my head off!"
"Oops, sorry," Teela said sweetly.
"I'll bet," Adam growled playfully, picking up his own sword and shield. "Let's get to it, Captain."
"Four months?" Queen Marlena stared at her son in dismay. "Tell me you're kidding, Adam."
Adam returned his mother's gaze steadily. "No, Mother, I'm serious."
King Randor cleared his throat as he straightened up. "Adam, surely you realize the misunderstandings that could arise from this."
Adam nodded slowly, assessing his parents' faces as he tried to figure out if they were "misunderstanding" something themselves. They looked worried, but not dismayed. "I do, Father, but we don't want to put this off any longer."
"But you just got engaged two days ago," Marlena protested. "Why are you rushing the wedding?"
"Mother, after all Teela and I have been though, do you really have to ask that?" Adam challenged her softly, his blue eyes begging her to understand.
Marlena's objections died in her throat. Adam had thought Teela was dead for a short time, and it had nearly destroyed him. He had patiently waited to ask her to marry him until things had settled back down, but she could tell from the determination in his eyes that his patience was nearing an end. And if she had to guess, Marlena would say Teela's patience was already gone.
Randor understood as well, but tried one last time. "Adam, can't you wait a few months more? You know the traditional engagement is one year, and usually longer for royalty. It's one thing to cut it short by a month or two, but a four-month engagement? If you rush it like this, people will think-" He stopped, his face flushing slightly.
"And in nine months, when no baby appears, they will know they were wrong," Adam said firmly. "I don't want to cause the two of you any trouble, but I'm not willing to put off our wedding just for the sake of perception."
"Adam, the courts are already in an uproar," Randor said slowly, unsure of how much to share with his son. "I don't want to upset you, but-"
"I already know," Adam interrupted. At Randor's doubtful look, he ran through the litany again. "It's disgraceful that Adora was raised by the Horde and is marrying a pirate. It's a horrible thing that the cowardly prince is marrying his bodyguard. But of course what could one expect, when their father married an alien?"
Marlena laughed at that. "That one's still around, is it?"
Randor smiled ruefully. "We did have our share of rumors and animosity to contend with as well, didn't we, Marlena?" The two exchanged a loving glance full of memories.
Adam hesitated for a second, then interjected, "Besides, if you count our childhood engagement…"
"What?" Marlena's eyes widened as Randor's narrowed.
"I heard the two of you talking about arranged marriages when I was a boy," Adam explained. He relaxed and enjoyed sharing the story, hoping he had them now. His mother was already in his corner, and he was pretty sure this would clinch Randor's support as well. "I panicked, thinking I didn't want to marry one of these courtiers who were already being paraded around me. I found Teela and got her to agree to marry me…when we were both twenty-five." He paused, savoring the astonishment on his father's face and the smile growing on Marlena's.
"But that wasn't a real engagement," Randor protested weakly.
"It kept Teela from becoming the next Sorceress," Adam countered. Randor's mouth dropped open. "So she and I think that since we both, as adults, have decided we want to marry, we should honor that childhood pledge as well."
"And Teela turns twenty-six in less than five months," Marlena said aloud, comprehending the rush now.
Randor stared at his son for a full minute, then a reluctant grin crossed his face. "Perhaps I should hand the throne over to you now," he said, shaking his head.
"What? Why?" Adam asked, alarmed.
"Because you're getting very good at outmaneuvering me," his father said, chuckling. Adam joined in, relieved Randor had been joking. Randor clapped him on the shoulder. "Let me sleep on it, Adam. I'll give you my answer in the morning." He kept his concerns buried inside.
Teela sat with her mother and her adopted father, discussing the same topic and receiving the same reaction from Duncan. Teelana, or Lana as she had taken to being called, was less hung up on established traditions and public expectations.
"Teela, think of what people will say if you and Adam rush to get married," Duncan objected.
"I know, Father, but I really don't care," Teela replied, keeping control of her temper with an effort.
"They did make a pledge to each other as children," Lana reminded Duncan.
Duncan snorted. "A childhood pledge of that sort means nothing."
"How can you say that?" Teela demanded, her ire starting to rise. "That pledge kept me from taking Mother's place in Grayskull!"
"Thank the Ancients," Lana murmured fervently.
"I've watched Adam come close to death more times in the last year than I care to count," Teela continued heatedly. "Life is too uncertain to delay our wedding just because a few pompous members of the court have nothing better to do than gossip about why it's in four months instead of a year!"
"You're going to have to learn to control that temper of yours, daughter," Lana observed mildly. "A queen cannot go spouting off like that."
Duncan nodded in agreement. "And a proper engagement will give you more time to develop your self-control."
Teela bit her lip and looked her father square in the eye. "We are getting married in four months."
"Provided the king and queen agree to this idea," Duncan said a bit dryly. "After all, King Randor has to perform the ceremony."
"My father will give me an answer in the morning, but I think he's going to agree," Adam's voice came from the doorway. He stared at his mentor in concern as he entered the room. "I didn't think this would bother you, Duncan."
Man-at-Arms could see that Adam was indeed upset by his reaction, and he hastened to explain himself to the prince. "Adam, please try to understand. I'm very pleased that the two of you are getting married. But Teela is my little girl. I don't want people thinking-" Like Randor, he stopped short of putting it into words. His face paled, as if he thought that maybe this idea was actually true.
"Father!" Teela gasped, her face reddening.
"She's not, and she won't be," Adam assured his mentor, even as he placed a restraining hand on Teela's shoulder. A tremor ran through her as she tried to get a hold of her temper. "Duncan, I waited nearly seven years for her to know the truth about me. Then I almost lost her. Please don't ask me to wait any longer. Let us do this while Eternia is still at peace."
Duncan stared hard at Adam for what seemed like an eternity. He could see in the younger man's eyes that if he asked him to wait, Adam would. He respected Duncan too much to go against his wishes.
"Please Father," Teela said softly, her green eyes luminous. She too realized that Adam would not go against her father, even if his own parents gave their blessing.
Duncan relented with a shake of his head. "How can I argue against you two? I'll go along with whatever your father decides, Adam."
Teela let out an excited squeal. "Thank you, Father!" She hugged him, then turned to her mother. "We have so much do to…"
"Provided King Randor agrees," her mother admonished dryly. Teela settled down and nodded.
"Thank you, Duncan," Adam echoed. Their eyes met in understanding. Duncan raised an eyebrow. "You know better," Adam said quietly to his mentor's unspoken question. Duncan inclined his head in acknowledgement. He did know better. Adam almost always did the right thing.
Lana turned to Duncan as Teela and Adam left. "You shouldn't have given them such a hard time," she chided him gently.
Duncan frowned. "You don't know how vicious the court gossips can be."
Teelana raised an eyebrow. "After all they have suffered, I seriously doubt a round of rumors are going to bother Adam and our daughter."
"We'll see," Duncan replied grimly.
Adam frowned as he entered his father's study. The king's face was stern, and as Randor sighed heavily, Adam knew he wasn't going to like his father's answer.
"Adam, after thinking it over, I've decided that I just can't allow you and Teela to subject yourselves to the horrible gossip that would result over such a short engagement," the king said without preamble. "It does harm not only to the two of you, but also to the family and the reputation of the kingdom."
"But Father," Adam protested half-heartedly, already knowing he wouldn't be able to change Randor's mind, "surely you're not going to let a bunch of court gossips dictate your decision."
Randor's face reddened slightly, and Adam realized with a start that he'd said the wrong thing.
"I certainly hope not," another voice chimed in from behind Adam.
"Grandfather!" Adam exclaimed as he turned around.
Miro stared at Randor, tension radiating from him. "Am I to understand there is a problem with Adam marrying Teela?"
"No, there's a problem with the timing," Randor countered. He looked to his father, expecting his support. "They want to get married in four months."
"So?" Miro challenged, his brown eyes hard. "They've known each other their entire lives. What's the big deal?"
Stunned by his grandfather's heated response, Adam remained silent, watching the exchange between the two men. He had never seen his grandfather so riled.
"It's just not proper!" Randor asserted.
"Proper?" Miro snapped. "Is it a fact that your son was nearly killed by the Talisman of Kaspanya less than a year ago?"
"Yes," Randor replied irritably.
"And didn't he almost die again when he was wounded on Etheria?" Miro continued, his eyes flashing and his voice growing louder with each question. "And didn't he believe Teela to be dead for more than a week? And you're worried about some petty gossip?" Randor stared at his father as if he had never seen him before.
Miro whirled to Adam. "Your father isn't the only one who can marry the two of you. So can I. If he won't do it, I will." He strode out of the room.
Adam and Randor locked gazes. "What was that all about?" Adam asked in shocked wonder.
"I have no idea," Randor replied. He sighed heavily again, and Adam's heart sank. Randor looked out the window, then turned back to his son. "However, he's right, Adam. He can marry the two of you."
"I won't do it without your blessing," Adam said quietly. "Teela knows that." He stood still, waiting for his father's decision.
Randor gave a half-smile, pride in his son filling him. "I hated saying no to begin with, Adam. And with both your mother and grandfather in your corner…." He shook his head, silently thankful for the turn of events. He welcomed an excuse to give in. "Four months it is."
A grin split Adam's face. "Thank you, Father," he said. He reached out a hand, which Randor took. "Thank you."
Inexplicably, Randor felt the need to give his son a hug. He pulled the prince close and slapped him hard on the back. "I hope you know what you're in for."
Adam returned the hug, then stepped back, the grin still on his face. "From the gossips or Teela?" he quipped.
Randor laughed. "Both."
Miro marched down the hall without looking to either side. He knew he had overreacted. But he didn't want anyone taking away Adam's happiness as his had been taken. His steps slowed as he came to a balcony, where he could look out towards the Vine Jungle. He took a few breaths to steady himself.
He understood better than anyone how Adam and Teela felt. Unlike many people in love, they knew how fragile, how precarious, their lives were, and Miro was proud of them for wanting to ignore the gossips and get married quickly. They needed to live life to the fullest while they could. There were no guarantees it would last.