Notes: Obviously, this story has nothing to do with my other He-Man story "Noticing Adam." I started writing this for a ficathon but decided to keep it for myself and turn it into a longer work than first intended.

In this story, I've developed a plot with King Randor's brother Stefen, who we met briefly in the 80's episode "Just a Little Lie." We didn't learn much about his characterization in this particular series, so I'm taking liberties as a writer. I'll go ahead and say this story will have several subplots and that King Stefen will be at the center of most of them. I already have the story worked out. I just have to tell it. It's mainly a King Randor, Queen Marlena, and Adam story, though.

I have no idea if anyone will find this of interest but I hope some will join me for the ride, and don't worry, this story will not distract me from "Noticing Adam." I've just had this on my hard drive for a little while so I decided to publish it and add to it periodically like I do with the former story.


Against Nature

The day began like it always had for the past twenty-three years. She heard the ruffle of several sheets and the sounds of someone scooting to the edge of the bed. She waited for it, knew it would come, and wasn't disappointed when a voice grumbled about ruling the planet yet having to get up so blasted early everyday. Queen Marlena smiled as she turned in bed and stared at her husband's retreating back as he walked into the lavatory to get ready for the day ahead of them. It wasn't a holiday and there were no important speeches to be made, but the day would be busy nonetheless.

As she heard the water start and the slide of the curtain, she mused on the irony of the sounds. Earlier, she thought these were the sounds she had heard for the last twenty-three years, but she quickly realized they were sounds she had heard her entire life. When she was a child, her father would rise from bed, grumble about having to go to work, and jump in the shower to get ready for yet another busy day. Sometimes she couldn't help but smile at the similarities between Earth and Eternia. There weren't many, but during her first few weeks on the planet, she had realized there were enough that she didn't feel completely out of touch with its inhabitants. And, they kept her from missing Earth…too much.

Marlena threw the covers off her body, sat on the edge of her bed, and stretched. She could have slept in—Randor would have let her but she wanted to be with him while he ran through the morning itinerary of everything which was to be done that day. That was something she did almost everyday for the past twenty-three years. The only time this routine hadn't been a part of her life here was when she and Randor had just met and she was not yet the Queen of Eternia. That was so long ago and—if she were truthful—such a short period of time that she could barely remember what her morning routines were like then. Regardless, one thing between now and then was the same: it had always involved Randor eventually. No matter what time she got up or where she went, they always managed to find one another before breakfast. According to Randor at the time, it had always been pure coincidence but she knew better: the king had his eye on her since he had pulled her from the wreckage of the Rainbow Explorer, and the feeling had been mutual, even then despite all the odds.

The queen smiled as she rose from the bed and walked to her wardrobe. Her musings on comparing Earth to Eternia made her laugh as she observed the clothing she had to choose from. There were a few different ensembles for special royal functions, but there were an overwhelming number of green dresses with thick golden embroidered designs that circled the hip area. Clothing was definitely something that had taken her quite a while to get used to on Eternia. Everyone in the palace looked like they wore the same thing day after day, but in reality, they merely had an abundance of the same outfit. She supposed it saved the seamstress a lot of hard work coming up with new and fashionable designs for her royal clientele, but it had made things rather dull sometimes when she first came to the planet, especially when the time for her to conform had arrived. Randor had explained it was one of the ways their subjects would recognize them from afar. "As if that was needed," she thought with a smirk.

Just like it did every morning when she stood in front of her closet, a large brown leather suitcase grabbed her attention. She had been on her way with that bag to Earth's first space station near Jupiter but had somehow managed to bring it to an entirely new planet and solar system instead. She knew what was inside without having to look to refresh her memory: it was every outfit that would make her husband blush and then plead with her not to wear to court. She laughed again as she thought about those early days when she would parade around the courtyard in t-shirts, blue jeans, and a pair of comfortable Nike sneakers. Randor would always take a step back when he finally found her and rake his appreciative eyes across her body as she asked mischievously, "Like my outfit?" Back then, she got away with it because she wasn't the queen and it was the attire of a visitor from another planet. A sigh escaped her lips as she forced her attention away from the suitcase. Randor had never once asked her to put the clothes away entirely and never wear them again; however, it became a necessity when her place in Randor's life had become common knowledge.

"Looking at your suitcase again, my dear?" asked a soft voice from behind her.

Marlena jumped slightly and turned to look at her husband. His sudden presence surprised her since she hadn't heard the water stop or him leave the lavatory. She met his gaze which was one of inquisitiveness and fear—she had never quite convinced him that when she sometimes looked at the suitcase, thoughts of leaving Eternia never crossed her mind. She couldn't really blame him for his apprehension, though. The suitcase had been packed for a day which never arrived, the moment in which she would finally wish to go back to Earth. She knew Randor was still afraid that moment would one day come; however, she couldn't throw her earthly possessions away despite knowing the angst they gave her husband. She would just have to convince him again that no such thoughts were being entertained.

She looked her husband up and down as she walked into his arms and reached a hand into his wet hair to pull his lips to hers. The kiss warmed her like it always did as his arms circled her completely: pleasant shots of heat tingled throughout her body and she found herself leaning against Randor to keep from falling while the kiss lasted for several more enjoyable seconds. When they parted and rested their foreheads against each other's, she answered, "I was merely contemplating what you would say if I wore one of my old outfits to court today." She leaned forward again and caught his lips in another kiss, but this one was soft and brief.

Randor continued to hold Marlena tightly as he peered into her playful eyes. "I don't think that would be a good idea, my queen," he replied softly.

"And, why not?" She really wanted to hear his answer since this was the first time they had spoken on the subject in such a long time.

The king pulled her even closer by pressing their bodies against one another firmly and whispered, "Because I really need to get to court early this morning and those jeans of yours would definitely distract me."

Marlena laughed heartily as her husband leaned forward to kiss her but then seemingly changed his mind. He wiggled his eyebrows at her for a few seconds before releasing her to walk to his closet. She watched as he walked away smugly, thinking he had won this round of flirtation. She would show him! "It would only be payback, you know," she said as she grabbed her typical green dress and then hurriedly unzipped her suitcase to grab a pair of blue jeans. She bundled the clothes up in her hands, hid her green dress, and placed the jeans where they would be seen easily.

She turned to face her husband, making sure he could see what she was carrying when he turned around.

"Why is that?" she heard Randor ask as he pulled one of his blue robes from the closet. At that moment, he turned to look at her and froze.

Marlena smiled, reached up, and started slipping her nightgown from her shoulders slightly. She could tell she had his undivided attention as he watched every bit of arm that was revealed. She then stepped forward as if she were going to walk to him, but she suddenly stopped and answered, "Well, you are the one parading around in only a towel." She paused as she grinned devilishly and added, "It's only fair that I get to walk around in these jeans all day."

"What?" asked Randor quickly. He looked at the bundle she was carrying and saw the article of clothing she was threatening him with. "Marlena!" he gasped and started running towards her.

She only laughed louder as she ran into the lavatory, slammed the door shut, and locked it. Yep, the morning's round was hers!

=)=)=)

King Randor smiled as the door slammed in his face. He tried the knob and found it locked as he had suspected. "Obstinate woman!" he spat jokingly as he walked back to his closet to finish grabbing his clothes. He wondered what his subjects would say if they saw their king and queen play around in such a manner…

Regardless, life was good to him. There was never a boring moment when Marlena was around. Like he so often did, he thanked the blessed day the Rainbow Explorer brought her to Eternia and gave even more reverent thanks for the day she agreed to become his wife and queen. He knew he wouldn't have become the man and king he was today if it hadn't been for her being by his side every step of the way.

The truth was he would have been a shell of a man. At the time Marlena had crashed onto Eternia, he had just ascended to the throne after King Miro's disappearance. The loss of his father had been almost overwhelming, and he had difficulty focusing on the kingdom and even taking care of himself properly. He had been utterly alone in his transition to power. His brothers and sister had left to start their own lives—in their grief and desire to leave Eternos, they had no time to help him with his struggles and pain, so he had grown accustomed to having no family. And, he hated it: he hated that his family had been torn apart by their tragic loss; nevertheless, he tried his best to hide it from his people.

That all changed when Marlena agreed to stay with him at the palace. She gave him a reason to actually want to get up in the morning. They were with each other constantly, and when he had to leave to go to court to listen to the latest problems his citizens were having with each other or other kingdoms, Marlena would go with him. She hadn't been allowed on the throne at the time, of course, but she stayed as close as possible, and she always made herself available to be a neutral sounding board in which he could toss ideas. She helped him so much in those days, and because of that and so many other reasons, he hadn't been able to stop himself from falling in love with her. She had given him his life back and eventually a family he had so desperately wanted and needed. He owed her everything.

His thoughts were disturbed by the sound of the lavatory door opening. Marlena stuck out a jean-clad leg, and he called her name sternly.

His wife merely laughed and stepped into the room. She was wearing her green dress and she let it fall over her pants as she walked over to him.

"You, my dear, are absolutely wicked at times," he said with a grin before leaning down and kissing her again. This time the kiss lasted vastly longer than the others they had shared that morning and left them breathless.

Eventually, Marlena recovered and asked, "You weren't kidding when you implied that these jeans can really affect you, huh?"

Randor kissed her nose lightly and replied, "No, it's just you. I was thinking about the past, when you first came to Eternia and how you stole my heart."

The queen hugged her husband tightly and said, "I hope I still provide you with wonderful moments to think about."

He pulled back a little so he could stare into her eyes. "Everyday," he whispered as he gathered her dress up, reached for her jeans, and unbuttoned them.

=)=)=)

King Stefen stepped into the throne room and gave a cursory glance to all the people present. It had been many years since he had last stepped foot inside Eternos and he was pleased to see that nothing much had changed over the years since he had left. The only thing that seemed to have altered was time…and, of course, that most of his siblings were no longer there except one.

The King of Dyperia stepped beside the guard stationed at the door. As soon as they met each other's gazes, the soldier straightened and interrupted the court by shouting loudly, "Presenting King Stefen of Dyperia to see King Randor."

The room immediately fell into silence as everyone turned to look at the visiting king, everyone except for Randor. "Stefen!" he shouted with great joy. He ran down the steps of the throne and hugged his brother tightly when they met on the floor.

"Randor," said Stefen merrily, "I hope you don't mind the intrusion, but things have been rather quiet in Dyperia, so I thought I would take my brother up on the many invitations he has sent to me over the years to visit."

"And, I'm so glad you have! It's been years since we've seen one another." Randor looked behind him to see who was accompanying his brother. "Where is Prince Dal?"

"He is still in Dyperia with his mother. I thought I needed a little break, so I decided to come alone."

"Indeed," said the King of Eternia. "Well, if it is rest and relaxation you desire, we are more than happy to oblige. I just hope you don't mind the occasional interruption of family visitors."

"Of course not, that's partly why I'm here. It's truly sad that you have seen my son several times, but I have never met yours except in passing during state visits."

King Randor turned to see his wife and son standing together not too far away.

=)=)=)

Prince Adam smiled as he watched his father embrace his uncle. He could only imagine that's how he and his sister Adora looked when they greeted each other after their continuous long separations: surprised yet extremely happy. Every moment they got to see each other was a miracle since he knew Hordak intended for the Royal Family of Eternia to never see Adora again.

And, similarly, he knew a villain had kept his father from his immediate family just like he had been kept from sister: the Enchantress kidnapped King Miro over twenty years ago and despite his young age, Prince Randor had to take over the kingdom. The subsequent reaction, to the kingdom moving on without their father, had torn the siblings apart. They couldn't stand to be in Eternos any longer so they left…aside from his father, that is. But luckily, the Ancients saw fit to change things just like they had with Adora. King Randor got his father back, and it appeared he was finally reuniting with his brother, Stefen.

Adam met his mother's gaze and widened his smile as she came to him to slip her arm around his. They both knew what this meant to the King of Eternia. Adam also knew when his father introduced them and possibly told him of the past, he would have to pretend he was hearing it for the first time. After all, King Randor had never told his son of his unfortunate past aside from King Miro's disappearance. He had never discussed the heartache that developed between him and his siblings. The only reason Adam did know was because his mother saw fit to tell him years ago when his father had been particularly strict and hadn't allowed him to go along with several pages to Dyperia on an overnight excursion. He supposed his father held a little resentment towards his brothers and sister for essentially abandoning him; fortunately, it seemed like his father forgave his uncle.

The king's smile was genuine, and finally, he turned it towards them. "Adam, Marlena, please come meet my brother." They stepped forward and Randor immediately stated with a hearty slap on Adam's back, "Stefen, this is my son Adam. Adam, this is your Uncle Stefen."

"Pleased to meet you," said Adam as he shook his uncle's hand and took note of how different he looked since the last time he saw him—he seemed a lot happier…healthier now that his kingdom was no longer at war. His eyes were not as sunken as they had been, his skin had a darker hue, and lines of distress that had adorned his face then were no longer present. Sadly, he couldn't comment on the positive changes because he saw his uncle as He-Man, not Adam, when he had helped the Dyperians defeat their enemies a little over a year ago. Regardless, he was glad he had helped then, because he was sure the peace in Dyperia made this visit possible.

King Stefen shook his hand firmly and replied, "And, it's a pleasure to meet you. I've heard so many wonderful things about you from Dal and many people throughout Eternia."

His words surprised the prince. While he might have believed the Dyperian king heard good things from Prince Dal, he wasn't quite so sure about other "people" saying anything positive. Regardless, he accepted his uncle's words without comment and chanced a look at his father. King Randor merely smiled.

King Stefen let go of Adam's hand and immediately grabbed his mother's. "And, who is this young lady, Adam? Are you courting her?"

Adam almost choked at the question. He coughed a couple of times as his mother laughed. "No," he said hurriedly, "she's my mother!"

=)=)=)

Randor straightened his posture proudly and grinned when Stefen questioned who Marlena was. When Adam revealed her true identity, his smile quickly faded as Stefen brought his wife's hand to his lips and kissed it slowly.

"I apologize," said King Stefen, and he continued to hold her hand for an obscene length of time.

Randor stepped closer and wrapped his arm around Marlena which made Stefen take a step back and release her hand. "Stefen, this is my wife and queen, Marlena," he said, scrutinizing his brother for a few moments before he smiled again. He decided that Stefen was just being a stereotypical courtier who would have given any beautiful lady who was before him his lavish attentions.

"Marlena, I am so happy and pleased to meet you," greeted Stefen. "When I had heard that my brother finally intended to marry all those years ago, I knew whomever the young lady was had to be someone very special. I see that I was right."

The queen blushed a little and replied, "Why, thank you, and I'm very happy to meet you as well. I've heard a lot about you. Randor informed me that you and he were quite rowdy in your youth and got into a lot of trouble. I've enjoyed many of those stories over the years."

King Stefen laughed loudly and stepped to Adam's side. "I'm sure it's no worse than the trouble this young man has gotten himself into from time to time," he replied, raising a hand to the prince's shoulder and squeezing gently.

"I'm sure it was a lot worse!" exclaimed the queen with a grin. "My son is very genteel and has never even dreamed of doing some of the things you and Randor have done in the past. It's not in his nature."

Stefen raised his brow in surprise and turned his attention to Adam. "Is this true, young man? That's very uncommon for a prince. Have you not gone into Eternos and…"

Randor immediately squeezed his brother's shoulder to get his attention and interjected, "Because of the time and age we live in with Skeletor out there, Adam has lived a far more sheltered life than you and I have."

"Still, in Dyperia, Dal and his friends…"

Randor interrupted again. "Things are different in Dyperia than it is in Eternos. This is the Capital City, so we attract a lot more attention and trouble than other kingdoms. Besides, like my wife said, Adam is different. He has no desire to go out on the town and cause mischief. Isn't that right, Adam?"

=)=)=)

At his father's sharp glance, the prince immediately agreed, "That's correct, Father."

As Stefen looked at Adam inquisitively, Randor grabbed his brother's attention by stating, "I would like to show you around, Stefen. I know a lot of things look the same on the outside but things really have changed for the better here."

Stefen turned to Randor and said, "Of course. I would like that." He then glanced at Adam and Marlena and asked, "Will you be coming along?"

"No," answered Marlena. "Adam and I will stay in court while Randor shows you around."

With their plans settled, Randor looked at Duncan across the room and said loudly, "Man-at-Arms."

Immediately, Duncan joined his king and King Stefen for their tour.

When they were gone and Marlena started walking back to the throne, Adam ran to her side and asked, "Mother, what was Uncle Stefen referring to earlier? What things have I not done that's so shocking?"

Marlena sighed and said, "Oh, Adam, how can I explain? You see, on Earth there is an old cliché that goes 'Boys will be boys!' What that means on Earth is that typically boys like to go out, get in fights, chase girls, and get into all kinds of mischief in their youth. The adage is fitting even here on Eternia."

Adam nodded as they ascended the steps to the throne and he wondered just what kind of things his father did when he was younger.

=)=)=)

A little after sunset, Adam walked into his bedchambers with Cringer at his feet. He felt exhausted since his mother and he had to take over the court proceedings in his father's absence: first, they had to continue entertaining the courtiers, then they listened to individual problems of the people, and then they met with a couple of visiting diplomats or royalty from other kingdoms. Things were hectic, but he was glad he was able to help so his father could get some one-on-one time with his brother since they hadn't had that in years.

"Ah, Cringer, what a day," said Adam tiredly as he rolled his neck a couple of times to get the kinks out.

"Y-You're telling me. I thought it would never end," replied Cringer with a loud yawn punctuating his sentence.

As Cringer walked to the bed and Adam walked to his closet, they heard a soft knock at the door. "I wonder who that could be," mumbled Adam as Cringer shrugged his front legs.

Adam opened the door and was surprised to see his uncle there. "Uncle Stefen!" he exclaimed. "Is everything all right?" He immediately stepped into the hall and looked around.

"Everything is quite all right," replied Stefen, "but I wanted to talk to you about something. Would you mind if I stepped into your bedchambers so we could discuss it privately?"

"Of course," answered Adam immediately. He stepped aside to let the king in, and as soon as he shut his door, he turned and asked, "Does this have something to do with my father?"

"Not really," said Stefen as he walked to the center of the room and looked around at his surroundings.

"Then what?"

Stefen stood close to Adam and whispered, "What would you say if I told you I wanted you and me to go out into the city tonight and…have some fun?" At Adam's raised brow, he laughed and said, "I know, I know. You think hanging out with your much older uncle wouldn't be a lot of fun, but I can honestly tell you, Adam, that I know this city better than you think and I can let loose every once in a while which is why I came to Eternos. I was going to do this by myself, but when I heard about the bubble my brother keeps you in, I decided I'd offer to take you with me. What do you say?"

Adam scratched his left elbow nervously and answered, "I don't think I should, Uncle. I'm awfully tired and besides…I don't think my parents would approve."

Stefen groaned, went to Adam's bed, and sat down. "I'm not asking you to break the law! I'm just asking you to accompany me to some establishments and see what there is to see in your city. Is that so bad? I'm not asking you to do anything that your own father hasn't done, I assure you."

"It depends," replied Adam softly as he thought about his uncle's words. The offer tempted Adam because he would be able to see what he was missing that his father had experienced when he was younger. And, the fact that his father had done these things in the first place made it that much easier to agree. Not to mention, this was the King of Dyperia asking. It wasn't like he was going to do anything that would cause a scandal, surely.

Stefen stood up, sighed in disappointment, and said, "I'm sorry, Adam. I should have never asked. It's just that I thought about this all afternoon and I thought I would have a companion tonight. That's all right, though. I'll leave you so you can get some rest." The king walked to the door but stopped when he heard Adam say, "Uncle Stefen."

When he turned to face him, the prince said, "Okay, I'll go but…"

"It'll be our secret," whispered Stefen with a grin. He patted Adam on the back firmly and said, "It'll be nice to get away from it all, right? Adam, I promise this will be a night you'll never forget."

Adam looked back at Cringer nervously and the tiger questioned, "A—Adam?"

The prince immediately walked to Cringer, bent down, and whispered, "I don't think I should let him go alone. It's been a long time since he's been in Eternos and I don't want him getting into any trouble. Besides, it might be fun—Father and he have done this before."

"But your father…" started Cringer, but Adam shook his head and he silenced.

"He won't find out."

"I hope not," whispered Cringer as Adam and Stefen walked quietly out of the room.