Stifling a yawn, Allura blinked rapidly, trying to keep a look of polite interest on her face. She found it more difficult than anticipated, Allura struggling to stay awake in the midst of the planning Lotor and the members of her Voltron Force were doing. They had been at it for hours, and she wondered if they would extend the time for one more hour yet.
Lotor seemed tireless as he answered all the questions the men asked of him, even offering up tidbits of information no one thought to ask. He was proving to be an invaluable fount of information, and Allura thought Lotor might even prove the key to winning the upcoming battles. The men around him were wary, not ready to give the Drule their full trust, but at least they seemed appreciative of what he was saying.
She had to smile at Pidge, the princess especially amused by the interest the boy showed the Drule. Pidge was fascinated by Drule technology, and eager for a chance to study it. He kept trying to interrupt the proceedings to ask Lotor questions, ones that seemed as though they were pointless to the war. But Allura soon realized Pidge was hoping to understand what kind of tech they were up against, in order to perhaps develop some sort of device to counteract the Drules’ gadgets.
Of course Lotor did not know nearly as much about the inner workings of Drule technology as he did their battle tactics. He was more warrior than engineer. Allura had already known that from seeing him in action on the Drule war ship, and even if she hadn’t, she would have known now from listening to him speak. Lotor was deadly calm as he talked about fighting and possibly killing his own men, painting a ruthless picture in the strategies he suggested they used.
Of course there was disagreements that occasionally broke out, and this is where Allura stepped in, the girl level headed where the men were not. The most recent of arguments had involved Lotor’s position during the war, the Drule not wanting to part from Allura’s side. He was adamant that he remain behind to protect her, and Keith was just as insistent Lotor be aboard the Arusian flag ship.
Lotor had insisted his place was to protect Allura, he would have no use aboard the flag ship since the Arusian soldiers would most likely not follow his commands. Keith had pointed out that Lotor needed to communicate to them what tactics the Drule were using, and the strategies needed to neutralize the threats. Eventually Allura stepped in, her voice the deciding factor. She reasonably pointed out Lotor could just as easily watch the battle from the command center of the castle, and pull double duty as her protector.
That had left Lotor pleased, and Keith barely mollified. She could see the captain of the Voltron force was loathe to trust Allura’s personal safety to the Drule. “If the Drule soldiers get into the castle….” Lotor was saying, expression grim. “I am your best bet at seeing your princess escape unharmed.”
“They’ll only get in the castle if we fail…” Keith retorted. “And we don’t plan to do that!” A chorus of agreement from his teammates, Pidge nodding emphatically.
“No one ever plans to lose…” Lotor pointed out. “But still it happens.” A grim reminder, the group looking disgruntled to hear it. “I’ll feel better if we have an escape route mapped out in case it comes to that.”
“I shall get you blue prints of the castle.” Offered Coran. “With those you’ll be able to plan out several possible routes to take, in order to get to the princess to safety.” Lotor looked pleased that Coran trusted him enough to give him the blue prints of the castle.
“If Arus falls….there won’t be anywhere safe on the planet for Allura.” She shivered at that reminder, all eyes on her, showing their worry.
“I’ll be fine.” She tried to assure them. “Lotor will get me and my cousin to safety if it comes to that. I’m more worried about you five, who will be in the heart of the battle!”
“We’ll manage.” Hunk smiled at her, his words reassuring.
“You’ll have to do more than manage.” Came Lotor’s cold reminder.
“Yeah, yeah.” Grumbled Sven. “You just worry about your side of things, and we’ll worry about ours.”
“I shall have the blue prints sent to you first thing in the morning.” Coran was saying to Lotor. “Until then, I suggest we all take a rest.” Allura hid a smile, grateful the planning session seemed to be drawing to a close.
“But Coran..” Protested Keith. “I wanted to go over things one last time…” Everyone groaned in response, and it was Allura who answered.
“Keith, you’ll get a chance to do just that at tomorrow’s meeting.” She was referring to the big one, the one that would involve all of the soldiers who would fight for Arus.
“I certainly would like a chance to see this information from a fresh mind’s perspective” said Pidge.
“I would like to just sleep.” Muttered Lance, not hiding his blatant yawn. Keith still looked ready to protest, but he sighed when he saw his opinion was outnumbered.
“Fine.” Grumbled the man. “We’ll rest. It may be our last chance to get any good sleep for a while!”
He drew more grumbles with that comment, but slowly the meeting broke up. One by one, Coran and the others left the room, until it was just Lotor and Allura sitting at the table. Lotor waited until the door closed behind Keith, and then he seemed to sag, his tireless demeanor becoming one of a defeated person. It left her concerned, Allura turning to touch Lotor’s arm.
“I did it Allura….” His voice was a hoarse whisper. “I truly turned traitor to my people.”
She felt pain to see him like this, Allura rising to stand besides him. If he had turned to her then, she probably wouldn’t have done what she did next, Allura wrapping her arms around Lotor. For an instant he stiffened in surprise, and then Lotor was relaxing into her embrace. “It will be okay.” She said soothingly. “Things have a way of working out…”
“Hmm…” A noncommittal noise, leaving Allura not to know if he agreed or argued against her words.
“You’ve been so strong.” She continued, still hugging him to her. “A weaker man would have crumbled under the strain.”
“And I am anything but weak.” Lotor said, and she smiled, recognizing the spark that made him, him.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.” She whispered fiercely.
“It’s strange….” Lotor began. “Since I met you, everyone around me has said I can’t function. That I am not thinking clearly. That I am being a weak willed fool. But this evening, here in this room…I felt the glimmer of my old self. I felt in control, I felt able to concentrate. Do you know why?”
“No.” Allura admitted, and waited for him to tell her.
“I think it’s because I am doing something for you. I am devoting myself to the protection of my mate and her home.” He grew quiet for a moment, but the silence was comfortable. “I’m wondering if this is what it can be like always.”
“If we truly bonded.” Lotor said. He touched her arms, but didn’t try to break the hug. “Maybe there’s an untapped potential in being mated. A strength that is unknown to those who never found their mates….”
“I really don’t know.” She told him, and squeezed him one last time. He seemed to sigh in disappointment when she released the hug, Allura studying him carefully. He looked a little better, although no where near cheered up. Allura recognized what he was doing was hard on him, and she was impressed he had the will power and fortitude to carry through with what amounted to a betrayal of his people.
“I don’t think you realize how grateful I am.” She began, but the words seemed flat. He looked at her, and she chewed on her bottom lip, a sudden impulse coming to her. “Will you walk with me for a while?”
“Walk with you?” He was surprised. “Where?”
“There’s something I want to show you.” She risked a smile at him, almost teasing in the next instant. “That is, if you’re not too tired…”
“I’m more worried about your lack of sleep than mine!” Lotor retorted.
“So you’ll come?”
“I could never refuse you.” He said, and her smile deepened in pleasure.
“In this case I am glad.” Allura took hold of his arm, already tugging him towards the door. He moved without hesitation, though Lotor looked curious.
“Just what is it that you want to show me?” He asked as they stepped out into the hall.
“I’ll let it remain a surprise for now.” Allura answered, trying to be mysterious. The Drule prince wasn’t so easily put off, he continued to prod her with questions.
“Is it an object? A person? A place?” She remained tightlipped, and Lotor grew impatient. “Surely you can tell me that much!”
“Surely I could.” She giggled, glad he seemed distracted from his worries.
“So tell me!” He almost was whining, and it made Allura laugh harder.
“It’s just a short walk….we’re almost there.” Allura said, noting there wasn’t that many people around this late in the evening. “Surely you can wait another five minutes?”
“I shouldn’t have to wait.” He grumbled in protest. But a hint of a smile was on Lotor’s face, showing he was enjoying himself.
“I’ll have to give you a tour of the castle sometime.” Allura continued. “Though I suspect you already know enough to find my bedroom.” She gave him a look, part teasing, part reproachful.
“As long as I could scent you, I can track you anywhere.” Lotor boasted, and she blushed. Allura wasn’t sure if she was pleased by that or not.
“Do you like your room?” Allura asked, not having seen the guest bedroom they had given the prince.
“I’d like it better if you shared it with me.” He was honest, giving her a heated look with those words. It made her blush harder, Allura trying to be nonchalant as she spoke.
“I think you would sleep better without me by your side.”
“Sleep is the furthest thing from my mind when you are with me, Allura.” Damn it all, it seemed Lotor was determined to keep her in a permanent state of blush. What’s more he was succeeding, Allura ducking her head shyly. “I think about you all the time.” He continued, shameless. “What you are doing, how you are feeling, what you need…” A smirk then, Lotor’s voice dropping to a seductive whisper. “I wonder about those dreams of yours, and how close you are to admitting you need me as much as I need you.”
“We’re here!” She announced, stopping before a pair of doors. He almost looked disappointed that she had avoided responding to his inquiry, Allura reaching for the door’s handle. It opened without a sound, the hinges well oiled and put to constant use. A slight breeze blew in on the open door’s entrance, bringing with it the smell of perfumes.
“Come on!” Allura said, and was dragging him outside the castle. Lotor did not so much as stumble when she pulled him, the prince looking around in curiosity. She smiled at him, the look partially anxious as she watched him take in the garden. The night blooming flowers were in full display, petals open and releasing their fragrant scent into the air.
Bushes and bushes of colorful plants lined pathways that twist and turned, the garden huge in size. The wall of the castle had rose vines climbing up high, almost reaching the third floor with it’s tendrils. A gazebo painted in white wood was some distance away, a focal point that offered up a breath taking view of the entire garden.
Insects hummed, and somewhere an owl hooted. Many of the other beautiful birds that made her garden their home were already sleeping, tucked away in trees or in the ornate bird houses that were distributed throughout the grounds. A few stray cats were on the prowl, beautiful felines with sable coats. One darted across their path now, pausing only long enough to give the pair a curious look.
“Well…” Allura let go of Lotor’s arm, to step in front of him, her hands flung out to encompass the garden area. “What do you think of my garden?”
He was still looking around, but now his gaze swung back to her. “It’s very nice.” He said at last. She wondered if he meant that.
“Yes. Yes, it is.” She agreed. “My mother was the one to originally start this garden. I believe those roses over there were the first thing she planted.” Allura pointed at a pink rose bush, Lotor looking that way. “Of course….you can’t see the real splendor of the garden until the sun is up, but…”
“It is lovely here anyway.” Lotor quickly assured her. He stepped towards the night blooming tulips, leaning in to smell them. “Do you work the land yourself?”
“Sometimes. Not nearly as often as I should.” She admitted. “The garden is too big for any one person to maintain now, and I have my studies taking up much of my time. But I make sure to come here as often as I can.” She smiled again. “It’s my own private get away.”
“And you would share it with me?” He asked, seeming amazed.
“Well, yes. I thought the peace of my garden would be good for you.” Allura told him. “It’s a private area, closed off from visitors. If you ever feel like escaping all the attention you’ve been getting, please. Come here.”
“You would not mind me intruding?”
“It wouldn’t be an intrusion!” Allura retorted. “You’re my guest, and I want you to feel comfortable.”
“I feel most comfortable when I am with you.” Lotor told her. She grew warm at his words, and the sheer earnest honesty they were spoken with. What’s more she didn’t know quite what to say to that, Allura turning away from him with a nervous clearing of her throat.
“Well…right…” A quick shake of her head, Allura stammering out a reply. “My home is always open to you.”
“And I thank you for that.” Lotor said, words warm with sincere emotion.
“It must be difficult…” She began walking along the pathway, and though she didn’t hear the sound of his boots, Allura knew Lotor followed her. “Being on a new planet, in a new place…knowing you might never be able to go back home…” And it was her fault that he was in this mess, Allura holding back a sigh. “Please….if there’s anything I can do to make it better for you…”
“It’s not so bad…” His light tone had Allura turning, to look at him questioningly. He was casual as he leaned over a flower hedge, his elegant fingers stroking the white petals of some kind of lily. “As long as I can be here with you.”
She blushed when he made eye contact with her, his finger breaking the flower free of the hedge. “You can’t possibly mean that!” Allura cried out, Lotor pausing to frown at her. “One person can’t possibly make up for all your losing. I can’t make up for it!”
“You’re my mate. Of course you’re enough.” He said it as though she was his whole world, and an unsettled feeling rose in her, Allura realizing that right now that was probably true. “Besides…” He drew close to her, flower still in hand. “I knew one of us would have to give up our worlds to be with the other one.” The flower was placed in her hair, Lotor using his fingers to wind her golden strands around the stem.
“You didn’t think it would be you though.” Allura pointed out, her hand raising up to touch the secured flower. “You were prepared to whisk me away…to try and force me to be happy on Doom.”
“Guilty.” He admitted, stepping back to admire her. “Of course…seeing you here in your home, I realize now you could never be happy elsewhere.”
“And you?” She asked. “Would you be able to be happy away from Doom?”
“I don’t know, but I’m willing to try.” A light chuckle then, Lotor casual enough that she wondered if he was hiding his pain from her. “I’ve little choice regardless.” She looked down, not wanting to show him how bad she felt about his choices being taken away from him like this. She should have known Lotor wouldn’t be content to let her hide her expressions from him, the prince reaching out, using his fingers on her chin to turn her face upwards.
“Why so sad Allura?” She shrugged in response. “It’s a beautiful night…and the company is good.”
“We’re also on the brink of war.” Allura pointed out, and Lotor nodded.
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the moments we do have.” He studied her, the look just as intent as any others he had given her since coming to the garden. “Your hair shines so prettily in the moonlight.”
“It looks better in the sun.” She protested, blushing.
“Not necessarily. But then…I am of the opinion you look beautiful no matter what sort of lighting is upon you.”
“You’re teasing me!” She exclaimed to hold off her embarrassment. Her cheeks were burning, she turned to flee up the path, not wanting to hear what he had to say. But his voice carried as easily as the wind, the words a seductive whisper.
“Trust me Allura, when I tease you, you will know it.”
She nearly stumbled, a hot flash of an image appearing in her mind. Fragments of the dream, and just how Lotor could truly tease her came to her, Allura turning fretful in the moment. ~Don’t think about it!~
She reached the gazebo, easily climbing up it’s stairs to step inside. Shadows were everywhere, the cuts in the ceiling only allowing slivers of moonlight to pour in. Even here there was flowers, traces of their tendrils wrapping around the wood. A bench was in the center of the gazebo’s floor, but she didn’t move to sit down right away. Allura sensed more than heard Lotor’s arrival at the gazebo, the girl turning to look at him.
“I still don’t like it when you stare.” She muttered sheepishly. His eyes gleamed in the darkness, but otherwise the shadows hid his expression from her. But he was staring, eyes intent and focused on her.
“I’m afraid I can’t help it.” Lotor told her. “You’re like a flower, beautiful and to be admired.”
“I’m not as delicate as a flower…” Allura pointed out, wondering if he could see how badly she was blushing now.
“You’re delicate in a different way.” Lotor agreed. “I have to tread so careful around you. To keep you from running from me.”
“The look in your eyes says you’d chase me if I did run.” She said, and he did a slow nod. “That….kind of scares me.”
“Scares you? Why?”
“I’ve never been wanted so strongly before.” She admitted. “Never even been confessed too.”
“Never?” He was truly astounded, eyes loosing that intent focus for just a second. “Good Gods Allura! What is wrong with the men on Arus?!” She made noise, flustered and nonsensical sounds, coming out almost like a nervous laugh.
“There’s nothing wrong with them.” She said at last, though privately she had wondered something of the same. Of why she had never been approached, never been touched with something more than friendship in mind.
“There has to be.” Lotor insisted. “You are a young, beautiful woman, with a vivacious nature. You are a prize to be snatched up, a treasure to be fought over.”
“You’ll turn a girl’s head with that kind of talk.” Stammered Allura, and suddenly Lotor was before her, taking hold of both her hands.
“I’m merely speaking the truth. You deserved to be loved Allura. To be worshipped and adored.” He was caressing the backs of her hands with his thumbs, and all the while he kept careful eye contact with her. “Let me be that person…”
It was a smart choice of words he used, Allura knowing she would have taken offense if he had demanded her love, the princess feeling her heart melt just a little as his husky plea. “I don’t know how…”
“What don’t you know?” Lotor asked her. “How to love?”
“How to be loved.” She was startled by her own admittance, and she tried to pull her hands away from him. He wouldn’t let her, Lotor moving forward so that a stray moonbeam illuminated his features. He was looking at her with such a tender look, his expression having softened at her confession.
“It’s not that hard Allura…” Lotor told her. “You don’t have to do anything except open your heart and your mind to the possibility of love.”
He bent forward to touch his forehead to hers, Allura feeling warmer to have his face so close to hers. “With me.” He confirmed, and she stared at him, searching his eyes. Perhaps for the excuse to deny him this, to deny them both a chance at love.
But she didn’t find it, saw no hint of betrayal, no wicked intentions in the moment. “Drules really love their mate?” She asked this but felt she already knew, even before he spoke the confirmation.
Allura shivered, wondering when was the last time anyone could make that claim. Drules according to Lotor, loved with their whole hearts, their souls. They accepted both the good and the bad about their partners, and they didn’t seem to judge. “I…I’m a lousy cook. And I keep a messy office.” It was the worst faults she could think of, and Lotor looked amused by them.
“You snore too.” He pointed out, and she gasped in horror. “But just slightly…it’s rather cute.”
“Cute…” She repeated, and he nodded.
“I’m ruthless and blood thirsty. I’ve killed and I’ve slept around.” His faults were a lot worse than hers, reminding her he was a dangerous Drule. “Do you think you can be with a man like that?”
“I don’t know…” admitted Allura, going up on tip toe. “But I’m willing to find out.”
He had to have known what her intentions were in the moment, and yet Lotor gasped when she brushed her mouth against his. The kiss was gentle, holding all her uncertainties and hopes as she slanted her lips over his. Lotor still held her hands, and now she twisted them, maneuvering them so that they could lace fingers together. She could feel Lotor melting against her, the prince making a soft sound if yearning.
She smiled when she pulled back, gazing up at him with wide eyes. “That was nice…” Allura started to say, only to have her words cut off by Lotor’s mouth on hers. He kissed her with all his expertise, dazzling her with how lush his lips felt against hers, soft with just enough hardness to take control. As good as the kiss felt, some part of her weakened, Allura’s legs going unsteady.
He didn’t try to hold her upright, Lotor helping her to sit down on the bench, and never did he break the kiss, stealing her remaining breath away. Surely her eyes had glazed over, Allura overcome completely with the kiss. How much better could it be, if this was just a sample of what it was like to be loved? She wanted to find out, but before she could do more than get a taste of his tongue, a voice was calling to her.
“Allura!” She flinched at that heavy accent, Allura recognizing Nanny’s voice. What’s more, the woman was angry, and she shouted again. “Allura! I know you are here!”
“Nanny!” Allura gasped softly, Lotor having broken the kiss to nuzzle the side of her neck.
“Send her away Allura.” He told her, his voice gentle wheedling. His lips found an especially sensitive spot on her neck, her pulse racing against his mouth. She didn’t know what made it speed more, his kisses or the thought of Nanny catching them like this.
“Allura!” shouted Nanny, and her heavy heels clomped loudly on the cobble stone paths of the gardens. A light was coming closer, Allura realizing Nanny was carrying a lantern of some kind.
“Lotor stop!” Allura hissed, and pushed to her feet, her hand over her chest as though that could calm the racing of her heart. She knew her cheeks had to be burning with her blush, and she could only hope her eyes weren’t looking as wild as her heart felt. “We’re here Nanny!” She called to Lotor’s disappointed moan.
Nanny marched right up to the gazebo, letting the light of her lantern sweep over them both. Lotor was sullen, leaning back on the bench, and clearly annoyed by this interruption.
“Did you want something Nanny?” Allura asked, pleased her voice held no tremor to it.
“I had heard but didn’t want to believe it.” Nanny’s lips pursed together. “You alone with that Drule…..a second time!”
“Allura was merely showing me her garden…” Lotor began, and Nanny snorted.
“I don’t care what she was showing you. This ends now!”
“This?” Lotor sounded amused, rasing a white eyebrow at Nanny.
“Nanny…nothing…” But she trailed off, unwilling to lie so completely. Instead she was resigned, letting the older woman take her by the arm, fingers rougher than they should be. The woman kept up a steady stream of admonishments, dragging Allura out of the gazebo. Amidst words of how dangerous Drules were, and how proper ladies should never venture out alone with a man, Allura turned, casting one last look at Lotor.