The strategy planning meeting had taken place inside a room that doubled as the castle’s grand ball room, it’s banquet tables pushed aside to make room for the many soldiers who crowded inside. There was literally no elbow room, just row upon row of men and women, standing face forward towards the raised platform on which their superiors stood.
The members of the Voltron Force were on that stage, as was Captain Darius, Prince Lotor, and several other key figures who would be leading Arus’ forces into battle. Allura herself stood off to the left of the stage, watching as her advisor Coran drew the planning session to a close. She tried not to breathe an audible sigh of relief, Allura glad the meeting was at last at an end.
She shifted, turning to spy the sun setting through the glass of the side doors, Allura realizing they had been inside this room for hours now. She had expected the meeting to be a long one, but had never imagined even Keith could be so long winded as to keep everyone here for an extra five hours. The captain of the Voltron Force had gone over everything, not once but three times, wanting to make sure the plans and tactics were drilled into the soldiers heads.
Even Allura who would not be partaking in the battle, felt she now knew enough to make a go at fighting in this war. She didn’t know how Keith kept track of what was expected of so many soldiers of different stations, Allura glad her only duty would be to remain safely inside the castle. She just prayed the fighting wouldn’t touch down on Arus, that there would be no need for her body guard to evacuate her from her home.
The fighting was set to begin tomorrow morning, the ships needing this time to prepare. They would launch in the morning, and even with their speed it would take time for them to reach the dark side of Arus’ larger moon. They were hoping their attack would be a surprise, the Arusians wanting to catch the Drules while they were still parked on the moon’s surface. Ideally all the fighting would take place in space, where none of the weaponry could damage Arus.
Lotor had spoken, brief where Keith was overly chatty, detailing some of the more popular Drule tactics in ship battles. He would be on standby in the castle, watching from the command center the fighting to give them key tips to breaking through the Drule’s line of defense. There had been little mention of the Drule defectors, the Arusians not wanting to plan their strategies around these potential allies. It was agreed that if they could take over the ships they were on, the Arusians would welcome their help. But they would not hold back their attacks against any Drule ships that attacks Arusian ones, just on the off chance that there might be Drule allies on board it.
Lotor was naturally frustrated by the news, though he tried to hide his reaction to that decision. He didn’t try to argue against Keith’s decision, nor did he erupt into a shouting match with one of her commanders, even when the woman made insulting accusations to the Drule prince. Allura was proud of him for remaining composed, and eager to talk to him once more. There hadn’t been much time for private conversations, the ride back to the castle shrouded in silence, and the meeting leaving no chance for intimate talk.
With the meeting drawing to a close, her chance was now, Allura straightening as Lotor walked towards her. There was a loud murmur of sound, the various soldiers talking to each other, some excitedly, over the upcoming battle and the preparations they needed to make. Some of the men and women that made up Arus’ military, would be going home to spend one last night with their families.
She tried not to shiver as she thought that for some, it really would be their last chance to see their loved ones. This war made no guarantees that people would come back from the fighting in one piece, or even alive. Allura had to remind herself not to think about it, though she couldn’t muster up more than a weak smile at Lotor. And paused, shocked when he did not return it, the Drule prince walking right past her.
Startled, she turned to follow him, wondering at the strangeness of Lotor’s blatant attempt at ignoring her. It wasn’t like him, and she knew it wasn’t any desire to protect her reputation that had him avoiding her. Not when he took every opportunity to be close to her, and show her affection, be it in the privacy of a closed room, or out in public among her people.
She followed him out through a side door, finding themselves in the castle’s corridor. Lotor continued to walk, never pausing, never even slowing down his steps, forcing her to all but run to keep up with him. She followed him all the same, and when they were some distance from the meeting room and the soldiers ears, she spoke.
“Lotor? A moment if you please?” To her relief he slowed, though he didn’t turn to look at her. She began chewing on her lip, nervous and unsure of what to say. “Aren’t you going to look at me?” Apparently not, Allura sighing. “Lotor, talk to me…”
“You won’t like what I have to say.” He said, voice sounding gruff.
“At least you’d be talking to me.” Allura pointed out, and risked touching his arm. He seemed to stiffen, slowing to a halt. “Is…is it about the meeting?”
“Which one?” He asked in reply.
“The Drule one of course!” She frowned at his back, realizing that had to be it. He was bothered over her appearance at the woods, over her intrusion, and she really couldn’t blame him for that. “I’m…I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have gone to that meeting.”
“No, you shouldn’t have.” He agreed. “Allura, I gave you an expressed order. You shouldn’t have disobeyed me!”
She didn’t get mad, even at the thought of him bossing her around, Allura just hanging her head. “I…I know…”
“You know?” Now he turned, giving her an unreadable look. “Then why?”
“It was my cousin…”
“Your cousin?” He made a scoffing sound at that. “And you always do what your cousin says?”
She colored. “Not always…but..” A shrug, Allura unable to explain it. “She was determined to go, to find proof that you are bad. And I wanted to go with her to prove her wrong!” She added hastily.
“Neither one of you should have come to the meeting.” Lotor insisted. “It held too much danger for you!”
“More danger than this war?” Allura wanted to know.
“Allura, they could have been sent as a plot to kill me and capture you! There was no guarantee that they are the allies they pretend to be!” Lotor retorted, and she stared at him wide eyed.
“You don’t trust them?”
“I’d be a fool too. At least going on what little they gave me.” Lotor answered, then sighed. “Allura, I appreciate that you acted out of concern for me, and a need to defend my honor to your cousin. But I’m sure there are other, more safe ways you could have done it!”
“Is it any better for you to put yourself in danger than me?” She asked, and he nodded. “Why?”
He seemed to hesitate. “Because. I won’t be able to live if you die….” He looked unhappy as he said it, as though it physically hurt Lotor to admit such a thing. “I know you Allura. You don’t have the same depth of feelings for me. Not yet at least. If something were to happen to me, you’d be able to move on with your life…to find someone else to make you happy.”
She was shocked, Allura opening and closing her mouth, unsure of what to say. “N…no…” She stammered at last, then shook her head.
“I’m not saying it would be easy.” Lotor continued. “Especially since you have feelings for me…” Normally she’d be bothered by his smug assurance of those feelings he claimed she had for him, but now she could only stare stunned at him. “But you don’t have that drive, that sense of belonging that a Drule would have. I very much doubt you would wither away at this point if your soldiers had returned and said I was dead.”
“You’re wrong!” She squeaked out, shaking her head no. “It would affect me….affect me greatly!”
He gave her a disbelieving look, smile bitter. “It’s sweet of you to say so Allura..”
“I’m not just saying that to make you feel better.” She was almost snapping at him now. “I mean it when I say I would be upset. Lotor, I would cry for you if you were dead. I..I don’t want anything to happen to you…and it’s not just because I feel a sense of gratitude to you for what you are doing for my planet!”
“Then what do you feel if not gratitude?” He asked, staring at her. Allura flushed, realizing she had set herself up for the perfect excuse to examine her feelings for him. Flustered, she turned her back to him, and brought up her fingers, fidgeting them together.
“Then explain it to me.” Lotor urged.
She was silent for a few moments, just trying to draw her thoughts together. Lotor waited patiently, neither pressing her for more, or walking away. “I…I like you Lotor.” Allura finally admitted. “Perhaps more than I should.”
“More than you should?” He echoed, and she nodded.
“You’re a Drule, you came to this planet with the intent to conquer it…you’d still be working on that goal if not for the fact I turned out to be your mate. We’d be enemies if not for your biological impulses…I don’t know what your reputation was before you….saw me, but I’m sure it wasn’t nice. You’re probably a very dangerous man, the kind I should be avoiding not encouraging.”
She said all that in one breath, then grew hesitant. “And despite all this…I find myself being attracted to you. I don’t know why…” She winced at that, Allura turning to apologize. “I’m sorry. You’re a handsome man, and you treat me with kindness and respect. And more! You’ve been attentive and loving…I shouldn’t be surprised I am weakening towards you.”
“Weakening?” Lotor kept his expression guarded, not even amusement danced in his eyes at her words.
“It’s not a normal thing for me to let a man into my bedroom!” She dropped her voice to a low whisper, paranoid of being overheard. “I let you touch me…let you sleep with me….what’s more, I enjoyed those things.” Allura blushed harder. “I like being around you…” She sighed then. “Romelle thinks I’m mixing up gratitude with something else…”
“Are you?” Lotor asked, and she blinked.
“Lotor no!” A shake of her head, Allura issuing out protests. “I wouldn’t….I mean I don’t think I am.” She touched her hair, running her hand agitatedly through it. “Please believe me when I say I am sincere in wanting to try with you.”
“I want to believe.” Lotor said, and was stepping closer to her. “But Allura, I want you to be sure you’re not acting out of gratitude. That you’re not letting me do those things out of a mixed sense of owing me.”
“I’m not!” She quickly insisted.
“Good.” He was suddenly right before her, almost looming over her with what could have been mistaken as a predatory gleam in his eyes. “Because there are certain things, certain moments that can’t be taken back once done.”
“What things?” She asked, trying not to back up from him.
“Love making.” Lotor said, and she tried not to blush as a vision of their entwined bodies flashed in her mind’s eyes. “If you give yourself to me, truly and completely, there will be no going back. For either one of us. So Allura? Be sure I am what you want before you decide to commit to me in that regard.”
She had to bite her lip to keep from blurting out something that had the potential to hurt him. And all because she was too flustered to think. “I…” She blew out a warm breath, trying to compose herself. “I’m not ready for sex..” His lips quirk upwards, Lotor looking amused and sure to have a fast retort. “Not emotionally at least. My body may be ready, but my heart isn’t. Can you understand that?”
“I think I can.” Lotor admitted. Of course she thought he had been ready both emotionally and physically from the moment he had first seen her. “It’s both easier and harder for us Drules.”
“Because you’d be ready at the same time?” She wondered out loud.
“Yes. There’d be none of this doubt and insecurities.” Lotor sighed.
“Does it upset you that I am not a Drule?” Allura wanted to know.
“No….not upset…” he looked shocked at her question.
“But things would be easier…” Allura pointed out, and he allowed a cautious nod. “You’d have none of the troubles, none of the problems being mated to me has caused you. I bet you’re wishing you never laid eyes on me in the first place.”
“Allura no!” protested Lotor. “I’ve loved you from the moment I first saw you. Yes, I can acknowledge that a mate of Drule blood would make the situation easier, but I wouldn’t change anything about you! Please believe me!”
She wanted too. “Even when I am stubbornly refusing to obey a direct command of yours?”
“Even then.” He agreed, and she didn’t quite laugh, Allura throwing her arms around him.
“I’m so sorry for making you worry.” She apologized. His arms went around her, Allura feeling relief to be hug by the prince. “I won’t do it again.”
“You better not!” Lotor warned, sternly “I take your safety very seriously.”
“I realize that.” Allura snuggled more firmly into his embrace. “And I want you to know I too hold your safety in high regard. I had wanted to send more soldiers with you to that meeting….”
“If it had been an ambush, I think you would have just wasted more men’s lives.” It was a chilling admission, Allura shivering to hear it. “Fortunately whatever their real goal is, it wasn’t to kill me. Not yet at least.”
“You think they might still try?” Allura asked.
He shrugged. “They might. I won’t believe them until I see what side they take in the battle tomorrow.”
“Is it enough time for their leader to have them transferred from ship to ship?”
“Probably not. But we can’t sit around delaying the war forever. I’ll tell this mysterious leader to have the men loyal to me try to take over command of the ships…that way then we could gain a few more ships to fight for us in this war.” Explained Lotor. “If the Drules are too busy fighting among themselves, it might mean an easy victory for Arus.” He added.
She nodded. “I’d like that. I wish we didn’t have to fight. I can’t help thinking about the soldiers, the people who might not come back from the battles.”
“Such is the risk when one signs up to be a soldier.” Lotor pointed out, petting her as she shivered.
“At least with your help, causalities should be minimized.” Allura added. “That will go a long way to gaining approval from my people.”
“I’m not too concerned with them” Lotor admitted. “I just want approval from you.” She blushed, Allura ducking her head shyly against his chest. His arms tightened around her in response, Lotor keeping her close. “Captain Darius knows about us…”
“Knows? Knows what?” Allura glanced up, and Lotor looked sheepish.
“About us being mated. It was during the meeting. Sabbath and Ryder kept talking about mates, and how by all right Arus would be your dowry. A dowry that would prevent the need for Doom to conquer Arus. I’m afraid the captain wanted to know just what they meant by that…”
“And you told him?” Allura asked stunned.
“I had too….” Lotor had the grace to look embarrassed. “I’m sure all those soldiers you sent with me heard it too…”
“This will end up all over the castle for sure!” moaned Allura.
“Would that really be so bad?” Lotor wanted to know, and now she hesitated.
“Not exactly. Though I get the feeling you’d be fending off more death threats.”
“I can handle that.” Lotor grinned. “It might be tiring and bothersome, but I have no doubt I can easily deal with a few jealous humans.”
“Because of my closeness with you.” Lotor kissed the tip of her nose, still grinning. “If these men had any sense, they’d want you for themselves, and would feel threatened by my presence in your life.” He looked positively mischievous. “And in your bed.”
She felt hot then, blushing so hard Allura was sure she was as red as a tomato. “They don’t need to know about the late night visits.”
“It’s fine. I don’t mind keeping that secret.” Lotor chuckled.
“I just hope my cousin can…” Allura murmured, and Lotor frowned.
“Your cousin?” He growled out her name. “What does Romelle have to do with it?”
“She saw you leaving my room through the window….” Allura winced as he let out an unhappy sound. “She all but threatened to tell Nanny.”
“And that would put an end to any such visits.” Lotor was grumpy as he said that, and grew even more upset at her nod.
“Maybe we can buy off her silence….” Allura said hopefully, and Lotor shrugged.
“Is there anything she wants?”
“Not that I know of….” Allura sighed.
“Great.” Grumbled Lotor. “Your cousin is nothing but trouble, you know that Allura?”
“She doesn’t mean to be…” Allura defended Romelle. “But I can see how you would think that.” She added, expression sheepish.
“Ah but don’t worry. I have a hunch she’s about to get hers.” Lotor actually grinned then, at some thought she couldn’t fathom. “And when it happens, she’ll be too busy dealing with it to worry about what you and I do together.” His words left her confused, Allura staring at him, waiting for him to elaborate. He did not, instead releasing her from the hug, and offering her his arm. “Shall we go get some dinner?”
“All right.” Allura agreed, taking his arm. He had a jaunty spring in his step as he led her through the castle corridors, leaving Allura to wonder just what he knew that could inspire such a good mood. But Lotor would continue to keep her in the dark, even when she flat out asked him what was going on. It left her sighing, Allura hoping the Drule Prince wasn’t planning to play some trick on her cousin.