Damages 03

It’s difficult for me to even think about the prince of Doom without experiencing an intense series of emotions, including that hot rush of fear that is present in all my encounters with him. And encounter him I did, far more times than I am comfortable with. And yet each time I managed to walk away, still retaining my freedom and that of my planet’s.

I wonder at that small miracle, wonder how a man that could want as strongly as Lotor does, could fail so many times to achieve his desires. You see, Lotor wanted me from the very first moment he saw me, and he made no effort to hide that desire. He was bold as can be, stating his intentions, and how he intended to take what he could not earn.

That alone should have been enough to upset Keith, what man could stand to hear another speaking on how he would forcefully take from him his lover. Of course Lotor never realized just what my relationship with Keith was. I’ve no doubt the two of them would have killed each other if the truth was brought to light. As it was, Lotor often targeted the captain, eager to bring down my kingdom’s white knight.

From the very first day Lotor stepped into our lives, his appearance as sudden as a rainstorm, he began goading Keith into encounters. Keith would always rise to the challenge, confidant to the point of cockiness that he could win. This would nearly cost him his life on several occasions, and I would bear the brunt of Keith’s rage at his failings.

I can’t help but remember the first time he struck me, the attack coming on the heels of a victory that had nearly turned fatal. Keith had agreed to meet the prince alone, they were to duel with Arus as the victor’s spoils. The two fought a long and hard battle, but ultimately, by some miracle, Arus’ champion won. Even after all we had been through with King Zarkon, Keith had still held onto that spark of belief that not all Drule were bad.

He nearly paid with his life for believing that, Lotor blindsiding him, and leaving him to dangle off the side of a cliff. I’ll never understand why the prince didn’t finish off Keith then and there, why he left him with a chance, slim though it was, to survive.

And survive he did, Keith returning to the castle with many injuries, tracking blood all over the floors. He ignored his pain to fly black lion, to help us defeat the prince’s monster. Afterwards, in the medical wing of the castle, I slipped into Keith’s room, radiating concern and tears. He was subdued, not even offering the bare minimum in comfort. That was all right, I took it upon myself to support us both, having to fight not to throw myself into his arms.

He left me to do all the talking, and I can recall talking about inconsequential things. Silly things, topics chosen with care to keep his mind from worrying about my kingdom’s safety. His silence troubled me, but I kept at it, not realizing it might have been best if I excused myself from the room. Instead I sat there, trying not to fidget, trying to earn a smile from him.

I should have known it would be impossible, I could barely see through the blur of tears as I looked at his bruised and battered face. When at last I could take no more, I reached out to touch his hair, figners trembling as I carefully brushed raven locks aside, revealing an especially jagged cut. “Oh Keith…” I had whispered then, my pretense that nothing was wrong fading. “I’m so sorry…”

He just looked at me then with unfathomable eyes, and before I knew it my own tears were falling. I had sniffled, knowing I was failing us both with my lack of bravery. I moved my hands, intending to touch the bandages on his chest. “It’ll be all right…” I had said, the gauze feeling scratchy under my fingertips. “We’ll beat back Lotor next time.”

“Next time…” Keith had repeated, his voice sounding strained.

I had nodded, keeping my eyes on his bandages, noting there was so much gauze wound about his chest. The doctors had said some ribs had been broken from his fall, it surely hurt Keith to breathe. “You did your best.” I had added, Keith seeming to tremble with emotion against my fingers. “If that Lotor hadn’t lied to you, hadn’t tricked you into believing he would honor the duel’s outcome, Arus would be free right now.”

“Are you saying it’s my fault Arus is not?” Keith had demanded, and I had jerked my gaze up to his face. His eyes were still dark, but anger had boiled within his gaze. I can remember gasping then, staring at him with my mouth open. My hands were still on his chest, I hadn’t dared move. “Is that what you’re saying Allura?”

“No…no!” I had quickly protested, shocked by his accusing tone. “It’s not your fault…”

“Then whose fault is it?” Keith had asked, and I could only shrug helplessly. “Why didn’t you try harder to stop me from meeting with him?” Another question I could only gape and stare at, knowing I had begged him not to go. My lack of silence, or perhaps the stunned stupid expression on my face is what angered him, he was slapping at my hands, chasing them away from his chest with hits that stung.

It wasn’t the most vicious of attacks I know, he did more damage to my ego than my body. But that would be the first time Keith had ever struck me directly, having always preferred to wreck the room than lay a finger on me.

He offered no apologies for the slaps, and I expected none. I didn’t understand why he could do that, but I was quick to write off his actions as stemming from his injuries and the pain medication he was on. Surely that, and the crushing defeat Lotor had left him with had made Keith moody, I felt I should have known better than to talk about such things so soon.

Like a fool I remained by his side, keeping as silent a vigil as I could manage. It wouldn’t take long for Keith to recover from his injuries, but practice drills inside the lions all but ground to a halt. It presented an opportunity to me, one I couldn’t resist, once I convinced myself I was doing for the good of my planet.

Keith’s injuries had left me realizing how vulnerable Arus was when a pilot of the lions was down. But more than that, I realized how much we depended on Keith, on having him lead us in black lion. That lion was the most difficult to control, and no one seemed able to fly it save for Keith. I never meant to make him think I was trying to
replace him, I merely wanted to be ready in case Doom attacked during Keith’s recovery.

So I began sneaking into the lion, practicing how to fly it, training both it and myself to be ready for battle. It was unfortunate, but the day for fighting would come sooner than I was ready for, Doom’s ships appearing in the sky during one of my training flights. My appearance inside Black lion surprised Coran and my team mates, Lance and the others very vocal about their displeasure. I cared not what they thought, Keith’s opinion was the only one that mattered.

But he said nothing about it, calm as can be as he took up control of blue lion. Our battle with the forces of Doom would go horrible, we’d barely win and it was all because of me, and my inexpertness inside black lion.

Afterwards I was forced to meet with the members of my team, and again only Keith kept quiet. But the look in his eyes spoke another story, he was angry, but more than that he was disappointed with me. He didn’t even try to defend me when my own team members turned against me, saying terrible things, all but calling me spoiled and a brat, and wishing Sven was still here so they needn’t deal with me as a pilot.

I don’t know if their words were meant to hurt as badly as they did, but they succeeded in driving me from the room in tears. I would wander the castle for hours, and during this time Lotor would make his presence on Arus known. Once again he would offer up a bargain, wanting me to turn myself in to him to ensure the planet’s continued well being.

I didn’t know what to do, and had no one to turn to but Keith. I had wanted him to reassure me that everything would be all right, that we would find a way to defeat Lotor, and keep my planet safe from harm. I should have never gone looking for him, the hours hadn’t been long enough to cool his anger.

I found him in the castle’s command center, the room’s lights shut off so that the only illumination came from the computer’s screens glow. For the longest time I just stood in the doorway, watching him with tears streaking down my face. I almost turned away, something in me must have read the atmosphere in the room, known it would have been a bad idea to approach him.

But before I could decide, he was speaking to me. “I know you’re there…Allura.” I had nodded though his back remained to me, taking a tentative step into the room.

“What are we going to do Keith?” I had asked, and he rose from his seat to face me, his expression blanketed in shadows. “Lotor seems unstoppable this time…we barely fought off his fleet…he hasn’t even unleashed one of Doom’s robeasts yet.”

It had truly felt hopeless in the moment, and I looked to Keith for guidance. Instead I got a snide retort, Keith asking me about black lion. “The lion?” I had repeated, blinking rapidly to hide my confusion.

“You seem to think you are the real leader of this team…” Keith had replied, continuing to walk towards me. “Why aren’t you out there, leading us?” I could only make confused sounds, unsure of what to say. His voice didn’t hold any anger to it, it was dull, lacking any discernible emotion. “Go on!” His voice had come out a little sharper then, Keith flinging out his arm, hand gesturing towards the raised lion chutes. “Prove to us you’re better than me!”

“It was never about proving I was better, least of all better than you!” I had gasped out, taking a step back from his advance. I couldn’t tell if his eyes narrowed, I’ll never know what sort of expression he wore for what would come next.

“Then what was it about?!” Keith had demanded as I bumped into the wall with my back. He didn’t touch me though he did crowd in close, leaving me feeling trapped. “You KNOW black lion is MY lion. You know no one flies it but me, that no one else can handle it’s power, that no one else has the hours of training needed to even try! And yet you still stole away with it, putting not only yourself, but the entire security of the planet in danger! What were you thinking Allura?!”

“I…I wanted…”

“Wanted what?!” he had bit out when I faltered.

“I wanted to help….help you…” I had stuttered, feeling scared and helpless. “You’re still recovering from your injuries…”

“Are you saying I am too weak to fly black lion?” His voice had been a dangerous growl, making me go still in an instant. I could sense this moment was pivotal, that something was going to happen, something I might not be able to prevent with words alone.

“No…never that!” I had said, and I reached out to touch his arm. I meant it to be a comforting touch, but he grabbed my wrist, stopping me from making contact with his arm.

“Then what?” He had hissed, and I whimpered then.

“You’re hurting me Keith.”

“You think THIS hurts?” He had laughed then, the sound without any humor to it. “It can’t compare to the pain I am feeling. The pain at the thought that you meant to replace me!”

“No! You’re jumping to conclusions…” I had retorted, frantically twisting in his grip, trying to get my arm free.

“I have fought for Arus for two years now…” He had said, seeming to ignore what I had cried out. “And time and time again, I have brought us the victory your people so desperately needed.”

“Yes, yes you have!” I had agreed, hoping it would be enough to calm him.

“I have endured pain, and hardships, and the ultimate in foolish decisions on your part.” Keith had continued. “I make one mistake, one lousy error in judgment, and this is how you seek to repay me?”

“No….! You couldn’t have known Lotor would lie to you…”

“But you think I should have!” He jerked hard on my arm, and I reached out with my free one, placing my hand on his chest. It was more than a touch I performed, I dug my nails right into his bandages, hoping to stab into his injuries in an attempt to get him to let me go. I must have hit an especially sensitive spot, for Keith was hissing, jerking me away from the wall.

I had stumbled forward, trying to turn to face him when his hand caught me just across my left cheek. The backhand slap left me stunned, I fell backwards, my feet leaving me to hit the floor. I didn’t scream then, I should have. Instead I just began to cry, a crumpled mess on the floor. My shock seemed nowhere as strong as Keith’s had been, the man kneeling down, his voice filled with grief.

“My God…Allura…” He had reached towards my face then, intending to cup the cheek that was screaming in pain. “I…I’m so sorry…I don’t know what came over me…” I had said nothing, just stared at him accusingly, wondering if the pain in my face would ever stop. Keith had seemed frantic in the moment, both for forgiveness and the need to help me.

“Stay here….I’ll be right back.” Keith had ordered, leaving to fetch me an ice pack. It wouldn’t be enough to keep my face from bruising, even if I had remained around long enough for him to return with it.

Instead I had gone on shaky legs to blue lion, making a decision in my hysterical state. I would go to Lotor, I would give him what he wanted, so long as he would keep his word that Arus would remain unharmed. It would take some time for me to realize how foolish I was being, but by then my lion was already clawing it’s way into Lotor’s base.

They actually shot at me, trying to disable my lion. I blacked out at that point, and when I would awaken it would be in Lotor’s arms. It would be the first time I was ever this close to him, and the experience left me shaken and cold. It was then that I realized how stupid I was acting, how foolish I was to believe he would ever give up Arus for one woman.

Lotor tried to kiss me, and I slapped him then, seeing the anger flare to life in his eyes. It was different from the anger Keith would show me, hot and immediate, the prince not trying to hide it. I don’t know what would have happened next between us, would Lotor have added another bruise to the ones I already had? I’d never get to find out, for the members of my team arrived, ready to make an exchange with Lotor and his men. They would give up the lions for my freedom, and the very thought brought me to tears as I realized they did value me if they were willing to make such a sacrifice.

Of course I should have known they would have a trick up their sleeves. The exchange was all a ruse, Keith and the others wanting to get close enough to rescue me from Lotor. With a bit of help from Coran at the castle, we all managed to escape, though not before Lotor cut open Keith’s back with his sword. Even with that set back, we would still manage to fight off Doom’s forces, gaining another victory for Arus.

Of course, Coran and the others were horrified to see the dark bruise on my cheek, though I kept quiet about the marks on my wrist. I was quick to blame it on the battle, saying I had injured myself when blue lion was jostled by Lotor’s lasers. They seemed to accept that excuse, not noticing how relieved Keith became when I covered for him.

I was always making excuses for Keith it seemed. If not to other people, then to myself. But more than that, I was quick to forgive him. He had after all come for me, and what’s more, he had sustained another near deadly injure during his attempt to rescue me. I thought that was proof of his love, I sometimes still think that.

That night wouldn’t be the last time Keith would be injured saving me from Lotor. Nor would I have the fortune of avoiding the prince, the man as cunning as he was obsessed with me. Lotor never missed a chance to try and trap me, to arrange things so he could be alone with me. Keith always seems angriest about those encounters, as though he didn’t trust me enough to be around the Drule prince.

He’d question me about every single second I was alone with the prince, Keith growing increasingly angry by my answers. He seemed to blame me for every touch, every kiss the prince stole, as if I could have somehow prevented a man of Lotor’s size and strength from doing what he pleased. But more than that, he was worried he’d lose me to Lotor, as absurd as that seems.

I often tried to reassure Keith that that would never happen, Lotor was my enemy, but all Keith could see was that he was a prince. And with that princely status came certain rights and abilities that Keith envied. Lotor surely took for granted how easy he had it when it came to announcing his intentions towards me, but Keith noticed, and it left him frustrated that he could not do a thing as simple as state his love in an open manner for all to hear.

He began to grow increasingly worried that I would one day give in to Lotor, that I would see how advantageous an alliance between Arus and Doom could be. It made Keith more desperate to hang onto me, but more than that, it would make him violent if I ever showed any softening towards Lotor. Arguments would ensure, Keith accusing me of things, many of them absurd. He seemed to think I was dressing provocatively to gain Lotor’s attention, and he would assume I was doing things to encourage the prince’s affections, never understanding why else he would continue to chase after me.

And with these accusations and mistrust, Keith would begin hurting me more and more, slaps to the face, even a punch to my belly. I never knew when his fists would fly, and I often tried to keep distance between us to give me time to avoid such blows. He noticed what I was doing, growing angry that I didn’t trust him around me. I would foolishly try to reassure him that wasn’t the case, but even I wasn’t that good of an actress. Especially with the way I was flinching at every sudden movement of his.

We continued to blame blue lion for my injuries, to the point Nanny was insisting I stop piloting it. “It’s too dangerous!” She would say, cupping my bruised cheek, or staring pointedly at my broken arm.

I would override her concerns, knowing without blue lion, there would be no way to explain any new injuries Keith caused me. I know now I was such a fool to have been hiding what he was doing. I kept telling myself he loved me, but soon our every moment was tense and violatile, hardly any kisses of affection being shared. And still I strove to keep the relationship intact, wondering how far I would have to go to keep the only man I have ever loved in my life.

I know now that love is not an excuse to let someone abuse you. It’s not love that makes Keith hurt me, it never is. It’s something darker, twisted, and I cry over how blind I was to ever mistake it for a warm emotion like love.

I’m still crying when the door to my hospital room opens, I can barely sit up for the pain is that strong. But I look and see Coran there, followed by the head of castle security. I instantly know why they are here, and I take deep, calming breaths, trying to stop the tears. Coran doesn’t rush me, approaching my bed side with a handkerchief out. I take it from him gratefully, dabbing at my face with the soft fabric.

“How are you feeling, Allura?” Coran asks, and I let out a choked out sound.

“I’ve been better…” I say at last, and Coran silently looks me over. I know I must be quite the sight, my face hideous from what Keith has done.

“Can you talk about it?” Coran asked, and I gave a terse nod, knowing I have to. I’ve been quiet too long.

“Yes, Coran.” I say at last, noting the head of security has a data recorder in his hands. “I will tell you everything now.”

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