She had barely managed to remain standing, Allura collapsing down to her knees the instant the door had closed behind the Drule known as Mogor. Almost immediately, she heard the sword clatter to the floor, Lotor dropping it to turn and check on her. “Allura!”
She tried to give him a smile, weak though it might have been, but her face hurt too much. Merla’s backhand had been as vicious as it was punishing, the Drule female not holding back any of her strength. One of the rings she wore had caught on Allura’s lower lip, causing it to split open and bleed profusely. It was still bleeding even now, trickling down her chin, and dripping onto her once beautiful dress.
She didn’t realize she was becoming hysterical, numb to everything but the thought of her dress ruined. Ruined not just by her own spilt blood, but the fact that she had had to tear off strips of the skirt to tend to Lotor’s wound. Without even realizing it, she was starting to cry, hands raised so that she could touch the splotches of blood on her bodice.
“Allura…” Lotor was speaking to her, hands touching her shoulders, the King trying to get her to look at him. She didn’t, weepy and in pain, and having nothing to compare being struck by Merla to.
“So many people worked on this dress…” She whispered. “So much time, money, and effort was spent….and it’s ruined…”
“Allura, the dress doesn’t matter.” He sounded confused, Allura shaking her head no.
“But it does! I’m sure it’s different for your people…I’m sure you can make something like this in an instant….but for my people, it takes months…father will be so disappointed…..I let all that hard work go to waste.”
“He’ll understand it wasn’t your fault.” He said soothingly, though she was inconsolable in the moment. “You didn’t ask to be kidnapped, you didn’t want to be put into danger…”
“Didn’t I?” She whispered out her question. “I went to the temple that night, I went against father’s orders. I wanted….” She trailed off, not sure what to confess to, knowing she had been thinking only in the moment, and how she didn’t want it to be good-bye between them.
“You didn’t want this.” He repeated, and lifted his hands to the back of her hair. She’d realized later he was scared to touch her face, scared that he’d inadvertently hurt her. Allura lifted her head at his prodding, expression miserable, the tears falling faster at his grimace. She felt she must truly look a mess to earn that look, and she both wanted and didn’t want a mirror in the moment.
“Oh Allura…” Lotor whispered, and one hand moved forward, the King hovering his fingers over her lip. It wasn’t just her mouth that hurt, a good portion of her left cheek stung, Allura wondering if she would bruise.
“She hurt me…” She whispered back, and Lotor nodded.
“I’ll make her pay.” She barely heard him, letting out a whimper when his thumb brushed her lip. And then he was tearing off a strip of his sleeve, bringing that silk fabric to her mouth. “I’m sorry I don’t have anything better to clean your lip with.” He apologized, dabbing at the blood, then pressing down on her lip. She was aware of whimpering, even with Lotor being so careful and hesitant with his touch.
She didn’t know how long they sat like that, Lotor hovering over her like a concerned mother hen. Eventually her lip ceased it’s bleeding, Lotor sighing in relief. Most of Allura’s tears had stopped too, the girl just trembling before him.
“You were very brave.” He praised her, hand moving to caress her right cheek. That side didn’t hurt, and she found herself leaning into his hand. “Standing up to Merla like that.”
“I don’t feel very brave.” Allura admitted with a sigh. “And I don’t know what came over me. I just couldn’t let her get away with the things she was saying.” Petulant, she lowered her eyes, wondering if she should be ashamed of her behavior. “I was being catty..and vicious…”
“It’s no less than what Merla deserves.” He assured her, and a chuckle escaped him, the first sound of genuine amusement he had expressed inside this room. “I doubt few people have ever talked to her in that manner, though I bet many were tempted to. But she’s always held power among my people, limited though it may be. And all because of her association with me…”
“How could you stand her for so long?” Allura asked, and he shrugged.
“It was never my choice to marry her. It was a union arranged by our dying parents. I always put it off, I think a part of me hoped to avoid tying myself to her forever.” He gave a wry smile then, though his eyes did not hold amusement. “I think I’m lucky.”
“Lucky?’ She questioned. and Lotor nodded.
“If I had married her, I’d already be dead. She wouldn’t need me anymore.” He explained. “You see Allura, I have no wife, and no children, no legitimate heirs to the throne. If something happens to me and I am unable to rule, the way things stand, the crown would be up for grabs. My people would fight for the chance to take the crown for themselves…there’s no guarantee Merla would win in a fight with the other nobles, even with the amount of supporters she has.”
“So she has to get it through marriage to you.” Allura frowned. “And then what? She’d kill you afterwards?!”
“She surely would.” Lotor agreed, then sighed. “Oh, she’d keep me around for a little while. Just to keep up appearance so as not to rouse suspicions. But my time would be limited…”
“And she would use me as a pawn to manipulate you into doing it?” Her frown deepened at his nod, Allura shaking her head. “You can’t! You can’t let her! You mustn’t marry her no matter what, even if she tries to kill me!”
“I won’t let her kill you.” He automatically responded, and her voice pitched in volume.
“That’s not what I want to hear! Lotor, promise me. You won’t marry her, you won’t do her bidding, no matter what she threatens to do to me!”
“That’s a promise I’m not sure I can make.” He said, and for a second she just stared at him.
“Why?” Allura asked, and Lotor turned shifty, looking away from her. It was her turn to touch him, Allura laying hands on his face in an attempt to force him to look at her. “Why can’t you?”
“Allura, leave it alone.” Lotor warned her, grabbing at one of her wrists. She clung stubbornly to him, eyes boring into his.
“I can’t! Not until I hear you say it!”
“I don’t love you!” His answer made her deflate, Allura letting her hurt show in her eyes.
“But you like me!” She pointed out. “There’s an attraction between us….and Merla so much as said I was your favorite human. That implies you like me more than you would care to admit.”
He looked ready to protest, but instead he sighed, giving her a weary nod. “I do like you Allura. I like you a lot. I find if circumstances were different, I might even…”
“Does it matter?” he asked, and she gave a vigorous nod. “It won’t change anything Allura. We’re still prisoners, and our two peoples are poised to fight each other. Who knows what exactly Merla and the others will do to the humans…but you can bet it will ruin any chance we might have had.”
“I refuse to believe that!” She said, and his fingers tightened around her wrist. But he didn’t try to pull her hand away from his face, Lotor tolerating Allura’s touch. “There will be a way, I know there will…”
“You are young…and more than a little naive to the way things work.” Allura frowned as Lotor sighed.
“I may not know everything, and certainly not be as wise as you are, but I know what my heart feels. I listen to what it says, and it would be in pain to not have you as part of my life.” She gripped his cheeks more firmly, straightening up on her knees as she leaned in to kiss him.
“Allura…” He cried out a warning, and then she was pressing her swollen lips against his. The action kind of hurt, her injury too fresh for her attempt at seduction, Allura letting out a whimper of pain. He pushed her away from him, and she fell over, but not before she saw him touching his lips. “It will hurt more if we fall in love and have to part.”
“It’s too late.” Allura told him, and he looked like he wanted to shout at her to be silent. “I’m already in love with you.” Lotor went still at that, as if her tearful confession had rendered him stone. “Lotor? Did you hear me? I love…”
“I heard you!” Came his harsh whisper, and then he was moving, giving a fitful jerk of his head. “Merla is right….you’re looking at me with blinders on, a young girls’ first crush. It’s not love, it can’t be.”
“Why do you say that?!” She demanded, hurt by yet another of his rejections. “I know what I feel, my heart beats as strong as ever, my pulse quickening whenever you’re near. I feel my love for you as strongly as I felt Merla’s blow across my face, and if my lip didn’t hurt so bad, I’d kiss you into submission!”
At least he didn’t look amused at her words, Allura felt something would have surely broken in her if he had laughed. “You’ll get over it.” Lotor said, though he sounded uncertain. “You’ll get over me.”
“You sound as though you are trying to convince yourself of that as much as you try to convince me!” Allura exclaimed, which earned her a frown from the King.
“I don’t…we don’t have time for this.” He decided, and now she frowned.
“We have all the time that we need, inside this room. It’s not as if we can go anywhere.” She pointed out.
“I don’t intend to spend our remaining days trapped here.” He stood and strode over to the computer, jerking off the blanket. It hit the floor with a thud, Lotor kneeling in front of the open back of the computer. “I will get this damn thing working, and I will get a message out to my men.”
“You can’t ignore what is happening between us!” Allura cried out, but he refused to acknowledge her. Instead he began fiddling with wires, checking for what she did not know, pulling on a green one, than switching it with a blue one. “Lotor…”
“Here’s what we know.” He began, still playing with the wires. “Merla needs to marry me to become the rightful ruler of the Drules. She has the backing of Yurak, Carp, and Mogor. Carp and Mogor have outright hinted that something big is in the works, something that will happen to the humans.”
Allura didn’t like that he was avoiding the topic of her love, the girl frowning at his back.
“Mogor even went so far as to say your people were on the verge of extinction…nothing I’ve seen since arriving on this planet hints at the humans dying out of natural causes. That means the Drules will have a hand in it somehow. I don’t think any of them are fools enough to really incite nuclear war, and yet it exists as a possibility.”
“Do you think they would decide it’s better to destroy Arus than to leave it to the control of we humans?” Reluctantly she was drawn into his concerns, Lotor’s shoulders shrugging.
“I don’t know!” He exclaimed, sounding exasperated. “I don’t know what they’re planning, I can’t even think of how far reaching their plans are, and on what scale…I’m too…too distracted…”
“Distracted by me?” Allura asked hopefully, and sensed his frown though he did not look at her.
“Distracted by the situation we find ourselves in.” His shoulders sagged then, fingers hesitating over a red wire. “I won’t let them kill off your people, or ruin this world. Even if it means we have to leave Arus, I WILL save it.”
“You won’t leave! I won’t allow it!” Allura announced, and he flashed her a disbelieving look. “I am not without resources. A daughter has much sway over her father, especially when she is all he has left.”
“I’m sure you will be absolutely ruthless in exerting your influence over King Alfor.” Lotor’s lips twitched, a smile wanting to come out at those words. But before it could blossom, he turned back to the computer and it’s wires, pulling out the red one, and replacing it with a black one. “But you have to understand…the other kingdoms will come into play…they may not want the Drules on Arus, they may even go to war to get rid of us. Would your father really risk peace to protect a people who has lied to him, and caused him so much trouble?”
“He would. And you know why?” Allura asked, and Lotor shook his head no. “Because it would be the right thing to do. You once said the Drules are a lot like we Arusians, and I believe that extends to how there is both good and bad in a group of people. You and your people should not be punished for Merla and her follower’s misdeeds!”
“A fine sentiment…” Lotor murmured, and she got the feeling he wanted to argue with her some more. But instead he was cursing, jerking his hand back from a yellow wire. She immediately reached for his hand, but Lotor evaded her touch, bringing his burnt fingers to his lips. She watched him suck on the tips, the man wincing. But the computer wasn’t sparking, looking unobtrusive for all the pain it had caused him
“You should go to bed.” Lotor told her, and she shook her head.
“I’m not tired.”
“I need to focus Allura. I can’t keep dividing my attention between talking with you and working on the computer.” He shook out his hand, and she swore the tips of his two fingers looked blackened from the sparks.
“I’ll be quiet.” She told him, and got up to walk to one of the crates in the corner. Lotor didn’t argue with her, turning his attention back to the mess of wires. She wondered how he could tell what any one of them did, Lotor seeming to switch them at random. Occasionally something would spark, Lotor being quick to avoid those spots, the man working diligently on the machine.
Allura held in her sighs, and leaned against a crate, just watching as Lotor worked. But her thoughts were turbulent, Allura thinking on the things he had said, and the worry he had expressed over the Arusians being unable to forgive the Drules. She refused to think he was right about that, Allura a strong believer in second chances. She didn’t know nearly enough about the personalties of the other rulers of Altrexia and Ranseya, but she hoped and prayed that they would be of a forgiving nature. And even if they weren’t, surely her father would not turn away Lotor’s people. He just might take some persuading, a persuading Allura was all too prepared to do, the girl wanting to do everything possible to ensure that Lotor and the Drules remained in their lives for all times.