He rested on his knees, Lotor’s head bowed. His hands were busy, fingers sifting through Allura’s hair. He did this gesture repeatedly, the act of petting over her silky soft hair an attempt to calm his own agitation. Allura lay next to him, stretched out on a couch. She wasn’t aware of what Lotor was doing, not even awake to see, to acknowledge he had his hands in her hair. It had been several minutes since she had fainted. Several long minutes that seemed to last an hour each. Lotor worried the entire time, even as the nurse, Qualenn, had tried to assure him Allura had done nothing more than faint from fright.
He gazed down at Allura as he petted her hair. She looked so pale, all the color seeming leeched from her face. Her lips were turned down in a frown, and though he could not see her eyes at the moment, Lotor was sure what they would have shown, would have disturbed him. Hell, he was already disturbed, not understanding why Allura had reacted so strongly in the dining room. Yes, he acknowledged that what she had been told was horrifying, but never had Lotor expected anyone to start screaming! Let alone Allura!
He had always thought of her as strong. Not in the ways of a warrior, but in her character. Her determination. Her sheer bravery to stand up against Zarkon. Now Lotor was coming to realize that in some ways, she was delicate. Almost fragile compared to the other women in the house, who had been able to not only listen to the recounting of Zarkon’s depravity, but had endured some of it first hand.
It wasn’t just that she had screamed. Allura had become hysterical, and it wasn’t the first time she had panicked so. Lotor’s lips turned down in a grim manner, the prince recalling how often Allura overreacted to his touches and embraces. It went beyond the fear of what she thought he would do. Lotor was sure she had been through some kind of trauma. Something that wasn’t on record in any of the reports the Doom Empire had on her.
It was a very real fear of a very bad thing, that Lotor worried had happened to Allura. He thought it went beyond the fact that her home world had been invaded, that her parents had been killed, her own father slain by Zarkon’s own two hands. Her people had suffered for years, those who had not been captured and enslaved, hiding beneath the ground. That alone might be traumatic enough, but Lotor was positive something more had to have happened.
It puzzled him as much as it troubled him. And all because Lotor didn’t understand how she could have been left free after whatever ordeal she had been through. If she had fallen into a soldier’s hands, wouldn’t they have delivered her to Zarkon? Or at the very least killed her on sight? And yet she had obviously never been captured or killed, Allura not only living, but leading a rebellion against Zarkon.
Again he thought of her bravery, thinking it even more impressive that this young woman would fight after potentially being victimized first hand. He didn’t think to be envious that she was doing what he had not been able to do. That Allura was fighting while Lotor tried to run. Instead he fell into even more admiration of Allura, loving her harder now than he had just a few hours ago.
A noise from behind him, the room’s door opening. He didn’t take his eyes off Allura, didn’t even get up off his knees as footsteps approached him. He had a pretty good idea who it was, considering he had forbidden everyone from entering the room save for one person. That person was the nurse Qualenn, the pretty Drule having gone to fetch her medic’s bag.
“Did you get it?” Lotor said out loud, voice soft but gruff.
“I was hoping we wouldn’t need this.” Qualenn said. “I was hoping she’d wake up on her own.” She was besides him now, a small vial held in her hands. It was some sort of smelling salts, the pungent smell meant to force Allura awake. But Qualenn hesitated, looking not at Allura but at Lotor. “Are you sure you won’t wait to wake her? Might be better to let her stay like this. Just for a while…”
“Do it.” Lotor ordered. Maybe it was selfish of him, but he wanted to talk with Allura. Not just to get to the bottom of what had happened to her, but to help comfort them both.
“All right.” Qualenn bent over Allura, bringing the vial just under the princess’ nose. Lotor watched as her eyelids trembled, and then Allura was jerking back with a gasp. Her eyes snapped open, the beautiful blue looking wild. She hadn’t sat up, instead pushing back into the couch’s cushions. She opened her mouth to inhale, Qualenn having already taken the vial away. Lotor knew what was coming, realizing Allura hadn’t recovered from her hysteria. In reaction to the coming scream, he had grabbed the glass of water that had sat near to him on the floor.
The water splashed into Allura’s face, the girl choking, the scream sputtering out before it had a chance to be loud. Qualenn was already hurrying to hand Allura a towel, Lotor using his hands to carefully guide Allura to sit up right. He remained on his knees though, staring at her concerned.
Allura blinked many times in rapid succession. She stared at Lotor as she did this, her eyes no longer so panicked and wild. But she didn’t relax, an agitated tension surrounding her. For a second he thought her face would crumple, Lotor actually expecting Allura to break down and cry. She earned even more admiration from him when she did not, Allura ignoring the towel and water dripping off her to speak.
“How…how can you live knowing what Zarkon did—does…how can you survive witnessing such things and still be sane?!” Lotor opened his mouth to answer, but Allura suddenly continued. “You can’t be….it’s too cruel, too horrific. You’ve all been damaged by what he does….”
“That we have.” Qualenn agreed quietly.
“It’s insane!” Allura talked as though she hadn’t heard what Qualenn said. “Anyone who would allow him to remain in power? They are crazy!”
“Not crazy.” Lotor corrected. “Just scared. Helpless to do anything.”
“Don’t forget the nobles who are motivated by greed and the luxury of their lifestyle.” Qualenn reminded them. “What does it matter, what that tyrant does, so long as their lives are not interrupted. That they can go on enjoying the good life, with little fear or worry that it will be taken from them.”
“That’s even worse!” Allura exclaimed. “They’re selfish and cruel. Taking pleasure from the suffering and misery of others!”
“Such is the way it is on Doom.” Lotor sighed. “It’s all many of us have ever known.”
Allura shuddered then. “I thought I knew the extent of which the Drule…I mean…” She hurried to correct herself. “The extent in which Zarkon would go to. Now I realize I had no idea. None of us knew….The Alliance wouldn’t have allowed such things to happen otherwise.”
“What could the Alliance possibly do?” Qualenn asked. “They have been trying for decades to rid the galaxy of Zarkon.”
“Yes, but at least the rest of the Galaxy would know how he treats his own people. The Drules might not be as hated as they are now.” Allura pointed out. “The Drules are as much a victim of his, as any one else!”
“Now you see why we chose to flee.”
“Lotor…” Allura shook her head no. “Running is not the answer. This way, you’re only saving a few people. When they are thousands, no millions left behind!”
He tried not to flinch then, tried to keep his expression from turning haunted. “There’s no way to save everybody.” Lotor insisted. “But if by running, I can move to save even one person…”
She actually laid a hand on his shoulder, Lotor’s expression turning surprised at that willing touch. “Your heart is in the right place, Lotor. But…you’re going about it all wrong!”
“What would you suggest?” Qualenn asked. “Not even Voltron has been able to get a decisive win against Zarkon. At best you only hold off his attempts to invade Arus. As long as Zarkon is safe in his castle, untouched by the fighting, then he can continue to throw ships and soldiers at you.”
“Then we take the fight to him!” Allura decided. “Lotor, bring me back to Arus. With Voltron, and the Alliance backing us, we’d go to Doom. We’d bring the castle down on Zarkon, and end his reign.”
“No!” Both Lotor and Qualenn shouted at the same time, Allura looking defiant.
“I will not risk you in that way!” Lotor exclaimed, and Qualenn was nodding in agreement.
“It’s too risky.” She said.
“What’s life without a little risk?” demanded Allura. “Lotor please….”
“Please don’t badger the prince to do this.” Qualenn begged. “You don’t yet understand what it will cost him to lose you.”
“Sometimes we have to sacrifice what we want most for the greater good.” Allura told them. “I would give up my life if it meant the galaxy could be free of the threat of Zarkon. That hasn’t changed. That will NEVER change.”
Even after hearing the kind of things he does?” questioned Qualenn. “Even knowing the torture that will await you before you die?”
Allura couldn’t pale any further, though a sickly look came over her. She started shaking again, her eyes closing briefly. “Yes.” She whispered. “But I would make sure I died before he could get his hands on me.”
“Would you really be able to kill yourself in that eventuality?” Qualenn asked.
“No. No, she would not.” It was Lotor who answered, Allura opening her mouth in protest. “I know you. As long as you thought there was a chance to take out Zarkon, you would hang on. You would scheme and you would plot, risking everything on the hope that at the last possible second you’d get your chance to kill him.”
“You would risk the torture?!” Qualenn gasped out her question. “You would put yourself in jeopardy just to save everyone?”
“Why do you make me feel so guilty for wanting to say yes?” Allura cried out frustrated.
“That you would even think about saying yes, means you haven’t heard enough about the kind of things Zarkon does.” Lotor was grim then. He didn’t want to talk about Zarkon’s depravity, didn’t want to risk Allura getting so horrified and upset she’d have another hysterical moment.
“I’ve heard enough.” Allura murmured, shivering as though cold. She picked up the towel now, and began using it to dry herself off. “I’ll have enough nightmares to last me years without having to hear more about Zarkon.”
He could agree about that. Zarkon’s actions were the very stuff that fueled nightmares, Lotor having had the misfortune of suffering from the bad dreams himself.
“Are you all right now, princess?” Qualenn asked.
“No….but I’ll manage.” Allura told her. She looked down. “I…I am sorry for my earlier behavior. Sorry for what I said…what I thought.”
“You didn’t know…” Lotor whispered.
“I should have…the galaxy should have made more effort to find out about the Drules, instead of making blind assumptions that the whole race is evil!” Allura scowled. “We let our fear cloud us, let it build up so that we would hate every last one of you.”
“I’m sure you had valid reason to that hate.” Lotor thought it was the perfect chance to ease into talk about Allura’s past. “Your world was invaded, your parents killed, you people mistreated.” She nodded slowly in agreement to each point. “But what about you?”
“Me?” Her expression was already turning wary.
“What did you go through?” Lotor clarified. “There’s not a lot on record about you before Voltron was revived.” He didn’t bring up the rewards Zarkon had offered for Allura. Nor did he mention how Zarkon had encouraged his soldiers to abuse the girl anyway they saw fit. That kind of encouragement was put to an end, once Lotor had taken over the Arus mission. He had made it known that he would not tolerate Allura being hurt or abused in anyway. That he himself would personally kill anyone who so much as hurt a hair on Allura’s head.
“There’s records about me?” It was a clear evasion.
“The empire has extensive reports about Arus. Especially once Voltron became a problem. You’ve been watched for a long time now Allura. It’s part of the reason why Mara is able to become you. She had plenty of material to study.”
“And yet they don’t know everything, right?” Allura asked, seeming anxious. “I mean…they couldn’t have. If they had known where I was before Voltron was found…”
“You’d have been brought to Doom.” Lotor told her. “But somehow you were lucky enough to avoid capture for all those years.”
“Not lucky enough.” Allura whispered, looking shaken. She didn’t even seem aware of what she had just said, looking surprised when Lotor pursued that line of thought.
“What exactly happened? Who hurt you?” He licked his lips nervously. “Who saved you?” She was closing up before his eyes, expression losing all emotion. “Allura!”
he cried out, immensely frustrated. He almost told her he had a right to know, though he knew he didn’t. Not yet, not when Allura so clearly felt he hadn’t earned anything where she was concerned.
“Princess…” The nurse, Qualenn spoke in a kindly tone. “It is quite obvious to me that you are still suffering post traumatic shock from whatever you’ve been through. It might help to talk about it. Please, if not with the prince, won’t you share with me?”
Allura was quiet for several moments. But when she talked, it was terse, her jaw almost clenched. “Lotor has things he does not want to talk about. Please respect that the same is for me.”
Qualenn looked hurt at the rejection. Lotor couldn’t blame her, though he was more frustrated than anything. “The prince at least doesn’t have panic attacks.” It was almost snide, but Qualenn softened it with her tone. “Please. My offer still stands. I will always be willing to listen should you change your mind.”
Another pause from Allura, and then with some difficulty she expressed a small gratitude. “Thank you Qualenn.” She then looked back to Lotor. “Is the person from the temple here? I thought I saw Vorlac just before I fainted…”
“Yes, on both accounts.” Lotor hesitated. “But are you sure you’re up to this?”
“It’s just confession Lotor. It’s nothing too strenuous.” Allura told him.
“Fine then.” He finally rose up off his knees, wanting to press a reassuring kiss against Allura’s lips. He settled for squeezing her hand gently, before turning to walk with Qualenn towards the door. Vorlac and several other Drules were waiting out in the hall. Their conversation immediately stopped, the group hurrying over to the prince.
“Is the princess all right?” One woman asked.
“What was that all about?” Another wanted to know. “I’ve never seen someone go so hysterical just from hearing about Zarkon’s torments. At least…” He seemed to correct himself. “Not when they are safely out of the King’s reach.” They all seemed to shudder, remembering what relish Zarkon took just from telling his victims in vivid details what he was about to do to them. Often times Zarkon got his victims screaming and begging for mercy, before he had even laid a finger on them.
“There are some things we’re not privy to.” Lotor stated. “It is unfortunate, but until Allura is ready to share, it shall remain a mystery as to why she reacted the way she did.”
“Lotor has spoken!” snapped Qualenn. “We must respect that Allura does not wish to share.” She said this in a gentler tone of voice.
“I know it is difficult. Opening yourselves up to her about your own private troubles and grief, and getting nothing in return.” Lotor continued. “But I believe this morning was a turning point, near disaster that it almost proved to be. She’s come away with her eyes open…and that cannot be a bad thing.” He searched out Vorlac amidst the crowd, and the silver eyed Drule gave a sheepish smile.
“Seems I missed out on a lot of the excitement.”
“That you did.” Lotor gave a curt nod. “Is this the temple representative?” A human woman was standing besides Vorlac. The Drule would nod, and Lotor managed to hide his surprise. The fact that the temple would allow a woman to come to this place was shocking. Almost as much as the fact this woman would have agreed to come here alone among so many Drules. It spoke of a courage, some kind of strength that was not readily apparent when looking at this young woman.
“This is priestess Alexandria.” Vorlac introduced, and the woman bowed her head in greeting. Lotor nodded at her, his eyes busy studying her appearance. She looked to be roughly the same height as Allura, garbed in a diaphanous gown of clingy white, that was in the style of Grecian Roman. Her skin was naturally pale, a lily whiteness in comparison to Allura’s golden tanned beauty. The paleness complimented her, her long flowing black hair trailing down to the back of her thighs.
She was lovely, holding an almost ethereal quality to her. Again Lotor was surprised, thinking no one would allow such a beauty to go amongst the Drules, even friendly ones. Her green eyes showed no fear, there was no hint of nervous, just a seriousness that hinted at her devotion to her assigned task.
“Allura is waiting inside for you.” Lotor spoke in basic to the priestess. Not all Simestians knew basic, given how isolated the world truly was. But one of the requirements the Drule had had when making the request to the temple, was that the representative spared could speak enough of the language for Allura to be able to communicate with them.
Alexandria nodded her head, but when Lotor and Vorlac moved to follow her, she paused. “Please. Confession is a private thing. It is a communion between the Gods’ agents, and the person who is unburdening their soul.”
“I don’t know about this…” Vorlac said hesitantly, glancing at Lotor. “Is it really all right to leave Allura alone with her?”
“It’s fine.” Lotor said, and the look Vorlac gave him clearly said the Drule thought Lotor was being too trusting where Allura was concerned. “They’ll just do confession. It’ll be good for Allura…” He wondered if Allura would share her trauma with the priestess. It almost tempted him to listen at the door, though he would honor the privacy the priestess insisted on. “Go on. We will not disturb you.”
A gracious nod from Alexandria. “Thank you.” Her gown’s skirt seemed to billow out behind her as she moved, the priestess entering into the room. Lotor heard Alexandria introducing herself to Allura, and then he was shutting the door. The Drules remained in the hall, looking like they still wanted to question Lotor about Allura.
“All right everyone.” Lotor said loudly. “Let’s clear out.” There was some grumbles of protest, but the group began to disperse. Lotor caught sight of purple curls, and a growl escaped him before he could stop it. “Tesla!”
The startled female turned in his direction, a guilty look on her face. She didn’t like the way he had growled, but Tesla also knew she had earned whatever trouble she might be in. “Prince Lotor…” She walked to meet him as he stalked towards her. The others in the hall quickly moved on, only Vorlac remaining to watch the scene between Lotor and the green skinned female.
“Just what do you think you were doing?!” Lotor continued to growl, watching as Tesla dropped to one knee. She made a fist, and placed it over her heart, head bowed in submission. It wasn’t enough, Lotor felt close to erupting and he feared what form his anger would take. And all because earlier when Tesla had been badgering Allura so cruelly with the knowledge of all Zarkon had done, and would do, Lotor had wanted to lunge forward and slap her silent. The fact that he had wanted to strike a woman disturbed him, and all because he abhorred even the thought of violence to women.
“Please your highness. I was in the wrong. Forgive me.” Tesla spoke clearly, begging his forgiveness.
“I’m not the only one you have to apologize to!”
Her head was still submissively bowed so that he couldn’t see her expression. But Lotor so how her body grew stiff with displeasure. Tesla didn’t want to or like the idea of having to say she was sorry to Allura. “Must I?”
“You will do it Tesla.” Lotor commanded her, actually grabbing her by her hair. He hauled on it until her eyes were staring into his, Lotor letting her see how displeased he was by her earlier actions. “You will make things right between you and Allura, or so help me, I will turn you out!”
Her eyes widened in horror. It was an effective threat. Tesla would have nowhere to go, her only choice being to return to Doom. “Please your highness, don’t even joke about that!”
“You’ve been baiting Allura almost from the day you met her.” Vorlac spoke up. “You’ve been so angry with her…and not all of it is justified.”
“I will try to correct my behavior.” Tesla said meekly to Lotor.
“You will do more than try.” Lotor told her stiffly. “You will succeed at it, or you will be cast out.” Abruptly, he let go of her hair, Tesla falling forward to bow even more submissively with her body. She seemed to be trembling, Tesla honestly frightened at the thought of Lotor abandoning her. It made him feel like a terrible person, but Lotor also knew he couldn’t allow Tesla to continue to behave so venomously to Allura. There was enough problems around them, without Tesla’s dislike of the princess adding to them!