She had been left alone for too long. Allura didn’t know the time exactly, for there was no watch, no clock to count down the hours. But she had been left trapped in this room, long enough for Allura to have paced herself into exhaustion. She hadn’t been able to remain in one place, Allura agitated. She all but tore apart the room, looking for something, anything that would help her open the door.
But she didn’t even have pins for her hair! Nor had there been any kind of wire or paper clip could have used in an attempt to pick the door’s lock. Allura had spent much time shouting, kicking and banging on the door. She was sure her hands would bear bruises from how often she had struck the sturdy wood.
Every book on the shelf had been knocked over, and flipped through. The books were written in the Drule language. She couldn’t even read them to pass the time, not that Allura could calm herself enough to want to actually read.
Even here on the first floor, there were bars on the windows. Allura wondered why. Had Zarkon been that intent on keeping Lotor and his mother trapped in this mansion? Or had this room been one that had doubled as a prison for those others he tortured and killed? She couldn’t know for sure, and that drove her mad as she imagined scenarios that couldn’t be as bad as what had probably really happened.
When she had finally given up her restless activity, Allura had collapsed on the couch. The ceasing of her body’s frantic movement, didn’t put an end to her racing thoughts. She was beyond worried, and going out of her mind at being ignored. Where was Lotor? Where was Vorlac for that matter? What were they going to do with the priestess? Once Allura would have feared for the priestess’ life. She could have laughed then, knowing that before breakfast, Allura would have still been positive the Drules would kill Alexandria for what she now knew.
Now she thought different. She worried, but did not fear the priestess suffering at their hands. She didn’t know what the Drules would do though to fix the problem Allura had caused, but she was confidant it wouldn’t end in Alexandria’s blood being shed. These Drules were not Zarkon. They didn’t enjoy hurting people, didn’t want to make anyone suffer needlessly. She just thought it a pity that they weren’t moved to do more than run away!
Allura let out an exaggerated sigh. She could admit to feeling a little discouraged. The plan with Alexandria had been foiled. It meant the Drules would be watching Allura more closely now. There would be little opportunity for an escape to succeed, for a message to be sent out to Arus. But Allura wasn’t about to give up on trying. She’d either escape from here, or arrange for the Voltron Force to come to her rescue. She just didn’t yet know how she’d pull off either choice!
There was another option. One whose chances of success seemed even smaller. If she could somehow convince Lotor to stop his running. Allura let out a scoffing sound, thinking it might be impossible at this point and time. He and the other Drule were running scared. They were so traumatized by their experiences, they blinded themselves to everything else. How could she convince them to do what was right for the galaxy? And if she persuaded Lotor to stand up and fight Zarkon, would even his commands be enough to rally these Drules into returning to Doom?
It was just one thing to consider. She didn’t have to give up her schemes to plan her escape or rescue. Allura could work on warming Lotor to the idea of fighting against Zarkon. Of going to war, with the backing of all the worlds that belonged to the Galaxy Alliance. She was earnest in her desire to lead the charge inside Voltron, to bring the battle to Zarkon’s own doorstep. Maybe through her own fervent desire, Lotor would be affected enough, moved enough to join her in the fight for everyone’s freedom
It was going to take time though. Allura realized that. Allura couldn’t say that she would be completely patient, as she tried to work over Lotor. His insistence that running away was the only option left to him and these Drules, was maddening. It frustrated her that they didn’t seem to even consider that there could be another way. That they had given up so thoroughly. It was handing Zarkon a clear win if everyone thought like that. When good people gave up, that is when evil reigned supreme.
Allura was still thinking on how she was going to talk Lotor into seeing things her way, when she heard the lock being engaged. Allura was already standing up, her heart beating faster as she waited to see who it would be. Would it be Vorlac, the man still angry? Or Ryder come to gloat that her plot had failed? She hoped for neither man, wanting to see Lotor most of all.
She lucked out. The open doorway revealed the prince of Doom, his eyes holding a stern light to them as Lotor looked at Allura. She didn’t stop from running towards him, almost breathless as she bit out several questionsin rapid succession. “What is happening?! Where is Alexandria?! What are you going to do with her?!”
Lotor let the door fall close behind him before answering. “Ryder and Vorlac are dealing with the situation.” His voice was terse, as though he was having to exert tight control over his emotions. It was enough to let her know Lotor was upset with what she had tried to do, but Allura didn’t yet offer an apology.
“Dealing with it?” She said instead, frowning in response. “What does that mean?”
“It means you’ve complicated things needlessly.” Lotor grit out. “Not just for you, but for me, and for all the Drule present on this planet.”
“Are we going to be leaving then?” Allura wondered, a note of fear in her voice. Had she inadvertently caused Lotor to speed up his plan to move on to the next galaxy? Would they try to make the journey even while they were short on supplies?
“We’re not leaving Simestia any time soon.” Lotor clearly didn’t mean for his words to be reassuring, but they had that effect on Allura regardless. She almost sighed in relief, thinking it best they remain in this place while she actively plotted.
“And the priestess?” She prodded him, needing to know what was going on with Alexandria.
“You two have left us with little choice.” Lotor continued, but the words weren’t as ominous as they once would have been to her. “The priestess refuses to be bought. There’s little else we can do, but make her a permanent guest of ours for as long as we are on this world.”
“A guest? You mean your captive.” Allura corrected. “Lotor, will the Simestians really let you do this? I mean, considering their history with the Drules under Zarkon’s command, why I’d not be surprise if they didn’t storm the mansion to rescue Alexandria from your clutches.”
“Fortunately they won’t be aware of the fact that the priestess is not here willingly.” Lotor replied.
Allura lifted a brow. “How are you going to hide that you’re holding her prisoner?!”
“Ryder’s come up with a plan.” A grim sort of smile from Lotor. “By the time he’s through, everyone will believe it was the priestess own decision to remain among us for the duration of our stay.”
“What, is he going to brainwash an entire city?” Allura couldn’t help but be sarcastic.
“Gold is an effective tool for gaining the compliance of those in charge.” Lotor retorted. “There’s little people who aren’t affected by greed.”
“Alexandria wasn’t.” Allura pointed out, but she couldn’t be smug about it. “You couldn’t buy her silence.”
He looked annoyed then. “You should never have involved her in this.”
“I had to do something!” Allura retorted. “The galaxy needs me!” She softened her tone. “They need the both of us. They need every last man and woman willing to fight, to protect the peace of the Denubian. To stop Zarkon’s reign of terror.”
“Allura….” Lotor sighed then. “It’s not that easy.”
“I never said it would be!” Allura pointed out. “It will be difficult, and it will take work and time! We’ll have to get the people of the many worlds to get over at least some of their prejudices. They’ll have to put aside the fear and hate they’ve clung to for so long, and unite with us to bring the battle to Zarkon. To kill him!”
“Never thought I’d hear you actively advocate someone’s death…” Lotor murmured.
“Never knew someone as evil and twisted as Zarkon.” Allura told him. “I know I’ve only heard half the tales, but it’s more than enough. We’re no longer fighting just for the slaves, we’re fighting to end the misery and suffering he has heaped on countless people. People that include your own. We’re fighting so what happened to Oveious will never happen to anyone else. We’re fighting so that Qualenn can do her job, and help ease the suffering of any who seek her skills as a nurse. So that Vorlac can get justice for what Zarkon did to his family! Don’t you see Lotor? Everyone has their own tale, their own private anguish. Their own reason for wanting to fight! We can do no less than honor each other’s suffering, by taking a stand against Zarkon.” She shook her head then. “Not just take a stand. We move to win.”
Lotor’s look was a searching one. Allura did not shy away from his examination, letting her determination and resolve shine in her eyes. “This is the same spirit that let you pick yourself up from all the losses you and your people suffered.” He breathed out. “The same drive that motivated you on Arus, moving you now to want to champion my people. To champion all the people of this galaxy.”
“Yes!” She couldn’t help that excited exclamation, reaching for Lotor’s hands. “I believe we can do this. Working together we can end the threat of Zarkon in this lifetime.”
“But…believing is not the same as knowing.” She abruptly let go of his hands, disappointed in his response.
“We can’t just wait around for a sure thing!” Allura practically growled at him. “In this life, nothing is certain.”
“Nothing but death.” Lotor told her.
“Do you fear dying? Is that it?” She asked him, giving her own searching look into Lotor’s eyes. He didn’t flinch, his own eyes sad.
“I don’t fear my own life ending. It’s never been about being scared of death. If anything, it’s the thought of living…of enduring anymore at his hands.” Lotor told her. “And not just me. To have to watch, and know he’s hurting my friends, the people I care for? The people I’ve tried to protect…? It’s unbearable. Just as unbearable as it would be if you ended up in Zarkon’s hands.”
“He’s made you watch.” She said this knowingly. He nodded. “Oh Lotor…” A sympathetic expression crossed her face. “I know what it’s like to have to stand back and watch others be hurt while you could do nothing. It’s happened again and again on Arus. It makes you feel helpless.”
“That it does.” He agreed. “It’s worse when you blame yourself for what is happening.”
Allura frowned. She didn’t have much experience with blaming herself for what others did to another person. In fact the only time she had blamed herself, had been with that one soldier. It was a blame she felt she had earned the right to, Allura feeling if she had never ventured from the caves, she would have never ended up in that predicament.
“You can’t blame yourself for what Zarkon does!” Allura exclaimed, though she was uneasy. Just that brief thought about the soldier, and she was bothered. She hadn’t even ventured deep into the memory, and already it tried to overwhelm her with flashbacks.
“How can I not?!” Lotor sounded as agitated as Allura was now feeling. “When with his every breath, he continues to remind me of how certain things keep happening because of my failures?!”
She wondered what he meant by failures, though she didn’t ask. Instead she reached up to cup his face in her hands, trying to keep him looking at her. “That’s a classic tactic of abuse. Blaming the victim for the abuser’s crimes.”
“But…but he said…” Lotor was frowning, a pained look in his eyes. “If I had only let Arus be invaded, if only I had destroyed Voltron. If only I let him kill you…then he wouldn’t have to punish me.”
“Punish..” She repeat the word, shivering. It wasn’t just that word that affected her, it was all of it. It painted a clearer picture of what Lotor had to have been through, though she still didn’t know for sure the details. Just as Allura realized she might understand Lotor better, if she knew about the pain he struggled so hard to hide from her. “What did he do, Lotor? How did he hurt you?”
It was abrupt, Lotor stepping back from her, freeing himself of her hands’ grip. His expression was losing all emotion, Lotor closing in on himself. Allura recognized what he was doing. And all because it was protective tactic she herself had done hundreds of times before.
“I know it’s painful…it hurts, and it cuts you up from the inside out.” Allura told him. “But you have to let it out. You have to talk about it, or you will never get over it.”
“You’re one to talk.” Lotor said. “You want me to do what you yourself have refused to do.”
“It’s different.” She had flinched at his pointed accusation, and now she flinched again when he raised his voice at her in a shout.
“It is not! It’s the same damn thing! Someone hurt you, Allura. They hurt you real bad, to the point you have panic attacks! You think that’s healthy? Whatever you’re keeping bottled up inside you, it’s trying to come out! It’s manifesting itself in the only way it can….”
“Qualenn said you don’t have panic attacks.” Allura said, her voice quiet in comparison to Lotor’s shouts. “But I think she’s wrong. Zarkon hurt you. Hurt you enough that you’re panicking in the only way you can. It’s that panic that makes you run. It’s that same panic that makes you think abandoning everything is the answer!” Allura took a deep breath. “We’re both coping in different ways…but there is a key difference here. I am not running away!”
He glared at her now, Lotor unable to deny what she had said. Allura didn’t return his glare, just staring at him. Her eyes were not quite sad, bordering somewhere on sympathetic. “We’ve been through a lot….I won’t say you’ve suffered worse than me…but we have to come through that suffering, and move on. We don’t let it define who we are!”
“Lotor.” It took a lot of nerve to touch him when he was glaring so angrily at her. But touch him she did, Allura squeezing his hands gently. “We have to heal from our experiences. We have to become true survivors. You’ve endured so much, from the time you were a little boy, to even now judging by your words. But it’s time to let go…”
“It’s not that simple.” His voice was hoarse now.
“I know.” And she did, Allura struggling with her own past. With the trauma that even now filled her with fear. “But try. You’ll be free when you do.”
“Free.” He said the word with a certain relish, for the moment looking like that is what he wanted most of all.
She smiled encouragingly at him. “You won’t want to run anymore. From the memories, from the fear. Not even from your responsibilities. We’ll be able to go back.”
“Go back?” Lotor’s voice came out sharp, Allura realizing her mistake. It was too soon. Too soon for Lotor to even think of returning to Doom. She could see by the way the emotion leeched out of his expression, that a wall had come up between them. “I am never going back there.” He pulled his hands from hers, Allura crying out.
“No!” He was turning his back to her, Allura grabbing him by the arm. “This is just another one of your tricks. One I won’t fall for.”
“It’s not a trick!” She was indignant, pulling on his arm. “I truly believe it’s possible to heal! And through that healing, we have to help the others. Otherwise you are not only letting Zarkon win, you are letting him break you!”
“I am not broken!” He roared, jerking away from her.
“If you’re not yet, then you’re close!” Allura cried, as Lotor whirled around to glare at her. “You’ll be the same as your mother. So desperate to get away, that throwing your life away looks like the only option.”
He had gone still as a statue. “What…..what did you…how do you know about that?”
She flushed guilty. “I…I found out about it today.”
“From who?!” He demanded angrily. “Who would tell you that?! Who would even know!?”
Allura was confused, watching how agitated Lotor was becoming. “It was Alexandria.”
“The priestess?!” He gasped. “Why would she know about that? There’s no way she could have been alive during that time!”
“She may not have been alive then, but there are people who were! And they remember Lotor.” Allura told him. “They still talk about it. The Simestians still remember Zarkon’s evil. It’s probably those memories that keep them from rebelling.”
Lotor was shaking his head, angry, almost irritable. “That wasn’t her story to tell! She had no right. No right at all!”
“She didn’t know you were the little boy in the stories.” Allura told him. “She probably thought Zarkon had killed him by now. Lotor….I can’t begin to imagine what that experience was like. The fear you must have felt as your mother forced you out the window with her.”
“She just wanted the pain to end.” Lotor whispered. “But she didn’t want to leave me behind in the care of that monster. She wanted to protect me. She was trying to protect me when she pushed me out the window.” He closed his eyes then. “That was her only option. The only thing she could do. She was powerless…little more than a glorified slave.” He locked eyes with Allura. “Just because she was Zarkon’s obsession didn’t mean she was safe from his cruelties. If anything it only pulled his attention to her more.”
She shivered in response. “Why would you even come back to this place? To this building who holds so many terrible memories.”
“There was no where else we could go that would guarantee we could hide from Zarkon.” Lotor sighed. “We needed a place to rest, a place to get the ships ready for the rest of our journey. Simestia was never meant to be more than a brief stop.” He shrugged then, giving her a sickly smile. “I thought I could handle the memories. Thought I could handle being in this building.”
“And can you?” Allura asked, and received another shrug.
“It’s harder than I thought.” Lotor admitted. “It feels as if every room has a memory attached to it. None of them good. But it helps being here with friends. Their laughter chases away the demons of my past.”
“Do they know what happened here?” Allura recalled his earlier words, how he had wondered how anyone would know about what had gone on in this mansion.
“No. They were all too young when this was happening.” He explained. “Too young to be part of the military that came with Zarkon on his vacations. Hell, they like so many of the galaxy, didn’t even know about Simestia until I brought their attention to this world.”
“So you have been enduring these memories all on your own?” Allura felt sad then, and even more so when he nodded. “I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have to.”
“It’s fine.” He quickly assured her. “They have enough to deal with, without my past being brought to their attention.” A faint smile, one that was pure sadness. “I think we’d all go insane, if we knew the extent of each other’s private sufferings.”
“Why do I get the feeling, that in some ways you suffered more then them?” Allura asked, and reached out for him when he tried to turn away. “Lotor…if ever you are willing…if ever you decide it gets too much for you. You can talk to me.”
“Why would you make that offer to me?” He seemed puzzled, which made her confused.
“Why wouldn’t I?” Allura asked him. “You made a similar offer to me…”
“But what?” She demanded.
“It’s different, because I love you.” It was stated as simple fact, and yet it was so heartfelt on his part. Her cheeks grew warm, Allura blinking repeatedly. “I know you don’t love me.” He added sadly. “You’re not ready to. But in time…”
She wanted to tell him not to get his hopes up, that she could never love a man who wouldn’t fight with her against Zarkon. But she didn’t want to give him so crushing a rejection. Especially not now, when he seemed so vulnerable. It was wrong of her, but Allura kept quiet, allowing him to believe that she also believed that time could bring that love to blossom in her heart.
“I don’t have to be in love with you, to care.” Allura eventually said. “My offer remains.”
He was suddenly raising her hand to his lips, Lotor pressing kisses over her knuckles. “Thank you.” His eyes never strayed from her face, Allura blushing harder. It was an odd, emotional conversation they had just had. The talk running all over the place, delving into dark corners, and touching upon several things. It had to have been as draining for him, as it had been for Allura. Certainly Lotor had lost any anger and disappointment he had felt over her attempts to get rescued via the priestess. Allura didn’t think this meant this was the last she would hear about it, but for now Lotor was content to just hold her hand rather than admonish her. Allura was surprised to realize she was fine with that too.