The water roared, pounding down on him from the overhead nozzle. The furious pelt formed thick rivulets over him, cascading down his body, washing away the soap and shampoo. Cleaning him. Lotor stood underneath that furious assault, enduring heat that was just this close to burning. His eyes were closed, his hands not moving. He was frozen for the moment, and trying to get warm.
It had nothing to do with the current temperature of the room. The sun was up, it’s rays warming the land. Chasing away the chills inside the house. With the climate control being unable to function, it would have been insane to bathe any earlier. Not with how cold the night was. Even the warmth of fires, and numerous blankets couldn’t stave off the cold completely. The night was simply too cold to risk a shower.
It was different during the day. The heat of the sun made things near unbearable, and with no air conditioning currently available, bathing was one of the few options left to cool oneself. But his body seemed to be refusing to acknowledge the heat, Lotor shivering under the water’s assault. He was cold from the inside out, disturbed because he had had the dreams again.
He had dreamt of his father. Of the many twisted and evil things he had seen Zarkon do. To others and to himself, Lotor enduring a lifetime of torments in just a handful of years. Zarkon’s cruelty knew no bounds, his inventiveness limitless when it came to torture. No one could know all that he had done, and still retain their sanity. At best, they could only come away with small glimpses, and even those brief looks left them haunted by what they had seen.
Lotor had seen a lot over the years. Zarkon had set out to mold him, to remake Lotor in his image. He had tried to toughen up the prince, force him to watch some of the most gruesome displays of the courts and the dungeons. Lotor had been punished for his screams, Zarkon not caring that he had only been twelve years old, little more than a boy at the time.
Lotor blamed these dreams on all that had happened the day before. On the gruesome talk at breakfast, a talk that hadn’t even begun to cover the things Zarkon was capable of. The memories had already been stirred up by Lotor being in this house, and the talk at breakfast had only added to their power. They were making him remember things, past events that had helped shape him to become the man he was now. Events he never wanted to remember, the experiences being just part of what had sent him running from Doom.
His back was hurting, pains that weren’t all phantom. He’d have to get someone to look over the freshest wounds, the time nearing when his stitches would have to be removed. Lotor knew he’d have fresh scars on top of the old ones. Zarkon had been too brutal to allow anything else. Vaguely Lotor could remember Haggar talking to him, explaining how they had had to sew up several of the deeper wounds several times due to the prince thrashing about in his fever stricken state.
He didn’t even want to look at his back. Didn’t want to see the mish mash of ugly, criss crossing scars that covered so much of him. He was fortunate Zarkon had kept his focus mainly on Lotor’s back, though there was a few to mar his front as well. His body wasn’t ruined, but it would never be perfect. Never not be a reminder of what Zarkon had done.
He still wasn’t warmed, but Lotor reached out to shut off the shower. It was near instantaneously, how the water stopped, leaving Lotor to shiver without it’s heat touching him. But he had lingered long enough. Allura would be worried if he stayed inside the bathroom any longer. Lotor stepped out of the shower, and hurried over to where the towels were laid out. He was thorough as he dried himself off, making sure nothing, not even his hair remained damp.
He wouldn’t try to look at the mirror as he got dressed, Lotor not wanting to catch sight of his back. He’d put on the clothes that he had brought with him into the bathroom, all in an attempt to keep Allura from seeing the truth of what Zarkon had done to him. Some part of Lotor knew it was foolish. He knew he couldn’t go on indefinitely hiding his body from her. But with Allura still fearing intimacy to such a strong degree, it felt like a moot point. It wasn’t as if they were going to make love anytime soon, and disappointed though he was over that realization, Lotor was relieved at the time it bought him.
He finished buttoning up his shirt, and ran a brush through his hair. Now he was able to look at himself in the mirror, the clothing presenting the illusion that he wasn’t a scarred, damaged person. He could pass for normal, Lotor working to chase the haunted look from his eyes. He couldn’t quite smile, Lotor unlocking the door, and entering into the bedroom. Allura was sitting on the love seat, having showered and dressed before him.
Their eyes met, and Lotor wanted to go to her. To pull her up into his embrace, to hold and to kiss her. Just like he had done during the night, minus the attempts to kiss her. Lotor had been too selfish to allow Allura complete peace during the night. Too needy to not insist that she stay pressed against him, with his arms wrapped around her. She had tolerated this with little complaint, Allura seeming relaxed enough to trust him that Lotor wouldn’t try for more. She hadn’t had a panic attack, though her eyes hadn’t been free of upset. She still feared being held, of being touched by him, and it was a fear that would never go away so long as Allura refused to deal with whatever had happened to her in the past.
Lotor was beyond curious. He wanted to help Allura heal as much as he wanted to know what exactly had happened. He failed to realize she was doing the same as him, keeping her past hidden so that she couldn’t move on from it. She wouldn’t talk about it, just like Lotor wouldn’t talk about the abuse he had been through. They were both keeping things bottled inside, hurting themselves in their attempts to protects themselves from confronting just what had happened.
“That’s a nice color on you.” Lotor said out loud to break the silence. “That shade of blue really brings out your eyes.”
She didn’t quite blush, a nervous hand reaching to smooth down the front of her dress. “Thank you. It’s not a color I’m used to wearing.”
Now that was an understatement if ever he heard one, Lotor turning teasing. “Yes, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in anything but shades of pink and white before we arrived on Simestia.”
“I happen to like pink.” She sounded a tad defensive, Lotor holding in a chuckle.
“So I’ve noticed.”
“Do you have a favorite color?” It was a simple question, but one that took him by surprise. Lotor actually had to pause, to think on what his answer could possible be. He knew immediately that red would not be his preferred color, not after all the blood he had seen spilt by Zarkon. Allura would shift in her seat, her curious eyes on him. She didn’t seem to realize what a difficult question she had asked for someone who hadn’t had time to properly appreciate colors. Lotor couldn’t even remember coloring as a child, any happy memories lost to the horrible ones.
Allura was tied into the few good memories he did have. Those brief moments when he had cornered her on Arus, and the time spent with her traveling to Simestia. He looked at her, taking in the whole of her, from her peaches and cream complexion, to the striking blue of her eyes. And then knew what his answer was. “Gold.” Lotor said out loud, staying rooted to the spot. “I like gold.”
“Gold…?” Allura repeated, looking like she wanted to frown. “Because it’s the color of money?”
“Because it’s the color of your hair.” Lotor corrected her, eyes on her as he inched towards her. “Your hair has always made me think of sunshine, trapped in a form that can actually be touched. Warm without burning, soft….” He bent over her, his fingers finding their way into her hair. It was ridiculous how much it pleased him to be touching her like this, but he couldn’t stop the small smile from coming out.
“Lotor…” She was lifting her head to stare up at him, her own expression troubled. He didn’t want to hear whatever she was about to say to ruin the moment, Lotor pressing fingers to her lips.
“Allura, just…just let me have this moment.” He begged her, his other hands still caressing over her hair. Lotor should have known she’d ignore him, Allura speaking over his fingers.
“I can’t imagine the kind of environment you grew up in.” She said. “I can’t begin to imagine the true extent of the horrors you’ve seen. It’s a testament to your inner strength, that you’ve survived what he did. What he continues to do….”
“I don’t feel very strong…” Lotor admitted with a whisper. He started to pull back from her, but Allura reached up to catch his hands.
“But you are. You’ve come through Zarkon’s abuse with your mind and your SOUL intact. You could have been corrupted, could have been remade into his image. That you don’t try to hurt people, that you don’t repeat his crimes, it is amazing. A true miracle that is a testament to the strength of your soul and your morals.”
“I could never be like him.” Lotor told her. “I could never, ever do the things that he does.”
“I’m beginning to realize that.” She smiled, but it was troubled. “I used to think the worse of you. I didn’t want to believe the son of that monster could be anything but exactly like Zarkon. I didn’t try, didn’t want to see the person you really are. I let that same refusal blind me to the possibility that not all Drule are bad. I’ve handle a lot of things wrong….”
“What matters is that you see us now, that you see the people we are, and not the people Zarkon led you to be afraid of.” Lotor told her. She nodded her head in agreement.
“My eyes have been opened. To so many things…” Allura’s look was a determined one, the princess slowly letting go of Lotor’s face. “To so many wrongs that NEED to be corrected.”
He had a sinking feeling he knew where she was going to go with this conversation, Lotor turning uneasy. “Allura…”
“It has to be us Lotor.” She quickly said, her words almost stubborn now. “We’re the only ones in the position to know what is truly going on with the Drule. The rest of the Galaxy doesn’t know, doesn’t care to find out. They use excuses to write off the Drule as evil. They’ll continue to fight these wars, intent on wiping out not only Zarkon, but the Drules themselves. We can’t allow that.”
He had straightened, but she had grabbed him by the arm to keep Lotor from walking away. “I know you don’t believe it’s possible now. None of you believe in the chance to take out Zarkon existing. That’s all right. I have enough belief for all of us! With Voltron leading the charge, we can do this! We can end the reign of that monster, and bring peace and safety to the galaxy.”
“Don’t you see, Lotor?” Allura continued, fingers gripping his arm so hard her nails dug into the fabric of his shirt. “There will be no more need for fighting. The healing can begin, the galaxy working together to recover from all Zarkon has done to it.”
“You think it’s that easy?” Lotor’s words came out more harsh than he would have liked. “You think the rest of the worlds will just get over decades of hatred and fear of my people?! That the animosity will just go away once Zarkon is dead?!”
“It won’t go away so long as he lives, and continues to terrorize everyone!” Allura quickly pointed out. “The suffering has to stop, so that the healing can begin. Arus would do whatever it took to help mend relationships between Doom and the rest of the galaxy! I swear it!”
“Don’t make promises your people may not be willing to uphold.” He told her, his tone reprimanding. But there was truth in what he was saying, and Allura had to understand. Her people might not be willing to help the Drule, might not be willing to forget the things done to them, the terror they had lived with for some twenty years.
“My people will follow my lead.” Allura said it without flinching. “And I will lead them by example. If I can put aside the past and what was done to me…”
“What was done to you?” He quickly seized upon those words. “You would be willing to bring out the truth?”
She hesitated now. “There is more than enough horror to pick and choose from. More than enough for me to forgive and forget.” It was blatant in how she wanted him to do the same, Allura sending up a clear message she did not want him prying any further.
“I don’t think we could ever completely forget the things that were done to us.” Lotor was talking from experience, eyeing her carefully. He wanted so badly to know, to use that knowledge to help her heal. It frustrated him that she wasn’t ready to share, that she might never be ready to share.
“Then we can only move on, and try not to look at the past too closely.” Allura replied.
“That’s all fine and well, except when the past affects you as strongly as yours does.” Lotor pointed out. She got that shifty look in her eyes, Allura not wanting to hear what he had to say. “Sooner or later Allura, you’re going to have to deal with what happened…”
“I…” A knock sounded on the bedroom door, startling them both. “You better answer that.”
Lotor gave her a look, expression one that said this discussion was not over with. It had just been delayed, Lotor curious as to who would come to this room, and for what reason. He sincerely hoped there wasn’t a new problem, Lotor walking over to open the door. He wasn’t quite angry, as he unlocked and opened it, and still he wasn’t able to keep from growling at the man waiting on the other side of the door.
Ryder took one look at him, his own eyes narrowing. The Drule with the blue streaked hair didn’t bother to question Lotor’s mood, didn’t seem to care that he had obviously interrupted something. His gold eyes locked with Lotor’s, Ryder letting out his own gruff growl.
“We need to talk.”
Lotor stared at him, instinctively knowing it had to be something serious that Ryder had come to him about. A million what ifs began to race through his mind, Lotor wondering, fearing that something even more problematic than the situation Allura had created with the priestess had happened. A part of him even wondered if Allura had caused another incident, Lotor turning to cast a suspicious look at the princess. She had risen from the love seat, her curious eyes turning concerned in response to the look Lotor had given her.
“It’s nothing she did.” Ryder said in Drule, having followed where Lotor’s suspicions led them. “Not this time at any rate.”
“That’s good to hear.” Lotor replied, also speaking in Drule. “Then if not Allura, then what?”
But Ryder didn’t immediately answer, gazing past him at Allura. “Don’t think this is a conversation you want to be having with her around.”
Lotor was surprised. What could Ryder want to talk about that, that he felt even with the barrier the Drule language was to Allura, it wouldn’t give him and Lotor enough privacy? Lotor couldn’t say for certain, though a sinking feeling inside him had the prince suspecting it was something that just might agitate and stir his emotions. There wasn’t many conversation topics that could have that kind of effect on Lotor. In fact the key trigger to upsetting Lotor was to try and bring up the past, bring up the things Zarkon had done.
He was taking too long to respond, Ryder shifting in impatience. The dark haired Drule continued to stare at Allura, but it was Lotor he addressed. “Send her away, Lotor…”‘
“What’s going on?” Allura interjected herself into the conversation. “Why do you both keep staring at me?”
“It’s nothing…” Lotor started to say, and she shook her head.
“Don’t tell me it’s nothing! Anyone can see Ryder’s upset.” She was walking towards them. “Is it the Voltron Force? Or the body of the fake Lotor? Has the ruse been discovered? Are people looking for us?”
All good questions, ones he would ask Ryder later. “Don’t worry so much, Allura.” Lotor said in basic. “Ryder’s just in a bad mood.” He tried to smirk then. “Has been in one ever since that priestess became a guest of ours.” From behind him, he heard Ryder’s annoyed growl which only added credence to what Lotor had said. Ryder’s mood had indeed suffered, to the point it was noticeable to everyone around him. Even Lotor with his own preoccupation’s hadn’t failed to realize something was bothering the dark haired Drule. There was something about the priestess, something that rubbed Ryder the wrong way. Lotor couldn’t understand what that something could be, the woman seeming perfectly lovely in all aspects from looks to personality.
The other Drule males seemed to be of that same opinion. Many of them were delighting in Alexandria’s continued presence in the mansion. By the time last night’s cook out had ended, more than a handful of unattached Drule males had been competing for the priestess attention. She was causing quite a stir, a lovely Drule human hybrid that did not judge or hate the Drules for what their ancestors had done to her world and her people.
Allura was looking at Ryder now, who seemed to be glowering in response to Lotor’s comment. “It’s a terrible inconvenience.” Ryder said through grit teeth, speaking for once in basic. “You and that…woman have caused us nothing but trouble.”
“I’m sure the trouble we’ve caused is nothing compared to the inconvenience you’re causing Alexandria with your insistence she remain here.” Allura quickly retorted. “She has a life, one I’m sure didn’t need any more upheaval.”
“You should have thought of that before you insisted on spilling all with that confession of yours.” Snapped Ryder, and Allura’s expression took on an insulted look.
“I was only trying to get back to my people!” She wasn’t quite shouting now. “To do what you lot won’t.”
“Listen princess…” Ryder started to step forward, Lotor’s arm quickly shooting out to prevent the angry Drule from getting any closer to Allura. He continued to growl, glaring harder at the princess. “Do not play judgmental with me, or with anyone else here in the mansion! There are things you don’t know, the reasons behind our actions. And to act like you do know everything, just shows how ignorant you truly are!”
Allura’s mouth had fallen open with a gasp. “You….how dare you!” She exclaimed. “I don’t care what your reasons are! Running away, abandoning the rest of Doom, the rest of the galaxy to Zarkon? That is not an okay thing to do! And until you realize that, I’ll judge you all I want!”
“Allura! Ryder!” snapped Lotor, as the two glowered at each other. “Enough!”
“She has no right, Lotor!” Ryder grumbled. “No right to talk to any of us that way!”
“Don’t I?” Allura asked, her voice soft but her words no less challenging.
“Allura, drop it.” Lotor ordered, which drew her angry gaze to him now. “I have to speak to Ryder now. Go on to the dining room. We’ll catch up soon enough.”
“You’re trusting me to go there by myself?” She was angry, her surprise coming out snide sounding.
“Yes, I’m trusting you.” Lotor emphasized the word. “Allura, I don’t want to have to keep you locked up, or under constant guard. Please don’t put my trust into question, by trying to escape.”
She was staring at him, searching his gaze as though Allura still didn’t believe in the trust he was showing her. “All right.” Allura sighed them. “I’ll wait for you in the dining room.”
“Try not to get lost on your way to it.” Ryder was snide, his meaning clear. The Drule didn’t trust that Allura wouldn’t take a detour, that she wouldn’t try to find some way to escape the mansion, or get away long enough to send a message to Arus.
“I think I can manage that much.” Allura had turned haughty, head held high as she walked past both Drules. Lotor stood in the doorway, watching her head towards the staircase at the end of the hall. Ryder wasn’t content to wait, the man immediately speaking in Drule to him.
“Why didn’t you tell me you’ve been here before?”
Lotor didn’t so much as flinch, his eyes still on the retreating figure of Allura. “Didn’t think it would matter.”
“Didn’t think it would matter?!” Ryder’s voice exploded into a shout, the sound causing Allura to turn around startled. Lotor smiled reassuringly at her, waving for her to
continue on her way. She gave an uncertain look towards Ryder, as though Allura couldn’t believe the man hadn’t erupted into violence yet.
“Calm yourself, or Allura will become even more suspicious than she already is.” Lotor told him, his tone so quiet in response to Ryder’s raised voice.
“That girl is too nosy for her own damn good.” Grumbled Ryder in a soft tone. Allura gave them one more look, before turning back to the staircase.
“It’s part of her charm.” Lotor defended, then smiled. “Did you see how she reacted? It’s more than curiosity. She wanted to make sure you weren’t going to attack me.”
“I have a good mind to punch you.” Ryder retorted, hardly impressed by what Lotor had observed. “Lotor, why did you lie about this place?”
“I told no lies.” Allura had already disappeared down the staircase, so Lotor turned to look at Ryder.
“It was a lie of omission!” Ryder snapped with a glower. “You purposefully kept quiet that you’ve been to this planet before. That you’ve stayed in this very mansion. You made it sound like it had been decades since the Drule last came to this world! That this is a world that was supposed to be abandon by Zarkon!”
“And it is.”
“He was here as recent as nineteen years ago! That doesn’t sound as abandoned or as forgotten as I would like!” Ryder retorted.
“He’s not going to suddenly put in a surprise visit here, if that’s what you’re worried about.” Lotor told him. “Simestia is the last world Zarkon wants to bother with. It’s been that way since she died….”
“Your mother…” Ryder’s voice has quieted out of respect. “That’s another thing…” He said, after Lotor nodded. “Why would you agree to come back to this place, this mansion specifically? With all the bad memories here…”
“I see Allura’s not the only one the priestess has been running her mouth off too….” Lotor grumbled darkly.
“In this case I’m glad. I know you, Lotor. I know how you like to keep things bottled in. You’d make damn sure not to tell anyone all that has happened to you. And that can’t be healthy.” Ryder sighed, and ran a hand through his blue and black hair. “You let that shit poison you. You keep it bottled up inside, determined not to share the worst of it.”
“I don’t want anyone’s pity.”
“Yeah, I get that. So instead you let everyone believe what they want about you. That you are as bad as that monster Zarkon. You let them build up this horrible reputation for you, and then you just sit back and let them attack you. It’s something I’ve watched you do for over ten years now! And I for one am sick of it!” Ryder exclaimed, his face twisting into a grimace.
“What do you want me to do!?” demanded Lotor. “If they won’t pity me, then they’ll laugh at me.”
“Sure, some might laugh, but those are the people who shouldn’t matter.” Ryder sighed, then tried a new tactic. “Do you think Allura would laugh to hear everything? Do you honestly believe she’s that kind of woman? Because if she is, I’ll be the first to tell you to kick her aside, and find someone infinitely more worthwhile.”
“No, I don’t believe she’s like that.” Lotor told him. “I think she’s too kind hearted a person to ever laugh at another’s suffering. Allura’s the kind of person who emphasizes too strongly with others….look at how she reacted just hearing a few of the stories of Zarkon’s cruelty.”
“I heard she had a screaming fit.” Ryder said quietly.
“It was a lot to take in, given what she’s probably hiding of her own trauma.” Lotor sighed. “She’s got this strong inner strength about her, but sometimes I think even Zarkon is too much for her to withstand.”
“The things Zarkon does is too much for any one person to withstand.” Ryder reminded him. “Look, can’t say I think you being in this mansion is a good thing. Especially given the memories associated with this place. But….if it starts to get too much for you, and you feel you can’t share with Allura, well know that I’ll always be here to lend an ear.”
“Just like the old days, eh?” Lotor flashed a half hearted smile.
“Not quite.” Ryder retorted. “I didn’t have to beat the truth out of you first….”
“As if you could ever win against me in a fair fight.” Lotor let out a genuine laugh.
“Who said I’d fight fair?” Ryder demanded with a scowl.
“I’d like to think you’ve matured somewhat in the ten years I’ve known you.” Lotor said. “That the Drule Academy did something right in teaching you about fairness and honor.”
“Yeah, they did.” Ryder sighed. “I’ve come a long way from that suicidal fourteen year old spoiling for fights….”
“That you have.” Lotor agreed. “We’ve all been through some changes..”
“Some of haven’t been through enough!” Muttered Ryder, then sighed. “Lotor, you’re still the same as that kid. Still hiding from what was done from you. Still willing to take a beating from those whose true problems lie with what your father has done.”
Lotor had no ready answer in reply to what Ryder had just said. The dark haired Drule had hit on an awful truth, Lotor feeling as though in some way he still was that abused fourteen year old who had entered the Drule Military Academy. Hiding his scars, and taking upon him the hate and animosity of those who could not understand that he too shared the pain of what Zarkon did. What Zarkon continued to do.
Ryder hadn’t been the first student to attack Lotor. There had been others, coming at him in groups. Boys who were nothing more than frightened children, upset over the things that had been done to their families. Lotor was not only a convenient target, he was an accessible one. An infinitely less intimidating target for the boys’ rage. They would have never raised a hand to Zarkon, would never have even voiced their upset to the mighty king. But a young prince, on his own, free of his father’s reach and the guards of the castle? Oh how they had relished attacking him.
Ryder should have never stood out in a sea of many, the boy holding a grudge just as bad as any other Drule that had chosen to attack Lotor. But as angry as that young Ryder had been, even he still had retained some compassion when he saw the scars on Lotor’s back. Even ten years later, Lotor could remember the shocked gasps, the boys all stopping what they were doing to stare at him. To stare at what his torn uniform had revealed. Lotor never forgot that shame, never forgot the many varied looks he had received. There had been horror there, along with pity, and even a few that thought it funny. Ryder had been one of the few to actually offer an apology, backing off him with an unreadable expression.
It would be months later before Lotor would understand the emotions Ryder had been struggling with that day. It would take that long for them to form any semblance of a friendship, Lotor unable and unwilling to trust, and Ryder uncomfortable to share what he himself had been through. The things Zarkon had done to Ryder and his family, the horrors Ryder had been reacting to by taking vengeance out on the only person he thought mattered to the King. Ryder had been deluded, thinking by hurting Lotor, he was somehow making Zarkon pay. It was just sad fact that to the King, not even his own son mattered, or was spared his abuse.
At the Drule Military Academy, every year after started the same. New recruits arriving, and recognizing Lotor. Wanting to beat him, hurt him, even kill him for the things Zarkon was doing to their people. But the years after that first one, didn’t have the same outcome. Lotor had not only Ryder, but a multitude of friends, allies who had come to understand the prince was different from the King. For every group of new students that wanted to attack Lotor, there was a larger group ready and willing to even out the odds in a brawl.
He’d impress upon those that once viewed him as a target and enemy, his true character. Even those that hated him for simply being born of Zarkon’s blood, found themselves reluctantly coming to admire the prince. Some of the very Drules that had once tried to torment Prince Lotor, were now present here on Simestia. They were bonded to each, brothers who endured not only the rigors of the Drule Military Academy, but suffered loss and abuse at Zarkon’s hands.
“It’s not a problem.” Lotor finally said. “As far as the rest of the galaxy is concerned, I’m dead. I won’t have to be Zarkon’s whipping boy any longer.” Ryder seemed to fidget besides him, looking as though he had something more to say. But when Lotor tried to question him, the dark haired Drule merely shook his head no. Whatever it was, it was something Ryder didn’t think important enough to reveal.
“Come on.” Lotor said, gesturing for Ryder to follow him. “It’s time we join the others, and get some breakfast.”
Ryder gave a weak sounding laugh. “We’ll be lucky if there’s anything left by this time.”
Lotor couldn’t even manage a chuckle, still thinking about that which was better off forgotten. The memories weren’t content to be shoved aside, chasing after Lotor as he made his way down the staircase. The memories would stir restlessly, imposing themselves on him even minutes later when he walked into the dining room. The conversations did not stop at his entrance. The people gathered in the room glanced up at him with warm, welcoming expressions. Allura was one of them, the princess locking concerned eyes with him. Lotor smiled back at her, fervently hoping his own eyes didn’t betray how haunted he felt in the moment.