She found him outside, Lotor still enjoying the tranquil beauty of her gardens, leaning not on his crutch but against the sturdy base of a tree. His eyes were half closed, Lotor seeming to bask in the sunlight that filtered in through the tree’s foliage. It didn’t seem right that Lotor seemed so at peace when her emotions were in turmoil, when planet Zegabob had been destroyed through his inaction.
The wrongness of it all translated into her voice, her tortured shout disturbing the quiet of the gardens. A flock of sparrows took offense at her cry, the little brown birds with the red tips on their wings, taking off for the sky. Allura barely noticed this, already running towards Lotor, who had snapped open his eyes, and was looking at her with a wary look.
He had a right to that look, Allura not stopping until she was standing before him. Even with her legs stilled, her anger and sense of helplessness translated into action, her right arm raising, hand moving super fast. It ended with a resounding slap across Lotor’s face, Allura putting all her strength and anger into that blow. Lotor’s head was rocked to the side, and for a second neither one spoke, Allura breathing heavily.
“What was that for?!” Lotor demanded at last, slowly turning to look at her. His eyes were angry, he hadn’t liked that she had hit him.
“For Zegabob!” Allura retorted, eyes flashing with her rage. “For all those innocent people that died at the hands of the Keraclon!”
“Zegabob?” She saw that he didn’t understand, and that made her angrier.
“It’s a planet!” She informed him. “It housed the Alliance hospital we brought you to. And now it’s gone! Those people will never get the chance to help anyone again, and it’s all your fault!”
“So now I am responsible for the Keraclon’s actions?!” Lotor demanded, and she snapped out an insistent yes.
“You are when it’s you that they came searching for!” She was practically snarling then, voice still so loud it must be gaining attention from inside the castle. The guard that had accompanied Lotor to the gardens shifted, an uncomfortable expression on his face. “And not only for that!” Allura added. “If you had just told us what we wanted, needed to know, Zegabob might have been able to fight off the Keraclon. Those senseless deaths might not have happened. It’s all your fault Lotor, all your fault!”
Her hands had curled into fists, and now she brought them down on his chest, leaning into him as she beat his flesh mercilessly. Lotor winced for a second, his good arm raising, hand grabbing her by the shoulder to hold her at bay.
“I’m not the only one to blame for this.” Lotor pointed out, and she heard a commotion from behind her. She didn’t turn, instinct telling her it was Coran and the Voltron Force, the group having finally caught up to her. “If anything, it’s as much YOUR fault as it is mine.”
“My fault?!” She gasped, her shock apparent in her expression.
“Yes.” Lotor nodded, ignoring the protests the Voltron Force had started to voice. “If you had only agreed to marry me sooner, then Zegabob’s tragedy could have been avoided.”
“You’re blaming me?!” Her jaw dropped at that, Allura hearing comments from her friends.
“The princess is not at fault for this!” Hunk exclaimed.
“Yeah!” The ever loyal Pidge vocalized his agreement. “She’d never let the Keraclon have their way if she could help stop it…”
“Ah but she could stop it…She just doesn’t like the price she’ll have to pay.” Lotor pointed out.
“Can’t exactly blame her for not wanting to be tied to you.” Lance retorted. “Especially not with something as permanent as marriage!”
Allura had stopped trying to hit Lotor, just staring at him, her shock almost overriding her anger. Lotor kept right on gripping her shoulder, his distrust of her emotional outbursts apparent. “Don’t you even care?” She finally asked, eyes imploring him to show something, some tiny morsel of concern or regret.
He did not, Lotor cool as he answered. “Zegabob was an Alliance world, was it not? That alone makes it not my concern.”
Allura cried out, wrenching herself free of his restraining grip. She both wanted to hit him and spit in his face, Allura despairing at the confirmation of his uncaring nature. “How can you be so…so unaffected by what had happened?! Lotor, they were looking for YOU! The Keraclon wanted you, and they didn’t care who they had to kill to get you!”
“Do you want me to lie? Tell you pretty untruths to ease your suffering?” Lotor asked, his eyes looking so alien and unfeeling in the moment. “I can do that, but it won’t change a thing. Zegabob is gone, just another planet for the Keraclon to abuse and abandon. No amount of regret will change that!”
“You’re an unfeeling monster!” Allura snapped, Lotor hardly looking bothered by her insults.
“Hardly. Just a practical one.”
“Prince Lotor…” Coran’s turn to speak. “Please…the stakes have been risen. Your enemy is our enemy, and we must work together to stop them. Won’t you tell us what you know? Now before any more lives are wasted?”
“Well, Coran, that all depends on Allura, doesn’t it?” Lotor locked gazes with her, and Allura could only thank the Gods that he didn’t choose to smirk at her in that moment. She might have killed him then and there, beat him to death with his own crutch, his knowledge be damned.
“On the princess?” She could practically hear the frown in Pidge’s voice. “You’re not still gonna try to make her marry you?!”
“Lotor, you’re taking this too far!” added Lance. “Lives are at stake….”
“Lives always were at stake.” Lotor retorted. “Only now even more so with the Keraclon on the move.”
“I hate you!” whispered Allura, glaring into Lotor’s eyes. Nothing showed in them, the prince shielding his emotions well.
“You can grow to love me.”
“That will never happen!” She swore, and fought to keep from hitting him with her fists again. “WE’LL never happen!”
“So that’s a no then?” Lotor inquired, tone mild. “Ah no matter, I can wait. I have after all, an infinite amount of impatience when it comes to you Allura.” He took his crutch from it’s spot against the tree, and moved past Allura. She didn’t try to stop him, just shaking violently in his wake.
“A moment your highness…” Coran spoke, still trying to be respectful to the prince. “I’m not sure you’re aware of how grave the situation is…”
“I understand perfectly Coran.” Lotor answered, Allura turning slowly to look their way.
“I don’t think you do!” Coran responded insistently. “It shouldn’t take long for the Keraclon to figure out where you are. They’ll turn their search to Arus…bringing their brand of devastation with them. Do you want that?”
“No.” admitted Lotor.
“Then tell us what you know!” interjected an impatient Lance.
Lotor flashed the brown haired pilot a dismissive look, glancing back towards Allura. “Tick tock Allura, time is running out.”
She screamed then, and it was Hunk that caught her, the pilot of yellow lion preventing her from lunging towards Lotor. She had never hated as strongly as she did in the moment, Allura wanting to kill Lotor. He watched her struggle against Hunk’s hold, Allura taking in a deep breath, it and her words expelling from her in a heated hiss.
“I wish I had left you to die!”
Coran was nervous, trying to keep some semblance of peace. “Ah, do forgive her. She…doesn’t mean it. It’s only the upset over learning about Zegabob that makes her highness speak to you in that way.”
“No, Coran, she means it.” Lotor retorted. “Allura’s never been one to speak falsehoods.” Head shaking, Lotor turned away, limping towards the door that lead out of the gardens. The instant he and his guard had vanished, Allura sagged in Hunk’s arms, his hold going from restraining to supportive, the princess fighting back tears.
“I hate him!” She whispered hoarsely. “I really do.”
“None of us are exactly fond of Prince Lotor.” Lance pointed out, and that almost got a snicker of broken sounding laughter from Allura.
“Our feelings can’t change what is happening.” Noted Coran. “As much as I regret saying this, you may have to marry Prince Lotor…” He barely got the words out, the Voltron Force all crying out a no, Allura’s voice the loudest of all. “I’m sorry!” exclaimed Coran, an apologetic look on his face. “But I am thinking of the good of Arus. Lotor’s presence here puts us in danger, even now the Keraclon travel.”
“We should just send him away!” Pidge grumbled. “Stick him in a prison somewhere.”
“Wherever he goes, that world will be endangered!” pointed out Hunk. “Zegabob was a target just for harboring Lotor for a few days…”
“Which means Arus will be on their hit list, regardless if he stays here or not.” A miserable Allura said.
“I think we should send him to Doom.” Suggested Lance. “Let the Keraclon wiped out Lotor and that God forsaken world!”
“And all the innocent slaves too?” asked Allura, and Lance had the grace to look embarrassed.
“Well no…I wasn’t thinking…not of them…” He admitted with a sigh.
“The problem is…” Pidge drew their attention to him, the boy looking disgruntled. “The Keraclon will assume Lotor is telling everyone he encounters the secret to their defeat. They’ll attack Arus assuming we already know…”
“Then it’s hopeless…” sighed Allura, still leaning on Hunk for his arm’s strong support.
“It looks that way.” Hunk said quietly.
“What are my options…to face a fate worse than death, or to let the Keraclon annihilate my people?” Allura mused out loud, pleased she didn’t so much as sob one time.
“You’ll have to make a decision and soon.” Coran gravely noted. “If we are going to enter into a union with Doom, I want to have an iron clad treaty set in place to protect our people.”
“We’ve got bigger concerns than that at the moment.” Pidge said.
“What do you mean?” A frowning Lance asked.
“Well, the weapon, whatever it is….” Pidge was nervously adjusting his glasses, sliding them back up his nose. “It will take time to mass produce it. The sooner Lotor talks, the better so we can have our lions and ships equipped with it.” He sighed then, expression regretful. “Lotor wasn’t that far off the mark when he said time is running out for us.”
“Damn it!” Lance snapped, expression angry in the moment. “I’d like to kill that bastard with my bare hands!”
“You’d have to get in line Lance.” Hunk retorted. “I’ve been hankering for the chance to give him my own five knuckle sandwich special.”
Allura almost smiled at that, finding she was greatly cheered at the thought of Lotor suffering such abuse at her friends’ hands. But the more pressing matter of the decision she had to make, was looming over her. It darkened her thoughts, and made her grow increasingly depressed. “What’s Keith’s status now?”
“Still sifting through the rubble on Zegabob.”
“As much as I hate to say this, it’s probably a wasted effort to continue looking for survivors.” Allura said. “Please…ask him to continue his search for the Drule outpost…..”
“You’re still hoping to find it?” A surprised Lance exclaimed.
“I don’t know if I have enough in me left to hope for anything.” Allura admitted. “But we have to try, don’t we? I can’t just give in to Lotor without making an effort to explore our other options.”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right…” Lance nodded in agreement.
“In any case, Coran I want you to secretly start preparing the paperwork for a potential alliance between Arus and Doom. Whatever happens, we can’t allow Doom to make use of Voltron.” continued Allura, straightening so that Hunk released her from his hold.
“I’ll make it my number one priority.” Assured Coran. Allura nodded, already moving, past him and her friends and towards the door that led into the castle. They watched her, but made no move to follow, Allura having the feeling they intended to continue talking once she was gone. She knew they were concerned about her, the situation Lotor forced them into leaving them all agitated and on edge.
As she reached the door, she turned back, looking not at her friends, but at the garden itself. There was so many happy memories here, Allura recalling how she had helped to plant many of the seeds with her own hands. The garden had been destroyed once, but she had help rebuild it, perhaps making it even more beautiful than the original one had been.
It had always been her joy, her pride, the key to her peace of mind. But now she took no comfort from it, Allura realizing the garden was just one more thing Lotor had ruined with his presence. She hoped and prayed the rest of her life wouldn’t be similarly ruined, but Allura was rapidly losing faith in that, her future already seeming sealed, marriage to Prince Lotor looming on the horizon.