Enemy 22

Her arms were still around him, still full of Lotor. He had collapsed against her, giving himself over to the hug and the emotions he had fought so hard against. He didn’t cry, never that, but he did shake. His whole body shook, as though the trembling was the only outlet he had left to him. Perhaps it was the only way he knew how to grieve, the only way that didn’t translate into sex or violence.

Whatever the case, Allura held him, her arms tight around him. Letting him know she was there, and that she wasn’t about to let go of him so long as Lotor was in need. Even when his full weight became too much, feeling as though he might crush her with his body, Allura endured. His head ended up buried in the crook of her right shoulder, as though he could no longer bear to look at her. Or maybe Lotor simply couldn’t handle seeing his own face reflected in her eyes.

She couldn’t fault him if that was the case. The raw emotion in his eyes, the depth of his grief had been painful for her to look at. But she had refused to turn away. He was suffering, and needed her comfort. That much she could give Lotor. And so they stayed like this, for what felt like an eternity. The floor biting uncomfortably into her back though Allura did not complain. She could endure it for as long as Lotor needed, and even when her arms began to tire, she kept right on holding him.

They never spoke. Lotor seemed incapable of speech in the moment. And Allura? She didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t ruin the moment. To claim it would be all right would be a half truth at best. How could anything be all right again when the Keraclon had destroyed so many worlds in a matter of a week’s time? When they still existed, and stalked the galaxy, any world ready to fall victim to the Keraclon next?

They must have stayed on the floor for hours. Even once Lotor stopped trembling, he didn’t move to disentangle himself from her. He became so still, Allura thought he might have fallen asleep, and she wondered if her nearness would be enough to keep nightmares from haunting him. Allura knew that the nightmares wouldn’t stay away forever, no matter what she tried to do. His pain and his guilt would need an outlet, and when Lotor did sleep, he would be at his most vulnerable. But for tonight she prayed he wouldn’t be troubled, that at least in dreams he could find peace.

She was ready to settle down and relax beneath him. It had been an emotionally tiring day. But when her arms started to loosen their hold on him, Lotor spoke. “Don’t…” His voice was hoarse, as though it had gotten that way from screaming. But any screams had been held in, Lotor unable to voice his pain. “Don’t let go.”

She considered his words, how desperate that plea was. He wasn’t commanding in the moment, just earnest in his need. Allura tightened her arms once more around him, her voice whisper soft as she set out to reassure him. “I won’t.”

He didn’t relax, holding himself stiff against her. Allura didn’t know what comfort he was taking from her, if anything she was doing was actually helping him. But she couldn’t view this as a waste of her time. It certainly wasn’t a waste of Lotor’s, the Drule needing something from her. Would he have accepted this comfort from anyone else? She didn’t think so. It wasn’t a self conceited thought, Allura was certain Lotor would have refused to appear so vulnerable to anyone else. For all their difficulties, all the problems and animosity of their relationship, Lotor trusted her enough to let down his guard. Anyone else and he really would have exploded, the release of his pent up emotions ending in violence, maybe even a death.

Was one moment, even as extended as it was, enough to keep Lotor from such violence in the coming days? Allura did not know about that. The people onboard this ship would have to tread carefully around him. They would have to be sympathetic to his needs, but not overtly so. Too much of it would seem like pity, and a proud man like Lotor would never accept that.

She began to shift beneath him, never breaking the embrace, but trying to somehow ease into a more comfortable position. Lotor wasn’t touching her with his hand, he was content to just lay against her as she did all the holding. He made a protesting sound at her movement, and Allura held in a sigh. “I’m not going anywhere…” She assured him, trying to figure out how to reposition them without releasing her arm’s hold. “It’s just…here….sit up…”

He made a questioning sound, Lotor slow to respond to her attempts to move them both upright. She wouldn’t get very far without his cooperation, Allura shifting about as best she could. “You’re heavy…” She finally pointed out. “And you’ve been on top of me for a long while now…”

“I’m crushing you.” He had lifted his head to look at her, understanding dawning in his eyes.

“Maybe just a little…” He instantly went to sit up, a chagrined look on his face. Since Allura’s arms were still around him, she was pulled along with Lotor’s movements. If the mood hadn’t been so serious, his pain so apparent, this might have earned her laughter. Instead Allura set about to getting comfortable, moving so that she ended up straddling Lotor’s lap. She never once broke her hug, and Lotor tentatively put his hand on the small of her back to steady her. “Better.” Allura announced, and Lotor could only nod in agreement. He still didn’t look ready to talk, and Allura didn’t press him to. She just lay her head against his chest, the sound of his heart’s beating a low thump in her ear.

She wondered what was going through his mind as they sat like this. Was his thoughts fully focused on the tragedy that had befallen Doom and it’s people? Was he looking for someone to blame? Was that blame turned in on himself? Or was he more revenge minded than anything, calming himself with thoughts on how he would make the Keraclon pay?

She felt him relax further, Lotor sagging against the wall. When she shifted enough to look up at him, he wasn’t staring at her. Instead he stared at the wall opposite them, his eyes showing how distant his thoughts really were. Allura knew there was nothing she could really say in the moment, nothing that wouldn’t make the pain worse. There was the sad fact that part of what happened to Doom was Lotor’s own fault. And all because he had kept quiet for his own selfish gains. Was marrying her truly worth the loss of his planet? Allura didn’t think so. And by the depth of the pain Lotor had shown her, she had a feeling he didn’t think his gain worth the loss he had suffered.

She lowered her head back to his chest, and even though her arms were getting tired of maintaining the hug, Allura voiced no protests. They might have stayed for hours like this, but then Lotor broke the silence. “Doom….Doom was wrong.”

It was a surprising thing for her to hear him say, and Allura lifted her eyes with a sound. “Eh?”

“About keeping the secret of the vaccine our scientists had developed.” He explained. He still didn’t look at her though, eyes locked onto a spot on the wall behind her. “If we hadn’t been so insistent on keeping the vaccine from falling into the Alliance’s hands…maybe…” Allura said nothing, just letting him puzzle out the what ifs for himself. He sighed, the sound deep and exhausted. “The scientists should have forwarded their findings to Doom immediately.” He decided. “Damn the risk of the transmissions being intercepted by other worlds…! If the transmission had gone through to Doom, they would have been able to mass produce the vaccine…inject it into our soldiers….Doom would have stood a chance against the Keraclon then….”

“You shouldn’t really torment yourself with the what ifs…” Allura advised. His eyes flashed, but she couldn’t read the emotion he guarded against. “Lotor, you…”

“Is it a torment when it’s the truth I speak of?” Lotor demanded. “We should have sent the details of the vaccine straight to Doom, not bothered with such secrecy! Who cares if the Alliance had learned of the vaccine…Doom would have been safe…the galaxy would have been safe! Now instead, Doom is gone, other worlds are in danger…the only hope for the galaxy lies in my blood and the ability your scientists have to decipher the secrets within it…It would have been better to risk everyone knowing, then to let Doom be destroyed….”

“It’s too late for Doom, yes….but…It’s not too late for the galaxy. Your blood is the key to the Denubian’s salvation. We just have to keep believing—to keep hoping that the vaccine’s properties will be discovered before it’s too late.”

“Hope…” His tone turned bitter then. “What use is hope now….?”

“Sometimes hope is all we have left.” Allura pointed out. “And to give up on hope now….is to give up on everything.” Lotor’s look was bleak. It was as though he had lost all hope when he had seen the destruction of his home world. “Lotor…”

“Is that what keeps you going Allura?” He asked quietly. “Hope…?”

“It usually is.” She confirmed. “It’s how I survived the loss of my parents, my people’s freedom, the war between our planets…I still hope, even after all that has happened, that good will win out at the end of the day.” He was quiet, seeming to just take in her words. “It is my hope that has me believe that we will win against the Keraclon. I believe that our scientists will be able to replicate the vaccine.”

“That will take time.” Pointed out Lotor. “And the Keraclon have proved they will not wait for that. What world will be the next victim of their wrath? Arus…” She shivered at that, her very soul chilled at the thought of her beloved Arus ending up like Doom. “Doom wasn’t the only wrong…” His next words appeared to struggle out of him, as though the prince wasn’t used to admitting he could be at fault for something. “I was too. I was…selfish and inconsiderate…I shouldn’t have forced you to play to my demands. I should have given you the secret I carried….It might not have been enough to save Zegabob, but the other worlds….MY world…maybe…”

He didn’t notice at first that she said nothing. But when it became apparent that she would remain silent, no accusations or attempts to soothe him, Lotor frowned. “Nothing to say Allura?” She just shrugged, which actually got him to scowl. “Come now…this doesn’t suit you. Surely you agree with what I am saying…I am at fault here….everything that has happened, that will happen…it’s all because of me…Because I wanted you that badly…”

“I…I don’t think agreeing with you…or claiming what you say as false will help matters.” She answered at last. “Neither course is what you need right now…”

For some reason that angered him, his eyes flashing with emotion. “Oh? And what do I need?” He demanded, his lips close to sneering. It almost got Allura to let go of him. She was taken aback by this new emotion, but it wasn’t as shocking as it could have been. She expected him to run through a gamut of emotions, to go from feeling one thing to another. Just as she had expected him to lash out when it got to be too much.

When he realized she wasn’t going to respond, his eyes narrowed. “I don’t want or need your pity Allura.” As though to illustrate those words, his hand dropped away from her back.

“It’s not pity…” Allura blurted out, her own arms loosening as she felt how stiff with displeasure Lotor had gone. “It’s not…” She insisted.

“Then what is it?” Lotor demanded, voice harsh.

“I feel for you Lotor…” Allura began, and ignored the bitter sound he made. “I sympathize with your pain….I want to make you hurt less…that’s not the same as pity…it’s nowhere in the same league!”

That confused him. Enough so some of his anger dulled. “Why?” He whispered. “Why do you care?”

She wanted to look away from him, from the probing intensity of his gaze. But when she tried to look down, Lotor’s hand caught her chin. He forced her to stare into his eyes as she answered him. “I…I’ve never been one to turn away from those in need. No matter who they are.”

“Or even what they have done?” questioned Lotor. Allura nodded, and saw his eyes flash again. “So you’re telling me, you’d offer yourself like this to anyone…anyone at all….all out of the goodness of your heart?” His expression had hardened, Lotor didn’t like the thought of that. She wondered just what he thought she was offering to be so bothered by it.

“It’s not in my nature to ignore someone’s suffering.” She finally said. “Not even yours Lotor…”

“How kind of you…” He was cold then, shrugging out of her embrace to stand. She would have fallen to the floor if she hadn’t scrambled off his lap in time.

“What did you want me to say?” She demanded, kneeling on the floor. “That I feel something for you that I do not?” Allura watched as Lotor ran his good hand through his hair, the action agitated.

“We have a connection Allura…”

“The only connection we have…is one you forced.” She reminded him then. “This marriage wasn’t one of my choosing…”

“I know that!” he interrupted! “I manipulated things until I got my way. But I thought…”

“Thought what?” He just shrugged in response to her question. Allura sighed. “Don’t confuse my empathy for something else…don’t think because of what has happened…that I feel something for you that I don’t. Nothing has changed Lotor…nothing at all…”

“I’ve changed.” He snapped. She shook her head, and he persisted. “I have!”

“That still remains to be seen.” Tiredly, she got off of her knees. “You’ve received a blow…one that could devastate a weaker man. How you cope with it in the coming days….weeks…that will be the true test. You may emerge from this experience a different man….but you may also just retain your old ways. I can’t predict the future, anymore than you can…neither one of us can know if you’ll really have learned anything from Doom’s tragedy.”

“I have. I’ll prove it to you…somehow…” But Lotor sounded uncertain then.

“Just concentrate on coping with your loss for now.” Allura told him, and turned towards the door. She stopped when he called out her name, but didn’t move to look at him. “Yes, Lotor?”

“Is this how you felt when you learned about Zegabob?”

It was a yes and no answer for a complicated question. “I think my upset about Zegabob can’t possibly compare to the pain of your loss.” She said. “Zegabob wasn’t my world, wasn’t the land I grew up on. I didn’t know even a quarter of the people there…Lotor, everyone’s pain is different. Everyone’s reaction to tragedy is their own to have. I may not like you most of the time, but I am sorry you’re suffering.”

With that said, she walked out of the room. Lotor didn’t try to stop her this time, letting the door slide shut behind Allura. She nearly leaned back against it when she sighed, knowing the pain she felt wasn’t anywhere on par for the suffering Lotor was currently enduring.

This part of the ship was empty, no one around in the corridors. She wondered if the crew even knew she had been to Lotor’s room. She thought probably not, else they would have come running at the first sound of trouble. Allura still remembered how he had growled, how violently Lotor had reacted when she tried to make him eat. She knew it could have been worse, and was glad she was able to calm him. If only for a while.

Another sigh, her shoulder sagging, Allura forced herself to walk away from Lotor’s room. She could see the lights of hyperspace through the windows that lined one
side of the corridor. Somewhere amidst those lights was the other two Arusian battle ships, flying as close as possible to escort their princess home. Allura wondered what would be waiting for them once they emerged from hyperspace. Would Lance have found Keith? She fervently hoped so, wanting black and red lion and their pilots returned home.

As she walked, she noticed her reflection. Face sad, her hair was badly in disarray. Whole segments falling free of her once tidy bun. Lotor hadn’t been careful when he had grabbed at her hair, and Allura stopped now to take down the remains of her bun. She had the last of the pins in her hands, when a door opened. She didn’t turn in that direction, not until the footsteps approached her.

The man’s image reflected in the window’s glass. She vaguely recognized him as one of the interns working under one of those scientists. But for the life of her, she couldn’t remember his name. He waited until she turned, and then was giving her a deep bow. His bangs fell forward to obscure his eyes, but not before she caught sight of the excitement coloring the green.

“What is it?” She asked, not wanting to feed into the hope that was trying to flare inside her. “What’s happened?”

“You must come quickly, your highness!” He said, straightening. “Dr. Aubergine and the other scientists are waiting for you.

“They’ve found something, haven’t they?” Allura asked. But she didn’t move, staring at him as though waiting for what little hope she had to be dashed.

“Yes.” He confirmed, and the excitement bubbled out of him. “They think they have managed to replicate the vaccine!”

If Allura would have been holding anything, she would have dropped it for sure. Instead she took a step back, staggered by the news. Her back hit the glass of the wall, Allura thought she might faint from relief. The man put out a hand, and then thought better of touching her. Allura straightened once more, then nodded at him to lead the way. For now all thoughts and concerns for Prince Lotor were put aside, Allura anxious and eager to see firsthand the results of the scientists’ hard work.

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