It was a deep sleep Allura fell into. So deep that she didn’t dream. Or if she did, they were scattered fragments that had no focus and little significance. Certainly nothing that was worthy of retaining once she was awake. It was rather a relief to awake with no dreams or nightmares chasing her into consciousness. Allura knew she had been lucky, her dreams could have been haunted. Both by the battle she had just taken part in, and the decisions she had been making just moments before collapsing.
Allura knew it wouldn’t always be that way. The elimination of an entire race, even if that people was as evil as the Keraclon, was not one that was easy. It would weigh heavy on her mind and her heart, her soul burdened by what she would advise the Galaxy Alliance to do. She felt guilt, even as Allura was sure this was the only course left to them.
She let out a sigh, as her eyes began to flutter open. It was dark in her room. No one had bothered to tie back her curtains to allow the sunlight inside. It was then she wondered what time it was, Allura hoping she hadn’t been asleep for longer than normal. Especially now that she had so much to do! But she knew it would be just like her friends to insist she get as much rest as possible, more concerned for her well being than any work she had to do.
She sighed slowly, torn between smiling with fondness and frowning with annoyance. In the end the frown won, and a voice that was startling in it’s familiarity and nearness pointed it out.
“You’re frowning Allura.”
Any sleepiness that might have remained in her, evaporated in an instant. Allura tried to jerk up right out of bed, and found she could not. An arm was laying over her, positioned just under her breasts. That arm had made sure she couldn’t sit up, and as she turned her face she found Lotor’s head sharing her pillow. He stared at her, eyes critical as he looked her over. He seemed to be trying to determine if she had had enough sleep and wasn’t in any hurry to let her up.
“Lotor…” She blinked rapidly, noting he was shirtless again. “Wha…what are you doing in my room?!”
“I’m your husband Allura. Where else am I supposed to sleep?” He asked this in a perfectly reasonable tone. Allura found herself reacting in just the opposite way,
trying not to flush in response.
“There’s a guest room that is perfectly suitable to your needs!”
He tsked in response, and never looked away from her. “We can’t always keep separate rooms. It’s not…proper.”
“Since when do you care about being proper?” wondered a blushing Allura. She then shook her head. “Never mind. You’re only proper when it suits you…” He chuckled at that. “I can’t believe you’re here…”
“You collapsed Allura….did you think I would be content to remain far from your side?”
“Well….no. But…” She tried not to fidget under his arm, conscious that too much movement would cause it to press into her breasts. “I didn’t think the others would allow it. Especially not Nanny…”
“That maid of yours has had little to say since you slapped her.” Allura flushed again, but found she did not regret striking Nanny. “As for the others…they couldn’t have stopped me if they tried. Oh…they issued some feeble protests.” He added after a pause. “But their reasoning was flawed. We are after all married, in the eyes of the Gods, by the laws of your people and mine. They’d have no right to keep me from you.”
“I think I liked it better when you were too upset to be so…so demanding!” Allura muttered. She thought a hint of a smile played on his lips.
“Oh believe me Allura. This is hardly me at my most demanding. but then…” He inched closer to her, nuzzling his face into her hair. “You already know that.”
Was it possible for a blush to extend all the way down to one’s toes? If so, Allura was surely red all over. And all because she did know, Allura remembering how he had insisted she bring him to Arus, and then demanded she wed and bed him before he would give up his secrets.
“Ah…” She had to cough to clear her throat, finding the words stuck inside it. “Are you feeling better? About what happened…?” He stiffened in response, and Allura thought the answer was no. He might be willing to be a little playful with her, but he was still in pain. “How did you sleep?” She asked, concerned.
“Lotor!” She gasped. “You mean to tell me you were up all night?”
“Well…mostly.” He allowed, lifting his head from her hair. “I think I did manage to sleep at some point…but then the nightmares came….But mostly, I spent the night watching you.”
Again he made her flustered, and more than a bit horrified to think he had studied her while she was asleep. She hoped she didn’t do something like snore or drool! “Im really not that interesting…” She finally said, her tone more than a bit defensive.
“I think you are.” Lotor insisted. He smiled again. “You’ve always fascinated me…”
That was a new one. She knew he insisted he loved her, and others would say Lotor was obsessed with her. He had been called many things, stalker, pervert, would be kidnapper. Allura had always assumed he had been fixated on her because of her good looks. But that didn’t explain why he hadn’t felt the same way to her cousin Romelle. She knew he had treated Romelle horribly, and at one point had tried to force the princess to marry him. Lotor had explained that away as being half out of his mind with grief. In the end, when all was said and done, he had stay focused on Allura. She wasn’t sure if she should be flattered or annoyed, and she was still bothered by thoughts of his history with her cousin.
“You’re frowning again Allura.” Lotor sighed, and moved his arm. She immediately tried to sit up, only to have his hand push her down. She noted he chose to place his hand directly over her breasts, as though he couldn’t outright resist taking a feel of her. In any case, she found herself flat against the pillows, Lotor looming over her. When it became apparent she wasn’t going to try to sit up, he moved his arm. He brought his fingers to her lips, tracing over them. “I like it so much better when you smile…”
“I haven’t had much to smile about.” It was the truth. But Allura also realized since this whole adventure began, she hadn’t really smiled at Lotor. She had frowned, she had glared, she had scream and she had cried. She had argued, cursed him, wished she had left him for dead. Truth be known, she couldn’t remember ever smiling in Lotor’s presence except for maybe when they first escape the Keraclon about a week ago.
“I’m sorry for that.” He seemed sincere, Lotor’s fingers moving to caress her cheek. “I’ve know I’ve been to blame. I haven’t given you much reason to be happy…especially with me. But I want to change all that. I want to make you smile….always if possible.”
“No one can smile all the time.” She pointed out. “It’s not natural! Besides…a good marriage—good relationship has it’s ups and downs. There’s tears and sadness, in addition to smiles and happiness. Even anger…”
“I think you and I have had enough anger to last us a lifetime.”
“I think you’re right.” She agreed. “But it doesn’t mean it won’t happen again…we’re bound to have disagreements…” She gave him a pointed look. “Such as about whether or not I should be allowed out of this bed.”
He didn’t immediately let her up, Lotor actually thinking about it. “I suppose we have to get up sometime.”
“We do.” This time when she sat up, he didn’t try to stop her. “There’s much to do…things to plan, people to meet with…”
“We won’t be able to accomplish it all in one day.” Lotor reasoned. “It will take time to gather the key members of the Alliance and the Empire…”
“I know….and I have to prepare for what I will say.” She tried not to grimace, knowing she wanted action, not to be stuck with paperwork and figuring out her arguments for the Keraclon’s elimination. “Will you help me?” She asked Lotor.
“Of course.” Lotor nodded. “I’m good with arguments.” He actually smirked. “I’m good at winning them…”
“So I’ve noticed.” Allura retorted, and slid out of bed. It was then she realized she was in her frumpy purple and pink nightgown. She wondered who had dressed her, and tried to fight the irrational moment of embarrassment. It wasn’t like her husband hadn’t seen her in less than this after all!
“Ah, it wasn’t me.” Lotor gestured to his broken arm. “There was no way I would have been able to get off a uniform as skin tight as yours. Some maids saw to your undressing.” Her irrational relief faded when he added the following. “I supervised.” He laughed when she turned red faced, Allura wondering what went through the maids minds to allow this.
Coughing to cover her embarrassment, Allura hurried over to the windows. She drew back her rose pink curtains, and sunlight flooded the room. A new reason to be embarrassed filled her. This was only the second time Lotor had been inside her all too pink bedroom. She didn’t think the first time had lasted long enough for him to get a good impression of it. After all, the prince had been so intent on kidnapping her, and then fighting off her guards.
Lotor wasn’t looking around the room, but watching Allura as she moved about. She realized that while she was asleep, he had had enough time to study their surroundings to his heart’s content. She couldn’t even imagine what he thought of the room, and Allura found herself wishing she hadn’t been so overzealous in displaying her favorite color. Now the room seemed too pink, from the bedspread and pillows, to the carpet and the curtains. Even the walls were painted a subdued shade of pink, and her desk while made of wood had a rose patterned place mat on it’s top.
She was in the midst of grabbing the nearest outfit, which of course had some pink bordering an otherwise all white suit. It was then and there she made a decision. Once the whole Keraclon situation was over with, and Lotor had a secure hold on his Empire, she would overhaul her room’s motif. Glancing at her closest, she decided she could use a new wardrobe too.
“I’m just going to take a shower…” Allura announced.
“Good idea.” Lotor was casual as he rose from the bed. His borrowed pajama bottoms were slipping low on his hips. She had to advert her eyes quickly, but not before she saw the treasure trail of white hairs peering over the edge of his waistband. “I’ll take one too.”
“Me first.” Allura announced, but Lotor was heading towards her.
“We should…conserve water.”
“Arus is not in the middle of a drought.” She retorted, and all but ran to the bathroom. She’d quickly lock and bolt the door, but had a feeling if Lotor really wanted in he’d be able to break down the door, even with his injuries!
Allura took the quickest shower of her life. She dressed just as quickly, and emerged to find Lotor still not dressed. He was limping around the bedroom, his crutch laying near the bed. “Are you sure you should be walking without your crutch?”
“It’s just a twisted ankle, and it’s feeling stronger…I think a little walking will do me good…”
“I think you should get a doctor’s opinion before you decide that.” Allura frowned. “The shower is all yours.” He nodded, and limped towards the bathroom. Allura spotted his clothing folded on top of a chair by the bed. She quickly ran and got the clothing, and brought it into the bathroom. She wanted Lotor to have no excuse to walk out naked on her!
Lotor took a much more leisurely shower. He was in the bathroom so long, the maids had time to arrive and make the bed, asking Allura what she and her husband would like for lunch. They giggled but made no overt remarks and had lunch laid out on the table long before Lotor emerged from the bathroom.
“Something smells good.” Lotor said upon his exit. His hair was still wet, and slicked back. But he had put on his clothing, much to Allura’s relief. She didn’t think she could handle a naked Lotor at this time! But she also took it as a sign of his suffering that he had gotten dressed without a fuss. The Lotor she was used to would have done anything and everything to tempt her into having sex with him.
“Marie and Anna brought us lunch.” Allura gestured for him to sit down. He chose the seat besides her, rather than sit across from her. She tried to ignore the way his one leg touched hers, Allura pretending it took immense concentration to eat her toast.
“Ah, they’re good girls.” Lotor said, and immediately reached for the bacon.
Allura blinked, and stared at him. “How do you know anything about them?”
“They were one of the regulars who served me this past week on Arus. Always so respectful and quick to follow orders.”
“Oh.” She wondered why she felt relieved, nibbling furiously on her toast.
“Doctor Gorma wants to see us.” Lotor said, filling his plate with generous portions of each item.
“More blood samples?” Allura asked.
“Yes and no. He’s concerned about your collapse….”
“I was just exhausted!” Allura interrupted. “I had barely slept the night before the battle, and then the actual preparation and fighting took up so much time…” She shrugged. “I’m not surprised I collapsed.”
“Still, it concerns us all.” Lotor tasted his eggs, dipping bacon into the gooey mess. “Doctor Gorma wants to make sure it’s nothing serious.”
“Nothing serious?! Like what…?”
“There’s some concern about the possible side effects of the vaccine.” Lotor explained. “We still don’t know what if any effects the vaccines will have. On either Drule or human…” Now she felt worried, wondering if her collapse had been because of the vaccine. “He’s having everyone that survived the battle tested. He’s advised the Alliance to do the same with Garrison’s soldiers.”
Allura felt a little better to hear that she wasn’t the only one they were concerned about. She also remembered the unknown effects of the vaccine was why they weren’t sure it was a good idea for prolonged use of it. What could be okay for short term use, might have devastating effects if injected into the blood stream year after year. It was another reason why Allura felt they should kill off the Keraclon, rather than risk shooting up with something that could have deadly side effects.
“Both your scientists and the Alliance want to continue to try and replicate the vaccine exactly like the one in my blood.” Lotor continued. “The vaccine you used for this fight, while effective, still allowed some of the fear to be received. Thankfully most of the soldiers were able to ignore it, shoving it to the back of their mind. But some soldiers have been complaining that the fear had been too much for them….” He sighed. “Those are the same soldiers who fled rather than fight the Keraclon.”
Allura hadn’t even realized that some soldiers had run from the battle. She let the surprise show in her eyes. “I didn’t think the fear was that bad…”
“Then they are natural born cowards who needed only a little push to flee at the first sign of trouble.” Lotor looked disgusted now.
“Maybe…or maybe they never had experience with fear of that nature.” Allura was willing to try and defend them, to try and see all reasons for their behavior on the battlefield.
Lotor snorted, hardly amused. “There’s another concern.”
“The vaccine you’ve been injected with….we don’t know if it will be safe to inject another version of it into you, before the year is up.”
“It’s fine.” Allura assured him. “The vaccine that’s in me….it was enough to allow me to fight effectively. I was able to withstand the Keraclon’s fear waves. I don’t need a stronger, or better version.”
“Ideally, I’d prefer it if you never faced the Keraclon again.” He grumbled when she shook her head.
“I’m going to have to. No matter what the Alliance decides, one way or another, I will have to fight the Keraclon. If not to kill them entirely, then to defend Arus and other worlds from them.” Allura tried to think what might cheer him up. “You can fight to, once your injuries are healed.”
“And I intend too!” Lotor exclaimed. “Provided there are some left for me to battle…” He didn’t quite smirk then, still too ill at ease with her insistence to fight the Keraclon. “It seems my wife is eager to wipe them all out before I can lift a finger to help…”
“I don’t enjoy killing.” She told him, tone quiet. “But the Keraclon…are making it a necessity…”
“I’m just surprised.” Lotor admitted. “I never thought you could be so ruthless.”
She flushed. It was an angry kind of embarrassment that filled her. “I don’t like having to be. But what else can I do?”
“I didn’t mean it as an insult.” Lotor said quickly. She wasn’t mollified, not liking that he admired this ruthless side of her. He pushed away his plate, and reached for her hand. “Allura…do be sure this is what you want to do….”
“The course you are about to set on…it’s one that won’t be able to be reversed…..” He gazed into her eyes, expression serious. “To kill off an entire race of beings…it will weigh heavy on your soul. It will change you….and not for the better.”
“I never thought you’d be the Keraclon’s advocate. Especially after what they did to your home world.”
“Oh, I’m never in favor of saving their miserable lives.” His look was malicious now. “I’d personally kill every last one of them if I could. But I’m different from you…I have many crimes that already stain my soul. What’s one more in the face of them all?”
“Even if you have many, each one costs you.” Allura pointed out.
“It would be better if I could shoulder the cost for you.” He retorted. “Think long and hard….we have a vaccine…we could give it to all the worlds in the Denubian Galaxy. Everyone would just have to get yearly shots, and be prepared to fight at any moment…”
“Always having to watch our backs, always having to be ready to fight…it’s no way to live.” She spoke from experience.
“Ah, but the galaxy will never be completely at peace.” Lotor argued. “If not Doom, if not the Keraclon, then someone else will rise up…”
“Is Doom still going to be a threat against the Alliance and the free worlds?” She was alarmed then, trying to pull her hand back. He tightened his grip on her, and held her gaze with his.
“I don’t know. I hope not…My father is dead. Now is as good a time as any for change. But Allura. You must be aware. Not all the Drule will embrace change. Especially the changes you and your Alliance would try to force on them. We have known a certain way of life, and many will not want to give up the luxury slaves afford us.”
Allura sighed, but stopped trying to get her hand away from him. “But you’ll be King. You can make them…”
“I can do many things. But I cannot force acceptance. Why even now, there are some who probably fear what my marriage to you means. They know how much I desire you, and they will fear I will do anything to keep and appease you.”
She thought she already knew the truth of that. Allura remembered how he had so coldly pronounced he wasn’t like other men. That he wouldn’t say or act a certain way to keep a woman in her comfort’s zone. It had certainly been true this past week, Lotor pushing her, sometimes harder than she had ever been pushed. And all in order to get his way.
“The Drules would be relieved…” Allura said a last.
“Oh?” A curious tilt of his head. “About…?”
“To know the truth.” She answered. “You’ve hardly been pressed to be appeasing….at least to anyone that isn’t yourself.” Something like a smile played at the corners of his mouth. But the look in his eyes didn’t match up to the smile.
“I am used to getting my way.” He said. “That hasn’t changed.”
It might never, she realized. A lifetime of having his demands catered to was something that anyone, not just Lotor, would have trouble giving up. In that regard, he was very much like the other Drules. There would be resistance, and not just from the nobles. Lotor might retain his Empire, but he and his citizens might never agree to the terms the Alliance would try to force on them. Allura could only hope that the Alliance and the Doom Empire could set aside their differences long enough to deal with the Keraclon as a unified front.