Slave 104

It was a dismal day on Doom, the sky looking even bleaker than normal, dark clouds obscuring the stars. They hung heavy in the sky, though not a single drop of rain fell, leaving the funeral procession dry but cold. Allura shivered, pulling her wrap closer about her body, the thick velvet dyed a midnight blue to match her dress. There was black accents to her gown, the blue growing darker and darker further down the base of the skirt. So different from her brightly colored dresses, this was a garment of mourning, the castle seamstresses having less than a week to make the adjustments for Allura.

It was more than just getting a dress ready, the seamstresses had had to see to several important figure’s garb, Lotor being dressed in robes of black and midnight blue, the colors complimenting Allura’s own outfit. Cossack had gotten a new suit, a light gray color that was decorated with medals, awards given to him for various tasks through out his years in Doom’s employ, the least of which being a heart shaped ornament that was purple velvet framed by real gold. Lotor had told Allura it was the highest honor a Drule could receive, the King looking misty eyed as he talked about his friend.

Lotor had been but one of the people to present speeches about the commander, the people awed that their King would deign to spend even a few minutes speaking on Cossack’s greatness. Lotor hadn’t cared about their reaction, wanting to give fitting tribute to his friend, a tribute Allura echoed, bravely stepping up to the podium to speak a few halting words in Drule.

She had been conscious of the stares, the people whispering more than was polite about her appearance by Lotor’s side. It was after all, her first public appearance, the first time she had been seen at a court function. They took note of her fine dress, and the simple jewels Lotor had gifted her with, the way he allowed her to speak at the funeral, and the less than formal way she addressed him.

Allura felt uneasy by the talk whispering about through the court, knowing Lotor was making waves by putting her on display. With the former king dead, Lotor felt no need to hide her away, not content to leave their relationship limited to the closed doors of the harem’s wing. He wasn’t quite flaunting her, but Allura knew Lotor was giving her a great honor.

It was less than what he did for his father, Lotor going against royal protocol and treating Zarkon as though he had been nothing more than a common criminal. The former king didn’t so much as get a new suit, buried in the robes he had worn when Lotor had killed him. No royal parade was led throughout the streets of the cities closest to the castle, Lotor scoffing that many would spit on his father’s body.

Lotor almost didn’t make the time to even put in an appearance at the open casket viewing of his father’s body, the King and Allura spending a scant ten minutes at the ceremony. The demon had looked less fearsome in his casket, body slightly withered to look smaller than Allura remembered. No crown, no royal jewels, not even his scepter was afforded to him, Zarkon going to the afterlife as a pauper.

Alllura wasn’t sure what to think about what Lotor had decreed for his father’s earthly remains, the former king’s body being buried in an unmarked grave, in a section of graveyard known as the pit of skulls. She was glad they hadn’t made the journey to this graveyard with the frightful name, Lotor ushering her back into the castle. The nobles of the court were torn between paying their last respects, and making a good impression on the new King, many of them hurrying after Lotor.

Lotor’s guards were made up of the men of the harem, the soldiers boasting new uniforms of purple and silver. They surrounded Lotor and Allura, the girl holding onto Lotor’s arms as he walked them back to their apartments in stony silence. Even the castle itself was affected by the mood of the day, somber and dark, the servants and slaves dressed in Doom’s color of mourning.

They stopped what they were doing when the king passed them by, dropping curtesies and bowing. The nobles continued their hushed whispers, Allura itching not to turn and stare back at them, the girl not quite able to catch all the meanings of their words. When Lotor and his entourage made the turn that would lead them away from the throne room, the murmur from the crowd grew in pitch, the nobles upset that Lotor was choosing to abandon court for the day.

Several of Lotor’s guards paused, blocking the way so that Lotor and Allura could continue their travels without a crowd of nobles watching their every step. Lotor still used a crutch on one side, his limp barely noticeable now. She knew it annoyed him, finding the crutch got in his way, especially when he wanted to draw his sword which he still wore, strapped to his back instead of his waist.

At last they reached the familiar halls of the harem, Lotor turning down the corridor that would lead to their apartments. Allura still felt a shiver go through her whenever they came and went from the apartments, the girl remembering Cossack’s final moments in the rooms Lotor had claimed for his own. It had been a week since the commander had died, and Allura had refused to step foot into that apartment, even after it had been cleansed of all signs of his blood.

Lotor seemed troubled by the memory of Cossack’s final moments, the prince foregoing sleep for the most part. The few times he had gone to sleep, he had sought her out, Allura waking up to find Lotor clinging to her in his sleep. If he was bothered by dreams, he never said a word to her, taking comfort from her in another way. It made Allura’s heart ache for him, the girl wanting to do anything and everything in her power to soothe the pain Lotor surely felt.

They reached Allura’s apartment, and the remaining guards took up position outside it’s doors. One man hurried to unlock the door, doing a customary sweep of the room with his eyes before allowing the king and Allura to enter. It wasn’t until the door clicked close, that Lotor came alive, the king swearing under his breath as he jerked the crown off his head.

Allura watched wide eyed as he tossed it to the side, the crown slamming heavily into the floor. He didn’t even spare it a second glance, storming over to the table to pour himself a drink. She noticed with some apprehension he was pouring himself a thin red wine, one of the few times he had indulge himself with an intoxicant since the night of the play.

“Lotor…” She cast about for what to say, bending to pick up his discarded crown. “You should take better care of this. It’s a symbol of your office.”

“What do I care about symbols?” Lotor muttered, an instant before he was downing his drink in one gulp. “That crown is heavy and too tight. It gives me a headache to wear.”

“Oh.” She carefully set it down on a cabinet, seeing her distorted reflection in it’s gold metal. “Is it possible to change the crown? Get something a little less cumbersome?”

“I think I will do just that.” Lotor said, gazing at the bottle of red wine. It wasn’t the only thing laid out on the table, pitchers of water, and some kind of juice, along with platters of fruit. Food had been a constant thing in Allura’s life, the girl gaining the weight she already should have, and then some in her grief over Cossack. She wasn’t fat, but her belly was pleasantly plump, showing four and a half months of pregnancy. And still she knew Lotor worried over her weight, the Drule thinking she should be even bigger since she was carrying twins. Even the doctor’s reassurance that Allura was at a normal weight for this stage of pregnancy didn’t ease Lotor’s concerns.

Lotor looked as though he was considering having another glass of wine, but then at the last second he pushed away from the table, his hands grasping at his robes. Allura watched as he jerked the outer layer off, tossing it and his sword scabbard onto the couch. The second robe was to follow, leaving Lotor clad in a simple shirt and pants combo. “I feel better now.” He announced, and she nodded.

“Those robes look too much like what your father wore. They don’t suit you at all.”

“Cossack would have laughed to see me in them.” Lotor told her, staring at the couch. “I think….I miss that most of all. His laughter. His humor, crude though it was at times.”

Allura wasn’t sure what to say, but thankfully Lotor filled in the silence. “I didn’t have many friends…you might say Cossack was one of the only ones I had, in spite of our different ranks and status. He hardly ever let my being the crown prince get in the way of telling me the truth. You could say he kept me grounded at times…I don’t know what I’ll do without that presence in my life.”

“I know it’s hard. Your royal status prevents you from knowing who would be a true friend to you…” Allura said, sighing.

“Did you have that problem on Arus?” Lotor asked, turning to look at her now.

She had to think about it, realizing she didn’t have many playmates growing up. “Perhaps not as bad as you, but yet…some of the court, their children were thrust at me only in hopes of cementing their parent’s positions. I was more at ease playing with the servant’s children, but even then a distance existed between us.”

“Then you understand the loneliness of it all.” Lotor noted, and she nodded.

“How did you and Cossack become friends?” He hesitated a second, looking as though the subject pained him. “You don’t have to answer.”

“No, I want to. I just…” He paused, running a hand though his unbound hair. “I’m not sure where it began. Cossack was…not your typical soldier. He had a mouth that was more apt to get him in trouble than promoted. I think his speak before thinking attitude endeared him to me…We got sent on the same missions, went to other worlds to conquer them for the Empire. He’s saved my life on more than one occasion…”

“He was very good at his job.” Allura said, and Lotor snorted.

“Not always. Not in the beginning. I almost wish he had remained a bumbler. Maybe then he’d still be alive.” He was turning from her, but not before she caught the glimpse of wetness in his eyes. “It’s my fault he’s dead.”

“No…Lotor…it’s your father’s.” Allura was walking across the room towards Lotor, wishing he’d turn to look at her. “He’s the one who sent that man to kidnap me. He’s the one who hired the man who killed Cossack. You couldn’t have known.”

“But I should have!” Lotor roared, and though she flinched, she continued to draw near to him. “I should have waited until Haggar was recovered with her magic. Then she could have foreseen the best time to attack my father. She’d know about the betrayals, and how to get around them. Cossack would have lived…he would have lived!”

“It’s okay.” Allura said, and timidly, she hugged him from behind, noting the fine shiver that shook Lotor’s body. He seemed unable to give in to his grief, the held back tears making him shake. “It’s okay to cry…no one here will judge you…”

“I’d judge myself.” But he made no move to pull out of her embrace, instead covering her hands with his.

“Cossack didn’t blame you.” It was a discussion they had had countless times in the last week, Allura trying to ease Lotor’s guilt towards himself. “He was happy to know you had become king. When I wanted to call you for help, he didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize your mission.”

“That was a damn foolish mistake on his part!” Lotor grumbled, though she knew that the Drule knew that Cossack’s internal injuries had been such that no amount of medical help would have saved him. At best, they could have only kept him alive a little longer than he had managed on his own.

“It was a nice ceremony.” She said in response to his annoyed rumbles, trying to at least lighten the conversation somewhat. “I’m sure Cossack would have been pleased by the turn out.”

“He was very popular for a commander.” Lotor replied, turning in her arms to face her. “The guards in my harem seemed to adore him.” Another sigh from the king, Lotor wrapping his arms around her. “He would have enjoyed being the chief commander of the new king’s guards.” She felt him leaning heavily on her, Allura looking up at him in concern. She could see the bags under his eyes, the mark of a Drule that had gone too long without sleep.

“You should rest.” Allura suggested, and Lotor straightened.

“Maybe I should. Will you sleep with me?” He was holding out his hand to her, Allura hesitating an instant before taking it. He didn’t quite smile, looking relieved at her easy acceptance of his request. This would be the first time they had slept together this week with her expressed agreement, Allura finding she wasn’t as nervous as she thought she’d be.

“Thank you.” Lotor whispered, and began leading her towards the bedroom’s doorway. He eased open the door, hand blindly feeling in the dark for the switch that would activate the overhead lights. They flickered on, and the two of them paused, staring in surprise at the large, cloth covered object that sat near the bed.

“What in the world…” Lotor’s murmured question had Allura staring at him, realizing he didn’t know what this was either. She was instantly on guard, clinging to Lotor’s arm as he approached the object. He poked at it with his crutch, but there was no reaction, Lotor shrugging as he reached for the cloth. He gave a mighty yank, the cloth rustling as it pulled free, to reveal a box with a name tag on it.

The writing was in Drule, Allura unable to make out the words. “What’s it say?” She urged Lotor, and he reached for the label.

“It’s for the twins?” He was frowning, but then his eyes widened. “it’s from Cossack.”

“From Cossack?” Lotor was already moving to open the box, Allura peering past him to view the contents. Dark wooden pieces of furniture was revealed, Lotor pulling them out one by one. Each piece was set carefully on the bed, until finally Lotor held some kind of pamphlet in his hands. “What’s that say?”

“It’s instructions.” Lotor sounded bemused. “It says how to build the crib.”

“A crib?”

“I mentioned to Cossack once how you wanted a crib to be kept by your bed….so you could keep the babies near…I never expected him to go out and get this for us…” Lotor pushed aside the box, staring down at the pieces of the crib. “He must have sent for this before…..” He trailed off, but Allura knew what he meant. She felt a little unnerved to think his gift to them would arrive on the day of his funeral, the girl wondering at the Gods’ timing.

“He always was worried about my pregnancy…” Allura said, watching as Lotor began trying to match up parts of the crib. “And he was even more excitable after he knew I was carrying twins.”

“I never took him for the type to care about children…” Lotor said, screwing a pole into the base. “I saw another side to him once you were pregnant. He would have made a good uncle.”

“Did he have any family?” She crept closer to the bed, sitting down on it’s edge. Lotor continued to work with the crib’s pieces, seeming frustrated but glad for the distraction.

“Not really. I mean, most of his brothers died serving Doom. His mother is the only family member to survive him.”

“It must be terrible to lose your children. Even worse to outlive them!” Allura unconsciously placed a hand on her stomach, giving it a nervous rub.

“I imagine it is…” Lotor agreed. “She’ll get a nice pension to live on. She need never worry about money again.”

“That’s nice of you.”

“It’s the least I could do.” Lotor told her, finally managing to get the second pole into the base. Allura picked up one of the poles, running her fingers over the smooth wood.

“Lotor? You needn’t mess with that now.” He grunted at that, holding out his hand for the pole she is holding. “You’re tired…and I’m sure you have someone who can put that together for us.”

“No.” He met her eyes, a stern look to them. “I need to do this. I need to make use of his final gift. It’d be wrong to have someone else do it.”

“I suppose I can understand…” She said, nodding. “But at least wait until after you’ve had some rest!” He hesitated so long, Allura feared he was going to refuse her, but at last he set down the base. Wordlessly, she helped him put the pieces back into the box, Lotor kicking off his shoes before joining her on the bed.

Somehow they ended up with Lotor resting his head on her belly, his arms wrapped around her. Allura sat up, propped by pillows, her fingers gently stroking their way through Lotor’s long mane of hair. They weren’t speaking, just sharing a quiet moment, Allura trying to soothe Lotor with her touch enough for him to fall asleep. After all the times he had helped her through nightmares and sleepless nights, she felt glad for the chance to return the favor with him.

It was one of those moments where she wasn’t feeling conflicted, where she didn’t think about anything but the moment at hand. She was neither mad, nor did she feel happy, existing in a kind of limbo state. Allura didn’t know how long the peace in her mind and her heart would last, but for now she would take every moment that she could get.

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