Someone was stroking her cheek, a tender touch of fingers that had Allura making a soft sound in response. The act of making noise roused her, Allura slowly breaking free of the darkness that came with sleep. A flicker of light appeared in the darkness, Allura’s eyes fluttering open, the girl catching sight of a concerned face leaning over her. She almost smiled, ready to close her eyes and slip back into that dreamless sleep. But then recognition came with the viewing, the girl bolting upright with a gasp.
At her sudden change in position, something fell from her forehead, a cold, wet compress landing on her lap. She barely had time to register what that was, Lotor’s hands taking hold of her shoulders. He began forcing her to lay back down, his touch brooking no argument.
“You shouldn’t make any sudden moves.” He advised her, Allura settling back against the pillows. She realized now she was in a bed, the girl recognizing the room to be that of her bedroom. Lotor reached for the compress, replacing it against her forehead, Allura staring up at him unblinking.
“What happened?” She asked, realizing the bodice of her dress had been loosened around her waist.
Lotor hesitated a moment, fixing her with a strange look. “You fainted Allura. Don’t you remember?”
She frowned, lifting a hand to touch the compress. “I fainted…”
“Yes….during the executions.”
“Executions…” She repeated, then gasped, the memories of the night’s recent events flooding back into her mind. Of frightened faces, the resigned sag of shoulders, the grief stricken way the lords and the lady’s eyes had looked. She recalled the excited murmurs of the crowd, few if any daring to show pity or sympathy for those who had been named to die.
She remembered wanting to stop it, to save those people, even as the lady Meralabeth had turned defiant, her eyes gazing hatefully at Allura. Such hate had the girl taken aback, Allura never dreaming someone could despise her to that deep an extreme. And still she had wanted to save Meralabeth, save them all, even as Haggar tightened her grip on Allura’s wrist, pain lancing up her arm from the witch’s claws.
“It was too much for me…” Allura spoke out loud, trying to keep from shuddering as her mind recalled the first thrust of the soldier’s swords. She hadn’t been quick enough, eyes catching the first penetrating stab before they fell shut. With Haggar holding onto her, she had been unable to raise her hands to her ears, unable to block out the screams and the horrible sound of something being hacked into. “I…I hadn’t expected the executions to be as violent as they were…”
“Violent…” Lotor sounding thoughtful, his head giving a slight nod of agreement. “I suppose to one who hadn’t grown up among the Doom court, that would indeed seem a bit much. But trust me when I say it was mild in comparison to what my father would have done.”
The question was on the tip of her tongue, Allura wondering just how much worse things could have been under King Zarkon’s rule. But she knew she didn’t want to really know, the answer would only hold new horrors for her mind to grasp hold of. “Yes…” She said quietly, gazing up into Lotor’s eyes. “The Lady Meralabeth even mentioned something of the same, in regard to the differences between you and your father’s rule.”
His lips twitched, an unhappy frown crossing his face. “Do I really make you weak?” He hesitated, Allura staring, patient as she waited for his answer.
“To some it would appear that way…” He at last conceded, Lotor sighing. “They see me doing strange things, turning my back on Doom ways, breaking traditions of the court. It makes them worry…Wonder and worry if I will be what is needed for the Doom Empire to survive.”
“Is what you do really that different?” She asked, wondering if that was guilt taking root in her stomach.
“Some of it is.” Lotor answered, occupying his fingers with playing with the silver rope on her left sleeve. “I’ve done things that seem foolish, change entire behaviors in an attempt to please you. It wasn’t that long ago that I was concerned with little besides war mongering and the pleasures offered to me by my harem. I was quick to lose my temper, even quicker to draw my sword….”
“Can’t they see the changes are for the better then?” Allura asked, her own frown mirroring his. “Would they not want a king in better control of his moods and destructive urges?”
Lotor snorted at that, angrily shaking his head no. “You would think that but no, Allura, they don’t. The nobles cling to the familiar, they want to be assured that their king is strong.”
“And being prone to violent outbursts proves that?” She demanded, her frown deepening at the question.
“In a way it does. I don’t expect you to understand. Not when you come from a people who are peace loving. Drules are blood thirsty by nature, worshipping the strong and violent. It takes a strong man to instill fear into the Drules….and with that fear comes respect and admiration.” Explained Lotor, giving a twist of the rope of her sleeve.
“Oh.” It was a sad sound she made, Allura closing her eyes for one brief instant. “Lotor…Haggar says the nobles are jealous of me. Because I have your attention. Is that…is that another way I am a danger to you?”
“Well, yes.” Admitted Lotor, letting go of the abused rope before it could snap apart completely. “If they think you are the controlling force behind my behavior and decisions, then yes, it would lead them to worry about the state of things.”
“Then she was right to stop me tonight.” Allura whispered, seeing Lotor cock his head to the side. “I was going to beg you to spare the nobles. Meralabeth and those two men…I didn’t think I could bear to see them killed by your order.”
“It’s good that she stopped you then.” Lotor said, and Allura frowned.
“Does that mean you would have spared them if I had spoken up?”
“It would have been wrong of me to do that.” Lotor hedged, avoiding giving her a direct answer. “They needed to die. I had to set an example to the court, one whose message was clear. And Cossack…Cossack’s death needed to be avenged.”
She sighed, wanting to point out that killing, even to avenge someone’s else murder, was not the right way. But before she could muster up the words to form the sentences, Lotor was continuing, his voice soft but stern. “Allura, you must never be seen to be second guessing my decisions. My public image is important, and must not be tarnished.”
“And I begging you for mercy on behalf of those you would kill….that would be just the type of thing to besmirch your reputation?” She couldn’t keep the angry tone out of her voice, Allura narrowing her eyes at Lotor.
“It would indeed.” Lotor told her, showing no outward sign of reaction to her anger. “They’d wonder what else you whisper in my ear, leaving them to question everything I do, especially the more kinder aspects of my rule.”
“I think it’s horrible.” Allura muttered, reaching for the compress. She angrily tossed it down onto the mattress, using the sleeve of her gown to wipe dry her brow. “I don’t know how anyone could even stand to live in such an environment.”
“It’s all we’ve ever known.” Lotor replied, and this time he made no move to stop her as Allura sat up. She was quiet a moment, thinking on what he had said, Allura offering up a hesitant question.
“Don’t….don’t you want things to be different?” In an instant he looked blank, eyes showing such confusion that Allura hurried to explain. “Do you not want to bring change to Doom? Make it a kinder, gentler place?”
His lips twitched, for an instant Allura thought Lotor would laugh at her. She could see him composing himself, trying for an expression devoid of all emotion. “What would Doom do if it changed?” He asked. “What would you have us do? Free slaves, free whole worlds?” She kept quiet, Allura remembering his refusal to free the slaves from his harem. “How would Doom survive without the things that made it so great an empire in the first place?”
“I guess it’s foolish of me to hope for a change.” She sighed, bringing up her knees so that she could hug them close to her chest. “I know it’s not possible right now…even if you wanted to do it. Change takes time, especially to a whole world…and the nobles of your court have shown how resistant to new ideas they are. But I…I thought that you could lay the ground work for future generations.”
He continued to stare at her with his expression masked, Allura shifting uncomfortable. “Our children…we never really talk much about them…about how they will be raised I mean.”
“Our children?” His eyes flickered, a hint of softness to that golden glow. “Naturally they will receive the best of everything, teachers, clothing, toys and food. They will want for nothing.”
“That will make them spoiled if they get everything handed to them on a silver platter!” protested Allura.
“Nonsense.” Lotor retorted, his face relaxing enough to allow his feelings to seep into his expression. “They will know that they are loved. That they are adored, not just by their parents, but by their subjects.”
“They have to earn the love of their people!” Allura exclaimed. “Lotor….it’s wrong to give a child every single thing he or she desires. That way only succeeds in making them use to being indulged. They’ll never learn to earn what they want, what they need. They’ll be prone to behaving like little savages, taking whatever catches their attention!”
He was frowning at her, Allura getting the idea that he didn’t understand the point she was trying to make. “They will be in line to rule the empire. Of course they will be entitled to whatever their hearts desire. Doom itself takes what it needs from other worlds.”
“And that is wrong!” Allura retorted, her right hand making an excited gesture. “Lotor, haven’t you learned anything in these months with me?”
“I have. Patience and restraint.” His quick answer surprised her, Allura blinking rapidly at him. “It’s been quite an education….all these months of waiting for you, of holding back. Or trying to be the better man….”
“And I’m glad you have learned those things.” She admitted, trying not to fidget under his fierce gaze. “But…”
“But what?” He asked, voice a soft demand.
“But I don’t want our children to get such a late start in life in regard to such things!” She couldn’t stay seated on the bed, Allura pushing off it to stand. “I want our children to be different…I want them to know kindness, to have good hearts. To show love and understanding to those they deal with!” She began pacing, agitated. “I don’t want them to be spoiled. I…I…” She turned her back to him, her shoulders coming up defensively, Allura already cringing. “I don’t want them to turn out to be like you!”
She heard a sharp inhale from behind her, Lotor not quite hissing at her words. She didn’t dare turn to look at him, fearing his reaction and rightfully so. “You….You don’t want our children to be like their father?” His words came out slow, hesitant. It was as though he couldn’t believe what he was hearing, and she felt the weight of his stare on her back.
“Yes.” Her voice was meek, Allura nodding her head. The mattress creaked, Lotor getting off it.
“Why not?” He demanded, voice a gruff growl. “What’s wrong with me that you would find it so abhorrent that our children would follow in their father’s footsteps?!”
“I…” She took a shaky breath, Allura wondering how she could explain without setting Lotor completely over the edge. “It’s the things you’ve done!” She said at last, hearing him draw near to her. She took an anxious step forward, not wanting him to touch her in this moment. “Lotor…if we have sons….will you give them harems when they are older?!”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
She whirled to face him, catching the confusion warring with annoyance on his face. “Because it’s wrong! The women of the harem aren’t there by choice! They’re slaves! Taken from their homes…just as I was. Forced into servitude, raped and ill treated until they are so mixed up inside they don’t know how they really feel!”
“They may not have wanted to be here at first but, the women of my harem grew to accept their fate. They come to adore me, even to love me!”
“It’s not real love!” Allura exclaimed, shaking her head rapidly. “It’s a coping mechanism, their minds trying to force them to accept what they know won’t get any better!” He was starting to scowl, looking more and more annoyed with what she was saying. “I know because I’ve been through it! The mixed feelings…mind and body fighting each other, trying to understand, trying to reconcile myself to my situation!”
“Why haven’t you then?” Lotor asked, and she let out a shaky sigh, her hand brushing angrily at her bangs.
“I don’t know…part of me still refuses to accept this. To accept you!” She began pacing before him, Allura speaking at a rapid pace. “There’s been so much to take in….I’ve been reeling from emotion to emotion, from event to event. I didn’t just lose my freedom and my home, I lost my father! I lost my family! I lost the man I loved, the man I was supposed to be with!”
“Don’t…” He warned, and she paused to look at him, eyes wide. “Don’t mention Avok to me.”
She heeded the warning, clasping her hands together in front of her. “I’ve been grieving all these things…as best I can. And then there’s you…and what you did to me. I know…!” She cut him off before he could speak, Allura’s eyes flashing wild with emotion. “I know it’s not a crime to rape a slave on Doom. That your people don’t count your actions towards me as wrong. But Lotor…to me it is wrong, very wrong! And all the pleasure in the world can’t change that I didn’t have a choice!”
“You have a choice now.” Lotor grumbled, locking eyes with her. “It’s been months since I’ve taken you to my bed.”
“I…I just wonder is all. if that choice is even real.” Allura sighed, but did not break eye contact with Lotor. “You say it is, but Lotor…you can go back on your word at any time. And there is nothing, nothing I can do to stop you!” He was looking angrier and angrier by the second, Allura wondering if she was pushing him too far with her words.
“So you’re just what…” Lotor let out a laugh, the noise holding a mocking quality to it. “Just waiting for me to rape you again?”
“Sometimes.” She whispered, a tad fearful. “You don’t understand what it’s like….to have your choices taken from you. You’ll probably never know, not with all the power you hold on Doom!” She squeezed her hands tight together, the color draining out of her knuckles. “As long as you hold power over me, we can never be equals. We can never have a healthy relationship!”
“You’re wrong!” Lotor snapped, and took a step forward before remembering himself. “It is you who hold the true power here. I’m doing things, crazy things for you. Everyone talks about my behavior, and not just because I’ve stopped making use of my harem. They’ve seen me run frantically through the halls, ignoring injury to myself in order to soothe your tears. I’ve caused an intergalactic incident to get you back. I’ve fought a war for you! And the craziest thing of all is I’ve agreed to let you leave me once our children are born!”
“I don’t think I’ll believe that last one unless it actually happens.” Her voice was quiet in comparison to his angry shout, Allura fidgeting in place before him. “Even if I choose to stay, there will always be that doubt in my mind. The doubt over what you would have done if I tried to leave….it’s a doubt that frightens me, makes me wonder if I’ll have the strength to make the right decision for me.”
“I just wonder if you’re even capable of making what is the right decision.” That comment of his had Allura frowning, the girl narrowing her eyes at him.
“Just what do you mean by that?”
“You’re so big on choice Allura. So consumed with having the freedom to decide. It leaves you blind to things…blind to the fact that you won’t be happy if you leave your children behind.” He was advancing on her, Allura taking a hasty step backwards. It left her pressed up against the wall, trapped there when Lotor stopped before her. He made no move to touch her, but she was already trembling, conscious of his breath rustling her bangs. “What’s more, I don’t think you can be happy leaving ME.”
She stared at him, and her first impulse was to let out a tortured laugh. “That’s awfully arrogant of you!” She was pleased her voice didn’t waver, Allura maintaining an outward calm.
“Is it?” Lotor asked, staring down into her eyes. She barely managed a nod, too afraid of what she’d say if she spoke out loud. “Then allow me to continue to be that way. Because Allura? I know that no matter what happens, no matter where you end up, or with who, you will always, ALWAYS think of me. It won’t always be happy thoughts, but there are moments of good mixed in with the bad. Enough to make you regret it if you chose to abandon me.”
“I…I can’t deny there have been moments between us…moments where it was good. But it’s not enough. It might NEVER be enough!”
“Then you are a fool Allura!” Abruptly he pushed away from her, stalking across the room. She could see him making fists, fingers curling and uncurling as he tried to control his anger. “What’s more, you condemn us both to be unhappy with this stubborn way of thinking!” He paused by the bed, and there she noticed the ceremonial crown lying on it’s side.
“I’m sorry…” She said, lowering her eyes. “It was meant to be a happy night for you. The day you were officially recognized as king.”
“I can’t say I will be looking back on tonight with fondness in my heart.” Grumbled Lotor, picking up the crown.
“Maybe it’s a sign…” Allura whispered, Lotor not turning to look at her. “A sign we shouldn’t be together…we just make each other miserable…”
“I don’t believe that.” Lotor placed the crown onto his head, then turned to look at her. “Allura, you’ve brought more joy to my life than you can ever imagined. It’s just one of the many reasons I am so desperate to keep you with me. I just wish you’d stop thinking on the bad, and start concentrating on the good.”
“I can try…” She conceded, but her words did not have the desired effect on Lotor, the king still looking angry.
“Then do so.” He was sweeping past the bed, his blue robe billowing out behind him. She turned to track his movements, seeing him heading towards the door that would lead to the outer chamber.
“Lotor…” He stilled at the sound of Allura calling after him, his body coming to a stop in the door’s threshold. “I…” She bit her bottom lip, unsure of what else to say to him.
“The court has expressed their concerns about your show at tonight’s executions.” His words surprised her, Lotor speaking without emotion in his voice. “The official statement to the nobles is that your fainting had to do with a set back in your pregnancy.”
“Why not tell them the truth?” Allura asked. “That I couldn’t handle the killings?”
“We would not want the nobles to know about this little weakness of yours.” Lotor answered. “They will be far more understanding if they think it is your frail human body reacting to carrying Drule children inside of it.”
“Oh…” She sighed, looking down at the floor. She thought it just more proof that she wasn’t cut out for the Doom way of life, Allura feeling Lotor needed a bride that was strong in many ways. He needed one that could handle the intricacies of court politics, one who wouldn’t shy away from the less pleasant aspects of life among the Drules. She felt certain she’d never be able to manage, that Lotor would always have to keep her sheltered from the dealings of the court. “Lotor…I…”
“It’s late Allura.” Lotor interrupted, already moving through the doorway. “You should get some sleep.” That seemed to decide it for them both, Allura waiting until Lotor had left the apartment to drop down to the floor. She curled herself around her knees, taking comfort as best she could as she thought about the disturbing discussion she had with Lotor this night.
“I don’t think he’ll ever understand…” She whispered to herself, frustrated beyond belief. The words they had exchanged had a profound impact on Allura, the girl thinking deeply on the matters she had brought up to Lotor. It left her examining her feelings more closely than she had had in a long time, Allura realizing she had never, ever come to true terms with his rape of her.
If she listened to Lotor, he would have her think she was making too big a deal out of a few months of forced pleasure. But he didn’t know what it was like to have his body turned against him, to experience bliss while being on the verge of panic and tears. To be made utterly helpless, her own wishes and desire deemed insignificant in the face of his.
Even worse was the fact her body had learned to crave the pleasure Lotor had given her, traitorous desires that seemed to mock her misery. If she could react like that while being forced, how much more intense would her lusts be when it was a shared desire to please one another? It almost scared her that thought, Allura not sure she wanted to find out. Especially not with Lotor!
Were these months of waiting just an illusion? She gave a shrug of her shoulders, Allura not sure. Would he go back to taking what he wanted once the twins were born? She’d just have to wait and see, and that perhaps was the most troubling thought of all.