She took careful steps forward, each movement of hers hesitant, Allura clinging to Lotor’s arm. He chuckled at her slow manner of walking, the King clearly amused. Allura did not mind his laughter, finding she felt more than a little silly herself, and all because of the odd request of his. She still didn’t know if it was a good idea, agreeing to Lotor taking away her sight, a silk blindfold wrapped over her eyes, black as night and allowing no light to penetrate it’s material.
But he had been insistent, looking at her with hopeful eyes as he dangled the silk blindfold before her face. It had taken a great act of trust on Allura’s part, the girl recalling her one and only previous encounter with being blindfolded with less than fond memories. All in all, it had take the promise of a surprise, a wonderful one at that, for Allura to allow Lotor to secure the blindfold in place.
Now they were walking through the castle corridors, the sounds seeming sharper than usual. She figure it had to do with her eyesight being taken away, Allura relying on her hearing to give her some idea of what was going on. The tramping sounds of the king’s guards was a steady beat in her ears, the soldiers silent as they followed Lotor and Allura. She could hear metal clanking, pieces of their armor rubbing together.
Aside from the guards, she could hear occasional whispers, people talking in hushed voices. She could only pick up an occasional word here and there, the conversations seeming to have little to do with the spectacle she had made of herself. Lotor alternated between voicing his amusement, and urging her to hurry, his hand on the small of her back, his presence crowding in to her.
She was all too aware of Lotor, from the touch of her hands on his arm, to the feel of his body brushing against hers. She could even smell his scent, the cologne almost overwhelming her in the process. In a way it was nice, Allura feeling as though the mood had lifted from the somber one they had been sharing these past few weeks. A new month had come and gone, Allura entering her sixth month of pregnancy. Her stomach was starting to balloon out of control, the castle seamstresses working over time to adjust her dresses to fit her ever expanding waistline.
The twins growth seemed to be the only thing making progress these past few weeks, Lotor and Allura at a standstill. They continued to share meals together, holding stilted conversation that avoided the main issues. Lotor wasn’t pressing her, and Allura felt no need to rehash old topics for the umpteenth time. She felt she had more than conveyed her feelings on his rape of her, and now was unsure of how to proceed.
For the most part Lotor seemed just as unsure as she, or at least that is what Allura assumed from his lack of action since the night he had her chain him to the bed. She wondered if he had given up, and that troubled her, Allura not liking to think she had made him think she was that complete a hopeless case. Haggar was quick to assure her that was not the case, pointing out that as king, Lotor had a wealth of new responsibilities. They left him hard pressed to make the time to be around Allura, the problems of the planet stealing away much of Lotor’s free time.
Which is why today seemed special, Lotor alive with excitement. His good mood was practically infectious, Allura stifling a giggle as she bumped into the back of one of the soldiers. It appeared they had come to a stop, and Allura cocked her head, wondering why.
“Wait out here.” She heard Lotor order, the King already tugging her in a new direction.
“Yes, sire.” Said one of the guards, Allura turning her head in his direction.
“Are we almost to the surprise?” She asked, then turned at the sound of Lotor’s voice.
“Almost.” She heard the sound of a lock undoing, and then a door easing open, it’s oiled hinges making little sound. “Step this way.” Lotor said, and guided her through what she assumed was the doorway he had just opened. She took another step, and then on her third felt her slippered heel sink into something soft. It was not a carpet, but try as she might, she couldn’t identify what that soft substance was.
“Lotor?” She clung uncertainly to him, hearing the door close shut from behind. “Can I take off the blindfold now?”
“Not yet.” Came Lotor’s answer, leaving her to frown. He must have noticed her expression, for Lotor was chuckling once more. “Don’t fret my darling. The suspense if almost over….but first…first I want you to tell me what you can feel.”
“What I can feel?” She repeated, her frown deepening.
“Hmm…” Allura concentrated, trying to pick up on something different in this room. Something that did not rely on her eyesight. She was aware of a change in temperatures, the cool breeze that blew through the castle corridors having been chased away when the door was closed. It was almost warm enough to be humid, the kind of heat Allura had not felt since leaving Arus.
“It’s hot.” She said at last, and Lotor made an approving sound. “And…” She paused, inhaling. Lotor’s cologne still filled her nose, but underneath it she could smell a competing scent. More than one, reminding her of the scented shampoos and soaps in her bathroom. “It smells…very…fragrant in here.” Suddenly something brushed against her face, something that was rose petal soft, it’s heady perfume overriding even Lotor’s cologne.
Allura jumped, startled at the soft touch on her face, hearing Lotor croon a low, soothing sound to her. Whatever that was that was on her cheek now moved over to her mouth, brushing gently over her lips. “Lotor, what?!” She was already raising her hand, ready to snatch away her blindfold. Lotor made no attempt to stop her, leaving Allura to blink owlishly as she went from darkness to light.
When her gaze refocused, she saw Lotor’s hand before her face, a dark red rose in full bloom held between his fingers. It was this flower that had caressed her lips, it’s attractive aroma teasing her sense of smell. For a second she just stared at Lotor holding the rose, and then she became aware of how bright the room was. It shone with the radiance of small moon, a stark comparison to the rest of the castle and it’s dim lighting.
Here it was so bright, it almost hurt her eyes, and she wondered how Lotor was handling it with his much more sensitive to light vision. But she didn’t get a chance to ask him, he was stepping away from her, taking the rose with him, but offering up a whole garden in it’s place. Allura gasped in delight, seeing the many different colored flowers that blossomed here in this room.
“How did you manage all this?” A wide eyed Allura asked, taking a step towards a bush of gardenias. She reached out with her hand then hesitated, fingers hovering over the purplish pink flower. She was afraid to touch it, fearing it was a spell of some kind, or perhaps a hologram.
“Go on.” Lotor said from behind her. “Touch it. It’s real.”
“Real!” She gasped, completing the movement, smiling at the contact her fingers made with the flowers. The tips came away wet, the flowers freshly watered, Allura spying dew drops on their petal folds. “This…this is amazing…” Allura murmured, voice excited as she turned away from the gardenias to look at the other flowers that grew in this indoor garden.
There were many kinds, including plants Allura had no hope of identifying, knowing only that they were lovely in their exotic alien beauty. She also realized that every kind of flower in this room was a special type, bred for their ability to grow in darkened areas. It was the kind of garden that would excel with the minimum amount of light, flowers that preferred to bloom in the light of the moon rather than sunlight.
It was the perfect garden to grow inside the castle, Allura wandering down one of the flower lined aisles, inspecting a plant here and there. In the rear of the room, she came across the night roses, their vines clinging to the grate on the wall, swirling to reach up to the ceiling with their buds. She was in heaven amongst this garden, and she turned to fix Lotor with a giddy smile, eyes growing wet with happy tears.
He seemed relieved that they didn’t fall, Lotor having followed her down the aisle of flowers. She stepped towards him now, and before she could stop herself, she had flung her arms around him, pressing as tight as possible against his body. The hug clearly took Lotor by surprise, the King going still. She couldn’t reach his neck at the moment, Allura content to lay her cheek on his chest and listen to his heartbeat.
“Thank you!” She whispered, a genuine smile on her face. “Thank you for bringing me here!”
“You’re welcome.” Lotor answered, at last moving to wrap his arms around her in return. “But Allura…I didn’t just bring you here to show you this place.”
“You didn’t?” She glanced up at him, noting the serious way he looked down at her. A nod from him had her asking another question. “Then why?”
“Because…it’s yours Allura.” Her eyes widened, Allura stunned. “All of it.” Lotor said, and did a sweeping gesture with his one arm. “From every last petal of a flower, to every thorn on this rose’s vine. I did this all for you.”
“For me?” She gasped in surprise, fearing she might start crying for real. “Why?”
“Because.” He seemed to pause, considering his next words. “I wanted you to have a place of your own here in the castle. Somewhere you’d feel at ease….somewhere you could truly be happy in.”
“Thank you…” She said, bringing a hand to rest on her chest. It was just above where her heart lay, Allura surprised she could not feel how wildly it was thumping. “You have no idea how much this means to me. How touched I am.”
He risked covering her hand with his, Lotor gazing into her eyes. “I think I might have a good guess just by going by your reaction!”
She blushed, but made no attempt to pull away from him, letting him keep his hand over hers. “This must have taken you ages to plan! Months to get organized…!”
“It did take quite a while.” Lotor agreed, and now he reached for one of the roses, careful to avoid it’s thorns. “Months of planning and planting, weeks of importing flowers, seeds and dirt. Even longer to get this room set up, and presentable….The siege delayed things, I had to put the garden on the back burner while fighting Merla’s troops…but it’s finally finished…”
His pulled his hand away from the rose, looking down ruefully at the pin prick of blood on his thumb. “Until this garden I had no idea roses could be so dangerous.”
She had to stifle a giggle at that, Allura reaching for his hand to tend to his thumb. She gently but firmly eased the thorn out of the wound, Lotor biting back a small hiss of displeasure. “You will be fine…” She assured him, bringing his thumb to her mouth for a kiss. His eyes immediately heated up at the action, Allura blushing as she let go of his hand.
“You really did this all for me?” She already knew the answer to her question, but wanted to redirect the focus of his attention, Allura stepping past him and the roses.
“Yes.” Lotor said, and he followed, his boots sinking into the dirt covered floor. Both of them had left footprints all over the soil, Allura hurrying down one aisle, eager to explore another. “I do have gardeners on standby to tend to this garden, but I thought you might like that pleasure for your own.”
“I’ll be sure to visit every day to water these beauties!” Allura exclaimed. She wandered down the third aisle, and came across some growing herbs, Allura instantly recognizing them as spell ingredients. “Lotor! These are…”
“Haggar had some input in the garden as well.” Lotor admitted, sounding reluctant to give any credit to the witch. “She thought it might be good to grow some of your own herbs for the potions you make.”
“She thought right!” Allura beamed in his direction, her smile dazzling. “It’s perfect…it truly is!”
He looked relieved, smiling once more. “I’m happy to hear that Allura.” He stepped near to her, Allura turning to face him, her skirts rustling. “I want you to be comfortable here on Doom. I want you to start thinking of the castle as your home…..rather than a prison.”
She blinked, surprised at how close to home his words hit, Allura realizing she had been likening Doom and the castle as little more than a dungeon cell. Even with the freedoms afforded to her with Zarkon’s death, she was still so leery of the place, and it’s people. Allura wasn’t sure what to tell Lotor, not wanting to crush him with her words right after he had presented her with this marvelous garden.
“I…I can try.” She said at last, conscious of the way he was crowding ever closer to her. She fought not to take a step back, letting the front of his body brush against hers.
“That’s all I can ask.” He lifted his hands, allowing them to rest on Allura’s shoulders. She found herself blinking, her blush heating up her face as she realized Lotor was going to try to kiss her. She forced herself not to panic, to allow this small expression of affection to occur between them. After all it wouldn’t be laborious task to be kissed by one as skilled as the prince, Allura recalling the softness of his mouth even when he had been less than gentle.
“Ask…” She murmured, unable to bear the silence opening up between them.
“For now at any rate…” Lotor whispered, already bending towards her. She didn’t make it easier for him by going up on tip toe, but neither did her hands come up to push him away. She wondered if this was all because of her gratitude over the garden, or if she was ready to try the next step with Lotor.
~It’s just a kiss.~ She told herself, Allura’s eyes already closing. She felt Lotor’s breath warm on her face, and then his lips were touching hers, almost hesitant in their gentleness. She was surprised at how he held himself back, his mouth lacking the usual hard edge as when he had forced his previous kisses on her. Instead he was almost uncertain, doing a soft flutter against her closed lips.
Allura let out a breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding in, lips parting slightly in encouragement. An encouragement he didn’t heed, keeping the kiss somewhat chaste as his tongue remained in his mouth. She wondered why, Allura not brave enough to try and deepen the kiss herself, though she did allow her lips to move against Lotor’s.
How long they remained with that chaste kissing she wasn’t sure, for suddenly something flew past the back of her hair, the breeze of wings rustling her golden strands. A startled sound escaped her, Allura pulling back quickly to turn and track the movement. “Oh!” She spotted the colorful little bird hovering before a white flower, the creature dipping it’s long beak into the cup shaped center of the flower. “Is that…?”
“I believe the earthlings call them humming birds…” Lotor said, and for one brief instant his expression was annoyed. He quickly slipped into a mask of indifference, gazing at the purple and green colored bird. “There should be a few of them around this garden…”
“How wonderful.” Allura murmured, wanting to reach out to the bird. But at the slightest movement from her in it’s direction, the humming bird flitted away, clearly not used to the attention of people.
“There’s a secret to luring one to you.” Lotor said, pressing in behind her. “I believe a little honey, or something equally as sweet on your fingers would get one to rest…if only for a moment.”
“I’ll have to try that sometime.” Allura replied.
“Sweetness…” He paused long enough for Allura to turn towards him, Lotor looking uncertain. “Sweetness works better than force….with most things.”
“That it does.” Allura agreed, wondering if it was a lesson he had learned too late. The thought pained her, and it must have shown on her face, Lotor raising fingers to touch her cheek.
“Why so sad all of a sudden Allura?” He asked, and this time she hesitated.
“About?” He prodded, and she sighed.
“Well…about if things would have been different for us right from the start…” She was surprised when a haunted look came to his eyes, Lotor quickly turning away from her.
“It’s something we’ll never know. Something we can only guess at.”
“Do you ever think about it Lotor?” Allura asked, moving around to the front of him. She stared up into his face, finding his answer was important to her.
“On occasion…” Lotor admitted, though he looked uncomfortable with this line of questioning.
“What…what do you think?”
“I think…” He let out a shaky breath, a nervous hand coming up to brush back his hair. “I think what might have been if I had come to court you like a gentleman. If I had come to your planet seeking your hand. If my father hadn’t killed your father….so many what ifs…so many possibilities…”
“Thank you.” Allura said, and now he blinked confused at her.
“For…for wanting things to have been different for us. For learning that force is not always the answer…for…for the garden…” She suddenly touched her stomach, feeling shy. “Even for my children….”
“It should be I who thank you for that last one!” Lotor quickly protested, and he too reached to caress her belly.
“We can both be thankful then.” Allowed Allura, and Lotor grinned.
“We’ll be the luckiest parents in the galaxy….nay the universe!” She smiled at that, fighting the urge to yawn. Lotor still noticed, his look becoming concerned. “Are you tired Allura?”
“Maybe a little.” She admitted. She knew that lately she was getting worn out more easily, spending more and more time in bed. The doctor assured her that was natural, a progression of her pregnancy that had her energy draining at a more rapid rate. “But I don’t want to go to bed just yet. I want to stay and admire the flowers for just a little more…”
“All right Allura. I’ll stay with you then.” Lotor said, and offered his arm to her. “Lean on me if you need support.”
“I will.” She smiled, taking his arm with her hands. Together they began wandering the garden, Allura pointing out the flowers that she recognized, naming them for Lotor. He nodded, and she got the feeling he wasn’t just feigning interest. It seemed to matter to him her pride in the garden, Allura glad to have this place to share with Lotor and their children. It wasn’t quite a park, but it was something all the same.