There was pain buzzing in his head, throbbing intensity that only grew worse with sudden movements and loud sounds. Fortunately for him, Allura was a soft spoken woman, her voice a pleasant cadence he enjoyed listening to. She sat next to him, close enough that their bodies touched, Lotor taking comfort from the warmth she gave off.
It was a blessed relief to be close to her like this, Lotor having spent a night that seemed endless, tossing and turning in his empty bed. A few times he had gotten up, determined to go to her, but always he had managed to stop himself before he got past the door of his bedroom. He wondered how he was going to survive the next night, and the ones that followed, Lotor likening his love for Allura as a kind of addiction. One he needed to get under control if only for the sake of his sanity.
He wondered how Allura had slept, openly eyeing her as she twirled her fork around the stringy cheese that covered her eggs. Her complexion was rosy, no sign of dark circles under her eyes. She was bright eyed and alert, not lethargic like he was, and she ate with an enthusiasm he envied. Lotor glanced at his full plate, having spent the better part of the luncheon just moving food around with his fork and knife. He could hardly bear the thought of eating, his stomach doing unpleasant rolls at the faintest whiff of the browned meat on his plate.
He held back a sigh, recognizing all the signs, knowing the sad truth of the matter was he had drunk himself to the point of becoming ill. What had seemed a good idea the night before, now left him groggy and in pain, Lotor experiencing several signs that pointed to the fact he was hung over. He made a mental note to avoid drink for the next week or two, not liking the way he felt in the aftermath of his bingeing.
Cossack had been by to see him, roughly an hour before this lunch with Allura. The commander had shown mercy on him in allowing the prince to sleep as late as he had, wondering if Lotor had planned to stay the whole day in bed. Such comments were met with an angry glare, Lotor hardly pleased to see Cossack moving about without pain. Only the fact that the commander was his friend stayed Lotor’s hand from inflicting some agony, the prince getting up with a mimimum of complaints.
He knew he had things to do, fleets to deploy, battles to plan out. This lunch with Allura was only a brief delay as he slowly got his bearings, a pleasant start to a day that should prove hectic. Normally Lotor would look forward to the planning stages of a war, but now he hid a grimace, thinking it was all nothing more than a nuisance. Amazonia shouldn’t even be an issue, it was already part of the Doom Empire. But Merla had thrown down the gauntlet, and Lotor intended to finish the fight she had started.
Absentmindedly he raised his hand to his throat, feeling at the healing wound across his throat. Allura’s eyes followed his action, a slight frown crossing her lips. “Lotor…..are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” He assured her, not quite smiling as he spoke.
“You haven’t been saying much.” She pointed out, then added. “And you’ve barely touched your meal.”
“I’m just not very hungry.” Lotor told her, wondering if she had any experience with dealing with a hangover. Probably not, Lotor doubting she could handle more than a glass of wine due to her petite size.
“Oh…” Her hands hesitated over a bread roll, Allura looking down at the huge feast laid out on the table. Clearly the cook had gone all out for them, Cossack surely goading him into his finest performance in the kitchen. It was too bad for Lotor he was unable to appreciate the meal!
“But don’t let that stop you from enjoying yourself.” Lotor urged her, a crooked half smile turning the corners of his mouth upwards. “You are eating for two after all.” He nodded in approval when she brought the bread to her mouth for a nibble, Allura eating carefully so as not to spill crumbs on her dress.
“What will you be doing today?” She asked, tone curious as she smoothed butter onto a section of the roll.
“I have to do some work. It’s that business with Merla.” He explained, noticing the way her eyes flashed with fear at the Queen’s name. “I’ve plans to make, battles to organize. I must decide who and what will be sent to do battle with the Queen’s men.” Lotor knew he would have to review carefully the various fleets and the men that commanded them before making a decision on who to send to Amazonia. “We’ll try to engage her in battle before her war ships can arrive in Doom’s atmosphere. It will be better if we can take the battle to her, rather than allow Doom to suffer under a siege.”
“Many people will die because of me.” Her blunt statement shocked Lotor, the prince reaching for her hands as she dropped the roll on her plate.
“Allura no, that’s…”
“It’s true.” She interrupted, not fighting to pull her hands away from him. “It’s happening again…just like on Pollux.” Lotor felt a flash of guilt, remembering how he and her cousin had both cast the blame on Allura for what had happened on that planet. “This war started because you went to save me…to save me and the baby. And now because of me, countless lives will be sacrificed.”
“It’s a soldier’s job to lay down their lives for their country.” Lotor told her, giving her hands a gentle squeeze. “They know this when they join the military.”
“What about the innocent people who live on the planet?” Allura asked, and Lotor nearly laughed to think of the Drules as innocent. They were anything but, but Lotor knew she would hardly be comforted by that. “Those who will get caught in the crossfire, when the ships crash into their homes, and when bombs are dropped onto their heads?”
“It may not come to that.” He tried to reassure her. “The two sides may meet in the midst of space, and fight it out there.” Lotor wisely left off the tidbit of information on how whichever side was victorious would press on to the loser’s planet, ready to extend the fighting there.
“Really?” She sounded so hopeful, Lotor nodding. She breathed a sigh of relief, though her eyes were still troubled. “If you were to give me to her, would that end the war without a single shot fired?”
“It’s too late for that.” Lotor told her, frowning at her suggestion. “She’s gone after not only me, but my father as well. He won’t rest until she’s dead now.” Her eyes widened, surprised, Lotor nodding at her. “Cossack filled me in. I wasn’t the only target for assassination.”
“The King will be angry…” He felt her hands shaking, Allura looking fearful.
“He won’t blame you.” Lotor said, guessing at where her thoughts lay. “And even if he does, he won’t dare lay a finger on you.”
“Because I’m pregnant?”
“Because I’ll protect you.” Lotor corrected gently. “Allura, I won’t ever let him harm you again.” He touched her face now, fingers gentle as he stroked her cheek. “Not while I still live and breathe.”
“I don’t understand you.” She said, Lotor having a feeling she meant more than just his words. She didn’t understand his reasons for what he did, didn’t want to trust in the emotions he told her he had for her.
“Maybe someday you will.” Lotor said, and with one last caress he dropped his hand to the table. She stared at him a moment longer, than resumed eating, chewing slowly on her food. He took his eyes off her to reach for a goblet, noting it was plain water that he chose to quench his thirst with.
Minutes passed, the silence stretching onwards as he watched Allura eat. At last she set down her knife and fork, tongue licking at her lips nervously. “Yes, Allura?” Lotor asked, able to tell by the troubled look on her face that something was bothering her.
“Did….did you mean it?”
“Mean what?” He couldn’t hide his confusion, speaking hastily. “About protecting you? Of course I did Allura!”
“That too.” She nodded, right hand lifted up to fidget nervously with a hank of her hair. “But also about taking me to see the lions?” He blinked, surprised at her question. She seemed to wilt under his stare, growing sadder the longer he took to answer. Lotor thought furiously on the previous day, vaguely recalling him telling her how once the war was over he’d take her back to Arus to see the lions.
“Ah…that.” Another sip from his goblet, Lotor considering the matter. “Yes, Allura, I was serious about that.” She didn’t quite smile, though she looked relieved.
“I’d like that.” She murmured, voice almost too soft for him to hear. “I’d like to see Arus one last time before…”
“Before what?” He prodded when she trailed off. She said nothing, looking away but not before he saw the guilty look in her eyes. “Allura, before what? Tell me.”
“Before I go to my new life.” Her words hit him like a hammer, Lotor staring at her displeased. She hurried to speak, as though fearing he would break his promise to her. “You said in nine months I could leave if I still wanted too. That hasn’t changed.”
“Of course it hasn’t.” He sighed, setting down the goblet. “It’s silly of me to get angry when I haven’t had time to properly convince you that life with me is the better option.”
“I don’t believe you can.” She echoed his sigh, hand brushing at her bangs.
“And that my dear, is where you are wrong.” Lotor flashed her a grin, confidant in expression though he did not feel the emotion. “Don’t count me out just yet, not when I still have a few tricks up my sleeves.”
“It’s best to leave some of the mystery.” Lotor told her, though in truth he had yet to give proper thought to just what he would do to pull off the miracle of making her want to stay with him. He knew how to seduce her into his bed, but he hadn’t the faintest notion on how to seduce his way into her heart. For all his experience with women, he knew he was limited when it came to wooing them. He had never had to properly court a woman, all his time being spent with pleasure slaves, taking what he wanted regardless of their desires.
In some ways he felt he was blessed, living a charmed life when it came to having his every lustful desire satisfied. Lotor had thought he knew all he needed, having learned everything when it comes to pleasing a woman with sex. But now he realized he was woefully misinformed when it came to matters of the heart and the brain, knowing he needed to engage those areas of Allura if he truly meant to keep her with him.
He wondered who he could ask for advice, knowing this was one area where the other women of the harem could steer him wrong. They might be eager to show him tricks in bed, but he knew they harbored resentment of Allura. He inwardly cursed his lack of interest in pursuing women who weren’t slaves, knowing if he had taken the time to cultivate relationships with Drule noblewomen that went beyond political power, he’d now have the finesse to turn those tactics against Allura.
He was also aware of the shadow of Avok, the man’s ghost a lingering presence between them. They didn’t speak about him, but Lotor knew he had stiff competition when it came to wooing Allura. He wondered just what sort of things the dead prince had done to win her heart, but he kept silent from asking her. He didn’t want to see the pain flicker to life in her eyes at the mention of Avok’s name, nor did he want to hear her lovingly speak about the man.
“How old is Lotor?” Allura’s question surprised him, Lotor shaking off his jealous thoughts to stare at her.
“You want to know my age?” She nodded, and Lotor held up his hands, showing her his fingers. He flashed the set of ten at her twice, then held up four fingers, hoping she got his meaning. “Twenty-four by human reckoning.”
“Ah…” She mimicked his gesture, showing her ten fingers, then closing two so only eight remained. “Allura eighteen.”
He bit back a surprised sound, shocked to learn her true age. He had known she was young, but he hadn’t expected her to be barely of legal age. Perhaps that is why she had not already been married to Avok, the pair waiting for Allura to mature just a little more. It worked in his favor, Lotor pleased that no one else had gotten to touch her the way he had.
“Lotor never marry?” She asked, and he snorted, shaking his head no. “Why?”
“Never wanted to.” Lotor told her. “Never saw the point in it until I met you.” She actually blushed at that, lowering her eyes modestly. He grinned, pleased to cause a reaction in her, Lotor reaching over to playful tug on her hair. “Allura is changing me….making me different. Making me want things I never wanted before.”
“Well, yes, that too.” Lotor agreed, using the ends of her hair to brush against her cheek, tickling her softly. She gave a slight shake of her head, trying to avoid his teasing.
“What things?” She asked, curiosity getting the better of her.
“Love…..a woman’s love. Her respect for me. Her admiration and loyalty.” Lotor listed them out loud, realizing it was true. He did want more than Allura’s love, he wanted to earn her loyalty, have her admire and respect him not out of fear but because she wanted to grant him those things. Never before had he cared what a woman thought of him, Lotor always thinking they were there to be used at his whims then tossed aside. But with Allura it was different, making him yearn for things he would have laughed at a few months ago.
He kept on talking, not wanting her to interrupt and tell him she could not give him those things. “A family would be nice as well. To have a home, a real one, full of love and light…so different from what I ever knew growing up.”
“Different?” Allura hesitated, Lotor nodding at her to continue. “What was Lotor like as a boy?”
“I don’t really know what to tell you.” Lotor shrugged. “I think I was not to different from other Drule children….headstrong and full of mischief. I was desperate for attention, my father had little time for me you see….”
“What about Lotor’s mother?” Allura asked, seeming to flinch when his expression darkened.
“My mother died when I was still just a baby.” She looked sad, and in a show of support she reached out to touch his knee.
“I’m sorry.” She said softly, then added. “Allura’s mother…also died when Allura was young.” He smiled sadly at her, covering her hand with his. “It hurts to lose a parent…” Her eyes seemed to shimmer with unshed tears, Lotor realizing she was an orphan twice over, what with the murder of her father.
“Allura…” Lotor reached to cup her face with his hand, surprised when she jerked back from his touch. She lifted a hand to her mouth, covering it completely as she stumbled up out of her chair. For a second he was confused, but then he recognized the frantic look in her eyes, and the paling of her skin. He sighed, and nodded, pointing at the bathroom.
She flashed him a grateful look, and took off running, slipper covered feet silent across the carpet as she all but slammed into the bathroom door. He tried not to listen when the retching sounds began, Allura being violently ill. It was almost enough to make him sick, Lotor staring at the remains of the banquet in dismay. She continued to make those horrible sounds, and Lotor finally decided to hell with privacy, rising to stand and hurry towards the bathroom.
He stood in the doorway, hand poised to knock, looking in on her. Allura was down on her knees, hands gripping the porcelain sides of the toilet, her chest heaving as she panted. He hated seeing her like this, and he walked towards the sink, running the water to a warm temperature, taking care to soak a hand towel in it.
“Allura is okay now?” Lotor asked, kneeling down besides her. She looked at him with misery in her eyes, Lotor gently wiping at her lips with the wet cloth. It reminded him of the time on Pollux, the situation between then and now different in the circumstances that surrounded her being ill.
“Allura fine.” She said weakly, watching him as he wiped at her face. “It’s just morning sickness.”
His brow furrowed, Lotor repeating the phrase. “What’s that?” She gave a weak shrug of her shoulders, too worn out to even try to explain. “Allura? Tell me…” She opened her mouth to answer him, and suddenly her eyes crossed, the girl jerking away from him to be ill once more. He was alarmed to see it, pulling her hair back away from her face, feeling helpless to assist her in her moment of need.
“I’ll get Haggar.” He told her when she finished her latest bout of vomiting. She merely nodded, weakly slumping down to the floor to rest her head on it’s cool surface. Lotor hesitated, staring at her unnerved, not wanting to leave her side, but feeling an urgency to get the witch to come help. With a muted curse he rose, throwing the wash cloth in the sink, the sound of Allura panting following him as he fled the room.