She sat across from him now at the table, her appetite showing no noticeable signs of increase as she dined on the fresh veal shanks that was the centerpiece of their meal. Lotor ate heartily, his stomach practically growling, making eager demands for the nourishment he had neglected on this day. And yet he still took time to speak, forcing himself to eat at a sedate pace so as not to make himself sick.
Allura herself looked like she had something on her mind, setting down her fork as her lips parted, words going unvoiced for the most part. Lotor wasn’t the type to let the silence linger, he cocked an eyebrow as he sipped from his goblet, giving her a chance to say what she wanted. When she sighed and looked down at her plate instead, he spoke, curiosity in his tone.
“What’s on your mind Allura?”
“It’s…it’s nothing really.” She began, poking at her steamed vegetables with her fork. “It’s just….I haven’t seen you all day.”
He smiled at that, voice teasing as he asked the following. “Ah, did you miss me?” Her blush was answer enough, Allura keeping her eyes fixed on her plate. “I’m sorry. It’s just a busy time for me. So many meetings….so many plans to prepare. Our ships on standby have already left, their intent to rejoin the armada at planet Mindigula. It’ll take time, but once they meet up with the armada, they can press on to Amazonia. I dare say that during this time, I will be free to spend most of it with you. At least until our forces begin the engagement at Amazonia.”
“Any estimate on when this war will end?” Allura asked, still fiddling with her fork.
“Afraid not.” Lotor shrugged, a sigh escaping him. “It can go either way. A short battle, or a long term siege. It depends on how much resistance Merla’s forces put up.”
“I see.” She looked depressed, Lotor casting about for something to cheer her up with.
“Ah, there was word form Arus.” Allura looked up at that, blue eyes blazing with curiosity.
“Yes. It seems Red Lion has been found.” She half smiled at that, looking pleased. “The lion of fire has yet to be tested, but there’s no doubt it will live up to the expectations green and yellow lion have cast on it.”
“That means there are just two more lions to be found.” Allura pointed out, and he nodded.
“Yes. Perhaps they will be found in time to be of use in this war.”
“Oh?” A frown on her face, Allura looking quizzically at Lotor. “Do you intend to use Arus’ lions against Merla’s forces?”
He didn’t bother to correct her that the lions were no longer Arus’ property, but Doom’s, Lotor nodding once more. “It is my hope, yes. We are beginning to train pilots for use of the lions in combat situations. Though they are still having difficulty with the controls. The lions are like nothing we have ever seen before.”
“They’re special.” A wistful smile on her face, Allura sighed.
“Indeed they are.” Agreed Lotor, reaching for his drink once more. She mimicked his gesture, taking a sip of her own berry flavored water.
“Lotor?” She seemed hesitant, peering at him through lowered eyelashes. “I….could I fly in a lion one day? Just a short little trip, perhaps around one of the kingdoms of Arus?” She seemed so hopeful, waiting for him to answer.
“Well…” Lotor began, thinking about it. It was a piece of Arusian history, an artifact of legend made real. It surely would mean a lot to Allura to be able to see the lions in person. “I don’t see the harm in it.” Lotor said at last. “Perhaps we could ride one together.”
“I’d like that.” Allura said, gratitude in her eyes.
“It probably won’t be until after this war is over though.” Lotor warned her. “My father still has us both grounded on Doom, forbidden from leaving the planet to go elsewhere.”
“It’s fine. I can wait.” An agreeable Allura said.
“Have you flown much Allura?” Lotor asked, and she shook her head no.
“Not really. Just the occasional flight to planet Pollux.” He steeled his expression to not react to the mention of that planet, Lotor watching her carefully. “More often than not, Avok came to visit me on Arus.”
“Ah…” Lotor busied himself with his goblet, watching her over the gold rim of the glass. “Did…Did you two spend much time alone together?”
“Not exactly.” Allura answered, eyes growing soft with her memories. “We had a chaperone with us. It wasn’t proper for us to be alone together before we were wed. Although…” A wistful sigh, Allura trailing off. “Once we evaded the chaperone. We ended up in the castle gardens…”
Lotor fought not to get jealous at the thought of Allura alone with Avok, reminding himself that the man was dead, and had never touched her the way Lotor had. “You like flowers.” Lotor said, trying to steer her away from remembrances about her dead fiancee.
“Oh yes.” She seemed to snap out of her wistful state, looking at him once more. “I love them. So pretty and colorful, they remind me of home.” She reached to touch the flowers of the bouquet sitting on the center of the table, fingers gently caressing one velvet petal. “I maintained a garden back home. It was just a small flower bed, unnoticeable among the many others that made up the gardens of the castle. But it was mine, and I tended to them with loving care.”
Lotor made a mental note of her words, wondering if he could somehow bring a garden to life for her here in the castle. “You didn’t mind getting your hands dirty?”
“Oh no.” Allura shook her head, smiling. “It was just part of the pleasure, to know that something grew, that the flowers lived because of my hard work. I was proud of my garden.” She sighed, pulling her hand back. “The flowers you give me are nice….but they also hold a bit of sadness in them.”
“Sadness?” questioned Lotor, confused.
“Their lives have been ended once they are cut free of the ground.” Allura explained. “They will bloom no more, only wither and fade away.”
“I haven’t seen much of Doom but…does anything grow on your planet?” She asked, fixing him with curious eyes.
“Not really.” Lotor said to her disappointment. “Not naturally at any rate. Some straggly bits of grass, and certain plants grow in these tough conditions. But other wise we must import flowers from other planets.”
“It sounds expensive.” She noted.
“It is.” Lotor agreed. His words had her looking around the room, eyes on the multitude of flowers decorating every nook and cranny.
“You must be spending a small fortune to keep me surrounded by flowers!” Allura exclaimed.
“It’s worth it to see you smile.” He said warmly, which had Allura blushing.
“Thank you.” She said, which made him smile.
“You’re very welcome.” Lotor answered. “I’m glad I could get something right where you are concerned.” She made a confused sound, Lotor hurrying to explain. “These past few days, I’ve made such a blunder of things.” He sighed, thinking back on his courting attempts.
“It’s not your fault.” She quickly assured him, Allura reaching to touch the back of his hand. It was a light touch, ending all too quickly for his liking. “We’re just different. Different species that have their own ideas about romance.”
“Not so different. I’m half human after all!” Lotor pointed out, and she smiled.
“Yes but…” Her tone was gentle, Allura not judging him. “You were raised as a Drule. You can’t help but behave like one.”
“Still I shouldn’t be treating you like a Drule woman.” Lotor said, and to that Allura nodded.
“Violent displays, blood shed and destruction…..it’s not very attractive qualities to most human women.”
“If you were a Drule you would have found them arousing.” Lotor said morosely, thinking of the Argon heart that sat in his safe, locked away until the day Allura would accept it from him.
“But I’m not.”
“I know that now.” Lotor told her, gearing up to ask a question. “So Allura, help me. Tell me just what it is that would be arousing to a human female.” He was surprised to see her flush bright red, Allura shaking her head no, sputtering out an answer.
“I am no expert on how to woo a human woman!” She exclaimed, fingers fidgeting in place with the table cloth. “I can only tell you what I like.”
“You’re the one I want to impress.” Lotor reminded her, charmed by her blush. “So just start with you, and give me some ideas.”
“With me…” She repeated, blinking slowly. “Well…” Another hesitation, Allura trying to think. “I know that some women enjoy receiving jewelry….”
“At least that much human females share with Drule women!” A wry smile from Lotor, Allura half giggling.
“I don’t mind jewelry, provided it’s not overly elaborate pieces.” Continued Allura. “Hmm…Avok and I always used to go places, see the sights of our home worlds. I enjoy exploring new places, especially the outdoors. Walks through gardens and picnics were always nice…”
“Afraid there isn’t much to see on Doom.” Lotor muttered, wishing his planet wasn’t so desolate a rock.
“But aren’t there towns and villages on Doom? Surely there exists places beyond the castle walls?” Questioned Allura.
Lotor nodded. “There is.” He smiled then, thinking of an idea. “Perhaps we can visit one of the ones closest to the castle.”
“I’d like that.” Allura admitted. “I’d like to see how the people of Doom live, it might paint a different picture from that of life in the castle.”
Lotor had doubts about that, hoping she wouldn’t find Doom City life too horrific. “What else Allura? What else do you enjoy doing with a man?”
“Well…just talking. Like we’re doing now.” She said with a smile. “I like being listened to, and hearing what you have to say. I like that we can hold conversations, and that it doesn’t turn into something sexual.”
“Ah…” He hesitated, wondering if he should admit how hard he found keeping things innocent between them. But before he could make a decision, Allura was asking a question of her own.
“What about you, Lotor? What do you like when it comes to being courted?” He stared at her, thinking over her question. He was sure the answer of sex, and lots of it, would be the wrong answer to her question. But for the life of him, Lotor couldn’t think of anything else to say! “Lotor?” She prodded when his silence stretched on for longer than was natural.
“I…I’m sorry. I don’t really know.” He admitted at last, seeing the surprise in Allura’s eyes. “I just…I’ve never really had to romance anyone before.”
“No never.” Confirmed Lotor. “I’ve always been surrounded by pleasure slaves, even when I was a young boy. I always took what I wanted, women being handed to me on a silver platter.” He wondered if his confession would undo any progress he had made with her, Allura staring at him shocked.
“You’ve never been with anyone but pleasure slaves?” He nodded at that, and to his surprise, her eyes took on a sympathetic look. “Oh Lotor. You are missing out on so much!”
“Am I?” He wondered out loud, and she nodded.
“Yes, you are.” She reached to hold his hand, fingers giving him a squeeze as she talked. “There’s more to women than just sex. With the right woman, there’s companionship and love, good times and bad. You have to work at having a relationship, but for all the effort, it is rewarding to connect with a person’s soul.”
“I never wanted that connection…” Lotor told her, lacing his fingers with hers. “Not until I fell in love with you. Allura….I am trying…trying my hardest to make this be more than just sex between us…please tell me it’s working.” He felt her trying to draw back her hand at that plea, Lotor gripping her tighter, refusing to let go.
“I don’t know..” She admitted, looking away from his intense stare. “I…I do feel for you. But I don’t want you to get your hopes up!”
“As long as you feel something for me, I am already hopeful!” Lotor exclaimed, raising her hand to his face. He brushed a kiss across her knuckles, seeing her blush return at that gesture. “We still have time…we’ve got months to work on developing a connection that extends beyond sex.”
“Are you even capable of that?” Allura asked, then looked surprised at her audacity for voicing that question.
“I don’t know. But I am willing to try!” Lotor said, and slowly lowered her hand. “You’ll have to help me though. I may make more blunders and mistakes before I get it right. This is foreign territory I am treading, I have to learn so much in such a short amount of time. But I can tell you this much, it’s an effort I don’t mind making!”
“I think you have more important things to worry about then wooing me.” Allura began, and Lotor cut her off with an impassioned cry.
“You’re the most important thing in my life!” She looked startled at that, Lotor still gripping tight hold of her hand. “Without you, nothing else really matters.” She was staring at him, Lotor growing bolder with his words. “You’re my world Allura. I don’t know when it happened, but it did. I don’t know what I’d do without you…”
“It’s too much…” Allura said, and this time she managed to escape his grasp, quickly putting her hand on her lap. “I can’t be your everything.”
“Why not?” He asked softly, and she shook her head.
“That’s a kind of love that borders on obsession.”
“Sometimes I do feel obsessed with wanting you.” He admitted, and she sighed.
“Oh Lotor….” Allura looked down, but not before he caught the sad look in her eyes. “Sometimes I wonder….”
“Wonder what?” He asked when Allura trailed off. She merely shrugged, not answering him. “Is it really that wrong?” Lotor questioned, catching Allura’s eyes with his own. “To want you?”
“No….but love has to be something more than just wanting a person!” Allura exclaimed.
“It’s more than just sex you know.” He said bluntly. “I want everything from you. Your love, your respect. I want to know all about you, your likes and dislikes, what your needs are. I want to make you happy.”
“You really want all that?” She asked, blue eyes wide with surprise. He nodded, seeing her fight a smile. “Well…that’s a start in the right direction.”
“And it’s just the start.” Lotor assured her. “You’ll see Allura. As the months go by, the connection between us will go stronger. Maybe it’ll be enough for you to love me back…..enough for you to want to stay with me forever.”
“Maybe…” She sounded doubtful of that, but Lotor refused to be discouraged. He knew he had to stay positive if he was to have any hope of a permanent future with Allura.