She held a tentative perch on the edge of Lotor’s bed, her hands resting on her lap. Her fingers played with the long ribbon of the bow on the front of her dress, Allura making a concentrated effort not to unravel it in the process. But her eyes were all for Lotor, watching as the prince began unbuttoning his shirt. It was an action that normally made her nervous, but for once Lotor wasn’t looking at her as he undressed.
Instead he was facing a table, attention for the items scattered across the surface. There was various weapons laid out on the table, daggers and a hand held phaser, along with a personal com unit. Lotor had explained to Allura that the com unit was attuned to a private channel, one that was to be used only in an emergency. Lotor himself was confidant little would go wrong tonight, but Allura had her doubts.
Especially as she watched Lotor lift up a thin vest made of some kind of durable fibers that would shield him from the worst of laser blasts. She felt ill at ease to watch Lotor slip the vest on, the prince securing the tight fitting garment into place. He then set about to strapping the daggers onto his arms, thin sheathes that had been fitted to mold against his muscles. Only then did Lotor put on a new shirt, this one with loose sleeves that’s bagginess would conceal the sharpened daggers on his lower arms.
“You see Allura?” Lotor asked, doing a quick flick of his left wrist that had a dagger dropping down into his hand. “Like this I can easily arm myself.”
She nodded, though she was hardly reassured, watching Lotor replace the dagger in it’s sheathe. He then began buttoning up his shirt, his movements hurried and impatient. Once the buttons of the shirts were completely fastened, he reached for his sword belt, looping it around his waist. To the small of his back, he placed the phaser, the black object nearly unnoticeable against the dark fabric of his shirt.
“Will you really need all that tonight?” Allura wondered out loud, her question drawing Lotor’s attention to her.
“I just might.” His expression was serious, Lotor stepping towards her. She watched his approach without backing up, seeing the prince’s attention lay past her and the bed, and towards the wall where his best sword hung on hooks. It was with a steady hand that Lotor gripped the hilt of that sword, staring at his reflection on the lazon blade. “Hopefully I can do it with this sword alone.”
Allura shivered at his determined look, letting go of the ribbon to hug her arms around her. It still bothered her that he could be so nonchalant about what he was planning to do, even as she knew it was the only way for any of them to have any true peace. She was quiet, but he noticed her arm’s movements, Lotor lowering the sword to frown at her.
“Are you still doubting this is the right thing to do?” He asked, and she shook her head no.
“I know it is…” Allura held back a sigh, still hugging her arms to her. Lotor seemed reassured by her agreement, the prince lifting his sword, giving it complex twirls. She watched as he began dueling with an invisible opponent, artfully slashing at the empty air. A few seconds more passed, and then she was speaking again, Allura brushing back her hair with one hand. “Is he as skilled with a sword as you are?”
“Once…Once my father was.” Lotor said, never pausing in his sword practice. “He used to lead armies into battles, and fight personal duels. Many a man has been slain on his sword, having underestimated Zarkon.”
“Do you think you’re better than him?” Allura asked, realizing she was frightened at the thought of Lotor losing. Lotor must have heard the fear in her tone, for he stopped his sword arm, and turned towards her, a slight smile on his face.
“I bet I am.” Lotor told her. “It’s been years since he’s fought…he hasn’t had a worthy opponent in how many decades? He’s grown old and weak, fat and compliant. It’ll be little struggle to dispose of him.”
“I hope so…” Allura murmured, glancing down at her lap. “Lotor? Are you sure there’s no other way? That he won’t step down from his throne without a fight?” She heard Lotor make a scoffing sound, derisive amusement in his tone. She looked up at that, angry at the sound he had made.
“My father will never give up his crown and his throne. Never Allura.” Lotor said, emphasizing the words. “He’ll fight me for it, and he’ll die.”
“It’s foolish of me, I know….but I wish it could have been different…” Allura sighed. “But I know that if your father was a different person, we’d never be in this situation in the first place. So many things would have been different….”
“If my father was a softer man, we probably would have never met.” Lotor pointed out, and she nodded. “Your father would still be alive, Arus free…” He trailed off into silence, Allura placing her right hand on her belly. She knew the lives inside her would never have been created if the past had been different, Avok would have lived, and the lions would have remained unfound.
“His death won’t change the past.” Continued Lotor, placing his sword into the sheathe at his side. “But we can prevent the future from becoming as twisted as him.” She glanced at Lotor, seeing him scowl. “I won’t let him live. I won’t let him remain to do as he pleases. He hurts far too many people with his actions, you most of all!”
Allura knew she was the final nail in Zarkon’s coffin, his witch’s attempt on her life the latest in a string of offenses committed against her. The whole breeding business was another, Lotor getting word that Zarkon planned to harvest Allura’s eggs in an attempt to grow test subjects in a lab. She thought it was sick, the girl shivering with revulsion at the thought of the king making children simply to kill and dissect.
Still she was in no hurry for Lotor to risk himself, Allura wishing he could delay his murderous plans for even just one more day. But she knew Lotor had made up his mind, a week passing since that day in Haggar’s lab. Even the witch’s advice couldn’t stay Lotor’s hand any longer, the prince far too impatient to end things between him and his father.
Perhaps if Zarkon hadn’t continued to push things, hadn’t continued to scheme, Lotor would have allowed him to live a few months longer. Now the king’s time was down to just a few hours, the seconds ticking away as Lotor’s allies moved their men into place. They were many, the trained soldiers specially selected by the nobles for this purpose. Allura knew little of the details, only that they were in the castle, garbed as palace guards, and even disguised as servants and nobles, slipping into position for the attack that was to take place.
They were positioning themselves throughout the castle, focusing on gathering in the halls that led to the throne room. Zarkon’s chosen route to the throne room was not an assured thing, the paranoid King leery of doing anything that could be seen as a habit and used against him. So each night when he came to hold court, he chose a different route, his personal guards escorting him to and from his destination.
There was only three ways to enter the throne room, and two of them were servant’s entrances. Lotor was hoping to trap Zarkon and his entourage in one of those corridors, contain the fighting there in. Allura worried about the close quarters the combat would take place in, frightened feelings surfacing as she wondered if Lotor would be injured or worse during the confrontation.
“Please…” Allura spoke out loud, watching Lotor as his nimble fingers began braiding his long white hair into a serviceable braid. “Promise me you’ll be careful.”
“I will Allura.” Lotor agreed easily enough, though he sounded absentminded. She saw him cast about for a tie to fasten around the end of his braid, Lotor distracted from her words.
“I mean it. You must not take any unnecessary risks.” Allura told him, rising to stand. She approached him, snagging the blue tie off the table, bringing her hands towards his braid. She saw the faintest hint of a smile on Lotor’s face, the prince pleased by her attention. “If it comes to it, let your men do all the fighting…let them do the killing…”
He frowned as she wound the tie around his hair, fingers tightening it in place. “I won’t be a coward and hide. My men would lose all respect for me. The people would too. Hell, I would lose respect for myself if I did not see to my father personally.”
Allura sighed, unable to hold back her frown. “I don’t want you to do anything that would make you feel bad about yourself. I just…”
“Just what?” Lotor prodded when she fell silent.
“I just don’t want you to die!” Allura exclaimed, tossing the braid over his shoulder. This time he did smile, Lotor placing his hands on her shoulders. She looked up at his touch, knowing her eyes were stormy to match her mood.
“That makes me glad to hear.” Lotor confessed. “After what has been happening between us these past few weeks, I wouldn’t think you’d be so concerned about me.”
“Of course I would be concerned!” She retorted, shaking her head. “Even if I am upset with you, even if my emotions are conflicted towards what I feel for you, I’d never wish you to die!”
“You’re kinder than anyone else I have ever known.” Lotor told her, still smiling. “I hope that someday you can forgive me for what I have done to you….” She didn’t want to give him false hope, Allura keeping quiet. Lotor dropped his hands from her shoulders, but made no move to step away from her. “It’s not impossible is it? That we could move on from what has happened?”
“I don’t know…” Allura admitted quietly. “Some days I think we can.” He looked so hopeful at hearing that, Allura hastening forward with her next words. “But other days, most days….I remember what you did…and how it made me feel….and I think….no, I won’t ever be able to get over it.” That left Lotor frowning, the prince heaving a heavy sigh. Allura knew he still didn’t really understand the magnitude of his sins against her, the prince frustrated at the depth of her hurt she displayed at being bedded forcefully by him.
“Allura…” He began, sounding troubled.
“Don’t.” She quickly shook her head no, raising a finger to his lips to silence him. “Now is not the time to talk about this. Not when you have more important concerns to see to.”
“You’re one of the most important things in my life.” Lotor insisted, Allura dropping her hand to her stomach.
“But I am not the only one. I…” She felt an odd sensation in her stomach, Allura frowning as she tried to figure out what that was. Could it be indigestion? Lotor was alert to her expressions, immediately asking her a question at her silence.
“It’s nothing.” She assured him. “I don’t want you to be distracted with what we talk about. You have to concentrate on your father and staying alive. Not concerned with helping me through my pain and emotional turmoil. You…” There was that sensation again, Allura rubbing at her belly. She felt something hit it, a very light smack against the palm of her hand, Allura gasping as her eyes widened in realization.
“Allura? Are you in pain?” A concerned Lotor asked. Bemused she shook her head, reaching for his hand, pressing it firmly against her belly. The thumping sensation happened again, and Lotor’s eyes went huge as he stared down at his hand on her belly. “Is that what I think it is?” He sounded excited, tone hush as he kept his hand frozen against her.
“Yes….Our baby…one of them is kicking!” She was almost giddy with excitement, feeling the child doing the kicking sensation once again. Lotor laughed, and rubbed at her belly, softly cooing towards it.
“Strong for one so little…” He sounded pleased, Lotor enjoying feeling the kicks. “Is this the first time one of them has kicked?” Allura nodded, feeling as though she’d tear up in happiness. “Does it hurt?” He was concerned now, looking anxiously at her.
“No. It’s just a little uncomfortable.” Allura told him. “But the baby is not hurting me.”
“That’s good.” He was relieved, rubbing her belly one more time. Lotor seemed almost reluctant to stop touching her, looking awed to feel the baby’s kicks. “We have to mark this day on a calendar. It’s special…”
“Oh!” Now she felt another set of kicks, Allura realizing the second baby had picked up on the first’s activity. Lotor grinned at her, surely liking this proof of the lives growing within her.
“I hadn’t realized they were old enough to kick this hard.” Lotor said, and she smiled.
“Time is flying by. Before you know it, they will be born…”
“We have to get a room ready for them…” Lotor decided. “We can’t keep putting it off. And we need to decide on names…there’s so much to do, and time is running out!”
“We’ll manage.” Allura was quick to assure him, trying not to think on the decision that came with the arrival of the twins. It would only sadden the mood, Allura apt to break down in tears if she thought too hard about leaving her children behind.
“We will.” Agreed Lotor. “We’ll have each other for support, and together we will get everything ready.” It seemed Lotor too did not want to think on the possibility that Allura would leave him once the children were born, the prince choosing to be optimistic about the future.
“They’re so active!” Allura exclaimed, feeling the twins continuing to kick. “It’s like a fire has been lit under them.”
“They want us to know they are there.” Lotor replied, hand still pressed against her belly. “They’re demanding our attention!” He chuckled at that, seeming amused.
“They’ve got it.” Allura told him, knowing there was no way she could ignore them while they were so active inside her.
Lotor looked up at her, eyes twinkling with a happy light. For the first time in a long time, neither one of them was solemn and sad, the worries of their lives forgotten for the moment. A moment that could not last, a knock sounding at the door. Lotor gave one last rub of her belly, then forced himself away from her to answer the door.
“Cossack…Perfect timing!” Lotor grinned, ushering Cossack into the room. The door clicked closed behind them, the prince pushing the commander towards Allura. “Come! Feel my children and how strongly they kick!”
“That’s wonderful.” Cossack dutifully replied, hand lightly touching Allura’s belly. He was almost too nervous to touch her, doing the slightest of touches against her stomach. Lotor was beaming, the proud father, an expression Allura watched fade as Cossack announced the reason for his arrival.
“It’s time.” The commander said, pulling his hand away from Allura.
“Time…” repeated Allura, the joy over her children fading as the reminder of what was to go down tonight made itself known.
“He’s left his quarters?” Lotor asked, and Cossack nodded.
“Estimated arrival to the throne room should be in 15 minutes. We’ve got over a dozen men in each corridor, waiting to surround him. It’s time to get into place sire.”
“Good, good…” Lotor said, and once again checked to make sure his sword belt was properly fastened around his waist. Allura backed up a step, reaching towards the table to lift up Lotor’s helmet, staring down at the reflective metal. Her eyes looked sad, her expression a worried frown.
“Here…” She said softly, handing the helmet to the prince. He nodded his thanks to her, Lotor placing it on his head. “Good luck.” She added, placing a hand on his arm. Lotor smiled, and covered her hand with his, giving her a slight squeeze.
“We’ll make our own luck tonight.” Cossack said, sounding nervous. Allura glanced at him, noting the saber and hand held laser rifle strapped to his back. A leather belt was fastened around his left thigh, a small dagger attached to it. His armor had been cleaned up, and shined to a polish, Cossack looking cleaner than Allura could ever recall him being.
“Still, I’ll pray for a blessing for you both….you and your men.” Allura told them.
“Thank you Allura. I’m sure I will win tonight, and it will be in part because of your prayers.” Lotor said, and Cossack quickly interjected.
“You mean WE’LL win tonight.” Cossack frowned when Lotor shook his head no, the prince looking serious.
“You’re not coming with me Cossack.”
“I’m not?!” exclaimed Cossack stunned. “Why not?! Don’t you trust me to fight at your side?!”
“It’s because I trust you that I have the most important job for you.” Lotor told him. “Remember when we first talked about this plot to kill my father?” Cossack nodded, giving Lotor leave to continue. “I told you your job would be to guard Allura. I meant it.” Cossack actually looked disappointed, Lotor letting out a bark of laughter as he clasped a hand on the commander’s shoulder. “Don’t look so down Cossack. With any luck you’ll be out of the line of fire, and it’s no hardship to guard Allura.”
“Well, yeah, but I wanted to be there for you.” Cossack protested halfheartedly.
“You’ll be there in spirit. There’s no one I can trust more than you with Allura.”
“You think something will happen to me?” Allura asked, feeling worried. Lotor and Cossack exchanged glances, the commander shrugging.
“Can’t know for sure…”
“I doubt it, but it’s better to be safe than sorry…” Lotor told her. “Tonight will be a complete surprise to my father. I doubt he will have a chance to exact one final revenge on me.” Allura couldn’t help but shiver at the thought of Zarkon managing to do one last evil, the girl hugging her arms around her for comfort.
“He’d go after you Allura.” Cossack added, ignoring the warning look Lotor shot him. “If he wanted to do real damage to Lotor before he died, what better way than to go after the woman Lotor loves, and the children she carries?”
“Enough of that Cossack.” Lotor snapped. “Don’t fill Allura’s head with worries.”
“Oh, I’m sorry!” Cossack exclaimed, taking a quick look at Allura’s anxious face. “He won’t get a chance to do it. He won’t even know what to do when Lotor springs his trap….”
“And I better get going before he arrives and starts to wonder why my men are detaining him.” Lotor said, already walking past Allura to head towards the door.
“Can you make it to the rendezvous point in time?” She asked, and Lotor nodded.
“I’ll have to run, but I’ll get into position. They’ll contact me on my com unit, let me know which corridor Zarkon is arriving in.” Lotor turned as he opened the door, smiling at her one last time. “Please, try not to worry.”
“I can’t help it!” She exclaimed, even as the door swung close. She sighed at Lotor’s lack of response, hand absentmindedly going to her stomach. The twins had settled down, no longer kicking up a storm inside her.
“He’s right you know.” Cossack said from behind her. “You should try not to worry so.” She turned, and gave him a distressed look, Cossack’s expression turning awkward. “Hey I know, why don’t we watch the holos? I know a good drama is just the thing to take your mind off your troubles.” He was already walking over to lower the view screen, picking up the remote in his hand to flip through the channels.
“I don’t really want to watch anything…” Allura told him, sighing as she slumped down onto the couch. He seemed to ignore her, changing channels rapidly as he looked for something suitable for them to watch. She grabbed a cushion from the couch, and place it before her, hugging it to her. “Cossack? How long do you think the…the events of tonight will take?”
“Can’t know for sure.” His back was still to her, Cossack staring at the screen, image after image flickering past. “It could be over in a matter of minutes, but knowing the King…he’ll fight. He’ll be absolutely vicious as he makes his last stand.”
That hardly reassured Allura, the girl hugging the pillow tighter against her. “Do you think there’s a chance he’ll win?”
“Can’t know.” Cossack shrugged. “Lotor’s got more men now…..almost the whole army has been replaced with allies of the prince. But…if something were to happen to Lotor…if he was injured or killed….there’d be little choice in who to back….I mean, I doubt many of the grunts we’ve got working for us will lay down their lives without a leader to support. Some might even give up the names of the nobles who backed Lotor, in hopes that Zarkon would spare them from attacking him.”
“Oh.” She said it so softly, her voice distressed as she stared downwards. And still Cossack picked up on her tone, the Drule turning to look at her.
“Oh I’m sorry Allura. I shouldn’t be worrying you like this.” He looked upset that he had worried her, the commander stepping towards her. “I’m sure it won’t come to that. Lotor is a keen and well abled fighter. And his most trusted men are among the soldiers in the three corridors. They’ll make easy work of Zarkon and his guards. You’ll see.”
“I hope so…” Allura watched as Cossack sat down on a chair near the couch, his expression earnest. “It’ll be an exciting time on Doom.”
“Well, yeah. I mean…Lotor will become the new King.” Cossack grinned. “There will be a coronation and parties to attend. People will be falling over themselves to curry favor with him in his new position of power.”
“I suspect being King will leave him very busy.” Allura said, thinking of all the things Lotor would have to do now as King.
“True but….He’ll always make time for you. I know he will!” Cossack exclaimed. “He’s not going to let a thing like a king’s responsibilities keep him away from you.” Cossack grinned. “In fact, I bet he’ll be pushing to hold another kind of ceremony…”
“Another ceremony?” Allura repeated, a blank look on her face.
“Yeah. A wedding!” Cossack chuckled. “He’ll want to make you his Queen. And give legitimacy to your children.” She said nothing in response to Cossack’s words, Allura knowing she was nowhere near ready to marry Lotor. It must have shown on her face, the hesitation and uncertainty a marriage to Lotor caused her, for Cossack’s face was falling. “What’s the matter Allura? Don’t you want to marry Lotor?”
“It’s….it’s complicated.” She answered him, causing Cossack to sigh.
“You could talk to me about it…” She fixed him with a disbelieving look, Cossack leaning forward to take her hand. “You can! I’m a great listener!”
“I couldn’t.” Allura said, shaking her head no. “Not about this.”
Cossack looked troubled, staring down at her hand, fingers fidgeting on her wrist. “I….I know the prince has made a lot of mistakes with you. But you have to understand, you two come from different cultures.”
“Sometimes I think we’re so different it will be impossible for us to do anything but hurt each other….” Allura said sadly.
“I don’t believe that. Sure there will be misunderstandings but….but you two can work through that! You may have had a rough start, and you continue to have shaky bumps in the relationship but….”
“It’s just no good Cossack…..he hasn’t even told me he’s sorry for the things that he did to me. I don’t think he’ll ever be sorry for….for raping me.” She pulled her hand away from the commander’s, turning away from him before she could catch sight of the expression he wore.
“But he’s trying so hard!” Cossack exclaimed. “Allura, he’s trying to make amends. He’s trying to do right by you. Everyone has seen a change in him. Why can’t you?”
“Don’t you think I know that?” She demanded, tone angry. “I can see that he acts differently, I can see him attempting to do the right things for me…..and I can see what an effort it is for him to attempt that. And he still slips up…not once, not twice, but many times. I have my own struggles you know! I’m trying to find my own happiness, and I’m not sure it will be with Lotor!”
“Can you really say you’ll be happy if you leave him?” Cossack asked, voice quiet compared to her passionate shout. “It won’t just be him you’ll lose out on.”
“I know.” She glanced downwards, thinking of the children growing inside her. “I’ll have to leave my children behind, and that will make me miserable…but I just don’t know if I can ever get over what he did to me!”
“I can’t say I understand completely…” Cossack clearly was uncomfortable. “I mean…..rape is such a foreign concept when applied to a slave…”
“So Lotor tells me.” She said bitterly.
“But…the prince is not that bad a man. And didn’t he make you feel good?” Allura whirled at that, turning in place to glare at Cossack, her eyes flashing with anger.
“What he did or did not make me feel, does not excuse him!”
Her shout seemed to make Cossack realize what a sore subject this was for Allura, the man all but flinching back in his seat. “Sorry…” His voice was quiet, the commander’s shoulders sagging. She didn’t deign to accept his apology, doing a haughty toss of her head as she turned to stare at the view screen. Cossack waited a few minutes, then was speaking, voice almost hesitant. “Pardon me for suggesting this….but could it be, part of you is upset because you enjoyed it, at least some of the time?”
Her cheeks actually burned at that, Allura knowing the fact that her body responded to Lotor’s, that she could achieve pleasure, even when he had been forcing himself on her, was something she struggled with each and every day. Some days she felt almost ready to give in to him, almost missing the pleasures he could provide. It was a part she hated most of all about herself, Allura feeling a traitor to her own body to be craving Lotor’s touch.
It didn’t make it any easier to hear Cossack give voice to what she often struggled with. Her nails dug into the cushion’s fabric, not quite hard enough to tear, Allura feeling her eyes brim with tears. Cossack noticed the watery state of her eyes, and she heard him let out a plea.
“‘Oh no! Oh Allura! Please don’t cry! I didn’t mean to upset you. I was only…only trying to help you and Lotor….”
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” Allura said, raising a hand to rub at her wet eyes.
“Fine….we can talk about something else…” She sniffled, and he quickly amended his words. “Or we can just sit in silence and watch the holos….” He made a show of turning to look at the view screen, and a few seconds later a knock sounded at the door. “Who could that be?” A frowning Cossack asked, and Allura shrugged.
“I don’t know.”
“Did you order in a meal for tonight?” Cossack was already rising, heading towards the door.
“No. I’ve been too tense with worry to even think about eating.” Allura told him.
“Strange.” Cossack said, and opened the door. She didn’t turn to look to see who it was, still staring at the view screen with eyesight that was blurred with tears. But she could hear the surprise in Cossack’s voice, the man demanding to know what the visitor was doing at her door. It was a surprise that turned into a threatening snarl, the sound raising an internal alarm inside Allura.
“Cossack, what…..who is that?” She turned to look, and saw the commander stagger backwards into the room. He was unsteady on his feet, his head glancing downwards at his chest. Something glinted on his back, a hint of steel that was mainly covered in blood. Allura was slow to realize it was the pointed tip of a sword, thrust so violently into the commander’s front, that it broke through the skin in his back.