They weren’t even on a command ship, but one of the many smaller ships that had made up part of the two fleets the Drules had brought to Arus. Merla wasn’t even sure just which fleet this ship was part of, if it was hers, or part of the fleet Lotor had brought with him as he had pursued the queen to planet Arus. In the end, she supposed it didn’t matter, the Queen hurrying after an agitated Prince Lotor.
He set a brisk pace, Lotor all swagger even as he continued to bleed. Barking orders, and demanding status reports, he all but ignored the witch at his side. Haggar herself wasn’t looking too good, the witch exhausted from her own expenditure of magic. Merla spitefully thought that was good, the Queen not forgetting it was Haggar’s spell that had wreaked havoc on her own abilities. But now was not time for a reckoning, more pressing matters making themselves known. Lotor was injured, and Zarkon was here on Arus.
Merla was amazed that Zarkon had deigned to leave his castle on planet Doom. The old Drule King hadn’t actively taken a part in a war in years, and it didn’t take a mind reader to understand he had been driven to do so by anger. Merla knew she was responsible for at least part of the King’s anger, and thoughts off of Lotor’s mind let her know the prince had refused his father’s orders to leave the matter of Merla and Arus to Zarkon. It was a refusal that couldn’t have gone over well with the King, Zarkon hating disobedience in all his people, even in his son. But was that enough to move Zarkon to personally come oversee what was happening on Arus? Or was there another reason for Zarkon’s arrival?
The ship lurched suddenly, everyone falling against the walls. Lotor growled out a curse, wondering who was responsible for such shoddy piloting. Merla stayed against the wall, waiting for the ship to stop it’s jerky movements. Haggar nearly ended up on the floor, the witch screaming out an insult to whoever was in charge of the ship’s erratic flight.
“Get me the name of who in charge on this ship!” Lotor snarled, grabbing at a passing soldier with his hand. He seemed to wince in pain, the action pulling something in his injured shoulder.
“Ge…general Supindoor!” stammered the soldier. He was frightened to be the focus of Lotor’s infuriated glare.
“Get him down here!” Lotor snarled. “Tell him I am relieving him of his command!”
“Is that wise, Prince Lotor?” Haggar demanded, as the soldier ran off. “You are injured….”
“Not too injured as to be useless!” Lotor snapped in retort. “YOU!” He pointed at another soldier, the man freezing in place, terrified. “Get me a status report! I want constant updates on the situation outside this ship! And someone open a line to the King’s command ship!”
“Prince Lotor, now is not the time to be bothering your father…” Haggar cautioned.
“It’s as good a time as any. What the hell is he thinking, coming to Arus?” Lotor demanded. Merla took a step towards him, having noticed his shoulder had started to bleed even heavier. “Doesn’t he realize what a dangerous position he’s put us all in? If the Voltron Force capitalizes on this opportunity, they could wipe out the entire ruling class of the Doom Empire in one battle!” He suddenly turned, grabbing hold of Merla’s reaching hand. He glowered at her, but Merla glared right back, as defiant as she was concerned.
“You are BLEEDING.” She told him, and picked up his surprised thought. He hadn’t been aware of the blood, hadn’t realized Merla was attempting to touch him out of concern.
“It’s just a flesh wound.” Lotor dismissed, without looking at his shoulder.
“It’s more than that, and you know it!”
“She’s right, your highness.” Haggar sidled closer to Merla. “That shoulder needs to be taken care of.” A critical look was cast his way. “At the very least you’ll need stitches.”
“I don’t have time for that.” Lotor said, and Merla sneered.
“So you would rather run around and risk bleeding to death? The war can wait the few minutes it takes to tend to your injury.” She softened her expression, not quite pleading with him. “Don’t be a fool Lotor…”
“He’s been a fool long before this.” Grumbled Haggar. “This whole day reeks of his foolishness.”
“Witch…” growled Lotor threateningly. He almost stumbled, and Merla instantly put her arms around Lotor. She didn’t care that his blood got on her, the Queen trying to keep him upright. Lotor would not lean into her for support, still glaring at Haggar.
“You’ve been very stupid Lotor.” Haggar continued, not heeding his threats. She then turned her glare on Merla. “And you too, Merla!” The sad fact was Merla couldn’t deny it, knowing what was happening was as much her fault as Lotor’s. If she hadn’t taken it in her head to come to Arus with the specific purpose of killing Allura, perhaps now the Doom Empire wouldn’t be in such a precarious position.
“Honestly!” Haggar fumed. “Why can’t you be a little more normal, a little more traditional and keep your marital strife behind closed doors? Why must you involve two worlds, thousands of soldiers, and an untold number of the Empire’s resources in this spat of yours?!”
“Haggar, shut up!”
“I will not!” Haggar told him, jabbing a bony finger into his chest. “And it’s not anything your father won’t bring up as well! You’ll be lucky if he doesn’t hang you both, and that’s if we all survive today’s battle!”
“He wouldn’t dare!” Lotor snarled.
“I wouldn’t put anything past him after his temper has been roused to the point he was willing to come chasing after you.” Haggar sighed then. “You better hope this battle goes in Doom’s favor. It might be the only thing that saves your neck from the hangman’s noose!”
Lotor glared at the witch a moment longer, than abruptly pulled away from Merla. “Lotor!” She exclaimed, both the Queen and the witch hurrying after him.
“I don’t have time to be injured.” Lotor was grumbling. “I have work to do. I need…need to supervise the battle, do what I can to help us win.”
“What you need to do is stay out of it!” Haggar snapped. “Let your father work on cleaning up YOUR mess.”
“But…” Scowling, Lotor cast an uncertain look Merla’s way. He actually hesitated to voice his concern for Allura, as though trying to be respectful of Merla’s own feelings. The Queen tried not to let it bother her that even now Lotor was thinking of Allura, that the prince was fearing what Zarkon would do to the princess. Merla knew Zarkon wouldn’t be anywhere as merciful as Lotor, the King torturing, even killing the princess. The way things stood, the better death would be for Allura to die while piloting blue lion, rather than live long enough for Zarkon’s cruel attention.
“No more excuses!” snapped Haggar. She poked him again with that finger, green sparks of magical energy falling off it. “If I have to, I will knock you out!”
“You wouldn’t dare!” gasped Lotor, outraged.
“It’s your choice, Lotor. Either walk to the med bay of your own accord, or be carried there.” Haggar said, smirking. Lotor would grumble out a response, Haggar cocking her head to the side. “What was that, your highness? I couldn’t quite hear you!”
“I said fine! Have it your way!” Lotor was sullen, giving Haggar one last glare. The witch only cackled in reply, the old woman long used to Lotor’s angry looks and even more hostile words. Muttering insults under his breath, Lotor resumed walking then paused to look at Merla. “Coming?” He demanded, his tone of voice gruff. She blinked slowly, still not used to his regard.
“Ah yes.” Merla finally answered, and hurried towards him. Behind her she could hear Haggar harassing a soldier, the witch demanding she be taken to General Supindoor. No doubt the witch intended to take charge of the ship and the crew in Lotor’s absence.
The layout of this ship was similar in design to many of the vessels that made up the Drule fleets. They would not need to stop and ask directions, the pair both remembering enough of the ship’s schematics to find the med bay on their own. Lotor and Merla didn’t do much talking, the pair walking side by side in relative silence. But Merla could read Lotor’s mind, her own powers so out of control she couldn’t stop the thoughts from coming. And he had many, the prince conflicted and confused, wondering what was wrong with him. He was no closer to understanding why he had leapt to Merla’s defense, why he had almost panicked at the thought of the Queen dying. He wasn’t sure he liked this new found protectiveness, thinking it would lead to new kinds of trouble.
His thoughts weren’t all about Merla. Allura was in there too, Lotor worrying for her. Fearing for her safety, and desperate to get her back. He wasn’t thinking about the sex he had had with her, and that kept Merla from clawing out his eyes. It still grated on her nerves that Lotor could spare any thoughts to the princess of Arus, but Merla’s hurt was eased by the fact Lotor had been genuinely concerned for his wife.
It felt like a small victory, that concern. But Merla wasn’t about to celebrate. Not until Lotor knew for sure what his feelings meant, what his heart really wanted. Somehow she didn’t think herself any closer to having Lotor’s love, but for now she could content herself with what he was feeling.
The med bay wasn’t that crowded. When Zarkon’s ships began the bombardment, the Drules who had been hit had been left for dead. It had been every man for themselves, the soldiers running for cover. There had been no time to check to see if the wounded could be saved, everyone too concerned with saving their own neck. Except Lotor, who had been concentrating on keeping Merla safe. And lest she forget, Haggar had been dedicated to protecting both her Prince and the Queen. Merla wondered if the witch was really that loyal to the prince, or if she had been keeping them alive solely to deliver them to face Zarkon’s wrath.
Merla wasn’t looking forward to the reckoning that awaited them. Lotor might have saved her, only to have them both die at Zarkon’s command. She held back a shiver, knowing their deaths was a very real possibility. It left her hoping the Drules would win the battle against Arus, if only so some of Zarkon’s anger would be appeased.
“Don’t worry.” Lotor said, voice soft so that only Merla could hear him. “I won’t let him kill us.”
“How can you STOP him?” Merla wondered out loud.
“I’ll think of something.” But Lotor didn’t sound very convincing, what with his own worried thoughts being projected to Merla. She wished she could switch off her powers, Merla holding a very real fear that this side effect would be permanent. She’d actually shudder imagining how horrible life would be, if she had to constantly hear the thoughts of every single person around her.
“What’s wrong?” Lotor demanded instantly alert.
“It’s nothing…just tired.” Merla WAS tired, and not even the adrenaline of the earlier fight, could keep her going indefinitely.
“You need to get checked out.” Lotor said. “Both you and the baby.”
“You first.” Insisted Merla, and swore Lotor fought a smile.
“Fine.” He said, and allowed them to be ushered into a side room. It wasn’t an exam room, but more a recovery area. With two beds covered in clean, white sheets. Lotor was told to sit down on one of them, though the prince refused to actually lay down. He’d sit up glaring, waiting impatiently for the doctor and nurses to finish their examination of his shoulder.
Merla would take the seat that sat situated between the beds, watching as Lotor grimaced and groused about how long the examination was taking. The doctor would chide him, the nurses working to stop the bleeding. Tools would be brought out, fine stitches being used to sew Lotor’s wound shut.
“I’m ordering a blood transfusion for you.” The doctor announced. The nurses had already ran off to gather the proper equipment for the transfusion.
“Is this really necessary?” Lotor demanded.
“It’s just a precaution.” The doctor said, and left to see what was taking the nurses so long. With the medical staff gone from the room, it was silent. Merla would try not to fidget in place, wondering what if anything she should say to Lotor. Somehow an apology didn’t feel right, and Merla wasn’t sorry she had tried to kill Allura. If anything she was upset she had failed!
And yet she knew killing Allura would have solved nothing where Merla’s marriage was concerned. Lotor needed to work through this obsession of his, needed to get the princess of Arus out of his thoughts. But he wasn’t anywhere close to wanting to be free of his lustful infatuation, and Merla feared he’d crave Allura even more now that he had had sex with her.
The fact that Lotor had had sex with Allura really bothered Merla. It made her angry, and it made her jealous. She might even feel a bit of fear, and it wasn’t completely irrational. Her hold on Lotor was weak, the man convinced his future lay with Allura. Merla wanted Lotor to stop thinking that way, wanted the prince to realize the she was the better option. But no amount of talking seemed able to persuade him, Lotor determined to go through with the folly of loving Allura.
Once again Merla thought on how life with Allura would make Lotor miserable in the long run. She would never love Lotor as he was now, insisting he change. Making him leap through her hoops, Allura would try to force her human sensibilities and morals onto the prince. Lotor might tolerate this at first, but eventually he would snap. The two would constantly bicker, might even kill each other! Merla didn’t even want to think what would happen to the Doom Empire under the combined rule of Lotor and Allura. The princess of Arus would be the ruin of more than just Lotor, the Empire itself would suffer.
But Merla knew Lotor would not be swayed by such dire predictions. He’d never believe life with Allura could be so bad, not without experiencing that misery first hand. But Merla couldn’t let go of him, not even to teach him a lesson. It left Merla wallowing in her own kind of misery, the Queen unable to give up on her own obsession. She sighed then, the sound loud and depressed. It drew Lotor’s attention to her, the prince cocking an eyebrow in question.
“Nothing….” She held in the urge to sigh again, watching as Lotor frowned.
“That sigh didn’t sound like nothing.”
“Just thinking…” Merla admitted.
“Ah.” A knowing look filled his eyes. “About my father? Don’t worry Merla. He won’t dare lay a finger on you.”
“I….” She wouldn’t let hesitation keep her from speaking the truth. “I was thinking about us.”
“Us?” Lotor was surprised.
“Yes….” She sighed again. “It’s gotten so complicated, hasn’t it?”
Lotor’s own look turned shifty, as though the prince wanted to avoid this kind of topic. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“You do.” Merla insisted. “I know you do. It’s been complicated for a long time now, maybe even before you chased after me to Arus.”
“I wasn’t chasing you so much as trying to rescue Allura from your murderous intentions.” Lotor pointed out.
She fought not to let the familiar jealousy flare up at hearing Allura’s name spoken by Lotor. It still stung though, Merla giving Lotor a piercing look. “You could have avoided a lot of trouble if you just killed me when you had the chance.”
“I wanted to.” Lotor admitted. “Gods know I wanted to. When I saw you with your hands around Allura’s neck….” He closed his eyes, seeming to shudder as the memory flashed images in his mind. But he wasn’t anywhere as angry as he had been earlier, Lotor having come to terms with the fact he had in part driven Merla to such extremes.
“Never do that again.” Lotor had opened his eyes, his own piercing gaze pinning Merla in place. He wasn’t just telling Merla not to kill Allura, but asking her to never again do something that would drive Lotor into a killing rage. Merla was shaken to realize Lotor didn’t want to ever be that angry with her again, the prince not wanting her to die. And it had little to do with the baby she carried!
“You’ll have to promise me something then.” Merla told him. He was rightfully wary.
“You’ll have to promise to never make me that jealous again.” She saw him frown, and was astonished to pick up the thought that Lotor sometimes liked when Merla got jealous. He thought the sex was especially exceptional when the Queen was jealous, the angry emotions driving her to hurt and be rough with Lotor.
“I can’t control what you feel.” It wasn’t entirely true, Merla knowing lately her every mood, her every emotion centered on Lotor and the way he was making her feel. Pity that so many of the feelings he stirred in her had been negative. And yet she wouldn’t admit to that out loud, nor would she let on how easily he could manipulate her just by mentioning Allura’s name.
“It would be a lot easier for all involved if you forgot about Allura.” Merla said out loud.
“You know I can’t do that.” Lotor told her.
“Can’t, or won’t?” Merla demanded.
“I NEED Allura like I need air to breathe.” Lotor told her, for all intents and purposes absolutely serious. “I love her.”
And that would forever be the obstacle between them so long as Lotor continued to cling to the idea that he was in love with the princess of Arus. Merla felt sick with heart ache, but she narrowed her eyes into a glare. “Then I make no promises.”
“What is that supposed to mean?!” Lotor demanded.
“It means you should have killed me when you had the chance.” Merla told him. “Because I won’t hesitate if an opportunity comes my way to kill your precious Allura.” She stood now, intent on walking out of the room. Lotor leapt off the bed, lunging after her. She just barely evaded his grab, Merla turning to glare at him. Even worse, she felt no murderous intentions coming off him, Lotor mad but not truly wanting to hurt Merla. It confused her as much as it did him, Lotor once again grabbing for Merla’s arm.
She tried to jerk away, his hand closing around her. Lotor would let out a growl, his own look fierce as he glared at Merla. “I realized something today.” His voice was a harsh rasp, Lotor angry. “I realized I don’t want to see you die. Especially not by my hand. And it has nothing to do with the fact you’re carrying my child!” She could read his mind, but Merla wanted to hear him speak the words out loud. As though that would force Lotor to acknowledge his own confusing feelings. “Merla….I…” He stumbled on the word. “…think I LIKE you.”
“You like me?” Merla repeated, acting surprised.
“Maybe just a little. More than I should at any rate.” Lotor grumbled. His other hand reached for her face as he pulled her close, Lotor intent on caressing fingertips over her cheek. It was the gentlest touch he had ever used on Merla, and something inside her quivered in response. “We’ve had some….moments together.”
“Certainly couldn’t call them good ones.”
“Couldn’t call them bad ones either.” Lotor retorted. “But when we’re not trying to kill each other, when we’re not fighting and hurling insults? It’s been…satisfying.”
“So the sex was good.” Merla was petulant. “It’s not enough to build a relationship on.”
“It’s a start….”
“Lotor…” A searching look into his eyes, his confusing thoughts telling her nothing she wanted to know in the moment. “Just what do you want from me?”
His hand dropped away from her cheek, and Merla hated how she missed that warm touch. “For now? I want you to submit to a full examination by the ship’s doctor.”
She frowned at him. “That’s not what I was asking.”
A slow smirk in response from him. “I know. But that’s all you’re going to get for now.”
Her own eyes narrowed, Merla scowling at Lotor. “You can be so infuriating at times!”
“Only at times? Then I’ll have to try harder!” He was actually laughing at her now.
It only made her scowl even more at him, Merla crossing her arms over her chest. “Now is not the time to make jokes.”
“Who says I am joking?” Lotor asked, eyes glinting with amusement.
“Sooner or later you will have to get serious.” Merla told him. “There is still plenty we haven’t talked about.”
“What else is there?” Lotor asked, and his thoughts turned leery.
“Allura.” She was practically glowering as she said the princess’ name. “Lotor, you slept with her!” All his amusement faded, Lotor bricking up his emotions so that he presented a blank face to Merla. But she could feel his thoughts, Lotor downright smug over what he had done with Allura. The smugness outweighed any concern he might have for Merla, Lotor reveling in his one triumph of the day.
“So what if I did?” He asked.
She fought the urge to slap him, any warmth she had been feeling towards him gone now. “Did you even use any type of protection when you were with her?”
“Didn’t see the point to.”
“Didn’t see the point?!” Merla gasped, outraged. “You’re not even sorry about it!” Her teeth ground together, Merla making fists out of her hands. “Lotor, what if she ends up with child?!”
“The more the merrier.” Lotor answered, and she had to bite her lip to keep from screaming.
“I won’t be tossed aside for her! Nor will I allow you to do the same to our child!”
There was a thought developing in Lotor’s head, small and uncertain. It’s voice was seductive, hissing an idea to Lotor, giving him the idea that he might not have to give up on either woman. Merla just about lost it then, not knowing what was worse. To be abandoned by him, or to have to share her husband with some Arusian trollop. This time she really did smack him, not once, not twice, but three times before he got a hold of her wrists.
“I HATE you!” Merla hissed, struggling like a hell cat.
“No, you don’t.” Lotor said with certainty.
“Yes, I do!” Merla insisted. “I should have left you to die!”
“But you didn’t.” His smirk was smug then, Lotor leaning in to brush his lips over hers. She responded by biting down on his bottom lip, the copper taste of his blood spilling onto her tongue. “OW!” Lotor jerked back with a pain cry, letting go of Merla. “Damn temperamental witch!”
“You can’t manipulate me, Lotor!” Merla told him, shaking with her upset. “And you can’t have it both ways. Sooner rather than later, you’re going to have to make a choice between Allura and me! I can only pray you think with something other than your dick when that times comes!” With that she stalked out of the recovery room, sick and fearing what would happen next. What would be said, what they might do. They might fight, or they might fuck, and knowing their track record, they probably would do both! It was best to walk away, to stay away from Lotor until Merla could regain some semblance of control. It only hurt a little that Lotor did not come chasing after her this time around.