It was odd setting foot onto the castle’s grounds, Lotor experiencing a sense of unease at being in the building that had been Allura’s home. Even now, twenty years later, he still felt as though her essence permeated the very surroundings. It wasn’t as though her ghost haunted the building, but more his imagined memories of her. Lotor could picture her moving about the rooms, laughing, smiling, things she had never dared do in his presence.
It was the chief reason he avoided coming to the castle of lions in the first place, Lotor not wanting to be burdened with any more heart ache. Sometimes he thought he was foolish for coming to this planet, knowing the tragic memories it’s land held for him. Perhaps he liked depressing himself, Lotor choosing Arus as the perfect get away from his royal obligations.
Those obligations included his wife, Merla an annoyance on the best of days, was downright infuriating lately. She kept pestering him to give her an heir, the Queen wanting a child to further cement her position as his wife. So far their few meager couplings had produced nothing but anger and dissatisfaction, Merla accusing Lotor of purposefully sabotaging their chances at having a child.
It wasn’t just the issue of an heir that had him fleeing to Arus, Lotor trapped in a loveless marriage with the Drule female. They didn’t even like each other, Merla constantly haranguing him about this and that, Lotor annoying her in turn. They didn’t outright insult each other, being more subtle in their jabs.
They had nearly come to their first full fight, one that left Lotor in a murderous rage, the Drule tempted to raise a fist to the woman. That had upset him anew, the man knowing he wasn’t the type to strike a woman no matter how infuriating a bitch she was. That Merla could shake a moral code so thoroughly had him packing his things, Lotor leaving her and Doom behind to go to the one place she’d never suspect he’d set foot on.
Arus. He told no one save for Cossack and the entourage that accompanied him everywhere. They were all sworn to secrecy, Lotor’s ship arriving in the space port of Havana. It was a short ride to a tropical paradise, a small beach town that doubled as a vacation resort for the idle rich and famous. It was also almost as far away from the castle of lions as one could get on Arus, nearly halfway across the planet.
As such, he was in no position to travel quickly when news broke out about blue lion’s reappearance. Several news stations broke the story, amateur footage being presented of the lion and it’s subsequent shooting down by the other four. Lotor hadn’t known what to think when he saw the footage, at first assuming it was a hoax of some kind.
That was before more footage was leaked to the news stations, still images showing the lion on the castle grounds. Someone close to the event had surely leaked the pictures to the news hounds for a hefty price. Lotor would almost want to find out who it was, and snuff out the leak before any more damage could be done. But that was before he saw the images with his own eyes, a gasp escaping him as he spied the helmeted girl in the pink and white pilot’s uniform.
The image had been blurry from distance, he couldn’t make out the details of her face to know who that was. And yet, his heart had started beating with excitement at seeing that picture. If it was a hoax, it was the most elaborate one yet, and Lotor meant to get to the bottom of it.
No news came from the castle, not even a statement about the situation, leaving Lotor all the more curious and determined. He ditched his entourage, and hired a private shuttle to transport him halfway around the world. Even at it’s fastest speed, it still took about two days to arrive, and in that time Lotor continued trying to get a hold of someone, anyone who could tell him what was going on at the castle.
Finally a low level grunt let slip that General Cossack himself was interrogating the girl. That raised eyebrows, Lotor knowing Cossack had better things to do than waste his time on a prisoner.
By the time Lotor arrived at the castle, he knew without a doubt Cossack was keeping something big from him. The soldiers around him all but proved it, the men and women eager to distract their liege, lead him away to other, inconsequential tasks. Lotor refused to be led astray, the Drule hurrying towards the basement floor of the castle.
Lotor didn’t know what he wanted to believe as he descended down the basement’s stair case. Did he dare even hope that really was blue lion that had appeared? And if so, who was piloting it? It was crazy, and impossible, and damn him if he didn’t want to believe that she could really be alive and returned to him. His heart started beating more strongly, he could practically hear it ringing in his ears.
Cossack was waiting for him at the bottom of the staircase, the man kneeling respectfully. Lotor urged him to get up, but his attention was all for the pilot they had pulled out of the lion. He didn’t even wait for Cossack to tell him what room the girl was in, he began pulling open doors himself, each time being rewarded with disappointment.
Finally Cossack threw himself against one of the last remaining doors, barring his way. Lotor had stared into the General’s eyes, and knew his friend acted out of desperate need to protect him. Part of him understood that desire, but the rest was overriding caution, Lotor hauling Cossack away from the door, and jerking it open.
A gasp greeted him, it might have been his own voice that echoed the girl’s sound, Lotor’s eyes going wider than they had ever gone before. Allura, for she could be no one else, had been sitting at a table when the door opened. At the sight of Lotor she leaped to her feet, chair falling over from her rapid movement. Her own eyes were wide, the blue looking frightened, which was a familiar look on her face.
Lotor had barely been able to stand, staring back at her. His knees seemed to weaken, he actually fell against the door frame. “A…Allura….?”
“Lotor!” Just his name, but she sounded scared, the girl remembering to close her gaping mouth.
Behind him he could hear Cossack cursing, orders being issued for the guards to go back to their posts. Lotor continued to lean against the side of the door, just drinking in the sight of Allura. She hadn’t aged a day, being at that age when a girl blossomed into a woman. Her hair was as golden as the sun, bun in disarray so that curled strands fell down the sides of her face.
Her eyes were as blue as the ocean, fathomless depths to them he could lose himself into. Her skin a healthy glow, she had a bandage over her one eye, leaving Lotor’s blood to boil at the thought of her suffering an injury, even one as small as that one was.
He had things he wanted to ask her, things he wanted to say, things that might make him sound foolish. He cleared his throat, aware of Cossack appearing at his side. “Leave us.”
“Sire?” A questioning word, Lotor feeling annoyed to hear it.
“I said leave us! All of you….” He didn’t look away from Allura, but he was aware of a female soldier standing just to the side of his vision.
“I’m not sure that’s wise.” Cossack began. “We don’t know who she really is….”
“Fool! Can’t you see? It’s Allura!” Lotor snapped at him. “I’d know that face anywhere!”
“Yeah but…” Cossack hesitated. “Faces are easy to fake with the surgeries these days.” Lotor shook his head, refusing to believe she was a fake. “Sire, don’t be foolish…not until we get proof….”
“I have all the proof I need.” Lotor answered. “Now leave us.”
Cossack sighed. “Fine. But I’ll be outside this door just in case….” He heard Cossack moving, and saw the female solider ease past him into the hall. “One more thing….she doesn’t speak the language. I’ve been having to practice my Arusian…..”
“And you don’t think that odd in and of itself?” Lotor demanded. “Arusian is pratically a dead language….there’s not many around who still even recall how to speak it. And even less that know it well and would be willing to teach it to someone else!”
“It is odd.” Agreed Cossack. “But odder things have happened in the past. Be careful my King.”
Lotor didn’t dignify that with a response, pushing away from the door frame to step into the room. He heard the door click close behind him, but the lock wasn’t engaged. Cossack was surely listening at the door, ready to burst in at the first sign of trouble. That was fine with Lotor, he knew he could trust his friend not to repeat anything he overheard of the upcoming conversation.
Not that he could work his tongue to speak to her, Lotor just staring at Allura. She stared back, her look growing increasingly nervous. He couldn’t stop looking at her, especially her face, seeing the beauty of a real person and not a holographic image that was faded in color.
For several minutes they just stood there looking at one another, and then Lotor was moving. She immediately tensed up at his approach, nearly tripping over the toppled over chair. He went to lunge forward to catch her as she stumbled, and Allura let out a frightened sound that had him freezing. That gave her the time to right herself, Allura backing up even more.
Lotor circled around the chair, still staring. He was surprised to find his hands were trembling, Lotor almost frightened to reach out and try to touch her. What if she proved to be a ghost, what if she was just another figment of his mind sent his to torture him for his hand in her death?
He wouldn’t be able to bear it if she was not real, he could feel old wounds tearing open inside him, bleeding with pain as fresh as the day she had died. His fingers grazed the sleeve of her uniform, and he felt the warmth against the tips. Her warmth, making something tighten in his chest.
Allura made a protesting sound when he grasped hold of her wrist, Lotor noting how delicate and fragile she seemed. He was gentle as he pulled her into his embrace, locking shaking arms around her. The feel of her body pressed against his soothed him, Lotor burying his nose against her scalp, sniffing at her hair. Her shampoo smelled of flowers, and he let out a laugh that ended in a gasp.
“You’re real!” He said, hugging her tighter, hard enough to tear a whimper out of her. He did not relax his grip, Lotor feeling tears start to fall down his cheeks. It was silent weeping he was doing, tears of joy and relief to have her here with him.
She shifted in his embrace, not quite fighting him but neither was her body relaxing into the hug. Even though he was crying, he wanted to laugh out loud, wanted to swing her around and cover her in kisses.
“I can’t breathe!” Allura cried out, trying to push back from his chest. “You’re suffocating me!”
Chastised, he immediately relaxed his hold on her, bringing his hands to either side of her cheeks. He stared into her eyes, and she stared back, blinking owlishly at the sight of his tears. “Lotor…you’re crying…”
“I’m just so happy…” Lotor told her, and though he was greatly tempted to kiss her in this moment, he held back, not wanting to frighten or upset her any further. It was a time that should be spent with joy, not fear, not anger.
His hands began smoothing back her hair, tucking the loose strands behind her ears. He knew he was smiling foolishly, but he couldn’t keep from grinning so long as he had her in his arms.
“Happy?” She echoed, seeming to tremble at all the touching he was doing. “To see me?”
“Of course to see you!” He answered, fighting a sudden urge to take down her bun, and see her with loose hair. “I didn’t think I would ever get this chance, to not only see you, but to hold you in my arms….”
“Then you believe me when I say who I am?” Allura asked, and at his nod she seemed to sag, relief radiating off of her. His arms offered support, holding her upright so she not end up on the floor. “Thank goodness….it’s been horrible…endless hours of questions, of trying to prove who I am!” That relief of hers seemed to chase away some of her fright of him, Allura looking up urgently at Lotor. “Please….how did I get here? What happened….how can twenty years pass in a matter of minutes?!”
“I don’t know.” Lotor admitted. “It’s a miracle. Truly and honestly a miracle to have you here. That you survived.” He felt her shiver, Allura nodding her head in agreement.
“I thought I was done for when that robeast fired it’s beam into my lion’s front.”
“We all thought you died….you and blue lion vanished without a trace. We assumed you were vaporized, turned to dust in an instant.” He hugged her again, not caring if she would squeal about it being too tight an embrace. He hid his expression from her, knowing his eyes would have taken on a haunted look as he thought on the moment he had watched her get hit with the beam. The moment he had thought she had perished.
“Instead I was sent to the future….” She peered up at him, expression troubled. He knew she had to be confused, even horrified at the thought of an Arus that was conquered by the Drules. “Is there…no way for me to return to my own time and place?”
“I don’t know.” He admitted, fighting not to say something about her place was at his side. She looked disappointed at what he said, but asked another question.
“What about the witch? Haggar….she made that robeast. Surely she’d know if it was capable of time travel, and if there’s a way to reverse it….”
He didn’t answer right away, fighting to keep a guilty look off his face. A vision flashed in his mind, of his hands around the witch’s scrawny neck, his muscles tensing as he applied pressure to it. She had gasped and gagged, her hands flailing, claws trying to scratch on his face and his chest. Her blue cat Coba had actually attacked him, sinking it’s teeth into his wrist.
He hadn’t reacted to the bite, even when blood was pouring out of the wound, Lotor too enraged to feel pain. At least, pain that had nothing to do with the despair in his heart at losing Allura.
His father’s guards had tried to pull him off the witch, but that only made Lotor hang on harder, squeezing so hard he heard the satisfying sound of her wind pipe being crushed. The witch had died mere seconds after that, her cat yowling an infernal racket that died down when he impaled it on his sword.
Lotor couldn’t always remember everything that happened in the months that followed Allura’s death, he had huge periods of black outs, moments that other people did not dare speak about. Sometimes he had come out of the black outs, covered in blood. Other times he was clean, his body cramping up from sitting, staring at one spot for too long.
“Lotor?” Allura prodded him. “Can we ask Haggar?”
“She’s dead.” Lotor said without inflection to his voice. He saw her upset, never had he imagined Allura would cry over the witch’s demise! “Shhh, shhh Allura.” He tried comforting her. “She died a long time ago…it doesn’t matter…”
“Doesn’t matter?!” Allura pulled back again. “Without her knowledge I might never get back home!”
“Would that really be so bad?” His question was serious, Lotor watching as she shook her head no.
“I have to go back! The fate of Arus….”
“Has been decided.” He interrupted. That earned him a distraught look, making him sigh and start to pet her hair. “I’m sorry….I know this must all be a shock to you…”
“No more than it’s a shock to you to see me again.” Her words made him smile, Lotor nodding.
“I thought I had lost you forever.” His admittance was full of raw honesty and pain, Lotor wanting her to know how sincere he was when it came to how he had felt at thinking her dead. She clearly did not know how to handle such words, Allura lowering her eyes, the faintest of blushes on her cheeks. He smiled, charmed to see it.
“I had forgotten how easy it is to make you blush.” He couldn’t help teasing her, Lotor guiding her over to sit on the cot. He was surprised at how uncomfortable it felt, instantly outraged that his beloved had spent days in such horrid accommodations.
He’d have to do something about that, but later. For now all he could think about was being beside her, Lotor gripping one of her hands in his, his eyes studying her profile. He didn’t know how or why the gods had seen fit to return her to him, but he knew he had to make the most of it. As rare as second chances were, third ones were even more unheard of.
Allura seemed to be relaxing somewhat, now that he wasn’t clutching her to him. Lotor was disappointed not to have her pressed against him, but settled for the touch of her hand in his. “There’s so much I want to know…” She said, Lotor nodding in agreement.
“I have no doubt of that. I’ll answer as best I can…”
“Thank you…the General was hardly forthcoming with answers.” Allura said with a sigh.
“I apologize for him.” Lotor told her. “Now…what did you want to know…?”
“Everything!” She exclaimed, and now he had to laugh.
“That might take a little while…” But he was smiling, confidant they had all the time in the world to discuss the things she needed to know.