Allura was crying, letting out loud pitiful sobs, the kind that made him want to cover his ears all in an attempt to block out her wailing. The sound of her upset hurt his delicate hearing, Lotor’s ears starting to ring, the young prince muttering pleas. “Please Allura, stop it!” She only seemed to cry harder in response, her face a blotchy red color, wetness dribbling down her face and onto the fur of the stuffed robeast she clutched.
He sat opposite her, occasionally bringing a fist to his mouth, Lotor gnawing uncertainly at his knuckles. It was a bad habit of his, one he easily slipped into during times of stress. Even with his fist to his mouth, he kept making noise, trying to soothe her with a low humming sound. Every once in a while she would scream, a gut wrenching cry for his mother.
He knew his mother wasn’t coming, though he desperately wanted her to show. But he was aware she was with his father, and Lotor knew that the man would not let her go, not until he was finished, and maybe not even then. Lotor was aware that lately his father had been making his mother spend more and more time with him, the woman disappearing at odd hours both night and day.
Lotor had the sneaking suspicion his father was hurting his mother, though Lotor couldn’t prove it. He had tried to sneak out of his room once, determined to get to the bottom of things. But the men in the hall, his father’s guards had stopped him, forcing him to return to his room. That alone had been suspicious, Lotor knowing he had the freedom to travel between his room and his mother’s chambers.
Even more troubling had been the sounds, Lotor’s sharp hearing catching moans, his father sounding strange, his mother distressed. The guards had ignored him when he pointed out the sounds, herding him back to his room, leaving Lotor to sullenly pout and complain to Allura. She had just listened to him then, staring at him with those sad eyes, unable or unwilling to hazard a guess as to what was going on.
And now she was hysterical, having a fit of epic proportions, and it all centered around his father and his mother. He stared at Allura, lowering his fist, offering suggestions as he tried to entice her with his toys. The red ball rolled past her knees, Allura not making a grab for it, the girl too distraught to even notice it’s movements. Toys having failed, he was at a lost, Lotor too young to know what to do with a crying five year old.
Especially when her tears were so infectious, Lotor finding his own eyes were watering, his lower lip trembling. But he forced himself to be brave, somehow knowing he wouldn’t help matters if he descended into tears. Holding back a sniffle, he picked up a figure, trying to make it dance for Allura’s amusement. She didn’t seem to care, not even when Lotor made silly sounds, and tried singing one of Adaline’s lullabies.
Frustrated he sighed, trying to think what else his mother did to calm Allura down when she had one of her fits. Singing seemed to be out, but how about hugging? Allura always seemed to like his mother’s hugs, clinging to Adaline as she rocked her back and forth. He nodded, having decided that is what he would, Lotor setting down the figure and rising to walk towards Allura.
Her crying had been going on for some time now, and it was at that moment that a servant decided to enter the room. She was a strict looking woman, lips pursed with displeasure, giving her a sour look as though she had been sucking on a lemon. The maid took one look at Allura, and placed her hands on her hips, looking put out to have been bothered by the girl’s tears.
“Stop that this instant!” Her annoyance was apparent, voice sharp and mean. Allura looked at her, and for a second there was hope, Lotor thinking she would quiet down. It was dashed when Allura screamed, her voice a wild shriek that had pain flashing across both Lotor and the maid’s face.
“ADDY!!” Allura screamed, her voice actually seeming to break in the process. She was left to bawl wordlessly, shaking and shivering, on the verge of hiccups. The maid was not amused, nor was the guard who poked his head into the room.
“Can’t you quiet that brat down?!” He demanded, glaring at the servant.
“Don’t you think I’m trying?!” She snapped back, gesturing with one hand at Allura. “But the girl is stupid or something. She acts like she doesn’t understand my words.”
Lotor knew Allura didn’t understand them, the two Drules not bothering to switch to a language the girl could speak. He watched them though, wondering if they’d somehow be able to get through to Allura where he could not.
“Try harder!” The guard ordered, crossing his arms over his broad chest. “Her shrieking is hurting my ears. And she’s proving a distraction to our work!”
The maid grumbled and sighed, stalking towards Allura, the child not looking up from the stuffed robeast. The woman knelt down, and for a second Lotor misread her actions, thinking the maid intended to take Allura into her arms. He was wrong, the maid grabbing Allura by the arm, and giving her a good shake. “Stop that! Stop that incessant bawling!”
Allura looked stunned, and Lotor’s jaw dropped, knowing for certain if anything that would make the girl scream even more. But the maid misunderstood Allura’s shock, thinking her tactic had worked. She turned to smirk her triumph at the guard, Lotor watching as Allura inhaled a deep breath.
The maid nearly fell over to be so close to that shriek, Allura continuing to scream, and Lotor almost smiled then and there. The maid’s face became even more furious, her hands snatching the toy out of Allura’s arms. Allura looked absolutely fit to be tied at that, her misery changing, the girl verging on a tantrum. Lotor braced himself for the worse, even as the maid dangled the toy out of reach.
Angry tears streamed down Allura’s cheeks, the girl reaching desperately for the toy. The maid taunted her, a vicious smirk on her face, at times letting the stuffed robeast drop towards Allura’s reaching hands, only to snatch it away at the last moment.
“You see this here?” The woman demanded, shaking the toy. “You’ll not get it back so long as you continue with this behavior.”
“Ah…” Lotor opened his mouth, ready to tell the woman Allura couldn’t understand Drule. “Allura doesn’t…”
“Be quiet your highness!” snapped the maid, shooting him a look that dared him to argue with her. “Well, child?” Her attention was back on Allura, waiting impatiently for results. She did not get them, Allura screaming for Adaline once more. The maid snarled and turned, throwing the stuffed toy at the stunned guard’s chest. He made a grab for it, the toy bouncing from hand to hand before it settled in his grasp.
“AH!!” Allura had risen to her feet, taking a shaky step forward when the maid caught her around the waist.
“Oh no you don’t!” She snapped, easily holding onto the furious Allura. “You’re going to learn to be quiet, one way or another!” She actually picked Allura up, carrying her over to the bed, forcing the girl to lay face down on her lap. That fist of Lotor’s rose to his mouth once more, the boy frantically chewing at his abused skin. He knew what was coming, and it made him want to cry in sympathy, Lotor just standing there watching as the woman lifted up Allura’s skirt.
Allura began to kick and screaming, pounding her fists against the maid’s legs, only serving to further incense the woman. She raised a hand high in the air, not even asking Allura to once again be quiet. Lotor could tell by the smile on the maid’s face she was going to enjoy disciplining Allura, and he winced in horror. The woman’s hand started to come down, and without even thinking, Lotor was suddenly there, throwing himself half on Allura.
“My prince!” The maid gasped, hand stopping just in time. Her voice sounded shocked, and a glance up at the maid’s face showed how shaken she was by the near miss. Lotor knew that without his father’s expressed permission, no one save Adaline was to touch him, neither in reward nor in anger. To strike the prince would bear a stiff penalty, the maid knowing she could very well end up in the dungeons for such an action.
Lotor had been counting on that knowledge to save both Allura and himself, though he still felt shaken at how close he had come to being hit. He hugged Allura as best he could, the action awkward as he fixed his best glare at the woman. She recovered her composure, shock fading away to be replaced with anger.
“Your highness move!”
“No!” He shouted, and he saw the look of disbelief cross her face. “You don’t hit Allura!”
The maid made an exasperated sound, looking up towards the guard. “What do I do?” She asked plaintively, and the man shrugged his shoulders, just as at a lost as she.
“Leave.” Lotor decided, already dragging Allura off her lap. He didn’t let go of his friend, well aware that if he separated from her, the woman would resume trying to beat Allura into quiet submission. “Leave now!” He tried to imitate his father’s growl, but it came out more a gurgle, Lotor choking on the attempt. Still he managed to convey his desire, his eyes narrowed in anger, the boy giving a haughty toss of his head.
Allura sniffled and clung to him, well aware of the disaster he had averted. She was still crying, but her voice had softened, no longer doing those high pitched shrieks that hurt everyone’s ears.
“Leave!” He repeated, and saw the maid and guard exchanged looks.
“Yes, your highness.” The maid said, and gave him a low bow of respect, hurrying out of the room. The guard bowed too, turning to leave, but not before he threw the stuffed toy onto the floor. It did a bounce, falling onto it’s side, but Allura made no move to leave Lotor’s embrace. Instead she buried her head against his shirt, Lotor feeling her tears start to wet a patch of it, the boy sighing.
“It’s all right Allura.” Lotor said to her, and slowly sat down, dragging Allura down onto his lap. “No one will hurt you now.”
A hiccup followed his words, Allura letting out a shaky breath. “Promise?”
He blinked, surrpised to hear her speak a word other than his mother’s name, Lotor nodding. “Promise!” Allura looked relieved, and snuggled against him, still crying but softly now. Lotor sat and stared over the top of her head, lost in thought as he held the smaller child. Occasionally he rocked in place, Allura hugging him tighter for his efforts.
He wasn’t sure how long they sat like that, how many hours went by, but eventually Allura’s tears stopped, the girl falling asleep in his arms. This was how Adaline found them, his mother pausing in the doorway to take in the sight. She looked surprised, her lips parting to form a stunned oh, Lotor looking up and feeling drained from his and Allura’s ordeal.
Exhausted though he was, he still noticed his mother’s change of outfits, her fine blue and gold dress replaced with a silver one. He wondered why she had changed her clothing, and why she looked as tired as he felt.
“What are you two doing sleeping on the floor?” Adaline asked, the sound of her soft voice managing to rouse Allura.
Adaline looked relieved to hear Allura’s voice, the woman seeming to crumple in relief. “I’m here Allura.”
Allura lifted her head, needing to see with her own two eyes that Lotor’s mother was really there. “Addy!” Her own eyes filled with tears, Lotor bracing himself for a fresh volley of screaming. But except for a few sniffles, Allura remained quiet, clinging to Lotor as she stared at Adaline. Lotor slowly shifted, pushing Allura out of his arms, giving her an encouraging nod to go to his mother.
Allura fixed him with a grateful look, then ran the rest of the way to the approaching Adaline, flinging her arms around the woman’s neck. “Addy!” She repeated, the woman lifting her up. Adaline rubbed her back with her hand, and walked towards Lotor, kneeling down besides him.
“Have you had dinner yet?” She asked, and Lotor shook his head no. She frowned at that, murmuring something about scolding errant maids, then gave Lotor a sidelong glance. “Did Allura cry much?” He heaved a heavy sigh, and that seemed answer enough for his mother. “And it was just you two?”
For the most part that was true, Lotor nodding his head. “People came.” He said at last, thinking of the guard and the maid. “I made them go away.”
“You did?” Adaline’s eyes had widened, and he got the distinct feeling she didn’t believe him.
“I did!” Lotor insisted, and grew angry at the memories. “The lady wanted to hit Allura. I stopped her.”
Allura lifted her head from Adaline’s chest, glancing at Lotor. She surprised them all with her words, soft praise that had Lotor puffing out his chest proudly. “Lotor brave!”
“Yes.” Adaline nodded, reaching out to ruffle the top of Lotor’s hair. “He is.”
They were quiet a few minutes, each one lost to their own thoughts, haunted by the day’s events. Lotor broke the silence, pointing out with a little smile. “Allura’s talking!” It was just a few words, but still it made him excited, the young prince wondering what else she would say now that she had gotten over her phobia.
“Yes…” Adaline agreed, her own smile mirroring Lotor’s. “It seems she is.” She shifted Allura, pushing her back enough so they could easily stare at each other, Lotor leaning in to be a part of the exchange. Allura still looked so solemn, so sad, and Lotor began making faces at her in an effort to cheer her up. She just looked at him, expression not changing, Lotor trying harder, blowing a raspberry with his tongue as he tugged on one eyelid.
“Lotor silly.” Allura announced, and Adaline was the one to chuckle.
“Very silly.” She agreed, allowing Lotor to squeeze onto her lap, Adaline hugging both children to her. Lotor wrinkled his nose, he could smell his father’s scent, lingering on his mother’s skin. It was nothing new, Lotor noting that ever since Allura arrived, Adaline had started to smell like his father. It left him wondering why, though he kept from asking such a question out loud. His mother never gave him a satisfactory answer, and it would only serve to embarrass and upset her.
“School will be starting soon.” Adaline told him, and Lotor pulled back, staring aghast at her.
“Mommy no!” He hated school, hated the teacher, hated learning. Why if he had to be cooped up in a room all day, he’d much rather have his toys to play with than some boring old book that had more words than pictures in it.
“I’m sorry Lotor, but yes.” His mother said, looking sad when he crawled out of her lap. He moved to sit opposite her, crossing his arms over his chest, a sullen look in his eyes. “Summer break is almost over. All the children on Doom will be going back to school.”
“All the children?” He eyed her for an instant, than glanced at the girl still on her lap. “Even Allura?”
Adaline hesitated a moment, seeming to study Allura. “Even Allura.” She said at last, nodding her head. That made Lotor less angry, the boy feeling excited at the thought of Allura joining him in the classroom. He even dared hope that maybe, just maybe with Allura there, school wouldn’t be so boring. At the very least she would give the teacher someone else to bother, Lotor no longer being the only child in his class.
Still he wasn’t looking forward to the end of his freedom, even if it meant he got to see another part of the castle for a few hours a day. Nor did he look forward to the separation from his mother, especially with her time already so limited to the whims of his father.
“Why so serious?” Adaline asked, and Lotor shook his head.
“Just thinking.” He said quietly, his mother seeming to accept that.
“Well…I think it’s time we had dinner.” She rose to stand, but not before taking Allura off her lap, the girl standing on her own. “Why don’t you two begin cleaning up this mess, while I go get our meal? Hmm?”
Lotor hated cleaning up, and a quick glance around the room showed nearly a third of his toys scattered about. He sighed again, but nodded, Adaline giving him another pat on the head. “That’s a good boy.” He made a halfhearted show of picking up his ships, putting them back into their spots in the casing. Allura was carrying several toys in her arms, heading for the toy chest to deposit them inside.
Upon Adaline’s exit from the room, Lotor plopped down on the floor, laying back lazily. Allura continued to put away the toys, long since used to the arrangement Lotor had with her, the prince expecting her to do all the work of clean up in return for the use of his toys. He watched her out the corner of his eye, but his thoughts wandered. Lotor wondered if the maid would tell Adaline what she had almost done, the woman risking punishment for nearly striking the prince, not to mention Adaline’s fierce admonishments.
“Allura?” She paused, looking at him. “You like candy right?” A vigorous nod of her head in agreement. “Good.” Lotor smiled at her, thinking if the maid kept quiet they would have the perfect tool for getting more sweets in the coming days.