The room seemed unnaturally silent, save for the harsh breaths he was letting out, Lotor glaring down at Allura. The toy lay next to her toppled form, seeming so inoffensive in size and demeanor, and yet it mocked him. Lotor wanted another look at the toy, even as his mind told him he hadn’t imagine the details of it, it was an exact copy of the stuffed robeast from his memories, right down to the stitches needed to keep the head in place.
He wanted to look at the toy again, and yet he didn’t dare take his eyes off Allura, as if fearing she would try and run from him. He wouldn’t be surprised if that was her first impulse after the way he had shoved her, and growled at her. He still wanted to growl, desire forgotten as angry confusion took hold of his thoughts, Lotor puzzled by the appearance of the toy and her words.
Allura had fallen silent since he had knocked her over, the girl just staring at him with huge eyes. “What…” His voice came out an angry croak, Lotor falling silent to clear it before speaking again. “What do you mean, you got it from me?”
She wasn’t going to answer him, he could see that much in her eyes. His own gaze was narrowing, Lotor glaring hostile at Allura as he snapped out a command. “Answer me!”
“I….” She was shaking, this much he could see, the look in Allura’s eyes terrified. Lotor wanted to soften his own gaze, but he couldn’t, angry over the toy’s appearance, and her claims of procuring the toy from him. “It’s nothing…I misspoke…”
“Don’t!” A terse word, Lotor growling again. “Don’t lie to me.” She had the grace not to argue with him, Allura lowering her eyes briefly from his. “I’ll ask you again, where did you get this toy from?! Who gave it to you? Did Haggar….?”
“Haggar?” She was puzzled, then shaking her head no. “NO! I’ve received nothing from that witch! No, the toy is mine, brought with me on my travels.”
“Why haven’t I seen it before?” Lotor demanded, still hovering over her in a way that kept Allura flat on her back. She was making no move to get up, not even trying to cover her nudity as she stared up at him frightened. “Where was it all this time?!”
“You’ve had little reason to come visit me in this room!” She snapped out in response. “I did not hide this from you, it’s been in my bed all this time. But maybe I would have hidden it if I had known you were going to react like this!” He was hardly mollified by her answer, Lotor glaring down at her. She didn’t quite fidget, averting her gaze once more.
“It was a mistake.” Allura continued, expression troubled. “I should have never brought it with me.”
“Why?” Lotor asked, feeling none of his anger leave him.
“Because!” It seemed all she was going to say, and Lotor growled again in warning at her. “Because it ties me to the past! Because…because it’s proof!”
“Proof?” An eyebrow lifted at that, Allura nodding.
“Proof of who I am, of who I was!”
“And that’s just who exactly?” Lotor asked, and she seemed to pale further.
“Don’t you know by now?”
“I want to hear you say it!” Lotor all but snarled at her, fighting the impulse to grab and shake her once more. “Just who are you really? Who do you think to pretend to be with this toy?”
“I’m not pretending to be anyone!” Allura protested angrily. “I’m both the Allura you knew then, and the Allura you know now!”
“OH? I’m supposed to believe you are some dead girl?” Lotor demanded, just as angry as she. Especially when she jerked her head up and down in an empathic nod, Lotor’s breath hissing out of him. “That you somehow survived the terrorist activity on Zabatos, that you kept out of contact with me for nearly nine years!” Again and again she nodded, and he snorted, rolling off her and presenting her with his back. “I’m not stupid you know!”
“No, you’re not.” She agreed quietly, making no attempt at moving once he was off her. “You’re smart, and you’re capable, and I should have realized you’d figure it out eventually. It was wrong of me to think otherwise, to try and keep this a secret.” He didn’t say anything to that, and he heard her sigh. “Your highness…”
“I don’t know what your game is…” Lotor cut her off with a snarl. “Or what you hope to gain by attempting this deception…”
“It’s no game!” She protested vehemently.
“But I don’t believe you are her. Allura is dead, and no matter how much I want to believe, or how hard you pretend, you can never be her!” Lotor retorted.
“I’m not pretending!” He felt the bed shake with her movements, Lotor whirling to snag hold of her wrist. She was caught in mid gesture, Allura having moved to touch
his back. She winced at the tight grip, a tiny whimper of pain escaping her lips.
“Who do you work for?” Lotor demanded, tightening his grasp on her wrist to the point he was sure she’d bruise. “Which house hired you?”
“What?” A gasp from her, Allura staring at him in disbelief. “No one hired me but you!”
“That’s a lie!” Lotor retorted, refusing to let go of her wrist. “It had to be one of the old houses….someone who hoped to use you to…”
“To what?!” Allura demanded, then whimpered out a plea. ‘Your highness, you’re hurting me…”
He let go of her then, the action a guilty reflex that had him watching as she brought her abused wrist against her chest. The skin looked red from his grip, Allura rubbing fingers over the abused flesh.
“You’re not an assassin…” Lotor began, shaking his head. “You’re too soft for that. Plus I’m sure you would have tried for my neck by now. I’ve left you enough unguarded moments for that if you really were a killer.” Her eyes were huge at that, Allura giving her own head shake. “But you could be a plant, a spy…Did Demos send you hoping to learn Doom secrets?!”
“No!” Allura protested, shaking her head no again.
“Hmph….” His very tone implied how much he didn’t believe her, Lotor continuing. “Maybe no spy, but certainly a plant by one of the houses of the court. Someone who hoped to maybe ingratiate their influence through you….I’m sure there are a handful of families that would go to such lengths.”
“You are reaching for conclusions that are baseless!” Allura snapped back, a hint of anger in her voice. “I am not any of the things you listed. I am merely a girl, a girl who grew up the best she could, under circumstances far different from your own!”
“You’re mad if you think I am just going to accept that you are the Allura of my childhood!” Lotor retorted, feeling more and more angry with her.
“I can prove it!” She insisted, and that made him let out a mean snicker.
“How? With more toys? Hmph. You may have her coloring, her name, even her scent but all those can be coincidences.” Lotor replied.
“And what if I have the memories to back things up?!” Allura demanded, eyes flashing with unrestrained emotion. “Then would you believe?”
“Maybe.” His tone was guarded, Lotor flashing her an unamused smirk. “No doubt you will feed me stories that are common knowledge.” He watched her become uncertain, Lotor sure he had called her on a bluff. “Well…? Regale me with tales of long ago.”
“It won’t be pleasant…” Allura began, nervously licking her lips. “The memories I have of Doom aren’t exactly happy…..your father, the King was–IS a cruel, evil man.”
Lotor didn’t bother to reprimand her for her low opinion of King Zarkon, the prince merely gesturing at her to continue. She did so, sighing. “Your mother found me in the castle dungeons…she saved me from the darkness, brought me out and into yours and her life. Much to the displeasure of the King.”
He saw her sneaking furtive glances at him, the prince so far unimpressed with what she had to say. It was common knowledge what she was saying, Lotor fixing her with a bored look. It made her nervous to have him looking at her that way, she became flustered, her fingers fidgeting against one another as Allura continued to speak.
“Your mother, Adaline, often had to strike deals with the demon himself to keep you and me out of his realm of violence. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.” She seemed to shudder with the memories, Lotor marveling at how good an actress she was. “He hit you often for various reasons, but he didn’t start beating you steadily until you were about eight….that birthday changed everything, and all with the gift of a sword.”
“Your mother was against you learning to handle the blade so young.” Allura continued when he remained unspeaking. “She thought it too dangerous, and you too young. But your father was insistent. He’d take you away from us for hours at a time, every day without fail. You’d come back crying, tired and haggard, blows dealt to you from both his fists and his sword. And still the worst had yet to come…not until he took you for your first kill.”
“You’ve done your research, I’ll give you that.” Lotor said coldly, and she jerked back as though his words were a slap to the face.
“It’s not research! I lived through it! So did you!” Allura snapped, flinging her hands down onto her lap. “I’ll never forget what happened that day. I may not have been present for the actual kill, but I saw the aftermath, and how you barely survived his beating. He may have told any who would listen it was a wild animal that attacked you, but your mother and I knew different. It was the King….and he had little concern or love for you when he threw you at Adaline’s feet!”
Lotor blinked, a little surprised at that. He couldn’t remember too well the time after Zarkon started beating him in the arena, the prince having lost consciousness as a boy. Before he could question her, Allura was continuing, looking like she might burst into tears at any moment.
“He threw you at her feet, and screamed about what a worthless son Adaline had given him. It was then that she sent me from the room, but I didn’t stray too far. I stayed and peeked through the doorway, and saw and heard what happened next. Oh your highness, it was awful. They fought and argued over you, and your father refused to let Adaline tend to you. She ignored him, and paid the price. He…” Now she closed her eyes, and the tears slipped down her cheeks, Allura trembling so badly, her voice breaking on a sob. “He beat her with his belt for disobeying him. He beat her till she passed out, and only then did he stop. He called for servants. had them tend to her, heal her as best they could but no one was to touch you.”
Lotor was staring at her, wanting to believe the pain she was experiencing was as real as it was raw, her voice hiccuping out on saddened emotions. “Your father didn’t care if you lived or died in that moment. He thought he could replace you easily…you probably would have died if Adaline hadn’t made such a quick recovery and tended to you. And even then you slept for days. And no one would come help us! No matter how much Adaline cried, begged, screamed, we were ignored. It was a small miracle you woke up…I was so scared…..”
Her eyes opened, and she locked eyes with him. “It was my birthday when you awoke….well after midnight. It was the best birthday present I could have ever asked for.” She began brushing at her eyes, trying to wipe away tears that would not stop falling. “We stayed up all night with you, just talking, grateful to see your smile and hear your voice. And for a time we were happy….”
“Happy until he came…” whispered Lotor, wanting to believe this was really Allura before him.
“Yes.” She nodded, a fresh wave of silent tears sneaking down her cheeks. “Your mother managed to put him off for a time…we had no way of knowing that she was using her body to do it. We were still too young to understand the price she was paying to save us. And even that wasn’t enough! He eventually came for you, took you away. We had no words for days, three days in all before you were returned to us, a broken look in your eyes, covered in blood.” Allura shuddered, wrapping her arms around her, hugging herself for warmth.
“I remember.” Lotor whispered, a distant look coming to his eyes. “He kept me in the arena…had me kill, creature after creature until there was nothing left, until it was natural for me to kill without feeling.”
“It was that night…” Allura made a move to reach for the stuffed toy, picking the robeast up in her hands. She turned it over and over in her grip, staring down sadly at it’s head. “That you lost control….you flew into some kind of rage, destroying anything in your path. Including this…” She smiled but it was bitter, a choked out laugh escaping her. “You ripped it’s head off though it took you several twists to do. It was your mother who tried to calm you down, though you refused to be consoled at first. I saw the look on Adaline’s face….it nearly broke her heart when you told her she couldn’t stop your father.”
He wasn’t a man fit to crying, but the memories this girl stirred made him want to give in to a few stray tears. “I was angry…at her and myself. For my failure to protect her, to protect myself from my father’s abuse…”
“It would continue….he’d lock you up in the dungeons, and Adaline would free you from them.” Allura was hugging the robeast against her bare breasts now, her head bowed down to hide her tears. “It was then that things changed for the worse. I never knew for sure what he was doing to Adaline, but it had to be bad. She always seemed in pain, always limping and cringing from shadows. It had to be more than sex….”
“My father stopped beating me after my mother took me from the dungeons.” Lotor remembered out loud. “He’s still hit me on occasion, but he never went to extremes…I always wondered why….”
“It must have been horrible for Adaline.” Allura shivered.
“It was horrible for us all.” Lotor replied, and she nodded.
“Yes…yes it was.” Allura sighed, peeking up at him once more. “Your mother tried her best, tried to make it a happy time for us whenever she could…but we lived in constant fear of the King.”
“I remember the fear well…” Lotor frowned, and reached out to touch the back of her hand. “Allura….if that’s really you…where have you been all this time? Why haven’t you gotten in contact with me? Why did you let me believe you were dead?!”
“It’s…it’s complicated.” She lowered her eyes, staring at the robeast’s head. He reached for it, pulling it out of her hands, and noting the stitches were the only bright spot of color on an otherwise drab piece of fur.
“Explain it to me.” He couldn’t help but sound commanding, Lotor ordering her softly. “Make me understand.”
“You remember how I was. How I couldn’t, wouldn’t speak. I could only move in a daze, existed inside the shell of my body. You had to send me away, and at first I was still locked in that state. And then when I started to come out, I was too scared to speak, and when I did, I was caught in mourning for Adaline.” She shivered and took a deep breath. “But when I became coherent enough, I realized my situation had changed. I was somewhere better, somewhere safer. I didn’t want to be found, didn’t want to be brought back here…..It was selfish of me I know, but your highness? I wouldn’t change what I did in the past, it’s the only thing that kept me sane and alive! Staying away from Doom!”
He said nothing for so long she began fidgeting, staring at him nervously. “Say something!”
“What do you want me to say?!” Lotor demanded, clutching the robeast to him. “You all but admitted you abandoned me for your own selfish desires! You left me here with that monster. And you what? What do you want from me?!”
“I…I don’t deserve your forgiveness, but I do want you to understand why I couldn’t get in contact with you!” She cried out plaintively. “I was fearing for my life, it made me a coward, had me running scared. And even if I hadn’t been so terrified, I doubt anyone would have believed me on who I was.”
“How did you survive the terrorist attacks?” He asked, changing the subject slightly. It was enough to have her blinking in surprise, Allura shrugging.
“I don’t know. I wasn’t that coherant during that time. The first real memories i have is waking up in the orphanage and telling some of the workers there that Addy was dead.” She pointed at the toy he held. “I was clutching that with me….He was my good luck charm, went everywhere with me.”
“I can’t believe you’re alive…” Lotor whispered, setting the stuffed toy back on the bed. “It’s been so many long years of believing you’re dead, of wanting vengeance for your wrongful death…I’ve done so many things, become a different person in the name of revenge….and you’ve been here all this time….”
“I’m sorry!” Her cheeks flushed, Allura looking meek and apologetic. “I never meant to shape you into a…”
“Into a what?!” He questioned sharply, and she looked away. “What were you going to call me Allura?!”
“A vengeance driven killer…” She murmured at last. He hardened his heart at that, pushing off the bed to stand. She glanced up at him, hesitant. “Prince?”
“In a way I have you to thank.” He said coldly, hands on his hips. “If you hadn’t kept up the pretense, I might have turned out weak, I might have become more human than Drule. My father would have surely beat me to death if not for the drive I had to avenge your murder.”
“Why do you sound anything but thankful?” Allura fretted out loud.
“Hmph..” A haughty toss of his head, Lotor preparing to turn his back on her.
“I’m sorry…” Allura added, blue eyes welling with a fresh wave of tears. “I never meant..”
“What did you mean to do?” Lotor demanded when she fell silent. Another shrug of her shoulders, Allura whispering.
“Yes, well you did a remarkable job of it. Friendless and without family. You’re a lucky girl Allura.” He could tell by her body posture she felt anything but lucky, the girl all but cringing as he spoke.
A long silence was drawn out between them, Lotor adjusting his clothes and Allura moving to gather the blankets around her body. “Did you feel any remorse…for leaving me behind?” He finally asked, and she reeled back as though he had struck her with his fist.
“Of course I did!” Allura swore, eyes huge. “I regretted it every day. if I could have taken you with me I would have! I knew I had left you behind in an awful situation, with a miserable, evil man! But there was nothing I could do! He would have killed me….”
“He could have killed me!” Lotor roared back, Allura nearly falling off the bed at his shout.
“Yes, I know..” She whispered. “I know exactly what he’s capable of.”
He frowned at her, and Allura made a move to pick up the stuffed robeast. He snatched it out of her hands before she could, Allura letting out a protesting sound. “I’m taking this for evidence.”
“Evidence?” Her eyes were wide with disbelief, Allura not understanding.
“Yes…I want some tests done. DNA tests, and carbon dating.” A humorless look from Lotor. “We’ll see if this toy is really the toy of Allura.”
“And then what?”
He kept quiet because he didn’t know, Lotor turning from her. “I have to speak to my father. This may change everything.”
“Your father?!” Allura squeaked out, and the panic in her voice had him turning. “You can’t!”
“Why not?” His brow was furrowed, Lotor not understanding the hysterical look in her eyes. “I tell him everything.” Well, almost everything, Lotor amended in his thoughts.
“Because!” Allura crawled forward on her knees, reaching the edge of the bed and holding on hand at to him imploringly. “He won’t hesitate to kill me if he knows I am alive!”
“Calm down Allura.” Lotor said, allowing subtle amusement to color his words. “He may not be as…overjoyed as I am over your miraculous return from the dead, but he will not harm you.”
“You won’t be able to stop him.” Allura protested. “I know you won’t!” before he could growl in anger about her refusing to believe he could protect her, she shouted her words out to him. “He’ll strike when you least expect it, all to keep me silent.”
“Silent?” She bit at her bottom lip, shaking her head no. “Allura, silent about what?”
A hesitation, and then she was speaking, seeming to pale further in the process. “Because…I know who really killed your mother.”