The two days she had spent inside the cell of Castle Doom’s dungeon was one of the worst experiences she had ever had in her adult life. Even being kissed and pawed at by King Zarkon could not compare to the sheer misery and torture of sitting in that stinking, cesspit of despair. The darkness spoke to her, reminded her of the time she had been lost to it. Allura had never fully remembered the time when she first arrived on Doom, the traumas associated with that experience blocked from her mind save for nightmares.
The darkness added to her fears, the girl dreaming, waking up with muffled sobs and frightened screams. Her voice was just one in the midst of a hundred screams, people moaning and wailing, tortured both by the Drules and their cell mates.
It was a reminder to be thankful, odd as that thought was, Allura realizing how fortunate she was that she was alone in her confinement. That and the fact that the guards had yet to start trying to torture information out of her, waiting on something, though what that something could be she had no clue towards.
Even without the torture, the guards came often, yelling harshly, demanding answers from her. She gave them none, and they in return refused to tell her the status of Lotor’s health, Allura left to fear and fret over his life. She had a feeling things would become a million times worse for her if Lotor died, and Allura often whispered prayers to any God who would listen to save him.
Near the end of the second day, Haggar of all people had appeared before her cell. She had been shocked to see the witch, Allura staring at her with a dumbfounded look on her face. The witch had been accompanied by one of the dungeon keepers, the man hurrying to unlock the door and pull Allura out of the cell. Haggar had spoken few words to Allura, just enough to explain that it had been the king’s wish that she was free.
Allura had almost misunderstood her, paling as she thought of Zarkon somehow surviving. But she had seen with her own eyes the extent of the damages done to him at his son’s hands, Allura slowly realizing Lotor was King now. It gave her hope, Allura realizing Lotor had recovered enough to see to her, and her first impulse was to run to his side, grime covered and starving.
Haggar hadn’t brought her to Lotor, not immediately, Allura being returned to her room where a shower and hot meal were waiting for her. She almost fell upon her meal like a savage, eating hungrily and making appreciative sounds. Haggar had left her to it, the witch not saying much other than that Lotor was awake and waiting for her. She hurried to take a quick shower, wishing she could luxuriate in the feel of the warm water pouring over her body. But the need to see Lotor was greater, Allura grabbing the first dress out of her closet, and not bothering to run a comb through her hair.
A guard had escorted her to the castle’s medical facilities, Allura being brought right up to Lotor’s door. She paused outside it, waiting impatiently as the guard entered and announced her presence. There was a few moment’s pause, she could hear the voice of Lotor rising with annoyance. It seemed he wasn’t alone, his visitor wanting to command his full attention.
But Lotor was king now, and his word was absolute, Allura being ushered inside. The visitor turned out to be a doctor, the Drule clad in white lab coat and giving her an annoyed stare. But except for a cursory glance at the doctor, her eyes were all for Lotor, Allura fighting back the urge to run to his side.
“His highness is still recovering.” The doctor was speaking, voice sounding gruff. “You are not to overexcite him, is that clear?”
Startled, Allura blinked, her face turning pink as she wondered just what the doctor thought she was here for. “Yes…perfectly…”
“Hmph.” The doctor was still eyeing her in a distrustful manner, as though he didn’t trust her to do as ordered. Allura did not know how else to reassure him, the girl staying on the far side of the room, not daring to go near Lotor so long as the doctor was present.
“Honestly doctor, Allura and I will be on our best behavior.” She was grateful for Lotor speaking up, the king almost managing to look amused. The doctor turned towards him, and whatever he saw on the King’s face reassured him, the Drule nodding.
“All right.” He began gathering up his equipment, placing them inside a large brown bag. “I suppose I don’t have to tell you to keep this visit short?”
“Allura will stay for as long as I need her to.” Lotor told him, causing the doctor to let out a sigh.
“I suppose since you’re the King, I can’t really argue with you.” The Doctor grumbled, and Lotor allowed a small smirk to cross his lips. “But you’ll be acting against medical advice.”
“Yes, I know. I’ll take my chances.” Lotor said, giving a dismissive wave to the doctor. The Drule was left to frown in Allura’s direction, his smoldering gaze seeming to warn her against any bad behavior towards his patient. Allura kept her expression blank, stepping aside to let the doctor and guard exit the room. No one spoke until the door was clicked close, Allura fidgeting in place as she wondered what to say to Lotor.
“Allura.” They both paused, having spoken at the same time. No smiles were exchanged, the air seem rife with awkward tension. “Please.” Lotor nodded at her. “Do go on.”
“Oh no.” Allura shook her head, politeness dictating she let him speak first. “It’s nothing…” She hesitated, then offered him a nervous, small smile. “I’m glad you are all right.”
“Just barely.” Lotor admitted with a grimace, his hand being placed on his stomach. “My father really did a number on me.” A laugh then, though pain flashed in his eyes as though it physically hurt him to do that. “Fortunately for all involved, I did even worse to him!”
“Yes…” She agreed, fighting back a shiver as she thought of Zarkon’s body, pinned to the wall with the swords.
“I’m sorry for what happened to you.” She lifted a brow at that, polite inquiry on her face. “Being thrown in the dungeons must have been terrible for you.”
“Yes.” Allura nodded, hoping her face didn’t betray her upset. “Yes, it was.”
“As soon as I was able, I took measures to rectify that.” He told her.
“Thank you. I appreciate it.” They were dancing around each other, being so polite. It was almost stifling, Allura wondering what was really on Lotor’s mind and wondering if she dare speak hers truthfully.
“Still, it shouldn’t have happen.” Lotor said, and for an instant he looked angry. She couldn’t tell with who, not until he followed up his words with angry recriminations towards himself. “I should have taken steps to prevent such a thing from happening.”
Allura wisely said nothing to that, sure that Lotor did not want her agreeing with him. He too let the silence linger between them, and then was patting the side of the bed. “There’s no need to keep your distance.” A forced smile from him, Lotor almost teasing. “I won’t bite.”
She moved towards him, thinking how strange the whole mood between them was. Where earlier she couldn’t wait to rush to his side, now she was hesitant, almost afraid. Allura wondered if it had to do with the feelings that were bubbling up within her at the sight of Lotor, not all of them good. Still it didn’t stop her from taking his hand, Allura giving him a comforting squeeze.
“I was so worried.” She admitted out loud. “When I saw all that blood, and then you passed out! I…I was scared. I thought I had lost you.”
“I thought I was a goner myself.” Lotor told her. “At least for one brief moment. But Drules, even halflings such as myself are made of sterner stuff.”
“So I see.” She didn’t look directly at him, peeking shyly out the corner of her eyes. Lotor was leaning back against the pillows, lightly gripping her hand in return.
“Why so quiet Allura?” he asked her.
“Don’t have much to say…” She lied, knowing there was plenty on her mind.
“Are you sure?” Lotor questioned, and her hesitation seemed to be answer enough. “I’m trying to read the mood here. Are you perhaps…angry with me?”
Now she looked at him, Allura fixing a wide eyed expression on her face. “Angry? With you my King? Whatever for?” He frowned at that, surely sensing the tension that laced her words. Lotor opened his mouth to speak, but she was barreling forward with her own words. “You just merely dragged me into an awful mess with your father. Scared me out of my mind with fear, doubted me when I told you the truth…”
“Ah.” A thin line was his lip’s expression, Lotor seeming to sigh. “That.”
“Yes, that!” Allura snapped, and now she tried to pull back her hand. He wouldn’t let her, Lotor tightening his grip on her hand.
“I had to be sure Allura…” Lotor began, but she was angrily cutting him off.
“You could have trusted in me!” He shook his head no, Allura unable to stop from glaring at him. “I told you things, things there was no way I could have guessed at. That enough should have been proof…and if not..at the very least you could have come to me privately once you had the confirmation you needed. Not bring me along for a confrontation with your father!”
“Perhaps I wasn’t thinking that clearly when I did that.” Lotor admitted, and she snorted.
“I don’t think you were thinking at all!” His lips made an unhappy frown, Lotor narrowing his eyes at her.
“That’s unfair, and you know it.” He said. “I did think things through, and that to me was the best course of action. I needed to see how my father would react to the accusations, how he would react to you, and the revelation of who you are.”
“You just have a flair for needless drama.” She accused. “You put me in needless danger!”
“No, I did not!” Lotor protested. “I would have never let my father lay a hand on you!”
“And what if he killed you?! Then what?!” Allura demanded.
“Is that what you were worried about?” Lotor asked, his lips quirking into an amused smile. “Allura he was no match for me.”
“Your injuries seem to speak otherwise.” She said it snidely, watching his eyes darken with annoyance. “I don’t think you realize how terrified your father made me feel….Not just today, but these past few weeks. Never mind our childhood! When I found out the story he spun about your mother’s demise…”
Now his eyes narrowed, Lotor looking shrew like. “Ah yes, there is that. Just how long were you planning to keep me in the dark about my mother’s murder?”
“Eh?!” She flushed guiltily, Allura turning to look away from him. He pulled on her hand, forcing her back towards him, the look in his eyes still hard. “That was…”
“That was what!?” Lotor demanded, and she struggled to free her hand from his grip. “Didn’t you think I deserved to know?!”
“I…” Allura bit her lip, trying not to flinch back from his heated questions. “I was scared!” She grit out at last. His expression didn’t soften, Lotor staring at her steely eyed. “You can’t imagine how much. I didn’t understand what was going on when I arrived on Doom. I didn’t know why he was free, why no one punished him. How you could stand to be around him.”
“When did you find out what was really going on?” Lotor asked, and she shrugged.
“Not too long after we arrived on Doom and I realized you and he did not know who I was. I…I did some digging. I looked up the time of Adaline’s death, and discovered the cover up. I realized my life would be in danger if your father realized who I really was.”
“You should have come to me.” Lotor insisted. “I would have protected you!”
“I couldn’t know that for certain!” That of all things made him let go of her hand, Allura taking a step back from his bed.
“You don’t trust me….” He said, and she shook her head.
“Trust had nothing to do with it. I was fighting for my life, my very survival!” exclaimed Allura.
“So you let me live a lie?” Lotor demanded, and to that she could only shrug, knowing he was right.
“It seemed the only thing to do.” That she whispered, noting the bitter look that came into Lotor’s eyes. “I’m…I’m sorry.” She wanted to touch his arm, but didn’t have the nerve, Allura fearing he would reject her in this instant.
“Seems we both made mistakes.” He said. “The question is, which is the bigger offense?”
“Do we really need to decide who deserves more blame?” Allura asked, and now Lotor shrugged. “Can’t we try to move on? Especially now that that monster is dead?”
“It’s difficult to let go of the past.” Lotor replied. “Especially one as tortured as ours.” She nodded, knowing there was a lot of unpleasant memories with the past. But just as there was bad, there was also good, Allura knowing they had shared some precious, happy moments together with Adaline.
“I’m still upset you know.” He told her, and she looked at him with raised eyebrows. “About you staying out of contact with me.”
“I had my reasons.” She reminded him, and his expression seemed to darken.
“Yes. You wanted to grow up free of Doom. Free of my father’s influence.”
“I wanted to survive to adulthood!” Allura told him, and he scowled. “Yes, it might have been selfish, but what else can I say?”
“You could say you’re sorry.” Lotor said, and she blinked, startled.
“For abandoning me.” Lotor clarified. “For leaving me behind, for letting me think you were dead, for leaving me all alone with that monster!”
“I didn’t know you thought I was dead.” She pointed out. “I thought I had been abandoned to my own fate on Zabatos. Why else would I be passed around from place to place?”
“I would never have left you to that fate if I had known!” Lotor protested. “I made you a promise, one to reunite with you someday. I may be many things, but one thing I am not is an oath breaker.”
She wanted to smile at that, but did not dare, not trusting how Lotor would react. “I believe you.” Silence descended upon them once more, no less comfortable this time than the last. Allura strove to break it, speaking quietly. “What was it like…growing up on Doom under his care alone?”
“It wasn’t quite as bad as you might imagine.” Lotor admittance had her surprised, Allura staring shocked at him. “When my mother died and you…..left, things changed between us. I changed. Maybe not for the better, but enough that it spared me much of his abuse.”
“I am relieved to hear that.” Allura said, meaning it.
“I wouldn’t have survived otherwise, if not for you.” Lotor told her. She cocked her head curiously, Lotor hurrying to explain. “Your…illness was the first catalyst for my changing. I realized I had to be stronger to protect the only loved one I had left…..it nearly killed me to send you away….and then when word came that you were killed in the terrorist attacks….” He hook his head, expression pained. “Then and there I vowed to make everyone who had anything to do with your death pay. It united me with my father, gave us a common enemy. I worked tirelessly to bring the Empire of Demos down….”
She didn’t know what to say to that, feeling thanks would not be appropriate in the moment.
“I’ve made so many mistakes when it comes to Demos. Thank the Gods I have a chance to rectify things!” Lotor exclaimed.
“Rectify them how?” Allura asked curiously.
“Well, the princess for one thing.” Lotor began, and she tried to hide her reaction from him.
“Oh?” Her tone was mild, not betraying her inner feelings, her worry on this matter. “Do you still intend to marry Princess Corral?
“No.” Allura was relieved by his answer, though she kept on presenting a blank expression to him. “No, I was never going to marry her.”
“You weren’t? But your father said…”
“It was all a plan of my father’s. We had to make everyone believe that was the reason Corral was coming here. But the real reason was to lure her here so we could hold her prisoner, torture her if her father didn’t give in to our demands. Maybe even kill her.” Allura shivered at that, Lotor reaching out to rub her arm. “I almost committed an unthinkable act. You inadvertently saved me from that crime.”
“I’m glad.” Allura told him. “But now what will you do?”
“Find a way to make peace with Demos.” Answered Lotor. ‘It won’t be easy, and we may have to make a lot of concessions to them. But it’s time to put this feud to rest.”
“I see.” She hesitated, an awful though occurring to her. “What if they insist on you marrying the princess?”
“They won’t.” Lotor said, and Allura wished she could have his confidence.
“I suppose you’ll have a lot of things to worry about now…” Allura murmured. “Not just Demos, but the kingdom itself. Doom is such a big empire.”
“I’m more than ready to rule.” Lotor told her. “My father made sure of it, my teenage years were spent being groomed to take the reigns of the empire from him. He just never suspected it would be so soon.”
Or would come with his death, Allura thought, thinking Zarkon surely thought to retire peacefully. “What are you thinking Allura?” Lotor prodded her, and she shrugged.
“I’m just glad he’s dead.” She sighed. “It may be a horrible thought, but if anyone deserved to die it was him.”
“Yes.” Lotor agreed. “He was certainly the most deserving person I know.”
“Do you ever think on how things could be different?” Allura asked, seeing him flash her a quizzical look. “On how you could improve things on Doom?”
“Improve things how?” Lotor wanted to know.
“I don’t know…” she shrugged, her thoughts vague. “Make it so there is less abuse, or at least less turning one’s back on the abuse done to children and women. I remember the servants and guards, and how they did nothing to interfere with your father’s reign of terror.”
“He was King.” Lotor pointed out. “They would not dare…”
“But still….they ignored so much….”
“What would you have me do?” Lotor asked. “The past is over and done with, those who bore witness to my father’s atrocious behavior lost to the fog of memory.”
“But you could change the future.” Allura said. “Establish a care system for abused children and battered women.”
“It would be difficult to implement…” Lotor said, much to her disappointment. “Doom is a haven for abusers and their victims. Just look at how the slaves are treated.”
“Just because they are slaves…doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be taken care of.” Allura pointed out. “Please….won’t you try?”
He leaned back against his pillows, closing his eyes. “Empires aren’t changed that easily. Especially not one run by Drules. It will be tough enough gaining the nobles acceptance of peace with Demos.”
His words left her dejected, Allura sagging in place next to his bed. He opened his eyes, his expression weary, the girl realizing how tired he must still be. “You should rest now.” Allura suggested. “I shouldn’t be keeping you up, troubling you with such things in your condition.”
“I’m fine.” Lotor assured her, but she was shaking her head no in disagreement. “Really I am.”
“No, your doctor is right. The visit should be kept short.” She shied away from his reaching hand, his tiredness making Lotor slower than normal. “I’ll be by soon to see you again.”
He frowned at her, Lotor not liking this attempt to leave him. “I could order you to stay.”
“And I would obey you, my King.” She answered.
“Then stay. At least until I fall asleep.” Allura sighed, but nodded, inching back towards his side. He smiled, pleased, and then an unrecognizable look came into his eyes. “I’m really glad you’re alive. I missed you terribly, mourned your passing every day of my life.”
“I missed you too.” She admitted, a sad, mournful smile on her face. “Even though we were separated, I kept updated on your exploits. I never missed an arena fight if I could help it, and I scoured the news for word of you.”
“Not all of the news was good.” Lotor said, seeming embarrassed.
“Yes, I know.” She agreed, smiling to show she did not judge him for his bad behavior. He seemed relieved by that, the king leaning back against the pillows, eyelids drooping shut. Allura perched besides him on the bed, watching as he slowly drifted off to sleep. It wasn’t until she was sure he was passed out, that she leaned in close to brush a kiss against his forehead, whispering about how much she had missed him during their long years of separation