The town of Rugasta lay spread out before him, the view screens projecting images of various key points of the village. It wasn’t the most break taking of views, the town too devastated by hardship and attacks to be anything more than ordinary. Less than ordinary Lotor corrected himself mentally, looking at the broken down buildings that somehow against all odds had managed to stay upright.
They’d never get a chance to fall down now, the humans and Drules working together to bolster the buildings’ supports. Once the buildings might have been taken down, rebuilt from scratch. But now there was too few livable structures available to the Arusians for them to squander what was already there.
All over Rugasta there were metal frames being constructed, the beginnings of new homes being built. Some of the buildings already had cement blocks being laid down, but it would be a while before they could be completed. But the Arusians were working hard, perhaps harder than the Drules had ever worked them, determined to remake the town in record time.
Lotor was a bit bemused by their speed, watching them from the viewing deck of his flag ship. Both Drule and Arusian worked together, and the sight wasn’t as odd to him as it was to others. Lotor had visited worlds where the humans and Drules coexisted, knew they were capable of great things when they worked together. Of course, it wasn’t going entirely smoothly. Both sides still mistrusted each other greatly, and many of them divided to work in small groups of their own kind.
Still, the back breaking work was getting done, and the day was warm enough that several of the men went shirtless, their skin drenched in sweat. Women walked around the construction zone, giving out flasks of water, or offering towels. Some even did small tasks with the actual building, or delivered messages from one work crew to the next.
It wasn’t all done by hand, constriction vehicles moved across the town’s cobblestone pathways, transporting goods, or mixing cement. Some lifted heavy blocks to pile them on top of each other, while other worked to dig open the ground for a basement floor.
Lotor knew in nearby fields more women worked, either planting new seedlings into the ground, or picking what was left of season’s crops. Everyone seemed to have a purpose, and those not involved with the rebuilding and crops, were now lining up to help unpack the supply ships that had arrived just this morning.
Lotor hated the sight of those ships, knew what they meant. An ending to his Arus vacation. He could hardly believe enough time had passed for those ships to arrive, Lotor watching with a feeling much like despair as people carried boxes of supplies off the vessels. Not all the supplies were for Rugasta, cruisers being loaded up to deliver some of the items to the nearby towns.
Similar supply ships were arriving all over the planet, the various kingdoms of Arus would not go without. He knew he no longer had any reason to delay, and that left Lotor depressed, the King holding back a sigh. If his melancholy mood was noted by the aides standing behind him, they did not reveal it, the two prattling on incessantly about Doom and the ruling of it.
Lotor was barely paying attention to them, knowing they would only grow more and more insistent that he handle his duties. They had already wondered why he was still on Arus, and Lotor had put them off with claims that he wanted to make sure the supplies were evenly distributed before leaving. They had frowned at such an excuse, but did not dare challenge him.
However, it did not put them off haranguing him, the two reading off various documents that contained the grievances and complaints of the nobles. Lotor could hardly muster up the enthusiasm to return to Doom, knowing those petty concerns would have to be addressed upon his arrival. He hardly looked forward to resolving land disputes and private wars between the nobles. Lotor distracted, his heart and mind all for Arus.
It didn’t help that in between the complaints, and demands for audiences with the King, the aides continued to pester him about choosing a bride. More specifically, choosing Corral as his bride. Lotor held back a sigh, knowing he wouldn’t be able to put it off for much longer. Never mind his aides, the nobles, his people. Demos itself was growing impatient for an answer.
“Your highness, you cannot keep avoiding Demos’ calls.” An aide said, as though confirming Lotor’s thoughts. “Their king grows weary of this, as do your people.”
“The war is on hold, neither side moving. This cannot last forever…” added the other man. “The people are eager for new conquests, our military demanding a chance to prove themselves worthy. If not on Demos, then on some new world.”
“Will you align us with Demos?” asked the first. “Such a match would make Doom unstoppable.”
“Doom is already near unstoppable.” Murmured Lotor, thinking of the robot Voltron which had yet to be used. “We don’t need Demos for that.”
“And yet Demos has managed to be a thorn in our sides for nearly fifteen years!” pointed out the shorter of the two aides. “We’ve lost as much ground as we’ve gained during this war with them.”
“Either join them or crush them!” hissed the other. “But end this stalemate now!”
Lotor turned slowly, a glare on his face. That glare seemed to make the aide think twice about what he had said, the Drule taking a nervous step back. “You do not give me orders.” Lotor was pleased he wasn’t growling, instead just maintaining that icy stare of his. “At best you can only give me suggestions on what to do.”
“Yes…yes…forgive me sire. I let my passion override my good sense.” The aide apologized, bowing profusely. “It’s only because I–we desire an end to the problem Demos presents, that I spoke thus.”
“And you speak for my people now?” Lotor lifted a brow, hiding his amusement.
“Some of them, yes.” Whispered the aide. “I hear what the Nobles say to each other, and know they are clamoring for a resolution.”
“They clamor for more than just an end to the war with Demos.” Interjected the other aide. “They want the throne secured. As such you must take a bride and began making an heir immediately.”
“That again?” Lotor didn’t hold back his annoyance, which seemed reflected in the aide’s eyes.
“Yes, that! You know…” His tone was silky, the Drule shifting through the papers in his arm. “If you were to marry the princess Corral that would be one solution for two problems.”
“My father never wanted me to really marry her.” Lotor muttered, watching as the aide found what he was looking for. “Said it would poison the royal line with too much human blood.”
The aides wisely did not comment on that, the one handing Lotor a piece of glossy paper. He looked down at it, and saw it was a photograph, a very pretty redhead smiling at something out of view of the camera. “The princess Corral.” One said in response to Lotor’s unspoken question. “She is beautiful is she not?”
She was no Allura, Lotor staring at the photograph with a grimace on his face. He rather see blonde hair and blue eyes, then the red haired visage of Corral. “She is…adequate I suppose.”
The two aides exchanged looks, both frowning. “More than adequate I think. It would not be a chore to bed this one.” Lotor just shrugged at that, hardly tempted by their words.
“Sire….she is a virgin….think of the things you can teach her!” Lotor raised an eyebrow at that, a bit shocked at the tactic they were trying to take.
“Virgins are overrated.” He mimicked a yawn, tossing the picture to the floor. The one aide hurried to catch it, Lotor moving past the man with the other aide trailing behind him. “I prefer a more experienced woman. One who knows her way around a bedroom.”
“Are you still thinking of that mistress of yours?”
“Former mistress.” Lotor corrected, heading towards the exit door of the viewing deck.
“Sire, you must put her out of your head. She’s no good for you, or the kingdom.” The Drule said, and they heard footsteps as the other aide ran to catch up to them.
“She makes you weak sire.” Added the other one, and Lotor frowned, passing through the doorway that led into the ship’s halls. “You make bad decisions because of her.”
He supposed he couldn’t deny it, knowing what he had done for Arus, wasn’t seen as the smartest of moves. And he had done it all for Allura, to keep the smile on her face, and keep her family intact and alive. Still he couldn’t allow his aides to get away with questioning his judgment, Lotor turning to fix a scowl at them.
“My decision making ability is fine, with or without Allura by my side.” He didn’t like the pause of silence from his aides, the two men glancing at each other. “Besides…” Lotor continued, tone sullen. “It was my gift to her. If there’s one thing the people of Doom understand, it’s gifting a paramour with something extravagant, or performing a grandstanding act in their name.”
“Perhaps Arus was too extravagant a gift to give to one mistress.” The aide said, then quickly corrected himself. “Former mistress.”
“I won’t take it back.” Lotor warned, and the aides sighed. “I am not my father to give and take as the whim strikes me.”
“It….It might serve you well…” began the shorter Drule, tone hesitant. “If you did adopt some of your father’s policies towards ruling.” That earned a sharp eyed look from Lotor, the Drule lowering his head in submission.
“I find there is little I want to share with my father!” Lotor hissed, and resumed stalking down the corridor. Several soldiers joined his aides in following him, Lotor having an entourage of five Drules in all. He wasn’t in the mood for a group of followers, and yet understood that here more than anywhere else he needed guarding. The Arusians were still violatile, they could get it in their heads to try and take revenge for their years of slavery.
And yet he chaffed at the necessity of it all, Lotor wanting to be alone with his thoughts. But more than he wanted to be alone, he desired something else even more. ~Allura.~ He thought wistfully, conjuring a picture of her to his mind. She was smiling in his mental image of her, something like adoration in her blue eyes. He longed for that look to be a reality, Lotor stalking faster through the ship’s corridors.
He wasn’t even sure where he was going, just moving aimlessly. His aides were chattering behind him, trying to engage him in their troubling conversation. He refused to do just that, Lotor almost losing himself to his thoughts.
They were all about Allura, about being with her, about how he did not want to leave Arus without her. But he didn’t want to be selfish, didn’t want to force her away
from her parents. Not really at any rate. And she had made her choice, choosing family over him, and here he drew a blank, wondering what he was to her. They had never defined their relationship once the truth of her identity came out, the two tip toeing around each other.
They certainly weren’t mistress and master anymore, Lotor having giving up a sexual relationship with her. But then he hadn’t picked up a new woman to replace her, even though the preceding weeks proved difficult to get through without the comfort of a woman’s body. But he found he was hardly excited at the thought of finding a replacement for Allura, and those times when he privately worked himself off to a climax, no one else’s image had satisfied him but her’s.
He wondered if something was wrong with him, if he could even find enjoyment in the arms of another woman. Just wondering that had him alarmed, Lotor wondering when he had become so dependent on Allura for sexual comfort. What was it about her that called to him so much? It went beyond her being his childhood friend, for even when he hadn’t recognized her, Lotor had gone wild over her.
It had been lust at first sight, or rather first sniff, and even now the scent of her could drive him wild. He didn’t understand it completely, but knew there was something special about Allura. Something that perhaps no one else would ever see, ever experience and that thought made him glad. Just the thought of her with another had jealousy flaring up within him, Lotor having to fight possessive instincts to growl and attack an imaginary paramour.
He thought it was just a sign of Drule possessiveness, but then he had never felt this way about any of the other women he had bedded. He couldn’t even remember most of their names, and many of them had not merited a second or third try. But Allura, she was special to him, and he wondered if some part of him had recognized her that day in Madame Elianza’s home.
He continued to think about Allura, Lotor feeling he was on the verge of realizing something important. He wondered what life would have been like if they had been allowed to grow up together on Doom. Would he have sought solace in the arms of other women with Allura in his life? He thought the answer might be no, Lotor thinking at the very least he wouldn’t have experimented with quite so many women.
But that would have been dangerous in another way, Lotor remembering how his father had killed some of the women he had slept with. Especially the ones who had dared to get pregnant by his son’s seed. What if such an accident had occurred with Allura? His heart cried out at the thought of her being killed by his father’s hand, Lotor nearly staggering back a step.
“Problem sire?” asked one of the aides, alarmed.
“I’m fine.” Lotor said gruffly, and resumed walking. His travels had brought them to the ramp that led off the ship, Lotor moving down it and into the town square. More guards joined his procession, hands holding onto their blasters and rifles.
Lotor barely noticed the looks the surprised humans were giving him, the prince in anguish at the thought of Allura’s potential death. It was as bad as the thought of separating from her, his heart screaming at him that he was a fool to even consider doing such a thing. In fact the whole thought of leaving without Allura was giving him a bad feeling, Lotor frowning to himself. His every instinct was demanding he go to her, beg her to stay, sweep her in his arms and never let go.
“But why?” Lotor whispered to himself, ignoring his aide’s curious questions. “Why does she matter so much?”
~Fool!~ His heart seemed to sneer at him. ~Don’t you realize by now that you love her?~
Love. He turned the notion over in his mind, realizing that yes love had always existed between them. From those early days when they were but children, somewhat happy so long as Adaline was there to keep them safe. Love had been pushed aside by lust, but it was uncovered once her identity was revealed. That was the love of a friend, but was it enough to be selfish and ask Allura to leave with him?
It wasn’t, and he squared his shoulders in defeat. They needed more, and was he capable of giving her what she deserved? ~She has the love of a family now.~ Lotor noted sadly. ~She won’t need you.~ Never mind that he needed her, desperately so!
That though stopped him, Lotor feeling someone bumped into his back, hurried apologies being issued out from the Drule behind him. ~I need Allura.~ Lotor whispered to himself. ~I need her because…~ He pictured her again, laughing, crying, smiling, looking scared. He saw them loving, saw them arguing, saw them facing
Zarkon. And realized something that had evaded him all this time.
~I love Allura!~ It was an excited thought, Lotor realizing it wasn’t just a friend or family ties of love, but that of the passion of a man and a woman. But was that love enough to ask her to stay with him?
~Love means sacrifice.~ He thought with a glower. ~It means not being selfish. But I am a Drule! We are selfish by nature!~ With that thought, he was hurrying through the town square, heading towards one of the ships that was parked in the outskirts of town.
“Sire!” The aides called, and he could hear the footsteps of the soldiers, the group running after him. Lotor didn’t stop, not even when his aides demanded he tell them where he was going. He knew they wouldn’t like the answer, and frankly he did not give a damn.
Besides it would soon be apparent what he intended to do, Lotor rushing towards one of the carrier ships. It was a large behemoth of a warship, designed to carry both men and fighter craft, big on offense but holding little in defense. Lotor knew it was currently empty of the craft it was known for carrying, the space being needed to house the many homeless here in Rugasta.
The Drule soldiers had abandoned the ship, their barracks being used as extra beds for the Arusians. It didn’t put a complete end to the homeless situation, but at least it gave a roof over their heads. And somewhere inside that ship was Allura’s room, Lotor having insisted she take a general’s private cabin as her own personal quarters. Some of the leaders of the rebellion had also taken private cabins, housing their families inside.
It was cramped conditions all around, and not meant to be a permanent solution to the housing problem. Lotor hurried up the ship’s ramp, rushing past startled humans, many of them leaping aside so they wouldn’t get barreled over by his large frame. A few paused to stare at him, mouth working open and close as Lotor ran by, his panting aides, and somber guards hurrying after him.
Most of the Arusians were out working, but there was some moving boxes through out the ship. There was also the old and sick, people too feeble and unhealthy to do the kind of work that Rugasta demanded of them. They all stopped and stared at him, or peered through open doorways. Lotor did not pause to address them, did not even hesitate to ask for directions. He knew how the ships operated, and was positive he was going in the right direction to where the general’s quarters lay.
Some of the humans put down the boxes, moving to join Lotor’s entourage. Others were less curious, continuing their work, while two hurried in the direction Lotor had come from. He didn’t stop to wonder why, Lotor running up a flight of stairs, and bursting into the hall where the generals’ cabins lay. A startled old woman nearly shrieked at the sight of the Drules, Lotor reaching for her arms.
“Please!” He barked in Arusian. “Which room is Allura’s?!”
With a shaking hand, she pointed at a door, Lotor nodding his thanks and rushing to it. He got within a foot’s distance from it, and realized he was acting rather irrational, Lotor running his hands through his hair to nervously smooth it down. He suddenly wished for a mirror, wanting to make sure his clothing was straight, even as he realized to Allura that would not matter.
“Sire, really…” huffed an aide, the short Drule out of breath. “This is really quite odd even for you…”
Lotor had been poised to knock, fist raised up high when the aide spoke. Now he looked at him, narrowing his eyes as though daring the man to continue speaking. “A moment of privacy.” Lotor said, and the aides began to protest. “It’s an order of your king.”
That got the soldiers moving, his guards ushering the protesting aides and bemused Arusians back down the staircase. Even the old woman was dragged away, he could hear her whimpering in fear. He didn’t have time to feel bad about it, Lotor taking a deep breath as he knocked on the door.
“Allura? Are you in there?” He suddenly felt foolish for running all this way, Lotor realizing she might not even be here but out in the crop fields. “It’s me…Lotor.”
A pause, long enough that Lotor wanted to howl in frustration, and then he heard the soft, dulcet tones of her voice. “Lotor?” She sounded surprised, and he couldn’t blame her. They had spent much of the last few days avoiding each other.
“Yes, it’s me.” He said, cursing himself for a fool. “Can I speak to you a moment?”
“Just a moment…” His vibrated with impatience, wondering what was taking so long. But at last he was rewarded with the sight of her, Allura opening the door, a robe over her body. He wanted to sweep her up in his arms, Lotor taking a step forward before remembering himself.
“May I come in?” Lotor asked, and she nodded, looking bemused. He stepped inside, noting the outer chamber of the general’s room was cluttered with boxes. Allura noticed him looking, and hurried to explain.
“It felt strange to have these rooms all to myself. So I’m letting the extra space be used as storage.”
“Ah.” He didn’t really care about that, circling around to face her. “That’s kind of you. But then….you’ve always been a very kind person.” She flushed prettily at his words, Allura ducking her head shyly.
“It’s your mother’s influence.” She said with a smile. “She helped shape me into the person I am.”
He smiled, pleased to hear her credit his mother. “But Allura…I think you would have become a wonderful person no matter who raised you.”
“Maybe….” But she sounded doubtful.
“I’m sure of it.” Lotor insisted, then stepped closer to her. “It’s part of what makes me…care for you.” He inwardly winced, knowing he could have used a stronger word than care in that moment.
“I care for you as well, Lotor.” Allura said, and he wondered if his yearning showed in that moment. He wanted her so badly, wanted to tell her everything, and have her confirm she felt the same way!
“It’s more than caring you know…” Lotor began, trying not to stumble over his words. “I…I love you.” A simple declaration, but he could see she didn’t realize the importance of it.
“I love you too.” She blushed then. “I’ve always loved you. You’re family to me. A friend and a…”
“Don’t…” he pressed his finger against her mouth, Allura trailing off with a gasp. “Don’t compare me to a brother. I couldn’t stand it if you did!”
“Lotor?” She blinked her eyes rapidly, not succeeding in hiding how startled she was.
“I’ve thought about you a lot…and the different kinds of love I have for you.” He lowered his hand, fighting the urge to pace before her. “Friend, mistress, even family…but one thing I never thought of you as is a sibling…not even as a child.” He chuckled nervously, Lotor reaching for her hands so his fingers would have something to occupy them with. “Young as I was, I knew you weren’t my sister…and that’s an important distinction to make.”
She still looked confused, frowning bemused at him. “Maybe I’m babbling….I don’t mean to. But this isn’t an easy confession to make…”
He nodded. “Allura….out of all we’ve been to each other, please don’t ever think of me as a brother…”
“Why?” She asked softly, and his hands trembled around hers.
“Because….” He geared himself up for strength, looking deep into her eyes. “The love I feel for you, it goes beyond that! Goes beyond friendship, even beyond family.” He wanted to pull her into his arms, but controlled himself. “Allura…I love you!”
She blinked slowly, expression unreadable in the moment. It appeared some of her father’s mannerisms were rubbing off on her if she could hide her reaction so thoroughly from him. “You love me?” Allura repeated, and Lotor nodded. “Truly…and deeply? With all your heart?”
“Every last inch of it.” Lotor told her, then reached up to cup her face in his hands. “Oh Allura, I thought I could do without you. I thought I could manage to separate from you, but…I realize how wrong I was to even try. Every day that you’re not with me is a small agony! I can’t imagine going through eternity without you!”
“It was difficult for me too.” She admitted. “I wanted to see you, desperately. It took every ounce of will power not to go to you, not to tell you to take me wherever you are going, even if that road led back to Doom.”
“I wanted to be selfless….to let you be with your family, even at the cost of my own heart and desire.” Lotor told her.
“I wanted you happy and safe, even if that meant seeing you with another.” Allura replied.
“I wouldn’t, couldn’t be happy with anyone else.” Lotor proclaimed. “I’d forever be mourning the woman I lost.”
“You haven’t lost me…” She smiled, but looked tearful. “You haven’t come close to losing me….!”
“Then….do you feel the same?” Lotor asked, almost holding his breath as he waited for her to answer. “Do you love me as more than a friend?”
“Yes, Lotor. Yes, I do.” It was all the answer he needed, Lotor hauling her up on tip toe for a kiss. He had a moment to hear her gasp, and then her arms were wrapping around him, Allura pressing closer to him. He could feel her smiling against his lips, an expression Lotor was sure he mirrored. He relaxed his hold on her face, leaning into her so that she fell against the open door frame. Only then did he break the kiss, smiling mischievously at her a moment before he was closing the door.