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Know Your Enemy

Chapter Text

Allura relaxed into the warmth of the pool, letting the bubbles ease her tensions away. Although she wasn’t about to admit it to him, Coran had been right about this little retreat. She desperately needed to relax. She’d protested at first, of course, because how could she possibly abandon the Paladins at such an uncertain time, with Shiro missing, and still no hint as to what had become of him? But it was only overnight, he’d insisted, and she needed to give herself a break before she fell apart -- what good would she be to them then? And besides, if she refused, he’d threatened to throw her in the trunk of the shuttle and drop her off anyway. She smiled to herself with affection and delayed amusement. Everyone ought to have a Coran.

As it turned out, the hotel attached to the space mall was quite luxurious.So she’d done a bit of shopping, and finally gotten that ‘something sparkly’ she’d been wanting in the form of a lovely new gown (she had no idea when she would ever have a chance to wear it, but she didn’t care), and now she was enjoying the spa facilities. The hot tub was scented with some kind of herbal oils, and between that and the chamberry fizz she’d been sipping, Allura was feeling quite relaxed indeed. She reached back to set her glass down on the deck beside her, when she noticed another guest arriving to join her.

It was a young man, around her own age or perhaps slightly older, she guessed, with long silver-white hair, and the most unusual eyes - violet blue on gold. The lavender hue of his skin might have suggested Galra; but no, she decided, he was not tall enough for that, and his features too fine. And not so... hirsute. With those pointed ears, he might even have passed for Altean. He was, she decided, quite wonderfully made, noting his broad shoulders and slim waist. And perhaps it was the wine talking, but she most definitely approved of the snug swim shorts he was wearing. He looked up at her as he eased himself into the water, and she realized, too late that she’d been caught staring. Oh, quiznak. Mortified, she hoped that the steam from the water would hide her blush.

“I’m terribly sorry,” she offered, with a self-conscious smile, “I didn’t mean to be rude; I was just wondering…” if you work out “... where you’re from,” she finished lamely, then covered her face with her hands, wishing the water would swallow her up. “Oh dear, that’s not better.” What in the universe has gotten into me? To her great relief, however, he merely laughed as he settled himself.

“It’s fine.” His voice was pleasant, with an accent she couldn’t quite place. “I get it all the time. I’m… something of a mix. My father used to call me a mongrel,” he said, his smile turning bitter for a split second before fading.

“Oh, that’s horrible!” she gasped. “I mean, I’m sorry to hear that. I think you look very nice. I mean -- oh dear. I am putting my foot in it, aren’t I?” She sighed. “I’m afraid I don’t get out much.”

“Now that is a shame,” he grinned, a touch wolfishly, she thought.

“Shall we start over?” she smiled back. “My name is -” she hesitated for a breath, “- Alana.” Although Altea had been gone for ten thousand years, there were, she had discovered, some corners of the universe where her name was still whispered, and she had no wish to draw undue attention to herself at the moment. Especially since this place was well within the Galra Empire, however fractured that might be at present.

“Lotor,” he replied simply, leaning back against the edge of the tub. “So what brings you out of your sanctuary, then?”

She paused to consider her answer, deciding on a generalized version of the truth. “My family suffered a loss recently. My uncle decided that I was becoming unhealthily wound up in it; he insisted I take a bit of time away. What about you?”

“Not so different, actually. My father is unwell - he may not recover, and my mother has summoned me home to deal with his affairs.” He grimaced slightly. “It’s rather a mess. I thought I would take a few days to relax before I have to deal with all of that.” He waved a hand disdainfully.

“Well, I’m sorry to hear about your father,” Allura offered sincerely.

“Don’t worry about it,” he shrugged. She felt a pang of sympathy. She had her paladins’ support, and Coran, waiting for her back at the castle when she returned; but Lotor, despite his air of easy self-assurance, seemed quite alone. She was trying to think of something heartening to say, when a soft chime from a hidden speaker announced the changing of the hour.

“I’m afraid I must be going,” she said apologetically, “I have a massage appointment booked.”

“A pity. I was enjoying your company.” His voice sounded nonchalant, but his eyes betrayed disappointment.

“As was I,” Allura replied with a rueful smile.

“In that case, would you care to join me for dinner this evening?”

“Are you asking me on a date?” She felt her cheeks colour again, and a warmth that had little to do with the temperature of the pool.

“If you like.” He grinned again, showing sharply pointed canines. There was something dangerous about that smile, but also something beguiling, exciting. Her heart fluttered, and in that moment she felt for all the universe like an adolescent again. Well why not, she thought. When was the last time I’ve even been on a date with anyone but the mice? After all, wasn’t the whole point of this little retreat for her to distract herself from the stress and responsibility of her position? She had the feeling that Lotor could prove quite distracting indeed.

“I would love to.”

“Wonderful,” he fairly beamed, eyes shining brightly. “Shall we say eight then? In the resort dining room?”

“It’s a date,” she tossed playfully over her shoulder as she stepped out of the pool. She could feel his eyes moving over her as she rose from the water, in a way that sent shivers down her spine, all the way down to her pelvis. I suppose that’s only fair.

-----

As the time of her rendez-vous with Lotor drew nearer, Allura fussed over her reflection in the mirror, tucking stray locks of white hair back into her bun, then pulling a few more loose to arrange them to artfully frame her face. She applied a layer of newly-purchased lipstick, then stepped back to admire her work. If nothing else, she mused, she would have a chance to wear her new dress after all. It was sleeveless, with a wonderfully twirly skirt that came to just below her knees, and the neckline was much lower than she would have worn around the castle. Not her usual style, to say the least, but the colour - a deep, shimmering pink - had caught her eye, and once she’d tried it on she just couldn’t say no. Especially not when there were shoes to match. She gave it a little spin, delighting in how the light fabric rippled around her. It felt liberating to simply be a woman for an evening, instead of a princess. As an afterthought, she picked up the sample bottle of perfume she’d gotten from the cosmetics shop, and dabbed a little on her wrists, rubbing them together to warm the floral, slightly tangy fragrance. Perfect, she thought, with a final glance at the looking glass. He doesn’t stand a chance.

When she arrived at the restaurant, the maitre d’ showed her to a small, secluded booth with a semi-circular table, where her companion was waiting. Lotor practically leapt up when he noticed her, taking her hand and pressing it to his lips as their host discreetly withdrew.

“You are absolutely stunning, my dear,” he purred, his eyes glowing like candle flame. She smiled, pleased by his eagerness.

“Thank you, kind sir,” she replied playfully. “You’re looking quite smart yourself.” He was wearing a closely fitted dark blue shirt with a broad-shouldered charcoal grey jacket with a vaguely military cut, and trousers in the same shade. It suited him rather well, though perhaps, she thought, not quite as well as what he’d had on before. She let him guide her to the table, acutely conscious of his hand on the exposed skin of her back, and settled onto the cushioned bench. She detected a pleasantly arboraceous, slightly spicy aroma as he sat next to her - a cologne, or perhaps something in his hair.

“I hope you don’t mind that I took the liberty of ordering you a drink,” he said, gesturing to a glass of gently effervescing liquid at her place. She noted with pleasure that it was the same vintage she’d been drinking when they’d met earlier. She picked up the flute by it’s fragile stem, inhaling the wine’s delicate bouquet appreciatively.

“Not at all.”  She eyed him appraisingly over the rim of her glass as she took a sip. Where exactly am I going with this? She wondered. A pleasant distraction for a couple of vargas, or something more? This meeting had stirred up feelings she had kept buried since before the cryosleep. Even just the warmth of his leg brushing against hers was intensely distracting. She felt flustered - but quite agreeably so - and unable to think clearly. When did I become such a bundle of hormones? Allura resolved then that it would be best not to decide at all. It was enough, she thought, to enjoy the company of this charming stranger; Someone who had no lofty expectations of her, who wasn’t waiting for her to avenge her people, or save the universe…

Lotor lifted his own glass, and raised it toward her. “To this evening then,” he proposed.

“And all its possibilities,” she added as she touched her flute to his.

-----

By the end of the second course (and her third glass of wine), Allura had decided that she wanted to sleep with him. Not that she was necessarily going to, of course, but it was exhilarating simply to entertain the idea. Even discounting the millennia of suspended animation, it had been some time since she’d taken anyone to bed, interstellar war having put something of a damper on opportunities for romance. And despite all of Lance’s coquetry, she couldn’t see him or any of the paladins as anything other than her family. But now, tonight… She had been enjoying their conversation - Lotor had been telling her about the various planets he’d visited, and she’d shared stories about her found family, such as how Lance and Pidge had accidentally purchased a ‘cow’ and ended up having to extract its secretions every day (leaving out the part about how Lance had made a habit of actually drinking them; that was simply too revolting to share in polite company)... But all of this seemed no more than a thin veneer over an intense flirtation. With every touch of his hand on hers, she felt a heat building at her core, and an intoxication that had nothing to do with alcohol. A small voice at the back of her mind still urged caution, but that voice was growing weaker by the tick.

When all the plates were cleared away, and Lotor suggested they move to the adjoining night club, she accepted readily. She was far from ready for the evening to be over, and the thought of having his body so close to hers electrified her.

Under the sparkling lights of the dance floor, couples of all descriptions moved gracefully to a slow-pulsing tune being played by a quartet of four-armed musicians. Her companion escorted her into their midst, locking eyes with her as he pulled her close. Dance steps had changed significantly in the past ten thousand years, but with all of her royal education, she was nimble and graceful enough to keep up as they twirled through the crowd. Lotor’s face, his sly smile and smouldering eyes, filled her vision. She was excruciatingly aware of every point of contact between their bodies. Her senses felt heightened; the feel of the silky fabric of her dress sliding over her breasts was maddening. By the time the music faded, her head was spinning. To her dismay, it looked as though the band was about to take a break between sets - the other dancers were moving off towards the bar at the edge of the room. She gazed up at her partner, unwilling to break away just yet.

“Will I see you again?” he asked softly.

“Probably not,” she admitted reluctantly. For a fraction of a second, his eyes dimmed and disappointment flickered across his face; but then the roguish grin was back. He leaned in close, pressing her against his chest.

“Then what do you say we make the most of tonight?” he murmured against her neck just below her ear. The heat of his breath inflamed her. Her heart fluttered madly, her pulse throbbing in the hollow of her collarbone, in her breast, and between her legs.

“Yes,” she whispered breathlessly. “Oh, yes.”

-----

As soon as the elevator doors were shut, Lotor had her up against the wall, his hungry mouth seeking hers with a raw, unmasked urgency. Allura stifled a moan as his tongue found hers, and his strong hands roughly caressed the curves of her hips. Now that she had acknowledged her desires, she gave herself over to them fully, fisting the lapels of his jacket with both hands as she pulled him against her. She could feel his erection through the layers of their clothing, pressing against her hip; her own arousal was almost excruciating.

When the lift opened again, they almost fell into the hallway, still pawing at each other. Lotor’s cheeks were flushed a deep red-violet, his composure as undone as her own. Once they’d regained their balance, he took her hand and pulled her unceremoniously along to his room. It was a larger suite than what she’d booked for herself, with a small bar and a window looking out on the stars and the moon’s craggy surface; but she was in no fit state to take in any details. She fell against him again, yanking his jacket back off his shoulders and then tossing it aside. Her hands slid up under his shirt, reveling in the warm velvet of his flesh, as his lips played across the sensitive skin of her neck and collarbone. One of his hands cupped her left breast, grazing a thumb across her swollen nipple, while the other slid down the curve of her backside.  

They broke apart only long enough for her to get his shirt off, then he was upon her again, kissing her hungrily as she tangled her fingers in his hair. He slipped a hand inside the right side of the neckline of her gown, teasing and pinching her nipple until she cried out involuntarily, twisting and pulling the hair at the base of his neck. Undeterred, he slipped his free hand under the hem of her dress, lifting up her skirt as he stroked her thigh, all the way up to the waistband of her thong, then pushed it down over her hips so that it slipped to the ground. She was maddeningly wet, aching to be touched; when his hand grazed her swollen lips, she shivered with anticipation. Clever fingers spread her labia and teased at her clit, stroking the slick, sensitive flesh around her entrance; and she had to grab onto her lover’s shoulders to steady herself, moaning into his chest. It had been so long. So very long.

“Oh my,” he murmured into her neck, delighted by how ready he’d found her. Allura bit her lip to keep from crying out again as he slipped one long finger inside her. His palm pressed against her clit as he slid slowly, deliberately in and out of her, stimulating the delicate ridges just inside her, and the cluster of nerves deeper within. More, I need more.

She reached her right hand down between his well-muscled thighs, then up to where his cock strained against the fabric of his pants. Lotor gasped as she stroked his length, his teeth scraping lightly across her neck. He quickened his pace, and she felt herself teetering on the edge of release, ready to collapse - but just her knees were about to buckle, he pulled away from her, leaving her throbbing with frustration.

He gazed at her with a hungry, almost predatory look. His eyes were blazing, his hair dishevelled. “I want to see you,” he growled.

Meeting his ravenous gaze, she gathered up her skirt, languidly pulled the dress up over her head, and let it drop to the side. She stepped out of her shoes and underwear, then reached up to undo her bun, letting her silvery hair cascade in loose waves around her. Now when is it your turn? She wondered.

“You are… a goddess,” he breathed, his voice thick and husky. Allura moved closer, and grazed his chest with her fingertips, relishing the way his nipples stiffened under her touch.

“Am I?”

Yes, ” he rasped.

She draped her arms over his shoulders, her breasts barely brushing his skin. “Then worship me ,” she commanded, drunk on his lust for her.

With an animal-like sound that startled her, Lotor took her by the waist and effortlessly lifted her up off the ground, spinning around to set her down on one of the stools next to the bar. His strength took her off guard - perhaps not on par with Altean vigor, but definitely impressive. She had neither the time nor the desire to dwell on it though, as her lover dropped to his knees in front of her, and spread her legs apart. She opened to him eagerly, arching her back as he bent into her lap. He nuzzled at her soft curls, inhaling her scent as he caressed the smooth brown skin of her thighs. Throbbing with desire once again, she wriggled against him; but she refused to beg. A princess - a goddess - would never. Finally, she felt the delicious wet heat of his tongue, exploring her folds, slipping inside her. Allura raked her fingers through his hair, pulling him closer, wanting to be devoured by him, her entire body humming like a live wire. She felt her climax building, gathering strength and momentum like a tidal wave; but again her lover pulled back, delaying her release. This time she was unable to conceal her frustration. She slid off her perch and leapt at him, slipping her fingers into the waist of his trousers and ripping the seam apart, pulling them down over his narrow hips along with his shorts. It was Lotor’s turn to be surprised; but he recovered quickly, kicking aside his ruined clothes and pulling her back against him.

“No more games,” she murmured against his lips, as she steered them towards the bed. They fell together into the warm softness of the bedspread, limbs tangled together in a sweaty knot. Allura luxuriated in the fevered heat of his body against hers, his cock hard and dripping against her thigh. When he finally plunged into her, thick and hot, she cried out, delirious with pleasure, digging her nails into his shoulders. Again and again they crashed together, every stroke hitting the sweetest spot inside her until she could bear it no longer and she came, screaming his name, ten thousand years of tension exploding all at once inside her.

While she was still shuddering, Lotor gathered her up in his arms, lifting her up to straddle him. He licked greedily at her breasts as he thrusted up into her, holding her firmly by the hips. Raw as she was, the sensation was almost too much to bear, but at the same time, she never wanted it to stop. She fisted handfuls of his beautiful hair as she rode him, and the heat inside her built up again, an incandescence between her legs. His hand slipped lower, his thumb pressing against her clit, rubbing her with every stroke until she climaxed again, raking her nails down his back, marking him as her own, and pulling him over the edge with her. She felt him shudder as he finally spent himself, felt his teeth in the meat of her shoulder, pleasure mingling with pain. Allura closed her eyes and clung to him tightly as the waves of sensation swept over them, until they fell against the pillows, their limbs tangled together. She nestled against him for a time, savoring the afterglow. She felt safe and warm in his arms, just listening to the sound of his breath, feeling the steady beat of his heart.

She was beginning to think he might have fallen asleep, when she felt him move to rest his hand against her cheek, slender fingers caressing the line of her jaw. She opened her eyes to see Lotor gazing down at her with a languid smile.

“Peerless,” he murmured, half to himself. He drew her lips up to his, kissing her languorously at first, then building to a renewed passion as their hands wandered over each other’s bodies. She felt him swell against her thigh, felt her own arousal intensifying once again. She broke away from his hungry mouth to lay a trail of kisses along the side of his neck, and he leaned his head back, hissing with pleasure as she nipped at his earlobe.

“My darling,” she breathed, “I’m just getting started.”

-----

Allura managed only a varga or two’s worth of sleep before her internal clock woke her. Lotor was asleep beside her, his face peaceful and unguarded. Part of her (and she knew precisely which) desperately wanted to stay, but she knew that if she was even a dobash late, Coran would have the paladins, and possibly even the Lions, scouring the moon looking for her. As quietly as possible, she gathered up her things and got dressed. By her reckoning, she had just enough time to go back to her own room, shower and change her clothes before she was expected to return to the castle.

Still, it seemed rude to leave without saying goodbye at all… Rifling through the nightstand, she found some stationery and a writing instrument. After a brief deliberation, she wrote out,

“Thank you for a lovely evening,”

and, feeling it was somehow worse to leave him with her assumed name than nothing at all, she signed it simply,

“A.”

She folded the paper neatly in half, and set it on the pillow where she’d slept. Before leaving, she bent to plant one last kiss on her lover’s cheek. Lotor made a contented sort of chuffing noise, but did not wake, and Allura slipped out of the suite, and back to her real life.

Chapter Text

The realities of a post-Zarkon universe continued to give Allura a colossal headache. She sat back in her hoverchair, staring at yet another day’s worth of messages and reports - the fallout from their defeat of the Galra. Some planets that had been relatively unscathed by - or had even flourished - under Galra occupation were clamoring for protection from their until recently disenfranchised neighbours, who now viewed them as collaborators. Others had sent calls for Voltron’s assistance in rebuilding their infrastructure, or requests for them to somehow shore up their local currency now that the GAC had been destabilized…

She had to admit that she had not foreseen so many negative consequences to their victory. It had seemed so simple. Form Voltron, defeat Zarkon, save the universe. What a fool she’d been.

Not that they could even reliably form Voltron, with Shiro still missing. While the Black Lion, acknowledging her former pilot’s wishes, had grudgingly accepted Keith as a temporary substitute, the Red, ever prideful and hot-tempered, refused to give him up. It was only because she was  Alfor’s daughter that she was even allowed, however reluctantly, into the cockpit.

And now, over the past few weeks, new developments threatened to complicate matters further. The Galra seemed to be regrouping. Fleets that had been scattered were reforming. There were reports of fresh cruisers being deployed to reassert control over certain key resources. Although they had undoubtedly suffered a blow, the Galra empire was now proving to be more resilient than they had hoped or expected.

Allura wondered who was at the helm. Haggar? She fervently hoped not, but it was difficult to imagine that the witch would simply fade away in Zarkon’s absence, relinquishing her power. Perhaps one of his former generals, seizing the opportunity for power? She sighed loudly, holding her head in her hands. Headaches . She needed another vacation.

“Princess.” she heard a gruff voice, and looked up abruptly, startled to see Kolivan standing in front of her console. She hadn’t heard him come in - despite his size, the leader of the Blades had an absolutely uncanny knack for sneaking up on a body. “Like a giant furry ninja,” as Lance was wont to say.

“Kolivan.” She mustered a game smile. “Any news?” Although there was no replacing Thace, he still had a few eyes and ears within the Galra empire, whatever its current state might be. Perhaps he had brought her some answers about what was going on within their ranks. She wanted to hope that he had news of Shiro, but his solemn expression betrayed nothing either way.

“Yes,” he replied grimly. “I believe I have an explanation for the regrouping of the Empire’s forces. My sources tell me that Prince Lotor has returned.”

Allura blinked, but managed to keep her expression schooled. Surely she’d misheard.

“Prince… Lotor?”

“Yes. Zarkon’s son.”

“I… wasn’t aware he had any children,” she managed to respond, keeping her tone carefully level. Allura felt as though her heart had dropped through her stomach, but if Kolivan had picked up any sign of her discomfort, he didn’t let on.

“He had been sent away for a time. He was something of an embarrassment to the Emperor. A half-breed.” He shrugged. “But now he is Zarkon’s only heir.”

“I see.” That’s why I didn’t recognize him as Galra…

“There’s also this,” he continued, producing a fingernail-sized chip from a concealed pocket. He plugged it into her console, and she heard an all-too familiar voice.

My father built this empire on the bones of his enemies. The universe can no longer deny our strength…” There was more, but Allura scarcely heard it. She sagged back into her chair, in shock.

“Oh, quiznak.”

 ----- 

Patience was not Lotor’s strong suit. He despised being kept waiting. Which was why, naturally, Haggar was late for their meeting. Even though she is the one who summoned me. It was entirely predictable - she did so love these little power games - but that didn’t make it any less annoying. Restless and irritated, he drummed his fingers on the meeting room table for a while, then, when the witch still hadn’t shown herself, he leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on it. She would hate that.

When at last she appeared, her deepening scowl was all the reward he needed. Lotor grinned smugly.

“Haggar. How nice of you to join me.”

“Get your boots off the table,” she hissed.

“Why yes, it is a fine morning!” He smiled all the wider, leaning back with his hands clasped behind his head. “What did you want to see me about?” Haggar sniffed with disgust, but made no further comments about his posture.

“You need to start taking your duty to the Empire more seriously, Prince Lotor,” she scolded, as she glided around to the other side of the table.

“I gave the speech. What more do you want?”

Voltron. ” Her eyes blazed from within the shadows of her hood. Lotor failed to repress a grimace.

“Voltron? Again? Still? Isn’t that what got you into this situation?” It seemed to him that Zarkon’s single-minded pursuit of the legendary robot had done more damage to his ten thousand year old empire than Voltron itself.

“The Emperor’s obsession with the Black Lion cost us dearly, and left us vulnerable,” she admitted grudgingly. “While we should avoid repeating that... error, Voltron isn’t going to just go away and leave us alone now.” That was true enough, he had to admit. “When they learn that we are not as thwarted as they had hoped, the Paladins will come for you. We must be prepared.”

“Oh, very well,” he sighed, putting his feet back down on the floor. “What would you have me do?” In truth, Lotor was quite serious about the Empire - but perhaps not in the way Haggar intended. He had no intentions of remaining her puppet or mouthpiece while she conducted whatever occult machinations the druids had devised. He had his own plans and projects… Zarkon’s unexpected ‘sabbatical’ had given him a chance at power sooner than expected, but this mess with Voltron the Emperor had left behind was one massive headache.

Haggar produced a data pad, seemingly from thin air - another one of her parlour tricks - and set it down in front of him.

“Know your enemy.” The display showed a list the Paladins by colour, along with their known allies. The Black Paladin’s file was first. He skimmed through it, then laughed out loud when he realized who it was.

“Your ‘Champion’ stole Zarkon’s precious Black Lion?” he scoffed. “That’s rich.” Haggar said nothing, but made an annoyed growling sound in his direction. As that seemed to be the only reaction he was going to provoke, he swiped through to the following dossiers. The Red and Yellow Paladins he’d heard about from Acxa--but Haggar didn’t need to know about their extracurricular activities. Red hadn’t impressed him much. She saved your life, and you whine about one measly bag of scaultrite… The Blue one was another human, sort of attractive if you liked skinny, and the Green was a literal child. Still, he was resolved not to underestimate them as Zarkon had. He opened the next file.

Lotor was not prepared for what he saw.

The image appeared to have been captured from Galra security footage. It showed a woman, suspended in mid-air as she launched herself, despite restraints, at the Emperor, her features etched with fury and determination. That face, that body … it was unmistakable. He stared at the display, stunned.

“This is…”

“Princess Allura of Altea.” Haggar’s eyes narrowed to glowing slits. “You know her.”

It was too late to feign innocence.

“I - we’ve met,” he managed, still unable to tear his eyes from the image. Allura. It was strange, the visceral reaction seeing her had provoked. “I didn’t know who she was,” he muttered. “You’re the only full-blooded Altean I’ve ever seen.”

“What did you do , Lotor?” she hissed menacingly, leaning over the table. He scowled back at her, not fond of being threatened.

“Oh, lots of things,” he shot back, “but I don’t think you really want details.” Haggar drew away with a disgusted glower.

“Allura is dangerous, you imbecile; possibly the greatest threat to our supremacy! Her power is -” She paused, and Lotor could tell she was checking herself before she revealed too much. You’re afraid, he realized. “She could have killed you.”

“Worried about me?” he sneered. “If I didn’t know better I might think you were having an emotion.” That was laughable, of course. Lotor knew all too well the truth of his situation here, at least as far as Haggar was concerned: without a legitimate tie to Zarkon and his throne, the Galra would not follow her. No matter how unsettling her powers, she was an outsider. She would try her best to manipulate and control him, but she needed him. Better a half-blood than an Altean witch. He often wondered how she had insinuated herself into Zarkon’s trust, to the exclusion of anyone else; but answers were devilish hard to come by from either of them. Truthful ones even more so. “I wonder if the old man would share your concern… I suppose we’ll never know.”

“He will recover,” she insisted, a little too forcefully, he thought; he’d touched a nerve. He decided to push his luck.

“Oh dear, is that two feelings in one day?” he jeered. “Be careful, you might strain something.” Her eyes narrowed again, blazing with fury.

“Show some respect,” Haggar growled. “I am still your mother.”

“When it suits you.” Lotor shrugged. The slight twitch under her left eye was indescribably satisfying.

“Do your homework, boy, ” she spat, then turned on her heel and stalked toward the exit, her robes swirling around her as she went.

“Vrepit sa!” he called cheerfully after her retreating form. He would count this as a win.

Lotor knew that this game could not continue indefinitely. If, or when, Zarkon did recover, his usefulness would be greatly diminished. He needed to find a way to take hold of the Empire before that happened, but if he were to move against Haggar too soon, and fail… Well, he didn’t care to think of the outcome. It would be so much simpler if he could just disconnect Zarkon from the supply of quintessence that was sustaining his already over-extended life; but the druids were always lurking.

But perhaps there is another way… He looked down again at the data sheet on the table, zoomed in on the image of Allura’s face. He traced his thumb absent-mindedly across the line of her jaw. The enemy of my enemy is my friend . And hadn’t they already been friendly? He recalled something she had said when they’d first met. A loss in the family. If they were down a Paladin, could they even form Voltron? What the witch wouldn’t give to know that little tidbit. Such an imbalance might make them more amenable to his overtures. He would have to come up with some trick to keep Haggar out of it, of course; but even so…

Lotor picked up the pad, still unable to tear his gaze from her features. He hadn’t expected ever to see her again, but now he couldn’t deny a certain excitement at the idea. Perhaps she would even remember him fondly…

Every ally gained, and all that.

 -----

The encrypted message from Galra High Command had come as a shock to everyone on the castle ship. Prince Lotor, Zarkon’s heir and regent, wished to parlay with [the forces of Voltron] and their allies, it said. To discuss a cessation of hostilities between their factions, and perhaps, a place for the Galra within a peaceful universe, without Zarkon.

Allura had gathered the ship’s personnel on the observation deck to discuss how to respond. And oh, she was in dire need of counsel; but she didn’t dare confess the full extent of her inner conflict. Coran and Kolivan, of course, were convinced it must be some sort of ruse.

“It just doesn’t make any sense , Princess,” Coran argued, tugging on his mustache. “With Zarkon gone, this Lotor fellow stands to inherit his Empire. We’ve already heard how the Galra are putting themselves back together, rallying to him! Why would he throw that power away?” Kolivan grumbled his support.

“Perhaps he truly desires peace,” Allura put forth, but she couldn’t quite keep the skepticism from her voice. That was what she wanted to believe; because then she wouldn’t have been taken in by some power-hungry warlord who was essentially the second coming of Zarkon. Like my father was. “Or perhaps,” she continued, putting that thought aside for now, “It’s because Zarkon still lives.”

“That’s not possible.” Keith interjected. “We all saw what was left after Shiro got through with him.”

“What makes you think he might have survived, Princess?” Kolivan asked, flicking his ears in her direction.

“You’re not the only one with sources,” she replied tartly. He opened his mouth to press the matter, but she was saved from further questioning by Lance.

“So, let me get this straight… If this guy is the prince, that means someone had to get it on with that nasty old guy, right?”

“Dude, gross.” Hunk clutched his stomach.

“I’m just sayin’--”

Lance. ” Keith scowled, arms crossed over his chest. Truly, if Allura hadn’t known better she might have thought he was aiming for an impression of Shiro.

“You’re not my supervisor, Keith!” Lance retorted, petulant.

“Paladins, please.” Allura pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to ward off the headache that was lurking behind her eyes. As welcome as the distraction had been, she needed to shut them down before this devolved into the usual bickering. She sighed. “If there is any chance that this is genuine, then we must pursue it, for the sake of peace in the Universe. We will meet with this Prince Lotor. Coran and I will make the arrangements.” She would swallow her pride, bury her feelings. She would be a Princess of Altea.

The Paladins took her words as the dismissal they were meant to be, and began to file out. Keith was the last to go, lingering in the doorway.

“I hope you know what you’re doing, Princess.”

“So do I,” she muttered.

 

Chapter Text

Ultimately, Olkarion was chosen as the venue, being relatively neutral ground. “We’re not afraid of the Galra,” Ryner had said. “Not anymore.” She would have a seat at the table for… whatever was about to happen, along with representatives from Voltron’s allies: the Balmerans, the Taujeer, the Arusians, and some from other, more recently liberated planets. In the face of Ryner’s confidence, Allura felt quite ashamed of her private trepidation.

She still did not feel adequately prepared for this meeting. She had spent many vargas, over the past few quintents, trying to rehearse what she would say to Lotor, how she would move past the awkwardness of their past liaison… But every time, she found herself distracted by memories--his eyes, like violet sapphires set in gold, the curl of his lip when he smiled, his voice breathless in her ear, whispering, peerless, beautiful… The more she tried to shut out such thoughts, the more intrusive they became.  It was maddening. And would be mortifying, if anyone else were to know.

The Paladins--her honour guard--shifted restlessly around her as they waited for the ship to land.

“Just a few dobashes now, Princess,” Coran said softly from where he stood just behind her right elbow. She knew he could sense her unease, even if he was ignorant of its source. She nodded absently, her eyes fixed on the Galra craft approaching the landing pad. Allura was struck once again by the strength and resilience of the Olkari--the last time a Galra ship had landed here, their civilization had been devastated, and much of the population forced into slave labour; yet at this moment, Ryner seemed to be the most unruffled of their party.

This ship did not much resemble the battlecruisers that had dominated the Olkari skies over the past few decaphebes. It was smaller for one thing, and not as stretched out as the typical ion drive warships she’d grown used to seeing--it reminded her a bit of some large, dark bird with outstretched wings. It must be his own personal craft, Allura mused. She wondered if it was some sort of prototype.

The ship’s retro thrusters blew up great clouds of dust as it touched down, but Allura and her party were well clear. As the dust settled, the ship’s gangplank extended. It occurred to her that it might not be too late to feign some sudden illness and leave this all to Coran; he was as skilled a diplomat as she, after all... But no, that was unworthy of her. She squared her shoulders and tried to ignore the fluttering in the pit of her stomach.

A squad of sentry droids filed down the walkway and formed into perfect ranks in front of the craft. They were followed by a group of four officers; or at least, she assumed so -- their armour was differently styled than the black and red she was accustomed to, but the way they carried themselves left little doubt. All four were women, and none resembled any Galra Allura had seen before. Two of them were quite small by Galra standards. One was blue-skinned with sharp, calculating eyes. Beside her was a hooded figure whose shadowed features were difficult to make out; but the long, reptilian tail was unmistakable. She also had a cat perched on her shoulder, which struck Allura as quite odd indeed -- why bring a pet to diplomatic negotiations? The other women were of typical Galra height, but one had bright orange skin, with a multicoloured tentacle of some sort sprouting from the top of her head; the other, burlier one had large brightly coloured ears and markings. They’re all hybrids, Allura realized. She didn’t have time to consider it further though, because then there he was.

Prince Lotor. His military garb made him look a little older, somehow, but otherwise he was just as she’d remembered. His fine-featured face and shining eyes, his exquisitely pointed ears, his long white hair flowing loose over his shoulders. Allura’s face felt suddenly warm, and she was desperately glad that the others were behind her.

“That’s the Prince?” Lance whispered to the other Paladins. “He’s tiny!” It was true, after a fashion; although Lotor would have stood half a head above Shiro, next to the full-blooded Galra in his escort, and even the taller of his mixed-race officers, the difference was quite striking.

“D’you think one of those ladies might be the, uh, person from the Weblum?” Hunk asked quietly.

“I dunno. Maybe the small one.” Keith murmured under his breath. Allura could almost hear him scowling.

“Well how many more fun-sized Galra do you think are out there?” Lance again. That was too much.

“I think that’s enough, Number Three,” Coran admonished softly, saving Allura from having to deal with it. “Galra have ears sharper than a rosscrin, you know!”

The group fell into an uneasy silence as the other party drew near. The commanders formed up around Lotor, two on either side, while the sentries took up positions around the ship.. Even at this distance, it seemed to Allura that she could feel his eyes moving over her. She had chosen to wear her tactical suit rather than one of her gowns, not wanting to appear soft; but now she was acutely conscious of how form-fitting it was.

Ryner stepped forward to meet the Galra delegation--it had been decided that she would take the lead in greeting them; for that, at least, Allura was grateful.

“Prince Lotor. I bid you welcome to Olkarion. I am Ryner; I speak for my people.” Lotor bowed his head respectfully.

“We are honoured by your hospitality.” Hearing his voice again sent an exquisite shiver down her spine. Oh stars above, what is wrong with me?

“And may I present,” Ryner continued,” Princess Allura of Altea, her Royal Advisor Coran, and the esteemed Paladins of Voltron.” Allura felt his gaze settle on her, and her skin prickled with heat.

“Princess.” He flashed her a too-familiar, conspiratorial smile. “Such a pleasure to meet you at last.” Part of her wanted to slap that smirk right off his handsome face. Other parts, well… She was distracted from such thoughts by Coran, who suddenly made a sound like he was choking.

“Ah, sorry,” he offered sheepishly when Allura looked over, “Wuilpur in my throat!”

It was going to be a long morning.

-----

The formal introductions for the various diplomats in attendance, the first item on the day’s agenda, seemed to drag on for decaphebes. It was a good thing that she already knew who most of them were, because Allura was finding it exceedingly difficult to focus. Predictably enough, she had been seated across from Lotor and his subordinates, with Coran at her right hand, and Kolivan at her left. Between Coran’s endless fidgeting and the way that Lotor just kept looking at her, Allura’s composure was about to crack. When at last Ryner called a recess for lunch, she was ready to vault from her chair. She managed to restrain the impulse, instead moving with a confidence she did not feel through the assembled dignitaries. These were slowly beginning to drift out of the conference room toward the courtyard where the refreshments would be served. Coran, who still seemed oddly out of sorts, hovered at her elbow.

 

The Galra held themselves somewhat aloof from the other delegates; or perhaps it was that most of them were not yet willing to approach their erstwhile oppressors unmediated. Whatever the reason, they had closed ranks around their prince, and were conferring quietly in the harsh tones of their native language when she approached. It was the slightest of the four---Acxa, she recalled--who noticed her first, and broke off the conversation.

“Princess.” She acknowledged her with a cordial tilt of her head, though her voice was cool.

“Sorry to interrupt your conversation,” she replied, concentrating on keeping her tone level. “Might I have a word with the Prince?” Then, after a tick’s hesitation, “alone?” She heard Coran’s sharp intake of breath. “Coran, I will rejoin you shortly,” she said, shutting him down before he could muster a proper protest. The Galra officers also seemed somewhat reluctant, but Lotor waved them off dismissively. The orange woman with the bright eyes -- Ezor -- eyed her curiously as they left. Slowly, the room emptied around them, until at last the door slid shut, and there was silence. Allura held his gaze all the while, shoulders squared and chin up, determined not to flinch.

“So.” It was Lotor who spoke first, breaking the calm. “Princess Allura.”

“Prince Lotor.”

“At least I gave you my real name,” he smirked. She tried not to think of the possibility that perhaps he’d known her identity all along, and that this was all some kind of depraved game. Her pulse was racing, but she would not let him see weakness.

“How is your father?” she asked, folding her arms across her chest. This seemed to amuse him--not exactly her desired result.

“Comatose,” Lotor replied cheerfully, “or else I would not be here, enjoying such excellent company.” He smiled broadly. “I noticed that you are also short a Black Paladin.”

“Yes, well.” Now she looked away, one arm dropping to her side. “Listen. If we are to work together on this accord, I wish to clear the air between us, regarding--regarding what happened before.”

“Is that so?” He appeared to find this equally entertaining. Allura’s frustration grew. She blew a breath out through her nose, lifting her gaze to meet his again.

“I want you to understand that I take my duties very seriously,” she began, trying to recall how she’d phrased it in her head. “What happened between us was--I don’t…” She paused, flustered, and took another breath. “I’m not like that.”

“Like what?” Lotor raised his eyebrows in mock affront. “Like me?”

“That’s--that’s not what I meant,” she stammered, feeling the colour rise in her cheeks.

“Really, Princess. I thought you were more… cosmopolitan than that.” He took a step towards her. “There’s nothing shameful about two people enjoying each other’s company.” He took her hand in his, brushing his thumb lightly across her knuckles. “At least, I certainly enjoyed yours.” She should have yanked her hand away. She didn’t. Stars help her, she could smell him--that same warm, arboraceous fragrance he’d worn before. The sense memory it triggered left her feeling fragile, unbalanced.

“You don’t even know me,” she protested, and she knew how weak it sounded.

“No, perhaps not.” The mocking gleam vanished from his eye, his expression suddenly soft. “But I’d like to.” He leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers. In spite of herself, Allura fell into the kiss, her mouth opening to his as her blood roared in her ears, and a familiar heat swelled at her core. It would be so easy to give in completely-- so, so easy-- but whatever remained of her common sense pulled her back to reality. The Paladins, and so many others, were looking to her as a leader; for her to behave like a hormone-addled adolescent was disgraceful. Somehow, she found the resolve to pull away, tearing her hand from Lotor’s grasp.

“No,” she gasped, still breathless; “I can’t…”

“Allura?” He had the gall to look surprised, or perhaps confused. Allura’s mind was a maelstrom, at war with itself. She felt like a small animal caught in a snare, desperate for any means of escape. Panic and adrenalin fed into one another, overwhelming reason. She lashed out.

“I said no! ” Before she could check herself, she planted both palms on his chest, and shoved him with all her strength. Caught off-guard, Lotor went flying across the room, knocking aside several chairs before colliding with the wall. He slumped to the floor, dazed.

Allura reeled backward, clapping her hands over her mouth, aghast. What have I done? It was difficult to imagine how this situation could get any worse. She cast about for anything that might reprieve her but found no salvation. Quiznak, quiznak, quiznak!! I need--

The door to the conference room swished open.

“Coran?!” Her advisor stepped inside, his demeanour almost eerily calm. He must have been lurking just outside, she realized. Another time, she might have been tempted to upbraid him for it, but now…

“Princess.” His sharp eyes swept around the room, taking in the disarrayed scene. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” she panted, although ‘alright’ could not have been further from the truth. “Just--just deal with him!” Then, without daring to look back, she ran.

-----

Lotor’s ears were ringing, and he couldn’t recall how he had come to be sitting on the floor… somewhere? Someone was talking to him, but the words were garbled, as though the translators were malfunctioning. It took more effort than it should have to force his eyes open; when he did his surroundings seemed blurred, distorted as though he was seeing through warped glass. Someone was crouched in front of him, but he had no idea who it might be--they were nothing but a blur of white, blue and orange. He blinked a few times, willing his eyes to focus; and slowly the fog began to clear.

“Back with us now, are you?” It was Allura’s advisor, he realized. What was he doing here? And where was…

Allura.

All at once, the missing pieces of his memory fell into place. Shame and anger burned through him, melting away the last traces of his confusion.

“Where is she?” Lotor asked through clenched teeth. Coran stood up, and looked down at him with a calculating eye.

“I don’t think that’s something you need to worry about right now, lad.” He extended a white-gloved hand and took Lotor by the elbow, pulling him up to his feet. “She walloped you but good, eh?” Lotor neither needed nor wanted reminding. He tried to pull his arm away, but Coran held him tightly, maintaining his maddeningly affable expression all the while. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re about, my boy! I’ve seen all of this before.”

“What are you talking about, old man?” he hissed. It was bad enough when Haggar talked to him like a disobedient child, but this...

“Old?! Why you--” Coran sputtered, releasing his grip on Lotor. “Well, never mind. But listen here: if you can’t treat the Princess with the respect she deserves, we might as well all pack up now and save the Olkari the catering bill!” Lotor’s face burned with indignation. The worst of it was that Coran was right--he had jeopardized his entire mission for a moment’s indulgence, and the only thing he’d gained was a splitting headache.

“I’ll be sure to take that under advisement,” Lotor muttered as he turned to leave.

“Oh, Your Highness?” Coran called after him.

“What?” he snapped back.

“I can keep this between the two of us if you can.” Somehow, he managed to sound simultaneously both threatening and cheerful.

Chapter Text

Coran found Allura back at the castle in the training hall, some hours later. She’d all but exhausted herself whaling on the gladiator with her staff, but still her frustration remained. Eventually she’d given up on any kind of catharsis and let the battered droid lapse into standby mode while she simply sat on the cold floor with her weapon across her lap, leaning her head against the wall and wishing for a clarity that would not come. Either that or a time machine.

“I might’ve known I’d find you here, Princess.” Allura had a suspicion that he had known, and had waited for her to let off some steam before coming down. She was reluctant to look him in the eye, but finally risked an upward glance. He gave her a small but reassuring smile.

“The Prince?” Her voice sounded small, tired.

“Oh, he’ll be alright.” Well, that was something at least. “He, ah, didn’t much want to talk to me though, for some reason.” Coran looked away briefly. There was something he was keeping from her, but she couldn’t muster the energy to press him on it.

“The Paladins must think I’ve gone mad,” she mumbled, dropping her chin to her chest again. And perhaps I have. Coran shook his head.

“Don’t worry, Princess. I told everyone you’d come down with a sudden case of the snerlits!” She looked up, frowning quizzically.

“The what?”

“I made it up!” he explained, smug as a jortan in a hlak’s nest. “No one’s heard Altean in ten thousand years, so who’s to know?” He tapped his nose with a conspiratorial wink. “It’ll take about a quintent to get back on your feet, so I can take over for now and then you just jump back in when you’re ready.” Allura couldn’t help smiling, but only for a tick.

“I don’t know if--if I can.” She sighed, despondent. “Oh Coran, I’ve really made a mess of things; you’ve no idea.”

“I might have… some,” he admitted.

“When you made me go on that little holiday, I… I met him there. I didn’t know who he was, and I--I mean, we--”

“Princess,” Coran cut her off with a resigned sigh. “I--well, let’s say, I’ve got the picture.” Allura eyed him, wondering just how much of her earlier conversation he had heard. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. You couldn’t have known.”

“Well I certainly knew who he was when I let him kiss me this morning.” She drew her legs up to her chest and laid her head on her knees, miserable. “And also… I may have called him slutty,” she muttered into her chest. To say nothing of the actual assault. “Father would be so ashamed.” She tried in vain to blink away the tears burning her eyes.

“Don’t ever say that, Princess.” Coran’s voice was quiet and kind. She felt his hand on her shoulder, and when she managed to look up he was crouched in front of her. “You’re more like him than you know. When he was your age, he was just as quick to love as to fight.” And look where it got him.

“I’m not in love,” she protested. The very idea was ridiculous. “I’m just a foolish girl with more hormones than sense.”

“Now, now,” he gently chided, “I won’t have anyone saying such things about a Princess of Altea! Nothing’s ruined; everyone’s still here. We’ve shown the Galra to their accommodations, and we’ll pick things up tomorrow.” Allura peeked out at him over her knees, skeptical, but he just smiled. “I’m sure Prince Lotor is just as eager to forget about this, ah, incident.”

“You really think so?” She did want to believe what Coran was saying… Perhaps all was not lost. As long as I can get myself together.

“Of course! Why don’t you go have a rest, maybe get some fresh air… I think our metal friend here has had enough for one day!” A smile tugged faintly at her lips--his optimism was infectious, as usual. Allura unfolded herself, pushing the staff to one side, and let Coran help her to her feet.

“Thank you,” she murmured, wrapping her arms around him tightly. “What would I ever do without you?” He patted her gently on the back.

“Well, let’s not find out.”

 ----- 

Lotor was fairly certain that, strictly speaking, he was not meant to leave the compound where the negotiations were taking place; this was why he hadn’t bothered to ask. He needed to clear his mind, somehow, before dealing with Allura, or her advisor, again. He had spent the night restless, unable to sleep more than a fitful couple of hours, tormented by an endlessly looping mental replay of his humiliation the day before. What he really wanted was a good sparring session--there was nothing quite like the rush of combat to focus one’s mind. Zethrid would certainly have obliged, but there wasn’t really a suitable venue for a match. He imagined their hosts would not appreciate two armed Galra dueling on their landing pad. So, he ran. On the city’s outskirts he’d found some trails into the wooded foothills, well-suited to his purpose. The sun was not yet over the horizon and the capital was still sleeping--if the streets were deserted there, it was unlikely anyone would bother him here.

The city was miles behind him now, but still his thoughts were troubled. Why was it so difficult to put Allura aside, and focus on salvaging this mess? There were plenty of women--and men--in the universe, and Galra aside, he'd never had any trouble getting what he wanted from them. So why had he very nearly thrown away all his plans for this one? Perhaps I am as much a fool as Haggar says. Gritting his teeth, he increased his pace until his lungs burned, hoping that the rush of blood would carry away his disquiet.

It was beginning to work; the intrusive thoughts receded to the very edge of his mind until there was only the rhythm of breath and the sounds of his feet striking the ground. As he rounded a bend, the path widened into a mossy clearing.

Lotor wasn’t sure who was more startled, the Princess or himself.

----- 

Allura was midway through her routine of meditative stretches when he appeared. Bent over on one leg while she held the other behind her head in a bow-like pose, she was quite literally caught off balance.

“You!” she exclaimed, stunned. Her concentration shattered, she teetered and pitched forward out of her stance. She might have ended up face first on the ground had Lotor not caught her. He moved with such alacrity that she wasn’t sure what was happening until she was hanging on to his forearms, staring up into his face. For an interminable handful of ticks, neither of them moved. Allura couldn’t tear her eyes off him. He was out of uniform, dressed in a simple black shirt with short sleeves, and tight black pants. His hair was pulled back, except for one lock at the front that seemed to have escaped, and his face was flushed from exertion. She couldn’t help but recall that the last time she’d seen him like this, she’d been ripping his clothes off and-- Oh quiznak. She felt suddenly very exposed, wearing only the cropped tank and leggings she’d chosen for the workout. Blood warmed her own cheeks, but at last she managed to find her indignation.

“Take your hands off me,” she hissed. She was almost surprised when he did as he was told, and stepped backward away from her. “What are you even doing here?” she demanded. “You’re not supposed to--” She cut herself off as a more infuriating possibility dawned on her. “Are you stalking me?”

“What? No!” Lotor at least had the grace to look mortified, spreading his hands in a conciliatory gesture. He seemed about to say something else, but then reconsidered. He dropped his hands to his sides, his expression suddenly closed off, his jaw tight. “I assure you I have other ways to occupy my time, Princess,” he said, his voice taut. “I shall be attending to them now.” As he turned to go, Allura caught a flash of something on the side of his face, and her anger gave way to astonishment.

“Wait!” she called out after him. He paused, and looked back over his shoulder. It was gone now, but she was certain of what she’d seen: a faintly glowing blue crescent just below the corner of his eye. “Your face… you’re Altean, “ Allura breathed. She wondered if perhaps that was part of what had drawn her to him…  Lotor’s eyes narrowed, and he lifted his hand to touch the spot where the mark had been, as if he could somehow scrape it off.

“On my mother’s side,” he said, sourly. Allura’s mouth fell open as the pieces came together.

"Haggar.” Stars above, what must that be like? “Haggar is your mother.”

“Genetically speaking, yes.” His voice dripped acrimony as he turned to face her again. “Tell me, does that make me more or less repulsive to you, Princess?”

“Oh for…” She clenched her fists at her sides, frustrated. “I don’t--” she closed her eyes for a tick, steadying herself with a calming breath. All of this would be much easier if she did. Truly, the male ego was a fragile thing.“I simply feel that, in order for these negotiations to be successful, I need to maintain a certain degree of objectivity--of professionalism,” she stressed. “And you--this, this tension between us, is making that difficult.” Lotor glanced away with a guilty look, as if she’d caught him stealing pies or something. It was so absurd; she could almost have laughed were her emotions not in such a tumult.

“I… regret having caused you discomfort,” he said eventually. His words were stilted, she thought, but not insincere. He’s not used to making apologies, she realized. “It was… ill-advised.” He glanced at her warily, trying to gauge her reaction.

“I need some assurance that you are going to take this seriously.” She decided to press her advantage. “That you haven’t just been toying with me, all this time.”

He frowned. “What do you mean?”

Allura wasn’t quite sure of the answer to that herself. “When we first met, did you already know who I was? Was… was all of that just a ploy to, to put me off? To humiliate me?” She didn’t want to think anyone could be so cruel, but considering his parentage... Lotor’s eyes widened, and there was a fleeting pulse of blue above his cheekbones.

“No!” he snapped, indignant. “Why would I--no. The only Altean I knew was Haggar, and she--well. Shall we say that the scraps of knowledge I’ve been able to glean about your planet have been hard-won,” he finished sourly. “I found out at a briefing. Haggar wanted me to learn about our enemies.” Well, that is a relief… sort of.

“Your enemies,” she repeated, cautious. “But you’re here now.”

“I am not my father! Zarkon has ground his people into dust with his ten thousand year vendetta, and conquest without vision! He does not deserve to lead the Galra!” He spoke with an intensity that surprised her, his violet eyes full of storms. She might have expected such words from Kolivan or the other Blades, but not the Emperor’s own son.

“So you aren’t… close.” She chose her words deliberately, treading with caution. He laughed; it was a sharp, bitter sound.

“To the Emperor, I am at best a placeholder and at worst an embarrassment. To Haggar I am something between a science experiment and an insurance policy.” His handsome features twisted in a resentful grimace. Allura was struck again by how alone he seemed, despite all the bluster. She thought of her own father, and couldn’t imagine feeling so alienated from him. But then, her father was not Zarkon... “Why should I carry on their legacy,” Lotor continued, gesturing theatrically, “when instead I could attempt to win Voltron as an ally? With such a feat I could pluck the Empire out from under them”--he paused for a tick--”and… I wanted to see you again,” he admitted.

Allura’s heart raced; she wasn’t sure how she should respond. If Lotor hadn’t come back into her life like this, she might never have thought of him again; but ever since Kolivan’s revelation had forced her to consider him, it had been a constant battle to keep him out of her thoughts. Should she confess how for weeks she’d been at war with herself, trying to decipher what her feelings even were? Or how sometimes she woke from dreams sweaty and gasping, with his name on her lips. She was so tired of pretending--to herself as much as anyone--that she didn’t find him interesting, at the very least. Would it really be so detrimental if our relationship were more than diplomatic? Perhaps, she tried to tell herself, things might even progress more smoothly if we could… resolve this tension. Still, she hesitated, biting the inside of her lip apprehensively.

“I thought, perhaps…” he was saying, but his voice trailed away as he mistook her hesitation for a final rejection. For the barest fraction of a tick, he seemed to deflate, but then his features hardened again, the mask firmly back in place. “But it seems that I have already lost your respect, Princess. Perhaps it would be best for everyone if we cut our losses.” He turned, and started to walk away.

“No, don’t!” she blurted out without thinking. She couldn’t let him leave like this, if not for her own sake, then for the sake of the peace everyone was counting on her to forge. “Please don’t go,” she added more softly. Lotor looked back at her, his expression questioning, but guarded. “I… I’m sorry that I assumed the worst of you. It was unfair.” He didn’t answer, but turned back to face her. “I’ve been so muddled. I--my dealings with the Galra have been anything but pleasant. Zarkon destroyed my home, my people…” She looked away, clasping her arm awkwardly against her side. “But you aren’t him.” And technically, they were your people too.

“I’m not,” he repeated, eyeing her warily. She took a tentative step toward him.

“And I”-- once I’ve said it out loud there’s no going back --“I did enjoy your company,” she confessed. “And I don’t just mean in bed,” she added, though it made her cheeks burn like fire. “Although that was certainly, ah, enjoyable…” Cosmos, I sound like a quiznakking idiot. At least she had his full attention now.

“So… what are you saying?” he asked slowly, looking at her with something like suspicion. Well, she supposed she couldn’t blame him for that.

“I’m saying”--she drew a deep breath, then reached for his hand, interlacing her fingers with his--”that I find you hopelessly intriguing.” Allura couldn’t help but smile at his bemused look. She was beginning to understand that he was just as confused and flustered as herself. Am I truly going to do this? She placed his hand on her hip, then slid hers up his arm to his shoulder. Yes, it would seem that I am. She moved a step closer; she could feel the heat coming off his body, spreading through her own. “And… if you still fancy kissing me”--she rested her other hand on his chest, gratified to feel his heart racing beneath her fingertips--”I promise not to throw you at anything.”

A slow smile spread across his face, and if she hadn’t already made up her mind to fall, that would have been the end of her. He pulled her in, and she melted against him, tilting her head back as he reached up to trace the line of her jaw. “You’re going to utterly wreck me, aren’t you?” he sighed, as she ran her hands over the firm planes of his chest and shoulders.

“Only if you want me to.”

His kiss held all the passion she remembered and craved, his mouth hot and hungry on hers. An exquisite fire blossomed at her centre; and this time she let it take hold, revelling in the sensation of his body pressed against her own, his hands moving over the bare skin of her midriff, the taste of his tongue, and the intoxicating smell of him--spice mixed with sweat. She reached up behind his head and pulled the tie out of his hair, raking her fingers through the loose locks. His lips strayed along her jawline, trailing rough kisses down the side of her neck; she gasped as his teeth grazed the skin just above her collarbone-- yes, there, don’t stop-- and she fisted a handful of hair at the back of his neck.

“I can’t stop thinking about you,” he murmured, his breath searing the sensitive skin of her throat.

“Good.” Because neither can I. Allura pressed herself even more tightly against him, wanting to feel as much of him as she possibly could. Her breath caught in her throat as his hands moved over the curve of her backside. Desire surged through her with every fluttering beat of her heart, throbbing in her swollen nipples, and between her legs where she ached to feel him again. Why have I been fighting this so vigorously, when it feels so good to give in? She wasn’t even certain whether she was the conqueror, or the vanquished in this scenario; and she found that she no longer cared. Perhaps I am both.

Her inhibitions abandoned, a reckless impulse seized her. “We still have a few vargas before we’re meant to reconvene,” she breathed in his ear as she dragged her nails down his spine.

“Is that so…” Lotor lifted his head from her throat and kissed her again, while his hands glided across her exposed waist to cup her breasts, then slid up under her top to tease and pinch her nipples until she half-moaned, half whimpered into his mouth. She wanted to have him now, right there in the forest, but the small sliver of rational thought she still had reminded her that this was still a public trail, and if someone were to stumble across them--someone like Coran or one of the Paladins, say… Well .

“Not here,” she panted. “The castle--my ship--is close by.” Allura gently pushed his hands away, but punctuated her words with tantalizing kisses, relishing the eager gleam in his eyes. Her skin tingled with anticipation.

“What about your advisor? Your Paladins?” He touched his forehead to hers, his lips brushing hers as he spoke.

“Don’t worry about them,” she said with a coy smile, as she twined her arms around his neck again. “I grew up in that castle. I know all the tricks and secrets.” It certainly wouldn’t be the first time she’d snuck someone into her room, although she hadn’t felt the need for such subterfuge since her adolescent years… “Come on.” She took him by the hand and danced away down the path, pulling him along behind her.

True to her word, Allura had no trouble moving unnoticed through the ship’s many disused rooms and forgotten passages back to her quarters. The mice scampered up to greet her, but scattered when they saw she had company.

“Oh, you have pets,” Lotor said distractedly, as she pulled his shirt off over his head.

“I’ll introduce you”--she peeled off her own top, then tossed it aside--”later.”

She kissed him deeply, hungrily, as they stumbled toward the bed, stripping off the rest of their clothes along the way. Allura pushed down lightly on his shoulders, sitting him down on the edge of the mattress in front of her. She ran her fingers over his chest, then down his stomach, delighted by the way he shivered when her nails raked through the patch of white hair above his erect cock, but stopped just short of touching him. She paused for just a tick to appreciate the view: Lotor looking up at her with something akin to awe, his face flushed a fetching shade of red-violet… Now I’m the one in control , she realized. The idea was exciting, intoxicating, inflaming her desire even more. She climbed onto his lap, straddling him so that his cock barely brushed against her own fevered skin, and the soft curls above her swollen labia.

“Am I still your goddess?” she purred, twining her fingers through his hair.

“Always,” he breathed, his voice thick with lust. Drawing her closer, he bent his head to her chest, taking the peak of one breast in his mouth, while his clever fingers teased her other nipple until she couldn’t help but cry out, arching her back and gleefully digging her nails into his shoulder.

Allura reached a hand between his thighs, teasing him with the barest kiss of her fingertips against his dick, thrilled when he moaned against her achingly swollen nipple. “Is this what you do when you think about me?”

“I--this is… better.”

“That’s not what I asked,” she smirked, and reached down with her free hand to pinch and twist his nipple, while she brushed her nails across the head of his cock, delighting in how he yelped and writhed.

“Ah--fuck! Yes. Yes, ” he groaned.

She grasped him fully now, stroking his shaft with a light and and teasing touch. “Such a naughty prince,” she murmured with a coy smile. “Now what’s to be done about that?” She kissed him playfully, biting at his lower lip.

“Anything… anything you want.”

“Good answer.” Allura kissed him again, then pulled briefly away before tracing a warm line down his chest with her tongue as she slid down between his legs. She wanted to taste him, to hold him vulnerable in her mouth, feel him twitch and squirm…  She kissed along the hinge of his thigh, grazing his skin with her teeth, raking her nails along the tops of his legs, then took him in her hand again. Slowly, deliberately, she licked up the length of his shaft, eliciting a string of muttered Galra curses from her lover as he ran his hands through her already disheveled updo. She took him in her mouth and swallowed him down to the root, holding him down with a firm hand on his hip as he gasped and writhed, then pulled back, swirling her tongue across the head of his cock, licking up the beads of pre-come. Savouring the taste, she sucked him back into her mouth and plunged down again, pressing her tongue along the base of him. The sounds he was making fanned the flames of her own arousal, and she couldn’t resist reaching a hand between her own legs, and slipping her fingers between her slick folds. She was sopping wet, her thighs smeared with her own juices, and she moaned around Lotor’s cock as she stroked her throbbing clit, flirting with the edge.

Allura wasn’t willing to give up control just yet though, so instead she reached up between his thighs, and rubbed her dripping fingers across the tight pucker of flesh there. He jerked in surprise, but didn’t try to pull away. She continued to tease at his entrance as she worked him over with her tongue, then slowly eased one slender finger inside, probing gently until she found the spot that made him unravel. His breath was coming in short ragged gasps now, his skin shining with sweat, his hands hopelessly tangled in her hair, his whole body tense with anticipation.

“Fuck, Allura…” he gasped, barely able to form words. She circled her fingertip around that sensitive spot while she sucked him, setting a merciless pace until she felt him clench around her finger. “I can’t… I’m, I’m--” He shuddered violently and came with a guttural moan, spending himself down her throat. She released her hold on him, letting him fuck into her mouth at last, stroking his thigh while he bucked and spasmed under her ministrations. When his jerking gew less frenzied, she pulled back and swirled her tongue around the head of his dick, tasting the last few drops of his release before she let him slip from her mouth. He groaned as she slowly withdrew her hand from between his legs, and let himself fall back onto the sheets, wrung out and panting. Allura got to her feet and climbed up onto the bed to lie next to Lotor, pressing her body against his side and stroking his chest while she kissed him. Watching him come apart for her had inflamed and intoxicated her, and now she ached with desire.

“You didn’t do that last time,” he murmured against her lips.

“You’ll find I’m full of surprises.” She draped one leg across his, running her hand over his shoulder and down his forearm while she nipped at his earlobe. He shifted onto his side, and pulled her knee up over his hip, slotting his leg between hers. He pulled her close, so that her swollen lips brushed his thigh, and she shivered against him, a soft moan escaping her lips. “Touch me now,” she breathed, almost trembling with need. Happy to oblige her, Lotor reached down and teased her open, stroking between her slick folds, running his thumb over her swollen clit. Finally he slid two long fingers inside her while he sucked a nipple into his mouth, swirling his tongue around it, grazing the sensitive flesh with those sharp teeth… That was all it took to send her over the edge, and she dug her nails into his shoulders as she ground her hips hard against his hand, her inner walls quivering around his fingers. “ Don’t stop, ” she managed to gasp out, her voice hoarse with urgency.

Lotor lifted his head to flash her a devilish grin, looking thoroughly pleased with himself. He placed one hand on her hip to shift her onto her back, while the other kept the same steady pace between her trembling thighs. He moved down to rest between her legs, and she couldn’t help but cry out when she felt the heat of his mouth there, arching her body towards him. His firm tongue explored her every crevice and flicked across her hypersensitive clit as his fingers moved inside her, sliding across her g-spot, bringing her swiftly to another delirious peak. Allura let herself be carried away completely; she writhed and whimpered in ecstasy, twisting her fingers roughly through his hair while he continued to lick and suck at her clit. When at last she relaxed, limp with pleasure, he withdrew his hand and sat back on his knees, licking her juices from his fingers like a satisfied cat.

Allura reached out her arms, beckoning him down to her, and tasted herself on his lips when he kissed her. She ran her hands appreciatively over his back, savoring the velvet warmth of his skin, and the weight of his body on top of her. Still, she wanted more; she wanted to feel every inch of him, stretching her open, filling her as no-one else ever had... “I’m not finished with you yet,” she purred.

“You’re insatiable,” he laughed.

“Well”--she took him by the shoulders and pushed him onto his back, then sat up to straddle him again--”perhaps you’ll just have to keep trying,” she teased.

“Hey n--ahh…” Any protests died on his lips as she took his cock in her hand.  He was already half-hard again, and it didn’t take long for her to stroke him back to fullness. Lotor moaned softly, almost purring while he caressed her hips and thighs, his eyes half-lidded and languorous. Allura leaned over him and briefly caught his lips again, grazing him with her teeth. She pushed herself up on her knees, and canted her hips to position herself to take him. “Should we…” His voice trailed off briefly, as he struggled to focus his thoughts. “Should we be...taking precautions?”

Allura stilled her hand for a tick, momentarily thrown off by the question. “Oh”--she smiled as she realized what he was asking--”it’s alright. Altean women are… quite in control of our own fertility.” She was fairly certain neither of them had the patience for any more of a biology lesson than that just now.

Slowly, she eased herself down onto him, and sighed with satisfaction as she stretched to accommodate him. Lotor’s eyes fluttered shut, his features slack with bliss as she rolled her hips in a languid circle, savoring the warm, honeyed sensations that coiled at her core. Her breath hitched as she found the angle that would hit just the right spot--”oh stars, yes , like that…”

He gripped her by the haunches as they moved together, his thumbs just barely brushing the slicked skin of her outer lips. Every touch inflamed her further; her body felt too small to contain her passion, her skin so hot, so tight ; surely she would crack open… Allura braced herself against him, splayed her fingers across his stomach, feeling his muscles flex as he moved with her. Lotor’s eyes opened at the touch, and she could almost feel his ravenous gaze moving over her body. His grip tightened, guiding her hips as he thrust into her even more deeply. She moaned, breathless; she was so close, throbbing with the need for release. “ Almost, almost--oh quiznak…!“ The intensity of her climax took her by surprise; stars danced at the edges of her vision as waves of white-hot pleasure seared through her. Her hips bucked wildly as her muscles fluttered and tensed around him, and soon he was as far gone as she was. She felt him throb inside her, then a rush of warmth as he came, growling out her name.

Afterward, she curled up next to him, one arm draped across his chest while he held her, gently stroking her hair.

“How’s your objectivity now, Princess?” he murmured.

Allura sighed. “Compromised.” Oddly, she couldn’t muster up even a shred of regret. She propped herself up on one elbow, and lazily twisted a lock of his hair around a finger. “This is probably very foolish of us, you know.”

He looked up at her with a crooked grin. “Alliances have been forged on less.”

“Is that what you are now,” she laughed, “my ally?” Lotor reached up to caress her cheek with the back of his hand, and she turned into the touch, brushing her lips across his knuckles.

“Right now,” he sighed, “I’ll be whatever you want.”

Allura smiled down at her lover, and a heady feeling of warmth and tenderness washed over her. She leaned in to kiss him again, then laid her head on his shoulder, utterly content.

Perhaps this conference would work out after all.

Chapter Text

The day’s talks had gone long, as the assembled parties delved into how those worlds that no longer wished to be under the Empire’s control would be allowed to withdraw. With some planets having been occupied, or at least administered by the Galra for millennia, it would not be as simple as just pulling up pegs. Whole civilizations had been born and died during Zarkon’s tenure. As inconceivable as it might seem to some -- notably the Balmerans and the Taujeer -- there were bound to be planets who didn’t want to give up the stability that the empire offered. Relatively free access to the Galra transportation hubs, a universally recognized currency: these were undeniable benefits to remaining, particularly if Imperial stewardship no longer came with Zarkon’s iron fist. For those who did wish to break away, disentangling themselves from the Empire would be a complicated, and in some cases lengthy process. As were today’s negotiations. Everyone was tired, and Allura felt the beginnings of another headache pulsing at her temples.

It was certainly easier to focus on interstellar statecraft now that she no longer felt at war with herself. However, her budding… whatever it was with Lotor presented some new difficulties; the first being discretion. Despite her earlier qualms, she now felt quite confident in her own ability to separate her personal feelings and professional duties; but she worried that others might disagree. Better, she thought, to keep their relationship under wraps, at least until these initial talks were concluded. It was easier said than done: trying not to smile too much, restraining the impulse to touch when they spent so much of the day in such close quarters… It added an extra layer of emotional fatigue to an already demanding process. So, despite the late hour, Allura couldn’t resist stealing away for a varga or two to see Lotor.

She found him in the clearing where they’d met that fateful morning. It was strange to think that it had only been a few quintents ago - such a blur of stolen moments! And yet, it felt as though she had known him for much longer. Time seemed flexible in this liminal space.

Allura threw her arms around his neck, and pushed herself up onto the points of her toes to kiss him. He pulled her close against him, and a thrill of passion surged through her, despite her fatigue. When they finally pulled apart, she rested her head on his chest, nestling contentedly against him. “Stars,” she sighed, “I needed that.”

“Definitely.” Lotor sounded utterly exhausted. In the half-light of Olkarion’s larger moon, he looked drawn, his eyes bleary. Allura knew that he found the negotiations difficult and taxing. Although infinitely more suited to diplomacy than his father, he was not accustomed to it the way she was. Keeping up the performance for vargas at a time wore on him, and despite his charisma and easy smiles, it had been something of a trial getting the other envoys to trust his words at all. This was compounded by the fact that, having been pushed to the periphery of the Empire for so long, he lacked first-hand knowledge of its inner workings, and often had to refer to data sheets provided by Acxa, his second in command. It was this lack of control rankled him more than anything else.

Allura took his hand in hers, smiling softly. “Come and sit with me.” She settled herself on the soft grass, drawing him to the ground beside her. “Here…” Placing her other hand on his shoulder, she pulled him down so that his head rested in her lap. Lotor sighed deeply as he laid back and closed his eyes, shifting slightly to get comfortable. He rested his free hand over their interlaced fingers. She combed her fingers through his hair, and he smiled contentedly as she raked her nails lightly across his scalp. He made a sound that was almost like purring as the tension began to slip from his body.

She loved to see him so unguarded. This Lotor was so different from the facade he presented to the rest of the universe; she felt privileged, and somehow powerful when she was allowed to glimpse him. She was surprised, too, by how attached she felt to him already -- when she looked down at his face she felt her heart swell to bursting with emotion. She tried not to dwell on how brief their time here might be.

“This is such a lovely spot,” she sighed, casting her eyes upward to where the night sky glittered through gaps in the canopy. “The stars remind me of the lumen-bees back home…”

“Tell me about it,” he murmured. “About Altea.”

“I wish I could,” she said wistfully. “After such a long cryosleep, my memories are so muddled… I have only fragments, and the more tightly I try to grasp them, the more quickly they slip away.”

“Then tell me something you do remember. Even just a fragment.”

Allura considered for a dobash. She wanted to indulge his curiosity; after all it was only natural that he should want to know more about his own heritage. But it was all so slippery… She closed her eyes for a tick, trying to focus.

“I grew up in the mountains,” she began. “I remember the meadows there, full of juniberries in bloom. They were always my favourite. In the summer, when they bore fruit, I would eat them until I was sick.” A nostalgic smile curled at the corners of her mouth. “Sometimes we would go hiking in the hills, and Mother would tell me the names of all the different flowers I picked.” Allura was surprised at how clear the memory became as she talked. She could almost recall her mother’s face. Almost... “She was a botanist. She had the most beautiful garden, outside the castle. At dusk, the night blossoms would always be full of lumen-bees…”

Lotor was watching her with rapt eyes as she finished her story. “Thank you,” he said quietly. “I wish I could have seen it.”

“So do I.” She smiled down at him, trailing her fingers through his hair again.

“What about Daibazaal?” he asked, after a moment’s silence. “Did you ever -- do you remember it at all?”

Allura shook her head. “I did visit there, with my father; but I’m afraid those memories are even more vague,” she confessed. “But… I do recall it was very hot, and dry. I have”--she furrowed her brow at the mental effort--”I have the impression that the cities were very large, built outward rather than upward…” She trailed off, and frowned apologetically. “I’m sorry, I can’t…”

“That’s alright.” He smiled up at her lazily. If he was disappointed by her answer, he didn’t let it show.

“What about you?” Her own curiosity was piqued now. She had vague memories of Zarkon, before the betrayal; a figure that loomed larger than life in her mind. He and Father were so close, we were practically family. In another reality, she and Lotor might have played together as children. She wondered if he had seen any of that past self. “What was it like, growing up as the Emperor’s son?”

Lotor’s smile faded, and his eyes clouded over. “I wouldn’t really know,” he said with a sour note. “I hardly saw him, unless I’d done something to warrant his displeasure.” He sat up beside her and frowned at the ground, his shoulders hunched with renewed tension. “There was a time, when I was very young, when all I wanted in the universe was to make him proud. But I learned that the best I could hope for was not to make him angry.” Her heart sank. She ought to have known this would be a sore spot, but while she knew their relationship was strained, she hadn’t realized to what extent. “I spent most of my time with the monitors and my cohort, until they pulled me out,” he continued. He pulled up handfuls of grass while he talked, letting the torn bits of greenery fall through his fingers back down to the earth. “I did not… integrate well with the other children. It was embarrassing for the Emperor.”

“Was there truly nothing pleasant?” She asked, her brow furrowed slightly.

He laughed, but it was a hollow, bitter sound. “It was pleasant when I left. They gave me ‘command’ of a sector on the edge of nowhere, and nobody cared what I did as long as I didn’t cause them any problems.”

“I’m... “ She faltered, feeling guilty. “I didn’t mean to bring up something so upsetting.”

“It’s fine,” he said, but his voice gave the lie to his words. “My team is more like family than my parents ever were... I just don’t want to talk about it.”

“Not even with them -- with your friends?”

He shook his head curtly. “It’s depressing. And I don’t want anyone’s pity.” His jaw was tight, his teeth clenched.

Allura pursed her lips, wavering somewhere between concern and frustration. “Is it so terrible that someone might care about you?” She rested her hand on his leg and gave it a gentle squeeze. “About how you feel?”

Lotor stopped attacking the grass and turned to look at her, his features softening into a nonplussed expression. “...No?” It was as though he had never considered that as a possibility, which broke her heart all the more. “It’s just… not what I’ve come to expect,” he said finally.

“Well you’d best get used to it.” She tried a smile, and reached up to brush that stubborn lock of hair out of his face.

“I’ll try.”

“Good.” She leaned over to kiss him, and when she drew back, he was almost smiling again. “Why don’t you just tell me something about you -- anything, really.”

“Like what?” he asked, his eyes still wary.

“I don’t know,” Allura laughed, hoping to disarm him again, “anything nice? Something you enjoy? That makes you happy? I said I wanted to know you… I meant that.” She took one of his hands in hers again, and flashed him a smile of encouragement.

He was quiet for a dobash or two, staring off into the forest, but he seemed to be somewhat more relaxed. “I suppose that I spend a lot of time training,” he began slowly; it was almost a question. “I have to be twice as good -- at least -- as any Galra, if I want to be respected… I don’t know that I enjoy it exactly, so much as it helps me to focus. To clear my mind. What I do enjoy... “ He paused again, and shifted his gaze to look up at the stars. “What I told you about before -- I mean, when we first met -- about my travels across the galaxy. That’s what I love. The stars. Freedom. Control over my own fate. Until you all defeated Zarkon, I was more or less at liberty to pursue my own interests, my own projects...”

“What sort of projects?” she prompted gently. Peeling back the layers of his defenses was a delicate process, but she was convinced that the reward was invaluable.

“Research, I suppose. Into… into Altea, actually.” He looked at her askance, as though seeking her approval. “Technology, magic, anything. Trying to find all those little scraps, scattered across the universe -- all the things they wouldn’t tell me -- and then gather them together into something I could use.”

“And what might that be?” She quirked an inquisitive eyebrow.

“Well…” he paused for a tick, deliberating. “I could show you.” A charming, rakish grin spread across his face as he stood, hauling her up onto her feet. There was a keen, mischievous gleam in his eye that reminded her of their first meeting. His excitement was contagious, and Allura let herself be pulled along the path, back towards the city.

She was not surprised to find herself back on the landing pad -- after all there only were a limited number of places Lotor could be keeping whatever it was. The sentries stood idle as they brushed past; evidently programmed to know better than to question the Prince. A disconcerting feeling of déja-vu slithered through her as she stepped inside. The violet lights, the angle of the walls, and the console designs recalled all too keenly the incursion on Zarkon’s ship. The battle against Haggar and her disciples, the loss of Antok… and the power that she had drawn from the witch -- a power she still did not fully understand. Allura did her best to shake off her unease, drawing closer to Lotor and holding on to his arm as he made his way through the vessel’s maze of corridors. Whatever lingering apprehension she had gave way to curiosity as they moved closer to the heart of the ship. Finally, they stopped outside a sealed door, identical to many they had already passed.

“Close your eyes,” he said, his hand hovering over the security panel.

Allura did as she was bid. There was a rush of cool air as the door slid open, and then she let herself be guided into the room, her arm still linked with Lotor’s.

“Now look.”

She opened her eyes to more purple-lit consoles, with readouts that were uncannily familiar, but for the Galra characters. The back of the room opened into a long, cylindrical corridor terminating in a glowing emitter node. She blinked as she took it all in, uncertain of what her eyes were telling her: the conduit was lined with scaultrite discs.

“This is… this is a teludav!” She looked up at him, eyes wide with astonishment.

“It is! ” He beamed with pride and barely-contained excitement, watching her eagerly as she moved to get a closer look.

“This is amazing,” she breathed, as she ran her fingers across one of the control panels. Coran would love to see this. “You built it?” She wondered how long it had taken him to piece all of this together.

“Not with my own hands… But it was constructed to my specifications, yes.”

“So it was you -- one of you -- in the weblum, then,” she mused aloud. “Keith said you’d taken some of the scaultrite.”

“I don’t know what your Red Paladin told you, but we did not steal anything,” he pouted, defensive. “Acxa worked just as hard for that mineral as he did.”

“I believe you,” she reassured him -- in fact, Hunk had told her much the same thing. Anyhow, these were not the questions that interested her at the moment.”Does it work?” she asked, turning back to the console. “Have you tested it?”

“It’s still in an experimental phase,” he admitted, “but yes. I have tested it successfully. Once, anyway.”

Allura let her fingers slip away from the controls, and moved to take his hand. “You know, only a small number of Alteans have ever been able to operate a teludav.” Considering his mother’s power, it wasn’t surprising that he would possess the talent, but to do so untrained… it was impressive. “You should be proud.” Lotor lit up in a way she hadn’t seen before, basking in her praise. It made how much of his life he’d spent starving for that kind of validation from his family... “Does the Empire you know you have this?”

“Void no,” he snorted. “Only my generals and I have access to this room. If my father knew, they’d take it away from me. Haggar would have her druids taking it apart to figure out how I’d made it work. Or worse”--he grimaced--”taking me apart.”

“You can’t be serious,” she gasped. “Not even she would…” Would she?

Lotor chuckled, and gave a nonchalant shrug. “Well, probably not. But only probably,” he smirked. “Anyway, I don’t need to worry about her when I’ve got you on my side.” He slipped an arm around her waist and pulled her closer. “She’s afraid of you, you know.”

“Me?” She thought of Haggar’s face, glowing eyes glaring balefully at her in the blood-red light aboard Zarkon’s ship. I don’t know about fear, but she certainly hates me. “I haven’t even figured out how to use that power consciously,” she sighed, biting the inside of her lip. “And it’s not as though there’s anyone available to teach me.”

She doesn’t know that.” What was that expression Lance liked to use? ‘Fake it ‘til you make it.’ Of course, he had been talking about some sort of dancing, not doing battle with a millennia-old sorceress. But perhaps now it need not come to that. If this pact were concluded -- as it seemed it would be -- and the rest of the Galra command agreed to the alliance, surely Haggar would have to accept that. Surely… She sighed, and leaned her head on Lotor’s shoulder.

“Let’s not talk about all that for the moment,” she murmured. “We have so little time here.” And I don’t want to spend any more fretting about Haggar tonight. Allura estimated it would only be another day or two before the tentative accords were signed. It was all down to semantics and the most minute of details, now.

“I know.” He kissed the top of her head lightly. “I wish I could take you somewhere nicer than a teludav control center.”

“Well… Then I suppose we shall have to make it as nice as we can ourselves.” Allura tilted her head back and flashed him a coy smile. She slid her hand up to his shoulder, and wound her other arm around his neck as he stooped to kiss her. She lost herself in the embrace, letting those sweet warm feelings well up and push her worries aside, at least for the time being. There was only Lotor; his strong arms around her, and his hot, wet mouth on hers. “Or… you could take me to your room,” she murmured when she came up for air. “That would be… nice.” She kissed him again, gently biting and pulling on his lower lip as she drew back.

“Whatever my goddess demands,” He flashed her that rogue’s grin she loved so much, and then -- Allura squealed as her legs were swept out from under her, and she found herself gathered up in Lotor’s arms.

“Don’t you dare drop me!” she laughed, clinging to his neck with exaggerated concern.

“When would I ever?”

-----

Considering the size of his ship, Lotor’s quarters were fairly spacious. Curious, Allura glanced around as he set her down, wondering if perhaps she could glean some new insight into his mind. The decor was verging on minimalist, although everything looked quite comfortable, and the space was neat but not obsessively so. There was a desk strewn with data sheets and holo tablets, and a few more had made their way over onto the sofa. Allura could easily imagine him sitting there, poring over reports late into the night. Hm, that sounds familiar…  Then Lotor swept her into his arms, and her curiosity evaporated. His hands tangled in her hair as he kissed her, and pulled at the pins holding it up so that it tumbled down over her shoulders. She let him steer her towards the bedroom, peeling off her clothing as they went. She ached with need now, impatient to get him out of that armoured suit and feel his warmth against her skin, but this was proving… problematic. The belt and bracers she managed easily, but the whole waist cape-breastplate situation had her stymied. Her questing fingers couldn’t seem to find the clasps, or joins, or whatever…

“How do I-- oh --”she gasped as his hungry mouth moved down her neck, kissing her roughly, sucking, biting--”how do I get to you ?”

“It’s complicated,” he chuckled, his breath hot on her skin. “I’ll do it.” He pulled back, and Allura settled herself on the bed, enjoying the view as he undressed.

“I don’t know how you manage all that every day.” Although, it had to be said that those tall boots were quite fetching on his long legs…

“Appearances are important,” he shrugged.

“I like the way you look just now,” she purred. Such a beautiful man . He had stripped down to just a pair of tight black shorts, and she could clearly see the outline of his hard cock straining against the fabric. Allura bit her lip in anticipation as heat surged and coiled at her core.

“I’m not sure your fellow diplomats would share your enthusiasm,” Lotor smirked.

“Mm. Perhaps not.” She shifted to sit at the edge of the bed and held out her hands, beckoning him to her. She wrapped her arms around his waist and pulled him closer, nuzzling against his firm stomach while her hands caressed his thighs and buttocks. “I shall keep you all to myself then.” She hooked her fingers under the waistband of his shorts and pulled them down over his hips, freeing his cock. The sight, and the sweet, musky smell of him, made her mouth water. She leaned forward and pressed the flat of her tongue against the base of his shaft and slowly licked up to the tip, relishing the way his breath hitched and his grip tightened on her shoulders. She looked up into his eyes, dark with arousal, as she took him into her mouth and swirled her tongue around his head.

“You’re so good to me,” he breathed, his voice barely above a whisper, running his hands through her hair as she sucked him. “Too good…”

Allura pulled her head back, stroking him languidly with her hand instead. She flicked her tongue across her swollen lips and flashed him a sultry smile. “Why don’t you come here and show me how good you can be for me?” She pushed herself backward onto the bed and reclined on her elbows, waiting for him to join her. She didn’t wait long.

Lotor lunged across the bed and pulled her against him. Allura shivered with pleasure at the press of his flesh against hers, and her lips parted eagerly for his probing tongue. She tangled her fingers in his hair -- how she loved to see it so disheveled! -- while he ran his hands over her arms, her sides, her thighs… She arched her back up towards him as he kissed down the line of her neck to the hollow of her throat, then hissed in a sharp breath as he moved lower to tease her stiffened nipples with his tongue and teeth. Soon she was writhing and panting, fisting handfuls of his hair, desperate for more.

With torturous languor, his mouth traced the curve of her waist, and across the arch of her hip bone. At last she felt his tongue slip between her lower lips, hungrily exploring her every fold. She moaned and twisted her fingers in the bedspread as her world narrowed down to the searing knot of desire building at her core. “More.”

”More?” Allura felt the curl of his smile against her slick skin.

 “I want-- ah ”--her hips jerked upward as he sucked her clit into his mouth--”I want all of you.”

Lotor sat up on his haunches, kneeling between her legs. His hair was tousled and his face was a mess, and she ached to have him. My handsome prince. He took her by the waist and lifted her hips onto his lap to position her as he liked. “You’re so beautiful like this,” he murmured, his voice low and honey-thick. Slowly, too slowly, he pushed his cock inside her, and Allura moaned breathlessly as she canted her hips to meet him. He pulled back, teasing her with his absence for just a tick before burying himself to the hilt, thrusting hard enough to make her cry out. She gasped again when he hooked an elbow under her knee and pulled her leg up over his shoulder. She hadn’t thought she could feel him any more deeply; the sensation was almost more than she could take. Her breath came in ragged moans that grew louder and more urgent with every thrust, until she fell over the edge, wailing and thrashing as the waves of her orgasm crashed through her. Lotor quickened his pace, almost matching her frenzied bucking. He growled and shuddered as he came, his release a hot wet rush inside her. He lowered her leg back down to the bed, then half-collapsed on top of her, flushed and panting. He groped blindly for her hand, interlacing his fingers with hers when he found it. Allura softly stroked his hair while they caught their breath, and gradually returned to reality.

After a while, he shifted off her to lie on his back, and pulled her close against his chest. Allura snuggled in tighter, feeling his heart beat against her cheek. She was blissfully content, and suddenly quite sleepy.

“We should probably head back soon,” she sighed. It was the last thing she wanted to do.

“Should we?” he murmured into her hair, his voice thick and drowsy.

“We’re supposed to be behaving discreetly. If I’m missed at the castle in the morning, well…” Coran, if not the Paladins, would certainly put the pieces together. Still, she couldn’t bring herself to leave his embrace just yet.

“Mmm.” He hugged her closer. “Do you think that we’re under surveillance? Or that your people are going to tattle on us to the Balmerans?”

“Well, no,” she had to laugh, “but--”

“So stay.” He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “I want to… I want to see your face when I wake up.”

Allura’s resolve was rapidly fading. The bed was warm and comfortable and, wrapped in Lotor’s arms and the haze of the afterglow, it was difficult to conceive of any downside. And how could she refuse when he was being so sweet? Nevertheless, the vestiges of responsibility compelled her to make one more token objection. “I ought to--”

“I’ll make you breakfast.”

“You what?” She propped herself up to look at him, bemused.

He grinned back at her with half-lidded eyes. “What, you don’t think I can cook?” He laughed. “I’ve been fending for myself since I was a boy. This may surprise you, but Haggar has never been much of a homemaker.”

“I’m just… surprised,” she said, a smile playing across her lips. “All right then, you win.” She settled back onto the bed, and curled her body around his again, melting into his arms as she drifted off to sleep.

-----

The following morning, wrapped up in Lotor’s bathrobe, watching him carefully roll a taggerian omelet, so obviously trying to impress her, Allura began to realize she was in deeper than she’d thought.

Oh stars, I think I might love him.

Chapter Text

“Rough night, Princess?”

Allura almost choked on the yawn she’d been trying to stifle, and fixed Lance with an icy glare. She had half a mind to slap that knowing smirk right off his smug face, but managed to regain her composure. If there was an appropriate time to blow up at her fellow Paladin, this was definitely not it. The five of them, together with Coran, were waiting for the lift near the Olkari conference room. The day’s work had dealt with increasingly specific minutiae of treaties and trade agreements, and until this instant, Allura had been quite glad of the break. She had hoped to take the opportunity to speak to her teammates about her absence at breakfast before their speculations could get out of control… but not like this.

“Pardon me?” she asked in an austere tone, hoping he’d take the opportunity to walk it back. Judging by the way Keith was covering his eyes with his hand, he was wishing for the same. Hunk tugged on his collar, glancing around nervously, while Pidge seemed to be looking for some kind of escape route.

“You just seem pretty tired, is all,” he waved his hand through the air, affecting indifference. “Prince Lotor keeping you up late? Some like, one-on-one negotiations?” Allura’s jaw dropped. Keith made a strangled noise behind his hand.

“Lance!” Coran barked sharply. “That’s quite enough! Show some respect!”

It seemed that Lance was not ready to drop the subject, however. “Oh come on,” he whined. “It’s obvious there’s something going on between you and Lotor. You weren’t at the castle this morning, and even Pidge knows you guys are—”

“Hey!” Pidge interrupted, “I’m the one who told you —"

Hunk slapped a meaty hand over her mouth before she could continue. “So”—he laughed nervously, inching back toward the lift doors—”how about that Puigian punch this morning? Pretty great, right?” Allura wasn’t sure whether she was more mortified or angry now.

“Were you ever even gonna tell us?” Lance’s voice turned pleading, almost wounded, but she was past being mollified.

“As a matter of fact, yes,” she replied hotly, her cheeks flushed. “I was. But it’s a complicated situation, Lance! These negotiations are delicate ! And I would prefer not to have my private affairs aired in a quiznakking hallway!” And I’m not even sure what I’m meant to be telling you… It wasn’t as though she’d had any in-depth conversations with Lotor about their relationship status.                                                                                        

Lance looked down at the ground, suitably chastened. “Sorry,” he mumbled, just as the lift doors opened with a soft chime.

“You know, I think I left something in the conference room,” she lied through a forced smile. “I believe I’ll catch the next one.” Allura turned on her heel and walked off down the corridor before anyone could try to stop her. I just need a few dobashes to calm down. Pausing outside a vacant meeting room, she took a few deep breaths to rein herself in. She was tired, which certainly didn’t improve her patience, but still. How humiliating. So much for maintaining my courtly image. She groaned inwardly.

“Princess?” Coran’s voice caught her attention. Lost in thought, she hadn’t heard him approach. “Are you alright?” His thick eyebrows were drawn together in an expression of earnest concern.

“I’m fine,” she sighed. “Just embarrassed.” She looked up with a rueful smile; he nodded sympathetically.

“He doesn’t mean anything by it; he’s just very… young.”

“It’s offensive,” she snapped.

Coran held up his hands in a placating gesture. “I know, I know. I can have a chat with him, if you like…” He wavered, as though uncertain whether to continue. “They worry about you, Princess; we all do. We don’t want to see you get hurt.”

Allura leaned back against the wall, rubbing her temple. All this concern was making her even more tired. “I’m fine , Coran,” she repeated. “Really. I can take care of myself. Whatever misunderstanding there was between Lotor and myself has been resolved. I trust him,” she said, meeting Coran’s eyes. “He wants this alliance as much as we do, and not only for the sake of increasing his own power.”

Coran smiled fondly, the edges of his mustache curling upward. “And I trust your judgement, Allura. I must admit, it’s been nice seeing you so happy for a change.”

Allura’s expression softened with relief. “Thank you. Your confidence means a great deal to me. And yes, I am happy.” Whatever this relationship was, wherever it was going; it was what she wanted now. “Perhaps you were right about me being like Father, after all,” she added, with a self-deprecating grin.

“In all the best ways,” he chuckled. “Well, I’d best catch up to our Paladins before they can get into any more trouble!” He winked at her, then glanced down the corridor. “You coming?”

“You go on; I’ll be along shortly.” Her mood had lifted considerably, but she didn’t feel quite up to dealing with Lance just yet.

“Alright then, I’ll see you back at the castle!” Coran sauntered off, back towards the elevator, leaving her alone with her thoughts once more. She considered going to find Lotor instead of returning to the other. If he wasn’t busy conferring with his officers, perhaps they could spend the time together…

Something bumped against Allura’s calf, distracting her from her reflections. Startled, she glanced down at her feet; two golden eyes stared back up. It was the cat—the one that usually accompanied General Narti. He butted his head against her shin, meowing loudly, and Allura stooped to pet him, almost without thinking. She hadn’t seen a cat since she’d left Altea. Granted, this creature looked rather different than those she remembered—longer, leaner, and more angular; but then, ten thousand years of evolution could easily account for that. Not to mention that whatever breeding population had been left would have certainly been rather limited.

The cat began to purr as she scratched behind his ears, so she scooped him into her arms.  It was odd to see him without Narti. Allura had gathered that he had something to do with helping her get around, but it seemed rude to ask for details. “Where’s your mother, then, hm?” she murmured.

Narti dropped from the ceiling, answering her question.

Allura let out a sharp yelp and stumbled backward as the reptilian Galra drew herself up to her full height, her tail swishing through the air behind her. Narti held her clawed hands out toward, and the cat sprang from Allura’s arms into hers. Her face was unreadable, but she made an odd sort of rattling noise in her throat as she stroked him. Allura wasn’t familiar with whichever races made up the rest of Narti’s heritage, let alone their spoken languages, but it didn’t sound particularly friendly.

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry,” she offered, managing to sound less rattled than she felt, “I didn’t realize he was working.” Narti tilted her head to one side, but said nothing. Allura had seen her signing to her companions, but now her hands were still except to scratch behind her cat’s ear. “I’ll just… leave you to it then.”

As she turned to head for the lifts, the air in front of her shimmered, then solidified. Allura found herself looking up at a pair of bright green eyes, as Ezor smirked down at her. This is an ambush, she realized; but it was too late for any sort of graceful exit.

“Howdy Princess,” she chirped, in a syrupy tone. “I think it’s time we had a little chat.” Placing her hands on her hips, she gave Allura an exaggerated wink. ”Just us girls.”

———

“Well, this is not quite what I was expecting.”

Allura wrapped her hands around the warm mug, still somewhat bewildered. After that bizarre ambuscade upstairs, it felt a little odd to be sitting on a sofa next to Narti and Kova, having tea… Ezor perched on a smaller divan, while Zethrid leaned against a wall. Acxa, seated in a chair across from her, offered an apologetic smile.

“Sorry again about the theatrics. They were just supposed to bring you here, but Ezor can be a bit dramatic at times. I don’t know how she managed to rope you into her little stunt, though,” she added, casting a sharp glance at Narti, who shrugged, unashamed.

“Oh whatever; no harm done, right?” Ezor brushed her off. “Anyway, can you blame me for wanting to spice things up? All this talking and sitting and blah blah blah. I’m bored to tears!”

“I hear that,” Zethrid grumbled.

“It can be a bit dry,” Allura agreed, with a self-effacing grin. Thinking about it now, she was sure that same restlessness had something to do with her own colleagues’ earlier behaviour. They were all more accustomed to the pilot’s seat than the diplomat’s chair. “But the possibilities our alliance will bring are very exciting!”

“Of course,” Acxa nodded. “Biscuit?”

“Thank you.” She selected an iced cookie from the offered plate, and nibbled it delicately while she glanced around the bright, well-appointed room. “This is quite lovely.” She hadn’t had a chance to see the guest suites herself before the conference began, but it seemed she needn’t have worried.

“Yes, the Olkari’s hospitality has been unexpectedly warm.” Acxa set the tray aside and folded her hands in her lap. She watched Allura from across the low table with dark eyes inscrutable as the sea. Allura had the distinct impression that she was being appraised, or perhaps judged.

“So… what did you want to talk about?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Ezor smirked. “Lotor, of course.” Of course.

“Oh? Is he here?” Allura looked up, half-heartedly hoping, but Acxa shook her head.

“He had to deal with a message from Central Command,” she explained, with a vague hand gesture.

“Good thing we’re done for the day,” Zethrid grumbled. “He's gonna be in a shitty mood after.”

“Who wouldn’t be,” Ezor muttered, “after dealing with that, uh, witch.” Narti made a short huffing sound which might have been a laugh.

“I see…” Allura’s curiosity pricked at her. They were obviously talking about Haggar. She would have loved to hear what Lotor’s generals knew or even thought about her, but noticing the pointed look Acxa shot Ezor, she decided this was not the time. “Well, what about Lotor, then?”

“He likes you,” Ezor drawled, a sly curl on her lips.

Allura blushed scarlet, caught off guard by her directness. “Oh.” She cleared her throat self-consciously. “I, ah, like him too…” She wondered how much he had told them. He did say they were like family.

“Yeah you do,” Ezor snickered. Narti huffed again—definitely laughter, then. Allura fixed her gaze on her tea, mortified. It was bad enough to get this from Lance, let alone someone she barely knew. And unlike with Lance, she had no authority over Ezor, and no Coran to back her up. This was going to take every ounce of her reserves of diplomacy.

Zethrid shoved herself away from the wall and came to loom over Allura’s shoulder. “You’re not his usual type. You're different."

"He doesn’t have a usual type,” Ezor put in. She flopped back on her couch, dangling her legs over the arm. Now what is that supposed to mean?

“That’s what’s different.” Acxa’s tone was even and cordial, but her eyes narrowed ever so slightly. “He’s attached . Already.”

Allura’s eyes widened as understanding sank in. “You’re worried about him.”

Acxa pressed her lips together for a tick before responding. “It’s not in his nature—or any of ours—to trust easily. A phoeb ago we were enemies. Now, this. Why? Why are you special?” She leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees.

“I’m not sure how to answer that,” she said, drawing her eyebrows together as she considered. “It might have something to do with my being Altean, I suppose. I have answers about that part of his heritage that he hasn’t been able to discover on his own.” Acxa sat back a little, considering. Allura pressed on. “But that’s not really what you’re asking, is it?” She’d seen enough potential suitors grilled by her father and Coran to know what this was about. She suspected that Lotor would be even more appalled than she had been if he knew what was happening, but it was touching, in a way. “It’s obvious that you all care about each other very much.” She flashed them a disarming smile. “Lotor told me you were like a family.”

“He did?” Acxa inclined her head slightly towards her, a tiny smile playing on her lips.

“What else did he say about us?” Zethrid leaned over the back of the sofa, eager.

“All good things, I promise!” Allura laughed. She felt marginally more relaxed; the generals were beginning to remind her of her own found family. “But what can I tell you to allay your concerns?”

Narti lifted her hands from the cat’s back. Acxa caught the movement and turned to listen as she gestured rapidly. Allura’s Universal Sign Language was terribly out of practice, she still understood well enough. “Ask her if it’s just fucking.”

Allura’s cheeks flushed again, and she was sure she must look like a frosted wynfruit. Behind her, Zethrid snorted with amusement.

Acxa turned back to Allura, with a perfectly straight face—it seemed she was not the only diplomat in the room. “Narti says—”

“Yes, I caught that, thank you,” she cut in. Acxa shifted in her seat, and glanced away, sheepish. Narti’s face remained expressionless, but Allura nonetheless had the impression that she was smirking.

“Well, what she means is’—Acxa paused, choosing her next words—”we aren’t familiar with how your people approach these sorts of things.”

"You want to know… my intentions toward him?”

Acxa’s lips twitched into a fleeting frown. “Yes, I suppose so.”

Allura took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts. “I am not one to share details of my private life,” she said carefully, “and to be fair, Lotor and I haven’t known each other all that long.” Space Mall doesn’t count. “But I do endeavour always to be mindful of others’ feelings, and I can assure you that I have no wish to hurt him.” It seems as though he has enough difficulties in his life as it is. “And I do care for him,” she concluded, fondness softening her voice. Maybe more.

“Well that’s good,” Ezor said brightly.

“‘Cause otherwise we’d have to kill you.” Allura looked up at Zethrid; she wasn’t sure whether she was joking or not. Her wide, sharp-toothed grin did nothing to clarify the matter. She forced a laugh; evidently that was the correct response, as Zethrid clapped a massive hand on her shoulder.

“I’m glad we cleared that up, then.” Allura smiled, trying not to think about the knifelike claws resting so close to her neck. “As long as we’re all getting acquainted, may I ask—how did you all end up working together?” If they were his family, she ought to make an effort to get to know them.

“That’s a very personal question for this stage of our relationship, Princess.” Acxa’s eyes darkened. That was a misstep, then. “Suffice it to say that the Empire is not kind to people like us. Before Lotor found us, our lives were… difficult. He protects us. And we do the same.”

“I understand,” Allura said, apologetic. “I didn’t mean to pry.”

“Maybe once we know you a little better, we’ll tell you the story about the socks.” Ezor winked at her, grinning.

“Oh fuck no,” Zethrid moaned, “then he’ll kill us.

A small smile brightened Acxa’s expression, and the mood seemed to lighten, much to Allura’s relief. Zethrid reached over her shoulder and helped herself to a handful of biscuits.

Allura took a sip of tea, and let herself relax a bit. “Well, is there anything you think I should know,” she asked, “about yourselves, or Lotor?”

“Mmm…” Ezor stretched her arms out over her head, looking thoughtful. “It’s his birthday soon.”

“Fourth quintent,” Zethrid added, her mouth still full of cookie.

Allura’s eyes widened. “Truly? He didn’t mention it.”

Ezor shrugged. “He doesn’t really make a big deal of it.”

“Unless you forget,” Narti signed. Behind her, Zethrid grunted in amused agreement.

“Oh, I must get him something,” Allura exclaimed, excited. Her mind whirled with possibilities. Something nice, but not so extravagant that it will scare him off? “What do you think he might like?”

“Swords,” Zethrid said.

“Or you know, nerd stuff,” Ezor added. “He’s always either training or studying or working.”

“Just because some of us actually have a work ethic,” Acxa cut in, but her voice was more teasing than tart.

“Cake,” Narti motioned. “Everybody likes cake.”

“One can’t argue with that,” Allura laughed musically. It seemed they were beginning to warm to her, after all. Now she just had to deal with her own Paladins’ mistrust. “It seems I have a new mission to undertake! But before I do that”—she leaned toward Acxa, and took another cookie from the plate—”could you tell me what you meant by, ah, ‘attached’ ?”

Chapter Text

“Prince Lotor. It is unwise to distance yourself from Central Command during these troubled times.”

Haggar’s image loomed large on the bridge viewscreen, belying her diminutive stature. Lotor had elected to answer her communication on board his vessel; not only for the sake of avoiding untimely intrusions, but also to eliminate any visual clues that would give away his location. It was vital that he cement his alliance with Voltron and the coalition before Zarkon’s demise—or worse yet, recovery—and if the witch had any inkling of his activities, she would do everything in her considerable power to thwart him. He would be declared a traitor to the Empire, hunted down like a dog. Perhaps she’d dig up that bootlicker Throk from where he’d buried him on Ulippa, and set him on the throne instead. Lotor scowled at the thought, a bitter taste in his mouth.

“An Emperor must be seen,” she continued, any expression hidden by the shadows of her hood. “His absence diminishes his power. Your father knew this.”

“My father is on his deathbed; and I am in control.” He willed his hands to remain still on the arms of his command chair, resisting the impulse to curl them into fists.  What Haggar wanted was to have him close enough to keep an eye on, close enough for her to pry into his affairs as she had throughout his youth, up until the day of his exile.

“While you hide yourself away, your grip on the Empire grows weaker.” There was a lilting, patronizing tone to her voice that set his teeth on edge. “Commander Throk may not have been the only—”

“Any who wish to follow in Throk’s footsteps will receive the same reward,” he cut in, impatient. “Tell me, witch, just what is it that so urgently requires my attention? A sudden uptick in rebel uprisings? Systems in open revolt?” Haggar did not have an immediate answer for that. Of course not, because many of those rebels are here. He allowed himself a smug smirk. “You see? I have everything well in hand. Now do not bother me again.” He closed the connection before she could object, but not before he had the satisfaction of seeing her eyes narrow in displeasure. There was little that irked her more than having him beyond her reach.

Lotor rose from his chair with a sigh. Despite the gratifying note on which he’d ended the exchange, it had still left him feeling drained and irritable, with the beginnings of a headache creeping up the back of his neck. Perhaps she’s learned how to ply her life-sucking sorcery over subspace channels, he wryly reflected.

As he exited the ship, Lotor cheered himself with the thought that at least he wouldn’t have to deal with it much longer. Soon, I will have Voltron, and the means to bring stability to the Universe… to secure the future of the Galra. Very soon. Although it had taken movements, he had convinced even the most recalcitrant of the coalition leaders of the alliance’s benefits, and now their business was well nigh concluded. All that remained was to orchestrate how to present it to the Empire, in such a way that it wouldn’t incite a civil war. Lotor knew that timing would be crucial. He would have to return to the Hub ahead of any announcement to ensure he would be well-placed to deal with dissenters. If all went well though, he would never have to pay lip service to Haggar or Zarkon again. Maybe I’ll send them to keep Throk company.

So preoccupied with these plans was he that he failed to notice the humans lurking in the corridor until he was almost upon them. The Blue and Yellow Paladins were pressed into doorway; the former craning his neck out to peer down the hallway ahead of him. They hadn’t noticed him either, he realized; they were too focused on… whatever it was they were doing on a level that was supposedly assigned to Galra personnel.

“I don’t think we should be here,” the larger one muttered in an uncertain waver.

“Shh,” hissed Blue, flapping his hand dismissively in the other’s face, “someone’ll hear. These guys are up to something, and we’re going to figure out what.”

“Don’t you think it’s possible that like, maybe, you’re just a tiiiiny bit jealous—I mean, the rest of the coalition has decided they’re on the up and up, so—”

"The rest of the coalition isn’t a Paladin of Voltron, Hunk!”

“Well Allura’s a Paladin, and she—”

“I just don’t trust that guy, okay?!” Blue’s voice pitched higher as he spun around to face his friend. “I’m telling you—oh.” His mouth fell open as he finally realized they weren’t alone. Under other circumstances Lotor might have found it amusing, but after dealing with Haggar, he was in no mood.

“Oh no. What’s that—what’s that face for?” Yellow asked. “He’s right behind me isn’t he?” It was more a statement than a question. The taller human turned slowly, a sheepish grin on his face.

“What ‘guy’?” Lotor asked innocently. He affected an affable tone, but inside he seethed. It seems it is not just my mother who wishes to spy on me.

“You!” huffed Blue, colour rising in his cheeks.

His companion placed a large hand on his shoulder, looking pained. “Lance, I don’t think—”

“You might have got everybody else under your spell, buddy, but I’ve got my eye on you”—Lance stabbed his finger through the air in Lotor’s direction—”and if you’re just using the Princess so that Voltron will do your dirty work—”

“I assure you that my intentions are”— none of your business —”sincere,” He put in coolly, although it was becoming more of an effort to keep his tone level. The absolute temerity of this boy assuming he was entitled to speak on Allura’s behalf was frankly stunning.

“Yeah well, Zarkon is the biggest bad in the Universe, and you’re his son; so what does that make you?”

“Unfortunate?” Lotor ventured a disingenuous guess.

Lance narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth to say something else, but his friend cut him off.

“Uhh, look, we just got a little turned around, but I think we can find our way back to the elevator now…” He forced a nervous laugh. “Right, Lance?” he asked through gritted teeth, with a meaningful glare at the Blue Paladin. Before he could protest, Yellow started dragging him by the elbow in the direction of the lifts.

“I’ve got my eye on you, mister!” Lance called back over his shoulder, despite Hunk’s muttered cautions, and pointed exaggeratedly at his own face, then back to Lotor.

Lotor resisted the urge to roll his eyes, or perhaps return a choice gesture himself. Diplomacy , he reminded himself. There are the Princess’ trusted companions. Never mind the baffling question of how such a clod could have earned that trust. He tried to put the encounter with the two humans out of his mind, but by the time he reached the lounge, his mood had soured further still.

All four of the generals were gathered in the common area, evidently enjoying a snack break. Zethrid had an entire plate of sweets to herself, and was enthusiastically stuffing them into her mouth. Axca and Narti were sat together on one of the sofas, sipping something from small mugs.

Ezor, sprawled across a chaise longue, winced when he walked in, instantly reading his face. “Yikes, that bad?” she ventured. “What did she say?”

“Just the usual nonsense,” he answered in a clipped tone, “but I’ve just discovered two of our distinguished Paladin allies trying to spy on us.”

“What?” Zethrid growled, indignant and bristling with annoyance. “I thought the negotiating stuff was going well!”

Lotor grimaced, his jaw muscles taut. “I believe their concern was of a more personal nature.”

“The Princess,” Acxa concluded, stating the obvious.

“Indeed,” he flatly replied. He sank down on the sofa opposite Narti, who offered a sympathetic trill.

“Well, they can jump out an airlock,” Zethrid scoffed. “Forget them. Everything’s gone just how you said it would, all according to plan.” She flashed a wide, smug grin.

“Not exactly according to plan.” Lotor slouched forward in his seat with his elbows on his knees, troubled thoughts furrowing his brow.

What bothered him most about his run-in with the Paladins was the kernel of truth in Lance’s accusation. He had intended to endear himself to Allura purely as a means to secure an alliance, and access to the resources he needed to fulfill his ambitions. He hadn’t foreseen that she would get under his skin from the very moment he’d set foot on Olkarion, so much so that he’d nearly scuttled his own plans mere hours afterward. He hadn’t anticipated that she would make him feel...something. Lacking a proper frame of reference, he was not even sure what to call it. Lotor was not a man well-suited to uncertainty. He clenched and unclenched his fists, claws pointing the tips of his gloves. “My relationship with Allura has become more complicated than I intended.”

“We noticed,” Zethrid snickered around a mouthful of cookie.

“You make it sound so terrible.” Ezor smirked as she leaned over the back of the divan, arms folded under her chin.

“She does seem fond of you,” added Acxa, barely concealing a smile behind her teacup.

“She wouldn’t be,” he snapped, “if she knew that we only came here for Voltron. Or what we planned to do had the talks failed.” Their flippancy did nothing to leaven his mood.

Acxa sighed and set down her cup. “The last part is irrelevant—”

“—Unless we really fuck up in the next few days,” interrupted Zethrid, ignoring Acxa’s withering glance.

“—and as to the other,” she continued, “I’m sure at some level she knows that the point of any alliance is to have the power of Voltron on our side.”

Something warm brushed across his hand, drawing his attention. Kova looked up at him and blinked slowly. The bony little cat meowed and rubbed his cheek against Lotor’s arm again, and somewhere at the back of his mind he felt a nudge in Narti’s direction. She cocked her head to the side and let out a few soft clicks. What’s really bothering you? She signed.

Lotor dropped his gaze to his hands. As accustomed as he was to rhetoric and diplomacy, he struggled to force out the words. Personal matters were a topic he preferred to avoid; but if he couldn’t confide in his generals, who could he tell? “Our time here is nearly at an end,” he began at length, “and then what? We must return to Central Command to orchestrate the realization of this alliance. She will remain with her Paladins, who clearly do not trust me, coalition or no. Perhaps there would be an opportunity to pursue… something, once matters are more settled—when, if ever, that might be—or in between our various responsibilities… And that is assuming a great deal; I don’t even know what she wants.” His shoulders slumped as a bone-deep weariness settled over him.

“What do you want?” Acxa asked, with a gentleness in her voice that he didn’t often hear.

Lotor frowned as he examined his hands, sinking into his thoughts. What did he want? Images sprang to life, unbidden. Allura, so bright and beautiful she might have been clothed in the sun. Allura, who contained both unfathomable power and extraordinary softness in an impossible, wonderful duality. “Her,” he breathed; defeated and reverent, enchanted and terrified.

“So tell her,” Ezor pressed. “I swear, this is like being in one of Narti’s holoserials.”

“I’m afraid I wouldn’t have any idea what to say,” he sighed. The mere thought of such an admission made him feel unbalanced and vulnerable. Emotions had always been something he could manipulate and exploit in others. Acknowledging his own felt like weakness, like opening himself up to an inevitable attack. Part of him wanted to leave Olkarion and never look back.

“That’d be a first,” teased Ezor, trying to draw him out.

“I say you just”—Zethrid made a snatching motion with her free hand—”grab her and take her with us when we go.”

“Kidnapping is hardly the way to a princess’ heart, Zethrid,” Acxa chided, lips pursed in annoyance.

“Works for me.” Zethrid shrugged, and tossed another biscuit into her mouth.

Lotor rested his head in his hands and tried to tune out their banter. He was reeling, at a loss. This was no longer the mission he had planned for. He’d let down his guard, and suddenly he found himself vulnerable. He’d come here to charm Allura into a coalition that would cement his power in the Empire, and now he was cooking her breakfast. Absurd.

He had absolutely no idea what to do about it.

 

Chapter Text

The reception hall teemed with aliens toasting the conclusion of the Olkari summit. Beyond the official delegates, all of their various aides, secretaries and other assorted plus-ones were in attendance, as well as some prominent local figures.

Including, of course, the Paladins of Voltron.

From his vantage point on the mezzanine, Lotor noted with amusement that some of them had gravitated towards his own generals. Perhaps it was curiosity, or maybe on some level they sensed a parallel between their two groups. The Yellow and Green Paladins were sharing a joke of some kind with Ezor and Zethrid—he’d recognize that roaring laughter anywhere. Narti stood off to the side with the Red Paladin. They did not appear to be talking, but the dark-haired human was holding Kova, stroking his crest while he watched the crowd; and that alone spoke volumes. From what little Lotor had seen of him, he preferred to keep to himself. Perhaps he and Narti enjoyed the tranquility of each other’s company.

Lotor could relate to that. Tranquility was something that currently eluded him. He was still struggling to process his feelings for Allura, and between that and maintaining his diplomatic performance, he was exhausted. If he’d thought he could get away with it, he would have avoided the celebration altogether.

“I thought you might be hiding up here,” Acxa remarked coolly, leaning on the railing with a drink in her hand. Lotor wondered how long she’d been standing there; he hadn’t heard her approach.

“I am not hiding,” he growled out of the corner of his mouth.

“If you say so.” She shrugged, and turned to look at the ballroom below them. “The Princess is looking for you, you know.”

“Is she?” He strained to keep his tone nonchalant.

“You’ve been avoiding her,” she observed.

“I have not,” he snapped—too quickly. He hadn’t been; not really. With his thoughts as chaotic as they had been, it was simply easier to let himself be pulled away into discussions with other delegates, or to find other matters that required his attention, rather than slipping off to track down Allura, and be forced to confront what he was feeling. Easier, that is, until he was left alone at the end of the night with nothing to distract him from his predicament.

Alright, maybe he was avoiding her. He averted his eyes from Acxa’s challenging look, but he couldn’t escape the twinge of guilt he felt.

Acxa sighed as she returned her attention to the crowd. “Perhaps it’s none of my business—”

“It isn’t,” Lotor muttered in a harsh whisper.

“—but you need to get over yourself. Sir.” She added the honorific as an afterthought. “Unless you want to fuck this up. In which case, keep doing what you’re doing.” Lotor narrowed his eyes, an angry rebuke rising in his throat, but Axca didn’t give him an opening. “You’d better make up your mind though, because here she comes.” Lotor felt the colour drain from his face as she glanced past him, toward the staircase. With an oddly smug grin, she thrust her drink into his hand, and walked away.

“Prince Lotor?” Allura’s voice was unmistakable, honey over silver. Slowly, inevitably, he turned to face her.

She was wearing a long, elegant gown that swept the floor as she walked; blue and white with accents of pink and gold, modest but still striking. Her hair was pinned back from her face, but otherwise loose, spilling down past her waist in a cloud of soft white curls. A stab of longing pierced him, and Lotor knew he was finished. He tossed back Axca’s drink, and scarcely felt the burn as it slid down his throat.

“I’m so glad I found you!” she exclaimed. “I feel as though I’ve barely seen you these past few quintents.” She smiled, but there was something timid and tentative in her eyes. Guilt soured Lotor’s stomach, along with shame over his appalling cowardice.

“Princess Allura,” he began, more stiffly than he’d intended. “Could we speak somewhere”—he gestured with his empty glass in the direction of the main floor—“away from all of this?”

“Of course,” she readily agreed, but there was a tiny crease between her delicate eyebrows. Lotor had a sudden impulse to lean over and smooth it with a kiss, but thought better of it. She might not appreciate such a display, and he certainly had no right to assume she would welcome the affection at all, after the way he’d been behaving. He offered her his elbow instead, which to his immense relief she accepted.

Outside, the air was pleasantly warm, perfumed with the sultry fragrance of night-blooming flowers in the courtyard. The garden was softly illuminated by bioluminescent mosses rather than lamps, giving it an otherworldly quality, like something from one of the old Altean folk tales he’d studied. It would have been romantic if he hadn’t been so close to throwing up.

Allura spoke first, dropping her hand from his arm as she turned to face him. “Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” she demanded. “Has something happened? I thought you—I thought we were enjoying each other’s company.” She toyed with the edge of her overskirt, a self-conscious, girlish gesture. “Or perhaps I misunderstood the nature of our relationship.”

“No, no!” he protested, seizing her hands with desperate urgency. Her blue eyes widened, but she didn’t pull away. “You haven’t—you haven’t done anything wrong. I’m sorry, Princess. I've been a fool and a coward, and… unforgivably rude.” Lotor let go of her hands, letting his own fall to his sides. He looked away, unable to meet Allura’s eyes; until a soft touch on his cheek urged him to turn back to her.

“Not unforgivably.” She offered him a small, sweet smile that destroyed all that remained of his walls. What had he ever done to deserve this patience, this understanding? An unruly crash of emotions overwhelmed him, and the words seemed to tangle in his mouth as he struggled to articulate them.

“I don’t know how—I don’t know what I am doing,” he muttered, choked and halting. “This... with you. I don’t have that kind of life. To show softness is… a dangerous mistake; but I—I find that I no longer care.” He screwed his eyes shut, his brows pinched together as he fought against decaphoebs of conditioning to express himself; the desire to have her understand him—to be seen—at war with the fear that she would reject him if she did. “I don’t want to lose you.”

Allura took a step closer, the comforting warmth of her body tantalizingly close. “You don’t have to,” she whispered.

“Do you truly see a future for us, Allura? I must return to the Empire, and I do not know when I might return. And I may not be my father, but for many I am still close enough, alliance or not—including your own Paladins.”

“—who do not get to make this decision for me,” she amended, soft but firm. She cupped his face in her small, soft hands, brushing his cheekbones with her thumbs. “You are making this more difficult than it needs to be, Lotor. I am a Princess of Altea. You are the leader of the Galra Empire. We can do whatever we want.” The playful sparkle had returned to her eyes. “I’ll give you one of our secure communication devices so you can contact me whenever you like. All of this has taught me that the Universe is never as large as we think.” Allura slid her hands down to circle his waist, and pressed herself against him, nestling her head against his chest with a sigh.

Almost as a reflex, Lotor folded his arms around her, and ducked  down to rest his cheek on the top of her head. The tension flowed out of him as he breathed in her sweet, delicate scent—it was impossible to sustain any misgivings with Allura cuddling up to him like this. “So you’ll forgive me?” he murmured into her hair.

“Of course,” she hummed. “After all, I’ve already gotten you a birthday present.”

“You...what?”

“A present? For your birthday?” She laughed lightly. “It is tomorrow, is it not?”

In fact, he had all but forgotten. “Yes, but how did you…” He frowned for a just a tick before it dawned on him: Allura’s conveniently timed appearance, Acxa’s odd look as she’d walked away. The two of them—maybe even all five of them—had been colluding, it seemed. “Acxa,” he huffed. “At least it was a well-intentioned mutiny.”

“I’m afraid I left it in my room at the castle though—I wasn’t sure you were going to want it.”

Lotor hugged her a little tighter, as much to assuage his conscience as to reassure her. “Of course I do. I’m certain I would love anything you chose for me.”

“You’ll just have to come back with me, then.” Allura tilted her head back to give him a coy smile.

The evening was decidedly on the up.

———

“What is it?” Lotor studied the small pink-wrapped parcel in his hands, looking for some clue as to its contents. It was roughly the size of a deck of cards, and surprisingly heavy.

“Open it and see,” Allura giggled. The two of them were sat on the edge of her bed back at the castle, blissfully removed from all the noise and prying eyes at the reception. Lotor had removed his heavy armour; Allura her capelet. She kicked off her shoes, and leaned against his arm, giving him a little nudge with her shoulder. “Go on!”

His curiosity piqued, he carefully peeled back the wrappings. Nestled within was a roughly shield-shaped stone, inlaid with faintly glowing blue lines. Puzzled, he turned it over to examine it from another angle, but this yielded no further answers. It was, nonetheless, strangely familiar… He frowned as he racked his brain, trying to place the mysterious object.

"It’s an Altean compass stone,” explained Allura, beaming with excitement.

Lotor’s eyes went wide; his jaw dropped. Unbelievable. “I’ve seen these in ancient engravings and mosaics,” he breathed. “They were used to project a map…”

“I’m afraid this one doesn’t work anymore,” she confessed, with a rueful smile. “Believe me, I’ve tried. I found it in Father’s study.”

“This was your father’s?” He stared at her in stunned disbelief. “And you’re giving it to… me?” He could scarcely imagine a universe in which he was worthy of such a gift.

“It’s to remind you to always find your way back to me.” Allura looked up at him through her long white lashes, smiling almost shyly. “Is that too sentimental?” she added with a self-deprecating laugh.

A warm feeling swelled in his chest, so intense he thought his ribs must crack from the force of it. “No, it’s perfect,” he managed, although an unfamiliar tremor tinged his voice. “As perfect as you are. Thank you.” He reached over to tuck a stray curl behind her ear, then bent to taste her lips, petal-soft and impossibly sweet. Allura sighed as she melted against him, deepening the kiss. Her hand slid up his shoulder; her fingertips traced the point of his ear with a feather-light touch that drew a low growl from his throat.

“Allow me to properly express my gratitude,” he purred, “and atone for my beastly behavior.”

“I suppose,” hummed Allura, with a playful grin, “you could start by helping me out of this gown.” She twisted to show him her back, and gathered her hair off to the side.

“Of course.” Lotor set the precious stone on the bedside table, then reached for the sliding fastener on her dress, careful not to snag any of the silver-white tresses as he pulled it down. Allura gave a little shiver as his nails brushed her spine, and flashed him a coquettish smile over her shoulder. She clasped the undone garment to her chest as she stood up, only to let it fall in a puddle at her feet.

Lotor reached for her as if she were a sacred talisman. He moved his hands over her thighs, past the tops of her stockings, and gathered her chemise up around her waist, brushing his thumbs over the pale pink markings in the hollows of her hip bones. As he leaned to kiss the subtle rondure of her stomach, he inhaled the sweet, heady scent that clung to her skin beneath the perfumes of her soaps and lotions; the fragrance that was uniquely her . It made his mouth water.

Allura grasped the hem of her slip and lifted it up over her head, then finally let it drop from her fingertips to settle on the floor next to her gown. She stood before him wearing only those enticing white stockings and a tiny scrap of silk between her legs; her eyes dark and half-lidded, nipples peaked and swollen. Lotor hissed a breath in through his teeth as heat throbbed in his loins. She planted a knee on the bed next to him and raked a hand through his hair. Beautiful . If he saw her like this every day for the rest of his life, he would never tire of the sight.

“Now you,” she purred, her voice low and husky. She kissed him again, her tongue hungrily seeking his as she undid the front of his suit. The stiff points of her nipples grazed his chest as she pushed it down over his shoulders. He shrugged out of his top, and hurriedly kicked off the suit’s leggings. Allura moved to straddle his lap, canting her hips to grind against his swollen member. With a hungry growl, he pulled her close against him, kneading and caressing her firm, shapely ass as they devoured each other. The lacy fabric between her legs was already wet with her arousal, and Lotor was near as soaked as she was, his aching cock leaking steadily between their bodies. Void, if he was so desperate for her after only a few days apart, how would he manage over movements? Phoebs?

Shoving the unsettling thought aside for the time being, he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her down onto the bed with him. Allura sighed with pleasure when he rolled her onto her back, shuddering beneath him and reaching up to tangle her hands in his hair. Lotor gasped sharply as a rough, but playful tug snapped his head backward with a jolt of mingled pleasure and pain.

“In a teasing mood, Princess?” he murmured, tracing a half-extended claw along her jawline. A soft, sultry laugh was her only response. His baser, more Galra instincts urged him to pin her to the bed, stifle that laugh and bruise her lips with rough kisses, rip away those flimsy underthings and take her right then—but no. Mustering what restraint remained to him, he fought down the compulsion. He wanted to show her how much he needed her— treasured her; his own pleasure would be secondary. “Perhaps I am as well.”

Lotor ducked his head to nip at her neck, savouring her little gasps and moans as much as the taste of her flesh, and trailed toothy kisses down toward her collarbone. Her pulse fluttered against his lips as he swirled his tongue over the hollow of her throat. There was no part of her unworthy of his worship. He cupped one perfect breast in his hand; rolling, pinching, teasing one swollen nipple while he licked and sucked at the other. Allura whimpered and arched into his ministrations, pressing her silk-clad thighs against his sides, twisting her fingers more insistently into his hair. The sounds she was making spoke directly to the heat building at his core, his cock heavy and aching with need. Feverish with barely controlled lust, he pulled her more roughly against him, scraping his teeth over the stiffened peak of her breast. Allura’s eyes went wide; she let out a cry of surprise as she shuddered and bucked beneath him, raking her nails over his scalp.

“Stars, oh stars,” she moaned, breathless, falling back against the pillows.

Lotor lifted his head to look at her, grinning with smug satisfaction. “I’m far from finished with you, my dear,” he purred, a low rumble edging his voice. He bent once more to taste her skin, salty and slickened with sweat, trailing his claws down her sides, relishing the way she still gasped and jolted at his touch.

His hand followed the curve of her belly as he kissed down her stomach, until he caught his fangs on the waist of her underwear, giving it a sharp tug before hooking his fingers around the band and pulling it down to her knees. Allura kicked the scrap of lace and silk aside with an impatient huff.

She reached for him then, her eyes dark and enticing, her graceful fingers slipping through his hair as he knelt between her legs. The soft curls above her sex were damp with sweat, her lips full and glistening, her trembling thighs smeared with slick. Lotor let her guide his head down, and slipped his tongue between her folds, teasing apart the delicate pink petals, marvelling at how she twitched and writhed. Tasting her was almost as good as fucking her—almost—and he moaned hungrily as he explored her with his mouth. The heat of his desire was deliciously maddening, the temptation to take care of his own needs immense; but he was determined to stay focused on Allura. He hooked his arms around her legs, pulling her more tightly against his mouth, the better to savour her to the fullest. She lifted her hips to meet him, her cries pitching higher and growing louder as he sucked greedily on her clit and fucked her with his tongue. Lotor loved how sensitive she was, how responsive and uninhibited; loved the sound of his name on her lips as she urged him on with half-coherent words of encouragement, her musical voice now raw with lust.

Breathless himself, he pulled back for a tick, raking his claws along her thigh as he adjusted his position. Allura protested the interruption with a plaintive whimper that gave way to a shuddering gasp when he slipped two fingers inside her, and curled them against the spot he knew would make her come apart. She had waited long enough; and he could barely stand it anymore himself… She rocked her hips hard against his hand as he stroked her inner walls, her moans growing still more needy and wanton until they dissolved into a wail as her climax overtook her. At the back of his mind, he wondered just how thick the castle walls were.

Lotor held her fast as the spasms racked her frame, intent on wringing every drop of pleasure from her hyperstimulated body. He leaned in, his tongue dancing and flicking over her swollen little bud, pressing and circling his fingers ever more insistently around the sensitive spot at the front of her twitching passage. Allura’s chest hitched faster, her breaths shallow and ragged; she   grabbed for his free hand, almost crushing it with the strength of her grip, and twisted his hair so fiercely that his scalp ached. He could feel the tension coiling anew in her body as his mouth explored her exquisite flavors, her muscles almost tonic. She was perfect like this—so thoroughly at his mercy, and yet still so dynamic; like a cyclone in captivity. He smiled against her flesh, and let his teeth just barely rasp over her clit.

All at once, she exploded, like a collapsing star. With a piercing cry, she arched up off the bed, and Lotor found himself soaked from the neck to the waist. He froze, blinking in surprise, as she fell back against the mattress, trembling and gasping for air.

“I am so sorry,” she slurred, covering her face with her hands, “that’s… that’s not happened before…”

Recovering his wits, Lotor sat back on his heels, grinning only a little smugly. “That’s quite alright. In fact, it was rather impressive.”

Allura, already flushed, colored to the tips of her ears. “Oh dear,” she moaned, rolling onto her side, “I might have drowned you!” She pressed her face into the pillow, stifling a giggle.

“A worthy end,” he chuckled. Allura squeaked— adorable...— as he tugged the soaked bedspread out from under her. Lotor stretched himself out behind her, curling his body around hers, and gently gathered her hair out of the way to lay soft kisses along the slope of her shoulder. “I would die happy."

“Truly?” she hummed, a playful note creeping into her voice. “There is nothing more you desire?” She leaned back into his embrace, and Lotor hissed in a quick, sharp breath as she pressed the swell of her ass against his erection.

“It’s possible that I s—spoke too soon…” He tried, failed to keep his voice even. He moved his hand over her waist, pulling her closer, heat throbbing in the pit of his stomach. Allura gave her hips a languid roll; teasing, promising. She reached down to draw him between her legs, then squeezed her thighs together as she rocked against him; and Lotor moaned into the tangled cloud of her hair as his cock slid over her still-dripping folds. As pent-up as he was, it was still not quite sufficient to bring him to the edge—not yet—but it was a delectable frustration. He dug his claws into her hip for greater purchase; the wet, lewd sounds of their rutting spurring him deeper into a haze of lust.

“Lotor,” purred Allura, husky and sweet. “Come inside me.”

Her words alone nearly overcame his control. Lotor slid his arm underneath her, taking hold of her waist. With the other he gripped her roughly by the thigh, claws catching on the sheer fabric of her stockings, and spread her legs apart. Allura rolled back against him, canting her hips to guide him to her entrance, both of them groaning as he pushed inside her at last. Lotor shuddered at the rush of sensation—the soft, slick heat of her walls gripping him, the warm puff of her breath on his skin when her lips brushed his shoulder. He’d been aching for her for days, too stubborn and stupid to admit to himself how much he needed her; and now… Well. If this was surrender, he would wave the white flag gladly. He snapped his hips upward, delighted by her startled, breathy cries. The rest of the universe fell away, until there was only Allura: her warmth, her softness, her body moving against his. Already he could feel the pressure building, coiling around the base of his spine; his movements faltered as he tried to restrain his fervor.

Allura reached up, her arm snaking around the back of his neck, drawing his face closer to hers. “Don’t… don’t stop,” she urged. “Let go for me.” Her voice was hoarse and breathy, and spoke directly to his growing need. An involuntary growl rasped in his throat; blood roared in his ears.. He increased his pace, thrusting harder and faster, abandoning himself to the pursuit of his pleasure, until finally the waves crashed over and through him, staggering and ecstatic. Barely conscious of anything else, he heard her name in his voice, felt her stiffen and shiver, felt her head loll back against his shoulder. With a shudder, he collapsed back onto the bed, Allura’s leg slipping from his grasp. He wrapped his arms around her, gathering her to him; both of them sweat-slicked and panting.

Slowly, he regained his senses. He felt at once weightless and pleasantly heavy, as though he was melting into the sheets. Allura plucked his hand from her waist, twining her fingers with his, and pressed a kiss to his knuckles before clutching it to her breast instead.

“Lotor,” she murmured, with a soft little sigh. “My prince…”

The way she said his name stirred something in him that Lotor couldn’t explain. It was a gift he didn’t deserve; an impossible promise he wanted desperately to believe. A flood of emotion overtook the rush of endorphins. He screwed his eyes shut against the force of it, and hugged Allura tighter still. She was everything he’d ever wanted, and never let himself dare to hope for. He wanted to tell her that he loved her, but he couldn’t form the words. His tongue was too thick, his throat suddenly too tight to allow their passage. What right did he even have to such a phrase, when he barely grasped the concept?

“Don’t forget me,” he finally managed.

Allura twisted around in his arms, turning to lie facing him instead. Her shimmering, crystalline eyes looked up at him as he opened his own. Her hand on his cheek was cool and soothing; her smile so soft and sweet it made his chest ache. “Never,” she swore, and sealed her vow with a kiss.

It was more than he deserved. It would be enough.

Chapter Text

“I wish I were going with you,” sighed Allura. She squeezed Lotor’s gloved hands in hers, unwilling to let him go just yet. Behind them, his ship waited on the landing pad to take him back to the Empire, his generals already aboard. His group were among the last to leave Olkarion, but there was only so long he could delay the inevitable.

“We have been over this, Allura.” He smiled, and rubbed his thumbs across her knuckles. “It’s too dangerous at the moment.”

Allura frowned—not quite a pout, but close—and glanced down at their clasped hands. “That means it’s dangerous for you as well. If I were there to support you—”

Lotor shook his head, cutting her off. “I’ve been dealing with Haggar my whole life. As long as I play the role she expects of me, she will suspect nothing.” His voice was confident; reassuring; and Allura wanted very much to believe him.

“Just... please be careful.” She looked up at him, trying not to think about how long it might be before she saw his face again. Her chest felt uncomfortably tight, and the beginnings of tears prickled at the corners of her eyes. Swallowing back her heartache with a subdued sniffle, she threw her arms around his waist, and pressed her face against his chest. “Promise me you’ll be safe,” she pleaded, barely managing to keep her voice from breaking.

Lotor wrapped his arms around her, enfolding her in warmth and security. “I will.” A low, soothing hum, almost a purr, underlaid his words.

Allura moved her hands up his back, pressing herself more tightly to him. She wanted to memorize the shape of him, every minute detail. The hard planes of his chest, his handsome face, his strong arms, his hair, the way that he smelled, the taste of his mouth…

“I love you,” she whispered. She hadn’t meant to say it aloud, but the words formed themselves on her tongue unbidden and escaped before she could call them back. She needed him to know, before he went away. SHe had promised not to forget him, but what she felt was so much more than just that.

Lotor’s body stiffened. Allura could feel his heart racing, even through his armour. Too soon… She looked up at him, biting her lip. His eyebrows were steepled together, a deep furrow crowning the bridge of his nose. His eyes were wide, their look somewhere between pain and panic; and his mouth hung half open, his jaw working soundlessly. If not for his colour, she might have thought he was choking. Allura’s heart sank.

“I… yes,” he faltered. “I… Allura. I’m not…” He swallowed hard and drew in a shaky breath, his distress palpable. He’s terrified, she realized with dismay—not for her own sake, but for his. “I want to…” he tried again, but his usually rich voice lost its power. He closed his eyes, and for a tick she was afraid he might burst into tears. A guilty, sorrowful ache swelled inside her as she reached up to cup his cheek. It was dreadful to see him this way.

“It’s alright,” Allura crooned, brushing the fringe of his lashes with the pad of her thumb. Lotor opened his eyes again, and she flashed him a small, encouraging smile. “I can say it for both of us.”

She stood on her toes to draw him in for a kiss. This was more familiar territory for him; the tension began to ease from his body as he pulled her against him, and her lips parted for his. She wished she knew how to undo all the damage of his upbringing, how to make him feel safe enough to embrace his feelings; but she could give him this comfort, at least. When they broke apart, a smile played at the corners of his mouth, although his eyes were soft with sorrow.

“I must go,” he murmured, stroking her hair.

“I’ll be waiting for you.” This time, the smile reached his eyes. She kissed him again, taking one last taste to sustain her. As he turned away to board his ship, she wondered if he understood how much of her heart he’d taken with him.

———

Lotor’s head reeled, oddly disconnected from the rest of him. His boots were leaden, every step an effort to coordinate and execute. The past few doboshes were a dream that made no sense. How could it be true that Allura loved him? In what distant, unlikely reality was that possible? And how could he have just left her standing there, after she’d poured out her heart to him? He clenched his fists into balls, claws biting into his palms through the gloves. I have shamed myself once again, he reflected, bitter. I stood there gaping like a dying fish.

What was wrong with him? Why was this so difficult? Was he such a coward after all, as to be sent running by three simple words? Apparently. Something within him still violently resisted giving her that last fragment of himself, that final piece of control. Allura had said it was alright… but it wasn’t. Lotor felt far from ‘alright’. What he felt was anger, dismay, frustration, and fear. Would she truly wait for him now, or would time and distance bring such shortcomings into focus for her? Anxiety formed a bitter-tasting knot in his throat; and he struggled to choke it down before facing his crew.

Ezor was the first to notice his arrival on the bridge, and sauntered over as he dropped into his command chair, with Narti and Kova at her heels. “Sooo,” she drawled, a sly grin creeping across her face, “how did it—oh.” Her smile faded, her green eyes widening as she read his features. She knew him too well—they all did. “Are you okay boss? What happened?”

Zethrid loomed up behind them, grinding her fist against her palm. “Did she dump you?” she growled, fangs bared. “Want me to beat her up?”

Lotor leaned foward, resting his elbows on his knees, staring numbly at the floor. “She said she loved me,” he said at length, stumbling over the alien word even in the third person.

“She did?!” Ezor squealed, her voice pitching so high that he winced.

“But… that’s good, right?” Zethrid frowned, puzzled. Narti echoed the sentiment with a worried click.

“That depends,” interjected Acxa, still at her station. She swiveled her chair to face the group, arms crossed over her chest. “What did you say?”

Lotor buried his face in his hands. “I’m not even entirely certain,” he moaned. “‘Yes’, I think?”

Acxa sighed, shaking her head.

“Oh nooo,” Ezor lamented.

“Wow, you’re really bad at th— ow!” Zethrid grunted as Narti swatted her with her tail.

“Perhaps you four would like to be in charge of my personal affairs instead, since you’re all so knowledgeable!” he snapped, frustration finally boiling over. He was well enough aware of his failure without them rehashing it. “Back to your posts. Prepare for takeoff.” Ezor held up her hands in a conciliatory gesture; Acxa swiveled her chair back.

“Still think we shoulda gone with kidnapping,” Zethrid grumbled as she headed back to her station.

Lotor sat back in his chair, staring at the blank screen ahead of him over clasped hands, trying to ignore the growing ache in his chest, until a light touch on his arm pulled him back to reality. He didn’t need to look to know who it was. Narti was his oldest friend—apart from Kova—and, despite their group’s closeness, the only one bold enough to touch him uninvited.

“You should go back,” she signed.

“I can’t;” he hissed under his breath, teeth clenched tightly. “I’ll look an even bigger fool.”

Narti shrugged, apparently unconcerned. “So what?”

Lotor blinked at her, furrowing his brows as he attempted to process her meaning.

So what?

———

The walk back across the tarmac seemed terribly long and lonely. Allura both welcomed and dreaded the return to normalcy that the journey represented; she looked forward to reconnecting with Coran and the Paladins, after focusing so heavily on the summit, and Lotor, but…

Lotor. She sighed to herself, her thoughts drifting more toward the melancholy. That was the other side of the equation. She missed him already, and the prospect of their indefinite separation left a hollow in her heart, compounded by the bittersweet manner of their parting. She wished that she could have sent him off happy. She had tried to make him understand—she didn’t need to hear the words from him; she just needed to say them—but she was not at all sure she had succeeded. He wasn’t ready. It should have been obvious. It had been arduous enough for him to come to terms with his emotions, even without the label. Now she feared that she had sent him away, confused and upset, to deal with one of the most formidable forces in the universe.

Don’t be silly, she chided herself, trying to assuage her own concerns. Lotor is a grown man. He’s not going to fall into some trap of Haggar’s just because he’s mooning over you! Still, she wished that she could see him again, even for a few doboshes. She wouldn’t say a single word; she would just hold him, stroke his hair, kiss his forehead… Her vision blurred, and she paused mid-stride, blinking back tears.

I am a princess of Altea, she repeated to herself through calming breaths. I must appear strong, in control…

Composure regained, she resumed her walk, only to hesitate once more when she realized that she was not alone. Keith leaned against the spaceport reception building, watching her approach. A flush rose up from her collar, and Allura wondered how long he’d been standing there. She forced a smile as he pushed off the wall and headed her way.

“Were you looking for me, Keith?” she asked with affected brightness.

“Not exactly,” he shrugged, looking sheepish. “Coran asked me to check on you.” He held up his hands defensively at her frown. “I know you can take care of yourself; but if it wasn’t me, it might’ve been lance, and, uh… yeah. Sorry.”

“I see,” she sighed, somewhat mollified. “Well, shall we get back to the castle?”

Keith nodded, but his gaze drifted over her shoulder, toward Lotor’s cruiser. “Are you okay, Princess?” he asked, soft with concern. His thick eyebrows pulled together behind his fringe.

“Of course I am!” she laughed—rather convincingly, she thought. “Whatever do you mean?”

Keith nodded in the direction of the ship. “Lotor. You really care about him, huh?”

Allura’s shoulders drooped, the façade abandoned. He must have seen it all… or enough, anyway.  “Yes. I do,” she sighed, suddenly too tired to feel self-conscious anymore.

“I’m happy for you.” He smiled, but his dark eyes were wistful and distant. “When you find someone like that, you have to hold on and make the most of it; because you never know when something might happen…” His voice trailed off as he looked away into the distance.

“Oh, Keith,” she whispered, touched by his support and empathy. Slowly, she reached out and laid a hand on his shoulder, hoping to offer some comfort in return. “We will find him. I haven’t given up hope either.”

“He’s still out there. If he was really gone… I’d feel it. I know I would.” Keith closed his eyes briefly, reining himself in.

“I don’t doubt that you would.” Allura withdrew her hand, giving him a moment to himself. When he looked up again, he’d plastered on a game smile of the sort she was all too familiar with.

“Narti told me that Lotor’s half-Galra,” he said. “They all are.”

“Yes, that’s right,” she nodded, having no desire to force Keith back to the previous topic. She supposed it was no surprise that it should be he who would find some commonality with Lotor’s group, but she was pleased nonetheless that at least there was one Paladin who hadn’t rushed to judgement. Although a few phoebs ago, I would have been just as harsh… She pushed the guilty thought aside as quickly as it had arisen.

“Do you think that if—I mean, when we see them again, maybe I could talk to them some more?” he asked, hopeful.

Allura’s smile was wide and genuine this time. “I’m sure that would be easily arranged,” she answered brightly. “I suppose there wasn’t much of an opportunity for us all to get acquainted this time, was there?” Keith nodded, and Allura was deeply grateful that he chose not to comment on how well she’d become acquainted with Lotor.

“Yeah, at least I”—his eyes moved past Allura, focusing on something behind her—”oh. Did he forget something?” Frowning, Allura turned to follow his gaze.

Lotor strode briskly towards them across the tarmac, his hair and skirt fluttering in the draft from his ship’s exhaust fans, his eyes dark and intense. “Oh,” Allura breathed, surprised and speechless. The sight of him, so striking and purposeful, made her heart stutter. Her hand hovered quivering over her chest; her breath caught in her throat. But why does he look as though he’s heading into battle?

“Red Paladin!” Lotor addressed Keith in clipped tones as he approached, leaving Allura still baffled. “I have unfinished business with the Princess. Would you excuse us?”

Keith glanced from Lotor to Allura, then back again. “Uh, sure,” he answered tentatively. “I’ll be inside if you need me.”

Lotor took Allura’s arm as Keith walked off, gripping her elbow more tightly than was strictly necessary, and she glanced up at him with curiosity and concern. His brows were drawn together, his jaw muscles taut; he seemed to vibrate with nervous energy.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” she prompted; she was beginning to worry.

“Nothing,” he replied, too quickly. He clasped her free hand, and pulled her closer toward him. “I only have a moment. I need to tell you… something.” He looked away with a pinched frown, the ghosts of blue crescents flickering at the corners of his eyes.

Allura stifled the impulse to interrupt, to tell him again that it was alright, that he needn’t torture himself on her account. Before today, she’d never seen him so flustered. Instead she brushed the cowlick back from his face, and stroked his cheek with the back of her hand while she waited for him to compose himself. After a few ticks his expression gentled, his eyes closed, and he turned his face into her touch as his breathing slowed.

“There’s never been anyone like you,” he continued, his voice dropped low. “It frightens me, but I do… I love you, Allura.” He opened his eyes, searching hers for validation.

Grinning like a fool, she threw her arms around his neck. “There’s never been anyone like you, either,” she half-sobbed, half-laughed, her eyes brimming with joy. A weight seemed to lift from him, his posture more relaxed as he folded his arms around her; and Allura’s heart soared as the smile she loved so much spread across his face. Spellbound, she tipped her head back as she gazed up at him, an invitation he eagerly accepted The rest of the universe faded away as they embraced. The only reality Allura cared to acknowledge was Lotor holding her close; his hands on her body, his tongue sliding against hers.

“What I wouldn’t do”—she gasped as he nipped at her ear—”for just ten doboshes alone with you right now…”

“I knew you were going to ruin me,” he sighed. “I am going to miss you unbearably, you know.”

“You’ll just have to think of me… often.” With a giggle and a meaningful look, she traced her fingertip from his collar to his waist.

“Daily.” He smirked, wolfish and wicked as he leaned in to catch her lips again. “And will you think of me, Princess?”

Warmth spread from Allura’s cheeks all the way to the tips of her ears, to match the heat swelling between her legs as she imagined Lotor touching himself, panting her name… “Definitely.” She drew him down for another heated kiss, pulling away only when they could no longer ignore the soft but insistent beeping from his vambrace.

“I suppose that means you have to leave,” she breathed against his lips, caging his face with her hands.

“I suppose it does.” He pressed his forehead to hers, his eyes half-lidded and dreamy. “I love you, my goddess,” he whispered, now more confident in the words. A bright thrill shot through her—she would never tire of hearing him say them.

“I love you, my prince.”

Allura’s heart ached fiercely as she watched him walk away once more; but this time, the sweet outweighed the bitter.