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Story [Voltron] "The Chaotian Era", Lotor-centric epic-vignette, up 2/27

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade , Feb 27, 2018.

  1. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    "The Chaotian Era"

    : Voltron: Legendary Defender
    Genre: Drama, General
    Time Frame: Season 5 Speculation
    Rating: PG
    Characters: Lotor, Allura, Ensemble Cast

    Summary: The Chaotian Era: a span of the cosmic timescale stretching from the emission of the sun's first light, to the formation of the proto-Earth and its single moon.

    Or: They were puzzling to Lotor – the Paladins of Voltron and their Altean allies. Yet, in his own way, he was slowly coming to understand them.

    A glimpse of what is, and what once was for the former crown prince of the Galra.

    Notes: So, this beast of a story has completely consumed my muse this month - all in an effort to get this posted in time for Season 5 to come out on Friday and no doubt wash all of my head-canons and world-building away. But! I wanted to have my say first. [face_mischief]

    To that end, this story is in the same 'verse as my previous two Voltron stories, for those of you who are keeping track. The Erebrean Period is a vignette explaining my theories as to Lotor's origins, and his relationship with his parents at a very young age. The Warmth of Suns is, simply put, a massive character study of each member on the Voltron team, and sets the framework for the setting of this story. It isn't completely necessary to read either of those first, but doing so would definitely help smooth the way to full understanding here. In whatever capacity, I hope that you guys enjoy my latest offering to this truly terrific fandom; I thank you all for reading, as always!

    Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words. :)


    "The Chaotian Era"
    by Mira_Jade

    Many years had passed since he last felt such a chill upon the air. (Vast millennia; eternity, it oftentimes felt.)

    It took much for the temperature to rise or fall to a level that was uncomfortable for his kind – for either of his kind, really. Lotor supposed it was a gap in his genetics that allowed him to feel the cold so acutely, biting through the panels of his armor and constricting the motion of his lungs. His breath misted on the air as he exhaled, concentrating on showing not a sign of his discomfort as the Castle light pulsed an angry, flickering shade of blue in answer to its wounds. The archaic spaceship ever thrummed with a life of its own, and its walls seemingly shimmered around them then - as if the Castle itself was as frustrated by its current predicament as its occupants were, and sought to actively convey its displeasure.

    For, apparently, this was not a unique situation for his tenuous new allies. This had happened before.

    “Oh, come on, you've got to be kidding me! Again?”

    The Blue paladin - well, the Red paladin now (unfortunately, it was proving necessary for him to learn the Terrans' given names, rather than identifying them solely through their designations within Voltron) - had a habit of exaggerating the pitch of his voice in a wholly adolescent manner for emphasis, no matter that he was nearing the age of adulthood for his species. It was a sound that grated on Lotor's nerves, for all that his fellow paladins seemed to find nothing unusual in his tone.

    “Really, what are the odds of that exact same circuit shorting out twice now? You can't tell me that's a coincidence! The Castle obviously has it out for me - that's the only logical explanation.”

    “Well, the Castle is ten-thousand, six-hundred years old,” Coran, the Altean majordomo, had a way of making his defense sound like an offense, all without his genial expression faltering in the slightest – impressively so. He pointed an accusing finger at Lance to punctuate his words. “When you reach such an august age, number Three, you too may find that you have a few circuits that don't particularly want to fire off correctly.”

    Lance raised an unimpressed brow; he was not at all appeased. “Everything else aboard the ship seems to work just fine! Everything except for the circuits that control the heat. Why can't the water systems, or the food processors go haywire instead - ”

    “ - hey!” the Yellow paladin - Hunk, Lotor believed that was a sobriquet, even so – tossed a dark look at his teammate. “Don't call down evil on the kitchens - they can hear you. And I've already been there, done that. Never again, Lance! Never again.”

    “Oh right – I'm sorry." Much to Lotor's surprise, Lance sounded properly chastised for his words, and his tone immediately sobered in favor of a more sincere timbre. “I didn't mean to bring up such a bad memory, big guy. I just . . .” but he paused and huffed out an exhale. With that, all of the agitated energy seemed to bleed from his stance. “This just really sucks, is all I'm trying to say,” Lance flopped down to sit with a sigh. His helmet hung loosely from his fingertips, and clanked against the support beams of his console. “I'm ready for the universe to cut us a break. For once.”

    That was all it took, it seemed - Hunk could not maintain his own ire in the face of his friend's despondency. “Aw, it's going to be okay, buddy – cheer up. Coran will get the Castle fixed up again before you even have time to catch a chill. Until then, you know what this means, right?”

    “Paladin group pile?” Lance perked up hopefully to say.

    “Well, I was going to say it's time to break out the hot chocolate – but sure, that too.”

    “Oh, I'm already on it,” the Green paladin - Pidge, another misnomer, Lotor believed - pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and assumed an instinctive tone of command. “Everyone – grab all the pillows and blankets you can find and meet up in the lounge in five. We're going to do this right, or not at all.”

    Doing things right seemed to be each of the paladins bringing the entirety of their bedding and throwing it down on the floor in front of the ring of couches. They were each wearing their sleep-clothes, and looked prepared to pass the night in some sort of group conglomeration, rather than retiring separately to their own beds. Even the Altean princess had changed into her nightdress to honor their strange behavior. She claimed a perch for herself on one of the couches, rather than joining the nest of pillows and blankets below, however, and looked quite content to stay there.

    . . . how curious. Most unusual indeed.

    Lotor had not been included in the invitation, nor did he particularly think his presence was desired unless there was an active battle to fight or a strategy session requiring his input. He had no particular wish to join their . . . paladin group pile, at that, but there he was with no pressing demands on his time requiring his attention otherwise. Content to merely observe, he leaned against the entryway, and crossed his arms over his chest in as nonchalant a pose as he could manage.

    “Is this some sort of traditional nesting behavior for your kind?” at last, he could not keep from voicing his question outright. His curiosity would not allow him to maintain his silence for too long once roused.

    Silence cut through the low buzz of chatter like a knife; for a tick, he was simply stared at with wide, owlish eyes. No one seemed immediately inclined to answer him. Instead, they glanced at each other, and a conversation passed between them in silence - yes, the strange, fluttery mental link binding the paladins of Voltron together, Lotor recalled. It was used often in his presence.

    “Well, it's tradition for us,” Lance was the one to finally shrug and say. His tone – usually jovial and overly expressive with his teammates – tempered noticeably when addressing him. While Lotor was no longer treated with outright hostility, he knew that he was warily tolerated more so than accepted outright – he being the enemy of an enemy, and all that, rather than any more true an established ally.

    Which was fine by him; he was not looking for friendship, or acceptance - especially not here or from them. He'd never truly belonged anywhere, nor to anyone since his awakening, and that suited his purposes just fine. He'd clawed and fought for everything he had managed to gain, at that, and when he had found loyalty, absolute and unflinching -

    ( - Narti.)

    (Acxa. Ezor. Zethrid.)

    But he had a goal in sight - and forces beyond belief standing in the way of all that he knew he would accomplish, regardless. To see his ends met, he could not think about that . . . about them. So, he quite simply did not.

    Instead, he tilted his chin up, and met the uncertain stares of the paladins head on.

    “This is traditional with kids on Earth, too, I guess you could say – camping out in the living room with junk food for movie night,” Pidge added. Surprisingly, she was the most at ease with addressing him; logically, she understood the value of his addition to the team, and with claws of her own she was certain of their ability to handle him should he prove to be a threat to the Coalition. Lotor had quickly learned not to define her by her size or youth - an ironic lesson, for him. “I betcha you've never done anything like that, though.”

    By then, Lotor well knew what a movie was, so he nodded and pretended that he understood the rest of her words as well. She was correct in that, at least: his childhood had not been so frivolous as to include movie nights and junk food. He'd been the sole offspring of his parents, at that – a rarity for Galran families, but not so much so for Altean ones, and much of his formative years had passed in their own form of solitude.

    “And, if this is traditional paladin behavior – well, you'd know that better than the rest of us,” Pidge shrugged to continue – absentmindedly setting up a ring of small, floating heaters around the perimeter of the room to return what warmth she could to the air. But she registered her words a moment later and visibly cringed – glancing over to where the Altean princess sat on the ring of couches with a pinched expression marring her usually genteel features. Allura was not one to ever let her guard slip in his presence, and her posture was as rigid then as it always was. Yet her eyes were hard, and the markings beneath her gaze flushed with a dangerous, tell-tale pink light. She did not appreciate Pidge's remark in the slightest. Yet, to that too he simply held his head up high and returned her stare with one of his own.

    Lotor did not have the memories she had of the original paladins of Voltron – he'd been much too young at the time, and cloistered away from the public eye, at that. But, he did recall . . .

    “There was one time, in the Ysseth system, when King Alfor - ” he hazarded to begin, but he was not allowed to continue his sentence, let alone share his thought in whole.

    “ - well, that's enough of that,” Allura stood, her shoulders angled and her stance poised as if ready for a battle of blows, rather than a crossing of words. “That was a very long time ago, Prince Lotor, and as you said, you were merely a child then. Do not think to speak of that which you cannot properly understand.”

    Such vitriol, in response to so little provocation on his part. He raised a lazy brow, and tilted his head – knowing full well that refusing to engage her would rile her even more so than granting her the fight she truly desired. “Of course, please forgive me for overstepping my bounds, Princess Alforiel. I can assure you it was not intentionally done.”

    Her title was as worthless as his own was - they were quite a pair, the both of them with nothing left to reign over and their teeth bared to protect the scant little they still had of their respective kingdoms. Perhaps, in time, she would see that; perhaps she never would. It mattered not to him.

    Allura had no fangs to bare, but her flat teeth flashed at him, even so. “If you are quite finished, we have no further need of you this night. We will be ready to move on to the next of Haggar's lairs come morning; make sure you are ready, too.”

    In the resulting silence, only the distant, tired droning of the Castle's back-up systems could be heard. The paladins were clearly uncomfortable with their exchange, and they fidgeted awkwardly to avoid staring. How very odd the Earthlings were, Lotor thought, not for the first time, to be ready to forgive and try to accept so easily. Shiro, especially – or, rather, the not Shiro – looked particularly forlorn as he glanced between them. Yet, he had not spoken a word in leadership to his team since the truth about his existence was revealed, and he would not move to check - or support - the princess now. He did not trust himself to have an opinion; not any more.

    (“Kuron, kneel,” was all he'd needed to say to prove his claim during their parley, now some movements ago. The Shiro-who-was-not-Shiro had fought the command – oh, how he'd fought, but his resistance was ultimately futile. Kuron's quintessence was only a shadow of his original self, and he was bound to obey the royal bloodline of the Galra. In the end, the clone was powerless to resist, and he'd bowed before him like the leashed thrall he truly was. Pulling that particular curtain back had won him a tenuous alliance with Voltron, but he was well aware of the fractures of guilt and self-blame that had split through the team as a result, just as he understood their frenetic need to find the true Black paladin and return him to his place. Playing on that need had been key to Lotor securing his own place alongside them; revealing one of Haggar's finest sleigh of hands had been regrettable, of course, but ultimately necessary for his own plans to succeed.)

    He could not take offense to the ire he had purposefully instigated and then roused to suit his own needs. So, Lotor inclined his head, and acquiesced. “Of course, Princess. I shall take my leave of you until the morning.”

    He flicked his gaze around the room in parting – noting how Hunk stared down at his lap and awkwardly fiddled with his hands, while Pidge and Lance silently communicated with each other through equally furrowed expressions. Kuron alone – though he was calling himself Ryou now – met his eyes; he boldly held his expression before Lotor turned to leave, and that was that.

    It was only when he was well into the halls, and truly alone, did he allow his posture to change. Loath as he was to admit his own weariness – even to himself, he nonetheless acknowledged his fatigue as he braced his forearm against one of the frigid wall panels and leaned forward to rest his head down. It was exhausting, this continuous battle of wills. He was constantly required to think on his feet amongst this lot, just as he'd first been left to sink or swim amongst the currents of his father's court. He was rigidly on guard throughout every waking breath and so, painfully aware of everything he had to lose should his concentration fail him, even for a second. In fleeting moments of weakness, he wanted nothing more than to return to the dark, dreamless sleep of the cyro-pod; at least there he'd known a numb, floating sort of peace, no matter the prison it truly was. Even more distantly, he wanted the world he'd known before awakening. He wished that the comet had never torn its way between realities in the first place; or, at the very least, would that Haggar had never found him with Kovrok after his parents' resurrection, and he'd been able to live his life in relatively quiet anonymity, those long centuries ago.

    Yet, now . . .

    But such vague, fantastical desires had no practical place in the here and now. So, he pushed them aside. His blood was still up from the fight they had just passed – with his father dearest again attempting to cull the weak link from his line with deadly, lethal force. That thought had lost its ability to sting over time, and now the knowledge was just a dull, bruising pain within his spirit. (His sire, ordering his death, while his mother no doubt faithfully stood beside him without a trace of recognition flickering within her heart – but no, no. He refused to allow that blade to sink in deep; he was determined to ignore its sting.)

    Even so, he was not yet ready for another fitful night of sleep. Not even black dreams would come to him in the dark; his racing thoughts would keep him awake even if he tried. So, he aimlessly walked the Castle halls instead, and tried in vain not to feel the cold as it whispered against his skin.

    In its own way, the Altean ship called his memories of before to mind more than anything else had since his awakening. The new ways of the Galra were alien to him, and their methods and ethics were contrary to every value his father had once instilled in him – even the bloody, warring past of his people had its own, unique sort of honor to its history. Once. Now, however, there was no reminiscing to be found in Zarkon's court, only revulsion as he found his place amongst its current in order to someday dam that current in its entirety. But this - the soft lighting and the gentle contours and the ancient Altean aesthetics were everything he'd once associated with his mother - his mother, and not the witch who stole every breath Honerva should have peacefully passed in death in a gross mockery of her prior existence.

    He loosed a deep sigh in exhale, closing his eyes and vainly trying to order his thoughts in a way that would allow him some semblance of peace. But, his efforts were for naught – as they were all too often as of late.

    Instead, he truly was reminded of the past – of that time on the frozen world of Ysseth he'd tried to share with the others. Then, his father had been some days gone with Voltron, answering a distress call in the galaxy adjacent to their own – a far from unusual occurrence at the time, when they'd been at the pinnacle of their original legend and power. Lotor himself had only known that something was amiss when his mother had personally interrupted his studies with Kovrok – to the surprise of both his child-self and his blood-guard. Even at that time, some years before the end, Honerva was rarely found away from the Rift; few things could pry her from her work in the middle of the day, and he'd immediately been curious as to the reason why.

    I must leave to join the emperor,” had been her vague, distracted explanation – given more to Kovrok than to himself. “I will not have Lotor left behind on Daibazaal while we are both gone. You will accompany me, and make sure that he remains hidden, out of sight.”

    In the way of children, he'd not understood that any reason calling Honerva away from home to Voltron's aid would be for the ill rather than for the better. Instead, he'd simply been thrilled for the opportunity to leave the planet – even with Kovrok's patient chiding and his mother reminding him, again, to stay out of sight of all when they reached Ysseth. He'd been unable to temper his joy.

    He'd known the rules, of course, even without being reminded; he wouldn't let anyone see him. Child though he was, he understood the danger of being the sole heir to the Galran throne – a precarious honor were he the full-blooded heir to that throne, let alone the sole, hybrid son of a marriage many Galran purists still contested for its legitimacy. No one could know of his existence until he was old enough to match any who would oppose him in arms; until he was old enough to prove his strength to those who would rise up and challenge him. Such was the way of the Galra; that was how his father had claimed and kept the throne, and his grandfather before him. Someday, Lotor himself would do the same.

    . . . that just meant that he would have to be very, very careful in the meantime.

    Then, he'd simply felt that his mother had been gone for too long - no matter that scarce minutes had truly passed, in retrospect. He'd wanted to see his father, too, and he was tired of waiting. So, wait he refused to do. It was difficult, sneaking past Kovrok, but he had patience – and practice, in that regard. He only had to wait until his blood-guard misplaced his attention, monitoring the changing of the sentries; then, he'd seized his chance and slipped away from his mother's ship.

    Now, thousands of years - vast lifetimes – later, Lotor breathed in deep with the cold, and remembered.

    He'd never seen snow before, no matter that he knew what the advent of weather was, in theory. As was difficult to comprehend from his studies, the accumulation of frozen sky-water was white and powdery and freezing to his senses. The frozen world of Ysseth was so vastly different from the red soil and rugged cliffs of Daibazaal, and his senses clamored for the new sensory information he had to input and cipher through. At any other time, he would have been quite taken by the differences between the two planets, but then he'd simply disliked how the icy throughways slowed his stride – even as he stretched his body and altered his coloring to match the slight, ghostly skinned Yssethians he met in passing. Such illusions were difficult for him to maintain with his diluted Altean blood, but were necessary, especially then. He was small, and he was as quick as he was clever; after changing his skin, it was relatively easy to slip into the underground catacombs that made up the fortified capitol city of Yss. Scant sunlight made it through Ysseth's ever churning atmosphere, and they used but little artificial light to make up for the darkness of the storm-cover; their eyes had no need of such measures. Yet the long blue shadows filling the winding halls suited his purposes as he focused on a far off glimmer against his senses and followed.

    He finally found his mother deep within the catacombs, standing before a very beautiful woman with dusky skin and a thick mane of silver-white curls spilling down her back. She was an Altean woman, he espied her pointed ears and tell-tale facial markings – and the Queen of the Alteans, at that, it only took him a moment to identify the golden circlet and pulsing blue stone resting upon her brow. This must have been Queen Fala, wife of King Alfor, the Red paladin of Voltron. She featured in many of his parents' stories, Lotor was excited to at last put a face to the name. She was counted as a dear friend by them, and thus, accepted to his own heart as well.

    Yet, then, he'd simply stared from his hiding place, curious to see another Altean after knowing only the Galra and their ways for so long. Sometimes, it was hard for him to remember that he was made up of two halves, rather than solely one whole. His Altean heritage was something his mother instilled in him, true, but he was the heir to the Galra throne and his father's son in almost all things. He thought of himself as Galran; and Galran he most endeavored to be.

    But . . . he had stared then, and was unable to quickly turn his eyes away.

    Honerva, it's been too long,” the queen's expression was soft with pleasure to greet his mother. She seemed to give off a faint, pulsing light to his senses, as if she was a grown star shining over a stellar nursery. In much the same way, her blood-beat was a gentle, lilting cadence in his ears - but its sound was deep and resonating. There was a great power resting within her, and his senses warned him of a force not to be trifled with, even as those same senses were soothed and put at ease. That, he thought, was what his mother meant when calling Queen Fala a Sacred Altean.

    What was more surprising, however, was how easily his mother seemed to smile for greeting the Altean queen in return. As of late, whenever his mother did manage to find time away from the Rift, she was usually tired and distant, even with her family. Her work was important, Lotor ever reminded himself; it stood to reason that she was weary from seeing it done.

    (Of course, he'd believed so easily then - that had to be all.)

    “Decapheebs have passed since I was last a citizen of Altea,” Honerva greeted the queen by taking both her hands within her own and squeezing when Fala offered, “but do you know that I still fight the urge I have to bow to you? You must think that silly of me.”

    “You've never had to bow before Alfor, and certainly not to myself – surely you must know that,” Fala's words were kindly teasing, but her pulse sounded sad to his ears. Sad, and something more . . . something that, with his youth and inexperience, he could not properly name at the time. (Concern, he knew now – concern; longing; and an underlying note of
    caution.) “You have been well, since we saw you last?” Fala's eyes discreetly flickered over his mother before meeting her eyes again. “It's been so long – much too long.”

    Perhaps, the Altean queen could see that his mother was tired too, Lotor thought. A shadow was now ever constant beneath her eyes, and her shoulders seemingly dipped underneath the weight of some vast pressure rather than standing up proud and tall. Her fatigue was all the more pronounced, as far away from Daibazaal as they were.

    (But no matter what, her eyes still burned. There was no weariness to be found within her gaze, not so long as the light from the Rift still shone – the same as it would ever shine within her, even when Daibazaal was long gone from the memory of all.)

    I am better than my husband,” yet, Honerva neatly sidestepped Fala's concern without answering her outright. Instead she moved on to continue, “and yours as well, or so I've heard. What did Alfor drag Zarkon into this time?”

    For that, the Altean queen did flush; the markings beneath her eyes brightened before dimming, ever so slightly. If Lotor had to identify the emotion, he would say that she was embarrassed – abashedly so.

    “Yes, you're quite right – of course you are. Alfor is on the mend; he will see a full recovery,” Fala answered without elaborating further. He watched, and saw the way his mother's jaw tightened in response. “But we have use of our cyro-pods for healing – he will awaken without any lasting damage done. However, unfortunately - ”

    “ - Galran blood is more . . . tetchy than that,” Honerva finished for her, arching a brow. “The cyro-pods are not an option for Zarkon.”

    “As you would most well know,” Fala sighed to admit. “We thought it best to call for you. None of our healers have the knowledge that you possess.”

    “No, they would not.” There was no excess of pride in his mother's voice, just a simple statement of fact. She had no reason to brag; her achievements spoke for themselves.

    (Her vast knowledge . . . her experiments with the Rift – they were the sole reason for his own existence, after all.)

    But, still, Fala heard something within her tone that Lotor did not - or could not then - understand. She inclined her head, and when she spoke the markings beneath her eyes seemingly pulsed with a low, fervent light. “Honerva – he saved Alfor's life,” her voice was pitched low with sincerity – gravely so. “For that, you have to know how grateful I am. If Zarkon had not followed him, exactly when he did, I do not know if -”

    “ - I know, Fala. You do not have to say so,”
    even though Honerva's words were soft, her voice was dry. “What's done is done – and I'm truly glad for it, you need not appease me. But, as good as it is to see you, I would like to tend to my husband now - if you could lead the way?”

    “ . . . yes. Of course.” Even so, there was something sad about the Altean queen's voice – and for a long moment she simple stared at his mother, as if there was something she was waiting for – searching for, even.
    But there was nothing more she could say; not then, perhaps. “If you please,” she turned, and the moment passed, “follow this way.”

    And he had followed too.

    It was a terribly morbid thought, but Lotor wondered then if it would have been better for the universe as a whole if his father had simply died there, entombed in the ice of Ysseth with the King of Altea. Perhaps it would have been for the ill - with no one present to check Honerva's work while she ruled the Galra Empire alone. Perhaps, she would not have survived the ensuing struggle for power that would have undoubtedly broken out amongst the clans, and it all would have ended, as simply as that.

    But Lotor had his doubts as to that particular what-if; Haggar was canny, and as powerful in mind as she was with her spellwork. Even as Honerva, she would not have been taken from her place so easily. Not when she had something to fight for.

    Such was not a comforting thought in the slightest, so Lotor shook it away as he continued his long, lonely trek through the Castle halls.

    After some time, his stride took him to one of the service exits, and he glanced out through the glassteel viewports to see a cold, barren world stretching beyond the ship. Yet, even the cold temperatures outside were more temperate than the outrightly hostile environment of outer space, and they had landed to ease the strain on the Castle's systems in what ways they could. Lotor breathed in deep, and checked the readings by the exit; the oxygen count was lower than what he preferred, and gravity was lighter on this planet than the universal standard all their spaceships were set with, but it would do.

    He palmed the exit, and felt a rush of truly cold air rush in to meet him. But the frigid gust was natural, at least, and it was not the Altean interior of the castle-ship. It would do.

    Lotor walked on, and tried to stay one step ahead of his memories.

    The chamber Honerva was led to was dark but for the single, pulsing glow next to his father's bedside.

    As he ducked through the empty serving passages behind the room – finding a small peep-hole to look through, Lotor immediately knew that all was not well with his father. He couldn't scent him; he couldn't hear the deep, thundering sound of his blood-beat. The only reason for a Galra to shield themselves in such a way was if they were hiding just how wounded they were from others. Instead of loudly stating his presence in a deliberate (comforting; threatening) show of power to those he led, only a low, distant shimmer of danger and do not approach whispered across his senses then. Only a fool would disobey that warning; even at his weakest, Zarkon was a foe not to be crossed. Lotor felt a shiver wrack up and down his spine, and he swallowed away a reflexive whine of subservience in answer. Then wasn't the time.

    His mother, however, could sense none of what Lotor could - she was not Galra, not in that regard. And yet, even if she could, such a warning would never apply to her.

    Yet it did not matter that she couldn't feel what Lotor could feel; she knew that Zarkon's senses, no matter how weak, would alert him to her presence. So, she simply stood at his bedside and waited for him to stir into wakefulness. All the while, her gaze was hard as she stared down at him; her mouth thinned to press in a severe, humorless line. It was an expression that did not soften, not even as Zarkon opened his bleary eyes and tried to make sense of his surroundings.

    “Honerva?” his voice was a dry rasp of sound. “What are you doing here?”

    His mother, of course, did not waste time on any such trivial pleasantries. “You are more foolish than a blind weblum confusing a black hole for a dead planet – you're aware of that, right?” Honerva hissed – an irked tone of voice that had Lotor's ears instinctively flattening back against his skull. It was a timbre that usually meant that he had erred – and grievously so. “What could you have possibly been thinking? Did you take leave of your senses?!”

    Yet, Zarkon was not nearly as affected as Lotor was by the ire in his wife's words. Instead, he merely closed his eyes, and leaned back against his nest of pillows with a deep, rumbling sigh. “Good evening to you too, beloved. I missed you while I was gone.”

    Honerva scoffed, not nearly appeased. “There would be no
    welcome to give had you not been dug out of that avalanche before you both succumbed to hypothermia. Really, Zarkon – it's bad enough that Alfor risked his life like that, but for you to so blindly follow and end up just as worse for the wear - ”

    “ - Alfor would not have survived had I done anything otherwise,” Zarkon gave in low protest, seeing fit to again open his eyes to meet his wife's gaze. His voice was more unyielding than hard, however, and Lotor could feel the deep, comforting rumble he gave to sooth his bristling spouse, even from his hiding place. “The entire mountainside caved in, and we ended up underground in the waterways. Red was out of commission and flooding. The temperature of the water was freezing, and I knew that Alfor could not maintain his own body heat with his injuries. I just . . . shared what I could until Blaytz could break through the ice – which he did. I trusted my comrades; I did not move as blindly as you would accuse me of.”

    His mother could not hold her exasperation for long – not when Lotor could hear the way her pulse was pounding in her chest, as rapidly as a prey animal recovering from losing the interest of a hunter. She was more scared than truly indignant, Lotor understood then, and baring her teeth to hide that fear. His father must have understood that – for he reached out to grasp both of her fidgeting hands and clasp them tightly within his own. He tugged her down to sit beside him on the bed, and for a long moment there was silence as Honerva bowed her head forward and clearly tried to recover herself. Zarkon did not let her hands go; they were swallowed within his own.

    “I do not begrudge you saving Alfor's life – you must know that. Truly, I'm glad for his survival,” Honerva's voice was small, very small to say. “But, for such a risk to be so
    thoughtlessly taken . . .”

    “Yet again, I can assure you that the risk was calculated,” Zarkon comforted. “I am well; no lasting harm was done.”

    Honerva sighed; with that long exhale of breath, her posture wilted. “Logically, I know that to be true - I do. I just . . . I could not breathe when I heard of what happened . . . I find that I still cannot.”

    (Even as a child, Lotor could well understand: the head and the heart did not always work hand in hand. They did but rarely.)

    In a physical sense, his mother was slight when compared to his father, yet rare were the times when Lotor consciously noticed – and dwelt on the differences between them. Yet Honerva's shoulders seemed to sag even further then, and even with his great strength tapped, Zarkon managed to stand as a shield and buoy her from her fears. He ran a hand through her hair, by then easily mindful of the tips of his claws against the frailty of her scalp, and simply held her for as long as she needed to recover herself.

    Which was not for long in the end – Honerva was ever ruled by logic; rare was it when she allowed her base emotions to overrun her so. When she at last breathed easier, his father attempted to sit up straight – clearly awake then, and no longer willing to be bed bound when there were matters to attend to.

    What do you think you are doing?” Honerva's brow furrowed. Her mouth thinned in a suspicious line as she placed her palm flat against his chest. She did not restrain him, but she was poised to do so, regardless.

    “Standing,” was Zarkon's droll reply. “Clearly.”

    His mother was not impressed. “Very trite, dear – but
    you are not going anywhere.”

    Zarkon placed a hand over her own, clearly ready to move her aside if need be. “As you just said – our situation was dire. Dangerously so. I will rest for as long as you deem fit, that I promise - but first, I must see that Alfor is -”

    “ - oh, the ancients save me from the thick heads of the Galra!” Honerva rolled her eyes heavenwards and clearly pressed her splayed hand down. “Alfor will be okay – and his healing will not progress any faster for your hovering over him like a mother külr-hen. I spoke to Fala right before coming here – he will be well, I promise. She and Coran are more than capable of looking after him in the meantime, so please, let
    me look after you.”

    Zarkon still did not look convinced. He held his wife's gaze, clearly weighing his chances of changing her mind – but Honerva would have none of it.

    If I have to,” she managed an impressive growl for an Altean, “I will hold you down myself. I will not let you rise from this bed.”

    Yet, for all of the inherent threat in her words, Zarkon only looked intrigued. “I would like to see you try,” he rumbled, his eyes glinting.

    In answer, Honerva fixed him with a very, very cross look – one that Lotor knew from experience not to even try to argue against. He knew that his mother was strong – for all that Alteans didn't look like much, their strength nearly matched that of the Galra. Even so, he hoped that he resembled his father more as he grew - he would rather an enemy look at him and simply know that he was a foe not to be crossed, rather than him constantly having to prove himself.

    But, finally, Honerva shook her head and swatted at his arm with her opposite hand. “Perhaps when you are recovered,” she managed a put out sigh to say. “Until then, for me – I need you to rest, and heal. Alfor will keep in the meantime.” Then, on a very soft voice she added, “You scared me today, you know.”

    In the end, that was all it took for his father to acquiesce. Zarkon clearly relaxed, his intention to move overturned by the soft concern in his wife's voice. The hand he still held over her own shifted, and comfortingly squeezed. “I've promised you before that nothing would ever take me from you.”

    “You have a curious way of proving that oath.”

    “It was never a thought that I would not succeed,” Zarkon shrugged. It was always as simple as that to him. But his voice deepened to vow, low and fervently, “If ever it were to come between Alfor and you . . . you must know who I would choose. Do you truly doubt me?”

    “No; never that.” No matter what else she was feeling, her affirmation came quick and easy - before her mouth dipped in a rueful expression to add, “This is not normally something for a wife to be anxious for, is it? We are quiet the pair, are we not?”

    “It wouldn't be the first time we have defied convention,” Zarkon was more easy to accept. “Perhaps, now,” he still couldn't help but duck in a jab of his own, “you will hesitate before you call
    me jealous of the Rift.” No matter that his words were teasing, there was a note of sobriety to his tone. Lotor wholly agreed with his father; there were times when he begrudged the Rift for even existing at all for how often it stole his mother's attention away.

    “Except that my work at the Rift benefits us personally – our family, our people, our entire system – the good it reaps is endless,” Honerva argued – what was, by then, an old and routine line. “Your
    friendship with Alfor, to the contrary, goes beyond all sanity and reason.”

    “If I recall correctly,” Zarkon parried,
    “you were Alfor's friend first – long before I was.”

    “I was young,” Honerva deadpanned. “Young, and stupid.”

    “A blind weblum chasing after a black hole?” Zarkon dryly parroted her words from earlier.

    A ghost of a smile curled about her mouth. “Yes, I suppose - something like that.”

    With that, a long moment passed, and a look flickered between the two. Lotor fidgeted in his hiding place, wondering when would be a good chance to reveal himself. He truly didn't want to go back to the ship, and, maybe, now that he was here . . .

    But, while he was pondering, he lost his chance. “The Yssethians,” Zarkon finally continued, “they are well, I trust?”

    “Yes,” Honerva gave an exhale to answer. “The Essri was kept from harm, and
    the C'kasks have retreated back to their space. The danger has passed for the planet, for the time being.”

    “Good,” Zarkon nodded smartly to say, and seemed to relax then – truly so. Lotor's inability to sense his father receded even further – this last store of strength would need to be refreshed with rest soon, even he knew. “Then all is worth it; that is what Voltron is for.”

    “Yes . . . as Alfor is always fond of saying,” Honerva raised a steel-grey brow, yet did not agree with him outright. “Sometimes, you are more Altean in mind than I am, husband,” she wryly admitted. “That variable presents . . . complications, for me.”

    you possess many qualities that the Galra see fit to value,” Zarkon returned, just as easily. “The malcontents amongst my people do not realize the true power standing behind the throne – unfortunately so.”

    “The loss remains their own,” Honerva did not seem to mind terribly so – and a look passed between them, something that Lotor could not wholly understand, nor rightly define.

    With that, he felt as if he was looking on something he ought not. He frowned and stared down at his feet instead of spying, knowing what he wanted to do while also knowing what he truly ought to do. He really shouldn't have left the ship in the first place; perhaps, childishly so, he'd thought to make a place for himself here when there was not one available for him before. Yet in that moment his mother turned and leaned down to retrieve her pack – the true reason she was there. An interruption on his part would not be well appreciated, Lotor knew.

    And Kovrok would be looking for him soon – his blood-guard no doubt already was, Lotor felt only a small flicker of guilt for the thought. Either way, his time was up.

    With a last, small sigh – and a final, forlorn glance at his parents, he slunk back into the shadows and returned the way he'd came.

    His boots sank into the deep accumulation of snow, the same way they had on Ysseth, all those years ago.

    It remained a singular sensation – the give and take of the frozen tundra around him. Ysseth hadn't been the last time he'd visited a winter-locked planet, but it remained the most vivid amongst his memories. The nameless world providing them refuge now was calm in comparison to its kindred systems that Lotor had known. There were simply blue-white fields of snow stretching around him, as far as the eye could see in every direction. There was nothing to break up the monotony of the landscape. Above him in the thin atmosphere, polar lights writhed in curtains of red-violet and blue-green, casting dancing shapes on the untouched ground below. The stars winked into view before being hiding again; an appreciative audience for the blooming auroras above – and the only audience, at that. There was not even a whisper of a footprint upon the snow to denote life; nothing prospered here; no hardy soul called this world home. They were well and truly alone to take their rest, and heal as they could.

    With no one to see him do so, he reached down and scooped the snow at his feet into his cupped hands. Absently, he packed the snow into a ball -

    - only to feel a similar such projectile break across his shoulders in a flurry of frozen crystals. The explosion of cold was a shock to his senses as the snow sprayed across his armor and clumped in his hair before falling back down to the ground again - a moment slower than usual due to the weaker gravity. For a moment he had no reaction at all as incredulity spiked from deep within him - for both his own unforgivable lapse in attention and the audacity of his assailant. Who would dare, he fought a growl as he pivoted to see -

    - and remember.

    He may have been turned around . . . just slightly.

    While he thought to know which exit from the catacombs would bring him to the landing pads, he'd somehow taken a wrong turn. Now, there was nothing but the roads leading up into the icy ways of the Yssira mountains to follow. Snow swirled on the air, both obscuring the path before him even as it swallowed the path behind him. He couldn't see anything, and he was cold - miserably so. Though his senses told him that there were entrances back to the catacombs nearby - he was never in any true danger from the elements - he stubbornly kept to his course, ever certain that the turn just ahead of him would take him where he needed to go.

    Lotor quickly decided that he did not care for the snow – not at all. It was slick and it was messy and it was cold; he missed home already, with its soothing sand-storms and its red mountains and its sure footing. He was a prince of the Galra, and descendants of Daibazaal the First did not slip on nothing and nearly fall more times than he would ever admit to another living being aloud. It was shameful.

    He was doing his best to swallow the childish urge he had to whine and wish his father was there - really, he was much too old for that - when he felt a sudden shock of cold strike him high on his back, and snow sprayed up over his shoulders from the force of the blow breaking across his body. The projectile was as unexpected to his senses as it was freezing – clumping in his hair and slipping down his collar to touch his skin and -

    - ack!” he spun gracelessly as his eyes flew open wide. “It's on me! It's on me!” Forgetting any previous attempts at maintaining a regal air of dignity, he shuddered and tried to brush the offending snowflakes away. But they only melted and sank into his clothes the more he tried to fight their presence; he was waging a fruitless war. “Get it off!”

    “It's only snow,” a wry, decidedly unimpressed voice spoke from behind him. “The crystals are merely cold; they are not dangerous.”

    Understanding flattened his ears back against his skull – he was caught, he understood with a wince. “Ma'a?” he found a whine rising in his throat, and his cheeks darkened before she even had the opportunity to voice a chastisement aloud. He knew exactly how he'd erred.

    With that, Honerva stepped forward from the obscuring veil of snow and fog to fully reveal her presence. She raised a single brow as she stared at him – looking him up and down and frowning for the illusion that wavered as soon as her eyes locked onto his own. He struggled to read her thoughts from her face, but displeasure was clear in the deep, punctuated pulse of her blood – leaving him without a doubt as to her thoughts. She was not pleased with his actions in the slightest.

    “It was only snow that struck you,” she continued, and the coral colored markings beneath her eyes darkened to a shade of carmine - betraying her displeasure where her tone did not, “but imagine if
    I was not the one to find you. You were an easy target, even for my eyes – and I am no trained warrior. You disobeyed me, Lotor, and the consequences could have been dire.”

    Shame welled up from deep within the fount of his veins – instinctively so for the disappointment he'd so clearly caused his dam, and even more so for allowing himself to present such an easy target when he'd thought to be so careful. If his father heard of this . . .

    . . . a sick feeling rolled in his stomach, and he fought to hold his head up high.

    How did you find me?” he gave with a sigh, still searching for the words to properly apologize for his error – his error, and his failure.

    Did you truly think that your father would not be able to sense your presence, no matter his condition?” For answering him, some thin amusement flickered about his mother's mouth before it was quickly tucked away again. “There was not a moment he did not know you were there.”

    Of course, he winced . . . of course. “That was a . . . miscalculation on my part,” Lotor muttered. He should have known better; it was foolishness for him to underestimate his father so.

    “Yes,” Honerva agreed without pity, “it was.”

    For a long moment she let a tense silence fall between them – no doubt knowing that his own self-ruminations were then more striking than any chastisement she could utter. He could feel the last of the snowflakes melt into his collar; it was a damp sensation against his skin now, and decidedly uncomfortable. The squall of falling snow gave a hushed, mournful sound as it continued to billow all around them, veiling them from view of the wider world beyond.

    From the view of all except for -

    “ - Your Majesty, you found the prince.”

    A noticeable change fell over his mother as a large, Galran figure stepped out from the white mist of the storm and into their line of sight. Her posture straightened, and all signs of emotion fell from her face, leaving her expression as if it was cut from stone. Although Kovrok was a warrior rippling with might – standing nearly two heads taller than her and well over twice her breadth in size, he sank to formally kneel in the snow. He let his head fall deeply forward to bow in respect.

    “Ah,” Honerva's voice was thin, without inflection; the coldness of the sound sent a shiver up and down Lotor's spine. “There you are, Kovrok.”

    She did not ask for an explanation, but her displeasure weighed on the air between them – demanding one, even so. Lotor fought to keep his own shoulders straight – he dearly wanted to meet his blood-guard's eyes and apologize, but Kovrok did not dare lift his gaze from the ground when his empress stood with such a carefully leashed rancor before him.

    “I have no defense to offer for my oversight, Your Majesty,” the already rich baritone of Kovrok's voice deepened with the gravity of his words. “One moment, I was overseeing the changing of the security detail, and when I turned the prince was gone.” Just barely, Kovrok's large hands clenched; when he finally exhaled, the sound was tight from his mouth. “There is no excuse for my failure,” he continued. “My inattention could have cost the empire its future, and for that I await your judgment.”

    For hearing Kovrok's words, Lotor felt his blood run cold. He understood then, and only then, just how grievous the repercussions of his disobedience could have been – and still could be, not just for himself, but also for his guardian. Galran laws, especially the code of honor governing blood-guards, were severe for a reason - oftentimes lethally so. He felt his breath catch in his throat. He hadn't at all intended for this to happen; he'd just wanted to see his father, he did not mean to -

    - but his thoughts were choked at the root by his mother narrowing her eyes to dangerous, tawny slits of color. She was ready to speak.

    The clan of Marmora has been lauded for both its attention to detail and its dedication to discretion for generations,” Honerva at last chose her words. Every syllable was slow and pointed as it fell to punctuate the writhing of the snow around them. “Warriors of your line have protected the heirs of the royal family since the time of Daibazaal the First. Was I wrong to place that same trust in you, Kovrok Anvon Khoth Sentut?”

    For the first, Lotor could feel a sharp spike in Kovrok's normally carefully controlled blood-beat. As far as he would dare, he lifted his churning golden eyes to meet those of his sovereign; the large round ears dominating the crest of his skull flickered with his offended ire. “Honored Empress,” his voice was a low, fervent rumble of sound, “it is not for the likes of myself to decide whether or not I am fit for this privilege. If you think me to falter in my duties, then I humbly submit myself to your judgment. I serve only at the will of the emperor.”

    His every movement slow and purposeful, Kovrok unsheathed his knife and placed it flat upon the snow between them. What little light that managed to peer through the snowfall gleamed off of the weapon's edge; its blade was sharp, and wickedly honed. The seal of the Clan of Marmora winked at them, as if boasting of its long history and taunting with its inherent meaning. Lotor felt his stomach churn as the full gravity of the predicament he'd placed his blood-guard in rushed upon him. He glanced between the ceremonial weapon and his mother, alarmed when he did not immediately see a softening of her expression. She was not ready to let this go, and Lotor feared that she considered . . .

    Languid with a dangerous poise, Honerva reached down to pick the blade up from the snow. Her mouth thinned as she examined its edge; her markings had darkened beyond carmine for a deep shade of near-purple scarlet. Involuntarily, Kovrok tensed, but Lotor knew that he would not fight the ruling of his empress - even if she declared his life forfeit for his failure. His honor would not allow him.

    Feeling desperation rise as an acrid taste in his throat, he tried to meet his mother's eyes – but she was entirely focused on the prostrate Galra before her.

    - that was, until the building thread of tension between them snapped, and Honerva held the blade out hilt first to return to Kovrok. She gestured, and allowed him permission to rise before her.

    “My husband would consider none other for this honor after Lotor was born,” she gravely intoned. “My Lord Zarkon trusts you . . . and I trust him.” Still, all she did not say rang loudly in Lotor's ears; he watched as the words bore into Kovrok, as well. “This will never happen again,” she stated firmly. Her tone brokered no objection.

    “No, Honored Empress,” Kovrok gave his vow. “No, it most certainly will not.”

    Yet, Lotor understood, for the time being that was that. No more would be said on the matter – not unless his error was compounded again in the time to come. Slowly, Kovrok returned his blade to its sheath and found his feet. All the while, he kept his head demurely bowed in respect – until Honerva sighed and flicked her hand in a dismissive gesture. “At ease, Kovrok,” she commanded, but gave no further assurance than that. “I will escort the prince back to my ship.”

    Kovrok bowed again, and fell back a respectable distance to allow them their privacy – but he never winked wholly out of sight. Instead, he watched them like a circling gaz-falcon; his eyes were sharp and studiously unblinking. Lotor fought the urge he had to make a face - knowing that he would have twice the attention from his blood-guard for the foreseeable future now. The knowledge already chaffed at him – no matter that he would not fight his guardian's attention, not even in the slightest. He would not soon be able to forget his mother carefully weighing the worth of a life due to a mistake
    he had made – he could not.

    Instead, Lotor knew that he had to try and make amends. He had to fix what little of this he could. “Ma'a,” the informal address was as deep a sound from his throat as he could manage. “I am - ”

    - but Honerva did not allow him a chance to speak. Not then. “Lotor,” her voice still thrummed with disappointment - and that tone alone managed to tear a deeper wound in his spirit than anything else. “You are now old enough to understand that all actions have consequences. Such is true for any resident of our universe, yet it's all the more so for someone of your birth. Your actions will not – they do not, even now – affect only yourself. They will also impact those you lead. As long as you are a prince – and someday the emperor – of this people, you will never be able to make a selfish decision. Each choice you make will affect countless lives beyond your own. Even now, you must learn to think about them – that is, if you ever hope to become a leader worthy of being followed.”

    Her exaggerated decision over Kovrok's fate was not only for his blood-guard's benefit, Lotor understood then. In her own way, she had taken that moment to teach him a crucial lesson about the consequences of selfish actions – and the further-reaching impact of her instruction was resounding. He would not soon forget her words, even thousands of years later.

    But, then: “Yes, Honored Mother,” he gave formally, and bowed his own head low in respect. “I understand.”

    For a long moment, Honerva merely stared at him. There was something searching in the heavy amber of her gaze. Yet her expression slowly softened, and her markings at last lightened back to their more familiar shade of coral red. “Yes, I believe you do,” she affirmed. And, with that, she allowed the tension on the air to dissipate completely. Lotor, at long last, felt as if he could breathe again. “You may apologize to Kovrok when we return,” she added, something rueful then hooking about the shape of her mouth. “I believe that you gave him even more of a fright than I did. It brought me little joy to have to call into question the honor of one such as him – that, you have to know.”

    And he did – truly he did. “I know, Ma'a.”

    “Good,” Honerva approved. Then, she knelt in the snow so that she was eye to eye with him and opened her arms. Lotor did not have to think twice before ducking into her embrace. Though he told himself that he was much too old for such affections, he
    was boneless with contentment as her arms tightened comfortingly around him. His senses calmed as he buried his nose against the skin of her neck, taking in the sweetness of her scent and the familiar, easy rhythm of her blood-beat. He felt his own pulse slow to match – a synchrony he'd long instinctively known, even before he was consciously aware of anything else in the universe.

    “And don't scare your mother like that,” Honerva exhaled into his hair to say. “I already have your father running my nerves thin – I cannot constantly be worrying for you, as well.”

    “I won't again, Ma'a,” he promised as she drew away to look him in the eye.

    “Not purposefully so, at least,” for that, there was something almost sad about her smile to say. Fondly, she tweaked his chin. “My little proto-sun.”

    But then she rose from her place in the snow, and he immediately missed her warmth. Lotor made a face – well and truly ready as he was to return to Daibazaal. He'd seen enough of the universe beyond their world for that day.

    I,” Lotor said, his voice solemn as they turned down the path again, “do not like the snow.”

    “No?” Honerva glanced down at him. “Someday, I will have to take you to Altea, then – the Blue Mountains are a favored retreat for the winter solstice, and the frozen lakes and snow-fields are beautiful underneath the northern sky-lights.” There was something wistful about her words, and Lotor blinked to hear it. She did not often speak of her homeworld with any sort of longing – her place was with her family, she was usually dismissive to say. Her family, her adopted people . . . and her work with the Rift.

    I suppose,” Lotor could not quite find anything to look forward to in a winter retreat, but he would respect his mother's opinion, even so.

    “So serious a child is my son,” Honerva gave a crinkling smile to playfully mock his tone. “Do not judge the winter by merely Ysseth alone. You simply have not given the snow a proper chance.”

    In hindsight, he should have seen it coming – one moment he was frowning down at the icy path before him and then the next he was being shoved into the snowbank lining their way. He sputtered, but did not have time to orient himself before an armful of snow was being dumped on his head, and he was buried. He was
    buried, but his mother was laughing to smear the snow further into his hair – laughing. Truly so.

    The bright, gleeful sound tweaked at his ears - so rare was it to be heard. He did not even mind the clumps of cold flakes sticking to his hair as he shook his head to free his vision - not if it meant that she would laugh again. He thought he understood the nature of the game when he saw his mother leaning down to form the snow at her feet into a ball.
    No, he felt a thrill rise in him – not if he managed his own first. Then he was scooping up his own handful of snow and the battle was on.

    . . .
    once, it was not a terribly unusual thing - knowing such a simple reason for laughter, and sharing that mirth in return . . . but that was then. Before.

    Sometimes, it was easy to forget that their family had ever known a reason for happiness - especially during those rare moments away from the politics of the court and the ever lingering backdrop of the Rift. His memories remained, even then, wispy and fragmented – surreal, almost, in light of his true reality now. Sometimes, he wondered if he had quite dreamed those years into existence, so vastly different were they to his current circumstances, in every way.

    Yet the passing of time had not changed his distaste for the cold. He found that he still loathed the harsh, stinging bite of the snow as it slipped down from his hair and landed on his shoulders. The frigid temperatures pulled at his lungs, and his cross exhalation of breath misted on the air before him as he turned to address the stupidity of his assailant -

    - were his eyes deceiving him? Hers was the last face he expected to see, and he was drawn up short.

    “Princess Alforiel,” Lotor gave tersely in greeting. “This is . . . quite a surprise.”

    Ignoring his leashed acerbity – or, perhaps taking some petty pleasure in the reaction she garnered, Allura brushed the excess snow from her hands with crisp, satisfied motions. “Yes,” she gave, just as thinly as he. “I imagine it must be.”

    Somehow, the princess managed to appear dignified, even with a thick, fur lined parka pulled on over her nightdress and her boots peeking out from the hem of her gown. The mass of her hair was left loose over her shoulders, falling straight and heavy down her back in the absence of any wind. Lotor frowned at her, not trusting her apparent poise in the slightest.

    Leery then, he had to consciously keep himself from reaching up to shake the snow from his hair. He wanted his hands free should she choose to strike again. “I must confess that I do not know what to make of you,” he continued after a tick. It seemed that she was content to allow the silence to linger, otherwise. “Was that an attack or an expression of levity? I did not think that we were quite at that point yet.”

    Allura tilted her head, and the pale pink marks highlighting her cheekbones shimmered. “Would you believe me if I said that I wasn't quite sure, myself?"

    . . . that would be curious. Most curious indeed.

    So, he folded his arms over his chest, and waited.

    Finally, Allura drew in a deep breath, and exhaled. “I have been informed that my . . . rancor may be potentially detrimental to our cause in the time to come, and prompted to speak with you to work out our differences.” Her every word was tight, and clipped with dissatisfaction from her mouth. But she was putting her own feelings aside for what she felt was the best step forward for her team, as even he knew she often did. For some reason, that knowledge sat as a stone with him.

    “I see,” Lotor drawled. He was most interested to see how she would continue.

    Yet that was all he said - and she huffed when she saw that he was content to listen. “You are going to make me go first, then?” her teeth flashed to bite out her words. “Of course. How typical.”

    Lotor gave a slow shrug of his armored shoulders, not quite certain what she was expecting to glean from this . . . tête-à-tête. “I am not quite certain what, precisely, you want me to say,” he voiced his thoughts aloud. That, at least, was the truth as plainly as he could state it.

    “No . . . I suppose that you would not,” Allura arched a silvery-white brow. Lotor had the vaguest feeling that he had just been insulted, but he couldn't quite put his finger on how. “Alright, then: I must begin by saying that I am not here to apologize, in any form. I see no need to force myself to accept the heir to a people that caused the deaths of my family, just because doing so would be easier for everyone who tolerates your presence now. I refuse to do so; I cannot.”

    For her words, Lotor set his features as stone. He felt his teeth grind together. “Of course,” he blandly agreed. “I'd expect not.”

    “Yet,” Allura continued, holding herself upright with a rigid regality, “I can allow you the opportunity to assist me in setting a truce between us. If you would humor me, and answer my questions . . . I want to know why? Why now - why at all, even? If you want me to believe your sincerity, please, try and make me understand why I should trust your motives.”

    Such an impossible question, one with so many - too many - answers to give aloud, all at once. The corners of his mouth hooked, and he said, at the very least, “Emperor Zarkon is, for all intents and purposes, now immortal. He has no need of an heir. I have no place amongst his empire.”

    Allura leveled him with a look. She was not impressed by his flippancy in the slightest. “So you are standing against him for power? For some birthright that you feel has been unfairly misplaced?”

    “Hardly,” Lotor snorted, but he did not move to elaborate.

    And Allura threw her hands up. “No, there is no hardly,” she breathed out through her nose in abject frustration. “The reports we've received of you have been contrary enough to perplex me in the extreme. You conquer in the name of the Galra, but you do not subjugate – well, beyond what is inherent by conquering, at least,” her voice was thick with a scoffing ire to retort her own statement. “Yet . . . you are not maliciously cruel, not the way your father is; you are not even lethally inclined when violence is not immediately necessary – you've toyed with us more in the past rather than seeking our destruction outright and I cannot, for the life of me, understand why. Yet . . . you are so used to tactical manipulation and spinning your words to secure your goals that I am not sure that even you know your true motivations. How can we trust you, when I know better than to trust even a single word of what you say?”

    “Well, when put that way,” Lotor was entirely done with their conversation, “such is quite the conundrum you face. I wish you well in solving it.”

    “Then, when you speak,” Allura's words turned scathing, “I see only everything I have lost, and I want to claw the skin from your face.”

    That, Lotor thought, was easier to work with. “Such acrimony, Princess,” he could feel his lips slyly draw away from the tips of his teeth. He showed his fangs. “I thought that such was not the way of the Alteans.”

    It was like pressing on a bruise, and watching blood flow to augment the pain of the injury. “Do not speak of my people as if you know them yourself,” Allura's voice was a hissed, dangerous slash of sound to return. Her markings flushed with a nearly white-violet light; he could hear the quick sound of her blood-beat as it pulsed through her veins with a barely checked rage. He remembered the same power he'd sensed in her mother, now so many years ago, as it thrummed just beneath the surface of her skin – roused yet resting underneath the iron bonds of her control. “You have not the right.”

    “You speak as if you hold a monopoly on loss,” the words were a low growl from his voice before he could even think to contain them. They were more than he ever wanted to say, to anyone. “I would have first assumed such self-righteous arrogance to be beneath the fabled mercy and grace of the lost Princess of Altea.”

    Allura's response to that was thick with incredulity. “And you want me to try and understand one of the perpetrators of the genocide of my people? Your conceit is unbearable – I cannot believe it. I do not know what Shiro – what Ryou – was thinking to even suggest I try.”

    And that was all it took for everything - every moment he'd experienced since his awakening, and even before - to boil up and overflow. “You forget, then, that the first people my father led astray were the Galra themselves. Anyone who protested the new era of imperial rule were quickly dealt with, and they are nowhere to be found now. No opposition was brokered for all those who remembered the peace that once existed between our worlds, and protested Zarkon's betrayal of those bonds. And I am not wholly Galran, or do I quite look like it to you?”

    “What little Altean blood you do have is inconsequential enough as to mean nothing. Clearly, that is not the heritage you honor!”

    “Do I not, when the destruction of those who meted out death to you and yours is everything I even now fight to ensure? I have fought to the point where my father has ordered my exile once, and even calls for my death now. It may be damning that I've immersed myself in the current Galran hierarchy to rise up to a position to allow myself to do so – and thus earning your ire, Princess, but believe me when I say that there is no one more aware of everything this universe has lost, and stands to lose should my parents not be stopped. Ultimately and decisively.”

    And that, at long last, drew Allura up short before firing off her next round of barbs. She paused, and her eyes widened – he could fully see the white surrounding the blue of her irises, and he understood then just how much she had failed to understand. The irony of it all was a bitter taste in his mouth – the pain of her wounds when compared alongside his own. Their scars were different in shape, but torn by the same blade. Only, he had little right to voice his own aloud, not to her – even he understood that.

    “The witch . . .” Allura could only stutter to say. “She's Altean, I've come to know . . . but she is, she once was - the empress? No. It's not possible. How did she survive the quintessence of the Rift?”

    “Much the same way as my father survived, I suspect,” Lotor scathed. “Or rather, as he didn't survive. Neither are my parents as I knew them, and I refuse to acknowledge them as such.”

    But Allura was shocked – she could not speak. Instead, she continued to stare at him. He watched her eyes trace the bridge of his nose, the shape of his jaw, the long fall of his hair – the lauded beauty of the Alteans he bore rather than the raw, rugged strength of the Galra. Perhaps she saw more of his mother within him than even he himself did.

    “You truly didn't make the connection, did you.” Even so, there was no question in his words, only an observation.

    “I . . . I suspected,” Allura wilted to say. “I wished that it was not true.”

    “As do we all,” Lotor's voice was bitter. “But they are one and the same.”

    “Yet,” Allura's brow furrowed as she fought to understand, “the power of Haggar – your mother was not a Sacred Altean. Such was the focus of many of her studies – she wanted to make the vast benefits of quintessence available to the common majority of the universe. The witch, however . . .” and with that, her eyes went glassy – looking far away with some memory that Lotor was not privy to share. "Her might is uncanny."

    For that, he merely shrugged. He had no clear answer for her – only suspicions. He did not speak to say that he meant it when he said that it was not his parents who awakened from the Rift. They were different; changed and morphed into more. Such was a suspicion he could not rightly prove, however, and it did not truly matter anyway. In the end, regardless of whomever truly existed underneath the shell of Zarkon's skin, Lotor would see him cut down from his place and defeated.

    “For ten thousand years . . . for so long,” she breathed, before exhaling. Slowly, Allura met his eyes again. The auroras continued to dance above them, and Lotor focused on the play of their light rather than the slow, thoughtful look she turned on him then. He wanted not of it - he would have preferred her barbs and her waspish hostility rather than this new, undefined understanding between them. He had not swayed her opinion for the better - his actions since his awakening would not allow that, not truly . . . but she did look on him differently, regardless.

    “You spin a pretty line about your motivations,” Allura's words were toneless to say. He could not quite begrudge her her disbelief; in the end, he reminded himself, what she personally thought of him mattered but little. Only him reaching his goals did; she did not need to like him to be of aid to him. “Yet why are you here, then?” even so, her tone hardened to ask. “You are here as a last resort, even I know that much. You are embarking on this last ditched effort, alone, when, the resources you had before . . . I do not understand. What changed?”

    Her question was searching, he understood. She expected an answer; she expected enlightenment.

    But the answer she sought was one that he could not immediately give. Instead, he could only swallow against the strange, strangled sensation suddenly constricting his throat and robbing him of his breath. Stubbornly, he concentrated on the cold.


    (Acxa. Ezor. Zethrid.)

    “I failed those faithful to me,” the clipped, hard syllables were all he could manage. “They, in turn, did what they had to do.”

    It took her only a moment to understand - he saw it in the narrowing of her eyes. “Zarkon's orders were broadcasted universally . . .” Allura muttered. “Your generals tried to turn you in, didn't they?” She did not sound terribly surprised; perhaps she did not think him capable of inspiring any more true a loyalty than that. For the thought, he fought the urge he had to clench his hands into fists.

    “I would have done the same, really,” Lotor blandly stated, without any true inflection in his tone. “They had no choice.”

    No choice but to trust him to find a way out of the hunter's trap tightening in around them – the same then as he always had before. Yet, after Narti . . .

    “I understand failing those you lead.” Her narrowed eyes must have caught something – some flicker of emotion that, perhaps, he was too weary to keep wholly hidden. The soft exhalation of her words caught as a puff on the air; the lights above turned the vapors shades of green and blue in the night. Yet her offer of empathy was just that, he understood – a vague impression of shared feeling. She would not yet begrudge him anything more than that.

    His brow furrowed to hear her tone. “Your Black paladin?” he thought to understand, anyway.

    Shiro,” Allura corrected firmly. “Shiro . . . and he who is clearly not.”

    It was not her fault, his first impulse to speak surprised him, and he swallowed the words away. Haggar had passed countless centuries in refining her machinations, and she'd gone through many, many attempts before settling on Kuron and sending him back to Voltron. But Lotor knew that Allura did not need – nor would she even appreciate – any sort of shared sympathy on his part, so he held his tongue. Instead, he understood why she felt as if she could share this with him, freely and openly. The matter was still too raw for her to discuss with her teammates, and she already held herself to such impossible standards as a leader. She would not add to their burdens by sharing the weight of her own. The one person he suspected she was used to addressing as a confidant was now the subject of her thoughts, and she could not speak to Kuron of himself and who he was not; even he could see how much the matter weighed upon her shoulders.

    Yet, for him – she did not care what he thought of her in the slightest, nor did she much care what, if anything, he would say in return. He was a convenient conduit for her thoughts, and nothing more.

    “I knew . . . I knew that something was off, but I ignored every misgiving I had simply because I was overjoyed to have him returned to us. It was all so strange, at first - too strange . . . Black not immediately accepting him as her paladin . . . orders he would give, and orders he wouldn't give . . . then, Naxela." With that, her teeth clicked together, and she looked away from him to stare off to where the fields of endless white made their own sort of horizon against the stars. “Then there were little things . . . his migraines, his hair,” for that she gave a tiny, bemused expression. “Then . . . there was a way I thought he used to look at me . . . but that's been gone since his return.” But those last words were given to the polar night, softly and forlorn. If it wasn't for his sharp hearing, he wouldn't have heard her whisper, even if he tried. "I've still missed him, even when he's been here beside me all this time."

    For a long moment, the silence was heavy as it fell between them. He did not acknowledge her words; he just provided an ear to listen - as he suspected she truly needed.

    “Narti, one of my generals – the witch had control of her mind, so I killed her.” No matter that he would not comment on Shiro - on Kuron, it felt only right to repay her words with those of her own. Before then, he had not realized how the confession had rested on the tip of his tongue, just waiting – and perhaps truly needing – to be said aloud. “My doing so was a mercy to her as much as it was a protection for the rest of us." Even so, the justification felt hollow, even to his own ears. He remembered Kovrok kneeling in the snow - the guilt and the shame he'd known then, and felt that same emotion rise up a hundred fold. "Her shield-sisters did not see it as such.”

    Your actions will not – they do not, even now – affect only yourself. They will also impact those you lead. As long as you are a prince – and someday the emperor – of this people, you will never be able to make a selfish decision. Each choice you make will affect countless lives beyond your own. Even now, you must learn to think about them – that is, if you ever hope to become a leader worthy of being followed.

    Yet he had only acted where Narti was concerned. He had not explained, nor had he reasoned – he had not taken any path other than the most extreme one available, all out of his paranoia and his frustration for the forces seemingly pushing in against them and threatening to overwhelm everything he had so long and painstakingly planned. Only seconds had passed between his understanding just how grievously she'd unwittingly compromised them all and her laying dead on the ground. If he'd allowed himself a moment to think, and consider . . . but, even then he had to harden his heart and force himself not to feel at the memory. That was – and remained – his only way forward.

    Executing Narti may have been harsh, but it was not done in cold-blood - not for him. In that moment, he had thought her death to be the only path available to them. Her loss was regrettable - crippling, even, to the whole of their group, but justifiable to save that selfsame whole. Had Narti herself understood just how much danger she'd put them all in thanks to Haggar's interference, he wouldn't have had to even draw his blade. She would have slit her own throat before they even had time to process the full extent of the threat she posed; such was her devotion to him and her sisters.

    He thought . . . he thought that the others understood that. Selfishly, he'd wrapped himself up in his own pain and just assumed that they understood his actions and the thinking behind them. He'd closed himself off from even sensing their blood-beats to ignore (for fear) their own pain over Narti's death (murder). How pathetically stupid he'd been. When Acxa had approached him after his failed attempts to reopen the Rift, he'd even – laughably so – thought that she'd come to comfort him. He'd trusted her, as much as he trusted anyone, and he'd looked forward to – needed, even – to lean upon her, then as he always had.

    Yet . . . instead -

    - but, Lotor coldly reminded himself, in their eyes he had betrayed them first. He had left them no possible course of action but for the one they took. He only had himself to blame. He may have been able to justify his actions, but he could not excuse them, and even now he suffered the consequences.

    He half expected Allura to say the same - if she even said anything at all. He did not, however, expect for her eyes to turn a dark, furious shade of blue-violet. Her tone was a low growl of sound to say: “If Haggar had control of my mind, and could use me to hurt my friends, I would want you to do the same - without hesitation or blinking.” She looked up to boldly meet his eyes, and her jaw clenched with some fierce, indefinable emotion. The not-Shiro, Lotor recalled, had even asked such of them once the revelation of his existence had been made. Yet, to this team the idea had been abhorrent. Even when it would have ensured the safety of the whole, they could not do what – Lotor privately even still felt – best needed to be done.

    . . . perhaps that was the true difference between them. Like Narti, he would have seen Kuron's blood on the ground to ensure the safety of the whole; but the paladins of Voltron could not lift their hands to such a distasteful task out of kinship and sentiment. It was a thought to consider, later, when their war was won and the universe freed from the burden of his father's yoke.

    Allura did not say anything more than that - in either absolution or condemnation. She would not, not when she was in no place to judge without knowing the whole of the matter. But she did let her statement linger, cold on the air around them. She'd meant her every word, he understood. For that, her solidarity simply was what it was - no more and no less.

    In reply, Lotor found himself fighting a terse, bitter smile. “It's strange,” he found his tone lightening for the first, “the things we can bring ourselves to agree on - is it not?”

    “Strange is not quite the word for it,” Allura exhaled. “I'd call it surreal. You have to understand how bizarre this is for me – imagining, if I had known you then, if none of this had ever happened ten thousand years ago . . . ”

    But it didn't matter that her words faltered, and she could not wholly give them a voice. He . . . he understood. Most likely, they never would have stood as they did now – with a barely leashed hostility between them having settled into some semblance of grudging acceptance for the sake of a shared common goal. Once, he may have known her father as well as he did his own. As an adolescent he'd even dreamed of piloting the Black lion once his father retired the honor - should the great beast have accepted him, of course. They could have served the universe through Voltron, together. Yet, now . . .

    “Our fathers probably would have insisted on an arranged match,” Allura huffed to admit next. There was a sad fondness to her voice – to her memories. For a moment he was envious of her for them. “Or, rather, my father would have, at least. He did not know you, but if he did he would have been beside himself with joy.”

    “Now there's a thought,” Lotor gave a look of exaggerated abhorrence to meet her gaze. It was not as difficult an expression to make as he first would have thought it to be. "We escaped quite the noose, did we not?"

    “Yes, quite,” Allura agreed, her eyes glittering as she turned her nose up. “Perhaps the little things are for the better, then.”

    “Most certainly,” Lotor echoed the sentiment, and with that it was not a compassionate silence that fell between them - but it was a grudging understanding that passed, even so. It was not wholly uncomfortable. Nothing between them would ever be simple, he suspected, and he did not expect the princess to so easily extend her hand in friendship following a few shared words in commiseration – he did not know if he would be able to accept such an offering, even if she did. But perhaps now her edges would soften as far as he was concerned. She would still watch him, waiting for him to err, but at least now any treachery on his part would surprise her - disappoint her, even. Perhaps, she even wanted to be proven wrong.

    . . . and that was enough for him. For the time being he was a valuable asset for both his tactical prowess and his gift in arms. Perhaps, even someday far down the line, she toyed with the idea of more beyond their defeating Zarkon. His father hadn't ruled for centuries due to his strength in arms alone. The Voltron Coalition may have succeeded in liberating a number of fringe systems from the empire, but the fact remained that many of the central galaxies had existed for the Galra and as Galra for so long that they had forgotten what it meant to be themselves. Simply to have the man-power needed to run such a universal domain as Zarkon's empire, Galran hybrids were mixed into the population of the universe as a whole now. It would be difficult, bordering on impossible, to define what belonged to those long-conquered planets, and what belonged to the Galra; it would be a tedious and politically odious task to unravel those tangled threads. Defeating Zarkon was one step of many taken on the road towards Allura's end-goal of peace - true, universal peace, at least. Warring for that overreaching goal with armies meeting armies was only one part of a larger picture - and yet, that was where he suspected Princess Allura Alforiel of Altea would someday shine, rather than the power and legend of Voltron alone.

    If he could prove himself as an ally to be trusted, perhaps she even vaguely considered him as a possible heir to his father's title in the future to come. The throne was his by birthright, and those of the empire who submitted to peace and agreed to form the Galran Remnant would need a leader. Even during his brief time as emperor pro tem, he'd amassed a following within his father's ranks, and he hadn't been interested in true leadership at the time - only in using the power inherent of his station to further his own goals. It was . . . something to consider.

    Once, the idea of succeeding his father would have been the most sought after ambition of his heart. It was what he'd been prepared since infancy for, after all. Yet . . . then, the thought only made him tired; weary down to his bones. So, he could not entertain it for overly long.

    Instead, he was vaguely toying with the idea of putting some form of his thoughts into words - just as she too locked eyes with him, her own mind clearly spinning, when there was a faint whispering of sound, and then -

    - a snowball sailed right over his shoulder and struck Allura square in the face.

    “Ack, you missed, you missed! How could you miss, Hunk? He was right in front of you!”

    “Yeah, well – so was she, apparently!” the Yellow paladin's voice was a high, strangled pitch of sound in horror for his miscalculation. “I am so, so sorry, Princess! I was trying to hit Lotor, you see, but then, well, I missed. I didn't plan the trajectory right, and - ”

    But a cacophony of voices rose as the paladins immediately rallied against their comrade for striking the princess instead of his true target. Lotor found his mouth quirking as a dark look bloomed over Allura's face, and she glared. With as much dignity as she could muster, she brushed the snow from her skin with a few purposeful flicks of her hands. Lotor, with a low, vengeful thrum of satisfaction, was simply glad that the projectile had not struck him – as was clearly first intended.

    “Dude, that was a mistake," Lance said with a moment's surprising wisdom. "You should've just let me throw it. She can totally take you - and see, there you go. Ouch.”

    Allura wasted no time in retaliation, and Lotor turned to see snow blast the Yellow paladin directly in the chest – pushing him backwards with the force of the blow. The solidly built Terran had to brace himself to remain standing upright.

    Pidge, who had already succumbed to a fit of giggles to start, laughed outright at the sight. She was half doubled over, and unable to contain her mirth. Lance winced in sympathy, even as Pidge chortled: "Bull's-eye! Oh, man! That was a beauty!"

    “That,” Allura tilted her nose up primly in the air, “is how one properly hits their target, Hunk. Let that be a lesson to you.”

    Hunk turned wide, betrayed eyes on the princess as he brushed the snow from his jacket. "But, Allura, I didn't mean - "

    “ - it's okay, big guy,” Lance stepped forward with his own snowball in hand to avenge his friend. “I've got your back,” he vowed with a cocky smirk.

    But Lotor was surprised when, rather than avenging his friend, the Red paladin turned at the last possible moment and turned the salvo towards him.

    Lotor, admittedly, was done with the snow and everything associated with it. Fighting an admittedly primal growl, he brushed the snow from his shoulders – again, and glared at the unapologetic Terran.

    “Woot! The sharpshooter strikes again!” Lance jumped up and punched the air to say – little knowing just how grievously he had erred in Lotor's eyes. The Earthling had but little of a self-preservation instinct, it would seem. “See, Hunk?" he crowed. "That's how it's done!”

    “Man, I thought you were going to hit Allura for me," Hunk thoughtfully cupped his chin in his hand. "But that works too,” he decided happily.

    Allura? C'mon, man, where's your sense of chivalry? I couldn't bring myself to harm one beautiful hair on her head - could I, babe?” and with that, he turned and wagged his eyebrows at the decidedly unimpressed Altean. Lotor found his own brow furrowing at the display - did the Terrans have some sort of nervous tick they displayed as part of their courting rituals? It wouldn't surprise him in the slightest.

    Also but little surprising to him was when Allura fired a second snowball of her own – this time, straight at Lance. The snowflakes broke apart on his chest to spray up into his flabbergasted face with a crunch of sound, and Lotor couldn't help but give a wicked smile in answer to her attack. The sight was supremely satisfying.

    “You know, we could have been so great together – but you've chosen to throw that all away,” Lance gave an exaggerated sigh before his eyes narrowed and he darted down to scoop up more snow and hide behind Hunk as a shield at the same time – and then it was on. Lotor missed some sort of unspoken cue as the paladins divided themselves down a line he couldn't immediately understand and snow criss-crossed everywhere as they did their best in hitting each other and hiding so as not to be hit in return. Cautiously, he backed away, trying to stay out of range of them all.

    Shiro, even as Ryou, was trying to call some semblance of order to the immature rough-housing, before the tiny one hit him with a snowball while ordering him to "lose the stick up your butt, geez" - an admittedly bizarre turn of phrase, and then Ryou gave up and joined in too. Lotor watched them all with wary eyes, well knowing that participation from him would not at all be appreciated and trying to stay out of the way of being hit, himself, until -

    - Allura forgot – or, perhaps, she simply chose not to – to check her Altean strength, and a projectile from her hand sent him stumbling backwards. The force of the blow was enough to knock him from his feet and into the bank of snow behind him. For a moment he simply stared up, flummoxed as he tried to process how, at one moment he had been standing and then, the next he was not as he stared up at the shimmering polar lights above.

    Well . . . how supremely vexing.

    “Oooh, wipe-out! Nice one, Allura!” Lance's voice grated on his ears – and that, more than anything else had Lotor quickly recovering himself. He would not – could not – show such a position of weakness for long. Not if he wanted to retain any semblance of dignity in their eyes.

    “You know, Allura,” the not-Shiro's voice was soft to say, “When we came out here to check on you, I have to admit that it was somewhat for his benefit, as well.”

    “Yeah,” Pidge was less helpful to add with a snicker. “You can't kill him until after he helps us defeat Zarkon.”

    “I don't know,” Lance stalwartly stood by Allura's side with folded arms. “You do what you have to do, Princess – we'll back you up and figure it out from there. We don't need him.”

    And that was quite enough of that.

    Lotor moved to find his feet again, but was surprised when a slender hand reached down to offer him assistance in rising. Allura would voice no apology – never that. But there was some sort of peace – or wary acceptance, at least – in her gaze as she offered him the same truce she had initially set out to find. From that time forward, he understood, it would be on him to break or uphold that peace; she would not hinder any progress he chose to make. Yet, at the same time, should he err . . .

    . . . he could feel the strong, heady power leaping underneath her skin, and the steady war-song that was even her blood-beat at rest. She would fight to the end for those she'd declared as her own, and Lotor understood that; he understood her.

    (Once, he had felt something similar, before betraying those bonds, after all.)

    “Come inside with us,” she welcomed as he allowed her to help pull him to his feet. “Hunk makes this wonderful drink called hot chocolate, and the Terrans are going to watch this terribly grotesque film called Alien. It's . . . quite amusing in how primitive it is.”

    “Hey! It's a sci-fi classic, I think you mean to say," Pidge huffed, clearing her glasses of snow. "You can't mock art."

    “Yeah,” Hunk added – elbowing Lance in the side. “How were we primitive apes to know that so many aliens actually have really, really nice hair?”

    “And there's still lots who don't, at that – we weren't completely wrong,” Pidge muttered under her breath. Lotor couldn't even begin to pretend that he wholly understood their banter, so he just stared at them and lazily lifted a brow.

    “Come on, guys,” fondly, Ryou shook his head and gestured to say. “It's cold out here. Let's go back inside.” But he paused, and a moment passed in which he met Allura's eyes. Something there flickered, deep within her expression, but after taking in a breath she boldly stepped forward and fell into place by his side. She turned to walk with him, and did not look back. The paladins were quick to follow the pair, still bickering good naturedly behind them all the while.

    A heartbeat passed, and then Lotor too chose to follow. He paused once before entering the ship, however, and looked out behind him at the cold, deceivingly peaceful landscape of the nameless winter-world. There, he tried not to remember: his mother chasing him, her eyes bright and her laughter clear, so far away from Daibazaal and everything there that existed to weigh on her shoulders. How easy it had been, once, to slip and slide over the cold hills of snow while trying with a youthful imprecision to return every salvo that he bore in his turn.

    . . . neither did he remember: his mother stumbling, not from the ice, but from her own body betraying her when their game at last wound down to its end. She was unable to stand, not right away – and Kovrok had darted forward to grant her a hand with which to walk, lest her legs fail her again. I am quite alright, she had muttered, clearly vexed by her own weakness. I need only return to Daibazaal. To the Rift, rather, even Lotor had been able to infer at the time. Yet, he had not understood the concern in his blood-guard's eyes - not fully. Not then. And, now -

    But he shied away from that chain of thought and allowed himself to remember, instead: apologizing to Kovrok later that night. He remembered the way the elder Galra's severe face had softened, ever so slightly to say: Your father has placed my loyalty to you above even his own rule; there is nothing in this universe I would not protect you from. Do you understand that, my prince?

    And he did, he did understand. He understood as much as he remembered: the pledge to be found in Zethrid's leashed strength, ever standing firm at his back. It was the same as the easy, leaping sound of Ezor's blood-beat, cheering the entirety of her team on through each seeming impossibility that stood in their way. It was the same as the silent assurance of Narti's devotion . . . and the way Acxa was always to be found at his right hand, believing in him even when he himself faltered. He had started out with a single goal in mind, and he was ruthlessly dedicated to seeing his will done and Zarkon torn from his place. Yet, somewhere along the way, they had quite irrevocably wound themselves deep within his soul; they had become a chorus of scents and blood-beats to his senses that, together, spelled out clan to his famished spirit. They had become so much more than mere vassals to lead and use.


    But, if he allowed himself to look for too long - or too far behind him, he would never be able to persevere on the way forward. Instead, Lotor turned, and left his memories to the cold.

    ~MJ @};-
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2018
    Chyntuck likes this.
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    @Mira_Jade -- stunned by GENIUS AGAIN, ALWAYS, STILL. =D= =D=
    First we get the teasing camaraderie over the Paladin group pile ;)
    Then Lotor's recollections of Ysseth and his parents. Their warmth with one another... @};-
    Then his candid talk with Allura -- quite shocking the things they have in common, the things /people each has lost to the Rift and Haggar's "experiiments" [face_thinking] I do not think Allura realized that his actual parents were lost to him as completely (though differently) as hers were.

    Loved the snow fight in the gorgeous snowy setting with the auroral display above :cool:
    But :eek: Shiro is someone else?! A clone... [face_thinking] So Allura has this discomfiting situation where she wants to relate to him as Shiro but cannot, except he has some of Shiro's ways and appearance but the undercurrents/undertones between them personally have changed.