by whizbang

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Hollow. The fortnight's proceedings had left him feeling utterly hollow, a brittle bauble of glass, more fragile than the crisp age-faded scrap of parchment mangled in his clenched fist. Death. With death generally came elation, elation for victory, for the defeat of one's enemies. Always before in his mind the two were intertwined -- he'd tasted the first, sparingly, the subtle punch of splitting flesh as his sword slid between the ribs of some fool rash enough to duel him. He'd drunk heavily of the second at every opportunity presented, sucked it down in great gulps until his toes tingled with warmth and his head swam.

Which was why the events of the past weeks had been so horrendous. The coronation of a new King ought not to be. Death was trifling, it was not that which bothered him so. He'd defeated his greatest enemy, hadn't he, in living to see his father in the grave. Only on Doom might a nemesis be blood-kin as well...

Only, where was the sense of accomplishment? A swift and stealthy sickness had stolen it from him, taken the last breath from Zarkon's lips and fled with it, leaving for Lotor nothing but a cold, uncomfortable throne, a heavy crown that strained his neck, and a populace with nothing but scorn for their new King, on the verge of uprising.

And why should they revere me, have faith in me? I'd settle even for fear... But Father, you did an admirable job of painting me the inept buffoon, granting me a string of sparkling hopes for victory which were naught but false, crumbling to dust as soon as I'd touched them. And more the fool I, for permitting you.

Slowly, the gloved hand unwound it's fingers from the wounded bit of paper, smoothing in apology. The words were still legible, though somehow he'd almost believed his silent cries of denial might have erased and rewritten them, to fit the image he'd always held of himself. As they stood, the words threatened to tear that image to shreds.

My Dearest Alfor,

Again and again his golden eyes touched that first line, unwilling to move deeper into dangers already tested, though unknowingly. How could he have guessed? Zarkon had always been a mystery, guarding closely his secrets to his chest, and enigma to even his son. Had not the sickness taken him so quickly, Lotor was convinced he would have spent his dying days destroying such personal effects as the ones the former Prince now sorted through. Destroyed anything that might hint to a humanity, of sorts, behind the legacy he left, of a cold, efficient ruler. Destroyed secrets, especially ones as damning as these, spilled forth in his own hand.

My Dearest Alfor,

Lotor forced himself to read on, for the second time. The first he'd merely skimmed, and it was possible the letter wasn't as first appeared, wasn't it?

How long since last we parted? The days seem weeks, the weeks years, so badly do I long again for your feverish kisses, your cruel touch... I both praise and condemn the day we met, that I welcomed you as foe and obsession both, into my heart. Your presence there altered it, to suit your needs and whims I fully believe, until something foreign grew there. You'd laugh were I to say love, as would I, at myself for foolishness. But I cannot deny that *something* grew within, subtle and sweet, sending down dangerous roots. For my position, my kingdom, my sanity most importantly, this cannot continue. You know, as well as I, which is why this letter will never reach you. I write for my benefit alone, that my heart might reach some peace after voiding from it that which has filled it, painfully stretching to brimming and beyond, these past months. Just as you have me, in our secret trysts... See how pathetic I have become? I cannot give thought to our coupling without sending my pulse to racing, my breaths to come short and stuttered, my mind to blank. So I end it, here, this weakness I cannot afford. In parting I would give you something as double-edged as the gift you have bestowed upon me, but nothing suitable strikes my imagination. Perhaps one day...

Farewell, Alfor. By my contempt and silence you'll have signal of my intent, and sorrowful apologies I refuse to give, because any I could muster would be false.

He'd even signed it, in the tight coiled hand Lotor recognized as his father's. Zarkon. No closings to blunt the name, as aloof as the dead King could have wished, as his son might have believed were it not for the letter's body.

Gently, as if wary of the parchment, Lotor laid it aside with the rest, a small stack of like-correspondence he had not the courage or strength to peruse at present.

You might have said something, Father, named some reason for the scorn you bore your only son... Or was I, through circumstance of birth, undeserving of the truth?

Cat-like in his grace, Lotor took his feet. The bundle of letters was held together with a faded strip of leather, seemingly the only thing that kept them bound together, and in silence. He should destroy them, he knew. Condemning, to say the least, were anyone to stumble upon them. But something made the pale Prince instead insert them into a small desk drawer, and lock them away with a tiny silver key. The key went round his neck, on a thin black cord of silk, under his tunic and close by his heart. From there it might whisper comforts to that weary organ, and promises of peace, so long as it remained an untouched sentry keeping quiet vigil.

When Lotor left the study, flicking off the light, he had the odd sensation of leaving the room to false emptiness, a feeling which trailed his steps, dogged, for the rest of the day.


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