I'm mostly in the mood for original fic lately, it seems. Odd, rather dark little bit of a thing.

Title: Logistically Complicated
Rating: PG-13
Universe: Lioness and Lamb
Characters/Pairings: Original characters. Maoric, Fami, Kaeri, the She-Beast
Summary: A tiny bit of a reverse Beauty & the Beast. The beautiful scholar prince of a conquered country is given in marriage to the monstrous warrior queen of their conquerors, in an effort to keep his family and his kingdom safe. It's possible that his new wife didn't expect him to be quite as pragmatic about it as he is, though. To be fair, his family didn't either.
Wordcount: 1960
Warnings/Notes: Fantasy, Beauty & the Beast elements, conquest, war, loss, arranged marriage, political marriage, self-sacrifice, interspecies relationship, curiosity, challenge, manipulation, respect
Claimer: Mostly mine

Logistically Complicated

One of the (very few) things that Maoric had always admired about his baby brother was Fami's odd practicality about things. It wasn't something you'd think to expect from looking at him, with his delicate frame and his vague, absent-minded gaze, but beneath his rather whimsical exterior Fami nursed a bedrock streak of pure pragmatism. Once a thing had been declared inevitable, regardless of its nature, most often Fami merely shrugged in the face of it and turned his admittedly formidable intellect into making whatever it was as viable a venture as possible.

It was a very admirable trait of his brother's. It was also sometimes rather horrifying.

"Do you think he hasn't realised what he's marrying?" Kaeri whispered beside him, watching their brother stand calmly and apparently at his ease by the window, awaiting his fate with distant aplomb. He had a little leather-bound book in one hand, closed for now, and was tapping it absently against his thigh. He looked vague and thoughtful, and not at all like he would shortly be forced into marriage by one of their kingdom's most terrifying enemies.

Honestly, Maoric couldn't blame Kaeri for the question. It would be odd for their brother to actually outright forget that kind of vital detail, even Fami wasn't usually that absent-minded, but he most certainly didn't look like he remembered just now. Not that Maoric particularly wanted to watch his brother gibbering in terror, but surely some mild trepidation would be appropriate at the very least?

Then again, this was Fami. Fami, who'd taken the news of their mother's death with a sort of distant, blank acceptance, even at only five years old. Fami, who'd reacted to the declaration of war by blinking a lot and then spending four months solid sequestered with various ministers and army officials while he reworked the army's logistics from the ground up, not incidentally allowing them to keep fighting a full half-year longer than they would probably otherwise have done. Fami, who'd reacted to the war's loss by ... by sequestering himself with various ministers and ambassadors to attempt to mitigate the damage, and then by calmly agreeing to an arranged marriage to a monster and what would essentially be permanent exile from his home to live as a hostage in another land.

From Fami's point of view, Maoric supposed, there probably wasn't a lot of point in panicking about the decision now. It would just ... it would be somewhat comforting to everyone else if he might at least consider it. They already knew they were selling him for their own safety. He didn't have to be so stoically dignified about it.

He was the best choice for this. He'd agreed to that himself. He was the third son, neither heir nor commander, an offering of the blood but not a vital one. He was a scholar by inclination and training, not too much of a threat.

He was beautiful. It'd always been something of a sore spot between them. Maoric and Kaeri might be handsome, but Fami passed well beyond that. He was their mother's son. He had her bones, so sharp and elegant and graceful, her willowy build, her thick, coiled, shining hair. His eyes were soft and brown behind his delicate, gold-rimmed glasses. He looked fragile, and graceful, and far too delicate to be touched. An offering of exquisite craftsmanship, and one that they proposed to hand to a beast.

For pity's sake, Fami! At least he might show that he realised it. At least he might give permission for their horror, rather than standing unmoved in the middle of it!

A door boomed open somewhere down the hall, harsh footsteps echoing along marble halls, and the entire room straightened abruptly. Maoric felt his own spine stiffen, felt his chin rise helplessly into the air, and cursed himself vaguely for the coward he was. The wedding party had arrived, it would seem. The monster and her entourage, come to claim her husband to be. Her sacrifice, rather. Last chance, Fami. Last chance to show your fear. Pride won't let you once the last door opens.

But Fami didn't. Wouldn't. Of course not. Fami blinked mildly, pulling his gaze back into the room at last, and did nothing more than slip his little book into his inner tunic before drifting across the room to stand beside them. Kaeri grimaced uneasily at him, Maoric himself barely managing to incline his head, but Fami only smiled faintly at them, and turned to regard the still-closed door with what looked like only distant curiosity.

It was unendurable. Really, truly it was. As admirable a thing as their brother's pragmatic streak could be, there were times when it truly was nothing short of horrifying.

And then the door opened. Then the monsters came. Then horrifying meant something different again.

She was terrifying. Maoric had meant their ambassador, met officers of their armies as they closed a stranglehold around his kingdom. Kaeri, for his part, had actually fought them, had pitched himself in battle against the strongest of them. He had even, Maoric knew, seen this one from a distance. Their leader, their warrior queen, the monstrous behemoth who formed the spine of their conquest. From Kaeri's flinch beside him, Maoric knew she was only more terrifying up close, even without a weapon in her hand. She radiated brutality. Even the bravest of men would find their spine curving in her presence.

And Fami was meant to marry her. Fami was meant to pledge whatever might be left of his life to this ... this being. This terrible, monstrous thing.

He moved forward, their brother. The party stopped before them, no one quite daring to say a thing, and Fami moved delicately out in front of them. He stopped in front of her, by all appearances careful and calm, and looked up into the eyes of his bride to be. She halted too. She stood, towering over him, and studied him in her turn.

Maoric couldn't imagine what they saw. What would Fami look like, to her? Some spindly, breakable thing? Some fragile little prize to be brutalised? And Fami, what did he imagine when he looked at her? Eight feet of muscle and fur and terror, her great sword-teeth on display, her thick hands curled around their claws. What sort of future could he see, having pledged himself to such a monster for their sake?

Yet he didn't shake. He didn't quiver, didn't falter at all, and this couldn't all be pride. It couldn't only be dignity and stoicism. All the courage in the world couldn't stand in front of this being without even a quiver. Fami only looked thoughtful. His body was loose and open, tilted back to study her curiously, with nothing in it that spoke of fear. Nothing, nothing at all. As blankly, pragmatically accepting as Fami was, this was too much, too far. It was as if ... as if he actually wasn't afraid. As if he truly was without fear.

And then ...

He made that little noise of his, that absent clicking sound, and reached up to push his glasses higher on his face. "Oh dear," he said, as mild as summer rains. "This is going to be logistically complicated, isn't it?"

She stared at him. Everyone stared at him. Every man and monster in the room stood blinking down at him, and Fami flushed delicately in response.

"Well," he said, his fingers fluttering the way they tended to when he was embarrassed. "Well, I mean. I'm not presuming, you understand. I know this is primarily a political arrangement. And I know you already have an heir, which is fortunate, since I'm nearly positive our peoples are incompatible in that regard. I've never read of a half-breed, at any rate. Which, yes, perhaps a little besides the point. I'm really not presuming. But, you know. Marriage. I did ... I mean, I thought it prudent to research a little? Just in case. It's just, on seeing you ... It is going to be a little difficult, isn't it. Logistically speaking. It's going to be, ah. Well. Complicated?"

He trailed off, and there was a very, very long pause. Maoric stared at his little brother in blank, distant horror. He'd been ... he'd been researching ... He thought of the little book, abruptly, the little thing currently tucked in his brother's tunic, and wondered rather hysterically where on earth his brother had gotten such a thing and what, exactly, might be contained within it. It was ... He was ...

The she-beast cleared her throat. Carefully. Maoric wasn't sure he believed it, but she seemed to be regarding his brother rather more warily than before, and with considerable bemusement.

"I can honestly say," she said, thickly around her teeth, "that I hadn't really thought about it. You're right. I had thought of this largely as a political union." A smaller pause, while Fami seemed to honestly wilt a little bit, and then: "However? I am most definitely thinking about it now." She tilted her head, looking down at him with an odd expression on her leonine face, and one clawed head reached up as though she wanted to touch him. "You seem ... almost pleased by that," she noted softly.

A little smile flickered delicately across Fami's face. He ducked his head, reaching up to adjust his glasses once again. "Not pleased, exactly," he said, softly and carefully. "You understand that there is little enough that is pleasing in this situation, my lady." He looked up at her, though, and with more hope than defiance about him. "But I had, perhaps, hoped to gain something from it. And it would be a shame, I think, for all that study to go to waste?"

It was almost shy. It was careful, and hesitant, and Maoric recognised it immediately. He knew the tone. It was Fami's manoeuvring tone, the one he adopted while gently steering ministers and family members alike into agreement. That, too, he had inherited from their mother. It was the voice he used when quietly and unobtrusively angling to get his way. That tone, from Fami, was the same as the stir of a sword in Kaeri's hand or the hard drop of an ultimatum from their father's lips. It was a challenge, said soft and gently smiling.

And she knew it, too. The she-beast. She must have seen it, caught it. There was a flash in her yellow eyes, hard and bright, but it didn't entirely look like anger. Anticipation, more so. Appreciation, maybe. A challenge returned. She straightened to her full height above him, her sword-teeth gleaming as she parted her lips in a smile, and Fami smiled blankly and blandly back at her, his eyes vague and placid behind his glasses, delicate whimsy over a streak of pure bedrock pragmatism.

"... It would be a shame indeed," the she-beast agreed, reaching out at last to cup that clawed hand so carefully around his brother's cheek. Fami leaned into it, his own hand reaching up to rest lightly over her wrist, and Maoric swallowed suddenly over a rush of terror and bitter, horrified admiration.

He was such a pragmatic creature, their brother. Practical, calmly accepting. He was so fragile-looking, so beautiful and delicate and absent-minded. And underneath it, so horrifying. Perhaps the she-beast was not the only monster in this marriage. Perhaps his brother was not so grossly outmatched as he'd thought. She looked warmly upon him now. The she-beast looked at his brother with the beginnings of what might have been respect.

They only had to hope, Maoric thought, that this was a challenge Fami planned to pursue to a better end than his death.

But then again, no force had ever broken Fami yet.

A/N: Continued in Declarations of Intent, for the She-Beast's POV


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