A little bit of a continuation of the reversed Beauty & the Beast fic, for those who wanted to see the Beast’s POV on the proceedings.

Title: Declarations of Intent
Rating: PG-13
Universe: Lioness and Lamb
Characters/Pairings: Calime (the She-Beast), Fami, mentions of Kaeri and Maoric. Fami/Calime
Summary: Calime, the she-beast, takes an evening to get to know her promised husband/hostage better. They don't get as far as logistically complicated, but still it's all she might have hoped for and more
Wordcount: 2197
Warnings/Notes: Arranged marriages, hostages, relationship negotiation, threatening gestures, romantic gestures. They're complicated?
Claimer: More or less mine.

Declarations of Intent

The heavy door of the 'guest chambers' closed at last behind her, two of her bodyguards standing firm beyond it, and Calime finally had time alone to study her husband to be at her leisure. He had moved ahead of her into the room, seemingly blithe and unconcerned, and had fetched up on the balcony, standing half-obscured by silken drapes as he looked out over his childhood kingdom. He didn't seem to regard her. He seemed absent and thoughtful, and unworried by her presence in the slightest. Calime churred to herself, and settled her bulk by the door to watch him that little longer. If he wasn't going to rush then neither would she.

He was a strange one, this Prince Famiya. Not at all what she had expected. The brothers, yes, they had been exactly as regal and resentful and terrified in the face of her as she had predicted. But this one, the one they meant to be hers ... no. Not expected at all.

It had been fascinating to watch him earlier. The way he had stepped out to meet her, casual and thoughtful, and managed to wrongfoot her from the very first moment. 'Logistically complicated', hah! He didn't lack for courage, anyway, nor tactical awareness either. The field had been his from that moment, and he had taken it with easy aplomb, the better to gently steer his opponents as he pleased. She'd watched him do it. She'd let him. For all she might have fought him, wrested it from him and reminded him where control truly lay, she'd wanted to see what he would do with it. She'd wanted a glimmer of his aims.

Though they hadn't been hard to divine in the end. His touch was delicate enough in their service, but his goals had been very plain, and all the more poignant for it.

He'd been trying to protect his family. Nothing more, nothing less. He'd stepped out in front of them in that first moment, drawn her eyes to him and him alone, in an effort to shield them and shepherd them through this first and potentially worst meeting intact.

She'd spent the entirety of that interminable 'welcome' feast watching him do it. Letting him, to a large extent. Testing him at times, pushing, but she'd taken some care not to let herself push too hard. As tempting as it had been in places. He'd spent most of his efforts trying to shield the second brother in particular, the warrior who'd faced them on the field. The one whose fear and resentment had made him a very tempting target indeed. Her prince had interposed himself between them in conversation more than once. The elder brother, Maoric, the soon-to-be-king, had fared better for himself, managing to hide the worst of his horror behind diplomacy, but his grief had been increasingly obvious the more she had allowed his youngest brother to draw her ire and her interest back his way.

He'd known what his brother was doing, or realised it somewhere along the way. She'd watched that too, watched the horror and the admiration grow in lockstep across his expression as the feast finally wore to an end. There'd been pure heartbreak on his face when she'd closed her hand around his brother's wrist, near swallowing his entire arm in the process, and asked him to attend to her for the evening. Nothing untoward, of course. They were not yet married. But she should like the chance to get to know her betrothed better. The thought of that, the terror of it, had nearly broken the brother's heart, though he'd had no choice but to allow it.

Famiya, for his part, had taken it without so much as a flicker across his expression. Indeed, if he'd been anything, she would have said he'd been somewhat relieved. It didn't entirely surprise her. She thought her promised husband well capable of minding himself. It was minding everyone else as well that so exhausted him.

She looked back at him now, the figure he made leaning on the balcony balustrade. His face was obscured from this angle, all its sharp bones and gold-rimmed lenses hidden by the tight curls of his hair across his spine and shoulders. He was such a slender thing, even for a human. He moved like a dancer, slow and thoughtful and with a steady, unconscious grace. His beauty was storied from here to the western mountains. It wasn't entirely obvious to her, being a distinctly human sort of beauty, but even she could mark enough of it.

There'd been rumours of what she would do to ruin it long before she'd ever actually agreed to take him as a husband. Half his kingdom had seemed terrified of what she would do to this specific prince before all others, as though a beast like her could do nothing but take him, and nothing then but ruin him. She still wasn't entirely sure why. As he'd said himself, the thing they seemed to fear most would be 'logistically complicated' at best. She had little enough use for human beauty aside from ruining it, and taking him just for that would have been extraordinarily petty, and more than a little useless besides.

It had been the warrior brother she'd wanted to take initially. As a hostage, not a husband. It'd made the most sense to control that sort of threat, and at least him she would have known what to do with. Taking him would have weakened the entire kingdom behind him. Yet somehow she'd been manoeuvred into this instead, into a forced marriage to this fabled beauty, his brothers left safe and horrified behind him. That had seemed strange to her a few hours ago, given just how much they were afraid for this prince, how very much they didn't want her to have him. It seemed a great deal less so now. She recognised his work already.

And oh, what a prize he might be, knowing that. Not as his brother would have been, not so simple and so straightforward as that, but a prize nonetheless. He certainly had value as a hostage, given the desperate grief in his brothers' eyes. She now knew him as a threat to be controlled as well, a force that it would weaken his kingdom to remove. Though whether taking that threat to her bosom would lessen it or exacerbate it was a different question again.

It was a question she wanted to have answered, suddenly. It was a challenge she wanted very much to answer in kind.

The thought spurred her. She moved, stirred, and saw his spine stiffen slightly at the sound of it. He was turning even as she levered herself off the wall, straightening up and drifting casually and carefully around to face her. His glasses gleamed golden in the lamplight, a soft, idle little smile curling his lips. Oh yes. So very capable of minding himself, this one. Willing to meet her and match her on any field. Or so he wished to seem, at least.

She didn't want to crush that seeming. Not exactly. But she did want ... something else.

She reached out as she came abreast of him. Took his throat. Slowly, so that he would see it coming, and very carefully. Very gently. She didn't want to crush him. She curled her great hand around his slender, delicate throat, while he didn't so much as flinch, and held it long enough to feel ...

To feel the rush of his pulse beneath his skin. To feel the spike, as his heart leapt, and then to feel it subside, subsumed back into his calm as her claws didn't pierce and her hand didn't close. He blinked up at her, his eyes placid and calm behind his glasses, her hand around his throat. All at once, she felt like laughing. She felt a surge in her chest that maybe wasn't that far from love.

"So," she said softly. "You are afraid, then. You do fear the monster that has you in her grasp."

He looked up at her, his hands loose and languid by his sides, making no move to contest her grip. No overt move. Of course not. That wasn't the field on which he fought.

"Shouldn't I be?" he asked quietly. So mildly. "I don't know you, my lady. I don't know what you intend, and my life is yours to do with as you please. Isn't it only sensible to feel a little fear in the face of that?"

She laughed at him. Gently. She let go of his neck to cup her hand around his cheek instead. He allowed it, letting his head tilt into her palm. Nerveless. Wholly committed to his course, fear or no fear. She may have little enough use for beauty, but this, courage and challenge like this, oh yes. This she could value. This she could see her way through to keeping, whether it killed her later or not.

"I wanted your brother, you know," she said, watching how surprise completely failed to cross his face. "The second one, Kaerinic. But you did know, didn't you. You're the reason it's you instead of him. You chose this. You arranged it."

His gaze dropped. Only for a moment, only the smallest flicker. One of his hands came up to grip her wrist again. Nearly a warning, their respective strengths aside.

"It wouldn't have been a marriage to Kaeri," he said, a glimmer of something uncompromising coming into his voice. "He would have been your prisoner, and you would have had to kill him eventually. He would have pushed you to it." He raised his eyes again, and there was nothing absent about him at all. "A live hostage is more useful than a dead one, my lady. And I have a great many hopes about this marriage. I hope you'll give me the chance to try for them?"

She said nothing for a moment. A long one, perhaps, only looking at him, only holding that hidden, uncompromising gaze. He never looked away. His hand stayed firm around her wrist. Until she moved it, at least. Until she withdrew her own hand from his cheek and caught his with it instead, held it thoughtfully for a moment, and then ...

Then she brought it to her lips.

She'd never kissed anything before. It was a human gesture, unnatural to her. Sword-teeth tended to make such things difficult between her people. It seemed a strange, empty thing to bring that delicate hand up and press her furred lips gently to the back of it. It also seemed fitting, though. He wasn't the only one who'd tried to research this union once it had been decided. Kisses were well spoken of in human writing, and this kind, this courtly touch to a hand, was at least semi-practical for her.

"I intend to give you every chance," she said, smiling faintly while he stared at her, finally wrongfooted in his turn. "You're nothing I thought to expect, Prince Famiya, but you are many things I might have dared to hope for. However logistically complicated it may turn out to be, I intend to give this marriage every chance indeed."

He blinked at her for a long second, his eyelids fluttering rapidly behind his glasses. She liked that. Confusion looked well on him. Then he smiled. A soft, vague curl, slow and dangerous, and she liked that more again. Indeed, she thought she liked it most of all.

"Fami," he said, mild and absent once again. He stroked his thumb across her claws. "For my wife, as for family, my name would be Fami."

She bared half her teeth in a smile, a great joy in her chest as she rose to the challenge. "Calime," she offered back. "For my husband, I am Calime."

He made a clicking noise in his throat, nodding vaguely to himself. He pulled his hand unhurriedly from her grasp, daring her to keep hold of it, and moved idly back a step or two when she proved content to let him go. He pushed his glasses up his nose, and looked at her thoughtfully for a moment or two.

"Well then," he said at last. "Perhaps, Calime ... we might take this opportunity to get to know our future spouses a little better, then?" He smiled crookedly. "That was our intended purpose this evening, was it not?"

She snorted loudly. "Having known you for a few hours now," she said wryly, "I have a suspicion it's going to take me more than an evening to manage that."

And there. There. All his teeth, his joy in the challenge clearly equal to hers. He laughed like a declaration of war, risen from the ashes of the old one, and spread his hands delightedly before her.

"Isn't it fortunate, then," he said lightly. "Isn't it so very fortunate that we have all the rest of our lives?"

Oh yes, she thought, staring at him. Oh yes, indeed it was. It really, truly was.

No better or more complicated marriage could she have asked for, after all.

A/N: Continued in Pt.III Wedding Presents (Maoric & Fami)


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