And again, continuing the reversed Beauty & the Beast fic.

Title: Wedding Night
Rating: PG-13
Universe: Lioness and Lamb
Characters/Pairings: Calime, Fami, mention of others. Calime/Fami
Summary: Calime and Fami, on their wedding night. She intends a chaste one. She won't break him so soon. Perhaps some smaller intimacies might still creep up on them, though
Wordcount: 2299
Warnings/Notes: Arranged marriages, wedding nights, fear, compromise, non-sexual intimacy
Claimer: Mine

Wedding Night

Well, Calime thought mildly, while two rather terrified servants escorted her and her newly-wed husband to their wedding chambers. Well. That had been interesting.

It had been a very small ceremony for the marriage of a prince and a foreign leader. That had been the humans' design, but Calime and her advisors had agreed to it readily enough. He was very popular, her prince, beloved the length and breadth of his kingdom, despite how few knew or had even seen him. For his beauty, apparently, and his intelligence, and the resemblance he bore to his equally beloved mother. To openly flaunt him as her personal conquest might have driven home her power all the more, but Sentha in particular had thought it more likely to serve as a goad towards their inevitable rebellion. Calime tended to listen to Sentha. Her wicked old crone of an advisor was usually right about these things.

Besides. Having finally met said beloved prince, she did have to concede the point. He could make himself a martyr with terrifying ease, given half a chance and a bare few moments to appear before a crowd. The wedding ceremony had only driven the point home more clearly. Every human in the room had watched his entrance with the air of those watching a funeral procession, and he had swept through it with golden dignity like the most beautiful sacrifice ever led to ceremonial slaughter. When she had taken his hands and drawn him near, his second brother had almost had to be forcibly restrained from drawing his sword. She had no doubt that an open crowd, watching that, would have become a mob in very short order, and wedding day massacres were hardly omens of a good marriage or means to make conquered kingdoms amenable to her control.

She hadn't come all this way and taken two kingdoms, the greatest threats to her people's future, only to lose them at the last to a beautiful face and a well-timed baring of a lovely neck. Fire take him anyway. He was a sly, dangerous thing, her husband. He was a rebellion waiting to happen, and perfectly conscious of it too.

She looked down at him, keeping pace with her with graceful ease despite her longer stride, still with every seeming of serenity. His attention never flickered, his brown eyes soft and vague. Never an inkling of awareness, of either her power or his own. Oh, such a prize indeed. She almost couldn't wait to introduce him to Sentha. She would give quite a lot to watch those two hone their claws against each other. It would be the most bloodlessly thorough carnage ever witnessed. She could imagine it already.

All she had to do was get him home first. Spirit him from his kingdom, where all his people so violently loved him, and make him hers in truth. A challenge, yes, and how she welcomed it. She would marry him again afterwards, in her own capital. She would have a ceremony for her own people as well. One that counted.

Not that this one hadn't. Small though it had been, it had been genuine as far as her knowledge of his people could tell her. The royal records keeper, possibly the darkest human she had ever seen and among the oldest as well, had etched their names on the royal pillar beneath those of her prince's parents. She doubted that was something they would willingly falsify. Certainly not the records keeper himself. He'd had a face carved from nightwood and a uncompromising stare to go with it. She wouldn't lay good odds on anyone tampering with his records. Not even the royal family themselves.

Nonetheless. As real as that ceremony might have been, it had aimed in only one direction. They had married him to her in their own manner, as a tribute and a concession of mastery. He was married to her in his people's eyes, not she to him in hers. Not yet.

She could leave it that way, she thought, as they finally reached the wedding chamber and her husband looked absently up at her. She studied him, the careful courage of him, the desperately dangerous thing beneath it. She didn't have to be his wife, not as he was her husband. She could take him home, keep him prisoner among her people, and never acknowledge him as anything more. She could keep him as hostage or slave or even concubine, logistics allowing, and leave him to her people's mercy otherwise. He would live. Those close to her knew the necessity of that. He wouldn't be killed. He would never be respected either. Never acknowledged.

She could do that. She could. And yet she knew she wouldn't. She'd known before she ever married him this day. From their first evening together, she'd known. It was why she'd worn blue with her armour today, her people's wedding colour. He was far too great a prize, this lethal princeling. It wasn't in her not to claim him completely and in full.

She would marry him again, when they reached her kingdom. She would have her people know just how valuable a thing she had won.

And he knew, didn't he. When the door closed behind them, leaving them finally and completely alone together, every escort at last stripped away. He stood in the centre of the room, facing her, belonging to her, alone and with no more hope of rescue ever again. He looked up at her, her husband, and he knew. He trembled, he couldn't help it, but never once did he lower his gaze. Never once did he retreat.

It wasn't in him. It wasn't his nature. And Calime would have her people know how much she treasured that.

"... So then," her prince said softly, while she moved to him and touched him lightly on the cheek. She cupped it, a familiar gesture now, and he leaned carefully into her hand as always. "What now, my wife? Is this the part where we finally test those logistics, and see how complicated they might be?"

He didn't flinch for saying it. There was even, she thought, a glimmer of real curiosity about him, as though he might truly be interested in such an exercise, if he could only be assured of his safety in her hands. The shadow of his fear was too deep for it now, though. As ready as he wished he was, she was still a monster and a beast to him, and this night was the first in which he belonged to her utterly. He couldn't help but be afraid. He couldn't help but shake with it, for all he made his voice as calm and steady as the horizon.

She couldn't break him. She couldn't break him. Not like this, not this way. It would only make him more dangerous, and she didn't want to besides. His dignity was too beautiful a thing to shatter uselessly against a bedstead.

Yet he was hers. He was, and she meant to have some part of him. Just ... not that one.

"... Not tonight," she said, still holding his trembling cheek in her hand. He blinked at her, and she carefully stroked his curls with her other hand. She'd had her claws oiled for the ceremony. They slipped through his hair with never a snarl. "Not tonight, my husband. If I'm truthful, I don't much desire you in that manner, and tonight of all nights I'm in no mood for awkward fumblings to see how much pleasure either of us may truly gain. No. Not tonight."

There was a flicker in his expression. She watched it curiously, but it was faint enough that she couldn't quite read it. Disappointment maybe. Dread, for the deferral? Or maybe just relief. It filtered through him, softened his spine. She felt it, her claws still cupped about his cheek. She felt the tautness of him faintly ease, and found the sensation not displeasing.

"Is that mercy?" he wondered softly, that vague smile flickering once more across his face. "Or should I call it a rejection instead?"

She laughed at him. Softly, only softly. She gathered him gently to her chest. He went with surprising ease, and she didn't immediately feel a knife at her ribs either. Though he'd have to aim for her armpit to do true damage from here. Her armour might be ceremonial today, but it would still blunt most blades, and he didn't have a lot of leverage this close. She scooped him up into her arms, and laughed at the studied blankness of his expression, the way he stiffened and then loosened deliberately, and didn't cling despite his alarm. Oh, but he was perfect. She brought him gently to their wedding bed, and set him on the edge it while he carefully did not flinch. Perfect. So very perfect indeed.

"Not a rejection," she told him solemnly, pulling his crown loose from his curls. "Not mercy either. You're mine now, husband, and that I will not turn from. It's not war I want tonight, though, or uncertainty either. There'll be all the rest of our marriage for that. Let's have peace for tonight, hmm? Both of us."

He blinked up at her. Again, a flicker. Surprise? No. Challenge. He had danger coiled inside him, defiance too, and Calime thought she caught a glimmer of it there. What right have you to peace, it seemed to say. What right have you to calm when me and mine have none? His fingers curled against the bedspread, and for a moment there was something brightly savage about him.

It faded, though. It vanished, crushed ruthlessly downwards by his pragmatism, and he only smiled at her mildly instead. He only inclined his head, and nodded agreement to her wishes.

By light he was lethal. A poisoned blade, currently sheathed but ever ready. She dearly wished to own him. She wanted badly to have him in her hand, and trust that it would be her enemies he struck. She could afford care, to earn that. She could perhaps afford a great many things, to be negotiated later, and at length.

She'd want the measure of him first. He was too sly by far to make promises from the start.

"Come," she said, instead of offering any. She plucked lightly at the golden wrapping of his robes, still caught stiff and splendid around him. "We'll dress for bed. Do you need help with those? They look worse than armour for complexity."

He blinked, startled, and then he snorted at her. Rough and inelegant. Calime nearly laughed, delighted by the gesture. Well, so he wasn't graceful all the time! He nudged her hand gently away from the cloth at his shoulder, and squinted thoughtfully up at her.

"I doubt they're worse," he said, tone leaking back into his voice now that it would only reveal amusement rather than terror. "Perhaps about even. Shall we trade, wife? You peel me from mine if I unbuckle you from yours?" His smile widened as she stared at him, bright and knifelike and almost honest. "We should do at least one traditional thing this night, if we're to virtuously avoid all else."

She did laugh at him then, a warm, rumbling purr of deep amusement. It rattled out of her chest and won a flash of open startlement from him, astonishment where he sat wondering up at her, and then a slow, small smile, perhaps more genuine than the last. Or less. She couldn't tell yet. She promised herself happily that she would learn.

"A trade," she agreed, taking his shoulders warmly in her hands. "Armour for armour, husband of mine. And then a bath, I think. I need to groom out my fur. I do so hate ceremonial armour. It tends to catch in awkward places."

He chuckled softly. And then ... then he touched her. Carefully, curiously on the arm, the brown-gold fur emerging above her bracer. He pulled it curiously between his fingers, his face soft and thoughtful, and Calime paused. Watched him, studied and studying in turn. He pushed his palm up along her arm, to the unshielded hollow of her elbow, the slightly longer flow of fur extending down from her shoulders. She leaned down a little to allow it. He touched her fur gently, sifting his fingers through it. There was such a strange look on his so-human face. That vague curiosity from earlier, softened now without the fear to edge it. He looked up at her. She met his eyes wordlessly.

"Perhaps I might help you with that," he said, soft and almost hesitant. "If ... if you'd like. If you'd show me how. Wife. Calime."

She didn't answer for a moment. Nearly couldn't, wrongfooted all over again by the strangeness of him. It might be manipulation. It might not. The softer he got, the more sly, and only more dangerous for it. He was so soft, and so strange, and so dangerous. It wasn't desire he made her feel, at least she didn't think so, but it was something. Something she'd never felt for any lover, not even the now-dead father of her child, her precious Inora. She wasn't sure if she'd ever felt the like of it before. It felt ... she didn't know. That trembling moment before battle, maybe, that breathless, pounding feeling. A thrumming in her veins.

"... I would like that," she managed at last, her voice rougher and far softer than her wont. "Fami. My husband. I think I'd like that quite a lot."

Light. Oh light. He was going to get her killed. This poisoned knife was going to be her deathblow.

And somehow, she couldn't manage to regret it. Not even for a moment.


A/N: Completed (for the first arc) here: Morning Vows
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