A Game of Thrones


by the Mad Poetess (rated PG)

Drusilla wears a crown, a wreath of nettle and belladonna, woven through her hair by slender, bleeding fingers that will bleed even harder come morning, when he tries to comb it out. She perches straightbacked on the royal chaise -- not threadbare, through the magic of her game. The image of majesty, though she's just this close to bolting, joy or rage or nervous energy or pixies in the wainscotting that she simply has to crouch down by the baseboard to hear. Delicate feet in rose red slippers, stretched near but not too near the fire. Two pairs of hands at the ready to grab her should she take it into her head to jump up and reach for sparks that she forgets she mustn't touch.

This is nothing novel for Spike, playing pauper prince for her, courtier and slave. Bleeding for the pretty in her hair, or folded up at her feet like his mother's little spaniel, begging for treats. It's what he was made for. The crumple of his brow and the blood in his mouth and the fire in his gut that gnaws at him to fight and chase and eat and eat and eat -- they're all just side-effects. He's all for her, born into death for her hands and her hair and her eyes, and if she ordered him some morning to be human again, slip the hooks of his spectacles over his ears, walk out into the sunshine, and, stammering, force his heart to beat, Spike has no doubt he would, or burn in the attempt.

Him, though. Himself who knows everything, who's done everything, who rules them all save Darla with a fist the size of Spike's head and a brain -- Spike thinks when he's far enough away not to get slapped for it -- the size of Spike's fist. To see him on the floor at her feet, huddled mountain of discomfort, surly mastiff of a man playing lapdog to his own child... It's the best game ever, and has Spike struggling to hold in the laughter every time Drusilla reaches down to muss her precious Angel's precious hair. The struggle hurts Spike's ribs -- or something tight and silent deep beneath them.

There must have been a time when Angelus did the things for her that Spike does now. Dressed her, pleased her, held her when she screamed. Twisted fingers in that long dark hair until the knots came loose. Still, sometimes, he does these things. But never as a servant, never looking up. The calm hand of the father, the monster's raging blows, the amused caress, the molten kiss of blade in flesh, searing patterns in her skin. They fell on her -- as now they fall on Spike -- from above, gifted at His desire. Not hers. Not theirs, no matter if or how they crave his touch.

Not like this, not like now. Now he glowers with his head against her knee, for all that, had the whole idea been his, the Lord and Master could play the courtly lover better far than Spike. A hundred years with Darla, slave to fine brocades and finer beds, and even a tavern lout can learn. If his accent hasn't changed in a century as much as Spike's has in these scant few months, the words themselves like honeyed wine make everyone forget. The growl of his voice in their ears, smoothed over with the devil's very lips, and he's some foreign royalty, handing his perfect, gold-pale queen through the passes of the dance.

But there's the rub, for it's not his idea, not Angelus' game to lounge upon the carpet as a matching set with Spike. Nor is it Dru's at heart, for all that it's her storybook they've brought to life. The man she owns, the man who owns her heart, and Spike's not fool enough to think that both of those are him. Princess of Everything and Nothing, ruler of two men and a drafty summer cottage by the sea. She named the game, but Dru'd not ordered Angelus to play.

"Our girl deserves a present, don't you think, Angelus?" Darla, half-dressed, by the fire, his fingers at her corset stays. "For telling you which child to snatch, to make those hairy fools stand off."

The Mayor's son, half-grown but big enough to hold a torch, amid a crowd of boys his age and men who should've known better than to beard a pride of lions in their den. Even if the lions were cold and wet and hungry, and the den a drafty pigpit of a Yorkshire mine. Still, fire and numbers almost had them down, without Drusilla's finger, straight and sure, pointing at one boy in farmers' togs, among a dozen.

Angelus' fangs then, at the lad's white throat, his well-groomed head that nodded, days later, miles away, safe on the coast of France. The pretty shake of yes, of course, what were you saying, eyes and mind gorged on the sight of her, mouth moving on its own. "Of course. A present. Diamonds, chocolates, sweet young things...whatever she wants." Whatever you want, Spike knew he meant, Angelus' fingers ghosting over the swell of her breast.

Darla's sly amusement when her eyes, half full of firelight, turned on Dru and she asked, "Sweetness? What is it you'd like?" and Drusilla's answer, serious and stern.

"I want to be Princess of Everything. And everyone must do as I command." Then the laugh of a wicked child in her voice, as if this was a nursery game she played, a life ago. "Except my grandmama, of course." Her face ducked sly away, for Dru knows more than she lets on, of how to get the things she really wants.

For the tilt of Dru's head or joy in the game or private reasons Spike could give a fig about, Darla let the family tree stand tall for once, the hatchet of her vanity nowhere in sight. "Now what a clever game that is, my dear. Don't you think so, Angelus?"

And he was lost in fire and skin and tendrils of her hair and only muttered yes, there's a good girl, go play. But he was blinking, growling "What?" when Dru clapped hands, commanding him to serve.

"You! That boy by the fire. Come here at once, you."

"What cockfool's game is this? Drusilla, can't you see that Daddy's...busy?"

"I am the Princess, not you," she said, as if it needed saying. As if, broad back bent over Darla's body, shirt open to his firelight-shadowed throat, a blind man or a fool could mix the two. "Your princess needs two footmen, one for each side, or the room will tip over. Besides, it's prettiest that way."

"Dru, you're trying my patience." His fingers, deft despite his irritation, loosening strings to bare the hidden flesh.

"Do I like it? May I keep it if I do? Bring it to me, and sit while I decide." Her fingers, curling towards him, then a flip, stabbing downwards towards the floor. Towards Spike.

Brown eyes turned gold, blazing at the cheek. "Drusilla, there is such a thing as twice too far, my girl, and you--"

Spike watching from the carpet, Drusilla from the chair. Where they'd always been, but it's only Darla's laughter could send Angelus there to join them.

"You can't mean--"

Darla's hand upon his sleeve, holding him back from her. And Spike was tempted then to laugh, as he's been tempted ever since. The pratfall moment, anger turned to disbelief, the devil's face collapsing to a clown's, as Angelus knew that she was serious. "But yes, in fact, I do."

And looking up to see the secret smile upon Drusilla's lips, Spike knew the game. They'd planned it in advance, the two of them, and Spike had placed the crown but never guessed the plan. Untold, because, well, who forewarned Spike of anything?

Angelus saw it too, for all the size or lack thereof of what lived in his skull, and growled at both, or maybe all of them.

Her hand stayed where it was, as did her stays. Too late, he softened growl to plea, impatient for her touch. "Ah, Darla, love, don't be like this."

Spike didn't hold that snort. As if she isn't always? Oh, this particular game, she's never played before, handing his leash to someone else to show for sure it's there. But always something, pushing at him just to prove he'll do it, or fight with her and walk out, door thrown wide. It hardly matters which -- he'll never leave her, not for long.

Don't be like this -- how else is she to be? Spike ate the thought, a sliver of sympathy that smacked as foul upon his tongue as rotting cake. She plays him hard enough to hide how much she needs him back. She plays him because she can, because he's hers, because it's all she knows to count on in the world. That he needs her and nothing, time nor age nor pain nor flares of raging hatred at his lot, can break that death-forged link.

Spike knows it from the other end, the collar round his throat, but he can see the bare need in her eyes, to rule one thing, at least, when pearls and silks and views are gone. And how could he not understand that need? It burns inside his gut, a hole he knows no blood will ever fill. Spike knows the why of Darla, and hates her all the more because of it.

"You said you'd play her game -- so play, Angelus. Now." And Dru knows nothing, princess of the dolls, of the royal command. The brittle steel of Darla's voice, the weight and strength and heft of it, that can push a man away who's twice her size, and send him snarling, grumbling, to the floor.

So now, the two of them sit silent at Dru's feet, waiting for the next command. Spike easy on the carpet, cheek raised to her hand, and Angelus...

The snicker's not just swallowed for the pain that heavy hands might cause, not when Spike's not even sure that pain's not what he wants tonight. The blow at the temple, the buzz in his head, those eyes ablaze at him -- might burn away the hate. For Darla, for himself. Never for Dru. He'll never hate her; isn't made for it.

But him. Sky-tall and wide as everything, the center of them all. Lover, father, master, and nothing in his voice or touch or mind that doesn't tie Spike tight as any bramble-knot in Dru's dark hair. For him on the floor, fallen to a smaller hand, head bowed beneath the hand that should be Spike's... There's hate. There has to be. What else, after all, could it be?

Angelus, Dru's fingers in his hair, the soft grrr-shush of her voice, telling him what a good lad he is, even as he growls in protest. Spike's cheek untouched, and he pretends he doesn't care. Pretends, as well, he's certain who he's jealous of.


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