mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Who clipped the lion's wings, And flea'd his rump and pared his claws?

I'm terribly sorry about the continuing strike at York University, except that the presence of bodies at liberty allows me to cut my 8 and 10 hour days back to manageable afternoons. Always subject to change without prior notification, but today I have my mornings back. Hence this fic, Dec 2's 31_days prompt. Set in the Woxin A/U where Gou Jian lives near the King's stables and not in a quarry, and harkening back to wherever I left that A/U off, more or less here.

(And dear God but lj's rich text format sucks more mightily than ever. Why has no one come up with a fast html tag for 'indent five em dashes'?)

Who clipped the lion's wings?

Gou Jian stands at one side of the archway leading to the King's small bedchamber. A waiting woman stands at the other. Fu Chai stretches out under the covers in satisfaction. Gou Jian will be standing for the next four watches. He'll be exhausted when he finally gets home. Will fall onto his straw pallet and lose consciousness until the evening comes and he gets to do this all over again. There's more than one way to skin a cat, Fu Chai thinks happily. He turns on his side and closes his eyes

Sleep fails to come. His mind drifts, hearing voices from yesterday's audiences, hearing Wu Zi Xu insisting on something in his cracked old-man's tones, hearing Bo Pi protesting too vehemently about something else, hearing someone saying What do you intend to do with Us?

Make you my chamber servant along with the eunuchs and the women. Keep you on your feet all night so you can't plot against me during the day.

That isn't what I wanted. What I wanted...

...Gou Jian walks into his old hall and cocks his head to look up at Fu Chai sitting on his throne.

'Didn't expect to see Us here, did you?' Fu Chai asks.

'The possibility never entered Our mind,' Gou Jian agrees. He sits down on the balustrade, crosses his legs and leans back. 'So, what did you think of the battle?'

'You had a nice strategy there, if it had worked.' Fu Chai doesn't mind admitting facts.

'You had a crazy strategy there-- or rather, no strategy at all,' Gou Jian frowns. 'It *shouldn't* have worked.'.

'Boldness, luck, a bit of misdirection.' Fu Chai smiles. 'And it probably wouldn't have worked if you hadn't let your lines of communication get cut."

Gou Jian makes a wry face. 'True.' He sighs. 'So, what are You going to do with Us now?'

'Reset the pieces and play another bout. There'll be a forfeit. We'll keep your capital.' Gou Jian looks at him sharply. Fu Chai waves an airy hand. 'Oh, the Queen's palace is off limits to Us and our armies, whatever happens. I've already ordered that the women remain unharmed.'

'The Queen will accompany Us when we go.'

Fu Chai is hurt. 'You don't trust Our word?'

Gou Jian raises surprised eyebrows. 'Of course I do.'

It's the truth. Clearly he just wants his Queen with him in exile. Not surprising, given the Queen's amazing beauty, but Gou Jian's never had the reputation of being a great lover of women and Fu Chai *is* surprised.

He rubs his moustache.

'Why do I feel I'm making a mistake by agreeing? Well, never mind. Let's see how this game works out.'

Gou Jian stands up, stretching a bit. Must have been a long ride from the borders of Chu where his army was last reported as being.

'Until next time,' Gou Jian says.

'Next time,' Fu Chai agrees.

Gou Jian gives him a look over his shoulder. 'When I'll greet you in the great Hall of Wu.' They smile at each other.

'Maybe,' Fu Chai says. And doesn't add, But I'll still be the one sitting on the throne.

He wakes, startled, into reality. The small glow of the oil lamp illuminates his chamber. There's a faint rustling of fabric by the archway. Standing for eight hours without moving is beyond anyone's power.

He sits up. "Gou Jian," he calls.

"Great Lord." Gou Jian's spare figure appears in the archway.

Something loosens in Fu Chai's chest, something tightens in obscure unhappiness in his soul. He points to the step below his bed. "Sit there. Guard Our rest."

Gou Jian comes forward, kneels on the step and sits back on his heels. In the warm light from the oil dip his black eyes meet Fu Chai's. In the outer room is the almost palpable alarm of the women and the eunuchs. The King is alone with his enemy, the King is alone without an armed man near him, the King--!! Fu Chai smiles in a delight he can't begin to explain and sees the faint reflection of that smile in Gou Jian's eyes. Danger, or the sense of danger, and not knowing if Gou Jian really threatens him or if after all it's just a game they're playing--

Fu Chai is asleep before he knows it.

Tags: fic, woxin

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