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[livejournal.com profile] evewithanapple requested some Reign femslash over on Tumblr, which reminded me yet again that I am astoundingly femslash-otp-devoid for a show this full of wondrous women. So I went with a random crack pairing that occurred to me awhile ago; I can’t help but find it full of delightful potential. :)

This doesn't delve into the most recent Catherine and Claude storyline developments, because I have no idea what to do with that business, y'all.

party girls don’t get hurt - Reign ; Penelope/Claude ; 2,600 words. Penelope, back at French Court as a lady of Catherine’s Flying Squad, is appointed a most unglamorous task: keeping Princess Claude in line.



Honestly, Penelope likes being a member of Catherine’s Flying Squad. It involves fabulous dresses and wine and trickery and sex (sometimes even with decent-looking men who have some clue what they’re doing), and Penelope likes all of these things much better than slaving away in the damn scullery. It’s just the sort of better life she always wanted, the sort her parents always said would never come to her. You’re lucky, they’d say, to work in the palace at all, and they’d laugh at her grand dreams of more. Well, she’d be the one laughing now, if they were still alive to see it. She’ll never admit it, but she’s grateful to Queen Catherine, fearsome though that woman is.

So when Catherine comes to her with a new task, she’s excited. She’s careful not to show it, though. “Who am I seducing this time, then?” she asks nonchalantly.

“No seduction this time.” Catherine smiles slightly. “I’ve a very special assignment in mind for you.”

Penelope feels a spark of excitement.


+


... which is immediately snuffed out when she discovers just what her new assignment is.

“A chaperone?” says Princess Claude, aghast, when Penelope reports to her chambers. “And one of my mother’s fancy whores, no less? No thank you.”

“You’re quite the fancy whore yourself, if the stories are true,” Penelope retorts.

Claude gasps, affronted. “Excuse you. You are speaking to a princess!”

“I don’t much care,” Penelope says, and then throws in a prim, “Your Highness.”

Claude glowers.

Penelope curtseys, deliberately loose and gaudy. She can pull off a proper graceful curtsey now, after months of training, and talk like a fine lady too, but she’ll not be wasting such skills on this little twit.

So in a way, this new servitude’s quite liberating, even if it is the most frustrating assignment Penelope's ever gotten. She's not a nanny. Penelope only looks out for one person, and that's herself.

But she knows that when girls like her say no to Catherine, they don't stick around for long. And Penelope's not about to give up all her new pretty things. Her new pretty life.


+


Penelope’s been told to ‘make the princess behave by any means necessary.’

If that means stealing the attention of any man who Claude flirts with, well – making her angry’s just a bonus, now isn’t it?

A rather dashing courtier is pretending (badly) not to stare at Penelope’s breasts, and doesn’t seem to notice Claude’s hand on his arm even though two minutes ago he was all caught up in her.

Penelope meets the princess’s eyes and gives her a tiny, triumphant smirk.

“My spinsterish companion and I must be going now,” Claude says abruptly, grabbing Penelope and dragging her out into the corridor. Even once they’re safely removed from the room, she doesn’t move her fingers. Instead, she digs them harder into Penelope’s arm. “You can’t imagine he actually preferred you to me!”

“Seemed like he did,” Penelope says.

“You walk around all smug,” Claude snarls, “but you’re just a little urchin who’s deluded herself into thinking she matters. I asked around about you, you know, and you were just a kitchen wench until you won that ridiculous Bean Queen title and my father paid attention to you for five minutes. You act like some great seductress, but you’re just a little filthy commoner in a nice dress that my mother bought you. I bet I’ve had more lovers than you.”

Penelope cocks her head. “You sure about that, Princess?”

Claude lifts her chin defiantly. “Kitchen rats don’t count.”

“I never had much of a taste for kitchen rats. You know who I did like? The late King of France.” Penelope puts a nostalgic smile on. “I tied him up in all manner of nasty ways. He went positively wild for it. I could get him to beg like a dog. The most powerful man in France, chosen by God, and I could have torn him to bits and made him like it.”

Claude scowls, disgusted.

“Just think. I was almost your stepmother once.” Penelope gives her a saccharine smile. Then she reaches for Claude’s hand, still locked around her arm, and lifts each of her fingers one by one.

Claude seems a little shaken; for once, all the spite goes out of her, and she just looks at Penelope, blank and bested.

It’s very satisfying, that.

“He only liked you because he was stark raving mad,” Claude recovers at last. She sneers. “In fact, I’m quite sure that’s the only way anyone could ever like you.”

“You like me a little bit,” Penelope teases. Perhaps not so nicely. “Go on. Admit it.”

Claude glares at her, then turns and stomps off like the little royal brat she is. Penelope laughs.


+


“If you’re so worldly,” Claude says a few days later, standing at the looking glass as her maidservant helps her dress (these people ... the most powerful in all the land, and yet they’re like babies; can’t even put their own clothes on), “have you ever been with a girl?”

Penelope shrugs from where she sits on the end of the bed. “A few times. Women have secrets worth stealing, too. Though they’re usually better at keeping them. You have to work harder. Fun challenge, though.”

“What was it like?” Claude asks curiously.

“So you haven’t?”

“Not yet.”

“But you plan to.”

Claude meets her own eyes in the looking glass, determined. “I plan to do whatever will make my mother furious.”

“Who do you think sent me to those women? I don’t think your mum’s as easily shocked as you think. You know what you should do?” Penelope adds. “Behave yourself. That’ll really shock her.”

The maidservant giggles. Then she realizes what she’s doing and inhales the giggle in a gasp.

“Never,” Claude says, surly, then turns to swat at the poor girl.


+


A few evenings later, they’re milling about with a bunch of courtiers; it’s turned into an impromptu concert, fine ladies showing off their (supposed) musical skills, and Penelope has already heard enough of the harpsichord to want to bash her head against the wall. She may rank among them now—in a way, at least—but that doesn’t change the fact that rich people are ridiculous.

Catherine makes her way into the room, accompanied by a bevy of ladies in waiting. As soon as Claude spots her, she stiffens.

“Oh, Mother!” she trills as soon as Catherine’s come over. Penelope’s got a bad feeling about this. “Have I thanked you yet for giving me Penelope? She and I get up to all kinds of fun together.” Claude very pointedly plants a hand on Penelope’s thigh.

Catherine rolls her eyes. “Following Lady Kenna’s example and sleeping your way through the family, are you?” she asks Penelope.

Penelope gives the queen mother a smile meant to convey the same message as a very rude hand gesture.

Claude drapes an arm over Penelope’s shoulders and uses her free hand to play with locks of Penelope’s dark hair. Catherine tut tuts and sweeps away, apparently deciding the spectacle’s not worth her attention. Penelope wishes everyone else in the room would follow suit. They don’t. Even the bloody harpsichord’s gone silent.

“Everyone’s watching,” Penelope says furiously from between gritted teeth.

“Good,” says Claude.


+


The second they step into the princess’s chambers, Penelope grabs Claude’s shoulders and pushes her against the wall, kissing her hard and long. Revenge is sweet.

When she pulls away, Claude is bright pink and breathless.

“Don’t make promises you’re not willing to keep,” Penelope orders.

“I ... I ...” Claude stammers.

“And think twice,” Penelope says coldly, “before messing with me.”

She turns and leaves the room with a bit of a spring in her step, half-wishing she could have stuck around to see the struck-dumb look on the princess’s face. But Penelope is good at knowing when to stop and leave them wanting more. It’s the reason she didn’t wind up just another dead whore in King Henry’s bed.


+


Princess Nightmare behaves herself for awhile after that.

Wonder of wonders, she’s even content to stay in her room one night; she reads for a bit, some romantic drivel. Penelope knows how to read now, but she doesn’t much enjoy it. Why read about made-up people doing things when you could just do them yourself? Penelope works on her embroidery instead. It still feels like a big fat waste of time—at least mending socks serves a purpose; what’s the point in putting flowers on fabric?—but she’s getting good at it.

After about a half hour of quiet, Claude asks, “Have you ever been in love?” She doesn’t look up from the book.

“No. Love’s never interested me,” Penelope answers truthfully. “I’d rather be on my own; a husband would only want me to take care of him, and there’s no way I’m doing that. You?”

To her surprise, Claude looks so melancholy at the question that Penelope almost feels bad for asking it.

“What’s going on in that, then?” Penelope points at the book, grasping for a distraction.

“It’s about a girl who falls in love with—with the wrong man. And so she has to trick him in order to convince him to be with her. He finds out and he’s ... displeased.”

“How displeased?”

“He tries to kill her. To avoid his wrath, she gets turned into a myrrh tree.”

Penelope snorts. “Sounds stupid.”

“It’s not stupid. It’s beautiful. And so sad.”

“Whatever you say,” Penelope replies, and goes back to embroidering.

“There’s a part about another girl,” Claude continues. “She tries to convince the man she loves that her love is good and true and ... and they should be together, but he won’t hear of it. He breaks her heart. And she wanders the world, weeping and mad, until she dies and turns into a spring.”

Penelope has to laugh at that one. “Who in the world came up with this load of dung?”

“Ovid,” Claude says, in a voice that makes it clear that’s supposed to mean something.

Penelope stares at her.

“You are a philistine, aren’t you?” Claude says snootily.

“If you say so. But at least I’m not weeping over tree-girls.”

“I’m not weeping,” Claude says angrily. “You’re dismissed.”

“No I’m not. I’m supposed to remain with you during your every waking hour.”

“Well, I’m going to bed. So get out.”

Penelope knows that she ought to fight it, but the idea of leaving is too fine to resist. She’s got a headache coming on, no doubt caused by too much time with annoying royals.

“Very well,” she says, and goes, leaving Little Miss Whiny to weep over her odd fairytales.


+


It’s a mistake.

Penelope discovers that when she comes to Claude’s room the next morning to find it empty, the bed not slept in.

“Oh, bugger,” Penelope mutters.

Fortunately, she’s spared hunting for the princess. She’s just about to set off when the door busts open and Claude stumbles in, smelling so sharply of wine that Penelope feels dizzy by proxy.

“He won’t even speak to me,” she raves, staggering over to her vanity. “He’s being such a boar. It’s that wife of his—she claims to love him, but she won’t even let him speak to his own sister. I know that it’s her doing! That little—”

“You mean King Francis?”

“Bash!” Claude cries, hurling a hairbrush across the room.

“You really should use that,” Penelope says. “Your hair looks awful.”

Claude ignores her. “He’s the only one who knows what it’s like. To be a part of this family, and still endure my mother’s hatred. She would do anything for any of her other children, but never me. At least he knew what it was like—to do nothing, just be born, and have to face my mother’s ire for it. We used to get along so well. But ever since I came back ...” She sinks down onto the floor, her skirts rustling. Her face is tear-streaked and miserable when she lifts her eyes to Penelope. She looks so young. “I’m nothing more than a burden to him. To any of them.”

“You’re the one making yourself into a burden,” Penelope points out. “Scratch that: a downright terror.”

“Well, why shouldn’t they suffer? I have.” Claude sniffles loudly. “And I promise you, if I was a well-behaved lady, no one in this damned castle would look at me twice. At least this way ...”

But she abandons whatever she meant to say, and starts crying harder.

Oh, Lord.

Penelope has never been any good at comforting people.

She contemplates just walking out and leaving the princess to her stupid self-made misery, but something keeps her tethered.

So instead, she crosses the room to Claude and puts an awkward hand on her shoulder. “I’m just saying. Sometimes it’s wise to pick your battles. That’s what I did, and my life’s got much better.”

“You were mistress to the king. Now you’re just another one of my mother’s overdressed skanks.” She shakes Penelope’s hand off. “You’ve fallen. You had one good thing, and you couldn’t even keep it.”

Penelope thinks back to her time with Henry, and part of her wants to laugh at anyone calling it a good thing. The other part of her doesn’t feel like laughing a bit.

“You weren’t here,” she says. “You didn’t see what he was like. If people crossed him, he’d turn on them in a second. Torture them. Squash them like bugs. It’s like he couldn’t even see the life in people. But I kept with it, because what other choice did I have?”

Claude has gone quiet with interest.

“But then your mother, she gave me a choice. And I was smart enough to stop worrying about my pride and take it. Maybe if you just stopped fighting everyone around you all the time, you could find some peace, too.”

Claude is quiet for a long time. Then she snifflingly declares, “You talk far too much sense for a whore.”

“And you’re a right little bitch,” Penelope replies, unbothered. “Now get into bed and sleep this off, will you?”

“I could have you executed for saying that,” Claude points out, flopping as Penelope hoists her up.

“Yeah, yeah,” says Penelope, pulling back the blankets with one hand and then dumping her into bed.

“You’re the only one who stays with me,” Claude says woozily. “And it’s just because my mother forces you. Isn’t that pathetic?”

“Some days I like you a little bit. That has to count for something, hmm?”

“Shut up,” Claude orders, waving a hand dazedly. Her eyes flutter shut for a moment. “You’re a good kisser, you know.”

Penelope shrugs, smiling. “It’s part of my job.”

“Am I a good kisser?” she asks, the words blurring together.

“A boring one, really. You just stood there.”

“Because you caught me off guard!”

“I’m just being honest.”

“I am—I am an astounding kisser—I’ve ruined lives with my kissing—and you’ll—you’ll get to find out soon enough. I promise you that.”

“Do you?” Penelope is a little intrigued in spite of herself.

“Absolutely,” Claude says, and then passes out dead asleep.

Snoring and everything.

“Idiot,” Penelope says.

Still, she takes the time to carefully pull the covers up to the princess’s chin. There can't be much harm, she figures, in looking out for someone else every once in awhile.



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