"Oooh! Lookie!" the little girl pointed to a goat standing alone in the corner of the barnyard, somehow managing to looking lonely and angry, despite only being a goat. Maleficent turned her horned head in the direction that the little girl was pointing and had to stifle a laugh.
"What is it, Crystal?" she asked the child.
"The goat!" the girl replied. "Can I go pet it?" she turned up to Maleficent with hopeful eyes. Most people wouldn't ever dream of giving the Mistress of All Evil such an endearing little look, but Crystal was not like most people. As the daughter of Aurora and Phillip, she had spent quite a lot of her three-year life around all sorts of fairy creatures, including Maleficent, even though Maleficent would not always be around since she still had a kingdom to run. But whenever she could come visit the humans, Crystal was always so excited to spend time with her.
Today, they were simply exploring the castle grounds. Aurora and Phillip were both busy in meetings, so that left Maleficent in charge of caring for the girl, and because Maleficent still did not feel comfortable trapped inside the castle walls, she decided to take her young granddaughter outside instead. It was a task she enjoyed more than she thought she would, although she'd never admit it. She did still have a reputation to uphold. But in this moment, with Crystal asking hopefully if she could pet this strange goat, Maleficent decided to forget about her reputation and agree. This was because that goat was no normal goat. Instead, it was the ex-queen Ingrid. Maleficent did indeed have the power to change her back to a human, but everyone preferred her this way. Relishing the thought of getting to rub it in the ex-human's face that she was no longer of any use or threat to anyone, Maleficent decided to agree and allow Crystal the chance to pet the goat.
"Oooh! C'mere, Goatie, Goatie!" the girl sung as she ran up to Ingrid. Ingrid bleated angrily at her, taking a few steps back, but the girl was as persistent as her mother, blissfully running after the goat and giggling excitedly. "Oh, isn't this just the greatest of all time?!"
"Baaaahh!" Ingrid protested as the child continued to run at her with grubby, grabbing, outstretched hands. She even pawed at the ground in irritation, but with Maleficent only a foot behind the child, Ingrid had the good sense not to try anything funny. It was no secret that if she were ever to lash out and harm anyone in any capacity, word would get back to Maleficent and she would do much worse than simply keep the queen in a goat body. So, no matter how humiliating it was, Ingrid had the good sense to behave. Especially if Maleficent was near.
"Oooh, pretty Goatie!" the girl finally got her hands on Ingrid, petting her short, white fur happily. Ingrid flinched at being manhandled by the brat, deeply uncomfortable, embarrassed and angered, but when she glared up at Maleficent, all she was met with was a knowing little smirk. That wretched fairy was rubbing it in and Ingrid wanted nothing more than to headbutt into her as hard as she could. Not that it would do much. Instead, all she could do was tolerate the snotty little brat while Maleficent continued to smirk on in triumph. Not for the first time did Ingrid bitterly curse her fate, but all that escaped her mouth was a string of pathetic little bleats that Crystal mistook as noises of pleasure and affection.
It quickly became a game for Maleficent, watching Crystal innocently play with Ingrid while Ingrid could only suck it up and deal with it.
"You haven't changed a bit, have you, Mistress?" Diaval once asked, joining Maleficent and Crystal on one of their little outings.
"Hmmm? Maleficent pretended to look innocently confused.
"Just like when you'd prank Aurora's three caretakers," Diaval clarified, even though they both knew she didn't need the reminder.
"Ah, those were the days!" Maleficent's smirk grew. "Pranking those three witless wonders… I suppose that is the one advantage to having a new little girl in my life. I got another insufferable creature I can prank to my heart's content…" Maleficent turned her gaze back to Ingrid, who was currently enduring a rather painful braiding session courtesy of Crystal. The little girl had brought some old ribbon out to tie in Ingrid's fur and just by nature of being a chubby, inexperienced three-year-old, the beautification process was far from painless. Maleficent relished Ingrid's pain.
"Oh, this will be the greatest of all time!" they heard the little girl giggle as she grabbed another ribbon. Ingrid could only bleat in terror.
Then later, Aurora and Phillip managed to catch on to what Maleficent was doing.
"Mother!" Aurora sighed in exasperation as she watched Maleficent gleefully send Crystal off to feed Ingrid the most disgusting oats the barn had to offer. Maleficent only gave her an innocent, cheerful smile before turning her attention back to Ingrid as the poor goat forced herself to scarf down every dry, flaky, oat. It was awful stuff, even by animal standards, but with Maleficent right there, the goat wasn't about to be picky with what she was offered. And all the while, sweet little Crystal clapped her chubby little hands.
"I bet that tastes yummy, doesn't it, Goatie?" she sing-songed, and Maleficent had to bite back a laugh. "Oh, you are just so cute! You're the greatest of all time!" she cried. Phillip had the good sense to not question any of it. Instead, he only shrugged and continued to watch while Aurora rolled her eyes again at Maleficent. But Maleficent was having too much fun to care! This really was the greatest of all time!
And even John managed to catch onto what Maleficent was doing.
"I say… is that?" he pointed wordlessly to the goat that Crystal was literally running ragged around the courtyard. She was trying to take the goat out for some exercise, but her definition of exercise just involved running the goat back and forth over and over again and, after long enough, it simply devolved into an overactive child dragging a tired goat around by the neck.
"This is the greatest of all time!" the girl shrilled as she continued to yank poor Ingrid around. "Best day ever!"
"Yes. It is," Maleficent replied with a shrug. For a second, an unreadable look flickered on John's face. But then he smiled and nodded approvingly.
"I'm glad to see you three getting along so well!" he said, then he continued on his way, still looking quite happy. Maleficent watched him go with a small smile. Aside from Aurora, Crystal, and sort of Phillip, John was the only other human she even sort of liked. She was glad to know she had his approval in this wicked little game of hers, not that his disapproval would've mattered to her.
But even if Maleficent had sordid reasons for letting Crystal play with Ingrid, Crystal had genuinely grown fond of her favorite pet goat and she meant it every time she called Ingrid the greatest of all time. She truly saw all their playdates as the best days ever and, as such, her sincerity and kindness showed even when playtime was supposed to be over. But every time with Ingrid was the greatest of all time to her.
"I'm not supposed to be out here so late," the little girl whispered, putting a finger to her lips as she crawled into Ingrid's stall. It was past sundown and the goat was genuinely surprised to see her. "But Mommy said it would be extra cold tonight since winter is on its way, so I wanted to bring you a blankie to keep you nice and snuggly!" she brought a large, fluffy, pink blanket out from behind her back and draped it merrily around Ingrid. "Now you should be all nice and cozy!" she clapped, then she gave Ingrid one quick hug before skipping back out of the barn, trying to make it back to her room before anyone would notice that she'd even snuck out at all.
Ingrid, all the while, could only stare after the child long after she was gone from view. All of that had happened so fast that she'd hardly had time to even process it. All she knew was that the little girl had snuck out to see her and then give her a blanket and a hug. The first reaction Ingrid had was annoyance, because the child had given her quite the fright and the blanket was painfully garish and stupid. But the second reaction was… warmth. And not just because the blanket was, as Crystal had said, all warm and snuggly and cuddly and cozy. But rather, it was a different sort of warmth that felt embarrassing and strange, but made Ingrid feel just a little bit like a queen again.
For a time, she continued to stare soundlessly at the childish pink blanket draped around her body before she finally lowered her head back down in attempt to rest. Her thoughts were very confused and surprised, but they were less venomous than they had been just earlier that day. She still was far from fond of the little Beastie who would someday take over her precious kingdom, but she could not deny that what the girl had done for her had been… sweet. And she had the feeling that it was genuine, too, and it wasn't just another one of that evil fairy's awful tricks. Instead, this had been something Crystal had done of her own volition because she genuinely saw her time with Ingrid as the greatest of all time.
Well, I don't know if I can say the same Ingrid admitted to herself as she turned back to look at the castle one last time. But I suppose she is at least… decent. Better than any of the other humans currently running my kingdom! Maybe she has a glimmer of potential… But before the goat's thoughts could become too sappy or gentle, she only let out a huff of air before falling back to sleep. Maybe Crystal was not the greatest of all time in Ingrid's eyes, but Ingrid would at least try to be less unpleasant whenever she was around. Just so long as her childish activities didn't run the goat too ragged. But that was something only time could truly tell. For now, it was time to rest.
AN: StoryReader01, this was actually a hilarious prompt and I had lots fun writing it! Hope you have lots of fun reading it!