A/N: This one pretty much wrote itself. That's my none-too-subtle way of weaseling out of responsibility for the crazier parts.
Raph/Cass (you're all shocked, I'm sure) with seriously suggestive themes. It's still clean enough to warrant a "T" rating, but it's on the stronger side. I'd say something along the lines of "reader discretion advised," but who are we kidding, that probably just draws you guys in even more. Enjoy.
Her first thought upon exiting the kitchen, arms laden with a highly-polished tray piled high with a number of allegedly edible foodstuffs, was that she was going to kill Raphael the next time he raised the slightest question about her cooking ability.
Cassandra pursed her lips in irritation as she began to climb the unevenly-cut stone staircase leading to Raphael's private chambers. She was often eager to help ease the servants' workload, assisting the gardener in his never-ending quest to clear overgrown knotweed from his flourishing medicinal herbs or preparing sweet breads and lamb alongside the ill-tempered cook. But tonight, she had scarcely crossed the threshold into the dingy, malodorous kitchen before a kitchen maid had rushed forward, thrusting the tray into her arms and shouting fearfully in Romanian. Cassandra's feeble attempts to understand the woman's panicked shouts were met largely by continued hysterics until another maid appeared from beside the ovens, patting the woman on the shoulder and handing her a smooth iron cross from her apron pocket.
"Full moon," the maid said in heavily-accented Greek. "He eats souls."
Cassandra's stark look of disbelief had earned her the maid's cross and a Romanian prayer of protection, but they had still forced her to deliver the master's supper to him herself. I guess it's okay if he eats my soul, then, she thought, casting an annoyed glance back at the kitchen.
At least it had given her an opportunity to see what Raphael actually ate when he dined alone. Whenever he accompanied her on one of their moonlit picnics in the gardens or late-night discussions in the library, she always served up some traditional dish from her homeland—freshly-made tyropitakia pastries or loukaniko sausage—which Raphael had the grace to politely accept but often stared at with a slight air of disdain. "I'm sure it is perfectly delectable by Athenian standards," he would say, "but I'm afraid it can hardly be comparable to French cuisine."
Now, carrying a thick stew of haricots and sugared duck meat and some odd dessert that seemed a mishmash of cream, sweet almonds, and jelly that seemed to move disconcertingly of its own free will, Cassandra was considering indulging the urge to enter his chambers and throw his "delectable" French cuisine right into his infuriatingly-noble face.
Of course, come morning the servants would no doubt find her sprawled out lifelessly in the corridor with a rapier through her heart, and she couldn't imagine that would much help the general impression they held of their employer.
She'd have to hold her tongue, then. At least until the next time.
Cassandra reached the top of the twisting staircase, suppressing an exclamation of disgust at the sight of the dessert—what had the maid called it? Blancmange?—quivering in its little porcelain dish. Raphael had plied her often enough with French wine to know that their vineyards were surely among the best in Europe, but they clearly had little knowledge of how to make visually-appealing food. A fleeting thought ran through her mind that perhaps it was the Romanian-born staff of the castle who had little knowledge of French cuisine, but she swiftly dismissed it.
The corridor to Raphael's chambers was dark and frigid, chilled mountain air and silver moonlight slipping through the cracks in the ancient stone walls. Cassandra could almost understand the servants' trepidation; had she known of Raphael only through his wicked reputation, she could easily see herself quaking by dim torchlight as she approached the richly-paneled doors at the end of the hall. As it was, she'd spent enough time by his side to know that there would be no mad-eyed demon awaiting her in a softly-lit parlor, claws tearing at her as he devoured her soul. No, Raphael would probably welcome her with a soft caress before kissing her with just enough passion to leave her head swimming and mind disjointed—and then insult her cooking and close the door in her face. Such was the nature of their odd relationship, a careful dance of animosity and affection, sharp tongues and soft lips.
Surely it would help, Cassandra mused, if she could gain the upper hand at some point. Rare were the times she could cause a moment of clear speechlessness in the midst of an argument with Raphael; far too often he would easily evade her stinging jabs and secure a clear victory in their battle of wits. Either that, or he would go about seducing her with honeyed words of scarcely-concealed lust and admiration, of which he had a seemingly-endless supply.
Cassandra frowned and paused for a moment, only a few feet from the entrance to Raphael's chambers. That was the real problem; he was always far too prepared to sweep her off her feet, whisper darkly-seductive promises in her ear. There had, of course, been a number of clumsy village boys who had attempted to express their affections to her—often in badly-measured verse (occasionally beginning with such promising phrases as "Cassandra's a girl with lots of pluck…")—but Cassandra too-frequently found herself exasperated by Raphael's utter mastery of the skill. She still remembered the occasion in which he'd twisted an innocent question about the length of time required for a soufflé to rise at such a high altitude into a thinly-veiled reference to his sexual stamina.
That one had certainly led to some interesting dreams. Cassandra shook her head vigorously as a montage of images flashed quickly through her mind. She began once again vaguely entertaining the notion of tossing his unappetizing meal at him as she moved towards the door.
Raphael's muffled, distant voice came suddenly from the other side, his tone low and dark.
Cassandra was many things as a companion—cheerful, uplifting, kind, and intelligent. She was not, however, immune to curiosity where Raphael's private matters were concerned. Softly placing the tray upon the rough stone floor so as not to cause an echo through the still night air, she then moved to press her ear firmly against the door, eyes wide.
"Surely you must be curious, my love," Raphael said quietly, and Cassandra felt her heart seize with fear until she realized he could not have noticed her presence. "So many cold nights without your warmth have taken their toll upon me as well. Surely it would be of no harm to stay by my side for one evening."
Cassandra's eyes widened further.
"I would rather not force you, dear. How much simpler this would all be if you would merely acknowledge your desires. I would be—" Cassandra heard him exhale deeply, the sound somehow electrifying. "—entirely willing to alleviate your frustration."
Gods above, he had a girl with him. An odd mix of anger and jealousy shot through her, and she curled her hands into loose fists against her apron. How many times had he said similar things to her as he held her by moonlight, lips moving whisper-soft against her cheeks, her pale throat? And now he was uttering the same trite phrases to some housemaid—or worse, some voluptuous trollop from the nearby village, all dark-lashed teasing eyes and heaving breasts.
Cassandra felt her lips twist into a scowl. And after she'd climbed her way to his chambers at the risk of having her soul eaten! How dare Raphael accuse her of poor manners when he didn't even have the common decency to think up new words of seduction for his temporary bedmates; no, he used her words, the ones that made her cheeks flush and her toes curl and sent her those disturbing dreams about being devoured. Well, she certainly refused to stand for such a thing. She'd eat the blancmange herself as revenge if she had to.
Eyes narrowed purposefully, Cassandra carefully pushed the heavy doors open a sliver, darting a glance around the richly-appointed parlor, seeking the image of Raphael half-disrobed with some blushing maiden in his arms…
…only to see the object of her ire reclining easily upon a chaise longue, fully-clothed in a simple linen shirt and trousers. The nib of a quill pen was held between his teeth, a small stack of parchment perched upon his lap, his eyes distant with thought, most decidedly alone.
Then what in Hephaestus' name…
"I've no doubt that you have dreamt," Raphael said suddenly, brow furrowed in concentration, "of sating your passion by the glow of candlelight, of surrendering to ruin in my embrace." He paused. "That one might actually work." He began to quickly transcribe his words upon a fresh sheet of parchment. "Although perhaps 'ruin' would dampen her spirits. Perhaps something more akin to…passion, fire… Ah, no, I use passion far too often." He leaned back, resting his head against the plush upholstery.
"I dream nightly of your embrace," he attempted in a seductive tone, "of capturing your lips and laying your body beneath mine…" Raphael frowned in disgust. "Rubbish." He limply dropped the quill to the carpet. "'My lovely Cassandra,'" he deadpanned, "'I'm afraid that you have driven me ever deeper into madness by virtue of your continued celibacy, and I must insist that either you spend the night with me or grant me the comparative mercy of a swift knife wound.' Truly romantic."
Raphael nearly fell to the floor in shock as a strangled gasp suddenly sounded near the doorway to his quarters. His shock continued unchecked at the sight of Cassandra kneeling upon the plush carpeting, hands covering her mouth as tears slid effortlessly down her flushed cheeks.
"Cassandra, are you all right?" he asked in alarm, quickly crossing the room to kneel by her side. He placed one hand upon her shoulders, feeling the muscles quiver—his concern for her well-being coming to a sharp halt as she snorted.
She did not, could not answer as she finally broke into peals of hysterical laughter, clutching her abdomen desperately, tears falling upon her crisp-white apron. She mustered enough energy to weakly point in his general direction before once more collapsing into an unstoppable fit of giggles, sweat dotting her brow at the effort.
"You—" she gasped. "I knew it! I knew it! No wonder you're so good at seduction—my gods, you practice!" Cassandra leaned forward and slumped helplessly against his chest, shoulders still shaking with laughter. She would gladly have endured several weeks of blancmange for something this priceless. Gods above, I'll remember this one as long as I live.
She slowly became aware of Raphael's gaze upon her, deathly still and radiating fury.
…which now probably amounts to about fifteen seconds.
Laughter subsiding enough to grant her some measure of control, Cassandra reached up and kissed Raphael quickly on the cheek. "You are just too much," she said with a cheeky grin.
"And you," Raphael responded in a tight voice, "are the single most infuriating creature I have ever had the misfortune to come across."
"You can insult me all you want; I'm just kind of glad you weren't in here whispering sweet nothings to some village prostitute."
"Unfortunately, I happen to have the devil's luck when it comes to the caliber of women upon whom I bestow my affections." Raphael scowled slightly before wrapping an arm around her waist, pulling her against him with enough force to send a twinge of pain through her ribs. "There are days in which I would more gladly return to a life of nobility than love you."
"Oh, yeah, like loving you is so easy, you arrogant bastard."
They stared at each other for long moments, an uneasy silence descending.
Finally, Cassandra spoke. "Mine were better."
"You think so? I was quite fond of 'black-hearted tease'."
"Okay, I'll give you credit for that one."
"Your kindness clearly knows no bounds."
"I know. Now be grateful and hold me."
Raphael shook his head in mock frustration, leaning back against the plush carpet with Cassandra encircled in his arms. "You know," she said a bit hesitantly, "if you were having that much trouble, you could have just said something. I'm not exactly ready for…that…but we could find…well, something else. You know." She kept her eyes steadfastly focused on one of the elegant buttons of his shirt.
"I would be…entirely willing to alleviate your frustration, mon cœur."
"Oh, I've heard that one before."
"Indeed. It was intended for you, although perhaps at a more opportune time." Cassandra felt him grin wickedly against the crown of her head. "Incidentally, my dear, why exactly were you traipsing about my private quarters at such an hour?"
"Mm, the servants think you eat souls," Cassandra responded absently. "They sent me up here to bring you your disgusting French food."
"...I beg your pardon?"
"There's some hideous stew and some kind of dessert that moves. I'm serious, Raphael, it moves. What on earth do they feed you in France?"
"I'll think of some ingenious way to punish you for so viciously slandering my home nation at a later time," Raphael stated with a frown. "At the present moment, I'm afraid I have more important matters to which I must attend." He moved his lips against Cassandra's ear, catching the lobe between his teeth and nibbling gently.
"Hey, if you think this is going to work," Cassandra protested, feeling a shiver rush up her spine as he dipped her head back and moved his lips over the junction of her neck and shoulder, "you've forgotten that I've learned the secret of your seduction. All those fancy words—"
Raphael remained silent, now trailing kisses along her breastbone.
"Oh, fine, so now you're going to be your usual arrogant self and prove that you don't have to say anything. Go ahead, try it." Cassandra stubbornly set her jaw and prepared to deny him what he no doubt felt was an assured victory until the last.
She was certain it would have worked, too, if he hadn't continued brushing kisses along her breasts, her abdomen, finally hitching up her skirt around her waist.
Her last coherent thought, before his lips touched her, was that winning really wasn't all that important anymore.
"Ate it, didn't he?"
Cassandra's blinked owlishly at the stalwart kitchen maid the next morning, panic seizing her mind. "Oh my gods, is he telling everyone?" she asked in a rush.
The house maid shook her head confusedly. "Here," she gestured to her heart, "ate your soul."
"Oh, that." Cassandra felt the deep blush across her cheeks slowly cooling to more of a light pinkish tint. "No, no. He's really just a lot of bluster once you get to know him. Raphael's not given to being particularly malicious."
The kitchen maid afforded Cassandra a weak smile before patting her on the head sympathetically and offering a bit of advice. It was, of course, in Romanian, and Cassandra had no idea what she had just been told, but she graciously thanked the maid nonetheless. "So," she asked brightly, "I'll be having my usual omelet and baklava for breakfast this morning, if it's no trouble."
The maid uttered a short phrase in Romanian before disappearing into the kitchen, returning a moment later with a small bowl.
In it quivered a generous helping of blancmange.
Cassandra met the maid's apologetic smile with an emotionless stare. "What...is that?"
"Three days," the maid said with a slight shrug. "Nothing but this…blancmange, yes? Master's orders."
Cassandra stared coldly at the gelatinous mound set before her, faintly remembering Raphael's off-handed promise of retribution. Yes, winning wasn't everything, but still…
With exaggerated calmness, Cassandra spoke. "Miss, you be sure that the master is given everything he wants from the kitchen for the next three days."
"Not to mention," Cassandra continued, a slightly devious smile appearing upon her lips, "plenty of ink and parchment. I have a feeling he's going to be a bit hungry by the end of the week."