Odd. Odd how his skin prickles under her hands. Odd how it feels (seems) strangely dis-empowering. Odd how he can't quite say no, when he would like to say no. Odd how saying yes seems suddenly so easy, despite its inconvenience.

The teen looked at the girl as she looped her arms around his neck. Just a girl, Steerpike thought to himself. Just a girl. Not much to say about it, is there? But her lips are pink and her eyes are kind, and she doesn't look threatening.

She was a princess, once. That's enticing to him, and that's why he leans into the kiss, he tells himself. Because kissing a princess beats kissing the daughter of an Earl. Because by kissing him, she makes him a prince.

Kitchen rat.

The Rat Prince. He smiled against her lips, murmured, "One day, you will be the queen of this place," and I will be the king. We will rule over them all. "I will make it so, I promise."

"But I don't want to be a queen," Iphigenia told him, almost moodily. "I don't want to be a queen."

"Ah." Steerpike managed not to sound disappointed. "What do you want, then?"

She nuzzled him and kissed him again. "I already have what I want," she whispered in his ear, and Steerpike felt the brush of her breath against his ear. Inconvenient to say the least. He stiffened in his shoulder just as he did in his pants. Inconvenient indeed.

"I see," he said, and realized that if he wanted to have his way – to use her a little, he would have to pull away from her warmth.

That as well was inconvenient.

"Well," he weaseled, "we should go for a walk."

"Now?" She sounded almost pouty.

"Yes, now. There's something I would like to show you, my lady."

She blushed a little and obliged. The truth was, there was nothing he wanted to show her – he only tried to keep her away a little, so that he might use her desire against her.

The wind was gentle under the weeping willow. Iphigenia's skirts were flying galore. He sighed again.

Inconvenient, how he couldn't help but glance, and even more inconvenient how she encouraged his ardour.

When it was all done, he straightened decorously. "I'm afraid I must leave you, my lady," he told her very seriously. "My work is a demanding mistress."

Before she could keep him, he fled – next time, he promised himself. Next time.

Next time he would be hard to get, and she would be easier to play.

He would not let himself be weak. Next time.