A/N: This was written for Poetry as part of Yuletide 2010.
There is something terrible about the abundance of fruit. Dany sits perched on a silver stool, soft with a satin pillow. In spite of that her thighs were still tender from the hard edge of her royal chair. Even her hands have an unaccustomed weight to them. Dany takes a bit of something red in her fingers. It had been cut into soft, fragile sections that bled an overflowing of crimson juice.
She eats without considering it, although she has no true desire for it. These rare and expensive fruits seem a terrible crime to her and she has no reason to consume them while her people starve. Today she had seen a procession of little children who had been pleasure slaves in the larger brothels. They wore khol on their eyes and glass beads around their necks but their limbs looked like veined sticks. They had big round bellies that looked wrong with the emaciated faces but Missendei had told her it was known to happen in children who never once had enough to eat, ever, in their lives.
Dany had looked at the little children, at the glass beads around their necks, their eyes impossibly big and round. How was it that they always been hungry, with something they could sell for food draped about their throats? This, Dany knew, was false reasoning. As slaves their minds had been damaged by lies and strict regulation as much as their bodies.
"Are you not hungry?" asks Ser Barristan Selmy when he sees Dany push away her plate.
"I cannot eat another bite," she returns, truthfully. There is no room in her belly for so much food. It sits on the table like a terrible weight and the beams of ebony seem to sag beneath it. The Lord Commander of her Queensguard places his napkin on the table and moves to rise.
Dany has been sucking at her goblet for hours and it never grows lighter. Missendei was generous with the honey wine and Dany had always thought so much drink made a person feel light. Dany, however, feels terribly heavy, as though the silver seat with the satin cushion was exerting a powerful force upon her, a thousand times stronger than the force that kept her feet on the ground. Dany stands and sways a little; her head appears to have grown several sizes too big.
The Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Ruler of Yunkai, Astapor and Meereen, Daenerys the Unburnt, Mother of Dragons, the last trueborn heir to House Targaryen... the little girl who drank too much wine falls heavily to her bed. The night is hot and stifling. With Jhiqui beside her, a hot-blooded form radiating heat, Dany feels awash in fire. She is aware of her blood pumping in her veins like the honey wine she had gorged on; hot and sweet and thick. Dany revels in the heat and it seems to fill her up like a cloud of steam.
She can hear a clicking in the darkness, the trilling of her dragons in the gloom. Dany feels as though she is absorbing all the heat they stored in their scaled bodies, hoarding it like a stone which had been left in the sun. She had begun to feel that way more and more as she watched the citizens of Meereen beg with her, plead with her, shake with sobs. It seemed as though her very flesh had hardened and turned to the impenetrable scales of her children.
The weight of her unfeeling felt like a thing itself. The density of her indifference was like the building of pressure in a lung as it filled with air. Dany lays solidly in the darkness, heavy and thick as a tempered pane of glass. This, she thinks, is the price of ruling, but at times it seems too high. Beads of sweat are pouring from her brow, dampening her silver hair. It feels like she is cooking in her vast chambers, roasting away like a haunch of meat.
Dany thinks again of the fruit, the incredible amount of fruit. They had been sliced and peeled and de-seeded, placed on silver platters and slabs of ice to keep them fresh. They looked like precious jewels, glowing in the heat of a hundred lamps and Dany had thought the last thing in the world she needed was more jewels.
Dany can see the khol-lined eyes of the little children who crowded her court. They ate bowls of mashed rice, since it was the only thing their fragile bellies would not reject. Then they were each given a handful of red berries and a cup of goat's milk. Their mouths were stained a horrible red and Dany dwelled needlessly on the way the seeds stuck in their teeth.
She rises like a wisp of smoke. Jhiqui does not even stir. Dany goes to the window and opens the shutter, letting the breeze touch her face like a soft hand. It prickles at the lines of sweat on her face and teases her hair. There is a vast city out there and if she listens hard, Dany can hear something stirring. It is as though the city's inhabitants are shuffling like a crowd of insects through the streets, trying to keep quiet. Her veins feel like lines of molten iron, bursting with the steady thrum of her heartbeat. This is the blood that conquered Westeros, the home she has never seen. This is the blood that ruled that place for three hundred years.
This is the blood of her mad brother.
Dany closes the shutter and returns to bed, a hot swell of feeling invading her heart.
The shuddering walls groan like four great beasts. Cersei has stared then for so long that they appear to move before her eyes. She tells herself that she is surely mad, but this is no consolation. Cersei can feel her tongue thick in her mouth, like a dry sponge.
She closes her eyes. There is a feast before her. There are steaming meat pies and whole swans roasted in their plumage. There are baskets of every fruit she could imagine, a cornucopia of blood oranges, bushels of ripe grapes, apples cooked in butter. There are tureens of rich gravy and trays upon trays of fruit tarts, glistening with their sugary glaze. There are flagons of wine, so much that she feels dizzy from the fumes alone. She sees a great cake, a mountain of butter cream turrets with glittering streamers of raspberry glaze. There are bushels of chocolate roses that pour over this gargantuan confection. Its weight is greater than any of the other food and the legs of the table buckle beneath it. Cersei reaches out and her hand sinks into the center of the monstrosity. She can feel its warmth, the heat of the ovens still blazing from within it...
Cersei looks down at her fingers. They are very cold, almost numb and it is stiff and painful to bend them into a fist. She shifts around, her limbs creaking with the effort. She can feel something on her tongue and it tastes nearly as sweet as butter cream. Cersei knows it to be hate.
She is lying in bed with Robert. He is fat and stinking with wine. The great dome of his belly is a forest of wiry black hair. Underneath it she can still spy his pasty flesh. It looks hideously pale and vulnerable in contrast to the pitch-colored bristles. He breathes like a set of bellows, great wheezes of air that catch at his throat and burst out like the grunting of dying pig.
Cersei watches him like a cat. There is a cautious silence to her watching and it might seem indifferent, but inside she is hissing and spitting with suppressed fury. She is his Queen, his love, his wife, his soulmate. Every breath she exhales is a promise of suffering.
She makes two fists and stares at this hideous mountain of meat. He grunts in his sleep and his mouth makes a wet sucking sound. Her stomach turns over in disgust.
Cersei amuses herself with a waking dream. Jaime is running his hands over her breasts and mouth. He kisses her deeply and inhales the perfume of her hair. Cersei sighs. The dream is not so comforting tonight. She lies naked with her hated husband, his seed drying in a crust on her thigh and she can feel a spot on her hip where he surely rose a bruise. She rolls over and all the nights before her seem like an ocean of unbearable sameness. It seems impossible that she once slept peacefully beside this man.
No, she isn't sleeping beside him. Robert is dead and Cersei is here, in this cell, watching the walls move like phantoms. She is surely going mad. The thought cannot comfort her.
That old hate, however, feels like a balm. She basks in it, the vicious, murderous hatred. She is warmed by it and now she can flex her sore muscles with ease. She makes a fist and squeezes it so tight her knuckles ache. It feels wonderful.
Cersei is greedy for more. She thinks about Margaery, that little slut with her perfect chestnut curls. She sees the girl being poked and prodded by some wizened septa, her little cunny getting squeezed and pinched by gnarled old fingers. How she squirms and cries out in embarrassment and pain. Cersei once had the power to command these things.
The Queen Regent glares at the crack of light under the door. The night outside is poisonously black and there is no illumination from the tiny window, high above. Cersei hates with all her might, willing the light to vanish and leave her in a perfect, embracing darkness.
She has so pitifully little now. Cersei remembers the green silk gown she had, with the gold embroidered vines. It brought out her Lannister eyes. She has a pillow of straw and a piss bucket in the corner and a chink of light under her prison door. There is no use hating this circumstance, that terrible light which bothers her even in sleep.
Instead, she closes her eyes and thinks about Robert with his guts pouring out of him like a cluster of wriggling worms. His blood was as red as wine and she drank it in, growing heady and dizzy with glee. That was living. Killing and birthing and fucking, it was all the same. Cersei smiles, almost sweetly. She cannot feast on fruit or cake or meat pies. Instead, she will nourish herself on hatred, that old friend.
Margaery eats a bowl of peaches. They have been sliced up and peeled so that their juice has thickened like a soup. They make her fingers sticky and remind her of childhood, of eating whatever she pleased without caring whether it was seemly. These peaches taste like ash.
The little Queen has a sparsely furnished room. There is a straw mattress and a window. She has a privy and a basin of icy water. She has a bowl of sickly sweet peaches.
Margaery eats with her hands because she finds she doesn't care. She tries to let the taste remind her of something, of anything, but she falters. There are tears mixing with the juices now.
Loras had not liked peaches, nor any sweet things. When Margaery would be a naughty little thief and steal from the cook, Loras wasn't interested. Still, he would be her accomplice and they would hide in an overlooked nook in the stables while Margaery got her hands sticky with sweet. Loras would laugh at her, not unkindly, and clean her hands on his tunic. Margaery can still see how small her hands looked as they were swallowed up in green cloth.
There was a time, when they were older that Loras took a sudden liking to peaches. He had returned from Storm's End, newly knighted yet more solemn than when he left. Margaery felt like she couldn't question him because she never had needed to in the past. They had lived parallel lives and always knew what the other was thinking. They did not ask questions, only offered laughter or comfort. But Margaery found herself lost when Loras would steal a peach by himself and go off alone, like his own private ritual. Margaery felt an odd sense of helpless bereavement, even if the solution was so obvious and simple.
Her brother had gone into the gardens. He walked with his flowered cloak draped so elegantly over his shoulders. He had grown tall since she last had seen him, but so had she.
Margaery fell in stride beside him. She noticed right away that he held a peach in his hand, its flesh slightly bruised.
"I don't think you'll eat that," she told him.
He leveled with her gaze and smiled, that old smile she remembered.
"You never liked fruit before," she said when he didn't reply.
"My tastes have... changed," he said finally.
Margaery didn't question him. They strode in silence for a moment, the sun was high and bright. Margaery stopped to inspect one of the golden roses that were grown in Highgarden and admired the perfect way the petals folded around each other.
Loras touched the flower's head, making it bob up and down.
"Many things have changed since I returned. In King's Landing..."
"I know," she cuts him off before he can continue. She can almost see the flashy grin of Renly Baratheon reflected in her brother's familiar face and how they had glanced at each other, almost cautiously. She suddenly realizes what he wants her to know. She must be very careful now, she suspects.
"I've changed too. Perhaps I am even old enough to be wed." She said it casually, but looked into his face all the while, holding his gaze.
Loras said nothing. He looked away and plucked the golden rose at its stem.
"It wasn't ready to picked yet," Margaery said quietly.
The old smile returned again, but Margaery felt it was different somehow.
"Here," he said, holding out the peach.
"It's yours," she protested.
He put it in her hand without another word. Loras walked slowly down the path, alone, still clutching the rose. Margaery looked at the fruit in her hand, a terrible sadness choking her. It felt soft and overripe. Margaery did not believe she would enjoy it.
Margaery returns to the present with the last bite of foul tasting fruit. The salt of her tears has not improved its flavor. She pushes away the bowl, feeling queasy, and washes her sticky hands in the basin. The water is so cold it sends a chill right through her.
The little Queen has had enough of ugly tasting memories and frigid water. She stands and stretches unabashedly. She will need all her strength for the coming days. It seems impossible that she is all alone now, in every practical sense. Her hands feel oddly numb as she begins to brush her hair.