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We Are Strangers and Rebels

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The royal wedding sparkled and shone in true Tyrell fashion, for all the haste that had brought it into being. Autumn roses in pink and gold adorned every woman's hair, every man's livery. And jewels—here, there, and everywhere, the glitter of pale pink sapphires cast bright light to every corner of Highgarden. An autumn wedding in autumn colors, yet they spoke of summer.

Stark would have pointed out that winter was coming. Renly hardly disputed the man, but felt that summer—like life—should be celebrated in the moment, not discarded for thoughts of its death.

"Thinking of your next doublet?" Olenna, small and intimidating, appeared at his side with a tone that could have cut through solid steel. "Your bride is over there, in case you forgot that this is your wedding."

She had all the tact of his brother on Dragonstone—it made him twitch in familiar annoyance, but also envy. Renly had only one option, charm, and played the game as he'd ever played it. "Certainly not. I have merely been marveling at the brilliance of your house. Surely you must admit that it is striking."

The old woman snorted, and looked as if she might be seeing right through his very skin. "What would be striking would be a hint of brilliant intelligence, but I suppose I shouldn't keep my hopes up."

Renly laughed, despite expecting the glare he received. "You have high standards, my lady. Were he my grandson, I would find Willas to be more than satisfactory. And after all, as long as the heir has wits, the rest should fall in line, no?"

Before she could reply he smiled and crossed the room.

Mace Tyrell's face expressed far more celebration than his mother's. Nodding slightly to his new son-in-law, he gave him a genial smile. Red-faced with wine and exertion from the dance, he looked nothing like his children—a fact that Renly often blessed. "Well, your Grace, is tonight worthy to be remembered as the start of a new political era?"

The man was proud, and with good reason. Of all the Seven great lords, he gave Renly the least trouble about his propensities. Shrewd, yet without the sour Lannister temperament, he was easy to engage with.

As was expected of him, Renly raised an eyebrow and chuckled. "What will be remembered is how I and my queen ride triumphantly into King's Landing, Tyrell and Baratheon knights at either flank."

Mace laughed again and toasted his wine to Renly. After a long draught he remarked, "You said you didn't want a bedding, but I think that you've entertained us long enough. I'll make sure the party continues amiably without the happy couple."

As if on cue, Margaery appeared, shimmering in sea-green samite and Myrish lace, her chestnut hair falling in perfectly shining ringlets.

"Daughter," Mace said fondly, "my queen."

"Boring my new husband, father?" Margaery smiled innocently, stroking the great lord's arm.

"Well, I could never entertain him like you, child." Mace kissed his daughter and strode off to where Garlan and Leonette were chatting in bright tones.

Margaery met Renly's eyes, her own a deep hazel that sparkled more than usual with the thin line of kohl around her lashes. She had the look that all Mace's children had—delicate features but with strong bones, the very essence of royalty. And she smiled, soft and sweet and too perfect (Renly noted) to be entirely natural. Loras said that she was intelligent. It made him feel all the worse for involving her in this play. Kindness would be hers, if he had any say in the matter, but never passion. That wedding day excitement in her eyes would never appear again once she realized what this marriage would hold.

Renly returned her smile, and resolved that she would not have to deal with it all tonight. "You look lovely, my queen. The night has not gone on too long, then?"

"Not at all, your grace, I am at your service however late the hour grows." She smiled again, eyes sparkling.

Renly offered his arm, tsking lightly. "There is no point in making us more tired than this. Let the others drown themselves in wine. You and I shall retire."

She even gave his arm a light squeeze when she followed his lead, nodding to all they passed while heading towards the door. A few jokes were volleyed their way—remove the bedding from the wedding, it did not remove the bedding from the joyously lusty company—but Margaery only laughed. Gods be good, hopefully she'd have a good humor about what was to happen, or rather not happen, once their private chamber door closed.

Torches lined every hall, lending a soft glow to the nightly shadows. Renly's boots made less of a sound than the swish of Margaery's skirts on the stone and the click of her jeweled heels. He noticed, away from the crowds, that she wasn't perfumed like many of the other women. Even Loras—but no, he should not commit that sin tonight. Not yet. Quietly he opened the door for her, and her fingers slid along his arm as she entered. Too soft...far too soft.

Renly smiled, though, and after shutting the door he urged the room's fire higher, and lit a lamp for the bedside table. To his surprise his own fingers were trembling lightly. I'm not afraid, he told himself with scorn. I simply don't want to hurt her. She is a kind, lovely maid.

When he turned she'd slipped from the outer sheath of a dress, the silk pooling on the floor like liquid fire light. "Margaery," he started, the flush of awkwardness creeping along his skin. If he didn't stop her, she'd strip naked—how could he hide his disinterest then?

Her fingertips played at the ties of her shift. "Would you rather take it off yourself?" There was such a playful sweetness to her. He recognized the sparkle, the mischief. Tyrell and proud from core to aurora—his wife now. Had she been aught but a woman he might have grown fond of her, no matter how his heart was in another's keeping. Yet the feminine curves beneath the cotton shift and the waterfall of brown curls, the slim fingers and pouty lips, made it impossible. There was no rush of blood nor even a hint of desire. His fate was sealed, and he would not be a coward.

Renly crossed the room and caught her fingertips, drawing them to the space between the two. "Not tonight, my lady. I would not have it like this."

Hazel eyes, liquid and bright, gazed up at him with unreadable emotion. "Do you not want me?" she asked, in a voice designed to seduce. "I'm told I look like a twin to my brother."

Renly couldn't trust his ears. Her words didn't make sense unless... He stared, swallowed, shook his head. "What?"

His new wife giggled as if he'd just provided the punchline to a jape.

"Sweet Margaery, I don't—"

"You don't wish to all the seven that I had aught but woman's parts between my legs?" Amusement was thick as honey in Margaery's tone, her eyes twinkling like jewels.

Bewilderment and fear alike clouded Renly's mind, his careful shields disturbed by his new wife. She was on the point. Intelligent—no, damn Loras, she was shrewd. He could have sworn that he sounded like a child as he asked, "How did you know?"

"That you and your brother preferred each other's company?" Margaery smiled, thankfully no longer teasing at the laces of her shift. It was as if she'd sloughed off some of her cool poise with the dress, revealing the real woman beneath. The honesty was breathtakingly relieving as she continued, "I believe I knew before he did that he was...how do you say it? Uninterested in the charms of women?" Her rouged lips had warmth as well as mischief when she smiled. "I do not judge, Lord Renly, fear not."

Though caution had been Renly's guide throughout his life, discovery always an enemy drawing close, he did not fear her now. Only a few moments before she had been an enigma wrapped up in a mystery. He'd pitied her, but held onto caution as well. Now, however, he saw that she was as like to Loras as any woman could be, and so instead was left offset and unsure what to do. How did one speak to a wife who one could never desire? On their wedding night, no less.

Margaery, it seemed, had this part worked out. WIth only the slightest awkwardness, she nodded towards the large bed. "We'll need to at least share it, my lord. Especially if we're to say that you drank too much wine." She nodded pointedly towards his hips, noticeably free of any bulge.

He gave her the hint of a smile, both for the tact and the intelligent thought behind it. "Quite right, my queen." It was easy, then, to offer his arm and lead her to their marriage bed. Easier still to not feel guilty, as they removed all but smallclothes and slid under the covers.

Margaery offered no outward unease, despite a little shiver of cold; and Renly, more curious than embarrassed now, gave her all the courtesy in the world. Even when she slipped a small dagger from between her breasts to lay on the bedside table.

Renly raised an eyebrow at that.

His queen gave him a half chuckle. "My brother's idea. In case you attempted to be honorable and consummate the marriage, I was to frighten you to your senses with steel."

He laughed. "My queen, the next time you see your brother you must tell him that there was no need. Your bare breasts, though magnificent specimens I'm sure, would be quite enough to frighten me."

She returned the laugh, and for the first time that evening they were in accord. Strange luck, for such a hasty pairing. Margaery settled comfortably against the pillows next to Renly, watching him with her wide brown eyes and looking almost shy.

"I must thank you," Renly murmured, lying on his side to face her. "Your gift of communication is...matchless."

She smiled. "A gift from my grandmother, I think. But I do practice. I hope to be a good queen to you."

"You already have been." Renly shook his head a little. "None of this is as it should be, but I promise that you will have every reward I can offer."

"No need, husband." Margaery laughed quietly. "I had and have no more desire to bed you than you have. This arrangement is not so tiresome to me as you think."

That made him smile, amused and curious, wondering what more he was to learn about his new bride. For a few long moments he met her eyes that were so like his lover's—and yet not. This woman who might be the twin of Loras had a brightness all of her own, a sweetness surrounding a strong core. Renly liked her. He hoped she felt likewise.

The fire burned steadily, its crackle all the sound in their private room. After a few moments, since the party carried on outside and it was too early for sleep, Renly spoke quietly. "Loras told you, then, about me?"

Margaery shook her head a little, lips softly quirked. "No, he has never told me anything. I'm quite a bad sister, husband; I always guess or demand his secrets, before he is quite ready to share." Shifting a little under the covers to a comfortable position in the bed, she continued in a fond tone. "He was but twelve, and I barely eleven, when he returned from Storm's End for a visit. Since every other phrase in his letters had been 'Lord Renly', I had my suspicions. And...well, there were other signs. In any case, I crawled into his bed that night and shook him awake. 'Brother?' I asked in a quiet whisper once he woke. 'Do you like boys rather than girls?'" Margaery's smooth tone broke, then, as if she was holding back a laugh. "He answered me, absolutely horrified. 'No, sweet sister! I like men'"

The imitation was perfect, and Reny found himself snorting in laughter picturing Loras with his equally-wide eyes and almost naive honesty. "And if he'd not mentioned me so often? You mentioned other signs..."

A strange look came into Margaery's eyes, and she hesitated, drawing her lower lip between her teeth. Her honesty seemed to falter for a moment, and Renly had not been expecting it. Yet she spoke, though slower than before. "My septa told me when I was young that the eyes are the mirror to the soul. How we gaze—it reveals who we are. For those who gaze where they are not expected to...it will be noted, and so they must be cautious with their glances. They cannot hide their souls, though, no matter how hard they try. I knew this to be true, and so I recognized it in my brother. We've always been alike in more than looks."

It was Renly's turn to hesitate, brow furrowing slightly. "Alike?" He could hardly make the connection, for had she not said that she did not desire him?

Again she hesitated, before finally smiling softly. "I am...uninterested in the charms of men, my husband. Ever since I was a child. Loras and I shared the same struggles."

"Oh." Surprise sent his wit flying, and so that was all he had to say. Renly had known for some time that his own attractions were not as rare as he'd feared as a boy, yet somehow the notion of there being a counterpoint to him had escaped his imagination. That had been careless of him. He could see what he'd missed before, now, when looking at his new bride. It was strange, yet he could see it. "Loras told me that you were a much-needed support—I'm glad that he was the same to you."

Relief flitted quickly across her eyes and she smiled again. Her smiles were growing more natural, Renly thought. "We are strange men and women but we have each other," she murmured.

Renly nodded, letting out a slow breath and letting his last walls down. Strange they were, and strange they always would be. But in this room they were safe. And when I am king, it will not matter any longer. When there is peace, we shall be happy. Loras and I...and perhaps Margaery will find unexpected love as well. He'd begun the night with guilty pity for his bride-to-be. No more. There was hope, as man and wife lay together in peaceful comfort.