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A Stag in the Garden

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Darcy's life could be summed thusly: she is, therefore, she is not.

She is born and raised in Highgarden. She is not a Tyrell.

She is the daughter of a Lady. She is not a Lady.

She is as beautiful a rose as they come. She is not a rose for this garden.

These are simple truths. Darcy Flowers, however, liked to think that she was more than the simplicity and rigid set of rules that set up her circumstance.

The Lords of Highgarden may rule in title, but it is well known in The Reach that the Ladies are more aptly suited for the position. Quick-witted, intelligent, observant, and stubborn; Darcy thinks that all of these traits have come to fruition in her, but for all that the eyes of the house pass over her like she is a flower embroidered on a wall-hanging, she despairs of anyone ever seeing her potential. Janna's bastard, the washmaids whisper when she walks by. And the disgrace of being a daughter, no less, is the common opinion around Highgarden. Darcy can't exactly help that she was born female. She can't help that she'd been born at all, actually. It isn't like she had a choice in the matter.

The Lady Tyrell herself, the matriarch, and Darcy's maternal grandmother is the only one to keep an eye on her, and Darcy is never quite sure in her younger years how to handle the moments she finds herself interacting one-on-one with the formidable woman. For sure, it is the Lady Olenna who encourages Janna to take her bastard daughter to her marriage-house to raise, with the Fossoway's blessing. (Of course they agree. They owe their swords to the Tyrells, what is a mouth to feed? There is plenty of food in the Reach.) But by the same turn it is also Lady Olenna who calls Darcy, and Darcy alone, back to Highgarden at the age of eight. She needs to be learned, her grandmother tells her, not unkindly. She will take her studies now with Lady Margaery, if she can catch up. (Of course Darcy will catch up. Her cousin is two years' her senior, but Darcy likes a challenge.) She will learn how to best assist the family, how to be an asset within the House.

Darcy, essentially, learns how to live within Margaery's shadow. The only daughter of the eldest heir, Margaery alone is the playing piece worth having in a political chess game. Darcy sees this. Darcy knows this. She is just as intelligent, and just as observant, as her cousin. Moreso, in fact, because Darcy is groomed as Olenna's handmaid.

The bastard Flower, even more overlooked shadowing the towering Queen of Thorns.

The bastard Flower, the walking eyes and ears of the Lady Olenna.

But Darcy, Darcy is Margaery's friend, and sister of the heart. It does not matter to either girl that their statuses set them apart, though they are cousins by any blood; they never forget, but they do not let it rule them. The ladies of the Reach are stubborn.


When Darcy is fourteen, King Robert dies, and the world seems to start spinning a little faster. The first time she sees a Baratheon up close is at the dinner where Renly petitions for Margaery's hand. It is not a jealousy of her cousin that causes her stuttered silence, nor is it embarrassment of her status.

Looking upon Renly's face is like looking into an alternate world where she had been born a boy.

Thinking that she would rather be known as an odd, silent girl than ruin what is clearly an important moment by leaving, she stays seated by sheer willpower. Olenna has placed her away from the Tyrells; tonight, Darcy dines near her mother, a near-stranger, with House Fossoway and near House Tarly. Quick-witted, oh yes. She sees the power play being made, and she's prepared, tonight, to be neither Tyrell nor handmaid. Tonight she is a just a Flowers.


It is not long after that dinner when Renly is killed, and Darcy does not know how to feel. Margaery crawls into her bed sometime after the midnight hour. “I do not have to leave, yet, Darcy,” she whispers, eyes wide and luminous in the dark. “But I know I am bound for the capital soon, and I know Grandmother will not allow you to come with us. I have already asked.” The older girl's voice cracks.

Darcy clutches her cousin's hand tightly. “I would follow you to the Northerner's Wall, if I could,” she swears. Margaery brings her other hand up to cup Darcy's fingers in a wordless response, and the two fall silently into rumination, and eventually, sleep.


She is packing up her grandmother's vanity table when she catches sight of herself in the mirror, and in a fit of something she can't define – irritation? Nostalgia? Morbid curiousity? - she finds herself tracing the shape of her own face in the glass with her eyes, looking for the Tyrell in her. There it is in the plush of her lip, and the shape of her eye and brow, and the curve of her forehead; but then, then there is the mass of coal-dark hair, and ocean-blue eyes, that are different than any of the shades of amber, honey, and brown floating about the Highgarden. She is running two fingers along the strong shape of her jaw when Olenna appears in the reflection behind her. Darcy freezes.

Olenna sets her gnarled fingers on the younger girl's shoulders and looks into her eyes in the mirror. “I cannot allow you to accompany us to King's Landing,” she says, again, not unkindly. A statement of fact, a challenge for Darcy: why am I making this statement, what meaning is behind it?

“I would not have understood, had I not seen Lord Renly,” Darcy says slowly, almost willing the words not to come out. If she never speaks them, they aren't true, right? “They say my father was a sailor, who promised my mother he could make her happy and then never came back. But you know, don't you? You always knew.”

“There are always ears,” her grandmother says, tweaking her granddaughter's earlobe in reminder. “And the game is afoot. My Lord Idiot Son was determined to marry Margaery into the ruling line, so I head to that rat-trodden city to flex my tongue at Court. You are not needed. While the cat's away...”

Darcy can read between the lines. This isn't a play Olenna had been prepared to make, so now she needs to re-think. Darcy… Darcy, with her blood, needs to stay far from King's Landing. Who knew where the Lannisters were going to pounce next? And, Darcy knows now, she is a pawn. A much lesser pawn than her cousin, but a pawn nonetheless; the blood of a bastard-born is still king's blood, and bloodlines matter with everyone.

Finally, the odd Flower in the rose garden knows why she was never quite like the others.

 

Instead of thorns, she has antlers.