[AN: At least Richard isn't too proud to ask somebody for advice. 'Tis but a wee vignette.]
When Richard found Desdemona tucked in the curve of her overstuffed emerald-green lounge, the cards were already being shuffled between her hands. He grinned. “I guess I don't need to explain why I came.”
Her chin lifted, eyes curved in a smile, fingers continuing their rearrangement of the deck with an ease speaking of so many decades of practice that shuffling must have been like blinking. “Fettie said you wanted to hear a story.” As she lifted her brows and looked up, the hedgehog peered from the intricate up-do and blinked. Its beady black eyes focused on Richard. “He thinks it's the least we can do since you always do such a good job with him. Better than— oh Fettie, don't be mean to mummy!”
Richard laughed and extended a finger to the hedgehog which received a visit from him every seven years. It sniffed once, then curled up into a ball to resume its nap. “Don't feel bad, Auntie, one can hardly expect you to perform to your usual caliber when wracked with grief.”
“See, that's just how I feel. Fettie's just a grouch today. Well come on, then, sit down.” The cards paused against her right palm so that her left could pat the empty space beside her. While he sat, her arm looped around his shoulders and she drew him in like a co-conspirator, close enough that the floral perfume she wore flooded his sinuses.
She passed the cards over, him shuffling and cutting the deck to her directions, and when he finished she took them back into her tiny hands and fanned them. “Pick the ones that sing to you; as many as you hear.”
After he took the top three, his fingers craved one near the exact middle of the deck; after drawing this one, he placed the stack of four upon the rosewood coffee table before them. Desdemona nodded and patted his hand. “Let’s see then.” She laid them out, the first three in a line with the fourth below them. Then, as she flipped over the first, it was with a nod that began a second before she even saw the image of a man resting upon his rake, his tired gaze hovering over the seven pentacles for which he toild.
With a hum, she reached over and ran a hand through Richard's hair. “You have been frustrated, haven't you. And too far-sighted, poor boy.” She pinched his cheek. “Be here now. Like that precious little brute of yours, he never thinks forward or back, just does what his heart tells him. I knew another childe who was like that, and what happened? What made him so frustrated?”
“My work, I think.” He stared down at the card. “Sometimes I think I'm trying to be something I'm not.”
“Well, yes, but why?” Desdemona's head tilted upon her neck like a curious songbird's.
Richard's lips pressed into a thin line. “I don't know.”
She giggled, giving him enough of a push to send him teetering away and back. “Oh, you do, you just can't say it. Come now, you can't tell me anything I won't already know someday.”
He smirked. “I suppose because I just want—I want to be proud, I don't know.” His hand ran over his jaw.
“Yes, and you want others to be proud of you, too, don't you.” She smiled wide enough for dimples to come out of hiding. “Well if I were your dame I would be very proud of you.”
While Richard smirked, she turned away and flipped the next card, her pink lips pursing at the sight of the red-robed magician turned upside down. “You're usually so nice to yourself, Richard, you're such a talented boy, if only you'll let yourself use those talents.” Her mouth twisted further. “You must stop trying to wear the skin of a lion.” Then, as she flipped the third card and stared down at the hanged man, she hummed and grabbed his hand. “You needn't be a king to be a king, pet. Think of the now, you do better when you're only thinking of it. Just walk and let your feet move you, the way your hands make your art for you. Don't you want to be happy?”
He scoffed. “Of course I do.”
“Then go back to the wild.” Her cheek nestled against his shoulder, eyes wide and unfocused. “Don't martyr yourself for a kingdom you don't know you'll even get. Your heart is a greater prize than all that. And you know that, don't you?”
The pastel flowers upon the wallpaper drew Richard's attention, and even then he hardly saw them. His blood roared every second for peace, for freedom, for more, and no matter how he tried to smother it, the want was always there, and would be there. Court confined him mentally; every time he turned around it was something else, somebody else. It was too much. Even being a master vampire was too much, sometimes. All the wasted time, though—certainly, there would be more of it, but he cringed to think of all the work he'd put into his position.
Desdemona's cheeks puffed. “You're crawling out of your skin.” Then, sighing, she turned away from him and flipped the final card, her expression brightening again in an instant. A coo of wonder poured from her curved lips, while Richard stared at the wheel upon the card before him, and the dog figure that floated against it.
“You know what you have to do, sweetheart. Let it happen.” She plucked up the card and tapped his nose with it, giggling when he snorted and blinked. “The changes inside you must come out or you'll combust, and they'll happen anyway. But wouldn't you rather have control over the whens and hows and whys?”
Richard snorted again, softer this time, and stared at the dog-demon tucked against the wheel of fortune, its yellow eyes planted upon him while it ignored the golden angels, lions, bulls in the cards' corners. His jaw tensed. She was right. If he handled the situation with poise and calm, it would do him much better than it would in a fit.
Green eyes curving, Desdemona leaned up and tapped her fingertip against his nose. He smirked and nipped at it half-heartedly while he said, “I suppose you've got a point.”
“The cards have the point, dearheart.” She grinned, leaning away to replace the cards in the deck. “It'll leave its drawer soon, anyway, but it's better sooner. Won't it be nice to run wherever and whenever you please! Better than being cooped up in your own mind.”
“Indeed.” Richard watched the cards dance between her hands and then leaned down to press his lips to her cheek. “Thank you.”
As she paused to beam up at him, Desdemona set the cards aside. “What you're doing is something to be proud of, too. There's strength conceding the game now and then. And perhaps you can come back to play later.”
“Perhaps.” Richard rose, stooped to drape his arms around her shoulders and chuckled at the feather-light pats of her hand against his back. “And, of course, thank you, Fetlock.”
From her hair, the hedgehog snorted in its sleep, and Richard smirked at the ball of quills that only tightened. The older vampire giggled and waved the younger toward the door with the sort of kiss one would blow to a friend departing for a cruise. “Toodles, dearie, be sure to come say good-bye, and you must still visit with us, and have us by for tea.”
He chuckled, head bobbing once. “Oh, but of course. Who else is going to watch out for that hedgehog?” At this, she grinned, and he grinned, and found as he made his way down the hall that for the first time in too long, it was an expression that felt easy.