Author: Kat Lee
Character/Pairing: Charming/Cinderella (not shown in a good light)
Challenge/Prompt: 1_million_words A to Z: C
Warning(s): Dark AU
Word Count: 1,065
Date Written: 19 February, 2016
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Disney, not the author's, and are used without permission.
Charming. She can remember when she first heard the name of the royal family who presided over her small kingdom. She had been merely a child at that time, her father still alive. She'd giggled, thinking it was awfully big of them to call themselves such, but had quickly forgotten about it. Most children have no need of thinking about royals, and she'd certainly not cared to concentrate too much on them. Every animal she met certainly held her interest far better.
Over the years, she had from time to time, as every subject does, heard tales of the royal family, especially of the Prince who grew as she did. Her stepsisters were constantly gushing over him, and although she'd wanted to go to the ball, the Prince had actually had very little to do with her desire. She had simply wanted to be included in a fun festivity that was supposed to be open to her, as well, and with her Fairy Godmother's help and her animal friends, she had managed to do just that.
She had not realized at the time that it had been a trap. Her Godmother had given her a plethora of warnings, but over all, she had wanted her to enjoy herself but just be safe. The girl from the ashes had certainly enjoyed herself, but she'd done so far too well. She had been swept up into that Prince, into his kind eyes and dashing smile, from the moment she'd first set eyes on him.
He is certainly charming, but then, most men are, she's learned. They are also, sadly, full of deceit, and for all her husband's charms, Cinderella has come to know for a cold, hard fact that he, too, is full of lies. It had taken her a long time to come to see pass his charms. Every one around her had been quicker than she. The birds had stopped visiting, and the mice hid. She'd almost left him the day she'd found a trap set.
But there's something about her husband that always brings her back to his side. That, she knows, is part of his charm. He can smile away most arguments, and even when she's at her angriest for some injustice he has allowed to happen, a hand on her skin and a whispered promise hushes her immediately. In her moments of clarity, she knows none of those promises are kept for long, but then he looks at her again, strokes her flesh once more with those kind fingers that still make her tremble inside, and she's putty in his hands again.
The world is watching his every move now as he tries to form an alliance between two neighboring kingdoms. She has heard the General and other military members whispering with him, however. He's turned his charm onto the world at large, but they're going to start a war. She shivers at the mere thought. She'd like to take her friends, those few who remain, and run, but she knows she can't. All he has to do is kiss her, and she's forgotten all about the impending war again.
She's forgotten about the dangers, not just the coming dangers but those that are right here in the palace with her. Her husband is charming, but he's not what he appears. She vividly remembers their wedding night, and how when his arms circled her so lovingly and she laid her head upon his chest, she heard absolutely nothing. No heart beats within him. His skin is always cold.
And yet, he lives. He plots. He destroys. She holds a constant fear that she will be the next thing he destroys, but the people like her. She is beautiful, and her kindness is genuine. He lets her walk into the kingdom and help their people to help his reputation as King. She knows everything she does is because he allows it, and the thought is terrifying. If she ever steps out of line, she has no doubt that she will be the next thing he destroys.
It's strange, she thinks at times, how the world thinks she was granted her kingdom by True Love. What they share is not love. She's not entirely sure what to call it, but she knows now that she traded one prison for another. Her husband is charming, but his charm only goes as deep as his lying, bright smile. If the world could see what he is behind closed doors, she is certain that they, too, would fear him.
But they can not. Only she sees him for what he is. Only she knows how greatly she cringes when he touches her, and yet, with every lie, he soothes her fears. He soothes her until she is beneath him again, giving him her all again, and receiving nothing in return. A creature without a heart can not love, and as she lays with him each night, she listens again to the hollow in his chest.
She'd like to run, but there's nowhere in this world, she knows, where she would be safe. He would find her wherever she went, and her friends, and perhaps even some of her gentler people, would pay the price. She can not bear the thought of her agony being forced upon others, so Cinderella keeps her mouth. She lies, too, with every smile.
That's why she's still here, she knows. It's why she hasn't been one of the many people throughout the palace to disappear. As long as she is good to him, as long as she is dutiful and plays her part, as long as she helps him to lie to the world, he'll keep her near his side, close enough so he can always call her to him to show the world what a fragile beauty he saved.
And yet it is he who condemned her. It is he who broke her. It is he who has made her cry every night now for two hundred years. It is he who has kept her alive all this time to serve her usage to him and he, she fears, who will keep her alive for at least another two hundred years and perhaps, even, forever. Another tears adds to the endless river as the sun sinks, giving way to another night of terror. Happily ever after was so very long ago.