a/n: SO it's bethyl AU week over on tumblr, which I completely forgot about, but here's an offering! Fairytale AU, with a twist! Title taken from Dustland Fairytale by The Killers (one of my all time faves, btw). Enjoy! xx
I'm going to find her, Princess. That I promise you.
This is what the have: dark corners and doorways and the shadows of the night. Stolen glances and stolen kisses and stolen moments.
(It breaks her heart and then some.)
Princesses don't marry hunters. This is what she has been told to be true. This is a truth she will not accept.
When Beth Greene, a second-born princess, falls in love with Daryl Dixon, one of her father's most trusted hunters, it's not the social hierarchies that stop her from following her heart. It's her hand that belongs to another, arranged long ago, when she was but a child without a care.
The Prince was a child, too.
But one day a girl loses her slipper and all she can think is thank god.
Because maybe then she can escape her pre-determined fate.
Shawn used to tease her about it all.
If you're bad, we'll lock you in a tower. We'll give you a sleeping draught. We'll sell you to a beast.
Here's the thing: little girls aren't supposed to be afraid of magic.
But Beth always preferred her father's sprawling castle and fields to the dense, dark forest. Nothing good lingered there. At least, that's what Daryl always told her.
She was eighteen when she met him. Eighteen, and she was so certain that kind magic wasn't real, at least, not for girls like her, who lived in kingdoms like her own. And he was much older, a hunter, who had seen so much and done so much and lived a whole life before she was even born.
And he told her tales of giant beanstalks and children trapped by witches and times when his services had been sought for evil.
Fairy tales, she would whisper, as if the word itself was a curse, so much death and destruction and for what?
Happily ever after, he would shrug, peering at her through his too-long hair, isn't that what everyone wishes for?
But Beth knows better. You can't wish for something that doesn't exist.
They call him 'Prince Charming', but to her he's just Jimmy. She's not sure how he got that moniker; he's never been particularly anything.
When Beth was eight, and Jimmy was nine, their fathers brokered a land agreement that was to be finalised upon the marriage of the children when they came of age. Like any contract, however, there were delays and unforeseeable circumstances and timelines are pushed back.
No one predicted the dead rising. Just like no one predicted her mother's passing.
She saw more death in those two years than a Princess should sees in her lifetime. Ran from her home, ran from the keep, ran and ran until she was taken prisoner, not by magical forces, but by a group of rogue guards, believing their cause was true and just.
He saved her. Burst in through the stronghold like some kind of fairytale prince, all sweat and dirt and blood and a fierce promise to protect a princess he had never met.
And in that moment she fell in love with him.
The war of the dead was a turning point for their Kingdom. Men made their mark on the battlefield, rather than in court. Titles that had been passed down, father to son, meant little compared to those that had earned them. Men and women that had earned them.
The dead didn't care who you were. Didn't care because they didn't know.
It was powerful magic. Dark magic. And the crazy thing was, it was the first time in her life where she truly felt free.
When it was over, when she returned to her Kingdom, it was like nothing had even changed.
(Nothing except for her.)
It was decided, when the war was over, that her father would step down from the throne.
This world is for young men, he told Shawn solemnly, young men with vision.
(It was under the rule of old men that the war came to be.)
Shawn is not an heir by blood, but by marriage. Annette was young when she arrived at court, a young widow with a young son, wanting a fresh start. Beth knows her mother never set out to be Queen, despite the bitter whispers from those with the intent on causing trouble. It didn't matter, though, not in the end. After a lengthy courtship, they wed. And Hershel gave Shawn his name. And when the time came, his kingdom.
The war changed things. Unexpected alliance formed, and some fell to the wayside. The land deal that had been decades in the making was no longer favourable. And Shawn was looking for ways to get out of it.
And, you know, save his baby sister from having to marry for political gain.
Mama thought you'd fall in love with him, he told her once, half drunk, when the war was barely over, she thought if you grew up together love would blossom. But you don't love him, do you?
She doesn't think she ever has.
But she is a princess, to be bartered or sold. It's the way it has always been. It's way it will always be.
There's a ball.
(There's always ball.)
There's a ball and Beth hates them. Hates them because her mother loves them. Loved them.
But she's gone now.
Beth hates balls, but they are an obligation, like so many things in her life and she spends the whole night dancing with men she doesn't want to dance with and talking to people she doesn't want to talk to and wishes that she could sneak outside to where her father's royal guard is waiting.
Where Daryl is waiting.
She imagines this isn't easy for him, seeing her in her finery, walking inside a grand palace only to spend the night dancing with another man. Another man she is expected to marry. And that's how the night progresses, sharing the first three dances with her soon to be husband, talking with her soon to be mother in law, meeting people who are her soon to be subjects.
Until she enters the room.
She is beautiful. Captivating even. Wearing a gown so splendid it puts hers to shame. She puts her to shame.
And Jimmy is mesmerised.
When they dance, it's like time stands still. No one dares follow them onto the dance floor, for fear of breaking the spell that has fallen upon the room. They move effortlessly, gracefully. Fluidly, like they were made for this dance, like they were made for each other.
And Beth, her heart soars with possibilities.
And she can once again taste freedom.
She is as pure as the driven snow, but when his lips brush hers for the first time, she is ready to throw all that away.
It's so hesitant, so gentle, so sweet that she can hardly believe that this hunter, this battle born man, handles her like the most precious of jewels.
But she can.
He is rough and he is wild and she has seen him at his worst, at his most violent, but here he is, all vulnerability and innocence and her heart swells with emotion and awe and love.
So much love.
I don't want anyone but you, she whispers and it's desperate and it's real and frightening, in its intensity and its truth. And she would do anything for him.
Except one thing.
She is a child of duty, a child of honour. She cannot up and abandon her family. She cannot leave her kingdom in ruin.
Maggie is outraged.
Outraged that Jimmy could do this to her. To their family.
So much manpower, so many resources, and for what? To find a girl when he is engaged to another?
I don't want to marry him, Maggie.
That's not the point!
Duty and honour and family. Above all else. Maggie is outraged and Shawn is fuming and Hershel expresses his disappointment because this isn't about engagements and land agreements. This is about dignity and pride and respect.
And none of them will stand for their baby sister to be made a fool.
Jimmy's father gives him a month. A month to search and after that, no more. They are to be wed immediately, the eve of the next full moon.
A month. She feels physically ill.
In the moonlight, Daryl makes his promise. To find this girl, to unite them. To break Beth of her non-magical curse. To love and protect her until his dying day.
To make her his wife.
Whatever it takes.
My mother died during the war.
They're about a week from her borders. A week and two days from her home. She can almost smell the freshly baked bread wafting from the kitchens, almost feel soft, feather mattress of her bed.
She hasn't talked about her mother since the early days, after the dead overran their land and forced them to flee. Not since her mother flung herself out of their carriage to save a crying child.
Beth vividly remembers their screams when the dead tore them both apart.
Lost my brother, too.
Lost so many people. And there's those whose fate is still unknown to her. Like Shawn, like Maggie, like her father.
Sometimes, she swallows thickly; sometimes I think I'd marry Jimmy in a heartbeat if it meant my mother would still be alive.
Doesn't work like that, girl.
And it doesn't. She can't trade her freedom for her mother's life. That was never an option, not one available to her.
(Remember: that kind of magic doesn't exist for girls like her.)
Doesn't matter. My mother is still dead and I'll still have to marry him.
His eyes are dark as he grabs her wrist, swinging her around, pinning her to a tree. Kisses her with a determination, with a passion he reserves only for her.
(For him, it's always been her.)
And when he cups her chin, tilting her head up, his gaze setting her very soul ablaze, she wonders if what she's feeling is what she's spend her childhood reading about. What she's always yearned for, wanted, above all else.
His eyes are dark and his voice is rough and his words are true.
Not a chance.
The slipper is made of glass. She sees it firsthand when Jimmy arrives at their kingdom, still on his quest to find the girl who lost it.
It is flawless, in it's design, and she marvels at how such a delicate material can bear so much weight.
I won't waste your time, Jimmy, she smiles fondly, we both know this girl isn't me.
He nods, leans against the balcony railing, looking out at the sprawling fields, and the looming forest beyond.
We haven't looked in there, he sighs, it's like finding a needle in a haystack, you know? Not to mention what else is in those woods.
Good magic. Dark magic. It's a gamble no one's willing to take.
I can't give up, Beth, he whispers, eyes begging for understanding.
I don't want you to give up.
Time is running out.
Her fairy godmother is a woman named Michonne.
But not really.
She's sure Michonne doesn't possess any magical powers. Not 100% sure, but sure enough. She's just a woman (Maggie says that in itself is high praise), a woman who fought the dead and helped lead the living to victory.
(There are songs and stories and truths so grossly exaggerated to the point where she may as well be a mythical being.)
She arrives in the kingdom the evening before Jimmy and his party are due to head out. She arrives, an air of cloaked mystery, and offers her services to the cause.
Why? Shawn asks. It's a valid question. She's not one of their people; she owes them nothing.
I owe someone a great debt. And this is how I will repay him.
Beth's gaze shifts to Daryl, who is staring intently at the ground.
Not only is Daryl willing to travel to the ends of the world to find this girl, but he'll call in any and every favour to do so.
It's always been for her.
And what happens if they find her?
Maggie. Forever the older sister. Forever the voice of reason.
You think father and Shawn will let you marry your hunter?
Yes. No. Maybe. If Jimmy finds his girl then they'll be no wedding. No land deal.
Is it naïve of her to think she'll be able to marry whom she wishes?
Yes, Maggie answers the question she never meant to voice aloud, you know that is not our fate.
Love of her own choosing. Truths of the heart.
I'll run away.
She instantly regrets it, feeling childish, rather than defiant. Maggie just sighs sadly.
And then what? Live with him in the woods. No servants, no ladies in waiting, no cooks? No money at all?
None of that matters to me, Maggie!
Greene girls are stubborn. Beth knows what she wants.
Nothing can change that.
Her wedding gown is too tight.
To be expected really.
The moon is full and bright and she is trying so hard to hold it all together. Trying so hard, because it's been weeks since she saw Daryl and she knows in her heart of hearts that the next time she does, she'll be standing at an altar, ready to marry another.
She feels like throwing up.
I'm sorry, Maggie whispers sadly, pinning the last of her curls, I always thought…
What? She laughs hollowly, That I'd get my happily ever after?
That's not part of her story.
In the distance, the trumpets sound, indicating the Prince's return.
Maggie sighs, gathering her veil.
Her father meets her, ready to escort her to the grand ballroom. He smiles a sad smile, grasping her hand in his.
It will be okay, she tries to sound reassuring, I'll be okay.
And she will. She's a Greene and Greenes are resilient. If she can face the dead and win, she can face anything.
The walk is long and slow, maybe even purposely so. When the doors to the grand ballroom open, the crowd falls silent, the harps plucking out a delicate, uplifting tune. A wedding march.
She feels the first tear fall.
I'm sorry, her father whispers, as she passes her hands to Jimmy, who looks equally forlorn, I am so sorry.
Their vows are quiet. Simple. Hollow, even, and she hopes the lace of the veil can hide the tears slipping down her cheeks, hopes that the court can't hear the waver in her voice.
It's before the proclamation, before the exchanging of rings, that there's a commotion outside, and the doors suddenly fling open. It's Daryl, his crossbow in one hand, pulling behind him a girl, covered in cinders, but beautiful.
And she's wearing two glass slippers.
If you could hear a pin drop before, then the silence that descends is maddening.
Beth's eyes widen, and Jimmy drops her hands, too stunned to say a thing.
It's Daryl that speaks first.
Here's your girl, your highness.
Your girl. She meets his eyes and the words unspoken ring loud and clear.
Now give me mine.
Beth breaks into a smile, ripping off her veil and throwing it in Maggie's direction. She can't bring herself to care though. Not when she's running down the aisle, eyes never leaving his, even when he gently shoves the girl forward and away from him.
His chest is a solid, comforting weight, and when she throws herself at him, laughing and sobbing, he catches her, and wraps her tightly in his arms, letting his crossbow drop to the ground with a heavy clang.
You found her.
I promised I would.
Turns out Michonne found her.
There was a woman with two terrible daughters and something about the set up didn't seem right. A clean house, but no maid in sight. A glint in the woman's eyes when she told the guards that there were no other maidens but her two daughters.
Her name is Ella and her father was a widow who remarried and later passed away. And rather than treat her like her own, her stepmother treated her like some kind of indentured servant.
The rest is a tale of fairy godmothers and mice turned into footmen and pumpkins into carriages. Magic, pure and good and true.
She wouldn't believe it if it weren't so.
In the background of her own reunion, there was that of Prince Charming and his true love. There was a land deal, made void. And there was a wedding that was not her own.
They leave the kingdom at dawn.
In the carriage, her father is silent, pensive.
He's a good man.
Understatement. He's the best kind of man.
He wants to marry you.
She looks to her father, eyes full of hope.
And I told him that I couldn't allow a hunter to marry my youngest daughter.
Her heart sinks and she wills herself not to cry.
So it is fortunate indeed that your brother has made him one of his close advisors and given him land and a title.
She throws her arms around her father, whispering thank you thank you thank you over and over again.
Sunlight filters in through the windows, the gentle warmth waking her from slumber.
She's not alone though.
Strong arms hold her firmly to a strong body. She shifts against him, snuggling deeper into his arms as he tightens his grip.
These are the moments she lives for; quiet mornings, beneath the covers, her husband by her side.
Beth still has her concerns about magic. Still questions it, and doubts. But magic doesn't have to be fairy godmothers and witches. Doesn't have to be curses and true loves kiss. It can be quiet, it can be pure.
It can be the stars aligning, honest and true.
It can be a quiet life, a simple life.
And it can be a happy ending.