So I finally decided to bunker down and make a snippets story compilation since I have quite a few mini-ideas that I want to write and with 'Mutant Deviations' starting to wind closer to the end, I've been devoting a bit more time to the random ideas. There will be a few crossovers in here as time goes on though it'll probably be primarily Taylor's adventures in insanity around the Wormverse as a whole.
If anyone wants to take one of these ideas and run with it, please just let me know, I doubt I'll have an issue with it, but I would like a heads up.
For chapters where Taylor is a significantly different age than in canon I'll make that clear at the beginning. Most of the other things you can assume will just be touched upon in each story as they come up. Several are intended to be more or less canon until the story start, but considering that the vast majority of my random ideas have AU elements that's probably going to be somewhat rare so I'll mention it beforehand when those chapters come up. Anyway, onto the first ficlet!
Premise: Taylor's powers make her alternatively a Disney Princess and an Evil Queen. She listens to entreaties by different folk and helps out those whom she finds either deserving or that she just likes. When someone pisses her off though, her personality swaps and she sends her evil forest after them. Or her evil apples. Or her evil dragon. Or her…you get the story…
"Would you like an apple, my dear?"
The Princess of Brockton Bay
Charlotte tried to force her breathing to stay slow and steady as she stepped into the Woods. If her breathing was normal, maybe her heartbeat would stay normal too. There wasn't really any official word on just what would make The Princess more inclined to help you, but almost everyone agreed that you should be calm when approaching her.
Charlotte clutched at her blouse and tried not to think about how most of the people The Princess didn't like probably wouldn't be posting on PHO.
No, it wasn't good to think like that. She had chosen this. She had chosen to come out to the Woods. She had chosen to put her life into The Princess' hands. She needed to do this. No matter the risks, no matter the costs, no matter the…
Charlotte choked back a sob and leaned against a tree as another shudder racked her body. Her hand spasmed in its grip on her shirt and for one horrible moment she thought the pale blue fabric was going to tear and leave her in rags. Then, blessedly, the shaking passed and she was able to unclench her fist. Falling to the moss-covered ground on shaky legs, Charlotte covered her face with her hands, her shoulders shaking with her cries.
This wasn't how she was supposed to see The Princess.
This wasn't how her life was supposed to be. She was supposed to graduate, go to college, find a nice boyfriend (or, if she was honest with herself after…everything, a girlfriend), get married, start a family. But no. Not anymore. Not since those fucking bastards had taken her. Not since they had thought she looked 'nice'.
She was still crying when she felt a soft, furry body nuzzling up against the side of her head. Charlotte let her hands drop from her face, and as she tried to wipe the tears away on the back of her arm, she saw a small deer to her side. There was also a rabbit curled up on her lap. Her eyes still leaking, she hesitantly reached down and ran a hand through the soft fur of the bunny. It snuggled against her even more, pushing up into her hand and bringing a soft smile to Charlotte's lips.
"That's better, I hate it when people are sad in my Woods."
The bunny and the deer really should have tipped her off, but the voice still caused Charlotte to jump a little. She gasped as her head whipped around and she saw The Princess smiling at her. The girl's - and she was a girl, the rumors had been true, The Princess couldn't have been more than 16 or 17 - clothes were almost all deep pinks and light reds. She had a dress that was poofy enough it must have been difficult to walk in, coupled with a small tiara that was more quaint than regal. Charlotte couldn't see her shoes though she got the distinct impression that The Princess was in heels.
"I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you."
"Oh you didn't. If you had offended me, you'd know. Also, I wouldn't have asked my friends to cheer you up," The Princess said. She smiled and dropped to the ground with enough grace that Charlotte was embarrassed by her earlier collapse. The girl's curly black hair even splayed out behind her in an almost designed fashion. How much did she practice that move?
"So, why have you come to my Woods? Most people don't tend to just wander out here anymore."
Charlotte's eyes snapped closed and she felt her heat rate kick up as her breath came in short gasps. The soft fur of the deer's muzzle against her back helped her to center herself again and it was less than a minute before the panic attack passed and she was able to open her eyes again and meet The Princess' gaze. "I…need help. I need to…I need to move on. I need to be free."
"Hmm," The Princess said, her fingers drumming on her knees. "Big and vague. That would cost a lot. Let's see if we can't get a bit deeper and a bit more specific so that we can be smarter about this okay?"
"That's good." The Princess smiled at her again and folded her hands into her lap as another bunny hopped out of the shrubs, jumping into Charlotte's lap next to the first. "How about we start with the basics. Is it a boy that has you trapped?"
Charlotte couldn't help the shudder that ran down her whole body at that. "No. Not, not anymore. They took me, but I…I got away."
The Princess' smile fell away and the sun clouded over as she scowled. "I'm glad you got away. We girls have to be able to protect ourselves as much as we can these days. Who took you? The ABB, the Empire, or the Merchants?"
Charlotte bit back a sob as her hand spasmed again and the itch in the back of her mind made itself known. The bunnies shifted on her lap as her hand curled into a claw and she desperately pushed back against the craving.
"Well, I guess that answers that," The Princess murmured and the skies darkened further. Finally Charlotte was able to keep the ache at bay and she stared at the ground.
"It hurts so much. I don't know what they gave me, but I can't stop thinking about more. The Protectorate supposedly has someone who could help, but…they never came for me or the others to begin with, so how can I trust them now? They knew where we were, but their stupid truce was more important! They-they-" Charlotte broke down into sobs again and when she was finally calm enough to stop crying, she noticed that several birds had alighted onto her shoulders and there was a chipmunk patting the back of her hand.
She bit back another sob as she lifted her eyes from the chipmunk to The Princess. "They really do all listen to you."
"They're my friends. They'll probably be your friends too." Charlotte knew she was supposed to be scared of that - everyone online said she should be terrified if The Princess started talking like that - but all she felt was relief. The Princess was going to help her.
"What's your name?"
"Hello, Charlotte. I used to be Taylor, though now most people just call me The Princess. Charlotte, did you go to Panacea? If there is still something in your blood…"
"She had a waiting list a mile long," Charlotte spat. "I tried for weeks to get onto her list the real way. Then I got desperate and I…I hurt myself so that I would be at the top…she healed me, but she said…she said…"
"That you were clean." The Princess sighed. "Yeah, you're not the first who's come here for this sort of thing. A lot of people tend to come more for help with their love lives or to get back at others or just for better exam results. But I've had a few Merchant and ABB victims. I'm getting…tired of seeing them honestly."
Charlotte swallowed hard, choosing to ignore the second half of that statement and the meaning it implied. "Have you helped them all?"
"Some. The ones who were nice about it and didn't come expecting me to fix their problems. Those people were lucky if I just sent them away. Some of them were mean. And they seemed to think that because Susy Smith rejected their invitation to the Ball, that meant they were perfectly within their rights to ask for her to be cursed." The Princess' smile would have been horrifying if Charlotte didn't completely agree with her next statement. "Those evil imps got what was coming to them."
A flash of lightning shot through the sky overhead, but Charlotte just nodded along. "Do your Woods really eat the people you don't like?"
"Sometimes. Not usually. Usually I just curse them. Most people don't really deserve to be eaten, and even then, the curses can be worse depending on which one I use."
Charlotte looked up at the stormy sky just barely visible through the trees. She shut her eyes and felt one more tear track down her face. "They took everything I loved. I wanted to be a singer…Now my throat never stops itching and I can't concentrate long enough to make a song or even just finish my homework…"
"I can help you sing again. I can take away the itch in your throat and the itch in your mind. I can make it better."
"What would it cost?"
The Princess was silent for a long time. Long enough that Charlotte was able to bring herself to meet the girl's gaze again, suddenly worried that perhaps she wouldn't be able to pay what would be asked. "Did they tell you I was fair?"
"Did they tell you that everything I do has a price?"
Charlotte nodded again.
"I'm a Princess. I'm The Princess. But that's not all I am. I'm also The Queen. Or to be more specific, The Evil Queen."
Charlotte was surprised when she found herself responding without a trace of a quiver or a whimper. "I know. That's why we're not supposed to come into the Woods. I…don't think most people have quite realized it's growing."
"My Woods expand as my influence grows." The Princess held out a hand and there was an apple in it. When had her dress changed into a body-hugging green gown? Charlotte knew she should be running. She should thank The Princess - The Evil Queen - for listening, smile, and leave. But…the girl had said she could help.
"Charlotte, this apple will get rid of the urges. It'll give you back your voice and it'll smooth the memories of the pain. They'll still be there, but you won't feel the connection with them that you do now." Charlotte reached for the apple, but The Evil Queen pulled it back, shaking her head. "You need to know the cost before you accept it."
"Don't say that. Never say that. Especially not to me. I don't know you well enough to know if I would want to stop myself from taking advantage of an offer like that." The Evil Queen waited for Charlotte to nod before she continued, "Good. Now, taking this apple is a contract. A promise for a promise. Magic for a price. I'll fix you, but I need something in return."
"Normally I ask for small things, amenities that it's hard for my friends to get on their own or difficult for them to bring back. Other times I ask for something a bit steeper. You, Charlotte, you want two things. One that is very big, and one that is fairly simple. I can mitigate the cost by offering to wipe out the Merchants as well though that only lessens the burden."
Charlotte frowned. "That seems like something you would be charging more for."
The Evil Queen smiled, a small chuckle issuing forth which the birds replicated in their warbles and the surrounding mammals all pawed the ground in time with her cadence. "Yes you would think that wouldn't you? Except that I'm going to have to scare quite a few people when I send my friends to tear the Merchants down and drag each and every one of them back to my Woods. I'm also going to probably lose several friends in the effort. People might connect my attack back to being precipitated by you. So I can use that as a counterpoint to help you offset your cost. Especially since you didn't ask for it yourself."
Charlotte slowly nodded. "No one except the Merchants would be hurt?"
"I swear it. The Woods will expand however, and people may be frightened by that once they realize it's occurred. That's another reason your cost is lessened."
"Okay. I can…I want them to pay."
"Oh they will. They will."
Charlotte let out a shaky breath and smiled at The Evil Queen. "What do I have to pay then?"
"I love my friends, but it gets lonely out here sometimes. I would like a companion for a few weeks." Charlotte's eyes went wide, but the Queen continued before she could say anything. "I would ask for eight weeks. If I'm remembering my dates right, the school year should be about finished anyway. So, for the beginning of summer, you spend it with me. You help me take care of my friends, you keep me company."
"And when those eight weeks are over, I can go home?"
"When those eight weeks are over, if you want to go home, you can. Some people…some people don't want to go home afterwards. Some like it better out here. That's why my Woods expand without my influence growing. When someone stays, the Woods enlarge. Suitable compensation must be given in all things."
Charlotte looked down at the bunny still sitting on her lap. Her parents would be upset. But her parents just thought she was supposed to pick her life up like nothing had happened. Like those people had never touched her, or forced her to take those things. She was just supposed to grin and bear it, because it was Brockton Bay and 'bad things happen here sweetheart, but we have to keep living our lives anyway.'
But what about her friends? They would miss her. Even if she didn't end up staying past the eight weeks, they would still be worried. And if she did stay, what about college? What about singing? What about a family?
Her hand spasmed again and the shudder ran up her arm and into her spine sending small convulsions through most of her body. It passed in moments, but it was enough to remember why she was here:
No one else was willing to help. No one except The Princess, The Evil Queen.
"Do we have a deal, Charlotte?"
"We have a deal, Your Highness."