Fractured Fairy Tale: Snow White

It's been a while since I did one of these. I told you this is E/K from the start so don't get all shocked later when Kenshin shows up and Kaoru doesn't fall madly in love with him. I adore Enishi/Kaoru with a deep passion that even I don't really understand. Sometimes, you just love something. That being said, now that I am coming to the end of my fanfic writing cycle of life, this is probably the last E/K project I will do in the foreseeable future. Also one of the last fanfics. I'll still read, I just don't have the heart/time/internet access to write it anymore. Original projects have captured my heart away. . .

Anyway, please enjoy yet another weird E/K piece from me and consider writing some of your own. I'd love to add more work to my E/K C2. Really I would. I'd also like some staff, if anyone's really interested. I check for E/K fics about once a month these days, but I'm just one person and I don't always catch everything.

Disclaimer: I don't own Rurouni Kenshin. This means I don't own Kaoru or Enishi either, most certainly, which is too bad because if I did then. . . well. . . I want to keep this PG-13 so I won't say what they would have done if I owned them.

Chapter 1

"Want to hear a story?" The mother's voice is soft with fondness. And the bed springs complain as she sits down.

"Sure." The little boy doesn't sound very interested, but whatever prolongs bedtime is good by him. His hands are folded above the covers, thumbs twiddling.

"It's a fairy tale. . ." She smiles in an expectant way, knowing what the response to this will be.

"That's kid's stuff." There's an insistent note to his voice that reveals that he is still more child than adult, but hasn't learned to value that yet.

"Yes and no. What if I called it a legend, would that make you feel better?" She's laughing inside, and it's coming out in her voice.

"Maybe I don't want to hear it now." He's a sharp kid, he seems to know when he's being teased and doesn't react well to it.

"I think you do."

"No I don't."

"Yes, you do." Her voice is getting testy. They have similar temperaments, this mother and child, and patience is not generally part of them. "Now quiet while I talk."

"Whatever. . ." He lost, but even if it's boring it's still time awake and that's good enough for him.

"A while ago. . ."

"Shouldn't it be 'once upon a time'?" He likes interrupting, but only when he can show he's smarter than someone. His mother knows that he didn't get that from her side of the genetic pool.

"This didn't happen that long ago. I know that last week can seem like once upon a time to you, but in the grand scheme of things this was very current." That testy note is still there, and the kid seems to note it more consciously this time because he puts on an innocent look.

"Ok, so 'a while ago'. . ." Not many promising stories began like that, but he was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt for a couple minutes. He prompts his mother with a more eager note inserted into his voice for her benefit.

"A while ago. . ."

A childless king and queen passed their days wishing in their hearts for a son or daughter. If they wanted to be perfectly honest with one another, they would have said they were hoping for a son because he would be able to inherit the kingdom while a daughter could not. Rules in those days didn't favor women, and sometimes it's harder to change people's minds than you'd think, because tradition can be both an ugly and a beautiful word for those bound by it. Regardless, a son is what they wanted and a daughter is what they got. . . but at a great price.

The queen, fragile at the best of times, could not bring the baby to the full end of pregnancy let alone survive the birth. The baby was pulled from her mother, small and squalling but full of the life her mother gave to bring her out into the world. Medical practices were not advanced, and even if they had been it would have been a touch and go situation for the queen. As it was, the doctors did the best they could to save her, and when it was clear that she would not survive the night they did the best they could to ease her pain.

Delirious with drugs, she called for her husband, for her child, for her parents and siblings in a far away land, and many other names from her childhood and adulthood only a few of which the king recognized when he entered her chamber. The queen grasped her husband's hand with the strange strength that some people find as they are easing out of the world and charged him with two things: to take care of their daughter, and to go on with his life. She knew that her husband loved her dearly, to the point of wanting to follow his wife to her long rest, but he could not for the sake of the kingdom and for the sake of the infant that even now was being attended across the room from where his wife lay.

The king swore to do as she asked while holding back tears and kissing his wife's hand until her fingers loosened and her eyes stopped blinking. What should have been a night to rejoice became a night to mourn, and the wailing of the infant was drowned out by the wailing of hundreds, even thousands, of others once news passed through the kingdom.

What the king had sworn with such sincerity to his wife while she was alive, he found that while dead those words stuck in his throat most bitterly as he spoke to her spirit. This was not how he had wanted a child. They could have adopted a child, or appointed an heir from one of the many houses closely related to their line, but instead they had tried again and again until they had gotten what they thought would be most precious and most dear. His daughter was no blessing to him when she hailed her mother's death. Fatherly love overcame everything but a deep and abiding sadness in the king which over time became apathy. While he was kind to his daughter, he showed no outward signs of affection as she grew and neglected her benignly.

It was a decade past the girl's birth and her mother's death when the king's eye was caught by another woman. The main attraction of this woman was the striking resemblance she had to the late queen. Except for the eyes. The eyes of this new woman, who was to become the new queen and stepmother to the little girl, were tightly drawn and suspicious of those around her. She appraised everything she looked at, and the appraisals were often unfavorable to the object she examined. They were not inherently cruel eyes, but they were hard as diamonds and just as cold.

At first the little girl was extremely taken with this new mother. She was only ten after all, and not at all doted on by her father, so the idea of familial affection had all been invested in the idea of her deceased mother. She had gathered information on the dead queen from the talk of palace servants and the pictures in the long gallery of her where her father would often walk and gaze upon his ancestors while seeking peace of mind. Surely, if this woman looked so much like the mother who had loved her enough to trade away her life, then the little girl would be loved by her. In a way, she was correct. Her new mother loved her, but she loved her as one person may love a particularly well made doll.

All that the new queen valued, when it came down to the essentials, was beauty. She had admired the beauty of the palace and of the kingdom with its lush and thick forests and deep clear lakes. The king was a handsome man, even wasted by a decade of grief, and she thought that his beauty was lesser than the jewels and gowns that he showered upon her, but she was willing enough to be what he wished so long as she could be surrounded by the things she found fair. And, despite the lack of tending, the little girl had grown and blossomed like a wild rose. The queen, prizing that pretty face, showed her as much attention as the girl could want from a mother, but never love.

The new queen began to tire of the jewels and gowns, and even of the child who refused to get out of the stables and gardens long enough to be dressed and powdered and paraded in front of the other beautiful women who the new queen surrounded herself with like a court of fairy maidens. She became dissatisfied, disconsolate, and obsessive. Nothing was beautiful enough to please her anymore. She had reached the pinnacle and there was no where else to go but inward. Vanity became her routine and eventually her tormentor.

Throughout the land she searched for the perfect mirror, the one that would show her at her best advantage. Craftsmen came from all over the kingdom, seeking to give her what she was looking for and collect upon the huge reward she had offered. No one could please her, and the stress was starting to tell upon those eyes of hers, the ones that were not inherently cruel but which were becoming bright with madness and slightly wrinkled from how she squinted at her form in the mirror, seeking minute imperfections. Always it was the mirror that was at fault. The king despaired again, thinking that he was losing another wife, but really feeling like he was losing his first wife once more. His cycle of grief was renewed, and he became all but useless to his current wife.

Suddenly, on an ill wind, a sorcerer visited the current queen in private. She was stripped naked, standing in front of a mirror, as was her habit these days, and looking upon her form critically. He appeared and praised her appearance, immediately drawn to her, and offered her the mirror she so desired if she would deliver to him the kingdom itself. Killing the king would be easy for one so close to him.

The queen was entranced by this man, wrapped from head to toe in bandages, burned within and without by the devil's fire of his art. If he had what she most wanted, then he was her savior. She forgot her rage over her witnessed nakedness and readily agreed if he first brought her the mirror. The sorcerer laughed his hoarse demon's laugh and conjured a rare object from whatever hell he had stored it. It practically glowed, and the new queen was entranced, for the first time falling in love with someone besides herself. This man had given her what she most wanted in the world, and she would serve him until she died, and so she swore.

He told her to ask of it what she would, for it was a magic mirror, and it would give her answers to the questions that burned her to ashes every night in her mind. He understood about these impulses, the ones that stole your soul. The new queen stroked the cool glass lovingly and called out in a clear voice:

"Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who in this land is the fairest?"

Misty eyes and lips formed, swirling like a storm inside of some world of its own outside of the bounds of the new queen or even the sorcerer.

"You are, Yumi, you are the fairest."

And all was well. . . until the next night, when the queen administered poison with a kiss to the king and watched him die in her arms. She owed him that much, to know the face of his betrayer. She knew she had sold her soul for a mirror or rare value to a sorcerer that held her heart. The sorcerer was swift that night, coming in amid the confusion and decimating the troops of the now dead king, killing indiscriminately all those who carried a sword or bow. His own troops took their place, and for months on end he had his men hunt down those that were fled and hid. Once his reign was secure, he was content, for he had what he desired. The sorcerer had a queen, he had a kingdom, and he had all the wealth of the kingdom to continue to build his army. In another few years he would have an army large enough to march upon the next kingdom over, and that was well worth the wait.

During that night of carnage, the princess had not been forgotten. A young teen, in her sixteenth year, she had been among the stable hands and tending to the frightened horseflesh while fires ravages the barracks nearby. The new queen, the only mother she had ever known, came to find her where she knew she would be. She knew what her new master, the sorcerer, would wish for this last link to the old line. Death had been the king's lot, and though his daughter should share it from a tactical perspective the queen did not want to kill her for she was not immune to emotion and above all she hated to destroy beauty.

The princess, looking at her traitorous mother figure, felt horrible angry things that bit into her soul and made her hard and old in a way she had never felt before. Father dead, life burning, she thought about killing this woman and herself. Instead, the princess took control of her fiery temper and accepted her stepmother's offer. So long as she stayed in the stables and caused no trouble, then the new queen would forget that she had ever existed.

To the princess, it was an easy enough deal to make. Many people in the castle had pretended the same thing for years.

"This is pretty good so far. Was there a lot of blood? Did the princess get revenge?" The kid's bright eyes light up as he imagines the carnage. The mother knows he's been spending too much time around his father and his father's friends.

"If you interrupt me again I won't tell you about any of the bloody parts." She strokes a hand through his dark hair and he smiles at her adoringly. There are soft parts in him still, even if he hides them to make himself seem older and more experienced.

"I'll be good." There is no hesitation to the promise. Her audience is assured. She looks over at the wick burning in the lamp by his bed. It will take a while to tell this story, and he has heard parts of it before, but she feels like telling it in its entirety tonight. The oil may run out. More can be gotten. . . there is no more need to stall.

"Mom. . .?"

"Sorry, it's just that sometimes the beginnings of stories are so unpleasant that not even a happy ending can give you real peace. . ."