Chapter I

Once upon a time, in a Fairytale Land that Never Was, there lived an old king.

It was easy to tell that he was old, for his hair was gray. And, in fairytales, anyone whose hair is gray must be old. So even though King Xemnas' face was unlined, and he had the build of an athletic youth, he was assumed by most of his subjects to be unfathomably, inexplicably, and terrifyingly old.

This notion was reinforced by the existence of King Xemnas' fully grown son. More on the son in a minute.

King Xemnas, however, knew that the time was near when he would be forced to retire from his throne, as the day was approaching when his subjects would start wondering why their king hadn't keeled over yet. King Xemnas really did not want to abdicate, as he enjoyed the practically limitless power his job allowed him, and if he had to profile himself he'd most certainly designate himself a bit of a totalitarian, but what of that? These medieval monarchies were practically tailor made for abuses of power!

Ahem. Anyway.

King Xemnas had found a way around the problem of abdication. Unfortunately, this solution involved his son producing an heir to the throne.

And Xemnas was about to chastise said son for failing to do just that.

Looking quite regal in his oversized, golden crown and long, red cloak, King Xemnas glided to the room of his son, and knocked on the large, elegant door.

And waited.

And knocked again.

And grew tired of waiting, and, accordingly, did what any reasonable tyrant would do.

He barged in.

His son was in the process of hiding a Playgirl magazine under his mattress. Thus caught, he sat himself down in front of the offending object, crossed his legs, leaned back, and tried to appear—as the kids these days would say—cool.

"Yo," he said, giving Xemnas a salute with only his pointer finger.

"Don't 'yo' at me, young man," Xemnas said, maintaining his calm, emotionless façade. "I've come to have a serious talk with you."

"Err." His son shook strands of long, red hair out of his face. "That's all well and good, Daddy-o, but can it wait? I'm in the middle of something."

"Ah, yes." Xemnas eyed the corner of the magazine which was sticking out from under the mattress. "That scintillating publication?"

His son coughed. "I read it for the articles."

Xemnas proceeded to the nearest chair, which, unfortunately, was covered in dirty laundry. He flicked a pair of pants onto the floor and settled back into the chair as regally as he could, treating it as if it were a throne, laying his arms on the thin, wooden armrests as if it were the most comfortable position in the world. "Axel. Please do try to be serious. I'm here on a matter of business."

Axel groaned. "You're not after me having a son again, are you?"

"Well, Axel, you don't seem to have taken an interest in the monarchy. You seem to be much more taken with your…reading. Therefore…"

"You want me to have a son so that I can drop him with you and exit stage Europe," Axel said. "Yeah, yeah, I know. And then you get to rule the throne until the tyke grows up and I get to cavort around, traveling the world and doing as I please. We've been over this a million times, Dad."

"I know." This emotionless thing was getting really hard to keep up. Xemnas had to fight the urge to furrow his brown. "Unfortunately, you don't seem to have taken the initiative."

"Well, nothing against your plan, Dad, but you're overlooking something." Axel swung his feet up on the bed and folded his hands behind his head, leaning back on his pillow. "Girls are boring."

"Now, Axel—"

"But they are! You think after we came up with your brilliant idea that I haven't tried looking at all of the girls who parade by me in the marketplace, seeing if I could imagine myself married to any of them? I have tried. It doesn't work!"

"Axel." Xemnas kept his voice firm. "It isn't that difficult. Just find a pretty, simple little creature, take her to bed with you once, maybe twice. Then you can leave her back here in the Land that Never Was while you go exploring."

"I would do that," Axel mumbled. "And I've tried to do it, but even kissing them is boring. I can't imagine how dull it would be to…'take one to bed,' as you put it."

"This is ridiculous," Xemnas said. "You're twenty-one, Axel. Trying to get you to sleep with a girl shouldn't be this hard!"

"So to speak," Axel muttered, smiling.

Expressionless. Calm. Stoic. Like a mountain. Children were so difficult, though. "You need to learn to respect your superiors," Xemnas intoned. "It seems to me that this is simply a matter of finding the right girl."

Axel snorted.

"And if you're not going to do it, I suppose I'll have to take the matter into my own hands."

"You have fun with that, Dad," Axel said. "I'll be in here when you find her."

Xemnas rose as gracefully has he possibly could, and glided out of the room. Walking simply wasn't good enough for a king, and he needed to set an example for his lack wit son. He closed the door behind him. He didn't let his frustration show on his face, but, if one of the royal butlers that never were happened to get close enough, he would have heard:

"What am I ever going to do with that boy?"


Elsewhere in the Fairytale Land that Never Was, a young man named Roxas was just waking up. While he was sleeping, he looked just like any other carefree teenage boy. When he opened his long-lashed blue eyes, however, they spoke of another existence entirely—a life fraught with hardship and troubles.

Roxas had once been the only child of an aging nobleman. His mother died in childbirth, but, aside from that tragedy, his early life had been fairly charmed. His father doted on him, and he never really felt that he was lacking much. After all, he had a horse, a series of shy but kindly governesses, and the full run of the mansion, and that all seemed to make up for missing one mother.

Roxas' father, however, felt a little lonely in his old age. And when a visit to the physician revealed that an incurable, deus ex machina-esque disease had been sapping away his remaining life, he did the only thing a gentleman of his age and social status could reasonably do. He hit the town, got completely smashed, and arrived home the next morning only semi-conscious and with a brand new wife on his arm.

Unfortunately, that final act of indulgence pickled his liver, and Roxas' father died that very afternoon, with just enough time to sloppily revise his will so that everything, including the mansion, the horse, and his son, went to his new bride. Even less fortunately, he died before consummating his marriage, and, accordingly, never found out that the handsome young woman he'd wed was, in fact, a pink-haired transvestite named Marluxia.

Delighted at this fortunate turn of events, Marluxia lost no time in moving into the mansion with his two daughters, Vexen and Larxene, only one of whom was actually a daughter. Marluxia then, in true stepmotherly fashion, proceeded to make Roxas' life absolutely miserable.

The home which had once been a playground now seemed more like a prison. Roxas was forced to clean, feed the animals and his step-family (but was there really a distinction there?), keep the Heartless out of Marluxia's sprawling garden, and do a number of other unpleasant tasks. And while Roxas wouldn't have really minded the lighter housework at all—he was slightly obsessive-compulsive and would have straightened all of the damn picture frames anyway, without being asked—crawling around the forgotten nooks and crannies wielding only a feather duster was, to say the least, a nuisance. Roxas grew tired of the way his blonde hair was always messy, and his nose always had a smudge of soot on it.

That particular morning the smudge was not yet present, as Roxas had fully woken up and was busy cleaning his face in the basin of water on his cheap wooden dresser. Marluxia always liked to see him looking clean. "Dirty staff only reflects poorly upon the household," he'd say, and while Roxas didn't really disagree, he would have called himself a slave rather than a staff member.

Roxas designated himself a slave for three real reasons. The first was that he didn't get paid. While Marluxia promised that he would give Roxas some sort of compensation when the boy turned eighteen, Roxas wasn't inclined to believe him. It was much more likely that Marluxia would turn him out without a cent, or, through some means or another, force him to stay.

The second reason was that he had to do anything and everything which Marluxia, Vexen, or Larxene asked him to do, or risk punishment. A regular employee might worry about getting fired or getting his pay docked, but Roxas had to worry about things like being forced to stand out in the cold for hours or becoming a test subject in one of Vexen's experiments or having to count backwards from 1000 by thirteens or getting spanked by Marluxia, the very prospect of which was simply terrifying.

The third reason Roxas thought himself a slave was because the maid outfit he was forced to wear when cleaning the house was far shorter than any an actual maid would have willingly worn. But that was just the way Marluxia operated.

Of course, Roxas found it strange that Marluxia forced boys into dresses. Vexen had to wear one, too, but Roxas figured that was because Marluxia wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. Roxas, on the other hand, was thankfully not related to Marluxia by blood, so he figured that his stepmother-thing liked looking at him in a short, floofy black dress with frilly lace at the bottom and on the collar. Marluxia also made him wear a white corset over the dress and a little maid hat, along with fishnets, garters, and high-heeled shoes, all of which disgusted Roxas because of their highly anachronistic natures, but seemed to keep his step-family entertained.

Roxas was just lacing up the corset with experienced fingers when the rooster crowed outside of his window. He sighed. Today was the day before trash day, which meant that he had to seek out every wastebasket in the mansion and collect all of the rubbish into one giant burlap sack, and haul it all down to the front of the mansion so that the royal garbage men could pick it up. Roxas didn't really like the royal garbage men. Whenever they passed by the mansion, they always whistled at him and said unpleasant things. He wasn't sure if they thought he was a girl or if they simply didn't care. A boy in drag would certainly liven up the workday of any employee, and as far as boring jobs went, garbage men seemed to be at the bottom of the heap. So to speak.

But before he even thought about taking out the garbage, Roxas had to make breakfast for his evil step-relatives. So, making his way gingerly downstairs, he rapped twice on the doors of each of his stepsiblings and Marluxia before disappearing into the kitchen, breaking open the eggs he'd collected yesterday over a frying pan and buttering slices of bread for toast.

As soon as the coffee had been prepared, the bacon had been fried, the toast had been toasted, and the eggs had been cooked sunny-side up, Roxas shoveled all of the food onto the good china plates, arranged it so that it looked pretty, and set the plates on a tray with the good china cups. Then he drew a deep breath, picked it all up, and proceeded through the double doors into the remarkably ornate and (since the arrival of Marluxia) admittedly floral dining room.

His stepmother-thing was sitting at the end of the table in a blue silk dressing gown. On his left sat Larxene, looking cross. Her normally outlandish but relatively tame blonde hair was always tangled and unmanageable in the morning.

"Took you long enough," she muttered, glaring.

"Good morning to you, too, Larxene," Roxas said, a little too much false pleasantry in his voice. He set her plate in front of her. She liked her toast very well done.

"No need to be snarky, Roxas." Marluxia's low voice was always calm. It may also have been soothing if it weren't so evil. Nothing Roxas did could ever seem to get him truly furious. "Coffee, please."

Roxas put the tray on the table, set a cup in front of Marluxia, and began to pour the steaming coffee. He added just the right amount of milk and then turned to Vexen, who was seated across from Larxene. "Coffee for you, too?"

"Roxas," Marluxia said warningly.

"Coffee for you, too, sir?" Roxas amended, fighting the urge to grit his teeth.

"Yes," Vexen said darkly. "Black." There were bags under his stepbrother's eyes. He'd probably pulled an all-nighter again.

Marluxia stirred his—her?—his coffee around with his spoon lazily and asked, not really interested, "How is that new lab assistant working for you, Vexen?"

"Excellently," Vexen replied. "He helped me file an incredible number of reports. I've finally figured out why—"

"That's nice, dear," Marluxia said, cutting him off. He'd always liked Larxene, the younger, better, and probably wished Vexen was a girl, too. Perhaps that was the reason for the dress. "And you, Larxene. What are you planning on doing today?"

"Practicing my knife-throwing," Larxene replied groggily, her mouth full of toast.

Marluxia beamed. "Excellent. A man respects a girl who can cause him bodily harm." He finished stirring his tea and dropped his spoon, quite intentionally, off the edge of the table. "Oh, dear. Roxas, would you get that for me?"

Roxas wanted to glare so, so much, but instead he said, "Yes, of course," and bent down to pick up the silver spoon. Marluxia had been doing this to him ever since Roxas had turned sixteen, probably because, as mentioned before, his skirt was very short, frilly, and entirely too hard to keep decent while bending down to pick up discarded pens or candlesticks or spoons. He wiped the offending object off on his apron and handed it back to Marluxia.

"Thank you. Now, as I was saying," Marluxia said, "Men like a woman who makes them feel inferior. Some pretend to be too proud, and those are the ones who you want to avoid. A man who can get in touch with his feminine side is the one you want to keep." Marluxia beckoned Roxas closer. "Your stepbrother is an excellent example. Roxas, at first you objected to your little costume, didn't you?"

"Yes," Roxas muttered.

"But you learned to accept it eventually."

"I…didn't really have a choice," Roxas chanced, wanting to say something which reflected how he really felt.

Marluxia frowned and opened his mouth to chastise the boy when an audible thump was heard in another room. He closed his mouth and smiled. "Ah, the morning post. Will you get that, Roxas?"

Roxas inclined his head in an almost-bow and scurried out of the room as best he could in his tall, fairly uncomfortable shoes. Passing through a long hallway filled with pictures of Marluxia and his precious children, he made his way into the foyer and opened the large double doors, expecting to see a bundle of parchment on the front step.

Instead, the newsboy was holding them in his hand. Except the newsboy today was actually a rather pimply herald in palace garb, who said, "Hey there, hot stuff. Special delivery."

Roxas shot him a withering look. "Say that again and I'll punch you in the face." He looked down at the bundle of parchment, which didn't appear to be any different from the usual morning paper. "What's the occasion?"

"How am I supposed to know? I'm just the messenger." The herald shrugged and handed the papers over to Roxas, who dropped them on the floor inside the door and made to close it in the other boy's face. A hand stopped him. "I had to see you, though," the herald said. "My friends on rubbish told me about you."

"Oh, did they?" Roxas attempted to slam the door on his fingers, but the other boy blocked it with his foot, and it wouldn't budge. "How nice."

"Awh, come on, blondie. Don't be so cruel. I just want five minutes. That's all."

"Suck it up. Just because I'm wearing a dress doesn't mean I'm putting out for any guy who looks twice at me. I'm not interested."

"Hey," said the herald, grabbing for Roxas' waist. "Hasn't your step-monster been teaching you obedience?"

"Why, yes." Which was when Roxas grabbed the other boy's wrists and kneed him between the legs. He doubled up in pain, and Roxas used the opportunity to put some distance between them. "Growing up with Marluxia, you learn a lot of things."

And he slammed the door shut.

Sighing, Roxas picked up the parchment and untied the string holding it together. There must be something special in the regular batch of propaganda, otherwise why would the powers-that-be have ensured that every single person received the newspaper? He started walking back to the kitchen, leafing through the upper sheets of parchment.

That was when he tripped over his own feet.

It was just not Roxas' day.

He lay there for a moment, lying among the scattered leaflets, unwilling to get up, wishing he could just go back to bed. Then, almost on cue, he heard Marluxia's voice coming not from the kitchen, but from right above him. "Roxas."

"Yes," Roxas groaned. "I know."

He pushed himself up onto his hands and knees and began to crawl around, which was generally what Marluxia wanted him to do when there were things he needed to pick up scattered all over the floor. However, he felt a hand pull on the back of his dress and heard, "Not yet, Roxas. What is that?"

Roxas looked up and saw that Marluxia was pointing to an envelope which must have been tucked among the pamphlets. It had a large, red wax seal with a somewhat pointy emblem on it. "Um," Roxas said. "Special delivery?"

"That is a royal seal," Marluxia said, scooping it up himself. "Vexen! Larxene!"

Roxas' two stepsiblings shuffled in from the kitchen, both looking very tired, Larxene, especially, looking grumpy. "Well, Mother, what is it?" she demanded as Marluxia opened the envelope and scanned the letter inside.

An evil smile spread across Marluxia's face. "Girls," he said, addressing both of his children. "Start preparing. We are going to a ball."


Disclaimer: I only own the plushies.

A/N: How do I even begin to expain this? I was watching Cinderella the other night and it just sort of happened. Oh, well. Happy reading!