As per the usual, I don't own any version of the Snow White fairy tale, nor do I own Gravitation. If you want to try and pull anything silly like suing or insinuating that I've done wrong, any and all calls will be immediately redirected to the new complaint department, AKA the parrot. Don't anger the Caspian. Just…don't.
Before we begin, I'll go ahead and throw out that this story is being written as a request, and I sincerely hope that that person enjoys this crazy thing. Hopefully I'll finish it before the rest of my hair turns gray.
*** I added about four to five pages to the end of this...that's why it's been re-posted.
The rain poured down, soaking him to the bone, mixing in with the tears rolling shamelessly down his face. He gasped at the cold, shivering violently. Somewhere behind him, he could hear others sharing their grief, but it barely registered. The words of the eulogy rolled over him, echoing soundlessly through his head. He put his arms around himself and resisted his impulse to fall; he had to look strong even if he wasn't. He instead focused his eyes skyward, internally asking a nameless being 'why?'
"Friends, citizens, the royal family, today is an auspicious day…"
He'd been here before. In this exact place, for this exact reason. He couldn't begin to fathom why fate had done this to him again, what he'd done to deserve this, or why the family that he'd lost had to be lost at all. The poignant memories washed over him, making his shudder and he put a hand over his mouth to hold in the sobs. Next to him, his brother coughed and nudged him in the side, looking mortally embarrassed.
"Hold it the hell together." he spat, glaring at the younger man with nothing but contempt. "They're all staring at you…"
"…were nothing short of miraculous rulers, kind, pragmatic when required, devoted to their family…"
He nodded in response and let his arms fall, staring listlessly at the coffins in front of him. The rain continued to fall, covering all of the flowers in a fine mist and coating the umbrellas of the townspeople in attendance. He wiped his nose and looked up again, taking in his surroundings for the first time that morning.
"The King and Queen will be sorely missed, and as we lay them to rest, we must remember those that they leave behind. Let us take a moment to remember their sons, their world, his royal highness, the Crowned Prince Taki, and their adopted son, Shuichi…"
The cemetery was coated in mourners, all of them dressed in black and clutching handkerchiefs or tokens to leave at the gravesites. His adoptive parents had been well-loved, he'd always known this, but the show of emotion all around him drove it home. He shuddered and felt the tears welling up again. He clutched his hands into fists for a distraction, determined not to let it all go until he was back home, and alone.
"We must not be mired in our sadness, weighted with our grief. We must continue on with our lives, under the wise leadership of their dear son, and know that the sun will rise over our peoples once again."
Home. The word had always meant so much to him. Before his parents had died, it had meant a cozy den, and warm fire, and a kiss before bed. After, a paradise. A new family, who wanted to love him from the moment he came to live with them. A castle, lessons, friends, and a brother. A brother who had never wanted him around, but who he had always wanted nonetheless.
"As this ceremony draws to an end, we need all leave it with lighter hearts, remembering only the happiness that our beloved rulers gave us in their lifetimes. We must not leave with tears, with fear, or with any reservations."
He glanced up at his older brother and watched his face. It was solid as stone; unmoving, unfeeling. It was as if nothing had happened to him, as if the tragedy playing out before them had never occurred. He pulled his gaze away, the hollowness of his brother sickening him. Related or no, they'd taken him in when no one else could, or would, and they'd loved him unconditionally, as he'd loved them.
"Please take one final moment to say your goodbyes and make your peace, as we lay our revered King and Queen to rest. Thank you for coming, for sharing in the pain we all feel, and for supporting our brave Princes in their hour of most desperate need. Peace and safety be with you, good day."
He watched the procession move forward, placing their hands on the coffins in a final motion of farewell, and leaving their flowers and other offerings. His brother gave him a small shove in the back, pushing him up next to the coffins to shake the hands and hear the condolences of those walking past. He cleared this throat, closed his eyes, and steeled himself. If he could survive this last ritual, he'd be free to mourn privately, in his own way.
"We're sorry for your loss, majesties…"
"They were loved…"
"Your parents were excellent people, truly. Very sorry for your loss…"
He'd known he'd have to jump through this ceremonial hoop. He'd spent the morning going through the motions: covering his hair, putting on his best clothes, and memorizing the words that everyone wanted him to say. Even with all of his preparations, now that he was here, he felt completely lost and useless.
After a while, the words fell on deaf ears. He couldn't hear the well-wishing, he couldn't hear their words of encouragement, or their expressions of sadness. He just wanted to fade away, to disappear into himself. He gritted his teeth and flexed his hand, waiting for it to end.
"You keep fidgeting and I'll break something."
"I'm bored…I have better things to do then this, Mika…"
"Tatsuha!" Mika answered, slapping her younger brother upside the head. "People are staring!"
"Only because you keep beating me!" Tatsuha hissed back, rubbing the back of his head. "Why doesn't Eiri have to be here?"
"I can't manhandle him, he threatened to push me off the balcony last time. And don't even think about it, I am not afraid of you." Mika said on a sigh, sucking her gums to keep from saying anything too horrible about her delinquent of an older brother.
"You know he wouldn't actually –"
"No, I don't. He hasn't been the same since mom died, you know that."
"I think you're overreacting, he's fine, he's just…"
"Perpetually pissed off?" Mika offered, rubbing her arms to stay warm. The sky had been overcast since they'd left the house, and it had started raining the moment they'd reached the gravesites.
"They couldn't have picked a better day for this?" Tatsuha said, noticing the change in temperature too.
"Do you mind? Stop complaining, this is a day of mourning!" an elderly woman behind them snapped. She glared at Tatsuha before wrapping herself in a knit shawl and shuffling into the line to greet the royal brothers.
"She's right." Mika said quietly, clearing her throat and taking in their surroundings. "Now, get into the line, we need to pay our respects. Tatsuha, get into the line!"
"Stop pushing me woman, dammit, Mika, knock it off!" Tatsuha yelled, shaking off his demanding sister and stepping into the line of mourners.
"Keep your voice down, you're making us look bad!" Mika hissed.
"You started it!"
"Tatsuha, I'm warning you!"
"Tatsuha, I'm warning you!" Tatsuha mimicked sarcastically, complete with flopping hand motions and popping his hip to the side. His gimmick earned him a purse to the head from the elderly woman, and he quickly fell silent.
The bickering siblings fell silent and moved forward, their heads lowered. When it was their turn to meet the surviving family, Mika turned on her charm and prayed that Tatsuha would at least keep his mouth shut.
"We were very saddened to hear about your parents passing…" Mika said in a soothing voice, first shaking Shuichi's small, pale hand and then Taki's. "I know this isn't the best time, but please know that we're here for you in your time of need. Our kitchens are standing by, as usual."
"Huh?" Shuichi stammered, confused by Mika's unexpected words.
"This is a fine time, Ms. Uesugi, thank you for your consideration. I'll have my assistant give you my order for the coronation ceremony tomorrow evening. Your family's food really is spectacular. We'll be seeing you." Taki answered smoothly, taking both of Mika's hands into his. Once he'd dismissed her, he rearranged his jacket and sighed.
"You're horrible." Shuichi said simply, looking at his brother like he was a stranger. "We just buried our parents!"
"Correction, I just buried my parents. You just happened to be here too." Taki shot back, continuing to shake hands. Everyone else in the town may have been dreading this day, but he'd been looking forward to it with relish. Now that it was his moment to shine, he wasn't about to ruin it by getting caught up in Shuichi's trip.
"How can you say that? I'm your – "
"You're nothing to me. And I'll deal with you later, just behave for now."
"Quiet." Taki snapped, glaring down at Shuichi. He'd hated Shuichi since the day he'd shown up, and now that his parents weren't around to make him play nice, he was free.
His parents had adopted Shuichi ten years ago, after the boy's parents had passed away. Shuichi hadn't had family to turn to, and their parents had been business friends. Taki had been furious when he'd heard, and that feeling had never faded.
He'd never wanted siblings, and now that he was about to inherit the power to change whatever he wanted, Shuichi's life would be the first to be amended. He coughed lightly and plastered his smile back on, barely containing his excitement.
"You should have gone with us. It looks bad." Mika said loudly, throwing open the front door of a large house.
"Back off. I've been to enough funerals to last me a while." the targeted lounger snapped back, making a point to put his feet up on the mahogany desk in front of him.
"I'm getting sick of this, Eiri. I'm tired of constantly having to tell you-"
"Then stop." Yuki said loudly, getting up from his chair with a resigned sigh. His sister never stopped, especially when she had time alone to build up momentum.
"You realize that you're part of this family, right?" Mika continued, shrugging out of her coat and blocking her younger sibling's escape route.
"You realize that I don't give a fu-"
"Yeah, I do, and when the hell are you going to grow up?" she said, putting a hand on Yuki's chest and staring him down. "I can't run this family, this business, this house, everything, on my own and we both know that Tatsuha shouldn't even be allowed to try."
"Doesn't mean I should have to." Yuki replied, avoiding his sister's eyes.
"You don't hear yourself, do you? Mom would be ashamed." Mika said, the finality in her voice masking the desperation in her eyes.
"Too damn far." Yuki hissed, his voice barely audible. He smacked Mika's hand away and made for the door, slamming it behind him as hard as he could.
He hated it when anyone mentioned his parents, the memories were too much for him to handle.
Their parents had died ten years ago, leaving the three of them to fend for themselves in the world. Aside from inheriting the stigma of being orphaned so wholly, Mika had been given control of the family farm and turned it into the largest fruit and produce vendor in the area. Three years ago, she had started a catering side, and the royal family itself graced their client list.
He stormed through the streets, blatantly ignoring the rain. No one could rile him up like Mika could, and he needed time to cool down lest he do something extreme.
"Stupid woman…" Yuki muttered, rubbing his arms and starting to secretly regret his lack of coat.
He stopped at the entrance to his favorite tavern, and studied the sign in the window. They were closed due to the royal funeral, as were all of the businesses by the look of the deserted street. He sighed and ran a hand through his messy hair, wondering why he had to be cursed just because someone else had died.
He turned on his heel and headed back for the house, thinking that his private stash would be better than nothing.
"Is that the last of them?" Taki asked, checking his nails.
"Yes, majesty." an aide answered, scanning the now deserted cemetery. "Are you ready to leave?"
"More than ready. Are the carriages prepared?"
"Shuichi, move it." Taki barked, looking over his shoulder to where Shuichi was standing over the coffins of their parents. "Seriously. Move your ass."
"No." Shuichi whispered back, a tear rolling down his nose. "I want more time with them."
"They're dead. Get over it." Taki snapped, growling. He advanced on Shuichi, intending to drag him to the vehicles. As much as he wanted to leave him behind in the storm, he couldn't. Until he could make it back to the castle, and to his documents, he couldn't legally disown Shuichi.
"Don't say that!" Shuichi yelped, dancing away to the other side of the graves. "Don't!"
"It's the truth! Now get in the damn carriage!" Taki screamed, losing it. "I'm so sick of you playing the freaking victim!"
"They were your parents! How can you feel nothing! I'm your brother!" Shuichi cried out.
"No! You're not! Not now, not ever! I hate you, don't you get that?" Taki spouted, sliding around and grabbing Shuichi's wrist. "Get moving!"
"Taki, no! Let go of me!"
"Listen, you little brat, you're embarrassing me…" Taki hissed in Shuichi's ear. "We're leaving, that's that."
Taki shoved Shuichi into the nearest carriage, shut him in, and grabbed the next one. He leaned back against the plush seats and breathed a sigh of relief. In less than an hour's time, the adorable menace that had plagued his life for far too long would be out of it for good.
When his father's health began to mirror his failing mother's, he'd had his closest assistants draw up the proper paperwork to boot Shuichi from the royal family, and from any and all inheritance.
He closed his eyes and enjoyed the rest of the bumpy trip, unable to stop the smile from spreading across his face when his castle came into view.
"You." Taki said to one of his assistants suddenly, a fire in his eyes. "Get the papers ready to be signed and have the kid summoned to my office immediately."
"Yes, sir." the man answered somewhat dejectedly. He knew that there was no way to derail Taki, and he felt horrible for Shuichi. One would think that he had suffered enough in his life, but apparently Taki didn't share this opinion.
He watched Taki exit the carriage and rush into the palace. He exited the carriage and approached Shuichi's, clearing his throat to announce himself.
"Yes?" Shuichi asked softly, stepping down.
"Sire, you're needed in the Crowned Prince's office." he replied, feeling horrible. Shuichi still looked just as broken as he had when the King and Queen had passed two days ago.
"He's summoned you, you have to-"
"But…" Shuichi stammered, knowing that whatever Taki wanted wouldn't be pleasant given his actions at the funeral.
"I'm sorry, sire. I think it's best you just go."
"I can't deal with him right now." Shuichi answered, brushing off Taki's lackey. "Leave me alone."
Shuichi pushed past Taki's attendants and made for his room, knowing full well that he couldn't handle anymore of his brother. For once, Taki was just going to have to wait.
Halfway there, he was stopped by two armed guards, and knew that something was really wrong.
"Halt. You've received a summons by his royal majesty-"
"I know!" Shuichi shouted, starting to panic.
"Then come with us." one of the guards said, grabbing Shuichi's arm and motioning for the other to do the same.
"You can't grab me like that, I'm a Prince too!" Shuichi said, trying to wrench his arms out of their grasp.
"Not for long…" one of the guards whispered.
"What?" Shuichi asked quietly, eyes wide with worry. Before an answer could be given, they reached Taki's office.
"Here we are, please go inside now."
"OK…" Shuichi said numbly, losing feeling in his legs. He gulped and opened the door, stomach uneasy.
"Finally." Taki drawled from behind his desk. "Now, let's get this over with."
"Get what over with?" Shuichi asked, scared.
"I told you I'd be dealing with you." Taki responded gleefully. "My parents should have never taken you in. I'm their son, not you, and it's about time you understood that."
"Don't address me as such!" Taki yelled, losing it again.
"They were only trying to help me, I loved them too…"
"Oh, this isn't my grief getting the best of me. I'm not going to pretend that I'm distraught over mommy and daddy dying, because I'm not. It was my time to rule years ago, they were senile, incompetent, soft. I mean, hell, they took in a stupid peasant and had the gall to adopt it."
"Stop talking about them like that!" Shuichi yelled at Taki, tears welling up. "They were good people, they'd be ashamed of you!"
"Good! Because I'm ashamed of them! And of you!" Taki roared, standing up and shoving his chair back. "Give me the damned papers!"
"Yes, sir." an attendant answered, bringing an envelope to Taki.
"Once these are signed, you're gone. I'm officially disowning you, throwing out your claim of inheritance, and returning you to the slums where you belong." Taki said calmly, having regained his composure at the sight of the envelope.
"What the hell?" Shuichi said slowly, looking in shock at Taki.
"You heard me." Taki replied, brandishing a quill. "And…you're done."
"Taki, you can't do this, I'm your – "
"You're nothing. Guards, get him out of my sight. He won't be needed any of his things."
"NO! Let go of me!" Shuichi screamed, dodging the deployed guards. "Taki, please!"
"Shut him up. He's ruining my moment, again." Taki ordered softly, his voice dangerous.
The guard nearest Shuichi lunged for him and took the smaller man down, knocking him out in the process. He and the other guards hoisted Shuichi up and exited the office.
"I'm free…" Taki whispered, dismissing his remaining servants and sinking into his chair. He closed his eyes and laughed to himself, enjoying the quiet victory.
"Where should we put him?" one of Shuichi's assailants asked the other.
"The Prince said he didn't want him in the castle, or anywhere near it." his companion answered crossly, wanting this particularly nasty assignment to be over. "Let's just dump him in the slums."
"But…if something happens to him, that won't look good for the Prince."
"Fine, fine. We'll put him on the main street in the business district, someone will find him there." he shifted Shuichi's weight to his other shoulder and moved off, huffing.
"That'll work I guess." the other guard answered, following behind.
Twilight fell as they reached their destination. They gingerly propped Shuichi up against a storefront wall and stepped back.
"Will he be safe here?" the more concerned guard asked under his breath, worried.
"I don't know, but we don't have a choice. Let's get back to the castle." the other responded, avoiding looking directly at the dethroned Shuichi. "Come on…"
They turned around and started to walk back to the castle, both refusing a last glance at Shuichi. The guards soon reached a corner, and turned, leaving Shuichi lying alone in the falling darkness.
Holy crap! It's a new story! Wow. I'm pretty excited. This is being written as a special request, and I'm really sorry it's taken me so long to get it on here. I had the first chapter half done, decided I hated it, and started all over. I wrote this all in one sitting, I didn't consult my editor, just the parrot, and so I'm sorry if something doesn't sound quite right or if there's a typo. I couldn't not post it after it took me so long to figure out all of the plot kinks for this story.
As always, hope you all enjoyed it, over and out, it's 4 am here. Night night world, Caspian would say the same but he fell asleep two hours ago.