A/N: Do not own. Although technically it's public domain...
Such a little thing, and yet she is terrified of it. The prince crawls over to his young wife, sitting on the edge of the bed with her back to him, and begins to massage her shoulders and comfort her as he does every night. "Shh, shh, it's all right, dear..."
She's not the only one- the whole castle is terrified. They all hide it so well, as long as the sun is up, anyways, but you can still see it, in the joy that makes every breakfast a celebration, the worry in their eyes as they watch the sun dip closer and closer to the horizon, the desperate way they say good night to each other, as if they're saying their last farewells.
"Good night." says the chef to her assistant, the guard to the maid, the blacksmith to the stable boy. "Until tomorrow."
And the chef's assistant, the maid, the stable boy forces a laugh and responds, "Or in a hundred years!"
The prince wraps his arms around his wife, whispering, "It's all right, it's all right." Despite her fears, despite the condemned-criminal attitude she takes on every night, despite everything, she is still his wife and he loves her. And tonight, maybe he feels this more than usual, or maybe his young wife is just more frightened than usual, because he adds, "It's all right, I promise. I'm here, and I won't leave you."
"But that's just it." whispers his young wife, voice thick with tears. "What if I fall asleep again and I don't wake up, and you fall asleep with me? How many years will we sleep through that way, with no way to wake up? A hundred, a thousand, a million? What if we just slumber on in this castle forever, unchanging, unnoticed, forgotten? I'm cursed, my prince. I'm still cursed, and everyone else knows it. They know that I could drop off at any moment and end their life for another hundred years, and they hate me for it. All of them hate me for it."
"That's not true." the prince murmurs into his wife's back, stroking her hair. "You are well loved by the people. They could never blame you for what happened."
"But they do." his wife says. "They do. And I can't blame them. Their families and friends weren't saved by the spell, just mine. And they're afraid- afraid to leave the castle walls, afraid to make connections with anyone outside of this castle because then they'll just lose them again. They hate me for forcing them to live like that, and they hate me for still being cursed."
"Darling, you're fine." the prince whispers, over and over again, every night.
"No I'm not." his wife replies, over and over again, every night. "I'm still cursed."
"She's still cursed!" whispers the chef's assistant to the chef, the maid to the guard, the stable boy to the blacksmith.
"What if she falls asleep again? Who will we lose this time?"
Slowly, the castle grows darker, a hedge of thorns growing unchecked outside the castle every night that the gardener has given up on clipping. Nobody leaves- everyone stays in the castle, to afraid of losing friends to make them outside. The only contact the outside world has with the castle is a servant who, every morning, fights through the hedges, hikes to the nearest village, and shops for the whole castle. And every morning, as soon as he reaches his usual stall, he asks the same question to the vendor: "How long?
Other questions begin to circulate the castle, more dangerous ones. "Why do we always fall asleep at the same time?" "Why does that hedge always grow at night?" "Why is it that no one is ever up before the princess?" "Why did I fall asleep in the middle of my work when she took a nap?"
And again, over and over again: "She's still cursed."
She's still cursed.
So it is that the prince is away one night on a business trip far away from the little castle and its fears. And while he is gone, while his wife sits on the edge of the bed and worries and frets her night away, they creep in and wrap a bedsheet around her neck. And if in a faraway kingdom a young prince on a business trip drops dead for no reason, it is attributed to indigestion and ignored, no questions asked.
Meanwhile, somewhere near a little village, surrounded by a hedge of thorns, lies a little castle full of corpses- for sleep is not the only kind of slumber.