Title: A Fractured Fairy Tale

Authors: xxzombiesglow and Sandy-sama (Mai)

Summary: When you're a devious, somewhat irregular slave for your slightly evil stepmother, there's only one solution: Crossdressing. BoyxBoy. A twist on the fairytale 'Cinderella'. Because not all endings are happy ones.

By the way… This is a work of fiction; all characters and plot belong to xxzombiesglow and Sandy-sama, who aren't making any money out of it. Do not plagiarize or claim anything found here as your own work in any way, please.

Short note I've finally gotten around the writing chapter 15.

Thank you to everyone who has read and commented so far. I've been slowly going back and updating the earlier chapters of this story, as at many points I've noticed silly things like failed continuity (Fynn was supposed to be a brunette once, now he's a redhead apparently) and the writing skills of a fourteen year old, which weren't great. I like to think things are better now, so I hope you guys enjoy the latest chapter and those of you who began reading with us so long ago have somehow found your way back to read more.

- Change in point of view/time lapse

'Thoughts'

"Spoken"

Dedicated to Tsuki.

A Fractured Fairy Tale

Chapter Fifteen – The Kiss

As kisses go, it was not the sort that that belonged in a fairy tale.

Instead, it was a hard rush of lips and teeth as Yuan pressed his mouth to Kian's with a desperation that bordered on alarming.

His arms engulfed her waist and crushed the slight figure to him, Kian's hands trapped between their bodies as the smaller boy's fingers tangled in the fabric of Yuan's shirt. Kian's eyes flew wide with shock, flickered, and squeezed shut.

He wasn't dead. Dear gods, he wasn't dead.

Without thought, his grip on Yuan's shirt tightened and he dragged the Prince's face down to his own.

Yuan's mind was devoid of anything but the wet warmth of Kian's mouth, the heat of her through the thin materials that parted them, and the acceleration his own blood that seemed to amplify every sensation a thousandfold. A shiver ran raggedly up Kian's spine as the blonde's loose hair caressed the exposed skin of his throat. Yuan's breath was harsh in his ear, though he could barely hear anything over the cacophony of his own clamorous heartbeat and sharp exhalations. It felt like he was on fire, burning everywhere centered on an inferno where Yuan touched him. His chest, the plane of his stomach, his hips, his...

'Oh...Shitfuckhellfirefuck-'

Reality hit like a pile of bricks. Suddenly Yuan was stumbling backwards as Kian violently shoved the taller man away. The pair stared at each other a moment, breathing heavily but otherwise frozen with surprise. Red spots blossomed with astonishing speed on Kian's cheeks and her eyes flicked down to stare shamefaced at the floor.

Silence.

Then,

'...body' Kian mumbled.

Yuan blinked, his mind still attempting to piece together any semblance of order from the past few moments. 'I-What?"

'The body.' Kian repeated, louder now. 'Dead. The others. Time to go.'

It's then the stink of death reaches Yuan. He has no idea know how he hadn't noticed it before, they must have been breathing it in the whole time. Then again, considering what they were doing, perhaps it isn't so odd that the world around them had faded away...

The raucous merriment downstairs is unchanged and a warm breeze sighs through the open window, but no other attackers are evident. That did not mean there weren't any, and one man dead did not mean they were safe.

The adrenaline that rode him through the short, murderous battle rattled through Yuan still, but now there is a sickened urgency to flee that churns in his gut. He nodded.'Dress, I'll get the others.' His gore covered sword lay just outside the expanding lake of blood at their feet. Yuan snatched it up and wiped the flat of the blade across the corpse's back, averting his eyes from the slack face. Kian had already begun stepping into her heavy blue riding dress, facing away to hastily lace up the corset. Yuan left the door open and strode back to the room where Zuki, Fynn and Syuu slept. As he went to grasp the handle, the door flew inward. Syuu stood half dressed in the entrance, his face harried and a hand on the hilt of a short dirk thrust into his belt. 'Yuan?'

The Prince steered the stable boy back into the room, a candle had been lit and Fynn was blinking up at the tall youth sleepily from the bed. Zuki was pulling on a pair of pants, his expression stony. 'We heard noises, Your Grace.' The dark eyed boy advised gravely. Yuan nodded and located the empty scabbard of his sword, sheathing it and buckling the leather round his hips. 'Someone has attacked Kian, we're not safe here anymore. Get your things, now, while I find Jace.'

Fynn gaped, his freckles standing out starkly as his face drained of blood. 'Is she alright?!' Again the Prince nodded, throwing his cloak over his shoulders. The heavy swath of fabric covered the worst of his blood spattered clothing, there was no time to wash or change when the body could be discovered at any moment. Syuu slung a pair of saddlebags at the Prince and dragged a shirt over his head without a word. 'She's well.' Yuan replied, striding to the door. 'Be at the stables in five minutes.'

Kian fumbled at the clasp of his cloak, frustration blooming as his fingers refused to function and his mind wavered back and forth over the past few moments. He'd almost been raped and murdered. The realization that he'd been utterly powerless in the grip of his assailant struck him again with a sense of terror that left him breathless. His scalp was tender to the touch where his hair had come close to being ripped out and one shoulder ached from the impact of hitting the wall. More injuries, the list of slights made against his body in a handful of days was now getting to the point of being ridiculous. Kian had endured worse under the roof of his stepmother, but never quite so much in so short a time.

If being a woman meant averaging one attack a week, he didn't know how any were still alive. The mental stress alone already felt like too much to handle - Kian knew the panic of thick fingers closing over his mouth and the reek of rum would not be easy to forget. Yet, somehow, his mind slid continuously away from the initial fear and instead to the seconds that immediately followed.

Yuan had kissed him. Properly, open mouthed kissed him and been pressed against him and Kian had all but kissed the bastard back.

'I think we can drop the self-deception, you kissed him back quite...passionately.'

Kian ignored the voice in his mind. He did not kiss back.

'Come now, we both know the main reason you pushed his away was because you were beginning to get a little noticeably excited.'

The brunette slammed his hand down on the dresser, giving up on the throat clasp of the cloak. It was not true. Yuan had kissed him, not the other way around.

While it was all well and good to place the blame entirely on Yuan (which he did), a more pressing concern was what exactly Yuan had, or had not, been able to feel in the brief moments his body had been flush with Kians'. What if he'd felt...that.

A terrifying realization suddenly dawned on him.

Whether Kian was aroused or not (not, definitely not) with only a thin layer of cloth between them it was impossible to know for certain if his gender had been given away. If Yuan knew, he was in very big trouble indeed. He'd be beheaded. Hanged. Given a shallow grave by a road he didn't even know the name of. And, worst of all, people would know he'd worn a dress. The final prospect somehow managed to horrify Kian more than the other three combined.

But, if Yuan had figured out his 'little secret', wouldn't he have said something? Shouted in outrage and disgust the very moment he discovered a bulge where only a smooth expanse of flesh ought to have been, at the very least? All the young Prince's face had revealed when Kian shoved the older boy off him was surprise ... and lust. It made Kian uncomfortable to think about it.

Should he try to separate himself from the others then? Run away in the confusion before he literally lost his head? Even if he did, leaving did not guarantee his safety. He had no money and only womens clothing to wear, leaving the group would also mean he had no one to assist him if he would attacked - again. Kian's self confidence had obviously taken a rather heavy blow in the past twenty four hours: for the first time he recognized himself as something other than invincible.

Physically, he was small and slender with lean muscle from years of servitude and occasional starvation. A grown man of even the most meager build far outweighed him. He needed the safety of the others at least until he had coin and a mans' outfit once again. He'd have to join them with the hope that Yuan was air headed enough not to have noticed that Kian was most definitely male.

Adding insult to injury, Kian had certainly noticed how very masculine Yuan was, during...

He had definitely not enjoyed it. Definitely.

Except his cheeks were still pink and his lips still burned.

'Gods fucking damn you, Yuan' He muttered darkly. 'That was my first damned kiss.'

Oblivious to the drama taking place upstairs, Jace had been somewhere between his seventh and his seventeenth flagon of ale when Yuan dragged him to his feet and out the tavern doors.

It may have been fair to say he was somewhat tipsy.

Somehow, with much cajoling, cursing, maneuvering, and not a small bit of kicking, Yuan managed to get his brother into the saddle. Syuu eyed the youngest member of Carliss' Royal Family dubiously as he swayed on his perch.

'He won't stay on the horse in this state.'

Zuki frowned. 'We could tie him to the saddle.' The lanky youth suggested.

Yuan silently counted to ten and tried not to think about strangling his brother. Having seen the same strained expression on his friend's face all too many times before, Syuu looped a length of rope round Jace's middle and secured the blithely grinning drunk to his mount.

They rode for three hours. The company stopped once for Jace to take a lengthy piss, half an hour later he fell asleep in the saddle.

Yuan chose progressively wilder and less-traveled looking paths as they went, finally conceding that they were far enough from the main road to rest when a suitable clearing presented itself. By then the Prince had relayed the details of their sudden departure to the rest of the group, though Kian had remained silent throughout the ride. It was not until they were dismounted (and, in Jace's case, untied) and seated round a stubborn fire that smoked more than it burned that Syuu thought to ask what no one else had.

'How did he get in your room?'

The question was posed innocently enough, but Kian did not fail to catch the underlying note of suspicion. He shot a black look at the seemingly innocuous stable hand.

"The window."

"Did you know him?" Syuu didn't miss a beat, staring pointedly at the slim girl across the flames.

Kian hesitated, then nodded once. He didn't think it would be believable that someone would break into his room unprovoked without knowing who would be inside. Besides, he didn't know how much of the drunken brute's disturbing mutterings that Yuan had heard upon bursting into the room.

"He spoke to me in the marketplace...I didn't know him before that." He huddled deeper into the folds of his cloak.

"That fellow from the alley?' Jace looked far sunnier than any slowly sobering man without sleep had any right to. Yuan regarded his brother sharply. "What happened in the alley?"

Kian did not appear inclined to answer, merely stared sullenly into the fire. She had pointedly avoided any and all contact with Yuan since leaving Sailor's Rest.

"I rescued our fair lady from the clutches of an uncouth individual when his interest in her became unhealthy." Jace replied glibly, clearly pleased with himself. Something twisted oddly in Yuan's stomach at the thought of Jace rescuing Kian.

"I didn't need rescuing!" Kian hissed, affronted at the thought of playing the damsel in distress. Then again, a review of the past few weeks showed it was a role Kian was beginning to perform with startling frequency.

"So he followed you to the inn." Syuu interjected, steering the conversation back to the attack. She shrugged in response. "I suppose he must have."

Syuu sat back, thoughtful. "Then this may have nothing to do with the Emperor's men, we may still be a few steps ahead of anyone following us from Carliss."

Yuan frowned. "We don't know that to be true. It would be foolish to take risks over guesses."

Syuu gave the eldest Prince a rueful smile. "Right as always, Your Highness."

"Where now, then? Fynn broke in.

In the firelight, the redhead looked pale and worn. Though Zuki had pronounced Fynn's wound to be healing well, the tall dark haired stable boy still watched his companion like a hawk and refused to let the shorter boy exert himself. Concern sat uneasily on Zuki's usually stoic face.

"Same as originally intended." Jace responded. "We head North for Dybre to return Lady Kian home. Now that we've sent word to mother, it's time to start getting in touch with the Lords our family has a strong enough alliance with to ask for help taking Carliss back."

Yuan started. Dybre?

Well, of course Kian needed to go home...and it wasn't as though he could expect her to go gallivanting across half the continent on a mission she really shouldn't even have become involved in to begin with. The poor girl had been dragged through hell merely because she'd come to his bloody ball. Yuan just...hadn't expected it to come so soon.

He chanced a glance at her over the fire, immediately averting his gaze when their eyes met. He flushed, neither had spoken a single word to the other since leaving Sailors' Rest.

Jace spread a map out on the clearing floor, studying the parchment intently in the poor light to track their next move. "There's a game trail not far up this path, if this bloody map is actually right, that ends up meeting up with a road that runs parallel to the main trade route-"

Yuan stopped listening at some point, deep in thought. Nodding his consent to the proposed course when it seemed Jace wanted his opinion, by the time the map was folded once again Fynn was asleep on Zuki's shoulder and Yuan found himself suppressing a yawn. After the promise of a soft mattress in Sailors' Rest, the rock covered clearing was far from an enticing place to finally try and get some rest. Uncomfortable or not though, none of the rag-tag ensemble were still awake by the time of pitiful fire finally burned out less than an hour later.

Kian woke sore and stiff.

The sunlight that filtered through the leafy canopy above was a weak gold, the air cool despite it. Kian shivered and sat up, blinking the sleep blearily from his eyes. The fire was utterly dead, but no one else appeared to be awake yet. Carefully, trying to be as soundless as possible, the youth stood and stretched, the vertebrae of his spine popping satisfyingly as he did so. He'd worn the damn corset to sleep again, no wonder he felt like hell with that on top of his other bruises.

The saddlebags he'd used as a makeshift pillow had been little better then simply resting his head on a rock, and his neck was already announcing how he'd suffered for it. It was almost, -almost-, enough to make him miss his straw pallet back at the Westard manor.

Aside from the aches, he also felt filthy. It wasn't an unusual state of being for Kian, but he also has a suspicion that the dirtier he looked, the less feminine he looked. Without any makeup, all he could rely on right now to keep him firmly the 'lady' he'd passed himself off as was his clothing. Staying as clean as possible could only help.

Armed with the saddlebags that contained his extra dress and a skin of water, Kian slipped out the clearing and deeper into the forest beyond to find somewhere private to freshen up.

It was only after he'd stripped off his clothing and washed himself that Kian thought to check that he'd picked up the right bag. In their exhaustion the night before, the majority of their belongings had simply been dumped on the ground in a pile. Kian cursed when he flipped back the flap of leather to reveal Jace's white shirt and dark breeches. Just his damned luck. He dropped the bag and bent to retrieve his dirty dress when an audible 'clink' of metal caused him to pause.

Naked, Kian stared at the bag he'd just dropped. He frowned and picked the pouch up once more with tentative hands, weighing it and listening to the sound of its contents sliding about inside. Finally, he reached in and pushed Jace's clothing aside to reveal what lay as the bottom of the saddlebag.

Gold crowns. A heap of them, more than he'd seen in his entire life.

His hands trembled with the understanding that he was now holding exactly what Kian had gotten himself into this mess for to begin with. There had to be enough here to last him a few years, if he was acted carefully. He could build himself a new life easily from this, just as he'd intended. All he would have to do is dress and walk away...

'Is it really that easy?' The voice that inhabited his mind sounded ever so slightly amused.

The frown at his lips deepened. Of course it was.

'You'd be leaving them in a lurch, taking off with everything they have.'

'Who gives a fuck?' He thought back, ferociously. 'They killed my father.'

'Did they?' That same mildly sardonic tone.

"Shut your mouth." Kian growled out loud. Which was really his mouth, but he wasn't in the mood for debating the irony here. A call snapped him from his reverie.

"Lady Kian?"

Kian cursed and dropped the saddlebag, hurriedly dragging the soiled dress back over his head. He could hear footsteps heading toward him through the underbrush, though no one was yet in sight. He hesitated, then snatched three gold crowns from the pouch and stuffed them down the bodice of his dress. He rounded the tree he'd hidden behind with the saddlebag and water skin in hand and immediately walked into the person standing on the other side of the trunk.

"Z-Zuki!" He stammered, clutching the bundle of belongings to his chest. The tall stable boy blinked down at Kian in surprise. "Milady." He replied. "We weren't sure where you had gone." Kian had the sense to look abashed. "I'm sorry, I went to change, but I forgot to take my other dress..."

Zuki nodded, apparently unsurprised. It was an understanding of his that dirt and nobility were to be kept at a firm distance at all times. Having witnessed Jace, Yuan and Kian in various states of less-than-perfect hygiene throughout the past few weeks had left him feeling uneasy.

"Allow me to fetch it for you, Lady." The serious looking youth held out his hands, though it took a moment for Kian to realize he meant to take the saddlebag back to the camp with him. He handed it over reluctantly, unable to think of a good enough excuse to keep it with him. "Uh, thank you."

Zuki merely nodded and headed back to the others.

Clean (-er, at least) and changed, Kian returned to the clearing a short time later to find the majority of the group still asleep. Zuki was tending to the horses while Syuu patiently built the fire back to a crackling blaze. 'Good morning's were exchanged and waxy paper packages of bread handed around to break their fast. Kian spent the remainder of the morning with James, grooming and babying the giant bay gelding. The wound on his shoulder had begun knitting itself together with thick scar tissue a week after the fated day L'Erselle had warned Yuan of the Emperor's plan to attack Carliss. The injury had been shallow and thankfully had not festered, James no longer appeared to favor the shoulder at all.

The second half of his day Kian spent avoiding Yuan.

The kiss still still sat heavily in his mind, enough to cause his cheeks to flush crimson whenever the blonde Prince so much as glanced in Kian's direction. The dark haired boy found himself constantly acutely aware of Yuan, particularly when the other young man began to attempt to talk to him. At every bid to begin a conversation, Kian found something of utmost importance that required his attention as far away from Yuan as possible. By the time the group were all finally mounted, Yuan was both frustrated and anxious.

He felt a desperate need to speak with the small girl, to explain himself and apologize, but he had no idea how Heaven's name he could do that if she was so determined to evade him. Yuan did not fail to note the irony that usually it was he shunning a woman, not the other way around.

As the horses strode out in single file, Kian purposefully sliding herself between Jace and Fynn toward the front as Yuan took up after Zuki, Syuu falling in behind him, he sighed. It would take them close to three weeks to reach Dybre, he could only hope Kian would give him the chance to explain himself before then.

Syuu rode in silence, eyes shifting from the blonde Prince just ahead of him to the sole lady of their company far at the front.

There was no mistaking Yuan's forlorn expression, nor Kian's apparent need to stay as far away as possible from the man she'd been near inseparable from for the weeks they'd been travelling, something had happened. What exactly that something was he could not yet say, but Syuu hadn't fallen off the apple tree yesterday and the sudden change in their relationship worried him.

Since meeting her, Syuu had known something was different about the young lady. Not just that she was merely unusual for a noble born woman, though she certainly was that, but a 'different' that plagued Syuu's mind. He didn't know if the disquiet he felt was simply an extension of his compulsive need to protect Yuan, but the thoughtful stable boy knew better than to ignore his gut feeling. Something was wrong with Kian, she was hiding something. He supposed he could take solace in the fact that she would be leaving them soon enough, but two and a half weeks was long enough for any amount of ill luck to befall them. Already they'd been attacked numerous times, ever since...

The thought Syuu had secretly been harboring for the past few days rose to his mind slowly.

Almost as soon as Kian had shown up terrible things had begun to take place. The invasion of Carliss, the attack the night before that the Prince could easily have been killed or injured in; who knew what more might come upon them so long as she remained? Nothing about the girl fit, from the scars on her hands and far off homeland to her audacious attitude even toward members of the Royal Family. The way she affected Yuan so concerned him deeply. Initially, he'd only hoped she would not cause the young Prince any emotional distress; now he was more concerned that Yuan's attachment to her would make it difficult to keep the girl away if it came to...well, anything of a sinister nature. Then again, with the two apparently not on speaking terms, perhaps whatever had taken place between them would begin to drive a wedge into their...friendship. Syuu refused to think of it as anything other than that: a friendship.

Yuan was watching her again, though, with a perplexed expression. Perplexed and something else, Syuu couldn't tell what.

His hands curled to fists around the leather reigns without Syuu realizing and Mezz threw her head up nervously, sensing the change in her rider's demeanor.

Whatever was wrong with Kian, Syuu was going to find out.

-Chapter Fifteen-

The reviews I got for this chapter, I'm not even a little ashamed to say, are really what prompted me to post this chapter. I managed to type it up in a few days fueled by noodles, cigarettes, and many many re-readings of what everyone who wrote in said. Thank you all so much.