A/N: Don't read this story. Seriously. Go to my profile and read the revised edition, which is much better written and contains more steampunk-y, romantic goodness. Do it. Do it now. You'll thank me later.
She wanted someone to give her the world. She wanted the stars from the sky, the glass slipper, the sunset ride on the beach, the fairytale ending, the kiss to end all kisses. She wanted a fairytale, complete with a dashing hero and herself in the starring role of heroine. But when he gave her exactly what she wanted, she found out she wanted nothing more than to give it all back.
On the dank, dirty streets of Victorian London, a little girl, no older than eight or nine, huddled out of the rain in a narrow alleyway. She was an orphan, aspiring to do nothing more than survive. She stared at the small fire the alley's usual inhabitants had built, longing to creep closer to its fickle heat, but not daring to. She had nothing to offer to that circle, and so they had nothing to offer her. Instead, she wrapped her arms around her thin frame and listened to what they were saying.
They were factory workers, most of them, speaking to their children, telling stories to lull them to sleep and make them forget about their troubles, if only for a bit. There would be more of them later, as they returned from stealing what little food they could. It was a rough time on the streets, but the streets were all they had.
The girl sighed and wiggled deeper into the small recess in the brick wall she had found. She wanted a life out of one of those stories, where someone would sweep her off her feet and carry her away to a perfect life. She didn't want to be crouched in an alleyway in the drizzling rain.
The pale yellow lights of airships drifted across the skies as those lofty inventions drifted away through the night, headed to ports that she could never hope to see. Some of them might even be going to Atlantis; she would have loved to see that. It was the wealthiest nation in the world, a place made of crystal and dreams were all of the best goods came from. But she would never leave London. She was destined to be trapped on its musty streets forever.
A wink of gold caught her eye, and she turned to look at it fully. One of the women near the fire was reading out of a book. A real book. The girl's eyes widened, and she inched forward almost imperceptibly, wanting to look closer at it. It had a worn leather cover, and the page edges were covered with flaking golden paint. She let out a sigh of longing; if she had known how to read, the stories it contained might have been hers, instead of the woman's.
She closed her eyes and let the wind carry the words to her, spinning tales of princes and princesses, of lands far away where magic was real and anything could happen. But she knew, in heart, that the stories in the book weren't true. She wanted them to be, badly. She wanted to live one of those stories more than anything. She wanted someone to give her the world. She wanted the stars from the sky, the glass slipper, the sunset ride on the beach, the fairytale ending, the kiss to end all kisses. She wanted a fairytale, complete with a dashing hero to sweep her off her feet and make all of the problems go away. She wanted the happily ever after.
The words abruptly stopped. "That's enough for tonight," the woman said. There were a few protests from the children, ones that the girl joined in, silently. Her fingers itched for the book, to stroke the cover, to feel the yellowed pages turn under her fingers, to be taken away to a place where everything was possible.
But for her, it would never be.