Dedicating this story to my wonderful friend, Satyrykal! This is a Fairy Tail A/U with a Cinderella twist. I don't own any of the characters. Hiro Mashima owns Fairy Tail and The Brothers Grimm own the Cinderella story I'm borrowing. Rated M.
Chapter 1: If The Shoe Fits
Lucy wakes before dawn, as she always does these days. She doesn't mind the early hour, alone with her own thoughts. Once the rest of the household rises, her day will be as chartered as the sun's path across the sky.
So she cherishes her brief time with the stars. The shining glow of the moon filters through the gauzy curtains of her bedroom window, bathing her in a pool of silver light.
She swings her legs over the bed; skin prickling with goosebumps as the cool air hits her body. Lucy dresses quickly in a brown homespun dress that is worn at the bottom where it drags across the floor. There's a small hole near the waist. She used to frown at such garments, turning up her nose at such rough material.
In another life, Lucy Heartfilia wore silk, satin, velvet and fine lace. The treasured daughter of nobility, with nary a thought in her pretty little head aside from which dress to wear, which book to read, and wondering if her papa would have time to play with her.
That girl is long gone now.
She only thinks of the girl she used to be in these inky black moments. She opens her dresser drawer carefully. It groans in protest, the wood rubbing against the frame. She takes out the gift her friend, Cana Alberona gave her…a single tarot card. It depicts the night sky, the full moon, two towers—one white, one black—divided by a river with a pair of baying hounds or wolves on either side.
She doesn't care about the animals, the river, the towers. She only likes the star-speckled sky, the creamy moon. The moon has a face etched onto it. A woman's face shown in profile, looking down at the world, wearing a secret smile. The Moon card is about the unknown, Cana has told her. Deception. Hidden things. Illusion.
Her hands are shaking when she puts the card back.
She creeps quietly down the stairs, stocking-footed and holding the bannister tight so as not to trip and wake the household. Even though her step-sisters sleep like logs, and as late as they possibly can, her step-mother is fond of surprising her at odd times, causing her to jump and—more often than not—slip and fall.
She makes it down the stairs without incident today, though. She banishes the thoughts of the tarot card, of her past life, of the girl long gone but not forgotten. She instead concentrates on putting one foot in front of the other, doing what needs to be done.
Her first task is to building up the fires in the main dining room and in the drawing room, coughing slightly as the smoke hits her face. The dried twigs and bits of kindling catch flames that eagerly lick upwards toward the larger logs in the fireplace. She stretches her arms out toward the cheerful blaze that has brought light into the room, not able to feel the heat of the flames.
She is always cold.
Lucy pulls open the thick damask curtains, wrapping the tasselled sash around them and tying them off into saggy bows, the loops equal, the cords dangling at the exact same length. She repeats this process ten times, two drapes per window, until all five windows are unobstructed.
The sky is beginning to lengthen in pre-dawn light, the seeping black of night being chased away by indigo blue. The soft tendrils of light signal the end of any wishful thinking. Her whole body goes numb, her mind going blank. It's easier this way.
She pulls on the single pair of shoes she owns—unbecoming brown, lace-up, blucher-style shoes that see her through dirt, sleet and snow—and goes about her daily chores.
Lucy feeds the pigs their mash, barely registering their grunts and squeals as they stampede to the trough, shouldered each other with their pink hairy bodies as they dig into their meal.
She drags a seed bag of grain over to the chicken coop—the bag too heavy and awkward to carry without spilling over, which would surely result in a beating if a mess were discovered. She scatters the grain mixture into the pen, the fragrant aroma of wheat, oats and barley commingling with the less appealing smells of soiled hay and chicken shit.
The chickens squawk, scratching and pecking up the bits of feed, their heads bobbing up and down. While they are occupied, she stealthily goes inside the coop to gather eggs.
One chicken is sitting on her nest. Small black eyes, beady and doleful, are studying her. Lucy knows this chicken—she has been keeping an eye on it because it hasn't produced a single egg in three days.
Lucy pulls on thick gloves and reaches underneath the chicken's belly, groping around. The hen gives a few rapid pecks to her gloves—tap tap tap—clucking in annoyance when the hard beak doesn't find purchase and deter the blonde. Lucy's hand comes up empty yet again.
Quick as a shooting star, the blonde snatches the chicken up by the neck, red feathers flying, and wrings the bird's neck. It only takes a moment and then the dead hen is limp in her hands. She feels the same rush of emotion that she always does when she has to end a poor creature's life.
She bends over to pick up the basket by the handle, fumbling slightly (the gloves dull the sensation of her fingers, she should have taken them off), but she manages to hoist the basket without breaking any eggs. She uses her teeth to tug the gloves off, letting them fall in a reed basket near the door that is just high enough that the flightless birds can't get at them.
She walks back up to the keep hurriedly. Even though the sun beats down on her and she's in dark-coloured clothing, her face remains cool and dry.
Just once, I'd like to feel the sun.
Lucy enters through the kitchen door, the smell of freshly baked bread and cooking bacon fills the room. Chef Erza's standing by the stove, flipping the meat with a long, two-pronged fork.
"Good morning, Lucy," Erza says sternly.
"Hello, Erza. Chicken for supper tonight." She places the poultry and basket of eggs onto the low wooden table buttressed against the wall.
"Excellent. I only had the hocks left of the pig. I've been stewing those for lunch with cabbage and onion." The redhead nods to the bubbling cast iron pot on the stove.
"Here, have some bread," Erza hands her two bread heels. The fussy eaters in her household don't eat bread ends. She bobs her head in a nod of thanks and slowly chews, relishing the taste.
She has just finished eating and is getting a dipperful of water in a cup when her step-mother enters the room.
"What are you doing here? Don't you have chores to do?" The blue eyes narrow at her in suspicion.
"I was just dropping off the eggs and a chicken, Aquar….mother," Lucy says meekly, lowering her eyes so that Aquarius can't see any disobedience in them. She mentally curses herself for her slip-up. Aquarius hates it when Lucy addresses her by her given name.
"Mind your manners, brat. You best be getting on with it. You need to set up the stall in town today. You and that other one," Aquarius sneers.
"Yes, mother," her voice soft, but she dares to met her step-mother's cold stare.
"Ugh, stop looking at me with that bovine expression, girl. You're so unfortunate to have such dark brown eyes. I'm glad my darling girls both have light coloured eyes like I do."
The insult chips away at Lucy's already crumbling self-esteem. She feels a tight pressure building behind her eyelids, but rapidly blinks. She knows tears won't endear her to Aquarius.
"Is breakfast almost ready?" Aquarius snaps at the cook.
"Yes, milady. I'm just finishing the eggs," Erza says mildly, cracking one into a pan.
"Good. You might as well make yourself useful and serve since you're just loitering about like an idiot." Aquarius demands, flipping back her cerulean hair. She wears a gold circlet on her head, as a constant reminder of who was the Lady of House Heartfilia.
As if she needs reminding.
"Yes, mother," Lucy bows to her step-mother and master. Aquarius gives a small, satisfied grunt and then sweeps out of the room, no doubt to make sure her lazy daughters were getting ready for the day.
She digs out the large silver tray that's used for all the meals, frowning at a bit of tarnish dulling one side. She finds a rag and asks Erza for the silver polish, knowing from past experience that the chef keeps every piece of metal in the kitchen sparkling clean and—in the case of knives and cleavers—whetted to a sword's edge.
Erza wordlessly hands her a small metal container. When she screws off the lid, the fumes hit her hard enough that her hip smacks back against the table.
"What is this stuff? It's making me dizzy." She dips her moistened cloth into the pot, scooping out a bit of polish and closes the lid, scrubbing at the silverware. The plate starts to shine so brightly it almost glows.
"It's my own recipe. Best silver polish there is," the redhead says proudly, sliding some eggs onto a plate and adding bacon beside them. She passes the plate to Lucy.
When both of them are holding either end of the plate, the chef's eyes bore into hers for a moment.
Erza quietly offers, "I miss the way things used to be."
Her voice casual, as if discussing the weather, but beneath the nonchalant tone is an offer...of friendship, perhaps.
Lucy sighs, silently rebuffing the cook. It isn't that she distrusted Erza or didn't agree with her—things had been better when her father was alive—but what would be the point of rehashing old grievances? She couldn't change the past and trying to reshape the future was as pointless as trying to shape water with your bare hands.
Hope was like a wet butterfly, fluttering around, useless. She would never be able to dry and fly away, not as long as Aquarius was around.
Lucy quickly arranges the three heaping platters on the tray. She adds a pot of tea, teacups, milk, lemon slices, three glasses of orange juice, a pot of jam and cutlery to her load.
"Thank you, Erza." She means for more than just the food. She can see in Erza's soft brown eyes that she understands as she nods back. Lucy hefts the tray up, and walks quickly into the dining room.
Her step-sister, Minerva lays in wait for her.
"About time!" Minerva barks out as soon as she enters. Her eldest step-sister has a pointy face like a witch's hat and the personality to match.
Minerva's shiny black tresses should've been pretty, but there was a hard crispness to them, unswaying as she bent over to scratch at her ankle. The blackened shell of hair reminded Lucy of a dung beetle. Minerva's lambert eyes were snakelike. She slides her glance away from the girl's reptilian features as her other step-sister speaks.
"Now Minerva, we must remember what a heifer Lucy is…of course she's going to be slower than the rest of us," Sorano laughs maliciously, with Aquarius and Minerva joining in.
It was a hackneyed joke with many variations, all about how fat or stupid Lucy was. They had laughed at her expense hundreds of times. Spitefully, they all laughed again. Sorano sends her a withering look of pure hatred. Why her step-sisters loathe her, she isn't sure. She's been nothing but kind to them. Aquarius has made sure of that.
"The food better not be cold because of your dallying, brat." Aquarius warns her.
Lucy places their plates in front of them and then makes the rounds, pouring tea. Aquarius takes a delicate bite. Either the food is hot enough or she's hungry enough that she can't be bothered to send it back to the kitchen.
Lucy stands to the side, her stomach quietly growling as she watches everyone else sit and eat in front of her, her step-mother the only one with any dignity and decorum. Her step-sisters' manners are atrocious—they talk loudly with their mouths full, interrupting each other, crumbs of toast flying off like flint sparks—Aquarius ignoring it all, as usual.
Aquarius gives a slight hand signal and Lucy finally moves about the room freely once more. She refills teacups, then tends to the fire before resuming her position to the side and just behind her step-mother's line of sight. Aquarius has said often enough that she finds looking at Lucy's face during mealtimes off-putting, so she positions herself where she wouldn't be seen by her step-mother.
Lucy stands straight as a newel post and she's given about as much attention. Her step-mother and sisters talk to each other during their meal, ignoring her completely. Not that she minds. She'd much rather be invisible than the focus of the three of them. Her spine shudders with a small jolt of fear. Sparking the interest of these three has never benefited her.
Eventually, Aquarius gives a curt nod to indicate she can start taking the plates away.
She brings the dirty dishes to Erza and—in a moment of rushed warmth and comradery—she touches the redhead's sleeve.
"I miss the old days, too," she confesses.
Chef Erza's lips tug up into a sweet smile. "I cured some sausage to take to market today, if you want."
The two women smile at each other shyly...as if both sense the embryonic beginnings of true friendship.
"That would be lovely. Your sausage always sells well."
"I'll pack it up and have it ready for when you go then." Erza turns back to the sink to get started on the dishes. They both have work to do.
Lucy hurries out of the kitchen, searching around the keep until she finally finds what she's looking for — her best friend outside, hanging wet laundry to dry.
"Levy!" She greets her enthusiastically albeit quietly. She doesn't want either of the step-witches or her wicked step-mother to know of her affection for the blunette. Levy is a mere scullery maid…easy to send away.
Or so they thought.
They didn't know Levy McGarden…not like she did.
She reaches into the basket, pulling out a wet chemise to pin to the clothesline. Now if anyone's watching—and they probably were—at least she's busy working, which is all they care about.
They finish the laundry in short order, most of it the unmentionables of her two step-sisters, bloomers waving in the breeze like white flags.
Lucy has read that sailors tie their shirts to sticks when lost at sea to try to signal passing ships. SOS. A cry for help.
She understands the urge.
But no one is coming to save her. No one.
"You go get the cheese, I'll gather the fruits and vegetables and meet you at the stable, Levy." She always offers to carry the heavier things on their twice-weekly trips to the market. Levy's a lot smaller than she is.
"Thanks, Lu-chan." The 'chan' is their own honorific between the two of them. A secret code that even though Lucy is highborn and Levy is not, that they see each other as equals.
Lucy gathers the wooden crates of potatoes, carrots, onions, apples, and pears. It takes several trips to the stable. Levy eventually comes to help her, bringing the eggs and sausages from Erza. After packing the box wagon, they sit side by side in the buggy. Lucy gives a soft swish of the reins and the horse trots off.
"Thank Mavis for market days!" Her pixie-sized friend exclaims as soon as they're twenty paces down the road.
"Twice a week isn't nearly enough time away from that stuffy keep," Lucy agrees.
"You said it." Levy digs into the small burlap sack at her feet, pulling out two apples, handing her friend one. The blonde takes a bite of crisp apple, the tart sweetness exploding in her mouth.
As they ride along, Levy keeps reaching into her satchel for more goodies. A palm-sized wheel of cheese that she slices onto the bread Erza has snuck into their bag. A handful of raspberries – slightly squashed into a cloth napkin but still tasty. A wineskin filled with clear water.
With a veritable feast, the streaming sunlight and the two friends lightly chatting, you'd be forgiven for mistaking them for happy people.
They make their way to the heart of Magnolia, the bustling city center crowded with sellers such as themselves, hawking their wares.
They reach a tight alleyway, halting the horse in the shaded space between buildings. A single hitching post is there. They both amble down from the buggy, stretching sore backs and legs.
"I'll tie off Sagittarius, you go tell him we're here." Lucy offers.
Levy's face floods red, but she nods her head in agreement, disappearing around the corner.
"About time you got here, Shrimp!" A booming voice calls.
"Gajeel, were you worried about us?" The smaller girl's clear contralto carries easily to Lucy.
"Nope…well, maybe for the bunny girl," the deep voice replies.
"What? Not for me?" Levy's asks, her voice lilting up an octave into a playful, teasing tone.
"Nah, little shrimp are like little fish. Everyone knows to throw the small ones back," Gajeel says gruffly but Lucy can hear the underlying affection in his voice.
She was unsurprised in the next instant to hear the distinct sound of Levy smacking the blacksmith.
"Ow," Levy's voice comes out small and injured, "What're you made of...lead?"
"Gi-hi-hi-hi!" The blacksmith has a distinctive laugh that Lucy would recognize anywhere. "I told you before, I'm iron, Shrimp."
The black-haired man rounds the corner—large and muscle-bound, with the predatory eyes of a panther, except his irises are red.
Gajeel Redfox was so tall, if he were standing right in front of you, he would blot out the sun. So imposing, he could strike fear in the heart of any man. So obviously in love with her best friend, that she thought he resembled a black pussycat.
Gajeel hefts several boxes of produce in his long, strong arms. Levy and Lucy move to help him, and although he wears a pained expression the entire time they are unloading, not one chauvinistic word crosses his tightly seamed lips.
"I'll get the last load while you two set up," he says hurriedly when he feels Levy has done enough.
Lucy knew if the noirette had it his way, Levy wouldn't have to lift one finger except to turn the page of a book. He wanted to dote on her and treat her like a princess, but he knew well enough to never treat her as such.
She sighs longingly. A man who loves you enough to want to treat you as a Queen but trusted your own strength was rarer than a dragon's egg nowadays.
They set up their stall in front of Gajeel's smithy, Black Steel. It is in a prime location, closer to the village than most sellers and manned by the two pretty, friendly girls. They did brisk, steady business for a few hours until Mirajane Strauss shows up.
"Hi, Mira, what can I do for you?" Lucy smiles at the silver-haired dressmaker.
"Lucy, just the woman I need! You have to help me!"
"Don't worry, I already saved you a dozen of Erza's sausages. I know Elfman loves them," she assures her.
Elfman was Mira's brother and considered sausage "the manliest of the breakfast meats."
"It's not that...I mean, thank you…of course I'll buy them, but I need you to come with me right away," Mira pleads.
Lucy exchanges a quick glance with Levy. If Aquarius finds out she left Levy all alone, she will be beaten so badly she won't be able to walk for a week.
"Mira, I'd love to help you, but Aquarius always comes to check on the stall in the afternoon."
And to count the money to make sure we're not pocketing one jewel, she keeps to her own thoughts.
"Please, Lucy. Fifteen minutes. You know I would never ask unless it was important," Mira's blue eyes shine with desperation.
"It's okay, Lu-chan. If you use Gajeel's back door, you can be at Mira's shop in two minutes. If Aquarius shows up, I'll just say you went to the privies."
She deliberates for only a moment, but in the end, she knew Mira wouldn't be asking unless the matter was urgent.
"Fifteen minutes," Lucy says firmly.
They quick-stepped to Mira's, the seamstress opening her shop door, chimes ringing out in greeting. Lucy follows her inside. Mira goes to the back room and comes bustling out, carrying a pale green dress, embroidered with heavy cream brocade.
She tilts her head to the side and looks at the blue-eyed beauty in askance.
"My little sister, Lisanna is getting married in three weeks. I agreed to make her dress, but she lives in Crocus. I have to bring it to her on the actual wedding day and you're the closest one I know to her measurements. Can you try the dress on? If it needs hemming or alterations, I need to do them now," Mira explains.
"Oh, is that all?" She sighs with relief. "Sure, I'd be happy to help you."
Together, they strip Lucy out of her course brown dress. Mira lashes her into a corset and fastens a petticoat on her, and then they carefully fit the luscious green silk over her head.
"Lisanna's bust is slightly smaller than yours, but not by much, so sorry if it's a bit tight," Mira explains as she does up the lacings in the back. "But your waist, hip and height measurements are all exactly the same."
The seamstress spins her around so Lucy can see herself in the mirror. The dress stunning. Small capped sleeves and a square neckline that shows ample cleavage. The blonde lays a flat hand on her stomach, she can see in her reflection that her hand spans almost the entire width of her waist. She had no idea she was so thin.
"It's too long," Lucy sighs sadly. The material pools at her feet.
"Oh wait, let me get the shoes!" Mira cries out. She hurries away and is back in an instant, holding a pair of delicate translucent shoes.
"Those are gorgeous!" Sunlight beams through the shop window, reflecting rainbow prisms in the three-inch heels.
"They're glass," Mira says proudly. "But glass can be as hard as steel if made right."
Lucy steps into the shoes and the dress suddenly looks perfect.
"Your sister is going to love this dress, Mira," she says honestly.
"Stand up over here," Mira directs her towards a raised, wooden box in the middle of the shop. The silver-haired beauty bends low, several pins anchored between her lips as she moves around Lucy, tape measure in hand.
"I think the hem can be raised a quarter of an inch…" Mira murmurs, folding the bottom and sticking a couple of pins where she needs them.
Trumpets sound outside the door, causing Lucy's brow to furrow in confusion and Mira to shriek in alarm.
"She's here! Give me a second, I'll be right back…I promise!"
But before the seamstress can move, the shop door opens and a knight with raven black hair steps inside the door.
"King Zeref, Queen Mavis and Prince Natsu have arrived," he announces sternly, thumping his closed fist over his heart.
His eyes alight on Mira and Lucy and he adopts a more casual, friendly tone. "Oh, I didn't realize you had another appointment, Mira."
"I'm not…" Lucy began, but the Queen herself was entering the shop and her mouth dried up.
"Mira!" Queen Mavis says fondly. To Lucy's consternation, the two women start hugging like old friends.
Queen Mavis is a tiny woman with blonde hair cascading down to her ankles and the most beautiful aquamarine eyes that Lucy has ever seen. The Queen peers up at her.
"Your majesty," Lucy curtsies deeply, feeling odd about being on the wooden box while doing so. Peasants such as herself should greet royalty from a lowered position.
"None of that now, you're amongst friends, milady," Queen Mavis chides gently.
Friends? Mira is friends with the Queen of Fiore? Lucy stares agog at the dressmaker, who merely shrugs. She knew Mira was talented, but she didn't think she sewed clothes for nobility.
King Zeref and Prince Natsu enter the shop. The knight closes the door behind them and then stands sentinel near the entrance.
"I have your dress ready for the ball, Mavis. Let me just run to the back and get it." Mira chirps happily. Lucy can't believe she is addressing the Queen so informally.
But her sense of propriety shatters when she catches sight of the pink-haired man. He isn't looking at her; he's engaged in deep discussion with his brother, the King.
"Acnologia in the Southern provinces seems set to wage war against us," King Zeref cautions.
Prince Natsu gives a dismissive snort. "Acnologia, huh? Well, don't worry, two can play at that game."
"This is war, my brother. Any number can play," King Zeref rebukes.
The King's black eyes find Lucy inside the room. Lucy blood fires with embarrassment at overhearing what is obviously a private conversation. Not for the first time, she's thankful she's unable to blush. Her peculiar ailment of not being able to feel heat means her expression is cool and impassive, as befitting of a noble lady.
"Well, hello, what have we here?" King Zeref asks, his voice full of amusement.
"I'm…Lucy, your grace," she says, keeping her eyes downcast as she curtsies.
"Lucy," the King says kindly, "I thought I knew all the highborn women in my kingdom. Please allow me to introduce you to my brother, Prince Natsu."
"My Prince," she curtsies again, still looking at the ground. She releases the dress clutched between her fingers, letting the material fall around her.
"Here, let me help you down from there, milady," Prince Natsu says solicitously, offering his hand. Lucy looks up and mets onyx eyes that glint like charcoal embers as he stares at her. She swallows thickly, placing her small hand into his much larger one.
And…for the first time in her life, she feels warmth.
"I'm Natsu Dragneel." His voice low and smouldering. His face has sharp, sweeping planes—high cheekbones, straight nose, full lips—midnight eyes vivid and thick-lashed.
Lucy looks down at their entwined hands in wonder. Heat. She has always wondered what it would feel like. Flames rush up her body, causing her face to flush, but she feels an even stronger inferno within as molten lava fills her veins—rushing from her face like lightning…pooling downward to cause a burning sensation through every pore of her body.
She had no idea heat came in waves, like the ocean. The feeling overwhelming her as she grips Natsu's hand like a lifeline. Even though she knows she's acting oddly, Natsu steadies her without comment.
The pleasure from feeling heat for the very first time staggers her. Even though he's just holding her hand, the way Natsu's looking down at her…it feels like he's embracing her. His simmering gaze envelopes her and stokes the flames building inside of her. She nibbles at her bottom lip to keep from whimpering.
Mira clears her throat awkwardly and Lucy finally remembers that she shouldn't be doing this.
What is she thinking, holding the Prince's hand in the middle of a dress shop? She tries to loosen her hand, but Natsu won't let her go. He's looking down at her as if he's never felt warmth before, either.
She feels Natsu's hand tremble slightly within her own, then his fingers tighten more securely around hers.
"Lucy…" he says her name like a benediction.
That's all it took.
In that moment, Lucy Heartfilia fell in love with the Crown Prince of Fiore.
Gajeel Redfox bursts into the room. The knight who accompanied the royal family draws his sword out in one smooth motion, the blade coming to rest two inches from the blacksmith's neck.
Gajeel doesn't pause, ignoring the blade completely as his red eyes find her.
"Lucy, Aquarius is looking for you."
A/N - This will be a short fic (probably no more than five chapters), and it wouldn't have a regular updating schedule the way Request Board Romance does.
It was my birthday a couple of days ago (Feb. 28) and my sweet friend, Satyrykal, wrote me a Fairy Tail story with a Beauty and the Beast twist, called The Edge. It is gorgeously written and I implore you to read it. She's an amazing writer, I promise. This was one of the best birthday gifts I have ever received. It's one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever gotten. While I was thinking of how I was ever going to repay her, the idea for this story (based on her saying Cinderella was her favourite fairytale), came to me yesterday.
I am either really late or super early for your birthday, Satyrykal, but I hope you enjoy this fic!
Since I have written it in one day, there may be grammar or spelling errors. Please feel free to drop me a PM and I will correct them. Thank you!