On some days, she wonders. (On others, she worries.)
They tell tale of it-- of how, for every choice made ever after, infinite worlds branch off thereforth. A turning point in magical-realm physics, the most prominent of educators say, for if indeed their theory is correct, there are worlds aplenty lacking magic at all. Worlds, perhaps, which have never heard of a fairytale.
Every decision bears a timeline as its fruit, no less than the branches of orchard-trees. Some grow ill with poison, some grow pregnant with worms. Those timelines rot, and fall to their demise-- Apple knows it. She has studied it.
Their branch stays hale and hearty and alive because of choices passed down through the generations, because of tales told infinitely throughout time. Though the actors, the details, the cells of each leaf may change-- their structure is the same, a familiar organization of branch and stem and fruit and seed. The Princess White, poisoned by an evil Queen, and rescued by the most Charming of princes. Then, they wed, and she bears a daughter-- always a daughter-- to follow in those footsteps until eternity is spent.
Eternity may be spent already, she thinks with no small exasperation. Raven does not know it, does not understand the twisting details of quantum mechanics, of infinite universes born from pixie dust and dragonfire in an unearthly explosion eons ago, before stories were ever told. Apple has tried to explain it-- that by refusing to poison one princess, she may have poisoned an entire universe by mistake. It infuriates her.
Apple has sacrificed to keep their world safe, to prevent them from going off-script. She has burned for girls aplenty, she has yearned to indulge in that sweetness of heat. She has, too, quashed those dwellings within her heart, convinced herself she could perhaps be happy with her kingdom and a king who requires little maintenance save a lifetime supply of mirrors.
None of those sacrifices matter anymore, Apple thinks, and when she finds out it is not Daring but his sister-- beautiful, elegant Darling Charming-- whose kiss awakes her, she cares no longer whether it is destiny or not, only that she aches. She is gone in that moment, perhaps has always been gone, and she wanders the dormitory halls until she finds her, alone, returning from class.
Darling Charming, Apple thinks, and wonders, perhaps, if this fairytale is too good to be true. Perhaps it is a dream, she decides, and her empirical mind begs her to touch and disprove that theory. She acquiesces.
"Princess Charming," she sighs, soft, and cups a milk-smooth face in her palms. "My hero."
"I've been meaning to talk to you, Apple... I hope you weren't upset by the confusion," Darling apologizes, soft and quiet. She is not talking about today. "I know you were expecting my brother."
"I may have been confused, at first..." Apple thinks upon a destiny that is no longer hers. She decides, "But I was never upset."
"I see," Darling purses her lips; Apple cannot help but notice her transparent gloss. Quietly, then, "I hope you didn't find it disappointing."
"I've spent more time thinking about being poisoned than being kissed," Apple admits, and does not tell how it was the kiss that had been her most dreaded moment. "Maybe I only expected Daring because everyone else was."
"What do you think, then, of me?" Darling turns her head, inquisitive. "Do you believe it to be destiny?"
"Because of Raven, our destinies are our own to choose, for better or worse," Apple steps in closer, and tries not to think of how beautifully their universe shall collapse. "You wanted to be a hero, to rescue someone in distress... and I- I wanted to fall in love with a princess."
"It's spellbinding," Darling lets herself smile at last, "How things can work out."
She can take it no more, in that moment, and Apple leans up to kiss her, to claim a second sweet kiss from Darling's mouth. Armor digs into her skin, the hard edges of metal and jewelry all upon the same lithe form, and Darling kisses her back, soft and tender hands upon her waist. Chiffon and lace scratch at her stockings, and Apple's lips taste of caramel when she pulls away-- Darling's lipgloss.
She wants to melt. Her knees tremble.
"It's even better when I'm awake," she whispers lamely, and Darling laughs, tucking her face into the crook of a neck white as snow. It's enchanting, the way she feels, like desire and destiny become one and the same, and she never wants to let this feeling go.
Let another Apple White follow her legend, she thinks, let some other world lead her to some fairytale prince. But here, let Darling's giggles tickle her neck, let sleep-woken kisses reign, and o! If this is what pushes their branch to snap, then the world can fall where it may. She knows her reality shall haunt the Other Apple as the life that Could Have Been-- but she herself has no time for mere ghosts, the echoes of worlds that are no longer hers. Only soft, pink lips, and hair love-loosened across her bosom like quicksilver. Dainty hands that bear both polished nails and claymores.
"So, um, do you want to get a Hocus Latte sometime?" Darling asks, her smile sweet.
Apple answers: yes.