Once upon a time, there was a beautiful Princess who was waiting for her handsome Prince to rescue her from a terrible fire-breathing Dragon. The call had been made some time ago, the terms were clearly specified, and she was starting to get restless. After all, the moat was rented and the dragon had better places to be.
"He's certainly taking his time," the Dragon said, "Doesn't he know there's a schedule?"
The Princess stopped pacing. "I'm sure he does. He'll be along soon. I am sorry for all this trouble. I'm sure you've someone else wai--"
"That's putting it remarkably mildly," said the Dragon, "You aren't the only princess is in need of such a situation, as you well know. Also, I have plans with my wife after work. And a real gentleman does not keep a lady waiting."
The Princess said nothing. She gazed out at the horizon, eyes peeled for a great white stallion with a gallant crowned rider.
"He'll be here," she said, as much for her sake as for the Dragon's.
The Dragon twisted his head towards her sceptically and snorted.
"Look! That must be him now!" The Princess pointed out the window eagerly.
The Dragon looked where she pointed and relaxed. "So it must be..." he said, warming up his fire-breathing, "So it must be. It seems I might just make my engagements after all."
The Prince leaped from the horse and bounded across the bridge over the moat, purpose in his every step. As soon as he had crossed it, the water evaporated--as per the terms of the lease--and the Princess received the bill, payable to A Rainy Day Inc.
"Dragon!" shouted the Prince, drawing his sword, "I am here to save the Princess! Come out and fight me to the death!"
The Dragon needed no further provocation. He spread his great wings and flew down to where the Prince stood waiting. A moment passed. The Prince's green eyes bore into the Dragon's amber ones. Neither blinked. And then--
"Stab. Stab," said the Prince, "I have slain you."
"Oh, oh," said the Dragon, "I am slain."
The Prince grinned back at the Dragon, who rolled his eyes. Not for the first time, the Dragon considered retiring. He was getting too old for this nonsense.
"Fly safe, old friend" said the Prince, "See you next time!"
"Always," said the Dragon, as stretched his wings, "and perhaps."
With that, the Dragon tipped his claw towards the Princess, who stood watching in the window, and took flight towards the next Princess who'd hired his services. Another bill appeared in the Princess' hand. Deadly Dragons-R-Us, like the others, charged by the second.
True love, she thought, is always worth the cost.
"Hullo," said the Prince, who had climbed the stairs and was standing before her. In his hand was a beautiful rose.
"Hello!" she said, and reached her hand out to accept the flower.
"Oh!" he exclaimed, and pulled back his hand, "No, I'm afraid this rose isn't for you to keep. Look only. But it's quite beautiful, isn't it? Like you."
The Princess wasn't sure how to respond. She withdrew her hand, and her fingers closed around themselves.
"Oh..." she said. "Sir Prince?"
"Yes, my Princess?" he said, flashing her a smile. His teeth were the whitest teeth she had ever seen.
"Please don't take offence to this," she said, "but I was wondering how old you were? Since you and the Dragon are old friends...? And because your hair...?"
"I'm forty," he said.
"Yep. Forty. Why? How old are you?" he asked, "Twenty-five?"
"Twenty-six," she answered. Forty? "I'm sorry, I'm a little confused. The call I put out was for a young gallant Prince, my heart's true love."
"Twenty-six is a good age. You're not so young that you're naive nor too old that you need to settle down and have a family. Twenty-six, I'd say, is the pretty much the perfect age."
"I see," she said, unimpressed, "The perfect age for what exactly?"
"For anything," he said, "Look, we should get a move on... My castle or yours? I'll only be around these parts for a fortnight, until I must go visit my fiancee, so we'd best get to it. "
"Fiancee." She'd heard such tales, about Princes who already had a Princess to call their own true loves, lining up in the que for another anyway.
"Ah..." He flashed her his too-white teeth again, "I didn't mention that to you before, but please don't be alarmed. We have an open relationship, and I'm not looking for anything serious with you. I hope you don't think this all was a waste of time."
"First of all, Sir Prince, what you do with your own life is your business, not mine, so long as I am not a part of it. And, to be honest, the age difference alone is enough for this not to continue. But the fiancee... is far, far too much. Frankly, you're not what I'm looking for at all. And I'm rather annoyed about the moat. I had to specify by number of water droplets."
"Well, here, take this," he said, thrusting the rose unceremoniously towards her.
"I don't want your damn rose," the Princess said, "I think you should leave now."
"I really wouldn't have had a chance with you, even without a fiancee?" asked the Prince, "Well, I can at least give you a lift back to your castle. I have that white steed you asked for."
"Definitely not," the Princess said, "Good day and good luck with your Princess."
The Prince gaped at her for a moment longer, and then clumsily mounted his stallion and rode away.
The Princess shook her head wryly and took out the bills she'd received. The customer support lines were in the small print, but she searched until she found them.
"If I can't get an ever after today," she said, "I'll damn well get my refund."
And she did.