"Isn't this fun?" Ruby shouts above the music. The beer in her red cup splashes out and falls on Emma's toes, but she doesn't care. The music is loud – so loud she feels it in her bones, moving her head and hips and arms and legs like they're not even connected to her. It possesses her soul and her heart and as she watches the lead singer of the band look at her again for the forty-millionth time, Emma nods her head.
This is way more fun than she ever anticipated.
From the stage, the lead singer of the band winks at her and Emma smiles even wider.
"Do you really think that this is such a good idea, David?" Queen Mary-Margaret pursed her lips and glanced over at her husband. "Do you really think that she'll be safe?"
"She is right here and listening…" Emma says, crossing her arms across her chest and slumping down in the elegant brocade chair. From behind her she can hear her bodyguard, Leroy, huff at her words; he was like a loyal puppy when it came to Emma's mother, the Queen, of course he'd take her side.
"Emma." Her mother scolded her in that soft tone of hers that made her such a popular ruler. "Queen of Our Hearts" was a common refrain in the kingdom, and Emma loved her mother dearly, but she had a cautious streak a mile wide and it was driving Emma crazy. There was an entire world outside of their small kingdom and Emma itched to explore every inch of it and learn it for herself before she assumed the throne in her own name.
"I don't know, Mary-Margaret," Prince David said from the window. "Emma has done her due diligence - it's a well-respected school." Her father winked at Emma. "Besides, it's not like other royals haven't gone abroad for school."
"Crown princes and princesses, just like me," Emma pointed out, sitting higher in her chair. "Crown Prince Haakon of Norwary, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden – "
Mary-Margaret waved her hand. "Isolated examples, Emma."
"Prince Harry went to Afghanistan."
Her mother's nostrils flared in response before her father stepped in and placed a hand on his wife's shoulder. "Emma, don't tease your mother. You know that she worries about your safety. But if Leroy was to go with you – "
Behind her Leroy huffed again, but when Mary-Margaret's eyes turned towards him, his tone changed. "Anything for you, your majesty."
"I'm not happy with this," her mother told her. "Your roommate will have to be veted."
"Understood." That was the least of Emma's problems.
"And I'll send a younger security detail with you in addition to Leroy."
"Of course." Maybe she's send Lieutenant Humbert, he seemed to be fun and he always blushed when she asked him to help her with anything…
"And I will expect weekly reports on your well-being and if – "
"Mom, it's okay. It's a big country – no one will recognize a princess from a tiny monarchy anyway." Besides, Skype was the best – this would be easy. And she planned to blend in as much as possible.
Mary-Margaret smiled. "Crown Princess."
Emma shrugged. "Semantics."
"Your inheritance." Mary-Margaret reached her hand towards her daughter, and Emma stood and approached her mother, sitting at her feet like she did as a small girl and Queen Snow was the single most amazing person she ever knew (and still was, even now that she was eighteen).
"I know, and I won't forget that." That much was true, not because it had been drilled into her brain every day for her entire life, but also because she wanted to make her mother and father proud.
Her mother leaned down and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "I trust your judgment, my darling. And when you are queen, you will ask the same of both yourself and your people."
Emma smiled, excitement building in her belly, "So I can go?" The idea – university abroad in a new country, with new people (new boys! that she didn't know! and wasn't possibly related to!) and a new way of life where she wasn't Crown Princess Emma…the thought was almost too much.
Her mother's smile was more than enough confirmation.
The roommate selection process was fairly easy: they settled on a brilliant young English major named Belle from the kingdom who was also going to study abroad; they found a dorm with an all-girls floor that allowed no men after 8pm and strict rules for admission and dismissal; and they organized everything so that Lieutenant Humbert would be the housed on another floor within easy reach of the Princess should something happen.
Everything came together so well that Emma's head spun, and soon it was time for her to say goodbye to her parents (there were tears shed by all, for Emma was an only child and even though the prince was stoic, she was wrapped around his finger at an early age). But there was also the bright and brilliant hope of a new future, one where she could make decisions based on what she thought was right for her, not what others thought of her as the future monarch.
Belle was a sweet roommate, kind and intelligent, and she didn't treat Emma like her future sovereign. The other two girls who shared the suite – Ariel, a red-head from Florida, and Ruby, a brunette from Chicago – were friendly and best of all, they had no idea who Emma was.
Emma liked Ruby – she was adventurous and fun, and she always knew where the best parties were and helped Emma get a fake ID fairly easily. It was Ruby who convinced her to go to the college party tonight.
"The best band on campus is playing – Count to Ten? Have you heard of them?" When Emma shook her head, Ruby insisted.
"We've got fakes, we've got plausibly deniability in that Belle said she'd cover for us – even that guy that you hang around with said he'll be studying tonight."
"Graham?" Emma asked, and when Ruby nodded her head, Emma said nothing to change her mind. She did spend a lot of time with the Lieutenant because he was also enrolled in her major, and even if he did still blush when she talked to him, Ruby did not need to know that he was hanging out with her because her mother was his boss.
"Look, it's at Eric's frat, Ariel will get us in –we're free and clear."
Emma nodded her head. "Let's do it."
"This is our last song," the lead singer says, and Emma moans along with the crowd. She could dance to this band forever, she never wants it to end.
They play for one more song and Ruby leaves, coming back with full cups of beer and a wide smile.
"I'm glad you're having fun!" she shouts above the music. "You should go talk to him."
"Talk to who?" Emma asks.
"The lead singer. He hasn't taken his eyes off you this entire time."
The lead singer of the band is super-hot – dark hair, blue eyes that shined despite the dimness of the frat house, scruffy beard. And Ruby's totally right – he has been checking her out the entire night. Emma assumes it's the halter top that Ruby convinced her to wear, or maybe the short skirt and the platform sandals but whatever the case, he definitely has been looking at her and she's been looking right back.
The thought that he might be into her sends a jolt through Emma's body. She doesn't have much experience with guys –all the ones at court are interested in nothing more than sex and skiing, even Lord Neal (who she knows her mom wants her to marry but who is really into polo this year and Emma could really care less). But there's something raw and visceral about the lead singer, whose name she doesn't know and who, even as he says goodnight to the crowd, keeps his eyes firmly on her. He moves his head to the left – a gesture? Does he want to talk to her?
"Oh god, he wants to talk to you," Ruby exhales. She opens her purse, digs around for a bit before placing foil packets in Emma's hand. "Be safe, and remember get your own drink. And if anything is wrong, text me. Otherwise, godspeed you lucky bitch."
Ruby pushes her off as Emma shoves the condoms in her purse, thankful for all the years of decorum classes that have allowed her to walk in these ridiculously high heels. She straightens her spine, gets a steady grip on her drink, and approaches him.
The lead singer smiles at her as he pulls at cords to disconnect his guitar from the amp. "You're quite a dancer, beautiful," he tells her. There is an accent to his voice, and it is incredibly hot. Emma smiles.
"You're quite the guitar player," she responds, and he flashes a smile as he winks.
"Let me put this away, then I'm all yours," he promises, leaving Emma to linger by the makeshift stage for a moment. She takes a sip of her beer, wonders if this is a good idea before deciding that it is definitely a good idea. She's only slightly tispy, she's got protection, and a security detail a phone call away if anything should go wrong. Besides, he's a lot hotter up close when she can see hot tight his t-shirt is, the way that it clings to his chest, the dark hair that peaks out above the shirt's V-neck.
Maybe it's the alcohol, maybe it's the guy, but whatever it is, Emma has honestly not wanted to make out with someone this bad in her entire life. She downs the rest of her beer quickly.
When he finishes putting his guitar away, he returns and notices her empty cup.
"Let's go get you a refill," he suggests, guiding her towards the keg with his hand on her back. Warmth radiates out from his touch, and Emma takes a deep breath. He doesn't ask questions when she fills her own cup, and he fills his own as well, and then they find a quiet corner (his request) so that they can talk.
They do the best they can over the bass beats and the loud noise of the crowd. His name is Killian; he is a junior. He is a geography major, and he isn't from around these parts though he doesn't say where he's from. She lies and says she's a junior too, international studies major, and she doesn't give up anything more than that because she doesn't need to; they are close enough that she can feel his fringe brush against her forehead when they lean their heads close so that they can hear, close enough that their hips meet and with every movement of their bodies, and every sip of alcohol, she grows bolder and more sure of what she wants.
They refill their drinks and she's got a solid buzz going, feeling good about herself and warm throughout her entire body every time she looks at him, and lord almighty, she wants him in any way she can have him. Screw propriety, screw her heritage – right now the world is just the two of him, his eyes and his body and every single bit of him.
So she reaches for him, grabbing his shirt and pulling him into a kiss. It starts off slowly – he is surprised – but he groans and opens his mouth, hand coming up to reach for her hair. He threads his fingers through her curls, angles her head, and she deepens the kiss, tracing his lower lip with her tongue.
He breaks the kiss then, glancing up and around them, then back at her. His blue eyes are heavy-lidded, pupils blow wide, and she dips her eyes to press a soft kiss against his mouth.
"Upstairs?" he asks.
Emma nods. Most definitely.
He notices her almost immediately. There are blondes in the room and then there is her, curls flying as she dances to the music, hips shaking and moving, genuine happiness evident on her face, and Killian is so caught up in her that he almost forgets the lyrics to his own songs.
She is a wonder, and he wants to know her name. Never before has he had such a need to talk to a girl before, but this girl is something else completely.
She makes eye contact with him, singing the refrain with everyone else and there's something in her gaze that feels good, that feels like coming home. He's a poetic soul, his bandmates tease him for it, but he wonders if that familiarity in her eyes is something deeper than just a connection.
What if he met his soul mate at a frat party?
Stranger things have happened, and in Killian's life, he's seen that.
This university is his second chance at life, after leaving his home when his brother died four years ago. It meant a dishonorable discharge from military service and a new start in this foreign country, but he believes in hope and chance and all he can hope for right now is that that beautiful girl enjoying his songs will pay attention to him afterwards and give him a chance.
At the very least, he'd like to get her number.
(There's a lot more he could hope for, but that's just wishful thinking.)
She approaches him after they finish their set, and the first thing he can think is that she's even more beautiful up close.
What's even more amazing is when she kisses him, so intently and so fiercely that he loses all grasp of reality. Her tongue moves against his, soft little mews coming from her mouth, and it makes him harder than he's ever been, the way that she leans into him, the way that her hair feels between his fingers.
He takes a deep breath and pulls back, and it feels like the hardest decision he's ever made in his life.
Killian isn't in this frat but his friend Eric is, and he hopes that Eric can forgive him for wanting twenty minutes of privacy to make out with a girl in his room. It's easy to ask Emma to go upstairs with him, and even though his intent is not to have sex with her (not in a borrowed bed, that is not enough for someone as beautiful as her) and it's easy to kiss her once the door is closed, to feel how responsive she is as he trails his hands down her sides, moves around to grab her ass through that ridiculously short skirt. She is ridiculously wanton, rubbing against his, grabbing his collar and pulling him closer, and Killian follows. He tries to come up with a game plan – oral? Something else? – but then Emma stops kissing him, suddenly.
She puts a hand over her mouth in the universal sign for drinking too much alcohol.
He opens the door to their left, and watches as she runs through it. It is only when he sees her worshipping the porcelain goddess that he wonders if Emma is really as old as she said and, if not, what exactly she's doing sneaking into a party like this.
He is polite, and rubs her back while she moans in dismay. "Easy, princess," he tells her, holding her hair back from her face as she vomits.
"Not princess," she says, wiping her mouth off before retching again. "Cronncesss."
"What?" Killian asks. "I didn't quite catch that, love.
Emma reaches up with a shaky hand to flush the toilet before wiping her mouth again.
"Crown Princess. I'm the Crown Princess."
Killian frowns, unsure of what is going on until it hits him – why she was so familiar, why he found her so appealing. He grew up looking at her face, watching her family on the news. He remembers how beautiful he thought she was – beautiful and sad, a princess trapped behind castle walls. He remembers his first parade in the army, performing his duty as citizen to serve for two years, and how she smiled at him from her seat on the stand (and how his colleagues teased him for a week, star-struck and in awe, for thinking she was looking at him to begin with, one in a sea of many).
It is his Crown Princess – or the Crown Princess of his former homeland, the one he left when Liam was killed.
He is sitting in a frat bathroom an ocean away with a drunk princess who is looking up at him with those green eyes and he is just…
Killian takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly. This evening definitely took an interesting turn.