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And the Fairy Tale Ending

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It starts with Max having to avoid four phone calls from her mom, which—really, four? Normally she gives up after one. Or, you know, zero, which is just how Max likes it.

“Who’s blowing up your phone?” Caroline asks after time number four, because she thinks that a. she’s Ke$ha and b. Max gets booty calls these days from anyone besides the catering supply man. Which is pretty sweet of her, actually.

“Me, if my mom calls me one more time,” Max says.

Caroline’s eyes go wide. “Do you think something’s wrong?”

“I think she needs to leave me alone. If something’s wrong, I’ll call her tonight when she’s more likely to be drunk so I can get the news and then pretend she fell asleep.” Caroline doesn’t get that everyone wasn’t their daddy’s little princess, and most times Max is okay with that.

(Max will later remember this thought and laugh hysterically for about three minutes.)

Caroline gives her the pity face, which Max hates even if it’s kind of nice having someone who cares enough to give her the pity face, and even if she will have to take that thought to her grave. “Let me know if you need anything.”

“Oh, God, don’t do that, don’t make the face,” says Max, and throws her hands in the air. “I’m going to feed Chestnut, if you answer my phone on my behalf I will actually kill you.”

When she comes inside, after definitely not cuddling with Chestnut, Caroline is staring at her phone on the counter accusatorily while it finishes ringing. “I didn’t answer,” she says. “But it’s probably important, Max.”

“Her butt is probably dialing me really insistently or something. Now come on, we’ve got to get to the diner or Han is going to threaten to make us stay and open the window late and that will throw off my taunting schedule for the night.”

*

The next weird thing that happens is that Max comes into the diner and finds several men in way-too-classy dark suits and sunglasses milling around, poking in corners while Han looks like he’s about to spontaneously combust, Earl attempts to hide something under his desk, and Oleg grins from his window. She doesn’t connect it to the phone calls from her mother because that would be ridiculous, just shrugs off her coat and swings over to the counter to get her order pad.

“Hey, Men in Black, what’s up?” she asks. “Are there aliens among us? Is the alien Han? Is the alien Caroline? Because that would explain a lot.” One of them mutters something into a headset. “Ookay then, are we going to get memory-flashy-thinged? Because that’s not fair, I was totally just guessing that the alien was Caroline.”

“Are you Max Black?” asks the head Man in Black.

He isn’t even hot. Max refuses to be arrested or memory-thinged by a shady suited guy who isn’t even hot. “Not if you’re going to arrest me.”

“We have a lawyer!” Caroline says. “Well, my dad had a lawyer. And we can’t really afford him. But we could have a lawyer.”

Man in Black continues looking at Max. Sort of smiling. It’s creepy, Max is not used to people in suits smiling at her. “We’ve been looking for you for weeks, Miss Black. Your grandmother would like to meet you.”

“Tough nuts for my grandma, unless you have raised her from the dead.”

“I, of course, mean your other grandmother. She has been eager to make your acquaintance since she discovered your existence.”

Max stares at him. “Yeah, problem with that, I don’t have another grandmother. Single parent family, sob story, yeah, you know what I mean.”

Man in Black seems to find that distasteful. “If you will follow me to the embassy, Miss Black, everything will become much clearer.”

“Max isn’t going anywhere with you!” Caroline says. “We’re working!”

“You may be, but Miss Black is not. It really is in your best interests, miss, if you come to the embassy with us.”

“No, that is the kind of thing people say before they crazy murder someone, maybe with an axe.” Max crosses her arms. “I have customers to harass, cupcakes to bake, and a horse to take for a walk in the morning, I don’t have time to be murdered.”

Man in Black purses his lips. “I suppose I can’t fault you for wariness. She did express her willingness to be brought to this … place. I suppose I will have to bring her to you, then.”

“Right, bring my fictitious granny to come visit me at work, that’ll be fun.”

“I shall, Miss Black.” With that, Man in Black sweeps out of the diner, two of the lesser Men in Black following him and two more lurking in Caroline’s section.

“Max, are you okay? Is that what your mom was calling about earlier? How did they find you if you don’t even know who your dad is?”

“Whoa, Sherlock Holmes, that is a lot of questions. It’s probably just my shady criminal past catching up to me.” One of the remaining Minions in Black whimpers. “Chill, Caroline. This is some weird misunderstanding, we can tell Chestnut and Nancy this story in the morning and they won’t understand but it will still be adorable.”

Caroline whines, but Han for once rescues her by making her go take the orders from the Minions in Black, so Max goes to mock the hipsters at her tables, and as far as she’s concerned that’s as weird as the evening is going to get.

Fate lives to thwart her.

*

The third sign that some weird shit is going down is that the Queen of Eldoria walks into the diner at one in the morning with Man in Black on her heels looking smug. Caroline squeaks and drops a tray trying to curtsy, Han squeaks and drops a cup of coffee probably also trying to curtsy, and Max says “Seriously, who wears diamonds in Williamsburg?” because sometimes her mouth just says words without her consent.

“A queen, dear,” says the Queen of Eldoria, because that is apparently the kind of clientele they are attracting these days. They could aim for the Queen of England, maybe, she’s a bigger deal, since Eldoria is a tiny island kingdom, but it is still a kingdom. Ruled by a queen. Who is standing in the diner. Saying “You must be Max” like she thinks she’s Julie Andrews or something.

“Your Majesty,” Caroline says, because Caroline probably knows what to do with royalty, “can we ask what you’re doing here?”

“I’ve come to meet my granddaughter, of course.”

“Okay, there is definitely some kind of mistake here,” says Max, because no. She is not a princess. And if she is she refuses to have some kind of Cinderella moment in the diner.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t.” The Queen lights up a cigarette in an old-fashioned holder, and Max immediately decides that she and Sophie can never meet and then wonders why that is suddenly an option. “Other than my son’s of not telling me of your existence long before now. I suppose he thought it was avoidable until he discovered he couldn’t have more children.”

That sounds ominous. That sounds like the kind of thing that gets said before people suddenly and unexpectedly inherit small tourist islands off the French coast. In romance novels, because this kind of thing totally does not happen in reality. “Okay, wow, no. Let’s stop the train right here, okay? My mom doesn’t know who my dad is. End of story.”

The Queen’s lips thin. “That may well have been the case, but he remembered her, and had her investigated later, and found out about you. I was not pleased when he finally saw fit to inform me. We can do a DNA test if you insist, but you look a great deal like your father’s side of the family.”

Max can’t seem to make her mouth form words, which is maybe a first. Well, a first when she isn’t giving someone a blowjob. She doesn’t think princesses are supposed to talk about blowjobs. Caroline, who would be the one getting the paternal revelations if there were any justice in the universe at all, is the one who ends up answering. “I think maybe we should have this talk back at the embassy?”

“We?”

That comes with a healthy amount of disbelief, and nobody is allowed to insult Caroline but Max, so Max crosses her arms. “We. She’s my partner, she comes with me, so if this is some elaborate plot to have me assassinated by Eldoria because you think I’m a sleeper agent, she can Instragram it and get famous.”

“I suppose we had better go, then. Madden, start the car.” And with that, the Queen of Eldoria sweeps out of the diner, and Caroline drags Max out behind her, shepherded on by the Men in Black.

*

Max is drinking tea at three in the morning with the Queen of Eldoria. Her grandmother, the Queen of Eldoria. Her alleged grandmother. “There’s no chance of getting vodka in this tea, is there?” she asks the nearest minion.

“Perhaps an Irish coffee a little later on,” says the Queen. “Max—do you prefer that to Maxine?”

“My name is not Maxine, so yes, I prefer it.”

“And this is Caroline Channing. I’m told the two of you have started some sort of bakery.”

Caroline has the poor-me face on, so Max steps in before she can start in on the I-used-to-live-like-this spiel. It gets old really fast. “Cupcakes. It’s what we do.”

“Your ingenuity is to be admired.”

“Damn straight it is. Can I say damn around queens?”

“I promise you, Max, queens have been saying ‘damn’ or its equivalent since time immemorial.” She puts down her teacup. “You are, as it stands, second in line for the throne. First, of course, is Rupert, your father.”

“My father’s name is Rupert. I think I knew a goldfish named Rupert once.” Max considers her mom’s usual list of partners. “I guess it’s better than Bubba.”

“And you are second.”

“Whoa.” Max puts her cup down, because if it isn’t alcoholic it definitely isn’t going to cut it now. “I am not going to rule a country. Nope, no way, not happening, not in a million years, no.”

“Then don’t run for Prime Minister as well, for goodness’s sake. I doubt your father will. It means your income will be smaller, but the family has made plenty of good investments over the years, so you will still have more than enough to live on. You could even sell cupcakes from the palace, if you wish.”

Caroline makes the kind of noise that Max has previously associated only with Candy Andy and their moveable shower head. Max smacks her in the leg before she can talk. “So what, I’m expected to move out of New York?”

“We can discuss it. Ideally, you would at least split your time. The duties of royalty in Eldoria are primarily ceremonial at this time, but they are duties nonetheless.” She yawns. “I am very sorry, Max, but I’m not as young as I used to be. Perhaps you would like to sleep on this news? It must all have come as rather a shock.”

“Rather a shock,” says Caroline, shrill levels going off the charts. “Yes, it’s a bit of a shock.”

The Queen (she has a name, Max is pretty sure she has a name and it’s something pretty terrible like Wilhelmina or something, which is why she seems to think it’s acceptable to be named Maxine) looks between them with her lips pursed. “Well, it was only a matter of time before someone had to deal with it,” she says inexplicably, and then rings a bell that makes the lead Man in Black pop out of nowhere. “Madden, do have someone escort the young ladies home. Max, Caroline, we’ll send a car for you later, once we’ve all had a chance to sleep.”

Before Max can think of anything to say, they’re being ushered out of the parlor (it’s definitely a parlor, who has parlors?) and out of the embassy.

“It’s like I just woke up from a terrible nightmare where I was poor,” Caroline says dreamily while they sit in a limo getting across the city, and then looks horrified. “Only it’s still a nightmare, because I am poor and you’re a princess and you’re going to go to Eldoria and sleep with Prince Harry and leave me here to make cupcakes and wait tables, and Max, Max, I still can’t make cupcakes. I’m just a businesswoman!”

“Shut up, nobody’s getting left anywhere, you’re the one who knows what fork to use and stuff.” Max pauses. “Also, this is some horrible identity-swapping mistake that is going to be a great story to tell later but which will inevitably end in our crushing disappointment, that’s how life goes, remember?”

Caroline looks dubious. “She seems pretty serious, Max.”

Max decides she’s going to ignore that.

*

Max wakes up to Caroline shaking her. And dislodging Nancy, which isn’t nice at all, Nancy is the best bed-sharer Max has ever had, she doesn’t snore or steal the covers and she does purr a lot. “What?” she asks.

“Your grandmother says she came to see where you live.”

“My grandma is dead.”

“Your grandmother is the Queen of Eldoria, Max, do you not remember last night at all?”

Max did not in fact remember last night at all, and she isn’t exactly happy to be reminded. And then that statement catches up with her. “Wait, she’s here? In a building where Sophie could show up at any minute? They’re going to bond!”

“Then get dressed and get out there, I gave her a cupcake but that will only distract her for so long!”

Max gets dressed in record time and makes it out of her bedroom right when the Queen (seriously, there’s got to be a non-awkward time to get her phone out and Google what the Queen of Eldoria’s name is, because hell if Max is going to call her grandma) finishes her cupcake. “This is delicious, Max, dear. I’m very glad you have things to occupy your time.”

“So I’m not being punked.”

“No, Max.”

“And you’re really, really sure.”

“As I said last night, the family resemblance is nearly undeniable. We will do a DNA taste to be certain, but the rest of the evidence seems to confirm without that requirement anyway.”

“I am a goddamn princess.”

“So it seems.” The Queen smiles, which makes Max sort of like her. “We have quite a lot to discuss. We can do it here if you prefer, or at the embassy.”

“Someone in the neighborhood is going to smell rich person and come rob my apartment, so let’s be … not here.” She turns to Caroline. “Maybe we should ride Chestnut over, it’s been a while since he’s been out of the neighborhood.”

Caroline frowns. “Maybe you should go on your own, Max. I mean, this is a family thing.”

Max grabs her arm and tugs her over to hiss in her ear. “Don’t you dare leave me, you know the ways of these people.”

“I know the ways of New York socialites, Max, not European royalty!” Caroline pauses. “Well, there was that yacht ride with the royal family from Monaco …”

“Perfect, there we go! You come with me or I don’t go anywhere.”

The Queen clears her throat. “I wouldn’t expect you to go anywhere without your partner, Max. As I said, we have done our research, we were aware the two of you come as a package.”

Max is still holding onto Caroline’s arm, she notices, and it only becomes more noticeable when Caroline starts holding right back, looking sort of shell-shocked. “I’m honored, your Majesty.”

She sighs. “I think it’s probably best if both of you call me Clementine at present.”

Max knew it was some sort of awful name. And now she doesn’t have to Google it! There’s a bright side to everything.

*

“You can turn all of this down,” is the first thing Clementine says when they get back to the embassy. It’s even more ridiculously nice-looking in the light of day. And Max sort of apparently owns it. “I of course would prefer that you not do so, but I understand it isn’t a life you were raised or prepared for. The press will want to write about you incessantly, I can’t imagine you’ll want much contact with your father and can’t blame you for that, and you do have a life here in Williamsburg.”

Max raises her eyebrows. “Yeah, it’s an awesome life, you’ve seen my place of work and where I live, don’t give me that.” She might miss the people, but she’s not going to say that. “What the hell are you getting out of this? I mean, you’re basically inviting me to be a gold-digger, you get that, right?”

“You are family, Max. You ought to have been raised as such. If all you want from us is money, I can’t see that I have a right to refuse you that. I would like it if you wanted to try for … some form of affection, anyway. I like you, quite frankly, from our brief acquaintance and from what I’ve heard of the surveillance reports.”

“Well, this took a quick turn for the alarming.”

“I thought you would appreciate honesty.” Clementine rings her magic minion-summoning bell again. This is a different minion, though, which Max can tell because this one is wearing a skirt. Well, it could be the same minion, on second thought. Max lives in New York, she doesn’t judge. “If you would please bring Miss Black’s surveillance files to me, Walters, I would appreciate it.” So it is a different minion.

They all sit in awkward silence while waiting for the minion to come back, several thick file folders in her hands. Max takes one and hands Caroline another and looks, because hey, sue her, she’s curious. Whoever Clementine hired, they’re good: arrest record, everything about Max’s Homemade Cupcakes, background checks on Caroline and everyone from the diner, with way extra on Caroline, even Chestnut and Nancy. “This is pretty intensely creepy,” says Max when she finishes, but she’s impressed.

Caroline seems to be staring longingly at a picture of her old house. “How long have you been watching us?” she asks.

“Perhaps a month. We’ve had to move quickly, some of the work was regrettably sloppy.”

“If this is sloppy, I don’t want to see your good work,” says Max. “Look, I don’t know, okay? This is pretty sudden.”

“Why don’t we talk a little bit about Eldoria and the throne? You can have time to think, of course, but I imagine word will get out that we have some connection soon. The diner last night wasn’t crowded, but it wasn’t empty either.”

Caroline gets the cupcake-money lust look on her face really quickly. “We should tell them about the shop!”

“Wow, dude, way to sell me out there, I am not ready to wear a tiara to work.” Max reconsiders. “I am totally ready to wear a tiara to work. And home. And the subway.”

Clementine laughs, because she doesn’t realize that Max is totally serious. Max is going to milk the tiara thing for everything it’s worth, her six-year-old self will never forgive her otherwise. “We can discuss the royal jewels later. Perhaps we ought to begin with some basic facts.”

*

Max can’t sleep that night.

Mostly it’s because working nights at the diner and the cupcake shop have made her nocturnal, and she and Caroline are taking the night off because of their big royal problem, so she isn’t exhausted like usual. Partly it’s because she is a princess and that is going to take some working through and she’s ignored ten more calls from her mom, because thanks a lot it might have been nice to have a heads up about the whole royalty thing.

So she’s sitting on the couch with Nancy on her lap while Caroline snores on the pink bed because Caroline is the one who should definitely be a princess instead of Max. Because Caroline would say yes and know how to do it and Max could still make cupcakes and maybe things would be easier but it would be okay, because Caroline knows how to do this shit and Max doesn’t. And Caroline would probably leave, just sponsor the cupcake shop and go, and that’s … fine. And theoretical. And Max doesn’t care, she doesn’t, she’s just—

“Max? Why are you awake?”

“Because unlike you, I don’t need beauty sleep, I drink the blood of virgins instead.”

Caroline sits up in bed. “Are you okay?”

“I’m awesome, I’m royalty.”

That makes Caroline get up and come over to the couch, flopping down next to Max and scaring away the cat because Max is totally Nancy’s favorite. “What’s up?”

Max throws her hands up in the air. “What isn’t up, Caroline? Suddenly I’m in line for the throne in a country I’ve never been to because I haven’t been to any other countries, and it isn’t even my absentee father who got in touch about that, he didn’t even say hi even though he knew about me, rude, and this is probably the answer to all our problems, but good things don’t happen to me, good things never happen to me, and I don’t know what to do. Okay?”

Caroline hugs her, because Caroline is secretly a Care Bear. “Eldoria is really nice.”

“Oh my God, of course you’ve been there.”

“If we do this, we can flip off your father on international television, everyone likes a good royal scandal, forget William and Kate. And we can have Max’s Homemade Cupcakes here or there, or you can make them for fun, we can do whatever we want now.”

“Hire cabana boys for our Mediterranean yacht?”

“Yeah, sure.” Caroline keeps hugging her. Max denies that it helps, she lives on sarcasm and cupcakes, not cuddles. She has an image to maintain. Or something. “I think this could be really good, Max. Not because of the money or the royalty or anything, even if that would obviously be great, but just for us.”

“What happened to the five-year plan for the cupcake shop?”

“Maybe we should have a five-year plan for us instead. Become a princess and her … advisor, I guess, can you make me a duchess? Is that a thing in Eldoria? You should ask your grandmother if it’s a thing. Become a princess and a duchess, figure out what we want to do from there. I’m flexible.”

“Your planning board says otherwise.”

Caroline laughs and shoves her. “Shut up, I can adapt.”

“You just want to be able to afford pants without getting slapped in the face again.” Max thinks about that. “Or without me getting slapped in the face again.”

“Yeah, yeah. Go to bed, will you? Good stuff happens to you, Max. I’m here, aren’t I?”

“I guess you are,” says Max, and then makes a face when Caroline beams at her. “Stop that, go away, you need to learn to be blasé about me saying nice things, you are so not cool. If we’re going to be royalty we need to wear sunglasses and big hats and look bored during polo games, you should practice.”

“If?”

“Maybe I’m thinking about it, sue me.”

“A princess, Max! You’re gonna be a princess!” Caroline hugs her again and Max hugs back this time, because whatever, sometimes it feels nice knowing Caroline likes her this much. If Caroline’s on board for the princess thing, maybe Max can do it.

*

Max wakes up to Caroline shrieking her name, which is unfortunately not rare. “Why?” she asks her pillow.

Caroline gets on her bed, because Caroline does not believe in privacy. “I put a Google alert on Eldoria in the news—”

“Of course you did.”

“—and they’re saying that Queen Clementine is in New York because she’s found an heir!”

That makes Max sit up. “Wait, do they know it’s me?”

“Not yet, but it’s only a matter of time!” Caroline hands Max her phone. “She called and said she’d like to talk to you, but if we get taken to the embassy today that’s pretty much going to be it. If she sends out a car for someone, it will make it way easier to find us.”

Max yawns. “Then she doesn’t need to send a car, easy.”

“We can’t just pretend this isn’t happening, Max! Someone at the diner will talk sooner or later, even if the bodyguards paid everyone off!”

“I meant let’s take Chestnut. He can weave through traffic and get us to the back door of the embassy.” She yawns again. “I feel like I should probably make a joke about back doors. Do princesses make jokes about back doors?”

“You’re a princess, so probably, yes.” Caroline makes a face. “I still can’t believe this is happening to you. I mean, I love my dad, but I could definitely deal with being a princess.”

“What’s mine is yours, or whatever. Now, are you going to let me get dressed so we can take Chestnut over to the embassy?”

*

“Well, at least you’re good horsewomen,” says Queen Clementine when they ride past the embassy’s back gates, which the reporters don’t seem to have found yet (probably because nobody actually cares about the Eldorian embassy most of the time). “This is Chestnut?”

Max dismounts and glares at the Man in Black who tries to come help her. Caroline gets down after her. “Yes, he’s psyched to hang out with other fancy horses again.”

“I’m afraid he’ll have to wait. We don’t keep stables here, though we have some at the palace. He will be looked after while we discuss our strategy, though.”

“Strategy?” Max asks.

“Media strategy, probably,” says Caroline, following them inside after giving the minion taking Chestnut’s reins a suspicious look. “Right?”

“Whoa, hey, I haven’t even said I’m doing this yet.”

Clementine smiles, and so does Caroline. Max refuses to admit that it’s sort of terrifying that they’re teaming up. “It’s good to have options,” says Clementine, and leads them into the usual parlor. “Either way, the decision will have to come soon. Once the press has latched on to a story there is very little that will keep them from finding answers. I would prefer to either release a statement saying that you’re the heir to the Eldorian throne or that they shouldn’t get their hopes up before they find out on their own.”

“If I do this, the whole princess thing, what do we do?”

“We release a statement introducing you and Caroline to the press and your people. You come to Eldoria and are introduced to them more formally, and your father as well, though I get the impression you would appreciate being kept at the opposite side of the castle from him. And then you can come back to New York, in drastically changed circumstances, or stay in Eldoria. I and other experts will train you in everything you need to know, either way, but once the initial introduction is over we should have some breathing space.”

“Why are we introducing me to the press and the people?” Caroline asks.

Clementine snorts, because she’s a seriously awesome queen. Max totally gets all her awesome from the royal side. “I don’t feel the need to tiptoe around your partnership with the press. This is the twenty-first century, and there are other ways to determine the heir after you.”

Caroline nervous giggles. Max buries her face in her hands. “It is seriously my luck that I finally get the chance to hook up with hot princes and everyone thinks I’m a lesbian.”

“Are you not?”

“Really, really not. Just business partners. And roommates. And co-parents of a cat and a horse, which we are badass at because there is no sibling rivalry at all, and Caroline oh my God why did you not tell me we’re married?”

Clementine sounds like she’s smirking, because she’s mean. Max is more sure than ever that they’re related. “Perhaps we’ll just leave that ambiguous, then. At the moment, it isn’t the most urgent question. That would be, Max, whether you’re in or not.”

Max hates decisions. And commitment. She wants to run right back to the Williamsburg Diner and Max’s Homemade Cupcakes and barely scraping by week to week. She doesn’t want to close the door on Earl and Sophie and Oleg and (fuck it, may as well admit it) Han, and okay, maybe she doesn’t have to do that, but being a princess is still a pretty scary thought. She can say no, and this can be another few-day adventure, and she and Clementine can Skype across the Atlantic or whatever because Clementine is cool as shit, and maybe she’ll take some money, so Caroline doesn’t cry.

But. Well. Not everyone gets their own personal Disney movie, and hey, maybe she doesn’t know how to do this, but she doesn’t know how to run a business, either. Caroline picks up her slack and she picks up Caroline’s and maybe Clementine could pick up both of theirs. And hell, maybe she could pick up Clementine’s, Max and Caroline can totally shake up the monarchy. And abdication is definitely an option.

“Caroline?” she says, because second opinions are good, especially Caroline’s. “Apparently we’re life partners, you should be in on this too.”

When she looks up, Caroline is giving her a weird look, but it turns into a smile after a second. “I’m in. Seriously, Max, do you think I’m going to turn down being royalty-adjacent? It’s like revenge on everyone who was an asshole after my dad got arrested. Plus, I mean, awesome for you. But only if you want to.”

“Okay,” says Max, and wipes her sweaty palms on her jeans. “Let’s do this.”

*

They do the press conference that afternoon.

Clementine makes a production of it, standing on the front steps of the embassy while all the reporters hang around. Max is wearing a dress, which is definitely new for her when she isn’t sneaking into the Met gala or being a waitress, and one of the minions took Caroline away, and for a split second, when Clementine says “And so I am pleased to present my granddaughter, Max Black, princess of Eldoria,” she thinks about running, but instead she pushes aside the embassy doors and strikes a pose.

And there’s Caroline, in the front row of the crowd (probably by virtue of her really sharp elbows), clapping and cheering and grinning, and Max grins right back, and thinks maybe they can do this after all.

*

Max and Caroline do their shift at the diner that night—one last one, as a favor to Han and to temporarily-or-maybe-not shut down the window for Max’s Homemade Cupcakes. A couple of minions come in with them and glower at all the customers taking camera phone pictures of Max in her uniform with a tiara on.

Sophie comes in and screams until Max sort of wonders if she’s trying to deafen them, and Han takes their aprons at the end of the night and frames them on the wall, once Max has signed hers. Clementine stops by around midnight for some photographable moments and flirts with Earl, which Max decides is pretty much the best thing to ever happen. Oleg is Oleg, because apparently he doesn’t care about royalty. Max respects that. Despite all the “Bow before your queen!” jokes she can’t help making. She’s only human.

At the end of their shift, she and Caroline go to shut down the cupcake window. There’s a line of people halfway down the street to buy the stock they’ve got left, familiar faces and people who want a picture (“Princess Max” is trending on Twitter, and now on Instagram because that many people are taking Max’s picture). Once they’re all out and they’ve sent everyone away, Max and Caroline sit on the floor in their little shop, spooning out the last of the frosting they had in the fridge to share.

Caroline is the first one to talk. “We should ask Han if we can make this place into a starter business for start-up baking companies. We pay the rent, they get their name out there. Like a baking scholarship.”

“You really think we won’t be back?”

“I think we’re out for good, Max. You’re going to be a princess.”

“Come on, be realistic. We’re going to be co-princesses.”

Caroline stops eating her frosting and turns to look at Max. “That’s the kind of thing that made Clementine assume we’re gay.”

“Whatever, maybe we effectively are, we just skipped the making out and moved directly into the being old and married with a cat.” Max looks away, because Caroline is staring at her. “Shut up, it’s not like I’m propositioning you, I’m just saying.”

“Sure, Max, just saying. It’s okay if you want to marry me and make me your princess.”

“Seriously, shut up.”

Caroline scoots over until they’re right next to each other and then starts eating frosting again. “We’re going to be awesome at this royalty thing. I’ve got so many plans already.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet you do.” Max puts her tiara on Caroline and it slips to the side. She takes a picture of them anyway, chocolate frosting and their Max’s Homemade Cupcakes t-shirts and the tiara and all, and doesn’t object when Caroline takes the phone away to put the picture up online.

*

AN AMERICAN FAIRY TALE, the headlines say the next day.

Max may not believe in happily-ever-after, but hey, Caroline does, and Max is willing to go with it for now.

 

($1,750.00//a whole royal treasury)