It turns out Costa Luna is a lot closer to Louisiana than Carter thought it was. Why her dad didn't mention that to her as she was balling her eyes out for a week after Rosie left is anyone's guess but bygones and all that, she guesses. For now.
Also, when your best friend-slash-girlfriend is the soon to be Queen and you're the hero of a shadowy international organization, flights are surprisingly cheap. Which is how she finds herself standing on the tarmac of the Costa Luna International Airport three days after school ends for the semester awkwardly trying to make small talk with the lovely but incredibly gay hairdresser who has apparently been appointed her official greeter. Carter just wants to get to the part where she can make out with Rosie again but there are "protocols" that "must be followed" her dad says. So she waits with the hairdresser, and now she realizes he's actually Mr. Elegante, Rosie's friend, and she's totally met him before and now she's embarrassed and there's still a marching band playing for her and if this isn't the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to her, well, she doesn't even know what could be worse.
Finally they stop playing and the crowd inexplicably starts cheering and then the tailor/hairdresser is elbowing her in the ribs and she realizes they're cheering her. Do they even know what she plans to do to their beloved Princess when the doors are closed and the lights are out tonight? She's sixteen and she'd never even been kissed until three months ago.
She waves and Mr. Elegante takes her by the elbow and leads her to the back door of the hugest black Mercedes Carter's ever seen. Clearly when Rosie said her family wasn't wealthy she had a pretty different idea of what wealthy meant than Carter had been lead to believe. Holy shit. She's totally dating a Princess.
"Mr. Elegante, what's Rosie been doing for the last three weeks?"
Mr. Elegante clears his throat and looks over at her. "State business mostly. As you know, Rosalinda cannot rule as the Queen of Costa Luna until she is 18. However, she will be crowned Queen next week and her mother will act as Regent until her birthday. So they have been making sure all the, how do you say, ducks are in a row for when that happens. And the citizens of our neighbour Costa Estrella have asked that she rule their until they have recovered from the tyrannical rule of General Kane. So there have been negotiations about that too.
Holy shit, she's dating a princess.
There's a reception when she gets to the palace and then there's a break and Elegante shows up at her door when she's expecting Rosie and god, that was embarrassing again and if Carter manages to make it back to the US without dying of embarrassment it will be a Christmas miracle. Elegante has a dress for her, it's almost the exact same as the one she wore to Homecoming except he's somehow managed to make it better and, she notices, sexier than that one.
After that there's another reception and the Director is there this time, but she isn't called the Director, everyone calls her Countess. Rosie isn't there when she arrives, so she doesn't know anyone except the Director who pretends she doesn't know her at all and Elegante, who appears to be locked in conversational combat with a bald old guy. She stands around for a while before a waiter comes by and offers her a glass of champagne off a silver tray. Before she can admit she's only sixteen and has never had a glass of champagne before, this nice looking lady plucks two off the tray and offers her one.
They make small talk for a while. The lady, Lucinda something, is the Minister of Education and used to teach Rosie when she was little. Lucinda goes on about how smart Rosie is, how kind and if Rosie were here Carter knows she would be blushing in the way she does when people say nice things about her. It's totally sweet and not a little bit sexy too.
Finally some trumpets go off and there's Rosie at the top of the stairs and Carter looks up with everyone else and nearly chokes on her champagne. Rosie is wearing a dress, but it isn't at all like those crazy flouncy queen dresses she kept sending Carter pictures of, with all that skirty business. It's black and sleek and Carter's pretty sure her jaw just hit the floor and the whole room is abuzz with voices. She can't tell if they're admiring or not and she honestly doesn't care. Rosie looks like...a princess.
Dinner goes on and on, and Carter tries to behave herself and make polite chitchat with the two very nice people she sits between but she's so close to Rosie. She can hear her talking to her mother and some guy she thinks might be the Prime Minister and it's so distracting because she doesn't sound anything like her Rosie. She sounds like Rosalinda Maria Montoya Fiore, Queen of Costa Luna, and Carter starts to panic because holy shit, her girlfriend is a princess.
Dinner goes on for what seems like hours. Carter would swear, if questioned, that there were nine hundred courses. Finally, after about the third dessert it looks like people are leaving and then Elegante is at her shoulder, whispering that Rosalinda asked if he would escort Carter back to her quarters because Rosalinda knows she must be tired and that Carter gets quite, and he pauses over this, “the grumpy goose” when she is tired. Carter blushes again and looks towards Rosie, who is totally pretending not to pay attention, but Carter can tell because the smile she has on, she recognizes it from her bedroom after the dress shopping day, it's Rosie's Carter smile.
The second time someone knocks at it Carter answers the knock at her door in sweatpants and a tee shirt, toothbrush still in her mouth. It falls out when she realizes Rosie is in front of her and they're finally alone.
“Hi Carter Mason.” Rosie smiles the same blithely amused, slightly exasperated smile she often does when confronted with Carter. “Mr. Elegante indicated that there was a matter of great import you wanted to see me about.”
“What? Oh, right, the matter of great import.” Carter looks both ways down an empty hallway and speaks louder, “Yes, my dad asked me to talk to you about a...thing...which is very important and needs to be talked about in my room. Alone.” She grabs Rosie by the wrist and pulls her in to the room, closing the door with her other hand.
Rosie's laughing when she turns from the door, and they haven't stopped holding hands and the sight of her, head tossed back, mouth open and smiling makes Carter laugh too.
“That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever done.” She pulls Rosie close, wraps her arms around her waist and places a light kiss on her lips. “And I've done nothing that wasn't embarrassing since I got here.”
Rosie stops smiling and looks into her eyes, face suddenly more serious than the occasion requires. “Mr. Elegante says you conducted yourself with great dignity at the airport. I'm sorry about that by the way, it was my mother's idea, I couldn't talk her out of it.”
“Whatever, it's not the first time I've been greeted by fanfare at the airport.” Rosie's doing this thing with her hands and the waistband of Carter's sweatpants that makes it hard to concentrate on talking, she likes it so much. “You should see what the band pulls out when I get to school in the mornings now.”
“Carter Mason!” Rosie steps back, a shocked, mocking look in her eyes. “You are an inveterate liar!”
“Rosalinda Maria Montoya Fiore.” Carter leans forward and kisses her on the lips. “I don't even know.” Kiss. “What that means.” Kiss.
Rosie deepens the last kiss and suddenly the making out goes from “funny, joke making out” to “making out with the intent” which is Carter's favourite kind of making out so far. She slides her hands up the silk of Rosie's pajamas, and Rosie lets out this breathy little moan, that oh, okay, Carter can totally deal with that noise.
“There's a couch, in the other room.” Carter feels like a dork again when Rosie just looks blankly at her, unable to make the connection. “For us to sit on.” Still nothing. “While we make out?” She's certain it's possible to die of embarrassment, because it's happening to her right now.
“Oh, uh, right.” Rosie looks down at her feet blushing and Carter begins to think she's not the only dork in this room. “There's also a bed which is much bigger and has a far better quality of blanket on it.”
Now it's Carter's turn to blush. “Oh, um, okay.” She takes Rosie's chin in her hand and tilts her chin up and the look -- wanting, frightened, embarrassed -- it's everything Carter feels too. She's pretty sure this is going to be the best Christmas of their lives and is totally going to make Rosie's coronation feel like a second rate beauty pageant.