Chapter 1: Go Your Own Way
Forget Me Not Chapter 1: Keith & MC.
Prompt: “Please don't say you love me.”
I can’t breathe. Her thoughts said what she couldn’t voice, the lump in her throat a direct response to the tension in the air around them. She wasn’t sure at what point the music had stopped or when his gaze had gone from gentle to heated, but the dread building in the pit of her stomach had been there from the moment Luke had come to stop that ship from returning to Charles. The arms around her waist had failed to capture her attention, the calm depths of his eyes having long ago pushed any other thoughts away from her mind.
“Your Highness…” When she finally found her voice, it was weak and unfamiliar to her own ears. Her lips pressed firmly together before she could get anything else out, and as if she had pulled him out of his own head, his expression relaxed at the sound of her voice. Not missing a beat, he smiled, though beneath the surface, she thought she saw a twitch at the corner of his lips. Was he nervous? The boisterous, confident, assertive lion prince?
“It’s the opposite of that day, isn’t it?” He sounded hoarse, the remnants of raw emotion leaking into his own voice as he regarded her with careful scrutiny. The furrow of his brow returned for a split second, but he wasn’t one to be deterred, even if her form had begun to tremble in his grasp. He tightened his arm around her waist, raising one hand to thumb at a loose strand of hair that had fallen loose from her bun. She winced and his closeness wavered.
She hadn’t stayed, and still, he’d come after her. She’d made a conscious decision to leave before this very scene could play out and yet there they stood, a confession on the tip of his tongue and sobs on the tip of hers. This isn’t right. It won’t work. We can’t work. She’d told herself this over and over and over, preparing herself to get on that ship and he’d ruined it. He’d ruined it because he was too stubborn to see what she could, too stubborn to understand her position in all of this. Royalty didn’t equate to getting what he wanted. She’d tried to teach him that. Even now, it’d fallen on partially deaf ears.
“This time, I’m proposing to you.” His voice lowered, a whisper only she could hear. As if in respect, she saw a flicker of movement from the corner of her eyes and surmised that both Zain and Lord Michel (Mike, she chided herself) must have averted their attention for the time being. The hand that had been hovering by her cheek closed the distance, hesitant fingers finally brushing against her heated skin. She was sure everything to the tips of her ears were red, but the turmoil in her eyes had to have betrayed her. Her gaze fell away from his, and she swallowed thickly, trying to calm herself.
She felt like she would throw up or burst into tears. Both, maybe.
As she pondered what his shoes would look like were the worst to happen, and wondered at how angry he’d get at her for ruining the moment, she couldn’t help but note how gently he was treating her. His confidence had waned because of her silence. She knew it. He knew she knew it. His hand pressed more firmly against her cheek; whether to lift her head back up or to keep his fingers from shaking, she had no idea.
“Don’t.” It came out before she even thought about it, and immediately, she felt herself choke up again. Her eyes widened in surprise and his narrowed. He wasn’t angry, though. She knew the signs of his anger; everything from the furrow of his brow to the subtle frown on his lips. He was faltering, and without her noticing, the thumb that had been stroking her cheek stilled. No, she begged, her body tensing in his hold. Don’t look at me like that. Don’t. “Don’t say it.”
They both knew. He was stubborn but not stupid, and while she wasn’t the quickest to catch on to the emotions of others, there was a certain point where obliviousness stopped being cute.
Her hand reached up to grab his and, as if she were handling glass, she pulled it away from her. She took a step back, and much to her surprise, he let her, although his lips tightened in a way that told her he wasn’t exactly going to let her go without protest. It must have been something about the way she looked that kept him from getting annoyed, however, because he didn’t lash out. There was no childish argument at the end of this. Throwing around a few insults and finding some way to gravitate towards one-another in spite of it wasn’t going to resolve whatever… this was.
“You don’t want to hear how I feel about you? Impertinent… Interrupting me at a time like this…” There was a small quirk at the corner of his mouth, but it wasn’t humorous at all. There was a pang in her chest, because he was almost desperate in his attempt to lighten the mood, which was very unlike him. At least in accordance to his usual behavior. Sometimes even she had to remind herself – there’s so much more beneath the surface. “Listen to me…”
“No.” Another step back and her resolve faltered again. She couldn’t get it out. She couldn’t just tell him to let it go. They couldn’t do this. His world was beyond her reach; her world was beneath his. She closed her eyes, her hands raising to signal him to stop when she heard him take a few steps forward. “Please don’t say you love me. Don’t. Your Highness… you’re royalty. I’m… We can’t.”
Of course he didn’t stop. Because Keith was Keith. He was presumptuous and annoying and every goddamn thing she ever said to him went in one ear and out the other. And she wished that made her hate him because then this would be so much easier.
It was like hugging a plank of wood. His arm wrapped around her again, this time pulling her full against his chest. “Because I’m royalty…? Who cares?” He sounded agitated from above her, his cheek resting against the top of her head as his free hand rose to toy with stray strands of her hair. Her heart broke because she could hear his breaking. There was a subtle tremble in his voice. He was hurt.
“I do.” She felt him pause and at once, she admonished herself for that word choice. This wasn’t the circumstance under which he’d hoped to hear those words, and on the verge of panicking, she let out a gasp that turned into a sob halfway through. Finally, the last straw broke and she felt something tickling her skin; the heat of tears making her once again try to push away from him in embarrassment. This time, he wasn’t so accommodating. He tightened his hold, which in turn caused her to struggle, and finally, she forced herself away from him. “I care! Keith, I…!”
One look at his face gave her pause. The false anger she’d pinpointed had become more overbearing. He was glaring at her, his hands balled into fists at his side, but the rims of his eyes were red.
“…I’m scared.” She finished meekly, the muscles in her body loosening up one by one until she thought she’d collapse then and there. Scared. She felt so stupid, admitting it. She was scared of disappointing him. She was scared of disappointing herself. Failing his family, failing Liberty. A commoner had no place among royals. To nudge him in the right direction – that had been one thing. To stand beside him and address an entire kingdom as if she had any right to be their Queen… She wasn’t even one of them. A commoner – a foreigner – an impertinent woman who talked back.
She was no princess.
“That’s what you’re worried about…?” She had to give him credit for managing to sound exasperated even when all his emotions, heated on a normal day, were at their boiling point. “That’s ridiculous.”
“It’s not!” She found her bark without meaning to, and all at once, her own expression became one of frustration. He didn’t understand. How could he!? He had no sense of what he was asking her to do; no idea how hard it was or how terrifying. To stand up and try even when you didn’t believe you were good enough…
It wasn’t fair. This wasn’t fair. Why him? Why did it have to be him?
“…” In her silence, he seemed to be at a loss. His tongue was bit, trying to remain cordial even though it was not in his nature to do so. He wanted to grab her and throw her into the car returning to Liberty. He wanted to tell her she had no choice. Even more so, he wanted to tell her how he felt; how much he needed her because there was no one else like her. There was no one else who would go head to head with him and stand their ground against him, even when he thought he was in the right. There was no one else who would make him laugh ten minutes after yelling at him, or who would greet him by calling him an asshole and still make him smile. There was no other woman he would ever find who would grab his attention the way she had; who would somehow, against all odds, make him fall in love with her and change his way of thinking for the better.
He wanted to beg her to stay, so that next time he woke up, she would be there with him. So that he wouldn’t have to roam the castle halls calling out for a love he was terrified he’d somehow driven away. So he didn’t look back, years from now, and admonish himself because the one time he’d wanted someone with him more than anyone else he’d ever crossed paths with, he’d been too proud to fight for them.
“Then go.” What came out, instead, was the opposite of everything he needed to say and against his better judgment and the regretful, fast pounding of his heart, he sneered at her. “If you don’t want to hear what I have to say, just leave. I’m wasting your time and you’re wasting mine.”
She startled against his harsh tone, her eyes widening with the shock and hurt when she realized what he’d said. He wasn’t sure how long they stood there in silence, but after some time, her gaze softened and he hated her for it. He hated her because he knew that she had caught on; that he didn’t actually want her to go, but they both knew she was going to leave anyways. He briefly entertained the thought of turning and being the one to leave her there, but for once, he allowed his pride to take the hit. He wouldn’t be the one who walked away from this. He wouldn’t be the one who walked away from the possibility of them.
“I’m sorry…” His gaze tore away from her and locked onto something off to the side. Whilst he tried to distract himself in wondering where Michel and his butler had disappeared to, she slowly, carefully stepped around him, one hand pressed against her mouth to muffle her sobs as she did. It didn’t do much; he could still hear her sniffles.
Last chance, he couldn’t help but remind himself as he heard her heels clicking against the floor. He saw her figure pass by from the corner of his eye and listened as her steps grew quicker, and something desperate, almost primal, made his breath catch in his throat. You know she loves you too. Last chance. It was his last chance to reach out; to chase after her, to tell her how he felt, to reassure her that they could make it. That she didn’t have to be afraid because she had him.
Something painful swelled up in his chest. He took a step and began to turn towards her, but stopped last minute. Keith’s lips pressed together, and as the seconds ticked by, the sound of her heels grew distant and faint. He stood there for a while longer, letting it sink in afterwards; the fact she’d be gone from the castle grounds, most likely, by time he managed to reach the entrance. And so, as he took a deep breath and turned to go search for Luke, he told himself, oh well. You tried.
There was a sore ache in the back of his throat and a stinging in his eyes that assured him that they hadn’t tried hard enough. She, out of fear. Him, out of pride.
Chapter 2: Secret Gardens
Life doesn't begin at Once Upon A Time, so why should it end after Happily Ever After? A brief look at moments the (unnamed) MC shares with the princes/butlers of each kingdom, all of which are inspired by single sentence prompts. Every drabble is separate from one-another (unless stated otherwise) and takes place at various points in the non-gree timeline, both canon and au.
Prince Edward and the MC share a moment in the rose garden. Not bound to the canon timeline.
Forget Me Not Chapter 2: Edward & MC.
Prompt: I want to ruin our friendship, we should be lovers instead.
He’s not subtle. He tries his best not to be. The way he stares at her when she has her nose buried in her books speaks volumes: he hears whispers between the roses every so often of maids giggling and teasing him whenever they walk by, quiet because they don’t wish to offend their prince, but not quiet enough for him not to hear them anyways. And he supposes the most humorous part is that he doesn’t even mind. She’s captivated him. Even the gardens he’d spent his entire life catering every moment of his open schedule to seems to have fallen into the background of his mind. He never thought he’d find something, or rather someone, that could make him forget what flowers sound like when they sing.
He only hears her voice, now-a-days.
“Prince Edward?” She looks up from the open pages, her eyes wide with shock, because he knows she’d somehow only just now realized he’d been staring at her so intently. It’s a bit of a shame. She’d looked beautiful, so lost in her own head like that.
“Yes?” He plays oblivious, smile pulling at his lips as he offers not so much as a flinch at being caught in the act. He does feel a bit of embarrassment make its home in the pit of his stomach, but admiration far outweighs his pride. It’s not that he isn’t conscious of making a fool of himself, nor is he overflowing with unchecked confidence. Rather, the feeling of romance simply soothes him. She soothes him.
“Aren’t you going to read?” She tries to hide her embarrassment by smiling back at him, but he’s come to know her rather well. He can see the way her posture has tensed up and her fingers tighten their grips on the book. For his part, he’d forgotten he’d even been holding one and like clockwork, once she mentions it, he decides to close it and set his book aside. She starts and follows suit, quickly replacing her bookmark. He feels his chest swell when he notices it’s one of the bookmarks he’d left in the books he’d returned to her after borrowing from her. She keeps them.
“Sorry. I seem to have gotten distracted.” He doesn’t look away from her when he says it. If anything, his smile softens, and his expression becomes more knowing, but he doesn’t state the obvious. He sees her pale cheeks begin to darken in color and must bite his tongue to keep himself from calling her beautiful. “Are you enjoying your book?” He goes to great lengths to finally tear his attention away from her just long enough to pick up the long-neglected cup of rose tea by his side.
“What?” She blinks at him, owlishly, as if she’d forgotten she’d been reading at all. Then something seems to click, and she manages to look away from him, clearing her throat. “I mean, yes, greatly. It was nice of you to lend me one of your books.”
Edward chuckles as he sets his cup back down. “It’s only fair I offer you the same kindness you’ve shown me. Everything I’ve borrowed from you has been a lovely read.” His hands now free of burden, he reaches up to take his glasses off. He’d forgotten he’d even had them on, but now without them, he waits for his vision to readjust and notices her own hands now rest on the table, fingers picking at her white gloves absently.
The way she dresses when invited to the castle versus the way she dresses when he stumbles upon her out in public fascinates him. She makes herself up as if she were going to a casual ball any time she knows she’ll see him, but when he simply finds her, she’s always in simple skirts and blouses with her hair messily tied up in lazy buns. Put together versus free. He thinks both versions of her are beautiful, but he wishes she would be more at ease around him. She’s starting to be, he thinks. But it’s not enough.
Without much thought, he reaches out to take one of her hands. If she noticed he’d been staring again, he’s oblivious to it. At that moment, he simply feels the overwhelming desire to touch her and having her hand enveloped by his makes his heart swell. There are many who would say he’s always been a romantic and, thus, is easily swayed by the idea of romance, but that’s not the case. He squeezes her hand as if she were one of his delicate flowers and meets her shy gaze with the same calm smile as before. Romance is beautiful, but it’d never been his before. Not until he’d seen her that day in the rain. Plain, muddied dress, messy hair, broken umbrella and all.
“I’m happy you’re enjoying them…” When she finally responds, her voice is barely above a murmur. He can tell she’s flustered, but he doesn’t mind, and judging by the way she doesn’t pull her hand away from his after several seconds pass, he thinks she may not mind enough to put a stop to it, either.
He isn’t subtle, but neither is she. Despite what most people may think with the difference in their status, he’d more than comfortable admitting he’d been captured by the throngs of love at first sight. It’s why none of the whispers or teasing bother him. He’d know, before she’d even stepped foot into the ball. He’s not sure if that feeling is mutual, but he’s confident enough to believe that at the very least, it is now. He doubts her no more than he’d doubt himself.
“Hmm.” Edward squints his eyes in thought, then brushes his thumb over the back of her hand. “How would you like to explore the rest of the gardens? Far be it from me to keep a lovely flower from her peers…” He pushes himself to stand before she can answer, but doesn’t let go of her hand. Instead, he steps forward and waits patiently for her to follow. His smile wanes a bit. “Well, that’s an excuse. Maybe I just want to hear your voice.” Comfortable silence is far from undesirable, but if he has time to spend with her, he’d much rather hear her than just see her. It’s surprisingly selfish of him to admit.
“Prince Edward…” She stares at him and it’s only after he meets her gaze with a little bit of a pout that she finally backpedals. “Ed.” She corrects herself, even though it clearly flusters her further. She’s the only person he’s ever directly asked to call him by that name and it makes his stomach feel as if its fluttering. He truly is a lost cause, something only further accentuated by how almost physically weak he feels seeing her stand up and straighten out her dress with her one free hand. It falls just below her knees, and much to his embarrassment, he finds himself absently thinking he could probably spend a lifetime trying to count how many freckles she has on her body.
He clears his throat, turning away from her before his blush can be noticed.
“I don’t think I’ve shown you where we’ve planted our most recent roses… Modified roses, that is. When they bloom, they’ll be a beautiful shade of blue.” He starts walking with no need to pull her along: before he gets the chance, she’s stumbled up to his side and settled into the same pace, hand-in-hand. He doesn’t have to look at her this time to see her expression brighten. Blue is her favorite color. She’d told him that, during one of their first meetings when he’d simply wanted to get to know the basics about her: when that alone had been enough.
“I bet they’ll be beautiful! Everything in this garden is so pretty, I really can’t wait to see them when they’re fully grown…” She speaks without thinking, evident in the way she trails off at the end of her statement and bites down on her lip. “I mean, if you’ll allow me to…”
“Hmm…” He pauses their walk just long enough to raise his free hand up to grab her chin and gently force her to look his way. “If?” He bites back a laugh at her embarrassed expression. “Of course, you’ll see them. I asked after blue roses in part because of you, after all. I would not deprive the flower that served as my inspiration.”
She turns her head away from him, shifting her weight on her heels. He takes no offense to the gesture. He’s come to adore how bashful she is, even though she often hides her face from him when she gets that way. “Oh… You’re so sweet, Your Highness. Ed.” She sounds breathless learning just the context and that alone is worth every second it took to convince his gardeners of their newest venture.
She gestures she’s ready to move on and he heeds her request dutifully.
He drops his hand back to his side and resumes walking with her, oblivious to the glances of the passing staff in the garden as they hurry by them to tend to the multitude of roses. Some of them smile, whilst others remain neutral in respect to their prince: neither bother him. When his attention is on her, it’s on little else. Something the rest of the kingdom had realized too, at some point. He’d never truly abandon Charles, but he’d be lying if he said there wasn’t someone just as, if not even more, important to him than even the kingdom, itself. Yes, he’s indeed selfish. But even he must have his flaws and he considers himself fortunate that those around him must have accepted as much.
Walking together like this is a much slower trip than it normally would be. He stops every so often to point out some of his favorite flower breeds and sees her so moved by their beauty it almost makes him tear up as a result. To outsiders, they likely look bizarre, but the staff continues to leave them be, and neither of them notices anyways. The entirety of his life, he’s been surrounded by the beauty and sentimentality of flowers and she seems to latch onto his emotions with greater empathy than he’d ever yearned for. She doesn’t chide him on his fantastical metaphors, nor does she turn her nose up at him comparing her to every beautiful spectacle they pass in the gardens in the most lavish way possible: it’s something she’d come to expect from him and only him, and despite how odd the other princes had always touted him to be, she found him as endearing as he found her mystical.
By the time they reached the spot he’d set out to show her, the sun had gone a little further down in the sky from the fresh sunset they’d left it at, but neither paid any mind. The garden lights had preemptively come on to light their path in areas darker than others and the fountain they reached at the center of the archway they’d approached lit up the shaded areas fair enough.
The Levaincois gardens were no strangers to archways consumed by greenery and flowers: what made this one unique was the lack of those elements. He looked up at the white mesh of the structure that arched over the fountain area, not with impatience, but anticipation.
“One day, all of this will be covered in blue roses.” He lifts his hand as if to demonstrate, though there’s no need. She’s already looking around her in wonder, thoughts racing with images of what it could be like, how these gardens could be any more beautiful than they already were.
“It’s going to be amazing.” She states the obvious anyways, a smile tugging at her lips as she moves to step over to the fountain’s edge. He follows along, unwilling to give up her hand, regardless of how much time has passed. “Can I ask you something?”
Edward hums, surprised by the question, but intrigued. He looks away from the fountain and down at her by his side and, despite his usually calm demeanor, is surprised to see her already staring up at him. “Always.” His voice is quieter than he’d like for it to be, a product of his being flustered. She must notice, because her smile suddenly seems more tender to him.
“Is it brazen of me to consider the two of us friends, Your Highness?” The way she asks it makes it clear that even she knows it’s a ridiculous question on the surface. But there’s something beneath the inquiry that makes her say it anyways, and knowing that, his expression becomes quite serious. The two of them may have moments where one or both of them are in their own world, but neither of them are so oblivious they aren’t fully aware of what’s happening between them. She is a very shy woman, but she’s not daft. And he may be hard to read to the people around him, but not to her.
He seems to fall silent, lost in thought, for a moment longer before he turns to face her properly. She mirrors him, watching him expectantly. “Not, but…” He starts to speak, but trails off, glancing away from her eyes in favor of looking down at their hands. At some point, their fingers had become intertwined and he hadn’t even noticed.
That truly is the basis of their relationship, he supposes. He’d seen her in the rain that day and fallen in love with her without even noticing. She’d started lending him books and he’d started desperately hanging on to rushed excuses just to see her for a few minutes every other day without even noticing. Somewhere along the line, or maybe from the start, he thinks she’d started returning his advances without him even really stopping to notice before he’d accepted it.
He squeezes her hand in his once again and raises his free hand to her face. His fingers touch her cheek, running along her jawline until he can shift and push loose hair behind her ear. As he does so, he leans down and he feels her own free hand reach up to gently grip his arm. It’s not a gesture meant to stop him and so he doesn’t.
He places a kiss to her forehead, but rather than immediately pull back, he brushes his lips across her skin until he can place another underneath her eye, now closed. As he does so, he finds himself digging up that thought again: about how long it would take him to count every freckle on her skin. It doesn’t embarrass him this time. He places one more kiss dangerously close to the corner of her mouth, taking no mind to how hot her skin has gotten underneath his touch. He’s not surprised when he pulls away, just enough to rest his forehead against hers, and sees that she’s blushing again. The look in his eyes remains serious, but he can’t help but smile seeing her like that, so close to him.
It is not the first time he has made his intent blatantly obvious, though it’s certainly the most forward display he’s made physically. It will not be the last.
Her eyes open and she looks up at him, meeting his gaze even though she looks weak enough he’s afraid she may fall. With that in mind, he releases her hand from his and wraps his arm around her waist instead, his other remaining cupping her cheek. “We aren’t friends.” One could argue with the relationship he wanted with her, she could be considered his best friend: and that’s a logic he would agree with. But for this conversation, for now, he wouldn’t risk sending mixed messages. “You know what I’m saying, don’t you?”
She pulls her bottom lip between her teeth again as she nods and it takes every piece of self-control he possesses not to kiss her right then and there. He’d promised himself time and again that he would wait until the time was perfect for their first kiss: until they could scream their feelings to the rest of the world without any resistance. He would make this woman his princess, he would ask her for her hand in marriage, there was little room for doubt between them concerning that. It was a waiting game, a matter of time, but for once in his life, he feels impatient.
He wants to kiss her more than he’s ever wanted for anything in the entirety of his life. He wants to taste rose tea on her lips and finally hold her so close there’s nothing left for the two of them but to fall into each other. He wants every romantic, hopeless fantasy he’s ever had to become reality, but he must restrain himself.
“Ed…” He wonders if the regret shows on his face as he stares at her lips, because before he can pull himself out of his own frustrated thoughts, he feels her shifting in his grasp to push up on her toes, arms reaching to wrap around his back and pull him into a tight embrace.
He’s thankful she can’t see his face, wide-eyed and shocked, as he feels her fingers dig into his back as she grabs onto his shirt. For a split second, he thinks his eyes begin to tear up with the rush of emotions he feels in his chest. As soon as he regains himself, he returns her embrace, holding onto her so tightly he almost lifts her off the ground entirely. He buries his face into her neck, noting that she smells like roses and thinking that may be enough to hold him over for now.
He loves her. He’s loved her from the moment he set eyes on her and from every moment afterward. She was never just going to be his friend, not the way fate had brought the two of them together. There’s no doubt in his mind, as selfish as it is, he would do anything for her. He would abandon his title, his butler, his family, his kingdom. She deserved better than that and he would give it to her, he would make her his princess, but it doesn’t change the fact that he would still do it.
Those three words are on the tip of his tongue, but he bites down. She’ll taste them when he’s finally allowed to kiss her, and then she’ll hear them.
He thinks she knows what it is he wishes he could say in that moment, though, because she embraces him even more tightly and he believes he catches a muffled me too muttered against his shoulder.