“Are you sure you got everything?”
“Yes, Dad.” Stiles exhales deeply. “Come on, it’s only for a few weeks.”
“A month, Stiles. A whole month.”
Stiles grins and shrugs. “Still. A few weeks.”
His dad ignores him. “You have your pillow, right?”
“Yes,” Stiles snorts, amused. “Lydia has it so I can give a proper hug to my pops.”
They stare at each other as the airport crowd disperses around them. Stiles can’t stop smiling at how worried his dad looks. It’s the first time he’s traveling overseas.
“Come here,” his dad huffs as he pulls Stiles into a tight hug. “You call me if anything happens, okay?”
“And call me when you land.”
Stiles laughs. “You’ll be sleeping, Dad.”
“I don’t care. I want to know you landed safely.”
“I’ll text you when we land in London and call you when we finally get to Rome. I promise.”
“I’m gonna miss you, kiddo.”
They’re still hugging when the last call for Stiles’ flight is announced through the speakers.
“Dad, I really have to go now.”
His dad nods as they break apart. “Don’t get into trouble,” his father orders.
“Dad,” Stiles groans. “I’m twenty-two years old. I’ve been living on my own for the past four years. I can take care of myself.”
“You still get into trouble. A lot of trouble.” His dad gives him a look. “Just make sure you’re always with Scott.”
“Hey!” Stiles exclaims, affronted.
“Come on, get on that plane.” He practically shoves Stiles’ bag at him.
“Why do you always trust Scott more than me?”
“Do you want to miss that plane?”
“Shit,” Stiles curses when he looks at the clock again.
“Have a nice trip, son.” His dad gives him a short fond smile before giving him another quick hug.
“We will,” Stiles says, voice dripping with excitement as he backs away.
“Don’t forget to call!” his dad yells when Stiles is only a few feet away from him.
Stiles’ cheeks hurt from smiling as he runs towards the gate, his friends already waiting for him there. They have been planning this trip for months and the day is finally here.
“Stiles!” Scott shouts as he sees him.
Stiles groans as he shifts impatiently on his seat, “How much time?”
“Three hours,” Lydia announces from where she’s seated next to him.
“Seriously?!” Stiles gapes at her. “I can’t stay here for twenty minutes more, let alone three hours!”
Lydia drops her book. “Stiles, you haven’t been quiet since we left.”
“It’s not like any of us expected him to be still for ten hours straight.” Scott says and Stiles turns around on to see him grinning.
“And we still have to catch another flight,” Kira reminds them.
Stiles throws his head back. “I’m going to die.”
“Do you want me to knock you out?” Jackson offers.
“That’s not a bad idea,” Scott muses.
“What?! You would allow him to hit me?”
“No! I meant it wouldn’t be bad for you to sleep. We all did.”
Stiles shakes his head. “I can’t. I’m too hyped up to sleep.”
“I’m going to knock him out,” Jackson warns.
“Just watch another movie and you’ll be fine,” Danny says from the seat in front of Stiles.
“I’ve watched all of the good movies already!” Stiles peaks from his seat to look at Danny and Jackson’s screens. “What are you two watching?”
“Princess Diaries,” Danny replies. Jackson groans next to him at the same time that Stiles bursts out laughing; the lady next to their seats eyes him with irritation.
Stiles tries to stop laughing, tears threatening to fall down his face. “Why would you watch that?”
“I like that movie,” Kira says from the back.
Scott pokes Stiles’ head. “Maybe Jackson is hoping to be a Prince too.”
If possible, Stiles laughs even more at that. Next to him, Lydia makes an exasperated sound. “Stiles.” Uh oh. He knows that tone. “If you don’t stay still until this airplane lands, I’ll switch places with Jackson.”
Jackson promptly turns to look at her. “Why are you punishing me?!”
“You wouldn’t,” Stiles says at the same time, horrified.
Stiles swallows hard and sinks into his seat. He takes his headphones out and starts picking another movie. Behind him, he can hear Scott and Kira giggling. Traitors. Stiles thinks about turning around and saying something, but one glance back at Lydia changes his mind.
They land in London at 7 A.M. and Stiles is so sleepy that he can barely walk through the airport. Lydia looks like she’s waiting for him to mutter the word “ sleep ” just to be able to murder him. She must have it all planned by now.
Their next flight is in two hours so they have time to properly stretch their legs out, and leave messages at home. It’s the first thing Stiles does once he’s able to connect to a local carrier.
07:37 AM Stiles: Landed in London. All good. I think Lydia might kill me before I get back.
And then because he doesn’t know if his father will believe him, he sends another one.
07:38 AM Stiles: I’m joking. Scott’s got my back. I think.
The flight to Rome is mostly quiet. Mostly . Stiles and Jackson are forced by Lydia to sit together after Stiles is spotted yawning five times in a row.
“Why do I have to be punished?” Jackson whines.
“If we crash and Jackson steals my life jacket, I’m holding you responsible!”
“I don’t mind sitting with Jackson, and Kira can sit next to Stiles.”
“The window seat is mine, asshole.”
“Stilinski, stop fidgeting! I’m kicking you out of this plane.”
Everything abruptly stops once Lydia threatens to have Jackson sent to stay in Stiles and Scott’s room. They both remain so still that not even the adrenaline of almost arriving to Rome is enough to keep Stiles awake. He sleeps during the rest of the flight and throws a fit when none of his friends wake him up for breakfast.
“Ciao, potresti aiutarci a trovare questo hotel?” Stiles frowns as he reads from the dictionary his dad got him.
The brunette girl turns around and whoa — she’s gorgeous . She smiles shyly as she sees Stiles and Scott, gaze dropping to the paper Scott is holding.
“Actually, that’s the same Hotel I’m heading to.”
Scott gapes at her. “You speak English!”
“Thank god!” Stiles sighs in relief. “If we have to depend on Lydia to speak for us, we’ll be spending the entirety of our vacations going to random Italian runway shows.”
Danny snorts. “You’re lucky she’s not here to hear that.”
Scott ignores them. “Do you think you could help us?”
“There’s a bus stop over there,” the girl points to the exit further on the right. “We need to get the bus 102 and after that, it’s a five minute walk.”
“Walk?” Stiles groans. “I can’t walk. No walking.”
“We could share a cab?” Kira suggests.
“That’s perfect! You could tag along with us— I mean,” Scott falters a bit, “If you want to, of course.”
The girl’s smile widens. “I don’t mind.”
Stiles has to take over the situation or when Lydia comes back with Jackson, they will still be clueless about where to go. “Great! That’s settled then.”
“What’s settled?” Lydia asks from behind, giving Stiles a minor heart attack.
“We were trying to figure out how to get to the hotel and—” Scott pauses. “I’m sorry, we didn’t ask your name.”
“Allison,” the brunette replies.
“I’m Scott and these are my friends: Stiles, Kira, Danny, Lydia, and Jackson.”
On the ride to the hotel, they learn that Allison is actually American, but she’s been living in France for the last five years. She’s travelling alone, which Stiles can’t help but notice pleases his best friend. But the person who immediately clicks with her is Lydia. By the time they’re checking in, Lydia has already invited Allison to have lunch with them.
“Wait, if you’ve been here five times already, why not visit other places?” Stiles asks.
Allison shrugs. “I was still just a teenager and too dependent on my parents. My aunt was going to marry an Italian and live here. It was supposed to be a big thing and it lasted for quite some time... But it was called off in the end.”
“I’m sorry. That was probably hard on your family,” Scott says with his puppy eyes.
“I guess. I don’t remember much,” she adds. “I was young, but I always loved to come here. I want to revisit a lot of places.”
“You could be our guide,” Lydia proposes. “Kira and I could use another girl in the group to balance things out.”
“It’s not like we aren’t already satisfying all your wishes,” Jackson mutters.
Lydia kicks him under the table, but doesn’t drop her smile. It’s mildly terrifying.
“You don’t have to!” Scott hurries to say. “If you want to be alone—”
“I think it could be fun,” Allison cuts in. “I don’t mind the company.” And the way she and Scott smile at each other is a lot more predictable than any modern version of a Romeo and Juliet story.
Stiles grabs another slice of pizza as the group starts planning their first stops.
Allison points out more places they absolutely cannot miss and that’s how they end up changing part of their plans to visit a city called Betonia. Apparently there’s a wedding coming up, but not just any wedding, a royal wedding. Stiles didn’t even know Italy had a royal family, to Lydia’s indignance. Kira and Jackson knew, but that’s because they read Lydia’s magazine.
“Here.” Lydia drops the magazine on the table and reads:
“Principessa Laura Hale attends her last official party before her marriage to Conte Jordan Parrish. Present at the party were most of her family and royals of the neighbouring countries. As always, the lively Principessa made sure to chat with most of the attendees, while wearing a simple, yet gorgeous new dress by the Finnish brand, Ril’s.”
“She’s beautiful,” Kira says, and they all agree.
“When is the wedding?” Danny asks.
“Two weeks after we leave,” Lydia replies.
Scott turns to Allison. “When do you have to leave?”
“Actually,” she bites her lip nervously, “my last stop is Betonia. I’ll be staying there for a while, catching up with friends.”
Stiles notices her discomfort, but doesn’t comment on it.
“We could make it our last stop then. If everyone agrees,” Scott suggests.
“If we move from here to Betonia,” Lydia starts, “we could rent a car and visit the places around it. It’s a center point to most of our stops.”
“I guess that explains why the royal family lives there. We could save a lot of money in transportation and hotels,” Danny adds.
It’s an unanimous decision that also leaves them all feeling even more excited for what is about to come.
After lunch, Allison shows them how fit she is as a guide.
They manage to see and visit more places than they had planned, all thanks to her. Their first day starts off with a bike tour through Ancient Rome where they are able to discover some of Rome’s secret passages, and visit the Vatican Museum in the afternoon. The next day is reserved for Pompeii and, apart from Allison, who had been there already, they are all fascinated by the fearsomeness of Mount Vesuvius.
Every night Stiles has to transfer his photos to his laptop, making sure to email some of them to his father and keep him updated on their visits. And if it wasn’t for Allison, they would have ended up eating pizza every night.
The week flies by and soon enough, they’re getting ready to say goodbye to Rome and catch a train to Betonia.
“I can’t believe we arrived only a week ago,” Stiles says as they watch Rome disappear through the window.
“Soon enough it will be over,” Scott mutters.
Stiles turns around to look at him, “We still have three weeks ahead of us, why are you so gloomy?”
Scott sighs and doesn’t avert his eyes from the window. “I wish we had more time. That’s all.”
Ah. Stiles looks at Allison sitting a few seats ahead of them with Lydia and Kira. “Come on, buddy. Don’t be such a downer. Enjoy the time we all have together and figure out the rest later.”
Scott glances back at him. “There’s nothing to figure out.”
“You think I should go for it?”
“Scotty, it’s summer and we’re far away from home! Let things happen and don’t worry too much about it.” Stiles winks at his best friend.
It’s almost night when they arrive in Betonia. The station is filled with little touristy stores selling merchandise for the big royal wedding. When their cab drives by the Palace on the way to their hostel, all the lights turn on like pure magic. Two guards are standing on either side of huge, green gates that are covered with foliage, through which they catch a glimpse of a beautiful, illuminated fountain, much like the one they saw a few minutes ago while they were getting into the cab.
“It’s huge!” Scott exclaims.
“Do you think we could visit the Palace while we’re here?” Lydia asks.
Allison is checking something on her cellphone. “I doubt it. With the wedding and all.”
Kira hums, “They must be really busy. Can you imagine what a royal wedding must be like?”
“It’s just like any other wedding,” Jackson says.
“Well, this wedding is going to take two hours and then the royal family will drive through the city in a carriage with the newly married couple right behind them,” Danny says as he reads a small flyer he’d grabbed at the station.
Stiles leans over him to read more. “Wow, two hours?”
“And that’s just the ceremony at the wedding. There’s also a royal parade scheduled for the day we leave the city.”
“They would have to pay me to marry a royal if I had to spend two hours inside a church with thousands of people staring at me,” Stiles says.
Jackson laughs out loud. “You won’t have to worry about that.”
Stiles pouts. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Any luck with the van?” Scott asks Allison, who’s still checking her phone, ignoring his squabbling friends.
“We might have to get two cars,” she replies. “I couldn’t find any available vans for the next three weeks.”
The cab driver takes that chance to butt in. “I can renti you the jeep di mio figlio— mio son. He is not qui per— the il prossimo mese,” he says in very poorly spoken English.
“Really?” Allison leans forward to talk to him. “How much would the three full weeks cost us?”
The car issue is not entirely solved, but once they arrive at the hostel, Allison exchanges numbers with the cab driver and promises to let him know their decision the next day.
With Allison on board, their sleeping arrangements also change. Kira and Allison stay together, Lydia and Jackson keep sharing a room, and Danny is now sharing a room with Stiles and Scott. They finish the snacks they had bought for the train trip and head to each of their rooms.
Stiles picks the bed by the window, the one giving him a perfect view of the Royal Palace, illuminated in the distance. He’s not fascinated by it, far from it, but he has to admit there’s some beauty in it.