If Things Were Different - Drake x MC (A Royal Romance Fanfic)
[A little note: Me: reading the latest TRR chapter and thinking of all the glorious angst I could write because I love the two of them together. Me: finally giving into doing it before inspiration withers away].
Racing. Her heart has been racing inside her chest. Beating so loudly that she barely hears his hushed undertones. She thinks for a moment that her ears are playing tricks on her; a dirty illusion because of how much she wrestles with wanting more and the guilt that quickly follows. The guilt of having feelings for someone that cannot be hers, not under these circumstances. She opens her mouth to speak, but shuts it just as quickly by the sudden look of desperation in his eyes.
She’s seen that look before; many times on her own face. From moments where she drops her guard, long enough to give a similar glance in his direction. Moments where the guilt doesn’t feel as thick and she allows her selfish thoughts to think of more. More what ifs and could bes; indulgent fantasies until he notices her intense stare and she has to school her expression again. Until she has to slip her mask once more, for the rest of the world to see. A cool mask, she no longer thinks is hers to wear alone.
He wears one too. She understands it better, except he isn’t hiding behind his now. It is as if he has settled with unraveling right in front of her - unfolding the entanglement of emotions she knows him to bury under snarky wit. Wavering on the boarder of intolerance as it often does - it disappears, and the only shred that’s left behind is seized by vulnerability.
He steps closer and she can’t fathom a reason to step back, to look away, to tell him to leave. All the reasons why she should are in her head but she cannot say them out loud.
His eyes don’t waver from her face, unblinking they search her eyes. They are penetrating, seeking, looking for something - anything.
Her throat has gone dry and she’s suddenly very afraid. Can she admit it to herself? To him? Her own desire of wanting him to speak, overrides her better judgement. She’s scared of waiting anymore for the other shoe to drop. But she’s nearly terrified of wanting more. Her heart wants him to finish. Her mind implores to instruct him to go.
“..If you hadn’t been our waitress that night.” His gaze holds hers,“and I hadn’t been sitting next to Liam…” He trails off but doesn’t look away. He’s looking at her as if he wants her to stop him.
This is her chance. This is when she should say it. I can’t do this to Liam. I can’t do this to you. I can’t do this to me. I can’t do this to us. The words are in her head, screaming at her for release. But she doesn’t. Her eyes are glued to him, and his every move.
“Do you think all of this…” A ragged breath escapes his lips. His jaw sets like steel before he straightens his shoulders. “Do you think…it could’ve been different between us?” As soon as the words leaves his lips, he stiffens as if he’s waiting for her to react differently. As if he’s waiting for rejection.
Yes. Her heart wants to yell that simple word into existence and she bites her bottom lip in an attempt to stop herself from doing so. Saying it out loud is different from thinking it. Saying it makes it real.
But she wants it to be real. She wants it so desperately that she feels tears prickling at the side of her eyes.
Her mind indulges again in another fantasy, yet another pointless dream of what ifs. But she doesn’t want to block this one - the images burn so brightly, so vividly that she forsakes her sanity.
She pictures them meeting differently, without Liam - without this royal fairytale fantasy hanging in between them like an unspoken barrier. She’d still be in New York instead of Cordonia, bustling tables for any semblance of a good tip every night until she misses a ride home with her one of co-workers; and has to drag her tired feet across the street. She won’t even notice him at first. Not until she sees him standing under the same bus shelter. His hair is as long as it was right now; except it’s pulled back from his face and he’s wearing a thick jacket when he spots her too.
The weather would have turned bad by then, with the downpour of heavy rain stopping either of them from creating a wide berth of each other. She’d be shivering from the cold, and he’d say something irritably about women not bringing their jackets when he’d notice the lack of one on her. And she would snap back at him about chivalry being dead. His lips would curve into a smile then; not a full smile because those are rare but just a small twist. And it would be just enough to make her miffed, and ignoring all his efforts of taking his jacket would seem as the natural course of action. Until her teeth started to chatter. Until she’d have no choice but to begrudgingly accept. Then as the weather turned worse, they’d huddle against each other for warmth and start talking about the crappy weather. Maybe he’d even mention where he was staying and why he was in New York to begin with.
Her heart twists at the thought and she pictures them walking hand in hand walking across New York Times Square, enjoying their first Christmas together months later.
Yes. Things could have been very different.
He’s been staring at her this entire time, waiting for her to say something. When she opens her mouth again, finally words have come out. “It would’ve been different.” She says simply, lowering her gaze. “Sure you would’ve still been gruff and I would’ve have let you get away with anything…” A small smile stretches across her cheeks as she glances up at him again. “But all the rest? Yeah, it would’ve been different.”
She can’t help thinking about the other versions of her, of him - the ones that had the chance to meet under bus shelters and spent moments in bars sharing their favorite glasses of whiskey. Her heart aches for the versions of themselves she will never meet. “Maybe everything would’ve been different.”
“Riley…” He trails off and his voice has gone hoarse.
The distance between them gradually disappears until she feels his cool hand across her cheek. His eyes flicker and darken until they steal her breath away. Leaning her cheek towards his gentle caress, she closes her eyes for a moment to savor his touch. “Drake…” She mutters softly, stepping closer.
He freezes and suddenly his cool mask is back on. The moment between them has shattered. “Dammit.” He swears. “What am I even doing?”
She watches those dark eyes turn furious and reels away as if she’s been slapped.
He releases a tired breath and runs his hands through his tousled hair. “I need to go.” He mutters. “I should go.”
He’s going to leave. He’s going to pretend none of this ever happened. The thought terrifies her, and before she can stop herself; her hand reaches out pulling on his wrist until he goes completely still. With her heart hammering inside her chest, she presses her cool face against the slight dampness of his back. He feels like home.
He doesn’t move at first and they are both quietly still. Neither of them speak and Riley is only aware of the sounds of their uneven breathing. Minutes passes by, and neither one of them are willing to let go until finally Drake clears his throat. “Tinsley…you shouldn’t.” He inhales sharply. “You can’t.”
She wedges her eyes closed and doesn’t loosen her arms around him. She hates herself for being so weak, for wanting more. Isn’t he allowed to be her weakness too? “Don’t you get tired of being so careful all the time?” She whispers. She is, she’s so tired of fighting - tired of pretending she doesn’t want this. Whatever this is between them. The pull and push connection she’s never felt with anyone else.
“Constantly.” He mumbles back, before twisting until she’s finally facing him again.
The cool mask dissolves into an uncertain smile, and she’s struck by how differently he’s looking at her. She’s so used to seeing him smirk that the sudden softness in his express has taken her off guard. He’s looking at her as if she’s special, as if he wants her - no needed her.
Her throat has gone dry again and she can’t tear her eyes away.
His eyes dips to her lips and suddenly she’s forgotten how to swallow. “I’m so damn tired of it.”
She feels his fingers softly brush by her ear before travelling along the soft folds of her hair, untangling it’s wavy ends and arching her chin forward. Her eyes grow wide but she makes no move to stop him, when he finally closes the remaining distance between them.
His breath is hot against her lips. Her heart surges and her hands have gone slack beside her. They feel heavy, and her chest feels as if it’s about to burst. When she opens her lips slightly to meet his - she is suddenly met with cool air when he lurches away.
For a moment all she can do is blink. She blinks a few times, until rationale has begun creeping back in. Standing very still, she watches the man in front of her let out a frustrated cry before stepping away completely.
She steps back too, and when she stares up at him again, he’s a safe distance away. Her heart sinks with disappointment.
“I’ve,” His eyes glance up at her again. “I’ve got to get out of here.” He steps towards her but frowns just as quickly once he realizes his mistake. “Now.”
“Before I do something we might both regret.” His face curves into a bitter smile that doesn’t reach his eyes.
She doesn’t trust herself to speak, simply nods as he wanders to the door. He pauses to look back at her and she sees everything she’s ever wanted laid out in front of her.
A man that doesn’t expect more than what she’s able to give. A man that could love her a thousand different ways, over a thousand different lifetimes. But she tells herself she can no longer indulge fantasies, in different versions of their lives that has never existed. She cannot afford to expect a different ending to their probably tragic story.