Somewhere Else pt. 5 - The Theater
Summary: All of the what ifs of Drake & Riley meeting somewhere else, in any other way.]
Part 5 to Somewhere Else
“If we’d met somewhere else…anywhere else. At a club in New York or in an airport, or at a party…If you hadn’t been our waitress that night, and I hadn’t been sitting next to Liam…Do you think all of this…do you think it could’ve been different…between us?
Drake had been involved in many bad ideas.
There was the whole hiding-forever-in-the-palace-maze with Liam shebang. Then there was that plan to sail away on a boat and never come back, which had nearly ended with the prince dying on his watch. There were countless escapades with the Beaumont brothers and the prince, all of which he begrudgingly participated in and all of which resulted in nothing but trouble. And of course, he couldn’t forget the fact that the whole reason he came to New York in the first place was because of his own bad idea.
But out of all of that, this one was quite possibly his least favorite of all. And the most uncomfortable.
He knew he should have told Rylie to forget the whole Broadway thing. It was obviously a lot of trouble for her, and he still didn’t understand why she was willing to do this for him. But then she had slipped her small hand into his, led him towards the boutique across the way, and he’d forgotten what he’d wanted to say.
The moment they slipped through the doors, Drake was immediately swarmed with a sense of familiarity as he took in the store’s white and gold theme, crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and the fancy perfume that flooded his nose. It reminded him of the palace.
As Drake stood there, simultaneously hating how polished and glitzy everything looked and also feeling slightly homesick, Riley squeezed his hand and leaned up on her tiptoes to whisper in his ear. “Stay here and try not to break anything. I know someone who works here. I’m sure we can get a deal.”
Before he could protest and shamefully beg her not to leave him in this stuffy looking place, Rylie let go of his hand and walked over to speak to a woman who was busy folding clothes. Drake watched, hands in his pockets as he tried – and failed - to look casual, while Rylie and the employee exchanged a few words. The other woman nodded and disappeared into the backroom.
Smiling, Rylie turned to give him a thumbs up. He returned the gesture, a pained grin plastered on his face. After his initial surprise had worn off, Drake no longer felt homesick but rather out of place, which wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling that he missed back in Cordonia.
An excited squeal stole Rylie’s attention away and Drake looked up to see a tall woman in a black dress with platinum blonde hair that was pulled back into a tight pony tail excitedly fast walk towards Riley, high heels click-clacking across the glossy floor and her arms outstretched.
“Riley!” she exclaimed, enveloping the shorter girl in a hug. “It’s so good to see you! It’s been too long.”
“Yeah, well, when you work in high end places like this, I can’t blame you for not coming back to the bar,” Riley shrugged, pulling away. “You look happy here, though. Fashion. It’s your calling.”
“Oh, it’s wonderful, I love working here,” the blonde said, bouncing up and down on her toes. “But I definitely owe you one because if you hadn’t had my back when we were bussing tables together, I definitely would have lost that job and never would have been able to afford my rent anymore.”
“The tips were pretty great,” Riley chuckled.
“For you, they were. I hardly got anything. I was horrible, of course, but…” the woman shrugged, smiling. As she glanced around the room, her eyes landed on Drake, an eyebrow quirking up. “So, Ryles, who’s your friend over there?”
“Oh, right, I totally forgot to introduce you two!” Rylie looked over her shoulder and waved Drake over. When he came to stand by her, she placed her hand on his arm and gestured between them. “Drake, this is Maisie. Maisie this is Drake. He’s my uh…” she looked up at Drake questioningly and he pretended to be interested in a crystal vase on the table next to him. Rylie turned back to Maisie, brow furrowed. “…friend, I guess?”
Maisie nodded, looking slowly from Drake to Rylie as a small smile formed on her face. “Right…” she said, extending her hand to Drake. “Well, it’s nice to meet you Drake. Rylie and I go way back, like college years back. She and I used to work in the same diner. You have no idea how many times this girl saved my ass. I was the worst waitress ever.”
“Oh, you weren’t…” Riley trailed off, shaking her head with a laugh. “No. Yeah, I guess you were pretty bad.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Maisie rolled her eyes. “Rub it in. But hey, not that I’m not glad to see you, but is there anything I can do for you guys? Or did you just drop by to say hello?”
“Oh, right, right!” Riley said, snapping her fingers. “Well, there’s kind of something I was hoping you could help us with…”
Rylie’s hand slid from Drake’s arm and she gestured for Maisie to follow her a few feet away. Rylie spoke in hushed tones, eyes sparkling as her hands animatedly moved about. Drake couldn’t tell what she was saying, but her hands eventually ended up palm to palm, a pleading gesture.
Suddenly, Maisie’s eyes flicked to Drake and he quickly looked away to inspect the vase again. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see her turn back to Rylie, grinning and excitedly shaking her head.
“Thank you!” Rylie exclaimed, no longer keeping her voice down as she threw her arms around Maisie. “You’re really helping us out big time, I owe you one.”
Maisie shook her head. “It’s the least I could do after how much you’ve helped me. Now… what to do with this one?” As she spoke, she faced Drake, tapping her lip thoughtfully. She turned and plucked an expensive-looking shirt off the rack next to her.
Drake looked hesitantly at Rylie, who was grinning and giving him another thumbs up as if to say, Good luck! Have fun!
He was suddenly filled with dread. This did not fit his definition of fun.
“You do what you have to do with him,” Riley said, backing away as she pulled out her phone. “I have to make a few calls… You know, friends in high places, see if they can get us in. I’ll find something to wear when I’m done and then come find you, okay?”
Drake’s vocal cords were straining to shout, Nope! Not okay, I change my mind! Just get me out of this fancy place before I throw up.
“Mhm,” he grunted instead. “Wonderful.”
About twenty minutes later, Drake sat on a bench just outside the boutique. His legs – now clad in dark dress pants - were stretched out before him and crossed at the ankles as he grumbled and tugged at his tie to loosen it up.
“Stupid fancy clothes,” he muttered without much malice, smoothing out his new, white, button up shirt. A much as he hated the dress clothes – and he did, he wouldn’t even dress up for dances during the social season in Cordonia – he felt a little better about it all considering the circumstances. Leave it to Rylie to be the only one ever, besides maybe Savannah, to get him to dress up when he didn’t absolutely have to.
Drake let out a sigh as his eyes roamed around. He’d gotten a little more used to the zoo-like atmosphere of Times Square and it was even starting to grow a little on him. Everything about New York was.
Watching all of the people mill about and listening to the blend of different languages, Drake understood why Rylie loved it here so much. He hadn’t known her for long and he still didn’t know her that well, but she seemed to thrive here. So far, she’d handled everything with ease and she certainly had the connections to make things work. Drake had a feeling she’d fit in anywhere.
The thought of anywhere had Drake thinking about home. Rylie and home. When she’d found out where he was from, Rylie had been so fascinated by Cordonia. He’d been gruff about it first and pushed her away, but ever since he’d apologized and told her about his country, he couldn’t help but imagine her there. Rylie in Cordonia, without all of the harsh and colorful lights that made her look almost untouchable but also vibrant and alive. Whenever he thought of her in Cordonia, she was softer and smooth around the edges, just like she was when he told her about his life and when she held his hand.
Behind him, bells softly jingled and he heard a door open and close.
“There you are. Ready to go?”
Drake stood, turning to face Riley. “Yeah, let’s – “
He froze. Oh.
Rylie stood before him, dressed in a flowing white dress with a plunging neckline that could have been stolen straight from Marilyn Monroe’s closet and simple flats. Her hair, dry once again, had been left to casually fall over one shoulder in gentle, dark waves. Her lips were now colored in a bright red rather than their usual soft pink.
Suddenly, words didn’t seem like a thing Drake knew how to form anymore because now, Riley was standing in front of him and she was beautiful.
“Yes?” Riley said, raising an eyebrow. She gripped a small leather clutch tightly in both of her hands, her eyes steady on him.
“Cole, you, uh…” he scratched the back of his neck, forcing his lips to move. “You look…”
“Can’t even speak, can you? Is it really that bad?” Rylie teased, although a bashful smile was tugging at the corners of her lips.
“No!” Drake said quickly, shaking his head. “No, you look…You look beautiful, Rylie.”
Instantly, she felt her cheeks warm and her hands felt all tingly. For some reason she felt like grinning from ear to ear, but she managed to contain it. “Thank you, Drake. You look quite handsome yourself.”
He nodded and turned towards the theater, ready to walk because he didn’t trust himself to stand there any longer without making an idiot of himself. But before they started off, he felt her hand on the back of his shoulder and then her arm looped under his. He looked down at her, brows raised.
“We’ve got to look the part,” she told him.
“Right.” He nodded, swallowing thickly, and they continued on.
As they wove their way through crowds of people, Drake thought endlessly about her arm linked with his and her dress and her red lipstick.
He let his arm fall to the side, untangling with hers. But before she could move away or someone could squeeze between them, he took her hand.
He decided he quite liked the way they fit.
They didn’t enter through the front doors.
Instead, Rylie led him past the line of people waiting to get in and around to an unlabeled gray metal door on the side of the building. Drake quickly saw that no one else seemed to be around and he wondered vaguely what exactly Rylie’s plan was.
“VIP Entrance,” Rylie explained. “People who want to keep a low profile usually come through here and head up to the balconies.”
“And we’re supposed to just walk right in?”
“Of course not,” she rolled her eyes and gave the handle a twist to show him. “The door’s locked.”
“You got stuff to pick a lock in there or something, Cole?” he asked, nodding his head towards her leather clutch.
She smiled faintly. “I’ve got a little more class than that, Drake. Now, play along.”
With that, she unlaced their hands and looped her arm through his, straightening up and pushing her shoulders back, expression aloof.
Drake raised an eyebrow, taking her lead and straightening up as well, although he didn’t know what they were preparing for. “Wait, what are we – “
Before he could finish, Rylie rapped on the door furiously. She drummed her knuckles against the door insistently until it finally swung inwards, revealing a tall, broad-shouldered man whose frame filled the doorway. He wore a black button up and black dress pants, an earpiece dangling over the cuff of his ear. Security. A clipboard was in his hands and he looked down at Rylie coolly, mouth slowly opening to speak.
“Finally,” she huffed before he could speak, shaking her head and placing her other hand on Drake’s arm. “Do you know how long we’ve been waiting here?”
The security guard looked surprised and slightly confounded. “How long…? I only just heard – “
“We’ve been out here for nearly half an hour!” Rylie cried out, rubbing her forehead as if distressed. She stepped away from Drake and began to pace, her hands wringing her hair worriedly. “I was told we could come around back to avoid the crowd – I’m very claustrophobic - and our friends are already inside without us because traffic was such a nightmare so we didn’t have time to eat dinner beforehand and…”
Drake’s eyes flicked to the guard who looked just as confused as Drake felt, which he guessed meant whatever Rylie was trying to do, worked.
“…And on the way here,” she continued, winded, “there was this awful man who hassled us and I just wanted tonight to be special for our anniversary and so far it’s been nothing but a disaster – we haven’t even eaten all day and I…” Riley trailed off, out of breath and her eyes, unfocused. She shook her head and swayed slightly on her feet. “And I – I think I’m about to…”
Suddenly, Rylie’s eyes fluttered and she fell forward.
“Hey!” Drake cried out, lunging forward just in time to catch her before she hit the ground.
What kind of plan is this? Drake shouted in his head, which lead him to wonder if this really was still part of the plan. What if he hadn’t been ready to catch her?
Not sure what to do, Drake did his best to continue on although his concern was genuine as his eyes darted from Rylie’s unconscious face, serene and unaware, to the guard, who looked positively bewildered. “Don’t just stand there! Do something!”
Wordlessly, the man opened and closed his mouth before backing away to hold the door open for the two. Drake quickly scooped Rylie up and rushed through the door. He looked at the guard questioningly.
“Uh, go down that hall and to the left,” he said, using his hand to gesture down a hallway. “There’s a couch you can, uh… There’s a couch.”
“Thanks,” Drake muttered under his breath and took off down the hall. As he walked, he noticed how limp and unresponsive Rylie felt in his arms. She still had yet to show any signs that this was what she intended to happen and he was actually beginning to worry.
Eventually, Drake ended up in a well-furbished room that looked as if it had been taken straight out of a 1930’s Hollywood hotel. There was a crystal chandelier, much older and more elaborate than the one in the boutique, and cream colored wallpaper with golden designs covered the walls. He moved across the plush maroon carpet and gently set Rylie down on a velvet fainting couch, ignoring the surprised looks he got from the few people who milled about, chatting.
He knelt beside her, hand cupping her cheek. “Christ, Cole…”
Her lip quirked up and Rylie opened one eye slightly to look at him. “So it worked?”
“Did what – “Drake stopped midsentence, his mouth falling open as the realization dawned on him. “So that really was your plan? Riley, what the hell - ”
“Shh!” she said quickly, trying not to smile as she slowly sat up and placed her hand on her head. She looked disoriented and Drake shook his head, knowing now for sure that it was all for show. “What happened?”
Subtly, she gestured for him to lean in and her eyes signaled for him to stay in character.
“You… You fainted,” he said begrudgingly, sitting back on his heels as he shook his head slightly. He couldn’t believe he had actually begun to fall for it.
Rylie nodded slowly, her eyes travelling around the room. They flashed in recognition and she pushed herself up into a sitting position. Drake turned and backed away as a short, nicely dressed man hurried towards them. He had pale skin, dark hair that was styled back with gel, and blue eyes that flicked around as he knelt beside Rylie and handed her a glass of water.
“Fainting, huh?” the man whispered, smiling slightly as Rylie took the glass and drank. Watching them, Drake realized with a start that this guy was in on the plan too.
“Worked, didn’t it?” she said over the rim.
“Amazingly, yes,” he chuckled, reaching into his suit pocket and discreetly producing two ticket stubs. He slipped them into her hand. “Here, these are for you. The best I could do last minute.”
Rylie grinned, lowering the glass and handing it back to him before kissing his cheek. “I owe you one, Daniel.”
“Yeah, you do,” Daniel nodded, standing. He glanced around the room as if to make sure no one was watching. “Enjoy your show, Ryles.”
Rylie nodded and swung her legs off of the couch as Daniel walked away. She looked down at the tickets and smiled faintly.
“Another friend?” Drake sat next to her, his hands in his lap as he looked at her in wonder. What she just did… He couldn’t believe the stunt she just pulled – or the fact that it actually worked. She had guts and she was definitely daring. He couldn’t help but be impressed, yet again.
“Yeah,” Rylie nodded, eyes flitting up to meet his. “What’s that look for?”
Drake looked away quickly, and shook his head. “Nothing. I just… I can’t believe that actually worked. You actually had me going for a moment, there, Cole. I was worried it was all real.”
Rylie giggled. “It’s nice to know you care, Drake. But you have to admit, it was a brilliant plan.”
“Sure, sure it was,” Drake rolled his eyes and ran a hand though his hair before tugging at his tie. “Just… warn me next time you take a dive like that. I might not be able to catch you next time.”
She smirked, nudging his arm with her elbow. “Oh, Drake. You know I like to keep you on your toes.”
Drake clucked his tongue and shook his head. He let out a long sigh and glanced sideways at her. “What am I going to do with you, Cole?”
“Well,” Rylie stood, holding her hand out to him. “For starters, you can follow me to our seats and thank me by buying me a drink later? I think I deserve it, after all. Don’t you think?”
Drake scoffed, taking her hand and letting her lead the way. “Sure thing, Cole. I know I sure as hell could use one.”
The play was great, Drake was sure of it.
Sitting in the theater had dredged up some nostalgic feelings of home that were nice to entertain for a while, but he couldn’t pay attention for the life of him. Not with Rylie sitting next to him.
He couldn’t help but glance her way every so often. Even in the dim lighting, he thought Rylie looked incredible. Stunning, even. But as he watched her, he realized that his interest went beyond how nicely her hair fell, or the gentle slope of her nose, or even how red her lips were.
Forget what he’d thought earlier about Rylie not being particularly striking or comparable to the ladies of the court. He was wrong. He realized that as he found himself caught up in the way she tucked her hair behind her ear, how her lips mouthed the words to the songs, how her eyes sparkled during some of the more powerful acts.
That was beautiful.
“Didn’t anyone teach you that it’s rude to stare?” Rylie whispered out of the corner of her mouth without looking at him.
Her words reminded him of the first ones she’d ever spoken to him. He smiled slightly, not even bothered by the fact she’d caught him staring. “Didn’t anyone ever teach you?”
Her lips curved upwards. “I don’t think I’m the one staring.”
“Touché,” Drake said quietly. He looked at her thoughtfully for a few more seconds. He couldn’t believe that it was possible that they’d started their day together at odds, snapping at each other every chance they got. And even after they’d called a truce, they still argued and bickered over almost everything they’d disagreed on. She never let him get away with anything, yet she’d gotten him out here and showed him a good time even though that shouldn’t have been possible.
She was like a weak link in the defenses he’d set up around him, a chink in his armor, a storm that he never saw coming. She’d snuck up on him when he was least expecting it, made herself a place within those walls he’d built, and he didn’t know how to get her out.
But as far as weaknesses went, well… She wasn’t the worst.
Drake forced himself to look away, fixing his eyes on the performers on stage.
During the show’s intermission, the two found themselves in some corner in the back of the theater’s lobby, away from the main crowd of people who were swarming the concession stand and mingling with others.
“Are you enjoying the show?” Drake asked as they leaned against the wall.
“Definitely,” Riley nodded, looking up at him. “Are you?”
“Yeah.” He turned towards her, his shoulder pressing into the wall. “Thanks, Cole. For… all of this. I know I’m a pain in the ass half the time, but this… it means a lot to me. That someone would do as much as you have for me tonight.”
“So you don’t regret coming to New York, now?”
Drake let a few moments pass before responding. Sure, circumstances weren’t ideal and the whole thing was a giant mess. But considering everything, his trip could have gone much worse. He could think of very few things that would make it perfect. “No,” he shook his head. “It’s a mess. But it’s worth it.”
Rylie nodded as she looked down at her dress, fiddling with the hem of it. A comfortable silence lapsed between the both of them as they enjoyed the quiet they had found together amidst the crowd.
After a while, Rylie pushed off the wall and stood up straight, grabbing his hand to hold their arms out between them. She shifted her grip so their knuckles pressed into each other’s palms, thumbs resting on top. “Drake. Hey, Drake.”
“Cole,” he mimicked her, raising his voice a few octaves just to bug her. “Hey, Cole.”
“You’re so annoying, I swear,” Rylie rolled her eyes and tugged on his arm. “Thumb war. Come on, let’s go.”
“You want to have a thumb war?” Drake raised an eyebrow, pushing off against the wall.
“Yeah,” she shrugged, wagging her thumb from side to side. “Unless you’re scared I’m going to beat you.”
Drake scoffed. “Right. Believe what you want, Cole. Let’s go, I can take you any day.”
“Uh huh, less talk more do,” Rylie challenged with a grin. Never once did it occur to her how odd it might look to others that two, nicely dressed and grown adults were competitively having a thumb war in the corner of a theater lobby.
“You’re on, Cole.”
Without waiting, Riley started nudging his thumb with hers, trying to trap it down. They went on like this, laughing and yelping every now and then, not caring a single bit who was watching. After neither could get the best of the other, Rylie gave in to impatience and reached up with her other hand and pushed his thumb down to cover it with hers.
“I think I win,” Rylie chuckled as she took in his extremely offended expression.
“Like hell, you cheater,” Drake scowled, dropping her hand in mock disgust.
They bantered back and forth for a while, Drake bringing in morals and accusing her of breaking made-up Cordonian laws about cheating in thumb wrestling, Rylie giggling and telling him she didn’t care because this wasn’t Cordonia and there weren’t laws here in the United States against “using one’s resources” to win. He told her that was unfair, she laughed harder.
He liked it. He liked it when she laughed. They way her skin crinkled near the corner of her eyes and her cheeks became full to accommodate her large and uncontrollable smile. He liked her laugh lines and the way her nose scrunched up.
“Cole, you’re so…” he peered at her, wonder in his eyes. “What is it about you? You’re so frustrating, but…”
Rylie raised an eyebrow, her lip quirking up as if to egg him on. “But?”
Drake was silent for a few moments before he shook his head. “But… nothing. You’re just frustrating. That’s all.”
“No, I don’t think so, Drake. You were going to say something else.” Riley grinned, shoving his shoulder. Suddenly, her face lit up and her mouth dropped open. “Wait, were you going to compliment me?”
He scoffed. “Me, compliment you? Dream on, Cole. Not in a million years.”
“You’re a bad liar, you know that?” she smirked, folding her arms.
“Am not! And I’m not lying. You’ll never find a guy more truthful than myself.”
“Yeah, right,” Rylie rolled her eyes. “I’ll believe that when pigs fly. I think you, Drake,” she poked his chest, “were just about to say something nice to me.”
“I would never…” He tucked his chin into his neck indignantly as his hand covered hers on his chest.
“Oh, I think you would,” Rylie grinned, slowly drawing closer. “Admit it. I’m growing on you, Drake.”
As she leaned up on her tiptoes so that their faces were inches apart, she became hyper aware of the fact that her hand was flat against his chest and trapped beneath his own. Drake’s expression faltered as he felt her breath on his cheeks, she was that close. The air between them suddenly grew tense, like someone had sucked the air out of the room.
Without meaning to, Drake began to study her face up close. Every detail of her face was now bared to him and his eyes rushed to take it all in, commit it to memory. Her big brown eyes, the faint and few pigmented freckles that had formed from the sun, her gentle but prominent Cupid’s bow. Suddenly, he felt as if they were back in the fountain, drenched and bodies pressed closely together. Not even thinking, he reached up to tuck her hair behind her ear and left his hand on her cheek.
“Maybe so,” he murmured. The thought was laughable, that some stranger from America could possibly grow on him the way Riley did when no one else could even make a mark. But as he gazed at her now, he realized that there was nothing funny about this and the way he suddenly felt about her.
“Knew it,” Rylie breathed out, her face heating as she flourished under his gaze, those dark eyes locking her in place and stealing her breath away. Her other hand came up to press against his chest, feeling his warmth through the fabric of his shirt.
This was strange, so unbelievably strange. A begrudgingly formed friendship between two people from very different worlds so suddenly flipped as they stood, pressed together in the back of a theater lobby.
His eyes fell to her lips.
He wanted to kiss her.
God, he wanted to kiss her.
Her voice was low and gravelly when she spoke. “Drake…”
At the sound of her voice, he looked up again and met her eyes. Instantly, he was sobered, blinking to shake off the wild thoughts that had ran rampant in his mind. He couldn’t…
Drake stepped back, letting his hands fall to his side.
Kissing Rylie suddenly felt impossible, like a bridge he wasn’t meant to cross. No matter what he was feeling, it didn’t matter. While he might go as far as to call Rylie a friend, she was still the stranger he’d met earlier in the day and nothing could change that, not in the time they were allowed. She didn’t have a place in his world, and he didn’t have one in hers. He was only here until morning, and by tomorrow night, he’d be back in Cordonia while Rylie remained in New York. By morning, they’d say their goodbyes, head in separate ways, and life would go back to normal. Nothing could change that, so there was no use to getting attached now.
It was a bad idea from the start, he should have never let things get this far. He should have never let her in.
“We can’t,” he said softly, looking away so he didn’t have to see her expression. He didn’t have to see her face to know that she was just a disappointed as he was, but he knew that looking would only weaken his resolve.
Before Riley could question him further, the crowd around them started shifting and pushed back towards the doors that lead back to the show. Intermission was over.
“Looks like we better head back,” Drake said, tucking his hands into his pockets as he fell in step with everyone else.
Rylie looked after him, her fingertips absently touching the spot on her cheek where his hand had been seconds before.
What the hell was that?
Shaking her head, Rylie shoved those thoughts, those feelings, down and followed him.
(tagging @thedrakeside )
also pixelberry wtf was that last chapter I’m?? upset??edit: i just realized i switched the spelling of Riley to Rylie i’m so MAD