like ships in the night (you keep passing me by)
To my beautiful (outside and in) @spartanguard. I hope you have a lovely birthday full of everything you deserve (which is a whole lot!). This fic is for you but it doesn’t really express how much I love and appreciate you!!!!!!
Princess Emma’s deerskin slippers made no sound as she walked the darkened street. Up on the hill over looking the port town the imposing and elegant walls of the castle glowed with the light of hundreds of fires and candles. She imagined she could hear the music and laughter of her farewell ball spilling out with the light even though it was impossible at this distance. From this distance the castle looked more like the model in her long abandoned nursery. For a moment she wished to be the young carefree Princess in that nursery and not a woman of twenty-four tasked with a delicate diplomatic mission.
She tore her eyes from the castle and settled them on the mostly empty streets trying to decide which direction would offer her the most distraction. After a few moments consideration she turned toward the harbor and the dockside taverns. She had escaped the castle to enjoy a night of anonymity and freedom before the months of scrutiny and obligation began and sailors seemed the least likely to recognize her. It had been years since she had snuck away from her duties and even longer since she had ventured to the port town instead of one of the closer castle villages.
Dressing up as a peasant had been the game of her youth. Escaping her bodyguards, getting drunk, kissing a village boy, winning a game of chance, and making friends had all felt so freeing and exciting; adventures that proved she was no longer a child. Those small adventures were eventually eclipsed by her diplomatic travels, actual dangers and other hard learned lessons. The palace became her refuge not a place to escape.
Except tonight in the press of people congratulating her and wishing her happiness and safety in her journey she had once again felt that suffocating trapped feeling. The need to escape was overwhelming. She had slipped from the ball room, through the kitchens and the secret service tunnel where miraculously one of her old peasant gowns had still waited.
She tugged at the gown now as she walked closer to the docks and the forest of masts in the harbor. It didn’t quite fit in the chest, her breasts spilling out a bit more than she was used to in her royal gowns, and the material was rougher than she remembered. She ran her hands down her skirt ensuring that the dagger was still discreetly hidden and pulled her long golden hair over her chest.
The streets near the dockside taverns were dotted with people. Drunken shouts and songs echoed along with moaning from various alleyways. It felt alive and raw in a way Emma had forgotten existed and she smiled; this was just what she needed.
The tight coil in her shoulders loosened as she pushed open the door of the “Royal Swan” Light, warmth, noise, and the smell of beer greeted her. She glanced over the room. There was not a uniform in sight and the men looked rough but not dangerous. There was a generous amount of women some serving drinks others glued to the sides of men. Emma wondered how many were there for a free drink and some fun and how many were working and if it really mattered either way.
The place felt just on the margin of safe and dangerous. She locked eyes with a brunette bar maid who gave her a nod and came her way after dropping off a tankard.
“You looking to work?”
Emma shook her head. “Just for a good time.” She was careful to elongate her vowels and disguise the precise diction that would immediately identify her as not belonging.
The woman gave her an assessing look and a short nod. “Well there are plenty men here willing to show you a good time.” A loud burst of laughter caused them both to turn toward the table in the back. Emma caught her breath.
A dark haired man dressed entirely in black leather sat sandwiched between two women. He laughed as two large men stood from their table throwing gold coins down.
“Thanks for playing mates,” he called as the women collected the coins from the table for him. His smile and swagger stirred something in Emma, the excitement of a challenge or maybe just raw physical attraction.
“What about him?” she asked.