Isabella went into work the next morning on a new high and it seemed all the maids noticed. It was a school day so she wasn't there long before she left - she wanted to tell Alec the news but a part of her was scared how he would react. He found her as soon as she return after school, wrapping an arm around her waist as she passed the parlour and pulled her in, shutting the door sharply behind her.
He didn't say anything, just stared at her until her wide smile faded slowly.
'Alec?' she asked, suddenly nervous - he had been so sure that her father had killed his cousin, though they only talked about it twice, would he still believe that or would he comply to the new evidence? Would he be angry because he thought Carlisle was getting away with murder if he didn't covert to the latter?
'Sorry,' he shook his head as though to knock some thoughts out of it. 'I just don't think I've ever seen you smile like that.'
Isabella blushed badly, averting her gaze from his and causing him to chuck. He placed a kiss on her lips, 'well, I suppose your have a right to be happy.'
She bit her lip gently, looking up at him though her head was still pointed at the floor when she had moved it to at his words.
'And what do you think about it?' this had always been a source of tension for the two of them: there was a reason they had only spoke about it twice.
'My father doesn't believe it,' was what Alec said and Isabella frowned.
'That's not what I asked,' she whispered, rising her head slightly as her breathing slowed and his gaze went anywhere but her face.
'I don't know what to believe.'
'Believe me,' she said desperately, grasping onto his collar and pulling herself closer. 'Believe that I know my father, believe the evidence that now longer points to him, believe that Charlie is loyal enough to your father and the kingdom to corrupt evidence, believe what I know to be true. Have some faith. You believed the evidence before, when it was pointing at my father, but …' - a horrible thought occurred to - 'now that it's pointing away from his you can't. I don't understand. Do you want my father in prison?'
'No!' he almost yelled, moving his hands to her waist and pulling her evermore closer to him. 'Of course not, why would I want that?'
'I don't know,' she sighed, 'but that's kind of how it looks.'
'Well, what things look like aren't always the truth,' he replied, his tone harder and she stared up at him, wondering if she would ever be able to keep up with his mood changes. 'How's your brother?'
He was blatantly changing the subject but Isabella knew better than to try and change it back - she didn't want to get in a fight with him; they were more likely to get caught that way.
'Do you really want to know?' she asked suspiciously and his eyes flashed with hurt.
'Yes,' he answer simply, pulling her over to the piano bench and down onto it.
'He's a mess,' she answered honestly, turning from him so she could rest her head on his shoulder, one of his arms had stayed around her waist as they moved and now squeezed her gently. 'His girlfriend - Mary-Alice Brandon, have you heard of her? -'
'Cancer victim?' Alec asked in clarification and Isabella wondered if that was all Mary-Alice was known for.
'Yes,' she answered before continuing on with what she was saying, explaining to him what had her brother in distress, 'well, her step-mother refuses to pay for the treatment to make her better even though she has more than enough money and we're trying to help but we can't afford it and she's worse and worse. Jazz, can't take it anymore. If something isn't done soon, I'm sure he's going to lose it.'
Alec looked down at her for a while, she would feel his gaze on her head but when he didn't speak, she tapped gently on the piano, making a little tune while she waited for him to organise his thoughts.
'Can I help at all?' her fingers slipped on the keys in surprise and she turned to look at him: his face was genuine, his enchanting eyes shining with concern.
'What could you do?' Isabella asked, brushing it off - she couldn't ask him to do anything, she could hardly even believe he offered but he was probably just being polite.
'Honestly,' he muttered, 'if I could, Isabella, I'd pay for the treatment myself -'
'Why?' Isabella cut him off in surprise. 'Why would you do that?'
'Because jerk you may still think I am -'
'I don't think you're a jerk!' she interrupted him again but he paid her no heed.
'- but what her step-mother's doing is wrong. I would but I can't. My father would never allow it … I could order her step-mother to pay it, that might work, I could try and talk the doctors into giving it to her for free, I could beg my father but that's really a last resort, I could -'
Isabella stared at him as he spoke, not believing a word she was hearing… maybe she did still expect the worst from him, expecting him to turn back into that arrogant prince she first met. She felt a smile slip onto her face as he listed of things he would do when suddenly a though hit her: she loved this boy. With that thought leading her, she leant forward very slightly and closed the gap between their lips, effectively shutting him up. She broke it quickly.
'What was that for?' Alec questioned, smiling down at her and brushing a blond strand away from her face.
'I love you,' she admitted to him breathlessly and he stared at her, her heart clenched as she waited for him to reply.
'I …' he seemed to struggle with the words, 'I love you too.'
He leant forward to kiss her but she stopped him, feeling bad if she didn't tell him her other bit of information.
'Wait,' she whispered and he obeyed hovering inches for her lips, his forehead against hers and she gripped his open jacket to make sure he didn't move. 'There's something else. When my father is released, which Charlie tells me he will be soon, I'm leaving this job.' (Alec froze in front of her, pulling back ever so slightly.) 'I took it because we needed money to keep us going while he was gone but now he's back we won't need it and I have exams coming up that I need to study for that I won't get to do if I keep this job. Please understand.'
'What's to understand?' Alec said hoarsely, 'but you do realise, of course, that the moment you leave the palace for good this, us, ends. There's no way we could keep it up.'
Isabella felt tears well in her eyes, 'it was always going to end, Alec, we both knew that.'
'Because I have to marry a bloody princess,' he scowled.
'Language,' Isabella muttered and his lips quirked slightly. 'We always knew this would end.'
She repeated it to remind him.
'What if I don't want a princess,' Alec practically growled, taking her face in his hands. 'What if I want you?'
Isabella squeezed her eyes shut causing a few tears to fall and she licked her lips gently as they had become dry. She shook her head, trying to speak but finding she couldn't. She swallowed.
'Too bad,' she whispered, twisting her face out of his hands and looking down at the keys in front of her, seeing her tears drip onto it.
He wanted her, her over a princess, and they couldn't have it. It wasn't fair, it wasn't right, but it was the way life worked - Isabella knew far better than Alec that life wasn't fair, it never was. It didn't matter who you were, what status your family help, how good a person you were, life wasn't fair to anybody, at least not all the time, and this was their Life's not fair moment. The one Isabella was sure would haunt her and break her more than her family's poverty did, more than Mary- Alice's illness did, more than Rosalie's attack because this was about the boy she loved and somehow he had already risen above her family.