Characters belong to Pixelberry.
Summary: A group of friends embark on their final year at Vancross Institute with the hopes of making it their best year yet. When a new face with a complicated family plagued by secrets and rumors arrives on campus, new friendships are formed, a new relationship blossoms, and threatening challenges arise.
A/N: Multiple crossover series. There will be sprinkles of canon throughout this story, but for the most part, it’s pretty much out the window. Thank you to @burnsoslow for prereading. Please excuse any errors.
Warnings: This series will contain nsfw material, language, alcohol and drug use, and is not suitable for minors. If you read, you acknowledge you are 18+
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The limousine rolled to a stop outside of the cast-iron gates of the private quadrangle; inside the vehicle, he heaved a sigh at the sight of the waiting paparazzi outside his window as he watched staff come to retrieve his belongings. His guard opened the door and slipped out first, and once the press had been ushered back a respectable and safe -- more for their sake -- distance away, he slid out, stepping onto the sidewalk.
The reporters shouted his name and snapped his photo; instead of a wave, he flipped them off before disappearing behind the gates. As he walked towards his building, he smiled and waved at others who called out his name in greeting while he simultaneously looked for familiar faces in the crowd of newbies gathered on his stomping grounds.
“Didn’t think they’d let you back after that scuffle with the pap!” one voice called out through a laugh.
“They can’t get rid of me that easily,” he replied through a chuckle before reaching the door of his building.
Heading inside behind his guard, they stepped into the elevator, taking it to the top floor. When the doors slid open, they stepped into the hallway, bearing right towards his domain.
Blaine Hayes pushed open the door to the familiar on-campus suite; he grinned as he took in a deep breath. Oddly enough, the First Son of Ardona was glad to be back at school and away from the pressuring eyes of his parents. Sure, he still had to try to keep his family’s reputation somewhat intact while he was away from home, but at Vancross Institute, he felt he could be more himself than anywhere else without his parents constantly watching his every move and breathing down his neck.
It helped that he was surrounded by friends who understood. They all dealt with similar pressures.
Blaine glanced around the sizable furnished room; it was the same one he and his suitemate, who had yet to arrive, had shared since their first year at Vancross. The entirety of the space was decorated in crisp dark colors. The common area was open concept with the kitchen, dining area, and living room all flowing into one another. Blaine’s room sat on one side and his suitemates across the suite on the other.
Over the last three years at school, their suite was known as the place to be, the one everyone came to for get-togethers and hangouts. Vancross had state of the art dorms for all of their students, but thanks to his suitemate’s family and the ridiculously generous donations they had made to the institute over the years on top of their tight-knit relationships with members of the board, they were able to secure the best they had to offer. Blaine was just the lucky bastard that got chosen at random to enjoy the amenities along with him.
Blaine had always been known to be a bit of a troublemaker; he moved to the beat of his own drum, and if you asked him, it was just one of his many charms. His suitemate had started the complete opposite, but Blaine may have had a hand in corrupting his roomie that first year. No, he didn’t like the term “corrupt.” What he did was open his eyes to the world outside of parental and public expectations; he showed him how to let loose and have a little fun.
The two had been best friends ever since.
Blaine walked to his room and grabbed a box that sat with a couple of suitcases on his bed. It rattled musically as he carried it out to the living area to an empty bookshelf nestled into a nook in the wall. Once he had it open, he began placing the bottles from inside on the shelf. “Shouldn’t you be setting up your room?”
“Priorities, Jacob,” Blaine quipped with a roll of his eyes as his guard shook his head. “I’m setting up the bar first.” As he placed the first couple of bottles, he glanced over his shoulder. “Ya know, it’s my last year here, so I’m gonna need you to lay off a little. You think you can do that for me?” Jacob stared blankly at his charge, not answering, but there was a hint of a smile that Blaine noticed. “Attaboy, Jakey,” he grinned. After emptying the box, he tossed it near the door; the vacant spots on the makeshift bar would be filled once his suitemate arrived with the rest of the goods. “Now I’ll go set up my room,” he smirked as he ambled his way to his door.
After putting his clothes and the books for all of his classes away, Blaine spread a new black comforter across his bed before tossing the cased pillows near the headboard. As he slid his now empty suitcases into his closet, he heard the door to the suite open, and he slightly cocked his head to the side. “Honey! I’m home!” a melodramatic voice rang out.
Shaking his head with a laugh, Blaine turned and headed towards the door. “You’re a fucking idiot,” he chuckled as he walked into the common area to greet his suitemate.
“It’s good to see you too,” he grinned. Blaine shook the hand of Liam Rys before going through their usual fist bump routine. They both turned towards the door as staff entered with Liam’s bags, looking at him expectantly. “That room there,” Liam pointed to his door. “Thank you. Oh, but I’ll take that,” he smiled, grabbing a box from one of their hands while avoiding eye contact with his guard lingering in the hallway before heading towards the makeshift bar.
“Did you bring the apple brandy?” Blaine asked.
“Did I bring the apple brandy,” Liam mocked. “Of course I did. And I got a couple of bottles of Lythikos gin when I was visiting Olivia,” he smirked.
“Nice,” Blaine laughed. “Does she know?”
“Obviously,” Liam scoffed as he placed the bottles on the shelf. “I don’t have a death wish.” Once he finished placing the bottles, Blaine followed him towards his room as he began to unpack. “So, how was your summer?” Liam asked.
“Eh,” Blaine shrugged. “The usual gripping family squabbles. My mom was so pissed at me for punching out that reporter before summer break,” he snorted.
Liam chuckled. “Well, he did deserve it.”
“I told her I was defending my lady’s honor, and she should be proud of raising such a chivalrous son,” Blaine smirked as Liam laughed. “How was your summer?”
“A little hectic with everything going on because of the abdication, but I can’t complain,” Liam replied.
Liam’s brother had made an impromptu trip to see him towards the end of the previous school year. At the time, Blaine wasn’t sure what the out-of-the-blue visit was about, nor would Liam talk about it, saying he couldn’t at the time. But a few days after Leo left, news broke that he had abdicated the throne, catapulting Liam from spare to heir and turning him into even more of a media spectacle. Press remained stationed outside of the gates of Vancross for the remainder of their last semester in hopes of catching just a glimpse of and statement from the new Crowned Prince of Cordonia.
Liam finally broke his silence once he could, telling Blaine about how Leo’s visit was to tell him what he was planning on doing, wanting to talk to him first, so he wasn’t blindsided. Leo planned to remain in Cordonia and take on some light royal duties, but he wanted more freedom than being King could allow him, and quite frankly, he didn’t want that type of responsibility. He told Liam he was better suited for the role; Liam wasn’t sure he believed that.
After overcoming the initial shock, Liam took the news with surprising stride. It was something he had been prepared for his whole life. And it wasn’t as though he was going to be taking the throne anytime soon, so for the time being, all he had was a new title and extra eyes on him because of it. He was assured that nothing would change for him as of now and that he could enjoy his time away at Vancross as he had done all the previous years before.
“As for the rest of the summer outside of balls and events … not much. Hung out mostly,” Liam shrugged.
“Any other … updates?” Blaine asked tentatively.
Liam knew what he was referring to. The breakup. “No. We talked almost every day for the first few weeks of summer break, then after that, it just … stopped.”
“Well, you were busy. I’m sure she was busy. Maybe once you see each other …” Blaine smiled awkwardly when Liam gave him a look.
“I’m not expecting anything, Blaine. I’ve accepted that it’s ended. As for anything happening now that we’re back here … I really don’t know.” Liam wasn’t sure what to expect when he saw her for the first time since they broke things off; he wasn’t sure how he would feel or if there would still be anything there. He would be lying if he said a part of him wasn’t a tad curious, however. “Anyway …”
Inside one of his suitcases, Liam reached into a hidden pocket, pulling out a baggy and tossing it to Blaine. “You got hooked up,” he smirked as he inspected the greenery inside the bag.
“That, my friend, is Durban Poison,” Liam said. “Leo got it from a friend he went to visit in South Africa.”
Blaine grinned. “He gave you more than I would have expected from him.”
“I think he still feels guilty about the abdication, so he was being generous. When he first brought it back, he had me try some …” Liam’s eyes slightly widened with a chuckle.
“I feel so proud,” Blaine feigned happy tears, fanning his eyes with a joking smile. “I’ve got my stash too, so we should be set for a while,” he chuckled as he tossed the bag back to Liam, who put it into the safe nestled in his nightstand drawer. “Alright, well, finish unpacking so we can go get something to eat. I’m fucking starving, and our fridge doesn’t get stocked until tomorrow.”
Liam shook his head with a grin. “Give me 20 minutes.”
After stopping at the on-campus Michelin-star cafe, Blaine and Liam walked across the grounds back towards their suite while looking for any of their other friends who might have arrived a few days early as they had. As they walked through the quadrangle, Liam happened to glance up from his phone at one of the familiar buildings, and he spotted her.
“I’ll meet you back at the suite?” Blaine asked, noticing the woman as well.
“Uh, yeah,” Liam nodded. “I’ll be right there.”
“Take your time, take your time,” Blaine grinned, clapping his back before hurrying towards their building as Liam headed for her.
When Liam got closer, he was suddenly blocked off by a man in a crisp black suit. He stood with his hands clasped in front of him as he stared Liam down with a defensive posture. “Whoa,” Liam held his hands up defensively. “Just trying to say hi to a friend.”
Liam saw her hand reach up and rest on the man’s arm. “It’s ok.”
He gave Liam one last look over before stepping away.
“Hi, Li,” she halfheartedly smiled when he came into view.
Kennedy Monroe and Liam became fast friends their first year at Vancross after he was assigned to work on a project with her suitemate, Dionne, who he already knew from their royal connections. They hung out in the same group of friends and were always together. After two years of a friendship that had been teetering on the edge of something more for quite a while, the pair threw any reservations they had away and officially began dating near the end of their second year at Vancross.
Their relationship stirred up a media circus, and most places they went, they were followed by the press. They were photographed anytime they left campus grounds, their images splashed across tabloids and television screens in both their countries, dubbed as the “new young political it couple.”
One of the things Liam enjoyed most about their relationship was that the foundation of it was the friendship they’d built beforehand. Things with Kennedy always felt so easy and comfortable because of how well they knew one another and how well they already got along.
After a year of dating, however, at the end of their third year, they both decided they needed some space. With Kennedy’s mother expecting her to help with her upcoming campaign for another presidential run and Liam’s new title as Crown Prince and the sheer weight that came with it, their stress levels were high … and they found themselves beginning to fall out of sync. At first, they chalked it off to simply a funk they found themselves in, but with summer break approaching, they agreed that maybe a break was for the best. They ended their relationship quietly, with only their close friends and family knowing so as to not draw any negative media attention, but it was on good terms despite the sting of the not-so-easy decision. They said they would keep in touch over the summer before they went their separate ways at the end of the semester.
Kennedy looked over her shoulder at the man who had stopped Liam. “Murph just came out to show you around the security perimeter of the building. I’ll meet you inside when you’re done?” The man nodded apprehensively, letting his eyes slide to Liam one last time before he turned and reluctantly walked away. Kennedy turned back to Liam. “Sorry about that …”
“New agent, huh?” Liam asked, slightly widening his eyes in a joking manner. The guy was clearly taking his job seriously … perhaps a little too much so.
“Uh, yeah … new, sorta.” Kennedy let out a breath when Liam’s brows creased in question at her slightly cryptic words. “He is a new agent … he just started at the beginning of the summer. But he’s not exactly a new face … not to me, anyway.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s -- he’s … that’s Tatum …”
Liam’s brows slightly raised. “Tatum, as in …”
“As in Tatum … yeah.”
Unable to stop himself from reading her, Liam took in Kennedy’s sudden shift in demeanor, the drop in her voice, and the look of uncertainty in her expression. Then he remembered her words: “He is a new agent … he just started at the beginning of the summer.” He nodded in understanding. “That’s why you stopped talking …”
“No, not because … it wasn’t like that. I wasn’t ignoring you, Li, I promise. I had no idea he was coming back. It had been years … and my best friend finally came home. We were spending so much time together catching up while he waited for his next assignment and --”
She stopped when Liam held his hand up. “You don’t have to explain yourself to me, Kennedy.”
“Well, I don’t want you to think …” Kennedy trailed off as she ran her fingers through her long brown hair, clearly a little flustered.
“I know your history with him. I get it …” An awkward silence fell between the pair before Liam broke it. “So, um … you two are together, then?” He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling unsure if he should have even asked.
“I’m not exactly sure what we are at the moment,” Kennedy replied. When Liam furrowed his brows, she glanced around to make sure no one else was in earshot. “It’s … complicated. We started hanging out and catching up when he returned, and it was like no time had passed. And we kept spending time together … and then he was put on assignment as my head of security.”
“Oh,” Liam said, realizing the conflict of interest it could be seen as.
“Yeah,” Kennedy nodded. “He’s just … really job oriented, and he takes his service to Rutherland very seriously, which I admire, but it kind of makes things a little … difficult and confusing. So … I guess we’re just trying to figure it all out … and keeping it quiet for now because I don’t need or want my mother or the press meddling.”
Liam nodded in understanding again. “Gotcha.”
Kennedy sighed. “Liam, I don’t want what happened between us to ruin our friendship. I know it might take some getting used to, and I’ll understand if things are a little weird at first … but you’re one of my best friends, and I … I don’t want to lose that.”
Liam shook his head. “You don’t have to worry about that,” he softly smiled. “We’ll always be friends, Kenz.” He could see the relief fill her expression at his words as she looked at him. “Well, I’ll let you get back inside. But, uh … I’m sure I’ll see you.”
“Ok,” Kennedy smiled ruefully. “Bye, Li.”
“Bye.” Liam raised his hand with a casual wave before walking away.
As he made his way towards his building, Liam found himself feeling a bit ambivalent. He was honest when he told Blaine that he accepted that things between him and Kennedy had ended; he had the whole summer to acknowledge and come to terms with it. But that brief run-in with her truly solidified that things were over.
Before they started dating, Kennedy had confided in Liam about her history with her childhood friend, the feelings she’d harbored for him while they were growing up, and how his absence in her life over the years since he joined the military had affected her. And from what he was told about the situation, he always assumed that Tatum, at least at some point, felt the same way about her, whether she knew it or not.
They had a friendship that spanned years with a deep-rooted connection, one that Liam knew he could never compete with even if he wanted to. He didn’t see himself going down that road of trying, however; he was aware that he and Kennedy were probably better off as friends.
When Liam pushed open the door to their suite, Blaine whirled around in the living area. “So … how’d it go?”
“I mean … fine, I guess,” Liam shrugged as the door latched shut behind him. “She’s, uh, seeing someone … kind of?”
“Oh …” Blaine stared at him for a moment. “Sorry, man.”
“It’s fine. Again, I wasn’t expecting anything. That just … made it concrete. It is what it is. But we’re on good terms.”
“Well … how about a little rooftop ganja sesh to help take your mind off things?” Blaine asked as he flourished a rolled blunt he prepared while waiting, twirling it carefully between his fingertips with a subtle smirk.
On the rooftop of their building, nestled in a corner to keep themselves hidden, Liam and Blaine were comfortably slumped in their high-back chairs, passing the blunt back and forth. As Blaine handed it to Liam, he exhaled a cloud of smoke. “You sure you’re ok?”
“I’m sure,” Liam nodded before taking a long toke.
“You know … just don’t even sweat it,” Blaine said as he took the blunt back.
Liam’s lips formed an “O” shape, and he clicked his lower jaw forward, exhaling a thick ring of smoke. “I’m not sweating anything,” he chuckled as he leaned forward and grabbed his bottle of water.
“Good,” Blaine replied, staring down at the glowing foot of the blunt before taking another drag. He passed it back to Liam with a smile. “We need to enjoy this year.”
“That we do,” Liam nodded in stern agreement before taking another pull.
“I don’t think that will be too hard,” Blaine grinned as he glanced over at Liam, whose brow was arched with a questioning look. Blaine shrugged. “It’s our senior year, and call it a hunch, but … I can’t shake the feeling that it’s going to be one for the books.”