Gil sat at his new desk.
He’d never had a desk before, but the smooth wood reminded him of the way the ship’s walls felt when he reached out to steady himself during a storm.
On the desk, there was a lamp.
Back home, after his dad had kicked him out again or Uma had decided she couldn’t deal with his stupidity anymore, he liked to sleep near the docks. The Isle was pitch-black at night, but from the edge of the water, he could see Auradon glowing in the distance.
Sometimes, Ben would set a piece of paper in front of him and tell him, “Come back to class when you’re ready. We miss you.”
Gil hadn’t said a word since the limo had arrived in Auradon. He was pretty sure Ben did not miss him the way he missed Harry and Uma.
The paper, supposedly, was homework.
On the Isle, Gil hadn’t gone to school. He’d skipped classes so he could train. So he could finally become worthy of his father’s love. He never was, and even when he’d found the pirate crew he was never as threatening as Harry or as powerful as Uma. Long story short, he couldn’t read, but he recognized five words well enough.
The desk had five words carved into its skin. When he ran his fingers over it, he felt more at ease and he could finally breathe. “We Ride With the Tide.”
Gil had always thought it was a silly motto, given that their ship had been wrecked after that whole trident fiasco, but it reminded him of when he used to be helpful. Of the smile on Uma’s face when he’d glued her necklace back together, piece by piece, after everyone else had lost hope.
Sometimes, the desk would be dotted with tears.
Uma had always called him weak. He hadn’t known why, back then. But now he knew.
Gil sat at his desk. Sometimes he’d sit there for hours. He never said anything, just watched the trees outside the window sway in the wind. He couldn’t see the ocean from here.
When he was in the limo, the driver informed him that he was “glad to be done driving you lot” and that “miss Evie has finally finished clearing off that dratted list.” Gil glanced back and could still see Harry in the harbor, growling and chasing after the limo. Alone. Uma was still missing, lost somewhere in the ocean.
Nobody ever visited him, when he sat at his desk. Only Ben, with his sad eyes and his lips perpetually turned into a confused frown, bothered to talk to him. At first, he’d tried to fit in. He went to Tourney games and attended Goodness 101 classes and watched school plays. Maybe, if he was good enough, they’d believe him when he said that Harry was good too.
Still, he couldn’t bring himself to say anything.
He had a phone in his pocket. It only had two numbers. Ben’s, of course, and Queen Belle’s, who’d been sympathetic to his childhood being raised as Gaston’s son.
There was no cell connection on the Isle. No way he could call Harry.
He didn’t go to class anymore, obviously. Nobody was going to expel him, and they were all too nice to physically drag him out of his room. He couldn’t stay there forever, they reasoned. They were wrong.
In his head, Gil reasoned that he could wait an eternity for Uma. He would wait. She and Harry were worth it.
It was November, and Gil sat at his desk with a puzzle that he’d stolen from the lounge. It had one thousand pieces and was a painting of a pretty sunset setting over the Auradon horizon. Putting it together made him feel at peace. Or at piece. He enjoyed the pun.
It was November, and the leaves rattled at the window. A bird, or something about the same size and weight as a bird, hit his window with a loud thump. He looked up from the desk, expecting to see the same view he had seen for the past four months, only more dark and gray, as Auradon seemed to get in the autumn months. Instead, he saw a dark figure holding a stuffed animal. His stuffed animal, Dearie. It was, as the name suggested, a stuffed deer. Gil quickly realized that it had been the object thrown at the window, and he stood up in exasperation.
Now that he was standing, he had a full view of the lawn. He realized that he’d left Dearie on the Isle. He realized that the tall, handsome, grinning figure was Harry. Harry, looking as mad and lovely as Gil remembered. He glanced back at his door, wondering if he should head down. When he glanced back, Harry was gone.
It figured that Gil would have no luck. It was an illusion, obviously, Gil figured after he was unable to find any sign that the dashing pirate was, in fact, in Auradon, and not on the shipwrecked Revenge waiting for, well, revenge.
Gil sat back down at his desk and turned back to his puzzle. He felt the weight of the phone in his pocket. If it was Harry, Ben would have texted him about it. He sighed and turned on the phone. At least this way he would know. The phone immediately lit up with thirteen missed calls, all from an unknown number. But no messages from Ben. It was probably Evie or Carlos or Jay, or even Mal, trying to make him feel at home. Just as he went to put the phone away, it started to ring. Gil jumped.
He’d never heard a phone ring before. After receiving this one from Ben, he’d immediately turned it off. And, given the lack of cell reception on the Isle, he hadn’t had one there either.
He decided to answer the call but didn’t say anything. Just held the phone against his ear and listened.
It was Uma.
“Gil!” she shouted, more concerned than angry, “You better come out of your dorm room and downstairs right now or I am going to confiscate your hat collection!”
He’d had to leave his hats on the Isle, but Uma hadn’t been there for that. He chuckled softly to himself. Obviously, it wasn’t softly enough.
“I can hear you laughing! They won’t let me upstairs because we’re armed and dangerous, which is, frankly, ridiculous. There’s this one girl carrying a bag full of ten swords in the lobby right now.”
Lonnie. He laughed a little harder, unable to stop himself.
“Gil, sweetie,” hummed a new voice. Harry. “Come downstairs. We’ve got Dearie, and we’ve brought your hats. Plus, King Ben is hosting a feast to commemorate Uma’s “turn to good.””
He could hear Uma laughing at that. “They’re just glad that when I used my magic to break down the Isle I only used it to rescue the kids on our crew. Evie did a pretty good job with her list, but she left out the pirates because we kidnapped Ben. A little hypocritical, but whatever. We’re free, and I heard the feast has your favorite food.”
Most people thought his favorite food was eggs since he ate them so much. Really, he saw eggs more like the pushups he did while Uma and Harry were in class. He didn’t particularly like them, but he had to eat them to make his father happy.
“Yeah, Gil,” added Harry, “You heard that right. I can smell the meat cooking from here.”
Drat it. Ham. His weakness.
Gil hung up the phone and ran out of the room. At first, he tried to convince himself he was only excited at the prospect of delicious food, but who was he kidding. Harry and Uma were waiting for him in the lobby.
He reached the top of the stairs and immediately realized they weren’t the only ones. Ben, and King Adam and Queen Bell, and Lonnie, and Mal, Jay, Carlos, and Evie, and Doug, and Chad, and Audrey, and seemingly every other member of the student body had crowded into the lobby to catch a glimpse of the commotion.
Uma and Harry growled at the crowd when they saw Gil freeze at the top of the stairs. They dropped the suitcases they were carrying and rushed towards him, shoving princes and princesses out of the way, breaking a few nails and causing general chaos. It was just like home.
Gil stood at the top of the stairs and awkwardly tried to descend them, his legs shaking nervously. When he saw Harry and Uma heading towards him, he was so surprised by how real and how beautiful they were that he tripped.
Right into their arms.
“Gil,” Uma whispered, “I’ve been looking for you.”
Harry sighed happily, dropping his hook onto the ground so he could hold Gil tighter. “The Isle was terrible without you.”
Gil looked at their eyes. Their expressions seemed new, like Auradon magically allowed them to love him for the first time, but they still had elements of the past. Of the childhood they had shared. Of the kidnapping and the celebrations and the defeat, and the songs and moments of silence they’d shared watching the Isle fall asleep. It felt right.
Gil opened his mouth and spoke for the first time since he’d left the Isle, shouting “Harry!” over the growling of the wind until his voice grew hoarse.
“I missed you so much,” Gil said, ignoring the whispers coming from the students crowding at the base of the stairs.
“We know,” Harry and Uma replied, their eyes shining brighter than any stupid desk lamp.
And Gil smiled.