It had always been just them. Mal, daughter of Maleficient. Evie, daughter of the Evil Queen. Jay, son of Jafar. And Carlos, son of Cruella de Vil. Just the four of them.
When they arrived at Auradon Prep, it was just them even when they eventually made friends.
No one else could get as close to them as they were to each other.
When they arrived in Auradon months ago, one certain now King was the first to show genuine kindness. It wasn't just because he felt he was obligated to, being the one who chosen them to come. It wasn't to make himself look good.
It was because he wanted to. He wanted to reach out to the four, forming not an alliance, but a friendship.
King Benjamin, son of Queen Belle and King Adam, an ex- cursed Beast.
Otherwise known as Ben.
Truth be told, the VKs were weary of him, but over time he shown them that he respected that acknowledged instinct. He respected them period. He wasn't pushing boundaries or have discomfort and gave it in return.
He was lively to them, open and was there to lend a hand and a shoulder to cry on when needed.
Sure, despite warming up to the VKs, his fellow classmates and other Auradonians admit their beliefs of the group taking advantage of him, using his status.
If anything, Mal, Evie, Carlos and Jay were reluctant to accept his 'pampering' at first. They didn't get any of it when they were on the Isle so that was expected.
Yet, they eased into it over time. Ben wasn't overbearing with it and he always was minimum in the gifts unless necessary.
Such as today.
Earlier, someone got mouthy, spewing harsh words about Jay close in range and then closer just to see the VK blow up in rage or at least show any sign of being upset.
Eventually, that lead to Mal coming up, joining in with a few harsh words of her own. This resulted in all four of the Core growling and defensively arguing back. Lonnie had gotten Fairy Godmother in time before it got violent, dismissing them to their dorms.
At the time, Ben was in a meeting when it all happened. Lonnie had delivered the news, her tone dressed in concern for the VKs. Besides Ben, she, too, had shown kindness to them.
When the situation was told to him, Ben immediately grew worried, glad the meeting was finally over.
His set destination somehow became a nearby shop, picking up what he chosen for them before heading to the girls' dorm first.
Empty, yet that didn't stop him from heading to another place set in mind.
As he thought, the group was gathered in the boys' dorm room. The door was slightly cracked opened, enough for him to see them, hearing their conversation.
All of them appeared equally upset, angered, and a bit crestfallen at the dispute earlier. Evie sat on Carlos' bed, Dude in her lap. She ran perfect red clad fingers through the canine's fur, but her eyes were focused to who sat on the other bed. Mal was leaning on the bed post, arms crossed and her eyes glowing that liquid neon green of magic. Carlos and Jay were on the older boy's bed, the freckled boy's arm wrapped around his back, occasionally rubbing it to assure promise. Jay wasn't speaking, his eyes downcast to the dark blue sheet.
"He had no right to say that! You weren't even doing anything to him or anybody. Just minding your own business.", Evie voiced. Her red apple lips firmly in a pout.
"Auradon kids will always remain Auradon kids. Think too highly of themselves.", Mal sighed. "No remorse for what pain we go through just because of who we're born to."
"I don't think some with ever see it, Mal. But it doesn't matter. We have each other.", Carlos said. He sighed heavily, eyes shifting to the girls before turning to Jay. "I'm sure they got that memo."
"Even after all these months... I guess some things don't intend to change.", Jay frowned, shaking his head and then running fingers through his hair.
Mal took a seat on his other side, softly nudging him. "Right. We may have changed sides, evil to good, but that doesn't mean we'll change fully. No matter what, we'll always be rotten..."
"To the core.", the other three finished, small smiles that matched in relief.
Ben, himself smiled, less stressed. He found it treasured and precious that the four at least cared for each other when no one else would. However, he wanted it to be addressed that not everyone and everything in the world was against them.
"Knock, knock.", he announced, peeking his head in and tapping on the door.
Mal was the first to look up at him, not so surprised to see him. "Hey, Ben."
"Hey. You all okay?"
"More or less. We'll live.", Jay answered, his sigh deep with dullness, shoulders shrugging. "Bet you heard about what happened." From the tone, it was clear to Ben that Jay was well aware that someone informed the young king of what happened.
"Yes. Lonnie told me. And from what she said, I see no fault from your side."
"That guy was a jerk. He said things Audrey wouldn't even say.", Evie said.
"I agree." Ben took a seat in one of the chairs, suddenly remembering the bag he carried. "Oh! On my way to check on you, I picked up some things." He rustled through the bag before pulling out a clear small container of plump red strawberries. "I got some strawberries for Mal."
He handed over the fruit, watching as Mal, wordless, took it slowly. Her eyes faded back to her more human green.
"I got some chocolate for Jay and Carlos."
Ben pulled out two separate packets of candy next, handing it over to the boys. He resisted chuckling at their widened brown eyes.
"And this fashion magazine I thought Evie would like."
Evie blinked, but kept a smile on her face as the king handed said item over.
Ben sat the now empty bag on the table, standing up. He glanced at each of the VKs, finding each of their expressions mixed and unreadable. They didn't speak. He decided to let them be, not wanting to intrude anymore than he believed he did. He clapped his hands together once, exhaling softly. "Well, I'm going to take my leave now. If you need anything, feel free to ask.", he added, turning for the door.
A half second later, once he was close to the threshold, Ben found himself immobile and engulfed in warmth. First, he was a bit off balance, wrapping his mind around what just happened. Second, when he did figure it out, he was perplexed that he was being hugged. Hugged.
Mal was securely gripping his right arm, somewhat in a shy manner, yet bold enough to show she was okay. Carlos had took to embracing his waist, tight in a child-like manner, nuzzling in the king's shoulder. Evie was just above Mal, hugging his neck, occasionally giggling, bold to show happiness. Finally, Jay wasn't embracing him as much, but he was just as cuddly, deciding on running his bare fingers through Ben's shorter hair in a way that was comforting both of them, his face pressed to Ben's.
The brunet was surely taken back a bit. Ben was being hugged. By the VKs. He wasn't sure if they hugged each other. But he would expect as much given that they are friends and family. Just the four of them. Ben wouldn't believe that they would accept him, allowing him this close.
"... I... I guess this is your way of... saying thank you?", he questioned carefully.
He felt one of them nod against him.
"Yeah. We... we are thanking you.", Carlos answered, giving Ben's waist a quick squeeze.
"You do care about us, huh?", Mal voiced. She was the first to step back, stepping back to stare at him.
"Of course. Two reasons. One, as King, I should care about everyone, Auradonian or not. Two, you're my friends."
"We're friends?", Evie asked.
"Yes. I see no reason to not be."
Jay had been the next to let go, heading back to his bed and laying on it on his back, legs and arms sprawled out. His hair scrunched against the sheets as he looked up at the others. "Well... I guess this considers you part of our group."
"Officially.", Mal added.
By now, Evie and Carlos had also released their grips on the king, them and Mal taking their own seats on the younger boy's bed. Dude had jumped from there to land on Jay's torso. He groaned from the impact, glaring at the small canine. "Dude..."
"Ben, if you're gonna be a part of this group, be ready to be one of Dude's babysitters.", Carlos teased.
"Requirement.", Evie laughed.
Ben smiled, glad to see they were doing better now. Their sadness and anger shouldn't drag out for so long. He wanted them to make Auradon their home, to have opportunities.
Seeing Mal snacking away with the strawberries was a good start.
He walked over and rubbed Dude's fur, the dog not moving off Jay.
"Well, I'm glad he's find a home with you." He stepped back, heading back to the door. He grabbed onto the knob to pull it back further so he could walk again. "I'm going to go now." Regretfully. He could pinpoint the disappointment in their gazes. "More kingly duties."
"Ah. Phooey.", Evie pouted, magazine in her lap.
"Does suck. But your visit is enough, Ben.", Jay assured. From his tone, there was a hint of him lighting up a bit, but probably disappointed that Ben had to leave. "But you got to do what to do."
"Yeah. Anyways, I'll see you all later or at least tomorrow.", Ben promised. He hesitated a bit stepping out the room. He knew from how the VKs acted, he was welcomed back to hang with them, into their bond. However, a piece of him wanted to stay.
"We know. We'll be waiting for you.", Mal voiced before chewing her fifth strawberry.
Ben smiled, positive that his lips would hurt soon if he continued to do so. "Alright then."
He finally left the room, taking steps into the hallway. The young king felt a sense of sincerity, knowing now that he was accepted. Accepted into a group that held a precious bond, a group that was cautious of letting anyone in.
He didn't ask for it, but he appreciates it. It was enough for him to be calm for the rest of the day, to be eased.
Because for once, he was the receiving end of acceptance and got it.
And all he did was check on the VKs, delivering chocolate, strawberries and a magazine.
It's just doing the chaste, little things that count.