"Snow is the absolute worst," Jay grumbled as he pulled his blanket tighter around himself and Dizzy who was sitting in his lap with Evie's sketchbook in hers. Jay despised the cold with everything in him. Plus the blanket wasn't much help to fight off the wind that was cutting through the loft that wasn't nearly insulated enough. Dizzy curled up a little more in Jay's lap for shelter. The storm that was blowing through the Isle had sent everyone inside and likely would keep them there. Hadie was crouched down with Mal beside a large chopped up trashcan where they were trying to keep a fire going with very little fuel. Made harder by the fact that said fuel was a bit damp.
"I'm getting worried about Carlos," Evie said as she finally left where she had been posted by the window to watch the street. "He should have been here by now."
"He said he might be a little while," Diego said where he was replacing a string on his guitar now that he'd finally found one in the trash barges. "Aunt Cruella likes to go through all her furs every time it snows like this to make sure they're up to her standards," he added with an almost audible eye roll. "She's probably making him brush them all out again."
Yzla handed Diego a vial of something pink as she walked past and the white and black haired teen eyed it uncertainly. "What's this?" he asked.
"It'll warm you up," she said. "... I think. Probably."
"You inspire such confidence, Yzla..." Diego muttered as he brought the vial up to look at it with light behind the liquid as if that would tell him anything about what was in the glass. "Why am I always your test subject?"
"Because you love me," Yzla said with a flutter of her long eyelashes. Diego looked anything but convinced by that. Yzla's sweet smile dropped instantly. "Oh, just drink it!"
"What if I turn into a cow or something?" Diego asked skeptically.
"Then at least your hair will be the same," Jay commented. This time Diego gave Jay a glare, but the thief ignored it completely. "We need more fuel there, Mal?" he asked with a nod at the broken up piece of furniture -it looked like a chair- that they were currently burning. Though he would hate to go out in this weather to find more he was probably the most likely to actually successfully get it and get back.
"I think we're good for now," Mal said as Hadie shoved a bit of crumpled up paper that had initially been a poster from the walls outside into the base of the fire where it started to smolder immediately.
A few minutes later, a frigid breeze cut through the warehouse when the door opened. "Dalmatians! It's cold as balls!" Carlos cursed as he hurriedly closed the door behind himself, Harry, and Jace.
"I can't feel me nose," Jace said as he and Harry went straight to the fire to try and seep some warmth out of it.
"That's impressive considering how big it is," Eddie muttered.
"Oh, shut up, yer grin's a fright," Harry replied.
"Easy boys," Mal said before they could really start arguing.
Carlos rubbed his chapped hands together furiously as he went to where Jay was sitting on the couch. "You okay?" Jay asked while eyeing the blue tinge at the end of Carlos' digits.
"Mom made me wash her car before I left," Carlos said. "You have no idea how cold my hands are right now."
Jay held his own hands out and nearly hissed as Carlos's icy ones were immediately presented. "Shit, that is cold," he said as he started rubbing his warmer hands against Carlos's. "Who even washes cars during a snowstorm?"
"My mother," Carlos grumbled. "Or, I guess, me, when mom makes me."
Diego suddenly made a gagging sound and tossed the remains of the pink liquid Yzla handed him into the fire where it sizzled and boiled away. "Holy shit, Yz... that is just vile. Don't you ever tell me what was in that thing."
"Are you warmer though?" Yzla asked excitedly.
"Not unless you call my throat feeling like I tried to drink acid warmer," Diego said before tucking his face into his shoulder to cough several times. "Which I don't."
Yzla sighed. "Damn. I thought for sure that would work..."
"I know what'll work," Jay said as he carefully moved Dizzy off his lap and wrapped the blanket back around her after he got up. He went over to one wall and shifted several boxes to reveal a large plank of wood that Mal had used to test out colors of spray paint she found. Jay slid the wood off to the side and reached into the black hole beyond. He dug out several mismatched bottles of booze. "Since we're stuck here. How about some fun?" he asked as he held up a couple suggestively.
"Hell, yes," Hadie agreed.
"Hand it over," Mal added with her hand already out and grasping. Jay quickly distributed the bottles he had stashed there and found a new seat at the foot of the couch since Evie had stolen his place on the sofa and his little nest of blanket. Dizzy was now curled up in her lap and looked very much like she wasn't about to move.
The wind outside howled again, and Jay wished he had something with long sleeves to wear. Maybe he could get Evie to make him something. Jay wasn't about to go to Jafar saying he needed more clothes. He leaned back against Evie's legs which were at least some amount of warmth behind him. That, combined and the fire in front helped stave off the worst of the frigid temperatures. "How long do you think this weather is going to keep up?" Dizzy asked as she stayed huddled against Evie.
"I'd say a few days," Freddie answered from where she was laying out her tarot cards on the dusty floor a little apart from all the others.
"Get your voodoo princess butt over here where it's warm," Mal ordered in annoyance.
Freddie looked up and grinned. "I'm fine, Mal. Really. Shadows are, by nature, cold."
"Yeah? Well, I am, by nature, not amused. Get over here before you freeze," Mal ordered again. Freddie sighed but went to a spot closer to the fire where everyone was huddled against the cold of a relentless Isle winter. Now that all of their numbers were safely together they could finally relax and know that they would keep each other safe and warm at least until the snow stopped falling and the wind quit howling.
Jay blinked away the memory of the Isle even as it seemed oddly mirrored in front of him. With a few key differences of course. There was no trashcan fire to keep them warm -instead the fire was contained in an actual hearth that Hadie was poking at-, there was a bizarre tree thing in the middle of the dorm lobby wrapped in all sorts of sparkly decorations ranging from ribbons and lights to glass balls, and there were far more people than ever would have fit in the loft. The others were around the room clustered near each other and looking as equally bewildered as Jay felt. Ben had finally brought the last of their gang -Eddie and Yzla- over to Auradon so it was the first time they'd all been together in far too long. Other than Hadie playing with fire, the inseparable duo of Jace and Harry were examining Dude with something akin to awe as Carlos proudly showed the little dog off to his cousin. Yzla was resisting Evie's attempts to be brought anywhere near the food and instead staring out of the window. Eddie and Dizzy were both poking at the tree and rearranging the lights -Jay was sure that Eddie's would be spelling out something vulgar the teen would find hilarious. Freddie was chatting with some of the girls from Auradon she'd made friends with, and Jay spotted a few points in his direction that made him nervous that they might be discussing crushes and other girly ass things.
Jay pulled his attention away from the girls and leaned back against the table that was piled high with food. It was no howler or anything, but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Still, he was utterly lost as to what was going on other than a party of some sort for a reason he didn't in the least understand. Even the decorations were bewildering. "What's with the tree?" he finally decided to ask.
"It's a Christmas tree," Lonnie said from where she was beside him selecting cookies from a tray full of them decorated just like said strange tree or with snowflakes or round and not even vaguely threatening snow monsters.
"A what?" Uma demanded, having overheard from where she was hanging out at the far end of the buffet while Gil downed a truly frightening amount of something called 'Egg Nog' (which they really should not have told him existed for his own safety). Uma, Harry Hook, and Gil had all been allowed to stay in Auradon after the Jafar debacle and had surprisingly vouched for Reza who was hiding behind Harry over by the fireplace where... giant socks of all things were hanging. Why the hell were they doing that? Jay wondered.
Lonnie looked caught off guard. "Um, Christmas tree? You know... like the holiday?" At the continued blank looks she was getting, Lonnie looked around and spotted Aziz chatting with a very festively dressed Audrey. "Aziz!"
The Arabian Prince looked over to see Lonnie gesturing him over. Aziz quickly excused himself and came over. "What's wrong?"
"Explain Christmas to them in ways they'll understand," Lonnie ordered with a gesture to the nearest Isle Kids. Aziz, having taken a special interest in making sure his -still widely unknown- brother was introduced to everything Auradon and understood it, had become the defacto 'Isle kid translator' for the school. Well, him and Ben.
Even despite often being asked to explain things to the kids that grew up on the Isle, Aziz was clearly caught flat-footed by this particular demand and just blinked. "What?" He looked to the expectant faces and realized he had no idea how to do what Lonnie just ordered. He was getting really good at expounding upon what others thought was obvious, but this was not something he had thought he'd have to explain. Aziz looked around the room and realized that all of the Isle kids that weren't keeping themselves busy looked bewildered, and he'd somehow not noticed it before. More than one of them would cast odd looks at the decorations around them as if they'd never seen it before in their life. Which, they probably hadn't, Aziz realized. He should have figured this would happen. He'd seen the Isle and yet he'd never even considered that they would have no idea what Christmas even was. "Uhh... Ben!" he called, spotting the King curled up with Mal on one couch nearest the fireplace. If Aziz couldn't explain it, Ben was the only other choice.
"Ever feel like we're being pawned off on people?" Jay muttered to Carlos who had wandered over curiously when Lonnie first called for Aziz.
Carlos nodded and scratched Dude's neck above the bright red sweater covered in snowflakes that the dog was wearing. Ben came over with Mal. "What's the matter?" the King asked.
"I'm not sure how to explain Christmas," Aziz said.
Ben blinked several times. "Oh... well. Hmm," he put a hand to his chin as he thought about that for a moment. "You all do know what Christianity is right?" he began.
"Judge Claude Frollo is on the Isle," Mal pointed out dryly. "We're familiar with the basics."
"And he doesn't celebrate Christmas?" Lonnie asked in complete shock.
"He's never put up a weird pine tree covered in lights and bits of flimsy tin foil, no," Jay said with a nod towards the tree in question. "Not exactly the most festive guy that. Besides, he spends most of winter shut up in his house. Claudine is the only one that ever goes outside when it's cold, and that's usually to just go get food and stuff."
Ben nodded. Frollo probably celebrated Christmas a lot more low key and with fasting or something else unpleasantly harsh. "Well, Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and is all about, well, peace on Earth and goodwill and probably everything no villain would want to celebrate. I guess it makes sense that they wouldn't have it on the Isle."
"Is that it then?" Uma scoffed. "Boring..."
"Well, there is giving presents too," Lonnie offered. The Isle kids perked up a little at that. They did all like receiving gifts since they so rarely got them on the Isle, and even then usually only from each other for important birthdays.
"Even some of us who aren't Christian celebrate with the gifts and food," Aziz added. "It's not really a big holiday in Agrabah, but Mom likes to send me something small every year anyway. Probably because it would be weird to be the only one in the dorm not getting anything around now." He glanced at Jay who steadfastly ignored his brother. Aziz had been trying to pull Jay to the side pretty much always for the last two days, but Jay had managed to keep himself from being cornered. Judging by what Aziz had just said, Jay could take a wild guess as to what he wanted to talk about now. Jay really really didn't want to get into that though. He had tried to process the truth he now knew, but Jay was finding it nearly impossible to reconcile what he'd grown up knowing with what he'd been told.
"Huh... is that what those things under the tree are then?" Uma asked, eyeing the brightly colored paper greedily.
"No," Ben said. "Those are all empty and only there for looks. Although you all will have something from my family and me delivered to your dorms in the morning." Uma gave the pretend presents a sulky glare but cheered up at the news that they'd still be getting something.
Jay noticed Aziz trying to catch his eye but steadfastly ignored it. Luckily, Chad (blessedly oblivious Chad) wandered over to talk to Aziz about some sort of fencing team or something and Jay took the chance to slip away. Jay didn't know how Chad hadn't realized Aziz had been trying to get away from the others but Jay was glad. Aziz looked annoyed when he realized it, Jay noted, but the Isle brother was not even the littlest bit sorry. Jay was still not remotely ready to face anything from Princess Jasmine. He couldn't even bring himself to call her anything other than 'Princess Jasmine' and Jay really figured he should master that before trying to bond with the lady.
Avoiding Aziz took some effort, but Jay managed it for the rest of the party. Mostly by slipping in and out of the room, hall, and stairwells whenever he had a chance. He also spent a lot of time on the balcony overlooking the lobby where he had arranged a little corner where nobody ever seemed to look. He could tell that Aziz was getting annoyed, but he did eventually give up and go back to actually socializing. Jay was feeling quite successful when he crawled into bed later on that night.
At least, until the next morning where something dropped on his stomach. "Oof!" Jay jerked upright and quickly found Aziz standing over him looking less than amused. "What the hell?"
"Why do I have to corner you in bed of all places to talk seriously with you?" Aziz asked.
"I do my best talking in bed," Jay snarked.
Carlos groaned groggily and rolled over to bury his face in Dude's furry back. Jay wondered for a minute how Aziz got into their room if Carlos wasn't even up, but then he remembered Aziz also picked locks. "It's Christmas morning," Aziz said. "So, I'll give you a choice. The letter. Or the present. You are going to open one in front of me right now." Aziz held up a thick envelope in one hand and a small box wrapped in simple golden foil in the other.
Jay scowled. "You can't make me do anything."
"I am not leaving this room until you open at least one of them," Aziz insisted. Jay flopped back down in his bed and turned over stubbornly. Aziz sighed, "Don't be a brat, little brother."
"I could be older than you, you know," Jay replied quickly.
"I doubt it. You act way too much like an annoying younger brother for you to be older," Aziz said. "Just open something. I'm even letting you pick which one. Iago, help me out here." The parrot lifted his head from where it had been nestled under his wing and then blinked several times. He looked around at the room and then promptly dropped his head to go back to sleep. "You are useless," Aziz grumbled.
Jay smiled even as he tugged his blanket up higher. Winter on the Isle had conditioned most that lived there to get as close to real life hibernation as possible. Sure they still went out and did what they had to to make a living but days tended to start later and end sooner when it was cold out, and so few places actually had heating systems. Jay hadn't liked that he'd had to get up and actually go to classes even when winter set in so he'd been enjoying greatly his ability to sleep in during break.
Aziz huffed and practically jumped on the bed and on top of Jay, who grunted. "I am not letting you go back to sleep until you open one of these," Aziz promised as he leaned over Jay. Jay grunted again and turned even more into his pillow. Aziz sighed and nudged Jay roughly in the back. "I mean it. No peace until you take one of these things from mom."
At first, Jay was going to just continue to ignore his brother, but after five minutes of constant nudges and pokes, he figured that Aziz was serious about not letting him sleep. With an annoyed sigh, Jay pushed himself upright. "Fine, already!" Aziz held up his two options again, and Jay stared at them. After several moments of considering, Jay figured a physical gift would be easier to swallow than whatever long letter Jasmine had probably written him. So, he held out his hand, "Give me the damn box, Aziz."
Aziz frowned but handed the small box over. Clearly, he'd been hoping for more enthusiasm or for Jay to have picked the letter over the box. But that was the danger when allowing Jay to be the one to choose. Jay found the seam of the wrapping paper around the box and slid his thumb under it. The tape holding the paper in place gave way easily, and Jay rolled the box out of its wrapping. The gift was about the size of a box for a pen only a little fatter and made of a rough nearly black cardboard material.
Jay tossed the paper off to the side and wiggled the top of the box until it opened and he could see what he'd been given. Sitting on a thin sheet of cotton for some odd reason, was a thick key on a chain. Jay's eyebrow went up as he lifted the key by the golden chain threaded through an ornately sculpted head. "A... key," Jay said. "Oh, yay?"
Aziz rolled his eyes. "It's not just any key, Jay."
"It's the key to your room in the palace," Aziz supplied.
Jay froze with the key still hanging there between them. "My what?"
"Your room," Aziz repeated. "What? You think you wouldn't get one?"
"Ah... well... not really, no," Jay muttered. He'd never had his own room before. The thought that they'd give him a room in the palace of Agrabah hadn't even occurred to him.
There was an awkward couple of seconds as Jay stared at the key. He should have realized it belonged to the palace. The gold plating and intricate filigree with little bits of colored enamel in it said that it didn't open up just any door. Jay didn't know why he was so choked up suddenly. A key to a room he had no expectation of and that he had no plans to go see should not affect him so much. His every instinct was to not be a part of anything in Agrabah but having a room there, even if he never set foot in it, meant he was anyway.
Aziz shifted to sit next to Jay instead of across and bumped their shoulders together. "Break's only just started," he murmured. Auradon Prep's winter break started the day before Christmas and went through to two days after the new year. "We can still get a nice trip home if we leave today."
"... Aziz, I can't..." Jay muttered.
"Why not?" Aziz demanded.
"Because I don't belong there."
"Like hell you don't," Aziz snapped. The prince took a moment to compose himself with several deep breaths. "... what if the others come with us?" Jay looked up in surprise. "Yeah, Mal and the others. Would you come then?"
Jay pondered that for a long minute. It had taken Jay a month and a half to work up to telling Mal and the others who his mother was. Mal had been less than happy although Jay hadn't been able to say what the exact cause was, Evie had hugged Jay for a solid four minutes before Jay shrugged out of it, and Carlos had seemed the least surprised and thankfully just let the realization roll past with little comment. Jay hadn't realized how much tension he was carrying about the truth of his birth until after he'd come clean to his best friends and they'd accepted him anyway. But, would it be easier to meet Jasmine if they were there? Probably. Jay fiddled with the bracers around his wrist as he thought about the idea.
"We won't keep you there if you don't like it," Aziz added after several minutes of silence. "She just wants to see you again... and you should visit Agrabah at least once in your life."
Jay almost winced at the idea but managed to stifle the urge. "I... I'll talk with Mal about it," he muttered finally. "See if she even wants to go."
Aziz looked like he wanted to say something else but settled for nodding and getting to his feet again. "Alright. Let me know sometime today, and we could leave either tonight or tomorrow morning." Jay nodded in agreement and continued to fiddle with his bracers. It wasn't until after Aziz had left the room that Jay noticed the thick envelope from Jasmine sitting beside him.
"Damn it, Aziz," Jay grumbled as he picked the obviously expensive and heavy parchment package from his covers. His name -his full name- was written on the front in elegant cursive that Jay almost couldn't make out. He had a hard enough time with print letters, and cursive was even more confusing to his brain. Jay stared down at his name for another few moments before he opened his side drawer and dropped the envelope inside. He couldn't do that. Not yet.
Of course the very next monday after I tell someone I'm going to try and update on Mondays and I miss the update... Sorry all, I'm going to try to stick to my schedule but my RL is a little wibbly wobbly all over the place right now.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Other than the terribly mixed feelings inducing gift from Aziz, Jay found the tradition of 'Christmas Morning' and getting a whole bunch of stuff... awkward to be entirely honest. He wasn't used to being given things. Well, not very often anyway. Evie had given him his hats and clothes after Jafar stopped providing them for free, Carlos helped him with anything too nerdy that Jay might need, and Mal had been the first to ever give him friendship and acceptance. Really, everything else Jay had ever had he'd had to steal. Now that he was in Auradon where he didn't have to do that anymore, Jay had found he really didn't like a lot of stuff. He was used to living sparse and was fine that way. Being given several expensive gifts (because Jay knew expensive when he saw it, no matter how much time had passed since he stole) had made him uncomfortable.
Luckily, Ben had clearly been involved with the gift-giving process as Jay's gift had been several new pieces of tourney equipment. Something useful at least, even if Jay knew for a fact that the stick he'd been gifted cost really much more than it should. Evie had been given several bolts of expensive vintage cloth, Carlos had a new phone and laptop, and Mal had been gifted a vast arrange of art supplies.
Evie was currently cooing over the bolt of some blue and silver semi-velvety pattern that Jay had no hopes of identifying while Carlos dove into figuring out all the different features of his new toys. Mal was examining the new paints she had gotten critically where she was sitting on her bed. As usual, they had gathered in the girl's room for this, and while Ben had been there earlier to deliver the gifts and see if they liked them, he'd had to go to some Christmas Breakfast thing with his parents.
Jay leaned heavily against the post of Mal's bed and fiddled with the leather wrapping of the tourney stick while the key in his pocket felt like it was burning a hole in his leg. Jay had wanted to shove it into a drawer and forget about it entirely, but he hadn't quite been able to do that. He wasn't sure what to do about the whole situation, and Jay didn't like not knowing what to do. His role on the Isle was... horrible, but he knew what it was. Jay knew his jobs and who he could and couldn't get close to. This whole business with Jasmine though... Jay had no idea what he was supposed to do. Would it be evil to not see the woman? They were trying to not be evil now... But he really, really didn't want to.
"Aziz wants me to go home with him and meet Jasmine," Jay finally blurted out after several moments of trying and failing to come up with a subtle way to bring the topic up.
Though the room hadn't been loud, what little noise there was died instantly and Jay almost cringed. "... he does, does he?" Mal asked. Jay did cringe at that although he wasn't sure why. Maybe it was that super dangerous tone in the background of Mal's words that did it. Jay nodded and kept staring at the pale carpet as if that would help in some way.
Jay heard rustling as Mal got off her bed and then she was standing in front of him. "And what do you want?"
"I... don't really want to go," Jay admitted.
"... but?" Evie asked as she put her bolt of cloth to the side and got up from her bed as well.
Jay sighed, "But if I don't go... I feel like they'll just keep pestering me about it. Plus... Aziz seemed to really want me to go..."
"What Aziz wants doesn't matter," Mal said firmly. "If you don't want to go then you shouldn't go. Jasmine can get over it. She doesn't have the right to pester you after what she did." Jay wondered why hearing that almost hurt a little. Mal was right, and Jay certainly couldn't forget that he was just handed off to his Father by her, but for some reason, some part of him didn't like hearing it said aloud.
"What exactly did Aziz say?" Carlos asked. "Because you wouldn't have brought this up at all if it was just him asking you to come to Agrabah."
Jay shrugged awkwardly. "He said you could all come with if it would make me feel better about going," he said.
"If you want to go, of course, we would come with you," Evie said instantly.
"But," Mal said sharply, "we've already established that you don't." There was an awkward pause. "Right, Jay?"
Mal sounded highly disapproving, and Jay wasn't quite sure how to react to that. "Right..." he agreed. He glanced up at his friend just in time to see Mal narrow her eyes. Jay cleared his throat uncomfortably and tried to look more confident. "I don't want to go. I just don't want to get people pissed at us either. We still have a lot of kids to get off the Isle and everything."
Mal slowly nodded although she still had that not even remotely convinced look on her face. "Whatever you want, Jay. But I don't think going there will do anything but hurt you," she said. "When did Aziz want to take us?" she asked as she went to sit on her bed again.
"Today or tomorrow," Jay answered. He wasn't entirely sure if Mal's reaction meant. She clearly didn't want Jay to go perhaps even more so than Jay himself didn't. "For break."
"Well, it would get us away from the snow..." Carlos offered.
The frosty powder outside had drawn disgusted looks from all the Isle dwellers since it had been horrible to live with on the other side of the barrier. A few Auradonians had managed to coax the more free-spirited and younger kids out to play in it but the older teens who had seen what cold, wet clothes could do -especially when undernourished- avoided the white stuff as much as possible.
Evie crossed the short distance to put a hand on Jay's bicep. "Whatever you want to do, Jay. We'll support it."
Jay was glad to hear it but also a bit disappointed. He'd wanted to be told for sure what the better decision here. Usually, Jay hated taking orders, but at moments like this where it would save him from making a hard choice, he had to admit he missed it some. Jay fiddled with his stick again as he was left in virtually the same position as he was just a few minutes ago. Their support hadn't really been in question although, he guessed it was nice to have it confirmed.
Suddenly, Evie's hand was on his forehead and Jay couldn't help but shy backwards. "E, what-?"
"You're looking kind of flushed, Jay," Evie said with a frown. "Are you feeling alright?"
"What? Yeah, fine," Jay answered quickly. But everyone else's attention was already drawn right back to him.
Mal gave him a quick once over and frowned. Jay wished he could flee the scrutiny, but that would only make Mal more suspicious. "You do look pale," Mal said before getting up and rounding the bed to stand in front of Jay directly. "And your eyes are all shot... when's the last time you were in your lamp?"
Jay recoiled from the question. He hated talking about the lamp. "I was in it just last night."
"For like, five minutes," Carlos supplied. Jay glared at the other boy who didn't seem to care that he'd just ratted his roommate out.
"Jay, you need to be in it longer than that," Evie said. "You remember what Jordan told you."
"I remember," Jay agreed. He just didn't particularly care. The Arabian didn't want to essentially sleep in his prison. Although Jordan was constantly trying to get Jay to think of it differently, he just couldn't manage it. "But I'm fine. Really."
"You don't look fine," Mal said. "You look like you barely slept last night or something. Go spend some time in your lamp. Maybe, after a few hours, you'll feel better and be able to decide what you want to do."
Jay frowned. "I don't want to spend time in the stupid thing."
"I know," Mal assured before resting a hand on Jay's arm. "But you still have to put up with it for a bit longer. And the second I can, I'll wish you free. Just go spend some time in the stupid thing before lunch and then we'll talk about Agrabah after that. Okay?"
Jay wanted to protest again but knew that Mal was probably right. "... fine," he sighed. "I'll be back in a bit..."
Evie leaned over and kissed Jay's cheek, and Carlos gave an attempt at a smile as the thief left the room. He didn't want to go spend time in his lamp even with it being nicer now that Jordan had been teaching him some tricks. He still hated the room with no visible exit. But, he also knew that if she had to, Mal would talk to Aziz about it and then Jay would be in for all manner of brotherly pestering about taking care of himself.
When he got to his room, Jay didn't bother digging the fancy lamp out from its hiding spot. He could reach it just fine without exposing the thing. Jay had to focus hard for a moment but then was able to dissolve into golden dust and stream into the lamp.
Once he reformed inside the small room, Jay had to admit -if only to himself- the tension he was carrying did dissipate. He sighed aloud as all of his joints seemed to loosen all at once. Well, the bones in the top half of his body as his lower portion was all smoke and dust in a column. Though Jordan had hinted at it being possible to not be in Djinn form in the lamp, Jay had never managed to do it. Every time he was in the stupid thing his skin was golden, his bottom half missing, and the manacles were on full display. It drove Jay nuts, but at least he didn't have to see himself since he very deliberately didn't put mirrors inside his lamp.
Jay laid down on the plush bed that he still found too damn soft for him but was indeed nice when he was feeling tense. The silk comforter practically swallowed him it was so fluffy, but Jay didn't mind that very much. He found that he didn't actually dislike the feeling of silk against his skin, especially since his Djinn skin made everything feel different. Jay almost wanted to call the gold tinted flesh more... sensitive? He wasn't sure that was the right word, but it was the only one that came to mind. Either way, the silk felt nice even if it was a little too fluffy for Jay's standards.
Jordan had said it was best to spend a full night in his lamp, but Jay had never managed to stand to be in it that long. In his lamp, since Jay had to be in his Djinn form and combined that with the lack of apparent escapes had Jay not being able to stand being in the thing.
Although, he had to admit it was the perfect place to hide his stash since only other Djinn would be able to get in without him there. Jay rolled onto his side and reached for the red octagon table decorated with intricate golden designs that was beside his bed. There was a small brass jar sitting there, and Jay opened the lid to pick out a little white pill.
Jay popped the pill and then leaned back again to let it start to work. Luckily, it didn't take very long before he started feeling better. A headache that had been forming evaporated entirely and the little aches and pains throughout his body went away. Even the slight shakiness he'd been feeling disappeared as if he'd just been imagining it. Jay could actually relax some. He wasn't sure why everyone didn't take the pills because it always made Jay feel so much better when he did. Although, since they were so hard to get a hold of, Jay only took one or two a day. Well, lately he'd been taking a few more, but only when he was starting to feel worse again.
With the morphine tablet working it's magic, Jay was able to doze off even though the bed was too soft and half of his body was smoky and insubstantial -which he hated. He also managed to get a few hours of rest in, and when he woke up again, he really was feeling better. Jay was a little annoyed about that but wasn't going to admit out loud that the others had been right about him needing the little pick me up.
not having any real drugs on the Isle besides Tobacco and Alcohol and whatever might grow in the jungle, I doubt any of the kids have any idea what growing addiction looks like. Aside from the rather obvious alcohol type where you're drunk all the time. Prescription drug addiction supposedly sneaks up on you and it's doing so for Jay because he really doesn't need it anymore but is certainly still taking it like he does.
When Jay woke up from his nap he was feeling a bit parched, so he took a few quick swigs of the nearest thing at hand -some bottles he'd practiced his summoning spell on and quickly hidden away so that they too wouldn't get confiscated. He tucked the half drank bottle back in the cabinet he kept all the booze he'd summoned in and then closed his eyes to focus on getting out of the lamp. Jay always struggled a little when it came to releasing himself, but he did manage it after two or three tries. As he reformed, however he was less than pleased to see that -yet again- he hadn't actually formed as a human.
"Hey hot stuff," a voice said before Jay could actually focus on reforming himself.
Jay turned quickly and raised an eyebrow to see Harry lounging on his bed as if he was supposed to be there. Jay frowned, "You know, breaking and entering isn't actually a good thing here, right?"
Harry shrugged and got up from where he'd been playing with his hook and obviously waiting. "I know, but I needed ta see ya for something," he said. Jay was about to ask what for when Harry pointed up. Suspicious but curious all the same, Jay looked up and saw a sprig of leaves? hanging from the ceiling?
"Alright, I'll bite. What the hell is that?" Jay asked.
"Parently, it's called mistletoe or something... little imps like ta move it 'round as a trick, and, if yer caught under it, ya gotta kiss someone before ya can move off or yer'll get bad luck," Harry explained.
"And it got in my room by whimsical accident?" Jay supposed with a scoff.
Harry grinned a little. "Nah, I put it there. Got caught out under it a little while ago an' I didn't wanna risk having ta kiss someone random," he said as he approached where Jay was floating with his arms crossed.
"That sounds like it's made up," Jay said.
"It's what I was told," Harry said defensively. "An' ya know how us sailors feel 'bout bad luck..."
Jay rolled his eyes. The ploy was incredibly obvious but somehow charming? Maybe because Harry had never attempted anything even resembling subtleties on the Isle or perhaps it was the booze talking, but when Harry reached for him, Jay didn't pull back even though he was given a chance to.
Harry's hand tangled in the hair of Jay's ponytail as their mouths came together for their first kiss in months. Jay was shocked at how different it felt to be kissed when he was in his golden Djinn form. Little sparks of warmth tingled up and down Jay's spine, and his mouth felt like that time he'd tried those weird popping candy things only ten times better. Before he realized he was doing it, Jay had wrapped his arms around his ex as Harry tilted his head to deepen the kiss even more.
And then, somehow, Jay was being pressed down into his own bed with Harry kissing the ever living daylights out of him. Jay knew he should really put a stop to this, but the sensations were so great that he didn't actually want to pull back from the other boy just yet. Harry's tongue and teeth were teasing and relentless as his free hand not still at the back of Jay's head slid up and down Jay's side. The brush of Harry's fingers sent even more sparks along Jay's sensitized skin, and Jay almost groaned.
Jay ran his hand through Harry's short hair, almost transfixed for a moment at the unusual sensation that it caused against his hand before being drawn back fully into the kiss by Harry's teeth scraping his lower lip gently. Jay had never really touched anyone in his Djinn form, and certainly, he'd never kissed anyone, so he hadn't at all expected every simple brush against his skin to feel like sparklers were being dragged along his body.
Jay's tongue slipped into Harry's mouth with the ease of too much practice, and he groaned at the taste of the pirate. He had forgotten how good Harry was to actually make out with. Harry's hands moved and pulled Jay closer by two firm handfuls of Jay's ass. When had his lower half even come back? Jay didn't have time to wonder really as he was pressed hard against Harry's thigh and a loud noise came out of his throat.
The two teens continued to kiss and explore each other with their hands for several minutes. Jay was getting far too worked up, but everything felt so much more intense in his Djinn form he couldn't entirely stop himself from wanting to have more of it. Even when Harry groped his backside, Jay couldn't do much more than moan and realize that he was still desirable.
Harry's wandering hand moved up Jay's bare chest to flick at one of Jay's exposed nipples, and Jay couldn't stop the gasp of surprise the sensation caused. It shouldn't have felt like that -like it was ten times as much as it should have been. Harry shifted his mouth to kiss along Jay's jawline even as the Djinn struggled to regain his breath. Jay's mouth was still tingling, and now his whole body felt like it was on fire wherever Harry's hand had brushed. "You are so gorgeous," Harry murmured into Jay's pierced ear when he finally got there.
Jay felt a familiar ache return with a vengeance at the return of that nickname, and he reluctantly pushed at Harry's chest. He needed space and to catch his breath. Not to end up getting swept up by sensations and sleeping with Harry just because it felt good for that moment.
It took a moment and another push, but then Harry pulled back. Both teens were out of breath in their tangle on Jay's bed. "We need to stop," Jay said. "Before we'll do something we regret."
"I won't regret it," Harry protested.
"I would," Jay said. "Now let me up, Harry."
For a moment, Jay thought that Harry wouldn't do as he said but then, thankfully, Harry sighed and backed away. Jay took a moment to take a few calming breaths and then pushed himself up. Harry watched silently as Jay slowly managed to make his human skin return and then got up to grab at some clothes from his dresser. He was still in the silky pants that came with being a Djinn and it was freakin' snowing outside.
As Jay headed to the bathroom Harry spoke up, "I don' mind ya changing in here."
Jay glanced over his shoulder. "Yeah, but you don't get to see anymore," Jay said. Jay took his time in changing into his usual leather partly to let himself calm down and partly because he wasn't sure what to do if Harry were still there when he finally finished. A part of Jay was kicking himself for not letting things get to a more satisfying conclusion. It had been a while since Jay had had any and he knew that Harry was a good lover when he wanted to be, but that was a tangle of strings that Jay didn't even want to get remotely tangled up in again.
Jay was surprised when, after a quick shower and changing his clothes, Harry was still in the bedroom waiting for him. "You're still here?"
"Yeah," Harry said from where he was sitting on Jay's bed still. "I actually came ta talk ta ya about something else an' the mistletoe thing just... was a side thing."
Jay's eyebrow went up from curiosity. "Oh? And what else did you want to talk about?" he asked as he towled the drips of water out of his long hair.
Harry dug around in his pocket for a minute before pulling something out and flicking it Jay's direction. The thief caught it automatically and then looked down at what it was. A ring of silver with the band shaped like a snake and a decent sized ruby -or more likely ruby colored piece of glass- sitting in the center was in Jay's hand. Jay's other eyebrow went up along with the first as he looked up at Harry. "What's this supposed to be? A proposal?"
Harry gave a flash of a crazed grin. "Would ya say yes if it were?"
"No," Jay replied instantly.
Harry's smile fell a little, but he nodded as if not surprised. "Well then, I guess it's good it's not," he said. Harry inclined his head towards the ring in Jay's hand. "That there's a promise ring. Read 'bout it a little while ago. It's supposed ta be so that ya promise yerself ta someone else until ya get old enough ta marry or something. Tha's not why I'm givin' it ta ya though."
"Why are you giving it to me?"
"Cause I wanna promise ya something else," Harry said as he got to his feet. Jay eyed the pirate curiously as Harry crossed the room to stand in front of him again. "I'm promisin' ya that I won't hurt ya again, Jay. I know I fucked up. I fucked up real bad an' I wouldn't blame ya if ya never forgive me... but I'm gonna keep trying to make it up to ya."
Jay eyed Harry skeptically, but the pirate just stood there and allowed it. The Djinn couldn't say he wasn't a little bit touched by the gesture, but he couldn't be sure how long that conviction would last from the other teen. Where they were from, hurting each other was such a second nature Jay doubted that they could ever actually stop entirely doing so. "Where did you get the ring?" Jay asked since he didn't want to ask how serious Harry actually was. Harry appeared to mean it right then, at the very least.
Harry shrugged. "There's stores in town."
"Yeah... but did you buy it or steal it?" Jay asked. He was still desperately trying to cut back on the stolen goods front, and this wouldn't help in the least if what Harry got him was also taken illegally.
"I'm not as good a thief as you are, beautiful," Harry replied even though that wasn't really an answer to the question. Jay decided to let it go for now and just went back to studying the ring. Jay was oddly glad the thing wasn't gold. He so hated that color.
After a moment of staring, Jay pushed it onto several of his fingers until he found it fit best over his left middle. "What am I supposed to do with it?" Jay asked as he stared down at the new bit of bling he was wearing.
"Um, just look at it an' remember my promise, I think," Harry said, also seemingly slightly bewildered.
Jay snorted and looked over at Harry more directly. "You really researched this hard didn't you?" he drawled although he didn't take the ring off. "I'll cram it down your throat if you break it."
Harry blinked but then grinned widely. "I'd rather take somethin' else crammed down my throat if i's all the same."
Jay rolled his eyes. "Pervert. But since you're here, I might as well get your opinion..."
The son of Hook looked surprised but then wary. "Opinion 'bout what?"
"If the Darlings came to you and said they wanted to meet you... wanted to spend time with you... would you do it?" Jay asked. The question was lacking a bit since Harry had no way of being related to the Darlings or the Pans, but it was the best that Jay could come up with and he actually did want Harry's opinion on the matter as an outside source.
Harry scoffed but seemed to actually pause and think about it. "Don't see why they would wanna meet me," he said after a few moments, "bu' if they wanted to sure, I guess. Probably wouldn't ever wanna see me again after so best get their curiosity outta the way an' let me get back ta my life." Jay supposed that made sense in a way. If it were only morbid curiosity driving Jasmine then getting it out of the way now would save on headaches later. But it also wouldn't be such a big deal if that were the case. Jay sighed, not really any better off than he had been before he asked the question. Harry eyed him curiously, "Wha's with the question anyway? Does tha' boob Aladdin wanna see ya?"
"I don't know if Aladdin does, but Jasmine seems to," Jay explained lowly as he went over and sat down heavily on his bed.
Harry hummed thoughtfully at that. "Well, like I said, if their gonna go and be all curious best fix it now, so ya don't have ta deal with them pestering ya."
Jay thought about that for another minute before nodding. He didn't know if that actually solved all of his problems with the invitation, but he was glad that Harry had even answered. "Thanks, Harry." Jay felt a pair of fingers under his chin and looked up to see that Harry had gotten very close at some point.
"Hey, yer welcome... bu' if yer worried 'bout them likin' ya or something, don't be," Harry said. "Yer one of those annoyin' people nobody can hate."
Jay snorted although his lip twitched. "I don't know, you seemed to hate me pretty well back on the Isle."
Harry shrugged. "I also didn' hate ya at all," he whispered so softly that Jay almost didn't hear it. Caught without any sort of response to that almost admission, Jay could only stare as Harry dropped a surprisingly gentle kiss on his lips and then left the room.
Well, there was that now too...
Jay felt like he could use another drink.
A little short but I'm already behind on my NaNoWriMo project, so I've got to go do something there
"What's a matter, kid?" Iago asked after nearly half an hour of watching Jay sitting on his bed silently. Just sitting silently wasn't one of Jay's typical behaviors, so Iago knew that something was definitely up with him. Jay didn't immediately respond, so the colorful parrot flew down from his perch to land on the teen's shoulder instead. "Hello! Jabir! What's the matter?" he demanded loudly.
Jay flinched away and then glared at Iago in annoyance. "Did you have to do that?"
"Yes. You were ignoring me," Iago said simply.
Jay sighed and reached up to rub the ear that Iago had just about shrieked in. "You ever think there was a reason for that?" he grumbled.
"Tell me what's bothering you," Iago prodded yet again. Jay still didn't answer, and Iago kneaded at Jay's shoulder unhappily. "Is it Aladdin's boy?" Iago asked after a few minutes.
"You know he's not Aladdin's kid," Jay muttered.
"But he is the reason you're moping isn't he?" Iago asked. "Tell me, Jabir. I'll peck his eyes out if he's upset you."
Jay reached up to scratch behind Iago's chin. "Don't be like that. He's my brother. And no. He's not the reason I'm 'moping,' which I'm not, by the way," he said.
"You are. But if you don't want me to take out your brother's eyes then tell me what's going on," Iago said as he ducked closer. "Talk to me, Jabir. I'm here for you," Iago murmured. He didn't want Jay to close himself off like he had when they were living on the Isle. Iago hadn't had the ability to really pester Jay into telling him what was wrong back then but he did now.
Jay sighed and rubbed his face before dragging his hands down and letting them fall to rest between his legs. "You know that Jasmine wants me to go to Agrabah, right?" he asked.
Jay was quiet as he chewed on his lip. This time Iago just waited for Jay to figure out what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it. "I don't want to go. I can't forgive her for what she did. I don't want to forgive her. She threw me away! That's not okay! All the shit I had to do just to live... I can't pretend that none of it happened and be happy to see her."
"Okay?" Iago said as he leaned closer. "So, what's the matter?" None of what Jay just said had been particularly surprising for Iago to hear.
"I don't want to go... so why do I feel guilty for that?" Jay asked. "I have no intention of being their perfect little lost prince and forgiving them, so there's no point in going there and meeting them... right?"
Iago thought about that for a moment and then rubbed his feathered head against the corner of Jay's jaw. "It proves you're better than them. You're better than Jafar. You've always wanted to make others happy. That's all. But you don't have to act on it if you don't want to. Don't let them guilt you into doing something you don't actually want to do."
"I don't care if other people are happy," Jay muttered defiantly.
Iago nipped lightly at Jay's ear, causing the teen to jerk his head away and glare at the parrot on his shoulder. "If you didn't want people to be happy then you wouldn't have done everything you could to make Jafar happy."
"I did not," Jay said.
Iago gave Jay a reproachful look but then sighed. "Whatever you say. But the point is... you want to make your brother happy, and he wants to make Jasmine happy. You're both people pleasers. But don't let Aziz get to you. You don't owe them anything."
"I know I don't," Jay replied indignantly. "If anything they owe me."
There was a long awkward pause between them. Iago watched as Jay wrung his hands together. "... I still feel like I'm doing something wrong..."
"You're not," Iago insisted.
Jay chewed more on his lip but abruptly stopped when he tasted blood. He lifted a hand to his mouth and felt the sting of the cut that he'd done with his nervousness. Jay wiped the blood away and tried his best to not chew at his own mouth anymore. "What should I do, Iago?"
"If I could tell you, I would," Iago said. "But this is your life, and nobody can tell you what to do with it."
"That's not helpful," Jay said in annoyance.
"That's the problem with having your own life," Iago said. "You have to make these sorts of decisions."
Jay sighed and ran a hand through his hair, leaving it in a messy tangle that he would no doubt just hide under his hat later on. "Fuck," he said before finally getting to his feet. "Let's go, Iago."
"To talk to Aziz," Jay answered.
Iago shifted but didn't leave Jay's shoulder. The teen headed down the hall towards his brother's room. Jay still wasn't happy, and he wasn't at all sure if what he decided was the correct thing to do, but since nobody was telling him for sure, Jay was guessing as best as he could.
Jay didn't bother knocking on Aziz's door as he considered Aziz lucky enough that he was using the door and not the window like he would have on the Isle. Aziz looked up in surprise from the bag he was filling with various bits of clothing. "Jay."
"I'll go with you to Agrabah on one condition," Jay said without preamble.
Aziz blinked a few times in surprise. "Uh, yeah, sure. Anything you want."
"I go with you, and you don't get to ask again," Jay said firmly. "None of you do. No guilt trips. No bargains. Nothing. If I go back then fine but that's up to me and not anybody else."
Aziz was quiet for a moment as he absorbed that. "... Alright," he agreed. "Whatever you want, Jay. I don't want you to be unhappy. I promise I won't ask ever again and I'll tell Mom and Dad they can't either... but fair warning that Mom might forget... she really does want to make things up to you."
"She can't," Jay said immediately. "And I'm serious that if I go with you for this week that's it. I owe you three nothing, and I'm only doing this to get Jasmine off your back about this. Not because I want to."
"I get it, Jay. Really," Aziz assured him. "... and thank you for even giving us this little bit. Are the others going to come too?"
Jay nodded in agreement. He wouldn't ever be able to do this if the others weren't willing to go with them. "And Iago too."
Aziz hesitated a moment but then nodded. "Alright. If that's what you want."
"Its the only way you're getting me there," Jay insisted.
"... okay. We'll leave for the train station in about three hours if that's enough time to pack," Aziz said. He didn't look entirely comfortable or confident but Jay didn't care about that. Jay was far too busy with dreading his own decision. At least it was only about a week or so. Jay could endure the discomfort of Agrabah for a week, he thought.
"Not like we have a lot to pack," Jay said. "I'll go tell the others." Jay hoped Mal wouldn't be too angry with him, but he really didn't feel like he had any other choice but to agree to go with Aziz. Aziz nodded and muttered a 'see you later' when Jay hurried out of the room again.
Jay had heard the train in the distance before. Heck, he'd even seen pictures of the thing during some of his classes where they talked about Auradon moving from magical transportation to using other methods. Apparently, the train made a colossal circle between all of the Kingdoms that made up Auradon including but hardly limited to Agrabah, Tarzan's Jungle, Olympus, and Northern Wei. Jay quickly discovered upon getting onto the monstrosity that he kind of hated it more than life itself. Then again, maybe part of that had to do with not liking where they were going. The others seemed similarly unhappy with the ride, but it wasn't as if driving was all that reasonable considering Agrabah was one of the furthest out Kingdoms. But the train was loud as it clattered over the tracks and Jay felt odd every time he got up to walk and realized the whole thing was moving around him; therefore, he didn't get up to try and walk very often at all.
The only real plus that Jay could see was that the train was divided into private sections and apparently the royal family of Agrabah had an entire car that they hooked up to the train when it came time for Aziz to go home or, Jay supposed, Jasmine and Aladdin to go to Auradon. The whole thing was as lavish as Jay would have guessed it would be. Mosaic tiled panels were sprinkled between dark wood and windows, large woven rugs that took up nearly the whole car's floor, overstuffed pillows on various forms of seating, and wrought metal touches including the railing on the stairs that led up to the second floor of the car. Apparently, there was a large bedroom up on that second level along with the three that were on the primary level, a kitchen, full bathroom, lounge, and dining room took up the rest of the car.
Currently, Jay was sitting in the lounge on a couch and staring out the window as scenery sped by in a blur. Not that there was a lot to see anyway as they were passing through the Enchanted Wood. Evie had become instantly enamoured with the patterns of the upholstery on all the seats and had talked Mal into sketching them out to try and find similar fabrics later. Carlos had talked the one servant person that had apparently come up with the car to collect Aziz into showing him the utility room where everything including the internet was run from. Dude hadn't actually gone with Carlos and was curled up in Jay's lap in the crook of the Djinn's bent knee. Jay pet the dog absentmindedly as he stared outside. Already the teen was regretting his decision to go with Aziz. He'd been confident enough when he'd made it and talked to Aziz about it, but now he was feeling kind of queasy about the whole thing. Or maybe that was how the train was swaying a little as it rumbled along on the track.
Iago had complained heartily about... well, everything but he had quieted down when Aziz had put out a bowl of fruits and nuts out. Iago was currently decimating the selection with Othello -who Evie had brought along since she said he should see where his father was from too. Othello hadn't shown any ability to talk beyond that of an ordinary parrot, but he was definitely ten times more spoiled then Iago was. The cage that Othello stayed in the girl's room was a virtual palace beside Evie's bed with the door to the cage taken off so the parrot can come and go as he pleased and so many toys and mirrors Jay doubted that Othello had even touched them all.
Aziz sat down in the chair beside the couch that Jay was on and Jay allowed that to drag his attention away from the window, although he didn't entirely turn his head. Jay did not like how anxious Aziz looked. A nervous Aziz usually resulted in something Jay didn't like, such as the frankly emotionally-fraught conversation they'd had about Harry. Jay hadn't wanted to talk about Harry to Aziz, but because the stupid pirate couldn't keep his hands to himself on the Isle, Aziz had taken a few not very difficult guesses. It had been a million times more awkward having that talk with Aziz than it had been with Mal. "Hey," Aziz greeted. Jay inclined his head slightly. "So, I need to tell you something. I wasn't going to until you came home with me because I didn't want you to come unless you really wanted to and I didn't want to make it seem like I was trying to guilt trip you into it."
"Well, that's not an ominous way to start a conversation at all..." Jay muttered as he turned more fully to face his brother.
"Yeah... I just... I'm not sure how you'll take this," Aziz muttered more to himself than Jay. Aziz took a deep breath and then squared his shoulders. "So, there's three people also in the palace that you'll be meeting."
"First, there's Fahim and Hadi. They're orphans that Dad picked up off the street a while back. They're fifteen and thirteen and go to Agrabah Academy rather than Auradon Prep. Mom and Dad didn't adopt them officially or anything, but, I guess, because they were living in the place that Dad used to he felt like he should look out for them. I kind of think of them more like... cousins than anything. I mean, I was already fourteen when they showed up," Aziz explained. Jay wasn't sure how at all to feel about the news and shoved it to the side to examine later, although he could feel some bitterness trying to rise up already from the idea. Jay would work very hard to not think of the younger boys as deliberate attempts to replace him.
"But second and, um, kind of more important is... Aliyah," Aziz said. "She's six."
Jay blinked several times, and then everything that Aziz hadn't said compared to the first two sunk in. "... our sister," Jay realized. He was even less sure how to feel about that than the news that two other teenage boys were living in the palace that had been pseudo-adopted. Not that Jay had had any particular thoughts about if there were any half-siblings, but he also had sort of assumed there wouldn't be. Jay also realized he probably should have asked if there were but he'd avoided all news about Agrabah and his biological mother like the plague.
"Yeah," Aziz agreed. "I don't think Mom and Dad told her about you since you didn't really want anyone to know at all... but I mean... we are twins and all so she might notice."
"Thanks for the warning," Jay muttered. He really was glad that Aziz had thought to tell them before they arrived and gave him some time to even process that but Jay was still not sure how to go about processing that bit of information.
Aziz nodded but still seemed nervous. "You okay?"
Jay sighed and rubbed his forehead. "I mean... I guess. Closest I've had to siblings before this was the others and my cousin Jade... and I'm not even that close with Jade since Dad and Aunt Nasira don't get along anymore," he said. "So, I kinda have to process..."
Aziz gave a start. "We have a cousin?"
"Yeah, I thought you knew about her," Jay said, slightly confused. "Scheherazade said that Aunt Nasira was pregnant when we were born, remember?"
"Yeah but... well that was before she said we were brothers so I... guess I sort of forgot about that?" Aziz offered a little sheepishly. "So, she's younger than us?"
Jay nodded. "By like a year or something," Jay said. "She went to Serpent Prep instead of Dragon Hall, so I didn't see her that often. Not that I... ya know, went to Dragon Hall all that often..."
"I didn't realize there were two schools on the Isle," Aziz murmured.
"Yeah, Serpent Prep is where all of Uma's crew went. It's closer to the water than Dragon Hall, which is almost on the edge of the city," Mal offered from where she was sitting across the car. Aziz jumped a little, apparently not realizing that she and Evie had been listening into the conversation. "They're nowhere near as bad as we were in Dragon Hall," Mal declared with pride that seemed to puzzle Aziz. Jay would have to explain later how bad meant good in this case.
"And they have piracy classes," Evie said as she doodled some sort of outfit in her own sketchbook. "Dragon Hall had classes more about potions and spells... even though we couldn't do that on the Isle, which actually seems sort of not worth our time now that I think about it."
"So, this sister of yours," Mal began with a glance at Aziz, "is she like an Audrey or a Lonnie?"
Aziz stared, "Huh?"
"How Princess-y is she?" Mal clarified.
"Well," Aziz paused and seemed to really think about the question for a moment. "I guess pretty Princess-y? I mean, she is one and the only girl in the palace beside Mom, so she's a little spoiled, but she's also six so... you know."
"I was kicking Goblins at six," Mal drawled. "So, I doubt we know."
Aziz frowned a little but then nodded. "Yeah, I suppose you're right. I don't think she's super prissy if that's what you're worried about. She seems more into animals than like make-up and stuff. She has... a menagerie. There's just no other word for it."
Just then, Iago flew over to land on Jay's shoulder. "Is the idiot going to be there?" he demanded.
"Uh, the idiot?" Aziz echoed.
"Yes, yes, the blue Djinn everyone just called Genie," Iago clarified as if it should be terribly obvious.
"I don't know... probably?" Aziz offered. "Him and his family visit all the time. So much they even have some rooms set aside for when they spend the night."
Iago didn't seem happy about that, but before anyone could pursue the topic further, Carlos came back into the lounge. "Man, this train is kind of insane... you should see the router they have in the utility room," he said pointing over his shoulder.
"Ah, well, it also works as a sort of tracking device so Mom and Dad can tell how far out we are and can have cars waiting for us at the train station," Aziz explained. "So it has to be pretty powerful."
Carlos just nodded as if that made sense and stole a few nuts from the bowl that Othello was still perched beside as he walked past to sit beside Jay. "Well, it's impressive," Carlos decided. "What were we talking about in here?" he asked even as Dude shifted to end up in Carlos' lap rather than Jay's.
"Who to expect to be at the palace when we get there," Mal supplied.
Carlos' smile fell just a bit. "Ah." There was an awkward moment of silence nobody seemed to know how to fill, and then Carlos cleared his throat. "Well, from what your conductor guy said we won't be getting there for a while yet, right?'
Aziz nodded. "Right. That's why there's bedrooms built in. If you leave for Agrabah too late, then it's possible that you wouldn't get there until early morning and but that point might as well just sleep on the train. It's not like it's not comfortable enough to do so."
Jay couldn't deny that. Just the train car was like a palace itself to what he and the others were used to. Well, Mal and Evie might be a little more used to it but only a sort of second-hand sort of way. They had probably at least heard about having so much money and power you could have bedrooms that got used only a few times a year. "Will we be getting in that late?" Jay asked as he lifted the hand that had been petting Dude to pet Iago instead. The teen barely noticed he'd done it, but since Iago didn't snap at his fingers, Jay didn't pull back either.
"Not that late," Aziz assured. "We'll probably get there a little after dinner. Which, I actually should have asked about now that I think about it... none of you have actually had Agrabah cuisine before have you?"
Jay glanced around and noticed his friends shaking his head and then shrugged himself. "Dad wasn't much for cooking so... not really no." Not to mention, Jay had fended for himself when it came to food most days.
"Well then, I should warn you... we tend to make things a lot... more potent than Auradon does," Aziz said. "I'll try and tell you what'll be a little easier on your taste buds before you bite into it, though."
"Wha? Like it's spicy or something?" Mal asked without seeming to be impressed.
Aziz shrugged. "Some of it. But not just that. We use a lot more spices in general than Auradon seems to. Honestly, I kind of hate the food at school. It's so boring I think my tongue falls asleep at times," he joked. "But, it's probably something to get introduced to gradually. At least if Ben's reaction to tasting some of our food for the first time is anything to go by."
"Ben's probably not the best model to use for us," Jay replied dryly.
"Well, we'll be having dinner here on the train. I'll tell Hatim to make it mild so you can at least get a little bit of warning first," Aziz told them. "Probably better that way."
"If you say so," Mal answered.
After that, the conversation thankfully moved off as Evie seemed to be near bursting about questions on fashion and fabrics in Agrabah that -to Jay's immense amusement- Aziz seemed to flounder to answer. He tried valiantly, Jay had to admit, but appeared so terribly ill-prepared for the topic. Jay turned his attention back out of the window so that he could continue to watch the scenery fly by.
Jay allowed his mind to wander all over the place. He kept circling back to the revelation that he had a little sister. How in the hell was he supposed to deal with a little sister? Jay had gone from no siblings to now having two. Well, four if he counted the not official brothers that Aziz had said. Jay didn't doubt that he wouldn't be able to think of them that way, especially if Aziz didn't even consider them brothers. Cousins, as Aziz called them, Jay figured he could deal with better. Jay had always had a cousin in Jade although not a close one.
Aliyah was what Jay was most worried about, though. Jay couldn't find the ability to hold out hope that the girl wouldn't put together the pieces of who he was. Even people who didn't know Jay and Aziz were had been able to notice how much they looked like each other. Plus, Jay didn't have any idea how well Jasmine would be able to keep their relation under wraps. Jay was actually anxious about all that since Jasmine seemed to want him to rekindle some sort of connection. Jay would have to be ready for things to get awkward and decide how to deal with Aliyah if she found out. Jay figured if nothing else he could try and treat the girl like Dizzy or something. That should work, he hoped.
Jay continued to worry about things for a while until they were called for dinner by Hatim. He hadn't realized that he'd been staring out of the window for so long, and Jay was really kind of annoyed that he had and still hadn't gotten anything decided for certain.
The group went to the dining room, which was decorated in yellow with bits of jewel tones. On the surprisingly long table, there were silver platters layed out filled with different dishes with colorful sauces. Aziz told them what each of the things were before they started eating and which ones were more or less spicy. Jay could quickly tell that Aziz had been right about Auradon food being quite a bit less flavorful than that of Agrabah, but he also didn't mind that. The other three Isle Kids didn't seem to have very strong opinions on the food, but none of them would complain about food unless it was beyond their very flexible palates. It took a lot to make things inedible for someone from the Isle. "So what do you all think?" Aziz asked curiously.
"It's alright," Carlos said as he fed a bit of chicken to Dude.
"I can see why you say Auradon's food is bland," Mal agreed as she ripped a piece of bread apart.
"And you said this was... mild?" Evie asked.
Aziz nodded. "That's right. The Palace cooks go about twice as heavy with the spices. I can ask them to keep it more like this when we get in though if you don't like it full strength."
"We're not pansies, Aziz," Jay replied as he picked up his glass.
"Alright," Aziz said although he sounded very unsure. "But be sure that if you change your minds, you tell me."
"Yeah, yeah, Aziz. We'll be fine," Jay assured him.
Are things awkward yet?
The highly ornamental golden lamp that always seemed to mock him and his own wretched lack of worth glimmered in the light of the cabin. Jay sighed and wondered if he could disguise it somehow. Everyone in Agrabah was bound to recognize a Djinn lamp when they saw one and Jay definitely didn't want to be the property of someone again. But, he hadn't been able to leave the damn thing in Auradon. Experiments since the Jafar debacle had led Jay to figure out that he could go, at an absolute maximum, three days without entering his lamp before he utterly collapsed. Jay had been hoping it would be more like before when he first came to Auradon, and he could go for months and months. Maybe it was because the barrier was in the way or maybe because he had fully transformed into a Djinn, but Jay was forced into the lamp far more frequently than he'd like. Far too often for him to go to Agrabah and leave the thing hidden in his lockbox anyway.
There was a knock on the door. "Who is it?" Jay asked without looking up from his prison in his hands.
"Me," Mal replied. "You're not jerking off are you?"
Jay snorted even as the door opened. "What would I find arousing about this situation?" he asked dryly.
"How should I know? You're weird," Mal said before closing and locking the door even though that wouldn't keep Jay in if he were really determined. Mal was more worried about Aziz coming in, however. "Conductor guy says we have about an hour before we arrive."
Jay nodded to show he understood even as he pondered how easy it would be to keep the lamp hidden. Mal waited for a few moments before sighing, "Alright. Tell me."
"Tell you what?"
"Don't give me that. You went from no way were you going to we're leaving in three hours today," Mal said. "What changed your mind? Did Aziz say something? Do I have to hurt him?"
"What? No!" Jay said quickly, and he finally lifted his gaze to look at his friend and leader. Mal had her arms folded and eyebrow raised expectantly. Jay sighed and straightened from his hunched position. "I just figured... Jasmine wasn't going to give up on this so might as well get it over with and then tell them they can't ask me ever again. And... ya know... Auradon is cold as shit right now. Agrabah's a desert."
Mal looked anything but convinced. After a frankly too long minute of silence, she finally moved to sit down beside Jay on the cabin's bed. "You remember that time we thought that maybe we were actually related after all because you were the only one with a dad and the rest of us had moms?" Mal asked suddenly.
Jay let out a laugh, "Yeah, shit, it's a good thing none of our parents ever found out about that. Would have killed us dead faster than lightning." Of course, they had been quite young at the time and had only just started realizing that while the majority of the families on the Isle were broken in various ways, most kids did still know both of their parents. In a kid's mind, it had made a bit of sense that since none of them knew their other parent, obviously their parents had just been hiding the truth for some reason. Luckily, none of them had dared broach the theory with anyone but themselves and eventually they realized the absurdity of it.
"It makes more sense than these strangers being your family," Mal said. "Remember that, huh?"
"I'm not likely to forget it," Jay assured. "I know where I came from, Mal. And once they realize I'm not their perfect lost... whatever the hell they want, they'll be happy to keep me their dirty little secret. Then we won't have to deal with any of this again."
Mal narrowed her eyes just slightly. "Is that what you want from this?"
"Of course," Jay said immediately. Mal's skeptical look had Jay shifting in his seat uneasily. "Mal, you know me better than anyone... why would I want to be some spoilt brat of a Prince."
"That's not what you want, though, is it?" Mal questioned again.
Jay bit his lower lip and looked away. He didn't have the best answer for that in the least. "What I want... doesn't really matter."
"Of course it matters," Mal snapped.
"It never has before," Jay replied just as quickly. "Dad wanted money and wishes, those people on the Isle wanted my body, Aziz and his parents want some lost Prince that I don't have any clue how to be... even you only wanted a thief, Mal."
Mal didn't bother to deny the accusation. When she had first approached Jay, it wasn't for him personally. It was for his reputation to steal and to hold his own in a brawl. "... I want you now," she said. Jay stared at her for a moment before slumping. Then, to Mal's surprise, Jay leaned over so far that his head was resting against her knee. Rather than comment on the oddly vulnerable behavior from the always on guard Jay, Mal just let herself be used as a makeshift pillow. "We can always go home early if we need to," she assured him. "The second you want to leave we will."
"Why do I always feel like this?" Jay asked.
"Like no matter what, I'm disappointing everyone. Shouldn't I be used to that by now?"
"You're not disappointing to everyone," Mal denied. Jay didn't say anything to that and Mal sighed. Getting Jay's own sense of self-worth to match up to the bravado he put out as a shield was always going to be hard. "You know why I was so against this?"
Jay tilted his head to look up at her. "Because it's a horrible idea?"
"Well, that, yes," Mal agreed. "But also because they're probably going to love you and they don't deserve to know how great you are after what they did." Jay wasn't sure how to respond to that, because he certainly didn't feel like he was all that special. Well, aside from the fact that he could grant wishes to people -which was something he didn't even like about himself. Mal wished that Jay had some sort of response but didn't push her luck. Best to let her friend accept what he was willing to and not force it upon him. Jay had always hated not being in control and now that Mal knew what he was and what Jay had been forced to go through with his father, that makes perfect sense.
The conversation dried up, and Jay eventually straightened so that he could shove his lamp into the bottom of his bag. Hopefully, nobody would try to take his things from him like when they first came to Auradon. He hadn't liked that little habit Auradon had of just... letting people take your stuff and put it somewhere. Jay was far too possessive over his meager belongings to be comfortable having them out of his sight.
When the train finally came to a stop everything outside was dark and the heat from having the sun beating down upon the country all day was quickly disappearing. The train station was immaculate with wall fountains spurting happily and a brick floor made of very deliberately layered bricks that formed a geometric pattern. Aziz led the way through the mostly empty train station. The front of the station had two massive stone statues of big cats at the base of the stairs.
There were a few more people outside on the street, and more than a few stared at them, but Jay was more focused on the large white limo waiting for them. "Jeeze, they would have to use a limo," he grumbled. Jay would have preferred not drawing attention to himself, but that didn't seem to be something that would be happening.
Aziz greeted the man standing beside the door of the limo with familiarity, and the driver gave his own respectful one back. Jay didn't doubt the man was terribly curious about who they were, but there weren't any questions asked, which made Jay super glad. What exactly was he supposed to say anyway? He didn't want to be known as a lost prince, and he didn't think the people of Agrabah would be happy to have the known son of Jafar running around either, which left him with just... Jay. Not terribly impressive, he didn't think.
"How is everything at home?" Aziz asked the driver.
"They are eager to see you, Highness," the man responded as he opened the door for them. "And the Princess now has an elephant that she's named Sparkle."
Aziz rolled his eyes. "Of course she does. Alright. Well, no use standing around in the street. Come on guys," Aziz said to the Isle Kids before getting into the back of the car. Jay tried hard to not look at the driver, or any one of the people who he could feel were staring at him as he got in beside his brother. Iago ruffled his feathers but was staying surprisingly quiet on his usual perch of Jay's shoulder. Jay figured that the bird had even more reason than Jay did to not want to be noticed. Iago also wasn't that well liked by the people of Agrabah.
At first, the car ride was very awkward, but as the stone buildings and sandy streets rushed by, things started to relax again. "So, you weren't kidding when you said your sister likes animals," Mal finally said. "Is an elephant common for her to adopt?"
"Elephant is a first," Aziz admitted. "But she has three tigers from Raja, about fifteen different monkeys both from Abu and not, lots of songbirds, two peacocks, a camel, two horses and a pony, five cats, and of course four dogs. Half of the garden is dedicated to her animals."
Carlos let out a low whistle. "That is a lot of animals."
"Right?" Aziz said with a slight chuckle. "It all started with two songbirds, and then it just spiraled crazily out of control."
"So, I guess she's going to love Iago?" Jay asked.
The bird in question let out an affronted noise. "I'm not a pet!"
"Of course you're not," Jay said although he didn't sound terribly sincere about it. Iago huffed and grumbled about how ungrateful they all were, but since all of them had now heard that complaint coming onto three hundred times or so, they ignored it.
Agrabah, Jay was glad to see through the windows of the limo, was not nearly as dead after dark as Auradon seemed to be. Half of the reason he obeyed the ridiculous curfew at school was that it wasn't like there was anything to do anyway. Here it looked like things just kept on going once the sun had set. There were still crowds of people going about their business and Jay wouldn't be surprised at all if it turned out shops and restaurants were bustling here while everyone over in Auradon slept like well-fed babies. And then, Jay spotted the palace up ahead of them.
Jafar had four key rules that Jay had grown up being ingrained in him. One, there was no I in Team. Two, the one who has the gold makes the rules. Three, never argue with Jafar. And four, knowledge was power. Jay had struggled the most with that last one. Jafar had always berated Jay for not gathering information for him well enough, but Jay had always been hindered by his reading difficulties. What Jay had found to be his saving grace, however, was that he had a good eye. Even the smallest visible difference between a real treasure and a knock-off was something he could catch, and so Jay made a habit of memorizing pictures. He'd seen plenty of the palace in Agrabah in books and on newscasts. But none of those pictures had come even close to preparing him for the pure intimidating size of the place.
The white towers loomed up above them, and whitewashed walls stretched off to either side. The golden domes that capped the towers must have cost an absolute fortune and Jay could just barely make out engravings catching the faint moonlight which had never shown up on any of the pictures he'd seen of the place. Only the stairs up to the front door that seemed made for giants were several flights one on top of the other. Jay had rarely felt as small and grubby and worthless as he did while looking up at the place his brother lived.
The limo came to a stop at the base of the far too tall set of stairs and Jay forced himself to relax. He was pretty sure he was only partially successful. Evie took his hand and gave it a squeeze, and he gave her a flirty wink which nobody would take seriously. The door to the vehicle opened and Aziz gave Jay a smile before crawling out. "Everything is going to be fine," Mal said firmly.
"Yeah..." Jay agreed. He wanted to believe that so badly, but he wasn't feeling it just then.
Evie gave his hand another squeeze before she and Mal climbed out of the car. "You good?" Carlos asked as Jay rolled his head to crack his neck.
"Ask me in a week when we're heading back," Jay muttered.
"Hey," Carlos said to make Jay look over at him fully, "we got your back. You know that right?"
Jay studied his friend for a long moment before nodding. "Yeah, 'Los. I know that." Carlos gave him a smile and then got out after Mal and Evie. Jay sat there for another brief moment and then took a breath before climbing out himself. Aziz was talking to someone in a turban off to the side that had a sizeable ornamental sword on his belt. He looked like a guard if ever Jay had seen one and the ex-thief felt his nerves climb even higher.
Aziz spoke with the man another few seconds before coming back over to where the Isle kids were waiting by the limo. "Mom and Dad are waiting for us," he said.
"Great so... I don't suppose there's an elevator," Mal said eyeing the stairs in front of them.
"Ah, no, sorry," Aziz said.
Aziz told them that the servants would be bringing their bags inside, which nearly caused Jay to panic since his lamp was in his bag, but he managed to catch himself. Making it evident that he had something valuable in his luggage would only make people want to look inside more. Jay would just have to check his stuff the moment he got it back to make sure his lamp was safe.
Jay decided the best way to not freak out about what was fast approaching was to distract himself with counting the number of stairs they were going up. He kept his eyes on the white stone steps rather than the palace that was still several times too big for his comfort. A hundred and fifty-six stairs later, they were standing right in front of massive doors. Several servants (or at least Jay assumed they were servants) pushed the bright blue doors open for them before Aziz could even ask them to do so.
The first room of the palace was unfairly massive, and a plush red carpet crossed the marble floors. Giant white pillars held up the carved ceiling, and metal chandeliers that looked the size of small cars were hanging down throughout the room. Tapestries that matched the carpet hung at different points, and the walls were decorated with intricate golden ornamentation. Jafar had told Jay once that 'that twit Aladdin had run an elephant through the palace' and Jay had always thought that was an exaggeration, but seeing this room he now had no doubt an elephant really could have fit inside. At the far side of the room, at the end of the carpet and between two open balconies was a throne carved to look a lot like an elephant.
Jay didn't get a chance to see too much more of the room, however. "Aziz!" Everyone's attention instantly snapped to the side and Jay stiffened as the utterly unmistakable Jasmine came rushing forward with an amused looking Aladdin a few steps behind. Aziz smiled widely and went to both of them, and Jay felt Evie grab his hand.
"Mother. Father," Aziz greeted. "I've missed you both."
"We missed you too," Aladdin assured him.
Jay really wanted to look anywhere but the three of them but found he couldn't manage it. Jasmine was just as beautiful and dignified as he'd always heard she was with huge dark brown eyes and a mass of dark hair twisted into a braid and held back with jewels and ornaments that could probably feed dozens for months. The blue silks that she wore shimmered in the light of the chandeliers and whispered as she moved. Jay wasn't sure what the three of them were even talking about, but then Jasmine was looking past Aziz at him. If Jay hadn't already been as stiff as a board, he would have been so immediately. It almost physically hurt to be looked at by her and Jay wasn't entirely sure why. Jay had told himself over and over again that nothing she did could hurt him.
Jasmine carefully stepped around Aziz and closer, but Mal shifted to stop her from reaching Jay. Jay could honestly kiss Mal right then. Jasmine stopped her approach and gave an awkward smile that made Jay feel just as uncomfortable as he was sure that she was feeling. Aladdin stepped up beside her looking all... handsome and kingly and heroic, and Jay really hated him for some reason he couldn't place. Jasmine clutched her hands together and seemed to be trying hard to not wring them, but the motion brought Jay's attention fully back to her. "Hello, Jabir."
"Don't call me that," Jay snapped automatically. Surprise and hurt crossed her face and Jay felt bad even though it hadn't been anything more than habit and nothing personal. "Nobody calls me that," he muttered in an attempt to at least make it clear that correction -as harsh as it was- hadn't been intended to be taken personally. "It's Jay, not Jabir."
Some but not all of the hurt left Jasmine's face. "I see," she said. There was an awkward silence and then she cleared her throat. "I'm glad that you decided to come."
"Yeah, well, I figured you'd just keep asking until I came..." Jay said truthfully. And the hurt was back full force. Jay looked away. He wasn't trying to be hurtful here. He could say and do much worse if that was his intention.
Aladdin was the one to clear his throat this time and put his hands on his wife's shoulders in a comforting manner. "Whatever your reason, we are both glad that you came," he said. Jay was silent and then gave a jerky shrug. What exactly was he supposed to do here? They were strangers to him despite how awkward they made him feel.
Surprisingly it was Iago who came to the rescue. "As touching as this is, it's late, and we've been on a train all day. How about you be good hosts and show us to our rooms," he squawked, his voice even more grating than usual due to his agitation.
The royal couple of Agrabah seemed startled. "Iago," Aladdin said with wide eyes. "I thought-"
"That I was still on the Isle," Iago finished. "Well, surprise! I'm here. And I'm not about to let you two bumble things worse than you already have."
"Hey now," Aladdin protested as Jasmine dropped her head slightly. "It isn't as if any of this happened because we wanted it to."
"What you want doesn't matter," Iago snapped.
"Iago," Jay broke in before a full blow argument could start. "Maybe drop this for now?"
The parrot didn't look in the least bit happy but shuffled on his perch and didn't say anything else. The awkwardness ratcheted up another few notches in the silence that followed. Thankfully, Aziz stepped forward. "Well, he is right that it's late," he said with false cheer. "I'll show you guys to your rooms."
Jay wasn't oblivious to the glares tossed back and forth around him or how his friends deliberately put themselves between him and the royal couple as they walked past, but he was feeling drawn out despite how little they had done that day and was all too happy to pretend like he was. He was just not able to deal with that right now and would take whatever few boons he could scrape together. Jay was glad that Jasmine and Aladdin stayed behind and let Aziz show them through the ornately decorated halls. The palace really was absolutely huge. "You'll probably meet Fahim, Hadi, and Aliyah tomorrow," Aziz said as they walked. "Mom and Dad didn't want to overwhelm you with introductions first thing."
"That was nice of them," Evie commented. Iago scoffed but didn't protest her statement more than that.
Aziz glanced back at them for a moment but must have decided to let things go. The first room they came to was apparently for the girls to share and the room right beside it was for Carlos. Both rooms were big enough for about two dozen people let alone only a couple and had balconies overlooking the city. Each bed was draped in luxurious fabrics, and elaborately woven rugs decorated the floors.
Mal and Evie's bags were already in their rooms, and they quickly went to go check on them as Aziz took the boys next door. Aziz paused in his brief tour of Carlos' room to look at Jay. "I... wasn't sure where you'd be more comfortable," he admitted.
"The servants probably put your stuff in the room next to mine in the royal family's wing but-"
"I'd rather be here with the others," Jay said instantly. Being that far from the others would only mean that there was no way he'd be getting anything resembling rest while they were in Agrabah. "I can share with Carlos."
Aziz nodded but didn't seem in the least bit surprised. "Alright. I'll have someone bring your bag."
Jay thanked his brother who then went off to go get Jay's things moved. "Well, that was a... great first meeting," Jay said sarcastically as he sat down heavily on a divan. "And tomorrow I get to meet a sister that will probably hate me."
"Your sister will probably adore you," Carlos replied. "All kids love you."
Jay snorted at that. "They do not. All kids love Evie."
"They love you too," Carlos said unperturbed. "At least they're not making you sleep over there in the royal wing."
"Even if they wanted me to I'd just sneak back over here," Jay said. There was no way he'd be alone and vulnerable in this place. He knew enough to realize he wasn't at the top of his game right then but Jay trusted the others to pick up the slack from that. "But... it's only a week right?"
Carlos nodded. "Yeah. Just a week." Jay sighed and pulled off his hat to run his hand through his hair. Just a single week... which was looking longer and longer by the second.
So, they were actually meant to get to breakfast in this chapter but Carlos and Jay insisted on chatting and went on just a bit too long...
"-y. Jay. Jay!"
Jay grunted but didn't open his eyes. "Jay. You're heavy and suffocating me," Carlos said as he gave the taller boy a nudge on the shoulder.
There was a long moment of contemplation before Jay decided, "Don't care."
Carlos sighed, and Jay felt it across his cheek and move his hair. Because the servants had anticipated Jay having a room at the other end of the palace they hadn't set up two beds in Carlos' room. But since the said bed was huge, Jay had told them to not bother to rush and put another together, and they could share for the night. The two teens had started with a plenty large enough gap between them, but at some point in the night Jay had gravitated to the other warm body and cuddled up to Carlos. "Jay, your morning wood is pressing against my hip. Kinda awkward, man."
Jay groaned at that and reluctantly rolled onto his back so that he wasn't half lying on top of Carlos any longer. As soon as Jay had released Carlos, the white-haired teen turned in the opposite direction and sat up on the side of the bed. "I thought you liked my cuddles," Jay said with only partially opened eyes.
Carlos looked over his shoulder at Jay. "I like breathing too," he replied. Jay hummed a little at that and watched as Carlos got up to go over to his bag. Carlos rummaged around for a moment before pulling out a red hoodie with white and black patches, white shorts with black accents, and fresh underthings. "I'm going to go take a shower and get dressed. You should think about doing the same."
Jay grumbled his distaste of that idea even as Carlos headed to the room that the servants had told them was the bathroom the night before. The Arabian closed his eyes and resolved to get a few more minutes of sleep before he heard Carlos shout. "Holy shit!"
Jay sprung out of bed and hurried across the room more on instinct than anything else. Carlos was just inside the door to the bathroom and staring. "They call this a bathroom!?" Jay looked in and saw that the 'bathroom' was more like an indoor swimming pool.
The floor was tiled with blue and yellow floral designs which echoed the large blue, yellow, and green mosaic that Jay could see at the bottom of the so-called bath. Gauzy golden curtains hung down across the windows, and chaise lounges were scattered about. "Um... wow," Jay said as he eyed the bright blue dressing tables decorated with golden inlays that were lined up against the inner wall of the room.
"How hard is it to get a swimming pool for a bath in the freakin' desert?" Carlos asked as he took a few more steps into the room.
"Royals, man," Jay replied as he picked up a towel that was insanely fluffy from a stack of them right by the door.
Carlos hummed at that and dropped his clothes onto a weird padded table that was higher than Jay thought would be comfortable to get onto or off of. The thing was taller than Jay's waist for some bizarre reason. "Well, since you're up now, you should probably get ready for breakfast too," Carlos said as he pulled the t-shirt he wore to bed off.
"I don't wanna go to breakfast," Jay said as he pulled his eyes away from Carlos' bare back where he could still see round scars scattered from Cruella's cigarettes standing out from his pale skin.
"You're going to have to meet your sister sometime, Jay," Carlos said. Jay kept studying a strange golden statue of what he thought was some sort of strange bird though it looked like it was on stilts for some reason. The statue was in an alcove surrounded by blue tiles and seemed safer to look at than a stripping Carlos de Vil. Carlos might not realize it, but he had a nice little compact body that sometimes Jay just couldn't help but look a little too long at. "I don't think it'll be as bad as you're imagining," Carlos added.
Jay heard a splash and looked over to see Carlos had gotten into the bath, which was better. Or worse, because now he was a wet Carlos de Vil and that was a whole new ball game. "Yeah, well, when you have to meet a younger sister you never knew you had, I'll be sure to remind you of this situation," Jay said sarcastically.
Carlos snorted and looked over his shoulder at Jay. "Yeah, because my mom would go through 'the trauma' of not fitting into her fashionable clothes twice to have a second kid."
"My point exactly," Jay said. Jay eyed the water of the pool, which was just slightly steaming. "How hot is that water?"
Carlos looked down and then shrugged. "Not too warm. It's nice," he said. "Kinda nerve-wracking how much of it there is though..."
"And you can swim," Jay muttered as he walked over to the edge of what the palace called 'a bath' to peer down. He knew it couldn't be that deep. The water was only up to Carlos' waist, but it was still more water than Jay was terribly comfortable with. He found he liked the idea of a shower better than a bath. All he'd had on the Isle were baths, but they were almost always cold because the water heater at the shop broke one winter and his Father had never shelled out the money to fix the damn thing. If Jay had wanted a warm bath, he had to either heat up some on the stove or get up super early so that he could get the small amount that the heater had managed to struggle to make overnight. So between rarely having the water warm and not being able to swim, Jay often had settled for the bare minimum of the stuff for his baths.
"Come on in, Jay," Carlos said.
Jay sighed and reluctantly pulled his tank off to drop nearby. His sweatpants followed, and then he got into the pool. The water was a few inches lower on Jay's body than on Carlos' and left the level at an awkward spot just about halfway up his hips, something that Carlos' seemed to have noticed. "It looks like it gets deeper over here," Carlos said with a gesture to the far end of the room.
"Yeah, well, I'm fine here," Jay said as he eyed the leather around his wrists and reluctantly started undoing the laces. He still hated having the golden bracers beneath exposed, but the water would ruin the leather cuffs. Jay carefully put the leather on the side of the bath and then turned to the task of quickly washing off.
Carlos shrugged but got to his own washing. The pair of them found some soaps that they experimented with, but Jay didn't like the smell of them -something vaguely fruity smelling- so would definitely be using his own from then on.
Jay was quick to finish and climb back out of the bath to wrap a towel around his waist. He wrung his hair out over the side of the pool to get it drier as Carlos finished. Dude had trotted in from the bedroom while they were in the bath and had climbed up onto one of the lounge chairs to wait for them. "So, other than not wanting to meet your sister," Carlos began, "Is there any particular reason to being antisocial this morning?"
Jay pulled his bracers on and started to tighten them down as he thought about his answer. "Yesterday was... hard," he managed to say. "Very awkward and everything."
"Well, we kind of knew it would be," Carlos pointed out as he finally heaved himself out of the bath also.
Jay sighed and nodded. "I don't know what I was hoping for really but... not that lovely car wreck we got last night," he said. "I wasn't even trying to be a bastard, but I just kept saying everything wrong."
"You weren't saying everything wrong," Carlos denied. "You were being honest and yourself. They're the ones that are going to have to get used to that," he said. Jay supposed that Carlos was right, but that didn't mean that he had to like the way the first meeting had gone. Jay wondered how much time he was going to be expected to spend with his 'family' here. Hopefully not too much because he might just go crazy. "You certainly slept alright, at least."
"Course I did. You're comfy, 'los," Jay said as he finished tying off his leather cuffs.
Carlos rolled his eyes. "I'm not a pillow, you know."
Jay tossed out a cocky grin. "You sure about that?" he asked. "Cause you sure felt like one last night."
"Ass," Carlos responded.
Jay just chuckled and made his way out to where his clothes were piled up on a chair. The night before Jay had practically dumped the whole thing in a near panic and was relieved to see his lamp. Jay's prison was now safely tucked away under the bed frame, but he hadn't bothered to do anything with his clothes. He grabbed the first few bits of clothing he came across to pull on, since unlike Evie or Carlos, Jay really didn't care if what he was wearing went well together. Just as Jay was fastening the dark red leather pants he'd grabbed from the pile, there was a knock on the door.
"Jay? Carlos?" Mal called.
"Come in, Mal," Carlos called back.
Jay glanced up at them for a moment before pulling a fresh black tank on while shoving his feet into his boots. "You two aren't ready yet?" Mal asked.
"Almost," Carlos said as he ruffled his hair with a towel. "There was someone who decided to not wake up even though I was calling his name for five minutes."
Jay rolled his eyes. "I doubt it was five minutes," he said. Carlos wouldn't have sat there under him that long, Jay didn't think.
"Fine. Ten minutes," Carlos replied.
"You going to brush your hair, Jay?" Evie asked as Jay pulled a beanie down over his still somewhat damp mane.
"Nope," he said, popping the last syllable. "They wanted me here, but I'm not going to put on a show," Jay elaborated as he pulled on a dark blue -nearly black- vest that had yellow panels and a red cobra on the back.
Mal nodded, "Good."
"You don't need to alienate them either," Evie said with slight exasperation.
"Like I'm going to have to try hard?" Jay drawled. He wasn't a hundred percent sure what that word that Evie used had meant, but he could guess, and usually, he was right when he did that. Or at least nobody had ever called him out on it, so Jay assumed he was right.
Carlos sighed and shook his head a little before quickly running his comb through his hair. "Either way, I'm getting hungry so how about we just face the music and meet the rest of Jay's family?"
Jay winced a little. "That is still such a weird concept," he muttered more to himself than anyone else.
"How are we going to find where breakfast is though? I mean, this place is huge," Evie said with a wide gesture to the room that Carlos and Jay had been given.
"I guess we ask someone," Mal replied. "They've got servants everywhere, surely they'll take us." Jay supposed that Mal had a point but the idea of asking a servant -which was a bizarre concept to him as he was usually the one being the servant in his Dad's shop- didn't appeal to Jay at all. Jay would rather stumble around until he happened upon the right place. And if he happened to, say, miss breakfast while he was wandering around? Well, who could blame him for that?
There was another knock on the door. "Jay? Carlos?" Aziz's voice called from the hall.
"Come in, Aziz, they're dressed," Mal called back.
There was a pause, but then the Prince came in. Jay was mildly taken aback by the very different outfit that Aziz was wearing. He'd never seen Aziz in anything but the same sort of clothes everyone in Auradon wore, but the robes he had on now were every thread of them Agrabah royalty. "Mal, Evie, I was going to get you next," Aziz said. "I figured I would show you where the dining room is for breakfast."
"Oh, goodie," Jay muttered under his breath as he bent down to tie his shoes.
"I think Grandfather's even going to be at the table today," Aziz said, and Jay's head snapped up immediately.
Jay stared for a moment. "Who now?" he asked even though he knew perfectly well who Aziz was most likely referring to.
"Um, our Mother's Father?" Aziz offered. "He doesn't usually join us. He tends to take his meals in his room because he doesn't get around so well anymore, but I think I heard Mom say he was going to try and be there this morning."
"He's still alive?" Jay asked.
Aziz looked confused and a little concerned. "Well, yes, why wouldn't he be?"
"Because he's ancient!" Jay replied as Iago flew over to land on his shoulder. "He was old even before Jasmine and Aladdin got married."
"Like I said, he doesn't get around so well anymore, and he stepped down from being Sultan, but he's still alive," Aziz said as he folded his arms across his chest. "Pretty sure you would have heard if he'd died, even on the Isle."
Jay didn't have a good reply to that. Aziz was right that Jay would have probably heard if the old man had died, but he just hadn't thought about it. Without hearing about him at all, Jay had assumed -apparently wrongly- that Jasmine's father had passed away before he was even born. Or at least before he was old enough to have heard about it and understood what it meant. "As long as he doesn't try to feed me crackers," Iago said and ruffled his wings. "I hate his stupid, moldy crackers."
"I don't think he carries crackers around anymore," Aziz said. "Parrots aren't a, um, popular pet here anymore..."
"Well, good, because I'm not a pet!" Iago squawked.
"Ow! Iago! That's my ear!" Jay scolded as he reached up to rub at his poor abused ear.
Mal sighed and lifted a hand to her forehead. "How about we just go to breakfast? What are we doing after that by the way?"
"Ah, I thought I'd take you guys on a better look around the palace," Aziz answered. "You didn't see much of it last night."
"Sounds good," Mal said although she didn't sound very excited. "Let's go and get it over with." Jay contemplated protesting but then decided not to. If Aziz knew how very little he wanted to be doing this, it would probably hurt someone's feelings, and Jay didn't want to deal with that mess.
There was already noise coming from the room up ahead, and Jay pulled every shred of his somewhat strained confidence together to reform his usual shield as best he could. He wasn't sure if it would hold, but it would definitely be better than nothing at all. The table in the dining room stretched on for what had to be at least thirty place settings. The few people that were there were all clustered to the far side of the table with golden plates and overflowing serving dishes sprinkled out around them. Jay spotted Jasmine and Aladdin quickly sitting at the very end of the table. There was an old man that looked pretty frail but still maintained a bit of a gut sitting beside Jasmine although he looked as if he was dozing off. Directly next to the old man was a little girl with her black hair pulled back into a ponytail with a jeweled beret that looked like a flower of some sort. A tiny monkey was sitting on her shoulder and chewing on a small bit of fruit -a date or something, Jay guessed- and wore a little purple vest.
Jay figured the girl had to be Aliyah both because she was the only girl there and she bore a striking resemblance to Jasmine with her large almond-shaped eyes and olive skin. The boys sitting directly across from her noticed the group come into the dining room first and the older of the two got up seemingly by instinct. The talking died out, and Jay turned his attention to eyeing the two boys that Aladdin had picked over himself.
They were both much darker complexion than anyone else in the room with coal black eyes and short hair. Jay was oddly soothed when the two of them seemed to flick over their group in a familiar way that told Jay they were eyeing up potential dangers. The older brother, Fahim, was tense but positioned protectively next to Hadi. Jay didn't think they'd look that out of place on the Isle. Jay doubted the two of them wouldn't still be shocked from the harshness there, but they could have probably made it through. Slightly annoyed with himself for that begrudging compliment -even if it was just his own internal thought- Jay turned his attention back to Jasmine and Aladdin who were now standing up as well. "We're so glad you joined us," Jasmine said with a tentative smile.
"Yeah, well, food," Mal said.
"Of course," Aladdin said even as Jasmine frowned. "Allow me to introduce you. Fahim, Hadi, Aliyah, Father, this is Mal, Carlos, Evie, and Jay. They agreed to join us for the week." Jay felt just a fraction of tension leave when Aladdin didn't call him 'Jabir' like Jasmine had the night before.
"Why?" Fahim asked with narrowed eyes.
"Because we wanted to get to know them," Aladdin answered in a tone that seemed pretty firm but didn't make Fahim release his tension at all.
"Well, don't just stand there," the Old Sultan said. "Sit down, sit down. The cooks really outdid themselves for breakfast today," he said with a wave towards some open seats.
Aziz sat down beside his sister even though there was an open seat beside Fahim. Mal sat beside him, Carlos beside her, Evie was next, and Jay was the furthest away from the others. The buffer still didn't feel like it was large enough but Jay would take what he could get. Servants came to fill their golden cups with whatever they asked although Jay was pretty sure they wouldn't give him any alcohol so settled for juice. Jay really wished he'd gone into his lamp that morning and taken a swig or two so that this meal would be a lot less awkward.
Jay followed Evie's example beside him and pulled the cloth napkin out of the golden ring it was presented in. The ring caught Jay's eye as it had a miniature version of the palace engraved in the front with ivory for the white walls and little blue sapphires for the doors. Jay forced himself to put the ring down on the table like Evie did and dropped the napkin in his lap. The whole thing felt stupid, but he knew better than to say that out loud.
It was apparent, to Jay at least, that his and his friend's presence was disrupting an otherwise perfectly happy family meal. Iago slowly moved down from Jay's shoulder to stand on the table and poke through his food while Othello was content enough to preen and take whatever Evie offered him. Dude was curled up under Carlos' chair and waiting patiently. "He's very pretty."
Jay almost jumped at the unexpected comment and turned his head enough to see Aliyah several seats down looking at the blue parrot on Evie's shoulder. "I don't think I ever saw a blue parrot before."
Evie looked just as caught off guard as Jay felt. Iago, however, decided to save them all from the awkward silence that was starting to linger. "He takes after his mother," he said while picking up an almond with his claws. Unfortunately, that drew attention to Iago and also Jay.
"Ah, Iago, I thought that might be you..." The ex-Sultan said as he adjusted some glasses on his face that didn't seem to be quite strong enough judging by how the old man squinted. "But without Jafar, I couldn't be sure..."
"Yes, it's me," Iago said. "What of it?" The parrot quickly downed the nut he was holding as Jay kept his eyes riveted to the plate in front of him. The food there was daunting because his appetite was truly lacking right then.
"So, you are Jafar's kid then," Hadi said. "There were rumors about you."
Jay looked up and glared at the kid. He knew it wasn't likely to have happened, but Jay was hoping to go this week without his Father being brought up. Out of the corner of his eye, Jay noticed Jasmine stiffen slightly and Aladdin put a hand over hers. "I'll bet," Jay stated with as much emotion as he could to tell the boy that wasn't a topic he wanted to get into. Hadi shifted closer to his brother but didn't elaborate on what these rumors might be.
"Can I pet him?" Aliyah asked, still eyeing the blue parrot with wonder.
Evie glanced up and down the table, but Mal was too busy glaring down Hadi for his comment about rumors to give her friend any indication of if it was a good idea or not. "Um, I guess... but be careful. He doesn't always like attention," Evie said. Othello was generally friendlier than Iago but still could get into moods just like his Father's.
Aliyah got up from her seat and moved down to stand between Jay and Evie. The little princess barely even glanced at the two people with all of her attention soundly on the blue bird that was ripping some toast to shreds. Iago eyed the girl warily and shifted down the table to stand right beside Othello. Jay wasn't sure how to diffuse this situation without causing a bigger one. Iago hadn't appreciated his children being given off as party favors all those years ago -especially since many of those kids that had been given an egg hadn't taken good care of them. Quite a few hadn't hatched, and those that had mysteriously were let free from their cages -that Jay swears he had nothing to do with- and flew off to the jungle where they lived to this day. Othello was the only one Jay was aware of that stayed with the kid he'd been given to -namely Evie. The eels had unfortunately been mostly flushed down toilets when they got too big, and Jay had no idea where they ended up after that -if they even survived. And Lucifer's kittens had formed street gangs of stray cats that terrorized any rats or mice they came across. Honestly, giving kids that were encouraged to be evil a bunch of animals as gifts had been a terrible idea on the Evil Queen's part.
Aliyah extended a hand but didn't actually touch the bird. Instead, she just held her fingers out and let Othello come to her. Jay couldn't quite help the slight feeling of being impressed at the girl's patience as she stood there for a good three minutes before Othello moved close enough for Aliyah to run her fingers lightly down the blue bird's back.
"Such a pretty bird," she murmured as she petted the parrot.
Iago was still eyeing her with mistrust, but Jay didn't think he was about to strike out so allowed himself to relax a little. The last thing he'd wanted was the Princess being gouged by Iago. Othello seemed happy with the attention and edged closer to get more full handed pets.
Everyone was so distracted by the scene in front of them that Jay almost missed the way the monkey on Aliyah's shoulder was eyeing his own. He shifted further away and fixed the monkey with a warning glare. Despite how Jay didn't mind -and even kinda liked- most animals, he wasn't willing to trust an unknown monkey on his shoulder. His father had warned him time and time again about how horrible monkeys were. That they were aggressive and dirty and could rip your face off if they wanted to. Jay certainly didn't want his face ripped off so figured distance was the best solution. "I don't do monkeys," he warned. If this particular fleabag was from Abu, then he would probably understand if what he'd heard about that monkey was accurate.
"So, I guess you're the same Jay that is on Auradon's Tourney team?" Fahim asked.
Jay looked up and eyed the other boy warily. Though the question seemed casual enough, Jay couldn't help his paranoia that it wasn't. "... uh huh."
"Jay is the best player we have," Evie said with pride that Jay had to fight not to blush at. He was still not even close to used to being given compliments.
"That's not what Amir says," Hadi offered.
Jay scowled, and his fingers rolled the napkin ring around in front of him to stop from clenching his fist in an obvious display of anger. "Amir's a hack, and I can play circles around him," he said bitterly. The boy along with Madhi had tried pretty damn hard to get Jay tossed from the team when he'd first shown up in Auradon. When the coach refused to cut Jay -because he was just that good despite what others said- Amir had quit like a pouting little girl. Aziz had told his fellow Agrabah natives to lay off of Jay, but their dislike was still very obvious. A hatred that was returned in full force because Tourney was one of the few things Jay felt he had a right to feel proud of in Auradon and those assholes had tried to take it away.
Suddenly, two hands grabbed Jay's bicep and he only just refrained from jumping. He looked to where Aliyah was standing to see the little girl was smiling up at him. "They have crocodiles on the Isle don't they?" she asked, eyes sparkling.
"U-uh... yeah, but they aren't friendly," Jay answered, caught entirely off guard by her sudden question and how excited she seemed to be by the prospect. His hand stopped rolling the napkin ring, but with her grip on Jay's arm, he couldn't pull his hand back either.
"How big are they?" she asked, completely bypassing Jay's point about them being evil.
"Big enough to probably eat you whole," Mal said. "They're evil, you know."
Aliyah pouted at her but then seemed to brighten. "Crocodiles can go through three thousand teeth in their life," she rattled off. "They're always growing more. I wanna go to the Pride Lands or Tarzan's Jungle and see one, but Momma and Daddy said I have to wait until I get older. What do crocodiles feel like?"
"Never touched one," Jay admitted. "Wasn't looking to lose a hand."
"Aliyah, you're not getting a pet crocodile," Aladdin said. "And you just got a new pet a week ago."
Aliyah turned to look at Aladdin and Jay tried to subtly move his arm away, but the girl kept her grip on it. "I know, Daddy," she said. "But I can have two new pets!"
"No, Aliyah," Jasmine said firmly. "That's not the rule, and you know it."
She pouted but then turned her attention to Jay again, much to his discomfort. "Don't they also have tigers on the Isle?"
"Evil tigers," Evie said. "They all come from Shere Khan."
"Animals can't be evil," Aliyah said. There were quite a few snorts of disbelief at that comment, which Aliyah just ignored entirely. "Is it true there aren't any dogs on the Isle? That's sad."
"You don't want dogs around Cruella de Vil," Carlos answered. "Bad enough there's other animals with fur... you don't need dogs too."
"Oh..." Aliyah said as if that hadn't occurred to her. Jay finally managed to pull his arm out from under the girl's grip. "It's still kinda sad for everyone else though."
Carlos nodded a little and reached down to pet Dude who sprung up into his lap immediately. Aliyah's attention quickly went to the little terrier, but before she could go over to it Aladdin spoke up, "Aliyah, eat your breakfast." Aliyah pouted, but Aladdin seemed stern enough that she gave in and went back to her seat.
There was a somewhat awkward silence following Aliyah returning to her seat and Jay focused most of his attention on his breakfast. He caught the two boys on the other side of the table eyeing him several times throughout the meal, but they didn't try to speak to him again. "How were your rooms?" Jasmine asked after a few more minutes of silence.
"Just fine, thank you," Evie said. She had undoubtedly the best manners out of all four of the Isle Kids, and it had been decided back on the train she would do her best to be the one talking to the royal couple for just that reason. The less offense that Aladdin and Jasmine could take the better things would go.
"Jab-Jay," Jasmine corrected herself this time, thankfully, "I hope it wasn't too awkward sharing with Carlos. They should be bringing another bed into the room today while you're out with Aziz."
"... why would it be awkward?" Jay asked, too confused by what she said to be unsettled by her attention on him.
"Cause you're both guys," Hadi said as if it were obvious.
Jay still wasn't entirely sure what that had to do with anything. Carlos seemed to judging by the tinge his face took on. Then it clicked in Jay's head, and he rolled his eyes. "Oh, Evil, seriously?" Jay asked. This was an annoying turn he hadn't anticipated nor wanted to get into. "Like you can't fit five people into those giant ass beds anyway?"
"Jay's right," Mal said. "You can fit three people in those things and still not have anyone touching."
"And people say our heads are in the gutters," Carlos muttered as he pet Dude.
There was an awkward half minute pause. "Ah, well, I'm glad you weren't upset about it," Jasmine finally said. "But the servants will still bring in another bed for you." Jay just nodded and then went back to his meal.
Breakfast seemed to stretch on and on and on and on some more. Jay just wanted to ditch the whole thing but finally, everyone finished, and Aziz cleared his throat. "Well, how about that tour I promised you?" he asked, rubbing his hands together and seemingly almost as uncomfortable as Jay was feeling.
"Let's go," Mal agreed as she tossed her napkin back onto the table.
Jay caught a glimpse of Jasmine looking unhappy as they left but that didn't even begin to convince him to hang around longer. It might have been a cowardly thing to do, but Jay fled the situation with the others without even a moment of hesitation. Jay had no real interest in the thousands of rooms of the palace, but it was infinitely better than trying to bridge the gap between himself and his birth mother.
"Can we make this tour take a while?" Mal asked. "Because I really don't want to have to deal with your family again so soon."
Aziz frowned some but nodded. "Yeah, don't worry. We've got plenty of rooms that we can check out."
There was a sigh of relief from everyone and Jay tucked his hands into his pockets. He frowned when he felt something there, and Jay pulled it out. A golden napkin ring had somehow ended up tucked inside his pocket without him realizing it. Damn. Jay eyed the intricate ring and then shoved it back inside his pants. He would deal with that later. Besides, it wasn't as if anyone would have seen him pocket the thing. Nobody ever noticed his pickpocketing.
Jay did his best to memorize the layout of the palace. He thought he was doing pretty well with it too even if he had no earthly clue why one family would need so many giant empty rooms -ballrooms Aziz had called them- in one house. Or, Palace, whatever. Evie seemed impressed, but then it had been ground into her to be impressed by that sort of thing by her mother all her childhood. Jay sort of lost track of how many rooms they had gone through after a while, although to be fair he wasn't trying very hard to keep count.
As they made their way through the palace gardens, Jay was not even half paying attention. Jay was keeping an eye out for places to hide himself should he need to while they were there for the week. There was a problem with that, though. All of the walls around the palace were huge and pretty smooth. Or, if they weren't flat, the handholds were too far apart to make climbing easy. Picking a place that didn't require climbing sounded like a good compromise, but that seemed like that would have to be outside in the gardens as so many rooms in the actual Palace were less than easy to hide within.
Aziz led them through the paths of the palace until they reached what seemed to be a small zoo. Large cages were filled with all sorts of animals including a little elephant that was in an actual stone enclosure and was playing with a colorful ball. "You weren't kidding when you said that your sister had a lot of animals," Mal said as they wandered past another enclosure with a tiger sunbathing on a large boulder.
"Nope," Aziz laughed. "This area used to be all gardens and fountains, but it didn't take long for Aliyah's pets to sort of outgrow the amount of room inside."
"You're joking..." Jay drawled. "You have giant completely empty rooms in there."
Aziz blinked. "But those are ballrooms. Plus a lot of these animals are a lot happier outside. Like the big cats."
"Right," Jay muttered. He did not get that in the least but then Jay figured he wouldn't be understanding much of anything here in Agrabah. The whole place was just so far from what Jay had ever actually known. Jay hadn't even heard many stories about Agrabah from Jafar. The few he could remember always were bitter, unpleasant things that made Jay kind of wonder why Jafar ever wanted to take the place over. Jay never dared voice that thought to his father, but it was still there.
By the time they had finally gotten through the miniature zoo, Jay was more than done with the whole 'tour' idea. And yet they were still going. Heading back into the palace to see even more parts of the far too large building. There was only so much Jay could take when it came to seeing what he didn't get in his life.
Jay started lagging behind a little but was still close enough to hear whatever Aziz was rambling about. He wasn't paying very close attention, but it sounded as if he was telling them about how this hall that they were currently in led to the kitchen and how blah blah blah. Jay figured it was probably good to know where the food was in this place but he was beyond caring at the moment. What did it really matter where everything was when he would only be in the palace for a week and never come back.
Iago must have noticed that Jay's attention was wandering and lightly pecked his shoulder. "Hey, kid. Let's ditch this. Go down that side hall," he murmured into Jay's ear.
Jay hesitated but knew that whatever Iago wanted to show him wasn't going to be dangerous. He did as he was told and wandered down the side hall which curved back towards the kitchen like the first hall but seemed to be smaller and less often used. "That sconce there by the painting of Ali Baba," Iago said with a gesture towards it. "It'll turn to the left."
Sure enough, the golden sconce turned with only a little struggle on Jay's part and the wall beside it popped back just a few centimeters. Jay frowned at the crack but then pushed on it. The line turned into an entire door and, after a quick glance around to be sure nobody was there to see this, Jay slipped inside the dark and surprisingly cool room beyond. "They'll be a light switch on the right wall," Iago commented even as Jay closed the door behind him and cut off what little light was coming in from the hallway he'd just left.
Jay fumbled around on the wall for a moment before managing to find the switch the parrot was talking about. There was a popping noise followed by the whirl of machines somewhere in the distance, and then, lights flickered into existence on the ceiling. Jay looked up and saw they were nothing more than bare lightbulbs, but considering how most of Agrabah was still not fully wired for electricity despite Aziz having said something about working towards that, Jay figured any lights was a plus. Jay looked away from the lights and to what was in the room.
Giant machines that Jay had no hope of figuring out were sitting there covered in dust and cobwebs. A set of stone stairs led from the landing Jay was standing on down to another floor where the machines were along with bookcases that went almost all the way to the ceiling two stories above. A ladder was placed against the bookshelf and looked as if it hadn't been moved in decades. "Where are we?" Jay asked in a whisper. He didn't want to talk too loud here. The room felt haunted or something.
"Jafar's lab," Iago answered. "I was wondering if they ever found it, but I guess this answers that."
Jay studied the layout for a moment, noticing several low tables and chairs, a hooka off to one side, several bird perches scattered about, even a divan that looked a lot like the one Jafar used as a bed back on the Isle. "How could they have not found this?" Jay asked as he eyed the massive machines that dominated the middle of the room.
"There are countless hidden rooms and passages. It's sort of tradition for each new sultan to add a new one or renovate an old one to their own purposes. Jafar found this one shortly after he started and took it over for his lab. He thought everyone had forgotten it existed because of how neglected it was. I guess this proves he was right," Iago said.
"And you wanted to see if it was still here, why?" Jay asked as he slowly made his way down the stairs. There was so much dust everywhere that Jay could even see his own footprints left behind.
"Because there's something here I wanted for you," Iago answered. "Check over on his desk."
Jay didn't really think he wanted anything that had been his father's but Iago would no doubt throw a fit if his instructions weren't followed. Jay didn't want his ear screeched in or to be bitten on the ear, so he made his way over to a large desk still cluttered with books and scrolls. On the corner of the desk were the remains of candles that had melted down to nothing at all. "What am I looking for?"
"A ring," Jay echoed. "What kind of a ring?"
"It's a blue diamond ring," Iago answered. "Jafar took it from the sultan so it would rightfully belong to you anyway."
Jay frowned. "Wouldn't it belong to Aziz, though?"
"Aziz has a palace," Iago pointed out. "He probably doesn't even know the damn thing exists. Besides, you sell it, and you'll have enough money to set you and your friends up real nice after school." Jay wasn't sure how he felt about that idea but wouldn't argue.
After several minutes of rummaging around in the desk, Jay found the ring that Iago must have been talking about. "Wow..." Jay murmured as he held the piece up to examine it. The blue diamond was obnoxiously large and set in what looked to be pure gold. Iago was right that the thing would rake in some mad money. Blue diamonds were rare enough on their own, but one of that size and color was... well, royal jewel level. "I'm not sure I should take this..." Jay didn't much care about money and didn't want to somehow get himself into trouble by having something like that ring in his possession.
Iago harrumphed and fluffed his feathers. "You can always give it back to that brother of yours if you want," he grumbled. "But I think you should keep it."
Jay was quiet for a moment as he thought about it. If he left the ring in Jafar's workshop, it would probably be lost for ages, maybe forever. Perhaps returning it would prove he wasn't like Jafar at all. Then again, they could take it to mean that Jay was just like Jafar for having the ring in the first place. Jay had no idea what to do about it and in the end, tucked the ring into one of the hidden pockets inside his vest. The trinket wouldn't be found there, and he could think about what to do with it later.
Looking for any sort of distraction, Jay turned to the machine dominating the room. It appeared kind of like an hourglass but also was far more complicated than that. "What is this thing anyway?"
"Jafar used it to find who could enter the Cave of Wonders," Iago said. "He had to take several of his other machines apart to manage it, and I'm not entirely convinced that it worked."
"How do you mean? Aladdin did go into the cave just fine."
"There were two people shown in the sands though," Iago said. "Him and Jasmine both... and Aladdin did cause the Cave to collapse over top of him."
Jay blinked several times as he tried to process that. "You think that the 'diamond in the rough' was Jasmine and not Aladdin?" he asked in bewilderment. "How would that make sense?"
Iago shuffled on Jay's shoulder. "Considering who she is and what area of town she was in at the time, it's really not that far fetched I don't think," he said. "And she'd have no reason to have taken all the jewels and gold that destroyed the cave. She already had plenty of that here. No temptation at all for her."
"Huh..." Jay said since he couldn't think of anything better. Either way, Jay supposed it didn't matter much. "I guess if I have what you wanted me to get, I should head back to the others..."
Being in his father's old workshop was unsettling. Jay had no trouble whatsoever imagining his father prowling around the room muttering dark things. In a way, the room felt like a dungeon more than a laboratory. A place where terrible things happened. If things had turned out differently, Jay could see most of the palace having looked like this.
There was a loud creak and Jay whipped around to see the door up above was opening up. Jay was caught very much off guard as he hadn't anticipated anyone even knowing about this room much less coming to it. Jay would have hidden himself, but the footprints in the dust and sand would just give him away.
Jay felt his jaw drop when he saw the old Sultan standing at the top of the stairs with a golden cane to keep him upright. The door closed behind the old man with a thud, but the Sultan just kept smiling as if they were in the middle of the gardens or something. "I thought you might find your way here," the old man said lightly.
"I... I was just about to leave," Jay managed.
"Oh, no need for that. You'll pardon me if I don't join you down there, though. The stairs are a bit much for me," the old man said as he brushed a hand through his snowy white beard.
"How do you even know about this place?" Iago demanded.
The old Sultan looked mildly surprised by that. "Well, I've had years to look for it, haven't I?" he asked back. "It wasn't easy to find, but I was determined."
"Why? And why did you even leave it here?" Jay asked. If he were the Sultan, he would have wanted this room torn apart after what Jafar did. Jay was sure he wouldn't be able to just leave it there untouched.
"It didn't feel right taking it out," the Sultan answered. "We shouldn't forget our history, no matter how unpleasant it can be. And your father was an important lesson to me and the rest of this country."
Jay figured that sort of made sense but also didn't make even a little bit. "No much of a lesson if it's all locked away behind a hidden door."
"Perhaps not to everyone else, but I like to come here from time to time to remind myself," the Sultan said. "I can't ever forgive Jafar for all of the terrible things he did. But, there was a time when he was much different, you know."
Jay couldn't help but scoff at that. "No, really," the Sultan insisted. "I wouldn't have made him my Royal Vizier if hadn't trusted him. Back when I first met Jafar he truly was more concerned with helping the people than himself. Unfortunately, I didn't listen to his advice perhaps as much as I should have. I appointed him because of his intelligence and foresight, but it is easy to ignore advice if you don't want to hear it."
Jay shifted where he stood, feeling very awkward about this entire conversation. "He must have grown frustrated with me," the Sultan continued. "Always ignoring his ideas and such. I suppose, in a way, it did make sense his attempt to overthrow me. He'd be able to do what he wanted and what he thought was best without anyone in his way if he were Sultan. But... he clearly forgot about why he wanted to be in power somewhere along the path of actually getting it."
"I think he was just always like that," Jay denied. "He's good at hiding things."
The Sultan shrugged. "You've only known him after everything that happened with the Genie. You didn't know him as a young man."
"He hates you," Jay said impulsively. He wanted the old man to just... not. Jay couldn't handle this conversation anymore. "Almost as much as he hates Aladdin."
"I know," the Sultan replied. "I do hope his hatred didn't pass onto you, though. I'd hate for my own grandchild to despise me."
Jay physically recoiled at that. He'd never in his life been called that, and he had assumed that this old man had no idea of the relationship. "W-what?"
"Do not look quite that shocked, Jabir," he said as he shifted his cane in his hands. "Jasmine didn't tell me until a few months after Aliyah was born what had happened. I am angry about the circumstances, of course... but Jafar is the one that deserves that anger. Not you."
"So, if you've known for years," Iago squawked. "Why didn't you come and take Jabir away from Jafar?!"
"I was no longer Sultan by that point, and King Beast made it court policy to barely even acknowledge the Isle in his presence," the ex-Sultan said. "I tried bringing up the Isle and the children there to Queen Belle, and that went over better, but still it wasn't an opinion most people shared. They had no reason to. Not like we did."
"So politics," Iago spat out.
"I never said it was a satisfying reason," the Sultan said. "But it wasn't as if I made no attempts either. I even managed to contact your Aunt once... although I never got anything from that."
Jay perked up slightly. "Aunt Nasira?"
The old man nodded. "Yes, I managed to get a letter to her, and she sent a rather unpleasant one back. Although, she did say you were alive... and that one letter in return was all we ever got."
"Well, there wasn't much else to say," Jay pointed out. Being alive was really the most important thing to say about anyone on the Isle.
There was a somewhat awkward silence in the room. Jay could hear the buzz of the lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling, and he really wished his Grandfather would stop looking at him like he was some cute kid or something. Nobody ever looked at Jay that way, and it made him overly aware of how very not like that he was. "I am glad that you're here, Jabir. And I wish that we'd been able to do more for you."
"... my name's Jay," Jay muttered. He didn't have anything else to say. He wished for that too in the deepest darkest hidden places of his heart. But that wasn't what Jay's life was so it was pointless to keep dwelling on it.
"Jay then," the Sultan said. "I am glad that I got to meet you. Even if I don't think the feeling is returned."
Jay shrugged. He could have gone without meeting his maternal grandfather. Jay didn't really have any strong feelings about the man one way or the other. "I didn't even know you were alive still before coming here."
"I've stayed out of the public eye for a while now," the Sultan said by way of explanation. "I know you probably will never be fully comfortable here in Agrabah, not after growing up in a place so different from it. But I do hope that you find it tolerable enough to at least visit from time to time." Jay just shrugged. He didn't think it would be a good idea to shatter the old man's delusion that Jay might come back to this place under any circumstances.
I really wanted to spin the Sultan as not being quite so bumbling in this story. I mean, who would in their right mind hire someone like Jafar if he started out that way? The guy screams 'I'm evil! I'm evil!' and yet he's trusted pretty much entirely? Even the Cobra staff mind control doesn't really convince me that he could have just mind roofied his way to the position of Royal Vizier.
So, funny story... I totally thought today was Sunday until like... four o'clock in the afternoon. So this chapter is shorter than I wanted it to be. Sorry about that but I decided I needed to keep my schedule of updates or I'd never get back on it.
Jasmine hated to admit that she was terribly disappointed when Jabir didn't show up for lunch. She really meant to be patient, but that was becoming harder and harder to do. Jasmine had been worried too when Jabir hadn't arrived at lunch but Evie, who seemed to be the only one of the group that would readily talk to anyone besides Aziz, had told her that it wasn't surprising he hadn't shown up and to not worry. Something about him slipping off during the tour and probably taking some time to himself. That hadn't actually eased her worry, though, she didn't press about it.
After lunch, Jasmine had gone off to take some time to think. She wanted to go and find Jabir. To check to make sure he was alright, but Jasmine was almost positive that was the wrong move. As much as she hated to admit it, Jabir had no reason to like her. Jasmine sighed heavily and stared into the room that she hadn't allowed anyone to go into for years and years.
"Jasmine... you have to give him time," Aladdin said from the doorway.
"I know. But I want to make up for everything that's happened..." she said with another sigh. Jasmine reached down and fixed the silky blankets and sheets inside the bassinet. "I want him to know how I never stopped wanting him back."
"I know," Aladdin said as he came in to wrap his arms around her. "But you have to realize that you might not be able to do that. From what Aziz said he's heard all his life that you didn't want him. That's a lot of time for resentment to build up, and we have no idea what he's been through."
Jasmine turned to bury her face into his chest. "I would make it up to him however I could!"
"Jaz... you can't 'make it up' to him," Aladdin said. "It's like when my father left. I still don't forgive him for that. He meant to make things better for us, but he didn't. He left, and I had to fend for myself. You know what it was like on the streets back then. And from what Aziz tells us, the Isle was even worse than that."
"I wouldn't have done it if Jafar hadn't made me!" Jasmine snapped.
"I know that," Aladdin said. "And so does he. But, speaking from experience... the why really doesn't matter, Jaz."
Jasmine sighed and looked back at the nursery that had been empty for so long. When she'd had to separate the twins, they moved Jabir's things into a separate room, and Jasmine had disallowed anyone but herself from even entering the room until just recently. Aladdin hadn't realized exactly what was in the room until Jasmine had explained what she had done. Aladdin still wasn't happy with having been made to forget that Aziz had been a twin by Scheherazade's magic and wished that Jasmin had just trusted him more from the beginning. He did understand that Jasmin hadn't wanted to talk about what she'd been through, but it still hurt that she thought he wouldn't still love her. Now all he could do was try his best to help her with the fallout from what happened. It wasn't a position that Aladdin found to be terribly comfortable.
"Do you think he'll hate me forever?" Jasmine asked.
"I don't know, Jaz," Aladdin answered. He'd like to lie to her and say that Jay would definitely come around but he wouldn't. "But trust me when I say that pushing him isn't going to help matters."
Jasmine bit her lip but nodded. "... He reminds me a bit of you," she said after a minute.
Aladdin was surprised to hear that. "Me? Really? How?"
"I'm not sure," Jasmine admitted. "Maybe how he puts out this emotional shield thing of confidence so that I can't get close. When we first met you did that a bit too... of course, you dropped it a lot faster than he seems to."
"Of course I did. I fell for you hard, Jaz," Aladdin said. "Hard to keep people at arm's length when you want them to be closer. No matter how much you know that they should still be kept away."
Jasmine ran her hand along the edge of the bassinet again. "At least he seems to get along with Aziz... even if he never forgives me, I'm glad for that."
"That is good," Aladdin agreed. "Aziz has told me how difficult getting close to Jay has been even after learning the truth, but that our sons seem to have come to some sort of an understanding is a comfort."
Jasmine looked over quickly, not having missed what Aladdin had called the boys. "Al..."
"Don't give me that," Aladdin said firmly but not unkindly. "Biology doesn't actually mean a whole lot to me. I'm not about to stop calling Aziz my son, so I see no reason to not call his twin that as well. Whether he accepts that or not, is another matter. One we can deal with over time."
Jasmine went to Aladdin and gave him a kiss. "You really are such a wonderful man. I'm so sorry I lied to you for so long."
"Hush now," Aladdin said, brushing her dark hair back behind her ear. "I can understand why you did it. Talking about something so horrible cannot be easy, and the decision you were forced to make was even harder."
"I should have come up with something else..." Jasmine muttered. "Surely, there was something I didn't think of!"
"Maybe," Aladdin said neutrally. He couldn't honestly say if there had been or not since Jasmine hadn't let him help her back then. "But that's in the past now, and we can't change it. All we can do is try to move forward as best we can. And don't worry about Jay, so much. He has friends that obviously know and care about him. And Aziz is there for him now too. Yes, it would be nice if he allowed himself to trust us too, but that's up to him. He's not alone and stuck on the Isle with Jafar anymore."
"Aliyah seems to like him," Jasmine murmured. "I hope they at least bond a little..."
"Aliyah likes most people," Aladdin reminded with a smile. He didn't point out that Jay had seemed uncomfortable with his sister's attention because he too hoped that if Jay couldn't forgive Jasmine at least, he could have a relationship with his siblings. Aladdin also didn't know how much contact with younger children Jay had ever had on the Isle, or if that was why Jay'd looked like he wanted to run from Aliyah at breakfast. "And if anyone can win Jay over, it is Aliyah," he added with certainty. His princess was nothing if not a charmer.
"True," Jasmine said with a little laugh. "It's hard to dislike Aliyah..."
"Give it time, Jaz," Aladdin counseled again. "And maybe we can go up and visit Aziz and Jay in Auradon in return," he added since he was sure it would take more than a single week of being in vaguely near vicinity to one another to even begin to mend some of the damage done. Jasmine nodded her head, but still looked forlorn. Aladdin wished he could help more, but there were no easy fixes to situations like this. Not unless a Djinn was involved and Aladdin wasn't willing to just magic the boy's understandable anger and resentment away with a wish. That would just make him not trust them more when the truth of it came out. They would have to put in the hard work and time if they wanted to salvage something of a relationship with Jay.
Holidays made this chapter late, sorry about that. Next week's might be late too sad to say, but tis the season.... to fulfill social obligations...
After that downright amazing talk with the old Sultan, Jay decided he really just couldn't deal. Quite simply he said screw it and retreated to where he knew nobody in his 'family' could bother him. He still hated the lamp but he had to admit being in it was a nice escape from being around people. Almost as soon as he was inside he took a couple of little white pills and washed them down with a long drink of vodka that he'd stashed away. After a few minutes and another few drinks Jay was feeling quite a bit better. The tension that had built up in his muscles had loosened and the headache he'd been growing finally faded. Luckily, Iago had gone to check on the others so Jay was free of a scolding parrot screaming in his ear and ruining his buzz.
Jay sighed and let himself fall back into his bed to enjoy the numbness. He let his eyes close and allowed himself to completely forget about where he actually was and what was going on outside of his lamp. Maybe, Jay thought, this whole 'lamp' thing wasn't so bad after all. The lack of clear exits still bothered him immensely but if he closed his eyes and got a bit tipsy that was easy enough to forget about. And Jay always had liked having little hiding spots to go to so that he could decompress.
Some time after Jay had taken the tablets Jay thought he heard something odd. At first, he dismissed it as his imagination and just took another swing of nearly empty vodka. But then he heard it again and grew a little curious. There was definitely talking going on somewhere and, while Jay hadn't heard from outside the lamp while he was inside it before, Jay was beyond the point of thinking about things like that. He was pleasantly buzzed and unlike his father when buzzed he didn't like getting angry at things. Jay would much prefer to keep that pleasant haze going.
Still, Jay was curious as to who was making such a racket that he could hear it outside his lamp. Jay pondered for a moment before draining the last of his drink and then focusing as best he could on exiting his hiding spot. The fact that it might give him away as a Djinn didn't even occur to him.
Luckily, when Jay was a little lubricated with alcohol he seemed to have a better handle on this whole 'magic' thing because he reformed perfectly human for once. He was also standing on the bed, which was weird, but he just dropped down without really bothering to wonder about that. Jay watched as the two kids from breakfast... uh whatever their names were, argued back and forth as they looked through a chest of drawers that neither Jay nor Carlos had been using. They were arguing in Arabic so Jay had absolutely no clue what they were saying, but they sounded upset. Jay rested his head, which seemed unusually heavy, on his palm as he watched for another minute. Had they really not noticed him at all? That was kind of sad...
"Ya know... thieves are really better when they're a lot silenter," Jay finally commented.
The two boys froze like that time Maleficent interrupted the coronation. "What're you even looking for?" Jay asked. "We don't have money."
After a tense and awkward moment, the boys turned back around. "How did you get there?" the older of the two asked. "You were not there when we came in."
"I turned into dust and poofed here," Jay said. "But really... what're you looking for?" he asked. Was the room swaying? It felt like it was swaying. Or maybe he was swaying. No... no he was definitely sitting still. He was sure of it.
"Nothing," the younger boy said quickly.
"Oh, well, you'll find plenty of that," Jay said as he pulled his hat off and then ran a hand through his hair to push it a little further back from his face. "You guys have a hair tie on you?" he asked. Normally Jay couldn't care less about if his hair was loose but it was getting hot now that it was afternoon and that was kind of uncomfortable. Maybe E would do something with it for him.
The brothers stared at Jay with wide eyes. "No! Why would we have a hair tie?" the oldest demanded.
"I don't know what princes keep in their pockets," Jay defended as he ran his hand through his hair a few more times. "Glass slippers? Lots of gold? Magic swords? Pumpkin seeds?"
"Pumpkin seeds?" the younger brother echoed softly in confusion. Jay shrugged at the question.
"We're not Princes," said the elder of the two... Fatty? Nah, that probably wasn't right.
Jay snorted, "You're not very good thieves either."
"We're not looking to steal," the elder said with a bit of a sneer. "We're not like you."
"Well, duh, I wouldn'ta got caught," Jay declared.
"You stole the napkin ring this morning!"
Jay blinked several times. What now? Oh, right. That thing. He'd sort of forgotten about that. "No, I didn't," Jay said. Usually Jay didn't bother to lie about things he stole. He was a pretty honest thief, and that was why everyone on the Isle knew his reputation so well. Jay didn't care who knew he stole things from them. It just meant they'd come to the shop to buy it back. But here in Auradon -in Agrabah especially- admitting to something like that would be a really, really stupid move. Jay might be a little tipsy but he wasn't that compromised.
"Yes, you did. I saw you do it," whatever the older one's name was said. Jay really should try harder to remember but he just could not be bothered to do so. "You palmed it near the end of the meal."
Jay was a little impressed although he couldn't be sure the kid was telling the truth. Even Jay wasn't sure when he'd pocketed the thing. "Then where is it?" Jay asked.
"That's what we're trying to find out," the younger one said. "So, just tell us where you stashed it."
"I don't have it," Jay said firmly. And, well, technically, he didn't. He'd left the thing in his lamp where it was safe from being stumbled upon in just such a situation. Jay was planning on returning it the next meal he shared with the others. "And even if I did," Jay continued despite some little voice in the back of his head screaming at him to shut up, "it isn't like you rich people can't spare a napkin ring." Jay had said that with a little more sarcasm than he'd meant to but his tongue was just going off on it's own without his say so.
"We're not rich. We're wards of the crown," the older one said. He sounded a little bit bitter about that actually, which made Jay scoff. Like these brats had anything to feel upset about.
"Yeah, you're not rich... you just live in a palace and eat off gold plates... totally not rich," Jay drawled. Damn, the room really needed to stop swirling so weirdly. The sensation was making it hard to sit still.
The older one crossed his arms. "Just because we're here now doesn't mean we can't get kicked right back out if they don't feel like being charitable anymore," he said.
Jay snorted aloud. "Poor babies," he said sarcastically. "They won't kick you out. Stop making problems where there aren't any."
"Oh, how would you know?!" the elder one demanded. "We're not even officially adopted. Nobody in Aladdin's council likes that we're here! We could get kicked out for just saying the wrong thing! We have to do everything perfect just to make sure we don't get sent back to the streets!"
Jay couldn't even pretend to be sympathetic. "You're doing super good at that breaking inta guest rooms and looking through their stuff," he said with a hand wave to the drawers that were still open.
"You're a thief. Madhi and Amir told us to watch you and sure enough you didn't even last a day before stealing," the younger one said with a finger jabbed in Jay's direction.
"Madhi and Amir are idiots," Jay replied. "And besides... you're not going to get kicked out of the palace. They chose you two, they're not likely to change their minds." They were the sons that Aladdin and Jasmine wanted to have after all. Huh, that was a particularly bitter thought he hadn't meant to come up with.
There was a moment of silence. "... Are you drunk?" the older brother finally asked.
The obvious answer here was 'no, of course not' but for some reason that wasn't what Jay's tongue decided to say. "Yes."
"How did you sneak up on us while you're drunk?" the older one -and apparently very talkative one- demanded.
"Because you're not very good at this stealing thing," Jay said with a wave towards them. "You were super loud about it. What were you even arguing about?"
The brothers exchanged an uneasy look but didn't answer. "We aren't thieves," the younger one said awkwardly after a moment of silence.
"Sure you are," Jay said as he leaned back on his arms. "Takes one to know one and all that."
"You just said you weren't a thief," the older brother pointed out in annoyance. He was definitely frustrated but Jay had faced down much scarier people than this kid so wasn't in the least bothered by that.
"No, I said Madhi and Amir are idiots... and they are," Jay corrected. "And I don't steal stuff... anymore. Like you," he said with another wave in their general direction. "I was just better at it."
There was another long moment of silence between the three of them and Jay felt his eyes trying to drift closed. "Why are you even here?" the older brother asked.
"Because they feel all guilty about me," Jay said. "And I guess they think this'll make up for all the shit I grew up with."
"Guilty?" the brothers echoed. "Guilty for what?"
"My father is Jafar," Jay said.
"We're well aware," the older one drawled.
"What does that have to do with anything?" the younger one asked.
Jay snorted. "Well, let me tell you, Jafar's not the 'father of the year' material," he said. "Made me pay for fuckin' everything... Started working in the shop when I was five... had to buy my own food and rent by ten and my own clothes when I turned twelve. Do you know how hard it is to get money when you're ten?" Jay rattled off without really thinking about how he usually didn't share such details. Jay wished he'd thought to bring a bottle of booze out of his lamp with him because he could really use a little more drink to drown himself in right then. That would probably cheer him up.
"Kinda yeah," the older one said.
Jay eyed the two younger boys for a moment. "So... you think that somehow the goodie-goodies here will kick you out?" he asked. "Why? It's not like you're me."
"We're street rats."
Jay snorted. "So was Aladdin," he pointed out. "Diamond in the rough and all that bull. You're perfectly safe." Jay could understand why they'd worry. The idea of being sent back to the streets was... horrifying, but they really weren't in danger of that from what he could see. And even if somehow they did get kicked out of the palace, it wasn't like they'd be sent to the Isle or something. You had to do some pretty serious crimes like murder or something to sent there nowadays. Petty crap didn't warrant anything like being shipped off to a prison colony.
The two younger teens eyed Jay carefully for a moment. Jay could almost see the thoughts going through their heads although he had no idea what they could be thinking about. "Okay, so... they feel guilty about you growing up on the Isle..." the older of the two said slowly. Maybe his name was Flashy? No... that probably wasn't it either. Jay's brain really didn't want to remember these kids names right now. "But why would they... I mean, it was Jafar's fault. Not theirs."
Jay shrugged, not especially willing to get into all that with people he didn't particularly trust. Or even remember the name of. "Point is, you'll probably never see me again after this," he said. "Once this week is over our deal is done and I won't be back."
"Deal?" the older brother echoed. "What deal?" Jay frowned. He probably shouldn't have mentioned that...
"Nevermind. Nothing to worry about," Jay said with a reckless wave of his hand. He probably would have smacked someone if they were sitting beside him. "You won't have to deal with me after the week is over and you can be the only thieves in the palace again."
"We're not thieves," the younger brother said in annoyance.
Jay tilted his head and studied the brothers carefully. After a moment, Jay pushed himself up from the bed. The whole world seemed to shift awkwardly to the side but he didn't fall over. Jay blinked hard a few times and the room settled before he started over to where the two shorter teens were standing. Both brothers recoiled just a little as Jay got closer.
Even though he was drunk and feeling a little off, Jay's hand was still quick and accurate. He quickly snatched the chain that was hanging from the younger one's pocket and pulled out a little pocket knife that had Evie's signature broken heart pendant on the base where Carlos had welded it ages ago. "You're sloppy," Jay said as he held the small knife up by the chain he'd spotted. "Also, don't steal from my friends."
"It's a weapon," the older brother protested.
"It's barely four inches long," Jay replied, ignoring the fact that he could do some serious damage with a blade even that short. "Also... if you think we need actual weapons to hurt you... you'd be wrong."
The brothers shifted where they stood and Jay pocketed Evie's knife. "Don't be hypocrites," Jay said. "I hate that. Don't call me a thief and then deny you are ones with something stolen in your pocket and not mine."
"We weren't stealing it," the younger brother denied. Jay's eyebrow went up high. "We were going to turn it into the palace guard... you guys weren't supposed to bring weapons with you. Aladdin said so."
"Well then, they should have frisked us," Jay said. "But they didn't, so they can't be upset they missed a thing or two."
"See, that's why we have to keep an eye on you guys," the older brother said. "Because you Isle kids are crazy."
Jay frowned. "We aren't crazy," Jay denied. "We do what we have to to survive. I would have thought that you would understand better than most what living on the streets was like. Or have you been sitting in this cushy palace too long to remember?"
The brothers visibly stiffened at the question. "We remember just fine," the older one -Fahim! That was it- said.
"Then back off," Jay said. "Because I'm done with being judged about how I managed to stay alive." It was a bunch of painful digs that Jay really wanted to stop feeling.
"It couldn't have been that bad," Fahim said although his voice didn't seem as confident as it had when Jay was on the bed. "Your father's one of the baddest villains on the Isle! That had to have done something for you! Street cred or something!" He sounded a little desperate for that to be true and Jay could only figure the kid wanted there to be more of a difference between them then there was.
Jay snorted and leaned closer. Before he could reign in his tongue words just came tumbling out. "Kid, the Isle ain't Agrabah. The only 'street cred' you get is the stuff you earn yourself. People stop caring who your parents are the second you get old enough to say it. Go back to the sandbox with that crap, because only babies use their mommy and daddy to get others to back off. My old man being Jafar didn't help me one lick. Nobody gave a shit because they knew he didn't care either," he hissed. "The only thing your parent's name gives you... is an impossible standard to try and meet on how to be nasty." That was the only time anyone on the Isle referenced their parents. When they were trying to live up to the legacy of Evil, often without actually being able to do it.
The two teens recoiled and Jay straightened again feeling a bit satisfied despite the look on their faces. "You're still punk kids... you think you're adults because you lived on the streets for a few years, but you're not." And they were lucky for that, which Jay was trying really hard to not feel bitter about. "So stay out of things you don't understand," Jay said as he turned back to his bed. He really wanted another drink now, but he'd have to wait for the two boys to finally skedaddle. There was a long awkward silence as the two teens stared at Jay. He didn't pay them much attention and just slumped down on the bed to relax again. His buzz was pretty dead now, which was sad, but probably his own fault for leaving his lamp in the first place.
After another few minutes, the brothers left the room with their figurative tails between their legs. Jay supposed that he couldn't really blame them for being suspicious but he also wasn't very sympathetic to their worries. Not when they had everything he didn't. They got the break he'd always dreamed of, so Jay thought he was being pretty nice to them considering. Although, he really hoped that they wouldn't become all vindictive and spin some weird story to Aladdin or the guards about what had just happened because Jay didn't want to deal with that headache.
Jay woke up to someone shaking his shoulder and calling his name urgently. He groaned and blinked to try and bring himself into the land of the living. "Wha?"
Mal's face was leaning over him with a slight frown. "We've been worried about you, Jay," Mal said. "Have you been drinking again?"
"Jus' a little," Jay said as he closed his eyes again. "Takin' the edge off."
"Jay, according to Carlos you've been passed out since yesterday," Mal said with heavy disapproval in his voice. "I have never seen you so plastered that you slept all afternoon and night. I'm guessing that's why you missed dinner?"
Jay shrugged. "Maybe I'm outta practice," he said. He felt Mal sit down beside him on the bed and cracked one eye open to look at her. "Wha?"
"Jay... the others-" she cut herself off and shook her head. "All of us are worried about this. You never used to drink this much on the Isle." Jay would often drink and party, but he knew his limits well, and he never got so drunk that he couldn't still function. That would have been suicide in a place like the Isle.
"I just got a little carried away," Jay said with a hand wave.
"I couldn't wake you up for dinner," Carlos said. Jay turned his head, not having even realized Carlos was in the room. But he definitely was. He was standing beside the bed on the other side with Evie next to him. "I can't remember ever not being able to wake you up before. What if the place had been on fire?"
"It's built of stone," Jay pointed out.
"Jay, you have to promise us you'll get a handle on this!" Evie said as she wrung her hands together. "Please, you're really making us worry."
Jay sighed at that. He didn't mean to make his friends worry. With some effort, Jay pushed himself upright and ran his hand through his hair a few times to try and shake off the last of the fogginess from all the substances that had been in his blood. He was feeling a little shaky and twitchy, but he had just skipped like two meals, and he hadn't done that in a while. "Alright, I'm sorry. I just... it's harder being here than I thought it would be," he admitted.
The others seemed to absorb that and Mal put a hand on Jay's shoulder. "I know what'll make you feel better. And it doesn't involve drinking yourself stupid."
Jay blinked several times. "What's that?"
Mal smirked. "Well, if you hadn't bailed on the tour you'd know this place has a massive gym." Jay wasn't sure what that had to do with anything. "Trust me. Go wash up and change and we'll show you."
Trust wasn't really the issue, Jay just didn't know how a gym -which in his experience was just a big empty room with basketball nets on either end, lines on the floor, and bleachers around it- would make him feel better. Still, he did as Mal told him and quickly washed up before getting changed into a fresh tank top and pants. He didn't bother with his vest today since the temperature was even warmer than it had been yesterday and it still seemed to be early morning.
Once Jay had changed Evie had tackled him with a brush and pulled his hair back from his face into a tail. Jay figured it was easiest to just let her do it and pulled his boots on. Fully ready for whatever it was that Mal had in mind, Jay gave her a nod.
They got a few odd looks in the palace, but Jay easily ignored them. The seemed to be heading to the far side of the palace, so it took a few minutes of walking before they reached a large set of sapphire blue doors, much like the ones in the front of the palace. Jay suddenly wondered if that was why the door back on the Isle that Jay and Jafar had used for the back of the shop had been painted blue. The paint hadn't lasted very well, but he distinctly remembered Jafar searching the Isle specifically for blue that pigment. Nothing else in the house had been blue that he could remember.
"So, apparently," Carlos said as he and Mal pushed at the doors, "This is also a gym."
Jay was surprised, to say the least, when the doors opened, and he saw a room full of equipment. It looked like the weight room back in Auradon only... more. There were mirrors on one wall and large open areas with mats at the front of the space. Rows of machines, some of which Jay recognized and some he didn't, were neatly placed along the back wall leading right up to the full-sized mirrors. Then there was the left side of the room.
Jay couldn't help but wander to the left immediately. All sorts of bizarre looking things were set up, but he couldn't see what they would be used for. Although, that one long beam thing near the wall reminded him of some of the steel girders he'd traipse across back on the Isle. It was about the same thickness.
"There's this thing called gymastics, or something," Evie said. "Aziz was trying to explain it to us."
"Gymnastics," Carlos corrected. "He called it gymnastics. Basically, you climb and swing and jump all over this stuff and whoever does it best without falling and stuff will win a competition."
"Huh," Jay said as he eyed some weird rings that were currently hooked onto the wall but looked like they would hang somewhere just above them if they hadn't been. The whole idea was a bit interesting, he had to admit, although some of the bits and pieces he had no idea what he'd supposedly use it for. That one thing over there was literally just a board going up off the ground a little from what Jay could tell.
"Then there's this," Mal said as she walked off towards the nearest corner.
Jay turned and was surprised to see that on the wall was a display full of swords. He hadn't seen them before because they were against the wall they'd come in from. Jay followed Mal over. "Swords?"
"Yeah, Aziz is apparently on a fencing team or something. So he practices in here when he's home."
"Fencing... that sounds familiar," Jay admitted as he reached out and picked up a sword from the wall. It was heavier than he expected and a quick thumb across the edge told Jay it was dull. Boring.
"It's a formal kind of sword fighting," Carlos said. "Chad, Ben, Aziz and a lot of the rest of the team are on that one too."
Jay wasn't that surprised to hear it. Most of the guys on the Tourney team seemed the type to also enjoy fighting with swords. "So," Mal said as she picked up a sword herself. "Feel like having some fun?" she asked as she swung the dull blade without warning.
Jay quickly brought up his own, and the two bits of metal clanged loudly. A smile spread across his face. "You sure, Mal?"
"Bring it on, pretty boy," Mal replied with a grin of her own.
"Oh, it's so on," Jay promised.
Within an instant, Jay and Mal were at it. Jay pulled his punches enough that he wouldn't actually do more than bruise and Mal was kind enough to not kick him in the groin or anything like that, which she wasn't opposed to doing in a real fight in the least. Eventually, Carlos and Evie joined in creating a girls v boys sparring match. Evie was actually pretty handy with a sword what with her innate grace and finesse while Carlos was quick enough to dart into someone's guard and hit before getting out of the way. Mal was ruthless in a fight, and Jay just seemed to have a natural knack for all sorts of fighting -something that drove Harry up the wall.
Jay felt his mood lightening as he fell into the familiar rhythm of attack, dodge, block, attack, repeat. He knew how to fight. There was something very soothing about doing so, and Jay hadn't really been able to do it in a long time. The closest he'd gotten is Tourney, but even there he was restricted to not even being able to trip someone up.
Eventually, Jay became aware that they had an audience and quickly sprung back from Mal and flipped his sword so that the back rested lightly on his shoulder. The others took the cue instantly and came to a rest as well. Aziz was standing by the door in sweatpants and a tank a lot like the one Jay was wearing. "I... didn't know you guys could fight like that," Aziz said after a moment.
"You fought with us on the Isle," Carlos pointed out as he took several deliberately slow breaths to try and calm his heartbeat.
"Well, sort of," Aziz said. "I was kind of in the middle of talking down an alley with Mal and Harry Hook for most of it."
Jay felt his eyebrow go up. "Talking? About what?"
"Your fish tank," Mal said. "And how to reach into it without losing a hand."
"Ah," Jay said. "Anyway, what's up, Aziz?"
Aziz looked a little surprised -like he had been thinking about something and not paying attention-but then shook it off. "Well, I was just going to get in a quick workout before breakfast. We have about forty minutes, so just enough to get the blood going. Wanna join me?"
Jay shrugged. "I guess." At the very least Aziz could explain to Jay what all the other machines he'd spotted in the room were that they didn't have in Auradon. Evie and Carlos left to go get cleaned up, and Carlos had to walk Dude, but Mal stayed to work out with them. Jay tried to shake off the feeling that Mal was doing so to keep an eye on him, but wasn't entirely successful. Mal didn't have much interest in working out although she was no slouch when it came to physical activity.
Forty minutes seemed to fly by much faster than Jay really wanted it to. But Aziz wouldn't be convinced to let them keep going, and Jay's own stomach was betraying him by growling just a little too loudly. He really probably shouldn't have skipped out on two meals yesterday -although in his defense Jay hadn't been really that hungry until Aziz mentioned breakfast. "Let's go rinse off and meet back up at the dining room?" Aziz suggested.
"Sure," Mal agreed as she brushed back her damp hair with a face of displeasure. They were all of them sweaty, and their clothes were sticking uncomfortably, so Jay wasn't about to protest. Especially since Jay's pants were leather like the vast majority of his clothes. Perhaps he should have worn the shorts he tended to wear to bed. Nobody important would care that Jay usually slept in the things. Yes, a change of clothes would be a good idea. Plus he was aching a lot more than he thought he should be after such a light workout and could use a little dose of painkiller. Jay wasn't sure why he was feeling all run down and achy, but he knew how to take care of it.
Jay went back to his room. Since Carlos wasn't currently there, Jay disappeared into his lamp first. He washed a tablet down with a swig of alcohol before leaving. Jay figured one little sip wouldn't get the others too upset with him. Plus, it wasn't like it was pleasant to take pills dry.
The bath also helped relax Jay's sore muscles although he didn't linger in it too long. The idea of so much water still unnerved him something serious. Jay wasn't even sure why. It wasn't as if he'd had any bad experiences with water -like almost drowning or something. Not that he could recall anyway. Once cleaned up and with the pill working it's magic, Jay was feeling much better.
He was just finishing getting dressed when Carlos came back in. "Here you are. We were wondering what was taking you," he said as Dude pranced around beside him.
"Just finishing up, 'Los," Jay said as he tossed his damp hair over his shoulder. It was still insanely hot today, so he forwent his usual beanie. "Is it supposed to get much hotter around here?" Jay asked. "Because it's like an oven."
"I think so," Carlos said with a grimace. "I know I said I didn't want to be in the snow... but it never got this hot on the Isle so... maybe snow is better?"
"Certainly better for wearing leather in," Jay said as he twisted his hair up off his neck an put it in a tail again. "Maybe I should have packed some jeans or something."
"Or maybe you should do like me and wear shorts once and while," Carlos said.
"Pants are better," Jay answered immediately. He hadn't worn shorts -except in Auradon- since he was thirteen and he wasn't looking to change that.
"You have a weird phobia of showing your legs," Carlos muttered.
Jay just shrugged and gestured to the door. "Shall we?"
Carlos nodded in agreement. Just as they were leaving the room, Iago flew in from the open window and landed on Jay's shoulder. "There you are. You need to stop disappearing," Iago scolded. "I go to check on Othello for five minutes, and when I get back, you're nowhere."
"I was probably in the lamp," Jay muttered. "Not my fault I have to go in there all the damn time."
"Well, leave a note or something to let me know!" Iago ordered.
Jay rolled his eyes. "Were you worried?"
"Of course I was worried!" Iago hissed although it was low enough that Jay didn't think Carlos had heard. "This place is a pit of vipers for you."
"I'll be fine, and I'm only here for a week," Jay pointed out. "Less than now."
"That's no reason to not be careful," Iago said. "Besides... I saw someone coming into the palace, and you need to be on guard more than ever."
Jay frowned and looked more directly at Iago. "Someone coming in? Someone like who?" he asked as he and Carlos reached the dining room where servants opened the doors automatically.
Before Iago could answer, there was a loud gasp. Jay's eyes flicked to the table and saw a blue man floating there beside Jordan. The man without legs had his hands clasped. "Oh! Look at this! Isn't that the cutest little picture ever?" he asked in the most flamboyant voice that Jay had ever heard in his life.
The Genie was joining them for breakfast.
Oh yes, he's here... super nervous about writing Genie though... That's the real reason he didn't appear in the last story. I want to do him justice but capturing a Robin Williams performance in just text is... a daunting idea.
Jay very nearly turned around and walked right back out of the dining room. He'd gone longer without eating before. He was sure he'd be fine if he skipped breakfast too. But, since the Genie had announced them so damn loudly, Jay wouldn't be able to play it off as anything other than the running away that it would be. Maybe if Jay hurried through his breakfast, he could flee before the damned blue man decided to get too friendly.
"Come in! We have plenty of room!" Genie crowed. He gave a wild gesture to the opposite side of the table and the chairs there actually slid back several feet to allow the teens to sit down.
"Father," Jordan sighed. "We're not supposed to use magic."
Genie flicked his hand flamboyantly at her. "Oh, pish posh, darling! If you've got it, flaunt it!" he declared in an English accent that Jay was pretty sure would be offensive to someone somewhere.
"Don't mind, Genie. He's harmless," Aladdin told them with a wry smile. "Just takes a little getting used to." Mal glanced at Jay and the others before moving forward with her chin defiantly level with the ground. Jay mimicked her even though he didn't feel nearly as confident as all that.
Jay took his seat at the end of the row and glanced up at Jordan. He wondered if she had told her father about his little... condition. Jay really hoped she hadn't, but seeing how crazy everything had been due to his father's scheming, Jay couldn't be sure about it. Iago stayed firmly in place on Jay's shoulder and glared at Genie with more venom than Jay had seen in a while. Although, that probably made sense all things considered.
For the first half of breakfast, most of the conversation was at the head of the table and Jay was able to tune it out after several minutes where they didn't talk about him or the others at all. Jay just wanted to eat and get out of the room before any of his secrets were given away. And then, Jay noticed a little speck of blue on the table that wasn't there before. He watched as a tiny bug with a giant ugly blue mug scurried through the platters of food. A quick glance up told Jay that Genie was still there in his seat talking animatedly with Jasmine and Aladdin. And yet...
Jay continued to watch the other Genie's progress as he reached for his cup of water. In one quick motion, he drank what liquid remained and then put the glass back down so that it captured the little bug underneath. Almost immediately the insect turned into a tiny sized Genie who's eyes seemed to have grown three sizes and stared up at him pleadingly. Jay was anything but moved and handed a piece of toast to Iago on his shoulder.
"What an idiot," Iago muttered as he tore into the toasted bread. Jay nodded slightly in agreement.
Little Genie huffed under his glass and folded his arms. After a moment a light bulb appeared over his head, and he held up one finger as if he'd had an epiphany. With a swirl of magical blue smoke, tiny Genie was suddenly standing in front of a miniature chalkboard with a pair of glasses and a graduation robe on.
Jay was so confused, but then Genie brought out a long stick from nowhere at all and tapped a few times on the edge of the board. He turned the whole thing, and there were words written there. Genie tapped each one although Jay was frowning. 'We. Need. To. Talk.' Luckily, the words were short enough, and Jay had been improving with his reading to the point that he didn't stumble too badly with the message.
Said message, however, was not one that Jay wanted to deal with. Jay picked up his fancy cloth napkin and casually dropped it over top of the glass, ignoring the overly offended look on Genie's face as the blue man put a hand to his chest as if wounded.
"Jay?" Evie asked from beside him.
Jay shook his head and shoveled more of his food into his mouth. The further away from Genie that he was the happier he'd be. It hadn't taken very long after the Jafar incident for Jay to realize that when another Djinn was around and touched him while in that Genie form, it made Jay's skin itch and burn. The desire to switch to that same form to avoid the sensation was hard to resist. Since Genie didn't seem to like taking any form other than his floating blue man one, Jay wasn't looking to spend any time in his presence if he could help it. His secret had to stay that way.
Jay was mildly surprised that nothing else happened at breakfast and near the end, he slid the napkin off the glass. Tiny Genie was still under the glass even though he could have easily poofed out. Genie was wearing an old-timey prison uniform with a literal ball and chain around him and playing the harmonica. Jay rolled his eyes at the melodrama and as he got up moved the glass so that the tiny crazy person could get out again. Genie turned into a weird guy with a plaid dress on and wild hair and only half his face blue. "Freedom!!" he shouted to the sky in his teeny tiny voice which sounded more like a mouse squeak than anything.
With another eye roll, Jay got up and left the table with the others. Aside from the minor pestering from Genie, this breakfast had gone so much better than the first one. Perhaps the awkwardness of this visit was starting to fade?
Mal stopped and turned at the shout, so the others followed suit. Aliyah was racing down the hall to catch up to them and Jay couldn't help but shift closer to his friends. Especially when Aliyah came rushing up to Jay right away. Her eyes were sparkling and excited. Hopefully, that was a good sign, right? Before any of the Isle Kids could ask what she wanted she grabbed at Jay's hand. "Last night, Aziz told me about going to the Isle. He said you have a fish tank with eels in it! Do you really?"
Jay blinked several times. What was it with this girl? "Um, yeah?"
Aliyah almost squealed in delight. "I've always wanted to see the ocean, but it's so far away! But when Miss Ariel comes to talk with Mommy, she shows me pictures. She's never shown me eels before!"
"Probably a reason for that," Carlos muttered as he scratched Dude's head.
Jay couldn't help but agree. When a pair of eels worked for the woman that tried to ruin your life in several different ways, you would probably not like the things. "Can I see them?" Aliyah asked, either ignoring Carlos or not hearing him.
"Well, I sort of had to leave them behind on the Isle," Jay said. There was just no way he'd be able to transport that giant tank full of water and angry eels anywhere without a team of people. And he'd most likely have to face Jafar again, and that would end poorly. Jay never wanted to see his father again.
Aliyah pouted for a moment before brightening. "Uncle Genie could get them!"
"Did I hear my name?"
With a poof of blue smoke, the Genie appeared there in the hall. As if he hadn't been most likely eavesdropping anyway to overhear Aliyah say that. "Uncle Genie! Can you bring Jay's fish tank here instead of the Isle?" Aliyah asked.
Genie seemed to ponder that for a moment. Even turning into a small blue bear with a red shirt that had what looked like mittens for hands. "Uh, you don't need to!" Jay said quickly. He did not see this ending well for himself.
"Isn't magic illegal anyway?" Carlos pointed out. Mal and Evie still used some magic from time to time and Jay was having to learn how to use his powers so that he didn't do magic by accident, but big magic was definitely supposed to not happen.
Genie was still the blue thinking bear and was even telling himself to think as Aliyah pleaded with him. Finally, Genie swirled back into his standard form. "Oh, why not? There's no harm in it!" he declared.
Jay scoffed. Of course. They kept getting told to not do magic and how it was the easy way out and real hard work was better and a whole bunch of other stupid stuff while Genie and other Auradonians didn't follow their own preaching. So very typical and it annoyed Jay to no end. "Father! You had best not be planning on using magic!" Jordan said sternly.
Genie flinched just slight and swung around. "Why no! Of course not! Whatever gave you that idea?"
Jordan folded her arms and stared the blue man down. "You know what Fairy Godmother told you last time," she said. "She knows we can't completely stop the magic, but we shouldn't actively do anything with it either."
"Bah, this is a tiny thing!" Genie said with a wave of his hand.
"You'd have to get through the barrier," Jay pointed out. "That's not a tiny thing." Jay wasn't even sure how he'd managed to bring things through the barrier himself when it was wished from him. He'd certainly drained himself to near unconsciousness when he'd done it. Jay knew he wasn't anywhere near as strong or skilled as the Genie, but he wasn't completely stupid. Pulling anything through an antimagic barrier took effort.
Genie smiled at him in a way that made Jay recoil just slightly. He wasn't even sure why other than the fact that he didn't want any of the blue man's attention on himself. "That's because you're still learning," he said not unkindly. "For me, it's a simple matter of..."
Genie pointed to the ground just beside where they'd stopped in the hall. In a poof of smoke, as if it were not difficult at all, Jay's fish tank appeared in the corridor. The gems in the bottom that Derilect and Lagan protected sparkled under the lights of the palace even despite the murky water and the two eels circled in agitation. "Tada!"
Jay just stared and wondered how this was going to bite him in the ass later because he just knew it would. Aliyah gasped in delight and hurried closer to the glass. "Ooh, they're so pretty!" she gushed. "How do they swim without any fins, though?"
"Like how snakes move on land," Jay supplied absently. "Why did you do that?" Jay asked the Genie.
Genie waved his concern away. "Oh, it's just a little thing to make her happy. It's not a big deal. Besides, your old man shouldn't be allowed to take care of anything alive."
Jay flinched a little at that comment. The statement was very much true, but Genie didn't need to say it out loud like that. Aliyah was suddenly in front of Jay and tugging on his hand. "What're their names?" she asked excitedly. "And how do you tell them apart? They look identical!"
Jay blinked and looked to his friends. They, unfortunately, seemed just as bewildered and lost as he did. Not knowing what else to do, Jay stepped closer to his tank. "Lagan is that one there," he said pointing to the eel that was closer to the top. "He's a little more green than his brother Derilect. Plus Derilect has that little notch taken out of his jaw there from when he and Lagan got into a fight when they were little."
"Wow... I like their patterns!" Aliyah said as she all but pressed her face against the glass.
"Whatever you do, don't stick your hand in there," Jay warned. "They won't like it."
Aliyah nodded. "I won't," she said as she continued to stare at the eels entirely enraptured.
Jay frowned a little and glanced back at the others. Something told him this was encouraging the princess' bizarre desire to have even very dangerous animals in her menagerie. His friends scrambled for something to do or say. But what even did one say when a magical Genie brought a fish tank full of dangerous fish into a palace in the desert anyway? "Maybe we should... get this out of the hall," Evie suggested hesitantly.
"And the tank isn't even plugged in... probably shouldn't leave that like that for long," Carlos offered.
"Hey, blue idiot," Iago called in annoyance. "Didn't it occur to you this wasn't the best place for this?"
Genie blinked and then put a hand to his chest as if offended again. "Why I never!" he said in a weird prissy accent. He was suddenly wearing a giant hat and had golden curls showing from under it. "It won't take but a minute to move it!"
"Well, then, get to it!" Iago snapped.
Genie dropped the girly outfit and pointed at the tank again. "Alright, alright, party poopers," he muttered as the tank disappeared in another cloud of smoke. "There. Now it's in your room. Happy?"
"Not really," Jay muttered as he turned with the intent of going to make sure of that. "Because we're going to somehow get blamed for this, just watch," he predicted.
"That's not true," Genie denied.
"Sure it is," Mal said. "Listen, just scram would you? Nobody here is interested." Genie frowned but allowed them to leave. Aliyah, oddly enough, trotted along with them and started rambling about other sea creatures that Ariel had shown her pictures of. Jay thought about telling her to get lost but never actually did.
Aliyah was just bursting with questions about Lagan and Derelict as Carlos and Jay tried to get the pump in the fish tank working again. It took a little doing as the machine was made from scrap and typically a little finicky. Carlos was the wizard with technology that he always was though so they managed it. Jay tried to answer Aliyah's questions as best he could but some of the questions that she asked Jay just had no idea how to respond. Like, how deep underwater do eels go? How many teeth do they have? Are they like sharks teeth and they keep growing them?
Eventually, Jordan convinced the girl to see if she could find a book to explain it all in the Palace Library and Aliyah excitedly went off to try and find her answers that way. "Thanks," Mal said after the little Princess had skipped off. "She's a little intense."
"Yeah, she seems to be developing an affinity for the more dangerous animals lately," Jordan said. "A little worrying honestly. But anyway, how's break going for you guys?" Jordan asked.
"Peachy," Jay drawled.
Evie sighed and rubbed her forehead with one perfectly manicured hand. "I think we're all counting this week down. Being here in Agrabah is stressful."
"Why're you guys even here? I mean, not that you're not welcome or I'm upset to see you, but I sort of thought this would be the last place to see you," Jordan said with a wave to the surrounding carved stone floors and plaster covered walls.
Mal huffed and folded her arms across her chest. "Jasmine insisted that she wanted to meet Jay, and Jay's too nice for his own good sometimes."
Jay glared over his shoulder at his purple-haired friend. "I am not. I just didn't want to be pestered over it," he said before carefully laying the palm of his hand against the top of the water. Jay was glad when Lagan didn't bite him and instead curled so that his long back brushed Jay's palm. Derelict lingered near the bottom pouting for a few moments before he too came up and brushed against Jay's hand. Jay had been a little worried that the Eels would hold a grudge against him for leaving.
"Sultana wanted to meet Jay?" Jordan repeated, sounding bewildered, and Jay remembered that he hadn't told Jordan who his birth mother was. Not wanting to change that fact, Jay didn't clarify the situation for her now."
When it became apparent that Jay wasn't going to say anything, Carlos jumped in. "Apparently Aziz was talking him up and got his parents curious or something like that."
"They're nosy," Iago pipped up from where he was perched on the post of one of the beds in the room.
Jordan nodded although she didn't look entirely convinced. "So, do you often come to the palace over break, Jordan?" Evie asked suddenly.
"Oh, um, yes, I suppose," Jordan answered. "Well, not for every break but a lot of them. Father says staying close to the Sultan's family is the safest thing for us being Djinn and all. Harder to be kidnapped and used if everyone knows that we're close with the royal family. Might make some people think twice."
"I guess that makes sense," Mal muttered as she watched the Eels twist and rub against Jay's hand. She'd only seen them act that way once before with Harry Hook. It was sort of unreal to watch.
"Speaking of!" Jordan said suddenly. "Have you been practicing, Jay?"
Jay cringed a little and glanced over his shoulder. "If I said yes would you believe it?" Iago scoffed at that and shifted his wings around.
Jordan looked very unimpressed. "No."
"Then no. I have not," Jay said before curling his fingers to brush over Lagan's side as the Eel bent and twisted just under the surface of the water. Usually, Jay would stick his whole hand in the tank, but he wasn't about to remove his leather bracers to do it. Everyone in the room knew about that, but that didn't mean the very thought of exposing his cuffs didn't bring about anxiety.
Jordan sighed in exasperation. "Jay, you really need to practice more. Bad things can happen if you don't know how to control your magic. Once, when I was little, I banished a neighbor's cat to the Jungle because it hissed at me and startled me when I walked past. It took ages for my father to find it and bring it back. And the poor thing was skinny and terrified of everything when he finally did."
"I doubt that'll happen," Jay said. He wasn't some little kid to be scared when something tiny happened.
"You should still practice," Jordan insisted. She turned to the others. "You guys agree right?"
"If Jay doesn't want to do something, he doesn't have to," Mal stated firmly. She was beyond sick and tired of everyone putting their demands on her friend and making him do things that he didn't want to do.
Jordan sighed. "I only want him to do so that he'll be safe," she said. "Magic is tricky, and there's no way for us Djinn to just... not use it. It's one of the core things we're made of. And it would be safer for him to try and learn now opposed to after you wish him free and there's no cuffs to help."
"Yeah, well you know what-"
"Mal," Jay interrupted. "Can this entire subject just drop, please?" He didn't know how secure a place the palace was, and he didn't want to be discussing his status as a Djinn out in the open so much. Everything would go so much smoother if nobody knew what he was.
Mal pursed her lips together but nodded in agreement. Dude whined in Carlos' arms, and the white-haired teen glanced down. "We just had breakfast, Dude," he told the dog. Dude whined again and gave a short bark. Carlos rolled his eyes. "You're going to get fat, I swear," he muttered. "Anyone want to wander to the kitchens with me?"
"Sure," Jay agreed as he wiped his hand of water off on his pants. "I should probably look for something to feed these guys anyway. Who knows when Dad last did."
Iago flew down from his perch to land on Jay's shoulder. The parrot leaned forward to better study the long fish in the tank. "They don't look too thin, so it's probably alright," he commented. "But I wouldn't take that chance either."
Carlos led the way out of the room and Jay just followed, partially because he hadn't actually finished that tour and partially because the parts he had been there for he hadn't paid attention to. Jay was kind of expecting Jordan to continue to follow and pester him about practicing or the other girls to come with, but none of the three were there when Jay glanced behind them. "Huh..."
"What?" Carlos asked as put Dude down to trot along beside them.
"Nothing," Jay said. "I was just sort of expecting the girls to come with."
"Better they didn't," Iago said. "That girl was annoying me."
"Which girl?" Jay asked. "Jordan?"
Iago huffed. "Of course her. Although I guess she's not as horrible as her father..." he admitted grudgingly. "She doesn't seem even half as crazy. I don't think I could take two of them."
"Me neither," Jay muttered.
The kitchens of the palace were actually a lot more comfortable for Jay than he was expecting. There was a level of controlled chaos going on as people rushed around doing a million things while also trying to stay out of each other's way. The air was stiflingly hot, but all the doors and windows to the outside were flung wide open to try and capture what breezes they could. More than a few servants were taking breaks right by those wide open entrances with cups of water and little hand fans going.
Almost nobody even looked up as he and Carlos came into the kitchen. Everyone was far more consumed with what they were doing. Jay liked not being the center of attention again finally and lingered by the door for a moment. His eyes couldn't help but pick out easy marks of people not guarding their wallets well enough or those that put down their phones for just a split second as they were doing something else. Jay was kind of impressed that the servants here were apparently well paid enough to afford cell phones. He hadn't really expected it what with how much he'd heard about the poverty level in Agrabah. True, that information had been over a decade out of date since he'd heard it from his father, but that wasn't the point. Maybe Jay should have done a quick internet search or something before coming.
A large woman with a long dark brown dress and a bright orange headscarf noticed them finally and came over. "You're Prince Aziz's guests aren't you?" she said in a somewhat rough but not unpleasant voice. It just sounded like she was used to yelling probably more than her vocal cords were really happy with. "What can I do for you?"
"Um, hi. I know it was just breakfast a little while ago, but could it be possible for me to get something for my dog?" Carlos asked as he picked up Dude again. "He still seems hungry to me."
The woman's dark eyebrow went up, but then she shrugged. "I'm sure we can come up with something. Anything you need?" she asked Jay.
"Ah, I know we're in the desert and all but... if you have some sort of fish? It doesn't have to be all that fresh," Jay said.
The kitchen worker hummed and seemed to think on that a little longer. "Well, the Tigers do get some local fish from time to time... it doesn't taste very good though. At least, I don't think so."
"That's fine. And you don't have to cook it or anything," Jay assured her.
That seemed to confuse the woman even more. "The Genie magically brought a fish tank full of carnivorous fish here so now we're trying to find something for them to eat," Carlos chimed in quickly.
"Ah! Well, yes, of course," the woman said as if that was a situation that happened all of the time. "Never worry we'll find something for both." Jay and Carlos both murmured their thanks as the woman hurried off to go and find the requested food.
"I think I like the kitchen workers more than the royal family," Jay muttered as he leaned against a counter. "Is that normal?"
"Why're you asking me?" Carlos asked. "I don't know what normal is either. But, I do too."
"That's because these are the sorts of people that are on the Isle now," Iago murmured to them. "Sure the ones on the Isle all did bad things or worked for Evil people like your parents... but most weren't actually that bad. Especially now that they're just trying to make a living."
Jay felt a slight pang as he recalled that Reza's family had been shunted to the Isle for little more than supporting Jafar a few times. Compared to being murderers and rapists that wasn't really worth being sent to a prison Isle. Jay didn't know how many others were like that, but it had to be more than not. The population of the Isle was too big for everyone there to have been absolute monsters. They were already working to get all the kids off the Isle but was that even enough?
At least Ben was in power now and Jay couldn't see Ben sending anyone else to the Isle for minor crimes. Maybe once the worst of the worst finally died the rest of people would catch a break? Maybe Ben could be convinced to open up some actual trade with the Isle? Give people there more than trash to live off of? Jay supposed it was worth bringing up to him. Mal could probably spin it as urgent enough so that her boyfriend agreed to it without even bothering with that whole 'council' thing that they liked to do.
Jay looked up as the kitchen worker came back with two packages. One was a small brown bag full of what looked like dried meat cubes, and the other package was a plate of thinly cut strips of pale fish that was a little ripe but was far from the worst thing the teens had smelled. "Thanks," Jay said as he took the plate from her. Lagan and Derelict would probably prefer squid, but beggars couldn't be choosers.
"You're quite welcome, dears. If you need anything else, just come by. We're happy to help," she said.
After feeding the pets, the four Villain Kids decided that staying far away from the royals was a good option. Well, aside from Aziz. They could actually stand him. Jordan hung around with them as well in Mal's room and they all just relaxed. Nobody brought up Jasmine and Aladdin, nobody asked about Jay practicing his magic anymore, and Jay was so glad for all of that. Aziz was showing Jay what the whole gymnastics thing was about that he'd explained to the others with clips off his phone. Aziz seemed surprised that Jay was interested but dutifully explained how the scoring went and what different tricks were called.
Evie was designing a new dress and Jordan was giving her critique when asked. Mal was texting Ben or something while Carlos played fetch with Dude and a balled-up sock. They were in Mal's room for a while when Aliyah suddenly came running in. "Look, look! Lookie what I found!" she said as she carelessly jumped up onto the bed beside Aziz and Jay.
Jay could only blink in surprise as the girl plopped a heavy looking book across their laps and started flipping pages rapidly. Finally, she landed on one and pointed at it triumphantly. "Lookie!" Jay glanced down and frowned at the Arabic flowing across the page. They didn't look like letters at all to him so they weren't moving around or shaking in place like whenever he tried to read, but he couldn't make sense of it either. "Can you read it to me?" she asked.
Jay felt something in his chest freeze over at the little girl who was for some bizarre reason looking at him for an answer to that. "Ah, Aliyah..." Evie began uneasily.
"I can't read it," Jay blurted out. He hadn't really meant to, but the tension in the room was just too much, and the words came out before he could stop them. "I never learned Arabic," Jay added in a rush. True, he probably wouldn't have been much better off with English, but he wasn't going to admit that.
Aliyah frowned. "Oh..." She looked down at the page as Jay tried to think of a way to subtly get out of the situation. "Then I'll read it to you!" she declared after a moment. She gave him such a massive smile that Jay was surprised her face didn't break apart from it. That icy panicked feeling in his chest melted a little bit at her solution. Jay pushed his reaction back and just nodded. Aliyah's grin grew, and she started rambling about Eels with the occasional help from Aziz for words she didn't know or couldn't translate well.
Mal watched for a few moments before relaxing. Aliyah read the entire section on Eels and then went onto Octopus which was apparently the next section in the book. Jay had no idea if there was any sort of organization to the book because he couldn't think of anything those two animals really had in common. But he listened anyway. Occasionally, Aliyah would ask Aziz or Jordan a question in Arabic and then get an answer before turning to tell Jay whatever it was they were talking about. Usually some obscure fact or story from Ariel's visits.
It was bizarre, and Jay wasn't at all sure how to deal with this sort of thing, so he just nodded and played along as best he could. Aliyah seemed so oddly unconcerned with the presences of kids that grew up with villains. Had they even told her they were the sons and daughters of villains? Jay didn't think that they had judging by how she was acting.
After a little while, Aliyah was called away for lunch and scampered off. Aziz asked for lunch to be brought to girls' room for the rest of them, and Jay wanted to kiss his brother. The fewer meals he had to sit through at that table with Aladdin and Jasmine, the happier he'd be.
"So, um, does Aliyah... know we're from the Isle?" Jay finally brought himself to ask as he picked at his meal. He didn't know what Aziz had been worried about for the food here. It all seemed perfectly edible to Jay.
"Yeah, of course," Aziz answered. "There was a lot of talk about you guys before you came over to Auradon. She knows where you came from. She just doesn't care. Mom and Dad have been trying really hard to make sure Aliyah isn't raised to be judgmental."
There was a moment of silence following that. "Well, I guess it's nice that if she ever finds out who I really am, Aliyah won't immediately hate me..." Jay muttered.
"She likes you," Jordan said instantly. "Finding out you're a Djinn won't change that. She likes my father even more for all the magic... even though he shouldn't be doing magic."
Jay was about to correct her but then realized what he was doing and bit his tongue. He hadn't really been talking about the Djinn part. Although he supposed it was nice to know that Aliyah would like that part of him.
Dinner was an incredibly awkward affair later on. Jasmine and Aladdin were trying -unsuccessfully- to scold Genie for bringing Jay's fish tank from the Isle. With deadly fish included. Fahim and Hadi kept looking at Jay with strange expressions. They seemed a little sheepish still but also oddly impressed? Jay was pretty sure he imagined that second one. The incident with the napkin ring hadn't been mentioned again, much to Jay's relief. He didn't want to see if his birth mother and her husband's goodwill went to overlooking theft. Jay overheard someone saying something about Genie and his family staying the night and only just bit back a groan. The more the big blue menace was around, the more awkward and potentially dangerous things got.
Jay might have been ashamed to say he rushed through dinner, but that would have been a lie. The ex-thief was not at all above fleeing a situation he found too uncomfortable to be in. Luckily, his friends seemed to be of a similar mindset. "Third night," Mal said as they made their way through the halls to the guest quarters. "We're halfway through."
"Thank Evil for that," Evie said with a sigh. "This is almost as bad as ettique lessons with my mother."
"At least this is the only time we have to do this," Carlos pointed out. "Jay made them promise this was a one-time thing."
"I did," Jay agreed. "Because this trip hasn't really convinced me I belong here, no matter what Aziz says." The temperature was dreadful -just like Jafar had always said- and the people made him nervous. They would all be expecting things from him, and Jay hated that. Jay was finally free to do what he wanted, he didn't want to suddenly have to bend to the whims of strangers.
Jay sighed and rubbed his face with one hand. He really wanted this trip to be over with. Sure, the snow in Auradon was a pain, but at least he didn't feel like he was putting on a show there. "You look tired, Jay," Mal observed. "Have you been... resting properly?" she asked.
"Been trying to," Jay grumbled. "Got interrupted last time."
Mal hummed at that. "Is that safe, by the way?"
"Yeah, we found a really good hiding spot for it, don't worry," Carlos assured her. "It was the first thing we did." Mal nodded a little. "If you want to try and rest again, Jay. I won't mind." Carlos slept better when Jay wasn't in his lap, which only added to Jay's utter disgust at needing to be in the damn thing.
Jay looked over at Carlos with a frown. "You're sure?" He didn't want to come out of his lamp and find Carlos whimpering from a nightmare again. The first time that had happened, Jay had almost sworn off the lamp entirely despite how it would affect his own health.
"Yes, I'll be fine. I have Dude," Carlos said. The little terrier barked in agreement at that and Carlos chuckled before ruffling Dude's fur. "And it's only one night."
Jay didn't like it in the least but agreed. He could tell when his friends were going to be stubborn, and this seemed like one of those times. Plus, if he got a full night's rest in the lamp, he'd make it almost to the end of the trip again before he needed to be in it. That was always a plus. "Alright, but if you need me, knock or something."
Carlos rolled his eyes but agreed. "Although I don't know how helpful that'll be. Can you even hear anything outside?"
"Yes," Jay said. "It has to be pretty loud, but I can hear stuff going on outside." He'd heard Fahim and Hadi easily enough.
The VKs hung out in the girls' room for a little while before they all went to bed. Jay fed Lagan and Derelict and even dared take off his bracer so that he could pet them properly for the first time in a year. The two Eels delighted in the attention since they certainly couldn't stand Jafar enough to get anything more than food from him. Jay couldn't help but smile as the two snake-like fish wrapped around his arm and each other like ribbons. "I missed you too, boys," he murmured to them.
Only after he was sure that Carlos had gone to sleep in his bed did Jay get ready himself. Once he'd brushed his teeth and cleaned up, Jay closed his eyes and focused on the lamp tucked between Carlos' bed and the stone wall of the palace. He dissolved and then reformed inside the lamp in his Golden Djinn form. Jay sighed as he looked down at himself. Best get that rest he'd been told to get...
Late that night, Jay heard something off in the distance, but he ignored it. Though he had told his friends, he'd stop drinking he'd maybe misjudged his tolerance level at the moment. He'd only meant to have something to help him get to sleep since being in the lamp kept him from really relaxing, but he'd ended up downing a whole bottle of Scotch that he'd summoned. At least he did it in his lamp, so he was safe. Still, the strange noise he heard in somewhere both nearby and not was trying really hard to wake him up.
Not wanting to wake up, Jay rolled over to bury his face in the silk pillows all over his bed. His grip on the bottle loosened and the heavy piece of glass fell to the floor. Huh, Jay hadn't even realized he was still holding that. Oh well. It was probably empty, so it wasn't like there would be a waste or a spill to deal with when he woke up.
Jay dozed off again, but it didn't feel as if he'd been asleep for more than a second when he felt an odd sensation against his shoulder. Weird static that made the hair on his arms raise up, and little bumps to run down his skin seemed to build up. Then something warm and firm landed on his shoulder and gave him a shake. "Jay. Jay, wake up."
Jay groaned and burrowed deeper into his pillows. Waking up seemed like a terrible option. No, being passed out was definitely more comfortable right then. "Jay. Wake up, or I'll bring your friends in here."
Jay frowned. He definitely didn't want that. Wait a second... how was anyone in here? This was his lamp.
Tilting his head out of the pillows, Jay opened one eye to see the blue Genie himself hovering right beside him. Jay groaned. "How did you get in here?"
"I can turn into smoke same as you," Genie pointed out.
"But isn't it like... rude?" Jay demanded.
Genie put a finger to his chin in thought. "I suppose it could be," he admitted. "But I wanted to talk to you. More importantly though... what's this?" he asked as he held up the empty liquor bottle. Jay stared at it and wasn't sure how exactly he was going to explain that away. "Well, Jay?"
Genie was just staring at him all expectantly. Jay wasn't quite sure what to say in this instance. Was denial better? Or was coming up with some excuse? Being in his lamp meant that Jay couldn't blame the bottle or someone else but admitting he'd drank the whole thing didn't sound all that smart either. "That... was from a long time ago," Jay said.
"Ah," Genie said with a nod of his head. He brought the bottle closer and sniffed the top. Genie made a face and held it away. "Doesn't smell like it's from a long time ago."
"Yeah, well, it is," Jay said.
"Okay," Genie said before putting the bottle down on Jay's side table. Jay relaxed a little where he was sitting. He was so glad that Genie let that go without a huge fight. Genie snapped his finger and Jay jumped when his stash of bottles happily sprung from his hiding spots and danced through the air to hover beside Genie. About twenty some odd bottles with various amounts of drink sloshing around in them twirled in the air. "Hmm, all this from a 'long time ago' too, Jay? I see you like cheap and strong stuff..."
Jay felt his cheeks burn. "Get out of here! It's none of your business!"
Genie raised an eyebrow but then waved the bottles a little further away. "How old are you Jay? Sixteen? Seventeen?" Jay refused to answer. Genie waited but then shrugged. "Either way, you're too young to be legally drinking anything, and you have a stash like this... and you don't think that might be a problem?"
"No!" Jay snapped. "I know my limits."
"Yeah, of course... I said that for a couple hundred years too," Genie said. "Didn't stop me from drinking past them constantly though."
Jay blinked. What was that now? "Don't look at me like that," Genie said. "I came in here to tell you that being a Djinn isn't all bad, but seeing this," Genie waved to the bottles still hovering there, "I think that a different story would be more helpful."
"I don't need your help!" Jay snapped.
Genie nodded. "I've said that one too," he said. "I was stuck in my lamp for ten thousand years. That's a lot of time. Way too much time. And I had no idea if I'd ever get out again. So I was in a bad place for a big part of it. Drinking made me feel... well, not better but less bad. If that makes any sense."
Jay was quiet, but he did immediately get what Genie meant by that. When he was drinking everything went numb and distant and Jay didn't have to remember or think about anything. Forgetting everything from the Isle was worth the hangovers most of the time. Genie sighed and sat down beside him on the bed. "It wasn't anything at all at first. But as the years went on and I was still in the lamp, I would drink more. And then a little more. A bottle a week. Then a day. Then a couple bottles if the day was awful. Then, before I knew it, I was drunk all the time. And I didn't think that was a problem because... well, it was only me and I was stuck in the lamp so what was the big deal?"
There was a pause, and Genie frowned into the distance, but Jay had a feeling he wasn't done. "It took me a while, but after a couple hundred years I started to realize that being drunk all the time wasn't any better than being depressed all the time."
"Yeah, well, I'm not depressed," Jay said. "And I'm perfectly fine."
"Okay," Genie said. "Then I can vanish all this liquor?"
"No!" Jay snapped. "It's mine!"
Genie looked at Jay, not really with surprise, but as if Jay had just said something incredibly ridiculous, which Jay found unfair. "If it's not a big deal then why does it matter?" Genie asked.
"Because it's not your stuff!"
"And, I'm supposed to believe you just bought all this alcohol somehow from somewhere?" Genie asked.
Jay felt his cheeks heat up and looked away. "I'd pay for it if they'd let me buy the damn stuff," he muttered.
"They have drinking ages for a reason, Jay," Genie said. "Alcohol isn't good for a brain and body that aren't fully developed. Not even that great for a fully developed one for that matter." Jay scoffed and folded his arms. He didn't really care what terrible paranoia Auradon was suffering from.
The two of them sat in silence for a moment. "I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Iago doesn't know about this either?" Jay almost cringed at the question. He could hear the parrot now ranting about this. Iago had never liked when Jay drank. "I thought not," Genie said. "With how he was ranting at me earlier about staying away from you, I was pretty sure he wouldn't be alright with you poisoning yourself."
Jay rolled his eyes. "I'm not poisoning myself."
"You kind of are," Genie said. "That's what being drunk is. And you can push too far and kill yourself from drinking too much."
"Look, I'm really fine. This is nothing. So scram and let me get back to sleep will you?" Jay asked. He didn't like this conversation in the least. He did not have a problem like Genie seemed to think he did.
"Jay... why did you drink today?"
Jay scoffed. What did that even matter? "Because I wanted to," he said.
"Did you?" Genie asked. "Or did you drink because you had to?"
"I have everything under control!" Jay hissed. Why wouldn't the big blue idiot just leave?
"Do you shake?"
Jay was a little caught off guard from the question. "What?"
"When you haven't had a drink in a while," Genie said. "Do your hands shake? Get sweaty and have headaches? Maybe you can't sleep or get nauseous?"
"That's called a hangover," Jay said in annoyance.
"No. No, it isn't," Genie denied. "Your hands do not shake if you have just a hangover. It's called withdrawal, Jay. It's what happens when you've trained your body to need something that it's not getting anymore. Like too much alcohol. It can get really serious, Jay. People have died from withdrawal. I had some horrible side effects when I stopped drinking. It was not fun and pretty dangerous considering I was by myself and could have easily died."
Jay scoffed. "'You're preaching about nothing," Jay said. "I'm fine, and I'm definitely not going to have 'withdrawal' or whatever."
"Jay, this isn't a joke. It's serious," Genie said.
"Yeah, sounds it. But I'm fine, so you don't have to worry."
Genie frowned and got up. "If it weren't a problem, Jay, why're you hiding out in your lamp to do your drinking? Why not around your friends?" Jay pursed his lips together. He wasn't about to admit that he'd promised Mal and the others that he'd stop and just... hadn't. That sounded a lot worse than it was. Genie didn't seem surprised his question went unanswered. "Jay, if you can't stop drinking. You have a problem."
"I don't have a problem," Jay hissed.
"Can you stop?" Genie asked. "Can you decide to not touch a bottle for a whole day and actually follow through?"
"Of course I can," Jay said. "I just don't want to."
Genie sighed. "That's another one I've used. Listen, Jay... I know it's hard to admit, but think about it this way. If you have to run off to drink multiple times a day to stop yourself from shaking or feeling like crap, are you really even enjoying living anymore?"
"I do not have to run off to drink multiple times a day," Jay said. Honestly, Genie was making it sound like Jay was chained to a booze bottle or something.
"Have you ever had to do it?" Genie asked. Jay decided to not answer that. Genie nodded. "It'll only get worse, Jay. You'll need more and more of it to keep the withdrawal at bay, and then you'll be drunk constantly. I don't know how you are when you're drunk, but I know I wasn't very fun to be around." Jay had a sudden unpleasant flash to his father ranting and smacking him across the face under a fit of alcohol-fueled rage.
"I'm fine," Jay insisted. Genie was blowing a little thing way out of proportion.
Genie hummed. "Well, I can't make you admit you have a problem," Genie said. "Although I wish you would." The floating bottles finally drifted down to land on the ground.
"Are you going to tell anyone about this?" Jay asked.
"The fact that you're worried about that should be another clue to you," Genie said. "But I feel I have to."
"You can't!" Jay said as he sprung up from the bed.
"And why can't I?" Genie asked. "Because they'll tell you to stop? Or have they already told you to stop, and you haven't?"
Jay clenched his jaw and looked away. Why was this conversation even still going on? It wasn't fair! There was nothing wrong with a little drink to get to sleep now and then. Genie sighed. "I won't tell your friends," he said. Jay relaxed. "But I am going to tell Iago."
"No!" Jay said. "He's the worst one to tell! You can't."
"It's either I tell Iago, or I tell all your friends, Jay," Genie said. "But I'm telling someone."
"You're such a bastard!"
Genie shrugged. "That'd hurt a lot more if I didn't know you weren't just desperate to keep your drinking a secret. So make your pick, Jay. Iago or everyone."
"You can't tell anyone at all!" Jay said. "It's not your business!"
"Iago it is," Genie said, entirely ignoring what Jay had said. Genie started breaking apart into blue smoke and, though Jay yelled at him, the older Djinn just left before Jay could even try to stop him.
Jay just floated there in the middle of his lamp and stared at where the Genie had been. It wasn't fair. And he was so screwed if Genie told Iago or his friends. If Iago didn't freak out, then Mal surely would. Jay's eyes slowly drifted down to where the bottles were sitting on the floor. There were a lot, Jay could admit that. But it wasn't as if he drank them all in one sitting. He didn't have a problem!
Jay slowly sunk down to sit on the floor of the lamp and ran his hands through his hair, pulling several large chunks from his ponytail. This was a mess. Genie was going to tell Iago this story and everything was going to sound so much worse than it was. Iago worried too much on a normal day. Here in Agrabah, he was freaking out about every tiny detail, this was sure to blow up if he found out.
Jay reached over and grabbed a random bottle in front of him and unscrewed the top. He took a swig and halfway through realized what he was doing. Jay quickly lowered the bottle and swallowed the mouthful. His eyes drifted down to the bottle of whiskey in his hand and put the top back on. He did not have a problem. He didn't. That was a fluke. It was only because Genie was there being all... hall monitor on him that Jay had taken a drink. Not because he'd needed it. That was silly.
Jay put the bottle down and buried his face in his hands again. This was such a mess...
Soooo I posted this to the wrong story yesterday.... my bad yall. I feel silly...
Jay saw a flash of blue out of the corner of his eye but didn't lift his head to look properly. He really didn't want to deal with the Genie again right then. Jay had to figure out what he was going to tell Iago about the alcohol that Genie had found. Jay knew there had to be something that he could say that wouldn't set the parrot off into a rant.
"I've got this. You can leave," Jay heard Iago say. He almost flinched but managed not to. There was the sound of wings, and then Iago was landing in front of Jay right among the bottles that Genie had pulled out. "I said scram," Iago said as he looked past Jay.
"If you need me-"
"Just scram," Iago said rudely.
Jay noticed the blue out of the corner of his eyes again but didn't lift his head from where he was staring at the ground. Neither Jay or Iago said anything for several minutes. Jay tried his best to not look at the parrot and Iago was eyeing the bottles around him.
At first, Jay didn't mind the silence since it was putting off the inevitable argument, but soon it began to make him uncomfortable. Why wasn't Iago saying anything? Jay had been sure that as soon as Genie was gone, he'd be ranted at nonstop. He had prepared himself for a shouting match, not a quiet stare down.
"I'm not a drunk," Jay said when he couldn't take the silence any longer.
Iago hummed and poked at a bottle of rum on the floor. "Genie seems to think otherwise."
"That's because he's an idiot," Jay said.
"True," Iago said.
The silence was back and Jay sort of hated everything about it. Jay didn't know what he was supposed to do when Iago was just sitting there. The silence was so painfully awkward, but Jay didn't know what to do to fill it either. What could he even say? Iago wasn't arguing with him about the drinking, and if Jay denied it again, he'd just look desperate. But Jay knew that Iago had to be thinking it because he was standing right there in the middle of all those bottles.
After several minutes, Jay couldn't take it any longer. "I don't have a problem," he said. He should have thought of something better to say, or at least something not related to the bottles, but that had been what he'd blurted out like a moron.
Iago looked up at Jay and tilted his head. "Jay... you've never been the best liar."
"I'm not lying," Jay muttered defiantly.
Iago stared at Jay for a moment before jumping off the ground and flying to land on Jay's shoulder. Jay winced slightly as Iago's claws dug into his bare skin, but he could tell that Iago wasn't gripping nearly as hard as he could be. "Jabir... you know you can tell me anything."
Jay felt a pang through his chest and closed his eyes tightly. "... I know, Babi," he said softly. "But... this is... this isn't anything..."
"If it isn't anything," Iago said. "Then why do you have so many bottles in the first place?"
Jay wasn't sure how to answer that and lifted his hands to run through his hair. His ponytail fell apart entirely, and his hair became a convenient curtain to block out the world. "It's not like that... it's just..."
"Just what?" Iago prodded after several moments of silence.
Jay struggled to put everything in his head into some sort of sense. He wasn't sure he'd be able to explain it all. His feelings and thoughts were all a jumble that Jay didn't even want to examine much less try to put words to. But, he tried anyway because if he didn't Iago would just keep thinking that Jay had a problem. "I... I just don't want to remember the Isle anymore..."
Iago hummed and rubbed his feathery head against Jay's cheek. Jay reached up with one hand to scratch Iago absently. "I can understand not wanting to remember it," Iago said. "But this isn't the way to do it."
"But it works," Jay said.
"Does it? Or does it just put off thinking about it until later?" Iago asked. Jay didn't have an answer for that. Iago shuffled his feet a little on Jay's shoulder. "And if you just put it off... then you just have to drink more later to keep putting it off, don't you?" Iago asked.
Jay still didn't have an answer. Those weren't questions he'd ever thought of. "... I don't know how else to do it," he murmured.
"Well, talking to your friends might help," Iago suggested. "They lived on the Isle too. They would understand better than any of these stupid Auradonians would."
"I don't want them to know," Jay said. "Bad enough that Mal knows what I was doing. I don't want the others knowing it too." He wasn't entirely sure if Mal had guessed before Jay had told her or not, but Jay thought that she must have. She hadn't seemed surprised when Jay had told her about working the corners. Jay couldn't have Evie and Carlos knowing too. Jay would prefer nobody at all knew what he'd done, but that was just not possible.
"Do you really think it'll matter to them?" Iago asked.
Jay shook his head. "It's not about that." Jay knew that his friends would support him, but knowing that didn't actually make telling them about it any easier.
"... would it be easier if I told them for you?" Iago asked.
Jay actually thought about that for a moment. Would that be better? Well, not having to say it himself would be easier. But that would still leave the others knowing what he'd done, and Jay wasn't sure he could handle that. "I... I wouldn't want them to know at all."
"Alright," Iago said. Jay was glad he didn't push on that. "Jabir, I'm going to ask you to do something, and I want you to really think about it before you say anything back to it. Alright?"
"... alright," Jay said warily.
"I want you to vanish all these bottles," Iago said.
Jay immediately bristled at that. He had spent way too much time getting all of them and how in the hell was Iago expecting Jay to sleep if he didn't-
Jay quickly cut his own thought process off there and tried to push it all down. He wasn't entirely sure why he was so reluctant. It wasn't as if Jay couldn't just get the bottles back or get new ones if he needed it. But Jay also really didn't think he'd get to sleep in his lamp if he didn't have a drink to help him along. "... all of them?"
Iago tilted his head to the side. "Start with the empty ones."
Well, that was fine. Jay didn't really need empty bottles anyway. With a wave of his hand, the empty bottles disappeared in a swirl of golden sand. "Now half of the ones left," Iago said.
"Yes, half," Iago said. "I'll let you keep the other half for now, but I don't want you summoning any more."
Iago flew off of Jay's shoulder to land in front of the teen. "Jabir. I know this is hard, but it is only half of what you have here. Why is that so bad to you?"
"Because... because it is!" Jay said. He wasn't sure how to explain it better than that.
"Why?" Iago asked again. "You'll still have alcohol, and if you can't give up half of these bottles without it being a big deal, maybe you need to think about if it's a problem or not."
"It's not a problem. It's just that it's mine!"
Iago studied Jay for a long moment. "I don't think you realize how much like Jafar you just sounded," he said.
Jay recoiled hard. "What? No, I don't!"
"You do, and if you stop panicking enough to replay what you just said I think you'll hear it too, Jabir," Iago said.
"I'm nothing like him!" Jay hissed.
"Jabir... what would Jafar say if someone told him to give up his drinking?" Iago asked.
Jay could instantly imagine his father's voice and cringed. He didn't like thinking about his father all that much and didn't like that Iago had asked him to do it. Jafar brought up one painful memory after another from Jay's childhood. "Now think about what you just said," Iago said.
Again, Jay couldn't help but cringe. They did sound too similar. "It's not the same..." he denied. "I'm not like him."
"In a lot of ways you aren't," Iago said. That made Jay relax a little bit. "And I would really like it if this was another way that you weren't like him. You remember the horrible things he'd do to you when he was drunk. I don't want to lose you down that same path, Jabir."
"You won't," Jay said.
There was silence between them for a few moments. "Then... will you get rid of half of these?" Iago asked. "Just... cut back for now. Please, Jabir?"
Jay still didn't want to do it, and he wasn't sure why. It was stupid but getting rid of any bottle that wasn't entirely empty seemed like the hardest thing ever. But it wasn't all of them, he reminded himself. There would still be plenty of booze to help him get to sleep when he needed it. And it wasn't as if this was Genie asking. This was Iago. Jay trusted the bird a whole hell of a lot more than the blue man.
Jay lifted a hand and waved it at the bottles. Half of the emptiest bottles disappeared leaving Jay with only about eight of them left. "Thank you," Iago said. He flew up to land on Jay's shoulder again and rubbed his head against Jay's jaw. "You're a good kid, Jabir."
"It's no big deal, Babi," Jay murmured. That statement seemed oddly false and hollow, but Jay wasn't sure why. It wasn't a big deal at all. At least Iago didn't call him out on how long it had taken Jay to actually do it.
"I'm proud of you, Kid," Iago said.
Jay felt something in his chest wrench hard and closed his eyes tight. Now, why the hell did Iago have to say something like that? Jay's eyes burned, and he quickly lifted a hand to rub at them. Thankfully, Iago didn't say anything else, leaving both of them sitting there together in the lamp. Nothing really felt solved to Jay, but perhaps things were a little better.
When Jay reformed in the bedroom, it was still quite obviously late. Carlos and Dude were still asleep. Although, judging by the light starting to fill the distant horizon that Jay could see through the massive windows, that wouldn't last too much longer. Carlos always woke up pretty early in the morning to take Dude on a walk outside. Jay didn't want to run the risk of Carlos noticing something was off and trying to talk. Jay had very much had enough of 'talking' for a while.
Jay thought if he tried to have any more deep conversations right then he might just walk back to Auradon right then. Who cared how far back a walk that might be. A month? A year? No matter how long it would be a more appealing prospect.
"Hey, Iago," Jay said as he went to the balcony of the room. "I think I'm going to go for a run... clear my head."
Iago ruffled his wing feathers. "Do you want me to come with you?"
"No. I just- I need to be alone for a while."
Iago didn't look happy, but after a moment nodded. "Alright. But be careful. You've never been to Agrabah before. It's not like Auradon," Iago said.
"I grew up on the Isle, Iago," Jay reminded. "I'm sure I can handle whatever this place has to offer too."
"Let me fret, would you?" Iago asked. "I'm allowed."
Jay smiled a little and hoisted himself over the balcony railing. "Alright, alright. Just don't lose all your feathers while I'm gone."
"I'll come looking if you take too long to come back," Iago said as he flew off of Jay's shoulder to land on the railing. "So don't think you can spend all day out there and avoid me."
"I would never," Jay said as he shimmed down a sculpted piece of stonework. The palace wasn't the easiest thing that Jay had ever climbed, but it wasn't the worst either. Jay landed in the middle of a flowerbed filled with large-leafed fronds of some sort and quickly got out to a path that went right by it.
Jay started an easy jog out of the palace gardens and made his way straight for the city proper. Jay didn't have any sort of destination in mind, but that didn't matter. He just wanted to not have to face anyone for a while.
The sun hadn't risen fully yet so the temperature wasn't too terrible and most people were still sleeping. Not everyone, as there were people getting shops ready, some trudging through the streets half awake, and a few that Jay could pick out as having less than wholesome intentions. It was familiar, and Jay wasn't in the least worried about himself as he continued his jog. A few people looked up at him but didn't seem to care enough to do so for more time than it took for them to realize he wasn't anyone with any sort of authority.
The run was actually amazingly refreshing and helped a great deal to clear Jay's mind of all the chaos that had been building since they'd arrived in Agrabah. He wished that everything could be as simple as just running for a while.
Jay didn't hurry back by any means. Even when he needed a break from running, and the sun had fully risen, Jay didn't head back to the palace. Instead, he wandered Agrabah and found convenient perches to sit on and watch the controlled chaos of the market. This was what he knew, and his eyes instantly spotted easy marks and other pickpockets in the growing crowd of people. Jay was a little surprised that there even were pickpockets here what with all the 'improvements' that had happened since beginning to trade with Auradon, but apparently things hadn't improved enough for enough people or perhaps by enough that it had stopped all crime. Jay probably shouldn't be pleased by that, but he found that he was. It made him feel less like a complete freak for his less than good habits.
After a little while longer of just sitting on the edge of a building's roof and watching the streets, Jay figured that he really should head back to the palace. If he didn't then Iago would no doubt come and find him. Iago had warned him that he would. That wasn't an argument that Jay wanted any part of, so he made his way back. Jay only walked, however, since he didn't really want to return in the first place.
Jay reached the palace with little problem and made his way around to the back garden. Jay figured that the best thing to do was to get back into his room the same way he'd left it. Fewer people were likely to question things if he left his chamber rather than coming into the building from outside.
As Jay made his way through the garden, however, he spotted someone he really didn't want to deal with coming in the opposite direction. Jay had no idea what Jasmine was doing out in the garden so early, but he quickly looked around for any other way he could go. There was a door that looked like a service entrance just a little way away which would work well, he thought.
Jay didn't make it very far, however. "Jay!"
Even though he didn't want to, Jay automatically stopped at Jasmine's voice and turned back around. Jay sighed as Jasmine came over to him. "Yeah?"
Jasmine clutched his hands together nervously. "I... might I speak with you for a moment?"
Jay sighed. "Do we have to?"
"It is rather important, I think," Jasmine said.
Jay highly doubted that it was really all that important. But, he also didn't think that he could avoid the woman for too much longer. Jay also wasn't sure what the consequences would be if he somehow managed it. "Alright, fine. What'dya want?"
Jasmine seemed a little taken aback by the bluntness of his question, but seemed to recover after a moment. "I... I wanted to know if there was anything I could do..."
"Do?" Jay echoed, entirely confused. "What do you mean 'do?'"
"Well, I mean... if there was anything you needed that I could help you with. I would be more than willing to," Jasmine said.
Jay narrowed his eyes. "You can't buy my forgiveness."
"I'm not trying to do that!" Jasmine denied.
"And you can't make it up to me, either," Jay said. "You gave me away."
Jasmine bit at her lower lip and then slowly nodded. "I know... but, I want to at least try. I know it's not going to be enough, but I can do something."
Jay scoffed. "You, you, you... and I thought Jafar was selfish," he grumbled. Jay finally turned to face Jasmine fully. "I'm not here to make you feel better. I'm here only to get you off me and Aziz's backs. You can't do anything because I'm always going to be the one you decided wasn't worth it. You gave me to him. You sent me to that hell hole."
"Jafar made me! I didn't want to!"
"Don't give me that!" Jay snapped. "You can't tell me that he made you do something. He made me do things. I didn't have a choice if I wanted to not be on the streets where I'd get my throat slit in my sleep. You... you just had to stand up to King Beast. You're a Goddamn ruler of your own nation, and you folded like a wet paper bag! How did you even decide which of us was worth being a prince?"
"It wasn't like that," Jasmine said. "We're a desert Kingdom, Jay. We need imports from Auradon and the other Kingdoms to supply us with things we can't produce ourselves. And if we fought with King Beast, then all our trade agreements might be cut. If you're not part of the United Sovereignties, you can't trade with them."
Jay scoffed. "You don't have to tell me about what happens to those who aren't part of King Beast's little hero club. I grew up living off the scraps of Auradon. Remember? That trash heap you sent me to. Didn't exactly have a farming economy itself, you know. The freshest thing we ever got was fish from the coast, and even that was hardly anything at all. King Triton makes sure all the pollution in the ocean stays right there around the Isle. They say it's to help keep Ursula from trying to get out, which is bullshit. It's because nobody in Auradon wants their pretty little picture book endings covered in trash, but they don't want to throw it away either. So why not make us villains deal with it instead?"
"I'm more used to the taste of rotten things than anything else, so don't you try to pull any greater good excuses over on me," Jay said. "Use that shit with Aziz. He might actually believe you."
"It... it wasn't supposed to be that bad there," Jasmine said weakly. "I know it's not worth much, but the idea was for the Isle to be secure yet humane. Where the villains could be contained and get better..."
Jay snorted. "You mean those stupid PSAs about 'being good' and all that bullshit?" he asked. "Please. That's not how anyone in the history of ever has worked. You can't just shake your finger at someone and shame them into being better. I know it looks like you probably can from your side since you married someone that literally just wished for everything to work out and got lucky... but most people, they're just going to keep on being how they are. Did you honestly think that Dad was going to be a better person just because some voice coming out of a box through loads of static told him to be?"
"Nasira was supposed to help-"
"She's not my mother!" Jay snapped. "If anyone was supposed to help it should have been you! But you didn't! You sent me there! I don't give a shit how much you 'didn't want to,' you still did it! If I was lucky, I got to sleep on the floor on a rug barely big enough for me to curl up on. And if Dad was angry, he locked me in a crawlspace smaller than a closet and even darker! I remember being thirteen and staring at the shelf just inches above me and hoping that it fell and the TVs on it would crush me, so I wouldn't have to wake up in the morning! While you were here eating off golden plates and sleeping in giant beds. So no. There's nothing I want from you and nothing you can do! I'm not some child wondering why my mommy doesn't love me!"
"But I do, Jabir! I always have!"
Jay shook his head. "I've been in Auradon for months and months, and I still wouldn't know what happened if me and Aziz hadn't gotten answers out of Scheherazade. So don't give me that," Jay said. "You could have come to me yourself... but you didn't."
"I know. And I regret that," Jasmine said. "I just... I couldn't bring myself to talk about what happened."
"Because you're selfish, yeah. I get it. You're talking to the one person in the world who knows selfishness better than anyone," Jay said. "I don't take out the bad shit that happened to me on anyone but myself." True, it hadn't always been that way, but Jay didn't want to hurt anyone anymore just to feel better about himself. It hadn't worked well in the first place, and he was tired of just... everything.
Jay sighed and rubbed his eyes. They were burning -probably from lack of sleep, he told himself- and he could really use a drink right about now. This conversation wasn't going to go anywhere. Jay could tell. "Listen. I'm sorry you were raped. I know that sucks. But it wasn't my fault, and I don't owe you shit just because I was born and you decided to send me to a damn prison island. Get some of that fancy therapy you Auradonians keep going on about, but don't come to me expecting I'm just going to forgive you and fall over myself to get a hug that I stopped looking for ten years ago."
Jay turned to head back inside. He was entirely done with this conversation. Jay wasn't changing his mind and he wouldn't help excuse Jasmine for what she did. She could come up with as many reasons as she wanted, it didn't make a bit of difference to Jay. "Jay," Jasmine called before Jay could get more than a few steps away. "W-what... what do you mean you know?"
Jay paused and cursed himself. That had been a slip-up, and he didn't often make those. But talking with Jasmine was... triggering for lack of a better word. He just blurted things out without really thinking about them, and that was always a terrible thing to do. That was how you got killed.
Jay sighed and turned back to face her. "You sent me to an inescapable island filled with every criminal that King Beast could find... are you really surprised that bad things happen to kids there?" he asked. "Even if someone's not a pedophile... they aren't exactly picky on the Isle and kids that haven't ever had food that isn't rotten aren't exactly the healthiest, strongest opponents."
Jasmine looked utterly horrified. "T-they-"
"I'm not exactly unique," Jay said quickly. He didn't ever say it out loud. That was how Jay had lasted as long as he had, and he couldn't let her say it either.
"But you're just-"
"If you say 'I'm just a child' I will leave Agrabah right now no matter how long I said I'd stay," Jay threatened. Fairy Godmother had said that to Jay and his friends a few times while trying to explain rules, and it never failed to drive all of them up the wall. One couldn't expect kids to practically raise themselves and then decide after the fact that they needed to be treated like kids again. "I have not been a 'child' in a very long time. And you can't just start treating me like one now."
"I... I'm so sorry, Jabir."
"Jay," Jay said. "I told you before. Nobody calls me that."
"Iago calls you that," Jasmine pointed out softly.
Jay was not sure how she knew that -maybe she had overheard the parrot at some point- but it was also entirely beside the point. "Iago taught me how to spell it when nobody else would... so yeah, he can fuckin' call me that if he wants. You do not get to."
Jasmine looked upset again, but Jay didn't care. It was never going to be okay for her to call him that. Jasmine might have given Jay that name, but to Jay, it felt a whole lot more like Iago had, since the parrot was the one that had: insisted Jay actually know it, could spell it, and was the only person that had used it from day one.
"If you say you're sorry one more time, I might scream," Jay said. "I get it already." Jay wasn't entirely sure why he felt a little guilty when Jasmine flinched. He figured it probably had something to do with the fact that for the longest time Jay's most precious wish as a child was that he had a mother that actually wanted him and would actually not make him pay for every little thing. Now that he had someone who wanted to be his mother and was rich enough that Jay would never have to worry about anything again... Jay didn't want any part of it. Jay should be happy to be lucky enough to actually get what he wanted, but he couldn't be.
The silence between the two of them was tense and awkward. Jasmine reached out, and Jay quickly moved to prevent her from touching him. She sighed but thankfully dropped her hand. "I know I can't make up for all the mistakes I made, Jay... but I want to do what I can to be there for you now."
Jay was silent for a moment and then turned around to fully face her. "Ya know what? I do know something you can do for me," Jay said.
"You can. Just. Stop," Jay said. Jasmine's expression, which had brightened slightly, fell instantly. "You're just making it harder. I don't want to have a 'relationship' with you. Let me just go back to Auradon and live my life. You have the better twin already, and I'm not prince material, so just drop it before it hurts even more."
"Aziz isn't better than you, Jay," Jasmine said.
"Sure he's not... you just picked him over me. Because we were entirely equal," Jay said with no small amount of sarcasm. "He's just as athletic as I am, we look practically the same, and he's smarter than me. Just be glad you gambled on the right brother, and let me be."
"Jay... do you honestly think that?"
Jay scoffed. "It's the truth. I know perfectly well; I'm no genius. Dad doesn't sugar coat shit."
"He told you that?" Jasmine asked in horror.
"Why does everyone act all shocked when they find that out?" Jay asked in annoyance. "Like the man was ever a supportive type? He made absolutely sure I knew how much of an idiot I am, so I don't need pretty little lies to try and make me feel better about it."
"They aren't lies," Jasmine denied.
"You don't know me well enough to say that," Jay said. "So just back the hell up. I told you what I wanted from you. Please, just leave it at that."
Jasmine was very quiet for several long minutes. "If that's what you want... then I'll try my best."
Jasmine nodded and took several steps back. "... can I at least ask Aziz how you're doing from time to time?"
Jay sighed. "Fine, whatever." It wasn't worth the argument, and as long as he didn't have to talk to Jasmine, Jay couldn't bring himself to care about it just then. He would probably have to make sure Aziz didn't tell Jasmine too much, but Jay would deal with that part of it later on.
"Thank you... I hope you enjoy what's left of your vacation at least," Jasmine murmured. She was clearly hurt, and Jay felt ever so slightly guilty about that, but not enough to come even close to changing his mind. Jasmine hesitated another moment before leaving. Jay was glad she was finally gone and allowed himself to relax just a bit.
Jay supposed the whole thing was a victory in a sense, but Jay didn't feel particularly victorious about it. He only felt marginally better, but Jay, like always, would take what he could get.
Ahh, I'm a few hours late. I'm sorry about that!
Jay was glad that, when he met up with the others, Mal suggested that they go spend some time in the gym again. Physical activity was Jay's usual method of blowing off steam, so he was all for sparing or even just working out. His run that morning had helped get him in a better mood, but he would never turn down doing something he was actually good at. Plus after Aziz had shown him those videos of people doing those weird tricks and performances on the gymnastic stuff, Jay kinda wanted to try out a few of them.
After a while, Aziz joined them and so did Fahim and Hadi, which Jay was very much unhappy with. Jay decided pretty much as soon as he saw the younger two boys that it would be best to just stay far away and ignore them. As far as Jay knew, they hadn't tried to go to the guards or break into their rooms or anything else, but Jay did not particularly care about that.
Jay was glad he was not in a position to be spoken to as he tested out how wide the balance beam was and tried out cartwheeling down it a few times. The distance to the ground was pathetic compared to what Jay was used to, and still, there were mats, so Jay quickly grew a little bolder with his movements. Jay did wish that it was a longer beam as he was much more used to being at full speed before performing tricks, but the flips were easy enough to land he found. "Hey, Jay!" Aziz called. Jay glanced over to see his brother approaching.
Jay flipped off the end of the beam he was on and landed with a hard thud, but Aziz had said that the point of the landing was to not move, so he remained rock solid despite instinct telling him that he needed to instantly keep moving. "Nice landing," Aziz said as he came over.
"It doesn't make sense," Jay said as he looked over his shoulder at the beam. "Harder on your knees to not roll or step forward or anything like that."
"I think it's to show you're in control of your own body and movements," Aziz said. "And guys don't usually do the beam in the first place."
Jay frowned. "Why not?"
"Not sure. Just one of the things that they don't do so much. Anyway, I heard you and mom had a talk this morning?" Aziz asked softly so that they wouldn't be overheard.
"I guess you could call it that," Jay muttered. "But I don't want to go over it, alright?"
Aziz frowned. "Are you sure?"
Jay couldn't help but roll his eyes. "I am very sure, yes," he said. "You good guys and your feeling talks are really getting on my nerves, alright? Just, for one day can we not do this?"
"Alright," Aziz said. "But if you change your mind-"
"I know. Really," Jay said. "I'm just really not used to talking about things like feelings. Or really anything that was important at all." Jay knew that Aziz was trying and he did appreciate it in a way. But he'd also really like to just not. Aziz tried so hard to understand, but the twins had grown up in polar opposite situations, and that gap wasn't just going to magic away.
Jay noticed that Hadi and Fahim were edging closer to where they were standing and scowled. "What are they doing here?" he asked.
Aziz looked over at them and sighed. "They said something about wanting to apologize, but wouldn't tell me what for. I sort of assumed you'd know and that I wouldn't like whatever they were talking about."
"Apologize?" Jay echoed. People seldom apologized to him. Well, not besides Jasmine who was apologizing too much for something he wouldn't forgive, but that was a unique sort of situation. "Seriously? And they came to you rather than me?"
"They came to me to try and find you," Aziz said, looking amused as he crossed his arms. "Then, of course, I wanted to know why they wanted to talk to you. It took me a few tries to get that apology information out of them."
Hadi and Fahim shuffled around looking embarrassed. Jay sighed heavily. How was this his life now? "Fine whatever."
Aziz waved the two brothers closer. Fahim, being the older of the two, stepped forward a little bit more than Hadi. "Alright, you two," Aziz said. "Out with it." Hadi and Fahim muttered something that Jay couldn't understand, and Aziz shook his head. "Oh, no. I'm staying right here."
Jay couldn't help but be somewhat amused by Aziz's decision to stay right there. Fahim made a face but then sighed heavily. Apparently, fighting with the prince wasn't an appealing prospect for him. Fahim looked up to Jay with a determination in his eyes. "We're sorry, Jay. We never even tried to give you a chance, and you were right."
"Right about what?" Jay had been so drunk at the time they had their little confrontation he honestly couldn't recall all of what had been said. But being told he was right wasn't particularly common for him.
"We do remember what it's like on the streets," Hadi muttered.
"We just try not to," Fahim added. "And we understand doing what you have to. So, we're sorry about what we did."
Jay studied the two boys for a few minutes and then snorted. They were serious, that much was obvious. And oddly enough, they sort of reminded Jay of a few of the younger members of the gang. The context was all wrong. Usually, the others looked like this when they flubbed a pickpocket or dropped a sword in a fight or something, and Jay had to scold them to prove a point. But the expressions were ridiculously similar. Annoyed yet contrite at the same time. "Yeah, alright, little punks," Jay said, taking on the nickname entirely by habit. "But you need to get better at stuff like that because it was pathetic."
Fahim looked up with a scowl. "We're not that bad!"
Jay raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
"What are you guys talking about?" Aziz asked. "Do I even want to know?"
"Probably not," Jay and surprisingly Fahim said together.
Aziz sighed. "Oh good. Well, tell me anyway."
When neither Fahim or Hadi began to talk Jay rolled his eyes. Better to just spit it out. "They broke into Carlos and mine's room. Looking for stuff I'd stolen or something," Jay said. "Were loud as crap about it too." Jay could mention that they'd also broken into the girls' room and stole Evie's pocket knife, but since Jay had gotten it back that would probably be unnecessary.
"You did what?" Aziz demanded.
The younger boys flinched. "Amir and Madhi told us to watch him," Fahim said. "That he would be up to no good."
"And the fact that I deliberately did not invite those two to the palace this vacation didn't tell you how I'm not exactly on the same page as them about Jay?" Aziz asked. "We aren't on speaking terms right now for this very reason. You can't judge someone based only on where they're from." This was news to Jay. Though he had noticed the other two Arabians hadn't been around Aziz lately, Jay had tried to not think about it too much.
To find out Aziz and two of his best friends were currently arguing over Jay was so surreal. Jay wasn't sure if he was happy or not about it, to be honest. Being happy about it would probably be an evil thing right?
"I-it wasn't because of that," Hadi said uneasily. "Well, not only..."
"So what else did they say?" Aziz asked, clearly angry now. Although, Jay had a feeling it was about Madhi and Amir rather than what the brothers had done. Out of the corner of his eye, Jay saw the others had stopped what they were doing and come over to see what was going on.
"It doesn't make sense now, but when they said it it sort of did..." Fahim dodged.
"And what. Was. It?" Aziz demanded.
Fahim was very reluctant but sighed. "They said that because his father's Jafar that he just... couldn't help but... be evil..."
Jay felt something deep inside of him wrench hard, and he stiffened. Aziz stared at Fahim for several minutes. Jay felt a hand on his shoulder and glanced over to see Mal had stepped up. Carlos slipped a hand into Jay's while Evie hovered just beside Mal. Finally, Aziz took a deep breath. "Listen up, you two. Just because your parent is a villain, doesn't automatically make you one!"
Jay was a little taken aback by how vehemently Aziz said that before realizing that this wasn't just about Jay. After all, Aziz was now in that category too. Fahim and Hadi looked down at the mats beneath their feet. "We realize that now," Hadi muttered.
"We won't do it again," Fahim added.
"You had better not," Aziz said. "Because I will tell father and mother about it if you do." The brothers flinched again but nodded. There was an awkward silence before Aziz snapped something in Arabic. The brothers quickly scampered away.
Aziz took several deep breaths, but Jay could tell he wasn't as calm as he was trying to look. "You okay?" he asked. Though it still was terribly painful for him, Jay had sort of gotten used to that assumption. Even Aziz himself had made it at first when Jay and the others had come to Aurado, although he dropped those thoughts pretty quickly. To Jay's knowledge, this was the first time Aziz had heard something like that after finding out he was Jay's brother.
"I guess," Aziz said.
"Sucks doesn't it?" Mal asked rhetorically. Jay figured she must have also picked up on what he had about that exchange. Aziz didn't really have to answer, but he nodded anyway.
Evie went over to give Aziz a pat on the shoulder. "It's alright. Things like that have gotten better since the coronation," she said in a comforting tone. "Not nearly as many people are afraid of us anymore."
"But there still are," Aziz said.
Carlos sighed. "There always will be, Aziz. Just like there's always going to be people who think every prince and princess are spoiled brats," he said. "And I know you've come across that one before."
Aziz nodded. "Yeah. That one I'm used to."
"Just let it roll off your back," Mal counseled. "It wasn't directed at you anyway."
"Doesn't make it better," Aziz said. "I know it would apply to me too. So it still feels as if it was directed at me."
Jay reached over with his free hand since Carlos was still holding one and gave Aziz's shoulder a squeeze. "You wanna talk about it?" he asked. Jay tried to sound as sincere as possible since he would listen if Aziz wanted him to, but it couldn't help but come out with a tinge of sarcasm.
Aziz instantly made a face. "Ugh, yeah, now I see why you hate that question," he said. "No, I don't want to talk about it."
"Does that mean you'll stop asking me if I wanna talk?" Jay asked hopefully.
Aziz rolled his eyes. "Already said I would, Jay."
Jay smirked. "Yeah, but I don't know if I should believe you yet or not."
"Ass, I won't ask, alright?" Aziz shrugged Jay's hand off his shoulder, and Jay laughed. "Do you want to spar, Jay?" Aziz asked randomly. Jay was thrown by the sudden question. "I feel the sudden need to attack you with a sword. Only fair you should have one too."
Jay snorted. "You think you can take me?"
"Only one way to find out."
"Alright, princey pie, but don't cry when I beat you black and blue," Jay warned.
"Same goes to you."
A little bit of JordanxJay action here... although I will admit I've decided on the main/final pairing of this fic now, and they aren't it. They still might hook up briefly but it won't ever get too serious. I feel that that have too much like sibling chemistry in this verse to make a romantic partnership last for very long.
Jay hadn't found lunch to be much better after the talk with Jasmine in the garden. Though the Sultana wasn't trying to speak with him at all, Jay still felt her presences too much to find the meal at all comfortable. The only positive was that Aliyah was still oddly enamored with the four Isle kids and the animals that came with them. She spent as much time as she could standing between Jay and Evie cooing over the colorful parrots or petting Dude under the table.
Despite Jay's determination to hate everything in Agrabah couldn't help but find Aliyah an unexpected bright side. True, Jay was still entirely unsure how to deal with her, but she didn't seem to have a mean bone in her body. Aliyah made Jay feel awkward but only because she didn't seem to realize she should be afraid of him and Jay wasn't at all used to that.
After lunch, Jay managed to find his way on top of the Palace with the help of his magic. He probably shouldn't have been using it but Jordan was always on him about training with it, and stuff and Jay really hadn't wanted to hang out in his lamp for privacy. Jay was still trying to absorb everything that had been happening in his life since he came to Agrabah. All he could say for sure was that Jay was so very glad they were in the home stretch of the vacation.
Jay was sitting on top of the admittedly slick golden roof and looking out across the city and to the desert and horizon beyond. The sun was blinding, especially as it bounced off of the roof but Jay didn't care about that so much. The heat was actually almost worse because Jay had never in his life before Auradon been anything but chilled before. The Isle was cold and damp and dreary, and Agrabah was so very different, it felt alien to him.
Purple smoke drifted up from somewhere over the edge of the roof and Jay watched out of the corner of his eye as Jordan materialized beside him. "Here you are. We were wondering," Jordan said. "Is everything alright?"
"Things have been better," Jay admitted.
Jordan nodded and wrapped her arms around her knees to stare out in the same direction as Jay was. They sat there in silence for a while and Jay was happy to let it stay like that. Jay wanted to be able to not get dragged into tough conversations for once.
The sun was still beating down on them, and Jordan waved a hand above them to create a purple and golden striped awning that almost immediately cut down on both the glare and the heat. Jay glanced over at her and Jordan shrugged. "We still have to worry about heatstroke, and the wind won't be enough to keep us cool."
"Heatstroke anything like hypothermia?" Jay asked.
"Sort of, but also happens because of entirely opposite conditions," Jordan explained as she leaned back to rest her upper body on her arms. "Being too hot rather than too cold."
"Figured with the heat part of it," Jay said.
The two of them lapsed into silence again for quite a few minutes. "Why'd you come way up here anyway?" Jordan finally asked.
"Because I didn't figure anyone would look for me up here," Jay answered. "Since you can't reach the roof without huge scaffolding or magic." And since Jay had been resisting learning his magic as much as he thought he could get away with, nobody should have thought of here. "How'd you find me anyway?"
"I was coming up here to see if I could spot you somewhere in the gardens or something," Jordan said. "I didn't think I'd find you here."
"Ah." That made sense. Jay should have realized that such a good vantage point would be where someone might go to look for him. "Are the others looking for me then?"
Jordan shook her head. "Only Aziz and Aliyah. The others said that you were probably fine and run off all the time." Jay nodded his head. That made sense. Mal and the others were well used to the idea of giving Jay his space to think things through and make up his own mind. "You don't have to, you know," Jordan said.
Jay looked over in confusion. "Don't have to what?"
"Run off all the time," Jordan said. "Whatever it is you're going through, we want to help you with it."
"But it's not something you really can help with," Jay said.
Jordan frowned. "How can you know that if you've never tried to get help before?" she asked.
"Because it's personal," Jay said with a little more bite than he'd meant to. Jordan didn't seem offended, thankfully. Jay sighed. "I appreciate the thought, but it's just not something that is easy to fix with just a few words. And before you ask, no, I don't want to talk about it."
Jordan was quiet for a moment. "You may not want to talk about it... but maybe you need to?" she asked. "If nothing else telling someone what's going on in your head might make it easier for you to work through it. Sometimes when I'm trying really hard and struggling to get a spell down, I just get stuck until I finally just talk with it to someone. Even if it's just someone who doesn't know magic like Aziz."
"No offense but I'm not sure how talking about this problem is going to do anything at all," Jay said as he fiddled with a small rock he'd found earlier and had picked up randomly because, well, because. "Nothing's going to change."
Jordan shrugged a little. "Then why are you still torn up over it?" Jay thought about arguing that he wasn't 'torn up' over anything. That he was perfectly fine. But then he decided not to since he was sitting on top of the palace staring at nothing.
"Because I'm here. In Agrabah. Where I have to face it every day," Jay said. If they were back in Auradon, Jay wouldn't see Jasmine at every meal. He could just continue with his life and put that part of himself far, far out of his mind. "Once we go back to school everything will go back to normal," Jay said. He was pretty sure about that.
"Okay then," Jordan said before turning back to look out across the horizon.
Jay frowned and turned to look at her. But no, she really didn't seem like she was going to push. That was so bizarre. Considering how hard she had pushed him in the hospital to make Jay admit to being a Djinn, Jay had expected her to push like that again. "Okay?" he finally repeated in question. "That's it?"
Jordan looked back at him. "Yeah. That's it." Jay was still confused, and Jordan sighed. "Look, I know I can sometimes be a little pushy, but only because I want what's best for you. And if you say going back to Auradon will make everything better, well, it won't take very long before we find out if that's true or not. We'll be heading back in just a few days."
"True," Jay agreed. That didn't mean he hadn't still expected some amount of pestering, however.
Jordan gave him a smile and turned back to look out across the horizon again as if everything was fine and dandy. Jay studied her for a moment before leaning over and giving her a kiss on the cheek. Jordan turned back quickly and with wide eyes. "Thanks," Jay murmured. "It means a lot."
A faint blush swept across Jordan's face. "You're welcome." Jordan put a hand to her cheek where Jay had kissed. "I would like it if we weren't just tutor and student but friends. And since Mal and the others trust you to look after yourself, I figured I should too."
Jay couldn't entirely stop the little smirk from creasing his mouth. He didn't think he'd ever seen Jordan blush and it was kind of cute actually. Jordan was usually so self-assured and bold, and that was not what she was putting forth right then. Jay had half a mind to see if he could make her blush even more, his natural flirty nature unable to help but rear up. "And you're one of the very few people that have thought that maybe the others know me well enough that you should take your cues from them. Pretty smart of you."
"It seemed obvious is all," Jordan said dropping her hand back to her side.
Jay smiled and brushed a loose strand of black hair behind her ear. "Not everyone is good at catching what should be obvious, you know."
"No, I know that," Jordan said. Jay was happy to see her blush still staining her cheeks. "But that's one that is pretty hard to miss."
"It is," Jay agreed. "But some people still manage to do it. All the idiots mostly. Making me very glad that you're not one. I don't think I'd be able to stand magic lessons at all if you were like those people."
Jordan scoffed and nudged his shoulder with hers. "You barely stand them now."
"Yeah, but think of how many I'd ditch if you were stupid on top of it. And for the record... you're not a bad teacher. I'm a bad student. Always have been," Jay admitted.
"You're not a bad student," Jordan denied. "You're making real progress with our lessons. You got up here all by yourself, after all."
Jay shrugged. He might have mostly gotten the hang of little things like turning into smoke and sand and simple summoning spells, but that was really about it. The entire huge list of reality-bending abilities was just way too far outside of his reach. Jay doubted seriously he'd ever get to that level. "You are making progress, Jay," Jordan insisted. "And you don't help anyone by constantly putting yourself down."
"I'm being realistic," Jay said.
"No, you're parroting back all the crap Jafar always told you," Jordan countered. "Just because you learn differently than most people or have to work harder doesn't mean you're stupid or a bad student or anything else he told you."
Jay felt oddly defensive, and he wasn't sure why. "I can't even read, Jordan," Jay said. "Aliyah can read two languages, and I can't manage one. What does that tell you?"
"That you were never taught properly," Jordan said instantly. "Besides, didn't you start sessions with Fairy Godmother to help with that?"
Jay made a face and looked off to the side. "She wants me to read childrens' books. The kind with the huge ass cartoon pictures that are only like a paragraph long. It's embarrassing."
"Everyone has to start with the basics, Jay," Jordan said. "And if it helps you... why not? Nobody has to know about what you're practicing on."
Jay continued to stare off to the side. "It's still embarrassing. I'm not a toddler."
Jordan opened her mouth to respond again but thought better of it. "... alright," she said. "I suppose I can see how it would be. I won't argue about it with you. We were having a nice time just sitting here. How about we go back to that?" Jay thought that was probably the best idea and nodded.
The two of them turned back to the horizon yet again and watched the activity of the market and the waves of heated air distorting the tops of the distant sand dunes. The silence between them was awkward at first but slowly became more comfortable. Jay eventually managed to relax again and let all his worries drift off like that hot air.
Jay nearly jumped out of his skin as Jordan leaned over and rested her head on his shoulder. "... what're you doing?"
"Using you as a headrest," Jordan said casually. "You're pretty comfortable, you know."
Jay couldn't help but snort. "Yeah, sure I am." He was well aware he was all muscle and bone opposed to soft curves and soft skin. But if Jordan wanted to lean on him, it wasn't like she was heavy.
"You are," Jordan said. "And at the perfect height for it too." Jay rolled his eyes but didn't attempt to shake her off. She wasn't hurting anyone and Jay didn't actually mind the contact all that much.
So sorry for how long this took to get out but wrapping up Agrabah was being a pain. Bright side? Back to Auradon next chapter and Jasmine won't be reappearing for quite a while at least.
The rest of the 'vacation' was much better for Jay than the first half of it. With Jasmine now attempting to do what he said and keep her distance, Jay only had to worry about the general awkwardness of being in the palace and hanging around with the others. True, they spent half the time hiding away in the castle and the other half wandering the market place where they might have stuck out a little, but most people didn't take time out of their own busy schedule to worry about a new group of teenagers hanging around. Aziz, on the few times he joined them, garnered more stares than the Isle Kids did -mostly because he was easily recognized as the Prince.
Jordan and her family stayed at the palace a few days but had headed off to spend some time wherever they lived. Jay didn't mind that because even if Jordan wasn't so bad, her father was still someone Jay couldn't relax around by any means. In fact, Jay had spent a good amount of effort staying away from the floating blue man -something Iago was more than happy to help him with since the parrot was still holding a grudge.
Planning on heading back to Auradon required a little more than the trip to Agrabah did. Figuring out how to get a large fish tank onto the train and then what to do with it once they got back to Auradon was the main issue. It was going to take some effort to transfer the thing, especially since if anyone made the mistake of putting their hands in the tank the eels would not be kind to said person. The last thing that Jay wanted to deal with was some hapless train station worker losing a hand and getting all upset.
The whole thing was going to be a production that Jay wasn't really looking forward to since it would most likely attract unwanted attention, but he wasn't about to leave Lagan and Derelict there in Agrabah of all places either. He still had no plans of returning to the desert kingdom since nothing had happened to make Jay think it would be a good idea.
Jay hadn't really managed to cut back on his drinking all that much, although he had resisted the urge to summon more alcohol to him in his lamp, so he counted that as a win. A small one, true, but Jay was used to small victories over large ones.
Jay was sitting on the ledge of a massive window in some abandoned upper floor of some building he'd found his way into from the market. The stairs down to the rest of the building had been bricked up and the bricks covered with an old dry rotted carpet, which Jay found odd but didn't bother thinking about. Obviously, the whole floor had been sealed off a while ago. Jay guessed sickness of some sort, but it had clearly been that way for so long Jay doubted anything contagious was still around.
Jay leaned back and stared at the palace framed nearly perfectly in the large window as Iago crunched away on some nuts that Jay had actually bought for once from the market. It had been hard to not swipe the bag since it had been sitting right there so temptingly, but Jay had managed to restrain himself. At least on that occasion. He had snagged an apple without meaning to and hadn't actually realized it until he'd gotten two streets away from the stall. Jay wasn't about to slink back and explain to the stall owner what happened so kept his ill-gotten loot.
The apple was currently sitting beside Jay on the ledge since Jay didn't even want the stupid thing. He'd give it to one of the others when he got back, he decided. That way at least someone would eat it. Jay pulled a little tin out of one of his pockets and popped it open. He took one of the pills and dropped it in his mouth before putting the tin away again. Jay wasn't sure why he was moping around staring at the palace like he was, but he couldn't really pull himself away from his spot either.
Jay wasn't even really thinking about anything in particular. But after he had been found on top of the palace by Jordan, Jay had decided to move his brooding spot around each time to be harder to find. This spot had seemed just as good as any other despite the view.
Iago crunched another walnut with his powerful beak to get through the shell and then swallowed the bits inside as Jay let himself relax and his mind float away from what was bothering him. Jay closed his eyes for a moment and just enjoyed the hazy distant feeling that was slowly sweeping over him. Jay opened his eyes after a few moments to stare at the palace again. It was probably the last time Jay was ever going to see the place in person, and though he was glad for that there was also a part of him that wasn't quite as alright with that, and he wasn't sure where it was coming from. Probably that annoying childish part of him that felt sort of bad for not being able to forgive Jasmine. Jay really wished that part of him would shut up because he wasn't going to change his mind.
Jay wasn't sure how long he was sitting there, but it was long enough for Iago to finish off the nuts and move to sit in Jay's lap with his head tucked down into his own feathers. Jay scratched the parrot gently along his back before petting the feathers back in place. Iago made a noise but it sounded pleased enough, and he didn't lift his head, so Jay felt confident enough to keep petting him.
The moon was almost full where it was hanging above the palace. Jay was pretty sure that it would be actually full in another couple days, which meant that they would thankfully be back in Auradon by then. Carlos wouldn't have been happy to be somewhere strange when the full moon came around, and since Jay spent the whole night keeping his friend company, he was glad for it as well. Jay still felt guilty for what he'd done to one of his best friends, even if Carlos kept insisting it was alright. Still, it was better to be somewhere familiar and safe for those nights.
Jay continued to pet Iago as his mind wandered aimlessly from topic to topic. There was a long stretch of just Jay sitting there enjoying the effects of the pill he'd taken. He still had no idea why more people didn't take the little pills considering how much better Jay felt when he took them.
Suddenly, Jay felt a little tug at his pants. He looked over and frowned at the money with a hat and purple vest sitting beside him. The sight tugged at something in Jay's memory, but he couldn't for the life of him come up with what it was. "Abu, what're you-"
Jay turned to look over his shoulder and saw Aladdin standing there. Although he looked a little odd. It took Jay longer than it really should have to place the fact that Aladdin wasn't wearing his usual white sultan robes, though they were still very high quality. These ones were more akin to what the average citizen would wear although the fact that they had what looked like silk embroidery sort of gave him away. "Jay," Aladdin said, seemingly surprised. "What are you doing up here?"
Jay blinked, not having expected to talk to anyone much less answer any questions. "Just sitting," he said finally. Jay waved at Abu a little to try and shoo him away. The monkey let out a little noise of protest and hopped back a step. Iago lifted his head at the noise and narrowed his eyes at the monkey. "That's not illegal now is it?"
"Well, no, but this place is condemned..." Aladdin said.
"Condemned?" Jay echoed. What in the heck did that even mean?
Aladdin nodded and gestured around them. "Well, look at it."
Jay's eyes swept the dust covered floor and the heavy beams that had fallen from the roof in places. There were deep cracks in the walls, and huge slabs of the ceiling had dropped at some point to litter the open spaces of the floor. "... what about it?" Jay asked. The place wasn't made of wood or creaking or anything. To Jay, it was clearly abandoned, but he was more than used to that. He'd taken shelter in abandoned buildings plenty of times when his dad kicked him out for not having enough money.
Aladdin seemed to flounder for a moment. "It's not safe," he finally managed to say.
Jay had no idea what that had to do with anything. Iago, finally taking pity on the utter lack of understanding, said, "Condemned means that you're not supposed to go somewhere because it's too dangerous. Everywhere in on the Isle should probably have been condemned."
"Oh." Jay wondered absently who decided what was 'too dangerous' in the first place. Probably someone who'd never seen a crack before and freaked out over every little line they saw. "I didn't know that was a thing," he said to Aladdin before turning back to the view in front of him. Despite what Aladdin said, Jay wasn't inclined to move.
"How'd you find this place?" Aladdin asked as he carefully stepped over a broken piece of furniture and bent down to pick up Abu. The monkey chattered his noises and crawled up to sit on Aladdin's shoulder, his tail wrapping around Aladdin's neck.
"There's a huge doorway over there. Not like it's hidden," Jay said pointing to the short half collapsed staircase that Aladdin had come up through that served as the only way in or out of the level they were on. Jay hadn't anticipated finding a closed off level of some building when he ducked into the open doorway leading from the rooftop of the building next door, but it wasn't like they made an effort to really close the place off. Jay kind of liked this place, actually. Its mostly ruined and abandoned state felt more familiar to him than most things here in Agrabah. "But if this place is condomended or whatever... what are you doing here?"
"I own this building," Aladdin said as he reached up to brush his fingers along one of the wooden beams. "I've been planning on renovating it, but I keep getting distracted by other things..."
Jay glanced back at Aladdin for a moment before facing forward again. Iago hopped up onto Jay's knee and ruffled his wings. "That doesn't really explain what you're doing here," Jay pointed out as he ran his fingers down Iago's back.
"I come here to think sometimes," Aladdin said.
Jay was about to tell him that it was a weird thing to do -coming someplace all abandoned to think- but then recalled that was precisely what he was doing as well. So, Jay decided to not say anything at all. There was a somewhat awkward silence for a few moments. "I have been meaning to thank you, actually," Aladdin said.
Jay frowned and looked back at the Sultan. "Do what?"
"Thank you," Aladdin repeated. "You didn't have to come at all, and you did. I know it couldn't have been easy after everything, but we do appreciate you doing what you have. So thank you."
"I only did it to not be pestered," Jay said.
"I know. But I can still thank you. And you've been far more... congenial than you needed to be," Aladdin said.
"Conwhat?" Jay asked, annoyed at yet another word that was completely foreign to him. It made him feel like a complete idiot when he had no idea what words meant. "Where do you get these words?"
"Sorry. I worked hard to brush up on my vocabulary and schooling once I married Jasmine. Sometimes I get a little carried away. Congenial is basically being polite, which I know you didn't have to be to us at all," Aladdin said.
Jay frowned. He hadn't really gone out of his way to be polite. He'd been aiming firmly for neutral and distant. "I didn't come here to start fights." Although, now that Jay thought about it, maybe he should have. That would have probably turned Jasmine off, and Jay wouldn't have had to deal with that whole mess.
"You have a hard time accepting thanks, don't you?" Aladdin said.
"He's got a hard time with accepting all sorts of positive things," Iago said.
Jay scowled and flicked the bird in the side. "Hush up, acid pigeon."
Iago squawked and nipped at Jay's fingers although he didn't actually catch hold of one of the digits in a bite. "I am not an acid pigeon, ungrateful brat."
Jay flicked at Iago again, unconcerned at the beak snapping at his fingers. He knew that, even if Iago got a hold of one, the parrot wouldn't do any serious damage. Jay tugged gently on a few of Iago's feathers, not nearly hard enough to cause damage but enough to agitate the bird. Iago caught Jay's wrist in his claws, jumped up onto his new perch, and snatched some of Jay's long hair in his beak to tug back.
"It's odd," Aladdin said suddenly. Both Jay and Iago immediately stopped their mock fight. Jay very deliberately didn't turn around, somewhat embarrassed to have forgotten the Sultan was there long enough to start playing with Iago.
"What's odd?" Iago asked as he hopped up to Jay's shoulder to glare at the Agrabah hero.
"How different you two are when you're relaxed," Aladdin said. "I don't think I've seen either of you actually relaxed the whole time you've been here in Agrabah. Was it really that horrible for you here?"
Jay sighed and glanced back although now Iago was in the way, so Jay only saw part of Aladdin. "You know how you were a street rat before you got mixed up with Princesses and Djinn and shit?" Aladdin nodded a little. "Well, imagine a place where everyone is right there like you were, and I'm the street rat for them. That's how I grew up. So yeah, being here and seeing what I don't have hasn't been exactly the highlight of my life."
"You could have it," Aladdin said. "If you wanted."
"Pity," Jay scoffed. "I don't want pity."
There was a long stretch of silence. "... I know," Aladdin said. "Honestly, I do. I wouldn't have wanted that either. And I'm sorry about how you grew up. You shouldn't have been in that situation. I know how little that means, but it's true, and I want you to know that if I hadn't been magicked to forget you... things would have been different."
"That means probably even less," Jay said. "Because you did forget about me. Everyone did."
Aladdin sighed softly. "None of what happened to you was fair. And I understand you never wanting to see us again. But if you ever change your mind... or decide you need our help and can stand asking for it, by all means, we'll do what we can. No strings attached, I swear."
Jay turned a little more to look at Aladdin directly so that he could better gauge the Sultan's words. He seemed very truthful, but it was easy to mean something you said, following through was the hard part. Jay didn't bother bringing that up and just nodded. The silence between the two of them lingered a little bit longer. "I suppose I'll leave you to your... thinking. I hope that the rest of your life is happier than the beginning was. Good luck, Jay," Aladdin said as he turned and left. Abu was chattering on his shoulder, but Aladdin just petted the monkey's head and kept walking.
"... huh," Jay said after several minutes.
Iago was grumbling something about high and mighty pretend sultans, but Jay didn't really take the bird seriously. Iago insulted everyone after all. Even the people he liked. "Iago. Is it weird that I hate and like that guy?" Jay asked softly.
"Considering who he is... no probably not," Iago said as he flattened his feathers again. "I would still lean more towards hate if I were you though." Jay chuckled a little and turned back to the view of the palace.
"I'm glad to be going home tomorrow... even if I do have to go back to classes and tutoring and... all that crap," Jay said. "Agrabah is too complicated."
"Agrabah isn't complicated, kid," Iago denied. "You in Agrabah is complicated. There's a difference."
Jay snorted but didn't argue. "All the more reason to not come back. I belong here even less than I belong in Auradon. But, at least I won't have to hear about this ever again." It was nice, at least, that Aladdin wasn't pressing for Jay to visit again, because Jay would not have appreciated that in the least. In fact, Aladdin seemed to resign himself to never see Jay again, which was honestly refreshing for the thief. It would be nice if a few more people would accept that Jay actually did know what he wanted.
After a few more minutes of lingering by the window, Jay got to his feet. "I guess I should head back. Get some rest before we have to wake up and head to the train in the morning and all that."
"The others are probably looking for you by now," Iago said as a sort of agreement.
Jay wandered back towards the palace at a snail's pace, taking in the more gritty side of the city his father was from. The side Jay would kind of like to explore more of if only it didn't come with a palace full of resentment visible above every other building. But at least in the morning he could put all of this behind him and focus on more pleasant things, like tourney and flirting mercilessly with everyone at school. He could just be Jay in a place where that was enough -where that was what everyone wanted and accepted him as.
Sorry this took so long and that it isn't that long of a chapter. I am horrible. But I'm going to try my best to get back to the weekly updates.
Jay flopped down onto his bed with a sigh, not caring that he got a face full of a pillow in the process. "It is so good to be back here..." Jay said.
"I never thought I'd hear the day you were happy to be back at school," Carlos said as he put his bag onto his bed and pulled his scarf off from where it was tied around his neck. Although most of the snow had melted while they were gone from Auradon it hadn't gotten appreciably warmer. The sun was shining and it looked nice enough. But the wind was killer and cut through their clothes.
Well, not the leather that Jay was once again wearing but he also only had a thin coat because he was Jay and not at all sensible about what was and wasn't proper attire. "But get up, Jay," Carlos said. "We need to clear out this space of the wall for the tank to go."
Jay groaned but obediently got up and went to help Carlos shift things around and even push a dresser about a foot down the wall. There was really only one place to fit the large tank that also had an electric plug close enough to run the pump and everything. That was right by the door to the bathroom. At least he wouldn't have to lug water too far to put fresh stuff into the tank, Jay thought as he unplugged the desk lamp that was taking up a valuable spot in the outlet and tossed the cord back the way it came from.
"Think that's wide enough?" Jay asked as he eyed the now clear spot.
"I think so," Carlos agreed. "They should be bringing the tank up in about twenty minutes or so. I don't imagine it'll take longer than that to unload the train and drive over here."
Jay nodded and dropped back down on his bed to kick his slightly damp shoes off. Though a lot of the snow had melted the water from that process was still puddled in places. Jay had not been paying attention and walked right through several. Iago pecked at the handle of Jay's side table drawer, and Jay sighed before reaching over to pull out a bag of nuts he kept there. "You could have just asked."
"That's what I was doing," Iago huffed before picking up a large piece of walnut and swallowing it down.
Jay rolled his eyes at the bird but wasn't about to argue with him. Jay was just glad that they were home. Well, as close a home as Jay felt he'd ever actually had. "Redecoratin'?"
Jay looked over at the door and saw Harry leaning there with his arms crossed and a look of curiosity on his face. "Just a little," Jay said.
"What're you doing here, Harry?" Carlos asked.
"Jus' saw you was back an' wanted ta stop by," Harry said casually. He pushed off from the door frame and made his way into the room, not caring that he hadn't actually been invited. Jay saw Harry's eyes flick down his body and then Harry smiled. Jay was a little confused until he looked down as well and saw the ring Harry gave him there on his finger.
Jay rolled his eyes even though he felt mildly embarrassed for no reason he could put his finger on. It was just a ring, damn it. Nothing that special. Jay hadn't even thought about the fact that he was still wearing it.
"So, what're ya movin' stuff 'round for anyway?" Harry asked as he eyed the open spot against the wall.
"The stupid Genie decided to try and show off and brought my tank through the barrier," Jay said. "So now we need a place to put it. I wasn't going to leave them in Agrabah."
"Lags an' Derry?" Harry echoed. "How're they doin'? Last time I saw 'em was when Mal an' yer buddies needed ta get some key outta their water."
"They're alright. They pouted a bit for being left so long but warmed up," Jay said. "Dad knew they were protecting some of his stuff, so he didn't let them starve or anything.
Harry nodded. "Good. Mind if I stick 'round ta see 'em?"
"Don't you have anything better to do?" Carlos asked as he pulled clothes out of his bag and tossed them into his hamper. "Like... anywhere else?"
"Not really," Harry said with a grin.
Jay sighed, "Fine, whatever. Stick around, but you'll probably get bored."
Harry smiled widely and grabbed Jay's desk chair to sit at. Jay rolled his eyes and reluctantly started emptying his own bag. The clothes he just tossed in the general direction of the hamper even though quite a few missed. The only thing Jay was anxious about was tucked down near the bottom. "Carlos. The door?"
Carlos looked up and then hurried over to the door to close it. Only once the door was firmly shut did Jay pull his lamp out of the bag. Jay quickly knelt down beside his bed and pulled the lock box out from beneath it. He punched in the code and then unlocked it with the key before tucking the lamp away safely and locking it in. Only once the box was again hidden beneath Jay's bed in the secret drawer he'd installed did Jay relax at all.
"We good?" Carlos asked.
Jay nodded. "Yeah," he said.
Carlos opened the door again so that the tank could be brought in and went back to unpacking. "When's tha' gonna not be a thing anymore?" Harry asked as Jay got to his feet and casually dumped the rest of his stuff out onto his bed.
"Once I turn eighteen," Jay said. Harry hummed to show he heard but didn't say anything else or ask any more questions.
By the time Jay had finished unpacking, the workers from the train had managed to get the heavy tank up to the room. There was some concern over the pure amount of weight that the tank would be and if the floor could even support it, but it was decided to get Fairy Godmother in to make double sure that the floor was strong enough with a tiny little enchantment. She wasn't exactly thrilled with the prospect, but Iago and Fairy Godmother went off to argue about it, and when she came back, she cast the spell for them.
Jay was glad he didn't have to argue about it and just helped the two guys from the train carefully unload the tank into the cleared out spot. The thing was awkward to move, due to its size, weight, and the fact that that weight shifted as the water did. Luckily, Harry stepped in and helped and between four people they were able to move it into position.
The guys from the train left with a little bow that left Jay intensely uncomfortable. "Why'd they bow?" Harry asked as Carlos came over to make sure all the plumbing and wires were set up correctly.
Jay shrugged. "I don't know. Some weird Agrabah thing, I guess," he said. Jay didn't think that they would have any way of knowing who his birth mother was so there shouldn't have been a reason for them to bow at all, Jay didn't think.
"Huh," Harry said before turning to the tank. The eels were out and looking displeased. "Heya boys. It's good ta see ya again. Yer mommy treatin' ya good?"
Jay scowled. "I thought you were done with calling me that after the black eye I gave you," he said as he folded his arms across his chest.
Harry looked back over his shoulder and winked. "Yeah, well, Imma slow learner, Jay."
"You're going to lose a tooth you call me that again," Jay threatened as he went past to find a bucket or something so that he could refill the tank. To move it they had drained about half the water out, but it certainly couldn't stay like that.
"Yer momma's mad at me boys," Harry whispered.
Carlos rolled his eyes as he reached back to plug in the last cord. "He's going to murder you one of these days," Carlos told Harry as he got to his feet. "I mean really."
Harry shrugged and didn't seem all that concerned. "He's fun when he's riled."
"You don't have to 'rile' him all the time, you know," Carlos said. It would be nice if, for at least a few days, Jay wasn't stressed out about something or another.
"Do we have no buckets in here?" Jay called from where he was rummaging around in the bathroom.
"Uh, I don't think so," Carlos said back. "We do have the trashcans though. You could use that." Jay huffed loudly, but a moment later the water turned on, so Carlos figured he'd given in to using it the bin.
Jay came out of the bathroom with the trashcan full of water and was about to dump it in when Carlos suddenly remembered something he'd read. "Wait!"
Jay froze. "Wait what?"
"Auradon puts stuff in their water," Carlos said as he went over to his computer. "I have no idea if it's good for fish or not."
"They do what?" Jay quickly lowered the makeshift bucket. "What do they put in it?!"
"It's called fluoride or something. Supposed to be good for your teeth," Carlos said as he pulled up different websites on his computer. He quickly skimmed through the different articles. "They also put small amounts of chlorine into it to help make it healthier to drink. It kills off bacteria and stuff. Aaannd, it'll kill the eels if there's too much of it in their water. Which it would be if you fill have that tank with straight tap water."
"Well, then what the hell am I supposed to do?" Jay demanded. "I can't leave them with half a tank of water!" This was not a problem Jay had ever run across. The water that came out of the pipes on the Isle didn't have anything put in it. Jay considered it lucky it was even running and fresh.
"I'm looking, I'm looking," Carlos said. Jay took the bucket of water back to the bathroom and dumped it out into the bathtub. "Ah! There's something you can put into the water to neutralize the chlorine and everything in the tap water. They sell it at all the pet stores."
"Of course they do," Jay said with a sigh. He went over to where he dropped his boots. "I guess I have to go and get this stuff then. Figures. Auradon can't ever make things easy for me."
"I'll go with you since I actually know what you need," Carlos said as he closed his laptop.
"I'll go too," Harry said. "Cause now I'm all kinds a curious as ta what's goin' on."
Jay rolled his eyes. "Fine, whatever. Just don't cause trouble."
Harry put a hand to his chest as if hurt. "I would never."
"Uh huh," Jay said sounding entirely unconvinced. "Let's just go, huh?"
Iago flew over to land on Jay's shoulder just before they left. After one somewhat confusing trip to the pet store where Harry would not stop poking at different animals and nearly got them kicked out, they returned with what Carlos said they needed to treat the water of the tank. Jay pulled the bottle out of the bag and tried to figure out how he was supposed to use it. Did he just dump the whole thing in? That didn't seem right. But the bottle had such small print and Jay struggled to read at the best of times, so all of it was just a blur.
Without a word, Harry pulled the bottle out of Jay's hand and rattled off that it was one cap for every fifty gallons of water. "How much water does the tank hold?" Carlos asked.
Jay looked over at Carlos. "How the hell should I know?"
"Well, you built it," Carlos said.
Carlos sighed but dug into his side table to pull out a tape measure. "Why da ya keep tha' in yer table?" Harry asked with a raised eyebrow.
"In case I wanna measure my dick," Carlos said sarcastically. "Now help me with this," he said as he pulled the tape out and went to measure the tank.
Jay watched with a bit of bewilderment as Carlos used the measurements and started doing a freakin' math problem on a scrap of paper. As if Jay didn't feel stupid enough already. He would never have been able to do this if Carlos and Harry hadn't decided to tag along. Carlos finished and announced that the tank was a hundred gallons. Harry shrugged and tossed two caps of the treatment stuff into the water. "Alright, good ta go," Harry said as he closed the bottle up again.
It took quite a few buckets to fill the tank back up to the top, but between Jay and Harry, they managed it without spending too much time lugging water out of the bathroom. Only once the water was full did Jay pull some strange box out of the bottom of the rickety cabinet the tank was on. He dumped out some salt into the water and then put it away. "There. That took more effort than it should have."
"You should probably measure the salt you put in there," Carlos said.
"Why?" Jay asked. "I know how salty the damn ocean is. I just get close to that."
"Right... we'll talk about it later, I guess."
Jay rolled his eyes, it wasn't like it was difficult to make salt water or anything like that.
Kind of short but on time! Better than nothing right?
"You need to focus more," Jordan said.
Jay sighed heavily and tried to focus on the unpleasant side of himself that he spent most of his time ignoring even existed. They were in the middle of yet another magic lesson, and Jordan wanted Jay to turn into his Djinn form on command. Not something Jay had ever successfully done. Jay had rather hoped after the vacation she would have dropped the topic since he seemed so dismal at magic but no. It was only the first Tuesday back, and Jordan had shown up at his room at her usual time and asked the exact same things she had last time.
That was frustrating as Jay would have ducked out had he known that Jordan wasn't going to lay off even a week after vacation. But, since he had been there when Jordan showed up fair and square, Jay didn't feel right getting out of it -even though he probably could have if he'd tried. Jordan was nice enough that Jay probably only had to put on a pair of puppy eyes and complain about some horrible homework assignment or something and she'd be willing to reschedule. Jay had only done that once though, as he'd felt uncharacteristically guilty afterwards.
Jay tried to turn himself gold, but all that was happening was a headache was forming behind his eyes. "This isn't working, Jordan," he said as he looked over at her. "What's so hard to get about the fact that I'm terrible at this?"
"Part of the problem is that you see being a Djinn as something terrible," Jordan said as she left he seat at Jay's seldom used desk and went to where he was sitting on his bed. "Even after you're wished free of the lamp you're going to be a Djinn still. The only person who has ever gone from being a Djinn to being human is your father. And you had to take his place."
Jay made a face. He was very well aware of what had happened. "That doesn't mean I have to do magic..."
"No. But not knowing how to control your abilities is still something necessary even if you never plan on using that magic," Jordan said with her usual patient voice that sometimes Jay appreciated but didn't at the moment.
"I just don't see the point of turning all gold and shiny and floaty," Jay grumbled. "It's not like I have to look like that to do the magic, right?"
Jordan nodded her head slightly. "No. You don't have to do that. But this is a simply magical act that helps you learn how to do things on command better. Did you immediately go straight to flipping off roofs or did you start just simply jumping off things first?"
"That's not really the same thing..."
"It is," Jordan said. "You have to work up to the big things. Being able to go to and from Djinn form is a basic step in learning how to use your powers."
Jay scowled and ran a hand through his hair. "I look stupid as a Djinn."
"No, you don't. You look quite regal and handsome," Jordan said. "I've never heard of a Djinn that was golden before."
"Oh good. That's so comforting," Jay said sarcastically. "I just love being the weird one."
Jordan sighed and sat down beside Jay. "You're not weird. Unless, I guess, if you think all Djinn are weird?"
Jay snorted. "Do you really want me to answer that after I met your dad?"
"Maybe not," Jordan said with a smile. "But either way, you're not weird. Or strange. Or unpleasant to look at. No matter what form you happen to be in at the time."
"You're just saying that to make me try again," Jay accused.
"Absolutely. Come on. Another try."
Jay sighed and rolled his head on his neck to try and loosen the tension there. It was always harder for him to do things when he had his shoulders all knotted up. Then he closed his eyes and tried to do the reverse of what he'd done before and imagined himself as a Djinn. "I really should be getting something for all this practice and lessons and stuff."
"What would you like?" Jordan asked.
"I don't know. How about a kiss?" Jay said.
There was a moments pause, and then Jay felt a pair of soft lips brush his. Jay's eyes flew open in surprise just as Jordan pulled back. He hadn't really thought before he said that and he certainly hadn't expected to be taken seriously. "There. No focus on your lesson, huh?" Jordan suggested with a bit of a smile.
Jay blinked a few times, still very much caught off guard. "Uh... I wasn't expecting you to actually do that," Jay said. "You know I was mostly joking about that right?"
Jordan shrugged. "Maybe. But I decided you could use a bit of a reward anyway," she said.
There were a few moments where neither of them said anything. "Did I break you?" Jordan finally asked. "Because I wasn't expecting a kiss to be a big deal to you."
"It... it isn't," Jay said. "I just am not sure how serious that kiss was. Auradon relationships... confuse me," he said after another moment. Relationships, in general, could be confusing as Jay had really only had friendships, marks, and Harry before. And Harry, while the closest to an actual 'boyfriend' that Jay could claim to have had, was not the standard relationship. Jay was well aware of that. Did friends with casual sex happen in Auradon? Jay didn't think that was something they'd approve of here in goodie goodie land.
"Ah. Well, I'm not expecting anything, if that helps," Jordan said.
"You aren't?" Jay asked. He was gearing himself up for trying to decipher girl-relationship talk and utterly failing. Jay might not have been in many relationships, but he'd seen plenty here in Auradon. Everything from the weird cling that happened in Audrey's relationships or the constant arguing in the relationship that Doug's cousin had with everyone he tried to date to Mal and Ben's sometimes rocky but generally happy one. Jay had a terrible feeling that he would be in the second of those options if he tried to date anyone, and he wouldn't be looking forward to it if it ever happened.
Jordan smiled and shook her head. "No. I'm not. I know you a little better than that, I think," she said. "You haven't exactly made it a secret that you aren't looking for anything serious."
"And that doesn't bother you?"
"If it bothered me, I wouldn't have kissed you," Jordan said. "Besides, it's probably for the best. My father's pretty protective and doesn't like the idea of me dating. So, if he asks, I can honestly say I'm not dating anyone. I don't like lying to my father."
Jay smirked some. "But you're not above bending the truth a little, I see."
"No, not really," Jordan said.
"I can appreciate that," Jay said.
"Well, focus on your lesson, already," Jordan said firmly. "If you want another kiss you'll have to actually do this."
Jay hummed a little. "I don't know... I'm thinking if you're actually going to give me a kiss for trying, then I might need one beforehand."
Jordan laughed. "Nice try, but it's a reward. So you'll have to actually do it if you want another kiss."
Jay made a show of pouting. "Oh, I see how it is," he said.
"You're lucky to have gotten the one," Jordan replies. "So no pouting, Mister."
Jay sighed heavily and closed his eyes. "Fine, fine. Leave me hanging."
Jordan giggles some in amusement. "You are such a goof. You know that right?" Jay nodded a little.
Jay focused hard for several minutes on trying to achieve his goal. He knew that he could do this. All Djinn could. But the actual doing it wasn't something Jay even liked doing so making himself turn gold and floaty wasn't easy. Jay tried to bury his feelings on the subject down as far as he could. Jay tried to reason that he wouldn't have to say like that for long. Just long enough to prove that he had figured it out and then Jay could turn back. Easy Peasy. Or at least it should be.
His headache was getting worse as he tried to make the change happen. Why did everything aside from stealing and fighting have to be so hard anyway? Jay was getting more and more annoyed the longer he tried to make the change happen. His head was near bursting from effort and Jay was about to lose his temper. Just change already!
Suddenly he felt a pair of lips on his again, and this time it was accompanied by a strange tingling static feeling. Jay opened his eyes and saw Jordan in front of him again. "Wha-?"
"Look at yourself," she said.
Jay looked down and saw that the skin of his hands had turned gold and glowed slightly. His legs were gone, and he realized that he couldn't feel them anymore. Jay had just assumed they had fallen asleep because he was sitting cross-legged on his bed. He probably should have realized. "Good job," Jordan said.
"... thanks," Jay said. He wasn't sure what else to say, and he took a deep breath to will himself back to his normal appearance. "It's still weird."
"I know," Jordan said. "But I still think you look handsome like this."
"I don't like not having legs..."
Jordan laughed. "But you can fly now," she pointed out.
Jay frowned and thought about it. Finally, he shook his head. "Nah. I still would rather have legs."
"Fine, fine, go ahead and shun flying like a weird person," Jordan said with amusement.
"I'm not shunning," Jay said. "I just like having my legs. I know what they can do and all."
Jordan rolled her eyes. " Yeah, alright, Jay. Now, do it again."
"Because I want you to be able to turn into either form at will in just a single thought not sitting here for five minutes concentrating," Jordan said. "Trust me. It's worthwhile."
Jay sighed heavily, very much not looking forward to any of this. But, he closed his eyes to turn himself back into his golden Djinn form. Arguing wasn't likely to change Jordan's mind after all. She was stubborn like that. Why did all of Jay's female friends have to be terrorizing stubborn powerhouses anyway? The only one that wasn't was Jane. Maybe Jay should hang out more with her... at least she wouldn't care if he could change forms on a whim or not.
Short chapter but it's out on the proper update day! Also, who saw the live action Aladdin? No spoilers but I loooooove what they did with Jafar's staffs. Like... OMG yes.
"You know, you don't have to do this," Carlos said. He was playing with Dude's fur and looking anxious.
"Shut up. Yes, I do," Jay said as he dropped back onto his bed and cushioned his head with his folded arms. "Just relax, 'Los. We've got this down by now," Jay said.
Carlos made a face. "But if something happens-"
"Nothing's gonna happen," Jay said. "And even if it somehow does... I'd fix it."
Carlos sighed and went over to Jay's bed to drop down onto it. Dude scampered after him and jumped up onto the bed to make himself comfortable by Jay's socked feet. Jay just stayed where he was reclining, and, after a few moments, Carlos slumped down to lay beside Jay. The teens weren't actually touching, but they could have been if one boy just scooted slightly to the side. "It's just for the night," Jay said in an attempt to be optimistic. "And I'll be right here beside you."
Carlos flashed a little smile, but it wasn't as strong as he had wanted it to be. "I still say you don't have to do this..."
"I know, but that's bull," Jay said as he reached over and fingered some of Carlos' white hair. "This is all my fault in the first place."
"It's not your fault," Carlos denied. "It's Reza's."
It was Jay's turn to offer a smile that was less than genuine. "None of this would have happened if I weren't what I am..." Jay said. "No matter how much we don't want to admit it, me being this... thing, has only caused all of us trouble."
"We'll set you free, Jay," Carlos said. "And maybe Jordan or someone else's lamp could turn you back into a human." That was a thought that Carlos had been toying with for a while. Ever since he'd first heard of how Jay had been forced to take his father's place as the Genie of the dark lamp. If there was a way to just wish yourself to be a Genie, surely there was some way to undo it. The biggest hurdle seemed to be the whole 'no reversing wish' stipulation that went with all Genie wishes. Carlos wasn't about to give up on that though. There had to be a loophole somewhere.
Jay's smile turned a little wistful. "It would be nice to be human again." Jay shook his head. "But there are actually worse things to be. At least I'm not cursed into being forced into that stupid other form of mine once a month."
"It's not that bad," Carlos said. "Being a dog is... interesting."
"Yeah, you looked like you were trying to chew glass when you said that," Jay said. "So, I'm not sure how much I believe you."
Carlos sighed. "Really, I'm even kind of used to it now," he said insistently. "Did you know from here in the room I can tell if Audrey is in the shower because only she uses that really overpowering hibiscus shampoo?"
"What the hell is hibiscus?" Jay asked.
"A type of flower," Carlos said with a dismissive handwave. "Point is: a dog is not the worst creature to be. I at least get amazing senses out of it."
"And a fluffy tail," Jay said.
Carlos rolled his eyes. "I do not have a fluffy tail. Dude is fluffier than I am." Dalmatians were supposed to be a short-haired breed, and Carlos' dog form was no exception. Carlos, unendingly curious about what his condition entailed, had looked up everything he could about Dalmatians despite the awkwardness it caused him. The whole research subject had given him nightmares for a week. Especially when he imagined how his mother would have freaked if she'd ever seen one of the rare Dalmatians that had long coats. Her evil, puppy-killing heart would have screeched in joy...
"Still fluffier than my tail," Jay said casually.
Carlos rolled his eyes. "At least I'm not sparkly," he said.
Jay put a hand to his chest and made a show of looking hurt. "Ouch, 'Los. Just... ouch."
"You know I'm just joking," Carlos said with a grin. "You look good all sparkly and shit."
Jay rolled his eyes. "I look ridiculous."
"No, turning into a dog is ridiculous," Carlos corrected. "Speaking of..." Carlos looked out of the nearby window and frowned at the dark sky. "That should be happening any minute now."
Jay's face turned serious, and he reached out to play with some loose strands of Carlos' hair. "You'll be alright. I'm staying right here the whole time," he assured his friend. Jay wasn't about to let anything happen to Carlos. Not even when his curse acted up.
Carlos nodded and laid back down beside Jay. The two of them lapsed into silence for a good five or so minutes. There wasn't much else to say about their current situation that they hadn't already gone over before and Carlos didn't want to be midconversation when his body changed again.
Jay cringed when he heard Carlos starting to change. Though Carlos hadn't ever said it hurt, Jay could hear the bones grinding and a very disturbing stretching noise like wet rubber being rubbed. It wasn't fun at all, but Jay had learned the hard way to not touch Carlos while he was actually changing. The younger teen was always so disoriented as his body drastically shifted from one form to another that he'd bitten Jay a few times in the confusion.
So, Jay just laid there and waited. He made sure to stare straight up at the ceiling since only the sounds were plenty bad enough. Jay didn't need the images in his head as well. The noises died down after a moment, but Jay still kept his eyes trained up above while he waited for Carlos to regain his bearings.
Carlos didn't take as long as he used to for everything to settle, and he nosed Jay's arm to let the other boy know. Jay looked over at the touch of Carlos' wet, cold nose and smiled. "Hey," Jay greeted before reaching up to scratch Carlos' silky ears. "I still say you look cute like this."
Carlos huffed but couldn't exactly respond, so he flopped down entirely and settled down for a rather long night. Carlos rarely was able to sleep in his dog form so he would most likely want to get up and do something at some point. For now, though, he would be fine just enjoying the attention Jay gave him.
Jay pulled Dalmatian Carlos closer as he wrapped the dog in a light hug. No matter what Carlos said, Jay would always feel guilty for the wish he'd granted. Jay petted Carlos' smooth fur and scratched behind his ear with one hand as he cuddled with the furry form of his friend. Jay noticed that Carlos didn't really smell like a dog. He still smelled like himself only maybe with the shampoo he used a little more prominent. Probably because of how much more hair Carlos suddenly had. Jay had always liked the smell of Carlos' shampoo and tucked his nose into Carlos' neck before closing his eyes and letting himself drift off. Carlos would wake him up when he got bored and started moving.
Jay was still cuddled up to Carlos in his dream, but it was a distinctly less furry Carlos. Instead, Jay could feel smooth skin under his hands and the occasional circular scar left behind by Cruella's cigarettes pressed against Jay's bare chest. Jay wasn't sure why he was naked as well, but that didn't seem important in the dream as he tucked his body tight against the curves of Carlos'.
They fit together so nicely, and Jay couldn't help but nuzzle against Carlos' neck and shoulder, brushing his nose against Carlos' soft ear and strands of steadily growing hair. Jay rather liked how Carlos was growing his hair out. It looked good on him, Jay thought.
Carlos scooted back to fit closer to the curve of Jay's body, and Jay hummed as the gap between them became practically non-existent. Carlos was so warm in his arms and so nice to hold, Jay didn't think that he'd ever really grow tired of it. "You're so nice to cuddle, 'Los," Jay murmured without opening his eyes.
Carlos sighed softly, and Jay felt his friend's hand on his thigh in a gentle touch. Carlos' fingers were slightly calloused from all the welding and ripping apart of electronics that he did, but Jay didn't mind that. The feeling was familiar, and even if it wasn't, Carlos' touch was feather-light and soft despite the spots of rough skin.
Jay's own hand fluttered across Carlos' chest, being careful to not linger over the occasional raised circles that Cruella had left behind there as well. Cruella hadn't left as many scars on Carlos' chest as she had his back, but Jay knew that Carlos reacted badly to any of them being given attention. So, Jay's hand skimmed over them and instead indulged in the long stretches of pale smooth skin Carlos sported. Jay traced the curves of Carlos' muscles that he'd been getting ever since he started playing Tourney. Jay loved that Carlos was healthy enough now to actually be able to form muscles and keep up during the game. Back on the Isle that would have never happened.
Jay woke up and blinked several times to realize that instead of a dog, he really was holding onto a naked Carlos. Jay was confused, but the sun was starting to peek through the windows, so he figured that sunrise had happened and turned Carlos back. "Hey. Weren't too bored, were you?" Jay asked as he lifted a hand away from Carlos' slender waist to rub at his eyes. Jay would try to play off where his hands had ended up as much as he could. He didn't want to make Carlos uncomfortable.
"No," Carlos said.
There was a moment's silence as the two of them tried to figure out how to untangle from each other with minimal awkwardness. "... you have a hard-on, Jay," Carlos said after a minute. "It's digging into my ass."
"Ah, yeah," Jay said as he shifted his hips away from where he was spooning against Carlos' bare backside. "Sorry about that." Jay unwrapped his arms from Carlos and carefully pulled back. "I'm going to take a shower."
Carlos nodded as Jay quickly fled to go take care of his little problem. Jay was in such a hurry that he didn't see Carlos' small frown.
Sorry for the long delay in this chapter. I sort of lost the thread there for a while... so I figured the best way to get going again was just to struggle through writing something. And somehow it turned into this chapter of bad decisions. Still a little short but I want to keep the rating lower on this story so...
Also, I have to admit it was a little strange trying to write this story after I heard about the unfortunate loss of Cameron Boyce. It just feels a little odd to write in a world where one of the actors that played a main character has so recently passed on.
The school was back in session and Jay was fighting the urge to pull his own hair out. Though all the teachers had instructions from Fairy Godmother to give Jay some leeway with assignments and that he could take tests with the assistance that she approved of, Jay didn't like to make use of those things. The special help made him feel even more stupid than he usually did and the fact that Fairy Godmother was still insisting on having him read through what amounted to baby books was so embarrassing that Jay had flung more than one into random places or off of the roof and other such things. Plus a couple of the teachers had made off-handed comments that Jay was sure were little insults about his inability to read. Jay wasn't about to complain about that, though since it would only bring more attention to his struggles, and that was the last thing he wanted to do.
Evie was the only one so far that seemed to be able to help keep Jay's temper from exploding while he struggled through words, and even then he more than often snapped at her at least a few times each tutoring session. Trying to figure out reading, doing his homework, or even remotely catching up to the years of schooling he hadn't bothered with was daunting and it gave Jay a massive headache. He wished that Tourney wasn't over with for the season because he was seriously in need of something to blow steam off with. Any sort of physical activity would work, but the Fairy Godmother disapproved of him jumping around and climbing things. She also wasn't so fond of fighting.
Jay was trying his hardest to deal with all the rules, but he felt like he was going to explode if he didn't do something soon. Jay decided to slip out of his room late one night and climbed up onto the roof of the dorms. Not waking up Iago was hard, but Jay was the best thief in the Isle for a reason, and he managed it. He could have gone into the lamp, but he was feeling a little claustrophobic even in his and Carlos' room so going into a smaller space wouldn't help.
Jay pulled the bottle he'd smuggled out of the lamp out from under his vest and opened it. Iago would be so upset, Jay knew, but he didn't really care at the moment. Jay needed something. He took a long swig of the amber liquid as he settled in and watched the grey clouds float across the dark sky. The night air was a bit chillier than was comfortable, but Jay was more than used to being cold. At least all the snow and ice had melted off, meaning it wasn't even more dangerous up on the roof than it normally was.
Jay leaned back on his one arm and stretched his legs out in front of him as he brought the bottle up again. Jay knew that he had promised to cut back, but this was a one-night thing to deal with stuff. Not something he was doing every night.
Before Jay knew it, he had finished off the bottle he'd brought with him. With a face of annoyance, he slowly got to his feet and chucked the bottle as hard as he could off the edge of the roof. Jay listened and was only mildly satisfied to hear the shattering of glass a ways away. He was pretty sure it had hit the parking lot on that side of the dorms or maybe the sidewalk.
Jay scoffed and sat back down to stare at the sky again. The less than half a bottle hadn't really been enough to get the edge off, but Jay figured it was still more than the others would be happy with so he didn't slip back down to get another bottle. Besides, he was running low in the first place since Iago made him vanish so much of his stash. He didn't want to tear through it all in one night.
Jay sat there and stared up at the shrinking moon for a while. Jay didn't really notice when he started drinking again -or even when he'd summoned a new bottle from somewhere- but he did eventually notice the unfamiliar bottle in his hand. Jay stared at the little less than half gone bottle in surprise. He hadn't meant to do that. He was trying to do what Iago wanted -what all the others wanted- and stop, but the bottle had just appeared there because he'd still wanted some. Jay wasn't even sure how much he had drunk of it.
With a noise of annoyance, Jay focused on sending the bottle away. It took a few tries, but finally, the bottle disappeared in a swirl of gold smoke and sand. Jay huffed in annoyance and rubbed his face with one hand. As he did, the moonlight reflected off of the metal on his hand. Jay blinked in surprise and pulled his hand back to see the silver snake ring that Harry had given him there on his finger.
Curious, Jay slid the ring off and looked at it a bit closer. The red stone was definitely glass, Jay decided, but that wasn't surprising. A lot of stuff the Isle kids owned was actually made of cheap material. Jay turned the ring over and was surprised when the moonlight caught something on the inside of the band. Jay tilted himself and the ring to better see.
It was writing. Jay scowled at it and tried to puzzle it out. The smallness of the writing didn't help, and it looked like it had been scratched into the metal with a knife or something, so the letters weren't perfect. Jay really wanted to know what it said, though and continued to slowly sound out the letters that he thought the scratches were. The first thing he came up with didn't make sense, but he tried again, and his second attempt was a lot better. "Love ya... bow-ty-ful? Oh... beautiful... Man words are stupid," Jay muttered. Who thought to put all those stupid vowels together like that?
Jay stared at the engraving for a while before sliding the ring back on his finger. Harry did seem to have changed since they broke up. Well, more like since Uma came clean about her scheming. Jay gnawed at his lower lip. Harry would understand what Jay was so outta shape over. They got each other better than most since they were so similar. Sure, Harry was more unstable, but Jay had learned how to deal with that over time. But they both blew off steam the same way and were loyal to their groups. Plus, wasn't half the fun of fighting the making up after?
The sober part of Jay's brain was telling him that was a whole bunch of bad decisions all at once, but Jay's drunken side was definitely louder and sounded much more appealing. Jay got to his feet carefully so that he wouldn't lose his balance and fall to the ground. Jay had long ago figured out where all the different dorms were beneath him and didn't have any trouble getting over to where Harry and Gil's room was at the other end of the hallway.
The window was locked, but that only took Jay a minute to undo. The locks here in Auradon might not be broken like all the ones on the Isle but that actually sort of made them easier to pick. Jay slid the window open and carefully went inside the other boy's dorm room. Jay hadn't seen Harry and Gil's room before, but it looked about like what Jay imagined it would. The dark wood paneling that all the boy's dorms seemed to have combined with the random pirate flag hanging on the wall and all of Gil's things being collected in a huge net that was attached to the ceiling all made it feel more nautical. Harry's beloved coat was hanging on some creepy dress mannequin that Jay thought might have originally been Evie's but now sported a few extra slash marks from probably swords or daggers and a skull and crossbones painted on the mannequin's basketball head.
Jay shook his head at the idea of decorating and went over to Gil's bed. He gave the son of Gaston a small nudge and then covered his mouth as his blue eyes flew open. "It's me," Jay whispered. "Get lost, Gil."
Gil blinked a few times. "Get lost and come back in the morning. You can stay in my room if you're quiet," Jay added. Slowly Gil nodded, and Jay pulled his hand back. Gil gathered up a few of his clothes and silently made his way to the door. Jay put him out of his mind as he went over to Harry's bed. Jay was pretty sure that Harry's hook would be under his pillow, but he was also confident that he wouldn't be hurt.
The door to the room silently closed as Jay ignored the voice that reminded him what a terrible idea this was. Instead, Jay carefully pulled off his boots and vest before getting in the bed beside Harry. Harry woke up instantly, and there was a flash of metal that abruptly stopped right before Jay's neck. Harry seemed bewildered as he stared at the Arabian. "Jay?"
"Hey Harry," Jay said, unperturbed by the hook poised to take out his jugular.
Harry blinked a few times but then put his hook back under the pillow. "What're ya doin' here?"
Jay shrugged and shifted closer. "Making bad decisions," he said. Jay closed the distance between them to kiss the pirate. Harry seemed a little stunned but quickly got over that and started kissing back. Harry's arms wrapped around Jay to pull them together until their whole bodies were flush against each other.
Harry's tongue was demanding, and Jay tilted his head to make it better and more natural. After a moment of Harry tasting Jay's mouth, he pulled back. "Ya've been drinking," Harry murmured. "Ya ain't jus' doin' this cause yer drunk are ya?"
Jay shrugged a little. "Maybe. But I don't trust anyone else for this," he admitted. He couldn't exactly go to someone from Auradon to have sex -there was no way he could even come close to being kind and considerate for someone's first time since he had sold his. And he honestly had no idea what anyone in Auradon would like or how they would react to what he wanted.
Harry didn't seem entirely convinced, but then his hand pulled off Jay's hat and tossed it to the side. "Alrigh', guess we'll talk 'bout it later," he murmured as his hand tangled in Jay's long hair.
"If we have to," Jay murmured just before Harry pulled him in for another kiss. Jay didn't exactly want to talk about it, but that was a problem for future-sober-him and not him currently making out with Harry Hook. Jay fell into a familiar rhythm with Harry almost instantly, and as they kissed, Jay's hands started pushing clothing to the side. That little sober voice warned him one last time that it was a bad idea, but Jay was far too focused on undoing his own pants to pay it any attention.
Jay could tell he had a hangover when he woke up the next morning, but he had sort of expected that. What he hadn't expected was to feel Harry's warm and still very naked body under his cheek. Jay couldn't remember the last time he'd actually fallen asleep with someone after sex. Usually, he got up and left, a habit he'd never broken from when he would work the corners. Jay couldn't even really remember all that happened last night except that it had felt good. Very good.
Jay felt gentle fingers against the tattoo on his shoulder. "You know those don't come off..." he murmured softly into Harry's abdomen. From the slight angle, he figured Harry was sitting propped up against the headboard.
"I know," Harry said. "I ain't stupid. I jus'... I haven't seen it in a while..."
Jay grunted and thought about moving before deciding that would be just too much effort. "What time is it?" he asked instead as Harry traced the hidden H that was in the tattooed snake's hissing mouth.
"Almos' ten," Harry said.
Jay groaned. "I missed breakfast and first period..." And most of the second, actually, but he could probably still make the end part of it if he rushed.
"Yeah, well, ya were exhausted," Harry said. "Ya were a little spitfire las' night. Anythin' wrong?"
"Just... ya know... the usual," Jay said. He still hadn't bothered to even open his eyes, but he just could not find the energy to do so.
Harry snorted. "I doubt that," he said. "Yer 'usual' is when yer Dad's actin' up... an' he ain't around so... what is it, gorgeous?"
Jay thought about how to answer that for a minute and then sighed. "I don't really want to get into it, Harry. It's just... a lot's going on right now. That's all."
"Alrigh'," Harry said after several minutes. Harry brushed his fingers through Jay's hair to get rid of some of the tangles he had put there the night before. "Might as well skip the rest of yer classes then."
Jay hummed in agreement. He was putting a lot of effort into this whole school thing. He wasn't used to it at all and Jay figured he could use an actual day off that he did what he wanted to do. And not one that involved trying to struggle through homework or being awkward in Agrabah. If he spent that day in bed with Harry, well, Harry was hot so who could blame him really?
Another short chapter! I'm sorry, but I'm trying to get more frequent updates on this... we'll see if it works to maybe get the juices going again.
Jay came out of the bathroom, ruffling his hair with a towel. "Ya know, I could jus' get us some food an' then ya wouldn' hafta go," Harry said from where he was reclining on his bed with only a thin sheet hiding his naked groin. The two teens had been lounging in bed pretty much all day, occasionally partaking in drinks that Jay would summon from his lamp and resolutely not talking about anything serious.
Jay rolled his eyes and tossed the damp towel at Harry's head. "Yeah, you're so sweet. I have to go. I've been hiding out in your room all day, and if Mal doesn't see me at some point, she's going to freak," Jay said as he pulled his pants on and started searching for the rest of his clothes. They had to be somewhere in the room, but he had been far too drunk to pay attention to where he dropped them. "The last time I went missing Reza kidnapped me," Jay said. "Speaking of, I've been meaning to ask... why are you and Uma even letting him hang around you guys?"
"I'm keepin' an eye on him," Harry said as he watched Jay getting ready. "He's an idiot bu' he still knows too much. I don' trust him not ta go blabbin' about ya."
"Man... you haven't even been in Auradon long enough to start getting a hero complex," Jay said as he found his beanie and pulled it on over his damp hair.
Harry scoffed. "We both know I ain't a hero. Bu' I said I'd make things up ta ya an'... I think this might be parta tha'."
Jay looked over at Harry again and studied his face. Harry wasn't sporting that insane grin he seemed to automatically fall into. He appeared oddly serious for once, and Jay wasn't entirely sure how to react to that. Nothing between them had been solved just because Jay had a moment or an hour or so of bad impulse control and drunkenness. Jay grabbed his vest and pulled it on. "Thanks, Harry," Jay said.
"Ya don' have ta thank me, gorgeous. I'm the one what screwed up," Harry said as he pushed himself more upright. "An... I know one fuckin' amazing lay ain't gonna change tha'... I want it ta. Evil, do I want it ta. Bu' I know ya better'n that, I think."
Jay had to fight the urge to do or say something stupid. Like how much he missed Harry or how much Jay really wished he could bring himself to trust the pirate again. But he held his tongue and grabbed his boots from where they had ended up scattered across the room. "Later, Harry," Jay said.
"See ya, gorgeous."
Jay was glad that dinner was starting so nobody was in the dorms. It gave him a chance to mentally slap himself and pull on his boots. Once Jay had finished righting his appearance, he made his way out of the dorms and down to the cafeteria.
Once inside the large ballroom that had been converted into a cafeteria for the mass of Auradon Prep students, Jay quickly spotted his friends at their usual table. Well, tables. Now that more and more kids were coming over from the Isles, Mal had slowly annexed more and more spots around the first one so that the whole corner of the room by a set of floor to ceiling windows was their claimed section. Uma and her group, not about to sit beside Mal despite the uneasy truce they had going on, had claimed three tables at the other side of the room by where a low stage was still sitting. Jay knew from exploring that the platform had a door behind it that led out of the cafeteria and though it was usually locked, that escape route would be very convenient if Uma ever felt the need to use it. It wasn't like a locked door stopped an Isle kid for long.
Jay grabbed a roll off of Carlos' tray as he passed before plopping himself down beside Mal. "Where the hell have you been?" Mal demanded. "We've been looking for you all day."
Jay shrugged. "I've been around. Just... I couldn't do it today is all."
"We just came back from vacation," Carlos pointed out.
"Yeah, a vacation where I had to deal with Agrabah, Jasmine, and... and that," Jay said with a wave in the general direction of the distant country. Jay didn't even have the words for that mess, and it certainly hadn't been a relaxing trip. "Plus there was a test in English today that I didn't want to get a headache on." Honestly, Jay had forgotten the test until about an hour ago, but he wasn't sad to have missed it.
"You have a hickey," Evie pointed out with her fork.
Mal looked over sharply and pulled Jay's hair to the side. Jay cursed and pulled back, but Mal's quick eyes had already spotted the bruise. Jay felt very exposed suddenly but tried his best to play it off. "What? Like you guys haven't seen me with hickeys before?" he asked even as he cursed Harry for being careless. Harry knew how much Jay hated when marks were left behind, but, Jay mentally sighed when he remembered they'd both been far from careful, and Jay hadn't exactly reminded Harry about that rule.
Mal was frowning, and Jay had the unpleasant experience of her trying to peer through him. "... just be careful, Jay."
"Don't get all mushy on me, Mal," Jay said with a quick flash of a grin. "I can handle myself."
Mal looked as if she wanted to say something else but then Aziz came over to the table. "There you are!" he said as he forced his way onto the narrow bench beside Jay. "I've been looking all over for you."
"Yeah, sorry," Jay said despite not being very sorry at all. "What's up?"
"Coach was looking for you and Carlos," Aziz said.
"And me?" Carlos asked as he fed Dude a scrap of what looked to be pot roast. Carlos, while a fast runner, wasn't precisely a clutch Tourney player. Carlos enjoyed playing, mostly because the rest of the team had really come together over the season and Carlos liked having more than a gang to call friends.
Aziz nodded. "Yeah, see, I was telling Coach about our sparing in Agrabah, and he thinks both of you should try out for the Fencing team," Aziz said.
"The whaty-what-now?" Jay asked.
"Fencing, Jay. Ya know... beat each other with swords," Evie supplied.
"There are rules," Aziz warned.
"Of course, there are," Jay said with a sigh. "It's Auradon, there's always rules."
Aziz laughed a little. "They aren't too bad. Pretty much all the rule are there, so nobody actually gets hurt. I can explain it all to you later if you want. But tryouts are next week, so Coach wanted to talk to you two about it," he said. "And you should. Since Tourney is out, you've got the time."
Jay hummed a little in thought. "Yeah, maybe," he said. He had wanted something to do to blow off steam besides bad decisions with Harry. Any physical activity tended to help.
Jay looked up to see Jordan coming closer. "Ah, hey, Jordan."
"You know you had us all worried," Jordan said, putting her hands on her hips. Jay fought the urge to cringe. "We thought something had happened to you again."
"Yeah, sorry. I was just... busy," Jay said. "Promise I'll... try not to do it again." Jay wasn't about to promise never to do it again, but he would try. He found he didn't actually like worrying people. Mostly because then they worried about him even after the fact and that was annoying. He wasn't at all used to being worried over. Mal and the others had been the closest to that, and that wasn't quite the same. Isle Kid worry wasn't anywhere near the same as Auradon brand worry.
Jordan sighed but then nodded. "Alright. Well, how about we go and practice once you finish eating?" she said.
"Do I have to?" Jay really would rather not figure out his magic. He'd be perfectly content to just let it be there in the background and let it stay never used. Of course, his own subconscious seemed to be using it to bring him drinks when he wanted them. That was both cool and decidedly not cool, depending on how Jay was feeling at any given moment.
"Well, no, I suppose we don't have to," Jordan said. "But it might save headaches later if you learn this stuff."
Jay made a face and thought about it. "Tomorrow."
"Alright. Tomorrow. We can try the duplication spell again," Jordan said as she sat down beside Evie.
"I don't like duplication. I mean... there's already the perfect number of me. And if you want a cheap rip off... ya have this one here," Jay said with a gesture at Aziz.
"Watch it, little brother." Aziz gave Jay a light shove but the Isle twin barely even seemed to notice. "You're the copy."
Jay shook his head. "No no no, see, you were the practice version. And for me, they got it right," he said with a smirk. Aziz gave him a slightly harder shove, and Jay chuckled. He did reach over and snag an orange from Evie's tray. "It's not like you to get oranges, E."
"They were out of apples," Evie said. "So go ahead and have it, if you want."
"Mmhmm." Jay ripped off the rind and dropped it on the table.
"Well, if we're not going to be working on anything tonight," Jordan said. "I say we all go and have some fun instead."
Mal raised an eyebrow. "What kind of fun?"
Jordan shrugged. "There's an arcade in town I haven't been to yet. I was thinking of that."
"What's an arcade?" Evie asked.
"It's a place with lots of video-games and other little things to do that you can play to win prizes," Aziz said. "If we're going to the arcade we should definitely get Ben to go with us. Poor boy doesn't get out nearly enough now that he's King."
"Leave that to me," Mal said.
Jay looked around their now crowded table. "Soo, we meet outside by the parking lot?" he suggested.
"Definitely," Carlos agreed. "I'm sick of beating you in Ninja Hero 14 all the time."
"Oh, shut up," Jay said. "You do not beat me that often."
"Sure, I do."
Mal chuckled as she got to her feet. "Give me twenty minutes, and Ben and I will meet you there."
A day late but here you go!
The arcade, Jay decided nearly instantly, was not a place that he enjoyed being. Not because he didn't like the huge variety of games that filled the room. Or because the constant lights and noises were annoying (although they kind of were when he thought about it later). But because there were so many people and of all those people approximately none of them were at all careful about their stuff. So many easy targets made Jay fight the urge constantly to not slip out wallets that were only half shoved in pockets or snatch purses that were just sitting there two feet back from where their owners were standing.
Jay hooked his arm around Carlos' neck and kept his other hand tucked in his pocket to help keep himself from just stealing everything in sight. He hadn't had such outright urges in quite a while. Most of the kids in school had learned by this point to at least not leave too much unattended or to actually put things away else their property get 'lost' regularly. Jay never got caught, of course, but after a few weeks, most of the school had learned their lesson.
"It's been so long since I've been here," Ben said as they found a table near the food counter. "That whole section over there is new, I think," he added, pointing to some brightly flashing arrow game to the side.
"What do you even do with that?" Evie asked as she slid in beside Jordan on the bench.
"There's arrows on the ground that you have to step on to match up with the ones going on the screen," Aziz said. "They match it up to music, so it's kind of like dancing, but some people play it so much they even memorize the patterns."
"Well, we probably have to try that out at some point," Ben said. "But first I say we get some snacks. I sort of missed dinner."
"Ben!" Mal sounded particularly exasperated. "You said you'd stop doing that."
Ben smiled a little sheepishly. "I don't do it on purpose. I just get so caught up in all the work and next thing I know, dinner was like three hours ago or something."
Mal huffed. "Well, fine. Let's get you something to eat. At least we have a table," she said. Mal glanced at the others. "If you guys want to go have some fun while I feed our King, we can catch up." Ben sighed and shook his head but didn't protest.
"Sure thing," Carlos said. "There were some games we passed on the way in that looked kinda cool."
"Alright, let's go check it out," Jay said, not wanting to give up the safety net of being right there beside Carlos. If Carlos realized that Jay was sticking next to him so closely to help stop himself from stealing, he didn't mention anything. He just accepted the arm slung around his shoulder and how Jay was leaning into him.
The two of them disappeared into the veritable maze of different games of all types and sizes. Most had bright flashing lights and loud noises going to try and get the most attention possible. Jay felt like he had to almost scream to be heard even though Carlos was right there under his arm still. There were TVs put every so often although muted, so the words had to pop up across the screen. They were too quick for Jay to fully read, but it looked like some sort of sitcom or something that Jay was never too interested in anyway. The only thing he liked watching on TV was the sports games that they showed.
Carlos eventually picked out a sort of digital jousting game to try since it was a game for two people to play. It took a few tries for Jay to figure out the somewhat finicky controls, but then it was just a matter of timing to slam the end of the lance against Carlos' knight. Carlos figured it out faster, but Jay quickly caught up in score so that it was a better game. Carlos still ended up winning, but Jay just challenged Carlos to a rematch. Since nobody else seemed to want to play, they went through another two rounds.
After that, Carlos and Jay ran into Aziz helping Jordan figure out how to play something called Fairy Freedom, which was a pretty simple looking game where a little fairy had to escape a maze while being chased by warty witch characters. Jay watched for a while before getting bored watching Jordan find all the dead ends.
Jay and Carlos made their way through the games, meeting up with others for short periods and then breaking away again. Despite the constant over-awareness of how easy it would be to steal everything in sight, Jay slowly found himself relaxing. All the variety of things to do was a good distraction, and Jay started to have fun after an hour.
They returned to the table after a while to see Evie and Doug sitting there with a few drinks. "Hey guys," Jay said as he slid into the booth. "Taking a break?"
"Yeah," Evie said. "But there's so much here to see and play I don't think we're going to be able to get through all of it in one visit."
Doug gave a half shrug. "Just more reason to come back later if you want to," he told her. "We could even come back on our own."
Evie gave him a little smile. "We'll see."
"I need to take Dude outside," Carlos said as the terrier hopped up onto the seat and looked up at his owner. "I told you, you should have gone earlier," he added to the little dog. Dude just whined, and Carlos rolled his eyes. "Alright, alright, there was a grassy area out front. We'll be back in a few, guys."
Jay gave a little wave as Carlos picked Dude up in his arms and started for the nearest exit. Jay leaned back across half of the bench and glanced around the main room of the arcade. There were so many people wandering around, Jay was a little surprised. Apparently, the place was pretty popular, and since Jay could identify a lot of kids from school, he supposed this was where all the rich Princes and Princesses blew their money weekly. He hadn't noticed the name of the place when they walked in (partially because he rarely bothered to struggle to read signs), but Jay was betting, seeing how many teens there were wandering around, that this was Aesop's. A lot of their school mate's had mentioned Aesop's, but Jay hadn't ever really thought too hard about where or what that was.
Near one game where a bunch of crazy looking 'Knights' fought one another to win a Princess, Jay spotted his brother and Jordan again. They were at some cabinet that was mostly clear looking but had flashing lights along the top of it. Curious as to what they were peering in at, Jay got up and headed across the room. He kept his hands deep in his pockets as he walked and still found himself fighting to not snatch a fancy looking cellphone or glittery tennis bracelet.
"What're you guys looking at?" Jay asked as he managed to get over to them without pick-pocketing anyone. He had reached out but had caught himself at the last second.
"It's a Treasure Cabinet Game," Aziz said. "They are completely rigged, but Jordan still wants to try it."
"Treasure Cabinet?" Jay echoed.
"Yeah, basically the whole bottom is filled with different things. Some have toys, some have little games, others have even more expensive things. And the goal is to pull it out and have it drop out. This one has a claw, but there's also one's that work like spinning a wheel and others that use magnets," Jordan explained as she scooted to the side so that Jay could see the bright golden claw that she was pointing at.
Jay noticed that the claw looked a lot like a cat's. Down below was a pile of what looked like a mixture of cheap and possibly a little more expensive costume jewelry. Jay backed up a step and looked closer at the top of the bright cabinet. He frowned at the roaring tiger face painted up top. "Is this-"
"Yeah," Aziz said with a sour glance up at the top of the cabinet as well. "They love modeling these cabinets around the Cave of Wonders... it's so annoying."
"... I'm super not comfortable with that," Jay said. He wouldn't have thought he'd care (it wasn't like he was super proud of being from Agrabah or anything like that), but he did. Maybe it was because he'd heard so many stories about the Cave. Jafar still spoke about it wistfully where he didn't act like that about anything else from Agrabah. And here it was wrapped around a cabinet full of costume jewelry.
"It is a little unsettling," Jordan agreed. "But, it's just a game, and they don't really mean anything by it. Not that that fully excuses it or anything. At least Mal hasn't seen the game over on the other side where you shoot spells at flying dragons..."
Jay glanced over in the direction Jordan had indicated with her head. He didn't see this dragon shooting game while he was wandering earlier and judging by the lack of blow up from his friend, Mal hadn't seen it either. "Yeah... let's try and keep her from seeing that," Jay said. "Probably wouldn't be good to be banned from this place the first time we're here."
Jordan slipped a few coins into the slot in the front of the machine. "Pick me something to go for, Aziz," Jordan said as the golden claw jerked slightly from where it was hanging.
"Uuuh," Aziz peered into the cabinet again. "How about... that there? The purple necklace that looks like a flower. It suits you."
Jordan nodded and started moving the joystick in front of her. "Alright. Watch and be amazed."
Aziz shook his head and leaned against the side of the cabinet. "Yeah, okay. That's an awfully small box for that big lion's paw though."
"It's just a matter of hooking the edges right," Jordan said as she made several tiny adjustments of the claw. Jay didn't think what she was doing actually was making much difference but watched her fiddle with the joystick another full minute before pressing the bright red button on top. The claw went down and closed around the clear box that the necklace was in. Jay was about to be somewhat impressed, but then he noticed the box shift as it was lifted.
"Won't make it," Jay predicted. "It's already slipping."
"That's what happens when you try and grab a smooth box with a claw," Aziz said.
"Hush!" Jordan said as she watched the claw rise intently.
The box lifted a few inches before slipping through the claws and falling back into the pile with a clatter. Jordan groaned, "So close!"
"It wasn't that close," Jay said. "It barely went up at all."
"I lifted it," Jordan said. "That's pretty good!"
"Wow, this game must be a rip off if you're glad just to lift the thing off the pile," Jay said with a grin.
Aziz nodded. "Oh, it is. I used to think that I should be able to do it because I'm pretty good with hand-eye coordination. Not so much. I've never gotten anything out of one of these things," he said before pushing off the cabinet. "Hey, have you played Carriage Crash?"
"No, what's that?"
"It's where you race a bunch of Carriages around a track, and you can cast spells at each other to get the lead and stuff like that," Aziz said. "It's over there. I'll show you."
Jay nodded and was about to go off when Jordan stopped them. "Let me try this one more time and then I'll go with," she said.
"Jordan it's such a waste," Aziz said.
"Please?" Jordan asked with a little pout. "I know I can win one of these things some time!"
Aziz looked at her for a minute before sighing. "Oh, fine. If you want to waste your money, have at it," he said.
Jordan grinned widely and turned back to the machine. She put another coin in, and the claw started moving. Jay watched as she again carefully positioned the lion's paw over her target. He didn't really think that she'd get it up considering what Aziz had said.
The claw came down and grabbed the case again, but this time it was even less stable than the first. Jordan cringed as the paw began to rise up and drag the box by one corner. The box lifted up and Jay noticed a familiar looking ring underneath. Jay glanced down at his hand at the snake ring he was wearing. The one in the case had a green piece of glass in it opposed to red, but the snake looked almost identical. The necklace fell back down, and Jordan let out a disappointed noise.
Jay blinked, not having paid attention to the progress of Jordan's prize, so he was a little shocked when it fell. "Told ya," Aziz said. "Now let's got turn each other's Carriages into pumpkins and stuff."
"Alright," Jordan said. "But, I am going to win a Treasure Cabinet game one of these days."
"Sure sure," Aziz said. "Come on. There's a bank of Carriage Crash games over here by the wall."
Jay glanced at the pile of 'treasure' one more time before following after his brother. He had to admit, it was a relief to see that his ring likely came from in there. The idea that Jay'd been wearing something that was won over stolen was actually... touching, and he wasn't sure why. Of course, Jay didn't know for sure that was how Harry got the ring, but he'd rather assume that story than worry about the other option.
"Sound it out," Iago said.
Jay glared at the words across the thick -almost cardboard- paper of the book. He'd been given the thing by Fairy Godmother to help him figure out how reading worked, and Jay hated it. "Very... ex... ect... extc-" Well, those letters didn't make sense next to each other at all... He was pretty sure he was mixing something up.
He sighed in frustration and went back to the beginning of the sentence. Jay was getting better at most small everyday words, but there was one in this sentence that had to be five syllables or something. Well, Jay wasn't sure about that since he had yet to decipher it correctly, but it looked longer than most words he was coming across so far.
"Ech... no... damn it," Jay sighed and rubbed his forehead in pure agitation.
Jay tried another few times to try and figure out what the word was, but it just wouldn't click in his head. "Iago... what the hell is this word?" he finally asked as he held the book up for Iago to see it from where the parrot was perched on Jay's headboard.
"I'm not supposed to just read it for you," Iago said without looking up from where he was rearranging his feathers with his beak.
"I've been trying to figure it out for half an hour already!" Jay said, craning his head back to glare at the bird.
Iago looked down at him. "You have not. Five minutes, tops," Iago said. "Don't be dramatic, Jabir."
"I'm not being dramatic," Jay argued. "It's just this word. Tell me what it is, Baba. Please?" He put on his best pout to try and get the bird to take some pity on him for Evil's sake.
Iago studied Jay's face for a moment before sighing. He really shouldn't. He'd had a long talk with Fairy Godmother about how to help Jay without just giving him the answers. She'd gone on for several minutes about how Jay needed to figure out ways to overcome his dyslexia without getting someone else to just tell him the words and reading for him. But, Jay really did seem to be struggling with this word, and Iago did hate seeing his boy having such a hard time. And besides, it was just the one. "... it says 'excited,' kid," he grumbled.
Jay smiled and lifted a hand to scratch the parrot lightly on the side of his neck. "Thanks."
"Don't ask for anymore," Iago said.
"Yeah, alright," Jay said without really meaning it. He may know he should be trying to figure it out on his own, but Jay got too frustrated with it all. Jay muttered to himself as he tried to sound out the words on the page. He got the next few words fairly quickly as they were short enough, but he hit another bigger word and had to struggle through again.
Jay heard the door to the room open but didn't look up to see who it was. Probably Carlos since he'd taken Dude out for a walk with Jane about twenty minutes ago. Usually, he wasn't out too much longer than that just for a walk.
Aziz tossed a heavy but slender bag onto the bed beside Jay. Jay lowered the book and looked up at his brother before down to what had dropped there. Jay raised an eyebrow and sat more upright to look down at the fabric case next to him. "What's this?" he asked as he put the book full of largely printed, simple sentences to the side. He was more than happy to put his reading off for a while. Jay had managed to get through half the book, but it had taken him almost ninety minutes by this point, and now his head was throbbing.
"My practice swords," Aziz said.
"Practice swords?" Jay echoed.
"Uh huh," Aziz said. "Wanna go learn how formal fencing works?"
Jay blinked several times. "Formal fencing?" he asked. "I don't have to wear anything fancy, do I?"
"There's a uniform for the team and protective gear, but nothing like what you're probably imagining. Like tuxes or anything," Aziz said.
"A tux... that's like the ultra-fancy suit, right?"
"Right," Aziz said. "But I figured this would be more fun than reading. Give your brain a break."
Jay immediately liked that idea. "Sounds good to me," he said as he tucked his rather embarrassing book under some textbooks that hadn't hardly ever moved from his side table. He jumped out of bed and pushed his feet in his boots that he'd kicked off earlier. "I'll beat you again, Princey."
Aziz scoffed. "You didn't beat me the first time."
"Yes, I did," Jay said. "I whipped your ass."
Jay snorted. "Cry me a river."
Iago flew off of Jay's headboard to land on his leather-clad shoulder instead. Aziz rolled his eyes and shouldered his practice bag of swords. "For future reference... punching someone in the face during a match is not a legal move," Aziz said.
"You didn't even get a black eye," Jay said. "I pulled that punch so hard..."
"Oh, you did not," Aziz said. "I dodged backwards fair and square."
"You landed on your ass," Jay said. "And got punched in the face. Not much of a dodge, bro."
"I wasn't expecting it!"
Jay scoffed. "You fought on the Isle. You fought Harry on the Isle. You should have expected damn near anything. A punch was small potatoes."
As the two Arabians made their way down the stairs of the dorm and out across campus, they continued to chat about the rules of fencing and how Jay would have to change his usual way of fighting if he wasn't going to be thrown out of a match. Jay was, to put it mildly, very unimpressed.
"You two certainly act like brothers already," Iago said, sounding as if he were complaining. Jay wasn't entirely sure if he was or not and didn't bother to ask to be sure.
Aziz glanced at the bird on Jay's shoulder. "Why do you say everything like it's a bad thing?"
Iago huffed and ruffled his feathers. "I do not say everything like it's bad," he denied.
Aziz gave an exasperated noise. "And now you're just disagreeing just to disagree. I don't know how Jay stands you sometimes, I really don't."
"Hey, you hang out with a worn-out tapestry," Iago snapped. "You don't get to judge."
"I don't 'hang out' with Carpet," Aziz denied. "He's just around so that I don't have to worry about losing my car keys. He's not even in Auradon right now since he's off doing something with Genie."
Iago scoffed. "You still have no room to talk."
"You are impossible..."
Jay thought about interrupting the argument, but he would honestly much rather just watch. He kind of found the whole thing funny, really. Aziz hadn't learned how to look past what Iago spouted off to what he actually meant. Maybe he never would with the way things were going.
They were halfway to the gym when someone came rushing over to them. It took a half-second to recognize Lonnie, but Jay had never seen her in the kind of clothes she was in right then. Jay wondered if it was an outfit from China since it didn't look anything like something you'd find in Auradon. "Aziz! Jay!"
"Hey, Lonnie," Aziz greeted.
"Are you two going to practice?" she asked, her eyes practically sparkling with excitement.
"Yeah," Aziz said with a pat to the side of the bag he was carrying. "Jay tends to punch and kick people when he's fighting so we've got to go over rules and stuff."
Jay rolled his eyes. "Hey, it works, doesn't it?"
"Anyway, what's up, Lonnie?"
"Can I join in?" Lonnie asked. "I've been waiting all year for fencing to start up."
Aziz looked a little surprised, but Jay was already shrugging, "Sure. You any good?"
Lonnie scoffed. "Of course, I am. My mom and dad have been training me since I could swing a stick!"
"Oh, right... your parents were in that war, right?" Jay asked.
"Yeah, that's how they met," Lonnie said.
"You have a practice sword, Lonnie?" Aziz asked. "Cause we're not allowed to use sharp ones."
Lonnie gave a slightly sheepish smile. "I was kinda hoping I could use one of yours?" she asked. "I mean, I have my grandfather's sword but... you know... that's hundreds of years old and cuts through Hun armor so I figured that wouldn't be a good one to use."
"You also threatened Mal's mom with it," Jay said with a smirk. "Which is still pretty damn awesome, by the way."
Lonnie laughed a little bit and scratched the back of her head. "Well, to be honest, I was a little terrified then. I hadn't ever done anything like that before."
"Well, you played it off really well," Jay said. Jay tilted his head toward the gym door. "Come on. I kinda really want to fight you now."
"Just don't punch her in the face," Aziz said with a sigh as he pulled the door open for them.
"I won't punch her in the face, Aziz," Jay said as he walked through. A few seconds later, he leaned a little closer to Lonnie. "I might punch you in the face," he admitted.
Lonnie laughed again. "That's not very honorable," she said although she sounded as if she found it funny more than offensive. Jay even thought that she might be teasing him, which was bizarre to him, honestly. The number of girls that teased him could be counted on one hand. Mal. Evie. And apparently, Lonnie.
"Pfft. Honor's for chumps," Jay said.
"Okay, well, you punch me in the face, I'll kick you in the knee," Lonnie said.
Jay grinned widely. "Oh, alright, Princess, bring it on."
"I'm very much not a Princess," Lonnie pointed out.
Jay thought about that and then nodded. "Yeah, I guess you're right. Mmm, ah, I got it. Petals."
"Petals?" Lonnie echoed.
"Yep," Jay said, popping the p. He pointed to the hair tie keeping Lonnie's long locks in a ponytail. Hanging off of the fastener were four pale pink flower charms. Usually, Lonnie had at least something that had those flowers on it. Jay didn't know what they were called, but they (or at least their petals) were on practically everything she owned.
Lonnie lifted a hand to feel the charms and then smirked. "Alright, fine. But don't think I won't come up with something for you too," she threatened.
"Shaking, Petals. Absolutely falling apart in my boots over here," Jay replied without concern. He doubted very much Lonnie could come up with something Jay would actually take offense to. He'd heard pretty much everything by this point in his life. And anything that people called him that actually offended him was not anything Lonnie would have any ability to know about in the first place.
Iago sighed. "Kids," he grumbled before flying off of Jay's shoulder to go land on some of the metal beams along the top of the building. Jay rolled his eyes at the bird.
"I brought something for you other than leather, Jay," Aziz said. "Should be easier to move around in."
"I move just fine in what I wear," Jay said although he didn't protest as Aziz pulled him to what was marked as the men's lockers. "I guess we'll be back in a minute, Petals," he called back over his shoulder.
"Take your time gussying up, boys," Lonnie said. "I'll just be warming up to kick your Arabian a-butts."
"Ooh, careful, Lonnie. You almost said a bad word," Jay teased. He just caught sight of her rolling her eyes before the locker room door closed. Jay laughed a little bit and let his brother drag him further into the room and around the corner to wear the rows of lockers were.
"Do you flirt with everybody?" Aziz asked.
Jay shrugged. "I wouldn't really call that flirting..." he said.
"I would. It's the same way you flirt with Hook," Aziz said as he pulled a t-shirt out of his bag and tossed it at Jay's head. "Flirt-fighting."
"I don't-" Jay cut himself off. "... alright, yeah, I kinda do..."
"Kinda?" Aziz asked.
"Shut up, Aziz," Jay said without much venom. "I told you it was complicated."
Aziz pulled off his own shirt to get changed as well and didn't bother to respond to that. Jay tossed his vest into one locker without much care and grabbed his hair to pull back from his face. He didn't need it pulled back to fight by any means, but he felt like it being out of his way right then.
He wrapped his hair around itself and pulled a long leather lace out of his pocket. Jay wasn't entirely sure where he'd gotten the thing from -probably an old vest that had fallen apart by this point- but he always seemed to have it in a pocket or tied around his wrist or something like that. He tied the leather around his hair to keep it out of his way before reaching for the shirt Aziz brought.
"Hmm?" Jay glanced over his shoulder at his brother as he shook his borrowed shirt out.
"I've been meaning to ask -and you don't have to answer if you don't want to- but... your back..."
Aziz looked particularly uncomfortable, and Jay glanced further back as if he could see his back. "Oh. Yeah. What about it?" Jay asked as he pulled this shirt on.
"Where did the scars come from?" Jay asked, slightly amused despite himself at how Aziz was struggling to just ask the question. Aziz pursed his lips together and nodded. "Well, probably not as dramatic as you're thinking. Some of 'em are from fights. A couple times I got stabbed as someone thought they could try and mug me," Jay snorted at the memory of those incidents. Though being shanked or back-stabbed in a dark alley had hurt like a bitch, he'd always come out on top and with his money still. "Sometimes Dad got pissed and drunk and would whip me a few times. They just sorta built up after a while."
Aziz was quiet for a moment. "And the tattoo?"
Jay shrugged. "That I was drunk for," he said. "Seemed like a good idea at the time."
"Do you actually like cobras or is that just a thing leftover from Jafar's reputation?" Aziz asked.
"I've never been around cobras. Not real ones, anyway," Jay said. He thought about the question for several minutes as Aziz changed. Did he actually like cobras? He'd never really thought about it before. "I... I guess it's from Dad. But I've always used it. I guess I like them too, though," he said. "At least they're upfront about how deadly they are. Nobody in their right mind goes messing with an angry cobra."
Aziz tilted his head to the side and seemed to be thinking. "You know... I've never thought of it that way. When most people talk about snakes, it's more like they're dishonest and hidden in the grass ready to strike. But... you're right most do actually give some sort of warning... huh."
Jay shrugged. "Seems kinda obvious to me."
"I guess so..." Aziz said. "Anyway... let's go do something more fun. I'm sure Lonnie is getting bored waiting for us."
"You're the one who said we should change," Jay said. "I was perfectly fine fighting in my leather.
"You're still in leather," Aziz said with a point down to Jay's leather pants. "I should have made you change those too..."
Jay rolled his eyes. "I'll be fine. Plus it's better protection than gym shorts."
Aziz sighed. "Not something we normally worry about for practice, Jay."
"Not my fault you Auradon boys don't do anything sensible," Jay said. "Have you ever seen someone slide across the concrete and lose all the skin on their leg? I have. Looked painful as hell. Huge scar after the fact."
Aziz cringed at the mental image. "Thanks, Jay. But we don't do much on raw concrete..." he pointed out.
"That's 'cause you're pansies," Jay said.
The brothers came back out into the gym and saw Lonnie punching and kicking the empty air in a slow, deliberate manner. "I think ya missed," Jay said.
Lonnie looked over. "Very funny, wise guy. I guess you boys are ready now?" she asked as she lowered her arms.
"More than ready," Jay said.
I know the chapters have been a bit shorter lately but I'm trying to stay on the schedule.
"Okay, I think today we're going to try something a little different," Jordan said.
"Different how?" Jay asked as he leaned back on his bed.
Jordan smiled. "Well, you were having so much trouble getting the hang of duplicating yourself I thought, how about we try duplicating something a bit smaller first?" Jordan suggested as she pulled out a small purple ball from seemingly nowhere.
Jay nodded. "Ah, lowering expectations. Probably smart."
"Right, right, sorry," Jay said as he pushed himself more upright. "I know you hate those jokes. Even if they are funny."
"I just hate it when you put yourself down all the time. You're better at this stuff than you give yourself credit for, you know," Jordan said. "You've already gotten the hang of minor summoning spells, going into and out of your lamp, and turning into sand. All years and years later than you should have," Jordan said. "You're catching on really fast, Jay. You may not be a natural with magic like Mal is but you're not struggling nearly as much as you seem to think you are."
Jay made a face. He didn't particularly want to be a natural anyway. But, Jay didn't want to hear that he was doing good either. He would rather not be doing any of it. He sighed and rolled his head on his neck. "How much of this do I have to learn before everyone thinks I've got it handled anyway?" Jay asked. "Like... is there a graduation test or a diploma or something I need?"
Jordan laughed a little. "Usually, we consider a Djinn in control if they can duplicate themselves, transform into a human at will and back again, change into at least one other shape consistently, and do a major summoning spell," Jordan listed off on her fingers. "Pretty much every other spell is a variation of those three in some form or another. So if you have those handled, we figure you've got a pretty good handle on all the basic mechanics."
"Seems like a lot..." Jay complained.
"It's not really. You have the one down already. Changing back and forth from a human. And a simple summoning isn't that much different than a major summoning. All that really takes is practice to make that jump. Duplication is what we're working on now, and then you just have to be able to shapeshift into one other thing. Anything you want," Jordan said.
Jay supposed that was a little reassuring, but he had no idea what he'd want to turn himself into. He had never had any huge desire to be an animal or anything like that. "What did you turn into?" Jay asked.
Jordan tilted her head and seemed to think. "Let's see... the first thing I turned into was a butterfly. I was fooling around with Aziz when we were little... he was convinced he could climb this tree and I was not about to be left behind. So, when I inevitably slipped and fell, I turned into a butterfly on instinct so that I didn't hit the dirt."
"So you didn't deliberately try," Jay said. Wasn't that the exact opposite from what they were doing here?
"Mm no," Jordan said with a shake of her head. "But I wanted to know how I'd done it, it's kind of cool being a butterfly... and so I kept trying until I managed to do it when I wanted to."
"Does it have to be an animal?" Jay asked.
"Nope. Anything you want. You could turn into a chair if you really wanted to," Jordan said before tossing the ball at Jay. "But that's not what we're working on right now. Duplication is. And I honestly found that much harder than turning into something else. Although Dad told me he was the opposite at first and didn't like turning into other things at first. That is apparently why he keeps his own face a lot of the time whenever he turns into something. That's not a normal thing."
Jay nodded a bit and examined the ball in his hand, skeptically. "So what am I supposed to do with this thing?" he asked.
"For now, just hold it and get used to it. Try and memorize everything about it," Jordan coached as she sat down beside him. "How big it is, the color, the texture, everything like that," she said.
Jay stared down at the ball and spun it a few times, but he felt so incredibly stupid. "... uh huh," he said after a minute. "Not much to memorize here, Jordan."
"We're starting easy this time," Jordan said patiently. "Now. Hold out your other hand the same way." Jay sighed but obediently did so. "And close your eyes to imagine a ball identical in every way to the one you're already holding."
Jay cracked an eye to look at Jordan. "Really?"
"Yes, really. The mechanics aren't that hard when you get down to it. It's a matter of practice and force of will," Jordan said.
"Great," Jay said before closing his eyes and trying to imagine another ball identical to the first in his free hand.
After several minutes, he felt incredibly stupid when nothing was happening. Finally, he opened his eyes and looked at Jordan. "You were right about that not being a natural thing," he said blandly. He was as far from a natural as it was possible to be, he thought.
Jordan hummed thoughtfully and then snapped. "Alright. New angle. Look at the first ball and picture every part of it, but it is in the other hand," Jordan said. "Sometimes seeing it helps and sometimes it hinders, so we'll try it both ways."
Jay really didn't think it would work any better this way, but he did what Jordan suggested anyway. He stared down at the purple ball in his hand intently and imagined every bit of it in his other hand. The purple was just the right color for Jay to think that Jordan had made it with her own magic, and the sphere was just a little squishy. The smooth surface didn't have much of a shine to it, and the whole thing fit very comfortably in the center of his palm. Jay could probably easily crush the thing if he wanted to.
After staring at the toy for a few minutes, golden dust swirled around the ball and when said dust cleared there was nothing left at all. Jay's eyes followed the sand to his other hand, where it surged again, and the ball reappeared. He sighed heavily and held up the ball. "I moved it."
"Don't get discouraged," Jordan said. "This is actually progress."
"Progress," Jay echoed with disbelief. "I didn't clone it at all."
"No," Jordan said. "But moving the object means you have a clear picture of it. Really, figuring out how to move an object is part of figuring out how to make another just like it." Jay stared at her. "Alright, alright. Try this. Try moving the ball again... but also leaving it."
There was a long moment of silence between them. Jay shook his head a little. "What? That doesn't even make sense, Jordan! You can't take and not take something at the same time!"
"If you duplicate it you can," she said as if that were at all simple.
Jay groaned and rubbed his face and neck in frustration. "Yeah. Okay, whatever. Leave and take at the same time," he said although he didn't bother to hide how insane he still thought those directions. Jay stared down at the ball in his hand and tried to do what Jordan had said. After another few minutes, he managed to move the sphere, but there was no second ball where the first started.
"It's alright," Jordan said. "Just try it again. Like I said, this is a matter of practice and will. Once you get it the first time, it'll be much easier."
Jay didn't really know how true that was, but he focused on the ball again. He ended up moving the stupid thing magically three more times before getting utterly fed up with it. With a noise of pure frustration, Jay hurled the ball across the room. It hit the wall and bounced before disappearing in a cloud of purple smoke. Jay huffed and glared at the spot the ball hit.
Jordan sighed and sat down beside Jay on the bed. "It's okay that you don't get it right away, Jay," Jordan said. "This stuff isn't easy to figure out. That's why we've been wanting to help you."
"There's no point in any of this," Jay said. "I'm not even going to be using my stupid magic, so knowing how to make a stupid clone of a ball is a waste of time!"
"It's not about the ball," Jordan said patiently. "It's about being able to control yourself. Your own magic. "It's yours, and you need to know what you can do with it," Jordan said. "Otherwise, all it'll ever be is something that someone can use against you."
Jay glanced over at her warily. "What do you mean?"
"If someone goes looking for your lamp again... you're allowed to protect it," Jordan said. "You can put walls in front of it, make a clone of it to throw people off, send the person miles away, and all sorts of other things," Jordan said. "You can't magic the lamp to a different place or really affect it at all, but you can change things around it. Not knowing how your magic works, means that you wouldn't be able to do that."
"What do you mean I can't affect it?" Jay asked, curiously.
"Well, the lamp is made to contain magic. Djinn magic... so it's naturally resistant to it. We can't do any spells on the lamp itself but other than that we can do pretty much whatever we want to protect it so long as we haven't been ordered inside," Jordan said. "And, I don't know about you... but I'd much rather be able to protect myself than relying on other people to make sure my lamp doesn't get found out."
Jay blinked a few times but immediately agreed with that idea. Jay didn't like that the others were constantly worrying over him. Never had. He didn't like that he was so vulnerable to other people's control just because of a stupid oil lamp. Being able to protect it himself with magic was, he had to admit, more appealing than anything else he'd heard. Jay had wanted to be in control over something about this Djinn crap. Maybe he actually could. He would still have to figure out magic, which he still wasn't enthused about, but it was something. Some benefit that he would get.
Jay chewed on his bottom lip for a moment before nodding. "Alright," he said. "Alright, I'll try harder."
"And practice?" Jordan asked, hopefully.
Jay sighed and nodded. "And practice," he agreed. "But it's still stupidly hard."
"You're getting there," Jordan said kindly. She held her hand out, and the purple ball reappeared. "Try again? No throwing it this time."
"Yeah, alright," Jay said as he took the ball and started to stare at it again.
The two of them practiced in Jay and Carlos' room for another hour, and all Jay managed to do was move the ball back and forth. Well, once he did slice the ball in half and only moved that half while leaving the other behind, but he didn't count that as a success. The very last thing he wanted to do was slice himself in half while trying to duplicate himself. Jay had no idea how fatal that would be but didn't want to find out first hand.
Jordan left him the ball and told him very sternly to practice. Jay gave a mock salute and tossed the ball in the air a few times. He had a terrible headache from trying so hard with the magic. Jay threw the ball onto his bed and went over to Lagan and Derelict's tank. "Hey boys," Jay greeted as he reached down to pull a Tupperware container out of a nearby cabinet.
Jay pulled out a few pieces of shrimp and tossed them into the water. He smiled as his boys swallowed up their food quickly. "Hungry, huh?" he asked as he reached in and pet the side of Derelict as he swam past. "I'll try and get you guys a treat soon." He was definitely getting better quality food for his eels now, and the water was probably better too, despite having to take shit out of it. Plus, because Genie had brought the whole tank, quite a few little gems and coins and stuff were still there gleaming. Jafar was probably pissed about their loss.
Jay let Lagan curl around his arm and stroked the top of Derelict as he made another circle before pulling his hand back out. Jay shook the water off his limb and put the container of food back where he got it from. His headache was lingering and throbbing. Jay rubbed at his temples and decided he should probably take something for it. He still had homework to try and struggle through, and that would be so much harder if his head were already aching.
With a swirl of golden sand, Jay disappeared into his lamp. Jay stretched out across the bed and just got used to the way his muscles all went loose and comfortable at once. Too bad he couldn't find anything that gave him this sensation outside of the stupid lamp.
Jay reached over to the tin on his side table. Inside the tin, were the morphine pills that he had been taking ever since discovering them. The tin was getting rather low, and Jay made a mental note to go back to the nurse's office and get another bottle. Nobody had said anything to him about the first that went missing, so Jay felt he was probably pretty safe to get another. They'd had at least three from what Jay remembered.
Putting that out of his mind for later, Jay popped one of the little white pills into his mouth and grabbed a nearby bottle of something he didn't look too closely at. He swallowed it all down, the alcohol burning slightly but helping wash the pill down his throat, and leaned back with his eyes closed to just let the medicine take effect. It was usually pretty fast, at least. All the more reason Jay didn't understand why more people didn't take them.
After a few moments, Jay felt the ache entirely disappear and sighed. That was really so much better. Jay heard a familiar voice call for him, and reluctantly got out of bed. He really was getting better at moving between the lamp, and Jay was reforming in the middle of the room almost instantly. Carlos was standing there with Dude in his arms. "Hey," Jay greeted. "What's up?"
"I was thinking of taking a run with Dude. Wanna come?" Carlos asked with a tilt of his head.
Jay shrugged. "Sure. Haven't gone on a run in a while. Lemme just change," he added, looking down at the lounge pants he was currently wearing. Carlos nodded and waited with Dude as Jay changed into a pair of gym shorts. "Where are we running to?" Jay asked.
"I was thinking up to that one point we found when we first got here. Ya know, the one that we can see the whole campus from?" Carlos said.
Jay thought for a moment before nodding. That wasn't too hard of a run but not so close as to not be worth it either. "Alright. Let's go."
It had been a long time since Jay had been on a run with Carlos and Dude. He'd been so distracted lately with the magic and school stuff that Jay had honestly been slacking a little physically. The air was still pretty crisp, but in a refreshing way. Jay hadn't realized until he left, but he'd actually found the heat of Agrabah to be kind of draining and depressing. That certainly hadn't helped him stay away from the drink while he'd been there.
The two boys made a leisurely pace down the trail while Dude bounced around and scampered back and forth on the path, probably burning about three times as much energy as the two-legged runners. Although, as Jay ran, he began to realize something wasn't quite normal. A few times, he swore he was falling but wasn't, or he would wander a little off the path and then back on again. Carlos would give him a few curious looks when those sorts of things happened. Jay just shook his head to clear it and tried to focus more on where he was going.
Maybe Jay should have been trying to get more sleep. He hadn't been getting a whole heck of a lot of it recently, although he wasn't entirely sure why. Probably just too much on his mind that he was worried about. Yeah, that definitely made sense. Jay could lay in bed for hours, just staring at the ceiling and worrying. Life was so much... well, Jay wouldn't say 'easier' on the Isle, but it was undoubtedly less complicated.
They eventually made it to the ridge that overlooked the rest of the campus and took a rest. The sun was starting to bend around the horizon line, and the sky was going all sorts of different colors. Jay breathed hard as they watched the sun setting. "Well, I haven't done that in too long," Jay said. "This stupid magic and reading stuff is taking up all my time."
"That's important too," Carlos said as he unscrewed the water bottle that he was carrying. Kneeling down, he poured a little in his hand for Dude to lap up before taking a swig out of the bottle himself. Carlos held the water out to Jay, who took it with a little nod of thanks. "... you were running a little weird back there. Everything alright, Jay?" Carlos asked.
Jay nodded as he swallowed the water. "Yeah, super. Like I said... outta practice."
"Jay, I've never seen you fall over nothing before," Carlos said as he took the water back.
"I didn't fall over nothing," Jay said.
"You almost did back there like three times," Carlos said with a nod back the way they had come from. "Look, I'm just worried. You're one of my best friends, and I don't want anything happening to you."
Jay sighed and went over to Carlos to hook his arm around the shorter boy's shoulders. "Los... I'm fine. Really. But you're a sweetheart for being concerned."
"Jay... I've been meaning to ask you something..." Carlos said hesitantly.
"Shoot, Carlos. You can ask me whatever," Jay said. He didn't always answer the questions that he was asked, but he never said that they couldn't ask him things. If Jay didn't like the question, he would just change the subject. Lying wouldn't do anything since Jay was so bad at it. He was just not clever enough to pull off anything convincing, and he'd long ago given up on that as a means of hiding truth.
Carlos still looked a bit nervous but sighed. "That night you snuck out of the room... and then Gil came to sleep in your bed instead... you slept with Harry, didn't you?"
Jay had to admit the question caught him off guard. He hadn't realized -although he really should have- that Carlos had been aware of that. Of course, he had known, Jay had overslept, which meant he was obviously not in their room, and Gil wasn't well known for waking up early either. Jay cringed at the oversight. Was it just him, or was he getting stupider over here? He never would have made a mistake like that on the Isle. Partially because he didn't share a room with Carlos, but that wasn't the point. He'd been seeing Harry for years on the Isle, and nobody ever caught them. Well, aside from Uma, he guessed. But Jay still wasn't positive when or how she had figured them out.
Jay sighed. "I... it was just sex," he said awkwardly. "But I just... I needed something, and I knew Harry would be... that." Jay almost winced at the words that he'd just said. It didn't even sound right to him, and he knew what he meant. Jay hated looking so pathetic and needy, which was the only way he could interpret his own words.
"Jay... I'm not sure it can be 'just sex' with Harry. I mean... you two have some pretty heavy baggage hanging over your head," Carlos said.
"Relax," Jay said. "I can handle Harry Hook."
Carlos still looked a bit skeptical. "If you're sure..."
"Very sure," Jay said. Impulsively he pressed a kiss to Carlos' temple. "Thanks, 'Los."
Carlos blinked a few times, and a faint pink color swept across his freckled cheeks. "Um... sure, Jay. Anytime..." he said, sounding a little bewildered. Jay couldn't stop the corner of his mouth from twitching up. He almost never heard Carlos sound like that, and it was surprisingly cute. "We should, um, head back," Carlos said.
Jay looked over at the path they had taken up. He wasn't really that interested in going back to the room now that he'd gotten out and about. What was he going to do in there? Read? Jay didn't want to bring his headache back. "Why?"
"Well, it'll get pretty cold when the sun finishes setting," Carlos said. "And once we cool down, we'll really notice it. I really don't like the cold."
"Mm. Well, I kinda want to stay out a bit longer. You can go on down to the room... I'll be there in a bit," Jay said.
Carlos looked a little uncertain but then nodded and slipped out from under Jay's arm. Jay was surprisingly missing the comfortable and warm body as soon as Carlos moved. "Alright. Don't stay out too late, though. We have classes tomorrow, and you really shouldn't skip them anymore."
"Yeah, I got it," Jay assured him.
Carlos lingered another moment before giving a nod and jogging back down the hill with Dude trotting along beside him. Jay watched him go, rather shamelessly. Carlos did have a very nice backside, after all. Jay shook his head a little and reminded himself that he didn't want to start something that might hurt his friend before turning back to the sunset. It was an absolute shame, but Jay was pretty sure that he'd find some way to hurt Carlos if anything like that were to happen.
Watching the colors shifting and darkening across the sky was mesmerizing. Jay had always been a bit taken with colorful things. Not that Jay liked in your face neon crap -it would have been like painting a target on you in the dim of the Isle, even if you could find the stuff- but he didn't drown himself in just blue like Evie or purple with the occasional green like Mal. Jay figured it had something to do with being mostly raised by a sentient parrot. Evie had noticed pretty early on in knowing Jay and had found some pretty striking colors to work into his vests and things. She had been especially proud of the bit of mostly intact yellow she had salvaged from an old car seat.
Jay watched until the sun was almost entirely set, and the air temp dropped dramatically. Jay shivered when a breeze came through the trees. Maybe Carlos had been right about it getting cold. Jay rolled his neck and shoulders to loosen them up and then started an easy jog back down the trail.
As he made his way, Jay started to notice that the aches and pains had begun to return. He frowned and paused to stretch out his sore muscles. This was getting frustrating. Every time Jay took the morphine, it seemed to be lasting less and less time. Maybe he should go up to two pills. Or taking them more often.
Ah, but he didn't really have a whole lot of them left. Jay glanced through the trees towards the school building. He definitely could fix that. He knew where the bottles were kept, and the cabinet hadn't looked well locked. Jay shook his head hard. No. He wasn't stealing anymore. He had promised everyone, including himself. He wasn't going to steal the morphine, no matter how the aches in his body kept coming back.
Putting that thought as soundly out of his mind as he could, Jay continued his jog back down the trail. The sky was really starting to get dark as Jay left the woods and entered the manicured lawns of the campus. Still not really wanting to return to his room, Jay decided to loop around a couple of buildings on his way back to the dorms. It would only take a few more minutes of jogging, and it wasn't like he'd get lost. Auradon Prep wasn't so sprawling as to be hard to navigate.
Jay was just coming around the back of the cafeteria when something slammed into the back of his head hard and made him stumble. Jay cursed violently and spun around as the spot on the back of his skull throbbed painfully. Only about two seconds later and Jay spotted the culprit to his head pain. Madhi was standing there in the shadow of a tree that Jay had glazed past because he was stupidly not used to watching the shadows anymore (he would definitely have to break that new habit). Madhi had a rock in his hand, and a quick glance down told Jay that -yep. Madhi had thrown a rock at Jay's head, and his arm was apparently good enough to hit his target.
"Oh, it's you. Shouldn't you be off not being friends with a prince or something?" Jay asked as he shifted to be in a better position should he have to brawl.
"That's all your fault," Madhi snapped.
Jay scoffed. "Yeah, okay. Me, who had no part in any of that, is the one who is at fault. Makes perfect Auradonian sense."
"You're the villain here. Of course, it's your fault," Madhi said as he took a few steps closer.
Jay kept his eyes peeled for Amir. Usually, if Jay saw one, the other was somewhere nearby. "You people act like it's easy being a villain or something. Like all you have to do is just be nasty. There's a lot more effort that goes into it, ya know," Jay drawled. Jafar had always complained about how much of a second rate villain Jay was. Jay wasn't the plotter or schemer that Jafar was. He was the muscle or the resource gatherer while Mal did all the planning. Jafar had never been satisfied with that, but then Jafar was never satisfied with anything that Jay did, so it wasn't surprising.
"So, where's your little buddy?" Jay asked. "Usually, you two are all over each other."
Madhi's brow furrowed, and his cheeks colored even visible in the steadily darkening light. "You're messed up," he said.
"Oh, you have no idea," Jay muttered to himself. Jay was such a wreck; it wasn't even funny. "But really though," Jay added in a voice Madhi could actually hear, "It's not like I told Aziz to dump you guys. He did that on his own."
"You did something to him," Madhi hissed. "I know you did."
Jay's brow furrowed in confusion. "... what do you think I did?" he asked. Jay, while he did have magic now, certainly had no idea how to use it to manipulate someone. Which is what Jay assumed that Madhi was suggesting.
"I don't know!" Madhi snapped. "How am I supposed to know what messed up things you villains know how to do? But after what Mal did to Ben, you think you can just sweep through and turn all the royals to your side? I'm not going to let you!"
"Wow," Jay said after a moment. "And here I was thinking dad was paranoid..."
"Don't you compare me to Jafar!"
"Oooh, believe me, nothing compares to my old man. But I don't have some scheme running if that's your worry. Not really my thing," Jay said honestly. "So, just leave me alone, will ya? I'll probably get in trouble if I beat up an annoying ass rich kid."
Madhi's grip on his rock tightened visibly. "I could take you."
Jay laughed, unable to help it. "Yeah, okay. Good luck with that," Jay said, entirely unconcerned. Madhi might be physically fit, but Jay really only ever lost fights when he was outnumbered or when he was a scrawny brat, not even five feet tall. And even when he was just a lone street rat, he'd won his fair share of fights. Madhi would never be able to match Jay.
Seeing that Madhi didn't entirely believe him, Jay rolled his eyes. "Back on the Isle we gangs had this thing we did... each second went and beat the snot out of each other. Winner got some money. I came in the top three each time." Big Murph had always been near impossible to put down, and Clay, the son of Clayton, was almost as bad. Even Harry had snuck up into the top spots a few times if the fights worked out in the right way. Not that it really mattered who won because Jay would just steal the winnings later, but he was still proud of coming in so high each time he bothered to compete (which was up until he was banned for said stealing of the prize money. Bunch of sore losers).
Madhi looked a little apprehensive but didn't immediately back down. "So? You're just a bunch of brutes anyway!"
Jay rolled his eyes. "Madhi... come on now. Who do you think would be more dangerous. You? Or a 'bunch of brutes'?" Madhi wouldn't last five seconds in a fight against Jay.
There was a pause, and then Madhi scoffed. "Like I'd waste my time," he said before tossing the rock to the ground and turning. Jay was less than impressed as he watched the other Arabian walk off.
"Convincing," Jay muttered before reaching up to rub his head again. "Damn rock..." Now he had a headache to go with his muscle aches. Just what he wanted to deal with tonight. Once Madhi had left, Jay finally turned towards the dorm and started jogging that way.
When Jay got back, Carlos had already washed up and changed, evident by the still slightly damp hair he was sporting. "What took you?" Carlos asked, looking up from where he was brushing Dude's fur.
"Ran into Madhi," Jay said as he pulled off his shirt and tossed it into the hamper. It only half made it in, but he didn't care enough to fix that. "Idiot's still pissed at me for existing. Seemed to think he could take me on for a minute."
Carlos paused and processed that for a moment before shaking his head. "Delusional."
Jay kicked off his boots and double-checked the door and window before unlacing his bracers. He'd only just started taking them off in the bedroom, although Jay knew he was still paranoid about the manacles being seen. Carlos went back to brushing Dude. "Feeling better now?" he asked as Jay started to undo his belt.
Jay paused and looked over his shoulder at where Carlos was sitting on his bed. The white-haired teen was still looking at Dude as he brushed the dog's fur, but Jay could tell Carlos' attention was split. Jay smiled a little. "... yeah, but you already knew that." Carlos knew Jay well enough by now to know that Jay needed to be active.
Carlos shrugged casually. "You get yourself in a funk, and the only way to snap you out of it is to do something. I certainly wasn't going to fight you," Carlos said with a scoff. "I really don't like getting beaten up all that much."
"Coulda done other things," Jay said before he could censor himself. He immediately mentally slapped himself for that and wished he could just not have blurted that out. What was even wrong with him!? Carlos wouldn't want that. He was crushing on Jane. Everyone (except Jane apparently) could see that clear as day!
Carlos froze and looked up. Jay tried to look casual and maybe a little joking. "Well, I am pretty good at it, Los," he said with a grin that he really hoped covered up the way he wanted to kick his own ass right that second. He really was such a moron.
"Don't joke like that, Jay," Carlos finally said.
Jay waved his hand a little bit. "Sorry," he said. "Trying to lighten the mood. Obviously not good at it. I'm going to take a shower," Jay said before definitely not fleeing into the bathroom to hide.
Jay leaned against the closed door and mentally cursed himself as he rubbed his forehead. That was just great. He was supposed to be one of the smoothest on the Isle, and his foot went straight down his throat on that one. "Idiot," he muttered low enough to not be heard through the door before going to turn the shower on. Hopefully, Carlos would dismiss what just happened as Jay being the hound dog his reputation said he was.
After shedding his pants, Jay got under the spray of hot water and closed his eyes. He did his best to not think about anything and just focus on how good the shower felt. Jay needed to get a grip. He was only going to worry the others if he didn't, and Jay hated worrying the others.
Might have just accidentally-ed some more Jay Angst. Oops. It's a sickness, I swear...
Jay had heard about something called a 'heart attack' where your whole side went painful and tight, and it was hard to breathe. He was pretty sure he was having one of those now. Jay was trying to muscle through the constriction in his torso and breathe deeply instead of the shallow ones that kept escaping. He stared at the gibberish on the paper in front of him with something approaching hopelessness. Jay had no idea, absolutely no idea, what the problem was blabbering about. Something about Molybendum? He thinks? What was that anyway? But the numbers were all spelled out instead of the plain numbers that Jay had an easier time with. They weren't whole numbers either; each had decimals and shit. And Jay was supposed to use this in a problem!?
The packet in front of him was filled with scribbles as he tried to figure out what he was supposed to do. Jay chewed on his lower lip and scanned the long paragraph again in a futile attempt to make some sort of sense out of it. Jay wasn't even sure what he was meant to do with the numbers anymore. He'd thought, when he first struggled through the problem, that he was supposed to use atomic measurements or something. But he'd lost the thread on the second or third attempt to read it and could no longer be sure.
Jay fiddled with the pencil and looked up to see the clock hands had flown around much too fast. The word problems were half the grade on this test, and Jay couldn't figure out the first one. He was definitely panicking a bit. Coach had been pretty clear he wasn't supposed to be failing any more tests. Mr. Deley was sitting there, watching Jay with his arms crossed. He looked about as unhappy as it was possible to be. Well, join the club, Jay thought bitterly. He wasn't happy either.
Jay turned his attention back to the problem. What even was it asking him? How did anyone ever understand this? His whole chest was tightening more and more, to the point of pain. Okay. Okay, he could figure this out. First thing first, Jay just had to pull out the numbers from that mass of nonsense. He was still pretty sure he had the first long number written down. Jay was even confident that it was right. But that wasn't enough to do really anything with.
"Fairy Godmother might have given you extended time for tests, but it isn't infinite," Mr. Deley said. "I don't want to be sitting here waiting for you for another hour."
The panic that Jay had been slowly working through returned twice as bad, and Jay decided it was better to move on and hope the next problem was more straightforward. After several minutes of struggling, Jay realized that it was not easier. If anything, it was ten times harder. The panic was not helping Jay read in the least.
Not about to waste twenty minutes that he didn't have on a problem that he couldn't read, Jay skipped over it and went to the next one. The third word problem was a bit easier, and Jay felt some of the tension ease as he scribbled out the numbers.
Once he'd pulled out the digits, he was able to plug them into the different equations and solve them. Jay didn't have time to double-check since he still had half a test to try and finish, so he started writing out the answer in the lines beneath the problem. "Try to write legibly this time," Mr. Deley said. Jay glanced up. "I am behind on my work enough just by sitting here supervising you without spending an evening at home trying to decipher your atrocious handwriting and spelling."
Jay felt his cheeks burn. He always tried to write clearly. He really did. He was just out of practice. Jay hadn't routinely written anything down in years, and spelling was impossible when the words never looked how they should. Still, Jay knew he didn't exactly have time to argue, so he just tried to finish his answer.
Even the street rat could read and write, you stupid boy. You're a complete disgrace!
Jay took a breath and tried to ignore his Father's harsh words. This wasn't the same. It wasn't. He was getting better at that stuff. It was just taking a little while.
Being told to write 'legibly' only had an opposite effect on Jay's penmanship. Even Jay could tell, and he was usually pretty oblivious to how clearly he was writing. Jay tried to force himself to slow down, but every time he managed to do so, the first comment about how long he was taking came back, and he rushed to finish so that he could move to the next question. His words were huge when he rushed and wonky looking, but maybe the size would help? Jay tried and failed to be optimistic.
Jay moved to the next question and tried to read through it. He felt he was cracking under the impossible pressure. He needed to pass this test. Coach was counting on him, and Jay hated to disappoint. But it was so hard, and he was so quickly running out of time. Jay flipped through the pages he had left and cursed under his breath. Even if he just wrote random answers, there was no way he was going to finish in what little time he had left that was given to him as 'extra' for being too stupid to read.
Honestly, sometimes I think I was brought the wrong baby. It doesn't seem possible for you to be so utterly lacking in basic intelligence with my blood in your veins.
The Arabian felt his eyes burning, and his vision blurred, which made reading actually impossible. Jay forced down the urge to cry ruthlessly. He would not have a complete episode right in front of Deley. But he was going to fail. He couldn't get through the questions fast enough to answer them all. And that meant zeros automatically on almost half the test. The only way Jay could possibly win was if he got every single other question right.
Jay thought for half a second before flipping to the front of the test book. Forget the word problems. If he could ace the first half, then he'd still pass. Barely. But barely still counted.
Focusing on problems that only had numbers was easier, and Jay felt some of the crushing anxiety resolve enough that he could breathe again. He was still panicked for sure, but triple-checking all of his math and what he'd written made him feel better. He already caught three mistakes, and, though they were minor, Jay fixed them so that he wouldn't lose any point in the first half of the test. He was losing plenty in the back as it was.
An egg timer went off, and Jay jumped a little bit. "Time's up," Mr. Deley said. "Put your pencil down."
Jay frowned but did as he was told. He would have preferred to be able to check the last few questions one more time. Mr. Deley got up and went over to where Jay was sitting to take the packet. He frowned when he saw the front, then sighed. "We've been over this. You need to put your full name on the packet," Mr. Deley said.
"Why? It's not like you don't know who I am," Jay said as he folded his arms over his chest. He didn't like writing his name out. It reminded him of sitting at home under shelves that creaked with too much weight and trying over and over to get it right. And the anger from Jafar when he couldn't.
"That's not the point," Deley said, sounding exasperated. "You need to be able to be identified by people that aren't familiar with that scribble you call handwriting." Jay felt his face heating up again. Mr. Deley didn't usually get quite this pissy, but Jay wasn't exactly surprised to hear words like that. He heard them enough from his Father that he knew how hopeless he was. "In the real world, you can't just write one letter and expect people to know it's you. Put your name on it."
"It's stupid," Jay argued.
Mr. Deley put the packet back down in front of Jay. "You should be grateful I'm giving you a chance to put your name on it in the first place. I could just fail you right now if you'd rather."
Jay scowled but snatched up the paper and his pencil. He still felt the heat on his face as he adjusted his grip on the piece of wood and hunched over the paper. Feeling a bit spiteful at being told to write his name out, Jay wracked his brain for the symbols that Iago had scratched onto the floor for him when he was a kid. Jay wasn't willing to bet that the swooping Arabic he wrote his name in was entirely right since it had been so long, but he doubted Mr. Deley would know either way.
Your letters are disgusting. Like this, boy, it isn't that hard. Just follow my hand like the monkey you are.
It looked quite decent if Jay did say so himself. Probably one of the best attempts Jay had ever made. It was kind of a pity his Father couldn't see it. With a somewhat smug smirk, Jay slid the paper back over to Mr. Deley with his full name written in long swooping Arabic just like his Father had demanded when Jay was just a little kid. It was the only word that Jay had any sort of confidence in writing that way. Mr. Deley's face made an amusing expression when he looked at the paper. "You-"
"You said to write my full name. Well, that's how I was taught to write my full name," Jay said as he got up. He was also taught to write it in English, but he wasn't about to admit to that. "See ya later, Mr. Deley," he said before grabbing his bag and definitely not fleeing the classroom.
Jay rushed through the halls and across the courtyard to get back to the dorms. He sent fake but charming smiles to the various princesses that he passed on the way up the stairs. They giggled as he went by, and that reaction cheered him up a little. Not a whole hell of a lot, but it was something.
No sooner had Jay got into his room than he was throwing his bag (probably a bit too hard) across the room where it hit the wall. "Fuckin' asshole!" he growled. Mr. Deley acted as if Jay liked being pulled to the side and made to take the test separately. Everyone now knew that Jay had 'problems' since he wasn't allowed to take tests at the same time and place as everyone else. At first, they had assumed he'd been cheating, and that was why he was isolated, but it didn't take long for someone to somehow find out that Jay needed extra help. Jay loathed that so much. Mr. Deley might not like being forced to spend three hours after classes to give Jay his test in private, but Jay hated it even more. He would honestly rather they assume he was cheating.
After a moment, Jay held out his hand and concentrated. His head was throbbing from how much he'd been trying to struggle through the test, and his whole body still felt bowstring tense. Jay needed something to relax, or the others would know something was wrong. And Jay really didn't want them knowing how horribly embarrassing and stressful each test he took was. They would only get protective and defensive, and while Jay loved them for it, he really did, what exactly could they do? They couldn't take the tests for him.
Gold smoke curled and twisted in his open palm, and the pill tin from his lamp was there when it drifted off. With a bit of a sigh, Jay opened the lid and frowned at the dwindling supply. Was he really taking that many? The thief had thought that he was cutting back, but maybe not. Oh well, Jay would figure something out later.
Jay took two of the pills and put them in his mouth before putting the whole tin back in its place in his lamp. A quick swing of some whiskey to wash the pills down, and then Jay collapsed back onto his bed to just let the medication kick in. Jay needed to find some way to make tests easier. Maybe he should just cheat. It would probably be so much less stressful. Although, oddly enough, Jay had never bothered to cheat on anything before. He hadn't really had to. Anything he was bad at, he made up for with other things. The closest he got to 'cheating' was the odd scam here and there to get money, which he didn't really consider the same thing.
But, how would he even cheat effectively? The main problem was that Jay took ages to read even normal print. What? Was he supposed to somehow squint at tiny words on a scrap of paper without being noticed? That didn't seem likely. And his magic wouldn't be helpful here. Djinn magic was always accompanied by some smokey effect and usually a little flash as well. With how closely Mr. Deley watches him, Jay doubted he'd get away with it. Plus, the idea of using his magic that way felt... weird. He wasn't sure why, but Jay didn't really want to resort to that.
Maybe Jay could mix up an old scam to help him out here. Get someone to like him enough to give him the answers ahead of time, and then he could memorize them and just have to worry about the writing part. Sort of how he'd flirted with Elanor, Daughter of the Enchantress, until he was let in the house. Of course, he'd then slept with Elanor to not raise her suspicion about why he wanted in. He wasn't eager to fall back into essentially bargaining with his body, though. Not by a long shot. It would be easy, though...
No Auradon Princess would be able to fight the charm he'd spent years perfecting. He was too good at it by this point.
Jay shivered and pushed himself up. Those thoughts made him feel vaguely nauseous. Or maybe it was taking two of the pills. He usually only took one. Jay lifted a hand and pushed his fingers through his hair, taking his hat off in the process. No. He wouldn't be able to do that again. Never. The fact that he'd even considered it for a second was horrifying, and Jay really wished he hadn't.
Jafar's voice was still loud and crystal clear in his head. Come back with the wand. Make me proud... and maybe I'll forget your little degenerate hobby when you get back. That had been one of the last things his Father had said before Jay had gone out to get in the limo to come to Auradon. One parting jab to remind him just how much had ridden on success. Jay hadn't needed the reminder but was given it anyway. He took another long drink, not noticing he'd summoned the whiskey back to his hand until after he'd already swallowed.
"This is so messed up," Jay muttered to nobody. He should put the bottle back, but he didn't.
He sat there for a little while as the things he took and the whiskey he was drinking slowly eased his body into a much more comfortable, relaxed state. He finished off the bottle and tossed it toward the trashcan without really thinking about it. Jay cringed when it shattered on the inside. "Fuuck... I shouldn't have done that," he muttered as he dropped back to be sprawled out on the bed. Not only was there now broken glass in the trashcan... it was a broken booze bottle. Carlos would definitely notice.
Oh, well, not much to do about it right now. Jay would magic the evidence away or something later on. He really didn't feel like doing it just then. Maybe after he sobered up some. Because he did feel a liiiiittle bit tipsy.
Jay closed his eyes and let himself just not think anymore. He'd been overthinking for that test, and he was sick of it. Thankfully, his Father's voice had shut up now that he'd downed a fair bit of alcohol, so things were peaceful.
"Here. Take this," Jafar said as he pushed a mostly empty carpetbag at Jay.
Jay opened the top and looked in. He was surprised to see the entire contents of the one drawer he was allowed to use for his wardrobe. "You packed my bag?" Jay asked. He was bewildered that Jafar would even know where Jay kept his few clothes. He'd kept them hidden out of the way just in case Jafar decided to sell them off or something.
"You would prefer to run around naked, I take it?" Jafar asked. The sneer made it quite apparent that it wasn't a question Jay was meant to answer. They hadn't talked much since Jafar had found out what Jay did. And most of what they had said had been that act for the others. It was a little terrifying how much Jafar could seem like he cared when there was an audience to play to. "Try not to let your deviancy show too blatantly. It would get you thrown out of Auradon before you can even attempt a theft. And don't be clumsy about it."
"I'm never clumsy," Jay muttered as he tossed his bag across his shoulder.
He expected the hard smack to the back of the head and wasn't disappointed. "Don't talk back to me," Jafar growled in one of his more unnerving voices that made a shiver go down Jay's back. "Don't think there isn't time to teach you another lesson."
Jay gripped his bag's handles to stop from saying something that would get him smacked again. "Sorry, Dad," Jay said, not particularly meaning it but knowing he had to.
Jafar hummed a bit and started walking. Jay waited to follow behind. Jafar had already scolded him once, he didn't need another. "You don't seem excited to be going to Auradon," Jafar commented as they descended the back stairs of Bargain Castle. Jafar had dragged them this way just to scold him more. Jay knew it.
"Should I be?" Jay asked. Nothing sounded all that appealing in Auradon. Well, except for the easy marks and more abundant food situation. That seemed pretty fantastic, actually.
"Like usual, you aren't thinking about the big picture," Jafar said, tossing a cold glare over his shoulder. "The opportunity we're being presented with..."
Jay knew that when his Father said 'we,' he really meant 'me' since plural pronouns weren't really a part of Jafar's vocabulary. Jay mentally patted himself on the back for remembering what the hell those things were even called. He'd skipped out on English classes first out of all his schooling. When Jay didn't bother to ask any questions, Jafar stopped and turned with an agitated huff of breath. "You're a spoiled little brat, sulking like this," Jafar accused.
"I'm spoiled?" Jay echoed.
"Of course!" Jafar said. "After all, I've given you. A roof over your head and food to eat and clothes to wear and all I ask for is a few coins to be able to give you those things. And then what do you do? Go and whore yourself out," Jafar spat. Jay tensed, remember the last time this topic was brought up. His arm still hurt sometimes if he overused it.
Jafar seemed to think for a moment. "How about this then... Come back with the wand. Make me proud... and maybe I'll forget your little degenerate hobby when you get back."
Jay knew that wasn't true. Jafar never forgot anything that displeased him no matter how hard Jay tried to make it up to him. "... it's not a hobby," Jay said. He couldn't call Jafar out on the lie without getting hit, but he could at least be clear about that. Jay didn't sell himself for fun.
"So, you never once found any... perverse enjoyment out of spreading your legs like a pathetic little toy?" Jafar sneered. Jay opened his mouth, but Jafar reached out as fast as a cobra and grabbed Jay by the chin. "Don't. Lie. To me," Jafar said. "Look me in the eye and tell me... did you ever like bending over for men to use as a trashy little tissue?"
Jay didn't know how to answer. He hated selling himself. He really, truly did. Inevitably, Jay had enjoyed the times he didn't walk away with money better. Those few times he had been with people he liked. Or at least tolerated. But all Jafar saw was what he wanted to see. Jafar scoffed and dropped Jay's chin. "Disgusting."
Jafar turned and started walking again. Jay had little choice but to follow. "If you're going to be such a whining child about it. I'll point out something you clearly haven't realized, although why that's surprising to me, I have no idea," Jafar said. "Do you know how much power I could wield with a Djinn and the Fairy Godmother's wand?"
Jay had no idea. Nor did he really care. He really wasn't fond of magic. It had only ever screwed him over. "I might even be able to save a wish..." Jafar said lightly. Jay froze mid-step. He wanted to fight against the glimmer of hope since it never paid off to hope for things, but he couldn't quite help it.
"... could you?" Jay asked. "Really?"
Jafar turned to look at Jay. "Of course, son," he said. The switch had flipped again to kind and caring Father, but Jay barely noticed. He was too focused on what that implied. "So. Get me the wand... we'll get to save a wish we can use on. Well, just about anything."
He was probably lying again, Jay thought. But the possibility was the only thing that Jay could go for. He wasn't ever going to find a second genie. "... I'll get the wand, Dad. I swear."
"Good. Now hurry up. We don't want you missing your ride."
Jay became aware of tapping nearby. He groaned and rolled over, not wanting to wake up. He still felt pleasantly numb and floaty and didn't want it ruined. The tapping came back. Jay continued to stubbornly ignore it.
Finally, he heard a familiar screeching noise. "Open this window! Jabir!"
Jay groaned again. Why was Iago waking him up? Shouldn't he be off... doing something else? Jay reluctantly pushed himself up off the bed. Iago was sitting outside the window, looking exceedingly displeased. Remarkable for a parrot. Jay grumbled curses under his breath as he made his way over. He stumbled a little, but he had just woken up.
After flicking the lock, Jay opened the window for the bird. "Happy now?" Jay asked, already turning away.
"Hmph." Iago fluffed his feathers indignantly. "Have you been in bed all this time?" he asked as Jay made what he thought was a pretty straight line back. "... and why are you walking funny?"
"Yes, I've been in bed, and I'm still groggy. Shut up," Jay said.
There was a flutter of feathers from somewhere behind Jay. "You've been drinking again," Iago said. Jay looked over to see Iago perched on the top of the trashcan. Damn. He'd meant to clean that up. "You were going to stop that!"
"It was a hard test, get off my back," Jay said before flopping down across his comforter. He felt Iago land on his shoulder a moment later. "Iago... seriously. Drop it."
"This isn't good for you. I'm worried about you, Kid," Iago said.
Jay sighed. "No reason to. Really."
"How much did you drink?" Iago pressed. "How much of that bottle was left before you got into it?"
"I don't know. I didn't measure it out," Jay said as he cracked an eye open. "You sound like a goody-two-shoes' Auradonian." Iago let out an affronted noise. "Just let me sleep it off, Iago. I'll pay more attention then anyway."
Iago didn't seem impressed. "Jabir, this is important! You promised!"
"I said I'd cut back, and I have!" Jay snapped, sitting up and causing Iago to squawk as he hastily took flight. "I know I'm a screw-up, alright! You don't have to keep pointing it out!"
"That's not what I meant!"
"Save it!" Jay said as he got to his feet and storming towards the hall. He didn't have to deal with this. He was practically an adult. Even Auradon said so. "I don't have to take this!" He'd go find one of his bolt holes to get some peace and quiet in. But then, as he started moving, the world seemed to tilt, and Jay realized he got up just a bit too fast. He cursed and tried to correct but only ended up tripping over his shoes that he'd left by his bed.
He heard Iago squawking but was too busy trying to catch himself to listen to what he was saying. His hand slipped from the edge of the bed that he tried to find and pulled the blankets off as Jay hit the ground hard. He smacked the ground hard and pain flared across his temple the same second everything went black.
Shorter chapter than last time but I'm trying to get onto Monday updates again. Here's hoping...
Jay was fiddling with an old pocket watch, trying to get the front lid to get unstuck so he could see if it was really working or not. He didn't think it was, but maybe it could be fixed. He was getting pretty o.k. at fixing things. Not nearly as good as the DeVil kid, but Jay had gotten the toaster to work again. Don't ask him how. He had no idea. But he had managed it, and his Father had even called him 'son' without sneering it for once.
The bell on the door rang, and Jay looked up. His blood went like ice and snow when he recognized the ugly mug of Edward. Jay shifted back to better hide himself behind the shelves that he slept under. That wasn't a particularly good hiding spot, but Jay didn't even want to admit to hiding so he would take what he got. Edward clearly saw him, but didn't stop and went to Jafar. Jay tried to focus only on what he was doing but couldn't help himself from picking out occasional words. Things like 'trade' and 'worthwhile' came up but also Edward's slimy chuckle.
Jay jumped and got to his feet at his Father's command. "Yes, Father?" Jay asked. He tried to keep close to the counter, but he was aware of how Edward kept looking at him.
"The pirate has a chest of old canvas he's willing to trade. Go see if it's real. And if it is, help him bring it here," Jafar ordered. "And be quick about it. I have other things for you to do today."
Jay nodded and gave Jafar the watch he'd been working on. Edward led the way out of the shop, and Jay could only be glad that the pirate hadn't said anything about the last time they saw each other a few weeks ago to Jafar. His Father would have raged if he had found out about that.
Edward led the way through some back alleys towards the ports. "How's your ass?" Edward asked after a few minutes of walking. "Still feel it?" he asked, sounding amused.
Jay's cheeks heated. "None of your business," he growled. He wasn't about to admit that for days he hadn't wanted to sit at all because of how brutal Edward had been in taking Jay's virginity. Or the tears that still sometimes threatened to rise up if he thought about it too long.
"No?" Edward asked lightly before laughing again. "Considering it was my cock that you were crying and moaning on, I think it is my business, whore," he added in a low whisper that he leaned far too close to make sure that Jay could hear.
"Don't call me that!" Jay snapped. His face now felt entirely red, and his stomach rolled with sick feelings.
"Why not?" Edward asked. "That's what you did... it's what you are."
Jay glared at Edward with as much hate as he had ever felt. "You're a pervert," he spat. "A pedophile."
Edward didn't seem all that bothered by the accusation. He shrugged. "I guess you don't want your tip then?" he asked. It wasn't at all hard to guess what Edward meant by that, and Jay wasn't naive enough to miss the implication.
"That's never happening again!" Jay said firmly. He'd only done it before because he'd been desperate to save Iago.
"You could make a lot of money," Edward said teasingly. He shook a small bag of coins on his belt that was placed tellingly and obnoxiously close to the fly of his trousers. "An' I'm not the only one that would give you what you want..."
Jay's lip curled. "You're all disgusting."
Edward laughed. "You're a money-crazed whore, boy, you'll come crawling to us for pennies once you get off your high horse. You already did once," he said with a confidence that Jay wanted to punch him in the mouth for. Then cut off his disgusting prick.
"I'm not." It was Jafar that wanted the money. Not Jay. Jay needed it to keep Jafar somewhat sane; that was all.
"Yeah, alright," Edward said, not sounding in the least sincere. "Well, when you remember you fucking sold your right to get all uppity, come on back. I'll be happy to remind you of what you are."
"I know what I am," Jay said.
"If you knew what you were," Edward said, leaning too close again. "You'd already be on your knees for me."
Jay pulled back and glared at Edward. "Say that again, and I'll cut your guts out," Jay threatened. Edward looked anything but intimidated. He even chuckled and shook his coin purse again. Without saying anything else, he walked past Jay, still jangling his money and acting like he was something high and mighty. Jay felt the urge to be sick but reluctantly followed. His Father wouldn't exactly be understanding if Jay didn't do what he'd been told.
Jay felt something cold on his head, and it was oddly soothing. He wasn't sure why at first, but then the throbbing pain coming from his temple made him remember. He'd hit his head. That's right. Because he'd tripped over his own stupid feet. God, he'd never live that one down. Between the pain in his head and the dream that he definitely didn't want to think about too hard, he was feeling very close to throwing up all over himself.
Rolling to the side, Jay buried his face in a soft pillow. A cold and damp cloth that had been on his forehead flopped off, but Jay barely paid it any attention. He'd been thinking about the pirates that had bought him as a child far more lately than he really wanted to be thinking about them. Back on the Isle, he rarely thought about them at all. He simply hadn't had time to do so. All of that was shoved into the back of his head behind doors that didn't need to be opened for any reason. But here, it seemed to be catching up with him since Jay no longer needed to concentrate on where to get money or food from. Those doors were slowly creaking open more and more.
Jay had held out almost a month from that encounter with Edward before shamefully going to the Jolly Roger and doing whatever Edward wanted for the coin purse he had. Jay had 'gotten back' at the bastard by also stealing the buckles off his boots, but it wasn't enough vengeance to make up for the horrible dirty feeling that Jay walked away with. That he'd lived with constantly since. Jay had been sadistically pleased to hear that Edward eventually ended up in Captain Hook's Boo Box for something or another. He only wished he'd seen it. Although, he had asked Harry to tell him about it several years later, and the son of Hook had gone into fantastic detail explaining how the dirty pedophile had screamed and screamed as the scorpions stung him to death. Jay had slept pretty well that night.
The door to the room opened, and Jay heard a set of familiar heels coming over to him. They weren't sharp enough to be Evie's, so they had to be Mal's. "Are you awake?" Mal asked.
"... kind of," Jay muttered into the pillow.
There was a long silence between them, and Jay felt Mal sit down on the edge of his bed. "Jay. You know we care about you, right?" Mal asked. Jay wasn't entirely sure how to answer that. Of course, he knew that, but the question was weird to hear coming from Mal. He nodded a little bit. Mal must have been watching for his answer because she continued, "Alright. So, can you please explain to me why you keep not telling us when things are bothering you?"
"Nothing's bothering me," Jay said.
"Bullshit," Mal said instantly. "You got so drunk that you fell over your own feet and clocked yourself in the head so hard you got a mild concussion. You. The guy I've never seen trip in my life fell over his own feet."
"It wasn't intentional," Jay said.
Mal scoffed. "Accidents aren't ever intentional, Jay. At least, real ones aren't. We're not counting the 'accidents' in that," she said. There was enough emphasis on the word accident that Jay knew exactly what she meant without even looking to see if she'd done the air quotes. "So. Tell me what is bugging you."
Jay was quiet for a good four or five minutes as he tried to order his thoughts with a throbbing head and a roiling stomach. "... had that test today," he finally said. "It was... a lot."
"I thought you were getting extra time on tests now?" Mal asked.
"... yeah," Jay agreed. "Still not enough though... and Mr. Deley hates me, so it's not like it's fun. Plus, if I fail another test, I'm probably going on that probation thing, and I'll go crazy if I can't do something fun around here."
Mal silently absorbed that. "Did Deley say something?" she finally asked.
Jay hesitated to answer that. It was ingrained in every part of him that he had to keep everything close to his chest. He couldn't complain to his Father because everything he had to complain about he either wouldn't care to hear because it was his own actions or would send him off the deep end. And he couldn't tell anyone else either because of how embarrassing it was. The whole idea of leaning on others was still so foreign even though he was trying to get better about it. "... nothing I've never heard before."
"Is that so," Mal said. She sounded dangerous, and Jay looked up to see her eyes glowing green.
"Mal, wait, no!" Jay said as he pushed himself up. "It wasn't anything that wasn't true."
Mal narrowed her eyes. "What did he say, then?"
Jay recoiled a little bit. He hadn't anticipated actually repeating anything. "Uh... well, just... just that I take a long time and... stuff," Jay said. He almost cringed at how utterly unconvincing that sounded even to him. "And... you know, I have really bad handwriting. I know you know. You can't even read it sometimes."
Mal folded her arms over her chest. "So... that sent you off to go get drunk again?" she asked, sounding skeptical.
"No! It was just a stress thing," Jay said.
"A stress thing," Mal repeated. "Alright... Jay, can I ask you to do something, as your friend?"
Jay raised an eyebrow. He still was a little unused to hearing the word 'friend,' but he nodded in agreement. "Next time you feel so stressed that you feel you have to come in here and drink an entire bottle of whatever that was," she indicated the trash can, "come to one of us instead?"
Jay opened his mouth but found himself lacking an answer. He'd love to say he would, but he didn't like making promises if he didn't know that he'd keep them. He already felt bad for not cutting back as much as he knew Iago had wanted. "Jay, it's terrifying hearing Iago screaming bloody murder outside your window and then find you bleeding on the floor," Mal said. "I don't like being scared, Jay. Especially not for my friends."
Jay ended up saying he'd 'try' to do what Mal wanted. Which, as they both knew, translated roughly to 'I want to promise but know I won't follow through' in Jay speak. Since the thief didn't like lying (as he wasn't even good at it and the idea of lying to his father brought twinges of phantom pains to his back), Jay also didn't like making promises he knew he'd just break as that seemed close enough to the same thing. But Mal at least let him have that and didn't demand an actual promise. She was amazing like that to know when she was pushing for too much.
The smack to his head left Jay's temple throbbing for a good day and a half, and a bruise had shown up right at his hairline. Luckily, his hat was able to cover almost all of the mark so nobody would know that he'd had such an embarrassing moment. Once his head stopped hurting, Jay headed to the gym to try and work through some of the stress that seemed to be constant in his life now. A sword rack full of blunted practice blades were out ninety percent of the time now, so Jay went searching for one that he liked.
That ended up being a longer search than it should have been. Jay was used to makeshift junk weapons from the Isle and working with their quirks. Perhaps a bit too used to it. All of the practice swords felt overly heavy and bulky and too similar to each other. Jay would take a few swings with a blade and decide he didn't like it before searching for another.
"You're being pretty picky."
Jay turned and saw Lonnie standing there with her gym bag over her shoulder and her hair back in a ponytail. Jay shrugged. "I'm not used to swords like this," Jay said as he tossed one back and forth from hand to hand. "On the Isle, you sort of have to work with the sword to make sure it doesn't like... fall apart halfway through a fight or something."
"Does that happen often?" Lonnie asked as she dropped her gym bag by the side and pulled a sword off the rack.
"Well, I've had it happen a couple times," Jay said as he adjusted his grip on the one in his hand and flipped it around his hand a few times. "The handle just completely split, and I was just holding a rusty piece of metal. Not a good thing."
Lonnie's eyes widened. "Seriously?"
Jay nodded. "Yeah. Kind of why I stopped fighting with swords for a while. Preferred fists cause those don't shatter and give your palm some nasty cuts," Jay said before holding up that hand where he still had a faint scar across his palm. "Made life a real pain for like two months." He hadn't been very nimble with his thefts with a gash on his hand, and his hauls had definitely suffered.
Lonnie cringed. "Lucky you didn't get tetanus."
"What's that?" Jay asked curiously as he decided the sword he had would do well enough.
"It's a sickness you get when you get cut with something rusty," Lonnie answered.
"Huh. Well, maybe Isle kids are immune to that too," Jay said. "Wanna spar?"
Lonnie nodded. "Sure. No tripping me with that back step move this time. That's not a legal move."
Jay sighed. "You Auradonians are so boring. I didn't think you could make a fight boring too, but you're certainly trying your best."
"You just need to get more creative, Jay," Lonnie said with a grin.
Jay laughed a little bit and went to the center of the bizarre fight area that had miniature obstacles that could be used in the fight. The sword was still too heavy for Jay's liking, but he was getting used to it. Lonnie was fast and ruthless with her strikes, which was honestly pretty damn thrilling. Aziz, while good, was pretty stiff with his movements and almost never used the obstacles to his advantage. He was getting better at it, but it was obvious he was used to practicing only in a flat area. Lonnie was the exact opposite, and it was great.
The two of them fought all across the area for what had to be a good hour. That was much longer than an average match would go, but Jay couldn't care less. He was far more focused on seeing if he could get that sword out of Lonnie's hand. She didn't make it easy for him in the least, constantly moving and swinging the said sword. Lonnie probably put up the best fight of anyone Jay had fought in Auradon. She would easily make whatever team requirements were, Jay had no doubt about that.
Lonnie was pretty acrobatic too, which Jay wasn't as used to fighting. He himself wasn't above going into flips and kicks, but others didn't tend to do it as often. "You're good," Jay said as they spun away and circled each other.
"Of course," Lonnie said. "More surprised you are."
Jay scoffed. "Cocky, Petals. Real cocky."
"Maybe you're just overconfident... playboy," Lonnie said. They both paused for a moment, and then Lonnie shrugged. "Better than the last one." She was still trying hard to think up some sort of nickname for Jay in retaliation for the one he'd given her. It wasn't as easy as she thought it'd be. Nothing seemed to fit.
"Still could use some work, though," Jay said before lunging forward.
Lonnie caught his sword with hers. "Yeah, I'll get there eventually," she said before ducking to the side so that Jay's weight and momentum took him past her. Jay had to quickly swing himself around to dodge a slash from Lonnie, and just like that, they were too busy to talk much. Although in lulls, they still managed a few moments of banter.
Lonnie was fun to mess around with. She wasn't like most Auradon girls who got all offended by everything. She wasn't shy about dishing out a clever barb or two, although her little digs were barely felt compared to one from the Isle. Jay found himself really enjoying the fight and the banter.
After a while, they finally stopped, and Lonnie bought them both some sports drinks before heading off to her dorm, complaining about a project due in her astrology class that she hadn't even started yet. Jay sympathized with that immediately as he was pretty sure he had a history report due that he hadn't even picked the topic of. Jay was a little surprised how relaxed he was after the workout.
Physical activity always helped him with stress, but he hadn't really found anyone that could keep up with him like Lonnie had been able to. Mal and the others tried, but fighting with them was... difficult. They knew each other too well and could sort of figure out what was going to happen. That led to boring fights that they'd done a million times already.
"She's good," a familiar voice said.
Jay looked up and saw Harry sitting on the railing on the balcony above his head. "What're you doing there?" Jay asked.
Harry shrugged. "Jus' explorin'," he said. Harry nodded in the direction of the girl's locker room that Lonnie had gone into. "Who's she then?"
"Lonnie. Mulan's daughter," Jay said as he unscrewed the cap of his drink. "Why? You wanna fight her too?"
Harry seemed to think about that for a moment before shrugging. "Maybe," he said. His tone was a little strange, and Jay's eyebrow went up. What was up with him?
"You okay, Harry?" Jay asked before he thought better of it. They weren't together, so Jay shouldn't care if something was bugging the pirate, but old habits were hard to break.
"Me? Yeah, I'm gold," Harry said. He gestured to the ring of blue and yellow boxes that Jay was still standing inside. "Wha's all tha' then?"
"Oh, it's some fighting sport they have here. That's what we were practicing. They've got rules about punching and stuff that they're teaching me," Jay said with an eye roll. "Makes it kinda boring, but they let you swing swords around, and Tourney is done for the year, so I'll take what I can get."
Harry nodded absently as he eyed the ring. "Maybe I should do tha'... don' wanna get rusty."
"Only if you think you can hold back... and I'm pretty sure they don't allow hooks as a second weapon," Jay warned. "And the tryouts are in, like, two weeks."
"I'm gettin' good at holdin' back," Harry said. Jay's other eyebrow went up. Restraint wasn't a thing he ever associated with Harry Hook. "Wha' ya don' think I can do it?" Harry asked, seeing Jay's expression.
Jay shrugged. "Don't know. I just haven't ever known you to do it before," Jay said as he put the sword, he'd borrowed back into the rack it came from. "But if you wanna try it, then go for it. You'd probably have fun. The only time the adults won't freak out about you having a sword in your hands."
Harry hummed and then turned to climb down the outside of the balcony. Jay watched as the pirate dangled down and then dropped to land in a crouch a few feet in front of Jay. "Couldn't use the stairs?" Jay asked. It hadn't been much of a drop, but Jay knew for a fact that there were stairs right at the end of that balcony. Harry had to know it too since that was the only way up into that area.
"Like you eva use stairs?" Harry shot back as he brushed nothing off of himself and straightened.
Jay shrugged. "Fair."
Harry adjusted his red jacket and then looked over at Jay. His eyes scanned the Arabian, and, though Jay definitely noticed, he had no idea what Harry was looking for. There was a moment, and then some of the stiffness in the pirate's shoulders eased. "Can I ask ya somethin', Jay?"
Jay wasn't sure what was up with Harry, really, but he was a little weirded out by it. He wasn't acting his usual cocky, slightly unhinged self. Harry wasn't usually this reserved about anything. "Have ya... have ya been seein' anyone here in Auradon?" Harry asked.
Jay was definitely surprised by the question. He knew he'd thrown that possibility out to Harry before, but Harry hadn't ever just outright asked about it. Not only that, but Harry looked nervous about what answer Jay would give. Before he'd only said, he'd just have to win Jay back like the cocky pirate he was. "Why?" Jay asked, folding his arms over his chest. "It's not really your business, ya know."
Harry nodded. "No, yeah, I know. Bu'... can' ya just tell me?" he asked. He shoved his hands in his coat pockets. "Ya got all the girls 'round here wrapped 'round yer finger, Jay. I mean, 'course ya do, yer gorgeous... bu' tha's one thing an' bein' wit someone is differen'."
"Girls here like when you flirt with them," Jay said with a casual shrug. "Well, most do. Some can't get over the Isle thing."
Harry looked mildly frustrated by Jay's lack of a direct answer. "Jay... gorgeous, come on, please? Jus' tell me if there's someone specific I'm fightin' 'gainst?" he asked.
Jay thought about that for a moment. While it would probably be nice of him to tell Harry that no, Jay hadn't been able to bring himself to actually date anyone, Jay still hadn't really made Harry pay for the whole debacle on the Isle. Jay hummed to himself and took a long drink from the bottle in his hand. "Well, I could answer... but I think I'm gonna let you squirm, Doll," Jay said as he moved past Harry.
Harry groaned aloud, "Tha's so mean, gorgeous..."
Jay paused long enough to look over his shoulder. He couldn't help but grin at the expression very close to a pout on Harry's face. "You wouldn't like me so much if I couldn't be mean," Jay said. "Maybe if you make it worth my while, I'll tell you," he said.
"Ya sure ya wanna give me tha' challenge, Jay?" Harry asked.
Jay shrugged. "I'm not gonna make things easy for you, Harry," he said. "Plus, I haven't heard you beg in a while. Kinda miss it. Later."
How long does everyone think Harry was watching for? I'll give you a hint... long enough for him to catch some of that easy banter.
Happy holidays everybody!
It was Saturday, and Ben had called them all together, saying he had something important to discuss with them. That always boded so well. All of the various Isle Kids gathered in the theatre/assembly hall since it was large enough to hold them all comfortably while still keeping some level of privacy. Mal had made it clear to Ben in the past that they didn't want any talks about the Isle to be overheard by just anyone. Plus, the chairs were plush and comfy.
Jay leaned back in the chair he picked out in the second row and put his feet up onto the back of one in the first. The others were settling as well, clustering together near other members of their gangs whenever possible. The lines between gangs were starting to blur the longer they were in Auradon, and things like food and shelter were less of an issue. But old grudges didn't exactly fade quickly, and fights still broke out. Best to keep to themselves.
"So, what's this about?" Yzla asked from where she was perched on the armrest of the chair that Diego was sitting in. They were apparently on again in their off and on again relationship.
"No idea," Carlos said. "But considering Ben wanted all of us here... probably nothing good."
Jay snorted a little bit at that. "Seems like an understatement." Ben almost never wanted all of the Isle kids in one place at the same time.
Ben stepped onto the stage and held a hand up to get attention. He didn't actually get it, though, until Mal gave a shrill whistle that made ears bleed from how loud it was. Ben cringed a little and rubbed his ear. "Thanks," he said, and she shrugged. Ben turned to face the rest of the Isle Kids. "Alright, so, you all know that the next group of four kids is set to come over next week."
There was a murmur of agreement. The schedule was posted in the common rooms of the dorm so that they could check it if they ever needed to. "Well, The council has thrown a slight... wrench into the works," Ben said.
"What kind of wrench?" Uma demanded. The four kids that had been picked to come over next were all hers, after all, so she was not in the least happy about problems.
"The council is arguing over who we picked," Ben said. "They're worried that we're letting personal feelings decide where we should be picking based off risks."
Mal's face darkened. "We are picking based on risk," she said. "Those that are most at risk to be killed get moved to the top. That was the deal."
"I know that," Ben assured her. "But that's not the type of risk that they're talking about."
There was more murmuring, and Uma stood up from her seat. "What are they talking about then?" she nearly hissed. "Because my crew can't just wait without half of us there to protect 'em!"
"They are thinking more... the risk to Auradon," Ben said. There were immediate reactions, and Ben held up his hands. "I know! I know! I tried to tell them they were being ridiculous, but they're convinced that sooner or later someone is going to come over that has a plot to destroy all of us."
Jay snorted a little bit. That had already happened. The stupid council just didn't know about the wand thing. Then again, if they had known, Jay would probably be back on the Isle, and just that thought made a cold trickle of dread run down his spine. He couldn't go back to that life. Not after having a taste of something so much better. "So, what do they want us to do?" Carlos asked. "Because we're not just going to stop bringing people over." They had better not try and stop them from bringing over people anyway.
"They've picked out four of their own candidates," Ben said, pulling a paper out of his coat pocket. "And... I can't believe I'm going to say this... but if we coach the others what to put on their applications, we can probably get more of the people we actually want to move first on the fast track where they belong."
"Applications?" Mal asked. "They're making us apply now?"
Ben cringed but nodded. "Yeah. They said there has to be a process. And, I can sort of see their point about that, at least. But... I've seen that application, and it's ridiculous. Very long and repetitive and kind of confusing. I'm going to try and fix it, but we don't want to hold off bringing more people over until we have it all straightened out, right?"
There was angry muttering, but eventually, Mal and Uma both nodded. As the two gang leaders, they had the most say. "Who do those idiots in your council want to bring over?" Uma finally asked.
"First, Harriet Anne Hook-"
Harry immediately let out a bark of a laugh. "Oh, they mus' gotta screwy application if they wan' Re firs'," he said, grinning like a madman. Harriet did run another gang, so that would bring the leader count to three, which would inevitably cause friction. There wasn't a whole lot of turf on Auradon Prep's campus to go dividing up more and more. Plus, she was almost done with school as she was older. What was the point of bringing her over now?
Ben cast Harry a quick look before sighing. "Then there's Zevon, Yzma's son."
Yzla made a noise. "Perfect," she spat. "Can't get away from him even in Auradon..."
"Rick Ratcliffe and Elanor, daughter of the Enchantress," Ben finished.
Jay nearly sputtered at the last name Ben listed. Carlos glanced over at him, and Jay let his head fall back and sighed. "The last thing I need..." Elanor was going to drive Jay crazy, he knew it. The girl was a little too hung up on Jay for his comfort. So they'd slept together a few times... it had been a means to an end for Jay. Clearly, not for her though since she'd pestered him nonstop since then until Jay just dodged away from her whenever he spotted Elanor in the distance.
"And why were these the ones that the council picked?" Uma asked darkly.
Ben sighed and shrugged. "Something that they put in their applications apparently made the council think that they were the least angry or focused on revenge, I guess."
"My brother is anything but 'least angry' he got mom's irrational temper," Yzla said.
"Well, I could put the transfer off until we get the ones we want to fix their applications," Ben said. "But I'm worried that if we don't keep up the momentum... we won't ever find it again."
There was more muttering, and Mal gestured for Uma to come up on stage. She did, although her heels slammed down a bit harder than was probably necessary. As if they needed any more clue as to how upset she was. "You okay?" Carlos asked Jay, leaning over the back of a nearby chair. "I know you don't like Elanor much."
"I'll be fine. Not like I haven't gotten good at dodging her," Jay pointed out. "She just puts way too much into the fact I slept with her a few times." She had been a good mark, Jay easily admitted that. But even that first time he'd tumbled into her bed, he'd had distant alarm bells that maybe she was a little too desperate for attention. His attention, specifically. He'd ignored them, though, as her mother had plenty of expensive bits of jewelry that had saved him a beating several times.
"True, but she might not take seeing you flirting with all the princesses all that well," Carlos pointed out.
"She'll just have to get over it," Jay said with a shrug. "That is... if she's even coming over. I guess we'll see." Carlos hummed a little but then nodded.
After another few minutes of consulting with Mal and Uma, Ben cleared his throat. "Alright, we've decided," he said. "Even though it's not the best candidates we want, it's better to keep getting people over. Hopefully, we can fix this little application thing up quick, and next time we'll bring over the people that we know need to be here the most."
"Can we veto people?" Evie asked suddenly.
Ben blinked. "Veto people?"
"Yeah, if, say they want to bring over the Gaston twins... can we say 'that's not happening' or something?" Evie asked. "Because we know these people, we know better than some application who's too dangerous to let over."
Uma's eyes widened, and Jay noticed Gil shift closer to Harry. "Oh, you had best not let those two idiots in!" Uma snapped to Ben immediately.
"Calm down. Firstly, I don't even think they've even applied," Ben said as he tucked his list into his pocket again. "Secondly, I'll make sure we can. You guys know the other kids' history and if they're like their parents or not."
"We should make up a list of absolute no's," Mal said. "Make it easier than just vetoing them as they come up."
Uma nodded. "Definitely."
"Alright, we can get together and do that. But for now, I think that was all I had to update you on," Ben said. "I know it's not great news, but... well, at least they're not trying to stop us entirely."
The meeting was called to a close, and everyone started filing out of the theatre. Some were definitely more affected by the council's meddling than others. Gil, who'd seemed perfectly oblivious, had definitely gone quiet and sullen after Evie had brought up his brothers. Jay noticed Harry pull his friend off to the side after they left the theatre. "Hey," Harry said, putting a hand on Gil's shoulder. "I eva let 'em hurt ya?"
Gil was quiet but shook his head. "Tha's righ'. An' I ain't lettin' 'em do it now," Harry said. "Side's ya heard Benny boy, they ain't even figured out how ta apply yet."
Gil muttered something that Jay couldn't make out, and Harry hooked his arm around his friend a bit tighter. "Ya ain't got nothin' ta worry 'bout, Gil," Harry said firmly.
"It's still weird seeing Harry act like that," Carlos murmured as he and Jay continued with the flow of people passed where Uma's second and third were standing. "But if I had a pair of brothers just like Mom... I would be nervous about them coming to Auradon too."
Jay nodded a bit. "Yeah. Definitely not a warm fuzzy feeling." Jay might now have Aziz, but if things had been different and their mother had given them both up, Jay wasn't sure how things might have been different. Probably worse because Jay couldn't imagine any world where Jafar didn't demand rent and food money from his sons. They'd have to pay twice as much, and there wouldn't have been any more money on the Isle to steal. The idea was terrifying.
"So, I guess next week we'll see how good the council is at picking out kids to bring over," Carlos said although his tone made it clear how little he thought of the choices.
"I guess. Also, I think I should take this time to remember all the shortcuts around campus," Jay said, looking around as they walked. "Definitely don't want to run across Elanor in a dead-end hallway or something."
"She can't be that bad, can she?" Carlos asked.
Jay scoffed a little. "I can handle her, but... she's incredibly persistent and pretty sure that the officials here won't like it if I punch a girl in the face."
"True. Best to avoid that sort of thing," Carlos agreed.
So, I'm going to come clean to something here... a slightly more serious plot than just messy teenage drama has occurred to me for this story and... yeah. That's going to affect some things.
Also, the final pairing has been decided in my head and it feels disingenuous to not just say it so that those looking for the other pairings know and don't feel cheated. (I'm also going to add that to the tags) It's going to be Jay/Harry. I can't not. It's a sickness, alright? But! I'm making them work for it! So it'll probably be a rocky ride to get there. But we will. For those of you pining for that pairing (cough*Ragnaroq*cough*cough) they'll get their happy ending at some point. Scouts honor.