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Boys will be boys (will be girls’ matchmakers)

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The Isle of the Lost should be called the Isle of Useless Shit From Pretentious Auradonian Snobs And Pricks: Prison For Villains And Trash Cage For Undeserving Children Who Didn’t Ask To Be Born. A mouthful, sure, but at least an accurate mouthful.

Jay honestly couldn’t see why they couldn’t throw in something useful, like a sword or a grenade so they could blow up the barrier. He didn’t even know what a grenade looked like, but Clayton was always so intense every time he brought up his weapons. While he threatened him with every single way he could use them on him for trying to steal his shotgun – which was empty, useless and was only once. Honestly though, what he most wanted was some actual unrotted, unspoiled food, but that seemed too much to ask for from those ungracious hypocrites. Ugh, food. All of them would kill for some food.

As he emptied his pockets of basically useless pieces of plastic, they kept disappearing between Carlos’s nimble fingers that were for sure doing something too complicated and nerdy for him to even try to understand. No matter how ador—nice it was to hear him ramble on.

As he unloaded, his thoughts kept getting darker. So absorbed he was in them, that he didn’t notice that he started cursing until Carlos absently laid a hand on his wrist, the softness of the touch more than anything jolting him out of his spiral. But just as quickly, the hand retreated to fiddle with some small rusted springs, so clenching his jaw, he took deep breaths, acknowledging the gesture with a small nod he wasn’t sure was seen.

Once done, he threw himself on the rickety, moldy, spring infested couch, counting over his haul and how likely his father was to hit him over it.

Well, he’d be camping out at the hideout tonight.

He languidly spread his arms along the back of the couch, his body gravitating in Carlos’s direction but his eyes fixed on the opposite side of the room where the girls were huddled together, their brightly colored heads a stark contrast to the drab grey of the hideout.

Though they didn’t seem to be agreeing too much. Their voices were hisses he couldn’t hear, while their gestures were a bit too violent for a peaceful conversation. Mal seemed to be trying to pull her hair out, even though her movements seemed slower than usual, and Evie looked disheveled, hairs escaping her braid, her eyeliner smudged a little bit.

It seemed to end when Mal let out a groan even he could hear, taking off her jacket.

Evie didn’t look smug at her win, she looked even more bothered as she examined Mal’s arm, thrusting out a bottle of sour rum and staring her down until Mal finally took a swing and handed it back. Evie took a relatively clean cloth, soaked it in rum and started wiping it across the other girl’s arm.

Mal remained stone faced even with the alcohol obviously burning what was surely a wound.

Yeah, they were all a bit too used to pain.

As he looked at how they exchanged glances in a secret language of their own, Jay couldn’t help but think that they were a bit too close too fast for former enemies.

“Do they just not realize?” Jay asked Carlos, voice low, though he had the sneaking suspicion that him whispering wouldn’t change anything – if Mal was actually listening and not seemingly enchanted with Evie.

“Hmm?” Carlos absently hummed, mind too focused on the contraption in his hands to be really paying him much attention.

And like the attention starved brat he didn’t know he was, Jay was determined to make him pay attention to him. So with a hard nudge to the shoulder he almost knocked the pile of crap from Carlos’s hands.

“Hey!”

Carlos was too cu—small to really scare him, so his glare was akin to that of a ruffled puppy – this was the only time he wasn’t going to tell him that – and his voice came out in an ador—small squeak, so he pretended he did nothing wrong – something he excelled at – and pointed at the girls.

 “Do we even know how they got so close? It’s been barely three weeks, maybe, since that whole crapfest with Maleficent’s Eye. Do they even know what’s going on with them?”

Carlos stared at him, looking like Jay’s own tendency to start fights was rubbing off on him, before he seemed to decide that he wasn’t going to be left alone, and huffed. He turned to look at the girls, examining them like he did his own inventions when he tried to find the problem with them to fix them, staring blankly, before finally giving up with a sharp sigh. “I give up. Is there anything wrong with them?”

He stared at him with an are-you-shitting-me look Mal usually reserved for him, jerkily waving a hand at the girls. “You mean you don’t see it?”

Carlos only shrugged and returned to fiddle with the pile of junk in his hands. “I dunno. I’m better with science than with people.”

“Well,” Jay paused, “I guess I have a lot to teach you, you little runt.” He ignored the other boy’s scoff, puffing out his chest. “Lesson one, there is something happening there,” he waved his index at Mal and Evie, “lesson two,” and here he swiftly wrapped an arm around Carlos’s neck, dragging him close despite his immediate squirming and digging his knuckles into his black-and-white hair, “expect the unexpected here!”

“Hey! Cut it out!” Carlos slapped at his stomach and wriggled, trying to duck under his arm only to have it tighten around him bringing him even closer to Jay, almost suffocating him into his chest.

“This is training!”

“This is murder!”

“Psh, don’t be a wimp. This is nothing!”

And they dissented into a fight that was becoming increasingly more common with them, throwing insults at each other and swiftly forgetting the girls who only rolled their eyes and shared a long-suffering look of their own.

 

 

The four of them always seemed to be the most relaxed in their hideout, didn’t they? The only place they’d allow themselves to be the least bit vulnerable and around other people, no less. And it was where Jay noticed most of Mal and Evie’s thing happening.

Seriously, whoever looked at them now would never know that there was a time where one of them was plotting to destroy the other.

He’d known Mal for a long time now, and like everyone else on the Isle she didn’t do sorrys or regrets. But that seemed to be what she’d been feeling, if the way she had been, well, hovering over Evie ever since that whole Eye thing was any indication. They all belonged to each other now, but Mal as the de facto leader seemed to take it as her responsibility. They were hers and she always protected what was hers.

Didn’t mean she was the only who hovered. They all did, but maybe some more than others.

“So, Mal… what are you doing?” Evie could be very subtle when she had to, and sometimes she could be as direct as a punch to the face. The way she was, well, hovering behind Mal’s shoulder was a mix of both.

“I’m adding a little flair to this dump.” The little grump didn’t even look away from the wall, which was bad, because these days she never looked away when she was talking to Evie. Honestly, she could tone down the staring a bit.

“I can see that. But that’s my face.”

“Yes. And?”

“Why am I, your pièce de résistance?”

Mal stopped spray-painting to give her a weirded out look. “What in my Mother’s name does that mean?”

“Your mother’s name?”

“Yup. She’s on par with the devil these days.”

“Oh, M, what happened?” Evie lightly put a hand on her shoulder.

Mal only grunted, turning back to the wall, but she must have been more bothered than usual, because she didn’t even shrug the hand off.

At least Evie was getting better at reading her, as she didn’t press. “Why am I your masterpiece?”

And something he never thought he’d see in a million years happened. Jay had the absolute pleasure of seeing Mal lose her usually unflappable cool. “What, I-I’m doing all of us!”

Damn, that was definitely the wrong thing to say if Evie’s wicked smirk was anything to go by – it almost matched his own.

Doing? Why Mal, how scandalous.”

Mal huffed and turned around. “Oh, shut up. You know what I mean.” Was she blushing?

Jay was very entertained just watching them, lounging on the spring infested couch with Carlos resting his head in his lap. He’d been tempted to shove him off earlier, but the black bags under his eyes were so bad he didn’t know if they were from a lack of sleep or actual black eyes – he’d have to beat up whoever did it to him, even if it were his bitch of a mother.

Carlos was missing the girls’ thing – typical. But Jay was tired – sleeping in the hideout for the last couple of days to avoid his jerk dad wasn’t doing anything to his back – and he was bored and honestly, he couldn’t look away from Mal and Evie’s colorful heads, bright in front of the dull walls. He didn’t even notice his hand lightly resting in two-toned curls, though some part in the back of his mind noted something soft tickling his palm.

Jay absently rubbed at a bruise on his jaw – special thanks to his old man – gently moving the fingers of the other hand as he watched the girls bicker. At least these days the fights didn’t involve bear traps or sleep-inducing scepters.

Really, Evie was good for Mal. Not that either of them needed his opinions on that, but she could get her to relax better and quicker than he could. Usually he’d offer Mal to spar to get rid of her pent-up emotions, but Evie sometimes even got her to talk – something neither he nor her were good at; they liked punching their problems more. A miracle if he ever believed in them.

“Maybe you should skip me, M.”

Jay was abruptly brought out of his thoughts by Evie’s meek voice. He almost got up to beat up whoever made her sound like that before he remembered Carlos in his lap.

Fortunately for him, Mal had it in hand. “What? Why?” Maybe a bit too vicious, but they both tended to be impulsive when they were protec—had to beat up people who hurt the others.

“Mother said I’m too fat to even fit in a portrait.”

He could see Mal clenching her jaw from all the way on the other side of the room, and was the spray can denting? He couldn’t know because Mal dropped it to grasp Evie’s upper arms in what must have been a too tight grip, but she must have stunned her enough not to say anything. And there went that intense eye contact.

“Listen, E. Are you listening?” She only continued when she got a slow nod. “Screw both our mothers. They don’t know shit. You’re the most beautiful girl in the world, not just this fucked up island. The fairest of them all. And your mother can shove that stick up her ass down her throat and choke on it. And if I want to be a disgrace and waste my time doing art, I’m going to do the art that I want, and I don’t give a fuck what anyone says. Including you, so if I want to paint a masterpiece, I’m painting a masterpiece and it’s gonna be you. Got it?”

Jay certainly got it. Wow both their issues just got aired out and Mal was usually so tightlipped about it. She only got like that when it was about any of the three of them.

Evie blinked rapidly, looking like she got knocked on her pretty head. “Um, yeah.”

Now Jay really wanted to whistle, because he’d never seen Evie speechless – she was even better than him with words – but he didn’t want to interrupt them.

“Good,” Mal said softly, slowly letting go of Evie’s arms, picking up her can and returning to the wall, leaving Evie staring at her in what looked like wonder.

Before he could even think of teasing them, Carlos let out a pained groan and shifted, his brows furrowed. He thought about waking him up, but at another distressed moan, he became aware of his fingers in his hair. His face felt hot for some reason, but he started running his fingers slowly through white curls, scratching his nails along the scalp. For a moment he was afraid he would wake him up, but Carlos only let out a sigh, turned on his side and then curled more into him.

Was it hot in here or was it just him?

Jay cleared his throat softly, then looked up to see Evie giving him a smirk with a raised eyebrow. His heart beat faster for some reason, so he rolled his eyes at her and looked away.

He’d tease her another time.

 

 

Ugh. Pirates. And Exes. Pirates and Exes. Combine the both and it was worse than Carlos’s Exploding Box of Doom. Carlos would name it something else, but he’d lost the right when the box exploded in his face. And it was supposed to be a remote for the hideout gate. Psh.

Jay and Mal should definitely not have tangled with Uma’s crew. Mal should not have involved herself with the captain and he should have never been tempted by the first mate.

Exes. Ugh.

 

It’d been a long day. Like long day.

He’d lived on the Isle his whole life and met some pretty messed up people, and Torture 101 still freaked him the fuck out. It wasn’t really even a torture class, but it was one of those voiceless things everyone agreed on. Torture was more appropriate than Justice.

That Frollo guy was a new level of messed up. Everyone had heard the stories and it sounded like the guy was at the bottom of the sludge in the barrel of shitty people. Worse yet he seemed to hate all of them ‘sinners’ – he even absolutely refused to think he did anything wrong. Sure buddy. Pft.

How the guy reproduced when he was a priest and still insisted they were all sins and sinners and what messed up woman got with him, he had no idea. At least he never tried anything, he probably knew he’d be dead in seconds – you just knew the creep was bad news if even Facilier lost some of his cheer when he dealt with him.

Jay always needed a way to unwind after that hellmare of a class. Lately he’d found a way that he enjoyed a little too much.

“Ooooh, whatcha got there ‘Los. I bet it’s another Exploding Box.” He crowded around Carlos – always checking that he didn’t break any boundaries, only relaxing at the other boy’s loose back – smirking that smile that always distracted his victims before he robbed them blind and the one that always made Carlos frown and pout in an irresis—uhm, in a completely normal way.

“That’s not what it’s called,” he grumbled, opening a secret compartment in his locker – because none of them were stupid and Carlos was the smartest of the four – taking out some battered engineering books. He did say a few days ago he wanted to fix the hideout gate. Less squeaky, more freaky. Whatever that meant. As long as it didn’t blow up in his face, Carlos could do whatever the hell he wanted.

The girls must have still been in class, because he and Mal, uhm, cleared the lockers around their own a while ago, so all four of them could have lockers next to each other, and they still weren’t there.

He was busy tugging at Carlos’s curls and holding out an arm to keep away his batting hands when the girls finally came, arguing again if their broad gestures and fierce scowls were anything to go by.

Seriously, together those two bring out the impossible in each other. Evie, scowling. Her mother would definitely blow her top.

“Look all I did was trip him up,” Mal was saying, stuffing her hands in her pockets.

“I’m pretty sure he broke his nose, Mal.”

“Please, he was being as creepy as his creep dad.”

“Exactly.” Evie pointed her index so close that Mal went cross-eyed. “I don’t want his dad going after you because you broke his son’s face just because he was being creepy to me.”

Mal scoffed, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow. “Right. Like you wouldn’t have done the same if he acted that way with me.”

“You wouldn’t have cared.”

“Like that would have stopped you.”

They finally stopped near them, Mal the apparent winner if her smug smile and Evie’s sharp glare had anything to say about that.

“What’s up?” Jay asked, arms resting on Carlos’s head while the boy himself seemed to have given up for now on shaking him off.

Mal took one look at them and rolled her eyes – whatever that meant – sharing a look with Evie that he couldn’t understand. “Claus Frollo is up.”

“Ah.”

That certainly explained it. The rotten fruit never did fall far from the tree on the Isle. Apparently, creepy and disturbing ran in the Frollo branch.

Before they could restart the argument, Carlos reminded them that, yeah, he was still very much there. “Come on guys, lets not do this right now, it’s supply day.”

Ugh. Supply day. The day the Isle pretty much beat each other up for Auradon scraps. And there was no way they could avoid the docks. Which he and Mal always made a habit of, these last few months.

He and Mal shared a look – neither of them ever admitted to their feelings but at least they understood each other. Carlos and Evie wouldn’t know why they wouldn’t want to go to the docks, and he wasn’t going to be the one to tell them.

Well at least they didn’t need essentials this time. Didn’t mean they didn’t have to pick some up anyway, but they could do without for a little bit. Could probably steal them from someone else.

Ugh. Supply day.

 

“Okay, Carlos. You’re small and people tend to overlook you. So it would be easier for you to sneak the supplies with you. This time lets focus on only one barge, we don’t really need anything now that we can’t survive without. We should probably still have the essentials, just in case. You sneak the supplies and we’ll cause a distraction, got it?” Mal said, eyes focusing on the sea, no doubt keeping an eye out for the barges.

“Just a quick question.”

That got her to turn her eye. “What?”

“Mal, I know we haven’t always got along, but do you want me dead?” Carlos rushed out, apparently more scared of the barges than Mal – which seemed stupid for a genius like him, then again when he said beat each other up, he was understating it.

“What? No!” Mal turned to him, offended like he’d never seen before. She did take the leader role very seriously. “Why would you think that?”

“You know how they get at Supply Day.” He waved his hand at the Isle.

“Yeah, well, we’re all a pack of animals on this death trap, Carlos.”

The quiet that followed was heavy, tense with emotions all villain kids felt their whole lives, an almost irresistible urge to light the whole of Auradon on fire for what they did to them and watch it burn, King Beast most of all.

“Anyway, there’s a reason I picked the side of these docks. You know there are other docking ports around the Isle. We’re mostly stocked, so we’re not really pressed for anything this time. We can afford to stay away from the center of the docks, where most of the bloody mess will happen. Like I said, we’ll cover you. Plus, call it a gut feeling, but I know they’ll be passing by here today.”

“And I’ve felt something heavy in the air here. I feel like something will be coming by soon,” Evie said, startling them a bit, having mostly been quiet till now – probably still brooding over the argument, though she would deny it till her last breath.

‘Princesses don’t brood Jay.’

Right.

They’d all learned by now to listen to Mal’s gut and Evie’s feelings and ‘readings’-or-whatever-shit-they-wanted-to-call-it of the winds and weather. He’d think it was magic if that weren’t completely impossible.

The shadows of the barges were getting visible as they kept getting closer to the shore. They all tensed, anticipation coiling their muscles. Carlos in particular seemed to be trembling, so Jay put an absent hand on his shoulder to steady him, which seemed to work as he slowly stopped his shaking though he still seemed tense – not that he could blame him, he was about to potentially be beat up.

When the barge on their side was a few feet from the shore, Mal gave Carlos a light shove forward, hissing urgently, “Go, go, go.”

And, damn, that boy was fast. And slippery, evading any grasping hands, his small size allowing him to slip between bodies, vaulting into the barge, while Jay, Mal and Evie got close to the barge, grasping their various makeshift weapons; rusted, dented pipes for both him and Mal with a trashcan lid for him, but really Evie’s gloves were wicked, little spikes of metal sewn across them – apparently she was inspired by a pincushion; sometimes she and Carlos’s brains scared him a bit. Their swords were too valuable to lose them here, so they were safely stashed back in the hideout.

Not that they were making much use of their weapons, everyone giving them a wide birth – looked like his bulk and Mal’s freaky eyes were as effective as ever.

Not that that lasted for long, unfortunately. The brief time of peace broken with a shock as cold as the water.

“Well, well, Mally. New girl toy?” That taunting voice could freeze the already freezing air and Mal seemed to agree if the way she seized up had anything to say about that.

Slowly they turned to face the voice, finding Uma and Harry Hook basically leering at them, though the menacing look in her eyes didn’t make them relax one bit.

Oh, right. She and Mal hadn’t seen each other since they broke it off and apparently seeing Mal with Evie was setting several things off and none of them were pretty.

Mal stuck out a hand in front of Evie, but he didn’t miss the gentle way she pushed her behind her, and if the way Uma’s eyes were flashing was anything to go by, she didn’t miss it either.

“Uma,” Mal said warily, stepping in front of Evie.

The sea-witch swept her eyes over Mal, a sneer coming onto her face. “Well, you move fast.”

Mal looked offended – personally he thought it wasn’t really the time – crossing her arms over her chest and cocking a hip. “It’s been months!”

While he was focused on the basically witch fight, Jay left himself open to his own ghost to haunt him.

Which he did, a rough voice suddenly whispering in his ear, “‘Elo there swee’hear’, I really missed yar hair.”

Jay stiffened, Harry no doubt feeling it, by the way he let out a wicked laugh.

He stroked his hook through his long hair and a part of him really hated how that still made him shiver in what he hated to admit was not a bad way. But he hated even more that he was essentially trapped, no way to escape without that accursed metal snagging on his hair.

So he forced himself to relax, letting a lazy smile lift his lips, turning to look at Harry, twisting in a way his hair untangled from the hook – something Hook didn’t appreciate by the pout on his face.

“Come on, Jayde. Don’ be like tha’. Don’ ya miss us.” He took a step closer and Jay had to resist backing away, the name making him hesitate more – he never knew if it referred to the jewelry or that they were all jaded.

Okay, he might miss the benefits of a warm body, but he didn’t want the bonus crazy he always got with Hook.

He didn’t even get to answer before the look on Harry’s face twisted into a dark leer. “Unless yar runt is warmin’ yar bed now?”

Jay felt himself flush in rage, taking a step forward to deck him, but the sounds of Mal and Uma’s fight rang loud.

“—Look it was mutual—”

“—Mutual my ass, you told me to scram and avoided me since—”

“—Okay that’s not fair, you haven’t been into it way before that, you probably just wanted to be the one doing the breaking—”

“—Well maybe I did! I hope your new toy can take your whining ass. I bet she’s not as flexible as me—”

“—Hey, stop calling her that! We aren’t even like that—”

Evie finally interrupted, looking a little lost – she must not have been able to make out much from that argument – her usual charm thick in her voice, “Look, Uma, we don’t want trouble—”

Uma whirled on her from where she was basically in Mal’s face, looking like she wanted to charge at Evie – he could even see Mal get ready to put herself between them. She even took a step forward, saying viciously, “Oh, you don’t, do you, princess? Well you can take what you want and shove it up your—”

But thankfully, she didn’t get to finish her threat which seemed to have finally kickstarted Evie’s temper – which was never pretty, no matter how much she was.

“Hi, guys!” That upbeat voice cut through the tense standoffs between them, followed by the thud of boots.

Gil appeared, munching on a yellowed apple, stopping to lean on Harry as he dropped some bags to the ground. He seemed oblivious to the tension, turning to them. “Apple?” he mumbled through a mouthful of the fruit, causing everyone to gape at him. Evie even seemed to forget being disgusted with his no doubt impeccable eating habits – not that his were better.

“Gil…” Uma gritted out, turning her anger on him, though he only looked at her confused.

“Wha?”

It seemed she was finally calling it a day, throwing her arms up, braids swinging as she whirled around. “Nevermind! We’ll be seeing you,” she threw over her shoulder, giving Mal a glare. “And get those bags.”

Hook looked reluctant, grabbing a few bags and turning to follow her, but not before he gave Jay a lecherous once over, drawling, “Like Cap’in said, we’ll be seein’ ya.”

Gil just stared dumbly at them for a moment, before scooping up the remaining bags and running after them, calling out, “Hey, wait for me!”

An awkward silence settled between them with the pirates’ abrupt exit, before Evie whirled on them, throwing her arms up and waving those wicked gloves too much for comfort. “Okay what the hell was that?”

Ooooh, when Evie swore, they knew they were in trouble.

Jay and Mal exchanged looks, gesturing violently at each other, neither wanting to explain, stopping only when Evie pointedly cleared her throat – best not to tempt her with those gloves – with Jay the winner. He had to stop himself from rubbing it in her face, suppressing his smirk.

“Okay…” Mal coughed, looking more uncomfortable than he’d ever seen her before. “So, me and Uma used to meet up in back alleys on the regular.” She shrugged, hands in her pockets, turning and walking off.

“But why would you—wait. You hooked up with Uma?” Evie gasped, scandalized, marching after Mal as she quickened her steps to escape the oncoming interrogation.

“Can’t hear you!”

Evie scoffed. “Of course you can, little Miss Sensitive Ears. Why didn’t you tell me?” She definitely sounded hurt and oh, what was that? Was that jealousy he was hearing? Little Miss Poised and Composed lost control of her voice.

But before they could really get into it, Carlos showed up, a bit dirtied and bruised, struggling to carry several large heavy bags. “Hey guys, what’d I miss?”

Evie sent a sharp glare at Mal. “Apparently Mal used to hook up with Uma and if I was understanding right, Jay used to hook up with Harry Hook and they didn’t tell us.”

“What?” Carlos almost dropped the bags, which made Jay take a few of the heaviest off his hands. Carlos scanned their faces and apparently the angry look on Evie’s face, Mal turning away from them and marching off and Jay avoiding his eyes – for some reason even he didn’t know– convinced him it wasn’t a joke. “Oh,” he muttered sullenly, maybe feeling like they couldn’t trust him – Jay couldn’t think of why else he would sound like that.

Evie stalked off after Mal. “You get back here Mal Bertha, we’re not done talking.”

Oh oh, bad words.

And look at that, he was right.

Mal whirled around, eyes flashing that disturbing acid green, thrusting a finger in Evie’s face. “What did I say about calling me that?” she hissed.

Though that didn’t seem to faze the princess, as she only scoffed. “Oh, should I call you something else. Like Miss Secret Keeper, or Miss Fish Lover?”

Jay almost whistled. Youch this was about to get serious.

Though this time he seemed to be wrong, as Mal only clenched her jaw and in a display of impressive control, didn’t curse her best friend, and only stalked off again. Though she didn’t completely let it go. “I don’t go asking around about your trysts.”

Okay a bit unfair, Jay thought seeing how pained Evie looked. “You know what those are about Mal.”

“Yeah, and I don’t go asking for the names of those scumbags to beat them up.”

“Mal you can’t beat up every nasty boy that gets close to me.” At least Evie now sounded more amused than hurt.

“Watch me.” He could barely make out Mal’s grumble as they walked away, while the boys carried the supplies.

As their voices faded the further away they got, he allowed himself his signature smug smirk. Humming to himself, Jay turned and raised his eyebrows at Carlos, head tilted in the girls’ direction.

He didn’t even have to say anything to be understood. Carlos groaned, rolling his eyes. “Ugh, fine, yeah, I see it.”

“So will you help me?”

“Look, Jay, we see it, but they don’t. And you know how Mal gets when she’s defensive.”

“Honestly, Carlos, you haven’t seen them as much as I have. I don’t know how much longer I can take. I swear I’m locking them in a small room together when I really can’t take it anymore.”

“Now, you’re just being dramatic.”

“Oh, no, trust me. I’m not.”

 

 

Jay was honestly exhausted.

Could Cotillion end already? It was all too dramatic, Uma and Mal and Octo-Uma and Mal-Dragon, and that True Love’s kiss that really seemed a bit bogus – Uma barely had that spellbook for a day and he knew from watching Mal that magic needed practice and time, which Uma couldn’t have had, so he wouldn’t trust that spell or that kiss.

But maybe he was a bit biased, with all he’d seen on the Isle and the whole we-got-together-because-of-a-love-spell. He could see them as great friends but this whole relationship was a real as Harry Hook’s hook.

As he leaned on the railing of the ship, he kept eyeing Mal and Ben. For two supposed ‘True Loves’ they really weren’t comfortable together.

He was the last one to know anything about love, he mused as he swept his eyes along everyone, lingering on Carlos and Jane, rubbing his hand over his chest – he probably had heartburn – but he didn’t think six months were enough for that True Love Bullshit. Then again Auradon was ridiculous like that, if the stories of the older generation were to be believed.

He noticed Evie standing a little ways off, staring at Mal and Ben with a strange expression on her face, looking a little lonely.

So he sidled up to her, painting his usual lazy grin on his face to hopefully put her more at ease. “What’s troubling you, my lady?”

He watched as she wiped her face from all emotion, concerned – she hadn’t needed to do that in a long time now; this must have been serious.

“Hey, Jay. Enjoying yourself?” She gave him her usual dazzling smile, but it was so very plastic he was afraid it would crack along her face.

So he gave her an unamused look, his serious face making her drop her smile as she realized he wasn’t fooled. “Seriously, princess, what’s wrong?”

She turned to face the royal couple again, watching them with a confused, sad look on her face. “I just never thought Mal would hide something this big from us, till she literally ran away to the Isle, you know.”

He had a feeling that wasn’t just why she was sad.

“Is that really what’s bothering?”

Evie gave him a frustrated look. “Well, what else could it be. Aren’t you upset she didn’t tell you?”

He put a steady hand on her shoulder, waving a hand at Mal. “Well, that’s not really our style. Me and her usually are the physical venting type.”

She turned that devastated look back to the dance floor. “Well, she usually tells me. And she didn’t. I don’t know why she pushed me away.”

“Well, did you ask her?”

“No.”

“I think you should.”

“I know I should. But I can’t right now.”

And before he could stop her, she gave one last sad look at Mal, then she headed towards Doug.

Personally, Jay thought she looked heartbroken.

But what did he know about love, he thought again with another look at Carlos.

As he saw that Ben was now talking to his parents, he decided maybe he should have a talk with her royal purple mess.

He made sure to make his steps loud – a startled Mal resulted in a bruised Jay, and he didn’t want that on top of everything.

“Hey, Terror.”

“Don’t call me that,” she said halfheartedly, almost making Jay stop in his tracks.

Sheesh, for a party, they were all depressing. Well except Carlos, he amended with another look at him.

So he decided to take the Evie approach to this. “Jeez, who died?” Well not the whole Evie approach. “I thought you’d be more excited to turn into a dragon and to find your True Love?” He didn’t need the air quotes to make the capitals heard.

 “Yeah. True love,” Mal said absently, completely ignoring the dragon part, which made Jay seriously worried; she’d obsessed about inheriting that ability back on the Isle and now she wasn’t even paying it attention.

“No, seriously, Mal, what’s up?”

She shook her head as though to knock some annoying thoughts from there. “Nothing. It’s just weird. That whole True Love thing.”

Well, good, she sounded as skeptical as he was about that whole bullshit. Though he knew that wouldn’t change her mind about staying in her relationship.

He wasn’t really worried about her relationship lasting – it would explode when Mal did after she remembered that, True Love kiss or not, she ran to the Isle for a reason and that was that she was never meant to be a Lady, never mind the Queen. He was more worried the girls would both be heartbroken before the whole mess resolved itself.

“What about it?”

“I don’t know. It all doesn’t feel real. It’s weird. Anyway, you liking the party?”

“Not really,” he admitted, as they never really seriously lied to each other all those years they knew each other.

She gave him an answering grimace. “How ‘bout the others?” She didn’t really wait for his answer, sweeping her eyes over the deck, landing on Carlos and Jane with a look he couldn’t read. “Honestly not what I expected him to use it for.”

“Use what for?” Jay tilted his head at her, staring at that shock of white hair.

“Nothing.” She gave him a side look, before her eyes fell on Evie and Doug, a look similar to Evie’s previous confused one overtaking her face. “Well. They look like they’re having fun,” she said, a rough quality to her voice.

“Well how ‘bout you?”

“Well—”

But she didn’t finish before Ben was back, gently tugging her back to the dance floor. “Come on, my Lady, lets dance.”

That looked to be the last thing Mal wanted to do, but she only sighed a, “Sure,” waving Jay off when he looked at her in concern.

Well, that girl looked as miserable as Evie. Speaking of, she was back to staring at the dance floor with a forlorn look and he didn’t think it was because she wanted a crown for herself.

Ugh. Idiots. He was friends with idiots.

He couldn’t take more of this tonight, so he marched off to Evie, tugging her away from Doug, ignoring his protests.

“I think you should talk to her now,” he told her once out of earshot.

“What? Jay, she’s in the middle of a dance!” She looked at him like he was the idiot, and he clenched his jaw, breathing out his frustration.

“I don’t think Ben would mind.” He wasn’t sure about that, but he didn’t care. “But I think if you keep putting this off, you won’t get to it and it will build up, until one of you explodes.”

Evie still looked at him like he’d lost his mind, but she seemed to be debating it, her face settling into her I-will-get-what-I-want look that no one should cross. She sharply nodded and headed towards the Not-likely-True-Love pair.

Her look must have been very convincing, as with a few words, Ben let go of Mal and stepped away, giving them a thoughtful look.

Really, was everyone seeing this except for those two idiots?

He watched the girls as they started to dance, and while he would have expected Evie to lead given her whole bullshit royal lessons, he was surprised to see Mal lead her into what looked like a practiced dance.

Figures that they had even more going on.

Looking at them, he couldn’t help but notice how good they looked together, the colors of their hair blending together with the speed of their movements. Apparently Ben might agree, if the troubled look on his face was anything to go by.

Jay finally dragged his eyes away, till they settled, again, on Carlos and Jane who were also now dancing, and he couldn’t stop the thought that they didn’t look good together at all.

He jerked, shaking his head, and turning to face the ocean.

It had obviously been a long day. He wasn’t thinking straight. Really nothing was straight. Or how it should be.

True Love. Pft. Right.

 

 

Yeesh, relationships were too much drama in Auradon.

Never thought he’d miss anything about the Isle or that things there would be less complicated. Though thinking about two specific pirates, Jay had to admit their own drama there was maybe a bit, well, more deadly serious.

“Sheesh, people are breaking up a lot these days. First Evie and Doug, now Mal and Ben. And you haven’t been around Jane since I don’t know when,” Jay said, laying on his bed in his dorm, tossing a small ball into the air and catching it.

“Since Cotillion,” Carlos said absently, focused on improving the 3D printer.

“What?” Jay sat up from his lazy sprawl across his bed. “I thought you were dating?”

“I only asked her as friends. Not like anyone else was lining up to go with me.” He shrugged, appearing unconcerned.

But Jay was feeling offended on his behalf. “Not true! Anyone would be lucky to have you!”

Carlos shot him a look he couldn’t understand, though he didn’t say anything more on that. “Why are you bringing this up now, anyway?”

“Well this whole week was full of them and no one in this school would shut up about it.”

“Well, ignore them.” He shrugged, carefully prying open the panel.

Ugh, he hated when he got like that, so he tossed the ball at his back.

Well, he got his attention, alright. “Ow!” Carlos dropped his screwdriver, turning to fix him with that really-not-intimidating angry look that Jay would admit he tried a bit too much to see.

He ignored that, overcome with a strange urge to know. “So you were never with Jane?”

“No. Why are you so interested?” Carlos stopped rubbing his shoulder to give him that unreadable look.

He shrugged, heart pounding, making sure to look unconcerned. “Just checking. Thought I knew. Anyway, what’s actually more important, Carlos, is that both Mal and Evie are single right now.”

“Ugh, not this again.”

“Have you not been paying attention to them?” He heaved himself off the bed, heading towards Carlos.

The other boy only stubbornly stared at him for a moment before conceding, “Okay, yeah, they’re depressing. And hopeless. But we shouldn’t get involved.”

“They’re driving me crazy! That’s plenty reason enough. I wasn’t kidding about locking them together.”

It took Carlos a bit to remember – it did feel like it happened in another lifetime – before he scoffed, stooping to pick up the screwdriver, tossing his hair out of his eyes, which Jay found a bit hard to look away from. “So you decided you wanted to drive me crazy with you? No thanks.”

He was finally barely a few inches away from him, not that he seemed to notice as he focused back on the printer. So, without giving him a warning, Jay wrapped an arm around his neck – now barely taller than him because of actual food and that damned growth spurt – and ruffled his hand through black and white hair, slower than usual. And for some reason he didn’t want to think about right now, he found he didn’t really want to let go.

“Jay! Get off, you ass!”

“Nope. Anyway, I’m not driving you crazy, I’m just bored.”

“Same difference.”

“Not really.”

“Well, stop using me to entertain yourself.”

He finally let him go, though not before his tongue got away from him, “Oh, Carlos, you would definitely know if I was using you, especially if it was to entertain me.”

They both froze, staring at each other.

Jay didn’t know where that came from, but before he could regret it, he watched with a rather intense focus as red blood flooded across freckled cheeks, spreading along his neck.

Absently he wondered if that blush spread any further, before he abruptly shook that out of his head.

But before he could say anything, Carlos spoke, voice strangely choked, “So you’re going to keep bothering me because you’re bored?”

He decided he’d go along with him. “Pretty much.”

“Fine. If I take you out, will you stop being so annoying?”

“That’s pretty much impossible,” Jay answered automatically, before he actually registered the words, relief flooding him at the prospect of doing something that he missed the actual meaning of the words. “Awesome. Lets go to the movies.”

“Alright.” For some reason, Carlos still sounded choked. Maybe he was coming down with something.

Jay started heading to the door, maybe they’d stop to get some medicine too, opening it before he was stopped.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m getting the girls. We can go mock the new horror movie. And maybe this will distract them from that whole break up mess.”

He didn’t wait for an answer, heading out and thus missing the way Carlos squeezed his eyes shut, pinching the bridge of his nose, all while repeatedly muttering, “Idiot.”

It didn’t take long to make it to their dorm. He barged into the girls’ room, stopping when he saw them, colorful heads tilted together, with their arms around each other as they bent over something on the desk.

He rolled his eyes, because he didn’t know how much more he could take of this, especially as they jumped apart at the sound of the door, turning to him.

“Jay!” Mal didn’t even have to say anything more to understand her.

Didn’t mean he didn’t ignore her. “Whatever. Come on girls, we’re going to the movies.”

“I thought you hated the movies here,” Evie asked, composure back intact.

“They’re all just so lame. We’re going to go mock the new horror movie.”

He knew that would work as he saw Mal perk up as Evie closed her eyes in resignation, aware that if she wanted to object, she’d just lost. “I’m in. Come on, E. I need to destress.” Mal hopped off the chair, holding her hand out to Evie, who closed her eyes, giving a helpless smile and sigh as she was tugged to the door.

Looking at their interlocked fingers, Jay allowed himself a devious smile. He wasn’t even trying to do anything.

But he honestly didn’t need to interfere much, they could get themselves on a date just fine. Their problem was how oblivious they were.

Who wouldn’t know when they were on a date? Really, who could be so dense?

 

 

Ah, if there was one thing Jay was good at, it was fighting. And sword fighting when your life didn’t depend on it made it even more fun. He even liked it more now.

He always enjoyed being active and R.O.A.R was just his kind of thing. Lonnie was tough but fair, running them through their paces. And he might have known a lot of sword fighting, but his technique was more street and dirty fighting, and it was always to one’s advantage to study other styles.

He collapsed on the seat beside Carlos, who was wiping his hair with a towel – Jay wouldn’t it admit to anyone, but he really missed his curls, his hair just didn’t feel the same now.

Jay gulped down half his bottle, dumping the rest over his head, shaking it before he dragged his fingers through his long hair, sweeping it away from his face, his eyes now unobstructed to see Carlos giving him a weird look, his hand now still on his neck.

“What?”

Carlos shook his head, dragging the towel to the top of his head, his face hidden under the fluffy material – it was still weird how everything was clean here, and soft.

But before he could question him further, someone plopped themselves on his other side.

It was Lonnie, somehow managing to not look like the mess both of them were. “You know, I always like the exchange of techniques we have going on. You two are the only challenge in R.O.A.R, really.”

Jay raised his empty bottle at her, saluting her. “Always a pleasure, Lonnie.”

But they couldn’t continue that delightful banter as a squeak rang through the room. They all turned when they heard the door open, seeing Dizzy bounce into the room, followed by Mal and Evie.

Oh yeah, they were all taking Dizzy to get some ice cream. How such a small girl could be so loud he still didn’t know.

As Dizzy bounced over to the seat next to Lonnie, he looked again at the older girls and at the sight of them immersed in conversation and with their fingers so interlocked they might as well have been knots, he couldn’t help but scoff, which attracted the attention of his seatmates.

“What?” Lonnie asked him, with a raise of her eyebrow.

He couldn’t even bring himself to say anything, only grunting and sharply pointing at their idiot friends.

It should say something that Lonnie didn’t even need an explanation. “Oh, that.”

Carlos followed his finger, groaning when he saw who it was, though he didn’t seem surprised. “Jay.”

“No look. It’s been over a year, since the Isle, even, and they’re still like this. If something doesn’t happen, I’m going to snap.”

Dizzy craned her neck to see what they were talking about. “Oh, you see it too!” She sounded excited, almost lunging across Lonnie to get closer to him, which made the older girl move her to her lap.

“Who doesn’t?” Jay rolled his eyes.

“What’s happening on that front Dizzy?” Lonnie asked.

“Well, honestly after the library, they seemed worse. And I don’t even know if they’re together or not.” It was the first time he saw the excitable girl look anything but happy, but now she seemed almost exasperated.

The secret of Mal and Evie; they were enough to drive a ten-year-old to show early signs of being a teen.

How?” Lonnie asked disbelievingly.

“I don’t know!” Dizzy threw her arms up – making Lonnie move back in alarm so she wouldn’t hit her in the face – though she didn’t raise her voice, apparently not wanting the girls in question to hear them.

“Why? What happened in the library?” It was nice to see he wasn’t the only one being driven crazy by them.

“Dizzy here told me and Jane about how Mal and Evie were like on the Isle.”

Jay stared at the little girl, impressed. “And you were able to tell them everything?”

“Of course not.” Dizzy scoffed. Yup, early teenager. He was going grey early and she was going sassy early. Thank you Mal and Evie. “I barely told them three stories before they interrupted us.”

“Typical.” Jay sighed, crinkling his bottle before pausing, hands stilling. “Wait, what kind of stories?”

“Honestly, it almost sounded like one of the popular romance novels. She even told me that they learned how to dance together.” Lonnie shook her head. Looked like the girls wanted to kill them all. Unintentionally, of course, but still.

“Ugh.” He dragged his hand over his face. “It’s somehow even worse. Well, at least that explains that whole thing with Cotillion.”

“When they danced?” Carlos asked, looking thoughtfully at the most frustrating girls that ever existed.

“Yeah. Still think we shouldn’t do anything?”

“Look,” Carlos sighed, “I just don’t think we should meddle. Not only will Mal kill us and burn us to a crisp, because she’s a dragon in case you forgot, but Evie will get mad and honestly I’m more scared of what she would do because—”

“—An angry Evie is a terrifying Evie,” both Jay and Dizzy chimed in with him, causing Lonnie to give them a worried look as though she was going to ask, but then she shook her head, obviously deciding she was better off not knowing. Smart girl.

“Exactly,” Carlos continued, unphased that they said the same thing. It was a hard and unforgettable lesson to learn. “Plus, I wouldn’t want them messing with my love life either.” Here he stared at the girls, not looking at anyone else as a flush climbed up his neck and painted across his cheeks, which Jay couldn’t drag his eyes away from for some reason and which made Lonnie nudge Carlos with her foot. Whatever that meant.

“You have a love life?” The answer to that question seemed to suddenly be the most important thing he would ever learn.

“Shut up.” He still wouldn’t look at anybody.

But he didn’t get to press him as Mal’s voice rang out across the room, conversation apparently finished. “Come on guys, Dizzy. We don’t have all day. You know how busy Evie is.”

Dizzy squealed, basically bursting all their eardrums, scurrying off Lonnie’s lap and bounding to the girls, nestling against Evie’s side.

Carlos sighed, face lined with exhaustion, gathering his stuff before he slowly stood and walked away, throwing a brief, “Bye, Captain,” over his shoulder.

Jay almost stayed in his seat, but one look at flashing green eyes had him heaving himself to his feet, because Carlos was right as always, and it was better not to poke the sleeping dragon.

Dragging his duffle over his shoulder, he stopped, glancing at Lonnie. “Want to join us?” he asked her, head tilted at the rest of the group.

Lonnie stared at him for a bit, then stared past him and shook her head. “I think I’d like to not lose my brain cells. I think I’ll just look for Jane.”

“Alright.”

“Good luck.”

“Thanks.” He grunted before he started to walk to the door.

He almost sighed in relief when he saw Mal and Evie disentangle their hands, before groaning when he saw it was only to wrap their arms around each other, allowing Dizzy to tug them along with their free hands.

Ugh. Well, at least this time he could eat something sickeningly sweet while looking at something sickeningly sweet.

Seriously could they just get together and spare them all the agony of watching their stumbling tango of will they won’t with the lovely addition of have they already? Though it might be good for now; they could be even worse if they got together. He had enough torture on the Isle, thank you very much.

 

 

 

“So I finally asked them.”

“Who?”

“Fairy Godmother. Mal and Evie, duh.”

“Right. And?”

“And all I can say is that for such usually smart people, they’re kind of being stupid.”

“What? What do you mean it didn’t work! Dizzy, you said you left them that notebook!”

“We did! I just didn’t know how stubborn they are!”

“That’s it! I’m doing what I should have done since the Isle.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m locking them in a closet. And leaving them in there, for everyday they made me watch their hopeless asses.”

“Jay, no!”

“Sorry ‘Los, but Jay yes.”