Jay walked around the courtyard, nervously running a shaking hand through his hair. They had decided to redo Family Day in the Spring. Jay thought that was probably an iffy idea, but it seemed to be holding up okay so far. But Carlos had walked away with Evie to talk fashion, and Mal was with Ben again. So he was left alone, with all the shiny, expensive things around him and his hands shaking, and he needed Carlos .
He tried to take deep breaths and remembered that Carlos had offered to stay with him, and Jay had told him he could handle it. He sat down in the shade under a tree off to the side, where hopefully no one could see him. “Stupid,” he whispered to himself. “Stupid, Jay.” He squeezed his eyes shut and ran shaking hands through his hair. It was probably all messed up by now. He couldn’t find it in himself to care.
He tensed as he felt someone sit down next to him. “Hey,” someone said. It was a man, not a voice he recognized. Something deep inside him told him to run, stranger, threat! The more rational part of his brain told him this was Family Day at a school in Auradon, it was unlikely someone was trying to kill him.
He tried to push himself off the ground anyway, tried to get away from this stranger seeing him vulnerable. His arms were shaking too much. He tried to open his eyes, but they felt stuck. He felt stuck.
“Hey, hey,” the man said. “Maybe you should breathe?” The question was gentle, and Jay realized he had been holding his breath. He gasped, breathing raggedly.
“No, here, how bout you breathe with me?” the man asked. He took loud, slow, purposeful breaths and Jay tried to mimic him.
Once Jay got his breathing a little more under control, the man said, “Good, okay, now, can you tell me your name?”
Jay hesitated. He wasn’t in his right mind, but he knew the danger of telling a stranger who he was. Still. This guy had helped him, and he probably knew Jay’s name already anyway. “Jay,” he rasped.
“Okay, Jay, and can you tell me a few things you can feel?”
“Um, okay,” Jay said, confused. “Um, the tree, the ground. Uh. The wind.”
“That’s good,” the man said. “You don’t have to open your eyes yet if you don’t want to.” Jay kept his eyes shut. “Okay, now, is there someone you’re here with? Someone I should get?”
“Um, Carlos,” Jay said. “The, the one in all red, white and black.” He tried to chuckle, but it caught in his throat, and he coughed instead.
“Okay, and maybe some water too,” the man said, and Jay heard him get up and walk away. He stayed there, focused on breathing, and slowly, he opened his eyes. The sun was bright, and he squinted, taking in the people and the lake, before his eyes started immediately catching on all the fancy things, and he was reminded why he had closed them in the first place. He stared straight at the tree instead, and nothing else, until he heard footsteps returning to where he sat, two sets this time.
He looked over, focusing on the two of them. He took in Carlos first, his worried face, his wavy hair, the adorable tilt to his mouth he got when he was stressed. Then he looked to the man next to him, the one who had helped him. He was tall, tan, dressed casually, had black hair. He looked strangely familiar, but Jay knew he’d never met him before. They both sat down, the man right in front of him, cross legged, Carlos right next to him.
The man held out a glass of water to him. Jay eyed it, then glanced to Carlos, who very slightly nodded his head. Satisfied, Jay took the water and sipped it slowly. “Thanks,” he said finally.
The man smiled. It was a kind smile. Jay could tell the difference. “Of course,” he said, before falling silent. He looked awkward. “I’m sorry, I don’t really know you,” he said. “I don’t really know what to say.”
Jay tried to smile back. “It’s okay. Thank you for helping me. Only Carlos has been able to do that before,” he said, and immediately felt mortified at revealing so much. His filter after one of these attacks was… well it was less than normal, to say the least.
“I’m sorry, I don’t think I’ve introduced myself,” the man said. “I’m, um, I’m Aladdin.” He smiled sheepishly. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before.”
Jay’s expression didn’t change, but his brain was freaking out. He looked at Carlos, who looked, not necessarily shocked, but his eyes were wide. So Carlos hadn’t known, but he’d suspected. “Um, okay,” Jay said. “You know who I am, right?”
Aladdin looked relieved. “Yeah, I do.”
Jay nodded, feeling awkward himself. “Okay. That’s, um, good.” Carlos reached for his hand, and Jay held onto it like a lifeline.
Aladdin looked up, his face a bit determined. “You know, Jay, you and I seem a lot alike.”
Jay looked at him, confused, until Aladdin gestured to his still shaking hands and then to the courtyard in general, all the expensive decoration on display.
Jay’s eyes widened. “I didn’t-” he started.
“I know,” Aladdin said. “Because I had that too, and I still have it, sometimes. But it will get easier. I promise.”
Jay nodded, ducking his head, trying to hide his naked expression of relief.
“I was actually wondering if you might want to come to Agrabah sometime?” Aladdin rushed out. “You are technically from there, and I could show you around. I’d like to get to know you a little better. You could bring your friends.” He looked so hopeful.
Jay’s breath caught in his throat. Go to Agrabah? With Aladdin? It was everything he’d ever wanted and everything he’d ever hated, all in one. Carlos squeezed his hand, and Jay drew strength from it. “Yeah,” he found himself saying. “Yeah, I’d like that.”
Aladdin beamed. “That’s great! I’ll get Jasmine, she’ll want to meet you too! I’ll be right back.” He got up and rushed away, absentmindedly waving over his shoulder as he left.
Jay looked at Carlos and let out a shaky breath. “We’re going to Agrabah,” he whispered.
Carlos beamed at him. “Yeah. We are,” he said, and leaned his forehead against Jay’s. “I’m so proud of you,” he said.
“For what?” asked Jay.
“For being brave enough to say yes. And for accepting help when you need it.”
Jay smiled. Maybe things were getting better.