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“That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.”or The Gang goes to Walt Disney World

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No one really knows really how the idea started. We were all hanging out down in Hudson’s lair, throwing axes and shooting the shit when the subject of favorite Disney movie came up. Flint and Eden had been playing against each other in Mariokart on the switch, but when they heard the subject of Disney they’d immediately abandoned the game. Macy had surprisingly enough taken up crocheting and was currently battling with strings of yarn she was trying to wrangle into a ball. She’d roped Mehki into helping so he was currently cracking jokes while looking very macho with bright rainbow yarn spread between his hands.

“My favorite is probably a tie between The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.” I said, tapping my chin with my index finger, lounging against Hudson as he fiddled with his phone. “What about you?”

“I don’t really have a favorite, I remember watching Aladdin with Jaxon though, maybe Sword in the Stone.” Hudson replied, glancing over at Jaxon who was sitting between Eden and Flint in front of a projection screen. We had both been carefully observing how Flint and Jaxon had grown closer over the last few months. It had been like watching a snail race, honestly, but we could both see the attraction that was slowly starting to grow.

“What? You didn’t like Hunchback of Notre Dame? It has prime gargoyle rep.” Mehki teased from his spot next to Macy, his hands still up as the perfect yarn detangler. I rolled my eyes, but laughed all the same.

“Aladdin was my favorite, but I like all of them honestly.” Jaxon confessed after a few moments, everyone surprised. He’d been coming out of his shell more and more since we’d gotten back. Flint slammed his hand down on the coffee table, making all of us jump.

“Listen, no one cares about your favorite Disney movie, what’s your favorite Disney ride?” The gleam in Flint’s amber eyes were almost manic as Eden nodded eagerly as though that was the true judgment of character.

“The original Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios in Orlando, by far, hands down the best ride out of every single Disney park.” Eden said leaning back on the couch with her arms crossed as though waiting for a debate.

I shrugged. “I went to Disneyland a few times growing up, but I haven’t been since I was like eight or nine.”

“I liked the one with all the dolls! It was so cute.” Maci piped in, ready to give up on her yarn efforts. Mehki sighed as she finally relieved them.

“We never actually went to the parks,” Hudson admitted with a shrug that mirrored my own, but then directed the rest of his statement towards his brother. “Unless the Bloodletter took you on any field trips I’m not aware of?”

Jaxon snorted at the idea, shaking his head.

“I never went either, heat and vampires aren’t exactly on the best terms.” Mehki mentioned dryly. I had never thought about how their cooler body temperatures might’ve been viewed as odd in a hotter climate.

Flint and Eden both had matching looks of devastation at the idea.

“You three have never been to a Disney park?” Eden was horrified while Flint looked like he was going to cry before shaking his head, his hair bouncing in sync.

“Unacceptable. We’re going.” Flint stood to his feet and looked over at Eden who nodded in agreement.

“Who has the property at Golden Oak next week?” Eden hadn’t questioned whether the rest of us had plans for the first week of summer, had simply grabbed her phone and immediately started coordinating.

“Wait, you can’t just assume we all can drop everything to go to a theme park. Besides, isn’t Disney hella expensive?” I exclaimed. I was flabbergasted, but the rest of the group seemed ready to go with the flow of it. Jaxon had been watching Flint with a soft smile that made my heart glow. It was nice to see him happy and in love, even if he didn’t know it yet.

Eden rolled her eyes at my statement of expense which made me remember the fat envelopes I’d gotten at the Dragon Court when we’d been there suddenly. I suppose it wasn’t as much an issue as I thought.

“I don’t really have any plans I can think of,” Hudson said in my ear, making me shiver. “But I suppose I’ll have to go veg for a few days if we want to survive in the Orlando sunshine.”

I almost wanted to bail on the entire idea at the mention of Hudson having to restrict himself to only animal blood, but then I saw Macy’s face light up. “I’m sure my dad wouldn’t mind me and Grace going!”

If it made her smile that big, there was no way I was staying in Alaska.

“My mom says there has to be an adult to stay with us at Golden Oak,” Eden made a face at the idea of supervision. “Because last time we almost got banned from Epcot.”
Flint groaned, flopping back onto the couch, his arm jostling Jaxon’s. “Fine, but at lest Finn is cool.”
*****

Before we knew it, we were all in the heat and the humidity of sunny Orlando. As a California girl I thought I knew heat, but the humidity was something else. Stepping off the shuttle to the luxury house in Golden Oak, my hair had immediately frizzed and sweat dotted my skin like a cold drink taken out of a refrigerator.

I don’t think Flint or Eden had stopped acting like a tour guide since we stepped foot onto the tarmac at Orlando International Airport. They’d even insisted on the shuttle driver taking us to the different themed resorts before dropping us off at where we were staying. I couldn’t decide what was more surprising, that the resorts were just as elaborate as the park or that there was an actual neighborhood in the middle of Walt Disney World property where people could own a house and live right next to the theme parks. Disneyland was fun, but it was only a fraction of the size of the Orlando counterpart.

“So we’re going to hit Magic Kingdom’s rope drop tomorrow, but probably park hop after lunch once the parks clear out of little kids for nap time.” Flint reiterated for what had to be the eighth time as we all walked into the luxurious vacation house. It was nicer than even the rooms we’d stayed at in New York City when we’d visited the Dragon Court. But it was also a vacation house for the elite among them, so I’m not sure why I was surprised. Eden had nodded in agreement, chiming in with any details that Flint forgot.

Uncle Finn was the last one to walk into the house. He looked exhausted, I couldn’t help but wonder if he didn’t feel like this vacation was less work than his actual job.

“What’s rope drop?” Mehki asked curiously as he and Jaxon carried in the rest of the luggage. Hudson was looking out the back window, watching the sun sink below the palms.

“That’s when the park officially opens, right?” Jaxon replied, looking to the two dragons for confirmation. The look of delight on Flint’s face when he realized Jaxon had been paying attention while the rest of us had tuned him and Eden out was so blindingly happy I felt like I needed sunglasses.

“Exactly.” Flint agreed as Macy came skipping back into the main living room.

“Does everyone know what they’re supposed to wear for our Disneybound tomorrow?” She asked eagerly and that’s when I realized I’d missed something as everyone else nodded. Mehki smirked at my look of confusion.

“Did you miss that part of the group chat, Grace?”

“I muted it after I woke up with two hundred notifications.” I confessed. Hudson’s shoulders were shaking as he tried to hold back a laugh from behind Macy. My cousin shook her head in gentle disappointment.

“It’s fine, I have everyone’s planned for tomorrow, Grace.” Macy then launched into an expansive explanation of how we were all “subtly” dressing as Disney characters but not in a way that would distract from the actual character performers, hand gestures and pictures of the outfits she’d pulled together on her phone. “We’re all going to be different princesses and princes!”

“Okay, as long as it’s not hot.” I agreed, pleased at the outfit she showed me for my Ariel Disney bound. It was a purple button down tank top with a cute green mini skirt. The skirt and the canvas sneakers both had glittery mermaid scale patterns. Hudson had been assigned Eric, which wasn’t Armani, but he’d been a good sport about it, his ensemble consisted of jeans, a white shirt, and a red belt. He balked slightly at the belt, but after seeing my pleading glance he agreed as well.

Macy had handed out the rest of the assignments and with one last reminder, Flint and Eden insisted everyone go to bed. Surprisingly enough, Uncle Finn had been long absent from our planning. He had explained to everyone he planned on sitting by the pool tomorrow, but he’d come to the parks if we needed him. I think my uncle needed a break more than the rest of us.

The house was quiet as I got up for a glass of water, I’d felt Hudson stirring as well and found him sitting on the back screened in porch. Yet again I was struck by the sticky humidity as I joined him, the buzzing of cicadas outside almost louder than my thoughts.

“Anything wrong?” I asked quietly, sitting in the white rocking chair beside him. Hudson shook his head, his chin on his fist, his other hand held out for mine. I laced my fingers with his, turning my gaze to the night as well.

“It’s just so strange,” It had been quiet for so long I’d been about to doze back off. “I never expected to do something so…”

“So what?”

“So mortal.” Hudson finished, finally looking my way. “Grace, if someone had told me a year ago that I’d be at a theme park with my brother and a group of friends. I would’ve assumed they were actually insane, on a level of someone who should be in a padded room.”

My heart constricted in my chest. This wasn’t where I expected to end up either. I squeezed his hand tightly. “It’s okay to be uncomfortable, if you want to stay back here—”

“I’m not.” He interrupted me before I could finish. Blinking in surprise, I stared. Hudson smiled slightly. “I’m stupidly excited. I feel like a kid, or what a kid is supposed to feel like. I’m out here because I legitimately cannot sleep because I can’t wait to listen to those two blasted dragons blather on about a theme park.”

Again, my heart was full. This time it was overflowing. Unable to hold back, I flung myself at Hudson, not at all surprised when he caught me and held me just as tightly. “So you don’t mind wearing matching outfits?”

I could hear the laugh in his chest against mine. “Maybe a bit, but don’t tell Macy.”

***
The next morning was a blur as we got into the park. Eden and Flint didn’t allow anyone to breakfast, rather, they insisted on park food only. The rope drop was the most ridiculous experience I’d ever encountered as we followed them in. Everyone wanted to race off to the rides after being hyped the entire flight out here, but I forced everyone in front of the castle for a picture.

Surprisingly, no one complained despite the clear excitement thrumming between us all. We slowly worked our way through the park, letting Flint and Eden’s explanations wash over us.

I was still laughing as we stepped off the ridiculous Jungle Cruise. The jokes had tears in my eyes while Macy had elbowed Eden more than once to stop saying the punchlines under her breath. Not all of us had spent our childhood memorizing this place after all. Hudson had groaned at every joke, but smirked all the same.

It wasn’t until we got to the Pirates of the Caribbean queue that we realized we were missing Jaxon. Mehki and Jaxon had went to purchase sunglasses after underestimating the Orlando sunshine but when Mehki returned, he was as baffled as the rest of us at the disappearance.

“It’s not like he was going to get a Dole Whip or anything.” Eden pointed out as we all begin to look around. We’d decided the night before I’d be the only one to carry a phone so we could really live in the moment, so there was no way to contact him.

“I could do a locator spell,” Macy offered, looking uneasy at the idea of doing a spell with so many humans around.

“Let’s just take a break, Jaxon didn’t get kidnapped, maybe he’s just stopped at the water closet. We’ll wait here for him. He can’t have gone far.” Hudson pointed out, sitting down on a bench crossing his ankle over his knee. I plopped down beside him, closing my eyes for a moment.

“But wait, let’s go back to the Dole Whip, what exactly is a dole whip?” Macy asked. Eden looped her arm through hers and began dragging her towards the stand with the sweet citrusy frozen treat as Mehki followed behind with a shrug. Flint still looked slightly concerned, but also followed.

“You don’t seem too worried.” I pointed out in amusement. Hudson smirked and nodded towards a corner where I could see a crowd. I stood back up, craning my neck to see exactly what was drawing everyone in.

After a moment, two performers dressed as Aladdin and Jasmine appeared to shouts and applause. I realized it was a meet and greet area and everyone was being shuffled into a line. I scanned the crowd and realized that Jaxon was smack dab in the middle, his hands in his pockets.

“Oh. My. God.” I grabbed Hudson’s arm and begin dragging him towards the line. He dug in his heels and stopped me gently.

“No, we can’t get too close. We’ll spook the poor lad.” Hudson joked as he pulled us behind a bit of scenery. We all had bands on our wrists that automatically scanned in any pictures we took, but I wanted this moment on my phone.

“We’ve got to take a picture.” I insisted, pulling out my phone and trying to zoom in perfectly. “This is for posterity.”

“Or blackmail.” Hudson added and I laughed. Jaxon was obviously slightly embarrassed to be the only teenager in a line of mostly children and their parents. But we could hear Aladdin and Jasmine welcoming him just as happily as they had the kids and the stiffness dropped from his shoulders. We couldn’t hear what they said exactly, but Jaxon allowed Jasmine to pose him between the two of them.

Before Jaxon could spot us though, we scrambled back to our bench, trying to look nonchalant as he appeared looking more than a bit flustered. I was surprised to see a bit of color on his cheeks too. Could vampires blush?

“Where’s everyone else?” Jaxon asked, his voice breathless. We pretended not to notice, not meeting each other’s eye to keep from losing our cool.

“Getting dole whips.” I explained as he nodded, running his hand through his hair.

“Where were you, little brother?” Hudson asked, only the slightest bit of teasing in his voice. It was enough to make Jaxon stiffen in defense.

“Sunglasses.” He reminded, pulling the pair he’d bought with Mehki out of his pocket.

“Mehki came back without you.” I pointed out, still trying to pry without obvious persuasion. But Jaxon was saved from answering as Macy, Eden, Flint, and Mehki returned.

“Oh there you are, you ready for Pirates?” Flint asked, grinning broadly. Macy offered me a bite of the frozen treat, but I was still full from the Sleepy Hollow Waffle I’d gotten in lieu of breakfast.

Hudson and I exchanged a look as we joined the group once more to get into the queue for the ride. We weren’t going to spill if Jaxon wasn’t, but we were still having a hard time keeping it together.

The rest of the day passed in a blur of rides, food, and laughs. Despite us not getting any time alone really, I was content with Hudson by my side. For once in a really long time, it felt like we were teenagers. Not on a mission, not the future leaders of various courts, not being hunt down by something trying to kill us or rip us apart. And if Hudson and I stole a few covert kisses in the back of various dark rides, who was going to know?

“It’s a classic, we have to go.” Macy insisted much to everyone’s displeasure as we stood in front of it’s a small world. I could hear the catchy tune from where we stood in front of the entrance. Other families with little ones barely glanced at us as they happily walked under the sign.

“It’s so boring.” Flint insisted. He gestured grandly to the rest of Fantasyland. “Literally anything else in this area is better.”

“It’s important! I read about it last night! Walt Disney designed it as a gesture of world peace!” Macy argued, her bottom lip beginning to turn out in a pout. Despite all of us being stronger and more fit than normal humans, I think the heat and the jet lag was starting to get to all of us. Tempers were starting to get short and we’d been at the park for at least ten hour already. I held out my hands between them, trying to figure out how to mediate the fight without hurting anyone’s feelings.

“Let’s just go, we’ve already rode every single ride you’ve wanted to, Flint. It’s Macy’s turn to pick.” Hudson cut in, always on Macy’s side. He’d never forgotten how she was the first one to trust him. She flashed a grateful look towards him. Flint still looked ready to argue, but Eden had returned from a gift shop with waters for everyone, handing them out. He sighed and followed everyone in.

“Flint always gets like this, he hates classic Fantasyland.” Eden explained as she lead the way. It was nice in the queue as we watched the boats fill up and waited our turn. I personally didn’t have a stake either way. The only ride I’d been dead set on were the teacups and we’d managed to ride those already. They were under a shade here in Orlando versus being out in the open air in California. “But don’t get him started on classic Tomorrowland.”

“The people mover is way better than this travesty.” Flint insisted, but stopped grumbling when Jaxon just so happened to slide in next to him. Eden and Maci sat in front of us while Mehki was on Jaxon’s other side behind us in the boat. I let the gentle swaying relax me, my head falling onto Hudson’s shoulder.

“It’s really not so bad.” I mused to Hudson as we entered the first room depicting Europe. Macy was pointing out which doll she liked the best to Eden who smirked and nodded, humoring her.

“Are you kidding? It’s absolutely awful.” He replied with a smirk and I leaned back to inspect his face. He laughed at my expression. “But Macy wanted to ride it and I don’t think Flint’s shut up all day.”

I snorted, looking behind me at the dragon to realize he’d dozed off as soon as we’d gotten still in the boat. Like a toddler, he was overstimulated. What really surprised me was that Jaxon had dozed off to somewhere in Asia. His head had fallen onto Flint’s shoulder while Flint’s mouth hung open. Mehki was tossing popcorn from the bucket he’d been carrying for Macy towards the couple and I leaned back to swat at his knee.

Let them sleep, I mouthed, not ready to deal with any more squabbling. Mehki rolled his eyes but leaned back against the row as well, his hands folded behind his head.

Despite my best efforts, I found my own eyelids falling closed. Hudson was a good pillow. But all too soon the boat was coming back into the bright sunshine and I opened my eyes. I’d missed the rest of the ride, but Macy looked pleased. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw that Mehki had dozed off too, his chin resting on his fist. I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture of the three with a soft laugh.

“What time is it?” Eden asked as we stepped out of the ride, stretching. The nap had been good for us. Everyone looked happy and energized. I glanced at my phone surprised at how quickly the day had passed.

“Wow, it’s already nine thirty.” I exclaimed, pulling out the times guide. “Didn’t we want to watch the fireworks?”

“Reflections at Epcot are better, we should try to go see those at ten thirty.” Flint cut in before anyone else could voice their desires. Eden shook her head.

“They cancelled Reflections, I think there’s a new show.” Eden explained as we began to walk towards the front of the park. We had reservations to eat dessert on a terrace in Tomorrowland. Flint began a tirade of how offended he was that they’d cancel his favorite firework show, but I found myself ignoring him.

“Are you excited for the fireworks, Grace?” Hudson asked as we meandered towards the back of the group, letting the dragons lead us once again. I smiled, putting my hand in his. I knew I had to look like a mess compared to this morning after we’d sweat all day in the humidity and the sun, but Hudson still looked as perfect as he had this morning.

“I’m excited for ice cream that’s not been shipped from Anchorage.” I joked as we were led to our table. He laughed as we all got situated.

Suddenly the lights dimmed and Cinderella’s castle lit up. I gasped as a pre-fireworks show was projected onto the bricks. I lived in a world full of magical creatures, yet there was something still so wonderful about this. Hudson’s arm on the back of my chair slipped around my waist and I scooted as close as the chairs would allow.

Then the projection ended and the fireworks began. It was a ballet of music, songs, and fire in the sky. I couldn’t help but wonder if there were cast member witches, because there was no way this was all done with technology alone.

We all gasped and oohed and ahhed. At one point, I tore my eyes away from the sky as the vocalists began to sing a song from Tangled. I looked at Hudson, unsurprised to see him smiling at me softly. I mouthed the words to him. “All at once, everything looks different,”

“Now that I see you.” I was surprised to see him mouthing them too. He leaned forward and kissed me softly on the lips before letting me turn my gaze back to the sky. It was overwhelming the sense of rightness I had with him, but today, today it felt like what he’d said the night before. We were truly and innocently happy. It was a wonder and a marvel. Something I’d be tucking into the depths of my heart to remember forever.

Towards the end, with the finale, I felt tears prickle the corners of my eyes. Happily ever after seemed so close right now, surrounded by my friends who’d become my family. I looked around, unsurprised to see that my eyes weren’t the only ones that were a bit wet.

As the lights around the park came back up, I noticed Jaxon’s hand wrapped in Flint’s, but quickly turned away. I didn’t want to jinx anything by mentioning it. Everything still felt a little too good to be true, still a little too magical in a way that I hadn’t experienced even at Katmere.

Eden, Macy, and Mehki led the group towards one last ride. The park closed in two hours, but most of the crowds were beginning to trickle out now. By the time we stepped off of Space Mountain, it was oddly like a ghost town. Everything was beginning to shut down.

“So what was everyone’s favorite part?” I asked as we walked down the empty main street.

“Are you kidding? We still have four more days! Three more parks! There’s no way we can pick a favorite already!” Macy exclaimed over her shoulder where she, Eden, and Mehki had all linked arms to skip down the street. It was absurd and hilarious, but somehow perfectly in sync with the rest of the park that it didn’t feel out of place.

Hudson snorted, reaching up to tweak the Minnie ear headband I’d been wearing after finally picking a pair.

“What was your favorite, Grace?” He asked with a soft smile. I glanced behind us where Flint and Jaxon were still holding hands, talking softly together. He followed my gaze and smiled as we both turned forward, not wanting to ruin a moment.

“Me too.” Hudson agreed without having to hear me say it. Who knew Disney magic could even heal broken hearts?

“I’m excited for the rest of the week, but I don’t know if anything can top today.” I mused as we all clambered into the shuttle (a ridiculously adorable van covered in polka dots like Minnie Mouse).

“I’m ready to try.” Hudson said into the quiet of the ride and I smiled, settling into his side. So was I.