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Relations, Past & Present

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Losing Casita was something that affected everyone, from the members of the Madrigal family to the villagers that relied on them for help. No Casita meant no powers, it took some time for everyone to get used to no gifts (it took longer for the kids to realise they had to stop falling out of trees so often, there was no healing food after all) but they adjusted in the end.

 

That didn’t mean Casita coming back to life was a joyous occasion that brought a smile to everyone’s faces.

 

After a month of no shifting Camilo felt so much relief when he felt himself shift into the first person he could think of- his papa! Then his mama, then Antonio, then Dolores and before he knew it he’d cycled through the whole village. He’d never realised that no shifting could make his skin feel so… itchy. He’d felt trapped in his natural form, it was a topic he didn’t really want to dwell on.

 

It was three weeks after Casita had returned and the magical family was once again acting as the host for a village wide celebration- the anniversary of Encanto! Usually the day was celebrated with a speech from the priest and small, family meals in each home- a casual affair. However, this year was different, they’d decided that after the turmoil everyone had been through they would celebrate a bit differently.

 

By “differently” they meant they celebrated like everything else- a huge party within Casita.

 

That was how Camilo found himself wedged between Mirabel and Isabela on a bench awkwardly placed off to the side of Casita’s main quad area. The latter of his cousins was cradling a cactus to her chest like it was a newborn… a very spiky newborn.

 

Tia Julieta had made it clear that no “dangerous” plants were to be allowed on the ground floor where curious children would be running around. So instead Isabela lined the second floor with her creations whilst she made vines and roses climb the various pillars. He had to admit it was a gorgeous sight.

 

About two hours into the party she’d appeared with a short stumpy cactus cradled in her hands, she held the thing close to her chest and kept looking at it fondly.

 

It was quite possible she was maybe a bit drunk.

 

To his left Mirabel bobbed her head to the beat along with Casita’s tiles, she hummed gently and Camilo couldn’t help but bob along with her. 

 

The temperature around them dropped a few degrees, a tell tale sign his mama was near. Sure enough he heard her bright laughter behind them, Tia Juelita’s chuckles were nearly drowned out by her sister.

 

A warm hand gripped his shoulder as his mama planted a kiss right on top of his head. “Hola kids!” She chirped.

 

“How many have you had to drink, mama?” He craned his neck to see the sisters behind them. Sure enough the weather manipulator had a glass of something loosely held in her hand, one twitch away from falling to the floor. Her hair looked like it desperately needed re-braiding as her curls stuck in every direction, and her eyes were sleepy looking.

 

“Not enough!” She patted his curls as she took another generous sip.

 

“Too much I think,” Tia Juelita looked far more composed as she pried the glass from her sister’s hand. She sent a quick glare over to her husband who was manning Casita’s temporary bar, the way he tensed meant he definitely felt the glare… he suddenly found something on the floor very interesting. His mama huffed but didn’t argue back, no clouds appeared either, the only sign of her gift was the gentle layer of mist that coated the floor- the obvious sign Pepa Madrigal was drunk. It reflected her befuddled mentality.

 

Camilo swallowed back a yelp when he felt something brush the back of his ankle, a second later Antonio wrestled his way from under the bench and slotted himself between his older brother’s legs. His head rested on his knee as a lemur perched on his shoulder.

 

“Hola Tonio,” he muttered, patting his brother’s wild curls.

 

“Hola,” the youngest Madrigal muttered back. The lemur on his shoulder rested his chin on Camilo’s other knee and began dozing off; it didn’t take a genius to figure out his brother was starting to tire. He didn’t move when he felt Anthonio’s head get heavier against his thigh.

 

He vaguely registered Luisa settling on the floor beside Isabela, gently taking the cactus away and muttering, “I don’t want you to hurt yourself, hermana.” His floral cousin only relaxed when she saw the plant was safe in her sister’s hands.



“Oh my gosh, look!” His mama pointed over their heads, their gazes simultaneously (no matter their levels of inebriation) looked towards where she was pointing- the kitchen entrance.

 

It didn’t take long to realise what she was pointing at… their Abuela dragging their Tio Bruno towards a gaggle of older ladies.

 

“Oh no…” His healing Tia groaned as she tried to stop her sister from pointing so obviously.

 

“What’s wrong?” Mirabel spoke up for the first time in a while.

 

Her mama chuckled before explaining, “when we were being courted by your papas your Abuela made it her mission to find your Tio a bride. She forced him to meet every woman that would be willing to marry him, sadly with his reputation that wasn’t a lot, but I think even those few women were too many for our Hermano Bebe…”

 

“He never met anyone?” Isabella slurred, she did a few long slow blinks to try and stay awake. Luisa rested a stabilising hand against her back to stop her from dropping off the bench.

 

“Nope!” Pepa chirped, “I don’t think courting a lady was his top priority, getting tragic vision kinda took it outta him… ya know?” She stumbled back slightly, gripping Camilo’s curls to try and steady herself. He bit back a groan as Tia Juelita pried her hands from his hair, he sent his Tia a thankful nod.

 

“I think-” Juelita was cut off as she had to stop her sister from grabbing her drink back, “you’re forgetting about the one, querida hermana…”

 

“The one?” Mirabel spun to face the duo, nearly knocking Camillo off the bench as she moved so fast. His mama looked confused before a sudden look of recognition took over her face.

 

“Oh, yes!” The weather manipulator swayed for a second, the happy look never left her face, “how could I forget?! We used to have a theory that your Tio met someone many years ago!”

 

Dolores shuffled over to the pile of Madrigals on the bench, she perched next to her youngest cousin. Her cheeks were flushed slightly from the fast paced salsa she’d danced with Mariano, “who was it?” Of course, she had heard the whole conversation.

 

“No one knew! Bruno never spoke about her, not one single word!” Camilo saw his sister wince at their mama's boisterous tone, she was a loud drunk.

 

“What happened to her?” Luisa questioned, Isabella lazily nodded along to the conversation.

 

“We don’t think your Abuela… approved of her…” Tia Julieta replied, her voice low for Dolores’s sake.

 

“What does that mean?!” His cactus loving cousin blurted out, nearly dropping off the bench with how fast she spun to face her mama and Tia. It was only Luisa’s hand that kept her upright.

 

“We weren’t sure… she must have been pretty bad for her to reject this mystery woman but happily accepted Felix …” The healer trailed off. The sisters stared at each other, a tense beat passed before they suddenly burst into giggles.

 

When their giggles eventually died down their attention turned back to their hermano, they didn’t miss the slightly panicked look on his face when their mama dragged him through the kitchen archway too fast for him to knock on the doorframe. Her hand tightly gripped his wrist as she pulled him towards the other abuelas of the village. As the gaggle of women started chatting Bruno looked like he wanted to be anywhere else. He was probably mentally begging Casita to open up a hole in the floor and swallow him whole.

 

“Abuela is asking if any of them have any daughters who aren’t married yet…” Dolores explained, he eyes intently trained on the group. 

 

Julieta chuckled, “your abuela already knows the answer, she knows everything. Daniela has an unmarried daughter…” They watched as the little old lady in question shuffled towards their abuela, Bruno did his best to hide behind his mama, refusing to make eye contact with any of the women before him.

 

“She’s called Natalia, she’s forty five… works at the bakery, Daniela says she’s desperate for bisnietos before she passes…” Delores bulletpointed the information her gift was providing her.

 

“What a lovely reason to get married!” Isabela snapped suddenly, her mama rested a hand on her shoulder as Luisa rubbed her back reassuringly. Camillo’s oldest cousin’s fingers twitched as a small venus fly trap appeared in her palm.

 

“What do you think Bruno will say?” His mama Pepa asked her sister, “I think he’s gonna bolt for the stairs.” She seemed to have sobered up during their chat.

 

“I think he’ll say I want to settle in the Casita before settling down properly, ” she did her best to mimic their hermano’s voice- she did weirdly well.

 

Pepa simply hummed before turning to her oldest daughter, “we will see dear hermana, Dolores?”

 

“I’m listening…”

 

xXx

 

Bruno loved Casita, he really did, but at that moment he resented the house for not opening a hole in the tiled floor and getting him out of this horrible situation.

 

His arm felt like it was on fire where his mama was gripping it, his hands itched to knock on the wooden frame that made up the kitchen entrance, and he could feel the stares of the women before him boring into his soul. Their faces looked so familiar yet so unknown, perhaps ten years hiding in the walls hadn’t helped his facial memory.

 

“Say hello, Brunito!” His mama tugged on his arm as the women continued to stare at him.

 

“H-hola,” he squeaked pathetically, if he was alone he would’ve knocked a knuckle against his temple to actively try and smack the idiocy from his brain.

 

The gaggle of abuelas kept their scrutinising gazes on him for a second until one stepped forward, extending her hand to his mama. Her light grey hair was pulled back into a loose braid, a few strands falling against her forehead.

 

“Daniela,” she introduced herself, “I have a hija named Natalia. She is forty five and has worked at the bakery with me since she was ten! A lovely girl.” A look of pity took over her face, “I’m sure she would bring some… lighter rumours to your name…” She trailed off.

 

Bruno couldn’t help but squirm when his mama turned to face him, “Brunito, wouldn’t you like to meet Daniela’s Natalia?” The way she squeezed his arm told him he only really had one option…

 

“Ya know… I’d really like to settle back into Casita before-”

 

“Nonsense! You’ve had plenty of settling time, missing ten years means we have to streamline this process a bit, querido!” She turned back to Daniela, “he would love to meet your hija!” The other ladies didn’t stop staring and it made him squirm more.

 

“She’s here actually! She’s- oh! There she is!” Bruno didn’t have time to look around before he found himself being dragged behind Daniela, he sent his mama a begging look over his shoulder but she was too busy gossiping with her fellow abuelas

 

The woman dragging him was walking far too fast, making him stumble and trip over the cracks between the tiles and miss knocking various doorways. By the time they reached the front door he could feel his skin itching and his heart racing like he was being chased. 

 

Maybe it was the bad luck that stalked him all his life finally catching up.

 

xXx

 

“I guess Tia Julieta wins,” Dolores said as she watched her Tio being dragged outside.

 

“Perra…” Pepa muttered, barely flinching when her older sister smackered her arm.

 

“Stop being such a sore loser hermana,” the healer hid her smirk by sipping more of her sister’s drink. 

 

A beat passed before Pepa broke the silence, “think he’ll be okay?”

 

The oldest triplet hummed before replying, “I’m sure he will… cope…” She reasoned slowly, “Dolores?” Her sobrina tilted her head to listen, “would you mind keeping an ear open for your Tio?”

 

The listener nodded quickly before shimmying her way across the main quad towards Mariano, Camilo couldn’t miss the look of pure adoration in the man’s eyes. He definitely didn’t like the idea of his big sister dating… but if she had to date anyone then Mariano was probably the best option he could hope for. He spotted a small group of kids waving at them (the caffeine riddled child was amongst them) and Mirabel hopped over to see if they were okay… She would probably encourage them to try and beat Casita’s steps- an impossible task.

 

A weight on his shoulder let him know his prima Isabela had finally dozed off, from the corner of his eyes he spotted Luisa slowly crept away after perching the cactus on a small tile shelf (promptly provided by Casita). Anthonio was still happily snoozing against his thigh, his lemur mimicking him, which left Camilo as a sleeping pole.

 

Even his mama and Tia had vanished.

 

He didn’t mind, if he was being honest he was getting rather tired. He could feel his eyelids getting heavier and his limbs aching, he silently hoped the celebrations would be done soon.

 

Unfortunately, he couldn’t let himself fall asleep (that would result in three Madrigals sprawled across the floor) so he passed the time by people watching.

 

It didn’t take long for him to spot a group of women around his sister’s age dancing in the crowd. The four of them stepped, shuffled and shimmied their hips to the beat of the music. Camilo couldn’t stop himself from staring…

 

But not at the actual ladies, well yes at the ladies but not for that reason. 

 

He admired the way their bodies moved, how their hips shimmed, how their hair flowed down their backs, and how their long skirts swished around their ankles like they were made of air rather than fabric.

 

A large part of him wanted to feel that… he wanted to move his body like that, he wanted to feel long hair brush his waist, to feel a skirt tickle his ankles as he spun and swayed on the dance floor. Technically, he could! There were plenty of women he could pretend to be… but he wanted it to be him to do it, not a replica of someone else.

 

He was shaken from his thoughts by the dark figure of his Tio rushing through the crowd, he ducked and dived under the spinning dancers as he bee lined towards the stairs. His ruana flapped and somehow didn’t get caught on anything as he practically ran across the quad. Bruno skillfully side stepped around Mirabel and dashed up the stairs, the kids took the chance to bolt up behind the seer. Thankfully Casita made sure to keep the youngsters from reaching the top as his uncle disappeared onto the second floor, the kids squealed as they yet again slid to the floor.

 

His youngest cousin looked at him, her eyes wide behind her glasses and Camilo could only shrug. He knew as much as her. The two stared at each other for a moment longer and he somehow understood what she was mentally saying- leave their Tio be for now, after ten years of isolation hiding was his way of coping with an overwhelming atmosphere.

 

With a huff she went back to entertaining the kids, effectively breaking their eye contact. On his shoulder Isabela sighed and sank further into her cousin, thankfully his papa appeared out of nowhere and gently scooped up his sobrina.

 

“I’ll take her up to bed, you take your hermano,” his papa whispered as he cradled Isabela like she was a newborn and not a twenty one year old woman. With a nod he gently picked up his little brother, making sure to pillow his head against his shoulder. Antonio’s wild mane tickled his chin and he had to force himself not to twitch at the feeling. The sleepy lemur made a home on Tonio’s lap and the animal whisperer held the creature close to his chest.

 

If Camilo wasn’t so busy holding his hermano he probably would have melted at the sight.

 

xXx

 

If he was being honest, tucking his little brother into a hammock with a literal leopard napping beneath was kind of nerve wrecking. He knew the animal was friendly (when his brother was conscious) but he’d never been around the creature when his hermano was asleep… He wasn’t keen on finding out.

 

His mama’s form was a lot taller and a lot more nimble- perfect for sneaking around a predator. 

 

By the time he returned to the celebration the kids had crashed in a pile on the sofa off to the side. The shape shifter didn’t hesitate to link arms with his youngest cousin before dragging her to the dance floor, stretching his legs had given him a much needed energy boost.

 

The duo jumped, skipped, hopped and giggled their way through the rest of the night as Camilo leapt between forms.

 

xXx

 

The next morning was… rough to say the least.

 

Camilo woke up in a bed he didn’t immediately recognise- it definitely wasn’t his theatre themed room. The various garments hung on the walls and sewing kits scattered around told him he was in Mirabel’s room.

 

That must have meant the feet he was cuddled up to were his cousins… With a groan the shifter rolled from the bed, Mirabel moaned at the disturbance and buried her face further into her pillow.

 

xXx

 

Breakfast was quiet, and not just for Dolores’s benefit. Isabela looked like she’d slept on the floor rather than her actual bed, her usually pristine hair was stuffed in a messy bun and her eyes were hooded like they needed a lifetime of sleep.

 

However, she looked like she regretted nothing and Camilo couldn’t wait until his mama would let him drink, he lived to have no regrets. The way she rubbed her temples and scoffed down her mama’s arepas told them all what they needed to know- shut up or risk a cactus in your bed that night.

 

Apart from that breakfast went smoothly… until Abuela started talking.

 

“So, Brunito!” Their Tio tensed as he looked anywhere but at his mama, “how did it go with Natalia last night?” When her son didn’t say anything she prompted him again, “Bruno…”

 

“She was… erm, she was n-nice?” He stuttered through the slightly lame statement.

 

“Nice? Is that it?” The older woman placed her cutlery down and turned her full attention to the seer who squirmed under her gaze. Camilo didn’t miss how his Tio started wringing his hands like they were dirty.

 

“W-well she was quite… pretty?” He said, but stated it like a question, Abuela went to say something until she was promptly cut off by her hija.

 

“Oh my gosh! Julieta! Our hermanito is finally getting out there!” His mama Pepa practically vibrated with excitement, a happy rainbow appeared over her.

 

“I-I wouldn’t go that far…” Tio Bruno muttered, gaze flitting between his mama and hermana.

 

“Nonsense! I will sort another meeting with Daniela,” Abuela went back to eating as his Tio looked panicked at her words.

 

“Mama! I-She’s not really my t-”

 

“Bruno!” Abuela cut him off and slammed her fist against the table, Dolores recoiled at the sudden noise, Isabela seemed to snap back to reality and the rest of the family froze at her tone. “I thought you would have grown out of that by now.”

 

The seer stared at his mama with a look of pure betrayal until he went back to eating, “... Si… Of course, mama.”

 

The rest of breakfast was incredibly tense.