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Mamma Mia, Mama Mira

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Bruno Madrigal is in trouble.

 

He has to be. Why else would Mama ask to speak with him in her room? And without his sisters too! He must’ve done something very, badly wrong for her to summon him like this.

 

The worst part is he can’t pinpoint what he did to warrant a private scolding. Did a vision not come true? (Unlikely. His visions have never been wrong…) Did a member of the community complain about him? (Very likely. People don’t exactly like him or his gift…)

 

He is skidding his sandaled feet, slowly meandering his way to Mama’s glowing golden door, taking his time on the stairs in the hopes of putting off the inevitable for as long as he can. Sadly Casita, noticing his too-slow pace and deeming it unacceptable, slid the tiles beneath him forward; dragging him, internally kicking and screaming, to his fate.

 

He stumbles to a stop, fumbling to catch his balance before shooting the floor a look of pure, unadulterated betrayal. There is nothing for it, he supposes with a resigned sigh. He’ll just have to get it over with as painlessly as possible.

 

He peers up at Mom's room door. The golden image of Mother, eyes closed and smile soft and peaceful, cradling the miracle candle between her hands, it always served to make Bruno feel small.

 

He is already the shortest in his family, he does not need the metaphorical reminder thank you very much.

 

Wiping his palms on his green poncho, he bites the bullet and knocks. He doesn’t know why he feels the need to wipe his hands like that. He’s never been particularly sweaty (on the contrary, his sandy room was always drying out his skin) but the compulsion has always, always been there whenever he needed to interact with a door or something important. He’s done so for as long as he could remember. Yet another thing he does that’s weird, strange, bizarre…

 

He jerks both back to the present and back a step when the glowing door swings inward, revealing Mom standing prim and proper on the other side.

 

Her face is as difficult to read as ever, her folded hands and ramrod straight posture further blinding Bruno to her current mood. So tense. She must be very angry-

 

“Brunito, come.” Her tone is short and firm, leaving no clues in its wake as she steps aside to invite entry. Bruno steps further into the doorway with intent to do as Mother demanded before he freezes, feet just barely leaving tile for soft carpet. The steady increase in emotion and anxiety having reached unbearable, unhandleable levels without his conscious notice.

 

‘She’s angry! She’s had enough of me! I’m a stain on the Madrigal name! What did I do? She-’ “Knock knock knock knock knock, knock on wood.” The rhythmic rapping of his knuckles on the wood of Mother’s door frame gave pause to his frantic thoughts, the reverberation of his mumbled voice tingling his throat and settling the prickly sensation below his chest. Once his little ritual is completed, he finally feels ready to face the music.

 

As he crosses the threshold Mama, who’d been standing ever patiently for him to enter without a word, gently shuts the door behind him. ‘No escape now.’ She glides past him to perch herself on the maroon coloured seat in the centre of the room, pulled from it’s usual angle facing the candle to instead face parallel with the identical chair across from it.

 

He dithers foot to foot in place, unsure of what exactly he's supposed to do. He's seconds away from throwing salt over his shoulder when Mama seemes to remember which of her children she has in the room with her. Her face twisting into some sort of smile (at least, that’s what he thinks she is trying to do) before motioning to the unoccupied seat across from her.

 

“Sit down, Bruno. We need to talk.” Ah, yes. “We need to talk.” Never a good thing to hear in any context. Despite Mama’s clear instruction, Bruno still rocks from side to side for a moment, eyeing her to make sure she is sure she wanted him to sit down, or if she was going to take it back. Once he is sure, surer than sure that she meant it, her gaze steady and patient, he hurries over to the chair. He took a second to adjust the quilt that lay across it, smoothing the folded corners and wonky creases in the material before finally sitting down.

 

Wedging his hands between his knobbly knees, in an effort to prevent them moving around without his consent (he always got scolded for that) he waits for Mama to start talking.

 

He’s already thought through how this was going to go, from the moment Pepa had told him Mama wanted to talk to him in her room. If it was bad news, it’d happen in the living room or off to the side wherever he happened to be. If it was good news, his sisters would also be present. The absence of these two conditions could only mean Mom was really, really angry. Too angry to simply pull him aside. No, this was bigger. The variables were all over the place and he hadn’t had time to have a vision about this conversation! What if he gets it wrong?

 

His hands twist in his lap, wanting nothing more than to grab some salt. Just as he's about to give in to the urge, Mom finally broke the silence.

 

“Oh Bruno, I’m not angry with you.” The salt-urge flees for greener pastures the moment Mama speaks, his eyes snapping to her face which he is quick to examine for any signs of lying. Because… what? Not angry? How could that be?

 

Her expression is the softest he’s seen that day. Her brown eyes wide and smile soft and, and he realises she had been preparing too! She’s been planning things out in her head like he does, which is something he didn’t think normal people did!

 

“You… huh? But… If you’re not angry then… why…” He looks around the room, words failing him as he instead peers around to get his meaning across. The bed was neatly made, and the symmetrical pillows are nice to look at. Perfectly square. The left shutter on the window the candle lived on could be opened a few more inches, to match the right one…

 

But if she isn’t angry with him, why does she need to talk to him? Why bring him to her room? Why-

 

“Because, there’s something important I need to tell you.” Bruno could only blink at her, not quite sure how he is supposed to react to that. Something… she needs to tell him. Just him. Not his sisters too. The three of them are usually a package deal, and were told important things together, but this was an exception. Whatever this is supposed to be…

 

“Is it… bad?” He needs to know what to brace for. But considering everything about this situation, it's probably not good.

 

He watches in mild fascination as Mother’s hands raised to fiddle with her braid. An action he recognises as a nervous tic. He’s seen Pepa do the same when she was stormy, and Julieta did it too when cooking stressed her out. Did they pick it up from Mama? Bruno hadn’t. Was it a girl thing? Maybe his hair just isn’t long enough-

 

But Mama is fiddling with her hair. She is doing a nervous tic. But Mother never does that sort of thing! She is always composed and proper. She never wastes energy on pointless actions like Bruno does, but… but here she is, doing a nervous tic, which means she is nervous.

 

Nervous to talk to Bruno? No, that’s not it, why would it be? Clearly this information she has to tell him was a big deal. Big enough to exclude his sisters and show her emotions with an aimless movement of her hands…

 

“I suppose, whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is up to you, Brunito.” Bruno, for his part, frowns at the non-answer. Up to him? She is leaving that up to him? That sounds like a lot of pressure! What if he chooses wrong?

 

His thoughts cut off when Mom gives a heavy sigh, flicking her braid behind her shoulder in order to set her hands in her lap, smoothing out the fabric of her maroon coloured skirt. A few shades darker than the chair she is sitting in, he notices.

 

“I made a promise to someone important to me. A promise that I would tell you the truth on your fifteenth birthday. A promise I intend to honour.” Her brown gaze was steady, like she is trying to communicate something with them that Bruno can’t quite figure out. Is she trying to press that this is something important? Something to be taken seriously? Because he figured that out at the door.

 

But… there is something vitally wrong with what Mom just said.

 

“But… my birthday was two months ago…” He, Julieta and Pepa had celebrated their fifteenth birthday around six weeks ago, on the 24th of February. Mother’s expression seems to shift, eyes wide and shiny as she speaks with a soft, shaky whisper.

 

“It wasn’t…” Bruno blinks as he makes attempts to process what his Mother is telling him.

 

“But… we’re triplets?” Mother’s expression twists again, hands moving back and forth over her skirts in an agitated manner. Another insignificant action he knows she would never be caught dead doing ordinarily.

 

“The community believed you were triplets. I just never corrected them on that assumption.” Her voice is clear and concise, trying to maintain composure.

 

“You never- but wh- what’s the point of that? How can…” He is rocking, he knows, but Mama isn’t stopping him this time and- “Was I just, not born for two months? How?”

 

He stares at her, imploring for an explanation as, clearly, he isn’t going to reach the truth on his own. Her eyes are shiny and her mouth is pinched in a repressed frown as she leans forward. Bruno tenses, gripping the quilt beneath him in anticipation.

 

“Because…” Her voice trails off, her jaw working as she tries to hunt down the words, before exhaling softly through her nose. Eyes boring into him with what he assumes was something like compassion as she whispers: “Because I’m not your Mother, Bruno.”

 

.

.

.

 

What?

.

.

.

 

Mo- A- She sits back, looking over to the candle that glows with magic and miracles untold. But Bruno’s gaze remains fixed on her face, damp eyes shining yellow in the candle light. “And… and Pedro… he was not your Father, either.” Bruno can only stare, stock still, as this woman shakily croaks out the truth. It is then that he notices she's trying not to cry.

 

He… isn’t a Madrigal. He wasn’t a Madrigal! Julieta and Pepa aren’t his sisters. Alma Madrigal isn’t his Mother. Pedro Madrigal wasn’t his Father! Is that why his gift is so unfavourable to the community? So Unwanted in comparison to the others? Because he doesn’t belong? Because he was-

 

“I’m… adopted?” He hates how weak his voice sounds, how… small and child-like it came out. She was always scolding him for being too childish. For not ‘acting his age’. And now-

 

She whips her head around to look at him once more, an expression erased of all the sorrow she had just let slip. But the firmness she had pressed into her cheeks quickly begins to melt away as she continues.

 

“Your Mother was a good friend of ours. A best friend, really, though we only knew her for a year.” Her voice is soft and smooth. A voice he’s never heard from her before. He wonders what secrets that tone carried. What he isn’t understanding from it.

 

And in all honesty, this… explains a lot to Bruno. It explains why his room is so far away from everyone else’s. Why his image on the family tree is a lone oval floating, untethered, between Pepa and Julieta and not connected to the family via swirling branches.

 

It didn’t explain why he was given a gift, nor did it explain why everyone in Encanto believed he was a part of the family. Surely someone knows the truth? Someone outside of the family? Why wouldn’t they say anything? And what was his Mother like? His real Mother?

 

He needs to know more.

 

“My… Mother? Is she why you…” He isn’t sure where his question was leading, or how it's supposed to end, but his half-baked query seems to make sense to her who’s soft gaze turns to the side once again.

 

“I… never wanted to take her place.”

 

And that… Bruno hates it. He hates that he isn’t more broken by the world-altering news. Now that he's thinking about it, this woman may have raised him but she had never mothered him. She had taught him to walk and talk, trained him in manners, educated him on how to live and, well, once that was done she had just… stopped. Only telling him off when his behaviour impacted the image of the Madrigals, but never doing so if the same behaviour occurred in private.

 

When his compulsions happened in private she never said anything, just allowed him to work through his emotions in his own unnatural way before, after ensuring he was okay, handed him more salt. When Pepa had outbursts of emotion, she would make strides of comfort and tenderness, while scolding her for the weather she was exuding. If it was Julieta, she would cradle her daughter close and stroke her hair until the crying slowly stopped.

 

She never seemed as invested in Bruno’s love life and marriage prospects compared to the girls. She was always asking after Pepa’s newest boyfriend, or Julieta’s nonexistent presence in the dating scene. But Bruno was always glossed over.

 

Bruno was never given any of that and, honestly, he didn’t really mind. It’s just not how he operates. But if asked he would’ve still said he loved her because, well, he was supposed to right? She is his Mother.

 

Only… she isn’t, and perhaps he doesn’t love her as much as he thought he did. He’s never thought about it before. Never had reason to.

 

He may have been a child in her sole care, but he’d never been her baby. No, he was someone else’s. Someone he doesn’t know. But Alma had…

 

“Could you… tell me about her?” He tries to keep his voice quiet, not wanting to talk too loudly and risk breaking… whatever atmosphere this is currently hanging over them. Alma’s gaze is… wistful? Maybe? As she smiles at him.

 

“She was… young. Too young, really, for what she went through.” She huffs and shakes her head, maybe remembering things before she continues. “Her name was Mira. Mira was her given name and Bel was her surname, I believe. Or her name was Mirabel? I… never had the chance to ask for clarification. But either way, we always called her Miraposa…”

Chapter Text

‘Okay, this is fine!’ Alma thought as she rushed, hurried and frantic, through the busy street. She clutched the handle of her worn basket tighter, gazing down at the flowers and fruits she had failed to sell.

 

‘I’m fine.’

 

She bobbed and weaved through the crowds of people, just wanting to get home as fast as she could.

 

‘It’s fine! I’m fine! Pedro has told me hundreds of times that he won’t kick me out! He MARRIED me!’ Just because she was 19 and useless didn’t mean her love didn’t want her. He’d only been drilling it into her head for almost two years and-

 

*OOF*

 

The next thing Alma knew, the contents of her basket, and herself, were sprawled all over the ground haphazardly. Her shoulder aching from the unexpected impact.

 

“Ah! Oh my, are you okay? I’m really sorry! Here, let me-” Alma could only watch, stunned from the unfortunate turn her already unfortunate day had taken as a young girl, dressed in a bold, colourful outfit covered with embroidery, flittered about her to gather all the dropped items. Babbling all the while with apologies and concern as she went about picking everything up.

 

Alma quickly decided she shouldn’t be included in the stranger’s efforts. She could pick herself up. She was a strong, married woman after all! Dusting off her dress, she hauled to her feet and set about assisting the girl with gathering all of her things.

 

Once her refilled basket was once again hooked in the notch of her elbow, she got a good look at the girl who’d ran into her. Or… who she’d run into? It was all a blur to her.

 

“Are you hurt? I really didn’t mean to run into you like that-”

 

“Relax, I’m alright.” She waved the stranger’s concerns away with a smile, endeared to the girl’s concern. Her eyes were wide and dark, partially hidden by a unique set of round green glasses perched on her nose. Her hair, brown and rich, was short and bounced wild with her movements as she hovered near Alma in worry.

 

Hmm, perhaps this girl shouldn’t remain a stranger. Sad as it was to say, this was the best Alma had felt that day, and she did not want to return to her previous mood so soon.

 

“Well, since you’ve run into me and soiled my produce with dirt, what’s your name?” The girl twitched a sheepish smile, rubbing her arm self-consciously and ever apologetically.

 

“Ah, my name is Mirabel. Just call me Mira.” Alma eyed Mira curiously. Mirabel, or Mira Bel? She wanted to ask, but figured she should introduce herself first.

 

“Pleasure to meet you Mira, my name is Alma Madrigal. Just call me Alma.” She noticed Mira had her name embroidered on her colourful blue skirt, but struggled to tell if there was a space between Mira and Bel. Before she could ask for clarification, she noticed Mira’s odd expression and frowned.

 

“Is something the matter, Mira?”

 

“Huh? Oh, no, I’m not, that’s, I mean…” The girl, a young teenager if Alma had to guess, cut off her broken sentence by swivelling around to explore the town with her eyes, which only became more and more frantic the longer this went on. Alma, for her part, was growing more and more worried for this girl.

 

“Mira? Hey-” But she hastily cut in before Alma could finish.

 

“Hey, you uh, wouldn’t happen to know where I could stay do you? Like… hotels or inns or… or whatever…” Her voice trailed off helplessly, her hands motioning around as she tried to stamp down her obvious panic. Alma could only frown at her sudden line of questioning.

 

“You… do know where you are, don’t you? This town doesn’t exactly have tourism.”

 

“Well, uh, I just kinda… landed here so… no…?” Alma stared unimpressed, concerned with Mira’s sheepish shrug of futility. She didn’t look much older than Alma had been when-

 

‘Don’t think about that!’

 

But... this girl clearly needed a place to stay, and she’d done more for Alma in five minutes than anyone else had bar Pedro. So, Alma made a decision.

 

“Well, this town doesn’t have that sort of thing. But, I suppose you could stay at my place for a night. I’m sure my husband won’t mind, we have a guest room.” Alma… didn’t know what to do with the obvious gratitude on Mira’s face. Her expression oozing a thankfulness Alma had never seen before directed at her, and with such desperation…

 

“You… really? Even after I-”

 

“Honestly, it’s not an issue. And that was clearly an accident. I can tell you’re a good person, and you are clearly in need of some assistance. Assistance I am equipped to provide. Trust me, it’s not a problem.” She waved off Mira’s response, weaving around the stunned girl to continue her path home. “Are you coming?”

 

“Ah, yes! Thank you so much! I swear I’ll find a way to repay you!”

 

::::

 

Mira was fifteen years old.

Fifteen!

This girl really wasn’t that much older than Alma had been-

 

‘Don’t think about that! This isn’t the time!’

 

Swinging the front door open, Alma welcomed Mira into her home with pride and abandon. Sweeping through the entrance and tugging Mira behind her by the wrist, eager to show off the home she had worked so hard on.

 

She gave the grandest tour the place had ever seen. Presenting each room to Mira with flourish, and only felt emboldened when she noticed Mira was truly impressed with the home. The teenager peered around with wide, sparkling eyes as she was led through the rooms.

 

Sure, Alma knew the house was probably nothing compared to others. But this one was hers and Pedro’s, how could she not have shown it off to Mira? Especially when the teenager seemed so invested?

 

Soon enough she heard the telltale sound of Pedro’s return home, and immediately hurried to meet him at the door. She was a good housewife, after all. And housewives always met their hard working husbands at the door. She flung her arms around his broad shoulders and planted an inviting kiss on his lips, enjoying his scent of fresh wood and sweat.

 

That should surely soften him to Mira’s presence. And if not, well, she had other incentives if he decided to be difficult. She set herself squarely on her feet again as she looked him over. Her darling Pedro looked haggard and drained from a hard day’s worth of labour, and she was excited to help ease his burdens for the night.

 

But first, introductions. Alma was almost bursting from the euphoria of finally, finally having a guest stay in her home! Someone to impress other than Pedro (who always insisted he was happy with anything, which wasn’t remotely helpful!)

 

“What’s got you so excited? Did you make a good sale today?” Alma refused, refused to let Pedro’s accidental reminder of her poor sale ruin her mood.

 

“Well, not as such, but I did bring a guest who needed a place to spend the night! She’s in the living room! Her name is Mira!” Pedro was incredibly bewildered by the news, but allowed Alma to drag him into the house to meet this guest of hers.

 

After Pedro had shuffled out of his boots, she tugged him over to their cosy living room where she had temporarily left Mira to her own devices.

 

The young couple screeched to a halt when they got to the living room. The window had been left open, and Mira was sitting on the sofa with butterflies fluttering in her hair. She sat completely still, not wanting to disturb the elegant creatures that deemed her a worthy pitstop in their flight.

 

The room fell quiet, and remained so until the butterflies had decided to move on, flying out the window to an audience of three.

 

Mira smiled awkwardly at her hosts, but Alma wasn’t surprised that Pedro was the one to break the peace.

 

“So, you’re Mira right? Alma’s guest? Or I suppose I should be calling you Miraposa!” He laughed heartily at his own punny nickname that had thrown Mira for a loop, and Alma sighed in resignation and shot the girl a warm smile.

 

“Well, welcome to the Madrigal house, Miraposa.”

Chapter Text

It was only supposed to be for one night, that’s what Alma had said. One night for Mira Bel to get her affairs in order. But, Mira was such a delight to have around. The girl brought a sunny optimism the Madrigal home had sorely lacked, and it wasn’t long before one night became two, became three, became a week…

 

Mira proved much more skilled at winning the favour of others in comparison to Alma, and she tried not to feel too envious. No, really, who cared if Mira succeeded in selling fruits and flowers where Alma had failed? At least they were sold, and the money was put towards the home.

 

Pedro had asked Mira why she gave them all the money she earnt? Surely she wanted to keep some for herself? But the young girl continuously dismissed his concern, insisting that the money would be put to better use that way. Alma, for her part, had just kept her mouth shut on the matter. (Pedro should have just accepted the money gratefully! Don’t ask why or it could get taken away just as easily as it was given…)

 

Alma had found her own standing in the town vastly improved once Mira started to put herself out there. Her reputation as a kind hearted soul who took in a poor homeless teenager down on her luck spread like wildfire and left friendly smiles and enthusiastic waves in its wake. It… was an adjustment, for Alma. To go from the unwanted girl who married a man a few years too old for her, to a good samaritan with a proverbial heart of gold? It was a lot.

 

But Alma was resourceful. She was a survivor, and so she took to these newly granted opportunities with both hands in a stranglehold she refused to let up.

 

What surprised Alma the most, and she then felt dumb for being so surprised by it, was Mira’s adoption of Pedro’s pun-based nickname. By the end of her second week living with them, everyone was calling her Miraposa. That initial meeting with Pedro in their living room wasn’t the last time Mira acted as a resting place for a swarm of glimmering golden butterflies, and the nickname stuck like honey.

 

Alma had never anticipated growing fond of Miraposa. She’d never had friends before, yet Mira had a knack for putting others at ease, and Alma soon found herself wondering how she’d ever existed without such connections before.

 

And that scared her! Caring for someone meant a reliance on them, and Mira’s presence, since her abrupt arrival, carried an air of temporariality to it that left Alma feeling prematurely bereft.

 

The girl had a family. She spoke of it often and with deep affection. Her family meant the world to her, and she insisted that, were there any choice in the matter, she never would have left them. Neither Alma nor Pedro asked, as it wasn’t their business what had occurred, but they both knew that, if given the chance, Mira would leave. Run back to the family she’d left behind. And Alma didn’t know what she’d do when that inevitable came to pass.

 

All efforts to enforce distance between them proved fruitless, as Miraposa carved a place for herself in their lives that promised to leave marks behind, and Alma knew she couldn’t handle this happening again. Not again.

 

Perhaps she was being unfair. Miraposa never gave any indication that she planned on leaving (abandoning) them, but Alma was a realist. She knew this girl had roots elsewhere, and would someday return to them.

 

This was a core reason Alma had avoided forming such connections with anyone other than Pedro. More connections meant more to stretch, more to snap, and people oh so loved cutting such things clean in half.

 

But Miraposa refused to be avoided. She swept into Alma’s life with a childish enthusiasm that couldn’t be ignored, and Alma found herself growing closer to this girl than she wanted to.

 

Why was she thinking about all this while upchucking into a bucket? Ah, right, because Miraposa was kneeling at her side, rubbing her back soothingly.

 

Alma would loath to be seen like this by anyone, even Pedro! If they saw her so undone, they’d see the softest, vulnerable parts of her to strike! She couldn’t risk that… but Miraposa was here, nonjudgmental, and Alma… Alma was weak.

 

She spluttered, trying to spit out the vile taste from her tongue with a grimace.

 

“I must have caught something.” The small hand on her back stuttered in its rhythmic movement. “I mean, this has been happening for weeks now and-”

 

“Ab- Alma… it's been happening for weeks?” Alma sighed, enjoying the brief respite from her bodily retching.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Does- does Pedro know?”

 

“What? No! Of course not! He’d never let me out of the house if he knew I was sick!” Miraposa peered at her with soulful eyes, expression subtly shifting as she struggled to express what she was feeling about all of this.

 

“Alma, I don’t think you’re sick.” The woman shot her vomiting session buddy a sceptical look, motioning to the bucket in her hands pointedly. “I mean, I don’t think it’s something you caught. I think… ah, when was your last, um, monthly…” Her voice trailed off in embarrassment which, in spite of, she maintained eye contact, determined, needing an answer.

 

Alma wrinkled her nose, both from the stench and the question, as she thought it over. She was sure she’d had her monthly bleeding recently, right? She was certain she had bled just a few weeks prior! She had…

Had…

 

It was July.

 

It was July!

 

Oh… Oh…

 

Mirapose was insinuating that Alma was-

 

“It couldn’t hurt to check, right?” And, well, how was Alma supposed to argue with that? Resigning herself to getting up and moving, she pushed the detestable half-full bucket away from her, easing her aching legs to stand.

 

“Very well, I can see your point. So, shall we head to the Doctor’s house now?” Miraposa blinked up at her, eyes wide with surprise.

“You… want me to come with you?” As Mira stood up, Alma raised an eyebrow.

 

“Hmm, actually you know what? You are correct, I can go by myself. I shall see you later-”

 

“Wait! WAIT! Just, jeez, hold on! Lemmie get my shoes on first!”

 

::::

 

The Doctor’s place was a really nice, well maintained house. Alma tried not to seeth at the wealth the place was exuding as Miraposa skipped ahead of her, ever-present satchel bouncing on her hip as she came to a stop before the wooden door.

 

Alma watched in anticipation as Mira wiped her palms on her skirt, as she always did, before knocking loudly on the polished wood.

 

The Doctor was professional as he led the two of them inside. Miraposa was left sitting in the living room (larger than hers, of course) while Alma was led to a guest room for examination.

 

The Doctor’s touch was warm and strange on her abdomen. His hands were soft in a way so different from Pedro. Pedro’s hands had always been rough and coarse from a life of hard work, but the Doctor’s hands were smooth and… odd on her bare skin.

 

She wasn’t so sure she liked it, and was relieved when those hands left her. She couldn’t say how long she was there for, but eventually the Doctor returned with the verdict.

 

“Well Mrs Madrigal, it would seem your young friend was right. You are a month pregnant.” She felt her breath escape as she took in the news. Pregnant. She was going to have a baby! Her and Pedro, starting a family of their own! She could hardly believe it!

 

A baby born from Pedro’s love for her. A baby to love and care for. A baby who can keep Pedro with her…

 

Everyone knows walking away from your pregnant wife was a scandal of the highest order! Pedro couldn’t afford such a thing to sully his reputation!

 

“We will need to keep an eye on the foetus’s development over the next few months. Would you agree to regular check ups?”

 

“Yes, yes of course I understand. Thank you.” Alma and Miraposa left for home with exhilaration buzzing between them. Alma finally had an explanation for her condition, and she was unlikely to have found out so soon had Miraposa not been there, piecing together the evidence as she had.

 

“Oh, I can’t wait for Pedro to know! He’s gonna be so excited-”

 

“Wait, no, let’s not tell him yet!” Mira stopped short, twisting around to stare incredulously at Alma.

 

“What? He’s gonna be a Papa, he needs to know!” Alma could see where Mira was coming from, but still she stood her ground on the matter.

 

“What if I have a miscarriage? It’s too early! Just, please, I’ll tell him myself when the time is right. Don’t tell him, promise me you won’t tell him.” Miraposa still looked unsure, frowning at Alma’s decision, but she relented with a sigh.

 

“Fine. I promise, I won’t tell Pedro.”

 

“Thank you, Mira.” They stood in the street for a beat, and Alma wasn’t sure what Mira was thinking. She had made the promise, but still seemed unhappy about it. Just as she was about to continue the walk home, Mira’s arms coiled around her in a hug.

 

As Alma hugged back, she tried to pretend her grip wasn’t as tight as it truly was. It’ll be fine.

 

She’ll be fine.

 

She’s sure she’ll tell Pedro… eventually. Once she was certain…

 

Definitely…

Chapter Text

“Isn’t it… weird?

 

Alma’s focus on her sewing sufficiently stolen, she turned to gaze questioningly at Miraposa, who sat with her own fabrics and thread in the midst of some mending action.

 

“Is what weird?” Mira seemed to dither a little, fiddling with her needle as she tried to find the words to explain what she was asking; her eyes flickering up and down behind her lenses.

 

“Just… being pregnant. Isn’t it weird? Like, you’re growing people in your body…” Alma snorted, unladylike to be sure but hey, no one else was around, just Mira. She was glad Pedro wasn’t home, or Alma would have killed Mira for bringing up her ‘situation’ so blatantly.

 

Miraposa flushed bright red at her own words, stammering with indignation at Alma’s reaction. “O-Oh come on! Y-you know what I mean!”

 

“So you wish to know if being a budding Mother is… weird?” She supposed the question had merit, but Miraposa’s phrasing was just so unorthodox.

 

“It’s just…” Mira dropped the needle on her lap, hands moving in tandem with her struggle for words. “There’s a person in there! A person like us, who’ll grow up and have their own dreams, hopes, problems…” Her words trailed off as she looked down, strangely solemn. Alma sighed.

 

“If you think about anything too much, it will reach strange territory. I have been mentally preparing myself for Motherhood for, well, a few years now in all honesty.” She ran her hands over her in progress creation. A pillow case for Pedro’s birthday in a couple of months. “Of course, it is scary. It’s going to be a lot of responsibility. But, I’ve found that most things in life are worth having a little courage in order to bear fruit.”

 

Mira’s head tilted thoughtfully. “A few years? Why did it ‘take so long’ then?” Alma huffed at that.

 

“Why else? Pedro kept insisting on protection. At first, it was because I was ‘too young’ for that, then, it was because ‘babies mean more loved ones, and more loved ones mean there’s more to lose’! As if that isn’t the point of having children, so you’d have more people in your life to love!” Alma rolled her eyes at the memories those conversations brought to the surface. Honestly, her darling husband could be ridiculous sometimes, no matter how understandable.

 

She still hadn’t told him, not yet. There were new developments with her pregnancy that both served to elate and frighten her in equal measure, but she knew her biological clock had every intention of exposing her sooner rather than later.

 

It was August. She was three months into the process, and soon, soon she would start showing! Especially since-

 

“Hey Alma, what’re you thinking about?” Jolting back to reality, Alma pursed her lips in consideration. Should she tell Mira? She had proven herself trustworthy and kept her promise…

 

“I was… thinking of how to inform Pedro of my pregnancy…”

 

“Really? That’s great!” The girl’s smile was so wide Alma was sure it would ache later, leaning forwards in her chair. Alma was sure the only reason she wasn’t bouncing in her seat was the materials in her lap.

 

“I find myself unsure as to the method, though. Should I announce it with a cake? Should I use food? Or something crafty? It needs to be special-”

 

“Alma, I’m sure however you do it, he’s gonna love it.” Miraposa’s hand was a warm weight on her shoulder, and Alma couldn’t quite stop her thankful smile at Mira’s confidence in Pedro’s reaction as she dropped the braid she had been agitating. This girl was always so positive. Alma looked over her materials again, thoughtful.

 

‘Hmm, how would he feel about paper cutouts?’

 

::::

 

Alma was annoyed. She was annoyed that she was annoyed. Because Mira and Pedro were joking together.

 

It wasn’t jealousy. She’s not that type of wife, thank you very much. No, it was the jokes themselves that were getting her goat by the horns, and she was abnormally annoyed.

 

Those two shared a sense of humour that, usually, Alma could find amusement in. Usually. Because she wasn’t usually gearing up for such a life altering announcement.

 

Who knew paper could feel so heavy in her pocket? She certainly didn’t.

 

She was sitting on Mira’s bed. Formerly the guest bed, though over the past few months Miraposa had made it her own. Mira’s bag was hanging on the wardrobe handle and Alma was still not sure what she had in that thing (not that she ever intended to ask) and this was getting ridiculous.

 

Slapping her hand on her skirt-covered knee, she decided to grab their attention through force.

 

“I have an announcement to make!” Her voice was no louder than normal, yet both Pedro and Mira halted their shenanigans to give her the attention she had called for.

 

“Yes, my love? What is it?” Alma smiled at her husband, patting the mattress beside her.

 

“Come here Pedro. Please sit.” Miraposa’s eyes jumped between the two of them as Pedro moved to sit. Her growing smile proved to Alma that she’d figured out what she was finally, finally doing after so long of promised silence.

 

Turning to look at Pedro, Alma eyed him for a moment in silence. Yes, Miraposa seemed convinced he would be happy with the news. And, on some level, Alma also knew this. If she thought he wouldn’t, she would have gotten an abortion months ago (though when she had proposed that option Mira was very, very, VERY insistent that she not…)

 

“Alma?” Swallowing her nerves, she reached into her pocket to retrieve her unique, folded piece of paper, holding the rounded humanoid shape before him with desperate eyes.

 

For his part, Pedro examined the object for a moment before looking into her eyes. She’d always loved his eyes. Hazel, dark brown with flecks of greenish blue, able to convey so much without words…

 

She watched his expression change, eyes widening and lips parting with shock. “Alma… are you…”

 

She couldn’t hold back her smile, eyes tearing up with liquid bliss as she whispered “Yes, but, that’s not all…” Gently, she opened the paper’s fold, revealing a second, identical shape previously hidden behind the first. The two shapes were connected to each other by the hands and feet.

 

“Two of them?!” Pedro yelled as he fell back, slumping into the sheets in an exaggerated show of his shock at the news, drawing a laugh from her.

 

“...Two?” Alma squashed her laughing fit to smile brightly as Miraposa, who was staring at the paper figures with a pinched brow and wonky frown. For all that Mira was usually an open book, Alma struggled to decipher the nuances of her current expression.

 

Grinning at Mira, Alma held up her paper shapes further into Mira’s line of sight. “Yes! The Doctor said we’re going to have twins!” Pedro released a strangled sound at Alma’s verbal confirmation, a strange amalgamation between a groan and a laugh.

 

Miraposa stared a few seconds longer, expression unreadable, before seemingly coming to some sort of decision as she slowly returned Alma’s joy filled smile.

 

“Twins? That’s amazing!”

Chapter Text

Alma awoke, with a resistant groan, on the thirteenth of September to the sight of her husband grinning unrepentantly down at her.

 

“Good morning birthday girl!” Said birthday girl stared at his too happy face for a moment, debating whether it was worth it, before rolling over and tugging the duvet over her head in protest of the too early awakening.

 

“Ugh, go ‘way P’dro.”

 

“Hmmm I don’t think I will!” Alma’s eyes were assaulted with the morning sunlight as her cover was ripped from her grip, leaving her no choice but to acknowledge the source of her unwilling wakefulness.

 

“What do you want?” Her scowl was met with a cheeky smile.

 

“Come on, mi vida, Miraposa and I worked so hard on your birthday celebration! You must come and see!”

 

After hauling out of bed and kicking Pedro out of the room, she took her sweet time getting herself ready for the day. Weaponizing her morning routine as Pedro’s punishment for waking her up at such an ungodly hour. The birthday celebration couldn’t begin before she got there, after all.

 

Securing the final red bow in her freshly braided hair, Alma strode towards the sounds of chatter reverberating from the living room. She had to wonder what those two had done to the place in her absence.

 

Swinging the door open with a thud, she was immediately met with cheers and applause from the room’s two occupants. Two bodies rushing over to entrap her in a hug, being careful with her middle. (She was finally starting to show, after all.)

 

“Happy birthday Alma! We made you breakfast!” Mira exclaimed as they tugged her over to the table, and subsequently the spread of food laid out atop it.

 

“Isn’t it great? Each morsel was made with love!”

 

*Cough* Yea, Pedro made his bits with love. I made mine with positive affection.” Pedro’s gaze snapped to his co-conspirator, blinking with bewilderment.

 

“There’s a difference?- OW! ” Pedro recoiled, rubbing at the spot on his arm that Mira had just sharply, pointedly elbowed. Said girl grinning remorselessly at Alma as she handed over a plate of fresh warm food, studiously ignoring Pedro’s grumbling.

 

“Here, you should eat. Break your fast. You’re eating for three now!” Miraposa’s eyes flickered to her abdomen, subtly rounded with children, and back up to her face with an odd twist to the corners of her smile. She always got that expression on her face when Alma’s pregnancy was brought up, ever since the announcement.

 

Alma had asked after her curious reaction to the twin news, but she just insisted it was the shock of the revelation. Alma wasn’t sure she was entirely convinced of that excuse, but decided to leave it be for Mira’s sake.

 

The food was delicious. Mira’s talents, learnt from her Mother, easily compensating for Pedro’s sheer incompetence in the kitchen, and Alma enjoyed a birthday breakfast unlike any she’d had before.

 

Not long after the plates were polished of food, Pedro and Miraposa were urging for the giving of their gifts. Both vying for Alma to open their gifts first. Honestly, those two could be so immature sometimes…

 

“It’s not every day you turn twenty!”

 

In the end, Pedro won and Alma was treated to a beautiful poem written by him. Of course, he was a writer, but Alma’s heart almost burst from the spoken serenade. His hazel eyes sparkling with a devotion the words he was saying weren’t large enough to convey in its entirety.

 

Once kisses were enthusiastically shared, and tears were dried, it was Miraposa’s turn. Shoving a wrapped package into Alma’s hands with a bounce in her toes.

 

“Well, I know it’s not much compared to Pedro’s, but I hope you like it!” The girl punctuated her words with a bitter pout shot to said aforementioned man, who’s only response was a smug smirk at having potentially outdone Mira’s gift before she’d had a chance to give it.

 

Eyes rolled and exasperation fully expressed, Alma gently unwrapped the paper from around the gift. She inspected the two bundles of fabric the paper had formerly hidden from her, picking them up for further inspection.

 

They were blankets. Small and yellow. The one to catch her eye first was a bright sunny shade with orange stitching sewn vertically in a repetitive pattern. The other was a paler, creamier shade that rendered it’s stitching, vertical and identical to the other blanket, almost invisible in comparison.

 

“They’re, uh, baby blankets. Y’know, for the… twins… I figured you’d want something… practical…”

 

Alma tried her hardest not to choke on her emotions. “Thank you, Mira. I love them!”

 

It was the best birthday she’d ever had, hands down.

 

::::

 

“Alright Miraposa, hit me with it. And it had better not be something for the babies because that was a total cop out-” Pedro was cut off by a stylish brown jacket being slapped into his chest by an irked Miraposa, clearly unimpressed with his attitude. At his look of offence, she just smiled, bright and innocent.

 

“What? You did say to hit you with it.” Pedro pouted theatrically at his own words being used against him like that.

 

“I’m just saying, it was Alma’s birthday! Not the babies!”

 

“I know.”

 

“And you got her baby blankets-”

 

“And I made you a jacket, you’re welcome.” Pedro huffed, trying to suppress and mask his laughter as frustration. He slipped the new jacket over his shoulders and ran his thumb over the seam appreciatively. “Besides, the babies don’t have a birthday yet! I had to improvise.”

 

“You really like making clothes, don’t you.” It was more of a statement than a question, but Miraposa replied regardless.

 

“Yep! Making stuff, fixing stuff, that’s kinda my thing.” She preened.

 

“Is your ‘thing’ baking birthday cakes too?” He asked with clear intent. Mira hummed for a moment as she tapped her chin, thoughtful, before smiling sunnily at him once again.

 

“Hmm, nope. That’s my Mom’s thing. Not mine.”

 

“Aw what? Can’t it be, like, a part of your thing? Something that merged with your thing through osmosis?”

 

It was the fifteenth of October. Ergo, it was Pedro’s birthday.

 

“Pedro, dear, please you are twenty six.” Alma interjected with fond exasperation.

 

“And what does that have to do with anything?” Pedro wined, deliberately obnoxious as Mira made attempts to muffle her laughter.

 

Alma just stared at him, firm, until he gave up and slumped in his seat.

 

“No birthday cake? Seriously?” He cried mournfully as Alma gathered up the packaging to throw away.

 

“You expect us to bake a cake in this economy?”

 

“Mira, shut up!” Said teenager just laughed heartily at Pedro’s performance.

 

Miraposa… was a bad influence.

Chapter Text

She gingerly trailed her hands over her swollen belly as she walked through the market.

 

Sure, she’d known she was set to have twins for a couple of months, but… the news still frayed her nerves like nothing else.

 

Two small, wonderful children. Two bundles of joy from her Pedro. Twice the love, twice the family, twice the risk…

 

Sure, she was young. At only twenty years old, her body was whole and healthy. She was in her second trimester, and the Doctor assured her the three of them were as healthy as could be.

In spite of this, the risk of a miscarriage still loomed over her head. And, if by chance she was able to carry them to term, the risks of either the babies, or herself, dying in childbirth were burrowing a deep hole in her composure.

 

She was about to consider heading home when, suddenly, there was commotion ahead of her. As a man, a stranger she didn’t recognise, came barreling down the road with great haste. Shoving bystanders out of the way as he rushed past her recklessly.

 

Before she had the chance to do anything, she spotted Pedro sprinting from that very same direction, undoubtedly giving chase after the stranger, wearing an uncharacteristic scowl on his handsome features.

 

Just as she opened her mouth, intending on asking what was happening, her husband shot straight past her without a glance. Only having time to bark out a harsh “ IT’S MIRA! ” at her as he continued his pursuit, biting obscenities at the runaway as he went.

 

It… was Mira? What was Mira?

 

After swallowing down her assorted emotions, she briskly strode in the direction the two men had run from, concerned at what could make Pedro behave in such an unusual manner.

 

A chill trailed a sluggish path down her spine the further down the street she walked. Her mind was a conglomerate of possibilities and what ifs as the surrounding crowds began to thin out, until soon enough there was nobody around to judge her eroding fortitude.

 

Her pounding steps cut short at a muffled, strangled noise reached her from behind two abandoned market stalls. From between two silent houses. Soft, wet and distinct.

 

‘Please don’t be who I think it is…’

 

But she’d had to check, had to know.

 

What she saw between those brick walls would stick with her for a long, long time.

 

Mira. Her skirt (her bright, colourful skirt she’s always been so proud of, would show off each intricate pattern, would twirl and spin to flaunt the rainbow of colours…) had a long, gruesome tear running straight through it, exposing her legs… spread in a manner Alma just… couldn’t stand to see on her.

 

The… act had clearly occurred on the poor girl’s back. Her upper body twisted away from Alma, hiding her face with her arms, yet her lower half lay spread eagled on the dirt ground.

 

“...Mira?” She breathed as she approached, slowly, to crouch down at the girl’s side carefully. Just as she was about to set a hand on Mira’s shoulder, she hesitated. Would her touch be welcomed? After this? Would she… how could she…

 

Alma felt inadequate. She didn’t know what to do, and could only wish that Pedro would miraculously show up and take charge. He always knew what to do in a crisis…

 

Mira shuffled then, arms shifting as she peered at Alma from the corner of her eye and… Alma’s heart broke at the fresh tear tracks that were revealed. Her eyes and cheeks red from crying, and her lips… raw and swollen… (Alma tried not to think about the source of that particular redness…)

 

“Mira?” The girl’s glasses were askew, and Alma had to wonder if she could see anything at all in that moment.

 

“Mmmph, Amwuelah? ” Her voice was meek and muffled, but Alma was just grateful she was able to speak at all.

 

“Yeah, yeah it’s me, it’s Alma, you are going to be alright Mira.” She had to stay strong! She was an adult, five years older than Mira, five years wiser, five years stronger-

 

She had to be!

 

She began helping Mira sit up against the wall, cringing at the cocktail of liquids smearing an… art piece on the ground as she did so, trying not to focus on those damning finger shaped marks, branded on the teenager’s soft forearms as she did so.

 

Alma brushed white scraps of fabric out of the way as she worked. Fabric that must have once been the girl’s bloomers. It looked as though the clothing was shredded by an animal! (Then again… was she wrong? Mira was certainly attacked by an animal!)

 

Mira winced, weeping as she was helped to move. Tears repaved their pathways on her face as Alma finally got her sat up after several long, careful moments.

 

“Whe… Where’s muh… my ba…” Alma adjusted those round green glasses on her sopping face, relieved to see they weren’t damaged or broken by the incident. (Just a little dirty…)

 

“Your bag?” Alma frowned at Mira’s slurred speech. Had she hit her head? Was her tongue swollen? What had that monster done to her? A stupid question, it was obvious…

 

Those large, brown eyes that had been scanning their surroundings turned to Alma, gaze imploring and desperate, and Alma couldn’t help but compare her to a child. She wasn’t one anymore, not now after what happened, but… she was fifteen. On the cusp of adulthood, yet still clinging to lingering threads of childhood innocence. An innocence she’d just had brutally ripped from her-

 

Right, she had been asked about the bag. A brown, over the shoulder bag covered with pink and yellow designs that Mira wore everywhere. Alma had still not known what was in it, but she began her search under the despondent watch of its owner.

 

Once she’d found it, tossed haphazardly near the back corner of one of the bracketing houses, she swiftly returned to Mira’s side, handing it over immediately.

 

“We should… get you to a Doctor. We need to ensure nothing is irreparably, er, damaged…” Her voice trailed off as Mira turned away from her, clutching her bag close.

 

“J’st… g’mmie a min…” Alma had wanted to argue, but… she knew Mira was a stubborn girl and such arguments were pointless, even at a time like that. Sitting back with a pursed frown as Mira rifled through her bag, hiding what she was doing from Alma, she kept her eyes attentive for any further signs of distress.

 

After a minute of silence, a shudder ran through Mira’s battered frame as she let out a sigh. A breath of soul rending relief, as she began feeding her lungs with fresh air, before she began to push herself up.

 

“Mira! Wow wow wowowow take it easy!” Alma darted forward to help, startled and panicked at the girl’s foolhardy move.

 

Mira sat, the silence stretching unbearably, with her head down, matted hair dangling over her face, and lifting a quivering hand to grasp at her ruined skirt. Taking in the article’s sorry state, torn and stained.

 

“My clothes…”

 

“Mira… *sigh* Come on, we should get you to a doctor-”

 

NO! No doctors!” Mira’s head snapped up at the suggestion. And Alma was sure her lips looked significantly less… raw than before.

 

“Mira, you’re bleeding! You need help.”

 

“Just- *sigh* . Can we just go home?” Alma knew she’d needed to argue. She was the adult in that situation, and surely Mira wasn’t in any state to be making decisions like that…

 

But Mira had been through enough, and Alma didn’t have the heart to push.

 

“I just wanna go home…” Somehow, Alma knew she wasn’t talking about her and Pedro’s place.

 

Sadly, there was nothing Alma could do about that. (And she hated it…)

 

“... *sigh* ... Alright, we’ll go home.”

 

::::

 

Wringing her hands as she paced back and forth, Alma jumped to attention when the door opened and Pedro exited Mira’s room, looking sombre.

 

“How is she? Is she-”

 

“She doesn’t want to know.” Alma fell silent, staring incomprehensibly at her husband. He sighed, looking around the hallway for something to focus on. “I… I offered her his name, you know? I offered to tell her who he was but… she refused to hear of it.”

 

Alma’s hands dropped to her sides as she frowned at the closed door, worried beyond measure. She didn’t want to know? Why? Because it would mean he was a person? Humanise the one that hurt her so thoroughly?

 

“Other than that? She seemed fine. I mean, as fine as could be expected… all things considered. She said she wants to be left alone for now…” Pedro looked down at the objects in his arms, frown pinched. And it was then she realised he’d been holding them since he’d left Miraposa’s room.

 

“Is that…”

 

“She told me to just get rid of it. Something about… symbolism?” He motioned the ruined clothing to Alma with a troubled expression. “I don’t think I can, though. I’ve never seen her wear anything else…”

 

Alma eyes the ragged fabric. Mira had explained that each symbol represented a member of her well loved family, and the tear (straight and deliberate! He must have used a knife, had it nicked Mira’s skin?!) ran straight through the middle of the colourful images, slicing the candle in half.

 

“...I should check on her-”

 

“Alma, she said she wants to be alone.”

 

“Alone? She… she wants to be alone? After all of that?!” Pedro’s hand, warm and sturdy, landed on her shoulder as he fixed her with an intense gaze. Softening to a solemn smile.

 

“Look, I understand. If it was you in her situation, you’d latch onto me like an octopus!” He laughed lightly. Airy, short and devoid of humour. “But Miraposa isn’t like you. She doesn’t handle the heavy things the same way you do, just like I don’t. And she’s old enough to know what she needs, okay? Let’s just… give her her space.”

 

And he was right, she knew he was right, but that didn’t change her worry. Mira was a teenager living with them, in their care, and they’d failed… After giving a soft nod of resignation, she snatched the mangled clothes from him.

 

“In that case, I’ll start mending these.” Pedro’s startled expression melted to a soft smile, the one only reserved for her.

 

“Sounds like a plan, and I’ll keep an eye on her in the meantime. And yes, I’ll tell you if anything changes.” Suitably reassured, Alma darted to their room to get straight to work on her task.

 

Anything to feel useful, needed, and productive.

 

(Not even her parents had ever achieved this level of helplessness in her…)

Chapter Text

Alma had found the sight of Miraposa in one of her dresses to be… disconcerting, to say the least.

 

The dress was taught on Mira’s wider frame, hugging her waist and squeezing at the shoulders, and Alma had felt that her outfit only served to make Mira look… older.

 

Of course, that was why Alma liked her dresses. They served to enhance her age to give an air of maturity, of womanhood. On Miraposa though? The visage had just looked… wrong on her. It hadn’t remotely suited her. (Especially after the events that caused her to wear it in the first place…)

 

The rust-red skirt was so… bland and dull on Miraposa, who had only ever been bright and eye-catching beforehand. (And Alma had tried… very hard… to not think too hard about the last time, only then recently, that Mira had worn red that low down…)

 

And red was an unfitting colour on Mira anyway, in Alma’s opinion. She’d always associated the girl with the colour green. Perhaps, in most part, due to her glasses being that colour, and her face was the part Alma spent the most time looking at.

 

Green was the colour of nature, of stability, of growth. It was a colour of comfort and serenity, all things she associated with Mira. And it was for that reason that Alma grabbed the green thread to stitch up the skirt’s tear.

 

Sure, the crossed green stitching didn’t match the original embroidery patterns, but the skirt had already been discoloured by the whole ordeal. And Alma had tried to get rid of the stains. She’d scrubbed and worked the fabric as much as she dared, yet the blue material remained forever marked with dark, purpley splotches that refused to budge despite her efforts.

 

She’d kept her work a secret from Miraposa, hoping to turn it into a pleasant surprise. This was helped by Mira’s isolation, staying confined in her room for days after the incident.

 

The brief glimpses she would get of the girl, donning one of Alma’s dresses, always felt off. She just didn’t look like Miraposa, and if it wasn’t for the golden butterflies following in her wake Alma could have easily believed she was looking at a stranger. Too downcast to possibly be her bubbly best friend.

 

This had only strengthened Alma’s resolve to mend Miraposa’s broken clothes, sewing the large pink butterfly accessory, which was clinging to the right shoulder of the white top by a literal thread, more securely in place with a tight double knot.

 

As she mended the skirt, tackling the largest job of the project, she noticed as she covered the green stitching with a new layer of embroidery thread that the green didn’t stand out as much as she had feared; just barely peeking out from between strings of pink and yellow and orange…

 

She had examined her finalised handywork, grimacing at the still obvious stain that broke up the blue. But… she knew there was nothing to be done about that. If Mira wanted the skirt without it, she’d have no choice but to make a new one from scratch.

 

Folding the repaired clothes neatly, Alma hid them behind her back before she strode off in hopes of finding Miraposa. In hopes that the girl would be feeling up to speaking with her.

 

(She wouldn’t blame her if she wasn’t…)

 

Striding through her home, she had, soon enough, come across Mira sitting near the window in the dining area. The sunlight washed her in warmth as those lovely, golden butterflies hovered around her idly. (And… maybe it was just Alma, but there seemed to be a lot more of them surrounding her than usual…)

 

Alma then approached the seated girl slowly, hesitant to break the tranquillity and… unsure of her welcome…

 

“...Mira?” She murmured, not wishing to startle Mira too drastically.

 

Miraposa jolted a smidge at the breaking of the silence, butterflies rustling with the disturbance (yet not leaving) as she turned her head to look over at Alma.

 

Her face was dry, almost suspiciously so.

 

The two then shared a beat of silence, as Alma searched for something to say. Should she ask if Mira was okay? Dumb question, of course she’s not!

 

Eventually, she settled on asking “So, how are you feeling?”

 

Miraposa’s expression twisted at Alma’s question, frowning. “Like I got a building dropped on me.” Her tone was smooth and quiet. She hadn’t looked as though she was in pain, but she could have been hiding it to avoid worry. Her injuries had been pretty bad… After taking a moment to gather her fortitude, Alma pressed on with her initial plan.

 

“Well, I have a surprise for you! It… it’s probably not much but…” After revealing the folded clothing, she watched courteously as Miraposa’s eyes widened and watered, wiping her small hands on her dress as she reached over the accept the offering. “I, well, I tried to mend it as best as I could. It’s… uh… probably never going to be perfect again, but… I attempted to make the best of it…”

 

She fell silent as Mira inspected her clothes. The girl released a small, muffled squeak before unfolding the fabric to examine the stitching and faded, yet noticeable, blemish covering almost the entire left side of the design.

 

Alma was left waiting, with bated breath, for Mira’s response. In the end, she didn’t need to wait long as Miraposa looked at her, tears building in her large brown eyes as she whispered, gaze filled with awe.

 

“Alma… Thank you!”

 

::::

 

“Oh would you stop pitying me?!”

 

Pedro’s head shot up to look at Miraposa, eyes wide and blinking, bewildered at her outburst. “I haven’t been pitying you!” He stated, thoroughly offended at the perceived accusation. Mira paused to shoot him a warm, grateful smile. The innocent look standing in complete contrast to the glower she had been sporting mere seconds prior.

 

“Yes, thank you Pedro, I know you don’t. You’re not on my black list right now!” She reaffirmed sweetly before turning back to Alma with a glare.

 

“Oh, I’m not? Sweet! Don’t mind me then.” Alma’s teeth gritted at the spousal betrayal, but had decided Mira’s ire was the more pressing matter that required attending. She’d get her vengeance on Pedro at a later time.

 

“Mira, I swear it’s not pity-”

 

“Isn’t it? You’ve been hovering! Don’t think I haven’t noticed!”

 

“It is worry! You were so badly injured, yet you have been walking around as though everything is fine!”

 

“I haven’t-”

 

“You have! I saw you Mira! With the amount you were bleeding you should have been taken to the Doctor immediately! Yet you can walk and sit just fine after only a few meagre weeks?! ” Her hands flew up to wring her left braid, voice growing more and more shrill and panicked as she finally aired the concerns that had been building.

 

Mira’s face softened at her show of care, tone soft as she said “Alma, I promise I’m fine.”

 

“Mira! You don’t have to hide your pain like this! It cannot be healthy! If you think you can just continue on as though it never happened-”

 

“I’ve never-” Miraposa cut herself off to take a second, sweeping a breath into her lungs and wiping her hands on her mended skirt to calm her heightened frustration, before addressing Alma. “When have I ever said it never happened?” Alma folded her arms.

 

“You never talk about it! Ever since I gave you your clothes back-” She motioned to Mira’s outfit, eyes growing shiny. “-You’d been acting like it never happened. I can’t stand to see you do that to yourself Mira!”

 

The kitchen fell silent as Miraposa ruminated on Alma’s words, eyes wandering as she formulated a retort.

 

“...But I’m not.” Before Alma could open her mouth to rebut, Mira’s hand flew up in an indication to stop. To let her speak.

“I’m not, okay? Yes, it happened. It sucked, and it hurt, and I’m never gonna get it out of my head. Not for a really long time.” Her hand fell back to her side as she swallowed thickly. “It happened and I’m never gonna be the same again. Not after that.”

 

Alma’s jaw worked as she attempted to find something to say, but words failed her in the wake of Mira’s heartbreaking admission.

 

“I come from such a touchy family, y’know? We’re always hugging, holding each other. And my Mom? Oh man, she’s so physically affectionate! She’s always hugging her kids. It’s her love language!” Mira’s breath choked a humourless laugh as she gripped at her hair. “Ever since I got here I’ve been scared I’ll never see her, or any of them, again… but now? Now? I’m terrified that… that if I do see them again, I won’t be able to handle it! They’ll try to hug me and I’ll run…”

 

She grabbed wildly at her short curls, pacing in a vain attempt to keep herself together.

 

“Pedro tries to pat my shoulder. He’s standing in front of me, he’s moving slowly, I know it’s him and still I just- I jerk away from him! It's a reflex! Like he’s some monster when… when I know he’s not! It’s just Pedro! And sure, he’s nice about it…” She paused her frantic movements to shoot said man, sitting silent in the corner near the basin, a thankful smile.

 

“But… I know it’s gonna take time. I’m so… disgusted at- at the thought of someone, anyone, touching me! Even platonically. And I know it’s gonna hurt people. People I care about. And there’s nothing I can do about it but wait it out! Hell, it already is!” She cried with a pointed gesture towards Alma, who could only stand there helplessly. Just as helplessly as that fateful day those few weeks earlier.

 

“You want to know why I don’t talk about it? Because I don’t need to! I’ve already worked through the worst of it in private. And now? Now I’m just trying to feel like myself again! Feel like a person again. I refuse to let that creep take that from me too!”

 

As Alma prepared to offer apologies, or reassurance, or perhaps words of comfort, Miraposa abruptly paled, frozen, before darting to grab something off of the counter. Hunching over as the kitchen was soon filled with the wet, squelching sounds of violent retching.

 

“My work bucket!” Alma cringed at the sound, taking a step back.

 

“Mira? You’re sick? Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“Miraposa, I swear you had better not be plagued!” As Mira caught her breath, she gave Pedro and unimpressed look.

 

“I’m not plagued.”

 

“The bile killing my poor work bucket says otherwise. Have you perchance unbalanced your humours lately?” In that moment, Mira deigned to respond by heaving over said work bucket once again, further filling it with contents.

 

Alma wrung her hands in distress at her best friend’s condition.

 

“Could she have contracted something from…” She waved a hand around, not quite willing to name Mira’s culprit. Mostly because she was never told his name.

 

“No, it couldn’t be that. He wasn’t carrying anything… at least nothing transmittable.” Alma turned to study Pedro with an incredulous look.

 

“And how would you know that?”

 

“A man who runs like that? Trust me, there was nothing wrong with that guy… physically...” Mira spluttered over the bucket, trying to spit the nasty taste from her tongue. At the noise, Pedro began dramatically waxing poetic over the sorry state of his work bucket.

 

Miraposa groaned, and Alma sighed subdued. “Pedro-”

 

“Look, I’m just saying the basin is right there! She could have gone for that instead-”

 

“Pedro, what if she was infected with something afterwards? She was laying in the dirt, with open wounds, for… quite a while. What if something got infected?” Her hands twitched for her braid, but Pedro’s hand on her shoulder stilled the nervous action.

 

“A wound infection… that causes vomiting?” Pedro asked, eyebrow raised in sheer disbelief at the theory.

 

“Well how should I know?! I’m not a doctor!” She knew Mira should have been taken to see a medical professional after the incident, she knew letting her isolate had been a horrible idea-

 

“Guys, guys, I’m fine! I probably just caught something-”

 

“‘Caught something’? You are diseased? That is so much worse than being plagued!” Mira wiped her mouth, frowning up at Pedro while Alma’s thoughts began spinning…

 

“How is being diseased remotely worse than being plagued?”

 

“Come on, my dear Miraposa. We all know diseases are much more common than plagues!” Before Mira could argue, Alma interrupted.

 

“Mira, you… don’t you remember what happened the last time one of us thought we had ‘caught something’?” She pressed, shifting her gaze from Miraposa’s face to her stomach a few times to further communicate her point. Mira’s face dropped, immediately shaking her head frantically in refusal.

 

“No! No, that’s not it, it can’t-”

 

Alma cut off Mira’s knee-jerk reaction, staring sympathetically at the poor girl. Using her own words:

 

“Mira… it couldn’t hurt to check.”

Chapter Text

The doctor’s large living room had felt… imposing to wait in.

 

Alma could only feel mollified by her Pedro’s presence at her side, his knee jiggling with anticipation as they awaited news on Miraposa’s condition.

 

(She had been seriously hoping her guesstimation hadn’t been true…) Her braid was growing more and more frazzled from her ministations wrung upon it.

 

Of course, Pedro noticed.

 

“Hey, if worse comes to worse, and she actually is pregnant? She could always get an abortion.” Her hands stilled. Abortion had never occured to her. She hadn’t been raised to consider it a viable option…

 

But Miraposa was only fifteen, and a baby was such a huge commitment! It’s not something to fall into unprepared (without desire for parenthood) especially by accident. And in such a… such a deplorable way too…

 

“... An abortion. Right.” Pedro looked at her with a troubled frown.

 

“I mean, only if she wants to. It’s her body after all. And hey, she might not even be pregnant! She could just be diseased.” Alma dropped her hands to her enlarged abdomen to cradle her unborn babies, huffing at Pedro sardonically.

 

“Of course. So she is either pregnant, or potentially dying of some unknown ailment.”

 

“‘Dying’? I never said ‘dying’, did I? Do you know something I don’t?” He squinted at her probingly, and she released a sigh she hoped would carry along her anxieties, dispersing the tense feeling into the air.

 

(Stress was bad for the babies.)

 

“No, of course not. I’m just worried… She’s too young for all of this…" Before Pedro had a chance to respond to Alma’s words, the wooden door swung open.

 

And there Miraposa had stood in the doorway, pale and distraught.

 

“Mira? Is everything-”

 

“Can we just… go? Please? Now, right now!” Mira interrupted, voice breaking with distress and shooting tense looks over her shoulder. Alma shared a communicative glance with Pedro and, after seeing his warning look, decided it wasn’t the appropriate time to push for answers.

 

“Of course. Let’s… we will talk about this at home.”

 

The walk home was slow and quiet, and as soon as they entered the safety of their home Alma rounded on Mira, with every intention of getting answers.

 

“Alright, we’re home now. What did the doctor say?”

 

“You’re not dying are you Mira?”

 

The couple’s hounding was halted by the waving of Miraposa’s hands, her head shaking negatively.

 

“No no no, I’m not dying. I’m just…” Her voice trailed, eyes snapping to Alma. “I’m just… I’m… Alma was right. I’m… pregnant.” Her voice weakened to a whisper, hands falling to gingerly rest on her flat stomach. Her eyes shooting glances at Alma’s pregnant belly with an unreadable look.

 

The room fell silent as the trio made attempts to process their new reality. Miraposa, sweet innocent fifteen year old Mira, was going to be a Mother!

 

Alma then struggled to think of something, anything, to say. Should she have congratulated her? No, that wasn’t appropriate given the circumstances. Consoled? Mira wasn’t crying, strangely enough. Apologised? Maybe, it was, after all, her fault this happened, her fault for not paying attention to Mira’s whereabouts… Whatever she may have said, Pedro spoke up before she got the chance to voice them.

 

“…You owe me a new bucket.”

 

::::

 

‘New year, new me!’

 

The end of year festival was in full swing as Alma swerved through the dancing townsfolk, most of them drinking as though the world was coming to an end, in search of Miraposa.

 

This many people rubbing up against each other while partying? Alma was worried about what that could mean for Mira, wherever she was.

 

(Alma hoped she was safe, making new year's resolutions…)

 

Nobody attempted to stop her search, for which she was grateful, as she, finally, stumbled across Miraposa huddled behind one of the houses. Hiding from the crowds. Her hair filled with those ever golden butterflies.

 

Alma let out a shuddered breath, worn out from her quest as she carefully slumped to sit beside Mira, cautious of her rounded middle.

 

Mira was staring, intently, at a butterfly resting in her hand, eyes trained on it as though it held all the answers of the universe.

 

The two sat in companionable silence, while listening to the distant sounds of partying reverberating from the distance.

 

As the silence between them grew more and more unbearable, Alma became no longer able to stand it.

 

(Because Miraposa had never been a still, quiet person. Not for long anyway. It just wasn’t her nature… her default…)

 

“Mira, How are you? And please, do not lie.” Mira startled, disturbing the butterflies of their contentment as she turned to acknowledge Alma, eyes wide as though just realising she wasn’t alone.

 

To her credit, she took a second to ponder the question before answering.

 

“Right now? Uh… Not so great, but… I’ll be fine.” Alma frowned, not entirely believing Mira but not wanting to risk upsetting her so soon in the conversation.

 

“Well, Pedro’s very pleased with his new bucket.” She settled for dropping the subject, resolving to return to it later.

 

Mira snickered. “Right, his ‘new work bucket’. The ‘new’ one, which is just the original one I puked in that I cleaned, polished and decontaminated of my used insides. That bucket.” Alma couldn’t repress a chuckle at that.

 

“Yes, well, he is appreciative nonetheless.” Silence fell one more, heavier than before as Alma sobered from her amusement.

 

“... But seriously, Mira. There’s no need to hide how you are doing.” After a beat of silence, Mira sat back against the wall. She ran a small hand through her hair, dislodging the butterflies from their temporary perch and forcing them to leave for a new home elsewhere.

 

“I’m not- *sigh*. I’m not trying to hide how I’m doing. I swear, I’m gonna be fine.” Alma folded her hands, frown pinched. How could Miraposa know that? How could she possibly move on from something so ghastly? It just hadn’t sounded feasible.

 

Mira seemed to detect what Alma wasn’t saying, her brows furrowing in disgruntlement. Alma attempted to defend herself. “I’m just concerned. I don’t see how anyone can overcome something like that!”

 

Mira eyed her assessingly. “... Because you haven’t.” She spoke softly, voice enriched with a souldeep compassion as Alma flinched from the reminder.

 

“I just… don’t understand.”

 

Miraposa stared consideringly for a moment, before turning away to run her fingers over her skirt’s stitching. Her face twisted in thoughtfulness.

 

She looked so young, with her bright colours and round face. She didn’t look her age, and Alma had to wonder if her appearance was what caught the interest of that… disgusting freak.

 

“I guess… it’s because I don’t wanna hurt my family.” Her grip on her skirt tightened, her eyes boring into the colourful symbols she had embroidered there. “I know this is gonna hurt them. Seeing me hurt like this, knowing they weren’t able to be there for me when I needed them most? This is going to hurt them badly.”

 

She fisted her skirt, hand clenching and bunching up the mended fabric between her fingers.

 

“And it’s inevitable. If I ever see them again, it will be too soon no matter what I do. All I can do is try my hardest to get better so that if I do, miraculously, reunite them? It’ll hurt them less. But… I know it’s gonna hurt no matter what. It’s out of my hands, really. I just have to make the best of it.”

 

Alma could only stare, wordlessly, as Mira’s determined expression raised to meet hers. Big brown eyes burning with fire.

 

“Alma, I promise, I’m going to be alright, eventually.”

 

And her tone was so firm, her voice carrying so much conviction, resolve, power…

 

What else was Alma to do but believe her?

Chapter Text

Of course, it had been Pedro who figured out when Miraposa’s birthday was.

 

Alma had been so busy (with preparing for her babies, supporting Pedro, trying to help deal with Mira’s whole situation…) that birthdays, and the concept of Mira having one, completely slipped her mind.

 

So when Pedro told her, in the middle of January apropo of nothing, that Mira’s birthday was on the tenth of February? Alma… panicked.

 

Pedro’s gift had taken a solid month to make, and Alma only had a few scarce weeks to formulate something suitable for Mira’s sixteenth birthday! Not to mention her pregnancy was much further along than before, and her body was frequently aching with the added weight.

 

But after all that Mira had gone through, she deserved only the best, most meaningful present Alma could procure; time limit be damned.

 

She decided on something small yet impactful. Something that would acknowledge what Mira was going through without focusing on the… unfavourable… aspects.

 

A baby blanket, much like the ones Miraposa had made for her own birthday. The girl was four, almost five months along and had started to show. And with such a firm unwillingness to have an abortion performed? Well… baby preparations were the evident next step.

 

(It had been Mira’s gift to Alma after all. Something thoughtful, practical and hand made…)

 

She chose a pale green for it, matched with a dark green thread for the stitching. A horizontal stripe pattern was carefully sewn to decorate the small comforter, to highlight it’s uniqueness.

 

Okay, maybe the pattern wasn’t that unique. But it was the thought that counted, right?

 

Mira had loved it, at least, which was the result Alma had been striving for! She took it as a win.

 

The girl sat comfortable in the living room, running her hands over the gift, with a teary smile. Red faced and tense, sure, but grateful. Alma was just happy to see she was feeling more positive.

 

Those golden butterflies had grown more frequent and numerous since Mira had shared the frightful news with them. They fluttered around her like a momentary aura, showing up at the oddest of times to colour her short hair yellow.

 

“Haaaaaaaaaaaaappy biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirthday~!” Pedro sing songed, drawing a huffy chuckle from said girl.

 

“Thanks Pedro. I just… wish my family could see it y’know? And I wish I wasn’t…” her hands trailed to her middle, hovering a second as she hesitated on finishing the thought. In spite of the horrific circumstances, Mira seemed resolutely unwilling to resent, hate or regret the existence of her unborn child. It truly baffled Alma. “... Well, I wish a lot of things.”

 

Alma dithered, trying to find the correct words, when Pedro cut through the sombre atmosphere.

 

“Well, at least you have us right?” Alma instantly wirled on her husband, eyeing him completely unimpressed. The two of them were in no way a good replacement for a family unit as seemingly tight knit and affectionate as the one Mira had lost. Even so, she couldn’t help but rise to the opportunity Pedro had oh so graciously presented.

 

“I am sure Mira would consider that a downgrade, Pedro.” He slapped his hand to his chest, rearing back as though struck by Alma’s words.

 

“Mi vida! Dearest Alma, love of my life! How could you forsake me so? In front of the children?!

 

“They cannot hear us dear.”

 

“Oh, so your womb is soundproof? Where is the evidence? I heard from Antonella’s midwife’s sister that the music you play while they are developing has a great impact on their growth! How could that be possible if they can’t hear us?”

 

“Pedro-”

 

“Angelo and Beatrice listened to marching music non stop, and now they have five sons Alma! Five!

 

Alma blanched at the notion. “We are not having five children! I refuse! If you want five children you can find yourself a mistress.” Pedro’s face dropped in a theatrical show of misery and betrayal. Accompanied by a whined:

 

“But Almaaaaa-”

 

“Or a divorce. Whichever comes first.”

 

“Forsaken, I say! Betrayal of the highest order!” Pedro flopped extravagantly in his seat. Before their back and forth could continue, it was disrupted by Miraposa’s unrestrained laughter. She was cradling her rounded abdomen, undoubtedly entertained by their antics.

 

Pedro, upon seeing Mira’s amusement, grinned brazenly in victory.

 

Alma sighed in relief at the sound, sitting back as she just smiled in temporary relief of her fears.

 

If she had been anxious about her own pregnancy, her fears for Mira far outweighed them. The girl seemed fully aware of the risk she was taking in going through with it, but Alma worried. She would worry for both of them.

 

And so she prayed, mentally, to some vague abstraction of a higher power, that Mira may survive as unscathed as possible. It was all she could do given the circumstances.

 

(It still hadn’t felt like enough…)

Chapter Text

“So, have you thought of any names yet?”

 

Alma startled at the sound of Miraposa’s voice breaking the silent tranquillity of the kitchen, almost dropping the dirty bowl she was washing into the sudsy water as she snapped her head to look at the girl sitting at the small wooden table in the corner.

 

Mira’s face was oozing apology for the undue shock, motioning to Alma’s body with an idle hand.

 

“I mean, they’re due soon right?” Alma untensed, turning back to her scrubbing as she answered.

 

“Yes, they are due any day now.” The thought rejuvenated her fear and exhilaration in equal measure. It was a good thing her hands were already occupied, so they could leave her hair alone in her excitement and apprehension.

 

(What if something went awry? What if there were complications? She was expecting twins, two instead of one, and there were so many risks…)

 

“So you’ve picked out names for them?” Mira then leant forward in her seat. A childish fervour coloured her eyes as she drilled her gaze, impatiently, into Alma.

 

(And she was really, really glad that Mira seemed to be returning to herself. She was keeping her promise…)

 

“Well, if one of them is a boy we have decided on ‘Oscar’, or perhaps ‘Pedro’.” Her smile warmed, cleaning slowed as she thought of her children and Pedro’s prospects as a good Father. “For girl names, we have settled on ‘Julieta’ or ‘Bella’.”

 

“What about ‘Pepa’ or ‘Bruno’?” Mira then wilted in her seat under Alma’s curious look, rubbing her belly self-consciously. “Just, other possible names…”

 

“Hmmm, ‘Pepa’ …” The name sounded cute, sweet, a lovely name for a lovely baby girl. Alma had warmed to it instantly. “‘Pepa’ is a lot less common than ‘Bella’, I like it. I do hope you were not considering that name for your own child, because I am afraid I must take it for my own.”

 

Mira’s eyes bugged as she tensed at the suggestion, hands waving in front of her in refusal. “Oh no, no, names for my baby? As if! It’s way too early to think about that…”

 

Alma frowned. “You will have to consider it some time. It has been four months…”

 

Mira turned away, staring at the floor in avoidance of Alma’s concern. “And I still have five months left, right? Not now, okay?”

 

After a beat of silence, the subject was dropped with resignation.

 

::::

 

‘This! Is! Hell!’

 

It turned out that February twenty fourth was the big day.

 

Alma had felt like she was being split in two. As though each of her twins had taken a hold of her by both ends and were tearing her in opposite directions. Ripping her straight down the middle.

 

(No, Pedro was not getting five children from her. She refused to ever go through that amount of agony again…)

 

The Doctor’s hands were ever smooth against her as he readied to support the first baby's arrival. Pedro’s hand had been positively crushed in hers, but she had been barely aware of his presence by her side.

 

(All she could think of, in that moment, was pain and dread and ‘get out get out of me get them OUT RIGHT NOW!’ ...)

 

She was barely able to focus on the Doctor’s instructions to push. His words sounded foggy and distant over the crashing waves of spasming pain, but she followed along with them as best as she could.

 

Baby number one was born with a loud, piercing cry, but Alma wasn’t allowed to feel relief just yet. There was still one left to go.

 

After the first blaring cry was accompanied by the second, Alma soon passed out from the ordeal, escaping to the sweet release of darkness.

 

Upon awakening several hours later, she was met with the sight of her darling husband leaning over her, grinning sunnily.

 

“Good morning sleepy head!” Alma just groaned, feeling the deep ache in her lower regions.

 

Ugh, a- are they okay? Where…” She grimaced at the aftershock of pain through her body as she made attempts to sit up.

 

Her futile efforts were halted by Pedro’s hand on her shoulder.

 

“Mi vida, dearest, calm down! The twins are fine, you are fine, everything is fine okay? Just rest.” Reassured by her husband’s words, she was asleep once more before she knew it.

 

::::

 

Her babies were absolutely beautiful. Two perfect, healthy little girls lay swaddled in their soft yellow blankets, sleeping peacefully in their cribs without a care in their newly entered world.

 

Pedro was squatting between the two bassinets, trying to observe both of his newborns at the same time, with a grin so wide it must have become painful considering how long he’d been smiling like that for. Since they’d been born, she was sure.

 

The door to the bedroom opened, revealing Miraposa quietly approaching in an attempt to not disturb the infants. Alma slid off the bed to greet her best friend at the door.

 

“Hey Mira. Come, you must meet them!” She whispered before leading the girl into the room heading for the cribs, making a point to avoid physical contact. “I’m sorry it took so long, but I just know they are going to love you!”

 

Mira’s voice was a notch quieter than Alma, a gentle breath almost inaudible. “That’s… them?” Alma bit back a squeal of excitement at her best friend meeting her children for the first time.

 

“Yes, see? This one is Julieta.” She motioned to little Julieta, brushing her fingertips over the baby’s fuzzy head of brown fluff. “She was born first. She was an only child for only five minutes before Pepa arrived.” She moved over to little Pepa. The small infant was of lighter colouring than her sister, but Alma knew her eyes had deepened to a rich hazel just like her Father’s.

 

Both babies had taken forever to put to sleep. The two just loved to cry over anything, it seemed. But perhaps that’s just how babies always were.

 

Mira stared at the two sleeping babies for a moment, an unreadable expression on her face. When the moment stretched a bit too long, Alma felt the need to speak up.

 

“Mira?” The girl startled, eyes snapping to Alma wide with… something. Alma couldn’t place it.

 

“O-oh, they seem great! Really cute, um…” The girl’s eyes began jumping around the room, as though she was looking for something.

 

Pedro frowned at Mira’s behaviour, concerned. “Mira, is something wrong?” Mira wirled to look at Pedro, as though she hadn’t noticed he was there.

 

“Wrong? No, no, nothing’s wrong I just-” She cut herself off as her eyes bounced between Julieta and Pepa, face paling at a worrying rate.

 

Alma cautiously took a step closer, beyond worried for Miraposa at this stage. “Mira? Are you alright? You don’t look well…” Mira swerved out of reach, breath picked up pace as she began to… hyperventilate.

 

(What’s wrong? What happened?)

 

“I- I just, this isn’t what… they never… but how- ” Her voice faltered to a whimper as her eyes grew large, lips quivering with unspoken words as her hands fluttered down to her baby bump. Taking a second to try and catch her breath. “O -oh no… oh no…”

 

“Mira, please, can you tell us what’s wrong?” Alma beseeched, seconds away from throwing caution to the wind and grasping the girl by the shoulders. But Mira never gave her the chance.

 

“S-sorry I just…” One hand flew to cover her mouth, her brown eyes large and fearful. “ U-um, ‘scuse me!” With those words, choked and feeble, she suddenly twirled on her heel to barge out of the room. Her exit was hasty and frenzied, and of course the banging she caused while doing so awoke Alma’s daughters.

 

Pedro was quick on the draw, cradling the two girls in his arms as he began shushing them softly. Alma was quick to take Julieta to try and soothe the wailing.

 

“I should go after her.” Alma stated once the babies were quiet once again. An effort that took several minutes to achieve. Pedro peered at her from the corner of his eye.

 

“You know she detests company when she’s like this.”

 

“B-but that’s just it! She’s never been like… this … before! What if she needs help?” Pedro stopped her with a hand to her shoulder, expression grim.

 

“She probably just saw the babies and, well, realised the truth of her situation? She is pregnant, unwillingly might I add, and she won’t stay that way forever.” Alma slumped in defeat, knowing that Pedro was probably (usually) correct about these things. “Or, you know, it could be morning sickness. She did look pretty vomit ready as she left.”

 

Alma made the elective decision to ignore Pedro’s grumble of “she better stay away from my bucket!” and instead focused on her sweet little children. All the while planning on various ways to make motherhood seem less daunting to Mira.

 

(Pepa was proving to be the more troublesome twin…)

Chapter Text

With Pedro’s work keeping him out of the house most of the day, Alma soon found all of her time became absorbed with tending to their babies.

 

So much so she didn’t get a chance to talk to Miraposa about her impending motherhood for a good few weeks, busy as she was with her own.

 

Her children would wake her and Pedro up at all hours of the morning. Thankfully Pedro took responsibility most of the time in these instances, but Alma was still left exhausted from her disrupted sleep, all the while caring for her babies during the hectic daytime.

 

Pepa was the worst offender of the two. Her crying was so much more frequent and visceral than her sister’s and Alma was… drained.

 

On the whole, it left little room for socialising with Mira (no matter how much she felt it was needed, her babies were too small to look after themselves and the whole situation was much, much too new…)

 

But Alma retained enough awareness to notice Mira’s change in behaviour since she had met the twins. The way she stared at the two of them, expression pained. The way she began to whisper to her unborn child, too quietly for Alma to make out what exactly she was saying.

 

Mira had started waving off the multitude of golden butterflies (of which their numbers seemed to be multiplying) in an uncharacteristic show of resentment at their presence, and Alma just couldn’t figure out why.

 

After the third consecutive time of her coming across Mira sitting perfectly still, cradling her belly with a tenderness she hadn’t displayed before (at least… not that much, she’d always been gentle but now it seemed… more…) and staring down at it with a worrying, undefined expression while whispering that Alma decided, after much deliberation, to do something about it.

 

And so with her twins, well fed and dry nappied, carefully balanced in her arms and a pillow wearing Pedro’s twenty sixth birthday gift in hand, Alma strode towards the living room with purpose.

 

(Though she still hadn’t yet figured out what she was going to say…)

 

But Alma stopped short at the sight of Miraposa sitting comfortably on the settee, lap covered in a spread of vivid green fabric. Her movements were slow and deliberate as she sewed a darker green thread into the large, soft material.

 

She stood there long enough for Mira to notice her. She stepped over to the sofa and set down the pillow before, gently, placing her babies atop it. Once she was certain they were settled, she sat beside them to eye up Mira’s newest project.

 

“Hola Mira.”

 

Mira just smiled at her with a soft “Hey Alma.” before returning to her sewing, her face still concerningly pale.

 

Alma examined the work in progress as she made attempts to identify what it was meant to be, but after several minutes of trial and error, she decided to ask directly.

 

(A good ice breaker, surely…)

 

“So what are you working on?”

 

“It’s a ruana.” Alma frowned in befuddlement. A ruana? It looked too long for Mira, as the green would drown her favourite skirt, but also far too small to possibly be a gift for Pedro.

 

“A ruana? What for?” Mira paused her stitching, pointedly refusing to meet Alma’s gaze. When she answered, her voice quivered oddly.

 

“It’s for my baby.” Alma blinked at that.

 

“Mira, that is… a bit too big for a baby…” Alma questioned, and Mira finally chose that moment to look at her. Eyes firm and cheeks still worryingly void of colour.

 

“It’s for when he’s an adult, Alma.” Well that had sounded like quite the excessive foreplanning, but…

 

“...‘He’?” Alma squinted, and Mira’s focus returned to the incomplete ruana she was massaging between her fingertips. “Mira, what are you…” Her voice trailed off. It just hadn’t made any sense.

 

Mira continued to sew, jerking the needle more forcefully than before as she did so in a transparent attempt at avoidance, but Alma refused to let it slide.

 

“Mira, you aren’t assuming your child’s gender this soon, are you?” It had made even less sense as Mira had refused all doctor’s visits after that first, initial one to confirm her pregnancy. She was insistent on avoiding them, so her having any idea as to her child’s gender was incomprehensible. It just wasn’t possible without a medical professional.

 

“...It’s gonna be a boy-”

 

“Mira-”

 

“-and his name’s gonna be Bruno-”

 

Mira-

 

“-and he’s gonna grow up and do so many amazing things a- and-”

 

MIRA!”

 

The girl’s hands were shaking, bunching the incomplete ruana tightly as she took several worn, shaky breaths. Alma was beyond troubled by her best friend’s alarming behaviour.

 

The twins made some unhappy noises from their pillow at the yell, so Alma reached her hands behind in order to rub their small tummies to soothe them. All the while her gaze remained affixed to Miraposa.

 

“Mira, you can’t… what if it’s a girl?” Mira just tsk’d bitterly, as though the mere idea was utterly ridiculous to consider.

 

“He won’t be.”

 

“You can’t make that kind of decision Mira! It’s up to chance. blind luck! You can’t just decide to rule out the possibility-”

 

“I don’t need to rule it out-”

 

Please tell me you’ve chosen a girl name. Just in case.” Silence fell like rocks as Alma watched Mira dither with the green fabric in her hands.

 

After a long, heavy beat, Mira turned to Alma to say “Casita.”

 

“..What?...” Mira’s mouth twitched upwards in an approximation of a smirk (it looked too saddened… too visceral…) as she continued her sewing endeavour.

 

“A girl’s name.”

 

Alma wavered in place, beyond mystified at her friend’s absurd response. “You… would name your daughter ‘cottage’ ?!” It had seemed almost… insulting… to name a child something so ridiculous.

 

“No, I won’t. Because I’m not having a daughter. I’m having B-... Bruno. ” Mira’s voice broke precariously on the name, but before Alma could press further (Pedro wasn’t there to stop her) she found her vision immediately filled with green as Mira held up the incomplete article of clothing.

 

(Alma could see the labour of love put into its creation…)

 

“So, whatcha think? I’ve been working on it for a few weeks now!” She said it so brightly, so forced, that Alma wanted to say something. She had just looked so… unwell. But Alma respected Mira far too much to push something so seemingly fragile, thus instead turned her eye to the ruana.

 

It was inexplicably simple considering the amount of time Mira had claimed she spent on it. The sides were adorned with a unique pattern of two triangles joined at the tip, like simplified sideways butterflies, surrounded with four sided diamond shapes of various sizes and thread thickness to resemble sparkles.

 

With a floppy hood, and thin tassels dangling at the bottom, it had certainly looked… comfortable.

 

“Well, it is looking great.” Alma smiled encouragingly, but it fell as soon as it arrived at the sight of Mira’s pallid features. “Mira… please, I seriously think you need to see a Doctor-”

 

“No.”

 

“Mira please-

 

“I won’t see that Doctor!” Alma gaped, jaw working as she struggled to find words.

 

“But… but he’s the only one in the whole town…” Alma’s words hung in the air for a long… torturous… second…

 

… before Mira began nodding, bundling up the green ruana she’d been working so hard on, gathering needles and threads as she stood carefully to her feet with a forearm braced on her vulnerable middle.

 

“Mira…” Her voice trickled off as she watched, helpless, as Miraposa walked slowly to the door. She wanted nothing more than to stop her, beg her to seek medical attention for, at the very least, peace of mind… but she couldn’t force it. Wouldn’t dare to, for risk of becoming a perceived enemy…

 

(She couldn’t risk losing her best friend due to her own actions… at least if she passed in childbirth it was out of Alma’s control…)

 

(It wouldn’t make it hurt any less…)

 

Mira stopped at the door, hand on the doorknob with her back to Alma, head tilting slightly.

 

“...Look I- I get that you’re worried but, this is non negotiable, okay?”

 

“... *sigh* Alright, but I’m not happy about this.” Mira turned further in Alma’s direction, shooting a small, thankful smile before she swept out of the room.

 

(And all Alma could do was watch her go, feeling just the same as she had six years prior. Watching helplessly, as people she loved just… walked away…)

 

She was forced out of her melancholy by Pepa’s ear bleeding cries, which only served to set off Julieta’s.

 

As Alma tended to her babies, she attempted to take her mind off things as she cooed over her darlings.

 

(She’d find the vitality to worry about it later…)

Chapter Text

A scream.

 

Spine chilling, blood curdling, forcefully ejecting Alma from her sleep and distressing her twins from within their cribs. Their upset cries only further worsened the ringing wails of agony reverberating through the house.

 

Alma’s eyes had barely adjusted to the dark when Pedro stumbled and fell out of their bed in his haste to chase the horrifying screaming, untangling the sheets as he sprinted out of the bedroom.

 

(Heading for Miraposa’s room, of course, for where else could such a sound be coming from so early in the morning?)

 

She got out of bed with a speedily mounting panic, rushing to scoop up her squealing babies and chasing after Pedro, bouncing them all the while in hopes of somewhat calming them down.

 

(The screaming did. not. stop. And subsequently, neither did the twins’…)

 

She hurried in the direction of the hair raising shrieks, babies cradled close.

 

‘What’s wrong? Is it Mira? Is she hurt? Bleeding? Did someone break in? What-’

 

Just as she approached Mira’s room, Pedro came bursting out of it and ran straight past her to the kitchen.

 

The screaming hadn’t stopped.

 

She stood outside the room for around a minute, clutching her crying girls and… and panicking!

 

‘She’s hurt, she’s in pain, where did Pedro go? Why would he just- just leave if the problem’s not been solved yet?! Why-’

 

Her spiralling was halted by Pedro’s swift return, carrying towels, a wooden bowl, a jug of water and a knife as he walked as fast as he dared with the assorted items.

 

She stared imploringly at him, desperate to know what was going on with Mira as he nudged the door open with his foot, shooting her a fearful yet controlled look.

 

“Baby’s coming!” Was all he said, voice barely audible over the streaming, before decisively kicking the door shut behind him.

 

The baby was coming.

 

Miraposa’s baby was coming.

 

Mira Bel’s little baby, who hadn’t been due for a solid three months hence, was making dire attempts to enter the world that very day!

 

It was too soon! Too premature! There was no way the child would survive! At least, not without professional help!

 

Professional help Mira would never, ever agree to no matter the circumstances. “I won’t see that Doctor” she had said. Mira was far too stubborn to allow it.

 

Pedro was with her though. Pedro, who had bore witness to the twins’ births first hand. Pedro who always knew what to do in an emergency. While Alma would have preferred the Doctor be called, she took comfort in knowing her husband was taking care of it if nothing else.

 

(At least Mira wasn’t entirely on her own…)

 

The closed door had conveyed Pedro’s message clearly. Alma would have been no help, and it would be for the best if she focused on tending to their girls in the meantime.

 

Alma chose to wait it out in the living room. Sitting on the soft sofa, she bounced and cooed over her babies in a vain attempt to block out Mira’s deafening screams.

 

(Had her own screams been that ear ringing? Had she also sounded as though she was… dying? She couldn’t remember all that clearly…)

 

She started to sing a random melody, hoping to give her girls something more… pleasant… to listen to. Julieta stared up at her Mother with large, watery brown eyes (inherited from Alma…) while Pepa, refusing to be comforted, continued to swing her tiny fists around while continuing the water works.

 

But Alma didn’t give up.

 

She sang, she hummed, she told story after story until even Pepa grew tired of the crying. They hadn’t fallen asleep again, so Alma kept at it.

 

She had unbuttoned her blouse to grant her daughters easy access to milk, not wanting to move from her place and risk potentially getting in the way somehow.

 

After a long, long time of this (had it been hours? Days? Surely not…) the heart wrenching screams… fell quiet.

 

(Alma couldn’t tell what was more terrifying. Mira’s piercing screams… or her inexplicable silence…)

 

Her babies decided then to fall asleep, leaving Alma entirely alone as she held her breath awaiting news.

 

The silence was momentarily broken by Pedro, bursting into the room frantically to grab Mira’s brown, embroidered bag from the settee (which must have been there the whole time, but Alma hadn’t noticed it…) before hurrying out again as fast as he’d arrived.

 

(Perhaps Mira kept medical supplies in there! She’d used something from her bag after… it… and had seemed to be in less pain afterwards…)

 

After buttoning up her blouse and running a hand through her unbraided hair, Alma continued to wait.

 

And wait.

 

And wait…

 

And…

 

 

Pedro returned with wet red hands and a drooping demeanour, shooting her a weak yet reassuring smile as he went to wash his hands of afterbirth.

 

When he sat beside her, taking Pepa into his arms, Alma pounced.

 

“Is she okay? What happened? Is the baby-”

 

“She’s, well…” Pedro glanced around the room, as though physically searching for the words. “It wasn’t… easy. I… I think we almost lost her but she's… fine now. She’s alive.” Alma felt something within her unwind.

 

“And… the baby?” Pedro stared down as sleeping Pepa for a moment, pensive. After a few seconds, he released a sigh that seemed to carry a heavy load along with it, dispersing in the air of the room.

 

“The baby… we thought it was dead. Pretty sure it was dead. It didn’t… wasn’t moving, or crying, I could barely tell if it was even breathing… ” He swallowed thickly. “I only realised when I was washing it… him… and I went to tell Mira and she… she just snatched him from me and started to… do the breathing for him.”

 

He cringed slightly before turning to Alma. “She did tell me to look away but… I mean it was kinda gross? I’m glad I washed him first. Then she told me to get her bag so… and uh… yea the baby’s fine now.”

 

Alma squinted at her husband, easily detecting his attempted secrecy.

 

“You’re hiding something from me.” And, in response to her accusation, Pedro sighed in frustration.

 

“Miraposa made me promise not to tell anyone and, honestly? It doesn’t matter. What matters is her son is alive, she’s alive, and it’s all hunky dory.” Alma just breathed, for a moment in reluctant acceptance. Promises meant a lot to Mira, and neither she nor Pedro would dare break one.

 

“So her baby’s fine? Just… perfectly healthy, despite being born three whole months ahead of schedule?” Pedro tilted his head from side to side.

 

Eeehhh I mean he wasn’t fine, but I’m telling you, Mira’s got some serious magic on her side!” Alma was entirely unimpressed with Pedro’s answer.

 

“Pedro, you can’t just claim that unexplainable things are ‘magic’!”

 

“Hey, it’s totally true this time! All those butterflies? How she bounces back from anything? Come on Alma, tell me that’s not magic!” Alma rolled her eyes.

 

“She’s just tenacious. She’s a very strong girl who knows herself well.” Alma stopped short and frowned as something occurred to her. “You said ‘son’? She… had a boy?”

 

“Huh? Oh yea, it’s a boy. She’s named him ‘Bruno’.” He sat back in his seat to eye the ceiling, obviously exhausted from the… eventful morning he’d had. “Not what I would’ve named him, but hey he’s not my son so, can’t really judge.”

 

Alma gulped and turned to stare out of the window, at the morning sun shifting from dawn to noon.

 

(Perhaps Pedro’s claims of magic had some merit, no matter how ridiculous…)

 

On April sixth Mira Bel, aka Miraposa, became a Mother.

 

And Alma, despite being in the house when it happened, would never receive any satisfying answers to her questions.

 

(She had to wonder if that was a good thing…)

Chapter Text

Miraposa’s baby was a small, wrinkled little thing that spent most of his first few weeks of life sleeping.

 

And when the baby was awake? He was… quiet. Too quiet. Worryingly so (weren’t babies supposed to cry all the time? Her’s certainly did...)

 

But Mira insisted, wholeheartedly, that her son was as healthy as he could be given the circumstances. That he did cry, in fact, but Mira was tending to him before it could raise in volume.

 

Which, well, made sense to Alma. Mira adamantly refused to put little Bruno down. Since the new baby didn’t have his own crib (because none of them had anticipated or planned for such an early arrival) Alma had offered to let Bruno share with one of the girls, but Mira was resistant.

 

She wanted her tiny child within arm's reach at all times. Bruno would sleep on the pillow right next to Mira, and when he wasn’t on the pillow he was in his Mother’s arms. Resting against her chest.

 

Mira had always had small, sweaty hands, but they looked positively giant in comparison to her baby. Her palm easily cradled the back of his fragile head in a comfort she couldn’t manage as easily with the twins, purely due to scale.

 

She carried him everywhere, constantly cuddling him and kissing his miniature face as though he were at risk of vanishing at any moment. Nuzzling his prominent nose and whispering who knows what into his hairless head.

 

And Alma was mystified. She hadn’t felt that strong of a connection with her children that quickly or intensely, not by a long shot. She’d needed time to get to know them, learn who they were, before she could love them in a manner stronger than the abstract.

 

Miraposa loved her baby wholeheartedly from the moment he was born.

 

Then again, Mira’s love of her family had always been her most prominent quality. Even with their absence, her love for them was etched into her clothing, expressed through her stories, and kept alive by will alone.

 

As far as Mira was probably concerned, Bruno was a new member of her beloved family, so loving him unconditionally that quickly had seemed to be a given. A foregone conclusion.

 

(Mira just had so much love to give, but she’d been separated from her family for so long… too long…)

 

Mira sat in the living room, haloed by a flutter of those golden butterflies as she hummed to Bruno. The too-small baby did nothing but stare up at his Mama with squinted, baby blue eyes as he was calmly rocked back and forth.

 

Alma supposed that, on some level, she understood Mira’s decision to keep Bruno away from sleeping next to Julieta or Pepa, as her two girls had become more… hand swingy, and Bruno was such a delicate boy…

 

(Born far too early, surviving through the skin of his teeth and via the tireless efforts of Mira and Pedro…)

 

But it had been a month, Bruno was growing more and more every day, but Alma was content with Mira’s decision to keep a close eye on him. Just in case.

 

Sitting on the sofa across from Mira, Alma adjusted her girls in her lap, ensuring they were comfortable in their new position.

 

It was strange to sit like that, sharing the silence as they cradled their infants.

 

Mira was tracing her baby’s face with a dainty finger, trailing along the curve of his puffy cheek, grazing his brow, swiping down the slope of his nose to tap its tip, to follow the slant of his little mouth before trailing the curve of his cheek again in a repetitive cycle.

 

It appeared to be almost therapeutic, but her eyes were thoughtful and distant as she did so. And Alma had no idea what she could have been thinking about so deeply.

 

(Hopefully not the matter of the boy’s… unfortunate… Father. It never came up but that doesn’t mean Mira never spared it a thought… surely…)

 

Mira eventually set Bruno in her lap, careful as anything, before sitting back with an aching sigh as she met Alma’s eyes.

 

Even without Alma having said a word, Mira seemed to pick up on what she was asking, smiling softly.

 

“Arms’re just getting a little tired, don’t worry.” She breathed out moreso than spoke, leaving Alma to scrutinise her friend.

 

“And exactly how long were you holding him for?” Babies were deceptively heavy when held for long enough, and Mira’s was noticeably lighter than is ordinary.

 

Mira blinked. “Well, I guess since sunrise, but-”

 

Alma hissed in disapproving sympathy.

 

-but, I’ve been taking breaks! Like now, see?” Mira nodded down to her baby, who lay placidly in her lap. “See? Little Brunito’s just happy to be here, aren’t you?” She cooed as she bobbed her knees gently, eliciting a happy sound from the baby.

 

Alma couldn’t repress a smile at the adorable sight, relieved to hear the little boy make such noises.

 

“But aren’t you… worried that he doesn’t cry?” Mira stilled the movement of her legs, frowning at Alma’s question.

 

“He hasn’t needed to yet. Besides, maybe he’s just a quiet guy.” She smiled down at him again. “Maybe his lungs are too small, or something, but that can’t be helped. I’m sure the crying will start eventually. He just needs some time.”

 

Alma tilted her head at Mira’s words. “You can tell this early? That he is a quiet person?” Mira echoed the head tilt.

 

“Well, I guess not, but I do know that however he turns out? I’m gonna love him.” She brightened again, though there seemed to be something… tense, lurking beneath that smile. “As long as he’s able to be himself. I wouldn’t want him to be forced to be something he’s not.”

 

Alma nodded absentmindedly at that. “I suppose I can understand that.”

 

Miraposa smiled that mixed smile again, tugging the corner of Bruno’s green blanket further up his tender neck as she turned to stare out of the window, mind wandering paths unknown once more.

 

(And Alma couldn’t say, but she began to speculate that Mira’s mind was occupied by more than just little Bruno… but that was ridiculous. What could be more important than her baby?)

Chapter Text

It had been an ordinary day like any other. Alma and Pedro sat on their bed, Julieta and Pepa sleeping peacefully, finally, in their Mother’s arms. Meanwhile Miraposa had been, presumably, resting in her own room with Bruno.

 

Pedro’s hand was a warm, comforting weight on Alma’s shoulder as the couple shared smiles of relief. Getting their girls to sleep had been a tiring struggle, and they were finally free to begin preparations for bed.

 

However, before they got the chance to move, there was a… commotion…

 

Through the window a figure could be seen, running (for their life, trying to escape ) from another who chased after, weapon drawn, on horseback.

 

Alma could only watch with growing, mounting horror as the saddled figure cut down (k i l l e d…) the helpless runner, and was it just her or had the man riding on that horse seemed… familiar?

 

She was never given a chance to find out, as Pedro began throwing their essential belongings into a satchel to a backdrop of screaming and yelling, before grasping her shoulder and, well, they were running.

 

(Running for their lives…)

 

Stopping by Mira’s room, they had just enough time to see the door open and the room empty before they continued out of the house. (Mira must have seen the commotion before they did…)

 

Feet hitting the dirt street, Pedro led her to a large section of foliage to hide behind. Once he was certain she wouldn’t be spotted by any nasties, he was gone to find more victims in need of rescue and escape.

 

(Because Pedro was strong, and capable and he always, always, knew what to do in a disaster…)

 

Alma couldn’t say how long she spent crouched behind those trees and bushes, constantly looking down at her twins’ sleeping faces to ensure they were alright (and not going to expose their location by crying…)

 

After some time passed, Pedro returned to lead her out of the shrubbery. He guided her to a large gathering of people just outside of the village’s border, all of whom were carrying bags of hastily gathered belongings and clinging to each other fearfully.

 

Alma held her babies more securely to her torso, peering at each face in the hopes of spotting Mira. (What if she was hurt? Or dying somewhere? What about little Bruno?...)

 

Just as she was about to ask Pedro, to beg him to tell her where Mira was, said girl suddenly entered her line of sight. Running with Bruno cradled in her arms, her brown embroidered bag (now empty) bouncing on her hip and a plain brown satchel hanging off her elbow.

 

She looked… haggard and terrified, sprinting straight for Alma as though she were being chased at the heels (but she wasn’t, there was nothing and nobody following after her…)

 

She came to a stop in front of Alma, panting and heaving for air.

 

“Mira? Are you-” Her words were halted by Mira, silently and deliberately, placing the strap of the brown satchel on her shoulder. “...Mira?”

 

The satchel hadn’t been all that heavy or cumbersome, but Alma couldn’t say the same for what was swimming in Mira’s wide brown eyes as their gazes locked, light from the village turning them amber.

 

The girl’s ever expressive eyes turned to look down at her small baby who slept peacefully against her chest, leaning down to kiss his head and hold him closer while murmuring unknown secrets into his head. (Alma wasn’t sure, she spoke so quietly…)

 

Alma worried.

 

“Mira? What’s-” Her questions cut off once more when Mira, head snapping up with a firm look on her face as she jerked forward to… to place her beloved son into Alma’s arms.

 

To hand over her special baby to Alma. To Alma!

 

‘What?!’

 

Alma fumbles a moment, trying oh so hard not to drop the breakable baby she hadn’t planned on holding… ever, really. Not for another few months at least…

 

And Alma just… stared at the three infants for a second. Bruno’s green blanket was a stark contrast to the yellow tones of her twins from his new place between them. Whatever questions she had wanted to ask never came to fruition as Pedro appeared at her side.

 

“Miraposa? What are you doing?” His voice was incredulous as his eyes bounced between Bruno’s new place and Mira, already stressed from the evacuation.

 

Mira ignored him, eyes trained on Alma’s.

 

“Promise me.” Her voice wavered, yet she seemed dead set on what she was saying. “Promise me you… you’ll tell him the truth, okay? He’s gotta know!”

 

“M- Mira? What are you saying?”

 

“On his fifteenth birthday! Promise me you’ll tell him everything, please! ” Alma struggled to comprehend what was happening, what Mira’s words meant.

 

“I- What is this? What are you doing? Mira you’re not-”

 

“I can’t keep him, Alma!” Mira pressed, looking absolutely gutted by her own words. Tears welling behind her glasses as Alma tried, tried, to understand. Mira was… leaving? At a time like that? And leaving her baby behind in the process? Why?

 

“I- Is it your family? Do you think they won’t accept him? I’m sure they-”

 

“That’s not it!” The core issue wasn’t about Mira leaving Alma, really. That, she could understand, and had been expecting in all honesty. It was her abandonment of the baby that she’d birthed, and spent two whole months loving so much that rubbed Alma the wrong way.

 

(Something was wrong…)

 

“Did you… change your mind?” Alma’s words were hesitant, and she immediately knew it was the worst possible thing to say upon seeing Mira’s devastation.

 

“Change my- no. No! Don’t you think I’d stay if I could?” Mira didn’t seem aware of the tears that trailed down her face, and Alma felt like the worst friend to ever exist. “Of course I wanna raise him! Be there for his first steps, his first words, to see him g-grow u-u-up and…

 

Voice breaking, tears streaming, and Alma felt so inadequate in the face of Mira’s pain. Not knowing how to help her. She felt so useless… helpless…

 

(That sounds familiar…)

 

“I have to go. I don’t have a choice! And Bruno? I can’t take him with me. He’s gotta stay.” Wiping her face, Mira’s eyes bored into Alma with intent. “So promise me, you’ll tell him everything on his fifteenth birthday. And I mean everything!

 

And Alma… she knew there was no arguing further. Mira had made her decision and all Alma could do in the face of it was agree. The girl was so stubborn, tenacious, strong willed, nothing like a girl her age should be.

 

(She was also one to never break a promise…)

 

“I will agree, only on the condition that you promise that… that we’ll see you again.”

 

The two of them fell silent for a moment, the air filled with devastation and Pedro’s ignored protests as Mira’s face softened, looking at Alma with that inexplicable compassion Alma had never asked for.

 

“I promise, Alma, you’ll see me again.”

 

And she spoke with such conviction, resolve, power…

 

What else was Alma to do but believe her?

 

::::

 

Alma’s legs were aching.

 

She couldn’t say how long they walked for, escaping from their own homes in search of safety, but Pedro’s reliable hands on her shoulders eased her mind.

 

(At least she still had Pedro…)

 

The man had been so close to running after Miraposa. Once the girl had sealed her promise, she’d fled not a second after while leaving Alma and Pedro in the dust. But Alma had stopped him, she knew a losing battle when she saw one, and Mira’s choice had been made.

 

There was no turning back after that.

 

Alma spent the walk feeling endlessly anxious, trying not to crush little Bruno between Julieta and Pepa’s body weights. She didn’t recognise anyone in the crowd, she fretted for Mira, and she was terrified those attackers would catch up without mercy.

 

They came across a body of water and, while crossing, Alma knew it was over. The attackers had caught up, and they were sitting ducks…

 

(Dead, dead, all of them were so dead, her babies, Mira’s baby…)

 

Before she had a chance to react, Pedro pushed her over the bank. Her feet meeting dry land as she twizzled around to face him.

 

Pedro’s gaze was locked in the direction of the sound of approaching hooves.

 

Alma didn’t need to be a mind reader to know what he was thinking, she knew the moment he turned to her, bending down to place a kiss on each little head before those lips met hers.

 

A goodbye.

 

‘No, no, he can’t just… I just lost Mira please…’

 

When had her face become wet? When had he gotten so far away?

 

(Why was she so incapable of keeping the people she loved?)

 

His arms raised, surrendered, and all she could do was reach for his half-submerged silhouette with a useless hand while bracing the other across the babies. (Don’t drop them…)

 

She knew she should run, she knew she should follow the rest of the evacuees, but… but…

 

There was a machete, reflecting the moonlight as it was flung, remorselessly, at the love of her life...

 

And everything was red…

 

And everything was gold…

Chapter Text

Mira Bel was certainly… a character.

 

Which was good, great even! Pedro loves characters! He’s a writer after all, so it is… kind of a given? What good was a writer without unique characters to write about?

 

And Mira Bel, newly dubbed ‘Miraposa’, is most certainly one of them. She’s got it all! The eye-catching appearance, that positive protagonist energy that carried you through all three acts and, occasionally, that ‘look’ in her eyes that hinted at a very, very intriguing backstory!

 

(Pedro had to wonder what genre of story she hailed from. His money is on fantasy!)

 

So if Mira was the glamorous star, and Alma the reliable best friend, then Pedro was quite obviously the comic relief! This was more than fine by him. He gets his enjoyment out of it. (And it wouldn’t be the first time…)

 

But like most fabulous leads, Mira was clearly carrying a sadness around with her. One that left her with wistful looks and forlorn silences. All Pedro could do in response was make jokes, ease the tension, and brighten her spirits whenever possible.

 

It was well known that being the main character also came with many burdens invisible to the supporting cast, so Pedro knew better than to ask.

 

(If she wanted him to know she would tell him in her own time…)

 

::::

 

He wasn’t supposed to grow… attached.

 

He wasn’t supposed to care, beyond general acts of kindness expected of a good samaritan.

 

After all, Mira is the star of the story! The one forgoing a grand quest of which he and Alma are but temporary side characters to be written off once the current story arc reaches its eventual conclusion.

 

But no, instead he’s found himself a friend . And friends are… well, not permanent. but it was hard to remember that when they were hanging out and spending casual time together.

 

The butterflies were certainly funky little guys, fluttering around Mira’s head at the most random times with no explanation. Mira herself seemed befuddled by their presence, so Pedro figured his punny nickname was well deserved.

 

Miraposa and her mariposas. Haha , that’ll never not be funny!

 

Seriously, he’s a total comedic genius! (He can’t afford not to be…)

 

::::

 

“So, how does it feel to be an upcoming Papa?”

 

Pedro shoots Miraposa a look. She’s been acting really strange since Alma’s pregnancy announcement, but Pedro just… couldn’t figure her out.

 

Alma seemed to buy her excuse of shock, but Pedro knows, knows, that it’s more than that. Does it have something to do with her deep and mysterious past? In that case Pedro, as the comedic side character, was obligated to leave it be. He wasn’t going to pry where he wasn’t supposed to.

 

(That’s Alma’s job!)

 

“It feels… scary I suppose.” Honesty was the best policy, even when it got him a concerned squint from Mira.

 

“‘Scary’? How come?”

 

“Where do I even start? The risk of miscarriage? The double birth? Alma’s mood swings? Parenthood in general? It’s all very… daunting, you know?”

 

Mira’s expression melts into a soft smile, eyes alight with a deep understanding only someone like her could muster. “Well, it’ll be worth it, right?”

 

Pedro attempts to hide his frown, turning away as naturally as possible. “Yea… worth it…” Of course, Mira noticed.

 

(Of course she did!)

 

“Is… something bothering you? You uh, don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to…”

 

Does it matter that he doesn’t have to tell her? Does it? Maybe not. Maybe he’ll tell her anyway because… because he needs to share it with someone. Someone other than Alma.

 

(Someone with a story of which he is but a stepping stone… a brief interlude…)

 

“I just… don’t want to lose her… them … you know? It would be so easy for nature to just…” He waves a hand noncommittally, he hopes he conveyed the meaning behind his failed words.

 

It seems to have worked, as Mira placed a hand on his arm and smiled in kind solidarity. Recognition.

 

“Hey… Trust me, Pedro, I’m sure they’ll be fine. You’ll see.”

 

(But personal experience was a breeding ground for doubts…)

 

::::

 

Holy… holy… holy…

 

…He doesn’t know what is holy, but it’s certainly not what he’s currently looking at! No siree!

 

With his own two eyes as well! His poor corneas…

 

(That’s… a lot of blood…)

 

“Ay! What do you think you’re doing?! ” Probably not the best thing to shout in this circumstance but hey, cut him some slack! He’s processing on a time limit!

 

The man’s head snapped over to Pedro and, upon realising he’s been caught, ripped himself from poor Miraposa’s damaged body and booked it!

 

The strangled scream Mira released at her attacker’s rough exit was… beyond words.

 

(...Okay, no. No, nope, no!)

 

It’s only when he’s half way down the marketplace, chasing after the perpetrator, that he realised he’d just… left Mira alone…

 

‘Dammit! I can’t go back now!’

 

Luck seems to be on his side though, as his chase led him straight past his wife. Sure, he didn’t get many words out before he had cleared her direct earshot, but at least he got the message across… hopefully…

 

Alma’s a smart galleta, she’d figure it out. And if she didn’t? Then Pedro would after he completed his current side quest.

 

The guy is fast, but Pedro has adrenaline and spite on his side! And this man had just used… a lot of energy. Tackling him to the ground is practically childs play.

 

*Huff* Are you mad that I had some fun with your daughter?” Okay, daughter? They don’t look that much alike right? What, did this guy think Pedro was that old? Or that Mira was that… young…

 

‘Okay how about a solid no to this mierda!’

 

Knocking this freak unconscious with only a single, decisive punch to the temple was much, much more satisfying than it has any right to be.

 

::::

 

“I’m just saying, I took him to the authorities! He’s in custody now. I could tell you his name-”

 

“No, just… no thanks, Pedro.” Pedro opens his mouth, just to double check, when his arms are suddenly occupied with damaged clothing. “Could you get rid of these? Just, throw them away… burn them… whatever. It’s turned into a twisted symbol of my life and I don’t wanna look at it anymore.”

 

Pedro stares, examines the girl’s back as she turns away from him. She doesn’t… look to be in any pain from her ordeal, and she doesn’t seem to be bleeding anymore… so…

 

He closes the door behind him only to be met with a frantic, pacing Alma.

 

(He knows a losing battle when he sees one.)

 

::::

 

Pedro looks at the bucket, then at the sheepish girl who holds it with a crooked smile of apology on her face.

 

“This is my work bucket.”

 

“Uh, yea-”

 

“You cleaned my work bucket.”

 

“Uh, well, I did kinda ruin it? So I figured…”

 

Pedro stares. Mira stares back.

 

“If anyone asks, you got me a completely new bucket.”

 

“Sure, sounds fair...”

 

::::

 

Pedro slams his hand down on the table in front of Miraposa, who flinches noticeably at the impact. He winces in sympathy, but barrells onwards knowing Mira wouldn’t want to dwell on it. (The last thing she wants from him is pity…)

 

“Miraposa! Birthday! You! When!”

 

Mira squinted up at him. “Is that… a question?”

 

“Yes!”

 

Mira studies him for a second more (hesitating, though he can't imagine why her birthday is something to hesitate over...) before deigning to answer. “...My birthday is... the s-tenth of February.”

 

YES! I’m going to get you the best present-”

 

“No!” Miraposa interrupted. “No, Pedro. You don’t need to get me anything.”

 

Pedro furrows his brows, unconvinced. “Ah, is this some womanly double speak? Two years of marriage has only improved my fluency, I’ll have you know. I could-” Mira cuts him off with a sigh.

 

“No Pedro, I’m serious. You don’t need to get me anything. Neither of you do. I just… I just wanna spend time with you, okay?”

 

And Pedro tries, hard, to find signs of lying. But… he’s failed.

 

He slumps, wind thoroughly kicked out of his sails, before brightening again with an epiphany.

 

“Very well dear Miraposa, I understand completely.” With this said, he strides off under the skeptical gaze of Mira in search of his better half.

 

(Just because he couldn’t get Mira something, doesn’t mean Alma couldn’t…)

 

::::

 

Babies were babies were babies.

 

Loud, a little obnoxious at the worst of times, but overall lovable bundles of joy to further the human population and keep their species going.

 

And he has to wonder what stories these two will have. What footnotes he’s going to leave between their pages.

 

Pedro cradles his precious girls in his arms, and knows deep inside that he’s going to do anything in his power to keep them safe.

 

(Anything…)

 

::::

 

“Miraposa? Hey hey Mira, butterfly, what’s wrong?

 

Okay, so this is very not normal. The screaming at ass o’clock in the morning, that is. But Pedro’s not going to let a little ear ringing stop his effort of aid!

 

Scrambling to her side, Pedro is careful as can be as he rolls her onto her back. She’s clutching at her stomach with tears soaking her face, and Pedro is t e r r i f i e d !

 

‘Oh no, baby troubles?’

 

Swallowing his nerves and trying not to think too hard about what he is doing, (what he has to do), Pedro moves Mira’s night skirt up and it’s… damp. Thankfully not with red (phew, a relief…) but instead a clear, watery substance…

 

(Hey, this seems familiar…)

 

“Uh, Mira? I think the baby’s coming…” He forces himself to meet her wide, horrified eyes with a facade of calm stability. He needs to act calm. “I’ll need to go and get some things but… I will be quick, okay?”

 

The last thing he wants is to leave her alone, for any stretch of time, but “drastic times drastic measures” and all that.

 

He spared no time in gathering all the things he assumes he’ll need. He’s only seen one birth (technically two, actually...) before and was only present as an observer. But now? He’s the hapless understudy who suddenly found himself in the lead role without a rehearsal!

 

(He can’t risk making any mistakes…)

 

He shuts the door on Alma. He knows her too well, she’d just bring more anxious energy and panic to an already anxiety-inducing and panicked situation.

 

It is fair to say Pedro Madrigal never expected to get this close to a sixteen year old’s… area. Not even when Alma had been sixteen! But there is little choice right now, the baby wants out.

 

“Okay Miraposa, just breathe. I know it hurts but, uh, hey women do this all the time right? Sometimes alone! You’ve got this…” He continues with the reassurances, trying to be heard over Mira’s screams without adding to the loudness. He places a blanket under Mira’s thighs in a feeble attempt to protect the bedsheets. (The baby landing station has been deployed!)

 

Childbirth is terrifying! Maybe Alma was onto something when she refused five children…

 

He keeps a keen eye on Mira as though trying to keep her alive with his gaze alone, as well as the slow appearance of a tiny head as it emerges.

 

A head that’s… too small. It’s only been six months…

 

(So tiny and fragile… what if Pedro broke it?)

 

He feels like he can’t breathe until the baby has been fully delivered…

 

He has no idea how long it’s been, him kneeling here using his hands to support the premie baby during its early entrance into the world, but as soon as he cuts in umbilical cord with his knife and removed the placenta, he’s quick to wash the baby in the bowl of water he had brought.

 

He didn’t have time to check on Mira’s state just yet, the baby was more important. More vulnerable.

 

The newborn, a boy, is… quiet. Too quiet.

 

Worryingly so.

 

He’s… not moving.

 

He’s not breathing!

 

‘Oh crap! Oh no! No no no no…’

 

Pedro whips around to face Mira, to… what, give the bad news? Offer condolences? Cry? He’s probably going to cry! This is a cryable state of affairs-

 

Mira, eyes widened with quickly discarded denial as she realises what’s happening, stole her baby from his arms before he could say or do anything. She cradles her baby’s too-tiny form close, running her hands over him fretfully. Trailing her hands frantically over his small chest, over his unmoving arms, before cradling his small head gently in her palm.

 

“Don’t look, Pedro.” 

 

That is his only warning as Mira hurriedly seals her mouth over her baby’s, breathing evenly as she rubs soothingly at his delicate collarbone, trying to encourage life.

 

(Pedro is very, very glad he washed the poor kid first…)

 

Pedro follows Mira’s direction, turning away from the gross yet necessary scene as he attempts to figure out what he can do to help.

 

What can he do? This is so far beyond Pedro’s skill level in, well, anything really!

 

Pedro’s just not that educated. Not in comparison to the Doctor-

 

“Get my bag! Living room!” Mira’s hoarse voice suddenly snaps and Pedro, desperate to make himself useful, is out of the room immediately.

 

He doesn’t think, doesn’t question. He just bolts into the living room, grabs that brown yet colourful bag (an oxymoron for sure), and sprints back to Mira’s room as quickly as he could force his muscles to move.

 

He passes the bag to Mira and just… watches.

 

(What else is he supposed to do?)

 

Mira reaches into her bag and grabs a… pastry? How is that going to help?

 

She takes a bite of the food, swallowing way too quickly (it’s a wonder she isn’t choking) before taking another. She chews hastily, with purpose, before taking ahold of her child once again.

 

Pedro grimaces and looks away as Mira begins mouth feeding her baby. (Like a bird.) Rubbing soft circles into his neck and upper chest to encourage swallowing.

 

… Gross. Unsanitary. And that’s coming from him.

 

Pedro’s heart stops at the first sounds of wheezy, shuddery breaths coming from the boy, and he nearly cries from sheer relief. (A totally cryable state of affairs…)

 

But all thoughts were filled with… confusion, mostly. Confusion, and questions. A lot of questions.

 

As soon as Mira exhales a sigh of weary relief, he turns to pin her with his bewildered gaze. Her reddened eyes met his.

 

“...Pedro-”

 

“You… healed your premature baby… with food.”

 

“Don’t tell anyone!”

 

“You have magic food?”

 

“You… Remember how I said my Mama’s a cook?”

 

Pedro waved his hands aimlessly in incredulity. “Your cooking Mama’s a witch?!

 

“What? No!”

 

“The magic food and healthy baby says otherwise!”

 

Mira frowns. “Promise me you won’t tell anyone. Not even Alma! I don’t have a lot of Mama’s food, so I have to be careful with it, okay? It’s not something to advertise.”

 

This girl is from a fantasy story. He called it! The butterflies were a dead giveaway.

 

“...Alright. I promise, Miraposa.”

 

::::

 

‘...Well this is a nightmare.’

 

Trudging through a frigid lake, during the dead of night, to escape from being slaughtered like cattle? Yea, Pedro’s not having a good time.

 

Miraposa’s abrupt and urgent exit from their lives is only the icing on the proverbial cake. (And even in this dire situation, he still wishes he could’ve had a birthday cake on his twenty sixth…)

 

Hooves are approaching. He can hear them…

 

There’s not enough time…

 

He has a choice. Either he watches his loved ones die (...again…), or he dies first…

 

Was it ever even a question?

 

So Pedro kisses each baby that lay nestled in Alma’s arms. A goodbye… and an apology…

 

Kissing Alma next, he tries to draw all the confidence he could from her, avoiding her watery eyes as he turns to meet his fate head on.

 

To protect his family, of course.

 

(And also… to avoid outliving them…)

 

Alma’s crying melts into background noise as those saddled men approach, machetes brandished with malicious intent.

 

As Pedro raises his arms, surrendering, he can’t help but glare at the central figure spitefully.

 

‘How could you? You’re a Doctor!’

 

He has to wonder if Miraposa knew, somehow. She’d always avoided this guy…

 

Mira, with her magic food and magic butterflies and magic personality, it didn’t feel like much of a stretch to assume she knew somehow.

 

Whenever talking about the twins’ futures, she only ever addressed Alma whenever it came up. It had seemed like a subconscious action.

 

(He liked to think she knew. That she knew him well enough to guess his story’s final curtain call…)

 

Perhaps Mira Bel didn’t come from a fantasy, despite her ties to the fantastical. Perhaps she came from a tragedy, just like he and Alma had…

 

And Pedro was sorry that his children were going to have roots in tragedy too, just like them. Inescapable.

 

But not enough to run for safety. Not with the safety of his family on the line!

(But Pedro had to admit, at least to himself, that his motives are selfish. He doesn’t want to see his loved ones die… at least this way he won’t know their final chapters…)

 

As the blade swung lower, Pedro felt…

 

R

 

E

 

L

 

I

 

E

 

F

 

.

 

.

 

.

Chapter Text

Bruno can’t say how long he’s been standing there, staring down at the bundled fabric of the green ruana… Alma… had just handed to him.

 

It feels startlingly new. The material is so, so soft… Alma must’ve taken very good care of it all these years for there to be no signs of wear…

 

He draws it closer, pressing it to his face in a vain attempt to catch a whiff of Mama’s remaining presence… but… it just smells faintly like the wood of Alma’s chest of draws that had been it’s home for about 15 years.

 

Wiping his hands on his poncho, he reached out to accept the object A- She had just procured from her draws. The thing (ruana…) was comfy and pleasant in his hands, he never wanted to put it down again…

 

Her smile was… well, he got the feeling it wasn’t entirely happy…

 

“She made it especially for you.” She spoke firmly, with conviction. “She loved you more than anything, Brunito. She would not have left had she felt there was any chance she could have stayed.”

 

(Whether Mama wanted him or not… it didn’t change what she went through in order to have him, did it?)

 

So no, he’s not sure how long he’s been standing there. He does know it’s been way, way too long when the tiles beneath his feet nudge him insistently.

 

He stumbles slightly, shooting a look at those tiles flapping at his heels.

 

“...Casita?” Those tiles flap about more, pleased to have caught Bruno’s attention, before flipping over to create a distinct pathway to the staircase down to the ground floor.

 

‘Uh… okay?’ Casita wants him to follow its lead? Alright…

 

As he walks towards the stairs, the tiles shift beneath him, preventing him from standing on any gaps. As he walks down the stairs, he’s careful to angle his feet just so, ensuring his whole length of each foot lands perfectly on the step.

 

Casita’s waving of shutters and twisting of tiles directs Bruno to the dining room. The dining room that’s… occupied.

 

“Oh, Bruno!” He tenses, gripping the ruana closer to his chest as he stares, wide eyed, at his si- a- at Julieta!

 

“Ah, hey Julie…”

 

She pauses her food packing, catching sight of the curious object he’s holding.

 

“Hey what’s that? New clothes?”

 

Mmmm… Mama made it for me.” It’s not like he’s lying. It’s not his fault Julie doesn’t know he’s not talking about Alma…

 

(He should tell her, shouldn’t he? But then she’d have no reason to put up with him… to want him around…)

 

“A late birthday present? That’s wonderful!” ‘Right… ‘late’...’ “Well, Pepa’s gone to help the farmers with their crops, and I’m going to hand out this food in the centre of town, so you’ll be here alone. Mama should be upstairs all day if you need anything, alright?”

 

“Yeah… yeah al- alright…” She smiles patiently at him, brown eyes warm (and he doesn’t wanna lose that, sometimes it feels like she’s the only one who doesn’t treat him like a freak… ) before she’s swerving around him, arms full of food baskets as she quickly disappears from the room.

 

He stares after her, gnawing on his lower lip. No. He won’t tell her, tell them. They’ll continue being his sisters, he’ll keep being their brother, and it’ll all be just fine!

 

Pepa already struggles to understand him, and that’s her actually trying! If she knew he’s not her brother, she’ll have no reason to keep trying! He… he won’t lose that… he couldn’t handle it if he did…

 

The rustling of curtains catches his attention, and he remembers why he’s standing in the dining room. That Casita led him here for some reason.

 

His eyes follow the movement of the curtains, scan the way the windows wiggle to draw his eye towards the centre of the room, behind Alma’s seat at the table…

 

Oh, right.

 

The Madrigal family tree…


Mama Mira AU Family Tree Ver. 1

 

He remembers how Julie described the tree to her friends, explaining how Bruno’s picture was connected by the tree trunk. That… never quite felt right to him, but he could never explain why…

 

(Now he knows why…)

 

His picture wasn’t attached to the tree. It never had been! It’s just… floating there, loose and untethered, the magic not knowing where else to put him, so it just dumped him in the middle for lack of any other option…

 

…Coming to a decision, he tugs off his poncho and pulls on Mama’s handmade ruana. The garment fell to his knees in length, and experimentally pulling on the hood feels… good… like, well, like it was made special for him. As though Mama knew exactly what he needed…

 

He trails his fingers over the patterning. Alma had said they look like abstract butterflies but, to him, they look more like hourglasses.

 

(But that’s ridiculous! Mama had no reason to know about his association with that symbol… his future vision isn't genetic! He got his gift through the Miracle, just like Julie and Pepa got theirs…)

 

He eyes the tree again, at his awkward placement within the frame amongst the family Madrigal. The family that… isn’t his. Has never been his…

 

Alma said that Mama promised to come back, that they’ll see her again. But how would Alma know?

 

‘I could know…’

 

 

He could know!

 

He could find out, definitively!

 

Absolutely.

 

No uncertainty…

 

(He just has to get to his vision cave, and he could…)

 

Gathering up his poncho, he fled from the dining room to race up the stairs, too caught up in his hopes to notice his feet landing on the gaps.

 

(What did that matter, when there’s a chance that… he could see his Mama’s face?)

Chapter Text

Bruno stops short outside his glowing room door, noticing the new addition he’s reasonably sure wasn’t there this morning.

 

Just this morning, his door had sat flush with the landing, just like all of the other doors. Now though? There were… stairs.

 

Only a few, like three of them, but Bruno swallowed at the meaning, the implications, those measly steps carried with them. Stairs like that don’t show up for no reason.

 

But… no, he won’t let himself get distracted. He has a vision to do! A Mama to see…

 

Picking his way up the steps, he wipes his hands on the bundled poncho he’s holding before reaching for the handle. Once he’s twisted it open, he grabs it with his other one to share the cold sensation with both palms as he walks inside. The shutting of his door feels like a finality. A commitment to his plan.

 

He sprints through the large space, dropping his poncho haphazardly and racing to the foot of the winding staircase up to his vision cave, planting his feet on the first sand covered step.

 

“Hey Casita, gimmie a lift please?”

 

In response, the stairs shift and slide to drag him smoothly up the length of the staircase to reach the top.

 

As he is carried to the entrance of his vision cave, he tries his hardest to maintain his balance. The last thing he wants is to fall off…

 

(That… may have happened a few times…)

 

Making it to the top luckily unscathed, he scurries over the bridge to burst into his cave and begin gathering the necessary materials without pause.

 

Technically, he could have his vision anywhere at any time he wants, but if he wanted something tangible, something to hold in his hands, at the end? He needs a large open space, sand, leaves, fire…

 

He sets about preparing his ritual, hoping beyond hope that Mama keeps her promise. That he’ll actually get to see her for himself.

 

Sitting criss-cross applesauce, he takes a breath. Tosses some salt. Lights his fire to begin the process.

 

He first created this ritual to give something perceptible to the community. With Alma’s insistence on assisting and providing for the Encanto, Bruno’s gift was useless with nothing to show for it, only Bruno was able to experience it. But with this ritual, he could bring someone along with him, could literally hand them the manifestation of their futures in the form of green tinted glass, could be more useful…

 

…Eventually he started pretending that the ritual was the only way he could use his gift. When people started to fear him, avoid him, and saw him as a ‘bad omen’, engineering a barrier of sorts to his gift helped with easing their minds on the whole thing.

 

(It’s better than the alternative…)

 

With all the fires lit, he puts all his focus into what he wants to see, puts all his efforts into directing his sight.

 

‘Please, show me my Mother…’

 

The sands swirl and dance around him wildly, the wind playing with his hair as he… hesitantly… opens his eyes to what is yet to be.

 

(He’s… nervous, it almost feels like he’s about to meet her… but that’s ridiculous…)

 

His vision is awash with masses of shape and colour, all half formed and messy and green. He squints, brows furrowing in trying to give clarity to what he is observing… but he’s blind as a bat.

 

It takes a minute for the vision to form, as though his gift is debating on whether or not to show him what he’s asked for (it’s not of course, you just can’t rush the future. It always takes a minute…) He jerks his hands forward in front of him, palms up pleading ‘please, let me see…’ , but he can’t see them. Can’t see himself. (This is a vision, he never can…)

 

Eventually, the revolving shards of green start to coil, winding, forming a silhouette standing before him…

 

Small, dainty, femenine, is it her?

 

The figure twirls around to face him, and he… stares.

 

He fumbles to his feet, wanting to get a better look at her. At Mama. She’s… pretty. Hair short and curly, the round glasses, the embroidery, she’s exactly how Alma described her!

 

…Exactly so. She looks young, like a teenager his age, but… how?

 

‘But I… I can only see the future! This makes no sense…’

 

Her eyes, (they’re brown, he knows they’re brown, it doesn’t matter that he can only see green…) are wide and watery, as though looking directly at him on the cusp of crying. Her lips are moving, trembling as she speaks, but… whatever she’s saying gets lost in the turbulent wind. The sands of time stealing her voice and deafening him.

 

(Her wobbly lips perform the same small movements, repeating the same syllables, as though she’s saying the same few words over and over and over…)

 

He roams his eyes over her clothing, eyes scanning the mended tear, tries to make sense of the intricate patterns, winces at the difference in tone between the green of her skirt and the green of that… that stain…

 

And… she looks young. She looks his age! ‘But that’s impossible…’

 

“... Mama…” His voice is crystal clear to his ears and, as expected, she doesn’t hear him. (Visions never do…) And he wants her to be real, in front of him, for her warm looking arms to wrap around him and hold him close, so he could hug her back (to thank her for having him, to apologise for what it took from her to have him…)

 

He tries to drink in more of her visage, to commit her too-young face to memory as much as he can, but soon enough her body is dissolving and washing away with the wind as the vision reshuffles.

 

… She’s sitting on the floor now, arms around her knees in a defensive, desperate position as she shys away from someone. (He tries to see who it is, but the green is so vague around them… he can’t make out any details…)

 

The shadow reaches for her, for his Mama, and she jerks away, violently… (and he wants to cry, or scream, to break through the veil of time itself so he could be there… )

 

This moment fades much faster than the last, shifting tints of green seeking new shape…

 

It’s Mama, standing with a woman he soon recognises as Alma in old age, and Mama still looks… so incredibly young.

 

(And he wants to know why! Why she looks so unchanged from Alma’s stories…)

 

His Mama is talking, ranting perhaps? Her hands flying with jerky frustration, occasionally motioning in his direction pointedly. Her eyes are narrow and face twisted in anger as she… yells? At Alma, who stands there taking it while looking as unreadable as ever. (He could never read her well, he can’t really read anybody though…)

 

And he wishes he could hear what Mama is saying, why she’s so angry. He’s… relieved when the vision changes once again. He doesn’t like his Mama being angry.

 

(He doesn’t like anyone being angry, but Mama most of all…)

 

She’s standing, looking thoughtfully at something outside of his periphery for a moment before seeming to notice him, turning to reach a hand to him and smile…

 

Her smile is bright, she’s happy to see him. Eyes crinkling and cheeks squishing from the force of her pleased/relieved/happy grin (It’s one of those, probably, he’s sure…)

 

… And this seemed to be the finish line, the vision crystallising with a swoosh of green. He’s quick to step forward, not wanting this vision to shatter on the ground. Wanting to look at it with his ‘present’ eyes.

 

The object lands in his hands with practised ease. The glossy surface is a tingling warmth between his palms as his vision comes to an end, sand falling around him like a rounded waterfall.

 

He feels the green glow leave his gaze, his sight returning to him would never not be a little dizzying an adjustment as he leaves ‘then’ to return to ‘now’.

 

Blinking spots from his view, he examines his newest, most prized vision eagerly. At his Mama’s smiling face. (She deserves to smile...)

 

And… it doesn’t matter why she looks as young as she does. He’s sure he’ll get answers in time. His gift only lets him see the future, after all, not interpret it. He doesn’t have all the information…

 

Clutching the treasure close, he drops to his knees in the sand as he processes. Trailing his fingers over that immortalised smile.

 

‘... Mama is beautiful!’

Chapter Text

Casita doesn’t pick favourites.

 

It shouldn’t. That’s not its designated purpose, it should be above such things…

 

.

 

.

 

.

 

…But if it did, have a favourite Madrigal, that is, it would have to say that the youngest, Bruno, is the one. Boards down… but it's not built for favouritism, so it won’t. Say that, that is.

 

Yes, of course, you understand don’t you? Casita is a benign, benevolent house built as a sanctuary for the remains of the Madrigal family. Playing favourites went against the very nature of its existence! To suggest otherwise is defamation! Slander of the highest order!

 

…But Bruno is a very strong contender- if it was capable of liking one Madrigal over the other of course… which it can’t, obviously, that would be ridiculous…

 

(…Don’t look at it like that…)

 

Regardless, on the topic of Bruno Madrigal, Casita finds itself… confused, as of late.

 

Because Bruno is most certainly a Madrigal. He is of the family bloodline, it can tell. The Miracle wouldn’t have granted him a gift had he not been so.

 

Then again, Casita isn’t privy to the inner workings of the Candle that wrought its existence. It doesn’t know what the Miracle would do if a Madrigal was adopted into the family tree. Surely, that adopted child would also be granted the courtesy of a gift as any other full blooded family member, surely the Candle isn’t cruel…

 

But Bruno is a trueborn Madrigal, with ancestry rooting from the same veins as Julieta and Pepa do, so… that line of thought is pretty pointless. Bruno is, technically, not adopted. He belongs on the family tree from the circumstances of birth, not acquisition.

 

It has been existing on the assumption that Bruno might, in truth, be an illegitimate child of the late Pedro Madrigal’s. The result of an illicit affair that Alma was unaware of. It’s not a ‘charitable’ assumption of course, and Casita has always felt like the very idea is very off base as a misrepresentation of the dearly departed Pedro’s character, but as the Candle never confirmed nor denied its inquiries on the matter… well… it didn’t have many other ideas to work with. Both Pedro and Alma had been only children, as far as it could tell, so he isn’t a nephew…

 

The Magic rang with too much Truth at Alma's pronouncement that Pedro isn’t Bruno’s Father, so that half baked theory shrivelled and died without much ceremony. And Casita is, once again, left without any shred of an idea of how little Brunito… fits , in the grander scheme of the family.

 

Because he should fit, in some such fashion…

 

But the Magic doesn’t lie, not to it. Bruno is a genuine Madrigal… somehow.

 

(Casita just can’t figure out how, and the Miracle's silence remains steadfast…)

 

::::

 

Alma isn’t sure how long she’s sat here on her bed, face in her hands as she stews.

 

She’s done it. She has upheld her promise to Mira and told her son everything. Of course, she censored some of the explicit details, and left out some instances that were too personal for her to share, but she has kept her word.

 

She told him.

 

And dug up bittersweet memories in the process. She had been such a different woman back then…

 

Mira had been such a good Mother, in spite of her circumstances. Compared to those lone two months she had with Bruno, Alma can’t help but feel, in her fifteen years of motherhood… like a failure.

 

Mira took to being a Mother like a fish to water. She could tell her baby’s gender before the boy was born! She just… knew, and had a name picked out for him immediately.

 

And once the baby boy was born? She never put him down, swaddled him in so much love and affection from the offset, with barely an adjustment period to get used to having a small, fragile human under her care.

 

Not… not for Alma. Alma didn’t know she would be having girls before they had arrived, she hadn’t loved them, fully loved him as a Mother should, for a good number of months after their births.

 

Alma… She likes to think she did her best. That she is a good Mother regardless of what she’s been through. But… she knows that next to Mira? She would pale in comparison.

 

Mira just… knew her baby so instinctually, so naturally. So many of her small, seemingly too-detailed observations have proven to be correct in the years following that night. Bruno IS a naturally quiet person. Bruno DOES just need time to work himself out…

 

…Is Alma a bad Mother, that she couldn’t figure out those sorts of details about her girls so quickly? She supposes she hasn’t had much of a role model with regards to good, healthy parenting. She’s probably made so many mistakes…

 

Luckily, she hasn’t followed in her own Mother’s footsteps. She hasn’t repeated history.

 

After all, her girls are still here. They’re still together, with her. They are a family.

 

(She can only hope that they remain that way…)

 

::::

 

Julieta is drained . Handing out food to injured townspeople for several hours would tire anyone out.

 

Several… hours…

 

‘Ay, it’s that dark already?’

 

Quickly gathering her empty baskets, she runs as fast as she can back to Casita, hoping she’s not too late to prepare dinner.

 

(Because if Bruno hasn’t eaten… if he’s forgotten to eat, then that’s on her! She’s made it her job to remind him...)

 

Scrambling to the kitchen, she makes quick work of heating up one of her pre-made arepas. Not remotely a substantial lunch, but she’ll see how Bruno is doing before making any decisions on dinner.

 

Plating the heated arepa, she speed walks to her brother’s room. The stairs are new, (she knows how much Bruno likes his stairs) trying to calm herself as she climbs the elevating steps, she knocks on the door.

 

…Silence…

 

‘Is he in his vision cave?’

 

Entering, she wrinkles her nose at the mess her brother’s room is in (but she knows better than to move anything…)

 

“Bruno? Are you here Hermanito?”

 

A rustling, accompanied by a wordless groany wine draws her eye to the hammock attached to two rock pillars a few paces from the staircase. Seeing her brother laying on it, face down and fully clothed on top of his blankets? She can immediately tell he hasn’t eaten yet. That he probably hasn’t moved from his current position in a good long while.

 

“Bruno?”

 

His head, which was facing away from her, moves to shove his face in his pillow. He makes more unintelligible noises she can’t make much sense of before he finally turns her way, his tired green eyes looking at nothing over her shoulder in an avoidance of eye contact.

 

“Hey Bruno. Are you hungry?”

 

He frowns, eyes flickering to hers for a brief moment. “...Huh?”

 

“Food, Bruno. Have you eaten?”

 

His eyes glance at hers, then at the plate she was holding. His eyes widen when he sees it. “Mmmmh… Oh, uh yea, I’m hungry.”

 

Her brow creases with worry as she walks closer. She notices his arms are angled differently than usual, clutching at something unseen under his pillow. A comfort object, perhaps. (He has a lot of those, she hopes he’s not clutching salt under there, that’s so unhygenic…)

 

“If you’re hungry, why haven’t you gone to get something to eat?” But even as she asks this, she feels like she knows the answer. Because it’s Bruno, and sometimes he’s just… like this. He can’t help it anymore than Pepa can help the weather. Most of the time it’s manageable, but sometimes…

 

“Uh, I’ve been trying… y’know, telling myself to get up and get food… but I- yea.” 

 

“So you forgot to eat again.”

 

“I didn’t forget, just ah- my brain’s not listening to me right now. I swear it’s got something against me!”

 

She hands the arepa over to him, knowing that now isn’t the time for a lecture of a scolding (it’s not her place anyway…) instead, she begins to mentally plan Bruno’s dinner. What food she’d prepare that she knows he’ll eat without any fuss.

 

He takes the plate with his left hand, his right one remaining under the pillow as he uses his left one alone to munch on the snack. His green eyes wide with apology, but she knows he’s not as guilty as he is trying to lead her to believe.

 

(He knows how to get what he wants…)

 

“Alright, I’ll get started on dinner then.”

 

His answering smile is deceptively innocent. She’s very aware that he has no control over this, but that doesn’t mean he’s above using it to his advantage. To get his big sister to cook dinner for him so he doesn’t have to.

 

“Thank you Julie! You’re the best!”

 

“Yes I am, and you’d better remember that!”

Chapter Text

Pepa Madrigal has always been fascinated with the weather.

 

For as long as she can remember, she’s found rain to be comforting, the sun warming, the wind calming… She enjoys her long twin braids dancing in the breeze as they leave their usual resting place against the slope of her back to flail behind her as the air slides against her face and cools her cheeks. October has always been enjoyable with its leaves just as ginger as she is.

 

…But she can’t appreciate such things at the moment. Not with the way she’s feeling!

 

The wind is wild and whipping as she kneels in the eye of the storm, breathing heavily as she stares in the direction her boyfriend had just fled.

 

Ex -boyfriend, actually. He’s just become her ex.

 

(Good riddance!)

 

The bright yellow skirt of her dress is getting wet and dirty, kneeling on the ground as she is. But caring about such a trivial thing? At a time like this? She’ll just clean it later.

 

Her hair lashes at the roiling air currents, some wayward strands escaping their ties to flutter loose behind her.

 

Just… how could he? She loved him, was prepared to marry him and have his children, ready to share her life with him…

 

But he just wanted her for her family name. For the magic she’s been blessed with.

 

Did he ever even like her? Or was she just an ‘in’ to the Madrigal family? A status symbol?

 

“Well once we’re married I’ll get my own gift, won’t I?”

 

(She doesn’t know. She hopes not, but she supposes that doesn’t matter anymore…)

 

He’s gone now anyway, she chased him off with her thundering storm of hurt. Good riddance.

 

She’s glad their date walk had taken her so far away from town, the current state of the weather would’ve probably torn through buildings were she situated any closer. Casita will stand strong for another day (one less thing for Mom to complain about).

 

The winds are freezing the tears on her face, chilling the pale skin of her face (she’s probably gonna get sick again…) as she kneels there, heartbroken.

 

‘He never wanted me, he didn’t love me! What am I gonna do? Was everything a lie? Why didn’t I ever notice? How couldn’t I-’

 

“Ah… Pepie?”

 

Despite the howling winds clogging her hearing, her ears pick it out easily. She’s only spent her whole life training and being conditioned to distinguish that voice, regardless of how quiet and timid it was, in comparison to any blaring, hectic surroundings they happen to find themselves in.

 

Her storm chugs to a slow pace in response to the interruption because, well, she’s not expecting (has never expected) to hear that particular voice at a place and time like this. While she’s storming…

 

She turns to squint at the intruder of her pity party in transparent disbelief. What is he doing here?

 

“Brunie…”

 

She takes a moment to marvel at his presence. Sure, he’s rocking his weight from foot to foot and looks ready to bolt at any second (she wouldn’t be surprised if he does), but he’s here! Dressed in that too-big ruana he’s been wearing every single day (and night) for a solid 6 months now.

 

“What’re you doing here?”

 

His shifting stills, eyes flickering around the area to judge the weather conditions before examining the dirt ground she’s kneeling in, expression pinching in visible distress before he strides over to her, steps forceful and determined with his eyes trained on the dirt in front of her.

 

(He’s never been any good at eye contact…)

 

It’s only when he lays one of Julieta’s picnic blankets over the ground and takes a seat in a fold of bony limbs that she realises.

 

‘Oh you’re kidding-’

 

“So what happened?”

 

She waves her hand at him while motioning to the blanket he’s sitting on in a gesture she picked up from him for whenever words fail and become strangled, agitated. He showed up way too prepared for this to be a coincidence!

 

“Don’t act like you don’t already know!”

 

He blinks at her, green eyes wide like a startled deer as he boars his gaze into hers as though trying to see her very soul.

 

“So what happened?” He repeats, his voice inflecting identically to the first time he asked that question, as though he’s a rewound tape or something. (It’s almost impressive how he does that…)

 

‘Ay, so that’s how it’s gonna be huh?’

 

The winds pick up again as her thoughts return to… him! Her brother sits all too comfortably in the accelerating gusts as she grabs ahold of one of her braids to twist it in her hands.

 

“What do you think happened?” She returns to stare after the direction her ex had run, storm kindling the longer the momentary silence stretches.

 

“...Is that… a rhetorical question? Or-”

 

She flings her hands above her as the storm starts darkening the sky once again.

 

“It’s Dante! He-” She chokes as the rolling clouds crackle with thunder. “I thought he was the one, y’know? I loved him so much but he- he… he strung me along! He just wanted magic, and status! Not… not me…

 

She rubs the newly forming tears from her face in a vain attempt to prevent rain. It’s probably going to rain.

 

“I can’t believe I didn’t see it! How did I miss that?”

 

“Sounds like he didn’t respect you.” She frowns in confusion, fingers twisting further in her hair.

 

“Sure he did.” But Bruno just shakes his head at her, face pinched in frustration.

 

“I mean, he respects the family, right? The Madrigal name. But… doesn’t sound like he respected you much, y’know?”

 

(Dammit, she hates when he’s right.)

 

The rain has started, splashing loud and fast on the grass and yet… she doesn’t feel it? Her hair remains dry…

 

Looking up in bewilderment, she sees that Bruno has pulled out an umbrella and shifted forward on his knees, not leaving the safety of the blanket, to protect the both of them from her literalised waterworks.

 

The blanket? The umbrella? He obviously knew this would be how he’d be spending his afternoon today. He came too prepared. Prepared for sitting on the ground (he always seemed bothered with sitting on bare dirt, apparently it doesn’t ‘feel right’), prepared to defend against the rain…

 

‘Seriously?’

 

He probably saw all of this in his morning vision.

 

He probably saw…

 

“You knew, didn’t you?” Bruno looks at her like he hasn’t the foggiest what she’s talking about.

 

“...Knew what?”

 

“Dante! You knew he wasn’t the one for me, didn’t you? You knew this whole time!” Bruno twitches at her confrontational tone, adjusting his grip on the umbrella anxiously. She wouldn’t be surprised if he left to escape. (It’s fine really, he’s always avoided her more volatile weather. The only reason she’s not offended by it is because he would avoid and hide from her unpredictable moods long before they had received their gifts. He’s always been like this, and so has she…)

 

“Uh, well, yeeeaaah?” He drones uncomfortably, and she stares at him in silent, fale calm as he fidgets. The roaring of her storm continues to broadcast her insides to the whole of Encanto.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“Would you have believed me?” Of course she would. Of course she would! But he continues before she can say anything. “I just figured, you’d want to figure it out for yourself. I didn’t wanna meddle so…”

 

She just nods, listless, as she peers down at her hands clasped tightly in her lap. Thoughtful.

 

“Will I ever get married? Meet someone who actually loves me?” Because the two went hand in hand, according to her Mother. She needs to marry, to have children and continue the illustrious Madrigal family, but their Mother won’t see her children marry for anything other than the truest of love.

 

Did she even have a chance? Julieta and Bruno haven’t dated anyone yet… Does she need to raise her standards?

 

“Mmmm-”

 

“You don’t have to tell me specifics, just, will I? Yes or no.” A simplified two choice question will certainly make this easier on her hermanito. He’s already overwhelmed, there’s no need to risk him running off before she gets an answer. Should she just stop trying with boys?

 

“...Yes. I can’t wait for you to meet him, he’s eh… gonna be pretty cool.”

 

Something within her lightens at his words, the weather finally brightening up as the clouds begin to head out.

 

She reaches over to hold her brother’s hands against the umbrella handle, shooting him a thankful smile.

 

He smiles back, crookedly, as though he’s stepped into a dance performance without knowing any of the steps, but still doing his best to follow along with the beat he’s never heard before.

 

She can’t wait to meet him too. If Bruno thinks he’s cool, she just knows he’s going to be amazing!

Chapter Text

‘Okay, okay okay okay that hurts!’

 

What a way to find out he’s allergic to bee stings. The hard way. But hey, silver lining, at least no one can tell him he’s not allergic to bee stings! The proof is in the pudding.

 

If ‘in the pudding’ means ‘all over his body’, that is.

 

Sure, he’s been injured plenty of times before (he’s not the most coordinated guy…), but never this badly! Never with something worse than scrapes he could slap a fabric scrap over and call it a day.

 

But this? His knees ringing with the pinprick pains from the hoard of bees that had kamikazed into them, his whole body puffy and swollen red with the subsequent allergic reaction he hadn’t known he’d have…

 

(It’s not like he’s ever been stung by bees before! He didn’t even know Encanto had any…)

 

This isn’t some minor injury where he can just apply some pressure and walk it off! It looks like he’ll have to employ some drastic measures in order to get better and recuperate.

 

Drastic measures such as approaching one Julieta Madrigal and asking for some pity food.

 

Agustin has known about the eldest Madrigal triplet’s particular set of unique abilities for, well, about as long as she’s had them he guesses. A solid 11 or so years in fact since he (and she) had been the age of like 5. His parents are always encouraging him to see her about it, but he gets injured so often and so minorly that he’s never seen the need to go see her. Why bother her with the small potatoes when the community takes up her time with bigger fish to fry?

 

(A stubbed toe has nothing on a broken arm…)

 

He’s already considered a public menace due to his clunky motor skills, the last thing he wants is to be a deliberate bother to this girl he doesn’t even know. No siree, he’s not that kind of guy. She probably gets bothered by people enough as is, he’d rather not add to all that noise.

 

But desperate times, desperate measures. He doesn’t have a choice, not like this.

 

His shoes feel like they’re suffocating his puffy swollen feet as he trudged up the stone path that stretched out before the Madrigal family home, each step shooting unbearable itches through his legs and continuously reminding him of the stings forming wonky fairy rings around his kneecaps.

 

(Desperate times, desperate measures…)

 

The door opens by itself the second he’s within arms reach of the knob, startling him something fierce when he sees the distinct presence of noone on the other side.

 

‘Right, right, sentient house!’

 

Shuffling into the entrance hall, said sentient house promptly shuts the door and flips its tiles to form a clear pathway for Agustin to follow, which he willingly does so after a moment of… ‘consideration’. Sentient houses that moved on their own aren’t exactly a common occurrence for him alright? Forgive his hesitancy in the face of the mystical.

 

The house-made path leads him to a large cluttered kitchen. A kitchen currently inhabited by a brunette girl he’s quick to recognise as the Madrigal he’s come here to seek out.

 

She must’ve heard his entry, because it’s not long after he walks in that she turns to him, brown eyes widening at the sorry sight he must be making. Small hands raise to cover her mouth as her eyes scan over his miserable red form.

 

“Uh… hi, Julieta right? I’m Agustin-”

 

“Dios mio! Do you have any food allergies?” She rushes over to him, hovering fretfully as she leads him further into the kitchen to dig through baskets of fresh looking food.

 

“Ah no, no food allergies, just bees… apparently.” He scratches awkwardly at his rash covered arm, an action that is quickly admonished by Julieta who reoccupies his hands with a tasty smelling pastry.

 

“Eat, it’ll help.” As he takes a mouth watering bite out of the food (boy does Julieta know how to cook! Makes sense since she seems to do it all the time…), feeling the pain and itches slowly melt away as he does so, he catches… movement out of the corner of his eye.

 

Someone’s standing at the door.

 

A wide eyed someone who, upon realising they’ve been seen, squeaks like a startled rat and darts behind the door frame to hide from sight.

 

Agustin blinks in bewilderment as Julieta, who had obviously seen the same thing, calls out “Hermanito?” Her querying call results in some shuffling and the sound of hasty footsteps, fading the further away they got. “Huh, that’s weird. He usually avoids visitors.”

 

“Hmm?” Feeling the bee stings in his knees, muted yet still present, he takes another bite as he wordlessly asks for an explanation.

 

Julieta sighs. “My brother, Bruno. He doesn’t like visitors, or people in general really so, whenever we have visitors he keeps to his room. It’s not like him to be down here when someone’s over.”

 

He swallows with a confused frown. “Well… my visit wasn’t really planned? So-”

 

Julieta cuts him off with a head shake and a worried smile. “Trust me, no matter how spontaneous your visit is, he knew you’d be coming over since he woke up this morning, at the latest.”

 

Taking ahold of his shoulder, she begins leading him out into the hall. A hall that is completely void of lurking younger Madrigal. “Bruno was gifted with the power to see the future. He uses it every morning to, well, get an overview of his day I guess. And of course, to see when visitors will be over, in order to avoid them.”

 

“...Huh.” Seeing the future? That sort of thing sounds… overwhelming. He’s heard rumours about the guy of course (there’s rumours about all four of them…) but it’s nice to hear about the lone male of the illustrious Madrigal family in a context devoid of sneers and negative opinion.

 

The way Julieta described it seems so… human. It’s stupid of him, probably, but everyone’s made Bruno out to be some machiavellian harbinger of doom! To hear that he uses his gift to… avoid people? He just sounds like an awkward introvert who doesn’t like being dragged into unwanted socialisation. It sounds… normal.

 

Julieta leads him over to a comfortable looking sitting room where she herds him over to the central most sofa.

 

“Sit, sit, give your body time to heal. Eat the whole thing okay? Feel free to stay as long as you want. I’ll be in the kitchen if you need anything.” Her smile is warm, and she’s quick to scurry off once she gets the nod of understanding from him she’s looking for, leaving him alone to further recover.

 

The stinging itch fades over the next 5 minutes the more pastry he eats, until both pain and pastry are entirely gone, leaving him pain free and happily sated with a morsel of wonderfully cooked food.

 

He sits for a moment, flexing his legs to experimentally test the state of his knees as he takes in the interior decor of the room. Julieta had been very kind. She hadn’t judged him for the sorry condition he’d unwittingly brought upon himself, and she seems like a very attentive and caring older sister. A natural caretaker…

 

As he considers leaving, to head home and tell his parents all about today’s misadventures, there’s the subtle sound of shifting fabric coming from his right. A sound that only stands out to him due to the otherwise pure silence of the room.

 

Looking around, he can’t see anything. Was it Casita? He is sitting within the walls of a sentient house afterall, and all living things make noise, right? But that explanation doesn’t feel right…

 

He spies curly hair and wide eyes peering up at him from behind the arm of the sofa he’s sat on, which upon being caught duck out of sight with yet another squeak.

 

‘...Huh…’

 

Okay, he needs a second to process… Well, his parents had raised him to be well mannered so...

 

“Uh, hello? My name’s Agustin, what’s yours?” He’s not expecting his introduction to achieve anything, so when that hidden head pops up to prop on the sofa’s arm, squinting at him quizzically, he feels justified in his shock that his words were able to draw the elusive guy out.

 

“Why are you asking when you already know?” Agustin leans back at the unexpected question, struggling to catch up.

 

“Uh… what?”

 

Bruno squints further. “My name. You know it. Why ask?”

 

“Uh, well I…” Rubbing his now itch-free arm, he glances around in a struggle (he doesn’t know why he asked, it just came out…) before returning his gaze to Bruno. “I guess, it’s polite.” Bruno braces his hands on the arm, leaning back to sit more comfortably on the floor. And Agustin just has to ask “What are you doing down there?” He keeps his tone free of judgement, he's so curious…

 

Bruno stares at him for a moment, eyes wide and startled, before looking down at where he’s sitting with a contemplative expression as he processes Agustin’s question.

 

He looks back to Agustin with puzzlement, as though he expected the answer to be obvious. “I’m playing charades with Casita.”

 

(…Yea, that answer isn’t remotely obvious…)

 

“Uh, Really?” How would that even work? Casita is a house…

 

Bruno glances around, as though checking for eavesdroppers, before leaning over the sofa arm and raising a hand to the side of his mouth, whispering in confidence “It’s not very good at it.”

 

Casita doesn’t seem to take kindly to the slander, and reacts accordingly. By shoving Bruno from his hiding spot with an indignated clattering of tiles.

 

Yea, this guy isn’t remotely threatening. Agustin has to wonder where everyone got that idea from. Because, well, it certainly wasn’t from the guy himself…

 

Once Bruno has clambered back to his feet, glaring down at Casita as he does so, Agustin smiles.

 

“So is that something you do a lot?”

 

Bruno’s attention snaps back to him, looking startled and confused.

 

“Do what?”

 

Agustin waves a hand idly in an attempt to indicate both Bruno and the general room around them. “Playing charades with Casita. You do that a lot?”

 

Bruno’s gaze flickers around the room as he seemingly processes Agustin’s question. He seems to do that a lot, as though he’s observing and taking everything in at once and needs a second to work out his responses.

 

“No we don’t. It’d be way better at it if we did.” The curtains ruffle in offence and, well, He said it so matter of factly, so monotone and deadpan, that Agustin can’t help but find it funny. Bruno’s brows furrow at his chuckling, clearly not getting the joke.

 

“Right, ‘cause Casita is bad at charades.”

 

“You said it, not me.” Bruno said, eyes widening with faux innocence and Agustin notes they’re actually not brown as he had thought. They’re a dark green! Julieta’s eyes had been brown, for sure. As brown as her hair. Bruno’s hair is black though, it’s strange to think they’re triplets. He’s pretty sure their sister Pepa looks very different from them too, but he’s not properly met her yet so he can’t say for sure.

 

(It’s just the kinds of things he notices when meeting new people, especially siblings…)

 

“So ah, Julieta, your sister? She told me you don’t like visitors?” Bruno eyes him for a moment, taking in his question, before he shoots a squinty frown of, maybe suspicion? In the direction of the kitchen.

 

“My… ‘sister’…” He mutters, a little wonky as though testing the word out, as though he’s never heard it before, and finds it ill fitting. Which makes no sense, Agustin is probably misinterpreting it, after all the two are brother and sister! He’s obviously overthinking something pointless again.

 

“Uh, yea, so I’m just wondering why you decided to meet me? If you, well, don’t like… meeting… people…” Bruno turns that squinty suspicion onto him now which, well, fair. Agustin probably could’ve found a more coherent way to phrase his question but he’s just as clumsy with his words as he is with his movements. Sometimes things just don’t come out all that gracefully.

 

“Mmmm, well.” Bruno’s eyes move around the room, looking shifty, as though he wants to say something but knows better. This guy sees the future, who knows what sordid details he knows about Agustin? Before he ever met him?

 

(Maybe everyone feeling so unnerved by Bruno is more justified than he thought, though it still doesn’t seem fair…)

 

“Well. I wanted to meet the guy who successfully kneed the only beehive in Encanto.” Bruno seemed to settle on, and Agustin spluttered in embarrassment.

 

And it is rather strange, that Bruno knew that Agustin would jam his knees into a beehive hours before he actually did so. “He knew you’d be coming over since he woke up this morning” , Julieta had said.

 

“Wha- ah- I tripped!”

 

“I saw, very impressive considering the hive was in a tree.”

 

“Stop-”

 

“If that rock had been just a few inches to the left-”

 

“For the love of God, please stop.”

 

Bruno falls silent for a beat, before reaching behind his back, beneath his ruana, to extract something that had Agustin just… staring.

 

At a very large, very bold number 10 held in front of a grinning prophet. This sign, it must have taken effort!

 

“God can’t save you from a full 10 out of 10 score in the Beehive Games, congratulations!”

 

Agustin just… stares, at Bruno’s grinning face that only seems to grow more smug the longer the moment stretches.

 

Because the sign? “Beehive Games” ?

 

“You’re… you’re kidding, right?”

 

Bruno doesn’t grace him with an answer and, really, he doesn’t need one.

 

It looks like he’s going to become well acquainted with this damnable beehive. And also with the Madrigals.

 

Because why would Bruno give Agustin’s misfortune a title, or create a sign like this, if he’s not going to be scoring every. single. instance. of bee-related torment?

 

‘Well, at least the food is good…’

 

As he leaves to head home, he trips over the steps and scrapes his palms, only for Julieta (who had of course seen the whole thing from the window) to rush out and help him up while shoving an arepa at him.

 

As he half expected, the arepa was delicious. And the smile Julieta gave him as he ate was pretty- nice! Pretty nice. He almost can’t wait to see them again.

 

(Almost!)

Chapter Text

It’s 5 in the afternoon.

 

Afternoon? Evening? When was the cut off point? As someone whose supernatural gift hinged on the concept of time, you’d think he’d know something like that.

 

He doesn’t.

 

He’s just… laying here, on his hammock, his precious green vision clutched tightly in his hands as he stares at the face of his Mama. The glossy surface is becoming more and more smudged with grease from his fingers running over those soft cheeks, tracing the line of her smile, poking at those round earrings…

 

And he should really get up. Waking up at 5pm isn’t a good look. It’s not healthy. Julie’s gonna be so mad he went to sleep at 7am! Alma’s going to have quite the time scolding him for neglecting his duties all day, and he can’t even excuse it. He has no excuses, there’s nothing he can say to soften the blow. To soothe Alma’s expectant anger.

 

(He’s hungry. He should get up.)

 

He shifts his legs beneath his blanket, a barely-there attempt to move. To feel alive. The vision he’s holding is smudged, the treasured image is getting more and more cloudy. Murky. Mama deserves better.

 

(He should polish it. He should get up.)

 

His head feels heavy as he tries to lift it, his skull unwilling to leave the comforts of the pillow. Mama fought so hard to have him, went through so much grief to bring him into this world. She worked so hard to preserve his life… and this is what he’s doing with it?

 

(He’s wasting his life. He should get up.)

 

She probably hates him. That must be why she hasn’t come back yet. It must be! she’s probably looking at him, from wherever she is, and has deemed him a disappointment. A waste of her efforts.

 

‘You can’t even get out of bed? Pathetic!’

 

(He’s hungry. He should get up.)

 

No one’s come to check on him yet, and why would they? They’re all probably off doing their duties like the responsible, capable vassals of the Miracle that they are.

 

…And then there’s him, who can’t even get out of bed.

 

Despite being hungry, despite wanting to do things like wash his ruana and clean his vision and- he- he  c a n ‘ t . . .

 

(He’s wasting the life Mama suffered for. He should get up.)

 

There’s no justification for losing a whole day. There’s no satisfying reason he can possibly give to excuse this. His body is as healthy as it ever was, he’s been stretching and exercising in the hopes of bumping up his durability. There’s nothing physically keeping him here.

 

It’s not a people thing either. Sure, the community hates his gift (and by extension him) but he’s never been bothered by it since he rarely leaves Casita anyway. Still, you don’t give a gift to someone expecting them to give it away to others, right? You give someone a gift because you think that person would like it. Bruno likes his gift, who cares if it isn’t all that sharable? He was still able to adapt it, craft a ritual in order to be more useful to Alma’s ‘beloved’ community...

 

(Maybe he’s just selfish. He should get up.)

 

Why is he so useless? He knows fully well he can get up just fine. There’s nothing stopping him… except there is! There is!

 

He just doesn’t know what. It’s as though the very thought of getting up is… mentally painful, mentally exhausting, but he just woke up, he’s not tired…

 

His finger’s are starting to ache from constantly rubbing against his vision, the skin pinkening and the joints nagging raw. It’s starting to hurt. He should stop.

 

He’s so hungry, how long has it been since he last ate? Last bathed? He probably stinks.

 

He’s wasting time, his Mama wouldn’t want him to do this. She must be so ashamed of him… wherever she is…

 

(He should get up…)

 

Get Up!

 

he can’t.

 

::::

 

Pepa stares at the empty seat across from her at the dinner table, at Mom’s stern look, at Julie’s wringing hands. Her grip on her emptied plate tightens as clouds rumble, dark, above her.

 

It’s not fair. It’s never been fair, actually. She’s not stupid, or blind.

 

She knows Bruno’s always been Mom’s favourite.

 

It’s so obvious, she’s surprised nobody’s brought it up. Obvious in the way Mom lets him skip events, or sleep in without barging in on him as she did when Pepa would stay in bed for too long, admonishing her hija’s laziness all the while.

 

And Julie? She coddles him, enables their brother’s childish behaviour, perpetuating it all the while. A boy, no, a man his age shouldn’t need these micromanaging levels of babysitting. He’s 17!

 

And sure, she loves him (of course she does) but that doesn’t mean she can’t feel… resentful, bitter. It’s not an attractive feeling, it’s not pleasant, she doesn’t want to feel like this but Bruno isn’t helping.

 

She’s never had any luck with repressing her emotions, she knows better than to try.

 

So she turns away, strides off, ignoring the roiling clouds above her. She knows better than to say anything to her Mom, or her sister, she’ll just… go to her room to cool off. Clear skies.

 

(She knows better than to bring it up…)

 

::::

 

Alma clutches at her black shawl, gazing out at a small gathering of people who have arrived in search of visions from the local prophet. Seeking to know the unknowable.

 

And Alma knows what she must do.

 

This choice was a difficult one to reach, one Alma never imagined she would have to make. To choose between her home, her family, her community… and…

 

It is not a decision she makes lightly. She knows this was in poor taste; building up and preserving the dreadful reputation which surrounds the youngest member of her household (Miraposa’s child), a reputation that should never have been given the opportunity to arise…

 

But to protect her home? To bolster the community? There’s nothing she wouldn’t do, no stones she would leave unturned.

 

So she spreads her hands, voice loud and clear over the hush of her audience, and seals her choice in speech and vow.

 

She will do what she must to protect her home, keep the magic strong, and hold the Encanto together. The community is in need of a shining beacon to guide them, to keep them afloat, and that is why the Miracle has blessed them. Blessed the Madrigals above any other.

 

Mira was always helping the community, even when they didn’t deserve it, and Alma will do her utmost to uphold her example.

 

‘It’s what she would have wanted.’

Chapter Text

“Lo siento, lo siento, lo siento Mami…”

 

He winces with every squeak of the damp rag against the glossy surface of his favourite vision as he dragged it across over and over, the sound grating at his ears (like nails on a chalkboard) in a way he knows only bothers him.

 

Julieta never gets bothered by it when they’re washing the dishes. No, of course not. She tells him it’s soothing, relaxing, meditative! And Pepa? She always gives him that… that look, the one that he’s come to learn means ‘you’re being an overly sensitive child, grow up’ before she would snatch the plate from his hands in order to take over his assigned scrubbing duty.

 

He knows it’s a ‘him’ thing. He knows he could ask Julieta to clean his vision for him but- but no , he doesn’t want anyone else to see it. It’s his! It’s his Mama!

 

He’ll just work through it via sheer force of willpower until that prized surface (currently muddied with smudges) looks completely untouched, brand spanking new.

 

(He can listen to some falling sand to cleanse his ears afterwards…)

 

The chittering from his rat friends stills his work, his hands happy to take any excuse to give him a break from the ear bleeding racket. Turning in their direction, he notices his three fuzzy friends peering over the rim of the basin his ruana is soaking in, beady eyes trained on the priceless green cloth.

 

Oh, it’s probably done now. He needs to hang it up…

 

But if he leaves his current place to hang it up to dry, he’ll never pick up the rag again to clean his vision!

 

Taking a fortifying breath, holding it for a few strengthening seconds before releasing it slowly, he returns to cleaning.

 

Faster.

 

Louder!

 

He hates this, it’s the worst sort of torture, but he’d hate the alternatives so much more so he sticks to it, puts up with it.

 

(Who cares that it’s almost 9pm?)

 

He’s been up for around 3 and a half hours now. After trudging downstairs to face Alma’s anticipated rage (no need for a vision to predict that) Julie’s attempted smile, Pepa’s scrutinising frown…

 

He had needed to eat though, he’d had no choice but to brave the (metaphorical and literal) storm and hey, he managed to survive the whole ordeal relatively unscathed, surprisingly enough.

 

Finally deeming his vision ‘clean’, he places it carefully under the shelter of his hammock to protect it from any falling sand particles, next to his diagrams, before mentally switching gears to ruana mode.

 

He moves quickly over to the basin he’d set up, flopping to his knees and bracing his hands on the cold rim (too cold, it’s freezing his skin off… he puts up with it) to examine the only piece of clothing he’s put deliberate effort into preserving.

 

He’s had enough visions about the best methods for cleaning clothes in order to guarantee the best outcome for his ruana, but that doesn’t mean he’s not nervous as he removes the soaked thing from the cloudy water. Heated water cloudy with the dissolved homemade products he’d added.

 

‘It should be alright, right?’

 

This is his first proper time washing it himself, usually he just adds it to the laundry with the rest of his clothes. But it’s special! Mama made it!

 

(It deserves to be treated specially…)

 

He pins it to his DIY washing line carefully, not wanting to potentially damage it. He watches, nervously, as the droplets soak into the sand beneath it.

 

… He’s going to need to figure out a better drying station, isn’t he?

 

::::

 

It’s gotten so late that it’s technically early, now.

 

(The sun has yet to rise and he’s been out here for too long…)

 

The grass scrunches beneath his sandals in a pleasing sound as he wanders around outside of Casita’s safety, stepping heavily to try and encourage the grass to crunch in that certain, crunchy way he wants it to.

 

He must have treaded the grass too much in this spot, though, as all he gets now are soft, muffled, unsatisfying thumps.

 

He knows he should be bored of this by now. He should be heading back inside, going to bed, trying to fix his sleeping pattern and wake up at a sane time of day… but he’s out here for a reason, he can’t leave yet.

 

Instead, he moves to a different corner of the property, a place with untouched grass.

 

He likes being out here at night, when everyone else is asleep. But no matter how much he likes it, he wonders how much longer he’s going to be waiting for.

 

He bunches his hands into his clean, dry ruana as he leaps, just a little, to thud his foot against the thick grass.

 

*Crunch!*

 

There it is!

 

He’s about to do it again when-

 

“Bruno?”

 

Ah, the man of the hour has arrived.

 

“Agustin!” He twizzles in place to face the direction Julieta’s future husband is coming from, spreading his arms out as he does so. “I’ve been waiting for you!”

 

Maaaaaybe he could have said that more ‘mysteriously’, but as he’s already spent his daily store of effort doing his Mama-related chores, he cuts himself some slack on that front.

 

There’s a rustle, a yelp, a thud…

 

‘Is he dead? I should ask him if he’s dead. Agustin? Are you dead? Agustin? Are you dead?’

 

“Agustin? Are you dead?”

 

A dumb thing for the future seer to ask, really. He knows Agustin is set to die of old age after a long, fulfilling life, not at the age of 17 because he tripped over in the dark.

 

(Doesn’t mean he can’t ask though…)

 

Agustin stumbles into view in all his haggard glory, smooth black hair sticking up with twigs, leaves fluttering from his formerly neat clothes, and face smeared with dirt from the bush he just got beaten up by.

 

“N… *hhff* , not- not yet…” Agustin wheezes as he comes to a stop, hands braced on his knees as he catches his breath.

 

Bruno winces at the rasping sound, at the way the air audibly scratches at Agustin’s worn throat and scraping at Bruno’s thoughts… but he clenches hands into fists and puts up with it.

 

(It’s only temporary…)

 

Agustin’s breath smoothing out couldn’t have come soon enough.

 

Bruno- uh, wait, what are you doing out here?”

 

A fair question to ask the local hermit who almost never leaves his house, Bruno has to give him that.

 

He looks at Agustin’s dark brown eyes, his tapered nose, his chin covered in splotches of dirt, his large ears, his messy black hair still clinging to twigs, too much too much too much information to process he doesn’t know where to look he should just-

 

He quickly drops his eyes to Agustin’s brown jacket. Brown, bland, safe, before scanning his eyes around the grass. Green, simple, safe.

 

(He should’ve prepared more for talking to another person, Alma always says people like eye contact…)

 

“I uh, I was waiting for you actually.”

 

“Really? What for?” Bruno rocks from foot to foot, listening to the thick grass crunch nicely with his movements as he frowns, gaze moving to Agustin’s smudged black shoes.

 

“You tell me.” Agustin’s stance shifts slightly, feet shuffling in different directions.

 

“Ah, what?” Bruno angles his head back to face the stars, mind too occupied to see them as he rocks his head side to side thoughtfully.

 

“I can only see the future, not hear it.” He ducks his gaze down again. Bruno’s brows furrow as a moment of silence hangs, wait, hold on a minute…

 

Agustin sighs in disbelief. “I don’t know why I’m even surpri-”

 

“You… you got new shoes?” They’re dirty, and it’s dark outside, but Bruno can easily make out the slope of the toe, the thickness of the outsole… these shoes are different. These shoes are new!

 

“Oh, yea I figured you’d get tired of the old ones.”

 

‘… What?…’

 

Bruno’s eyes raise, landing on Agustin’s plain brown jacket again as he tries to work out his response.

 

“You… figured I’d get… what?” Why would that matter? What does Bruno have to do with Agustin’s shoe choices? Bruno can see Agustin’s sheepish, crooked smile at the top of his periphery.

 

Agustin shrugs.

 

“You… look at them a lot, I’d thought you’d want to see something a little different.” Bruno squints at the brown jacket, suspicious. Yea there’s absolutely no way.

 

“...You just wore out the old one’s, didn’t you.” Agustin’s arms raise to fold in front of his chest, warning against the night time chill as he frowns at Bruno’s accusation.

 

“Well, not as much as I wore out the ones before that.” Agustin sighs. “Look, I didn’t come here to talk about my shoes, there’s something I need to tell you.”

 

Oh no, is it bad? Agustin has folded his arms after all. Alma folds her arms when she’s angry, Julie folds her arms when she’s done dealing with him, Pepie folds her arms when she storms…

 

(Never mind that there’s a breeze, that Agustin is probably just cold, because… because what if he’s not? )

 

Bruno tenses, rubbing the soft fabric of his ruana in search of some comfort.

 

“... O-Oh? Something… important?” He wishes there was wood nearby. He needs wood. There’s no wood!

 

“I don’t know how to tell you this but… the Village thinks you’re Evil now!” Bruno’s agitation freezes, because… what?

 

“The Village thinks… that I’m ‘Evil’?” What does that even mean? Evil how? Didn’t they already think that? Is this meant to be news?

 

“They think you’re cursed.” Bruno’s eyes grow wide. Cursed? He’s pretty sure he’s not… but whether he is or not doesn’t matter, does it? What matters is that everyone believes that he is.

 

“With what?” He watches carefully as Agustin’s tightly folded arms loosen at his question.

 

“Wha… huh?”

 

“Cursed with what? Am I doomed to sacrifice my first born child to some nefarious entity?” He asks. That’ll be easy to work around, he just won’t have children. (He wasn’t planning to anyway, he can barely even take care of himself…)

 

The entire Encanto hating his guts would be a big turn off for sure, there’s no way any women would want to be with him. And he wouldn’t want to be with any of them either (healthy romance demands equal commitment and Bruno’s not sure he could sustain such a thing…) It takes two to incubate, after all, so Bruno should be in the clear!

 

“No no no they- they think you are a curse!” Bruno blinks, frowns, and reaches up to rub at his developing facial hair.

 

“So, they think I’m cursed, or I am a curse?” There’s a vital difference, Bruno needs to know. Agustin’s arms drop to his sides as he explains.

 

“... They think you are a curse on Encanto.” Agustin’s voice is flat, clearly unimpressed with the whole thing. Bruno purses his lips, shifting his eyes back down to Agustin’s shoes.

 

“They think I’m a curse?” A pretty ridiculous idea since it’s well known he’s been granted a gift from the Miracle (but maybe that’s the problem…) “What kind of curse? A jinx? A hex? What are the breaking conditions?”

 

“Breaking conditions?” Agustin sounds sceptical.

 

“All curses have ways to break them, Agustin.” That’s just common sense, but all Agustin does is sigh wearily at Bruno’s logic. Bruno returns his gaze to Agustin’s jacket to see more of his expression without meeting his eyes.

 

Theeey … don’t think it’s breakable. At least not from what I heard.” … Huh. “It’s… Senora Alma said that you lost your way?” He’s not lost. How could he get lost in Casita? “That you are treading a dark path…” But Casita can light its own candles. “That you’ll only bring harm to, well, everyone?”

 

… Oh, oh. Not breakable? So there’s nothing he can do to change their minds…

 

A- I… Mama said that? About… me?” Calling Alma his Mother just feels more and more erroneous the longer he has to do so. And after being told she said all these things about him? It feels… gross.

 

(His actual Mama wouldn't say things like that… right? He likes to think she wouldn’t…)

 

Agustin is frowning again, and Bruno wishes he could figure out why. “I think it’s ridiculous, honestly. I mean, you’re not exactly aggressive, you couldn’t hurt a fly!”

 

“I’ve hurt flies before.”

 

“Bruno-”

 

“I have a fly swatter.”

 

“I meant- ” Agustin flattens his palms together in front of his face, taking a deep fortifying breath. Bruno isn’t sure why he seems so annoyed all of a sudden. “What I meant was, you’re not a dangerous guy.” Bruno opens his mouth, but Agustin neuters his words with a stern look. “To humans!

 

Ooooh why didn’t you just say that?” Agustin just sighs again, but doesn’t grace Bruno with an answer.

 

“I just, are you going to be okay? Julie and I are- well, we’re worried. I mean, the whole community…” He trails off weakly.

 

‘Huh, so it’s ‘Julie’ now?’

 

Is Bruno going to be okay? He tries to puzzle it out. Where people normally express their thoughts on him after he’s given a vision, now they’ll probably do so on sight. Who knows, maybe he won’t be asked to give as many visions anymore.

 

It bothers him, though, that this is Alma’s fault. At least before she had claims to plausible deniability, but to tell people he’s a bad egg? So… blatantly?

 

He doesn’t even get the chance to be hated for his own merit? Because he’s a weirdo with no idea how socialising works? He feels robbed.

 

(Talk about being labelled the villain without the tragic backstory to explain why it’s there…)

 

“I’ll be fine.” He’ll figure it out. He’ll just… stay inside of Casita more than he already does. Avoid Alma, because he’s not sure he could stand to see her right now. Not for a while…

 

Agustin doesn’t seem convinced. “Are you sure?” Bruno feels tense. When did he tense? His fists are banging into his thighs in a fruitless attempt to feel normal. It's starting to hurt. He should stop.

 

“Sure as a heart attack.” He needs to leave. Hide. Sort out of roiling emotions before considering anything else.

 

He looks around, twitchy. “Uh… bye.” He turns and runs off. He knows he’s probably being rude, not properly saying goodbye, not even looking at Agustin or sticking around to hear the sentiment returned, but right now he struggles to care.

 

He wasn’t lying, he’ll be fine.

 

… Eventually.