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Beyond the Truth

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It'd been almost three months since Casita fell, and Camilo can’t help but feel like everything is the same as it was before the family lost their gifts and ‘reunited’ in the mess that was their lives at the time. Camilo knew that for Mirabel, Isabela, Luisa, and well, probably all of his la familia, things had changed for the better. He was gifted at mimicking people, especially through his ability, but all the sudden changes had his family acting less like he remembered, and more happy, natural, and free.


That wasn’t to say he was unhappy for them. Of course he was happy that his hermana finally caught the attention of the man of her dreams, even if Camilo thought he was a little dim, and he was happy that Mirabel was finally treated like a member of their family. He just wishes that he could change to be happier too. Even with all the upheaval, with Abuela being kinder, with his family being closer, he still felt like an outsider; a prankster and a thespian who needed their gift to be useful, who took up more space than he deserved.


He still wasn’t sure if gaining his gift back was a blessing or a curse, because at least while their gifts were gone he was sure of what he actually looked like, and he wasn’t so confused at the end of the day, sitting for hours and trying to make his bones and skin relax into a shell that felt wrong. He wasn’t as hungry, either. He never realized just how much energy it took to shift into someone entirely different until he wasn’t expending the energy to make it happen.


The Encanto wouldn’t stop just for Camilo, though. Even if the expectations Abuela had were less, there were expectations all the same, and he had to get out of bed sometime soon to meet his family for breakfast. He didn’t want anyone to worry about him, especially not his Mami or Papi. With that thought in mind, he pulled himself out of the large bed in the center of his room, shuffling across a fuzzy rug to reach his wardrobe and find what he wanted to wear for the day. He ended up settling on his usual white button up shirt, black pants, and of course his yellow ruana, patterned with chameleons.


He shuffled out of his room, sparing his bed another longing glance, knowing the day that laid ahead of him would be a long one. But again, the Encanto wouldn’t stop for just Camilo, so he moved on. He knew once he stepped out of his room that the majority of his family was already downstairs. He may not have his hermana’s hearing, but he knew the sound of laughter and controlled chaos from outside when he heard it. He found himself hesitating, before pushing the irritating, foggy mindset away as he raced downstairs before all the food was gone.

His family didn’t know how much food he needed for the amount of energy he used in a day, he knew his Papi wouldn’t be on his case about grabbing seconds or thirds if they did. There was a pessimistic voice telling Camilo that they knew and didn’t care, but Camilo at least knew better than to think that his Papi of all people would be so cruel. Besides, he knew that despite his stunts, sometimes the amount of food he needed was a little strenuous on Tia Julieta, he didn’t want to be a burden for his sweetest, and only, aunt.

Luckily, when he arrived downstairs and made his way outside to the breakfast table, everyone was wrapped in conversation and their own bubbles of chaos and fun. Camilo slipped around the table quietly, to grab his own plate of food. To his delight, there was more than enough left, and he happily heaped his plate with all the delicious things Julieta made that morning, taking his usual seat next to Antonio as he started to eat. His quietness could be excused by how fast he was stuffing his mouth, so he wasn’t worried about a quip on his silence, but he was worried when he felt someone staring at him.


He slowly raised his head from his plate to catch his Tio Bruno staring at him. He knew the man, especially after ten years in Casita's walls, would be awkward, but this was taking it to another level. Camilo had a brief lapse in his ravenous eating, staring back at his Tio, before he realized that Bruno was more looking through him than scrutinizing his behavior. When his Tio realized that he was making eye contact with Camilo, he stuttered out some sort of apology and looked back down at his plate, and the rats that were surrounding it to get his crumbs. Camilo let it drop after that, floating along with the pleasant conversation of the familia .


After breakfast, as the Madrigal’s do, they head into town to look for work. In the days after Casita’s fall, there had been lots to do, but now the town is back within its little bubble of peace, falling back onto mundane everyday tasks that leave the evening free for all sorts of parties and fun. Camilo usually had a pretty full schedule compared to his family, which was something that might surprise them if they bothered to listen when Camilo mentioned he wouldn’t be home until later that night to Dolores for this reason or that, just so she could tell Mami and Pepa wouldn’t make it rain with her worry.


Today he was babysitting, as he usually was during the day. He enjoyed babysitting, he always had a way with children, even when he was wearing their parents' faces. His favorite kids, though, were the ones that were old enough to understand he wasn’t their parent, and wanted him instead of mom or dad that night. He had fun playing with the village children, letting them explore while keeping them out of trouble, or reading with them in the library.


At night, when most parents were back at home after a day's work, he was usually in the library, helping Señor Muñoz organize books at the man's request. Señor Muñoz was a strange man, who lost his wife when Camilo was ten to a terrible sickness. Camilo wasn’t sure what happened between Señor Muñoz and his Tia Julieta when his wife died, just that Señor Muñoz wasn’t a big fan of his Tia, or any of his family. He seemed to be the only exception to Señor Muñoz’s disdain for the Madrigal’s; but Señor Muñoz started to scare him.


The librarian was regarded by much of the town as quiet and solitary, but Señor Muñoz was always talking when Camilo was around, and most of the time he found himself wishing that Señor Muñoz really was just a quiet, introverted man. He used to ask Camilo if he would be willing to shapeshift into his late wife, and even if Camilo was weary of Señor Muñoz, he always did it when he was younger, unable to find the heart to deny a grieving man and unwilling to break the expectations Abuela set for them; he had to be helpful. But as Camilo got older, Señor Muñoz got more demanding. When Camilo refused to shift into his wife, he used to get violent, throwing books at Camilo or making mean comments. Then things changed, and Señor Muñoz stopped being so angry with Camilo, he just started being.. Weird, with Camilo instead. Always commenting about his appearance or complimenting him, sometimes a hand would linger on his shoulder or back too long to be comfortable.


Even if this new, strange behavior scared him more than the old, angry Señor Muñoz did, Camilo never spoke up to his familia about it, he never bothered. Dolores could certainly hear everything that Señor Muñoz said and did over the past five years, and if Dolores never commented on it or confronted Camilo about it, surely he was overreacting. So when every parent was back home and all the children were happy to ramble their mami and papi’s ears off about their adventures that day, Camilo began to sneak off to the library as he always did. It was a routine now, it had been for the past five years, only disrupted by Casita falling.


Then, suddenly, someone was stepping in front of him, and he found himself looking at his Tio Bruno. Bruno wasn’t around the town a lot, he was getting used to using his gift again and coming to terms with his own problems. He only came into town when there was an important vision he had to share, but even that was rare, especially with how the village was still wary of Bruno. This vision must be really important then, so Camilo smiled at his Tio and stepped to the side so Bruno could walk past him. Except Bruno didn’t walk past him.


Bruno stopped right in front of him, and grabbed him by his shoulders in a firm grip. His Tio was trembling, bottom lip quivering, eyes filled with tears that he was just barely holding back. The sight made Camilo frown, tilting his head with confusion at his Tio. This must have been an awful vision. “Tio Bruno?” He asked quietly, putting a hand over one of Bruno’s on his shoulder. “What’s wrong?”


Bruno took a moment of quiet to compose himself, blinking away his tears. His grip on Camilo only tightened as he spoke shakily. “Where are you going sobrino? ” The question caught Camilo off guard, as he took a second to comprehend what he was being asked. When he did, he smiled at Bruno and patted his hand, moving with a bit of a flourish to make his ruana flare as he made his dramatic hand gesture. An attempt to cheer Bruno up, and convey the direction he was going in. “The library to help Señor Muñoz, Tio.” His flourish, or maybe it was his answer, had Bruno’s eyes widening. Suddenly the grip on his shoulders was being used to move him, pushing him in front of Bruno as his uncle began a determined walk back to Casito. “No, no Camilo, come home and eat with tu familia .”


The shifter went with the pushing, but he looked over his shoulder at his Tio in confusion. “Bruno? I have to go help Señor Muñoz-” He was cut off by his uncle giving him another shove forward, even closer to Casita. He could see the house waving its windows now, opening the door and beckoning the two inside, where there was laughter and light. Camilo wasn’t sure he was up to his family right now, but maybe he should take the excuse to escape Señor Muñoz for a night. It was just one night, surely he wouldn’t be angry?

“Sobrino, it’s dinner time, aren’t you hungry?” Yes, Camilo was rather hungry, but Bruno was still looking sad and panicked, and Camilo wasn’t comfortable with that either. He turned once they were in Casito’s doorway, grabbing his uncle's shoulders like his uncle had done to him. “Aye, what did you see that’s making you act so crazy??” 


Bruno didn’t get the chance to answer, because suddenly the two were wrapped in color. Dust from one of Isabele’s new favorite plants, covering both of them in green and yellow respectively, as there was giggling from the kitchen, where Camilo’s prima was standing and waiting, beckoning them inside. Halfway through her beckoning, she seemed to notice something was wrong. “.. Primo, tio?” She didn’t ask a direct question, but Camilo, and probably Bruno, understood what the question was. Camilo was quick to deflect. “Prima! Me and Bruno were just.. Practicing our acting! Tio is an actor perfecto , you know?”


Isabele didn’t seem convinced, but she nodded and shrugged, walking into the kitchen anyway. “It’s going to get cold!” That was all the encouragement that Camilo and Bruno needed to hurry to the kitchen, grabbing their plates and sitting down with their family.