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“Welcome to the Family Madrigal! The home of the Family Madrigal! I know it sounds a bit fantastical and magical, but I'm part of the Family Madrigal.” - The Family Madrigal, Encanto




Another day of paradise in Encanto, another day of Mirabel getting followed by small children as soon as she left the palace. 

 

It was the usual three: Cecilia, Alejandra and Juancho, friends of her little cousin, Antonio. Antonio called Juancho “Pumped Juancho” and the name seemed to quickly be spreading through the kingdom.

 

Mirabel wasn’t sure where the kid got so much coffee…

 

“Story, story, story!” the kids cried, trailing after her and Antonio. “Mirabel, come on, please? Please? Please, please, ppplllleeeeaaaassseeeee?

 

“Who’s asking?” Mirabel turned to them with a smirk. Antonio, sitting on his favourite jaguar Parce, laughed at his friends’ antics. 

 

“Us!” Cecilia cried, clapping her hands.

 

“Well, ‘Us,’ I can’t just pull a story from nothing!” Mirabel made a show of throwing her hands up in exasperation. “Do I look like Camilo to you?”

 

“Kind of,” Alejandra said.

 

Hm, okay, maybe Mirabel walked right into that one. She looked at their bright, eager faces and huffed in amusement. “Okay, okay- what kind of story do you want?”

 

“Tell us how you fought the evil witch!”

 

“Tell us how you saved Casita!”

 

“Tell us how you saved Prince Bruno!”

 

“That’s all the same story,” Antonio pointed out.

 

“It is?” Juancho’s voice was getting high-pitched again. His hands shook and his eyelid twitched as he quickly drank his coffee before Mirabel could snatch the cup away. Seriously, where were the kid’s parents? Mirabel needed to talk to them about hiding their coffee better. All that caffeine could not be good.

 

But they were all staring at her expectantly. Antonio nudged her.

 

“It is,” Mirabel confirmed and the kids whooped in excitement, asking more and more questions, shouting over each other.

 

“Okay, okay, calm down!” Mirabel cried. “Follow me.” She trooped off, the kids at her heels and Antonio by her side. She led them through the city streets and they followed obediently like baby ducklings- particularly excitable baby ducklings. The streets were already packed despite the early hour. She saw her sister Luisa lift a bridge over her head and move it further down the river. She saw her cousin Dolores arm in arm with Lord Mariano and Camilo shape-shifting to the amusement of another group of kids.

 

“Camilo!” Antonio called, waving for his brother’s attention. “Mira’s gonna tell the story!”

 

“Oh?” Camilo turned from Abuela back to himself and hurried over. The other group of kids followed him, five in total. “You can’t tell the story without its star!”

 

“That would be me,” Mirabel said, nudging him. “You turned up in Act Two.”

 

“Lies and slander, I was the star.”

 

Antonio shook his head. “Act Two,” he repeated seriously. Camilo shot him a look of betrayal and pushed him. Antonio clung to Parce and Mirabel rolled her eyes fondly, leading the quickly growing group to the family mural.

 

The mural was only a year old, and was in the same plaza as Abeulo Pedro’s mural, directly across from it. Flowers and candles were in front of Pedro’s mural and Mirabel wondered if they’d ever get around to changing the mural; it still showed Pedro holding baby Bruno.

 

The family’s mural showed all of them. There was Abuela Alma and Abuelo Pedro, hand in hand. Abuela had her crown on her head, Pedro was forever young and handsome, holding their precious candle. Just below them were their triplets; Mirabel’s own mamá Julieta, her Tia Pepa, and Tio Bruno in the middle of his sisters. Her papá Agustín and Tío Félix were next to their wives. Then there were all the kids: Mirabel and her sisters, Luisa and Isabela; Camilo, Dolores and Antonio. Above them all was La Familia Madrigal, and they were surrounded by a border of candles, flowers, dumbbells, butterflies, suns and soundwaves, chameleons, jaguars and toucans, hourglasses and rolling pins and frying pans, bees and umbrellas. 

 

It was a crowded mural to say the least.

 

Mirabel loved it dearly. It always put a smile on her face.

 

“You have a big family,” Alejandra said.

 

“I do,” Mirabel said fondly. “Now-” She clapped her hands together. “It’s story time.”

 

The kids all sat around in a circle. Mirabel, Camilo and Antonio sat against the wall. Antonio’s jaguar curled up against her little cousin’s side, looking distinctly sleepy. 

 

Camilo started the story in his most dramatic voice; “This is the story of how Mirabel died.

 

There was a horrified pause. Juancho dropped his cup (how was it full again?) and Cecila caught it before it smashed.

 

Mirabel slapped Camilo’s arm. “Don’t scare them,” she scolded and turned to them with a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry!” she said brightly. “It’s actually a very fun story and, truth is, it’s not even really mine- it’s mostly Tio Bruno’s story.”

 

“The Lost Prince,” one of the little girls said, with that big, sad-eyed look most people used to have when they mentioned her uncle. Maria, Mirabel was certain.

 

“Not lost anymore,” Camilo said. He winked at Mirabel and added proudly, “Thanks to Mira here.”

 

Mirabel could feel herself blushing from all the stares. More and more people in the plaza were taking notice of them; more and more were stopping to listen, kids and adults alike.

 

Mirabel cleared her throat and tried to look princessy and wise.

 

“Okay, so you know how we got our miracle?” Mirabel asked. The kids all nodded, attentive little students. Even some adults played along and nodded.

 

Mirabel smiled at them.

 

“So you know our Abuelo Pedro gave his life to protect Encanto,” Mirabel said. She saw a priest cross himself, vaguely heard him begin to murmur a prayer. Antonio waved at him. “And when he did, we were given our magic: tall mountains grew around the city, our enemies were blasted away…And our palace became alive.

 

“Ooohh,” the kids said. Cecilia glanced at Casita curiously, clearly visible at the top of a hill.

 

“Casita’s lots of fun to play with,” Camilo said with a smug grin. “Very easy to play hide and seek in there, the walls will move for you.”

 

“Are you telling this story or am I?”

 

“Carry on.”

 

Mirabel turned back to their audience. Even more people had joined. She wondered how long it would be before Dolores gathered everyone and brought them along.

 

“But that wasn’t all: when our parents and Tio turned five, Casita granted them new rooms and gifts- magical gifts. My mamá Julieta can…” She pointed at one little boy, Criston, whose hand had shot up.

 

“She can heal you with food!” he said happily. “One time I broke my arm and she healed it with an empanada!”

 

Mirabel grinned. “My Tia Pepa?”

 

“Controls the weather!” Juancho said, bouncing in place. “With her moods!”

 

“10 points to Pumped Juancho!” Antonio said, grinning.

 

“And our Tio Bruno?” Camilo asked. “Any guesses from the class?”

 

“He sees the future,” Cecilia said with wide-eyed wonderment. “That’s why the witch took him. That’s what my mamí said.”

 

It had been a year since everything had been fixed, but most of the crowd still went quiet and solemn when Bruno’s disappearance was brought up. Mirabel wondered if that would ever change. Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe it wasn’t a bad thing if it didn’t, though she knew “all the fuss” made her Tio uncomfortable. 

 

Camilo nodded, looking unusually serious himself.

 

“Sí,” he said. “Exactly. She stole our Tio right from Casita. She wanted his magic all to herself.”

 

“Tio Bruno didn’t remember being a prince,” Mirabel explained to the kids. “Or much of anything after a while.” Her smile dimmed, her chest tightened the way it always did when she thought about it too much. “He was only five, and he was gone for so long; and the witch, she…” She shook her head and tried to smile properly again. “But here’s a secret about the Madrigals: we’re all very stubborn, and the witch didn’t count on that.”

 

The kids all giggled, a few of the adults smiled or huffed in amusement and Mirabel glanced up at the mural, at the image of her Tio and grinned.

 

“We released thousands of lanterns into the sky, every year, on Mamá, Tia Julieta and Tio Bruno’s birthday,” Camilo said with an extravagant wave of his hand. “Bruno could see them- and he wanted to know what they were.”

 

“And that’s where the fun begins,” Mirabel said. She pulled Antonio closer, ruffling his hair. He giggled and leaned against her shoulder. Camilo nodded at her as though to say, Take it away.

 

Mirabel’s gaze roamed over their audience. Many of them knew the story, though not a lot of them knew the details. 

 

“If you ask Abuela,” Mirabel said. “She’d say this was another miracle at work. And maybe she’s right.”

Chapter Text

“Stuck in the same place I've always been. And I'll keep wonderin’ and wonderin', and wonderin', and wonderin', when will my life begin?” - When Will My Life Begin? Tangled




One year ago…




Bruno woke up abruptly; his eyes snapped open and his hands dug into the mattress, clutching the sheets. His vision was still tinged with green and his breathing came in short, harsh gasps. He lay there, frozen in place and shivering, until the lingering effects of his sleep-vision went away.

 

It took at least a few minutes to stop, but he couldn’t be sure of exactly how long it took. All he knew was he felt like he hadn’t slept at all. His muscles ached, he felt heavy all over and his head was pounding.

 

What had it been? A mundane vision, thankfully. Some farmers in a field, herding their cows inside as it began to storm. No one had been hurt.

 

Squeak, squeak. 

 

Bruno turned his head, his hair falling in his eyes, to find two of his rats sitting on his pillow. They were staring straight at him, noses twitching.

 

“Hola,” Bruno whispered. “I’m okay.” He tried to smile for them. He didn’t think he managed it.

 

Yawning, he stretched out and climbed out of bed, momentarily closing his eyes and breathing deeply, trying to steady himself. He quickly got dressed- simple trousers and shirt, sandals, his favourite green ruana (three sizes too large but very comfortable, with plenty of space for his rats). He tried (unsuccessfully) to untangle his hair and glanced in the mirror, frowning at his reflection. A short, skinny man stared back at him with long black hair in tangled waves and eyes so big it seemed they took up half his face, heavily shadowed. He looked ill. He always looked ill.

 

It was probably just as well no one ever saw him. He looked awful.

 

Sighing, he trooped downstairs. 

 

He had a routine. Every day was a routine. Madré Zarita always insisted routines were good, that she had one too- whatever she did when she left for the day. She never answered his questions. Bruno stopped asking years ago. The last time he asked, he was pretty sure he was sixteen.

 

He definitely wasn’t sixteen anymore.

 

The routine went like this:
7am: sweep
7:20am: polish and wax
8am: breakfast
8:30am: dishes and laundry
8:45am: sweep again

 

After that…Well, it was free time after that. Lots of it. But Bruno always found himself doing the same things again and again.

 

Read some books, perform telenovelas with his rats, make the rats backgrounds or costumes, paint, read again, chess (easy winnings when your opponents were rats), pottery (always lopsided and odd), more telenovelas, write new scripts and then…

 

Visions. Madré Zarita expected at least five by the time she came back to their tower.

 

Bruno paused mid-sweep to look around the tower. He supposed it was quite large as far as towers went. Maybe. He wouldn’t know, he’d only ever seen his tower. There was the main living space: the kitchen-living-dining area. A cramped bathroom and Madré Zarita’s bedroom where she kept her most precious things- things for spells and potions and her beloved Sun Flower. Up the stairs was Bruno’s room; it wasn’t a very large room, but it was brightly decorated. Lots of green. But the room next to it? It was a wide empty space with no windows and no real light. His vision cave. Maybe Bruno was imagining things, but he swore it always felt cold in that vision cave. 

 

He’d tried painting the walls in there to make it more cheerful, but it never really worked. There was still something downright freaky about the vision cave.

 

But as for the rest of the tower? It was almost cute. The furniture was soft and pastel, the rug on the floor was decorated with roses. Every inch of the walls were painted, and all of it was Bruno’s work. The tower would have looked much duller if he hadn’t painted it. Well, except for Madré Zarita’s room. He was only allowed to clean in there.

 

I’m bored, he thought, as he thought every day. He looked at his rats, who were sitting on the table and watching him patiently. Four of them: Rosita, Victoria, Amado and Fidel. Madré Zarita hated them.

 

She hated a lot of things. He pushed the thought away as soon as it came into his head.

 

No complaining, he reminded himself.

 

“I’m bored,” Bruno told them anyway, continuing with his chores. He kept looking around, half-hoping and half-dreading that something, anything would happen. Something new. 

 

But of course nothing happened. As per usual, it was just Bruno doing his chores with a little audience of rats. As per usual, he was alone and would be until at least lunch time, if not dinner. He had to finish his chores and have some visions and…

 

He sighed, setting the broom aside. Well, there was a blank spot above the fireplace. The sooner he finished his chores, the sooner he could get started on his next art piece.

 

Today was nothing special, but tomorrow would be. Tomorrow was his birthday and the floating lights would appear in the sky.

 

His fiftieth birthday. Forty-five years of hiding.

 

Bruno didn’t consider himself a brave person, but maybe it was time to stop hiding. Just for a day. After all, so long as he didn’t make any prophecies he’d be fine. If he could run and hide when he felt an involuntary vision coming, then he’d be fine. Who would ever know about his powers if he just didn’t use them? Then he’d blend right in.

 

He’d made the very same argument on his eighteenth birthday. It was the only time Madré Zarita had ever hit him.

 

“I did not save you for you to throw your life away!”

 

Needless to say, that conversation had gone down like a lead balloon. Madré Zarita had spent an entire week ignoring him, then one day she burst into noisy tears about how Bruno was breaking her heart and wanted her to die alone. She’d sobbed so hard that Bruno had run for her special Sun Flower and sang the magic song to try and heal whatever was hurting her.

 

She’d made him promise, yet again, to never leave. 

 

He’d promised. He always did.







It was nearly lunchtime when Bruno finished the new painting, right above the fireplace. Compared to some of his other pieces, this one was relatively simple: a rich blue sky, vibrant green grass and trees. The mysterious floating lights, larger and brighter than the stars.

 

And Bruno, sitting in one of the trees, watching the lights.

 

It was what he wished for every year on his birthday. To see these lights, to find out what they were.

 

“They’re stars, Bruno,” Madré Zarita would say, rolling her eyes, pinching Bruno’s nose. “Don’t be silly.”

 

“I’ve charted stars,” Bruno used to argue. “They’re always constant, but these appear on my birthday- only on my birthday.”

 

I feel like they’re meant for me, he didn’t say. 

 

“I want to see them,” he’d say instead. “I have to know what they are.”

 

And Madré Zarita would roll her eyes again and change the subject. Sometimes she yelled, then sighed that Bruno was making her the bad guy. She’d ignore him until he apologised and sometimes she’d continue to ignore him anyway. Then she’d go to her Sun Flower, sing her song and re-emerge from her room with no grey hairs or wrinkles, smiling, and tell Bruno to “perk up and do something about those dreadful eye bags, amor.”

 

But, honestly, Bruno didn’t like using the Sun Flower if he could help it. It seemed so trivial somehow. Madré Zarita’s flower could cure anything, it could save lives; using it to get rid of his eye bags or make himself look younger felt unfair in a way he couldn’t quite put into words.

 

He set his brush down and stared at the painting. He wished he could step into it, live in it. He bet it would be a lot less complicated in there.

 

A lot freer.

 

Maybe he’d be happy in the painting.

 

“Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock,” Bruno muttered to himself, rapping the mantle and wall with his knuckle. “Knock on wood.” He finished with a quick hit to his head, frowning. Still, it made him feel calmer.

 

He climbed down and started to clean the brushes. The rats scuttled around his feet. Fidel climbed up his leg and right up his back to lie down in his hood. Bruno was willing to bet his little friend would fall asleep in his hood, he usually did. 

 

Bruno went back to his room and idly put together one of the sets for the telenovela. He tried (and failed) to put all thoughts of floating lights, paintings, visions and cages out of his mind. 

 

Bruno just needed to relax, that was all. He’d feel better and then he’d go have a vision or two. Duty calls and all that.

 

He smiled at his rats. “Well then,” Bruno said. “Shall we pick up where we left off?”

 

This was Bruno’s life: routine, routine, routine. Routine meant safety. Safety meant staying alive. Hidden. There was no time for daydreams and floating lights that probably-definitely weren’t for him anyway.

Chapter Text

“All I need is a change. All I need is a chance. All I know is I can't stay on the side; open your eyes, open your eyes, open your eyes.” - Waiting On A Miracle, Encanto




Casita was in chaos. You know, more so than usual. It was the day before the Madrigal triplets’ birthday and everything had to be perfect.

 

More perfect than usual. Ten times more perfect.

 

Which meant Mirabel was floundering, rushing around, trying to find some way to help. She hurried down the bright hallways, searching in vain for some task to perform, however small it may be. It seemed all the jobs were taken.

 

She went past the throne room, pausing at Abuelo Pedro and Tio Bruno’s portraits.

 

“Good morning!” she said brightly. No answer, of course, but it was the thought that counted. It wouldn’t do to leave them out. Mirabel trooped onwards up the stairs, mentally going through her list of jobs and who was in charge of them.

 

Isabela, Tio Félix and Tia Pepa were over-seeing the decorations: the banners, flowers and whatnot. Mamá was hanging around the kitchen, unable to truly let others take charge of cooking, even for her birthday. Papá was, of course, with Mamá. Camilo was running around, shape-shifting as needed, to help with decorating or moving furniture with Luisa. Dolores was no doubt assisting with the lanterns with Lord Mariano by her side. She wasn’t sure where Antonio was. Maybe she could find him and keep him occupied.

 

As for Abuela, she was with the royal council, going over every last detail, to make sure the lantern ceremony was planned down to the very last second. Nothing was ever allowed to go wrong on her childrens’ birthday. And this was their fiftieth birthday, it was a big deal.

 

Abuela had been wearing her black shawl all week. Mirabel worried about her, she couldn’t help it. Even as Abuela walked right past her, hardly sparing her a glance, Mirabel worried about the light leaving her grandmother’s eyes; she worried about how Abuela clutched her locket and walked around with an expression like ice. She hardly talked to anyone except Mamá, Tia Pepa and Isabela when she got like this.

 

Birthdays were joyous occasions and, for the family Madrigal, it was no different. They would hold a massive city-wide party, more like a festival, all in honour of her mother, aunt and-

 

And her uncle.

 

Mirabel stopped in her tracks, sighing. Poor Tio Bruno, she thought. If he was out there, did he even remember it was his birthday? Did he know they missed him?

 

Birthdays were joyous, but there was always the awful knowledge that one of them was missing. Stolen. Kidnapped in the dead of night.

 

No one ever talked about it, not if they could help it. It was one of their rules: Don’t talk about Bruno, it will upset Abuela. It will upset Julieta and Pepa. It will upset everyone.

 

So they didn’t talk about it. They tried to pretend it hadn’t happened, most of the time. Despite his portrait by the throne room, despite the mural in the plaza, despite the promised reward for information of his safety, they did not talk about Bruno. But birthdays were different. Birthdays meant it couldn’t be ignored or forgotten. It was one of the only times that everyone openly talked about Bruno.

 

It was the only time Abuela would tell the story. Not Abuelo Pedro’s story, which could be spun into a fairytale of a great heroic deed, but Bruno’s story. It was the story of a missing child and there was no way for Abuela to make it lovely and mystical. She would tell the story once, and only once; she did not entertain prodding questions. She would sit and look out the window, clutching her locket, and then she would tell the story without looking at anyone.

 

Just last year, Mirabel had sat by her side with Antonio and Camilo as Abuela told the story, not looking at any of them properly.




“His room was farther from mine than his sisters,” Abuela said with that far-away look in her eyes and that cold twist of her mouth. “His tower. Perhaps, had he been closer, we would have reached him in time.” She shook her head, closing her eyes and turned away from her grandchildren. “I heard him cry out for me. I got only a glimpse of the old woman as she dragged him away.”

 

“Who was she?” Antonio asked in a whisper. He looked horrified and Mirabel pulled him onto her lap, holding him close. 

 

She’d never let anyone steal away her baby cousin.

 

Abuela shook her head. She stroked Antonio’s hair, still looking firmly out the window.

 

“No one knows, Tonito.”




A tile slapped at Mirabel’s ankle, snapping her out of her reverie.

 

“Ay, Casita, I’m going, I’m going!”

 

The tiles danced under her feet, ushering her along. She passed servants and guards and members of her family. Everyone insisted they were fine and didn’t need an extra pair of hands.

 

That was to be expected. It was what they always said when Mirabel asked, but if Isabela asked they’d trip over themselves to accept her help. If they so much as glimpsed Luisa they’d run to ask for her help, even if it wasn’t totally needed.

 

Mirabel felt the familiar pit in her stomach. Annoyance and grief. She just wanted to help, was that really so hard?

 

She passed Tio Bruno’s tower, always with the two guards posted outside and slowed down, staring at the carved image of her Tio. The carving on the door showed a man with an intense expression, eyes narrowed and brows furrowed, surrounded by hour glasses and swirls of sand. He looked fierce and powerful, quite the opposite of the timid, anxious child her mamá described.

 

Mostly, the door was dark, unlike the other members of their family. In fact, it usually resembled Mirabel’s own door; nothing magical about it. But sometimes it flickered; other times it faintly glowed.

 

Mirabel clung to that flicker, they all did. So long as the door flickered and shone, that meant Tio Bruno was alive. That meant he was using his gift. If he was alive, they could find him. If he was using his gift, surely they’d one day hear of it? Of a man who could see the future.

 

Then he’d come home.

 

Happy nearly-birthday, Tio, Mirabel thought and continued on, searching for Antonio. At the very least, she could keep him company and make sure he kept his animals away from the decorations. That was something Mirabel was good at and no doubt about it. His new gift was amazing, but she was pretty sure Abuela would have a heart attack if a jaguar, capybara or toucan (or any of the other numerous animals) ruined the preparations.







As it turned out, she didn’t need to find Antonio: he found her. He came running around the corner, his animals right behind him. 

 

“Mira!” Antonio cried, running right to her and flinging his arms around her. “The birds saw men on the roof!”

 

Mirabel frowned, trying to rationalise it. “Maybe it’s some of the handymen or decorators?” Though when did their magic home ever need handymen? Doubt nagged at her, her stomach suddenly clenched anxiously.

 

“No, no, they looked mean.

 

Dios, this was the last thing they needed. Trouble-makers at the least, burglars or assassins at the worst. 

 

But before Mirabel could say anything or call for anyone, the alarm was raised.

 

“THIEVES!” came the shout and thundering footsteps of guards. “THIEVES IN THE PALACE!”

 

“Oh no,” Mirabel whispered.

 

And then came the worst part.

 

“PRINCE BRUNO’S CROWN HAS BEEN STOLEN!”

 

“Shit,” Mirabel muttered, ignoring Antonio’s gasp at her language. Abuela was going to flip. She took Antonio’s hand and ran down the hall, towards the shouting guards. Casita’s shutters and curtains opened and shut, the tiles bounced and hurried them along, doors slammed open for them at their approach.

 

She spotted Camilo first and ran to him.

 

“What’s happened?” Mirabel demanded, grabbing Camilo’s arm. Her cousin looked frantic.

 

“A pair of thieves,” he said, bouncing on his toes. “They came in through the roof, they took Tio Bruno’s crown and-”

 

Thunder clapped. It began to rain and lightning struck.

 

“Mamí knows,” Camilo whispered, wincing. 

 

“Uh oh,” Antonio said, eyes wide. A cat came along and nuzzled his leg. Antonio reached down to pet her on instinct but that frightened look didn’t leave his face.

 

Mirabel couldn’t stand it.

 

An idea- perhaps a foolhardy, idiotic idea- sprang to mind, demanding to be heard.

 

“Which way did they go?” Mirabel asked, bracing herself to run.

 

Camilo pointed out the window. “Towards the courtyard, but-”

 

“Great, thanks!” Mirabel took off running, ignoring her cousins shouting after her.

 

There was no way, simply no way she was letting anyone ruin this for her family. For her abuela, her mamá and tia. The guards would all be slowed down, getting their horses, armour and swords, but Mirabel had a magic castle urging her on and nothing to grab to slow her down. Casita itself threw her bag at her from a stairwell (in record time too!) and Mirabel didn’t doubt it was already packed with things she’d need; it certainly felt full enough.

 

Whoever these guys were, if they thought they were getting away with her tio’s crown, they’d better think again.

 

You’re a princess, Mirabel reminded herself as she ran out of Casita’s front doors, chasing the two figures in black. You’re a Madrigal. You look after people.

 

Do it for the family.

 

Mirabel ran as fast as she could, straight out of the palace gates, her eyes firmly on the two thieves dressed all in black. One of them held a satchel and she thought she caught a glimpse of emerald as the satchel momentarily flapped open.

 

They had her Tio Bruno’s crown and damn it all, Mirabel was getting it back.

 

As for how she’d get it back? She’d figure it out. She’d already started this, she couldn’t stop now.

 

For Abuela, for Mamá and Tia Pepa. For Tio Bruno.

 

And, okay, maybe a little for me too.

 

She had a pair of thieves to catch.

Chapter Text

“It's a scary world out there. Mother knows best, one way or another, something will go wrong, I swear. Ruffians, thugs! Poison ivy, quicksand, cannibals and snakes!” - Mother Knows Best, Tangled




Present day…

 

The audience gaped at her and Mirabel smiled nervously. She rubbed her hands on her skirt, hoping to hide how they were sweating.

 

“That wasn’t very smart,” Maria said solemnly. Camilo snorted and Mirabel was certain she was blushing red as a tomato.

 

“Okay, yeah,” she said sheepishly. “Maybe not. Trust me, Mamá and Papá sure weren’t happy with me later. But…” She shrugged. “I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing. And it all worked out!”

 

“By sheer dumb luck,” Camilo grinned.

 

“Anyway, moving on!”




One year ago…




Bruno set the last vision aside, rubbing his eyes and massaging his temples. His head throbbed and he felt sick, but he’d had six visions. That should keep Madré Zarita happy. Maybe.

 

They were odd visions, truth be told: a candle blazing brighter and brighter- then dimming until it nearly went out, then shining again. A girl running through a forest, clutching a satchel. Then that same girl, riding a horse at top speed and she seemed to be in the very same forest as before. There were golden butterflies on flags and banners, painted on walls, embroidered on clothes. A tavern of thugs, all looking oddly emotional and teary, then smiling happily; they suddenly looked friendly and downright jolly.

 

Finally, there was the strangest vision of all: a castle cracking and crumbling, cracks reaching out like spiderwebs, covering the whole building. The same girl from the other two visions stood in front of it. As Bruno watched, the palace repaired itself. Then it cracked again. Then it fixed itself again. The girl’s blouse had a butterfly embroidered on the shoulder. Maybe it was a silly detail to notice, but Bruno had always liked butterflies.

 

That last vision baffled him the most. He knelt in the sand and held it up to the miniscule light, tilting it from side to side. Broken castle, mended castle; broken castle, mended castle. 

 

Whoever this girl was, she was clearly important. Important enough to break or fix an entire castle. 

 

Her future wasn’t decided. How strange.

 

Bruno turned to his rats. “Well, mi amigos,” he said. “Someone’s having an exciting time, and it certainly isn’t me.”

 

He gathered up the visions and went back downstairs to the main living area. He started on lunch, but couldn’t stop glancing at the pile of visions. They were so strange. If it hadn’t been so confusing, maybe it would have been exciting.

 

He’d never had a vision with more than one outcome before.

 

He was so distracted he nearly burned the food and quickly pulled it from the oven, muttering curses to himself. He fed his rats some cheese and sat down to eat, always with one eye on the visions.

 

Well, he’d hoped for something new, hadn’t he? This was certainly new. A puzzle to figure out.

 

Bruno had no idea who that girl was, nor any way of finding out, but he wished he did.

 

He wished he could ask her what she’d choose to do.







“Bruno! Bruno, let me up!”

 

“Pause the scene!” Bruno said to the rats. Obediently, they stopped in the middle of their acting. Madré Zarita had interrupted right as the dramatic reveal was beginning: when the characters of Carlos and Catalina would realise they were, in fact, aunt and nephew. It was a very forbidden love kind of deal.

 

“Don’t let her see you,” Bruno reminded them and ran down the stairs.

 

Here’s the thing about the tower: the only entrance was through the front window. There were no doors or staircases, so the only way up was a complicated system of pulleys. Madré Zarita stood in a big basket at the base of the tower (which she usually hid among the foliage when she was leaving in the morning) and Bruno used the ropes to pull her up. 

 

Here’s another thing: Bruno was tiny with arms like twigs. Pulling Madré Zarita up was hard work, no matter how much she liked to compliment her own “hourglass figure.” She certainly got a giggle out of hourglass jokes.

 

Finally, the basket reached the windowsill and Madré Zarita stepped out daintily. Bruno slowly lowered the basket.

 

“Oh, Bruno, how do you do that everyday without fail?” Zarita asked, patting him on the head. “Why, it looks positively exhausting!”

 

“Oh, uh, it’s nothing,” Bruno said, rubbing his arm.

 

Madré Zarita’s smile sharpened, her hand tightened on his hair. “Then I don’t know why it takes so long.” Then she laughed, pulling away. “I’m just teasing, no need to pout!” She shrugged her shawl off and set a small picnic basket of food down, peering in the full length mirror with a frown.

 

“Have you decided on a birthday present, dear?” she asked, turning this way and that, peering at her reflection from every angle. She was a tall, beautiful woman, but Bruno could see wrinkles that hadn’t been there yesterday and a streak of grey in her otherwise black hair. No doubt, it was going to be a Sun Flower day.

 

I want to see the floating lights, he thought. You know that. I want to go outside.

 

“Er…I was…” Bruno was stammering again and she shot him an impatient look.

 

“You know how I feel about the stammering,” she said. “And the muttering and mumbling, Dios, don’t get me started on that!” She brushed past him, heading to her room, but reached out to pat his shoulder. “Teasing, dear, only teasing!”

 

“Uh-huh,” Bruno said flatly.

 

“But you do need to speak up, Bruno.” She laughed lightly. “These old ears aren’t what they used to be!” She paused, expecting him to laugh with her. He managed a weak chuckle and she emerged from her room with the golden, glowing Sun Flower, safely in its gilded pot as always.

 

“Come on, Bruno, you need it too.”

 

“I, uh- I really don’t- hey!” She pulled him down onto the sofa with her, keeping a firm grip on his arm. He sighed, knowing it was useless to argue.

 

Madré Zarita began to sing.

 

“Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine…”

 

Reluctantly, Bruno joined in, muttering more so than singing; “Make the clock reverse. Bring back what once was mine.”

 

“Heal what has been hurt. Change the fates’ design. Save what has been lost; bring back what once was mine. What once was mine.”

 

The flower glowed more and more brightly; the beam of light brushed over them both and it tingled, it felt warm, like when Bruno would sit on the windowsill and bask in the sunshine for too long.

 

Then it stopped and Zarita hummed happily, glancing across the room to the mirror, smiling at her reflection. All her wrinkles were gone, her wavy hair was a glossy black; her brown eyes were bright, her lips full and red.

 

Bruno looked at his reflection and tried not to frown. It would only upset her.

 

The faint grey in his hair was gone, leaving it pitch black. The shadows under his eyes had lessened, there were no lines around his eyes. He looked younger; a lot younger. Early thirties at most. 

 

Still too skinny, he thought, clutching his arm. Still too pale. His lips were still bitten, his eyes still looked tired. All of him looked tired. Maybe there were some things magic simply couldn’t fix.

 

Like you, Bruno thought before he could stop himself. It can’t fix you.

 

Madré Zarita had stood up and gone to the visions. She spread them out on the table, humming under her breath, looking a little bored. Then she froze. Her fingers stopped tapping, she stopped humming.

 

“Madré Zarita?” Bruno stood up, but Zarita didn’t move. She hardly seemed to be breathing.

 

“Bruno,” she hissed. “What is this?”

 

“They- I- they’re v-visions?” He stepped back, suddenly frightened, wondering why she looked so furious. As if the weather itself sensed her mood, the sky outside suddenly darkened. There was a clap of thunder, a flash of lightning and it began to heavily rain. A wind picked up and Bruno turned around to close the window, but Zarita grabbed his arm. Her nails pinched into his skin and she jerked him back around, shaking him harshly.

 

“What use is a crumbling castle?” she demanded, shaking him so much he felt dizzy.

 

“Madré-”

 

“Why on earth would I care about butterflies, Bruno?”

 

“I can’t-”

 

“I did not save you for you to waste your powers!”

 

“Madré Zarita!”

 

She stopped, seemingly shocked that he raised his voice. They stood in the centre of the room, frozen. The only sound was the thunder, the wailing wind, and Zarita’s harsh breathing.

 

Abruptly, she turned around and swept the visions off the table, letting them smash to the floor. Bruno cried out but she stomped down with her heeled boots, smashing the pieces even further.

 

“Now look what you made me do! Clean this mess up,” she demanded. She pushed him out of the way, storming to her room. “I don’t ever want such useless visions again, is that understood, Bruno?”

 

She didn’t wait for an answer. She slammed her door shut and Bruno heard it lock.

 

Shivering, he grabbed the broom and dustpan. The visions were odd, yes, but he didn’t think these ones were useless. 

 

But there were two outcomes, he thought, like that would make any difference. The visions still lay smashed on the ground and didn’t magically repair themselves. Bruno glanced at the Sun Flower, still on the table and briefly wondered if it could heal objects.

 

But she’d hear him if he sang. Then he’d really be in for it.

 

Bruno looked at the shattered visions, chunks of jade green glass scattered across the floor. Two pieces were bigger than the others and they fit together like puzzle pieces.

 

Bruno knelt carefully and gently pushed the pieces back together. It was the girl standing in front of the castle. Even though it was broken, if Bruno tilted the pieces he could see the castle breaking and repairing.

 

He wrapped them in a small spare cloth and hid them in his ruana. He didn’t think they were useless.

 

He swept up the rest of the mess in silence.

 

But something nagged at him. Madré Zarita had been so furious, but Bruno had given her plenty of much more mundane, boring visions before. The angriest she’d ever been was when a storm would flood her path for a trip she had planned. She’d broken that vision, yes, but she hadn’t grabbed Bruno like that. She hadn’t shouted like that.

 

She hadn’t-

 

She hadn’t looked afraid.

 

Bruno went back upstairs as quietly as he could, as quietly as his rats. He sat on his bed and listened to the thunder, suddenly feeling very cold.

 

Yes, unless he was imagining things, unless he’d gone crazy…Madré Zarita had looked afraid of those visions. 

 

He pulled out the vision pieces and held them together, turning them from side to side, watching as the castle broke and repaired; watched the girl standing in front of the castle with her shoulders back and chin up, determination in her gaze.

 

Bruno didn’t see anything to be afraid of. Not this time.

Chapter Text

“Don't stop us now, the moment of truth. We were born to make history. We'll make it happen, we'll turn it around. Yes, we were born to make history.” - History Maker, Yuri On Ice




Madré Zarita emerged from her room as if nothing had happened. The storm had stopped but it was still drizzling and a dense fog covered everything. 

 

Eerie, Bruno thought, looking out his window. Victoria sat on his lap, her nose pressed against the window, whiskers twitching.

 

“Bruno, dear, I need you to lower me down!” Zarita called cheerfully. When Bruno came downstairs she smiled at him and patted him on the shoulder. She watched with a surprisingly patient smile as Bruno pulled the basket up for her and she stepped in with a swish of her scarlet skirt.

 

“I’m planning a surprise,” she said with a bright grin. Bruno didn’t say anything; he just nodded and began to lower her to the ground.

 

“I love you! I’ll see you in a bit, dear!” she called as she left, striding away from the tower, into the fog and to the tunnel in the rocks. 

 

To the forest beyond. To the world beyond the cavern and tower.

 

A world Bruno didn’t get to see. 

 

“I’ll be here,” Bruno said softly, though she couldn’t hear him. “...Forever.”

 

You don’t want it, Bruno told himself. You’ll be taken. You’ll be killed. It’s dangerous out there, people will just use you for your powers and then they’ll kill you like they killed your family.

 

It was a dark, cruel world out there. He knew that. Madré Zarita had drilled it into him, time and time again: it was dangerous, it was frightening, it simply wasn’t safe and who would really trust Bruno to look after himself anyway? 

 

Bruno was not a brave person, he knew that about himself. He was anxious and scared all the time, he was small and scrawny; he was weak and tired with pounding headaches. Easy pickings. An easy target. He wouldn’t know the first thing about defending himself.

 

There was no reason, no real reason at all, to go outside. He was fine. He was totally fine here.

 

All the same, he spent far too long sitting on the windowsill, staring down at the foggy ground. 

 

He couldn’t remember what grass felt like and, as usual, the realisation gave him a jolt. The first time he’d realised it, he’d burst into tears. Thankfully Madré Zarita hadn’t been home, Bruno wasn’t sure what excuse he would have given her.

 

He didn’t cry now, or shout and scream, but his nails dug into the wood of the windowsill and he kept his eyes firmly on the ground.

 

Bruno didn’t know much about the world beyond what Zarita told him and what he read in his books. He knew all too well that Madré Zarita would never let him go see the floating lights.

 

So…So maybe…

 

Maybe Bruno could go by himself?

 

It wasn’t the first time he’d thought it, far from it. But it was the first time the idea didn’t make him feel dread or anxiety.

 

For the first time, Bruno thought he might actually be able to pull it off. He just needed a real plan.

 

Slowly, he smiled, a plan starting to form in his mind. He knocked on the windowsill and his head, muttering “Knock on wood,” to himself as he thought.

 

He had an idea.







Mirabel had never run so fast in her life. Her heart was pounding, her palms were sweating and she had a terrible stitch in her side. Her muscles ached and she could not stop.

 

She chased the two thieves through Encanto, across the bridge and past the mountains, into the forest. They were so fast, as impossible to catch as shadows, sprinting through the trees, leaping over logs and puddles.

 

All the while, the storm continued. Her Tia Pepa’s storm, she must be so heartbroken right now. 

 

No, no, Mirabel was going to make sure this storm stopped. She was going to get her Tio’s crown back and bring it home to Abuela where it belonged.

 

She could admit it looked hopeless. Two burly men, clearly master thieves, and one teenage girl? It wasn’t good odds.

 

But then the ground split: the path continued on straight ahead, but another path began just up a curve, leading to a grassy ledge. The thieves kept running straight ahead and Mirabel ran up the small hill, running over their heads, always with one eye on them.

 

They were big. They were fast, they were clever.

 

Mirabel may not have been big, but she was fast and clever too.

 

They had to keep dodging branches, fallen trees and even some small animals, but Mirabel’s path was clear. She was catching up, running faster and faster, head to head with them now.

 

They didn’t see her coming when she jumped off the ledge and tackled the man with the satchel, wrestling it off his shoulder with a war cry.

 

They rolled in the mud, each of them tugging on the satchel, each determined to hold onto it. The other thief stopped with a startled gasp. No doubt, they made an odd sight: a grown man wrestling with a little girl.

 

One more yank, one more duck and roll, and Mirabel leapt to her feet, the satchel in her hands. She raised it above her head with a triumphant laugh and the two thieves gaped at her, momentarily stunned.

 

The thunder seemed farther away and a fog crept in, swirling around their ankles. For a moment, the three of them just stared at each other. Mirabel got her first proper look at the men and gulped. She recognised them. Their wanted posters were everywhere in Encanto.

 

They were a pair of twins, each of them over six-feet tall and broad shouldered. They had black hair, one with a mustache and one with a goatee; one with long hair, one with short hair, both of them dressed in black from head to toe, with furrowed brows, mean sneers and plenty of knives.

 

The Diaz Brothers. Gabino and Julio Diaz. Notorious thieves, a pair of thugs, two of the most dangerous criminals and killers in Encanto. They’d been arrested before and escaped, killing three guards before they could be brought to Casita’s dungeons.

 

And now they were staring at her, only arm’s length away.

 

Mirabel clutched the satchel close to her chest as their shock melted away to be replaced with fury. Gabino, the one with the mustache, pulled out a long and rather deadly looking knife.

 

Santa María, Madré de Dios.

 

“Adios!” Mirabel squeaked and ran for it. 

 

“GET BACK HERE!”

 

“I’d rather not!” Mirabel called over her shoulder. The fog was getting denser, the rain turning from a downpour to a drizzle, making Mirabel shiver. The dark clouds made it look like evening, not the early morning; combined with the tall trees it was eerie. 

 

Combined with the two criminals chasing her, it was terrifying.

 

Abuelo, she thought, leaping over a puddle and rocks. Help me.

 

Maybe Pedro heard her prayer (or maybe he didn’t) because she turned a corner sharply, lost her footing, tripped over a root and rolled down the hill with a startled yelp. Branches cut at her, she could feel blood on her hand and she hoped she had some of Julieta’s cooking in her bag. All the while she kept a tight grip on the Diaz brothers’ satchel, holding her Tio’s crown to her chest, to her heart.

 

Bring it home, bring it back to Abuela. 

 

Mirabel rolled to the edge of a cliff and lay there in the damp grass, gasping for breath. There wasn’t a sound around her.

 

Then there were footsteps, harsh fast footsteps. She held her breath as the Diaz brothers ran overhead…Straight past the hill she’d fallen down. They didn’t notice. They hadn’t seen her turn, they hadn’t seen her fall.

 

She was safe.

 

Gracias, Abuelo.

 

All the same, Mirabel lay there silently, her heart pounding as she looked at the dark grey clouds overhead. The rain was cold and Mirabel began to shiver, waiting until she was sure it was safe to climb back up the hill and make her way home. Her gaze wandered almost lazily from the clouds to the fog, to the sheer drop next to her. That had been a close one.

 

She breathed out with a little smile on her face and sat up.

 

So of course that was when the cliff crumbled underneath her.

 

“Mierda!” Mirabel swore as she fell…

 

And instantly landed on the soft ground. The drop had only been a foot, obscured by the fog to look much deeper.

 

“Oh,” she muttered. “Huh.” She stood up and brushed herself down, wincing at the mud on her clothes and blood on her hand. Blood she’d now smeared across her skirt. Great.

 

But she had the crown and that was the important thing. Now she just needed to get home before the Diaz brothers found her.

 

You’re a Madrigal, Mirabel reminded herself and she held her head high as she marched into the fog. 







The thing about fog was that it made it incredibly easy to get lost. Mirabel was turned around in moments, lost and disoriented. She ended up at the bottom of sheer, rocky cliffs, peering all about her nervously. A river was nearby, she could hear it, but she couldn’t see it. And was that a waterfall? That could be dangerous if she stumbled into the water.

 

Slowly, she thought. Walk slowly.

 

She nibbled an arepa as she walked, feeling her cuts and bruises heal. She just wished she wouldn’t be returning to Casita covered in dirt and dripping wet. At least she wouldn’t have any injuries to show for it. Maybe that would save her from some of the nagging surely coming her way.

 

Ay, Mamá and Papá were going to kill her. 

 

Mirabel kept one hand brushing against the cliff as she walked, keeping an ear out for that sound or rushing water. It seemed to be getting closer.

 

Then her hand brushed against leaves, against moss, against vines and ivy- and the vines gave way. There was nothing behind them.

 

Mirabel paused, squinting at the vines and ivy. Huh…Well how about that, she thought. For a moment she thought it was just a hole in the rocks but the edge felt smooth. She reached up and realised just how large the hole was. 

 

A cave. Mirabel pushed the curtain of ivy aside, stepping into it. An obscured cave could be a good place to wait until the fog lessened and she could clearly find her way.

 

But it wasn’t a cave. It was a tunnel. 

 

Camilo would have gotten a kick out of this. It was like something from one of his stories.

 

She could hear the waterfall much more clearly now.

 

Mirabel followed the sound of it through the tunnel and, when she finally emerged on the other side, her mouth dropped open.

 

It was a massive cavern surrounded by cliffs on all sides. The wild flowers were beautiful and fragrant; there was the river and a pond, there was the waterfall she’d heard. 

 

And, most unusual of all, there was a tower.

 

It was no watchtower, that was for sure. It looked like something from a fairytale. It was actually quite pretty, but she couldn’t see any door, just more flowers and ivy.

 

But, Mirabel thought as the wind picked up and she shivered. It’s dry.

 

Was it worth the climb though? There was a rope…

 

Mirabel thought she’d rather take her chances climbing than waiting for the Diaz brothers to catch up and it was better than sitting in the cold and damp.

 

She tugged on the rope; it seemed secure but then, after another tug, it moved. It was attached to a large basket, hidden among the bushes. It was a pulley system, Mirabel realised.

 

Weird.

 

She tried to climb the rope and didn’t get far on her first attempt. It kept swaying and swinging, until Mirabel cut her losses and jumped back down to the grass.

 

Okay, so this wasn’t going to be easy. This would require all her strength. 

 

Steeling herself, making sure her bag and Bruno’s crown were secure, Mirabel began to climb.

 

It was a good thing she was used to climbing onto Casita’s roof, otherwise this would have been impossible. Even with help from Casita itself, that climb wasn’t for beginners. 

 

Neither was this one. Mirabel refused to look down. She just grit her teeth and focused on the climb, keeping a tight grip on the rope, forcing herself up and up. She’d reach the top, dry off and wait for the fog to go. Once it did she’d head home, safe and sound, with her Tio’s precious crown.

 

Abuela would smile at her. She’d finally make her family proud of her. She’d escaped the Diaz brothers all by herself! No serious injuries! She’d gotten her Tio’s crown! Mirabel, the giftless Madrigal, had saved Bruno’s crown.

 

Finally, she reached the top of the tower, a lightness to her chest. She’d done it.

 

She stumbled off the windowsill (knocking over a chair) and practically fell into the room, sighing in relief. 

 

The room itself was a shock. It was quite large and brightly painted, all over the walls. The furniture was pastel and cosy, there was even a little kitchen under the staircase. She saw paintings of the sun, moon and stars; rats, cats and dogs. Towers and castles, butterflies and people. So many of the painted people had green eyes.

 

Two things caught her attention. The first was yet another painting right above the fireplace: it showed a figure, a boy in a green ruana, looking at the stars from the trees. It was a good painting too, similar to Mirabel’s own art style in fact. It looked brand new.

 

The second, and most bizarre, was a glowing golden flower on the table.

 

“What the…?” Mirabel crept closer, eyes wide. A glowing flower. A magic flower, it had to be. She knew there were other magic users in the world, people who had more than one gift; she knew there were magical objects and animals, but she’d never seen one. She’d only ever seen her family.

 

“Wow,” she murmured, reaching out to stroke a petal. The flower’s petals seemed to unfurl outward, shimmering softly; the glimmering pollen stuck to her finger, looking remarkably like glitter.

 

Squeak.

 

“Huh?” Mirabel straightened up and a voice from behind her demanded, “W-What are you doing here? What do you want?”

 

She tensed and turned around. There was a man standing behind her, holding a frying pan aloft like a sword. He was very small, only a little taller than Mirabel. His arms were thin as twigs and Mirabel knew Julieta would fuss over that. Bizarrely, he had two mice on each skinny shoulder.

 

He wore a green ruana, too big for him, and the hood was pulled up, obscuring his face.

 

The man from the painting! Mirabel thought, eyes widening. 

 

His arms stopped shaking, his jaw clenched and he stood as tall as he could.

 

“Who are you?” he demanded more firmly. “And how did you find me?”

Chapter Text

“So tell me what you want to hear; something that will light those ears. I'm sick of all the insincere, so I'm gonna give all my secrets away. This time, don't need another perfect lie. Don't care if critics ever jump in line. I'm gonna give all my secrets away.” - Secrets, OneRepublic





Present day…




Camilo (as he always did when this part of the story came up) wheezed with a smug expression, grinning mockingly at Mirabel.

 

“I can’t believe Tio Bruno got the drop on you!” he laughed. 

 

“He’s sneaky!” Mirabel huffed. “You’ve seen how quietly he moves around.”

 

“Did he scare you?” Alejandra asked.

 

“He did,” Mirabel said. “But I gave him quite a scare. I probably would have reacted the same way, honestly. I had technically broken into his home.”

 

“No technically about it,” Camilo said smugly. “Breaking and entering is a criminal offense, you know.”

 

“Oh, shut up.”




One year ago…




Bruno froze when he heard a chair clatter to the ground downstairs. It could have been a gust of wind, he told himself as he stood up. It…Could have been Madré Zarita? Maybe?

 

Please let it somehow be Madré Zarita. Please let it be the wind.

 

He tip-toed from his room, holding his breath and crossing his fingers.

 

It was not Zarita.

 

It was a stranger.

 

There was a person in his tower and they were touching the Sun Flower. This stranger was here for the Sun Flower, or Bruno, or both.

 

For a moment, standing at the top of the stairs, he felt frozen. The stranger- a girl- was covered in dirt and soaking wet and was that blood on her skirt? Oh God, that was definitely blood.

 

Panic threatened to overwhelm him, but Bruno forced himself to be as quiet as possible, to breathe as quietly as he could; to simply not make a sound as he made his way down the stairs.

 

Hands shaking, he grabbed a frying pan and pulled his hood up. Be Hernando, he told himself. Be brave. This is your tower. 

 

He approached as quietly as he could, a spark of anger in his chest as she reached out for the Sun Flower.

 

“W-What are you doing here? What do you want?” He tried not to wince when his voice wavered. He didn’t sound threatening at all, at least he didn’t think so, but the girl utterly froze. She spun around, staring at him with wide eyes. 

 

She really was just a girl. Just a kid. How had a child found the tower? Why was a little girl after the Sun Flower?

 

Well…On second thoughts, she wasn’t that little. Definitely a teenager anyway. 

 

She didn’t say anything, she just continued to gape at him.

 

Bruno was surprised by how impatient he felt. She’d broken into his home and she had the nerve to look at him like he was doing something wrong? 

 

His arms stopped trembling and he held the frying pan higher. He didn’t want to hit her, but…

 

“Who are you?” Bruno demanded, grip tightening on the pan. Oh God, was he actually going to have to hit her? “And how did you find me?” 

 

She just stared. She didn’t exactly look like a murderer. 

 

But she sure looked crazy, covered in dirt and blood. He couldn’t let his guard down.

 

“Well?” Bruno snapped impatiently. 

 

“I…I’m Mirabel,” the girl said. She sounded slightly breathless. She took a hesitant step forward and Bruno stepped back.

 

“Don’t come any closer!” he said, but the girl came towards him, stepping into the light. As he got a good look at her face, he suddenly felt like he’d been slapped.

 

He knew this girl. He’d seen her only this morning. 

 

It was the girl from his visions. What on earth was she doing here? This stranger, who had the power to save or break a castle. This girl, covered in dirt and blood, dripping water onto the floor and staring at him like he was something unbelievable. 

 

Victoria squeaked, her nose twitching. Amado raised his nose into the air, apparently trying to sniff at the girl.

 

“What do you think?” he asked them, ignoring the girl’s bewildered stare.

 

“Who are you?” she asked, hands on her hips. “And- are you talking to me, or…?”

 

Amado squeaked. Victoria curled up comfortably; Rosita squeaked and nudged Bruno’s chin with her head, while Fidel only looked unblinkingly at the girl. At Mirabel.

 

At the girl who would make or break a castle. The girl from the only vision he’d ever had with two outcomes.

 

His curiosity was like a physical ache in his chest. Scared or not he wanted to know. 

 

“I suppose,” Bruno muttered to his friends. “She doesn’t seem that scary, you’re right.” Was he trying to convince himself or the rats? He honestly couldn’t say. Maybe both.

 

“Er…” Mirabel blinked. “Are you talking to the rats?”

 

Sighing, Bruno pushed his hood down. He lowered the frying pan but didn’t put it down. Better safe than sorry. 

 

“You’ve told me who you are,” he said, trying to sound firm. “But you still haven’t told me how you got here or what you want.”







Mirabel felt breathless. She hadn’t expected someone to live here. Did he have to use that strange pulley system every day? He must have been stronger than he looked.

 

“How did you find me?” he’d asked. Was he hiding? From what?

 

Or who?

 

He seemed so frightened of her and a stab of guilt hit her. She’d broken into his home and clearly given him the fright of his life.

 

Then he pushed his hood back and Mirabel frowned, tilting her head. Had she seen him somewhere before? Around Encanto, maybe? He looked so familiar…

 

He looks a lot like Abuelo, Mirabel realised and a gasp escaped her. The strange man gave her a confused look, still holding the frying pan like a sword, but Mirabel’s heart was suddenly pounding.

 

He was too young, far too young, only in his early thirties if she had to guess, but he reminded her of Abuelo Pedro so much...

 

“What’s your name?” she asked quietly, ignoring his questions.

 

His frown deepened. “Oscar,” he said briskly. “Now, what are you doing here? What do you want with me?”

 

Wrong age, wrong name. Mirabel felt disappointed anyway. It was ridiculous. Utterly ludicrous. She shouldn’t be getting excited just because a man looked like her abuelo. But a girl could dream, right?

 

And maybe it was stupid, maybe it was downright dangerous, but it made her soften towards him. What was one more stupid, dangerous thing to add to today’s list?

 

But Oscar was clearly getting impatient, so she’d better do some quick convincing for him to let her stay.

 

“W-with you?” Mirabel shook her head. “Nothing.”

 

“Oh, likely story-”

 

“No, really! I just needed some place dry, I got lost in the fog.”

 

Oscar didn’t really look like he believed her. One of the rats climbed off him and scurried around Mirabel’s feet, squeaking loudly. As far as rats went, it was actually pretty cute. Antonio would love it.

 

“So you…You didn’t come here on purpose?”

 

“No,” Mirabel said. “Honestly.”

 

Oscar stared at her and Mirabel suddenly wondered if he’d throw her out. She had, in all fairness, broken in. He’d have every right to kick her out.

 

But he just looked her up and down, a conflicted little scowl on his face. He watched the rat, still at Mirabel’s feet. Then he sighed heavily, shrugged, and finally set the frying pan aside.

 

Mirabel smiled hopefully.

 

“Okay,” Oscar said. “But we need to dry you off, kid, you’re soaked.”

 

“Thank you!” Mirabel cried, clapping her hands. “You’re a lifesaver!”

 

He looked faintly amused, finally smiling at her. “Sure. I’ll get you some towels. The only other clothes are Madré Zarita’s things, but it’ll have to do until yours dry.”

 

“Who’s Madré Zarita?”

 

He was halfway up the stairs, but Mirabel thought she saw a flicker of fear on his face, shadows in his eyes, before he looked over his shoulder at her and gave an almost carless shrug. He looked too tense for it to be truly genuine.

 

“My guardian,” Oscar said. “Do, uh…Do you prefer coffee or tea?”

 

“Huh?” Mirabel was taken aback by the abrupt change in topic. “Coffee, thanks.”

 

He nodded towards the sofa. “Have a seat. And don’t poke at that flower anymore.”

Chapter Text

“I could go running and racing and dancing and chasing. And leaping and bounding, hair flying, heart pounding! And splashing and reeling, and finally feeling that's when my life begins!” - When Will My Life Begin Reprise, Tangled




Mirabel went upstairs to dry off and Bruno was left floundering. What in the world was he thinking, just letting a stranger in? A stranger who had broken in!

 

Maybe he’d finally cracked. All these years of living in a tower had finally broken him and he’d taken leave of his senses. If he had any common sense, he’d kick her out.

 

Bruno sighed, picking Mirabel’s bags off the floor. One was blue and green and embroidered very prettily. The other was plain brown, kind of ratty looking in all honesty- and as he picked it up, he saw a glint of something green.

 

Curious, he opened the satchel.

 

He nearly dropped it in shock.

 

Inside was a crown. It was stunning, made of spun gold, emeralds and diamonds. It glittered as he held it up, casting green and white light on the floor. It looked so delicate that Bruno was afraid it would shatter if he held it too tightly, though he knew it must be stronger than it looked. Crowns weren’t made to break after all.

 

His rats certainly seemed curiously, squeaking in delight and running around his shoulders, up and down his arms. Rosita nudged his hand with her nose. To be fair to them, it was easily the prettiest thing they’d ever seen. It was certainly the prettiest thing Bruno had ever seen.

 

Too curious for his own good, he examined it from every angle, squinting at the delicate tiny carvings on the gold (swirls, hourglasses and butterflies), smiling at the light cast by the gems.

 

Biting his lip, he glanced at the stairs. Still no sign of Mirabel.

 

Well, when would he ever get the opportunity again?

 

Bruno turned to the mirror and tried the crown on, smiling shyly. He tried not to laugh at himself; there he stood in a too-big ruana and faded clothes with a crown on his head. Hardly the most elegant of combinations.




Gentle hands placing the crown on his head, pushing his shoulders back, tilting his chin up.

 

“No slouching, mi luciérnaga.”




Bruno shook his head so harshly he nearly dislodged the crown. Palms suddenly sweating, he yanked it off and shoved it back into its satchel. 

 

But it begged the question, what was Mirabel doing with a crown?

 

He thought of his vision of the castle breaking and mending. He thought of Mirabel, climbing his tower, covered in dirt and clearly exhausted.

 

Had…Had she stolen it?

 

Oh, great, he’d let a thief into his home. 

 

Idiota, he thought, suddenly furious at himself. What had he been thinking? He hadn’t been thinking. No, that wasn’t true, he knew what he’d been thinking: he’d been curious about the girl from the vision. He’d wanted, so badly, to talk to her. To speak to someone new, let alone someone which such an unusual fate.

 

Bruno could hear her upstairs in his room, could hear a muttered curse about “stupid tiny buttons.” She must have been struggling with Madré Zarita’s dress. 

 

Speaking of Madré Zarita, he’d have to hide Mirabel from her. It shouldn’t be too hard, Zarita hardly ever went into Bruno’s room, especially if he wasn’t in it. If Mirabel kept quiet they’d be fine.

 

Zarita would be back soon and then Bruno would finally put his plan into action.

 

And, as he held the satchel in his hands, a new part of that plan formed. A part he’d been worrying about.

 

Bruno had been isolated for forty-five years. He had no idea where he was, not really. He only vaguely knew the direction the floating lights came from. If he wanted to safely get there and back…

 

He’d need a guide.

 

So, Bruno thought. If she wants her crown back, she’ll have to help.

 

A part of him almost felt sorry. Almost. Mostly he just felt very stubborn and anxious right then.

 

As quietly as he could, Bruno pulled up the loose step on the staircase, the one that squeaked when you stepped on it too hard. He usually hid small things from Zarita in there: trinkets, things for his rats, things she’d threatened to take or break.

 

And now a crown.

 

He slid the step back into place just as Zarita’s voice cried; “I’m back, amor! Let me up!”

 

Mirabel poked her head out of his room and Bruno shook his head at her. She got the hint, ducking back inside.

 

Here goes nothing, he thought. He grabbed Mirabel’s other bag and shoved it into a pot by the stairs, and hurried to let Madré Zarita up.







Mirabel stood close to Oscar’s bedroom door as silent as a mouse- or, more accurately, as silent as Oscar’s rats, which stood around her feet.

 

It was quite a nice room, with even more art all over the walls and even on the ceiling. She’d have to ask Oscar how he managed that. There were little sets and costumes scattered on a desk, a wardrobe (also painted all over) and a green and yellow quilt across the bed. All in all, it was comfortable.

 

Something about it still made Mirabel feel on edge. She could hear a woman’s voice, this mysterious Madré Zarita, and her sugar-sweet tone grated on Mirabel’s ears.

 

“Oh, dear, you know I hate to leave after a fight, especially when I’ve done nothing wrong,” Mirabel heard her say. She’d left the bedroom door open just a smidge and peered through the crack.

 

Oscar stood tensely by the open window, one hand still clutching the rope. He seemed even paler, his jaw clenched. He looked frightened, but there was something in his eyes, something bright and gleaming.

 

It was a look that reminded her of Camilo. It was the look of someone who was plotting.

 

“Of course,” Oscar said quietly.

 

Zarita smiled at him, pulling food from a picnic basket. “Well, about that surprise I mentioned- I’m going to make paella for dinner! Your favourite: surprise!” She was beautiful and didn’t seem that much older than Oscar, only a little younger than Julieta, if Mirabel had to take a guess. She was tall (Mirabel’s borrowed dress trailed to the floor, far too long on her) with wavy black hair and full red lips, bright brown eyes and a sweetly smiling face. Her red dress swished as she moved, a dress Mirabel was certain Dolores would love.

 

But the way she spoke over Oscar, the way she was looking at him, made Mirabel seethe. 

 

Oscar took a deep breath, let go of the pulley system and stepped closer to Zarita.

 

“Earlier, you were asking about birthday gifts,” he said.

 

“Hm? Oh, I suppose I did.” Zarita was looking at herself in the mirror, smoothing down her dress and adjusting her hair. Then she froze; her eyes narrowed and she turned to the fireplace. “What?” she asked quietly, dangerously, “Is that?

 

“A- a painting?”

 

“Heh.” Her little laugh was downright mean. “Those had better be the stars, dear. Because I could have sworn we dropped that issue years ago?”

 

“I didn’t-”

 

“I also could have sworn I made myself perfectly clear?” Zarita was still smiling and somehow that was what frightened Mirabel the most. “You are not going anywhere.

 

Oscar nodded quickly, eyes wide. He took a step back from her. “Of course,” he said. “It’s- it’s just some stars. I thought it looked nice, that’s all.”

 

Zarita was tense as a bowstring, eyes narrowed as she stared at the painting. 

 

“But, um, about that present…”

 

Zarita looked back at him, eyebrows raised impatiently. Her smile was sharp as a knife.

 

“I was thinking, I’d like new paint,” Oscar said.

 

Zarita shrugged. “Of course,” she said, glancing at the mirror again. She seemed calmer now.

 

“From the white shells you once got me?”

 

At that, Zarita hesitated with a slight frown. “Well, that’s quite a long trip,” she said, hands on her hips. “Three days time, in fact.”

 

“I know,” Oscar said apologetically. He looked at her hopefully and Mirabel could see his fingers were crossed behind his back.

 

“Well…” Zarita tapped her lip then gave an indulgent smile. Was Mirabel imagining things, or did it still not meet her eyes? “Oh, I suppose it’s a big occasion. Alright. At least this blasted fog is finally letting up.”







Zarita didn’t stay long after that, despite her promise of dinner. She’d taken the glowing flower and gone to another room- her room, Mirabel supposed- and came back out with a sturdier looking bag, which she filled with provisions and a purse. She put her cloak back on and bid Oscar farewell.

 

Oscar stood by the window, watching her leave. His back was to Mirabel so she couldn’t see how he looked, but his shoulders still looked tense.

 

After a few moments, he sighed in relief and said, “You can come down now.”

 

Mirabel came downstairs, hitching up the skirt on her borrowed dress, holding her own damp clothes. Oscar nodded to the fire and Mirabel sat down as Oscar got the fire going and filled a bucket with water and soap.

 

“You won’t get far in that dress,” he said with a wry smile. “It’s way too big, sorry.”

 

“At least I’m dry,” Mirabel said. She dunked her clothes in the water and started scrubbing at the mud and grass stains, not to mention the smear of blood. At least now she actually could go home clean.

 

Finally, when they seemed clean enough, she hitched them over the clothes rail in front of the fire to dry.

 

All the while, Oscar paced the room, thrumming with anxious energy. Finally, he stopped and pointed to the painting above the fireplace. The painting of himself, watching the stars.

 

“Do you know what those are?” he asked abruptly.

 

“Hm?” Mirabel peered at the painting. “You mean the stars?”

 

Oscar shook his head impatiently. “No,” he said. “Not- not the stars, they- there’s these lights, they only appear once a year. They’ll be appearing tomorrow night.”

 

Oh! Mirabel thought and smiled. “You mean the lantern festival?” she asked. “We do it every year. You can really see that from here?”

 

But Oscar didn’t seem to be listening. “Lanterns,” he repeated quietly to himself. Suddenly, he grinned. “I knew they weren’t stars!” He looked at Mirabel and crossed his arms, straightening up slightly. “Okay. Right. Well…I want to make a deal. I want- I need to see these lanterns. Not just from my window. But I’ll need help getting there-” He started to ramble, talking faster. “I mean, let’s be real, I have no idea what I’m doing or where to go, I just have a vague idea of which direction I need to go in, so I’ll need someone to escort me and then I’ll need help getting back here, and-”

 

“Oh, Oscar, I’m sorry,” Mirabel said quietly. “But I’ve got to get home myself, my family will be freaking out. You see, my uncle’s-” Wait. Her eyes narrowed. “Where’s my satchel?”

 

Oscar shrugged. He tried to look careless and fell short by a mile. “I’ve hidden it,” he said. “Someplace you’ll never find it.”

 

Mirabel looked around. “It’s in that pot, isn’t it?”

 

Oscar smirked at her. “Nope,” he said, popping the P.

 

With a disgruntled noise, Mirabel stormed over to check. Her bag was in the pot, but no sign of the satchel. No sign of Tio Bruno’s crown.

 

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” She spun on him furiously. “Blackmail? Seriously!? Oscar, that’s my uncle’s crown!”

 

He scoffed, rolling his eyes. “Oh, sure,” he said. “So, you didn’t steal it? You’re some sort of princess?”

 

“Yes!” she cried, throwing her hands up. “Yes I am!” 

 

He didn’t believe her. The worst part was, she couldn’t even blame him. How was she supposed to prove it? She didn’t exactly look like a princess right now and she’d turned up absolutely filthy and broken in. It wasn’t exactly a stellar first impression.

 

“Please,” she said quietly. “Please, I need that crown back, you don’t understand.”

 

One of the rats squeaked at her. Oscar just kept his arms tightly folded, like he was trying to hold himself together. But he still looked determined.

 

“Sure,” he said flatly. “You’re a princess. You just…Happened to look a lot like a thief, hm?”

 

Alright, he left her with no choice. Time to pull rank.

 

“I am Princess Mirabel Madrigal,” Mirabel declared, head held high. “And- and I order you to return my uncle’s crown, right now.

 

Oscar didn’t move. Mirabel didn’t move. “Please?” she added in a squeak.

 

He looked truly unimpressed. Even the rats didn’t move now.

 

Ugh! You’re impossible!

 

“You get me there and back,” Oscar said. “And I’ll return your satchel. Deal?”

 

“You’ve got to be kidding me, Oscar, I can’t miss the ceremony and they won’t let you into the palace with me, it’s just family on the balcony and-”

 

“Deal or no deal?” Oscar asked, raising his voice over hers. “Because I can promise you, you can tear this tower apart brick by brick, but without my help you will never find that satchel.”

 

Mirabel kind of wanted to hit him.

 

“You’re crazy,” she said bluntly.

 

Oscar looked around the room. “Maybe,” he said. “But I’d rather not be killed out there. So?”

 

There was a long, tense pause. Oscar kept making eye contact for a few seconds before glancing away. Mirabel wanted to scream.

 

“Let me get this straight,” she said, forcing herself to sound somewhat patient. “I take you to the lanterns and bring you home, then you’ll give my uncle’s crown back?”

 

He clearly still didn’t believe it was her Tio’s at all, but he nodded. “Exactly,” he said.

 

“Fine,” Mirabel said. “But you’re coming to explain to my family exactly why I don’t have Tio’s crown. And let me warn you, Abuela will not be happy.”

 

If the threat of Abuela scared him at all, he didn’t let on. He still looked anxious underneath all that bravado, but no more than before.

 

Oh, she couldn’t wait to see him realise Mirabel was telling the truth.

 

He held his hand out. It wasn’t much bigger than Mirabel’s own.

 

“Deal,” he said, chin up.

 

Mirabel took his hand, making sure to squish his fingers and shook it harshly, impatiently. He squeezed back, a glint of a challenge in his dark green eyes.

 

“Deal,” Mirabel snarked.


The wait for her clothes to dry was going to be tense.

Chapter Text

“Will you ever come running home to me? You might. You might. I've believed so long, I have dared to hope that the door might open, and that you might enter.” - Close The Door, Anastasia (Broadway)




But how were things back in Casita?

 

Bad. Things were bad in Casita.




Long hidden and long ignored, the cracks grew…




As soon as the guards uttered the words, “Prince Bruno’s crown has been stolen,” Pepa’s legs gave way from under her. She would have collapsed if it hadn’t been for Félix holding her up as always. Her Félix, her rock, always there to keep her steady.

 

But he couldn’t fix this. No one could.

 

Her brother’s crown had been stolen.

 

A broken wail escaped her and she clapped her hands over her mouth, trying to stop it and failing. It rose in volume until it was a scream and a storm started outside and inside, drenching her and Félix, drenching the guards. A storm raged in her heart and in Encanto, darkening the skies and driving their people to seek shelter from the chaos.

 

Pepa wished she could do the same.

 

Clear skies, clear skies…

 

But clear skies wouldn’t help her now. Pepa knew she needed to calm down, she needed to stop the storm. It would be harder to chase the thieves in this weather, but she couldn’t make it stop. 

 

Bruno, she thought, as if her brother could hear her. Bruno, they took your crown, I’m sorry. They have it, they stole it. We didn’t stop them.

 

Her brother’s scream echoed in her ears, forty-five years later.

 

“Mi amor,” Félix was saying, stroking her hair, hugging her close. “Pepi, mi vida, please…” He shook his head and he looked close to crying too. He’d always hated seeing her in pain. “Pepa-”

 

He was cut off when Camilo burst into the room, Antonio and his animals right behind him.

 

“Mirabel’s gone after them!” Camilo shouted frantically. “She just ran, she’s gone off alone, ese idiota!” 

 

“Ay,” Félix whispered, eyes wide. “Julieta is going to kill her.”

 

I’ll kill her!” Pepa shouted and thunder clapped overhead, her cloud darkened and spread further. “What is she thinking!?”

 

If she was to be fair, Mirabel was probably thinking the same thing as Pepa: that she’d do anything to get Bruno’s crown back, to make sure Mamá didn’t have to face this latest tragedy. To…To…

 

To make your family proud.

 

Yes, Pepa realised with a defeated sigh. She knew exactly what Mirabel was thinking. That didn’t make it better.




Hidden out of sight, among the foundations of Casita and in the dungeons, cracks grew outward like spider webs…




“We need to find her!” Luisa cried, pacing up and down. Isabela sat and watched her little sister and, for once, couldn’t keep still herself. Isabela wrung her hands, tapped her feet and shifted in her seat. Flowers grew and died around her; she grew another rose and tore it to shreds.

 

“She’s all alone,” Luisa said, near tears. “We need to find her!”

 

Yes, Isabela knew that. Their baby sister had run off after two criminals and now abuela had ordered the rest of the family to stay inside the palace. The guards had gone after Mirabel, all of them armed to the teeth. 

 

Their orders were simple: bring Princess Mirabel home safely, bring back Prince Bruno’s crown, do anything necessary to protect Mirabel or die trying.

 

Outside, the storm was stopping and a dense fog rolled in. Appropriate, Isabela thought, but not helpful. It would make it harder to search. It would make navigating harder for Mirabel too.

 

Isabela wasn’t sure if she wanted to hug her little sister or wring her neck. Maybe both.

 

Definitely both, she thought, tearing another rose and crushing another one under her heel. 

 

“Do you hear her?” Luisa demanded desperately, turning to Dolores. “Anything at all?”

 

Dolores tilted her head, lips pursed. Her already big eyes widened and she squeaked. “Oh!” she said, clapping her hands. “Oh, she has the crown!”

 

Isabela honestly did not see that coming.

 

“She does?” Luisa looked relieved, proud, like she hadn’t expected anything less. She gave a weak chuckle and finally sat down, practically falling into her seat. “Oh, thank goodness. And the guards?”

 

“Oh, they’re not with her yet.”

 

“What!?” Luisa and Isabela both shrieked. Dolores clapped her hands over her ears, wincing. After a moment, she lowered them. She was clearly concentrating and her eyes darted between them nervously.

 

“Uh oh,” she whispered.

 

“Uh oh?” Luisa repeated. That frantic edge was returning to her voice. “Uh oh what?

 

“She’s getting farther away,” Dolores whispered. She covered her ears again. “Mirabel’s going the wrong way. I won’t be able to hear her soon.”

 

“WHAT!?”

 

Dolores flinched away and Isabela pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to get herself back under control, if only for the sake of her prima’s ears.

 

“And who are these thieves?” she asked tersely. “Do you know?”

 

At that, Dolores stood up and began to speed walk away.

 

“Dolores?” Luisa asked. “Do you not know?”

 

“I know,” Dolores said, not looking back. “And I don’t want you to burst my eardrums.” She left the room, shutting the door behind her. Then she spoke up; “It’s the Diaz Brothers.” Isabela could hear her running away.

 

“WHAT!?”




Up on the roof, a crack twisted up a chimney…




Julieta sat in her room, staring straight ahead. Her hands held her bedsheets in a death grip and she tried to focus on her breathing; in and out, in and out. Clear skies, like Pepa says. If it worked for her sister, why not for Julieta?

 

She felt it was very important to stay still. If she moved she would shatter.

 

“Julieta? Amor?” Agustín held her hand and Julieta continued to look ahead, at the windows, at the fog covering everything.

 

Her baby girl had run after the Diaz Brothers, all by herself. The Diaz Brothers had taken Brunito’s crown. Mamá had locked herself in her room and refused to come out. The Queen had given her orders and now she was to be left alone.

 

“We are strong,” Alma had said. “We are the Madrigals.”

 

Julieta did not feel strong. She felt like she was breaking. 




Hidden between the walls, the cracks grew…




In Bruno’s room, more cracks appeared on the ever-growing twisting staircase. A shower of dust and stone came down as cracks grew in the ceiling. All the while, the sand raised higher. The sand waterfall seemed denser than before.




In the palace kitchens, out of sight at the back of the pantry, a crack appeared in the wall. Just a small one, easily looked over…But there all the same, on the surface for anyone to find…




Queen Alma Madrigal stood in the doorway of her balcony, looking out at her kingdom- what little could be seen of it through the fog. She clutched her locket tightly, so tightly it left a groove in her palm. She stood at her post and waited.

 

“Bring my granddaughter home,” she’d ordered, voice strong as always. “Do whatever it takes to see her home safely.”

 

“Bring me my son’s crown,” she had ordered, and if anyone noticed how her eyes filled with tears, they were kind enough not to say. 

 

And now here she stood, waiting.

 

With a shaky breath, she opened her locket, looking at Pedro’s dearly beloved image on the right and her little Brunito’s on the left. Only Bruno wasn’t little anymore. He was turning fifty tomorrow, just like his sisters.

 

“Mamá!” he had screamed all those years ago. “MAMÍ!”

 

He had called for her, for her, and she had been too slow. She hadn’t saved him.

 

She would not be too slow for her granddaughter. Not now. 

 

The world had taken her beloved Pedro from her, gone forever. The world had stolen her son, whisked him away in the dead of night.

 

The world would not take Mirabel. It could not have another member of her family.

 

Nor could it have her child’s crown.

 

“No slouching, mi luciérnaga,” she used to say, adjusting his posture, smoothing his curls down and making sure his crown stayed in place. And Bruno would smile shyly at her, always ducking his head again and holding his arm. But so long as he was between his sisters, he’d straighten up and smile, he’d walk forward with Julieta and Pepa, hand in hand.

 

Would he ever do so again?

 

Alma closed the locket and looked back to her kingdom. The obscured view could almost be mistaken for peaceful, but there was nothing peaceful about this morning.

 

She would not lose any more of her family. Not again. Not ever again.

 

Pedro, help me, she thought. Bring her home. Bring our baby’s crown home. She closed her eyes and whispered her usual prayer, the one that had yet to be answered; “Bring our son home.”

 

Alma steeled herself as she’d done thousands of times before. Shoulders back, chin up, proud. The very image of a queen.

 

She had a kingdom to run, a family to protect; thousands upon thousands of people to protect. She would not fail again.

 

The celebrations would go ahead, she decided. Of course they would. They were the Madrigals. They were strong. A united front was what they needed, what everyone needed. They would have their festival, they would release the lanterns for her daughters, for her son, as they’d always done.

 

She turned away and closed the door. She’d have to call the council and call her family to her side.

 

They could not falter now. She could not falter now.




On Alma’s balcony, a thin crack appeared on one of the pillars.




Present Day…




“Hm!” Dolores pushed through the crowd, arm in arm with Mariano, with Isabela and Luisa right behind her. “You’re reaching the good parts of the story,” she said, taking a seat next to Camilo. Mirabel’s sisters sat beside her; Luisa pulled Antonio onto her lap, ruffling his hair while he giggled at her.

 

“More like even more reckless moves,” Isabela said, poking Mirabel on the arm.

 

“Could everyone stop picking on me?” Mirabel demanded while their audience chuckled at them. “It worked out, didn’t it?”

 

“I dunno,” Luisa teased. “You’re the one who walked into a bar full of thugs.”

 

“They are very nice thugs and you know it,” Mirabel said, nose in the air. 

 

Her sisters and cousin seemed to be considering it. Mariano shrugged. “Tiago is a very talented pianist,” he said brightly. 

 

“You have us there,” Isabela admitted. 

 

“Thugs?” Cecilia asked worriedly.

 

“Thugs?” Juancho repeated excitedly.

 

“Okay, who gave him more coffee?” Luisa asked. No one had an answer for her.

 

“Thugs,” Mirabel admitted sheepishly. “But they were very nice! In fact, you’ve probably seen them around and didn’t even realise. Sure, they seemed scary at first, but they were nice to me and Tio Bruno.”

 

“Then don’t let us interrupt,” Dolores said with a little smile. “Please continue.”

Chapter Text

“I'm bigger than my body, I'm colder than this home. I'm meaner than my demons, I'm bigger than these bones. And all the kids cried out, ‘Please stop, you're scaring me!’ I can't help this awful energy. God damn right, you should be scared of me. Who is in control?” - Control, Halsey




Mirabel slowly made her way down the rope, teeth grit, eyes narrowed. 

 

“You coming or what?” she shouted up to Oscar. So she was still annoyed. Sue her. She figured she had every right to be.

 

Up on the window sill, Oscar seemed frozen in place. He stared down at the ground and Mirabel saw a rat poke out of his collar. As soon as Oscar had even gotten near the window, the four little rats had practically screeched and climbed onto him. It seemed they didn’t want to be left behind.

 

Mirabel reached the ground and stood there, hands on her hips. There was another moment of hesitation before Oscar began to climb down.







Bruno edged his way carefully down, heart pounding. His rats all hid in his ruana, his pockets and his hood. He had a satchel of his own slung over his shoulder, one of Madré Zarita’s older ones. He’d filled it with food, shoved the frying pan into it, as well as a knife and the two shards of his vision of Mirabel. Call him crazy, but he didn’t want to part from it.

 

Besides, thinking about it kept his mind off fretting as he slowly made his way down to the ground.

 

He was actually doing it. He was really outside of the tower, he was climbing down, he-

 

He was on the ground.

 

Bruno froze, still gripping the rope tightly, both feet firmly planted on the ground.

 

“Oh,” he said quietly. “Huh.” He could hear his heart pounding in his ears, feel it thumping away in his chest. He felt lightheaded, dizzy- with fear, or glee, or both he wasn’t sure.

 

“Oscar?” Mirabel was frowning, annoyed and a little concerned. Definitely confused. “Are you okay?”

 

Smiling, resisting the sudden urge to laugh, Bruno kicked his sandals off. He picked them up and walked through the grass barefoot, leading the way to the tunnel.

 

“Never better,” he said. Oh God, he was really doing this, he was outside. He looked up at the sky, ran his hand along the rocks and breathed deeply. The grass was still damp from all that rain and fog, it was still pretty cloudy and it was all utterly glorious.

 

“You’re gonna get dirty,” Mirabel said, following close behind.

 

Finally, Bruno let himself laugh. “I don’t care!” he said and he was surprised to realise it was true. What was a little mud? He could wash it off.

 

They reached the end of the tunnel and Bruno felt like he was standing on the edge of a cliff. One more step and he’d be well and truly out. Into the forest, into the world.

 

He pulled his hood up.

 

“I’m Hernando and I’m scared of nothing,” he muttered, pushing his way through the vines and ivy.

 

“...How long were you…up there?” Mirabel asked. Whoops, she’d heard that, huh?

 

Bruno just shrugged and didn’t answer. Honestly, he was too distracted by- well, everything. He’d forgotten how tall the trees were when you were on the ground. There were birds chirping overhead, he could still hear the waterfall and river, but more muffled now. There was still a brisk chill to the air, damp clinging to everything. The sun shone weakly through the clouds and Bruno tilted his head back to look.

 

It was messy and cold and beautiful. Bruno couldn’t have felt freer even if it had been a beautiful summer’s day. This was beautiful, just as it was.

 

Mirabel pushed his head back down. “You’re gonna damage your eyes,” she said flatly. She tapped her glasses with a smirk. “Unless you want glasses like mine.”

 

“I wouldn’t mind,” Bruno said honestly. “I like green.”

 

She seemed surprised by that. “Oh, er- I was joking.”

 

“Oh,” Bruno said. “I wasn’t.”

 

Mirabel didn’t seem to know how to answer that. She just gave him that look again, like she was trying to read his mind.

 

“Alright,” she eventually said. “Let’s go. And you really ought to put your sandals back on, you could hurt your feet.”

 

Reluctantly, Bruno slipped them back on. He could always take them off again later.







The guards had their orders, but it was hard to find a princess when they simply had no clue where to start looking. The fog was finally clearing and they circled around the forest, looking for any sign of Princess Mirabel or the Diaz Brothers.

 

It wasn’t until their third look around that it cleared up enough for one of the men to see the heavy footsteps of the Diaz Brothers in the mud. And, almost out of sight, there were crushed bushes and plants, skids in the mud and- finally- a crumbled ledge. There were the faintest footsteps in the dirt.

 

Finally, a trail to follow.

 

The guards split into two groups: one to follow the trail of the Diaz Brothers and another to follow Princess Mirabel’s tracks. They made their way down the ledge and narrow path slowly, keeping an eye out for any more signs she was close by.

 

One of the men tied his horse to a low hanging branch and went to search a shadowed trail, calling for the princess.

 

Not long after, a woman in red emerged from the trees.







Zarita was admittedly startled when the horse neighed at her, looking quite ferocious. Still, it was tied to a tree, it couldn’t do anything.

 

“Goodness,” she said, hand on heart. “What on earth are you doing out here?”

 

It was a well-bred horse, that much was obvious even to Zarita, who didn’t care one jot for animals. Nasty, smelly beasts. It was the type of horse that would have cost a fortune, a complete waste of a fortune no doubt. Its tail and mane practically shone, well cared for and groomed. The gold on its saddle and bridle glimmered, even in the weak sunshine.

 

The gold…

 

Zarita’s eyes narrowed. Wait a minute.

 

Gold butterflies were engraved on the horse’s saddle. Madrigal butterflies.

 

“A palace horse,” she murmured, a trickle of unease went down her spine. “Where’s your rider?” Maybe she would have dismissed it, had it not been for a distant shout of, “Your Highness!”

 

It could be any of them, Zarita told herself. Any Madrigal could be out here, not just Bruno. It’s been forty-five years, they’re not looking for him.

 

But if any of them found the tower, if any Madrigal found the tower…

 

Zarita ran, heart pounding.

 

Bruno, the flower, Bruno, the flower.

 

Her youth and beauty, her prophecies, they could all be taken in one moment. No. No. She’d worked too damn hard to steal the brat- taking a prince from a sentient palace was no easy feat- and block his memories to lose control now. She’d worked so hard and so long to keep the obnoxious twit in line, she was not losing him now.

 

If they found Bruno they’d find the flower too, and then…Oh god, then where would she be? Old and withered in days, dead in less than a week if she wasn’t careful. 

 

She needed to get home.







Zarita had always found her tower to be quaint. There had never been anything intimidating about it to her. It was simply the perfect hiding spot, which she could decorate to her tastes.

 

But now as she stood there, with the tower looming above, the clouds rushing overhead, it suddenly seemed bigger than before.

 

“Bruno!” she called, forcing cheer into her tone. “Let me up, dear! I forgot something!”

 

No answer.

 

“Bruno?”

 

He could have been sleeping.

 

“Bruno!”

 

Maybe he was having a vision.

 

“BRUNO!”

 

Still no answer. Panic well and truly taking over, Zarita ran around to the side of the tower. She pulled the ivy away, revealing the old entrance, the one Bruno wouldn’t remember; she’d put in the pulley system within days of taking him. If he remembered there was a second entrance (a second exit) he didn’t remember how to access it.

 

Besides, it was walled up. She’d like to see that scrawny thing manage all these stones and bricks.

 

With a blast of magic, Zarita destroyed it and ran up the stairs. It led her right under the floorboards and, with another spell, the floorboards moved and she was inside.

 

“BRUNO!” she shrieked. He’d surely ask how she’d gotten in, but she’d think of a lie, of an excuse.

 

There was still no answer.

 

She ran into her room and the one consolation she had was her precious Sun Flower, shining away on her bedside table.

 

But where was her seer?

 

Zarita ran to his vision cave and it was empty, except for the sand. Nor was Bruno in his room, or the bathroom. He wasn’t hiding under anything, though he hadn’t done that since he was seven.

 

Bruno was…

 

He was really…

 

Gone.

 

Zarita stood in the middle of the main room, panting for breath and tugging on her hair. The guards, the royal guards were all over the forest and they’d been calling for Your Highness. What if they really had been calling for Bruno? What if one of them had found him at last?

 

She needed to plan, she needed to take action to-

 

What was that?

 

A glimmer of green caught her eye. Something bright as a jewel, casting a small light on the wall.

 

It was coming from the stairs.

 

Feeling an odd sense of dread, Zarita went to the stairs. It was coming from the second-last step.

 

She pulled it up with ease. 

 

Hidden under the step was a handful of odd trinkets, things she could have sworn she’d taken from Bruno years ago…And a satchel.

 

It certainly wasn’t one of hers.

 

It’s just a satchel, she thought, furious with herself. Her hands refused to move, to pick it up. You are Zarita, you are a witch; you are eternal. You’re not frightened of a blasted bag.

 

She picked it up, opened it and pulled out the contents.

 

Zarita shrieked and dropped the crown like it had burned her. It may as well have, for all the fright it gave her. It was such a lovely crown, all spun gold, emeralds and diamonds. A crown she hadn’t seen in years, but one she knew all too well.

 

Bruno’s crown.

 

How? she thought, kneeling there on the floor, gripping her hair. How in god’s name did his crown get here?

 

Someone had found her tower. Someone, with access to Bruno’s crown, had found her home. Someone had found Bruno. And Bruno had seen the crown, that much was obvious. For one reason or another, he’d hidden it.

 

Someone had taken her seer.

 

Or he left willingly.

 

Magic sparked around her, lifting her hair, casting a red glow around her hands as fury suddenly coursed through her veins.

 

The new paints. A three day trip. The little rat had planned this.

 

The question was, who had he planned it with?

 

Zarita stood up, shoved the crown back into the bag and stalked back down the stairs. The shadows grew darker around her and the room shook in her wake.

 

Someone had stolen her little seer. She would just have to go fetch him back, before he got any more foolish ideas in his head.

 

“You want me to be the bad guy?” Zarita snarled. “Fine. Now I’m the bad guy.”







Hidden in the woods, Gabino Diaz turned to his brother Julio. Both of them were still soaked from the storm (damn Princess Pepa), covered in various scratches and bruises. Julio had a rather nasty bruise forming on his face from when that brat of a princess tackled him.

 

And now the thrice damned guards were combing the forest.

 

“Come on,” Gabino said. “We need to dry off and plan.”

 

“No shit,” Julio snorted. He rubbed at the bruise on his face with a wince. “That miserable little bitch actually stole our crown!”

 

“We’ll steal it back,” Gabino said, one hand on his knife. “And make her regret it. Now come on. The pub’s not far from here; let’s hurry before the bastards spot us.”

Chapter Text

“So our differences ain't really that extreme, we're one big team! Call us brutal, sick, sadistic and grotesquely optimistic, ‘cause way down deep inside we've got a dream!” - I’ve Got A Dream, Tangled




Oscar’s excitement seemed to have worn off. The further they walked, the more jittery he got. He was muttering to himself, seemingly unaware of Mirabel staring at him. He was arguing with himself, hood pulled up over his eyes.

 

“Madré Zarita would be so furious- but what she doesn’t know won’t kill her, who cares? I do, I care, stupid question. But this is already the most fun I’ve ever had, so should I really feel bad? This would kill her. This would totally kill her. I’m a despicable human being- no, I’m not, I’m-” He stopped short, yanked his hood off and tugged on his hair. Mirabel stopped dead, staring in bewilderment.

 

“Uh, Oscar?”

 

“Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock on wood!” He knocked on the nearest tree and finished with a knock to his own head. He reached into his pocket and threw a handful of salt over his shoulder and breathed out deeply in relief, shoulders slumping.

 

“...You good?” Mirabel asked.

 

“I’m fine!” Oscar chirped. “Fine. Totally fine. Why wouldn’t I be?”

 

Mirabel had an idea. Maybe it was mean, but…But her Tio’s crown…

 

“You seem…A little at war with yourself,” Mirabel said, patting him on the shoulder. He jumped when she did, blinking at her like he wasn’t at all sure what she was doing.

 

“Uh, you think so?”

 

“Just a bit,” Mirabel said. “And you know what, I get it. Let me guess, this is your first time striking out on your own?”

 

“Well…” He rubbed his arm and shrugged with a bashful smile.

 

“Let me reassure you, Oscar, this is normal; healthy even! Would this break your guardian’s heart and crush her soul? Yeah, of course. But you’ve just got to do things by yourself sometimes!” Did she particularly care what Zarita, with her false smiles and sickly-sweet words, would care or feel? No. But Oscar clearly did.

 

“Break her heart?” he repeated, eyes wide.

 

“In half,” Mirabel said gravely.

 

“Crush her soul?

 

“Like a grape, amigo.”

 

Oscar stared into the distance. Mirabel linked their arms with a sigh.

 

“You know what, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but…I’m letting you out of the deal.” She started to steer him back the way they’d come. “Come on.”

 

“Wait, what?

 

“No need to thank me! You can take pride in the fact you tried your best, I get my tio’s crown and we part ways as unlikely friends. Perfect ending!”

 

“No.” Oscar dug his heels into the ground and yanked away from her. He suddenly looked fierce, green eyes glinting. Mirabel was so used to Tia Pepa that she half expected storm clouds to appear above his head.

 

“I’m seeing those lanterns,” Oscar snapped.

 

“Oh, come on!” Mirabel groaned, rubbing her forehead. “Help a girl out!”

 

In a flash, Oscar had pulled his frying pan out. “I’ll use this,” he threatened.

 

Before Mirabel could retort- maybe slap the pan away with a sarcastic comment, make a threat of her own, or a plea, she wasn’t sure- the bushes rustled.

 

Oscar promptly lost his shit.

 

He jumped behind Mirabel with a loud yelp (that frankly bordered on a shriek) and aimed his frying pan at the bushes like a sword.

 

“Is it thieves?” he demanded. “Murderers? Are they here for me?”

 

Here for him? “What?” Mirabel asked. “What do-?”

 

It was a rabbit.

 

“...Oh.” Oscar lowered the frying pan, blushing bright red. Mirabel felt a little bad for giggling, but honestly, he looked like a kicked puppy.

 

“Stay calm,” Mirabel teased, elbowing him. “It can probably smell fear.”

 

“Sorry,” Oscar said, smiling weakly. “Just, uh, a bit jumpy.”

 

Yeah, no kidding, Mirabel thought, hands on her hips.

 

“Right. So…” She gestured ahead. “You’re not changing your mind, are you?”

 

For all that Oscar looked like a strong breeze could knock him over, there was a glint of grim determination in his dark green eyes. “Not a chance,” he said firmly.

 

Mirabel sighed in defeat. “Okay,” she said. “Fine. Sooner we get to Encanto, the sooner I get the crown back.” She smirked at him. “And the sooner my abuela will eat you for breakfast.”

 

The threat still didn’t seem to have much effect. Mirabel had never met anyone who wasn’t at least a little intimidated by Abuela before. It was a little bizarre. 







Mirabel wasn’t sure how long they were walking when she smelled something frankly delicious in the air. Her stomach rumbled. Sure, Oscar had packed some apples and cheese, but Mirabel was craving a proper lunch. She’d eaten her mother’s cooking when she was lost in the fog.

 

Oscar looked intrigued too, clutching his satchel’s strap tightly.

 

“I’ve got money,” Mirabel said. “Want lunch?”

 

Oscar nodded and followed after Mirabel. The smell was getting stronger and stronger- tamales, arepas, sudado de pollo! Mirabel’s stomach rumbled even more. One of Oscar’s rats climbed out of his pocket and sniffed at the air.

 

They walked a little further, turned a corner and walked down a lane filled with flowers. Tucked among the trees was a long, low building. It was adorable, painted brightly with flowers and birds and a yellow front door. A sign by the gate read, The Snuggly Duckling. As expected, there was a drawing of a duckling on the sign.

 

“It’s cute,” Oscar said.

 

“It is,” Mirabel said in faint surprise. She wouldn’t have expected to find somewhere to eat out here, let alone somewhere that looked so nice.

 

They walked to the door and, under the smells of cooking, Mirabel could faintly smell alcohol. A lot of alcohol. Oh well, who was she to judge?

 

She opened the door and nearly jumped right back into Oscar.

 

This place was not cute.

 

It was a lot darker inside. There were animal heads on the walls, a massive pair of men having an arm wrestling contest in one corner and another passed out drunk by the fire. Each and every person she saw was armed- heavily armed. Was that blood on the floor?

 

The patrons were massive, every man and woman she saw seemed bigger than the last. They were covered in scars, missing limbs and wore clothing covered in spikes and dirt. She saw a particularly obscene tattoo that would have given Abuela a heart attack.

 

Each one of them turned to the door with a glare when she opened it.

 

Mirabel barely bit back a scream. Oscar grabbed her arm in a death grip, trembling.

 

A new idea popped to mind. (Mirabel was soon going to feel like evil incarnate for this.) Taking a deep breath, Mirabel marched in, dragging Oscar with her, straight to the bar. She could faintly see people cooking through a door; at least the kitchen looked clean.

 

Oscar was shaking more than ever.

 

“Do you have a menu?” Mirabel asked the bartender, praying she sounded confident. He was a huge bulking man with an eyepatch and a long scar across his nose. He looked at Mirabel and Oscar like they were a major inconvenience. 

 

He just grunted and shoved a menu at them.

 

“So, what do you want?” Mirabel asked Oscar, trying to sound cheerful, like she hung out here every day.

 

Oscar was shaking like a leaf, his big eyes darting around rapidly. One of the rats was still on his shoulder; the others had jumped for cover in his pockets.

 

The bartender came back over, scowling more than ever.

 

“That a rat?” he demanded, jabbing a finger into Oscar’s chest.

 

Oscar gave a small, jerky nod of his head.

 

For a moment, Mirabel felt frozen. She wanted Oscar to quit, she didn’t want to get him hurt. The bartender looked like he was going to throw a punch.

 

To her shock, he just gruffly said, “I like rats.”

 

“O-oh…” Oscar tried to smile and failed miserably. “Me too.”

 

“You good?”

 

“H-huh?”

 

“You’re shakin’.”

 

“Er, I, uh…I just…”

 

The bartender reached behind him and grabbed a shot glass. He poured some tequila and slapped a slice of lime into Oscar’s hand. He grabbed Oscar’s other hand and poured some salt onto it.

 

“Um…” Oscar blinked rapidly. Mirabel faintly wondered if she was dreaming.

 

“Lick the salt,” the bartender said. He nodded at the shot. “Knock that back, then bite the lime. You’ll feel better in no time.”

 

“T-thank you?”

 

The bartender nodded and went to serve a group of rowdy men at the other end of the bar. Two of them were arguing over a plate of buñuelos.

 

Oscar looked as lost as Mirabel felt.

 

She was even more shocked when he did as the bartender instructed, quickly knocking back the shot and biting into the lime. He gagged, coughing harshly, hands over his mouth. His eyes watered and he shuddered.

 

“Mirabel,” he gasped. “Mirabel, I think I could use that as paint thinner!”

 

Mirabel couldn’t help but burst out laughing.

 

“That bad?” she asked, giggling.

 

“Awful,” Oscar said in a hushed voice, somewhere between awe and horror.

 

The bartender came back with a handful of dirty glasses. He set them down but made no effort to clean them, just watched Mirabel and Oscar with a frown.

 

“Well?” he demanded. “What’cha think?”

 

“It was great,” Oscar said, just a little too quickly with a smile that was a little too wide. “Lovely, really!”

 

Mirabel found herself holding her breath and crossing her fingers, mimicking Oscar. The bartender stared at them. Mirabel waited for shouting, or a punch.

 

Instead the bartender utterly beamed, revealing rows of very yellow teeth.

 

“Old family recipe,” he said proudly. “Make it myself.”

 

“Oh, I can tell,” Oscar said, clasping his hands tightly.

 

The bartender thumped him harshly on the shoulder, but looked…surprisingly friendly. “I’m Tiago,” he said. “What’re you two doing all the way out here?” He looked them over and snorted. “You don’t look the type, if you catch my drift.”

 

“We’re going to Encanto,” Mirabel said.

 

“To see the lanterns,” Oscar said. “I’ve wanted to see them for years.” His smile was a little shyer and Tiago finally started to clean the glasses. “It’s- well, I’ve pretty much been dreaming of doing this my entire life.”

 

“Good for you!” a thug shouted out, his voice slurring. “Live your dream, kid!”

 

“Kid?” Oscar repeated, blinking. “How old do you think I am?”

 

“Ah, dreams,” Tiago said, sounding oddly wistful. “I wanted to be a concert pianist. Was told I didn’t stand a chance when I lost my eye.”

 

“Well that’s not fair,” Mirabel said with a frown. Tiago nodded and slid her a plate of buñuelos and a (thankfully clean) glass of water.

 

“That’s what I said,” Tiago said. “But I kept getting turned away as soon as people see me. I don’t look the part.” He poured Oscar another shot, which Oscar eyed doubtfully. He sipped at it like a kitten with milk, making sure to give Tiago a thumbs up whenever the burly bartender looked at him.

 

Alejandra said Mirabel’s real gift was being in denial, but Camilo liked to joke that Mirabel’s real gift was giving accidental therapy.

 

Mirabel was starting to think her cousin had a point, because when she spotted a battered piano in the corner she said, “Well, you should play!”

 

“Eh?” Tiago frowned at her.

 

Oscar saw what she was looking at. “She’s right,” he said. “You should play. Are you good?”

 

“The best.

 

“Then go for it!” Mirabel said. “You’re with your friends, right? They won’t judge you?”

 

They were gaining quite the audience: more and more thugs were turning around in their seats, craning their necks to see what was going on. They didn’t exactly look friendly. Indeed, most of them looked annoyed and baffled. One man was holding his axe like he was seriously considering aiming it at Mirabel’s head.

 

“Ah, go for it, Tiago!” the slurred-voiced thug shouted, raising a pint of beer and spilling half of it down his arm. “You only live once!”

 

“Play!” someone shouted, and it started a chant; “Play, play, play!”

 

Mirabel joined in clapping and crying, “Play!” before she even registered what she was doing. Oscar chuckled, looking around in bemusement. All signs of an imminent panic attack had fled. He smiled at Tiago, but didn’t join the chant. 

 

“Fine,” Tiago practically snarled. “Fine, fine, shut up!” He stomped over to the piano and his whole posture changed; he was sitting up straight, head held high. He tapped a few keys experimentally and shook his hands out.

 

With a sigh, he began to play.

 

“I’m malicious, mean and scary! My sneer could curdle dairy! And violence-wise my hands are not the cleanest!”







The man who kept slurring collapsed into the stool next to Bruno and flung his arm around Bruno’s shoulders. The stench of his breath made Bruno’s eyes water.

 

“Hhhheeeeyyy,” the man said, slapping Bruno on the back. “Y’know, I’ve got a dream too!”

 

“Oh?” Bruno glanced at Mirabel for help. His traveling companion looked utterly, viciously gleeful. Bruno couldn’t even blame her.

 

“I want- I want to be a florist,” the man said, flinging his arms wide. He promptly fell off the stool, but to his credit he jumped back up. “I’m good with flowers!”

 

“That’s nice,” Bruno said weakly. What was happening?

 

“I want to find true love!” another man said. Mirabel jumped in surprise as the man stood between them. He was nearly twice Bruno’s height and very lanky, with what worryingly appeared to be a blood stain on his shirt.

 

“You’ll find it, André,” the slurring man said, looking teary eyed. “You’re a catch!”

 

André looked between Bruno and Mirabel hopefully. He looked quite tearful too.

 

“Oh, totally!” Mirabel said. Bruno wondered if the men could see how forced her grin was, if they could hear how high-pitched her voice had gotten. “You’re- I bet you’ve got great qualities!”

 

“He does!” the slurring man said. “His poetry is just- it’s beautiful, man. Y’know?” He nearly fell into Bruno and Bruno scrambled to help him lean against the bar instead.

 

“Aw, thanks, Gustavo,” André said with a smile. He was tapping his foot in time to Tiago’s song. “I haven’t heard Tiago play in two years!”

 

“That long?” Bruno asked with a frown. “But he’s really good.”

 

“You heard him,” André said with a rueful shrug. “No one will hire him.”

 

“That’s so fair,” Mirabel said quietly, mournfully.

 

“That’s life, kid.”

 

Mirabel’s eyes hardened. She looked like she’d just been issued a challenge. She quickly stood up on the bar and pointed at a woman with an obscene tattoo that made Bruno blush.

 

“You!” Mirabel cried. “You with the tattoo! What’s your dream?”

 

The woman looked baffled. She pointed at herself and Mirabel nodded. The woman stood up and cried, “I want to be an interior designer!”

 

A man Bruno previously hadn’t noticed, in full mime get-up, danced his way across the bar and pretended to be stuck in a box.

 

“That’s Dante,” André said. “He wants to be a mime.”

 

Maybe it was the dreadful tequila, but Bruno stood up and said, “Then you should do it, Dante!”

 

Dante made a heart sign and beamed at him.

 

Tiago was still singing; “See, I ain't as cruel and vicious as I seem! Though I do like breaking femurs, you can count me with the dreamers. Like everybody else, I've got a dream.”

 

“Good for you, Tiago!” the tattooed woman shouted, clapping. “Good for you!”

 

Mirabel pointed at another thug. “And you?”

 

The man stood up and saluted her. “I want to be a baker! I love cakes!”

 

Bruno gave him a thumbs up. “I love cakes too,” he said.

 

“Who doesn’t?” Mirabel cried with a grin. “Anyone else?”

 

“I want to be a seamstress!”

 

“I knit!”

 

“I do puppet shows!”

 

“Oh!” Bruno turned to that thug. “I do telenovelas!”

 

“Good for you!” the thug said. He had a forked beard and a hole in his sombrero. “What about?”

 

Bruno shrugged. “Anything. I like dramas.”

 

“Hey, same here!”

 

“And what about you?” André asked Mirabel. “What’s your dream, kid?”

 

Mirabel’s beaming grin faltered. She avoided eye-contact and her smile began something small and fragile.

 

“I just…I want to make my family proud.”

 

If she hadn’t won the pub over before, she did now. Their audience let out a collective, “Aawww,” and the tattooed woman stomped over to the bar, pulled Mirabel down and yanked her into a bone-crushing hug.

 

Mirabel winced. “You know,” she said. “I think you and my sister Luisa would get along.”







So, somehow Bruno found himself in a pub full of thugs, loudly proclaiming their dreams. Many of them were dancing to Tiago’s music, shouting their friend’s lyrics rather than singing.

 

It was the most fun Bruno had ever had.

 

“Come on!” Mirabel suddenly said, pulling on his arm. “Let’s join in!”

 

“I don’t know how,” Bruno said, pulling back.

 

“You don’t have to,” Mirabel said. “Just have fun.” He let her pull him onto the impromptu dance floor, laughing when she spun him around.

 

As it turned out, dancing with actual music, with other people, made all the difference in the world.







Four songs later, Tiago rejoined them at the bar, looking very sweaty and proud of himself. His friends all clapped him on the back and Mirabel applauded him. A trio of men took up a new tune with guitars and drums and most of the room continued the party.

 

Good for them, Mirabel thought.

 

“That was great!” Oscar told Tiago, eyes shining. 

 

“It was,” Mirabel agreed. “You’re brilliant.” 

 

In thanks, Tiago poured them both tequila. With a roll of his eyes, André snatched Mirabel’s shot and handed it to Gustavo. When Tiago wasn’t looking, Oscar did the same.

 

Mirabel giggled, feeling surprisingly fond of them all. She looked around the crowded room- and froze.

 

Uh oh.

 

She yanked Oscar down onto the floor, ignoring his yelp. Their new friends didn’t seem too put out; no doubt, they’d seen stranger things.

 

“What-?” Mirabel clapped a hand over Oscar’s mouth, cutting him off.

 

“We need to get out of here,” Mirabel hissed. “The Diaz Brothers are here.”

 

Oscar blinked at her, head tilted. “Who?”

 

By contrast, Gustavo groaned. “Them? They always start fights.”

 

Oscar had paled drastically, but he wasn’t looking in the Diaz Brothers’ direction: he was looking at the window.

 

“Right,” he choked out. “We need to go.”

 

“You okay?” André asked them, crouching down.

 

Mirabel looked at the window and squeezed Oscar’s arm. A woman in red was peering through the window, frowning in bewilderment at the joyous crowd. A very beautiful, very familiar woman.

 

“Madré Zarita,” Oscar whispered.

 

The Diaz Brothers had taken a table by the door. Zarita was just outside. None of them looked pleased.


“Mierda,” Mirabel and Oscar muttered.

Chapter Text

“You're not a coward 'cause you cower, you're brave because they broke you, yet broken still you breathe. So breathe, breathe, just breathe.” - The Old Witch Sleep and the Good Man Grace, The Amazing Devil




“You two okay?” Tiago leaned over the bar.

 

“Is there a back door?” Mirabel asked frantically. She and Oscar were still crouched on the floor. “Please, the Diaz Brothers are here, we need to leave.”

 

Tiago whistled, looking slightly impressed. “Shit, kid, what did you do?” Mirabel just gave him her best puppy eyes. Oscar’s grip on her arm tightened; Mirabel didn’t dare look away from Tiago, but she was willing to bet Oscar was giving Tiago a pleading look as well.

 

Tiago nodded. Gustavo, swaying alarmingly, stood behind Mirabel and Oscar with André, doing their best to shield them from view. The tattooed woman shouted for the band to start playing again and they did; it was a loud, jaunty tune that had people up and dancing again, quickly blocking the floor.

 

Tiago pulled on one of the taps on the bar. It had a duck on top, unlike the others, which displayed the names of various beers. There was a creaking noise which, even at a close distance, Mirabel struggled to hear over the music.

 

“C’mon,” Tiago said, jerking his head at something behind him. Mirabel dared to peek over the bar and her eyes widened: a secret passageway had opened in the floor.

 

Just what kind of bar was this?

 

But she wasn’t about to look a gifted horse in the mouth. She tugged on Oscar’s arm and, still crouched down, they edged their way to the end of the bar.

 

“HEY!”

 

Busted, Mirabel thought, her blood turning to ice.

 

The Diaz Brothers had spotted them.

 

“MADRIGAL!” Julio thundered. “Where’s our crown!?”

 

“Madrigal?” André gasped. “You- really?

 

Mirabel stood up straight and faced them, even as Tiago pushed her and Oscar to the passageway.

 

“It’s my Tio’s!” she shouted. “It’s my Tio’s, you have no right to it!”

 

“Go!” Tiago shouted. André may have been shocked, but he didn’t hesitate to jump in front of the Diaz Brothers, a knife in each hand. The other thugs descended on them, but the Diaz Brothers were famous for a reason: even so badly outnumbered, they were fighting their way to the bar. It probably didn’t hurt that so many of their opponents were drunk, or at least tipsy. Mirabel looked at the window and couldn’t see Zarita anymore.

 

“GO!” Tiago shouted again, shoving them into the passageway. Gabino Diaz leaped over the bar and Tiago punched him straight in the face. “Live your dreams!”

 

“We will!” Mirabel promised, taking Oscar by the hand and running into the dark. “Run!” she cried. “Oscar, run for it!”

 

They ran down into the dark. It was a tunnel that seemed to go on and on, with no end or light in sight. She could still hear fighting behind them.

 

“MADRIGAL!”

 

“Who the hell are they?” Oscar demanded as they ran. There were footsteps in the distance, heavy, thudding footsteps. She could hear Julio swearing, Gabino shouting that she was a dead girl walking. 

 

“The Diaz Brothers,” Mirabel panted. “They stole my Tio’s crown, I stole it back. I keep telling you it’s my uncle’s!”

 

Finally, there was a faint light at the end of the tunnel.

 

“Oh, gracias Dios,” Mirabel said. “We’re out!”

 

There was another cry behind them.

 

“MIRABEL!”

 

The guards, Mirabel realised and could have laughed in relief. The guards were here, they had back-up, they were safe.

 

They ran out into the sun. 

 

It was the dam. The old dam, the one Abuela had plans to fix up just next week. She could see leaks in the dam, staining the wood and dripping onto the rocks. The beams looked rickety and weak, leaning at precarious angles. The water flowed steadily through the chutes, but even they didn’t look steady.

 

In one glance, Mirabel could see why they’d received so many complaints about the dam recently.

 

“What now?” Oscar asked. His eyes darted about nervously.

 

“Now,” Gabino drawled from behind them. “Now, you die.”







When the fighting broke out, Zarita stepped further back from the windows. A witch she may be, but she had no desire to enter a brawl. She needed a real plan. One that preferably didn’t involve this mess.

 

She saw Bruno and a girl vanish behind the bar and- was that a hole in the floor?

 

An escape route, she realised, eyes narrowed.

 

One of the drunkards staggered outside. His eyes widened and he shouted, “Guards! Guards, help! The Diaz Brothers are after your princess!”

 

Zarita cursed under her breath. The royal guards were on the pathway to the Snuggly Duckling and, at the drunkards’ words, they ran inside, brushing straight past her.

 

Zarita looked into the pub again, watching as some of the guards went into the tunnel and others stayed behind to question the witnesses. The man in the blood-stained shirt was clutching his shoulder where Gabino Diaz had stabbed him. The bartender spat out a mouthful of blood.

 

The door was still wide open and she could hear every word.

 

“Into the tunnel,” the bartender was saying. “But the bastards got past us.”

 

Zarita turned to the man who had run outside, the one with a hole in his sombrero. 

 

“Excuse me?” She touched his shoulder, smiling sweetly.

 

“Whoa,” he said, blinking at her with bloodshot eyes.

 

Zarita’s smile hardened. Red light encased her hand and she grabbed him by the neck.

 

“Be a darling,” she sneered. “And tell me where that tunnel lets out.”







Bruno stepped in front of Mirabel, pulling the frying pan from his satchel. The two men in front of them were massive. They had a lot of knives.

 

There was, he knew, no way he could beat them. But he had to try.

 

“PRINCESS!” someone shouted again. “PRINCESS MIRABEL!”

 

“We’re here!” Mirabel screamed. “We’re here- the Diaz Brothers- QUICK!

 

Wait.

 

…Princess!?

 

Bruno turned to Mirabel, throat suddenly dry. “You’re really a princess!?”

 

“Told you so,” Mirabel said with a smug smile, though it shook at the edges. 

 

“Ay, Dios mio,” Bruno whispered.

 

“Fuck this,” one of the men snarled, the one with a mustache. He lunged forward, short-sword raised.

 

Bruno brought the frying pan down in a swing, straight onto the man’s arm, onto the crook of his elbow, just as a group of men and women in purple and yellow uniforms came running from the tunnel, all of them in shiny armour and carrying swords.

 

The man dropped his short-sword with a howl, swung around and grabbed Bruno by the neck, lifting him straight into the air. The frying pan fell from his hand, landing on the ground with a clatter.

 

In a matter of seconds, Bruno was gasping for breath, unable to even cry out.

 

Mirabel screamed and Bruno clawed at the man’s hand, kicking out as best he could. The guards were surrounding the other man, but he was quick, spinning out of their reach, oddly graceful. It almost looked like dancing.

 

Mirabel flung herself onto the man’s back, pulling on his hair, screaming and punching.

 

“Get off him!” she shrieked. “Get off him, let him go!”

 

The man smirked.

 

“Alright,” he said.

 

He let go.

 

And Bruno fell off the ledge.

 

“OSCAR!”

 

Bruno considered it a miracle that he managed to grab onto a jut of rock. He clung on with all his might, fingers scrambling for purchase on the rough stone. Mirabel was still screaming, he could hear swords clashing, people crying out in pain.

 

“Surrender!” someone shouted, one of the guards Bruno supposed. He couldn’t hear the Diaz brothers’ response, or if they even gave one.

 

Bruno screamed when a guard suddenly went toppling over the edge, falling past Bruno, his front stained red with blood.

 

“Oh God,” Bruno gasped. “Help me, help me.” He raised a shaking arm and managed to find a hold.

 

“Oscar!” Mirabel was leaning over the edge, holding her hand out to him. “Oscar, I’m here!”

 

A guard joined her, an older man with dark grey hair and wrinkles around his eyes. He took one look at Bruno and his eyes widened. For a moment, he seemed confused, but he quickly shook himself.

 

“Don’t worry, son,” he said. He reached down, but Bruno was still too far away.

 

The Diaz brother with a goatee stood behind them, sword raised.

 

“Look out!” Bruno screamed, reaching for the next place to put his hand, searching for the next foothold. The grey-hair guard spun around, quickly stepping between the Diaz brother and Mirabel.

 

“Come on,” Mirabel said, voice cracking. She reached as far as she could, hand trembling. “Come on, Oscar, I’ve got you.”

 

The Diaz brothers were moving away, further across the ledge and towards the beams. Bruno could nearly reach Mirabel now.

 

One more foothold, nearly there, Bruno thought. He didn’t dare look down, didn’t dare look away from Mirabel.

 

“I’m sorry,” he gasped, tears stinging his eyes. “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.”

 

Her laugh was more like a sob. “I wouldn’t have either,” she admitted.

 

He reached up and grabbed her hand. Smiling, crying, Mirabel pulled him up and immediately tackled him into a hug.

 

“You’re okay,” she said, pressing her face against his shoulder. “Oh, thank god, you’re okay.”

 

Bruno hugged her as tightly as he could. His rats squeaked in his pockets and the sound made him burst out laughing, but there was nothing funny about any of this. His poor little friends sounded so annoyed, as if he’d woken them from a nap.

 

“I’m okay, kid,” Bruno said. “And so are you.”

 

They were okay, but so many of the guards weren’t. Some lay on the ground, gasping for breath, gravely wounded and covered in blood. Others weren’t moving or making a sound at all.

 

What devils are we dealing with? Bruno wondered, staring at the Diaz Brothers in horror. Ruffians, thugs, didn’t begin to cover it. They were killing machines.

 

“Princess, run!” the grey-haired guard shouted, fighting both brothers at once. Three others joined him, two women and one other man. “Run! You must get home!”

 

The only staircase was over by the guards, by those damn monsters they were fighting.

 

But there were water chutes.

 

Bruno pulled Mirabel to her feet.

 

“You might wanna hang on,” he said.

 

“Huh?”

 

Bruno ran for the chutes, pulling Mirabel with him, keeping a tight grip on her hand.

 

“Oscar, what are you doing?” Mirabel demanded.

 

“Getting us out of here!”

 

He leaped on, pulling her with him and slid down the chutes. Water sprayed up around them (his rats squeaked even more in annoyance) and Mirabel let out a startled shout, which turned into a laugh.

 

“You’re more athletic than I realised!” she said as they slid.

 

“I had to get around in that tower,” Bruno laughed. “Reaching the ceiling to paint wasn’t easy!”

 

“It’s a bit like running around Casita,” Mirabel said. There was banging and more shouting than ever up above, but Bruno didn’t dare look back. They were nearly at the bottom.

 

But then the chute swayed alarmingly and he had to look.

 

He couldn’t even scream, terror gripping him, freezing him.

 

The dam was collapsing.

 

“Jump!” Bruno shouted. He and Mirabel jumped, stumbled, fell to their knees on the ground. The water rushed to them with a deafening roar. Bruno had mere seconds to take it in: he could see a collapsed beam, the triumphant look on the Diaz Brothers’ faces, the horror on the guards’ faces.

 

Those men had collapsed the whole dam.

 

All this for one kid? Bruno thought. The idea was absurd but he didn’t have time to ruminate on it; he could only let instinct drive him and run hand in hand with Mirabel, run from the water, from certain death.

 

The massive wave collapsed more beams, brought chunks of the cliff and equipment raining down on them. One of the pillars creaked and groaned as it fell, falling towards them as fast as the water.

 

“Oh god, oh god, oh god,” Mirabel was muttering to herself. Bruno couldn’t even speak, he just held onto her and ran. 

 

They reached a tunnel and the pillar fell just seconds behind them, blocking the exit.

 

But it wasn’t a tunnel. It was just a small cave, more like a simple hole in the wall.

 

No exit.

 

And the water was already at his ankles.

 

“No!” Mirabel said, a scream, a snarl, a plea. They backed away, scrambling up onto a ledge. Mirabel punched at the walls as the water rose, tears in her eyes. 

 

Bruno didn’t fare much better. The instinct to live took over everything and he joined her in punching at the rocks for a weak point, trying in vain to find a crack, a hole- anything.

 

Waist high now. Chest levels…

 

Mirabel dove under but came back up seconds later.

 

“It’s no use,” she said, her voice breaking. “It’s pitch black down there, I can’t see anything.” She sounded so small, so vulnerable; just a kid, a kid, and Bruno had led her into this.

 

Fuck that.

 

He’d never been swimming a day in his life (or, if he had before the tower, he couldn’t remember) but he dove under anyway. It was, as Mirabel said, pitch black. He couldn’t even see his hand in front of his face. A little paw scratched at his face and then a hand grabbed his hood, pulling him back up.

 

“It’s no use,” Mirabel said as Bruno gasped for breath.

 

Bruno wanted to scream. He wanted to rage and cry, he wanted to smash the rocks with his bare hands. What use were visions, why couldn’t he have super-strength or the ability to breathe underwater?

 

Bruno looked at Mirabel’s terrified eyes and he swore he could feel his heart shatter.

 

She’s just a kid, he thought.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m- I’m so sorry, Mirabel.”

 

She shook her head, trying to smile and failing. To his surprise, she flung herself into his arms, hugging him tightly.

 

I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m sorry, Oscar. They were chasing me, not you.”

 

He wrapped his arms around her as the water rose higher.

 

“...Bruno.”

 

Mirabel froze. “What?”

 

“My name’s Bruno,” he admitted, shame-faced. “Not Oscar. I, uh…Kind of got that from a book.”

 

“Bruno?” Mirabel repeated, sounding utterly lost. She shook her head, letting out a weak huff of laughter. “Why’d you lie?”

 

“You did break into my tower,” Bruno pointed out. Her laugh sounded almost real now.

 

“Anything else you need to share?” she asked.

 

“I-” I have visions. I can see into the future. I can make prophecies out of sand, turning them into glass. I have a prophecy about you in my pocket; you’re going to save or destroy a castle. It may well be your castle. 

 

I have visions…Visions that…

 

His eyes widened, hope sparked to life in his chest.

 

Visions that make my eyes glow.

 

“Mirabel,” he said, gripping her shoulders tightly, looking her in the eye. The water rose higher and higher, nearly at her mouth. “I’m going to do something and- and I’ll need you to hold onto me, because I won’t be able to move by myself once I do.”

 

“What?”

 

“Just trust me. Please.”

 

She seemed to be searching his face for something, staring at him, not even blinking. Whatever she was looking for, she must have found it, because she nodded.

 

“I trust you Os- Bruno.”

 

Bruno smiled at her and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath.

 

Get us out of here, show me a way out. Tell me we live.

 

He could feel the usual pressure building in his head, growing behind his eyes. He held his breath and-




Two green figures under water, holding hands.




Mirabel gasped as Oscar- as Bruno’s eyes snapped open, growing a vibrant emerald green, illuminating the tiny space. 

 

The water rose ever higher and Mirabel took a last, desperate gasp of air and held it as the water finally overcame them.

 

But she could see. With Bruno’s glowing eyes she could still see.




The girl was pushing the rocks out of the way, holding onto her companion.




There! Mirabel thought. There it was, a hole she hadn’t seen before in the dark. A hole in a pile of rocks against the back wall.

 

Their last hope.

 

She swam to it, keeping a hold of Bruno’s hand. He stared blankly ahead, expression oddly slack, even with his puffed out cheeks.




The opening grew, the barrier of rocks collapsed and the two figures were pushed along in the sudden current as the water finally had somewhere to go.




Nearly there, Mirabel thought desperately. Nearly there, come on. She pushed another rock out of the way, a rock as large as her head and-

 

It gave way.

 

They were pushed along as the water hurried down the now revealed tunnel.




They fell from a hole in the rocks and into a slow, shallow river, still holding hands and-




Bruno snapped back to the present, head pounding and heart thundering, hand in hand with Mirabel.

 

“We’re alive!” Mirabel was screaming, shaking him. “We’re alive!

 

Bruno smiled weakly, giving her a thumbs up as they floated along. His rats gave indignant shrieks and jumped from him to the river’s edge, crawling up the bank. Bruno took a deep breath and another; he forced himself to stand, relieved to find the river only reached his hips.

 

“That was- that was crazy!” Mirabel laughed. She sounded elated and terrified at the same time. She hadn’t let go of his hand.

 

They walked to shore and Bruno collapsed onto the grass. He lay on his back and turned his face to the setting sun.

 

They were alive, they were alive, they were alive!

 

Mirabel lay next to him, chest heaving. Bruno wasn’t sure if she was laughing or sobbing. She wiped at her eyes and turned to him with a beaming grin.

 

A grin that immediately faltered.

 

“Os- Bruno, your- your hair!”

 

“Hm?”

 

“It’s-” Mirabel waved her hands. “It’s got grey in it?”

 

With an exhausted groan, Bruno made himself sit up and squinted at his reflection in the water. Sure enough, the usual faint grey had returned to his hair. The shadows under his eyes were more pronounced. The wrinkles weren’t back yet, but they would be soon. No doubt, Madré Zarita was in the same boat, if not worse. The Sun Flower magic seemed to wear off on her faster.

 

“Oh,” Bruno said with a tired shrug. “The magic’s wearing off.”

 

“What magic?” Mirabel demanded.

 

Bruno offered her a weak smile. She knelt on the grass, staring at him with something wild growing in her eyes.


“Kid, I have a lot to tell you.” He shivered and saw how much Mirabel was beginning to shake too. “But let’s build a fire first. We’re not dying of hypothermia before we see those lanterns and get you home.” His smile felt more real this time. “Still need to give you your Tio’s crown back, right?”

Chapter Text

“I show up with heart a-blazing, ready to achieve amazing things, but I'm left waiting in the wings. I hear my cue, and yet I'm kept there, waiting. Know what to do, and still I stand there, waiting. It's always someone else who sings, while I'm left waiting in the wings.” - Waiting In The Wings, Tangled: The Series




Present Day…




“Tiago was ready to break out adoption papers, huh?” Camilo asked with a smirk.

 

“I like Tiago!” Antonio said brightly. “He plays nice songs. The animals like him.” He said it like it was the biggest stamp of approval imaginable- which, for Antonio, it was.

 

“He does,” Isabela agreed.

 

“His love songs are beautiful,” Mariano chimed in.

 

“That last ballad was so tragic,” Dolores sighed, leaning her head against Mariano’s shoulder. He smiled at her fondly, tugging her in closer to his side.

 

Mirabel nodded. “They were all much nicer than they looked, and they did us a huge favour trying to hold off the Diaz Brothers.”

 

“Was the dam scary?” Cecilia asked quietly.

 

“I was,” Mirabel admitted. “But Tio Bruno’s quick thinking got us out. After that…” She shook her head with a fond smile, letting out a huff of laughter. “Well, it’s not every day you realise you’ve been galavanting around with your missing uncle.”




One year ago…




First of all, they needed firewood. They were both already shivering as the sun set and the air cooled. Bruno was not about to let Mirabel die of hypothermia after all this, thanks very much.

 

He went left and Mirabel went right, both of them searching for branches, twigs, leaves- anything to start a proper fire with.

 

He hadn’t gotten very far when an all too familiar voice spoke up, sugary sweet and sending another kind of chill down his spine.

 

“Ah, alone at last, my dear.”

 

Madré Zarita stepped out from between the trees. A thick grey streak had appeared in her hair and lines tugged at the corners of her eyes and mouth. She held herself with dignity, shoulders back and chin up, her brown eyes glinting even in the growing dark.

 

Bruno nearly dropped the armful of sticks he’d found. Victoria squeaked loudly, chittering at Zarita as if in disapproval. Rosita hid in Bruno’s hood, Amado seemed to puff up on his shoulder, joining Victoria’s loud chittering and Fidel folded in on himself, eyes narrowed.

 

“M-Madré Zarita?” Bruno stepped back as her smile widened. “I don’t, I- how?” He shook his head. “How did you find me?” She shouldn’t have been here, she should have been far away; she should have been heading on a three day trip to the shore for the white sea shells. 

 

“Oh, it was easy, amor,” she said, brushing his hair off his face. “I just listened for the sound of complete and utter betrayal and followed that.”

 

Ouch. Bruno winced and took a deep breath. Okay, so he’d been found out. He could handle this. He just needed to calmly explain, make her see he hadn’t meant any harm.

 

“Madré Zarita, I-”

 

She grabbed his arm and he fumbled to not drop the sticks.

 

“We’re going home, Bruno,” she snapped. “Now.”

 

“No, I- just listen to me.” Bruno pulled away. “I’m sorry for tricking you, but…You wouldn’t believe the things I’ve seen and done and it’s only been one day.” He smiled imploringly. She didn’t appear moved. “I can handle myself.” I fought off a thug, I stopped myself from falling, I climbed back up. I didn’t drown, I helped get us out. “And I made a friend!”

 

“Ah, yes, the girl who dragged you into a pub full of ruffians, how charming.”

 

“They were kind.

 

“Don’t be so foolish, Bruno.” Zarita’s eyes flashed. “She dragged you into danger- and look at you, you’re soaked to the bone! What in the world happened?

 

Bruno couldn’t quite meet her eyes. “Well…”

 

“It was something dangerous, wasn’t it?”

 

“I don’t-”

 

“What did she do?”

 

“She didn’t do anything!”

 

Zarita scoffed. “I find that hard to believe. Now, stop this foolishness, we need to get home.” She turned to walk away, and Bruno didn’t move. Zarita stopped frowning over her shoulder. “Bruno?”

 

For once, he didn’t flinch as he met her gaze.

 

“No.”

 

“No?” She repeated incredulously. She threw her head back and laughed. “Oh. Oh, I see how it is. One day and it’s already getting to your head, you think you’re so clever, don’t you? You think you know it all?”

 

“Madré Zarita, I-”

 

You. Know. Nothing. For goodness sake, Bruno, that girl is not your friend. She just wants that damnable crown.”

 

Bruno froze, gripping the sticks tighter to his chest. Even his rats went still and silent.

 

“...How do you know about that?”

 

In response, Madré Zarita reached into her bag and pulled out the crown. She held it out like a peace offering; her smile was sympathetic, sad.

 

“Oh, mi amor,” she said softly. “As soon as you give this back to her, she’ll abandon you. She’s not your friend.”

 

“That’s not true,” Bruno said.

 

“No?” She stepped closer again, the crown still held out. Even in the dark, it glittered. “Then why don’t you give it to her? Give it to her and see what she does. See how fast she leaves you alone out here, lost in the dark.”

 

“She wouldn’t,” Bruno snapped defensively.

 

“Wouldn’t she?”

 

There was a long silence. Neither of them moved, staring each other down. Zarita with that sad smile and Bruno scowling.

 

He snatched the crown and shoved it into his satchel.

 

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Zarita said softly as Bruno turned away from her.

 

Bruno stopped, back turned to her, gripping the sticks too tightly they dug uncomfortably into his arms and chest. Amado tugged on his hair, nudged his chin. 

 

Bruno took a deep breath and glared over his shoulder at Zarita. “I had a vision,” he said. “I had a vision in front of her and she didn’t care.”

 

Her eyebrows rose. “Did you now? Ritual and all? She knew you were having a vision, did she?”

 

He couldn’t say anything. Her smile grew.

 

“That’s what I thought.”

 

She walked away, disappearing back into the trees, out of sight far too quickly.

 

Bruno hurried back to their make-shift camp, Zarita’s words and warnings echoing in his ears.







The fire was crackling and Mirabel was staring at him.

 

“So,” she finally said. “You said you had a lot to tell me?”

 

“Yep,” Bruno said, fidgeting with his hands. “Yes. It’s a long story.”

 

“Okay,” Mirabel said, hands on her knees.

 

“I don’t know where to start,” Bruno admitted. Mirabel nodded, looking quite patient, but there was still that new glint in her big brown eyes, something wild, something that bordered on desperate. Determined. Determined about what, Bruno didn’t know.

 

Bruno sighed as the silence stretched on. “It’s…Complicated…”

 

“Well, I have a question,” Mirabel said. Bruno nodded and she asked, “If you wanted to see the lanterns so badly, why didn’t you just go before?”

 

It was a good enough place to start.

 

“Because I had no idea where I was even going,” Bruno said. “Or, well, that’s part of it. I…I never…”

 

Mirabel’s eyes slowly widened. “You never left that tower,” she whispered. “Did you?”

 

Bruno shook his head. He stared at the fire, unable to bear the pity in her gaze. 

 

“My family was killed when I was five,” he finally said, clutching his arm tightly, staring and staring at the crackling fire. “I don’t really remember it. I remember waking up in the woods and Madré Zarita found me. She was my mother’s friend, and…”

 

“And?”

 

Bruno shook his head. “Well, she…She saw the house on fire, saw the mob, but she couldn’t find me. So she went looking. She found me and took me back to her tower.” His voice lowered. “And I stayed there. It wasn’t safe anywhere else.”

 

Mirabel scooted closer. Bruno was hyper-aware of the crown in his satchel.

 

“You were five?” she repeated quietly.

 

Bruno nodded with a hum.

 

“And you…You don’t remember?”

 

“I remember being dragged along,” Bruno said. “And shouting. Lots of shouting. I…” Mamá! MAMÁ! HELP! He managed a weak smile. “Probably for the best though. Who’d want to remember something like that?”

 

Mirabel’s face was terribly blank. “And, uh-” She swallowed. “Sorry, but…But why were they…Killed?”

 

Bruno sighed, looking back to the fire. “Not everyone likes magic.”

 

“Well, that’s true,” Mirabel said softly. “You mentioned magic earlier? You look older now. Was that a spell?”

 

“Oh, no.” Bruno looked at her, at her confused and frightened gaze. “That was- remember the glowing flower?” She nodded. “That’s the Sun Flower. It…” How to explain it? There was no sugar-coating it really. “It heals you; make the clock reverse. It can keep you young and heal…Well, anything, I suppose. I don’t know just how strong it is, I’ve only ever seen Madré Zarita use it. But she’s always said it’s the most precious thing she has, given to her by the sun itself.” He shrugged. “That’s what she said when I was a kid anyway. Fairytale stuff. I don’t know where it came from, really. But, honestly? I hate using it. It’s not like I need it, you know what I mean?”

 

Mirabel’s expression twisted into a scowl. “She has a magic flower and uses it to make herself pretty?

 

“Well, when you put it that way…”

 

Mirabel seemed to be thinking about it. “I guess it’s a bit like my mamá’s healing. I mean, she can’t make you young, but she can heal injuries and almost every illness around.”

 

“Really?” Bruno blinked at her. “Your mamá is a witch?”

 

“No, no.” Mirabel laughed at last, sounding more like herself. “Trust me, that one’s a long story. Fifty years ago, our kingdom was being invaded. My abuelo, King Pedro, was killed as the city was stormed.” Bruno kept very still and quiet; it seemed to sadden Mirabel to talk about it. “My abuela saw it happen. He was struck down in front of her, when he was trying to suggest a peace offering. But when he was struck down, their wedding candle…” She waved her hand, lips pursed. “Well, it was a miracle. A burst of light came from it, blasting all our enemies away. Mountains grew around the city, and our castle came to life.”

 

“Your castle what?

 

“Casita is sentient,” Mirabel said, as if it was a normal occurrence. Bruno supposed it was, to Mirabel.

 

“Wow.”

 

“Yeah.” She grinned at him. “And our family were given magic gifts when we turned five. Only one each though, we can’t perform magic. On our fifth birthdays, doors appear to our new rooms. When we open the door, we get our Gift.” Just like that, her smile vanished again. She looked very small, something fragile in her tone. “Except me.”

 

Oh. Bruno didn’t know what to say to that. Should he apologise? What if she thought he was making fun of her, or being condescending?

 

He settled for, “Why not?”

 

Mirabel shrugged, shoulders hunched. “I don’t know. But…But everyone else, they’re all so- so amazing and so special and I’m…Not. I’m just the Madrigal who’s regular. That’s why I went after the Diaz Brothers; they took my Tio’s crown and I knew how much it would devastate Abuela and everyone, so…So I chased them. I just…” She looked at him like she was pleading for him to understand. “I just want my family to be proud of me. Just once. I want to be more than the giftless one, the useless one.”

 

“You’re not useless. That’s not true,” Bruno said firmly, taking her hand.

 

Her laugh was humourless. “Isn’t it?”

 

“Mirabel, you got an entire pub of thugs to talk about their dreams and feelings, you- you completely brightened their day! They held off two killing machines for you. Those men chasing us? You said they stole your uncle’s crown?”

 

Mirabel nodded.

 

“And you stole it back?”

 

She nodded again.

 

“Mirabel, that’s amazing!” Bruno threw his hands about as he talked. “Don’t you see how nuts that is? They’re huge! You saw how many guards they fought off, and you stole back from them! You got away from them! You’ve been putting up with me, you got us out of the dam-”

 

“That was mostly you!”

 

“I couldn’t have done it on my own,” Bruno insisted. “Once I looked into the future like that, I couldn’t move on my own. You got us out of there.”

 

Mirabel’s eyes swam and, once more, she tackled him into a hug, nearly knocking him onto his back.

 

“Thank you,” she whispered against his shoulder.

 

Bruno smiled, hugging her back. Hugs, he decided, were amazing. “You’re welcome, kid.”

 

Then she froze. “Wait.” Mirabel pulled back, staring at him; her nails dug into his shoulders. “You…You can see the future?”

 

“Oh.” Bruno flushed. He hadn’t meant to say it like that. “Well, yeah, I-”

 

“How old are you?”

 

“Huh?”

 

She shook him, her voice raising. She sounded utterly desperate then, frightened and strangely hopeful. “How old are you?”

 

“F-Fifty. Tomorrow, actually, I- Mirabel? Oh God, are you okay!?”


She was crying. She was gripping him like a lifeline and crying. When she spoke, her voice was full of wonder; “Tio Bruno?”

Chapter Text

“Someone holds me safe and warm; horses prance through a silver storm, figures dancing gracefully across my memory. Far away, long ago, glowing dim as an ember; things my heart used to know, things it yearns to remember…And a song someone sings…'Once upon a December…'” - Once Upon A December, Anastasia 




It had to have been over an hour by now, but every time Mirabel tried to explain further, Bruno just clapped his hands over his ears and hummed loudly until she stopped. Bruno still paced up and down, tugging on his hair. He stopped, looked at Mirabel, and paced some more. His breathing was rapid, he looked far too pale and his eyes were too bright.

 

Her uncle. Her long-lost Tio, she was sure of it.

 

Every time she even looked like she might stand up, he flinched, so Mirabel forced herself to stay as still as possible. Bruno’s rats sat with her, staring at their human. Mirabel didn’t need Antonio’s Gift to see how worried the little rodents were.

 

“Zarita took you,” Mirabel said softly. If it hadn’t been for Bruno’s explanation of the Sun Flower, she would have been lost when it came to Zarita; after all, she knew Abuela’s story: an old woman had stolen her son away, and Zarita had looked younger than Mirabel’s mamá.

 

So had Bruno until now.

 

Granted, he still didn’t necessarily look fifty yet. Mid-forties maybe. The flower magic was wearing off.

 

Mirabel had never heard of magic like this.

 

Bruno shook his head again, pulled on his hair so harshly that Mirabel’s own scalp twinged in sympathy.

 

“She found me,” he repeated stubbornly.

 

“She took you,” Mirabel said, fists clutching her skirt. “Please, listen to me, Tio-” He frowned and she said, “Bruno. Just…Just hear me out, okay? I know I’m right.”

 

“Oh, please-”

 

“You look just like Abuelo Pedro. You can see into the future, you’re the right age, you don’t remember anything from before you were five. My uncle, Prince Bruno, was kidnapped when he was five and tomorrow is his fiftieth birthday, the same as yours.” This time, when she stood up, he didn’t flinch away. He finally stopped pacing and he looked completely lost. 

 

Despite the magic wearing off, he suddenly looked even younger. Vulnerable. Scared. He was scared and Mirabel couldn’t stand it. 

 

She took a deep breath and stepped closer to him. He seemed frozen in place.

 

“Do your big visions turn into glowing green tablets?” she asked.

 

He jerked back like she’d slapped him. “H-How…How do you know that?” His voice shook, his hands shook too and he clenched them into fists.

 

Mirabel tried to smile for him.

 

“Because that’s just what my Tio Bruno’s used to do.”

 

Bruno was staring at her. He still looked like he was about to shatter into a thousand pieces. Mirabel would simply have to help put him back together if he did. There was no way she was losing him now.

 

“You have two sisters,” she said gently. She stepped closer, just a hand’s distance away now. “You’re the youngest triplet. My mamá’s the eldest and then there’s my Tia, then you. You have a mother, who’s still searching for you every day. Two brothers-in-law. Two nephews and five nieces. You have a family.” She took his arm. “You have me, Bruno, I promise. I wouldn’t lie about this, I wouldn’t ever lie about this.”

 

Bruno took a deep, shaky breath. Just as Mirabel thought he was going to burst into tears or collapse entirely, he looked away, up at the stars. His shoulders still shook, there were still tears in his eyes, but the sight of the night sky seemed to settle him.

 

Then a look of grim determination came over him.

 

“Fine,” he said quietly. “I’m looking into this.”

 

“Huh?”

 

Bruno pulled away and Mirabel was sharply reminded of just how much he looked like Abuelo Pedro.

 

“I’m looking into this,” he repeated, loud and clear. “I’m going to have a vision and you’re doing it with me.”

 

The relief made her want to laugh, or maybe cry, or both. Instead she grinned at him. “Of course,” she said. “Anything.” Anything so long as you believe me.







There was no sand, but the stony dirt from the river’s bank would have to do. They still had plenty of twigs and leaves and Bruno had salt in his satchel. He hoped throwing damp, clumped-together salt wouldn’t bring bad luck.

 

Mirabel watched in fascination as he spread the stony dirt in a circle. His rats still sat on a log, watching silently. Times like these, Bruno dearly wished he knew what his little friends were thinking. Did they think this whole thing was insane too? Mirabel…She had to have it wrong.

 

If Madré Zarita lied about all this, what else did she lie about? he thought. He tried to push the thought away- he didn’t know she had lied, not for sure, not yet- but it stayed with him.

 

“You can’t see the past,” Mirabel said, kneeling across from him. “What are you hoping to see?”

 

“Anything,” Bruno said, trying to ignore how desperate he sounded. Anything that proves you right. Anything that proves you wrong.

 

He went and knelt across from her, lighting the small fire between them. He threw the (still damp) salt over his shoulder and tried to calm his nerves. He felt sick. He felt dizzy, he-

 

Two sisters. Triplets. You’re the youngest. A family.

 

Bruno tried very, very hard to clear his mind and held his hands out to Mirabel. He could feel his power brewing, warming his veins, a pounding beat in his head.

 

“You might wanna hang on,” he said and she took his hands.

 

Bruno breathed in and out, in and out. He closed his eyes and focused. A wind picked up, whipping at their hair and clothes; even through his closed eyelids he could see flashes of green and knew the circle was rising around them, forming a dome.

 

Bruno opened his glowing eyes and looked into the future.







“Wow,” Mirabel breathed, clutching Bruno’s hands tightly. Green light danced all around them, magic brewing, the future screaming to be heard, to be seen. 

 

The first vision was Mirabel, riding through the forest on a horse. She looked determined, panicked and desperate.

 

“What is that?” she asked.

 

“I don’t know,” Bruno said. “But I saw that yesterday morning and…” He shook his head, looking all around the dome.

 

There was Encanto, decorated for the lantern festival, with butterfly decorations and banners everywhere, people laying flowers and candles at Abuelo Pedro’s mural; the same mural in which he held a tiny Bruno.

 

That’s you, she thought, but didn’t dare say, glancing at her uncle. He was staring at Abuelo Pedro’s face, eyes wide. You see? Mirabel wanted to say. You look so much like him. That’s your Papá, his name was Pedro Madrigal, King of Encanto.

 

Another vision, and Mirabel’s chest tightened. It was the candle in Abuela’s window, flickering and dimming.

 

“That can’t be right,” she said, voice high-pitched. “Bruno! Bruno, that can’t be right, that candle is literally incapable of going dim! It always burns!”

 

Bruno looked baffled, looking left to right, peering over Mirabel’s shoulder.

 

“It’s not in order…”

 

The future crashed over her like a wave and Mirabel was lost in it.




Abuela pulled her into a tight hug, stroking her hair and crying, her face pressed against Mirabel’s. “Gracias,” she sobbed and, despite her tears, Mirabel had never heard her grandmother sound so happy. “Oh, gracias, mi mariposa.” She hadn’t called Mirabel “mariposa” in ten years, hadn’t hugged her in so long. Mirabel wanted that future, she wanted it so badly it hurt.




Camilo riding a horse through the forest, Félix and the palace guards right behind him. Her cousin looked fierce, nearly as frightening as Tia Pepa during one of her storms. Tio Félix had his sword and Mirabel couldn’t remember the last time her uncle had used his sword, but he looked ready to use it now, fury and desperation warring on his usually jovial face.




The townsfolk dancing, Mirabel walking arm in arm with Bruno. She was wearing his ruana, the hood pulled up to cover her face. He was wearing a different ruana, with butterflies on the hem, watching the dancers curiously. Camilo was next to Mirabel, snapping his fingers in time to the music.




Everyone was dancing again, the biggest celebration Mirabel had ever seen. Her whole family was there, practically glowing with happiness- literally glowing, in Tia Pepa’s case. Was that Tiago playing the piano?




Mirabel blinked and she was back in reality, in the dome with her uncle, holding his hands and watching the future whizz by.

 

“That’s my cousin,” Mirabel said, nodding her head towards Camilo. “And my Tio Félix.” But what good was it, that wouldn’t prove anything to Bruno, he didn’t know them.

 

And then, among all the green, there was a glimmer of gold.

 

A butterfly.

 

A Madrigal butterfly.

 

Bruno saw it too. Slowly, he let go of Mirabel’s hands and stood, his glowing eyes transfixed on the butterfly as it flew through time.

 

“Follow that butterfly,” he said, and Mirabel stood, grabbing his hand. She led him around the fire and towards the butterfly, both of them staring at it unblinkingly, both of them hooked by this glimmer of gold, of hope.




Julieta slowly let go of Mirabel, staring at someone with tears in her eyes. She stepped forward, stunned, legs shaking. Tia Pepa gasped; she clutched Camilo tighter but then let go, walking forward hurriedly. Her cloud began to rain, but she was smiling.




“That’s my mamá!” Mirabel cried, pointing, guiding Bruno’s gaze. “And that’s-”

 

Bruno’s grip on her hand tightened so much it hurt. His breathing hitched and he gasped, “Julieta and Pepa?”

 

The dome collapsed around them with a pop, raining dirt and pebbles down, and a glowing green tablet appeared in the air before them.

 

With shaking hands, Bruno grasped it. Mirabel looked at it, her chin resting on his shoulder.

 

She took one look and her eyes stung with tears.

 

The tablet showed Bruno, Julieta and Pepa. His sisters were hugging him tightly; Pepa had lifted him right up into the air. Julieta’s grip looked painful, she was crying, but her smile was relieved. And Bruno…He looked right at home.

 

Shivering, Bruno’s thumb brushed over the image of his sister’s faces. He clutched the tablet to his chest, bent over it protectively as he finally burst into the tears that had been brewing for hours now.

 

Mirabel pulled her uncle into a hug and finally let herself cry too.

 

“Tio Bruno,” she said quietly, just for the wonder of it. I can’t believe I found you. I can’t believe we’re going home. You’re coming home.

 

Bruno held the tablet with one arm and hugged Mirabel with the other and she couldn’t have stopped smiling for all the gold in Casita.

 

Her uncle was coming home with her.

 

But then he froze and abruptly pulled back. His already large eyes darted around in fear.

 

“Tio?”

 

“We need to get out of here,” he said, pushing her towards her bag. “Now.”

 

“What? But, Tio Bruno, it’s-”

 

He held her shoulders and, this time, he met her gaze head on.

 

“Mirabel, listen to me; we need to go.

 

“Why? I don’t-”

 

“Zarita was here.”

Chapter Text

“I watch this city burn, these passions slowly smouldering. A lesson never learned, only violence. Is your world just a broken promise? Is your love just a drop of rain? Will we all just burn like fire?” - Let It Burn, RED




Present Day…




Mirabel paused in her story as Luisa sniffled, wiping at her eyes.

 

“You okay, hermana?” Mirabel asked.

 

“I’m fine,” Luisa insisted. She blinked rapidly and looked up at the sky. “Just peachy.”

 

Mariano reached across to hand her a handkerchief and Luisa blew her nose. Isabela patted her on the arm and Antonio, still on her lap, wrapped his arms around her neck in a loose hug.

 

“Don’t worry,” Mirabel told her. “I absolutely bawled my eyes out all over poor Tio. If he hadn’t been crying too I probably would have scared him again. It was a lot.

 

Cecilia’s lip was wobbling; even Juancho was unusually solemn, for once not bouncing in place or fidgeting.

 

“Hey, now,” Mirabel said gently. She scooted forward and wiped at the children’s watering eyes. “It’s alright.”

 

“Happy tears,” Alejandra mumbled. Cecilia nodded in agreement.

 

Luisa sniffled again.

 

Camilo looked around at everyone and seemed like he wanted the ground to open up and swallow him, no doubt uncomfortable with so many teary-eyed gazes.

 

“Jeez,” he muttered. “Better get back to the happy stuff, Mira.”

 

“And your big entrance,” Mirabel teased.

 

Camilo instantly straightened up and tossed his hair back, puffing his chest out. The kids giggled and he grinned at them.

 

“You can’t tell a story without the star!” he proclaimed.

 

“You were a supporting character at best, primo.”

 

“Lies.” Camilo slapped at her arm, his grin widening when Mirabel laughed at him. “Lies and slander, I won’t take this abuse!”

 

Isabela’s vines separated them. Her disapproving stare was eerily like Abuela’s. “How about we get back to the story, hm?”

 

“Antonio’s better behaved,” Dolores said.

 

“I am!” Antonio said proudly. Which- okay. Fair enough.

 

Her pride down for the count, Mirabel got back on track.




One year ago…




Zarita glided through the shadows, eyes peeled for any movement, ears cocked for any sound.

 

She grinned sharply when she heard a man curse.

 

There they are.

 

She strode towards their shoddy camp and the Diaz Brothers gaped at her in astonishment before quickly pulling out their weapons. They were soaked to the bone, bloody and bruised. She remembered the guards at the Snuggly Duckling; they must have caught up with the men after all.

 

“Oh, please,” Zarita sighed. “There’s no need for that, boys.”

 

“Who the hell are you?” Gabino demanded. The wanted posters proclaimed him the leader of the duo and Zarita could instantly see why.

 

She smiled at him, at them both. Her most charming smile.

 

“My name is Zarita,” she said. “And we have a common enemy.”

 

Gabino’s eyes narrowed. Julio’s grip on his knife tightened. “Oh, do we?”

 

“Indeed. Princess Mirabel Madrigal.”

 

Gabino scoffed. “What did that little bitch do to you?”

 

“She stole something precious to me,” Zarita said, stepping closer. “And from you, no?”

 

“How d’you know about that?” Julio snapped.

 

Zarita gave a careless shrug. “My foolish ward is being hoodwinked by her,” she said. “But heaven forbid he listen to reason. She has that crown with her right now.”

 

“Where is she?” Gabino demanded. His eyes were alight with rage, he somehow seemed even bigger. He stood, towering over Zarita, practically radiating murderous rage.

 

Good. Very good.

 

Killing Mirabel herself would be messy. It would raise a lot of questions that Zarita did not intend to answer. She could try to take Mirabel’s memories, but she had no doubt members of the Madrigal royal court would know magic when they saw it. Again, more questions she simply couldn’t risk being asked. She didn’t want more royal guards combing the woods. She could hardly move the blasted tower, now could she? And, try as she might, protective charms had never been her forte. Loathe as she was to admit it, they tended to literally blow up in her face.

 

She could try to wipe Bruno’s memories again, take away the last few days…But then how to explain why he was in the woods in the first place? And, sooner or later, he’d try to run again, she had no doubt about it.

 

So, best case scenario, she needed him to come back willingly.

 

Mirabel may just be the key to that. The useless Madrigal with a purpose at last.

 

“They’re not far from here,” Zarita said sweetly. “I can lead you right to her.”

 

The Diaz Brothers eyed her warily but their need for revenge won out. They looked at each other, scowling, almost seeming to read each other’s minds.

 

Gabino nodded and held his hand out. “Alright,” he said. “Deal.”

 

Zarita shook his hand. “Pleasure to do business with you, gentlemen.”

 

Julio huffed in amusement. Gabino put out their small fire and they followed in her wake.

 

“What did she steal from you anyway?” Julio asked. “Brat’s a princess.”

 

Zarita didn’t bother to look back. “An important artefact of mine,” she said. “One that was hard to get and one I don’t intend to lose.”

 

Because here was a secret: Bruno was the first seer of his kind that Zarita had met in all her long years. Oh she’d seen seers, oracles and prophets…But ones that could have multiple visions a day, voluntary and involuntary? Who could see minutes or years ahead? One that could manifest those prophecies as a physical object? A seer who could let you join in their ritual and watch the future in motion? Zarita had never seen it before, not until the little Madrigal Prince turned five. 

 

She made sure Bruno didn’t know it, but he was powerful.

 

It was magic the likes of which she’d never seen.

 

It was magic she wanted.

 

It was magic she had every intention of keeping.







They walked in silence for a while, Mirabel clinging to Bruno’s arm. She kept looking at him like she was afraid he’d disappear.

 

Bruno got it. Honestly, he kept glancing sideways to make sure she was still there too.

 

Mirabel was…His niece? He had a niece. A whole bunch of nieces and nephews, according to Mirabel.

 

“What are their names?” he blurted out.

 

“Huh?” Mirabel blinked at him.

 

“Your, uh- siblings. And cousins. What are their names?”

 

Mirabel smiled at him, big brown eyes softening. “My eldest sister is Isabela. Senorita Perfecta.” She rolled her eyes, trying to look unbothered. “She’s Abuela’s favourite, so Abuela was shocked when Lord Mariano approached her about courting Dolores instead. Turns out, Isabela had been chaperoning them, but everyone thought Dolores was chaperoning Isabela and Mariano, and-”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Oh, right, sorry. Er…Isabela’s the eldest, like I said. We’re Julieta’s daughters.”

 

Bruno nodded, trying to cast his memories back, trying to remember Julieta. He had the impression of a warm hug, the smell of baking. A girl grabbing his hands, guiding him over a crack in the pathway and singing, “Sana sana colita de rana…”

 

“Isabela makes flowers,” Mirabel continued. “That’s her Gift.”

 

Bruno nodded again.

 

“There’s Luisa, she’s my other sister. She’s super strong- literally. That’s her Gift. But between you and me, Tio Bruno, she needs a break. Ten breaks. So many breaks.

 

Tio Bruno. She said it so easily, so naturally. She seemed totally at ease. Bruno wished he was.

 

“And then there’s me.” Mirabel grinned at him. “You know me.”

 

Bruno couldn’t help but smile back. “Yes,” he said. “I know you’re crazy.”

 

“You have me there.”

 

“And your cousins?”

 

“Oh, you’re going to love Antonio! He can talk to animals and he’s literally an angel. The sweetest little kid you’ve ever met. You show him those rats and he’ll be all over you.”

 

Bruno’s smile widened. In his pockets, the rats slept soundly. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

 

“He just got his Gift a few months ago,” Mirabel continued. “He’s the youngest of us. Camilo’s only a few months older than me, he shape-shifts. He won’t stop until he makes you smile, so brace yourself. And Dolores, she can-” Mirabel stopped, squinting ahead. “Hm…”

 

“What’s wrong?” Bruno asked, tensing up. “Is it-?”

 

“DOLORES!”

 

Bruno jumped back, clapping his hands over his ears. Mirabel cupped her hands around her mouth and continued to shriek.

 

“I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME BY NOW! I’M OKAY!”

 

“Mirabel?” Bruno squeaked. Had she lost it?

 

“AND I KNOW YOU JUST HEARD ME SAY TIO BRUNO! YOU HEARD RIGHT!” She sounded maniacally gleeful. Maybe the stress of the day had gotten to her. “I’M BRINGING HIM HOME AND I NEED YOU TO KEEP QUIET FOR A WHILE LONGER!”

 

“Mirabel!?”

 

Mirabel turned to him, looking totally at ease. “Dolores has super hearing,” she explained calmly. “We’re nearly out of the woods, we’re back in her hearing range.”

 

“O-oh…”

 

“Say hello.”

 

“Huh?”

 

Mirabel stepped up closer and, yep, she did look a little crazy. “Say hello. She can hear you.”

 

Bruno looked around, wondering if this was some sort of weird joke. But no one popped out to shout “Joke!” or “Surprise!” and he didn’t wake up when he pinched himself, so he was forced to admit that Mirabel hadn’t lost it. Or, she mostly hadn’t.

 

“Um…” He turned ahead again, towards the thinning tree line. “Um, hello- Dolores? Hi.”

 

Mirabel nodded in approval. “Bit quiet, but she’ll hear it okay.”

 

“That’s…Good?”

 

Mirabel nodded again, hands behind her back.

 

Then she threw her head back and shrieked again; “I MEAN IT, YOU BETTER NOT RUIN THIS SURPRISE, I WANT TO SHOW HIM AROUND FIRST, WE’RE GOING TO MAKE THIS THE BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!”

 

An owl hooted. Some animals ran away, Bruno could hear them in the bushes.

 

Mirabel took a deep breath and smiled, apparently done screaming. Bruno had absolutely no idea how to respond to any of this.

 

Slowly, Mirabel’s smile faltered. “Dang,” she muttered. “Gonna be awkward if Dolores was in her room. I’ll sound crazy.”

 

“Right,” Bruno said weakly. “That would be crazy.” What in the world did Dolores’s room have to do with anything? Surely it was just a room?




An absolutely massive room, far bigger than expected. A tower room with swirling green and gold patterns on the walls, a sand waterfall at the door that he could turn on and off with a wave of his hand. A spiral staircase leading to a room full of sand, and a glowing green tablet slowly lowered into his hands.

 

He turned to his sisters with a mischievous grin.

 

“Got the answers for tomorrow’s test right here!”




Bruno snapped out of it when Mirabel shook him.

 

“Are you okay?” she demanded. “You got all…I dunno, spacey? You weren’t having a vision, were you? Your eyes didn’t glow.”

 

“No,” Bruno said quietly. “No, just- I think I was remembering?” His frown deepened. “So, Antonio, Camilo and Dolores are Pepa’s kids?”

 

“They are.”

 

Pepa. Pepa. Sunshine and stormclouds. Rainbows and snowflakes. All he could see was a yellow blur in his mind’s eye.

 

Why couldn’t he remember? Sure he’d been five, but…

 

“What’s my mamá’s name?” he asked, cutting off Mirabel’s concerned questions.

 

Her expression utterly broke. Her grip on his shoulders tightened and, before he could even take another breath, she pulled him into a hug.

 

“Alma,” Mirabel whispered. “Her name is Alma Madrigal.”







They stopped at the tree line. Ahead, Bruno could see a path, a bridge and mountains. He could see a few lights- houses, no doubt. He could hear a river. Even in the dark, he could see the outline of a castle overlooking the city.

 

Encanto. Casita.

 

They were here.

 

Mirabel utterly beamed at him from her spot by the campfire. “That’s it,” she said quietly. “That’s home.”

 

Home.

 

Not a tower, hidden in the woods. Not just Bruno and his rats. Not Zarita. That, right there, was…His home. He had a family in that city. He had a family sitting right behind him.

 

What had Zarita done to him? Why hadn’t he remembered anything?

 

She always said her magic was parlour tricks, nothing much. Another lie.

 

But before they went any further, there was one more thing Bruno needed to talk about. Well, two more things.

 

He went to his satchel and pulled out the crown, held it out to Mirabel. He watched her eyes widen, her mouth drop.

 

“It’s yours,” he said. “I’m sorry. Again, I mean. Sorry again.”

 

But she shook her head. “No,” she said softly. “It’s yours, Tio. You hold onto it.” Her eyes glittered. “We can give it back to Abuela together, okay?”

 

Bruno ran his hands over the goldwork and jewels, still beautiful, still glittering, even in the dark. It didn’t really feel like his. To think he’d tried it on his tower, only for a laugh.

 

He put it away and pulled out the remains of his broken vision, still wrapped in cloth.

 

“That candle we saw,” he said. “You said it couldn’t go out?”

 

“It’s the source of the Miracle,” Mirabel explained. “It’s literally incapable of going out, or even going dim. It just…It doesn’t. If it did then…” She trailed off, biting her lip. “I don’t know what would happen,” she admitted. “But it wouldn’t be good.”

 

Bruno winced and held out the cloth. “I think I know,” he said. “Madré- she told me to have at least six visions ready by the time she got back, but when she saw them she shattered them.” Because he’d seen Mirabel, because he’d seen Encanto, because Zarita had lied. “Guess now I know why.”

 

Mirabel unwrapped the shards, held them together and held them towards the campfire, getting a better view. Bruno saw the horror take over her face, the way her hands trembled.

 

“T-Tio?” Her voice cracked. “I don’t…Why am I...?”

 

Gently, Bruno wrapped his hands around hers and tilted them. Just like that, the vision pieces showed Mirabel standing in front of a repaired Casita. His niece’s jaw dropped. She tilted the vision from side to side and gaped at him.

 

“What?” she whispered. “Why is it changing?”

 

“I don’t know,” Bruno was forced to admit. “I- I’ve never seen a vision with more than one outcome before. Not until now. But, my guess? Whatever’s coming next…It’ll all come down to you.”

 

“I don’t want to hurt my family,” she said, eyes too bright. 

 

Bruno thought of all he’d seen: the thugs at the Snuggly Duckling, the festival at Encanto; Mirabel riding through the woods, desperate and determined. The castle crumbling and healing, the candle dimming and blazing.

 

He thought of Pepa and Julieta hugging him.

 

He looked Mirabel (his niece!) right in the eye.

 

“You won’t,” he said. Bruno was not an optimistic person, but now he felt a warm certainty deep in his bones. “You won’t,” he repeated. “I think you’re going to fix it.”







Zarita stopped dead, the Diaz Brothers right behind her. Before them was the remains of a campfire. No Mirabel.

 

No Bruno.

 

Her fists clenched and she took a deep breath in, deep breath out. She tried not to shriek in sheer rage.

 

Gabino had no such qualms. He punched the nearest tree with a roar. Julio snarled at the remains of the camp, pacing furiously.

 

“Don’t throw tantrums,” Zarita snapped. Even as she said it, she felt a shimmer on her hands. She looked down and seethed as she saw new wrinkles form.

 

“Come on.” Zarita stormed back to the trees. “They’re going to Encanto. We need to catch up.”

 

Catch up before someone puts two and two together.

 

She’d stolen Bruno from Casita once, in the dead of night, when he was only five. Try as she might to deny it, she wasn’t wholly confident she could do it again.

 

Zarita sighed as she marched along, the Diaz Brothers grumbling in her wake.


She did so hate being rushed.

Chapter Text

“In my dreams it’s all real, and my heart has so much to reveal. And my dreams seem to say, “Don’t be afraid to go on.Don’t give up hope, come what may.” I know it all will come back, one day.” - In My Dreams, Anastasia: Broadway




Rafael, the Captain of the Royal Guard, had worked for the Madrigals for many decades. He had led their guards through disaster after disaster. He was a strong man, capable and reliable. A friend of Pedro’s for so many years, right from childhood. He was brave and steadfast. Alma knew she could trust him as soon as she’d been introduced to him.

 

And now he looked utterly lost. Alma so rarely saw the man look frightened.

 

“Princess Mirabel was unharmed when we saw her,” he said and Alma breathed out heavily in relief, her fists unclenching behind her back. “She was travelling with…” He trailed off thoughtfully, his hazel eyes flickering to the window.

 

“Yes?” Alma’s voice was sharp. “Who was she with?”

 

“A young man,” Rafael said. “He even hit Gabino Diaz with a frying pan.”

 

Alma couldn’t help but smirk at the image. Goodness, she was tempted to give this unknown young man a reward just for that. A frying pan! It was certainly a unique choice for self defence.

 

“Princess Mirabel called him Oscar,” Rafael continued. “And…”

 

“And?”

 

“Forgive me, my Queen, but…It was the strangest thing. This Oscar fellow…He looked exactly like King Pedro.”

 

Strange indeed. Alma tried to ignore how the mention of her beloved Pedro’s name made her chest tighten and her stomach twist with old, well-known grief. 

 

“How young was this man, exactly?”

 

Rafael had to think about it. “Thirties, I’d suppose, Your Majesty. May I ask why?”

 

Why indeed? She sighed, feeling weighed down and so terribly lost.

 

Pedro, bring her home.

 

Had her husband heard her prayers? Had he sent this stranger to help their granddaughter?

 

“Never mind. What happened then? Why isn’t she with you?”

 

“We fought them off- the Diaz Brothers, that is- we lost four of our guards.” (Alma briefly closed her eyes, already planning what she’d have to say to their families, the funerals to arrange.) “They…Your Majesty, the dam was in awful repair. Gabino and Julio, they…”

 

“Say it,” Alma ordered.

 

“They collapsed the dam. Princess Mirabel and her companion were on the ground; I saw them run for one of the tunnels.” He didn’t sound confident.

 

Alma was not having it.

 

“Then find her!” she ordered, her voice raising. “For heaven’s sake, it will be dark soon and the Diaz Brothers are still on the loose! Find her and bring her back. Find her, bring her home, bring her back to us, to me. 

 

Mirabel was not dead. She refused to even entertain the notion. It simply wasn’t possible, it wasn’t. 

 

“Bring Dolores to me,” Alma said, trying to call on her usual regal tone and falling short. “Now, Rafael.”

 

Rafael bowed and murmured, “My Queen.” He backed away, off in search of Dolores and then in search of Mirabel.

 

Alma turned to the window and tried to keep her thoughts in order. She tried to focus on the lanterns, their precious ceremony. She tried to think of all the decorations and preparations, the whole kingdom waiting to celebrate her children.

 

Crack.

 

Alma turned and her eyes widened as fear suddenly washed over her.

 

There was a crack on her tiled floor. A crack, spreading out like a spider’s web, splitting one of the white tiles cleaning in half and spreading to the others. Right by her door.

 

“What…?” She couldn’t seem to raise her voice above a whisper. Her heart was pounding and she couldn’t quite put her fear into her words. It was just- just-

 

Casita didn’t have cracks. Casita didn’t crack. She’d never…She’d never seen this before. They’d had their fair share of broken windows when Camilo was a child, but Casita had repaired them right away. No harm done.

 

So why wasn’t this crack repairing itself? Why was it still there? Alma stared at it, blinked, looked away; it was still there when she looked back.

 

More horrifying, their precious candle flickered before her very eyes.

 

“No,” Alma whispered, prayed. “No, no, no.”

 

She’d seen the candle flicker only twice: the first time was the night her Brunito was stolen. The second was the night Mirabel didn’t get a Gift. As her granddaughter’s door vanished, the candle flickered and dimmed. As her son disappeared into the night, Alma had clutched the candle and wailed, screaming even more when it dimmed in her hands.

 

Was it flickering now because Mirabel was gone? Because she was in danger? Was she…

 

No. Mirabel was fine. She was safe. She had to be. Oh, Alma was going to give that girl such a tongue-lashing for being so reckless when she got back, and no doubt Julieta would ground her until she was thirty. 

 

Because Mirabel was okay. She had to be okay. Alma would not entertain any other options.

 

Dolores knocked on the door and came in quietly as always, practically tip-toeing. She curtsied and said, “You wanted to see me, Abuela?”

 

“Yes, corazón. The guards lost track of your cousin: I need you to listen for Mirabel.”

 

Dolores nodded, a sudden shining determination in her eyes. “Yes, Abuela, of course.”

 

“Tell me as soon as you hear anything,” Alma said.

 

Dolores nodded again, her curly hair swaying with her movements. Alma tried to summon a smile and hoped it looked confident. She couldn’t (wouldn’t) let her granddaughter see how frightened she felt.

 

“Thank you, Dolores.”







It wasn’t long after that when Dolores passed by Tio Bruno’s room, just in time for the door to suddenly burst to life, shining like the sun. The two guards at the door flinched back, looking over their shoulders and gaping at the light.

 

Most of the time, Tio Bruno’s door was dark. Most days, it was rather like Mirabel’s door: normal. Other times it flickered. Sometimes it faintly glowed. Whenever a member of the family saw the door shimmering, they bowed their heads in respect and prayed for Bruno’s safety. Because if the door was flickering, fighting for life, that meant Bruno was alive and using his Gift. It was a sign he was okay.

 

But this? She’d never seen this. None of them had.

 

“Get Abuela,” Dolores ordered the guards. “Quickly.” She couldn’t have looked away for all the gold in Casita. It was beautiful.

 

But why was it happening?

 

One of the guards raced away, towards Abuela’s chambers. The other stayed with Dolores, staring at the door, shining like a star. The light practically flooded the corridor. It certainly lit up the stairwell.

 

“Amazing,” the guard murmured.

 

“Yes,” Dolores whispered as her parents and Abuela came running. “Yes, it is.”

 

It was shaping up to be a strange night.

 

“What the hell?” Pepa gasped. “What’s happening?”

 

“Bruno must be using his power,” Abuela said, but she sounded just as lost as her daughter. She sounded awed.

 

“It’s beautiful,” Dolores said.

 

“Yes,” Pepa agreed. Her smile shook; the cloud that had been following her since Tio’s crown was taken seemed to get smaller. Dolores was glad and more than a little relieved. Her papá rubbed her mamá's back in soothing circles and no one looked away from the door.

 

Slowly, oh so slowly, it died down.

 

But it didn’t go out.

 

No, this time it stayed at a faint, steady shimmer. Dolores had never seen that before either. They all stayed there for nearly ten minutes, waiting for the light to die and it didn’t. It stayed.

 

It stayed.

 

“What’s happening?” Pepa repeated more desperately.

 

“...I don’t know,” Abuela was forced to admit. She still looked like a Queen from head to toe: shoulders back, chin up, a stern look on her face, but even she couldn’t mask the confusion in her eyes.

 

“Something good, I’m sure,” Félix said, trying to sound cheerful. He didn’t sound totally convinced himself, but Dolores thought he was right.

 

Whatever was happening, she was quite certain it was something good.







It indeed shaped up to be the strangest night of Dolores’s life.

 

She sat on one of Casita’s balconies, reading some of Mariano’s poems for her as the night wore on. Antonio had insisted on staying up with her, but he’d fallen asleep hours ago. Mariano had eventually agreed to go home, giving her concerned looks all the while. Camilo had joined her and Antonio and he’d fallen asleep only a few minutes ago.

 

All the while, she kept one ear out for Mirabel. Because her little cousin was not dead. No way. Her prima was somewhere in the woods, maybe injured and maybe soaking wet from the dam, but alive. She simply had to be. And as soon as she heard her, Dolores was going to grab a horse and ride out there to fetch her, and give her an earful about doing stupid things like running after The Diaz Brothers.

 

And then, finally, she heard her.

 

Mirabel was talking to someone, her voice getting louder and louder to Dolores.

 

“Isabela makes flowers; that’s her Gift.”

 

Who was she talking to? Dolores could hear another person walking with her.

 

“There’s Luisa, she’s my other sister. She’s super strong- literally. That’s her Gift. But between you and me, Tio Bruno, she needs a break. Ten breaks. So many breaks.

 

What? What?

 

Dolores dropped the book of poems and jumped off her seat, climbing right up onto the balcony’s railing, leaning as far forward as she dared, tilting her head from left to right, trying to pin down Mirabel’s exact location. Not in the city, not yet…She was nearly out of the forest! By the river where they got their Miracle!

 

“And then there’s me.” Mirabel said. “You know me.”

 

Another voice, a man’s voice answered her with amusement: “Yes, I know you’re crazy.”

 

“Santa Maria,” Dolores whispered. She was shaking all over, her heart pounding. Had Mirabel really called him Tio Bruno? Was- was it actually-?

 

Suddenly, her eyes stung, her next breath hitched awkwardly. Was Mirabel right? She sounded so confident, so utterly happy. At ease with this man, who she called Tio Bruno.

 

Mirabel had gone racing after The Diaz Brothers for their uncle’s crown. What were the odds she’d also find their uncle?

 

Then Mirabel suddenly shrieked and Dolores had to cover her ears with a yelp.

 

“DOLORES! I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME BY NOW! I’M OKAY!”

 

“Hermana?” Camilo woke up with a yawn, stretching so that his joints popped in a way that Dolores had always hated. “Wuzzgoinon? You-” He broke off with another yawn and stumbled to her side. “You okay?”

 

The man (Tio Bruno?) squeaked her cousin’s name, sounding utterly lost.

 

“AND I KNOW YOU JUST HEARD ME SAY TIO BRUNO! YOU HEARD RIGHT!” She was the happiest Dolores had ever heard her. “I’M BRINGING HIM HOME AND I NEED YOU TO KEEP QUIET FOR A WHILE LONGER!”

 

“Dolores?” Camilo shook her but she barely noticed, utterly focused on her little cousin’s voice and…

 

And on her uncle’s.

 

“Mirabel!?” she heard him say, and Dolores’s giggle wavered, almost a sob.

 

“Dolores has super hearing,” Mirabel explained. “We’re nearly out of the woods, we’re back in her hearing range.”

 

“O-oh…”

 

“Say hello.”

 

“Huh?”

 

Dolores giggled again, hands clapped over her mouth. Camilo shook her again, harder now.

 

“Do you hear Mira?” he demanded. Antonio turned over in his sleep. Encanto slept on peacefully.

 

Dolores nodded and Camilo sagged in relief, his nails digging into her arm.

 

“Thank God,” he muttered.

 

“Say hello. She can hear you.”

 

Yes, Dolores thought giddily. Yes, I can hear you!

 

“Um…Um, hello- Dolores? Hi.”

 

He said her name! Her Tio said her name!

 

“Hola, Tio Bruno,” Dolores whispered, and the tears escaped. She laughed, hands over her heart. “Hola, I hear you.”

 

“What!?”

 

Whoops, she’d forgotten about Camilo. Wincing, she turned to her brother. His mouth was hanging open and as she watched he shifted from himself, to Mirabel, to the five-year-old version of their Tio, to Mamá and back to himself.

 

“Did you just say-?”

 

“Shush!” Dolores clapped a hand over his mouth. “I’m listening!

 

“I MEAN IT, YOU BETTER NOT RUIN THIS SURPRISE, I WANT TO SHOW HIM AROUND FIRST, WE’RE GOING TO MAKE THIS THE BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!”

 

My bad, Dolores thought. Sorry, Mira. Awkwardly, she removed her hand from Camilo’s mouth. He hadn’t moved an inch, gaping at her in astonishment.

 

She so rarely saw her brother look vulnerable, but now his expression crumpled, his eyes were overly-bright and his voice wavered as he asked, “You’re sure?”

 

Dolores nodded and climbed off the railing. “Sí, I’m sure. Mirabel’s with him, and she’s certainly sure.”

 

Camilo turned to their kingdom, gazing out into the darkness.

 

“Mirabel just found Tio Bruno,” he repeated blankly. “She found him.”

 

"Sí," Dolores whispered in awe. How in the world had Mirabel done it? She needed the full story and fast.

 

“Where is she?” Camilo rounded on her with fire in his eyes. “Where are they?”

 

“By the woods,” Dolores said. “At Abuelo Pedro’s river.” Her eyes narrowed and she grabbed him before he could run. “No,” she ordered. “You’re not running off in the night!”

 

“Dolores, she’s right there! And- and Bruno!

 

“Keep your voice down, you’ll wake Antonio.”

 

That shut him up, but he still looked defiant.

 

“I- I’ve never seen a vision with more than one outcome before. Not until now. But, my guess? Whatever’s coming next…It’ll all come down to you.”

 

Oh dear, what was Tio Bruno talking about? She’d been focused on Camilo. What had he had a vision of? She wondered if that was why his door had blazed like that. Maybe he’d had a particularly strong vision. She wasn’t at all sure how it worked.

 

She was distracted. Camilo transformed into Luisa and used their prima’s superior strength to escape her grip. Just like that, he raced off.

 

“Camilo!”

 

And he was gone. Great. Now what?

 

Antonio woke up, blinking at her sleepily. “Did you hear anything?”

 

Dolores sighed. Okay, Camilo was going to fetch Mirabel and Bruno. She’d let him handle that for now.

 

“I heard a lot,” she confirmed. She scooped her baby brother up and carried him inside. Parce followed them. “Come on, hermano bébé: we need to find Tia Julieta.”







He woke up on the forest floor. Smoke still burned his lungs and gentle hands shook him away.

 

“Bruno? Bruno!”

 

He blinked and a woman came into view, a kindly looking old woman dressed in a red cloak. She had tears in her eyes; she sobbed when he looked at her, but she was smiling.

 

“Oh, thank goodness,” she whispered, sitting him up and pulling him into a hug. “You’re okay!”

 

“Wha-? Who are you!?” Bruno pushed her off, heart pounding. “Get away from me!”

 

“Bruno?” She looked wounded. “Sweetheart, it’s just Zarita.” When he didn’t react, except to frown at her, she started to look worried. “Zarita,” she repeated. “Your mamí’s friend.”

 

His mamí? She didn’t-

 

Fire, fire, fire. Pitchforks and torches, angry hateful shouts.

 

“BURN THE WITCHES!”

 

Big hands grabbed him, dragging him through the door. A woman screamed his name and the hands released him. He ran and- and- and…

 

Zarita pulled him into a hug and this time Bruno let her, frozen in terror.

 

“It’s okay,” she whispered. “I’ve got you, amor. You’re okay.”




But that’s not what happened, is it? There was no angry mob, no fire. 

 

So what happened? What happened, what happened, what happened?




Casita’s tiles clattered in warning, the sand picked up around him, swirling around his legs and it was all the warning Bruno had before a shadowed figure descended on him. An old woman in a red cloak, her eyes ablaze with greed, a terrible smirk on her face.

 

“There you are, little seer,” she hissed gleefully.

 

“Mamá! MAMÍ!” Bruno screamed, struggling to get away as a foul-smelling cloth was clapped down over his mouth and nose.

 

He heard Alma scream his name, he heard the guards shout his name. Casita fought back, slamming the window closed, but with a blast of red light the window smashed into pieces. 

 

The world swirled around him, black spots danced across his vision as he struggled to stay awake. He felt nauseous and he saw his mamá’s horrified face as he was dragged through the window, across the roof. Their Casita fought hard, trying to throw the woman off, trying to keep Bruno safe. It moved a chimney in front of them, its roof tiles tried to push them back the way they’d come.

 

But the woman did something, something magic. The chimney collapsed, the tiles froze. It didn’t last long: Casita was fighting again in seconds.

 

And Bruno was barely aware of any of it. He was slipping away into the dark, his tongue felt too big for his mouth and, with a shaking hand, he reached out as if Alma could still reach him.

 

“Mamá,” he whispered. “Juli-Julieta…Pepa…”

 

And then he was gone.




And before that? Who was he before that? Before the dark and the fear, the lies and imprisonment? Who was Bruno Madrigal?




He danced around in a circle with his sisters, hand in hand. Pepa’s crown kept slipping, titling to the right. Julieta had a smear of some sort of sauce on her skirt.

 

“Ring around the rosies!” they sang. “A pocket full of posies! Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!”

 

And they collapsed down, still hand in hand, laughing away like it was the funniest thing in the world.




A sudden vision took him, sweeping him along into the future. As though from very far away, he felt his mother gripping his hand.

 

When the vision stopped, Bruno felt dizzy and weak-kneed. It had been a long one.

 

“Brunito?” Her face was too blurry, but her hands were warm as they cupped his face. “Are you okay, mijo? What was it?”




He sat in front of his father’s portrait, studying it from every angle. People kept saying he looked like his Papá, but Bruno wasn’t too sure. Pedro looked so serene, so calm. Pedro looked all grown up. He looked like the kind of person who had all the right answers.

 

Bruno was clumsy and quiet, and only a kid. Bruno could see the future, but he wasn’t sure he had the right answers.

 

Julieta sat next to him, spreading her skirt out around her. “You okay?” she asked.

 

“Do I look like Papá?” Bruno asked her instead of answering.

 

Julieta looked at the portrait, then at Bruno. “I guess so,” she said. Then she shrugged and added, “I like you better, but don’t tell Mamí I said that.”




Prince Bruno Madrigal, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno. The youngest Madrigal triplet. The only son of Alma and Pedro Madrigal. The Prince of Encanto.

 

He was Prince Bruno Madrigal.

 

His eyes snapped open in the weak dawn light to find a boy kneeling over him, gaping at him in astonishment.

 

“Holy shit,” the boy whispered.

 

Bruno did what any reasonable person would do: he screamed bloody murder and scrambled back, nearly tumbling over himself. His rats awoke and screamed in protest. Mirabel woke up with a startled shout, swinging her fists and screaming, “Back off, back off, I know self-defence!”

 

“Relax!” the strange boy yelled. “Mira, it’s me!

 

The boy’s voice instantly relaxed Mirabel. In fact, she utterly lit up with joy.

 

“Camilo!” she screamed and tackled him into a hug. The boy- Camilo- fell backwards, but he was laughing and hugging Mirabel just as hard as she was hugging him.

 

“You’re okay!” Camilo cried. “You’re okay, you- you idiota!” He suddenly punched her hard on the shoulder. “Are you nuts!? You gave us all heart attacks!”

 

“I’m sorry,” Mirabel said with a weak, awkward smile. “I just…” She bounced on her knees, looking quite giddy with joy. She gestured to Bruno with both hands. “Camilo, this is…Well, this-”

 

Camilo smiled at him, looking softer now. He had wild curly hair, freckles on his nose and his eyes…His eyes were big and green like… Like Pepa’s. Like…

 

“You have my mamí’s eyes,” Camilo said softly. His laugh was a small, astonished thing. 

 

“I…” Bruno shrugged with a weak smile. “I guess I do.” He knocked on the tree next to him, not taking his eyes off Camilo...Off of his nephew, Pepa’s kid.

 

Bruno’s breath was knocked out of him when Camilo practically threw himself at him, hugging him so hard he thought he felt his ribs crack. He knocked back into the tree and Camilo, his face pressed against Bruno’s shoulder hoarsely said, “Welcome home, Tio Bruno.”




Unknown to them all, hidden away in Bruno’s room, buried in the sand…A crack healed. It would have given Alma great relief to know that, even on a day where cracks grew, another had healed.

 

Just a small one. There and gone.

 

Just a small one. But fixed all the same. 

 

A difference, already being made. The future in motion. The chance for healing unfurling. 

 

Casita’s joy to have its children coming home.

Chapter Text

“One step at a time, one hope, then another; who knows where this road may go? Back to who I was, on to find my future! Things my heart still needs to know. Yes, let this be a sign! Let this road be mine! Let it lead me to my past and bring me home...At last!” - Journey To The Past, Anastasia




Dolores hoped she wasn’t sweating. It was nearing dawn and she stood before Tia Julieta, Tio Agustín, Mamá and Papá and Abuela…And she was lying through her teeth.

 

Mirabel, you owe me big time. 

 

Then again, Mirabel had found Tio Bruno and was bringing him home right in time for the triplets’ birthday and presumably still had his crown too (after all Dolores had heard her steal it back), so it was safe to say they all owed Mirabel big time, forever and ever after this. 

 

She just hoped she wasn’t being obvious. She held her hands behind her back and managed to keep her voice steady as she said, “Mirabel is still in the forest. She’s just about in my hearing range. So long as she heads straight she’ll be here soon.”

 

Tia Julieta slumped against Tio Agustín, sighing hard in relief. Tio Agustín blinked rapidly and tried to hide his watering eyes.

 

Abuela, imperial as always, nodded her head and calmly called in the nearest guard.

 

“Rafael is already out searching,” she told the guard. “Find him and redirect his search.” She glanced at Dolores and Dolores rambled off a location, her fingers crossing behind her back.

 

“You’ve done well, Dolores,” Abuela said. Tia Julieta and Tio Agustín seemed to take that as permission to move, because they suddenly rushed forward to pull her into a hug.

 

“Now, everyone make sure you are presentable for tonight,” Abuela said.

 

Tia Julieta sighed, still hugging Dolores. “Mamá, please, surely we can delay-”

 

“No, Julieta, I won’t repeat myself again. Encanto needs us to be strong, and so we shall be.”

 

The others were summoned and, as Antonio trooped in with Isabela and Luisa, Pepa stood up and said, “Hey, where’s Camilo?”

 

Dolores closed her eyes and prayed for strength. Truth be told, a tiny part of her was hoping they wouldn’t notice or could brush it off.

 

“He went to find Mira,” Dolores said truthfully.

 

Pepa threw her hands up, her cloud rumbling ominously. “That boy will be the death of me!” she cried. “What’s he thinking, eh? He knows today has to be perfect, everyone will be here, and-” The wind picked up, rustling the curtains and knocking over a pile of Abuela’s letters.

 

“Amor, amor!” Félix took her hand. “Careful, Pepi.”

 

She let out a frustrated “Tch!” but the wind stopped.

 

Abuela sighed and began to give them their list of duties with her usual calm dignity, as if nothing was amiss at all.

 

Dolores wondered if her grandmother would be smiling at the end of the day. If she’d be happy. If, after forty-five years of worrying, some of the darkness would leave her eyes and let the light back in.

 

But she couldn’t say anything yet, she had to wait a while longer, just a little while longer, and then she could say it.

 

Mira found Tio Bruno. She’s with him right now and so is Camilo. He’s entering the city right this very second.

 

Tio Bruno is coming home.







As they approached the bridge, Mirabel suddenly stopped and tugged on Bruno’s ruana.

 

“Hey, gimme that,” she said, tugging a little harder and Camilo had to snort at the utter confusion on Bruno’s face.

 

“W-what?”

 

“People will recognise me,” Mirabel said. “And I want this to stay secret for a while longer, okay? I want to show you around, so I need to cover my face.” She pointed at his hood. “That’ll do the job. Please?”

 

“Oh, uh…” Bruno still looked totally lost but he handed his satchel to Camilo, shrugged his ruana off and handed it to Mirabel. His rats squeaked indignantly and fled the ruana, scurrying up their Tio’s legs to hide in his pockets instead. Bruno took his satchel back but he was shifting from foot to foot uncomfortably and hugging himself, shoulders hunched in. Clearly, he wasn’t comfortable without the ruana.

 

Which gave Camilo an idea for a birthday present.

 

Smiling, he shape-shifted just a little bit; he made his hair longer and black like Bruno’s own, made himself taller with broader shoulders and changed his nose-shape. There, now no one would bother him as he showed his Tio around either. Bruno watched him with fascination and Camilo grinned at him. His grin widened when Bruno shyly smiled back.

 

“Impressive,” he said quietly.

 

Camilo struck a pose. “Too right I am.”

 

Mirabel pulled the hood up and it flopped lowly, practically covering half her face. It was way too big on her, which wasn’t surprising- after all it was too big on Bruno and he wasn’t much bigger than Mirabel.

 

“Better,” she said decisively. “Let’s go.” She immediately marched ahead, reaching back to grab Bruno’s hand.







Mirabel wasn’t sure how to describe how she felt as they stepped onto the bridge. Excited, of course. Nervous, yes. Outright terrified deep down, terrified something would go wrong or that Bruno wouldn’t like their family or they wouldn’t like him, that they’d all be angry with her…But mostly she felt happy. So incredibly happy.

 

Here she was, plain old Mirabel Madrigal, leading the Lost Prince into the city.

 

Leading him home.

 

She kept her hood up but as they crossed the bridge she kept glancing back at Bruno. He was staring straight ahead at the growing crowd of townspeople with wide eyes; he looked at all the decorations with a curious little smile. Camilo kept a hand on Bruno’s back like he was trying to keep him upright. Just showing some quiet support.

 

And then, just like that, they were through the wide open gates and into Encanto itself, home in the city, bustling with activity and joy.




In Casita, hidden between the walls, two cracks healed. The candle flickered and returned to its steady glow.

 

Hidden in the kitchen, at the very back of the pantry, a crack vanished, as if it had never been there at all.

 

The candle glowed, the candle glowed, the candle burned, momentarily brightening like a star.

 

Entering his city, his home, for the first time in forty-five years, Prince Bruno Madrigal, the no longer lost Prince, looked up as he felt- something. Something warm. Something like a gentle hand nudging him. Something welcoming.

 

He looked up and saw Casita on the hill and he could have sworn, even from such a great distance, that the windows on a tower opened and closed, as if in greeting.



Mirabel squeezed her uncle’s hand, released him and stepped back to give him a theatrical curtsy.

 

“Welcome to your city, Your Highness,” she said, careful to keep her voice down.

 

Bruno let out a small, startled laugh…But he bowed to her, still snickering a little. He was smiling when he straightened up. There were strands of grey in his hair, dark shadows under his eyes and faint wrinkles at the corners of his eyes and mouth (much like her mamá, Mirabel realised with an odd sort of glee), but he looked so young again at that moment. No doubt he was nervous, but he looked excited too.

 

Camilo tugged on his arm and pulled him along, reaching out to grab Mirabel too. “First things first, Tio, I’m getting you a birthday present!”

 

“What? Camilo, I-” Bruno looked utterly startled, like it hadn’t occurred to him at all that they’d want to. “You don’t- isn’t the present the lanterns?”

 

“That’s the ceremony,” Camilo said. “Not really a present. It’s more like…”

 

“A prayer, I guess,” Mirabel said. “A hope.” She looked at her Tio and smiled softly. “A way to guide you home.”

 

“Oh,” Bruno said quietly, eyes flickering to the ground. He blinked rapidly, biting his lip.

 

“So I’m getting you a present,” Camilo said, nose in the air. A command, not an offer. “I owe you so many birthday presents. And you owe me too, Tio, don’t think you’re off the hook!”

 

Bruno laughed. “I don’t even know your birthday!”

 

Camilo told him his birthday with a smirk, and poked their Tio’s skinny shoulder. “No excuses now.”

 

After a moment, Bruno shrugged with a smile. “Okay,” he said. “That’s- that’s fair.”


Camilo dragged them to a clothing shop and quickly ducked inside, waving over his shoulder as he did. Bruno leaned against the wall, still clutching his own arm. His free hand tapped at his satchel, where his crown was safely hidden.

 

Butterfly banners and flags fluttered overhead. The crowd walked past in all directions, chatting, shouting, singing, laughing. So many people and Mirabel kept expecting someone to turn around and shout her name or, impossibly, to call Bruno’s name.

 

She just couldn’t believe she actually had this secret. She’d found Tio Bruno! She’d found him by complete accident!

 

On instinct, her gaze wandered across the plaza, to Abuelo Pedro’s mural. The very mural where he held a baby Bruno. Pedro’s crown was on his head, more like a halo than a piece of jewellery. His gaze was calm and steady; reassuring even in portrait form. He looked so much like Tio Bruno it was crazy. They were practically doubles of each other.

 

As always, there was a crowd at the mural. There were offerings at the base of the mural, there always were: flowers, candles, some coins, ribbons and prayers. Someone once left a beautiful rosary, though Mirabel wasn’t too sure what had been done with it; if it had been collected and safely stored somewhere, or taken by another person. She just knew it hadn’t been there the next day. But the offering had made Abuela smile, walking arm in arm with Isabela as they greeted their people.

 

Mirabel watched a small girl lead her even smaller sister to the mural. She nudged Bruno and gestured to the scene; her uncle straightened up, watching curiously.

 

The older girl knelt and laid down a tiny handful of daisies. She smiled at her sister and explained, “It’s for the Lost Prince.”

 

Bruno’s eyes widened. “Oh,” he said quietly, voice wavering, one hand over his heart.

 

“They love you,” Mirabel said, squeezing his arm.

 

“They don’t know me,” Bruno said, still staring at the crowd.

 

“But they will,” Mirabel said confidently. “And then they’ll still love you.”

 

He looked gobsmacked and Mirabel hated Zarita so much right then. Her Tio shouldn’t have been shocked at the idea of people loving him or missing him. It should have been normal for him. He should have known they all loved him.

 

That was when Camilo came sauntering out of the shop with a spring in his step and a new green ruana in his arms. He shook it out with a flourish and a cry of “Ta-da! What do you think?”

 

It was a slightly brighter green than Bruno’s usual ruana and not a tear, frayed hem or patch in sight. Instead of hour glasses, the hem was embroidered with golden butterflies, with golden swirls around the hood. It was nearly as big as the ruana Mirabel was wearing, and it looked soft.

 

“Oh, wow…” Bruno’s hand brushed over it, his eyes still wide. “Camilo, you really didn’t have to.”

 

“Oh, shut up, Tio, of course I did. It’s your birthday. Now try it on before we all die of old age, yeah?”

 

That got a laugh out of Bruno and Mirabel grinned at her cousin. Trust Camilo to put anyone at ease, to make them smile. After all, whenever he saw someone upset he’d immediately step in to cheer them up. It was just what he did.

 

Bruno pulled on the new ruana, beaming all the while.

 

“Well?” He held his arms out, showing it off, even spinning around. “What do you think?”

 

“Looking good,” Camilo said with a thumbs up.

 

Mirabel beamed at him. “Happy birthday.”

Chapter Text

“Had to have high, high hopes for a living. Shooting for the stars when I couldn't make a killing; didn't have a dime but I always had a vision. Always had high, high hopes! Had to have high, high hopes for a living, didn't know how but I always had a feeling I was gonna be that one in a million. Always had high, high hopes!” - High Hopes, Panic! At The Disco




Julieta was staring out of the window when Pepa walked into her sister’s bedroom. She was watching the growing festivities with a little frown on her face, hands clasped together; it was a pose that made her look very much like their mother.

 

“Hermana?” Pepa closed the door. “Are you doing okay?”

 

“I’m…Managing,” Julieta said, which was more than fair in Pepa’s opinion. God, to think Mirabel had actually gone after the Diaz Brothers, but it was the biggest relief of Pepa’s life to hear she was okay. Maybe Mirabel’s real gift was tenacity. 

 

Pepa stood next to her sister and took her hand, holding on tight. In the town square, just a stone’s throw from Casita, a band was playing. Further down, kids, teenagers and adults alike were drawing and painting on the ground in the usual designated spot for street art. She could see two figures in green and one in yellow: the ones in green were drawing on the ground and the one in yellow seemed to be directing them.

 

The band started another song and it must have been a good one, because more dancers were joining in.

 

At least someone got to enjoy today. Pepa’s cloud just wouldn’t go away and she doubted it would fully disappear until Mirabel was back safe and sound. Besides, she usually had a cloud today, at least for a while. Mamá and the damn court could just deal with it.

 

Julieta sighed and pulled away, walking towards her desk where a single green candle sat. She carried it back to Pepa and set it on the windowsill, handing Pepa a match.

 

Pepa didn’t even try to smile. Julieta never forced her to smile when she didn’t feel like it. Her sister just always understood.

 

Pepa lit the candle and, this time, Julieta took her hand.

 

“Happy birthday,” Julieta whispered.

 

“Happy birthday,” Pepa said, squeezing her hand. 

 

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to Julieta…And happy birthday, hermanito. 







Bruno stood up, knees aching from the cobblestones, and observed his and Mirabel’s combined efforts. They’d used a frankly insane amount of chalk and his hands and forearms were smeared with bright colours. 

 

They’d drawn a massive yellow butterfly (he briefly wondered if gold chalk even existed), on a vivid pink and purple background, surrounded by little yellow, orange, blue and green butterflies and candles. Camilo had directed imperiously, pointing out what needed shading or sharper lines, occasionally chiming in with, “You missed a spot.” 

 

Mirabel told him to put a sock in it. Camilo cheerfully spoke over her.

 

“You two are going to drive me crazy, huh?” Bruno asked.

 

“Oh yeah, totally,” Camilo said with a careless shrug. “What else is family for?”

 

More and more people were stopping to look at their drawing and Mirabel edged in closer to Bruno, keeping her hood up; she even pulled it lower, trying to cover more of her face and getting chalky handprints all over the hood’s hem.

 

“Come on,” Mirabel said. “Let’s get cleaned up.”

 

Bruno carefully held his hands away from himself, afraid of getting chalk all over his new ruana. Camilo marched along, swinging his arms, leading them to a public fountain. He grabbed a bucket off the edge, filled it with water and thrust it into Mirabel’s arms, looking far too amused.

 

“You used, like, all the chalk,” he said.

 

“We had a vision,” Mirabel said, nose in the air. She set the bucket down and dunked her hands into the water, scrubbing the colours away. Shrugging to himself, Bruno joined her. Camilo looked increasingly amused, like he was watching two misbehaving children which…Was probably fair.

 

“So, what next?” Bruno asked as he shook his now soaking hands, watching water droplets fly everywhere.

 

“There’s music right outside Casita,” Camilo said, jerking his thumb towards the castle. “Wanna see?”

 

“Oh, that’s always fun!” Mirabel stood up so quickly she nearly knocked over the bucket. She grabbed Bruno and began to run, pulling him along. “C’mon, Tio!”

 

“What am I, trash?” Camilo called, hurrying after them.

 

“You don’t want me to answer that,” Mirabel said with a smirk.

 

It seemed to be non-stop sarcasm and snark with these two.

 

Bruno could get used to it.

 

Mirabel and Camilo sniped, jabbed, insulted and laughed all the way down the road. The music got louder as they went and Mirabel’s pace picked up. Bruno could see a band of five men on a little wooden stage and-




Pepa pulled him and Julieta into the centre of the empty ballroom and immediately began to dance, singing to herself.

 

“We’re not meant to be here!” Julieta cried, wringing her skirt between her hands. “Mamá said the decorations aren’t ready!”

 

“So?” Pepa just danced faster. She held her hands out to Bruno and, giggling, he took them, letting his sister spin him around. “It’s our birthday and we make the rules! We’re five now, that’s big!

 

“Yeah, Juli!” Bruno laughed. “We’re big now!”

 

She sighed, huffed and even stomped her foot…But she still smiled and took Bruno’s hand, joining them both in spinning around.




“Tio?” Mirabel and Camilo had stopped dead, looking at him worriedly.

 

“Sorry, I just…” Bruno trailed off, rubbing his forehead. “Uh, flashback I think?” Or was he imagining it?

 

“Well, let’s take it easy for a bit, okay?” Mirabel pulled him further away from the crowd and they leaned against a wall. She kept her arm linked with his and they watched the dancing crowd and listened happily to the music. Camilo tapped his foot and snapped his fingers in time with the jaunty tune. Mirabel hummed under her breath. Bruno didn’t know the song at all, but he nodded his head along to the chorus.

 

After three more songs, as the sun made its slow arch across the sky, Camilo spoke up. “Wait here,” he said and hurried off.

 

“Huh? Milo!” Mirabel called after him.

 

“Just stay put!” Camilo shouted over his shoulder.

 

“Oh, he’d better not be off to ruin the surprise,” Mirabel muttered.

 

“Well, he can’t, right?” Bruno asked. He pointed at Casita, then the direction Camilo had gone off in. “He’s going the wrong way.”

 

“Hm…” Mirabel didn’t look wholly convinced. 

 

But it seemed she had no reason to be worried: Camilo came back balancing three ice cream cones.

 

“Gracias,” Bruno said. A part of him felt a little embarrassed by all the gifts and attention, but…But it was also really, really sweet.

 

And so was the ice cream.

 

“Don’t sweat it,” Camilo said. Smirking, he nudged Bruno and added, “You look like you needed it.”

 

“Respect your elders,” Bruno said, poking his forehead. 

 

Elderly, alright.”

 

“Oy!” Bruno was laughing, even as he shoved at Camilo’s shoulder. “Who raised you, huh?”

 

“Your sister.” Camilo stuck his tongue out. He looked around at the dancers at, satisfied no one was watching, he shape-shifted back to his normal self.

 

“Camilo?” Bruno frowned.

 

“No one’s looking anymore,” Camilo said with a careless shrug. “Besides…” He looked apologetic. “I’ll have to head back.”

 

“Oh,” Bruno said, drooping in disappointment.

 

“Oh,” Mirabel repeated quietly, looking equally let down.

 

“Hey, I’ll see you later, right?” Camilo asked with a grin and Bruno was powerless to not smile. He nodded at his nephew and Camilo went back to watching the dancers and snapping his fingers. He looked utterly mischievous as he leaned in to Mirabel and whispered something.

 

Mirabel’s eyes widened but she grinned and flung her arms around Camilo, hugging him tightly.

 

“You’re my favourite,” she said. “Don’t tell Antonio.”

 

“I want that in writing,” Camilo said. Beaming, he hugged Bruno so hard that Bruno was pretty sure his back cracked. “I’ll see you later, Tio, okay?”

 

Bruno hugged him, feeling impossibly fond of the kid. He had nieces and nephews! How insane was that? He was wearing a ruana his nephew had bought him!

 

“I’ll see you later,” Camilo repeated as he pulled away. He squeezed Bruno’s hand, and Mirabel’s, then ran off towards Casita. He stopped at the corner to turn back and wave rapidly with both hands. Bruno and Mirabel waved and with one last cry of, “See you!” Camilo was gone.

 

“He’s nice,” Bruno said. “A lot of fun.”

 

“He is,” Mirabel agreed happily. 







As soon as he approached Casita’s gates, they flew open on their own. The guards weren’t at all surprised, far too used to it.

 

The second he stepped into the courtyard, Dolores was on him. She grabbed him tightly by the shoulders, eyes wide and alight with curiosity. She was practically vibrating, bouncing on her toes and squeaking.

 

“Well?” She shook him a little and Camilo grinned at her. “Well? Is it…Is Mira right?

 

Camilo nodded. “It’s him,” he confirmed and Dolores squeaked again, clapping her hands. She smoothed down her skirt, trying to re-collect herself, but she was so plainly giddy.

 

“...How is he?” she asked more softly, almost shyly.

 

Camilo considered it. Their tio was jumpy; shy and nervous. He looked like Abuelo Pedro’s double. He was tiny. He was quick-witted, able to keep up with Camilo’s jabs, he…

 

“He has Mamí’s eyes,” Camilo said quietly, because that one fact would forever be engraved in his mind. Tio Bruno looked like Abuelo Pedro and he had Pepa’s eyes. Camilo’s eyes.

 

“He’s nice,” Camilo told his sister. “He’s fun, and…” He laughed somewhat helplessly, his heart pounding. Only a few more hours and Bruno would be here. “We’re all gonna love him and he’s gonna love us.”

 

Of that much, at least, Camilo had no doubt.

Chapter Text

“All those days watching from the windows, all those years outside looking in. All that time never even knowing just how blind I've been. Now I'm here, blinking in the starlight. Now I'm here, suddenly I see; standing here it's all so clear I'm where I'm meant to be.” - I See The Light, Tangled




Present Day…




Everyone was watching Mirabel with rapt attention. Some of the kids had scooted in even closer. Juancho had even put down the coffee cup.

 

“What next?” Cecilia asked, clapping her hands. “What happened next?”

 

“Well,” Mirabel said with a smile. “Then we went to see the lanterns And then…” She trailed off and tried to keep smiling. Isabela stood and pushed between Camilo and Mirabel, ignoring Camilo’s protests and laid a hand on her shoulder. Luisa took her hand, squeezing tight. “Then…Things got a little…Sticky,” Mirabel continued. “But before that, we finally got to see those lanterns.”




One year ago…




Mirabel was smiling like a maniac and she knew it. Tio Bruno kept looking at her curiously, like he was trying to read her mind.

 

It was official: Camilo was her favourite. Or, well, he was tied with Antonio. Either way, Mirabel owed him for the surprise he’d arranged. Other than the view from Casita, they were going to have the best view of the lanterns possible. 

 

She had to hand it to him, Camilo was a quick thinker.

 

After a lull a new song started. A happy little tune that rapidly picked up its pace and Mirabel didn’t even give Bruno a chance to blink; she just grabbed him and pulled him into the dancing crowd, laughing at the indignant look on his face.

 

“Oh, lighten up!” she shouted over the music. “We danced in the Snuggly Duckling earlier!”

 

“That was different,” Bruno insisted. “Almost everyone else was drunk.” He didn’t make any move to leave though. In fact, as his smile grew, Mirabel knew he was having fun.

 

The sun was rapidly setting. Not long to go and then- oh, then, they’d go home. Then they’d really be la familia Madrigal, all together. 

 

Mirabel clung to her uncle’s hands, beaming at him, laughing from sheer giddiness as they were swept along in the dance. Bruno laughed with her, a little quieter, a little shyer, but joyful all the same.

 

She couldn’t wait to see the look on her mamá’s face when she came home with him.







“She’s going in circles,” Dolores lied to Abuela. Camilo was stuck to her side like glue, a look of wide-eyed innocence on his face. “She’s close, but she keeps getting turned around.”

 

“I couldn’t find her,” Camilo lied with ease. Dolores would need to ask him for tips.

 

Abuela sighed heavily, adjusting her black shawl and glittering crown. “We can’t delay any further.”

 

“Mamá!” Tia Julieta immediately protested, letting go of Mamá’s hand to storm forward. “We can’t start without Mira!” 

 

Tio Agustín nodded in agreement, his expression stony as he eyed Abuela.

 

“We cannot delay any further,” Abuela repeated firmly. An order if Dolores had ever heard one. “The guards will continue their search, but we will have our ceremony.”

 

Dolores tilted her head slightly, listening for Mirabel and Tio Bruno. She tried to look innocent when Isabela frowned at her.

 

Let’s see now, where…Ah, there they were!

 

“Come on,” Mirabel was saying, happier than Dolores had ever heard her, her voice going high-pitched with anticipation. “Camilo got us the best seats around!”

 

And Tio Bruno was saying, “Uh, okay, but it seems pretty far from Casita?”

 

“Trust me, Tio, you’re going to love the view!”

 

“And you still won’t tell me where we’re going?”

 

“Nope!”

 

“...You’re lucky I trust you, kid.”

 

They were heading to the hills and Dolores had to smile at Camilo approvingly. They indeed had excellent viewpoints up there; some were natural extensions of the mountain range, others were man-made specifically to provide beautiful views of Encanto.

 

“Good choice,” Dolores whispered to her brother as they stood in line, preparing to go to the balcony.

 

“Thanks,” Camilo whispered back.

 

Isabela glanced back at them and they both did their best to smile innocently. She didn’t exactly look convinced, but Dolores reassured herself that there was no way Isabela could really know what was going on.

 

Just a little longer, Dolores reminded herself. She looked at her Mamá and Tia Julieta, who were walking with their arms linked. She looked at Abuela, who had shadows in her eyes.

 

But soon enough, thanks to Mirabel, that sadness would be gone. Or at least lessen. Dolores was sure of it. 

 

Talk about a birthday surprise. Dolores walked with her brothers, trying to keep a look of polite interest on her face instead of utter glee and anticipation as they walked through Casita’s hallways. The portraits swayed from side to side as they passed, a chandelier spun and some of the tiles clattered. Was it Dolores’s imagination, or did their Casita seem even more lively than usual?

 

Just a little longer, Dolores thought, holding Antonio’s hand a little tighter, keeping her other arm linked with Camilo’s. Just a little while longer and then you can tell them.

 

And everyone said Dolores couldn’t keep a secret!







Mirabel left him standing by a tree at the base of one of the mountains and, as it grew darker, Bruno rubbed his arm and threw some salt over his shoulder for good luck. He eyed the dark pathway ahead of him nervously. The street lanterns only carried on for a few more paces and most of them weren’t even lit.

 

As he waited for his niece to return, he heard a familiar slurring voice loudly singing.

 

“I got a dream! I got some ddddddrrrrreeeeeaaaaaammmmmsssss!”

 

“Those aren’t even the lyrics,” another voice growled.

 

“I leave you for five minutes,” a third voice sighed. “And you’re already hammered.”

 

Bruno straightened up and, as the trio approached, he blurted out; “Tiago? André? Gustavo?”

 

The three thugs stopped and Bruno winced as they stared at him through the gloom, fiddling with the hem of his ruana. Then Fidel popped out his hood and Tiago cried out, “Oscar!?” and ran at him, pulling him into a bone-crunching hug. “Fucking hell, we thought for sure you were dead after those bast- wait.” Tiago pulled back, his one eye narrowed. “You…Look my age?”

 

“Oh, yeah,” Bruno said. He did not squeak, no sir. “That. Um…”

 

“Tio!” came Mirabel’s chirpy voice. She came running around the corner, hood pulled back and a lantern in each hand. “Tio Bruno, I got- oh!” She waved happily, rocking up and down on her toes. “Hi guys!”

 

“Princess!” Gustavo cried joyfully, arms spread wide. He swayed worryingly and André had to steady him.

 

“Tio Bruno!?” Tiago and André repeated. Tiago’s fingers dug into Bruno’s shoulders and André looked quickly between Bruno and Mirabel, mouth agape.

 

“Please don’t freak out!” Mirabel said quickly. She ran to Bruno’s side and smiled appealingly. “Please, we just- look, we didn’t even know until yesterday, so…” Her grin widened and she gave them some truly killer puppy-eyes. “Please don’t tell?”

 

André and Tiago stared at them. Gustavo began to sing again, apparently not listening to the conversation.

 

Tiago let out a tiny huff, shaking his head and smiling. For such a ferocious man he suddenly looked very soft. Kind.

 

“Sure,” he said. He looked between them all, Bruno, Mirabel, André and Gustavo and grinned. “Sure. Why not, eh?”

 

André mimed buttoning his lips with a smirk. Gustavo looked at them all in confusion but gave a thumbs up.

 

This time, Bruno wasn’t surprised when Tiago pulled him into another hug, clapping him on the back. Still, it took him a moment to remember he was meant to hug back, but Tiago didn’t seem to mind the delayed reaction.

 

“I want the full story later,” Tiago warned when he pulled away. He gave Mirabel a one-armed hug and André ruffled her hair. “For starters, why don’t you look thirty anymore?”

 

“Long story,” Bruno said, rubbing his arm. He smiled sheepishly. “Really long story.”

 

“I’ll bet,” André snorted. He grabbed Gustavo when he tipped sideways. “Go enjoy the show, yeah?”

 

“We will,” Mirabel said. She turned to Bruno and waved to the path ahead, gesturing for him to go first. They’d only taken a few steps when Tiago called after them.

 

“Hey! Osc- uh, Bruno!”

 

Bruno turned back. Tiago and André had Gustavo propped up between them. “Sí?”

 

Tiago saluted him with a sharp grin. “Happy birthday.”







The sun was just disappearing over the horizon when Mirabel and Bruno reached the platform Camilo had named to her. A man around her parents’ age was letting people up the pass and, as Mirabel and Bruno approached, he waved them through without asking for a fee. Camilo’s work, no doubt. Another man led them to a platform right on the edge of the mountain with a perfect view of Encanto. 

 

They had the platform to themselves. It even had a bench. All around them, people were together in huddles, further up and lower down the mountain range, hidden among the trees. Mirabel could hear them whispering and moving around.

 

Nervously, Mirabel watched as lights all around the city went out…All except three. Three little glimmers in Casita, on a balcony. She shuffled closer on the bench to her Tio and handed him one of the lanterns she’d bought; the green one. She held the blue one on her lap.

 

Bruno held the unlit lantern carefully and his expression had gone frighteningly blank, his eyes glassy. His next breath hitched awkwardly and he suddenly knocked on the bench rapidly, muttering, “Knock-knock-knock, knock on wood!” and he finished with a knock to his own head.

 

“You okay?” Mirabel asked quietly. He looked petrified.

 

And sure enough…

 

“I’m terrified,” he admitted in a whisper, his voice wavering. He didn’t look at her, just kept his gaze firmly on the lantern.

 

“How come?” Mirabel asked.

 

“I…” He swallowed and cleared his throat. He finally looked up, staring out at Encanto. “I’ve been…Watching from a window for forty-five years, dreaming about this. What if-?” Bruno sighed and tapped at the lantern, still avoiding her gaze. “What if…It’s not everything I dreamed it would be?”

 

“It will be,” Mirabel said firmly. “Trust me, Tio.”

 

“And what if it is?” Bruno finally looked at her, green eyes wide. “What then?”

 

Mirabel had to think that one over carefully. After a few moments of contemplating, she smiled as the answer came to her.

 

What did you do when you’d lived your dream?

 

“Well, that’s the good thing about dreams: you can have a new one. As many as you want.” Mirabel gestured to their city. “And- and maybe this can be your new dream. Us. Encanto…The family…Our people.” She smiled at him, feeling absurdly shy, suddenly afraid he’d laugh at her. “What do you think?”

 

He didn’t laugh or call her out for pretty much blurting out her own dream. He just smiled at her, with a smile that was so much like Julieta’s.

 

“I think I’d like that,” Bruno said.

 

And if Mirabel’s smile was a little goofy and a lot relieved, that was her own business, thanks very much.

 

The sun fully set then and Mirabel grabbed her uncle’s hand and turned him towards Casita. “There,” she said. “See?”

 

They watched as the first three lanterns rose into the sky: pale blue, vibrant yellow and emerald green.

 

“Oh,” Bruno whispered. He suddenly stood up and climbed up onto the edge of the platform, leaning so far forward that Mirabel was afraid he’d fall. “Oh, wow…”







Julieta walked on shaking legs, her family trailing behind her, her sister and her mother. All of them were silent.

 

It was even worse this year. This year, two members of her family were missing. Her baby girl was lost in the woods, going in circles and Bruno was…Bruno was…

 

Bruno could have been anywhere.

 

At least the lanterns would surely guide Mirabel home.

 

The Madrigals walked out onto the balcony. The three lanterns were already waiting for them. Julieta’s blue, Pepa’s yellow and Bruno’s green. Patterned with butterflies, with healing herbs, with suns and hourglasses. Lanterns she knew like the back of her hand, the same every year.

 

Julieta glanced back, hoping against all hope that Mirabel would suddenly appear. That her youngest would run onto the balcony and apologise for her tardiness, tripping over her own feet.

 

She hoped, as she always did, that someone would run in and say Bruno was safe and sound.

 

Nothing changed and Julieta forced herself to face forward again, to stand in line with Pepa and Alma. 

 

Alma stood in the middle with Julieta on her right and Pepa on her left.

 

They waited for a moment, until the sun fully disappeared over the horizon, until the stars shone overhead.

 

“Now,” Alma said softly, as she did every year.

 

And, as always, Julieta found herself holding her breath and crossing her fingers on one hand while she released her lantern into the sky with the other. “For good luck,” Bruno used to say.

 

With a bit of luck, Mirabel would be home soon.

 

With a miracle, maybe her brother would come home.







Bruno wasn’t sure how to describe how he felt as the lanterns began. First there were the three from Casita- from his sisters, from his mamá- and then more lanterns from Casita, from his nieces and nephews, from his brothers-in-law, from all the royal court, the guards, maids and butlers. Each and every resident of Casita let their lanterns fly free, lighting up the night sky in rising waves of yellow, blue and green.

 

And then Encanto glowed.

 

All around the city, lanterns came alive. Rows upon rows of yellow, blue and green, all over the city; lining the streets, shining from rooftops, sparkling up and down the mountains, even shimmering on the lakes and rivers.

 

They were released into the air and Bruno wasn’t sure if he wanted to laugh from utter joy or cry. Maybe a bit of both. All he knew was he couldn’t look away. He balanced precariously on the railing, still holding his unlit lantern, peering all around him as the lanterns rose, outshining the stars.

 

Then Mirabel climbed up next to him, her lantern lit. She held a little box of matches out and Bruno took two attempts to light his own; his hand kept shaking.

 

But, finally, their lanterns were glowing too and Mirabel grinned at him.

 

“Together?” she asked, and she looked like she was going to start crying too.

 

Bruno nodded, grinning more than he ever had. His rats all climbed from his pockets and scampered around on the railing, watching the show.

 

“One,” Mirabel counted.

 

“Two,” Bruno mouthed, unable to get the word out.

 

“Three!” Mirabel said.

 

They let their lanterns go, watching them swirl up into the air, soon lost among all the others.

 

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Mirabel asked happily.

 

Bruno nodded and, as a new thought hit him, he laughed before he could stop himself and clapped his hands over his mouth.

 

“What?” Mirabel frowned, tilting her head. “Tio Bruno?”

 

“I just…” Bruno gestured to it all, still laughing a little and if he was crying now, so what? “It…It was actually for me after all.”

 

I feel like they’re meant for me, he’d thought so many times over the years, never daring to voice the thought aloud.

 

And he’d been right.

 

All this time, he’d been right.

 

For a while they just watched in silence and Bruno watched raptly, hardly daring to blink, trying to commit every single detail to memory.

 

“So?” Mirabel eventually asked, lightly nudging him. “Is it everything you dreamed?”

 

The lanterns outshone the stars and moon, they rose and swirled in waves, twirling in a nonsensical dance, the most beautiful sight of Bruno’s life. The night air was warm and smelled of flowers, he was surrounded by people who were unknowingly wishing him well; he had a family waiting in a castle and his niece by his side. It was his fiftieth birthday and, simply put, Bruno felt freer than he ever had before.

 

“It’s better,” he said, and it was the truth. It was even more beautiful than he’d dreamed and, truth be told, he’d always thought he’d be watching this alone. He thought he’d find a quiet corner all by himself, avoiding the crowds. He thought he’d be sitting in the dark, just getting a glimpse of whatever the ‘floating lights’ were.

 

He’d never imagined this.

 

“It’s so much better, Mira,” Bruno said, still watching the lanterns. He doubted he’d be able to look away until they stopped.

 

But eventually it had to stop. Slowly, the lights died down. Bruno watched, arm linked with Mirabel’s, as the lanterns all rose further and further overhead, drifting over the mountains and out of sight. Some dipped among the trees and vanished among the foliage. Some skimmed the lakes and rivers, drifting back onto boats and into waiting hands.

 

But the vast majority made it over the mountains, drifting upwards in the familiar pattern Bruno had observed from his tower every year.

 

And then it was done.

 

For a moment, everything was silent. It seemed like the whole city was holding its breath.

 

Then the applause started. Quietly at first then building up and up in a crescendo. If Dolores really had super-hearing then Bruno pitied her poor ears right now. Even he had to cover his ears.

 

“What?” He looked to Mirabel, not even sure what he was asking exactly.

 

Mirabel was clapping too. “This is how it ends every year,” she explained. 

 

“Oh…” Feeling a little awkward (and therefore very much like his usual self) Bruno joined in.

 

As the clapping slowly died down and people started to make their way down the mountain, as candles and lamps flickered to life in homes below them, Mirabel linked her arm with Bruno’s again and helped him down off the ledge. He held his hands out and his rats jumped on, scurrying up his arms and hiding in his pockets and ruana.

 

“So, about that new dream…” Mirabel bounced on the spot, grinning so much it made her eyes squint. “Are you ready to meet your family?”

 

Bruno looked at Casita and, for one strange moment, it felt like the castle was looking back.

 

He felt sick with nerves, he’d freely admit that…But also incredibly happy.

 

Bruno grinned at Mirabel (his niece! His honest to God niece! He’d never get over that) and happily took her hand.

 

“I’m not in the least bit ready,” he laughed. “But…I guess that just means I’m ready as I’ll ever be. You know? I…I don’t think I’m scared anymore, not really.”

 

Mirabel squeezed his hand and began to lead the way back down the mountain trail, following the crowd.

 

“Funny you should say that,” she said, still with that beaming grin. “I don’t think I am either.”

Chapter Text

“If I don't make it back from where I've gone, just know I loved you all along. If I don't make it back from where I've gone, just know I loved you all along. If I don't make it back from where I've gone, just know I loved you all along. If I don't make it back from where I've gone, just know I loved you all along…” - Inkpot Gods, The Amazing Devil




Mirabel’s hands were sweating. She walked through the darkened streets, hand in hand with her no-longer-lost Tio, and her hands were sweating, her knees felt like jelly.

 

They walked towards Casita and Mirabel could see some windows open and close, some tiles on the roof rippling.

 

Casita’s waiting, Mirabel realised. She grinned and picked up the pace.

 

“Dolores!” she called. “Get everyone to the courtyard, we’re coming!”

 

But when they reached the main plaza, their fairytale shattered.

 

Bruno suddenly stumbled, his eyes flashing green. He bent over double, pulling away from Mirabel to clutch his head, letting out a tiny pained groan.

 

“Tio!?” Mirabel wrapped an arm around him, trying to steady him. “Tio Bruno?”

 

His head snapped up, the glow fading away. He suddenly looked terrified, his hands trembling.

 

“Run,” he hissed, pushing her away. “Mira, run!”

 

“W-what?”

 

“I wouldn’t bother,” a smug male voice said. Three figures stepped out of the shadows: one woman, two men. “You won’t get far.”

 

Zarita stood between Gabino and Julio Diaz and Mirabel was startled by the change in the woman. When Mirabel had seen her, she’d looked young and beautiful, with lustrous black hair and gleaming brown eyes, full lips and a sweet smile. Now her hair had generous streaks of grey, there were deep wrinkles around her eyes and thinned mouth; Mirabel could even see wrinkles and age spots on her hands, clasped lightly in front of her. There were red sparks jumping from her hands and Bruno pushed Mirabel behind him, pulling the little knife from his satchel.

 

“Oh, Bruno, don’t be so dramatic,” Zarita sighed. She smiled at the Diaz Brothers. “Boys?”

 

Heavily armed as always, they stalked forward like cats. Mirabel certainly felt like a mouse in a trap.

 

Mirabel wasn’t armed, but she still said, “Don’t take another step!”

 

They ignored her, of course. Bruno was nudging her backwards, towards the hill, standing between her and the three monsters in front of them.

 

And then Bruno held his crown out. The Diaz Brothers stopped dead, clearly stunned. Their greedy eyes zeroed in on the crown.

 

“This is what you want, right?” Bruno asked, and Mirabel had to hand it to him: his voice didn’t even waver. “You can have it. We don’t need it. We don't want it.” He held his knife in his right hand and his crown in his left. He stood as tall as he could, his voice firm and Mirabel could so easily imagine that glittering crown on his head. Bruno sounded like the Prince he truly was.

 

“We do want it,” Gabino acknowledged. He almost sounded polite. His grin widened, still uncomfortably cat-like. “But it’s a matter of pride, pal. You understand?”

 

“Can’t say I do,” Bruno said. He took a deep breath and screamed, “DOLORES, HURRY!”

 

“Son of a bitch!” Gabino leapt forward and grabbed Bruno by the neck, throwing him against the wall. Julio ran at Mirabel, sword raised and Mirabel ran for Bruno, barely dodging his swing.

 

“TIO BRUNO!”

 

“Tio?” Zarita repeated. She laughed, a hard, cold sound. “Tio!” All at once, her face twisted in a scowl. The red light grew around her hands. “So you figured it out, hm? Clever girl.”

 

Mirabel didn’t get the chance to answer; Gabino swore loudly and dropped Bruno. It only took Mirabel a second to see why: the rats had run out of Bruno’s ruana and onto Gabino, biting at his hands, even his face and neck, drawing blood in a way that made Mirabel queasy. Bruno knelt on the ground, gasping for breath.

 

Julio gaped, frozen for a moment at the bizarre sight. Then he ran forward, sword aimed at Bruno.

 

“No!” Mirabel screamed, surprisingly joined by Zarita. With a wave of her hand, bright red light surrounded Julio and yanked him back like a lasso.

 

“That,” Zarita hissed. “Was not part of the deal!” Julio hovered inches from the ground, encased in red light. “He is not to be harmed!”

 

Well, when would they get a better opportunity to run for it? Mirabel sprinted for her uncle, already holding her hand out for him.

 

Bruno looked at Mirabel as she ran for him; he looked at Gabino, Julio and Zarita, and his previously soft eyes hardened like ice. A determined look came onto his face, his jaw clenched and every inch of him tensed, and Mirabel suddenly remembered-




“Your Abuelo was a gentleman,” Abuela said quietly. “And a gentle man.”

 

“There’s a difference?” Ten-year-old Mirabel asked.

 

“Sí,” Abuela said with one of her rare smiles. “And one should fear the fury of a gentle man, Mira.”

 

“Like Papí?”


Abuela nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, it would be like your papá getting angry.”




Bruno yanked off his satchel and shouted, “Mira, RUN! ” and threw it to her with all his strength.




“Your Abuelo was gentle,” Abuela said. “He had a warmth to him, especially in his eyes. His eyes were soft. But that night at the river…”

 

“Yes, Abuela?”

 

“I have never seen such determination in a man’s eyes, Mirabel.” Abuela looked solemn and haunted. It was a look that Mirabel hated.




On instinct, Mirabel caught it. She cradled it to her chest like she had before- was it only yesterday? Was it really only yesterday?- and, for a moment, she felt frozen.

 

“Tio-”

 

“Run!”

 

You look so much like Abuelo, Mirabel thought, numb with growing horror.

 

“Like hell she will!” Gabino shouted. He finally got the last rat off and they disappeared into the shadows, running down an alley. Gabino’s hands and face were streaked with blood, even his neck had blood smeared on it; he was covered in bites and deep scratches. He looked wild and the growing rage in his eyes only served to make him look like a madman.

 

Mirabel would admit then, that she was terrified. As Gabino Diaz turned on her, she thought, This is it, we’re going to die this time.

 

Bruno threw himself onto Gabino’s back, tackling him to the ground, his small hands barely managing to wrap around the other man’s neck.

 

“Go!”

 

“Tio, I can’t-” I can’t leave you.

 

“NOW, MIRABEL!”

 

Zarita let Julio fall and stalked forward, red sparks at her feet, at the ends of her hair, coating her hands.

 

Screaming, she flung the red light at Mirabel.

 

Mirabel ducked and ran for the hill, listening to the sound of rubble falling behind her. She looked back and saw a hole in the wall where Zarita’s magic had hit.

 

Lights were coming on in houses. There were sleepy calls and frightened cries. Mirabel thought she heard someone call her name.

 

And Bruno had wrestled away one of Julio’s long knives from the fallen thug. Julio lay on the cobblestones, clutching his chest. What had Zarita done to him?

 

Bruno’s aim swerved between Gabino, the still-gasping Julio and Zarita, like he wasn’t sure who he should be looking at.

 

Sobbing, Mirabel ran.

 

She hadn’t been so frightened before, when it was just her. But now? Now she was terrified. Now, everything felt like a living nightmare.




“You useless little rats!” Zarita hissed. The Diaz Brothers! What a joke! They couldn’t even kill one brat.

 

Zarita screamed and a wave of magic erupted from her in a bright red light, nearly knocking Gabino off his feet. But it certainly knocked Bruno off his feet and Zarita would take what she could get. He fell against the ruined wall, smacking his head off the edge.

 

She’d so hoped to corner them and then Mirabel would be dead at the hands of the Diaz Brothers. No one would be searching for her, because no one would have even known she was there…Except the Diaz Brothers, and they’d certainly hang. And they didn’t know who Bruno was anyway- and if they had, who would believe them?

 

But the brat had run. Bruno told her to run.

 

Her little seer pushed himself to his knees, still clutching the long knife. Gabino swore behind her and she was only distantly aware of the man pulling his brother after Princess Mirabel. Julio was still shuddering and gasping. 

 

“Oh, Bruno,” Zarita sighed. “Now look what you did.”

 

People were waking up, she could hear them. They were getting louder and, in a matter of moments, someone would reach the plaza.

 

She’d hoped to frighten him into coming willingly. After all, it had worked all these years, hadn’t it? Erasing his memories when he was a child was one thing but as an adult? It would be much harder work. 

 

Bruno touched the back of his head and his fingertips came away smeared with blood. As Zarita stalked forward, he scrambled to his feet and tried to run, tried to go after his damnable niece.

 

Maybe being stubborn and foolish ran in the Madrigal family.

 

Zarita grabbed him by the hair and yanked him back, bearing his throat. Her knife was steady in her hand and Bruno froze.

 

“We could have done this the easy way,” Zarita whispered to him. “You could have just…Come quietly. Begged for forgiveness. Being brave doesn’t suit you, amor, it’s just plain foolishness. All it does is get you killed; be foolish and you end up dead in a river like your padré.”

 

Bruno’s expression twisted with rage.

 

“Go to hell,” he spat.

 

Zarita smiled. “Oh, mi amor…If I go down…” I’m taking you with me.

 

The threat of the knife kept him in place and the red light encased him, and then that held him in place. Zarita pressed her lips together, straining with the effort. 

 

“Poor, foolish little seer,” she cooed, sweat gathering at her temples. “Did you really think you could get away from me?”

 

She’d give credit where it was due: he didn’t break eye contact, glaring her down as long as he could even as she could see pain building in his eyes, threatening to break through his expression…until the magic overcame him and his eyes slipped shut and he turned limp as a rag doll. Zarita held him against her, chest heaving as she caught her breath.

 

Right then. She needed a new plan and she needed her Sun Flower.

 

But first, these new memories would have to go.







“DOLORES, HURRY!”

 

Dolores didn’t squeak- she outright shrieked and ran for the gates.

 

“TIO BRUNO! MIRA!”

 

Behind her, her baffled family erupted into chaos, shouting after her, demanding to know what she’d just said, what she’d heard.

 

All except Camilo, who ran right after her.

 

“I shouldn’t have left them alone,” she heard her brother mutter as they ran through the gates and into the city.

 

“Dolores, Cami!” Their mamá was coming after them. “Kids, wait!”

 

But Dolores couldn’t wait, she couldn’t, she couldn’t wait anymore. She just ran as fast as her legs could carry her, listening for her baby cousin and her tio. 

 

She could hear Mirabel shouting for help and then, most bafflingly, the sound of a frying pan hitting someone on the head.

 

She could not hear her Tio Bruno anymore.

 

But Dolores heard someone else, a woman: “Did you really think you could get away from me?”







“HELP!” Mirabel screamed as she ran. “WE NEED HELP!” She took the next corner too sharply, stumbled and nearly fell, crashing into the wall.

 

Gabino Diaz’s massive hand wrapped around her arm and Mirabel shrieked.

 

But then-

 

Clang!

 

In shock at the sound, Gabino’s grip slackened and another pair of hands pulled her away, pulling her against a lanky chest, a bloodstained shirt.

 

André held her close, practically bent over double to cover her. Gustavo had his fists raised and, for the first time, he appeared sober.

 

Tiago stood over Julio, who was out cold on the ground. He held a frying pan, still raised high.

 

“Frying pans,” he said simply. “Who knew, huh?” Absurdly, he grinned at Mirabel. “And I was just looking for new kitchen gear!”

 

Gabino practically growled, “You’re fucking kidding me.”

 

Lightning flashed, thunder roared, and Mirabel had never been so relieved to see a storm.

 

Tia Pepa came running with Dolores and Camilo, with the entire family at her heels. Pepa’s cloud was black as coal, spreading out further and further; her hair and skirts whipped around furiously in her gusts of wind and rain pelted her, quickly turning into hail.

 

Surprisingly, it was Isabela who struck first.

 

Massive, thorny vines erupted from the ground and wrapped around Gabino like ropes and threw Gabino to the left; they tightened around him and flung him to the right, slamming him into the ground so hard that Mirabel saw some cobblestones crack. The vines pinned him down, tearing into his skin and one particularly large thorn hovered centimetres from his neck.

 

Isabela, Senorita Perfecta, loomed over him like a vengeful goddess. Pepa’s lightning flashed, highlighting Isabela’s rage.

 

For the first time, Gabino looked afraid

 

“You,” Isabela hissed and the vines tightened their grip further. “You tried to kill my hermanita.”

 

“MIRA!” Julieta was pulling her away from André and Mirabel was frantically babbling, “No, don’t hurt them, don’t hurt them, they saved me!” 

 

Her three friends held their hands up in surrender anyway. Isabela snapped her fingers and vines surrounded Julio, though he was still out cold.

 

Abuela held a hand to her heart and Mirabel was terrified she was going to collapse there and then.

 

“Abuela,” Mirabel said, her voice cracking. “Abuela, he’s gone, I’m sorry, I lost him again.”

 

Abuela looked utterly lost. She walked forward slowly, cupping Mirabel’s face in her hands. Julieta and Agustín clung to her, Luisa sobbed over her, but Mirabel couldn’t look away from her abuela.

 

“Who’s lost, Mirabel?” Abuela asked, oddly gentle, like she was afraid Mirabel would run off or break. Mirabel thought she might, she really might.

 

Squeak, squeak.

 

Mirabel turned her head to find Antonio standing there, Tio Bruno’s rats on his shoulders and in his hands. He stared at Mirabel, stunned.

 

“Tio Bruno?” he whispered.

 

Julieta froze. Pepa’s cloud thundered and she looked at Dolores.

 

“You said…You said Mira and…” She shook her head. “And Tio Bruno…”

 

Dolores’s eyes welled with tears. “I’m sorry, Mamí.”

 

CRACK!

 

CRACK!

 

CRACK!

 

CRACK, CRACK, CRACK!

 

Mirabel looked at her aunt, but it wasn’t Pepa’s cloud this time.

 

Above them, up on the hill, cracks spread out along Casita’s outer walls like terrible wounds, like spiderwebs, like deep scars. They crawled up Bruno’s tower, they surrounded the doors and shattered the windows. The whole castle seemed to sway on its foundations.

 

“Mirabel?” Abuela’s voice shook. Her voice never shook. Like a child, Mirabel wanted to cover her ears, to shake her head and close her eyes until it all went away.

 

“Mija?” Julieta wiped Mirabel’s tears away. When had Mirabel started crying? She couldn’t remember. All she could think of then, was Tio Bruno’s vision: Casita, breaking. Casita, healing. Breaking, healing, breaking, breaking, breaking…It was all breaking.

 

“He told me to run,” Mirabel whispered and she clutched the satchel to her chest, her fingers digging into the ratty cloth. “He saved me, Mamí.”

 

I didn’t save him, I didn’t bring him home.

 

The sobs burst out of her, stealing her breath.

 

“I- I’ve never seen a vision with more than one outcome before. Not until now. But, my guess? Whatever’s coming next…It’ll all come down to you.”


I failed, Mirabel thought, clinging to her mother as her family once more broke apart around her. I failed Tio Bruno. I failed Abuela. I failed everyone.

Chapter Text

“I'll save my home and family. Now the line's in the sand and our moment's at hand, and I'm ready. I'm ready, I'm ready…Ready as I'll ever be.” - Ready As I’ll Ever Be, Tangled: The Series




Present Day…




Some of the kids were crying and Mirabel’s heart cracked.

 

“It’s okay!” she said quickly. “It all worked out!”

 

Luisa sniffled and wiped at her eyes. Isabela’s grip on Mirabel’s arm tightened. She couldn’t blame them; they all knew what was coming next.

 

“I hate her!” Juancho declared, clutching his coffee tightly, tears in his eyes. “I hate Zarita!”

 

“Trust me, kid, we all do, Camilo snorted. 

 

“I’d like to smash the Diaz Brothers into the ground again,” Isabela said with a thoughtful little frown. 

 

Absolutely no one was surprised by this. In fact, Mirabel would guess that most of their gathered audience agreed. Some of the adults were looking downright vengeful. 

 

“It worked out,” Mirabel repeated. “We…” She trailed away with a sigh, glancing at her sisters and cousins. “Well, it was dangerous. Really dangerous. But we brought Tio Bruno home.”

 

You did,” Camilo corrected.

 

We did,” Mirabel said firmly. “It was a team effort.”




One year ago…




Alma was holding her son’s ruana. No, not the one from when he was five; this was a new one. This was the ruana he’d let Mirabel wear.

 

In actual fact, it was clearly an old ruana, not new at all. Its hem was frayed, some seams were torn (especially around the shoulders); it was faded and patched. It was green, patterned with faded hourglasses and smelled of incense. 

 

Bruno had let Mirabel wear this. Bruno had been here, he’d been with Mirabel. He’d been so close, mere minutes away from Alma.

 

With a few minutes’ difference, she could have been holding her son now, not just his ruana. 

 

Pedro, help me, Alma thought, clutching the faded fabric to her chest. Help me. I don’t know how to save him.

 

She held Bruno’s ruana and his crown was on the little table next to her. The satchel Mirabel had been carrying was next to it. Bruno’s satchel, her son’s satchel. Her son had belongings, things that hadn’t just been his as a small child. He had belongings because he was alive and well and so close…

 

They’d found two shards of a vision tablet inside the satchel, wrapped in cloth and faintly glowing. When fitted together they showed Mirabel in front of a wall- Casita’s wall. From one angle, the wall was cracked and crumbled. From another angle, it was whole and well. Alma wondered when he’d learned to do that. She’d only seen him give visions with one out-come before. Was this a new ability, something he’d learned over the years, or was it a fluke? A one-off?

 

Bruno had seen Mirabel in a vision. He’d seen Casita. Was this why he’d gone with her? Had he known he could trust her?

 

Alma wanted to ask him. She wanted to ask him so badly.

 

Her family was all around her and everyone was talking much too loudly and much too quickly. It was a garbled, jumbled sound to Alma’s ears. All she could focus on was her son’s belongings.

 

Bruno, she thought, as if he could hear her. Please. Please, you need to come home now. 

 

Her son had been in the city, he’d been watching the lanterns with Mirabel. Had he enjoyed them? Did he think they were beautiful? Did he think it was too much? Was green still his favourite colour? His ruana was green…

 

“It’s in the forest,” Mirabel said, raising her voice above everyone else’s. It pulled at Alma and she struggled to hold onto her granddaughter’s voice, to be the Queen they all needed her to be.

 

But they were sitting in her cracking, breaking throne room and Alma’s son was gone. Gone, gone, lost again. Snatched away again, and Alma hadn’t been there again.

 

“The fog was so thick,” Mirabel was saying. Her voice was still hoarse from crying, sobbing the way Alma wished she could do herself. “We’ll need Dolores.”

 

“Then let’s go,” Dolores spoke up, surprisingly harsh. “We can’t wait anymore! I know what he sounds like now, we can find him.”

 

“We can’t let you kids go running after some crazy witch,” Agustín protested.

 

“I’m not asking permission, Tio,” Dolores said.

 

“I’m going,” Mirabel said, her voice cracking again. “I’m not leaving him!”

 

“No one’s leaving him, amor,” Julieta said soothingly. She was still holding Mirabel in her arms, stroking her hair. “We’re bringing him home.”

 

One of Mirabel’s strange companions, the one with the eye-patch spoke up; “We can go with you, sounds like you’ll need every pair of hands you can get.”

 

“That’s kind of you,” Julieta said. “But-”

 

“They can go,” Alma said, still staring at the cracking ground.

 

“Mamá?”

 

“Mirabel’s…Friends. Let them help.”

 

“Mamá…” Pepa stepped closer, hovering anxiously. The cloud above her hadn’t stopped raining for even a second and the poor woman was soaked. Alma blinked up at her, struggling to dispel the fog from her mind.

 

Pepa. Julieta. Pepa and Julieta. Her girls. They still needed her too. She needed to be strong for them; if she was strong, she could lead them. If she could lead them well, they could bring Bruno home.

 

Pedro, she thought, forcing herself to stand. Watch over him. Keep him safe just a little while longer. We’re bringing him home.

 

“Mirabel knows the way,” Alma said, and she’d admit she was reluctant to say it. But if they sent Dolores in blind, who knew how long it would take to find this tower? “She can lead Dolores to the right place. And then you will do whatever is necessary to bring our Bruno home.”

 

“And the witch, Your Majesty?” Rafael asked.

 

Alma didn’t hesitate: “Kill her.”

 

Zarita, the woman’s name was Zarita. Alma had always wondered what it was. The demon who stole her son in the night. Zarita.

 

Alma wanted her head on a spike.

 

She held her son’s ruana protectively, breathed in the scent of incense and tried to tell herself it would be over soon. For now she was a Queen, the leader Encanto and her family needed her to be. But soon, soon, maybe she could finally rest.

 

This time, oh, this time, Bruno was coming home.







Mirabel ran through the palace. towards the stables. All around her, Casita was breaking apart. One of the walls in the yard had completely crumbled. A hurricane was picking up, Tia Pepa couldn’t calm down and Mirabel wished she could storm with her.

 

If Mirabel had a Gift for weather, she could drown the whole world right now.

 

She’d failed, she’d failed, she hadn’t brought Tio Bruno home. Zarita had stolen him again, he’d saved Mirabel, but Mirabel hadn’t saved him.

 

She was going to now. Come hell or high water, she was going to save her uncle.

 

Before she left the throne room, Isabela pulled her into a tight hug, almost as tight as Luisa’s.

 

“You’d better both come home,” Isabela hissed; an order, not a plea.

 

“You’d better keep Casita standing then,” Mirabel said. She glanced at the little table by Abuela’s throne and picked up the vision shards. Casita breaking, Casita healing…And Mirabel at the centre.

 

She slipped them into her pocket. For courage, for good luck, to give them back to Tio Bruno and show him he was right. 

 

If this all came down to Mirabel she was going to do whatever it took to ensure their happy ending. Their family had been breaking apart for forty-five years and, unknown to them, Casita had been breaking too.

 

They needed to fix it. Mirabel needed to fix it. She’d been so wrapped up in the fairytale of it all, in the magic of finding her Tio; she’d imagined herself bringing him home to them all, she’d just wanted him to have a good birthday, to enjoy himself before the spotlight was inevitably thrust onto him…And because she’d gotten swept along in her own story, she’d failed.

 

No more fairytales, Mirabel told herself as she reached the stables. The courtyard was a wreck; a massive, jagged crack nearly split the courtyard in half. There were little piles of rubble everywhere, dust and plaster scattered about and so many servants frantically trying to salvage everything.

 

This time, Mirabel thought. I’ll save my home and family.

 

This time she was going to do it right.

 

She climbed onto her horse and lightly touched her pocket, feeling the vision shards inside.

 

Casita would heal. Her family would heal.

 

Mirabel was going to bring Bruno home.

 

She was off like a shot, riding ahead of the others, riding as fast as the wind. Dolores followed right behind and, judging by Tio Félix’s dismayed shout, it seemed that Camilo had joined them.

 

That was fine by Mirabel. She wasn’t going to risk being alone this time.

 

The Diaz Brothers were locked in the dungeons and under heavy guard. Judging from Isabela’s muttered plans, her sister fully intended to terrify them some more. They weren’t a danger to the Madrigals anymore.

 

No, the real danger was hidden in the forest, in a pretty tower, posing as a sugar-sweet lady. A witch, a kidnapper, a monster.

 

I’m ready this time, Mirabel thought as they hurried through the city’s gates and over the bridge. She glanced at Abuelo Pedro’s river and prayed for strength. I’m ready.




I’m ready, Dolores thought, riding after her cousin. She kept close to Mirabel, listening to every sound of the forest, trying to find her Tio’s voice, his heartbeat, or the voice of the woman she’d heard before.

 

I’m ready, I’m ready, I can do this.

 

It was time to stand up and fight. Dolores wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines and quietly listen anymore.




I’m ready, Camilo thought, riding past his dismayed father, ignoring Félix shouting at him to turn around and go back inside. He was riding so fast the wind cut tears into his eyes, spurring his horse on faster and faster.

 

We can do this. We can do this together. Camilo’s eyes narrowed as he struggled to keep pace with Mirabel, catching up on Dolores.

 

Like Abuela always said: they were the Madrigals. They were strong. They could do anything.




Julieta stood in front of the portrait by her room: a portrait of her, Pepa and Bruno as tiny children. Their crowns were too big, sitting at awkward angles on their heads. Their eyes were bright, their smiles even brighter.

 

I’m ready, Julieta thought, staring at her brother’s painted face. Please, I’m ready. Save him, bring him home, bring him back to me.




Isabela leaned against the dungeon’s wall, glaring at the chained Diaz Brothers, a guard on either side of her. There was mud on her skirt, tangles in her hair and sweat on her forehead. She was not the perfect princess or heir, not the graceful young woman everyone expected…But maybe that was perfect.

 

Time to rise up or stand down, Isabela thought, fists clenched. She’d never passed down a sentence like this before, but she didn’t tremble, she didn’t flinch away. She let herself glare, let her anger show freely. These men had tried to kill Mirabel.

 

“You will hang at dawn,” she said coldly.

 

Julio glowered at her. Gabino was still scratched and bloody, both from Isabela’s vines and Tio Bruno’s rats. What a combination. 

 

“If there’s even a castle left by then,” Gabino sneered.

 

Isabela stepped closer, letting her thorns creep along the ground. Sundew appeared at her feet.

 

“I don’t need a hangman,” she hissed, leaning in to clutch the bars of the cell. 

 

They flinched away. They, the fierce Diaz Brothers, flinched away from her.

 

Rise up, she told herself. Don’t let them see you crumble. 

 

She didn’t need to be a sweet little rose anymore, the golden child, the perfect one. Right now, she was free to be as furious, loud and dangerous as she wanted. Free to protect her family in her own way.

 

Isabela was finding this suited her a lot better.




Work together, Luisa told herself. She was hurrying around Casita, helping the servants patch the cracks as fast as possible. She held up walls and got valuables to safety. She sat with Tia Pepa and Antonio and tried to help Pepa calm down. 

 

This is it, Luisa thought, staring out at the ruined courtyard. This is the day, isn’t it?

 

Casita was going to heal or shatter entirely. And her baby sister was at the centre of it all. How crazy was that?

 

“Hold on, Casita,” she whispered, resting her hand over a crack. “Hold on just a little longer.”




Pepa sat on the front steps of Casita, one of the few places left without cracks, letting the weather rage around her. She sat stiffly, her hands on her knees with Antonio by her side.

 

Sitting on Antonio’s knees were four little rats. Their names were Rosita, Victoria, Amado and Fidel. They were her little brother’s rats.

 

Bruno had pets. He’d always insisted he wanted a pet rat when they were children. Despite everything, despite the absolute hell she was going through, it made Pepa smile just a little. At least her Brunito got one thing he’d wanted.

 

Please, she thought, unknowingly mimicking her sister. Please. I’m ready. We’re all ready. We’ve waited so long, just bring him home to us.

 

“They’ll be okay, Mamá,” Antonio said.

 

“Sí, mijo,” Pepa said, trying to smile for him. “Of course they will.” Because they’d found something else in Bruno’s bag: another vision. A vision tablet, whole and sparkling.

 

A vision of the Madrigal triplets embracing.

 

Pepa would cling to that with all her might. Bruno’s visions had always come through before, why should this one be any different?

 

She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t terrified anyway.

 

By god was she ready to hug her brother again.




I’m ready, Alma thought as she directed their servants and guards, trying to keep her home from breaking entirely. I’ve been ready for so long. We’re all ready.

 

I’m ready, Julieta thought, clutching the vision tablet like a lifeline, studying the green image of her, Pepa and Bruno embracing. Her brother’s face was hidden by Julieta’s head, but she’d know that mop of hair anywhere. Please, I’m ready.

 

I’m ready, Dolores thought as the wind howled with her mother’s grief. We’re going to bring him home.

 

I’m ready, Félix thought, leading the guards with Rafael, racing after his kids and Mirabel. He had a witch to hunt, a hermano to bring home safely.

 

I’m ready, Camilo thought. I swear, we’re ready, we can do this.

 

I’m ready, Pepa thought, tilting her face back and letting the rain pelt down. Just let us be triplets again.

 

 

I’m ready, Mirabel thought furiously. She reigned up her horse, eyes narrowing as she spotted the crumbled ledge she’d fallen from. The horse reared on its hind legs, neighing loudly, but even so Mirabel struggled to hear it over the thunder and wind. 

 

“This is it!” Mirabel shouted. Dolores raised a hand to indicate she’d heard and Mirabel watched her cousin tilt her head, listening.

 

“To the south-east!” Dolores shouted back, the loudest Mirabel had ever heard her.

 

“Ready!?” Camilo called over all the noise as they hurried down the steep ledge. Félix swore and followed close behind, the guards struggling with the steep and narrow path. Tiago, André and Gustavo were among them, but Mirabel didn't dare look back for them.

 

Mirabel stared grimly ahead. She thought of Tio Bruno and her grip on the reins tightened.

 

“Ready as I’ll ever be.”







Not so far away, feeling like his limbs were made of lead and his head was made of clouds, Bruno slowly woke up and stared blearily at his painted ceiling. A storm raged outside, an absolute hurricane, and he could hear Madré Zarita hurrying about downstairs. 

 

Through the fog in his mind, hazy and distant…He saw a shimmer of gold.

Chapter Text

“And I don't need you, I found a strength I've never known. I'll bring thunder, I'll bring rain, oh, when I'm finished they won't even know your name. You brought the flames and you put me through hell, I had to learn how to fight for myself. And we both know all the truth I could tell, I'll just say this is 'I wish you farewell.'“  - Praying, Kesha




Bruno was adrift, cut off from reality. He couldn’t be sure of what was a dream and what wasn’t. His whole body was too heavy, weighed down, like it was made of lead. He barely managed to open his eyes, looking uncomprehendingly at his painted ceiling. He saw a glimmer of gold and his eyes drifted shut again.




He floated on a bed of clouds and thunder rumbled in the distance. Gold washed over him in waves, glowing butterflies bat their wings against his eyes. Floating lights swirled upwards into darkness, turning into stars. His rats squeaked and pulled his hair. 

 

His rats were strangely silent and he couldn’t find them…

 

He walked through a tunnel of gold, surrounded by butterflies of all sizes; some as big as his head, some no larger than his thumb. He could hear a river somewhere, but he couldn’t see it. All he could see was gold.

 

The Sun Flower floated in the sky, petals unfurling and raining down shining pollen, eclipsing the sun and the sky turned black.

 

Butterflies grew to the size of houses and shattered into pieces, the same green as his vision tablets.

 

Vision tablet after vision tablet smashed to the ground, piling up and up, forming a tower.

 

A castle broke, a castle healed. A candle blazed, a candle dimmed…

 

A man made of gold, wearing a crown of candlelight, stood in a red river with his hands raised in surrender. He looked at Bruno with diamond-bright eyes and smiled.

 

A candle blazed, a candle dimmed. A castle broke, a castle healed…

 

Among it all, floating ahead, was a glimmer of gold. A small shape, leaving a trail of sparks and glitter in its wake.

 

Bruno looked down and saw chains wrapping around his arms like snakes. He pulled them off as easily as if they were pieces of string and kept walking, following the glimmer of gold, always just out of reach.

 

And then what happened? And then what happened? And then what happened?

 

He was five and someone was dragging him. There was fire, the awful smell of smoke clogging the air. People were shouting, “BURN THE WITCHES!”

 

A woman he didn’t know screamed his name and the hands released him-

 

Wait. That wasn’t right. A woman he didn’t know…He knew his mother’s voice, didn’t he?

 

A pair of gentle hands adjusted his posture, a fond voice said, “No slouching, mi luciérnaga.”

 

That same voice again, “It’s okay, Brunito, I have you safe.”

 

And again, fond and exasperated: “Mijo, are you even listening?”

 

And again: “Bruno, are you okay? Do you need to sit down?”

 

And again: “Bruno, mijo, can you hear me?”

 

And again, again, again: “Bruno, mi Brunito, it’s alright; Mamá’s here.”

 

He…He knew his mother’s voice…

 

His own voice then: “What’s my mamá’s name?”

 

Another voice, a girl, far away and echoing: “Her name is Alma…” Alma…Alma what? 




Slowly, Bruno opened his aching eyes. The room spun around him, everything was blurred at the edges. His head pounded, his eyes stung like he’d just had ten visions in a row. He felt faint. He felt sick. 

 

He swallowed, wincing at the ache in his throat. He blinked hard, trying to clear his vision. It kind of worked.

 

What…What had happened? And when did this hurricane start? It had been clear when he got up this morning, hadn’t it? He didn’t remember going to take a nap. He didn’t remember passing out (though that was nothing new). But he didn’t even remember having a vision, so what made him collapse?

 

He had fainted, hadn’t he? It felt like it.

 

Bruno’s thoughts felt untethered, everything slipping through his fingers like sand before he could try to make sense of anything. He could hear Madré Zarita downstairs, rushing about and-

 

And…

 

She wasn’t meant to be here, was she? Hadn’t she left early this morning?

 

Gritting his teeth against the pain, Bruno pushed himself up onto his elbows and looked around his room. He was lying on his bed, a hurricane raged outside; lightning flashed uncomfortably close, illuminating his room.

 

His ruana hung on his wardrobe door and- and that was not his ruana. No, of course it was, that was nonsense. It was just…

 

Bruno didn’t recognise it. At least, he didn’t think he did.

 

Still going slowly, he got off the bed and made his way to the wardrobe. It was only a few steps but he couldn’t shake the feeling it was of the utmost importance to stay silent. 

 

The ruana was green, which only made sense. Green was his favourite colour. But…It looked brand new. It wasn’t patterned with hourglasses, it was patterned with butterflies…

 

“Follow that butterfly.”

 

Who had he said that to?

 

Bruno’s heart was pounding, his hands were shaking, and he couldn’t understand why. It was just a ruana. Just a pretty pattern. Just some butterflies…

 

“Follow that butterfly.”

 

What butterfly?

 

Frustrated, he turned away, back towards the bed- and froze. Right behind the headboard, so long ago they were faded now, he’d painted a whole swarm of butterflies all in shades of yellow and blue.

 

And…And there. On the wardrobe handles. A pair of miniscule butterflies.

 

And there! Up on the ceiling, right above Bruno’s head was a golden butterfly, flying close to the sun. And another, another golden one hovering over gold and purple flowers.

 

All at once, they all jumped out at him. Butterflies, so many butterflies, hidden in each and every painting if they weren’t the focus. Butterflies on clothes, on flags, flying in swarms, floating above flowers and rivers, twisting up his bedroom door.

 

Butterflies and hourglasses. Butterflies and people. Butterflies and flowers.

 

“Follow that butterfly.”




A boy shook out the ruana with a flourish. “Ta-da! What do you think?”



The city was decorated with bright banners and flags; purple flags with golden butterflies. He’d seen this in his vision, hadn’t he? One of the visions Zarita had…

 

One of the visions Madré Zarita had smashed. She’d smashed them and ordered him to clean them up. It had been storming, though not so badly as it was now. 

 

It was…It was his birthday. No, it was going to be his birthday. No, it had been his birthday yesterday and-




Water was rising and a girl was clutching him tightly, like he was a lifeline. She called him Oscar, because Bruno had lied about his name. She was a Princess, trying to bring home…

 

Her uncle’s crown. A crown of gold, emeralds and diamonds. A crown engraved with swirls, hourglasses and butterflies.

 

He held the crown out to her. “It’s yours. I’m sorry. Again, I mean. Sorry again.” Because he hadn’t believed her, he’d thought she was lying, that she was a thief who had stolen the crown.

 

But she hadn’t. It had been stolen and she’d stolen it back.

 

Her name was…Her name was…




“Who are you?” Bruno demanded, grip tightening on the pan. Oh God, was he actually going to have to hit her? “And how did you find me?” 

 

She just stared. She didn’t exactly look like a murderer. 

 

But she sure looked crazy, covered in dirt and blood. He couldn’t let his guard down.

 

“Well?” Bruno snapped impatiently. 

 

“I…I’m…”




Bruno was clutching the bedpost, gasping for breath. “Mirabel,” he whispered. Mirabel, Mirabel, how could he have forgotten?

 

Zarita.

 

He froze completely, his grip on the bedpost tightening, his shaking legs threatening to drop him to the floor. 

 

Zarita, it was her, it was all her.

 

Your mamá’s name is Alma Madrigal, he reminded himself. Your sisters are Julieta and Pepa. He’d nearly forgotten them again. 

 

Not again. Not ever again.

 

Mamá, Julieta, Pepa. Mirabel, Isabela, Luisa. Camilo, Dolores, Antonio. Félix, Agustín.

 

He had a family. They were alive. They were looking for him.

 

Mirabel, oh God, Mirabel, had she gotten away? Did she get home? Was she safe? Or had the Diaz Brothers…No. No, she was okay. She had to be okay. 

 

“Shit,” Bruno whispered to himself, knocking his head against the post. He knocked on it rapidly, gritting his teeth, trying to ground himself. Now was not the time to spiral. He had to stay focused. He had to get out of here and go home.

 

He pulled on his new ruana, the one Camilo had given him and stared at his bedroom door. Well, no wonder he couldn’t hear his rats. They were back in Encanto. They’d be panicking, wondering where he’d gone. His poor little friends.

 

Focus, Bruno, he sternly told himself. You need to stay focused. 

 

He was Bruno, he was Prince Bruno Madrigal and he was scared, he was so scared, but he had to be brave now. He had to find a way home.

 

He wished he still had his knife. He wished he still had his frying pan.

 

Gulping, Bruno looked around and the countless butterflies seemed to flap their wings.

 

Butterflies. The symbol of the Madrigal family. They’d been here all along, waiting for him to notice, to remember.

 

“Gracias,” he whispered.

 

Downstairs, the frantic movement stopped.

 

“Bruno?” Zarita called. Bruno had known her too long to not hear the slight waver in her voice. “Amor, are you awake yet?” She was nervous. Good. She should be.

 

Clenching his fists, Bruno opened the door and stood there, looking down at her imperiously. 

 

You’re a Prince, he reminded himself. Act like it.

 

There was a flicker of surprise on her face at his appearance. No doubt she’d expected him to stumble from his room, apologies already on his lips. No doubt, his silence took her by surprise. Shoulders back, chin up, just like Alma had always tried to tell him.

 

“Zarita,” Bruno said coldly. She’d clearly used the Sun Flower since they got back; she looked thirty again. Beautiful and sweet. A lie. All of it, it had been lies all along.

 

“Bruno,” Zarita said, holding out her arms. Her smile wavered when he only slowly made his way down the stairs, never taking his eyes off her. Behind her, there was a hole in the floor. A secret entrance. 

 

An exit.

 

“Amor, I’m so sorry,” she said softly. “We need to leave the tower. It’s gotten so dangerous out there, there are people after me.”

 

Be brave. You are Bruno Madrigal and you need to be brave now.

 

“Yes,” Bruno said. “I’d imagine there are. After all…” His eyes narrowed, he held his head high. “You did kidnap a Prince. Twice over. That has to be a record.”

 

“W-what?” She flinched back, eyes wide, arms dropping limply to her sides. He’d finally managed to shock her. For once he’d scared her, not the other way around. He watched her turn pale with the realisation her magic hadn’t taken hold this time and he could have laughed in her face.

 

“Did I mutter?” Bruno asked her, stepping forward, one eye on the exit. “Or mumble? I’m sure I didn’t stutter this time, Zarita.”

 

“Amor, do you even hear yourself-?”


“I am Prince Bruno Madrigal,” Bruno said, loud and clear. “And I am done with letting you control me.”

Chapter Text

“No, you'll never be alone; when darkness comes, I'll light the night with stars. Hear the whispers in the dark. No, you'll never be alone. When darkness comes, you know I'm never far. Hear the whispers in the dark.” - Whispers In The Dark, Skillet




“I am Prince Bruno Madrigal, and I am done with letting you control me.”

 

“To the south-east!” Dolores shouted to Mirabel, struggling to be heard over the raging hurricane. Oh, Mamá, please calm down soon. Their group made their way down the narrow, steep ledge as quickly as they dared. Some distance away, Dolores heard a tree collapse. Lightning struck uncomfortably close and she had to resist the urge to cover her ears. It was absolute chaos out here and she couldn’t brush aside the uncomfortable realisation that the hurricane was only making things more difficult.

 

No wonder Pepa hadn’t put up as much of a fight as Dolores expected when she was ordered to stay in Casita.

 

But she couldn’t think about that now. She had to focus on the task at hand, she had to focus on her Tio Bruno. Don’t think of the hurricane, don’t even think about the witch; just think about Tio Bruno. Just think about how happy Mamá, Tia Julieta and Abuela are going to be when we come home, Dolores told herself, riding fast at Mirabel’s heels.

 

Focus on the positive. Clear skies, as Pepa said. 

 

She hoped there would be clear skies soon.





Mirabel’s thoughts were all in a whirl as they rode through the forest. She kept her eyes trained straight ahead, looking for the curtain of ivy and vines, the hidden tunnel. Over the noise of the hurricane, she couldn’t hear the river. 

 

Crack! Boom! More lightning and thunder, louder than ever. The wind shrieked and Mirabel struggled to stay on her horse. The poor thing seemed more frightened by the minute.

 

And then, high above the cliffs, she saw a flash of bright red.

 

Zarita, she realised, eyes narrowing. Her magic.

 

Crack! Lightning struck a tree and the fire struggled against the torrential rain.

 

“Nearly there!” Mirabel shouted to the others, praying they could hear her above all the chaos and- there! Over there! It was the entrance to the tunnel.

 

Hold on, Tio, we’re here, Mirabel thought. Now, more than ever, her heart was pounding as she led the way into the tunnel, through the tunnel and…into the cavern. 

 

The tower loomed overhead, the small river seemed about ready to burst its bank and the waterfall sprayed everywhere, adding to the sheets of rain.

 

Another red flash- oh God, what was Zarita doing? - and…

 

“TIO!” Mirabel shrieked. She urged her horse on and sped ahead of the others as her Tio Bruno suddenly came running from the tower. Had there always been a door on the side? Mirabel swore there hadn’t been before. 

 

Bruno stumbled in the mud and gaped at her. There was a cut on his cheek, steadily bleeding, his eyes were wild with panic, but he still grinned when he saw her. He looked utterly stunned to realise she wasn’t alone.

 

With one more panicked glance at the tower he ran to her and Mirabel pulled up her horse, reaching out her hand, beaming at him. He was here, he was here, he was okay!

 

“Tio!” Camilo shouted joyfully.

Bruno had just taken Mirabel’s hand when there was a clap like thunder and another blinding flash of red light, knocking them all back.

 

For a moment everything seemed to slow down. Mirabel fell from her horse and the poor thing reared up in fear, screaming. Bruno had fallen to his knees, gasping for breath. It felt like Mirabel had just run headfirst into a brick wall.

 

Her horse ran, she could hear everyone’s horses panicking and Tiago swearing.

 

And there, young and beautiful and awful, was Zarita. Red light encased her hands, her black hair streamed behind her in a breeze of its own, twisting slowly about her head like snakes. She looked furious, utterly incandescent with rage…And desperate. There was fear in her eyes, the look of a cornered animal.

 

Once more, Bruno struggled to his feet and flung himself in front of Mirabel, arms spread wide.

 

“Don’t hurt her,” he pleaded.

 

“BRUNO, MIRABEL, GET BACK!” Félix shouted. Mirabel could hear hoofbeats and, when she dared to turn around, Félix, Rafael and the guards were riding towards them.

 

Zarita grinned, sharp and terrible, and flung out her hands.

 

Mirabel screamed as the red light knocked her uncle and friends to the ground. Camilo and Dolores hurried to their father. Zarita’s shoulders were heaving and Mirabel gripped the back of Bruno’s ruana, both of them backing away.

 

“Oh, Bruno,” Zarita said softly, almost sadly. She looked at Mirabel and smiled, strangely gentle. “Princess Mirabel. You’re not nearly as clever as you think.”

 

With a snap of her fingers, glowing red chains leaped from the ground and swung for them all like snakes.







It was, beyond a doubt, the craziest day of Camilo’s life. This was even weirder than yesterday.

 

This was infinitely more dangerous.

 

Rafael swung at one of the red chains and his sword shattered on impact, snapping like a twig. The same thing happened to two more guards, shards of iron flying in all directions. Camilo shape-shifted as he ran, trying to get to Mirabel and Bruno, turning small and nimble, leaping over the chains as easily as a game of jump-rope, cartwheeling over some of them. If it wasn’t for the manic look in the witch’s eyes, it almost would have been fun, something he’d ask Isabela to do with her vines.

 

Dolores screamed as one of the chains caught her by the ankles, pulling her down.

 

“LOLA!” Félix shouted, running to her.

 

“Papá, don’t!” Dolores cried, but of course Félix ran to her, of course Camilo did too, how could they not?

 

So of course the chains got them too.

 

They snapped around Camilo in seconds, pinning him to the ground, digging into his skin. They didn’t burn, but they stung, almost like nettles. No matter who Camilo shape-shifted into they didn’t break. 

 

A guard pushed Mirabel out of the way and the chains wrapped around him instead, pinning him to the tower. Another guard pushed Bruno behind him and swung at the witch with his sword, only to meet the same fate.

 

The chains seemed unbreakable- or, if they could break Camilo couldn’t see how to do it.

 

But then he noticed something: Zarita’s chest was heaving, her arms shaking. He couldn’t tell if she was just soaked from the storm like the rest of them, or if she was sweating. Even from a distance, her breathing sounded laboured.

 

She was not nearly as powerful as she was pretending, Camilo realised, eyes widening. This was draining her. He swore he saw bags growing under her eyes as he watched.

 

And that may just be the key.

 

“MIRA! BRUNO!” he screamed. “TIRE HER OUT!”

 

He saw the same realisation on Bruno’s face, the way he quickly turned back to face Zarita, always keeping Mirabel behind him, always with one eye on the chains. Were they getting slower or was that wishful thinking?

 

“You want me?” Bruno taunted. “Come get me!” He stooped and lifted André’s borrowed sword in shaking hands, giving Zarita his best glare. Despite his trembling, despite his obvious fear, he still looked fierce. He held his head high, a Madrigal prince to his core. At his side, Mirabel pulled out her own knife, aiming it at Zarita, right at her heart- or whatever passed for it. 

 

“You,” Mirabel snarled. “You are done hurting my Tio.”

 

Rafael, still unbound and now armed with only a small knife, ran forward, dodging the remaining chains with surprising ease for a man his age. He ran past Mirabel and Bruno and the witch (Zarita, wasn’t that what Mirabel called her?) swung her hand up. A bright red shield of magic formed in front of her and Rafael’s knife made it about halfway through the glimmering shield before getting stuck.

 

For a moment, the chains around Camilo seemed to waver.

 

If Rafael was scared he didn’t show it. He glared at Zarita with raw hatred. She had the nerve to look bored. Red light grew around Rafael’s feet and slowly crept upwards.

 

“Oh, you again,” she said. “You didn’t do a very good job of finding me, did you?”

 

“What?” Bruno demanded.

 

Rafael glanced at him, shame-faced. He tried to force his knife further through the shield but it didn’t budge.

 

Zarita was definitely shivering, but she still managed to look haughty. Those were definitely shadows under her eyes and…was it Camilo’s imagination, or did her hair seem… duller? 

 

“Dear Captain Rafael didn’t do a very good job of finding you, amor,” Zarita said to Bruno, never looking away from Rafael. She almost looked curious, like Rafael was a strange type of new insect. “All those search parties…And he never fulfilled his duty, did he?” The red light had reached Rafael’s neck by now. He seemed frozen in place; only his eyes flickered about.

 

Zarita sighed (was she tired or making a show of arrogance?) and waved her hand.

 

Rafael was sent flying backwards, skidding in the mud and landing heavily beside Tiago and Gustavo.

 

“Shit!” Tiago swore, twisting around as best he could. “Shit, Cap, you okay?”

 

Rafael didn’t answer. Camilo could see a trickle of blood on his temple. Damn it, damn it, they all had some of Tia Julieta’s food on them, if he could just get free then Rafael would be healed in seconds! But he couldn’t move, none of them could. The only ones still free were Mirabel and Bruno.

 

“Oh, Bruno, mi amor,” Zarita said. “Don’t make me kill them.”

 

That made Bruno freeze. Even his trembling stopped.

 

Camilo hardly dared to breathe.

 

“You wouldn’t,” Bruno whispered.

 

Zarita smiled. Her shield wavered and vanished. “Wouldn’t I?” Her hair stopped twisting, lying soaked and plastered to her face. She seemed a little too pale.

 

Definitely wearing herself out. 

 

Once more, the chains around Camilo seemed to momentarily loosen.

 

“Don’t listen to her,” Dolores was whispering. “Don’t listen to her, don’t.” Whether she was whispering to herself, to him or to Tio Bruno, Camilo wasn’t quite sure.

 

And then Mirabel- brave, impossible, stubborn, insane, wonderful Mirabel- lunged past Tio Bruno, knife held high.

 

She was fast, so fast.

 

But, even now, Zarita was faster.

 

The witch grabbed Rafael’s knife, lunged forward to meet Mirabel…

 

And Camilo screamed as Zarita’s knife sank into Mirabel’s stomach.

 

“MIRABEL!” Bruno’s scream was even louder than Camilo’s. Mirabel sank to her knees, looking stunned. Her shaking hands went to the gaping wound on her stomach, her hands coated in blood in seconds. Bruno dropped the sword and caught her, wrapping his arms around her. He frantically pressed his hands to her stomach, sobbing as the blood continued to pour out.

 

Almost as if to taunt them, the hurricane died down and they were left lying in the mud. The wind still howled and water dripped off everything, clouds loomed overhead…But the lightning and thunder was gone, the wind was not nearly as loud.

 

So Camilo could perfectly hear Mirabel’s pained gasps.

 

“No,” Félix gasped. “No, Mira!”

 

Dolores was sobbing and Camilo had never really envied his sister’s Gift, but he thought that if he had it now he just might go insane.

 

“T-Tio?” Mirabel sobbed. She looked so tiny all of a sudden, so much younger.

 

“No, no, n-no, Mira- Mirabel, why’d you do that? What-?” He broke off with a choked gasp as Zarita grabbed him by the hair, forcing his head back, the bloody knife held to his throat.

 

Zarita’s voice was ice cold, utterly without pity: “Now look what you made me do, Bruno.”

Chapter Text

“Flower, gleam and glow, let your powers shine. Make the clock reverse, bring back what once was mine. Heal what has been hurt. Change the fates' design. Save what has been lost, bring back what once was mine…What once was mine…” - Healing Incantation, Tangled




Present day…



Silence reigned. Mirabel had a hand pressed to her stomach and, even though she’d done her best to censor things (there were little ears present!) everyone was staring in horror.

 

Luisa practically pulled Mirabel onto her lap. Isabela scooted closer, clinging to Mirabel’s hand. As for her cousins and Mariano, they’d all gone terribly still and silent.

 

“And…And then what happened?” little Maria whispered. 

 

“Well, I…had to get the rest of the story off everyone else,” Mirabel admitted. “But Tio Bruno fought back. Remember what I said about Madrigal stubbornness?”




One year ago…




Bruno felt like he was drowning, like he was back in that small dark cavern with Mirabel, with water rising above his head, drowning out all sound and light.

 

He knelt on the ground, glowing chains around his wrists and he could only stare in horror as Zarita dragged him away from Mirabel’s side. Her breathing was laboured and raspy, she was rapidly turning too pale, her brown eyes going glassy and unfocused.

 

“No, no, Mira,” he muttered, trying to pull away, to get back to her. “Mirabel-”

 

“Oh, stop muttering,” Zarita snapped. She pushed Bruno down against the tower, neck to an unconscious guard. Camilo hadn’t stopped screaming for Mirabel.

 

When Zarita turned to Camilo and the others, Bruno lashed out, kicking at Zarita with all his might. She immediately swung around and backhanded him so hard his head snapped to the side and the dark-skinned man in yellow shouted, “Get away from him!”

 

“You’ve lost,” Zarita said coldly, glaring down at him. “So be a good little mouse, and stop fighting me.

 

Bruno’s chest was heaving, he couldn’t seem to get enough air. Past the sensation of drowning he felt something new: something boiling hot and sharp.

 

Pure unadulterated rage.

 

As Zarita turned away from him, magic encasing her hands, Bruno screamed.

 

“I WON’T STOP!”

 

Zarita stopped in her tracks, steps away from Dolores and Camilo and…their father, they’d called him Papá. So that was Félix? 

 

Bruno looked at them, then Mirabel. She weakly tried to turn herself over, craning her neck to look at him. She looked terrified, tears streaming down her cheeks, trembling all over and blood staining her clothes.

 

“I. Won’t. Stop,” Bruno snarled, straining against the magic chains. “For every day, for every minute of the rest of my life, I will fight. I will never stop trying to get away from you! You can take my memories again and again, but it won’t change the fact that I hate you!

 

“T-Tio…” Mirabel whispered. She weakly lifted her hand and it immediately dropped again. “Ti-” She broke off coughing, blood dribbling from her mouth.

 

And, just like he had before, Bruno knew what he had to do.

 

Mirabel was going home safely. Camilo was going home safely, and Dolores and Félix- all of them.

 

Bruno held Zarita’s gaze. “But…If you heal her…If you let them all leave…I’ll go with you.”

 

“Tio!” Camilo shouted, gaze finally snapping away from Mirabel. He shook his head frantically, curls falling in his eyes. Green eyes, big green eyes, just like Pepa’s, just like Bruno’s. “You can’t!

 

Bruno tried to smile at him, but he was pretty sure he failed. So he focused on Zarita and her stunned, suspicious gaze.

 

“I won’t run again,” Bruno said steadily. “I won’t try to escape. Just heal Mirabel and let them all go back to Casita. And I’ll stay with you; I’ll have whatever visions you ask of me, however many you demand. Just heal her and let them go.” He swallowed, fighting to stop his voice from shaking; he’d sounded strong so far, he didn’t want to show he was afraid now. “I’ll stay. I’ll stay forever. I promise.”

 

Because if there was one thing to be said about Bruno, it was that he didn’t break his promises.

 

And Zarita knew it.

 

She stared at him, her eyes narrowed, magic still swirling around her hands. The longer she kept it up the paler she seemed.

 

Maybe that was why she agreed.

 

She unclenched her fists and the magic vanished, though the chains holding them all down remained. With one last disgusted look at them all, Zarita swept to the tower door, up the dark, winding staircase and out of sight.

 

“Bruno?” Félix said quietly, voice wavering. But Bruno’s voice seemed to have deserted him; when he tried to answer he only managed a croaking noise that was far too close to a sob for comfort, so he pressed his lips together in a tight line and kept quiet.

 

Bruno slumped over, breathing heavily, shivering now as fear fought for his attention, threatening to overwhelm him. Grief that he would forget again (for surely Zarita would keep trying until she destroyed his memories), grief that he’d never see Mirabel again, or Camilo; grief that he’d never meet the other kids. Horrible, heartbreaking grief that he’d never see his mother or sisters again. Fear of what Zarita would do to him when they were alone, how she’d behave now that he’d defied her in every possible way.

 

“N-no,” Mirabel gasped out. She winced, one hand on her stomach. “Tio…T-Tio Bruno, you c…can’t…”

 

Bruno smiled at her sadly. “I have to, kid.”

 

“Oh, Tio,” Dolores whispered. Camilo only stared in silent horror and somehow that was the most unsettling.

 

“It’ll be okay,” Bruno said hoarsely. He could…He could handle this. He’d lived with Zarita for forty-five years, he could handle this. 

 

The most important thing was making sure his niece lived; what mattered was getting Mirabel, Camilo and Dolores home, getting all of them home.

 

Zarita came back, holding the glowing Sun Flower in its gilded pot. It swayed slightly as she walked, its petals unfurling and tilting slightly towards Mirabel, almost like they were reaching out, sensing her injury. Zarita stood over Mirabel with an impassive look on her face. She waved her hand and red chains wrapped around Mirabel’s legs, sprouting from the ground, a sick parody of plants. 

 

“How long will the chains last?” Bruno asked.

 

Zarita shrugged. “Until I say so,” she said and shot Bruno a little smile. “After all, we need time to leave, don’t we, amor?” She turned back to Mirabel and Bruno simply did not trust her. The longer she stood there, the more his fear built up, screaming to be heard.

 

“I want to do it,” he blurted out.

 

“What?” Zarita’s eyes narrowed. The rain slowly turned to a drizzle, the wind stopped howling, turning into brisk, sharp gusts. 

 

“I want to do it,” Bruno repeated.

 

She smiled slightly. “You don’t think I’ll do it?”

 

Bruno barely bit back a scoff. “You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t quite trust you.”

 

Besides, he needed a chance to say goodbye.

 

She seemed amused by that, but with a snap of her fingers the chains holding Bruno down vanished in a puff of silver and red smoke, and he didn’t hesitate to run to Mirabel’s side, dropping to his knees next to her.

 

“Oh, God, Mira I’m so sorry,” he said, voice breaking. Now, more than ever, his hands were shaking and he couldn’t afford to panic now, he had to stay calm. He practically snatched the Sun Flower out of Zarita’s hands and she took a step back, gazing at everyone else with hatred in her eyes.

 

“I’m so sorry,” Bruno repeated desperately, holding the Sun Flower over Mirabel’s wound. “E-Everything’s gonna be okay.”

 

“Tio…”Mirabel shook her head. “You…You can’t do this…”

 

Bruno had to close his eyes for a moment; he took a deep breath and opened them again, forcing himself to look at Mirabel’s frightened eyes. “I’m not letting you die, kid,” he said softly. “It’ll be okay.” He finally managed a smile. “Trust me.”

 

“I do,” Mirabel said, her voice weaker than ever. She sobbed and spasmed and Bruno was running out of time. “Y-you…trust m-me…right?”

 

“Of course,” Bruno said. He took a deep breath and began; “Flower gleam and-”

 

“Tio Bruno…?”

 

Bruno paused, looking down at her. Mirabel smiled weakly and reached up. For a moment, Bruno thought she was looking for a hug. He leaned down…

 

And Mirabel wrapped her hands around the Sun Flower, smashing it between her small hands with her remaining strength.

 

“MIRABEL!” Dolores, Camilo and Félix shouted. Tiago swore loudly, André groaned and so many of the guards gasped in horror, unable to do anything more than stare.

 

“NO!” Zarita shrieked. There was a blast of magic, a wave of red light, crackling like lightning and Bruno dropped the Sun Flower, throwing himself over Mirabel to try and shield her.

 

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!? YOU- YOU WRETCHED LITTLE-” Zarita broke off gasping, her hair rapidly greying. She ran forward and snatched the Sun Flower up, cradling it like an infant. For the first time there was genuine terror in her eyes. The Sun Flower had stopped glowing with its usual light; it barely glimmered, the petals and leaves swaying almost sadly. So many of its petals had fallen off and what remained was torn and crumpled, its stem nearly snapped in half.

 

Mirabel had gone terrifyingly still and quiet. She gave Bruno a tiny weak smile, almost a smirk.

 

“You…H-have…To go…home,” she whispered, so quietly that Bruno barely heard her. For a moment her words didn’t even register. Go home? How could he go home without her? How could he possibly go home and tell Julieta he’d let her daughter die? He couldn’t. He simply couldn’t.

 

Reality returned as Zarita stormed towards them. She was incandescent with rage and she lashed out- for a second, Bruno thought she’d slapped him again, but then the searing pain registered as he fell back with a cry.

 

Zarita had slashed his cheek with her knife.

 

She stood there with her tangled grey hair, wrinkles on her face, on her hands- her hands which were glowing red, which held the Sun Flower in one and the Captain’s knife in the other. Her ferocious gaze pinned them to the spot, complete and utter hatred in her gaze when she looked at Mirabel, a wild desperation when she looked at Bruno.

 

For a moment, Bruno felt nothing but terror. Everyone else was chained down, the Sun Flower was dying, Mirabel was dying…The Sun Flower…The Sun Flower was dying…

 

But it wasn’t dead yet.

 

With a furious scream of his own, Bruno threw himself at Zarita with all his strength. Just like that, the fear was gone, as if it had never been there at all.

 

If he thought he’d been angry, been desperate before, it was nothing compared to now.

 

He was not going to let Mirabel die.

 

Camilo was screaming for him and Mirabel, Tiago was shouting, but Bruno focused on Zarita, on the Sun Flower as it crashed to the ground, its pot cracking and dirt spilling everywhere.

 

He’d just grabbed it when Zarita managed to flip them over, pinning him to the ground, one hand tight on his neck, the knife pressed to his chest.

 

“BRUNO!” Félix bellowed, Dolores was sobbing and Mirabel was so quiet. Bruno had landed right next to her and when he dared to look it was a struggle not to break down entirely. A sob escaped him, though his eyes stayed dry.

 

Mirabel’s eyes were shut. She was far too pale, far too still. Her chest didn’t move, she wasn’t making those awful rasping sounds anymore. She wasn’t…She wasn’t…

 

Oh God, Mira, no.




The cracks grew, the cracks grew, huge jagged things and Isabela snatched Antonio with a vine, bringing him safely to her arms as a bookcase collapsed. Luisa held up an entire wall in the courtyard, gasping in horror as the candle flickered and grew frighteningly dim on Alma’s windowsill. 

 

In the throne room, Julieta grabbed Alma and ushered her to the doorway and they stood there clinging to each other as their home shook and rumbled around them. Pepa crouched with Isabela and Antonio, holding her son to her chest as Bruno’s rats shrieked in Antonio’s hands.




“You should have remembered your place,” Zarita hissed in his ear. 

 

But he did. That was the point, wasn’t it? Bruno remembered his place.

 

And then, so faint he nearly overlooked it, he saw a faint glimmer of green from Mirabel’s pocket. Emerald green. Prophecy green.

 

His prophecies had still been in his satchel when he threw it to Mirabel. The broken one of Mirabel and Casita and the vision tablet of Bruno, Julieta and Pepa.

 

Slowly, Bruno began to inch his hand out, holding Zarita’s gaze, letting his fury show plainly.

 

“I did,” he said, practically a growl. “I remembered my place. And you know something, Madré Zarita?” He spat her false title and his fist clenched around the vision shard so tightly it cut into his palm, already bleeding.

 

“What, amor?” she asked, lowering the tip of the knife to his heart. She almost sounded loving then. Everyone else was screaming and shouting, but Bruno barely heard them. He just focused on Zarita, on the sharp, sharp vision shard in his hand.

 

“You were wrong about the world,” he hissed. “And you were wrong about me. And I will never let you hurt my family again.”

 

She smiled, so falsely gentle. “Is that a threat, little seer?”

 

Bruno returned her smile. “It’s a promise.”

 

And he stabbed upwards with the vision shard as hard as he could, plunging it into her stomach.

 

With a strangled gasp of shock and pain, Zarita dropped the knife, her hand clenching and unclenching on empty air. She gaped down at Bruno as her blood spilled over his hand. She looked betrayed, shocked, and Bruno knocked her off him as the red chains finally vanished from everyone else.

 

He didn’t waste anymore time on her; he just grabbed the Sun Flower and scrambled back to Mirabel. Tiago, André and Gustavo dragged Zarita away and Bruno tried to block out her pained gasps, he tried not to let Camilo’s sobs as he held Mirabel overwhelm him.

 

“Tio- Tio Bruno-” Camilo was shaking, Mirabel’s head on his lap. “She’s…Tia Julieta’s cooking can’t fix this.

 

“She’ll be okay,” Bruno said, fighting to keep his voice steady. Just a little longer, he just had to be strong for a little while longer. He could cry later. Once he’d fixed all of this.

 

The Sun Flower’s petals were dull with barely a shimmer. Its pollen lay in clumps, not floating anymore. It was mangled almost beyond recognition. This all-powerful healing magic, reduced almost to nothing simply by a pair of hands.

 

He wiped the dirt off as best he could and laid the rapidly weakening flower directly on Mirabel’s stomach. Bruno wasn’t taking any chances, not now, not when the magic was nearly gone.

 

Shuddering, Bruno closed his eyes and sang.

 

Flower, gleam and glow, let your powers shine.” His voice broke, oh God, that wouldn’t affect anything would it? “Make the clock reverse, bring back what once was mine.” Please, please, Mirabel had to be okay, she had to. He wasn’t going home only to tell his sister that he’d let her daughter die. “Heal what has been hurt. Change the fates' design. Save what has been lost, bring back what once was mine…” It was more like whispering than singing now and Bruno didn’t dare open his eyes. “What once was mine…” He bent over her, shaking like a leaf, sick to his stomach. His niece, his niece, she had to be okay, she had to live.

 

“Please,” Bruno whispered, finally letting himself cry. “Please.”

 

As if in answer, there was a golden glow.

 

Bruno opened his eyes a crack and flinched back in shock. The glow was coming from the Sun Flower and it was seeping into Mirabel, shining sparks of light in the shape of flower petals rising into the air. The glow encased her stomach, creeped up her chest and, when it reached her heart it burst, shooting upwards in the shape of the Sun Flower itself. There was an odd sort of humming noise that faintly resembled the Sun Flower’s song and, instinctively, Bruno felt the tension leave him. The stinging pain left his hand, the cut from the vision shard closing; the cuts on his face healed, the blood stopped flowing.

 

And then it was done. The light was gone. There was one last shimmer on Mirabel’s stomach, glittering gold as the stab wound stitched itself shut. There was, bizarrely, a faint golden line left behind, almost like a scar.

 

“What…What was that?” Dolores whispered.

 

Heart pounding, Bruno looked at Mirabel.

 

Please, please, please…

 

Mirabel’s big brown eyes snapped open and she shot up with a gasp, both hands on her stomach.

 

“W-what? What?” She shook her head, eyes wide with shock. “What was-?”

 

“Mira!” Bruno, Camilo and Dolores practically tackled her, no doubt suffocating the poor girl. She sat there in their embrace, repeating in increasingly lost tones; “What was that?

 

“Don’t ever do that again!” Bruno pulled back, shaking her by the shoulders. “Mirabel Madrigal, don’t ever do that again!”

 

She smiled weakly, wiping her eyes. “Sorry,” she said.

 

“No, you’re not,” Camilo accused, hugging her tighter. 

 

Sniffling, wiping his eyes, Bruno turned around. He looked for Tiago, André and Gustavo, for Zarita…But Félix gently turned him back around, eyes sympathetic.

 

“You don’t need to see that,” he said softly. He looked Bruno over and gave a disbelieving laugh, eyes wet. “You’re…” He shook his head and held his hand out. “I’m Félix,” he said. “Pepa’s husband, and-” He nodded at Camilo and Dolores. Dolores was trying to force an arepa into Mirabel’s mouth while Camilo hung off her like a monkey. “Camilo and Dolores’ papá. I’m, uh-”

 

“My brother-in-law,” Bruno finished, feeling suddenly and absurdly shy. He swore this was easier with the kids.

 

“I am,” Félix said. Bruno took his offered hand and shook it. Félix’s smile widened and he suddenly pulled Bruno into a crushing hug.

 

“It’s really good to meet you,” Félix said gently.

 

For a moment, Bruno felt frozen, but if he could hug Mirabel he could surely hug his sister’s husband.

 

So he did and mumbled, “You too.”




In Encanto, it was chaos. As Mirabel’s heart stopped, the cracks grew, the entire castle shook as if in an earthquake. The whole city shook and creaked. The candle flickered and dimmed, barely a spark left.

 

And then, as Mirabel opened her eyes, the candle blazed.

 

The cracks remained, but the candle glowed steadily and the shaking stopped. No more cracks grew.

 

It was as if Casita was holding its breath.

 

Slowly, Julieta and Alma untangled themselves from each other, looking around in bewilderment. Isabela helped Pepa and Antonio to their feet. Luisa came running with Agustín, screaming their names.

 

“We’re okay, mija,” Julieta soothed, stroking her daughter’s cheek. “We’re okay, we’re safe.”

 

But was everyone else? she wondered. Was the rest of her family safe?




Bruno knew his grip on Mirabel’s hand was probably hurting but he couldn’t seem to loosen it. He told himself to, really he did, but it was like his hand had a mind of its own, insisting on clinging to his niece.

 

Captain Rafael was still unsteady on his feet, despite another guard getting some food into him- Julieta’s healing food, how strange to see it in action- but he came to them and knelt, head lowered.

 

“My Princess,” he said to Mirabel. And then, quietly awed, he added; “My Prince.”

 

Bruno could feel himself flushing as everyone turned to stare at them. Most of the guards bowed or knelt and he shuffled awkwardly from foot to foot, staring at the ground.

 

“Uh, you don’t have to do that,” he muttered.

 

“Better get used to it,” Félix said with a grin.

 

Smiling, Mirabel led Bruno to her horse.

 

“What do you think you’re doing?” Camilo demanded, hands on his hips.

 

“I can ride!” Mirabel protested. “Camilo, I’m fine. I promise.”

 

“You were stabbed! You were dead!

 

Mirabel opened her mouth and Camilo said, “No, no, I can’t believe I’m saying this but do not make a joke.”

 

Mirabel shut her mouth. Dolores gave a long suffering sigh, looking at Bruno as if to say Can you believe this?

 

Bruno smiled at her and she utterly beamed in response. 

 

And then Mirabel yanked him onto her horse by the ruana.

 

“W-what- what are we doing?” he asked, looking all around them. Everyone else was getting back on their horses and Camilo stuck close to them. Bruno instinctively wrapped his arm around Mirabel. Had he ever been on a horse before? He couldn’t remember. He just knew he didn’t want to fall off.

 

Mirabel smiled at him over her shoulder.

 

“We’re going home, Tio,” she said. Grinning giddily, she snapped the reins and the horse took off like a shot. Bruno yelped, tightening his grip and Mirabel laughed joyfully. Camilo swore and hurried after them and Félix shouted, “What have I told you about swearing, Cami!?”

 

As they reached the tunnel, Bruno took a glance back at the tower. Not his, just…the tower. Zarita’s tower, he supposed. It was just a tower. Deceptively pretty all things considered, with its vines and old-fashioned architecture, its waterfall, river and wildflowers. 

 

He looked for Zarita and found only a pile of dust and a red cloak. As he watched, the dust was blown away in a gust of wind. The cloak blew against the tower, flattening against the bricks, snagging on the previously hidden doorway. And there it stayed.

 

Somehow, the tower didn’t look so big anymore. Or maybe Bruno just didn’t feel so small.

 

Bruno turned away, back to the tunnel, to the forest; to Encanto.

 

To home.




Present Day…




This time, the hush was more awed, more respectful. No more horror, no more fear. The kids were all smiling again and most of the adults too. Dolores was tucked under Mariano’s arm, Camilo had lost the tension in his shoulders.

 

And then a familiar, well-loved voice spoke up; “Are we missing story time?”

 

Mirabel, beaming, turned and held her hand out. “Tio!”

 

Bruno waved at her, arm in arm with Alma, as he usually was whenever they left Casita. Alma would settle for nothing less. Next to them was Pepa and Félix hand in hand, and Julieta and Agustín. Agustín had an arm around Julieta’s waist and they were all watching the kids with fond smiles.

 

“Come on,” Mirabel said, patting the spot next to her. “You can help me tell the next bit.”

 

The crowd parted, letting the royal adults through, lowering their heads in respect. Isabela helped Alma sit down (one man hurried forward from his café-front with a chair for her) and everyone else settled down.

 

Mirabel linked her arm with Bruno’s as soon as he sat down.

 

“Well you can’t tell a story without its star!” Pepa laughed.

 

“That’s what Camilo kept saying,” Mirabel said.

 

Bruno shot Camilo a teasing grin. “Ay, you were a supporting character, mí sobrino.”

 

Camilo squaked indignantly, swatting at Bruno’s arm, only to be snatched back by a laughing Pepa.

 

“That’s what I keep saying,” Mirabel said with a wicked grin, winking at Camilo. She turned back to the kids with a mock-thoughtful pout, tapping her chin. “Now, where were we?”

 

“You were going home!” Alejandra chimed in. “After the bad witch was defeated.”

 

“Oh, that’s right!” Mirabel slapped her forehead with an exaggerated grin. “Well, Tio Bruno? Take it away.”

 

“Oh boy,” Bruno muttered, shifting uncomfortably- but he still smiled at the kids and let himself relax. “Okay, okay. Well, who doesn’t love a happy ending, right?”

Chapter Text

“Ay, mariposas, don't you hold on too tight. Both of you know it's your time to go, to fly apart, to reunite. Wonders surround you, just let the walls come down. Don't look behind you, fly 'til you find your way toward tomorrow.” - Dos Oruguitas, Encanto 




Casita was a mess. The candle burned steadily, but not very brightly; Pepa was just relieved it wasn’t flickering and threatening to go out anymore. The castle still stood, but it was hanging on by a thread.

 

She’d finally managed to stop the hurricane, not because she felt calmer, but out of sheer exhaustion. Alma was with the council and a crowd of worried citizens, trying to reassure them that of course this day would end well and they could fix Casita in no time. Pepa wondered if her mother really believed that.

 

Luisa, as always, didn’t know the meaning of the word rest. She was still hurrying around, offering everyone help and Pepa had long since lost track of her. Isabela was (when Pepa had last seen her) in the courtyard, directing people as they cleared rubble and checking everyone for injuries. Julieta, of course, was healing those injuries with Agustín by her side, handing out food to anyone who needed it.

 

They all needed to be at full strength, now more than ever.

 

Pepa didn’t feel particularly strong. Mostly she wanted a nap. 

 

But that wasn’t a possibility, so here she was with Antonio, sweeping up dust, plaster and broken glass (which she kept Antonio well away from) in Casita’s strangely silent hallways. The castle hadn’t so much as opened a door since Bruno was re-taken. 

 

Bruno. Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, her triplet. How was he? Would they find him on time? What if that witch hurt him, what if she-? No, nope, Pepa was not going to think about it or else she’d start thundering and then that would lead to a drizzle, which would lead to a sprinkle…

 

Clear skies, clear skies, clear skies.

 

And then the strangest thing happened: a wave of glimmering gold came soaring down the hallway and almost half the cracks vanished. Bruno’s rats jumped off Antonio’s lap, squeaking rapidly, and they ran away down the hall. If Pepa didn’t know any better she’d say those little rodents were excited.

 

Antonio jumped off the seat Pepa had found for him and grabbed her hand, grinning from ear to ear.

 

“They’re back!” he cheered. “They’re back, Mamá, come on!” He pulled Pepa, unresisting, down the hallway after the rats.

 

They’re back, Pepa thought, stunned. She clung to her son’s hand and allowed herself to hope. Casita was somehow healing before her very eyes, Antonio was cheering excitedly as they began to run and Bruno’s rats were downright joyful.

 

Camilo, Dolores, Félix, Mirabel…Bruno…

 

They were back.

 

Please, Pepa thought, picking Antonio up and sprinting for the courtyard. Oh please, God, please. Papá, if you’re listening please let this be it. Please let them all be safe.







Mirabel jumped off the horse and the strangest thing happened: there was a wave of gold bursting out of the ground, right from under her feet. It rushed away from her, spreading out and Bruno saw at least half the cracks vanish, even some of the debris fixing itself.

 

“Hola, Casita,” he whispered, staring around in awe. The place was almost ruined but…

 

But it was home.

 

Félix held a hand out with a grin, helping Bruno down and Bruno did his best not to stumble. He was way out of practice with horses. 

 

“Whoa,” Camilo muttered, looking around as the cracks healed, as a broken window repaired itself. “Y’know, Mira, I always said you were Casita’s favourite.”

 

“Casita has good taste,” Mirabel said primly. “Now, where’s-”

 

“MIRABEL!” came a feminine shriek and then an incredibly tall, muscular girl came barrelling around the corner and plucked Mirabel up as easily as lifting a puppy, squeezing her tightly and bawling her eyes out against Mirabel’s neck.

 

“Um…” Bruno stepped back sharply. Félix only laughed.

 

“Good to see you too, Luisa,” Camilo said flatly. Luisa didn’t seem to even hear him; she just continued to cry over Mirabel and Mirabel squeaked out, “Can’t breathe.”

 

Another girl came running, a beautiful young woman who…Well, who strongly resembled Bruno’s memories of Alma, blurry as many of them were. But he’d never seen his mother look so dishevelled: this girl’s long black hair was in tangles, there was dirt all over her dress and a tear on the skirt; a few of her nails looked cracked. She looked messy, tired and utterly exultant as she joined Luisa in tackling Mirabel.

 

Judging by the flowers in her hair and on her dress, this was Isabela.

 

“I’ll fetch the Queen,” Rafael murmured. “Give you all time to, hm…” He gestured to the group at large. “Get cleaned up.” He bowed and hurried inside. 

 

Oh God, Bruno thought. Now, more than ever, his heart was pounding. He glanced at the horse and wondered if he could hide behind it.

 

What if they didn’t like him? He felt childish for thinking it, but…But what if they didn’t? What then?

 

He didn’t have long to wonder. Only seconds after Rafael entered Casita, more people came running out. A man in a smart suit tripped over his own feet and nearly went headlong, and was caught by a woman in a blue gown. A woman in yellow and orange was holding a little boy on her hip. She had a rainbow over her head.

 

Oh, Bruno thought, heart in his throat, eyes stuck on the two women.

 

Julieta and Pepa.

 

Julieta and the man- it must have been Agustín- ran to their daughters, screaming Mirabel’s name. Pepa ran to Dolores first, sobbing into her daughter’s hair as Dolores patted her back and murmured, “We’re okay, Mamá.”

 

Félix clapped Bruno on the back with a reassuring smile and went to his wife. Camilo practically flung himself into Pepa’s arms.

 

Bruno knew he should say something, anything, but…But, honestly, he was glad to take a moment to just watch them and try to get his bearings. 

 

Those were his sisters. His triplets. Pepa still wore a braid, Julieta’s hair was long now, they both still favoured warm colours and cool colours respectively. They were both, he noticed, still taller than him. Great, just great. Hopefully they were too old for short jokes now. 

 

He somehow doubted it.

 

Tiny squeaks caught his attention and, the next thing he new, little paws were scrambling up him, crawling up his legs and arms and Victoria, Rosita, Fidel and Amado perched on his shoulders, squeaking louder and louder, twitching their noses and nudging him.

 

“Yes, yes, I missed you too!” Bruno laughed, stroking their tiny heads. “Were you good while I was gone?”

 

“They were super good!” someone said- the little boy Pepa had been carrying. Antonio. He grinned up at Bruno with bright eyes. “They’re lots of fun, they told me all about the stories you write!”

 

“Not all of them I hope,” Bruno said, wincing. A lot of those stories were not kid friendly.

 

Antonio smiled, head tilted slightly. “You’re Tio Bruno, aren’t you?” he asked.

 

Before Bruno could do more than nod, there was a strangled gasp. Antonio, it seemed, had drawn everyone’s attention to him and they all fell silent, staring at him.

 

Julieta, who had been fussing over Mirabel and her blood-stained clothes (God, how were they going to explain that?) slowly let go and stepped forward on shaking legs, tears in her eyes. She stared at Bruno, hands on her heart.

 

Pepa’s grip on Camilo momentarily tightened as she let out a shaky gasp and her cloud started to rain…But there was a rainbow over it, she was smiling. She moved faster than Julieta and Bruno hurriedly moved his little rats onto the horse’s saddle, eyes flickering between his sisters.

 

“Bruno?” Julieta whispered. She reached out with a shaking hand, still too far away to touch him.

 

Antonio stepped away as Félix waved him over and Bruno- he had no idea what to do, what to say. What were you supposed to say to the sisters you hadn’t seen in decades?

 

“Hi,” he mumbled, voice wavering.

 

Julieta’s laugh bordered on a sob. “Hi,” she said gently.

 

And Pepa, always a whirlwind, always the first to react, ran to Bruno and pulled him into a bone-crushing hug, lifting him right off the ground. Her cloud rained harder, the rainbow grew and Bruno clung to her, his face pressed against her shoulder. 

 

That seemed to be what Julieta needed to spur her into action. She crashed into them, nearly knocking them over and Bruno couldn’t even say who was hugging who the hardest or which arms belonged to who, he just knew he was hugging his sisters, they were hugging him, they were there, and he never wanted to let go again.

 

“Hi,” Pepa said hoarsely. Her grip was starting to hurt and Bruno wouldn’t have it any other way. “You’re- you’re here, you’re home, oh my God!”

 

“I missed you, I missed you so much,” Julieta was saying rapidly again and again. “I- are you okay, are you hurt?”

 

“I’m okay,” Bruno said; more like a whisper really, he couldn’t seem to raise his voice any higher. If he did he was sure he’d start sobbing and never stop. “I…I’m okay.”

 

With great reluctance, Pepa set him back on the ground. Julieta was still holding his arms and Pepa cupped his face in her hands, her eyes taking in every inch of him.

 

“Camilo was right,” Bruno blurted out.

 

“Hm? About what?” Pepa’s voice was hoarse too, her thumbs kept stroking over his cheekbones. Julieta was fussing about the mud all over him and the dried blood on his hand and face.

 

Bruno tapped under his eye, smiling. “Same eyes.”

 

Pepa’s cloud completely disappeared, replaced by sunshine. She was grinning fit to burst and pulled him into another tight hug. A rainbow grew over Casita and Bruno thought he saw some cracks on the upper floors disappear. 

 

“And everyone else was right,” Julieta murmured, pressing their foreheads together. “You look so much like Papá.” She held an arm out to her daughters and husband. “Girls?” Her voice was utterly joyful. “Come meet your Tio Bruno.”

 

Bruno had to appreciate Luisa’s restraint: she didn’t knock any of them over, but she certainly did her best to hug everyone at once.

 

Mirabel, squished between Julieta and Bruno, grinned at him, stars in her eyes, joy radiating from her.

 

“Welcome home, Tio.”



Alma, the council and the gathered residents of the city fell silent as a wave of gold washed through the room. Most of the cracks disappeared and Alma looked around in awe.

 

Still, she was the Queen, so she turned to everyone watching her and smiled. “See?” she said. “As I said, all shall be well.”

 

If Casita was healing that had to mean everyone was okay. That they were returning home safely. Surely this meant her family was safe. 




Julieta held his right hand and Pepa held his left. Together they walked up Casita’s front steps. Every passing servant knelt, heads bowed.

 

And as Mirabel opened the doors, there was another wave of gold and more cracks vanished, more broken furniture repaired itself. Bruno nudged a wall with his foot and there was a burst of gold; he grinned as the damage all repaired itself. 




The candle glowed, the candle shone.




Without knocking or waiting to be announced, Captain Rafael burst into the throne room and Alma’s heart stopped. Mud coated the man’s uniform, his hair was a mess…And he looked jubilant. 

 

Alma stepped forward, clutching her locket.

 

Rafael looked at her and smiled, straightening up into his usual perfect posture, hands behind his back, standing at attention.

 

“My Queen,” he said and Alma didn’t miss how his voice shook- not with sadness, but with happiness. With awe. “It is my pleasure to inform you that your grandchildren have returned home safely, and…” His eyes shone. “And it is my honour to tell you that your son, Prince Bruno, is home.”

 

Shocked gasps rang out, but Alma didn’t make a sound. She closed her eyes, one hand pressed against her mouth, trying to fight back a sob. She clutched her locket so tightly it left a groove in her palm. 

 

He’s home, he’s home; oh Pedro, mi amor, he’s home, he’s safe. She opened her watering eyes, trembling.

 

“And- he is well?” she asked. Her voice croaked but who could blame her for that?

 

“Perfectly well, Your Majesty.”

 

“And the witch?”

 

“Dead.”

 

Dead and gone, Alma would never have to worry about Zarita hurting her family again. 

 

Alma took a deep breath and straightened her spine, looking her Captain in the eyes.

 

“Well then,” she said, her voice stronger now. “Take me to my son.”







Alma did not run. At her age she’d count herself lucky to run for more than a few steps. But she walked as quickly as she could, her heart beating faster and faster with every step, anticipation spurring her on.

 

With every step, with every beat of her heart, she thought; Bruno, Bruno, Bruno.

 

Her son was home.

 

Isabela found them first. Her granddaughter sprinted to them, skirt hitched up to her knees, beaming and utterly giddy in a way Alma so rarely saw from the normally poised Isabela.

 

“Abuela!” she cried, reaching out and Alma took her hand. “Come on!” Isa continued, practically bouncing. “We’re in Mamá’s room.” She pulled Alma along and Rafael followed behind at a brisk pace.

 

When they reached Julieta’s door, Rafael stepped back and bowed.

 

Alma nodded to him. “Thank you, mi amigo,” she said. Hand in hand with Isabela, she entered Julieta’s room, gently shutting the door behind her.

 

Isabela led her to the double stained glass doors, wide open to Julieta’s spacious balcony where she grew so many of her herbs. Alma could hear laughter; Antonio’s high-pitched giggle. She could hear Camilo speaking over Mirabel, insisting that he tell the story (“She turned to dust!” he was saying. “She must have been ancient!”) and another voice, warm and gentle; “I was right, you two are going to drive me crazy.”

 

Alma stopped, heart leaping. That was a man’s voice. That was…

 

“You know it, Tio!” Mirabel chirped.

 

She let go of Isabela and stepped onto the balcony.

 

Immediately, everyone fell silent. 

 

Her family was together in a circle. Dolores and Antonio sat on the ground; Dolores had Antonio on her lap and he still had those four rats and his jaguar was napping in the sun. Camilo was curled up in an armchair; Luisa and Mirabel were squashed together on a love-seat, as were Félix and Agustín. And right in the middle, on Julieta’s soft blue-and-white sofa covered by a canopy were her children. 

 

Her daughters. Her son. 

 

Alma felt rooted to the spot. Bruno froze when he saw her, eyes so wide they looked like they would pop out of his head. He was sitting in between his sisters and they each had an arm around him; he held the vision tablet on his lap, the one Julieta had clung to so desperately. Oh, he looked so much like Pedro, he was as handsome as his father had been with a head of wild curls and he was still so small, still the smallest triplet. He was so skinny- had he been eating well? Julieta would no doubt start shovelling food into him soon. And he was so pale! She’d need to make sure he got plenty of sunlight.

 

Smiling, Isabela slipped past her and joined her sisters.

 

Julieta gently took the vision out of Bruno’s hands and laid it on her little coffee table. In tandem, she and Pepa got him to his feet. He still hadn’t looked away from her.

 

But once he was standing he moved away from his sisters. Slowly, as if afraid she’d run away, he moved towards her and stopped halfway, wringing his hands. He looked terrified.

 

So was Alma. She was afraid she’d wake up and this would all be a dream. She was afraid he’d disappear again. She was afraid he’d break if she so much as brushed off him.

 

Still so small. Still her Brunito.

 

She was moving towards him before she even realised what she was doing. She walked and then ran to his side and pulled him into her arms. He still fit in her arms, still belonged there, still her son.

 

“Brunito,” she breathed in wonder. She was shaking, she knew she was, but she couldn’t seem to stop herself. She just clung to him and slowly, shakily, his arms wrapped around her.

 

“Mamá.”

 

That, at last, was what broke her.

 

Alma broke down sobbing, clinging to her son. Her son, her son, he was really here! He was home, he was safe. 

 

She was hugging him.

 

“Bruno,” she sobbed against his shoulder, rocking them gently from side to side. “Bruno, mi bébé, my son.

 

He was crying, great shuddering sobs that wracked his whole frame and Julieta and Pepa ran to them, hugging them both tightly. 

 

“You’re safe,” Alma said, promised. “You’re okay, I have you, you- you’re safe.

 

Bruno was home. She was holding her child. She was holding all three of her children. 

 

If that wasn’t a miracle, Alma didn’t know what was.







Okay, Mirabel was crying. So what? She was pretty sure they all were. Her dad was wiping at his eyes, Luisa was openly sobbing. Even Isabela’s eyes were watering, even Camilo’s. 

 

Abuela pulled back slightly, still looking at Bruno with wonder. Laughing more happily than Mirabel had ever heard her, she kissed his cheeks, his forehead and nose, repeating his name in awe.

 

“Oh, look at you!” Abuela said. “You’re-” Her brows furrowed. “You are far too thin, mijo. Julieta, have you fed him?”

 

Julieta burst out laughing. Pepa snickered like a child and Bruno said, “Mamá, I’m fine!

 

“Where are the servants? You need to eat-”

 

“Mamá!”

 

“I could still lift you, Brunito, you need to eat.

 

“Don’t tempt her,” Julieta teased. “She really might lift you to prove a point.”

 

“There’s been enough lifting for one day,” Bruno muttered, rubbing his arm. He tried to keep frowning, but grinned at his mother.

 

“You’re home,” she said softly. “Mi luciérnaga.”

 

Then her eyes zeroed in on Mirabel. Her smile wobbled, her eyes shone. “Mira,” she said, holding her hand out. “Mirabel.”

 

“Abuela?” Mirabel went to her and Abuela grabbed her the second she was within reach, hugging her so tightly it hurt, stroking her hair.

 

“Gracias,” she sobbed, her face pressed against Mirabel’s. “Oh, gracias, mi mariposa.”

 

Mirabel’s eyes widened as she remembered the visions she’d seen. The chase through the forest, Casita cracking, the townsfolk dancing…

 

And this.

 

Mirabel hugged her grandmother, letting herself cry freely, smiling up at the sky.

 

As she did there was one last wave of gold. It washed over them, shimmering like candlelight; it leapt up into the sky, coated Casita and covered the whole city in a blanket of glittering light.




The candle glowed, the candle blazed, Casita leapt to life, its tiles rippling and its windows opening and shutting.




The cracks vanished, gone at last.

 

“Mi familia,” Abuela breathed, looking around at them all, softer than Mirabel could ever remember her being. Happier than Mirabel had ever seen her before. 

 

Tio Bruno looked at Mirabel and grinned.

 

“Told you so,” he said softly.

 

It'll all come down to you.

 

Laughing, Mirabel flung herself at him, knocking him right into Tia Pepa. He yelped but instantly hugged her back and then Tia Pepa was hugging them both, and Mamá and Abuela and the next thing Mirabel knew she was in the middle of a Madrigal family group hug, hardly able to breathe from the force of it.

 

The tiles under their feet rippled and Mirabel giggled.

 

“Hola, Casita,” she said fondly.

 

The tiles rippled again, just one line; this way, look this way, they seemed to say. Mirabel traced them with her eyes and they led her to gaze to Abuela’s balcony. She could see the candle on the windowsill, shining brightly.

 

And a golden butterfly, lazily flapping its wings.

 

As Mirabel watched it took off, flying away from Casita, towards the city and out of sight.

 

“I love you, mijo,” Abuela whispered and Bruno lit up, glowing like the candle.

 

“Love you too, Mamá.”

 

Mirabel shut her eyes, smiling.

 

We’re okay, she told herself. We’re going to be okay now.

 

Like Abuela was always saying: they were the Madrigals. Together, they could do anything.

Chapter Text

“Storybook endings, fairytales coming true. Deep down inside we wanna believe they still do. In our secretest heart, it's our favourite part of the story. Let's just admit we all wanna make it too. Ever ever after. If we just don't get it our own way. Ever ever after. It may only be a wish away.” - Ever Ever After, Carrie Underwood




So then what happened?

 

Well, who doesn’t love a happy ending?




The first stop was not the throne room, or the balcony where Abuela addressed the city during important speeches, but Bruno’s room; his tower.

 

Abuela kept an arm around him the entire walk there, with Julieta and Pepa sticking close by their brother’s side. Mirabel couldn’t blame them. And if she picked up the pace to walk right behind her uncle that was her business.

 

Then Abuela glanced back at her and nodded to her free side. Beaming, Mirabel walked step in step with Alma and her abuela kept smiling at her, eyes softer than Mirabel could remember them ever being.

 

This was, beyond a doubt, the happiest she’d ever seen her grandmother. Probably the happiest any of them had seen her.

 

Bruno kept looking around with wide, awed eyes. Pepa and Julieta quietly pointed out different sights to him: family portraits, a hallway they used to play in; Julieta gestured to one of the windows (which happily opened on its own) to point out a fountain that, apparently, Bruno had once pushed Pepa into, only to have her drag him in too.

 

Little stories, little details, that Mirabel had never heard before. She wondered how much her uncle remembered. Sometimes he nodded in recognition, other times he looked lost.

 

But when they reached his room he didn’t look lost at all. He straightened up, eyes trained on the steadily glowing door.

 

“When’d that happen?” Mirabel asked, hands on her hips. “Usually it’s…Well, like mine.”

 

“The same night you shouted at me to keep quiet,” Dolores said. “It sort of- burst?” She shrugged and squeaked. “There was a big flash of light and it’s been like this ever since.”

 

Mirabel had taken a peek inside Tio Bruno’s room only once with Camilo, when they were six. She had hazy memories of a wasteland of sand and stone, a massive winding staircase and creepy groaning and cracking noises. The room had been downright frightening, though they’d been more afraid of what Abuela would do if she found out they’d been in there, so they swore each other to secrecy. Dolores surely knew, but she’d never told on them, though she sure threatened to whenever they really annoyed her.

 

But Bruno didn’t seem frightened. A little apprehensive maybe, but not frightened.

 

He gently pulled away from his mother and sisters and opened the door.

 

Mirabel gasped with all the rest of them, she couldn’t help it. As the door opened there was one last wave of golden light, shining along the walls, floor and ceiling. With every step Bruno took there was more gold; he ran his hand along the wall and there was yet more gold.

 

And everywhere the gold touched changed.

 

The sand waterfall turned off at Bruno’s approach, allowing them to see his room shift and change before their eyes. The windows were stained glass, casting rainbows on the floor. The bed had heavy green curtains and Mirabel saw little nests on a table for the rats. There was another door at the top of the staircase; the same circular one Julieta had once described, engraved with hourglasses. The vision cave. She and Camilo had not dared to try and brave the never-ending stairs all those years ago.

 

There was still the massive sand waterfall by the door and Mirabel didn’t doubt there was endless sand in the vision cave. And there were plants everywhere; spiky, unusual things she couldn’t name, palm trees, cacti. In seconds, the room took on the look of an oasis.

 

The staircase shrank to a much more reasonable size. There were emerald green lights embedded in the walls, holes and tunnels for Bruno’s rats; a massive art set appeared by Tio Bruno’s feet and he grinned at the smooth, blank walls- except for one detail. One small painting.

 

A golden butterfly, right above his bed, on a raised platform of its own. 

 

“I can grow you more plants,” Isabela offered, surprisingly shy.

 

Bruno grinned at her, eyes alight. “I’d like that,” he said and Isabela’s smile grew.

 

Abuela looked around in relief, one hand on her heart. Mirabel nudged Bruno with a grin.

 

“Lots of space for painting, huh?” she asked.

 

Bruno’s delight only seemed to grow the more he looked around. He took a step back and held his arm out, thumb extended; he tilted it from side to side, tongue poking out in concentration as he squinted at the space above his bed, eyeing the golden butterfly.

 

“Yeah,” he said, lowering his arm. “I think I have some ideas.”

 

“Is that a stage?” Camilo asked, pointing at something on a desk and- yep, that was definitely a tiny stage, complete with a pile of painted backdrops and equally tiny costumes.

 

The rats squeaked in delight, jumped off Bruno’s shoulders and ran for the stage. They pranced about and, if Mirabel didn’t know any better she’d say they were-

 

“Oh!” Antonio cried, clapping his hands. “They’re actors!”

 

“Heh…” Bruno rubbed the back of his neck, smiling sheepishly. “I was bored?”

 

Antonio tilted his head, looking at the rats. “Oh, it’s Shakespeare! Lola, you like Romeo and Juliet, right?”

 

Dolores had a gleam in her eyes as she hurried towards the rats, kneeling down and watching with great interest. A little more shyly, Luisa followed and Antonio translated.

 

Camilo turned to Bruno with a grin. “I need so many details,” he said.

 

Félix looked between them with growing dread. “Oh God,” he muttered. “There’s two of them now.”

 

Pepa only snickered, pulling Bruno into a loose hug. “Ay, you always swore if you had pets you’d teach them to act!”

 

“I was bored, okay?” Bruno said, crossing his arms. He was clearly trying to appear grumpy, but he ended up grinning at Pepa as she continued to giggle. “It’s easier to write when you have feedback.”

 

“They could hardly give you feedback, Bruno!”

 

“You clearly haven’t spent much time around rats. They’re divas.”

 

Rosita squeaked indignantly. Bruno only raised his eyebrows at her.

 

To Mirabel’s amusement, the rats didn’t try to argue any further. They just looked at their audience and got back into character. 

 

Dolores, Luisa and Antonio were clearly enraptured. 

 

And Abuela, to Mirabel’s increasing amazement, only smiled indulgently and took Bruno’s hand.







After that…Well, they needed to address the kingdom. The servants had seen them all arrive. Alma had been with the council and concerned citizens when the news was broken to her. Rumours were already flying and everyone was clamouring to know what had happened, if it was true- if the Madrigals were reunited, if the Lost Prince was really home at last.

 

Mirabel was glad they’d already had the chance to clean up. The longer they waited to address this, the crazier rumours would get.

 

Abuela led them to the balcony and, before she opened the doors, she paused to adjust Bruno’s posture and try to smooth down his hair.

 

“Mamá!” he protested.

 

“No slouching,” she said gently. All three of the triplets froze for a moment, expressions softening, and Mirabel wondered what they were remembering. 

 

Julieta and Pepa exchanged glances and they each took one of Bruno’s hands. He looked between them and their joined hands, and gave a tiny smile. With a little huff of amusement he straightened up and smiled at Abuela.

 

Mirabel thought Abuela was about to cry at the sight of the three of them linked together. Her eyes shone, her smile wobbled- but she stayed steady. Straightbacked and proud as always, she led their family outside to address their people.

 

And the news really must have spread fast because, at the sight of them, the waiting crowd burst into applause.

 

As always, Mirabel felt a little shy and silly as she waved to their people; it was something she never quite got used to.

 

Abuela’s voice was loud and clear, jubilant: “Citizens of Encanto; my friends, my people…It is with the greatest joy that I welcome home my son, Prince Bruno.”

 

“Oh God,” Mirabel heard Bruno mutter as the applause and cheering grew.

 

“Come on,” Julieta said gently. “They’re not that bad.”

 

The triplets joined their mother and the applause only grew. Dolores covered her ears, but she was giggling.

 

Bruno glanced back at Mirabel and let go of Julieta to hold his hand out to her.

 

“Well, come on, kid,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here without you.”

 

Everyone turned to her then, the whole family smiling at her, watching her with pride.

 

“Come along, Mirabel,” Abuela said, still with that soft smile. “Come join your Tio.”

 

Don’t start crying now, Mirabel told herself as she walked forward and took Bruno’s hand, squeezing tightly as they stood before the cheering crowd, as Abuela proudly explained that Mirabel had found him, that Mirabel had been leading him home. That, not only had Mirabel saved his stolen crown, she’d saved him.

 

The whole of Encanto was cheering for her, calling her name. Her whole family was around her, happier than she’d ever seen them. She was hand in hand with her no-longer-lost uncle. Casita was whole and lively. Bruno was home. Abuela was smiling at her, her black shawl discarded. 

 

Mirabel stood up straight, grinning, eyes stinging. This time when she waved she didn’t feel silly or shy at all.

 

She felt right at home.




Present Day…




“And then what happened?” Juancho demanded, gulping his coffee. No, seriously, where was he getting that coffee? Mirabel could have sworn he’d finished that cup ages ago.

 

“The kingdom rejoiced!” Camilo said theatrically, throwing his arms wide. “For the Lost Prince had returned!”

 

Bruno ducked his head, doing his level best to avoid the crowd’s fond gazes. “The party lasted an entire week,” he recalled.

 

“Honestly, I don’t remember most of it,” Félix said with a laugh. He and Pepa high-fived, ignoring Abuela’s disapproving frown. 

 

“Well if you need a reminder, hermano,” Bruno said with a sharp grin that was too much like Camilo’s for comfort. “I seem to recall you crying all over me at least three times.”

 

“I don’t remember that,” Félix said quickly. “Never happened.”

 

“Nah, I remember that,” Camilo said with a lazy shrug. “Thought you were gonna crush him with that hug the first time.”

 

“Oh, yes!” Surprisingly it was Mariano to join in. “I thought you’d hurt yourself, Your Highness! But you were just very-”

 

“There’s children present,” Julieta cut in. That shut them all up.

 

“And dreams came true all over the place!” Mirabel said quickly, getting them back on track. “Tiago’s our best court pianist! He plays for us almost every evening and all the major parties.”

 

“He played the celebration,” Bruno said. “He wrote brand new songs for it, every day.”

 

“André found true love,” Luisa chimed in with a smile. “They’re getting married next year.”

 

“They want me to grow cacti for that,” Isabela said with a bemused frown. She shrugged, tossing her hair back. “But hey, whatever makes them happy.”

 

“Isabela’s powers have grown!” Antonio said happily. “She doesn’t just grow roses and vines anymore!”

 

Isabela’s smile certainly grew. She waved her hair and a flower crown appeared on Antonio’s head, bright orange lilies and yellow roses. 

 

“Gustavo’s got his own flower shop,” Mirabel said. “He’s still…” Was there a child friendly way to say, “Constantly hammered”? “He’s still Gustavo,” she settled for. 

 

“He’s got some really good arrangements,” Isabela said in approval. “He’s helping me with André’s wedding.”

 

“And the rest of you?” Cecilia asked, scooting forward with a bright smile and eager eyes. “What about all of you?”

 

“Well, what do you think happened, niña?” Bruno asked with a smile.

 

Cecilia pouted, tapping her chin. She seemed to be doing some hard thinking, but then she brightened and clapped her hands. “Oh! You all lived happily ever after, right?”

 

“That’s right,” Mirabel said, reaching out to pat Cecilia on the head. “We’re all living happily ever after. Tio Bruno is home safe and sound, and we’re a family.”

 

“What about the rats?” Alejandra asked with utmost seriousness.

 

“Still acting,” Bruno told her and she nodded and settled down again.

 

“And that’s the end!” Mirabel clapped her hands together. “What do you think? Was it a good story?”

 

“It would be better without Zarita,” Juancho said.

 

“Ah, well, we don’t need to worry about her anymore,” Mirabel said quickly as a cloud appeared over Pepa’s head and Abuela frowned. “She’s never coming back. Hard to come back from dust.”

 

Bruno looked down the road, in the direction of the city gates; to the mountains, the forest, the hidden tower…And he turned away, smiling at the kids.

 

“Mira’s right,” he said. “I’m home- I’d say that’s the best ending there is, wouldn’t you?”







Together, the Madrigals made their way back to Casita. People called out as they passed; they waved and bowed, or shouted greetings which they all returned. Antonio and Camilo led the way, dramatically re-enacting Bruno and Mirabel’s first meeting. Camilo liked to tease that Bruno should have hit her with the pan after all. Mirabel was always quick to say she’d hit him with a pan if he didn’t shut up.

 

Bruno fell back from Julieta’s side to walk in step with Mirabel.

 

“You know, the kids are just gonna keep demanding more stories,” he said.

 

“Ah, well, that’s why I have you guys,” Mirabel said, linking her arm with his. “This family has an endless supply of stories.”

 

Bruno smiled at her, at all of their family. “Well,” he said. “So long as we keep the happy endings I’m okay with more stories.”

 

“Sounds good to me,” Mirabel said. She waved at Casita and the windows all opened and shut in greeting; the roof tiles seemed to dance. 

 

After all, Mirabel much preferred happy endings to her stories. And Bruno was right when he’d told the kids they’d already gotten the best ending.

 

Bruno was home, they were all reunited. They’d grown and changed and they’d done it all together.

 

What better ending could there be?

 

Arm in arm, Mirabel and Bruno went home with their family, right where they belonged. They were all where they belonged at last. After everything, they had their happily-ever-after.