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Reconstructing the Social Hierarchy

Chapter Text

When you wish upon a star, it only gets you halfway there.


Flynn Rider

For as long as anyone could remember, the hallways of St. Minnie's Collegiate and Vocational Institute had been a veritable war ground. Even Flynn Rider, who had not stepped foot in the school before today, knew this. It would have been dangerous – perhaps even suicide – not to know.

And so, as Flynn Rider stepped onto the yard of St. Minnie's, his backpack over one shoulder and his cherry red convertible parked in the parking lot, he mentally went over his plan. One, act cool. Two, make friends. Three, coast for the rest of the year. Simple, flexible, easy to remember. It was the perfect plan.

Of course, he'd spent weeks modifying his plan to such simplistic perfection. He may have been new to coolness, but Flynn Rider prided himself on how hard he worked at it, and how easy it looked from the outside.

Flynn walked up to the school, staring up at the building and trying not to look too intimidated. A single high school for a medium sized town. That meant over one thousand students attended St. Minnie's. It would be one of the biggest acting debuts of his life.

"Heads up!" A shout from behind caused Flynn to duck to the left. An Arab teen on a skateboard skidded by. Flynn catalogued the guy's appearance instantly. Worn clothes, patched jeans, old jacket. He was from the other side of the train tracks, or so the story went.

"Nice moves," said the guy, rolling back toward Flynn. He kicked his board up into his hands and grinned. "Name's Al, you?"

"Flynn Rider," said Flynn, trying to mimic the easy confidence in Al's stance.

Al grinned. "Cool, cool. You new?"

"Yeah, just moved here," said Flynn.

Al leaned back to look at the cars in the parking lot. "Judging by the looks, I'm guessing the red convertible is yours," said Al.

Flynn raised his eyebrows. "How'd you guess?"

"The RYDER license plate was a good clue," said Al.

Flynn laughed as the two continued up to the door together. As they did, Flynn found himself looking at Al closely. Flynn tried not to catalogue his and Al's differences and failed. Where Al was all worn clothing and easy grins, Flynn was new designer jeans and carefully exuded confidence. Every action perfectly planned and executed. It was obvious to Flynn that the two were from opposite sides of town. That Al was from the other side of the tracks and that Flynn was from the hills.

What was also obvious was that Al was naturally as cool as Flynn wanted to be. Every action casual, every word smooth without effort. Al might not have been rich or famous, and he might not have been popular – Flynn had learned from carefully stalking Facebook pages that if you weren't from the hills you weren't popular at St. Minnie's – but Al had something few people did. He had a natural charm, wit, and easy-going attitude, one so obvious that Flynn felt at ease just standing next to him.

Together, Al and Flynn headed up the few front steps to the school, with Flynn mentally rehearsing his introductions to everyone he was bound to meet over the next six and a half hours.

Walt Hills wasn't large enough to warrant two high schools in its founding, that much Flynn had learned pretty quickly upon hearing about the town. Instead, the entire town – regardless of class – ended up at St. Minnie's, which sat only a few blocks away from the train tracks that bisected the town. Of course, the school was on Flynn's side, not Al's. That meant all the lower class students had to either take a bus, walk, or drive a beat up car.

The class divide should have made the war in the school obvious, but until Flynn had started reading Twitter accounts, he hadn't realized how bad it would be. St. Minnie's was a school of division and of war, that much he saw in his perusal of social media. It was a place where the lower class and the upper class mixed and clashed in the hallways and fought for everything in the school. There was plenty to go around, from what he'd heard, but that didn't stop them from fighting.

"So, the car," started Al, leading Flynn through the front doors of the school. It was a two storey thing of grey brick and ivy, of large windows and pop-out shelters for the rain. Flowers crept across the front of the building, arching with the curved sidewalk and roundabout loading zone that cars dropped off students in.

"Summer job, inheritance, or are your parents just that rich?" asked Al.

Flynn laughed, rubbing the back of his neck. He tried to make it casual but the unease roiled just beneath the surface, coating his laughter.

"My Dads bought it for me over the summer. They wanted to give me something to apologize for the cross country move, I think," said Flynn.

Inside the front door, the school exploded into noise and smells. Flynn tried to take it all in, from the half a dozen posters that marked sports' teams, to the smell of cologne and B.O. that couldn't be covered, to the buzzing of the overhead lights and the high pitched laughter from a trio of blonde cheerleaders.

Just inside the door stood a group of cheerleaders – the trio being part of it. A tall, elegant looking blonde girl was obviously their leader. She was preaching the importance of beauty sleep on the complexion, and how a good night's rest helped the body for tough physical activity.

Flynn ducked around them with Al and tried not to grin.

"Dads?" echoed Al. And Flynn bit his lip. Despite all that he had changed about himself – from his name to his look to the things he liked and the way he spoke – he'd promised himself he wouldn't lie about his dads.

"Yeah," said Flynn, hesitantly.

Al nodded. "Cool. Mowgli, a kid I used to babysit, has two dads too. They're pretty cool."

Flynn felt himself relax. He let out a soft breath he'd been holding subconsciously. Good, at least that wouldn't get him ripped apart by Al. It was a relief to have the one thing in his life he was truly proud of – the awesome that was his dads, Tulio and Miguel – not cause a problem.

"Mr. Ali, I hope that skateboard will be staying in your hands today," said one of the teachers as Al and Flynn passed him to get to their lockers.

Al spun around and gave the man a two-fingered salute. He grinned. "Sure thing, Mr. Frollo." He bumped shoulders with Flynn to get Flynn to turn down one of the halls.

The school was pretty big, Flynn noticed, and the lobby was gorgeous. They'd already passed it, but the image remained in his head. Two storeys high, tons of windows, and a gorgeous skylight to show off the September weather. It probably had great acoustics too. Flynn itched to pick up a guitar and find out just how good the acoustics were.

And the further into the school he walked, the more he realized it was already packed. Dozens of students milled about the lobby, chatting with one another, checking out homeroom numbers on the scrolling lists on the televisions pinned to the wall. Some were digging through their bags or eating breakfast. Others already seemed to be panicking. The hallways were filled with students as well, talking, texting, or tossing their bags into their lockers – if they weren't fighting to get the things open in the first place.

As Flynn walked down one of the halls, he caught sight of the first wall mural on the white brick walls. Covering the entirety of the doorway into the hallway was a beautiful mural of a vine covered stone arc. It was filled with flowers and birds and tiny glass ornaments that seemed to be moving in the paint. Brilliant shades of purple pockmarked the vibrant greens and multitudes of grey.

"Wow," breathed Flynn as they passed it.

Al grinned at him. "That's Rapunzel, she was only a part-time student last year, but I think she's coming back full time this year. Her art is incredible."

"Are there more?" asked Flynn, his voice somewhat breathless as he threw a glance over his shoulder.

"Tons," said Al, still grinning. "I can show you the rest later, maybe at lunch?"

Flynn turned his gaze toward Al, who seemed a bit sheepish now. He flashed Al his patented Easy Grin. "Sounds great."

Al stopped at a locker and spun the dial. Flynn leaned against one next to it and watched Al put away his worn out textbooks, his thin jacket, and his singular binder. He fought the urge to frown. How could the guy not have more stuff for school? But then, it wasn't his business. But maybe he could sneak some extra lined paper into the binder when Al wasn't looking. It seemed a bit thin for note taking, and Flynn sucked at notes anyway.

A girl separated herself from the crowd and approached Al out of the corner of Flynn's eye. Her long, raven hair framed a face that was only a few shades lighter than Al's, and her brilliant green-blue eyes stood out starkly from both.

"Morning Al," said the girl.

Al turned and, instantly, broke into a wide grin. "Esme!" he shouted, throwing his arms around her. She was a good two or three inches taller than Al, putting her just under eye level with Flynn. She lifted him up off the floor and spun him around. Both laughed, and Flynn found himself smiling at their easy affection. Friends? Dating? He wasn't sure. Figured he'd just listen to find out.

"How was your summer?" asked Esme. She set him down.

Al pulled back from her, arms still loosely around her neck. "It was great. Got to go to the beach a ton, learned how to finally do a proper flip on my board. Too bad you weren't around." His grin dropped into a sort of pout that Flynn couldn't help but smile at.

"I was in New York taking part in the protests for the new disability act, you know how important that is to me," said Esme, frowning.

Al nodded. "Of course. I just wish I'd been around." Now he let go of Esme, though it seemed to be more because other people were starting to stare. Al's ears were red, but his blush didn't show on the rest of his dark complexion. Ah, so they weren't dating then, thought Flynn. Just affectionate friends. He knew that look anywhere. It was a look of 'ugh, why are people staring', not a look of a love struck teen.

Now, Esme's attention turned to Flynn. She raised an eyebrow and looked him over. Flynn resisted the urge to fold his arms across his chest and fidget. If she wanted to stare, let her, the new Flynn Rider wouldn't be undone by a simple look.

He hoped so, anyway.

"Esmeralda," she said after a moment.

"Flynn," he replied. He took a moment, despite his discomfort, to give her a subtle once over as well. Her layered skirts, loose blouse, and the scarf in her hair obviously weren't the latest fashions, but Flynn found himself enjoying the look. She pulled it off well, especially with those eyes of hers. They were as intense as anything he'd ever seen. It may have been a cliché, but Flynn felt as though those eyes could look right through him and see what he was underneath his layers of suave confidence and false relaxed stances.

"You new?" asked Esme.

"Yeah," said Al, chiming in for Flynn. He bounced up and down. "Esme you need to see this guy's car. It's a convertible. And it's cherry red!" Al was still grinning as he spoke. Flynn wondered, idly, if he ever stopped being so perky. He hoped not. It was a nice change from his old school and old friends. That is, if Al counted as a friend. Probably jumping the gun with that one, but it was always so hard to tell.

"Ah. You're from the hills, then," said Esme.

Flynn spread his hands. "That obvious?"

Esme gave his designer clothes and perfectly styled hair a flat look. "Yes," she said. There was a trace of amusement in her voice, however, so Flynn hoped she didn't hold it against him too much.

"You'll be on their side before the end of the day," said Esme, a touch of dismay in her tone.

Al deflated. "He doesn't have to be," Al muttered. "He's cool, Esme. We could keep him."

Flynn's eyebrows shot up. "Keep me?" he echoed, incredulous.

"Figure of speech, pretty boy," said Esme. Then, she turned her attention to Al. "You know he'll join them."

"But they suck. He likes me, obviously he has good taste," said Al, doing an overdramatic hair flip.

"Like with like, Al. He'll join the Richie Riches, just like…" She trailed off. Both Al and Esme sighed.

Al said, "I'm still bitter." His voice was sad.

"Same," said Esme, her voice tight with frustration. "Anyway." She turned back to Flynn. "You won't be around long, not once Gaston realizes you're one of them."

Flynn raised his hands in surrender. "Hey, as long as you guys'll have me, I'm here." He flashed them another easy grin. "I'm not just another pretty face, you know."

"Nah, your ass is nice too," said Al. Flynn choked on his own spit. Al and Esme both smirked.

"So, homeroom?" asked Esme, a little too innocently. Flynn followed them back to the lobby and toward the TVs, wondering just what he'd gotten himself in to.


Alice Liddel

Peter Pan would make an excellent book character, Alice decided the first time she saw him flip out of a tree. He'd been ten – perhaps fifteen – feet in the air when he'd back-flipped off the branch and landed silently on the grassy front yard of St. Minnie's. There'd been some light applause from the handful of cheerleaders sitting outside.

It was early, the sun still low, and most people hadn't yet arrived at school.

With a quiet smile, Alice dug her spiral-bound notebook from her off-the-shoulder backpack and flipped it open to the latest page. She popped the pen from the side and began to write.

The flying boy came through the window just after midnight, hunting for his shadow. Alice giggled at the sentence. Hunting for a shadow? Her sister would find the notion ridiculous, but the image suited Peter Pan absolutely perfectly. She leaned against the school and kept writing, biting her lip as she went.

Of course, his shadow hadn't simply gotten up and walked away. He'd lost it in a duel with… Alice glanced around the courtyard. Her eyes fell upon Aurora Rose, the beautiful head cheerleader. Almost immediately, more images fell unbidden into Alice's mind.

Captain Aurora of the St. Minotaur. She'd cut the shadow clean off him and let it float away on the wind. If not for his incredible acrobatics, he'd have lost a lot more than his shadow.

Satisfied for the moment, Alice snapped the purple book shut and stuffed it back into her backpack. She ran into the school and shoved what she didn't need in her locker. Then, it was time to wander. She followed the path of the school halls easily, allowing herself to drift in the noise and the smell. After a few minutes, the cheerleaders came inside, and soon the school began to fill up.

Alice spotted Al and Esme at one point. They'd been her babysitters not too long ago and she missed them dearly. She debated saying hi to them, but she knew the hierarchy of St. Minnie's dictated that she did not speak with such "people" as her sister would say. Alice could practically hear the distasteful tone of her sister's voice in the thought.

Lost in thought, Alice nearly missed the bell for home room, and she quickly ran off when she realized.

There was an assigned seating list at the front of the room that she entered – apparently Mrs. Porter was fond of them, or so she'd been told. Alice remembered hearing a lot about Mrs. Porter before coming to her freshman year. She'd been terribly excited to get her for an English teacher.

"Good morning class," said Mrs. Porter, walking into the room. Her brown bun bounced as she walked, making Alice's fingers itch for her notebook and pencil. "Because it's our first day, let's start simple. I want you all to write a letter to me describing who you are in a nutshell. You'll hand it in tomorrow. Now, let's go around the room and introduce ourselves, then you can get to work."

Alice pulled out her notebook even before Mrs. Porter told them they'd be introducing themselves. She kept writing her story, mostly ignoring the instruction for the letter. She could do that on the ride home.

The flying boy crossed the playroom in silence, hunting for his shadow in the dark. Shadows were harder to see in the dark, but the flying boy did not stop his hunt. She tapped her pencil on the page and scowled at the words. Surely there was a better way to keep this story going instead of talking about the shadow.

Perhaps a conflict… yes that would do.

The door to the playroom opened and in walked… Alice tried to remember one of the people from the courtyard, but she couldn't remember any of their names.

Alice keyed back into the classroom discussion just in time to hear the next student introduce herself.

"I'm Wendy Darling. My favourite class is history and I want to be a kindergarten teacher," said the red-headed girl. Alice grinned.

Wendy Darling. She carried a large book of maps and was busy talking to her dog, Lady. The Saint Bernard was a beauty in a bonnet. Neither one noticed the flying boy, hiding in the shadows of the rafters.

"And you?" The voice of Mrs. Porter jolted Alice from her writing. She looked up at the teacher, who eyed her expectantly. Alice looked around.

"What's your name?" asked Mrs. Porter. "Come now, then a few things about yourself."

Alice nodded and said, "I'm Alice Liddel. I like English class and the colour blue." She fidgeted with her pen for a few seconds and dropped her gaze to the desk. Mrs. Porter went on.

"Mowgli Bachchan," said the next boy. Alice looked up at the name. It was a lovely one, and one that she recognized. Mr. Bachchan and his husband, Dr. Bhattacharya, were both familiar to her and her family. Mr. Bachchan was a teacher at the local middle school, while Dr. Bhattacharya was a researcher of some sort. Mr. Bachchan had taught her history class last year. He was a bear of a man, with prematurely grey hair and an easy laugh.

"What's your favourite thing?" asked Mrs. Porter to Mowgli.

Mowgli scratched his head. "Does lunch count?" he asked, expression sheepish. A few chuckles sounded around the room. He shrugged. "I like acrobatic stuff. Gymnastics."

Mrs. Porter smiled. "Good, good," she said. She moved on. Alice went back to her writing, inspiration striking.

The flying boy disappeared out the window, having seen his shadow. He flew almost ten houses down before coming to rest at a more modest condo. Inside, the flying boy saw his shadow perched on a hammock bed. He dove for the hammock, but the shadow leaped away. Instead, the flying boy landed on the hammock's occupant.

An Indian boy appeared from the depths of the blankets, yelping. His hands scrambled for purchase, smacking the flying boy back into the air. The flying boy pouted.

"That's rude," he said, simply. The Indian boy gasped, his eyes going wide as he stared at the flying boy.

"Hi!" said the flying boy. "I'm Peter."

Alice grinned at her notebook, eyes eager. This, she decided, was going to be her best work yet.

Chapter Text

Fa Mulan

The end of the second day of school brought about the beginning of a new era for Mulan. For, standing on this football amidst these dozens of men – some trying out for football and some already on the team – she was the only girl. And, if the look on Gaston's face was anything to go by, she was the only girl who'd ever tried to sign up for football.

"What is she doing here?" sputtered Gaston, the first words any of the football team had spoken since Mulan had stepped up for try-outs. Mulan didn't miss the way Gaston emphasized the word "she". It didn't make her angry, it just made her want to stay there even more.

"I'm here to try out," said Mulan, her tone leaving no room for argument. She held her chin high and squared her shoulders. She wasn't even the skinniest or shortest person in the line-up. Ling was much more of a string bean than she was, and she had almost six inches on Yao. That didn't even count the others she couldn't see.

Gaston scoffed. "There's no way a girl can try out for football." The sneer in his voice matched the one on his face. "It's a guys' team!"

"Actually, it's not," said Mulan. She stepped out of the line-up to walk up to Gaston and ripped a printed out sheet of the rulebook out of her pocket to shove at Gaston. "There's nothing in the rules that states that this is an explicitly male team. The rules even say that schools should ensure that both male and female locker rooms should be available for both teams."

She scowled at Gaston and yanked the sheet back from him before he could grab it and rip it up.

"The only rule is that you have to play the other male football teams, not the girl ones," said Mulan. She stuffed the page into her front pocket and folded her arms. Let her scowl speak for itself.

There was a sigh from the resident team captain – Li Shang. He walked over to Mulan and the others, rubbing a hand over his face as he did. He stood straight, even as exasperated as he looked. A show of strength among a couple of guys who would jump for his position on the team. Mulan stayed ready, she wasn't about to get walked off this field by a pretty boy who only cared about his "bros".

"I have just as much a right to be here as anyone else," said Mulan tightly.

Shang nodded. It was a slow, almost defeated, gesture that made Mulan's eyes go wide.

"She's right, Gaston," said Shang, still only looking at Mulan. "There's no rule, I checked when I saw her eyeing the team at the end of the season, last year." He smirked at her. Mulan continued to scowl, she folded her arms even more tightly across her chest and tried to make herself look taller.

"And here I thought she was just admiring my good looks," said John Smith, preening a bit. Mulan rolled her eyes – a gesture that encompassed her entire head.

"Don't flatter yourself," said Mulan, lip curling back into a disgusted sneer.

John scowled – though it was closer to a pout – and muttered something about 'periods' and 'mood swings'. Mulan gritted her teeth and took it. Pocahontas was always telling her to pick and choose her battles. She didn't need to get booted off the team before she even joined it.

"Look, if you want me to get Principal Thatch, I'm sure she'd love to talk to you all about breaking rules," said Mulan. She'd spoken to Principal Thatch over the summer about her plan to join the team. Principal Thatch had not only been fully supportive, but she'd agreed to help Mulan in any way, shape, or form that Mulan needed. If that meant coming down here to argue rules with the team, she'd do it.

Her husband Mr. Thatch, who taught Math and History (and sometimes Latin and Spanish), had been equally supportive. Though Mulan knew he'd been more concerned about fixing his wife's hearing aids at the time. Without them, Principal Thatch couldn't hear almost anything. Of course, when it was fire drill time, she preferred as much.

Shang grimaced, he turned away from Mulan and to the rest of the team and said, "She's right. Thatch'd have our heads if we were caught discriminating based on gender."

"How about talent?" asked Gaston. "She can't be any good. She's a girl, besides, she's tiny."

John Smith added, "There's a week of try-outs. If she's bad, we kick her, simple."

"And if she's good, she stays." That was Hercules, probably the biggest guy on the team, and also the nicest, from what Ariel had told Mulan. "And you guys stop talking about her like she's not here."

"Thank you," said Mulan drily.

Shang turned back toward the potential members of the team and nodded to them all. "All right, let's start with some laps. Ten of 'em around the track, and show me some hustle." He clapped his hands together as the newbies headed for the track.

Mulan started around the track with the rest of the boys. Before long, she found herself in the middle of the pack, keeping a tight focus on her breathing. She'd spent all summer training for this. She still wasn't the best, but she just had to be good enough to make top five to get on the team.

A red-headed guy, one of the few smaller than Mulan, jogged alongside her. He was maybe two inches shorter and his floppy hair was smeared to his forehead with sweat.

He grinned at her. "Thomas," he said.

"Mulan," she replied.

He took a few panting breaths and tried to keep pace with her. "I hope you make the cut," he said. "I'd love to see the look on Gaston's face." He scrambled as he slipped. Mulan caught his arms and hauled him up a little higher. She slowed her pace a bit to help him out. Tried not to think about how it made her look like she didn't have the stamina for laps, instead of Thomas.

"Try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth," said Mulan. "It forces you to regulate your intake."

Thomas switched tactics and flashed a grin to Mulan. "Thanks." This time, he was much less out of breath.

"No problem," said Mulan.

"You know," said Thomas, casting a glance to the centre of the field, where Shang and the rest of the team were. "I only tried out because John wants me to, but if you're here, I think this could actually be fun." He flashed a smile to Mulan when he turned back to her.

Mulan smiled. "Yeah, maybe," she said. And maybe she hadn't set out to have fun, and maybe this Thomas guy was going to slow her down, but at least not everyone here hated her. Thomas was pretty cool, and Shang hadn't seemed too bad. Then there was Hercules. When she made the team – and that was a when not an if – she looked forward to playing with them. And maybe, with a little of her help, she could get Thomas on the team as well. Then she'd have three half decent people with her – two definitely on her side.

Then they'd really have a great season, and maybe get Gaston kicked off the team for good, instead of just probation, like the last two years.

"Come on," she said, slapping Thomas on the back and picking up speed. "Let's do the last two laps properly."

Thomas laughed, though it was shaky and breathy. "All right!" He pumped a fist into the air and tore after her.


Aurora Rose

Aurora Rose, contrary to the belief of many, was not a stupid person. She knew a lot of things – both useful and academic. For instance, she knew that she was not only the prettiest girl in the school, but also the most popular. She knew that the cheerleaders were at her beck and call, that her friends would tear apart any boy that wasn't worthy of her, and that her parents would give her anything she wanted.

Aurora also knew that this was, without a doubt, one of the worst days of her life.

"You're leaving?" Aurora asked again, frustrating making her voice peak into a shriek. "What am I supposed to do?"

Aurora's parents glanced to each other. Her mother sighed and turned toward Aurora.

"You'll be staying with your aunts," she said.

Aurora wrinkled her nose. "My aunts?" Her voice was still a shriek, raising even higher if that was even possible. How could her parents do this to her? She needed their money. She needed their support. Her mother had to tell her how pretty she was before she left in the morning. Her daddy needed to threaten all the boys she brought over with lawsuits.

Her aunts? The nerve! They lived four blocks off the hill, but still on this side of the train tracks. They only had a one car garage. They only a two storey house! She'd have to sleep in the attic bedroom. Ugh! How could they do this to her?

And what about her homecoming party? She was supposed to host one! If the house wasn't open to her, how was she supposed to throw an awesome party? It was such BS.

"Aurora, please, try to see it from our point of view," said her mother, always the voice of reason out of her family. "Maleficent is specifically requesting us to work in Disney Valley for this case – together." There was a tightness in her eyes and in her voice that Aurora only barely noticed amidst her own terrible pain.

"This will make or break our careers," said Aurora's mother. "If we do well, we'll be partners in Maleficent's law firm, instead of just her highest billed lawyers."

Aurora pouted and leaned against the doorframe. "It's not fair. Why can't I just stay in the house? Why can't my aunties just come up here?" She perked suddenly. "Why can't I just go with you?"

Her parents looked at each other.

"We both thought it would be a great experience for you," said her mother. "You want to be a social worker someday, don't you? It will be great to see the world through the same eyes as the kids you work with will."

Aurora sighed, a long, drawn out thing that betrayed her suffering. "I guess." That was a decent point.

"And you'll be closer to the high school – and the elementary school!" said her mother, beaming. Aurora perked at that. She'd get to see the kids more often? The ones she babysat? That would be amazing. Maybe this wasn't all bad…

"But what about my party?" asked Aurora, pouting.

"What if we still let you throw your party? You'll have to throw it this weekend, then move in with your aunts after that, but we'll let you throw your party," said Aurora's dad.

"Really?" asked Aurora. She beamed, eyes lighting up and voice raising in excitement more than anything else. She threw her arms around her dad and grinned. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

"On one condition," said her father.

Aurora pulled back and narrowed her eyes at him. "What's that?" she asked.

"You're in charge of clean up, and your aunts will be over Sunday morning to take you to their place," said her dad.

"And," added her mother. "You'll be expected to keep up with your babysitting duties while we're gone."

Aurora nodded. Simple enough. "Done! Thank you so much." She separated from her dad to hug her mom just as tightly.

"Good luck in Disney Valley, Mom," she said. She pulled back from her mom to kiss her dad on the cheek.

"Love you, Daddy," she said.

"Love you too, my little rose," he said.

Aurora darted out of the room and tossed herself onto her bed. She grabbed her iPhone and punched in the group call she'd set up days ago for this exact purpose.

"Change of plans, girls – my 'Homecoming' party is now going to be a 'Welcome Back to School' party," said Aurora. "My parents are gonna be MIA after Thursday night, and they want to close down the house after this weekend."

"Where'll you be going, hun?" asked Lottie.

"My aunts'," said Aurora, wrinkling her nose. Some of it was for effect. She loved her aunts, but they were a little too absorbed in being down-to-earth and "one with nature".

She rolled onto her back and stared at her fingernails. She'd need a mani-pedi before the party. She had to look her best for all the hot guys – especially Shang and John. Those boys were fine.

"Ugh, gross," said Tink. Aurora knew Tink would sympathize – the Pan family was just as rich as Aurora's was. And her brothers, Phillip and Peter, was huge black sheep in the family. Or was it sheeps? Was sheeps a word? "You can totally stay over some weekend."

Aurora grinned. A girls' weekend with Tink and Peri? That'd be amazing. And she'd get to see Peter. He was too old to babysit now, so she almost never saw him anymore.

"That'd be amazing," said Aurora.

"Still too bad about your aunts," said Tink. Lottie said nothing.

"I know, right?" said Aurora. "So here's the plan. We're going to need food, music, and some kickass decorations. Can we manage it all by this weekend and make sure everyone is here in proper party attire?"

"I got food," said Lottie. "I can hire Tiana to do it, you know she loves doing this kind of thing."

Aurora rolled her eyes, of course Lottie would hire Tiana. Tiana didn't do anything for free, even something as important as one of Aurora's parties. What a cheapskate.

"I've got music," said Tink. Aurora could hear her dancing on the other side of the line.

"Then I'll grab the 'Ettes and we'll handle decorations," said Aurora. She grinned up at the ceiling and thought about all the people she'd be dragging to the party this weekend. "Oh, and don't forget to call Jasmine. She's knows a bunch of people in Disney Valley she can invite."

It was going to be perfect.

"Are you sure?" asked Tink with a groan. "She's such a snob."

Aurora hummed, her voice grimly serious. "We must all suffer for the sake of the party." There was a moment of silence, then all the girls burst into loud, happy laughter.

"We'll talk more at lunch tomorrow," said Aurora, still grinning. "I've got an appointment with a bubble bath and some candles, and I don't plan on missing it."

"Night, sugar," said Lottie.

Tink laughed. "Night 'Ro."

"Night girls, remember – it's party time!" said Aurora. All three of them were still laughing when they hung up.

Chapter Text

Naveen Campos

Naveen doodled with surprising intensity as his parents continued to argue with Principal Thatch about his most recent infraction. Apparently, convincing Audrey, that mechanic chick, to rig all the Bluetooth radios together and blast Spice Girls for an hour was not an acceptable use of school equipment or of his and Audrey's time.

Personally, Naveen thought it was a great use of his time. "Spice Up Your Life" and "Wannabe" were as fantastic as they were under-appreciated, and could only truly be understood when played at top volume on a rotating repeat for over an hour.

Naveen fiddled with his pencil, alternating between doodling a few lines of music on a napkin and watching his parents and Principal Thatch talk.

"This isn't the first time Naveen has used his popularity and his position in the school hierarchy to convince others to do his bidding," Principal Thatch was saying. Naveen glanced up to see her brush her fingers across the blue hearing aid in her right ear. As a freshman, he'd realized that she touched them as a nervous habit. Or maybe as a reminder. From what he'd heard, she's almost been completely deaf before Mr. Thatch, her husband, had built her a custom pair.

"Naveen is a good boy," said Mrs. Campos vehemently. She stabbed a finger onto his record – a decently thick file for a junior in his first week – and shoved it back toward Principal Thatch.

"I understand that," said Principal Thatch, in a diplomatic voice that Naveen was very familiar with. She folded her arms on her desk in front of her. "I also understand that the Campos family donates quite a bit to the school each year. Now, I've looked the other way in the past, but this is simply too disruptive. Naveen will be receiving two weeks of detention for this. And, if he does something of this calibre again, he will be suspended."

Mr. Campos shook his head. There was a sigh in his voice as he spoke. "While I don't want Naveen in trouble, I do understand. I'm sorry he's taken advantage of our status as donators."

Principal Thatch smiled. It was as diplomatic as her voice. Naveen worked on doodling it into the margins of his music, between a few new lines for a ukulele song he was working on. He tried not to wince at his father's tone. But, even if he knew his mother and father weren't the punishing type, the 'disappointed in you' voice always made him twitchy.

"I'm just glad we're sorting this out now. Perhaps, this way, Naveen won't disrupt the school with… 90s pop music again," said Principal Thatch.

Naveen looked up from his music and said, "The Spice Girls are a cornerstone of their genre and defined the modern day definition of a girl band…" The three adults looked at him with the same flat look. He stopped talking and went back to doodling. Kept glancing up at his parents and Principal Thatch from time to time.

There was more talk, something about Audrey that he didn't catch, then there was a discussion about his past problems. After that, the meeting was over, and Naveen had written almost an entirely new song for his ukulele.

"Thank you, Principal Thatch," said Mr. Campos. Naveen felt more than saw the three adults stand and shake hands. He stood as well, but didn't meet Principal Thatch's eerily pale gaze – and, really, he never understood how such a dark woman had such light eyes. She had darker skin than him! – instead he focussed on the floor. He didn't want to see the annoyance or the guilt-trip that would no doubt be in her eyes.

Naveen's parents led him from the office and into the hall.

"What were you thinking?" said Mrs. Campos, scowling at him.

"Agreed," said Mr. Campos.

Naveen sighed. "Mama, Papa," said Naveen. "I was only trying to be funny." He tugged self-consciously at a lock of his curly brown hair – only a shade or two darker than his already brown skin. He tried not to look at them, for fear of the guilt overwhelming him. He loved his parents, really, but he just wanted to have fun. Why did they feel a need to guilt him about everything? The guilt was the worst.

"You will serve your detentions," said his mama, firmly. "And we will discuss your punishment at home, later."

His papa said, "It's high time you learn something about the value of hard work and responsibility." Naveen shuddered at the thought. Hard work and responsibility? Like chores? Ugh. That was going to be a nightmare. He'd have to think of some other way of wheedling out of it.

"We'll see you at home," said his mama. She kissed his cheek. His papa clapped him on the shoulder. And then they turned and left the school.

Naveen sighed and stretched once they were out of sight. God, good thing that was over. It felt like that meeting had gone on forever. Thankfully, it had lasted until lunch. Small miracles.

He headed toward the cafeteria, fingers itching to grab his ukulele from his locker. But he doubted Principal Thatch would like that. And he didn't really want to spend more time in the office today.

Inside the cafeteria, he caught sight of John Smith, Thomas Bale, and Phillip Pan. He swaggered up to them, not bothering with lunch, and dropped into the empty chair next to Eric Barnes, who was also sitting with the three.

"So, how'd the meeting go?" asked Phillip. He was peering past Naveen, no doubt looking at his little brother, Peter, who Naveen had seen trying to balance half a dozen cups, four lunch trays, and an entire bowl of artificial sweetener on an upside down chair.

There was a crash behind Naveen. Phillip winced. Naveen turned and saw the aforementioned items spilled across the floor and tables. Peter was on his back, half tangled up in the chair.

"I'm okay!" he said. Everyone turned back to their food. Peter was hardly the first over-the-top Pan in the school. That title belonged to Tinkerbell Pan, the older sister to both boys. Granted, she was more for vocal dramatics, not stacking things like some odd game of Tetris. And of course, her twin, Periwinkle, tended to keep her in check.

As far as Naveen knew, Peter didn't have anyone to keep him in check. Not yet, at least. Naveen remembered that Phillip had never been that bad. He'd always been the calm one in the family, and the only one not into cheerleading, from what Naveen had heard. But then, Phillip also had people pushing him to be more outgoing, instead of the other way around. It was kind of strange.

"It went fine," said Naveen, remembering after a few awkward seconds that he was supposed to answer. "The usual. Detention, blah blah, last warning, blah blah, you're better than this, yadda." He shrugged. "My parents are claiming they're giving me a punishment too. Something about 'responsibility' and the meaning of 'hard work'." Naveen rolled his eyes and leaned back in his chair, arms folded behind his head. The front two legs of the chair came off the ground, letting him rock back and forth while he spoke.

"Do they ever actually go through with that?" asked John, raising an eyebrow. He plucked a French fry from his plate and tossed it into his mouth.

"Nope," said Naveen, purposely popping the 'p'. "Usually they make me fold my own laundry for like, three days. Then they give up and let the maid do it." He shrugged again. "Big deal." He eyed the burger in front of John. It was sliced in half, because John was weird like that. Naveen licked his lips. He could go get lunch.

"Is Audrey in trouble?" That was Thomas, who was the smallest guy at the table. According to last year's gym class, Thomas was only five feet and four inches, making him a good three inches shorter than Eric, who was next shortest. John and Phillip were tied for tallest, positively towering over Eric and Thomas, with Naveen a little shorter than them. Naveen preferred being in the middle. Let him blend in when he wanted to get into trouble.

"Not that I know of," said Naveen. "She'll live." John popped half the burger onto a napkin and slid it over to Naveen. "Thanks," said Naveen, already picking it up to eat.

Thomas frowned. "I'll ask her during Home Ec."

Naveen gave Thomas a flat look. "Home Ec?" he echoed, raising his eyebrows and curling his nose incredulously. A bit of ketchup dripped onto his finger. He sucked it off.

John was the only one not giving Thomas a strange look. The redhead slid down in his seat, tugging his hat over his eyes.

"It was that or another health class," he muttered.

Phillip frowned. "What's so bad about health class?"

Thomas peered up at Phillip from under the brim of his hat. His eyes wide and terrified all at once. "Dude," he said. "Dude."

"Did I miss something?" asked Naveen.

John grimaced. "Health class was when everyone decided that Thomas made a good punching bag, back when we were freshmen. If I wasn't friends with him now, Gaston and his buddies would still be taking swings at him."

"Say one comment about the inconsistency in teaching about genital health between sexes," said Thomas, folding his arms across his chest. "Everyone's a critic."

John patted Thomas' head. Thomas scowled at his macaroni and cheese.

"I'm sorry, what?" said Naveen. He popped the rest of the burger into his mouth and grabbed for a napkin. They weren't great burgers, but he was starving. And besides, nothing compared to James' Diner.

"He said that we learn a lot about dicks and not much about chicks. That it wasn't fair to them that they didn't learn anything about their own hygiene and the like," said John. "It was… quite passionate, really." John shook his head and chuckled.

Thomas was turning as red as his hair. He kept glowering at his macaroni and cheese.

"Right," said Naveen, slowly drawing out the 'I'. He changed the subject. "So, anyone got plans for Aurora's party tomorrow night?"

Thomas looked up. "There's a party tomorrow night?" he asked. The four guys at the table gave him a flat look. Naveen sighed and tossed the napkin over Phillip's shoulder. It landed neatly in the garbage can behind him.

"Don't worry, buddy, you can go with me," said John, slinging an arm around Thomas' shoulder. Naveen shook his head.

"That's not going to help the rumours," quipped Eric. "You know, the ones about you two dating."

John shrugged. "Eh. What's the phrase? C'est la vie?" he said. He grinned at the guys. "Not like I got an eye on a girl anyway. Except maybe Pocahontas…"

"Good luck with that," said Naveen, grimacing. "The girl is more likely to kill you than date you. Especially after all that shit you talked about her tree hugging last year."

"Yeah," agreed Eric, "Besides, she's pretty wrapped up in Ariel right now, you know, since the accident."

There was silence at the table for a few, awkward seconds. Naveen cleared his throat and tried to think of something to say, but he came up short.

"I can't go," said Thomas, shrugging off John's shoulder. "It's my parents' anniversary, I promised I'd babysit my sister so they could go out." He fiddled with his hands and licked his lips, not really looking at them.

John sighed and propped his chin up with his arm, his elbow narrowly avoiding the mustard stain on the table. His brow knitted together and he gave a frown that was almost a pout.

"Bummer," he said. He reached out and patted Thomas on the shoulder. Thomas gave him a weak smile. Then, John's gaze flicked to Naveen and the others. "Four of us then? Stag?"

The guys nodded and all high-fived.

"Party time!" cheered Naveen, pumping a fist into the air.


Peter Pan

Peter watched as clothes came flying out of the closet in a whirlwind of movement and glitter. He dropped onto his sister's bedspread – it was hot pink with silver this week – and stretched out to watch the chaos unfold around him. He laid on his back and yawned, stretching his arms over his head.

"You want something?" asked Tink from the depths of her closet. She was probably looking for party clothes, Peter thought. Or maybe something for a 'hot date'. He heard she had a thing going on with Terrence, the set painter in the drama club. He was cute, if a little quiet. But his sister preferred them quiet. It let her talk more.

"Nope," said Peter, rolling onto his stomach and propping his chin in his hands. He cocked his head to one side and peered into the walk-in closet. The half-closed door and the beads over the door obscured her from view. That wasn't even taking into account the various bits of clothing strung across the door.

Peter asked, "Shouldn't you be doing music for Aurora's party tomorrow?"

There was a pause in the movement that Peter could see beyond the beads. Tink popped her head out of the closet.

"How do you know about that?" she asked with narrowed eyes.

Peter grinned. "You know I'm coming, right?"

"No, oh no," said Tink. She came out of the closet and put her hands on her hips. Standing amidst the clothes and only an inch taller than Peter, he didn't find her particularly intimidating, even with the so-called 'death glare' she'd inherited from their mother. It didn't work with a face as cherub as hers (and his, for that matter).

"There are no freshman at this party," said Tink, scowling. "Shouldn't you know that?"

Peter shrugged. "So? I'm a Pan. Don't I get special privileges?" They were the 'it' family in Walt Hills, after all. The only family that was as popular as theirs was the Rose family, and maybe Jasmine Sultan and her dad, but most people hated her. To be honest, Peter didn't understand why. Jasmine was nice, never really said anything, and didn't bother anyone.

"Only if you're dating an upperclassman. Which, gross," said Tink. She went back into the closet. More clothes started flying. Peter caught the magenta scarf that whizzed past his head and put it on with a flourish. "You'd need a girlfriend."

"Boyfriend," corrected Peter, pretending his voice didn't crack a bit as he spoke. He sat up and clenched his fists in his lap, while trying to pretend his knee was shaking.

Tink appeared from the depths of the closet, covered in accessories and shirts. "Really?" she asked. He nodded. "Hm. Cool." Then, "That scarf doesn't match your hair."

"Aww, too bad," said Peter, unwinding it. He pretended not to notice the tremble in his fingers. He wrapped it up in his hands and stuffed them in his lap. Tink was looking at him funny, like she'd noticed. If she had, she didn't say anything.

"Maybe try some yellow instead, or some green," said Tink, disappearing back into the closet.

"I'd look like a Christmas tree!" shouted Peter into the closet.

Tink shouted back, "That's the point!"

Peter rolled his eyes and flopped back on the bed, letting the scarf float down to the floor. Well, that was one family member down, now only four to go. Five, if you counted the dog. Which Peter did.

He couldn't help the soft exhale that escaped him. That had gone surprisingly well. Not that he'd expected a massive fallout – his sister was sort-of-mostly friends with Vidia, the Alliance president, and Terrence was a member (bisexual, Peter thought, but he wasn't sure) – but then, it was natural to worry about these things. Or so the internet told him.

"You're not going to prank the party if I don't let you go, are you?" asked Tink from the closet.

"Nah," said Peter, lifting his feet into the air and let his arms fall across his face. "I'll come with something for the team, later."

He could practically hear Tink narrow her eyes. "Don't you dare prank the cheerleaders, Peter. You will regret it."

Peter smirked. "Is that a challenge?"

Tink appeared, wearing a pink backless mini-dress. She folded her arms across her chest – which was currently ruffled and glittery – and scowled at him.

"No."

"But-"

"No."

Peter pouted and hopped off the bed. He folded his arms and mimicked her stance. He took a moment to realize that yeah, the height difference was miniscule. He'd be taller than her by the end of the year.

"Peter," said Tink, simply. There was a warning in her voice.

"All right, all right," said Peter, waving her off. "But if I'm not pranking the cheerleaders, I gotta hit someone."

"Hit those skater kids, they're disgusting," said Tink. Peter rolled his eyes. Aladdin was cool. Screw that.

"Nah, too much effort. But Gaston…" Peter trailed off. He unfolded his arms and rubbed his hands together.

Tink winced. Peter knew what she was thinking, even if he wasn't the twin. She was thinking about how dangerous Gaston was. About how Peter probably hadn't heard those rumours – he had. About how Gaston had a whole team of cronies that would come after Peter if they figured out it was him. Although, Tink probably didn't figure it was an "if".

"I'll be fine," said Peter, shrugging. "Besides, it's not like Gaston will figure out it's me. He's pretty dumb, from what I've heard."

Tink sighed. "Peter, that's not the point. Mom and Dad brought you home because they thought you were done with stupid and dangerous pranks."

"I am. All my pranks are brilliant and very safe for me now," said Peter, cheerfully.

Tink gave him a look. "Peter."

"I'll be fine," said Peter, again. "You worry too much."

Tink smiled. "I'm your sister, that's what I'm supposed to do. Now, why don't you go plan your stupid pranks with some friend of yours while I get dressed?"

Peter nodded and headed for the door. "Sure!" he said. Then, he paused. "Wait. I don't have any friends here."

"Oh," said Tink. It was a soft noise, the kind of one you make when you're sad and sympathetic but not sure what else to say.

Peter shrugged, turned, and stuffed his hands in his pockets. He leaned against the doorframe. "Ah, relax, Tink. I'm a freshmen and I've gone to boarding school most of my life. People don't know me, so they can't be my friends yet." He jabbed a finger into the sky. "Once they know me, I'll be just as popular as you."

Tink gave him a soft smile with sad eyes. "Well, good luck."

Peter winced and turned, unable to look Tink in the eye. Yeah, he knew that look. It was the same one Mom and Dad gave him when they told him he was going to St. Minnie's. The same one Phillip gave him when Phillip had asked Peter to sit with him at lunch on the first day. The same one Mrs. Porter gave them when Peter was asked to write about his best friend in town and he'd made up a story about his sister as a tiny fairy.

Yeah, he knew that look. That didn't mean he had to like it, though.

He'd been in boarding school for the last three years. Back in fifth grade, he'd set off stink bombs across the town, and that had been it. He'd been gone. It was hard to keep friends after that, but most of St. Minnie's didn't seem to mind him too badly. He was rich, so the kids on this side of the tracks were pretty indifferent, but he was pretty loose, so the kids on the other side didn't mind him either. It was just a matter of finding where he belonged.

Of course, Tink would kill him if he made friends with a guy like Aladdin or a girl like Esmeralda. Which sucked, because they were awesome.

As Peter walked down the hall toward his own room, he vowed to hunt specific people down and make friends with them next week. That way, no one could give him that look again, and he wouldn't have to put up with the sympathy and misplaced pity that seemed to surround him lately.

Now, how did people make friends again? It had been awhile. Most of the guys in boarding school had tolerated him. And he and his roommate had mostly bonded over their shared love of pranks and the track team. The joys of an all-male boarding school.

But really, Peter thought, how did people make friends? He'd have to look that up before Monday.

Chapter Text

Aurora Rose

The party was a huge success. Paulette was playing DJ with Aurora's state of the art Bluetooth sound system and her music choices were keeping everyone dancing throughout Aurora's house and the backyard, where the party had spilled out into some time in the last hour.

Aurora twirled around John Smith and Eric, who were chatting together. The ends of her ruffled baby blue dress rose up with her twirling and created a tutu-like appearance for a moment. John and Eric both grinned at her, Aurora grinned back and headed for the backyard.

She slipped around Rosetta and Iridessa, who were discussing patterned fabrics, and around Silvermist and Tink, who were dancing. Lottie was eating biscuits and hitting on Achmed, the rich transfer student who'd come last year. The most Aurora knew about him was that he'd dated Jasmine. It hadn't ended well.

There were a lot of other dancers and chatters, but Aurora only focused on a few more. Like, Naveen, who was chatting up Giselle by the pool. And Aurora spotted Phillip chatting with Margaret Liddell, though Aurora didn't know why Margaret had shown up to the party. It wasn't her scene.

An arm fell across her shoulders. It was Kuzco, one of the college kids who'd come down from Disney Valley, grinned at her, holding punch in one hand.

"'Sup, 'Ro?" he said. "Nice party. Glad Jazzy invited me." With that he was gone, shouting at Kronk to 'stop talking about food, we have dancing to do and you gotta twirl me'. Aurora grinned. She was glad Kuzco and the other college guys could make it down. She spotted Anastasia and Tooth as well, who had been at Walt Hills last year. Joy and Dis, second year students, were talking by the punch bowl.

Aurora stretched her arms outward and grinned. This party was a perfect success. She'd have to congratulate herself later. First, though, she had one other person to thank. Even if she really didn't want to.

Bracing herself, Aurora headed for Jasmine, who was talking on her phone with her back to the party. She was tucked away from everyone else, close to the bushes that covered the fence that surrounded Aurora's backyard. Every now and again, Jasmine would toss her hair and raise her voice a bit.

Aurora scowled. Why was Jasmine on the phone at one of her parties? It was completely rude. Not to mention immature. If Jasmine hated everyone so much, why even bother agreeing to ask the college guys to come? Why bother agreeing to any of this?

"Hey, Jasmine," said Aurora. Her voice was perky, friendly even. Aurora could be the bigger person, here, really.

Jasmine glanced at Aurora, one finger in her ear and the other hand holding tight to her phone.

"Nahin, abu," Jasmine was saying. "Say 'speak slower'." A pause. "Ahista bolain… haan."

Aurora wrinkled her nose. What on earth was she saying? It was some weird Middle Eastern language, probably. But Jasmine didn't usually speak with an accent. Must have been because she was speaking another language. Whatever.

"Hey, Jasmine," said Aurora, again, popping up in front of Jasmine. Jasmine raised an eyebrow. Aurora kept her smile friendly, though she knew it didn't quite reach her eyes.

Jasmine said, "…Haan." She was still listening to whoever was on the phone. Aurora resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Surely the person on the other end wasn't that important. It was her party after all! Jasmine should have been paying attention to it.

"Haan," said Jasmine again. "Say 'thank you'. Khoob! Khuda hafiz, abu." She pulled the phone away from her ear and clicked off the call. Then, she raised an expectant eyebrow at Aurora once more. Aurora resisted the urge to scowl.

"Hey, Jasmine, thanks for coming," said Aurora, perkily. "And thanks for inviting up all the people from the university you know. It was so nice of you."

Jasmine hummed. Her gaze was already back on her phone, where she was texting something indecipherable.

"I still don't know why you wanted me to come," said Jasmine. "You hate me."

Aurora's smile tightened. "I don't hate you," she said. But it sounded fake even to her. Jasmine raised her other eyebrow.

"Right," said Jasmine, drawing out the 'I'. "Look, did you need something other than meaningless small talk, or am I free to get back to my dad?"

Aurora scowled. "Well, you don't have to so rude."

"And you didn't have to insist I come," replied Jasmine, her gaze never leaving her phone as she texted.

Aurora shoved passed Jasmine and stalked off, throwing, "Nice talking to you too!" over her shoulder.

She made her way around the pool until she reached where Tink and Vidia were chatting. They both looked at her with sympathetic eyes as she approached. Though, Vidia looked a bit smug, but she always looked like that.

"What happened?" asked Vidia, a touch of her usual amusement in her voice.

Aurora rolled her eyes dramatically. "I don't know why I even bother," she said. "Jasmine is the biggest bitch I've ever met. She doesn't care about anything other than that stupid phone." She threw a glance over her shoulder and scowled. "Seriously, what is wrong with her?"

"Who knows?" said Vidia, shrugging. "I don't think anything bothers her."

Tink frowned. "Maybe it's who's on the phone and not the phone itself?" she guessed. "Who was she talking to?"

"Her dad, I think. They weren't speaking English, anyway," said Aurora. She tossed her hair over her shoulder and huffed. "We so need to figure out a way to make her crack."

"Yeah, that much resting bitch face can't be healthy," said Vidia. She rubbed her hand on her chin. "I've got a few ideas."

"Oh yeah?" asked Aurora, smiling as well.

Periwinkle chose that moment to wander up and sigh at them all. "Is that really necessary? What's Jasmine ever done to any of you?"

With a pointed roll of her eyes, Aurora said, "She's rude, closed off, and disrespectful." She was borrowing more from her mother's vocabulary than her own, but she'd learned from experience that Peri tended to need a better explanation than "She's a bitch" in order to back off.

"So, what?" said Spike, wandering up. She had an arm thrown around the shoulders of her girlfriend, Gliss. "She's not worth your time, Ro, she doesn't even date anymore."

Aurora latched on. "And another thing – she's a total slut. Achmed says she was begging for it on the first date. And a bunch of the guys at school say they've slept with her." Aurora wrinkled her nose. "She has no taste."

"And there's somethin' wrong with likin' sex?" That was Rosetta. She was shorter and wider set than most of Aurora's friends – except Lottie, who had a good twenty pounds on Rosetta – which made her stand apart just as much as her southern belle accent – something she also shared with Lottie.

"Nothing," said Aurora, shrugging. She so wasn't getting into this conversation today. "I'm just saying that if you like it, try having it with one person, and not half of last year's seniors."

"Half?" echoed Vidia.

"Well, she wasn't sleeping with the girls," said Aurora, wrinkling her nose. "Ugh."

Vidia bristled. "Something wrong with liking girls?"

Aurora raised her hands in surrender. "As long as you're not hitting on me, I couldn't care less."

"Sure," said Vidia, snorting. She folded her arms across her chest. "That's the only reason there's no Alliance members on your team, even if I'm just as good a cheerleader as Tink."

Aurora snorted. "Don't flatter yourself, honey, you could never a flyer." She flashed Vidia a razor sharp smile. "You're too tall," she said in an overly perky voice. And it was true – Vidia was a good three inches taller than Aurora in flats, and that made her almost six inches taller than Tink.

"Whatever," said Vidia, rolling her eyes. "You know I'm the best thing you ever lost."

"Mm-hm, sure," said Aurora. "Now can we get back to partying? This is my last night in my own house." With that, she spun on her heel and headed back inside to John and Eric. Maybe they'd be willing to dance. Ugh. So much drama these days, better if she just stayed out of it all.


Aladdin

Aladdin crept toward the bush covered fence. It was tall and thick, but he knew there was a spot where the ground dipped just so and you could squeeze under without getting really dirty.

He wriggled through and stood, brushing himself off. Now he was tucked into the back corner of Aurora Rose's house during her back-to-school party. Oh man, Esme was going to kill him if he got dragged out of here, but he had to come. He'd agreed to help the Pan kid, Peter, with a prank against Aurora. Probably not the kid's smartest move, but hey, he'd given Al fifty bucks. Totally worth it.

"What on earth are you doing?" Or maybe not. He turned and saw Jasmine Sultan staring at him with a raised eyebrow and her phone held in front of her. In the light of the paper lanterns that Aurora had set up, Jasmine's already dark skin was even darker, and her thick, curly black hair was pinned up in a pretty bun.

She was, in a word, absolutely gorgeous. And also very, very annoyed.

"Hey," said Al, trying to play it off like he was supposed to be there. He offered her a grin and rubbed the back of his neck. She didn't seem terribly convinced.

"Who are you, again?" asked Jasmine. She had her head tilted slightly away from him, and her gaze darted up and down his body with a mixture of disdain and curiosity.

"Oh, I'm Al." He stuck out his hand, only for her to look at it like he was losing his mind. He felt the heat rise to his cheeks and dropped his hand with an embarrassed grimace.

"Jasmine," she said. "Charmed." She still hadn't lowered her phone from its perfect texting height. "Are you… supposed to be here?"

Al bit the inside of his cheek to keep himself from chuckling. "Well, that depends."

"On what?" asked Jasmine, her incredulous tone matching her raised eyebrows and wrinkled nose.

He grinned. "On whether or not you're going to tell on me."

Jasmine looked past him and Al turned to see Aurora chatting with her fellow cheerleaders. She said something and a few of them laughed. Aurora tossed her hair. Al fought the urge to gag. Those girls thought they were all that just because they were rich. Please. He could do half of what they did with one hand behind his back.

"There's no love lost between Aurora and I," she said. "You're safe, so long as you tell me what you're doing."

Al fought the urge to laugh and just barely supressed it. No, he hadn't expected that, but he wasn't disappointed either.

"I'm here on a secret mission – to find Aurora's locker room conditioner," he said.

Jasmine looked even more confused, if that was possible. "Why?"

He shrugged and went to stuff his hands into his vest pockets, only to remember he'd ditched the vest for something a tad more formal. A floofy hat, some sleek black pants that were far too expensive (thank you Flynn Rider), and a white blazer atop his royal purple button-up shirt. Combined with the sleeked hair and the shades he was going to shove on before he went inside, Aladdin looked more like one of Achmed's buddies than himself.

Which was exactly the point.

"Got asked by a friend," said Al. Peter wasn't really his friend, but Jasmine didn't know that.

She kept staring. "How are you going to manage that? You'll be caught and humiliated."

He shrugged. "Nah, I won't," he said.

Jasmine stuffed her phone into the purse at her side and folded her arms across her chest. "How do you figure?"

He grinned and spread his hands. "Mainū khuśakisamata dā janama hō'i'ā sī."

Jasmine's eyes lit up. "You were born lucky," she said, translating his words with a sense of awe in her voice. "You speak Punjabi?"

"First language," said Al, grinning. "You?"

"Third," she replied in Punjabi. "Urdu is my second, English is my first."

"Fantastic," he said, keeping up with the Punjabi. The phone in his pocket took that moment to buzz, interrupting him before he could start. "Look, I have to go and do this. But we should talk later, okay?"

She nodded, grinning alongside him. "Yes, of course. Um. Good luck? Don't get caught."

He gave her a salute and turned toward the house and the party. Pulling his hat low over his eyes and digging out his shades, he struck off into the crowds of people and into the house.

The house was packed. Al didn't recognize half the people in it, though he figured some of them had to go to St. Minnie's. He didn't normally hang around with this crowd anyway. Luckily, they didn't hang around with him either, and while Esme was pretty damn recognizable with those eyes of hers, he blended in perfectly with the crowd that Achmed had brought up from Disney Valley for this party.

Thank you Achmed for having friends Pakistani friends, he thought. Not that anyone here probably knew the difference, physically, between Indian and Pakistani and a dozen or so others, but whatever. He knew the difference, and it was important to him that he wasn't alone at this party. Especially with the St. Minnie's rich crowd feeling pretty white, these days.

Al slid around the dancing people, kept his head low as he passed by Hercules and Aurora chatting, and then headed for the stairs. He stayed casual, his head still tipped forward, as he ducked around Gaston hitting on one of the 'Ettes. Claudette, maybe? Al could never keep them straight.

By the sounds of things, Gaston couldn't keep them straight either. Unless there was another reason why he was pointedly going out of his way not to say her name.

Whatever. By the sound of her giggling, she didn't care either.

Al stepped off the stairs and glanced down the hallways. All the doors were shut. He tried to think like a teenage girl. If he was a rich girl who cared about her hair, where would he keep his shampoo and conditioner?

Well, he thought in a voice that sounded creepily like Esme. You'd probably keep your spray-in by your vanity, and the rest in your shower. In a house this big, there might have been an en-suite. Did non-master bedrooms have en-suites? Al had no idea.

He decided to check anyway.

The first bedroom wasn't Aurora's. He didn't have to know Aurora to know that much. It was drab and professional, with pictures of vacations to break it up. Definitely not the room of a teenaged head cheerleader.

He checked the next room, which was much more suited to Aurora. The huge bed was covered with a white bedspread covered in baby blue and pale pink polka dots. Suitcases were spilled across the room, half of them still open. Posters of cheerleading teams and cute boys were scattered on the walls. The massive mirror attached to the dress had its frame covered in sticky-tacked photos of Aurora and her friends.

It definitely suited her image.

Al scanned the suitcases and spotted Aurora's gym clothes. He could tell because it was the only pair of sweats in the entire lot. Tucked against the sweatpants was a bottle of lavender scented conditioner. He dug out the small bottle from his pocket that Peter had given to him and swiped the conditioner. With careful precision, Al poured the liquid into the conditioner, put the cap back on, and shook. Then, he tucked the conditioner back into the suitcase and the bottle into his pocket.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Al allowed himself to relax. He'd done it. He'd gotten in and done whatever it was Peter wanted done to that conditioner. Now he just had to get out in one piece.

Al snuck back out the bedroom, down the stairs, and had just gotten to the backdoor when a voice called out.

"I think it's time we made this party interesting!" It was Gaston that had spoken, and Al stood, frozen in horror, just inside the door. Gaston and the rest of the football team went charging past. They were holding someone above their heads. Horror rising in this throat, Al followed after them.

The one they were holding above their head was Vanessa, Ursula's daughter. She was a senior and an outcast, not just for her lack of wealth, but also because her mom was a practicing Wiccan who ran a magic shop. All spells and herbs and such. A lot of people thought it was wacky. Secretly, Al thought it was kind of cool, even if he didn't believe in it. Being that dedicated to your faith was something he could definitely relate to.

"Put me down!" shrieked Vanessa, struggling against the guys holding her. Aladdin watched, a pit in his stomach, as they heaved Vanessa in perfect unison. She flew into the air, screaming and flailing, and splashed into the pool. Water went everywhere and people jumped back, shouting. Vanessa came up screaming. Her make-up streamed down her face and her hair was a mess.

"You jackasses," she screamed, smacking at the water angrily. She pulled herself to the edge and climbed out. Everyone was laughing. Al looked around and slowly backed up, allowing himself to disappear into the shadows of the party. He could still hear people laughing and Vanessa screaming – but her screams quickly turned to sobs and she rushed out of the backyard.

Al winced. He was only a few feet from his exit now.

"Disgusting, isn't it?" asked Jasmine, her gaze falling on him. She hadn't moved since he'd met her.

"Yeah," said Al. "It really is."

Jasmine sighed. "Does the other half act the same way?" she asked. Al knew what she meant. These were the rich kids. She wanted to know if the kids from the other side of the tracks – him, Esme, Snow, Ella, and all the others – were just as bad.

"Sometimes," said Al. "But we target the rich." It pained him to admit it, especially because he was often part of it. Like right now. He was helping prank a rich kid. But he couldn't find it in himself to care. He was just messing with some hair. He wasn't chucking someone in a pool. It was different.

"I have to go," said Al.

Jasmine nodded. "Good luck," she said.

Al wriggled under the fence and stood back up on the other side. From there, he saw Vanessa stumble over to a bus stop and drop onto the bench. She put her head in her hands and started to sob. Al took a step toward her, winced, and turned around. He headed back home, walking in the opposite direction from Vanessa.

And as her sobs faded into nothingness, Al kept telling himself that he had no choice. She was a social pariah. The whole school would turn on him. Vanessa and Ursula were freaks.

But that didn't make his steps any lighter. Nor did it make the echoing sobs in his ears ring any less painful.

Chapter Text

Anna Arendelle

Anna rapped on the closed and locked bedroom for the third time in so many minutes. She waited a few seconds, then tried again.

"Elsa, please," Anna called through the door. It was a solid thing, with the frame carved with tiny snowflakes. Anna took a few seconds to admire the carvings. The entire house was full of them, and every day, Anna was finding more of them as she unpacked her and Elsa's things and tidied up the house. Yesterday it had been the flowers on the upstairs window frames, the day before it had been the vines in the kitchen.

"We've already missed the first week of school," said Anna, leaning against the frame. She sighed. And closed her eyes. Technically, Anna could have gone to school on Thursday, the previous week. By then, she and Elsa had both been registered in the school and had been unpacked enough to go. But Elsa had refused to leave her room, so Anna had stayed home, continued to unpack, and made sure to leave food outside of Elsa's room for her.

"I'm not going," came Elsa's voice from beyond the door. Anna sighed and stared up at the vaulted ceilings. She'd already put back Elsa's breakfast plate – untouched, just like the last two meals. Though she thought Elsa had eaten some of her breakfast yesterday.

It was the same thing every day. She never left the room. She never said anything unless Anna said something first. With the en-suite bathroom, Elsa never had to leave her room. Anna rubbed a hand over her face. She felt sick, dizzy, and hot all at once. Worst of all, she felt alone. An aching feeling that dug deep into her gut and left it churning.

She couldn't keep doing this. She wasn't strong enough.

"Elsa," said Anna. "I know you're upset, but we have to go to school. We have to keep moving forward." Anna found herself blinking back tears. In April, their parents had died in a boating accident. It had been sudden and awful. It had taken most of the summer to sort their parents' estates, and a little longer to sort out what was going to happen to them. Elsa was eighteen at that point, so she and Anna weren't going to be thrown into the system, and Elsa inherited the estate.

Of course, now Elsa had to retake her senior year, as she failed her entire last semester. And, if Elsa wouldn't leave her bedroom, Anna wasn't sure how she was going to get Elsa to pass this year either. She only needed one semester's worth of credits, but it'd be a miracle if Elsa passed more than half her classes in either semester. She needed Elsa to go for the entire year.

Anna sighed.

"Please, Elsa?" asked Anna.

"No," came Elsa's reply.

Anna turned and rested her forehead against the door. She pressed her palm to the door and tried not to sigh again. Fact stating, bargaining, and pleading. The three steps she'd gone through every single time she needed Elsa to do something since April. The words tumbled from her lips without pause these days, even if they only worked maybe twenty percent of the time.

"Elsa," she said. "Please. Just one day. Just half the day."

There was no reply this time.

Anna pressed her lips together and blinked back tears. They were in a new, unfamiliar place, with no friends and no support. Their parents were gone, and the rest of the family had shunned them due to Elsa and Anna being the sole inheritors to the Arendelle wealth. Elsa and Anna were all the other had left. And now, Anna didn't even really have Elsa.

"Okay," said Anna, her voice quiet and hoarse. "I'm going now. I'll bring us back something for dinner."

There was no response.

Anna pushed off the door, smoothed out her skirt, and headed for the front door. She tried not to think too much about how Elsa had stopped responding. Or how Elsa had completely shut down outside of sorting the estates. It was a losing battle, for both Elsa and for Anna.

As Anna walked down the hall, she cringed at the echoing of her footsteps. The house was too big and too empty for the two of them. But their parents' will had left this house to them, claiming it was their favourite home from their past. Elsa had agreed to move there without fight, and Anna had thought the change of scenery would help them both recover.

It hadn't for Elsa. For Anna, the change had been nice. Anna was slowly recovering, even if she was still very upset at times. But she was living; she was functioning. Whereas Elsa…

Anna looked over her shoulder, back toward the bedroom door, and frowned. Elsa hadn't recovered at all since the accident. In fact, she might have been getting worse.

Anna left the house, locked the door, and biked to school, her thoughts heavy on her mind.

St. Minnie's was smaller than the private school she and Elsa had gone to for most of their lives. Granted, the amount of students was about the same, even though St. Minnie's was one building, whereas their old school had been six or seven, plus the fields and the pool. And the stables, which had been Anna's favourite part, and she was more than a little disappointed that Walt Hills didn't seem to have any horses.

Anna parked her bike in the bike rack and hooked her helmet onto her backpack. She wandered up to the school, carefully dodging the students that were chatting and intermingling. She smoothed down her long, green skirt again and fiddled with her braid – which was wrapped around her head. Then, taking a deep breath, Anna marched into the school doors.

…And promptly smacked into a person and went sprawling to the floor.

Anna gasped and scrambled back to her feet, eyes wide. "Oh, my gosh, I'm so sorry," she said. Anna went to help the stranger, only for him to chuckle and gather up her things.

That was when Anna got to see his face. And boy, if she didn't believe in love at first sight before, she did now. He was red-haired and blue-eyed, with a strong nose and jaw, and carefully tailored clothes. Anna blinked hard a few times, realizing he was talking – and wow, look at those perfect teeth – but she'd missed what he said.

She blinked a few times. "I'm sorry, what?" she said, a slow smile spreading on her face.

The guy smiled at her. "I said, are you okay?" he replied, holding out the two books Anna had dropped. She took them, still smiling, and brushed a loose hair back behind her ear.

"I'm fine, you're fine," Anna froze and winced, "I mean, are you fine?"

The guy chuckled. It was a warm, friendly sound that made his eyes light up. Anna couldn't help but grin.

"I'm great, thanks," he said.

Anna stared at the guy, her grin spreading farther and farther. "Great," she said.

"I'm Hans," he said, holding out his hand. Anna blinked a few times, and then took his hand. He turned it so the back faced upward and lifted it to his lips, kissing it. Anna felt the heat rush across her face and across her ears. She knew she was positively red at the moment. The problems with being a ginger.

"Anna," she said, her gaze flicking from his eyes to his hand to his smile. She slowly took back her hand as he dropped it, dropping her own head to try and hide the blush.

"Are you new?" he asked.

Anna bit her lip and nodded, looking up at him through her eyelashes. "I start today."

He smiled, and it was as warm and friendly as his eyes. "Why don't I show you around?" he asked. "What's your first class?"

It took Anna a few extra seconds to realize what Hans had said. Then, she started, realizing what he'd asked, and rooted around in her side bag for her schedule. It was wrinkled and smelled vaguely of vanilla, but she could still mostly read it.

"Um, I have Geography with…" She glanced down at the page again and squinted. "Mr. Radcliffe?"

Hans grinned. "Ah, he's on the second floor." He slid around Anna and rested his hand on her shoulder, his arm draped across the top of her back. "Let me take you there."

Grinning and giddy, Anna let Hans lead her up the stairs to her new classroom. This, she decided, was going to be the best school year ever.


Belle Écarlate

Mrs. Porter taught three grades of English – ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade – and Belle was going to be very disappointed when she was a senior next year and Mrs. Porter was no longer able to be her English teacher. It wasn't just that Mrs. Porter wasn't a wonderful teacher, which she was, it was also that Mrs. Porter's husband, Mr. Porter, was a wonderful man who had a habit of appearing during study times with free pizza.

The fact that they were on the second floor didn't stop the man, either, and he always came through the windows.

Like today, for instance.

Mrs. Porter's English class was discussing essay topics for their first major essay. Belle was taking notes on Mrs. Porter's suggestions for topics – in particular her suggestion of women's suffrage. It was definitely going on her shortlist, alongside animal abuse in shelters, and stigmas against physical abnormalities and disabilities.

A knock on the window interrupted Mrs. Porter's discussion. She stopped and the entire class looked over to see Mr. Porter balanced on a branch next to one of the three large windows in the classroom. He was holding four large boxes from The Gargoyle Pizzeria.

Nakoma, who sat next to the window, got up and let Mr. Porter in. He swung in, set the pizzas down, and swooped around to kiss Mrs. Porter on the cheek.

"Hi, Jane," he said. Today, his long dreadlocks were pulled back in a ponytail and their green and brown beads glinted slightly in the fluorescent lights. His light brown skin - Belle had never figured out what Mr. Porter was. Biracial, definitely, but not much else – was speckled with oil and dust. He was the town mechanic, and it often showed, but he always looked nice.

If "nice" meant a muscle shirt with a button-up tied around his waist and a pair of jeans that were torn at the knees, well, he could pull it off pretty easily. And there weren't many who would complain about such a look. Belle thought he had a rugged-handsome look going on, one she could appreciate.

"Hello, Tarzan," said Mrs. Porter. Her English accent was always stronger when she said his name, Belle had noticed.

"So," said Mr. Porter, grinning at the class. "What are we studying today?"

"Essay topics," said Belle, her pencil still poised to write down more notes.

Mr. Porter made a face. "Ugh. Always hated those. Granted, I didn't write any until I was older than you…" He trailed off, a faraway look on his face.

"Tarzan," said Mrs. Porter, kindly. He jerked, eyes coming into focus again. He did that sometimes. Maybe five or six in the entire time Belle had been in St. Minnie's that she'd seen, so it wasn't terribly odd. Belle often wondered what he was seeing when his eyes took on that look, though.

"I was hoping," said Mrs. Porter, picking up a piece of paper off her desk, "that you could help me with something. You see, we are doing pairs for our final presentations this year. Ten minute speeches on topics you are passionate about – it ties well into what were are doing today." She handed the paper to Mr. Porter who squinted a bit at it. Mrs. Porter adjusted her glasses.

"Why don't you pick the random pairs?" she asked. There were some groans and some cheers. "You have a good eye for this," finished Mrs. Porter.

Mr. Porter nodded and chewed the inside of his cheek. It was visible from the front row, and Belle waited, raptly, as he scanned the room. It must have been a class list that Mrs. Porter had handed to him.

"Sure," he said. He took a few moments to scan the list and then started. "Nakoma St. John and John Smith, Charlotte LaBouff and Thomas Bale, Jasmine Sultan and Flynn Rider…" He kept going through the names, picking them out randomly as he went. Belle knew a bit about some of her classmates, but mostly she just knew what they looked like. She didn't tend to talk to most people outside of class. Though Belle hoped that Mr. Porter knew enough about the school not to pair up both sides of the tracks. Obviously, he'd already done that with Nakoma and John, but she didn't know John very well and didn't know how he'd react to that.

"And Belle Écarlate and Adam Robby," finished Mr. Porter. Belle frowned. Adam? She had no idea who that was. Obviously he was in the class, but Belle had no idea who he might be. She looked around to try and spot him, but there were over a dozen people in the class Belle didn't know, so she couldn't pick him out of them.

Protests started up once Mr. Porter had finished, but he only chuckled, kissed Mrs. Porter's cheek, and swung back out the window.

"All right, all right," said Mrs. Porter, raising her hands in surrender. "That's enough. If you have problems with your partners, talk to Tarzan. I'm not taking responsibility for them." She checked the clock. "I think that's all for today, why don't you all head to lunch a few minutes early? Feel free to grab some pizza on the way out!" A couple of classmates cheered, and Belle found herself smiling. Food usually made people forget their problems. Belle grabbed a couple of cheese slices on her way out.

Out in the hallway, Belle bumped into Tiana, who she stopped for a moment.

"Tiana," she called.

"What's up?" asked Tiana.

Belle bit her lip and then said, "Do you know who Adam Robby is?"

Tiana's eyes went wide and her lips parted. "He's… he's the guy that threw Gaston through a window last year."

Belle swallowed hard. Oh. That was where she had heard that name before. He'd been suspended for almost an entire month over that, and no one had really spoken to him since. She couldn't believe she'd forgotten that.

"Thanks," said Belle, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. She frowned. This was going to be more difficult than she thought.

"Why do you ask?" asked Tiana, frowning.

"He's my partner for Mrs. Porter's English project," said Belle. "We have to give a presentation together."

Tiana grimaced. "Yikes, girl. Well, good luck. I gotta get to the diner."

"What about lunch?" asked Belle. But Tiana was already racing down the hall, bobbing and weaving to avoid everyone. Belle sighed. Tiana worked too hard, she thought, but what could she do about it? She had bigger things to deal with right now, like her delinquent of an English partner.

She frowned. There had to be some way to make this work. All she had to do was find it. It was a challenge. And Belle? Well, Belle always liked a good challenge.

Chapter Text

Fa Mulan

Today was the last day of try-outs. That was the only thing Mulan had thought all day long. Today was the final day for football try-outs, and if she didn't nail them, she wouldn't make the team.

Mulan glanced to her left and right in the line-up. Everyone trying out had been lined up in front of the football team this afternoon. Thomas stood to her right, sweat already beading on his forehead from the unseasonal heat. Ling stood to her left – a string bean of a guy with more puns and wisecracks than Mulan thought existed.

"All right, boys," said Shang. A pause. "And Mulan." A couple guys on the team snickered, including a pair of brothers that Mulan knew were named Ben and Lon. She didn't know which was which though.

"Let's do a nice five lap warm up, then we'll get into drills," said Shang, raising his voice above some of the snickering guys in line with Mulan. "Double time!" They all took off toward the track, already shifting into their usual running groups.

Ling kept pace with Mulan and Thomas as they started around the track. Mulan eyed him sideways, but didn't think much of him. If he wanted to start cracking jokes at her, he'd picked the wrong day.

"Listen, no matter what happens today, it's been a total honour to see you kick everyone's ass the last week," said Ling. Mulan raised an eyebrow and kept running.

"What?" asked Mulan.

Ling shrugged. "You didn't hear it from me, but Gaston is getting someone to sabotage you two today," said Ling.

Mulan nodded. "Thanks for the warning," she said.

Ling gave her a salute and fell back to his own friends – Yao and Chien Po. Mulan looked at Thomas, scowling. He was frowning, though the furrow in his brow betrayed confusion more than genuine anger.

"What do we do?" asked Thomas.

"Nothing," said Mulan.

Thomas stumbled. Mulan grabbed his arm and dragged him a few steps while he regained his footing.

"What?" asked Thomas, his breath coming in tighter gasps. Three and a half laps down, one and a half to go. Mulan hoped he wouldn't slow her down. She liked the guy, but she needed this team spot.

"Nothing," she said, tightly. "If Gaston wants to fight dirty, we'll wait for the right moment. Then, we strike." She grinned at Thomas, all teeth. "Show him what a girl is capable of."

Thomas grinned back. "Oh, this is gonna be good."

The two finished their laps, keeping an eye on Gaston as they did. And Mulan couldn't help but feel bad about her thoughts toward Thomas. As much as she wanted this spot, she didn't want to think badly of one of the few people here who had accepted her unconditionally. Sure, he wasn't the most athletic guy. But maybe instead of focussing on how he could drag her down, she should have been focussing on how she could lift him up.

As it stood, she reached the conclusion that she was going to help Thomas in any way she could by the time she finished her laps with him.

Then it was time for drills. First up was the forward shuffle. A bunch of cones had been placed out in rows, and the team was to shuffle sideways across a row, come forward, and then shuffle sideways through the next row, and so on. There were thirteen rows in total, with a finish line marked at the end about fifteen feet off the last set of cones.

Mulan was fifth in line, just after either Ben or Lon – she couldn't tell them apart, and she really didn't know why someone already on the team was doing drills. She managed through the first five rows just fine, then just barely saw the slick spot in the grass where someone had spilled water. Purposely, no doubt. She easily hopped across it and kept her eyes out for the rest, making the third best time for that leg of drills.

Off on the side, Gaston's eyes narrowed. Mulan fought the urge to turn around and smirk at him. It would have been beneath her, as her grandmother would say. Besides, she didn't want to alert Gaston to her knowledge about his plans.

Better to let him think it was coincidence or luck, for now.

Thomas was next to go, and Mulan held up her hand, all five fingers splayed, when Gaston wasn't looking. Thomas stumbled on the fifth set of cones, but didn't go down, and managed a decent time. She double high-fived him at the end, smiling.

Of the four after Thomas, three fell over, and that put Thomas in the top five.

And that was how it continued, for the rest of practice. Every time Gaston tried to sabotage Mulan, she was there to catch what he did, avoid it, and help Thomas through it. She purposely kept herself in front of Thomas, to make sure he didn't get knocked out of the running. Maybe that was unfair to the others, but she knew Thomas could keep up in a fair fight, and it didn't seem fair that he was going to deal with the fallout of Gaston's determination to drive Mulan out of the running.

So she did the drills. She avoided the sabotages. She guided Thomas through them silently and sometimes with soft, hushed words to let him know what was going on. And, consistently, she was number one in everything. And Gaston was slowly getting angrier and angrier, until he looked like a red and purple streaked balloon someone had inflated a touch too far.

The last drill of the day, before cooldown, was the tackle practice. Everyone lined up to take a run at shoving back the massive padded block down the field. Mulan was behind Thomas, and last in line, unfortunately, and she worried what Gaston was going to do this time.

Thomas kept glancing back at her as they waited for their turns, and Mulan flashed him an easy – if tight and practiced – smile. No need to worry him as well. He had enough on his plate getting on this team. Especially if his boyfriend – maybe? Thomas wasn't really clear when she'd asked about John – was one of Gaston's friends.

And really, Gaston was a bigot every other way. What kept him quiet about homophobia?

Curious, to say the least.

At Thomas' turn, Mulan grabbed him and said in his ear, "Use your shoulders to push and don't take it straight on, but at an angle." Then, she released him and he took position. He took the few heavy steps toward the mat, turned so that his shoulder took the brunt of it, and shoved as hard as he could. The mat moved back down the field with Thomas.

Mulan cheered, clapping her hands together. He wasn't as fast as Yao or Chien Po, but he was steady and strong, and that was what was important in this kind of thing.

It was Ben or Lon that set up the mat again for Mulan, and she saw the way Thomas' eyes narrowed at them.

Shrugging it off, Mulan swallowed down her worries and went at the mat. Proper form, proper shift and…

It didn't move.

Mulan shifted her position and tried again. Shoved harder and let out a low grunt.

Nothing.

She stepped back from the mat, eyes narrowed. What the hell? There was no way she was weaker than Thomas, no offense meant to him, of course. Something else was going on.

"Aww, maybe we tuckered her out, boys," said Gaston, loudly. Shang said nothing, his arms folded across his chest as he watched from the side. Gaston strode across the grass and went to put a hand on Mulan's shoulder, she batted it off, anger building in her stomach. He'd finally managed to sabotage her. And she hadn't even noticed.

Hercules crossed the field on the other side of Mulan, moving from where he'd been standing next to Thomas.

"It's probably just stuck in the grass, Gaston," said Hercules. "It's happened before. No big deal. We'll just move it."

"People on the field aren't going to move for her," said Gaston.

A sigh from Shang. "Move it, Herc, and let her try again. No harm in that, we're ahead of schedule anyway," he said.

Gaston scoffed as though he found the notion personally offensive – which he probably did – and stalked back toward his spot next to Ben and Lon and LeFou.

Hercules stepped in front of Mulan to shove back the mat, only for it not to move. He stepped back, gave it a look, and then shoved at it again. It lifted off the ground, but the bottom didn't move from the grass.

"That's weird," said Hercules. Mulan bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from grinning. Gaston had gone back to looking like an overripe fruit.

Hercules circled around to the back of the standing mat on its wooden slats and picked at it for a second. With an "aha!" he straightened up, holding a pair of wooden pegs.

"The anchors for the mats came loose," he said. "They must have dug into the grass when Ben set up the mat again. No wonder you couldn't move it – no one can when all the pegs are down."

"Thanks," said Mulan. Hercules grinned and stepped back from the mat, gesturing for Mulan to take her run at them.

Mulan took a few steps back, twisted her foot against the grass, and slammed into the mat. She drove it hard and fast down the field, pushing everything she had into it. When the mat went through the goal post at the end of the field, a bunch of the guys cheered and she stopped, grinning and panting from exertion.

"All right, that's it," called Shang. "Do five laps to cool off, then we'll announce the team."

Thomas and Mulan jogged together on the track, not bothering with speed this time. Thomas kept cracking up, no matter how hard he tried to stop, and Mulan resisted the urge to laugh alongside him. She didn't want to set off Gaston – it looked like he wanted to clock Hercules, anyways.

Ling jogged up on the other side of Mulan, grinning.

"Nicely done, out there," said Ling.

"Thanks for the warning," said Mulan.

Ling shrugged. "Hey, I knew you could do it," said Ling.

With a raised eyebrow, Mulan said, "Really?"

"Yeah," said Ling. "I hoped, anyway." He laughed, sheepish. "Anyway, whatever happens after this, it was incredible to see you out there. If I had to lose my spot on the team to anyone, I hope it's you." He held out his hand and Mulan clasped it.

"Who knows," she said. "Maybe we'll all end up on it. Stranger things and all that."

Ling nodded, a laugh on his breath, and fell back to his friends. Thomas and Mulan kept jogging.

"Do you think we'll both make the team?" asked Thomas. "I mean, if you don't, it'll be a rigged thing. But me?" He sounded so worried, so hopeful, and Mulan caught herself smiling. At first, she'd thought he'd be a burden, then she'd wanted to help him through try-outs and now? Now she wanted to be sure Thomas would end up on this team with her. He was a great guy and she was proud to call him a friend.

"I hope so," said Mulan. "We've both done great, Thomas, that's all we can ask."

Thomas nodded, grinning. "Right, totally have this in the bag."

The two headed back into the field as they finished their laps, and when everyone was lined up, Thomas on her left, Ling on her right, Shang stepped forward.

"You've all done well," he said, voice booming. "But only half of you will make the team." He had his arms folded behind him as he spoke. "The best five – and not all of you will be first string either."

He paused in the centre, chin held high. "Chien Po, Yao, Ling, Mulan, and Thomas," he said. "Step forward."

They all did.

"You five are the newest members of the St. Minnie's football team. Congratulations," said Shang. The five burst into cheers. Chien Po hugged Ling and Yao tight, and Mulan and Thomas did a double high-five.

"We both made it," said Thomas.

Mulan grinned. "Yeah, we did! Was there every any doubt?"

"None," said Thomas, grinning back. "Wanna get ice cream? My treat."

She slung an arm around his shoulders. "Let's go."

"Hey, Chien Po, Yao, Ling," called Thomas. "You guys wanna come? My treat." The three nodded and all five headed off, whooping and cheering all the way there.


Megara Egan

Megara lugged the cardboard box from the bus stop up to the pawn shop.

"Looks like you get to be handy one last time, asshole," she muttered to the box in her arms. She'd dug through his old belongings for anything useful – video games, jewellery, playing cards – anything and everything that Hades and his damnable shop would take.

And she really, really wished there was another pawn shop in Walt Hills, but there wasn't, and Megara didn't have the money to make the trip to Disney Valley and back – not without making the trip to make money completely obsolete, anyway.

She pushed open the door with her hip and took the box up to the counter. She set it down and barely had time to catch her breath before Hades appeared from the back room. His hair – frosted blue, as it always was – stood up on end, and Megara had never figured out if that was natural or gel.

"Well, well, well," he purred, rubbing his hands together. "If it isn't little Meg. Here to pay your debts?"

Megara swallowed hard. "I need the money for bills, Hades, I'll get you your money as soon as I can." Two grand. Plus interest. God, she was in trouble.

Hades hummed and started sifting through the box. "You know how I feel about tardiness, Megsie."

"I do," she agreed. He didn't like it. But he liked it a lot more than his wife did. And she was the one Megara was really scared of.

Hades tutted and shook his head, a disappointed grimace to his lips and a light in his eyes that had Megara's hair standing on end. She resisted the urge to rub her arms. Hades always kept the shop a little too cold and a little too dark for her liking. She wasn't sure how he got business that way. Or maybe most people didn't notice.

"Are these your things to sell, Megsie?" asked Hades, lifting a Halo game out of the box. He raised a slim, dark eyebrow at her, eyes narrowed and lips smirking.

Megara swallowed again. "Yes," she said. Technically, anyway, the guy this stuff had belonged to had run off at the beginning of summer. Taken her borrowed money and broken heart with him and left her here to rot away in the gutters. Trapped like a fish in a too-tight net.

"I'm sure," murmured Hades. He went back to digging through the box. As he dug, Megara's eyes went around the shop. Guitars, game systems, and electronics were the most prominent of his displays, but he had quite a collection of tourist jewellery and old VHS movies as well. The DVDs were behind a display, from where she stood.

Her gaze kept sliding to the door to the back room, which, she knew, led further back and up into his apartment above the shop. His wife was there, no doubt, conducting business over the phone or with emails. Megara had only met her once. She prayed she never did again.

"I can give you one-fifty for the lot," said Hades after a minute.

Megara started. "One-fif-" She stopped herself short, biting back her sharp tone and sharper words. It might have been worth more than that, but this was the only option she had. Besides, it was more than she thought he'd give her. After everything that had gone down, over the summer.

"Problem?" asked Hades. There was shuffling in the back room. Persephone.

"None," said Megara, her gaze snapping squarely onto Hades'. She flashed him a tight smile that she knew didn't quite reach her eyes. She couldn't bring herself to care.

Hades hummed, noncommittal, and counted out the money for her. Megara watched with shaking hands, waiting for him to snap back half of it – or all of it – and claim it as part of her payment.

But he only held out the money, letting Megara take all of it and stuff it in her old, worn out purse.

"I'm growing impatient, Megsie," said Hades. She nodded. She knew. "If you wanted, you could run errands for Perse, that would pay off your debt faster."

"No!" said Megara, a touch too quickly. Hades raised a perfectly groomed eyebrow at her. She cleared her throat. "No, I'll… I'll get you your money. I swear."

"Soon, Megsie," said Hades.

She nodded, backed up, and left the pawn shop. She forewent the bus stop just outside his shop and ran the block and a half to the next one. There, she slumped against the shelter wall – the glass warm from the September sun – and gasped in air until she could breathe again.

She needed a way to get money. And she needed one fast.

Chapter Text

Aurora Rose

Aurora combed her fingers through her hair, carefully spreading the dry conditioner from scalp to tip as she did. The entire cheerleading team was gathered in the locker room this morning, ready to discuss all the new happenings as homecoming approached.

“Girls,” said Aurora, wiping her hand off in a towel before spinning her hair up into it. There, her hair could sit, covered, to deep condition for a few minutes. “I’d like to introduce all of you to our two newest members – Margaret Liddell and Giselle Adams.” She gestured to the two girls. Margaret was short, but quite slim, and Aurora figured she’d been fine for background duties. Giselle was tall and willowy, like Aurora herself, with long, strawberry blonde hair and a brilliant smile.

“It’s an honour to be chosen,” murmured Margaret without lifting her gaze from the floor. Aurora knew that Margaret was only there because she had to have an extra-curricular this semester, but it was fine. She was good at what she did, even if she didn’t have much stage presence.

“Totally,” said Giselle, gripping Margaret’s shoulders. “This is going to be the most amazing thing.” She was grinning as she spoke, and her energy filled the entire locker room. Aurora smiled at that, small but genuine. Giselle had a presence that could light up an entire stadium, something that Aurora planned to take advantage of in routines.

“So,” said Tink, dropping down on the bench next to Aurora. “What’s the plan, ‘Ro?”

Aurora hummed and tapped her chin thoughtfully, making all the girls lean in with anticipation. “Homecoming.” There were a few cheers and some sighs of relief. “Girls, I want this year’s homecoming to be the most spectacular one yet. And with our team? I think we can do it.”

“Oooh. Are we going to do coordinated outfits?” asked Rosetta. “Or maybe something with the decorations?” She said it like de-co-ray-shi-uns, which made Aurora bite back a snicker. That Southern Belle thing of Rosetta’s was just too ridiculous sometimes.

“Well, for starters, we’re all going to be going with dates,” said Aurora. She swept her gaze across the squad, eyes lingering in Periwinkle, and then on Margaret. “If you don’t have a date, you’re not coming.” She stood, holding her chin high. “We are the most beautiful girls in the school, ladies. We all deserve to have a man on our arms that night. One that makes us look fantastic.”

She smiled, feeling the slight tightness around her eyes. “Am I clear?”

“Yes, Aurora,” chimed the girls.

“Good,” said Aurora. “Now, the homecoming theme is autumn florals, so be sure your dresses match the tone. I don’t want to see any hot pink dresses clashing with our orange and red decorations.” She was specifically referring to Lottie, though Lottie wasn’t here, as she wasn’t a cheerleader. Judging by the looks on a couple of girls’ faces, they knew that too. Not that Aurora would ever make Lottie a cheerleader. Could you imagine someone that… chubby on a cheerleading squad? The horror alone was enough to make her shiver if she dwelled upon it.

“What about greens?” asked Tink.

Aurora tapped her chin again, humming slightly. “Dark greens are acceptable,” she declared. The ‘Ettes nodded as though it was the most important information they’d heard all day. And who was Aurora to judge? Maybe it was. Maybe their lives revolved around the knowledge of what could and could not be worn at social events. There were sadder things to revolve your life around.

Like other languages or running a diner, thought Aurora, her mind flickering to Jasmine and Tiana. Honestly, those girls had no idea what it meant to live. They were such snobs. And Tiana had no right to be. Jasmine was a rich brat, so of course she was a snob, Aurora could accept that even if she didn’t like it. But Tiana was poor and from the other side of the tracks. It made no sense for her to be a snob.

She needed to learn her place, sooner or later.

“Um, ‘Ro?” asked Tink. Aurora looked over at her to see Tink pointing at her towel turban. “Your hair…” Tink trailed off, a look of dawning horror spreading across her face.

Aurora went rigid in an instant, rushing over to one of the mirrors in the locker room. She pulled off the towel turban with shaking hands, and let out a shriek of horror that could have shattered glass.

Green. Her beautiful, honey blonde hair was green.

“Who did this?” she screamed. She spun, leaning back and gripping the sink behind her for leverage, then stabbed a finger at her hair. “Who did this?”

Tink shrugged and the rest of the cheerleaders didn’t say anything. The ‘Ettes gasped, Rosetta put her hands over her mouth, and Periwinkle winced. Giselle was already digging through her bag, frowning.

“I know I have something in here,” she muttered.

Aurora turned back and stared at the mirror, horror flashing across her face as she stared at the horrific colour. What was she supposed to do? She couldn’t go to class like this. She had to go home. Immediately. But would her aunts even let her? They were so old fashioned, and they probably wouldn’t even consider this a home worthy emergency. But it so was. It so completely, totally was.

And then it occurred to her who this had to be.

Jasmine,” she growled. All chatter behind her stopped. Aurora turned and straightened her shoulders, anger in her eyes and chin held high. “Girls? We’re going to war.”

“You can’t be serious,” said Periwinkle.

“It’s her hair, Peri,” said Tink. Rosetta was nodding in agreement. “Her hair is like, her best feature. It’s beautiful and long and always well-kept, and Jasmine destroyed it in one fell, underhanded swoop!”

“You don’t even know that it was Jasmine,” protested Periwinkle.

Aurora glared at her, fists clenched at her sides. She brought up one hand and stabbed her index finger at the ceiling. “Only one person in this school is dumb enough to come after me, girls. And only that person is arrogant enough to think that I wouldn’t come after her.” She folded her arms beneath her chest and scowled, working her jaw. It was going to cause frown lines, she knew, but she couldn’t bring herself to care.

“We’re going to make Jasmine pay for what she’s done to me this day, mark my words,” said Aurora. “Who’s with me?”

“I am,” said Tink.

“Me too,” said Rosetta.

The ‘Ettes all nodded in agreement, making various affirmations.

“And if this isn’t Jasmine?” asked Periwinkle. She folded her arms across her tiny chest and raised an eyebrow.

Aurora frowned at her. Giselle got up, a bottle in one hand, and held a hand out to Aurora’s hair. When Aurora nodded, she started spraying the ends of her lime green hair. “It is,” said Aurora. “And she’s going to pay. Besides, Jasmine deserves more than I can throw at her. She’s everything this school doesn’t need.” A coy smirk toyed on her lips. “I’m going to fix that.”

“I won’t stand for it,” said Periwinkle.

“Then leave,” said Aurora. “Nothing’s keeping you here, we already have your sister.”

Periwinkle narrowed her eyes, her tiny lips pursing. “Fine. Find yourself another second flyer. I’m done.”

“Peri,” started Tink, but Periwinkle walked out of the locker room and slammed the door behind her.

“Let her go,” said Aurora. Giselle kept spraying, a tiny comb working its way through the ends of her hair. “We have work to do.”

With pursed lips and a reluctant nod, Tink turned her attention back toward Aurora, and Aurora launched into her plans on what to do with Jasmine.


 

Hiro Hamada

Hiro jiggled his leg and drummed his pencil against the paper, eyes darting around the room. First to the other students, including Gogo, who gave him a concerned look, then to the clock. The tick-tick-ticking of the second hand was slowly but surely driving a drill through his forehead and into his skull.

Gross.

He was fifteen years old and in a senior AP class. So short that his legs didn’t even touch the floor. This was a classroom that was just for seniors. Obviously they would all be taller than him. Even if he and Gogo were about the same height. But then, Honey Lemon was the tallest person he knew. Or was she? Maybe Wasabi was taller. But Hiro didn’t know.

He kept drumming his pencil. The teacher droned on at the front of the classroom, but Hiro couldn’t hear her over the tick-tick-ticking of the clock. What was her name again? It started with a P. Parker? Pepper? Porter? Yeah, Porter. Mrs. Porter.

He wondered if that was her maiden name or her married one. And where had the term married name even come from? What about women who kept their maiden names? Technically, weren’t those also their married names? And why weren’t maiden names a thing for men? Why was it only women who changed their names, even now? Weird.

Hiro checked the clock again. Less than a minute had passed since he last checked it.

He drummed his pencil. Jiggled his leg. The tick-tick-ticking of the clock slowly worked its way under his skin until it was all he could hear. He gripped his pencil tighter, tried not to focus on the sound. There was no use.

His pencil broke. People stared. He could feel the heat of their gazes against his back. All around.

Hiro shoved back from his desk, dropped to the floor, and left the classroom. Beyond the tick-tick-ticking of the clock that pulsed beneath his skin, Hiro thought he heard someone say his name. But he couldn’t tell who or why, and he didn’t care, so he kept walking.

Shoving his hands in his pockets, he walked out the front door. There, a great white Samoyed waited for him.

“Hey, Baymax,” he whispered to the dog. She barked at him. “Good to see you.” He hugged the dog tightly, burying his face in her long hair. The little tag on her collar that marked her as a therapy dog rang in the slight autumn breeze.

Hiro sat down in the shadows against a tree. Baymax put her head in his lap and he petted her fur until the shush-shush of the wind in the leaves destroyed the tick-tick-ticking beneath his skin. He closed his eyes and petted Baymax. Let the shush-shush wash out all other sound.

He wasn’t sure how long he sat there, revelling in the soft fur and soft noise, but eventually he became aware of another presence. He opened his eyes and saw Gogo, Honey Lemon, Wasabi, and Fred coming toward him. All of them had various levels of concern and sympathy painted across their faces, and Hiro looked away. He didn’t need their pity. He didn’t want their pity.

Why wouldn’t everyone just leave him alone?

Baymax tilted her head when she saw them coming, and scooted a bit closer to Hiro so they wouldn’t enter Hiro’s personal space. Hiro hugged Baymax a little tighter.

“Hey, Hiro,” said Honey Lemon. “We saw you leave.” One by one the four sat down in a rough semi-circle, about two feet away from Hiro. “Are you all right?”

Hiro shrugged and petted Baymax more. He stared at the way his hand went through her fur, vision blurring for a moment. “I just don’t see the point,” he said softly. “I’m smarter than everyone in there, why does it matter if I’m in class?” He shrugged. “I’ll just do the exams. No big deal.”

“Hiro, that’s not how it works,” said Honey Lemon.

“Yeah, dude, you have to be in class to learn,” said Gogo, “even if you are smarter than everyone else in there.”

Wasabi watched Hiro with a pensive frown and said nothing.

“Little man, you gotta go to class,” said Fred. “Gotta feel the positive vibes and try and recover. If you don’t, you’ll never stop being so down.”

“And what are you going to do if I don’t, Fred?” snapped Hiro. “Take away all the money you gave to Aunt Cass?”

Fred’s expression fell. “I would never. I’d give you the world if it’d make you smile, little dude.”

Hiro scowled and looked at Baymax’s fur again. “Tadashi’s dead. Moving me and Aunt Cass across the country so I could be with all of you, giving her a new bakery, and making sure I go to school every day isn’t going to change that.” He looked up, tears streaming down his face, vision blurring, and entire body shaking. “He’s dead. What does anything matter any more?”

“Hiro…,” said Honey Lemon, but she trailed off, as though there was nothing else to say. And there wasn’t, not really. They’d all lost Tadashi too, but they hadn’t been his brother. They hadn’t even met him in person more than once, at some convention. He and Tadashi had grown up in San Francisco with Aunt Cass, and the rest of them had grown up halfway across the country in Disney Valley.

But when Tadashi had died, Fred had insisted on bringing them both over to Disney Valley. It wasn’t like Hiro had anything left for him in San Fran, except for Tadashi’s grave. And he had his hat. That was more important than the grave, any day.

“You don’t think he’d want you to keep going?” asked Gogo.

“I don’t know,” said Hiro, voice tight. His teary gaze flicked up to Gogo. “It’s not like I can ask him.”

“What about D and D?” asked Fred.

All gazes swung toward him.

“What?” asked Hiro.

“Dungeons and Dragons, dude,” said Fred. “You said you don’t wanna come to school because you’re smarter than everyone here – which you so are. So why not hang with us more? We’re smart.” Fred paused and gestured to the others around him. “I mean, they are, not me. I’m just me, man.” He flashed an easy smile at Hiro. “We’ll make all new heroes, start from scratch, and I’ll DM. It’ll be fun.”

Hiro chewed the inside of his cheek and thought about it. These four were Tadashi’s Dungeons and Dragons group. That was why they’d all hung out together on Discord. That was why they’d all met in the first place. That was how they’d stayed friends for the last like, three years.

Could he really take Tadashi’s place in their circle?

“I dunno,” said Hiro. He hugged Baymax. “Maybe later.”

“You mind if we stay here?” asked Gogo. “Until you decide if you wanna go home or not?”

“No,” said Hiro. “Stay.”

And they did. They sat there was Fred regaled them with stories about his favourite superheroes, while Hiro hugged Baymax’s fur and pretended he didn’t want to fall apart at the seams.

Chapter Text

Flynn Rider

Flynn checked his watch as he jogged down the hall. There was less than a minute until class let out. He had free period, but he’d been hoping to catch up with Jasmine before she headed out for her next class. He double checked his watch again just as the bell rang, pulling up a few feet short of the door. Bouncing slightly on his heels, Flynn craned his neck over the herd of people that poured out into the hallway, looking for Jasmine.

She wasn’t hard to find. Maybe it was because she stood alone in a sea of moving people. Maybe it was because her hair was so distinctive. Either way, Flynn found her quickly enough. He pushed himself through the throng of people moving from class to class and caught up with her.

“Hey,” he said. “Jasmine, right?”

She raised a slim, perfectly sculpted eyebrow at him, her dark brown gaze sweeping up and down his form. He figured he looked pretty good. Button-down with the sleeves rolled up and a cool pair of jeans that were worn at the knees.

She didn’t seem impressed.

“Yes, that’s me,” she said. She stepped to the side of the hallway, leaning against a bank of lockers, her books in front of her. On anyone else, Flynn thought it might have looked defensive, but on Jasmine, it just looked carefully measured. A gesture that seemed to put all the power in her hands. “And you are?”

“Flynn Rider, your English partner,” he said, flashing her an easy smile. One side of her mouth quirked upward at his name, a twinkle of amusement hidden behind her calculating gaze. “I was just wondering when you wanted to start work on our project.”

Jasmine hummed, tapping one finger, complete with perfectly manicured, aquamarine nail, against her lower lip. “After homecoming,” she said after a moment. “We have plenty of time to complete it, so let’s not rush things too quickly.”

He nodded. “Sure thing.” He dug into his pocket. “Here, wanna put your number in? I can text you sometime.” Jasmine reached out and took his phone, passing her own to him as she did. They punched in their numbers, snapped a quick picture of each other – Flynn with a goofy grin and Jasmine with that cool, calculating gaze of hers – and then they were done.

“Thanks, Jasmine,” said Flynn, looking down at his phone. “I think we’re gonna make a great team.”

“I certainly hope so,” said Jasmine. She pushed off the lockers in one clean movement and stepped around Flynn, a slight frown pulling at her features. “However, for your sake, Flynn, I suggest you stay away from me.” She glanced over her shoulder. “Social pariahs aren’t the best way to build popularity.” With that said, she stepped into the crowd and walked off.

Flynn didn’t miss the way people parted around her, as though scared of touching her. The entire way, she kept her head held high and her shoulders straight. Flynn didn’t know if he would have been strong enough to do the same.

What the hell had happened to her?

Flynn shook his head and turned, heading back to his own next class. He’d barely made it three steps before he bumped into someone, and both his bag and their books went everywhere.

Instantly, Flynn was on his knees, grabbing his backpack and helping the person pick up their books

“Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry,” said the girl. Flynn looked up and caught her gaze, and, for a moment, he lost his breath. Her brilliant green eyes stared back at him, framed by golden blonde hair that hung around her face like a halo. She smiled shyly at him and tucked her hair behind her ear. “Um, are you okay?”

“Fine,” said Flynn, a little breathless. He cleared his throat and went back to picking up the papers and books, slinging his bag over his shoulder. He caught sight of dozens of sketches and couldn’t help but stare at them before he handed them back to her.

There was a moment of silence as the two stood in almost perfect unison. Then, the sharp sound of the warning bell cut through the moment and the girl gasped, hands flying to her face. “Oh, gosh I have to go! Thank you! And I’m sorry!” She bolted passed Flynn and was gone, disappearing into the quickly thinning crowd of people.

“Wow,” he breathed.

A hand on his shoulder jarred his from his thoughts. “Dude!” It was Al, tugging him forward already. “Come on, we’re gonna be late. Hey, are you all right?”

“Yeah,” said Flynn, managing a nod. He looked back toward where the girl had vanished. Her hair had been so long, he only realized now, that even though it was braided – rather loosely, at that – it had still hung passed her waist. He wondered if her neck ever hurt from that. Or if she ever got sick of brushing it. He could barely stand his own hair some days. “I just… bumped into someone.”

“And what, got a concussion?” asked Al. They kept walking, heading toward their next class. Aladdin chuckled. “Man, you’re so out of it.”

Flynn shook his head. “Maybe.” He looked back over his shoulder as they turned a corner, wondering. “Maybe you know who she was.” He turned his attention back to Al, who quirked an eyebrow into his bangs, which were mostly covered by a beanie. “Green eyes, super long blonde hair, likes to draw?”

Al grinned at him.

“What?” asked Flynn, feeling a little like he was being left out of some big joke. “Come on, what?”

Al chuckled and paused outside of their classroom door. Inside, Flynn could see Esmeralda saving them seats, frowning when she caught his gaze.

“Dude, you remember all that artwork on the door ways?” asked Al.

“Yeah,” said Flynn, waving off Esmeralda’s confused look. She threw her hands into the air and muttered something under her breath. “Why?”

“That’s her,” said Al. “The chick you ran into was Rapunzel, the one who does all those paintings.” He pushed passed Flynn into the classroom. Flynn followed after and the two took their seats on either side of Esmeralda.

“Finally,” she muttered.

Flynn rolled his eyes and stuck his tongue out at her. Esmeralda glared and then the bell went off. But even as class began, Flynn couldn’t make himself focus.

Rapunzel, huh? He couldn’t get her out of his mind. He really, really, wanted to get to know her. But it was a big school, so who knew if he’d even bump into her again.


 

Naveen Campos

The last bell had gone off almost twenty minutes ago, and Naveen leaned against the hood of his car, enjoying the sun as it beat down on his face and warmed his entire body. He hummed, hands against the car and head tilted back, eyes closed as he reveled in the feeling. In a few weeks, it would start to get cold, so he wanted to enjoy as much of the sun as he could.

Especially since his parents were still talking over his punishment. Something about hard work and dedication and all sorts of other words that made his skin crawl just thinking about it. He swore, if his parents spoke about anymore hard work around him, he was going to start getting callouses and random sweats just from proximity to the very idea.

They just didn’t understand him, that was all. All Naveen wanted to do was dance and play his ukulele and maybe sing. Or track down some pretty girls and do it all with them. That was always fun.

Speaking of which, thought Naveen as he saw Lottie approach a few of the football players from across the parking lot. She moved with purpose, her chin held high and her short hair done up in cute curls that Naveen wanted to write music about.

Lottie was one of the best girls in town to write music about. Her and Aurora. Perhaps Tinkerbell, but she was always hit-and-miss. Especially since Naveen was friends with her brother. Phillip always got weird about people talking about Tink when he was around. Naveen figured it was probably because of the whole ‘sister’ thing and maybe also the whole ‘better than you at almost everything’ thing too.

Naveen watched Lottie ask John something, her hands moving and a bright grin on her face. At first, John cocked his head and folded his arms, looking confused. Then, he broke into a wide smile and laughed, nodding. A minute later, Lottie walked off, practically skipping back to her friends, and John came over to Naveen.

At the same time, Phillip, Eric, and Thomas approached – the former two together and Thomas from a group of the new football students. He still couldn’t believe Thomas had made the team. The guy was tiny and scared of his own shadow, yet, somehow, he’d managed to make it through.

Secretly, Naveen figured it was because John had been helping his practice. God knew what they got up to when they were alone.

“What was that about?” asked Naveen, glancing toward Lottie, who was chatting with Aurora and Tink. He looked back to John, who cracked a bright grin at him.

“She just asked me to Homecoming,” said John.

Naveen’s eyebrows shot up and he straightened, bringing his arms forward to fold them loosely over his chest. Now that he hadn’t expected. “Really?” he asked. He let out a low whistle. She was a nice catch – gorgeous, funny, and super laidback. Naveen wouldn’t have minded taking her out, truth be told. Though he had his eyes on someone else for Homecoming. “What’d’ya say?”

“I said yes, obviously,” said John. He flicked his bangs out of his hair and grinned as the other three approached. “Guess who’s got a date to Homecoming, boys!” he called.

Eric raised an eyebrow and settled against the car next to Naveen. “What, you asked Thomas?” he asked, voice teasing.

Thomas furrowed his brow and looked from Eric to John, his head cocked to one side. He reminded Naveen a bit of a puppy. A rather adorable one, at that, especially with the way his hair fell in his eyes and his ears stuck out a little.

“Lottie,” said John, looking to Thomas. “Sorry, bud, looks like you’re going stag.”

Thomas rolled his eyes. “I’ll live,” he said, drily.

“Actually, that brings up a good point,” said Phillip. The others turned their gazes to Phillip, ever the intelligent one of the five, as he stroked his chin and frowned. “The only thing keeping Thomas safe from Gaston right now is you, John. If you take a girl to Homecoming, what’s that gonna do for him?”

Naveen blinked. He hadn’t thought of that. By John’s face, he hadn’t thought of that either.

“Shit,” said John, quietly. “Well, Gaston doesn’t know yet. I could just tell Lottie I’d rather take Thomas?” His words came out a question and he tugged at the hair on the back of his neck.

“Don’t,” said Thomas.

“Thomas—” started Eric, but Thomas cut him off.

“Look, I get that you guys are all protective of me, or something, but I can handle myself. Gaston isn’t going to come after me so long as I’m on the team – Shang would have his head. Besides,” Thomas shrugged, cheeks pink, “I’m friends with Mulan and she’s friends with Chien Po and Yao, who are better fighters than Gaston. They won’t let anything happen to me.”

Eric reached over and ruffled Thomas’ hair, making the smaller guy scowl at him, but it seemed just as playful on both sides.

“Look at you, making friends,” cooed Eric. “Our little Thomas is all grown up.”

Phillip chuckled and leaned against the car across from Naveen’s, next to John. “Yeah, now if we get you a date for Homecoming, you’ll be golden.” He wiggled his eyebrows at Thomas. “Got anyone in mind?”

“Not really,” mumbled Thomas. As Naveen watched him, he saw Thomas’ gaze dart over to Nakoma, Pocahontas, and Kocoum, who were chatting as they sat on the bleachers. Thomas’ cheeks flushed and he looked back. Eric and Phillip were talking, but John was watching Thomas with narrowed eyes. Naveen and John exchanged a glance, each one wondering who Thomas was looking at.

Naveen had a suspicion it was Kocoum, even if Thomas’ sexuality had never actually come up. He was small, outspoken about women’s rights, and a little traditionally feminine. Those weren’t reasons to think he was gay, but they were the reasons people tended to pick on him for, and why John letting people think they were dating was pretty believable.

Still, he wondered.

“What about you, Phillip? You taking anyone?” asked Eric.

Phillip shook his head. “Not that I know of. I think Rosetta is hoping I ask her, so I might.” He shrugged. “You?”

“Vanessa asked me,” said Eric. The other four all made varying noises of disappointment and sympathy, with Naveen grimacing. “Look, it’s not a real date. I just feel bad for her, you know? So, I figured, why not?” He shrugged. “Most people will know it’s a pity date, come on.”

Naveen nodded. “True, true.”

“You, Naveen?” asked Eric, cocking an eyebrow.

Naveen gave an overdramatic sigh. “Alas, I’ve been too caught up in my art to ask anyone, and I am quickly running out of time.” He put a hand over his forehead. “Oh, woe is me.” Then, with a cheeky grin, he threw an arm around Thomas’ shoulders and pulled him in. “Perhaps I will ask you, no?”

“No,” said Thomas, shrugging out of his embrace.

“Ooh, rejected,” said John, chuckling.

“Actually,” said Thomas, rubbing the back of his neck. A flush worked its way across his cheeks and he stared at the parking lot. “Mulan and I are going together.”

“What?” The disbelief rang in all four of them as they spoke in almost perfect unison.

“Dude, how?” asked Phillip.

Eric nodded. “I’m with Phil, here, Thomas. Mulan is… Mulan. I didn’t even know she dated!”

Thomas shrugged and flashed them all a sheepish smile. “I mean, it’s not a date. We’re just going as friends, you know? The other guys – Chien Po, Yao, and Ling – they’re all coming with us too, as like, a trio of stag guys or something.” He shrugged again. “Maybe it’ll be cool?”

“I think it’s awesome,” said John. He reached out and nudged Thomas’ shoulder, smiling at him. It was a smile John reserved only for Thomas, and Naveen always felt a little weird when he saw it in public. The two might not have been dating, but they were close, very close, and sometimes he couldn’t help but feel like an outsider to their friendship.

“All right, well, I’m hungry. Who wants tacos?” asked Naveen. He clapped his hands together before rubbing them. “My treat?”

The guys all cheered and piled into Naveen’s car, with Eric in shotgun, and headed off to the mall to get tacos and waste the afternoon. Just as they left, Naveen cast a glance over his shoulder, toward the cheerleaders, and saw Aurora laughing.

He was determined to ask her to Homecoming. He just had to figure out how.