she shouldn’t, but she does. it’s wrong but—well, that’s the problem. she misses who they used to be, who they used to be allowed to be. (who she still is, who she can’t forget.) back when evie was just evie (not a princess and not perfect) and caros was just carlos (kind and soft without forgetting) and jay was just jay (who didn’t need anything but them) and mal was just mal (cruel and malicious and fiercely protective of her friends) and they didn’t have to be anything else because on the isle no one cared who you were. here, in auradon, with the perfect palaces and the pretty gowns, who you are is all that matters. (but not what you do, no, because king beast threw children in prison and he’s still called a hero.)
she misses her evie, with the pretty face and the sharp smiles, cackling as they’d dance through the marketplace, whip-smart and more vicious than anyone could guess, falling asleep tangled up together with limbs intertwined, far from their houses but never more at home than they were when they were together.
she misses her boys. back-to-back with jay, side-to-side with carlos, up against the world and everyone in it, laughing as they wreaked havoc like they were born for it. stealing with jay and brawling with carlos and running over rooftops as if they could fly, piling together in the treehouse after a bad day, binding broken bones and bloody fists and never needing each other to change because they were happy with what they had.
she misses the rotten four, alone and isolated and never wanting for more, ruling the isle even if nobody acknowledged it, spray paint and leather gloves and burning loyalty even in the face of traitors and murderers and everything else they grew up with. forming a circle with fists up and blades out and bodies winding around each other with an easiness no one ever taught them, never needing a thank you to protect and defend. braiding hair and massaging shoulders and linking arms and walking in a line as the people around them bent out of their way. they had power, on the isle, and it was nothing but the power they made. they had power and it was power they earned, power they created, together.
now there’s evie, (not hers, not anymore,) who designs dresses and not battle tactics, who settles for less and learns to love instead of expecting the best and demanding better, who wears dresses and tiaras every day and makes new friends with an ease her mother didn’t have to teach her, who uses her powers of manipulation-seduction-grace and uses them for others, who still loves mal but doesn’t need to anymore.
now there’s her boys, drifting away. (not even each other’s, anymore.) there’s jay with a new team and new admirers and no one’s ever told them, here, that jay is hers and theirs and off-limits for meddling with. (protection means something different here.) there’s carlos with his dog and his tech and his inventions, and he’s happy but he’s not—alive, not like he used to be. jay who doesn’t enter the dorm until after dinner, out with his new friends and his new popularity, (without them) and she’s happy for him but they were family and now they’re not, and she doesn’t blame him for grasping on to the offer and taking everything he was never given except that’s not true and she does. carlos who makes new friends, softer and kinder and nothing like who carlos is, and she watches him change, more confident externally but every one of the characterises she used to know so well dimming and being overtaken by auradon, and she doesn’t resent him for forgetting everything about who they
are were except she does because they were there for him and now they don’t need to be and now she barely knows who he is.
she barely knows who any of them are. (evie with her (one) boyfriend and her dresses and her soft voice and gentle smiles, carlos with his easy grin and his still hands and his loose limbs and his smooth hair, jay with his gruff barely-there affection and his tourney jersey and the nearly-impersonal wink he throws her before disappearing with chad and lonnie.)
and she knows that on the outside she seems different too, sometimes, maybe, hopefully, but she’s not and it’s a lie. her bleached-blonde hair itches and when she runs her fingers through it (when it’s unpinned, that is,) she tries to pretend she doesn’t want to claw colour back into the strands. the dresses ben likes are the ones she wears and the fabric burns where it touches her skin and she smiles for evie but her fingernails trail along the skirts like she wants to rip them to shreds. the people she has to talk to, because ben, are stupid and useless and everything mal is wants to burn them out of existence but ben’s hand sits heavy on her back and she chokes down the sparks she imagines she can feel in her throat. she doesn’t run and walks without purpose and sits with her hands folded and her eyes dull and thinks that this is not what she wanted when she turned away her mother and her past.
she’d thought—what? what had she thought, what had she expected? what had she wanted from this land she owes nothing to, from this land she knows nothing of? (she’d keep her leathers and her spray paints and her lifetime of imprisonment would not have been traded for another. evie wouldn’t hide who she used to be like she was ashamed of it, jay wouldn’t forget what they went through for each other, carlos wouldn’t trade his old family for a new one who knew nothing about him.)
it just—it just builds, and builds, and builds, and then one day she’s staring at the cameras and she’s forgotten how to smile and snap out of it mal and it’s like she’s underwater and it was never like this on the isle, never, she always knew who she was and what she was doing and she was always in control. later ben’s talking to her and it’s like she’s watching from a distance, the way she giggles and tilts her head and smiles for him like she knows he wants her to and inside she doesn’t feel anything at all, she’s numb, she’s somewhere far away, she feels nothing. and then soon she’s crying when all she wants is to burn, she’s weeping even though the itch is back and she wants to drag her nails up her arms and claw her way out this too-small skin, and her hands are shaking with something more than magic and if she squints it looks like her fingers are twitching too much to be nerves. (and the thing inside mal is screaming and twisting and writhing and she doesn’t know what’s happening and she doesn’t know who or what she is and the thing inside mal is growing and growing and growning and the fear she’s still learning tells her that she can’t lose herself to that) (maleficent was a dragon, don’t forget, the students at auradon prep whisper sometimes, but mal doesn’t think about it.)
evie will be content with her dresses and her new perfect life and she doesn’t need mal. jay will be safe with his team and everything he’s ever wanted and he doesn’t care about mal. carlos will be happy with his friends and he can take care of himself and he doesn’t want mal. she doesn’t need to be here, she isn’t wanted—she doesn’t belong and she is sick of this and her skin itches and her dresses burn and a scream has been lodged in her throat for months now just begging to escape. so she runs.
she runs, and somewhere in her mind there is the hope that the itch will leave and her mind will clear and the scream will tear its way out of her mouth and she won’t have to hide-disguise-lie because who she is has should not be a secret, should not be a sin, and– well. there are other places to go. other places where screaming is encouraged and sins are a way of life. mal’s always suited black more than yellow. it’s time she reminds herself why.
(and the itch will leave and the scream will become a roar and she won’t hide who she is and none of it will happen the way she’d expected.)