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“Citizens of Auradon, old and new, I am here to announce that the threat of Maleficent’s staff is no more.”  The reporter announces from in front of the Museum of Cultural History. “Fairy Godmother has taken it and other magical objects of great threat to a secure location.  But fear not, the museum is not bare. Once more, replicas stand in memory of these great evils.

“It is unclear if the recent attack on Auradon will be added to the museum.  Most likely it will end up a footnote on the staff’s plaque. Or perhaps we should Malificent for controlling one of our own so cruelly.”  The news reporter continues. This was a mistake, Audrey thinks, grip tightening around her pencil. She should have stayed in her room where she wouldn’t have to listen to the Auradon news.

“As for Maleficent, no one has seen her since Queen-to-be Mal destroyed the barrier.  It is believed she remains on the isle with the villains who fear Queen-to-be Mal’s other new laws to risk causing more trouble on own land.  Will she rise out of the shadows? Will she claim the blame she so rightfully deserves for her staff controlling Princess Audrey? Only time will tell.  Back to you Joe.” Finally, finally , the news shuts off.  But it’s too late, her pencil is broken.

“It’s like they forgetting my mum’s a lizard on purpose.”  Audrey practically jumps out of her chair at Mal’s sudden voice.  The Queen-to-be somehow managed complete silence as she took the seat across from Audrey.

“What do you want?”  Audrey asks, tone more defeated than spiteful.  She doesn’t want to let her spite control her again.

And it was her spite, not Malificent’s.  She knows that.

“To complain about the news.”  Mal says, like it’s obvious. She plants her feet on the study hall desk.  “The others are off doing whatever and no one else gets how annoying that guy is.”

“And you think I do?”  Audrey frowns. Was this some sort of ploy?  Mal and her have been on civil, even polite, terms with each other since… since everything but maybe now Mal expects it to go back to how it was.  Audrey hopes not. She doesn’t want to go back to that ever.

“Well yeah.”  Mal says, nodding to the pencil Audrey snapped.  She doesn’t mention how Audrey flinches, or start to tell Audrey off for the unprincess-like display.  “So, back to the matter at hand.” Mal hums. “A week ago this guys talking about how I’m going to bring about Auradon’s downfall because I brought down the barrier.  Now it’s all ‘oh Queen-to-be Mal made such a great decision’. He’s so two-faced.”

“A week ago you hadn’t proved you had plans beyond just bringing down the barrier.  After Gaston’s trial, they realize you aren’t just doing what you want because you can.”  Audrey argues.

“Haven’t I earnt that respect yet?”  Mal sighs. “I don’t just do things because I can anymore, they should know that.  Besides, why are you defending him? He clearly pissed you off too.”

“It doesn’t matter.”  Audrey mumbles, looking away.  She doesn’t have a right to complain, she was the bad guy.

“Audrey, it clearly matters.”  Mal says, tone more serious than it has been all conversation.  “You can tell me, you know. Whatever it is, I won’t judge you.”

“Won’t you?”  Audrey asks before she can help it.  It’s hard to trust Mal but she really shouldn’t’ve said that out loud.  Now Mal will get mad and everything will get worse. And she’ll deserve it for being so horrible.

“Did I ever tell you how Evie and I became friends?”  Instead of meeting Audrey’s expectations, Mal completely changes the topic.  

“Pardon?”  Audrey frowns, confused.

“We were kids when we first meet, obviously.  But we weren’t friends back then. See our mums were like, rivals?  I guess? They both wanted to control the isle and the Evil Queen didn’t understand my mum had already won so for Evie’s birthday she throws this huge party and invites everyone.  Except me.” Mal starts, ignoring Audrey’s growing confusion. “She probably thought she was being poetic.  

“I was upset, of course, I was a dumb kid.  So, for me, mum banished them both to their castle.  Evie grew up there, her mum was her only company. It wasn’t really my fault, it was our mums fight and we were just the pawns.  But I still feel a little bad about it.”

“That’s how you became friends?”  Audrey presses when Mal pauses, curious despite herself.  She, and everyone really, had just assumed the VKs had always been friends.  They acted like it.

“I’m getting to that part.”  Mal says, smiling slightly. “Eventually, Evie braved going to Dragon Hall, that was our school, and everyone adored her.  I hated it, and her, so I figured I’d get rid of her. I even made Carlos host a party just so I could through Evie into his mums fur closest.”  She laughs slightly, probably at her own ridiculousness, but Audrey has no idea what she’s talking about.

“Then my mum tells me that she’s found her staff.”  Mal continues. “And she tasks me with going to get it.  I decided I’d bring Evie along and I’d make Evie touch it first, then mum’s curse would hit her and she’d fall asleep forever.”  She admits.

“What?”  Audrey frowns, eyes wide.  Mal shrugs and Audrey notices that she seems… nervous.

“I couldn’t go through with it, in the end.”  She says. “But if it hadn’t taken so long to get to the staff, I would have.  And that’s on me. It might’ve been my mothers staff, but it was my plan. So yeah, I can’t judge you.”  The story sits heavy in the air and Audrey tries to take it in for all it is.  

This little story, it’s something Audrey hasn’t had.  It’s Mal saying she understands, it’s Mal saying she won’t be mad at Audrey.

It’s support.  Maybe even friendship.

“Hey, don’t cry.  That wasn’t what I was trying to do for once.”  Mal says, calm broken instantly and Audrey can only laugh.

“It’s not bad crying.”  She admits. “Sorry, I just… everyone keeps saying it was all the staff, that it was all Maleficent.  But it wasn’t. I wanted to hurt people, the staff just gave helped me do that.”

“Well it’s not all on you either.”  Mal says, calming down again. “The staff would have made it worse.”

“Maybe.”  Audrey accepts.  “But I stole the crown without it.” 

“You did.”  Mal agrees.  

“I’ve tried telling everyone else that, but they don’t accept it.  They don’t want to think I could actually be evil.” Audrey says.

“You aren’t evil.”  Mal argues. “You did something wrong.  Sure it was a pretty big wrong, but it doesn’t make you evil.  It makes you a little bit of both, just like the rest of us.”

“No one else thinks I can be both.”  Audrey mumbles. To her family, and the news, she was the innocent victim controlled by Maleficent’s staff.  But to Jane and Chad and most everyone she knows, she’s a fearful villain. To her… she’s not really sure. She doesn’t feel like either.  She wants to say she’s good, that she regrets everything she did as the Queen of Mean.

But that was a lie.

She regrets hurting everyone.  But the feeling of power? Or freedom?  She actually misses that.

“That’s ‘cause Auradon’s a little slow on the uptake.”  Mal hums. “Bad is good, good is bad. We don’t just say that to annoy Fairy Godmother.”  Audrey can’t help but laugh a little.  

“I think you’re right.”  She smiles. “Thank you Mal.”

“Man, I wish I’d been recording.  Admitting I’m right and thanking me?  No one is going to believe this.”  Mal teases. She pulls herself to her feet and stretches.  “Well, it’s about time to go. Us VKs are meeting up for lunch.”

“Oh, okay.”  Audrey mumbles, disappointment bubbling in her chest.  It’s odd to be disappointed that Mal’s leaving but Audrey had been enjoying this.  It’s been a long time since she just… spoke with someone. It was nice.

“You coming?”  Mal asks once she’s done stretching.  

“Me?”  Audrey frowns.  “But I’m not a VK.”  Nevermind the fact she was horrible to the VKs.

“Sure you are.”  Mal shrugs. “A little bit a good, a little bit of evil.  That’s what a VK is.”

“Really?  But… are you sure they’d even want me there?”  Audrey asks, trying not to get her hopes up. “I mean, after everything…”

“I’m sure they’ll forgive you.”  Mal smiles. “They forgive me. And trust me, that thing with Evie?  Not the only thing I’ve done.” She laughs. “So, coming?”

“Yeah, sounds like fun.”