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Burn, Nuestra Estrella

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Camilo had known that he was protective of Mirabel when he was younger, if only the family would stop telling everyone. He loved his prima with his heart and soul, but there was only so much he could do for her. Abuela Alma had a grudge against her, and his gift was already useless enough as it was, he couldn’t risk losing the faith of the family. So, as he’d gotten older, he’d slowly forgotten about Mirabel and their close friendship.

Well, that was a lie, but whatever made Alma happy. He’d never forgotten about his close friendship with Mirabel, the girl was his personal craftsman, his twin. It was like looking into a mirror that distorted your body. Everything about them was the same from the curls on their head to the color of their eyes, to even their freckles and the placements of them. They were twins, and Camilo had never stopped thinking such a thing. He was sure that Mirabel had though; she kept so busy during the day.

She woke early, set the table for breakfast, got out the ingredients for Julieta to cook with before watering all the plants just right and waking the house. She took the time to be a tad louder with Dolores’ door while being quieter on his. His older sister was a heavy sleeper while he was the exact opposite, and Mirabel was the exact same way.

His cousin took time out of her day to help everyone settle, from her mother to Antonio, and even Casita. Pepa got a warm hug and helped with a tangle or two in her hair, Felix with his own afro, and then she’d again move on. Julieta would get a kiss on the cheek from her daughter with a swipe down on her apron before moving to her father, buttoning up his vest and straightening his tie before continuing on.

Camilo watched every morning as she gave a “good morning, I love you” to Bruno’s dark door and then moved on to her sisters. Luisa would get her hair put up into a tight - yet comfortable - bun and Isabella would get stray flower petals and leaves picked from her hair. After all, the girl still loved her sister, no matter how much they quarreled.

“Good morning, hombrecito, ready for the day?” Mirabel would ask Antonio as he would leave the nursery, fixing up his shirt and kissing him on the forehead. No one but Dolores and Camilo would know that - several times now - Antonio would call Mirabel ‘Mamá’ as she gently greeted him. Camilo couldn’t blame her, after all Pepa and Félix were so wound up in their own world that neither of them spoke to their kids often.

Mirabel wouldn’t stop him; she'd simply ruffle at his hair before moving on.

“Ruana please,” she would ask with a held-out hand. Camilo would change into real clothes for the day, shifting into however he felt most comfortable, and then come back out with his yellow chameleon embroidered ruana in hand. She’d fix the cloth over his head and onto his shoulders, then tuck his curls behind one ear before giving a curt nod.

“You look gorgeous, Cami,” she would tell him every morning without fail. Every morning, she would tell him that, no matter what time she woke the family up or set the table. That affirmation of his looks made him feel more him, more human. More normal.

Mirabel would kiss his cheek lovingly for only just a moment before moving onto Dolores, whispering soft good mornings, asking how she’d like her tea as she helped with her hair wrap for the morning and fixed her earrings into her ears. It was sweet, really.

It was so Mirabel, that Camilo could never imagine a time or future where that wasn’t possible, even if he knew that it was. It was what was coming, so without interfering too much, he took in every bit of his cousin and loved her just as wholeheartedly as she’d let him.

Camilo hadn’t felt that protective emotion for his prima flare up inside him in at least a few years, not since before she’d caught on and started beating the shit out of her own bullies instead of him doing it for her. The thought had him smiling, he missed beating up people for her, sadistic he knew, but it was nostalgic for him.

However, every so often, that spark of fierce protective sense that existed deep inside him would rise from its dormancy in the presence of his family or in town. Camilo would be doing his chores for the day, messing around with the younger kids, or even helping out around Casita and then he’d hear it. Now, he never got the gift of super hearing - he thanks Dolores for taking that burden, but it was impossible to ignore the way people spoke about Mirabel when they hadn’t bothered to hide it.

The townsfolk spoke of her with such distaste, such disliking - like she was Bruno. Granted, Camilo remembered little about his shunned uncle, but it was obvious that his protective nature stemmed from how they spoke of him. There was an aura around the town when it came to the prophet that was Bruno Madrigal, but there was a buzz around the ‘no-one’ that was Mirabel Madrigal.

He never felt that way for most of his family outside of his siblings, and while there had been a tiny bit of protectiveness for Bruno, Camilo knew that the man was ‘long gone’ and there was no reason to defend something that didn’t exist. However, Mirabel was different. Camilo had rare memories of Bruno - all rare yet good ones - but he had countless memories with Mirabel, priceless gems he would think about at night when he felt alone in his head. That seemed to be one of the reasons for the current brewing pit of anger and jealousy in his gut.

Antonio had gotten his gift, the ability to speak to animals, and Camilo couldn’t help but notice how his favorite prima had left the party during the family photo. A photo, he realized, everyone had dutifully ignored her absence to take. That had just made his blood boil, to know that everyone from hermanito Antonio to abuela Alma to tía Julieta and tío Agustín had ignored that she was left from the photo. That was if they'd even bothered to notice in the first place, really, Camilo was sure that it was because of her lack of gift.

So, after the picture, he took a moment to leave his little brother's room and breathe in the hallway that led up to Bruno’s tower. The room had been off limits due to just how unknown a broken gift room could be, so he hadn’t worried about Mirabel going in there.

For the moment, Camilo was just trying to calm down his threatening heart rate. He was so enraged when he realized Mirabel had been purposely excluded from the family photo, especially after Antonio had asked her to walk him up to his door.

“It’s just a photo, Camilo, relax.” He tried to tell himself, tried to convince himself it was normal that Mirabel had been distancing herself more and more from Casita, from him, from the Madrigal’s as a whole. He tried to ignore how the table for breakfast got set up just a little later every morning, and how the flowers embroidered onto her clothes to signify Isabela were slowly disappearing along with other family symbols.

Camilo had tried to ignore how she purposely avoided his door in particular when it came to the decorations for the ceremony, choosing to have Casita shift his candle and homemade nameplate into place in front of his door.

“Relax, Camilo. It’s just your head again,” he tried to convince himself as he half morphed into Mirabel in his haze of thought. He’d been having thoughts lately, self-deprecating ones that filled him with anxiety over how others thought of him. Most of the time, the person was Mirabel, then again, Camilo thought that - deep down - he craved her approval more than abuela Alma. Then it happened: he heard something shatter. Shatter. Nothing ever shattered in la cassa Madrigal, the house was literally magic, it was alive, nothing had ever broken in the fifteen years he’d lived there.

Then the roof tiles began shaking, and it went downhill from there. Really, Camilo should have expected it, after all he had seen this coming.

“Casita?” He could hear Mirabel grimace from pain and then shock. It’d sent him into a flurry of panic, it couldn’t be, not now. Leaning over the second story railing, he saw them. Cracks, Mirabel was following the cracks. It was time, it was coming. Camilo couldn’t stop it, Casita had cracks, had problems, and for just a moment he was more worried about it - and his prima - rather than su familia’s love and approval. His own negative thoughts were quickly replaced when he watched his little cousin fill with panic at the sight of her home cracking.

Camilo had always loved how his cousin treated Casita like a person, like the house was alive, and in a way it was. Mirabel spoke to it and so it lived, the habit had rubbed off on him eventually, and while he’d gotten some reactions from the home the girl had this - dare he say - gift when it came to the building.

She was up to the second floor now, and the other knew that intruding would only tarnish this more. It was time, and he hoped that everyone had prepared themselves. One day, the way they’d treated Mirabel was going to be their downfall, and it seemed that Alma’s words to Antonio before the so-called family picture was enough reason for it.

He couldn’t blame her, really, for immediately going to the family when she’d seen the cracks. After all she was in a panic, worried for the state of her home, worried for her family’s well-being well above her own. Camilo loved that part of his cousin; how selfless she was even when all their family did was take and take and take from her.

After being sent back off to the party, Julieta and Mirabel going to heal the cut in her hand, the boy tried to relax. The tense feeling had followed him the entire night until well past when everyone else was asleep. Camilo couldn’t rest. He couldn’t, his room was too big, there was no crowded space to hide in under his room, and if he even thought about leaving then he’d be accused of stealing food if anyone saw him.

If only he’d left his room, he’d have seen Mirabel sneaking across the rooftops to examine the walls where the cracks used to be. Patched by magic and an unknown helper. However, Camilo hadn’t, he’d stayed in his room and thought. Thought about everything.

He knew about the prophecy regarding Mirabel, Bruno had been hiding it with him for two years while he was in the walls before it was smashed. Camilo often helped the guy out when it came to getting food or healing his injuries. The shifter was unaware of how his uncle patched the cracks, and desperately tried to keep from having visions, but Camilo still knew his uncle was there.

At seven, he’d caught Bruno stealing food from the kitchen when he went down for a glass of water, and it’d all started. Bruno - trusting he was old enough to keep the prophecies secret - informed him of why he left and showed him the tablet. Camilo had asked why he hadn’t just smashed the thing, a more permanent way of ridding the evidence of the future. Bruno had liked the idea, but if he stepped foot in the tower then the door would spring to life in a yellow light, he couldn’t go back inside it.

Camilo had offered to do it for him, he was a shapeshifter after all, he could get anywhere as long as he shifted into a small enough person.

“I should’ve just brought the thing in here and hidden it,” he told himself as he tossed onto his side in his bed. Ironically, with how his gift worked, he had dry skin and therefore had silk sheets. Silk sheets and several - if not too many - blankets on top of him. The room was always cold for some reason, unless Mirabel was in it, but that rarely happened due to Alma wanting her to separate herself from Camilo as much as possible.

“Seven-year-old me, how stupid were you?” He asked himself as he ran a hand through his curls. Tangled, great, it’d take forever to fix in the morning, maybe he could get away with shifting it to normal without Alma noticing. He probably would, after all he got away with a lot of shifting that no one noticed. He mindlessly shifted a little taller, matching his uncle as his thoughts drifted back to the prophecy.

“Dammit, she can’t know. She can’t know, she can’t know, fix yourself Camilo. How much does she know?” He asked himself, sitting up from bed and going to the stage. The mirrors mimicked his movements as he strode to the velvet curtain and walked through it. Crossing his legs, he sat down in the center of the wood platform and shook out his arms and hands.

“How much does she know?” He took a deep breath in and out before cracking his neck and hands. He took to a meditative pose and relaxed his tense shoulders, eyebrows furrowed as he put himself into Mirabels shoes mentally.

It was a part of his gift that he rarely used, and it’d drain him. He’d need a good sleep after this for sure, but it was worth it. He trusted that if he let Casita know, the magical building would let Mirabel know that he was sleeping in late.

He and Bruno shared a middle ground: Mirabel. The girl had adored her tío as a kid from what Camilo remembered. The green frames that circled her eyes had been made that color due to how close they were. He wouldn’t have been surprised if Mirabel was actually Bruno’s kid, well, if they were both his kids. Camilo never gave himself hope that his uncle had somehow given up his kids to his sisters to watch them grow even if he wasn’t there as a father.

The town hated Bruno, no one was going to date him let alone marry him. He was still ostracized and shunned to this day; Camilo knew better. He was Pepa and Félix’s son, and Mirabel was Julieta and Agustíns. A sad truth, seeing as he loved his cousin like a sister more than he loved Dolores.

“What do I know?” He asked himself, voice mimicking his cousins with the help of his gift.

Slowly he became Mirabel, starting from the feet to the height, to the rest of the body. Really there weren’t many modifications that were made to his body when he became Mirabel.

Being a shapeshifter had its perks. With his shifting came the access to his family members gifts, it came with having access to their memories if he worked hard enough, it came with the ability to repeat back their words in real time with full coherency in his own head. The only drawbacks he felt were the severe headaches that he was subjected to afterwards. Sometimes they’d make him bed-ridden for an hour, sometimes it’s whole days. It depended on how long he spent in that kind of headspace.

When he was finished with his transformation, he opened his eyes. For it being quite early in the morning - two in the morning the boy guessed - the girl was fully dressed. It was a quirk of his gift, he morphed into people, but he was always wearing whatever they were currently wearing. He could become them if he really tried, which was what he was doing. Mirabel was dressed at some odd hour in the morning, way before the normal morning wakeup call and he needed to know why.

What was she doing?

“How do I save a miracle?” He asked out loud, a mimicry from her mouth through to his. Ah, so she knew something, but how much? He dug deeper, he had to. It was Casita, the miracle, her life at risk. Camilo wouldn’t dare stop now, no matter how pain filled, and bed ridden he’d be after. Mirabel needed to stay safe, he couldn’t let her find out any more than she already had.

“I,” her voice resonated, “figure out what’s happening to the miracle!” Camilo assumed she was talking to Casita, the house had never let her leave its grounds at night. Plus, Casita was a direct result of the miracle, of course she would talk to it about figuring out how to save it. Mirabel loved Casita, and the house in return loved her more than it could truly express.

“Oh, I have no idea.” The words came so easily, a tone full of honesty and yet enthusiasm.

“But there is one person in this family who hears everything about everything.” Mirabel's voice was full of mischief and as much as Camilo loved his cousin, he knew what she was planning now. Dolores. The girl was going to question Mirabel and he knew she’d spill the beans; he knew. The girl couldn’t lie for her life, but he could help her avoid Mirabel’s questioning.

Releasing his grip on his cousin's headspace, Camilo slumped to the side. Covered in sweat with a splitting migraine quickly rising from the base of his skull through to his forehead, he took a minute to gather his bearings.

“Dolores, can’t be late to breakfast. Joder, mi cabeza.” He pressed the palms of his hands into his eyes, the pressure helping him gather himself before standing. It was a wobbly walk back to his bed, the light refraction off the mirrors worsening his pain. Then he climbed into bed, snapping his finger once as the spotlight that followed him overhead cut out; the room went dark.

There, left to his thoughts, Camilo could process the words without his head worsening. Mirabel was digging into the miracle, the cracks. She was digging her way into a whole that was Bruno’s prophesied future for her and he had no way to stop it.

“Don’t let Mirabel know, keep Mirabel safe. Keep mi vida safe, su vida. Keep them all safe Camilo, it’s gonna be just fine.” He shifted onto his side; his face buried itself into his pillows.

Mirabel was going after the cracks that were the result of her, Camilo wanted desperately to stop her, but he wouldn’t. He’d promised Bruno when he was seven that he would not interfere with the future if it came to pass, and it was. He just hoped that his cousin came out of it alive in the end. He hoped that Mirabel was still breathing, still walking, still whole by the end of this.

“As long as she’s safe, then everyone else will be too. She’s gonna be okay, just relax. It’s all your head again,” he told himself. The reassurance didn’t work as well as Mirabel’s did.

She was cracked, chipped and broken in more ways than one due to the emotional abuse, neglect, and blatant disrespect that she got every day of her life. She was distancing herself from her familia as time went on and Camilo was desperate to pull her back in.

Dolores ignored the whispers of how the town spoke of her behind her back, Mirabel actively ignored how she was not an equal to her sisters and cousins. She wasn’t gifted, Alma thought her useless even when the matriarch herself had no gift. There was no reason for any of their quarreling, but it happened anyway. Camilo hated it, and with her life in possible danger, it was obvious how that protective spark for his familia had never gone away. It’d just been overshadowed by the overwhelming number of jobs he had in town every day.

Camilo is sure that he started noticing that side of him more after Mirabel had blatantly refused the family's request to start the courting process with a man in town. Camilo hadn’t blamed her; she was fifteen never given a chance to prove herself and they had wanted to toss her out to be another man's problem. He wouldn’t lie, it was a day where he just couldn’t babysit kids in town, the rage he felt over their abuela attempting to force her so early making him snappy and in less control of his gift.

Mirabel wasn’t an object, she was a person, gift or no gift she was the most special of them all. Plus, she’d tried to move out before, Casita had never let her. The building actually locked her into the nursery for several days until she’d put all her clothes and belongings back where they belonged. The house wanted her there, and she wouldn’t be allowed to leave.

Mirabel was the real gift in the family that no one saw, and Camilo swore that no matter how bad it got, he’d support her in the end. His cousin was too damaged, too cracked and bruised and tattered for that.

“Keep Mirabel safe,” he told himself as he fell asleep that night. Mirabel was thinking the exact same thing about her own family as she laid in the Nursery attempting to sleep.