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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.

Chapter Text

When Camilo woke up the next morning to the gentle knock from Mirabel at his door, and his head still pounded. Of course it would, it was normal, especially since he never over exerted himself when it came to his powers like that. It was a rare thing he did when he was anxious and in a fit of desperation to relax his paranoia when it surrounded his familia.

Yet, he still got up, an arepa from Julieta would fix all his problems. So, he dragged himself from bed, exited the curtain and went outside of his door to greet Mirabel who was no doubt making her way around the house. When he got outside of his door, there she was, caressing Antonio’s cheek and whispering to him good mornings as Pepa and Félix sat in their own little world while walking down to the first floor.

“How did you sleep, hombrecito?” She asked, causing him to shrug at her, Camilo knew why he was shrugging. He had the same problem as a kid, and really he still did. Sometimes his room was just, too silent, too big, too empty with only his things in them.

“It was too quiet without you,” he told her gently. Mirabel could only tilt her head, eyes filled with confusion as he rubbed his own tiredly.

“Toñito, your room is filled to the brim with animals. How was it quiet without me?” She asked gently, getting down onto her knees to talk to him on a more leveled basis. Camilo loved that, no matter what she wanted to view the people she spoke to as equals, and oftentimes got on her toes to make up for the one inch difference between him and her. He missed when she’d actually speak to him, follow him as he did his jobs and helped him with the children of Encanto.

“Má, it was too quiet without you. You didn’t hum me songs, or hold me when I woke up, and I wasn’t allowed to leave and get you.” He looked so upset that he couldn’t go to Mirabel for comfort last night, and it broke both Camilo’s and Dolores’ hearts.

“Antonio,” he could hear Dolores whisper from behind him.

“Whenever you need me, mi vida, I’ll be there. You just need to come find me, I’ll get in trouble for you any day. Never think it’s bad to seek comfort in what you know,” she encouraged him gently. Thumbs glided across dark skin and Antonio’s tears were gently wiped away, Mirabel gave a loving kiss to his forehead before smiling.

“Go get ready for breakfast, before your hermano Camilo steals it all.” With a fixing of his red scarf, the little boy was off. His tears wiped away and a positive mindset enforced in his brain, Mirabel sat on the floor for a moment to watch him run to the kitchen.

Holding out his hands, his prima took them into her own and he helped her up.

“Thank you, Mirabel, he needed that.” His voice was quiet, not only for the sake of no one else hearing, but also for the sake of his own migraine. One that, unsurprisingly, Mirabel noticed right away.

“Do you have a headache?” She asked, hand going to his forehead to fuss over him.

Dolores could only smile at the scene; the two really were twins. Mirabel would fuss and bother her brother and the older girl would let her. It got Camilo to keep in line and it gave her ears a break, but most importantly, it gave Mirabel purpose. She knew very well that Abuela Alma refused to give her any jobs, the girl had no purpose in the familia, so to wake everyone up in the morning, to fuss over them when the need came to it, it let Dolores rest a little easier.

Plus, it seemed Camilo enjoyed watching Mirabel worry over him. The girl watched silently as he looked down at his cousin near silently, took her hands back into his, kissing them before smiling and explaining himself.

“I got worried for Antonio last night, that’s all. I just need some of Julieta’s cooking, promise. Let me go get my ruana,” and as he walked back into his room, Mirabel let her shoulders drop. Dolores could see her glance at the candles window, and relax even further. Mirabel worried for the magic more than anyone, and it was obvious from how she could handle everyone when their gifts acted up. She knew her familia relied on their gifts too much sometimes, but it was nice to see that Mirabel would worry for them no matter if it was gift related or not.

Camilo was okay, Antonio was alright, the candle was burning brightly in the window, and there were no cracks. No cracks, that was good. Dolores knew that Mirabel worried most of all about the magic, after all the family - and the town for that matter - was so reliant on the gifts that they had, the magic suddenly disappearing was bad. It was especially bad seeing as no one cared about the Madrigals unless it involved their gifts.

Camilo took a deep breath, ruana in hand, and left the room again. The door shut gently behind him and he could see Mirabel’s relaxed expression mixed with Dolores’ worried one.

“Here, put it on me?” He asked, handing the yellow and orange cloth to his cousin with a soft smile.

“Always, mi gemelo,” Mirabel told him softly. She took the cloth softly into his hands before motioning for him to bend down. He did as commanded, and noticed she was extra cautious this morning as to not aggravate his head anymore than he’d done last night. A hand went to his chin and she raised it to look at him clearly.

“You’re so big, hombre. I’m so proud,” she told him, which was different from what he normally got from her each morning. Nonetheless, he still smiled at her when she cradled his face in her hands, and he relaxed.

“Eres tan valiente, hermana. I’m more and more proud every day; take a breath, we can handle ourselves for a morning. Sleep in for once, mi vida.” He in turn cradled her face and kissed her forehead. Dolores, nuzzled her cousin affectionately.

“Tomorrow morning, sleep in. Camilo can wake everyone,” she told the giftless girl in her familiar hushed tone. A kiss to her cheek left a red lipstick mark on Mirabel’s skin, and the girl smiled.

“I know, I just wanna do my part.” Dolores couldn’t have been more obvious in her eye roll, and for once it was Camilo who had to nudge his sibling to get her to stop.

“You pull more than your fair share of the weight, especially when it comes to Casita, isn’t that right?” The house chittered at his words, an excited response to prove his point. It was more of a response than the house would have ever given anyone else, outside of Mirabel.

“You deserve a break; sleep in. I'm not perfect, but I know how to wake the house." Mirabel doubted Camilo's abilities, he knew she did, but she still gave a nod and trusted him either way.

"Okay, primo, I trust you to do it right." Camilo didn’t realize that the ‘tomorrow’ he and Dolores had promised her, wouldn’t come for a while. So she’d helped the girl with her earrings, asked about what tea she’d like and then slipped down into the kitchen to help Julieta with the food.

And if - when he heard Mirabel call Dolores her favorite older cousin - Camilo takes it a bit personally, then he feels he has the right to. Mirabel had never been as close with Dolores as he was, and the look of shame on her face when he turned back into himself in front of her was enough to make it up to him. He was sure the whacks on the back of his head from Casita had been because he’d upset her, but it was worth it.

After the family had been dismissed into town, he’d seen Luisa dart off with Mirabel close behind, what had Dolores told her? Either way he’d held back to clear the table with Julieta, something Mirabel usually did.

“You don’t have to stay, sobrino, I know the mothers of the town need you.” She looked tired, it was obvious, he’d spent enough time around exhausted people to know what a tired person looked like.

“Tía, it’s okay, I don’t mind helping.” He was happy he’d stayed behind to help, because while washing the dishes with Julieta, Alma had walked into the room.

“Camilo, why are you not in town?” Her tone sounded more angry than questioning, as if it was Julieta’s sole responsibility for everything in the kitchen.

“No reason, Abuela, just helping tía Julieta before my duties for the morning. Mirabel already did all of her morning duties outside of this,” he let the woman know with a smile. Mentioning his giftless cousin had proved to be a mistake.

“She needs to be doing her chores around the house, not frollicking in town to bother the familia while they serve the townspeople. When you see her, tell her to come back.” It was as if Alma knew that Camilo would see Mirabel, and while the matriarch wasn’t wrong, he would not be telling Mirabel to go back to the same home she felt cooped up in.

“Yes, abuela,” he still responded as he washed another plate. Still, he rolled his eyes, brows furrowed in annoyance at how the elder woman felt she could control Mirabel. It was only after Alma had left the kitchen, front door closing with Casita giving a happy tile clatter when the woman had left the building, that Julieta spoke up.

“She’s too hard on Mirabel,” she commented quietly as she dried off the plate Camilo had washed. He couldn’t help but scoff, his lips turning down as he scrubbed a little harder.

“Too hard, is too nice! Tía, she is ruining Mirabel! From the day of her gift ceremony, Mirabel has never been enough for her, and every day she is reminded of that when she’s enclosed in this house!” He couldn’t hold in his frustration anymore, if it were Luisa or Isabela, Camilo might not have felt so strongly, but this was Mirabel. This was a mariposa who blossomed even under the iron fist of their abuela, and it wasn’t fair. Mirabel was destined to either destroy or strengthen Casita, she hadn’t gotten a gift, everyone in the family had something about her that they hated, and most of all, her childhood support system was living in the walls just to protect her!

Life wasn’t fair, it’d dealt Mirabel a shitty hand, and fate was not her friend. Camilo hated it.

Julieta thought it sweet, the way Camilo was so worried for Mirabel. It was refreshing to know that he could be so protective for someone other than Antonio and Dolores. Camilo was paternal, he was a father at the heart and soul, and his entire life he worried and pestered over other people. Mirabel had been the only one to do the same for him, and Julieta knew that it was because her daughter was still just barely holding on.

Antonio’s gift ceremony had been difficult to say the least, and if she lost the seemingly unending faith that Camilo had in her, Julieta knew she’d lose her daughter.

“I know, she,” she hesitated in her next words, not knowing how Camilo would take it.

“What is she doing now?” Camilo stopped what he was doing, wet hands draped over the sink as he looked at the magical healer with a tense jaw. He’d stopped it before, who’s to say he couldn’t do it again?

“She’s trying to find a suitor for Mirabel, she wants her out of the house.” Camilo could feel his heart racing, his blood pressure rising in his veins for what seemed like the trillionth time in two days. Julieta kept a calm expression though, and it was almost like she had expected the twitch his eye gave.

“Alma heard Antonio mess up this morning and called her Mamá in front of me, we were lucky Pepa didn’t hear it. She’s demanding that Mirabel get married and move out.”

Oh, if that hadn’t lit his gift on fire, he didn’t know what would have.

“Antonio has never had Má hold him when he woke up screaming from nightmares. He’s never had the chance to sit down and read a bedtime story with her, never went out into the fields with her to spend time with her even when she was working! Pá has never taken him out on piggy back rides, or combed his hair, or straightened his clothes! They’ve never even truly bathed him!” Camilo was seething, wet hands digging into his ruana as he tried to keep calm.

“Mirabel and I are more like his parents than Mamá and Papá are! She has made him clothes, changed his diapers, held him when he woke up from a nightmare, took care of him when he woke up in the middle of the night sick, made him birthday presents, and has done nothing but give him a positive parental figure to look up to! No wonder she’s his Mamá more than Pepa is! Those two are so stuck in their own world, they don’t even know they have kids most days!” He could count on one hand every time his parents had actually acted like parents to him.

“I was there to soothe him back to sleep when he had a fever as Mirabel helped him drink lukewarm tea, because it’s the only thing he can handle when he’s sick! I read him bedtime stories with Mirabel, sneaking out of my own damn room to give him the love and attention that my parents should have given me! I taught him how to hold a baby's head right, and I taught him how to properly do his hair, not them! He went to me when he wanted to learn about why he wanted to hold hands and be close to a girl in town! I was who he told about his first ever crush! Antonio trusts me with his secret crushes and his daydreams! He gives me pictures of the family, and do you know what I see?” Camilo begged Julieta to ask, silently with his eyes he dared her to ask him about family pictures.

He didn't get a response, so he asked again.

“Do you know what I see?!”

“What do you-?”

“I see me and Mirabel taking the place of his parents, I see Dolores close behind as a guiding light like an aunt, and I see no one else.” He huffed angrily, “no one else.”

“Camilo,” she couldn’t even finish her sentence.

“The only pictures in this house that Mirabel is in, are the hand drawn ones hanging up backstage in my room.” His words were harsh, cold. “No where in the house is a picture of Mirabel. She is in no family photos, she has no door photo, there is no presence of her in birthday photos or Quinceanera photos. Mirabel didn’t even get a Quinceanera, tía!”

It was true, Julieta knew it. Mirabel’s birthday had come around and everyone had forgotten it for the sake of giving Camilo a quinceañero, and she’d gotten left in the dust. Julieta knew it was wrong, and she still hadn’t made it up to her daughter.

“It was always you and tío Agustín raising me, taking care of me when I was sick. You raised Dolores like she was your own - and yes Dolores I know you can hear this, we’re talking about this later! - yet no matter what, Mirabel has never been enough! Not for abuela, not for you, not for anyone in this house or this maldita ciudad! She has always seen herself as a stain on the familia’s name, and that hasn’t changed since day one! Abuela will not take another choice away from Mirabel, I won’t let her!” He was screaming now, height gained on him now as he shifted under the duress of the new information.

Everything in him had just exploded; normally he had a good control on himself and his emotions, but from yesterday to his migraine to Alma, to everything else he had to accomplish in the day, it was tearing him apart.

He just wanted to scream, wanted to stand on top of Casita’s tower and scream out all his frustration. He couldn’t do that though, it wasn’t in the cards, his time was already crunched as it was from all the other chores he did during the day. Instead, he tugged at his hair twice, pushed his still wet hands into his eyes, and walked off. The pressure and pain helped relax him, it grounded him to a calmer version of himself. Rolling his neck, he shook out the last of the water on his hands and walked to his room. He couldn’t go to town like this, the people of Encanto needed to be calm and collected to not only shift properly but also to tolerate the number of children that he took care of in his day.

So, he walked left stage and looked at the colored pictures hanging there. Whenever Antonio brought him a new one, they’d go into his room, and they’d hang it up before sitting down on either his bed or the stage, and talk. Well, it was the bed most of the time, as his bed was elevated off the floor, hanging from the ceiling like Isabela’s. Antonio thought it was funny he had a swing as a bed, and oftentimes Camilo would gently sway it while the five-year-old talked about all of his big kid problems. Something Pepa and Félix had never let him do, and when he could afford to, he snuck Mirabel away from the unending house chores that Alma forced her to do and let her join them.

Dolores had gotten involved in her own way, making sure that if anything happened to him while in town, Mirabel and Camilo were the first to know and she would take care of him until they could get to him.

“I shouldn’t have done that; I shouldn’t have done that. Dios, Camilo don’t be stupid!” He hit his forehead lazily with his hand, still looking at the pictures as he shook off his nerves. Something was happening, and Camilo didn’t like it, it was as if he didn’t know what was wrong.

The little itch at the back of his neck was there, incessant over how he was thinking and processing. Something was gonna go wrong, he should have just kept his mouth shut! He grabbed a ribbon, teal in color and tied up his hair as best he could. Leaving the stage, he tossed his ruana to the wooden floor, and sat down on top of it, tossing his sandals to the side so he could stretch out his toes and relax.

Meditation would do him good, the stress that had elevated his heart rate heavily since last night, and it had taken a toll on his patience and his temper.

Normally he was so well mannered, yeah, he had his sarcastic moments around his family, but other than that he was the goofy but well-raised Camilo Madrigal. The shape shifter who will take your place if you really need a break from life. He was someone people only needed, simply so he could be other people.

Taking a deep breath, he let the tension fall from his shoulders, legs crossing lazily as he focused himself. The sensation at the base of his neck was still there, but it was less tight. So, he just kept breathing, and eventually he ended up laying on the theater stage, eyes shut as he relaxed.

Or, well he tried at least, until his door was slammed open by his older sister.

“Camilo, Mirabel is gonna get herself killed!”

“WHAT?!”

Chapter Text

Maybe Dolores should have worded her sentence better, but she was in a rush and panicking, okay? Mirabel was going to try and go into Bruno’s tower, and look for some vision that he’d had from before he’d disappeared. However, inside the soundproofed gift room, she could hear how Camilo’s blood raced in his veins, how his heart thumped harder than it had earlier when he’d been upset with Julieta.

“What do you mean she's gonna get herself killed?!” Taking a moment to really soak in her brother, she realized he’d been trying to relax. Hair tied up in a barely long enough ponytail, ruana under him, sandals tossed to the side as he perched himself up on his elbows. He’d been so stressed he’d actually tried relaxing, which only really happened when he felt too stressed to work with the kids in the town.

“I, were you trying to relax?” She asked, tone hushed as her hands tangled together at her waist.

“Not important, Dolores! Mirabel? Her life? Danger? What is she doing?” He put on his sandals, moving to sit up and put his ruana back on. She stopped him, rushing to the stage to sit beside him. He paused, ruana in hand as she took his shoulders into her grasp.

“Casita,” she started, “really has cracks.” Well Camilo knew that already, after all he knew everything.

“Oh?”

“Mirabel really did see cracks in the walls, and the magic - well I don’t know about that, but I do know that Luisa is having problems with her powers. It’s just, Luisa, Mirabel, and,” Dolores froze. Camilo knew it, she knew about Bruno in the walls, and she was contemplating telling him.

“There’s a rat in the walls, they’re all worried about the magic, and Camilo she’s gonna dig herself a hole that even we can’t get her out of! She’s going around talking to people about Bruno! You know that abuela doesn’t like bringing him up, he’s taboo!” Thinking for a moment, Camilo again pressed his palms into his eyes. The pressure soothed him, and it made him a little more clear minded.

“Do you know what she’s doing Dolores? Do you know where she’s going? If she’s digging herself a hole, we need to stop her, and quickly.” Dolores had always known that her brother was more level headed than most people gave him credit for, but even she hadn’t thought of that. She’d heard the conversation between Luisa and Mirabel mention Bruno and she’d run off to try and find Camilo.

“No, I don’t. I was in such a rush to get here, y’know? I hadn’t paid attention to the rest of the conversation.” That caused him to groan, the pressure on his eyes getting a little heavier before he took them off his face entirely.

“Dolores, you are the dumbest so-called heterosexual ever! You literally have super hearing, get me all the facts before you run to conclusions!” She’d wanted to feel offended at his comment, but he was right, she’d rushed to a conclusion she couldn’t even back up.

How could they stop Mirabel if she hadn’t even paid attention to where the girl was going?

“Alright, let’s get this all laid out. Mirabel knows about the cracks in Casita - which apparently has cracks that can magically disappear - and was worried about the magic with Luisa and a weird rat in the walls.” Dolores nodded along, showing that he had gotten the timeline correct.

“You heard a conversation between Luisa and Mirabel where one of them mentioned Bruno, and before you could get more information, you got so overwhelmed with the anxiety of Mirabel doing something stupid that you ran to find me. You know nothing else about what she could be doing, what they were talking about, or how she was putting herself at risk.” Once again, Dolores nodded along.

“Stupid straight people, if you want something done right you have to do it yourself.” Camilo smiled when he saw her give him an offended look, chuckling at her as he stood up.

“We just need to figure out what she wants with tío Bruno, which should be easy. You have super hearing Dolores, go outside and listen for something while I attempt to take all the tense pain out of my neck again.” He left behind the curtain, approaching his bed and flopping onto it. Once he knew Dolores was out of his room with the quiet click from the handle, he screamed.

Not because Mirabel was in trouble, but because he knew how it could end. The struggle to decide when to intervene and when to let her fall and raise herself back up was one he battled with constantly.

Camilo was protective of his familia, especially when it came to Mirabel. She was destined to break Casita, or strengthen its walls, and he couldn’t tell which way the fates would go. He knew that Dolores had a good life, that Antonio would have someone at his side to support him no matter what happened, but Mirabel had no one. No one but Camilo and Antonio, and that wasn’t really much of a support system.

So, in the safety of his own room, he let him scream his lungs out just once, and then got off his bed to compose himself. His hair came out of it’s ponytail, fingers threading through to help untangle anything that got mixed up when he remembered he hadn’t combed his hair, he’d shifted it. Sighing, Camilo shifted his hair again as he walked back through the curtain, ruana slipping over his head once he got to it, and taking another deep breath.

“Camilo! Camilo!” Dolores whisper shouted from the door as she cracked it open.

“Yes, hermana?” He asked as he jumped off the stage.

“She’s asking Mamá about Bruno, about a vision of some kind. Wait, wait, Papá is there. He’s telling her about Bruno!” Well if he hadn’t felt tense before he would now. He took Dolores hand and dragged her from his room, sneaking up to the door of the nursery door to listen inside even if Dolores could hear them perfectly well.

“He would say something terrible,” there was a slight pause from their Papá as he made ticking noises, as if a bomb was gonna go off.

“BOOM! It would happen!” His mother berated his father, reciting the familiar phrase from his childhood to her husband.

“We don’t talk about Bruno!” She had said, Pepa was worried, and so Camilo was even more worried.

“What if you didn’t understand what he saw?” The tone in Mirabel's voice was tense, worrisome. She knew something, she went into Bruno’s tower, Camilo was almost positive about it. She wouldn’t bring up the vision so urgently if she hadn’t. Mirabel had seen the vision that he’d smashed.

“Then you better figure it out, because it was coming for you!” Félix told her with a more relaxed but stern tone. He seemed to believe everything about Bruno that had circulated through town, even though he’d met the guy in his flesh and blood.

Ay, dios mío, Camilo thought to himself, his Pá was going to scare the hell out of her.

“Look, Mirabel, we don’t talk about Bruno.” He could hear shuffling around the room, but stayed silent.

“But, I guess I can share with you just one experience as to why we don’t talk about him.” His eyebrows piqued up, Pepa had always been so adamant about never speaking his name, let alone her memories or experiences with him. This would be new information.

“It was my wedding day-”

“Our wedding day!”

“Our wedding day, and I’d been so excited that the sun had just shone bright in the sky. We were setting up and getting ready, I hadn’t had a chance to feel nervous at all! There wasn’t a cloud in sight,” Pepa explained, and Félix seemed to make it his duty to give a side commentary.

“There were no clouds allowed in the sky!”

“And then Bruno walked in, a mischievous look on his face.” The tone that his Mamá used was one he’d never really heard before, it was new to hear this side of her as she explained everything.

Turning to Dolores, he raised an eyebrow, nodding his head at the door in a silent question. Did she know this information?

With a shake of her head, it was confirmed. Dolores didn’t know about this, it would be the first time anyone in their side of the family heard their mother open up like this. It was sad they didn’t know it in the first place, but Camilo ignored the pooling emotion of depression that swelled in his gut. With an antic from Félix out of the way, the story continued.

“Bruno, he said it looked like rain.” Pepa and Mirabel both seemed to ignore the side comments that came from Félix as the story unfolded.

“By saying that, it’s like he’d flooded my brain. All my anxiety had come crashing down in one wave and suddenly there were storm clouds everywhere!” Camilo and Dolores gave each other a look. Their Mamá almost always had a cloud above her head, especially when it came to special occasions, the two doubted it was Bruno who’d caused her clouds.

“We got married in a hurricane!” Ah, so that was why they never spoke about their wedding day. It was in a hurricane due to Pepa’s own anxiety, how eventful.

“It was still a joyous day though!” Still, Félix had loved it, which made sense. Camilo’s father had always been passionate about Pepa, rain, hail, snow, sunny skies, or even lightning strikes. THe man had fallen hard and fast for Pepa, and Camilo kind of wished he could feel a romantic attraction like that, even if he had no urge or desire to be with another person.

“That’s why we don’t talk about Bruno, Mirabel. He’s a curse,” Pepa said, moving to the door to open it. Camilo and Dolores quickly hid behind a plant nearby, and once both of their parents were gone, Mirabel left the nursery as well.

“Follow my lead,” he could hear Dolores whisper as she followed their prima downstairs. Quickly he followed behind her, watching to see what she would do.

“Hey!” Dolores shouted as she grabbed hold of Mirabel’s wrist.

“Dolores-”

“You wanna know about tío?” She asked, still holding the girl's wrist. With a hesitant nod, Mirabel clutched her bag tighter around her.

“I grew up living in fear of Bruno stuttering and stumbling over his words; he’s always mumbling all the time.” Camilo watched as Dolores would jerk his prima around, swaying around her to face her to the ground and away from the second floor. With a single glance up, he saw it: Bruno, on the second floor, hiding behind a plant as he listened with a smile.

“I kind of relate him with the sound of sand, it’s something I hear, but it’s so inconsequential that I don’t notice it often.” The explanation seemed a little harsh, their tío Bruno wasn’t inconsequential, in fact Mirabels life - all of their lives - might have gone a lot differently if he was just simply ‘inconsequential’.

“His gift is a brutal one, honest and true. He can’t control his visions, or when some of them come, but it’s a weight, a heavy lift to have a gift as humbling as his is. In fact, every vision, every prophecy, it left the family fumbling. He grasps and handles prophecies that we could never perceive, nor contemplate or even begin to understand.” The words were in the present tense, Camilo noticed. That just proved it, Dolores knew about Bruno being in the walls; the rat in the walls from earlier was Bruno.

“He’d given me a vision one time, my true love, married off to another just out of my reach. No one had been happy about that, especially my Mamá. We don’t talk about Bruno, Mirabel.” The words were soft, slightly pained that the confession of a ruined dream for a little girl, but her words hardened as she spoke.

“Do you understand?” Now, that wasn’t pointed towards Mirabel. That was to him, scare the living fuck out of Mirabel. Make her stop asking questions, and everything will end fine, right?

“See you later, Mirabel,” the older girl called, walking away briskly past Camilo who started towards Mirabel. He took a deep breath, and thought to himself, play the innocent card.

“What was that about?” He asked, making Mirabel stutter for a moment before bringing back her determined eyes.

“Do you remember tío Bruno at all?” She asked, worried that he’d say no. Camilo shrugged, waving his hand around as a maybe.

“A bit, why?” He asked, looping his arm around hers so they were locked at the elbow. He took the option of the long way to his door, Bruno having the chance to escape back into the walls as he ruined the man's image for the girl he left his family for.

"Why don't we talk about tío Bruno?" Mirabel asked, fiddling with her bag as he walked her from the door to the stage. He paused in his steps, he’d known that she was going to ask anyway, how it had still managed to surprise them was a shock.

"Because we don't," he responded calmly. Camilo knew that Bruno had no access into the gifted rooms due to their soundproofing. Whatever Camilo said about their uncle would go unheard of by his ears, and it relaxed him.

"But, Camilo, we don't talk about him. We don't even say his name, don't you wanna know why? Do you even really remember what he looked like, cause outside of murals in town or the family portrait in the dining room, I don't. Don't you?" She asked, her worried gaze looked bigger from behind her green frames. Green, how he was starting to hate that color. Green for visions, for jade glass tablets, for everything bad that happens. Camilo hated the color green, and almost wanted to get her new glasses just so the frames would be a different color.

"I-" he had to take a second and think. The cracks, she knew about them along with the vision. Mirabel wouldn't ask about Bruno if she didn't know about the vision, after all she’d never really been interested in their uncle before. He was a person that Mirabel had been attached to as a kid - almost as much as she was to him, but Camilo still trumped everyone - and forgot about him nearly completely after he’d left. The boy assumed it was from the trauma from her gift ceremony, from their family.

"He was eh, I’d say seven feet tall," they started off quietly. Camilo shifted their height up to meet the parameters before continuing, "he always had rats with him, I'm pretty sure they lived on him to be honest." The comment had Mirabel giggling. Camilo took the chance to walk her past the back curtain of the stage, gently lifting her up onto his raised bed.

Even if they were near the same height now, he’s always lifted her onto things. Counters, tables, beds, window sills, you name it he’d probably lifted her onto it. As much as he hated the thought of scaring Mirabel - especially with the use of his gift - it would definitely do something to dissuade her from looking into their uncle further. She couldn’t learn about Bruno; couldn’t let anyone see that vision or learn about it’s end.

Camilo hated hiding things, hated scaring people, but if it was protecting Mirabel from learning about her own fate - from meeting Bruno - then he would do it.

"I remember that when he called out people's names, everything would go dark. Black, as if the sun fell from the sky, as if mami had fallen into a depressive spell." There had been a few of those depressive spells in the young Madrigal's lifetimes, and every time Camilo put off his mother to comfort Mirabel. After all, Félix had married Pepa even with her flickering emotions. Hell, he’d learned that he’d married his mother in a hurricane! Félix could tolerate and cool down Pepa, Mirabel had always needed him more.

She'd always been so afraid of the dark, of being alone. It was the one thing Camilo regretted not being able to cure from his cousin, her fear of the darkness, of the abandonment becoming permanent.

He slowly lengthened and waved out his hair to match his uncles, slowly turning into the man as he talked to his cousin.

"I never once saw him eat, and he would often be left with a trail of scared townspeople. He saw dreams, prophecies, the future, and it left a resonating sensation of screams and fear behind him. It was like he feasted on it." Camilo could tell Mirabel was confused, but intrigued at how Camilo now stood seven feet, clothes burgundy colored under his normal orange and yellow poncho, hazel eyes that still matched hers. She wasn’t liking where the story was going.

"On what?" The curiosity was too much.

"He feasted on screams, Mirabel." There was a blink of an eye, and suddenly there was Bruno Madrigal staring back at her, glowing green eyes shooting a shudder down her spine out of fear.

Good, the scaring was working. Camilo needed it to work, or else they’d spill out all their secrets and they couldn’t afford that.

"Camilo, change back." They took a second, really let the shift set in. Mirabel could not find that prophecy, his seven year old self had smashed it after all. He would not let Mirabel's life be ruined; if she found it, Alma would know. Their abuela would shun her like she had Bruno, his vida would be gone in the flash of an eye.

His vida, his life. Mirabel was the female version of him. A trickster, causing trouble and never truly sitting. Sure they wore different colored clothes, had different parents, but Camilo knew they were twins, born only two months apart. He knew that Mirabel and him were special.

After all, Casita hadn't even responded to Alma anymore, only to Mirabel and Camilo. They were each other's lives, no matter what they always had each other. The new generation was taking control of the town, and the spiral that Alma was experiencing about the loss of control was more and more obvious by the day.

"We don't talk about Bruno," they told her before turning back into themself. She was shaking, and Camilo felt bad. Truly he did, he hated scaring Mirabel because the girl didn’t get scared, but it was for her own good. Sitting down next to her, they took her into an embrace.

"Mira, mi vida, please. We don't talk about Bruno, okay? Te quiero, Mira but please- for your own sake, don't talk about him. If not for yourself, then for me." He tucked her face into his neck and held her there. It'd been a while since he'd been able to hug her like this, and after a moment, all his panic, all his stress, all the tension faded away. He relaxed with her and eventually they were laying down. A nap would do them both good, and he'd missed his favorite cuddle buddy.

"Sorry, embaucador, I just wanted to know."

"Don't apologize, artesana, it's okay. You didn't know," they squeezed a little tighter before relaxing again.

"Hora de la siesta," he told her, no room for arguments like he knew she would attempt to make. She needed to relax, hopefully forget about everything that had happened, and he needed to sleep off his stress.

Hell, maybe he’d be able to check her bag and room - if the vision was there - and slip the shards away from her while she was asleep, grind the jade glass into a fine powder so that she’d never be able to truly see how undecided her fate was. If it wasn’t though, he’d go back into Bruno’s tower with a mortar and pestle to grind them up and scatter them across the sandy room.


In the end, the nap had lasted all of an hour, and he’d never gotten the vision from her. Alma had wanted the dinner table perfect for the proposal night with the Guzmáns, and so he was rudely awoken to Dolores telling him he needed to help with the preparations. He was forced to leave Mirabel early and he never got the chance to even check and see if she had the shards, let alone get them away from her.

He’d been demanded to clean the entire house - something that Alma usually left to Mirabel and Agustín, but she’d had him do it for fear of her ‘messing up the day any more than she already had’. It’d made his blood boil, but he’d done it. He’d scrubbed floors, wiped down tables and other surfaces, and washed windows.

He hadn’t been able to stop her from putting the pieces together and learning about how she could break Casita, and it would end with her almost losing her life.

Chapter Text

In the end, Mirabel had managed to ask most of the town about the Madrigal prophet, and even had the chance to ask Isabela about the man. Camilo had ended up failing at the one important job he’d had since he was seven, Mirabel knew about Bruno, she knew and it was obvious from how she had walked back into Casita tensely.

Camilo hadn’t had a spare chance to talk or even drag Mirabel away since he’d woken up and he was sure that she’d run off to do something dangerous again. So, he’d wiped tables, cleaned his room, swept out the halls, and done his best to rush and find Mirabel before dinner, but in the end he still couldn’t.

It took Dolores tearing him away from setting the table to realize that something must have gone wrong. Her eyes were crinkled in the corners and her hands held his forearm tight.

“Hh,” she squeaked anxiously as she tried to speak. He shushed her gently, running a hand over her own and guiding her to sit at her seat at the table. He shifted the plates around, putting his next to hers instead of in front of Mirabels like he'd originally had them.

“What is it, Dolores?” She still couldn't talk; a high-pitched noise escaped her mouth instead of words. She simply took his hand tight into her own and then pointed at a plate on the table, Mirabels plate. Seriously? Couldn't his prima take five minutes off from causing trouble? He knew she would if he asked, but he loved his little makeshift familia with his heart and soul. He loved their mischief and their trouble, and he'd never say it out loud, but it was what made him feel most at home in their little family.

“Mirabel? What happened, Dolores?” He asked quietly, holding her hand with both of his as she tried to speak.

“She- the magic-” she tried to put together a proper sentence, but how in the world would she explain what she’d heard to Camilo? Would he even believe her if she told him that Mirabel was a part of some horrible prophecy that their tío Bruno had before leaving ‘forever’? Would Camilo believe her if she said that he’d lose his gift because of her?

“Shh, shh, Dolores I know. It’s okay, just take a deep breath, okay?” He took a deep breath in, raising their tangled hands to signal her to follow his lead, and then exhaled, hands slowly going down. They did that for a while, hands tight in each other as Camilo calmed his older sister down enough to get her verbal again.

“Dolores? Are you okay?” The voice was familiar, and the two turned to see Antonio approaching them, homemade stuffed jaguar in his hands as he noticed how tense Dolores was.

“Dolores is having a bit of an anxiety attack, know any ideas on how to help her calm down?” Camilo asked, smiling at his little brother as he held up the stuffed animal quietly. Removing one hand, Dolores took it gently, a small smile on her face as she held it.

“Ma-Mirabel gave it to me before my gift ceremony, to help me with my nerves, and to give me something to cuddle with at night. It helps, but nothing compares to one of her hugs where she squeezes you tight and spins you around until you can’t see straight!” Camilo caught how Antonio had corrected himself in calling Mirabel his mother, but simply patted his lap. The boy happily clambered up onto his lap, and he smiled as Casita moved his chair to be flush with his sisters.

Camilo put his arm around her shoulders, the other around his little brother, and smiled gently.

“You can always call us your family, toñito. Your Mamá wouldn’t have made you that jaguar if she hadn’t loved you for it, your tía wouldn’t endure your animals and their noise if she didn’t love you, and I wouldn’t even really be here if I didn’t love you. We’re your family, okay? The four of us are our own little family and that’s okay, you can call us Tía, and Mamá and Papá in private, okay?” He asked the young boy, feeling Dolores ease against him more. She was feeling better, which was good.

Now, Dolores would never admit that she’d felt her place in Camilo’s life had been rocky in her eyes but hearing him include her in his tiny homemade family relaxed her. It helped ease her to know that no matter what she would have a place in his life, Antonio’s life, and Mirabel’s as well. She should talk to Mirabel more, Dolores thought to herself quietly.

“Time for dinner!” Abuela Alma shouted, and so Camilo put his brother down so that he could sit in his own seat on the other side of Dolores.

When Mirabel and Agustín walked into the dining room and sat down, eyeing Dolores warily, he finally understood why his sister had been so anxious earlier. They knew something, and when they knew something, Dolores definitely knew something. So, what was it that he’d missed? What crucial piece of evidence had he missed? What event had made them so wary of his highly anxious sister?

Mariano and his mother sat down by the front of the table with Alma as she attempted to sway the other woman with her charm. The start of dinner had been weird to say the least, señora Guzmán had made an off-handed comment about how she hoped the night wouldn’t end in a horrible disaster, and then the family had toasted.

Faintly, as he ate, he could hear Dolores hesitating, letting out little squeaks of noise as she tried to get his attention. Under the table, she tugged at his ruana, so he looked at her with a confused glance. The minute that Mirabel had been distracted, her eyes off of his sister, Dolores was dragging his ear over.

“Mirabel found Bruno’s vision,” was all she could tell him before the girl was looking back at them. His coughing fit hadn’t been one of surprise, but rather one of terror, and in doing so he ended up shifting from Mirabel to Bruno, and then back into himself with a screwed up facial structure. So, she had found the vision?! Who else knew?! He saw how his uncle was tense in his chair next to his daughter, and then it all tied together. Agustín knew about the vision and was just as worried as Mirabel was.

“Camilo, fix your face.” The comment from his father had him shaking his head back to normal, hair dangling just a tad bit longer as he looked at his cousin worriedly. She knew that it could end two different ways, right? Camilo hoped she looked at it thoroughly and knew that she could make or break Casita.

Fuck, his luck just couldn’t get any worse, could it? Well, he shouldn’t have thought that to himself, because before he knew it, he was telling his father about it.

Félix ended up spitting water all over Mariano, which Camilo secretly smiled at. He was allowed to enjoy knowing that one of the guys' shirts was ruined when he had ruined Dolores’ life. Camilo knew that she was in love with him, and it was sad to see her so depressed about the proposal to come after dinner.

Eventually though, the news that Mirabel had seen Bruno’s vision had spread all the way to Julieta, and Camilo hated how he could see the cracks spreading beneath the table at Mirabel’s anxiety. Agustín and Mirabel had attempted to rush the proposal, both eerily aware of the cracks in the house just like he had been since he was seven years old, and it’d ended with a thunderstorm, a broken nose, cracks in the entire dining hall, and Mirabel running off.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” He cursed, completely forgetting how Antonio was still in his seat as he went to the family tree painted at the head of the table and peaked into the crack.

“I’m so sorry, Bruno. She knows.” Faintly, he heard a familiar voice give out a ‘fuck’ before shuffling around behind the wall, but he left it at that.

“Who are you talking to?” Antonio asked, a rat in his hand as he held up a glowing green piece of glass in his hand. A series of squeaks later, and the boy was eyeing Camilo questioningly.

“The rats told me everything, how long have you known?” Camilo knew that tone of voice, he knew it too well. Everyone knew, everyone. The one thing he wanted to protect Mirabel from had come crashing down on him, and everyone knew.

“Since I was seven, Antonio, you need to give me that shard.” He held out his hand, a stressed yet sad expression covering his face without realizing it.

The five-year-old noticed how tired his older brother looked now, it was strange, seeing him so serious. He handed Camilo the shard, and after taking a deep breath, staring at the glass with resentment, he pocketed it. He kneeled in front of the boy, caressing his cheek quietly before smiling.

“Is Mamá in danger?” Antonio couldn’t help but ask sadly, and it broke Camilo’s heart.

“Your Mamá is not going to destroy the magic. Her fate is not decided, but your tío Bruno and I thought it would be best if no one ever saw this.” He took the piece out of his pocket again, and ironically it was a shard that held her, his cousin, in front of a breaking home.

“Why? Couldn’t we have helped if we knew?” Camilo shook his head.

“It wouldn’t have helped, you see, abuela didn’t like Bruno, or his visions. Your Má didn’t get a door, and so abuela didn’t like her either. If she knew that our tío had a vision about Mirabel, and it was possibly bad, she would have turned Mirabel away. Abuela doesn’t care, she never has; the candle is all she cares about, the magic.” He pocketed pulled Antonio in for a hug.

“Mirabel needs us now, so you have the rats find her, have them find Bruno. We need to help her now; we’re all she has left.” He could see the concern turn to resolve in his brother's mind, and the little boy gave him a curt nod before patting at Camilo’s cheek.

“We’re all Má has left, so let’s help her. I’ll find Bruno, you stop the lightning. I can’t hear the rats over all the noise.” The two linked pinkies, Camilo hesitantly handing Antonio the remaining shard of the prophecy before running off to find his mother. Pepa was distressed, they were lucky it wasn’t pitch black outside or even storming like a hurricane out.

So, he found his mother in the entrance hall, still distressed over what happened at dinner before she caught his eye.

“Camilo! Have you seen Mirabel?! We can’t find her!” She was running her hands through her now lackluster braid that was more tangled mats.

“No, I haven’t, but Mami, they won’t find her if the lightning continues. Let’s calm you down,” he took her gently by the arm and guided her up to the sitting room where he could sit her down while he made her a cup of tea.

Camilo had managed to get the rain to stop, coaxing his mother into being more relaxed as he handed her the cup.

“It’s okay mami, deep breath in, deep breath out.” He smiled at her gently, but that was soon disturbed as something hit the wall behind Pepa’s chair, scaring her. Lightning struck him right in the nose, he shifted from his father to abuela Alma, to Agustín, and then a man from town before he could finally regain his bearings. He knew that either Antonio or Mirabel had to be in the walls, but couldn’t they be a little gentler?

His nose was going to bruise later for sure.

“Dios mio, Camilo! I’m so sorry!” Pepa fretted, rain clouds soaking them both as she held him close to examine his nose. He hissed in pain as she dabbed at his injury, but still smiled as he noticed the thunder stopped.

“Are you okay? I didn’t mean it, I swear! I can’t believe Casita would scare me like that!” The fact that she automatically assumed that Casita had made the noise was upsetting, but he could work with it. Camilo could easily lie his way out of everything; he could make it work.

“It’s okay, mami, the magic has been all funky since last night anyway. Casita may also be acting weird: you saw the cracks.” Pepa couldn’t help but sadden at his words, hands shifting from holding his face to holding onto his shoulders. His ruana shifted as she toyed with the fabric, looking over it as she smiled, her sad emotions flowing through it.

“Mirabel made you this ruana, right?” She asked, to which he nodded at her.

“She made most of the clothes I’m wearing actually,” he told her. Pepa hadn’t realized that, so her shocked look made him smile even more, even if he’d told her before that his prima had made him most of his clothes.

“Really? The shirt too?” He smiled, and took off the ruana, showing her the collar of his button up and his shirt cuffs. Delicate yellow and orange chameleons decorated the fabric all around, his name embroidered into his collar in yellow. The top button on his button up was yellow, while the bottom one was a delicate teal color, one to match each of their family's color schemes.

“I had her do it to all of my shirts and ruanas, there’s even a pair of pants wildly embroidered to match her skirt in my room. She’s done the whole family's clothes, you didn’t notice?” He asked, as he motioned to her own dress and earrings.

Slowly, the rain stopped, the cloud still above her head as she looked down at her dress. Sun themes around the collar, raindrops making their way down the expanse of fabric, the bottom hem larger than most dresses as it held lightning bolt symbols on either side of three raindrops repeating over the entire lower hem. Quickly, she removed an earring, now noticing the way they looked like suns hanging from the ear wire.

“She,” the woman couldn’t help but hesitate, “she did this? I, I never noticed. I knew my dresses would go missing sometimes, but I hadn’t even thought about how they’d changed.”

How could she, though? Camilo thought to himself; his mother and father had always been in their own world, leaving their kids to their own devices, learning without the guidance of their parents. He didn’t mention it, he didn’t bring up her neglect for her kids, he didn’t bring up how clueless she was about her family. Antonio needed clear skies, so that’s what he would give him.

“It’s okay, a lot of people didn’t notice.” He hurriedly wiped her eyes as tears began pooling, thunder clashing above her.

“But I should have, shouldn’t I? I know nothing about her! She’s my sobrina and I know nothing about her!” He hushed her again, holding her shoulders as he calmed her down.

“Mami, please, calm down. It’s okay, I promise. You have a lot on your plate, a lot on your shoulders. No one can blame you for not knowing what she’s like,” he told her as he coaxed her back into her chair again.

“She just looks so much like mi hermano,” Pepa told her son as a look of shame overtook her features.

“She looks exactly like Bruno sometimes, and I just can’t stand to look at her. We drove him out, and we paid for it, and every day I’m reminded of that when I look at her, at your sister, at you.” Pepa wasn’t completely unaware of how she’d neglected her kids, but rather, she did it on purpose sometimes.

Sometimes, she couldn’t help but turn away from her kids, their soft eyes or smiles looking exactly like her brothers. Sometimes, they would make a gesture that he would, or talk with his mannerisms, and it would terrify her. Pepa ignored her kids and nieces because - more often than not - they looked too much like Bruno.

Bruno, who looked exactly like Pedro - her father - who hung on a wall at the stairs in memoriam.

Bruno, who was socially awkward and could never start a conversation.

Bruno, who always danced like no one was watching in the kitchen as he helped Julieta with dinner prep, or horribly sang songs in Spanish to entertain and cheer her up when Alma or the townspeople wanted the clouds gone.

Bruno, who used to tell people his real gift was acting, just like Camilo had when he was younger.

Bruno, who used to sew up her dresses and townspeople's clothes when they got torn or worn down, just like Mirabel would do during the day.

Bruno, who entertained the town's kids and babysat to avoid using his gift, just like Mirabel and Camilo did together most days.

Bruno, who liked tea over coffee with a dash of sugar and a teaspoon of honey, just like Dolores did.

Bruno, who would stop to pet cats or sneak small animals into Casita to take care of them, just like Antonio did.

Pepa knew it was wrong, to convince herself that Bruno had left because of Mirabel and her failed ceremony, but she knew the truth. She always had. Bruno had been the black sheep of the family - the outcast - since they were kids and Alma had been far too harsh on him since he looked the most like their father out of the triplets. Yet, she ignored it, because in the end she had a husband who loved her, three children who brought pride to the family name, and a gift that she could control.

She had everything she’d wanted from life, but now, sitting here and watching her son remake her a cup of tea with his ruana tossed to the side and a red mark forming on his nose, she realized she didn’t.

Pepa knew nothing about her son, she didn’t know his favorite color, or his favorite food and drinks. She didn’t know that he spent most nights on the roof of Casita staring at the moon, wishing to run from Encanto to explore the world. Pepa didn’t know if he’d ever had crushes on girls or boys, didn’t know if he’d ever dated anyone, or wanted to get married or have kids.

She knew nothing about her son, and that’s when she realized he'd grown up in front of her eyes and she’d never cared to watch.

He was fifteen, and yet in front of her stood a man. He took care of her expertly, calmed her down within minutes, and knew how she liked her tea by heart. God, forbid she ask about Mirabel; the boy would go on for ages about her as well as his sister and brother.

He had his button up done up to the bare minimum, his ruana always on, his pants were loose, and he never wore real shoes. His hair was a mess of curls - a mix of hers and Félix’s hair no doubt - and freckles that hadn’t come from either side of the family and most likely came from how much he was outside.

“When did you get so big?” She asked as he handed her tea again. He chuckled, tugging his ruana back over his head.

“I’ve been big, mami.” He couldn’t help but be short with her. Why did it take the entire family turning on Mirabel for Pepa to realize she’d left him to grow up far too early, her kids forced into adulthood without proper guidance?

“I’m gonna go find Mirabel, drink your tea and then start searching the town with the rest of the family.” With that, he left Pepa to her tea and her thoughts as he began his search for his cousin.

She knew everything, it was time he told her that he had been in on it from the start.