You know, not even five days ago (have we really been stuck in this spell for five days? time is relative anyways) the most pressing of my issues was restricted solely to getting enough blood in me without Simon noticing and/or giving me up to the Mage and completing my final spell, ensuring my place as first in our class.
Now? I would give anything —and I mean anything— if it meant going back to the least of my worries being Simon exposing my vampirism to the entire school.
Because there is nothing more painful, more absolutely excruciating, than awkwardly sitting next to Agatha-fucking-Wellbelove in silence while she slowly gives up trying to partake in one-sided small talk with me.
I suppose it’s not entirely her fault. But I’ll still be bitter about it.
By now I’ve accepted that I’m stuck in yet another fairy tale. One that involves a significantly large amount of villainy, and by association, the Mage, in it.
I should know what to expect this time. I’ll sneak out to go to the market, nearly get my hand chopped off by an asshole with anger management issues, get saved by Simon (woe be me), have a Moment[TM] in his shabby home (again. woe be my entire fucking life), reveal my identity to the guards, scream at the Mage —assuming he’s the villain again— for arresting Simon (that’ll be fun), then everything else should play out with no additional work required by me. At least not until the very end.
This was one of my favorites to watch with Mordelia due to her constantly complaining about the inconsistencies in the plot (“seriously, why did Jafar feel the need to consult a magickal being when he could have just murdered the sultan and princess and be done with it?”) while I tried to debunk her arguments (“because someone surely would have caught on to his plot when they both suddenly were murdered; also magic genie powers, come on Mordelia.”).
(Or a morbid but favorite comment of mine by her that I still do not have an actual answer for, “what would that shopkeeper have done with her hand after severing it if Aladdin never showed up?” It still haunts me to this very day.)
Sometimes she’s a little too inquisitive for her age.
I remember the last time we watched Aladdin. It was last Christmas break, since Mordelia insisted the two of us watched it despite the film having nothing to do with the holidays and I gave in because she pulled out her bambi eyes (yes, we watched Bambi the previous summer break as well and she must have practiced the look in the mirror countless times since then; I always cave) and I haven’t had enough time nor exposure to grow immune to them quite yet. At this rate, she could give me the Look and ask for a bloody pony (or dragon, that seems much more her style) and I’d barely hesitate.
Anyways, about halfway through Friend Like Me she had paused the film and asked me what I would ask for if I were to ever find a magic lamp. At the time, I had given her a basic, silly answer like ’an endless supply of your mother’s Christmas cookies’ just to indulge her. Now that I’m actually in the story I almost want to take her question seriously, despite not ever being the master of the lamp throughout the story. (Don’t think I didn’t notice that I’m the princess again. I don’t like what this spell is implying, yet I still hear Simon’s clueless ‘although it is odd that you’re the princess out of the two of us’ echoing in my head on repeat.)
Agatha clears her throat, bringing me back to the present and out of my increasingly risqué thoughts about an idiotic fool wandering somewhere out in the kingdom. (Which is probably for the best). I scowl at her on instinct and she crosses her arms, sticking her nose up at me.
“You do realize a conversation goes both ways, right?” I roll my eyes.
“No, I’m completely stupid. Do enlighten me —and use as many details as possible. Less talking for me.”
She scoffs, turning to glare out at the large wall surrounding the garden we’re seated in. The garden itself is very calming and picturesque, despite the tension in the air, and I find myself relaxing as I stare at a rose bush not far off from where I’m sat on the edge of a grandiose fountain. She opens her mouth to speak again but cuts herself off with a squeak, encouraging me to glance at her now-pale face. I follow her line of sight to find her completely focused on the tiger from earlier (now confirmed Rajah) who’s prowling towards her slowly, it’s gaze fixed unwaveringly on her face.
I allow a smile to grace my lips and turn to her again, feigning innocence.
“Oh, do you not like cats? I assure you, he’s very sweet when you get past the bloodlust and sharp fangs.”
Oh, the irony.
Internally cackling at the way she somehow gets even paler, seriously, she’s giving me a run for my money, I lean back on my hands, watching the tiger get up in her face. He stares at her intently before she lets out another squeak and bolts, shoving past him and screeching about “not getting eaten by a bloody tiger, not to-fucking-day, nope nope nope-“ and I allow myself to laugh loudly, grinning at the now amused-looking animal.
“Good boy, Rajah.” I pet his giant head, rubbing a hand through his fur, and smile wider when he emits a pleased huff, pushing closer. After we got… *ahem* ...acquainted this morning and I’ve figured out what’s happening, I’ve immediately warmed up to the kind creature. We stay like that, basking in the warm sun in relative silence, before the sultan storms into the gardens, glaring at me in disapproval.
Jokes on him, I think. I’ve seen that look on my real father so many times I’m practically immune to its intended effects. And Malcom Grimm is much more intimidating than this five foot man with the appearance of a worn-down teddy bear.
“Basilton!” The sultan exclaims, waving his arms around in his stress. “You cannot keep doing this! At least give them a chance.” I frown, glaring at the ground next to Rajah’s tail, and blow a strand of hair out of my face.
“Father, I don’t love any of these people.” I love Simon. And he’s most definitely not here.
“Sometimes, leaders must give up some things for the greater good of their country. Agatha is a lovely girl.” I scoff, ready to argue, but he cuts me off. “I learned to grow to love your mother. We hated each other at first.” He stares at me expectantly as if waiting for me to respond and I glare back defiantly, keeping my lips pressed tightly closed. He sighs, then continues his lecture about responsibility.
I stand, making my way towards the large bird cage I noticed when I walked in (or out, I suppose), then open the latch, hesitating and looking back at the sultan instead of opening the door. Then I say something I’ve told my own father many times, fully expecting him to completely disregard the words but still feeling the need to say them:
“I refuse to give up my freedom of choice for something that can wait a few more years.” Then, “I’m in no rush to figure out my life, and that’s all that matters.”
With that, I turn back to the cage and pull the door open, watching the birds all spring into motion. They circle around each other after leaving the enclosure and fly off, leaving me squinting at the sun for a second before turning back to the exasperated man before me.
He sighs, scratching his forehead with a small hand, and shakes his head. “Fine, fine. You win, for now. I must go.” He walks away, posture slumped and defeated, and I take a moment to feel slightly bad about brushing him off before Bunce’s voice floats back to me.
Stick to the story. Don’t change the plot.
I groan, dragging my hands down my face, and give the tiger a tired look. “Any advice?” It shakes its head at me and I huff out a laugh, shaking my head. “Aaaaand I’m still talking to a tiger. You’ve officially lost it, Basilton.”
It’s the morning after I first arrived in the next story and I still have no idea which tale it is.
Which is probably an issue.
I turn to the monkey, who hasn’t left me alone since we arrived back at the rundown building I woke up in. It keeps looking at me, nudging me, sometimes even full on shoving me. Finally, after about four more minutes of this, I huff and face it head-on.
“Yes?” It perks up and grabs my hand, dragging me forward with surprising strength. I hop to my feet and head towards the entrance (not the window this time) and slowly make my way down the broken foundation of the building. Only when we step out onto the street do I hear the monkey’s stomach growl, reminding me of my own hunger and our lost meal this morning.
Something tells me I don’t have enough money to buy us some more and usually I’d be against stealing because my moral code is particularly pointed towards the inherently good side (according to Penny) but I really don’t feel like starving before I get the chance to find Baz.
Which could take a while, because once again I’m stuck in a massive kingdom with no hints as to what the fuck is happening.
The monkey hops on top of what looks to be a melon cart in the street and I position myself in a place close enough to grab one yet out of sight of the man running the cart. None of it's real, so technically, it’s not a real crime, yeah? Nobody’s getting hurt from losing one melon either. Yeah. It’s fine. An odd clicking sounds from behind the man and he turns around, shouting out when he sees the monkey holding a melon.
I use that distraction as a chance to reach forward and grab one, swiftly passing the cart and peeking over my shoulder at the raging man trying to grab the monkey. He didn’t seem to notice my existence at all, let alone the fact that I tripped over the cart’s wheel and jostled it a bit as I passed.
I pretend not to notice a suspiciously Baz-sounding voice in my head hiss, “Nice going, you absolute disaster. Might as well just throw the fruit at his head and scream ‘Arrest me! I’m stealing an entire fucking watermelon from an innocent man!’”
It’s not working.
I whistle once loudly, calling the monkey to me, and it sticks its tongue out at the man, waving when it settles on my shoulder. Smug little creature, isn’t it?
I let the monkey take the fruit and do whatever with it for the time being, perfectly happy with making my way down the street casually back to the abandoned building I’m taking residence in. I’m waving off a woman holding pearls out to me when I hear a cry, up the street by an apple cart. A young man, from the looks of the back, is being held in place by a very large and intimidating man, who is obviously downright pissed at something.
At least, I’d assume so, since he’s very clearly seconds away from hacking at the younger man with what looks like a giant butcher's knife. (Why would a man at an apple cart have one of those on hand, anyways?)
Something in me tells me to step in so despite another voice screaming at me to run away from the danger or pretend I saw nothing like everyone else in the general area I rush forward and grab the large man’s wrist just before he can swing it at the younger man.
“Hey, now. Let’s not make any rash decisions! We’re all friends here, right?” The man glowers at me and I swallow nervously, turning to check on the person behind me, only to find his entire face shadowed by the scarf wrapped over his head and shoulders. I think I might be able to make out the smallest smile from under the pale blue fabric.
“This man tried to steal from my cart. He has to pay the price,” says Scary Man. Surprisingly, before I can find an answer that would get the other man out of here with no serious injuries he speaks up for himself, his voice weirdly familiar.
“I didn’t steal, the child was starving.” To prove his own point, he gestured to a small boy hiding behind a post nearby, watching fearfully with an apple clutched in his shaking hands. I raise an eyebrow.
“See? Simple misunderstanding. I’m sure…”
“I'm not telling you my name.”
“...this lovely man would be more than happy to come back and pay you later, yeah?” Scary Man shakes his head.
“Nice try. But it won’t work. Step aside, street rat.”
I scoff, putting one hand on my hip and gesturing wildly with the other. “Okay, first of all, that’s the second time I’ve been called that today and it’s really starting to get old, honestly. See how you like getting called a rodent by a homicidal stranger. Secondly,” I pause, subtly reaching back and taking the other man’s hand, then whirl around, pulling him with me, “Run!”
The man starts yelling again and I throw a grin at the young man over my shoulder, sighing with relief when I feel a small weight land on my back once again. The monkey was safe still, then.
We all jerk to a stop in front of the building I’m staying in and I carefully lead the way up to the top, much slower than I have been going since waking up for the benefit of the stranger still with me. He let go of my hand a while ago (which I’m weirdly bummed about, but I try not to think about that) and was actually making his way up with little trouble.
I push the trapdoor open and pull myself through the opening, holding a hand out again to help the man up, smiling when he seems flustered at the contact. I still can’t see his face entirely but a nagging voice in the back of my head won’t stop telling me I’m missing something, that it should be obvious who’s under the scarf.
“Um, this is it, I guess.” I scratch the back of my neck, watching the man glance around with a detached look. My hands itch to make the place tidier, nice enough to impress the stranger, despite having no idea who he is. I grin, getting an idea, and take his hand again, grinning wider when I hear a small squeak come from him that I’m sure was meant to be hidden. He follows me without protest up the crumbling stairs, although I can sense his hesitance as he pauses minutely at the bottom of the unstable structure before continuing after me.
Gesturing to a makeshift bench made of what looks like a large piece of broken concrete, I wait for him to sit before pulling the tarp covering the large hole that probably once housed a lovely window overlooking the entire kingdom. The view takes the man’s breath away and his small gasp sparks a giddy feeling in my chest. I inhale sharply and watch him stare (assumedly, I still can’t see his face) wide-eyed at the castle in the distance.
The monkey taps my foot and I flinch, frowning down at it. “What is it?” The monkey huffs, reaching a hand out, and presents an apple to me. I put a hand to my chest and smile, gasping dramatically. “Oh, you do care!” It rolls its eyes (again, didn’t know monkeys could do that) and storms off, probably in pursuit of its own food.
When I turn back to the stranger he’s watching me with an odd fondness (I don’t question how I somehow knew that despite not being able to see his face) that he quickly covers up by turning away. I frown again, being reminded of Baz at the ball, and hold the apple out, watching the man startle when he notices my offer.
“Oh, you don’t have to-“ I shake my head.
“No, I insist. Really, it’s okay.” He hesitates for a beat before caving and reaching forward to take the fruit.
“Thank you,” he says, his voice almost a whisper. I smile softly.
“No problem.” We sit in silence, staring out at the castle, and I debate internally whether or not it’s awkward. Eventually I settle on ‘not if you don’t make it awkward’ and take a small breath, still watching the palace in the distance.
“It must be nice, living in the castle. I wonder what it’s like.” The stranger sighs, picking at one of his nails, and ducks his head.
“Suffocating. Nothing like being free to roam the kingdom whenever you please.” That response was a little too certain and bitter to be a random guess.
I raise my eyebrows, dropping onto the “bench” next to him, and bump his shoulder, hoping to get some more information on this nameless stranger. “Speaking from experience?” He curled into himself and fiddled with the apple, tossing it from hand to hand absentmindedly.
“Of course not.” The answer was quick, said in a chipper voice that screamed “definitely.”
I laugh lightly, bumping shoulders again, and squint out at the very far distance behind even the palace. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of sand dunes can be seen in the deserted lands out there stretching miles away from the kingdom, nothing else visible in the barren area from our place in the building.
This time I know immediately that the silence is definitely comfortable, in a way that gives me the familiar nagging again, as if my mind is telling me ‘you’re really close! something’s off and you know what it is, you just need to remember!’ and it’s very confusing. I know for a fact I’ve never been in this situation (obviously) so I’m not sure why I keep feeling this odd sense of deja vu.
I open my mouth, turning to face the nearly-silent stranger, when the trapdoor bursts open, revealing the guard from earlier. I groan, standing and facing him as he pulls himself up again. “Seriously? You again?”
He grins creepily at me and cracks his neck, obviously thinking I’m cornered with someone else with me. By then the stranger was up on his own feet, glancing between the guard and me with apprehension. I curse when I hear more footsteps making their way up the rickety ladder to the trapdoor and rush towards the window ledge, turning towards the stranger with a hand held out.
He hesitates and I sigh exasperatedly, already itching to get away from there. “Do you trust me?” He looks shocked (or at least, I think so, I still can’t see his face. his… body language?? looked shocked??), taking a small half step back before nodding firmly.
He takes my hand and I drag him into my side right before the guard can reach out and grab him, then tip backwards, pulling us into a freefall. The stranger muffles a scream in my weird vest-thing I’m wearing and I tighten my hold around him, waiting for us to hit the massive pile of fabric I saw directly under the window earlier.
Convenient, the wonders of movie magic are.
The second we make contact I let go of him and roll forward, pulling us both to our feet and sprinting down the alley we landed in before he could gather his bearings. Only, when we reach the end of the small side street four guards block our path, forcing us to turn around, where we encounter three more. This time there’s no more windows to escape through. I’m not entirely sure where the monkey is.
All around, not the best situation to be in, not gonna lie.
Simon Snow is an idiot.
We all know this. We have for quite some time now, yet he never fails to surprise me. Sometimes, he likes to remind me exactly how stupid he is and I feel the need to express as much directly.
This absolute numpty has been talking to me for well over fifteen minutes and still has no idea it’s me he’s talking to. At first I thought it was a joke, just him messing with me. But no. I have lived with him for literal years yet he struggles to recognize the sound of my voice? One wouldn’t think our entire childhood is ample time to get acquainted with someone’s voice. He’s impossible. I will never understand him.
Then his completely reasonable approach to multiple men with swords running at us was to leap out of a ninth story window. With me. In his arms. Seriously, I wasn’t kidding earlier when I said my undead heart couldn’t take it. I’m positive it stopped beating the second I felt his arms around me. (Although that might have been the free-falling from a ninth story window).
And now we’re cornered and I’m nearly certain Simon is more worried about the goddamn monkey than the fact that we’re completely surrounded by guards with orders to capture both of us.
Why am I in love with this imbecile again?
I actually scoff out loud when I hear him mumble, “Okay yeah, this could be a little better.”
“No, really,” I drawl, watching his eyes widen in what I hope is realization. He turns to me slowly, seemingly forgetting the guards around us, and I cross my arms over my chest, rolling my eyes at him.
“—Yeah. It’s me, dimwit.” He pouts at me, (no, it’s not adorable, I am not blushing, shut up), and I sigh, nudging my head obviously towards the men around us, reminding him of our situation.
He understands just a second too late, when the first guard pins his wrists behind him, shoving him to his knees roughly. In spite of myself, I step forward, intending on putting a hand out in front of me as if I was going to reach out and grab Simon, before stopping myself and standing up straight. Stick to the story.
“Let him go,” I say instead. The guard holding him laughs.
“Oh yeah? And what gives you the authority to order me around?” I smirk to myself and reach up to grab the scarf, pulling it out of my face and glaring at the man.
“My title as crowned prince of Agrabah should do the trick, I presume.” The man sputters, sharing a shocked look with the guards around him, before all of them drop to their own knees and bow down to me. Simon winces as the guard’s grip gets tighter around his wrists and I demand the man lets him go free. He rubs the back of his hand with one of his hands, still holding Simon securely with the other.
“I’m sorry, your Highness, but I’m afraid I cannot do that. My orders come directly from the royal vizier.” I scowl at him, crossing my arms. Simon gives me a look, like he knows I’m being overdramatic, but I couldn’t give less of a fuck what he thinks, this is honestly sort of… fun.
Also, being able to annoy Snow so easily is always a bonus.
“I assure you, my father will be hearing about this.” The guard swallows and wipes some sweat off of his forehead and I have to hide a smile at his nervous fidgeting. Yes, be uncomfortable. I thrive on your unease.
Simon shakes his head, squinting at me with an odd look on his face, and I wink at him before turning around and storming away.
He winked at me.
That cocky bastard winked at me.
I can't believe him. He has the audacity to leave me here with them, too! It pisses me off for some reason— his confidence, I mean. At least, I’d assume anger is the emotion responsible for the burning in my chest. It would make the most sense. Anger towards Baz is familiar. Reassuring. Maybe even calming, in its own twisted way.
Although I must be very mad if it’s making my stomach feel odd as well. Almost like it’s filled with static or something, just constantly buzzing when he does something particularly Baz-like. I also felt the static at the royal ball, which is odd because I wasn’t remotely angry then. That’s never happened before we were put in the spell.
I’m sure it’s fine.
My musing is cut short when the guard growls and ties my hands together, leading me down many side alleys that avoid the main street.
We stop in a deserted alley and I turn to the guard in confusion, about to ask why we weren’t moving anymore, when a fist comes flying at my face at a speed that barely registers before everything goes dark.
Well, this just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?