Strangely the edge of the bridge seemed further away than Carlos remembered, it seemed no matter how far he stepped forward he wasn't falling; the freckled teen's eyes shot open to see the magical bridge stretching out infront of him.
Far in the distance was one of the official royal cars.
Carlos wasn't sure how to feel, nervous and scared but slightly hopeful that they'd maybe put him in a cell in Auradon instead of making him got back to the Isle.
The official car seemed to be moving faster than normal, going way over the speed limit, so it didn't take long before it came to a screeching stop on front of a shaking Carlos.
Instead of someone of authority climbing out the car Jay practically flew from the car, followed by King Ben, Evie and Mal.
"Stop!" Carlos shouted, stopping Jay's long strides.
Carlos was happy to see them all, looking ruffled and tired, but he knew they'd never take him back; not to mention it had taken them days to find him.
"Carlos!" King Ben shouted, the wind picking up, "come here, we're going home."
Tears stinging his eyes again Carlos shook his head, taking a step back, "I can't." he gasped.
The four exchanged confused looks, "what do you mean you can't?" Evie asked.
"yeah, we've spent these past four days trying to find you and you don't want to come home." Mal snapped, never the queen of tact.
Something lifted off Carlos's heavy heart; his friends had been looking for him, they'd noticed he'd gone.
"Carlos?" Jay's soft voice broke though the young De Vil's thoughts.
Jay was within touching distance, worry etched on his face, his dark eyes flickered from the collar, to the smashed laptop on the ground and finally at Carlos's eyes.
"let's get home." Jay said seriously.
A lump appeared in Carlos's throat, "but, I stole." He gasped out, looking at Ben, "and I took down the barrier."
King Ben only laughed, "that doesn't matter, nothing bad happened, apart from you disappearing." He smiled reassuringly.
Cruella's voice was still loud in Carlos's head, her words more damaging than any marks she left on his skin, but as the young De Vil looked at each of his dear friends and their concerned faces, his mother's voice started to become very small.
"come here runt." Cruella suddenly hissed from behind the barrier.
"be quiet you bag of bones!" Evie shouted, going very red in the face suddenly.
Carlos was shocked to hear Evie shout, the blue haired princess rarely raised her voice to anyone, and so was Cruella as she instantly shut her mouth.
"let's head home." Jay said one last time, hand outstretched towards Carlos, looking almost afraid his friend would run away again.
Carlos simply nodded, reaching out for Jay's hand and revelling in its warmth; the Arabian teen pulled the smaller body to his and they both bundled into the car without a second look back.
Enclosed in the dark, warm car Carlos finally felt safe, he was sandwiched between Evie and Jay and scolded himself again for leaving in the first place.
King Ben was unable to turn to car around on the narrow bridge so, with lots of skill, he reversed back down to Auradon end.
"let's have a look at this thing." Jay was fiddling with the collar.
Carlos flushed red from Jay's closeness and at being found wearing a dog collar but he stayed perfectly still for his friend; Jay seemed to biting his cheek to stop himself saying something.
After a while the ex-thief gave up as the leather wouldn't budge up any strain; there seemed to be many unspoken questions just waiting to be asked but they were obviously waiting for the right moment.
"we'll have to get you on the security team." King Ben suddenly said when the car finally made contact with the other side.
Mal scowled at her boyfriend and slapped his arm hard, "shut it." She hissed.
Ben seemed nonplussed by Mal and smiled at Carlos in the rear-view mirror, "hacking into all the main systems on your first week here, that's impressive man."
Shifting uncomfortably in his seat at being caught out Carlos couldn't stop the smile spread across his face, "thanks." He whispered.
Pulling into Auradon Prep the courtyard was quiet, everyone either gone home or in their dorms, only two figures stood at the main entrance; Ms GodMother and King Beast.
"don't start on the lectures." King Ben sighed at his tall father the moment he exited the car.
King Beast huffed out a long breath, "you were told not to go." He stated.
Fairy GodMother was about to say something too before she caught sight of Carlos; he felt her kind eyes scrutinising every inch of him, "I think exceptions can be made." She said firmly and approached the freckled teen.
Jay had his arm clasped tightly around the smaller teen, almost protecting him from a danger that was no longer there, Ms GodMother smiled kindly, "let's get you cleaned up." Was all she said.
Going into Ms GodMother's office she pulled out a sharp letter cutter in the shape of Prince Phillip's sword; she carefully slipped it under the collar and in one smooth movement cut the red leather.
"those things aren't meant to be that sharp." King Beast mentioned casually.
Ms GodMother shrugged, "minor details. Now off to the showers with you and then we can look at your wounds." She smiled kindly.
Carlos hadn't seen himself in a mirror for five or so days and he knew how much he's been through but he didn't expect to be so shocked; still covered in a thin layer of black soot, his neck had been rubbed bright pink from the collar, there was the angry red circle on his collarbone and his feet were almost blue.
Peeling off the filthy clothes he saw how skinny he'd become in just a few short days; he looked gaunt and hungry all over and as he washed away the filth he found other injuries he didn't even remember happening.
The hot water felt good, refreshing and cleansing that Carlos lost himself in the patter of the water and the heated fog gathering in the bathroom.
"why did you run away?" Jay's voice broke through the calm air.
Carlos flinched back in the shower, forgetting he was behind a glass door, he could just make out the dark red shape of Jay standing in the fog.
"there must have been a reason." Jay said, "or you could have talked to me." He was beginning to sound stressed.
It wasn't just because he was naked wet in the shower that made Carlos feel exposed , it was the fact be was about to tell Jay the stupid reason he'd left and put himself in danger.
"I felt alone." Carlos finally said out loud, "you guys have been so busy lately that I barely say two words to any of you before you're flying off to the next important thing." He ranted.
"you're important too." Jay stressed, becoming clearer as he stepped closer to the shower.
Carlos slammed the bodywash bottle down by accident, "I didn't feel it Jay."
"but, why go back to the Isle?" the Arabian teen asked.
Taking in a deep breath Carlos felt his stomach twist, "I, I don't know why!" Carlos shouted, his words echoing around the bathroom.
Carlos could suddenly see Jay's back against the misted glass of the shower, the outline of his broad back and muscles defined, "I'm sorry you felt that way dude. I'm sorry it took me a whole day to realise you'd gone." He confessed.
The sob that escaped Carlos's throat was unexpected; he didn't know where it had come from but hearing the person he liked say it took that long to see he'd vanished hurt worse than he thought.
"Carlos, don't cry, I know I've not been a great friend but I'll try harder." Jay promised.
Rubbing his already wet face Carlos wasn't sure if he was crying or not, "just wait for me outside." He managed to gasp out.
Jay laughed a humourless laugh, "no way, I ain't leaving you on your own again."
"I don't need babysitting." Carlos snapped without venom.
"maybe not, but last time I took my eyes off you I lost you." Jay's voice was so soft the freckled teen barely heard him over the water.
Carlos's heart gave a painful thud, for as much as he loved Jay, he would only ever be the Arabian's best friend.
Suddenly the glass door to the shower was pulled open to revel a half naked Jay, his hair already frizzing from the moisture in the air, he looked a little annoyed.
Carlos didn't miss Jay's dark eyes dart across his skinny, freckled, damaged body, "stop hiding your thoughts from me." he said sharply, dark skin glistening under the pouring water, "I never want you feeling alone again."
As much as Carlos appreciated the sentiment, and Jay being partly naked so close, he really wanted to talk somewhere where the other teen's eyes didn't keep darting downwards.
"let's continue this in the bedroom." Carlos said with a sigh before realising how suspect it sounded and apparently Jay thought so too.
The ex-thief gave a charming lop-sided grin, leaning on the shower wall with his arms crossed, "so that's where your thoughts are." He teased.
"if you'd been paying attention then you'd know." Carlos immediately bit his tongue and turned away, partly scared of the older teen's reaction.
Carlos was suddenly embraced from behind in a strong armed hug, he felt wet fabric against his lower half and felt Jay's clammy warm skin against his own.
"you know you only have to say the word and I'm yours." Jay whispered softly, huskily against Carlos's soaked hair.
"don't play games Jay, it's not fair." The young De Vil said sternly.
Jay's big arms tightened around him and he nuzzled into Carlos's shoulder, "no games, I promise."
Carlos took a deep breath, "I love you."
"that's a good thing, cos I love you too." Jay said with a rumble of laughter in his chest and planted a kiss on the crook of the young De Vil's neck.
Feeling his knees go weak Carlos gripped Jay's arms for support and turned to face him to lean up for a kiss; at the moment the bathroom door flew open.
"you've been in here for ages, time to come out." Mal shouted from the doorway, laughter in her voice.
Jay and Carlos didn't part, just laughed lightly, "I'm going to kill her." Jay muttered and pulled Carlos out of the shower.
There was a huge meal waiting for Carlos when he was finally dry and dressed, there was also a royal nurse waiting to inspect his wounds.
She tutted as she dabbed the cigarette burn on his collarbone, "it could have been worse." Carlos shrugged, taking a bite out food.
Cruella hadn't broken anything, just cuts, bruises and dehydration; the nurse still huffed and puffed at the state of him, not annoyed at him but annoyed that such injuries had occurred.
When Carlos was all patched up and full of food Dude shot into the room and immediately the freckled teen's arms, "miss you too." He mumbled into his furry friends' fur.
"no more bottling up your thoughts." Jay told him as they lay together in bed.
Carlos laughed bitterly, "easier said than done."
"please try." Jay said.
"I did try before, I messaged you guys tons." Carlos informed Jay and reached for his cell that he'd left behind, showing his boyfriend all the one sided messages.
Jay frowned, "that's not my number Carlos." He said pointing to the number under his name, "someone must have changed it. Mal and Evie's too."
Carlos sighed, he felt stupid for not realising before; he could hack into water tight security systems but couldn't recognise that someone had changed a number in his cell phone.
"I'm an idiot." The young De Vil huffed, throwing his cell back onto the bedside table.
Jay only laughed, engulfing his smaller boyfriend in a warm hug, "my idiot though." And kissed his cheek tenderly.
Surrounded by warmth and with the person he loved by his side, plus having not slept very well the night before, Carlos found his eyes closing without his permission.
Carlos knew he wasn't going to find it easy being more open and telling people when he's upset but with great, slightly pushy friends and a very affectionate boyfriend, he knew that he'd never have to leave again.