A/N: I do not own anything other than my OCs that may or may not come out to play. Everything else belongs to Disney.
Welcome, dear readers, to the next story in the 'Watch and Learn' series! I have to say that when I started Watch and Learn all those years ago, I did not expect I'd be doing a series like this. Then again, I didn't expect Watch and Learn to go over 1k in reviews. 2017 me needed to expect more from themselves, apparently. :D
Oh, I had a reviewer ask in a review in Crossing the Bridge if they can call me 'Ginny'-my answer to that is absolutely! :D
Let me know what you guys think of this chapter. Hopefully it's a good start to the break story! No idea how long this is going to be-there's a lot of ground I need to cover. :D
As the light cleared, Mal found herself right where she had started: on the cliff looking out onto the Isle. She wasn't going to lie, there was a part of her that still found the idea of going back to the Isle tempting.
No rules, no responsibilities…no handlers waiting to judge you the moment something's wrong with your outfit or an answer you gave to the press. No reporters waiting for the moment you mess up to be there with their cameras to film it, airing it on TV for months on end.
Plus, the Isle would have Hadie—and Steph, for six months at least. That was better than nothing. Plus she had her clubhouse so it wasn't like she was lacking for a place to stay.
But, as she looked over her shoulder at Auradon one more time, she knew the Isle wasn't her home anymore. Evie was in Auradon. Carlos was in Auradon. Jay was in Auradon. Ben was in Auradon.
The light of the sun caught on Ben's signet ring and Mal couldn't help but smile as she saw it. How had she been so reckless? To throw away her relationship with Ben over one fight? A fight that had been entirely her fault anyway? And not only that but to run back to the Isle, where Uma and her warf rats apparently gained control since the power vacuum that opened up since Maleficent turned into a lizard.
Uma. Mal growled as she looked out toward the Isle once more, her eyes glowing a slightly brighter green. Was that sneaky squidling back behind the barrier with Harry and Gil, plotting her escape? Or did the Blue Fairy take pity on her and leave her in Auradon like she had Dizzy and Hadie after the first viewing?
If it was the later, Mal couldn't afford to stay out here any longer. After seeing what Uma was capable of, she didn't want to put Ben at risk. Mal brought her leg over the scooter, straddling the bike; ready to turn it around and head back to Auradon Prep.
Mal blinked; had that been Ben's voice she heard?
No, I've got to be imaging things, she thought with a small head shake. There's no reason for Ben to be out here. Especially by himself.
This is Ben though. The same boy who gave his security detail the day off on our first date. You really think the fact that he'd be so close to the Isle would stop him from coming out here without a guard?
The voice called again and this time Mal was certain, that was Ben's voice she was hearing. Turning around, Mal stared in shock as she saw Ben standing before her, his blue scooter standing by as he quickly climbed off it. Clearly hastily clad in what he thought passed for Isle clothes, Mal had to shake her head.
"Ben, tourney sweats do not count as Isle garb," she said softly. It was a valiant attempt but the large gold lettering down the side of the pants that read 'Auradon Fighting Knights' was a bigger giveaway that Ben was from Auradon than the jacket with the Beast insignia had been during the viewing. At least the pants were dark blue—if it hadn't been for the lettering, it might have worked.
I see Jay lent Ben one of his beanies, Mal thought with a small smile. Either that or Ben just grabbed it on his way after me. But when did he have the time to change? I know he wasn't wearing that during the viewing nor was he wearing it on our picnic date. The one where I idiotically tried to spell him with a mind wipe spell.
"Evie said the stuff I had commissioned from her needed about another half a day to finish. Apparently, having a giant beast in a shield present on the front of the jacket wasn't a good idea after all," Ben told her, gently breaking into her thoughts. "I…I didn't know if you were still going to the Isle after everything so I wanted to be ready in case I needed to follow you."
"Follow me?" Mal asked, slightly stunned. Ben had seen how dangerous the Isle could be, even with three people with him as backup. But to go by himself? "After what we saw?"
"Mal, even after what we saw, I'd follow you to the Isle," Ben said gently, stepping closer to her. "I love you. And I'm not just saying that because of what some viewing showed us. I'm saying that because I'm listening to my heart."
"You know, we should probably talk about that," Mal said with a small smile, remembering when Ben had used that line in the previous viewing. "You know, the little tidbit that viewing dropped on us."
Ben smiled and brushed a bit of hair out of Mal's eyes. "Whenever you want to, I'll be there to talk," he promised. "Did I mention I like the return of the Isle garb on you?"
"Really?" Mal asked, raising an eyebrow at the apparent non sequitur. If she was being honest, she had been prepared for the end of that sentence to be 'I'm in love with you'. "But I was wearing it all through the viewing. You didn't notice it then?"
"Of course I noticed it," Ben chuckled. "I just didn't comment on it out of fear your dad would burn me alive."
"He wouldn't have done that," Mal said, shaking her head. "Persephone might have though."
"That does not make me feel better!"
"Ben, I'm only teasing," Mal said with a small chuckle and gave him a gentle peck on the cheek. Ben smiled and gently grabbed one of her hands, rubbing the back of it with his thumb. Even if Mal's leather fingerless glove acted as a barrier, Ben still enjoyed the contact.
He knew it was different on the Isle, especially after seeing the Isle in the viewing they had just attended. It didn't matter to Ben that they were True Love, he'd go as slow as Mal wanted. Her comfort was all that mattered.
The ringing of Ben's phone broke the silence and Mal sighed.
"Got to say, you get some great service out here," Mal chuckled, trying to not let the disappointment she was feeling show on her face. She shouldn't have been surprised after all; Ben was the king. He'd have people clamoring for his attention morning, noon and night.
"Yeah," Ben nodded as he fished out his phone. Swiftly taking the back off his phone, Ben took out the battery before placing the back back on. "Oh whoops. Guess I forgot to charge my phone last night."
Mal chuckled a little before looking at Ben. "What if that was important?"
"Then they can find me," Ben said. "I was in the middle of a conversation with you Mal. I'm not going to just stop and answer my phone because it might be important."
"Ben, you're the king. If they're calling you—"
"Mal, my phone goes off nine or ten times a day. Most of it's with Cotillion stuff anyway," Ben told her. "We're about two days away from Cotillion. If they haven't settled themselves, was it really all that important to begin with?"
"You didn't even look at the caller ID though," Mal pointed out.
"I'll check it when we're back at the school," Ben promised as he looked at Mal. "We are going back to the school right?"
Mal nodded. "It might be better if we had our talk there anyway. We're a bit too exposed out here."
"Mal, we're literally on the edge of Auradon's borders. I don't think reporters are going to be camped out here."
"Ben, you saw them in the viewing. They went into the dorms. What's to stop them from setting up camp out here?" Mal asked gently and Ben frowned, realizing Mal had a point.
"Okay," Ben nodded. "I'll meet you back at the school then?"
"You want to race?" Mal asked. "Be a shame if we both had our scooters and didn't see which one had the faster one, you know?"
Ben chuckled. "You know, as king I probably shouldn't allow this," he said as he walked his scooter next to hers to allow for a fair start. "As your boyfriend, however, all I can said is: you're going to eat my dust."
"Ooh, big talk Benny-boo," Mal teased with a chuckle. "I don't lose though."
"First time for everything," Ben said, leaning over and giving Mal a kiss on the cheek. "See you at the school."
"You're on!" Mal grinned as the two of them sped off. Mal couldn't help but keep the grin on her face as the wind brushed past her face. It felt almost like being in her dragon form, only without the risk of burning down Auradon.
I guess I do need to make a decision about that training, Mal thought with an inward sigh. Hercules had the best suggestion but then what about my Fae powers? The Olympians can only train me on half of who I am. Maleficent may have been a crazy megalomaniac but she was still a Fae. Unless the Gods have a fairy in their employ, I'd have to be trained by a God and a fairy.
That would definitely be an interesting experience. At least they weren't expecting an answer right away, not with Cotillion right around the corner.
Oh Gods, Cotillion, Mal thought as the school came up in view. Even though I've spent six months planning this thing, I'm more nervous now than I was back before the viewing. There's still the risk I could completely embarrass Ben. I mean I can't even eat curry without spilling it on myself and they expect me to dance gracefully in heels and a dress?
Among the good things the latest viewing brought, though, was Ben trying to be more…teen like for lack of a better term. It was no splash fest at Cotillion but the race had been the first wicked thing she had done since becoming King Ben's girlfriend.
"Take the side entrance," Ben muttered as they parked their scooters.
"Why?" Mal asked.
"Reporters are milling around the front entrance," he told her. "I saw their vans as I pulled up. I didn't think I had a press conference scheduled today though."
"I don't think I did either," Mal said with a frown. "I'd have to double check though. Natalie's been piling on the events, I guess to keep me on my toes to prepare as 'Lady of the Court' duties. "
Ben frowned slightly. He hadn't been crazy about Mal having a 'handler' when it was first proposed but had kept quiet. He had needed to separate his role as 'king' and as 'boyfriend' after all. But now, after seeing the stress Mal had been under….
"Mal, I think I need to have a talk with Natalie," Ben said softly. "An official one."
"Are you sure Ben?" Mal asked. "I don't want you to—"
Ben gave Mal a small smile. "Mal, after seeing how stressed you've been, I've never been more sure of anything. But I won't do it today. No that'll be for after Cotillion. Today is just for us."
Mal smiled softly as she looked at Ben. "So basically it'll be a make up for the ruined picnic?"
"Hey, I'm the one who ruined the picnic," Ben said, grabbing Mal's hand. "Besides, I've got a small gift for you that I left in my office anyway."
"Ben, you already gave me the scooter today—"
"I promise it's just something small," Ben said as they made their way to his office. "I saw it and thought of you, back when we were in Agrabah."
Mal shook her head as they entered Ben's office and shut the door. The knowledge that they were guaranteed privacy was oddly reassuring, Mal wasn't going to lie. Sitting down as Ben walked over to his desk, Mal couldn't help but wonder what the gift was.
After all, it had to be something small to fit in a desk drawer. Then again, that didn't mean anything when it came to Ben. Car keys are small. A necklace was small. The deed to a platinum mine was small.
Okay, I have no idea where that last one came from, Mal thought with a small snort as Ben walked back to her.
"A book?" Mal asked, seeing the object in Ben's hands.
"Not quite," Ben chuckled. "It's a book on Auradon artists and the different kingdoms they came from. I also saw a small sketch book and some colored pencils there too. I know how much you like art and I haven't seen you draw or sketch lately so I thought your sketch book might be full."
Mal stared at Ben in shock. "Ben, you…you didn't have to do this," she said softy as she took the gifts from him.
"Of course I did," Ben said. "Well technically Emir helped since I was whisked away for a meeting before I could actually buy them."
Mal chuckled softly as she set them to the side. The sketch book was fairly thick for how small it was, and the colored pencils looked extremely nice. Truthfully, she couldn't wait to crack open the book—which was a rare thought coming from an Isle kid.
Ben truly does see me, Mal thought as she looked back at Ben with a smile. He doesn't see a Lady of the Court or someone who needs to jump through a thousand hoops to be with him. He doesn't seem Maleficent's daughter or Hades' daughter. Just Mal.
"So…do you like them?" Ben asked softly after a minute or two of silence. Mal smiled softly as she stood up and, for the first time, initiated a kiss between the two of them. It was a short kiss but she tried to put all the gratitude and love she felt toward Ben into it.
"I love them," she said softly as they broke apart and Ben grinned.
"As much as an ogre loves cheese puffs?" Ben teased.
"Yes Ben," Mal chuckled as she ran her hand over the sketchbook. She already had an idea of what the first drawing to grace its pages would be.