Catch Me If I Fall
A/N: I do not own anything other than my OCs when they appear. Everything else is owned by Disney.
So...I was bored and wrote a thing! Months ago AmethystDragon14 and I wrote a mini story in our PMs about what might have happened at Cotillion if the line 'Evie, I cannot breathe' had actually oh what's the word? Oh yeah a purpose! Hence the creation of this one-shot that I hope you all enjoy! :D
So AmethystDragon14, thank you for once again inspiring a story! :D
Let me know what you guys think! :D
Mal could feel herself struggling to breathe as she walked down the steps on the yacht at Cotillion. It had only been three days since her fitting with Evie and yet the dress somehow felt like it had become tighter.
After the horrific date, Ben had rushed to Mal's dorm to apologize and had caught her just as she was about to leave. It had been…awkward to say the least but they had finally talked. Not just about the date but about everything.
"Mal, I'm…I'm so sorry about our fight," Ben said, his voice soft as he walked in.
"Ben, don't," Mal shook her head, backing up slightly as her hand tightened slightly around the box that housed her mother. Her other hand held her backpack which already had her spell book jammed inside.
Ben paused as he took in the sight of Mal back in her Isle garb. It'd been so long since he saw her in that that it…it was like falling in love with her all over again. Even if her blonde hair didn't really match, Ben didn't care. He'd rather she be comfortable than anything else.
"Mal…please," Ben said before his eyes caught a glimpse of her packed backpack. "Are…are you going somewhere?"
Mal sighed. "…I…I don't belong here Ben," she whispered but her voice grew increasingly louder. "I belong on the Isle. It's my home!"
"Mal please! Let's…let's talk about this!" Ben said, looking at Mal in alarm. "Please! I'm so sorry, I should have been more understanding instead of going all Beast on you—!"
"That's a thing?"
"It's what the other guys on the Tourney team call it when I lose my temper," Ben said softly and Mal sighed.
"Ben…that's just it. I am so bad for you," she said. "I tried so hard to be the perfect princess or Lady of the Court or whatever they want me to be but my first reaction when you found my spell book was to try to spell you!"
"And yeah okay, I'm not exactly thrilled about that but you need to use your magic," Ben said. "You're part Fae after all, and not just any Fae but Maleficent's daughter. With how power she was…it wouldn't be fair to you if you didn't."
"Jane gets along just fine without it."
"Jane didn't live under a barrier blocking her access to her magic most of her life," Ben said gently. "Mal, please. I can change if that'll make it easier for you. I can start goofing off, cutting class or knocking off some responsibilities—."
"No Ben!" Mal exclaimed. "That's exactly what I mean! See? You're trying to keep me here so you're turning yourself into something you're not! Gods I'm such a terrible influence! It's only a matter of time before I do something so messed up that not only will the kingdom turn on me but they'll turn on you too!"
"Mal, I can handle an upset kingdom," Ben told her, sitting down on Evie's bed and looking straight at her. "After all, my dad had to deal with the same thing with the townsfolk led by Gaston. What I don't want to do is quit us though."
Mal looked over at Ben and it was almost as if a dam broke inside her. She told Ben everything: about the reporters following her into the dorms, about how she didn't feel like she could breathe, about how no one thought they could last if she acted like herself…
"Mal…" Ben said softly, standing up to gently pull her into his arms. This time, Mal didn't back away from him but seemed to almost melt into his embrace. "I'm so sorry. I truly had no idea. I'll talk to Fairy Godmother, the reporters shouldn't be accosting you like that."
"But see that's what I mean Ben. I…I can't go back to being that Lady of the Court. Just being back in my Isle Garb makes me feel more like myself!"
"Then you should wear that," Ben told her, looking down at her. "Mal, all I care about is that you're happy. The Isle's a part of you and asking you to flip a switch after sixteen years of living one way and wearing one type of clothing isn't fair to you."
Mal shook her head softly. "One of these days, you'll have another human reaction like you did at the gazebo."
"I'm not exactly proud of that reaction," Ben told her.
"You're what? Sixteen? It's probably the most normal reaction I've seen from you Mr. Brushes Off Being Given a Love Potion."
Ben chuckled slightly at that before sighing. "Mal…I don't want you to quit us but I don't want you to be miserable either. Can…can we make a deal?"
"What kind of a deal?" Mal asked, slightly hesitant.
"If…if after Cotillion, you're still miserable and you can't stand to spend another minute here, I'll…I'll drive you to the Isle myself," Ben said softly. It was the last thing he truly wanted to do but if she was unhappy being in Auradon it wasn't fair to ask her to stay.
Mal sighed. She wanted to go back but…fair was fair. And really all Ben was asking was that she tough it out three days. She could do that, right?
"Okay Ben," Mal said softly. "But those three days, I stay as myself. No painted Lady of the Court. What you see right now is what you get."
Ben gave her a soft smile as he held her close once more. "I have to say, I like what I see Mal. I like it a lot."
"Hi," Beast said as he went up the stairs to help her down the rest of the way as Mal pulled herself out of her thoughts to focus on the task at hand.
"Hi," Mal nodded.
"Ben's on his way. He should be here in a few minutes," the former king said as he walked Mal over to where Belle was standing.
Mal honestly wasn't paying attention to what was being said, all she was focusing on was trying to get air into her lungs. Such a feat might have seemed easy but with how the dress was constricting her…
"Of course," Beast said and Mal blinked as she realized Evie was leading her off.
"How're you feeling?" Evie asked. "Nervous?"
"Mal doesn't get nervous," Jay scoffed from his spot next to Lonnie as the two of them walked up. Carlos gave her a small smile as he walked up with Jane. Mal returned it before focusing her attention to the stairs.
Soon Ben would appear, they would dance and she'd be inducted into his court. Honestly, the past three days being herself had been better than the past six months she'd spent pretending to be a painted Lady. There hadn't been enough time to dye her hair back—the purple would have clashed with the yellow dress. But everything else…her makeup, her nail polish, her wardrobe, her attitude…that was pure Mal.
She still missed the Isle…but if she could be herself, then she'd be willing to stay. Besides, someone had to make sure Ben and Jay didn't get into too much mischief without her.
"King Benjamin!" Lumiere called out and everyone turned to look at Ben standing at the top of the stairs. Mal smiled slightly as he made his way down.
He looks as nervous as I feel, she thought as her breath caught in her throat reminding her about just how tight her dress was. Oh Gods…I don't think I can breathe! I'm in the middle of the deck and…is the boat supposed to be swaying this much? Oh Gods…what if it capsizes? Not being able to swim is one thing but I already can't breathe! How can I do any magic if I can't get out a breath of air?
Mal's knees buckled and she tumbled to the deck, her eyes closing before she landed; a pair of hands catching her head before it hit the deck. Ben rushed down the remaining stairs as Jay laid Mal down on the deck—Carlos and a few of the Tourney players acting as sort of a barrier to keep concerned guests at bay.
"Mal!" Ben gasped as he almost slid in his rush to get to her side, his parents not far behind him. He quickly took Jay's place and put an ear to her mouth.
"Oh my Gods, she's not breathing! Evie, how do you loosen this dress?" Ben whispered, trying not to panic even as he could feel it bubbling within.
He had been trained on how to lead a kingdom. He had not been trained on what to do when his girlfriend was potentially dying.
"There should be a..a zipper in the back," Evie said softly, Doug rubbing her back as she stared in worry at her best friend lying motionless on the deck of the ship.
"Hey, come on back up! She doesn't need you all crowding her!" Jay snapped as Ben gently yet quickly turned Mal over to get at the zipper.
"Yeah back up!" Carlos barked as Adam and Belle stood by Ben to try to provide a bit of privacy for Mal as Ben attempted to get at the zipper. Normally they would have escorted them to a private room but time was clearly not on their side here.
"Come on," Ben muttered, furiously tugging at the zipper but it appeared to be caught on something.
"Just wanted to point out that you could try the Jack Sparrow method," Lonnie muttered as she bent down to look at the dress. "Just rip it Ben! I don't think Mal'll mind in the circumstances."
"There're cameras everywhere Lonnie! I don't want Mal to be embarrassed," Ben hissed, his fingers still pawing at the zipper as he tried to get it to move. He didn't want this to be the reason why Mal decided to leave. He could see the headlines now: Lady Mal's wardrobe malfunction.
Not that he really cared about those but he knew there were some royals who did.
"Ben, this is a life or death situation," Akiho whispered as he ducked down.
"What…how do you know…?"
"Emir and I rushed forward as soon as we saw Mal start to sway. Emir's with Carlos working crowd control with Will and Conner. Got to say, it's probably the one time I wish Chad was here…he's great at getting attention focused on himself. Jay's gone off with Li and Miguel to get Mal a change of clothing. Anywho, if Mal doesn't start breathing again soon, she'll start to lose oxygen to her brain. We can make sure nothing is seen on camera but I'm pretty sure you and Mal would take embarrassment over dying!"
Ben nodded and grabbed the dress at the top, moving his arms apart so that the fabric ripped. Lonnie quickly positioned Doug, Evie, and a couple more of the Tourney team members to allow Mal some privacy. As soon as the fabric ripped, Mal gasped, coughing heavily.
"Mal!" Ben exclaimed, sighing in relief. "Can I get you anything?"
"Just…a…minute…" Mal coughed, trying to fill her lungs with as much air as she could now that her body wasn't constrained with the dress.
"Can we have a glass of water on hand?" Belle asked.
"On it your highness," Ben heard Emir's voice call out and he couldn't help but smile. His best friends were on the ball.
"No…no…honest," Mal shook her head, trying to get her breathing under control. There was no need to make such a fuss.
"Gods, Ben, you're dating the perfect girl for you," Emir muttered as he returned with a bottle of water. "Thankfully, Aziz was here and he always comes prepared. One water bottle for one Lady Mal."
Mal couldn't help but give Emir a weak smile. "Thanks…"
"Mal, what happened?" Ben asked as she took a small sip from the water bottle.
"Dress was too tight," Mal whispered. "I couldn't breathe."
Admitting that was a lot better than admitting she had a freakout about water of all things.
"But…wouldn't that have been addressed at your fittings?" Ben asked. Evie's hand flew to her mouth in realization.
"Evie, I cannot breathe."
"You can breathe after Cotillion…"
Oh Gods! She thought Mal was joking! Or that she was talking about how busy she was! Not that the dress was too tight!
"Ben, don't," Mal said softly. "I'm fine."
"Mal, you're not fine," Carlos told her, beating Ben to the punch. "Call me crazy but I'm pretty sure humans need air to breathe."
"Half Fae Carlos."
"Not the point Mal. Why didn't you ever say anything in the fittings that it was too tight?"
"Carlos, drop it. It's fine. It happened. We can go about our day…or night. Is the dress fixable? It feels like there's quite a gap in the fabric."
"I had to rip it," Ben said. "The zipper wasn't working and you weren't breathing."
Mal sighed softly as she heard that. "Sorry E…"
"It's a dress!" Evie exclaimed, having heard Mal's whisper. "I can make a new one. I can't make a new Mal!"
"Mal, it was either rip the dress or you might have died," Lonnie agreed, keeping her voice low.
Not necessarily especially if dad had his way, Mal thought as she glanced at Evie. "I don't mind the fact that you guys prevented me from dying but I know how much effort Evie put into the dress—."
"Mal," Evie said, kneeling down next to her best friend. "Dress making is fun, it's no effort at all. Like I said, I can easily make a new dress. There's no replacing my best friend."
Mal couldn't help but give her a weak smile at that. "Thanks E," she said as she took another sip of water.
"Here Mal," Jay said, handing Mal Ben's old Tourney jersey and a pair of dark blue leggings that Mal could only assume came from Emma, Jane or one of the Fitzbherbert girls. "It's not fancy but it's big enough on you that it should act like a dress."
"Thanks Jay…I should get up and make myself presentable. I'm sure the press is having a fit about this."
"Dad's dealing with the press," Ben said as Evie and Lonnie helped Mal up; Lonnie standing behind Mal while Evie wrapped an arm around her waist to keep her dress up. Sure enough, Mal could see Beast off to the side with some of the reporters; handling the barrage of questions the way only a seasoned royal could. Some of the other royals started to murmur as the three girls started to leave.
"Okay, nothing to see here!" Carlos said, hearing the murmurs as Mal, Evie, and Lonnie made their way to a room in the back of the ship.
"E, it's not your fault," Mal whispered to Evie, knowing what was probably going through her best friend's head.
"M, you mentioned you couldn't breathe three days ago at your fitting. This is my fault," Evie whispered back. "I should have loosened it."
"E, if 'ifs and buts' were candy and nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas," Mal sighed as she slipped out of the dress. She felt no shame being just in her underwear around Evie and Lonnie. They were all girls after all. "At least Ben's jersey and the leggings match the color scheme. Like Jay said, it's not fancy but who cares? I love this jersey."
"Honestly, I think we'd all rather you be alive than in a fancy dress," Lonnie pointed out. "And anyway if anyone's going to be blamed for the dress being ripped, it should be me. I told Ben to do it. Granted it was Akiho who finally convinced him but that's besides the point."
Mal shook her head. "The press won't care about that. All they'll see is that I fainted and that my dress got ripped. Just another scandal the King's VK girlfriend caused."
"Ben won't care about that," Lonnie said as Mal slipped on the jersey, Evie cinching it slightly with a golden belt Lonnie had found in the room. The fewer questions they asked about that, the better. "Besides, Evie, I'm sure the press will be talking about why the dress was so tight in the first place."
"Lonnie, it wasn't her fault—."
"Mal, I'm sorry but it kinda is," Lonnie said, crossing her arms. "You would have had a fitting before this and it should have been addressed then. Or am I to understand you didn't mention the dress being too tight once during the fitting?"
Mal sighed and sat down on a chair. "Yeah the dress was a little too tight Lonnie but…okay, what I'm about to tell you two does not leave this room."
"Of course," Lonnie nodded.
"You know I can keep your secrets Mal," Evie said. "What's wrong?"
Mal bit her lip before finally speaking. "I'm terrified of water. When…when I collapsed, I felt the deck sway and all I could think about was 'what if the boat capsizes'. It doesn't help that I can't swim."
"You're…you're terrified of water?" Lonnie asked. "But…you're fearless."
"Not when you almost drown when you're nine," Mal sighed. "Jay knows the whole story so you can ask him for details but…yeah. Combination of too tight dress and unnecessary panic equaled one Lady Mal going face first into the deck."
"And you never told anyone?"
"We lived on an Isle," Evie answered. "If word got out, that'd be a weakness someone could use against Mal. Some of the VKs back on the Isle got a kick of barking like a dog to try to get Carlos to freak out."
"Jay used to be one of them," Mal muttered.
"Very true," Evie chuckled slightly before sighing. "M, I am so sorry. This is all on me."
"All I'm saying Evie is that there's going to be talk. You may want to be prepared for it," Lonnie said softly.
Evie sighed. "I know Lonnie but thanks. M, you think you're ready to head on out?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. Ben will want to fuss over me anyway," Mal chuckled as they headed back out to the deck.
"Well you did pass out. I think he has a reason to."
Mal rolled her eyes as the three girls found their way back onto the deck. Ben immediately spotted them and came bounding up.
"I'm alright," Mal said, giving him a small smile.
"You're sure?" Ben asked, looking at Mal in concern. "You sure you don't want to call it a night?"
"Ben, the last thing the press needs is another story to run," Mal said. "I leave now, that's all they'll talk about for the next three weeks. I'll be fine. Besides…this is my party right?"
"Right," Ben said with a small smile. "Just let me know if you need anything Mal. Or let my mom and dad know. Or Jay. Or Carlos. Or—."
"I get it Ben," Mal said with a small chuckle as she kissed his cheek. Both as a show to the reporters who were watching and as a thank you to him for saving her. "I promise I'll let someone know if I need something. Now come on, smile. We're on camera after all."
Ben gave her a small smile. "I'm just happy you're alright," he said, brushing a bit of hair from her face. Mal smiled slightly, leaning into his hand.
"We'll leave you two alone," Lonnie said, she and Evie walking off to give them some privacy.
Mal couldn't help but bite her lip, thinking about the upcoming conversation. Either Ben would ask once again if she was alright or he'd ask if this would affect whether or not she was going back to the Isle.
"Are you sure you're alright?" Ben asked, keeping his voice low. "I don't want something to happen to you Mal."
"I'm fine Ben. I promise. I'm…I'm just worried about how this'll affect Evie."
Ben sighed. "Dad's fielding questions from the press about that," he told Mal. "So far, he's been able to keep Evie's name out of conversation but everyone knows she's your designer. She designed all your clothes for our cross kingdom tour after all."
Mal couldn't help but give a small sigh at that. This would be a huge hit to Evie's business…
"I'll try to do what I can," Ben promised. "But I don't know how much that'll be."
He looked down and then back up. "By the way…my jersey looks good on you," he told her, a small smile pulling at his lips.
"It goes with the color scheme," Mal said with a shy smile and a faint blush on her cheeks. "It's a good thing Jay was able to grab it. Can't really be out here naked after all."
"I'm sure mom would have come up with something but I for one like it," Ben said, keeping his voice gentle as he smiled at her.
"Good thing I like it too Bennyboo," Mal said with a small smirk. It was weird but the more she talked to Ben, the easier it was to ignore the water surrounding her. "Also, good thing you tossed it to me at that Tourney game six months ago."
"You'd probably be wearing Jay's if I hadn't."
"No thank you," Mal chuckled. "I've been in Jay's dorm. I know how many times that jersey got washed."
Ben chuckled and shook his head. "Well I'm sure we'd find something but I'm glad we don't have to worry about that."
"Me too," Mal said with a small smile.
"Do…do you want to dance?" Ben asked, holding out his hand and giving Mal a small smile of his own. Mal nodded, taking his hand and Ben grinned as he led her out onto the dance floor. Mal leaned against his chest happily.
Suddenly, the music changed to a very familiar tune and Ben looked over to see Carlos, Akiho, Emir, and Jay by the DJ. "They're ridiculous," he muttered.
"So are you," Mal teased with a small grin.
"Oh well thank you," Ben said as they continued to dance and Mal gave a small giggle a that. Ben smiled and held her close, almost reassuring himself that she was still there.
"I've got a small gift for you and then we can go if you want," he murmured into her ear. Mal looked at him in shock. He…he'd gotten her something?
"Ben…I don't have anything for you!"
"You don't have to get me anything Mal. You've already done so much for me," Ben said softly as he caught Lumiere's eye and nodded.
"And now for the unveiling of King Ben's masterpiece, designed especially for his lady," Lumiere announced as the trumpets played and the crowd gasped upon seeing the stained glass window of Mal and Ben before bursting into applause.
Mal stared at it in shock. Ben…Ben had done that? For her?
It was honestly a beautiful work of art, something that wouldn't look out of place in Beast and Belle's castle if Mal was honest. In it, she didn't look like a painted Lady of the Court but she didn't look like the spawn of Maleficent either. She…she was just Mal. Part Auradon, part Isle.
After all, with Persephone as a step mother, how could she not be?
"Do you like it?" Ben asked softly.
"I…I love it," Mal whispered, looking back at him. "I love you."
Ben smiled before pausing, as if the words Mal had said finally had a chance to sink in. "You…?"
"I know I never told you before but I…I never thought I was good enough for you. That's why I tried so hard to be a painted Lady of the Court. Because I thought it was only a matter of time before you realized that yourself and I didn't want to lose you."
"Mal, I would never—!"
"I know Ben…because that's me," she said, pointing to the stained glass window. "I'm part Isle and part Auradon. And Ben, you've always know who we were and who we could be. When I'm with you, I know what love feels like. Because I love you. I've always loved you."
Not caring that everyone's eyes were probably on them, Mal leaned in and met her lips to his for the first time. It was honestly like fireworks had exploded in her brain at the impact. The kiss didn't last long but it seemed to go on for ages. Until finally, to Mal's disappointment, they had to break apart.
"Mal…" Ben said, a small smile growing on his lips.
"So…you were saying something about leaving?" Mal asked, a small smirk growing on hers.
Ben chuckled and caught Emir and Akiho's eye. They were always good for a distraction big enough to prevent anyone from noticing that the King and his newly inducted Lady of the Court had left.
And provide one they did. Ben wasn't exactly sure where they got the grass skirts or how they managed to get Jay and Carlos involved but he was thankful for it.
"Well that's an image I won't be able to get out of my brain," Mal chuckled as the two of them curled up on the sofa in Ben's office, a roaring fire going and Ben's arm wrapped around Mal's shoulders.
"Me neither," Ben said, content to make the most of this moment.
"I have to say though, if it leads to more moments like this, I could put up with it," Mal shook her head. "Makes my decision to stay all the more palatable."
Ben paused for the second time that night and looked at her. "You're…you're staying?"
Mal gave him a small, sad smile. "Ben, I love you. I love my friends. Yes, there's a part of me that'll always miss the Isle but…maybe we can work on bringing more of the Isle here?"
"You mean bring more VKs?"
"Exactly," Mal nodded. After all, everyone else might have adjusted without any worries but at least I know what it's like to doubt yourself. I could help the new VKs that way.
Ben grinned and leaned down to kiss Mal. "I think that's an excellent idea. You got any thoughts as to who should come?"
"One or two," Mal smirked, kissing him back. A blue haired Godling and a red haired shadowing came to mind. But for that moment, she was content to just be a regular teen for once and spend the rest of the night with her boyfriend.