Bit of a different sort of fic for me - not quite as angsty as I usually go. Basically, I read all the El Dorado fics on here and thought, "Wait a tic, why is Miguel ALWAYS the one who secretly loves Tulio? When Miguel's the one who acts like a naive idiot and Tulio's the one who always seems to be hiding something?" I've another fic in the category of "Why does everyone assume that Tulio's the one who grew up rich when there are so many signs pointing in the opposite direction?" but that's not quite finished yet.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own El Dorado, Dreamworks, the characters, or the cutest and most cannon slash pairing in the history of Disney movies, cause if I did, it would be even more cannon.
Oh, and I AM working on my other fics, haven't abandoned all of you, there WILL be more updates soon. Promise.
Please leave a little review! Please!
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He couldn't take it anymore.
It wasn't any one thing in particular, no single action that tipped Miguel's steadily weakening balance in his life. It was everything all put together: the noises at night, the glances in the day, the tension that lingered around any talk of the future . . . it was too much, and he couldn't handle the feeling of playing third wheel.
He thought about it for a long time. Tulio was always the planner; Miguel needed time to consider something before he could decide to do it. He thought about it as they traveled up the endless coastline, as they skirted first the jungle and then the desert, making their way through palm trees and across shallow bays. He thought about it as their path turned and twisted, as they hid from vicious jaguars and ran from less-than-friendly natives ("Aztecs," Chel called them). Miguel thought about leaving for a very long time before he made his decision.
One day, as they sat around a campfire sheltered by the high stone walls of a steep cliff, Chel motioned for Tulio to walk a little ways down the beach with her. Miguel saw them, standing just out of hearing, talking about something he neither knew nor cared to know, and he decided to leave.
He leaned back against the cliff, heart heavy with his resolution, and watched the sea dance and sparkle in the moonlight.
"Magical, isn't it?"
Miguel jumped. He hadn't noticed Tulio returning to sit beside him, although considering that Tulio had been a conman long before him, the dark-haired man could be rather sneaky when he wanted. Miguel dismissed that thought from him mind. You're leaving, remember? "Where's Chel?"
"See how the cost curves up ahead?" Miguel blinked. Tulio was not one to ignore a question without good reason, and he wondered what his partner . . . former partner was up to. "It keeps going on like that for a while. We're on a little jut of land and we've reached the main continent."
Miguel frowned. "If we're on a peninsula, it's a lot bigger than Spain," he realized aloud.
"But it's not a peninsula," Tulio corrected. "The Chief said the land continued in the other direction as well. It's a land bridge."
"A land bridge?" As they lapsed into their old styles of conversation, Miguel forgot about his decision and became fully engaged in the discussion. "But that's incredible. That means this New World is much bigger than everyone in Europe thinks."
"Much," Tulio agreed. "There's plenty of space for everyone – Spain, France, Portugal, England. Even the Dutch."
"Land for everyone. A new world, a new place to colonize . . . and conquer," Miguel added sadly.
"So, where are we in regard to the other settlements in the New World?" Miguel knew than Tulio had been following up on the news, and now had a vague idea of their bearings.
"Well, the French are that way," Tulio pointed along the coastline that stretched east, "and the English are due north from that. All the Spanish colonies are either back the way we came or on islands out there, closer to us – you might've noticed we've been making a circle, they're all inside the bay – and apparently the Russians are all the way up there, where it's so cold its winter every day." Tulio finished by gesturing behind him, to the northwest.
"Apparently the New World is closer to the Russians than it is to us. They've had colonies here for ages, but they thought it was just a tiny island, like Greenland."
"Wow." Miguel thought about that for a moment, as they sat in a companionable silence.
And then he remembered what he had been thinking about before.
"So where is Chel?" he asked, his tone colder.
Tulio didn't reply immediately, but leaned back against the cliff wall, his gaze far away. He didn't look sad, exactly, more . . .
Miguel tried to place it: it was the way Tulio looked when their schemes came to an end, when the adventure was over and something new beginning. A loss, and yet a gain.
"North and a little west there are some desert natives. Chel knows them from when they sent a representative a number of year back; they're friendly, and they'll take her in. She's tired of adventure, and they'll treat her like a queen up there. All the boys will fall over her."
Miguel blinked and sat up a little. "You're talking like you're not going to be there with her," he said slowly, not quite understanding what he was hearing.
"I'm – we're not. She said we wouldn't like it there; it's all work and no play. No gold, even. She gave me her jewelry, in case we needed it," Tulio added, opening one hand to reveal Chel's earrings.
Miguel's eyebrows drew together in a bunch. "So, where exactly did she say we should go?"
Tulio shrugged. "Well, if we want to go back to Europe, our best bet is to find the French, except we don't know French and we're not sailors so that could be a slight problem there –"
"I'm not going back to Europe," Miguel snapped. He excepted Tulio to snap back, but to his surprise the other simply shrugged.
"Probably best to find the English, then, since you know the language."
"Why do we have to find anyone?"
Tulio turned his head to give Miguel a questioning look. "Maybe to find decent food? A bed? A roof over our heads?"
"Why do we need all that?" Miguel shifted in his seat so he could look straight at Tulio. "We've lived for so long in the wild, in the jungle and the desert. Why does that need to change?"
Tulio seemed to cower slightly under the force of Miguel's angry expression. "Well . . ."
"Why can't we go back to the jungle?"
That Tulio had an answer to. "We're not going back that way. We don't know where Cortez is and we do not want to bump into him or those 'Aztecs' again."
Miguel waved his hands impatiently. "All right, but we can still stay out here." He paused. "I'm staying out here."
"You?" Tulio raised one eyebrow skeptically. "What about me?"
"What about you? What about you and Chel?" Miguel replied bitterly.
Tulio opened his mouth, then closed it again, and then sighed. "So that's what this is all about."
Miguel blinked. "What 'what' is all about?"
"This. This cold shoulder you've been giving me. It's all about Chel."
Miguel almost exploded. "What did you think it was about?"
Tulio groaned. "Miguel, there is no me-and-Chel. It never existed."
"What are you talking about, 'never existed'?" Miguel was nearly shouting now. "What was all the glances and the dating and . . . and the 'forget Miguel'?"
Something changed in Tulio's eyes, suddenly making him look drawn and tired. "You . . . heard that?"
"Heard that? I heard everything! You asked her to come back to Spain! You were going to go back without me!"
"I . . . Miguel, that's all she wanted to hear. That we were letting her come back to Spain with us. That's the only reason . . . look," he insisted, a note of desperation in his voice, "She was only . . . with me because she wanted to make sure we didn't slip off to Spain without her. It was just business." He paused. "I never actually meant to go back to Spain without you, but after the fight . . . it seemed like you were happier that way."
There was such sadness in Tulio's voice that Miguel stopped shouting, but he was still not entirely convinced. "Than what was 'forget Miguel' all about?"
Tulio snorted softly. "What kind of lines do you use to get girls to sleep with you?"
"Lines? I don't . . ." he trailed off, no longer certain of what he was saying, trying to fit this new information into the confusion in his heart.
"Of course you don't," Tulio continued, no longer looking at Miguel, feet drawn up and arms encircling his knees as if he wanted to curl up into a tiny ball and bury himself like an armadillo. "You don't need lines. You just wave your golden hair around and twiddle on the mandolin and girls fall all over you. Some of us, however, need lines."
Miguel tried to say something, anything, but he could barely put together a thought. Everything he had thought, everything he had built his anger on was slowly crumbling away. Finally, he managed to ask the only question that mattered. "Why were you dating her, then?"
"Because you were ignoring me," Tulio snapped, his turn to sound bitter. "All you cared about was the beautiful city, the adventure and the worship and the . . . I don't know." He bit gently on his lower lip. "You couldn't stay still for five minutes. I . . . I felt ignored. I'm sorry, Miguel, but . . . when you . . ." he seemed to struggle with his words. "I mean, if you were going to ignore me, I needed something to do for three days," he finished lamely.
Miguel simply stared, open-mouthed. He was dating Chel . . . because I was ignoring him?
For the first time in a long time, Miguel focused his entire attention on his partner. Maybe it was the torn and rugged clothing, but Tulio seemed worn, his long limbs and thin figure making him look stretched-out and run down. There was an emptiness in his eyes that Miguel had never seen before and a red tint that suggested he was holding back tears. Tulio never cried, not in all the time Miguel had known him. He would rant or wail or moan, but he would never cry . . .
"Tulio . . ."
"Chel's leaving, alright? She got tired of me. I don't blame her. Just . . . please, don't talk like that, Miguel . . . don't talk about us as if you're going to leave, too."
Miguel felt a stab of pain in his chest. He had made assumptions and jumped to conclusions and because of that, he had hurt his partner. His partner. They were still partners, and always would be.
He wanted to throw his arms around Tulio, to shake him and apologize and promise to never do it again, but something stopped him. Instead, he scooted across the sand, closing the distance between them, and leaned back so that his head rested on Tulio's shoulder.
"Why would I leave?" he said softly, a hint of laugher in his tone. "You make my life rich, remember?"
Tilting his head back, he could just see Tulio's face slowly lighting up with happiness and relief. He felt, more than saw, his partner uncurl behind him to curl back around him, long arms snaking around his waist and scratchy unshaven cheek resting softly on top of his head.
A quiet laugh gently drifted down to him.
"And you, Miguel, make my life a constant adventure."
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