I thought I updated, but someone messaged me and apparently I didn't and left you guys hanging for some weeks... Oops? The past few weeks have been crap, but hopefully next week will be better and I'm dropping one of the second to last chapter here, and after we'll have our happy, fluffy epilogue. I'll save the sappy stuff for next update, so for now are is chapter 21!
Leave the comments, I love seeing them!
Mal's jacket was grey and knitted, like a cardigan, and it suited her purple hair beautifully. She was an interesting mix of colours against the orange and brown autumn leaves that littered the floor, but beautiful nonetheless.
She always is.
"Catch up, slowpoke." Mal said suddenly.
Ben looked up and realized she was already in the middle of the trees, looking back at him with a playful expression. He flushed and stuck his hands in his pockets as he jogged towards where she was standing.
"Este's really fascinated by the changing seasons." Mal said softly as she kicked a pile of dead leaves in front of her.
"Yeah. There… There aren't really seasons on the Isle. The barrier blocks it. It's always cloudy and dreary. It's beautiful here." Mal laughed when a leaf blew down and into her hair and she plucked it away.
Ben smiled sympathetically at her and she shrugged. "It's alright. We'll be staying in Auradon… Hopefully. You're not kicking us out or anything, are you?"
Ben took a deep breath. He figured he might as well say it? "Of course not, but-"
"There's a but?"
"Since you're staying, it'sgoingtobereallyhardformetokeepmyfeelingsincheck." he blurted.
Oh, he said it.
"What?" she asked, her voice so quiet, and hopeful, even. He took another breath and held out his hand for hers.
She accepted and his nervousness faded away.
"Since you're staying," he repeated slowly. "It's going to be really hard for me to keep my feelings in check."
"My feelings," he squeezed her hand. "For you."
There was a little gasp of wonder and Ben grinned, the revelation feeling light. He gently wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tight, holding her as close as possible.
His mouth hovered near her ear. "I can't hide it anymore, Mal. Especially after that kiss, which I would very much like to do again. But I… I love you, M. I wasn't expecting it, but I felt something, and I can't ignore that. Everytime I'm with you, all I can think about is kissing you. Making you laugh. Making you happy… Because that's what you deserve."
"Este is an added bonus. Both of you… You're my girls. If you'll have me, of course." he murmured and she was laughing or crying, maybe a little bit of both.
"I already know Este's answer," she whispered. "And I didn't want to admit it, but I love you, too. I don't know how it happened, or when, or why, for Gods' sake. You're the poster boy for goodness and I'm… Well, me." she swatted his arm when he shook his head and she smiled, a brilliant, beautiful, bright smile.
"But you saw past that. You saw me, the real me, and you cared for Este, even when you had no idea where she came from. You cared for me . And I love you. I really do."
"Say it again."
"I love you."
She was laughing. "I love you!"
"Can I kiss you now?"
She stopped laughing quickly. "Yes."
And so he did.
And after a while of tender kisses against a tree, they returned to the house with flushed cheeks and huge grins on their faces and their hands clasped around the other's tightly, as if letting go would make them float away.
Belle was sitting casually on the couch with a book in hand. Este was sleeping, curled up against her side, with Adam flicking through the television channels.
"I take whatever you two talked about worked out?" Belle asked with a knowing smile and Mal blushed.
"Yeah. It did."
They went on a first date.
Ben couldn't necessarily go out because of being king and all, and he knew Mal would prefer something private, so he personally prepared and packed a small picnic for lunch at the Enchanted Lake.
He even ventured as far as to get a purple checkered blanket for the picnic spread and he had packed it all into a basket.
Este had wailed when she found out she wasn't coming and Ben had promised her that next time, she could tag along with them.
"We'll go to one of the children's amusement parks, okay? And I'll buy you a big, purple cotton candy and go on the rides with you." he had said and she had reluctantly agreed.
Mal's heart had fluttered when Ben promised a next time.
She wanted there to be a lot of next times.
"Besides," Ben had said nonchalantly. "You don't wanna see mama and I kissing, do you?"
"Yuck! T'as gross!" Este shrieked and Mal had rolled her eyes, a flush on her cheeks. Akiho had gagged with a twinkle in his eye. "C'mon, Es, let's get out of here." he scooped up the giggling girl and they had waved good-bye.
Evie, of course, was the one to do her makeup and fix her hair before all that. "You know, M," she had said as she applied a light blush to Mal's cheeks. "I knew this would happen. You deserve someone like him. You and Es."
"But if he hurts you, the boys and I will not hesitate to bash his skull into place."
"Please don't do that."
Mal laughed, only a bit certain that they wouldn't actually do it.
Ben picked her up at the exact time he told her he would, and handed her two helmets. "We're going on my moped."
Mal laughed. "I've never been on one."
"There's a first time for everything." he had muttered, giving her a chaste kiss on her lips. He fit the helmet on her head, snapping the buckles together, and tapping her nose.
"Ben, her hair!"
"It's fine, E."
"Here, bring this brush." Evie exclaimed, shoving a small brush into Mal's bag. Ben chuckled and as they started walking outside, he looped his fingers through Mal's and squeezed.
She squeezed back.
"After you." he said softly as he helped her onto his moped. Her arms encircled his torso, and as they drove towards the Enchanted Forest, he smiled, feeling the shake of her shoulders when she laughed. The wind was blowing her hair absolutely everywhere.
When she stepped off, he had kissed her knuckles then her cheek and she was laughing.
It thrilled the both of them to know that they could be this happy and free.
Kiss and hold hands and not care that anyone's watching.
It thrilled the both of them to know that they were both in love with each other.
And that was enough for the two of them.