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Generated: Jul 23, 2019 1:20 PM
Post last updated: Jun 25, 2019 4:47 PM
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He was abstractly aware that King Beast was abdicating in favor of his teenage son, but he hadn't actually.... expected it to have any impact on his life. 

That's maybe a little overstating it but cmon, it wasn't like a new Auradonian king would change things on the Isle that much. They'd still eat Auradon's garbage and it would still be Queenie and Legion and Nat and Nico keeping him safe, not the royalty over in Auradon City who he'd never even see except on the sickeningly wholesome entertainment news channels. 

Except. Except. 

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The royal guard is regretting every single one of his life choices that brought him to this point.

"Excuse me," he says, "are you Sasha, uh, son of nobody?"

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The name is deliberately confrontational and he shouldn't be annoyed about how dubious this guy sounds about it. Still.

"The one and only." 

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"Okay. Um. Well. Could you point me to where your parents are? I have something I have to tell them."

Whyyyyyyy didn't he stay at hooooooome and farm cows, or steal cows, or slaughter cows, or otherwise engage in some sort of cow-based career. No, he was too good for cows. He wanted to see the world. He wanted to make something of himself. And now he's on an island full of villains trying to get a surly sixteen-year-old to explain who his parents are.

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"...I literally just confirmed for you that my name is 'son of nobody,' and you still want to know where my parents are because whatever it is you have to say is meant for them and not for me. Are you fucking kidding me." 

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"I just work here, okay? I wasn't the one who decided what the instructions were. King Ben was just like 'find the parents of these four people and tell them the thing so that they can break the news gently to their kids and veto it if they don't think it's in their kids' best interest.'"

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"Well, I haven't talked to my parents in four years and I have no clue where they are, so unless you feel like searching the whole island, you can tell it to me." 

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"I guess!"

He throws his hands up in the air. On one hand, he is supposed to obey the king completely and utterly and without question, and on the other hand the sooner he gets off Garbage Fucking Island the better. Some of the stuff on the street oozes.

This has been the worst day. 

"You have been selected as one of the four members of a pilot program to get the villain kids off the Isle. If you accept, you will live with an Auradonian family and attend school in Auradon. You have 24 hours to think about it, and you can have an extension upon request. I can answer any questions you have."

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What the fuck what the fuck what the fucking fuck. 

"Who are the other three, how are the families chosen, what kind of school — is it true that food just grows out of the ground in Auradon —" 

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"The other three are Claudine daughter of Frollo, Mackenzie daughter of Mother Gothel, and Carlos son of Cruella. The king chose the families personally. You will have a castleschool curriculum designed by one of the king's closest advisers and regular private tutoring. Where else would food grow?" 

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...so there are some considerations here. 

First of all, there's his gang, obviously. One fewer person means one fewer pair of eyes, one fewer pair of hands, one fewer brain. But he's tiny and far from their strongest member and honestly there's not much he can do that Nat and Nico can't, so it's not like he's leaving all that much slack to pick up. 

Second of all: Auradonian families aren't likely to treat a villain kid well, even if the king did hand-pick them. Oh, it'll help that nobody knows who the hell his parents are and wouldn't recognize the names if he did tell them, but it probably won't help that much. 

Third of all: homeschooling is what your parents do to you if they're the sort of people who lock you in a tower. 

But. There's going to be food, and light, and Auradon is clean, and probably people try to hurt you less there, although he's careful not to put too much weight on that. 

 

"So you're going to talk to Mother Gothel and Claude Frollo and expect them to do what's right for their kids instead of keeping them in towers forever? That'll go awesome," he says instead of any of that. 

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"I am not at liberty," he says uncomfortably, "to divulge how negotiations are going with other parents."

Horribly. They're going horribly. He almost wishes he'd be thrown into a dungeon about his failure but instead King Ben is going to make a sympathetic face and it's the worst.

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He looks at the guard's face. 

He looks in the direction of Mother Gothel's tower. 

"Try checking under Mackenzie's window, she drops letters sometimes. If they aren't written in purple they're a fake written by Gothel. And I'm in." 

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A look of relief crosses his face. "Good! That's-- good. Do you have any more questions?"

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It's kind of a long shot, but, "Can you tell me who the family I'll be staying with is?" 

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"Princess Charlotte La Bouff, daughter of Big Daddy La Bouff, and her husband Prince Ralph of Maldonia."

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....there has got to be a story behind that name and he is going to find out what it is. 

"Thank you. Is there any place in particular I should be so you can find me?" 

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He gives directions to a place with a good view of Auradon City.

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Thaaaaaat's pretty firmly in Mal's territory but if Carlos is one of the people being selected she'll know what's going on and probably it won't be a thing.

He elects not to explain this to the random Auradonian who wouldn't get it anyway and instead nods and agrees to be there. 

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Great! That was easy!

With any luck he will only have to put up with a small disappointed face.

The royal guard retreats back to Auradon City and takes an extremely long shower.

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He tells his gang. They aren't happy about it, but Queenie tells him to give Auradon hell for them and nobody voices any objections after that.

He eats a black banana and a piece of bread so hard you could use it as a projectile weapon for dinner and sleeps curled up against Nico and is in the place he was told to be the next day. 

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So are Claudine, Mackenzie, and Carlos!

The royal guard is in the driver's seat of a limousine. 

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Weird. 

He nods to the other three but doesn't say anything if they don't. 

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Frollo is saying something to Claudine in some language that isn't English. His voice is contemptuous. He makes hand gestures over her: a sharp line down, then a line across.

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Cruella De Vil is openly weeping, unsure how she could possibly survive without her Carlos to massage her feet and clean her windows and wash her furs.

"It'll be fine, mom--" Carlos says.

Cruella slaps him. "Don't you dare say I'll be fine without you! Useless boy."

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Gothel, too, is sobbing, imploring how Mackenzie could do this to her. 

(Mackenzie looks like she might cry too. She isn't doing it yet, though.) 

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He's so, so grateful his parents don't talk to him. 

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The royal guard wishes he had a different job.

"Okay, everybody, into the limo," he says. "We have a tight schedule today."

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Mackenzie looks intensely grateful to be pulled away. 

The limo is more than big enough for four people. And there's food — and Mackenzie grew up on stories of people who offer entire houses made of candy to lure in trusting children, but — it's bright and shiny and it smells like fruit that hasn't gone sour and she takes a handful before she can stop herself. 

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The candy is sweet.

(They have had black bananas, and rotten fruit, and sugarless gum, but food made from processed sugar never makes it to the Isle.)

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Oh. 

Oh it's sweet. It's — it tastes like what he imagines fruit might be supposed to taste like, or what gum that isn't marked SUGARLESS would be supposed to taste like, or — he doesn't know what but if this is common enough in Auradon that they just give it away —

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Carlos takes one look at the candy and immediately shoves as much of it as he can into his bag.

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Shoving as much candy as you can into your bag is the sin of gluttony.

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No, Carlos is right. 

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Carlos is definitely right. 

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"...Please don't fistfight each other over candy," the guard says, "I am going to have to explain this to King Ben, I promise you can all have as much candy as you want once we get to Auradon."

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Claudine guiltily reaches out to take a single piece.

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He is not at all sure he buys 'as much as you want' but he's happy not to get into any fistfights. 

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The wages of sin are delicious.

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They finish crossing the magic bridge created by the limo and arrive at Auradon City.

Auradon City is brightly colored and clean. Children laugh and play on the streets. No one seems to be fighting, or stealing, or even fucking. The shops are overflowing with food and clothes and electronics they've never seen outside the TV.

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The air in Auradon smells different. It's easier to breathe, here; the sunlight is so bright it's a little bit painful. 

(He's acutely aware of how different he and the other VKs look from everyone else in this city — Mackenzie with her hair, Carlos with his clothes, him and Claudine just generally dirtier and more ragged. How visible they are, to these people who they have no reason to trust. 

He stands near Carlos.) 

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They get to a building and the four are separated. Sasha is taken to a shower with hot water and soaps that smell lovely, and when he gets out his clothes have been replaced with a soft and brightly colored shirt and pants.

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The shower is lovely and he steps out feeling so so much better and soft and brightly colored are good but he is not a fan of having his things messed with. 

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He can object to the guard who has come to escort him to the next thing, if he wants.

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That sounds super pointless and likely to attract the kind of attention he doesn't want. He goes to the next thing quietly and compliantly. 

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The next thing is a table full of more food than he's ever seen in his life: meats and cheeses and fruits and vegetables and soups and breads and several entire feet of desserts.

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...maybe they weren't kidding when they said as much as you want. 

He tests the meat very very cautiously, then takes an entire plateful of food — the yellow things are sort of recognizable as bananas if he squints a little, he ignores them and loads up on dessert instead — stores away anything that looks like it'll travel. Maybe they were telling the truth when they said as much as you want but even so. 

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After he's had enough time to eat a second plate and a third, a guard escorts him to a room where a cheerful woman asks him a bunch of questions.

Can he recognize these letters? Read this sentence? This paragraph? This story? This more complicated story? A news article?

Can he recognize one-digit numbers? Two-digit numbers? Subtract? Divide? Work with fractions? Solve a basic algebra problem?

Does he know who the king is? Does he know when the unification happened? What does he know about the cultures of various countries?

What are some materials that make up the earth? What is the definition of a 'living thing'? How do you do science? What does this chart mean?

Is it wrong to give someone a poison apple in order to become the most beautiful? Wrong to cheat on a test? Wrong for a man to wear a skirt? Wrong to steal a drug in order to save your dying wife?

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There are words in the news article he doesn't recognize but he can at least try to sound them out; he has no idea how fractions work but can make a decent stab at algebra; the king is King Beast but it's about to be King Ben and the unification happened a few years before he was born and apparently China has a wall? What's up with that. The earth has iron and what used to be animals in it but that does not mean dirt is edible don't try it, a living thing is a thing that is neither dead nor inanimate, you do science by asking lots of annoying questions and writing down all the answers until people get tired of you, and he can describe the chart but doesn't see the point of it and why can't these people think of better excuses. 

He knows full well that they don't want his real answers to the questions about morality so he just answers them all with "yes, that's wrong." 

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He is escorted to another extremely cheerful lady! The extremely cheerful lady would like to provide some orientation about how Auradon works. If he hurts anybody or takes or damages their things without permission, he will go to jail, which is not nice. If he breaks other laws, he will get an explanation of why it is illegal. You buy things with money; this is how money is used. Charlotte La Bouff lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, which is here. He will have to get there by train; this is how you ride on a train. The major religion in New Orleans is Catholicism; even though they are handing out free bread and wine at the church he should not take it. Magic is illegal and he should not talk to voodoo witch doctors. The food in Louisiana is very spicy; this is how to obtain less spicy food. Louisiana separates black people from white people; he should not to talk to any black people unless Charlotte says it's okay. If he has any complaints about how he's being treated he can call the following number and they'll sort it out. 

Does he have any questions?

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.....why does New Orleans separate white people from black people? Do they also separate people with black hair from people with brown hair or blonde hair or orange hair or blue hair, or is it just skin they care about? Who is on the other end of that number and what does sort it out mean? How not-nice is not nice? Why do they hand out food if you aren't supposed to take it? Is there other food that looks free but isn't? 

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The people of Louisiana think that black people are prone to being stupid and evil and disgusting, so they don't want their children to be around them! It is very sad but we must recognize their quaint cultural folkways. They don't separate out hair color, that's ridiculous, and also people shouldn't have blue hair.

The person on the other end of that number was specially chosen by the king to handle problems related to the VKs! Depending on what the problem is, you might get something about Auradon explained to you, or someone else might get something about the Isle explained to them, or you might get a gift that helps fix your problem, or you might get transferred to a new host family, or someone might go to jail. 

When you are in jail you are alone for 23 hours a day so you have lots of time to think about what you've done wrong and how you can do better! You have access to improving literature no matter what and writing implements if you don't abuse the privilege. You will get three meals a day and all your health care taken care of, of course. You can spend one hour a day outside with the other inmates but your conversations will be monitored to make sure they will help you both become better people.

The Catholics believe that the bread and wine turn into the body and blood of Jesus, their god. (It doesn't look or taste like meat, and it isn't meat to a chemical inspection. It's only meat in a magical sense.) You're not allowed to eat the bread and wine unless you are Catholic because it desecrates them, just like normal people think murdering someone in a temple would be desecrating it.

Food in shops is not free, you have to pay for it. If someone has given you food, it is always free, and if there's a misunderstanding you can talk to Charlotte and you won't get in trouble as long as it is a sincere misunderstanding. 

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All of that kind of makes sense if he squints at it except for the bit about blue hair, why shouldn't people have blue hair, why is orange okay but not blue, is it just blue or are there other colors of hair people shouldn't have — 

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You should only have colors of hair that naturally appear on people's heads!

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Evie has naturally blue hair! Uma has naturally blue hair! Nico has naturally blue hair! People naturally have hair of all kinds of colors! 

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Colors of hair that naturally appear on human heads. Part-humans should dye their hair.

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Evie is all the way human and Mackenzie is all the way human but from the woman's tone this seems like a good place to decide he'll ask Charlotte about it when he meets her. 

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Then he will be guided to a train!

He is given a bag. It contains:

-His clothes, freshly laundered.
-Several other sets of soft and brightly colored clothes, in his size.
-Three fiction books: Robin Hood, The Amazing Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and the Fox and the Hound.
-Several textbooks: A Guide to Auradon Culture for Beginners, Elementary Math For Adults, Middle-Grade Social Studies For Adults, Elementary Science For Adults, Cinderella's Best Literature And Writing: An Anthology, Safety Rules for the Internet, and Remedial Goodness.
-A set of toiletries.
-A few bottles of water.
-What he might recognize from entertainment news as a fully charged smartphone.
-Two hundred dollars.

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He doesn't really watch entertainment news but he keeps the weird glass thing in a safe place; he's not sure how much you can buy with two hundred dollars but he keeps it tucked carefully away. 

The other VKs aren't on this train. He kind of wishes he'd gotten to see them again, less because they have much to say to one another and more because it just — feels wrong to leave without a word. 

He doesn't talk to anyone on the train. He reads. He isn't really sure how he feels about the fiction but the math book is much less interesting than the ones he'd found off the barges. 

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Instead of seats, the train has bunk beds, so he can sleep when he gets tired.

A trolley comes with food every three hours; two dollars gets him a snack, fifteen dollars gets him a meal, and he can also buy a hat that says I <3 New Orleans or a stuffed alligator. 

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He doesn't know how long this much food and money needs to last him; he'll try to sleep when he gets hungry. 

(It's the first time in he doesn't know how long that he's slept without having Nico and Nat and Legion and Queenie right there with him. He doesn't think he likes sleeping alone.) 

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And in the morning the train arrives at New Orleans, he disembarks, and he hears a voice with an accent very similar to Nat's calling "Sasha! Sasha son of nobody! Is there a Sasha son of nobody around here?"

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He turns and — 

— wow that is the most impractical dress he has ever seen in his life —

— walks toward her and says "yes, hello!" 

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"Hello, darling! You must be Sasha. I'm Charlotte and this is my dear husband Ralphie."

Charlotte is quite obviously middle-aged, in spite of her best attempts to cover it with a layer of thick makeup. Charlotte does not appear to have heard of the idea that your hair should be a natural color; the blonde she is is not a blonde that any full-blooded human has ever been. She has the curvy build of a woman who likes her meals, wide hips and thick thighs. Her breasts jut forward like the prow of a ship. Her features are still obviously quite pretty.

Ralphie is a decade younger than her and has a meek expression.

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...wow. 

Okay. 

"Yeah," he says, "I am. You must be Charlotte La Bouff?" 

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"Well, aren't you just a delicious little slice of peach cobbler! Isn't he, Ralphie?"

"Well, I--" 

"Of course he is. And we'll collect your things and take you to breakfast right away."

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He'll help with collecting his things as much as Charlotte lets him. 

"What's a peach cobbler?" 

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"Oh, buttercup, you are in for a treat. Isn't he in for a treat, Ralphie?"

"Darling, I--"

"Of course he is. We'll get Tiana to cater a dinner and he can have all the peach cobbler his heart desires."

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Poor Ralph. 

"I still don't know what that is." 

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"Well, it's a dessert, darling. Made of peaches."

"It's very good," Ralphie adds, taking advantage of a rare opportunity to complete a sentence around his wife. 

"Don't you have peaches on the Isle?"

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"Not really? Sometimes they get to us but usually they rot first. The pits are good projectile weapons, though." 

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"Oh, that's terrible, dear. I'm glad you had fun using it in games!"

(She and Ralphie escort Sasha to Yet Another Limo.)

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Sasha isn't at all sure he'd call them games and he's very sure that it wasn't fun but he's just not going to get into that. 

He gets into the limo. This one does not appear to have candy, which is a shame, but they're bringing him somewhere where there'll be food so it's fine. 

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Charlotte can entirely maintain her own conversation without anybody else's input.

Sasha learns about her opinions on his cheekbones ("exquisite"), his clothing ("not your color, dear, we're going to have to take you shopping"), princes (she approves), being a princess ("and I said to Ralphie, Ralphie, I have noblisse oblige to the common folk now that I am a member of the royalty, and I simply must do what that nice young Asher suggests and provide a home to the VKs--"), Asher son of Tiana ("well, I'm a married woman, but just because I can't order is no reason not to read the menu, that's what I've always said"), her age (in defiance of all logic, thirty-five), Tiana's cooking ("we'll fatten you up, darling") and a particular complicated social drama featuring zero names that Sasha recognizes (it includes the phrase "bless her heart" an excessive amount; from context this appears to be a synonym for "fuck off"). 

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Charlotte is... a lot. He takes careful mental notes on the proper use of "bless her heart" and wonders what Asher is like and nods along when she suggests shopping and does his best to follow the drama but is slightly hampered by having zero context and watches the city out the window until they get to breakfast and out of the car. 

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And Charlotte will chatter their way to the La Bouff mansion (this is, apparently, what mansions look like when they aren't rundown and decrepit) and to the dining room which, like a surprisingly high percentage of Auradon so far, is covered with food. 

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...yeah, he thinks he's going to like this place. It looks like what mansions are trying to be, large and brightly lit and full of things that look like if he touched them they'd be soft. 

Food!!! He hadn't eaten since before he got on the train; he eats an objectively ridiculous amount now, keeps a careful eye on what's being done with the food to see if he needs to store any away. 

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Charlotte is eating a large but more sensible amount; Ralphie is eating less.

"Well, aren't you hungry! Didn't they feed you on the train? I can't ever eat on the train myself, it's terrible for my digestion, isn't it, Ralphie?"

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"There was food you could buy and I brought food from the orientation but I wasn't sure how long I had to make what I had last so I slept instead. It wasn't a big deal or anything." 

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"Oh honey! That sounds awful! Did you think we weren't going to feed you?"

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He can feel himself shrinking. 

"I just wasn't sure. It really wasn't a big deal, I've gone with less for longer." 

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"Well, bless his heart, but I am going to give that King Ben a piece of my mind! I am a meek and demure woman but sometimes I am driven to speak up, isn't that right Ralphie, and this is a situation where I feel the need to make my voice heard!"

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"— No, the first thing King Ben did was get me off the isle, you don't need to give him a piece of your anything." 

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"Well, I still think he should have explained very clearly that we would not make you pay for your own food."

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"They gave me plenty of food and more than enough money to cover food for the train ride, I could have asked, and King Ben did the best thing anyone has ever done for me and I would rather he not get yelled at for it." 

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"Well, you're just a sweetheart. Of course I won't yell at King Ben. --And this is too much conflict for early in the morning, I say! What do you think of Tiana's man-catching beignets?"

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It is well past sunrise, but he's not going to argue about whether it's early or not. 

"Is that what these are? Everything is really good." 

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"I caught my Ralphie with them. Of course none of us have to catch a man now, but either way they're delicious!"

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Ralph doesn't seem like someone who would have been particularly hard to catch. He's just... not going to say anything about that. 

"Did you have to before?" 

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"Oh, yes, darling. It was my dream ever since I was a little girl to marry a prince, and I thought it would never happen. I was going to marry Prince Naveen but then he fell in love with my best friend Tiana and I had to wait and wait and wait for my Ralphie to be old enough to marry me. We were a bit of a May/December romance, weren't we, Ralphie. --Now don't you worry about a thing, Sasha, we'll take you to lots of balls and parties so you can meet the princess of your dreams without quite so much waiting."

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"...I can't say I've ever thought about marrying a princess?" 

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"Well, of course not, honeycomb, you were on the Isle, they don't have any princesses on the Isle. Uncivilized place."

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"There are princesses on the Isle. Evie's a princess. What's a honeycomb?" 

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"A honeycomb is something that's sweet, just like you! --Well, I suppose if you want to marry an ordinary woman, I can arrange balls and parties for that too." She sounds more suspicious of this idea.

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"...honestly marrying a woman just sounds like a really weird thing for me to do? Why would I do that." 

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"Sugar pie, you can't decide that you want to be a confirmed bachelor at the age of sixteen! There are so many advantages of getting married, isn't that right, Ralphie?"

Ralphie doesn't look up from his newspaper.

"There's social status, companionship, children, and of course"-- she blushes-- "the marital bed."

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Blink. Blink. 

".........is there some reason I have to get married to have sex, or —?" 

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"Why, of course, dear, you can't engage in marital relations before you get married, everyone knows that. --I suppose Prince Naveen had a few indiscretions but he also turned into a frog and nearly send all of New Orleans to the Other Side to be eternally tortured so I can't say I think much of his decisions, however well they worked out in the end."

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"Why can't I have sex before I get married, that's bizarre — and I'm pretty sure whatever sex Naveen had didn't have anything to do with the frog and the almost getting New Orleans sent to the Other Side, or was Nat leaving a whole lot out when she told us about her dad —" 

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"I'm not sure that marital relations are an appropriate conversation topic for the breakfast table," Charlotte says sharply. "Ralphie will discuss things with you man-to-man once breakfast has concluded."

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He's shrunk backward against his chair before he realizes what he's doing. 

"Okay," very small. "I'm sorry." 

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"It's all right. I'm sure it's an adjustment coming from the Isle!"

For the rest of breakfast Charlotte will discuss clothes and all the lovely outfits she intends to dress Sasha in. 

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He will just listen, and maybe ask why Auradonians don't think people should have blue hair if there's a natural opening, but it doesn't seem likely that there'll be one. 

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After breakfast, Charlotte will take him aside and say, "Now. Marital relations."

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"First of all why are they called that." 

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"Because you only do them when you're married!"

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"...observably, people do not only do them when they're married. You just said Naveen had sex when he wasn't married." And I know I'm not married, he doesn't say, because that just sounds like a really pointless thing to bring up. 

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"Prince Naveen has four illegitimate children and was disowned by his family because they were tired of paying off the mothers. And then he was looking for money and fell into the clutches of a voodoo witch doctor and turned into a frog and all of New Orleans was almost sucked into the Other Side."

Her tone implies that this is the ordinary outcome of premarital sex.

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"Nico doesn't have any kids, and neither does Nat or Legion or Queenie or Mal or Uma or Gil or — and none of their families have disowned them although in some cases it might be better if they had — and nothing bad has happened to any of them except having to live on the Isle which they would have had to do anyway. And nothing has been sucked into the Other Side, or into anything else," unless you count Sasha's mouth but holy fuck is he not saying that out loud. 

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"--My goodness, you have a lot of marital relations before marriage on the Isle! Well, I suppose you are villainous, it is to be expected, but-- here, darling, you don't have marital relations unless you are married, although of course we make allowances for a little eagerness before the wedding day, first babies are always a little premature is what I've always said."

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They sure do. He nods like this instruction makes sense and like he is intending on following it, even though it doesn't and he isn't. 

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"How do you manage to avoid having babies?"

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"I don't know about here but on the Isle pretty much kids don't happen unless you're actively trying for them, that's how much sex you have to be having to have a kid. And even then a lot of the time not." 

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"I wonder if they did some magic to make having babies harder. That seems reasonable, the Isle is a terrible place and you certainly wouldn't want a child to be raised by villains by accident."

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...that seems pretty unlikely. 

He shrugs. "Maybe." 

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"Do you have any more questions or do you want to save them all for your man talk with Ralphie?"

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"What is a man talk and why am I having one of those as opposed to a normal talk." 

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"Oh, you know, it's when men talk to each other about manly things like marital relations. I don't know at all what you would talk about, I am just a silly little woman, after all."

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".............okay." 

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"Well, if you don't have any questions, I'll just let the two of you get on with it."

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"I.... don't." 

He has several dozen questions but is pretty sure he isn't going to get helpful answers. 

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When Charlotte takes him to Ralphie, Ralphie looks profoundly uncomfortable. 

"Don't have sex before you get married," he says, "and if you do have sex use a condom or get a contraceptive spell."

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"If I have sex with a girl I will use either a condom or a contraceptive spell," he agrees, and decides to look up what the hell a condom is later rather than asking Ralphie about it. 

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"That's good," Ralphie says. "I'll, uh, show you your room?"

Sasha's room has a bed and a walk-in closet and a vanity and a desk with a computer.  

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"It's beautiful. Thank you." 

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"Lunch is at noon," Ralph says. "I'll leave you to unpack and get settled in, then?"

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"Sounds good!" 

The room still looks kind of bare after he's done unpacking, but he has a room all to himself and it has windows and a desk and maybe he can have books. He flops on the bed until lunchtime, and this time he knows not to try and ask Charlotte questions. 

The bed is big and soft and excellent and he still can't sleep alone; he keeps reaching out for Nat or Nico and not finding them and waking up and then remembering where he is and wondering how they are and whether they're eating and whether they're okay and then struggling to get back to sleep. There continues to be plenty of food; Sasha doesn't stop storing away parts for later, just in case. 

Computers are weird. He figures out how to use it, slowly. Safety Rules for the Internet contains lots of very obvious advice about not giving personal information to strangers in chatrooms (as if he'd trust someone that quickly anyway) and almost nothing about how the hell you find what you're looking for, but it's better than nothing. Auradon in general is weird. Apparently people who look like men don't wear skirts here, and when they do they wear very flamboyant almost villain-kid-ish makeup and lots of shiny things and use women's names. 

Charlotte takes him shopping for new clothes and he can't stop staring at how big everything is, how bright and soft and clean and colorful, how much of everything — most of the people he knows only have one real set of clothes, and when he and Charlotte are done he has more soft whole undamaged fabric in his arms than he thought he'd ever see. (Sasha doesn't ask for skirts, even if they would look pretty when he twirled in them, which he's very sure they would.) 

He eats. He eats more than he had ever imagined he would be able to. Auradon might be bizarre and lonely, but it's colorful and bright and soft and there's enough to eat and nobody tries to stab him or punch him or steal from him, and so he's pretty happy with it. 

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Sasha is taken to a doctor, who takes his height and weight and tests his vision and listens to his heart and draws his blood and makes him pee in a cup. The doctor gives him some pills called "antibiotics" and "antiparasitics" he's supposed to take every day for a few weeks, and some other pills called "vitamins" he's supposed to take every day until the doctor says it's all right to stop. The antiparasitics make him throw up.

Sasha has private tutoring sessions on video chat, two a day, in math and science and social studies and literature. The math tutor assures him that they're just covering what he missed and he should move on to middle-grade math very soon; the literature tutor loves him. 

Charlotte lunches with her friends (all white) and brings Sasha along for them to coo over, shops with Sasha, takes him on promenades along the streets of New Orleans, and invites him to charity events and balls and plays. (If he goes, he'll notice that everyone at the charity events and the balls and the plays is white; even the black characters in the plays are played by white people wearing makeup.)

Ralph appears solely interested in the subject of angling, about which he speaks with great enthusiasm and multiple sentences; he's out on the ocean most afternoons.

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He takes the antiparasitics even though they make him throw up. He has strong opinions about literature and less strong opinions about math and even less strong opinions about science; this science doesn't seem like it involves asking annoying questions until everyone gets tired of you but maybe that'll come at a later level. 

He does not talk to Ralph about angling. 

The actors thing is just fucking weird — why would you bother with makeup if you could just get an actor with the skin color you wanted anyway and save yourself the effort — but the internet doesn't give him a real answer and he's learning not to ask too many questions. Charlotte's friends coo over him and he really isn't sure what to do with that but smiling prettily and thanking them and maybe blushing a little bit seems to work fine. 

It's honestly kind of creepy how white Charlotte's friends are; he wonders sometimes how they'd see Nico or Legion, then does his best to put the thought out of his mind. Missing them won't bring them here. 

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And on Friday it's time for Remedial Goodness class!

Unlike the other classes, it's two hours long; Sasha doesn't have any other tutoring sessions scheduled for that day. Also unlike the other classes, Claudine and Carlos and Mackenzie are also skyping in.  

"Hello everybody," says the cheerful lady on the screen. "I'm Fairy Godmother, and I'll be your teacher for Remedial Goodness class this year. The class will primarily be discussion-focused; I'll put situations on the board and we'll talk about what you should do and why, to build your moral reasoning. I expect to be able to give all of you an A. Your placement tests suggest that several of you seem to have an advanced understanding of goodness already, in spite of your... background."

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Did answering every question with "yes that's wrong".... work. 

He's sort of curious which of the others also thought of that trick but obviously he's not going to ask. He nods seriously and pretends not to notice the way Mackenzie shifts uncomfortably. 

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"I thought today we'd start with a fun icebreaker game, and then we'll have everyone ask any questions they have about Auradon! Let's go around the circle and say our names, the weirdest thing we've ever eaten, our heroes, and our favorite toys to play with as a child. I'll start. I'm Fairy Godmother, the weirdest thing I've ever eaten is a snail, my hero is King Beast, and I was never a child!"

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"My name's Claudine daughter of Frollo," Claudine says, "the weirdest thing I've ever eaten is my own blood, my hero is St. Marie of Oignies, and giving children toys to play with leads to the sins of sloth and frivolity."

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"My name is Carlos DeVil son of Cruella DeVil," Carlos says, "the weirdest thing I've ever eaten is probably that mold that made me hallucinate, my hero is my mom, and I liked playing with the broom that we used to sweep the floor."

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"My name is Mackenzie Gothel daughter of Mother Gothel," Mackenzie says, "the weirdest thing I've ever eaten was... probably my own hair? My hero is also my mom, and my favorite thing as a child was hearing my mom read to me." 

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"My name is Sasha son of no one," he says, a little uncomfortably aware that this boils down to 'Sasha and also fuck off,' "and the weirdest thing I've ever eaten was," poisoned bread, "a plastic salamander, my hero is Queenie Hearts, and my favorite toy as a child was a stuffed rabbit with one eye and no arms." 

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Fairy Godmother looked increasingly unhappy after the first two answers and perked up with Mackenzie's and Sasha's answers. 

"Well! And now it's time for our icebreaker game. We're going to pretend that we're about to be stranded on a deserted island. We'll each choose something that represents ourselves that we might want to bring to the island. For example, if you love animals, you might want to bring a dog--"

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Carlos whimpers.

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Fairy Godmother ignores him. "--Or if you like music, you might bring an iPod, or if you're a foodie, you might bring sirloin steaks. Be creative! Then we're going to talk about how you could work together to use all the things you brought to escape from the island!"

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"If I were going to be stranded on a desert island I would bring a boat." 

There is maybe some subtext here. Just a little. 

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Yeah. Just a little. 

"If Mackenzie's bringing a boat then I would bring lots of food to the island." 

There might, possibly, be subtext here too. 

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"Is that because you like sailing, Mackenzie? And Sasha, you like food! You're lucky you're in New Orleans, it has such a unique regional cuisine."

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"...no," she says, as if Fairy Godmother is very young or an idiot or a very young idiot, "it's because I know I'm about to be stranded on a desert island, and I would really prefer to instead be somewhere that is not an island, and you get to places that are not islands with boats." 

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"Well," she says, "that's not precisely the point of the exercise, but I guess we're all getting to know that Mackenzie is very practical! --Claudine, Carlos, what would you bring?"

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"I would bring my rosary," Claudine says, "so I can pray for my salvation."

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"That's very good!" Fairy Godmother says encouragingly. "You're telling all of us that your religion is very important to you."

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Claudine also thinks that Fairy Godmother is very young, or an idiot, or a very young idiot, but she has been taught not to question authority.

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"I would bring my engineering kit," Carlos says, "so I could build something that might help us radio for help, or make a fire, or help with any other problems we might encounter."

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"You like engineering, Carlos?"

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"I... guess?" he says, in the uncertain tones of a person who has never had a preference before.

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"...I think I like food a pretty normal amount? Does anyone want to be stranded on a desert island with nothing to eat?" 

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"You were supposed to choose something that reflects who you are as a person!"

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"...why would you bring something that reflects who you are as a person to a desert island if you could bring food or water or a boat." 

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"Carlos and Claudine understood the exercise. --Well, I guess you have food and a boat, so we know how you escape the deserted island without having to discuss it, so we might as well move on to the next portion. Does anyone have any questions about Auradon?"

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Asking questions is curiosity and curiosity is a sin.

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Carlos always has questions, and he has also learned that ever asking a question gets your ass beat.

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Asking questions always gets the answer 'you should stay in the tower where I put you.' She doesn't do it. 

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"Is it true that you aren't supposed to have blue hair or was the person at the orientation making things up?" 

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"People should only have hair colors that are natural hair colors for people of their ethnicity. That's why I dye my hair brown!"

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Mackenzie touches the colorful half of her hair self-consciously. 

"But it just... grows this way." 

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"And Evie's hair is naturally blue, and so is Nico's." 

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"You probably have some distant nonhuman ancestry that causes your hair not to be a normal color!"

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"I guess," and her voice is very very small. 

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Fairy Godmother doesn't stop smiling. "Does anybody else have any questions?"

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If she had any questions before she isn't going to ask them now. 

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She looks around expectantly for a while and then says, "I guess we can end early! I'll be around for the next hour and a half in case you have any questions you want to ask me privately. Please read the first fifteen pages of your textbook for next week."

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Yeah, he's not gonna stick around. 

He totally intends to read the first fifteen pages of the Remedial Goodness textbook, it is for sure a thing he's going to do, succeeding at these classes is important, and then he gets caught up in the fiction he was reading and does not read the first fifteen pages of the Remedial Goodness textbook. 

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The next time Charlotte takes him shopping, she gives him a hundred dollars and tells him to go wander around the shops looking for something interesting, she has to purchase feminine articles of an intimate nature. 

There's a bookstore. 

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First of all, what the fuck is a feminine article of an intimate nature, and second of all why are Auradonians incapable of just saying underwear if that's what they mean. 

He goes into the bookstore, because where else would he go. 

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The bookstore has a really nice fiction section, and a lot of nonfiction, and also a cordoned-off section with a sign that says "18 And Over Only" and a button to press to get a clerk to check your ID.

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...there's nobody looking. He can totally just step over the rope and take a look, who's going to stop him? 

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The 18-and-over section has three subsections, cryptically labeled "M/M," "M/F," and "F/F", and each section appears further subdivided into "Fiction," "Nonfiction," and "Magazines."

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...weird.

He tries the F/F magazines first. 

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The F/F magazines proclaim themselves to be fitness magazines! There is about half a page of fitness routine, a statement that these women are supposed to inspire you to become fit and follow the fitness routine, and forty pages of extremely skinny large-breasted naked women. Occasionally one of the women is near some gym equipment or doing something that a charitable observer could call a bridge, even though bridges are more normally depicted without the closeup of the vulva.

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.............weird. 

Okay, then, what is M/M. 

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The M/M magazines also proclaim themselves to be fitness magazines! The extremely muscular naked men that make up 90% of this magazine are perhaps more likely to inspire you to do the weightlifting routines that make up the other 10% than are the skinny large-breasted women in the other section. It is unclear why all the men are smiling at you and making sex eyes. Probably it makes it more inspirational.

One of the magazines declares itself to be a Body Positive Fitness Magazine. It consists of a similar number of naked men, except instead of being muscular they're all chubby. 

Another magazine somewhat implausibly declares itself to be a fitness magazine, given that the men involved are so thin they probably haven't lifted anything heavy in their entire lives.

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— oh. Suddenly he understands the appeal of the things in the F/F section. It's weird how the body positive fitness magazine has objectively the prettiest people in it, while the one with people who are, while very pretty despite their skinniness, still much too skinny, goes unmarked, but hey, that's Auradonians for you. 

He takes the body positive magazine and takes a look at the M/M books. 

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Representative fiction titles include:

-"Gay Vet: Charlie was scared at first, but then Don persuaded him..."
-"Hellbent in Leather: A new adult novel about the torments and temptations of abnormal desire."
-"Keep on Sucking: A probing look at sodomites and the acts that satisfy their perverse hungers!"
-"A Load of Seamen: It gets lonely aboard ship..."
-"The Man From C. A. M. P.: Little did she know that the handsome blonde superspy was not pleased by her womanly charms..."

Representative nonfiction titles include:

-"Men Into Beasts: Inmates forced to practice abnormal acts with sex deviates who roam the prisons at will!"
-"Adam and Adam: A daring and authentic look into the inverted world of all-male paradise, documented with extensive case histories."
-"Sexual Perversion in the Inverted Male: A scientific exploration of the practices of sexual inversion. Fully illustrated."
-"Confessions of A Sex Addict: The degradation of anonymous sex and the tragedy of sex addiction, revealed for the first time in all its details."
-"Corruption of the Innocent: A shocking expose. No teenager is safe!"

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Sasha takes Adam and Adam, Corruption Of The Innocent, Keep On Sucking, and the body positive magazine, and leaves the 18+ section to find a fantasy novel that he can show Charlotte when she asks what he found. 

He stays up all night reading, because of course he does. 

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Keep on Sucking's protagonist spends 300 pages giving blowjobs to a variety of different men with sketchily described personalities and lovingly described penises. Sometimes the blowjobs are in public; sometimes he is not permitted to finish unless he can come purely from how turned on he is by sucking cock; sometimes he uses a gloryhole; sometimes he is tied up and blindfolded so he can't know who is using his mouth. On page 301 he meets his true love, realizes that blowjobs are empty compared to the beauty of heterosexual romance, and gets married. The book ends on page 305.

Corruption of the Innocent warns about all the threats facing your teenagers, such as extremely handsome men who want to fuck their asses and bring them to a height of ecstasy they have never before experienced, extremely handsome men who want to hold them down and rape them until their bodies betray them and they start enjoying it, extremely handsome men who want to hold them down and rape them and they don't ever start enjoying it and it's painful the whole time, extremely handsome men tricking naive boys into sex which they don't know is sex and causing them to be so horny they can't think straight, extremely handsome men slipping boys aphrodisiacs which cause them to be unable to control themselves and fuck random strangers because of their desperate craving for cock, and "rainbow parties" in which a dozen teenage boys give an extremely handsome man blowjobs while wearing lipstick and the marks make a rainbow.

Adam and Adam provides many case studies of inverts, all of whom are for some reason good-looking and muscular. The text belabors this point. Some inverts are raped and are so perverted that they enjoy it. Other inverts enjoy being fucked by twenty men in a single night. Still other inverts enjoy being tied up and beaten. Some inverts take other inverts as slaves and force them to obey their every whim. Still other inverts enjoy being humiliated. Some inverts crossdress and pretend to be women and pass so well that no one would notice and trick innocent men into marrying them (this one is not muscular, but slight and feminine, although the husband in question is as good-looking and muscular as everyone else). 

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Rainbow parties are a hot idea but blowjobs do not work like that, getting fucked by twenty people in one night sounds difficult to arrange but more power to you, he enjoys the first 300 pages of Keep On Sucking but the last five kinda ruin the whole experience even though he knows he doesn't have to read them, and aphrodisiacs causing him to lose control of himself is going to be part of his fantasies for a while now. 

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Sasha's Remedial Goodness textbook looks at him accusingly from the nightstand.

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He's going to read it. He's totally going to read it. He's getting up and getting it right now and then he's going to read it and when he's done he's going to reread the best parts of Corrupting the Innocent. 

He does not get up and get it. It continues to look at him accusingly from the nightstand. Fuck. 

On the upside, once he stops reading it only takes him three minutes to fall asleep. 

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That's okay, it can keep looking at him accusingly in the morning!

It's a very accusing-looking book.

At least only the preface is by Fairy Godmother, the rest of the chapters seem to be by some anonymous person.

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Sasha puts the textbook on the bed next to him to read later and than gets caught up in tracking down a specific poem mentioned in a book but not quoted in it, and doesn't read it.

He goes down to lunch and comes back up and sits down and totally intends to read it and does not do that. It sits accusingly next to him. At one point he tries to curl up in bed and hits it and moves it out of the way to read later and it falls off the bed and he tells himself he's going to get it in a minute, he's just going to close his eyes for a bit first, and then he falls asleep and doesn't read it. 

By the time the next Remedial Goodness rolls around, he still hasn't read it. 

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Fairy Godmother does not appear to address the topics discussed in the Remedial Goodness textbook!

Instead, she's written on the board:

"Should you:

A. Think about your day when the other person is talking about his or her day?
B. Throw yourself into listening about the other person's day?"

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Carlos raises his hand. "You should listen to the other person so you can tell whether they're mad and they might hit you."

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"That's... one reason to listen to other people, Carlos."

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Mackenzie raises her hand. 

"You should listen to the other person because they're probably the one with the more interesting day anyway, if they're telling you about it." 

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"What a good answer, Mackenzie! Can anybody think of a reason to listen to other people that isn't about you?"

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"It pleases God?"

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"They might say something that'll come up later and then you'll be glad you knew it instead of finding out the hard way?" 

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"That's still about you, Sasha. Can anyone think of a reason that's about the other person?"

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"How is 'the other person had a more interesting day anyway' not about the other person." 

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"Well, that's about a benefit you're getting, by learning about the other person's day. What about a benefit they're getting?"

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"If they had something important to tell you, you wouldn't get distracted and forget?"

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"Very good, Carlos. You're a star!"

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"You underestimate my ability to get distracted and forget things." 

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"It's bad to get distracted and forget things, Sasha. It makes people feel like you're not listening and you don't care about them."

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"...I don't do it on purpose. I'm just bad at concentrating and my memory is weird." 

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"Well, you should just try to concentrate harder!"

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Are you fucking kidding me. 

He does not say that out loud, because of course he doesn't. 

"Thanks." 

Permalink Eye

Well, then, Fairy Godmother will move on to the next question!

"If you're looking for a friend, should you:

A. Find people with your values?
B. Do little immoral things so you won't be a drag on friendships?"

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"You should make friends with anyone you can make friends with and then do whatever you have to to keep those friendships." 

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Carlos is nodding enthusiastically.

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"No, you should make sure that you're only friends with good people!"

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"On the Isle there aren't any good people around and you still gotta eat and not get punched." 

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"That was very sad, but now you're in Auradon."

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"I didn't have any friends on the Isle because there weren't any good people to be friends with."

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"See? You should be more like Claudine."

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Literally nobody should be more like Claudine, including Claudine. 

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The takeaway from this lesson is that everything Fairy Godmother says can be written off as bullshit. Probably they weren't intending to teach him that but whatever. 

He misses Nat and he misses Nico and he wishes he could hug Carlos but like, it's whatever. He spends time with Charlotte and her friends, although he suspects the novelty of his existence might start to wear off soon; he goes to her parties and balls and charity events and other big fancy parties with assorted names he remembers maybe a third of. 

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You know what's boring?

Parties are boring.

He sneaks out into the backyard and climbs a tree.

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Parties are sometimes interesting, but everyone is done telling Charlotte about how they think he's charming after having heard him speak zero (0) times and the only people left who want to talk to him want to talk to him like he's a three year old and Charlotte is wrapped up in her friends and he doesn't see anyone else his age here and long story short how about instead he goes outside. 

There's someone up a tree. A black someone, which is already interesting at a party as white as this one. "Hi," he says, and is careful not to be too audibly enthusiastic about it. 

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The black someone flips around so he's hanging by his legs upside down off the branch. 

"Haven't seen you around before."

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"I'm new in town." 

He could mention Charlotte. He doesn't. He doesn't especially want this person thinking of him as the villain kid instead of just as a person. "What's your name?" 

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"Very nice of you to ask about the names of the help. Bet that lets you sleep well at night."

It's flippant. 

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"— oh, and here I was wondering whether this was a more interesting party than they usually are. Nah, I just think calling you 'the guy in the tree' is going to get annoying for both of us fast." 

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He jumps out of the tree and it looks like he's about to land flat on his face when at the very last second he twists and he's standing on his feet.

"Well, now I'm not in the tree."

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Holy shit. 

"That's true!" he says, openly appreciative. 

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"You sure you should be talking to me? Could be against the rules around here. I've heard all sorts of bad things about black men in Louisiana."

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"You're kind of obviously the most interesting person here. I think I'll take my chances."

And gorgeous, don't forget gorgeous. 

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"That's me. Interesting person, can take you to interesting parties."

Maybe he should get a little bit into Sasha's personal space.

(He's six feet tall and he could probably pick Sasha up with one hand.)

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"Maybe I should take you up on that offer some time." 

He really could, couldn't he. Sasha doesn't disguise the way his eyes follow the guy's arms and shoulders. 

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"Maybe," he suggests, "you should take me up on that offer right now."

He doesn't appear to notice Sasha looking at him.

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He pauses. Glances back at where he knows Charlotte is. 

"— She won't notice. Sure." 

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"Girlfriend?" he says casually. "Wife?"

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"Oh, fuck no. Just someone I'm staying with while I'm here." 

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He starts walking away from the party.

"Not interested in finding your one true love?"

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"If I've even got a one true love she's sure as hell not it." And he's still deeply skeptical of the whole idea, but that seems like not the kind of thing you say. 

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"Eh. Best not to rush into it."

His hand brushes against Sasha's hand. 

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Gosh. Maybe they should be holding hands. 

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A puzzled expression flashes across his face; he glances around, checking for someone who might see.

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And then he smiles, squeezes Sasha's hand, doesn't comment.

"What are you up to in New Orleans other than boring parties?"

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"Reading a lot, eating a lot. The person I'm staying with is sweet, I just would not want to be her husband, I don't know that he's finished more than two sentences since I met him." 

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"Well, if he's happy."

Asher appears to be directing them towards an alleyway.

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Alleyways are not an awesome place to be if a fight breaks out but it'd be pretty weird for the guy to fight him. He follows. 

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The guy doesn't seem very combative. He leans against a wall of the alleyway in a friendly fashion. 

"So you're here, staying with someone sweet, not a lot to do but read and eat, and it's all terribly boring and sometimes you want to break a few rules?"

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"Got it in one." 

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He shifts closer to Sasha, traces a line up his arm and shoulder and neck with one finger. "I can help with that."

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He looks down the guy's body and smiles. "I'm sure," he says, lets his eyelashes flutter just a little. 

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Maybe they should be kissing up against the alley wall instead.

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Maybe they should be. 

Sasha's done quite a lot of kissing, but being pressed up against a wall by someone who could throw him hasn't lost its thrill. 

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Asher's hands start working at the buttons of his pants. 

He kisses Sasha's cheek, says "you've done this before," and kisses him again.

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"I have," he agrees, moves his hips so the guy can open his pants more easily, puts one hand on the guy's waistband in turn, more a question than an attempt. 

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"And here I thought I was going to have to seduce you," he says, and moves Sasha's hand to the button of his pants.

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He'll open them, then. "Now why would you have thought that." 

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He lazily rolls his hips against Sasha's while they kiss. "I saw the party you came from! I made assumptions!"

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Mmm, that's nice, Sasha will do that too. 

"Maybe I'm just very easily seduced — ah — by the wicked wiles of gorgeous men —" 

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"You kiss like you know what you're doing," he says, "you weren't surprised when I kissed you, I didn't have to go all 'we can stop if you want to but do you really want to'--"

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"You kiss very silly people," he says, and kisses him. "You made it pretty obvious — and why on earth would I want to —" 

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Kiss. "Well, it's wrong," kiss, "and sick," kiss, "and perverted," kiss, "and you should save it for your one true love," kiss and he drops to his knees before Sasha and takes Sasha's dick into his mouth.

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He opens his mouth to say 'Well, I'm wrong and sick and perverted and don't believe in a one true love,' and then instead he tilts his head back and moans. 

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The guy has a lot of practice giving blowjobs in alleyways. 

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It's excellent. 

He puts his hand in the guy's hair and bites his own arm to keep quiet and whimpers around it and lets his hips rock. 

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He pulls off, says 'fuck my face,' and then gets back to work.

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Sasha can do that. 

He can also pull Asher's hair. 

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What an excellent choice of person to fuck his face in the alleyway.

He makes such good life choices. 

He moans around Sasha's dick.

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Oh, fuck — he wraps his fingers around the guy's hair and pulls sharper, fucks his mouth harder, bites down so he doesn't make too much noise. 

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Asher takes that as a cue to keep moaning, gazes up at Sasha, does a little bit of a show.

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Oh fuck that's gorgeous. 

He pulls hard on the guy's hair when he finishes. 

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Asher stands up, brushes himself off. Smiles. Angles his body in a 'you can leave now if you want I don't mind' sort of way.

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He's so gorgeous, though. And Sasha hasn't had a cock in his mouth since he left the island, and maybe he should fix that. 

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Asher has been outside of New Orleans; he hasn't gotten a really competent blowjob in months either.

Maybe he should fix that too.

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Good that they're in agreement. 

Sasha's had quite a lot of practice sucking cock, and Asher's cock is lovely. 

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"Good boy," he says, "good little cocksucker."

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He moans around the dick in his mouth and doesn't stop, holds tight to Asher's thighs. 

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Then he's going to continue the stream of praise-- "beautiful little mouth, you look so good on your knees before me, you like sucking cock, don't you, you like my dick"-- until he finishes.

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He does like sucking cock, he does like his dick, the praise is so so good he doesn't know why he likes it so much but he does, and when the guy finishes in his mouth he swallows and then smiles up at him. 

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"You gonna stick around?"

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"Depends. What'll happen if I say yes?" 

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"Dunno. Doesn't happen much. It's a bit weird to have the guy stick around after he finishes."

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"You've got such a good dick though, why would I not take that chance — I should probably be getting back pretty soon, but thank you." 

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"Cool," he says. "See you."

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"See you!" he says, and turns and goes. 

Slipping back into the party isn't difficult. 

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Asher figures he's done enough party for today and heads back to the restaurant to see if anybody needs some help cooking.

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And Sasha goes home with Charlotte at the end of the night and doesn't mention that anything happened. Not that it's difficult not to mention things, around Charlotte. 

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In the morning Charlotte is very excited.

"My very best friend Princess Tiana's coming for lunch! And so is her son, Prince Asher! He's just your age!"

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"It'll be great to meet them!" he says, and means it. Seriously, how has he gone this long without meeting anyone his own age except maybe the guy from the party. 

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"Asher's so excited to meet you! He's the reason you're not on the Isle anymore, you know."

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"I'm excited to meet him too!" 

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"He's King Ben's childhood best friend! --Here he is now."

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He turns and looks and — 

— oh, this might be awkward.

He smiles cheerfully. 

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He tilts his head and raises his eyebrows and waves. "Hi, I'm Asher son of Tiana."

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He tilts his head and raises his eyebrows and smiles. "Hi! I'm Sasha. Son of no one." 

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"I like the name."

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"Thank you! I picked it out myself." 

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"Me too."

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"Well, hello, darlings," Charlotte says. "I'm glad to see the two of you getting along so well already. I'm sure the two of you will be the best of friends, isn't that right, Ralphie?"

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"We got along very well."

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"I'm sure we're going to be excellent friends." 

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"I will no doubt take a great deal of pleasure in his company."

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"And I'm sure I will take a great deal of pleasure in his." 

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"He certainly does have a way with his tongue."

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"Really? I find I can't get two words out of him strung together."

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"I talk just fine when I have something to say." 

He's still smiling at Asher. 

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"So sad I'll be out of town soon. We have so little time to get to know each other thoroughly. From the inside out."

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"We'll just have to make the most of the time we have, won't we." 

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"What a wonderful life philosophy. Is Tiana outside? I'll go talk to her."

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Tiana is in fact outside! 

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"I should show you my room," Sasha says to Asher. 

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"What, not hungry for lunch?"

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"I'm sure you know how Charlotte gets, we have time." 

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"Sounds like fun."

Asher is pretty unclear about whether, once they get to Sasha's room, he's going to be kissed or yelled at for implying he's a member of the help.

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Kissed, obviously, why on earth would he start a fight on purpose with someone who it's that obvious could throw him. 

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Mm. That works. 

Beds are nice. For example, it's fun to throw people on them.

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It's also very fun to be thrown on them. 

Asher should come over here and kiss him. 

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What a good idea.

"Tempted to ask how much of the Islander porn is accurate."

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"Wouldn't know, I haven't found any. I can confirm or deny specific rumors if you tell me what they are, though." 

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"Mm. You're all gay, there are a bunch of men in dresses, you're all part of sex gangs, you get taken as slaves by more powerful villains but mysteriously all your slave duties involve having consensual kinky sex with attractive people of your preferred gender..."

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"Not literally everyone is gay but just about everyone has had sex with their own gender a time or six — I'm not actually into girls but I've slept with Nat and Legion and Queenie — I was surprised to find out that skirts aren't for men here. The gangs aren't just for sex but sex definitely does happen in them. I have never heard of or encountered that last thing." 

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"Skirts are not for men! Well, except at certain parties."

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"That's so weird, though! The fabric does not care!" 

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"In Auradon, if you wear a skirt it means you're trying to communicate to people that you're a girl, which people do for reasons other than being girls but it's mostly disapproved of."

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"Why does it communicate that!" 

Maybe he should be in Asher's lap right now. How about that. 

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"I dunno. Maybe because it's not very practical for riding horses? But it could be anything, really, there's no reason that the color pink communicates that you're a girl but it does. As long as it's important for people to know what other people's genitals look like and they think it's rude to ask, they'll figure out ways to communicate it indirectly, and they can be kind of arbitrary, like, uh, the fact that the sounds 'arbitrary' mean that."

Sasha should be in his lap. 

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Being in Asher's lap is very warm and Sasha likes it a lot. "What genitals you have and whether you're a girl are barely even correlated, though. — not that that isn't a weird thing for strangers to want to know anyway but it isn't even the right question." 

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"--Is that how that works on the Isle."

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"...I so do not buy that you don't have girls with dicks or boys without them in Auradon." 

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"Well, there are drag queens and crossdressers and butches, and some of them live as the other gender or take hormones."

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"So you do you just don't.... call them girls or call them boys respectively? that's weird but I guess it's not weirder than deciding me having sex with you would be worse and more perverted than me having sex with Nat was." 

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"No, you call a crossdresser a girl, that's polite, she's just not a genetic girl."

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"Auradonians are so weird," he says affectionately, and kisses Asher. 

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Mm. Kissing is nice. 

Perhaps they should have fewer clothes.

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Definitely they should have fewer clothes. 

He can't keep his hands off Asher, isn't really trying. 

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Asher returns the favor!

"You're very beautiful."

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"Liar," he says, still affectionate, and kisses Asher's neck. 

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"I'm not lying," he says, and runs his hand down Sasha's back, "you're gorgeous."

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Ah, that's nice. 

"No, you're gorgeous, I'm a fish skeleton." 

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"In Auradon you're considered extremely pretty. Surely you've heard Charlotte's friends making comments."

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"Charlotte's friends are not really the sort of person I expect to be sincere about things, and the first comment Charlotte made was about how I shouldn't worry, they'd fatten me up." 

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"Well, at any rate, I like the way you look." He runs his hand along Sasha's side.

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"Ah — you're sweet." 

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Perhaps Asher should show Sasha exactly how sweet he can be.

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What a good plan. Asher has such good plans. 

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Afterward he says, "I'll look you up next time I'm in town?"

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"Sounds good," Sasha says, and kisses him one more time before they go downstairs for lunch. 

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"You didn't comment on how I am Ben's best friend and definitely implied I was the help."

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"Saying things that sound kind of like starting shit is just a terrible idea, on account of how you are Ben's best friend and could throw me out of a window. Also why would I have done that when I could kiss you instead, that'd be real stupid of me." 

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"Is that how VKs think about things?"

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"The window thing yes, the kissing thing only some of us." 

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"I'm so disappointed that some VKs are immune to my charms."

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"Well, the VK who's in the room with you certainly isn't, so." 

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Mm. That sounds like a statement that should get Sasha pulled on his lap and kissed.

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Sasha wholeheartedly agrees. 

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Consider: they don't have to go downstairs for lunch. They can just stay right up here.

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That's true. And if they get hungry, it's not like Sasha doesn't have food stockpiled right up here with them.

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"I think," he says after a while, "Ben would want me to ask how you're adjusting to Auradon."

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He puts his head on Asher's shoulder and doesn't move out of his lap. 

"There's so much food here. I miss my old gang a lot and not knowing anyone is hard and most of the people Charlotte knows don't really want to talk to me and there are still a lot of really confusing things and Fairy Godmother is a fucking idiot, but there's food and it's amazing and literature class is fun and there are books and I don't have to even think about avoiding fights and probably at some point I'll find people who aren't so....." 

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"I'm sorry most people are very so and Fairy Godmother is a fucking idiot, we wouldn't have done Remedial Goodness class except that we had to to get you guys over here at all. Any confusing things I can help with?"

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"Basically anything and everything about either sex or gender? The rule I've figured out is 'just don't mention it ever, and don't wear skirts' but it would be nice to know anything else." 

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"You're not supposed to fuck anybody except your one true love because sex is a special magical thing. Men and women have different roles in most countries in Auradon but what their roles are are different in different places."

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"What are their roles here, and also what is up with the thing where Charlotte talks about being demure and submissive even though she is blatantly the opposite of that." 

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"Oh, white women are supposed to be demure and submissive, but if you claim to be following the rules there's a certain amount of leeway for... not. Nobody follows all the rules, you just have to give lip service to them."

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"Weird. — speaking of weird literally nobody has been willing to give me a straight answer about the race thing, obviously I'm not dumb enough to ask people here but the person at orientation went off on a tangent about how you shouldn't have blue hair and the internet was spectacularly unhelpful —" 

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"Black people in Louisiana used to be slaves. When the English conquered Louisiana, they made the white people set us free, but white people still aren't fond of us."

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...he buries his face in Asher's shoulder.

"Thank you." 

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"For what?"

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"A lot of things, but the thing I meant was telling me." 

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"You have my number, you can call with questions."

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"So I do." Asher's shoulders are really very excellent. 

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Sasha's chest is excellent. What were they talking about?

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Couldn't have been anything too important. 

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Weeks pass!

Asher leaves. He does not, in fact, leave Sasha any way to contact him.

Classes expect Sasha to do about three hours of homework for each hour of class time. Four of the five teachers care. Fairy Godmother assigns reading at the end of every class but never comments on anything that's in it and doesn't collect the exercises.

Charlotte's friends get used to Sasha and coo over him less. There are people his own age at parties; conversations get silent when he joins and he hears laughter when he leaves. 

Charlotte teaches him to use the trolley. (The black people sit in the back.) She gives him a few hundred dollars whenever he asks for it.

There's so much food in Auradon.

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He stops trying to join conversations, hangs out at the outskirts of them when there isn't anything else to do and goes outside to climb trees when he can do that. It's not the same without anyone else there egging him on but he's not picky, it's fine, Auradon is objectively so much better than the Isle, theres color and light and food oh god so much food and — 

— and he is not actually capable of three hours of homework for every one hour of classes and he can see his tutors getting more and more frustrated with him, and Asher didn't leave a way to contact him and he can't talk to Nico or Nat or Legion or even Queenie who never had much to say and Charlotte still won't let him get a word in edgewise or even really listen to what he's saying and he's kind of getting used to sleeping alone but that's still a kind of — at least in Remedial Goodness there are people, people who know the Isle and don't think he's stupid and are having the same problems he is, but they can't talk there not really and it's not — 

He uses the trolley to get to bookstores and libraries and sits as close to the back as they'll let him. He doesn't think anyone will understand the gesture and honestly that's a good thing but it's still important to make one. 

 

He doesn't miss it. He doesn't, he doesn't, he doesn't, if he misses it they might send him back.

But he wishes his gang were here. 

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One afternoon Ralphie leaves the newspaper open to a very interesting advertisement. It says:

New Orleans' newest, finest, and best run bathhouse!

Four floors!

Open 24 hours a day 7 days a week!

Relax at our wood-paneled sauna! Brace yourself with a cold plunge! Pamper yourself with massages and more! Enjoy our fine selection of play equipment!

Priced for all budgets.

It is illustrated with a very muscular naked man.

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...Auradonians are so fucking weird. 

Yeah, okay, he'll check out this bathhouse. 

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Kaleva has been having a bad day.

Bad month.

Bad more-than-a-year, really, bad time-since-Chen-started-glowing-at-Ben-and-stopped-glowing-at-Kaleva.

He is acutely aware that this is why Chen chose Ben. If Chen had impossibly chosen Kaleva, Ben would be happy for them. He definitely wouldn't daydream about Kaleva dying of a long and painful illness through which Ben was supportive and through his loving self-sacrifice and devotion Chen realizes that actually he loved Ben all along and now he smiles at Ben and never never at Kaleva.

That is because Ben is good. Kaleva is not good. He is bitter and jealous and petty and his perversion doesn't even make the top ten list of reasons Chen doesn't love him.

He spends hours in the library. But it's hard to focus. He keeps getting distracted thinking about how much he hated Ben, and how despicable he is for hating Ben, and how much he wants Chen inside him, and how even if impossibly Chen decided to love him instead Chen would never want any of the sick things Kaleva wants more than anything in the world.

He used to help Ben with economics. But helping Ben involves seeing Ben, knowing how happy he is with what Kaleva can never have. So he stops giving advice and eventually Ben stops asking.

Kaleva sleeps a lot. Sometimes when he's asleep Chen holds him, and he's read the books now, he knows exactly what he wants, and it's warm and intimate and so so good, and when he wakes up he's cold and alone.

He returns to the book about the bathhouses of New Orleans. It's easy to get fucked, if you're a sodomite. And he doesn't want that, he doesn't, he wants Chen, but maybe if he closes his eyes and pretends it'll be the closest he'll ever get outside of dreams.

He books a ticket to New Orleans.

 

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The bathhouse, from the outside, looks... pretty normal, insofar as normal really exists anymore. It's a building. He's spent enough time in New Orleans now that he knows that it isn't, like, an overtly weird building. 

There's no indication of what he's pretty sure, from that advertisement, is going to be inside. But hey, even if it is just a building for taking baths, that's still super weird and he kind of wants to check it out. Probably. (Probably they don't know enough about him here to laugh at him when he leaves. Probably he won't look like an easy target here. Probably.)

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Kaleva goes to the bathhouse three days in a row. Tries to talk himself into going inside. Fails.

 

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And then on day four he sees the most beautiful boy in the world and stares.

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Sasha has gotten very, very good at knowing when he's being stared at. He turns. 

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The most beautiful boy in the world is looking at him. He should probably have some form of emotion about this.

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That is.... not "you're the weird villain kid nobody likes" staring. 

"Hey," he says, as casual as he can. 

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He should say something. Something witty. Something clever. Something that will impress the most beautiful boy in the world with his intelligence and charm.

Everything he could possibly say is incredibly stupid.

He thunks his head into a wall.

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....oh no. He's cute. 

"Want to go in?" he says. 

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He can totally make his mouth form words. That is a capacity he has.

"Mmmrmph," he says.

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Thaaaaaaaaat might be a problem but whatever he can figure it out later. Being looked at and liked is very very good. 

He takes the guy's wrist and tugs. "Come on." 

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He goes along where he's tugged.

"...You're so pretty."

Sentences! He's good at sentences.

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"You're so pretty." In? In. 

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The clerk glances at both of them. "Thirty bucks for you"-- he gestures at Kaleva-- "free for you"-- he gestures at Sasha.

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The most beautiful boy in the world just called him pretty. He is not capable of thinking about things like paying.

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If it takes him more than a couple seconds to respond Sasha will elbow him in the side. 

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What? Okay. Money. He can exchange money for goods and services. Yes. He is so competent at things.

(He doesn't even feel bad about having to pay when the most beautiful boy in the world doesn't. Obviously the most beautiful boy in the world should never have to pay for anything.)

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And then they're in, and the very pretty boy is still looking at him like that, and it's warm and a little bit sparkly and Sasha isn't sure what it is but he likes it a lot. 

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There's a little sitting area before you get into the bathhouse proper, and men are sitting and talking and cuddling, and--

That is a video of a man fucking another man. Like, that guy's dick is going inside of another man's ass and they're both very obviously enjoying it and it's just playing on a TV screen and no one is paying attention or even really noticing and he is embarrassed and shocked and more turned on than he's ever been in his life. 

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It certainly is a video of a man fucking another man. Sasha sits down and pulls the boy down with him and murmurs "you should cuddle me." 

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!!!!!!!!

The most beautiful boy in the world is touching him!!!!!!!!!!!

Kaleva's brain has entirely stopped functioning, which is good, because mostly what it's been doing for the past year is making him miserable. But Kaleva's body has opinions which are that the most beautiful boy in the world should be clutched as close to him as possible.

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— oh. ❤️

Being held is really nice. And the boy is soft. Sasha makes a soft happy noise into his skin and lets himself be clutched. 

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The most beautiful boy in the world made a noise and it is literally the most important thing that has ever happened.

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"You're so pretty," he says, halfway slurred together from the way his face is smooshed into the boy's shoulder. "And soft. Soft is important." 

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Kaleva's brain would have some problems with this statement but Kaleva's brain is completely out of commission right now. Kaleva's body is of the opinion that hearing someone say nice things about him feels really good, especially when they are also beautiful and touching him, and things that feel good should happen more.

He whimpers.

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And he makes nice sounds. Going to a bathhouse to be cuddled was not really the point but this was an excellent idea nonetheless. 

Sasha shifts in the boy's lap, presses a kiss to the side of his neck. 

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Kaleva gasps. That feels-- amazing-- better than anything he has ever felt in his entire life-- it's too much and he wants more--

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Sasha can just keep doing that, then, kissing the boy's neck and shoulders between telling him that he's soft and pretty and makes pretty sounds and he should keep holding Sasha. 

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It's so so much, it's too much, it feels so good, he should tell the boy to stop but he doesn't want to, he doesn't want it to ever end, he can hear moaning that sounds like it's from very far away and then everything whites out--

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Did he just come from being —

Sasha kisses him on the cheek and leans against him and whispers "Beautiful." 

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He feels so warm and good and happy and at peace, it feels like he's floating, he doesn't ever want to move again--

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3128

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Kaleva has a profoundly stupid expression on his face. For once in his life he's too blissed out to care.

Eventually he recovers the use of the English language enough to say, "you're so good."

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He's so, so cute. 

Sasha pets his hair and kisses his cheek and whispers "Beautiful" again, puts his head on the boy's shoulder. 

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He could argue but why would he when he has a lap full of the most beautiful boy in the world.

"Come back to my hotel with me?"

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He does want to try out the water at some point but that point doesn't have to be now. "Sure," he says, and kisses the boy again, and then gets up from his lap. 

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Oh no the boy isn't in his lap anymore this is the worst thing that is ever happened.

Maybe Kaleva can hold his hand.

"...My name's Kaleva."

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They can definitely be holding hands. "Pretty name," he says. "I'm Sasha."

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Kaleva has decided that Sasha is his favorite name.

"I've never done this before. With anyone. So I'm sorry if I'm--"

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"You're cute," he says, and squeezes Kaleva's hand. "You'll learn." 

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Gosh, if they sit on the trolley Kaleva can put his head on Sasha's shoulder.

"Maybe you can teach me."

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"I'm sure I can," he says, and puts a hand on Kaleva's head. 

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He makes a little whimpery noise.

"You're the most beautiful person I've ever seen."

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"You're very sweet," he says, soft. 

 

(Seriously, what is with Auradonians.) 

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The trolley ride to his hotel is objectively short but it feels like the longest ten minutes of his life.

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Once they're in Kaleva's hotel room, there's a bed that they can be kissing on. 

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Kaleva is not a very good kisser but he is so so enthusiastic and he keeps moaning into Sasha's mouth.

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Sasha can move Kaleva's head to where it's supposed to go, can lead; he usually doesn't but he can. And the moaning is really nice. 

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He tugs on Sasha's shirt. "I want to see you."

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Sasha can take his shirt off. 

"And I want to see you." 

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He shrinks back a bit. "I'm not--"

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"You're so pretty — before you told me your name I was thinking of you as 'the pretty boy' — whatever I see I'm going to like it —" 

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"Really?"

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"Really." 

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Kaleva pulls off his shirt and pants and underwear. He's pasty and hairy and he has a bit of a belly and his dick is sticking out in a profoundly stupid-looking way and Sasha is going to know, to know how much he likes him, and it's terrifying and vulnerable and really really hot.

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Oh he's so soft. Sasha kisses him, kisses down his neck and down his chest and presses kisses into his torso, makes soft appreciative sounds into Kaleva's skin. 

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"Oh, you like me."

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"I meant it when I said you were pretty," he says, lays his head on Kaleva's stomach and looks up at him. 

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--oh. that's so nice. Being wanted feels like electricity dancing on his skin.

Kaleva reaches down and pets Sasha's hair.

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He makes another happy sound at the hairpetting, presses up into Kaleva's hand. 

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Someone making happy noises about him touching them is really incredibly hot.

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Being cuddled and having his hair pet are. Good. 

There is a dick right there, by Sasha's face. Maybe he should do something about that. 

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Mmmm. Those are good sounds. 

Sasha moans, just a little, around Kaleva's dick, looks up at him through his eyelashes. 

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He is not going to finish right away. He is not going to finish right away. That would be extremely embarrassing to have happen twice.

Whoops.

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He swallows and puts his head on Kaleva's stomach again. "So cute." 

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"I wanna touch you," he says. "I want you inside me--"

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"You can touch me," he says, comes up to kiss Kaleva's face so they'll be able to reach one another better. 

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His touch is so gentle and light, like he's afraid of hurting Sasha.

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Oh. 

That's — it's completely different from everything he's ever had before. He thinks he likes it. 

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Kaleva kisses him and puts one hand in his hair and keeps touching him like he's something precious and fragile that might break.

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His breath is hitching and shaky and he wants more wants this to never stop — 

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"You're so beautiful," he says, "I want you, I'm going to take care of you, you're going to be mine."

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He shouldn't trust that, he knows. 

But he's been so lonely here, and it's so easy to just nod and push his head against Kaleva and — let himself go. 

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"So beautiful," he says, "so good for me-- I want to make you feel good, I want to watch you fall apart--"

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He moans and — runs his teeth across Kaleva's shoulder, more of a question than an attempt — 

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Kaleva hisses.

If Sasha wants to hurt him he wants to be hurt.

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It's not wanting to hurt him, so much as — letting himself bite down, letting himself latch onto Kaleva. 

His eyes are closed. If you could see his face it would be so so peaceful. 

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He's hurting to make Sasha happy and that's-- really good, a different kind of good than before, a kind he can think through, it is right and correct that his shoulder can feel like it's on fire and give Sasha that look of peace.

"You're so beautiful," he says, "you look even more beautiful right now than when I first saw you-- how is that possible--"

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A quiet little "ng" sound. 

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 He strokes Sasha's cheek, so soft, so gentle. "I want to keep you like this forever."

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A tiny whimper. He moves his cheek against Kaleva's hand in a way that it would not be incorrect to describe as a nuzzle. 

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He kisses Sasha's forehead. "You can be mine and I'll take care of you. But first show me how to let you finish."

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He takes Kaleva's hand and wraps it around his dick, lets his hips move. 

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"Oh," he breathes, and looks at Sasha with an expression that's almost worshipful.

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He bites down harder when he comes and then goes loose and relaxed in Kaleva's arms. 

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Lev cradles him. "Do you need anything?"

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"Just you holding me." He's so cuddly. 

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"Stay with me tonight?"

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"Of course." He reaches up and clumsily puts a hand in Kaleva's hair. 

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He laughs. "Stay with me tomorrow night?"

 

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"Or maybe tomorrow night you could stay with me." 

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"Sure! Do you live around here?"

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"I live in New Orleans for the foreseeable future." 

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"I-- live in Auradon City for now but I don't have to live in any particular place."

(It hurts a bit to say it.)

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"Well, you can stay with me tomorrow night, assuming you don't mind that I don't live alone." 

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"Parents?"

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"...no, but something roughly analogous." 

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"I'm lucky, I haven't talked to my dad in more than two years."

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"And I haven't talked to either of my parents in four, which makes everyone make weird faces but honestly I think I'm better off." 

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"Same. --I'm, uh, a remittance man."

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"I don't know what that is." 

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"My dad's a duke. He pays me a frankly absurd amount of money to stay out of Weselton"-- he pronounces it 'Wess-uhl-ton'-- "and not dispute the succession and not have any kids."

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Auradonians are so fucking weird. 

"Good that you don't have to talk to him, anyway." 

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"I don't have to talk to him! Or really do much of anything!"

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"Good." 

Maybe they should be squished closer together. 

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What a good plan.

"You're so pretty. --I'm sorry. Am I saying that too much?"

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He ducks his head. "I'm going to look like a fish skeleton no matter how many times you say it, but you arent saying it too much." 

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"What? You're perfect! Why do you think you're a fish skeleton?"

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"...because... I... am? You can see my ribcage? This is just true actually?" 

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"Yes. And it's really really hot. --Not that it wouldn't be hot if I couldn't," he adds, "you would be really hot either way, I just. You're so thin."

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He's just.... not going to talk about why that is. Nobody really wants to hear it. And cute boys who think it's hot for some reason definitely don't. 

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Kaleva nuzzles him.

(He's hard again.) 

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Being held is nice. Sasha's a fan. 

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Maybe they can fall asleep cuddling.

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Maybe they can. 

(He knows, objectively, that it hasn't been that long since he left the Isle, since the last time he got to fall asleep being held. Still.) 

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Kaleva has never actually fallen asleep holding someone and has discovered that it is kind of hot and sticky and makes his foot fall asleep.

But he gets to hold Sasha and gently stroke his hair while Sasha's asleep and peaceful and that makes up for everything.

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He kisses Kaleva when he wakes up. 

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Gosh!

"Want to order room service?"

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"Sure! I have never actually had room service before." 

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The menu features: pastries! bananas foster! pancakes! fruit! smoked salmon! many kinds of egg! shrimp! grits! steak! oatmeal! cereal! yogurt with granola! hash browns! sausage! biscuits! bacon! fries! muffins! bagel with cream cheese!

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Fries and fruit and pastries and a chocolate muffin and probably at some point he should try Auradonian bananas but he doesn't really want to right now. 

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And Kaleva will get more fruit and an enormous stack of pancakes. 

"Fruit is so good," he says. "I didn't have a strawberry until I was fourteen."

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"Fruit is so good." When it isn't rotten. 

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"Weselton is really far up north, we didn't really have most fruit. --We had berries, though, I used to go in the woods with a book and pick lingonberries."

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"We got fruit, it just," was rotting, "kinda sucked." 

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Sasha looks uncomfortable. He doesn't ask. 

"At least we have fruit now."

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"Yeah," very soft. He puts his head on Kaleva's shoulder, just for a moment, and then sits up again to eat. 

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He tries to think of a topic that won't make Sasha look uncomfortable. 

"What kinds of things do you like to do?"

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"I like reading, I like climbing trees. What do you like?" 

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"Reading. Mostly social science."

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"What parts of social science?" 

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"All of it. --But that's boring, you don't really want to hear about that, tell me about the stuff you like."

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"If I thought it was boring I wouldn't be asking!" 

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"--Uh, well, most recently I was thinking about mice. So adults are more mature than teenagers, right? But is that because teenagers' brains aren't developed yet, or because we simply don't have that much experience? And in theory you could study adult mice versus humans of the same age and figure it out. But that might not work because mice experience subjective time at a different rate than humans do."

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"Or you could find places where teenagers are self sufficient earlier, and compare teenagers from those places to teenagers in Auradon City, which presumably wouldn't have the subjective time issue." 

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"How would that help?"

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"If they aren't staying with their parents as long then they would have more experience dealing with practical situations like feeding themselves earlier? Unless by experience you literally just mean 'amount of time spent in the world,' in which case it wouldn't." 

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"Ooh, that's a good point. There's sheer number of experiences but there's also quality of experiences." He bounces. "Someone should do a study on that one right away, a lot of the medieval countries are developing."

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Saying 'or there's the Isle' would mark him as a villain kid immediately. He doesn't do that. "Yeah. Shame I don't know anyone." 

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Kaleva puts that away in his file of Sasha Facts alongside the fact that he didn't eat fruit. Maybe he's Arendellian?

"It's really terrible that we can't talk to sapient animals, you could do so much comparative psychology to try to figure out what is the way it is because we're human and what is the way it is because we're sapient."

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"I've heard rumors that some of them can write, but the internet is, uh." 

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Bounce bounce. "They totally can but there's a selection bias-- do you know what selection bias is--"

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"Not really but it sounds like the thing where if you ask a bunch of people a question you only get the answers of the ones who feel like answering?" 

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"Yeah! Well, in this case, most mice don't learn to write, so the ones that do are really weird-- they're richer, they're smarter, they tend to be more interested in humans-- and all of that could affect your data."

He's just sort of continuously bouncing.

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"That makes sense — maybe if you could talk a mouse who could write into running the study? But they'd only get the humans who were interested in talking to a mouse —" 

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Flop. "Coauthors are a thing! --You're so good. You should kiss me."

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Sasha has been called a lot of things, but 'good' is very seldom one of them. He kisses Kaleva. 

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Oooooh, naked Sasha. Naked kisses. He is thoroughly distracted.

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He's pretty thoroughly distracted too. 

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He bites Sasha's shoulder and says, "it's so good, I didn't know it would be so good."

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He would respond to that in words, but you see, Lev is biting his shoulder. 

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Lev kisses the place he bit and says, "I never masturbated-- I don't know if sodomites usually do but I don't-- so this is all so new--"

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"— wait, what?" 

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"Well, I didn't know it was a thing until I did some research," Kaleva says, and kisses Sasha, "and then the research said it caused weakness of the brain, which I definitely don't want--"

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Fucking Auradonians. He kisses Kaleva. 

"It does not do that and also I'm confused about why you needed research." 

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"How do you know it doesn't? --Well, it wouldn't have occurred to me to touch my genitals, that's gross."

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"— well, the first answer is 'because that would be fucking stupid,' but I can try for a real one — and why would that be gross?" 

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"It's just kind of a gross body part."

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"I..... guess? If you're inclined to thinking about body parts as gross?" 

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"I usually think about my whole body as gross!"

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Sasha pulls him forward and hugs him. 

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Kaleva pets his hair. "You're so good. --Even if it didn't cause weakness of the brain it is kind of-- hot?-- to think about not being able to feel like that unless you want me to."

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"That is hot," he says, and kisses Kaleva's cheek. "Might have some problems attached when you go back to Auradon City, though." 

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"I don't have to go back."

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".....I mean, not that I want you to leave immediately or anything, but I'm assuming you have, like, a life there." 

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"Not... really? Mostly I just sleep for twelve hours a day and spend the other twelve hours a day in the library, which I'm pretty sure I could do anywhere."

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He hums and pets Kaleva's back. 

"Well, I can't promise you a place to stay indefinitely, but you can stay with me for a while at least." 

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Sasha might want him to stay!!!!!

"I can get a hotel. I guess if I were going to stay for a while eventually I'd have to think about an apartment."

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"Indefinitely is a long time, though. Maybe we should just be thinking about the next few weeks." 

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"I don't want to bother the people you're staying with and I have kind of a lot of money."

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"I'm honestly pretty sure Charlotte wouldn't even notice, she is a deeply oblivious person." 

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"--Wait. Are you saying you want me to stay with you?"

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"Is that not what 'you can stay with me' implied?" 

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"You could have been trying to be nice!"

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— right. Yes. Auradon. He needs to stop forgetting they do that here. 

"I don't make offers I don't mean just to be nice." 

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"You are very good." Kiss. "We should probably go back to your place." He kisses Sasha and puts his hands in Sasha's hair and tugs experimentally.

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He probably should respond to the suggestion but instead he melts into Kaleva's chest and purrs. 

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He kisses down Sasha's chest and his stomach and his thighs, murmurs praise into his skin.

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He keeps making small little "ah" sounds, lets himself tremble — the praise feels so warm — 

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He reaches Sasha's dick and kisses the tip and says, "can you tell me what to do?"

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He puts a hand in Kaleva's hair and says "You can start with licking." 

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He does!

It's so nice. Kaleva feels useful and wanted; the hand on his head makes him feel like Sasha is saying that he belongs to Sasha.

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That's so nice. He enjoys it for a few minutes, then takes Kaleva's head and moves it and says "suck." 

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Things Kaleva does not figure out from this instruction include "you are supposed to fold your lips over your teeth" and "you are supposed to move your mouth."

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"— Not with teeth." 

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He folds his lips clumsily over his teeth and tries licking and sucking at the same time.

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He takes Kaleva's head and moves it again, murmurs "there — a little harder — not that hard —" 

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He can't ask "am I good? am I doing good?" because his mouth is full.

He moans and hopes the message is conveyed.

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"Mmm, there you go, do that again —" 

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It's so good-- he's rubbing his hips against the sheets and moaning-- Sasha is inside him, they're so close together, it's so intimate--

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And — he'd liked it when Asher did this to him, maybe this is just what they do in Auradon — "good boy, such a good boy, you like that, don't you?" 

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Kaleva's brain has completely stopped working. The blowjob is enthusiastic but the rhythm is erratic; he's moaning nonstop and his hips are grinding against the bed and it's all so good and he can't think--

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That's fine, he can move Kaleva's head the way he wants it, he keeps up the murmured stream of praise — 

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What does he think about Kaleva coming from sucking his dick.

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Oh fuck that's so hot and — he's coming too, as much from the sounds Kaleva makes around him as from — 

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Kaleva can taste him and-- the taste is bad, honestly, but it came from Sasha and he's going to swallow it and digest it and then have that bit of Sasha inside him forever, or at least for seven years until all the material in his cells has replaced itself-- and even though he just came that is incredibly hot.

He puts his head on Sasha's shoulder and wraps his fingers around Sasha's and says, "you're mine."

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"Mmm," very soft, and he squeezes Kaleva's hand and curls a hand around the side of his head. "You've got me." 

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"Yeah. I've got you."

They should probably go to Sasha's place but snuggles.

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Yes. Snuggles. 

It takes him maybe twenty minutes to start to peel himself from Kaleva and get up off the bed and find his clothes. 

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"This is terrible," Kaleva says from the bed. "You're not cuddling me."

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"Get your stuff together and put clothes on, and then we can go to my place and I can cuddle you again." 

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"Fiiiiiiiine," he complains.

(His stuff is a laptop and a few changes of clothes and a suitcase packed to the brim with books.)

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Cute. 

The trolley ride to Charlotte's house isn't long, and then there's Charlotte's house, which has stopped seeming impossible but is still objectively pretty ridiculous. 

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Kaleva doesn't know who Charlotte is and has no particular reaction to this!

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Up to Sasha's room, then. 

He hasn't had much time to acquire things; to Kaleva's eyes it'll still look bare. (His Remedial Goodness textbook states at him accusingly from the desk.) 

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Kaleva sees the Remedial Goodness textbook and looks surprised--

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And then he smiles.

"What do you think of the Remedial Goodness textbook?"

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Oh fuck. 

"I haven't actually read it," he says. He's maybe shrinking a little bit. 

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"Oh, no, it's fine, it's just. --I wrote it."

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"...oh." 

He unshrinks and sits down on the bed. 

"I keep meaning to read it, I just — keep winding up not. And the classes are, well." 

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Kaleva holds him. "--I mean, I did the whole curriculum, but the other classes I could mostly copy from adult educational programs in the ex-medieval countries-- did you know Fairy Godmother wanted to put you all in high school level courses, I had to yell at her about that-- sorry about the classes, I tried to make the textbook less stupid--"

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"I did not know that but am unsurprised given everything about the entire way that she is — you did a really good job on the textbooks I've read, anyway, and lit class is great." 

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He bounces. "Thank you! --What level are you?"

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"Elementary math and science, middle-grade social studies, and I'm not actually sure about lit, the book doesn't say what level it's for." 

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"Oh, that's high school, and I didn't pick it, that was Cinderella's choice in order to get her on board. Glad she has good taste though." He kisses Sasha.

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"I'm not sure how I feel about her taste, but I like the class because it's the one where I'm allowed to have lots of opinions." 

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"You're supposed to be allowed to have opinions in all of them." They should be lying down and Sasha should be on top of him.

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Both of those things are very true. 

"Yeah, but in math and science opinions are just harder to have. Social studies is good for that too but there's a limit to how much I can substitute 'opinionated' for 'good at doing homework'" in social studies." 

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His hands should be under Sasha's shirt. 

"I knew I should have pushed me teaching them-- but I guess if I did I'd be your teacher and then it would be unethical for me to kiss you, so. It all worked out okay."

Mm. Kissing. A thing he is allowed to do.

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"I'm very glad you get to kiss me, anyway." They should be kissing more. 

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What an excellent plan. 

"So you're from the Isle."

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"I am. — I, uh, maybe understated some things." 

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"It's fine. You didn't know I wouldn't freak out."

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"Mmm." They should be closer together, and also Kaleva should not be wearing a shirt. "Auradon is so weird." 

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"How so?"

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"Basically every way I can imagine? People here offer things and then get mad if you say yes, that was a big one — everyone stomps everywhere but nobody really seems to take up space, people don't even try to dress distinctively, apparently you arent supposed to have colorful hair which has gotta suck for Mackenzie, skirts are only for girls here, there are lots of things nobody is supposed to talk about unless you put it in different words even though literally everyone knows what you mean, everyone is sort of bizarrely focused on marriage but I was kind of expecting that —" 

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Kaleva hugs him.

"That sounds really hard."

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Sasha curls into Kaleva. "Thank you. — honestly the hardest part is not having people, most of the weird things are weird but not bad in themselves." 

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"You should talk to--"

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He pauses and feels like throwing up.

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Sasha hugs him tighter. "Are you okay?" 

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"Sorry, I just-- I was going to say you should talk to"-- the words feel stuck in his throat-- "my former friend Chen. He's from China, it's not as weird as the Isle but it's pretty strange compared to the rest of Auradon. But he doesn't want to talk to me anymore."

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"I'm sorry." 

He doesn't let go. 

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"We were friends and I-- I had a crush on him, I guess. And then the king decided he liked him and-- and it makes sense, right, I'm a bad person and he's so so good, of course he's going to want to be friends with the king instead of me, and they were both so welcoming all the time and they didn't want me to feel bad about it but-- but I used to be the most important person to him and now I am not and I can't hold it against him because of course he wouldn't want to keep tolerating me forever, I just--" and then whatever he just gets lost in a pile of tears.

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He's just going to cradle Kaleva, and not say what he thinks about the judgement of someone who wouldn't want to be around him. 

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"But now there's a you," he says through his tears, "and you're from the Isle, and you're a bad person too."

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"...I don't really know if I believe in good people and bad people. Just people." 

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"That is the sort of thing a bad person would say," and he's smiling through his tears.

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"Only because anyone calling themselves a good person is too high on superiority to realize it." Kaleva should smile more. Sasha doesn't let go, does thread his fingers through Kaleva's hair. 

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"Oh, he wouldn't say that, he doesn't believe he's good at all," Kaleva says, and starts crying again.

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Fuck that didn't help at all. 

He kisses Kaleva's cheek and holds him very close and pets his hair and doesn't try to say anything else. 

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"I miss him," he says into Sasha's shoulder, and, "--I'm sorry, I shouldn't."

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"You don't have to be sorry," he says, and "I miss my people too." 

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"I can be your people," he says, and tucks Sasha's hair behind his ear. "--I mean, I know it's not the same, but."

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"I'm not good at sleeping alone," and his voice is very soft. "It doesn't have to be the same." 

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"I was terrible at sleeping with you. My foot fell asleep."

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"You're so cute." 

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"It was so nice to watch you sleep though. And I want to get good at it."

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"So cute," he repeats. 

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He kisses Sasha's forehead. "I meant it."

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"I know you meant it. I wouldn't think it was cute if I didn't think you meant it." 

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"No, I mean, the thing I said while we were-- you know. About you being mine and me taking care of you. I meant it."

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...usually if an Auradonian is just saying things and expecting you to know when they mean them and when they don't, they dont bring the things back up again to assure you they meant it. Probably. 

"You've got me," he says, very cautiously. 

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"Yeah, I've got you." He pauses. "--I would say that I love you but sodomites are not actually capable of true love. So."

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"....is there a reason for it to be queer people in particular, or are Auradonians just being fucking weird again." 

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"If you really really love another person you can do certain kinds of magic and there hasn't been a recorded case of a sodomite being able to do true love magic even in countries where it was accepted."

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".....weird. Auradon is really weird, have I mentioned that?" 

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"You've said!" He bounces. 

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"Good. I'd hate to leave it unsaid." His head should be on Kaleva's shoulder. 

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"Can I tell you what I put in the Remedial Goodness textbook?"

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"As long as there are absolutely no icebreaker activities or multiple choice questions about whether you should have friends." 

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"None of those, I promise. --Imagine that you and your friend both stole something, but the government thinks you committed a murder. They put you and your friend in separate rooms, and a police officer comes up to you and says 'if you both stay silent, you get one year in prison for theft; if you turn in the other guy for murder and he stays silent, you'll go free and he'll be in prison for ten years; if the other guy turns you in for murder and you stay silent, he'll go free and you'll be in prison for ten years; and if you both confess, we'll give you the year in prison for theft and another two years for perjury, since you both can't have done it.' What do you do?"

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"Keep quiet. They're my gang, you dont stab your people in the back when it's important." 

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"But the rational thing would be to not do that, right? You'll be better off if you turn him in either way-- if he turns you in, you'll only get three years instead of ten, and if he doesn't turn you in, you'll get to go free."

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"...I guess, if the prison term is all you care about, but one, Queenie would kill me, and two, having a gang is how you eat and how you don't get attacked all the time." 

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"Yeah!" he says, excited. "So you can cooperate to get the best outcome for both of you, even though the individually correct choice is something different. --This is basically what ethics is."

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"...It really seems like actually ethics is not having friends unless they share your values and by your values I mean Fairy Godmother's values. She was very clear on this point." 

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"Fairy Godmother is bad at explaining things, especially because she doesn't actually believe in ethics, she just has the weird fairy blue-and-orange morality thing except it maps closely enough to human ethics that it's possible for people to not notice."

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"She is very bad at explaining things," he agrees. 

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"So the thing is that there are actually lots of things like the problem I told you. Like, have you noticed that Auradon is really really clean compared to the Isle?"

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"I had. I kind of assumed it was because you have money and send us your garbage instead of having literally nothing to work with but garbage." 

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"There is that. But there's also-- what do you do when you have a piece of garbage?"

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"...eat it if it's edible? Make something out of it if you can do that?" 

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"No, I mean, something you don't have a use for at all."

Permalink Eye

"You.... leave it somewhere? Auradonians leave it somewhere too, you just have special leaving it somewhere places and we don't." 

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, having a remotely competent government makes this easier but-- you sometimes have to walk farther to leave the trash in the trash can and it's easier to just drop it where you are, but if everyone does that there is trash everywhere? And if you're just thinking about yourself you're going to go, like, one piece of trash doesn't matter that much, if it's already a huge mess it'll stay a huge mess and if it's already basically clean it'll be clean, whatever I do with my garbage. So it's like the situation with the prisoners-- people have to do stuff that isn't in their best interest in the short term so that things can be better for everyone in the long term."

Permalink Eye

"...that makes sense, but also, if we tried to put all our garbage in special garbage bins, the bins would be overflowing, because we don't have a second smaller Isle to send our garbage to, it just stays. It wouldn't help for very long." 

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, I think-- there are reasons the Isle is the way that it is that aren't just that it was founded by a bunch of villains, even though that doesn't help."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. 

And — even when people know the Isle sucks to live on, they don't really... acknowledge it? Apply it? Like, Charlotte was horrified to find out that the fruit I had eaten before was basically always rotten, but she just didn't get at all that the reason it's like that is that Auradon sends us nothing but garbage and maybe that's fucked up." 

Permalink Eye

"Most people in Auradon aren't particularly good. They're just-- normal people in an environment where they know they're supposed to be trying to be good, and where things are set up to help them be good, like with the trash cans. And I'd have to talk to, uh, more than one VK, but I think you are normal people in an environment where you think you're supposed to be trying to be evil, and everything is set up to help you be evil."

Permalink Eye

"There are people who are trying to be evil but honestly lots of people are just trying to not die. We aren't trying to be good, but — I think not trying to be good is a different thing than trying to be evil." 

Permalink Eye

"That makes sense. I guess I'm not trying to be a bad person I just-- am one."

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"There are people who are trying to be evil, it isn't nobody, it's just — most people are not Mal and most people are not Harry Hook." 

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"I don't know who either of those people are."

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"Mal is Maleficent's kid, she's a gang leader, she talks a lot about being awful and rotten and a villain but I don't know much about what she actually does, Queenie's territory was far enough from hers that we didn't interact much. Harry Hook's parent I'm assuming you can guess, and I guess I don't actually know that he aspires to evil as a quality but he sure does do a lot of raping and torturing people." 

Permalink Eye

"Did he hurt you?"

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He debates saying 'only when we had territory disputes with Uma's crew,' which wouldn't technically be wrong, and instead says, "I mean, yes, but it wasn't that big of a deal?" 

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Kaleva holds onto him tightly. "I don't want anyone to hurt you."

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"It's a little late for that," he says, and lets himself be held. 

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"Well, I can try to make sure nobody hurts you in the future."

Permalink Eye

You can try, anyway, he doesn't say. 

He nods and relaxes into Kaleva. 

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Kaleva pets his hair. "I want to learn everything about the Isle," he says, "but I don't want to ask you about things that make you sad."

Permalink Eye

Having his hair pet is nice. Kaleva should keep doing that. 

"You can ask me things and if I don't want to talk about it I'll tell you that?" 

Permalink Eye

"You mentioned gangs and territories, how does that work?"

Permalink Eye

"So a gang is the thing where I do what Queenie tells me to and bring her the food I find, and in exchange if someone fucks with me she'll fuck with them right back. A gang is, like — that's your people, those are the people you're fighting with, those are the people you're spending your time around, you aren't guaranteed to be having sex with them but probably you are. Territory is the space your gang controls and gets food from." 

Permalink Eye

"Does the Isle grow food? I thought you got all your food from the barge."

Permalink Eye

"— we do? But, like — if you live in Uma's territory, Uma and her crew get some cut of whatever you find or scavenge, and in return nobody else is going to fuck with you." 

Permalink Eye

"That's-- interesting. It's almost a proto-feudalism."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. 

Gangs are mostly people my age or maybe a little older, adults live in gang territories and give up their cut unless they're, like, Maleficent, the really well known adults do a different thing but I'm not super sure what." 

Permalink Eye

"That's pretty strange. You'd expect adults to win out over teenagers in a fight, especially if the teenagers grew up malnourished."

Permalink Eye

He thinks about it. 

"I think part of it is that, like — my parents were random henchmen? And they're still random henchmen, and specifically they're henchmen to the people they were henchmen for before the Isle, not to some random, even though Hans couldn't beat Uma in a fight if her hands were tied." 

Permalink Eye

"The adults are stuck with the way things used to be, the teenagers are developing a new culture because they only ever knew the Isle?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. — and also, there isn't really a smooth transition in ages the way you have here? There's people my age or a couple years older, there's adults, and there isn't anyone in between, so I'd expect generation gaps to be a lot sharper than they are here." 

Permalink Eye

"That makes sense." Kaleva kisses Sasha's forehead.

Permalink Eye

He ducks his head and smiles into Kaleva's chest. 

Permalink Eye

"What are relationships between members of gangs like?"

Permalink Eye

"Depends? Mal and her gang were only four people, my gang was five, Uma's crew was like a dozen but the central group was only three, Queenie and Mal don't have a real second in command while Uma clearly does, all of that changes how things work —" 

Permalink Eye

"I dunno-- uh, pick someone you knew who wasn't in your gang and talk about them."

Permalink Eye

"— going with Harry mostly because there's something to say about him, um — he's Uma's second in command and she's basically the only person who can keep him on a leash? Which she doesn't use too often, mostly she just points him at people and lets him do his thing, but sometimes she'll tell him to chill and he'll do it — he's pretty clearly more dangerous than she is, which is weird, usually gang leaders are the most dangerous in their gang, but literally nobody would be part of a Harry-led gang because that would suck. He's melodramatic even for the Isle, he doesn't have a hand missing but he carries around a hook anyway just as a reminder to everyone of who his dad is, he's very fond of dramatically running it down people's faces — has the attention span of a fly, roughly —" 

Permalink Eye

"And how did you interact with him?"

Permalink Eye

"I avoided him when I could but there was a thing when Uma tried to take over part of Queenie's territory and we wound up fighting and after that there was this whole thing — he'd call me little Sasha and snap his teeth when we saw each other, and obviously the thing you do is pretend you don't care but he's not, like, bad at reading body language and I'm pretty sure he eats fear or something — we did wind up having sex, it did not involve torture even though it totally could have, it didn't happen super often but it happened more than once —" 

Permalink Eye

He is upset and wants to keep Sasha safe from Harry.

He is also kind of turned on.

And close enough to Sasha that Sasha can definitely tell.

Fuck.

Permalink Eye

"— oh my god you're so cute." 

Permalink Eye

"I don't want to! I just-- thought about him calling you little Sasha while you were having sex-- and then-- sorry, I know I'm sick--"

Permalink Eye

"No, I meant it, that's cute — you can call me that too if you want —" 

Permalink Eye

"I don't-- I mean, if you want to, I can--"

Permalink Eye

He kisses Kaleva. 

"You can, you don't have to. I don't think you're sick." 

Permalink Eye

"Iwanttohearmoreaboutyouandhimhavingsex."

Permalink Eye

"— so he gets off on hurting people, and I get off on being hurt, and he's just — less gentle? Than Nico was, because Nico likes me and Harry doesn't care that much — I have scars, you can see them if you want —" 

Permalink Eye

"I don't want to enjoy you getting hurt."

The but I do is unstated.

Permalink Eye

"Well, I enjoy getting hurt, so it works out for everyone, doesn't it?" 

Permalink Eye

"How did he hurt you? He must have cut you, for the scars--"

He's grinding a bit against Sasha's thigh.

Permalink Eye

"He did — some of them with the hook, some with a knife — and choked me, and tied me down, and hit me —" 

Permalink Eye

"Oh--" he says. "I want that--"

Permalink Eye

Maybe Sasha should get his clothes off and point out to Kaleva the scars on his back and thighs. 

Permalink Eye

"I want to scar you," he says, "I want you to scar me, I want to carry it around for always--"

Permalink Eye

"You're so cute — you're lovely, I want you to hold me down and hit me, I —" 

Permalink Eye

He gets on top of Sasha and holds down his wrists and kisses him. "I like-- that you trust me-- I want to tie you up because I could hurt you really really badly and I wouldn't and you know that--"

Permalink Eye

It's only been twelve hours. 

He doesn't tense up but he doesn't relax either. Smiles up at Kaleva. 

Permalink Eye

Kaleva, who has never held him down before and has no idea how to interpret this, kisses him.

Permalink Eye

Being kissed is nice. Sasha relaxes a little bit, lets Kaleva hold him down. 

Permalink Eye

"I really want you to fuck me."

Permalink Eye

"— uh," he says when he catches his breath. 

Permalink Eye

"Uh. It doesn't have to be right now. Or at all if you don't want to."

Permalink Eye

"...I just don't really like anal that much as, like, a thing? I've done it before, it's not that fun." 

Permalink Eye

"It's just-- I really liked having you in my mouth because you were inside me, and anal seems like it would be like that except I could also kiss and touch and hold you at the same time? It's like-- as close as it is possible to be."

Permalink Eye

"...I guess," he says, a little skeptical. "But when I've done it, it's mostly just been uncomfortable." 

Permalink Eye

"I'd be happy to be uncomfortable to be close to you."

Permalink Eye

"...maybe at some point but I don't think right now?" 

Permalink Eye

"Okay." Kiss.

Maybe they should take their clothes off and grind on each other. 

Permalink Eye

Maybe they should. 

Permalink Eye

A few days pass and Kaleva is so so happy.

He can have sex with Sasha and it feels better than anything he has ever felt in his entire life. He can cuddle Sasha and it feels warm and safe and good. He can talk to Sasha and Sasha doesn't think he's stupid or boring or that he should shut up. He can just read a book with his head on Sasha's shoulder and everything in the world is okay.

He is aware that he has... meetings, and obligations, and things he was supposed to research for Ben. But he is so happy and those things would make him so miserable and he ignores them. 

Permalink Eye

A few days pass and Sasha is so so happy. 

He can have sex with Kaleva, and Kaleva gets better at having sex with him. He can talk to Kaleva, and Kaleva doesn't ignore him when he speaks or make the 'moving on now' face before changing the subject or laugh at him or talk right over him as if he hadn't said anything at all; he considers the things Sasha says, acts like they matter. He can cuddle Kaleva and it feels warm and soft and good. He sleeps better than he has since he arrived in Auradon, with Kaleva there. 

He doesn't get his homework done, and he doesn't go downstairs as often. But it's alright. He doesn't have to. 

Permalink Eye

A few days pass and Kaleva doesn't come back when classes start again on Monday and Chen is so so worried. 

He sends Kaleva maybe a dozen texts, are you okay where are you are you alright what's going on, and Kaleva doesn't answer them — if it were anyone else he would think Kaleva was just skipping school but Kaleva doesn't do that — 

Permalink Eye

Eventually Kaleva untangles from Sasha enough to notice his phone and--

This shouldn't make him happy. He shouldn't be happy that Chen noticed or cared. He has a Sasha, that should be enough.

(He hadn't expected Chen to notice at all.)

I'm fine

Permalink Eye

are you sure? 

seriously kaleva you never skip school, what's going on 

Permalink Eye

He drafts a message that says "I'm in New Orleans" and then a message that says "I don't want to talk to you and eventually settles on:

I'm sure

Permalink Eye

okay 

He doesn't send: 

please be telling the truth 

or 

I'm really worried about you

Permalink Eye

See, it's fine. Chen was worried about him because he's a good person, and then Kaleva reassured him that he's fine, and now Chen is going to stop talking to him because he doesn't really want to talk to Kaleva. 

Permalink Eye

He spends the next six hours doing math and only answers Sasha's questions with monosyllables.

Permalink Eye

Sasha's not really sure what happened but after a couple or hours or so he kisses Kaleva's cheek and goes and tries out the bathhouse again, more out of curiosity than anything else. 

Permalink Eye

He still gets in the bathhouse for free.

There's a door from the front room into a locker room. A sign announces: 

Towels ONLY at the bathhouse outside the play area.

Various men are stripping naked and either wrapping towels around their waists or going naked. A few are dressed in leather and one in a cop outfit, presumably for the play area.

Permalink Eye

...gosh. 

(The ones in leather look almost like they could be from home.) 

He strips naked and puts his clothes in a locker and goes in. 

Permalink Eye

The sign outside the door of the locker room will direct him towards MASSAGES or SAUNA or POOLS or PLAY AREA or CUBICLES.

Permalink Eye

He isn't super clear on what a sauna is but how about he tries the water first. 

Permalink Eye

There's a big Olympic-size swimming pool and a bunch of hot tubs. Men are splashing around naked or talking. They touch each other more than men in Auradon usually do-- holding hands or an arm wrapped around a shoulder or a brush of thigh against thigh. A few couples are kissing. One guy is sucking another guy off right on the deck.

One determined guy is swimming laps.

The sign helpfully informs him NO BODILY FLUIDS IN THE POOL.

Permalink Eye

He does not actually know how to swim but hopefully that won't be a problem.

He tries the pool; the water feels soft in a way that showers don't. It's a good temperature, although he doesn't really know what temperature water you're submerged in is supposed to be. 

Probably this is more fun if you have people to talk to, but when he considers going up to a group of guys he remembers the conversation going silent as soon as he got within five feet of it and — doesn't. 

Permalink Eye

Some of the guys floating in the pool are glancing at him and looking him up and down. 

Permalink Eye

— oh. Right. Nobody here knows anything about him. They don't know he's the weirdo from the Isle. 

He looks them up and down back. 

Permalink Eye

One of them paddles over. "New here?"

Permalink Eye

"You could say that."

Permalink Eye

"Just looking, or...?"

Permalink Eye

"That was the plan, but if you wanted to show me the ropes I wouldn't be opposed." 

Permalink Eye

He smiles. "You're setting me up for a terrible pun there."

Permalink Eye

He smiles back. "Indeed I am." 

Permalink Eye

He pushes himself out of the pool. "Sadly, I'm more into ropes on the other end. What have you seen so far?"

Permalink Eye

"Of the bathhouse, admittedly not much, it's my first time here and I went straight to the pool. In life, where do I start." 

Permalink Eye

He grins. "I meant the bathhouse. So there's the massages-- $75 for an actual massage, $300 to pay a guy for sex, it seems kind of weird to me that you'd pay for it when there's so much free sex right here but I guess some guys want hotter guys than they'd be able to get for free."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe they get off on the paying in particular? Who knows." 

Permalink Eye

"And there's the sauna. They tend to frown on sex in the sauna."

Permalink Eye

He nods and doesn't mention that he doesn't actually know what a sauna is. 

Permalink Eye

"And then there are the cubicles, where you have all the kinds of sex you just need a bed or a swing for, and the play area, which is for all the kinds of sex where you need a bunch of equipment. What do you want to look at first?"

Permalink Eye

"The play area? I'm assuming that's where you go to get tied up." 

Permalink Eye

"Yep!" he says. 

In the play area there are, indeed, some tied-up men getting whipped. There is also a man in a cage giving a handjob through the bars, a man with a blissed-out expression and a dozen needles in his torso, a man suspended from the ceiling by rope, a man wearing a cock cage begging another man to let him blow him, and a guy blacking one of another guy's boots while the other boot presses into his dick.

Permalink Eye

Oh, nice. 

Who does he talk to if he wants to get suspended from the ceiling, that looks like something he'd love. 

Permalink Eye

The guy he was talking to heads off to the cubicles once it is obvious Sasha is more interested in getting suspended from the ceiling than getting his dick sucked. 

One of the rope tops is almost finished untying the person he was just suspending; maybe Sasha should talk to him. 

Permalink Eye

He waits for him to be done with the untying, lets himself bite his lip and look a little bit nervous. 

Permalink Eye

"You interested?" the rope top asks. 

Permalink Eye

"Yeah." He stops biting his lip. "I am." 

Permalink Eye

"You done this before? Have any medical issues I need to worry about? Hard limits?"

Permalink Eye

"Bondage, yes, this —" he gestures at the ceiling — "no, medical issues, no, hard limits, don't kill me." 

Permalink Eye

He laughs. "Don't worry, suspension is very safe. Tell me if it feels too tight or your hands start getting tingly. If you yell 'red' someone will come over and talk to us, but I don't like using safewords, you can just say if something's uncomfortable or you don't like it."

Permalink Eye

Auradonians remain extremely fucking weird. Sasha nods instead of expressing this opinion.