A Tale of Two Kingdoms, part 5/11 (2015-08-19)

The students of Auradon Prep were among the first to be evacuated, the children of royalty and nobility, the upper class. Most of them are now students at Sherwood High, though it’s very easy to tell which students are Falcons and which are Knights at heart.

This is where Ben goes.

He never had a coronation, and anyway, a foreign king has no authority in a different land. But the headmaster indulges Ben, lets him hold an assembly. And so Ben talks.

He tells them news of their kingdom. Of the people still left behind, of the Wall that does nothing. Then he begins speaking of the Isle.

And this is when discontent rumbles begin. There are still people who believe that the kaiju are from the Isle. An evil scheme of some villain’s gone horribly wrong.

But Ben perseveres, because he knows it’s not true. He talks about what he’s learned on the Isle about the jaegers, about the real Captain Hook, about Harry and Jace. About how they couldn’t leave and decided to fight back. About engineers from the Wall who have decided to join the jaeger program.

And he talks about Carlos, not by name, but he talks. About a boy so brilliant that he’s built the means to save Auradon, a boy who has the weight of not only one but two nations resting on his shoulders, a boy who asks Ben for help–not really expecting to receive it, but asking all the same.

Ben talks. And he asks. Because that’s all he can do now. He asks for volunteers, for jaeger pilots.

The silence is heavy.

Carlos is deep in the guts of the third jaeger–one of the jaegers built entirely without Isle scraps and so a little more advanced and finicky than the Hell Jalopy–when he hears news that Auradon is back.

Carlos doesn’t rush out immediately to see him–he’s in the middle of something important, okay–but as soon as he troubleshoots the issue he delegates the actual repairs to one of the technicians rather than do it himself. He’s head of the jaeger program, he’s allowed to do that.

When he gets there, Harry, Jace, and Chip are already out welcoming back Auradon and two girls. Carlos’ steps slow down, taking in the scene. There is only the one car–no follow up van full of engineers, no cars or boats or planes to be deconstructed. Just Auradon and two girls.

No way.

“Carlos!” Auradon calls out, waving him over, and Carlos goes–not because Auradon waved him over, just because he was headed over there anyway. “This is Jane and Lonnie,” Auradon introduces the two girls with a smile, “They’re–”

“Pilots,” Carlos breathes shakily. That’s impossible. Carlos never actually expected Auradon to come back with, “You got me pilots.”

Auradon’s grows sheepish, “Well, we don’t know if they’re drift compatible yet, but I think–”

“You got me pilots!” Carlos repeats, in disbelief. He looks at the two girls, calculations and modifications already running through his head, he turns back to look at the completed jaeger next to the Hell Jalopy, their future jaeger.

He spots the skull and crossbones of the Jolly Roger.

He turns back. Looks at the two girls, the two pilots, who smile in mild confusion at him. Stares at Auradon whose smile has become wider, softer.

“You asked for pilots, Carlos,” Auradon reminds, gently teasing.

He can hear his own heartbeat pounding in his ears, “You got me pilots,” Carlos repeats for the final time, numb with realization, “And I made jaegers to fight your enemies.”

The smiles drop off everyone’s faces, but Auradon’s is the only one Carlos is watching. He looks concerned now, but gamely goes along.

“The kaiju are your enemies, too. They’re everyone’s enemies.” Auradon says, reaching out to put a hand on Carlos shoulder. It’s not the first time, but Carlos jerks away.

The painted skull flashes through his mind, the crossbones on his back burn.

“I… have to go,” Carlos says, before retreating completely. Away from Harry and Jace and Chip and Auradon and the two girls. The two pilots that Auradon got for Carlos.

The closest thing Carlos has ever heard to a declaration of love was from Jemma, for Uri. He would send storms after her enemies, and she would give him prisoners. But that was all hypothetical, those were just dreams of land-locked lovers yearning for the ocean. None of that really happened.

But Carlos–Carlos has been building jaegers even before meeting Auradon, it’s why they’ve even met. But the newer jaegers are built out of material Auradon has given him, by technicians Auradon has given him. They’ll be piloted by volunteers Auradon has given him.

It’s not the same, Carlos thinks to himself.

Because it’s real, a small voice whispers back.

Carlos doesn’t know what to do.

Carlos might be avoiding Ben and he doesn’t know why. Harry and Jace don’t know why either. Chip might, or at least acts likes he knows, which is strange because it’s not like Carlos talks to Chip very often. Or at least he doesn’t think so. Do they? What would they even talk about that Ben can’t talk about with Carlos?

Anyway.

Except for that, everything is going great.

Jane and Lonnie are, in fact, drift compatible. Which is a little surprising but makes sense: they were the first to volunteer, the only ones to volunteer so far. They’re hesitant when it comes to interacting with the islanders, but they take well to the pilot training. Along with both being brave, Jane and Lonnie apparently both like to fight dirty. It certainly boosts their image on the Isle at least.

None too soon, the next double event happens; the Rebel Watcher fights alongside the Hell Jalopy, no major injuries amongst the four pilots. The repairs to the jaegers are easy enough to fix, doesn’t delay the completion of the third and fourth jaegers at all. More volunteers will come, surely, more pilots to fill those empty jaegers.

Ben knows this is the beginning of the end; they can actually win against the kaiju.

And it’s all thanks to Carlos.

Now if only Ben can get Carlos to speak to him.

Jane and Lonnie, having adapted to life in the jaeger program, are the ones who finally pin Carlos down long enough for Auradon to catch him. To be fair, though, Carlos really thought Lonnie had a question about Rebel Watcher, and, well, Jane does like to fight dirty.

“I’d say she learned that here, but I think she’s always secretly been like that,” Auradon says, only somewhat apologetically, as he holds out a hand to help Carlos up.

Reluctantly, Carlos takes it.

“Hey, Carlos,” Auradon says, a small hesitant smile on his face.

Carlos sighs, the knowledge that he can’t outrun the other boy rooting his feet to the ground, not guilt. He doesn’t know what’s making him keep their hands linked. “Hey, Auradon,” Carlos says back.

“I think you’ve been avoiding me,” he says, and as if to ward off that possibility, Auradon interlaces their fingers.

Carlos has never been one for confrontations, but he’s pretty sure this isn’t how it’s supposed to go.

“You got me jaeger pilots,” Carlos says, hushed like it were a secret.

“Yeah, and one of them tripped you and sat on your back just a few minutes ago,” Auradon reminds, a laugh hidden in his voice.

“I didn’t really think you would,” Carlos admits.

“You didn’t think I’d be able to?” Auradon asks, maybe a little hurt, “I mean, it was pretty difficult, but I was able to get everything else–”

“That’s why–” Carlos interrupts, then bites back, looks away.

“That’s why what?” Auradon reaches out with his other hand, gently guides Carlos’ face back up to meet his eyes.

Frustrated, Carlos blurts out, “You’ve already given me so much. Materials and technicians and even food! And then you got me pilots!”

“Because you needed them,” Auradon says, “Everything I gave was because the Isle and the jaeger program needed them.”

“Oh,” Carlos says, heart sinking into his stomach. Everything for the jaeger program.

He tries to pull his hand away, but Auradon tightens his grip. “Everything I gave was for the jaeger program because you only ever asked for things on behalf of it. You never asked for anything for yourself,” he says, and he waits for Carlos’ startled gaze to meet his own, “What do you want, Carlos? What can I get for you?”

“Why–are you trying to impress me?” Carlos stammers, flustered in the face of Auradon’s sincerity.

He smiles, and Carlos can feel a flush spreading across his own face in response, “You’ve already impressed me, Carlos. I just want to reciprocate.”

~

A/N: I was hoping to get farther than this plot-wise, but these dweebs just want to be adorable with each other. So I guess this series will be longer than five parts, but not too much longer… probably.

And yes! Jane and Lonnie are jaeger pilots. I was considering doing a section for their POVs during volunteering, about their identities as women and how their mothers fit into it. Maybe I’ll do an interlude of sorts after the main plot is done…

Still don’t have a title for this series 😦 Any suggestions?

EDIT: NOW WITH TITLE, “A TALE OF TWO KINGDOMS”

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