Combining all of my unrelated and untitled Benlos ficlets into one collection called (This Feeling) Without A Name on archiveofourown. Check it out here!
The first time, he doesn’t notice. Ben is a tactile person, he grew up with a father who would casually ruffle his hair when happy, a mother who would gently rest a hand against his cheek to show she cared. Touching is communication, is affection.
And so when he reaches out to place a hand on Carlos’ shoulder he doesn’t notice it. Doesn’t think much of the way Carlos tenses under his hand, how he curls away; attributes it to Dude and lingering traces of Carlos’ fear.
Ben doesn’t notice that first time.
Tourney means physical contact–tackles aren’t allowed, but checking happens frequently enough. It’s not so bad, everyone’s padded, but the first few times, Carlos makes like a turtle and huddles under his shield.
“No, you can’t just hide,” Ben says, pulling the shield away and offering Carlos a hand up; he hesitates before taking it.
“Well what’s the shield for, then?” Carlos shoots back, more than a little frustrated at their lack of progress. Scoring was easy to pick up–accuracy and speed something which came easy to him–but checking practice sucks.
Ben considers it, tries to articulate the thoughts that a culture of knighthood has instilled into him, “A shield protects you, yes, but it’s so that you can push forward and act,” he smiles, because that seems about right.
Uncertainly, Carlos smiles back.
“Why don’t we call it quits for now? You did well today,” Ben says. This time, when he reaches a hand out to Carlos, he notices the flinch and pulls back immediately. But he accredits it to checking practice and nothing more.
It’s not that Ben is watching Carlos–except for how he kind of is. He’s looking out for all of the Lost kids, really, wants to make sure they’re settling in okay. And if he focuses his attention on Carlos more than the others, well, that’s only because the other three seem to be handling the other students well enough on their own.
But as he watches, he begins to see a pattern.
Carlos has no problem picking up Dude and, for want of a better word, cuddling whenever he pleases. He also has no issues sharing personal space with his fellow Lost kids, drawing comfort from the closeness of his friends, or leaning in to share whispers with Evie–short white hair mixing with long blue. But it’s when touch is made that Carlos freezes.
The other Lost kids know it, too, and seem to accommodate in their own way. Evie flows around him, looping their arms together without any contact, until Carlos eases into it himself. Jay’s roughhousing is playful at heart, the way wolf cubs tussle and tumble with one another; even then, Jay will pause after initiating contact, to let Carlos adjust, before continuing. Mal and Carlos hardly ever touch, but in the rare occasions that happens, she looks him in the eye as a form of nonverbal warning before touching him.
It’s courteous, which isn’t a word Ben would think to use for the Lost kids, so it must be important.
I had been hoping to put it into Ain’t No Rest, but since that’s on hiatus, I felt bad about letting it languish unfilled… hence this drabble.
I know you probably wanted some cute flirty touching but all I could think about was how Carlos is unused to positive contact and would be very touch shy. So I guess this could be considered “pre-slash” Benlos…
edit: now posted on ao3 here
A/N1: Uh, so, this probably won’t make any sense if you haven’t read the brainstorm of Underneath the Red Lights. I highly suggest you read that first.
It doesn’t mean anything, Carlos thinks, as he sits at the same table he sat at last year and the year before that. Normally this restaurant would be out of his price range–too expensive for a factory worker, never mind that he has steadily been moved more and more towards the R&D division and with it a higher salary–but not today. Because he’s not the one paying for it today.
The waiter is different, he can’t really expect to be served by the same person, but the maitre d’ is the same. She recognized him–perhaps from that brief splash of time when his face was everywhere in the media, but his fifteen minutes of fame is years past. Perhaps from his previous outings to this restaurant, but she must have seen hundreds if not thousands of other customers, more frequent patrons–likely, she was shown a photo of him. To let him in, to seat him at a specific table and let him order whatever he wanted, despite his casual and shabby outfit.
And Carlos knows he could’ve worn that particular outfit–even two years out of style it is still the fanciest thing in his wardrobe–but it just doesn’t seem right. Not that sitting here, eating a dinner worth probably a month’s worth of his wages, in his oil-stained, rumpled work uniform feels right either but. He thinks he is owed this, at the very least.
It could be argued that him not being in prison is above what he deserves, but who are they to judge? He just wanted his friends, wanted to take back what the government had stolen from him, wanted to carve out a little happiness for himself.
When he is finished with his entree–a different one every year–dessert is brought out and this is one of the things that does not change. It’s their molten chocolate cake, and maybe these dinners are not apologies but punishments, because for all that he loves chocolate, for all that the cake is perfectly baked and so divinely delicious, he can’t help but feel that this whole situation is bittersweet.
Because it is the taste of their first and only kiss, before the truth came out and Carlos was left with all that he had before–no family, no friends, no boyfriend–with the glimpse of another life that slipped through his fingers.
A life that he would have never had, anyway, like this dinner at this restaurant–because factory workers can’t afford thousand dollar meals, and they don’t date princes either.
A/N2: I just read the most strangely heart-rending DCU fic and for some reason it gave me Underneath the Red Lights feels. But… angsty feels? Basically, the “bad ending” in which Ben not only finds out about the whole magical possession thing BEFORE Carlos gets to the castle, but also doesn’t forgive Carlos (and further does not think that magicians should be free). But at least he doesn’t put Carlos in prison? Because technically, Mal was the one who did the possessing and it could be argued that Carlos had no role in Mal’s crime.
I DUNNO, I’M SORRY. I JUST HAD TO SPREAD THE MELANCHOLY. Still pretty sure I’m not going to do UtRL but if I am, please rest assured, that this is not how it will end.
The C in ‘Plan C’ does not stand for coronation.
Plan A had always been their parents’ plan. Brute force, obvious, simple: use the magic mirror to find the wand, steal it, take down the barrier. It was luck on their part that the wand was being displayed in a building so close to campus, with such lax security. Even if they did have to retreat and scrap the plan after the alarms sounded.
Plan B, well, that had been in action since the very beginning. It was more their style than their parents’, a little more subtle, and maybe with time it might have worked. Carlos had been making pretty decent progress.
The B in ‘Plan B’ does not stand for Ben. But it might as well have.
Carlos just really enjoys sex, okay? He’s a teenage boy and it feels great and it’s fun to make other people feel great too. He just doesn’t like the implications that come along with it. They say he’s callous, but it’s not because he’s a snobby sadist like his mother. He’s actually rather nice–charming, one might say–it’s just that after he’s had his fun, well, he’s not obligated to fulfill any expectations, okay.
Their gang of four are notorious on the Isle–if the girls haven’t asserted their dominance over someone, or if they haven’t been robbed by Jay, then Carlos has probably seduced them then jumped out the window at the first opportunity.
To him, people are as easy to program as machines. Easier even, maybe. While Jay likes to base his flirting on his lack of sleeves, gorgeous body, and raw predatory sexuality, Carlos likes to take a more controlled approach. With Jay’s targets, if they’re not even the tiniest bit attracted to him at first sight, then there’s no helping it. Jay doesn’t chase after anyone who doesn’t want it.
But for Carlos, that’s all just part of the game. Actually, he specializes in making those who don’t want to be chased do the chasing instead.
There are a few tricks, easy body language stuff, that Carlos uses, but the bulk of his seduction is actually neuro-linguistic programming. It requires having a little knowledge on the mark, though, and since cold-reading is always a risky venture, he tends to keep first impressions… vague. Sexy, but vague.
Eye contact is an obvious one, a person can fall in love just by gazing into someone’s eyes for long enough. Not Carlos, but he’s heard it’s happened–has made it happen before. So when they are first introduced to the crown prince, Carlos makes sure to match eyes with him, gaze steady and open. But while eye contact is necessary for a good seduction, that alone is not sufficient.
Everyone knows that mouths can be the most suggestive body part, and Carlos knows his is more so than others. It’s so simple to draw attention to his mouth–smeared with that delicious sweet stuff they found in the limo. Sure it implies he’s a messy eater, but sometimes messes can be fun. How a mark decides to clean up a mess is a fantastic insight into their personality.
Ben makes it so easy, too, his fingertips automatically going to his mouth instead of the more proper option of a handkerchief or even the unrefined but impersonal wipe onto his clothes. Mimicry is another effective tool for seduction, and if Carlos’ own hand to mouth action is a little more obscene, well, like he said–messes can be fun.
It’s pretty easy to get a read off of Ben–he’s not interested in Jay’s overt masculinity, or Evie’s upfront femininity–in fact, Carlos’ biggest competition for Ben’s attention is Mal, who could not be less interested if she tried. But that in itself is informative. Ben wants to prove himself to Mal; he wants her to want his help. Ben is a provider, a protector… a hero.
Carlos can easily be someone who needs saving.
A yelp at the statue’s transformation is enough to bring Ben’s attention back from Mal onto Carlos and it starts building foundations in Ben’s mind.
Carlos needs someone to help him, to make him feel safe. Maybe that someone could be Ben.
As it turns out, Ben is almost ridiculously susceptible to neuro-linguistic programming. Or maybe just susceptible to Carlos.
After that first tourney practice, which Carlos was unsurprisingly terrible at, the coach recommended Carlos quit the team. Which would have been stupid, considering his mark is one of the players.
He had honestly expected to have to suffer through a few more such practices, pretending a steady disheartening before shyly approaching Ben for advice. After Jay’s performance during that first skirmish, Carlos would hardly have to explain why he’d decided to turn to Ben for help first.
But immediately, with barely effort on Carlos’ part, Ben volunteered himself.
An additional hour alone with his mark every day? Almost too easy.
The thing with Dude was brilliant, if Carlos may say so himself. Unplanned, of course, but still absolutely brilliant. The fleeing in fear bit was completely truthful, not just an exaggeration to foster more protectiveness in Ben. The fact that it did, though, was very helpful. Vulnerability can be attractive, Carlos knows, but he’s never encountered anyone on the Isle as attracted to it than Ben.
And “good boy?” Carlos could not have planned that any better himself. With such delicious Freudian slips like that, it’s best not to disrupt the mark’s train of thought, let them stew in their own wild imaginings with a few visuals tossed in. Carlos doesn’t get belly rubs, maybe he would like them; any positive physical contact, really, and praise is always appreciated. Carlos hasn’t been appropriately cared for, doesn’t he deserve to be cherished? Wouldn’t Ben be the best for that job?
From that point on, Carlos keeps Dude with him. Not solely for seduction–because Dude is adorable and adoring and lets Carlos hold him and pet him and dress him and Dude is Carlos’ now–but, like Dude’s introduction into Carlos life, the association of pleasant feelings and protectiveness is an excellent bonus.
Given more time, Carlos is sure that Plan B would have worked. Hell, if the goal were just to sleep with Ben before the coronation, Carlos probably could have done it. But to make Ben so obsessed with Carlos to the point that he would not only break up with Audrey but officially declare Carlos his boyfriend? In a week? Impossible.
He says as much to the rest of the gang, a little ashamed but mostly frustrated. The coronation is their best opportunity, and Mal is the best choice to have at the front. Not only because she’s actually a girl and her gender won’t inspire political backlash–her parentage, sure, but not her gender, not like Carlos’–but because, if there’s a need for it, she can actually use the wand–again, not like Carlos.
Love potion it is, then. Carlos tells himself that its the use of magic that bugs him, not the fact that it’s Mal instead of him. He’s definitely not relieved when Evie suggests he stick close anyway, just in case.
The song was… well… ridiculous. But it may have also been the most fun he’s had since leaving the Isle, possibly the most fun he’s had without sex being involved, so he just gives in and enjoys singing and dancing with Ben while he can.
Carlos has to coach Mal in seduction for her date, which is honestly not something he ever thought he’d have to do. Not just because people don’t date on the Isle, but because Mal has always been as uninterested in sex as Carlos has been in romance. But in such a short time, lust can be confused for love; though, with the potion is already in effect, the seduction is more of a safety net.
She’ll have to use slightly different techniques, though, because her relationship with Ben is different from Carlos’. Not that Carlos and Ben had a relationship; Carlos doesn’t do that.
Anyway, while Evie prepares Mal’s outfit, Carlos prepares her. Having been friends since they were children, Mal knows at least some of Carlos’ tricks, even if she needs a little help in polishing them up for her own use.
Eye contact? Yes. but in Mal’s case, turning away every so often might be best. She has to make Ben feel like he needs to earn her attention, either by talking more or reaching out to touch her–both outcomes are good.
Accentuating her mouth? Also a yes. Makeup can do some of the work, which Evie eagerly breaks out her lip glosses to test colors at the suggestion, but if she can add some kind of action that would be even better. Carlos is a big proponent of sensual eating.
But the hardest part for Mal? Hints of vulnerability. It goes against her nature, and Carlos has no idea how to teach someone vulnerability. But maybe in this case truth is the key.
Carlos leaves before Ben is due to pick Mal up from the girls’ dorm room. No need to complicate matters.
After the coronation, as the fireworks go off and everyone is dancing, Carlos stands aside. It’s kind of warm. He just needs some air, is all, too many people trying to breathe the same oxygen. And he didn’t get much sleep last night, so he’s a little tired and his eyes ache.
He wants Dude now.
Evie, taking her own break from dancing, stands beside him and follows his gaze. “They look good together,” she says gently. And Carlos wants to agree, wants to compliment Evie on putting together Mal’s gown because it is honestly some of her best work.
But instead, purple and blue blur together in his eyes, and Evie silently draws his face to her shoulder. It’s just the fireworks, the smoke and the light probably too much.
When Carlos composes himself, he manages to say without his voice trembling, “I guess we don’t need Plan B anymore.”
“Did you want to?” Evie asks carefully.
“I think it would have been decent,” he answers, but then they both reconsider. It’s highly doubtful Ben and Audrey have ever had sex, considering how high society Auradon acts with each other. Certainly not good sex, with the way they were both so willing to end their relationship. Carlos and Evie know Mal hasn’t, doesn’t want to.
“It would have been fun to teach him,” Carlos amends, which is in itself a confession.
“Okay,” Evie says simply, letting them stand off to the side for a few moments longer, before dragging Carlos back into the fray.
A lot of good came out of tonight. Carlos knows his future has changed for the better, there’s no need to ruin it with melancholy and random regrets.
A few weeks after the coronation finds Carlos hanging out in the girls’ dorm room with Evie, helping out with her latest project. She’d been draping what looks to be a jacket of some sort over a chair before he came in, now Carlos is being used as a live mannequin instead. It looks more like a Lost style jacket, leather and asymmetric cuts, different than her more recent works which have been trying to incorporate Auradon’s aesthetic. But the color scheme is sea foam green and a soft maroon, more pastel than any of their gang’s colors.
“Hold still,” Evie says, when Carlos’ mind drifts away and he twitches out of her careful positioning.
“Sorry,” Carlos sighs, moving back to the original configuration, “I’ve been kind of restless recently. It’s probably because I’m not burning off so much energy at tourney practice anymore.”
“I thought you enjoyed the Future Engineers Club,” Evie says, pinning in one more fold before carefully peeling Carlos out of the jacket.
“I do,” Carlos says, because he does, “Just, you know, in comparison to running up and down a tourney field, tinkering isn’t as physically draining.”
“Are you sure it’s not because of the dry spell you’re in? It’s been a long time since the Isle,” she says. A long time since your last sexcapade, she doesn’t say.
“It’s not a dry spell, I’m just focusing on other things right now, okay. I have my whole life in front of me,” he says, and it might have been somewhat convincing if he hadn’t added, “And no one has really caught my interest… and plus, everyone has roommates.”
Her raised eyebrow is enough to show she’s unimpressed with his excuses. Especially since he’s just been repeating the same things every time he gets asked.
Doug knocks on the door, a little unnecessarily since it’s open, to get their attention, “The FEC meeting is in ten minutes.” Doug, also a member of the Future Engineers Club, has been very helpful in getting Carlos transitioned from tourney player to… well… nerd.
Fondly, Evie waves the both of them off, eager to return to work on the jacket. Now that Carlos has the answer in front of him, it’s not too difficult to figure out who it’s for. He knows that Doug and Evie aren’t dating–she wants to revel in her independence–but it’s not just friendship, and it’s clearly not sex. Carlos wants to ask, but he decides to wait, thinking he’ll have the opportunity to do so after the meeting.
He does not.
Because as the meeting lets out, Ben is standing there; far enough away from the door that the rest of the club members can leave, but close enough that he can easily see every member exiting. And every member exiting can see him.
They’re a little unnerved, because for all that Carlos is a Lost kid, he’s still a ginormous nerd who likes to build stuff out of other random stuff. He’s one of them. In comparison? Ben is the king. More than that? He’s the captain of the tourney team. He’s a jock. A nice jock, yes, but still a jock. Never mind that a few weeks ago Carlos was a jock too.
With a sigh, Doug manages to wave the rest of them off before turning to look between Carlos and Ben. Neither who have said a word since their eyes met.
“You okay?” Doug asks Carlos, reaching out for his shoulder. Suddenly, Ben looks at Doug’s hand like it had personally offended not only him but his entire kingdom.
“Yeah,” Carlos says, then, because Doug is actually very observant, he repeats more confidently, “Yes. I’ll catch up with you later.”
“Okay,” Doug nods, careful to make slow motions as he pulls his hand back and walks away.
Carlos and Ben stand in silence for a while longer, this time both looking at where Doug disappeared, before almost reluctantly dragging their eyes back to each other. Well, it’s reluctant on Carlos’ part, that’s for sure. He’s been trying to reign back all of his flirting, but it’s difficult. A lot of it is just automatic and he doesn’t know how much interaction is expected for just friends–or at least, friends you haven’t grown up alongside and committed burglary with. He doesn’t know how much eye contact or touching is allowed, so he kind of just… hasn’t.
“So, you and Doug have gotten pretty close,” Ben says, which Carlos is confused by but goes with because he doesn’t know what else to talk about.
“Yeah, he’s been a big help in getting me into the club, even if it was after sign ups for the year. The other members are pretty great, too. And, uh, Mr. Gepetto has a lot to teach us. I mean, he says I remind him of his son which is a little weird but, yeah…” Carlos trails off, uninterested in his own rambling, “I… what are you doing here?”
Because there’s no reason for Ben to be here. Carlos has been backing off. They still eat at the same table, sure, but Carlos has been practically neat in comparison to before, and he always makes sure there’s at least one person between them at the table. Unless…
Ben shrugs, mouth open to say something before his expression twists, “No, you know what. I’m going to be honest.” And when Ben stares into Carlos’ eyes, he can’t help but match it, “It kind of feels like you’ve broken up with me before I even knew we were dating,” Ben steps closer, near enough that either of them could reach out and touch the other.
… Carlos has accidentally been pulling an apathetic seduction. The sudden absence of flirting making Ben want to get Carlos’ attention, the same as Mal looking away causes Ben to reach out.
“We weren’t,” Carlos spits out, because he never dated, he’d know it, and he sure as hell wouldn’t have let go if he had been dating Ben.
Ben steps closer, hand reaching out to land on Carlos’ shoulder, thumb lined up with his collarbone. Ben has yet to look away, and so Carlos hasn’t either.
“It was just part of the plan, okay, I was supposed to seduce you to get the wand. But then there was the coronation and you needed a girlfriend not some fucktoy,” Carlos blurts, throat going tight, “It had to be Mal, not me. So I’ve stopped, okay, that’s all.” His eyes are starting to sting, and there aren’t any fireworks to blame.
Ben steps even closer, other hand cupping Carlos’ cheek, “I know,” Ben says, simply, easily, as if Carlos hadn’t had to tear the truth out of himself.
Carlos lets himself close his eyes, unable to handle Ben’s stare anymore, and the motion lets a tear escapes.
“What I want to know,” Ben murmurs, thumb swiping across Carlos’ cheek to intercept that fallen tear, “is if you actually like me,”
"You’re dating Mal,” Carlos says, which is not an actual answer at all. And can’t stand up against Carlos’ nod, the way he leans into Ben’s hand.
“Who do you think told me about the plan?” Ben asks, a smile in his voice, and now both of his hands are cradling Carlos’ face, “Carlos, open your eyes” he says.
Carlos does so, eyelashes heavy with nearly shed tears. This close, and with their height difference, he can’t help the way his gaze goes to Ben’s mouth; can only feel a thrill up his spine as that mouth edges sideways into a smile.
“I learned a lot from you,” Ben begins, leaning forward so that he can lower his voice and still be heard, “I’d like to learn a lot more.”
Carlos’ hands clench into the fabric of Ben’s shirt, unsure whether to pull him closer or push him away because they are still in the middle of the hallway. But then, Ben says six words that makes the decision for him.
“I have a private dorm room.”
A/N: I dedicate this to jalencolbert and awesomestlonerever because this wouldn’t exist without either of them. Like, literally, I would not have thought of this. But with awesomestlonerever’s gifset and jalencolbert’s comment in this post my brain just went into overdrive and I had to analyze EVERY interaction between Ben and Carlos as Carlos deliberately seducing Ben. And it was so easy to do, I can’t undo it. Damn it! What happened to my precious adorable baby? Now he’s all grown up and seducing kings.
Uh, so yes. Neuro-Linguistic Programming is an actual thing, but as the hyperlink will show you I’m using the Leverage version of it so I cannot say whether or not my portrayal of it would actually be successful. A lot of it has to do with associating yourself with something they find pleasurable, but also letting them do most of the talking. Any talking on the seducer’s part is more to prompt certain thoughts or connections.
I don’t know, I’m hella ace, flirting and seduction is just this whaaa~? kind of thing in my mind. I can appreciate it from a psychological point of view but in action I just… uh, no thanks. I’ll stand way over there.
But, yes, ~SEDUCTION~ and the seducer falling in love with his target, then the target seducing the original seducer. That’s totally a thing, right?
edit: can now be found on ao3 here, under the title “(This Feeling) Without A Name” since… well… I still don’t know what to call it.