Who Am I Now? - Chapter 7 - Transformersfan123 (2023)

Chapter Text

All Antonio wanted to do was climb up on the roof and balance on the edge. He used to do that all the time with Casita, but hismamá would not let him.

"Why not,mamá?" he asked.

"You might fall,mijo."

"But Casita won't let me fall. It never does."

"That's not Casita, Toñito," hismamá murmured.

"Isn't it?"

"No. Casita is gone,mijo."

"But Casita is almost better. And then I can talk to Parce again."

His mother's blue eyes welled with tears, and she knelt down. His father, sister, and brother stared at him sadly as Pepa hugged him.

"I don't think you'll ever be able to talk with him again."

"But the magic will come back with Casita. And Casita's almost better."

"Hermanito, it's gone," Dolores said, her voice deliberately louder than usual. She sounded sad.

Antonio shook his head, panic clawing at his chest. The thought that the magic wouldn't come back had never crossed his mind. It had to come back!

"No!" he said, pulling back. "No, the magic will come back! And I'll be able to talk with them again!"

"No,hermano. That's not how the magic worked," Camilo said. "The candle gave us the magic. The candle's gone."

Antonio backed away, staring in horror at his parents. Pepa reached out to him, but Antonio shook his head.

"Antonio," Félix said. "I know it's hard, but—"

"No!" Antonio screamed.

Then he turned and bolted into the house that was not Casita. He ducked through people's legs and climbed the stairs that would never let him slide, past the doors that would never glow again, to one that had stopped years before. He didn't want to be found, and Bruno's room had always been off-limits. So he turned the knob and ran inside, shutting it behind him.

It was a plain room, not the waterfall of sand and desert cliffs that Mirabel had described to him. He whimpered as he realized he'd never see Bruno's room now. The rats had been so excited about it, talking about the sand and rocks with fondness. And why had they been fond of it? Because Bruno had taught them to be.

Sometimes at night, when everybody else was asleep, Bruno had taken his rats to his room to play in the sand. He never went into the big cave anymore, they had told him, but he loved to play with them and laugh in a big open space with fresh air. Sometimes he would sit by the window for hours and look out at the night at a world he was no longer a part of. And Antonio had been sad for Bruno.

And now, looking at this plain little room and realizing the magic was gone forever, Antonio began to cry. He hadn't realized he'd lost everything permanently. He'd thought that the magic would come back once Casita was rebuilt. But there was no candle. There was no magic. It would never come back. He heard his father calling for him, and he crawled under the bed. The door opened.

"Antonio?" Félix called.

Antonio didn't answer. The door closed, and Antonio placed his face in his arms and cried. He heard the men and women gathering their tools and heading outside. The work was nearly done. Just an hour before, he'd been excited to see Casita again, but now? Now all he felt was cold loss.

After a while, the door opened again, and Antonio pressed his hands over his mouth as dusty feet came across the room. Then they stopped in front of the bed. Antonio didn't move as the man knelt down. But when a soft, familiar doll appeared in front of him, he gasped.


And then he clapped his hands over his mouth. The man laughed, and he recognized the voice as it spoke.

"I had a feeling you were here," Bruno said. "You gonna come out? Cuz I can't get under there anymore."

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Antonio thought about this. "No. Not until the magic comes back."

There was a pause then the stuffed jaguar sat down. Antonio watched as Bruno lowered a rat onto Fuego's back. The rat squeaked, but it stretched out like it was riding the jaguar. Bruno began to move the doll up and down, as if it were pacing. Antonio watched the rat and the jaguar for a few minutes.

"What are they doing?" Antonio finally asked.

"Guarding you," Bruno responded. "To keep the bad stuff from hurting too much."

Bruno shifted until he was sitting crosslegged, and still the jaguar marched on. The rat looked bored. Antonio wondered what it was thinking. Then he thought of his first conversation with the rats.

"How did you train your rats?" Antonio asked.

Bruno chuckled. "With food. What else? They're always so hungry. Never full. Isn't that right, Hermoso?"

The rat turned its head and sniffed at the air. Bruno's hand disappeared out of sight and came back with a piece of anarepa. The rat accepted the food then looked bored again.

"I don't think he likes riding Fuego," Antonio said thoughtfully.

"Nah. He likes doing tricks though."

"Can I see one?"

"Sure." Bruno stopped moving Fuego then spoke softly but firmly. "Abajo, Hermoso."

The rat obediently got off the jaguar, which Bruno shifted carefully to sit beside him just out of reach of Antonio.

"Good, good. Ready?¡Arriba!" And the rat raised itself up on its back paws and stretched as high as it could.

Antonio giggled. "That's pretty neat,tío."

"¡Habla, Hermoso!" Bruno commanded again. And the rat squeaked loudly. "¡Echado!" The rat lay on its belly."¡Hazte el muerto!" The rat rolled over on its back and splayed itself out then went still. "Good! Yes!"

Antonio could hear the pleasure in Bruno's voice. "He's good," he admitted quietly.

"He's still learning," Bruno said. "Want to try jump again, Hermoso?"

Before they could start, the door opened, and Antonio saw Mirabel's feet come in.

"Tío, have you seen—" Mirabel stopped.

"Have I seen what?" Bruno asked.

"Well, it's more like awho, actually."

Antonio could hear the playful tone in their voices and stifled a giggle.

"A who, huh?"

"Yep. He's only the most awesomeprimito in the entire world. Not that I'm bragging or anything."

"And what does thisprimitoof yours look like?" Bruno responded.

"About yea big. Curly black hair. The biggest eyes you've ever seen."

"Hm. Nope. Haven't seen him. But I found this thing under my bed. It likes to laugh and seems to like Hermoso."

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There was a pause. "Is that the one that chews on my hair every morning?"

Antonio giggled as Bruno snickered. "Um, no. That's Dulce."

"Mm. So I guess I can like Hermoso then."

"Yeah. I was about to show the thing under my bed that he's learning how to jump."

"Well, show us what he can do."

Mirabel shut the door and came over to sit down on the floor beside Bruno. Bruno shifted and Hermoso looked up.

"Come on, Hermoso," Bruno coached. "Ready?¡Salta!"The rat stretched its body up and scrabbled for something out of reach. "No! Notarriba!¡Salta!"The rat gave him a baleful look as it sat down. Bruno sighed. "Ay,you'll get it eventually."

Antonio smiled. After a few moments, he crawled out from under the bed and reached for his stuffed jaguar. He squeezed it tightly then looked up at Mirabel.

"Mamá says that I'll never talk to Parce again," he said sadly.

Mirabel's smile faded. "Yeah. Sorry,primito. The magic is gone."

"It won't be so bad," Bruno said. "We've still got the family and the rest of theEncanto."

"But where does that leave me?" Antonio asked.

"What do you mean?" Mirabel asked.

"I was supposed to make the town better. And now I don't have a gift."

Bruno grimaced and met Mirabel's eyes. Even at five years old, Antonio felt the pressure that Alma had placed on the whole family.

"Come here, Antonio," Bruno said, reaching over.

Antonio crawled over and sat in Bruno's lap. Bruno studied him intently. "What are you doing,tío?" he asked.

"Learning your face," Bruno replied. "You look like a smart one, eh,cerebrito?"

Antonio perked. He liked that nickname. "You think I'm smart?"

"Smartest one of the bunch. But even smart people get things wrong," Bruno said.

"That's right. Even me, as hard as that is to hear," Mirabel said, winking. "Alas! We are not perfect." She paused. "What brought this on,hombrecito?"

Antonio looked at the stuffed jaguar. "I just…Abuela said my gift would mean that I can find my place. If I don't have a gift, does that mean I can't find my place? Do I not belong here?"

Bruno hugged him close, closing his eyes to force back tears. Antonio was so young, and already it was hurting him. Just like with the others, his fifth birthday marked the end of his childhood innocence, at least in one way. Isabela had to be a good example. Dolores had learned more about the grown-up world than she was ready for. Luisa had begun to work and was never told to stop. Camilo had started to hide who he was. And even Mirabel had learned a cruel reality after being denied a gift. Antonio didn't deserve this.

"Now you listen here,hombrecito," Mirabel said sternly. "Don't you think that way. I've never had a gift, have I?"

"No," Antonio admitted.

"And I don't complain about it," Mirabel continued.

Antonio smiled. "No. You don't. And I like you anyway."

"Right. And there's nothing wrong with you just being Antonio, just like there's nothing wrong with me just being Mirabel. Because I like you anyway, too."

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Antonio smiled then looked at the jaguar. "I'll miss my gift. Is it wrong to say that?" He looked up at Bruno for an answer.

His uncle blinked in surprise. "Why would it be wrong?"

"I only had it for a day. You had yours for like, ten whole years at least!"

Bruno snorted then broke into a fit of laughter, unable to help himself. Mirabel laughed, too. Antonio stared up at them, smiling but puzzled by their reactions.

"What's so funny?" he asked.

"I had my… my gift for way more than ten years,cerebrito,"Bruno said.

"Oh. So eleven years?"

Bruno threw his head back and laughed again. Mirabel was stunned. She'd never seen Bruno so happy and free before. He was completely relaxed, not a shadow of fear or hesitation in his whole body. He was almost an entirely different person.

"Try forty-five years," Bruno said as he squeezed his nephew.

"That's a long time," Antonio said solemnly.

"Yeah. Pretty much my whole life."

There was that shadow again, and Antonio saw it, too.

"So is it okay for me to miss my gift?"

Bruno smiled. "It most certainly is, Antonio."

"Do you miss your gift,tío?"

Bruno opened his mouth to reply when the door opened. Félix was talking over his shoulder. "I already looked in here!"

He turned and saw Bruno, Mirabel, and Antonio sitting on the floor.

"How long have you been in here,papito?" Félix asked.

"I don't know.Tío Bruno's rats can do tricks,papá.Do you want to see?"

Félix looked at Bruno, who stared back with a neutral expression. Mirabel looked between them, and she could sense something was wrong. Antonio had turned his attention to his jaguar again and was hugging it. The tension in the room was so thick that Mirabel felt like she was going to suffocate.

"Is he in there, Félix?" Agustín called then came to the door.

Just like Félix, Agustín froze and stared at Bruno. The three men seemed to be in some sort of standoff. Had something happened between them?

"¿Tío?" Antonio asked.


"It's okay to miss your gift, too. Don't be sad."

"Sad," Bruno said grimly. "Right. I'm sad my… gift is gone. Completely and totally sad." He gently stood Antonio up then stood.Hermoso,sígueme!"

Immediately the rat skittered up his clothes into his hands. Bruno cupped his hand over the rat and spoke evenly.

"I'd better go. Cheer up,cerebrito. Things aren't all bad. You still have your… family."

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There was some sort of implication in that sentence, but Mirabel couldn't find it. Antonio didn't notice. He hugged Bruno's legs.

"Gracias, tío."


Bruno took several steps forward and paused when neither man moved out of the doorway.

"Bruno, listen," Félix said. "Whatever we did, we're sorry."

"If you would just tell us," Agustín began.

Without a word, Bruno turned, strode to his window, and opened it. He looked down, tucked Hermoso in hisruana then climbed out and walked across the roof, leaving the room in stunned silence.

"Why does he get to walk on the roof?" Antonio asked.

"We need to go and tell the villagers thank you. Come on,mijo." Félix took his son by the hand and led him out of the room.

Mirabel stared up at her father, who gazed at the window with frustration on his face. She stood up and brushed her skirt off.

"¿Papá?"she asked hesitantly. "What was that about?"

Agustín looked at her and shook his head. "I really don't know, Mirabel. He's never really been… warm toward me and Félix. But he won't tell us why."

Mirabel frowned and looked back at the window. "Really?"

"Don't worry about it, Mira. Let's go. We have a surprise for you."

Antonio watched as Bruno climbed nimbly down the side of the house.Abuelawatched him with raised eyebrows. Pepa huffed and rolled her eyes, whiletía Julieta smiled.

"¡Changuito! Come here!" Pepa called.

Bruno obeyed. "What?"

"We have a surprise for Mirabel," Pepa said.

Alma held out a golden circle. He picked it up to find a doorknob and grinned.

"Love it," he said at once. Then he looked at Antonio. "Bet she'll be a bit nervous."

Antonio smiled. "I know what to do," he said confidently.

"Good. And remember,cerebrito.Gift or no gift. You're still a part of the Madrigals."

Antonio beamed and nodded. "I will miss them, though."

"Of course."

Mirabel came out of the house, and Antonio grabbed the doorknob. Alma called Mirabel over to look at the finished house while Bruno pulled Antonio off to the side.

"No matter what happens," Bruno murmured. "It'll be alright."

"How do you know?" Antonio asked.

Bruno gave him a crooked grin. "Oh, I just have a feeling."



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