|I Can't Give You Anything But Love
Author: Dinosaur Barbecue PM
Gangsters, magic, & moonshine abounds as one man makes a deal with a high-spirited girl who just might be his ticket out of New York. She turns his precarious world on its head, and the secrets they are both hiding threaten to change their lives forever.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Adventure - Flynn R. & Rapunzel - Chapters: 20 - Words: 103,138 - Reviews: 150 - Favs: 117 - Follows: 62 - Updated: 07-01-11 - Published: 03-12-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6816605
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Tangled belongs to Disney, and I'm writing this. A word of warning: try as I might, I could not fit Pascal into the story. If you can forgive me that much, keep on reading, and enjoy.
I Can't Give You Anything But Love
Men bellowed, children shouted. Car engines sputtered and stomped alongside the rushing Els. Music spilled out onto the street from the cafes and houses of Harlem; students jostled for places in ticket lines beneath the blazing lights of Broadway. Women who were seamstresses and mothers by day became glittering jewels of a new and changing world by night, taking up the reins faster than the men around them could comprehend. Uptown was bright with the newest of fashions and ideas, and at the wharfs, shining steamships slid in beside drudging cargo carriers that brimmed with rumors and goods. Elbows and knees jostled for stretching space inside the narrow homes of the ghetto, and sharp-dressed gangsters took advantage of a populace now thirsting in a great city gone dry. The fervor of the Great War had been transformed in the face of perpetual human progress; as people had lost room to spread out, many of them began to build up.
The business of expanding into the blue was still finding its feet, but doing so fearlessly. Sumptuous apartments rose over the busy and bustling streets, giving haughty views to the wealthy and bourgeois that had chosen a new life in a city reborn. Of all of these, it was one built at the turn of the century (and, oh, what a turn it was!) that was the symbol of the audacity, the gall of man: the Ansonia, the crown jewel of Broadway and Amsterdam, with its copper-plated cornices and outstanding turrets, constructed of pale stone into a demanding façade of French style. The self-fashioned "grandest hotel in Manhattan," it commanded the attention of all that passed by with its seventeen stories of glass and iron windows. But it was the central tower, stretching another eight stories upward from the building's center, that captured the imagination of New York City, thrusting its inhabitants somewhere unreachable, away from the dirty politics and gang warfare, like a fantastic castle in the sky.
And kept the city below forever out of reach.
The top of the world was hard to see from the sidewalk. If anybody had been able to, they might have been alarmed by the sight of a young woman-not much more than a girl, really-lounging carelessly in an open window at the tower's top floor, braced against the cold breeze that flung itself against her tower. She was dressed unfashionably, with long sleeves and skirts that differed so greatly from the adverts of stylish women that were folded in between the pages of the newspaper. Her figure, though slim, was not narrow-hipped enough to embody the boyish look that was common among girls her age, though she could hardly mind. It was her hair that would set her apart from most ladies-while they wore it close-cropped, a symbol of growing independence and rebellion, hers streamed out the window like a ten-foot blonde pennant.
In her lap, the girl kept tight fingers on a sketchpad, just one of many that she had come to own over the course of a lifetime. Her right hand was black with charcoal, and the same substance peppered her face, filling in the spaces between freckles. Her green eyes were quick as she placed a few masterful strokes here and there, rounding out her subject; not a moment later, she dropped her charcoal to snatch up the pair of binoculars she kept at her side. It did not take her long to recover her quarry, even from this high up: an older woman who strode down the block with her purse on one arm and a small dog under the other, it was her hat that drew the attention of passerby-garishly large, it overflowed with fake flowers, fruits, and ribbons.
Rapunzel set her binoculars down again and finished off the woman's portrait. This was only one of innumerable pictures she had made-some charcoal sketches, others oil, even watercolor-of all the people, places, and things of the Upper West Side that she could see from the Ansonia's windows. Some were copies of pictures in the newspaper, though she had to guess what colors since her sources were only black and white. Still, more were straight from her imagination, inspired by the books of her adequate library and what she imagined may lay beyond her mother's ornate apartment.
She set the sketchbook down on the table beside the window and drew herself inside, her great length of hair trailing after. Also on the table were remains of her breakfast, now cold and stale. As her bare toes touched the floor, she took care not to step on the Times, its pages rustling. The front shouted that today, Armistice Day, was stronger than ever, a celebration of unity in the Western world.
The noise of the street did not carry up to her window. All that distracted Rapunzel's ears was the radio, and as the piano of Jelly Roll Morton faded out, it was replaced by a man speaking with a quick, Brooklynite affectation:
"November eleventh, nineteen twenty-six. What a day to be alive in America, friends, while we commemorate the end of the war eight years later. I have with me today a very special guest, who fought bravely on the foreign front. Tell me, Captain, just what was it like-"
She crossed to the shelf that lined one wall and flicked the radio off with a sigh, finding no real interest in whatever the people on the radio chose to yammer on about today. No, her mind was already abuzz with her own current events, and as she strode from room to room, she tried to find a way to phrase her request that had been repeated many times over the years.
"Mother, can't I just go outside?"
The inside of the tower reflected a muted version of the outside's grandeur. The walls were painted all varieties of ivories and pastels, leaving little to wanting. The parlor, where she had just been, was an open space with a few couches and paintings (not hers, no, they were gifts of priceless works by the masters of the day) and an open archway leading to a graceful, oval dining room. The table was too large for the two women who lived there, though occasionally, Rapunzel's mother did have guests. She was not permitted to leave her room then, which suited her fine (mostly) because her window granted her a sweeping view of Amsterdam Avenue. Often times she would be able to sneak from her bedroom and into the library, the sort of room that most of the Ansonia's residents took for granted-but she didn't know that. She knew she had neighbors somewhere down below, but she had never met them. She did not even know their names.
Still, her mother's apartment was brilliant and chic, and the building was the first air-conditioned of its kind, keeping the residents cool in the summer, warm in the winter. The walls had been built thick with musicians in mind, one of the reasons her mother had chosen to live here. It was New York City's haven for the wealthy and well to do artists, and Rapunzel wanted nothing to do with it.
She hummed a few bars under her breath and felt the slight depression that had seized her that morning disappear. It was something about music, the way that it filled the air and strung emotions together, that always managed to cheer her up. She was lucky-music surrounded her, and the fact was punctuated by her dear darling Mother's arrival.
The door opened and closed noisily, and a throaty woman's voice called, "Rapunzel?"
Rapunzel strode back from the dining room to the parlor. Her mother was just beside the door, in the slight hall that ran the length of the apartment.
"Good morning, Mother," Rapunzel answered, returning the hug that Gothel had reached out for.
Her mother was a tall and slender woman, and managed to dress in a way that complimented her age and kept her at the height of fashion. Her curling black hair framed a bony face that had taken the years well, her bright blue eyes always keen and knowing. She stroked Rapunzel's hair as they embraced.
"Good morning, dear. Did anything come while I was out?"
Rapunzel had long admired her mother's air of serenity, despite her busy lifestyle. It had always been this way for as long as she could remember-her mother was in great demand around the high society clubs of New York and Chicago (and occasionally in Europe, though she rarely went abroad anymore.) Her voice seemed to call people to her, and whenever Rapunzel caught her mother's tune on the radio, she could hear why. Gothel Morse had voice that was deeper than any of the younger singing starlets of the day, but it was seductive in its tone, and every note pitch-perfect. Rapunzel was one of the lucky few who got to hear her in person on a regular basis, and she knew the secret behind her mother's success-but would never tell.
"Yes, ah, just a second," Rapunzel replied, sliding away from her mother and to the table that housed her breakfast. A few determined tugs freed an envelope that had become trapped beneath her plate of uneaten toast, and she handed it over to her mother, still sealed. Her mother opened it eagerly as Rapunzel waited politely beside her, equally curious as to what the envelope contained, ever since it had been slipped under the door a few hours before.
Her mother scanned the type-written letter rapidly once, then twice, then a third time. Rapunzel recognized the surprise, then anger, then frustration that crossed her mother's face. "What is it?"
Gothel inhaled and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Nothing. Nothing, darling." She placed the paper back in its envelope and set it aside on the credenza that cozied up to the parlor's wall. Massaging her temples, she asked, "Rehearsal was so draining this morning. Won't you sing for me, dear?"
Rapunzel could see the strain on her mother's face already; the fine lines that normally did not appear until late afternoon were surprising to see before eleven. "Right, of course, Mother."
She followed in her mother's sedate footsteps to one of the parlor's stiff couches. Their floral embroidery had long been memorized, enough so that she could recall even the most minute details in her dreams. Gothel eased herself down on one end with a soft groan, and Rapunzel perched beside her, back erect and hands in her lap as she inhaled.
Singing, she imagined, might be something similar to what running free felt like. Filling her lungs with the fresh outside air, stretching her legs behind the words that raced ahead.
"Flower, gleam and glow. Let your power shine."
It was hardly a song that would be popular if anybody else would hear it. It wasn't a song about love, or good times on the town, or any of the other subjects that warbled from the crooners that she listened to every day.
"Make the clock reverse, bring back what once was mine."
Rapunzel's nervous hands would not be stilled in her lap; as they often did when she sang, they moved to her hair, long enough that even when she pulled it over her shoulder, it pooled at her feet. She ran her hands over it impulsively, eyes closed.
"Heal what has been hurt, change the fate's design…"
She did not see Gothel watching her with a gaze that was at once maternal, yet hungry and jealous. The graying strands of the older woman's hair began to take on her preferred black luster, and the lines on her face disappeared. It was a transformation Rapunzel had seen many times before, and would willingly do so again and again. It was her gift that helped her mother and made her happy. It was her gift that made her special, and kept her locked away.
"Save what has been lost, bring back what once was mine… What once was mine."
Gothel had taught her the little spell when she'd been very small. She remembered her mother's delight when she'd first managed through the right notes all by herself. Rapunzel's eyelids slid open just in time to see Gothel lean forward to plant a kiss on her forehead.
"Thank you very much dear. You know just what it takes to really cheer me up. But I can't stay for long, I've got lunch with Governor Smith at one."
Rapunzel's brief smile went unseen as Gothel stood and began to move into the dining room. "Oh. Alright. I just wanted to ask you about tonight, actually, the Gala-"
"The Gala's been rescheduled dear."
Rapunzel felt rather dim as she stood in the doorway, watching her mother round the table and rifle through the bowl of fruit at its center. "That was in the letter they sent this morning," Gothel clarified, her expression turning sour. "The Gala has been moved from tonight to the first of December." She sighed. "It only means that many more rehearsals I'll have to see to. I'm sorry dear."
"Oh, no, Mother, don't be sorry," Rapunzel thought she shouldn't be as excited as she sounded. "In fact, that's wonderful, because I was going to ask you, since I really want to go this year, but I suppose all the tickets have already been sold-"
"Rapunzel," Gothel frowned, but the excitable young woman would not be stopped in her rush to speak.
"-that maybe I could audition to perform at the Gala, as maybe one of your back up singers-"
"-which would be perfect, since you taught me everything I know and I really think I can pull it off-"
"Rapunzel." Gothel's sharp tone finally silenced her, but the older woman's scowl softened as she returned to her side. Placing her hands on Rapunzel's slim shoulders, she admonished gently, "Flower, you know you can't go outside. It's dangerous."
"It doesn't seem so bad, Mother," Rapunzel argued. "I've seen it. From my window. And you do just fine."
"That is because I have the experience."
"Well," Rapunzel was thwarted by Gothel's perpetually calm exterior; it made her feel childish. "I want the experience too. I'm eighteen, and the world just looks so exciting-"
"Trust me, darling, it isn't." Gothel released her and walked back out into the parlor, moving to the window that had been Rapunzel's previous perch. "Look out there, really look."
Rapunzel obeyed. Far below, the antlike figures of people swarmed over the sidewalks, going about their businesses; what that business could be, Rapunzel could only imagine. Paperboys harked from street corners, but she couldn't hear them. Shop windows displayed dresses, books, and the latest household appliances that she had studied through her binoculars. The shrieking horn of an automobile reached her ears as she saw it, its metal carapace gleaming like a beetle as it swerved to avoid hitting a man as he dodged across the road.
"Do you really think any of them are happy down there?"
Gothel's question posed a quandary for the girl. "I don't know."
"Let me tell you, dear, they aren't," Gothel drew Rapunzel away from the window and back to the center of the room. "They have to work hard, day and night, to feed their families, and they don't even have room for all of their children in the tiny houses they have. And sometimes they don't even get to come home! Haven't you seen the papers?"
She produced the morning's issue, having plucked it up from where Rapunzel had left it on the floor. She opened to a particularly gruesome spread-half of the page was taken up by a photograph of the wreckage of a burnt-out building. The headline read, BRONX FACTORY FIRE KILLS DOZENS, SCORES MISSING. Rapunzel flinched at the disaster as Gothel flipped to another, and another: GANG VIOLENCE TERRORIZES THE EAST SIDE. GORRILA MAN STRIKES AGAIN IN SAN FRANSISCO. CONEY ISLAND PROSTITUTION RING ROUTED.
"You don't want to be out there. You want to be in here, safe and sound." Gothel flipped the paper shut and set it down before taking Rapunzel's chin in her fingers. "I know you want to sing, my dear, but you're special. If something were to happen to you, I don't know what I would do."
The grief in Gothel's eyes brought regret and apology crashing down around Rapunzel's ears. "I'm sorry, Mother," she said quickly, rushing to embrace her. "I know you only want what's best."
But what was best wasn't exactly what was the most exciting.
"That's my flower. I'll try not to be too long. You know you'll just have to ring for something if you get hungry."
Gothel retrieved her coat from where it hung by the door, and was gone.
Rapunzel was already at the credenza, pulling the letter from its envelope to read it herself. Just as Gothel had said (not that she'd doubted her, of course-no one should ever doubt their mother!), it explained in no uncertain terms:
Dear Miss Morse,
We regret to inform you that the third annual Winter Gala has been postponed due to unforeseen circumstances. As per your contract with the New York Entertainment Agency, we will require you to continue your schedule of rehearsals until the Gala's new date, the first of December.
Rapunzel did not bother reading the signature before dropping the envelope. The ever-familiar feeling of distress had begun to assume its regular post, nagging her with the threat of missed opportunities and the mystery of what really was down on the ground. Returning to the window, she shrugged off her mother's words: the people didn't look all that miserable, but she would never know if she didn't get the courage to go find out for herself.
She pressed her binoculars to her eyes and watched the Ansonia's exit, and it did not take long for her mother to appear. Rapunzel watched her loiter at the sidewalk until a shining black Alfa Romeo pulled up to the curb. A burly, sharp-suited man stepped out to open the passenger door, and Gothel vanished once more.
Her mouth set in a determined line, Rapunzel slid from the windowsill and faced the pale room. She was decidedly bored of the whitewashed walls and the mild-mannered paintings of places she had never been but wanted to see. Her promise to her mother was forgotten as she gathered up her things, heading for her room. She wasn't sure what her plan was going to be, but she was going to attend the Gala, and see the city, whether Gothel wanted her to or not.
"I could get used to this."
Flynn Rider lounged in the back seat of the Alfa Romeo as it navigated the bustling West Side streets. He ignored the burning glares that were shot his way from the front, instead choosing to stare out at the pedestrians that passed by. In this part of Manhattan, they came in every variety of white and upper class.
He could hardly blame them. If he could, he would live here, too.
Though he didn't quite fit in with his aging, patched clothes, and the worn out jacket that did its best to fend off the chilly November air. His trousers were somewhat ragged at the ends, and speckled with coffee stains. His shoes were falling, quite literally, off of his feet.
He had a dock laborers tell-tale tan and fitting build, but unlike most of his coworkers, he had a self-assured smugness that was at once charming and infuriating. Mostly infuriating to his less-than-legal colleagues as the driver pulled over to the side of the block.
"Are we there already?" His voice was colored by genuine disappointment. The passenger in the front seat turned and seared him with his one good eye.
"No futzing around, Rider. You do this right, and we don't have to see you again."
The men in the front seats were identical but for the younger's ocular deficiency. Large enough to fill the car uncomfortably, they had the same scalding demeanor and ferocious dislike for Flynn.
He couldn't say he enjoyed the Stabbingtons that much in return. They were glorified babysitters, making sure he did his job, and did it right, for the family. If he didn't, well, they would become less like watchers and more like executioners.
"And even then, it'd be too soon," added the driver, the older of the two. "You remember what you're supposed to do, don't ya?"
Flynn's expression became bored, like a schoolboy repeating a lesson long memorized. "Yes. Find Morse's apartment at the top, find the rock, meet you on West Fifty-first and Broadway. Not that hard." He added, "And what about the old lady?"
"Don't worry about her, we'll take care of Morse."
Flynn opened the door with one hand and clapped the younger Stabbington's shoulder with the other. "Try not to miss me too much, Junior," he said, slamming the door shut before the thug could answer.
He immediately had to leapfrog another few steps forward to avoid getting mowed down by another automobile that jerked right to avoid him. The car's horn was not loud enough to drown out the string of profanities that followed, but Flynn only answered by tugging down on the bill of his flat cap in a mocking salute. As soon as the offended driver and the Romeo were out of sight, he turned to face the Ansonia, the grandest hotel in Manhattan, though it was hard to take in the scope of it from his spot at its base. The first seventeen floors stretched dizzyingly skyward, blocking out the tower, but looking no less grand. He grinned and started walking westward, his gait nonchalant even as his path turned to the dark alley at the hotel's backside.
It was a part of what made New York City so great: no one paid you any mind as long as you kept to yourself. He had the key to the hotel's inner workings already in his hand. Though he would look strange striding through the Ansonia's front door, no one would question his comings and goings through the back. Hotels of the Ansonia's size and clientele were like a ship of the Navy-it took a lot of people, usually underpaid and underappreciated, to keep it afloat.
The lunch hour meant that the help corridors were nearly devoid of employees, but he took care to still look busy. A fast walk told anyone who saw that he was a man on a mission, and was not to be stopped.
And he wasn't.
It did not take Flynn long to find the service elevator in the dim halls, since had his instructions-including the navigation of the Ansonia-well memorized. It had been a heist they'd been planning for months. They being the family Flynn worked for, though illegally indentured may have been a more accurate word to describe his complicated relationship with the Tatiascore.
His role in it had been a surprising and last minute detail, but with it had come the promise of freedom.
The service elevator halted at the seventeenth floor. Flynn stepped out, recalling that the tower itself had one lift for the help as well as the residents. Now his journey became significantly more perilous-he had to hope that he did not run into any of the Ansonia's other denizens on his way to the top. A narrow way divided the service halls from the main corridors, and as he reached them, he could not help but stop and admire how the other half lived.
Well-lit and rich in décor, the Ansonia was everything that its reputation had made it out to be. Paintings hung from the walls, equally spaced between trees that had been perfectly groomed to lend a fresh and floral fragrance to the building. Evidence of the residents and all of their wealth and eccentricities leaked out from under doorways: the sound of every sort of instrument under the sun, and songs in every language greeted him, but they were not what he was after.
The tower's elevator was not far from the service hall door, set in the opposite wall. He heard its arrival and ducked inside the way he had come, pressing his back into the wall. The woman who passed did not notice, and he did not loiter, slipping out of his hiding spot to catch his ride just before the doors slid shut.
Flynn ascended the last eight floors without incident. The tower of the Ansonia housed the most luxurious of the apartments, including the one that had once housed Stokes himself at the very top. Now, of course, it was occupied by a famed singer that he had heard only in passing, but he was not breaking into her home for an autograph. He was after something much more precious.
The lift doors parted to reveal an unexceptional entryway and yet another door, this one decorated by a bronze knocker molded in the shape of a lion's snarling face. As his hand tested the doorknob, he was surprised to find it unlocked. Immediately, his senses were alert and on edge.
The Stabbingtons had said they would take care of Morse, implying that they did not expect her to be in her apartment. Why leave the door unlocked? If the help were expected to come by and clean, or whatever it was that maids and butlers did for the people they worked for, surely they would have keys of their own. The Stabbingtons would not have set him up to be caught; they had as much to lose from this job as he did, and the Tatiascore did not easily forgive.
Suddenly wary, Flynn ran his fingers over the lion head. It still felt and looked new, reflecting a warped and yellowed version of his face. Breathing in, he gave it a few solid knocks.
Minutes passed, and there was no answering noise from within. Perhaps Morse had left the door unlocked out of forgetfulness. Flynn tightened his grip on the handle and pushed it open, catching his breath with the expectation of what was beyond.
Strangely, he was disappointed.
He didn't have much by the way of expectations, but the sight that greeted him was rather ordinary. A short hall moved down to his right and out of sight, and across from the front door was an airy parlor. The breeze moved in through a window in the opposite wall that seemed to open up into emptiness. He stepped toward it, moving into the parlor, which did not seem to be much of an improvement on his already lessening interest. He didn't pay any attention to the paintings on the walls or the couches that did not appear comfortable in any sense of the word; his eyes caught briefly on the glint of silver candle holders in the dining room to his right, but he passed by that entry way, goaded on by promise of the window.
When he reached it, he inhaled and forgot to let it go.
The Upper West Side of Manhattan spread out in every direction, as far as he could see, impressive even with the low-lying clouds that seemed close enough to touch. Buildings that seemed to crowd out the sidewalks with their dirty, ruddy bricks and smoking chimneys were now far away, almost like another country entirely. In the distance, he thought he could catch green flashes of Central Park, and he knew that on Broadway, boutiques would be boasting the latest, greatest, and most expensive of everything he could ever dream of. Dull couches or not, up here, he felt untouchable.
"I could really get used to this," he repeated, stepping back from the window, and right into the path of a hefty, Stewart-Warner three hundred, not even seeing the radio as it collided with his head.
You know those ideas, the kind that sort of sneak up out of the corner of your eye and punch you in the face and then threaten to break your legs until you follow through? This was one of those ideas. I had wondered before just what sort of take an AU Tangled fic would go on, and I was struck by a sudden (and violent) inspiration, and now I'm having a hand at it myself.
Researching for this project was just as fun as writing it is going to be, let me tell you. I've cruised through youtube and bookstores and Google, devouring everything I could find. I love the spirit of the era-the euphoria that comes with the end of the war, as well as the social and political strife with the women's suffrage movement and the racism and class struggles that pervaded major cities like New York. I thought that it would make a great backdrop for all of the themes of Tangled's story, and at the same time, I could make it my own. You'll notice that I've kept some elements from Disney and set aside others, but all in all it is for the benefit of the tale I am going to tell. Unfortunately, Pascal did not fit in, though I tried to find him a place. So you won't see him with Rapunzel-not yet.
I've done my homework while writing this, which you will hopefully notice and appreciate. Music is a big part of the culture of the 1920s, and most music that I mention you can find online, because that is where I discovered it. Gothel's last name I lifted from an actual singer of the time, Lee Morse, who has a lower voice that I thought was similar to Donna Murphy's. You should check her out.
The Ansonia is an actual hotel-turned-apartment building in Manhattan that is still standing today. It has a rich and rather colorful history to match its fancy French exterior. I found in my research that the original plans did indeed have a central tower on the building, which made it perfect for this story, but Stokes stopped at seventeen stories because he "liked the view." The photographs of the structure are pretty imposing nonetheless, though it is dwarfed by the modern skyscrapers that surround it today.
Other than that, New York City has not changed much. Still noisy, smelly, and busy. I would know.