"Varian!" The princess threw her arms around the young boy, who immediately stiffened. Why was he here? Had they finally decided to kill him? Wouldn't they have taken him to the gallows or the execution room then?

Instead of a room meant for killing, it almost looked like they were in one of the palaces' sitting rooms.

There was a cheery brightness from the lamps and windows that filled the room. The faint smell of lemon? Orange? The faint smell of some sort of citrus floated around the room, nearly burning Varian's lungs with its. fresh, crispness.

Underneath him was something soft? Maybe. He couldn't really tell. His butt was always so sore from years of sitting on cold stone. But it almost felt like there was a cushion under him.

And then there was his company. All of the people that he never wanted to see again in the same room. The cruel and corrupt king who had sent him to prison. The captain of the guard who placed him there. And the three people who got him involved with the kingdom in the first place. The princess, her boyfriend, and her lady-in-waiting.

Fredric… the Captian… Rapunzel… Eugene… Cassandra… Why? Why are they all here? Not an apologetic look on their faces either. And why is she being friendly to me? She didn't seem to care about me when I was on my knees begging for her help again.

He tried to brush her arms away, but for some reason, he couldn't move his arms. They felt like jelly. Come to think of it… he was pretty sure the castle wasn't a merry-go-round. Yet the whole room was spinning.

"Hey kid," said Cassandra, her eyes soft, "Are you okay?"

No! I'm not okay! What about this makes you think that I am okay?!

He sat blankly. What could he say anyway? Hey there, old pals sorry I kidnaped your mother, and also why did you pull me out of prison and sit me in a living room? No.

It'd be better to sit in silence. If anything, he was here to get on last taste of the nice things in life before they murdered him. That was probably it. Why else would they care how he was feeling?

Cassandra had never cared about his feelings before. So why was she asking whether he was okay? She only ever asked about people she cared about- or people she was planning on ruining. She lived by the old adage: keep your friend close and your enemies closer.

"Varian?" Rapunzel called softly, her voice sounding about a million miles away. In fact, she was talking, but he couldn't be sure she was actually saying anything. Maybe she was muttering things?

There was a change of weight on his shoulders. Did someone put their hand on his shoulder? Remove it? He didn't know. His ears were ringing. Or- maybe the room was? It was ringing loudly. Why? And his head… It hurt so badly. He blinked, surprised to feel a tear rolling down his face. Had his vision always been so blurry?

And then, without a moment's notice, it all stopped.

"-shouldn't have brought him out. He's just going to keep being trouble!"

Varian coughed, slowly blinking. Where was he again? Dreaming probably. Because the ever-so-caring royal family was standing over him. There was no way they had taken him out of prison for just a friendly chat.

Oh right…

He sat up, rubbing his eyes, his memory coming back to him. He had been sitting in his cell, then all of a sudden he was in a nice room- and then he had blacked out.

That's right… must be from shock… So then… why am I here? Why not just kill me when I was out?

"Just take him back," said King Frederic, rolling his eyes. Had it not been his idea to bring Varian out? "He's obviously not going to be any help."

Wait- take me back!?

No! No! No! No take me back! Don't do that!

Beads of sweat began to drip down Varian's face. The air which only moments earlier had stung his nose from how fresh it was seemed to turn heavy and thick.

Had they truly called him out just to see his reaction when they threw him back into a prison cell?

"...Please…" He was surprised at the sound of his own voice. It was so shaky and small. He hadn't planned on saying anything, on fighting for his survival. Only moments earlier he had expected to be murdered, and he thought he was ready… but… maybe he wasn't?

Why am I even wasting my breath? I'm as good as dead to these people. I should just let them throw me back in. Maybe I'll hit my head hard enough on the way down and just never wake up. I've got nothing to live for anyway.

"Dad, we called him for a reason. He's the only one who can help." Rapunzel cast a golden smile at him. At one point he would have sworn to do anything for that smile, but now, it only made him sick to his stomach.

It was the same golden that showed up in his lab five years ago. The same golden smile that brought the golden-haired princess into his life. The same smile that caused his entire life to change. The same smile he sacrificed everything for.

She had already taken everything from him. What more did that golden smile want?

Not again… No more helping her…

"Varian, we need your help with something!" said the princess brightly, taking a seat next to him. She adjusted herself on the couch, sitting on a pillow that made her several inches taller than he was. "You see, our scientists are having a bit of a problem with something."

This isn't good…

"The truth is…" Rapunzel leaned in, cupping her hand to his ear, causing shivers to run down his spine. "The truth is, our scientists aren't that great. But they've managed to come up with the plans for something, something great. But they can't make it work. And well, I know you can."

Varian stiffened. Wasn't this how he had gotten wrapped up with the royal family in the first place? Rapunzel coming to him with something so strange not even the scientists in the palace could figure it out?

"You'll help me, won't you?" She gently placed her hand on his head, lifting his gaze towards her. "Won't you?"

He closed his eyes, unable to gaze into her eyes any longer. They were driving him insane. Every fiber in his being was telling him to say no. His throat was constricted, his mouth dry, and his jaw set tightly.

So why was a part of his mind fighting to say yes?

I have to do what she asks me to… She's the princess.

I have to do what she asks me to… If I want to stay out of prison.

Maybe… at the very least I'll be able to free…

Hot tears began to pour down his face. How long had it been since he had the hope that he could finally give his father a proper burial? Since he had even thought about his father in more than a passing thought?

"Oh, Varian…" The princess's soft hand wiped away his tears, pulling him into a hug. "You're okay. I'm going to take care of you. Just help me, okay?"

"Okay…"