A/N: Set after the movie. Third person, from the point of view of that one guard who sneezed in the crown room. :) His name came from the voice actor, who I think might be Nathan Greno. (But I might be wrong... Guard #1 is a rather ambiguous title...)
Also, please note: This fic assumes that Nathan was put on a leave of absence right after the crown was taken. In the movie, he might have been one of the guards who followed the captain and Maximus on their search, but I don't remember. So, for this fic, assume he's been out of commission for th whole thing, and doesn't know any of the new developments. :P
Nathan was once a respectable palace guard, admired for his honored position guarding the lost princess's crown. He'd held prestige, had worked most of his life to climb to that position, and it had all been taken away in one minute. The minute that damn Rider had slid through the roof and snatched the beloved crown before their very noses.
"Another," he said, waving a hand at the barkeep. The older man shrugged and poured him a glass of beer, sliding it down the counter to his customer. Nathan grabbed it and took a long gulp, leaning against the counter as he tried to drown his misery.
An extended leave of absence. That was what the captain of the guard had assigned him. After all, he'd been the officer in charge of keeping the crown safe, and since that blasted Rider had gotten it with relative ease, he obviously couldn't handle even that task. He wasn't fit for duty. And until the captain said otherwise, he would stay at the tavern, drinking his memory away.
A man slid into the seat beside him, waving a hand to the barkeep. Nathan ignored him—the last thing he felt like doing was socializing. Instead, he continued to nurse his beer, staring blearily at nothing in particular. After a few moments, he sneezed, shaking his head and cursing his allergies.
"Hay fever?" the man beside him asked innocently.
He sniffed, scowling, "Yeah." Then he stiffened, turning his head so fast he nearly got a crick in his neck. "Rider!" he snarled, looking the infamous thief in the eye.
Rider cocked his head, "A guard?" he said, as if he hadn't just ruined Nathan's entire career not a week and a half earlier. "Strange to see one of you here." He wrinkled his nose in mild disgust, but that smug smirk still played on his lips.
Nathan pushed away from the bar, grabbing Rider before he could react and pulling him to the floor. Then, ignoring his indignant protests and the quiet mutterings of the other patrons, he produced his pair of shackles and locked Rider's hands behind his back.
"Uh," Rider craned his head up, raising an eyebrow. "You probably don't want to—"
"Shut up," Nathan snapped, hauling the other man to his feet. "You're coming with me." Finally, he'd have revenge on the thief that made him the laughing stock of the guard. He'd tow him to the palace, present him to the captain, and reclaim his job. And then, when Rider headed to the stocks to be hung, he'd have a front row seat.
"I said to shut up," Nathan pushed him out of the tavern and up the winding street towards the palace. When Rider saw where they were going, he let out a sigh and fell silent. Nathan felt a grim smile spread across his face. The thief had probably given up hope. Good. He wasn't getting out of this one.
The minute they were within sight of the palace, the two guards positioned by the entrance to the courtyard stared at him in shock. Nathan puffed up, the familiar pride of being one of the best in his field wiping away the slight buzz of the few beers he'd already downed. When he got close, the other two guards—rookies, by the look of them—stepped forward, "Sir," they said, but Nathan waved them away.
"I'm going to see the captain," he said firmly. "I have some filth for the dungeon." And he marched past them, up the rounded staircase and through the front doors of the palace. Rider didn't fight at all, which surprised Nathan. He'd never seen the thief go down without a fight. But he wasn't about to look a gift-horse in the mouth.
He hadn't taken two steps towards the door leading to the basement when the princess came running down the nearby spiral staircase. Nathan immediately tightened his grip on Rider, lest he try to harm her, and tried to look as presentable as he could be coming from a bar with a wanted criminal in hand.
He hadn't seen the princess face to face yet, but he knew she'd returned. The whole kingdom knew that. And her likeness to the queen was hard to miss. Nathan bowed his head respectably as she neared them. "Princess," he said.
"Eugene," she replied, folding her arms, not even noticing Nathan. Her green eyes narrowed at the thief in his hands. "Where were you? We were going to have dinner a half hour ago."
Rider huffed, blowing a strand of hair out of his eyes, "Well, blondie, as you can see, I've been a little preoccupied."
The princess blinked and looked at Nathan for the first time, frowning. She took a few steps around Rider to notice his hands, shackled behind his back. Then she met Nathan's gaze, raising her eyebrows, "What did he do this time?"
"Nothing!" Rider exclaimed indignantly.
Ignoring him, Nathan stiffened. Being addressed by royalty always made him a bit tongue-tied, "He… he stole the lost prin… I mean, your crown, my lady."
The princess blinked at him, looking thoroughly confused. Still in his grasp, Rider rolled his eyes, "I think this one's been under a rock the last week."
She shot him a dirty glance before turning to Nathan, giving him a smile as she pushed a strand of her brown hair behind her ear, "See, here's the thing, um…"
"… Nathan," the guard supplied slowly.
"Nathan," she beamed at him for a moment before putting a hand on Rider's shoulder. "This man, he's sort of… well, he's really important to me. And if you throw him in the dungeon, it'll make it hard for him to have dinner with my parents. So, do you think that maybe you could…" she trailed off, motioning towards the shackles on Rider's wrists.
Nathan looked at her in amazement, "You… you want me to release him?"
"If you could?" the princess smiled again.
"B-but, princess, he's a wanted criminal!" the sheer idea of letting this man dine with the king and queen made Nathan feel somewhat faint.
The princess bit her lip, "Um, yes, he was. But… now he's sort of my…"
"Boyfriend," Rider drawled, clearly loving every minute of this. The princess sent him another glare, but when Rider smirked in response, she allowed a smile to tug at her lips. Nathan watched the exchange in horror.
The princess noticed his expression and gave him a sympathetic smile, "I'm sorry. I know you're just doing your job, but I really am going to need him back."
At the not so direct order, Nathan scrambled for the key to Rider's shackles, quickly taking them off. As Rider rubbed his wrists and moved to stand by the princess, Nathan took a step back, face red in embarrassment.
"Princess, I am so sorry for the inconvenience," he said quickly, bowing low in front of her. As much as it pained him to perform such an act in front of that filth Rider, he knew how to act around royalty.
"Rapunzel, please," the princess corrected, a smile on her face as she slipped her arm around Rider's. He smiled down at her, then met Nathan's gaze, realization plain on his face.
"Oooh," he said. "You're the guard who sneezed in the crown room."
It boiled Nathan's blood that Rider hadn't even remembered him until just then. But the princess was watching, so he gritted out, "Yes." He probably should have called the man "sir," being as he was the princess's boyfriend, and therefore very much Nathan's superior, but he couldn't bring himself to say the word.
Rider laughed, "You know, I didn't think they let the palace guards drink on duty."
Nathan glared at him, "I'm on an extended leave of absence."
"Oh," Rider said. Then, after a quick pause, he repeated, "Oooh," as if suddenly understanding what his little stunt had done to Nathan's life.
The princess looked over her shoulder at the staircase and tugged subtly on Rider's arm, "Eugene, dinner?" She was apparently unaware of the exchange between the two men.
"Ah, right," they turned and started to go, but before they began to climb the staircase, Rider hesitated. He looked over his shoulder, rubbing the back of his neck with a hand. "I'll get that fixed. Sorry." He winked at Nathan and led the princess up the stairs.
Nathan watched them disappear from sight, feeling furious and embarrassed, but there was also that tiny tinge of hope. Perhaps Rider would actually follow through and fix what he'd ruined.
Nathan laughed hollowly and headed back to his bar for another drink. After tonight, the heavens knew he needed it.
A/N: I have two other Tangled fics too, just in case you liked this one. :3