The Way You Are

By Serena

A/N: Completely in love with "Tangled." Definitely one of my favorite Disney movies. They definitely redeemed themselves after the lack-luster "Princess and the Frog." Flynn is one of my favorite Disney guys now. :) Also LOVE Zachary Levi... how can you not?

If you'd like to see fan art of Tangled, go to my profile and click the Deviantart link. :)

Summary: Well, at least his teeth weren't sharp and pointy.

Disclaimer: Don't own any of it. Just sayin'.

I'd never seen a man before. Oh, Mother had told me about them - horror stories, at least. She'd mentioned just once or twice how awful they were, how terrible, how evil and despicable they were, and how they weren't to be trusted. They would lie, cheat, steal, break my heart, or drag me off with them against my will. They were large, scary, ugly, and disgusting. Pigs, she'd said plenty of times. Absolute pigs.

"Crass, rude, dark-hearted, and smelly, with sharp teeth," she would finish with a disdainful sniff and upturn of her nose. "That is yet another reason why you can never leave. Your beauty, my dear, will be your undoing. It will prove too much for their weak minds, and all rational thought, whatever little they have, will go right out the window." She tossed the core of her apple she'd been chewing on out the window. I watched as it disappeared, wishing that I could follow it outside. Mother wiped her hands and turned to face me. "I'm afraid you would be seriously hurt, my dear. You're far too delicate for those ruffians. You would be overpowered in an instant."

This was the only time she said I looked nice: to demonstrate the evils of men. Other than that, I felt hideous next to her. She was taller than I was, had a better figure, and curly, dark hair. I was petite with freckles, a big mouth, and too much hair. I often wondered if Mother saw any man herself when she went out, but I'd never had the courage to ask her. I'd never had the courage to ask her anything for the matter, much less about men. I knew nothing about them other than what she'd told me.

But all that changed when he showed up. Flynn Rider: kingdom's thief extraordinaire. It only took him a few seconds after he entered that I banged him over the head with my handy-dandy, never failing frying pan. I was so shocked - more startled than frightened. But I hid for a moment before becoming bold enough to reach out and poke him. He didn't move. I poked him again. Pascal made a noise and pointed to a drawing I'd made of an ugly man with sharp teeth, just as Mother had described. Hmm, I wondered. What did his teeth look like? His face wasn't that ugly - at least from what I could tell. And his teeth? I lifted up his lips.

Well, at least his teeth weren't sharp and pointy. They were nice teeth, actually. Straight, white, clean. A nice mouth. Suddenly, I wondered what it would look like if he smiled.

Wait, what? I frowned and shook my head, backing away. No. No, no, no. What was I doing? What would it matter if he smiled, anyway?

I pushed that thought out of my mind and strengthened my resolve. It didn't matter what he looked like or who he was: the only thing that mattered was that he was going to help me live my dream.

Turns out he did have a nice smile. It took me a while to see a real smile, not a fake smile, or a leer, or a smirk, but a real smile. As we journeyed together, fighting off guards, thugs, and horses carrying knives, I began to see there was more to Flynn Rider than I'd originally thought. Well, honestly, I hadn't known what to think of him at first, but after a while, I could see he was a kinder person than I had anticipated. He didn't show it originally, trying to get rid of me to get his crown back, but things started changing.

And I started noticing something. Out of all the men I'd met so far - the thugs at the bar, the soldiers, et cetera, Flynn was different. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it was just there. He was different somehow. Maybe it was just me. I wasn't sure. Pascal didn't seem to think so, but I disagreed. Was it the way he spoke? The way he acted? Or was it all in my head? Was I just a naive, stupid girl like my mother had always said I was?

"You were good back there, Blondie," he told me, shooting me an impressed grin. It was the first real smile I'd seen. A smile that said maybe, just maybe he was starting to like me - or at least respect me.

I smiled back, wondering why I suddenly felt as though I were glowing. Mother had never told me a man would treat me like this. Be actually nice. And friendly. Someone I could trust. Work with side by side. Share stories. Just talk to as a friend. Flynn Rider seemed to be defying every single thing Mother had told me about men, and because of that, my trust in her was crumbling faster than my last batch of cookies. Oh, he was irritating, condescending, arrogant, and probably thought he could get away with anything. He was banking on my naivete. However, as we continued on our adventure, he began to change. The way he looked at me. The way he spoke to me. The way he smiled. The way he treated my innocence about the world.

He was far from perfect, but I was liking him more and more.

I think I first knew I liked him more than a friend the night I healed his hand. After inwardly giggling at the befuddled, awestruck expression on his face and the small squeaks he made, I proceeded to find out more about his past - something previously forbidden to discuss. With a defeated sigh, he told me his real name - Eugene - and admitted that he had always wanted to be like the hero in the stories he would read to the younger orphans. A sharp pang darted into my heart as he told his story. And, for the first time, I saw behind that mask of bravado lay a confused, heartsick man searching for something. He thought he just needed money to be happy. That was his dream. But now, I think he wasn't so sure anymore.

I didn't even realize how close we were until he cleared his throat and jumped up, mumbling something about more firewood.

But I knew he felt the same sparks that I had felt. And they were not coming from the fire.

Things continued to look up between us after that night. We made it into the kingdom, where I nearly went crazy from the business of it all. So many people, so many things to do and see and touch... so much life! My mind was spinning, reeling from the sounds, smells, tastes, feelings of everything I encountered. Nearly stumbling over, Flynn caught me and smiled down at me - another real smile.

"C'mon, Blondie," he said warmly. "Let me show you around." He set me back upright and kept his hands on my waist for just a tad longer than I expected. Not that I minded. On the contrary, my body was suddenly buzzing with a strange heat that sent my toes tingling and my head even more reeling. However, I managed a grin back.

"Steal much stuff here before?" I teased, nudging him.

He laughed. "Are you kidding? I know this place like the back of my hand." He grabbed my hand and lead me down the streets of the kingdom. We met people - some of who were old friends of Flynn's - and tried so many different good foods, and saw different things like hand puppet plays and children cartwheeling and...

"Dancing!" I exclaimed, tugging Flynn towards the center circle, where a group of musicians played a lively tune. Flynn, on the other hand, wasn't as enthused as I was.

"You go ahead," he said, holding up his hands. "I'm not much for dancing."

My heart sank, but I just threw him a disappointed smile and proceeded to take the arm of a man and lead him into the circle, skipping and dancing all the while. A few people laughed and started clapping, and I drew them into the circle as well. Heart pounding, I eventually got a group of people laughing, clapping, and dancing around together. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Max nudging Flynn into the circle, and I started to smile. Just a few minutes later, Flynn was shoved into the middle of the dance party and grabbed by some young woman. They started whirling around together, and I strained to see him. For the next twenty minutes, we tried to find one another, only to be separated at the last minute by someone else pulling us away. The dance grew faster and more frenzied, and my head spun with delight and anticipation. My heart beating wildly, I was whirled around by someone and, as the music came to a crashing end, I found myself face to face with Flynn, mere inches away.

I'd never seen such an expression on his - or anyone's face before. It was a mix of surprise, delight... and something akin to hunger. Although I didn't fully understand it, a delicious shiver ran down my spine. I wanted him to take me in his arms and spin me around until we were both out of breath and dizzy. However, the music had stopped; and the moment faded. He stepped back, laughing awkwardly and clearing his throat. I blushed and looked away.

"So," he said, "about those lanterns..."

The night of the lanterns was the most amazing, magical night of my life. Surrounded by water that reflected the lanterns and their glowing warmth, I felt as though I had died and gone to heaven. I was sure I had the silliest smile on my face the moment we got into the boat Flynn (or Eugene) had acquired for us. He'd said that I should have the best view for the lanterns, yet another incident that caused my heart to beat unnaturally. I wondered if I was feeling well. My forehead was warm, and my heart rate had been increasing every time he did something to surprise me in a nice way.

But when he took my hands in his, I felt something other than surprise. And I knew he felt it, too. We leaned closer to each other, and my eyes drifted shut of their own accord. I felt his breath hot on my face and waited for the kiss that never came.

But even after I thought he betrayed me, I couldn't get that feeling out of my heart. I didn't want to, either. Despite all that had happened, I couldn't get him out of my head. I couldn't forget about him, and I couldn't completely condemn him. I tried telling myself that there had to be a better explanation - something had gone wrong. Maybe he'd been tricked... or maybe just mistaken. Maybe it was all a misunderstanding.

I thought I had found my dream in the night of the lanterns. But after that night, I wasn't sure anymore.

The following day, I was. Tied up in chains by my so-called mother, I felt as though my heart would burst with joy and fear when I heard his voice call up to me. My voice muffled by the gag, I screamed as loud as I could, but to no avail. He leaped into the tower, then started when he saw me bound and gagged. "Rapun-" He groaned and clutched his stomach as Gothel's dagger drove right in. I screamed, sobbing, and yanked myself towards him.

It wasn't until I promised Gothel that I would always be with her that she let me save him. Eugene tried to stop me, but I knew I had to save him.

"I can't let you die," I whispered.

"But if you save me... then you'll die," he gasped.

"It's going to be OK," I breathed. "It'll be OK."

He reached up a hand, slid it through my hair. Leaning forward, I thought it would be our last kiss... and then, I felt a great weight dropping from my head and heard the slice of hair. Gasping, I clutched my head and felt the strangeness of short - extremely short hair. No. No, no, no, no! What had he done? Why had he sacrificed himself just to save me from Gothel?

It was then that I knew I loved him. And I had finally found my dream. But now... it was too late.

"You... were my dream," he told me through lidded eyes.

I tried to smile through my tears, but my heart felt as though it were ripping in two. "And you were mine."

No. My "mother" had been entirely wrong about men, including Flynn. He was far from perfect. But then again, so was I. I loved him the way he was, for who he was.

I couldn't believe it. Not only did my hair heal magically, but also my tears. And Eugene was alive. When we kissed for the first time, I felt as if all the weight in the world had lifted, and everything would be all right. Eugene loved me, I loved him, and I finally found my parents. For the first time in my life, I had a real, whole family. Parents that truly loved me, a man that truly loved me... I didn't think it could get any better. However, despite the relationship between Eugene and me, I could tell that with all of the sudden change, he felt a little lost, and a little uncertain. After all, he'd been a thief for so long... I thought that I had a hard time adjusting, but so did he.

One evening, as I was staring at myself in the mirror, just before dinner, Eugene knocked on the door. I could always tell it was him by his knock - it was bold, strong. I wondered if it was strange to know someone by their type of door-knock. Then again, I had been locked in a tower for the majority of my life. I supposed I had an excuse to be a little strange, at least.

"Come in, Eugene!" I said, running a hand through my impossibly short hair. I wondered if it would ever grow long again.

Eugene entered, and, I could see through my mirror, he looked distinctly uncomfortable. "Hey," he said awkwardly.

"Hey," I said, smiling. I turned around and came up to him. "What is it?"

"Er, Rapunzel," he started, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Bless you," I teased, elbowing him in the side. He coughed slightly and shot me a look.

"Look, babe," he continued, "I know you're going to be the queen eventually and all that jazz... but you gotta know... I'm not a regular guy. I'm a thief. I'm, well, different."


"So? That doesn't bother you?"

"Of course not. I fell in love with a thief. I love you the way you are."

"Yes, but... Well, fine, that actually makes sense." That seemed to cheer him up infinitely. "So!" He clapped his hands together. "Marry me, baby?"

I stared up at him, blinking. "Is that a standard proposal? Or is it different?"

"Umm... maybe a little different?" His voice rose uncertainly, and he blinked. "So was that a 'no'?"

"No. I mean, no, it wasn't a 'no.'"

He frowned, rubbed the back of his neck. "So, uh, what does it mean, Blondie?"

Suddenly, I smiled, then forced it down and sighed, shaking my head. "Look, I didn't want to have to do this, but you leave me no choice." He frowned in confusion, and I continued, "Here comes the smolder." After a pause, I looked up at him through my eyelashes, attempting my sultriest expression. Not that I knew how to do a sultry expression... But with the way he suddenly stared at me, I got the impression it was working. Smiling slowly, I stepped towards him, exaggerating my hip movement. He stayed perfectly still and swallowed, eyes wide and glazed over. When I reached him, I wound my arms around his neck and stopped mere inches away from his lips.

"Just to clarify," I whispered, "That was a 'yes.'"

But before I leaned up to kiss him, he suddenly bent down and kissed me hard. His hand wound itself through my short brunette strands, while the other pulled itself around my waist. Leaving me breathless, the kiss seemed to last for hours. When we finally pulled apart, he held me tightly and grinned, touching his forehead to mine.

"Using my own smolder on me..." He chuckled huskily. "Never seen that one before."

"Did you mind?" I batted my eyelashes at him and smiled innocently.

"Absolutely not," he said, and kissed me again.

When I see your face, there's not a thing that I would change. 'Cause you're amazing just the way you are." - Bruno Mars

Thoughts? :)

- Serena