a/n: hello everyone, long time no write, or at least that's how it feels like. sorry! finals, and a lot of other needless drama going on. drama sucks. yes. :(

i'm not sure how i feel about this one, but yeah.

i want to thank all my reviewers, because i never thank you guys enough and you really make my day!


Chapter Six: Sennit

A number of lines interwoven in a complex pattern.

She's been gone from the magic far too long. Her bones creak and crack as she staggers forward through the hanging ivy that covers the entrance to the tower. Joints popping out of place, she stops to lean against the mossy wall of rock behind her. She reaches up to feel the skin on her face and is relieved to find that it remains soft, smooth, and young. Her arms, however, are a different story, and she eyes the age spots with growing distaste. She brushes some hair away from her eyes and the frown deepens as she notices the gray intertwined deeply with the black.

She is decaying from the inside out.

"It's only been three days," she hisses to herself. Her voice cracks. Setting down her basket near her feet she rubs her eyes and fights off the urge to scream. If she had it her way she would wear Rapunzel's pretty little hair around her own neck and let the girl rot. But no, she thinks suddenly, straightening, picking up the basket and eyeing its contents, why would she do that? The girl provides entertainment, if nothing else, and Gothel rather liked being a mother.

She groans, feeling a child again, alone and hungry, trying to decide if she should kill the pretty dog and eat him or perhaps let him go. The basket clatters to the ground and its contents roll onto the grass. Two rounded bottles, glass, filled to the brim with white shells, three jars of sand from the farthest tides, two jugs of widow's tears. Three days trip to the beach for some ingrediants and look what it costs her.

She gathers the things and straightens out, trying to regain her wits. The basket clatters noisily against her knees as she enters the sunlit clearing, blinking rapidly in the light. She daintily crosses the small stream and comes to stand beneath the tower window. She momentarily considers using the back way but decides against it. She does not think her bones could haul her up the ladder.

"Rapunzel!" she says at last, though the first try it comes out a sort of muffled croak and she has to say it again, louder, putting her whole effort into making it ring, "Rapunzel! Let down your hair!"

She hears a clatter from above and suddenly a round head pops out the tower window. "Mother! You're back!"

"I am, dear," Gothel smiles, though it hurts her cheeks, "and I brought a surprise, my flower! Now, let down your hair, so mummy can come up."

"Ok!" Rapunzel steps away from the window and Gothel steps away from the tower base and in a few moments a long, golden stream is pouring forth from the opening above, barely brushing the green grass as it comes to a stop. Gothel deftly twists a few strands and pulls back to make a loop for her foot, and in a moment she is being hoisted up the tower's side.

She does not feel as bad, now that she is in contact with her drug.

Rapunzel gives one final pull and Gothel swings over the window ledge and into the tower room, putting on her best face. "I've got a surprise for you!"

"Mother! You remembered!"

"I did?" she sends a startled gaze over her shoulder as she hangs up her dark blue coat on one of the small hooks hanging by their make-shift door. Rapunzel is eagerly swaying from side to side, a large smile on her face, and for one brief moment Gothel has the urge to curse this girl who ruined the perfect life she had with the flower and who ruined her freedom and her youth and everything

"My birthday! You remembered my birthday!" Rapunzel claps her hands together though her smile shrinks slowly at the surprised look that remains firmly on her mother's face. "Because, well, today's my birthday, and I thought you might have forgot but you didn't…right?"

"Don't be silly, Rapunzel," snap out of it, snap out of it. Her face clears instantly and she is holding her arms open for the girl, patting the glorious gold on her head as she comes for a hug and some reassurance. "Of course I wouldn't forget your birthday. My, how old you're getting, my flower."

"That's right, I'm f—"

"Age hardly matters, dear," Gothel interjects. She's having a hard time controlling the strong urge to make Rapunzel sing right this minute. Instead she reaches into her basket and pulls out some parsnips. The girl looks slightly disappointed as Gothel hands her the food. "Put that away."

"Alright."

"Rapunzel," Gothel watches the girl's back as she shuffles the food into its rightful place in the small kitchen area, "Mother's feeling a little run-down, would you sing to her? Then you can see your birthday present."

"Yes, Mother!" she runs quickly to get a large, plush chair, embroidered with red and crimson much like Gothel's favorite dress, and a tiny stool. She sits on the latter and motions eagerly for Gothel to take her place on the former. The woman does so, gratefully sinking in to the feather-down, brush in hand.

In a few minutes years are erased, and Gothel springs to her feet, quickly heading towards the mirror, noting with an eager eye the shine that had returned to her hair, the smoothness to her arms, and, most importantly, the youth to her joints, which do not hurt as she turns to her daughter. "Thank you, dear," she is happy. And glad she kept this girl around.

"Anytime, Mother. I do love to sing."

"Yes, dear," Gothel turns back to the mirror, poking and prodding at her face and wondering if she should let Rapunzel in on the secret of her hair yet. She decides to wait, because, well, it's better that the girl doesn't know anything, better that she just thinks she has some defect not, heaven forbid, some magical power or something.

But then: "Mother, I was wondering if, for my birthday, you'd let me go outside…"

"What? Go?" She spins around to face Rapunzel, who is twisting her hands fitfully in her lap, still sitting on the low stool. The girl makes quite a sight, with her hair spread and folded behind her. "Go where? Where could you possibly go, Rapunzel?"

"…well, to the grass below. To pick some flowers."

"You mean you want to leave the tower?" Gothel's heart is doing painful palpitations in her chest and, after a moment's pause in which the room is as silent as she's ever heard it and Rapunzel is staring up at her with those damnable green eyes, only then does she realize that her voice went deadly deep and cold.

"Rapunzel, sit down," Gothel says at last, even though Rapunzel's already sitting, and the woman thinks that here she is, twice in one day, losing her wits over some child. She does not want to tell her, but the alternative is much, much worse.

She needs to nip this...this 'outside' wish at the source.

"That is a hefty request, my flower," Gothel manages at last, coming to stand over the girl. "The outside world is a dangerous place."

"But, Mother, I would only go right below the tower, and you could watch me, and I would come back up, right back up—"

"Anybody could be lurking down there, Rapunzel!" Lies, lies, lies. "Ruffians and thugs could be hiding just outside, waiting to hurt you."

"But Mother, I've seen you come and go hundreds of times, and no thugs ever got you."

Damn. "Rapunzel, I am not as valuable as you are! Outside, people see you as a treasure, something they want to steal and keep for themselves."

This confuses her, and for a moment her face is blank as she tries to process the information. Gothel does not like how this is playing out but knows she has no choice. She thinks of what would happen if the girl got a taste of freedom. She'd always be out then, wandering and leaving and running, rarely coming back to the tower, and who knows what would happen to her hair out there. Anybody could cut it, and then Gothel would really be in a bind.

No, it was much better to keep her here, in the tower, because then there was always a set place where she could find her magic flower. Besides, if Gothel didn't have the freedom of living her life, why should Rapunzel?

"Steal…me?" She's gone back to twisting her hands in her lap. "Mother, I don't understand. Why would anyone want to steal me?"

"Your hair! They'd want your hair!"

"But it—it's just hair!" Rapunzel fingers a long strand near her face. "It's just hair that does weird things when I sing. That's all."

How to get the point across to the girl? Gothel steps abruptly towards the kitchen area, toeing the golden strands out of the way as she does. One of the bread cutting knifes is sitting placidly on its side, glinting in the afternoon sunlight. She picks it up and turns back to her daughter.

"Mother wait—"

Rapunzel shoots up and forward but not quickly enough, and Gothel, smiling at the way she can so easily manipulate the child, brings the knife across the upper part of her hand where it leaves a long, red gash that does nothing for a hair's breadth—then the blood wells up and over and pours, warm and red, down her fingers and to the stone below.

"Mother, why did you—I don't understand—"

"Rapunzel," she is quite calm, because the cut hardly hurts, and she is feeling heady with the power that she has over her 'daughter', "wrap your hair around my hand."

"Mother, now is not the time—we need a bandage, some salving potion—"

"Do as I say, Rapunzel," and her voice has gone cold once again. She watches as the girl shakily nears her, avoiding the drops of blood on the floor of the tower, and gingerly wraps some of her hair around Gothel's injured hand. "Now sing."

"But I just—"

"Sing!"

"Flower, gleam and glow—"

The hair shines gold and in a few seconds the glow has reached her injured hand and in a few more the song is done and her hair falls away and suddenly, inexplicably to the girl's eyes, but not to Gothel's own, the cut is gone. Nothing is there except smooth, pale skin, and the only two reminders of the bloody incident are the crimson staining both the knife and the floor.

"Your hair does not just glow, my flower. It heals. More importantly, it keeps me strong and fit, young and healthy enough to ensure your safety. Imagine the price someone would pay for that, for the ability to remain young forever."

"I'm…keeping you young, Mother?" The girl staggers back a few feet until she trips over her stool and crashes to the floor. Gothel frowns. She was always so clumsy.

From the shock still spread over her features Gothel can't help but admit that maybe her confession was a little too hasty, yet she can see that she got the point across. "You see why I cannot let you outside for even a moment, Rapunzel? You have too precious a gift. It must be kept safe, for when it can be put to good use."

Stupid, silly girl, still looking like the world has turned upside down. Gothel wipes off the knife and the blood-stained floor and moves to put the goods from her basket away. When she reaches the white shells her hand pauses.

"Oh and here, dear," she says at last, "your birthday gift."