Okay so I've been seeing some fantastic fics popping up where Rapunzel has nightmares and is comforted by Eugene. Me, being a sap for angst and drama, decided that the tables should be turned. So here you go!
He's in the tower again.
The thought does not strike him as odd or impossible. It seems perfectly normal that he is in this place, high above the ground, with the breeze from the almost raining sky blowing across the back of his neck. He hears someone shriek behind him, the sound awful and crippling and though it draws his gaze he feels nothing as he watches the cloaked figure tumbled out the window. He doesn't remember how she trips or if she's old or why something like that should matter. He thinks it has something to do with the long blonde hair that spreads across the floor of the tower but he doesn't know for certain. Because what's happened to the other end of the hair doesn't matter when the girl that it's attached to is cradled in his arms. As if on cue he hears her sigh and his eyes move back to her features in time to see her eyes begin to close.
"No no no," he hears his voice, messy and choked, "Rapunzel-Rapunzel look at me!"
He feels the wetness against his palm and he doesn't need to look to know what is happening. But his eyes move of their own accord, landing on her side. The purple fabric of her dress is turning dark and he can see the red gracing his fingertips where they touch her. The stain blossoms across her stomach but his eyes can see the thin tear where the knife was thrust through her slight form. He can't remember who stabbed her or why, the only clear sight he has is of her shocked face. How is a girl who spent her entire life in a tower to know what if feels like to be hurt. To be stabbed?
Now he's clutching her against him, watching as her cheery dress turned dark.
Dimly he knows he should press against the wound, try to staunch the bleeding. But he's been around the dead and the dying and he knows that pressing against it will only hurt her more and he can't bring himself to do that to her. Not now. Not when her head is lolling against his arm as her bright, wide eyes struggle to stay open and focused on him. But he can see them fog over, he can see them start to close and the sharp pain in his chest makes it impossible to breathe.
He fumbles, shifting her against him as he grabs her hair. He doesn't understand how it works, doesn't care how it works. Just as long as her powers do their job and she doesn't die here in the tower that she's live her entire life in. He gathers the her hair in his hand and hesitates only for a second to wonder if she'll mind getting blood in the long locks before laying his hand against her side as gently as he can. Gentler than he's sure he's done anything in his life. Even so she winces, her breath catching as her body tries to move away from the new pain.
It kills him to hurt her but he holds his hand there. He waits until she's adjusted before allowing his hand to touch her wound lightly. She winces again but he holds it there, knowing that her hair has to touch the wound in order for this to work. Once it does he vow he'll let her do whatever she wants to repay him, even though he knows Rapunzel never wants to hurt another thing. When she relaxes fractionally again he musters his voice.
"Hey, Goldie, come on it's time to sing," he says, fighting to inject humor into his voice. Her eyes fight to open, "here, I'll start you off," he tries to grin, "flower gleam and glow-" he begins though his voice is anything but musical.
"Eugene," she whispers his name and he's certain his heart stops as she gives him the softest smile he's ever seen, "I'm sorry," she begins and his heart lurches, "it doesn't work on me," she says.
He's certain his heart breaks then. There is no other explanation for the agony that fills his chest, for the ache that steals his breath away as he stares down at her pale features. Suddenly his throat is too tight and his eyes are burning and all he can think is that it isn't fair. This isn't fair. It's not fair that the girl in his arms is dying after seeing only a small part of the big beautiful world. It's not fair that she's going to die in this tower, where her entire life has been lived. None of this is fair.
He can do nothing to stop this.
But he can do one thing for her.
He's careful as he shifts her in his arms, careful as he straightens up and careful to keep his steps smooth as he slowly makes his way across the room. She doesn't make a sound as he moves and only the spread of the blood between his fingers makes him certain that her heart is still beating. That she's still with him if only for a moment longer. He carries her across the threadbare rug, taking care not to step on her hair as he walks over to the window.
He tells himself that stirs when she feels the breeze on her face, not when he carefully sits on the ledge of her window and moves himself so that his legs are on the edge, dangling over the impossibly long drop. She's still cradled against him, still in some ways in the tower, but he's gotten her as far away from the tower as he humanly can. Somehow she realizes what he's done and her lips curve up into a smile that makes his heart break all over again.
"Thank you," she whispers, though for what she's thanking him for he cannot say. He doesn't care either as his arms tighten around her, as if by holding her he can keep her there with him, "Hey Eugene?"
He looks down at her, his eyes meeting her green ones.
"I found a new dream," she whispers. He continues to look at her, unable to speak past the block in his throat, "it was you."
The tears break free at that, hot and fast they stream down his face because he's certain that Eugene Fitzherbert has never been anyone's dream before. But she looks at him with such honesty in eyes that are slowly glazing over as her blood seeps through her dress and into his shirt and he's certain in that moment that he's never wanted anything more than to keep the girl in his arms alive. Not castles or jewels, not any of the dreams that seem so stupid now. Now as he cradles her and tries not break down at the hopelessness of it all.
"You-" he begins but his voice is choked and rough and so un-Flynn like that he's forced to clear his throat so that she doesn't worry, "and you were mine, Goldie," he says.
She closes her eyes then for the last time and he knows its over.
He's got no choice but to hold her against him as her breath stutters and her heart falters and she fades away. A part of him wishes that he was anywhere else, but he shoves that selfish, ugly part of him aside and holds her tighter. Before he knows it she's still in his arms. Only then does he let himself break down, only then when she's gone and she can't worry about him or ask why he's upset. Because he knows that if he had she would have asked, even though she was in so much worse of a state. He sobs until he runs out of tears for a girl who should have a thousand people to mourn her instead of one insignificant thief.
It's hours later when he moves and looks down at her still form, now drenched in the paleness of moonlight, and realizes that he should have kissed her before she died.
A thousand miles away, a thousand lifetimes away, he bolts up in his own bed, heart pounding in his chest as he fights to draw a proper breath into lungs that only seem to want to gasp.
The sweat is sticky on his skin as sucks in lungful after lungful of air, his eyes darting around the moon drenched room that he's called his own for a little over a month. The sheets are tangled around him and he knows he's been thrashing. Even now that he's awake he can still feel the hair wrapped around his hand, the wetness of her dress, even the way her last breath escaped her gently parted lips. Swiping a hand through his hair, Eugene struggles to bring his pounding heart under control. He tells himself that everything is fine.
Rapunzel was not stabbed, he was.
She did not bleed out on the floor of the tower, he did.
He tells himself these things but they do not do much to calm him down. Not like he needs them to. His hands tremble violently as he untangled himself from the sheets and it takes him several tries to get himself free. He swings his legs over the side of the bed and doubles over, bracing his elbows on his knees and looping his hands over the back of his neck.
It's easier to get himself to breath normally in this position, with the cold air from his open windows blowing across his tacky skin. It's nearly winter, the first snowfall having just occurred and yet he cannot bring himself to close his windows. The place is warm, too warm for a man whose spent every winter in his life freezing. The sharp air stings his lungs, forcing him to realize that this is real, that this is and the dream is not. Somewhere in the palace Rapunzel is sound asleep. Her hair is brown not gold, the purple dress she still refuses to throw out is tucked in her closet next to the handful of more 'princess' like atire.
She is fine.
He on the other hand is a complete wreck.
Swiping a hand through his hair, Eugene pushes himself off of the wide bed. His body feels sore, as if he ran for miles instead of just thrashed about in bed. The floor under his feet is cold as he makes his way over to the balcony that jutts from his room. Outside the air is colder but it is exactly what Eugene needs. Taking a deep lungful of the air, he leans his forearms against the banister and looks out at the kingdom. Winter in this place has always been a thing of beauty, or as beautiful as an orphan turned thief could find the worst season of the year. Eugene has always been a spring type of person, spring or fall when the weather was fine for sleeping outside.
Eugene looks up to see the Princess peering down at him and he wonders if it's a stroke of fate that her bedroom is above his. The sumptuous purple cloak that falls around her form is lined with warm amber colored fur which matches the lining of her currently unlaced boots. He knows underneath that she's wearing her night gown, that unlike him she's still very sensitive to the outside world. So sensitive that even for a night time star gaze she's wearing her cloak and boots. The hood is pushed back and he can see her chocolate hair sticking up oddly from where she fell asleep.
"Hey," he greets, lifting his hand in a half-wave.
Rapunzel looks down at her friend, the smile falling from her face. Eugene looks awful. She can see the sweat on his skin and the blank look in his eyes and she wonders if he's had a nightmare. Even so he tries to smile at her and Rapunzel feels her heart soar and break at the same time. She hates it when he tries to hide what he's feeling from her, even though she knows he's doing it only to protect her. She wishes that he didn't always feel the need to protect her. After all she's escaped the tower, made sure he wasn't hung and all of her tutors tell her that she is excelling at her lessons. Most of the time she feels perfectly independent.
It's only times like these when she feels as if she knows nothing.
Times like when she goes to visit the King and Queen-who she sternly reminds herself to at least think of as mother and father-and she finds the Queen weeping. Or when she catches Eugene staring off into space when he thinks she cannot see him. She wants to ask what is wrong but whenever they see her the Queen wipes her eyes and Eugene flashes her his grin and they pretend that nothing has happened. But this time he hasn't flashed a grin and she realizes that this is worse than before.
"Hey Eugene?" she begins but bites her lip, her courage faltering.
What if he doesn't want her to know that he's had a bad dream? She knows her mother doesn't want her to know that she cries sometimes. And that Eugene doesn't want her to know there are times when he wants to run off and be Flynn Ryder again. But it's not a two way street. Because at the first prick of tears she's always throwing herself into Eugene's arms. At the first gasp after a nightmare she's padding down the hallway in search of comfort. So she pushes the worry aside and looks down at him again.
"Did you have a bad dream?" she asks him quietly.
Eugene looks up at her, realizing that is the most obvious conclusion she could come to. He wants to deny it, just like he wants to deny everything in order to protect her. It just seems so wrong that the first person she meets, the first person she gives her heart too, is a scoundrel and a thief like him. He'd be lying if he said that the though of leaving didn't cross his mind. But the idea of her falling in love with someone else settles a knot of led into his stomach that makes it impossible to leave.
"Yeah," he says finally, "but it's nothing. I've had my share of night mares."
She looks at him, her eyes landing on his. He could practically see the wheels turning in her head.
"Hold on," she says, holding out a hand as if to get him to stay there, "just don't go anywhere okay?"
He nods, not entire sure was she is doing but powerless to object to her. So he waits there, trying to tell himself he is not a horrible person for considering dragging a chair over and barricading the door. He's just about convinced himself to do it too when said door slides open. He doesn't turn, he only counts to three before hearing the terrific bang of it swinging shut. Rapunzel's never had a door of her own that wasn't locked by someone else and half the time she's so excited to open it on her own that she completely forgets to shut it and it slams. He hears her feet pause before they continue forward and before he quite knows what's happening she's standing next to him on the balcony, still wrapped snugly in her plush purple cloak.
Rapunzel looks at him and is at a complete loss as to what to do next. Whenever she has a bad dream Eugene wraps her in his arms and holds her until everything that seemed so scary moments ago suddenly wasn't. But as she looks at the young man she doesn't think she'll be able to hug him the same way she hugs her, until the rest of the world seems to fade away. He leans against the banister but the carefree look doesn't quite reach his eyes.
"Do you want to talk about it?" she ventures softly.
Eugene shakes his head, immediately regretting it as her face falls. But it seems worse to tell her about his nightmare. He doesn't want her to ever think about dying, especially not back in the tower he knows she still sometimes has nightmares about being in it. He knows he's caught in a terrible dilemma, that it will hurt her if he doesn't tell her but it'll hurt her if he does.
The idea of lying cross his mind briefly but leaves a knot of shame in his stomach. He cannot lie to her, though the urge to is almost instinctive. He's never really had a problem lying to anyone but after Rapunzel was lied to for so long he cannot do it. Her bobbed hair is proof enough that like her Mother Gothel he tried to control her destiny, to make her choices for her. That alone is enough to make him sick. The idea of lying to her, of having anything further in common with that woman, is enough to make him go against his instincts and tell only truths to her.
"Was it about the tower?" Rapunzel asks. His eyes widen as he looks at her.
"How did you-" he begins.
She smiles up at him. She knows he's dreaming about the tower because the worst of her night mares takes place in it too. He knows this because she always sobs incoherently against him, remembering how it felt to watch him die in her arms after she'd been so quick to believe that he had betrayed her. The dreams are shockingly real and it usually takes hours for her to feel comfortable enough to let Eugene out of her sight. Comfortable enough that she can look away and when she turns back he'll be alive and whole and not dying.
"I have nightmares about it too," she says, "but you already knew that," she adds, feeling the heat on her cheeks as she blushes, "at least you're not weeping like I usually am," she says.
"Well," he says, leaning against the banister in a faux-relaxed pose, "I'm not really a 'crying' sort of guy."
"Well that's good," Rapunzel replies, "it seems like I cry enough for the both of us," she grinned, "sometimes I think I cry enough for the whole kingdom!"
Eugene looks down and Rapunzel meets his gaze with her wide, earnest one. He sees the smile start to slip off her face as she looks up, trying to discern if he's trying to make her feel better or if he honestly feels alright. So Eugene reaches up and flips her hood up and over her head. The hood is huge and it falls almost to her chin. Her head moves in the confines of the hood and he knows her face is surprised. Slowly her small hands move upwards and lift the hood off of her face and by that time he's mustered a smile that, while short of the infamous Flynn Ryder smolder, is at the very least honest.
She beams at him from underneath the amber fur and his heart does that funny little flip flop thing it only seems to do when she's around. No, not just when she's around. His treacherous heart does that infuriating flip flop thing when her eyes lock with his and she smiles just for him. Then his heart does virtual backflips in his chest and to be perfectly honest he feels a little sick. But he thinks that has more to do with the fact that Flynn Ryder's heart in both the books and in real life has never flip flopped for anyone, much less a girl who never set eyes on a man until a month and three days ago.
"Do you feel better?" she asks because he is smiling and she knows that she smiles when he makes her feel better.
"Yeah," he says, "thanks," he adds, telling himself that he does feel marginally better so it is not lying to her.
Rapunzel is so happy that she looks away in the hope he won't see her blush in delight at the accomplishment. She's never comforted anyone before and he does seem to feel better. Her eyes wander over the landscape before they go back to him. She doesn't want to look in his eyes yet so her eyes wander lower. She realizes with a jolt that he's not wearing a shirt and though she knows she should feel embarrassed she can't.
Because marring the smooth, tan skin of his chest are more scars than she thought possible for one person to have.
There are lines and dots and patches of raised skin that looks almost like lace. Mostly the skin of his scars is paler and shinier than the rest of it but a few of them are dark and purple and fresh. Distantly somewhere she knows that she's staring at him and she's been told that it's rude to do but she cannot look away. There are just so many of them. All but the deceptively small line she knows should mar his side from where the woman she called 'Mother' for all her life plunged a knife through his flesh.
She doesn't know why it makes her stop to see the scars on his flesh. He still doesn't like to talk about his past but she knows that he's lived an adventurous life. And she knows that he's got enemies all over the place from his old habits of taking treasure and leaving his 'partners' behind. Her one experience with the Stabbington brothers has been more than enough and secretly she is filled with dread at the idea that there are people out there who have been betrayed by the brave young man standing in front of her.
"Hey are you okay?" he asks, drawing her eyes upwards.
He's looking at her with concern and Rapunzel feels her heart fall. Because she had come down determined to comfort him like he always comforted her and instead he's looking at her with concern and the very last thing she wants is for him to be worried about her when he just had a nightmare. She's been told that she is a terrible liar and she's never really had someone to lie to so she believes them. But even so she focuses very hard on the one time she lied to her mother and smiles up at him.
"Nothing," she tells him brightly.
He looks down at her with a raised eyebrow. Rapunzel is about as difficult to read as a child's book. Her emotions are naked on her face most of the time and the rest of the time she gets a determined look on her face that is a dead give away. Even now her smile is too bright to be believable but she still grins up at him with the determination he's come to expect of her. The emotion is so obvious in it's falsehood that he barely knows what to do with it. He doesn't know what he'll do if she discovers card games, only that with his luck she'll love them and he'll be forced to explain what a blank expression is.
"Rapunzel you are a terrible liar," he informs her.
Her face falls and while he feels guilty for making her sad her inability to lie is something they are both aware of and he is secretly glad that the attention is taken off of him. He is much better at being the caretaker than being the one that is taken care of, has been since it became clear that he was going to be staying at the orphanage for the rest of his childhood. He doesn't blame the matron of the orphanage for giving him duties to take care of the younger children but he is not used to other people looking out for him, much less comforting him.
"I know," Rapunzel says with a sigh as her bright smile falls and the disgust he feels at himself increases when his relief at their role reversal stays, "I came down here to make sure you were okay," she explains, trailing off as she fingers the band of embroidery around the edge of her cloak in nervousness.
Now he really feels like an asshole, because as grateful as he is to have the attention on her instead of him he truly hates it when she gets nervous or upset. It just feels wrong. Like she's spent too much time away from the world to have any taste of it be bad. He knows it's ridiculous to think that everything she experiences will be good. In her first two days out in the world alone she experienced betrayal and death.
He wants to protect her.
Eugene's barely managed to own the clothes on his back for an extended period of time. He's betrayed and backstabbed his way across the kingdom. So the idea that he wants to protect this girl, that he wants to make sure she still smiles and paints her walls and bakes cookies for every single person in the palace, is an alien one to him. But it's also one that he does almost instinctively, doing everything he can to make sure that as often as possible she is delighted and smiling and shining brighter than any jewel he's stolen. It's a terrible idea to entrust the safety of a Princess's happiness to hands as dirty, literally and figuratively, as his and the only thing that keeps him there trying to do the job is the knowledge that if someone else were to step in he'd probably kill them out of sheer jealousy.
Also something he's not entirely accustom to.
Oh Eugene's wanted things before. Baubles and treasures and things that are usually a rope and a grab away, or a kiss and a smolder away. But this is something else, something that he hasn't figured out how to steal yet. Something he actually wants to earn and that sends him in an entirely different tumble of emotions. Because neither Flynn Ryder nor Eugene Fitzerhbert has ever really had to work for anything, not in any long term sense of the idea.
"You did make me feel better," he says, forcing himself to think only about the nightmare and not how he wants to bang his head against a wall until words like 'honor' 'respect' and 'love' stop sounding like such horrible things, "really," he continues, "besides I bounce back fast."
"I do too," she says quickly.
"Of course you do," he replies easily, because the truth is that she does.
If it'd been him experiencing the world for the first time he'd probably spend the first two days sobbing in the bushes. Not that that had happened the first time he'd left the orphanage or anything. But Rapunzel hurls herself headfirst into life outside the tower and Eugene's forced to admit that he admires the slight brunette in front of him more than he's admired most people in his life.
Rapunzel looks at him, wondering if he really thinks he's fooling her before deciding that she'll let him think it regardless. If it'll make him feel better she'll let him lie to her for a little bit, even though everything she's read has told her that lying is wrong. He does look a little bit better but not all the way yet. Her eyes leave his but this time she looks over her shoulder to see his room. Her eyes land on the bed and an idea occurs to her.
"Come on," she says grabbing his hand and dragging him back into the room.
He follows her and she knows that he's letting her tug him forward. Eugene's carried her many many times before and she knows from one ill-advised attempt that she cannot do the same for him. He lets her drag him over to the bed and she wonders if she should push him down but settles for settling him by the bed before reaching out and pulling his tangled sheets up and back.
"Lay down," she says.
"Why?" he asks cautiously.
"Please lay down?" she says.
"Alright," he says sitting down before swinging his legs over and laying down.
She looks at him cautiously before moving forward and seizing the sheets he's managed to tangle. WIth a quick and slightly impressive movement of her wrist she's got them untangled and the next instant they're dragged over his chest. Eugene tries not to look at her like she's grown a second head. Like no-one's tucked him in for most of his life-hell there have been periods of time where he hasn't had a blanket let alone a bed. He knows he's done a good job when she looks at the sheets before moving forward and rapidly tucking him in.
"Okay," she says, "now close your eyes."
He knows better than to argue at this point. Between the laying down and the fact that he is now tucked in so securely he doubts he'd be able to get up if he wanted to, it's pretty clear what is going on. Besides even if he does object it doesn't take much from her to get him to give in. So he closes his eyes and waits for what is going to happen next. Unseen to him she closes her own eyes and he can hear her take two deep breaths.
When she begins to sing his eyes fly open and for a heart stopping moment he's certain he's going to be back in the tower.
Her eye opens and she stops, looking down at him.
"You have to close your eyes," she says, as though it's the most obvious thing in the world, "or it won't work."
He wants to tell her that there is no way he is closing his eyes or going to sleep or doing anything that's going to land him back in that tower, even if it's just in his mind. But she looks at him with her big green eyes and he knows she wants nothing more than to make him fall asleep like he always manages to do for her.
"Okay okay," he surrenders, closing his eyes even with the pounding of his heart in his ears.
She begins to sing to him the lullaby that the Queen, her real mother, has been teaching her. It's a lullaby that's not about flowers or gleaming or glowing, rather it's about love and baking and the sun, all the simple things that Rapunzel loves. As she sings she's worried she won't remember all the words but she thinks of the way the Queen sings it and makes it through all the words.
When she opens her eyes Eugene is asleep, or at least she thinks he is.
Rapunzel looks down at him, watching his chest rise and fall in a steady rhythm. His eyelashes don't flutter either and for the life of her she cannot tell if he's asleep or just faking it for her sake. A breeze blows through his open door, making her shiver but he stays perfectly still. Deciding that is enough of a test, Rapunzel quietly stands up from the bed. It's getting colder outside and the thought of closing the doors crosses her mind but if Eugene wants them open then she feels bad if she ignores that.
Instead she reaches up to her throat and undoes the gold clasp of her cloak.
Pulling the heavy material off her shoulders, she shivers in the cold air of his bedroom and wonders how Eugene can stand to be so cold. Turning to the man on the bed, she carefully covers him with her cloak. She's shorter than he is and the garment doesn't reach down to his toes but she figures he'd rather have his upper body warm. The sight of him covered in her purple cloak is enough to make her want to giggle as she decides that purple is definitely not Eugene's color.
Immediately she feels bad that she's trying not to laugh while Eugene suffers and the thought is enough to make her stop. But Eugene is asleep and she knows he'll feel better in the morning. She's two steps from the bed when she realizes she's forgotten something and darts back as quietly as she can, leaning down and kissing him lightly on the cheek like her mother sometimes does for her. Satisfied that he is asleep and she's done everything she can, Rapunzel tip toes to the door and slips outside.
Eugene waits until the several heartbeats after the door closes with a gentle click before he opens his eyes.
The moon still drenches the room in it's pale light. Eugene looks down at the cloak that barely reaches his knees and wonders how it is that one garment can make the entire room smell like the lavender oil he knows the maids use in her bath. The fur and velvet presses the sheets against his skin with their weight but he cannot bring himself to pull the garment off, to move it from where she laid it on top of him. Instead, he works an arm free and runs his thumb over the gold stitching. He hates, with passion, the fact that he knows exactly how much this will fetch in the market.
Eugene rolls onto his side, breathing in the scent of lavender and Rapunzel. When he closes his eyes he can almost picture her in her night gown as she sits on her bed and drags the first pair of boots she's ever owned off her feet. A month and three days ago she hadn't even owned a pair of shoes. For some reason the thought of all that had changed sends a jolt of hope through him. After all a month and three days ago he hadn't even wanted to to be an honorable man. Now even if the thought makes him feel a bit sick at least it isn't insane. Or, at least he hopes it isn't, even though he knows that in the morning he'll tell her he got a good night's rest even if it isn't true.
He hates lying to her.
But for now it's all he can do.
Maybe in another month and three days things will be different.
wow well that angst took on a life of its own.
Reviews are love!