Author Note: Okay, I didn't really WANT to write another Tangled Fanfic, but this idea came into my head and I just couldn't help myself... :) Just so you know, though, I won't be able to submit a new chapter every day like I did with my last story (for those of you who are familiar with it) But I wanted to get this out here just because :D I hope you enjoy it!
Soli Deo Gloria
Disclaimer: Disney owns Tangled, its characters, and its story
Eugene stared at his wife, a knowing smile on his face. She was gazing out of the coach window, watching the familiar shops and houses of the city pass by. He asked, quietly, "You're worried about them, aren't you?"
Rapunzel looked away from the window. She smoothed down the front of her skirt, muttering, "I can't help it."
Her husband leaned forward, "Just so you know, the boys are very capable at handling rambunctious youngsters. They adore the kids, and they would do anything to keep them safe and happy. Besides, there are at least twenty of them, and each one knows a hundred different ways to take down an armed man." He frowned, "Although, I'm not sure how well they could do against Thomas…"
"That's not what I'm worried about, Eugene. What I'm worried about is that we'll be away for an entire week. We've never left them for that long before."
"Yeah we did," Eugene pointed out, "we left Annabelle with your parents that time we went on our second honeymoon."
She sighed, "That was with Mother and Father and when we had only one child. Now there are three of them, my parents are out on 'state business', and my father's council is running the kingdom. And it's still going to be seven days."
Eugene studied her face, seeing the faint wrinkles of concern creasing her brow. Finally he nodded, "Tell you what. If you want to turn back right now—or anytime during our vacation—we will go back home. No questions, no excuses, I will make sure we are on the next boat back to Corona."
Rapunzel shook her head, "Eugene, you've been talking about this vacation for months. I'm not going to do that to you."
"And I'm not going to make you sit on a beach when your mind is a hundred miles away wondering if Ginger brushed her teeth or if Thomas tried to fly or if Annie is talking to that librarian's assistant."
"You're the one who would be worrying about that." Rapunzel said, smiling at him.
"Well, that kid is about two years older than her and he has shifty eyes."
"She grew up with him. She's still growing up with him. You always jump to conclusions without thinking it through."
"Perhaps. But I was being serious about returning home. Just say the word, and we'll go."
Rapunzel looked at his face, knowing full well that he was being completely honest. She thought about her children, and about the pub thugs who would be taking care of them for the week. They would be safe.
She smiled, "I think they'll be fine."
"You're still thinking about them, though." He said, tilting his head.
"Yes. But so are you."
Hook-hand gazed upward at the palace. He was always amazed by its extravagance and its size. This morning, bright sunlight was making the windows shine as the white walls rose up high and majestic against the blue sky. The wind fluttered the sun-stamped flags of Corona as they flew from the turrets. Soldiers in burnished breastplates lined every entrance, their spears held rigidly in their hands. Even the silence itself seemed to reek of a royal flavor.
It was an impressive sight, and he would probably have been intimidated had he not been friends with the occupants.
"George," Hook-hand turned to the servant retrieving his luggage, "just take that up to my usual room. I need to go see the kids."
"They are in the library, sir." George said helpfully.
Hook-hand ascended the palace steps and nodded to the guards, "Morning, gentlemen."
They merely nodded in return and opened the doors, allowing him to step into the entrance hall. It was rather cold inside—despite the sunlight beaming down through the windows above. Hook-hand strode forward, his heavy boots making loud, ringing noises on the marble. He frowned. Normally a valet or butler or somebody would come and meet him upon entering the hall. But now… now everything was unusually quiet.
Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a small blur speeding towards him. He turned around just in time to receive an armful of prince.
"Gotcha!" Hook-hand said, triumphantly holding a complaining Thomas in his bear hug.
Thomas squirmed against him, "Aw, no fair! You saw me coming!"
"Don't you know it's rude to pounce on your relatives like that?" Hook-hand asked, easily setting the boy down.
"Uncle Vlad didn't mind."
"Of course he didn't mind. Vladimir is like a boulder, isn't he?" Hook-hand appraised the crown prince, grinning behind his mustache, "You've grown taller, Tom."
He smiled broadly, replying, "And stronger. You wanna see me lift the rocks out by the pond?"
"Maybe later. We have all week to do stuff."
"Where's Uncle Ralph?"
Hook-hand began to follow the boy back to the library, answering, "He won't be here until this evening. Then tomorrow, all the other boys will be coming over to visit."
"This week will be awesome! Annie said you guys might take us to the carnival while you're here." Thomas said, gazing up at the man.
"That depends on when you're parents are getting back."
"Dad said 'never', but I think he was joking because Mom rolled her eyes and told him to stop teasing us."
Hook-hand nodded, "Apparently women do that a lot."
"Yeah, that's why I'm never getting married. I don't want to be bossed around."
They both turned and entered the library. The royal library was a large, two-storied room, filled with books, bookshelves, and tapestries of past kings and queens. A staircase led up to the second level, which was more of an extended balcony that overlooked the main floor. There was a fireplace against the far wall with a couch, several comfortable chairs, and a beautiful table positioned around it.
Annabelle, the prince consort and princess's eldest child, was standing in front of Stanley Isaacs. She was eagerly talking about the book she had just read as the librarian's assistant leaned back against the table, his arms folded and head nodding thoughtfully. He was a skinny, bespectacled thirteen year-old with short red hair and a serious expression.
Hook-hand raised his eyebrows at the sight but instead turned to the two people sitting on the rug next to the fireplace. Princess Ginger lay sprawled amid a pile of paper, coloring away as she explained to her comrade, Vladimir, about her picture. The pub thug was hunched over his own paper, his giant fingers nearly crushing his crayon as he listened intently to the tiny girl.
Ginger ran a stream of pink along her paper, saying, "My unicorn is going to have pink hair and a pink tail because she's a girl unicorn."
"Mine's going to be purple with polka-dots!" Vladimir announced excitedly in his deep voice, making Annabelle and Stanley jump in surprise.
"Really?" Hook-hand asked, smiling. "And what is this imposing creature going to be called?"
Vladimir looked up, shrugging, "I haven't thought about it yet."
"Uncle Al!" Ginger said, springing up to hug the man.
Thomas frowned, "What are you guys doing drawing unicorns? What about dragons or something?"
Vladimir indicated the pile of papers, "We already did that. I got to use the sparkly crayons."
Meanwhile, Annabelle and the librarian's assistant had continued their conversation.
"So, I just wanted to thank you again, Stan, for telling me about that book. It was really good."
"Anytime, Annie. It's always nice to find someone who will actually read all this stuff." He gestured at the surrounding bookcases.
She shrugged, laughing, "Well, I'm probably not going to read all of it."
"Oh, I think you could if you hung around a bit more." Stanley replied, smiling slightly.
"Annabelle, how's it going?" Hook-hand patted her on the back, nearly knocking her over.
"Hi Uncle Albert." She regained her balance, smiling uneasily.
Hook-hand leaned forward to gaze interestedly at Stanley, "And who might this young man be?"
"Um, this is Stan. He—he works in the library. I've known him for a long time. Stan, this is Uncle Albert. He helped my parents out with the whole 'magic hair' thing."
Stanley politely held out his hand for a handshake. Hook-hand held out his hook.
"Oh sorry," he said, grinning widely as he unscrewed his hook, "I always forget about the hook."
"No, it's all right."
"Here, Tom. Take this for a second, will you?" Hook-hand tossed his hook to the boy, who immediately looked as if all his dreams had come true.
"Um, how about I take that, Tom?" Annabelle wrenched the hook out of her brother's grip, muttering, "The last thing you need is an eye-patch."
He protested, "But Annie-."
Stanley edged away from Hook-hand, "Um, Annie—I'd better get back to shelving. I'll talk to you later."
"Oh. Okay, then." She watched, a slight disappointment in her eyes, as the librarian's assistant walked off down a row of bookshelves.
Hook-hand turned back to Annabelle, "So, have you been practicing that piano piece I sent you?"
"I haven't really gotten the chance yet."
Thomas rolled his eyes, "Yeah, she's just been busy talking to Stanley."
"Well, duh, Thomas, he is my friend."
"Ah." Hook-hand said, exchanging a glance with Vladimir.
"So, what exactly are your parents doing this week?" The giant thug asked Ginger.
She drew a curly pink mane on her unicorn, muttering, "Daddy wouldn't tell us."
"State business, that's what he told me." Hook-hand said, shrugging.
Vladimir nodded, "Makes sense. They are the prince and princess of Corona. What else could they be doing on vac—I mean, on out of the country trip."
Thomas narrowed his eyes, "Were you going to say 'vacation'?"
Vladimir hastily shook his head, "N—no I was going to say… um…"
Hook-hand sighed. This was going to be a long week.