a/n: this is the darker!Rapunzel story. i have some of the plot and things worked out in my head, so hopefully everyone likes it! if you read the original Unbraided-shot i had here (thank you, thank you, thank you for the reviews, btw) then this happens before that and i took the other down for now so it can follow the story, but it'll be back up in two or three chaps.

chaps shall be short-ish for now.

She makes a deal with him because she has caught her daughter looking out the window far too often for her liking.

The forest is dark and moon-dappled, with the large, twisting roots of the trees reaching up out of the ground like some old, gnarled hand. She steps carefully, gingerly, holding close her olive green cape that gives her the appearance of some walking leaf, floating down from above to wander the night below.

She spies the man before he spies her; silently she steps towards him, is suddenly behind him, taps one shoulder carefully—he stumbles forward, startled, losing his balance and looking somewhat annoyed as he pushes himself up right and turns around.

"Flynn Rider, I presume?" she drawls out, smiling a tight little smile. She has to admit, the wanted posters have not done him justice. He rubs his jaw as he sizes up the situation.

"That would be me. Though I hardly thought my employer would look like you." He flits a hand nervously through his hair and it falls artfully back into place. Recognizing his gaffe, he quickly comes back with, "Not that there's anything wrong with you."

She is sure he is lying. Most people find her unsettling. She twists a loose strand of hair behind her ear and her tight little smile fades. "I did not call you here for small talk, Flynn Rider. I have a request to make of you. A request that is most…unusual."

"Well, I've done some pretty unusual things, if you know what I mean." He smiles and his eyebrows move—rather disconcertingly, she thinks—and when she does not return the look it quickly fades into one of confusion.

"My daughter," she decides to avoid any more distractions and steps closer to him in the moonlight, noting the small pouch at his waist and the bronze studs on his blue vest—really, a perfect specimen for her plan. "It is crucial that my daughter does not leave our home."

"What…?" He looks very uncomfortable.

"She has a precious gift that could be squandered and wasted out in the wide world. She is not nearly strong enough to protect herself and could easily die. It would be beneficial to her—and thus, to me—that she remain inside our home."

"I don't understand. Why wouldn't you let her leave? I mean, the 'wide world' isn't all that bad—"

"And yet there are thieves and vagabonds like you in it." Her voice is caustic and he flinches. "Besides, you don't need to understand, Flynn Rider. I hired you because you are said to be one of the best thieves in Corona. Was I incorrect?"

She could kill him now, and be done with it, hire a new one in the morning and try again tomorrow night.

"Of course I'm one of the best thieves."

"Well, how very convenient then. Back-story aside, I require you to do nothing more than steal into our home. I shall be away until the sun sets, everyday. Understood?"

"Hardly. But that's not the point, is it?" His own remark is cutting.

"You are not to take her outside."


"You are to make her fall in love with you."

"Excuse me?"

"And then break her heart."

"Look," he takes a step back, nimbly avoiding tripping on a tree root, "I didn't come all the way out here to break the hearts of teenage girls. I do enough of that already, and without being hired to."

The dagger she is holding in her left hand, concealed beneath her cape, presses sharply against her side. With her other she takes a heavy pouch of coins from where they had sat around her neck and tosses it to the forest floor between them. "Your reward will be handsome."

The gold glitters in the moonlight and he hesitantly reaches down to check their consistency.

"Consider that the down payment."

He squats for a moment over the bag, sifting through its contents, something unreadable behind his eyes. Finally he stands, knees cracking, and says, "Fine."

Her smile is feral, like a cat as she reaches her right hand forward and clasps his own.