A/N: Well, Tangled certainly lit a fire under my bum for writing fanfic again, I haven't written in a very long time! I hope you enjoy it, it's sure been an experience getting back into it.
Disclaimer: I don't own Tangled and never will. Baw.
Chapter 1 – The Tower
It was dark. It was more than dark, it was black. Completely black, and very cold.
Where was he? And why couldn't he move? Why couldn't he feel anything, or see anything?
Not only that, he could hardly remember anything…a smudge of brown, a frantic voice, two big eyes, two big, green eyes…they had been filled with tears…
And suddenly a tiny spot of heat shot through the cold, almost as if he'd been pricked by a needle. It was moving, and spreading, the cold was fading away as the heat grew stronger, and now there was a small circle of light, growing larger and larger. He felt the blackness rolling away. He realised he could feel his fingers, and toes, and he had a mouth, and lungs…lungs, straining for air…
A small gasp of air rattled down his throat, and he realised someone was saying his name.
"Eugene?" The voice sounded desperate, and yet…hopeful?
His eyes – he had to open his eyes. With a monumental effort he made his eyelids move, dimly aware of being amazed that he could do so. His vision flickered for a moment as he struggled to keep his eyes open but, finally, he was able to focus on what was in front of him.
Eyes. Her eyes…
She was there – she was alive! And he – he was too, the pain in his side was gone! But her hair – he had cut it off, it was short and brown…and shiny and lovely and at that moment was the most beautiful sight he had ever laid eyes on.
"Rapunzel," he murmured, finding his voice somewhere in there and managing to make it work. "Have I ever told you…"
It seemed like had hours had passed but, as Eugene sat propped up against the banister with his arms wrapped around the tiny figure leaning against him, his chin resting on her hair, in reality it was probably only a few moments. After sharing with her what had been – he hoped – the most well-deserved kiss of his life, they'd both been so still it seemed as it time had been suspended. He was still recovering from the shock of finding himself alive, while Rapunzel…well, the enormity of everything still seemed to be settling over her. He could almost feel it being laid over her like a blanket, sinking in like stones in a river.
He didn't know how she would feel about any of it yet, but he was going to take whatever it was that came his way. She'd brought him back to life…both literally and metaphorically, he mused.
But how? He'd been completely prepared to die so that she might be able to escape, and yet here he was. So many questions! He didn't think he'd ever had so many in his life, and considering his life so far that was something.
But he didn't want to ask them yet. In fact, if Rapunzel didn't want to he wouldn't ask them ever. Right now he felt like he could sit here for the rest of his life without a worry. Absent-mindedly, he reached out a finger and ran it along her hair.
In response she shifted against his chest and turned towards him with a small smile. "It's so short," she said quietly. From his position on the banister Pascal emitted a small whirr of sympathy.
Eugene felt a sharp pang of guilt. He'd just hacked off the thing she identified with most, changed its colour and got rid of its incredible power. "Will you hate me for the rest of your life?"
She pushed away from his chest and crossed her arms, and even after only holding her for a few moments the fact that she was no longer there made him feel strange.
"Hate you? Hate you?" she prodded him in the chest and he winced, preparing for the blow. "Are you mad? You saved my life!" She sat back on her heels and stared at him, her eyes full of wonder and Eugene felt his heart swell as he realised she was looking at him with the same kind of awe and excitement she'd shown when she'd first seen the lanterns. "I've never – never had anyone to do that for me before." She looked down at her hands and twisted her fingers together. "I didn't – I mean, I never really thought anyone ever would, not even Mo – " She faltered, and a look of horror crossed her face.
Eugene felt another pang as he realised what she must be feeling at the mention of, well, her, and on top of the fact that she'd decided he was in fact a decent human being despite cutting off all her hair he reached out and pulled her into a hug, burying his face in her shoulder.
There was a moment where he felt her chest hitch and she curled her fists around the front of his vest. There was a tiny patter of feet and Eugene felt a small weight bounce across his head and heard the unmistakable noise of Pascal chattering. Then Rapunzel swallowed and said in a wobbly voice, "There was that awful moment when I thought you'd gone off with the crown and left me standing next to a boat, but even then I didn't hate you." She sighed. "I don't know if I could even believe that you had gone…which of course," she said, her voice hardening a little, "you hadn't."
"I'll tell you what," he said, rearranging himself so she was cradled in his lap again, Pascal now seated firmly on her shoulder, "it's got to be up there with the shock I got when I woke up strapped to a boat with the crown in my hand and the soldiers charging on board. And I had no idea where you were…that was a very long night. I think at one point I was considering trying to take the cell apart brick by brick."
In spite of herself she giggled. Eugene grinned, feeling better. Even the frog seemed to be smiling at him, a massive achievement. "Besides," he continued, "you just saved my life too. And I promise you, there are very few other people who would want to do that."
In response she leaned in against his chest again and wrapped her arms around him. "I don't care what you think or what they think," she said fiercely, muffled against him. "You made me see I'm not alone. You showed me what it's like outside this tower. You came to find me even when they'd put you in prison…" She sat up suddenly, eyes narrowed and Pascal wobbling dangerously. "You got out of prison! How did you do that?"
"Well," he said, heaving a dramatic sigh. "Have you ever been told to keep your knees apart and then been fired off the end of a cart onto a waiting horse?"
She and the frog stared at him, eyes as wide as her cursed frying pan.
He laughed. "Then this is the story for you!"
She was still completely goggle-eyed. "Who fired you off a cart?"
"The charming folk from the Snuggly Duckling." He stuck his thumb out in the direction of the window. "There's probably a very unhappy Maximus waiting down there."
"Don't ask me how he came to feel it necessary to bring a bunch of thugs into the royal prison to break me out. I was standing there with handcuffs on, and the next I was flying through the air." Eugene scratched his beard thoughtfully. "I don't know if there's ever been a time I've been happier to land on a horse. That was before Max launched us off the ramparts and on to a nearby roof, of course, but after that we made it in record time."
Rapunzel was still staring at him. He didn't know if there had been a time in the past three days when she'd been so entirely speechless, even with all the new things she'd seen. It was very endearing.
"But now you need to tell me your story!" he said.
"My story?" she said, looking confused.
"Well…" Eugene swallowed, feeling a bit uncomfortable. How did you bring up your recent death with the girl who had miraculously brought you back to life, despite you cutting off her magic hair? When had his life become so bizarre?
Scratch that, his life had actually always been rather bizarre.
"Well," he continued, "I cut off your hair, and yet here I am."
"Oh!" Rapunzel pointed to her eyes, which he noticed were still rather red. He swallowed again and reached up to hold her hand. She smiled and rested it against her cheek. "My tears."
Now it was his turn to look surprised. "Your tears?"
She nodded, looking just as amazed as he felt. "Yes! I was crying – I thought – I thought you were gone…" Her voice wavered and she took a deep breath. Pascal reached up a tiny foot and laid it against her neck.
Eugene tightened his hold on her fingers, not needing to imagine how she must have felt, having held almost no hope of ever seeing her again only a few hours before. In response she pulled his hand away from her face and started to play with his fingers.
"And a tear fell on your face. I was singing…and it – it lit up!" She stopped playing with his hand and reached out to trail her fingers along his cheek. "Just like my hair did! I saw it sink in, and then suddenly there was all this light coming out…" She moved her hand down to his side, and Eugene had to remind himself to concentrate at the feel of her fingers moving along the front of his vest. She stopped where he had felt the cold slide of the knife, and he looked down to see her fingers resting where there was still a tear in the fabric.
"And then…" she said softly, "The whole room seemed to be filled with these…these streams of light, all coming from here…then they disappeared, and I said your name…" She looked back up at him again, and a smile like none he'd ever really witnessed spread across her face. It was like she was glowing, like the light she was describing was literally bursting out of her, a flame burning inside her – which, according to her tale, it probably was.
"And then…your eyes opened," she said breathlessly. "And suddenly you were talking to me again…" Her eyes narrowed slightly, but she was still smiling like mad. "Making a joke about brunettes. That's the first thing you said to me, do you realise that?"
He laughed. "Never let it be said that I have lost my touch for having appropriate lines ready for any occasion." He raised his hands so that they framed her face, and pulled her closer, ignoring the outraged squeak of the frog. "And after that?" he said, very quietly.
Her smile, if it was possible, widened, and her eyes took on a gleam that Eugene associated only with the worst kind of mischief she could create. It had used to make him want to run screaming. Now it was rooting him to the spot.
"And after that," she whispered, "I gave you a kiss!"
Pascal made what was most definitely a small froggy sound of revulsion.
Eugene ignored him, feigning a hurt expression. He made a wounded noise. "Gave me a kiss? I was not the active party in this, is that right?"
She shook her head proudly. "Nope. I kissed you. So there," she added for extra flourish.
He looked at her very seriously, staring right into those huge green eyes. "I want you to know that I am going to rectify that. Immediately."
She gave him a look that almost made him tip over – it couldn't be – had she learned to smoulder? "Right now?"
"Right now," he said, and pulled her towards him as fast as he dared without sending her sprawling off his lap. Sadly it was too much for Pascal, who rolled on to the floor with a tiny thump with an indignant squeal. But Eugene, frankly, couldn't care less about the frog at that point in time – in fact, he'd already completely forgotten Pascal existed.
As soon as her lips touched his it was like he'd been untied from everything – everything he'd ever thought he'd aim for, everything he'd ever held important – all that was left was her, and the fact that one arm was around her waist and the other in her hair. It was just like the first time, like kisses he'd never experienced. Hers were the most fascinating mix of softness and curiosity, a mixture that made Eugene feel like his brain was shutting down.
But this time her curiosity seemed to get the better of her, and she leaned against him harder. And how was she doing that? Had she already learned, in only a few moments, how to move her mouth differently against his? Did her ability to pick up new talents in the tiniest amounts of time extend to everything she did?
His hand moved again to her hair, and he wondered somewhere in the part of his mind that wasn't occupied with her mouth – which was, quite frankly, an infinitesimal part – what it would have been like if he had kissed her on that boat, with her long golden hair in that ridiculously complex braid.
He decided, as he tugged on a strand and she giggled against his mouth – had any other girl ever sent a shiver down his spine like that? Ever? – he didn't really want to know. Nothing could beat this. Not a single thing.
One thing was certain: just as seventy-odd feet of hair lay strewn across the tower floor, separated forever from the incredible being sitting on his lap, the more he kissed her the more he become Eugene Fitzherbert and the more Flynn Rider and all that he had done faded into distant memory.
She pulled back much too soon for his liking, her cheeks red and her hand moving to her mouth. "It feels…so strange," she said, looking excited, inquisitive and amazed all at once. Why did she have to look like that now when she'd just stopped kissing him? All he wanted to do was go for another one, especially when she looked so adorable.
Instead he settled for leaning his head on her hair again. At least that way he wouldn't be distracted any further by her enthralling expressions. "You'll get used to it, I promise you." He paused. "Especially if I have anything to do with it."
She made a hilarious noise that was somewhere between a squeak and a snort.
"So," he said, "any further surprises coming my way? Any more special talents you've recently discovered?"
Guess what comes next!
Please review, feedback is wonderful and helps me improve.