Watching the rapt wonder on Rapunzel's face, her green eyes just starting to light with shy awareness, Eugene felt both nervous and excited, like an untried youth on his first outing. She'd done that to him with her innocence and her optimism, her flare for dramatic overreaction. For the first time in a long time he'd met someone who didn't want or need or respect Flynn Rider, but who fully appreciated Eugene Fitzherbert.
Which was even more amazing than magical glowing hair.
This tiny, adventurous, uniquely beautiful person was actually taken with him. Eugene. A man who felt and hoped and dreamed and wanted to be part of something special. Who wasn't always confident, didn't always have a cocky comment to throw over his shoulder, and was saddled with less than glorious beginnings.
Flynn Rider didn't get flustered. Flynn Rider didn't get involved. He was brazen and sarcastic and took what he wanted. He could look at Rapunzel in the light of the floating lanterns and see only a comely lass, willing curiosity reflected in her expression. Could whisper the thought that a young woman kept secluded in a tower throughout adolescence would have a wealth of pent-up urges. Presented with himself – handsome, dashing, a touch dangerous – of course she would be interested. To Flynn the slight parting of her lips would be encouragement, the tilt of her head and angle of her body an invitation.
Flynn would have her right there in the boat, under the festival lights, enjoying just another dalliance like a score of others before it.
But Flynn Rider had vanished back into the tales from whence he came, leaving only the man for whom Rider had been both an aspiration and a shield. Dispelled at the last by wide eyes, flushed cheeks, and the slight tremble of slim fingers where they were twined within his.
Eugene recognized innocence and honest affection in her steady gaze. He noticed the way the lantern light burnished her hair both gilt and rosy gold, and painted her skin with shadows. Rare and lovely, the untouched sweetness of her stirred him more than any woman ever had. He wanted to kiss her, lingering over the touch of her mouth and the sigh of her breath. He wanted to know what that felt like, and thought maybe she was just as eager as he. It was in the beat of her heart under his hand when his fingers slid through her hair and his palm curved around her nape. It was in the flutter of her lashes as she closed her eyes, waiting for him to make a move. It was in the careful way she leaned into him, and the tight but gentle clasp of her hand.
Nobody had trusted him so completely since he changed his name.
Angling his head, he bent to press his lips to hers.
Flynn Rider would have had a passionate tryst in the lantern light and never looked back. Eugene would share a first kiss with an amazing slip of a girl, and be happy moving forward.
A/N: Thanks to Fabulist for the lightning fast beta and encouragement!