He could feel the heat of her body and her steady breathing, the slight rise and fall of her chest as she slept next to him shifted the weight distribution of the bed ever so slightly. Silent. Hard to believe that less than an hour earlier she was crying out his name in ecstasy. His real name, not his long-used pseudonym. She was the first and only one to call him "Eugene;" before, during, and after.
And he loved the angelic way she said it; stressing the first syllable, rather than the last, inflecting it as though she were asking a question or scolding a small child or simply desperately in love with him.
What had he gotten himself into?
What had he gotten himself used to?
In the dim moonlight, Eugene looked at his ring, bringing his hand up to his face and rotating it to view the metal from every angle. Here he was, the famed Flynn Rider, having given up a life of crime for a life of commitment, in bed with a woman whose own matching gold wedding band was currently around her corresponding finger.
With all the women before her, he'd never stayed for the morning after even once, let alone the infinite number of times he's awoken with Rapunzel since she first knocked him out in her tower. The memory brought a strained smile to his face.
But his expression fell as he remembered his old life before the tower. The one where he was content, chasing his dream. And Rapunzel, alone and ignorant and blissfully unaware without his interference. Believing that Gothel was her mother who loved her most, never knowing the shroud of secrecy surrounding her birth and subsequent coming up.
He ruined her life.
Eugene sat up straight in bed and rubbed his temple.
His meddling caused such a grief that he knew she would never share. She was much stronger than that.
And even more selfish still, after everything they had been through together, after thrusting her into a whole new home and way of life, he still had urges.
Urges to steal, to cheat, to gamble, and to seduce women- urges to be free.
The spot deep down in Eugene's soul that once housed a lonely orphan child begging to be loved was now taken by the suave, swash-buckling thief whose sultry face was once plastered on every tree and street corner in the kingdom.
And he was begging for an escape.
Sometimes Eugene caught himself observing the royal guard patrols, watching and waiting for the time when he could sneak into a room unattended with his princess for an afternoon rendezvous. Other times he found himself absentmindedly slipping little trinkets from the castle into his pockets, such as a loose ruby from a statue in the hallway of the east wing or a golden signet ring from the library. He ended up returning them, of course; where would he hide them anyway? He very well couldn't sell them. Besides that, he didn't have to. Not anymore.
He missed the adventure more than anything.
The thrill of the chase; the swell of victory as he outran and outsmarted the fools who either dared to challenge him or were unfortunate enough to cross his path.
His gaze drifted toward the window, and he imagined how easy it would be to slide down the roof, saddle up, and never come back.
Almost unsteadily, Flynn Rider slipped out of bed and rose, collecting his satchel and donning his old clothes; the outfit he first wore when he arrived at the castle. With each step he could feel the adrenaline pumping faster through his veins. This was it. He was really going to do it. Bar fights, sleazy courtesans, unrestrained alcohol intake- it was all going to be his once more. At least for tonight. All that mattered was tonight.
He slid the window open with a quiet creak and reveled in the cold, inviting night air on his skin. Goosebumps raised on his flesh and he felt the familiar tingle of excitement and the promise of a night to remember. Well, depending on what he got up to tonight, he might not really remember it at all. Hell, he might never wake up again to be able to remember anything. But so what? He deserved it for what he did to Rapunzel. For what he was doing to Rapunzel now.
He didn't deserve anybody. Especially not someone who was as good to him as she was. Who loved him like she did. He didn't deserve love.
Flynn threw one booted foot over the wooden ledge, ducking under the pane and about to take the leap to sweet freedom when he heard a sound that stopped his heart.
He froze. The whisper was broken and fell to the floor like rain. The handsome bandit hesitantly turned to see a wide-eyed princess staring at him. He felt his heart suffocate with guilt.
"Is everything okay?" she near-whispered. Her voice quavered with a mixture of sleepiness, confusion, anxiety, nervousness, heartbreak, unabashed optimism, genuine concern, and, worst of all, love. Unconditional, unquestioning love. He noticed the way she held the blanket up to her neck; her delicate fingers trembling, her knuckles white with tension in the silvery illumination of the room. His leg was still out the window, and he carefully drew it back in.
"Uh, yeah. Everything's fine." His voice dripped with guilt and despair. How could he have ever thought of abandoning her like that? He would have ruined Rapunzel's life more than he already had.
He would have ruined his life. Again. Because he was too stupid to see how good he had it for the first time in his life.
Why did he have to be so goddamn selfish?
"Are you leaving again?"
Eugene snapped to alertness and swallowed hard, then furrowed his brows in confusion.
Rapunzel nodded and then averted her eyes.
"When the Stabbington Brothers… " she trailed off, clenching her eyes shut at the horrific memory. Eugene remembered.
She really thought he had left her then.
The crown for the girl with the magic hair.
"Oh, Rapunzel. No," he started in a soothing voice, closing the window and moving over to her. His heartstrings were pulled taut. "No, no…"
The tears were flowing now as she choked up, and he wrapped his arms around her so tightly and lovingly that she had no choice but to sob into his chest. He tangled his fingers in her sleep-tousled hair and kissed the top of her head.
"I'm not leaving. I'm never leaving. I promise."
Eugene Fitzherbert tilted Rapunzel's face up to meet his. He cupped her face in the palm of his large hand and brushed away her tear with the pad of his thumb.
"And when I promise something, I never, ever break that promise."