Hello everyone,

Sorry I've been entirely useless, but I have been busy re-evaluating life. I am still in China and still teaching English. I seem to have found my niche here, but it has been a hard job.

I have tried over the last two years to get this going again, but I just couldn't. And then, recently, all my students have been watching Frozen, non-stop, for six months! I got annoyed and told them that Tangled was better, and I made them watch it. This of course reminded me of my unfinished story.

Thank you for all your reviews and all your messages. I don't have the space to reply to each here, and I think I have made you wait long enough anyway.



Chapter Forty-Five

It was a beautiful dream filled with sunlight, singing, dancing, and a green wide-eyed little girl with blond hair. He was thoroughly enjoying the feeling of dancing around with the small girl while his wife played the guitar, accompanied by Hook-hand. How he got that piano into the middle of a field full of flowers was a complete mystery that Eugene was in no way going to fathom while this little girl looked at him as if he hung the moon. It was a nice, warm, wet feeling. Wait, that wasn't right. There was a wet feeling. It was a weird feeling, and sort of familiar. And slimy. And definitely wet.

His eyes shot open in realisation of what was in his ear.

"Gah! Will you stop that!" Eugene said while rubbing his ear on his shoulder. He hated it when Pascal would wake him up that way, it usually meant that something bad was going to happen or he was in trouble. Or the little bugger was hungry. The little lizard had been rather quiet recently due to the cold weather and preferred to hide next to a small bed that Rapunzel had made him by the fire. That was when he noticed something different and odd. He looked up and saw them.

"Um… hi?" Eugene said to the twelve young faces staring straight at him.

"Mr Fitzherbert! You're awake!" One of the little girls squealed out, almost rupturing his eardrums. There were twelve children around him, all of varying ages and all with their eyes trained on him. And they all looked so overjoyed that he was awake.

"Eugene! You're awake!" Rapunzel shouted while flying out from nowhere. It was amazing how quickly and quietly she could appear, and it was almost thief like. He wished he could have moved like that when he was active on the crime scene.

"Ok?" Eugene replied, clearly bewildered as to why everyone was so happen that he was awake and why there was twelve small children in his home. He was sure that he hadn't been asleep long enough for Rapunzel to give birth to twelve kids and be pregnant with a thirteenth.

"You passed out from exhaustion after saving the kids at the orphanage. Max and Robert brought you back here, you've been asleep for over ten hours" Rapunzel explained as she sat down next to Eugene on the couch. Eugene finally realised that he was lying on the couch in his living room, with all the kids from the orphanage sitting on the floor watching him.

"Ok, that makes sense, but what are they doing here?" Eugene asked his wife quietly, pointing in the direction of the children who were looking adoringly up at their new hero. It felt quite disconcerting for poor Eugene, who had only ever had Rapunzel stare at him like that. And now, there were twelve children all looking at him like he had saved the world.

"We wanted to make sure you alright, Mr Fitzherbert! We even made you this bed 'cause Mr Hill couldn't get you up the stairs." The oldest boy said very excitedly. Eugene remembered the boy from this morning, he had offered to be the last out to make sure all the younger children were out before he allowed himself to be carried out.

"Yes, they were quite determined to help and refused to leave until they were sure you were quite alright," Father Patrick said, appearing just behind all the children. He was holding a cup of tea in one hand and looked as if he hadn't slept well the night before. That was when Eugene actually looked around the room and saw the mess on the floor.

There were blankets and pillows all over the floor. Plus a teddy bear or two that he recognised from the ever growing pile from Rapunzel's workroom; she had been steadily making an enormous pile of things for the baby since she had arrived. He also saw Father Patrick's coat folded into a make-shift pillow on one of the chairs with a bright pink blanket that also came from Rapunzel's stock of baby things. It only took a second for Eugene to work out that the children must have slept in his living room. This meant that Father Patrick would have slept here too, to make sure the children were alright after their harrowing ordeal in the orphanage. He also assumed that Angela, the orphanages caretaker was also around somewhere, but he has yet to see her. Eugene couldn't believe that they had all slept on the floor, and Father Patrick concurred that he never wanted to sleep folded up in a chair again when he had a nice comfy bed waiting for him. But the kids had been determined and couldn't be persuaded to sleep at the church where there were cots already set up for them that had been donated by the rest of the village. He also informed Eugene that there had been a villager at the door every hour since sunrise to check up on his health.

"I've sent Pippa to John this morning with a letter telling him about last night. He should be able to get it to the King sometime tomorrow. Hopefully the palace hasn't closed all its offices for the holiday yet. I'm sure Lord Fitzherbert hasn't left yet. He keeps that place running like clockwork," Father Patrick continued as Angela came and joined the group in the living-room. She seemed a little run down, but very pleased and grateful to be where she was. Eugene watched the woman start to fold up the blankets with Rapunzel. He counted the makeshift beds on the floor and came to the realisation that the older woman must have slept on the floor with the children. It would make sense that the poor woman would want to stay with all the children in her care, but he couldn't imagine the normally prim and proper widow sleeping on the floor. Then again, Mrs Millicent from his orphanage often gave up her own food to make sure all the children he lived with had enough to eat, so sleeping on the floor for a day wasn't that much of a stretch.

"I hope that Lord Fitzherbert, any relation of yours Eugene? No, well, hopefully he will be able to give some money Lord Estrella before he leaves the Capital. That way we can start to rebuild soon. And Lord Estrella is always willing to give money to worthy causes." Father Patrick continued. This was true. For, although Lord Estrella and his family were not well liked for their general attitude towards the inhabitants of Estrella, they were good people. The taxes they collected were always just and the Lord was known to let those in need slide a little in their payments. Though, he never paid for the short of tax, it still always came out of the villagers pockets. But, if Lord Fitzherbert gave him money for the orphanage, the money would only be spent on the orphanage.

"So, it seems that your new house will have to be put on the backburner, at least until the summer. We're really going to need everybody working on the new orphanage so these poor mites will have some stability and safety again," Father Patrick continued. Though the children protested greatly at the possibility of being separated from their new hero. Father Patrick and Angela insisted that they would have to leave the Hill household, especially for the expected arrival of a baby after the spring.

"Don't worry about your house Eugene, you and Rapunzel can stay here for as long as you need. Besides, it might be best to wait until the autumn to build since the baby is due around May," Robert said as he came into the room, also carrying a mug of tea, and sat down in the chair across from Father Patrick. Once he had sat down Rapunzel and Angela left the room and went into the kitchen, leaving the men in charge of the twelve children. The children were still all giving their undivided attention to Eugene, who had finally sat up and folded his blanket. This was a mistake, for a soon as space became available on the couch the four youngest children jumped onto the space. The older ones all looked on with jealously, they all wanted to sit next to Eugene. The children then all began to request stories from Eugene, but Eugene was still too shocked and uncomfortable to oblige them. It wasn't unitl Emily called them all for dinner that Eugene finally got some peace.

"You'll have to get used to that I'm afraid. Eugene Fitzherbert is quite the hero," Father Patrick said as he herded the younger children to the next room. Luckily for Eugene, Rapunzel reappeared with their food. She sat down quite daintily next to her husband, handed him his bowl of stew before kissing his cheek.

"I thought something bad was going to happen to you. I don't know what I would of done if I had lost you," She said calmly but sadly.

"I'll never leave you. I love you. But it looks like we're not going to get any peace for a while," Eugene said seriously, until he saw all twelve children come rushing back through carrying their bowls of stew and once again sitting on the floor before him. He was going to have to get used to this, because it didn't look like these children were going to leave any time soon. Rapunzel just giggled as she watched the dozen children smile up adoringly at her husband. Eugene was sure that she was picturing their future offspring sitting looking at him like that. She was not going to be any help getting these children to leave him alone.

It took a lot longer than expected to get the orphans relocated. Not for lack of offers. Every villager opened their homes to at least some of the orphans. Eventually, the innkeeper, a wonderful elderly man with six grown children and fourteen grandchildren spread over Corona, offered the inn to the orphans until a new orphanage was built. He didn't need the income, as Estrella was so near the border to so many kingdoms the innkeeper had never wanted for funds. And, usually, the inn was pretty empty during the winter months, so each orphan would get a bed. This seemed like a perfect solution, unfortunately the orphans refused to leave the Hill's cottage. They were happy to sleep curled together on the floor, if it meant they could stay with Eugene. It had taken three days of begging, pleading and bribing, but finally a promise from Eugene that he would come to the inn every night to read them a story had gotten them to leave the floor and take up residence in the beds of the inn.

After the orphans left things finally settled back into a routine at the Hill's cottage. Nathan had come round the day after Eugene woke up to check on Eugene's health, and the health of the orphans. He had declared Eugene to be in great health, but just to be on the safe side he should be on bed rest for a few days to get his strength back. He also brought Mattie and Caroline along for Rapunzel. Both women had been in awe of Eugene's determination and heroism, and praised him highly. Mattie even commented that if he was willing to work to complete exhaustion for orphans, he would probably tackle the devil himself to protect Rapunzel and the baby.

"So, have you felt it yet?" Mattie asked expectantly.

"Felt what?" Rapunzel asked as Mattie, Caroline and Eugene all looked at her now swollen stomach.

"The butterflies?" Caroline answered with the biggest smile on her face. This answer did not help Eugene or Rapunzel, as both were entirely confused by the idea of butterflies in the winter. Mattie had to explain that the baby should be moving around soon and that it should feel like little butterflies kicking, but Rapunzel hadn't felt anything like that yet. This was quite upsetting for the young woman, as she was over four months pregnant now and hadn't felt the baby move. Mattie then assured her that some women just didn't notice it until it was strong enough to feel from the outside. This, of course, perked Eugene up immediately and he was very verbal about his hope for feeling his child move.

"I wish all expectant fathers were like you," Mattie said seriously as she packed up her things and left the room, but not before reminding Eugene about the bed rest.

When Eugene was finally allowed back to work the first thing he had to do was to shoe the horses. This is a job that Eugene could handle very well, as long the horse was not Stormy, and it was usually a job that Robert allowed him to do without supervision. So, on a very cold Wednesday morning Robert and Eugene led the six horses into the smithy from the stables. Robert then began to work on a delicate foil for a Count while Eugene got to work.

Eugene had not been able to see Max since he collapsed in the church, since Rapunzel was determined to make him follow Nathan's orders. He had learned from Rapunzel that Max had also suffered from exhaustion following the orphanages collapse and had actually slept for whole day. It had actually worried Rapunzel a lot, and she had almost gone to see Nathan in the hope that he could heal horses too. Max finally got up though, and had spent the last few days resting in his stall while Pascal and Rapunzel visited him to keep him company.

The first four horses had been no problem. Eugene had shoed them, then led them back to their stalls and was about to start on Max when the black demonic creature, known as Stormy suddenly walked right up to the shoeing area. This caused the four males in the smithy; Eugene, Max, Robert and Pascal to all stop and stare. Especially when the hot tempered mare turned around and lifted her hoof in what could only be described as an expectant and compliant position. All four males were completely stunned by this change in countenance. Usually, Eugene had to finish all five horses before Robert would tether and hold the mare in place while Eugene shoed her. Yet, here she was, waiting patiently for her shoeing to commence. The males were only brought out of their stunned stupor by Stormy whinnying impatiently for the shoeing to start.

Once he had all her shoes fitted without incidence, Stormy then walked deliberately up to Max and rubbed her head down his stocky neck. This once again shocked everyone into wide eyed silence. The mare on the other hand just continued out of the smithy and back to the stables.

"Well, looks like your both in there. She's a hell of a hard one to impress, but it looks like you two just achieved the impossible," Robert said, finally breaking the trance. He also gently reminded Eugene that Max still needed to be shoed. This took about three minutes flat, as Max was very impatient to return to the stables now that the horse of his dreams seemed to be returning his affections. Eugene on the other hand resolved never to enter the stables again without first making sure all the horses were in their own stalls.

"Well, looks like we might have a new foal next year," Robert said with a hearty chuckle as he continued to work on the foil. Eugene couldn't help but let a chuckle escape as he picked up the metal that would then be made into more horse shoes. Everyone's lives seemed to be changing, which filled him with an enormous sense of calm and contentment.

True to his word, Eugene and Rapunzel had walked to the inn to see the orphans since they had left the Hill's cottage five days ago. Every time they arrived the inn keeper would provide them with a warm mug of something, some food and a few chairs set by a roaring fire. The children would then all run down the stairs to sit in front of Eugene while Rapunzel and Angela formed a knitting circle to create presents for the orphans. Each night they had also been joined by Father Patrick, and a few other villagers who all still wanted to congratulate Eugene on his impressive act of heroism.

On Christmas Eve Rapunzel and Eugene had helped Angela tuck in each orphan, as Father Patrick was at the church preparing for midnight mass. The orphans had once again made Eugene promise that he would spend Christmas with them. This of course interfered with his plans to spend Christmas with his family, until Rapunzel decided that they would all spend Christmas at the inn, so everyone could be together. The old innkeeper, Toothless Tom, as the orphans called him, couldn't be happier for full house on Christmas. He had even had a tree decorating party the day before Christmas Eve to allow all the orphans a chance to decorate one of the four trees that were now spread about the inn's front parlour.

Due to this excitement and the fact that their hero was tucking them into bed, on Christmas Eve, Eugene and Rapunzel arrived back the Hill's cottage later than usual. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but since they were all expected for midnight mass in an hour they were a little bit frazzled by the time they got back the cottage.

The first thing Rapunzel did was inform Emily and Robert of the change of venue. Neither minded too much, as they usually spent some part of Christmas day with the orphans since they did not have children of their own. Also, no one wanted to argue with a pregnant, hormonal woman. Eugene often suspected that Rapunzel had figured this out and was taking advantage of it.

Both Eugene and Rapunzel were upstairs dressing for the service. Well, Rapunzel was trying to dress, Eugene was tyring to distract her.

"Eugene, we don't have time for this," Rapunzel said as her husband kissed her neck softly while rubbing her stomach softly. Every time she got undressed in front of him recently he just could not resist the urge to touch her stomach. Normally she would give in within moments as the feeling was so sensual and serene and loving, but tonight they actually had to be somewhere.

"Eugene get dressed, we can continue this when we get back from the service."

"Why don't we just skip the service? We're going to go to the Christmas service in ten hours anyway," Eugene said as he softly stroked the underside of her breast.

"Father Patrick would be angry, you know he's expecting us."

"Yeah, but I'm sure he'll under… what was that!" Eugene said suddenly, tearing himself was his wife's semi-nakedness. There had been a loud pounding noise against the door. And it wasn't stopping.

"Stay up here, stay hidden," Eugene said seriously. No one would be pounding on their door at ten past eleven on Christmas Eve, unless they had discovered who he really was. It was a thought that haunted him daily, that this bubble of joy and contentment that he had been living in for almost two months could be broken. His worst fear was that he would be taken away from Rapunzel and his baby, but he would go willingly if it meant that she could stay here, safe.

Eugene hugged and kissed his wife passionately before he told her that he loved her. He then put on his shirt and jacket and closed the door behind him. All the while, the banging continued. As he walked down the hall he passed Emily who had a small dagger in her hand and was obviously going to stay with Rapunzel in their room.

"If something happens, take care of them both," Eugene asked softly with a backwards glance towards his room.

"Do you really need to ask, son," Emily replied simply before entering the room.

When he arrived downstairs Robert was already waiting in front of the door, with a small arsenal. He handed Eugene small, handheld crossbow, which the Palace Guard seemed to favour and was obviously made by Robert. Eugene noticed that it was already loaded and ready for use. He also took a long sword and saw that Robert was armed with both a crossbow and sword as well.

"You don't have to do this," Eugene said solemnly. They both knew that anyone who aided Flynn Rider would face the same punishment. Which was to be hung, drawn and quartered.

"Don't be stupid Eugene, you're my family now, as well as them upstairs," Robert answered shortly. The man who was occupying his home did not deserve such a horrible death, and he would not allow him to go down without a fight.

Both men moved forward towards the front door, as the banging knock had not yet ceased. Eugene took a deep breath before reaching out and opening the door, just as he drew his weapons.

"Well it's about bloody time! It's freezing out there! What are those for?

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