Thank you for all your lovely faves, comments, and reviews! I love you all so much!
I had trouble writing this chapter for some reason, but really worked on it today and I'm ready to post it! I still haven't decided how I want to end this story. I'm sure I'll think of something.
Eugene has never heard a chameleon snore before, but he never imagined it would sound like this: a strange combination of purring, wheezing, and chirping.
Pascal insisted on sleeping out in the main room of the tower with Eugene as some sort of guard dog to protect Rapunzel. Eugene still isn't quite sure whether or not the little green guy trusts him. He's lying on Eugene's forehead, so Eugene decides the frog still doesn't like him.
After a not-so-heated debate about what to do, Eugene finally convinced Rapunzel to spend one more night in the tower so he could plan something. She initially hated the idea, but eventually warmed up to it once he began leaving kisses along her neck and tickling her with his chin. That may have had nothing to do with it. But they were spending the night in the tower.
Rapunzel offered Eugene her mother's bed, seeing as there were no other beds in the tower, but Eugene refused, not-so-graciously. He took a quilt and a pillow from the cupboard and curled up on the floor next to the fireplace. Rapunzel gave him a quick kiss goodnight and headed upstairs.
Flynn Rider wasn't used to only getting kisses. He was used to getting a heck of a lot more. So when Rapunzel pressed her soft, soft lips against his in a goodnight kiss, he grabbed the back of her head and pulled her closer, but she cried out in surprise and pulled away, giggling. That giggling. That giggling drives him insane. All Flynn wants to do is take her - take her to her bed and have his way with her - devouring every inch of her, leaving kisses all over her legs, running his fingers through her hair, smiling as she shouts his name over and over again: "Flynn! Oh, yes, Flynn!"
But he's not Flynn Rider anymore. Flynn Rider was a narcissistic jerk who only cared about himself. He always left the girl after saving – and subsequently ravishing – her.
Eugene Fitzherbert doesn't want to leave the girl this time. He also doesn't want to have his way with her – he's realized he wants her to have her way with him. Eventually he managed to drift off to a light sleep, dreaming that Rapunzel's tied him to her chair with her hair again and doing very naughty things to him.
A light thud comes from Rapunzel's room, and Eugene's ear twitches, trying to focus on the sound. Pascal doesn't stir, so he urges his nerves to calm down and takes a deep breath just as he hears quiet shuffling coming from the upstairs landing. He turns his head slowly, trying not to awaken the sleeping frog, and stares into the dark. The fire has longed turned to softly glowing embers so he can barely make out the table between him and the stairs, let alone the upper floor.
"Eugene?" It's a soft whisper that almost gets lost as the fire cracks, but Eugene's keen hearing catches it and he swiftly sits up, causing the frog to slide off his face and land on the floor with a splat.
"Rapunzel?" he asks, squinting into the darkness. He still can't see anything, but he can hear her hastened footsteps and then definitely hear her stumble and fall to the floor. She bursts into tears and calls his name again. He throws off the quilt and scuffles on hands and knees to her side. "Rapunzel, what's wrong?"
"I… I tripped over my stupid hair!" Rapunzel shouts, grabbing a hank of her hair in her hand and throwing it at Eugene. It falls to the floor far before reaching him, and he scoops her into his arms, planting a kiss on her forehead. "Why did you have to cut my hair, Eugene? Why couldn't you have just let me go!"
Eugene thinks about this for a moment as he brushes her soft hair with his fingers. Why had he cut her hair? He didn't want to live with the knowledge that she was somewhere out there in the world with her fake mother, completely unhappy and miserable. But there were other options. He knows how to pick locks; he could have easily picked the shackle – there had to be a pin around here somewhere. Or he could have waited until after she healed him. Or he could have just grabbed her mother's knife and killed her with it. But he hadn't wanted to kill her mother, just take Rapunzel away from her horrible prison. Take her and keep her safe.
Rapunzel whimpers and he looks down at her. Eugene can barely see her, but he can see that her skirt caught on her foot as she fell, which means that now her skirts are hiked up above her knees, and he suddenly feels uncomfortably tight in his pants.
"I…" He clears his throat. "I did it to save you, Blondie."
"What?" She looks up at him and he's instantly reminded of their first near-death experience in the dam. "How was that supposed to save me?" She grabs his shirt with both hands and pulls. "How, Eugene?"
She's getting really angry, really fast. "I think I figured that if your mother only wanted you for your hair, if I got rid of your hair, she wouldn't anymore."
"You think? You think?" Rapunzel sits up and begins grabbing all the old hair she can find, pulling it into her lap and breathing so loudly she's nearly growling.
"Uh…" Eugene runs his hand through his hair and closes his eyes. He exhales slowly through his mouth. He doesn't think he can deal with Rapunzel being angry with him. He saved her life! He hadn't meant to kill her mother – that was just an added bonus. An added bonus that he feels guilty about, seeing as it makes Rapunzel so upset.
He takes a deep breath. "Listen, Blondie, I'm sorry. I'm sorry about cutting your hair. It seemed like the best thing to do at the time." He runs his fingers through his hair again and rests his hand on the back of his neck. "You know me, I don't think straight half the time. The last time I came that close to dying I told this really pretty girl my deepest, darkest secret."
Rapunzel gently places the hair in her lap and looks up at him. "Really?" He nods.
"That really pretty girl was you, by the way."
"I got that." She smiles and buries her face in his chest, wrapping her arms around him. Eugene smiles, presses another kiss to the top of her head, and rests his head on hers. He hears Pascal click disapprovingly and move closer to the dying fire. "Hey."
"Why'd you leave?"
"After the lanterns."
"Oh. No, no, no, no, no, Rapunzel, I didn't leave!" Eugene has an idea. "Would you like to hear the story of the wanted thief and his beautiful princess?"
Rapunzel gasps. It's a quiet one, to be sure, but Eugene hears it. She steadies her voice and says "Yes, I would."
"Our story begins on a beautiful night. The most beautiful of nights, you might say. For you see, today was a special day. Today was the day the wanted thief's beloved princess would see the lanterns up close for the first time, and from a boat, no less! The lanterns were beautiful, and the wanted thief realized he loved his princess. He loved her so much that he wanted to give the crown to his co-conspirators so they'd leave him and his beloved alone. Upon returning the crown to his former co-conspirators, he was ambushed and knocked out. When he came to, palace guards found him tied to the mast of a small boat, crown in hand, calling his beloved's name. They were taking him into custody for stealing the crown, but all he could think of was his beautiful princess, for she was in danger!" Rapunzel gasps. "He could only imagine what those two horrible men would do with her, and that thought kept him up all night. When the guards came to him in the morning, he discovered he was to be hanged for his crimes, and they began to escort him to the gallows. Luckily, the thief spied his co-conspirators in a neighbouring cell and demanded answers. They – well, one of them; the other one doesn't talk much. Actually, he doesn't talk at all – they told him how they found out about his beautiful princess's magical secret: her mother. You see, her mother had kidnapped his virtuous and sweet princess when she was a baby and raised her as her own so she could keep his princess's magical hair all to herself. But he doesn't know that yet. All he knows is that his amazing princess was returning to her personal prison. When our favourite thief heard this, he was outraged! His beloved princess was in more danger than he originally thought! He fought against his restraints and escorts but it was no use. The thief –"
Rapunzel's light snores interrupt Eugene's epic tale of adventure. If it were anyone else, Eugene would be offended that they fell asleep during one of his stories, but it is his Rapunzel, and he knows she is exhausted, so he smiles and kisses her on the forehead. He scoops her gently into his arms and slowly rises to his feet. Grateful that most of his blood has been replenished, he slowly trods across the tower's main floor, then up the stairs and into Rapunzel's room. The candle Rapunzel lit before going to bed is still glowing brightly on her bedside table, and Eugene uses its light as he walks carefully into her room and lays her down onto her bed. She grumbles and curls her legs up, shivering. Eugene takes her blanket and covers her with it, tucking her in so tightly she can barely move. He remembers enjoying being tucked in like this as a child and is glad when he hears a content sigh come from Rapunzel. She stops shivering, smiles slightly, and returns to light snoring.
As Eugene heads back down the stairs to his make-shift bed, he realizes he doesn't know why Rapunzel came downstairs in the first place. He grabs his pillow and quilt in one arm, scoops up a sleeping Pascal with the other, and returns to Rapunzel's room.
When she wakes up, she needs to know he's right there, at her side.
The floor is more comfortable in Rapunzel's bedroom, but Eugene's not sure if it's because the floor's actually more comfortable or if it's because he's in Rapunzel's room. He almost feels like an intruder; this is her sanctum. No man has ever set foot in here before.
The candlelight doesn't illuminate very much in the small room, but Eugene can see outlines of something familiar on the walls and ceiling. It almost looks like a sun, but he falls asleep, exhausted, and he completely forgets about it by morning.