Author Note: Sooo... I've been working on this for a while now and I decided, since the movie's coming out soon, it might be kind-of fun to focus on just our favorite couple for a little bit :D This story is not intended to go too far... I still haven't decided whether or not to go beyond the proposal, but I probably will... :) depends on what you guys think. :D and I will eventually get something up about the kids. I really want to do that because I have another story in mind for them (one set in the future, focused on one of them, and it will be a blast to write... it will also be ENORMOUS) but I have several shots I want to do in Family Life and I want to finish up the Uncles before I even consider posting anything from that. But I will eventually get it out b/c I don't think I could avoid it... Anyhoo, hope you guys all are doing well and are enjoying life! Thank you for waiting, reading and reviewing, you are wonderful people! :D
Oh, and by the way, this is just my take on how the whole proposal sequence takes place (and in my universe, Eugene is around twenty when he first meets Rapunzel... even though the official age is supposedly twenty-six, but I just don't see it :D)
Soli Deo Gloria
Disclaimer: Disney owns Tangled, its characters, and its story
The king and queen of Corona were sitting in his office one fine, early spring morning. His Majesty sat at his desk, mulling over an inventory list of the spice merchant ships that had recently come into port. His wife sat on the couch set before the desk. Over the top of her teacup, she considered her husband. She tried to figure out how to approach him with the question that had burned inside her for almost a month now. Finally she decided on the oblique approach.
"Did you know that Geoffrey and Isobel's daughter just got engaged a week ago?" She asked her husband casually.
"Yes, dear. Geoff wrote me a letter the moment the lad proposed."
The queen smiled thoughtfully, "It's amazing—the girl's only seventeen and already on her way to getting married."
He shrugged, "Happens."
His wife shot him a glare, which, fortunately for him—or rather, unfortunately—he did not see. "You know, royal marriages are rather nice events. Remember ours?"
"Parts of it." He squinted at the tiny text of the inventory. "Cat, do you know what the current market price for Ruebian Pepper is?"
She shrugged, "Depends on how much is sold. But forget the pepper, Tommy, I want to speak to you."
"About what?" The king muttered, still very much concerned about the cost of Ruebian Pepper.
Her husband frowned, glancing up to see her green eyes fixed firmly upon him.
"What about Eugene? He's doing well enough for himself. He's training hard in the guardhouse every morning and I think he's doing well in the classes—the ones that he attends, anyway. Why should we bother about him?"
"Tommy, do you remember what I said about Geoffrey and Isobel's daughter?"
She nodded, repeating, "Yes—the wedding. The upcoming marriage. The uniting of their daughter with a kind and loving young man who will ensure her future happiness."
"What about it?"
She groaned in exasperation, "Sometimes you can be so dense, dear. Put the two together and add our daughter to the mix."
The king narrowed his eyes, murmuring, "Are you asking me to-?"
"Yes, Tommy. You need to talk to Eugene and find out what his future plans are concerning Rapunzel."
He shook his head distractedly, "Well I can't—that's a personal matter he has to decide on his own. I can't—I can't talk to him about something like that."
"Why not? You know he loves her."
"Of course, any blind man can see that."
"And you know Rapunzel loves him too." She reminded him.
"I wouldn't go that far-." He stopped at the knowing look on her face, and murmured reluctantly, "Yes… yes she does."
"Okay, good. So you'll talk to Eugene?" His wife had an alarming note of finality in her question. She had already decided on the outcome of the conversation before he had finished talking.
"Cat, wait." The king stood up and walked over to sit on the couch beside her. She looked at him expectantly, seeing the familiar crease of thought running across his forehead.
After a moment, he said quietly, "I don't want to rush them."
"I understand that, dear."
"Then why does it feel like you've already started picking out flowers for the bouquet?"
She took his hand, replying slowly, "I'm not saying they should get married right now. But I am saying that Eugene needs to start considering the idea. Tommy, they've known each other for almost two years, and they both love each other to a distraction. You know where this will end."
"Yes, but I don't want to-," he broke off and took a deep breath. Then he started again, "We've had our daughter back for nearly two years, Cat. Two years minus some odd number of months. I'm just not sure I want to give her up again."
His wife smiled and squeezed his wrist, whispering, "You wouldn't be giving her up. They would live in the palace—she'll rule as queen one day. It's not like they'll move to another country. They will be here, in Corona."
"But she won't be our daughter anymore, Cat. She'll be his wife—possibly the mother of his children. She won't be ours anymore." The king sighed sadly.
"I'm afraid, dear, that she never really was."
He frowned at her, clearly not comprehending what she had just said.
"You saw them out on the balcony when Rapunzel returned to us. You've seen them since then. Eugene may understand and respect the fact that we are her parents… but he's always seen her, first and foremost, as his own." The queen set aside her teacup and joined her other hand on top of his. "Eugene has done a lot for her—he died for her—she brought him back to life. They belong to each other."
He placed his hand over hers, "I know they do."
His wife nodded, "All right. Now all you have to do is remind Eugene of that."
Eugene Fitzherbert did not know he was being discussed that morning. In fact, even if he had known, only a small part of him would be concerned. This is because the rest of him was a bit busy at the moment.
But the morning had passed, and now he walked through the entrance hall of the palace, rubbing at his neck and wondering if the guards he had been training with had any sense of compassion. The running drills were not too bad, and the sword fighting was a breeze. However, the jousting was a different story.
Oh, it's not like Corona really had jousting tournaments anymore. Even the lieutenant he had trained with told him this would probably be the only time they would ever cover the sport. Such admittance did not make the man any more lenient, and Eugene could understand that to a point. After all, he had mocked the palace guard with every cheeky theft in the book for about three years. It was reasonable that they were more than willing to beat him to a pulp while in 'training'.
Yet he still felt that being thrown from the saddle five times—three by the lieutenant and twice by Maximus—was overstretching it a bit. Thankfully, training had been canceled early due to a faintly lucky and probably not-so-legal blow he had inflicted on the lieutenant's head. And now Eugene, sore and smelling of dirt and sweat, limped down the long, marble-floored foyer.
He wondered how Rapunzel was doing. He had not seen her since that morning due to the amount of tutoring she was now subjected to. She seemed to enjoy her lessons, however, and often told him—whenever he complained about them—that she not only needed to learn to be a princess, she wanted to learn. The girl had a remarkable sense of responsibility that drove her towards becoming the best princess Corona had ever had.
He admired her for it, yes, but it also drove him nuts. How was he supposed to spend time with her between his training and lessons and her hour-to-hour classes? Schooling cut severely into Rapunzel time, and Eugene did not like it in the least. He accepted the necessity of it all, but he still did not like being separated from her for any amount of minutes, much less hours.
If only her parents, fantastic people though they were, were not so insistent…
He turned around to see his girlfriend, the crown princess of Corona, sprinting towards him. He prepared himself for impact, and Rapunzel threw her arms around him in a tight, welcoming hug. She smelled good—far better than he did, at any rate—and she seemed to blaze with life that removed all traces of weariness from his body. He was amazed at what she could do to him by just being around, and he absolutely loved it.
"How was training?" She asked breathlessly, pulling back to look up at him.
"Painful." Eugene grunted, appreciating her sympathetic wince. "How were your princess lessons?"
"Long but necessary. I actually have another one to go to right now."
He frowned, "What?"
She released him and stepped away slightly, sighing, "My tutor was late so the lesson was moved to the afternoon."
"That's not fair. They should've given you the rest of the day off."
"So much for that." Rapunzel shrugged, rocking back and forth on her heels, probably unaware of how adorable she looked by doing that. "Anyway, are you going to eat dinner with us tonight? I'm making dessert."
Rapunzel nodded, "Yep."
He took her hands, smiling down at her, "So, are you going to make one of those cute little strawberry puff cakes? You know-," Eugene tilted his head, "-the ones with some custard in the middle and dark chocolate slightly drizzled on top? It's like you—just in pastry form—sweet, pink, and to die for."
His girlfriend laughed, "Only if someone really wants one."
"Someone really does." He grinned, raising his eyebrows.
She smiled and rose up, kissing him lightly on the mouth.
"So is that a yes?"
"That's a maybe. This-," she kissed him longer this time, before pulling back and muttering softly, "-is a yes."
Eugene smirked, "I'll see you at dinner, then."
"Sounds like a plan."
They both turned around to see a rather disapproving, plump woman standing by a nearby door, tapping her foot impatiently. Rapunzel's teacher was waiting for her pupil.
The princess managed to look guilty as she called: "Sorry, Tutor Carol! I'll be there in a minute!"
"I'm waiting, your Highness."
"Coming!" Rapunzel turned back to Eugene, smiling apologetically, "I'll see you later, Eugene."
"Yeah. Have a good lesson." He squeezed her hands affectionately and watched, in extreme disappointment, as she hurried towards the waiting Tutor Carol.
Just then, a hand—much larger than Rapunzel's—rested on his shoulder. Eugene turned around and nearly jumped out of his skin. The king had found him.
A rather imposing man, his Majesty was slightly taller than Eugene, as well as bigger overall. Not that the stern, blue eyes, grim beard, or the medallion of Corona did not also add to his distinctly royal presence. Over the last year or so, Eugene had learned that, despite his appearance, the king was a kind man who forsook the normal constraints of justice in lieu of his daughter's return. However, he could not help but be nervous; he was unsure how long the king would recognize the pardon of the kingdom's most notorious thief.
He smiled, saying quietly, "I have a question for you, Eugene."
"No sir—I was not just kissing your daughter, sir." Eugene replied automatically, his heartbeat quickening in his chest.
"That's not what I wanted to talk about, young man. In fact, all I want to tell you-," he made a faintly disgusted face and removed his hand from Eugene's dirt-covered shoulder, "-aside from 'get yourself cleaned up', is that I would like to speak to you after dinner tonight."
The man frowned, asking, "Speak to me?"
"Yes. I have some matters of importance upon which we need to discuss. Personal matters that cannot wait."
"Um, okay, your Majesty. Whatever you ask."
"Thank you. You may use the soldier barracks downstairs to wash and prepare for dinner. I will have a servant go down with extra clothing should you require it and-," once again, he made a face. Eugene wondered if he really smelled that bad. "Another cake of soap, I think."
He bowed, "Yes sir. Thank you, your Majesty."
"Good day, Eugene."
Eugene watched as the king continued on his way to his office, his arms behind his back and his eyes pensive. What could he possibly want to ask him about that made him so concerned? Normally the king refrained from talking to him much at all unless the occasion required it. Dinner conversations, light pleasantries exchanged in the hallway, and one extremely uncomfortable discussion dealing with his pardon had been all Eugene had experienced in terms of speaking to the king. Other than that they hardly ever had really talked.
But he did know that Rapunzel's father watched him. He watched him all the time, which was probably a good thing. Because Eugene watched him right back.
Frowning slightly, Eugene continued to make his way down to the barracks reserved for the royal guard and himself. It had been an agreement Rapunzel had managed to convince her parents into. He, as official rescuer of the lost princess—not that he claimed to have done much but get in the way most of the time—was permitted to stay in the palace provided he did something useful with his time. This turned out be training and lessons as well as unofficial beginnings of the preparation for being prince consort.
Suddenly, Eugene froze, his hand halfway to the door that led down to the barracks. Maybe that's what the king wanted to speak to him about. After all, it had been nearly two years and… but—did this mean that the king actually approved of the idea?
The young man sighed and opened the door to head downstairs, his mind full of the possibilities he had often considered, but never really quite dreamed were achievable. Perhaps tonight would introduce their potential.
Eugene adjusted his sleeve cuffs nervously. He stared at the solemn set of wooden doors that lead into the dinning room. Gulping slightly, he glanced at the grandfather clock sitting in the parlor opposite the dinning room. The ancient clock face told him it was five thirty. Dinner did not officially start for another ten minutes when the doors of the chamber would be opened. He still had time to run.
Eugene shook his head, muttering, "No. No—just calm down, Fitzherbert. After all, it's been more than a year. And you knew he'd-," he ran a hand through his hair, gazing blankly around the empty hallway, "-eventually you'd have to think about it. Eventually you'd have to do more than think about it…"
He closed his eyes, thinking back to that night out on the water with all the lanterns. The night when he realized he never wanted to leave her. She was so important—the whole idea was so important. Could he really go through with it?
But, then again, he could be wrong. The king could want to speak to him for some other reason. Maybe it was a business reason—or about his classes—or even about his pardon. And somehow, the idea of discussing his right to live seemed a lot more comfortable topic at that moment.
"Hey, are you okay?"
Eugene turned around to find, to his surprise, that Rapunzel was with him. For a second all his thoughts disappeared as he took in her appearance. She usually dressed-up for dinner, but tonight she looked positively radiant. Wearing a gown the color of violet and a simple, elegant necklace of gold, Rapunzel seemed to glow with an inner light he could not quite explain. Yet Eugene did notice, with some smugness, that no crown adorned her short, brown hair. And he knew that only he knew what had become of it.
The man bowed, "You look beautiful, Rapunzel."
"You say that every night you eat dinner with us." She did not sound disappointed, however, and had a faint smile of satisfaction on her lips.
Eugene smirked, "Well, every night you look beautiful so—there you go."
"Thank you. But anyway, you were muttering about something under your breath when I arrived. What's got you so distracted?"
"Um… your dad wants to speak to me after dinner." Eugene admitted uncomfortably.
He shrugged, "Yeah—I don't know. I think it's some sort of-," he looked to the side, muttering, "-business proposition or something."
Rapunzel frowned, "Well that's weird. Do you have any idea what he wants?"
"Oh, I have an idea. I just don't know if it's what he's thinking of."
"What's your idea?"
"Can't quite say."
"Eugene." She narrowed her eyes.
He held up his hands in defense, "Honest, Rapunzel, I've got no clue and I don't really want to say anything unless I'm completely sure. I mean-," he shrugged, "-it could be anything."
Rapunzel nodded slowly, but then her face lit up and she rapped her hand against his chest, exclaiming, "I bet it has something to do with my birthday! I'm turning twenty in about two months, you know."
"Oh, I know. I know…"
She missed the inflection in his voice and continued: "After all, what else could Dad want to talk to you about? Oh, I hope he doesn't do anything too outrageous but I will be two decades old by that point. I mean, it's a big deal, right Eugene?"
He gave another half-shrug, returning to his original thoughts. He knew it was not going to be about her birthday. The king would not have been so mysterious if it was. But of course, if it dealt with Rapunzel—and Eugene was pretty much convinced, no matter how much he tried to persuade himself to think otherwise—that it did deal with his girlfriend… well—that really left only one option.
"Eugene, what do you think?"
"Hmmm?" Eugene sent a sidelong glance in her direction, once more taking in her petite adorableness.
"Do you think it could be about my birthday?" Rapunzel asked him excitedly.
He smiled at her enthusiasm and replied, "If it is, I promise I'll make sure it's the best birthday you could possibly ever have."
She laughed, "You've already given me that, Eugene."
"Okay—best birthday your father can manage, then."
"And what if it isn't about my birthday?"
Eugene sighed, "Then... well, then I guess I'll have to find out what he wants to talk to me about."
"I still think it's going to be about my birthday. Oh, Eugene-," Rapunzel easily slid her arm into his, whispering, "-I can't wait."
"Yep. Can't wait…"
"So-," Rapunzel began casually, scooping up a fork-load of green beans from her plate, "-I'm going to be twenty in a couple more months. Pretty big deal, huh?"
"Yes dear. Twenty years is a milestone." The queen smiled at her daughter.
Rapunzel beamed at her, "What did you do when you reached twenty, Mom?"
"Well, I married your father, for one thing." She nodded at her husband who, like his daughter's beau, was picking thoughtfully at his food. Eugene quickly looked up at the word 'married', his eyes wide. The queen then added, "But I also learned how to play chess."
Rapunzel turned to the young man beside her, asking, "What did you do, Eugene?"
"What?" Eugene mumbled, his gaze set on his pile of mashed potatoes.
"For your twentieth?"
"Um—met you?" He smiled slightly.
She frowned, "You turned twenty when-?"
"No—no, I turned twenty months before that point. But-," Eugene cut himself a piece of brisket, "-meeting you was the best thing to happen to me when I was twenty."
The king looked up, requesting, "Eugene, could you please pass the salt?"
Eugene immediately dropped his knife with a clatter, seized the saltshaker and thrust it in the direction of the king, blurting, "At once, your Majesty!"
"Erm—thank you." The king took the salt and sprinkled it lightly over his food, disregarding the raised eyebrows coming from both his wife and daughter.
"Eugene are—are you all right?" Rapunzel asked finally, gently setting a hand on his wrist.
"Never better." He flashed her a quick, nervous grin and started to attack his food with renewed vigor.
Rapunzel exchanged a puzzled glance with her mother and returned to eating, trying to ignore the scraping sound of utensils and china coming from Eugene next to her. The queen took a delicate sip of her water. Her daughter picked up a clump of grapes from her fruit bowl and began nibbling on them.
The queen cleared her throat and began to butter a roll, asking, "So, darling, how were your classes today?"
"Good. I learned how to build an inventory of tax forms and shipping tariffs."
"That sounds exciting." She turned to the distracted man who was shoveling food into his mouth. "Eugene dear, what did you do during your training?"
He swallowed the lump of food in his throat, gasping, "Ma'am?"
Rapunzel rolled her eyes, "Training, Eugene. What did you do during training?"
"Jousting?" The queen met her husband's eyes, frowning. "You have the soldiers teaching him jousting?"
He shrugged, "Of course. It's part of every young man's training when he's on his way to becoming a-," he broke off, suddenly noticing his wife rapidly shaking her head with a definite 'shut-up now' type of look on her face.
"Becoming a what, Dad?" Rapunzel asked interestedly.
He grunted, "A—uh—an elite military—um…"
The queen gave him a strained smile, "Officer, dear. An elite military officer of Corona."
"So Eugene's going to be a military officer?" Rapunzel looked at her beau, smiling. "Good for you. You'll look nice in uniform."
Eugene grinned weakly, "Thanks, Rapunzel."
"Dad," Rapunzel turned to her father, asking, "What did you do for your twentieth birthday?"
"I went fishing." The king answered carefully, shooting a glance at Eugene. "Could you please pass the-?"
"Pepper?" Eugene asked, grabbing the peppershaker and handing it to him.
He shook his head, "I was going to ask for the butter-."
"Yes sir!" Eugene stood up and strode over to the other end of the table to retrieve the butter dish from the queen.
Rapunzel watched in confusion as Eugene hastily trotted over to the king's end of the table and presented him with the butter. The king smiled.
"Thank you, Eugene."
"You're welcome, sir."
Rapunzel stared at him as he retook his seat, "Eugene are you-?"
"But you've been-."
"I'm fine, Rapunzel." He responded, looking fixedly at his plate.
"Mom?" Rapunzel turned to her mother for support.
The queen shrugged, suggesting, "Dear, perhaps he's just tired from all the jousting he did this afternoon?"
"Maybe he is. Or maybe…" her eyes widened and she immediately stood up and took Eugene's head in her hands. Ignoring his stunned protests, Rapunzel peeled back his eyelids and asked very fast, "Eugene—are you okay? Did you get hurt? Did Maximus throw you off and knock you unconscious? How many fingers am I holding up? What's my name? What's your name? Can you hear me?"
"Rapunzel—Rapunz-," Eugene muttered, trying to escape her probing fingers. "I'm fine—perfect. You can let go—please. Please, let go."
The queen winced, "Rapunzel, dearest, I think he's all right."
"Can't risk it, Mom." Rapunzel shook her head, still examining her struggling beau. "Last time Eugene was seriously injured he didn't go see the court physician for a week."
"I wasn't injured that badly. I was-."
"Shhh, Eugene. I'm making sure you didn't break your skull."
Eugene turned a pleading eye towards the queen, begging her to interfere. She cleared her throat again: "Rapunzel, how about you and I go fetch the desserts?"
"But Mom he might-."
"We can have him undergo a full medical physical tomorrow morning, dear. But right now, I think it would be best if we go get the desserts. You have all finished eating dinner, haven't you?"
Both Eugene and her slightly amused husband nodded. Rapunzel sighed and released Eugene.
"Coming, Mom." She followed her mother out of the room.
Eugene adjusted his collar and glanced over at the king, laughing apprehensively. "She—uh—she gets concerned sometimes."
"So…" he idly scooted his spoon across the tablecloth. "What are we doing for her birthday?"
The king smiled, "Probably send off lanterns again—it's hard to break tradition. Besides, I think the townspeople really enjoy it and so does Rapunzel."
"Yep. We should probably do what Rapunzel wants. 'Cause you know-," he cracked his knuckles uncertainly, "-she's important."
"And I'd never want to—I mean, we both would never want to um, force her into something she doesn't really… ah-." He looked up only to see the king watching him patiently.
"I don't really know how to go about this." Eugene confessed.
The king shook his head, "You don't have to."
"Eugene, we will talk after dinner; and dinner includes dessert."
There was an uncomfortable silence. The king took a gulp of ice tea from his glass. Eugene rubbed his hands together and glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece.
Eventually unable to stand the quiet, Eugene asked, "Do you really think they'd make me get a full physical?"
He smirked, "You never know. But, as a warning for you, the court physician has very, very cold hands."
Eugene winced, "That's—that's unfortunate."
"Yes. Yes it is."
The doors leading from the kitchen to the dinning room opened and Rapunzel and her mother emerged, both carrying trays of small plates topped with desserts. Rapunzel set two down before Eugene and herself while her mother gave the king his dessert. They both took their seats, smiling at the two men.
"Well?" Rapunzel asked, looking at them expectantly. "What do you think?"
"I think, Rapunzel, that I need to taste it first." Her father replied with a small smile as he dug his fork into a strawberry puff cake.
Eugene gazed at the tiny cakes on his plate, his mind a million miles away.
"Hey, aren't you going to try it?" Rapunzel looked at him, her green eyes slightly hurt.
"Um, yeah. Sorry." He grinned and popped one of the cakes into his mouth, tasting the delicious sweetness he had come to associate with his favorite dessert. Eugene nodded, remarking through a mouthful of cake, "I dink ju've owdunh jurself."
Rapunzel grinned, "Thank you."
"I agree with Eugene—whatever he said." The king smiled at his daughter.
"They are lovely, dear." Her mother added, selecting another cake from her dish.
"Chef Arnold complained that I didn't make them as neat as I usually do."
"Ignore him, dear," her father murmured, eating another cake. "How the dessert looks is nothing to taste in terms of importance."
Eugene nodded in agreement, already on his third pastry.
"So you do like the cakes?" Rapunzel asked him anxiously.
He rolled his eyes and swallowed, replying, "Rapunzel, as I've said before, they taste good—just like you."
She frowned, confused—and he swore he could hear the king drop his fork.
Eugene grunted, muttering hastily, "I mean—um—not like—like that. I meant…" he trailed off and instead set his head in his hands, groaning.
Rapunzel squeezed his arm in concern, "Eugene, what's wrong with you?"
"I don't know." He mumbled gloomily.
As her daughter tried to console Eugene, the queen shot a severe glare at her husband from across the table. The king frowned. Why was she looking so angry with him for? What had he done?
Then his wife mouthed to him: "What did you say to him?"
"Him?" The king mouthed, pointing at Eugene only to receive a sarcastic nod in answer. He shrugged helplessly, "Nothing."
"What? I just said I wanted to talk to him."
The queen rolled her eyes, retorting silently, "The poor boy's about ready to have a panic attack!"
"Well it's not my fault." He mouthed back, crossing his arms in stubborn defiance.
"It is too your fault!"
"No it is not, Cat!"
"Tommy, sometimes you can-."
"Mom, I think Eugene needs to go to bed. I don't think he's feeling well." Rapunzel made to help her beau to his feet, but he resisted.
"I'm fine, Rapunzel. I'm just—I'm all right."
"No, you're not. Now get up, Eugene."
"Actually, dear-," her father rose from his chair, "-I think I can help you there. A change of scenery, perhaps?"
"What are you talking about, Dad?"
"I'll take him to my study, Rapunzel. But first, Cat, can I have a word?" The king and his wife went out into the hall, leaving their daughter and her beau alone.
"Why on earth does he think taking you to his study will help?" Rapunzel demanded in exasperation.
"He probably still wants to talk to me." Eugene moaned unhappily, leaning back in his seat.
Rapunzel suddenly stiffened as a thought hit her. She gripped his shoulder, hissing, "Do you think it might be about your pardon?"
"I—I'm not sure."
"Eugene, if there's anything you need to tell me-."
He took her hand, shaking his head, "It'll be all right. I don't think it's about that."
"I hope so." She said fervently.
Eugene stood up, nodding, "Yeah. Um, I think they'll be done soon. Have a good night, okay? I'll see you tomorrow morning."
"No—I have something to show you."
"What? Can't it wait until-?"
Rapunzel shook her head, "Not really."
"Okay, fine. But seriously, if you get tired of waiting then just go to bed, all right?"
She nodded, still evidently concerned. The doors of the dinning room opened and the queen walked in. She seemed slightly worried, but otherwise unaffected by whatever had taken place in the hallway.
"Eugene dear, my husband has gone on to his study. He will be expecting you."
"Thank you, your Majesty." Eugene bowed to her and Rapunzel, "Goodnight to you both. And Rapunzel-," he gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, muttering, "-just so you know, the dessert was extraordinary—and so are you."
Rapunzel watched as he departed, a wrinkle of intense distress crossing her forehead. She looked over at her mother.
"Mom, why does Dad want to talk to Eugene? Is it about his pardon? Is he changing it at all?" Her voice was drawn taut with an insistence she never used when speaking to her mother. She was truly upset.
The queen shook her head, "No, Rapunzel darling. It's not about his pardon."
"Then what is it?"
"I—I have an idea but I'm afraid I can't tell you about it. Know this, though-," and she turned to gaze somberly at her daughter, "-we all love Eugene very much and whatever your father speaks to him about tonight is nothing to be deeply worried about."
"Are you sure?" Rapunzel asked, her green eyes penetrating.
The queen nodded, "Yes dear. I am sure."