Hey, guys! Last chapter, are you excited? I know I am. Well, anyway, I just wanted to thank you all again for the lovely reviews and supportive comments I've been getting for this story. I really appreciate them. Also, I just wanted to remind you guys that there will be a sequel, so please give me any ideas you have for that. How long should it be? Should it include the wedding or not? What else would you like to read about? Any input you could give would be awesome!
Rapunzel and I were shown out onto some sort of balcony. The view of the city's lake that could be seen from that spot was magnificent. It reminded me of the scene from the castle's rooftop which I had glimpsed before stealing the princess's crown…well, Rapunzel's crown. We stared off at the water, silent for awhile.
I was thinking about life imprisonment. I was fairly certain that this would be my sentence. After all, I was the most notorious thief in the kingdom, and just because I'd found Rapunzel and returned her safely didn't mean the King would be too lenient in his decision; just because I wanted to be with her didn't mean that reality would match up with my desires.
"Eugene…" Rapunzel's voice was soft, so quiet that I almost couldn't make out the word.
I looked down at her face. She was wearing the same expression of confusion, anxiety and concern that I'd seen on her just before the lanterns were released. "I know you're scared about this, Blondie," I said, giving her a small smile as I lifted my hand to stroke her hair. "But you honestly have nothing to be worried about. They're going to love you, and you'll be happy, and you'll finally have a family…a real family."
She reached down to intertwine her fingers with mine. I leaned closer to her so that our shoulders were pressed tightly against one another. It was a nice feeling to have her this close; I tried to hold onto that.
"You really think they'll like me?" Rapunzel wondered, the self-doubt in her voice throwing me off.
"Of course they will," I assured her. "It's physically impossible for someone to meet you and not like you right away." I squeezed her hand and planted a kiss on her forehead.
She giggled as my lips pressed against her skin. "Well, I seem to recall a certain thief who didn't take to me at first." She stared pointedly at me, her lips twitching up into a little smile.
I laughed. "That might have been because you hit said thief in the head with a frying pan…twice!"
She shoved me playfully. After a moment or two of the pleasant silence, she said in a more serious tone, "Thank you for everything. You've done so much for me, and I just…"
"Trust me," I told her. "You've done just as much for me." Without her, I'd still be a petty criminal dreaming of a vapid, selfish retirement on a solitary island. But now here I was, ten times the man I had been just a few days prior. I cared about someone other than myself for the first time in a very, very long while. I no longer thought solely of money or jewels or priceless heirlooms. Rapunzel had gone and changed my whole dynamic, and I was better because of it.
Then, the tall double doors behind us creaked open. We turned simultaneously, and I caught sight of the King and Queen. I'd seen them in paintings and mosaics before, but now that I actually took the time to really look at them, I realized that they were unmistakably Rapunzel's parents. While she bore very little resemblance to her father, Rapunzel was the spitting image of her mother. They had the same eyes, the same hair (though the Queen's was much longer), and they were about the same height. The Queen's face was more lined, the years of age and worry showing themselves distinctly in these wrinkles, but other than that, the two women were strikingly similar.
Rapunzel took a few small steps forward and I let go of her hand. I watched as her mother copied the slow approach. They seemed unsure, scared, and overjoyed all at once, and finally, the window of uncertainty shattered. The Queen took several more steps toward Rapunzel and reached out a hand to touch her daughter's face when she was within reach. Eyes filled with tears, the Queen let out a happy sigh, and Rapunzel exhaled in the same manner.
That was when the mother pulled her daughter into a loving hug. I felt almost uncomfortable watching this very private, familial moment, but it was a truly beautiful thing to see them reunited after so long.
The King walked over, and after catching Rapunzel's eye, he chuckled and wrapped his arms around the two women. They sank to the ground, all kneeling but never breaking the embrace. I smiled, genuinely pleased as I realized just how loved Rapunzel would be with her parents. She would never be locked away or alone or neglected again.
The Queen noticed me staring at them, and she extended her hand. I walked over to shake it, assuming that this was a small gesture of thanks for returning their daughter. I was wrong. As soon as I took the Queen's hand, she tugged me down and I was quickly included in the family's hug.
I have to admit, it felt really nice to be a part of something like that.
As it turns out, the King was a much kinder man than I had given him credit for. When I finally broached the topic of my sentence (which only happened after about three hours of parent-child bonding), he told me that I had absolutely nothing to worry about. I was given a clean slate, just so long as I agreed to adhere to the laws from then on.
Well, you can imagine what happened next. The kingdom rejoiced, for the lost princess had returned. The party lasted an entire week, and honestly, I don't remember most of it. Dreams came true all over the place. Hook-hand went on to become the most famous concert pianist in the world, if you can believe that! The poor sap with the giant nose, he eventually found true love. As for the mime, well, I assume he's happy; he's never told me otherwise. Thanks to Maximus, crime in the kingdom disappeared almost overnight…as did most of the apples. Pascal never changed.
At last, Rapunzel was home, and she finally had a real family. She was a princess worth waiting for. Beloved by all, she led her kingdom with all the grace and wisdom that her parents did before her.
And, as for me, I started going by Eugene again, stopped thieving and basically turned it all around. But I know what the big question is—did Rapunzel and I ever get married? Well, I'm pleased to tell you that after years and years of asking and asking and asking, I finally said yes.
I can almost hear Rapunzel now saying, "Eugene," in that fake-scolding tone that lets me know she's not serious.
Alright, I asked her.
And as Rapunzel constantly reminds everyone, we're living happily ever after. And she's completely right. Yes, we are.
I hope you all enjoyed this chapter. This has been a really fun story to write and I'm almost sad to be finished with it. But the sequel will hopefully be starting up soon, so I need ideas! Thanks so much!