Summary: Truth be told, the first time Eugene Fitzherbert looked at Rapunzel, he was hardly impressed, but not for the reasons you might think.
Writer's note: First off, thanks much to anyone who read/reviewed my earlier Tangled fics.
You'll have to assume a couple of things for this one: one, Eugene isn't an orphan yet when this takes place and two, he's about 4-5 years older than Rapunzel, making him 22ish in my mind. I know there's been much debate and disagreement about Eugene's age in the movie; I figure making him 23 is a good number, he doesn't look much younger or older than that and it also works for me for purposes of this fic.
I really didn't mean to make this as heavily ironic and foreshadowy as it came out –not in my head anyway! Hope you like.
"Helene, dear, please hurry up! We don't want to miss the ceremony!"
"Be right there!" Helene Fitzherbert raced down the stairs where her husband Harold already stood. She quickly adjusted her dress and necklace and looked around. "Where are the boys?" she asked her husband.
Harold sighed. "Outside." He ushered his wife out the door where stood their two boys, Mark, age 8 and Eugene, 4 (going on 5), looking grumpy.
"Why do I have to go with you?" whined little Eugene. "I want to go play with Wallace, I don't want to go to the stupid palace!" He pouted, crossing his arms. Wallace was the too-large-for-his-size boy who lived in the orphanage down the street, a lad the Fitzherbert parents highly disapproved of, particularly since he had a twin brother, Roy, even more hulking than himself. Though their names were Stubbington, around the village they were known as the Stabbingtons.
Helene shot her son a dangerously reproachful look while Harold merely shrugged at her, giving her one of his classic he's-your-son looks. "Because, young man, the queen has just cheated death and given birth to a princess, the future queen of Corona. And we're going to celebrate along with them, and that includes you. Now, come on," she added crossly, taking Eugene's hand firmly in hers while Harold took Mark's. "We're late as it is."
"But I don't want to go see some dumb princess, mom-"
"Well, I don't-"
"Eugene Jerome Fitzherbert, enough. We are going and that's that. Now, hush up and behave yourself or else!"
"Yeah, Gene," said Eugene's older brother Mark, grinning evilly as he ruffled the younger boy's perfect hair. "You'd better be quiet. Or ELSE," he wriggled his eyebrows exaggeratedly.
"Or else what?" huffed Eugene unhappily, his arms still folded across his chest as he walked with his family toward the palace.
"Or else, you know what mom and dad'll make you do?" The evil grin slowly spread wider on Mark's face.
Eugene's eyes widened. His heart dropped in his chest. "What?" He tried not to look as scared as he was.
Mark's grin was positively devilish now. He leaned in close to Eugene, leering. "They'll make you KISS her!"
"Kiss who?," cried poor Eugene.
"The new princess, you moron!" Mark was clearly delighting in this new way to torture his brother. "They'll make you go straight up to the princess - who's a GIRL by the way - and kiss her straight on her FACE!"
"EW! NO! Please, no, mom, don't make me!" Eugene was horrified. Kissing was gross! Mom and dad did it! But they wouldn't make Eugene do it, ever, would they?
"Oh, they'll make you kiss her, all right," continued Mark gleefully. "And then - THEN" (here Mark paused dramatically) "you'll have to marry her!" Mark couldn't stand it anymore as he doubled over, laughing.
"No, please mom, I'll be quiet, I swear I will! I don't want to marry a girl, please, mommy! NO!" Eugene very nearly hyperventilated while the older Fitzherberts just sighed to themselves.
"Now, Eugene, calm down," said Helene wearily. "Mark, will you please stop teasing your younger brother? Harold, say something," she said pleadingly to her husband, who'd mostly grown resigned to his sons being what they were.
Harold tried very hard to hide his smile. "Now, boys, listen to your mother," he said mildly. "And Eugene," he added, turning to his younger son. "I'm sure the princess is very pretty and she'll be a fine wife for you." His mouth quirked as poor Eugene turned a pale shade of grey and Mark collapsed into almost uncontrollable fits of laughter.
"Harold!" Helene gave her husband her most scandalized look. "Now, stop it, you're as bad as Mark!" Helene shook her head and wondered how it was that she'd married someone as irreverent as Harold. What was it about the Fitzherbert men that made them so teasing and sarcastic, especially to women?
Harold sighed. "I'm only joking, dear." He shot his wife a conciliatory smile. He could already tell it was going to be a long day. "We'd better hurry up. I hear they've got something special planned for the ceremony." He smiled again, taking his wife's other hand.
The Fitzherberts arrived at the palace courtyard, where a large crowd had already gathered. As the family waited together, each's thoughts were on something different: Harold's on how lucky the queen had been to find the golden flower in time, Helene on how glad she was that her own husband and boys were healthy and safe, Mark on how best to taunt Eugene now that he couldn't talk to him, and Eugene, grumpily still, on the princess.
What was so great about the king and queen anyway? Eugene didn't get it.
And what he especially did not get was what was so great about the new princess. She was just some goofy baby with a king for a dad and a queen for a mom. But no, that wasn't what was most annoying about her.
What was worst of all, thought Eugene firmly to himself, was that she was a girl.
Little Eugene Fitzherbert did not like girls.
Girls were silly. And stupid. And they wore goofy dresses and ribbons in their hair and they never played in the dirt or climbed trees or played with frogs or did anything fun. And they always colored their faces too much with those stupid girly crayon thingees and put too much of that sugary powdery stuff on their faces.
Overall, thought Eugene, girls just smelled like the color pink.
Eugene hated pink.
Before Eugene could continue his mental inventory of why he hated girls and that included Princess Baby Whoever, a loud trumpet played, quieting the crowd. The royal trumpeter cleared his throat. "Presenting their royal majesties, King Edward and Queen Anne, and introducing the newest member of the royal court, her highness the royal princess of Corona!"
The King and Queen entered the palace terrace to thunderous applause and wild cheering from the crowds below. And, noticed Eugene, they hadn't come out alone.
Nestled cozily in her mother's arms, it was then that Eugene Fitzherbert first got a good look at the princess Rapunzel. And truth be told, he was hardly impressed.
She was tiny, the size of a baby, with baby face, baby toes, baby everything. Well, except for one thing.
"She's got too much hair," said Eugene, rather bluntly. He wrinkled his nose at the baby with big green eyes who had copious amounts of bright blonde hair flowing well past her shoulders.
"My goodness, he's right," said Harold slowly. "Will you look at that, Helene, her hair is so long! And blonde!" He turned to his wife in wonder and noticed Helene thinking the same thing.
"How interesting," mused Helene thoughtfully. "That's the brightest shade of blonde I've ever seen! I can't imagine how her hair could be like that when their majesties both have brown hair." She exchanged puzzled glances with her husband.
Apparently, they weren't the only ones who were thinking about the princess's hair, as the crowd was filled with gasps and quiet talking and murmurs.
"The flower," said a voice very quietly, as though someone was talking only to themselves. "My golden flower."
It was a very quiet voice, so quiet it went over the heads over the crowd. Only Eugene was close enough to hear it, and he turned his head, curious to see where it had come from. Looking behind him, he noticed an old lady standing in the crowd. She had dark curly hair, mostly streaked with gray, and wore a dark red gown with an intricate gold brocade pattern at the neckline. Her eyes were narrow, eyes with which she kept glaring at the baby princess meaningfully, her wrinkly hands clenched into tight fights at her sides.
Upon noticing Eugene looking at her, the old lady suddenly shot him a sharply cold, callous look.
Eugene quickly looked away from her, feeling scared. Not like the kind of scared he'd been when Mark had threatened with kissing the princess. This lady seemed even scarier than that. He shivered involuntarily, his hand shaking in his father's grip.
"What are you looking at, son?" Harold suddenly noticed Eugene looking behind him. Eugene turned back to face Harold, tightening his grip on his father's hand. He was about to tell him about the old lady when, looking back, he noticed that she was gone.
"Nothing," said Eugene confused. He could've sworn she was there just a minute ago.
Harold frowned at Eugene. But before he could ask his son what was going on, the trumpeter blew his horn again and cleared his throat once more.
"In honor of the birth of the royal princess, the king and queen shall release this lantern today and on the princess's birthday each year henceforth, as a symbol of their good fortune and prosperity!"
All attention turned back to the king and queen as they produced a lantern with a drawing of the sun, the symbol of the kingdom of Corona, drawn on it. Smiling, the king and queen lit the lantern and released it into the air while the crowds cheered and applauded once again.
Eugene turned his attention back to the royal family again, the old lady forgotten. She was probably no one anyway.
Harold, noticing his son's eyes on the princess, smiled. "You know, Eugene," he said with a gentle cheerfulness, "One day you'll like girls more. You might even like that girl." He jerked his head toward the princess.
Eugene wrinkled his nose in disgust.
Noticing his younger son's reaction, Harold said, "No, really, son. I used to be the same way when I was a boy. I couldn't stand girls till your mother came along," said Harold, smiling as he put a hand on Eugene's shoulder. "Trust me, you'll feel it, too, one day. You'll be standing around minding your own business and before you know it, some special girl's come and stolen your heart away and you won't even know it. It's easy when you're a Fitzherbert man." Harold winked at his son, grinning. "One look at our gorgeous hair and perfect nose, no girl could resist you! Not even that girl," he gestured to the princess again.
You've got to be kidding, thought Eugene. Did they have to keep talking about girls? Or the princess?
Pouting harder than ever, Eugene forced himself to give the princess another glance. She was smiling and gurgling in her baby-smiley way with her big green eyes, still nestled in her beaming mother's arms.
Yup, just as he thought.
No way, thought Eugene, will I EVER like a girl. Or - EW! – MARRY a girl. Or marry that girl. Her hair is too long!
"If I HAVE to marry the girly princess," asked little Eugene with a pained expression on his face and an involuntary shudder at the icky thought, "can I cut her hair?"