So I know I said I wanted to get this out there by the first of May, but hey, the best laid plans of mice and men...

Seriously, though, life's been hard lately. I just celebrated my nineteenth birthday the 22nd, and I've decided to leave my job due to complications and conflicts between me and my supervisor (over one day, I might add). I've been preparing for my boyfriend's graduation, and my best friend came into town for a few days this past week. :) I've also had a HORRIBLE time pounding out the plot for this, trying to fill in whatever holes I've come across, and so far, I think I've done a pretty good job. :) I've also found the perfect name for this story, as "Heaven Can Wait" was only a working title. "Smoke and Mirrors" works far better, and later on in the story, you'll find out why. :)

But for now, enjoy! Reviews are welcomed. :)

Chapter song: "Hysteria" by Def Leppard

Disclaimer: Tangled is not mine. Damn.

Smoke & Mirrors

A "Tangled" fanfiction

by doodlegirll


He loved nights like this, when the stars glittered like a thousand fireflies and the moon cast a faint glow over the earth, when shadows danced in the nooks and crannies found about the grounds that he now called his home, when there was a slight bite in the air, signaling the end of the summer season. He loved them, because they reminded him of her, the way her eyes sparkled with intelligence and enthusiasm, the way she danced gleefully whenever she found the chance, the warmth he found in her smile. They reminded him that he was lucky, not only to have her, but to be able to live out his life with her at his side.

And this, he mused, was perfect. Everything was perfect.

Eugene Fitzherbert had finally found a place to belong, and that was at the side of the most amazing woman he had ever met, the woman who had taken him on the adventure of a lifetime, who had hit him – thrice – over the head with a heavy frying pan, the woman who had been willing to give her all just so that he could live, no matter the consequences it might bring for her. And tomorrow, after months of lessons in etiquette, history, and politics, he would finally be recognized by the rest of the kingdom of Corona as an appropriate suitor for their beloved Princess Rapunzel.

He knew that he should probably be getting some sleep, but Eugene couldn't help but appreciate this wonderful night as he strolled mindlessly through the gardens. It wasn't that he was looking for anything in particular, nor was he exactly not looking for anything either, but rather allowing the serenity of the peaceful garden calm his anxious nerves.

It had been three months since he had gone to trial for his crimes as Flynn Rider and sentenced to the hangman's noose. Three months since that fateful day at the gallows in which he had found his life spared for the second time at the hands of Rapunzel, who had pulled in back from death once before and would surely do it again. Three months since Eugene Fitzherbert had promised to change his life and do whatever it took to go the extra mile as Rapunzel had, to be with her. And now, he was finally, finally, making that extra mile official.

Tomorrow he would leave commoner Eugene Fitzherbert behind and take on the new title of Prince Consort.

Of course he understood the weight of the title. He understood that it meant that he was now allowed, in the eyes of the royal court, to court their princess, and one day marry her, thus making him the future king of Corona, though Rapunzel, as the heir, would preside over him in power. Not that it mattered anyway; as long as he had her, he didn't care who or what he was!

Still, he couldn't help but feel extremely nervous for the coming morning. Somehow he found the feeling akin to that of awaiting his pending execution, which didn't exactly make him feel any better. He'd been there, done that, and he had no desire to ever experience it again.

For ten years, he had been known by all of Corona as Flynn Rider, thief extraordinaire. He'd stolen from the rich and poor alike, if only to further his own ambitions for an island somewhere far away, never caring who it hurt. Due to this fact, he knew that he was not exactly liked by many of the people of Corona, which caused him a great deal of unrest. Yes, he had been pardoned, and yes, he truly regretted the harm that he had caused all those years, but was that enough to gain the forgiveness of those he had used, had stepped on? Surely they would recognize him, considering the large amount of wanted posters that had been plastered at practically every corner, despite the artists' inabilities to get his nose right. A change of name and heart didn't change the face of the damned, and he knew it.

Sighing, he ran a hand through his brown hair as he sat himself down at the edge of the large fountain at the center of the gardens. Tomorrow was just as much a judgement day as that day at the gallows. He had been allotted a second chance then, but would fate allow him another?

He was startled by the sound of footsteps on the stone path next to him, and he sprang to his feet, fully prepared to explain to whoever it was he was about to encounter his intentions about the lavish surroundings. A guard, he guessed, making the nightly rounds.

However, it was not the face of an armored guard he was met with, but instead the face of His Majesty, the King, Rapunzel's father.

Eugene bowed. "Your Majesty," he said softly as the monarch approached him.

The King nodded at him. "Mr. Fitzherbert," he said. "Might I inquire to ask what you are doing out at such an hour as this? Your public appearance is tomorrow! Surely you need all the rest you can get?"

Eugene straightened up, once again finding himself feeling as through he were in the hot seat. He wondered if that were a feeling he would ever be able to conquer...

"I couldn't sleep, Your Majesty." He explained. "I thought a walk might help."

The King chuckled.

"Then you and I are not as different as we think." He said. "I, too, often find myself suffering from bouts of insomnia, and the garden always helps me to find peace amidst turmoil." He turned his gaze towards the bright half moon, his hands behind his back. "What ails you, my boy?"

Ever since he had been brought before the royal council, Eugene had found a sort of father figure within the King. The King had been there to give a good word for him towards the council, and when Rapunzel had returned the day of Eugene's execution, the King had said he considered him his own son. Eugene had never had a father before, and he supposed that the King was as close to one as he would ever get. The King was a kind soul, and he had never treated Eugene poorly. Eugene knew the man was eternally grateful to him for bringing Rapunzel back, but Eugene couldn't help but feel that there was no reason for the man to feel this way in the first place; Rapunzel deserved to have a real family.

Eugene rubbed the back of his neck.

"I'm...not really sure." He confessed. "It all comes down to tomorrow. I guess I'm just a little nervous."

The King nodded in understanding, but said nothing, prompting Eugene to continue.

"I guess I'm just worried that not everyone will be so keen to accept me, as Your Majesties have." He explained. "I mean, considering my past as Flynn Rider and all..."

The King shook his head, and laid a hand on Eugene's shoulder.

"Eugene, I do believe you worry too much." He said, smiling. "Your past is just that: your past. Your future holds so much potential, and I am quite sure, considering how fast news seems to fly around these parts, not to mention the celebration we held in honor of Rapunzel's return to us, that the kingdom knows very well who you are, and I am quite certain that they also see the change you have made." He chuckled again. "Crime has certainly diminished since you gave up thieving!"

Eugene allowed himself to laugh a little, and be began to feel just a little bit better.

"I wouldn't worry too much about tomorrow, my boy." The King said, removing his hand from Eugene's shoulder. "Enjoy it! Tomorrow is just as much a day of celebration as a coronation! Tomorrow we announce that you are Rapunzel's suitor, and thus the future King of Corona! Such news is worthy of joy. Tomorrow is for you." He smiled again. "Have faith. It may surprise you."

Eugene nodded. "Thank you, Your Majesty." He said.

The King held up a hand.

"Please," he said. "I do believe, upon the belief that you truly are the one my daughter intends to marry, that the time has come for us to drop such formalities. Call me Leander, or Lee, if you prefer."

Eugene, unable to refuse, merely nodded in agreement.

The King took another look at the moon before he looked back at Eugene.

"Perhaps it is time for us to call it a night, yes?" He asked.

"I do feel like I could use some sleep," Eugene agreed.

"Then we shall call it a night." King Leander said. "Until the morning, I bid you goodnight, Mr. Fitzherbert."

"And you, Yo-Leander."

With that, the two men parted ways, King Leander heading back towards the castle while Eugene hung back, gazing up at the moon just as the king had for a moment.

I sure hope he's right...