Flynn ran a calloused finger carefully over Rapunzel's cheek, brushing a strand of feather-soft brown hair behind her ear. Her freckles were pronounced in the yellow morning sunshine, dusting over the slope of her nose. The scent of rain on pavement drifted in through the open window, along with the distant splash of morning traffic rushing through puddles in the aftermath of the storm.
He searched for the guilt and fear he'd struggled with so intensely in the months since they'd met. She was still so young, so vulnerable. She still needed stability and care that he'd never believed he could offer anyone, and she still had the power to wrap her small hand around his heart and squeeze until it burst, if she wanted to.
But there was no guilt, no fear. Just awe. Rapunzel, young as she indeed was, had withstood and survived something terrible and still had the strength and confidence to claim the man she wanted and fight for him. He'd made her fight so very hard, and she'd won.
Defeat was unexpectedly sweet.
A fierce protectiveness sprang up where the guilt had been, made his eyes darken as he ran his fingertips over her chin, her neck near her ear, her collar bone. He had hurt her so deeply. He could never harm her again, couldn't live with himself if he did. And he wouldn't let anyone else hurt her, either. Not her stuffy house marm. Not her ignorant, small-minded bosses. Not that sweaty-palmed hormonal delinquent who'd better be glad the removal of limbs was no longer an acceptable form of punishment for grabbing something that doesn't belong to you.
Her eyes fluttered open, filled with relief and joy when they fell on him. "Hi…" she said with a small smile, her voice thick with sleep.
"Morning, Birthday Girl," he murmured, his palm sliding softly down her spine.
"That was yesterday," she sighed happily, laying her cheek down on his chest, her ear to his heart. "And it was a beautiful day."
"Not sufficient for a birthday girl," Flynn teased, his hands skating slowly down her sides, over her ribs, her waist, the flare of her hips, and back up again. "You didn't tell me until the end, so I think I get a do-over."
"What fits a birthday?" she asked shyly. "I only know from TV specials."
Flynn had never had anyone to celebrate with, and sometimes his birthday came and went without his noticing. "We can do anything you want." He thought about the activities she adored or had often expressed interest in. "We can skip rocks in the harbor, we can go look at the dinosaur bones in the natural history museum, we can go to five consecutive cheese tastings…" that last one she had added very deliberately to her bucket list. Five. In a row.
"Or, we could stay in…" she murmured, her eyes glittering even as she blushed. She traced her fingertips up his arm, sending tendrils of desire coiling through him immediately.
"Oh?" he smirked, brushing his nose softly against hers.
"Mmhmm… last night was amazing. How about we just… hang out here and…" she pressed her lips to his, and he stifled a groan when she arched against his chest, every inch of her skin warm against his, the contours of her body tantalizing and impossible and perfect.
"And…?" he said huskily, pulling back just enough to meet her gaze, his brown eyes playful in the face of her limited ability to ask for what she wanted.
"And… kiss… and touch..." She felt along his arms, biting her lip softly and stroking her toes shyly along his leg. "Like… in the shower…"
"Oh, Birthday Girl, dream bigger," he said, easing her gently onto her back, bracing himself on his forearms over her. "I can do much better than that."
It was late enough in the morning that the building was quiet, all other residents out for the day. Any other day, Flynn would have long ago shooed away his temporary house guest and moved on to smothering his hangover with another beer. But he was sober, and she was sober, and the possibility of spending the day making her sigh and squirm and scream and sweat in his sheets cleared any other thoughts from his mind.
She gasped when he kissed softly down her throat, grazing her pulse point with his teeth, nipping at her shoulder. She was so delicate, so soft, but underneath that, her heart beat fiercely and insistently, and the clear, guileless sounds of pleasure she made as his lips trailed to her breasts fed him in a way he couldn't remember feeling before.
She panted down at him, needy anticipation unbanked on her face. Her raw, unchecked desire was addictive. No flirty competitiveness. No battle of wills. Just her lain out under him, sheltered by his arms, letting him in. She was his to take and his to give everything he had.
His hand splayed under her lower back, holding her tightly to him as he dipped his head suck softly under her breast, biting playfully and smiling to himself when she tugged him by the hair until he sealed his mouth over the peak, laving her with his tongue, closing his eyes and groaning as she pulled at the base of his scalp. He lingered, relishing the taste and smell and feel of her until her hips bucked up against him impatiently, instinctively, urging him to venture further. He felt her moans in her chest before he heard them, watched the muscles in her stomach jump against his stubble as he kissed lower, knew how much she trusted him, how no walls were left between them, when her legs parted subconsciously, trembling in anticipation.
She cried out in surprise and delight when he tasted her, her toes curling into the sheets near his shoulders, her green eyes blinking down at him almost in disbelief.
He paused. There were obvious ways to tell she was enjoying this, but all the same, he didn't want to rush her... "No?" he asked softly, his breath against her thigh.
"Yes!" she cried out, almost a demand, propped on her elbows as she gazed down at him, flushed.
He laughed and pinched her hip. "Then relax," he coaxed, dragging his other palm across her knee as he dipped his head again.
"Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuu - dge," she muttered, grasping idly at his shoulders.
He smirked against her, self-satisfaction mixing headily with the sight of her pleasure. He worked her slowly and gently at first, eyes trained on her gorgeous face, gauging her reactions, noting what made her shiver, what made her sigh. He lapped at her, and ran the flat of his tongue over her in one agonizingly measured sweep that made her grind up against his mouth reflexively. She was so lost in the sensation, so willing to let it overcome her, and he was just as lost in her. Her skin, heated and stretched in front of him. Her voice, rough now from pleas and praise. The strong muscles of her thighs flexing against his cheek. She was perfect. She was his whole world. And every lousy, drawn out, clumsy encounter he'd ever had, every needy, drunk stranger who'd fumbled with him, every rushed, selfish exchange was worth it because now he knew he could give her everything she needed. Now he could deliver on a physical promise of the kind of satisfaction and relief she'd been starved for but never would be again, as long as she let him into her arms.
Her moans deepened, and she wove her fingers into his hair, urging him on without thinking, tossing her head a little as she panted. "Eu-Eugene!" she mewled between cries. He could feel her tightening, inching towards the edge, her need pulling at him until he craved her climax as much as she did. He closed his eyes and sucked at her clit, his ears perking at every sharp gasp of approval as her cries pitched higher, and faster, and he coaxed her toward-
Suddenly, there was an extremely abrupt, extremely loud, extremely infuriating flurry of thumps at his door. Rapunzel blinked blearily over the edge of the loft, confused and frustrated.
"Ignore it," Flynn commanded, his rough voice muffled against her.
She flopped back on the sheets, resuming her gasps of enjoyment, but the thudding resumed.
"FItzherbert! Open up!"
The fuck…? It wasn't the captain's normal day to drop by. This was the worst possible time of all terrible times. He hesitated, and Rapunzel let out a strangled, desperate plea for more that was so effortlessly alluring that he really considered going straight on with it. The police could wait; he had a writhing, purring, perfect woman spread out in front of him who needed the orgasm of a lifetime.
"I KNOW YOU'RE THERE, YOU PERVERT. I CAN HEAR YOU WATCHING PORNOGRAPHY."
This time Rapunzel let out a strangled moan of frustration that petered off into irritated giggles as she ran a hand over her beautiful, flushed face, shaking her head.
Yeah, there was no salvaging the moment now. He teased her with one last lingering moment of worship to her core, his eyes on hers and full of promise. "Don't move," he said, his voice low. Then he reluctantly left her warmth and struggled to his feet, hastily slipping on some pajama pants over his own urgent arousal and awkwardly descending.
The thumping recommenced.
"You really wanna join in?" Flynn called, unable to stifle his irritation as he made a stop to splash some cold water on this face, leaning against the sink and closing his eyes for a moment to let his blood cool. He really didn't need the captain to see him like this. He really didn't want to see the captain at all, but he finally had something good going with Rapunzel, and it wouldn't do to get in trouble with the law at the moment.
He took a breath and swung the door open, not even looking up, moving instead to the coffee pot.
The captain rushed in, looking all around like he was going to catch Flynn mid-fap, and was both victorious and disgusted to do so. "You don't even have a television," he snapped. "Or a computer. Were you watching on your phone? That loud? What is wrong with you?"
"I like it loud, what can I say," Flynn grinned, raising his mug like a toast. "Want some coffee? I only have one mug, but we can share; I know how important it is to you to be close to me."
The captain curled his lip in disgust, his eyes falling on the pile of still-wet clothes they'd hastily discarded the night before. He squinted at the lavender silk of Rapunzel's skirt before his eyes darted to the loft, where Rapunzel was no doubt hiding under the covers.
"Wait, do- do you have a lady here?" The captain stage whispered, which ended up louder than his regular speaking voice.
"Weird, right?" Flynn said, shrugging exaggeratedly. "I just woke up and there she was. And I figured, hey, lady, since you're here, do you want to watch some really loud porn on my phone?"
The captain rapped his club against the ladder, looking up with a mix of curiosity and apprehension. "Uh… Miss? Do you know whose home you're in? Are you here of your own free will? Are you intoxicated beyond the ability to consent?"
"Hey," Flynn said, seriously for once. "Leave her alone. She's not the one on parole." He held out a hand. "You got that cup? I've been brewing somethin' special, just for you."
Scowling, the captain handed Flynn the piss cup, leaning in to ask, "Is she the potato chef?"
Flynn almost smiled at the memory, but he wasn't interested in sharing a laugh with the captain. "Why so much interest in my personal life?" he asked cockily, shutting the bathroom door behind him. "You're awfully invested."
"You don't have a personal life," the captain snapped. "You are literally peeing into a cup at this moment. You left your right to privacy behind along with your dignity when you failed so outrageously at snatching that crown."
Flynn emerged, piss in hand, to see the captain starting up the ladder. But three rungs up, he froze.
"Y-you!" he gasped, his jaw actually dropping and his mustache twitching. "What are you doing here?" he backed away from the loft, blinking rapidly, his expression swiftly turning from shock to horror.
Rapunzel had thrown on one of Flynn's T-shirts, and she gingerly sat at the top of the ladder, legs tucked under her. Just the sight of her lithe calves made Flynn's throat tighten, but the desire was heavily dampened by an equal wish to cover her up from the totally unworthy eyes of the captain.
"Hi… Sir," Rapunzel said sheepishly, running a hand through her tousled hair, her skin still flushed from their tussle.
Flynn stared. They knew each other? "Wait… what?"
The captain turned on Flynn, steam practically bursting from his ears. "Fitzherbert, what the hell do you think you're doing?! Do you know who she is?"
Flynn blinked. He thought he knew. What more was there to know?
Sputtering, the captain gesticulated vehemently toward the object of Flynn's adoration. "Do you know how old she is?"
Good God, he hoped so. He had specifically carded her months ago, back when he was totally in denial about having any particular interest in her legal status. His eyes darted up to Rapunzel. "Please, please don't tell me you've been using a fake ID," he said, actually nervous for the first time since the captain had started monitoring him.
"I'm 19," Rapunzel said defensively, crossing her arms over her chest protectively. "Exactly 19."
"She is a child!" the captain roared.
"I'm not," Rapunzel insisted, her eyes flashing, brow furrowing. "And neither is Eugene. I don't see how any of this is your business."
A nerve in the captain's forehead visibly twitched, his knuckles whitening as he gripped his club. Flynn shifted uneasily, really not wanting to get into a physical altercation with his parole officer, but more than ready to if that club got any closer to her irresistible little toes.
"Is she your new accomplice?" the captain demanded, his voice dropping to an icy demand.
"Mmmm," Flynn said with a slight nod. "My accomplice in loud porn watching."
The captain ignored that comment. "What are you plotting? What do you need her for?"
What the hell was he talking about? Flynn hesitated, unsure how to respond sarcastically when he had no idea what the serious answer should be.
"Don't say loud porn watching!" the captain snarled. He glared up at Rapunzel again, shaking his club at her in a way that made it very hard for Flynn to restrain himself from snatching it and thwacking the cop straight in the face with it.
"You," the captain growled up at her. "I went easy on you. Why? Because I pitied you. You should be in jail, but you're in therapy, instead, because of me. Because I was merciful. Because I looked the other way."
Rapunzel wilted, slouching down into Flynn's shirt, curling in on herself. The sight made Flynn's heart ache, and protective anger flare through him. Flynn had no idea what was going on, but he wasn't about to let this ass-wipe make Rapunzel feel scared or stressed. "Captain," he said sharply. "You got what you came for. Leave her out of it."
The captain barked a laugh, shaking his head at Flynn like he'd sprouted another head. "Leave her out of it? You think she's the one wrapped up in your problems? Clueless, as usual, Fitzherbert. You don't know what she's capable of. I've been soft on both of you, and this is what happens. I knew better than this. But I won't make the same mistake twice." He glanced between them with as much menace as was possible with a mustache like that. "I'm watching you. Both of you. Whatever you have in mind for this unholy alliance - think again, or brace yourselves to do some serious time behind bars."
What the hell was this guy on, suggesting Rapunzel should be in prison? Threatening her like this?
"Enough games," Flynn said, his jaw clenching as he subconsciously positioned himself between the captain and Rapunzel. "There's been no crime, and this is not a courtroom. Take my piss and leave. Or should I call Max?"
The captain blanched, then drew himself up, his expression stony, his shoulders set. "You've been warned," he spat, fixing each of them with one last glare before stalking out of the apartment, tossing a final look of total disgust over his shoulder.
Flynn watched the closed door for a long moment, then slowly slid his eyes up the loft, where Rapunzel was biting her lip and wringing her hands, avoiding his gaze.
He cocked his head, raising his eyebrows as he looked up at her. "So. That was different."
Rapunzel shrugged a little, fumbling with the hem of his T-shirt where it rested on her thighs.
Since when did Rapunzel, his little chatterbox, his 24/7 podcast of random, have nothing to say for herself? He couldn't stand the sight of her scared and helpless and unsure. "Sugar?" he asked, gently but gravely.
She didn't answer, but visibly swallowed, keeping her eyes downcast as Flynn scaled the ladder, until his face was level with hers.
"Rapunzel…" he said, ducking his head a little to try to catch her gaze. "You don't have to hide from me. Wanna fill me in, though? Why does my parole officer seem to think you are a bad influence on me?"
Maybe she had gotten in some other vandalism trouble and had been too shy to tell him. That was just the kind of thing the captain would take way too seriously. Or maybe she'd accidentally shop-lifted — he could see her not knowing how shops worked in the beginning, and just gleefully grabbing anything that interested her.
But she still said nothing, her hands shaking a little as she picked at a loose thread. She drew shuddering breaths, sniffling a little.
"I just got released from Bleach Street, remember?" Flynn said softly, pulling himself up to sit next to her, their legs dangling off the ledge of the loft. "Who am I to judge?"
She finally looked up at him, and the raw fear in her vibrant green eyes confused him. What had the captain told her? What had he made her so paranoid about? It was one thing to give Flynn a hard time. It was something else to torment Rapunzel with idle threats just to get under his skin.
"What could be so bad?" he prodded. "What, are you the scourge of Corona? Wanted for murder in six counties?"
She closed her eyes for a beat, breathing slowly, then opened them again, obviously forcing herself to make eye contact. "No, not six counties..." she said. "...Just this one."