Of all the love in the world there is not even nearly enough to equal the love that I have for the BBC's Sherlock right now. I want to cry with how much I love it, if that makes any sense. But also Tangled! I figured that I better finish this story. Hurpadurp.
I thought it'd be hard to write this epilogue, but turns out it wasn't because I'm a huge sucker for happy ending and OH GOD ALL THE LOVE IN THE WORLD. It's clearly not Disney if your teeth don't cave in afterwards.
"And then I said, 'hayfever?' and the guard turns to me, Flynn Rider, hanging in the middle of the crown room, and he nods!" narrated Eugene with no small amount of bravado.
"He didn't realise?" chorus a number of eager voices.
"Of course he didn't," Eugene scoffs. "Well, by the time he did realise, I was already up on the roof making my escape."
"How did you get back up so fast?" a particularly intuitive child asks. "Did you have someone to help you?"
"No," he shoots. "The great Flynn Rider needs no... see, I was... I... well I... I climbed up, of course," is the swift and guilty reply. "Anyway, I've got the tiara, and I'm making my-"
"Eugene!" comes a sharp, punishing shriek from across the room, and Eugene jumps almost out of his skin. When he sets eyes on the disarmingly small and sweet-looking princess giving him evil eyes, he lets out a sigh.
"I wish Aya hadn't taught you how to do that," he groans to himself. "What?"
"You can't tell them that story!" she scolds. "It sets a bad example."
"What? That's not... well how about this," he suggests, turning to the captive audience. "Make sure you do as I do, kids, and not as I said I did. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Flynn," comes the chorus of replies. He gives all of the children a stern look, winks and then tips his head towards Rapunzel. "Yes, Eugene," they correct themselves, but Rapunzel doesn't seem any more impressed. However, a voice calls for her from the kitchen and she disappears back inside.
"Well, how about I tell you the story of how I found the Lost Princess?" Eugene suggests anew, but his small audience seem unimpressed.
"Everyone knows that story!" one particularly outspoken child accuses.
"Oh, but not everyone knows the real story," Eugene tells the boy, and he can see that he's hooked them. "I was fleeing the Kingdom Guard," he begins to tell the tale, "and I came upon a tower hidden away in the forest. Climbing it with my bare hands, I sought refuge in the..."
"Mr. Rider, what does 'saught refuse' mean?" one of the younger children questions.
"It means hiding," he explains, then continues on with his story. "I was going to hide in the tower, but when I climbed in the top window, I beheld a beautiful girl, staring at me – and who can blame her?" Some of the girls start to giggle and fidget. "Well, when I approached, she offered me her hand in greeting, then asked for my name, and how I came to find her."
"So what did you say?" one of the giggling girls asks while turning distinctly pink; Eugene fixes her with his best smoulder.
"I know not who you are, nor how I came to be here... but can I just say..." he purrs, and then there comes a loud clang of sturdy metal against a thick wooden doorframe. Eugene winces instinctively.
"That isn't what happened at all," Rapunzel cuts in, brandishing in her hand a dented cast-iron pan.
"It's only a story," he argues defiantly, "I never claimed that I was giving a fully accurate account of events."
"Yes you did, Fl... Eugene," one of the children contributes, and Eugene turns to make a frantic shushing motion at him.
"All right, children," Rapunzel announces, spinning the pan deftly in her hand and strolling over to Eugene. "Let me tell you the real-real story." She forces Eugene to shuffle up on his seat and then squeezes herself in next to him. "There once was a girl who lived in just one room all her life, never going outside, never leaving her home."
"Never?" a small voice asks.
"Never," she reasserts. "But the girl was not unhappy, she had a friend and a mother and lots of wonderful hobbies to keep her busy." As she speaks, she feels Eugene's presence next to her stiffen, his arm finding its way around her, to sit curled on her waist; she knows he hates to think of her being happy in her prison, but she never knew it that way, and to deny that she was happy would be worse than to convince herself she was sad. "She had one dream though, to go outside and see the floating lanterns that were released on her birthday every year. But her mother said she could not go outside, so she stayed."
"Until..." Eugene attempts to interrupt, and Rapunzel slaps him on the knee.
"I'm telling the story, Eugene," she scolds. "Until one day a mysterious stranger climbed in through her window. A handsome and strong man, the first she had ever seen..." She practically feels Eugene's ego inflating next to her.
"What did she say to him?" a girl asks bashfully.
"She didn't say anything," Rapunzel answers, "she did something instead. She hit him in the head with a frying pan." Eugene's face has disappeared into his hands, and the children start to fall about laughing.
"Why me..." she can hear Eugene moaning through his palms.
"Why did you do that?" someone shrieks.
"Well, the girl was scared, she had never met a man before, she thought he might be dangerous," Rapunzel admits guilelessly. "But she realised that the man had been outside, and maybe he could help her achieve her dream. So she asked him," she says, and catches Eugene in the corner of her eye, peeking through his fingers at her.
"And what did he say?" the ever-curious audience inquires, and Rapunzel turns to Eugene, allowing him to answer.
"He said yes," he replies softly, and squeezes Rapunzel's hand tightly in his. Some of the children make 'aaw' sounds, but an equal amount snigger.
"But it wasn't as easy as that," Rapunzel continues. "The girl and the mysterious man left the tower, but it would take a long time and a lot of adventure before they could achieve their dreams."
"Both of them?" a bright child asks. "I thought it was the girl who had a dream."
"Everyone has a dream," Rapunzel replies sweetly, looking the young child in the eyes and asking, "Don't you?" They nod behind a blush, and Rapuznel is about to continue when the sound of the front door being shoved open and roughly closed rattles the room, and a singular small voice screams a name.
"FRANCIS!" the cry rings, and all of the children scramble to their feet and stampede in the direction of the hall. No fewer than three of them manage to secure themselves on some part of his body by the time he struggles inside and promptly collapses face-down on a sofa.
"Hard day?" Eugene remarks, while the kids pull at Francis's clothes and demand games, stories and other entertainments.
"Mnnnnmhm mmn," comes a muffled groan, and Rapunzel gets up to start shooing children away from him.
"He's tired, let him rest," she clucks in a way worryingly reminiscent of Aunt Aya. "He can play later."
"No he can't," Francis moans into the sofa pillows. "I'm going to prison instead." A few children hear him and start to wail, and Rapunzel has the smallest boy in her arms before he can even finish his first shriek.
"Hush, he doesn't mean it," she coos. "Don't upset them," she scolds again, then sends a pleading look towards Eugene, who sighs and gets up; his job as parole officer has not been entirely in name. He grabs Francis by the scruff of his coat and pulls him upright, though he slumps against the arm of the sofa immediately.
"Gabel giving you a hard time?" he asks, and the boy shrugs. "Kids, go play with Rapunzel outside for a while," he suggests, and a tone in his voice conveys that he is to be taken seriously, so everyone files out of the room.
"Prison won't be so bad," Francis laments softly. "Nice and quiet, at least. No one will try to stab me with a quill."
"I wouldn't count on that," Eugene remarks dryly, "and he tried to stab you?"
"Not him, someone else. A client. She said I was writing too slowly." Francis lifts an ink-spattered hand and shows Eugene a small red puncture mark. "I've been taking dictation all day," he explains, trying to flex his claw-like fingers and wincing. "Gabel he... he expects so much of me. It never stops. Never."
"He's pushing you," Eugene replies. "He knows you can handle it. You've learned a lot already." Francis was improving almost daily; Judge Gabel worked him long and hard – at first there was a clear aspect of retribution for Francis's actions, but the Judge was perfectly healthy now, and showed no signs whatsoever of relinquishing Francis's employment. However, the boy's transformation had been massive, by the time his service was finished, he'd be able to work in any lawyer's or judge's office he wanted. He'd been given a chance, not that he always appreciated it at the harder times.
"I know but he... he expects so much of me," Francis says in an exhausted, defeated voice. "Whenever I feel like I get the hang of something, he gives me something else a hundred times harder to do. And he..." Francis cuts off suddenly, and Eugene lifts an eyebrow.
"What?" he demands.
"Today... Gabel said... said he wanted to put me in for an exam. A legal one."
"A test?" questions Eugene, wondering if this is the root of the great display of exhaustion, as normally he was a lot brighter when he arrived home, even if he was just as tired.
"It'll... if I pass, it's the first step," Francis explains cryptically, and balls his hands up tight.
"The first step to becoming a lawyer," he mumbles, and Eugene's mouth falls open in an unaired 'oh' sound. "It still... there's still lots of other things, and I probably won't even pass, but if I... I mean. It'd..." Eugene waits for him to find the words. "Could I really do it?"
"What? Become a lawyer?" Eugene says. "Why shouldn't you?"
"Because I'm... I mean I've been – my crimes, I could have gone to prison... I'm just a nobody without any parents and no education. I'm only working for the Judge because it's my sentence for attacking him, he barely pays me anything. And... the lawyers I see are all guys in suits and robes, they all went to the Royal college, they have backgrounds and breeding. They look down on me – and why shouldn't they? I'm just an aide, I'm just a..."
"Slow down," Eugene interjects, and taps a hand on his shoulder comfortingly. "Do you want to know about not thinking you're good enough?" He stuffs a hand instinctively into his pocket and gropes instinctively for a tightly-wrapped bundle. "I used to... I was almost hung, I grew up in this hole too, thinking I had nobody and would never be anybody... and yet I," he breaks off, running a hand through his hair, not entirely believing he's going to say it, "and I want to marry her," he finishes. Francis looks at him quizzically, so he forces himself to repeat it.
"I want to marry Rapunzel. I want to ask her to be my wife and for her to say yes," he says in an almost shell-shocked tone. "And I don't mean in general, as a principle in the future sort of thing. I mean now, soon... and I even... I bought a ring." The bundle in his pocket feels like it burns in his hand. He's been carrying it for a while, waiting for the right moment, fighting his own voice of reason-come-pessimism.
"I don't get it," Francis says bluntly. "Why is that at all like what I've said? You love her, she loves you, everyone's already assumed that you're going to-"
"Think about it, Francis," Eugene interrupts. "She's a princess. An actual royal-blooded princess, she is meant to take over rule of the Kingdom after her parents. One day she's going to be Queen, and I want to marry her... so that means I... I'd be King." He looks dead at Francis and can see the implications sinking in. "You think you're not good enough? I can barely wrap my head around the idea of being good enough for her, let alone to be... you know," he trails off lamely.
"Okay... fair enough," Francis concedes, "so we're both screwed. What's your point?"
"My point is that in spite of all that, I'm still going to do it," he explains bluntly. "I'm still going to ask her, because I want to more than anything else – it's the same for you, if you want to try and become a lawyer, you have to forget about everything else and go for it."
"But... what if I can't?" he asks.
"If you want to make an excuse it's easy enough," he retorts. "What if Rapunzel says no? Or someone stops us? Or it doesn't work out... you just have to have faith."
"I... I... okay," he relents. "You're right. I'm gonna try. I want to try."
"Up and at'em, champ," Eugene says with a grin, and pats him on the shoulder again. "Now, if you tell a living soul about Rapunzel or the ring, I will personally kill you."
"Right," Francis confirms, "understood." With eerie timing, Aunt Aya bustles into the room and sets a cup of tea in Francis's hand.
"Aya?" Eugene accuses suspiciously. "How long have you been out there? What did you hear?" he adds with more impatience.
"Nothing that I didn't know already, pets," she answers casually; she doesn't need to eavesdrop to know exactly what's going on in their lives. "I will tell Rapunzel and the children that they can come back in now, shall I? It looks like it may rain and no one wants a dozen wet monsters running wild in the house."
"I should probably see Rapunzel back," Eugene remarks. "I'm fairly sure she dropped out of a royal function to come here this afternoon." The King and Queen have held good on their word to allow Rapunzel her freedom. Though they might attempt to persuade her otherwise, if she tells them she wants to go, they do not object to or stop her leaving. Eugene no longer worries about her freedom as much as he used to – though he's not sure if that's because of his own change in character, rather than anything else.
"I have unending sympathy for her parents," Aya comments dryly. "Get her back before the rain, I doubt they want a wet princess running wild around their home either. Rapunzel! Children!" Aya caws out of a window into the garden. "Time to come inside!"
Slowly the children filter into the room, followed by Rapunzel last, who appears to have been educating the children in garden-cookery, judging by the talk of mud-pies and the dirt spread about her person
"Oh jeesh," Eugene murmurs at her. "You look a state."
"I'll clean up before we go," she replies dismissively. "It's only mud, Eugene, it washes."
"Off you run then," he says in a mild taunt. "Unless you want to shower in the rain on the walk back across town."
"We're leaving?" she questions.
"I have to, at least," he replies. "I only meant to visit for a while, I have things to do, believe it or not."
"Okay give me five minutes," she says, then rushes upstairs. No sooner has the bathroom door shut one floor up than Aya turns to Eugene and calmly, verbally stabs him.
"So are you going to ask her, or just think about it? The two aren't quite the same thing, Eugene."
Eugene looks exactly like he has been slapped.
"What do you... you can't... it's not like... who asked your opinion?" Eugene blusters, and Aya gives him a stern eyeballing. "Well you can't just... I mean... I'll do it when I'm good and ready."
"Ready for what?" Rapunzel asks from half-way down the stairs, and Eugene's tone jumps up a whole level of alarm.
"Nothing," he yelps. "Nothing at all. Look at the time we really better be going seeing as the time being what it is that is the time to be going. Goodbye everyone!" he garbles in an almost inaudible rush, then grabs Rapunzel by the mercifully-clean hand and more or less drags her out of the door.
"Hey! Hey," she cries. "What's all that about?"
"Nothing, absolutely nothing at all," Eugene says with false enthusiasm and brightness, and then breaks off into muttering about the troubles of having a family again.
They're no more than half way to the castle when the predicted rain breaks, and before they can be soaked through they hole up underneath a shop front. Underdressed as usual, Rapunzel starts to shiver with the sudden drop in temperature, and Eugene soon pulls her back against his chest, rubbing his hands up and down her arms.
"Today was fun," she remarks, pressing against him, displaying her unique ability to mould herself into him in any circumstance.
"Yeah," he agrees, and then is quiet for a while as thoughts overrun in his head.
"Eugene?" she questions curiously, looking over her shoulder at him. "Is something wrong?"
"No, I'm just thinking," he replies tonelessly, then suddenly adds, "Francis might become a lawyer."
"What?" she gasps. "Really? How?"
"Judge Gabel wants him to take some exams, if he passes it's the first step to becoming a lawyer." He can feel her energy just by holding her; Rapunzel almost bounces out of his hands as she claps her hands together.
"Really! That's so great! Why didn't he say anything?" she rushes. "Can't we go back now and-" she begins, but Eugene reels her back in before she can run away with herself.
"He wasn't sure," he explains calmly. "He wanted to talk to me about it. He was scared."
"Scared?" she questions. "Of what?"
"Not being good enough," he answers. "Of failing."
"Well, he shouldn't let that hold him back," she replies thoughtfully, settling again in his arms and leaning back, watching the rain pour down in front of them.
"That's what I told him," Eugene agrees, and although he's trying to talk about Francis, he finds it hard to separate what is being said from his own struggle.
"Exactly," she affirms. "If there's something he wants, he shouldn't wait for it, he should run and try to get it without looking back. There's no point sitting on the inside, looking out and waiting for something to happen to you, being too afraid to take the first step. Nothing is worse than that," she says quietly; he knows she speaks from the heart, and holds her tighter.
"You're right," he murmurs, and thinks of the package in his pocket. "You're right," he says more firmly, and then straightens up and pushes her a step forwards.
"Eugene?" she questions, turning around to face him just as he pulls out a velvet-wrapped bundle and then drops down on one knee.
"Rapunzel," he starts, going over the words he's rehearsed in his mirror in a hundred different ways, "will you marry me?"
Rather than the more traditional words, Rapunzel's answer instead involves screaming and then throwing her arms around his neck, which – taking the difference in height and his being down on one knee into consideration – causes the two of them to roll to the wet and muddy floor.
"YESYESyesyesyes!" she squeals as Eugene struggles to do anything but flail helplessly underneath her, and finds being kissed everywhere her mouth can reach seriously distracting. He hopes that it won't be a surprise to her parents – he attempted to subtly inform them by asking the Queen for help concerning the size of the ring, which was hopefully enough to insure they won't be too shocked. If the King or his wife had a serious problem, they probably would have done something about it before now.
So he picks himself up off the floor, hauling Rapunzel up with him, and presents her with the package that she quite forgot about while she was busy tackling him.
"There's more," he adds, and lets her unwrap the ring; he erred on the side of simple, nothing fancier than a gold band with a single diamond. Purchased, not stolen, he might add. As she slides it onto her finger, he swears she's almost crying, then with a smile she launches at him again – he's prepared enough to catch her this time, locking into a deep, soul-consuming kiss.
"We have to tell mom and dad!" she rushes when they finally part, and clamps his hand in her own. "Come on!"
"What now?" he questions, looking out at the still-torrential rain. Rapunzel's expression does not so much as flicker.
"Why wait?" she states, and he knows she's right; waiting is pointless. Whatever happens, they will deal with it.
Eugene knows that no matter what their troubles are, no matter how hard it gets or what crazy things crop up, he loves her and wants to spend the rest of his life with her. He knows that he'll lay his life down for Rapunzel again and again, that he owes more to this crazy, quirky girl than anyone else in the world.
So when he realised, he really couldn't wait another second longer – because even if the future is uncertain, they have the present and they have each other – not to mention families and friends. Eugene looks into her eyes, practically glowing with excitement, and then out into the rainstorm.
"No time like the present," he remarks, and then hand in hand, they sprint out into the rain. By the time they arrive at the castle gates, they're absolutely soaking wet, exhausted and still laughing. Neither the King nor Queen need to look at their daughter's hand to guess what has occurred.
That night, the whole Kingdom celebrates.
Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee I mean. No, I do mean squeeeeee!
So I'm a massive sucker for happy endings, as you can all see. I didn't actually intend half of that stuff about Francis becoming a lawyer or Eugene even popping the question, it just happened all of a sudden. Goddam romantic/fulfilling Disney endings.
This story has been an absolute pleasure to write and I've loved every update and found the fandom absolutely wonderful. My thanks to everyone who has read all the way to the end and I honestly hope you enjoyed it.
Now... the good news. The good news is that I've already started work on an unrelated Tangled one-shot, and more importantly another chaptered Eugene/Rapunzel story. It's not a sequel, but it will be of the same 'universe' as this one. So if you'd like to add me to your author alert, you'll get updates of all my new Tangled fanfic as it hits the press. (And leave a review for old time's sake ;P)
I WILL SEE YOU ALL SOON IN ANOTHER FANFIC.