Disclaimer: Tempestuously not mine
A/N: Written while on holiday in Center Parcs in Belgium and less than twenty-four hours after watching the film for the first time. This fic was catharsis as much as it was me being a squeebly fan. Things have been tough lately and this was a good way to take my mind off things. I've loved the last couple of Disney animated features, but I haven't been fannish about any of them. Until Tangled. Damn you, Mandy Moore, and the effervescent bubblehead likeability you bring to Rapunzel!
© Scribbler, July/August 2011.
Rapunzel stretched her arm as far as it would go and wiggled her thumb. She even stuck her tongue out as she squinched one eye shut. If she was going to do the whole artist thing, she was going to do it right.
She hopped off the windowsill, dashed across the room and scaled the concoction of table and chairs she'd stacked to reach her latest creation. Standing on a roof beam and sticking her arm out once more, she compared the proportions of her frieze to the view outside. They were perfect, which was great. She didn't want to start over on this one.
She dabbed her brush in the blue and red paints to lash on a bit more purple. Clear skies were pretty, but they were too easy. You had to be fast to capture a storm before your subject blew itself out – or you had to close the shutters and put an end to your painting session. Mother had been mad the last time the inside sill got wet. As she had yelled, she couldn't exactly call out a carpenter to repair it without revealing Rapunzel's whereabouts, and that was a definite no-no. Of course, she could try and repair it herself, but that would mean scaffolding and winches and endangering both their safeties, all because Rapunzel was too thoughtless to close the shutters when it rained.
Thunder rumbled overhead. Rapunzel skittered back to the window for one final look. The frieze was nearly finished, giant thunderheads rolling portentously across the landscape of her wall. Her hair swooshed behind her, as if trying to hurry her along.
When she got to the window she stared at the sky. That shade of violet was difficult to mimic in paint, but she reckoned she had done it this time. She had whitewashed her last few attempts and started over. Most walls in the tower had been blanked and painted over a few dozen times each, but the pictures she was proudest of stayed up the longest. She got the feeling this one would stick around for a long time.
The sharp cry of an eagle caught her attention. She looked up to see the bird's silhouette, highlighted against the light lavender of a cloud-edge. It appeared to be struggling with something in its talons. As Rapunzel watched, the eagle beat its massive wings and wheeled sideways. A gust of wind buffeted it and it banked the other way, fighting to stay aloft and somewhat stable. It shouldn't have been out in this kind of weather. She wondered what it could have caught.
As if on cue, the eagle banked sideways again and a small object dropped from its grip. It plummeted like a stone. The eagle screeched, but was far more concerned with its own flight not heading the same direction.
Rapunzel dropped her palette and brush, snatched up her hair and knotted the end in a makeshift sling. She threw it haphazardly, but as always, her hair seemed to have a mind of its own and flew with unnerving accuracy. The thing the eagle had dropped fell into the hair's embrace and was whipped back through the window and into her arms. The thick hair cushioned any damage, but Rapunzel instinctively retreated into the tower's warm interior and slammed the shutters.
Carefully, she unwrapped her arms and used her fingers to part the hair slingshot. She thought belatedly that she may have done a very stupid thing; she had no idea whether the eagle had been struggling because it had caught a lynx or a fox, or some other thing with sharp teeth and a mind to use them. It didn't feel big enough to be a lynx or a fox, but maybe it was a weasel, or even a shrew. She had read about them – they were ferocious even though they were tiny.
"Please don't attack me," she whispered. "I just wanted to make sure you didn't fall and die."
Maybe it was already dead. Maybe the eagle's talons had killed some creature and she was holding onto a bloody mess that would make her scream and have to wash her hair. Washing her hair was never easy and she hated having to do it.
Understatement of the year, she thought, peering between her fingertips. "Hello?"
Whatever it was, it was trembling, small and … gold? It was exactly the same colour as her hair. Rapunzel couldn't think of any animal so tiny that would be that colour, although she would be the first to admit her knowledge about stuff beyond the tower was limited. The gold was interrupted by a red slit, which had leaked onto her hair and made it sticky.
"Oh, you're bleeding!"
She gathered the tiny whatever-it-was up, wrapped a hank around it and, holding gently so it didn't try to get away before she was finished, she began to sing.
Her scalp tingled, as it always did when she invoked her hair's magic. The entire tower lit up with its glow, which faded seconds after she had stopped singing. Gingerly, she parted her hands, wondering whether she was going to regret restoring the eagle's prey to full strength. She got ready to lean back out of biting distance.
However, nothing jumped out at her. Instead, the creature looking up at her with big, shocked eyes was a bright green. It was a lizard, though the smallest one she had ever seen. Its tail curled along its back and the joints of each leg pointed outward. She thought she recognised it from one of her books, but the name escaped her.
"Hi," she tried. "Are, um, you gonna bite me?"
The lizard stared at her.
"Can you understand what I'm saying?"
She had heard stories about kingdoms where the animals were too stupid to understand human speech. None of the animals she had encountered had been able to form speech, but all of them could at least understand her when she talked. Even the bird that had flown into the shutters last winter had understood she was trying to help heal its broken wing. Perhaps the eagle had caught this little lizard someplace else, in a kingdom where the animals were dumb. Or maybe it was just traumatised by being picked up, stabbed, nearly eaten, falling from a great height and then filled with magical energy by a strange girl.
"Are you … in shock?"
The lizard blinked one eye and then the other.
"Um, yeah. Right. Introductions might be good. I'm Rapunzel. I just turned thirteen, this is my tower and I have magical hair. That was how come I could heal you just now. It's not a bad thing. There aren't any nasty side-effects or anything. You're just made all good as new. Are you, um, from around here? 'Cause if you're not, I kinda can't help you get home, since I don't leave this tower. Ever. Never ever. Am I babbling? I'm babbling, aren't I? Sorry, I don't usually get anyone to talk to except myself and Mother. Not that I don't enjoy talking to Mother, but, y'know, it's always nice to have company and make new friends. Are you a chameleon?" The word flashed into her mind. "You're a chameleon, aren't you? You can change colour and look in two different directions at the same time. I read about it. That is so cool."
The lizard seemed to come to its senses. It held up a foot as a human might hold up a hand and made a 'slow down' gesture.
"I am babbling," Rapunzel groaned. "Sorry. I do that sometimes."
The lizard shrugged and pulled the corners of its mouth back into a smile.
"So … are you okay now?"
"Did that eagle, like, catch you to eat you?"
It nodded again.
"Wow. That sucks."
Very vigorous nodding.
Thunder clapped outside and the sound of raindrops hitting the shutters sped up. Rapunzel sighed and gently placed the lizard on an available table. It turned a little circle, as if testing out is undamaged legs, and nodded.
"I think you're gonna have to stay here until the storm breaks, at least. Do you have family who might be worried about you?"
It shook its head.
"Hey, do you want something to eat? Mother brought me muffins this morning." Eagerly, Rapunzel went to the cupboard and brought down the little pot whose open lid was protected by muslin. "I have raisin, apple, blackberry, oat and … something spicy I can't remember the name of. Mother had to trade at one of the markets she goes to so she could buy it. She trades at a lot of markets; lockets and amulets, mostly, and some bracelets and charms she makes from shells and other stuff. She sometimes tells fortunes too. She has a special costume with a veil that goes over her face. She says it adds to the mystery and that's what people want when they have their fortune told – they don't actually want to know what's going to happen to them, they just want to feel like something good might happen." Rapunzel sniffed the unidentified muffin and thought for a moment. "I wanna say cinnamon, but I don't think that's right. Oh well." With a little twirl, she returned to the table. "Mother's muffins are always yummy anyhow. She makes the best fruitcake, too, and her scones are just to die for. Sometimes I think she bakes so much because she feels guilty about not spending as much time with me as she wants to, but she has to work and stuff. She has to make all the stuff she trades, and her costume and her fortune telling tent need sewing, and … y'know, she's busy."
The lizard stared at Rapunzel, head tilted to one side. She couldn't tell what it was thinking.
A flush crept across her cheeks. "Oh gosh, I'm so sorry, I'm doing it again! Babbling, I mean. You don't wanna hear all about Mother or me or … well, any of that stuff."
The lizard shook its head.
"You do wanna hear about it?"
It nodded again.
It rolled its eyes before nodding this time.
"Sorry, it's just … nobody ever wants to hear me babble. Mostly creatures that come in here are all 'Oh heck, how do I get out again?' and I'm like 'Here, let me help you' and they're like 'Aah, get away from me you strange scary girl with your strange scary hair!' so you being all 'Go ahead and talk' is a little … weird. In a good way. Do you have a name?"
The lizard took a moment to catch up with the change in subject. It looked thoughtful and then wiggled one front foot in a 'sort of' gesture.
"You do have a name?" She thought about that. "Could I pronounce it?"
It shook its head.
"Bummer. Would it be okay if I gave you a nickname I could pronounce?"
It eyed her suspiciously.
She raised her hands, both palms outward. "Nothing lame, I swear."
The lizard shrugged. Faster than he eyes could track, a long pink tongue shot out of its mouth and snagged a chunk of muffin. The lizard chewed, swallowed and grinned. That was the only word for the way the corners of tis mouth suddenly tried to climb onto the back of its neck.
"You like my mom's baking?"
It nodded so much, Rapunzel thought its head might fall off. She pushed the rest of the muffin towards it and fell into contemplation as it devoured the rest, piece by piece. She rested her elbow on the table and her chin on her fist, pursing her mouth as she tried to think up a really good name.
Greeny? No, that's lame. Liz? A bit unoriginal. And girly. Hmm …
"Are you a girl chameleon?"
The lizard swallowed before shaking its head.
Not Liz then.
Rapunzel cast about the room for inspiration. The last thing she had named her been a doll Mother got her for her tenth birthday. After that Mother had said she was too old for dolls. Rapunzel had named that last one 'Sunshine', which had irritated Mother for some reason. She had to do better this time.
Rapunzel's eye alighted on the books she had fetched down from the shelf when she decided to paint the storm. They were books of famous painters and their works, with full-colour pictures and copies of wood carvings by the older artists. The topmost book was open on a little-known painter who had been deemed mad by the author, since he spent all his time travelling the world, using every coin he earned to chase storms so he could paint what he called 'the perfect storm'. He never had, since he and his horse had disappeared fifty years ago. Rumour said they had been struck by lightning and burnt to cinders, but nobody could confirm or deny this. For all anyone knew, the artist was still out there somewhere, chasing his dream.
The lizard looked up.
"Do you like the sound of Pascal as a name?"
It considered the suggestion, and then shrugged and finished off the muffin so it could move on to the next.
Rapunzel squealed and clapped her hands together. Success! "Wow, I picked a good one! Pascal. Pascal!"
The lizard watched her as it ate.
"Wow. Wow! This is just so … wow!"
Lightning flashed, illuminating the edges of the window around the shutters.
"You can go when the storm lets up, if you want. Until then, would you like something to drink while we talk? While I talk, I mean. Because I can't seem to stop. Ha ha. I have strawberry cordial, tea or water. Or all three! I'll just fetch them and you can choose. And I think I have some bread leftover from the loaf mother made for me yesterday. I'll cut it up and we can have lunch together." She dashed off. "This is so cool! I thought the best thing today would be the storm. And well, it kinda was, but not the way I thought. I have a new friend! How cool is that? Yay!"
The little lizard watched her hurry from place to place and stopped chewing for a moment, an expression rather like sympathy crossing its face. It sighed, swallowed and waited for her to come back before eating another bite.
Outside, the storm continued to rage.