Title: He's Ready This Time
Summary: They're candy apple red galoshes, and he doesn't think she'll be able to resist the allure of them.
He's ready this time.
It's an ongoing disagreement between the two of them—does rainy weather require galoshes? Rapunzel thinks not and Eugene is firmly on the side of hell, yes. She says the puddles are better when you jump into them barefoot. Eugene thinks this is sheer folly. It's tempting Fate, taking unnecessary risks, and all for the pleasure of being wet and cold. Calculated risks are one thing, when the potential outcome is beneficial, but Eugene doesn't see how dancing in the rain is as much fun as Rapunzel thinks it is.
Oh, but he's really ready this time.
"You want to come?" she asks cheerfully, as she slips her satin slippers from her feet and prepares to rush out in the autumn downpour.
"I'll come with you," he begins and her eyes light up. She asks more out of habit than with the expectation that he'll say 'yes' to her request. She knows him well enough to know skipping in puddles is not his idea of a good time. Kissing in the rain, however… Smoothing a hand over her rain drenched bodice, slicking dripping hair back behind the shell of her hair… That holds some promise. "If," he says, punctuating the conditional with raised brows, "you put these on," he finishes, as he pulls a pair of galoshes out from behind his back.
She looks dubiously from the galoshes to the courtyard outside the window where puddles are already beginning to form. It's not just Rapunzel that looks eager to be done with this well-worn disagreement and escape into the rain: Pascal is sitting on her shoulder, eyes wide and fixed resolutely on some point outside the window.
"They're red," he says, giving them a shake to draw her attention back. Candy apple red. He picked them out and has had them stashed in his armoire for weeks just waiting for the moment he might pull them out and attempt a conversion of the Princess to galoshes. He gestures, the boots swinging in his grasp, as he points out that Pascal has turned a matching shade of cheery red. "Look, Pascal approves."
His strange whirring seems to prove it, and Rapunzel considers the frog's chatter very carefully. "Do they come in his size?"
Eugene groans. "Come on, babe. I wouldn't know where to begin to look for frog galoshes. Besides, he doesn't need galoshes—he's a frog."
"Chameleon," she responds a little stubbornly.
He attempts to be stern: "Put them on for me."
She no doubt assumes that he's trying to spoil her fun, the way her parents sometimes do when it comes to points of protocol they insist upon, like no sleepovers with her stupendously handsome boyfriend or no horses at the dinner table. He normally likes to be Mister Goodtime, but in this case, he'd rather she think him a spoilsport.
Because his real reason would no doubt make her sad.
He remembers the year the orphanage didn't receive the normal state funding allotment and they began to run low on firewood for the fireplaces sometime in December. He remembers sleeping two to a bed for warmth. He remembers that baths would have been much too dangerous, so they were all just a little dirtier for that much longer. He doesn't remember her name, but he remembers her face. He remembers how she came inside from the yard, soaked to the skin, and it didn't take but a few hours before her face was as white as the scratchy sheets on their beds. He remembers the beads of sweat on her brow and the way it was knit with pain. He remembers how her little narrow shoulders shook with every bone rattling cough.
And he remembers the night she died.
No need to call the doctor, they said. Unnecessary expense. Pneumonia, and they were just lucky no one else was carried off.
Yes, it would make her sad; it makes him fucking sad.
"Eugene?" she asks quietly.
He doesn't know how long he's been lost to his reverie. He smiles forcefully—not his best smile by far—and holds the galoshes up one more time. "They'll make a squelching sound," he offers.
She tilts her head, eyeing them up and looking interested for the first time. "They will?"
"Absolutely. Maximum squelching. Perfect for puddle jumping. I tested them out for you, Blondie."
She narrows her eyes at him, evidently doubting his assertion. "They're too small for you."
"Well, of course they are. I wouldn't try on your galoshes. These are just for you," he says, pushing them into her arms.
"I used to imagine needing a pair of galoshes," she confesses so softly he almost misses half the words. "I pictured myself wearing them."
"No need to imagine, babe. These are all yours." She stares down at them, as he continues, "And I got another pair for myself." They only had yellow in his size. He's going to look absolutely ridiculous. If the Captain sees him, he'll never hear the end of it.
"We'll match?" she says with a slow smile.
Mirroring is sort of Rapunzel's thing. When she first expressed concern about her chopped hair, he failed to eliminate her doubts until he shook his hair at her and announced that they matched. She likes to find seemingly insignificant similarities between herself and the people around her: proof that the first eighteen years of her life hadn't made her hopelessly different.
"That's perfect!" she announces, flopping to the floor to pull on the galoshes.
Despite the threat of humiliatingly yellow galoshes that await him, Eugene can't help but preen for a moment at his success. They'd fought over this countless times, and she'd always ended up rolling her eyes and calling him a fuddy-duddy before dashing outside. The fall-out—watching warily every time she sneezes or clears her throat for a week—is exhausting. But no, he's actually won this time. Placing his hands on his hips, feet planted astride, he stares down at her triumphantly. He's a master of planning, wit, and intrigue. He's unstoppable. Irreplaceable.
And yellow really isn't his color.
Tugging on the first galosh, Rapunzel glances up at him through her long lashes before looking back over her shoulder out the window. "Aren't you getting yours?"
"Yeah, in a sec." He's actually in no rush to put the damn things on. Or get wet, for that matter.
One galosh goes on her little foot with a pop, and then she pauses, wiggling her now red foot back and worth. She suddenly looks younger than when he'd scrambled his way into her tower. He'd laugh if he didn't know they'll have the same effect on him.
She stands up, hopping on one foot, until he grabs her arms to steady her. "You know, Eugene, if you're afraid to have people see you in your galoshes, we can just pretend here inside."
She probably has practice pretending such things. Pascal probably aided in the pantomime, dancing around in their tower while it rained outside, pretending they were wearing red galoshes.
The rain is starting to slow, and she'll be disappointed if it stops altogether while he's mulling over the wisdom of this fashion choice.
"Are you kidding? I'm going to look fantastic in galoshes." He'll start a damn trend.