Legends are lessons, and Merida's heard of the little lost princess with her golden hair. On her father's shoulders on the right hill on the right day, she can see the lanterns, far away and lighting the sky in a warm, hazy glow.
"That poor queen," her mother always mutters when she tells the story. She hugs little Merida tight and lets her fall asleep on her shoulder.
The lost princess returns someday, short-haired and almost grown, to tell her tale.
Merida wonders what lesson that's supposed to teach.
Then she comes to visit, and Rapunzel herself is a lesson.
"Can I touch your hair?" she asks, biting her lip, fingers already twitching.
"Sure," Merida answers. A befuddled smile later, small fingers trace the curls of a single strand, and Merida tilts her head so the other princess can reach.
"I once had hair, not like yours, but...lots of hair," she says. "It's beautiful."
"Do you miss it?" Merida tries to gulp back her words, but they're out. "Do you ever wish to feel it flying behind you when you run?"
Rapunzel looks to the man on the white horse behind her, and her smile is secret and sad. "Yes."
"What's it like? Having a mother who loves you? Listens to you?" Rapunzel whispers in the dark like she doesn't quite want to know.
Merida sighs on a smile. "Hard."
"It seems like it's wonderful."
She nods into her pillow even though Rapunzel can't see. "Most of the time. There was a time when all she wanted was for me to marry the firstborn of another clan."
"When I go back," Rapunzel says, "I'm going to find out. It should be easy enough, right? We're family. We understand each other."
"Oh, the tales I'm going to have to tell you."
Rapunzel brightens. Rapunzel loves love. Rapunzel loves everything. Rapunzel just loves.
"What do you mean?"
"What is it like?" Merida crosses her arms and leans against a tree.
"I don't know." Rapunzel lies in the grass, spreading her arms out like wings. "I was in a tower. I fell in love with the first person I met. I don't know anything about love the way most people do it."
"But what does it feel like?" Merida wonders, suddenly desperate.
"Suddenly they're added to all your dreams. Every adventure you've planned makes room for them. That's all I know."
Rapunzel smiles with her whole body and loves with her whole heart, but as tiny as she is, there's plenty of heart to go around. She kisses Merida in front of Eugene, eyes open and shining, and he only looks shocked for a moment.
Merida knows, finally, that she wants exactly this. She wraps her arms around Rapunzel's waist and nuzzles into her neck, and Rapunzel squeezes her almost hard enough to hurt.
Every time they kiss is a new kind of joy. Rapunzel is ever eager, Merida only a little shy.
Being lost. Finding yourself. That is her lesson.