The Perfect Sick Day

Rapunzel didn't feel well. She woke up late, and alone. She put her hand out and did not find Eugene. She groggily opened her eyes. Eugene was not in the bedroom anywhere and his boots were gone as well.

He must have gone to the orphanage today.

Rapunzel turned over and rubbed her throat. It hurt and felt scratchy. Her head was muddled and her nose and cheeks felt heavy.

What's wrong with me? she thought. Confused and a little frightened, Rapunzel pushed herself up and fell back into her pillows immediately. Her head was spinning and continued to spin even as she laid there.

"Eugene?" she called. "Eugene?" No one answered her. I need help. Slowly, Rapunzel threw her covers off and sat up. She slipped her feet into her slippers and wrapped her robe around her shoulders, finding actually putting her arms through the sleeves too much effort. She stood up and teetered a bit. She tried to raise her feet to walk, but could only shuffle. She opened her bedroom door and wobbled into the hall.

"Maybe Mother and Father will know what's wrong with me." Rapunzel made her way down the corridor, using the wall as support. Her breath was coming up short and her heart was racing. She began to feel light headed just as she came to the doors of the breakfast room. She pushed open the doors to the nauseating smell of sausage, bacon and eggs.

The king and queen were sitting at the far end of the table, just finishing their breakfast when Rapunzel entered.

"Rapunzel, you missed all of breakfast," said the queen. She then took notice of Rapunzel's pale complexion and shaking body. "Rapunzel, are you alright?"

"Mom, Dad, I think I'm dying," was all Rapunzel could say before she collapsed on the floor.

Eugene walked up the steps to the entrance doors of the castle. He was just coming back from an early morning visit to the orphanage. The kids had been a little depressed when they saw it was only him. They wanted to know where the princess was. Eugene wondered that himself. His attempts to rouse Rapunzel that morning were all for not. She continued to snooze deeply even as her shook her and tickled her nose. He did think it odd; Rapunzel was up usually by six in the morning, much to his irritation. He kept telling her she didn't have anything to cook or clean.

As he was entering the castle he was approached by Gerald, one of the guards Eugene had made friends with when he first arrived at the castle.

"Eugene, everyone has been looking for you."

"Me? Why?"

"Ah, well," Gerald licked his lips and his eyes traveled to the floor. "It's the princess. She says she's dying, but-"

"WHAT?!" Eugene didn't stay long enough to hear what came after the 'but.' Nearly knocking Gerald over, Eugene ran through the corridors to his princess. He shot past other guards and servants who gave a little shriek as they dodged him. When he arrived at their bedroom door, Eugene didn't even bother to knock (not like he had to, though). He banged the door open and saw to his horror and distress Rapunzel lying in bed, whiter than the sheets surrounding her, and the king and queen standing over her.

"Rapunzel," he said, rushing to her side and kneeling beside her as he took her hand. "Are you alright?"

"I'm dying," she said weakly. Eugene wanted to let out a horrible scream, when:

"No, you're not. She caught a cold, Eugene," the queen said as she shook her head at her daughter. Eugene looked up at her; wide-eyed and speechless, mouth hanging slack jawed. He let go of Rapunzel's hand and fell backwards on to the floor, as if he was fainting. From the other side of the bed, the king and queen peered down at him. Eugene bolted upright.

"Don't do that, Blondie! What are you trying to do? Make me die of a heart attack? I come home and the first thing someone tells me is that my wife is dying. That is not what I want to hear, ever."

"But I am dying," Rapunzel complained. "My head hurts, my nose is stuffed, my face is hot, my body is cold, my throat feels like it's bleeding and my chest is raspy."

"Well," Eugene got up and sat down next to Rapunzel, "who was the one who decided it would be fun to dance in the pouring rain yesterday when her husband told her not, because she would catch a cold."

"But it was fun."

"I give up on you." Eugene shook his head as Rapunzel's parents giggled. Eugene looked back at Rapunzel; she looked absolutely miserable. All the rosiness was gone from her cheeks and her eyes were very glassy. The tip of her nose was already raw and red. She looked at him sadly. He smiled gently at her. "All you need is a few days rest, Rapunzel. And," Eugene stood up and lifted Rapunzel's shoulders in one arm and stacked up her pillows with the other. "You should be sitting up more, that way your cold won't settle in your chest." Rapunzel looked blankly at him, as did her parents. He noticed their looks. "What? I used to take care of the younger kids when they got sick. Always had to make the soup too, and give up my blanket." Eugene didn't like talking about his past, but he liked weird looks less. He turned back to Rapunzel. "You'll feel better in a few days. All you need is rest and this." Eugene bent down and kissed Rapunzel on the forehead. "Hm, I think you need a cold rag too. You're burning up."

"What does that mean?" Rapunzel's voice trembled.

"It means you have a fever, dear." The queen seated herself beside her daughter and stroked her hair. "That's why you're shivering. We'll send for more blankets while Eugene makes soup for you."

"I will? Uh, I mean, I will. Of course, yes, my soup will make you better in no time, Blondie. You just get comfortable and I'll be back with the best tasting soup you've ever had." Eugene turned on his heels and left Rapunzel's parents to tend to her. As he closed the door he said to himself, "Now what was that recipe again?"

When Eugene got back with the soup (he more or less improvised, but was pretty sure he came close) the king and queen excused themselves, saying Rapunzel was in more than capable hands. So it was just him and her and that was how Eugene liked it. As he was feeding her the soup, Eugene thought it might be nice if Rapunzel got sick every once in a while, just so he could baby her like this. He fancied the idea, and he began to think Rapunzel did to. She kept smiling at him, between the coughing and honking of her nose (Rapunzel's nose was louder than one would expect a dainty princess nose to be).

"Hey, Rapunzel," said Eugene as he set aside the bowl, "why did you say you were dying? Surely you've had a cold before."

"No. I've never been sick before."

"What, seriously?"

"Mm-hh. I think it was my hair. I never got sick because of it."

"Might have also been because you were never out in the rain before or out of that tower."

"I told you, it was fun dancing in the rain. I wish you had joined me."

"And look like you? I don't think so. Besides, who would be looking after you right now?" He grinned at her as he began to pour her medicine.

"Oh, Eugene, no!" Rapunzel pulled her blankets over her nose. "I don't want to take that stuff. It's nasty."

"You wouldn't need to take it if you'd listened to me."

"You're never going to let me live this down, are you?"

"Nope." Rapunzel stuck her tongue out at Eugene and reluctantly took the cup of medicine. "Hold your nose, Blondie, it'll taste better going to down." She did as she was told and gagged as soon as she finished swallowing. Eugene started laughing.

"What's so funny?"

"You're face, Blondie. It's like you smelled a rotten fish."

"It tastes like a rotten fish."

"So sorry to hear that, but it will make you better, trust me."

Eugene tended to Rapunzel all day, only leaving to get her more soup and blankets. The servants stayed away for the most part; Eugene figured the king and queen had ordered some alone time for the two of them. Every time Eugene came back from a little errand Rapunzel would ask him if he had duties to attend to and he kept telling her she was his only duty for the day.

By evening, Rapunzel was exhausted. She had refused to sleep, insisting on talking to Eugene and listening to him read stories to her. Even as her eyes were drooping, she still did not want to go to bed.

"Come on, one more story. I'll still be up. I'm not ti-ah-rd at all," she yawned

"You're practically asleep. Now, come on, nothing cures a cold faster than sleep." Eugene tugged at the covers and began to tuck Rapunzel in for the night. She grabbed his hand and looked pleadingly into his eyes.

"Can you at least hold me?" Her eyes were so wide and gorgeous, even with their feverish light that Eugene couldn't help but oblige. He took off his boots and crawled beside her, and, still keeping the blankets about her, wrapped his arms around her and nuzzled her head under his chin. She settled into his embrace.

"Eugene," she said, "can I get sick more often?"

"Why? Aren't you miserable?"

"Yes, but I've never been held like this by you before." Eugene looked down at her.

"All you would've had to do was ask." Rapunzel smiled at him softly and kissed him on the lips. He returned the kiss, closing his eyes and taking in her scent. He suddenly felt her fingers working at his vest's clips and her hands sneaking their way across his chest. He pulled her away.

"What do you think you're doing?" She looked at him dumbfounded.

"But we do this every night." Why did she have to be so cute? Eugene's face grew red and he quickly said:

"Not while you're sick. That will only make it worse."

"Really?"

The hell if I know.

"Really. Now go to sleep. I'll be here when you wake up, I promise." Defeated and a little disappointed, Rapunzel settled back into Eugene's arms. He scooted up to the head board and leaned back on some pillows. He hummed lightly to Rapunzel and soon, she fell asleep.

She's so cute when she's asleep. Eugene kissed the crown of her head and she smiled in her sleep.

Eugene loved to watch Rapunzel sleep. Some nights he'd stay up late, just to watch her eyes flutter under her lids and hear her sigh in her dreams. He didn't ever want her to find out that he watched her sleep. He was afraid she'd find it odd and be embarrassed by it. Little did he know that Rapunzel would wake up early just to watch him sleeping in the morning.

Holding Rapunzel reminded Eugene of all the nights at the orphanage when the little ones would get sick. They'd cough and cry and only Eugene, of all the older kids and nuns, could get them to stop crying and settle down. They all said he had a healer's touch, but he didn't buy it. He always figured the children felt safe in his arms, just like he did whenever his wife held him.

His wife.

The two words still sent thrills down Eugene's spine. Never once, in his entire life, did he ever think he would be married, and to a princess no less. Life had never been fair to him, and he had never been fair to life, yet here he was, sitting in the palm of Fate's hand.

Eugene found himself yawning thinking of the past and the present. He pulled some blankets around him and sank lower into the bed, careful to not disturb Rapunzel. He pulled her close to him and hoped his body heat would chase her fever away. Soon, Eugene drifted off as well, holding his princess lovingly.

҉

"I'm dying!"

"No, you're not, Eugene."

"Yes, I am, and it's all your fault." Eugene had caught Rapunzel's cold. He was laid up in bed in much the same fashion as she had been. His nose was red and his head hurt. "The next time you decide to play in the rain, I'm not taking care of you when you catch a cold."

"Well he seems livelier than yesterday," said the king as he and his wife entered the bedroom. "How are you feeling, son?"

"Like I got hit by a milk cart."

"Well, I'm sure Rapunzel can remedy that, can't you dear," asked the queen as she grinned at Rapunzel, who was slicing an apple for Eugene.

"I'm trying. I've never taken care of a sick person before."

"Well, I hope you're having fun, because I'm not," said Eugene sarcastically as he crossed his arms.

"Ha-ha, don't worry Eugene, Rapunzel will get you back on your feet in no time," boomed the king, placing his hand on Eugene's shoulder.

"Get some rest, dear. We'll check in on you later."

"Wait, you're leaving me with the girl who doesn't even know what a cold is?"

The door shut with a click. Eugene flopped back into the pillows and flung his arms over his eyes.

"Eugene?"

"Yes?" He lifted his arm to look at Rapunzel out of one eye.

"I'm sorry I was such a burden when I was sick. I complained a lot. It really wasn't that bad."

"Hey, everybody acts like a baby when they're sick. It's one of the symptoms. Don't even worry about it. Besides, I liked getting the chance to take care of you." Rapunzel smiled at him and returned to cutting the apple.

"So who's going to get sick next time," she asked, excitedly.

"Next time? Blondie, if you go out into the rain again, I will put you back in that tower."

"Eugene!" Rapunzel shoved his shoulder as she laughed. "If you do that, I'll just hit you with my trusty frying pan and keep you there."

"I wouldn't have it any other way." Eugene reached over and took Rapunzel's chin in his hand and kissed her tenderly. She pulled away.

"Are the rules different for you?" she asked, cocking her eyebrow at him. Eugene scrunched up his face at her as he pretended to think.

"Mmm…. yes."