Disclaimer: I own nothing related to the Tangled universe including, but not limited to, characters, names of places, lyrics, dialogue, or any other piece of product. Disney retains all the rights to this universe. I am making no money or receiving any kind of compensation, material or non-material, for this fiction. It's all for fun. Please don't sue me. I do claim the writing, the idea behind this particular narrative, and any peripheral characters or locations created to augment Disney's work.
A/N: I kept the time setting vague. It could be modern. It could be set during the time of the movie. That is up to you as the reader. Whatever keeps your brain from screaming "ANACHRONISMS!". This fiction sprung from the idea of "what if the king and queen didn't include Flynn in the hug at the reunion?". This is what came out of it. Enjoy.
WARNING: Dark with themes that could really piss off people laced too tightly. I take no moral or political stance on the issues touched on in this fiction. I only offer them as a sliver of life. Do with it what you will. If you read Mushrooms and are expecting another super happy jaunt, that is not what you will find here.
His shoulders are bracketed by the letters 'S' and 'T' with an exclamation point hanging off the end for good measure. Someone carved the profanity into the motel headboard long ago. It is an upgrade from their normal room where 'CUNT' marked red on the wall.
He wishes there could be an occasion for the change of local, but couples like them don't get special days. That would imply legitimacy, a claim, a right. They have none of that. No, couples like them are not a couple at all.
She shimmies into her underwear. He smokes and watches from the bed. She's guilty and nervous. She always is after the fact. Her hands shake when she pushes back crumpled brown hair and meets his eyes with tears in hers. This is wrong, and they know it.
That doesn't stop her from kissing him goodbye before she leaves.
It's been longer than normal and she cries as she claws his back, frantic for release. She cries because – dammit – this hurts. Even at the height of it, with him hitting every right spot, she cannot let go of the injustice of their situation. He cannot stop kissing her lips, eyes, cheek, neck…. He tries to keep her taste on the back of his tongue until the next time, but it never quite lasts.
She flows, molten and furious around him, and he follows her wave with his own.
He rolls to the side and she is left on her back staring at the graffiti covered rafters. Tears blur the profanity scrawled on the ceiling and she remembers when he taught her just the right way to say each word. He's taught her so many things, so many wonderful things. He is the most perfect person she knows, but he isn't good enough because of things he cannot control.
It isn't fair, but she is used to that. She hates that she is used to that.
He pulls her in close to his body and she curls into his side to hide from the storm of her thoughts.
"Why can't the world see all the beauty in people – in you? " She whispers, lips moving against his bare shoulder. "Is it not there? Am I crazy?"
"No. No, you're perfect." He kisses her forehead, hating that she thinks these things, wishing he could make her stop. "It's the world that's wrong."
Princesses marry princes.
Thieves go to jail.
The world goes round and round forever and ever. Amen.
They should be glad that the law bent itself once. They should be glad that he gets to live as a free man. It should be enough, but it isn't and they are not. It only makes things worse. It makes the reality that they cannot be together that much more cruel.
They are back in the 'CUNT' room. He is smoking by the window. She is taking a bath. She says she can't smell like him when she goes back to the castle. He's not sure who will notice what she smells like. Maximus, maybe? He tries not to over think it, however, because he doesn't want to know. He doesn't want to know if anyone gets close enough to her to smell her the way he smells her, taste her the way he tastes her.
It's easier to pretend that this is real.
He'll take the pillowcase where her head thrashed in release and put it on his pillow at home so he can pretend she is in bed with him where she belongs. Where she belongs, but where she will never be because there are rules and there are laws. He's never been good at following those, but she makes him do things he never thought he could. Now he has feelings and a conscious and he is as close to being a good person as he has ever been. All because of her and her perfect, perfect everything. Goddamn laws that could find a loop hole for his life but not for their love.
If he thinks about it too long his head hurts so badly he can't see straight and the air turns toxic.
So he pretends that this is real because the truth isn't enough.
She emerges, her naked body framed in a shoddy doorway, and he is hard for her instantly.
He makes sure she'll need another bath.
They fell asleep in each other's arms once and slept there almost overnight, but only once.
The Night the Princess Went Missing was a night of national significance. She'd been lost once in the night before, this recurrence was more than a little mistake. Their misstep sent the kingdom and all of its agents into a panic.
They sneaked down alleyways with her wrapped in the thin, dark comforter from the motel and he stretching stealth muscles he'd relaxed for too long. They waited breathless for ranks of guards to pass. He stashed her in an empty crate and sat on top of it until the coast was clear. Another time they pulled the musty old comforter over their bodies in a recessed doorway and prayed the shadows would hide them. The entire time they both half hoped they'd be caught and all this hiding would be finished, but they weren't.
Once they neared the palace he took her makeshift cloak from her slender shoulders and told her to go on without him.
"Tell me to stay." She whispered in the darkness, pressed against the damp stone wall of an alley.
He shook his head. He wanted to more than anything, but he knew that wasn't what she really wanted. The knowledge of that fact, the fact that he wasn't enough for her, chilled him deeper than the pre-dawn air. She should have everything, but that was the one thing he couldn't give her. She can't have her parents, her kingdom, and him. If he told her to stay with him, he'd be telling her to leave a family she just found. He couldn't do that. He wouldn't. It wasn't right. He wanted… no.
"I can't." He stared at his boots and her tiny freezing hand found his cheek.
"I know. Tell me anyway." She begged, drawing his eyes to hers with her touch.
He couldn't tell her 'no' - so he kissed her instead. He pushed her back against the rough stone and cupped her delicate jaw in trembling hands. He can't tell her to stay with words, but he can tell her this way. This was his argument, this was his persuasion, and he lives for the instant where she sighs into his kiss and is his if only for one instant.
However it was never enough to hold her by his side forever. The call of duty to her obligation of royalty pulled at her stronger than his reasons. He watched her slip away into the early morning fog. Each step pulled his heart that much more out of his chest.
She never looked back to see if he watched her go. He taught her to do that. It made their separation less painful. But each time she keeps her focus forward, each time she doesn't check to see him praying that she'd turn and run back to him, he wishes he never had.
"Teach me how to smoke."
She begs in the prettiest way possible. Her tiny pink lips curl to each syllable and he'd give her anything.
"You won't like it."
"I know, but I need a way to keep you close." When we can't be together. She doesn't finish the sentence, but he hears it anyway. He hates when she reminds him that this isn't real, but he can deny her nothing.
"People will wonder where you got the habit." He murmurs between nicotine laced kisses and red rimmed coughs.
"I'll say a guard taught me."
He loves her inventions because he taught her to make false truths the same way he taught her to not look back and now the same way he taught her to smoke. He hates it in the same breath because the only reason she lies is because they are in love in a world that hates happiness.
"I told you not to wear it here." He breathes hot in the shell of her ear.
"I can't risk being seen without it." Her back presses flush to a door marked FUCK as he makes moves to follow to profane command.
He knows she is right, but he hates the diamond encrusted reminder of reality in their world. He hates knowing someone else touches this body, and doesn't have to hide it. He hates every vessel in the country proclaiming the 'glad' tidings because he knows the truth. He knows and she knows and that had to be enough, but it never is. It never will be.
"Tell me you don't love him."
"I don't love him."
"Who do you love?"
"You. Only you. Always you. God – Eugune –!"
He cuts her off with a searing kiss.
She feels bad for her fiancé.
She wishes there was a way she could feel the same way about him as she feels about Eugene, but every time he touches her it makes her stomach churn with nausea. This wasn't her dream. Her dream was for her parents to recognize her, forgive Eugene, and they would all live happily ever after. Her dream was to spend every possible moment with Eugene for the rest of their lives and share everything with him. Her dream was Eugene and all he was, all he is, and all he'll ever be.
But it is just a dream, and now she is awake.
He knows the answer because it never changes. That doesn't stop him from painting pictures with his words.
"We'll leave everything and get that island, just you and me, the way it should be. We'll get sunburns from swimming naked for too long and take baths in coconut milk. Every night we'll watch the sun set over the ocean and fall asleep together under the stars."
She hates him because he makes it sound so simple – and they know it isn't.
"That sounds perfect, but …"
"But you can't."
He doesn't list reasons. The both know them, but it doesn't make it easier.
Her concern for others would always outweigh her concern for her own happiness. She could let him down, she could let herself down, but not an entire country and not her parents. Her sense of duty and honor is a thing he loves about her. It is a thing he hates about her.
He loves her. She loves him. It should be enough, but it isn't.
She won't leave with him, or leave him, and he only has himself to blame. He lets her have him on her terms and on her time. He bends and cuts and shapes himself to fit what she needs because life is difficult enough and it is impossible without her. He waits and struggles and screams at the sky in the days he does not see her, but he'd wait forever because this is real. This isn't some game, but he can't help but feel like they are both losing.
He looks are her with hollow eyes and wishes there weren't any more pieces of him left to break.
She goes down on him just to avoid the inadvertent betrayal written so plain on his face and his head lolls back in response to the heat of her mouth.
"God – Blondie."
She screams when she comes, fingers pulling his silken hair to keep his girl soft mouth and demon tongue exactly where they belong. Rough hands on trembling thighs and he'll take everything she gives him because she is his everything. She is his everything, and no matter what that stupid gold band on her finger represents, she is his.
She always will be.
WHORE is carved into the weathered floorboards by the bed in this room.
The word makes her pensive. This world has too many words with taboos and restrictions. It took her awhile before someone would tell her what it meant. She knows society looks down on whores. She knows that princesses should strive to not be like whores. She also knows that she fits the definition. A whore for her country and a whore for true love, both come with a price she doesn't if she can pay much longer.
She's lost weight. The stress of duality marked with each railroad tie rib bone and measured by the length of jutting collar bones. Dark circles run beneath cloudy eyes and he gasps at her gaunt appearance.
"You look like hell." It is not an insult, but the truth in his voice still stings.
"Shut up." She guides his hands to her breasts and makes him squeeze.
She can't stand his worry. She doesn't feel she deserves it. So she'll try to fuck it out of him.
When they slump together later, sweaty and exhausted, she curls tight to his side.
"I haven't slept in weeks." She yawns and he kisses her temple
"Why?" He's almost afraid to ask. Her marriage bed is the only place in her world he doesn't care to know.
"I talk in my sleep. I'm afraid I'll say something about you – about us." She picks up her mused head from his shoulder and looks at him with a knitted brow. "If anything ever happened to you…" She doesn't finish because her lip trembles and she has to catch it with her teeth before it ran away with the last of her frail control.
He gathers her in his arms and holds her so tight she can't move, but she doesn't want to. She never wants to be anywhere but here. He is warm, firm, and safe. He knows all her secrets, because he is in every one. In a few moments she falls asleep, but he stays wide awake.
His love hurt too much to sleep.
"Lie to me." She says.
He doesn't need a word because each time he touches her like he has that right or ever will is the biggest lie he could tell. Lies and secrets brought them together. Truth is a bitter interlude that thrusts them apart. There is no room for philosophy in their bed tonight so he leans down and whispers like a prayer against her mouth.
"I couldn't be happier."
"I think it is yours." She presses her palms against the flat plane of her stomach like if she pushes hard enough she can slow the thing growing inside her.
"How long?" He rakes his fingers through his hair, not quite believing what he is hearing.
"Two months?" She shifts from one foot to the other and back again. "I was taking something to keep this from happening but had to stop because he –," she stops herself at the flash in his eyes. There is no room for he here. "The kingdom needs an heir." She drops her head, guilty.
"Why didn't you tell me? You know there are other ways to avoid – this." He waves a hand in the direction of her abdomen. He could touch her if her tried, but she seems a lifetime away.
He feels nauseous.
He'd dreamt of this conversation with her for as long as he'd known her. He'd dreamt of her stomach swollen with his child, her glowing face made even more radiant with impending motherhood. He'd dreamt of children with his hair and her eyes running around his feet. He'd dreamt of putting his hand on her stomach and feeling the fluttering kicks of something special, something new, something them.
The dreams had been so real he'd woken in a cold sweat and scared to death. In those moments where dreams and waking merged, he'd panicked when she wasn't in the bed next to him. Then doubt of his ability to be a father and worry about his children surged through his veins. Then the dream popped like a bubble and was gone. Crushing reality swept over him and he knew that the dreams weren't true. They would never be true.
Those were just dreams, but this was a nightmare.
This was everything he wanted dangled in front of his face only to be snatched away by circumstance.
His knees give out. He slumps onto the creaky mattress. The headboard mirrors his inner thoughts: 'SHIT!'
"Could it – Is it possible – could it be his?" The words choke him. He can't look at her and say them. He can't think of anyone else fathering her children.
"I – I don't think so." He doesn't have to look at her to know she is crying. "We didn't – I mean – the dates the doctors gave me for conception – it couldn't be him." She is on her knees in front of him now, staring up at his stonewalled face, trying to get him to look at her. "I'm so sorry, Eugene. I didn't – I can't – oh what am I supposed to do?"
He looks at the wall just past her head, at the ceiling, at anywhere but her face. He always had a plan. He always knew how to fix things. He had to know how to fix this.
He swallows the burning rock in his throat, but it lodges in his stomach. There it grows from a dull ache to a stabbing pain. The weight of what he needs to do settles over him like a lead blanket.
"If it is –" he goes slowly because he doesn't trust his voice to say what it needs to. "If you are sure it is mine, you can't have it." He tries to crack a grin, but he just can't quite, and he looks at a rip in the comforter next to his thigh. "It'll come out all awesome and everyone will know that prince you got can't be the father." He tries to force a nonchalant chuckle, but it comes out pinched and manic.
"But the baby is in me. I can't just make it disappear." She lays her head on his lap and whimpers. "There's no way to fix this."
Robotically his hand finds her head and pets her short brown hair, but he doesn't feel it. His whole body is numb but his lungs are on fire. His throat clamps shut, and his heart hammers mercilessly in his ears. There was no room for this good person that grew inside him. Not here. Not now. He looked his conscious in the eyes and stabbed it through the heart.
"I know a way."
Three months passed before Rapunzel sought out Eugene. Three months since he brought a bag filled with the necessary supplies to the 'SHIT!' room. Three months since he offered her a draught that smelled like decaying plants and told her that if she drank it the baby would go away. Three months since he told her told to run away with him and they'd start their own family somewhere that no one would know them, and it sounded perfect except…
She couldn't be a mother. She'd never held a baby or cared for a child in her life. Her idea of mothering was the example Gothel left for her and she knew now that everything that woman had done was wrong. She was left with nothing. She had no friends outside the castle, no wise woman to help her understand what it meant to be a mother, and she was so scared. She couldn't do that to Eugene. She couldn't go with him and burden him with her ineptitude.
She took the draught without looking at his face. She couldn't bear his disappointment added to everything else. The drink tasted worse than it smelled and was gritty with what she hoped was just herbs and waited.
Then it hit her.
It hurt, like a vice clamped around her waist, hips, and thighs.
There was so much blood. She'd bled before and charted her cycle against the phases of the moon while balled up in her bed in the tower, but this was so different. Eugene warned her that this would happen and made preparations, but it felt like she was dying, and maybe part of her was.
Eugene held her and she cried so hard she couldn't breathe. He cried, too. Not like her, but stoic. His face resolved past expression save the tiny rivulets of water marking his cheeks. His tears only made her cry harder. She failed him. She failed herself. This wasn't what love was supposed to be, but it was how theirs had to be. It had to be enough.
He sheltered her in his arms until the worst was over, hushes murmured into her hair, but she barely heard them. She wanted to stay here in his arms more than anything. This secret felt too big to hold all alone and she knew he'd help her carry it. She was safe here. She was loved. Why couldn't that be enough? Because the world was dark and selfish and cruel, and if it found even the slightest ray of sunshine, it destroyed it.
Later that day, she left. When the worst had passed and their tears had dried, she stood on gelatin legs and made ready to go. He kissed her goodbye like he was afraid she would shatter. His lips tasted like guilt, like shame, and the flavor was crippling. He wasn't enough. She wasn't enough. Love wasn't enough. She tasted it in his kiss. She saw it on his face. He was everything she needed, she was everything he wanted, but it wasn't enough.
The bitterness of that kiss kept her from seeking his comfort for too long. The look of defeat etched itself on her memory with no way of escape until she couldn't breathe. She had to find him.
So she did.
In that third month: the toll of being apart weighed heavier than the guilt of being together. They crashed together like forces of nature. Gripping, clutching, clawing, scraping just to be as close as possible, just to make the other bleed to be sure they were real. Squeezing, ripping, grasping, clenching because they needed this, because cheap nicotine and stolen pillowcases were poor substitutes. Howling, sucking, biting, fucking because this was all they had, and it had to be enough.
Rapunzel dips the large paintbrush into her bucket of paint and slashes it across the wall. The bright purple stands out over the stains and marks left on the wall by previous tenants. She creates her own pattern. The lines and curves she made leave their own message as she slaves to leave a mark in a world that seems so out of her control.
By the time he joins her, she is finished. Paint is on every surface. Big bold letters proclaim her message in inescapable size. The words are scrawled every which way and over every place she could reach.
She stands in the center of the room, naked. The bucket of paint and the brush lay by her stained feet. Purple paint marks her body in splotches and speckles, clinging to her hair, her shoulders, her belly. She breathes heavily. Her eyes are wide and bright. The bones of her body still jut out too prominently, and she looks like she may collapse from exhaustion, but he doesn't care. She always looks beautiful to him.
"Blondie." He doesn't know what else to say.
She runs to him and leaps into his arms. Her thin thighs wrap tight around his lean hips and he cradles her rear with his arms. She grabs his face and pulls him into a kiss that goes on and on. It says everything she couldn't put on the walls. It fills him and makes him believe the impossible. He could kiss her like this forever.
She pulls back and rests her forehead on his. They gasp against each other's mouths. What they have is real. What they have is beautiful. He'll never love another woman as long as he lives and she'll never love another man.
And for them, right now, that is enough.
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