As always, millions of thanks to Wolfram-and-Hart-Sauron. Without his help, suggestions, patience, and a whole slew of other stuff, I probably would have thrown things at the wall eight days ago. (Seriously, his brain is crazy awesome. If I ever get turned into a zombie I would spare his brain. Or totally eat it to get his smarts, depending on which version of zombie lore you choose.)

Also, I apologize for the delay in this. I was having trouble thinking of just how to get this bit done. However, I did get a Tangled video made. Go me. (You can search for it on youtube. Just put "shifting dreams flynn" and it's the one by Cat Bru.) And I got sucked into Tumblr RP, which has been fun. (gottagetmeoneofthese, if you're interested in spying.)

Also made a cover. I thought I could draw, then remembered I couldn't, so it's basically a collage with craptastic photoshop skills. I like it though!

And now for the next chapter!

Disclaimer:If I owned Tangled, there would have been a lot more angst because that's how I roll.


Pictures

The area surrounding the orphanage was not a safe place for anyone. As Eugene headed through the dirty streets he wondered just how Goldie had made it this far without being taken or worse. Perhaps it had been that it was a day for celebration. Or perhaps that girl just had more luck than any one person should. By all rights the kidnapping when she was a baby should have succeeded. It had only been a loose rock and a fall for that old crone that saved her from whatever that future would have been.

xx

The Princess stared at the intricately detailed clock hanging from her wall. The pendulum swung and ticked down the seconds. Normally it was a soothing sound, but today it taunted her with each second. She would look at it, sure it was time, when only a minute had passed since the last time she looked.

xx

His imagination ran wild as it always did after reading. What possible futures could the princess have had? The woman had been crippling old. Could Rapunzel have lived her life as nothing more than a house maid to the infirm woman? Or would things have happened to her, things that had happened too many of the children, things that made him so cold to think of even on the hottest summer day.

If she had been taken, Eugene wondered if she would have ever been found. Who would have found her? He wanted to hope that he could have done it, maybe when he was older. At thirteen, he could not have even hoped to have saved himself. Even as he thought of his future, bleak as it was, he knew he could not save her as Eugene. If only he were Flynnigan Rider.

xx

A girl, older than the Princess yet younger than the maid, laced the tight bodice of her gown. It pinched at her skin and she could scarcely breathe.

The Princess settled her arms to her side as the girl started to work on her hair. She wanted to say not to bother, she'd be taking it down soon, but held her silence. Turning back toward the clock, she wondered if Eugene would help her loosen the corset strings.

xx

He delved down this mental path, clutching to the tale weaving its way behind his open eyes to affect the world around him. No longer were there pickpockets and thieves, but bloodthirsty pirates hiding in the depths of the alleys. The screaming cat and the far off cry of a seagull became the roars of lions and dragons. No longer was he traversing the familiar streets of Corona heading out to read to Goldie. Instead he was creeping toward the lair of the vile sorceress who had kidnapped their princess so long ago.

Rugged leather and sturdy boots replaced threadbare clothing as the tale unfolded. No longer was he the scrawny Eugene Fitzherbert, left by a mother too soon and a father who never was. No, now he was the greatest hero ever to walk the roads of every land. He was the one who fought back the hordes of cannibals on the Isle Trassix. He was rescuer of damsels and kittens alike. He traversed the seven seas with nothing but a raft and a bottle of rum, whatever that tasted like. He was Flynnigan Rider, and rescuing princesses from locked towers was what he did best.

xx

"Would you like some soup, dear?"

The Princess looked up at her new maid. The new lady was more attentive than the others. While the Princess had thought she wanted it, the way the maid hovered made her feel as restricted as her tight bodice.

So she shook her head and turned back to look at the clock. Her Storyteller would be here soon.

Then she did something she had only done a handful of times before. As the Princess stared at the clock, the gold face blurred out of focus and became a fragmented landscape.

The Princess thought in letters and sound. When studying during lessons, she grasped the logical with ease. It was the fanciful that had left her struggling. When her English tutor compared a flower to life, she could not work it out in her mind. When he read her stories, all she could see in her mind were the words he spoke. She had never thought of why that was. No one had ever taken the time to cultivate her imagination, and her tutors all spoke in that same monotone that blurred into one another.

Then she met the Storyteller. His words had taken her to places she had never seen. She was not just hearing words and sounds, but seeing what he was describing. She had tried alone after that but the images escaped as soon as they arrived.

Slow at first then in a steady flow, her blank mind formed swirls and patterns of unknown places. Then she was transported to a world, blotchy and disjointed as an atrophied skill slowly started to unfurl.

She focused her mind and a haphazard image of her Storyteller took shape.

xx

With a sure foot and an agile gate, Flynnigan Rider kept a watchful eye on his surroundings. He saw the barking puppy for the hungry snarls and howls of the bloodhound it really was. That woman offering a fortune for a coin could not disguise her hydra snakes curled beneath the cloth around her head. If he was not careful, she would cast her gaze on him and turn him to stone and he would not be able to climb this wall to rescue the long lost princess of Corona.

xx

The Princess lost her concentration when the maid clanged the empty breakfast trays together.

"Stop with your fidgeting, Princess. It's unbecoming in a lady of your stature."

The Princess studied the new maid's face. Mostly people scuttled around as though she were a fragile glass to be coddled and protected. This new woman treated her as though she should already be more than what she was.

Still staring at the maid, the Princess kicked off a shoe. The maid's face turned beat red before bending down to place it back on the Princess's foot.

"Princess, you really shouldn't do that," the maid patiently explained. "Because your feet will get chilled and you can become sick."

The Princess nodded and her wide innocent eyes twinkled in understanding.

Her other shoe arched high and landed on a pillow.

xx

He would scale mortar and stone with the strength of his arms. He would climb through and whisk her away. He would fight the evil sorceress, die for the princess if he had to, because she was the only one who ever saw him for something more than just a worthless orphan, who needed him for no other reason than his ability to tell stories, and so he would climb this wall and go in and grab her hand and take her away with nothing to defend themselves but their wit and a frying pan.

He reached for the wall and the book fell out of his hand. The world shifted and refocused and he was Eugene again. Just Eugene standing by the bakery with its owner glowering at him from the window. I know your type, those eyes said. You will never accomplish anything.

xx

The maid had left in a huff. The Princess was alone now. She felt a giddy tingle in her fingertips.

She remembered how her Storyteller had looked when he told his tales. His excitement and passion in one passage alone was more than she had seen on anyone else for as long as she could remember.

His eyes would slide close sometimes and he would fall silent and she mimicked the move. When she did, she realized why he had done it.

His face was sharper now. It was like staring at a rock at the bottom of the pond. Some features were clear one moment then a ripple would cast the focus elsewhere, but she could see him, just as he was when his story had soared to the climax.

What would it have been like, to grow up where he was? The logical part told her it would be hard and different, though could not yet grasp why. But she could see herself there now, dressed as the other girls in muted browns. And then she decided her long hair didn't belong, so it was as it appeared in the mirror, just past her shoulders. And it was hard and she had no maids and she did not know where her parents were, but it was okay because it was story time. Just like it was every day.

There was a clash of metal against metal as a guard shifted outside her door. The sound jerked her back to reality and she stared at the door, feeling as though she had been caught doing something wrong.

It had not felt wrong. It was secret and new, and for now she would keep it to herself like everything else.

As her hands shook she clutched them tight to her chest. Her eyes were burning and her chest expanding from within. She knew now why painters painted. It was not to capture a moment in time, but a moment in the mind before it completely fled.

Rapunzel wondered knew if Eugene knew. She wondered if he even realized what he had given her. Without meaning to, he had brought her pictures.

xx

Ignoring the eyes and the accusation he leaned against the wall to catch his breath, not sure what had taken it away in the first place. Sometimes he wondered in the moments just after his mind went rampant just what else he had imagined. His legs were moving then as he raced down the streets, ignoring the burn of muscles and the real dangers around him. Eugene only slowed when he entered the palace gates, this time knowing why his lungs were burning.

He squared his shoulders as he walked by whispering guards and help and ladies and gentlemen.

Just a phase.

Soon he'll be gone.

Five maids in two years.

She'll bore of him soon enough.

As much as he tried he could not be Flynnigan Rider right then and his ears burned.

The sanctuary of the library gave him respite from the whispers but not his mind. Doubts more familiar than an embrace circled through his thoughts. Why him? What was it about him that made a princess want his company? There were others who could tell her stories, who had more experience, who were just more.

He slumped into the overly soft chair that threatened to swallow him. It wanted to erase him and all evidence that he ever existed. His freshly washed shirt sleeves felt filthy between his clenched fingers.

xx

The Princess was out of the room as the clock sounded the time. At last, he was here!

Racing through the halls, she wondered if the guard smiling at the maid liked dogs. Did that tutor with the mole on his nose have a collection of the cabbage he smelled like at home?

She did not know. One day she would ask.

The Princess paused in the middle of the corridor just before the library. Ask? It was then she realized she wanted to. She just did not know how. Would they hear her now? Or would they once again ignore her words and listen only to her tiara instead? She was not sure.

Would he? Would her Storyteller, if she did speak to him, listen to what she said? Would he answer questions?

She hoped so. She thought so. But the idea of him with the look of the others made her want to curl in a ball. She may try one day, but for now she was too terrified.

No. Stop.

Resolute, she squared her shoulders and marched forward. Then she remembered it was Thursday and that he was here and she burst out running once again.

xx

Though they were more silent than most the library doors still grunted beneath its great weight. The sunlight filtered through the crack, illuminating her already bright hair. Then Goldie waltzed in, taking off her hair net and flinging off her ridiculous shoes as she went until she was steps away from him. Her smile was as radiant as her hair and her eyes darted over his face as though she could not believe he was there. Eugene realized two truths; she had not been kidnapped and she wanted him there. He felt relieve at the first though he knew the second would always be a conundrum.

Goldie blinked and tilted her head. His chest felt strangled and light all at the same time and the way she looked at him confused and frightened him.

Eugene cleared his throat as he turned his focus on the battered books on the pristine table beside them. "We have a couple of choices today. You want to hear about the story of a frog? And come here, I'll loosen those strings for you."

-end Part Three


Speaking of zombies, I can only get into humorous ones. "Wasting Away," as cheesetastic as it is, is just way too funny for words. Or maybe it's my sense of humor.