Author's Note: Hello Tangled fandom! Oh my goodness, it has been way too long since I've posted a story here. To be honest, I've missed this fandom and I'm glad to be back. To those looking forward to more of my "Moments in the Kingdom" series, they will be coming soon, but I had this plot bunny in my head for quite awhile now and I couldn't get rid of it. AU in the fact that Eugene takes Rapunzel back to her tower but with a happy ending, I promise. For the purposes of this story, they did have the "I See the Light" scene but they never saw the Stabbington brothers, as the brothers never escaped the guards. Mother Gothel never found out Rapunzel had escaped and continued on her journey to get the paints. Enjoy!
"I hated myself for going, why couldn't I be the kind of person who stays?"
—Jonathan Safran Foer
"So." He began, voice sadder than he would've liked. A few days ago, he would've had no qualms about leaving some weird girl with magic glowing hair behind in a tower. Heck, even just a day ago, he had been all gung-ho about ditching this girl behind with ruffians and thugs and running away with his tiara and finally settling down on his island with boatloads of money for company. Now though . . . now as he glanced around the tower decorated with pictures of the young woman smiling, dancing, painting and laughing, he felt nothing but a sense of sadness.
It occurred to him that he would miss her. He had grown attached to her—to the way her face would light up whenever she encountered something new and exciting, to the way her laughter could set his mind at ease, and to how soft her hands had felt in his when he had escorted her onto the boat. For a brief moment as the lanterns had floated high above them, he had wanted to kiss her, but at the very last second, he had pulled back. He didn't deserve her, that much he knew. She was like a beautiful, golden flower that brought happiness to all that saw it and he was the barren desert, stealing what he could to get by. No, he had made the right decision to forgo a romantic relationship with her. Rapunzel deserved a respectable man, not a thief. She deserved someone who would always make her happy, not someone like him who had never truly cared for anyone but himself before.
And now, her.
Deep down, he did care for her—more than he would've liked to admit. And it was because he cared for her that this had to be done. What life could he even offer her anyways? What were the highlights of his lifestyle—running away from guards on a daily basis, occasionally having to fight for your life? Honestly, his life sucked, but it was the one fate had a dealt him and he would be damned if he brought her into it as well.
"So." She whispered, absently stroking a piece of her luxurious hair, something he noticed she did whenever she was upset or worried. Was she sad about him leaving? Did she care for him as much as he did for her? No, he couldn't allow himself to even dare to hope. He had to stick with the plan—give the girl back, get the tiara and then get out.
"I guess this is it." He shrugged and she nodded her head, vibrant green eyes clouding over with some emotion—disappointment, grief?—as she stared at a spot on the ground.
"It would appear so." Her tone was dead, a clear contrast to the vibrant one she had used during the festival. He had noticed on their way back that she had grown more and more despondent and glancing around the tower, he could understand why. She had told him the tower was her sanctuary from those that would try to abuse the magical powers of her hair, but he wondered if it served a dual purpose. Perhaps, it was meant to keep her in as well, like a bird in a gilded cage. If so, he wondered if he was doing the right thing. For all he knew, Rapunzel might stay cooped up in this place for another 18 years and could he live with himself if that were the case. She had spent her whole life staring out a window and wondering what life could be and now, after her taste of freedom, she would soon repeat the cycle.
But, what choice did he have? A life with him wasn't truly a life, not the one she deserved anyway. Here, she would be safe from those that would try to harm her. Here at least, she could enjoy herself and maybe he could visit her sometime, bring her presents from the outside world and tell her tall tales. Maybe he could at least let her live vicariously through him.
What was he thinking? He couldn't visit her. This was the end of their relationship and that was for the best. He was a wanted thief and he couldn't risk getting captured here, or more importantly, inadvertently bringing guards to her.
No, he had to do this for her, to protect her.
He had to end it once and for all.
"Did you have fun?" Because for some reason, he had to know. Her happiness was his utmost concern and he couldn't allow himself to leave if she had suffered a horrible experience. She rewarded him with a dazzling grin that almost reached her sad eyes.
"Yes," She told him. "I will never forget it. Thank you, Eugene." He had shared so much of his past with this young woman, parts that he had never told anyone else before. She knew more of him than anyone ever had, than anyone ever would. After he left, Eugene Fitzherbert would fade and Flynn Rider would once more re-appear. While Eugene would mourn the loss of this magical girl with the purest of hearts, Flynn Rider would take that grief and put it to some useful end, another robbery perhaps.
"I should go." He lingered at the windowsill, a thousand words rushing through his mind and yet, he couldn't utter any of them. He understood why her mother kept her locked up. It had something to do with her hair, yes, but it was to protect her from the evils of life. She would never know hardship so long as she was here, never know true pain. Here, she would be safe from people like him, people that would try to use her for their own means.
"Eugene?" The way she said his name filled him with a warmth that he had never experienced before. She was the Queen of his heart; she alone held the power to damn him to despair or bring him to salvation. She alone could banish Flynn Rider and restore Eugene Fitzherbert back to his previous glory.
He just wouldn't let her get the chance.
She threw her arms around his neck and startled, he nearly fell back with the force she put into hugging him. Steadying himself, he allowed his arms to wrap around her waist, his chin resting on top of her head. He closed his eyes and let himself savor her touch for this would be the last time, of that he was sure of.
"Thank you." She whispered fiercely and then she released him. He thought he saw tears glistening in her eyes as she stepped back, but he forced himself to believe that it was a trick of the light. Then, with one final grin, he descended her tower.
He forced himself to ride on without looking back even once.
"My little flower!" Mother Gothel exclaimed as she entered the tower. She dropped her basket on the table and then with an over the top grin, she embraced Rapunzel, one hand stroking her gorgeous hair. "How Mummy missed you so, my darling! I've brought your paints! Happy birthday!"
"Welcome back, Mother." Rapunzel greeted half-heartedly, though Gothel didn't seem to notice as she immediately spotted her reflection in the mirror and rushed over to inspect it. Frowning at the sight of grey hairs and few wrinkles, she beamed at her daughter.
"Rapunzel, dear," She cooed, pressing a kiss to the head of the young woman. "Mummy's feeling a bit tired. Could you sing to me, honey?"
"Of course, Mother." Rapunzel replied obediently, though her heart wasn't in it. If she closed her eyes, she could still feel Eugene's strong arms around her waist. She had never felt more safe in those arms and now, she knew she never would again. They had struck a bargain and he had fulfilled his end of the deal. She knew that this was the best for everyone, but ever since she had watched him ride away, she had felt nothing but a distant ache in her heart. Her life now seemed so dull compared to the few days she had experienced with him and now that it was over, she wondered how she could go on. Her fate was to reside in this tower for the rest of her days, to never see him again, but how could she accept that knowing what she knew now? She had no doubt that she was in love with Eugene Fitzherbert and while not an expert on love, she had gleaned some knowledge from her books and she knew that it would take months for her to recover from losing him, if she ever did recover.
She doubted she would.
For now, all she had to do was focus on surviving this moment and making it to the next, on breathing in and then our.
"Rapunzel? I'm waiting." Her mother tapped her foot impatiently and dutifully, she sat before her. Then softly, she began to sing while her the familiar feeling of the brush ran through her hair.
"Bring back what once was mine," She sung, tears stinging her eyes. "What once was mine."
She bit her lip to prevent a sob from escaping.
One moment at a time—that was her new motto.
Yet, he still haunted her whenever she allowed her eyes to shut. From her side, she could hear a familiar chirp and her eyes opened of her own volition to see Pascal peeking at her from around the corner of the table, clearly concerned. She forced a smile and tried to hide to pain that she seemed to be drowning in.
She would be okay.
At least, that's what she had to tell herself.
Flynn found himself retracing his steps after leaving her tower and he soon found himself back at the Snuggly Duckling. It was stupid to go in there—guards had probably stormed the place looking for him—but he couldn't help himself. Maximus grunted at the sight of it and Flynn rubbed his mane softly before getting off. The horse quickly blocked his path, clearly afraid of finding guards there as much as Flynn should've been. Yet, for some odd reason, he couldn't bring himself to care. Why was being thrown in jail such a big deal again?
"It's okay, Max," He assured the worried horse. "I'm just . . ." What was he doing here? He had no idea. All he did know was that he couldn't stop thinking about Rapunzel and he was desperate for anyway to connect with her. If there were a chance he could relieve the moments they shared together, then he would take it. "I'll just take a quick look, okay?" The horse seemed ready to protest but must've seen something on his face for he let Flynn go without so much as another peep.
He pushed open the wooden door and immediately, all eyes were on him. If he allowed himself to close his eyes, he could still feel Rapunzel at his side, quickly pushing herself back, afraid of these supposedly "evil" men. Yet, she had won them over and saved his life.
She was nothing short than a miracle worker.
"Well, well," A booming voice called out. "Look what the cat dragged in!" The Hook hand thug sauntered over to him and Flynn did his best to nod his head in acknowledgment. Then, frowning, the thug glanced around and then behind the thief. "What's this? Where's Rapunzel?"
"You didn't bring Rapunzel?" The thug with the big nose spoke up, clearly upset. "Where is she?"
"She too busy to visit us?" Vladimir questioned, pouting as he placed his two unicorns down on the table.
"She, uh," Flynn ran a hand through his hair, unsure of how to explain this. "She had to go back to her tower."
There was a brief moment of silence followed by a deafening,
Instantly, Vladimir had him pushed up against the wall and the other thugs had him surrounded. The hook hand thug quickly made his way to the front of the crowd and placed his hook under his neck. It bit into his skin and Flynn flinched at the sudden pain.
"What do you mean she's back at her tower?" He growled. "Why would you let her go back?"
"Because that's what our deal was!" Flynn exclaimed, only to have the hook press down on him more. The thug appeared utterly disappointed and shook his head sadly.
"Your deal?" He echoed. "So, you let her have a life for a few days and let her get locked back up again?" He dropped his hook and Vladimir immediately dropped him as well. "I guess you're not the man I thought you were." The other thugs hung their heads dejectedly and returned to their spots at the tables.
"What was I supposed to do?" He questioned desperately. "I'm a wanted thief! Why would she want to come with me? What kind of life could I even offer her?"
"Well," The hook hand thug mumbled, turning around to face Flynn once more, his voice soft and reflective. "I guess you'll never know now, will you?" Then, to Vladimir, "Get him out of here." He was literally tossed out and found himself on a patch of grass with Maximus' gaze bearing down on him.
"Don't ask." He groused before getting up.
Still, the words of those inside left him wondering—had he made the right choice?
"No," He whispered. "I can't."
To protect her, he had to stay away.
In a few months, he was sure to forget all about the girl with amazing green eyes. He would forget the way her hands felt in his, the way she could set his mind at ease with just a glance.
He would be fine.
It would just take time.
"Rapunzel, honey," Mother Gothel asked her the next morning at breakfast. "Are you feeling alright, dear?" In truth, Rapunzel felt terrible. Her dreams had been filled with a never-ending replay of their trip together. She found herself back on that boat, the lanterns floating upwards into the sky and every time he leaned forward to kiss her, she found herself unable to breathe. She would glance down and see blood dripping from his side and then he was gone and she found herself alone in the darkness, her mother's voice assuring her that their secret was safe now. Over and over again, she watched Eugene die. She had slept a little, but cried most of the night. She felt sick to her stomach and found that it was hard to breathe. She had heart of people suffering a broken heart, but could one die from one? Her mother's hand came to rest on her shoulder. "Rapunzel?"
"Just tired, Mother." She answered and instantly, her mother relaxed.
"Ah, well, Mummy knows just to the way to deal with that!" With a cheesy smile, her mother grabbed the hairbrush and Rapunzel went to sit beside her. "Sing now, dear."
So, Rapunzel did, her heart not in it.
But a strange thing occurred—her hair did not glow.
"What?" The young woman whispered and her mother was clearly stunned into silence. Frantically, Mother Gothel kept brushing and sang the song herself, but nothing happened.
"Rapunzel!" She exclaimed, voice hitting a note of hysteria. "What have you done?"
So many things, Rapunzel wanted to say. She had done so many things when she had been outside and allowed live, but now her tower no longer felt like home. It was more of a suffocating place, one that she felt like she was slowly dying in. Her eyes grew heavier and though she could hear her mother shirking, she no longer could make out the words.
"Eugene." She whispered, falling backwards onto the floor,
Her mother had always told her to sing her song with joy in her heart and she wondered if this persisting feeling of emptiness there was causing this to happen to her. Perhaps, she had lost her ability to heal. Yet, despite this realization, she felt nothing.
She wished Eugene were here.
She supposed people could die of a broken heart after all.
With that, her eyes closed.
It had been two days since he had last seen her and Eugene or Flynn—he wasn't entirely sure who he was supposed to be now—felt nothing but a strange emptiness. He would simply sit in the forest where he had watched her experience the outdoors for the first time in her life and stare at the tiara. He hadn't the heart to sell it now; despite the small fortune it would net him. If he were honest with himself, he would admit that he missed her terribly. Before her, his life had held no purpose, no meaning to it and now, he found that all he wanted to do was rush back to that tower and steal her away.
But he couldn't.
He had nothing to offer her and a girl like her deserved a proper life.
And he . . . well, he was the man women warned their daughters to stay away from.
Out of a sense of companionship—or perhaps just pity—Maximus had stayed by his side. It felt nice not to be alone for once, but he still couldn't help but feel like he was missing some piece of him that he needed to function. Picking up a leaf that she had used to form a pile to jump in earlier, he smiled wistfully. He had never thought that falling in love was possible for him or that the loss of said love could be so painful.
He had never expected—
A rustle of leaves forced him to duck behind a rock. Peeking his head out, he saw a woman in a blood red dress run from Rapunzel's clearing. Her expression held nothing but despair and with a frown, he wondered if that was Rapunzel's mother. She glanced around before pulling up her hood and running down a dirt path further into the forest. He stood up and knew what he was going to do even before his mind could process it.
"C'mon, Max!" He hopped on the horse and the duo raced into the clearing. The place that had been so beautiful on his first inspection now seemed to hold an era of foreboding to it. The sky was darker here, the sun obstructed from view and dread settled in the pit of his stomach. Something was obviously wrong.
"Rapunzel!" He shouted, not caring who might hear him. "Rapunzel, let down your hair." He was about to climb up himself when the golden hair came spilling down and immediately; he began to pull himself up. The room that before was full of light was now decked out in shadows. The curtains had been drawn shut and though he could see her hair, he couldn't make out her. "Rapunzel?" A chirp and he saw Pascal pulling on the bottom of his pants, trying to get him to follow him. "Show me where she is." Pascal headed up the stairs and into a small, curtained off room. He entered it and the sight that greeted him brought despair to his heart.
For on the bed was Rapunzel, pale and unmoving, her chest barely rising and falling.
He didn't remember rushing to her side, but the next thing he knew, he was holding her small hand within his, pressing a tender kiss to the soft skin. Then, with his free hand, he stroked some of the stray strands of hair out of her face. How had she gotten so sick so quickly? Couldn't she heal herself?
"Rapunzel?" He did his best to keep his voice from breaking but she was slipping away in front of him and he had no idea what to do or how to save her. He felt so useless, just holding her hand. "Rapunzel, it's me, Eugene. Can you hear me?" She stirred and his heart filled with joy. "C'mon Blondie, show me those eyes." Murky green eyes met his and it was the best thing he had ever seen in his life. "Hey, there."
"You came back." She breathed, a small smile tugging at her lips.
"I couldn't stay away." He confessed.
"I missed you," She whispered, a shaky hand coming to rest on his cheek. "I kept dreaming about you."
"Yeah?" He tried to keep his tone deliberately light, but some dark part of his mind whispered that he was too late, that she was going to go someplace where he couldn't follow.
"We were on the boat," She coughed slightly and he smiled encouragingly at her. "Then, you were gone and I was alone."
"I'm not leaving you alone anymore." He swore and she grinned.
"Promise?" She asked in a raspy voice.
"Promise." He assured her, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "What's wrong, Rapunzel? Tell me what to do."
"Just stay with me?" Her eyes fluttered shut and he wanted nothing more than to grip her hand so that she would stay awake but found that he couldn't cause her any pain.
"Long as you promise to stay awake, okay?" She didn't answer. "Rapunzel?"
"Hey, Eugene?" He knew he should be doing something other than sitting here and watching her slip away. He should be out finding a doctor or a witch—someone that could help her—but he found that he couldn't leave her side. It wasn't fair though; he hadn't just gotten her back to lose her, had he?
"Yeah?" His voice cracked and a lone tear snaked down his cheek. This wasn't supposed to be happening—she was supposed to be safe here, alive here. How could things have spiraled out of control so fast? He felt her wipe it away and her eyes held nothing but adoration in them.
"I'm glad I met you."
"Me too," He told her. "You hitting me with that frying pan was the best thing that ever happened to me." She giggled at that before it dissolved into coughs and he squeezed her hand, offering reassurance.
"I love you." Her eyes shut and her chest stilled and instantly, denial boiled up within him.
"No," He whispered, heart frantically beating. "No, don't do this to me, Rapunzel." He pulled her down into his arms and pulled her so that her head rest on his shoulder. "You don't get to say that and just go, okay?" He was crying now, but he couldn't bring himself to care because the light of his life was gone, her flame forever extinguished. "I love you, okay?" He held her tightly within his grasp. "I love you, Rapunzel." He held her for a few more moments and rocked her in his arms.
You will be my guide and take me to see the floating lights.
For the record, I like Eugene Fitzherbert a lot better than Flynn Rider.
And the thing is, I'm not scared anymore. You know what I mean?
I have magic hair that glows when I sing!
"Flower, gleam and glow," He had no idea if this would actually work, but he had to try. She was so still in his arms and so pale, it sickened him. Rapunzel was full of life and energy, never still. "Let your power shine. Make the clock reverse bring back what once was mine." He bit back a sob and forced himself to finish. "Heal what has been hurt." Nothing was happening, but he couldn't give up yet. "Change the fate's design. Save what has been lost. Bring back what once was mine." He kissed her forehead and then shut his eyes, wishing that this would work. "What once was mine."
And then, without him even noticing, a small strand of her hair lit up. Then another and another after that. Soon, her hair's glow illuminated the whole bedroom and she seemed to be floating on some sort of magical force. He watched with baited breath as the magic worked its course and then she was returned to his arms. The hair's glow faded.
Green eyes met his and he could finally breathe again.
"Eugene?" She questioned, seemingly dazed and then as she took a deep breath in, she seemed to realize that she was back to normal. "Oh, Eugene!" She pulled him into a hug and he embraced her, so grateful to have her back in his arms. Then, as she pulled back, he pressed his lips to hers and finished what he should've done back in the boat during the releasing of the lanterns. The kiss was heavenly and one that conveyed not only feelings of love, but also of relief.
"Rapunzel, I thought I'd lost you." He held her closely, sure that he wasn't going to let her go anytime soon.
"You didn't." She assured him, her eyes sparkling.
"Well, well, what have we here?" A voice called out and the duo stiffened. Mother Gothel sauntered into the room, anger visible on her face. "Rapunzel, it seems you've been keeping secrets from me."
"Mother, no—" She stood up and immediately Flynn did too.
"He knows about your hair?" Mother Gothel inquired.
"Well, yes, but—" Gothel's gaze narrowed and the sense of foreboding the thief felt earlier kicked into overdrive. He grabbed Rapunzel's elbow and pulled her behind him.
"What am I to do with you, Rapunzel?" Gothel questioned sarcastically. "I thought we were doing okay, you and I, but it would appear that you've obviously disobeyed me." A knife flashed in her hand and Rapunzel gasped. "But don't worry, dear, our secret will die with him."
"Secret?" Flynn pressed, trying to stall for time and figure out a way that he could get Rapunzel out safely.
"Oh, don't play dumb," Gothel hisses. "I know who you are, Flynn Rider—the man that stole the princess' tiara. I suppose you think you'll get a reward if you take Rapunzel back to them but I won't let you. She is mine and she and her hair are staying with me forever!"
"Rapunzel is the lost princess?" He muttered, but he had no time to process that thought because Gothel charged and a pair of hands pushed him out of the way. "Rapunzel!" He saw her take his place and he forced his body to get back up, but by then it was too late.
Gothel's knife bit into Rapunzel's hair, tearing it off. The blonde locks immediately turned a chestnut brown. Gothel staggered back as if she had been stabbed and began to scream. Flynn watched with horror as the middle-aged woman soon became older and then older still. She staggered out of the room and Flynn caught sight of her tripped out of the tower window. She fell to her doom and Flynn breathed a sigh of relief before turning to the woman he was in love with. Gripping her shoulders, he pulled her towards him, scanning for any injury.
"You okay? Did she hurt you?"
"No," Rapunzel replied, a bit shaken. "Am I . . . I'm the lost princess?" He smiled at her and ran a hand through her now short, brunette hair.
"I guess so," He told her fondly. "Hey, Rapunzel?" She met his gaze. "Did I ever tell you that I have a thing for brunettes?"
It had the desired effect—she laughed and he knew they would be okay.
For he had realized that she was his new dream and he would do anything protect her. One thing was for sure, whatever path she walked on, she would never be alone again.
He would always be beside her.
Author's Note: This turned out to be way longer than I had anticipated, but I love the way it came out. I hope you did too. Please review if you have a second! Thanks!