Disclaimer: I own nothing related to any Disney universe including, but not limited to, characters, names of places, lyrics, dialogue, or any other piece of product. Disney retains all the rights to their universes. 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: A tribute to idea sharing. Thanks to JessicaJ and the final chapter of "Of Moths and Butterflies" for this one. Jess, I hope you enjoy the twist I took on your idea. Sorry it took me so long. This one is for you. Enjoy.

WARNING: It is rated 'M' for a reason, folks, and that reason is sexy times. A lot is implied (you won't find anything here that you wouldn't find in an 'R' rated movie) but it is hot. Stay away if that ain't your jive. Also - practice safe sex y'all. Fairy tales are not real life.

Rapunzel had seen tattoos before. Her friend Attila had one, a cupcake crossed with swords, on his bicep. When she visited the docks to learn more about Corona's trade economy she saw men with bulging forearms, their leather skin stained with mermaids (something else she found fascinating) and anchors. Eugene had explained how men used sharp tools to press ink under their skin, staining them from the inside out.

The idea frightened Rapunzel. She knew what it felt like to have something under her skin. The magic that lived inside her for so long would pulse and surge when she sang, rippling beneath her skin to shoot out through her hair. The feeling always left her dizzy and empty and if that was what a tattoo felt like she didn't want any part of it.

That was until tonight.

For the last three weeks her etiquette classes had been in preparation for the annual trade negotiations Corona hosted. People from all over the known world gathered for the week, and Rapunzel had learned at least fifteen different ways to bow and greet all the different magistrates, representatives, and royals from places she never knew existed just a few short months ago.

The thing that her teacher had emphasized from the beginning was that people would dress and talk in many different ways and that Rapunzel was, under any circumstance, forbidden to comment on anything she found strange or beguiling.

Her teacher may as well have told her to carry a hot coal in her mouth all night. It would have been easier.

Rapunzel had so many questions she knew she would never get to ask and she felt like she might explode - especially when she met the Kebian representative.

Rapunzel had never seen anything like her before in her life.

She was dark eyes and olive skin and raven hair pulled back into a knot at the back of her head. She was purple silk swirled with hypnotic gold brocade, her blouse cropped beneath her breasts leaving her stomach and lower back on display. She was gold jewelry tinkling from wrists, ankles, ears, nose, and fingers and Rapunzel loved every part of her.

The thing that captivated Rapunzel the most amidst the sea of color and sparkling novelty were the markings on her feet and hands. Delicate auburn lines ran across her palms, the backs of her hands, her wrists, and wrapping around her feet and ankles. The intricate patterns alluded to palaces, peacocks, and flowers woven across her extremities in beguiling symmetry.

These marking were different than the ones she'd seen at the docks or on her friends from the Snuggly Duckling. They didn't look like the familiar black and blue veins scarring tender flesh. These were delicate lace, intricate as a spider's web, and just darker than the skin. They looked lush and vital, like without them the dignitary would be naked, like they rose up from inside of her and made her whole, and maybe they did.

It was impolite to stare. Rapunzel knew that and she tried very hard not to, but more than once she caught herself entranced by the swirled designs of the dignitary's skin.

Rapunzel wanted to understand. She needed to understand.

That was why Eugene shouldn't have been surprised by what he saw when he sneaked into her room that night.

Eugene crept through her door, avoiding detection by the guards that roamed the hallways, and found Rapunzel hunched over herself on her couch in front of the fire. Her back was to him. Pascal slept on the back of the couch behind her. She was so absorbed in whatever she was doing that she didn't flinch at her door opening.

Even without her normal enthusiastic greeting, he assumed she knew he was there. It wasn't until he stepped up behind the couch and leaned to whisper in her ear that he discovered just how incorrect his assumption had been.

"What are you-"

That was all he got out before she yelped and turned into a flurry of limbs.

The back of her wrist made solid contact with his nose and he stumbled back with a grunt. Pascal jumped and ran down under the cushions. She whirled to face him, eyes wild, hair whipping her cheeks, and he saw her hand reach back towards the fire poker.

A hand that was absolutely covered in paint.

"Take it easy, Blondie! It's just me." He held tight to his nose. Was he bleeding? Great, he was bleeding.


Her face melted from panic to relief to horror in one flash. Rapunzel clambered up over the back of the couch, her thin nightgown slipping up her legs in the most interesting way before she stumbled onto the ground and over to him.

"Oh Eugene, are you all right?" Tiny, paint covered hands pawed at his face, pulling at his fingers to inspect the damage.

"I think you broke my nose." He tried to chuckle, but her face pulled into such worried lines at his comment, he rescinded it. "I'm fine. It's just a bloody nose. Calm down." He kept one hand clamped across the bridge of his nose and used the other to press her back by her shoulder.

"I'm so sorry." Her fingers fidgeted with her hair at the nape of her neck, smearing more paint across creamy skin. "Is there anything I can do to make it better?"

He knew what she was thinking. She was thinking that if she had her old hair she would just sing and make it all go away, and he didn't like it when she thought that way. It was dangerous. Those kinds of thoughts led to memories of Gothel and her tower and how his one decision to climb her tower that day managed to single handedly rip her whole existence to shreds. It led to a place with shards of mirror, clanking chains, and a dried pool of blood. It wasn't a good place to be, for either of them, so he tried to distract her.

"Sitting might help," He said for her sake. "And something for the blood." He said for his.

She grabbed his free hand and led him to what she called "his chair" by the fire. He fumbled, not used to sitting while an anxious brunette flitted around him like a wounded sparrow. Her hands pressed at his nose, grabbed his elbow to steady him, pulled back a lock of hair that fell into his eyes, shoved him to the side to make sure he landed dead center in the enormous seat, and moved with such agitation that it wasn't until he was fully seated that he was clear enough to see her spread for the first time.

He was used to her painting. She'd painted so many canvases since coming to the palace, they joked about building a wing just for her art, but this was different. There was no canvas, no paper, no surface for her creation, just jars and a pallet board mixed with a mound of brown paint.

Brown. That was odd. She favored pastels, throwing in bright yellow or vivid red when she felt her creation needed a boost, but not brown, not only brown, not even when she painted her new hair. So how had her hands and arms gotten absolutely covered in it?

"What're you up to?" He tried not to seem over interested, keeping it vague so she wouldn't feel pressured to answer, but where she would normally bubble about her latest endeavor, she was quiet.

"Oh. Just – painting." He could barely hear her and not because he wasn't listening, but because she mumbled.

She only mumbled when she didn't know what to say.

She only didn't know what to say when secrets weighed down her tongue.

She only kept secrets when the truth was a burden she couldn't share.

Only when it had to do with that – that thing that kept her like a pet.

She stared at her arms, fingers touching smears and smudges across her skin like she was mourning their presence, like they were confusing and painful and distressing all at once. He took her in, head to toe, trying to piece together the meaning of it all, and that was when he saw the vines woven around her ankles and down to her toes in the same brown paint that marred her arms. His eyes went from her feet to her arms and back again as understanding dawned on him.

She painted herself.

She was the canvas.

She was the paper.

Now she wouldn't meet his gaze and while Rapunzel exhibited some odd behaviors in the past, this was new. Best to proceed with caution.

"Painting what?" He asked, playing dumb, pretending he didn't know, wishing she would just tell him because this was weirding him out.

"Nothing. It didn't turn out." She walked over to the couch and picked up one of her painting rags. "Here."

She handed it to him, brown paint matted the fabric, but he pressed it under his nose anyway. Anything was better than blood staining the royal furniture. He didn't want to try to explain that.

"Thanks." He said and tried to smile, but it was difficult around the rag, and he was sure it looked more like a grimace.

Then she mumbled again - something about being right back - and disappeared from the room.

But she wasn't right back.

She wasn't even back in a bit.

His nose bleed ended and she still hadn't returned.

He cleaned himself up best he could and was draped across the chair in anticipation for her reentrance, but she never came. He struck a pose and aimed for a casual smolder. He wanted something to lighten the mood and make her blush when she came back, but still she never came. He held the pose until his smolder gave his face cramps, and still no Rapunzel.

He sat up, fingers tapping on the arms of the plush chair, anxiousness boiling up in the pit of his stomach. Where was she and what was taking so long? He looked over to the couch and saw Pascal out from hiding and lounging on one of the pillows, content just to stare at him.

"Do you have any idea what is going on?" He was way past feeling weird talking to a frog.

Just go talk to her. He was also way past freaking out at being able to understand what the frog meant just by a look and a flick of his tail.

Eugene stood.

There was no immediate sign of her in her large bedroom, but that was no cause for panic. Sometimes she liked to play hide and seek. She told him once that it was so different when there were other people to play with (he hadn't even tried to figure out how she played it by herself in that tower with her frog) and had been known to start an impromptu game. He started looking.

He went to the obvious places first (she liked being found just as much as she liked hiding): under the bed, behind the couch, in the pillows of her window seat, in her closet, but she wasn't there. She hadn't exited her room. He was sure of that, so that left her washroom. As a rule, Eugene never bothered a woman in her washroom, hide and seek be damned, but this was different. This was Rapunzel and the last he saw of her she looked more like a sad fledgling than the vibrant girl he loved, and he couldn't just let that sit.

"Uh, Blondie? You in there?" He rapped his knuckles on the wood of the door and the force cracked it opened, unlocked and unfastened, but Eugene didn't dare press it further.

"Just a second." He heard and then there was a frantic sound of rustling cloth and water dumping. What exactly was she doing in there?

A few moments later, she pulled open the heavy door and stepped out.

When she emerged, Eugene's breath caught in his throat.

All of the paint was gone. The only thing left in in its wake was her skin, scrubbed scarlet and painful looking. She was in a fresh nightgown, a pale blue sheath as thin and tempting as the last, but the color just made the rawness of her flesh scream louder.

Her shoulders hunched and she wrapped her scarlet limbs around her torso like a shield from his examination. She looked fragile, like she was trying to fold in on herself, to make herself disappear, and that was upsetting. He didn't like when she made herself small.

"Rapunzel." He rarely used her given name, and when he did he said it like a secret.

She didn't look at him. She didn't move. She just stayed frozen in her solitary embrace. He edged closer, put a finger under her chin, and lifted her gaze to his.

"Hi." He gave her a crooked grin and she replied with a smile that looked like a tightrope walker in the wind, but it didn't make it to her eyes. "What's going on?"

She lowered her gaze, forehead creasing, and the fragile smile fell from her lips.

Eugene felt her withdrawal and silence like a slap to the face.

He took her by the shoulders and pulled her into his body. It was the only thing he could think to do. She didn't resist, but she didn't help much either. Her face buried into his chest, her arms stayed fixed around her middle, and his hand found familiar paths through short brown hair.

She was cold. He could feel her chill through the fabric on her back, and it sent a shiver down his spine. He took deep breaths, hoping the sound of his life, his consistency, would soothe her, hoping his heat would warm her. He needed to make this better and he had no clue what would draw her back to the light. Just when it seemed like inspiration would escape him, he had an idea.

"Come here." He stepped back and tugged her towards the couch.

She followed, not resisting, but not with her usual curiosity and bounce. He was glad it was only a matter of steps because seeing her move like there was no air beneath her feet made him antsy. He sat her down next to him on the couch, and she gave him a wary look when he picked up a small paint brush.

"Just trust me, okay?"

He understood her confusion. He'd never picked up a paintbrush before in his life and now seemed like a strange time to start, but he had an idea, and it was all he had so he had to give it a try.

He dipped the bristles of the brush into the mound of brown on her pallet, breaking through the crust that covered the surface from sitting too long, and drew up her arm in front of him. He adjusted his hold on the handle, trying to get used to the feel of it, and then ran the brush across the still pink skin of her forearm. She gave a quick intake of breath, not quite a gasp, and pulled at her arm. He gave her a look.

Just trust me, okay?

She stilled but he could still feel her tension throbbing like the pulse in her wrist.

He sure hoped this worked.

He made broad strokes, unable to achieve any kind of delicacy with his inexperienced hands, and she just sat. Line after line he made his mark on her forearm, trying to be quick, but finding it difficult since he had no skill. After a few minutes, he pulled back the brush to appreciate his work.

"There." He said. "It's Pascal." He watched as she twisted her arm to investigate his effort. "Well, it's supposed to be."

His work was a laughable mess of brown with a squiggle on one end that might be his tail and an odd triangle on the other side was probably his head, but everything in between was up for interpretation. The little green guy was neither impressed nor interested in Eugene's artistic endeavors and didn't even get up off of his cushion to investigate his portrait. Rapunzel also didn't seem impressed, but she did seem interested. Her fingers went to the margins of his work and grazed the skin there, outlining his masterpiece, but was silent.

He floundered. He thought she would say something, anything, he wasn't picky what, but she didn't. His mind grasped at what should come next. Should he try again - try harder? Should he take her into the bathroom and wash it off?

He grabbed the hand drawing circles around his art, trying to get her attention, but she kept her head down. Her short hair fell down across her cheeks to hide her face.

"Look, Blondie – Rapunzel," he searched for words to make this better, make it right, but there were none. "I don't know what is going on and you don't have to tell me. I mean - you can tell me if you want to, but you don't have to. Not that there is even anything to tell, but if this was, or is, or whatever..." He bit his own tongue to stop his rambling. "I just - I don't - are you okay?"

Then she looked at him and no.

No, she was not okay.

Her eyes were an open wound. Tears lined the rims of her eyes, but there was so much more in them than just sadness. He saw anger, betrayal, and pain as raw as any he'd ever seen. The tempest of her expression stole his breath. This was the mirror of her joy, the other side of an emotional spectrum he couldn't fathom, and it was devastating.

She let out a shuddering breath, and any attempt at bravery crumbled in the face of his sincerity. She crashed into him, arms strangling around his neck, and sobbed. His arms came around her back without thinking. He'd held her enough while she cried by now that the basics came automatically now, but the intensity of it this time caught him off guard. Her entire body shook and lurched until he thought she might break apart into a million tiny pieces.

He tried all the things that seemed to help in the past. He petted her hair and whispered hushes into her ears. He rubbed circles into her back and kissed her temple. Nothing seemed to help.

He never felt more out of control than he did when she cried and it made time stretch for eons. Worse still was he had no real idea why she was so distraught. He'd been with her the whole evening during the banquet, and she had seemed fine, maybe a little nervous, but fine. Nothing had indicated that tonight would end up anywhere close to this. His mind turned circles on itself trying to make sense of it all, but failing.

The worst part of it all was how clear it was now that she had been trying to hide this pain from him. She'd been trying to spare him, but now to look at her now was to see just how she fell apart.

It took an eternity for her to settle, but the torrent of tears finally slowed.

She pulled herself back from his soaked shoulder and gasped for air. Her face was red and wet. Some short brown strands stuck across her forehead like spider webs. Her cheeks were splotched and streaked and her eyelashes stuck together. She tried to speak, but her breath was too short. He waited, and watched, and tried his best to not freak out too, because honestly that seemed like a reasonable response given how helpless the situation made him feel

Then: "I never knew - never imagined that people - could be so - so wonderful." She said and that wasn't what he expected at all.

"You what?"

He couldn't help himself. Her words had come so far out of left field they made his head spin. All of this mess, the paint, the avoidance, the drama, the tears, had been because she thought people were super-duper? She acted like someone had died, like the whole world was collapsing, and it was because of a good thing?

That was insane. She was insane. Of all the backwards, mixed up, confounding things she found to burst into hysterics over, this was at the top and Eugene felt a surge of frustration at her outburst.

But there was more:

"My whole life I was taught that people were mean and cruel and that they were all the same, but that was a lie. People are wonderful and kind and all so different from one another and I spent so long not knowing any of that and - oh." Her voice caught, her lip quivered, and he understood now.

She wasn't distraught because people were great. She was distraught because, until recently, she had no idea that was true.

...and he was a giant ass for thinking her outburst could have been anything less than noble.

"So - this isn't about my painting?" He brushed his fingers over the art on her arm with a smile.

She looked down at his effort and made a choked noise that was half laugh, half cry. She shook her head no and tried her best to wrap her lips into a smile. His heart jumped at the sight of it. He wanted to kiss that crippled smile, to feel it on his lips, but she was talking again.

"I still just feel so scared sometimes. Like there is so much out there that I don't know that I will never catch up. Like I will always just be that girl from the tower, you know? I just - people aren't made to be alone. People are made to be with each other and learn from each other, not to be alone and afraid and I spent so much time being alone and afraid sometimes I feel like I will never know all the things I should." Her face scrunched up. "Does that make any sense?"

"Yeah. Yeah it does."

And it did. It made heartbreaking sense. He shared a lot of the same feelings. Sure he hadn't been locked away for most of his life with only an abusive psychopath and a frog for company, but he spent a good part of his life afraid and almost all of it alone. He didn't know anything about family, or commitment, or sleeping in the same bed for more than a few nights. He didn't know what to do with crying girls, or responsibility, or the feeling that someone depended on him. He was scared out of his mind the majority of the time, but here he was, and he had no plans on leaving. Maybe he was the insane one.

"So this whole paint all over your body thing is because people are the best?" He skated his fingers up the skin of her arm and tried to lighten the mood with a smirk.

She blushed, a good thing.

"Well - I was trying to replicate the markings on the Kebian representative's skin."

"The who?"

Rapunzel gave Eugene an exasperated look. Yeah, he should have paid closer attention at the introductions.

"The girl with painted skin."

"The one in the purple half-dress?"

"Yes - that's the one. I was trying to give myself marks like she had but I am really only good at painting with my right hand so when I had to use my left hand everything looked all wrong and I kept smudging everything when I moved and it was just a mess." She scrunched her nose in frustration.

"Well you don't need to beat yourself up about it. That girl didn't do any of her painting herself." Eugene said and Rapunzel looked skeptical. "I'm serious! She's got maids and stuff to do it. I've seen it done, the skin painting, and no one does their own. Someone else always does."

"Where did you see it done?" She quizzed him. It was always adorable when she quizzed him.

"Around. I haven't always been in Corona, you know."

Oh and how she knew that. She often berated him with questions about All The Things He Had Seen, but this wasn't something they had covered before.

"Did you see people paint each other?"

Yes. Yes he had. In fact, he'd had a personal demonstration given him by a black eyed beauty, but they didn't get too far before other things demanded their attention, but Rapunzel didn't need to know that part of the story.

"Yeah. Kind of. It is more of a skin staining than a skin painting." He said, but logistics didn't faze Rapunzel.

She shoved her paintbrush underneath his nose with wide green eyes.

"Will you paint me - like you saw the others do?" She asked and he pushed her hand down from his face.

"I don't think that is the best idea, sweetheart."

"You said you saw how people did it, so will you show me? Please?" She made her eyes extra big and he hated when she did that. It made it so difficult to say no.

"Not everyone is as artistically gifted as you are." He ran his fingers over his dried attempt at Pascal as a reminder, trying to escape the inexorable pull of her gaze.

"Try? For me? Please?" She bit at the soft flesh of her bottom lip and it wasn't fair how such a simple action made him her willing slave.

"Okay fine, but it is going to be awful." He broke down and Rapunzel slapped the paintbrush into his hand before he could change his mind.

"I don't care. Just show me everything you remember."

Then, with much grumbling, he did. He showed her how the subjects held their arms so the artist could work. He showed her how the artists worked from the top down to avoid smudges. He showed her just how bad he was at making paint look even close to anything other than an uneven mess.

When he had butchered one of her arms with brown paint, adding dozens of unintelligible squiggles around an equally unintelligible Pascal, he threw in the towel.

"That's the best you are going to get out of me, Blondie. Like I said, I saw how they did it, but no one ever gave me a tutoring sessions on how to do it at home."

She turned her arm in inspection and Eugene cringed. Nope. Art was not his forte, but she didn't seem to mind. She gave him the first genuine smile he'd seen out of her since this mess started and it made his heart skip a beat.

Then Rapunzel snatched at the brush in Eugene's hand.

"Now it's my turn to paint you!"

Eugene didn't even have a chance to say no. She had her brush on his skin before he could blink, and he thought it was a good thing he had rolled up sleeves before he came in the room because she may off ripped them off in her enthusiasm.

He watched her as she settled into a groove, moving his arm when she told him to, and enjoying the way she blew short strands of hair from her eyes. It was peaceful to watch her paint. All the worry washed from her face as she concentrated. Her focus brought her peace and her calm became his.

He leaned back against the couch and let his head roll back. He shut his eyes, content to be as still as she needed for as long as she needed just so long as she was happy. He'd do anything to just keep her happy.

With his eyes closed he was able to pay attention to the sensation of it all. The bristles tickled the soft skin of his forearm. The paint felt wet and sticky where she left it. He could smell the soap she used on her skin dancing in the air. He felt her finish one arm as she moved over to the next.

She took her time, and he twisted and turned his limb whatever way she needed. As strange as the scenario was on paper, painting each other, Eugene couldn't help but feel a sense of domesticity in it. When you considered the whole of their relationship, this barely registered on the scale of weird.

Eventually he felt the tickle of her brush stop. He opened his eyes to catch her appraising her work. His gaze followed hers to the art etched across his skin.

Lines wove in and out of each other across his skin like vines, wrapping his forearms with beguiling symmetry. As he studied her craftsmanship, he saw a pattern emerge. The lines on his left arm curved into a long tail, bulbous toes, bulgy eyes, and as easy as that she had woven Pascal onto his skin. The intricacy of her portrait only served to make his attempt look that much more pathetic.

"That's pretty good." It was better than pretty good, but that was her threshold for compliments. Any more than that and she got flustered.

"Do you like it?" Her green eyes were wide with anticipation, and he knew this question was coming.

"Yeah. Of course I do." His reassurance was the expected second stage of the complementing Rapunzel, easing her into accepting his praise. "Do you?"

"Yes, it is fine, but..." She scrunched her nose and screwed her mouth over to one side.

"But what?" The work on his arms were flawless. What more could she want?

"I just wish I could practice - more."

"Then go ahead. No one's stopping you."

Eugene didn't understand her dilemma until after he spoke those words aloud. His arms were done. That meant that she needed more skin to serve her purpose of canvas. More skin meant less clothes and - oh - and in the same breath that he realized her problem, she solved it. Tiny hands grabbed the loose hem of his shirt at his waist and shoved.

He reacted before his mind could catch up. He shot up at her invasion, spine like a ramrod, and his shirt fell back down as it escaped her grip.

"Whoa! What are you doing?" He knew what she was doing, but his brain rejected the idea.

"Practicing?" She sounded small again, his suddenness scaring her back into her shell.

She looked hurt, bewildered at his evasion, and he couldn't blame her. He'd said no one was stopping her – and then he stopped her. Talk about your mixed signals.

But he was confused, too. He spent a lot of time thinking about Rapunzel undressing him, and now that she was, he shut her down. He should be welcoming this attention. Flynn would be soaking this up, so of course Eugene was freaking out. What is wrong with him?

"Yeah. Okay. Well. Normally you give a guy a little warning before you try to take off his clothes." He tried to take his tone down a notch, to slow his racing heart, to calm her by calming himself, to make this okay, less strange, less awful. It only kind of worked.

"Oh. Okay." She didn't move. Her hands clutched her paintbrush on her lap, shoulders tight, eyes downcast, and he knew she couldn't understand.

She couldn't understand that for the past four months he had been walking on eggshells when it came to touching her. She couldn't understand that he had never waited for a girl like this, ever, and that this whole life in the palace was just as scary and new for him as it was for her. She couldn't understand the immense restraint he employed every time they were alone, each time they touched. It was torture. It was pure, blissful, agonizing torture and she just couldn't understand.

She couldn't understand that the idea of her taking off his clothes, for any reason, sent alarm bells ringing through him. Eugene had been at the end of enough direct threats from The Powers That Be about What Would Happen if he Tried Anything to know better than to let himself get further than first base. No matter how delicious she was. No matter how warm and gorgeous she felt in his arms. No matter if she undressed him so she could have more skin for her canvas.

He had to pull it together, for both of their sakes. He worked too hard to get her back to her happy place to let something as stupid as his shirt get in the way. It was just a shirt, right? What would it hurt to just take it off? Nothing, right? Right? Right. Wrong. Oh so wrong, but he did not stop.

"It's okay." He said as much for himself as it was for her and his hands worked to unroll his sleeves. "You just startled me, that's all. I wasn't expecting you to -" undress me? He couldn't even say it without feeling his temperature skyrocket. "- do that." He said and felt twice as lame as he sounded.

She fidgeted, not making a sound, and he took a deep breath.

"Here. Look. You didn't do anything wrong." He grabbed the collar of his shirt and pulled it over his head "See? No big deal."

She looked up as he tossed his shirt to the ground and his mouth went dry at the way her expression shifted.

She'd seen him without his shirt on, once, after they nearly drowned and he'd taken it off to dry, but things were different then. He was still Flynn Rider and she wasn't the princess and neither of them knew how crucial it was to feel the touch of each other's lips. It was before they lived in a palace with valets and maids and guards and kings and queens and mothers and fathers and rules. It was before she knew the differences between and man and a woman. It was before Rapunzel was taught about virtue and what kinds of Things Are Expected From A Princess. It was before Eugene had been told with no uncertain terms by a specific captain of the guards that any misconduct with the princess would give him all the leverage he needed to see Eugene locked up for good where he belonged.

But that was then.

This was now.

And what had been furtive peaks from beneath long eyelashes in the middle of the woods was now open admiration. Now it was green eyes roaming the curve of his pectorals, the dips and ridges of his abs, and the padded muscles of his shoulders. It was his throat tightening and his pulse racing. It was the way that he was still half clothed, but felt naked under her exploratory gaze. It was everything, and he couldn't move.

"So I should start up here and work my way down so I don't make any smudges, right?"

One small hand reached up to the base of his throat and trailed down over his chest, to his stomach, over his belly button, before stopping at the hem of his pants - and holy hell - he could not breathe. Eugene did not know if her hands were cold or if his body on fire, but it took everything within him not to shiver at her touch.

Somewhere, dimly, he was aware that she asked him a question and that it was the thing to answer her, but all he could do was stare at her tiny hand where it lay against his hemline. There were no words because he could not begin to comprehend what was happening, He watched her fingers skate back up his stomach, his sternum, and as her hand came to brace itself on his shoulder, Eugene's head fell back against the couch. Then his eyes closed and his fists clenched at his sides, because he was two seconds away from making some very embarrassing noises if he watched any more

He felt the cold tip of the brush start its path along the skin of his collar bone. He felt Rapunzel shift and shimmy to get a better angle, to get closer, and somehow she ended up straddling his lap. He felt the insides of her thighs, her knees, her calves, brushing against the legs of his pants and oh – this was bad.

No. This was worse than bad. This was terrible. This was every level of horrible he ever imagined and worse. This was hot breath on his neck, fluttering fingertips over sensitive skin, and her center hovering above his by mere inches but he couldn't touch her. He couldn't look at her. He couldn't do anything but sit there and be subject to the most exquisite assault to his senses he could possibly imagine.

She worked her way lower, taking her time, and Eugene clenched his jaw against the heat that each stroke of her brush stoked in his belly. He swallowed and then swallowed again, mouthfuls of nothing, trying to put out the fire she set underneath his skin. Every inch she covered with paint pushed him one step closer to losing his mind.

Then it happened.

She hadn't meant anything by it. This wasn't seduction. But as she shifted lower, her work bringing her further down his torso, scooting backwards and bending to get a better perspective of her canvas, it happened. The hand that had been rooted to his shoulder moved down to his hip and shifted to find better support. It was innocent, unintentional, but when the base of her palm pressed against the joint of his inner thigh and body, the edge of her daintiest finger brushed his embarrassment and Eugene saw red. A groan, low and guttural, ripped from his chest and Rapunzel's brush froze mid-stroke.

"Eugene?" It was a squeak and he knew he had scared her again.

Hell, he was scaring himself.

He opened his eyes to meet hers, hoping to see in her face a reason to stop himself from what instinct urged him to do, to ground himself back in the reality where she was an untouched innocent, but he was out of luck. She was staring at him, eyes wide, mouth open, and her hair cut a jagged line across her cheek. Just below her beautiful expression, the neck of her nightgown gaped and there was a gentle valley between soft mounds he had only dreamed of touching.

His heart pounded in his ears. His thoughts blurred. There was only one answer for those searching eyes, that open mouth, and he had to give it to her.

He hooked a hand behind her head and closed the space between their mouths in a single breath.

Her palms landed on his chest, smearing her work, her nightgown catching brown paint. Her body pressed a fragile weight on top of him, but he couldn't breathe. He had never forgotten how good the touch of a woman's body could feel against his, but every imagination paled in comparison to the actual experience.

He was so lost in the sensation, the warmth and feel of her, that he barely registered the way her spine turned steel. He didn't hear her muffled squeak. He shouldn't have been surprised when she jerked back wide eyed and breathless, but he was.

She didn't say anything. She didn't have to. He saw everything he needed to know in her face. Nothing had prepared her for this. No one had told her how this worked.

He had never touched her like this before. He kept his physical affection with her as calculated and strategic as he could so he wouldn't lose control, wouldn't scare her, wouldn't get them in trouble, but not now. Now all he wanted to do was teach her everything. There was no room for caution when she was here, warm and close and he could feel every inch of her against him. Consequences be damned.

He met her eyes to offer reassurance.

Just trust me, okay?

And she did. She trusted him, and that was everything. Her wide eyes softened and her face relaxed like she was waiting for him to tell her a secret. Dark lashes made a pretty shadow against her cheekbones. The light from the candles around them gave her skin a golden glow and she was so beautiful in this moment he could not understand it.

He pulled her into him again, open mouthed and needy, hands tangled into her short hair. She tasted like light and air and he didn't know how he lived without this. He didn't know how he ever kissed her any other way than like she was the sun and he would be nothing without her.

One hand skated down the back of her chemise, memorizing each gentle protrusion of her spine, wondering at her warmth beneath the fabric. He wanted to feel that skin, bare and supple against his fingers, and he fought the urge to rip the fabric off of her body. He pulled himself up straight, his arm circling around her waist to keep her flush against him.

Her paint slicked hands slid up over his shoulders, around his neck, and she curved into him. She was soft breasts, lithe limbs, and her hands were everywhere. Nimble fingers explored dips and scars across his back, mapping them, no doubt making notes to ask about later, and he wanted to return the favor of her thoroughness.

He abandoned her greedy mouth to trail wet kisses down the column of her throat. She gasped, fingernails cutting half moons into his back, when he bit the sweet junction of her throat and shoulder. The gasp was followed by the release of the most sexy sound he had ever heard. Part whimper, part moan, all begging and he wanted her to make it again. He wanted to give her ten thousand reasons to never stop making that noise ever.

His hands hooked under her thighs, pulling her legs up around his waist, holding her firm against him as he lowered her back on the sofa. She sighed beneath him, his weight settling against her center, and she moved. It was a small shimmy of her hips, an attempt to scratch an itch she didn't understand, but oh he hadn't expected it.

Sparks flew behind his eyes and he needed her skin against his. Immediately. His hands left her thighs and shoved her soiled nightgown up past her hips, past the sloping plane of her stomach, until her torso was perfect and bare to him. She wrestled the ruined nightgown off the rest of the way. Her short hair ruffled as she threw it onto the ground and there she was, inch after inch of flushed creamy skin begging for his experience.

Each line, each curve of her body was just as he had imagined it while clutching sheets alone in his bedroom. Except this was real. This was no fantasy. She was here and so was he and this was all he ever wanted.

His hands and mouth were torn between the want to linger and adore every inch of her and the need to touch as much of her as humanly possible. He crashed down against her. Sweat and paint made the skin between them slick. The press of her bare breasts against his chest was maddening. Her hands found his face and brought it to hers, kissing him like that would slow down the fire burning inside of her, but it didn't. It only grew, and she uncontainable.

"Eugene!" She gasped for air against his neck, a plea, a prayer, and all bets were off.

He'd finished what they started, and he did - they did. He never knew how many contradictions touching another person could have until now. He was giving but greedy, slow but unrelenting, and she was as seductive as she was innocent. His mind spun, his body reeled, and he could not breathe unless she was pressed against him showing him how.

It should have been difficult. It should have been awkward or uncomfortable. It should have been frightening or alarming. It wasn't. She wasn't. She was perfect. It was perfect, and once it was over it took a few awhile for reality to drift back together.

She was on top of him now, and somehow they had ended up on the rug in front of the fire. Her body pressed atop his. The paint between them turned sticky and ruined. Her short hair flew out at all angles, rumpled and gorgeous, and he never wanted her to comb it again. It was his masterpiece.

He pressed soft kisses against her jaw. Her head lolled to the side and her mouth fell into a satisfied smile. His fingers played down the skin over her spine and she giggled at the lightness of his touch. She pressed herself up on her hands to look him in the eye.

"Now what?" She asked, and he didn't understand.

The grand finale was over. Was she asking for round two? He could probably pull off an encore performance, but he knew she was going to be sore from this already. He proceeded with caution.

"Now what… what?" He sounded so lame he was glad he had Eugene to blame for all of his uncoolness now. Flynn Rider would never be so sloppy.

"What comes next?" She cocked her head to one side. "With the painting?"

He blinked. Had she thought this was all part of the skin painting? Oh heaven help him if she wasn't the most disarmingly adorable creature alive.

"Well," he brought a hand up to a smudge on her cheekbone. "We probably need to take a bath."

"But if we take a bath, all of the paint will come off." She frowned.

"Yes." Eugene cupped the back of her head. "But if you thought putting the paint on was fun, then you are going to love what happens when we take it off." He pulled her down for a deep kiss.

And she did. She loved it.


A/N : Think I have died and fallen off the face of the earth? Sometimes I think I have, too. Then I update my twitter (ravenswrite) and I remember I am more than just a bartender with no life.