“Guys,” Flynn Rider, most audacious thief in all the realm, had said, “I want a castle.”
Mostly, what he had wanted was for the wanted posters to get his nose right. But also a castle. Now he had one of those things. Never in his life had he dreamed he would get this far; not as a thief, and certainly not in the orphanage. The closest he had thought he’d come to being in the castle was for a fitting for the hangman’s noose, to be honest. And he wasn’t particularly comfortable around ropes in the castle, yet, either. He felt vulnerable without looking at the world through his Flynn Rider face, the one that let him outrun any trap, any hangman.
“Stop fidgeting,” said the painter irritably. “Your high- your gra- sire? Sir.”
There were a few titles that Rapunzel’s parents had given him, but it was difficult for other people to remember them. Titles. He’d been knighted, first, for his services in recovering the princess from captivity. Eugene could barely remember the rest of them, most of the time. It was still up for debate whether he’d be prince or consort after the wedding. “Please,” said Eugene, pained, “just get my nose right.”
“I am a professional,” the painter sniffed.
“And yet I’m still nervous about it.” Eugene shifted, and the thing (sash? was he wearing a sash? What the hell was this thing, anyway?) fluttered off his shoulder to the floor. “Why isn’t Rapunzel painting my portrait, again?” He knew she was no expert at painting, despite doing it her whole life; she wasn’t trained in the latest styles, and tended towards more imaginative than realistic pictures, but he would still rather have her. Who knew where the paint might end up? (Okay. He was still a
bit of a rogue.)
“Because she has to examine the treasury ledgers with his Majesty,” replied the guard by the door. Eugene didn’t know if he was just there because castles needed guards or to keep him from fleeing the palace portrait painter. Hah. Like one guard could keep him there. Even the last time he had been Eugene, before the hungry days on the run, before the Flynn Rider days, even the people running the orphanage hadn’t been enough to keep him there. He was gone, off to make someone new of himself before they could keep him locked up. It had been exhilirating, and terrifying, to know that he wasn’t an inconvenient orphan boy, and to construct a new identity for himself. He had had years to do it, and had done it so well that Flynn Rider could almost forget that there was a Eugene who didn’t know all the right words, who didn’t smoulder, who could get scared for someone else. But Rapunzel had only had days to become Rapunzel, the girl who ran free in the wilds to see the lanterns, and then Rapunzel, the princess of Corona. Eugene had a rucksack in his room, packed and ready, just in case she needed to suddenly become Rapunzel, the princess who fled Corona and its responsibilities to be a bandit and/or hedgewitch out in the woods. The guard continued, “The princess has to learn how to run the kingdom.”
“No, she doesn’t,” announced a female voice from the door. “Or at least she doesn’t until tomorrow, after she threatened to bash her own head in with a frying pan if she had to look at one more column.” Rapunzel added, trotting past the guard and missing that he bowed to her as she passed.
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel,” groaned Eugene, “rescue me from this tower.”
“Throw down your hair?” she suggested, hiding a grin behind her hand.
“But I cut my hair to look like yours!” Okay, he hadn’t really. It was just a weird coincidence that if he brushed his hair right they would begin to look like That Couple That Looked Alike. Especially when she borrowed his clothes to go climb things. Even if she was far cuter than he could ever-- wow, getting off track.
“He can’t leave,” said the painter, “I haven’t finished the face yet.”
“Tomorrow?” asked Rapunzel, opening her eyes wide to look at him.
“Tomorrow,” conceded the painter, wincing. He was no match for her. Rapunzel darted forward, unbuttoning the dress coat that Eugene had to wear for the portrait and slinging it over the pillar he had been resting his hand on, and then dragged him behind her.
“So how are the royal coffers faring?” Eugene asked as they left the tower room and the painter behind them.
“Not too badly,” Rapunzel answered, naming a figure. Eugene stopped walking, and Rapunzel turned to look at him.
“All that, and I got a measly bounty on my head?” he said weakly. “I stole the royal crown! I stole a lot of stuff. My worth was only a tiny fractionof the kingdom?”
“And that’s not even counting land holdings,” Rapunzel continued.
“I thought I was worth so much more,” Eugene mourned.
“Well, the bounty on Flynn Rider was the highest in the kingdom.”
“ Was ? Who is it now? I bet it’s that Eli Monpress. He doesn’t even come here!”
“You’re worth a lot more than that to the crown princess,” Rapunzel pointed out, neglecting to confirm or deny if it was indeed Monpress who had taken the highest bounty, which made Eugene pretty sure that it was. She stood on her toes to press a kiss on his lips as he was deep in thought. “If you’d like, I could probably attach a numerical value to that.”
Eugene looked down at Rapunzel, a smile pulling at the corner of her mouth, and wrapped his arms around her. “Not necessary,” he said into her hair.
“Because I’ve brought you into the castle and therefore your access to all the treasury and my trust that you won’t make off with it gives a rather accurate number itself?”
Eugene placed his hands on her shoulders and looked down at her face. “Nah. Because I’m not Flynn Rider anymore. I just forget sometimes.”
She cupped his cheek with a hand. “It’s hard, isn’t it? To have to be a new person, all of a sudden.”
“It always is,” Eugene answered.
“Which is why,” said Rapunzel, “I think that you should let me borrow some of your trousers and we should go climb on the roof.”
“Need to be on the highest point around for awhile?”
She laughed, and took his hand again. “There aren’t any ledgers up there,” she said, “and I’ll have to leave my crown in my room so I don’t drop it.”
“I think I’ll change out of my palace clothes too,” he said, and kissed her forehead. “And we’ll just be somewhere in between everybody we are, for a bit.”
“That’s a lot of people,” said Rapunzel. “Let’s go.”