The queen found Eugene, as usual, sitting just inside the doorway to one of the palace treasure rooms. (It was the smaller one, where they kept the newer pieces, less valuable but much shinier. Eugene liked to consider how he could steal the pieces, if he still did that kind of thing. It was less fun now that he knew he could pick things up and wear them, no problem.) His arms were folded and he leaned with one shoulder against the wall.
"Eugene?" The queen raised her eyebrows at him.
"Your Majesty." Eugene stood straight, dusting his trousers off. "I thought you were one of the guards, so--"
"I understand," the queen interrupted, "I think."
"Right." Eugene tore his attention away from a particularly chunky-looking tiara and bowed properly. When he raised his gaze again, he frowned. "Is something wrong?"
The queen hesitated, then extended her hands. Eugene clasped her hands automatically, and she smiled, albeit sadly. "We had another council meeting," she said. "To induct a new minister of education. There were more people than usual for the ceremony."
Eugene flinched. "She went up--"
"To the tower," the queen responded. "Yes. I don't know what to do."
He leaned forward and brushed his lips against the queen's forehead. "Thanks for finding me."
The queen squeezed his hands. When he left the room, he was courteous enough to ignore her sob.
It was the highest tower in the castle, most often used by the palace astronomer for, Eugene assumed, astronomical things. During the day, it usually stood empty, the brass telescopes idle and the star charts flapping in the occasional breeze.
Rapunzel was painting the wall again, Pascal creeping along her left arm as she dashed indigo waves across the stone. "Rapunzel?"
She looked back at him, and her smile was as strained as her mother's had been. "Eugene." She turned back to her painting for a moment, adding three dabs more before setting her brush down.
Eugene stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her waist, ignoring the paint splatters that transferred from her dress to his tunic. Her hands were speckled with yellow and white and blue, and she shivered for a moment before she relaxed in his arms.
"It wasn't so bad," she murmured. "I just needed a break."
"I know," he said. He kissed her forehead, then her temple. "I have the same reaction to council meetings."
Rapunzel laughed. "That's why you weren't invited to this one."
"The captain of the guard really, really doesn't like me," Eugene responded.
"You keep stealing his belt buckles."
"I'll win him over eventually."
She rubbed her cheek against his shoulder, and he ruffled her hair. "Sometimes I miss the tower," she confessed.
"I know." He pulled her closer, and Pascal licked inside his ear.