Settling in with her new home and family wasn’t quite the easy happy-ever-after Rapunzel had expected. It was all the more difficult because there was no-one she could blame for that. Everybody was trying to be so kind, her true parents only wanted to adore her and Flynn was… Flynn. So why wasn’t she happy?
The problem was that being told that these two people, loving as they obviously were, were her own true real parents couldn’t make her heart believe it. Her brain knew, of course. She knew how much they had missed her and she wanted to pay them for that in love – it seemed so ungrateful not to love them back! But there were times after that first rush of excitement coming home when the hugs felt faked; the kisses felt as though she gave them as thanks rather than out of true feeling.
“It’ll come,” Flynn said when she told him. “What, you’re expecting to suddenly realise your great love for people you barely remember? No-one gets that. No-one expects it of you either. Don’t worry about it.”
“But they keep telling me how much they love me!” Rapunzel protested. “I just.. I feel so guilty. If I don’t love them I feel ungrateful, and if I try I just feel like… a big fake!”
“They’ve been missing you since you were a baby. They’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” Flynn said peaceably. “Plus, they actually knew you existed to miss. It makes a difference.”
It sounded rational and sensible, but it didn’t chime with Rapunzel’s heart. “I must be the worst daughter ever.”
“Nah. Just a regular one in a weird situation I’d say,” Flynn said. “And another thing, you don’t have to behave like that every time you go out, you know.”
Rapunzel blushed. “You noticed.” It was a habit she was struggling to supress. Going out still felt so forbidden, such a treat, that there was no way she could just casually announce it to her parents. She tried to coax permission out of them instead, the way she had her moth- Mother Gothel. It seemed far more natural to make them breakfast, pour them tea, try every nice thing she could before asking permission.
“It was hard to miss. And you’re really annoying the servants, by the way. They think you’re trying to do their jobs.”
More guilt, as if she needed it. “I didn’t mean to.” So much was complicated; there was just so much she didn’t understand here. “Sometimes I just wish I could go home.” And that was all wrong too, because this was home, proper home forever now.
Flynn looked at her thoughtfully, seeming to weigh up his next question before he asked it. “Do you miss her?”
No need to ask who the ‘her’ referred to was. “Sometimes.” Rapunzel shifted, not meeting his eyes. “Which makes me awful, I know. She tried to kill you!”
“I don’t think you’re awful,” Flynn reassured.
“Crazy then,” Rapunzel said unhappily.
“Not that either.” Flynn shook his head. “Look, she was your mother for most of your life. You’re going to miss her.”
“It’s just every time I speak to the Qu- to Mother, I feel like I’m being disloyal to her.” Rapunzel bit her lip. “Which is wrong – I mean, she kidnapped me. But she was never mean – other than the not going out thing. Well, and sometimes she might get cross if I hadn’t tidied up or something, but that wasn’t mean, not really. And I know she only wanted me for my hair, but it never felt like that, not when I was living it.”
“Maybe that wasn’t all it was,” Flynn said softly.
“Do you think?” Rapunzel turned to him, her eyes alight with… something. Hope? Fear? It was difficult to tell.
“All I know is that you’re a difficult person to live with without loving.” He reached to ruffle her newly-short hair. “I don’t see how she could have managed it for so many years without feeling at least something.”
He earned himself a smile with that; even if it were a slightly shaky one. “I’d like to think that,” Rapunzel said quietly. “I’d like to think that not everything she told me about caring for me was a lie.”
“So, we move onto the more difficult problem – the fact that you can’t stay here without feeling either guilty or ungrateful,” Flynn mused.
“I guess I just have to live with that,” Rapunzel sighed, indulging in a moment of self-pity.
“Why?” Flynn asked lightly, and laughed at her startled look. “Rapunzel, you were thinking of leaving your mother and going out into the world when I first met you. Why do you think you have to live with your parents now? If anything I would say you’ve more than proved you’re capable of looking after yourself now.”
“Yes, but,” Rapunzel faltered. “Things are different now. I’m a princess. And my parents-“
“Don’t expect you to be a two year old just because that’s the age they remember you at.” Flynn took her hand and grinned at her. “Run away with me, Princess. The adventures are only just beginning.”