Despite her dangerous prowess with a frying pan, Rapunzel had a kind soul.
When she learned that not only could her now-missing hair heal, but her tears, she slowly but surely worked out a way to help people who needed it the most.
Once a month, anyone who was really ill or hurt could come to the castle, where she lived with her father and mother the king and queen. Rapunzel got herself into the right mood by reading the very saddest story she could find. Then she came out into the courtyard, barely holding back tears, and looked at all the hurting people in the kingdom who had been able to make the journey.
Old people, suffering from arthritis. Young people with broken bones. People sick, people aching from old wounds, people with wounds that had healed wrong and still pained them. Not a few injuries, people with their arms in slings, men who would be out of work unable to feed their families until they knit properly. Women who could not have children. Children who were not growing properly.
Rapunzel had not known there were so many ways to be sick or hurt. It was, indeed, enough to bring her to tears. Even without the sad stories, it would have been enough.
She moved among the sick people waiting in the courtyard. She sang her song. She brushed the tears from her eyes on each person she passed, nearest their wound as she could, or on their head or hand if they were ill.
Weeping, the dark-haired princess walked among her people, singing in a voice that sometimes broke.
Most people grew better. Not always did her tears work like they had for Eugene. Sometimes the healing was slow, sometimes it required more than one visit to the courtyard. But always, there was some improvement—and sometimes a dramatic improvement. Broken bones were the easiest and most spectacular. Sick children and illnesses difficult to define took the longest.
Each time, the tears she cried were real, and from her heart, and each time, people improved. And the kingdom learned of it, and loved her for it, fiercely and protectively. While strangers from other nations were welcomed, even to seek the tears of healing, the guards were unobtrusively doubled, tripled—security around the palace increased secretly to protect her from anyone who might want to capture her and use her power for themselves. Like Gothel had done, so long ago, that blight to the kingdom.
After her time spent with tears and illness, Rapunzel had a sick headache for the rest of the day, and she had to lie down in a cool, dark room with a cool cloth on her forehead.
And the next day she was often low-spirited, feeling drained and wishing she could have helped everyone feel completely well.
Eugene could always make her feel better; he could make her laugh.
She loved him dearly, but never paid any attention to his concerns that she might be hurting herself, sharing her healing tears.
It was the least she could do, she said, after hiding for eighteen years. And Eugene never won that argument.
He was behind many of the increases in security that she never knew about, and he conspired, with Max, and nearly everyone in the palace, to find ways to make Rapunzel feel better after one of her sessions.
Her father insisted that she not share her tears more than once a month; it was a great enough strain already.
And so the rest of the month Rapunzel was carefree and happy, for the most part, living the life she'd always longed for, flitting here and there, doing things, seeing people, energetic and boundless Rapunzel. Even more so without the extra weight of all that hair!
She gloried in the new dresses, the new friends, and all the new books! She painted the walls and ceilings in the palace (and the canvases that her parents tried to steer her gently towards as well), with utter abandon.
And once a month, she poured out and spent her tears to make others well.
Eugene had thought that nothing she did could make him love her more. And though on the one hand he wanted her to stop using up her strength this way, on the other, it made him love her more each time she shared her healing tears.
He was so bad at putting these things into words, though he stumblingly tried several times. His Rapunzel smiled at him, not understanding.
"But what else could I do?" she asked. "They need help, and I can help them. What else could I do?"
Eugene couldn't think of an answer. But he could pick her up and swing her round and then hug her tightly. Which he did.