"Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming.
All we can do is learn to swim."
He never looks at her on Rapunzel's birthday after sunset. She has gotten used to staring at his back in the dark, trying to make out the shape of his pain. Gone were her parents, her uncle, her aunt, and her beloved cousin, but the beloveds whom she did not lose were two children and a soul mate. The deepest hole in his heart is carved into the shape of Rapunzel, and it is a hole that she can never fill. Her interest therefore lies not in the filling, but in the healing, and if not the healing, then leastways the trying.
She often tries to caress the back of his head with her understanding. She tries to drag his syrupy strands off his moist eyelids to stroke his temple with, "You're not alone." She tries to slide her hand up his wrist to fill the blanks between his fingers with, "I'm here." No matter how careful she is not to break his glass skin, he stays curled up on his side like a child sleeping in the snow. The tears will rain harder, drizzling down his cheeks and scalding her wrist with their saltwater; the depressions in his pillow will sink deeper, forging themselves into the shape of his crying face.
Her helplessness always drops from her eyes and splashes on his face in an Orion's Belt of tears, but she never tries to bring attention to her pain (she’s grown out of that...or so she’s tried). She'll lay her cheek on his cheek and curl around him until he’s wearing her like his armor. Sometimes, he’ll roll over and fit himself inside her life. At other times, he’ll sob until he's breathless from suffocating under it. Most of the time, he won’t stay to see the sunrise bronze the kingdom. She has to swim through blankets that are still warm from his body heat to find him down by the docks, where his gondola can be seen bobbing against the combers while he places primroses on the moonlight.
"This place is important, isn't it?"
"...Yeah," he once said in a congested little breath. "Very much..."
This place is their place. Their special memory. Their seascape of new beginnings and starkissed dreams of ever after. This place is their outer space to relive a cosmic moment that is forever frozen in time, unimposed upon by her. She used to be afraid that one day he would refuse to eat in the mornings, only using oxygen to croak about how much she looked like her when the sun hit her teeth just right, how miserably the pink blossoms in her braid reminded him of that night with the floating lights, how strongly he'd prefer it if her high register sounded breathy instead of shaky when she sang, and if she smiled humongously wide, he could blot out the rest of her and pretend that she was made of sun rays instead of snowflakes.
She told herself that she must have been an evil little substitution, this insignificant stand-in who breathes rime instead of sunshine. She tells herself that she is his cool water after years spent in a desert with scorpions from his lens. She reminds herself that she is a key assistant in his cryotherapy, a kindred spirit who can also exhale love instead of frost, a woman whose warmth from within can thaw others from without, because she is more than sleet and folded hands. He's told her that.
"I never wanted Rapunzel to feel like I defined her by her hair, her powers, or her status for that reason; she doesn't need magic or tiaras to make her special. It takes the "human" part away, or more importantly, the "Rapunzel" part. The next time someone comes along who isn't interested in you because of your powers, crown, or their definition of "perfection," you'll know he's the better option because he's not treating you like you're made out of magic. To that guy, you'll have cells, organs, and an identity. You'll just be "Elsa.""
And to her, he is just Eugene. No longer just her cousin's widower, her affine, her political pillow, or even her obligation, the grinner with the chocolate fondue hair has outgrown the boxes that once defined the lines between them. He grew into a whole person, without classification or circumference, but he also became transparent. She told him that she was sure, positively certain, that he had lived his life in isolation until Rapunzel's frying pan banged against his bars. She was sure that he had made a deal with himself to remain smirking until he could no longer feel how it hurt to know that no one cared to peer deeper than his poreless skin, where a miner might find him trapped inside his lonesome childhood.
She is still sure because he still does not like to have what is left of his cakey mask peeled back by snollygosters. She intuits his need to withdraw into his safe place, which, as unbreathable as it sounds, is not nearly as small and unpeopled as it used to be. He comes off upbeat and charismatic when he's tolerating nobility, so honey-spoken and gratingly pithy if he forgets that glib speech is Flynn's shield, not Eugene's (alas, some defense mechanisms are unkillable for repenters like themselves). But he is sensitive, and will grant the type of kindness that actually means something if the grantee is short on kindnesses. He is a champion for the unseen society, the poor and the orphaned society, and loves children like an uncle.
He is a riverhead of experience, seasoning her fishbowl world with the unheard and the untaught. He is lusty for literature, and has appointed himself to the "Office of Broadening Her Majesty's Horizons with Underrepresented Authors," whom she had wagoned into the schoolhouses erelong. He supports her work in civil rights, foster care, children's disability programs, penology, and criminal recidivism because he understands what she understands. He can network with the gift of gab that she lacks, can chart his own stars on the map of politics if prospects aren't shining brightly enough in his spyglass, and dares to read her emotions with the perspicacity of a weather forecaster. He does not, unlike most men of the epoch, try to conquer and colonize her with his manhood.
His charm, patience, and ease, goldened with balanced perspectives on bigger pictures and a motto to make lemonade out of lemons, sometimes soothes her micro-thinking mind half as well as his foot rubs do. He has sacrificed himself and died in so very many ways for love, but what she loves is his love for Rapunzel and the family she has given him. She loves his capacity to love deeply, the endless enlargement of his great, once unused ― and once misguided ― heart that had probably been waiting, desperately waiting, to love something since he was an orphan. She wanted him to let the world rush in, even if that meant being broken in, and become enveloped by not only its love, but self-love. She wanted him to allow that love to fill and expand him, like she had been by loving Anna and life's allness.
On his best days, as he looks heavenwards while dawn suns his crown, he holds the timeless beauty of a king. These are eleven of Eugene's strengths. It is when he is alone with his thoughts on his worst days that those strengths decay. She stays away on the nights that belong to Rapunzel, and he stays adrift. Closer to dawn, he reopens, inch by inch, letting a slit of sunlight fall onto her face as it widens.
Gradually, he steps out of his own shadow. A trembling touch on his knuckles unfolds into a firm squeeze on his hand, and then she pulls. Shadows and sunlight walk across their wrists in a pattern of bars as she guides him down the corridor and through another open door. From the entrance's sunshine emerges his daughter's hand, filling the blanks between his fingers with her own.
Together, their feet alight on the grass of Rapunzel's burial ground, where lilies never die. Her effigy had been carved with a smile that sleeps between the effigies of her parents, for a smile is what she left the world in. On the mornings they come, Isolde rests a bouquet of white lilies on her mama's womb, and then hugs her mama even though her marble effigy is cold. Eugene rests a bouquet of yellow lilies on Rapunzel's heart, and then takes a breath to hold back the tears.
She conjures her own bouquet of frost lilies, and then places them by Rapunzel's head with care.
Eugene's hand finds the road back to hers. She reciprocates his grip as the wind stings their eyes.
"...I love you."
"I love you, too..."
He looks at her when she looks at him. They both smile at each other with the warmth of the breaking dawn, before smiling back down at Rapunzel. Eugene sighs, trembling. Isolde turns around and smiles at both of them. Her face is carved into the shape of Rapunzel's, and it is a face that fills them to the brim.
A different man greets Elsa at midnight with one of those warm hugs she loves, trembling less this time than the nights before. She lets her eyes flutter shut to feel his heatwave take her. She never means to sigh, but her breath, which is always much hotter than the average person's under this insolation, never abstains from blowing against his hair. Between their bellies burns a sun enwombed by his soul, and it is a sun that makes her entrails pulpier than it makes her magic. Try as she might to stay awake, she never does.
Eugene's fingertips leave her back to span across her shoulders, go down her arms, and squeeze her elbows. It takes him peeling Elsa off for her to open her eyes and decrypt the message in his. "...Thank you." He smiles. 'For always waiting for me, even though I don't have the most trackable lunar phase cycle.'
Her eyes light up like fireflies as they smile at every part of his face. Sand-warm fingers creep up her nape and pull her braid off her shoulder, resting it on her back.
Elsa looks down, still smiling. "I made a promise to all four of us." She looks up at Eugene once she can, but her eyes are wearing tears, and her lips are wearing his eyes. "In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health..."
"I will love you and honor you all the days of―my―life," someone else trolls.
Elsa and Eugene part to find their soloist.
Olaf stands in the doorway with his clasped hands swaying from side to side. His giggle is a fat man's giggle as he squeals, "I love that part!"
"...Oh―laf..." The duet is pitched with one tone that is tearfully laughing from endearment and one tone that is drawling from exhaustion, but the fact that they always respond with a duet at all tickles Elsa pink.
A "what if?" piece for the series, "Union of the Crowns," which deals with Elsa and Eugene being pushed into a marriage of convenience. I was feeling really down, so I wrote this impulsively to make myself feel better, but I have to say that I'm very proud of this here! It is the only piece of mine that I can look at without feeling the need to rewrite the entire joint. I tried to say as much as I could without saying too much; I realize that I used one plot device that is for sure in the main canon, but I didn't spoil how it works, so I'm okay with that.
Chapter 2: A c c e p t a n c e
This was an unplanned installment, so I don't really know if it's as decent as the first drabble, especially since "subtle" doesn't define it. These drabbles are still “what if?” AU's for UotC, but this one may sound too...well, you'll see when you read it. If Indentured is absolutely never finished because my Disney interest wanes, then at the very least, there's *this* alternative development to read. Perhaps this is therefore a "contingency" fic. Parts hearken back to "Stranger Than You Dreamt It" and "Indentured" itself.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"I don't think of all the misery, but of the beauty that remains."
He never looks at himself in the afterglow of Rapunzel's birth month. He had been working so long and hard to become a whole him, to finally wipe the fog from his reflection and see someone worthwhile. That person shattered after Rapunzel's hollow eyelids drifted shut on December 23rd. Left in his shaking arms were two pounds of fatherhood, the bloody ending of his ever after, and an entire lifetime of, "Why?" soaking his pillowcase. His only sunrise in this kingdom of brimstone was her.
"My little sunshine..."
The smile his tears brined on the first day they met still honeys his memory on the coldest of mornings. He remembers how soft her amphibian fingers felt as they curled around his pinkie, how itty-bitty and unbelievably beautiful they were as they gripped for dear life. And when she smiled at him for the very first time, the slit in her lip smiled at him, too. Love dripped from his eyes and splashed on her cheek, leaving an Orion's Belt of tears in the shape of hope. Bedewed with innocence and purity, this single drop of sunlight in his arms was proof of Rapunzel's immortality, and thus he vowed from that hour forward to lay down his pain and pick up his strength for her.
Yet the shadow of death laid down with his sundrop every night that he laid down with her, and he had to fight to keep her light agleam. He won those fights with the help of Elsa's fidelity. The battles to come were not so easily conquered. Day by day, Corona's throne room was renovated into a dungeon that gyved his sanity, but night by night, his daughter crayoned his whole world.
"Does I haf' Mama's smile, Daddy...?"
"Right down to the very dimples."
His promise to always be her knight in shining armor was enameled with a song he sung in the afterglow of one special sunset: "Now you're here, and suddenly, I know..." He wiped his tears off her smile while he rocked her in Rapunzel's favorite knitting chair, feeling his wife's arms in the sun's rays. "If you're here, it's crystal clear, I'm where I'm meant to go~..."
Several battle-scarred years later, he's still drinking in Isolde's beauty like honey lemon tea on the coldest of mornings. He has gotten used to staring at her profile as sunrise blonds her face, trying to make out the shape of her future. To the heavens her grandparents, siblings, and mother have winged, but the family that halos her on Earth is made of Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Sven, Kristoff, and himself. The deepest hole in her heart will always be carved into the shape of Rapunzel, and it is a hole that his tales can never fill, but the heart itself is expanding like a star with each moonrise that silvers the sea. Isolde's luminosity even outshines the Big Dipper.
For all this, time has forced him to realize that his daughter's health will never be what he wants it to be. In the same breath, he can say that her grip on life is so much stronger than it was when she first gripped his pinkie. Her self-esteem is not as lean, and she no longer claws up the scar that punctuates her lip with a semicolon. She calls it a gravure of her survival and an embossment of her strength. One carver of inspiration, according to her artwork, is Elsa.
Eugene glances at the life-sized mural that guards Isolde's bed. Bowered by frost flowers, Elsa's pastel hands cradle a pink heart as she smiles with closed eyes and ruby cheeks from the bedroom wall. Loops and whorls curl her hair and gown into filigree, mimicking the shape of her magic.
Eugene's eyes water. '...Elsa,' his mind murmurs, recalling the shape their marriage has taken. What was once an unsightly explosion of watercolors is now a frameable portrait that tells a story about the chaotic process of remarriage and rebirth, but the first brushstroke to hit the canvas had not been the color of love. Famine, debt, war, primogeniture, and parliaments had mortared them up in a prison tower called, "Marriage of Convenience" after Rapunzel died, and nothing in his blood told him that he would survive such a death sentence. He went on to shamelessly christen Elsa, "a brumal replacement of Rapunzel's sunlight," an icy personification of the leg iron that would enchain him "till death do them part," but the more her heart opened without political intervention, the deeper her friendship seeped inside of him like the cool water he needed after years spent in a desert with scorpions.
"Family is a noun and a verb that I've always had to get used to labeling people under, especially now. With us, I was starting to fall back into the dynamics of what family felt like again before I had actually given myself a moment to get acclimated to the speed..."
Elsa's empathy, in its purest shape, came to embody the tenderness of a platonic palm on his cheek. The fingers that slid into his hands and held them like tulips on tearstained nights were not the icy bastilles his cynicism had been dreading. They took on the personality of a breeze that kissed his skin with the healing effect her cryotherapeutic spells brought injured men, fountaining his consciousness into the clouds. For only a few moments under his eyelids, he was aerified by her touch.
(He still doesn't know how she does that, but he finds it ironic that she calls his touch "heliotherapy" in comparison. Maybe polar elements attract? "The hot and the cold are both so intense; put 'em together and it just makes sense.")
Day by day, they helped each other mourn Rapunzel in healthier ways than either had done before their union. They risked their lives for all that Rapunzel had bequeathed to them, including one another. They kept Rapunzel aglow in Corona's sky as well as their hearts by loving her together. Writing letters to her, and then setting them free with lanterns, were the nights they felt closest to each other and Rapunzel. Every teardrop that fell from Elsa's eye and bled into his heart thickened a bond that felt genuine and safe.
Night by night, the illegitimate child in Eugene careened until he could lay his secrets on Elsa's shoulder. She nursed his trust with feather-light strokes and petal-soft whispers. Her breath always shook as she spoke to his mind. She wanted him to feel her warmth because he had neither felt nor met it prior to Rapunzel's passing. She wanted him to know that she understood how hard it was to remain an open door after being taught from youth to keep it shut, to have the Earth inside you grind to a halt after its axis dies, to feel defined by a social stigma, to misthink that, "I'm so afraid of losing something I love that I refuse to love anything" is somehow a survivable slave code.
She had understood, that when your parents don't walk back through the door after a thunderstorm, you feel like you are, and therefore expect to be, facing society alone thenceforward. She understood why finding some corner of the world where he could be "rested and alone" made him assume that his past would magically lose its authority over his future. She understood how impossible it was to trade freedom for a kingdom with the hope that others would forgive him for who he "used" to be, as well as who he will never become. She understood how terrifying it felt to be crowned in a chapel pewed with conspirators and doubters.
She knew how heavy a mask could weigh, how unbreathable it can feel, and why he once preferred suffocation to oxygen. She had sensed that being his truest self caused him great discomfort.
(Because everyone always leaves. Everyone always gets hurt. Everyone always hurts him. Only Rapunzel liked "Fitzherbert" better than "Rider" in spite of the extramarital sin that forged it)
...Elsa understood, above all else, what it meant to suddenly become an adult before you were ever truly a kid, and then realize, within the blizzard of an unforeseen breakthrough, how desperately you need to take care of the kid in you.
He never fully learned how to care for “Eugene Fitzherbert” as Prince Eugene just as she hadn't learned how to care for "Elsa" as Arendelle's freshly crowned queen. He learned how to love "love" again by loving Rapunzel as hard as he could even when he feared that she had stopped loving him as hard as she could...
"But have you ever taken the time to love yourself as hard as you can?" his father-in-law once asked him.
His answer, in so many stammers, had been no.
"You can not depend on Rapunzel to make you whole. She's trying to overcome her own challenges and find her own peace of mind as future queen. Don't assign her yours. She'll suffocate."
"Suffocate" had been his golden word choice. "She'll suffocate." He felt like he wanted to die after hearing that, but die he didn't. He left to find and love his allness for Rapunzel. "Eugene" hadn't been written on the dedication, but he couldn't see the boomerang coming until she left in a bloody nightgown and a serene smile. Ripped open by the aftershock, "Eugene Fitzherbert" was declared dead, and "King Eugene of Corona" was swiftly enthroned on his bones.
Incomplete molecules of "Flynn Rider" materialized in place of “Eugene Fitzherbert” to help him survive his own death, but it never helped. King Eugene was a silhouette of his father-in-law's expectations, Flynn wasn't compatible with whom he needed to be for Corona, and Eugene's corpse was begging for oxygen, which he drew from Isolde's sunglow.
Elsa, like Rapunzel's father, challenged him to become his own oxygen. "Start building yourself up into a person you can love again," she imparted, "but you have to do it for yourself this time. Otherwise, you'll never find real happiness..."
He sat on her words throughout their marriage. Her wisdom had fruited from her own mistakes and, of course, the fact that she was still paying for them. Still coping with setbacks. Still gauging her worth on adequacy and inadequacy ― on how much of herself she was giving to everyone else. But she was trying.
"Because for the first time, I finally know how to try..."
...And he couldn't help but smile at her profile in the moonrise as he watched her try. He watched her make the way she embraced her allness the scintillant statement she left in Arendelle’s sky. He watched her inculcate the importance of selfdom into his daughter by giving her a sunrise to stand in. He watched her surpass her sister's ebullience by increments, having had that much more pent-up vibrancy and passion that'd been screaming to be expressed. This once dour duckling grew the wings of a shimmering swan after her eternal winter...and it made him feel...hopeful.
Unlike Eugene Fitzherbert, Elsa never needed to plagiarize someone else's extraordinaire to become a show-stopper with magical swagger. She just was, all along. The confidence that charmed him was not ironclad, but the vulnerability that gowned her at night revived the "therapist" in him who used to make a career out of comforting distressed ladies. Without ever catching the resemblance, he spoke to her in that caressing style Rapunzel used to curl up against on the nights he would try to kiss away her fear of becoming Corona's queen.
When Elsa’s gaze finally reciprocated the embrace his offered, an almost smile would break open across her face like clouds parting to reveal starlight. And he'd smile back, toastier than an oven inside. This Elsa, in his starstruck opinion, had always liked herself, which put her ahead of him in this marathon for "self-love." Perhaps she had not liked what she did or became at the hands of her own hands, but there was no way that smug smirk she made while doing fancy handwork could've appeared out of thin air if she'd always hated herself. Enwomaned with the wisdom and grace of her parents before her, Elsa enjoyed being a lady of her own flashy design far too much to be labeled a self-hater.
She enjoyed forming and flexing blunt opinions as a queen with her own mind. She enjoyed sculpting her crown into a polyhedron of liberal ideas and egalitarianism. She enjoyed stomping snowflakes into the ground and summoning mega ice castles that blew his hair back. She enjoyed knocking the wind out of him with her dry comebacks. She enjoyed dethroning him as a multilingual people-reader.
She enjoyed showing off what she had been groomed to hide. She enjoyed being Elsa.
And in turn, Eugene began to like what "Elsa" looked like. He began to like her book smarts, despite most men being unimpressed with studious ladies. He began to treasure her humility and selfless lean, despite telling her how an uptick in selfishness would actually be good for her. He began to savor volleying repartees with her in multiple languages, despite losing rounds whenever she acted like a guileless imp who was incapable of naughtiness (oh, please). He began to prize her mild and rational temperament, despite not always being down for her more spontaneous outlets (he makes an awful ice-skating partner, and Miss Thing is a tugger).
He grew into his love for her stubbornness, regardless of how many times it burned him up. He grew into respecting her percipience, specifically because she wouldn't let him pull any wool over her eyes (or so he tells her). He enjoyed collaborating with her for Corona and Arendelle, even if they didn't always agree on campaigns. He drunkenly boasted about her sophistication to other men, even though he had a hard time keeping Flynn's vanity out of that reason. He cherished her womanlike purity, which enshrined a coffer of innocence that made his trunk of experience all the more useful.
He found her chocolate fetish ridiculously adorable, so long as she wasn't putting her paws on his fudge cakes. He thought the agitated twitch her eyelid would make during an uppity dignitary's speech was thoroughly amusing. He definitely felt that her "dance moves" looked laughable when she leafed through paperwork with a ballad in her head, performing a graceful heel turn here or a lingering step there. He immediately liked the way she spiffed up his outfits with her own razzle-dazzle. He had never been a fan of winter, but he became a fan of whatever she made with it, as well as however she wore it, partially because they were extensions of herself.
He learned to enjoy the fact that there was always something new to learn about her, allowing him to thumb through pages of fresh content over the years like a book that never ended. Her mystique had much in common with the buried treasure that few adventurers could find unless they were the best of the very best. Flynn Rider affiliated this with the appeal of an unattainable jewel, but Eugene Fitzherbert simply admired the sparkle from the half-open vault. Both overloved the way she crossed her bare legs like a fancy œuvre d'art as she worked, or how the bend of her arm, when raising a wineglass to her red pucker, was as perfect as the curve of an expensive candelabrum's branch. Both hated the way her lipstick endowed her smirk with a sheen that could've distracted them from saving their own lives in a snowstorm.
And those curves, glacéed with undeniable sex appeal, were quite something. Flynn was an unapologetic stan of Elsa's right to look foxy wherever she sailed. He'd mow down any man who protested against her freedom to dress as she pleased because he believed that a woman's body was her own business. Elsa's garb of choice flaunted nothing more than a need to celebrate the parts of herself that society had hemmed in, and Flynn, having been the one to rip the stitches that kept orphaned Eugene hemmed into Corona's dogmatism, was fully behind that. The undefeatable rogue couldn't have been more smitten with such feminine courage.
Suddenly no longer just his wife's cousin, his affine, his political pillow, or even his obligation, the enchantress with the deadly winter powers grew into a whole person before Eugene's very eyes, and with every inch that they grew into themselves as people, their bond outgrew the boxes that defined the lines between them.
What he never loved was the hurricane it took for him to accept this earthquake after the seisms overwhelmed him. He had to drown. He had to die. He had to lose her, and he still hasn't finished crying about that. He had to find Rapunzel at the end of the darkest tunnel and take her guidance into his arms, because he didn't know how much longer he could keep hating himself.
The answers he seemingly died to earn enriched him, and Eugene Fitzherbert's haggard walk towards inner peace commenced with Rapunzel's rays embracing him from behind. The cobbled road to the portal of his own light has not ended, but his limp lessens the more he walks. The ache is thawing. Hope is flowering. He's almost alive again.
"Mama would want you to be happy..."
Eugene's feet sink off Isolde's bed to hover over the mural that swallows the floor. Bowered by frost flowers and Stargazer lilies, Elsa and Rapunzel are dovetailed into a folk dance among applauders from Corona's town square. Eugene is a smiling face in the crowd.
"Mama picked Elsa out for us..."
He smiles tightly as his burning nostrils throb, nudging the teardrop in the corner of his eye with his center finger.
Elsa's voice echos in his head, "Finding healing doesn't mean the wounds will disappear; finding healing means that the wounds no longer control the way you live your life. Once you conquer your fear of living and feeling, you'll start to see that the suffering you're experiencing does have a counterbalance. You'll start to see that the people whom you called your life are still living through you. You'll start to understand that storms don't last forever. Getting out of bed in the morning is the first step to grasping all those things that living has to offer, but it'll take blood and sweat to learn how to walk again."
She was right, and he's still coping with that. Eugene Fitzherbert, in his almost-whole state, is still adjusting to the fact that Rapunzel's life and death are immense parts of who he is. He is still adjusting to the fact that loving the shape of himself is a fight for breath that he must win if he wants to live. But he has adjusted to the fact that loving one person doesn't detract from his love for another.
He has adjusted to the fact that love is not a scale with points, or a battle about whom he loves more, because to create one is to misunderstand love's true shape (and until now, he has). He has yet to adjust to the fact that intimacy with someone new will be hard for a very long time. He may never adjust to the fact that he will always, always miss Rapunzel's head on his chest.
"Mama said she never left..."
No matter how many years pass, Rapunzel's rays will always be everywhere. She is the shape of the very castle in Corona. She is the shape of what his life became. She is the shape of Isolde's very soul. She is infinite.
However, memories made with Elsa are also everywhere. She is the shape of the union between Corona and Arendelle. She is the shape of what his life is becoming. She is the shape of Isolde's very future. She is iridescent.
The trick was becoming content with that intertwinement, and later smiling at the filigree it formed.
"..." Eugene's smile broadens. Tears climb his eyelashes. He blinks them dry.
"What do you think the shape of us looks like to Isolde?"
"Judging by her murals, I'd say, "filigree.""
Gentle hands draw the blankets over Isolde's body and pull the ringlets off her smile. Love drips from his eyes and splashes on her temple, leaving an Orion's Belt of tears in the shape of happiness. Eugene kisses the constellation without kissing it away. He stands up to cherish her for being his opportunity to raise a child the way his parents could never raise him. The sunrise carries his feet out of his daughter's room and into his wife's, widening into a slit that falls onto her bed as he opens the door.
Elsa is bundled in sunlight with her head pillowed by her curls. One shoulder is bent around the shape of the breaking dawn as the sunglow whitens her flyaways. His appreciation for beauty wanders down the curve of her nape and splays across the wings of her back while she breathes lightly. Two of his favorite parts on her body are her shoulders. She once hid these shoulders under suede layers and layers of insecurities on coronation day, and even then, he wondered what held them up.
These shoulders have borne the weight of an unimaginable responsibility that no one ever taught her how to nurture. They have borne the weight of isolation, loss, fear, hate, betrayal, death, and other people's lives, despite so many of their attempts to end hers. They have borne the weight of Arendelle. They have borne the weight of Corona. They have borne the weight of him.
These shoulders are pillars despite her minimization of their durability, and they still make him breathless when she bares their porcelain to the world without shame.
"Just don't forget that mine are also here for you to stand on."
"...It's a deal."
Peeling his feet out of his slippers, Eugene raises Elsa's blankets and slips underneath to join her in the sunbath. His weight causes her to shift and wiggle, but the only body part that turns is her head. Her powder-less eyelids don't lift. Her unpainted lips stand open. Her forehead is smooth with dreams.
His blinks become soft and slow. He tries to trace the curve of her shoulder with his admiration. He tries to drag syrupy strands off her moist eyelids to stroke her temple with, "I'm here." He tries to slide his hand up her wrist to fill the gaps between her fingers with, "And it's far too late to get rid of me now."
Elsa's grip returns the message.
Humming from the taste of her skin, Eugene's lips walk on her wings to cross the road from her nape to her cheek. The sunspot his kiss leaves percolates her skin and enwraps her with its warmth.
"Mmm~..." Elsa's body smiles.
Eugene can feel it smiling by feeling her toes curl against his legs as her shoulder hugs her cheek. The pink lips that petal her mouth curl into the smile of a kitten having its chin tickled. As her adorkable face turns toward him, his thumb strokes that smile. Elsa hoists her eyelids at half-mast to bare her allness to Eugene. Like someone has shone a ray of sunlight through blue shards of glass, her orbs reflect the daybreak in his.
She doesn't speak. She listens to his eyes. Hears them. The sheen on her own grows as her understanding grows. Their breath stands still.
Without blinking, Elsa brushes the curtain out of his gaze and then tucks it behind his ear, touching the corner of his jaw with her fingertips. Then she caresses. Shrinks the distance between their noses. Closes her eyes.
His throat bobs.
(He hasn't kissed her in so long ― not since June)
Eugene feels her breath cup his mouth. He hesitantly traps it inside a kiss that sits between her lips. One of them moans from being turned into water, but he doesn't know who. They're both past their melting points. Elsa's hand snakes under his nape to bring him closer so that she can melt deeper.
Lips slip and grip, slowly suckling from bottom to top, and top to bottom, drinking the sun out of the morning. The sensation of her fingers flowing down his arm is more seductive than anything flirtatious. When she gets to running those fingers, he never knows what to do.
“Am I corrupting you?” she teases in her feline tone, the delivery almost shy around the edges.
"Yeah, I..."―smack―“...I-I might be"―smack―"might be in need of..."―smack―“holy water, or”―smack―“Father Niemöller”―smack―"and, and quite possibly..." Frowning, Eugene keeps his eyes shut for a moment. He shakes his head. “...I lost my train of thought.”
His mouth sings from her breathy chuckle tickling it. As Elsa pulls back, their lips peel apart like pages: slow, lingering, moist. One of them moans, and he's embarrassed to know that it's him. A final 'smack' breaks the spell's bind for good, and he's left shuddering at the feeling of "Elsa" still glistening on his lips. With a slow swirl of the tongue, he licks the trail and snatches it in, saving it, tasting it. Eugene opens his pleading eyes to her with his lips still tucked under his teeth.
Elsa grins at him, sleepy-eyed and Rudolph-nosed. She lowers his chin to seat a kiss between his eyes instead of his lips.
It feels nice.
Eugene takes her love into his arms and tucks his face into the curve of it. Her hands rest on the wings in his back, pressing him against it. He draws in a breath. Inhaling her. Inhaling them.
A piece of his heart is carved into the shape of Elsa, and it is a sculpture that he will forever treasure.
"Did Rapunzel paint this one, too?"
"Yes. She did. She spent every sunrise painting it until it was finally finished. I never saw her more proud of a mural than she was of that one."
"It most certainly is."