Another Door Opens
The Bedroom Door
AU: Took almost six months to update this. That's embarrassing...
Rapunzel's bed felt too big. She had not had this experience since she had outgrown her small bed when she was six - and had been told that she was growing too fast because she was eating too much - and gotten a new one, the same one that she had slept in for the past twelve years. Sure, it was a little small, but that was mostly because her hair took up a lot of room, even when most of it was neatly piled on the floor beside the bed. She remembered that at six she had been thrown off by the change and so illogically frightened by the extra space that she wanted to sleep with Gothel. Gothel had, of course, refused, though she hadn't given any reason for it besides saying that Mother Knew Best and Mother needed her own bed, and that was that and Rapunzel had gotten used to her new bed.
Now this was her new bed, and as she lay across it looking up at the ceiling and trying to think of all the reasons she shouldn't miss the tower (the task was made easier when she thought of all the mean things Gothel had done that she had brushed off then even though they bothered her, and could now consider more from a different perspective), she had to wonder how long it would take to get used to this bed. But there were so many things other than just the bed that had changed. She didn't think that even sleeping in her old, familiar bed would be a comfort in this new place with a new lifestyle. After all, her old bed hadn't even really been comfortable, and this one certainly was. (It was like sleeping on a pillow instead of a board.) Comfort, she was coming to realize, had less to do with physical pleasantness than it did with familiarity. And the sad thing was, she knew that this was her home, it was supposed to always have been her home. But as much as she was mad at Gothel for denying her the knowledge of her own identity, because she had been deceived for so long she still couldn't entirely shake the image of Gothel as her mother, and that was making the deception all the more painful.
Of course, during the initial moment of realization, her anger had made it seem easy and natural to act rashly, and to feel primally. It was like she was fighting for her life and self-defense instincts had kicked in - no, come to think of it, it wasn't /like/ she had been fighting for her life; she really had been. She had been fighting for her freedom, the freedom to do something with herself other than just spend the rest of her days locked up and living as a slave. And she had had to protect Eugene, too - he was the first thing she'd had to take care of, and knowing that had given her a sense of importance.
But she liked being taken care of. Now that she had that liberty, she didn't know what to do with it. She just wanted someone to hold her and brush her hair, and this time, have the ritual be for /her/ rather than for Gothel. Gothel had cared for her, and Rapunzel wanted to believe that some of the things she had done were because she actually liked Rapunzel and not just because she needed to use her to stay young. She wanted to feel about the queen, her real mother, the way she had felt about Gothel before she knew the truth. She hoped that she would. In her heart, she knew that she could. The queen was pretty, not in a harsh, untouchable way like Gothel, but in a warm, soft, kind way. She would never say something mean and tack on a 'just kidding' like that would take away the sting. Her father though...the king... That ws something new. She was unfamiliar with daddies. At least now she knew why Gothel had told her she didn't have one.
In the dark, when she was alone, it was easy to feel scared and discouraged. She felt like if she just had someone to talk to, she could figure it out.
And that's where Eugene came in, saving the day, her hero, again. (Yeah, technically, she had saved him, but that was only because she needed him.) She had left her door open, and when he walked up to stand in her doorway, enough light from the lamps in the corridor spilled in to her room to illuminate his face, the glow behind him making him look almost angelic. (He probably would not have appreciated her telling him so, so she didn't.)
She had never encountered thieves before so she hadn't thought to be frightened by the sound of approaching footsteps, in spite of all the stories that Gothel had told her. She had never suspected that someone would climb the tower and she presumed that the guards would have stopped any real bad guys - in that, at least, she could defeat at least one of her fears with logic.
Speaking of guards, she was slightly curious as to how he'd gotten past them, because she doubted they would just let him through after all that he'd done, sadly. She didn't ask, though, because she was sure he would just make some quip about being a stealthy thief instead of a real explanation, and perhaps she didn't want to know. Anyway, she didn't really care, because she was so happy to see him.
"Hey." He rubed the back of his neck as if slightly uncomfortable. "I couldn't sleep." Like he needed an explanation for seeing her. He seemed suddenly shy, for some reason; she did not think that she had ever seen him shy, except for maybe briefly at the campfire. It was definitely a Eugene thing, not a Flynn thing.
"Neither could I," she replied, smiling a little.
She patted the bed next to her, a silent invitation, and he took a few tentative steps closer, before pausing and turning briefly, hand extended towards the door knob. "Should I close this?"
Rapunzel shook her head quickly. "That's okay. I like it open," she said. He shrugged and walked closer, sitting on the edge of the bed gingerly.
The truth was, she hadn't not closed the door just because she wanted it to be open to Eugene. She was afraid to close it. She was afraid that if she closed it, she would never get it open again. She was unfamiliar with doors, because she'd never gotten to open one before, and she knew that if she could not, she would feel trapped.
Though he probably wouldn't admit it, Eugene was also here because of fear. He had been afraid to close his eyes. He couldn't fall asleep, because he wasn't sure if he would ever be able to wake up. The last time he had closed his eyes, other than just to blink, he hadn't thought they would ever open again.
He wasn't supposed to be afraid. He was supposed to be the one protecting her. But she had saved him. And quite frankly, he was terrified.
"Why couldn't you sleep?" Rapunzel asked finally. As content as she was to enjoy the silence and just being in his presence, she did want to know. It had been a busy day and all, but she was curious.
…okay, it was like she could read his mind. That was kinda creepy. And endearing at the same time.
"I, uh, I just couldn't close my eyes," he confessed casually.
She tilted her head a little to look at him, smiling. "Are you afraid it's all a dream that you'll wake up from if you fall asleep?" she asked, bringing her knees to her chest and hugging them. It seemed to him that that was what Rapunzel thought: all of this was some kind of dream that she was going to wake up from. In fact, having Eugene with her had been just the comfort that she needed, and all of her apprehensions had left her mind, only to think that, since he was with her, how wonderful all of this was. Between the food, and her parents, and all of the fancy things, and…
"No," he said slowly. "I wasn't sure if I closed them that they'd open again."
Her mouth opened in a silent 'o' of recognition before she closed it again, chewing nervously on her bottom lip. "Eugene…" She scooted a little closer to him where he was perched on the edge of her bed. He turned his head away, not wanting her to see his expression, and pressed his lips into a thin line, but when she placed a hand lightly on his shoulder, he slowly looked back toward her.
Her voice was soft, barely more than a whisper, as she leaned in a little closer, her slim fingers splayed so that he could feel their warmth through the thin linen nightshirt he'd been given to sleep in. "Can we talk?" she asked.
His expression softened after a moment as she added, hastily, "I mean, we haven't had time…" It was like she was nervously dancing around something, like she was afraid she was going to upset him. Of course he couldn't let her think of him that way.
"We had the whole ride here, but somebody conked out on me," he replied, teasing her lightly, a smile threatening at the corners of his mouth.
She smiled sheepishly and nuzzled against the soft fabric of his shirt. "Yeah, well, watching someone die is…kind of exhausting."
The smile faded and he blinked. "Just kind of."
It seemed like maybe he didn't really want to talk, but she didn't pull away. She just pressed her lips lightly to his shoulder, causing him to tense, before looking up at him. "Dying is probably exhausting too…do you want to go back to bed?"
"I probably should," he said slowly, "but I don't think I can. Or will." He purposefully didn't respond to her first comment. He shifted slightly so that he was facing her more fully, and she moved to accommodate him. "So… what do you want to talk about? We already went over the whole… you're-the-lost-princess-and-you-were-rescued-by-a-bunch-of-thugs-and-a-weirdly-animated-horse thing."
She nodded and smiled when he said he would stay. She settled down with a slight smile, moving closer to him and wrapping her arms around his waist. "There's so much that I don't know about being a princess…"
"Well, I don't know any better than you do," he pointed out with a wry chuckle.
She rolled her eyes at him and pressed against his chest. "Oh, that reminds me! The thugs! I got Daddy to free them – every single person in the jail! Can you believe it?"
She was going to guess that the reason for the ensuing expression of utter shock on Eugene's face wasn't because of the fact that she had just called her father Daddy after knowing him for less than a day, even though the easiness of it had come as a surprise to her. She frowned slightly. "…what?"
"No. I really can't believe it," he said slowly, extracting himself from her embrace and scrambling backwards off the bed. He stumbled out of the room and down the hall.
Confused, she stood and crawled off the bed, looking down the hall after him. "Eugene? Eugene!" Seeing as how he didn't stop and didn't turn back to look at her, she walked back into her room. "Hmmm," she said, her eyebrows furrowing before she flopped back onto the bed. "He must be really tired after all."
The other occupants of the castle were considerably more concerned about the fact that a former thief was tearing down the halls in the middle of the night than Rapunzel. After he was sighted running out the front doors, the king was notified. It is never a pleasant thing to be woken in the middle of the night, particularly when you are a king and your days are spent in stress, and particularly when the reason for being awoken is that the potential paramour, thief, and man of otherwise questionable character, associating with your long-lost daughter, is trying to escape and has a record of doing so successfully.
What the king did not know while he shrugged into a dressing gown was that he did not have to send all of his guards after Flynn Rider: the man appeared to be turning himself in.
After Rapunzel's revelation, Eugene had sprinted straight down to the jail, with which he was quite familiar by now, even though he had only ever spent one night in it, thanks to his various skills at evading capture. Unfortunately, the time he had escaped had been with the help of others, and he did not know how to break out, or to break in.
The prison doors which had been thrown open a few hours ago were now locked. Eugene did not know what the point was of having the doors locked to keep people in now that no one was in there – the only thing it was doing was keeping him out, a situation that the castle guards had unsuccessfully been trying to remedy for years now. But, as they had never been able, Eugene had over time come to the conclusion that he was much smarter than the guards, and this belief was reinforced now.
"Let me in here right now!" Eugene demanded in a snarl, gripping the bars of the door and rattling it on its hinges.
The guards, all of whom knew about Eugene and had been itching to throw him in a dungeon for longer than one night, all smiled haughtily in their assumed triumph as one of them sauntered over to unlock the door. "With pleasure."
The gate was unlocked to permit him entrance, but before they could manacle him, Eugene lowered his shoulder and barreled through the line of them, who were still standing stupidly there, just watching him go by.
"What is the meaning of this?" the king bellowed, having just arrived after marching through the castle at a faster pace than usual given the circumstances.
Eugene had other things to worry about than the king's befuddlement. "Oh, no no no no! This is not good," he panted, skidding back from the other end of the hall. He would have been considerably less composed, and considerably more foul-mouthed, had Rapunzel not also appeared on the scene, looking adorable with the way she groggily rubbed her eyes, and asking so heart-wrenchingly, "Eugene? What's going on? Why'd you leave?"
He was going to be in deep trouble for that later, he was sure; the king would kill him more than once, since he could have Rapunzel bring him back to life again for that very purpose.
"You know the guys who wanted to kill you away from the woman who kidnapped you? …we can reflect on the irony of that later – right now, we have to catch them! They were in here, and now they're not!" he answered breathlessly, since the guards were too stupefied to do anything other than stare open-mouthed at the king in fear. They really were idiots, the lot of them.
He was starting to not feel like such a big fan of the king either. He should have known better than to let everyone in the jail go. It was true that he had just been trying to make his daughter happy, and deep down, Eugene knew that, logically, but he didn't feel like being reasonable right now – he was too scared and too angry. "You let them all go without telling me?"
The king was clearly not used to being addressed in an angry tone, or being told, even indirectly, that he was wrong. "You would do well to remember that you have no power here, Mr. Rider."
"It's Fitzherbert," he muttered grudgingly. Apparently he had lost first-name privileges. Or correct-name privileges.
"Furthermore," the king continued, his eyes narrowing slightly at being interrupted and corrected, "I can't tell the difference between criminals. Whether they rescued my daughter or saved her, they all look the same to me."
Eugene lifted his chin a notch in anger at the implications of this pointed remark, clenching his teeth together to keep from saying something that he shouldn't, a muscle in his jaw twitching. He stayed silent, but his dark eyes burned.
He was not surprised when the king asked, "And we let you escape the gallows. What makes you different from them?"
"I love your daughter, and they don't," Eugene retorted flatly, letting that sink in for a moment before giving his head a fierce shake and pacing with short, savage strides in a small circle. "They could be anywhere right now!"
The king seemed somewhat chastised by this, and did not respond to either of Eugene's statements; his silence was answer enough, and evidence that Eugene had made his point. He mused instead, "They were probably after the reward money we were offering for the return of the princess."
Eugene's mouth watered. He had sort of forgotten about that in all of the excitement. Funny how his priorities had shifted. Anyway, seeing Rapunzel happy was reward enough. But she didn't look so happy right now – not that he could blame her. His attention had been brought back to her just as she spoke for the first time, looking nervous – probably more so because of the tension between Eugene and the king than because of the situation with the Stabbington brothers.
"Or my hair," she pointed out, speaking for the first time. She was clenching her hands nervously, as if she was twirling her long golden hair between her fingers, but there was no hair there anymore. Sad how paranoid she'd been about him wanting her hair because of the scary stories that Gothel had told her, while Gothel had been the one taking advantage of her all along. Now that was ironic. "If they are – were – in jail, they probably don't know that it's cut yet."
"They might still think it has its powers," Eugene agreed, panic stabbing through his gut. He ran a hand worriedly through his hair before it flopped over his forehead again. "Don't let it get out that you still have them, okay?"
The Stabbingtons hadn't been after money in the first place. They had been after her hair. That much had become clear to him when they had thought he was holding out on them again in the conversation by the lake before they'd knocked him out and turned him in that night. If they thought that she still had her hair, they would come after her.
But he didn't say that out loud. He couldn't. Everyone was scared enough as it was, and he was pretty sure the possibility was implied; everyone was thinking about it without it needing to be announced.
"It'll be alright, sweetheart," the king murmured, looking a little awkward as he pulled Rapunzel close to console her and placing a kiss on the top of her head. Eugene bristled slightly. He was supposed to be the one with his arms around Rapunzel, the one comforting her. Her eyes darted to him before she closed her eyes and nestled into her father's arms. "Don't worry. Our guards are well trained. Nothing bad will happen to you, ever again."
He continued to wax on about the guard for a few moments, how well-trained they were, and how they were placed strategically in various locations inside of the castle, before Eugene got tired of it.
"To be fair, Your Majesty, with all due respect, I got in before." He locked eyes with the king. "And that isn't just because I am – was – the best thief in the kingdom. …the Stabbingtons were helping me."
"You mean to tell me that you showed them how to get in?" the king echoed incredulously.
Rapunzel winced and pulled away at the rise in his voice. "Daddy—"
Both of the men looked to her.
"He's changed," she said finally, in the spotlight. "And he doesn't want them to come back."
Eugene shook his head at this enthusiastically. "Except to knock them out," he added.
The king did not look impressed or pleased by this addendum. "Go back to bed, Rapunzel," he instructed. "There will be guards posted by your door. You will be safe."
"Eugene will go to his own room," the king finished for her sternly, giving a look to Eugene that silenced him even though his mouth had been open to answer. Eugene scowled slightly. It wasn't like he had been going to sleep in Rapunzel's room, even if he wanted to. He really had changed, after all.
Rapunzel looked between them suspiciously for a moment before she obediently returned to her room. Eugene sighed and turned to go as soon as she was out of sight, but the king put a hand out and the guards stopped him from taking another step by putting a sword in his path.
"Your room is here," the king stated. Eugene's mouth fell open in shock but he didn't move, just closed his mouth and set his jaw firmly as he stepped into the cell that had been opened for him. No need to fight it, not physically. There were no thugs here to save him this time; they were free, but they were probably all back at the Snuggly Duckling drunk by now.
"Don't do this. You're going to regret it," he said. He didn't want to sound like he was pleading for his freedom, but the king just didn't get it. He was the only one who knew how the Stabbingtons worked, the only one who could protect Rapunzel.
"Regret protecting my daughter?" the king asked, turning to look at Eugene with his blue eyes cold. "No. I won't. It is my fault that she got away from me once, and it will not happen again."
The door was slammed closed and Eugene winced as the cold bars rang with the impact. He sank down onto the floor. He had to get out of here, before it was too late.
Rapunzel hadn't been expecting it, but she managed to fall back to sleep, albeit a fitful one. She dreamed that she heard footsteps, coming down the hall. She had left the door open in case Eugene decided to come back.
She did not realize that Eugene was in a jail cell. She did not realize that the footsteps she was hearing were in fact from two people, and just sounded like one person's footsteps because they were in sync, made by twins.
"Eugene?" she asked sleepily, eyes fluttering open.
Before she could make sense of the fact that the gruff voice was not Eugene's, before she could even think to scream or be afraid or resist, she was tumbled into a giant sack and tossed over a large shoulder.