A/N: Whoo some cute fluff and stuff! Aaaaand, introduction of the next major plot! So please be kind, read and review and let me know what you think! I am thinking I'm gonna get up a few one shots soon, so keep an eye out for those too!

Exactly one week later, all of the festivities were finally over. After a long week of balls, banquets and dancing, I was exhausted, though thoroughly happy. It had been one amazing week, and not only had I learned a lot, but I had met so many people and made so many new friends. During the days I would go to classes and other royal duties, and by night I would go to all of the festivities to celebrate my return. I had been shocked at the excitement that had filled Corona, but now it made a bit more sense: they wanted hope and I guess I brought fresh hope to the city.

For the first time I had been home, storm clouds hung over the palace, threatening to precipitate upon the city below. As I sat in my world studies class, my eyes kept wandering out of the room, chancing as many glances as I could towards the sky. Eugene had promised to take me out on a boat today, just for an afternoon to ourselves, but it seemed as if our plans would have to change. I sighed and looked back towards my tutor, who was looking at me expectantly. "Err, Alagasia. They border us on the southwest, right?" I asked, blinking my large green eyes. The tutor smiled and nodded.

"Indeed, Princess! And they are known for their most exported goods, the fig!" I sighed and rested my chin on my hand, watching the large clock that was slowly ticking off the seconds I had left. Only fifteen minutes until I was done for the rest of the day. It wasn't that I didn't like world studies, it was just that I had been sitting in the same chair the past five hours, being passed from tutor to tutor, and now I was ready to be done. Finally my tutor sighed and closed his book. "Sadly that is all we have time for today, Princess. But tomorrow we are covering Bohm, and their history!" He said, excitement evident in his tone. I wrinkled my nose but forced a smile.

"Yes, of course sir," I said. I gave him a quick curtsy and grabbed my books before rushing out of the room, and ramming straight into… "Eugene!" I cried, smiling widely. He always seemed to know when he was needed most. He was still in his practice gear from training, I noted, and he had a large basket in hand. "What's that?" I asked as my fingers moved to lift the lid of the wicker container.

Eugene smirked and slapped my fingers away, and I pulled my hand back, slightly shocked at his reaction. "It's a surprise," he informed me as he started walking down the hall. "Are you coming?" He asked as he looked over his shoulder and noticed I wasn't following him.

I hurriedly caught up with him, an uncertain smile on my face. I had always loved surprises. When my mother had a surprise for me, it meant something new and exciting, and usually the same was true with Eugene. He smirked and looked down at me, wiggling his eyebrows as he did so. I furrowed my brow, still confused, but followed him quietly, my hands behind my back. As we walked through the hall I noticed that rain was starting to fall from the sky now. It fell in thick, grey sheets, and hit the windows with more force than I thought was possible. The loud patter echoed through the tall hall ceilings in a haunting way, much different than when I had been in my tower. Everything in here just felt so large and… hollow. I inched closer to Eugene, something he noticed, and he smiled and took my hand. I immediately felt better and my chest stopped constricting. I inhaled deeply as I realized where we were headed and a soft smile pulled up the corners of my lips.

We reached the library in silence and Eugene smiled down at me. "I figured since we couldn't go for that boat ride we could just have a day to ourselves. And I figured the library is the one place they would least expect us to be," he said with that smirk I had grown so fond of. I could feel my stomach doing its usual flopping business when he looked at me, and I could feel my cheeks flushing, so I immediately pushed open the doors and traipsed inside, going straight to the usual table where we sat. Eugene shook his head, though, and grabbed my hand. "Back this way," he nodded with his head towards the back of the library, the further parts I had yet to really explore. The library was vast, and I had to take it in sections. Sometimes my father would find me curled up at a table fast asleep in the late hours, since I had a bad habit of falling asleep while reading in here. I stopped for a moment, wondering where he was going, but hurriedly followed him around a bookshelf and…

And he was gone. I panicked for a moment, my eyes darting around and my hands instinctively reaching for something, anything to defend myself with. I heard Eugene laugh then, and looked over through the bookshelf. He was peeping at me between to large tomes, I noticed, and I let out a sigh and smiled weakly before hurrying after him. As I rounded the corner I stopped and my brow furrowed. A large cloth had been spread on the floor in front of a large window, and there were stacks of books surrounding the cloth, as if they had been pushed aside to make room. Eugene's basket sat open and I chewed my lip, looking from the cloth back to him. He walked over and sat down then, right in the middle of the cloth. He patted for me to come and sit beside him and I gingerly did so, arranging the skirts of my pale yellow gown around my legs. "What is the point of all of this?" I asked, my brow furrowed and a confused frown on my lips. He grinned in a boyish way, and it was contagious. My frown instantly turned into a grin, and I watched as he reached into his basket.

"A picnic. C'mon, you have to have had one of these, right?" He asked as he pulled some bread and chicken out and placed them on the ground. I frowned again and shook my head.

"A picnic?" I said the word, testing it out, and looked over at him, curious now. I scooted in a bit closer to him. His expression was one of shock and I rolled my eyes. "I never left my tower, remember?" I reminded Eugene sadly. It was the truth. Gothel had never taken me on a so called picnic, nor had she taken me for walks or let me go swimming or do any of the normal things girls my age had done.

"Right, right. Sometimes I just forget, sorry," he said with a sympathetic smile and a shrug. He handed me some bread, cheese and chicken all stacked together, sandwich style, and I took a delicate bite as my etiquette instructor had taught me. He smirked and watched me for a second before taking a rather large bit and chewing thoughtfully. Once he had swallowed he turned back to his basket and took out a book, which he handed to me. I looked curiously from him to the book, and my smile instinctively widened as my thin fingers ran over the title of the book. "The tales of Flynnigan Rider," it read. "I found it here, in this library the other day when I was waiting for you," he said with a wide smile. He took the book from me and flipped it open, his fingers lightly tracing the picture there. "It's the same copy I had. I mean, not the exact one I owned, but the same edition," he said softly. I smiled gently at him and rested my head on his shoulder as I took another bite of my sandwich.

"Will you read it to me?" I asked him meekly, my eyes looking up at him through long lashes. His gaze softened as his fingers came up to gently trace over my cheeks. I could feel my cheeks heating again, the blood rushing beneath my skin due to his touch, and the way his eyes looked at me… I couldn't explain the emotions there, but I knew that I liked it. I bit my lip and looked down, but his fingers cupped my chin and forced my gaze back upwards. I looked him in the eyes then, watching as he seemed to calculate something deep within those hazel eyes of his. I didn't… understand. None of it made sense. I wanted to stop right there and ask Eugene to explain the rushing of my blood and the fire in the pit of my stomach, but I felt like words were the wrong thing right now. Instead I pressed my lips together, inhaling slowly, feeling like any kind of movement was the wrong kind at this point in time. Eugene's fingers tenderly traced up my jaw line, almost as if he was memorizing the curves of my face. I licked my lips and opened my mouth as if to speak but he shook his head and put his finger over my lips.

"You don't always have to speak," He informed me softly. Lesson number one, I presumed. Eugene told me he would teach me everything I needed to know… was this one of those things? I nodded compliantly, watching as Eugene slowly closed the space between us, his lips finally meeting mine. I let my eyes slide closed, and held the kiss for a moment, but I was quickly running out of breath, and after a few seconds I pulled away, gasping for air. He smiled at me and rolled his eyes. "Breathe through your nose," he instructed. Puzzled I looked up at him and took in a deep breath. That would solve one of the problems. I inhaled deeply once more, trying to calm my racing heart. A warm feeling was spreading from the pit of my stomach through my limbs and I looked at Eugene curiously.

I took his hand in mine, and pressed it against my chest, where my heart was. He looked at me curiously, his fingers tense as I pressed them against my gown and skin. "Why is it doing that?" I asked him, still a bit breathless.

"Doing what?" He asked.

"Pounding. Can't you feel it?" I urged him. I moved his hand away and placed my smaller one in it's spot. I could feel my heart throbbing inside of me, and furrowed my brow. I didn't understand why he made me feel so… the word escaped me. He just made me feel so different than I ever had felt in my entire life. It was understandable, since the only love I had felt was for my mother, and I didn't feel the same about her as I did about Eugene. I inhaled and exhaled in frustration.

"What's wrong?" Eugene asked, picking up my aggravation as I scooted back from him and frowned, my eyes focused on my hands. He grabbed my hands, taking them in his own, and brought my chin up with his other hand, forcing me to look him in the eyes.

I sighed and glanced the other way, hiding the frustrated tears that threatened to pour out. "I… I just don't understand," I told him weakly. The tears that had threatened to spill finally poured over, slowly streaking down my cheeks. As his thumb gently brushed them away I made no move to avoid his contact this time. I was too focused on trying to understand. It was like I was a child again, trying to stand up on my own two feet, but falling down every time I almost had it. I could feel all of these things, but they were just so new and so strong and even when I thought I understood, I discovered there was a whole new facet to that emotion. Like a few days ago, when I had seen Eugene dancing in the square. He'd been with the townsfolk, who had surprisingly taken a liking to him, and he'd been waiting on me, but had been dragged into the dance before I'd even made my entrance. A girl with lovely, flowing hair and bright green eyes had held his hands, and I'd found that I was clenching my fists in anger and… something else. I had come to the realization that it was jealousy, something I had inferred as I had watched them spin once more then bow and curtsey as the song ended. I remembered the burning of my cheeks, the way I avoided his gaze, looking down only at the ground as I tried to remind myself that it wasn't Eugene's fault, he was only enjoying himself. But I didn't want anyone else to make him feel the way he made me feel. And what if that girl had done just that?

Eugene's strong arms took me by surprise as he pulled me in close to him. It was like he could read my mind sometimes, because he always knew how to handle situations like these. For a moment we just sat there, still as stone, the only sound the slow whoosh of our breathing and my occasional sniffle. I needed to let all of these emotions settle again, but that wasn't possible. Whenever Eugene was this close, it was not possible for anything to settle. I sighed against his chest and shifted my weight, reorganizing myself. I was seated on his lap now, my cheek resting against his shoulder, my arms encircling him as he held me close. I felt a soft sigh ripple through his chest and as I shifted again, his body tensed for a moment. He slowly released his muscles of their tension as I sat back, my eyes searching out his. His expression seemed almost as confused as I felt, and under his careful scrutiny, I felt my cheeks blush a rosy shade, and I became even more aware of his one arm wrapped around my waist, the other which was running slow, curving lines up my forearm, then back down, then up. Each stroke left a new line of fire, followed by chilling goose bumps, which were slowly spreading over my whole body. It only added to the confusion.

My mind was trying to form a sentence, to break the tension I could feel slowly rising between us. Before I could speak, though, Eugene had pulled me in so close to him I could feel the warmth of his breath against my lips. The look in his eyes had changed from confusion to something new, something more… intense. I couldn't put words to it even as I tried. Before I could calculate further, his lips mashed against mine in a way that was much more forceful than what I was used to. After the shock of his aggression sunk in, I let myself relax into him. My arms timidly wound around his neck as his snaked around my waist, pulling me closer against him. Our kisses were always so light and innocent that something of this passion took me off guard. I didn't know what to do or how to react, but I did know that the fire that was usually contained to my stomach was spreading through my veins, driving me and urging me for more. More what, though, I was unsure.

The feel of Eugene's fingers tracing up my side made me gasp, and he smirked, squeezing me closer as if to meld us into one being. I found myself slightly shocked, as my body seemed to take the lead, pushing myself closer to him and knocking him backwards onto the blanket, sending a stack of books flying. I giggled quietly against Eugene's lips, and he responded with a smirk and a playful kiss pressed against the nape of my neck. This discovery of a new soft spot sent a shiver through my body, and a slight 'Oh!' escaped my lips as Eugene tightened his grip on me. We laid there for a second, absorbing our situation, relishing the electrified silence. I didn't understand, and I figured it would take some time, but in the long run, it would be worth it. He would just have to be patient was all.

I rested my hands on Eugene's chest, folding them properly as I had been taught. He was on his back now, and I was on top of him, and I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that if someone were to come in right now, I would be in deep trouble. Eugene had propped his head up on one hand while the other was absently brushing through my hair, tracing over my skin, and just touching me, as if he planned on memorizing every contour of my body. "Tell me a story," I murmured as I watched the rain slide down the glass. Eugene smirked and nodded, and before long, we were immersed in a world of adventure.

The spark that ignited in Eugene's eyes was one that made my heart light. His love for adventure was obvious in the verve with which he told his stories. Some of them were personal adventures he'd taken through his life, and others were ones he consulted the Flynnigan Rider book for. I sat on Eugene's lap, my head resting on his shoulder and my eyes trained on his face, and he held me close, using one hand to paint his tales while the other stayed securely around my waist. "… and that was when the chef heard us out back and ran us all out," Eugene finished up his story, chuckling lightly. I giggled as well, smiling up at him, before placing a soft kiss on his neck. "Then there was the time I stole a woman's pearl necklace, only to give it to her a week later without her ever realizing it was gone," he chuckled again and I scoffed, but it was playful. Everyone knew that Eugene was a wanted thief, and in some people's eyes, that would never change. It didn't matter all that much to me, though. Eugene was the man who had saved me and taken me home to my lost family. No one could ever tell me a story that would erase one memory from my mind: the night he took me to see the lanterns. That one night erased millions of stories about him being a thief, easily. A bad man wouldn't waste his day taking a silly girl to see some stupid lanterns, not if he truly didn't care.

"What about you, Blondie?" His voice pulled be back from my memories and my brow furrowed.

"What do you mean?"

"Got any stories from that tower of yours?" Eugene quizzically arched one eyebrow and I fidgeted in his lap. Eugene and I made a point of not talking about the tower. It brought back all of those horrible memories, and I hated thinking about it. What I hadn't thought about in the longest time, though, was memories before that birthday, before I knew Eugene, or Flynn Rider as he had been called at the time. I chewed my lip as he brushed some rogue hairs from my eyes.

"Every day was always the same… wake up, clean, read, paint, cook, sew… I don't really have any stories that differ from that…" I informed him, my breath hitching. We were silent for a moment, and I could feel his eyes on me. It was almost as if he felt sympathetic. There was so much I hadn't done. I looked out the window for a moment, then back at Eugene.

"So… you never went swimming?" I shook my head. "No snowball fights?" Another head shake. "Or playing in the rain?" I shrugged. The days were always the same in the tower. Mother never let me out, and I never asked until I was old enough to realize. Without warning, Eugene had maneuvered himself up off the ground and pulled me up as well. There was that smirk of his that I loved so much and knew so well. It meant he was up to something. "C'mon," he said as he pulled on my hand, leaving the picnic basket there on the floor.

"Where are we going?" I asked breathlessly as we quickly maneuvered through the halls. Both of us were learning our way around here rather well, and when Eugene stopped at a side door, one that was used by the guards to go out to the training quarters, I looked questioningly at him. He wiggled his eyebrows and pushed the door open, revealing the soaking wet outside. I grimaced for a moment before looking up at him. "I don't understand…"

"C'mon, Blondie! I'm just helping fill in all those childhood memories you don't have. Every kid played in the rain, it's fun! And relaxing!" He bent over then and pulled off his boots as well as rolled off his trousers to right above the knee. Next he stacked his jacket on top of his boots, leaving him in his crisp white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbow. I frowned and nervously kicked off my shoes as well, looking down at my pretty yellow gown. It was as if he could read my mind. "Don't worry about the dress, they can clean it," he said as his finger gently stroked my cheek. A small shiver ran down my spine and I watched as Eugene stepped out into the pouring rain, then reached in to pull me out as well.

The first few drops that landed on the crown of my head were cold and sent a wave of goosebumps across my skin, and as they drizzled down my scalp, tickling my flesh, I couldn't help but let out a small giggle. The back courtyard was completely empty except the two of us, and Eugene was already skipping off ahead of me, making a point of splashing in every mud puddle that crossed his path. "Are you coming?" He teased from a distance. His shirt was already soaked through, for the rain was coming down pretty hard already, and I could feel the water slowly seeping through the thicker fabric of my dress. Smiling widely at Eugene's silly grin, I gathered my skirts in my hands and skipped after him, dancing through the puddles and making a point of splashing through the mud. It spattered my pale legs, and my feet were already covered, and I couldn't help but laugh as I stopped for a moment, dropped my skirts, and extended my arms, palms up. The water felt soothing, as if it were washing away any fears or worries I might have. I spun around then, quite a few times, my eyes closed and my face upturned towards the gray clouds. It was almost like a silly dance. I stopped spinning and opened my eyes, a wide grin on my face. The whole world was spinning around me and I stumbled a few steps, falling into Eugene. He held me up, chuckling softly and ruffling my short brown locks before he showered my face in a few soft, wet kisses. I giggled and pulled back, kicking a little bit of mud up over his toes. His response was to pull me in closer and dip me in a way that mimicked a dance move, before swinging me back up and pressing another wet kiss against my lips. I leaned into him as he swung me around in a big circle, and giggled as I was once against set on my feet. Almost as soon as his lips found mine once more, though, a loud, very obvious snort cut through the sound of the dripping rain, and both of our heads turned as if we'd been caught in some horrible act.

A very wet, slightly muddy Maximus was standing directly beside us, looking as cross as ever. I giggled and lowered myself off of my tip toes before turning to stroke Max's muzzle. He pulled away and snorted, his eyes still glaring at Eugene who was rolling his eyes. "We were behaving ourselves," Eugene informed Maximus whose ears immediately pinned back. It was obvious the palace guard didn't trust Eugene. "Fine, fine. We'll go back to the castle. It's close to dinner time anyways," Eugene mumbled the last part, and before I could complain, he'd scooped me up in his arms, muddy dress and all, and we were trudging back towards the castle, whose warm light was seeping through the windows. I did have to admit, the idea of sitting out drying in front of a fire sounded almost perfect right now.

At dinner that night, my mother seemed cross and my father put off. They were both quiet, something that was unusual, and left Eugene and I to ourselves as we conversed about the difference between normal horses and Max, and how annoying Eugene found it that the horse always seemed to know where he was. S soon as the last course had left the table, my father pushed his chair back and both my mother and I stood, but he waved us off. "Eugene, could I have a word in my office?" He asked in a rather flat tone. I furrowed my brows, as did my mother, and Eugene looked haltingly from me to my mother and back to my father. It wasn't that the king hated him, it was just that we all felt my father was testing Eugene every time he spoke to him or gave him a task to do. Eugene had proved himself more than once, but it almost seemed as if my father didn't want to accept him and have to give me up as soon as he'd gotten me back. I nervously chewed on my lip as the men filed out, and looked to my mother. She just shook her head and stood as well, stalking out of the room and heading towards her chambers, I assumed.

I thought about following after my mother and asking for an explanation, but she seemed to cross at this current time, so instead I headed for my bedroom. Marietta was already there with a fire going when I arrived, and she smiled up at me from her chair where she had been stitching up a tear in one of my gowns. I greeted her warmly before heading over to my paint box, because at this point in time painting seemed like the best thing to do. We each went about our task in silence, before I turned to her with a curious expression on my face. "Marietta, have you ever been in love?" I asked her as I added a bit more paint to the flowers I was adding in to the growing scene on my wall.

The blonde looked up at me before answering. "Only once, princess," She told me as she went back to her sewing.

"What was it like?" I prompted. Marietta sighed and set her needle down as she looked thoughtfully into the fire. I'd changed into a fresh gown before dinner, but the fire's heat felt nice as it warmed the room, removing the last traces of cold the rain had left in my body.

"It's different for everyone, princess," She said with a sigh. I frowned and turned back to my painting, wondering how that was possible. If it was different for everyone, how did anyone even know when it was true? I was about to ask this exact question when there was a knock on the door. Eugene didn't even bother for an invite in, and immediately stalked over to the fire where he stood, his hands on his hips, staring absently into the flames that licked at the dry logs. Marietta didn't wait to be asked and instead took her leave, looking between us before silently pulling the door shut. I immediately stepped over to Eugene and took his hand in mine.

"What's wrong?" I asked softly as I pulled him to face me. He sighed and looked back into the flames. "Why was my father and mother so mad?" I added on quietly. He sighed again and finally looked at me, calculating how to say the words he was obviously thinking.

His fingers gently traced along my cheek as his lips opened. "We're going on another adventure," He told me with a slight smile. I gave him a questioning look and he smiled a bit wider. "We're going to go to one of the neighboring kingdoms, they want to visit with you and meet Corona's future ruler. And I'm going to be one of the guards protecting you," He added with a small smile.

So another another adventure? I felt the excitement course through me. It would be nice to get out of these walls and be back in the wonderful outdoors. I let out an excited squeal and threw my arms around him. "It will be just like our last!" I told him. Eugene didn't seem as thrilled about the idea as I was.