Summary: On the way from the tower to Castle Corona, Rapunzel is injured for the first time without her hair. Eugene is there to help.
Word Count: 1,738
Author’s Notes: I had lots of fun writing this!
“Rapunzel,” Eugene queried for the umpteenth time, “are you sure riding Maximus like that is safest?”
The newly-brunette girl peered down from her seat on the tall battle-horse. She rolled her eyes and smiled, green eyes crinkling against slightly sunburnt cheeks. “Eugene, what other way am I supposed to ride him? Would you rather me sit backwards?” She swung her feet up like she was ready to flip herself in the saddle. Eugene barely subdued a surprised yelp into a breathy hiss, and extended both hands to catch the slender girl. She laughed and settled back down on the great white beast.
Eugene was too tired, too worried to keep his laid-back Flynn persona. He pleaded, “Goldie, please don’t do something like that. I remember falling off the first time I rode a horse,” he winced when he realized how un-Flynn that sounded. “ …and I don’t think you’d want to meet your birthparents with a black eye, would you?”
Rapunzel’s smile stayed. “Eugene, I have done way more dangerous things than simply riding a horse, and you know that. And besides, Maximus would never buck me. He’s a good horse.” She punctuated the last sentence by scratching right behind Maximus’s ears. The Captain’s horse grumbled in pleasure at her touch.
Eugene didn’t realize how tightly knit together his eyebrows were. He unclenched them, the pressure in his head lifted somewhat, and returned Rapunzel’s grin. She faced forward and wrapped her arms around the horse’s neck, leaning her chin on his large head. “What will I say?” She asked, partially to herself and partially to Eugene. “You know, when I meet them? What will I do?”
The former thief shifted his satchel on his shoulder. He passed a hand over his face and into his hair, hand slick with sweat. “Not sure,” he replied coolly. It was a moment before he realized Rapunzel was looking straight at him. She needed more clarity, more reassurance than he thought he could offer. “I mean, maybe you won’t have to say anything. I don’t know whether you’ll be able to speak out of turn in their presence, anyway, because they are royalty. And I guess you aren’t until they announce you as their daughter.”
The tiny girl wound a thin strand of hair around her forefinger. “Maybe,” her dark, thick lashes fell low, “maybe they’ll just know that it’s me. Maybe real mothers have a sort of bond to daughters that—that they can just feel.” Eugene cringed inwardly as she said “real mothers” with such longing and something that may have been remorse.
“I think that’s right.” His words lifted her head and heart. Her eyes widened when they met his, as if to say, Really? He saw the question in the movement and nodded. “I’ve seen portraits of the Queen, and she looks remarkably like you. I think the King may see the resemblance and know, but the Queen will feel something deeper.” He tried and failed not to be way too sensitive about this topic. “I believe she’ll see you, and have this feeling, this instinct that you’re hers. And, hey, who knows? Maybe you’ll feel the same.”
Those green eyes brimmed with such hope and happiness, and they were aimed straight for Eugene. The lightest of all blushes touched his cheeks. Rapunzel’s thinly pressed lips broke form and morphed into the widest grin she had possibly ever made. Instead of maybe jumping off Maximus and hugging him, which she had already done a few times, she twirled the reigns around soft hands and yanked slapped them once. Her bare heels plowed into Maximus’s sides. “Castle Corona, here we come!” She whooped. The sudden sound of Maximus neighing and shooting through the forest combined with her outburst made birds flock from trees and animals scurry out of the way of the deadly duo.
“Hey!” Was all Eugene could shout before he found his feet carrying him through the half-blazed forest trail. Gnats and bees spattered his face as he ran; branches whipped and dust clouded by his boots. He could only just hear the clopping of hooves and excited laughter through his heavy footfall and equally heavy breathing. Years spent running from the Castle Guard had formed and excellent and agile runner out of the man, but he was hardly match for a battle-horse galloping at full speed. He didn’t even want to think about how fast Maximus was running with Rapunzel at the reigns.
It was only a few more seconds of running until he heard a crazed, pained scream and the hoof beats ceased. His breath stopped momentarily and his hands balled into tight fists as panic seeped through every vein of his body. He wanted his feet to go faster than they were; he wanted it more than anything. Every worst-case-scenario played through his mind like a musical theatre, complete with front-row seats and an echoing arena.
When he finally sees her, Eugene stops and goes through a mental checklist of the pros and cons of the situation. She is alive: good. She is bleeding from a large cut on her right arm: bad. She is conscious: good. Maximus is there: good. She is crying: bad. It takes a bit for him to realize that she isn’t only just crying, but she is singing, too. She’s singing her flower song, and doing this weird gesture with her hands. Rapunzel has her injured arm pressed against one of her legs, and is stroking the leg. She strokes from her leg, to her arm, then back to her leg, then to her arm. His eyes narrowed and his mouth hangs only slightly ajar.
Was Rapunzel trying to heal herself with her leg hair?
Eugene was quick to be at her side, cradling the girl. She finishes the last verse of the song, but doesn’t open her eyes. Tears dapple her eyelashes and cheeks and chin. “Hey,” he crooned, pulling her tighter. “Hey, Goldie. It’s gonna be okay.”
She sniffled and cracked her eyelids open. Eugene presses a hand, softly, to her cheek. He turns her head so she is looking straight at him. “What happened?”
Rapunzel’s voice is surprisingly clear for one who’s been sobbing. “I—I tried to push myself up, on my knees, like—” She made an attempt to kneel and rise up, but ended up crashing back onto Eugene with a small grunt. “But did that, just that, and now,” Rapunzel rose her arm to show Eugene how the rest of the story went.
He frowned. “Well, you’re in luck.” She slung his satchel off one shoulder and into his palm. Rapunzel shifted in his lap. “You just fell into the office of Eugene the Physician!”
Rapunzel giggled in spite or her lessening tears. “Really?” She wiped her nose and tried to clear her eyes of excess water when he nodded. “Oh, in that case,” she announced, “I guess I shouldn’t be worried.” She batted her lashes playfully up at him.
He kept a straight face. “You bet. Some people leave this office in better condition than the King himself!” He began to dig through the various bottles and pouches that composed the innards of his bag. “Now, normally I charge a hefty fine for such care. But I think I can do a favor for a fine young lady such as yourself.”
“Oh, I bet you say that to all the women,” Rapunzel remarked and tossed her head to the side frivolously, an act that was probably much more grand with seventy feet of hair.
Eugene chuckled and dug out a small strip of cloth, which he dabbed on Rapunzel’s long cut. She sucked in a gasp. Her teeth dug into her bottom lip at the sting of it. When he finished, she kept it to her arm to stanch the flow. He brushed her hand away from the cut and opened a small pouch. He bent forward to rub the contents into the wound, when she snatched it from his suddenly. “Wha-” he stammered.
Rapunzel took a deep whiff of the inside of the little bag. “What do you think you were going to do with this?” She said accusingly, shaking the pouch gently. He blinked. “Use it on your cut,” came the plain response.
She shook her head and murmured, “Tut-tut.” The bag was shaken once more. “Eugene. This is basil. Commonly used as an aphrodisiac? Definitely not something to be jamming into my bleeding arm.”
Eugene blinked once more. “Sorry? I didn’t know you knew so much about herbs.” He watched while Rapunzel took it upon herself to rifle through his satchel and select useful items.
“The only few books I had in the tower were either about cooking, astrology, math, or plant life. After eighteen years of reading that same plant book every day, I think you should be the one calling me the Physician.” She dipped her finger in a bottle of salve and sucked it clean. “This is yarrow, isn’t it? Good.” Rapunzel then instructed Flynn on the correct usage of wild herbs and nature, and what to use to correctly stop infection, and how to properly make a sorrel root balm instead of whatever it was he had, and maybe he would have less scars everywhere if he knew how to do all this right.
In minutes she had her wound cleaned, treated, and wrapped in a tight white bandage. “There,” she stated, pleased with her work. “That’ll heal nice and quick.”
Eugene had to admit that he, the notorious thief, famous for his cunning ability to escape any dire situation, was impressed by this slip of a girl before him. “Looks good,” he remarked.
“Thanks,” she replied. “I hoped it would. If I’m going to have to rely on things like plants and bandages instead of my hair, then I need to be the best at this I possibly can be.”
“Getting injured less would probably help, too,” Eugene suggested while he stooped to pick up his satchel. When he turned, Rapunzel was already on Maximus.
She spoke before he could protest. “Getting less injuries results from learning from my mistakes. Because, even though I want to make Maximus run the whole way to the Castle until his legs collapse, I’m not going to.” She spoke with such certainty and pride that Eugene could do nothing but smirk and agree.
“Whatever you say, Princess.”