gaisce: (Even Beasts can be human)
Flourishing Verdantly ([personal profile] gaisce) wrote2010-12-22 11:32 pm
Entry tags:

[Tangled] Who Knows You Best

Welp, I kind of stopped posting there for a while. Oops.

Title: Who Knows You Best
Series: Rapunzel also known as Tangled but whatever Disney, whatever!
Spoilers/warnings: Post-series. Deals with emotional abuse.
Wordcount: 1,394
Summary: A mirror shard and shorn hair are enough to finally free Rapunzel from her life in the tower, but not all ties are as easily cut.

When Rapunzel first arrives at the castle, she is lightheaded. The breakneck pace that Maximus keeps throughout their journey, the endless questions from the guards at every doorway, the tower steps, the joyful reunion; it surprises no one that all of this disorients her. When she sinks to her knees, the King and Queen are nearby to keep her steady. When she feels Eugene being pulled in to their makeshift hug, she feels relief.

It’s warm. Welcoming. Loving. They fit together very well. But it does not feel familiar.

Rapunzel finds other things to think about. She revels in her surroundings. After all, she spent her life in a tower, dreaming of the world beyond her window. There is so much to take in, so much time to make up for, so of course she would throw herself headlong into everything. The library is scoured, the garden walls are scaled, and even the prison towers are explored (although neither her parents nor Eugene are particularly eager to guide her through those passages).

The King and Queen—her parents—are gracious to every whim. Even the ones Rapunzel had no idea of before now. For someone who found cooking and sweeping to be a means of curing boredom, she is unused to the decadence of the palace. The first meal she has with her new—her true family—is one of celebration. A parade of servants pass by, the dishes served on golden plates that shine as brightly as her hair used to in the sunlight. Each one is delicious and tries to outdo its predecessor. Rapunzel tries them all, and soon forgets the taste of the one that came five servings before.

“This one was your mother’s favorite while she carried you,” the King says with a gentle laugh. “We thought she would give birth to a cabbage instead of a baby girl.”

Rapunzel nibbles at the leaves, finding it pleasant but wondering if they expect her to say something. Do something. Be something more in response. She finds herself waiting for the disappointment in their story, the expected denouement that they have her instead of the child they’ve lost.

“It’s delicious,” is all she can seem to say. And even then, who does it compliment?

“We’re happy you like it. Tell us, what is your favorite thing to eat, Rapunzel?” asks the Queen. “Tomorrow we’ll ask Cook to make it especially for you.”

The girl pauses, something halfway on her lips, but she swallows it with the rest of the meal. “I don’t know if I can remember. There are so many things I’ve never tried before! What do you call this anyway?” she diverts and points to something else with carved fruit and honey glaze, taking the conversation away from everything, especially hazelnut soup.

Sometimes Rapunzel feels her hand unconsciously straying, touching the nape of her neck. The lightheaded feeling returns, a weightlessness that comes without her hair. The King asks her once if she ever wanted to grow it out again but Rapunzel only shakes her head, marveling in how the bangs flutter against her cheek.

“It’s easier to take care of this way,” she supplies, even as the King dutifully sets a stray strand of hair behind her ear.

Learning how to be a princess takes up most of her free time, and it is exhausting but Rapunzel takes to it naturally. The people of the kingdom find it easy to love her. Endlessly entertained, fervently interested in everyone, she becomes a darling to soldier and ruffian alike.

Learning how to be a daughter to the King and Queen is the more difficult task, although they love her just as readily and just as much, if not more, than her subjects. But it is a different kind of love, she discovers. There are no books in the library to help her navigate these paths, not the way the maps and the globes work as they guide people to lands beyond the castle walls.

Even the nuances of conversation take some getting used to. She is used to shouting, desperately trying to be heard over smothering, silencing concerns. Here, the slightest whisper carries across the land and others listen. People not only believe in her abilities, they expect more from her than themselves. Whenever she interrupts—and she truly does not mean to, but she’s never really learned the proper etiquette of conversation—the other person quiets immediately.

If they are not listening, they are asking questions. The Queen most of all, and more than one person remarks that Rapunzel’s curiosity was inherited from her mother. Whenever Rapunzel strays, the Queen is first to ask her where she has gone, what she has done, everything she is willing to share. There is something familiar in the want, but its in eyes that are nothing like Gothel’s, and it is a gaze that never strays from her face.

Eugene stays by her side, helps her transition. Everyone likes to tease how Rapunzel has reformed the infamous Flynn Rider, but there is no gossip of how he has changed her. Most likely because nobody knows what Rapunzel was like before meeting him. Still, nobody denies how much they suit each other, and nobody doubts their future.

His first marriage proposal is perfect. On the eve of her nineteenth birthday he takes her out on a skiff and a lantern descends into her outstretched hands. She looks for the cause and finds that it is weighted down by a ring, perfect and golden.

She still turns him down.

To his credit, he does nothing more but remove the ring and release the lantern back into the sky. “Fair warning, Rapunzel, I don’t give up that easily.”

“I know,” she says, and is grateful for his determination.

She wants to explain why, but she can’t. Not really. All she knows is that she is certain about him, but in the past year she is beginning to doubt herself. The idealism is muddled now that she has more than she ever dared to dream of as a child, the surety lost amongst the varied choices between “do” or “do not.” And it feels selfish to want anything else. Selfish to want him in spite of everything that’s happened.

“I love you,” he whispers.

‘I love you more,’ she thinks automatically, but doesn’t say it. Instead she tells him, “I love you too.”

Three years later, she returns to the tower at last. She wakes up one random day and decides, almost on a whim, that it's finally time. The eager, stubborn girl who first marveled at the feeling of grass beneath her feet is much the same as the princess now, who laces her boots and yet still looks up at the sky with an undiminished admiration. She sets her crown aside and Maximus is there at the gate, fitted and ready to ride. He gallops straight to the spot without any directions. When they finally arrive, he uses his hooves to cut away the overgrowth that hides the entrance. The great war horse is unexpectedly gentle when he touches his nose to her shoulder in parting, and stands guard as she enters, his massive frame dwarfing the tunnel that once seemed very large.

Pascal follows on her shoulder, but scampers off as soon as she reaches the other side. When she turns around, she finds he has vanished in the expanse of meadow and there is too much greenery to find him. And she knows this is not the same as their old games of hide and seek. The chameleon is her oldest friend, but he also seems to understand that there are some places he cannot follow her.

She continues on, finding the tower in disrepair and the base of it covered with rose bushes. Flowers have run rampant in the absence of care. Rapunzel draws near, but not close enough to touch the stones or the plants encircling them. She is afraid, but the sharpness of the thorns is not what keeps her away.

The first words come out barely a whisper, so soft they do not catch the wind. Soon enough she is babbling, everything coming in a rush, as if this is the only chance she has to speak for the rest of her life. Eighteen years of deferred and unfinished thoughts burst free from her. When she has nothing more to say, she trails off, letting the last of her thoughts remain a tangled mess.

It is a poor, selfish eulogy, she thinks.

Her parting gesture is the song, the last memory she holds that somehow has not been marred, although when she starts she does not know for whose sake she acts. The healing incantation is something she sings to many injured and sick people in her kingdom, even though the only power left to it is the comfort her voice gives to the afflicted, the consolation that she is nearby.

“Flower, gleam and glow
Let your power shine
Make the clock reverse
Bring back what once was mine
What once was...”

The last note withers on her lips.

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