Rapunzel admired the night sky, even while still rattled from her mother's confrontation earlier, the sure enormity of the world around her dwarfed any worry in her mind. She compared the stars above her to the mental image of the roof chart left in her tower as she absentmindedly ran her finger's along Pascal's scales as the tiny chameleon slept.
Across from her, Eugene focused on picking at their campfire with a stick. He had sensed her uneasiness after he returned with the firewood, and had attempted to lighten the mood, but to no avail. He wasn't good with women, mostly because he never stuck around long enough to make friends or really to converse at all. In an attempt to not feel completely useless, he became the self-nominated Master of the Campfire.
But the job was boring, and things were starting to grow awkward.
He suddenly remembered something he had picked up during their trip, and reached into his side pouch to pull out a dark bottle of liquor. From across the campfire he noticed Rapunzel perk up in curiosity as he took a quick sip.
"Want some?" he offered, shaking the bottle in her general direction.
"What is it?"
"It's…consider it a parting gift from your friends at the Snuggly Duckling."
Rapunzel took hold of the bottle examining its contents. Unscrewing the cap, she wafted the strong stench of the booze, making a face.
"It smells weird."
"Yeah, it may not be your cup of tea, Blondie," he paused, coming to his senses. "Actually, you're only a kid. You shouldn't be drinking that stuff."
"I'm not a kid," she protested, holding the bottle from his reach. "Tomorrow I'll be eighteen, you know."
"Ah, all right," he chuckled, throwing his hands in the air in defeat. "Just don't blame me if you feel sick on your birthday."
Eyeing Eugene and then the bottle suspiciously, she took a quick swig before erupting into a fit of coughing.
Scurrying to her side, he gently patted her back.
"Easy there, tiger," he laughed humorlessly, "I told you its tough."
"Why would anyone drink that?" she managed between coughs. "It's terrible!"
"Eh, it's an acquired taste," he smirked, his hand lingering on her back. "Plus, it's more of a means to an end. If you know what I mean."
Her blank face and blinking eyes proved that she didn't.
"Anyway," he said, gingerly taking the bottle away from her before taking another drink. "You've only been out of that tower for a day, and already I feel like I'm corrupting you."
"Pfft, yeah right," she laughed, taking the bottle back and giving it another try. It was still terrible, but she managed to hold back a cough this time. "Everything I do, I do because I want to… and not because the swashbuckling Flynn Rider corrupts me."
"You sure? I've been told I can be rather…persuasive."
"Oh, you know… the those other crazy blondes I've guided from towers. Not to mention, they all could not believe there were men in the world as handsome as moi!"
"You are a means to end, Mr. Fitzherbert," she laughed, taking the bottle back, secretly enjoying sharing something with him.
"Ouch," he rested his head in his hand as he faced her, the light of their campfire flickering bits of gold on her face. "Just as you were beginning to grow on me, you go and wound my pride like that."
Taking him seriously, her smiled dropped. He waved her apologizes away with his hand and another humorless chuckle, "Don't worry, Blondie. I remember the deal, you get your lanterns and I get my satchel. Fair trade, right?"
"Yeah," she mumbled, taking a long sip from the bottle, her eyes focused on the log which hid Eugene's satchel. "Fair trade."
Their night continued much of the same, however, after a while Eugene's eyes appeared glassy and his eyelids heavy. He was also smiling a lot more, a lazy, sleepy smile. She asked if he was all right, afraid that the terrible contents of their bottle was making him ill.
"Nah," he shrugged, the last syllable of the word held for emphasis. "I'm fine! But you… you Blondie… I mean, dang! I totally would've pegged ya for a lightweight, but I've never seen a girl hold her liquor like that!"
"Like what?" she asked, confused. "I don't feel any different."
"That's what I mean! Hm…" he placed a hand on his chin, "Maybe… maybe 'cus of your hair…"
"Yeah, I mean, I'm not a doctor…or wizard…or whoever's the expert on magical glowy healy hair," he said, pushing a stray strand behind her ear. "But…it could be what's keeping you sober."
"R-really?" she stammered as he leaned in closer to examine a lock that rested on her shoulder. As his hand brushed against her skin, her entire body stiffened.
Pulling away quickly, he murmured something under his breath that Rapunzel couldn't quite catch before finishing off the contents of their bottle. An uncomfortable silence blossomed between them, which Rapunzel nipped in its bud.
"Do… do you think it's midnight yet?"
"Probably past it, to be honest."
"So… it's tomorrow?"
"You could say that."
"Then it's my birthday," she said quietly, trying to hide her excitement in the volume of her voice. In the corner of corner of his eye, Eugene saw her shake her tiny fist in celebration. "Happy Birthday to me!"
Her cuteness was too much; she wasn't even aware of the kind of power she could hold over people… over him. He laughed throatily as she giggled at her own immaturity.
"Sorry," she managed between giggles. "That was a bit kiddie, huh?"
"Yeah, but it's fine," he managed between his own laughter. He knew the hilarity of the situation was probably amplified by the booze, but he couldn't bring himself to care. It took a while, but their laughter eventually died down. The only noises heard where the sound of the riverbank at night and Pascal's tiny snoring.
The sentence was cut short when he noticed their closeness. In his drunken stupidity he had underestimated their distance, only noticing their intimacy when they both turned towards each other. Their noses were practically touching, and he was sure she could taste the familiar scent of alcohol on his breath.
Though he was the drunk one, it was Rapunzel's impulse that propelled her forward, closing the space between them with an inexperienced, but energetic kiss.
It took his mind a moment to process what was happening, but he soon regained his bearings and took hold of the situation. Tilting her head to the side he moved his lips against hers, relaxing them from their originally puckered pose.
She was just getting the hang of it, when he tentatively opened his mouth against hers in an attempt to deepen the kiss. His actions were well rewarded as she mimicked his actions quickly, catching on fast. When he darted his tongue into her mouth, she squeaked in surprise.
Eugene nearly pulled away, but her hands clung to his vest, consistently pulling him closer, trapping him. Growing brave, her tongue instantly met with his own. As the kiss intensified, so did their actions. Her hands had at some point traveled up his back and were tangled in his hair. Marveling in its softness, she lightly scratched and massaged his scalp, while Eugene's grip around her waist tightened possessively.
They breathed heavily through their noses, both not wanting to break away, afraid they would never retrieve the moment again. He couldn't, however, help but let out a moan into the kiss when her wandering fingers found a particularly sensitive spot at the base of his hairline.
She broke away briefly to sigh his name - his real name - and through his clouded mind he managed to process that she was the first girl to ever moan that name. It was enough to set his veins on fire, as he hungrily captured her lips again.
Then it hit him.
Like a stab in the gut, the unfamiliar feeling of guilt consumed him, sobering him quickly.
What was wrong with him? This girl, this insane but beautiful girl, was held captive for nearly two decades and he makes a move on her?
He broke their kiss slowly, not wanting her to feel any form of rejection. She was breathless, confused and gorgeous under the midnight sky. He watched as she tentatively touched her kiss swollen lips, and it took every once of willpower he had not to continue where they left off.
In comparison to most of the dissolute things he's done in his life, it really wasn't that bad, but none of them made him feel so… despicable. He swallowed hard when she asked him what was wrong, and he did what he always did in sticky situations.
"I don't feel so hot, Blondie," he groaned, holding his head both for his act, and to avoid her face. "I guess I'm bit more tipsy than I thought."
"Oh… um… do you want to lay down?" she offered uncomfortably, then took a strand of her hair in her hand. "Or maybe…"
"No," he refused, gently pushing her hand down. "That's okay, I think I should just lay down. We had a long day today, you know… almost dying and all that."
"Yeah," she said still awkward and baffled. She watched as he scooted away and curled into an uncomfortable looking ball on the opposite side of the campfire.
Eugene turned to watch her create a makeshift bed with her hair, in both awe and amusement. She really was something else. Taking an extra strand, she covered the still sleeping chameleon, before turning to him and smiling softly.
"No," his voice cracked slightly, causing him to clear his throat. "No, I'm good."
"Okay," she let out a sigh that he wasn't sure was from fatigue or dejection. "Goodnight, Eugene."
"Night, birthday girl."
From his spot on the ground, the thought of the sunny island of wealth that was within his reach. It was a fantasy that seemed so liberating that morning, but now he couldn't ignore the bitter aftertaste it presented.
Closing his eyes tightly, he tried to force sleep to come, as if his body would somehow take pity on his confronted feelings. He just had to keep reminding himself that they had a deal… and falling in love with her was definitely not part of it.
He was selfish however, and as he listened to the evening of her breathing as she slept, his mind raced with possibilities and hypothetical circumstances where he could have both the crown and the girl.