Varian was so young when his mother died. But he did remember her. He remembered that she had been very sick lately, but his very young mind could never have known how close she was to leaving him.
Dad had exhausted himself and had fallen asleep downstairs, so Varian had decided on that particular evening that he would help Mum tonight for Dad. He saw his Mum resting on her bed as usual when he crept into the room. She was so terribly pale. Her breathing was raspy, or crusty sounding as the child would have said if asked.
Dad had said not to get too close to Mum or else he might be sick too, so Varian stayed a ways back from Mums bed, hoping he’d been quiet enough not to wake her up.
He had not.
“Varian... Come over here please.”
Varian obeyed despite his fathers previous warnings. The hoarse voice of his mother left a lump in his throat as he remembered how she used to sound before the sickness. When she would sing her lullabies to him.
“Oh my baby boy...” She coughed a few times before continuing.
“I’m going to have to leave soon...”
Varian felt his eyes blur. “Mum. Mummy no, you have to stay with us! Why would you want to leave? Did I do something bad?”
Her eyes crinkled with pain at his questions.
“Of course not little one, and I don’t want to leave. You didn’t do anything wrong... But I’ll have to leave soon.”
“Where are you going? Will you come back?”
The little boys lip was shaking as his mothers hand reached out to him weakly.
“I’m going to a place filled with stars. Where the sun and moon will be together again one day... I won’t be able to come back to you, but you’ll come to me someday...” She said this with such assurance that Varian didn’t know how to say that he didn’t understand.
She quickly turned her head away and began coughing harder again. Varian pressed his hands against his ears.
He didn’t want to hear this! He didn’t want to hear Mum so sick! He began sobbing to himself. Lips still trembling. He didn’t want to hear Mummy saying the things she was!
But he was frozen. As much as part of him wanted to run, he was rooted to this floor. His Mum still had things to say.
The coughing quieted, but Varian could see a bit of red that she was quickly wiping away.
She turned back to him with a small weary smile.
“Varian, I know you’re going to do great things one day. And I’ll be watching for you... I’ll be watching for when you take your place among the stars.”
Mum suddenly was hacking harshly once again. Tears spilled down Varíans cheeks. What should he do?? He didn’t know what to do!! The red was coming out of her mouth when she coughed. He wanted to cry out for Daddy to come and help, but his voice didn’t seem to be working right now.
Mums coughing calmed down a little, but she had stopped bothering to try to hide the red that was on her face and hand. Instead, she opted to try speaking a little more, though it was harder to understand her voice now, and she seemed so much more tired.
“Varian... I lo-... I love you...”
Varian seemed to find his voice again.
“Mum. I love you too Mum... Mum, are you sleeping?”
Indeed, it looked like his mother was asleep, but after all the coughing and red, Varian had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. Her rasping had stopped.
He began pushing her a little. She should wake up, Daddy would help her feel better. He would go get him. She just needs to wake up.
Varían wasn’t aware that he was speaking out loud until he was almost shouting.
“Wake up! Wake UP Mum! I can go get Dad! Wake up!” Varíans whole face was wet as he sobbed, and his legs could barely keep him up as they trembled.
“Mummy! MUMMY!! .... DAD! DA-AD! DADDYY!!!”
Varian was screaming now. His vision was tunnelled so he only saw his mother. His mother and the red on her sheets and pillow. His mother and the red. His mother. The red. Varians breathing became short and panicked. His head felt light, he couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t breathe.
He barely heard the shout of his father before everything went black as he fainted.
Wind whipped through his hair as he sprinted through the streets in the dead of night. His heart pounded painfully in his chest as he pushed his body harder and harder. Once or twice he had crashed into a wall before changing direction.
He supposed maybe this wasn’t his most brilliant idea ever; running around Corona chasing a giant hot air balloon that could send this kingdom to Kingdom Come. But he wasn’t focusing on that right now.
He let out a horrified cry as the night sky lit up in what would have been a dazzling display in other circumstances, the ship was now nothing but a massive cloud of vivid green. He panting was harsh against his dry throat, but he didn’t let himself slow down for a moment, lest he be unable to continue.
Please be ok please be ok don’t let someone else pay because of me!
Varian had cried out when Rapunzel came into view. She was alive, and was unharmed from the looks of it. He almost collapsed with relief at the fact that another person had not been killed for his mistakes.
He stumbled to a stop a little ways away from her and Eugene, completely out of breath now that he’d caught up to them. His body found the wall to lean on for support. He had been running after the balloon since the princess had yo-yoed him down from it, and after the year and a half of either being alone, in prison, or trying to keep up with Andrews demands, he was admittedly not in the best shape.
The princess was running over as soon as she caught sight of him, but she seemed a bit hesitant now. Now that the kingdom-wide threat had been neutralized, neither of them knew exactly how to treat each other.
Despite his panting he tried to give her the tiniest of smiles in attempt to ease over the awkwardness of the situation. He knew though, that she no longer ‘needed’ him as she had put it.
“Y-you’re... o-kay!” He managed to gasp out between his breaths. “Don’t ever do that- again!”
She seemed a little confused, but also concerned. She reached out to him slightly, but didn’t touch him.
“What do you mean? Varian, are you ok??”
“Y-you can’t do that again! The quirinium, the- I-I could have killed you! You can’t do that again!”
Varian couldn’t stop himself from shaking now, no matter how hard he tried. He hadn’t wanted her to see him like this. How pathetic he must look right now. She had every right to hate his guts.
• • • • •
Rapunzel was shocked, speechless for a moment. This was the boy who had once tried to murder her and others for the sake of his pain and anger. And now, here he was; looking like he was about to pass out from the panic he had endured when he thought that she would die from one of his inventions.
If there was any lingering doubts that he had changed, they were all swept away now. This Varian was different than the one she had left behind, but he still needed the same things as last time she had seen him.
He needed help. He needed someone to be there for him now. He needed someone to push him in the right direction. And even after everything that had happened between them, she resolved to be the one to do that. Just as she should have all that time ago.
She let out a quick breath to recollect herself and threw all feelings of apprehension and hesitation out the window. She may not be what he wanted, but she would try her darnedest now to be what he needed. She put her hands on his shoulders, trying to keep him grounded.
“Varian listen. I’m fine, I’m ok, I’m not hurt. I had my hair to protect me, Corona is safe, you’re safe. Everything is fine.”
She tilted her head a little to be at eye level with him, trying to communicate her feelings to him.
He finally looked up to meet her eyes, looking almost ashamed of himself before he looked back to the ground.
“It’s my fault though. I should be the one to clean up after myself. You have people who would would miss you.”
The ‘I don’t’ was heard by anyone listening despite it remaining unspoken.
Rapunzel felt her feet go weak for a moment. He didn’t seem uncomfortable with her touch, but he was still shaking.
“I have missed you Varian. I’ve missed my friend so much, and I wish I had come to help you when I should have. I will never regret saving you Varian, and I’m here now.”
His shrunken form seemed to freeze for a moment as his eyes flew up to meet hers in surprise and uncertainty. He seemed to be searching for something. Perhaps signs of falsehood?
She tried to meet his gaze as steadily as she could. After a few moments he let out an unsteady breath and maybe he even relaxed ever so slightly.
Eugene seemed to think that that was a good time to come in. He was behind Rapunzel now, looking carefully at the young boy in front of them who looked like he hadn’t slept or eaten well in months.
“Well, I don’t know about you two, but I think it’s been a very long day for us all.” He said with a small smile and a hand on her back. “And after travelling for so long, all I’d like now is some nice food, a hot soak in the tub, and a cozy bed. Would you two like to join me?”
Varians lips twitched.
“Probably not for the tub and bed. Now, you couple on the other hand...”
Rapunzel couldn’t stop the snort that burst from her, while Eugene looked flustered or maybe surprised for just a moment before letting out a good natured chuckle.
“Not a word to a soul!” He jokingly stage whispered back to the boy.
Rapunzel has to laugh a little as the three of them turned back to the castle. Varian was still guarded, nervous, and uncertain, but she had seen it. The little spark of the boy he truly is. Though his voice had been quiet, his body closed off, the glimmer of light that shone however brief in his eyes as he joked with Eugene was there. It gave her a new refreshing wave of hope, one she’d not felt since before Cassandras betrayal.
She wanted that spark of his to show itself again, but she knew she had to be patient and help it along as much as she could. She just had to reach out and wait for that light to come out entirely.