Rapunzel listened to Varian with avid and uninterrupted attention. Not even the tears running down her face distracted her. He was pouring out everything that had been bottled up for that year and a half, and showed no signs of stopping. It was like he was no longer aware of her presence. As if it was just him and his pain in this room and nothing else.
Varian had not just been left alone by her, but also the whole kingdom! A fourteen year old boy, abandoned in a dying village with a father who was out of reach. Why did she never go to him? Why didn’t she find out about the rumours before it was too late? How had she not known what her father was doing?
The letter Varian had sent her had said that they would try to stop her, but she hadn’t really thought about in great depth. Now she was realizing what a fool she had been. Of course the guards were at Varians house before she came to it. Her father wouldn’t have just known about the split second decision she had made that day to go to Old Corona and send them. She had been so wound up in the facts that her childhood home was destroyed and her father had lied to her, that she hadn’t given thought to what had happened to Varian.
She had never known most of what he was telling her, even though it had everything to do with herself, her father, her guards, her people... She should have known about this. She should have found out. She should have-
No, no, stop. This is what you always do. You focus on yourself, and what you’ve done wrong rather than the actual people you’ve wronged.
Was that one thing Cass was upset with her about?
No, don’t go there. Right now, Varian needed her to focus on him. Now, more then ever, he needed undivided attention.
He had stopped now. Stopped before he started talking about his time in prison, and she didn’t dare ask about that. Not right now.
He was trying and failing to dry his face of the tears that had soaked it. He seemed as surprised as she was at the amount he had vented to her. He seemed ashamed of himself again, he was turning away from her.
She gently caught his arms and turned him towards her. Their eyes met for a moment before he hunched into himself slightly. She couldn’t stop herself before she pulled him into a hug.
With a cut off sob, he froze, not quite processing what was happening. She sobbed with him, gently pressing him closer.
“I’m sorry!” They both whispered at the same time.
When he realized what she said he burst into tears all over again and finally curled his arms around her, hugging her tightly in return. They needed this. They had needed to talk this out for so long.
“I’m sorry, Varian. I-I should never have left you like that.” She continued despite his cries. “I didn’t know so much of what you told me. I should have talked to you, I shouldn’t have left you for so long! I’m sorry!”
“Th-That doesn’t make wh-what I did right!” He stuttered through his trembling lips. “I’m sorry, I should never have hurt you like that!”
“I forgive you.”
• • •
As if the gears working in his head came to a stuttering halt, Varian froze. No stings seemed to be attached to this, but he couldn’t stop himself from the mistrust that began to rise.
“Why?” He couldn’t stop himself from asking.
• • •
“Why would you forgive me? I... I don’t understand. I did terrible things to you and other people, I- You... Aren’t you going to put me back in the dungeons once I’m done helping your parents?” Varian was stuttering in attempt to find his words.
“No I- ...No, that doesn’t feel right. My father promised to help you, and it’s clear to me that prison isn’t going to be the best way to do that.” She wished she could speak with her father about what happened.
“But I don’t deserve that. I don’t deserve help or forgiveness.”
“You do deserve help, Varian. And you don’t have to deserve forgiveness for me to give it to you. I want us to get better from this. I want you to get better. I want us to be friends again. That takes more than just your effort. We can both learn together how to move on, how to trust again.”
She wanted to help him. This once sweet boy, broken by the cruel unfairness of the world. She wanted to keep her promise... Her promise to... make sure everything was ok...
They held each other for a little longer as Varian thought about what she had said. They pulled away now, but they still leaned into each other, shoulder to shoulder. Varian glanced, at her almost nervously before speaking.
“I want to forgive you... but... I’m still angry with you. I can’t just erase months left and forgotten from my mind.”
“Of course you can’t, and if you don’t forgive me now, that’s ok. Forgiveness is not forgetting... it’s more of a choice. People don’t always deserve to be forgiven, but you consciously choose to put it behind you. To free yourself from it. The feelings you had don’t always go away, but you choose to move on and not to hold it against that person.”
She paused to try and gauge his feelings before she continued.
“My father, he kept me from going outside, sent guards to stalk me and even attack me to keep me from the truth. He lied to me and locked me in a tower like Gothel had for all those years.”
Varian looked at her, eyes a little wider than before at her words.
“He and my mother explained it to me. He wanted to protect me, didn’t want to lose me like he had before. He loved me.
But what he did was still wrong.
I understood him. I forgave him. But he didn’t deserve it.”
This was difficult to admit to herself. Her parents loved her, and her father thought what he was doing was right.
But Gothel ‘loved’ her too, and ‘Mother knows best’.
She forgave him, but she would never forget needing to stand against him all those times.
Varian seemed to understand now if the slight nod of his head was any indication. He still seemed a little baffled at her story, but he didn’t ask anymore.
They sat for a while longer, just the two of them watching the fire that was just between the line of burning and starting to go out.
“Where do you want to go from here?”
Varian asked with a poorly hidden yawn. His head made its way to her shoulder as she briefly took in how exhausted he looked.
She wrapped her arm around his shoulders before answering.
“I think, that we should just take one day at a time, and see where we go.”
As fast or as slow as Varian needed now. Tomorrow she would ask Varian if she could try freeing Quirin again. She hadn’t told him about the plan yet, because she wasn’t sure how he would respond. Would he still be angry at her? Would he get upset? Would he hear of the risks and say no? Would he get his hopes up only for it not to work?
She didn’t want him thinking about it tonight, not after the very emotional conversation.
Her eyelids fluttered as she realized how tired she was as well. That evening had certainly taken a lot out of them both, and Varian already seemed to be drifting off.
Before either of them could though, Varian had one more thing to say.
“I choose to forgive you.”
He breathed his words out so quietly, but they struck Rapunzel deeply before she was filled with a peaceful warmth in her chest.
“Thank you, Varian. Thank you.”
The single figure of a young man was silent as the dead from his spot outside the library doors
He hadn’t been able to sleep any easier than Rapunzel apparently, and he couldn’t help but listen in to the conversation. A bit of guilt gnawed at his insides as he remembered that it was he who had pushed Rapunzels worry for Varian to the side.
He’d seen Varian as trouble when they had first met. I mean, how much more trouble can you get when you have this kid with his stuff exploding the village while your girlfriend is strapped to what looked like a torture table. There had been a part of him that didn’t want Rapunzel to be around Varian, he was a good kid sure, he had great intentions, but his inventions were dangerous, he didn’t trust them.
He had been out helping the King and Queen when Varian had come for help, and the thought that Varian had still needed help wasn’t real in his mind. What was real for him during those times was Rapunzels pain and fear, and so that’s all he focused on.
If he had told Rapunzel to go see Varian, or if he had just gone himself, would everything be different? Instead of that though, they had left the kid to simmer until he had exploded like the boilers. Only this time, the destruction that had come to pass was far more severe than anything even he had encountered before then.
And now, here was what was left of that smart, and well-meaning kid; a soul broken by his crimes, his losses, his life.
If Eugene had continued on the path of thievery, would he have gone too far someday and been as remorseful as Varian? This kid who had idolized Flynn Rider like him? This kid who had nothing and had thought being the bad guy was the better option, the only option, like he had?
Eugene closed his eyes as the guilt in him grew. He tried to tell himself that none of this was his fault, he was never really involved in it.
But if somebody, anybody, had done something different, had helped a little boy who had lost his father, lost everything ; all this grief and pain may have never happened. Varian would have never lashed out the way he did.
Eugene opened his eyes and silently moved his way into the room. His stealthy thieving skills serving him well when neither of the two sleeping figures stirred from their spot on the couch. He found a blanket and laid it over the two of them. He hoped that they would both finally get a good sleep after the stressful ordeals they had been through recently.
A single, gentle kiss he placed on Rapunzels forehead, and he smiled to himself at her relaxed sigh before turning to look at Varian.
Rapunzel was right, he was different than before, but the self sacrificing attitude was not exactly an improvement. Eugene knew what it was like to be a criminal coming back into the light. The only difference was that apparently, Rapunzel didn’t need to say or do very much to get Varian to turn back. Andrew was trying to make him cross a line he refused to cross, and that was when he was already remorseful over his previous actions and hoping for an out.
Eugene would be a hypocrite if he didn’t encourage this turn back, and he would also have to be sadistic if he wanted to leave this kid alone again and not help him. Eugene saw a little of himself in the kid, but he didn’t want Varian to turn out like him. He wanted Varian to become better than him. Coming back from being as far gone as Varían had been was something that Eugene was not sure even he could do, but something inside him was sure that Varian could.
Eugene resolved to do his best to be there for this kid, a friend for this kid who would be better than him.
Because Team Awesome, remember?
He was in the Place again. The Place, as he had so fondly decided to call it.
This night was one of the rare nights that he saw nothing in the fog. It would only happen once or twice a year, but on these nights he would hear something, or someone on the other side of the fog.
Speaking to him.
Familiar to him now, after all these years of him trying to listen to it.
It was an echo that he could neither understand nor answer, but everything in him wanted to cry back to it. To seek answers. What was this Place? Where was this Place? Why was he here? What was on the other side of the fog?
Tonight, the voice that usually called for him was shrieking in an unfathomable panic. Varían could only sit there in the boat, frozen in fear as the normally enticing but longing voice wailed and cried for him to come. To do something.
There was no way through the fog, this he had learned long ago already. The boat would not move, and an invisible force always kept him from jumping out.
So Varían could only sit with his eyes wide and tears running down his face. Sit there in the boat listening to the suffering of the person he had never met, but had somehow always known.