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Away from home

Chapter Text

Varian eagerly flipped through the old journal they had found in the tomb of Demanitus. With the looming threat of Cassandra’s and Zhan Tiri’s takeover of the castle, there had been no time to examine the journal’s contents except for the interdimensional portal.

 

But weeks have passed since that event, and the kingdom was at peace. Rapunzel and Eugene were currently on their honeymoon outside of Corona. Cassandra made a living in being a bounty hunter and chasing after crooks throughout the seven kingdoms. Lance found a job as a cook for the Snuggly Duckling while raising Kiera and Catalina in their treehouse. As for Varian, he and his father worked on bringing running hot water to Corona. 

 

The hot water machines haven’t exploded in over a week, which he counted as a huge success. 

 

In his free time, he focused on uncovering Demanitus’ work. Demanitus was a brilliant genius. His inventions and theories were beyond that of his time, and it was a shame that no one thought to continue his work. Even if most of his work involved the combination of magic and science, Varian believed he could rebuild the scientific inventions or modify the designs to function without magic. Because frankly, he had dealt with enough magic for a lifetime, thank you very much.

 

Varian’s main focus was on modifying the transdimensional portal. As of now, the portal could only open a gateway to the lost realm. But imagine opening a portal into other worlds. New inventions and information exchanged that could greatly benefit their lives: medicine, raw materials, faster transportation, etc. The possibilities were endless.

 

But jumping across dimensions was dangerous. As seen from the Lost Realm, the environment and creatures did not run on the same physics as his. The locals of the other realm could also be hostile to newcomers. Not to mention that moving across dimensions didn’t necessarily mean that they would operate on the same timeline. He could make a portal into another dimension, but the time point might appear in the distant past or future.

 

But Varian was unfazed by the risk. To him, the benefits far outweighed the danger. Furthermore, he was only going to tie the portal to dimensions similar to his own, dimensions that followed his world’s physics and filled with sentience. For extra safety measures, he planned on keeping the portal a small window, just to look in and maybe send in a tiny automaton to explore it.

 

As long as he kept the project small and manageable, nothing crazy should happen. Although there was a little voice telling him that trying to modify Demanitus’ portal without anyone knowing wasn’t a good idea, he brushed the voice away. He wasn’t technically alone.

 

“Ready, buddy?” Varian said, smiling at Ruddiger in anticipation.

 

This was not a terrible idea.

 

~

 

‘This was a terrible idea.’

 

Varian thought as he tumbled out of the glowing portal and crashed heavily on the ground. Moaning in pain, he quickly glanced up at the entrance only to watch in horror as it began to fizzle out.

 

“No, no, no! Don’t you dare disappear on me!” He screamed as he scrambled up to his feet, his arm stretching outward and reaching for the portal. His hand was mere inches away when the portal suddenly blinked out of existence as if it were never there. 

 

“Ugh not again. This is just my luck.” Varian groaned as he gripped his hair in frustration. 

 

While running the first trial, a small window had appeared just as planned. The window showed a dark room that resembled Varian’s lab. This room wasn’t mere transportation because he was currently in his own lab with the lights on. Varian leaned in closer to get a better look until he realized that the window did not stop growing. 

 

He tried to stop the portal, but it grew bigger and started pulling in objects. His concentration shifted to holding onto a table in an attempt to prevent himself from being sucked in. He saw Ruddiger running for the portal’s lever, but with Varian being so close to the portal, the vacuum pressure became too intense, and it was too late to save him.

 

Varian waited for a moment. Seeing no sign of his beloved companion around him, he figured that Ruddiger had escaped the portal’s grasp. Maybe Ruddinger could turn it on and bring him back. 

 

Nothing happened.

 

Oh right, he forgot he only put enough power for the window to appear briefly. Dang it. 

 

Varian hoped Ruddiger had run out and found help. Unfortunately, he also knew that the people capable of reversing his experiment and bringing him back, like Xaviar or Rapunzel, were more than a day’s journey from his lab. Not to mention the amount of time they would take to figure out what he did and how to reverse it. Then again, time could also run differently between dimensions. What might appear for one hour in his reality could easily be one month in this dimension. 

 

On second thought, it’s probably faster for Varian to find his way back.

 

Laughing nervously to himself, he took a look around him. When the portal had sucked him in, it also sucked in some stuff from his lab. While the broken beakers at his feet would not help, Varian found his bag he used to carry his alchemical substances. A sudden sense of gratitude to his past self hit him. He was glad that he had always kept his bag full and ready to be taken anywhere. 

 

Surveying his surroundings, he couldn’t help but notice how the room wasn’t as similar to his own lab as he had thought. In dim lighting, where the sunlight was streaming through a hole in the ceiling, Varian could see the lab bench to his left with the glassware on top arranged for a long, complex distillation, the same arrangement he used to synthesize his chemical compounds. Near the back of the room was the wooden platform, which he used as a place to operate and build his more massive machinery. He even saw some old posters of Flynn Rider along with his book collection of the adventures of Flynn Rider.

 

But this room looked like it had been untouched for months. And Varian knew that he would never leave his lab in such a state of disarray except for that time when the king’s guards stalked his home. But there was no amber in this room or black rocks in this room—only punctured holes on the walls and floor with a bit of amber residue here and there.  

 

Interesting. Why didn’t anyone bother fixing and cleaning this place?

 

Contemplating the changes, Varian grabbed his bag and walked to the exit. Maybe if he found this reality’s version of his dad or himself, he could get some explanation and receive help in returning home.

 

Closing the door, Varian heard shouting down the hall. Curiosity peaked, he walked closer to the room with voices that seem so familiar. The door was slightly open, and he leaned in to listen.

 

“... I am your king. You should be honored to protect and serve the royal family along with our people in our time of need, and yet you refuse—”

 

“Well, your majesty . If you were ever a decent human being, you should have known better than showing your face around here. How dare you barge into my home and demand I listen to you after what you did to my son. My son. As a father, you should know what my pain is like.”

 

Varian furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. That voice. It sounded like his dad, but he has never heard his voice seem so furious and— broken .

 

“My actions were justified. I did what I had to do. There was no other way!”

 

“Fredric.” A sharp breath was exhaled. “In regard to the years of friendship between us, I’m willing to let everyone stay for the night. But by tomorrow morning, I want you and your people out of my village.”

 

A load uproar followed those words. People were pleading for Quirin to reconsider while Quirin continued to remain stubborn. The king was howling in fury until the sound of people growing frenzied drowned it. Varian briefly wondered how many people could fit in that room before the door was swung wide open by an angry group of people trying to leave.

 

Varian could only offer a sheepish smile before they screamed in terror and backed away from him, their faces deathly paled. Everyone turned to look at the source. When they took in the sight of Varian at the door, gasps fell out of their mouths. Faces etched in shock, and disbelief greeted Varian as silence descended into the room.

 

“Ah.” Varian laughed nervously and rubbed his arm. “I came to ask for help, but it seems like you’re all busy. I’ll just—” his hands gestured vaguely down the hall. “I’ll just wait over there until you’re done?”

 

Everyone continued to stare at him silently, and Varian was beginning to get unnerved by the intensity of their stares. Varian felt like he was missing something significant. Was it something he said? 

 

The tension in the room felt stifling, and before Varian could step away, Quirin called out.

 

“V-Varian?”

 

His voice was quivering in utter disbelief. Varian made eye contact with Quirin and was taken aback at the sheer volume of sorrow and hope burning in his gaze. Quirin took a trembling step towards Varian as if in a daze, and his hand rose and hovered blindly in his direction.

 

Quirin tried to take another step forward but was stopped by Rapunzel, who, with tears streaming down her face, had tightly grabbed and pulled his arm back. Varian had been so focused on his dad that he didn’t notice her before and wondered why this Rapunzel still had her long blonde hair.

 

“Cassandra.” Rapunzel’s voice was trying to sound authoritative but came out wobbly as if choking on tears. “That’s too cruel, even for you.”

 

Cassandra? Why was Rapunzel mentioning Cassandra? Varian grew even more confused.

 

“I—”

 

“I heard screaming!” shouted a voice from behind as hurried footsteps approached the room. Varian turned to see who it was and

 

Clang.

 

Pain exploded from the back of his head, and Varian collapsed to the floor. The room burst into pandemonia, and Varian’s consciousness began to fade.

 

“The kid wasn’t an illusion?!” A voice said above Varian, but he couldn’t make out who said it. A pair of arms wrapped around him, cradling him up from the floor. Their hand ran through his hair as if trying to locate the injury. More voices spoke above him, but they sounded muffled.


‘Oh, so that’s what being hit with a frying pan feels like,’ was Varian’s last thought before losing consciousness.

Chapter Text

Crowds of people gathered at the front of the castle — sweaty and burning from the heat as the ground boiled beneath their feet, and the sun blazed above them.


After all, it’s not every day you get to see a public execution.

 

But many approached the scene with conflicted feelings, murmuring and shifting restlessly in place. To hang a child in front of thousands of onlookers was not a small matter, regardless of their crimes.

 

A wave of silence rolled throughout the crowd as the king emerged at the balcony, alone . He stood above them, rigid and resolute as if cut from rock. The princess and her merry band of friends were on their journey to the Dark Kingdom, ignorant of the events taking place. The queen was kept in the infirmary; the status of her recovery uncertain.

 

As the king addressed his people and assuaged their concerns, a child was dragged out. His figure dwarfed between two burly guards. He was pale and thin, unnourished and lacking sunlight from months rotting in a cell. His eyes were red, and his hair and clothes were rumpled. He looked as though he had stayed awake the entire night before.

 

He offered no resistance as he was led to his demise, and under the gaze of a furious king, the guards brought the prisoner up onstage to the gallows in front of the crowd. The child looked at the people before him, but everyone shifted their eyes away. 

 

The child spoke once more, for the final time, but his words were stolen by the wind. 

 

~

 

It took hours for the event to finish. An example had been made to the people of Corona, and all those who oppose them.

 

~

 

When Varian collapsed to the floor, the room exploded in chaos. 

 

Eugene kneeled by his side, the frying pan he brought rattling on the floor. His hands hovered above the unconscious body, seemingly unsure of what he should do. By now, Cassandra’s cloak should’ve fallen away, and yet the image of Varian remained. 

 

“The kid wasn’t an illusion?!” He exclaimed in puzzlement as he leaned in closer.

 

The rest of the occupants didn’t fare any better either; they screamed in hysteria. 

 

“WHAT?!”

 

“NO, THIS MUST BE CASSANDRA!”

 

“NO, IT’S A GHOST!”



“BUT HE WAS HIT THOUGH??”



“HE’S A GHOST WITH A PHYSICAL BODY!”

 

“CASSANDRA CAN RAISE THE DEAD. WE’RE ALL DOOMED.”

 

But Quirin paid no heed to them and launched into action. Never mind the strength behind a girl carrying 70 feet of hair holding his wrist back, never mind the foul likelihood of a trap, never mind the impossibility of it all.

 

The instant his eyes met those confused, guileless blue eyes, recognition stuck him and left him breathless. He knew those eyes anywhere. The only other person with such eyes was his late wife.

 

With an animalistic shout, he threw off Rapunzel’s hold on him and sprinted forward, his heart pounding and daring to believe. He dropped his weight to the ground, sliding towards the boy and shoved aside Eugene, who yelped and fell to the floor.

 

Quirin immediately wrapped his arms around what could only be his son, his mountainous body protectively covering him, as if shielding him from the very people who took him away in the first place. 

 

At this point, most of the occupants in the room had bolted for the exit, fleeing in terror from what they thought was either the beginning of Cassandra’s attack or ghostly vengeance from beyond the grave. In the corner of his eye, Quirin spotted Rapunzel a few feet away from them, visibly at war with herself as guilt and confused elation danced across her face and Eugene, who recovered from the rather violent shove, held her back as if to give them privacy.

 

But Quirin didn’t really care about anyone right now, his gaze snapping back to his son. 

 

“Varian. Varian.” He repeated the name gingerly, relishing in the familiarity of it rolling off his tongue with ease. How long has it been since he had uttered the name aloud? The joy of being able to say his name again without the lingering pain of loss was overwhelming. “You’re here.”

 

The heavy hole in his heart rekindled into a warm fire of fatherly love and concern. His hand cupped the back of Varian’s head, soothing and mindful of the frying pan injury. 

 

Finding nothing too concerning, he lowered his ear to Varian’s chest. A strong rhythmic heartbeat greeted him, and Quirin’s face stained with tears.

 

“You’re alive.” He let out a wet laugh and hugged his son closer to his chest. Happiness flooded into his being and he felt weightless as he basked in his son’s presence. “Let me make you proud, son. I promise I’ll do right by you this time.”

 

He didn’t care how or why Varian was here. He just knew one thing; his son had returned home.

 

And so he sat there on the floor, cradling the son he thought he lost forever, and in this moment, everything was perfect.

 

Suddenly, a hand rested on his shoulder.

 

“Quirin, the boy —”

 

“READ THE MOOD FREDERIC!"

 

~

 

A dull pain throbbed at the back of his skull as Varian slowly drifted back to the waking world. He shifted on top of what felt like the soft sensation of a bed underneath him and let out a groan.

 

With bleary eyes and a sleep-addled brain, he woke up to the sight of his dad sitting by the side of his bed. Quirin, having perked up at the sound of Varian’s stirring, leaned closer to the bed.


“Woah, easy there son.” He chided softly as he placed a hand into Varian’s hair. “You took quite a hit.”

 

“Dad? What’s going on?” Suddenly Varian sat up in bed, brushing off his hand. “Is it the Flynnoleum? What exploded? Don’t tell me we broke our one week streak.” Varian fretted in disappointment. He thought this time for sure they had successfully brought running hot water for Corona.

 

“Flynn-Flynnoleum?” His dad furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. “I don’t understand what you mean.”

 

“You mean that invention that caused a lot of earth tremors and nearly killed us all?” A voice spoke up from behind Quirin and near the door of Quirin’s room. “Because you haven’t touched that thing in over a year.”

 

“Eugene,” Quirin growled at him. “Watch your tone.”

 

“Hey, I’m on your side here.” Eugene held his hands up defensively. “I’m not here to hurt anyone. I’m just trying to understand what’s going on. There are a lot of people demanding answers, and this...” He nudged the backpack full of alchemical substances sitting on the ground with his foot. “This is looking a littleeeee suspicious.”

 

Varian stared at the two of them in confusion until the memories of the portal sucking him in and being hit with a frying pan trickled in.

 

“Oh,” Varian whispered, feeling a pit of dread forming in his gut as realization dawned over him. “Oh no.”

 

Instantly the two focused on him.

 

“What’s wrong?!” His da- Quirin said as he moved in closer. “Are you hurt somewhere else?” His hands grabbed Varian’s shoulders and shook him slightly in hopes of breaking him out of his dazed stupor.

 

“Is he okay?” Eugene walked closer to the bed in concern. “Should I get someone to look over him?”

 

“No back off!” Quirin turned his head to glare at Eugene. “I don’t trust any of you around him. Especially you, considering you’re the one who attacked him earlier.”

 

“And I said I was sorry! I didn’t know—”

 

“Wait, wait!” Varian interrupted the two of them, trying to break the tension and hostility rising in the room. “I-I’m fine, really. The frying pan took me by surprise, but I’ve been hurt worse before. Really. It’s fine!” Images of being swatted by an automaton into a wall and thrown across the room by black rocks flashed in Varian’s mind.

 

But the two men seemed to tense up at his words. 

 

“Varian,” Quirin squeezed Varian’s shoulders in sadness and smiled remorsefully. “Words cannot describe how sorry I am and how much I regret not being there when you needed me. But I’m here now and I swear I will protect you. Frederic will have to get over my dead body if he wants to lay his hands on you.”

 

Quirin asserted sincerely as he gazed over Varian with the steel of resolve in his eyes. Eugene nodded as well and rested a hand against Varian’s knee.

 

“Same here, kiddo. Rapunzel and I were furious when we found out what the king did to you when we were gone. We thought you were getting help and yet—” He ran his other hand through his hair in frustration, voice thick in regret. “You may have been a little dangerous and out of control, but at the end of the day, you were just a scared child. You’re a good kid, Varian, I know it. And what the king did to you was cruel and unnecessary. If Rapunzel were here, she’d be telling you the same things I am, but right now, she’s keeping the king out of this room.”

 

Varian stared at the two speechless. Never had he seen them act so vulnerable and guilt-stricken. The cold pit of dread and guilt churned in his gut. 

 

“I’m sorry... but I don’t know what you’re referring to,” Varian said nervously, fearful of setting them off into anger. He wasn’t sure how breaking the news of dimensional travel to them would go. “I think there’s a misunderstanding here because I’m not Varian.”

 

The two men froze in their spots as silence descended into the room. Seconds felt like minutes and Varian sat fidgeting on the bed and trying to resist the urge to hide because the silence was growing so agonizingly long and he just couldn’t tell what they were thinking. Suddenly, Quirin’s grip tightened on his shoulders. 

 

“Varian, you’re being ridiculous.” He let out an incredulous laugh. “Do you really think I can’t recognize my own son?”

 

A bubble of irritation prickled in Varian. The old, familiar bitterness Varian felt whenever his dad quickly dismissed something he would say had risen in him, but at least now in his reality, his dad would actually stop and take the time to listen to him. Seeing this Quirin brushing him off so easily really drove home the point that this was not his dad. 

 

The only thing preventing him from lashing out in anger was the look in Quirin’s eyes, a wild glint of desperation and denial in his eyes. Anger deflated out of Varian quickly as guilt and unease rolled turbulently in his mind. He tried leaning away from Quirin’s hold, but his hands followed him as if afraid that letting go would make Varian disappear.

 

“Maybe using the frying pan really was a bad idea. Varian did wake up thinking he was working on Flynnoleum.” Eugene muttered, his mouth forming a pensive line. “Quick, what’s the last thing you remember?” Then his face scrunched in a grimace. “Do you remember how long you were... err... gone ?” 

 

“Gone?” Varian asked, frowning at the strange phrasing.

 

Quirin and Eugene exchanged an uneasy glance.

 

“Well kid, I’m not sure how much you remember but let me, Eugene Fitzherbert, regale you. See, we met you over a year ago right when black rocks began popping out everywhere. And you tried stopping them using alchemy, which got your dad frozen in amber. But hey look on the bright side, he’s not in amber anymore! So don’t worry! But back then, you and Rapunzel also had a little disagreement —and I think there was something about a promise—and it led you to do some crazy stuff and—”

 

“You died,” Quirin stated grimly, not in a mood to entertain Eugene’s long narration. “You died, and I-I wasn’t there to stop it.” He let out a shuddering sob, and his grip on his Varian’s shoulders tightened almost painfully. “And that’s all you need to know.”

 

Varian’s head went reeling at this new information. How should someone react to the news of their own demise even if it’s in an alternate universe? After all, what’s stopping Varian from dying too? 

 

Dimly he noticed how Eugene’s mouth opened as if wanting to say something else, but Quirin shook his head at him. For that action, Varian was glad because he didn’t want to know anymore. 

 

“But Varian, that doesn’t matter because you’re here now. Alive. I don’t care whether you were brought back from the heavens or the devil himself. Because you’re my son, aren’t you?”

 

Varian felt his eyes sting, overwhelmed by the sincerity and emotions from this version of his dad. The urge to agree surged in him, sitting at the tip of his tongue. How easy was it to say ‘yes, of course’ and pretend nothing is wrong because Varian could see the lines of grief on this man’s face, something his dad never had. Because this man suffered the loss of something so unimaginable and burned with such a desperate, fragile hope that it would be a crime to destroy. 

 

And he never wanted to be the bad guy.

 

“I-”

 

It would be so easy to lie. And it’s the right thing to do, isn’t it? To lie and give this man a small comfort, and live in a brief moment where this man was reunited with his long lost son.

 

“I’m…”

 

It was so easy.

 

 










































“... not your son.”

 

But he never wanted to be a liar either.