20: I've Got A Dream
It couldn't possibly have been the bed's fault.
Flynn put the book he'd been reading onto the small table next to him, tossing the reading glasses he didn't really need on top of it. He glared at the book, Economic Intersectionality: Common Conditions That Lead To Market Lockup, and wished he had something better to do.
It wasn't the book's fault, or the bed's, or the room's. Flynn had been a guest at many a hotel in his day, and none beat the Palace of Corona for comfort or service. The bed's warmth and comfort were like a gravity well from which he could barely climb. He wasn't too sure about the color scheme: cream and ocher, gold and violet seemed to predominate everywhere, but that wasn't his call to make.
Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he stood up as if to pace. His course was already taking him toward the desk, palace service, and a nice bottle of bourbon when a knock at the door diverted him. "Yes?"
"Doctor Fitzhubert?" The voice was deep, masculine, and rough, easily capable of threatening. Not yet, though.
"Yes?" he said.
"My lady, the Princess Rapunzel, has asked me to ask you if you would be so kind as to join her for dinner."
"What?" Flynn glanced at the clock. It was later than he'd expected. "Isn't there... some kind of state dinner? Or a time of day when dinner is served?"
"There is no official dinnertime tonight. The royal family eats when it wishes, often in private. The Princess has asked for you... ?"
"Oh. Right. Yes, of course. Sure." Flynn tosseed the door open. "When? Should I get dressed up? I can't go like this."
The man standing opposite Flynn was tall and broad, and while the white uniform said he was Palace Service, Flynn suspected more than that. "I don't believe the lady quite cares at this point, Doctor Fitzhubert," the man said.
"Well, I suppose I shouldn't disappoint a princess." He scowled. He grabbed his blazer and pulled it over his shoulders, checked his hair in the mirror. Hadn't it been only a few weeks ago he'd been telling Captain DuVar-- no, Anna-- that he wasn't about to get involved with nobility? It wasn't as if he were chasing after Rapunzel himself. She had asked for him, and it would be unseemly if he ignored her or disappointed her. He was a guest in her father's house, after all. "Right."
The servant led him to an elevator, up two floors, and into the personal residence of the palace. "Over here," the man said. "I'll leave you to her."
"Thanks." The servant walked down the broad hallway and turned a corner out of sight. Flynn looked around for cameras. He didn't find any, but that didn't mean they weren't there. Flynn took a deep breath, knocked loudly.
"Who is it?" sang Rapunzel's voice from the other side.
"Doctor Fitzhubert, Princess. At your service."
She opened the door, already bouncing on her toes. "Flynn!" she said cheerfully. "It was so nice of you to accept my invitation!"
"Yes, well, couldn't disappoint a lady, don't you know. I have duty and reputation to uphold."
"Oh, of course any stories that happen in here are bound to get out. And we have to think about your reputation."
"Sometimes, your grace, duty and reputation are all a man has." She gestured rapidly for him to come in, closing the door behind him as he did.
She held up a finger, her mouth open to respond, stopped, looked puzzled, started to speak again, stopped. "'Your grace'?"
"Well, you're not my Lady, after all. You come from a completely different line of nobility. You're not a king or queen yet. 'Your ladyship' was too much of a mouthful. 'Your grace' seemed... right."
"Rapunzel. Just say, 'Rapunzel.'"
"Rapunzel," Flynn said, and he smiled. "I've never met someone with that name before, but... I like it." He spoke more slowly, savoring it. "'Rapunzel.'"
She giggled. "Come eat, Doctor." She indicated the table, where two settings awaited them both. Corona's culinary traditions had followed Arendelle's, which in turn had followed ancient Europe's, which in turn reassured Flynn. Salad with vinagrette, a warm and well-seasoned bacon potato soup, and a lovely plate of duck, spicy herbed rice, and steamed mixed vegetables with drawn butter all made his stomach growl with desire.
The wineglasses were huge, and Rapunzel had filled both of them two-thirds full with a dark red. Flynn sipped from his once or twice throughout the meal. Whenever he glanced at Rapunzel she was looking back, studying him. He took a slip, looked deeply at the wineglass. "That's delicious."
"I'm really glad you like it."
He swirled the wine in his glass for a moment, glanced at the almost completed meal on his table, then look back at Rapunzel. "I appreciate the distraction from my work, Rapunzel, but why did you invite me here?"
Rapunzel grinned at him. "Oh, I have my reasons." Her expression softened into worry. "And... I need your advice, Flynn."
"Have I made a mistake?"
"You've already lost me. Back up."
Rapunzel sat back in her chair, brushing some of that long blond hair away from her face. "My cousin, Elsa, came to me this afternoon and told me she has a... a crush on someone, and she'd never had one before, so what should she do? I told her she should go to this person and propose a, um, a night together. Romantically. With dinner and wine first, like we're having. They're having. Tonight. Right now."
"I see." It had to be someone on the embassy team. It wasn't him, thank God, he was here with Rapunzel. Someone on her own team? God, what if it was Admiral Becker?
Rapnuzel said, "And since you know her, I figured you'd be just the right person to tell me if I've, um, made a terrible mistake?"
"What? I'm afraid you have the wrong idea, Rapunzel. I don't know Queen Elsa at all."
"No, not Elsa, silly. Anna. Captain DuVar."
"Oh." Flynn put an elbow on the table and rested his chin in his hand, his eyebrows furrowing together. "Anna and Elsa? I didn't think of that. Why didn't I think of that?"
"Does it really seem all that unlikely?" Rapunzel used both hands to imitate his gesture, folding them into a chinrest of her own. "I bet you're thinking about it now," she said, her voice taking on a hint of a purr.
Flynn paused for a moment. "No, not really."
Rapunzel seemed to deflate. "I guess I did make a mistake."
"No, I don't think so." He leaned back and picked up the wineglass again. "In fact, I think they'll be great together."
"But you're not trying to imagine what they'd look like... together?"
"I thought you weren't into men, Flynn Fitzhubert."
"Oh, I definitely prefer women. Exclusively, in fact. But Anna and I are friends. She didn't seem the romantic type when we met, and thinking of her that way, especially when she's with someone else-- Queen Elsa, my God-- just seems a little disrespectful, you know?"
Flynnn shrugged. "They're real people. I know Captain Anna. I've met Queen Elsa. It's not like they're professional entertainers doing it on my behalf." Rapunzel just stared at him like he'd come from another planet. Well, he had. "Hey, it's not like I wouldn't mind watching if they invited me, but that doesn't seem like their style. Don't you think it would be a little awkward to meet them later and have to think, 'I fantasized about you?'"
"Maybe," Rapunzel said slowly. "Let's have the dessert."
A pair of light cupcakes with white frosting artistically swirled and topped with a single, perfect blackberry disappeared quickly. Flynn sat back from the table, looked up and found Rapunzel staring back at him again, her eyebrows bent down in deep concentration. "Rapunzel?" She bit her lip. "Hey, you invited me, remember?"
"Do you like me, Flynn?"
"I like you as much as I like any young and beautiful woman who hasn't given me a reason to dislike her. You've been wonderful. But are you heading where I think you're heading, Rapunzel? Because I barely know you."
"Yes, but..." She smiled weakly. "It isn't supposed to be difficult. I want you, Flynn. But you're not acting at any other man I've known in the past. You're... It's hard to describe it. I like how you put it. 'Respectful.'"
Flynn grinned. "You make me wonder if I should challenge them on the field of honor or something. Were there a lot of them?"
"Oh, we don't do that here, silly," she said. "But, I had hoped I could keep you around for a while, and you could tell me a lot more stories about Earth. Paris, and London, and anyplace else you've ever visited. We could talk for a little while. And maybe... ?" Her eyes flicked to a pair of doors Flynn assumed led to the bedroom, then back to him.
"Rapunzel, I'd be willing to talk all night if it made you smile. If you want more, I'd be willing to do my level best to give you that too. After all, imagine how badly my reputation would suffer if I declined to help an ally's royal family in such a straightforward manner?" He held down his hand. She took it, smiled and stood up. "But you'll have to show me the way."
"Ah," Rapunzel said, standing. "Then, come this way."
Author's Notes go at the bottom, ya? I'm such a tease. But I actually have a reason for this short one right here. We're going to play a game of compare and contrast between the way our two couples, one queer and inexperienced, the other straight and comfortable, deal with the complexities of figuring out this fairly important aspect of themselves and their partner.
Besides, I really don't think Rapunzel gets laid enough in most of the Frozen and Tangled fanfics.
Just a note; the next two chapters are explicit and sexy. They're not meant to be smutty, but I am going to get my heroes into bed with each other in short order.