"Well…" Maybe she shouldn’t have. After all, the goblins were searching the countryside back home for a certain child, and Maleficent knew how those imbeciles could foul things up without her direction.
Then again… Well, she did have almost sixteen years to worry about that, didn’t she? Perhaps a nice rest couldn’t hurt. “Very well.” She smiled again, nodding her head. “Tea would be nice… as would cake. I just hope you cooks bake better than my goblins do.”
Rapunzel chuckled, motioning for the other to follow her. “The goblins are still around? I hope they’re doing alright too.” After all, several of them had been very sweet! “Please, tell them I said hello? I mean— If you’d like. Oh- And don’t worry. I made the cake myself yesterday.” A surefire way to know it would be delicious.
Leading the dark fairy to the garden, she motioned towards a table and set of chairs. The design was rather delicate, but it was colorful, the backs of the chairs and the center of the table covered in colored glass. A tea set was already set out, as if it had been dropped off not too long ago.
Before Maleficent knew what was happening the brunette’s arms were around her middle, and for a moment she could barely process what was happening. It had been a long time since anyone had dared even touch the horned woman, much less hugged her.
Rapunzel was still as strong as ever, though, Maleficent could tell from how tightly the young queen squeezed her. It felt… nice. With a sigh, she wrapped her own arms around Rapunzel, her billowing sleeves closing around her like wings.
Rapunzel sighed softly herself, glad that Millicent had returned the embrace. It had really been too long since they’d sat down and spoken like the friends they used to be… Finally, the brunette pulled away, albeit hesitantly, to offer a small smile.
"Do you… Do you want to stay for tea or anything? I’m… I’m pretty sure we might have some cake. You still like cake, don’t you?" Standing around in the hallway wouldn’t make for a proper reunion, anyway.
Tears again… why did seeing Rapunzel like this make Maleficent so uncomfortable? She had seen so much death and destruction, so much unhappiness the past ten years, she thought for sure she had grown accustomed to it. But with Rapunzel… “I… I’ve been well,” she repeated, glancing aside. Maybe not ‘happy’ per-say, but she had been well. “But if I’m honest…”
The dark fairy twisted the staff in her hands a moment, almost anxious. She almost felt like a scared child again, standing there with the young queen. “I… I did miss you, too,” she confessed at last. “For all our disagreements, you were the closest thing I ever had to family…”
Rapunzel rubbed an eye with the heel of her palm, offering a watery smile at the confession. “You were like family to me, too… I’m… I’m sorry we went so long without seeing each other.” She sniffled once, trying to regain her composure. Crying now wouldn’t fix anything… it wouldn’t help anything. Ten years had been lost, and those couldn’t be brought back. If Millicent was going to visit, she shouldn’t waste her time in tears.
The brunette hesitated only a moment before she closed the distance between them, her arms wrapping around the other in an embrace. She wasn’t sure if the horned woman was going to return the gesture, but after ten years, Rapunzel was sure she deserved at least one hug. “I’m glad you’re doing well.”
She remembered… she remembered it well, in fact. That night had been the first time in a long, long time she had ever had any fun. The first time she had ever really made a friend. “We did say that, didn’t we…?” Maleficent nodded her head once more, tapping her chin in thought. Of course they had just been naive young girls at the time. And yet it seemed they were right. Here they were, powerful rulers in their own right.
"We seem to have found ourselves at opposite ends of the spectrum," Maleficent admitted, "but I believe we’ve both achieved greatness, yes."
"I’m glad to know we were right." Maybe it hadn’t turned out in a way either of them had expected at the time, but it had happened, somehow. In a way, it was nice to know that Millicent remembered. The fact alone that she’d come to see her was touching, and once again, the young queen found herself blinking back tears.
"… I missed you." She smiled weakly, glancing away. "I mean… I know we didn’t part on the best of terms or anything… But I did. I missed you." Rapunzel fiddled with part of her skirts, shoulders raising in a weak shrug. "You were my best friend, after all." She didn’t believe she had been in the wrong in their argument, but that didn’t matter anymore. That had been ten years go. "I’ve been wondering all this time if you were okay, if you were happy...”
Tiny was a very nice way to put it. Maleficent nodded her head gently and shrugged her shoulders slightly. “Oh… nothing you would approve of, I’m certain…” Terrorizing kingdoms wasn’t exactly a ‘nice’ line of work, now was it? But Maleficent wasn’t ashamed, nor did she particularly feel any guilt. She had grown above such things.
"Let’s just say I’m fairly well-known for my power these days and leave it at that, shall we?" She paused, glancing at the crown upon Rapunzel’s head. "And it’s obvious you’ve done well for yourself… being queen and all."
The way her old friend said that worried her… Still, it seemed Millicent had grown to be confident in what she was doing, whether she was in the right or not. Something like that could be a blessing and a curse.
"I see… " Her gaze momentarily flicked upwards, as if she were trying to see the crown despite the angle. "Oh— Yeah." Her gaze dropped back to the other’s, offering a somewhat nervous smile. "I’d… I’d like to believe I’m doing a good job, anyway." She had more than just herself and Hans to worry about, after all. She had her children, the kingdom… Everyone who fell under Corona’s jurisdiction. It was nerve wracking. Her friends assured her she was a great queen, but that didn’t mean she had her doubts…
The brunette fell silent for a moment, her gaze drifting off to the side in thought. “… Hey. You remember, right? That conversation we had, back when I was still in the tower?” Her eyes locked onto the other’s again, hands folded in front of her. “We both said we’d be great one day… Do you think we did what we said?”
Some days, Rapunzel would have been correct. There were times Maleficent looked back on their time together, on all the arguments and the troubles, and she thought to herself she wanted nothing more to do with the brunette. But then, there were several days when her thoughts drifted to the happier days. Baking cakes, braiding hair, just talking about nothing and everything… And those days she had to admit the loneliness was almost painful.
"I have been well," she responded, drawing herself up and lifting her gaze once more. No matter what, she would hold her head high now. "I’ve made quite a name for myself these days. My magic has greatly improved." She looked down at the brunette and realized at last just how much taller she was. Apparently he had gained an inch or two over the years, but Rapunzel…? Maleficent couldn’t help but smile. "You… are still so short…"
With an almost comically surprised expression, Rapunzel seemed to look finally take into consideration how much taller her friend (Former friend?) really was. True, Rapunzel hadn’t gotten much taller in the last few years, but it was still almost silly to have it pointed it out. It hadn’t taken long at all for the queen to break into laughter, a hand resting over her mouth.
"You’re right," She said at last, "I guess I am still pretty tiny." She shrugged, returning the smile with one of her own, though after a moment it shifted into something a bit more… Relieved looking. "I’m… I’m glad you’ve been doing alright, Millicent. So! A name for yourself? Doing what?"
Still no guards… a promising sign. Still, the look on Rapunzel’s face left Maleficent’s insides twisting into uncomfortable knots. After their last fight she had expected the brunette to react to seeing her with anger, or hate… at the very least with annoyance. But this? “Some people change after ten years,” she offered, her voice quiet.
At last, her gaze fell to the ground, unable to look at Rapunzel’s face anymore. If she did, Maleficent feared she might start to break down as well and she had vowed long ago never ever to cry again. “I was curious,” she explained. “I wanted to know how you had been… what the past few years have been like for you…”
It took the brunette a second to gather up a bit of confidence, but she shuffled closer. Millicent had come to see her. She’d been curious about how her life was going too… Rapunzel found herself almost amazed that the horned girl—No, woman- didn’t hate her for how their last conversation went.
"I… I was wondering how you were doing too…" She crossed her arms over her stomach, drawing into herself almost nervously. For a moment, she felt twenty again. Still slightly awkward, and unsure. "But I… I mean, I didn’t think that you wanted to see me, so…" The royal glanced at the other’s face again, despite their gazes not meeting. "… How have you been?"
That name. It had been so long since she even thought of it, much less heard it spoken out loud. The name she had cast aside in favor of her new title… the name her mother gave her… Now it had her frozen, her feet rooted to the ground. So Rapunzel knew…? She knew and she wasn’t calling for her head on a pike?
Slowly, carefully, Maleficent turned to face the young queen, allowing her glamour spell to fall, at least as far as Rapunzel was concerned. Her black, flowing robes, her green skin—much paler now after years locked up in her castle—and the tall horns which stood out from her headdress, all visible now. It was several moments before the mistress of evil found her voice again. “…Hello, Rapunzel…”
For a moment, the young queen could only stare in silence. Millicent had certainly changed, hadn’t she? She almost looked sharper, as if she’d hardened somehow. “Millicent,” She breathed at last, “You look… Different. I-I mean, you’re still lovely, but…” Rapunzel paused, looking her over briefly. So this was what she looked like now…
"… It’s… It’s been a long time, Millicent." Rapunzel offered a small smile, and much to her surprise, found herself blinking back tears. "You came to see me…?"
For a moment all she could do was stand there, eyes wide as her mouth opened and closed, trying desperately to speak when no words would come. How had she made such a careless mistake?
This whole trip had been a mistake, hadn’t it? Damn her curiosity, why had she ever even come? “I think you for your hospitality,” she managed to say, quickly bowing her head, “but I believe it’s time I left. I’ll just show myself out.” With that she turned away, intent on escaping before she found herself jumped upon by several guards.
Rapunzel started when her guest turned to hurry away, a hand reaching out to grab her shoulder. She stopped herself from doing so, however, instead choosing to go with the assumption she had. She could be wrong, but she could also be right… And she’s learned long ago that waiting to do something because she was scared she was wrong wouldn’t get her anywhere.
"Millicent, wait!" There was a chance she was just seeing things. Her hunch could have been wrong, and if that was the case, then there wasn’t much she could do. But it had been worth the try, and even if she had been wrong, the young queen was sure she wouldn’t regret it.
So the fool was actually behaving these days… surprising, but good for Rapunzel’s sake. And Corona’s. The woman had taken nearly three steps further before realizing the brunette had stopped, and she turned to face her, for a moment scrambling for the right words to say.
"It—it’s rather a popular story, you know," she said at last. "The famous ‘lost princess’ who was raised in a tower by some madwoman… everyone knows the tale, don’t they?"
"Not that." She turned to face her fully, her gaze locked on the other’s. The expression she wore when she was serious hadn’t changed at all. Brows were slightly furrowed, her lips drawn into a small line… It was an expression that almost everyone knew by now. "The paintings. Not everyone knows about those. Not the ones inside the tower…"
Rapunzel’s eyes kept on Maleficent’s, and for a moment, vague recognition flickered over her face. Again, she found herself thinking that she looked similar to a horned girl she used to know.
"Oh…" Maleficent shrugged her shoulders gently. "It’s nothing, just… I’m sure you’re aware your husband has a bit of a reputation, does he not?" At least, he had when last she heard of him. "But if you and he are happy I suppose that’s all that matters."
As they walked, Maleficent continued to glance about, her gaze often falling upon the paintings on the walls. “Your majesty is quite the artist,” she complimented. “I’m surprised they let you paint the walls the way you did your tower.”
"He did… But I’d like to think he proved himself. The people like him well enough now." Besides, Hans had done his best to make up for what he did, and she couldn’t have been more proud. Rapunzel chuckled a bit to herself, once again folding her hands behind her back.
"Oh, thank you! That’s very—…" Tower? While various people knew she’d been locked away inside a tower for years, only a select few knew about the paintings it held inside. She stopped in her tracks, eyes wide. "… How did you know about that?"
A son, too? Well, no wonder Rapunzel had looked so proud. Two children, a husband she loved—for whatever reason—and a whole kingdom. She really did have it all, didn’t she? “Oh… I’m thirty years old.” She was, wasn’t she…? One didn’t really pay much attention to birthdays when there was no one around to celebrate with.
"And… no." She shook her head. "My parents passed many years ago, and I’ve never married. But that’s just as well, I suppose, it simply gives me more time to focus on my work. Forgive me for asking though, your highness, but you and the king… you’re happy together?"
Well that was fair enough, wasn’t it? She couldn’t blame anyone for choosing to focus on their work if they liked it! And at thirty, Angela still had plenty of time to possibly settle down if she still wanted to.
"Oh, we’re very happy." Evidently, the brunette wasn’t bothered by the question at all. Her smile grew warm, and it was clear that she still looked at Hans in the same adoring light she almost always had. He wasn’t perfect, far from it, but that was one of things she loved about him. "We love each other very much. Um—" Her face flushed momentarily, "Why?"
"Ah… I see…" So much for that cop-out. Well she couldn’t just outright refuse, that would be suspicious. "Very well, in that case I would be honored, Queen Rapunzel."
Maybe just a few minutes wouldn’t hurt… Before long she could think of a plausible way to excuse herself and no one would be any wiser. Besides, Maleficent couldn’t deny she was a little curious about the brunette’s life the last ten years. “Your daughter…” she began, stepping forward, “she’s quite lovely. How old is she?”
Rapunzel allowed her guest to step in line beside her before leading her down the hall, her hands linking together behind her back. “Oh, thank you! She is cute, isn’t she?” The brunette’s grin got wider, and it was evident that she was beaming with pride. “She just turned three. She likes to pretend she’s older though, so she can be like her big brother. He’s eight, by the way. She follows him around a lot! It’s really adorable.”
Her gaze drifted towards Maleficent, an almost sheepish smile tugging at her lips. “Gosh, sorry if I start rambling. I just love them both a lot, you know?” She brushed a lock of her hair back, beaming. “So, Angela, how old are you? Do you have a family?”
Maleficent tensed briefly. Did she see through the glamour spell? No, no that was impossible, wasn’t it? She was quick to smile again. “My name is Angela,” she lied, “and I’m certain we have never met before, your majesty.”
It probably wasn’t wise to stick around much longer, was it? If Rapunzel figured out her true identity then the guards would surely be called in. Nothing she couldn’t handle, but Maleficent did hope to avoid the trouble. “That’s a gracious offer, your majesty, but surely you have more important things to do…”
The brunette glanced her over one more time, before offering an apologetic smile. She’d placed why she thought she looked familiar… In a way, her face almost looked like Millicent’s… But no, surely that wasn’t her. “I… I think you’re right. I guess you just look like someone I knew…”
Her expression faltered a moment before her smile returned. “Oh, not at all! Today is actually a day off! I got extra work done yesterday so I could enjoy a day to myself.” She glanced back in the direction her daughter had ran off. “Daisy is too busy getting into her father’s chocolate and bothering Pascal to even think about letting me relax, though.” The smile that crossed the brunette’s face suggested she didn’t mind all that much.
The child was… well, Maleficent couldn’t deny, she was adorable. Obviously she didn’t get that from her father. But the woman would not admit to finding anyone or anything adorable—not anymore.
With Rapunzel’s attention on her now, Maleficent realized she had been staring and quickly composed herself. “Oh—No, think nothing of it, your majesty.” She offered the brunette a smile and politely bowed her head. “I’m simply a visitor who got a bit lost in your lovely home.”
Not entirely untrue… Maleficent took a moment to look the young queen over, noting how little she had changed. She looked more mature, yes, her eyes somewhat tireder than they once had been, but she was very much the same Rapunzel.
"Oh! Well, gosh… Thank you." She chuckled quietly, nodding her head in return. "If you’d like, I can show you around! I love visitors!" Rapunzel took the chance to glance over the other woman as well. Something about her did look awfully familiar, but she couldn’t quite place her finger on it. Not yet.
Rapunzel squinted a moment, lower lip pushing out in thought. Finally, she shook her head, offering a bright, sunny smile. “I’m Rapunzel! Oh— But, you probably already knew that.” She chuckled sheepishly, eyes drifting upwards toward the crown on her head. It was almost glaringly obvious she was the queen. “But, um, what’s your name? I mean— You look kind of familiar too, so I’m just wondering if we might have met before, or…”