A/N: A reviewer for my first Princess and the Frog fic, puppiescute a.k.a. Mic Mic, commented on how she'd like to see more stories about why Tiana loves Naveen. I took a crack at that prompt, so hopefully it's halfway decent. ;) Enjoy!
"Tia! Let's go dancin'!"
Tiana raised an eyebrow at her best friend, putting the dish she'd just washed on a nearby drying rack, "I'm sort of busy managing a restaurant here, Charlotte." She could hear Louis's band strike up another song through the muffled clamor of hungry customers. Tonight just wouldn't work—Tiana's Palace already had an hour long waiting list, and it was only eight in the evening.
"Let Naveen manage this place for a night, honey!" Charlotte edged closer to Tiana, trying to keep out of the way of the bustling waiters and flurried chefs that Tiana barely seemed to notice.
"You want me to let Naveen work the restaurant?" Tiana replied wryly. Her husband was slowly improving on the self-help issue, but he definitely wasn't ready to manage this chaos yet.
Charlotte missed her best friend's disbelieving tone and waved a hand in dismissal, "Sure, why not? And you have plenty of other people who know what they're doing if he can't handle it. Come dancin' with me, Tia!"
She supposed that was true—she always had at least one manager scheduled for the night, in case she had to disappear for a while. Tonight she'd just happened to have two working, and they could certainly deal with what Naveen couldn't. But that didn't mean she was just going to up and leave her restaurant on one of the busiest nights of the week. "Sorry, Lottie, but I have too much to do here."
"But—" Charlotte stopped abruptly, grinning fiercely when she noticed a certain man enter the kitchen. She instantly ran to him, practically bouncing as she pointed at Tiana. "Naveen! Tell Tia that we have to go dancin' tonight!"
The prince raised an eyebrow and met his wife's gaze with a grin, "I will never say no to a good stroll on the dance floor."
Charlotte shook her head at his misinterpretation of her words, "No, no, no. We meaning Tia and I. I want her to come with me for Girl's Night, and she thinks she's too busy!"
Naveen cocked his head and blinked, "What is this 'girls' night?'"
Tiana sighed and started washing another dish, "Basically a group of girls have a night on the town. It would be fun, but I can't leave the restaurant tonight."
Naveen winked at an anxious Charlotte and slid up behind his wife, wrapping his arms around her waist. She froze, her hands still halfway submerged in warm water. Naveen lowered his head and whispered in her ear, "My darling, you will always be too busy. You work seven nights a week as it is—take a day to yourself."
"But the restaurant…"
"Will still be here when you return. I will keep a steady watch on it."
Tiana groaned and continued scrubbing the plate in her hands. Naveen frowned and glanced sideways at Charlotte, who was motioning frantically to try a different approach. He nodded firmly and spun Tiana around, barely giving her time to drop the dish in the sink. With an air of confidence only an arrogant prince could achieve, he picked her up wedding-style and started purposefully towards the main dining room of the restaurant.
"What are you doing?" she hissed, struggling to get out of his grasp. He just held on tighter and kept a steady pace.
"I'm taking you to our customers. We'll let the diners decide if you should take a night off."
"What?" she cried, oblivious to the fact that the two of them now held the entire kitchen's attention. Charlotte was grinning at Naveen's new tactic, loving how her best friend struggled. "Stop, stop, Naveen!" For extra measure, Tiana flicked her wet hands at him, sprinkling water droplets on his face.
He winced and paused just feet from the double doors that connected the kitchen to everything else. Glancing down at her innocently, he said, "I am listening."
She huffed, glaring at him as she compared her choices. She knew the lesser of two evils, so she said, slowly, "If I go with Lottie tonight, will you drop this whole 'day-off' thing for the next month?"
Naveen glanced over his shoulder at his partner in crime. Charlotte was bobbing her head enthusiastically, waving for him to seal the deal. He shrugged a shoulder and put Tiana down, but he kept his arm securely around her waist so she couldn't escape, "I suppose that would be satisfactory."
"Yay!" Charlotte cried happily, causing a nearby busboy to almost drop three plates of food in surprise. "Come on, Tia, I have just the dress for you tonight! Oh, this is gonna be so much fun!" Quick as a whirlwind, she swept her best friend away. As she towed Tiana towards the restaurant's entrance, keeping her firmly away from any nearby customers who might require the princess's attention, she glanced over her shoulder at Naveen, "Thanks, sugar! Good luck with the place tonight!"
Naveen watched them go and heaved a sigh as he glanced around the bustling restaurant. It seemed strangely empty without his wife, and he didn't like it.
So, the only logical thing to do was follow Tiana and Charlotte and see exactly what this 'girls' night' entailed. Waving goodbye to a confused Louis, he slipped out of the restaurant too, a grin already set on his face.
Tiana leaned against the palm of her hand, watching Charlotte dance enthusiastically with one young man while two more waited anxiously to catch her attention. She let her eyes roam away from that familiar sight to the rest of the people in the bar. Most of the men had their eyes on Charlotte, but a select few were watching her with intrigue. She ignored their stares—it had become a frequent thing since marrying Naveen. She just made sure her wedding ring was plainly visible, and most men kept their distance.
The other women in the bar were looking rather put-out at the lack of interest from the men. About half had settled for chatting with their girlfriends and decidedly ignoring Tiana and Charlotte, but the other half were glaring at the pair in fury. Tiana stood up as Charlotte slowed to a stop, bidding the man she was waltzing with goodbye.
"Lottie," Tiana caught her attention with a wave. Charlotte shrugged off the other two men who had pounced the second she slowed to a stop and walked over to her best friend with a grin.
"Isn't this fun, Tia? The men here are just the bee's knees!" she giggled and waggled her fingers at a nearby man. He winked at her, moving to get up when she turned away from him. Dejected, he sighed and sat back down on the barstool, ordering another drink. Tiana rolled her eyes, wondering if her best friend even knew how she affected the opposite sex.
"It's great. Can we leave?"
"But, why?" Charlotte directed her attention completely on Tiana, genuinely confused.
"It's just not a lot of fun for me without Naveen here," Tiana glanced at the dance floor, mind flashing back to the bayou, and Naveen sweeping her off her froggy feet in an elegant dance. A slight smile played on her face at the memory.
Charlotte didn't notice. She shook her head, blonde hair bouncing, "Don't be silly, Tia. You need a night away from your prince. Come on, this guy's cute, and he's been watching you!" she pulled her best friend towards a young man seated at the bar. With a wink, she nudged Tiana towards him. "Hey, sugar, care to dance with my friend here?"
The man stood and nodded his head, "It would be my honor," he smirked at Tiana. She ignored him, glancing back at Charlotte.
"Lottie, I'm married."
"I'm not askin' you to kiss him or anything. Just dance," Charlotte beamed at the two of them and skipped off to accept the hand of another charming man, allowing him to lead her to the crowded dance floor.
Tiana groaned and glanced back at the man before her. He was… cute, she supposed. His chin wasn't as wide as Naveen's, his cheekbones not as pronounced. His pale blue eyes were a sad comparison to her husband's intelligent light brown orbs. He was shorter than Naveen. His hair was dark brown, reminding her of dirt on a rainy day. He was far from perfect, and the more she stared, the more she wished she'd never left the restaurant.
But he smiled—teeth yellowing from coffee stains, she noticed—and held out his hand, "Hello. I'm Richard."
She had to remind herself that no matter what, she was to be polite, like her mother had taught her years ago. It applied moreso now that she represented Naveen's country with everything she did or said. So she dipped slightly in a curtsy and said, "Tiana."
He studied her, smirking again, "A lovely name. It fits you, if I may be so bold."
Her husband would have been just as bold, but hearing it from his lips was charming. Hearing this stranger compliment her beauty made her want to cringe. Tiana forced a smile and let him guide her to the dance floor.
The song wasn't slow, thank Evangeline, so she could dance a few feet away without being considered standoffish. As she moved to the beat, she noted that he really couldn't dance as fluidly as Naveen. When her prince started to move, he seemed to let everything fall away but the music, and it was entrancing to watch. Richard seemed to trip over his feet in comparison.
The song ended just as Tiana was working up a light sweat, her cheek muscles sore from the forced smile she still wore. Richard took that smile as a good sign, however, and pulled her to him for the slow song that started up next. His arm went around her waist, his free hand intertwining their fingers as he pulled her closer to him. She cringed away—his breath reeked of cigars.
Just as they started to sway to the new song, someone tapped Richard on the shoulder. He broke away from Tiana, glancing behind him with a glare, "What?" he demanded.
"You are dancing with my wife," Naveen stated bluntly, and slammed his fist into the man's face. Richard fell to the ground, staring in shock at the prince, while Tiana narrowed her eyes at Naveen.
"Was that really necessary?"
"I have never punched a man in my whole life," Naveen told her, eyes alight with excitement. "It was invigorating!"
She rolled her eyes, but allowed him to pull her closer and kiss her on the lips. As they pulled apart, Richard stood up, fists clenched. A circle was forming around the three of them, signifying the anticipation of a fight. Tiana frowned in alarm, watching Richard, "Naveen…"
Her husband tore his eyes away from her and finally noticed the angry man glaring at them. In one swift step, he'd put himself between Tiana and Richard, clearly ready to throw another punch if that's what it took. Tiana moved to stand beside him, but another man lightly grabbed her arm, "Let the men work this out," he told her. She considered kicking him, but before she could make a move Richard lunged.
To Naveen's credit, he dodged nicely. However, it quickly became apparent that he had never been in a full-on fight before, whereas Richard undoubtedly had. Within the minute, Naveen was on the floor, cringing. Richard loomed over him, and Tiana finally broke away from the man holding her. She quickly shoved Richard back.
"Stop it," she stated, scowling furiously.
"Tia!" Charlotte approached them, baby blue eyes surveying the scene. Behind her trailed three of her potential suitors, each ready to defend whichever side she chose. Richard skimmed the uneven odds and backed into the crowd, sending Naveen and Tiana a dirty look as he left the bar. The crowd started to disperse as Tiana bent down beside her husband, helping him sit up.
"Aishitanza," he muttered, massaging his jaw. "It was fun to hit him, but I didn't like what came after…"
Tiana laughed slightly, running her fingers over a bruise already forming on his arm, "What were you thinking?"
"I was trying to… how do you Americans say it? Defend your honor?" he shrugged a shoulder and took her hand, groaning as she pulled him off the ground. "I don't think it worked."
"It's the second sweetest thing anyone's ever done for me," she gave him a kiss and whispered in his ear, "right behind a moonlit dinner on top of a steamboat."
He grinned as Charlotte came up behind them, having already dismissed the men following her, "What was that?" she cried. "Naveen! You're ruining our girls' night."
"But I—" he began.
"What are you even doing here? Aren't you supposed to be watching the restaurant?" Charlotte plowed right along.
"Have you been following us all night?"
"Tia, tell your husband to go home. There is no room for men here tonight," ignoring the irony of that statement, Charlotte waved a hand at the prince, a clear dismissal. He looked helplessly from her to Tiana, who sighed and caught Charlotte's gaze.
"Lottie, I'm going to go home too. You're having a great time, and I'm sure one of these men would love to escort you through the evening, but no dance floor can hold my attention unless Naveen's on it." She smiled up at her husband, who grinned cockily.
Charlotte studied her friend, and finally pouted a little, "Are you sure, Tia?"
Tiana nodded, "Yes. Thank you for taking me tonight, though."
Charlotte winked, "Anytime, honey. Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a catch over by the door, and I plan on making him mine!" she waved and was gone, blonde head disappearing into the crowd. Naveen laughed.
"Always on the move, is she not?"
"Oh yeah," Tiana looped her arm through Naveen's. "Shall we leave?"
He escorted her out of the stuffy bar and into the brisk night air, heading back towards Tiana's Palace. After a few moments of comfortable silence, Naveen asked, "So, my princess, are you upset that I broke up your dance with that man?"
She knew he was fishing for a compliment—quite sure of what the answer would be—but decided to humor him anyway. She was still ridiculously proud that he'd punched a man to protect her 'honor,' after all, "Not in the slightest."
"He was a very handsome man, no?"
"I didn't think so," she said flatly, glancing up at him. "He was nice, I suppose, but I didn't really like him."
Naveen raised an eyebrow, "Why not?"
"He wasn't you," she replied, redirecting her attention to the sidewalk so she didn't have to watch his ego swell at the truthful statement. But rather than make some arrogant comment about how he was, of course, superior in every way, Naveen stopped walking and turned to face Tiana, smiling softly.
"Do you mean that?"
She met his gaze, those light brown eyes that she'd grown to love, and smirked, "Of course, Naveen. I'm in love with you; I don't ever want to dance with another man again."
He grinned and gave her a passionate kiss. When they pulled apart, he chuckled, "It's comforting to know that I appeal to you as much as you do me."
Tiana snorted, "You already knew that," she stated, pulling away but linking their hands together. They started walking down the street again, and she glanced up at the stars, wondering if she could get Louis to play one more song before everyone retired for the night.
Naveen owed her a dance, after all.
A/N: Couple things about this story:
1) I watched the movie a second time and realized that the restaurant at the end is called "Tiana's Palace," not "Tiana's Place." I apologize for the incorrect name in my first Princess and the Frog fic, "Tiana's Tiara." (Which you should also check out if you liked this fic--I happen to think they're both pretty good. Of course, I'm quite biased.)
2) I don't know if "aishitanza" is actually the word Naveen uses, or if that's the correct spelling, and I won't know until the DVD comes out and I can turn subtitles on. :P
3) According to wikipedia, this movie takes place in the 1920s, right around the time of the prohibition. But, since that octopus (and several others) had wine at Charlotte's masquerade party, I'm going to assume it's before alcohol became illegal. ;)
Thanks for reading!