Yeah, it turns out my Tangled obsession made it through another week, so I decided to write this story while procrastinating for my English essay. Which I will write forthwith. Anyway.
Those of you who read my other Tangled fanfic (Playing Flynn Rider) may be a little disappointed with this one, since it has less comedy, less romance, and less…Eugene. In fact, he's barely in it. But I wanted to try something that was a little bit more Rapunzel-centric. If I have another essay to put off, though…and I'm fairly certain I do, I may write another story from Eugene's perspective. For now, though, I hope you enjoy this. And I hope you are not, like me, using fanfiction as an excuse to put off school work. But if you are…well, here's a fanfic. Go ahead and procrastinate.
Anyway, here we go.
Pascal couldn't read a clock, so he wasn't aware that it was 3:37 am when a thump interrupted his dreams. He was aware, however, that it was early. He was also aware that he was tired.
When he opened his eyes, the room before him was a haze of grays and blacks. He knew he was in Rapunzel's bed chamber and he felt that he was on the bed, but he could not make out the bed or Rapunzel. He could hear a succession of thumps and then…and then in the darkness there appeared a thin strip of light. After a creak and several more thumps, the strip widened. Pascal could see now that it wasn't a strip at all, but the rectangular doorway of Rapunzel's closet illuminated by the honeyed glow of a candle.
But Rapunzel wasn't visible.
He scuttled across the floor and entered the closet where he was then able to see Rapunzel…in a matter of speaking, that is. Her face was hidden as the upper half of her body was leaning into an enormous trunk, her arms extracting random objects and piling them on the floor beside her.
Thump went a book on geology. Clonk went a box of candles. Coff went a guitar with a snapped b-string. Terrified that he might be crushed by the remaining contents of the trunk, Pascal crawled onto Rapunzel's shoulder. She was so used to a chameleon crawling on her that she didn't even flinch.
"Hi Pascal!" she greeted him, not looking up from the trunk. "I hope I didn't wake you."
Pascal slssed his tongue. She certainly had waken him.
"Where is it?" Rapunzel asked herself. "I was so sure it was around here somewhere…" She fingered the cans of paint, but didn't lift them from the trunk. The only remaining contents were a few dresses which looked so ruffled Pascal was certain Rapunzel had already rifled through them.
She sat cross legged on the floor and hunched over as she ran through the possibilities of…whatever she was thinking about. "It's not in the trunk…it's not in my bureau…where could it be?" she directed this question to Pascal, who kirricked questioningly.
"My frying pan," she explained. "I can't find it anywhere." Then suddenly Rapunzel's entire face blossomed. Her eyes lit up, her lips strained into their widest smile, and her head bobbled back and forth excitedly. "I know!" she exclaimed as she sprang to her feet and made a dash to the bed, almost immediately tripping over herself in her enthusiasm. Pascal leapt off just in time to see Rapunzel's collision with the floor. The fall, however, was not that unfortunate, as it turned out that under the bed was Rapunzel's intended destination. She eagerly dove into the darkness and soon Pascal saw her arm emerge from under the bed, brandishing her battered, tried and true frying pan victoriously. "Got it!" she shouted unnecessarily to Pascal, who once again kirricked questioningly.
"Well," a dusty Rapunzel explained as she crawled out and jumped to her feet, "I've got special plans this morning. Maybe you'd like to help me?"
Pascal eyed her warily. Normally he would have been eager to take part in any of Rapunzel's schemes…but it was early. Far too early to have any plans.
"Today, as you may know," Rapunzel told him, "is—achoo!" A dust bunny promptly fell from her hair to the ground. "Today," Rapunzel began again, sniffling, "is Eugene's birthday and I've been thinking long and hard about what he'd want for it when it occurred to me!" She held the skillet in front of her head and then poked her head out from behind it. "Breakfast!" It was said with such an excess of enthusiasm Pascal was sure he'd missed something. Breakfast? Her big idea was breakfast?
Rapunzel saw that Pascal was underwhelmed. "Oh no!" she said hastily. "Not just any breakfast, but breakfast in bed!" Her smile indicated that she believed breakfast in bed to be a great privilege. "And," she added, "if that's not enough, the breakfast will be cooked by the Princess of Corona with the frying pan she previously used to render him unconscious." By this point in the explanation she wore a very self satisfied smirk. Evidently, she thought her breakfast idea was difficult to beat. "How many people can say they've received that as a present, huh?" she asked.
Pascal was willing to bet no one.
At 3:45 am, the only people roaming the palace corridors were patrol guards. Although the guards Rapunzel passed appeared surprised to see her, none asked her what her business was. They might have considered it, but she waved at them so cheerfully it was difficult to imagine she could be up to anything that would justify inquiry.
As Rapunzel went through the corridors, she explained to Pascal why the early hour was necessary. The kitchen staff started work at 4:30 in the morning, and she was determined not to inconvenience them. Thus, she had decided to vacate the kitchen by that time.
"Which is too bad," she added, "since that means Eugene will have to eat his breakfast at 4:30, but it's also sort of good, because the earlier he gets up, the more of his birthday he gets to enjoy!" If Eugene woke her up at 4:30 am on her birthday with a hot breakfast he'd cooked himself on the frying pan which had been instrumental in their first meeting, she reasoned, she'd be delighted! Though, come to think of it, she was fairly certain Eugene had never cooked in his life, so if he decided to return the favor, perhaps he had better stick to a cold breakfast. She was sure he could…cut up fruit wonderfully. And besides, she'd love anything on her birthday just because it was her birthday.
Eugene was going to be so excited! Eee! She could barely contain her excitement, and it wasn't even her birthday! Eugene was going to be ten times more excited!
It was a long way from Rapunzel's bed chamber to the kitchen, but she made it there quickly, skipping all the way.
The kitchen was, as expected, deserted. Rapunzel had only been in the room twice before, once during her tour of the palace and another time to cook a meal. That time she had been politely shooed away by the staff who proudly informed her that the Princess of Corona never need lift a finger again. It was too bad, really. She had wanted to lift a finger.
Well, now was her opportunity.
It was now, on this third visit, that Rapunzel fully comprehended how enormous the room was. Before it had been a buzzing hive of activity but now, with the room emptied of all living inhabitants save a young woman and a chameleon, every sound Rapunzel made echoed off the room's high ceiling. Dozens of pots and skillets, hung overhead from racks too high for her to reach, gleamed in the early morning light leaking in from a lead veined window. She and her dinged up frying pan were dwarfed. What seemed like an endless parade of flagstones led to the gigantic hearth at the other end of the room...but she wouldn't be using the hearth. If she was using her frying pan, it was the wood burning stove she needed to concern herself with…which was good, because at one third the size of the hearth, the stove was much less intimidating than the cavernous fireplace, and Rapunzel already felt intimidated enough.
"Wow…" she whispered, almost dropping the frying pan. "Well Pascal," she said as Pascal scurried down her arm onto a counter, "I guess it's time to get to work."
She looked around the kitchen again.
"Wow," she repeated.
Every cooking instrument she had ever seen, and a lot she hadn't, could be found in this room. Rapunzel opened up cabinets and pulled out drawers, finding pokers, spatulas, tongs, cleavers, whimsical molds in the shapes of fish, pie pans, sifters, graters, whisks—and there was even a brush! She picked up the last utensil and marveled at it. It was shorter and thicker than her paintbrushes. Did the royal cooks like to paint too?
Pascal was also investigating the instruments when he came across a long tube with a rubber ball at the end. Rapunzel noticed it too and picked it up, fingering it delicately.
"What's this used for?" she asked, though whether the question was addressed to Pascal or herself was unclear. "Is there something inside this tube?" She brought it up to eye level, inspecting it closely. "I don't see anything…" She absentmindedly pressed on the rubber ball, causing some leftover water from the baster's last wash to shoot into her eye.
Rapunzel set down the baster.
"Maybe we'd better focus on making Eugene's breakfast," she suggested. Pascal nodded.
Although it seemed like the kitchen had anything and everything, Rapunzel soon realized that something, something very important, was missing.
"Where's the food?" she asked.
Pascal darted around the room, peaking under linens and in bowls…but nothing. He shrugged at Rapunzel, who was herself scanning the kitchen intently. It wasn't in the cabinets. It wasn't on the counters. It wasn't in the drawers…where else was there? Did the kitchen staff bring all the food with them in the morning? She knew a lot of the meat, vegetables, and fruit were provided fresh daily, but surely there must be something here.
Then she felt some movement on her dress and looked down to see Pascal tugging on the hem with his mouth. His tail was pointed proudly to a small wooden door.
"Good eye, Pascal!" Rapunzel praised him. He puffed out his chest self-importantly and climbed up to her shoulder. Rapunzel placed her hand on the door's black metal handle and pulled. All Rapunzel could see was darkness, so she lit a candle to reveal stairs leading down to a cellar.
"This must be where they keep the food!" she whispered excitedly to Pascal. Why she was whispering she wasn't sure, but it seemed like a time to whisper. She cautiously climbed down the steps, a damp cool washing over her during her descent. She had never been in any of the underground regions of the castle before…or anywhere else for that matter, excepting the secret passage way at the Snuggly Duckling. After spending a life above ground, venturing below it was disorienting. It must have been disorienting for Pascal too, because he was quaking against her neck.
"It's okay, Pascal," she whispered. "It's just a cellar. It's nothing to be afraid of. It's just a dark room," she stepped down, "with no window," step, "that's underground," step, "and is so cold it literally sends shivers down your spine," step, "and it smells damp," step, "and its walls are made of stone," step, "stone that's probably so thick that no one could hear it if you screamed—" a rapid succession of steps going upwards, a slam of the door, and she was back in the kitchen.
"Okay," she gasped, out of breath. Her back was flat against the door, pushing it shut as if some creature was on the other side, trying to force his way in. Only no one was trying to get in. The only people in this room were her Pascal and there was no one at all in the cellar. There was no creature. No murderer. It didn't matter if anyone could hear her scream, because she wouldn't be screaming, because there was no reason to scream. It was just a dark, underground chamber. There was nothing at all scary about that…except for everything about it.
If she had just been with someone, someone besides a lizard shivering in fear on her shoulder, she would be alright. If she had been accompanied by Eugene or her parents or a guard or her tutor or—or anyone, really, she would be alright. But everyone was asleep. She couldn't wake Eugene or her parents up to hold her hand as she walked to a cellar, and she certainly didn't want to approach one of the guards in the corridor. Despite her fear, she knew how silly it would sound, how she'd seem like an immature, nine year old girl instead of a 19 year old princess who would one day lead her country…and who was currently hinting to her…whatever Eugene was…that a proposal of marriage would be very welcome. Mature, married women were not afraid of dark cellars—
But unmarried girls who had never been in dark cellars were scared. Especially in the middle of night—which it was. It wasn't morning. It was night. It was night and she was alone and it was dark and cold down there. She wasn't going down there—even if all the food was down there and even if it was Eugene's birthday and even if she had spent fifteen minutes looking for her frying pan—
Her frying pan! She could go down there with her frying pan! If her frying pan could knock out Eugene, surely it could handle whatever…nonentity was down there. Because there wasn't anybody there…and even if there was, she'd have her frying pan to protect herself. Plus, there was nobody down there. Right. Nobody.
She picked up her frying pan and looked down at Pascal.
"You don't have to go down with me," she told him. Although he shivered, he dug his feet into Rapunzel's shoulder determinedly.
"Thanks," Rapunzel whispered and slowly opened the door, holding her frying pan and her candle in front of her. One step down. Cold. Another step down. Dark. Another step down. Colder. Down. Darker. Down. Even colder. Down. Even darker.
Okay. Okay, okay, okay. She could do this. She had her frying pan, didn't she? She could take care of herself. She could protect herself. Especially since there was nothing to protect herself from because, as she reminded herself, there was nothing there. There was nothing down there.
The light in the cellar was jumpy since her hand holding the candle was shaking almost uncontrollably, but her hand holding the frying pan was firm. Just a few more steps. Three, two, one.
And then she was at the floor of the cellar. This wasn't so bad. There definitely wasn't anyone down here. Just giant sacks of flour, crates of produce, racks and racks of wine, barrels of…whatever, and giant hocks of meet hanging from a beam. It was just food. It was just an underground room filled with food.
Her heart rate slowing, she set the candle down on one of the barrels and surveyed the room. So what did she need?
If she was cooking with a skillet, her breakfast options were limited. Eggs, bacon, and French toast which meant…she thought back to her days of cooking in the tower. Bread, sugar, salt, milk, butter, syrup. After years and years of experimenting with her French toast recipe, she knew the ingredients by heart. Her French toast—it was great. Eugene was going to love it. It was delicate yet firm, and sweet but not too sweet. After placing all the ingredients she needed in a nearby basket, she reached for some blueberries. She always put blueberries on the side, because that was the way Mother Gothel liked her French toast.
On second thought, maybe strawberries would be a nice change. When Mother Gothel had eaten blueberries, her lips had been stained a dark indigo and she'd always give Rapunzel a big smacky kiss on the cheek. And then Rapunzel would have a blue bruise-like mark on her cheek. She didn't want to see Eugene with blue lips like Mother Gothel's, and she didn't want to have a blue cheek. Or, considering the usual location of Eugene's kisses, blue lips. All things considered…she'd really rather not think about Gothel today. Not on Eugene's birthday.
About five minutes later, Rapunzel had laid her ingredients on one of the kitchen counters, fired up the stove, and was beginning to cook.
Two eggs sunny side up was no problem. She maneuvered the frying pan dexterously. After all, she'd had years of practice using it in one capacity or another. She hoped Eugene would react more favorably to this use of it than he had to the other.
Hey, he had to. The delicious smell of peppered fried eggs and sizzling bacon was causing her stomach to scream for food. She popped a strawberry into her mouth and fed one to Pascal, who promptly turned a cheerful red.
Food was delicious. Period. Eugene was going to love this.
She slid the eggs and bacon onto a plate and Pascal nudged a bowl over them, to keep in the heat until the French toast was finished. The preparation for the French toast was mechanical. Break eggs, beat in milk, sugar, and salt. Soak bread in mixture and place in buttered skillet. Cook until golden brown and utterly and completely scrumptious. Lean in, breathe aroma deeply, slide onto a plate, and dig in—
No, wait. Don't dig in. Eugene was going to dig in. Place sliced strawberries on the side to break up the white plate's negative space, lightly criss-cross the bread with amber syrup—oh, this looked good. Not only good, but artistic. Really, a plate was just another canvas. The problem with that was that it was a canvas that would only last for a very short amount of time. She hoped Eugene would appreciate the artistry involved in setting up the food.
Evidently Pascal did, because he was nodding approvingly. Pascal always appreciated her art.
Place two plates on tray, pour a glass of milk. Find a knife, fork, and napkin. Return the remaining food to where she'd found it, clean up after herself and—and done, just in time to exit the kitchen as a bemused staff entered.
"Good morning!" she cheerfully greeted them.
One chef bowed, one servant nodded, and another just rigidly stood there. All of them were slightly slack jawed, obviously not having expected to find the Princess and her chameleon cooking in the kitchen at 4:30 in the morning.
"Don't mind me," she said as she lifted the tray and walked around the immobile staff to the door. "I was just doing a little cooking. Very nice strawberries you've got here—very fresh!" Following their awestruck gazes to her tray, she beamed at them. "Looks good, doesn't it? Well, good bye!"
As she left the room, Pascal turned around on her shoulder to face the cooks and waved at them.
The head chef slowly waved back, still open mouthed.
Rapunzel hummed on her way to Eugene's room. She didn't know what song she was humming precisely, just an abstract tune that wandered around whatever notes it liked. Whatever tune it was, it was a happy one. Happy because she was happy and Pascal was happy and soon Eugene was going to be happy. And the fact that Eugene was going to be happy just made her even happier.
"This is going to be his best birthday ever!" she boasted to Pascal. Her boast was probably justified. A year ago his birthday had gone unobserved since he hadn't even told anybody when it was, so she suspected his birthdays were usually pretty small affairs. But today she was determined to show him how great a birthday could be. And maybe if she put him in a good enough mood he would—well, she didn't want to finish that sentence because it would just get her hopes up. But lately she had been very intent on proving to Eugene that a lifetime with her would be…very, very happy. After the morning's delicious breakfast she would let him decide what else they would do—anything he wanted. It was going to be the perfect day.
Rapunzel had never been inside Eugene's room before. There had never been an occasion to since he only spent the nights there. During the day he was almost always outside, so Rapunzel never even went to his bedroom to see if he was there. It was located on the floor below the royal bedchambers, directly under her room. Within no time she was there in front of the doors, puzzling over whether it was appropriate to knock. Probably not. It was best to make as little noise as possible. That way he would be woken up by the delicious aroma wafting from his breakfast.
She turned the handle—the room wasn't locked—and cracked the door open. A little bit of morning light…but not much. His room, like hers, did not receive direct sunlight. She cautiously inched in and gingerly closed the door behind her.
The room was pretty bare. The walls were a simple white—the same white, she reminded herself, her walls had been before she had painted over them. Eugene hadn't personalized his room, though. Aside from his boots and a sword lying by the door, this could have been anyone's room. She pleased herself by wondering if it was because he was conscious that this room was only a temporary situation, that when he…did something, something that Rapunzel was waiting for, he would be leaving this room behind for a royal bed chamber.
She hoped today was perfect. It had to be.
Her eyes by now had adjusted to the weak light and she approached the bed, setting the tray down on the bed stand. Then she, and Pascal, looked down at the figure in the bed.
Eugene slept on his stomach, face almost suffocating in his pillow. All Rapunzel could identify was his mop of hair and his back…but what a back it was, bare and, although relaxed, very defined. Feeling the heat rising to her cheeks, it occurred to Rapunzel for the first time that perhaps it was less than proper for the unmarried Princess to sneak unannounced into the bedroom of a young man. She hadn't considered it before but now, with her eyes glued to Eugene's smooth, firm back, the impropriety seemed agonizingly obvious. Her manners tutor would be shocked. Maybe she'd better sneak out now. He'd wake up and find the food—it wasn't as if her presence was really—
"Why are you in my room, Rapunzel?" Eugene hadn't moved an inch. The words came out muffled through his pillow. Imagine that—an ex-fugitive-from-the-law was a light sleeper.
Well, there was nothing to do now but go through with her original idea.
"Happy birthday!" Rapunzel exploded. Pascal also emitted a celebratory squeal.
Eugene raised his head and turned it in their direction. With one sweep his eyes took in the girl, the lizard, and the tray. "You made me breakfast," he stated.
Rapunzel's shoulders drooped.
"You made me breakfast!" he hastily restated, pasting on a smile. "And you made it for me at—" he squinted at his clock. "That clock must be off. It says it's 4:45 in the morning."
"Actually…" Rapunzel murmured, "it is 4:45 in the morning. I…I wanted to make it before the kitchen staff came in so…" she trailed of and began to rock back and forth, with her hands at her back. He didn't seem as enthused as she'd imagined.
At the rocking, Pascal leaped off Rapunzel's shoulder and landed by Eugene. He then used his tail to point to the frying pan Rapunzel was still carrying.
"Oh, thanks for the reminder Pascal," Rapunzel said and held up the frying pan. Eugene instinctively flinched at the sight of it. "And not only did I cook you breakfast," she explained, "but I cooked it with this frying pan!"
"That's the—oh." A flash of comprehension lessened the sleepiness that was still misted over Eugene's brown eyes. "Thank you, Rapunzel," he said sincerely. "That's very…that's very sweet."
"No," Rapunzel replied, sitting down cross legged on the bed. "What's sweet is the French toast I made." She picked up the tray and held it out for him. "Happy birthday!" she repeated.
Eugene sat up took the tray from her and studied the spread. "Wow. This looks delicious. Too good to eat, in fact."
"But you have to eat it. That's why I cooked it. And then once you eat, we're going to do whatever you want—this is your day! Get ready to have the best birthday ever! So go ahead and eat."
But Eugene didn't eat the breakfast. He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek instead and handed her the tray. And then he began to speak very slowly, judiciously selecting his words. "Tell you what—it's sort of…really early right now so I'm not in the mood for eating, and this looks so delicious I want to wait until I can appreciate it. So I'm going to wait for a couple of hours and eat this then—but I will take you up on the other part of your offer now—the part about doing whatever I want. And at the moment all I want is to go back to sleep with the most beautiful," peck, "caring," peck, "wonderful girl in the world by my side. Is that okay with you?"
"Well," Rapunzel sighed, placing the tray back on the bed stand, "I guess that's okay…assuming that girl's me."
By now Eugene's face was back in the pillow, so his laughter was muffled. But judging from the way his arm snaked around her waist and pulled her closer to him, she was definitely that girl.
"And by the way," he mumbled drowsily, "if you cooked that you've probably been up for a while, so just so you know—my birthday won't be ruined if you help yourself to that breakfast." He paused. "And the frog can have some too."
Pascal shot Eugene a glare before lying on the bed and closing his eyes.
Rapunzel did, in fact, reach over and grab herself a couple of strips of bacon. Someone might as well enjoy them while they were still hot and crispy.
"And one more thing," came Eugene's sleepy voice. "You should also know that this is already my best birthday ever."
Laying there with bacon in her stomach, Eugene's warm body at her side, and a slumbering Pascal at her feet, Rapunzel had to admit, the day already seemed just about perfect.