Pascal was minding his own business at dinner, which wasn't terribly hard as his people were all being very boring like usual. Ignoring them was easy as eating was at the very, very top of his list of priorities and he tended to develop tunnel vision in such instances.
He scooted up to the fruit in the center of the table, which Closet Guy once tried to explain was "decorative."
Whatever that meant. The point of what he was trying to say was kind of lost on Pascal.
Poor, stupid man. He had trouble explaining things and expressing himself and stuff.
The fruit of the evening was an array of bright, purple grapes in big, neat bunches, still on curling vines that twirled around an artful arrangement of woven sticks.
They were very tasty looking grapes.
Upon further investigation, he found that they were very tasty tasting grapes too, plump and juicy, that exploded in his mouth in a little, happy burst of flavor. Mmmmm.
He was so distracted in his delight that it took him a moment to notice the silence that had settled around the table. None of his people were talking, and he looked up to see that they were all staring at him in a way that did not bode well. He shrunk in on himself ever so slightly and turned to look for some kind of explanation or comfort from his Rapunzel.
Instead she bit her lip anxiously, looking pale and a bit frightened, and that was even more discouraging.
"Rapunzel, dear," Big Man said, his voice deep and rumbling, a hint of a scold under carefully placed words, "I thought we talked about your pet eating the centerpieces."
"Oh, oops!" Closet Guy said, cutting her off, scooping up Pascal, and depositing him in his vest pocket in one, fluid movement. "He got away from me again. Sorry about that."
Pascal huffed. At some point in the past Closet Guy put something weird in this vest pocket and now it smelled all funky. Every time Pascal tried to explain this and ask politely to have it cleaned out, the man feigned deafness and did nothing to solve the problem.
Plus, he had taken Pascal away from his grapes! What a jerk!
He tried to climb out and return to his business, but was immediately stuffed back down with two fingers.
"Now, now. He's not doing any harm." The kind words were muffled by the thick vest fabric and the dark and the stink. "Here. Let me see him."
Closet Guy hesitated a moment, and from his spot deep within his pocket, tucked up against his chest, Pascal could feel him stiffen. He could feel the man's deep, calming exhale, before he was fished out into the light and passed easily into the hands of the Pretty Lady.
Pretty Lady was new at holding the chameleon, still unsure how fragile he was. She cupped him in both hands as if he might break at any moment, and looked down at him with a soft smile as he blinked up at her in confusion.
It took her a moment to shift his weight into one hand, freeing the other so she could reach out for…
Pascal perked as she plucked off one of the bunches, as the Big Man sighed next to her. She handled the fruit with the same hesitant care that she used on Pascal, holding a single grape between her thumb and forefinger, her other fingers fanned out like the wing of a bird.
That's really all it took.
Pascal was officially in love.
He'd never been in love before, but this was most certainly it. He knew because his Rapunzel told him all about it on multiple occasions.
"Every time you see them, you feel all fluttery and warm inside!"
Well, his belly did feel fluttery. It was as if he'd just eaten a moth.
In fact, he had just eaten a moth. He liked moths. And now Moths equal Love. That's really neat.
"You think about them all the time and you never ever stop."
Check. He can't remember the last time he wasn't thinking about Pretty Lady. (It was six minutes ago when he was thinking about how much he liked carpeted floors.)
"You really, really want them to like you and you sit and think of things to do for them and things to say to them, just to try to make them happy."
This point was true too. Pascal wanted everyone to like him, because looking cute meant you 1. got food and 2. didn't get eaten. He decided that he especially wanted Pretty Lady to like him because… well… you know… grapes.
"And then you blush. A lot. Oh, Pascal, I don't think I've ever blushed this much before in my life!"
Well, that might be a person thing, because chameleons don't really blush. He was, however, getting embarrassed pretty often lately and he decided to make it a point to more frequently turn a rosy shade of pink.
"And I giggle. Tee hee. I think I'm doing it too much, but I just can't help myself. What do you think?"
This was another thing he didn't do too much. He squealed when he was startled or in pain, and when he laughed it was more like a chuckle. But he guessed that he could manage it if he really tried.
And he would try because he was in love, and when you love someone you do all sorts of weird things for them just because.
Closet Guy squinted down at him before glancing up at Rapunzel with puckered eyebrows and a frown. "Why is your frog all red and making crazy noises?" He reached out a finger to poke at Pascal's chest, causing the chameleon to bristle. "Is he sick or something?"
The nerve of some people. Wasn't it obvious that he was in love?
How dare Closet Guy mock his affections by thinking it was some sort of illness.
And what kind of dummy would call this color "red"?
"Hmm. I don't know," Rapunzel said absently, not looking up from her book. "He's been acting kind of funny lately. I think he's going through a phase."
"A phase?" Closet Guy repeated.
"Yeah. I think he's reacting to the change of scenery. He's not used to living in the castle."
Pascal squeaked in indignation. That wasn't it at all! He loved the castle. That's where Pretty Lady lived.
Closet Guy didn't seem to buy this theory either. "But he's been here for months. Why's he just now reacting?"
"Oh. Well. You know."
There was something secretive in her tone, something almost apologetic. It was the way she talked when she spelled out words because she had a surprise for him and she didn't want him to know what it was. It was the way she talked in the rare occasions that she admitted that Pascal was "only a chameleon."
He didn't like that tone. He also didn't like how Closet Guy still looked unconvinced.
But these concerns were unimportant. Pascal had love to drive him on.
It didn't take him long to realize that Rapunzel and Closet Guy were not the only ones to misinterpret the waves of adoration wafting off of him.
One day he was able to giggle and blush while he was actually in Pretty Lady's company. At last he would be able to express his feelings to her and together they would be happy forever and snuggle and eat grapes. She would see all the indications of his love, and she would know and then she'd say, "Oh, Pascal!" and scratch his eyebrow.
Man, his eyebrow itched…
Anyway, it was substantially easier to do the giggling when he could look at her and remember his undying, burning emotions, instead of when he was sitting alone on a wall, watching the guards circle around below him. Most of time, his giggle sounded more like some kind of raspy, pain filled wheeze, but this time it was long and high and full of uncontrolled glee. This time his color was the best he'd managed yet!
But Pretty Lady only looked concerned and turned quickly to Rapunzel. "Oh my, is he alright? I didn't mean to make him angry."
"He's fine," Rapunzel said. "It's just his phase. He'll grow out of it."
No! He wouldn't grow out of it. His love would go on and on and on forever.
Depressed, he slunk off to ponder this issue in solitude. Obviously, if no one could tell, then he was going about this the wrong way. There had to be some kind of trick that Rapunzel hadn't told him.
Only Closet Guy noticed his departure, giving him a look of interest – interest mixed with concern.
It was Closet Guy's look that gave Pascal his next idea. Giggling and blushing might work for Rapunzel, but Rapunzel was a girl. Pascal was a man. He had man love. And to effectively express his man love, he would have to look to another man in love for direction.
He dropped the pink color and the giggle (his throat was starting to hurt) and took to following Closet Guy around to pick up some pointers.
"You see," Rapunzel said, "I told you he'd grow out of it."
It was a very boring day and a half of following the man around, secretly ducking between shadows and being as quiet and sneaky as possible. He developed the odd feeling that Closet Guy was purposefully taking the long way around everywhere, walking down overly crowded hallways where Pascal would have to run and slip between a bustle of rushing feet, and winding through the gardens so Pascal would have to scurry under thorny rose bushes.
All this and he hadn't learned anything yet! Closet Guy didn't seem to do anything at all except play board games with Rapunzel, sit and read, eat meals, drool in his sleep, and wander around while Pascal chased him. Playing games and sitting and eating and sleeping were all activities that Pascal usually enjoyed, but the whole thing was starting to feel like a big waste of time, and that made Pascal grow moody.
Rapunzel had mentioned that that was a symptom of being in love, so he guessed that he was still doing something right. Hrumpf. Being moody kind of sucked. But he'd do it anyway if it was expected.
They were moving down one of the more deserted hallways, where long shadows stretched across dark stone, thankfully making Pascal's movements more convenient.
The man stopped abruptly, causing Pascal to freeze behind him, one foot suspended in midair. They stood that way for a long, tense moment, before the man turned slowly and, despite his camouflage and his shadowed hiding place, looked directly at Pascal.
He fought down the instinct to scurry away as Closet Guy walked forward. Maybe he hadn't really seen him. Maybe he was looking at… at… something else. Hoping that was the case, he held absolutely still.
The man stooped, lowering himself to Pascal's eye level, his nose only a few inches away.
"Do you want a ride? Or are you having fun stalking me like some kind of tiny jaguar?"
Pascal thought for a moment, his eyes darting from the man's outstretched hand to his face and back.
How long had he known? What had given him away? Would it be worth it to spy on him if the man knew he was being watched?
Ever so hesitantly, he eased one foot onto the hand, changing to a more conventional green color as the rest of him followed slowly behind. He was immediately raised and deposited onto a shoulder, where he somehow felt infinitely more comfortable.
"Why are you so weird all the time?" Closet Guy muttered, continuing his walk as if nothing had happened and this was an everyday occurrence. "It must be exhausting."
Pascal nodded. Love was a tiring experience.
"What are you even up to?"
He offered up his most ridiculous love struck grin in response, which seemed to make the man worried or confused or something. He was confused often.
The man looked away and sighed. "Yeah," he muttered. "I was afraid of that."
It was another few hours of watching boring human things before Pascal struck gold. They were down in the kitchens (one of Pascal's favorite places) having a late afternoon sandwich (one of Closet Guy's favorite activities), when on a whim, he asked one of the cooks if they had any cookies that he could take to Rapunzel.
They did of course, and if they didn't, they would have baked them fresh as everyone loved Rapunzel.
Closet Guy picked up the handkerchief full of sugar cookies and paused, shooting a sideways glance down at the observer perched on his shoulder.
"These are for Rapunzel," he said.
Pascal rolled his eyes. He knew that. He wasn't deaf. And, yeah, he did want some but he wasn't the kind of chameleon to take any before Rapunzel had her fill first.
"Girls like things like cookies."
Pascal blinked at him. Of course they did. Everyone likes cookies. What was he on about?
"If you want to impress a girl, you should bring her something nice. Like cookies. Or whatever it is that chameleons are into. Fruit and cheese and bugs and crap."
Oh! Oh oh oh!
This was helpful!
He leaned forward eagerly, excited to hear more.
The man laughed, picked up his cookies and headed off into a different part of the castle, explaining that girls also liked presents and flowers and jewelry, but you had to be careful because you didn't want them to read too much into anything. Whatever that meant.
"And you have to look sexy. You're at a disadvantage there, but I'm sure you can figure something out. Make yourself look smart. Or maybe just rely on your winning personali- No. You know, never mind that. You need to stick to looking sexy. Sexy for a frog."
Look good. Give presents.
He could do that.
He started by bringing Pretty Lady a single olive. Olives were delicious. No one could resist olives.
He scurried up onto the arm of her chair, sat up, straightening his back, puffed out his chest, and proudly offered up his exquisite gift.
"Oh," she said. "Oh my."
She made no move to take the olive, and Pascal hesitated a moment before holding it out further in her direction.
"Is that for me?"
He nodded enthusiastically.
She tentatively accepted it, holding it gingerly between her thumb and forefinger again. Pascal loved it when she did that. Her fingers were long and pretty. They'd be good for rubbing his belly.
She held it for a moment, glancing back and forth between Pascal and his gift, as if unsure what to do with it. Had she never had an olive before? Oh, that was tragic. But she would love it even more if it was a brand new experience for her. He nodded encouragingly, urging her to go ahead and eat it.
"Um," she said, a distinct pucker forming between her eyebrows. "It's very close to dinner, you see. I don't want to ruin my appetite. You understand. I'll save it until then."
Then she smiled at him.
Ah. Well that was acceptable.
He nodded and scurried off, sure that that counted as a victory.
His next gift was a button. It was a very nice button, one he'd taken off of one of Closet Guy's shirts. It was white and shiny, with two holes, rather than those tacky four holed kinds. He liked looking at it because it kind of looked like it was smiling back at him.
Pretty Lady accepted it in her same cautious, unsure way that Pascal found so adorable. She tucked it into her pocket and Pascal glowed with pride for hours.
But still, it seemed like she wasn't quite as in love with him as she should be. There was still a distinct lack of snuggling and grape feeding.
At last he decided that he needed to pull out all the stops and get her the best present ever. He would get her jewelry, because Closet Guy told him that girls really like jewelry. And Pascal knew that she would love the earring he picked out. After all, he had taken from her jewelry box.
It was a single pearl on a gold stem, and he spent a great deal of time admiring it in the sunshine while he groomed himself. He shined his scales until he practically glowed and adjusted his color into the most perfect of greens. Then he gathered up his gift and scooted off to a windowsill in a hallway that she always passed through on her way to dinner.
He sat and waited, agitatedly flicking his tail back and forth, until he spotted her and beamed.
He caught her attention as she walked by, chirping in a very impressive way. It wasn't needy or pushy or obnoxious at all. It was the absolute perfect chirp.
Then he made himself look tall and handsome, before holding out the earring, a perfect little treasure, he'd picked out just for her.
And it worked!
"Pascal," she gasped. "I've been looking everywhere for this. Wherever did you find it?"
Pascal preened and gave his best "oh, don't even mention it" look.
She plucked it up from him, looking very pleased indeed, all signs of her cautiousness easing away. Good! There's no need to be worried and guarded around people you love.
"Thank you so much."
Then… she stroked him. Just a simple pet from his head to his tail, but it made him so ludicrously happy that he didn't think he could ever ask for anything more. He watched her leave in a daze, dreamily watching the way her feet clicked down the hallway.
"You've got to be kidding me."
He looked up to see Closet Guy standing there, completely aghast, looking down at him. He must have snuck up while Pascal was busy feeling dreamy.
"The queen? Are you crazy?"
Yup! Crazy in love!
"But… she's… a person."
Pascal blinked at him. Yeah? So?
"And she's…" he gestured in the direction Pretty Lady had gone, "married."
Yeah, whatever that was. It didn't matter to Pascal if she had horns and wings, he would still love her.
"And," his voice suddenly dropped to a whisper, not wanting anyone else to hear their super secret conversation, "she's the queen. Don't you think she's a little out of your league?"
Pft. No. If someone as lame as Closet Guy could love Rapunzel, then Pascal – in all his awesomeness – had a shot with Pretty Lady.
"This will not end well," the man predicted.
Pascal glared at him before shrugging off all the negativity.
Eventually, after the eighteenth gift, Pretty Lady just rolled her eyes and took the proffered spool of orange thread without comment or patting or any sort of fan fare at all. It was almost as though she were humoring a small child.
That was the point when Pascal realized that something wasn't quite right. That's when he realized his love was unrequited and unnoticed.
He turned a deep blue as sad as the troubled sea and hid, and curled in a ball under Rapunzel's night stand to brood, which became boring rather quickly.
It was Closet Guy that found him, fished him out, and sighed, saying, "Cheer up, buddy. It happens to the best of us." Then he coaxed the chameleon into a game of thumb war in which Pascal had to use most of his upper body strength, but still came out victorious. It successfully distracted him enough to forget how boring it was to brood.
Pascal was a simple soul, and he enjoyed simple pleasures, and gloating over his thumb war victory was just as good as the blissful happiness he felt in the hallway on that single occasion when his love petted him.